(FADEIN on a large room, filled to the brim with people. They’re all making lots of noise.
Something about a pulse.
The room has plain white walls and tons of light, it would appear to be ideally suited to some kind of photo op or video. Ironically, there’s a table set up on the opposite end with a pair of microphones sitting on it, and a pair of microphones in the crowd. Kenny Lombardo, the voice of Empire Pro Wrestling, is waiting for something.
For a pulse?
They want the Number One Contender.
Good for the tension level of the room, the Revolution began.
Revolution, baby, that’s my sound. Impulse was out first, with Calico Rose right behind him. She waved to the crowd, very energetically, while Impulse was a little more composed.
Smile and nod. Don’t give anything away.
The Number One Contender is wearing a long sleeved gray shirt under a black T-Shirt declaring Phil Atken as Heavyweight Champion of the World. Calico Rose is a little more direct: she had made her own shirt a while back that she’s apparently modified: this names her as EPW Vice-Champion – Elect.
Go figure. )
LOMBARDO: If everyone can take their seats, please?
(We all did.)
LOMBARDO: Okay, Impulse and Rose have said they want to answer as many questions as they can in the time we have, so I’m going to ask you for a few ground rules. Please limit yourself to one question per trip to the microphone, and please limit your questions to the scope of Empire Pro Wrestling. Impulse, Rose? Anything to add before we begin?
IMPULSE: Nothing much, just glad to see everyone here.
ROSE: If anyone out there has a shotglass and something to put in it, I’d be eternally grateful.
(A ripple of laughter went through the crowd.)
LOMBARDO: Okay – I see we have a question already?
QUESTION: Have you talked to Sean Stevens since Aggression?
IMPULSE: I haven’t. I can get it – he was upset about the way the number one contender’s match finished, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed over the way he handled the finish, as well as the subsequent match for the King of the Cage. I understand it – Cruise screwed him – and I think we’re both to blame for the King of the Cage because we ended up so focused on the triangle match that we didn’t have much time together to discuss our strategy for the cage.
I mean, with that in mind we were both exhausted already from wrestling each other and Cruise so that was strike one before the opening bell even sounded. Bad feelings from the way the triangle ended was strike two, and Dirk Dickwood Presents being as on as they were… we were out.
I hope there’s no hard feelings. If there are, though – we’ll just have to settle it in the ring.
QUESTION: Speaking of the number one contender’s match, how do you respond to The First’s comments that you didn’t earn the victory because of Cameron Cruise shoving Triple X’s foot off the bottom rope?
IMPULSE: How can anyone respond to that? Do I wish that Cruise hadn’t done that? Of course. If I’m going to win a match I want it to be completely clean and completely on the level so there’s no question who won. I want to lose the matches that I’m going to lose the exact same way: that’s just me. No questions over who the winner is, or should be. Do I think Triple X deserves a shot at the World Title just the same? I do. Will I offer him one if I take the belt from The First at Unleashed? Soon as he wants one. But as far as a cheap win is concerned… well, was I robbed when I pinned a lifeless Cameron Cruise for a three count, only for Trip to have draped his foot over the rope? I don’t think so: that’s part of the game in a three way match. It’s a part of the game that I don’t play, but it’s part of it nonetheless.
QUESTION: This question is for Calico Rose, actually.
ROSE: Yes, my love?
QUESTION: There’s reports of you bringing cookies and cupcakes and stuff like that to the NFW locker room. Are you doing the same in EPW--
LOMBARDO: I don’t mean to interrupt you, sir – but per my instructions I’d ask that you stay focused on EPW.
ROSE: No, that’s cool. I haven’t really been baking for EPW, and that’s mainly because there hasn’t been a need. The Windhams were trying to destroy a company, and everyone who was there really felt the pressure. I thought everyone needed a little pick – me – up, and so I appointed myself the Morale Officer. The difference with the Empire is that Dan Ryan has a good hand on his company and he doesn’t let cancers like that into his company.
Now, that being said – if anyone asked for something I’d probably acquiesce.
QUESTION: The First recently brought up the topic of masks: the one you wore the first year of your career, as well as the mask he wore as Dis. Do you have any reply to the accusations of cowardice that he levied at you?
IMPULSE: That’s a matter of opinion: his just happens to be delusional. But in all seriousness, I don’t remember his exact words: something like my mask was a sign of cowardice because if I failed at wrestling I could go back to real life without anyone knowing what kind of failure I was, while his run at Dis was all – in, and he was banking on being able to beat Anarky or risk total humiliation.
ROSE: Wouldn’t the fact that he unironically wears makeup be total humiliation?
(Laughter ran through the crowd.
IMPULSE: The short answer to that is that I never wore a mask in the Empire, so why is it a concern of his. The long answer, though, would be that my early career has nothing to do with a mask. I could’ve stepped into the ring and wrestled under the name Randall Knox, showing the world who I was and success and failure would’ve meant the exact same thing. Did I want to succeed? Sure. If I failed, would I be disappointed? Of course. But even if I failed completely, I’d be able to say that I gave it my best and wouldn’t have to wonder what if.
It’s a smart move for The First to say something like that because you can’t prove or disprove a thought. I know my motivations but all I can give is my word. Just like I can’t prove his thought process behind wearing the Dis mask, and he can’t disprove what I think. But I have to ask him – if his goal is to target Anarky, even if he wants to wear a mask to hide his identity – why was it Dis? Why didn’t he go nondescript?
I mean, I have my opinion. I wore a mask because I wanted my talent to speak for itself: The First became Dis specifically for the rest of the Empire to pay attention to him. That goes back to the point I’ve been making for a long time now – The First isn’t a Champion, he’s a guy with an ornament that likes the attention the ornament gives him.
QUESTION: Are you worried that he’ll have a backup plan in place?
IMPULSE: Backup plan?
QUESTION: Well, he won the belt from Sean Stevens with help from Stalker, he won the belt from Anarky under the Dis mask with Muse backing him up, and he won it from Cameron Cruise after blinding him and whatnot: he always seems like he has a plan. Are you worried that The First will arrange things so that you won’t get a fair shot?
IMPULSE: I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind, but what can I do about it? I can prepare for every possible angle of attack from everyone except The First, which would leave my back to him and leave me as easy pickings. I can’t prepare for everything, so I’m just going to do what I do and prepare for my opponent: I trust Rose on the outside to keep me aware of anything that happens as far as extracurriculars are concerned, but my preparation has to be focused on my opponent: he’s the only person that I know for a fact is right in front of me.
QUESTION: You’ve made comments to the extent that The First isn’t as big a name as he could be because he’s only wrestled for EPW. Do you really think that’s a fair assessment?
IMPULSE: No, let me clarify. I think he’s a decent enough athlete, I think he gets some kind of reaction when he comes out to wrestle, but if you listen to him talk about himself you’d think he just won the Ultratitle over Hornet, Castor Strife, Mike Randalls, and every member of the Windham Family. You could make the argument that he’s as well-known as he is in the Empire because he’s been here for a decade; familiarity breeds recognition. I’ve been to the top of a few companies in my day and am literally one step removed from being recognized – on the record – as the undisputed best wrestler in the world today.
You can make the argument – it’s debatable how valid it is – that The First built his entire reputation in this sport by getting lucky one time, and stealing a moment two other times. The difference between us is that I don’t go for the big moments unless it can be said that I’ve earned it.
Sometimes that means pinning our Imperial leader Dan Ryan in the middle of the ring; sometimes it’s as simple as winning a match designated as a number one contender’s match.
QUESTION: What do you predict will happen at Unleashed?
ROSE: Drinks for everybody!
IMPULSE: After I win.
Really nothing else to say about it. The First says I’ve never fought anyone as fanatical as he is, I think Castor Strife would beg to differ.
QUESTION: The First did make a good point when he said that you wrestle by a code – by definition that means there’s things you won’t do to win a match, while he’ll do anything. Don’t you think that would put you at a disadvantage?
ROSE: Did you want to elaborate on that?
IMPULSE: No, not really.
(Laughter swept the room.)
ROSE: May I?
IMPULSE: Be my guest.
(Rose leaned in and looked around for the person who originally asked.)
ROSE: RK doesn’t have a code.
QUESTION: If I can rephrase?
QUESTION: You have certain tendencies when you wrestle – you don’t use foreign objects or illegal holds, you don’t take unfair advantages and whatnot. The question was, since there’s things you won’t do to win a match and The First has no self – restrictions. I guess the real question is, if the opportunity arises The First will take a shortcut to victory. If the opportunity arises, are you prepared to do the same?
IMPULSE: This is a perfect example of a man taking a tiny detail and blowing it up into a defining characteristic. You a Star Trek fan, sir?
IMPULSE: The last one they did, the reboot – they had Sulu flipping all over the place with his fencing sword because, I don’t know, the guys who did the film said ‘Sulu fences, let’s have him fence.’ That happened on one episode of the original series because he was drunk. I don’t use weapons or foreign objects because my wrestling ability is enough to overcome any opponent. I don’t look for or encourage any kind of outside interference to give me an advantage, because I don’t think I should win a match I can’t win on my own. The First is just the latest in a long line of narrow – minded, two dimensional thinkers who seem to think I carry around a notarized list of Thou Shalt Not’s, and check it twice before taking any action, and if I don’t then I’m a hypocrite.
It’s like he thinks I’m a robot and he’s trying to trap me in a logic loop. It’d be funny, but he’s serious about it, which just makes it tragic.
QUESTION: The First has brought up the fact that you previously broke your neck, several times now. How is your neck, and will that old injury be on your mind as a potential target?
(Impulse looked up, as if asking for patience.)
IMPULSE: Here’s where a lesson in anatomy could’ve done him well. What I had was a hairline fracture of my C2. Technically a broken neck, but in reality I needed to give it some rest and some time, and there hasn’t been a single problem for the entirety of my Empire career. It’s a non-issue and it’s not going to cause a problem.
QUESTION: How would you respond to The First’s assertion that you’re a follower to conformity?
ROSE: I don’t know what you mean. What kind of conformity?
QUESTION: I believe he was making reference to the way Mr. Knox consistently talks about a Wrestling Revolution, but is a wrestling traditionalist.
ROSE: Oh yeah! The gay marriage thing.
(She turned to Impulse.)
ROSE: I still don’t know what that was all about.
IMPULSE: To answer Rose’s question quickly, The First was equating working hard for my breaks in the wrestling business with denying equal rights for everyone.
IMPULSE: The First is kind of an idiot.
(Another wave of laughter went through the crowd.)
IMPULSE: But to really answer that, I mean, the implication is that The First is the true rebel and renegade because he’s out there on the edge doing his own thing. In the land of, in his words, no rules, only suggestions, of hair pulling and eye gouging and choking… I’d say a wrestler who doesn’t do those things is the real revolutionary one.
ROSE: Counterculture to the counterculture.
IMPULSE: Besides that, I already break all the rules I want. I beat as many people as I want in the face with bricks, I lie as much as I want, steal as much as I want, and kill people as much as I want. Which is to say I don’t want to do any of it. It’s incredible how hard of a concept this is to some people.
LOMBARDO: I think we’re about out of time. One more question.
QUESTION: Do you regret not entering EPW with a direct challenge to Anarky’s World Title?
IMPULSE: No, because I’m here. I’m not the Jim Morrison, we want the world and we want it now kind of guy. I have a deep respect and appreciation for this sport, and I know that – win or lose – if you walk into a World Title match without having earned it, you fans will collectively turn your backs on it. It’s important to me, not only to do business the right way, but to do what I can to be an example of doing business the right way.
The First wants to say the only thing I’ve done, singles – wise since losing the Intercontinental belt to Stalker was win a Cameron Cruise assisted pinfall over Triple X. Well, the only things the First has done since then, singles – wise, has been to lose the World Title clean to Cruise and steal it back from him, and pin a woefully still-unprepared Aaron Jones. We can trade career highlights and lowlights until we run out of skeletons and it won’t do anything but waste TV time.
Only thing, I didn’t need multiple tries to get a win over Sean Stevens or Cameron Cruise.
(He stood up as a bunch of last minute questions were shouted out, but Impulse took Rose’s hand, gave a wave… and walked into the crowd.
Apparently, the press conference would continue in a somewhat informal way.)