A flash of light... and ascending a turnbuckle in the ring, Larry Tact stands holding his half of the TEAM Lethal Lottery Championship...
Another flash... and he is rising up in the ring, handed his half of the EPW Tag Championship...
Another flash... he stands with James Varga, his partner in winning the Lethal Lottery Championships...
Another... now, with Jared Wells, holding the EPW Tag Championships....
Another... champagne and wine and liquor flows at an undisclosed lounge, where he celebrates with Wells, Cameron Cruise, and Shawn Hart... collectively, the Anthology....
One more flash of light... Larry Tact soaks in a bath, suds forming a visible cloud of white on the surface of the steaming water. His eyes closed, the memories of the past year float across his mind's eye, dancing just above him, with the water vapors that rise up.
Twelve months ago, he was being tormented by an unknown party. He was being given clues that possibly may have led him to the location of his missing brother-- no. That was not possible. He'd decided as much. His brother was dead. He knew because... he, himself, was reponsible. No taunting by some faceless voice could change that. They kept setting goals, checkpoints, as if it was supposed to be some ridiculous game. He had had enough. He disbelieved any of it had a point.
But then... the letters. They were mostly empty, pointless. Brushstrokes on cards. Taunts, perhaps. At least, that's what he had thought... until he found the pattern. Each was a piece, forming a puzzle. It amount to a symbol, in the end, and he hadn't known what it meant. But then, he had seen it, again, recently. He knew it might be coincidence, but then again... it could be where he needed to go... if he wanted an answer, that is....
Tilting his head back, he opened his eyes, staring up at the clouded ceiling, the steam hovering like a veil, waiting to be lifted, to reveal what could already be seen underneath...
But could it be believed? Was it real... and... did he want to know....
He closed his eyes again, the silence consoling in its simplicity. Twelve months ago, he would have traded his life in for what he has now.
He had gone to a new promotion, EPW, to find a fresh crop of competition. New challenges, to keep himself sharp, and show he was far from the supposed "middle of the road" talent. The result: a surprising meeting of the minds between former rivals of his. And a force that had taken the promotion by storm. Anthology would be recognized, and lay waste until it was.
He had a Tag Chmapionship to support said recognition, now. He would add it to the Lethal Lottery Championship he held, now with the infamous Viking of the circuit, Olvir. Some might dispute he had done anything, of course, to show he was more than what others criticized him of being. To that, he welcomed the challenges of those detractors. Let them try and stop him where it mattered.
In last year's TEAM Invitational, though, some of the same detractors had to admit he had been distracted. That he was embroiled in his "personal struggle," something Larry himself would not admit to. In hindsight, there was a point where it must have caught up to him. Ravager, who had defeated him, went on to the Finals, and his friends told Larry to take some solace in that fact. It wasn't as if he had lost to just anyone.
It had been no solace, no consolation. In fact, it was the second straight year that had happened, since Ulysis Solian had defeated him on his way to the Finals, the tournament before last. It was enraging, not consoling, to know he could have been the one to advance to the Finals, against Randalls. Against Ryan. It could have, in fact, changed everything.
Wrapping a beige towel around him as he pulled the plug on the tub and got out, he took a look at himself in the mirror: his hair hanging down around his rounded, clean shaven face; his olive eyes looking back at him, something in them he knew hadn't been there the year before. Now, there weren't distractions, only clarity. With TEAM being shaken up, literally, at the top, this was a chance for people to make a fresh start. For him, there was no need. He was already a title holder, and he wasn't satisfied. Instead, there was only an awareness of what history had brought him the past two years. There was resolve to not let it happen a third. As far as TEAM was concerned, there was only one person in his bracket who was likely to have the past cycle repeat itself.
As far as Larry Tact was concerned... he'd gladly take his chances.
A backdrop with a banner hanging with the "West bracket- Galen Center, Los Angeles" branded below the official TEAM Invitational Tournament logo. Larry Tact sits on a stool, holding a water bottle on his thigh; his golden blonde hair tied back, wearing boot-cut blue jeans, black boots, and a gray, collared Ralph Lauren shirt, buttoned from the third down.
LARRY TACT: "I've taken my time to 'study the field,' this week, since my first round opponent doesn't seem to have much on his own mind. I have plenty I could have trumped up about, had I chose to. There's plenty of history between myself and this tournament, and plenty of it that I'd like to expel the aftertaste of. But when it comes down to it, there's really only one way for me to do that. Last year, I thought that if I got further than I had in previous years, that would do the trick. Well, I did get further, and it did nothing to placate me. Because when I was eliminated, I understood that the only way I'd vindicate myself-- not to anyone else, but in my mind-- would be to reach the Finals, or more likely... to win the entire tournament."
"That really speaks to my state of mind, last time around. I wanted to believe that I was able to supress what was going on around me at the time, and not to place blame or make excuses for if I lost. But to be honest, I'll just reiterate something I said after the tournament. I have no problem facing Ravager again, and making sure to correct the mistake I may have made back then. I have full confidence in that."
"But that was last year, and if I wanted to really get into it, I'd have already spoken. There's no need. The past year has shown me that I have plenty to look forward to. There's so much more out there to challenge me, if I want it, and this tournament will present one such opportunity...."
"I've kept tabs on Dan Ryan for some time, now. That's to say, I've seen him compete here and there, as far back as GXW. And while I don't obsess over any of what he's done, like some others... I don't double-down on the Dan Ryan kool-aid... there's no doubting his place is with the elite. Unfortunately, I was never much for star-chasing and putting people on pedestals. I've always been oen to prefer working my way to the top of what ranks I find myself in, if given the opportunity."
"I guess someone might say, in that way... Dan Ryan and I are similar."
"But then, I've never been one to draw those types of comparisons, either. I am, however, just fine finding out what I do to one of the 'greats' when I reach one. And while I won't look over the bridge and miss the hole in it... if it comes to it, I will, with no qualms, take on the exercise of what some would claim as 'unthinkable'... and stop Dan Ryan. Because in the end, even doing that would not placate me. Two years ago, perhaps. Not this year."
He unscrews the water bottle and takes a swig of it, then replaces the cap.
"It would have been quite the kickstarter, though, to have met a foe that was familiar-but-not in the ring, this opening round."
"See, when I saw the name 'CLAW' on the bracket sheet below my name... it brought a bit of nostalgia to mind. I remember a man from the past... a man with a deformity, affectionately referred to as 'the Claw.' I don't believe I ever actually tangled with him, though. It was a bit of an oddity, because we were in several of the same promotions, back then. I would definitely have remembered, had we, because that's the type of battle we would have waged against one another. Two men, determined to beat each other, in our own ways, with our own concepts and styles, to the point of submission. I wonder how it would have unfolded."
"So, seeing the name on the sheet... it sparked me. I haven't seen that Golem in some time, and so I thought that he might have been keeping quiet in order to make a splash. So, in addition to studying the field this week, my silence was also focused to draw him out. To spin an infamous quote... I wanted to see if, he was who I thought he was."
"But as the days passed, I've grown less confident in my theory. I'm not so sure that the fire in a man like him would keep him quiet for this long, unless he had truly changed. Still, I have prepared to face him, because there just aren't many who could stand up to him, anyway. I'd like to be one among the few... and, if it turns out this CLAW isn't the man with THE Claw... then he'll feel the fury of my disappointment."
"And I will move one step closer along a confrontation with an 'elite'... and that 'unthinkable' act I must commit."
He stands up from the stool, and walks off, flashing a smirk in passing.
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