Here I am.
FADE IN: on a caption set, center-screen, reading: July 3, 2009. This fades into a rooftop scene, a pool in the background, surrounded by brick-laid patio, and party decor setup all around. A lone man sits back on a patio chair, facing us; his back to the pool, dressed in khaki shorts and a ribbed pine-green shirt. His blonde hair is tied back, not hiding his olive green eyes, or the smug expression on his face.
LARRY TACT: "Validation. Fame. Glory. Respect. Riches."
"These are all things people relate to a match with Dan Ryan. If you are able to defeat this man, you may be looked at in a whole different way. If you feel that you've been under a glass ceiling, this may be your chance to finally break through. A victory over Dan Ryan may propel you to a level you've never seen before. Promoters may come flocking to you; new opportunities may open. And if you play your cards right, you may be on your way to gaining all those things I first mentioned."
"But what about for the man who doesn't need Dan Ryan for those things? What about the man who is, literally, just trying to use him to advance one more round? What lies in store for that man?"
"Hang on, everyone. We're going to find out, because this is it. We're almost upon the time of Dan Ryan and Larry Tact, facing off in the Regional Finals. And I think I've made it relatively clear throughout this tournament... that I'm not here just for a match with Dan Ryan."
"I'm simply facing Dan Ryan so I can advance out of the West Region, and further towards the TEAM Invitational Finals."
He pauses for a moment.
"Dan, there's no doubt; you're one of the greatest in-ring competitors anyone's ever seen. You're as decorated as they come, and have stood in the ring with the elite. You've run the gamut of promotions in the wrestling industry, and there's no one who can take away from the run you've had."
"On top of all your in-ring accomplishments, you put together a fine promotion, in EPW. Your business savvy has been almost flawless, to the point where you even had A1E in the palm of your hand, for a time. Granted, all that's now in other hands, but...(chuckles)... I think you know who to call, if you wanted or needed to."
"I could even thank you for putting the talent in place, that would eventually form one of the greatest forces known to wrestling, in the Anthology."
"I could... but that isn't the point of listing things you've heard a thousand times."
"The point is... I'm well aware of who you are. And you're aware enough of who I am, given I'm in EPW."
He leans forward a bit, sitting on the edge of the seat.
"We both know what it feels like to win big matches, and to lose them, too. Wrestling doesn't have secrets we haven't uncovered yet. We're familiar with how to play the game, and we know the way we like to operate. This is veteran facing veteran... and neither one of us is going to let up."
"But while you're looking for one more trip to the Finals, and one more win... I'm still hungry to meet that challenge for the first time. And don't bull(BLEEP) us all, Dan. When you've yet to meet a challenge you've set your sights on, there's just something... more... driving you."
"The first time is always sweetest."
He gets up from the chair and walks out of the camera's view. A few seconds later... FADE OUT.
The screen then shows, July 4, 2009. FADE IN: on the same location, but with a party in full swing. Music sounds out into the air, people hanging out in the pool, and dancing out of it. The camera is moves along, occasionally we see people waving, and a female voice asks the guests how they're doing, from off camera. Eventually, we come out of the general pack of the party, and down to the balcony, where we find Larry Tact, wearing a pair of blue Alfani jeans and a black Nautica shirt. He leans over the balcony railing, a cocktail in hand, looking at the Manhattan skyline. Glancing back momentarily, he sees the camera approaching.
LARRY TACT: "Ever the intrepid filmographer, Cin?"
The voice of Tact's longtime girlfriend, Cindy Winsted, can be heard from off camera.
CINDY WINSTED: "What are you doing out here? It's not very host-like to step away from the party for too long. Let's get back to our adoring guests!"
LT: "I just need a little time to think..."
After a few moments, the camera is set down, and we see Cindy appear and nuzzle up to Tact, wrapping her arms around one of his. She has on a curve-hugging purple string tanktop and black miniskirt, showing off her long legs, with her brown hair tied up.
CW: "You, needing time away from one of our parties? Sounds pretty serious..."
LT: "Yeah, well... I can't go all-out tonight. You know how it is."
CW: "I know, sweetie. Do you think you're ready for the TEAM Regionals?"
LT: "Yeah, I'm ready."
CW: "It's a big match for you. If you win, you'll be in the Final Four. Not to mention... I mean, beating Dan Ryan is pretty big."
There's a pause, and she rubs his back.
LT: "Babe, you know I won't take Dan Ryan lightly, but that isn't my reason for doing this."
CW: "Of course. But you've been taking time to prepare for this match virtually since the moment he advanced."
LT: "Yeah, I've taken some time every day. The thing is... it isn't Dan Ryan I'm worried about... not so much as myself."
CW: "Sweetie, you've always given it your all. I've seen that, myself, for years!"
He wraps an arm around her waist.
LT: "That's true... but it's just that... I may be one of a very few people who doesn't see Dan Ryan on this pedestal. It's strange, watching other people going back-and-forth with him, before a match... and just acting differently than they usually would. It's like something's... missing from them... like something gets stripped away, when they see they're facing Dan Ryan."
CW: "But what? What's missing?"
Tact doesn't say anything for a few moments.
LT: "Confidence, I guess. When you go up against Dan Ryan, you aren't able to hide anything. Any titles you've won... anything you've done before... it's basically meaningless to talk yourself up about. People I've spoken with, who have faced Ryan, tell me they were amazed by his ability. They thought he was stronger, or faster, than they realized. Or they never expected he'd kickout of their most reliable move... reach the ropes when they had him in their most practiced submission."
CW: "Well, no offense, honey... but Dan Ryan IS the most accomplished wrestler around today, isn't he?"
LT: "None taken... and yeah, you're right. That's kind of what I don't understand. All these people go into their matches knowing they're facing an accomplished wrestler... one of the best. But they talk themselves up like they're going to beat him senseless. They think, somehow, THEY have the move or technique that's going to make the match easier for them. I've seen guys who I've been in promotions with, set to face Dan Ryan... and it's like they change themselves. They either try to act like they're on level with him, or that they're ABOVE him. The truth is, for anyone facing him, it's a battle against yourself, as much as against him. You can't think you'll put him away easily. It's just not possible."
CW: "I guess they need to get their egoes boosted before they face someone his caliber?"
LT: "Yeah... I guess. Maybe the whole 'Ego Buster' thing has something to it, huh?"
CW: "What's important is, you don't forget who YOU are. You got to this point by trusting yourself, and the people who know you believe in the way you've succeeded. There's no reason to change that, just trust yourself. Trust your routine. Which, might I add, would normally include an annual Fourth of July party...."
He looks at her, gives a lopsided grin, and kisses her lightly. They pick up the camera and we see a shot of the Manhattan skyline, as fireworks begin going off in the distance. FADE OUT.
A caption reading, July 5, 2009. FADE IN: on Larry Tact, sitting at a table of the world-reknowned Blue Note jazz club. Currently on stage is HIROMI, a female artist who plays piano and keyboards with her tunes, accompanied by bass, guitar, and drums from her backup. As they play, the camera turns towards Tact, who has on a Kenneth Cole ensemble: tan button-down shirt, stonewashed blue jeans, and black shoes. His golden blonde locks are tied back, and he looks relaxed with a glass of wine and a finished plate of food.
LT: "Sometimes we act differently without realizing it, but it's important not to stray from what works. I've been concentrating on preparing for my match with Dan Ryan for some time, now, and I've been careful to keep to what I do, and not what others want me to do. I never expected any defining moment, where I figured out a fatal flaw in his technique. Actually, Dan's pretty straightforward, as far as that goes. He does his thing, and he does it well. He comes to the ring, ready to overwhelm and punish his opponents, and generally finds people who just aren't able to keep their heads on. Whether it's because they actually are overwhelmed by him, or just let the name and notoriety of Dan get into their heads? Who knows. Either way, the result is the same."
He takes the wine glass in hand, gently swirling its contents.
LT: "Frankly, Dan... it'd be a pain in the neck to look up to you all the time."
He takes a sip from the glass, savoring it, then nods, grinning.
"And while I know you live up to your hype, as much as anyone could... at some point, I'd think you'd have to watch out not to buy into it all. Especially when you're facing someone who can meticulously... tactically... take advantage of overconfidence of that sort."
He sets the glass back on the table.
"You see, it's not that I won't acknowledge what you've done. I've gone and done that. The truth is, though, you aren't wrestling me with your trophies and titles wrapped around you for protection. People see their name next to yours on a card, and they immediately begin thinking of what has gotten you all the notoriety."
"I look at you, Dan... and I see the man who stands in my way of getting to this tournament's Final Four."
"That means I'm facing someone who's on their game, to have reached this far. And I'm facing someone who can finish me off, just like I can them, in the matter of one good chance. At this stage of the tournament, it's really just as simple as that. You've got to be ready to face people at their best."
"Just like I am."
"This is going to be Federer-Roddick, in the ring. On the one side, you've got the pinnacle of our sport; the one by which all others are measured. He's amassed the most titles, he's got nothing more he needs to prove, and it allows him to play where he pleases, at his leisure."
"On the other side, you've got a man who has had success. He's certainly one of the best in the sport, and has won 'Big Ones' in the past. At the moment, he's looking to breakthrough to a new height, meet a new challenge in his sport. He's got all the ability necessary, all the tools required."
"The match is going to be grueling. Momentum is going to swing one way, then the other, then back again... on and on. Both men will be put to the test... both will be worn down."
"And the result?"
"Nobody will know, for sure, until the very end."
He clasps his hands together on the table.
"Not for nothing, but 'Cammy' can take care of his own ego. And if you've been as ignorant as everyone else... not realizing Anthology for the force it is, and not needing each other as crutches... then, Dan, you surely aren't taking me as seriously, either."
"I'm sorry you can't speak for yourself on this match; that you need me to show you I'm paying attention, before you'll actually say something worth listening to. Just the same, I'm obligated to listen... but you should know that I'm not going to break out the band because, holy crap! Dan Ryan speaks!"
"You can criticize me for taking my time, and it's not any different than all those in the past, who criticized me for appearing too often. Ironic, that bit..."
"To each his own, though. I've matured since those days of the past. For instance, had we faced years ago, maybe I'd be like the Jonathan Marx's of the world... just being satsified to get to this point. Satisfied to be facing Dan Ryan, and all that means. Maybe I'd be talking like mad, trying to be the gutsy underdog."
"By now, though, you face me as a veteran. It isn't about beating Dan Ryan. It's about earning the opportunity to continue wrestling in this tournament."
"It isn't about breaking through any glass ceiling. It's about having the opportunity to challenge myself further, against three others who are wrestling at the top of their games."
"Maybe that's not something that impresses you, Dan."
"Well, maybe I'll try squeezing a tear out over it once our match is done."
"But in the ring, there's no chance I won't have. And Dan, with all you've done, in the ring and out of it... through titles won and companies invaded... you know how wrestling can throw even the greatest their curves."
"So when the great Dan Ryan falls to Larry Tact, this round, I don't even care if you acknowledge it or not. Just take it in stride, humbly and quietly, as I move on to the Final Four."
"Because whether you think I'm paying attention or not, have a shot or not... one thing you should know well in wrestling, even from some of your own endeavors..."
"Anything is possible."