Once In Forever
(Fade in from black on ROCKO DAYMON, decked out in his formal wrestling attire, stoically pacing back and forth in the ring. Based on our surroundings, we can infer that we’re in The Dojo back in his native Seattle. In the background, a stereo on the shelf is playing through Earth’s “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull”.)
The day is almost here, gentlemen…
(Daymon broods in a manner that only ages of sacrifice and perseverance can attest to. He speaks low, but audibly…)
Tomorrow night, I’m getting on a plane to go to New York. And the next time you’ll see me, I’ll be there in the ring, at Madison Square Garden. The main event of Wrestleverse V…
(The shot cuts to The Dojo’s current class, standing outside the ring, looking in. It’s a small group of five, ranging in ages and body types. They all look fairly banged up, but all of them are nevertheless completely fixated on their teacher’s words.)
All of you will be right there in the front row, at my expense… but don’t mistake my intentions. I’m not paying to fly you across the nation so you can enjoy a vacation. Consider this a field trip… a learning experience.
(Cut over to Rocko’s right-hand man and the Dojo’s head trainer, FRANK ARES, leaning up against the corner ring post. He’s also watching the school’s founder speak, taking in every word…)
I’m bringing you all with me to give you the opportunity to watch the pinnacle of professional wrestling greatness, right there before your very eyes. I want to you watch and take in everything you can… in order to understand what it takes to fight at that level, and succeed.
(We return to Rocko, now looking down into the faces of his pupils.)
But you’re not going simply to watch me. You guys have seen me cut it in here plenty of times… there’s nothing new for you to learn in watching me. But there’s plenty for you to learn from the other three men involved in this rumble.
Castor Strife reached the peak of the industry by being everything he claims to be: evolutionary. And that’s everything we’ve been trying to accomplish here at the Dojo since we opened. There isn’t a finer example of that skill than Strife himself. Watch how he moves… watch how he thinks. Understand what sets him above the usual standards.
Of course, I shouldn’t have to tell you to watch Impulse. The man is a wrestling encyclopedia… a machine of flesh and bone programmed to wrangle any man of any size or shape to his limits. It doesn’t matter who really has the belt in this equation… because if there’s any man in the company who has been it’s representative unspoken TRUE champion, it’s him. It’s remarkable that a man so young can accomplish so much, and still show potential for more… which is why you need to watch him, and learn as much as possible, about his mental discipline and emotional fortitude. These are the qualities not simply of champions, but future legends.
And yes… I’ll even say that you must watch the World Champion himself. The First is arguably the one man who has shown the least amount of pure wrestling dominance out of the four involved in this match… but it’s what he hasn’t show us yet that you need to watch out for. Watch his eyes… watch his every subtle movement and action. A scoundrel to some, what many overlook is that the First claimed his current stake by being a master manipulator, thinking ahead of his opponents every step of the way.
(He pauses for a beat… steps through the ropes to join the younger wrestlers on the floor. Now rather than standing above them, he stands among them.)
You are going to witness four of the greatest wrestlers of our generation all together in one match. And the greatest prize in the history of professional wrestling -- the EPW World Heavyweight Championship -- will be up for grabs. You only see a match like this once every rare Pay Per View event… or hell, every decade, as far as I’m concerned. Which is why I want you to be there…
In order to be a great wrestler, you have to know great wrestling… and through that battle, not just all of you, but the entire world will come to know just what that is, once one man stands triumphant over the rest.
I can’t tell you it’s going to be me… because there are no guarantees. Not in wrestling… not in life. Confident as I am, anything can happen. That’s what makes it a sport. And as it grows even more unpredictable through increasingly fierce competition, then the more the fans will benefit.
So I hope this experience proves beneficial to you… in case any of you ever find the opportunity to put yourself in that very place one day.
(Looking over his class, he nods… a rare moment where he seems content with who he sees as the future of the business.)
...that’s all for today. See you guys in a couple weeks.
(The students bow respectfully, as with any traditional Dojo, and Daymon returns the gesture as the class dismisses and the handful of pupils hit up the lockers to change and gather their things. Ares approaches, and Rocko’s brow strains slightly with a tinge of worry.)
Hasn’t been seen for a month. Probably couldn’t handle it…
That doesn’t seem like him…
I keep telling you… you keep up going hard on these guys, you’re going to start scaring them away.
We have to be hard on them, Frank… it’s the only way to prepare them for the long-term. Even still, Stephen was a trooper. He wouldn’t be gone this long without at least giving us some sort of notice…
Look, you’ve got other things to worry about other than Stephen Waltz. The friggin’ EPW World Championship is at stake here! Just try and get some rest before tomorrow… keep your focus, and all that. I’ll shut it all down here.
...no. You go home. I’ll close the place up tonight. You’ve practically been running this place yourself for the past year anyway. It’s time I put some work into it...
If you insist, Boss. Just take it easy… and don’t stay up late.
Good night, Frank…
(Ares steps out of the frame. Off camera, we can hear him exit through the front doors, following the others on their way out. All alone, except for the sounds of Dylan Carlson’s atmospheric drone music, Daymon shuts his eyes and takes in a deep breath… finding a place of serenity in himself. The wrinkles on his brow show a lifetime of heavy contemplations, but only now, standing in the middle of a lifetime of hard work and achievement, does he appear to show a sense of complete understanding.)
Last year, three of the greatest athletes of our time stood in the EPW ring, and set the foundation for what would ultimately become this one highly anticipated main event battle on the grand-daddy of Empire Pro events. And the time, the fourth man was no more than a mere afterthought…
I wasn’t hand-picked to be in this match, based on prior accomplishments and credentials. When I came back to this company, there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not I could live up to my own expectations. Yet all this time later, I’m the one man who successfully earned my spot in this match.
And there’s something to be said about that… because lately, I feel it hasn’t been said enough. Taking back the belt has been the message from the beginning. That’s always been the Mission, and my motivation for being here. Yet sometimes I wonder if the deeper meaning is getting lost on some of my viewers… because I feel there’s more to it than just an old man with incredible talent and incredible drive.
If all this was JUST about retaking the title, then I could have easily pulled the Sean Stevens card and put in a request for an instant shot at the belt the moment I walked through the door. Dan Ryan knows who I am… he knows what I can bring in that ring. But I wasn’t interested in any of that… I wanted to make the journey from the bottom to the top, one more time.
Because claiming the right to declare myself as the champion of the world is one thing… but to be the undisputed greatest in all of professional wrestling? Knowing I climbed every rung of the ladder in my journey, faced all odds and overcame everything to put myself in that top spot? Knowing that I never compromised my integrity or my beliefs or my ability to put 100% in every match?
That’s how I define being the best wrestler in the world.
(His sage-like gaze finds the camera…)
It’s not a claim… simply a standard, that I painstakingly try to live up to every time I step between those ropes. It’s my desire to live up to that standard that pushed me past obstacle and brought me to this point. And while the story of a returning legend looking for one more reign as champion is nice for the media and the fans to pine over, what many fail to forget is that I’m the one man in this match who’s been consistently working his way up to Wrestleverse V.
Maybe the three of you weren’t around long enough to remember… but before the Undying, before the Legend, the Myth, the MAN, and before even the World Heavyweight Champion… Rocko Daymon was known in the hearts and minds of the Empire Pro fans as the Paragon of Professional Wrestling Excellence.
How I’m perceived isn’t what important. What is important, to me, is knowing that every time I compete, I carry myself as the best… and fight to the best of my ability.
(He folds his arms over his chest.)
Understand, Impulse… you don’t have to distinguish yourself to me as a wrestler... because I know one when I see one. I know plenty about wrestling... and I’ve been showing a great deal of it over the past year, competitively, one show after the next.
The man on a Mission? The “Thought”? That’s a purely intangible concept… immaterial. It can’t harm anyone. But this…
(He raises his fist before the camera.)
THIS… is very real. And this WILL hurt you at some point between the bells, Impulse.
And with a Thought behind it, it can hurt immeasurably more than anything you’ve yet to experience in that ring.
The best wrestler will win this match and leave Wrestleverse V… but frankly, Impulse, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s you at this point. By all respects, you make a fairly compelling argument… but I didn’t come here to argue. Just win. And that’s what matters in the end. This isn’t about who makes the best point, or who’s “right”. The truth in this sport is defined by our conquests and failures.
Whether or not I fit your definition of wrestler is not really my concern. What distinguishes me is not what I’m fighting for… a second shot at the title. It’s the experience… the commitment… the preparation. What distinguishes me is that I have been building momentum for the better part of a year… while you’ve been coasting.
Beat me in that ring, Impulse, and I’ll give you the nod. If you can outlast me at my very best, and walk out of that ring with the World Heavyweight Title, then I won’t think of you as anything less than the very best wrestler on the planet, in this era of professional wrestling. You’re the only other man involved in this match that could earn that credit.
(He tilts his head to the side… we can see subtle changes in his expression.)
I don’t say that to depreciate your talents, First and Strife… but all week, I’ve been waiting to hear a compelling argument come out of either of you, and have yet to hear anything of substance. No claims, no intentions… just moving lips and the regular word patterns we’ve come to expect from you.
Talking for the sake of talking… but saying nothing of merit to convince me either one of you can outlast what Impulse and I are going to unleash once that bell sounds.
Castor… I honestly don’t even know why you’re here. Not just in this match, but simply in this federation. Venturing into new territory? Or banking in on a hot market? Or maybe there’s another agenda… maybe you’re not alone in this, and we just haven’t seen what’s waiting behind the curtain.
Whatever it may be, you’re not leaving Madison Square Garden with the World Heavyweight Title. Any other day in any other federation, maybe you’d best me… but even though this match is taking place in New York City, as long as we fight in the Empire Pro ring, in front of the Empire Pro fans, you’re fighting in MY home.
And if you thought you could walk into my home and sit yourself in my favorite seat without hearing about it… then, Castor, you’d only be proving your critics right.
You’re not the only one who evolves to this ever-changing sport. From the ten years spanning this federation’s existence, I’ve appeared in many forms, and shared the locker room with countless generations of wrestlers. Through all that time and all that change, I’ve continually found ways to stay ahead of the competition… always in reaching distance to the top.
With your coming to this federation, I will do what I always do, and prepare for the changes that will follow…
...and those that don’t have the will or the strength to follow suit… men like our own World Heavyweight Champion… they’ll be lost in the shuffle.
(He narrows his eyes.)
Let me be clear, First… I shouldn’t have to tell you what I think about you carrying that belt. That alone should be obvious. So let me tell you something you probably don’t know…
Your reign ends at Wrestleverse.
Not because I think I’m better, or smarter… not because I feel immune to whatever schemes you have in the works. You won’t succeed in this match, simply because you no longer have the will.
The truth was clear as day, just by the look in your eyes of your last promo. It couldn’t be more obvious that you’re just phoning it in at this point. Your unwarranted and unearned time at the top has lost its luster. You’ve finally grown bored with it… because you killed what sport there was in trying to earn that belt the legit way. You could always cheat your way into another win, but I don’t think you will, First…
I don’t think you care enough, at this point.
You speak because you have to. You wrestle, because it’s the obligation of a champion. But everything about pursuing greatness… claiming yourself to be the best… you’ve deluded yourself into your broken philosophy for so long that you’ve apparently lost all the will to push yourself or show any motivation to overcome and outsmart your enemies by any means necessary.
(He shakes his head.)
When Steven and Stalker put me out of action, this federation needed a hero to step up and stand up to the powers holding sway over the entire locker room. You brought together HOPE to battle against the Anthology. You were the fan-favorite underdog against the unflinching King, “Triple X” Sean Stevens. Somehow, you triumphed over everything, against all the odds…
...and somehow, everything you accomplished was dashed away in the blink of an eye, when you up and left without explanation.
This new First… the man under the Dis mask, who has instilled the stagnant reign of terror… I’m almost convinced it’s not the same person. Perhaps we should be calling you the Second…
Your second reign will certainly end when Wrestleverse comes… either by my hand, or that of Impulse. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you welcomed it. Some men only show their true worth when they have something to fight for… and apparently, you’re one of them.
(He drops the silver robe… approaches the ring.)
However it turns out… none of us will leave Madison Square Garden the same. Some of us may leave, and never come back...
(He slides under the ropes and finds his feet, slowly turning himself in a circle and eyeing every turnbuckle with the countenance and dutifulness of a religious fanatic.)
But with or without that World Heavyweight Title… regardless of who gives me the respect and credence I’ve fought for over these years, or how I’m perceived based on what I’ve accomplished… I’m going to keep on fighting here in Empire Pro. Always pushing myself to live up to that standard of greatness… that ideal definition of the best in the world.
No excuses… no regrets… no promises… no compromises...
(His eyes find the camera.)
Just a will to fight Death long into the night…
(Somewhere off in the distance, we can hear what sounds like a chime… or the ringing of a bell. Daymon turns his head around, ready for action…)
…and live forever.
(...and we cut to black.)