From Rags To Redemption: Part One
The following short film is brought to you by Silent Witness Productions, in collaboration with FiveTime Productions.
Director: Silent Witness
Written By: Silent Witness, Chris Bell
Producers: Chris Bell, Neely Coe, Steve Yu
Executive Producers: Silent Witness, Lee Best, Michael Best
Presented in Ultra HD by High Octane Television
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We open on a blank screen and the sound of Silent Witness’ voice.
“I didn’t think I’d be doing this again” he says. His voice is jovial but tainted with a hint of trepidation. We fade in on a mid-range shot of the veteran performer sat on the end of a bench press. His grey Legion of Darkness 2019 t-shirt is darkened across his chest by sweat. His hair is greasy and wet from sweat. A bead of sweat rolls down his cheek and a few more have pooled at the end of his nose, just about ready to drop.
He’s really fucking sweaty. But he looks in great shape. In a dimly lighted, dingy, small, used-to-be-white brick-walled gym, the HOW great smiles and shuffles backwards; readying himself for another set of reps. As he lays down, a question comes from off camera, asked by producer Chris Bell.
“So why are you doing this?”
It’s a simple question. Probably a question many fans have been asking since his return at Refueled VI. But it stops Silent Witness in his tracks. He raises himself back up into a seated position and stares at Bell for a moment. He shrugs.
“It’s what I do” he says, before lowering himself down again.
We fade out; the black screen quickly accompanied by the sound of Right Where I Belong by 3 Doors Down. It’s a song any Silent Witness fan will instantly recognise as his entrance music during the latter part of his career. As the music continues, the names of all the production companies, distribution companies, producers and executives fade in and out, one after another, before being punctuated by the title of this production:
FROM RAGS TO REDEMPTION
The music fades out as we fade back in on a side profile of Silent Witness. He is driving his Ford Mustang along the streets of Westchester, NY., headed south-east on I-287 E. At the bottom of the screen, we are presented with the date and time of this encounter.
10:04am. Friday, July 19th, 2019.
“So why don’t you tell us where we’re headed?” prompts the cameraman – in this instance, producer Steve Yu – from the passenger seat.
“We’re going to see Frank Camissa in Westchester” replies the veteran, as he indicates his intention to take the next exit onto Winchester Avenue. “he usually works in the city, but he agreed to meet me here today. Manhattan traffic in this heat?” he chuckles. “No fucking way, man. No fucking way. It’s already…” he pauses for a moment, checking the dashboard. “… seventy degrees out here. It’s disgusting!” he smiles. “I may be from California, but this heat in this humidity? Fuck no, brother. That’s what this is for” he continues to smile; pointing at the AC button. “It’s a mother-fuckin’ God-send”.
“Who is Frank Camissa?” probes the producer. Silent Witness indicates once more, before turning on to a small business park.
“He’s the best God-damn spine doctor in the country” he replies, turning to face the producer with another smile. “He did some shit on my back at the beginning of the year; I’m just checking in with him before War Games, you know?” he adds. “I’m supposed to be in Florida for Refueled, but…” he shrugs “fuck it, let Lee be pissed if I do’t get there in time” he adds with a wry smile.
“What do you mean, ‘did some shit’? Like, surgery?” asks Yu.
“Yeah, just some correctional stuff, nothing major… It was pretty cool, actually – he used fucking robots and shit. I don’t know what the fuck he was doing, but he had this robotic arm and that’s fucking cool, man” explains Witness; excitedly.
“Is that why you had that cane when you were managing Conrad?” asks the producer, as Silent Witness pulls into a parking spot at Camissa’s Westchester office. Silent Witness parks up and turns to Yu with a devilish smile.
“Yeah, it is. Everyone thought it was because I was a washed up, old, has-been…” replies the LSD Legend, before laughing out loud. “… and that may still be true…” he laughs some more. “… but yeah, that was the reason. I had you fooled, didn’t I?” he asks, eagerly watching the producer’s reaction, off-camera. He laughs again as he opens the car door; satisfied with the response. “Yeah, I got everyone with that, man…” he adds as he steps out.
The cameraman/producer follows; walking towards the building alongside the former World Champion. Silent Witness turns to him, getting up close to the camera.
“Let’s see what he has to say, shall we?” he says, with one final smile before we fade out again.
We quickly fade back in, focused on Dr. Camissa. The middle-aged doctor is stood in front of an x-ray of Silent Witness’ lower spine. Alongside him stands his patient.
“Overall, I think it’s as good as we could have hoped for” explains the doctor. “You’re never going to have the body of a normal 41-year old, given your profession and… considering the beating your spine has taken over the last 20 years… I’m very happy” he concluded; turning to Silent Witness with a warm smile that was immediately reciprocated. The Hall of Famer reaches out and shakes the doctor’s hand.
“Thanks, doc. I really appreciate this” he adds.
We switch quickly to a few minutes later, where the doctor is sat at his desk. Silent Witness is nowhere to be seen.
“You know, what he does for a living, it takes a lot out of a man. The human body is not designed to sustain that kind of punishment on a regular basis and he’s been doing this for twenty-something years” explained Dr. Camissa, before Steve Yu interjects.
“He’s broken his neck twice. Is that a concern?” he asks.
“Not at all. Not at all. In fact, his neck is probably better than the average 30-year old’s neck, so I have no concerns there. Whoever operated on him did an exceptional job” he adds with a wry smile.
“Was that you?” asks Yu. The doctor laughs out.
“Yes” he adds, before bellowing out another laugh as we cut away to shots of Silent Witness through the years and his exploits in High Octane Wrestling.
“Since 1997, Silent Witness has been a force in the wrestling industry” Chris Bell begins to narrate over the look through the years. “In 2003, he joined the fledgling High Octane Wrestling promotion and has been a household name ever since. He has been through bad times…” adds Bell, as footage is shown of Silent Witness being stretchered out of the arena after breaking his neck at the hands of Ryan McKenna in 2015. “… and he’s had some great times…” he adds again, as Silent Witness is seen pinning Maximillian Kael to become HOW World Champion in 2012.
“He has had a decorated career than most wrestlers can only dream of having. From pioneering the LSD division, through to becoming the face of HOW as it’s World Champion, the self-proclaimed LSD Legend has overcome countless challenges to achieve his stature in HOW and the wider industry. Now, he faces one of his biggest challenges yet: Returning to the ring at aged 41… After three years out” concludes Bell, before the footage cuts to Silent Witness resting on the ring ropes, gasping for air and soaked through from sweat.
“Over the past few days, our team has followed the High Octane great during his preparation for War Games, where he will team up with fellow veteran Chris Kostoff in an attempt to rekindle past glories. The pair will face stiff competition from younger, more athletic men whom have been far more active in the past few years…” adds Bell, before switching to a talking head shot of Silent Witness.
“Yeah, I guess we’re closer to the retirement games than War Games now…” he says with a chuckle, before Bell begins narrating again; this time over recent footage of Silent Witness in training.
“Despite being in the advanced stages of their respective careers, Silent Witness remains confident that he can become a champion once again in HOW and is training hard for what will most likely be the final time in his glittering career…” leads Bell, as we switch to Silent Witness once more.
“Oh, for sure this is the last ride, man. I told Lee Best that I’m here until I lose – if we win the Tag Titles at War Games, I’m here until we lose them. If we lose at War Games…” he shrugs. “… then that’s me done” he adds, before pausing for a second. “… of course, I’ve retired a few times, so…” he adds with a smile, before laughing as we fade out once again.
“The situation with Conrad is regrettable…” began Silent Witness as we fade back in with a timestamp in the bottom-left corner.
12:15pm. Monday, July 22nd, 2019.
“… he was a good kid. He had his head turned and…” he trails off with a sigh. Silent Witness looks distressed and lowers his head. After a few seconds, Steve Yu interrupts.
“When he died, you sent out a twe-“ he begins, only to be interrupted by Silent Witness.
“Yeah, hash-tag fuck Joey Conrad…” he finishes. He shakes his head. “It was adrenaline, man. I got him back, I teamed up with Chris, I got that cheer from the crowd… It was a stupid tweet. I was trying to play on the old Fuck Defiance thing…” he sighs again. After a moment’s pause, he looks up at the director, beyond the camera; seemingly begging for a way out of this discussion.
With nothing forthcoming, he composes himself. He puffs his chest and releases a long, slow breath. “Alright…” he says, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “I shouldn’t have done that. What happened was an accident and I have apologised to his family…”
“Can we move on from this now?” he asks, visibly peeved. We fade out and Bell begins to narrate once more.
“Joey Conrad’s life was cut short when an accident during an episode of HOW’s regular programming – Refueled – went wrong…” he begins, as footage of Silent Witness and Chris Kostoff’s double powerbomb off the stage is shown – minus the landing. “Conrad landed on his head, snapping his neck and killing him instantly. It’s the latest event in a long history of similar incidents in High Octane Wrestling. Silent Witness has been around to see most of them…” he concludes, as we cut to Silent Witness in the gym, later the same day. He is stood at the water cooler, taking a short break after an hour or so of cardio.
“Yeah, HOW is a dangerous place to work, man” he begins. “All kinds of crazy shit has happened. Babies have been spiked… Well, what more can I say? Babies have been spiked!” he smiles, nervously. After a moment’s pause, the smile dissipates. “I don’t think anybody is proud of that side of our business…” he concludes.
“Are you worried about what might happen to you?” asks Neely Coe. “Considering everything that has happened before and with this being War Games…” he adds. Silent Witness shrugs; nonchalant.
“It’s always a risk… Every time we go out there, anything could happen. I mean, I’ve broken my neck twice in HOW…” he says, pausing for a moment of reflection. “… That feeling you get from the crowd, though… It’s an incredible high. I can’t explain it – it’s something intangible that just grabs you…” he adds. “… and whatever happens, I keep coming back here – it’s an addiction. I guess if something like that happens to me in the ring, at least I’ll go out doing the thing I love, you know?” he finishes, and we fade to black.
06:45am. Wednesday, July 24th, 2019.
“I have to train hard if we’re going to win this thing” states Silent Witness as we fade in on him once again in a gym. This time, he is inside a wrestling ring and he’s not alone – a young trainee from Mike Best’s #FiveTime Academy is in there with him.
“This guy? Oh, yeah – I gave him $200 to help me out today. Mike has no idea. He’s going to be pissed when he sees this” he adds with a mischievous smile. “We’re just working off that ring rust and I’m going to give him a few pointers of my own. Again, Mike will hate that, but I don’t care, man. I’ve got to do everything I can to win and to be honest, where else am I going to get ready-made wrestlers for this? Mike has a good setup there; his kids are well-trained and useful for what I need…” Silent Witness adds. He pauses, furrows his brow, then continues “… I just heard how that sounds – I meant from a wrestling context. I’m not the Pope… Whatever, Mike is taking his share of the profits when this is released on DVD anyway…” he adds with a chuckle.
Bouncing on the balls of his feet, Silent Witness gestures for the trainee to come forward. The kid surges towards the HOW veteran and the pair lock up. The LSD Legend quickly has the youngster in a headlock, which he fluidly converts into position for a DDT. He slaps the kid on his back to signify a break.
“Good” he begins. “Just remember to keep that left arm up – keep it strong. You made it too easy for me to break that” he adds. “Now let’s do something different. Rush at me…” instructs the LSD Legend.
The trainee runs forward, towards Silent Witness. As he approaches, the veteran switches his stance and launches the kid into the air with a Hip Toss. He lands with a thud, but the LSD Legend helps him to his feet.
“Good, that was a good test for me – I still have pretty good speed and movement. We’ll be doing a lot of that today, but I need you to know how to scout this kind of thing. Did you see how I turned my body? I need you to telegraph what I’m doing and counter it – don’t be afraid to throw something in that I’m not expecting” explains Silent Witness, to the eager nodding of approval and understanding of the trainee. “Now, don’t fuck it up or I’ll have to tell Mike and he’ll kick both our asses, alright?” he warns, jovially. The pair lock up again and we watch in silence for a moment as Silent Witness whips the youngster into the ropes. They collide with a Shoulder Block as we fade out…
We slowly fade back in later the same day. The timestamp in the corner tells us it’s 4:22pm as Silent Witness takes a seat behind a hardwood conference table in a New York hotel. Chris Bell fires in his first question.
“You’ve always been known as a very serious guy” he begins, to which Silent Witness nods in agreement. “One thing we have all noticed while we’ve been filming this is how relaxed you are” he continues. The veteran nods again. “You’re smiling a lot, laughing and joking… What has changed? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see you’re happy, but we were expecting… I don’t know, more intensity, I guess?” concludes Bell.
Silent Witness smiles once more, proving Bell’s point. “I guess it’s one of those things you learn as you get older…” he begins. “We’re still a couple of weeks out from War Games – what’s the point ramping up my blood pressure right now?” he asks. “There’s a time for that, sure, but I don’t have to beat myself up about it all the time. I just need to prepare – physically, mentally… do my due diligence on the opposition… it’s a lot easier and a lot smarter when you’re not going from zero to one hundred all the time” he concludes.
“You haven’t really spoken much about your opponents yet” replies Bell. “Is that something you’re doing consciously?”
“Not really. I’m just focusing on getting myself ready right now. I’ll address them when I need to, that’s obviously a part of this whole thing, but to be honest I’ve been in this business for so long, there isn’t really anything left that I haven’t seen” states Silent Witness. “You know, with Joey, we were studying everything – trying to find those weaknesses, trying to find our lane… I don’t really need to do that anymore” he adds, before shrugging. “It is what it is.”
We fade out once more, before quickly fading back in with Right Where I Belong playing once more. Footage is shown of Silent Witness in training, as Chris Bell narrates over the top.
“Over the past few days, we have seen a side of Silent Witness that we haven’t seen before: Friendly; approachable; happy. When we began this project, we were expecting an insight into how a HOW veteran prepares for ‘one last throw of the dice’. What we have seen in abundance is the human side, that we have rarely seen before, of a man coming to terms with the twilight of his career yet struggling with some of the mistakes he has made in the past.
“Join us again for Part Two, as we discuss the low points of a career that has spanned three decades and look ahead to the final swansong of a true HOW great”.