From Rags To Redemption: Part II
“Welcome back to the second and final part of our in-depth look into the preparations of a HOW legend ahead of what might be the final match of his illustrious career” begins Chris Bell, over clips of some of Silent Witness’ finer moments. They fade out, replaced quickly by the title of this production:
FROM RAGS TO REDEMPTION: PART II
The screen remains blank for a moment as the production credits are listed, one after another. As the names fade in and out, the long, dull beeping sound of an outgoing phone call, waiting to be answered, can be heard. We fade in on Silent Witness’ phone – the outgoing call is to the irrepressible Chris Kostoff.
“Hey, brother, what’s up my man?” booms the Floridian’s voice as the camera zooms out to bring Silent Witness into view. He immediately grabs the phone from the table it had been resting on and takes the call off speaker mode. He raises the phone to his ear.
“Chris” he begins, his beaming smile evident in his voice. “How ya doin’, brother?” he asks, before pausing as he listens to the response from HOW’s greatest ever performer. “Good to hear, buddy… yeah, I’m feeling good. Been hitting the gym harder than I have done in probably fifteen years” he says, adding a chuckle to punctuate. The LSD Legend begins pacing back and forth in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home, as the timestamp appears, as ever, in the bottom corner.
10:10am. Sunday, July 28th, 2019.
“… I’m not lifting as much as you, brother. I’m not a God-damn machine!” exclaims the HOW veteran, pausing for a moment before chuckling at the response from his War Games tag team partner. “Yeah, well, all I’m saying is you don’t always have to crack an egg with a sledgehammer, brother. Sometimes you can use a little finesse…” he replies, a smile on his face. Another pause. Another laugh. It’s clear that Silent Witness is as comfortable with Kostoff now as they ever were in their L.o.D days and it’s a fair assumption that the pair are on the same page. “Ok, man. You do it your way, I’ll do it my way and we’ll walk out of there with the belts…” states Silent Witness, smiling. He paces around the room some more as Kostoff replies.
“Yeah, I’ll be in Florida by Wednesday, maybe Thursday, so we can get together once I-“ he stops mid-sentence and pauses, listening to Kostoff on the other end of the line. “Oh, sure, that would be great. Thanks, brother… Alright, I’ll see you then” he says, before ending the call. Silent Witness walks back over to the table where he picked the phone up from and takes a seat; his smile still beaming. “Sorry, I can’t keep still when I’m on the phone” he states.
“What was Kostoff saying to you?” asks Chris Bell, one of the documentary’s producers. “He invited me to stay with him down in Tampa for a few days” replies Silent Witness. “It will be nice to catch up with him and Barbi again, talk about the old days… That will be a lot of fun” he adds. “Then we can get down to the task at hand, work out how we’re going to attack War Games” he concludes.
“How do you feel about teaming with Kostoff again? You were a formidable team in the Legion of Darkness, but you’ve also gone toe-to-toe on a number of occasions since then. There are a lot of cloudy skies overhead…” questions Bell. Silent Witness is ready with his answer, however, and fires back.
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge, too” he snaps. He isn’t angry or upset, but his assertiveness has a hint of annoyance at the line of questioning. It doesn’t last long, however, as the LSD Legend quickly returns to his calm, relaxed demeanour. “Look, Chris and I haven’t always seen eye to eye and we’ve both done things we regret. Hell, you can’t hang around in HOW for sixteen, seventeen years without regretting some of your choices. But we’ve both grown up in HOW; we joined as kids, essentially. Now we’re… well, let’s say semi-functional adults” he says, chuckling. “But we have enormous respect for each other, both as human beings and for our accomplishments in the ring. It will be a pleasure and an honor to team with Chris again” he adds; a hint of pride creeping into his expression.
“Do you think you can win?” asks Bell. Silent Witness pauses for a moment, pondering his answer. “Yes” he says, assertively, while also raising a finger, gesturing for Bell to wait a moment. “But we are going to have to roll back the years. We’re still great in short bursts, like you have seen over the past few weeks, but this is going to be a long match and we’re going to have to be clever. We’re not as young as we once were and it’s going to be difficult against so many great teams” he concludes.
“We’re in the mix, though, for sure. Don’t count us out” he says, smiling, as we fade out.
4.13pm. Sunday, July 28th, 2019.
“What did you make of Lee Best’s comments at the end of Refueled?” asks Chris Bell, as we fade in on Silent Witness in an increasingly familiar situation: Dripping with sweat, taking a breather in the gym. Once again, he is perched on the end of a bench press.
“We had a good ‘tear up’, as Joey would say” he begins. “It was good to get in the ring with those guys. We got a little bit of a feel for what those guys are bringing to the table and the fans got a little taster of what’s to come” he adds, before wiping sweat from his brow with a towel.
“What about Lee’s comments?” probes Bell. Silent Witness furrows his brow slightly; visibly annoyed as he thinks back to the aftermath of Refueled.
“He can go fuck himself, to be honest” begins the Hall of Famer; candidly. “One minute he’s saying the old guard has let him down, calls me washed up, then wants me to go out there and ‘prove myself’ to him?” questions the veteran, visibly and audibly angry. “There wouldn’t be a HOW if it weren’t for people like Chris Kostoff and myself. Meanwhile, he’s out there recruiting mercs from fucking Defiance of all places…” he pauses, shaking his head in disgust. “Lee Best is literally injecting a cancer into High Octane Wrestling and says that we’re letting him down?” he asks, before curling his upper lip in disdain. He shakes his head again. “I’m heading into this match for myself and for Chris and nobody else. We’ll win together or we will lose together, but anything Lee Best has to say about it does not interest me. He’s a great businessman, obviously, but I lost respect for him as a man a long, long time ago” he adds, as we fade out once more.
6.01pm. Sunday, July 28th, 2019.
“I’d like to change the pace a little bit” begins producer Steve Yu. “I’d like to delve into your past a little bit, and also look to the future – to what you’re going to do next, once this is all over” he continues. “Let’s start with your legacy in HOW. You’re known as the LSD Legend, a fully deserved moniker after five title reigns. You’re a four-time Tag Team Champion – potentially five-time if War Games goes your way – and, of course, you had that World Championship title reign…” he continues, as Silent Witness nods. “You’ve also had a barren spell… it’s been seven years since you were World Champion and you haven’t held a title since. Are you concerned that your lack of recent success is having a negative impact on your legacy?” concludes Yu.
“I don’t think so” begins the Hall of Famer, a little surprised by the question. “You don’t look at someone like Muhammad Ali and say ‘oh he lost to Trevor Berbick in his last match; everything he did before that doesn’t count’… I’m not saying I’m HOW’s equivalent to Ali, but that metaphor stands” he insists, assertively. “You have people nowadays that question whether it’s Scottywood or me that stands as the greatest LSD Champion… They forget that before Scotty had a chance to build that great career he has had, I built the entire LSD division. The tapes were lost a long time ago so it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves – maybe that will change with the overhaul of HOTv and with some of the early stuff being found – but before I came along you had Chris CK and Splinter fucking around with the LSD title, burying it into the ground. I rebuilt that division and made it worth a fuck – I didn’t quite headline a pay-per-view with it, but we were fucking close to making that call, back when I was Commissioner” he professes, passionately. “I guess maybe that means some people that are new to HOW will never appreciate it, but I think anybody that is a student of HOW’s history recognises the part I’ve had to play in making the LSD title the prestigious championship it is today” he adds.
“The other stuff – the tag titles – nobody gives a shit about that. They have never really been a huge part of HOW, but it would be pretty cool to be a double five-time champion. Maybe Chris and I can bring some respect back to the tag division, who knows… As for the World title, that’s where my biggest regret lies” explains Witness, sighing. “Nobody wants to vacate any title, but after ten years of trying, to finally win it was incredible. I was having a good run, too, but Rhys had turned into a fucking psychopath at that point and to have to give the title up in that manner… yeah, that was disappointing” he adds.
“Let’s say you don’t win at War Games” began Yu. “We know that you will hang around if you win the belts until you lose them, but let’s say that doesn’t happen and War Games is Silent Witness’ final ever match” he adds, leading up to his question. “What happens next? Do you stay in the business in some capacity? You mentioned that you have been Commissioner in the past – would you be interested in that kind of role? Or is this the last we see of Silent Witness in any wrestling capacity?” he finally finishes. Silent Witness adjusts his position, getting more comfortable and thinking about how to answer.
“I don’t think I’ll be a Commissioner again…” he begins, shaking his head. “I don’t think I’ll appear on TV too much. Maybe at some kind of reunion show or whatever, but I don’t want to hang around just for the sake of it. I’ve always been interested in those opinion columns that you see in newspapers, so maybe something like that. I’d like to do that for the HOWrestling.com if I can, but we’ll see, I guess” states the veteran. “Outside of the industry, I think I’m just going to relax for a while and enjoy what I’ve earned. Over the last few years, I’ve made some sound investments that have put me in a financially comfortable position. I think I’ve earned the right to enjoy that” he adds.
“You had a rough spell a few years ago, culminating with you sleeping on the streets for a short time…” states Yu. “One of your opponents at War Games has been going through a similar situation. Have you reached out to Jonny O’Dell at all since his return?” he asks. Silent Witness shakes his head; dismissing Yu’s question.
“No, I haven’t. Is he still homeless? Whatever, Jonny is on his own path; he has to find his own way out, like I did. Although, having Scott Stevens as his team-mate isn’t going to help him much. Stevens is probably throwing pesos at him right now, because apparently that joke is still funny, six years later…” Silent Witness rolls his eyes. “But no, I’m not helping O’Dell. Especially not now, what with him on one of the opposing teams at War Games. He’s still a good wrestler, regardless of his situation. Teaming with Stevens, as much as he irritates me… That’s a good move. Stevens is a great wrestler and he has had success everywhere he has been. This is definitely a team we can’t take lightly, even if they have been thrown together a little bit. So no, I have no intention of reaching out to O’Dell” states the veteran.
“As you have brought it up, let’s talk about War Games…” begins Yu, pausing for a moment to gauge Witness’ reaction. He receives none. “We haven’t heard you discuss your opponents yet. I think it’s something our viewers would want to hear about, considering when this is being released…” he continues, trailing off as Silent Witness lowers himself down and adjusts his position. He begins working out and allows the awkward silence, broken only by the occasional grunting sound, to fester. Finally, between reps, he responds.
“There isn’t… much to say…” he begins. “They’re all… well equipped… to win…” states the five-time LSD Champion, between grunts. He continues in silence, before sitting back up after completing his set. He wipes his brow with a towel and looks at Yu. “I don’t really know what else to tell you…”
“Well, there are a couple of new faces for you… Crash Rodriguez and Jace Savage are new to HOW. Are you making any special plans for them?” asks Yu, continuing to press for more information; trying to crack the LSD Legend open. Witness shrugs.
“I don’t think so” begins Silent Witness, as he stands up and wipes his brow again. “This isn’t a normal match, you know; there isn’t going to be a whole lot of… I don’t know, strategy, I suppose” he says, shrugging once more. “We’ll do some prep work, of course, but in a match like this… with so many variables, you know? Ladders flying at you, probably some chairs, probably a few tables… you have to adapt to what gets thrown at you.”
Silent Witness begins walking away, gesturing for the crew to follow him. We cut away to just a few minutes later.
6.45pm. Sunday, July 28th, 2019.
We didn’t finish talking about your War Games match…” Yu trails off, leading Silent Witness to continue discussing the upcoming event, as we find him face down on a massage table. His physio is giving him a painful looking massage, but it doesn’t stop him from talking to the producer.
“Well as I was saying, you have to adapt to what gets thrown at you – probably literally. Inside that dome, you know, it’s going to be hot as hell, especially if we get all the baseball fans in there as well, raising the temp. So, it’s going to be tough on all of us. I don’t think there’s any huge gain to be had by watching hundreds of tapes for this one. Maybe Stevens, because he has a lot of history in the War Games match, but so does Kostoff and I’ve captained a team myself, so we all have our own pedigree” he explains.
“What about some of the others, that have not competed in a War Games match?” questions Yu. “Someone like the Egg Bandits?” he continues. Silent Witness raises his head from the massage table for a moment, as his physio works on his calves.
“Let’s get this right – this isn’t a War Games match” he begins, sternly. “It’s very similar, sure, because you have the two rings, but this is a free-for-all. There is no elimination – in some ways, that makes this match a little bit harder. You have to disable five other teams long enough for you to climb the ladder and get the belts. On the other hand, if you get wiped out for a minute, it’s not necessarily a disaster. You have time to recover, time to regroup. So, it’s not the same as the main event, really. I wouldn’t call this a War Games match, but I think the experience some of us have from competing in that match will be beneficial” he explains, before relaxing and lowering his head down into the hole in the table.
“So you would make yourself and Kostoff the favorites? Combined, you have the most experience in War Games…” asks Yu. Silent Witness laughs, bemused.
“Why would we be favorites?” he asks. “We have a combined age of about three hundred and fifty – we’re not the favorites for anything other than ‘next person to die’!” exclaims the veteran. “No, not at all. The favorites would have to be either Zion and Hanson or the Bandits. They are well-knit units, they feed off of each other and that can generate a lot of momentum” he explains.
“Yourself and Kostoff have teamed together in the past and you’ve had great chemistry in the brief glimpses we have seen of you together recently. That would make the Legion of Darkness favorites in the eyes of many fans. How do you feel about that?” asks Yu, continuing to probe the High Octane Hero.
“Look, the L.o.D are in with a chance, don’t get me wrong. We’re motivated, we’re in good shape… Kostoff finally gets to compete at Tropicana and I’m sure I’ll be hearing about that for the next 30 years…” he chuckles, poking fun at the Tampa native. “Who knows, if we perform like the Rays have been this year, maybe this is ours to lose, but you can’t make us favorites, man. We’re too old to be favorites!” he says, laughing as we fade out.
“Do you have any thoughts on the main event?” asks Chris Bell as we fade in on Silent Witness walking through a parking lot of Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
10:22am. Tuesday, 30th July, 2019.
“I don’t give a shit about the Min event, man” he says, as his pace quickens. “Like I said a few days ago, Lee has failed his roster, failed the fans and failed the history of HOW. He can blame ‘the old guard’ all he wants, but he had an opportunity to recruit the same people that Mike has – and Mike has recruited the very best of the HOW vets. So I’m not buying that bullshit” he adds.
“So, you want Mike’s team to win?” asks Bell as they reach the entrance to the studios. Silent Witness turns to face him with a wry smile, as he opens the door.
“I didn’t say that…” he says, as he enters the building. He hesitates, leaning back outside for a moment. “Remember how I said that there’s a time and a place to up the intensity for this? Well… this is it…” states the High Octane Hero, before heading back inside. We watch from the other side of the large glass windows as Silent Witness approaches the reception desk and we fade out.
We fade back in a few moments later with Silent Witness shaking hands and greeting several production crew members inside the studios. He is preparing to cut his final promo for War Games, ahead of flying out to meet up with Chris Kostoff in Florida. Chris Bell is narrating over these events.
“Silent Witness heads into War Games this weekend for possibly his final match in professional wrestling. There is no doubt that he has had a glorious career and he will be fondly remembered by all those who know of his exploits in a HOW ring.
“While he is determined that this will be his last hurrah, the footage we have shown you over both parts of this short documentary paints a different picture. Ask yourself: Would a man readying for retirement push himself this hard, just for one match? Every other scene we have shown you has been of Silent Witness inside a gym, preparing for a match – and that was not an exaggeration on our part. Silent Witness has spent hours working out, preparing for War Games, getting ready for his ‘one last match’.
“I’m sure that determination to retire is genuine. I believe him when he says that he wants to go out on a high. But you heard his half-assed plan for what he’s going to do after wrestling. He’s forty one, turning forty two within a couple of weeks. He’s coming off of three years out of the ring and if we’re being honest, it’s clear that he can never take that kind of break ever again. Hell, coming back this time may be a bridge too far, that’s something we will find out when he steps out from behind the curtain at Tropicana Field. Whatever happens at War Games, this is his last chance – really his last chance – to achieve anything close to his former glory.
“Retirement takes that chance away. No chance to win the elusive ICON Championship. No chance to settle a rivalry that has been building for years with Scottywood. Hell – no chance to be HOW World Champion again. Will he really retire? Well… we will leave the final words to the man himself – and you can be the judge…” concludes Chris Bell, as Silent Witness takes a seat on a wooden stool, in front of a black background with the letters “L.o.D” emblazoned across it in ’97-red’. The HOW veteran makes himself comfortable and looks up, directly into a camera that has been set up on a tripod in front of him.
“Here we are” he begins, taking a brief pause. “It feels like we’ve been here a thousand times before; preparing for a big match; title on the line…” he looks down for a moment, shakes his head, then looks up as he continues. “But this time, it’s a little different. At least, it is for me. I’m sure the Egg Bandits are out there, doing dumbass things and coming up with some clever and original way of poking fun at my name…” he rolls his eyes. “I’ve heard it all before. But this time, it’s different” he says, again. “Bobby Dean is still overweight, Zion is still annoying, Hanson is still marginally more interesting than David Black…” he reels off the list, then pauses, “But this time… it is different.”
“Brian Hollywood is still bitching about being in a tag match instead of the World Title match, O’Dell still hasn’t shaved, Scott Stevens is repeating himself somewhere, giving everybody a history lesson like some kind of fucking school teacher…” he shrugs. “But still, it’s different. There are two new guys in there, that I’ve never competed with before, but is that different? Not really. I’ve gone into matches against wrestlers I’ve never heard of, never seen before, never seen again. This is standard practice in our industry… But still… this time it is different” he says again, his voice rising in pitch as he almost breaks out with laughter.
“It’s different because this time, it could be the last time. Between us, Kostoff and I have achieved everything imaginable in HOW. We’ve travelled together, we’ve fought together, we’ve fought for HOW together. At War Games, we take to the ring together for what might be my final match” he states. His expression changes; stern, more forceful.
“That’s right – f we don’t win when we step into Tropicana Field, that’s it – the end of my career. And the odds are stacked against us: Our ages, our respective recent histories, our ability to perform how we did ten years ago…” he shakes his head again. “We are going to have to do something special to overcome a two time World Champion in Scott Stevens, the famed tag teams of the Egg Bandits and Sex and Money – if that’s what they’re calling themselves these days?” he pauses, asking himself the question. He doesn’t care what the answer is. He shrugs.
“So what the hell are we doing, if everyone thinks we can’t win, right? Why compete if you can’t win?” he poses the question and stares into the camera for a moment. “Well, it’s simple, really: We can win. We intend to win. We need to do something special? Then I guess we’ll do something special…” he pauses; his intensity visibly increasing in his expression, as the adrenaline begins to build.
“You think I’m leaving this thing without trying to win, like some kind of fucking bitch? You think Kostoff is going out there just to make up the numbers and travel down the L.o.D memory lane?” he pauses, angry at the thought. “We are old. We are past our prime – hell, maybe Lee Best is right, maybe we are washed up. I know that since 2012, I’ve been that guy you don’t want to watch, but you just can’t help it. Like a car crash happening in slow motion in front of you, but you just can’t look away. Watching me compete has been cringeworthy; loss after loss, setback after setback. Like an avalanche of disappointment that you thought was over, but here I am again: ‘one last time’, right?” he nods his head in agreement.
“I know… But here’s the thing: This time is different, because I’m not prepared to leave HOW without giving it my all one last time. I’m not here for a payday. I’m not here to make up the numbers or because in my mind I think I’m still twenty three…
“I agreed to come back because if I’m going to leave HOW on my terms, those terms are simple: Burn this thing to the ground. Leave it all out there in the ring. Whatever fucking metaphor you want to use; I’m giving it everything I’ve got. One more match. One more time. One more title… I’m as focused as I’ve ever been and yeah, I know that’s a cliché, but sometimes, it’s fucking true, too” he continues.
“Does anybody outside of the L.o.D – and I’ll include my boys Darkwing and Mark O’Neal in this – does anybody really think that we can win this thing at War Games?” he asks, shaking his head. “No. We’re too old, way past our prime, out of our depth, whatever the fuck you want to call it – we don’t stand a chance. Unless something special happens…
“Well, there’s something special in the air… The moon and the stars are fucking aligned and the tea leaves are flying a fucking W like we’re heading to Wrigley, not Tropicana. We’re not coming to prove something to that fucking bald bastard. We’re not even coming to prove something to ourselves, because we already fucking know what we can do… But you want something special? We’ll give you something fucking special…
“… and I’ll see you a couple of weeks down the line at Refueled – defending the Tag Team Championship with Chris Kostoff as part of an L.o.D resurgence. How’s that for fucking special?” he states, angrily. Silent Witness stares into the camera for a long pause, before standing up and walking out of shot; leaving those three letters in view as we fade out for the final time, with Pantera’s Walk – former entrance music of the Legion of Darkness – ringing through our ears: