The ACME Powered Super Plan
Teamwork. The ability to cooperate and perform your duty as part of a team without explicit instructions, complementing the abilities of others on your team without a second thought. There was a sore lack of teamwork from our opponents at Chaos, not real teamwork. Yes, they had plans which they executed as a team, but following a carefully laid out plan isn’t teamwork, that’s just choreography.
Teamwork can involve a plan, sure, it often does involve a loose plan. That guy is a good match for you, you’re the best to take on him, we can take the other by alternating and switching things up. But teamwork, real teamwork, it’s about how you work together when the plans fall apart. When the unexpected happens can you rely on your teammates to adapt, to change to the situation without having to huddle up and brainstorm what to do?
At Chaos we demonstrated Ground Zero’s answer was an emphatic yes. In the face of everything the Egg Bandits and the so-called Order planned we came out, took control of the match and systematically picked out opponents apart, one by one, until the only people left standing in the ring were Ground Zero. All eyes on us, the focus of everyone’s attention as we shut out the rival factions. No steel pipes swung, no eggs covered in testicular sweat thrown. Just wrestle as a team.
Can the Order really say the same? Does Hollywood’s adopted family have the whole teamwork malarky nailed down or are they just playing house while contriving an ACME powered super-plan to finally catch that elusive road runner… uh, I mean the respect of their peers and fans. They first came out with their show of strength, the pointlessness of which I, among others, have explained already, and to be fair that plan came together on the night. It would have taken quite some ineptitude to balls that plan up.
But it only worked on the night, it didn’t really have the listing effect they desired. It wasn’t so much “fear our faction” as much as “sigh at our stable”. So back to the drawing board they go. They needed to make a proper impact, one which stuck and people cared about. This past Chaos they all stood strong in front of the camera backstage and laid out their manifesto. It was obviously inspired by Ground Zero’s promo on Refuelled, but what can I say, we’re an inspirational bunch of jerks. So, they stood strong and told everyone about the reign of terror they would be spreading across the company with all the usual discretion of a comic book supervillain blustering about how they’re the good guys because they’re only trying to destroy HOW so they can rebuild it so they have all the power and automatic title shots… I mean so it’s fair and orderly.
Hollywood made a very good point that they were the only (asterisk) stable to ever actually achieve destroying (super giant asterisk) HOW, despite how many had spent years attempting and failing exactly that, such as Ground Zero… Wait, what? I had to double check my notes, then head to an antique store, buy a dozen record players with a collection of the finest vinyl just to give you the world’s biggest, most quality record scratch. Wow… Just wow, he really said that. Brian Hollywood, a man whose entire stint in Ground Zero amounted to him struggling to understand the most basic principles the stable was formed around, preaching his ignorance to those whom he orders around like lackies.
Let’s be clear, Ground Zero has never tried to destroy HOW. We have always loved HOW, but we wanted it to be better. We wanted it’s roster, staff and owners to be better. We never wanted it destroyed, I mean what on earth would be the point in that? We wanted to surgically remove the cancer eating away at it, sure, but again that metaphorical cancer wasn’t even people we wanted to knock off and get removed from that federation, it was a cancer of the mind. We wanted to change the way people thought, to change the way they perceived modern wrestling to be. Surgical precision is required to do that. Repeated, gradual operations to restore the subject to health. You don’t use a sledgehammer when doing surgery.
You see, Ground Zero was never really about our personal successes at that moment in time. We were each about our own successes, that goes without saying, but individual success was not the point of the stable. Nor was winning due to strength in numbers. It was certainly not about hiding from our inadequacies by leaning on the coattails of our team mates. A key thing it was about, though, was the legacy which it would leave behind. It was a long, hard road to carve a lasting legacy, not a sudden explosion of old fibre board and lighting rigs and then, bam, we’re in it big time baby.
We hated Mike Best with a vengeance back then, for he stood for everything which was wrong with the federation, with the sport, but we didn’t want to destroy him and get him removed from the company. We knew getting rid of him would be lobotomizing HOW because, for all his despicable actions and his hateful personality, he was still one of the best god damn wrestlers on the planet. And what do you know, apparently he’s now looking to turn over a new leaf having won the company. I don’t buy it, not yet, not after all the heinous acts he’s perpetrated, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. If he has changed then well done him. That’s our legacy at work, growth not destruction.
But I digress, where was I? They came out and sang their song, about how they’re different from everyone else who has done exactly what they are doing, and laid out exactly how terrified everyone should be of them. A strong start to their show that night, if they had what it takes to back their words up with actions the it really would have put the roster on notice. They had plans to do just that, so many plans.
They planned on Zion and O’Dell demolishing Ryan and Dane. They planned on feigning a no show from Jace in our match, only to have him show up with a steel pipe. They planned on The Hardcore Artist slaughtering MJ as a springboard their attack on The Artists Formerly Known As The Best Alliance. The best laid plans…
They lost the tag match, they tried hard but Ryan and Dane were in the driver’s seat the whole match. Flair beat Scottywood at his own game, then the entire stable couldn’t manage more than a stand off against Lee’s old team. To top the night off, before the LSD title match even happened, Jace’s ploy ended up being useless and Brian Hollywood got pinned by yours truly, despite being so certain his Executive Promise would hit. Brian Hollywood, the man who gives orders to the Order, ended the night with egg on his face, figuratively and literally.
For all their conniving plans, they had hardly any real teamwork going on. When the steel pipe from Jace didn’t gain them the clear advantage they desired, Hollywood and Crash didn’t adapt to the situation but just plowed onwards with their rigid game plan. Teamwork requires absolute trust and they don’t have it. They said it themselves, they all have a history with each other and until Brain Hollywood brought them together would just as happily knock lumps out of each as team up… well, I’d imagine a number of them would much prefer the former than the latter.
It’s a team of convenience, nothing but a means to a transient end for most of them, not least their leader. They don’t really care about their teammates, only what they can get out of them. Only covering for their own inadequacies… which is one of the worst reasons to team up if I’m being honest. Eh, whatever, it’s not my team so they can do what they like. If guys like Crash are happy just following Mr. Pinstripe Powersuit around nodding yes sir, of course sir, right away sir to his every whim then more power to them. That sort of thing isn’t for me, blindly following a bumbling leader around without much more of an idea what he’s doing beyond breaking shit and trying to make it sound like part of some cunning plan when most of their group is more competent and coherent than him.
Can Crash really say he’s happy taking orders from a guy who not only doesn’t have the up-and-coming wrestler’s best interests at heart, but will use Crash to keep himself in the top leagues. I mean, Crash has 9 screws loose, but that lad has talent oozing out of his ears, he could go far in this business if he didn’t have a Brian-shaped anchor hanging around his neck. Maybe he’s caught up in faction fever, maybe he’s not yet got the confidence to strike out on his own, maybe he’s starstruck to be working with all the midcard names which surround him in the stable. I guess there’s lots of reasons a guy like Crash might join a dictatorship of a faction like that, if he’s happy to not be making the most of his career then he should do him.
Like I said, it’s none of my business. My only concern is beating them. One down, two hundred and sixty nine to go. This was going to be a great show, not only was it my first singles match in like half a decade or whatever, not only was I getting the opportunity to go head to head with the next generation of high flying cruiserweights who potentially could be the next Evan Ward, so to speak, but it’s in fucking Memphis! Wahoo!
As my fans would know, I’m English, I grew up in a Welsh town and only moved over here when I signed with HOW before I was even old enough to drink in this country. I’m about as far from a hometown hero in Memphis as you can get, but I’ve been adopted. After my mentor passed I took over his gym and dojo in Memphis. After I retired I settled down here and started running it as a wrestling school. I’m not from here, but I often get treated as if I were.
I looked up at the gym’s sign and heaved a deep, nostalgic sigh. This place had so many memories. Outside the ring, pretty much my entire wrestling career was spent inside those four walls. Even when I got duped into signing a dubious management contract with that shark, McQueen, when I had his most cutting edge, technologically advanced gym at my disposal with an army of personal trainers trying to micromanage my every movement and all my food to get me in peak physical condition, this is the place I wanted to keep training at and Jorge El Vasquez was the only guy I wanted to train me.
My mentor was a cranky, old, vindictive, spiteful luchadore and Wing Chun grandmaster. He put me through the wringer so many times, he beat the shit out of me with that bloody cane of his until it was a fresh shade of crimson whenever I stepped out of line during training. His methodology was archaic, it took me a long time to understand what he was doing and why but when I did it made perfect sense. Unlike training under McQueen’s robotic regime, which taught me nothing and gave me all the answers, El Vasquez actually was teaching me how to improve myself, how to work hard, how to figure things out on my own. It never felt like it when I was nursing my welts after a painful training session, but El Vasquez actually gave a shit about me, he cared about my future rather than just caring about the money I could make him.
As I stood outside my gym, thinking about those old times, I couldn’t help but think maybe Brian Hollywood was to Crash what McQueen was to me. To a kid quite new to the business, getting pulled under the wing of a rich, seemingly successful guy like that makes you blind to how bad a situation it puts you in. I couldn’t help but think Crash could do with his own El Vasquez, to actually teach him how to do things right instead of going down the so-called easy path, which is only really ever easy for the one pulling the strings and never for the puppet being dangled below.
I went inside, the place was all but deserted at this time of night. All the equipment was off, just a few strip lights were left on as Steve went about his nightly duties preparing for the next day. I had hired Steve as my assistant when I was getting too many students signing up for me to handle by myself. He was a very competent wrestler and his working knowledge of the sport was next to none, but he had never actually competed outside the occasional weekend moonlight. I taught my students in the same manner as El Vasquez trained me, only with less casual brutality and more charismatic charm. I was passing the values he instilled into me onto the next generation of wrestler so when it came time to hire some help it was those values which mattered more than in-ring accolades on a resume.
Steve fit the bill perfectly and what he lacked in straight up skill he made up in enthusiasm and encouragement. There were more experienced wrestlers who applied, guys who had actually been on TV and won championships, but they were all knobs. I needed someone to help train my students but it didn’t matter if they weren’t an amazing wrestler because I could train them. It’s a lot more difficult to train an arrogant ex-champion who’s drunk on his former success to be a good mentor than it is to train a good mentor to throw crisper suplexes. So I trained him personally while he helped train the students. When it came time for me to head off on the road with HOW again, I was confident Steve could handle the gym in my absence.
“Evan!” Steve spotted me as I closed the door. “ When’d you get back?! How’s Sara and the kid?”
“I just got back now.” I said as I grabbed his hand to pull him in for a brief hug. “Sara’s taken Aiden to the house to settle down for the night. He’s going to be such a twat getting to sleep tonight after travelling all the way from Atlanta, he was so hyped up when I left the two of them, haha. I just figured I’d pop by and see how things were here.”
“Ahh, it’s great, man.” Steve said with his patented enthusiasm. “I can run you through everyone’s progress the last few weeks if you want?”
“Nah,” I shook my head as I headed towards the ring which acted as the gym’s centrepiece, an altar to the art of wrestler. “Save that for tomorrow. I just want to stretch out and chill for a bit.” I rolled into the ring and just starfished on the matter, starring up the ever so memorable ceiling. Every mark, every water stain, every crack, I knew it all as well as a grizzled trucker knows the maps they read their routes off.
“Heh, don’t blame you. Travelling really takes a toll, right?” Steve headed to the fridge at the back of the room and pulled out a couple of beers before he joined me in the ring.
“You’re telling me.” I sat up to take the beer and crack it open. “I’m still a year shy of thirty but man I’m feeling it. I’ve got no idea how I used to do it, dude. I’m definitely not out of shape, but this whole touring-around-the-country-doing-shows schtick has really taken it out of me.”
“It’s the change of pace which does it.” Steve replied. “You’ve been wrestling and training constantly for five years but you’ve also been in one place, doing it at your own pace without the pressure to perform. You got comfortable and now you’re out winning matches again on a strict schedule your body is in a state of shock adjusting to it all. Doesn’t help you’ve also got a son and wife to think about now, that’s an added stress which I’m sure wears you down.”
“Too right.” I agreed. “I think you hit the nail on the head there, I’m really not used to the touring anymore. But it was good to have Sara and Aiden come to the show at Chaos, nice to see them after so many weeks away.”
“You coulda just waited a few days and come back here to see them.” Steve chuckled.
“True, true… But we arranged it before I knew we were heading home to Memphis anyway and I couldn’t wait to see them. Sara couldn’t wait either, given the situation.”
“Oh, dude, I heard!” Steve slapped me on the back so hard I spluttered through the beer I was drinking nearly knocked a tooth out on the bottle. “Congratulations, such awesome news!”
“Thanks, man.” I said after I stopped coughing and had wiped the bear froth from my mouth. “I can’t believe it. Two kids is crazy!”
“Know if it’s a boy or a girl yet?”
“Nah, it’s far too early for that.” I shrugged. “But I hope it’s a girl. One of each, gotta collect them all.”
“Dude, kids aren’t pokemon.” Steve raised an eyebrow.
“True, pokemon actually do what you tell them and don’t randomly headbutt you when you’re least expecting it.” I laughed, it was funny because it was true.
“I don’t understand kids, myself.” Steve admitted. “I’ve never been particularly paternal. Wrestling I can understand, but kids are alien to me.”
“Strange, you work well with the kids you train.”
“Pfft, that’s different. I’m teaching the kids how to wrestle, I don’t have to deal with their tantrums over the inane bullshit I imagine they cry about at home.”
“Got me there. Aiden is always crying about inane bullshit.”
“Anyway, how’s it like being back in competition, dude?”
I sat and thought for a moment, trying to put together an answer. “It’s fine.” I said.
“Fine?” Steve was confused. “Just fine?”
“Yeah, I mean, it’s not like when I was young and not just in terms of dealing with the schedule. I mean, before I was trying to make a name for myself, I was fully invested in everything that went on in the company and always excited about the next opportunity which would come my way. Back then it was exciting, it was awesome, it was the best thing in the world. But now?” I shrugged. “Now it’s fine. I honestly don’t care enough to get roped up in the ins-and-outs of the business and get upset about not being given a title shot or whatever. I’m just here to wrestle some good matches, entertain the fans and have fun. I can’t be dealing with the stress of ambition anymore. I know I’m on a limited time run there so I just want to enjoy it. It’s fine.”
“You know your opponents will take that and run a mile with it, right?”
“Let them, doesn’t bother me.” I stood up from the mat and stretched a bit. “If they think that means I don’t care about what I do in the ring then more fool them. When I step into that ring I’m there to win, I just don’t care where those wins take me. I look at guys like The Order going around trashing the place and stirring up trouble and it doesn’t make me angry like it would have back in the day, it just makes me sigh and roll my eyes. I’m long over nonsense like that. If they want to fight me, then fine, I’ll knock them sideways whether it’s in the ring or in the parking lot, but I’m not going to chase them down to right the wrongs they’ve caused or whatever. Life’s too short for that bollocks.”
“I get you.” Steve nodded. “I guess you’re going to use your match this week to send a message to that effect?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” I nodded. “I sort of feel bad taking down a youngster like Crash but I’m not going to go easy on him. If I beat him then that’s two weeks in a row I’ll have pinned major members of The Order.”
“They’re just a bunch of mid-card jobbers anyway.” Steve laughed.
“Hey, nothing wrong with being midcarders, my career was entirely midcard.” I shot him a look. “They have some World Champs in there, it’s not like they haven’t achieved anything, but they did admit they only stepped up when various main-eventers left the company. Funny how guys who struggled to capture the big belts when the big names had them suddenly became top tier when the big names weren’t around and are struggling again now the big names are back, but there you go. There’s no discounting what they’ve achieved, but there’s no bigging-up their abilities either…”
We carried on chatting into the night, nothing else of particularly interest came up and it was mostly just taking the piss out of each other. I spent the whole time wondering what life would be like when the baby arrived and wondering whether I would ever find that missing piece of my life I was chasing in returning to HOW. I knew it would never be the same as it was but still I wondered, do I just not care enough anymore to find it or was it because it was missing that I didn’t care?