It’s nothing personal, really. I think you wrestle extremely hard, you can win at any given time and one day… maybe one day, you’ll recapture that 2016 form.
Ain’t gonna be on my watch, bro.
You hit Christopher America with everything you had, it was impressive. Trust me, I watched closely. Too closely. Because as you know… I’m the number one contender now. I get my chance to run it back, go 2021 vintage and receive a crack at the world title I lost.
I’m not looking past you, I’m not taking you lightly. I may be a gamer but I’m also a sports fan. Too many times do I see the “trap game”. Team looks past its “weaker” opponent… then proceeds to get pounded.
Naaa. I’m well aware of what you can do, Brian. I know you’re #97 caliber. Hell, I picked you on my WarGames team. I wanted you on my side because I know, even if the clock strikes 11:59, you’ll be there and give 100%.
It’s more than I can say for half these n00bs.
You’re always a tough opponent. We fought before inside the HOFC tournament. I beat you but in that battle you taught me a lot. You hit me with right hooks I didn’t think you had in you. It’s an XP I haven’t forgotten.
See, I REFUSE to fall into the trap game. For the next week all I do is eat, breathe, sleep Mr. Hollywood. If I don’t… I might lose my spot at March to Glory. If I don’t… I might not keep Christopher America up at night.
He keeps me up at night, Brian. I have to do the same.
But as we speak, my mind is split in two. I see Christopher America… in the distance. Instead, it’s your luscious, brown locks starring me straight in my face.
And I don’t fucking like it.
It pisses me off that you got the World Title shot before me. It grinds my gears you pushed the champion to the edge.
It drives me batshit insane how you walk into HOW after a short hiatus and go right to the top.
I don’t care if your shot was on TV and mine is the one you gotta pay to witness. I don’t care that you weren’t successful. It bothers me you exist, Brian Hollywood. Period. That somehow, someway… you haven’t gotten the fucking memo.
You’re not good enough anymore.
You were good enough. I ain’t denying that. Anyone with the ultimate achievement to their name is certainly worth their clout. But I got news for you, since High Octane has evolved, you’ve done nothing but anger me.
How bad do you want it? It’s not a rhetorical question, Brian. ‘Cause I’m here to tell you your late night workouts and promos… it doesn’t fly when you’re the top guy.
High Octane Wrestling consumes me. I’m a bright and early dude, my go-getting attitude is a reflection on how I want it and I can’t help but think your casual, show up when you want, at whatever time you want… speaks the exact opposite.
I mean I assume you care. I saw your match last week. You brought 100%.
It still infuriates me, though. If you implemented my strategy… if you woke up sooner, pushed harder… maybe you’d be in Christopher America’s spot. In the end, no matter how hard you wanted it… he did pin you.
I’m a nonstop in-your-face hot fucking mess who will never take no for an answer. I haven’t been pinned in a long, long time, Brian.
What makes you think you’re special?
I do my homework. On every single opponent, I study film like nobody’s business. I make Tony Romo blush at the amount of tape I research. I’m here to tell you Brian, I know your every move before it’s even in your head. You wanna go for the jumping cutter? I already saw it manifesting in the back of your mind BEFORE you decided now is the opportunity. I know your theme music. Poses. Battles with what I can only assume is the “mafia”. On Sunday it’s my time to prove I know you inside and out.
So let me give a match spoiler for you, Brian.
Conor Fuse DEF. Brian Hollywood at Chaos 23 with the Super Splash.
No other result is coming.
You are blocking my path, bro. Because IF the impossible happens and I lose to you… it means I’ll have to retrace my steps and I can’t be having that.
Not when I’m THIS FUCKING CLOSE you see.
Maybe a loss to you means I keep my title shot. I did win the tournament.
Doesn’t matter. The issue is I won’t be cool with losing to you. It will unsettle me.
You’re more than a warm up. You’re my wild card round. Conference finals. 7-4 Boss, maybe even hanging around the 8-3 spot.
The nerve of you, to walk down that rampway and enter the ring with me. The ignorance of you to enroll in the roulette tournament and even think you have a RIGHT to take on #97.
Then you come within milliseconds of actually shocking the world.
Oh buddy, a world of hurt is coming your way for that.
I’m the poster child. I’m Player One. You infuriate me by simply existing. You make me wanna fucking murder you for thinking you deserve more than just taking up space.
I’m shaking with anger. My eyes are locked in on your mugshot ATM and I wanna rip your head off and punt it out of Pittsburgh.
Go back to Hollywood.
I don’t care what your story is.
This is not YOUR story.
It’s mine god dammit.
You had your moment. It was last week as you came oh-so-close and in the end you still failed.
So get outta my fucking way.
Wow. All this hatred towards you. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken you on my WarGames team. In the end… you didn’t get past the preliminary rounds.
YOU FAILED ME, Brian.
You failed High Octane.
Failed the World Champion.
Failed your vintage, former world champion self.
Failed, failed, failed while I succeeded.
And I will continue.
3x WC 97 CF.
And yet here you are. Standing in MY way. GTFO, move the fuck over. You’re the last roadblock to Christopher American and my own redemption story.
Yeah, you’ve got your redemption story. Clay had his, too.
I stunted those dreams.
What about me? When is it my opportunity?
It’s right NOW.
With the way I throw my body around inside the squared circle, I honestly don’t know how many more chances I’ll receive. Yes, I’m young, fit, in peak physical condition but it can end in a snap.
I have to be desperate. Act like this is it for me.
And you have the audacity to accept a match against Conor Fuse, at a time like this?
Well Brian, I guess it really is personal between us, after all…
— — — — —
January 16, 2021.
I walked into the octagon for the first time. A young, ignorant, fresh faced Conor Fuse, poised to take on Brian Hollywood in round one of the HOFC tournament having no idea what type of battle he’s getting into.
Sometimes, when I replay the past in my mind, this is one of the first matches that appears. Never before had I “fought”, not like this, anyway. We go the full three rounds and I’m sweating bullets. It’s only until I finally take a forceful blow at Brian’s head when I knock him down and out…
Stunned. Shocked. Awed. I bring myself right back to this exact moment, with Brian Hollywood at the soles of my feet.
Did I do this?
Do I have this kind of power?
Eyes wide, hand raised, I stand beside my younger self, having no idea what I’d be getting into next. The future, however, is moot. It’s January 16, 2021 that remains a vital turning point.
…And this is where five months in a homemade prison has brought me. No longer do I need actual film to rewind in order to recall. Instead, I am right there. 2023 “Calamity” Conor Fuse is standing beside 2021 “Vintage” Conor Fuse.
“You did so well, buddy,” I say to myself, although I can’t hear me. The 2021 scene plays out exactly how it always does. It IS film. It is the exact moment, I can never change it.
My name is announced as the winner and I lean against the octagon mesh.
This isn’t some bullshit story to hype my upcoming match with Brian Hollywood. This is the truth. The absolute truth in its purest form.
This was the night I knew I could make it in High Octane.
Look what happened after.
I defeated my hero, High Flyer.
I survived to the end of the 2021 WarGames team, without being anywhere close to the favourite.
I stood toe-to-toe with SRK.
I don’t need to go through the rest. That’s not the point. The point is… I can’t get to these achievements until I go through Brian Hollywood.
He had HOFC’ed before.
I hadn’t done shit.
I ran my mouth about my mom and how my dad can beat up other people’s dads. I locked myself in my childhood bedroom to play video games, thinking that resembled a prison, like how Hughie Freeman locked himself in Alcatraz for weeks on end before he wrestled a match at Rumble at the Rock.
I was misguided. I had the right ideas but I was doing it wrong. The way I implemented my mindset wasn’t in the correct frame.
In gamer terminology… I was playing the game without the right combos.
Now I know what imprisonment means, REAL imprisonment. I know what taking a life means. Not a video game life, a real life with significant repercussions.
I know what it’s like to lose.
I know what it’s like to win.
It started this night, in the octagon, when I KO’ed Brian Hollywood.
“If you could only see, Conor!!” I whisper into his ear but he cannot hear me. He leaves the cage and walks up the ramp. To be honest, I don’t remember what else ran through my head that night, other than knowing if I put my mind to it and channel things correctly…
I could make it far in HOW.
While the 2021 version of me has long gone behind the apron, the current Conor Fuse remains in the ring. I see Brian Hollywood slowly making it to a knee with the help of a referee.
I want to reach out.
Pat him on the back.
Shake his hand.
Finish the job.
I take three steps back, then I leap in the air and Head Stomp him. Except, because I’m not real… my feet go through Brian Hollywood instead.
“You’re lucky,” I warn. “Live to see another day.”
My mind would go here every so often. I always wondered what it would be like to get another chance at Mr. Hollywood.
How would I thank him?
By now, he’s up on his own and walks to the back. I can’t help but appreciate the guy.
“Thank you, Brian…” I reach out, I let a cry of gratitude travel in his direction. It won’t matter, it won’t reach him. This was so long ago.
I can thank him THIS Sunday, I remind myself. The chance is finally here…
And then I drift into the backstage, where I find myself resting on a locker room bench.
I put my arm around myself, which actually falls through because, of course, the current me doesn’t exist. I want to tell the younger Conor Fuse everything that happens next. How this is the tipping point of my career. How this REALLY was the win I needed.
Like I said… this isn’t story for the sake of it.
It’s the fucking truth.
“Vintage” Conor Fuse started in 2020. But the complete side of me… well, I think it was born at this exact moment, on this bench, as I replayed the match in my head.
“Up and up, Conor,” I state with passion in my voice. “Let’s show Brian Hollywood how far we’ve come.”
— — — — —
“He won’t take my spot!”
I shout into the dark, open space in the boiler room basement. I’ve convinced myself that’s what Brian has come for. It’s what he should come for, honestly. Any wrestler worth their paycheck would want to be in my role, like I want to be in Christopher America’s role. It’s what this sport fosters.
It’s why I play the game.
But unlike actual video games, there aren’t a lot of extra lives or do-overs. I can’t do this trial by error. There’s only a finite amount of times I can earn these chances before they’re taken away.
“He won’t take my spot!” I scream again, convinced that if I don’t bring my best foot forward, I’ll be shoved to the side. This is an unlikely scenario, if I’m going to be real with myself. I won the tournament, nobody can take that away from me. If nothing more… if my opponent is successful on Sunday he would join in on the fun, not kick me out of the pay-per-view.
Regardless, the way I play this game, I’d be willing to step away if I lost this Sunday. It would mean I wouldn’t have what it takes to defeat Christopher America.
“Don’t think about Chris!” Another cry to myself. I will not focus on the World Champion. I will get to him. I better get to him.
Brian Hollywood is my target. My only thought.
For now, that’s why I remain locked away in this cage. We’re going on five months now. My flight for Pittsburgh is booked for Sunday morning. It’s a round trip straight shot back to Chicago and the DLC prison mere hours after I’m done wrestling. Otherwise, I will not leave this dungeon until I’ve accomplished my campaign.
When I was a High Octane rookie, I learned a lot from Hollywood. I watched him closely, knowing he was a former World Champion. You pay attention to those who are at the very top. You’d be an idiot not to. And while I haven’t had a lot of run-ins with the man, I was close to Darin Zion for a while and he would always say good things about Brian Hollywood’s abilities.
“HE WON’T TAKE MY SPOT!” By now, I’m slamming my head against the prison bars. Luckily Walter is nowhere in sight or he might be shouting right back at me. I’m hammering my head so hard off the metal bars, I might give myself a concussion.
That would really put everything I’ve worked for in jeopardy.
Deep breath, Conor. I remind myself. Remember what you learned in CoUnSeLiNg. The fucking counseling Bobbinette keeps dragging me to. I forgot, it’s the secondary reason I leave these prison walls. Thankfully most of the Chaos shows have resided in Chicago so I can attend these therapy sessions hours before I wrestle. It’s a good way to knock off my to do list at the same time, then go right back here.
This is where I feel comfortable.
A part of me never wants to leave.
BANG, BANG, BANG! I’m rocking my head off the prison bars now. It’s like I can see myself, in third person. I’m a few steps into the cell, watching me slam my head back and forth, giggling with mischief.
I could kill him. Brian. I could waste him in the center of the ring. This would get Christopher America’s attention.
“DON’T THINK ABOUT CHRIS!” Again, I remind myself with another bellow. #97 has nothing to do with this. No matter how I defeat Brian Hollywood, he won’t care.
Chris already beat the guy.
Deep breaths again, Conor. Fuck, it’s hard to stay focused. Thank god for counseling and Bobbinette Carey, though.
Wait a second.
I HATE counseling.
Therefore, I hate Bobbinette Carey.
“What the hell is going on with me?” I ask myself out loud, no longer shouting. I take a step back from the prison bars. I feel a small trickle of blood rolling down my head. Maybe I am concussed. Great. Terrific. Exactly what I need.
America. Carey. Counseling. All things I should not give AF about ATM.
Brian Hollywood is the only man in front of you.
He showed you what he was made of in HOFC. He took a green Conor Fuse and rocked him around the octagon. Now it’s your chance to show Hollywood exactly how far you’ve leveled up since then.
And how he has stayed the EXACT same guy.
Yeah. Yeah, I like that.
Humble the fucker.
Humble him good.
You’ve gone back and forth on this being personal or not and the reality is… it’s not personal AND it’s personal all at the same time.
Counseling taught me nothing is black and white. Many truths can exist at once.
…Like how I hate fucking counseling.
But MOAR on that later.
Back to Brian Hollywood.
The reality is… it isn’t personal but it becomes personal when BH is directly in my path for what I’ve worked so hard to claw back. If Hollywood doesn’t walk to the ring and forfeit the match, I am gonna make him quit.
Screw it. I said the end of the match would result in a Super Splash. I have submission moves too, ya know? I have an anaconda vice. I have a rings of saturn. I can unleash them. I can… and will make this former World Champion suffer.
I haven’t even realized it but I’m sitting in the corner of my cell now, cross legged and at peace. The trickle of blood running down my head has stopped. My vision has returned. My mentality is calm. I don’t think I’m concussed. Dodged a bullet there.
Guess I’m fucking insane.
Smirk crosses my face.
I’m good with insane.
Locked in the basement.
Only emerging to unleash calamity into the world.
On Sunday, Brian Hollywood will see this up close and personal.
Just how far Conor Fuse has come since the last time we met.
— — — — —
It’s been months now since I’ve been pondering… agonizing… driving myself insane over the fact…
Should I, or should I not contact… him.
Well, that’s for me to know and nobody else until I do reach out. I’ve tried to text, I’ve tried to call but every time I look at my phone and I see his name there.
I can’t pull the trigger.
Why is today any different?
It probably isn’t.
I’ll be honest, over the last few months I thought I’ve lacked confidence. That’s why I’ve attempted to reach out. I talk a big game and, don’t get me wrong, I AM a big game. I can’t get past Clay, Harrison or Stronk otherwise. Gone are the days Conor Fuse wasn’t the favourite. I know I am.
I also know one day, I’m going to be defeated. Like I was at WarGames. It’s inevitable.
I don’t want it to be, though.
I want to keep on this roll. Right now I HAVE TO keep on this roll. A loss to Brian Hollywood fucks my career over, I truly believe.
So is now the time to call?
I have the phone, I have his number and I’ve never deleted it.
And then it hits me. I feel like it’s hit me for a while now, I simply wasn’t able to be honest with myself about it.
I’m too scared to reach out. I don’t want to swallow my pride.
Was I wrong? I think so. I’m a big boy, I can admit it. I was wrong.
But so was he.
Maybe I don’t think he would be willing to admit anything.
“Dude, fuck it,” I mumble to myself. “Send the god damn message already. Jesus H Christ.”
Wait a second, is Jesus’ middle initial start with an H?
“You’re procrastinating again, Conor!” I shout to myself, sitting in the dungeon. I keep my cell phone with me for emergencies… like if I suddenly decide I want to kill someone, I might text Walter to let me outta here so I can.
I keep my cell phone to remind Walter when to let me out. He doesn’t remember when my matches are or if the shows are in Chicago or elsewhere.
I’m procrastinating, again. Counseling told me people procrastinate when they don’t have an enjoyable task in front of them.
Tell me about it.
“REACH. TF. OUT.” I snap. I look at my phone. His name is right there.
Finally, for the first time in months… I actually punch in the ‘call’ button.
I toss the phone through the cage bars, to the other side of the boiler room. I’ll retrieve it when Walter will let me out.
Shit. I forgot, I might need the phone to remind Walter.
“Whatever,” Once again, I mumble to myself. “I’ll break outta here if I have to.”
Suddenly, relief fills my mind. I feel much more at ease. Maybe I didn’t want to reach out. Perhaps this is a sign I’m good on my own.
“Fuck ‘em all,” I mention, taking my usual cross legged seat in the middle of my jail cell. “Yeah. I like the sound of that. Fuck everybody. I ain’t reaching out until I lose. I’m not needy, I’m Conor Fuse. The next #97.”
As long as I take care of Brian Hollywood.
“Oh, but don’t worry, dear Conor,” I remind myself, while I close my eyes and picture me ripping the heart out of Hollywood’s body. No, really. I’m picturing it. I might try it at Chaos. Real FINISH HIM Mortal Kombat shit, it’ll be amazing.
“You will destroy Brian Hollywood.”
I hear myself laugh, feeling at inner peace with my mind set.
You’ll waste Hollywood because he’s the LAST thing standing in your path…
By any means necessary.
Well, it’ll never be more truthful than come Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
May God have mercy on Brian Hollywood’s soul.
I most certainly won’t.