I am an honest man. Yes, I’m a loquacious man, a vain man, and, it’s been said, an egotistical man. But, for the most part, I am an honest man.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t prove such a startling admission, but within the industry I operate, honesty and clarity of thought are not desirable traits. No, bravado and aggression are the currency of my profession. Just look at Shane Reynold’s latest production. All fire and brimstone!
But I get it.
Week after week, my fellow competitors use this platform to vent their spleen through gritted teeth, boasting of the barbarous acts they intend to inflict on their opponents. They rhapsodise about their Herculean strength, their superhuman threshold for withstanding pain. They belittle and demean with acid tongues and scornful words. But they never talk about the nagging self-doubt. About the fear.
Then again, who can blame them? Once you allow that particular fox in the hen house you risk it wreaking havoc, swiftly and silently dismantling the fruits of your labour. We’ve all seen it happen. The all-conquering prizefighter, on acknowledging his frailties, suddenly falters. His vulnerabilities exposed, each subsequent blow chips away at his legacy of invincibility until finally he’s just another grizzled veteran relegated to the scrapheap of forgotten ex-champions. A punch-drunk sob story.
Well, I’ve never been one to swim with the tide. What’s more, at the ripe old age of 45 any notions of invincibility have long since deserted me.
So allow me to be frank.
Shane Reynolds scares me.
There. I said it.
The mask, the entourage, the… unremitting darkness. The man I am scheduled to face In God’s House puts the fear of God in me.
I’ve encountered bigger opponents, certainly. I’ve even encountered those more technically gifted. I have, however, rarely encountered an opponent with seemingly so little to lose.
That’s not a dig, Shane. If anything, it’s a compliment.
As you took great pains to tell me, you have achieved far greater things in HOW than I. Your tenure is a litany of battles fought and titles won, and the ruthless reputation you’ve crafted is truly something to behold. You’ve danced with demons, faced the darkness, and emerged from the ashes with a self-appointed crown of thorns. A martyr for this company. As such, you can afford to risk it all, to throw caution to the wind, solely by virtue of the fact that you’ve been to the mountaintop, and you’ve stared into the abyss.
And that, Shane, makes you a threat unlike any other I’ve faced before.
You’ve made fear your playground. Psychological warfare, a realm where you reign supreme, threatens to turn a fair fight into a murky battle. And honestly, it’s got me questioning myself.
Will my technical skills cut it against a menace like you, or am I going to have to descend into the chaos and brawl with the beast in its lair? It’s a style I’m capable of, but I can’t help but feel that by veering away from the finesse I hold dear, I will be playing into your hands. Fighting you on your terms. Ever since this match was scheduled, I’ve had a recurring vision of you and I trading blows in a dark alley of uncertainty, and it sends shivers down my spine.
So I’m scared, Shane.
But fear, as they say, is the great equaliser. It strips away the facade, lays bare the soul, and reveals the essence of a man. It’s a mirror reflecting the reality that many in this industry shy away from: that we’re all fallible. No one is unbeatable – not even the demonic Shane Reynolds.
Fear isn’t the enemy; complacency is. The lack of fear, the illusion of invincibility, that’s the real adversary. It breeds stagnation, arrogance, a blindness to the evolving nature of this brutal sport we love.
You accuse me of not performing my due diligence, Shane, but it is you who are unprepared. I am, as always, meticulous in my approach and let me assure you that I have never taken shortcuts when it comes to understanding and dissecting my adversaries. I study their every move, their strengths, and weaknesses. Just as I’ve done with you.
And what did I find?
Yes, Shane, it surprised me too. Beneath that fierce exterior of yours, I discovered a streak of apathy. It’s not that you lack the passion for the sport; it’s that you’ve grown complacent. You’ve tasted success, held championships, and it seems that you’ve allowed a sense of entitlement to creep in. You’ve come to believe that your reputation alone will carry you to victory.
But in the wrestling world, as in life, complacency is the breeding ground for failure. It’s the crack in the foundation that, when left unattended, can bring even the mightiest of structures crashing down. You’ve forgotten the hunger, the drive that once propelled you to greatness. One statement win against a beleaguered Bobbinette Carey and you think you’re a contender. You whine about not being in the title picture, forgetting that just two months prior you relinquished your HOTv belt with little more than a whimper.
No need to delve into the history books for that INTEL!
I myself have faced setbacks in recent weeks. But the loss to Rhys Townshend wasn’t just a sting to my pride; it was a stark wake-up call. A loud reminder that in this ever-evolving battlefield, stagnancy poses just as much of a threat to one’s progress as the opposition. It reminded me that, should one wish to ascend the ranks of HOW they must refine their armoury and adapt their strategy. The embers of that defeat still smoulder, Shane, but far from hindering me, it fuels my resolve. It fuels my resolve to silence the cynics, the sceptics, the naysayers. It gives me the impetus to silence the doubters – beginning with you!
So, while you accuse me of overlooking details, it is you who has overlooked the most crucial one – your own hunger. As we step into that ring, I’ll exploit that apathy, that sense of entitlement that you persist in attributing to me. I’ll show you that meticulous preparation, combined with unrelenting determination, will always surpass mere reputation.
Now, standing on the precipice of our clash, my resolve is only sharpened by the fear, clarifying my vision, and feeding my hunger for victory. It inspires me to evolve, to adapt, to reach deep within and unleash a version of de Lacy yet unseen. A version capable of not just surviving the storm you bring, Shane, but thriving amidst its fury.
The dread of descending into your realm of chaos, it propels me to prepare, to strategize, to seek a mastery over the tempest.
History has a way of repeating itself, don’t you think?
My ancestry is adorned with gallant figures who, time and again, faced opposition from those brazen enough to step outside their station. They dealt with such impudence firmly, ensuring the natural order of things remained undisturbed. But these upstarts now find resonance in the face of Shane Reynolds, a man who purports to represent the interests of those less fortunate. Much like an impetuous underling, he seeks to challenge the established hierarchy, to disrupt the balance that has been maintained through the ages.
His audacity, though momentarily unsettling, is but a feeble echo of the countless rebellions quelled by my forebears. It’s a mere ripple in the vast ocean of challenges that have been faced and overcome by my lineage. And so, with the weight of history firmly on my side, I intend to put Shane Reynolds in his place, to assert the might that runs in my blood, and to uphold the honour of my ancestors.
Your legacy in HOW is a testament to your prowess, Shane. It’s a saga of conquests, a narrative penned in sweat, blood, and relentless ambition. And yet, every saga has its climax, every tale its turning point.
I’ve spent countless nights dissecting your battles, poring over your every move, seeking the chinks in the armour, the rhythm amid the chaos. And with every passing hour, the fear I feel morphs into anticipation, the dread into determination.
So yes, I’m scared, Shane. But I’m also ready. Ready to step into the storm, to dance amidst the lightning and thunder you bring to the ring. Ready to prove that even in the face of fear, even when faced with the unknown, a de Lacy stands tall, stands ready.
So come God’s House, Shane, fear will be my ally, my catalyst. And when the bell rings and the victor is announced, your reign of terror shall end just as my reign of valour begins.
“What’s wrong, Mr Charlie? You’ve ‘ardly touched ‘ya hot dog.”
The raucous clamour of the diner came sharply back into focus. I glanced down at the untouched hot dog, its mustard-covered visage an affront to the inner turmoil I was feeling. I sighed and looked across the table at Mickey, whose eyes bore into mine with a brotherly concern.
“It’s just…” I started, but the words clung to the roof of my mouth. Mickey leaned in, his formidable frame dwarfing the rickety diner chair he sat on.
“It’s Reynolds, isn’t it?”
For a fleeting moment, I marvelled at Mickey’s perception. Behind the shaved head, gnarled knuckles, and lopsided grin there lay an acumen that was eerily sharp. His eyes, which I often mistook for dancing with mischief, were, more often than not, scanning the lay of the land, picking up on subtleties that most would overlook.
I nodded, taking a sip of the tepid coffee that sat before me.
“Mickey, the chap’s a brute. A cold, unfeeling brute who’d sooner grind my bones to dust than share a civil word,” I confessed, my fingers nervously fumbling with a napkin.
Mickey’s laughter boomed through the diner, causing a few heads to turn. “Mr. Charlie, you’re thinking too much. This ain’t a muscle contest, it’s a bloody game of cat and mouse. You’ve gotta’ outsmart the fella’, not out-punch ‘im.”
“But the brute aspect is quite unavoidable, you see,” I retorted, before adding, not a little impetuously, “anyway, that’s easy for you to say. It’s not you being pursued by a bloodthirsty maniac.”
“Mr. Charlie, I get it. Reynolds is a fright to look at, no two ways about it. But strip away that mask, and what do you have? A man. Flesh and bone, just like the rest of us. Our job is to find his weakness and exploit it,” Mickey leaned back, arms stretched behind his head.
As if sensing my uncertainty, he continued, “You’re the technician, right? And that’s your strength. Then again, ‘e’s no slouch in that department. But you’ve gotta’ have at least 20 pounds on this fella’. Use it. Lean on ‘im. ‘E wants to drag you into a brawl because that’s ‘is comfort zone. Don’t let ‘im. Push ‘im back, use your weight to wear ‘im down. Don’t let ‘im dictate the pace. And when the moment is right, transition from the technical game to the power game. Surprise ‘im, Charles. Catch ‘im off guard.”
I marvelled, mouth agape, at the sheer brilliance of it all. Mickey, my unassuming cockney companion, had once more crafted a plan of such elegant simplicity that it left me speechless.
But he wasn’t done.
With a sly grin, he added, “And remember, Mr Charlie, I’ll be right there to keep an eye on things. Who knows what might ‘appen when the ref ‘aint lookin’?”
He chuckled once more.
“We’ll play this game smart and dirty, if need be”.
Before I could respond, Mickey’s gaze turned to a group of rugged bikers seated by the window. Their leather vests bore the emblem of the Pagan’s biker gang, a name that meant nothing to me. Mickey, however, being well-versed in the intricacies of the underworld, recognised them at once.
“Oh, would you look at that,” he muttered under his breath, interest piqued. “It’s the Pagan’s.”
“The Pagan’s?” I enquired. “Who are they?”
“Biker gang. Well, the Pagan’s ain’t no ordinary bikers. They’re a tough lot, known for their mean streak and their control over certain parts of Miami. You see, they’ve got a reputation for bein’ territorial and, shall we say, not too friendly to outsiders.”
“Well, that’s certainly good to know,” I replied, feeling my heartbeat rapidly rising. “Perhaps we should order the bi…”
But before I could finish my sentence, he was up and across the room, striking up a conversation with one of the bikers, a bearded mountain of a man.
I looked on incredulously, straining to hear as Mickey delved into the details of the biker lifestyle, his questions flowing with a natural curiosity that was both endearing and dangerous.
The conversation took a nosedive when Mickey made a remark that didn’t sit well with the biker. In the blink of an eye, fists were flying, and the diner erupted into chaos.
I knew I needed to act swiftly to distract the bikers and free Mickey from the escalating brawl. I scanned the scene for something, anything, that could divert their attention.
Suddenly, my eyes landed on an old jukebox tucked in the corner of the diner. With a spark of inspiration, I rushed over to it and fumbled for some change. I managed to find enough coins and frantically flipped through the endless list of songs, looking for something suitably raucous.
I pushed the buttons, and within moments, the jukebox blared to life, belting out the distorted opening chords of the Clash’s “I’m So Bored With the USA”. The sudden shift in noise caught everyone’s attention, including the bikers.
They turned their heads toward the blaring jukebox, momentarily distracted from the brawl. It was the perfect diversion.
Taking advantage of the moment, I dashed back to the centre of the chaos where Mickey was holding his own against the bikers. I tapped him on the shoulder and shouted above the music, “Mickey, we’ve got to go!”
Mickey, still engaged in the scuffle, nodded in understanding. However, as we rushed towards the back exit, Mickey slowed down, his head turning towards the source of the music.
“Mickey, come on!” I urged, tugging at his arm, but he resisted.
“Just a moment, Mr. Charlie,” he replied, a wistful smile on his face as he bobbed his head to the music.
But the bikers, now irate at the song’s lyrics, began to turn their attention toward the jukebox, the situation becoming more volatile by the second.
“Mickey, we don’t have a moment!” I insisted, pulling him forcefully toward the exit.
Reluctantly, Mickey tore himself away from the jukebox, and together, we hurried out of the diner and into the relative safety of the street. The Clash’s music continued to blare behind us, now serving as a backdrop to the growing chaos inside the diner. We knew we had narrowly escaped a potentially dangerous situation, but we didn’t have time to spare.
We hopped into Mickey’s just-repaired Morris Minor, but as Mickey turned the key in the ignition, a dreadful silence filled the air. The engine stalled, and panic washed over me.
The bikers, their anger still smouldering from the song’s lyrics, noticed our stalled car and began to descend upon us, their heavy boots echoing in the near distance.
My heart raced as Mickey stoically looked ahead, turning the key once, twice… The bikers were almost upon us, and it seemed like our escape was slipping away. I whispered a few words of prayer.
But just as it seemed all hope was lost, the engine roared to life with a triumphant growl. The Morris Minor jolted forward, tires screeching, as we sped away in the direction of our motel, narrowly escaping the clutches of the irate bikers.
Mickey, his grip on the steering wheel steady once more, glanced at me and flashed a grateful grin. “Nice thinking back there, Mr. Charlie,” he said.
The Morris Minor roared along the empty road, the night air rushing past us, the tension slowly dissipating. As the Clash’s music faded into memory, we headed back to our motel, thankful for our narrow escape and the unexpected diversion that had allowed us to slip away from the clutches of the bikers.
With one catastrophe averted, my mind instinctively turned to Sunday. I had the nagging feeling that ahead lay one brawl I couldn’t evade.