“I can’t accept this.”
The words outta my mouth… I’m surprised. A lot of what’s going on is a massive blur to be honest. I see faces around me, more than the receptionist. A ton of the residents within the DLC. A couple managers. The kitchen crew. Each of them is a certain distance from my face, concerned for my well being. Apparently they’ve all been trying to reach me for the past three weeks since Walter passed but my phone was off and I wasn’t checking my messages. Apparently.
At first it felt helpful to have these people surrounding me. Suddenly, I’m not so sure anymore.
I feel a rush of anger and frustration. What gives these fuckers, each and every one of them, the right to stand in front of my face with empathetic looks? Are they actually doing this out of genuine concern or is it more about them than it is about me?
Rebecca. Fucking Rebecca is here. I haven’t seen that sloth since the day I moved into the retirement home. She was the manager that approved it. Last person I want to see. At least some of the others I had a good relationship with.
“Conor, are you okay?”
I hear other comments, too. Whispers amongst the group. I’m not in front of my own reflection, I have no idea what kind of facial expressions are or are not on display.
“We’re sorry you had to find out this way.”
“Walter and you had a great relationship. He loved you very much.”
“Do you need water?”
More static. More blurring. My heart skips a beat and then it picks up. I feel my muscles tense. I bite the bottom of my lip.
“In what way can we help you-”
“No.” The first word out of my mouth is cold and calculating. “Everyone can fuck off.”
I stand up, find the entrance and march towards it. There are additional calls for my name. A million thoughts race through my head. I feel pushed and pulled in numerous directions. Do I go back? Should I go home? There are people behind you, ones you are walking away from, again, that support you.
It’s too late. I’m already out the door.
I feel a hand rest on my shoulder. I see it’s Margo, one of the usuals I would interact with. Also one who always seemed to have it out for me. She represented the opposition in the moronic, mind-numbing kangaroo court I had to endure over a year and a half ago. Fucking bitch.
But this time she’s not out to get me. Tears in her eyes, her tiny body trembles. Her hand, unsteady on top of my shoulder. She’s barely able to reach it, standing on her tippy toes as she does. Her long white hair, ratty and unkempt. It looks like she’s been struggling for a long time, or, perhaps, since the day Walter passed.
She removes her hand, lowers her head and lets out a sob.
I walk away.
— — — — —
Every week. My counselling appointment is every week. I’m supposed to dive into those existential questions and come full circle. Find out more about Conor Fuse. What makes me tick? Why am I the way I am? And, above all else, how can I better myself?
This was a journey alright. Close the windows and doors, invite nobody into the life of The Vintage so I can evolve. A fundamental aspect of wrestling is evolution. I’d argue it’s a fundamental aspect of life. Give me a moment to get on my soapbox and explain.
Nobody likes a Mike Best. And dude, that’s not a shot at Mike. Not yet, anyway. He’s really the only exception I’ve come across. He presents himself the same way, over and over and we all eat outta the palm of his hands.
But for us simpletons, you have to evolve in this sport or else you’re left behind. Doing the same old shit time and time again will bore the fans, you’ll draw less overall interest and then back down the card you go. Doesn’t matter how skilled you are, doesn’t matter how good the movie is, we can only watch the same thing so many times.
I had to give up video games. I needed to slow down gaming references. It was also important to get myself out of silly little environments like a retirement home. That’s Jatt Starr shit. I’m so beyond him.
But here… sitting in the chair across from my counsellor… my muscles, still tense. My mind, still wandering in a million different directions. It’s been one week since I was told of Walter’s passing. I haven’t shown up for Chaos and I don’t plan to attend the last one. I’ll walk into the pay-per-view and have it out with Mike. I’m allowed the bereavement time, I’m going to take it. Beats being stuck in a Chaos go-home tag match.
Okay, I’ll stop complaining about those bookings.
…Rather complain about where I am now.
“How long have we done this for?” I ask her.
She glances at her notes. “This is our sixth session.”
“Wow… six?” There are long pauses between words.
“You’re rather quiet today, Conor,” she states, although I know she feels completely comfortable in silence. “What would you like to discuss?”
I rub the side of my head. Didn’t sleep well last night, barely got into any kind of dream sequences whatsoever. I feel like a zombie.
Jesus. The way she looks at me. The way she leans forward. It’s starting to piss me off.
“Nothing.” Another long pause between words. “Don’t want to talk.”
She lowers her notebook. “That’s okay, Conor. We can sit in silence, too.”
I give my head a shake. I look around her office. How could I have distanced myself from others? Why did I need to go this route? What the fuck have these six sessions done, anyway? So I learned I enjoyed killing Stronk. Hallelujah, what a breakthrough. Pretty sure I talk about killing people all the time in pre-match interviews. The gamer in me wanted to experience what it was like for real.
Plus, he deserved it.
He deserved the suicide, too.
Always hated him. Conor Fuse should’ve been the posterboy. I was here longer. Won more, worked harder. Just didn’t have the x-factor Lee was looking for.
Oh, Lee. There’s a guy. It felt so good ripping on him. I hope he struggles like I am. I pray Stronk is his fucking Walter and Godson’s death has crippled him.
YOU’RE NEVER GETTING STRONK BACK. EVER.
And it’s because of MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Suddenly, my anger subsides. I look over to the counsellor and try giving a smile. I can’t see my reflection but she’s taken off by the expression.
It’s like a pendulum. My emotions, that is. A pendulum. Because for a brief second there I felt happy and calm. Now, once again, I’m remorseful and frustrated.
“I should have been there,” I say out loud, surprising the counsellor. She probably has no idea WTF I’m talking about. “I dropped everything… and for what? For some stupid belief I needed to be different? Being someone different MADE me successful!”
It’s true. Evolving was dumb. I was good enough to do the same shit. Otherwise, I’m left with the gym, studying wrestling film and sitting in my apartment, doing absolutely fuck all. I was me when I challenged Stronk Godson and sent him to emergency. So why did I need to try something different?
Fucking idiot. No wonder Mike wins frequently. He doesn’t NEED to be anything else. The guy is so god damn smart. He gets it; I don’t. He’ll win; I’ll lose. I’ll fail him again. THEN BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD.
I’m supposed to be on the level. Talented enough to win. Yet here I am, fucking things up, pushing people away.
The anger, it’s full blown. My heart races, my hands are little balls of fury, shaking around the arm rests. I look at the counsellor. God dammit I could rip her apart. Maybe I could kill her. Counselling is a clown shoe profession. She sits there and simply reflects what I’m saying. Now we sit in silence because I don’t wanna talk.
So I’m paying to be in silence right now?
I CAN BE SILENT IN MY OWN FUCKING ROOM.
You know who’s fucking silent? Walter. Walter’s fucking silent because he’s SIX FEET UNDER.
I’ve said fuck so many times in the last minute, I think it’s gonna add 100K to my word count.
“Please explain…” I begin, trying to calm my voice. Attempting to ensure I stay in the chair and remain pRofeSSioNaL. “What have we done here?”
I can see she’s confused by the question.
“What kind of progress have I made?” I rephrase.
I don’t think she can see the wheels significantly turning in my mind. She looks relaxed as she leans forward and places her notes to the side.
“It really doesn’t matter what I think, Conor,” she replies. “It matters how you see things. What progress have you felt? How has this been beneficial for you?”
Ah, screw it.
“Jesus Christ, I wanted you to answer, because I’ve already decided,” is my quick and harsh remark. “This does nothing for me. Maybe it did last week, or the week before that. But I’d like to leave now. Waste of my time.”
I don’t wait for her to respond. I see the door. I stand and march towards it.
“This is a joke. You’re a joke. Everything in life is a joke.”
And I leave.
— — — — —
It’s been three days of me sitting on the edge of my bed. Wait, maybe two. Or two and a half. Eh, I’ve lost track of time. To ensure I’m not late for my flight to Miami, I set an alarm on my phone. Otherwise, I don’t know what day it is… and I can only guess the time given the light that shines, or doesn’t, through my window.
The World Title sits, almost perfectly in the center of my night table, staring right back at me.
This fucking thing. Every struggle, every decision, every up and down, it’s related to this fucking thing. I never wanted it again. Mike vs. Conor could’ve happened without the LSD or 97. But here we are, throw ‘em in.
I won’t lie, it’s been a painful time. I don’t think I’ve accepted what’s in front of me and I have a ton of regrets for the directions I’ve taken.
That fucking World Championship.
I walk over to the table #97 rests on. Seeing my reflection, I notice two large, dark bags hanging underneath my eyes.
I gave up video games for you.
The greatest friend I ever had.
A pointless match? One that will be forgotten about a couple months from now? And if I don’t win, I don’t live up to the promise. I haven’t trained, haven’t done shit in a while.
I am sick and tired of looking at this title belt. I lift it and toss it on the ground. It wasn’t like I was showcasing the championship, it vanished from television the second I won it.
Deep breath, Conor. Close your eyes and count to ten. Because the thoughts in your head right now… there’s no turning back from-
I jam my right boot straight into the metal plate.
Ohhh, that felt………… good.
I do it again.
Fuck this worthless piece of trash.
IT’S MINE ANYWAY. I can do what I want with it!
I want to leave a better mark.
I kneel down and look at the title, seeing my shoe marks all over it. The sight of my reflection in this thing makes me sick. So I suck back saliva and spit across the nameplate.
“Naaa,” I begin, with a sense of disdain in my voice. “Let’s leave a real mark.”
I flee the bedroom and go looking through my closet. I know it’s here. Ah, yes, in the front hallway. Always thought I would bring this to a street fight. Never thought I’d end up using it now.
Walking back into my room, standing over the World Championship… I don’t care if this gets me fired. I don’t give a fuck what kind of retribution is coming for me. Kill me for all I care. This title currently resides as my property.
Lifting the sledgehammer high above my head, I take one last look into the most prestigious object I will ever own.
…Which I will now destroy.
Fuck Erin. Fuck Jason. Fuck Stevens. My first three opponents, BTW.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
Fuck Dan. Fuck Jatt. Fuck Hughie. Fuck Eric. Fuck Murray. Fuck Scotty. Fuck Brian. Fuck Jack. Fuck Lindsay. Fuck Zeb. Fuck Teddy. Fuck Ray. Fuck Cancer. Fuck Bobby. Fuck Dooze. Fuck Kevin. Fuck Solex. Fuck Jace. Fuck Darkwing. Fuck Jeffrey. Fuck Arthur. Fuck David. Fuck Harrison. Fuck Clay. Fuck Joe. Fuck Bobbie. Fuck Chris. Fuck Evan. Fuck John. Fuck Darin. Fuck Charles. Fuck Rhys. Fuck Shane. Fuck Xander. Fuck Kostoff. Fuck Benny.
I have zero swings left to give. Zero fucks, either. Literally, outta fucks.
Hunched over, gasping for air, I drop the sledgehammer and stand above whatever is left of the World Championship Title.
Heaving. My pulse, hammering through my body at an alarming rate. I don’t feel any different than when I started but man, do I feel like this was needed.
I’ve smashed the golden plates into tiny little pieces. It’s barely representative of a championship belt and I, barely representative of the person I was a few hours ago.
For a second there, a swoosh of regret crosses my mind. I was entrusted with this title and the history behind it. Despite having issues with Lee, I still speak proudly of the company. Lee is my opposition but I have never wanted to undermine any of the legacy within this organization, in what I truly believe is the best wrestling league of all time.
Well… looking down at what I carried out, you’d be hard pressed to think I respected anything ATM.
The regret soon leaves. I suck back whatever is in the top of my throat and spit it out onto the pile of broken pieces.
“Lee can always order a new one.”
— — — — —
Sorry for the respect bullshit I threw at you earlier, it was the wrong approach. You want me to get real with you, like you get real with everyone else…
You tell me you’re sorry. You’re an addict. An addict. AN ADDICT!!!
Stop it. Enough. Shut the fuck up.
Tired of your narcissistic ass thinking you run this place. Every word that comes outta your mouth is playing with that home field advantage considering how many championships you’ve won, who you’ve defeated, yadda yadda yadda. I, too, have the ability to look up the championship histories, see how many titles you’ve won and how often you’ve successfully defended them. It’s not hard to figure out. I’m not illiterate.
Ya wanna talk about murder?
Okay, I’ll nibble.
You killed a guy. Well, we thought he was dead. Ended up looking like you didn’t get the job done, huh? But parade that fucking W over my head. “I kiLLeD mY brOtHeR.”
No. Apparently you didn’t.
He’s over there running around with mom, dad… a whole nuclear family.
I killed a guy, though. Of course I didn’t need to do it with my bare hands. I demoralized him so hard, he walked himself into the deep end and now his spirit is dancing around in the bottom of the sea with the ghosts from fucking OceanGate. How’s that for murder? I took the High Octane mascot and…
1.) Stopped his heart.
2.) Took his title.
3.) Made him commit motherfucking suicide.
Sounds legit. Let me take out my ten inch dick and wag that one around for ya. I’ve run MOAR people outta HOW than you’d think would be possible.
I hope and pray you have Lee doing some backhanded nonsense to ensure you claim both titles. I hope you’re a snake; I want you to cheat. It’s the only way you’re gonna get it done. My newfound anger will finally mean you’re outmatched.
Couple years ago Dan Ryan should’ve wasted you easily but then there was good ol’ daddy Lee, walking out on stage with the distraction so you could gain the upper hand.
I’m laser focused. This isn’t about the titles and it’s not about proving who’s better. I don’t care about that shit. One Conor Fuse victory doesn’t mean I supersede Mike Best at the top of the mountain. I don’t give a fuck about placement. I want my match… a chance to show you that today… right this very second… you’re on the verge of getting replaced.
I won’t listen to anything further. Continually, time after time these idiots get sucked into your game. I play by my own rules and I don’t give a fuck what your narrative is. I didn’t care about it the last time. If I did, I’d be pathetically grasping at straws.
“Oh, Conor, you were so close!”
“Wow what an HOFC battle, you should be proud!”
“You had him after five rounds! You had him!”
You won. Congrats bro. Now it’s a completely different game while showcasing a completely different side of me. The same side of you, though. I channel this dude who murdered Stronk Godson and pinned Christopher America after he broke YOUR record (a record in which you never took a step forward to defend BTW).
After my victory on Sunday, things are going to change. Talking real change, not political gibberish. I’m tired of being placed in bullshit tag matches with inferior opponents who can’t lace my boots. About to vomit if I see another Best Alliance stable form after this one will eventually disband. Tell me for the 285776264th time how you CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP GOTTA CRUSH EVERYONE.
No ya don’t, ya fucking gearbox.
Like father, like son. He recycles the same matches, you recycle the same speech. Together you two make a solid booker and promo duo.
Recycling stops on Sunday when I win and hold both the World Championship and LSD belt high in the air… then hurl them straight into the trash. Maybe I’ll take them elsewhere to celebrate-
Eh, stupid idea.
Instead, I’ll parade them around High Octane in whatever condition I desire. Dick out, belts up. Maybe I’ll take a sledgehammer to the LSD Title. After all, it’s directly named after Lee.
Or maybe your dad will finally see me as the staple to the plethora of teams he likes to assemble.
Regardless, come Sunday I will make you contemplate the rest of your career. You’re at the stage of your life where you think you have the energy needed to go on a long winded reign but when push comes to shove, ya realize how much effort it does take. That’s why your last World Title run was such a serious show of stamina and heart.
And I thought I was the transitional champion. No, Mike. You were the transitional champion for me.
I guess the funny thing is… I’ll still give you exactly what you want. If I take the respect approach or don’t, it doesn’t matter. Full circle bro, I won’t let you down. YOU CHOSE THE RIGHT GUY. I’ll FINALLY give you that new fucking mountain to climb, that novel obstacle you’ve been dying to overcome. The first time Mike Best is soundly defeated in the center of the ring, to the shock and awe of the crowd and everyone is left with the question: IS THIS THE END?
It’ll be a good new direction for you. Build your Rocky Balboa comeback. Make it all about Mike. When you’re good and ready, we’ll have our rubber match. Maybe I’ll win the HOTv Championship by that time and we can put all three belts up. Oh boy! Screw the rest of the roster, nobody else is gonna draw the ratings like a good ol’ Mike vs. Conor fight.
This is it. You’ve wanted someone who can match you punch-for-punch, blow-for-blow… and potentially knock you out. You’re tired of the losers. I would be. Done knocking Bobbinette around. Never wanna see Zion again. Fancy another bout versus Hollywood? At that point, I think I’d like to join Walter underground.
Folks, cancel the rest of the card! Conor Fuse has replaced The Son and it’s up to Mike to ensure it’s not permanent.
I’m not letting you dictate the story. I’m the murderer. I’m a three time World Champion, holding significant accomplishments and I am the opponent to fear, not apologize to.
Two years ago I told you it wasn’t the Autumn of Mike but rather the Year of the Vintage. I was wrong… a major calculation off. I got too cute in the ring, went to steal your knee and it cost me everything.
Oh, two months ago I stole that knee alright. But on Sunday, I’m not looking to steal anything…
Just take what is rightfully mine.
Put you down; knock you out. Hold both titles above my head and exit the arena as the champion and successor I know deep down in my fucking heart I am. The one who keeps High Octane going, the man who fills the arenas with fan after fan. I can do it with video games or without, with friends or flying solo. I give 100% in any match… in EVERY match… and I will go on a run unforeseen and unprovoked.
On Sunday, I’m gonna make sure you, your father and everyone else knows exactly who you’ve pushed in this company.
The one who pummeled Mike Best to pieces.
You’ve never looked weak, never been humbled and always had the final word.
Not this time, bud.
They say you find out what someone is truly about when they don’t get what they want. Me, however, I’m gonna give you exactly what you’re looking for. That final resting place. The one who does it. The ONLY one who can. I will enable you no longer.
It’s time I stopped the addiction. Conor Fuse is the perfect intervention.
And if you can’t handle it… we’re in Miami. The ocean is right over there.
I hope you can hold your breath.
The last guy most certainly didn’t.