James Cornfield: This here is a declaration of war.
The grainy video begins with a simple statement. It is not a statement made in a righteous fury, or with an existential anger. It is simply… a statement. The owner, booker, promotor and sole proprietor of Pro Wrestling: Assault stands close up in front of a backdrop that looks like an old fashioned War Room, something likely set up just for this particular occasion, with a half chomped and unlit cigar hanging out of his fingertips.
James Cornfield: …and I think it’s about time y’all met my soldiers on the front lines.
The camera zooms out to reveal a wrestler on either side of the promoter, each looking dramatically different from the other. To his right, a young, athletic black man stands flexing his arms, flashing a million dollar smile at the camera. He’s wearing a black t-shirt bearing only the logo of Pro Wrestling: Assault, with the slightest hint of shiny purple tights peeking out from near the bottom of the shot, while over his shoulder, the PWA World Championship resting so comfortably that you’d swear it belongs there.
James Cornfield: You may have never heard the name Ivy English in your life before today, and lemme tell you… that was your first mistake. This man flies like an eagle, strikes like a viper, and ladies, let me tell you he’s about as easy on the eyes as a fella can get. I hear y’all over here in High Octane Wrasslin’ have a video game playing, pencil necked geek walking around calling himself a world’s champion? Well I got some bad news for you, folks, because Ivy English is THE world’s champion.
He tosses a glance over toward Ivy’s championship, and then nods back at the camera.
James Cornfield: But ya see, one man, no matter how talented he may be, does not a tag team make. Ivy English ends title reigns… now let me introduce you to the man who ends careers.
On the left, a behemoth of a man; beneath the dark cover of a hooded jacket, long, wet hair seems to drip down his face, barely covering the war torn remains of a leather face mask. He is the stuff of nightmares, towering over both the promoter and his apparent tag team partner at nearly six foot, six inches. Any guesses about his weight are left in uncertainty, given the bulky nature of his outfit, but it would suffice to say that this is a large, imposing figure.
James Cornfield: You have never in your life known fear, lest you have stepped into the ring with the man known as… Genosyde. Hailing from Hell, Michigan but conceived in the darkest corners of the real thing, this man right here…
Jimmy slaps the shoulder of GenoSyde, perhaps a bit too comfortably– the giant of a man recoils and scowls, forcing Cornfield to flinch just a little bit.
James Cornfield: …well, this man right here isn’t just a secret weapon, he’s a nuclear weapon. Three hundred and one pounds, and that extra pound of flesh is the one that he’ll take from you personally, should you be unfortunate enough to stand across the ring from him. I hear y’all got a champion in HOW who likes to gnaw on people’s faces? Well that’s adorable, but Genosyde doesn’t play with his food before he eats it. And trust me, ladies and gentlemen… Genosyde is here to eat.
He loosely puts his arms around both of his wrestlers, two very different men from two very different walks of life. Two men who would never in a million years be in a tag team match together, barring this particular opportunity in High Octane Wrestling.
James Cornfield: John Sektor and Adam Ellis, I gotta say I respect the hell out of you boys. A technical wrestling legend, not only slumming it in a outlaw deathmatch company, working for a scumbag sexual harasser and serial criminal, but also training up a new generation to respect the art of pro wrestling. In another life… in another universe… I’d ask you boys to sign on the dotted line with Pro Wrestling: Assault and come work for a company who will give you the appreciation you deserve. But this ain’t another life, and this ain’t another universe, and at Saturday Night Refueled, you boys drew the short straw. You boys drew a match against the two most dangerous men you done never heard of, on the week that they most need to make sure that the world hears about ‘em. So let me give you two a little bit of advice, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
James beckons toward the camera, as it zooms in toward his face. Almost like he has a little secret that’s only meant for a few to hear.
James Cornfield: My boys are here to wrestle, and they’re here to become the HOW World Tag Team Champions. They aren’t here to play with cardboard cutouts and do bad comedy, and they sure as heck aren’t here to do anything halfway. So Sektor… Ellis…on Saturday night, you can come down to that ring looking for a fight, or you can wisely stay in the back and watch that referee count to ten, but whatever you do… you’d better commit to it. You’d better come looking for war. Because there ain’t no danger on planet earth like the English Genosyde, and if you don’t learn from history… you’re damned sure doomed to repeat it.
The final image that we see is the confident sneer of James Cornfield, as the grainy video comes to an end and cuts away to black.
Later That Day
“Man, Joe Frazier is from fuckin’ Philly, bruh.”
Shaking his head and laughing despite himself, Ivy English stands at the bottom of arguably the most famous staircase in the United States of America, staring up at the bronzed face of Rocky Balboa. A fictional boxer from a fictional movie has had a statue in the hometown of Joe Frazier since 1972,and they didn’t build a monument to Smokin’ Joe until literally 2015.
He pulls his purple-tipped dreadlocks back, exposing the shaved sides of his head as he shakes his head at the statue. In the eight years he’s been struggling to make a living on the independent scene, he’d never actually been to Philadelphia before, instead mostly relegated to the larger metro area of his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. This whole trip had been… to put it mildly, a trip.
“City of Brotherly Love my ass.” Ivy mutters, side-eying his large, unlikely tag team partner. “Can you believe this shit?”
Genosyde doesn’t reply.
His arms crossed in front of his hulking body, the quiet but deadly half of the tag team stares off into the distance as though he’s a million miles away. Despite there being no cameras around and being entirely off the clock, the wretched mess of a mask is still hanging over his face, a hood still draped over his head.
“Maaaan, why you gotta wear that thing?” Ivy asks, blinking blankly in disbelief. “Ain’t nobody know who we are. It’s lunch time. I ain’t tryin’a get a sandwich with some Scream 2 ass nigga with no permanently wet hair. Would you take that fuckin’ thing off?”
A pause, as the anger flares in the eyes of the giant.
“No.” he mutters, his eyes never meeting Ivy’s.
He didn’t take it off at the airport, or on the plane. He didn’t take it off when they landed. In fact, in the entire time that Ivy English had been rooming, eating, and forced to be spending time with the man known as Genosyde, he had literally never seen him without his mask on. Didn’t know his first name, or anything about him.
Just a big, scary dude who didn’t talk much.
“Whatever, man.” Ivy shrugs, shaking his head. “This whole fuckin’ city makes my balls itch or somethin’. And the fuck was that about Jimmy calling us English Genocide? Ain’t no way in this world or the next I’mma be in a fuckin’ tag team called Enflish Genocide. Don’t give a FUCK about a play on words. You hear what this carny ass white dude wanted to call us?”
Genosyde doesn’t answer.
At this point, it doesn’t make a difference to the PWA World Champion, who is really just venting to the world. Even still, it’s nice to have a big, death metal brick wall to air your grievances too… even if the wall doesn’t answer back.
“THE CROP.” Ivy half shouts, rolling his eyes. “I swear to you. Homegrown talent, straight from the Cornfield. This motherfucker is straight out of his mind if he thinks he gonna drag my ass down to the ring telling white folks he brought me to Philadelphia from a fuckin’ farm, bruh. He better hope this Octane shit don’t get me signed because I will jump ship like it’s the fuckin’ Titanic, I ain’t even playing.”
He’s staring up at the Rocky staircase in front of him, as the PWA World Champion pulls the hood of his jacket up over his head, fighting against the cold. It’s his first time up north in his twenty six years on the planet, and he’s felt chilled to the bone since the second they landed. But it wasn’t just the temperature that had Ivy English on his guard.
Something about this whole thing just felt… off.
Why did a random regional wrestling promotion from Atlanta give a single fuck some Maurako Cup tournament for a company in Chicago? Pro Wrestling: Assault wasn’t PRIME. It wasn’t SHOOT. It was barely an MVW. The answer to that question might be above Ivy English’s pay grade, but as of now… he wasn’t even sure exactly what he was getting paid.
Shiny titles don’t pay credit card bills.
This wasn’t what wrestling was supposed to be. Half empty gymnasiums aren’t what he was watching on YouTube when he was a kid. He was supposed to be a star, and at the risk of his own arrogance, Ivy English knew exactly how good he was out there. He had the talent and the hustle, but more importantly, he had the look and the charisma. Pro Wrestling: Assault was supposed to be a stepping stone to the big leagues, but that was what… six years ago?
Shit, maybe they were the Rocky steps.
Long and over-fucking-rated. Diving over the ropes and putting his body on the line in front of a hundred people was losing its luster, and this was his ticket. Jimmy had said so himself– getting Ivy English out in front of a mainstream TV audience was a no brainer. Real eyes on Ivy, real eyes on the product, real eyes on the talent. This was supposed to make money for everybody, and it was designed to get Ivy a deal in the first place.
He can’t help but wonder why Jimmy would be so… giving.
“Whatever, man.” Ivy mumbles, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets. “You hungry, Lurch?”
He turns toward Genosyde, who simply nods his head.
It’s astounding to see him next to the statue– the monster stands only about a foot and some change shorter than ol’ Bronze Rocky himself, and looks like he can take about as much punishment. Ivy isn’t sure where Cornfield found this guy, but even despite the frustration and lack of communication, he can’t help but be thankful that they’re partners instead of enemies.
For now, anyway.
“You ever fuck with cheesesteaks?” Ivy asks, raising an eyebrow.
This time, Genosyde shakes his head ‘no’.
“Me neither.” English lightly slaps his partner on the back. “We about to fuck with some cheesteaks, big homie. You got CashApp?”
Once again, Genosyde shakes his head no.
“Ain’t no thing.” Ivy smiles, patting Genosyde on the back. “You know what? We eatin’ on Jimmy tonight. Fuckin’… English Genosyde. This white dude owes us some fuckin’ cheesesteaks.”
The PWA World Champion begins to walk back toward the road, but Genosyde doesn’t join him. His eyes are still fixated on something in the distance, and finally Ivy realizes what it is. He lets out a long, exasperated sigh as it hits him what his partner has been staring at literally this entire time he’s been talking.
The champ puts a hand on his shoulder.
“You wanna run them Rocky steps, don’t you, big man?” Ivy asks, raising his eyebrows.
Genosyde nods, slowly.
“Fuck it.” Ivy laughs. “You know what? I do too.”
He’d been climbing those steps for six fucking years, so what were a few more? One step at a time, in the hopes that someday he’ll reach the next level of his career. So he’ll deal with the cold, and the casual racism. He’ll deal with the weird cloud hanging over this tournament, and being thrown into a match with a REAL fucking champion in his very first appearance. He’ll deal with suddenly being bunkmates with the single scariest human being he’s ever seen in his life. He slaps Genosyde on the back one more time, as they proceed toward the steps.
When in Rome, you do as the Romans do.
But when you’re in Philly?
Well, you just gotta hope Brutus doesn’t stab you in the back.