JFK International Airport
New York, New York
That was just about the only thing on Xander’s mind as he and his Eternal Circle followers pulled into the parking lot, just hours after a disappointing night for the Fighter. He had given everything he had against Clay Byrd, in a match that surprised many by just how close it was…but nearly beating someone gets you neither upward momentum in the rankings nor a bonus at the pay window.
So, Xander sat silent the entire drive over, keeping to himself as he stewed over the fallout of that match. After over a year of waiting, the world finally got to see the two surprise standouts of the DeNucci Cup collide in singles competition…and the Monster from Plainview was the victor. No sweet taste of victory for ol’ Xander Azula, just a ton of pain…mind, body, and soul.
As the engine finally stopped on the Erismobile, all Xander could think about was what was next on his itinerary, where he would be going next to take his mind off the frustration–nay, the anger–that was building up inside him.
“Anywhere but here.”
The remark was, in a sense, rhetorical; Xander knew what his plan was the moment he arrived in New York for the very show he had just competed on. He would face Clay Byrd, and–win or lose–head immediately to the airport to catch a flight to Las Vegas, where he would prepare for his war with the sVo to come to its climax. The actual date of his fight against Kyle McRae was still being ironed out due to contractual obligations on both ends, but Xander planned on a preemptive strike against the “sanctioned” violence that the sVo boasted.
But, as the old saying goes…man makes plans, and GOD laughs.
“Hey Xander, I uhhh…I think we should just drive over to Missouri this week, get back to training with Dawn like you’ve been doing.”
We see the younger of Xander’s disciples speaking up, Thomas Crowne, looking at his phone in confusion. Such a feeling is shared by the Fighter himself, who just looks at Crowne with a raised eyebrow.
“What are you talking about? We’re flying to Vegas so I can get some rest, and then do some basic training at–”
He is quickly cut off as Thomas shows him the phone, revealing a poster for Chaos 9 which promotes the announced main event of Bobby Dean facing GREAT SCOTT for the High Octane Television Championship…and as Xander scans through the rest of the text on the poster, he sees a bit of information he could’ve very much done without. He reads the text out loud, nearly disgusted by what he’s seeing to the point of literally taking a pause halfway.
“Xander Azula versus…Brian Hollywood.”
As he finishes reading the poster, he just stares in silence before looking away. After what feels like an eternity, Thomas speaks up once more just to check on his Head Disciple.
“Is everything o–”
As if something inside him has snapped, Xander just starts yelling profusely.
“No! No! Please, no! No, god please, no! No! NOOOOOOOO–”
You’ve got to be fucking kidding.
I pulled out all the stops last week, took the former High Octane Television Champion to his damn limit, and in the end it was for naught.
And now, as I continue to recover from the effects of both a spear and the Texas Lariat, I come to find out I go up against Brian Hollywood in Philadelphia.
Thanks, I hate it. Hate, hate, hate it.
About as much as Roger Ebert hated the movie North, that’s how much I hate the thought of facing Brian Hollywood…in Philadelphia, of all places.
Let me step back a little here, and explain.
First of all, Brian Hollywood is a man I defeated in HOFC competition a few months ago, an early stepping stone on the path of unsanctioned violence I promised to bring to this world.
Second, he is a man I had to tolerate and deal with just last month, in a losing bid to capture tag team glory. Hindsight is 20/20, folks, and the more I think about it…the more I realize that pairing was never meant to be.
So, am I thrilled to be dealing with this man next week? Not particularly.
Least of all in a filthy whore of a town like Philadelphia. That’s not a statement I make just to quickly invoke anger my way, mind you…somewhere on the Internet is a top one hundred list of the worst cities in America, and Philadelphia is number one with a damn bullet.
On second thought, this is a perfect place to face Brian Hollywood, a man who looks as tough as a Philly cheesesteak…and possibly just as greasy.
This isn’t me downplaying what the man is capable of, mind you. After all, for all my boasting about the HOFC fight we had, I haven’t forgotten that I made the mistake of underestimating you the last time we faced off in a match like this.
Everyone makes mistakes. I just have a tendency to learn from mine.
That said, what do I know best about Brian Hollywood, after competing against him and briefly teaming with him? That he talks at length about having “nothing to lose.”
And, one could say he has a point.
No titles for him to lose on a given week, no pride that can necessarily be broken by weeks of loss after loss…and, as the kids would say, no bitches.
Most of all, though? He doesn’t have to worry about his job security.
He hasn’t lost his place on the HOW roster, despite all the signs in the universe pointing to a necessary retirement for ol’ Mr. Executive.
What is it going to take to put this old dog down, once and for all?
How many times must we teach you this lesson, Brian!?
I thought for sure I had managed to close the book on Kostoff’s career, after all, and it turned out you just can’t keep a good wolf down…unless you’re the GOD of HOW himself.
So, how do you solve a problem like Brian Hollywood?
How do you take a future Hall of Famer and keep him down?
Maybe such a task is impossible after all…but it’s not gonna keep me from trying.
Because everyone has their breaking point, Brian ol’ pal…and I plan on tearing through yours.
A systematic beatdown, one that will finally put you in your place as I drop you to the canvas with the Fist of Eris.
And instead of knocking you out for ten seconds, it’ll only take three as I make that cover and take what is rightfully mine…a victory over the once-great Brian Hollywood, the so-called Executive that seems to only make bad decisions in the year 2022.
Perhaps the best thing about this match is that it won’t be inside the HOFC cage…so no one will be able to use that as an excuse for the beating I have in store.
No one will be able to say “oh, Xander only won that match because his chances when enclosed are much better.”
No, this week will finally prove that I’m as much a beast outside the cage as I am within.
I promise I made when I beat down a Hall of Famer Bobbinette Carey will finally come to full fruition at the expense of a man who will one day enter that sacred ground himself.
Then, in front of the fans at the Wells Fargo Center and everyone watching from home, I will finally get revenge for the loss I have against you.
Once I’m through, I can finally move on…I can finally fulfill my destiny.
And then, I can be anywhere but here.
“Seriously, I wouldn’t mind being literally anywhere else right now.”
The complaints are starting to become intolerable from Xander, who has just wrapped up an intense training session with Dawn McGill that morning. A lot of strength and cardio work was had here, leaving the Fighter nearly short of breath…but not enough to keep his mouth shut. Dawn, for her part, has had enough of this attitude from Xander as she snaps back at him with a sense of ferocity that leaves him taken aback.
“What are you cryin’ about now? You agreed to do this training! You wanted it, you demanded it! If my methods are too much for you, feel free to take your leave and go back to basics…otherwise, it’s time to get crackin’, ‘cause you can’t make an omelette without breakin’ a few eggs!”
Xander’s shock quickly dissipates as his stomach growls at the mention of breakfast, something he had to forego to make it to training on time; he was in such a rush, after all, that he forgot nearly all sense of time let alone something as simple as a meal.
Dawn picks up on the change of attitude quickly, just rolling her eyes as that hunger becomes more and more evident on Xander’s face.
“Oh, for the love of–why didn’t you tell me you haven’t eaten? Go see if you can sneak something out of the fridge in the house, I won’t tell Joe about it.”
Xander weakly chuckles at the remark, as he takes his leave from the barn. As he steps outside to head toward the house, he is quickly followed by his Eternal Circle crew. They pick up the pace as they approach the front door, before Thomas Crowne speaks up, grabbing the attention of the Head Disciple.
“The flight you asked for has been booked, Xander. Once you’ve dealt with Hollywood in Philly we can quickly jet over to Vegas, and move on with the plan.”
This draws a smirk from the Fighter, though it’s somewhat faint given the man’s hunger.
“Good. The win bonus will help cover the cost of that missed flight, I hate when things don’t go to pl–”
As if a sign from some heavenly force above, Xander is cut off at the pass as he notices the doorknob has no give…because it’s locked.
“Oh, come on!”
Xander’s hunger is exceeded only by his frustration at the moment, as he fiddles around with the doorknob trying to force it open. He eventually gives up, letting out a sigh before Vagn Dahl chimes in with a tone of reassurance.
“If you’re hungry, we still have some STRONKUMMS in the van brother.”
Xander’s face twists in disgust at the thought of this, shaking his head in disapproval.
“No…in fact, hell no. I’d sooner starve than consume another one of those damn things.”
Suddenly, the front door swings open…revealing Xander’s head coach himself, Joe Bergman. The appearance catches Xander by surprise, for in his rush to get to training he had also forgotten who all would be around that day.
“You know, you could’ve just knocked. That’s the friendly thing to do around here.”
Joe’s look of amusement is met with one of utter confusion by the Fighter, who looks over at the barn to see Dawn standing by the entrance, the trainer having a proper laugh before shouting in his direction.
“Ain’t nothin’ like a good rib to cure that hunger, Azula!”
Xander just lets out another sigh before turning his attention back to Bergman.
“Right…you got anything to eat by chance, Coach? I’m nearly starving over here, and I’ll take anything.”
Bergman thinks about this for a moment, considering the options carefully.
“Well, there are still some eggs in the fridge, but–”
That is more than enough to satisfy the Fighter’s literal and proverbial hunger, as he nearly shoves past his coach entering the house, making a beeline for the fridge as the scene fades to black.