There’s a lot of terrifying Bosses in this game of wrestling, particularly here in High Octane. EA Mike. Dan Ryan. The Minister was the epitome of Jigsaw for the brief time I saw him. Big Boss. Steve Solex. Scott Woodson. The list could go on and on.
…Then there’s you, Cancer Jiles.
Perhaps the most terrifying one of all.
The guy who ended Mike’s reign. The guy who hit rock bottom and “shit the bed” when I first arrived on the scene but he made no excuses. He sucked it up. He lost his co-op support. He gave it a number of tries until he put it all on the line…
And got the job done.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you this, you lived it. You seem like a real chill dude, a pop’n’fresh guy yourself. Got your T-shades on, hair slicked back, lips all puckered… you’re The Man now and between you and me, you didn’t need a world title to prove that to anyone.
Well, aren’t I lucky? I get the first… crack.
Oh, it was blindsiding, hearing the news I’d be wrestling for the HOW World Championship. Rattling. Beside myself. Asking myself if it’s even possible I could win.
To be honest with you, I don’t know. I don’t think so?
But as The Vintage rolls, I’ll give it my best shot.
Just so we’re clear: I’m not coming from a place of bitterness. I’m not looking to make a name for myself. I have my online gaming trophies and discord channel for those kinds of shenanigans. I also don’t demand any answers from you… like “why did you choose The Best Alliance?” or “do you even like eggs anymore?” Cause that will lead into “can I still call you Dr. Eggman?” and “What have you done with the Chaos Emeralds?” Maybe now is not the appropriate time.
No, Conor. It’s time to get your big boy pants on for this one. All I want is my fair shot and to see where things fall after.
Oh boy, this has got me more wound up than the recent trailer to Resident Evil VIII.
One thing I think I have going for me is that I tend to emulate people. Gaming is all about emulation and I’ve taken that with me to HOW.
I tried to be like Scotty. Tried to be like High Flyer. Christ, I tried to Be Like Mike but I got punted pretty fast from that Street Fighter tournament, didn’t I? I guess that’s something you can relate to, as well.
So, how can I channel the scariest person I’ve ever encountered?
I don’t do T-shades but I’ve got some sick, top-of-the-line gaming headphones to block out the noise. Really need those to focus this week.
I wear my hair messy instead of slicked back. So, I’ll save a little time on self-maintenance.
I don’t have a world championship throne to sit on. Instead, a simple, comfy gaming chair will suffice.
Additionally, I Weapon Get people. Ya know, download their finishers and try to use it against them? Hasn’t got me a W yet but I’ve made some guys sweat.
It’s not a lot. But if you don’t mind, I’ve taken the opportunity to abbreviate your fun little saying.
Trust me, I’m gonna need it.
— — —
Jack Patrick’s Bar and Grill – St. Louis, MO
April 11th, 2021
It’s a celebration and rightfully so. Teddy Palmer pinned Jatt Moto in the center of the ring and plucked the LSD title not only out of Jatt’s hands but away from The Best Alliance. Not to be outdone but on a more minor scale, Zeb and I defeated The Best goombas like I said we were going to.
Who saw what was about to come next?
I mean, I heard it. I heard Cancer say what co-op he’s joining. I heard him say he wanted the main event next week, too.
Then Big Boss hand picked me.
“HEY! YOU WANNA TOUCH MY BELT!” Bellows Teddy towards my direction.
He, Lindsay and Zeb are in a booth halfway down as I stand at the bar. DON’T get me wrong, we’re not mean guys (and gal). Everyone’s checked up on Ray to make sure he’s doing alright. He gave us his blessing and insisted the team celebrate while he tries to pass concussion protocol. Nobody’s happy about it and there’s already been a two hour discussion on what to do next week as a result. Because of this discussion and “party”, none of the Grapplers have seen the official press release regarding Refueled LIX yet. For Zeb, he’s too far into drinking, Lindsay’s focused on strategies moving forward and Teddy, well, he’s as sober as I am but clearly on cloud nine.
Outside of the JPD thing, it was a damn good night for everyone and no doubt we have a target on our backs. C-L-E-A-R-L-Y. People are choosing sides and fast. There’s no middle ground… it’s white or black and I am REALLY in the fire pit. This feels like it MEANS something significant.
Deep breaths, dude, deep breaths.
I’ve been shaken before but not like this. Yeah, it’s the world title. Yeah, it’s also the man who’s holding it. Both of them have me in a state of mind I was not in five hours ago. Five hours ago my problems consisted of who called SHOTGUN! and if I wanted to introduce Teddy to CoD or Fortnite first. Ya know, chill and decompress for 24 hours and then move onto the business at hand.
“Shore you doin’ alright, bo?” Zeb asks me, coming to the bar and ordering a drink.
“Oh,” I reply, faking a grin, “no worries, dude. I’m having a blast! Yay go Grapplers Loco 360! Loco, loco. Haha!”
Okay, he believed me. He’s off my back as he orders a drink and relocates to our booth. I guess that’s one good thing, my newfound friends are… new. They don’t know when I’m faking it. Keep Mom away from me, though. She’s got that unwavering intuition.
I see Lindsay peering, perhaps wondering why I’m taking so long. I immediately brush a hand through my hair and turn to the group of girls beside me. I start laughing as they laugh. They don’t like it.
“Look, ladies, I’m not interested,” I start, “just pretend I’m part of the conversation for, uh, ten seconds, okay?”
This whole time my eyes shoot back and forth between them and LT/Palmer. The blonde scoffs at me.
“Whatever, you’re not getting any of this. And don’t think you’ve got a chance with my friends, either, scumbag!”
Jesus, she doesn’t need to go all Mother Hen on me. I seriously find these BOTS repulsive. Either way, whatever interaction we’re having is working. Lindsay’s conversing with Ted and Zeb.
“Okay, you can resume your conversation.” I leave them be and refocus.
I grab the bartender’s attention. I don’t drink. I prefer a refreshing Kool Aid or choco milk any day of the week. But maybe I can give this alcohol thing a shot?
“Yes, hi, hello good sir,” I say to the bartender. I feel my hands are trembling, “what kind of uh, liquor stuff do ya gots?”
The bartender looks at me funny. He doesn’t reply. Maybe he’s rattled too about the Refueled LIX booking.
“Well, okay, look, pal,” my eyes dart around the room uneasily, “what can get me drunkest the fastest?”
The bartender rolls his eyes, “Likely shots for you, pipsqueak.”
“Tequila. That’s something, right?”
Bartender nods, slightly. Almost as if he doesn’t want to acknowledge me. Fine, buddy, you’re not getting a tip.
He gives me a “get outta here” kinda look.
“Yeah, three. Let’s goooooo!”
He pours and slides three shots across the table, along with salt and three slices of lime.
I raise my eyebrow to him. “Uhhhh, dude? What is this for-”
He cuts me off, “salt, shot, lime.” And turns away.
Whatever that means.
I take shot number one. Almost puke.
Shot two. I can feel it come back up.
The bartender is looking at me again. Now I know why the salt and lime are there. Whatever.
… … …
A little time clicks by until we pick up again. I’m not feeling anything (I did three more shots to make sure)… but no matter what, I’ve found the perfect excuse to leave and hyperventilate on my own.
“Hey, everyone!” I say with a fake giggle as I walk up to the Grapplers booth. Am I acting like I’m drunk? Or buzzed? I don’t know. “I’m feeling a little woozy.” Hiccup. “Gonna go for a wander and meet y’all back at the penthouse!”
Zeb and Teddy buy it, no doubt. I can see it on their faces. They’re thrilled I’m “wasted”. I may have convinced Lindsay but I’ve GOT to make sure.
Target: acquired. New group of chicks. Ones that have definitely hatched.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt gals,” I say, slurring my speech deliberatively. “I need one of you to slap me.”
The brunette doesn’t get it. She rudely says, “why?”
The other three girls look at me like Teddy looks at Jatt.
“No, seriously. Please, slap me as hard AF.”
“AF? What kind of games are you playing, boy?”
I roll my eyes.
“Yes, AF. Don’t make me say the actual words.” I’m getting nowhere. “Look, I don’t want to sleep with ANY of you. Cooties, gross! I simply ask for one of you to slap me. The only games I’m into are video games. Here, I’ll show you. I have a Game Boy in my pocket. It’s my Game Boy Pocket…”
As I reach into my pocket…
“THE HELL OUTTA MY FACE, CREEP!” The brunette screams at me.
“Was that so difficult?” I ask her.
Anyway, looking back at GL214, I shrug, wink and wander out the bar room doors.
Wait a second… what the hell did that brunette think I was going to pull out of my pocket?
April 11th, 2021
I unlock the door to a complete mess. It’s like The Hangover hit our AirBnB (except without the lion and a baby). Okay, okay, it’s not THAT bad…
But someone was clearly playing with my plastic goombas in the living room. Goomba “Solex” is pinning goomba “Clay”.
I creep around the studio suite, careful not to wake anyone. I’m a master at stealth, perhaps my greatest skill of all. A quick peek into Teddy’s room and I see he’s passed out, LSD Championship on the coffee table. Good job, Teddy. Awesome achievement you have there. Better get ready to carry another one next weekend.
I don’t dare touch the bedroom door to Lindsay. But I know she’s here.
As I make my way to the third bedroom, I see Zeb sprawled out on the bottom bunk and the top one left for me. This is also when I notice there’s a notification on my phone from earlier. Guess I’m not the only one who missed a memo tonight.
It’s from Bryan. He’s one of the production guys. Met him a while ago when I shot a Max Kael tribute video.
Text reads: “Hey Conor, before you head out tomorrow, swing by the Enterprise Center. Shoot quick promos for Refueled.”
I’d say reality is setting in but it already has.
Maybe I’ll sleep on the couch tonight, head out super early and tell everyone to meet me there. The more time I have to myself, the better.
April 11th, 2021
“Thanks for getting here sharp, Conor. Normally, we’d have you come in on a Monday but with us on the road, I figured it was the best audible to call.”
So I’m outside the Enterprise Center, feeling a little groggy from last night. Most of HOW has begun their journey to Dallas. However, it’s promo time. Gotta make sure every ticket is sold.
Bryan holds the camera as I stand behind the gray brick building. He’s accompanied by a sound guy with headphones on, plugged into the camera and checking on audio quality since this is shot with the least equipment possible. They have a black minivan off to the side and will pack up and drive outta here after we’re done.
“We’re rolling…” Bryan points to me. “Go!”
Oh boy. What the hell do I say? I’m almost never at a loss for words.
“Hey Cancer, this is Conor Fuse,” I find myself pointing to the camera. WTF am I doing? “Your time is up; my time is now!”
Am I smiling? Bet it looks goofy. God, I hope this is okay.
My eyes shoot toward Bryan and the sound guy. They seem dumbfounded.
“Psst, Conor,” Bryan says as he leans forward, “say something else…”
Okay, okay, okay… ummmm…
“I am gonna beat you Jiles ‘cause I’m that damn good!”
Why does this sound like a bad promo?
Maybe because it is a bad promo, dumbass?
Shut up, Conor.
No, you shut up.
Jesus, dude, you sound like-
“Conor,” Bryan snaps me out of whatever self-conversation I’m having, “take it easy, man. How about we flip the camera off and try again in a few minutes?”
I look down at my legs. Shaking! Chill guy, chill. I look back at Bryan and give him a wink. “Yeah, for sure, no problem, totally can do that, totally totally. Just need to think of the right stuff to say.”
Pretend you’re on your discord, I say to myself.
Yeah, my discord. I’m the king of my discord! They call me a gaming god!
Not only that… you hold all the records in CoD, Fortnite, Minecraft, all the good stuff.
You’ve beat some HOW Hall of Fame Bosses, too.
Dan Ryan, you weren’t even scared of HIM and he paralyzes dudes!
Did he paralyze me?
Did EA Mike kill me?
Did The Best Alliance take you and your friends down last week?
Not inside the ring they didn’t!
Okay, so let’s gooooooo! World Championship on the line. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP-
“Conor!” Bryan’s in my face, snapping his fingers. “It’s been ten minutes. Are you good? Let’s get something in, okay? Even if it’s not your best.”
Bryan gives me the okay he’s shooting.
“Actually, if it’s okay, I’ll just say a bunch of one liners and you can piece stuff together in post?”
Bryan shrugs while nodding his head yes.
“Cancer, you’re The Best Alliance tumor and you’re gonna be removed!”
Pause. Dude, that was awful.
SHUT UP, I know.
“Yo Cancer, guess what? Between you and I, I bet you were the last one who shit the bed! I haven’t done that since I was five!”
Okay, getting better.
“Hey Jiles, looks like you might need to change those tights soon LOL!”
Haha, warming up!
“I am the best wrestler in High Octane! You know it, I know it, evvvvrybody knows it!”
“I can’t wait to beat your ass and lay you out on the mat for the one, two, three!”
My cheesy smile and thumbs up don’t help. My eyes find their way to Bryan and the sound guy. I’m praying for reassurance.
There isn’t any.
Honestly, I don’t remember what lines come next. They’re all super cringe.
“Well, Conor,” you can tell Bryan is trying his best to let me down easy. I appreciate it. “I’m sure we can piece something together.”
He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Hang in there.”
Bryan turns away and packs up the camera. The sound guy nods his head to me and I try to make awkward small talk with him.
“Nice headphones. I have a pair of Razer Kraken Ultimates in my duffle bag. They’re so fetch.” He says “cool” in reply…
As a black Chevy Suburban pulls into the parking lot. The horn goes off.
My new team.
“Hey Conor, all set?” Troy shouts from the driver’s seat. I nod, turn back and thank the crew once more before taking my purple duffle bag and wandering towards my ride.
“Start walking with a bit of swagger kid,” Palmer says from out the backseat window, “you’re gonna be World Champ soon, start acting like it.”
I laugh, awkwardly.
“The guys even gave you SHOTGUN!” LT states as she pops the trunk and I throw my stuff inside. Zeb flashes a thumbs up and winks. Getting into the passenger seat, Lindsay notes Ray might be meeting up with us in Dallas and he’s feeling better. For the next day’s drive, I’ll have to put my game face on and act like I know what I’m going to do on the weekend.
Teddy’s the new LSD Champion.
Lindsay and Teddy could become the new Tag Team Champions.
Only a few weeks into Grapplers Local 214 and we could system crash this MF. We could gut The Best Alliance entirely.
It might end up on my shoulders to finish the job…
Against the most feared man in the World.
For the World Championship.
The true 8-4 Boss.
We’re already on the highway as Lindsay looks over to me with a confident grin.
“Ready to take on Lee’s latest bootlicker?”
“Heck ya!” I reply, attempting to ramp up my energy levels as I reach into my jacket pocket and pull out those gaming headphones I mentioned earlier. I hook them into my iPhone. “Gonna listen to some 16-bit jams, start psyching myself up, ya know!?”
This weekend, I could put myself on the bullseye. There’d be a huge target on MY back.
Fighting a Boss was one thing…
Fighting an army, another.
Fighting the most voguish guy EVER???
Deep breaths, dude. Deep breaths.
Conor… what the fuck have you gotten yourself into?