Well this is interesting.
Falling from such a great height as the Guard Tower does things to you.
It adds to the bumps and bruises I’ve taken over the years, especially the knocks to the head.
I’ve taken enough of those to where I can’t always comprehend the craziness I see unfolding.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through it all, it’s that my goddess is in control.
Just look at the lineup for ICONIC.
I can’t say I was expecting to be in London, not with everything that’s been going on lately.
Say that word with me again…ICONIC.
What do you think of when you hear that word?
Not a guy who’s gone from a dominant HOFC record to two and ten in singles competition, that’s for damn sure.
Not a guy who can’t seem to string together a couple victories in a row and get out of negative points in the standings.
Least of all a guy who got thrown off a Guard Tower and is lucky to be alive after Rumble at the Rock.
Stranger things have happened, but still.
That guy? He has no place in this business, no reason to even be sat at catering much less taking up space on the lineup for the last HOW event of the year.
ICONIC? More like IRONIC, don’t ya think?
You’re right, time to pump the brakes on this.
Why the self-deprecation, you may ask?
Because I’m taking away the stupid jokes that are likely coming out of the mouths of those that wanna go for low-hanging fruit.
Nobody needs to be bored by the same, tired jokes about how I can’t quite get it done.
If I wanted to fall asleep, I would throw on some old HOFC promos in the background and listen to people flub my name like it was supposed to hurt my little feelings.
I’m more than aware of my less than stellar year in HOW, thank you very fucking much.
And yet, I’m still standing.
The fact is, at some point you can only take so much shit from people before you turn it around on them.
That’s the goal for ol’ Xander come ICONIC.
Turn everyone’s expectations on their head, maybe crack open a head or two in the process.
And praise be to Eris.
Especially when I’m in a ladder match–a damn ladder match–against two men who are far past the pinnacle of their careers and a rookie to this particular company who wants to remind everyone he’s on his long and windy road back from obscurity.
Let’s start with you, David Noble.
Welcome back to pro wrestling, Dave. The business has missed you…I guess.
You seem to demand this much attention about your return after a six-year absence.
I get it, Davey, I really do.
I did the same thing last year when I popped up on HOW’s radar.
I’ve been in those shoes.
It’s never easy taking that leap back into the ring after all that time away.
It’s like an itch you just can’t scratch.
It drives you up the wall until you just can’t stand it anymore…and then you come back, hoping that anyone will actually give a shit when that music hits.
The difference is, when I came back into the business, I stepped into an unforgiving steel cage with nothing but my wits and my brute force to silence critics for weeks in the DeNucci Cup.
My goddess was pleased, and that pleased me.
My path to glory was cut short, but not before taking my anger out on two veterans of the business.
Only one man has been able to beat me in that cage. Just the one.
Even my last HOFC fight came up with a resounding victory, one that brought honor to the one who sent me.
I don’t care how deep the HOFC records from this year have been buried, I know what I’m capable of when pushed to the brink…and so will you.
Because the cage is being replaced with a ladder, but it’ll hurt just the same.
And unlike a cage, I can swing a ladder around with ease.
I realize we’re quite some time out from your debut in HOW, so the whole “ring rust” stage is already behind you.
Everyone has a bad week, right?
Two weeks in and getting your very own HOTV title shot, after six years away?
Sure, let’s chalk that loss up to ring rust.
Probably better that way for you, Davey boy.
Too bad you won’t have that excuse come ICONIC.
Not if my goddess has anything to say about it.
I know what critics are saying, but this will not be some sort of walk in the park for you.
Not by a long shot.
As much as I’d like to dismiss Brian Hollywood and Darin Zion–and believe you me, I’d like that very much–I cannot deny the talent that still lurks inside those two.
And I do mean lurks.
A win for those two comes but once in a blue moon, but considering they both have said win over me, I can’t really harp on that too much.
What I can harp on, though, is the fact that two former World Champions just cannot seem to get it together in 2021.
You hate to see it, folks.
To Hollywood’s credit, he’s a former HOTV Champion of the past year alone. That’s gotta count for something, right?
The rest of us don’t have that going.
Certainly not Darin Zion, who managed to piss away three–count them, three–opportunities to win a championship this past year in HOW.
All that credibility off the back of beating the Best Alliance in a handicap match, flushed down the toilet.
Zion, you probably thought you were done with me in Alcatraz when you threw me off the Guard Tower…but you of all people should know that nothing is ever that simple.
You just can’t get rid of me at this point, can you?
I’m your living nightmare now, Darin.
I’m that splinter in your thumb you can’t quite get out, no matter how hard you try.
Pivoting away from our issues to go after gold only brought you deeper into the quicksand, and now you’re stuck here with me.
And the funniest thing about it is, I wasn’t actively pursuing you.
Hell, there was a part of me that was content with staying out of ICONIC.
Months of dealing with the bullshit that’s been thrown my way, trying to make a statement…to prove a point…to spread the good word…and all for naught.
The truth is, there has been a weird discrepancy between my words and actions this year.
I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I have found that I’m at my absolute best when I focus less on making grandiose speeches about serving my goddess, and more on stepping into the ring or cage and beating the holy hell out of someone to appease her.
My win-loss record reflects this discrepancy, and I think it’s about time I embrace it.
I was appointed the Head Disciple by my brethren, but my goddess molded me as a warrior.
Warriors don’t make long, drawn-out speeches about how and why they’re going to destroy their opponents.
Hell, warriors don’t leave much in the way of a warning when they attack.
This is the identity I’ve accepted.
And all jokes aside, this warrior has had enough of the verbal beatdowns to last a lifetime.
My goddess has blessed me with one last opportunity to turn my fortunes around, courtesy of one Michael Oliver Best.
Never thought I’d be thanking a Best after what went down at War Games, but such is the curveball that’s been thrown at me.
Turnabout is fair play, and that will be the only way in which I play fair when I step into that ring.
I’ll be seeing you three at ICONIC.
Better have your working boots on.
M & S Bank Arena
“It still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but I’ll take it.”
We find ourselves just outside the arena on this cold winter evening, as Xander Azula and his Eternal Circle compatriots have been left somewhat reeling after the news broke of the massive changes to the lineup for ICONIC. For most of the people leaving the arena that night, the biggest news was the massive World Championship match set on its own night…but for the Head Disciple, the news that has him perplexed is his sudden inclusion, announced as part of a four-way ladder match for a currently-unknown prize. Xander’s confusion is offset by the eagerness to make the most of the opportunity, a thought that brings a smile to his face after some consideration.
“After all, I just lost to Brian Hollywood…I wouldn’t mind getting a bit of revenge on that. I’ll also be more than happy to be the big ol’ roadblock in David Noble’s way. And then there’s Zion…”
Before he can get another word in, however, Xander is interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone. Pulling the phone out of his pocket, Xander lets out a heavy sigh, for he knows exactly what this call is about…it’s the same call he’s gotten for the past week, with roughly the same message every time. A message he dreads more and more with every passing moment. Xander rolls his eyes as he answers the phone, clearly annoyed from the start of this conversation.
“What’d you want, Randall?”
We don’t quite make out what’s being said on the other side, though we do catch the occasional shout of praise for “the technological miracle of smartphones” much to the chagrin of the Head Disciple, who lets out another sigh while shaking his head in disbelief at what he’s listening to.
“We’ve been over this already. You absolutely cannot leave the compound until we can figure out how to get you back the way you came. People are gonna be weirded out, and trust me, I know a thing or two about weird–what do you mean you’re already in Cleveland? I already told you, that building you’re looking for doesn’t exi–exactly! It’s not there, dumbass.”
Judging by the look on Xander’s face, his mysterious guest doesn’t take too kindly to that insult. We hear some loud, angry shouting on the other side with an occasional swear or two for good measure…followed by what seems to be a declaration of surprise, which only further confuses Xander.
“No, you weren’t bleeped out. Don’t ask me why that is, I dunno what weird universe you come from where you’re censored like that…and I don’t care. As soon as I’m done in the UK I’m gonna deal with this portal nonsense, and we are getting you back to your version of Cleveland. It’s been two weeks and you’re already annoying the shit out of me. You heard what I said!”
With that, Xander ends the call abruptly with a mix of anger and confusion still lingering on his face as he turns to Vagn Dahl.
“Tell me, how can I get this annoyed by someone I’ve barely met?”
The question is met with a shrug of the shoulders by the big man.
“I don’t know, but what are we going to do about him?”
Xander nearly finds himself at a loss for words, trying to sort out a solution…the key word being nearly, as he finally responds with another sigh and a shake of his head.
“It’s not like I can trust him at this point, so I have no idea now. Best I can do is hope he doesn’t fall off the grid before we can get him back. Probably call in a favor from a friend in the area, or something. Last thing I need on my hands is a crisis.”
As if on cue, a rushing wind sweeps through the vicinity, picking up speed at an enormous pace. A loud, terrible howling grabs the attention of the Eternal Circle as they turn their gaze to the distance…where a portal is slowly but surely beginning to form.
“This can’t be good.”