!rank Teddy Palmer
LSD Champion, #1 overall
!rank Dan Ryan
#6, overdue for the World Championship
Mike Best, #1
!rank Gamers Loco 360
!rank Darin Zion
!rank The Best Alliance
!rank The Best Alliance
!rank The BA
!rank Best Alliance
!rank Team Rocket aka The Best Alliance
!rank Red Ribbon Army, Ginyu Force, Umbrella Corporation, Covenant, Foot Clan, Putty Patrol, Koopa Troopas (red or green shelled), F.E.A.R., Sinister Six, Cobra Command, Hellfire Club, Black Order, Brotherhood of Mutants, N.A.M.B.L.A., SPECTRE, Foxhound, 3vil, Shadaloo, Warriors of Chaos, OGRE, Rainbow Raiders, Morlocks, Suicide Squad, H.A.T.E., One of the Sailors not named Moon, F.O.W.L., Storm Troopers, Team Aqua, Changelings, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, 2017 Cleveland Browns, EGG Bandits, Beagle Boys, Decepticons, League of Super Evil, Organization XIII, Random cartoon villains who load their guns with infinite ammunition but still can’t hit their retreating target
!rank !rank !rank
Hmm, BOT’s broken again. Someone go get Lee…
— — — — — — — — — —
Dearness Living Community – Commons Room
May 20, 2021
It takes me a moment to apply the final mug to the center of the display before I walk three steps back, hold my hands up like a picture frame and look through the “lens.”
I glance around the room. I’ve collected many weapons. Steel chairs, kendo sticks, trash cans, barbed wires, you name it, I’ve got it. In the middle of the room, folded chairs sit openly, three rows deep and five wide. Two couches are at the back, side-by-side to complete the stadium seating experience.
“What’s going on here?” Louie asks me as he strolls inside the living room quarters.
“You’re right on time.”
I offer him the front row. Always game but typically rattled, Louie begrudgingly makes his way to where I direct him.
“This better not ruin my plans for later,” he snaps.
“Louie, you have no plans,” I laugh. “Sit down.”
The elderly man is around 6’4”, roughly 220 pounds. He’s got a big frame for his age and likely would’ve been a HOSS killing machine years ago.
“So what is this?” He’s already growing impatient.
“This is my war room,” I say. “In a day I will fly to Japan. Refueled, War Games, oh my.”
“Whatever.” He finally takes his seat in row #1 and tosses a hand out like he doesn’t care. I know he does, though. He simply plays hard to get.
I wait for the others to awake from their slumber. Jasper will be next, followed by Maxwell, Ruth, and the rest at random. Walt will cap it off, he likes to sleep in.
“And what the hell is this?” Louie points at the display board, as if he’s seeing it for the first time. With his cataracts, he probably is.
I look behind me and admire my work once again. “THIS is my Most Wanted board. I’ve laid out every finite detail.”
I stroll over, pick up my ruler and start tapping around the board.
“Big Boss, the guy I’ve been telling you about since I moved in.”
Louie crosses his arms. “He doesn’t have an eye-patch in this picture.”
“Ya, he’s going through procedures.”
Right on cue, I hear Jasper wandering down the hallway, coming to the opening of the commons room. His eyes glisten upon seeing the weapons and the room organized like a lecture hall.
“Welcome, Jasper.” I invite. “Take a seat wherever you’d like.”
He’s a little reluctant. Jasper and I gel well but he needs to be frequently reminded of what’s happening. I will situate him in row #5 and forget about him for the rest of the day.
Over time, everyone finds their way to the commons room in the exact order I said they would. Maxwell, Ruth, Margo, Richard, a couple of drifters and then Walt.
Yes, this is a residence of twenty-five seniors but I’m only familiar with the actives. I’ve also made sure to befriend those I deem to be in the best health. I don’t want to tell my story too many times.
“Walt, hey!” I shout to him as he finds his way inside the war room. “I have a couch with your name on it. You’ve got that back problem!”
Walt thanks me with a smile and gingerly sprawls across a sofa.
Looking down at my watch, it’s 6:26am. Awesome, we might be ahead of schedule.
“Hello roommates,” I begin. “I’d like to thank you for being with me this morning. We’ve got a full day planned-”
“A full day!” Louie whines before I look at him with attitude.
“Yes, Louie, a full day.” And I bring my attention back to the group. “Places and attention!”
I whack the Most Wanted board with my ruler. “As you all know, this is Big Boss aka Lee Best, owner and manipulator of High Octane Wrestling. He is also the ‘mastermind’ behind The Best Alliance. I’ve never talked to him directly but rest assured, after War Games is over, he’s gonna have me on his own board, with a bullet. I will be a JOKE no more.”
I move the ruler to the mug shot right below Lee and smack the picture with it.
“Cancer Jiles, Dr. Eggman, COOL Guy Extreme. The World Champion and the man I lost to last month. Everyone is gunnin’ for this MF.”
I can see I’ve confused Louie with the abbreviation “MF” but I don’t have time to explain. The ruler switches to…
“Sutler Reynolds-Kael, aka the Sutler of Catan. People think I named him this because it was funny and convenient. No. The man is playing HOW like a board game. He’s got his family working different angles and many strategies to pull from.” I pause for dramatic effect. “In all likelihood, this is my most important opponent. Young, yes. Talented, beyond. Make no mistake, behind my silly complaints to HR and trivial name I’ve given him, I take this man very seriously. I hope to see him in some capacity.”
And the quick hits.
“Feels up flight attendants.”
“Guy from the Flex Tape meme.”
I feel my face crinkle. “Have I- confused you?”
Margo raises her hand. “No, Conor,” she begins softly. Margo’s one of the most gentle souls in Dearness and instantly has me wrapped around her finger, although she struggles mightily with dementia. “I am wondering what all of this is for.”
Hmm, I thought I was clear on that.
“Okay, everybody. Margo makes a great point, I should further clarify. In three weeks, War Games will transpire in the Tokyo Dome and I need a Game Plan. It will likely be a four-on-four War Games match for the World Championship, as well as LSD and Tag Team Title matches. Where should The Vintage Play and how can I best help the 214?”
Boy, was I wrong on that 4-on-4 stuff but anyway…
I snap the ruler against the wall and Jatt Starr.
“The rumour is my grandfather and John Sektor will defend the tag belts and I want to be their opposition.” I look around the room. “I just need a partner.”
Silence again. I hope they’re contemplating.
“Well, I’ll tell you my thoughts. I want to team with Dan Ryan…”
My voice trails. Chills run up and down my spine thinking of it.
“The Murder Daddy?” Louie pipes up from the first row shaking his head. So he has been listening for all these months. I knew it, I just needed to engage him.
“Yes, that’s him. I gotta take some risks here. Lee HAND PICKED me to wrestle Cancer Jiles because I’m deemed an easy target. If I can hang with Dan, that says something. This is about me proving myself to Lee, to Sektor, to my grandfather… to myself.”
I look at the war board and straight into Jatt’s eyes.
“They are breaking, I can feel it. I’ve been watching a lot of tape and the body language between my grandfather and his supposed ‘best friend’ tells me NOW is the time to strike. I have come CLOSE to winning HOW achievements. The ICON Championship, the World Championship. Close. But nothing to show for it.”
I feel my head lowering. My thoughts become overwhelmed with a brief rush of sadness.
“And I lost Lindsay and Teddy’s belts. I need to make this right.”
“I’ll talk to Dan. I’ll see what he says.”
There’s a drawn out silence in the room.
“But make no mistake, there’s others who I want on this board, too.”
… … … … … … … … … …
Dearness Living Community – Cafeteria
May 20, 2021
I sit at a table with Walt, Jasper and Louie. It’s pizza Wednesdays for lunch and we are halfway through our break.
“You can see he’s much slower, even when compared to a few months ago,” I state, holding my iPhone up while it plays through a video clip of Jatt Starr’s recent match vs. Teddy Palmer.
[[CLIP: Palmer takes the opportunity to deliver strikes of his own into Jatt. He takes advantage of Jatt’s unbalance as he sends a high knee strike of his own into the jaw of Jatt.]]
“Look at the lack of stability on his feet. He wasn’t like this in October.”
Only Walt’s paying close attention. Jasper weaves in and out and Louie is rather disgruntled, shifting his eyes to the television in the upper right corner of the cafeteria.
“Lou, I need you to focus,” I crack. “I’ll DVR the news in my room and you can listen to it at full volume later.”
I think he’s bought into what I’m selling. Back to clips.
[[CLIP: Palmer ricochets Jatt into the ropes, but Jatt comes flying back at him quite literally, and takes Palmer off his feet with a clothesline. This allows Jatt to get his bearings back as Palmer gets back to his feet only to be met with an inverted atomic drop.]]
“Do you see how long it takes my grandfather to recover?” I look at my three pals. “I have to strike fast and furious and no, I don’t mean the movie reference none of you have seen.”
I stare at Walt. “What are my skills?”
I point at him, snapping my fingers. “You GD right, Walt. I have to go HARD if I’m granted this tag team contest. My stamina’s gotta be in TIP TOP shape. Tomorrow, before I fly out, I’m going for a long jog. Who’s with me?”
There’s no reply. Even Walt’s a hard no.
“Suit yourselves. I have to be at optimal Levels. I’ve got to work a fast-paced match and really lay it on thick.”
Little could I predict what booking decisions followed. Knowing the Tag Championships BLEED into the real War Games match, this strategy may be tough to pull off.
[[CLIP: Jatt smiles as he scoffs at Hortega and goes to pick Palmer back up, but Palmer surprises him with a headbutt to the temple of Jatt.]]
“First, can you see the fogginess in my grandfather? That headbutt SURPRISED him! He didn’t know where he was! Second, a brilliant move by Teddy, going straight for the brain!”
Jasper raises a finger and itches the back of his neck. “Why do you want to beat up your grandfather again?”
“Sorry,” I stutter, “what did you say Jasper?”
Jasper itches the back of his neck once more. “Are you enjoying your pizza, son?””
I grin from ear-to-ear. “Of course I am, friend. Yum yum.”
And back to the clips we go.
… … … … … … … … … …
Dearness Living Community – Commons Room
May 20, 2021
We are deeeeep into the middle of my war room game. I stand off to the right of the most wanted board, ruler in hand as I smack it against member after member of the BA.
“Help is so hard to come by!” I pretend to be Lee. “If only Jace had some courage, Solex had a heart and Harrison had a brain! If only I could see these issues in front of me, I would’ve hired better BOTS!”
I take the ruler and rake it across Big Boss’ mug, ripping the image.
“Shut up, Lee! If God played fantasy football, he’d draft a kicker within the first 5 rounds. Then handcuff that kicker later! Come WG, the 214 will PROVE we are the rightful side!”
My Dearness friends pipe up in support. I’m starting to rally them.
I feel my hands shaking as I jump onto the table in front of me, kicking the DVD jewel cases of Toy Story 3 and The Polar Express across the room, narrowly missing Jasper’s head.
I let the ruler guide me.
“Clay Byrd, a guy his age has likely seen a thing or two but I didn’t know who the hell he was until a few months ago.”
I laugh. “What was he doing all this time? Diddling himself on the ranch!?”
Ruler knows no bounds.
“And this mother fucker over here,” I make a grand display with my hands, pointing to the bullseye on the board, COOL Cancer Jiles. “Thinks he’s 1-upped me! He laughs from the USS Octane. Well, I, CONOR FUSE, have found MY USS Octane in the DEARNESS LIVING CENTER!!!”
The chants from the peanut gallery begin. “CONOR! CONOR! CONOR!”
“Richard, how does Dr. EGGMAN make you feel!?”
“Like my last colonoscopy!” Bless your heart, Richard, and likely true.
“Louie, you gasbagging son of a bitch, tell me… FUCKING TELL ME what I’m gonna do to the COOL Man!”
Lou raises a rickety hand in the air. “Crack his fragile head open!”
“THATTABOY, LOUIE!! I KNEW YOU’D BUY IN!”
I wham Louie across the back!
“And Margo, WHAT ELSE will I do to Jiles!?”
Margo takes a moment to collect her thoughts. I know she has it in her. Fight that dementia, Margo, FIGHT!
She looks up, confused. Her eyes dart from side to side as her body trembles. The energy in the room is dying as we wait.
Until finally, a light goes off.
“Rip that mother fucker’s heart out and CRUSH IT with your bare hands!”
ANNNNNNND we’re back. Another chant begins! The momentum is STRONG.
“CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH!”
Like the Wolf of Wall Street, I conduct the cheers of lunacy from the top of the common room table and look directly into Margo’s eyes.
“YOU GOD DAMN FUCKING RIGHT I WILL, SWEETHEART. I WILL CRUSH CANCER TO THE GROUND! CHAOS EMERALDS NO MORE! THE RISE OF THE VINTAGE IS HERE!” I shout as I jump from the table, grab Margo by the hand and help her to her dainty feet.
“CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH!”
“I will write the wrongs, I will RESET the system! My grandfather will join us in the abyss! The Tag Team Championships are coming to their final RESTING stop! And I will see to it that I stand by my co-op! I will make sure one of them leaves with the World Championship!”
I give Margo a hug. I point to Jasper who’s laid out on the floor, ecstatic and overjoyed or having a stroke, I dunno. I tussle Louie’s head. I playfully punch Richard in the shoulder.
“KILL EVERYONE, CONOR. EVERYONE IN SIGHT!!!” I say.
And the chants continue.
“CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH!”
“What a sweet young lad,” Margo mumbles.
… … … … … … … … … …
??? – Tokyo, Japan
May 24, 2021
“We’re good, Walt. Look after everybody, make sure Ruth takes her pills. I’ve gotta go #RallyZion at a karaoke bar. It won’t be Friday night karaoke at Dearness but it’ll sure be something. Then I gotta chat with Zeb, Teddy, ectatera.”
By now, the plan has been publicized. Fresh off Refueled and being curb stomped by Jace, I have two weeks to prep.
Conor Fuse teams with Dan Ryan to take on Jatt and Sektor. I got my wish. This is a shot I CAN’T screw up.
Yeah, I rip on Jatt for being “old” because he is and it’s easy… but NOTHING will be easy about beating him.
I have to beat him. I have to cash my receipt.
And then I’ll have a chance at the others I’m dying to see.
Speaking of which, let’s touch on a few.
— — — — — — — — — —
Hey there sailor, do I have your attention this time? Thanks for doing me a solid and bringing it at ICONIC. I’ll never forget how much it sucked knowing I beat you because you folded faster than the proposed European Super League.
Most people would’ve been thrilled with the victory. Coming off that loss to Jatt, I really needed momentum. I was looking forward to an intense, no holds barred back and forth blood bath. What I got instead was the equivalent of plugging in Mario Kart and destroying my five-year-old amputated cousin.
Go fuck yourself.
Did we not create a compelling argument for us to face each other? Did we not capture the attention of others? What was missing? Seriously, tell me.
I SHOULD say “thanks for the rub” regardless but others are rubbing off on me now. My teammates are. They’re toughening me up; helping me grow a spine. Which is hilarious because that was something you were supposed to do for me.
Truth be told, I should’ve come to the ring dressed as Batman. You could’ve been my Court of Owls. Fuck me all day.
I’m right here, Scotty. No stupid nicknames on my end this time, I’m not scared of you anymore. I overcame you because YOU…
Couldn’t overcome yourself.
Demons of alcoholism, self-torment and the dreaded ginger gene. Come to think of it, I might have mailed in my Life a long time ago if I’d have been given your cards.
I NEED competition. Playing on Easy sucks. What fun is there on Easy?
“Unless your name is Blaire M-” STFU, Jiles. This isn’t your promo.
I’m nowhere near the best. Right now I’m average; I gotta grow in order to survive and with every match I have in HOW I’m doing just that.
I’m continuously leveling up.
But that does not happen when you walk to the ring half in the bag, hand down your pants, trying to rub out a glory shot because you caught highlights of Atermi Panarin setting up Kaapo Kakko for a goal and see the next fifteen years of New York Rangers mediocrity pass before your eyes.
No, in this story I’m Tom Wilson and you’re that pansy-assed cunt Pavel Buchnevich. You can’t fucking touch me. You can’t even lace my boots right now.
Can you perform any wrestling move that’s not considered brawling?
Oh, right, you have that half-Boston crab where you’re so obsessed with a city you need to shout “FUCK BOSTON” while you’ve got it locked in.
Because that makes sense. That keeps your focus on the maneuver you’re applying.
Hey, at least the Japanese fans are gonna care about North American hockey.
Your personality is as deep as this shallow puddle I stepped into yesterday, you overly emotional, scarlet-lettered tool.
Lee dusts you off like you’re some amazing treasure to be re-energized. At least he’s letting you believe those lies before you die in Tokyo and lose your ownership tokens.
I don’t know what you’ve awoken inside me when I hear your name Scotty because I…
Now is the time you want to show everyone you’ve still got it? NOW? What was wrong with ICONIC? It’s only HOW’s biggest show of the year.
Early Morning Deal Signed! – reads the HOW news feed.
Who Fucking Cares – says the patrons.
Your attempted comeback is going through ME first because this gamer is frothing at the mouth for another chance to Play.
“I bring the anarchy to War Games!” Shouts the COO waste of human flesh who has no wrestling abilities whatsoever and has to rely on a twenty-year tripe of hardcore to survive.
A hardcore I mastered in the span of one night.
Come your last War Games match, I’ll make sure you won’t have a career to disappoint.
Because there wasn’t one left to begin with. It ended in December.
— — — — — — — — — —
And you, World Champ.
You’re a pussy. Period. I won’t motorboat your tits anymore. I’ve finally realized you need your special group more than they need you. Because how else can you show pure disdain for yourself by projecting insolent vomit onto others? However would you function?
Outside of Zeb, the EGG Bandits play like the BA.
You said it yourself. Didn’t achieve a lot of success with your old mates, did you? You won’t with this one, either.
That’s a nice little running theme you’ve got there.
If anyone’s gonna go Leeroy Jenkins on this co-op, it’s you.
Hope Big Boss knows.
Hope he’s got that Plan B.
He won’t. He didn’t with Mike.
Perhaps one day Jiles, you and I can converse on dead baby jokes.
But for now, if I can make it to the end of the Game, you’ll be there. That would mean I’d help put away Sutler and Jatt first.
A tall task.
Because throw enough henchmen like Solex and Scotty around and the likelihood of The Vintage leaving Japan with the World Title is slim to none.
But I can take a few dummies down in my wake.
I sure as shit can do that.
And I’ll have a little help from my friends. Nice vintage Beatles reference.
I’ve covered my enemies so let’s talk about what’s often lost in translation, teamwork. You can’t go into this match being ALL about yourself.
CRACKING NEWS, everybody wants to be the HOW World Champion.
No kidding. Lou, is this the news you watch? It’s rather obvious.
WG will be a true testament to how strong we are TOGETHER.
So to cap this off, let’s switch gears away from H.A.T.E.
Grapplers, Gamers, 214, 360. Here’s what I think of each and every one of you.
First, the wild card, Darin Zion. I guess you’re the resident whipping boy but I have respect for someone who can get up when he’s down. I’ll take you over the BA. People should pop a fucking chill pill when ripping on you because without you, High Octane is down a wrestler. Who answers the call when no one else wants to? Zion. Who fights Mike when everyone else is too scared to lose? Zion. Call it blind ignorance, call it stupidity. I say it’s noble. And who, my strange friend, wrestles three members of the Best Alliance with his back against the wall? Zion. Maybe you’re a little too excited for your own good, it’s none of my business. Every so often an opportunity comes to change the narrative in front of you. The 3-on-1 was a start. War Games is another. I will be honoured to stand beside you. #RALLYZION
Arthur Pleasant. You’re a demented, estranged little man. Please don’t make eye contact with me and if you channel the murdering rage you had as a kid, that would be wonderful.
Xander Azula. I watched your promos against Harrison and Mike. You conveyed a calm, articulated demeanor, metaphorically plucking hairs one-by-one out of Steve Harrison’s head. I think you’ll surprise many, except myself.
Ray McAvay. You apologized to me when we lost the Tag Team Championships. We lost the Tag Team Championships, dude. I shoulder the burden as much as you. However, I admire the accountability. Those belts weren’t ours to begin with and you cared like they were your own possessions. You handled that burn with class. I’m confident you’ll repeat your past War Games success.
Zeb Martin. Don’t feel bad about HOFC. Like Ray, I was a part of that loss, too. You’re a good soul; you’re a good man. I have a gripe with Jiles but I can give you first dibs, seconds, thirds, whatever you want.
Teddy “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties” Palmer. I actually can read body language. I annoy you when I ramble on about gaming but thanks for not whacking me in the back of the head and letting me go on anyway. When it comes to more important matters, though, you’re elite. Your record speaks for itself. Sure, those are Abercrombie jeans and I know it (I LOVE Abercrombie so I dunno what the problem is here) but make no mistake, you are one of the most legitimate threats out there. Game on, Teddy, game on. I’ll see you in the tag part of War Games after you waste Clay.
Dan Ryan. Clearly, we are different people. Your methodical delivery knows no bounds, in promos, in wrestling, in life. You’re also overdue for the top of the mountain, the Final Boss throne. The HOW World Championship should be on your shoulder. I watched you get the runaround at ICONIC. Cheered you on during HOFC. You are as legitimate as they come. I’m aware of your past but I’m also not judge or jury. I’m focusing on being inside the squared circle with you. I am craving to crack someone’s skull.
Lindsay. Last, never least. You’re more of a legend here than any BA could dream. And yet, after all these years I still don’t think you grasp how good you are. Listen to that HOFC promo, my ears are still burning. What makes you who you are is the immense pressure you put on your own shoulders, time and time again. How you overanalyze because you want to leave everything out there. I know it’s stressing you out, leading this team with the chance you could fall short. Any of us could fall short. But I, Lindsay, I do not judge by a Final Score. It only takes one mistake to slip into a pitfall. You can go through 8 worlds and 3 levels but lose all of your progress at the end of 8-4 and come up with nothing. The outcomes never matter to me. Maybe this is gamer code blasphemy, maybe I should be banned from online play forever, I don’t care. I will be on your team any day of the week. You can hit the gym at 11:59pm every Thursday night. At least you hit the gym. And nobody works harder.
Trash talk isn’t the only direction here. Broaden your spectrum. Think smarter, not harder. Build up your teammates, don’t tear down. It’s easy to play the bad guy. It’s easy to be the BA.
That’s why Jiles did it. That’s why Clay does it. That’s why Solex hasn’t changed his mindset in over twenty years.
The team I’m on is the light this place needs.
Because without us, none of my opponents exist either.
Without Zion, we’re down a participant week in and week out. And I want to wrestle, regardless of who I face.
Fellow Gamers, I couldn’t choose a better nine to stand beside. This might be my first War Games but we will leave differently.
What new grudges will begin? What old scores will be settled?
And I’m not talking about PAC-Man.
This night, forever forged.
The GL will get everything I have.
It’s time to Press Start.
So if this is the first time we do this, or if it’s the last, I will end on Cancer Jiles’ final word.
The ultimate gamer, the mediocre trash talker and the dumb annoying man-child,
“The Vintage” Conor Fuse