I team with Jace!?
The same guy who tried to weasel his way into ruining my WarGames? The same dude who chose The Board over Jatt and I? Oh yeah, I can help him alright. Now we can put aside our differences.
News flash, JACE. I don’t do well with people who walk away from me.
I wasn’t good enough, this was the message you sent to me, loud and clear. I wrestled IN YOUR NAME. Ya know, no hard feelings, no worries when you had to step away due to injuries. That’s all well and good but Jatt, Mario, you and I were supposed to build something. In fact you could look at it as we were some kind of “Final Alliance” ourselves.
All four of us on the same level… one-for-all type of shit.
Then you get an offer to join The Board… Mike Best, Cecilworth Farthington, Christopher America.
How’d that work out?
Jatt and I are still in High Octane. Where’d 50% of your Board go?
“Duddddee, fucking chill guy,” I say to myself. When I can think clearly (and let me tell you it’s only for a brief moment or two) it’s not a smart idea to be so pissed off and fixated on your TAG TEAM PARTNER, Conor.
Christopher America is going to kill you if you don’t focus on him.
Steve Solex is capable, too.
And yet, I know this. Duh. I’m not a fucking idiot, I’m the number one contender for #97. I’m a tournament winner, gamer, previously a two-time champion already. Tag team specialist.
…Except in High Octane.
In HOW I get my ass handed to me on a frequent tag basis.
I can’t pick partners and I get fucked around when I’m placed with another.
Where’s Bobbie? Why couldn’t I team with The Queen of Epicness? She SUPPORTS me.
Hell, bring back High Flyer for all I care.
“You need to relax, man,” I hear the voice in the back of my head, although this time it’s louder than before. “This is exactly the disposition Christopher America wants.”
This tag team match means NOTHING to me.
March to Glory is what matters.
“Then why are you so worked up?” Once again, I won’t stop arguing with myself. “You say you go hard EVERY match. What kind of champion would you be for mailing this one in?”
A pretty smart one, actually.
Why waste my skin on Chris this weekend? Soften him up is overrated. WTF does Solex have against me? I proved I was better than Solex when I pinned him a few months ago.
BTW, I’d like to take credit for the end of the Highwaymen.
“Focus, Fuse. Focus.”
Pacing back and forth in my prison has never been so… confining. I usually feel free inside this dungeon, it’s definitely liberating. Not ATM. I feel trapped. Locked. Unable to express myself. I can’t just march down the street and punch a rando in the face.
Not that I would specifically do this.
FFS, I’m gonna have to stand beside the guy who tried to make my life a living hell for the past year. Jace wants to bury our feud, it makes sense. If I was in a better state of mind perhaps I would be cool, too.
This tag team match has L written all over it.
“No bother,” I mumble. If I could walk a hole into the ground I would’ve done so by now, I’ve been pacing for what feels like days on end. “You’ll deal with the match like you always do.”
That’s not the point. Of course I will go out there and wrestle my heart out. I can begin to convince Chris he’s the missing piece of the puzzle.
…Gonna save that full explanation until later.
“The point is, Conor…” I state harshly. “This match puts you at an incredible disadvantage.”
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
No truer words have been spoken. That sentence captures the Conor Fuse HOW experience.
I’ve lost a lot of tag team matches … I’ve won a TON of singles matches.
I’ve lost the Tag Team Championships ASAP, twice … I have two #97 reigns to my name that put me right beside Cecilworth Farthington on total days as champion.
I failed to put together a WarGames team and also be a supporting player on another WarGames group … still lasted to the bitter end on BOTH occasions.
Yes. Teamwork doesn’t gel with me, apparently. I’d like to sit here and say it’s not my fault but I haven’t really looked at it closely. After the Argonauts of Awesome died, I even toyed with creating my own co-op.
Then I remembered my track record.
So here we are.
Jace. Parker. Davidson.
“WTF am I supposed to do?”
I slam my right hand against the metal bars and give out a scream. Can I try to rip all three of their heads off at once? I keep telling myself the outcome of this match doesn’t matter.
But it’s MSG, Conor.
Madison. Square. Garden.
The very first time you walked into MSG in HOW was almost two years ago to the date. Conor Fuse vs. High Flyer, your hero. He was supposed to be your idol, Conor. He was going to be by your side.
…Then he blindsided you and fed you to Mike Best.
This is why I don’t want to play with others.
“So survive and stop being a little bitch.”
Whoa, there’s a statement, a statement that has finally stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m no longer pacing the cell, instead I am contemplating these words.
…Words that didn’t come out of my mouth.
My eyes slowly creep over to my right. There stands Walter, arms crossed, giving his head a shake. He looks like his patience is wearing thin and he’s also concerned for my well being.
“You feel slighted,” he reinforces, approaching my prison with caution. “This is no different than any of your other battles.”
Like hell it isn’t. Yeah, I had to team with Steve Harrison too but he wasn’t a thorn in my side for over a year. He did his own thing, I did mine and then our worlds collided. JPD has been nudging me and nudging me and nudging me for so long.
“Jace walked out on me,” I snap back. “He walked out on Jatt and I.”
Walter keeps his arms crossed. He doesn’t say a word.
Recently I’ve been contemplating reaching out to an old friend… someone I wanted to reconnect with.
JPD wishes it was him who I’ve been considering.
Partial spoiler: it ain’t Davidson.
“And where’s Jatt?” Walter reminds me. “Are you and Jatt still on the same team?”
Well, not exactly…
“That’s not fair, old man!” I bellow. If it wasn’t for these prison bars separating Wally and I…
“Son, I’m only telling you how I see things. If Jace offers you an olive branch you don’t have to like the guy to take it.”
Ah, yes. Something else I’ve been learning in Bobbinette’s stupid fucking counselling sessions she’s sending me to. How numerous truths can exist at the same time.
I can accept Jace’s partnership AND still want nothing to do with him.
I can respect the guy AND hate the guy.
I can use Jace for my own help AND help Jace.
Numerous truths, oh they exist.
“Fucking counselling…” I mumble under my breath to a facial expression from Walter suggesting he might have heard what I said. The elder is pushing 96-years-old, he can barely hear himself think but this he picks up.
I stare back at Wally, blankly.
“I’ll see what I can do,” is my eventual reply.
“That’s the spirit,” he adds, uncrossing his arms. “I’ll fetch you your dinner.”
— — — — —
“He hasn’t come out in days…”
They’re concerned, I can hear them. A group hovers outside my bedroom door, waiting to see if I even have a pulse. I’ve been through a period like this before, the first time I lost the World Championship to Mike Best. Okay, that was worse. That was the worst period I ever went through. This one seems manageable.
I had such high hopes, though.
It’s when hope comes tumbling down, when you’re given a slap to the back of your head…
I moved out of the Dearness Living Community the first time I was depressed. Since then I’ve come back, on occasion, typically when HOW is staying in Chicago for a prolonged period of time. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve returned to the DLC on a temporary basis.
Guess I need to feel something after being abandoned.
It’s true what they say, those who circulate outside my bedroom door. I haven’t emerged for a couple of days. Now, to answer some of their questions…
I’m not doing well.
I’ll eventually get better.
I always do.
Pissed is more like it, with a hint of depression. Jace Parker Davidson recently informed Jatt and I he’s going to walk away from us and join The Board.
“Nothing personal,” he says. Clearly I’ve taken it personally.
My bedroom door opens, albeit a crack. Walter peaks his head in and slips inside. At first, I pretend I’m sleeping but once he completely wanders into my room I figure why should I pretend to be something I’m not. He had the balls to come in here, I can’t say the same for the rest of them.
Therefore, he deserves to see the real me.
“Jace left, Wally,” I mention, lifting my head up from my pillow, only to crash it back down again and stare into the ceiling. “Wasn’t good enough. He was captivated by the bright lights and big promises Lee Best could provide. What a fucking simp.”
I can hear Walter shaking his head.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” he tries to calm me down. “I’m sure Jace has his reasons for joining The Board.”
“I’m sure he does. I’m telling you how I’ve interpreted it,” I state.
Walter slowly makes his way over to the foot of the bed and takes a seat. I can hear his bones cracking in the process. Here’s a man who I have asked nothing from and he continues to give. I guess old age brings a lot of downtime. There’s not much going on in these people’s lives. The external world is dead to them. Hell, most of the residents in the DLC don’t see their families. Everyone’s moved on. It’s like the older you get, the more of a void you become. So perhaps by my simple disposition… you know, being 60-years younger than anyone else in this building, it allows Walter and the others to have an interest in my life. Maybe this is self-serving. They care about me because I ultimately provide them something to care about.
And yet deep down I’d like to think it’s more than that. Particularly between Walter and I.
There’s a real friendship.
It’s not something I’ve found in wrestling.
And thanks to JPD this has once again been emphasized.
Walter tries to calm me down. He can see how I take a lot of things to heart. I cared so much about losing the World Title to Mike Best I completely crumpled and moved out. It still grinds my gears the rest of Grapplers Local 214 bowed out the easy way after Lee Best gave them too much of a fight.
“This time it’s not about the World Title, you know,” I add into what’s become a nothingness conversation between the two of us as I break the silence. “I wasn’t using Jace, Mario or Jatt for protection…”
“I know, son,” he replies.
Honestly, it’s not ONLY about Jace, either. I can feel Mario drifting into retirement. He either came back too soon or he realized he can’t put his body through this anymore. Jatt will always be in High Octane, I have no worries there… but we were drawn together as a unit. If one of us walks away, we all do.
“Jace ruined the AoA.” It’s an affirmation. Assertion. Declaration. This is what I believe. I hold nothing against Davidson’s injury… it’s his return that saddens me.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Walter tries to make light of the situation but I’m not buying it.
“Everything lasts forever.” Like I said, not buying it. “I will never forget what Jace did by leaving our group.”
“At least he didn’t stab you in the back…”
“He’s on the other team, Wally!” I’m starting to feel myself escalate. On the bright side, by raising my voice, the rest of Dearness knows I’m not dead. “This only means Jace hasn’t stabbed me in the back… yet.”
Walter doesn’t offer a rebuttal. He merely sits on the edge of my bed, as if understanding nothing he can say will fix things. He’s a smart man because he’s correct.
I’m not sure how long he sat there and how many more minutes… or hours… or days I laid on my bed absolutely miserable. As I look back on this moment, it’s similar to my current disposition.
It’s the only thing I can think about.
It digs at me.
Digs at me.
…And drives me insane.
— — — — —
Alright, let’s go one-by-one here.
Anything I have to say to you has a time and place. Madison Square Garden is the prelude, the calm before the storm or any other cliche term you want to throw out there. So you ended your match against Brian Hollywood faster than I could. Bravo. Wins and losses don’t come with footnotes, they simply read as one or the other. Unlike what I’ve learned in bullshit cOuNsElLiNg, this is of black and white nature. Wins or losses ONLY mean wins or losses.
…Says the guy (me) who once complained about how your 2022 WarGames win was taking the bullshit easy way out. Allowing Cecilworth to attack me and then reap the benefits.
I’ve backtracked on those comments. I made sure the world could hear me loud and clear when two weeks ago I got on my twitch stream and said I was wrong.
Because I was.
A win is a win. Period. It’s not like you didn’t make it to the end of WarGames with Cecilworth helping you step-by-step. You got there on your own skills and abilities. You’re working on a year-long reign because of your talent, not due to luck or circumstances.
I should’ve had eyes in the back of my head and if the roles were reversed… with everything I know about you now… maybe I’d have done the same thing.
It doesn’t matter how long or short my matches run. What matters is that I’m the number one contender and you’re the World Champion.
Do you hear the disappointment in my voice when I talk about my previous friendship with JPD? Yes, I’m sucking on sour grapes and yes, I have an OCD complex that I can’t shake.
It’s because I’d like to think I’m a loyal guy, Christopher. I’m a loyal friend.
I’m a loyal FOE, too.
Punch me in the face, I’ll gladly superkick you back. When I said I NEED YOU, Chris… when I tried to go all Uncle Sam on your ass… I meant it.
I need you.
You… need me.
May Sunday be the start of something wonderful.
Onto Steve Solex…
What part of you needs a wake up call? I give you credit for pushing yourself to the last level and doing a mighty fine job over the past year. You took a career that would’ve left people saying “yes, BUT…” and morphed it into something more substantial. You’ve stepped away from the Highwaymen and now who knows what campaign you’ll find.
You’re not on my level, though.
I will give you another wake up call this Sunday.
The first time I ever heard my name come outta your mouth… you were slandering my video game loving, virgin, mama’s boy ass.
I may still look like a joke to you, Solex… however, can you pin your accomplishments against mine?
While you continue to roam around various High Octane levels, I know EXACTLY where I play. The top of the food chain, Steve. The 8-4 pinnacle, the final boss melee. And for as many questions and concerns that I have about Jace and I coexisting together…
You and Chris gonna get along?
You failed against America. That’s your partner, Solex. I have never failed against Jace. In fact, I’ve defeated him clean. I ended the belief JPD would’ve been better off without me when I pinned his shoulders to the mat and PROVED I am the fucking answer, NOT The Board. You… you’re merely a second player in this upcoming tag team match. A goon. A henchman. A leftover thought.
Go ahead, team with the man you weren’t good enough to beat because that’s who you are.
Not good enough; never the top guy.
And finally… Jace. Parker. Davidson.
Is it smart I can’t put aside my issues with the guy I’m supposed to team with?
You tell me.
Seriously. That wasn’t rhetorical.
I promise you this, JPD… as always, you’ll get everything I have in the middle of the ring. If nothing more, it’s Madison Square Garden so consider me caught up in the big apple lights, wanting to put on a show.
The reality is we don’t have a lot on the line here.
…But I can always swing the narrative in an interesting direction.
We need to win because I HAVE TO continue hammering home how I was the right answer and I would’ve been there to back you up 24/7 if you hadn’t walked away.
When I run through the events of last year through my head… I’ll get over things. Eventually. Maybe 10 years from now. 20. 97. Who knows. It’s still a little fresh, so forgive me. After all, I’m self-contained in a prison within a boiler room until after my World Championship match.
Why not? Channeling this unforgivable side of me has recently worked wonders on my career. I’m on a quaint little roll.
And I’m gonna be honest with you, Jace. I heard you reached out earlier this week. I didn’t go out of my way to accept your second controller. Just know Imma be there. For one night only I can pretend we never had a spat to begin with.
In fact, that’s what I’m aiming for.
I am a man who’s ACTIONS do the talking. Because I can sit here and spout off a ton of shit…
I can pray to be World Champion.
I can dream of commanding respect.
Whatever words come out of my mouth are just that, Jace. Words. Meaningless until proven.
You once stood across the ring from me and told me “may the best man win”. Although our initial battle at ICONIC never took place, it’s a statement I can get behind.
I may not like or forgive you and yet I will be the best man on Sunday. I will focus my anger, resentment and pain through my actions. May a world of hurt be directed towards Christopher America and Steve Solex.
I’d have it no other way.
I live for this, Jace. The victories, the successes, the achievements.
Also as I continue to reside in the boiler room of the DLC, I’m learning to live for the losses, too. The hurt, the slander, the “don’t take it personally, but…”
It’s why I locked myself in here to begin with. Failed two Rumbles at the Rock, couldn’t find the killer’s edge required…
The pain, the torment. It drove me to a homemade prison.
So how do you team with a man who is already dead to you?
There’s the trick, Jace. The cheat code I’ve figured out.
I finally realize you’re not dead to me. As a matter of fact, you make me feel alive.
On Sunday, I’ll show you.
On Sunday, I’ll show you all…
I’ll show the arrogant champion. I’ll show the wannabe main event hack. And I’ll show you, Jace Parker Davidson, my friend, my teammate, my partner. The guy who never let me down; the one who didn’t mean it personally.
All is forgiven, buddy.
In the end, who am I to hold a grudge?