So, where are those haters now, huh?
Where are all the doubts, the remarks about how Xander can’t beat anyone worthwhile?
Ah gee whiz, all that talk sure went quiet when I pinned Bobbinette Carey in Tampa.
Like water retreating back from the shore when the tide runs low.
Cowards, the whole lot of you.
That would explain why my challenge for a match–nay, a fight–continues to go unanswered.
That’s why I turned my attention to Vegas, to a company bragging about sanctioned violence.
To show them the way, proper and true, something I promised the day I arrived in High Octane Wrestling all those months ago.
A year and a half, to be more precise, of trying to make good on that promise, with people making their stupid little jokes from the beginning. Lest we forget, few thought that I would last long in the DeNucci Cup…and I exceeded their expectations, by and large.
You know who else pulled off such a feat? Clay Byrd.
A man with a similar mission to make a statement in HOW since his arrival.
Our paths have not crossed often in the time we’ve both been here. Opposing sides for War Games in 2021, when he put his trust in Lee Best…and fighting side by side just this past War Games, sometime after the truth about the GOD of HOW finally became evident to the Monster from Plainview.
And boy, did our paths deviate in the time between.
You fought battles, even wars against some of the top competitors in HOW…and I was trying my best just to be noticed, to be acknowledged in the order of things.
You went and finally won your first championship in HOW when you and Steve Solex became Tag Team Champions. You even won your second championship when you eliminated STRONK from War Games, becoming HOTv Champion in the process.
But look at you now, Clay. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Even though YOU won the titles, you’re only tag champ by proxy right now, as Solex, Harrison, and even Coach Bergman have had to step in and defend the belts as needed.
As for you? You just couldn’t help yourself.
Getting attacked left you itching for a fight with Bob Grenier, but that only got you some unneeded attention from an enemy you couldn’t overcome…and now, you stand here with no championship to truly call your own, watching as GREAT SCOTT defends one against the man you’ll be facing at Rumble at the Rock…and hoping to the Good Lord above that your boys Solex and Bergman will get back into fighting shape against the Bandits.
As for you?
You’ve wandered off the beaten path of a champion, walking aimlessly without a sense of purpose…and now, you’ve stumbled onto the path of a Fighter.
I’ve been waiting since January of 2021 for this occasion, Byrd.
Chomping at the bit, so I was…more than a little eager to finally cut my teeth against a man whose reputation preceded him. Watching you go after the LSD Championship, the World Championship, and trying to end Mike Best’s in-ring career on a sour note.
None of which you pulled off.
Everyone has their setbacks, I get it Clay…yours just happen to stick out like a sore thumb. You climbed, and climbed, and climbed…and eventually fell crashing back to earth.
Successfully retained that title for weeks against some of the best competition you could face. David Noble, Scottywood, and Kostoff all fell to the mighty Texas Lariat…and you capped it all off by defeating an outsider in Bob Grenier at Dead or Alive.
You might’ve kept your promise that you wouldn’t break down and lose the title right away, but like any machine you broke down eventually.
And it’s such a shame you squandered all that goodwill away, too, losing to another outsider in GREAT SCOTT just the next week…and if I can be frank, that makes me mad.
Why, you may ask?
Because I’ve been scratching and clawing my way up the rankings the past couple months, trying to garner the respect I deserve…the respect I crave.
I broke the spirit of Scott Stevens in HOFC, leaving behind a shell of a man who now sings the praises of his so-called GOD, completely oblivious to the storm that’s coming to him in the form of Scottywood.
I ran Josh Conway out of HOW and out of pro wrestling, giving him an early retirement from the business the hard way.
Add to that the shock win of the century over STRONK and Captain Chris America himself, and just two weeks ago when I defeated the prideful Hall of Famer, Bobbinette Carey.
The same week you lost that title, I rose to the occasion.
The point to all this ranting and raving is that I am on something of a winning streak, now…and in my eyes, this match should’ve been for the HOTv Championship.
Just imagine, two guys that people had their doubts about back in the DeNucci Cup, proving that even the so-called best in the business were no match for a couple guys that really knew how to fight, going full circle as they collide for the first time in singles competition, with a sweet, sweet prize on the line.
But no, you had to go and ruin all that for me, Clay.
And that pisses me off.
But don’t you worry your pretty little head, Claymeister. Instead of bitching and moaning about it, I’m gonna find another outlet for my rage…I’m gonna beat the living hell out of you for this.
When I found out I was facing you at Chaos the Eighth, in front of a packed crowd inside the world-renowned Madison Square Garden, I figured out my motivation pretty damn quick.
Since I can’t face you for the title, I’ve decided to go after the next best thing…your spot in the pecking order. See, I’m ranked tenth in the standings, but one big win is gonna get me a few notches up…and it’ll be at your expense.
I’m gonna continue scratching and clawing my way up the ranks, just as I have been the past month or so, and all I need is another big win to make that dream come true.
And I’m gonna make it a win.
A year and a half of pent-up frustration over not getting my hands on you, roughly twenty-something months of jealousy over your success and my struggle is finally about to manifest itself, when I take my best step forward and wear you down before those fans that still care about you…and then I’m gonna break you.
People looked at you differently the night you lost the title to GREAT SCOTT. They realized the Monster from Plainview is just a man, after all.
That’s why Frank Dylan James is after you, now…but before you deal with him in Alcatraz, you’re gonna have to deal with me.
And you know damn well I’m not the same man I was when we stepped foot in that tournament.
They all thought I was just some spooky cultist with nothing to back up his words. If there’s anything the past few weeks have shown, I’ve far surpassed that side of who I am.
Now, I’m a bonafide Fighter with a razor-sharp focus…ready to cut the wings off a Byrd.
And I’m gonna be a real fuckin’ problem for you.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The past week has not been kind to Xander Azula. Normally traveling between shows via his homely van, Azula has had to take flight after flight, narrowly making it to Vegas in time for sVo’s Jackpot Pay-Per-View to sign the PWA contract necessary to continue his war there, and then Valparaiso, Indiana to compete against MVW’s Captain Jack…needless to say, the packed road schedule was starting to wear thin on the Fighter.
But, as Xander exits the Goodfellas Casino, he has a smile on his face. He has stayed true to his mission, which brought him here to Vegas to wage his personal war against Jon Page and his new cronies, the Empire. Xander turns to his Eternal Circle associates, chuckling as he finally speaks up.
“So that went well, didn’t it?”
His followers nod in agreement, much to Xander’s delight.
“We’ve now secured the fight I wanted, meaning it’s time to focus on training and preparations this week. So, we’re off to Missouri again, back to the Barn as always, and…”
Xander is cut off by the ping of a notification from his cell phone, pulling it out of his pocket to read a message sent to him. Xander’s eyes widen in surprise, even a hint of excitement, as he reads the text aloud.
“Best of luck against Clay Byrd next week, Xander. Gonna be a real test of your training with Dawn, I think.”
Xander just chuckles at this as he types up a response back, reading it aloud as he does because of course.
“Thanks, Coach. Hopefully I won’t be broken in half by Dawn before then, el oh el.”
With that, Xander puts the phone back in his pocket before turning his attention back to the crew, all of whom seem to have a look of concern on their faces as Xander’s right-hand man Vagn Dahl speaks up.
“Is going to Missouri still a good idea, this week? I mean, your coach is a friend of Clay’s, even a co-champion with him.”
Xander takes a moment to consider this, nodding his head in acknowledgement.
“This is true, Vagn…but, in case you missed it, Coach isn’t the one training me lately. That job falls on the shoulders of Dawn McGill, who doesn’t necessarily have a horse in this race…besides, this week is exactly why I need the kind of training she can provide. Clay’s a tough cookie, and if I’m gonna crumble him I have to be–”
Xander is once again cut off by a noise from his phone, this time the ring of an incoming call. Xander lets out a sigh as he pulls his phone out again…and a heavier sigh upon realizing it’s Kenny Freeman calling him again. Xander rolls his eyes as he hits the talk button, snapping at Kenny immediately upon starting the conversation.
“What’d you want now, Kenny? I’m in the middle of something, and…oh, right, be sure to let Randall know I said thanks for the assist on the video package.”
Xander stops, listening to what Kenny has to say on the other end with a good deal of confusion on his face…and suddenly, frustration, as Xander furrows his brow at a question raised by Kenny.
“No, I’m not stopping to meet up with you two…right, you three. Masters of the Multiverse business is your business moving forward, not mine…and I sure as hell don’t need a Food-O-Matic Pocket Edition, but…okay, fine, we’ll see you in a half hour.”
A grunt follows as Xander ends the call, once again pocketing his phone…only this time, rolling his eyes as he turns back to his group.
“Well, it looks like our trip back to Missouri is delayed. Kenny and Randall need me to take a look at something, and it’s not one of those deals where they can send me a picture.”
This raises a bit of confusion amongst the crew, with Vagn Dahl speaking up once again.
“I thought their business was none of yours, anymore?”
Xander nods in agreement, a sign once again escaping from his mouth before he responds.
“That’s what I said, but apparently an old friend of ours has popped back up, and they don’t know what the hell to do with him. I’m gonna have to explain to them in person that I ”
With that, Xander the group head down the street toward the Erismobile, shuffling in before Crowne starts the engine up to make haste toward their rendezvous point. Xander shakes his head at the thought of this distraction, muttering to himself as the van enters some heavy traffic on the road ahead.
“I can’t be sidetracked, not this week of all weeks. Not against Clay.”
Xander’s training would have to come another day, but he knew full well he would need to work twice as hard to make up for lost time. After all, as great a feeling as it was to defeat Bobbinette the week prior, Xander knew damn well he can take no chances against an absolute beast like Clay Byrd, not with so much riding on the line for him…a chance to rise up the rankings, an opportunity to inch closer to another shot at championship gold, but most of all, his pride.
Forty-Five Minutes Later
Xander looks visibly annoyed as he walks into the hotel lobby, flanked by Vagn Dahl and Mysti approaching Kenny Freeman and Randall Schwartz, better known as the Masters of the Multiverse…B-Team.
That’s right, since Xander’s own misadventures the group has somehow expanded to include a new pair of schmucks doing the bidding of one Aeon Khronos, who is noticeably absent from the affairs. Kenny looks at his watch with a smirk on his face before speaking up on Xander arriving fashionably late.
“Thirty minutes, huh? If you were a pizza guy I wouldn’t be paying.”
Xander just rolls his eyes at the remark.
“Cut me some slack, Kenneth. Traffic was an absolute nightmare. Now, where’s…”
Before he can even finish the sentence, Xander spots the man he was summoned to see…the other Randall Schwartz, trying to understand how the automated kiosk works.
The B-Team look at each other, nodding in agreement as Kenny chimes in again.
“Right? Dude pops up at a convention, harassing us when we’re trying to shill a product, and he’s been hanging around since. Since I understand he was hanging out with you before, we wanted to know if you could, you know…take him off our hands?”
The look on Xander’s face immediately reveals his reaction to this, as he shakes his head in disappointment.
“No, thank you. He is technically a member of the Masters of the Multiverse still, and by all rights that means he belongs with you two. If he gets really annoying, have Aeon send him back where he came from.”
With that, Xander looks around the lobby with a bit of confusion.
“Where is Aeon, anyway?”
Kenny and Randall just stare at each other, before having a good laugh about the situation.
“He’s on a date…I think. It’s complicated.”
The tone in Xander’s voice makes his uncertainty clear, as he motions to his comrades Vagn and Mysti who can’t help but smirk at the situation unfolding.
“That’s lovely and all, but I have no business to conduct here. You two can sort this mess out on your own, and I’m heading back to Missouri for some more training.”
The trio turn to leave, but Xander remembers something as he pulls a business card out of his pocket. He hands the card to Kenny with a smirk on his face, as Kenny takes a look at what turns out to be a card for Bergman’s Barn.
“I told Coach I’d give you two a holler about training, if you’re willing to make it out that way from time to time. It’s worth the time, I promise.”
And with that, Xander turns back around, leaving with his crew as Kenny and Randall look at each other in curiosity before the other Randall arrives, a package of STRONKUMMS in his hands as he looks to his new compatriots, his mouth full of the product as he speaks up with a tone of excitement.
“This stuff is amazing, fellas! Where’d you get it from, again?”
They refuse to answer the question, pointing toward the hall leading to the nearest elevator with an angry glare on their faces. Randall just hangs his head in shame as he walks away, the B-Team walking close behind as the scene fades to black.