I’m a dreamer. I have HOA flashbacks to my Rogues’ Gallery, I’ve pictured previous matches on a step-by-step basis, as if I am this third party viewer, screaming at myself like I could dodge the finisher and change the outcome. I even have an alter-ego who pops his face up here and there, trying to get me to join the dark side. It’s a lot to take on but I think, no matter what, I don’t just dream.
I act upon.
So as I stand at the top of the pile, a rabid group of followers below me, I know this outcome is possible. They cheer as I raise the prize above my head and scream into the sky, a blood-curdling cry, a havoc induced yell. The pathway to this moment has been long and tiring. The success found at the end of it is indescribable.
I roar into the world of the once unknown, the level at which I did not know was achievable for a guy like me.
It is a warning to the rest of the roster.
Conor Fuse has returned. He is the Last Level Legend, the Locker Room Leader and future three-time World Champion. He can never be taken for granted. Forever worshiped as one of the best. He has evolved past The Video Game Kid. He is Vintage no more.
As the trophy glistened in the palm of my hands, my followers bow to my power and hail beneath my feet.
It is a trophy beyond a high score or no-damage run. It is the prize no one else has accomplished. I raise it high and proud.
The immovable object.
The unstoppable force.
The head of STRONK GODSON.
— — — — —
I am sorry I did not find your attempted murderer before it was revealed. You are a good friend and this has been impossible to find in the land of HOW. What started as superficial has morphed into a legitimate partnership. Deep down, you are an honourable person who means well. Yes, someone who has their enemies… manipulated systems and people. Welcome to wrestling. So have I. Does the name David Noble ring a bell?
Sorry, I’m rambling. It’s what I do… and it’s specifically what I do when I’m locked in my own prison walls.
Rumble at the Rock is many things for me. As I have explained, it’s a chance at redemption. It’s the show I have failed twice and been left a broken mess. Alcatraz needs something more from me. So I am secluding myself for two weeks to toughen me up. The pay-per-view is also about Conor Fuse versus Stronk Godson, a guy I’ve been linked to for a while. A wrestler who’s apparently the “next Conor Fuse” according to the critics. RATR is about finding a path. After losing the World Title in an unfair manner, I am left to start a new campaign. But as I told Christopher America, you don’t see me crying. Unfair wins and losses are a part of the wrestling world.
Make no mistake, throughout these narratives it is also about Bobbinette Carey.
Let the idiots think I’m your second player. There is no second player in our friendship. And whoever tried to murder you… also tried to murder me. Not in actuality of course but metaphorically. Because I have searched high and low for a friend. Someone who is TRULY committed to High Octane Wrestling. Like I am. A former World Champion and a serious threat yourself, I refuse to believe the tail end of Bobbinette’s career is in 2022.
I will not allow the power lifter and his obnoxious team to take the spotlight away from The Queen of Epicness. Bobbinette Carey goes out on her own terms. Period.
What Stronk did to you wasn’t within the bounds of wrestling. To lure you in as a friend and then take you out. Guilty by association, his crew tried to kill you. A line that cannot be crossed outside of the ropes. But inside…
Well, Bobbie, that’s why I’m locked in this dungeon. So I can get there. A mindset I can welcome.
Murder, when the bell tolls… it’s all good in High Octane. Stronk is a comedic guy but comedy can only bring you so far when you try to take a life.
When I stand over Stronk’s broken body, either breathing or not, it will be in the name of Conor Fuse, Alcatraz and Bobbinette Carey. It will be all three of these things. Narratives aren’t singular. Nothing is black and white. On October 30th I fight for you.
I’ll make Stronk Godson wish he never tried to take your life.
Because he will be fearing for his own.
I swear it.
— — — — —
I’ll be honest, I haven’t found AIDS funny yet. I’ve been trying but that’s some hard shit to piece together. After day seven, however, I can tell you a few things.
It’s cold. The boiler room smells awful. And I forgot how bad Dearness cooking is. Also Walter takes for fucking ever to bring me my meals. I get it, he’s old. Oldest elder in Dearness. He says he leaves with fifteen minutes to spare but he doesn’t make it to my cell until at least ten minutes after he’s supposed to.
“I work on a fixed schedule, Walt,” I’d tell him consistently. “I’ve got OCD.”
“And no inmate gets what they want,” he’d often reply.
Alone with my thoughts for this long is tough, too. I did not line my cell with video games, comic books or magazines. No. This is a barren wasteland, with no distractions whatsoever. My mind focuses on the tasks at hand.
Stronk Godson. Bobbinette Carey. Alcatraz. Back into the World Title picture.
Maybe not in that order. It all depends on what moment you catch me.
I’ll be honest, after two years in HOW, I can channel rage, typical of the 296847297 times I fought Scott Stevens this year, the 38597 other times I’ve had someone from The Highwaymen piss me off, or the other moments I see Lee Best’s mug and I want to rock him square in the face with a bottle of Canadian maple syrup.
Hey, it’s day seven. I’m craving Canadian maple syrup.
I hear the top of the boiler room doorway creak open and what has to be an old man gingerly making his way down the stairs. There’s no clock in my prison, no way to see daylight or tell what time it is but as I have mentioned before, my OCD usually keeps me on the ready. Plus Walter ends up saying it. It’s easy to trick the old guy, no matter how sharp he thinks he is.
Ten minutes pass before Walter strolls into my view, lunch tray in hand.
“Macaroni and cheese for you,” Wally says, rather disgruntled himself. “The cafeteria has been phoning our lunches in lately, haven’t they?”
He kneels down and places the tray on the floor before sliding it underneath the tiny latch.
“It’s twenty-five past one, sorry for being late.”
See? I told you he tells me what’s up.
“Don’t worry about it,” I’ve decided not to bicker with him anymore. After all, he is fetching me three meals a day.
Walter smiles genuinely. I give him a rough go, he returns the favour. We’ve had a friendship for two years. Come to think of it… if I didn’t lose Rumble at the Rock in 2020 to Jatt Starr, I never would’ve moved into the DLC. There would be no need to avenge a loss to the legend, as I’d have already won. Funny how things work. Walter, like Bobbinette, started as a fake friendship. I had no honest intention to befriend the people in Dearness, I wanted to use them. Somehow I thought this would get me on Jatt’s level. Think as if I’m an old timer.
Again, funny how things work.
I consider Walter the closest person I’ve known over these past two years. I believe he feels the same.
“Well, I best be going,” he interrupts my thought pattern as I reach down for the now cold version of already awful macaroni and cheese. “I have to see if there’s any left for me.”
Jeez, the guy gets me lunch before he has his. That’s commitment.
“Hey, Wally,” I pipe up before he’s out of an ear shot. I’ve gotten used to how poor his hearing is.
“Yes, Conor?” He says, slowly shuffling back towards me.
“Do you think I can do it?” Realizing I may need to provide additional context, I add, “Can I put Stronk in the hospital? Could I actually kill a guy IF I needed?”
And then of course I can’t let those comments go, so I backtrack.
“Not saying Imma kill Stronk or that’s my game plan or well, fuck, I really DO want to kill Stronk because who the hell does he think he is playing Bobbie for a fool like that. He knew all along!”
Walter cuts me off. “Conor, the way I see it…” he takes a second to choose his words carefully. “No one thought you would become World Champion. Alcatraz has been tough, I understand.”
His voice trails as he eyes the prison I built.
“But this wouldn’t be the first time you’ve fixed yourself up in a ‘home’ in order to seek redemption now, is it?”
Insinuating how I moved into Dearness. Nice play, Walt.
“Thanks,” I add, as he replies with an ‘uh-huh’ and motions to walk away.
“I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
His eyes slowly fall upon me as I take a cross-legged seat on the floor.
“You’re welcome, son,” he says. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Kill someone, don’t kill someone. Win at Alcatraz, lose… you’re still Conor Fuse. Best wrestler in the world, right? Always able to overcome.”
I reply with a head tilt and ‘I guess so’ smirk.
A little bit of a different contrast than Tyler’s rah-rah get-your-shit-together speech to me a year ago. Then again, I was beside myself and the loss to Mike was life altering.
Easy for Walter to say now. Easy for me to hear, too.
Another context entirely when October 30th has passed me by.
— — — — —
It is clear you have not been kind to me. It is also clear I will not let you win. Maybe I don’t have to murder a man to prove my worth but I most certainly have to do more than a couple of high flying moves. Luckily, Lee gets it. He might hate my guts but he’s willing to put me in a situation that pushes me to the ultimate level.
In order to win, I have to go beyond my scope.
And I have, you know. I hate to admit it but Scott Stevens was right. At one point there WAS a killer in me. I took a #97 silver spooned brat and fucking disemboweled him to the horror of everyone watching. Since then I have gone soft.
I had to electrocute Mike. I didn’t have to render SRK unconscious.
But I did.
It’s my task to find that Conor Fuse again. And then some.
Alcatraz, you have been the true test of my abilities.
I thought I could handle a returning legend.
Thought I was a decent World Champion.
Not the first time, I wasn’t.
Now I consider myself a soldier, the front line of defense. Not just for a friend but for an entire company.
Stronk Godson’s actions do not fly in High Octane.
Twice in my life I have left your prison and I have withered away into a sense of frustration. I’ve overcome both of these instances only to be humbled at your feet again.
2022 will not be the same result.
I demand your respect. As a gamer who takes on everyone and never backs down, I will not be scared of the fear you invoke. Instead, I will embrace and endure.
I will end the cloud you hang over my head. I have every right to be successful in this scenario. I will sacrifice. Push me, I push back.
The fans gather around the television, the critics say Stronk and I could steal the show yet I’m sorry to tell everyone I’m not walking into a match with the intent to take everyone’s breath away. There is only one man whose breath I will take away. Permanently.
High flying will be at a minimum. On October 30th I go to war. I put my body on the line, in a much different direction.
What you need me to do inside those walls, I will. I won’t blink or think twice. I shall rip open the eyes of my opponent. I’ll show him a side of me never before witnessed.
You are my test, Alcatraz. And I will pass. With flying colours.
Flying colours of blood.
— — — — —
“GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
BANG! BANG! BANG! I can’t stop slamming my fists against the cell bars. Day 12, I think. Could be day 11. 10. 9? I’ve forgotten. I lost track over the past 24 hours. Or 48 hours? Man, I slept too long. Yes, Walter shows up frequently but everything’s become a blur and the poor guy has dementia, too so he’s not always sharp. I swear he brought breakfast for dinner and then once came down empty handed.
I didn’t commit a crime. The only “crime” I committed was losing to Jatt Starr and Mike Best in the hardest level constructed in wrestling.
That’s not a crime. Sounds impossible.
But I decided I needed this!? Lock myself away for two fucking weeks! By my own hand? Lee didn’t even tell me I HAD TO.
This was a mistake.
“HEY, WALT. JASPER. MARGO. ANYONE. I WANT OUT!!!”
Didn’t Jasper die the week after I moved into Dearness? Right. He’s dead. These old people come and go so fast, it’s a revolving door.
Fuck Stronk. Screw Bobbinette. I’m the Locker Room Leader mother fucker and I should act like it! I had a good thing, ya know… before Lee came back. Acting arrogant and adorable, low blowing David Noble. That slut couldn’t win a tag match with us even if he had some of my delicious power-up mushrooms.
Mmmmm, mushrooms. Sounds delectable.
I could go for some mushrooms right now. Legal, illegal. I don’t fucking care. Where’s Scottywood? Can Walter bring me Scottywood? He’s got illegal mushrooms.
“HEY!” I scream again. “BRING ME THE HaRdCoRe ArTiSt! Bahahahahah!!”
Stupid Rangers fan. Scottywood should ref hockey instead of wrestle. Guy is a waste of trash inside the ring. At least he can put his uselessness to work as a professional referee.
BANG! BANG! BANG! I slam my hands against the bars again. I’m way down in the boiler room, chances are no one can hear me but I don’t care.
“WALTER, LET ME OUT A DAY EARLY GOD DAMMIT!”
Or two days early? Suddenly that ‘safe word’ bullshit sounds endearing.
No one’s coming.
I look over at my empty cafeteria tray and then crawl towards it. I snatch the bowl and put my face into it.
Cereal? I think so. That means lunch should be next. There’s a tiny little bit of milk at the bottom of the bowl so I lick it.
Guess I just had breakfast so lunch will be a while.
“FUCK SAKES!” I kick the cage and throw my hands in the air. I have done nothing other than spin my wheels over and over and over and over and over and over and ov-
“Psst, hey, hey Conor…” a familiar voice whispers to the right of me. I turn and see New-Age Conor, my ‘alter-ego’ on the opposite side of the bars, with a shit eating grin on his face. “I love what you’re doing to yourself.”
This only reinforces the mistake I’m making.
“Fuck off, guy,” I snap back. “I don’t need to have some kind of deep introspective moment. The entire FUCKING week I’ve been down here has been a deep, introspective moment!”
NAC winks. “Yeah, no problem. I didn’t have much to add. As stated, I love what you’re doing. I hope you murder Stronk. Real murder. It would be a huge wake up call to the rest of the roster. Then maybe you can go back to low blowing people!”
My alter-ego giggles. He can see my eyes are fixated on him, he doesn’t have to string me along. He can get to the point.
“You should turn on Bobbinette, too. Like do ‘all of this for Bobbie!’ and then be like ‘hey bitch, go fuck yourself’. I bet you she was gonna turn on you before this murder-death-kill shit took place. Instead, you turn first! Swerve swerve swerve ahahaha!”
I give my head a shake towards NAC. “Not interested, dude,” is my response. “This is about finding a significant edge while maintaining my sanity and nobility. I ain’t going back to the last few months of my World Championship run.”
NAC shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
He folds his arms and scans his surroundings. Slowly, a wide Grinch smile crosses his face as he eyes the floor.
“Hey, hey look Conor,” he exclaims, wanting me to follow his gaze. “That fit you threw… you knocked a few steel bars out. You could get out, man!”
To my surprise the fucker is right.
And suddenly… I’m calm. Relaxed. Refocused. I walk over to the space between the pillars. I could easily slip through.
I grab both bars and push them closer together. NAC’s stunned.
“Fuck it,” I say to him, walking to the back of the cell, leaning against the wall and sliding all the way down to the floor. “If I go crazy in here, I go crazy. A couple days left.”
NAC scratches his head. “Couple of days left? Buddy, you’re only on day four.”
“Whatever, NAC. I don’t care. I’m completely focused on STRONK GODSON. That dickboard likes his ALL CAPS name? Well Imma meet him halfway. How about StRoNk gOdSoN. Ohhh plus GTFO, NAC. I don’t need you.”
NAC starts to fade away as he checks out his hands and feet to ensure that, yes, I don’t fucking need him.
“I’ll sit and wait for my lunch, or dinner, or whatever is next,” I say out to no one. “I am committed to this process. I will not quit no matter how difficult this gets.”
And whatever Conor Fuse emerges… Stronk Godson will see him first.
— — — — —
I am placed back into my new dream sequence, standing on top of a pile of broken bodies with fans and others on the ground below, circled around me. I hold the head of Stronk Godson, straight-ripped off his shoulders. A slow trickle of blood still rolls out the bottom of his neck. His eyes are vacant, his expression is deadpan.
“Here stands Conor Fuse, the man who beheaded the monster!”
The crowd cheers with a RAAAAAHHHH below me.
“Stronk thought he could waltz in, make stupid jokes about my virginity and amazing gaming skills! He is the epitome of a schmuck! A man too fucking stupid to think for himself so he allows others to guide him. Well, my peasants, let me tell you something… Conor Fuse guided him alright. TO AN EARLY END OF HIS CAREER!!”
“This is the dawn of a new era! I have evolved to unparalleled levels! No one is safe! Because when you push Conor Fuse to the ledge and you force him to isolate, to be on lockdown so he can find a new attitude to implement, he never fails! He finds a way! Alcatraz is no longer a place Conor Fuse is scared of. It is my home. My sanctuary! MY FUCKING CASTLE!”
“I am no longer the player, I am the boss! I am 8-4 and this is where I reside! High Octane needs a new fear monger!” I raise the head of Stronk as high as I can. “I have killed a man! And I will kill again! The power lifter is dead and his minions ARE MY MINIONS!”
I see Choi, Greene and any other nimrod who dragged Stronk along for the ride now worshiping yours truly.
“For Bobbie! For Alcatraz! For High Octane!” I take both hands and place them on the skull of Stronk Godson before I rip, rip, motherfucking ripppppp apart his cranium into two separate entities. His brain falls to my feet and tumbles down the hill of broken bodies. It is soon recovered by Shelley Greene who takes the brain and devours it like a cannibal.
“HOW is ON NOTICE! When I walked into Bottomline, I said goodbye to The Vintage and developed a threatening mentality. Now, after this,” I allude to the murder of StRoNk gOdSoN, “I will maintain my brand new temperament and disposition for good!”
I close my eyes and wake up from the dream. I lay on the cement floor of the prison cell I house myself in. No understanding of what day it is and I don’t care, either.
And welcome back, Calamity Conor.
May GOD have mercy on Stronk Godson. May Alcatraz brace itself for what’s about to come.
Two years in the making.
I will not be denied again.