The Lost Soul.
A man who’s had his back up against the wall since first arriving in High Octane Wrestling. A man who’s been crushed by the jaws of defeat on countless occasions but refuses to accept his place as an inferior in this plane of existence.
Going into this week? I didn’t really know fuck all about him.
‘Cause of that, I have studied him up and down throughout his time here in HOW. As someone who will do anything to gain the advantage over my opponent(s) and win the match, I have examined this enigma that is one half of our opponents for Refueled 88.
I’ve put in the fucking work and poured over every single second of his half-assed effort here and, to call a spade a spade, I’m most likely the only one who’s ever bothered investing that kind of time in researching him.
You think Darin Zion, the perennial punchline here for his ever-expanding ineptitude, would’ve been pragmatic enough to do his due diligence, right? Fuck no. But in the end, he needn’t have to, as he still beat David when the chips were down. In fact, David was a non-factor as it hadn’t even come down to him and Zion in that ladder match at ICONIC. No wonder he’s already looking at his contract situation four goddamn weeks out from March To Glory.
But I have studied him. Extensively. From his matches to his promos. From his promos to his words. From his vapid, robotic words to the self-doubting cadence in which he delivered them, to the shaken syllables that have flown from his contradictory mouth time after time.
Why, you might ask? No, not because I knew nothing about him and actually wanted to get to know him better. Does a butcher at the abattoir try to become friends with one of his cows before he has to put a bolt into its fucking skull? Though life often puts friends behind the blade during the exsanguination process, that isn’t the case here.
No. Look deeper, friends. Because it certainly isn’t about respecting David Noble as a wrestler or giving a shit about what this fluff muffin did a lifetime ago in DEFIANCE Wrestling. The long and short of it is this: I like to understand how a person got themselves into such a predicament before I make them bleed all over my skin and the canvas beneath my feet.
You see, David, I have seen everything there is to see about you. I have looked deep down into your very soul, and from what I can see with my twenty-twenty vision is a man who’s lost, desperate, and foolish enough to believe that he can overcome something as impossible as Jeffrey and myself, The Devil’s Advocates. Even with your newfound and infinitely better tag team partner by your side.
The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This captures your essence perfectly, David, because what others might mistake for fortitude, I see clearly as insane levels of stupidity. As made clear by the manner in which Missouri’s Finest Fuckbeards tossed you around and made you their purty-mouthed lil’ bitch for ten minutes until the HOW World Champion himself was lucky enough to be tagged in and clean up your shameful mess.
Unlike you, I don’t just throw a few elbows and perform a couple of cool-looking suplexes for months on end and call myself ‘SICK AND TWISTED~!’. No… that type of embellishment is reserved strictly for fuck wagons who have an innate ability to not be able to back up what they say between the ropes.
I believe the terms you once used to describe yourself before you stepped foot inside a High Octane Wrestling ring were sick, twisted, and barbaric.
Oh, the fucking irony.
Because here we are, David. Two sociopaths standing across from you. One of them actually charged and convicted of murder, and the other one seemingly getting away with it scot free.
By now, I’m sure you’ve realized your folly as the world has bear witnessed to the underlining, emboldened, and italicised fact that I… fucking WE… are the very definition of what you thought you could be after making your ‘grand return’ to the ring. Based on that alone, I want to understand the pain you’ve been going through about not achieving that for this long so that I can relish in adding a dump truck-sized amount of hurt to it come Sunday.
That feeling at the pit of your stomach? It’s not renewed confidence. And it certainly isn’t the beginning of a contract renewal.
It’s abject terror.
Maybe after we vaporize you into a fine red mist into the already polluted air of Detroit Rock City, you can go do another vanilla interview on satellite radio about your tag team partner. Or, you know, continue struggling internally about how you can’t get shit done here in HOW.
Maybe after we move on to the next group of drizzle-dicks looking to be eliminated from this thing, you can go back to being the bathroom break of the show and restore some self-esteem by beating fucking nobodies again. I don’t know who, given that Death Bringer and Kevin Capone aren’t around anymore, but I’m sure the Bests can offer someone to the likes of you. I hear they have a little nephew and, from what I understand, he seems to be free. Surely you could beat him.
Whatever you decide to do, David, just remember who you are and where your place is amongst the real bloodletters of HOW. You know… like Jeffrey and myself. Because if you don’t? Not only will we hoist you up onto the butcher’s hook and carve ourselves some flesh… we’ll start selling that shit by the pound and earn a pretty penny from it, too.
We are unbeaten, David.
We are beyond simpatico with one another.
We are going to beat the ever-loving shit out of you and force Conor Fuse to watch David Noble–all 260-pounds of fucking deadweight–fail yet again en route to the HOW World Tag Team Championships.
It is our march to glory.
It is your nosedive into obscurity.
“-uuuuuuuuuuck!” exclaims 4th Wahl, as he watches me dangle the key from within Jeffrey’s cell.
I simply grin back with devilish intent. Much to my own surprise, the plan Jeffrey put into motion had gone off without so much as a single hitch. Not that I ever doubted my friend, per se, but it was a plan that hinged on a lot of variable quantities adding up in our favor. It was an enormous risk versus reward undertaking where the inherent success predicated on every uncertainty within each step, lining up in perfect harmony. With the endless “What if?”’s looming, we needed our very own version of a planetary alignment for this plan to be executed to perfection. Anything less than that meant lending our hands to fate and suffering the inevitable consequences of even trying.
For instance, what ‘if’ 4th Wahl woke up in an exceptionally cantankerous mood and decided to never leave our sight during the visit? He hasn’t done this before, no, but it never stopped my mind from thinking it could very well happen. Or what ‘if’ I failed to swipe the key from his person during the lift? I’m not a thief or a magician, no matter what my profile from Dolores back at Western State Hospital might say. So what then ‘if’ 4th Wahl grabbed my hand with his big fat soup bones during the pinch?
He would probably break it, first and foremost. Then, despite whatever orders he was adhering to from Him, he would let his anger overtake him and further harm me. Then we could probably kiss the whole Maurako Cup goodbye as I recovered from within the ICU.
Despite my worries, here I sit and there stands 4th Wahl. Go get ‘er, Jeffrey.
“What’s the matter, big guy? Cat got your tongue?” I say rather provokingly. What can I say? It’s what I do best.
“You son of a bitch. Give that back. NOW!” he barks, as if I am at all subject to his intimidations at this juncture.
“Hahahaha. Fuck you.” I immediately respond.
“AAAAAHHH!” he screams out of pure frustration.
Wahl looks at me with a burning intensity, swiftly realizing that if he wants the key back, he needs to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Wahl is a big guy, but in my mind… I’m that much bigger.
I have to be if I want to survive the beating he’s about to dish out.
Pushing inwards with my feet and pressing down on my thighs, I stand up from the cold cement flooring of the poorly lit, echoing prison cell.
The sound of water leaking from a sink faucet in the corner of Jeffrey’s cell distracts me just enough to take my eyes off of my aggressor. Unbeknownst to me, I had wandered forward just a smidge, and more importantly, within reach of 4th Wahl’s outstretched arm.
He immediately grabs me by the collar of my black and red tailored suit.
“GIVE THE KEY TO ME RIGHT NOW!!” Wahl screams, snarling like the mythical beast Cerberus itself.
Pulling back, I can feel his clutches loosening.
“Nope. Sorry. Go make a call or something because-”
Placing both of my feet up on the bars, I push back as hard as I can, both escaping Wahl’s clutches and landing hard on my back and left shoulder with enough momentum to roll me back to my feet. Still, the pain from the unforgiving cement tingles down my scarred and forsaken body. Ignoring it like I’ve been trained to do back in Japan since the age of fourteen, I give a bow to 4th Wahl for allowing me to showcase my often overlooked agility.
That goddamned drip, though. How can Jeffrey withstand that?
“Tadaaaa!” I yell towards him, once again brandishing the key that I pilfered from him with great pride.
Looking at the pretend watch that’s invisibly wrapped around my wrist, I give a pantomimed tap onto the imaginary glass covering the face.
“Hey, don’t you have a few calls to make? I’m sure the Boss won’t appreciate not being apprised of how you allowed Jeffrey to escape.” I say, turning my back towards him and looking at the collage of creepy pictures Jeffrey keeps on his walls.
Absolutely fuming, 4th Wahl retracts his gargantuan arm and runs back toward the bland-as-a-Dentist’s-lobby office we saw once before.
With 4th Wahl away, trying to figure out what to do next with Jeffrey’s incredibly orchestrated escape, I think about what my best friend is doing at this very moment.
Though, this has been made somewhat difficult in part to the audible water torture at my six.
Did he seek whatever needed to be sought? Did he find the answers to whatever questions he had lingering in that freethinking sponge of his? Fact is, I don’t have a clue if my tag team partner has been successful with any of the goals he set out to accomplish the moment he concocted this grand plan for escape.
That’s it. Sorry, Jeffrey, but that sink’s gotta go.
Turning toward the sink that’s needed fixing since time immemorial, I heave a well-placed kick, landing the back of my heel on the edge of the sink. It doesn’t want to budge at first, but with four or five more concentrated and impactful strikes, it partially breaks free. Hanging off the wall by the underside of its plumbing, water surges out like a broken levy. Soon, water surrounds my feet and the cement flooring.
Whoops. Might’ve put a little too much English on that last kick. Jeffrey will not like that.
As the water just pours from the gushing pipes, Jeffrey’s collage of pictures gains my attention. I move closer towards it, my black leather oxfords splashing against the cell floor as water swells around them.
The last time I visited, I noticed a bare spot in the center of the collage. Now? That space has been filled with a lone picture of a woman. A familiar woman.
I’ve seen this woman before but I can’t place where.
I search through my mind’s memory bank, scanning hundreds of faces within seconds as if my brain had become activated by a computer chip.
“Well hello, Detective Callaway.”
That’s when it hits me.
The water continues to flow from the piping as I take the key I swiped from 4th Wahl earlier and quickly fumble with the locking mechanism on the cell door.
Clearly, no expenses were spared in the construction of this personal little hell. The lock is far more high-tech than I expected upon a closer look. It’s a biometric deadbolt with a camera lens and microphone installed on both sides. How 4th Wahl didn’t realize this is beyond me, frankly.
I speak into the lock, knowing full well who is listening on the other side.
“Hope you’re happy. ‘Cause this just turned into a total shit show.”
I go to put the key into the lock, but the mechanism clicks and unlocks itself.
He must be able to control it on his end. With a cell phone app, maybe? Neat-o.
Leaning into the direction the cell door needs to be slid into, the bars part ways and open up a hole for me to walk out of. Still, the thought that this locking mechanism could’ve been unlocked with the press of a button on some touchscreen device scares the shit out of me.
Now that’s power. Real and fucking absolute.
It amuses me upon sudden realization that 4th Wahl has no clue about the amount of danger he’s been in this entire time. Poor bastard.
The key? A total misnomer. More a badge that says “HI! I’M IN CHARGE HERE!”, re-purposed to empower its holder than keeping a prisoner in confinement.
Still, I bring it with me as I leave the prison cell. Enough water has already escaped that it is creeping up into the hallway area. What a mess for the maintenance crew.
Passing by the empty desk 4th Wahl usually sits behind, I gently place the key onto it.
Wouldn’t want to take the sense of power away from him, now would we?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I’ve longed for the chance to face him. Why? You know what they say about opposites attracting, right? Conor and I? On paper, we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum as two competitors like us can get.
He’s the baby-faced do-gooder — no matter what self-reflective nonsense he and the AoA are cooking up to help evolve his identity into something a little more serious. Conor is the popular dude who plays video games and the fans identify with through his blonde-haired, retro-loving, millennialist style. Kids and thirty-somethings within that all-important 18-49 demographic can relate to Conor Fuse and thereby live their pathetic, basement-dwelling lives vicariously through him.
Being as good as he is in the ring is a complete bonus for all of his endearing fans.
Me? I’m the evil fucking bastard with black hair and black gear. I’m the insufferable dickhead with a penchant for violence, destruction, chaos, and, of course…calamity. I don’t give a fucking shit about some moral compass and I give even less of a fucking shit about anybody relating to me in any way, shape, or form. Anybody who relates to someone who shot and killed their own stepmom at such a young age, like I did, should not be allowed to follow along with my career in HOW.
Funny thing about that? Regardless of what I say or what I do, people do relate to me.
They just don’t have the courage to admit it.
In fact, I’d argue that more people can identify with a guy like me in 2022 than they can with a guy like Conor. Especially in a world that’s constantly in turmoil, such as the one we all take for granted.
HOW World Champion.
Vintage? Provocateur. Provocateur? This is THE Vintage.
It’s so good to finally meet you.
It’s also good that you’re treating this like a boss fight, Conor. I appreciate the seriousness in which you are taking Jeffrey and me as the undefeated, unconquerable tandem that we are. Being somewhat of a casual gamer in my own right, though? I, too, can relate to that.
However, your outlook on this match is… misguided.
Despite what I’ve heard you tell your previous opponents, we’re not your typical boss fight. We’re not one of the four Divine Beasts in the land of Hyrule with a simple pattern to learn in order to defeat us. We’re not the Turks sent out by the evil Shinra Corporation who’re hellbent on crushing AVALANCHE. We’re not even one of the eight Guardians protecting the Sanctuaries you have to face before heading into Magicant to face your ultimate Nightmare from across a sea of Krakens.
No, Conor. We’re akin to the Omegas and the Nameless Kings. We play as unfair as possible with high enough stats and attributes that allow us to one-shot-kill you in epic fashion.
My Calamity Pain doesn’t hit for 9,999 damage, Conor. It breaks the limit and hits for 100,000+, so you best have an auto-revive in place for when it puts you down.
Unlike the Optional Superboss fights you’re used to avoiding, we’re not optional. There is no looking the other way from the pair of us. The road for your main quest in this unforgiving world of HOW takes you directly to us.
You might be thinking that a ‘thank you’ is in order for the server admins after “nerfing” your campaign by eliminating other superbosses like Mike Best and Cecilworth Farthington, but you’re hardly safe from the pair of us.
You probably even think you’re a high enough level to face either of us one on one, nevermind both of us in the same match. Am I right or am I right? You, however, are mistaken. Sadly.
You think just because you’re the World Champion of HOW that you’re ready for the unassailable strength and limitless determination of The Devil’s Advocates? Then, like your partner when he entered The Flame all those months ago, you’re fucking delusional.
It’s simple, Vintage. You haven’t been grinding enough. You haven’t equipped yourself with strong enough armor, applied enough anti-burn balms and potions, or worn enough status-protection rings to survive the onslaught we bring as the most dangerous tag team in High Octane Wrestling.
You haven’t spent enough hours grinding your axe on the forgotten little forest creatures that provide you with just enough XP to handle a pair of fucking almighty WEAPONS like us.
All of that aside, though? You were absolutely right about one thing when you gave those neckbeards last week the rundown they deserved. This is… for all the marbles.
And those marbles? Jeffrey and I are the ones scooping them up and placing them in our pockets for keeps while you and your rent-a-partner disband—like all the rest of these slovenly sacks of shit masquerading as tag teams—and go back to not giving a flying fuck about the art of tag team wrestling.
We’re the ones heading into March To Glory with the scent of gold buried under our noses. We’re the favored sinners who are destined to compete in the finals of the Maurako Cup, for what will ultimately be the true main event.
You? You’ll be just fine.
You are the HOW World Champion, after all!
While the Devil’s Advocates continue to spill the blood of our opponents out of respect for a division that should’ve never been shelved in the first place, you’ll serve a different purpose: to further put some respect on that championship you do carry. I can respect that, and so should everyone else in the Maurako Cup. The ones who haven’t? There’s a reason why they’re not on top of the standings and we are.
That championship you do carry says you are the number one singles wrestler in the entire company right now.
What it doesn’t say, though, is that you are a part of the number one tag team.
That distinction, once we two devils put Noble and your tunic-wearing, buster-sword carrying ass down and are given our due, belongs to Jeffrey and myself.
So once we’re through with you and your plus-one, maybe you can concentrate on defending your HOW World Title against the incomparable Scott Stevens.
Or maybe the indomitable Brian Hollywood.
Or perhaps even Jace Parker Davidson once he returns from rehabilitating that broken smile of his.
Whatever you end up doing at March to Glory? It won’t be competing inside the ring with us for the HOW World Tag Team Championship.
At Refueled 88?
Your prayers go unanswered against the mighty Giygas as it rips out your fucking fuse, Conor.