“Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads or tails with salvation on the other side.” – Barbara Kingsolver
Five Minutes After Tearing The House Down
Arthur Pleasant haphazardly flops down onto the outer stairwell of Korakuen Hall after his exhausting and bloody battle against Steve Harrison. Despite his opponent’s blatant and foolhardy attempt at wanting to out-hardcore him from the onset, Arthur Pleasant persevered and, wait for it, whipped the miracle. Still, it wasn’t the worst attempt at beating him he’d ever seen. Credit where credit is due and shit.
Taking an unlabeled bottle of water that one of the young boys at ringside previously gave him, Arthur twists the cap and dumps its contents right onto his sweaty-as-Mom’s-spaghetti head, which also washes away Stevie’s blood from his abdomen and the hardened point of the slightly unyielding material of his military-grade tactical knee pads.
“Not bad. Not bad at all, friend. Just not enough, I’m afraid. Hehe.” he says to no one in particular, nodding his head in appreciation for the battle he just endured and secured against the Nothing of HOW.
A second bottle that the same young boy had given him is also opened, but this time he chugs the half-liter of water, crushes the thin plastic, and throws it against the closest wall. Sighing with relief, he just lays back with his neck resting uncomfortably against the edge of the sixth stair. He withdraws a half-filled pack of Golden Bats he snagged from a rabid fan who willingly traded him a pack of cigarettes for the sweat-soaked and bloody towel they immediately sniffed afterwards. He chuckles as he remembers speaking to the young man in Japanese, of which he nearly forgot he spoke fluently at one time and shocked himself as it came back to him from pure muscle memory. Thank God he could communicate with him since it scored him the trade of a lifetime. Even if these cigs were shittier tasting than a pack of Newports. Beggars can’t be choosers.
As he goes through the motions of lighting up and relaxing in solitude, his mind wanders towards the approaching dark cloud of War Games.
“Oh, right… that reminds me…” he again says to himself.
It all comes down to a coin flip.
Heads: Arthur Pleasant takes the extremely difficult, nearly impossible path and joins the Grapplers Local 214, throwing a big ole titanium wrench into the well-oiled machine that HOW runs on. Ultimately, this begets an all-but-certain paradigm shift for The Provocateur in showing the world, through an unexpected alliance, what chaos truly means in the world of professional wrestling. Not just the overused term that hundreds of dime-store athletes, factions, promoters, and second-rate backyard “deathmatch” pussies would use when putting themselves over as a villain, mind you. No, no. But what ACTUAL chaos truly and unequivocally looks like. Though it will be as fun and as exhilarating as riding a roller coaster in the nude during a righteous thunderstorm, it will not be easy. Not by a long shot.
Then again, nothing in his entire life has been “easy”.
By taking this road less traveled, though? He would make dangerous enemies that any other competitor would want to think twice about making enemies out of. Not necessarily in the match, per se, but in HOW itself.
Arthur would undoubtedly be targeted and made out to be an example in order to rise to good standing with not just a pissed off Lord OLDemort, but the entirety of High Octane Wrestling itself.
To put it in Conor Fuse’s terms? This would be the video game equivalent of selecting “Nightmare” difficulty on a speedrun of DOOM Eternal. Just a punishing, self-loathing experience through ans through. Still… he would be prepared if it came to this. It would not be the first nightmare scenario he found himself on the winning end of.
Tails: Arthur Pleasant takes the path of least resistance and joins Lee Best and his merry band of BESTies in their unmitigated conquest for fed-wide dominance and, of course, mollifying the wants of HOW’s Fearsome Führer. In all his chaotic beauty, the Provocateur will side with the guy who signs his checks and allow him to control the uncontrollable by pointing him in whatever direction the target is that he sees fit to destroy. Then the Boss can sit back in perverse enjoyment and watch as the Denizen of Decay does what he does best — slaughter every single fucking thing in his path of uncurbed malevolence.
For the physically untested and incredibly weak minded, this should be a straightforward decision.
Just imagine how easy it would be for Arthur Pleasant to mutilate anyone who opposes Lee Best. It’s a scary thought, for sure. The least threatening sounding metaphor one could compare it to would be like going bowling and putting the bumpers on as a more than capable adult: he’d just be padding the walls for the countless game-winning strikes that would inevitably follow.
To be honest, both choices sound like a lot of fun. Arthur could just as easily find his own footing in HOW by doing the bidding of the Best Alliance as he could with being left to his own devices and being appointed as the loose cannon that he was born to be for the 214. So in the interest of fairness, for both sides, that’s why he refused to leave it up to himself. During wartime, where’s the fun in exploiting the freedom of choice when you have a Howitzer pointed at both sides?
After he stuffed Steve Harrison’s attempts at beating him in front of the thousand or so people in his home away from home, Arthur knew he had to leave the fate of the single most important event of the HOW calendar year to the even, unbiased chances of a coin flip.
He watches the coin he had tucked under his black elbow pad flip high into the air, seeing his immediate future flash before his very eyes.
Arthur Pleasant brawls with Lindsay Troy in the center of the ring to the back-and-forth ooooh’s and ahhhh’s of an exalted Japanese audience under the Tokyo Dome lights. Maybe.
Arthur Pleasant goes toe-to-toe with the incomparable Cancer Jiles, playing a game of tug of war with the High Octane World Championship. Perhaps.
In either scenario, however, the crowning culmination of violence that flashes through his eyes remains the same as it ever was since War Games has loomed on the horizon: the bell sounding and Arthur Pleasant standing high above everyone else’s fallen carcasses with the blood-red leather strap and golden faceplate resting beautifully across his pale and slender shoulder.
And so, like a droplet of rain frozen in time above the thirst of a desert, the coin falls into his sweaty, blood-caked palm. Hiding the decision from his eyes just long enough to allow doubt to slip in as to whether he could follow through with the coin’s unvarying command, he closes his eyes.
He instinctively yells “Fuck!”, listening to the echoes of annoyance soar upwards into the upper portion of the stairwell. He then slaps his palm onto the back of his hand, pulls it away… and reveals “heads”.
And so begins the greatest and most difficult journey of Arthur Pleasant’s bleak and deplorable life. Things would change forever here on out for ole Uncle Arthur. There’s no doubt about that. There would be no going back and switching sides, despite what pundits, analysts, and pseudo-journalists who run the dirt sheets may come to expect from someone as outwardly unhinged as he. What destiny had chosen for him would not be altered in any way, shape, or form.
The coin has decided that Arthur Pleasant will destroy everyone in his path, no matter how infinitesimal his chances look like to the other side. Or even from his own.
The coin’s decision is resolute and binding.
The coin’s judgment is cold and unsympathetic.
The coin… has just fucked the team of the Best Alliance.
Tokyo Dome Parking Lot
In the Early AM
Arthur Pleasant and Yuri Reznikov spent the wee morning hours setting up a plastic folding table in the middle of the Tokyo Dome’s parking lot. The giant structure loomed in their direction as they both tirelessly placed black t-shirts with a design that isn’t quite visible to the naked eye directly on it. Upon doing this, it became crystal clear what that design is as he wears it proudly. In fact, it only took a mere hour and fifty minutes to get the t-shirt into limited capacity production the moment War Games’ bookings became official.
On the front is “The Losing Team” in big red glorious letters. Underneath this, in white letters that have been steam pressed onto a black cotton shirt, is “ARTHUR 11:59”.
Holding out one of several t-shirts that he currently has folded in his arms, Arthur clicks his tongue at Yuri to get his attention.
“Now, now Yurster. You GOTTA wear it.”
“Nyet.” instantly replies Yuri.
“C’mon. Don’t be a fucking spoil sport!” Arthur lovingly encourages his Russian “Heavy.”
“NYET. Ya ne noshu etu chertovu urodlivuyu rubashku!” he rattles out while spitting onto the pavement of the parking lot to the Tokyo Dome.
“Hey, that’s not cool. Lee pays five-cents an hour to Russian immigrants like yourself to clean up the floors on his boat. Pretend we’re back on the USS Slick Rick. Jesus, man!”
Arthur thinks about what he just said.
“Actually? Nevermind. Take a fucking piss and shit on it for all I care. Just… wear the fucking shirt, man!”
Yuri folds his massive arms and shakes his head.
“I. Said. NYET. Do not ask again, Arthur. Or I will punch your face in.” he says with his nostrils a-flarin’.
Arthur facepalms harder than Jean-Luc Picard. Yuri’s foul mood seemed to begin ever since he started traveling outside of the country with his employer. From getting seasick, to the tight-quarter cabins that cramped his seven-foot colossal frame, to being coerced into eating more sushi than he ever had in his entire life… Yuri was not having a good time on this trek halfway around the world.
“Whatever, ya big fucking baby. I, on the other hand, am wearing this LOUD ‘N’ PROUD! ‘Cause when The Losing Team kicks the collective shit out the Best Alliance? These shirts are gonna be worth soooo much money. Hell, it may be the best-selling t-shirt of all time, to be honest. And when Lee sees that happen? He’s going to beg for his cut of the royalties. BEG, I tell ya! And, well, considering HE’s the one that actually perpetuated this?” he smirks.
“What can I say? I’m a fucking genius.” he says, tooting his own invisible horn.
Yuri says nothing to this and simply looks around at the empty parking lot. Not a soul in sight.
“You know, I would’ve expected a little more people tonight. Especially with how many flyers you put out.” Arthur says, following Yuri’s gaze.
As soon as Arthur says this, Yuri’s eyes betray him. His gaze shifts down and to the left for the slightest of milliseconds, but Arthur picks up on his tell immediately.
“You… fucking… FUCK.” Arthur chastises, pausing for a moment.
“You forgot to place the flyers, didn’t you?!”
Arthur’s eye twitches.
“That’s just fanFUCKINGtastic! We had the opportunity to make a few thousand yen on the side before War Games and you just blew it. First you look ridiculous and let something like a couple thousand volts of electricity put your ‘bastard child of Ivan Drago and Tatiana Romanova’ lookin’ ass down. And now? You make… ME… look… ridiculous.”
Imitating the famous line from the Godfather, “And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!”
He throws the t-shirts into Yuri’s face. Suddenly, the Big Russian Motherfucker’s face turns a dark cherry Kool-Aid tinge of raging red.
“Do not throw t-shirts at me.”
“Ooooooooo…” Arthur says as he feigns fearing the Seven-Foot Monster from the Motherland, complete with wiggling fingers and wide-open eyes.
“What are you gonna do, big man? You gonna show no emotion and just stand there like patience on a bottle of vodka, like you’ve done ever since I’ve hired you to be by my side? Hm? I’ll wait.”
“I am warning you, Arthur.” he says through gritted teeth. “My services won’t be only thing severed here if you insist on continuing.”
Arthur scoffs as Yuri clenches his fists.
“Tough talk coming from a giant fucking mute. Surprised you didn’t need sign language to say that.” he says, obnoxiously and offensively imitating the sounds of a deaf person.
Yuri removes the lapels from his black sports coat. And then? The sports coat itself. Oh boy.
“Aw, what’s wrong, Bubby? Did I hit a nerve?”
Yuri then unbuttons the white shirt underneath said sports coat. Oh shit.
“Oh, you don’t want any of THIS! You big, lumbering, blonde, borscht-eating Sasquatch FUCK!”
Now Yuri removes the shirt altogether revealing an impressive frame full of tattoos that he obtained at some point in prison. Yikes. Yuri’s breaths come fast and deep as the veins throughout his massive frame bulge, almost making his tattoos seem alive under the pale moonlight. Suddenly, Arthur is bowled over by a fit of laughter.
“You fucking moron. What are you gonna do? Beat up your meal ticket and ride home? You think I haven’t taken an ass whooping before, bitch? Newsflash, mudak… I have. And by better, bigger… well, okay, maybe not bigger… but far more dangerous men than you!”
Yuri says nothing and starts walking towards Arthur, who just cannot seem to shut the fuck up. Suddenly, Arthur finds himself pressed up against the table they set-up to hold all the t-shirts for the fans that pulled a Sean Stevens.
“Oh, this is cute. We both know that you won’t do a DAMN th-”
Yuri grabs Arthur by his neck with one hand. Arthur’s eyes narrow and he… smiles?
With his voice more than slightly obscured by Yuri’s mammoth hand, “Aaaagh.. good job, numb nuts. You finally… aaaagh… did something other than… ffffffffth… just… stand there. Haha… aaagh… ha.”
Yuri goozles him with his other hand, clasping both hands around Arthur’s throat. Lifting him in the air, Yuri’s eyes look like they’re going to pop out of his head. Meanwhile, Arthur is STILL laughing. Regardless of the precarious position of being choked in mid-air, Arthur refuses to back down from this mountain of a man.
Yuri stares into Arthur’s eyes. Raging. Wanting to put him through the hard plastic table so bad… but there’s something in Arthur’s eyes that gives him pause. Yuri’s grip loosens, and he sets Arthur back down so his feet touch the parking lot pavement. Holding his neck, Arthur gasps for air in between, you guessed it, laughs.
“Something not right with you, Arthur.” says Yuri, shaking his head.
“Now… ugh… now you know.”
Arthur leans back against the table. It wobbles a bit, indicating that the thinly pliable black metal legs holding up the two-hundred pounds worth of merchandise were made of aluminum. Catching his breath from nearly having the life choked out of him, all-the-while looking perplexed, Yuri takes a step back.
“Know what? That you are dumb?”
Arthur laughs, coughing a bit. Spitting up some frothy saliva, he heaves it to the pavement. Standing upright again, Arthur holds a finger up. He wags it as if he were shaming a dog.
“That no matter how big, strong, or scary you are… I will not back down. I will find a way to survive.”
“So you just set me up to get me to beat you up? To prove… a point? That it, you psikhopat?”
Arthur laughs. Though he didn’t understand the Russian language like he did Japanese, he had a feeling that psikhopat wasn’t far off from “psychopath”. Or perhaps suck a dick? Whichever the case, he got the jist of Yuri’s point.
“Well, when you say it out loud… it doesn’t sound as smart as I thought it did in my head. Hahaha. But, yes. And it worked, no?”
Yuri looks completely confused.
“‘Cause LOOK at ‘cha.” follows up Arthur, “You’re fired up. You were ready to rip my fucking head off just now!!”
“I… what?!” he says, exasperated.
Arthur pats Yuri on his big, bare, tatted up shoulder.
“I need you fired up, Yuri. It’s long overdue.” he says, pausing for effect, allowing Yuri the time to take in those all-important words, “I need you to be ready to tear a fucking cage wall apart if the situation calls for it. Because this is WAR GAMES, Yuri. Fucking WAR. GAMES. No one sees us coming, Yurster. Everyone in the Best Alliance is so focused on themselves or a single person from 214, that they just don’t see what’s standing right in front of their dumb fucking faces. They don’t see the real threat, staring them down like they’re fucking lunch about to be eaten with a big ole bag o’ chips on the side.”
Yuri looks down and away from Arthur, taking it all in. The Provocateur just continues, saying what apparently needs to be said to his hired gun.
“You stood there, idly by, letting Steve Harrison get close enough to get the drop on you with a fucking TASER. I could forgive that shit… if you didn’t stand there, idly by, watching me get beat by Dan Ryan. And you know something, Yuri? I could’ve even let THAT slide. Dan did it clean after we had a great fucking match, after all. So, yeah, I could’ve let it slide… if only you hadn’t stood there, IDLY FUCKING BY, watching me get attacked by BRIAN FUCKING HOLLYWOOD.”
Arthur shakes his head.
“I need you looking like you give a shit. Even if you’re pretending to snarl at John Sektor or Jatt Starr, whichever weak link loses to Dan or Connor, I need you looking like the seven-foot goddamn leviathan that you are. Because…. and I’ll say it over and over again until Clay Byrd’s fucking cows come home-”
”-this is WARGAMES. Da. I understand.” interrupts Yuri, showing a set of balls that apparently impresses Arthur so much that he sighs with relief.
“Yes. Good. You get it. Finally. OoooooKAY. Now THAT’s what I call progress!” he finishes, laughing a bit.
For the next few moments, Arthur and Yuri share a comfortable silence with one another. Looking at the table full of custom made t-shirts they had just set up that were originally going to sell for $24.99 as per a crudely made sign, Arthur sighs in defeated fashion.
“Let’s get out of here. Aside from our little talk, this was a bust. No one’s coming because [in a sing-songy voice] soooomeoooooone foooooorgooot to put up the flyyyyyyeeeeeeers [end sing-songy voice]. Besides…” he says, pausing while looking over his shoulder, “I thought I saw security looking in our direction earlier and, let’s just say that you don’t want to piss off some of these guys. The Yakuza has eyes fucking everywhere, man. And, well, let’s just say I’ve got a bit of history with them and have had dealings with them before on more than one occasion. Heh.” Arthur says, subtly looking over his shoulder again as if someone was standing there with a Hattori Hanzō sword, ready to swing it at his head.
Just as Arthur and Yuri take their “The Losing Side: ARTHUR 11:59” shirts off the table and place them in their nearby rented truck, the camera’s feed unexpectedly goes to a snowy white static.
Korakuen Hall – The Stairwell
In The PM, After-Hours
Arthur Pleasant sits in the same stairwell that he had his conversation with Conor Fuse at Refueled. With his hands interlocked under his chin and his elbows resting on his knees, he shakes the hair away from his face addresses the camera directly.
Grapplers Local 214.
That’s the team I’m fighting for.
Why? Heh. I thought I made that obvious at Refueled, but maybe it was too subtle? Yeah, maybe. Maybe those that didn’t see it or understand what they saw are a little daft “up there” and can’t quite connect the dots like I thought they would.
The coin hath spoken.
I could’ve easily aligned myself with the Best Alliance. Or, at the very least, TEAM Best Alliance. I’m what you would call a “certain type of bird”, and we all know how the saying goes: birds of a feather flock together.
But I’m not interested in doing what’s expected. Never have. Never will.
What I’m solely interested in doing at WARGAMES is the UNexpected by achieving the IMpossible. Do… you understand what I mean, Team Best Alliance?
I’m sure you don’t. I’m also sure that you think you do, because that’s what the blind, deaf, and dumb always believe. Because at the end of the day and the start of the morning? None of you can see past your own inside jokes, your own torturous pasts with one another, or attempt anything but feeble early 2000s era callbacks at what being a dominating faction in pro-wrestling was actually like.
Remind me to give the first person who quotes something that happened twenty fucking years ago a free pair of Heelys and a kick-ass Livestrong bracelet.
Psst. It’s not the early 2000s anymore and you’re not dominating shit. Not while there are wrestlers like everyone you see in the 214 resisting your worn-out bullshit.
Every single one of you sad, overrated, dead horse beating acts who are clinging to a spot that is about to be overtaken by the new blood, or long overdue worthy World Champions like Lindsay Troy or Dan Ryan, need to understand something and understand it NOW.
Every single person on the 214 side is smarter than you.
Every single person on the 214 side is more entertaining than you.
Every single person on the 214 side is infinitely more talented than you.
And yes, that includes Darin Fucking Zion.
I’m glad the coin flipped in favor of 214 because, in all honesty, I would’ve had an extremely hard time saying the same thing about Team Best Alliance. At least, without my toothy grin betraying me and the truth. I would have to outright fucking lie and agonize over how to approach War Games with such a disadvantage like that, holding me down. But fate did me a solid and put me exactly where I belong.
So the downright depressing news coming out of the camp of Team Best Alliance at the 2021 Edition of War Games is simply this: I’m not about to waste an opportunity to showcase why a match like this is right in my wheelhouse by getting beat by any poser bitch Lee Best deems worthy of fighting in his name, who believes they have even the most modest understanding of what violence is. That’s for goddamn sure.
One way or another, whether it takes ninety-seven Provocations, seventy-nine Calamity Pains, or something sharp to the eye… I’m walking into this veritable shitstorm with victory on my mind, and I’m walking out of it with victory in my hands.
Whether that’s as the High Octane Wrestling Champion of the World or as simply part of the winning team? Well, that’s entirely up to everyone else’s resilience matching mine. That’s up to everyone else’s determination matching mine. That’s up to everyone else’s innate ability to win at all costs, through blood, scabs, and severe open wounds… matching fucking mine.
And if anybody can? It’s someone in the 214. I promise every single one of you fucking soft-serves on Team Best Alliance precisely that.
This isn’t a threat. Make no mistake about it.
It’s not even a bold prediction from a “naïve new guy” who’s about to turn the entire fucking landscape of professional wrestling on it’s head. It’s not even me bringing the hottest heat imaginable to such a chaotic match in what is absolutely my natural habitat while everyone else merely calls it a game of war and marvels like a starry-eyed mark at the sight of what’s coming.
This is just a heads up.
‘Cause it’s the reality we all fucking live in now.
Just as quickly as the scene faded in, the stairwell inhabiting Arthur Pleasant fades instantly to black.