“You will be forgotten. Your life, your loved ones, your achievements, and failures are nothing. A blank space on the canvas of time. Thank you for your service. May you rot in Hell.”
- Olivia Pierce, Doom (2016), iD Software
It’s a gift and a curse.
It helps me know who I can trust and who I can’t. It allows me to see beneath the masks, behind the shields, and under the armor that we wrap ourselves in.
It stops me from trusting people. I doubt people’s intentions. I question their motives. And I sequester myself away from them to protect myself.
It leaves me with little to no friends.
And I’m left questioning, would I change it, if I could?
The answer may change sometime in the future.
But up to this point, the answer remains no.
I see it all.
I see the layers.
I see YOU for what you truly are.
7 days before March To Glory
Anxiety in wrestling was nothing new. You feel it in different ways. Some feel it before the biggest match of their careers. Others feel it upon a championship defense. Others still feel it when they simply walk out in front of a crowd.
Anxiety tends to manifest itself in different ways. For some, it’s the flutter of butterflies in their stomach – something easily pushed down and forgotten about or easily channeled into adrenaline that can be fed off of. For others, anxiety is a bottomless pit. It’s knowing that you’re hungry, but feeling full just the same. It’s standing outside in cold temperatures and still sweating from the immense heat. It’s breathing but never feeling like you can fully catch your breath.
For the HOW World Champion, anxiety manifested itself as a fight or flight response. And since PWA 1, Christopher America had chosen to run.
It was easier after all.
If he made his opponents feel as helpless as he felt that day, then he wouldn’t be alone. They could then suffer the same way that he had. Questioning their place in HOW. Questioning their careers and aspirations.
If he brutalized those who were weaker than he was, then they could share in the pain that he was made to feel that day. Hurting Mateo, hurting his son, in the moment, it felt good. Victimizing and dominating someone like that gave him a rush. But it was temporary. And he felt more empty now than he did before.
If he stopped saying HIS name, then others would too. The name would slowly fade from memory. Never to be remembered or uttered again. A footnote. A fluke. Or, maybe, like it never actually happened.
If he could systematically replace the pain he felt with other emotions or just numb the pain a little, then maybe this would be easier. Maybe he wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so empty. Maybe he could just forget. Maybe he could move on.
Christopher America sat a few rows ahead of both Bill and Luis.
America turned and looked behind him. Luis and Bill were discussing something with great interest just out of earshot. Bill pointed at his iPad and Luis nodded in agreement. America watched the two interact for several minutes before Bill looked up. Luis noticed Bill getting distracted and looked at America as well. Like a child, America quickly turned and faced forward.
The World Champion looked down at his hands and began to pick at his nails. He knew what Bill wanted. He wanted America to go back there and apologize to Luis. Tell him he was sorry for what he did to his father and for embarrassing him like that in front of his other assistants.
A small gesture that, at the very least, would let Luis know he was working on himself.
So why wasn’t he moving?
America stopped picking his fingers and curled his hands into fists. He looked up and caught his own reflection in a blackened television screen ahead of him. America closed his eyes and turned his head away in shame.
He took a couple of breaths before he looked back at his reflection in the television screen.
This time, America held his gaze longer.
He didn’t recognize himself.
After ICONIC, everything was different. He was confident in his ability and in himself. He would be focused on things that mattered. The winner of the World Title tournament. The record. The fact that he was flying into England, the site of America’s original oppressors. Maybe even something to say about Charles de Lacy, HOW’s newest Un-American signee, just to show Fuse how confident he was.
But he had none of that now.
To the side of his reflection, he saw movement as Luis got up and moved to the back of the jet. America turned and looked at Bill once more. Bill looked up and raised an eyebrow. America motioned for Bill to come over. Bill pursed his lips, and let out a deep breath through his nose. He set his tablet to the side, got up, walked over, and sat next to America.
The two sat there for a moment in silence before America spoke, beginning hesitantly.
Christopher America: I don’t… want… you to chime in. I just need you to listen.
Christopher America: I heard what you had to say and you’re right.
I look at myself and I… I see what you see. Beneath the layers… beneath it all…
I can take a look at someone and I see through them. I see them for who they really are. And that helps me. It helps me understand opponents and people. It helps me understand motivations and desires. And yet, when I look at myself, I don’t see that.
I see me. Only me.
I don’t see my faults or my ambitions. I don’t see the fear or the rage. I just… I don’t know… I feel like I’m looking at a picture of me, captured in one singular moment and not the living, breathing person at this point in time.
I know that when I lie to myself, I put up these layers. I put up walls and surround myself as a means of protection. And eventually, I realize what I’ve done and I shed those layers like a… like a snake shedding its skin. But I haven’t been doing that. Not since PWA 1. I’ve had these layers put up around me and rather than trying to shed them, I’ve reinforced them. And now, I’m choking on this imaginary reality that I’ve created for myself. I see transgressions where there are none.
I feel trapped and I lash out.
Bill continued to sit in silence, listening intently.
Christopher America: What HE did to me was HE peeled back the layers of lies that I had told myself. Lies like I was untouchable. Lies that I was the greatest wrestler not just in HOW, but in the entirety of the PWA. Because if… if HOW has the best roster… and I’m the World Champion… then I am the best of them all.
And yet, HE turned me into a child. He turned me into a sniveling mess. And I know that I helped him. I sat back and I allowed it to happen. I didn’t challenge it; I just accepted it. And I took it out on everyone because if they could feel what I feel, then maybe they’d sympathize with me. They’d rally around me. They’d do anything and everything to help me. Because they will have felt what I felt.
That’s all I’ve wanted. I’ve wanted to not be alone in this feeling.
And I realize now that I have to be.
I can’t share these feelings because no one’s lived them. I can’t change them because they’ve happened.
I feel like everything is converging on this moment in time. And I am desperately struggling just to cope with it. I haven’t been able to fully process it because I’m being pulled in fifty different directions.
America and Bill sat in silence for a few moments.
Bill: Why run from it at all? Why inflict that pain on others? Do you think they’ll grow from it? There’s no understanding to be gained. No lesson to be learned. They haven’t lived your experience. But doing to them what was done to you will only make them hate you more than they already do.
To be honest with you, Chris. I don’t like you. The only reason that I’m here now is because we have a contract.
You told me you trust me. You called me a friend. You said the same thing to Jace a few weeks ago. But you make no effort. We don’t hang out together. We don’t do things together. There’s no off time. Everything that you do has some underlying motive or hidden agenda. It’s manipulative. It causes emotional and psychological stress to us.
Christopher America: I’m sorry about that.
Bill: I know you are. Because you’re scared. Because you think, right now, saying you’re sorry is going to help.
But it isn’t.
You have built a fine team of assistants who were looking to help a man become the longest reigning HOW World Champion in history. But you have done everything in your power to abuse those people and those relationships.
When I think of what happened at PWA 1, I saw Alexei stand up for Ivan. Not out of paid loyalty, not out of abuse, but out of friendship. Actual friendship. I saw a crowd desperate for an American hero to triumph over a Russian and you swatted them away. With a steel chair no less.
And now I look at Conor Fuse and he has a friend in Bobbinette Carey. And I know you and the rest of the roster don’t think it’s genuine. And that’s fine. But from what I’ve seen, I’ve seen Carey stand up and defend Conor against nearly everything the rest of you have thrown at her. She has tried to help him work through the issues that happened with STRONK. And rather than support her, you guys laugh and taunt her. Maybe he helps her get through the loss of Scottywood. Maybe he takes away some of the pain that STRONK caused her.
Or I think back to the Highwaymen. I see a group of guys who bought in to a mission to take down the Board. They relied on each other and had each other’s backs. Lee asked you to take down the Highwaymen. He didn’t ask you to break them apart or to question their loyalties and friendships.
You did that.
On your own.
And I think to some extent, Lee knew what he was getting when he tasked you with that.
You put time and effort and energy into forcing people to feel a certain way. You force your feelings onto them. If they don’t reciprocate it, you discard them like trash. Instead of allowing friendships and relationships to grow organically, you try to fit them into a neat little box that you can go back to and unwrap when it suits you.
And only you.
That boy back there, when he found out his father was going to train the HOW World Champion, was ecstatic. He sat and listened to his mother and father discuss the benefits of what being paid by you and associated with you would do for them. His father pumped countless hours into designing your new moves for March To Glory. I know because I was right there with him. And then, for his father, to call upon him to help… it was like a dream come true.
And you took that from him.
None of them deserved it. You just did it. And why? Because it made you feel good for a little bit? Made you feel like a big shot?
Christopher America: It made me not feel at all.
Bill: Then that’s even worse. Because all you’ve done is create a cycle of dependence. Be angry at emotion. Lash out. Feel nothing. Emotion creeps back in. Repeat cycle.
Whatever Stanlislav broke in you, you’re going to have to figure it out. And it’s not going to happen overnight. It won’t happen before March To Glory. But you got to figure something out before your match. Something that can put you in a right frame of mind.
Or this is the end of the line.
It’s time you peeled back the layers on yourself and get ready for Conor Fuse. Because he’s still coming for you and that title no matter how you feel.
Luis audibly cleared his throat as Bill turned and caught Luis’ eye. He nodded and then looked at America, simply shrugging as he stood up and went back to his seat.
I keep hearing about how you went undefeated in singles action in 2022. And to be honest, it stings my ego. Because so did I. Yet, I’m not mentioned, am I? You lost a tag match because you had a shitty partner? So did I. Beat Clay Byrd, Steve Harrison, Jatt Starr, and the rest of those fools? SO. DID. I.
But the times that we’ve come face to face… you’ve LOST.
And no, Conor, I don’t give a shit about your DRAFTING ability for War Games. I give a shit about your WRESTLING ability. And when it came time to show me yours, you were under-leveled. While I WALKED out of War Games, you hobbled your way out of War Games.
And the reason I won is because I studied you. I knew the kind of person you were.
I know what it’s like to be under-leveled. But you know what I did? I trained harder. I got stronger. I developed new moves for you. New moves for HIM. What did you do with a devastating loss?
Did you do anything to improve yourself?
Or did you avoid going to the gym and developing some new moves? Did you ignore some sound advice from your “best friend,” Carey? Did you hide behind a mask which did nothing for anybody? Did you refuse to talk? Did you wrestle the EXACT SAME WAY? Did you STILL barely show up to talk to the fans whose attention you crave?
There was no improvement. You did what you normally do.
Which shows me you aren’t ready to recapture the HOW World Championship. Still the same person. Still the same walls.
I won at War Games because I knew how to play with your emotions and get around all the bullshit walls that you put up.
So let’s peel back your walls and layers.
You see, the problem with you, Conor, is that you misunderstand video games on a fundamental level because the premise you operate under is flawed.
And that right there… that’s how I know you’re not a real gamer.
Your entire schtick is founded on a lie.
You’ve talked over and over about being “Player One” and about being the locker room leader. You conflate being the protagonist with being the hero. And that’s where your house of SNES cartridges comes tumbling down.
You ARE Player One.
You always have been. You always will be.
But you aren’t playing Super Mario or Mega Man or Metroid. You’re playing Shadow of the Colossus. You’re playing Braid. Because you’ve been unknowingly, blindly, stupidly playing the villain this whole time.
That’s why I stepped in.
You killed the Colossi of this company. You held the HOW World Championship hostage when she wished to be free of you.
Because you’re the villain. And I’m the hero.
Because this championship is mine and she’s not going anywhere. She has someone that is willing to defend her honor in any match, to prove his worth by whatever means possible. Not skip out on big events because you couldn’t be bothered.
I may have lost at PWA 1, but at least I fucking showed up and fought for this company. You couldn’t even be bothered, could you? No effort made to ask for a match. No effort made to even appear on the show. Where was your World Champion work ethic then? Where were the Conor Fuse interviews or backstage segments? Hell, you couldn’t even be bothered to do a fucking meet and greet for the fans.
Spare me the cutesy response about… I don’t know… having a need to beat that Dark Souls boss on your third run back instead of showing up at PWA 1 in any meaningful capacity. You could’ve at least shown up backstage, eaten some catering, and supported the company that’s employed you for the past couple of years.
Or maybe it wasn’t a Dark Souls boss. Maybe you were too busy with another counseling session, which is pathetic in and of itself.
You get rocked by seemingly killing someone in the ring? Who gives a shit? I dissected a man. I’ve watched wrestlers have their faces blown off. I’ve seen musical acts get murdered. I’ve seen eyeballs punctured and stabbed by pens. Killing a guy makes you queasy? It triggers you? Pathetic.
You still won, didn’t you?
Then that’s all that matters.
Wins are all that ever matter.
If you aren’t willing to kill for this championship, then what good are you? When we meet in the ring, Conor, if you want to win this, you’re going to have to kill me. And if you need someplace to comfort your soul, put on a brown leather mask, talk to your size 4 cum sock with Princess Peach’s face on it, and hide out in a boiler room.
Oh, and don’t get me wrong.
You do need counseling.
Just not for almost killing a guy.
You need counseling for your malignant narcissism. This belief that you should be the centerpiece of this company. This unending desire for attention.
After all, that’s TRULY why you stick to Carey.
Because she gives you that attention and she’s too fucking stupid to see the difference.
It’s why you claim to be constantly looking for a Player Two. It’s why you held that meeting before War Games. It’s why you wore a mask and refused to talk.
By the way, refusing to talk, what a great concept for a future wannabe World Champion. Can’t wait to see how those media rounds go.
Here’s the problem, when you aren’t on screen, no one gives two fucks about you. The fans empathized more with STRONK than they did with you. They cared about him dying. They didn’t give one fuck about how you were feeling. And the only reason that the roars for you are much louder now is because you’re facing me. Happened with every single person I’ve faced. I got them to cheer EVERY member of the Highwaymen… because they hate me more than they will ever love you. And when you fail at March To Glory… and you WILL fail… they’ll move on to the next challenger and leave Conor Fuse in the dust with the rest of them.
Because we’re all sick of your shit.
Case in point: The HOW video game.
Remember how you were the poster child for the “LEVEL UP” edition? Your face plastered all over it. Even had your shitty !RANK catchphrase as part of the tag line. It was a bold, new venture for HOW to wade into video game sales.
Unfortunately, the reviews all said the same thing… Gameplay was awesome. Story mode was great. The only problem was the piss-poor packaging with a goofy 20-something on the cover. People were so turned off by just the sight of you, they left the game on the shelf. And sales were so fucking abysmal that HOW hasn’t put out one since.
All because of you.
All because you’re fucking toxic to our company.
See HOW… we were doing just fine without you, Conor. You should’ve stayed gone.
But since you came back, it’s now up to me to make you go away… for good this time.
What I’m saying, it’s not some bullshit I’ve made up. They’re facts that have been formed by watching and listening to you.
Like listening to you speak about 8-4 as if you are trying to get to win the game. But I’m not Bowser. Hell, I’m not even Wart or Wario. I’m soooo much worse.
I’m not at the end of 8-4, Conor. You’re princess, “#97RED,” as you disgustingly refer to her as, is in a different castle.
If you want me, you can find me in my home.
I’m in the Minus World.
I’m at the end of an impossible level. No way for you to win. No way for you to advance. Your only option is to either quit or reset the game and get back to doing what you do best, playing the rest of the NORMAL levels.
There’s no shame in you quitting, either. The alternative… you trying to face me… is so much worse.
You know… I realize that with everything I’ve said, you don’t understand a single word of it.
Because the best part of this is the fact that I know that I’m saying hurtful things to you… and you don’t. Oh sure, you can infer by my tone. You might even be searching some references right now on the internet. The fact is that I know… and you know… that “The Vintage”… “The Gamer”… it’s all bullshit.
And just like the Doomguy looking at the Spectre, not only do I see right through you, but your thinly veiled disguise is not going to stop me from ripping and tearing until you… are… done.
You’re a fraud, Conor.
You clothe yourself with trendy items like video games, you make references that even the oldest person can relate to tangentially. But the truth is that you are none of those things.
Conor, there is no one in this company that loves you. Yes, Carey may think she does, but it’s only because she is a sad, lonely woman, desperate to recapture a glory that has passed her by. Her “taste” in men speaks for itself. Mario slept with her for the World Title. STRONK saw through her attempts to buy his love. And her friend Scottywood is dead. She doesn’t even have her own self-respect to comfort her anymore.
And you, the malignant narcissist, constantly craving attention because no one will give it to you in the amounts and portions that you want… your heart will remain empty because you’re simply not worthy of that kind of love. You’ll remain relegated to feeding off the false, superficial love that the fans feed you in small doses, barely enough to keep you alive… just like the parasite you are.
Locker Room Leader?
There’s not a single instance in which you’ve led this locker room. We don’t look up to you. We’re not sheep in need of corralling. We’re not soldiers looking for a commander. We’re men and women looking to be the greatest wrestler of our generation.
You don’t have the charisma, the persuasion, or the believability to be a locker room leader, let alone inspire any of us. In fact, Conor, if by some miracle you beat me for this championship… that locker room isn’t going to empty. You peers will not celebrate with you in the ring.
You’ll still be alone.
A leader of none.
And just like last year, the pit of vipers will begin to encircle you. Plotting. Scheming. Drafting. As the drums of WAR begin to beat again.
So go ahead, Conor. Peel back my layers. Rip and tear at me. Expose me for who I really am. Make me bleed in front of everyone. Show my open wounds for the world to see. There’s nothing you can do or say that I haven’t already done and said to myself millions of times over.
Because I already know.
I am the worst.
HE showed me the path and I willingly walked it.
And now, I have no choice but to see that path through to the end. HE made me what I am now. And I am going to be stronger for it.
Everything is on the line for this match. You simply need to beat me and you take EVERYTHING from me. If you lose, nothing happens. You walk out with nothing, the same way you walked in. But me? I lose the championship. The record. The drive to beat HIM. The opportunity to beat HIM. I lose my dignity. I lose my very EXISTENCE! Because I have none without her.
So go ahead, Conor, do your worst.