Spider-Man: I don’t know if I can beat him.
MJ: Maybe you can’t.
- Spider-Man and Mary Jane, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac Games
Three days before March To Glory
The clock ticked away the seconds.
The fire danced across the logs.
The light attempted to illuminate all.
The shadows desperately clung to anything they could.
Christopher America sat in a large chair in front of the fire and stared at it. The fire crackled but America remained unfazed. He left arm propped up his head, with his thumb under his chin and fingers pressed against his lips.
Off in the corner, Bill sat, face illuminated by his iPad, with his glasses hanging on the end of his nose. After finishing up some work, Bill paused and pulled the iPad close to his chest. The light subsided and after a few moments, his eyes adjusted to the darkened room. He looked at his client and read the story on his face.
His eyes drooped. Bags hung below. His breathing was slow.
Bill: Have you tried sleeping again?
Christopher America: Yes.
His response was short and cold.
Bill yawned and tried to suppress the noise as much as possible.
America blinked for what felt like the first time in a long while. He looked over at Bill and caught the tail end of his yawn.
America waved his hand dismissively at Bill.
Christopher America: It’s not your fault. I’m just stressed and it’s throwing things off. Go. Get some sleep. And I’ll see you in the morning.
Bill: You sure?
Christopher America: Yeah. Go.
Bill got up and walked behind the chair. He placed a hand on America’s shoulder.
Bill: Please be well. And try to get some sleep.
America shrugged Bill’s hand away from his shoulder and just sat there, listening to the sound of Bill collecting his things and leaving for his hotel room. When he heard the door close, America got up and walked to the back of the chair. He placed his elbows on it and leaned forward. He stared into the fire as it crackled.
Everything had gotten out control.
He was spiraling and everyone could see it.
Christopher America: What would you do?
He threw the words out into the darkness. Although no one was there, he wished someone was. One person in particular.
Christopher America: Everything’s wrong. And I haven’t felt the same since War Games. When I came back, I—I felt like I had a purpose. I felt like everything was crystal clear. You gave me that. And then the match happened. And now… everything I had planned – everything I hoped would happen – has gone out the window.
I’ve been struggling to sleep these last few days. I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do.
On the one hand, I feel like if I apologize, if I tell people that I’m sorry, I show some semblance of growth. I show them that I’m improving. I show them that I’m coming out of my shell and trying to be better. And yet, I worry that if I do that, I sacrifice the parts of me that I have sharpened and hardened so that what happened at PWA 1 never happens again.
So that I can beat Conor Fuse… definitively. So that I can get the record.
Christopher America: I’ve been… awful.
I treat people like dirt, maybe worse than dirt. I treat them like Kleenex. Just a bunch of disposable people that I use and throw away.
On the other hand, if I keep down the path that I’m going, then I’m going to probably lose the only friend that I’ve made this past year. I’ll harden and sharpen myself further. I’ll take those weak parts of me and I’ll be rid of them once and for all. I just know I will. But at the cost of my friend? At the cost of someone I actually trust? Is that worth it?
Because the decision I make now, that could decide this upcoming match against Fuse.
So what would you do?
You’ve beaten him. Tell me!
America hung his head and listened for an answer. Only the flames of the fire crackled a response.
Christopher America: I know what you’d do.
You’d damn the world.
If it meant another successful championship defense or a… a new championship reign, you’d sell your soul for that in an instant. Because you knew what that meant. You knew that winning, measured against anything else, was the only thing that mattered. You knew that winning was the sweetest revenge of all.
Who cares if it took three other people or five other distractions… winning was the only thing that mattered.
America shook his head and bit his lower lip.
Christopher America: I wish I had your focus right now. I wish I had your drive. I wish I had that “damn the world” attitude.
You know, I never got the chance to tell you…
America paused, nodding his head.
Christopher America: …but you’re so much better than I ever will be. And it’s because you could do this longer and better than any of us.
I hate it.
I really do.
Part of me still pursues you. Even now. After everything that’s happened, I still chase you.
And I wish I knew your secret.
America looked up and off to the side, he took a deep breath and blinked away what felt like a well of emotion bubbling inside of him.
Christopher America: I wish you were here, Mike.
You’d know what to do.
Easily. And without hesitation, you’d know.
Me… I… I honestly dread facing Conor.
That’s probably why I’ve gone scorched earth on him as much as I have.
I worry about losing everything when I am just this close to finally surpassing you in SOMETHING! Just ONE THING! Sure, I have the War Games win record. But the Best FAMILY has tied me.
It’s not real to me.
It’s not real in my mind.
And for all the talk about being free from your shadow, for the life of me… I—I find myself now crying out to it, looking for answers. Looking to glean some bits of knowledge that will push me over the hump.
I just… I feel lost and I feel fucking pathetic right now.
I know you’ve beaten him. And sure, I have too… but… what do I have to show for it? For all my… posturing and preening… I haven’t done it definitively. It’s always WITH somebody.
America slammed his fist on the back of the chair.
Christopher America: IT’S ALWAYS SOMEONE ELSE! Someone propping me up! Someone helping me defend the title! And as much as I want to do it and win it alone, I—I know you wouldn’t care.
You just wanted to win.
Because it’s the only thing that matters.
You know, part of me wishes it was you, now. I feel like this would be so much easier. Because as I near your milestone, I know that you’d understand… more than anyone. And, I feel like… like you’ve earned this confession more than anyone, knowing our history.
I feel like this championship asks impossible things of you. It puts a strain on your mind and your body. Even simple choices like “pay attention to the fans” or “pay no attention to the fans” becomes this impossible task.
America paused as he reflected on his next words.
Christopher America: Did you know that… I HAVE to be paranoid? I HAVE to be mean.
It’s all I’ve ever known.
It’s all I know how to do anymore.
I tried it the other way, you know? I tried to be good. The Elite. The AoA. But it just never works out. Things always work against you. The fans criticize everything you do. They turn on you the instant that you don’t make the same choice that they would’ve. Friends quickly become foes the moment you get an opportunity at something they feel they should’ve gotten. Never mind the work or effort you put in. They always feel it’s not as much as they’ve done. You’re asked to align yourself with people you hate, as if you’re just supposed to bury the past and forget it.
Well, I can’t!
And that’s why I stick to what I know.
Doing what I do now, I breed consistency.
I keep some semblance of control over the world.
Now, the fans always boo. I have no friends when I hold this championship, no matter how much I deluded myself into thinking Jace was my friend. And I know that… even though we buried the hatchet, you and I aren’t friends either. I hope… well… I would’ve liked to have thought that in another life, another timeline, maybe we were. Even for a short time. Because I know wrestling has this awful way of tearing relationships apart.
And so, as a result of all of that, I know what to expect from everyone.
I expect the back-stabbings and the hatred and the jealousy and the petty bullshit that plagues this sport.
And I think I expect to be alone.
You know, I did what you asked, Mike.
I helped the Board. I stuck around. I took Joe Bergman out of the picture for you. I didn’t screw you over for War Games. Tyler and I achieved the impossible. Together. But now Tyler’s gone. And so is the Board. And so are you.
And I feel like I am left wandering the HOW landscape once again.
Your father entrusted me enough to be a part of the Final Alliance. But I feel like all I’ve done is let him down. I feel like he’s had to pull strings that he shouldn’t have to for a World Champion. I wish I could pay him back but I feel like doing that means that I have to beat Conor Fuse on my own. And that flies in the face of defending this championship AND WINNING by any means necessary.
The World Champion smirked, the realization of the moment sinking in.
Christopher America: You know, you never met Bill. He’s my, uh, well he… he was my friend, I guess. Now, it’s, uh… it’s more professional. He’s my agent and he provides pretty good advice every now and then. He told me that what I’ve been doing lately has been my fault. He said it was my choice as to where I go from here.
And I keep wrestling with that word: choice.
I keep going back and forth over what to do. I feel like talking to him as we flew over to England didn’t help. I felt like I was left right where I started. And more than anything, I had hoped that by now, I would have an answer or a direction but I don’t.
America began to pace back and forth behind the chair.
Christopher America: I can’t have people make the choice for me anymore.
You know, it’s not lost on me that this is the event that you and I main evented together. This is the event that you and I took the HOFC title, a title that was looked down on, a title that people deemed not worthy of their time, and we took that to the main event. We did a lot for that title. We raised it above people’s expectations and delivered one of the best matches HOW has ever seen.
And now, I’m in the main event of March To Glory again. And I’m trying to do for the World Championship what we did for the HOFC title. And I know that you’re probably thinking that the World Championship doesn’t need to be lifted up anymore. It’s already prestigious. And it is. You’re right. But… I wanted to elevate the title beyond that. I want to be the most dominant and consistent champion this company has ever seen.
I am NEVER going to beat the number of reigns that you have. I… I don’t have that kind of time left. But what I can do is become the longest reigning World Champion in HOW history. I want to defend this title BEYOND this company. I want to show how dominant HOW is… not just me… but HOW as a whole.
It has to start with Conor.
I have to beat him.
I have to beat this man so that I can establish myself and the championship. But… he is as tall a mountain to climb as you are.
America stopped pacing and leaned once more on the back of the chair. He rested his hand in his left hand and used his fingers to wipe his mouth.
Christopher America: I think I know what I have to do.
I’m not going to like it but it’s what needs to be done.
I think talking here has helped me receive the clarity I need. I think… I think I’ve given you ninety-seven thousand attempts to convince me otherwise. Because I think part of me wants the debate. I gave you the openings and you remained silent.
Initially, I wanted you to tell me that I should apologize. I wanted you to absolve me of my obligation because… God… sometimes adhering to obligation feels like we’re betraying others when… at the same time, by not fulfilling our obligations we end up betraying ourselves. I wanted you to tell me that it was okay to not beat your record. That a loss is a loss… and it was okay. Maybe I wouldn’t beat Conor, but, I could try again at War Games, right?
I wanted some hope that it was going to be alright if I lost.
America whispered his next words.
Christopher America: But it’s not.
America shook his head.
Christopher America: I guess… deep down… I don’t want it to be.
I don’t want to try again at War Games. I don’t know if my body can handle it. I’d rather go in as champion and prove my worth that way, then starting out empty handed and trying to climb the mountain once more.
I don’t want to be okay with a loss because if these last few days have shown me anything, it’s that I’m not okay with a loss. I don’t handle loss well.
Losses mean less money. Losses mean no respect. Losses mean no titles.
I want the knowledge you have on how to beat Conor. I want to put that fraudulent video game loving prick down for good. I want to expose him and demoralize him in ways never yet imagined.
I want losses to piss me off as much as one pissed you off. I want to be as dominant as you were, if not more. I want to be feared as much as you were.
I want your record.
I want your reign.
I want to be free of your shadow.
I want it so bad that… I’m standing here now… talking into the dark… asking you to give me your blessing… that it’s okay to go for it.
The World Champion paused and rubbed at his eyes.
Christopher America: But I guess it’s not about you.
It’s about me.
And the choices I make… or in this instance, I haven’t made yet.
America grew frustrated with himself.
Christopher America: I STILL doubt my ability to beat Conor but… then again, I think part of me has doubted retaining this championship ever since I won it. It’s weird, you know? Even approaching your record, part of me still feels like I am unworthy to hold her.
And maybe I am.
What makes any of us worthy to hold her?
We beat someone only to lose her to someone else. And rather than go right back and fight for her, we allow ourselves to get distracted… to fulfill needs for revenge or justice. Rarely do we go right back to her.
I’m not saying the other championships don’t have a personality all their own, it’s just… she’s special, you know? She makes you FEEL good. She makes ME feel good. Like I’m worth something! She does things that elevate you as a wrestler.
And it’s crazy how I WISH… GOD DAMNIT I WISH that I could defend her against nobodies so that I could say I defended her constantly and keep her constantly. But then you’re looked at as a garbage champion. So then, you have to… there’s no choice… you HAVE TO defend your championship against credible opponents that could take your championship the MOMENT you make a mistake.
All to build her up! To build yourself up!
My legacy… through her legacy.
America spoke his next words through a chuckle as he imagined the scenario.
Christopher America: Plus, your dad would never allow it.
America continued laughing before it slowly faded and he got serious once more.
Christopher America: I hope I do you and your dad proud. I hope I do me proud.
I guess we’re going to find out.
I hope you watch.
I want you to see the choice that I make that night.
Because I see that choice now. Probably more clearly than I ever have.
See, I have the potential to be anything I want to be. And of all the things available to me, all the jobs that are open to me, across all the cities that I could be in right now… I choose this.
I choose to be THIS man.
I choose to be THIS monster.
I choose to be this hated.
I choose to be a wrestler.
And damnit I CHOOSE TO BE THE HOW WORLD CHAMPION!
I’m tired of running from what I choose to be! I’m tired of running from these feelings of unworthiness. I’m tired of apologizing for being the person that I am. I’m tired of making sacrifices for others and putting their needs above MINE!
Bill’s words on the plane echoed through America’s head as he grimaced in hate.
Christopher America: If I’m a douchebag, if I’m a prick, then so be it. It’s time to embrace what has led me here to this moment in time.
EVERYTHING. FROM YOU… TO THE HIGHWAYMEN…TO… TO HIM! TO STANISLAV!!! GOD! TO FUCKING STANISLAV! AND NOW TO FUSE! TO FUCKING CONOR FUSE AND HIS SHITTY PERSONALITY AND HIS FUCKING FRIENDSHIPS AND HIS GOD DAMN VIDEO GAMES!
IT IS TIME TO STOP FUCKING AROUND!
IT’S TIME TO BE THE FUCKING WORLD CHAMPION THAT HOW HAS DEMANDED I BE!
America fumed as he yelled out.
Christopher America: IT’S TIME TO PUT AN END TO CONOR FUSE AND CLAIM WHAT IS MINE! WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY MINE!
COAST TO COAST!
WAR GAMES TO WAR GAMES!
THE GREATEST HOW WORLD CHAMPION… IN HISTORY!
America glared at the dying fire. He made his way around the chair and sat back in it. He leaned to his right and picked up the HOW World Championship on the floor. He clutched it to his chest tightly. He felt the red leather and all the cracks and breaks from normal wear and tear. He his hand caressed the cool metallic plate. His fingers felt the indentations in the jewels.
Was it for the last time?
He didn’t know for sure.
But he was determined to do everything in his power to keep her.
And for the first time in days, the HOW World Champion, finally, slept.