I’ve missed all the silence and time,
I need you at the centre of my life.
There’s too much reward in lying,
So much failure in trying,
I’ll get through this moment,
I’ll get through this moment.
And feel far away.
The Best Arena. The same place I have stood literally hundreds of times before…the Gorilla Position. I don’t know the wrestler we named it after, if I’m honest, I just know it’s named after one. And that’s usually enough. Like, just knowing a thing, that is.
Everything should be calm.
But I can’t breathe. I can’t focus. I’m about to walk out in front of a few thousand people in that arena, and, fuck, could be a million or two more worldwide, and what am I doing? I’m standing here, struggling to even breathe. Maybe you’ve seen me since I’ve come back. Maybe you’re looking at the fact that I’ve got a bit of a gut. I’m not some chiseled specimen like these other motherfuckers around here…honestly? I love tacos too much.
But I can still go. I promise you that.
If I can just take a fucking minute and…breathe.
It’s not just that, though. I need to throw up. I need the noise to stop, literally just…everything to stop.
Not that I’m about to get that. I’m up next. Kostoff is probably on the ramp right now. They gave me a big ass smile when they told me this. Told me they have a stupidly big explosion all ready to go…everyone seems pumped.
It seems like some sort of fever dream of a return so far. People are paying attention. They’re already talking shit. Already worrying about if it’s the same sorta Townsend that put himself in every pay per view main event for over a year…the same sorta asshole who did not give two shits if he lost on that pay per view.
You knew, I’d knew that it wasn’t over.
So why the fuck am I back here absolutely riddled with doubt? Why the fuck am I winding myself up so much about walking out and doing the one thing that’s come natural to me my whole life. Go walk out and wrestle. Shit, Rhys, people cheered you earlier. Went fucking nuts in the arena when they saw the truck, apparently. I’m gonna have to check that back.
So why does it seem like this is such a big, holy shit, I can’t breathe deal?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck and, well, more fuck.
Quick drink. Cold water good. Deep breath better.
It’s Kostoff. I can do this. I can win this. One thing at a time. Do what comes natural. Breathe.
And right then, that’s when that familiar voice comes over the arena, interrupting the country, or, well, whatever Floridian Hick Music the spawn of Kostoff is using for entrance music, introducing the match.
Then it’s the klaxon.
I spent fucking ages choosing entrance music, y’know? Always have. No fucking clue why. Just…a me thing I guess. But I gotta go, right? Gotta stop talking to myself.
This is good garlic bread.
Yeah…I think garlic bread could be my all time favourite food. I could honestly eat it for every meal. Or just eat it all the time without even stopping.
You’d get fat.
No, why would I get fat?
Bread makes you fat.
Bread makes you fat?!?!!
It would, dear reader, be the easiest thing in the world to convey to you the feeling of success right now.
We both know you’re here to read about the intrepid Rhys Townsend and his ongoing adventures, so if I was to set the scene by telling you that we join the former World Champion at his Private Residence after his recent successful return, you’d expect it to be a celebratory mood, right? Coke and weed and blackjack and hookers and fuck knows what else. Sure, our guy picked up the victory and already defied the cliched trope of the Hall of Famer not trying unless they walk straight back into a championship match by trying and winning with what seemed to be relative ease. That’d be considered successful by most standards…maybe Rhys even considers it a success. But to be honest, within the aforementioned residence, it’s more of a somber, stoic sorta mood.
Because, really, was it a success?
Imagine it, reader. You sit at home and you decide to watch the product for the first time in a while. Your mate, he keeps telling you it’s good. So you do, and you see your mate killing it, and…well, you remember how much fun it was. Work, but fun. And you see names you recognize. Ones you beat. Ones you drove into retirement, even. And you keep watching. And, yeah, just like you, sat at home on the couch, brushing the crumbs off as you sit up during the match, having just exclaimed you could totally do better than that not quite picture perfect frog splash, he says that shit. Unlike you, he wonders down to his local wrestling school, offers to help out at a couple classes.
See if you still got it, you know? Especially with your 31st birthday on the horizon.
No, not your 30th. Not the one everyone makes a big thing out of. Yeah, sure, it’s when you’re officially not in your twenties, but it’s not when that realisation hits, is it? Nah. It’s the year after. It’s 31. And sure, there’s gonna be 41, 51 and so on and so forth. But 31? Personally…I reckon it’s the moment when you realise you ain’t really young anymore.
So that’s hanging over him. And his mate, seemingly having an absolute riot. Not going off what he heard from someone else, he just watches. From afar. Wondering if he still could. Not because he needs a sixth World Championship, not because he wants to give Ground Zero a better sendoff, and not because he never retired in the fashion he dreamt of. Not wondering about just one thing, but wondering if he could still dominate like he used to. Wondering if he could hack the schedule, hack having to deal with showing up every week, punching the match in, making sure he’s in segments, news…anything to keep him in the front of everyone’s brain. Anything to keep people talking about him.
He’s told me before, dear reader, that he considers that the true mark of a World Champion. Not being dominant in the ring, though obviously, there’s a minimum level…no. Getting people to keep talking about you. Getting to have an almost perpetual buzz about you. Making people want to see you.
And after Chaos? There’s a buzz. Newer fans…they’re just excited because they are hearing the veteran fans of High Octane Wrestling seemingly buzzing with excitement. Reserved excitement, because who knows, this could just be a one off. Maybe next match he turns up and he’s awful. But maybe not. Maybe he’s actually going to do what he says. Maybe that Chaos is just the start of the Greatest Hits World Tour. I mean, not really a world tour in the sense of he flies home after every show because, well, fuck actually touring. He’s a Hall of Famer. Has to get some perks, right?
But what if it is true?
What if it’s only the start of the tour? What then?
Go ask Mike Best – the most decorated wrestler in High Octane’s storied history couldn’t keep the World Championship out of his hands.
Go ask Christopher America what it’s like. Or Jace Parker Davidson. Or David Black. Or Chris Kostoff. Or Scott Stevens, or, fuck, anyone who ever had to stand across the ring from him. Go look at the HOTv archives, and you’ll see a three or so year long stretch where he was consistently involved in the biggest matches in the federation. Go look at the win/loss record he posted in that time. If you’re saying you’re here to play the greatest hits…yeah.
Those are some fucking impressive greatest hits, however you want to argue it.
So if it’s not horrifically obvious at this point, I’m not doing this to toot his horn, as it were. No, it’s more an attempt to explain the sober mood inside the house we’re about to describe. Because, y’know. Perhaps you were expecting him to be living the gimmick, as it were? Single Leg Crabs for everyone type shit, right?
Nah. Not inside the house. Which, if you’re wondering where we are, given the earlier reference to going home between shows, is in Cardiff, in a little bit of an oddity, if we’re being honest. See…there’s a gated community of what pass for mansions in the local vernacular almost smack bang in the middle of the city. Just up from the museum and city hall, it sits there, innocuous, nestled in amongst some of Cardiff University’s ancient ass university buildings, all unassuming, looking for all the world like some lectures about shit like Ancient Latin in the Greek World might happen.
Again, nah. It’s just a place where rich cunts buy a house for a couple million in the middle of Cardiff. Dear reader, your humble narrator has even delivered food to this little cul-de-sac. Through the main gate, then through the security gate…all for no fuckin’ tip. I tell you…some people…
But I digress.
Somewhere off on the right is the house we’re concerned with. Looks the same as the two next to it, only the car parked on the drive isn’t some understated yet horrifically expensive over-engineered piece of German design…it’s a fucking taco truck. Obviously, it’s not the same one he pulled out of storage in Chicago last week, but, well, identical otherwise. And the inside of the house?
It’s horrifically obvious there’s no Mrs. Townsend. Hell, it’s horrifically obvious within the first look inside the house that this is a man who organises his social life as a me, not a we. So..sparse. Functional. Those are words you could use. Though, if we’re being honest?
It’s like he just went to IKEA and bought all the furniture he needed from there.
No judgement. It is what it is. So, now, having set the scene, explained the pressure that the man has lumped upon himself, we should take a moment and admire the sight that is five time HOW World Champion and Hall of Famer, Rhys Townsend. Because he is sat, topless, enclosed in a thick cloud of smoke, a fat tray of his own product next to him. A TV so big it should be measured in feet rather than inches plays some video about an old ass American man who’s built an entire trainline in his garden at a barely noticeable background volume, because, dear reader, we join our protagonist in the middle of a conversation with the man known as Dafydd. I asked Rhys about him, and he called him his “numbers guy”. So there you are.
“Yeah, see, Rhys, I don’t get why you’re so mad. Go pull out that fucking box you have, stare at all the shit you did before. Acknowledge you were great, are great, and shouldn’t be losing your fucking mind over living up to what you did before. You’re obviously still half decent, otherwise you wouldn’t be going again this week, would you?”
“You don’t get it, Daf. It’s like it went too well, right? People actually enjoyed my shit. I…I’m getting over as a face. They want me there. They want me to show up and do what I do. People are saying things that if this is a comeback like how America came back, then holy shit, Townsend’s back. And it’s…”
“It’s a lot of pressure. Right. I get that. But don’t you want that pressure? Shit, Rhys, I’m sure you said something along those lines when you decided to tell the world you were here to work towards your sixth World Championship.”
There’s a brief break in the conversation, the sound of ice cubes rattling about, drinks being had, tokes being taken – those are the sorts of things that fill the gap.
“Yeah…yeah…I know. Everything went…well, better than I expected, to be perfectly honest. Wrestling the match felt different because, y’know. I’m different. But it felt just as natural. Same as it was before. Felt like the thing I was born to do. But also, this ain’t 2011, is it? It’s 2023. So, just for an example, our current World Champion – Stronk Godson…I don’t know fuck all about him other than his gimmick feels real familiar…”
“STRONK!. It’s STRONK!. With all capitals and the exclamation mark.”
“What the absolute fuck are you talking about? And why the shouting?”
“STRONK!, Rhys, that’s how you say his name. Don’t you watch the product? It happened after your match.”
“Honestly bro, I was in the truck getting high, trying not to throw up after my match so no, I didn’t see it.”
“Ah. Well, he’s STRONK!”
The confusion on the Welshman’s face is pretty obvious. There might be a little disgust in there…but have you looked at his latest portraits on HOWrestling.com? I’m amazed you think he can emote much more beyond anger, but here we are.
“Okay. I mean…can we just go with Stronk? Being frank dude, I can’t be fucked with the shouting.”
“Yeah, sure. But you really should wat…”
“So like I was saying before you did the whole interruption of fucking rudeness thing, Daf, I don’t really know who the fuck he is. I don’t know who Clyd Byrd or whatever is, or why I should give a fuck about Steve Solex or Dan Ryan. I haven’t done my fucking research.”
“So why don’t you go comb through the archives or whatever? I’m sure I can pay someone to generate a list of stuff for you to go through…”
“I kinda don’t care, if I’m honest? Like…what does it even matter at this point?”
“I mean, arm yourself with knowledge..there’s some proverb around that or something, I’m sure.”
“You think? You don’t think it’d be a distraction? Because I kinda do, right? Sure, this week went well…if we’re gonna stick with the greatest hits analogy I used, facing a Kostoff was like doing a warm up at a club. From here…”
“It’s gonna be like you’re playing a stadium every night. People gonna be watching.”
Our protagonists friend heavily sighs, sitting just out of shot as we stare at the mass of human that is Rhys Townsend. As previously mentioned, it’s not like he’s let himself go and he could go wonder over to Tokyo and start sumo wrestling…but he’s certainly softer. And right now is a less than flattering position for the man.
“Rhys, I literally just said I’m pretty sure you said this was exactly what you wanted…”
“Yeah, and like, it is, right? But man, now I’m here, I’m feeling it, Daf. I’m feeling those eyes watching me. Every match from here…it’s like the World Championship match I want. It matters as much. Not that I win or lose, because wins are just a side effect of doing the work. But putting that work in…”
“Yeah, Rhys, and sorry to interrupt, but you’re putting the big one on here. Did you look at the card for the next show? It’s Scott fucking Stevens. Sure, Lee might be booking you against guys he hates, but he’s booking you against these guys because he’s expecting you to whoop their ass and win.”
The almost 280 pound mass of the former brain of Ground Zero lurches up..not off the couch, but into a slightly more upright position.”
“The man has two World Championships and a Hall of Fame ring. He’s gone through shit that would make most people retire and burn as many bridges as they possibly could on their way out, yet he’s still fucking here, still wrestling week after week. Is he perfect? No. But to disrespect him like that…”
A legitimate snort of disgust emerges out of the man.
“All that’s gonna do is ensure I lose. I understand what you’re saying. And I see Twitter, Reddit…I see the same on the internet. People are expecting me to win like it’s nothing, like it’s already a foregone conclusion, but if I think like that…that’s how I lose. No, Daf, like I was saying, this is a World Championship match. I mean, it’s not…but it’s as important. It matters as much. I gotta put the work in, the grind in, make sure I’ve watched his matches, put some time in in a ring. Be Rhys Townsend, Man Who Is Madly In Love With Professional Wrestling. Y’know?”
He punctuates this by grabbing one of the now growing in fame King Single Leg Crab taco from his truck and loudly biting into it. Naturally, detritus sprays all over his chest, but he gives no fucks, shovelling taco into his face hole like a slightly defective, off centre machine.
“Alright, fair, fair. I get it. So…you gonna study Stevens anytime soon, or just…eat tacos? Speaking of, Rhys, I got a guy coming next week. Help with that sorta thing. We both know you could do with getting in better shape…”
“We’ll see Daf. I know what I’m doing.”
“Yeah and I don’t doubt it, but have you looked at the roster page, Rhys? Everyone else…”
“Looks like they live at the fuckin’ gym, yeah. I like a taco…so what? We’ll see, Daf. Okay?”
“I mean…even if he’s just a guy to ensure you could do some ring work with? Doesn’t have to be anymore than that, does it?”
“Assuming he’s gonna be here next week regardless, then sure, fuck it, why not. We’ll see how it goes.”
“Good. I’ll finalise things up with Sturt…”
“Yeah. His name’s Sturt.”
“That’s…a fucking weird name. Like someone halfassed calling him Stuart. Is it a gimmick name bro?”
“Nah. Shoot name.”
“Fuck, Daf. Odd name.”
A brief break, and the sound of lighter ignition ensues. Then a toke. Then the reappearance of the cloud of smoke.
“But, uh…Daf, bro, do you know how to make the PWA thing show me the Stevens match? I heard he had a match there or something? I attempted to watch some of it to find it, and it was…well…..confusing.”
“Old fucker. But yeah, I’ll come sort it out now, their app can’t be too hard…”
And that, dear reader, before our heroic protagonist decides to say something less than heroic, is where we shall part ways. Best we had. Knowing our protagonist, there’s a reasonable chance he might say something pretty offensive about one of the competitors on the PWA show, and, well…we’re going for good guy points here, aren’t we? And it simply wouldn’t be cricket to hear Rhys Townsend muse on why every wrestler on the PRIME website looks like some barely legal gay porn star, would it?
No. So here is where we beat our dignified retreat, and cliche as it may be, we fade to black, as it were.
SOM – Center
Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World