Shinjuku Piccadilly Cinema Complex
Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Japan
Arthur Pleasant lies back in a comfy grey lounge chair inside a spacious auditorium. It is darkened within the vastness of the room as shadows and blueish lights from a specially contoured movie screen, designed specifically to capture a genuine sense of immersion, reflect onto his face, body, and popcorn bucket. Not another person seems to be within fifty feet of him as he enjoys, in true Japanese cinema-going fashion, the unique concession stand treat of buttered soy sauce popcorn. After stuffing a handful of this unique, crunchy, and salty snack into his mouth, he grabs the glass bottle of melon-flavored Ramune that condensates in the built-in cup holder. The marble inside the neck of the bottle rattles around as he sips back on the delicious sugary drink.
There are no other Grapplers Local 214 teammates by his side, watching whatever movie it is that, due to it being far enough away off camera, we cannot seem to discern. No Conor Fuse for a bit of levity amongst all the chest pounding and bravado being traded or insults and naïve proclamations volleying back and forth between fragile egos. No one-hundred and eighty degree turn around with Teddy Palmer to discuss, as industrious as two men with common goals can, the match strategy in the event he makes it past his greatest challenge. No Zeb Martin for Arthur to convince him to give Yuri Reznikov his fishing rod so that he could slide it back to him as a weapon during the match.
Nope. Not a single one of them is seated next to him. It’s just Arthur, his nifty refreshments, and some weird fucking anime film he couldn’t even understand.
One might think after his appearance in the earlier media pow-wow Arthur might be in the company of some of his teammates from the Grapplers Local 214, but that is simply not the case. No matter how swathed in synchronicity he may have been at the moment with Lindsay Troy- someone he has wrestled all over the country- neither she nor he would be caught dead in each other’s company outside any venue that didn’t involve a wrestling ring covered in blood, hostility, and unbound contempt.
Though they may not be friends and most likely never will be, as teammates in a wrestling match and as soldiers fighting the enemy in a fatal game of war, they might just be as unstoppable as two disagreeable people ever could be.
The comfortability soon becomes a hindrance as he feels himself slowly nodding off.
The Depths of Arthur’s Subconsciousness
Waves of blood and bone break onto an unknown shoreline. Something that looks like a femur washes up on the right side of him with sinewy remnants of bubbling flesh and deep tissue clinging to the most solid bone on the human skeleton. Arthur lifts his head from the sand and looks to his left, where he sees a skull with broken and missing teeth. Much like his own, as a matter of fact. Looking up into the sky, clouds of fire illuminate the vast lands of ash and ruin that await both his curiosities and inevitable approach.
“This is familiar.” Arthur thinks to himself, not even cognizant of the sleep he has slipped into.
His hands dig into the muddied, sopping-wet sands on this beach of foulness. A beach, mind you, with enough ghastliness on the surface that it might give the aftermath of the invasion of Normandy a serious run for its money. Standing up, he goes to wipe off the sand and crimson splotches that surely must have stained the front of his shirtless torso, but he immediately realizes there are no such splotches or stains anywhere to be seen. He looks back into the body of water he washed in from and sees how it has been replaced with a tundra of endless orange.
The voice of something hisses down upon him like an ethereal presence. “They’re here?” he thinks to himself. “Who is here?! Where is ‘here’?! Where the fuck am I?!” Arthur finally asks out loud to this voice, but it does not answer him back.
Arthur realizes he has a choice. Go back into the endless, desolate, ever-shifting tundra behind him, or advance forward to the razed city of ash that ominously awaits.
“Always forward. Never backwards.” Arthur mutters to himself.
The decision is made.
Arthur marches toward the blackened devastation of what seems to be a fallen city. A sign with missing letters hangs crookedly from above as he continues to move forward.
W_lcome To H__h _ctane Wrest_li_g
He continues walking away from the muddied and bloodied beaches filled with humanlike epidermises. Feeling something changing behind him, he turns around for just a moment. It is then that Arthur realizes the tundra has manifested into a solid wall of red, with hands, feet, and heads protruding in various spots through a pink, gelatinous casing, giving the appearance of afterbirth. This wall stretches for miles and miles until it disappears into the fiery skies above.
“Never look back.” Arthur quietly tells himself as he turns to face the wasteland in front of him. “What’s done can never be undone.” he then says aloud to the cosmic-sized vacuity making up this unknown, nightmarish location.
A few paces ahead, Arthur realizes he is simply moving in place. Like he is lumbering along on an invisible treadmill. The legs of our Curator of Chaos feel heavier than they normally would. This feeling continues to grow until he finally stops trying to move forward. Bent over with his hands on his kneecaps, Arthur acts as if he is out of breath, but he really isn’t. In fact, he isn’t even sure how he got into the position that he’s in or why he feels so compelled to bend over and caress his knees- but at some point he just goes with it.
Arthur’s head cocks and turns to his right until his fierce, stony gaze is facing a field of corn. A lone patch of knee-high inflorescence is surrounded by fields of fully grown stalks. Each stalk has been closely planted next to the other as their wild, stringy husks remain motionless- even in what felt like a brisk wind blowing behind him. As he approaches the young seedlings, he extends a hand out with his index finger pointed as far as it can go.
The moment he touches a leaf on the seedling, a scream cries out from the young patch and the entire cropping surrounding it withers and dies in an instant.
As the echoes from the seedlings carry out into this strange and horrifying atmosphere, perched beyond the remaining patch in the middle of the dead corn field and dressed like a scarecrow is Steve Solex.
This “scarecrow” suddenly lets out a wet, congested gasp. Arthur is not even taken aback by this as he approaches the bound-up and bleeding version of Steve Solex.
“What happened, Solex?! Did Lee find a better use for you?”
Arthur simply stares at the “scarecrow”, taking in the sight of all the dead crops surrounding it. Arthur slowly backs away, nodding his head.
There’s a reckoning coming.
Its name? Arthur Pleasant.
Every single one of you has sat there and staked a claim why you are going to win this match. Some have done it sensibly. But none of you have convinced anyone else of achieving this but yourselves. Some of your feeble attempts have revealed your own ignorance and exposed why you shouldn’t even be in this match. Instead, some of you should put the training wheels back on and go back to having your lunches eaten in the HOFC division.
You see… YOU… made me do this.
YOU… made me win War Games.
All of you.
Let’s just fucking call a spade a spade, okay? I shouldn’t even be in this match.
And yet… I am.
Nevermind the fact a retired HOW Hall of Famer has given me such great odds it has a lot of, if not everyone, hedging a bet on me. It’s just… true. I AM a favorite to win this. Whether any of you bitter loyalists who never had time to shine in the sun like it or not. Why is that I wonder, hm? It couldn’t possibly be because the rest of you can’t even tie your own shoes, let alone lace up a pair of boots to put me down… can it?
Few people are paying attention to you, Solex. I get why, too. It’s not a matter of forgetfulness or oversight. It’s… how do I put this gently? You just aren’t worth the time to anybody.
I don’t mean to have you and your entire being here torn asunder, but you haven’t won a single match since I arrived on the scene here in HOW. Pretty sure everyone has mentioned that at some point in time, so I don’t really want to beat the dead horse like everybody else on your own team does. Hell, the only match I’ve even bothered watching you in while I waited patiently for the ink to dry on my contract was the one where you got your fucking ass handed to you on a silver platter by a woman. A woman who is a Queen. A Queen who is the Captain of this team.
Before that, though? Can’t say, really. I haven’t had the inclination to go back that far and check out matches where you actually won or at least looked good upon losing. With War Games on the horizon, I have more pressing matters at hand than to jump in the trusty Time Machine and take a peek at when Steve Solex was a relevant fucking name in wrestling.
Alright, alright. Let’s jump in, set the dials, and take a trip down memory lane. I owe it to… someone. I guess.
WHOA. Now THAT was a fucking trip!
Wait, what is this I see?! Leave it to Stever?! Are you kidding me…?! This was an actual thing here?! Psst. It’s usually those with talent and charisma who host “shows” on a wrestling program. I’m sorry, bud, but this was doomed to fail from the get go. Hopefully, you blasted Lee for saddling you with something that most likely wound up on Wrestlecrap.
But that’s okay. Let’s push a couple of buttons… right here and… eerrrk right there. Okay. What is this? Alex Redding? Who the fuck is- ugh, no matter. What’s this lever do?
Brian fucking Hollywood, dude? Come ON.
Alright. Enough. This… this isn’t really working.
I’m sorry that our trip back in time didn’t showcase a better side of you, Steve-O. When you have a better side TO you, we’ll hop back in.
In the event anyone ACTUALLY gives a shit about you here, know that you made yourself a target in this. Seriously. When the battle-lines were drawn and you found yourself on the wrong side of this war? Fuck, dude. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of the experienced military vet turned HOW’s numero uno Papi turned whatever the fuck you call this version of yourself in War Games? They’d be stupid not to make that a priority. ‘Cause anyone who knows a thing or two about war and is in a match called WAR GAMES… should be the first one who gets his soul crushed. And that’s not me talking trash, Steve-O. That’s just good ole logic.
The reality of your situation is this: you Best hope you draw late in the game, bud, ‘cause if you want to see the end of this fucking thing? That’ll be the only way you get close to it.
You’re a real soldier, through and through. I respect that, despite my backhanded compliments that are probably getting under your skin like I am with the rest of the Best Alliance. Willing to fight for a country that doesn’t give one i-fucking-ota about you? That makes you tougher than a pair of Muriel Puddings’ panties, I must admit. Though that toughness might not translate well inside a wrestling ring, you obviously have a certain drive to make it in this sad and cruel world after your tour(s) of duty ended.
So I just want to say thank you for your sacrifice in protecting this country. I mean it. From the bottom of my cold, dead heart.
But come War Games? When you’re getting the shit kicked out of you?
Thank you in advance for yet another sacrifice.
Arthur continues to back away until his feet are back on gravel. Looking away from the now barren field of crops, Arthur stares ahead at the long and winding road. He is not sure where it is leading him, but he is compelled to see it through the end.
Feeling as if something is watching him, he looks down to see that the gravel has morphed into ice. Eyeballs stare back at him from underneath, moving in all directions. Though it is clearly ice, his footing feels solid. Arthur continues walking, mesmerized by the eyes that look up at him, wondering where exactly they came from. One thought leads into another, and that thought leads into another. And so on and so forth.
Through this passage, our Provocateur comes to a large bend. There are rails gilded in gold and shimmering with diamonds that gleam in front of a pile of gold coins. The pile has to be at least fifteen feet high. Millions of these coins pile high with a man on top of them.
This man’s eyes are gouged from his face and his hands and feet have been surgically removed. As he crawls on his cauterized stumps, trying to find something… perhaps a trinket? A diamond? It’s something priceless to him. But what’s of more significance here is that the man with no eyes is none other than Jace Parker Davidson. Blood runs down his cheeks from the holes where his eyes used to be as he ceaselessly searches for that prized possession of his, helplessly scattering the coins with his gnarly looking stumps.
Arthur notices a goblet floating in mid-air, with many dates etched into the front of it.
There’s no doubt in his mind that this is exactly what mutilated JPD is searching for.
Jacester. How… cute. Have you been throwing shade at me in your bitchy little corner over there? Hm? I believe you have. Twice now, actually. Calling me unimpressive yet all anyone seems to do in this match is save me for last.
(Hint Hint: That’s where the Best goes on, no pun intended.)
I must’ve really gotten under your soft-as-silk skin like a burrowing tick to be firing those synapses in your CTE suffering brain up so much. In fact, I must’ve gotten under your skin SOOOO bad that this is the reason you seem to only repeat things you selectively hear from a petty radio show and conveniently gloss over real facts in order to better fit your blurry field of vision while wearing those rose-colored glasses.
I actually admire the fact that you’ve won one of these things before and are a two-time World Champion in HOW. One of the longest reigning ones in history, too. Congratulations, Jace. It’s an impressive feat, certainly. Even if it was during another era and like five years ago or something. Which, in wrestling years, is like fifteen… but I digress. It tells me you know exactly how to win when the chips are down.
But the simple, life-sucking truth is that you rest on your laurels. You disappear when you think your legacy is cemented and covered in gold and diamonds. Then you show up out of nowhere when things get steamy and the competition from this era makes yours look like an entire era of Dark Matches. All-the-while expecting every Tom, Dick, and Harrison to worship the fucking ground you walk on.
No. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say eat shit with your bare hands, Jace. Swallow those squishy brown bumpy logs you pretentious, metastasized fucking cancer on the marrow of Scottywood’s emaciated, Make-A-Wish-Kid looking ass. You are about as impressive to ME as an engine made of bubble wrap pretending it’s a V12, so maybe you should shut the fuck up before you write a check your ass c-
– oh shit. Nevermind. Too late. Card declined.
But hey, you wanna sit there and gloss over how I destroyed your fucking shit-break of a teammate? It’s all good. You want to spin the narrative and pretend that I didn’t have Brian Hollywood nearly fucking killed for sneak attacking me in my debut, knowing full well that he’s too goddamn scurrrrred to face me in an actual ring OR cage? Um, okay. Sure. Like they used to say at BK, have it your way. Pretend away to your heart’s desire, laddy fucking buck.
‘Sides. You’re allowed to be wrong. You’re allowed to look like a hypocrite. You’re allowed to be a sad, unlearnt, sack of second-trimester aborted Best babies and not know what the fuck you’re even talking about. That’s why the 214 is running circles around pieces of shit like you that are supposed to be the roughest and toughest of the Best BESTEST version of the Best Alliance.
But if you insist on visiting Imaginationland? If you insist on pretending that I can’t destroy you just as badly as anyone else in this caged clusterfuck, then maybe you should just take a step back and watch your footing on that slippery road you’re on. ‘Cause it’s spider-cracking underneath you, motherfucker.
When it gives way? You will drown in a freezing lake of “Remember When”.
On a business run purely on “What Have You Done For Me Lately”, throwing your past at someone who can whoop your ass that wasn’t around then? Huge fucking mistake. Because all it takes is for someone like, say moi, to retort with, “Who gives a shit what JPD ever won since he just fucking quit working like the parts to a Yugo 55.” and annihilate your entire strategy heading into War Games.
I promise you, Jace. You get in my way? You’re going to wish you never put on the *sad face* and came crawling back to your FatherLee Figure. I mean, you probably already wish that after eating the pin from Zion, but still. I will just simply end you where you fucking stand and piss on your eliminated corpse until whatever sediment might be in said golden shower chokes you straight the fuck out of HOW again and sends you back to whatever worthless indie shithole you were proud to be “King Of”.
Climbing onto the golden rail, Arthur reaches up and grabs the golden goblet by its dual handles. Hopping back down to the frozen road of eyes, Arthur looks at something approaching him from a distance. He can’t even try to make out what it is, but whatever it may be, it’s heading straight for him in the middle of the road.
Moving on, he feels this world changing behind him once again as the outstretched limbs from the endless wall of red continue to chase him down.
“Always forward. Never backwards.” Arthur repeats to himself.
The figure up ahead gets a little closer, but he still can’t make out what or who it is.
Just as Arthur squints to decrypt the great riddle that lies ahead, the ground beneath his feet turns to a parched and jaundiced looking dirt. Tumbleweeds made of barbed wire and glimpses of what seem to be entrails cross between Arthur and this mysterious figure. The sight of this oncoming figure made him uneasy. Yet still, the gap between them closes with each passing second.
“What the fuck?!” exclaims Arthur as he realizes he’s looking at a black horse with an ancient, mummified body on its back. This disemboweled cadaver has sharp hooks buried into its legs and hands while both sets of limbs are connected viscerally to leather stirrups and reins, respectively. The red-eyed equine trots along the dirt road while the lifeless carcass bounces haplessly on its back.
Clay. I don’t have a lot to say to you that doesn’t involve cowboy puns and references to your swollen face (#Benadryl) So I’ll just keep this as brief as I can.
Things are just going swimmingly for you, aren’t they?
Sorry. I’ll try not to inundate you with the “going for a swim” shots.
Wouldn’t want to go overboard with them.
It saddens me to know that we won’t get the chance to meet in the ring on Sunday. It could’ve been a banger of a slugfest between us… maybe. But, in reality, doing so would mean getting past Teddy and becoming the LSD Champion. And that reality is pretty UNrealistic. And honestly, I don’t see a bloated (See?) goddamn cowboy (SEE?!) like yourself having the stamina or willpower to get past him. And if you can’t get past Teddy Palmer? No offense to my teammate over there, but you don’t stand a chance in fucking hell at getting past me.
But, for argument’s sake, say you do. Say you do, Clay. Say you pull off a genuine miracle and squeak by Teddy Bear. Call it… divine intervention? Call it… luck? Call it… absoluteLEE a one in a million shot. Call it whatever the fuck you wanna to call it, buckaroo. Point is, it’ll have been an exercise in futility considering I will drop you harder than you drop your “fuckin’” g’s. I will… what’s a good way to describe this so that you’ll understand it better?
Ooooh. I know. I will put you out to pasture you over-sized fucking dick-herder.
But seriously, though. If your big ass makes it out alive against Teddy? And THEN survives the unholy beat-down you’ll no doubt receive from Dan and Conor? You’re gonna wish you were back at the ranch, stuffing chili in your mochila, DREAMING of what it’s like to be on the same level as Arthur Fucking Pleasant.
‘Cause I’ve made a career, in Japan and across the world, running circles around wheezing, slack-jawed, moonshining fucks like you who couldn’t catch me in their best fitting mud pipes.
You survived shark-infested waters once, Clay.
But now there’s chum in the water and everyone’s fucking hungry.
So don’t done think tharr fer one howdy yee-haw of a second you’ll survive again, partner.
Arthur simply stands there in awe of this mummified rider, but as his gaze follows him back from where Arthur has emerged, he witnesses the wall simply absorb him into its ever-chasing necropolis.
Shaking his head, Arthur reminds himself once again, “Always forward. Never backwards.”
Arthur ambles along this path like a maggot slithering inside a festering wound.
“When will this end? Where is this leading me to?” he thinks to himself. Just as he thinks it, he sees a large building up ahead with great white columns holding up a roof that towers atop what looks to be a throne room. Once again the road he travels on changes, metamorphosing into flattened skulls like some kind of macabre cobblestone. The crunch of each step sends goosebumps up his spine as he marches closer and closer to this gigantic facade.
A gigantic wooden pyre has been set ablaze as headless worshippers kneel before the great inferno. Something lies at the very top, but he can’t quite figure out what it is. Arthur climbs a stony embankment that permits his entry under the roof of the throne room. Beyond the pyre sits an empty throne.
“Shall I sit down?” he wonders.
Arthur goes to climb the wooden verge when suddenly the same voice from before calls out to him.
As this unembodied voice hisses out to him again, Arthur feels a waft of defiance shroud him. He wants to climb up to the top of the pyre to see what, or who, is burning.
Realizing there had to have been a reason this voice kept calling out to him, preventing him from climbing into the burning pyre, Arthur turns his attention towards the empty throne. As he slowly walks to it, he can feel the all-consuming wall creeping up behind him, devouring the burning pyre and whatever lies at the top.
Finally arriving at the shining, prismatic throne, Arthur turns his body and sits down.
His sovereignty feels absolute.
His reign feels supreme.
Suddenly, the wall stops and simply stares back at him. The limbs moving around, reaching out to him from within.
Long live the King.
If there’s one thing I fucking hate more than ANY-GODDAMN-THING in this business, it’s people winning shit that they don’t deserve to win. It’s people holding onto accolades and achievements because of an exploit or glitch in the fucking matrix.
Like Careless Conformist Jiles over there. He pretends he’s a worthy champion and that his self-quoting, self-aggrandizing cuntiness is this ingenious style for others to marvel at when it’s actually more mind-numbing than anything Scott Stevens has vomited out in a noxious cloud of inferiority for a glorified pre-show match.
I shouldn’t be in this position already. On the cusp of becoming World Champion. But I am. And unlike your bitch ass for the past [insert however many years you’ve been here]? I’m going to make the most of it.
I can taste your rage. Yummmmm. It’s as sweet and bitter as a freshly cut pomegranate. ‘Cause, you’ve spent an entire career fogging up the window as you look in. Me? It took… what? Several shows? A couple of weeks?
Five matches. One even a loss.
That’s all it took for me to get noticed enough to be granted passage through this path.
And it kills you, Jiles. Fucking KILLS. YOU.
So sit there and weep.
Fucking WEEP for me, Jiles.
Weep so hard you cry and shit blood until minutes before you come out and join the War on Sunday. Because as hard as your tears are flowing right now? It will feel that much worse when you don’t win. To have to look up at me, or anyone else BUT you, on that screen in the Tokyo Dome that HOW will borrow as its HOV? Fuck, Jiles. That lump in your throat won’t be coming from a deep state of hunger, but an intense mental state of dejection.
The mere thought of it may frighten you, but that thought coming to fruition will be what fucking destroys you.
Had you any willpower or strength, you would’ve been World Champion long before now. Not just weeks removed from catching a normally dominant champion off his fucking game because he had the guts and fortitude to take on a double booking.
You’re but an asterisk in the history of that blessed belt, Jiles.
If you wanted it bad enough, you wouldn’t waste yours and everyone else’s valuable time mock-quoting yourself in some feeble attempt at being clever.
If you wanted it bad enough, everybody wouldn’t be saying the same goddamn thing about you and you wouldn’t constantly be playing tug-o-war with the entire 214 like you so obviously are right now. It’s like that old Klingon proverb or whatever the fuck adage from the days of yore, “If everyone is saying it… then there must be at least a hint of truth to it.”
Think about it.
Now be a good boy and hand me my title before the fate of your kingdom consumes you.
A nudge on his shoulder and Arthur awakens from his unexpected slumber. The bucket of soy sauce flavored popcorn had partially spilled on the floor at some point and drool escaped his parted lips the further he slipped into a state of unconsciousness. Wiping his mouth and smacking his lips, Arthur looks up and realizes who it is that nudged and rescued him from the warren of his own psyche.
His nemesis turned ally for a common goal.
That goal? Proving the Best Alliance didn’t hold dominion over High Octane Wrestling anymore. That it was an outdated group serving no one but a vengeful, hate-monger with a GOD complex.
He finds it ironic that she is the only person who bothered to share some space with him on the cusp of one of the biggest matches in wrestling history.
Could they actually trust each other?
“Hey, Creepshow.” Lindsay greets Arthur matter-of-factly.
Sitting down two seats away from him, LT sighs and looks forward at the nonsensical film up on the silver screen.
Arthur smiles and flicks a popcorn kernel at her hair.
As she shakes it out, for the briefest, most infinitesimal of moments… Arthur is positive that he saw a smile.