Everyone had a different path to walk down, heading to War Games this year.
Some of us went straight to the Ukraine, some stayed behind to prepare for the physical and mental strain.
That’s what War Games does to you.
As for me?
I’m smack-dab in the middle of the States, still learning the ropes…literally and figuratively.
And that’s just fine by me.
The big one for me was accepting my role in this team.
That one’s especially important, because there is a certain expectation of ol’ Xander going into this match.
I’m aware of what people are thinking of me.
Whispers and murmurs that both sides of this little war might be looking down on me.
And to that I say…screw ‘em.
Let them think what they want, I will go in and do my thing.
I will take these lessons being learned, and show everyone just what I’m made of.
That’s how I get the whispers to stop.
By knocking some heads together.
After all, before all this started I made it clear as day what my focus is.
The road to this match was paved in twists and turns.
I went from being chosen to represent the office, to being an outcast yet again.
And the man at the center of all that?
The man that seems to think I’m too nice. Too soft.
I don’t think he realizes just how personal he’s made this for me.
I get it, Lee.
You’re still mad at me for daring to challenge you last year.
So, when you came back from something resembling death’s door, and you saw that I qualified to be on Team Best, you just couldn’t handle that.
No, you shuffled me off to The Boys and that was the end of it.
So sayeth the GOD of HOW.
That hasn’t been lost on me, Lee.
That’s why I’m gonna prove you wrong.
I’ll prove them all wrong, when this is over.
I beat Chris Kostoff to get in this match. I beat Brian Hollywood in HOFC.
And everyone’s trying to make a mockery of it.
Because that’s what people want to do.
They want to downplay any success you might achieve, just to make you feel small.
But I won’t let that get to me.
I won’t let Lee’s little remarks get under my skin.
I won’t let The Boys’ doubts give me any.
And I sure as hell won’t let The Board and Their Amazing Friends think they’re right.
I will walk into War Games, stand alongside the team I belong to, and prove my worth.
Everyone wants to win this match.
I want to make a statement.
I am ready for war.
“Right, so I have a special lesson for you…though it won’t be me teaching it.”
Joe points to the door behind Xander, who turns to see Ray McAvay enter the Barn with a smirk on his face, remembering his teammate from last year’s War Games.
“Good to see ya again, Xander. Congrats on making it to War Games again this year, hopefully things fare a bit better.”
Xander nods sternly, accepting the statement for what it was…a statement of hope.
“I talked to Joe, and I think you’re ready to learn one of the tricks of the trade around here. I think you’ll remember what I did to Jace Parker Davidson last year, as a bit of revenge for what he put me through?”
Xander nods again, recalling vividly the moment JPD set McAvay on fire and all the headache that came of that…along with the fireball Ray gave Jace in retaliation at War Games itself. At that moment, Xander’s eyes widen, a display of excitement present on his face at what Ray was offering.
“Holy shi—I’m learning the fireball!?”
Ray gives a nod and a smile.
“The one and only. Figured you might like that, I think it suits you.”
See, Joe and Ray get me.
That’s why Joe is the coach, and Ray is the homie.
Stuff like this gives me a boost of confidence, something I greatly need heading into battle at War Games.
Especially against men that think they can waltz into this match after some of us actually earned our spots.
A man like David Noble, who betrays his namesake.
I’m not mad that you sent John Sektor to what seems to be an early retirement with a knee.
Would’ve liked to have been the one to do it, but it is what it is.
No, my issue is with Lee Best deciding “hell yeah, that’ll do it buddy, you go on and join War Games.”
Maybe he sees the potential in you to be great.
Or maybe, he’s just so desperate that he sends in a man whose sole focus is taking out Conor Fuse.
Holy shit David, we get it.
You feel betrayed.
When Conor had a chance to sort things out for the War Games squad, he overlooked you.
You might think it’s a shock, but I don’t.
Before the Maurako Cup, what did you have going for you?
Sure, you beat me—once, might I add—but what else?
You haven’t won a championship here.
You’ve barely earned or received title shots here.
So where’s all that talent going?
Or have you been saving it up for this moment?
To get back at the man that gave you any sort of relevance in High Octane Wrestling?
The best thing you’ve had going for you was getting paired up with Conor Fuse, and that was purely out of sympathy.
You could’ve been dumped from the tournament altogether, or else possibly saddled with a less than enthused Doozer the entire time.
Instead, you made it to the finals! You got so close, just barely getting edged out by Sektor and Ellis.
If I wanted to be a real prick, I’d say you have Conor Fuse to thank for that.
That’s why I find your little revenge tour so amusing.
You really said to yourself, “hey, what’s the best way for me to get back at my former tag partner, the man that helped carry me through a tournament? I know…I’ll enter War Games, where six other people are gonna stand between me and my objective!”
That’s a bold strategy Noble, let’s see if it pays off.
You’ve got your blinders on, Davey boy, and that’s gonna cost you big time.
I may not have been enthused about where I ended up in this match, but I’ve learned to accept it.
You, on the other hand, are gonna have to accept that you won’t be getting what you want.
No sweet morsel of vengeance is coming your way at War Games, David Noble.
Just the bitter taste of defeat…and this fist against your skull.
Later That Day…
“Alright folks, great job today. You all really held your own here in this ring, and I respect that.”
We find ourselves back in the ring where a training session has just concluded for the evening. Basic warmups, some fundamentals, and a series of practice matches to make sure everyone was good to go. Some of these men and women would be competing on the pair of loops being made over the next few days, and others still needed some fine-tuning before they go out there in front of the hot crowds.
Joe dismisses his class for the day, before speaking with one of the younger students that came in, giving the young man some much-needed affirmation after really showing some promise, and that he was picking the basics up really well. With that, Joe turns his attention to Xander, who smirks at what he’s just seen.
“Really giving the young one a once over, eh Coach?”
Bergman is terse in his response, giving a nod of acknowledgement before quickly moving to a different topic.
“Xander I think you’ve really taken well to the training the past few days. I’ve got one more match for you to compete in before you head off to the Ukraine, and one more lesson to go along with it.”
Xander smiles, delighted for the opportunity.
“Excellent! So, which loop am I hitting up Coach? Am I going to St. Louis? Do I get to be on the Six O’ Five?”
Joe chuckles, but ultimately shakes his head.
“No, no, I have you heading to Wichita for a house show…but you’re in a singles bout, and I’ll be in your corner. Seems the Dark Overlords of Wrestling aren’t quite through with you yet, so Chris Escondido has made the challenge to see what you’re made of.”
Xander rubs his hands together, eager to take on the man who calls himself No Frills.
“Sounds great, Coach. So what’s the lesson, then?”
“To trust in your talents. I know a lot of folks have looked down on you, but you have a lot of promise. Your work in our tag matches is evidence of this, and I think if you have a bit of faith in what you can do, you can overcome Escondido in Wichita…and you can show people what you’re capable of at War Games.”
I know what I can do…but the coach is right.
There have been times when my faith has wavered.
When I stumble, and fall.
And really, who knows stumbling and falling more than Scott Stevens?
Look at you, Scott.
The state of your appearance, buddy.
The state of your audacity, too.
The record books will show that Jeffrey James Roberts is a cheater…but those same books reveal Scott Stevens to be a garbage human being.
And yet, here you are.
Lee Best put you out on the damn street for your transgressions, despite all those accomplishments and awards you built up for yourself in HOW.
Forced you into retirement.
Yet, the moment he needed a replacement—an extra body in the squad—and called you of all people for the occasion, you come prancing back in like you own the damn place.
Like you’re somehow the hero of this story.
Especially with your little stunt at the Six O’ Five, acting like you aren’t still suspended indefinitely from MVW.
What does that say about Lee Best?
Does he have so much faith in his precious Board that he can bring anyone in to fill the ranks?
Or is he just that desperate to make sure he has a full squad heading into War Games?
After all, you have a big man looking to cause some damage in Stronk Godson.
You have David Noble, a man looking solely to take down a former friend and tag partner.
You have The Board, easily the core of that squad.
And then we have you.
What is your role here, Scott?
At least with Scottywood I know what to expect.
The man is out to cause some anarchy, something I can actually respect ever so slightly.
But with you, I just see the antithesis of what I’ve been learning about myself the past few days.
See, I’ve been deemed “too nice” for whatever reason, but I look at you and I think…if being successful means going down a road even similar to yours, I can do without.
That said…no one will accuse me of being too nice at War Games.
You, least of all.
Out of all the signs of Lee’s desperation to have a winning squad, the fact you got dragged into this makes me sick.
You did the absolute least out of everyone to be in this match, and I’m gonna make sure to beat that fact into you, over and over again.
With every punch, with every kick, with every knee and elbow, I’m gonna make sure you take enough damage to realize just how futile it was taking this offer.
Whatever Lee offered you to come in for War Games, I’m gonna make sure you have an internal debate about whether it was worth the pain coming your way.
Maybe then you’ll fuck back off to whatever dumpster you crawled out of.