Let’s recap here quickly. You were my hero, Jack. And then you cost me everything.
You’re a legend in this World. I grew up idolizing you, wanting to emulate you. We even have the same birthday! Trust me, it’s not like I had any choice in that matter but it’s a pretty cool exclamation mark. We were going to be the co-op of HOW.
Then it went POOF in a red ring of death before I could even Press Start. You had to act qUiRkY and uNsTaBlE.
I could kill you for that. I could follow you around for weeks. Maybe even get you to sign a vintage NES controller of mine. Or an IWO GameCube cart that you’re the poster boy of. THEN kill you, lol.
I could… but I won’t.
Instead, I’ve decided I’m gonna teach you a lesson.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, you can’t teach my dad to play a PS5, either.
But I sure as hell can force him to sit there and watch me try.
Starbucks, somewhere in Chicago
February 2nd, 2021
“What are the stages of grief again, mom?” I’m sitting in the back of a Starbucks, waiting for my hot chocolate to cool. It’s waaaay too hot right now but I’m keeping a close eye on things so I don’t miss the optimal time to strike. There’s only so much time between warm-enough and then too cold. Sorry, I’m rambling again. These are not my main problems. I’ll try to stick to the point today. My mom tells me the stages of grief and I write them down.
Although she’s less concerned about explicitly telling me the stages. She’s not even that concerned for my physical health, either. Instead, she’s simply worried about my anger, something I don’t show too often. I’m fuming! I suppose I’m already in “stage two”.
“Ya mom, I can’t believe he did that to me!” I say. Okay, maybe I’m still in stage one, ‘denial’. “What the hell did I do to High Flyer to deserve that beating!? Last week he told me I could defeat EA Mike. That he is beatable. He’s ‘just a man’. I worked so hard to train for that match! Joe Hoffman was correct, I deserved a fair fight! Mike watched it happen, grin on his face and then fed me a knee!”
My mom is quick to cut me off. “You be nice to that Best boy. He doesn’t come from a good family.”
“He’s an idiot.” I snap back. “The guy takes everything personal. He’s so butthurt over every fine detail. Even if you tell him how good he is, he gets all like ‘I KiLlEd a gUy, fEaR mE!’ I could tell him exactly what he wants to hear and he’d still flip his shit!”
My mom isn’t listening, I can tell.
“What have you been doing with my care packages lately?” She asks, speaking about her stupid chocolate chip-banana cupcakes.
“Ummm, eating them myself. I’m not giving those to anyone, particularly Mike. You think he’d let that happen?”
“Honey,” she starts, “you can always make friends with treats and goodies. I think people are too scared of Mike to reach out. I bet you’d be surprised what you find if you did…”
This is nonsense. Ya, I’m basically “a virgin” who lived in her basement for years but even I know this will go nowhere. I hate when people on the outside think they know what’s Best (pun intended) when the reality of the situation is it would ultimately set you up for failure. Imagine…
Me: “Hi Mike, here are some chocolate chip coo-”
Him: FUCK YOU, MOTHER FUCKER. KNEE TO THE HEAD, GAME OVER!
Ya, that went well. Thanks, mom.
Back to Jack, though.
“So what do you think I should do about High Flyer!? Give him some of your special recipe brownies!?” No, dear reader, not THAT special a brownie. My mom has no clue.
“I don’t know what you do with High Flyer,” my mom states. “All I know is this should have been no surprise. You’ve been watching him since you were a kid. I agree, he does great things inside the ring, my dear. I closed my eyes when I used to watch him wrestle. Those risks he takes… it made everyone, including my special little guy, fall in love with him.”
I roll my eyes. “Mom, don’t call me that ever again.”
“Sorry, but you know you are.”
Either way, my mom has a point. It was always Flyer’s skills that drew me towards him. His personality… his unstable attitude… those came along for the ride. It was what skills he possessed that lured me in. He tricked me.
He tricked us all.
“I think you need to remind yourself not everyone out there will support you.” My mom quips. What the hell? That makes A LOT of sense. So why does she think EA Mike would actually like me- no, no more side tracking. Stop it, everyone else can go to hell right now. This is about me…
And finding out what I’m going to do with my hero.
“Yes, mother.” I reply. “I’m just… beside myself. He’s the LAST person I would have ever thought would take me down, no matter how unstable his attitude is. Maybe if I go to him and apologize. I probably pushed him too much. He didn’t seem like he wanted to talk to me about my cool power-ups. I bet it offended him. I probably goaded him into that short pep talk. He’s been working hard here but not finding a lot of success. Maybe he was just teaching me not to trust anyone. In fact, yes, that’s what he was doing, I’m sure of it! If I go and apologize-”
I cut myself off. I’m working through these stages of grief rather quickly!
“Honey,” my mom starts, “you need to be careful. I’m not sure that’s true. Where is your Game Boy?”
If you’re new(er) to my story, my Game Boy is a 6’6”, 300 pounds-of-pure-muscle hulking masked bad-ass, who I’ve decided to leave behind since I’m into this do-gooder thing. Sure, he helps me out here and there in the gym. He purposely kicks my ass and toughens me up when I need it. It helped against Scottywood at ICONIC. I beat The Hardcore Artist at his own game. I made a statement in HOW that night. I’m not so sure my Game Boy can do anything for me now, though. These stages of grief and what to do next… I need to do this without him. He can only inflict physical pain. What High Flyer did to me…
Was more mentally devastating than anything else.
“I left him. I don’t need my Game Boy.” I’m starting to be short with my own mother. “In fact, I don’t need anyone. I’ll sit here and wallow in my self pity. I suck. Everyone hates me. Even the CROWD hates me. They cheered for Flyer and Mike. That’s… some harsh reality check right there, mom.”
I lower the phone from my head. I really don’t want to hear my mom’s reply. Why am I hated now? Because I like video games? Maybe because I talk to my own mother? Oh, because I try to be fun? I could reboot myself… start all over. Be something totally different in High Octane.
Be something they, the fans, want.
WAIT a second. Hold that thought, Conor. You may be onto something. Circle back to this later on!
I decide to lift the phone back to my ear. It’s rude not to listen.
“-and because they desire violence.” I caught the end of my mother’s rant. “But you are not violent, Conor. You have such a big heart and you can give HOW fans-”
Tuning out again, sorry mom, I gotta.
She’s right on the violence thing, though. That wouldn’t be such a bad direction. I just need to move into the acceptance stage, finish this grieving shit and then find out how to pay my hero back. He did what he did. Now I’ll do what I do best.
No, not video games. The thing I do second best.
No, not that, either. Get your mind outta the gutter.
I’ll fix my phrasing: One of the MANY things I do well. Out-think my opponent. Have him play into exactly what I want. After all, games don’t need to be played with a controller in your hands…
“You’re right, mom.” I jump in, assuming I know what she’s talking about. “He did what he did. I have to come to terms with it, the tournament is yesterday’s news and losing my hero was probably going to happen sooner rather than later.”
My mom starts up again but I don’t have the patience for it.
“I know what I’ll do.” I say with a smirk. “I’ll make his life a living hell. Thanks, mom. Love ya. Say hi to dad for me.”
I look down at my hot chocolate. I forgot all about it. It’s stone cold.
“DAMMIT!! THIS SHIT ISN’T FAIR!! TOURNAMENT! GETTING JUMPED FROM BEHIND! AND NOW MY HOT CHOCO IS COLD!” I slam my hands down on the table. The patrons at Starbucks stop what they’re doing and look in my direction.
Maybe these stages of grief aren’t so linear than I initially thought…
… … …
Best Castle (Arena) Parking Lot
February 3rd, 2021
It’s been a few days since I got kneed in the head. I’ll be honest, I kinda liked it. More please. It’s really helping me become more comfortable here. It reminds me HOW is not a nice place to play.
I’m sitting on the hood of my purple Chevy Sonic, amidst the empty High Octane parking lot. I like to come here at night. Usually, I find my way into the building. No, I don’t have keys. No, I don’t think Big Boss would appreciate me using his arena for my own agenda. But I’m all stealth at these late hours, no one’s caught me yet. Metal Gear Solid has nothing on me. However, tonight I’ve decided to just chill outside. Waste away on the hood of my car, taking in the events from three nights ago. The dark, unlit Best Arena looms over me like some final boss’ castle. Sometimes it’s rattling to look at… simply standing there… as if it’s mocking me. Inviting me back in next week. Who knows what will happen to me then. All the hate, anger and torture that goes on inside those walls.
If those cement walls could bleed, I bet they would. If they could talk, would they have warned me this was going to happen?
I stare at the building. I feel denial, anger, acceptance… something like that. I don’t remember, I left the five stages of grief on a napkin at Starbucks after my freak out. It’s hit me that I’ve become rather unstable myself lately. I got so mad when Scottywood punked me around this complex for weeks on end. I was in this freefall, on a losing streak of matches and I needed to find my way out. I ended up getting my head on straight and using The COO’s tactics against him. I bated him into a hardcore match at ICONIC, knowing full well if I could pull off a victory on the biggest stage possible it would do a lot for my singles campaign.
Now… could I be able to do the same with my hero?
Tell me, Best Castle, do I have that inside me?
Scottywood. High Flyer. I’m not here to compare. They’re both very different people. One guy I had no respect for but he’s a HOW Hall of Famer. The other I had too much respect for… I idolized him. And while he’s not a HOW Hall of Famer, he’s a wrestling legend, someone who the average fan recognizes instantly. He’s a wrestling HoF.
But what do I want from Jack? Do I want my revenge? With Scotty, I used him. Used him to receive an ICONIC match and worked like hell to defeat the Hardcore Boss at his own game.
What’s my play here? I know I want to hurt Jack. I know I want to make him sorry for breaking my heart. He has no idea of the things I wanted to accomplish alongside him.
Maybe, we can still get there.
I’m reminded of the VHS tape I collected earlier, before my tournament fight, from one of the BOTS in production. A real vintage High Flyer match from back in the early 2000s. I jump off my hood and pop open the trunk. The tape is sitting right there and I pick it up…
I can only imagine what I would have learned from this. You see, I’m a big wrestling tape trader. Ya, I do more than game. I’m into everything that’s cool, dude. Video games, comic books, wrestling.
The tape trading hobby is ancient. It’s a lost art.
But I keep my collection going.
And this was meant to be the icing on the cake. A rare High Flyer match hardly anyone knew existed.
I planned to study it. Watching and learning from the master himself. Emulate my hero. We have similar skills and I needed to continue working on mine to survive in HOW. There are many incredible Bosses to battle and I am only starting to come into my own.
My plan was to take this tape and view it after Refueled. Win or lose vs. EA Mike, I would vow to get better. I would circle back to High Flyer, perhaps not only to ask him for more life advice…
But see if he’d like to join me upon watching his matches.
Since the events of his double-cross, this rare VHS tape sits in the trunk.
I’m becoming so angry thinking about what took place, I’ve almost crushed the tape in-between my hands.
“I could grab the entire collection…” I say to myself. “I could take every High Flyer VHS tape I own and crack them across that bitch’s head. I don’t need them anymore.”
Jeez… how am I going to manipulate this situation if all I’m seeing is red? Stages of grief be damned.
I’m already counting the High Flyer tapes I own. Trust me, I can roll through the number easily. When you care this much about something… someone… you know how many you own.
I feel a sadistic smile crossing my face.
“Teach him a lesson, Conor…” I say out loud. “Make him get the memo. Just like Scottywood got the memo.”
There’s only so far you can push me.
Because I won’t back down and I will push back.
I’ve definitely cracked the top of this VHS tape by now. “It’s okay,” I say out loud again, as I toss the tape into the trunk, “I’ll make sure I bust it for good when I have the chance.”
Jumping into my car, I’ve decided I will no longer need time to think. The ominous Best Castle has done enough for one night. I have my answer.
I want to murder this man. Make him pay for hurting me.
I decide right then and there how to do it. I want a match at March to Glory. The details on this event… I don’t specifically know yet. Big Boss hasn’t made that announcement.
But I want it.
And I’ll get it.
I embarrassed Scottywood on the biggest stage possible. The Hardcore Boss ate a hardcore joystick up his ass.
The Lunatic will be met with the same fate. And I’ll beat him at his own game, too. He’ll see.
Off I drive. My plan: go home, collect all my High Flyer tapes and say goodbye to them one by one… as I punch them through that arrogant, fallen hero’s skull.
I don’t need them anymore. I don’t need… him.
I guess I’ve come to accept that.
I’m going to teach you a lesson, Jack.
What is that saying? “Don’t meet your heroes”? It’s good advice but I did and we’re here. After March to Glory, however, you’ll learn a brand new saying whether you want to or not.
“Don’t meet your heroes”?
It’ll be “don’t meet your fans.”
Wait ‘til you see the premeditated plan I have laid out for you…