Have you ever had someone’s future in your hands?
I don’t mean that in the boring, predictable “I hire, I fire” way. I don’t even mean in terms of having the ability to inflict massive amounts of pain, break an arm or two, or render a career dead and pointless.
Actual life and death.
Very few have. Serial killers, military veterans, racists terrified by the concept of a bag of Skittles… a true smörgåsbord of personality and motivation. Some choose to kill to protect their country, some choose to kill because something just snapped in their brain and they couldn’t find their way home again. Some do it out of fear, not fully understanding “the other” and acting in a rash manner.
Very few find themselves in that position because they felt like it.
High Octane Wrestling is inundated with those who proclaim to be destructive forces. Those who will yell from the rafters they are willing to put their lives in their own hands for a chance at honour or glory. Some even try to create a narrative that they themselves would be willing to kill to get what they want.
It’s easy to talk. It’s much harder to follow through. That knowledge that to gain the smallest of upper hands for something that, at its heart, is simply a professional sport, you could deprive a family of their father, of their son, of their grandson (or indeed mother, daughter, granddaughter, I’m a narrator, we don’t even have the concept of sexism in the narration-realm).
That takes a special kind of human.
Cecilworth Farthington was about to cross that fog-laden bridge in the closing moments of War Games 2019. The rope was tied around the neck of young up and comer MJF. She was dangling like she’d just been pronounced a witch in Salem. The spunky attitude and desire to make people watch her eat hotel room service in a stunning display of self-importance, it was all about to amount to nothing as the blood drained away from her teeny tiny face. MJF was fading away as Farthington yanked the rope tighter and tighter, visions of the HOW World Heavyweight Championship danced in his head.
MJF struggled less and less as Farthington pulled tighter and tighter. The lifesigns faded and the ICON champion had an important decision to make.
Keep it up and have assured victory or show mercy and give an opportunity for his future success be washed away. You don’t have a century to make your call, sitting upon your Philosopher’s Bench and mulling over the moral implications. The adrenaline is rushing through your body and you have to decide now.
The grip loosens, the rope slips away. That life changing decision is no longer yours to make.
Someone else has an equal desire for gold and glory and decides to stab his own teammate in the back to achieve his goal. After all, unlike choking the life out of a helpless young woman who bit off more than she could chew, subterfuge against an ally is hardly a reason for a court date. All it does is break a heart, ending a years long relationship or mutual respect. That matters not with the right motivation – you get to be the hero, you win the shiny, you win the adulation and you get recognised as the man who saved a life.
John Sektor decided he was going to save a life and end a friendship.
Cecilworth Farthington is not a murderer.
The recently renamed but yet to be fully renovated Six Time Academy had been the home of the HOW World Champion, Cecilworth M! J Farthington for a good few months. He’d never really been driven to go property hunting or find a private space of his own. The thuds and groans of the trainee sessions had become more of a comfort than a hindrance – like a white noise machine for a fundamentally broken human being. Every so often, he deemed it appropriate to roll off the office desk he’d been using as a bed and stumble into the training ring to deliver exciting “training sermons”. Mike paid pretty well for them and considering he’d just burnt up any chance of inheriting the family wealth on his flight to Rome, he appreciated any extra penny he could squeeze.
It’s probably morning on a day of the week and Farthington staggers into the gym, bleary eyed and nursing a very large container of coffee as he wobbles his way towards the ring. It’s clear that his mental exhaustion hasn’t cleared up after his tag team match with Mike. If anything, the facial deterioration of the man has sped up at an exponential rate.
The Champion rolls under the bottom ropes and ushers out two trainees who were attempting to squeeze out every moment of their morning training session. Hurling himself up back to his feet rope by rope, Farthington claps his hands a few times and bellows out to the entire gym. Mike Best’s loyal trainees are quick to snap into the action, surrounding the ring.
Farthington: War Games 2019. Something changed that day. I’ve never been able to quantify it and I didn’t know it was hidden inside me until ole Leecifer decided to get cute with his last draft pick. I’d not given MJF a second thought until that moment. Until he decided to toss my potential victim into war once more.
Despite not performing a single athletic move in all of his morning duties, Farthington’s body is aching and exhausted as he leans himself against the corner, breathing heavily, in and out.
Farthington: Typical military general is Lee. Send his troops into battle, fully willing to have his hands dripping in the blood of his innocent soldiers while remaining unscathed himself. Truly Lee Best has evoked the spirit of a World War Two General. I just can’t believe that he decided to put poor MJF on the front lines after what happened last time. You’d have to imagine that the scars and trauma of a life almost lost must dance in her head daily. She must truly suffer PTSD at the very thought of entering such a match again. I’m certain she wouldn’t just bat it off in a false display of bravado. That would only lead to making the same mistake twice. That would be the actions of a fool.
Farthington takes a massive chug from his barrel of coffee, only half paying attention to where his mouth is even located. The drips and drops of coffee spill down his chin and onto his bare chest. The unfortunate souls who decided to have an early morning working at the gym who now surround the ring seem rather concerned as the legs of the HOW World Champion begin to waddle.
Farthington: Poor Mary Jane… that’s her name right? Mary suffered great pain that day. Her career really never recovered. Sure, she could go around yelling from the rooftops she was LSD champion… but… she almost took her last breath. I was the person who almost took it from her. She may have left with a scar around her throat but I left with one through my very soul. Watching the life bleed out from a fellow human by your hand, it can change a man.
Farthington puts down his coffee zeppelin and bellows for a trainee to get into the ring. Gary Tongueman, DDS, Farthington’s favourite of Mike’s current crop has often been the unwilling participant in all manners World Champion. He looks around at the scared crop around him and decides to offer himself up as tribute. For the first time in the entire morning, a small smile begins to creep over the face of Farthington. A weary, weak smile but a smile nonetheless.
Farthington: Thank you Gary, at least some people around here are still loyal to me.
The words of Farthington hover around the gym like a thick fog smothering everyone with uncomfortability. Farthington staggers out from the corner and begins to eye the nervous former dentist up and down, almost blinded by the beautiful set of pearly whites.
Farthington: Today’s lesson is something you would never get at a conventional training school. None of this Alan Ventura “tough love” bullshit that gets peddled at the fake Five Time Academy in god knows where. Today you are going to learn a bit about the harsh realities of the business. You are going to learn how a desire for greatness can change a man. Hell, it can kill who a man once was.
Tongueman is starting to quiver as the tension runs through his body, uncertain at exactly what his “mentor” has in mind for this life lesson. The mystery is quick to subside as Farthington drills a knee straight into his gut. The air is sucked from poor, unfortunate Gary’s lungs as the champion grabs him by the shoulders and spins him around.
Farthington: You have to ask yourself if you really want to destroy a fellow human in this business. Look at Gary, so eager to be involved in the industry but now he gasps for air like a fish finding land. Is that the life that you all seek? To decide your fellow man’s future by your own hand?
Farthington pulls his wiry but forceful arm right around the neck of Tongueman, blocking access to the air that he is currently desperately seeking. Gary struggles, wriggling and wrangling as best he can but all it achieves is giving Farthington the opportunity to lock the hold in tighter. The champion’s facial expression doesn’t change a single jot as he casually looks over to the now terrified gym rats.
Farthington: I realised a year ago that getting into this business is easy, there are independent promotions up and down this and many other countries that are willing to take on just about anyone with a basic training background. Hell, having small successes and a national career can come without any real sacrifice. A sporadic win here, a shock upset there, that’s not a hard path to walk. You can entertain people, maybe give them a few giggles along the way.
The dentist is forced to bite down on his own tongue as his body writhes in a mixture of horror and excruciating pain. His eyes begin to slowly roll upwards and the colour from his face fades to a pale nothingness.
Farthington: Just ask our new friends at High Octane Wrestling, 24K, they’ll tell you that I was something of an amusement to them back in the day. Something that they didn’t fear. They’ve started to see the change though. Grain by grain, it’s starting to tick down in their braggadocious faces what has happened to me. They don’t know why, that would require research, but they do know what…
Tongueman’s body begins to go limp, Farthington shifts his weight slightly and starts leaning against the ropes to keep the choke hold locked in nice and snug. Many of Mike’s trainees feel like they should do something but seem fearful in taking any action. They want no part of Farthington.
Farthington: Gentleman, ladies, to reach the top of the mountain, you need to be willing to change your moral code. You have to toss away the notion of your fellow man’s right to live.
As if to put an exclamation of his training session, Farthington lets go of Gary Tongueman, DDS and allows him to crash straight into the match, his skull bouncing against his canvas.
Farthington: Is he alive? Is he dead? If you are wondering those questions right now, you have failed this lesson. His status as a living mortal soul is inconsequential. He knew the risks when he got into the ring. He was a willing participant. He signed the social contract. If you are worried about your opponent, you will never inflict the damage required to reach the mountain top.
Treating himself as an all-conquering war hero, Farthington walks over to Tongueman and plants his boot atop his face, resting it there as he continues to lecture.
Farthington: After War Games last year, I decided that holding back on an armbreaker just gives my opponent an out. That it’s not my job to protect them. If they’re good enough, they wouldn’t find themselves locked in the Article 50 in the first place. I choose to break arms because if I didn’t, I’d be breaking souls. A broken arm will send you to the hospital but that trip is me showing mercy. That medical bill is me giving you a future. Joe Bergman was the first to realise that I care not for your next breath if it stands in the way of what I desire.
Tongueman begins to slowly show signs of life and Farthington stamps them out, literally, as he lifts his boot and drills it hard into the dentist’s face.
Farthington: In a week’s time, I will stand with the Group of Death in a true wild west situation. My undefeated streak is on the line, my World Championship is on the line, the one big match win that has eluded me in High Octane is on the line. MJF helped teach me last year that yes, I am willing to kill to get what I want. You all want to succeed in this business? You all should be willing to kill. Get the fuck out of the door if you’re not. That isn’t just a badass statement, an attempt to look threatening or cool, it’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to get to the top of the mountain and stay there. Concern for your fellow humans? Kill it. Kill that feeling inside your soul.
As casually as he started the sermon, Farthington picks up his coffee battleship and saunters out of the ring. He enters his office as Mike’s current crop of trainee’s rush into the ring to check on Tongueman. The scene of chaos that the HOW World Champion has created is quick to be interrupted by a loud scratching noise.
The trainee’s in the ring turn their attention and see their lead trainer and owner of the facility, Michael Lee Best dragging a chair across the tiles, each screech of the metal piercing their eardrums.
They say war is hell.
They say hell is other people.
It’s amazing that these two schools of thought we merge together like a beautiful DNA spiral on the 20th June 2020. Lee has really done it this time. I thought last year was something special, this one though… hoo boy. There’s a lot of hell to get through. I suppose the big question is – which circle do I even want to explore first.
Is it the circle where one of my closest allies in this entire industry, EVER, has been transmogrified into a white suited wanker? Mike tells me he’s a very different person and yet every time I look at his face, every time I rewind the closing moments of last week’s Refueled, I still see the face of Max Kael staring back to me.
The man who taught me how to use an ATM.
The man who celebrated the holidays with me.
The man who won the tag team titles with me.
Is The Minister truly a different man? Did he take over the vessel that was Max Kael? Or is that a lie that we tell each other to try and justify to ourselves his reasons for turning his back on the brotherhood. Sure, the Group of Death was never truly his scene, he was always tagging along in the background but… so was I to be honest.
An alliance of convenience, a business arrangement, we’ve explored this before. Mike wanted to work arm-in-arm with the best. Those who well and truly pushed the eMpire to their limits – Ms. Troy and Mr. Ryan. I should know, I had to survive eight thousand, seven hundred and twenty nine matches against Dan Ryan to cling on ever so tightly to my ICON and World Heavyweight Championships.
No one should have to go through a 97 minute long Iron Man Match.
The Group of Death started with Lindsay Troy and Mike Best taking a victory lap, out in the ring, by themselves. Me and Max, we were also rans in our own group despite having the Tag Titles, the LSD title and the World title between us. It was unspoken but both of us knew that the eMpire still lived and breathed within GoD. We’d let the talkative bunch draw the fire and ire of the likes of 24K and the Reddington Teddington Express and then myself and Max would mop up the piss.
It didn’t really bother me much, I was… I am… World Champion. The thing I wear around my waist is the special item that informs everyone that despite your ranking, despite your point scoring, you are not the best in this company. I am the best in this company. I am the best in this company and I have proven that time and time again.
So no, little babby’s first mind games aren’t going to be the thing that breaks me, Captain Lee, just for reference to you and your lovely little team.
What’s going to break me is standing across the ring from Max and have him pretend he has never met me. That he does not know me. That everything we achieved together, that every minute we spent together, that every plot and plan we made to bring the downfall of High Octane Wrestling itself never happened. I don’t understand it, I don’t understand what the shield of The Minister provides to the man.
If I kill The Minister, does Max get to live once more? That should be the question, that should be the weight that rests upon my shoulder. I need to slay the beast inside his mind so I can have my friend return to me.
I’m not convinced that Max wants out. I’m not convinced that he didn’t call on The Minister himself. A final parting shot at the group he felt he was never part of. Max Kael wanted to shit in the Group of Death’s collective eyes and leave us with the enduring memory of the unfortunate pink eye that would be to follow.
In some ways I get it, I’ve been feeling pretty resentful recently too. I can see why he’d want to hurt Mike, he broke their accords in his lust for another ICON title victory. Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy lost OUR tag team championships. Our own team had hurt him, had hurt us, perhaps The Minister was the product of the justifiable comeuppance for us all. Were that to be true though, there’s still the ultimate question rolling around in my head.
What did I do? What did I do to allow you to embrace The Minister? I have been nothing BUT loyal to you, to Mike, to the eMpire. I never side-eyed you once as you headed into War Games last year as the World Champion, I rushed to find you when High Flyer tried to kill you in a literal dumpster fire, I haven’t even said a word about the fact you broke into my families estate and stole my inheritance paperwork.
You didn’t think I would notice that one? You didn’t think I’d like that the bonfire I was setting was decidedly less ashy than I was anticipating? That you’d ruined my one moment of catharsis from being a free man finally? I never called it out, I never questioned it because as friends, I just assumed you had a need, a purpose to your actions. Perhaps even a plan that could launch us even further into the top tier of this, or indeed any, industry. The one moment I finally decided to take control of my life and Max Kael was there to ruin it and somehow, someway, I was totally fine with it because when you trust your friends, you believe that they are always acting with the best intentions.
Yet what, you were feeling a bit left out? You were feeling like you weren’t getting the attention you deserved? Is that why you unleashed the monster within, fucking jealousy? Jealousy that Mike had a couple of new toys he wanted to play with?
I should have seen this coming, I should have realised that you were making absolutely NO effort to actually get off of Lee’s War Games Team. You happily embraced your number one draft pick status and in that moment, YOU killed the eMpire because you wanted the fight.
That day in the cold winter air, as we rode together in that rickshaw, I pretended I wasn’t listening. I pretended that I was deafened by my headphones because I just didn’t want to listen to the reality… that greed had gripped my friend. That my friend couldn’t just be happy for my success. That my friend wanted a fight. He couldn’t accept that we be viewed as equals. He needed to know if he was better.
Now he will.
Hide yourself behind The Minister all you want but Max Kael was the one to open the door.
Max Kael isn’t The Minister? The Minister isn’t Max Kael?
I guess that means at War Games, I won’t have broken my vow.
The eMpire never fight.