We find ourselves somewhere backstage at the home of Manchester United, the excitement buzzing in the air as March to Glory rolls on…but for one man, there is no glory to march to. For one Xander Azula, there is only shame as he and his Eternal Circle crew look to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible. One cannot blame ol’ Xander for looking to escape, the man has been through the ringer tonight…losing to Darin Zion for the third time will do that to ya.
They shove past the likes of Brian Bare, Moise Blair, and every stagehand that gives them a stare as they get to the nearest exit. All the while, any question sent his way gets met with one answer, repeated over and over in the course of ten or so minutes.
“No questions, please.”
Needless to say, Xander is in no mood to chat as he rushes out the door, looking to get a breath of fresh air on the outside as he looks to the Manchester evening sky. The same thought keeps running through his mind over and over again on loop, the thought of just getting the hell home and taking a nice twenty-four hour cooldown on everything. The crew eventually make their way to the parking lot, where the first bit of luck seems to strike for the Fighter as he sees a black cab parked nearby, hustling to get in and get away from Old Trafford for good…completely unaware of what is going down in the meantime.
Indeed, the news coming out of March to Glory and the early news about this year’s War Games only reaches the Fighter the next morning when he powers his phone back on at the hotel, upon which he finds himself flooded with a bevy of notifications and messages about the whole situation. The questions are already being thrown his way about his involvement this year…but every question is met with the same answer as before, a heavy sigh from Xander as he sends the message repeatedly over the course of roughly seven minutes.
“No questions, please.”
It’s a phrase Xander is willing to repeat until he’s blue in the face, as the reality of his predicament starts to finally settle in; losing to Zion means sitting out of the LSD title picture for now, and the last thing he really wants to think about is whose side he needs to be on for what could be his third War Games in a row. Does he really want to go through all that mess one more time? That’s a question he simply cannot answer right now, because he just received a text message from Thomas Crowne that is going to ruin the rest of his day.
“They’ve got you up against Clay Byrd again. Try not to die, LOL”
That’s at least ten more than people seemed to expect me to last against the Monster from Plainview, but as I look back on what went down at Chaos 8 I realize it just wasn’t enough. Simply being in that ring that long is never enough, when the outcome isn’t in your favor. Nobody was patting me on the back for lasting seventeen minutes, or even that I nearly knocked you flat on your ass with the Fist of Eris. All that history will remember of the night is you connecting with the Texas Lariat and getting the win.
In case you can’t tell, it’s been a real pain in my ass the past few months. Much like this incessant need to get one over on Darin Zion, I’ve been chomping at the bit for even an ounce of revenge against the former HOTv Champion, the man who’s had his own run of ups and downs in the two years he’s been in this company. My mind immediately flashes back to Chaos 21, when you had your chance to get a crack at the HOW World Championship. All ya had to do was beat Conor Fuse…and ya blew it.
I can relate.
So now we’re at a whole different sort of crossroads the week after March to Glory. I’m looking to bounce back, to hoist myself up and move the hell on from that bit o’ heartbreak…and you’re just looking to get a win again. Way to set your goals high, Clay.
Welcome back, by the way…I sure hope you enjoyed your nice little rest the past month and a half. I hope you got to watch as the machine rolled on, life in High Octane Wrestling moving on without little ol’ Clay Byrd, with a vastly different landscape than when you were last here.
Well, not that different. Hall of Famers continuing to reap the rewards of their past success, Scott Stevens continuing to ramble on every week, and Jace still doing Jace things even with one less eye. Anyway.
I hope you’re all healed up, because if you’re any less than one hundred percent I am gonna make your life a living hell in Chicago. I’m just angry enough after the shit I’ve been through this month to take it out on a Monster who’s lost his bite.
I said what I said.
Deep down, I think something changed after you had your little exhibition at that first PWA show. I think Brandon Youngblood took something out of you that you just haven’t fully gotten back…a nice little hole in the armor, being pried open more and more by the likes of Dan Ryan and Conor Fuse, to the point where you sat your ass down at home and kept to yourself.
Meanwhile, I kept myself nice and busy the first couple months of this year. People can point to my record and say whatever they want, but I will point them toward my tenacity, my willingness to do whatever the hell it takes to command respect…and I’m gonna command the hell out of it from you at the Best Arena.
Clay Byrd, waltzing back into HOW as a War Games captain despite showing little resolve this past month. You know what that tells me, Clay? It tells me Lee Best sees you as a complete non-threat in 2023, unlike in 2022 when you at least had your fellow Highwaymen to back you up…and that, in turn, tells me the opportunity to strike is here.
This is as good a time as any to take the cowboy down a few notches, to remind the Monster from Plainview just what he really is…a man in dire need of some friends this time of year. Only without the Highwaymen around, who’s gonna help ya? Harrison’s doing lord knows what, Bergman is too busy dealing with his own issues to care, and Solex turned his back on you a while back…leaving you all on your lonesome against an angry, hungry Fighter. It’s time to stop letting the reputation of Clay Byrd keep me from taking what’s rightfully mine…respect.
So here’s the plan. I’m gonna punch myself a big ol’ hole and tear right into you, Clay, and I’m gonna do it for however long I need to get the job done. Five minutes, ten minutes, seventeen or more…it doesn’t matter, because this time I’m knocking you flat on your ass, where you belong. And then I’m gonna pick up the biggest win of my career. When the ref raises my hand, it’s gonna leave the War Games captain begging me to join his squad.
And I’m gonna stare you right in that stupid cowboy face of yours, I’m gonna laugh, and I’m gonna tell you to fuck off. We’ve been down this road before, and I didn’t like the destination…so why let myself down yet again? After I beat the hell out of you in Chicago, I’m gonna take a page from your playbook and disappear for a bit.
I’ll let the chips fall where they may where WarGames is concerned, but I sure as hell am not gonna be anyone’s rally monkey this year. I am a businessman, Clay, and I will only do business as it suits my needs going forward.
See you in Chicago, Bitch Ass Byrd.
“Hold up, you did what exactly?”
The question from Thomas Crowne threw Xander for something of a loop as the Eternal Circle entered the pier area, watching as the tourist crowds prepared for a fun St. Patrick’s Day weekend ahead…but for the Fighter, the only thing that mattered was getting ready to face the onslaught of Clay Byrd at Chaos 25.
So, the question confused Xander a great deal, forcing him back to reality as he just stares at his junior member of the Circle. After a moment, the subject of the inquiry finally clicks in his head, a look of relief on his face as the Head Disciple finally responds.
“Oh, right, I uh…I got a deal done with Gunn at the end, there.”
The subject of Xander’s business meeting in Hayward was not touched on during the trip to Manchester, or even the trip coming out…not with Xander’s mood being as sour as it was after March to Glory. Azula spent so much time trying to get his focus back that all discussions on that extraneous matter were shelved…until now.
“Well yeah, you said that already. But what does that actually mean?”
Xander was surprised to see Crowne so adamant about needing a response, but was willing to chalk it up to sheer curiosity. It was Thomas, after all, who had to bring up the troubled history of the Circle when the issue was forced upon them just weeks prior…it stood to reason that he would be eager to understand what was going on. Something about this drew a chuckle from the Fighter, which only confused Crowne all the more…a reaction waved off by his leader.
“Sorry, I was just thinking back to a few months ago, when none of this Eternal Circle stuff really mattered outside of our little group here. It’s weird how people pop back up in your life at the strangest of times, ya know?”
Crowne furrows his brow, unsatisfied with the answer given…but, realizing that Thomas wouldn’t let this go otherwise, Xander finally relents with a more thorough response after letting out a heavy sigh.
“Okay, fine…despite the weird call I got before, there is no actual legal issue at play. We’re in the clear now when it comes to the Eternal Circle name, which is good because we need to focus on what’s next. I told you lot I was gonna start building up something new…and to do that, the Circle needs to step out from the shadows.”
“Well that’s all fine and good,” replies Crowne, still not fully on board with what Xander is giving in response to his concerns, “but what’s the plan? Are we still focused on whatever in-ring goals you have in HOW?”
Xander nods to this, the smirk widening to a full smile.
“Oh, that we are,” Xander says with a chuckle. “There are deals to be struck with War Games on the horizon, but for now? I just need to focus on bouncing back, on picking up a win. Clay Byrd is an intriguing dragon to chase, one with a big prize to collect upon slaying.”
This final remark seems oddly metaphorical, causing his followers to look at him with even more confusion…but he no longer chooses to elaborate on the matter, even when Vagn Dahl starts to chime in…causing the Head Disciple to simply shake his head, repeating a familiar phrase one last time with a subtle twist.
“No more questions, please.”
Xander turns his attention elsewhere, leaving the group to ponder what his next steps are as we fade to black.