June 5th, 2021
Futagoyama Sumo Stable – Day 16
“Matches don’t begin for another five minutes.”
“I know,” I reply, looking up at Masato.
Masato bows his head, and respectfully I mirror his gesture. I had just finished sweeping the inner circle of the training ring before taking my place behind one of the white chalk lines. The soles of my feet are planted on the dusty surface, and I’ve crouched down into my starting position. My elbows rest against the interior of my knees, my clenched fists grazing the loose powder covering the rice straw bales.
I’m set to begin the one-on-one training versus Ozutsu, whom I have clashed with daily. I was a fish out of water in our early battles, having been dominated by the professional. As I’ve progressed with my training, our matches have grown in duration and he hasn’t claimed victory quite as easily. As I enter my final day of training, I can proudly boast that I’ve handed the talented rikishi a couple of tightly contested exhibition losses.
Of course, I’m not delusional enough to think those victories have changed a damn thing in this stable.
I am very much still an outsider within these hallowed walls, and my presence will not be missed when I’m gone.
Perched in my pose, Ozutsu eyes me from across the training center. He sits cross legged on the hardwood platform that stretches perpendicular to the workout equipment, where the majority of the Sumos are gathered. He won’t step foot in this ring a minute before 9 AM, waiting to be called upon by Masato. It’s been our routine the past week, a cerebral game the two of us have been playing with one another. He refuses to break his emotionless stare. I continue projecting the image of a man ready for war.
I present my opponent with a smile and close my eyes.
“Hey fucker!” Red’s cheshire grin greets me. “Still thinking about short circuiting Fuse with that knife?”
“You again?” I groan. “For fuck sakes.”
The training center has emptied out, aside from the two of us. Darkness has encompassed the majority of the room, save the spotlight illuminating the ring we’re standing in. I pace back and forth behind my white chalk line, whereas he stands still.
Calm, cool and collected.
“I never left.”
“The fuck you didn’t. I haven’t seen your sorry ass in over a year. We haven’t said two words to one another. Hell, I don’t even know if you’re alive.”
“You’ve got me on life support, Cochise.”
“The fuck I do.”
“So long as you keep holding onto that note, you sure as shit do,” he winks as he fires a finger gun. “And the nerve of ya! Saying we haven’t said two words to one another. Hah! I speak the same two words to you daily. I Quit. I Quit. I Quit…”
Reaching into the back pocket of my jeans, I pull out my wallet. Flipping the one fold leather piece open, I reach into the flap behind my card slots. Yanking out the tattered napkin, I unfold it to see his legible cursive sharpied in it’s center. Forcing a half laugh, I hold it up for Red to see.
“This thing? Don’t flatter yourself, dipshit,” I continue to pace like a caged animal. “This is a reminder of the promise I made myself. It represents the lowest point of my career. It represents the weakest I’ve ever been physically. It represents the loneliest I’ve ever felt. It’s a fuckin’ receipt, buddy. Written on it is the price I had to pay to chase my dream.”
“Oh yeah? Well tell me this Teddy Boy,” he holds his hands up and outward, “is the price worth the cost of admission?”
“You showed me who you really are. So yeah man, it’s worth it.” I wave the note in my hand. “And when I fulfill that promise. When I become the fuckin’ man around these parts. I’ll have a hearty laugh when I wipe my ass with this, and say ‘Go Fuck Yourself San Diego’ for the final time.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Fine,” he begrudgingly agrees. “That’s all well and good, and I’m super pumped I’ve served as the fuel to your motivation rocket aimed at the stars. Touched, I am. But there’s one thing you’ve completely overlooked when it comes to that hanky pinched between your fingers.”
“Enlighten me,” I sarcastically reply.
“That’s betrayal burning in your hand, brother. You ain’t allowing that wound to heal and it’s spread like a fuckin’ terminal disease.” His raised brows highlight his wide eyes. “That ‘motivation’ you’re holding onto has turned you into a filthy skeptic. It’s killed any and all trust you have in people, including yourself.”
“Nah,” I shake my head with vigour. “You’re wrong.”
“You’re a fuckin’ blind man, Ted! Instead of giving your ‘friends’ the benefit of the doubt, you’re foaming at the mouth, ready to strike first.”
“I’m just covering my own ass. YOU taught me the importance of that.”
“Did I now? Did I also teach you that attempted murder is acceptable when chasing your dream?”
Red crosses the threshold separating us as I stop dead in my tracks. As he slowly approaches, he’s well aware of every twitch my limbs make. Step by step, he makes it closer, and it takes everything in me not to start swinging wildly. He stops some two feet in front of me, and we stand, staring one another in the eye.
“That promise you made yourself under the rules of ‘No Matter What’? That was a slippery slope my friend, and you’ve plummeted. You showed no regard for Clay’s life. Your moral code has changed. You’ve…”
“No, no, no,” I laugh, pressing my index finger into Red’s chest. “You’re twisting this.”
“How can I when I’m not here? This isn’t my doing. Nah. I’m just the guy you’ve chosen to blame.”
With the blink of an eye, it’s no longer Red standing before me. I’m frozen in place, staring at my own reflection. The smile looking back at me is unnerving. The cold blue eyes that refuse to blink hide what’s behind them.
I don’t want to admit it.
“SHOBU-ARI!” Masato points in my direction, declaring me the winner.
I’m standing overtop of Uzutso, my feet on either side of his torso. He’s clutching the base of his throat, my palm still stinging from the earlier blow. His loincloth is hiked high above his hips, the result of the four hundred pounder having been lifted into the air and dropped like a bad habit. The wind has been knocked out of his lungs, and his airway is no doubt swollen.
It was my most dominant victory yet.
I walk back behind my white chalk line, dropping my arms down to my sides. Ozutsu takes his time crawling back to his side of the ring, eventually climbing to his feet with the helping hand of Masato. I bend at the waist, bowing towards my opponent out of respect of ritual, most certainly not friendship. He does the same, albeit reluctantly, immediately exiting the ring afterwards.
“Your turn,” I say with a heavy breath, pointing at Roho.
He simply shakes his head no.
“It’s my last day,” I wipe the sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand. “I earned it.”
Masato turns and begins to translate for Roho, who continues to shake his head left to right. Masato looks at me, and he mimics Roho’s sign language as if he needed to translate it for me to understand. I click my tongue against the roof of my mouth before pushing an exasperated gust of air from my lungs.
“Now!” I demand.
Roho finally breaks his silence, his rigid voice ripping into Masato. The two of them proceed to argue with each other, disrespectfully jockeying to be heard. Their words are foreign to my ears but their body language is universal. Masato turns to me, and waves for me to exit the ring.
“What did he say?”
“He’s not going to fight you. Come out.”
“No,” I say in defiance. “Tell me why, Masato.”
Masato glances at the Champion of his stable with a look of disappointment. He doesn’t look back my way, instead ordering the next two Sumo’s to enter the ring. I stand my ground, refusing to give up my position.
“I’m not leaving until you tell me.”
“He says you don’t deserve to fight him. You don’t belong in this stable.”
“I’ve done everything fuc…”
“YOU ARE JOKE!” Roho spits in broken english.
Teddy Palmer was scared that night on the USS Octane.
The thesis statement to Clay Byrd’s utterly generic promo was a thought provoking proposition. He had the opportunity to create one hell of a narrative going into War Games. But then the unfortunate happened and disaster struck.
He started to explain himself.
‘You acted outta fear! and ‘Yer a fucking coward!’ we’re his main argumentative points because…reasons? Oh right! Addiction…again. And the pending result of our match. Forget that I had him dead to rights when Steve Harrison interfered. The OTHER outcome that COULD have happened if A, B and C didn’t happen.
Question One: Why is it you refuse to include Harrison’s name in all retellings of your story?
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. The mere thought of that vanilla basic bitch is enough to cure insomnia. So much as mention the Miracle Man and you risk losing your audience.
Hey! Are you still with me?
What’s that say about YOU that HE is your saviour?
Would you classify that as pathetic?
Forget it. You go on and name drop some ‘Mr. Fuji’ and ‘Great Muta’ instead.
Question Two: Who Dey?
But you do you. Keep listing off legendary Japanese venues to try and pitch a couple tents in the boys’ trousers. Wear that totally unique steakhouse jacket while jerking off to old magazines.
I bet your most recent Google Search is ‘Japanese Wrestling’.
Sorry. Japuhknees Wrasslin’.
What’s next? A Japanese themed joke at my expense? I am training with Sumo’s. The very ripe, low hanging fruit is right there just waiting to be picked.
Real creative, Tex. Keep talking about inconsequential things. I really don’t give a fuck. Walk into War Games and try to end my career. I’m walking in with a much loftier goal. I’m gonna finish what I started in the Pacific.
I’m gonna take your fuckin’ life.
Does that make you uncomfortable? File a report with Human Resources…
I did not stutter.
I did not misspeak.
I want that statement to resonate with the remaining eight of you.
Farthington said it best heading into War Games last year: “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.”
The only man I’m scared of is the one staring back at me in the mirror.
And you all should be too.
When it’s your turn to walk down to that cage and that uneasy feeling is brewing in the pit of your stomach, you’re going to come to a sobering realization.
A fuckin’ killer is waiting, ready to make you the next casualty of war.
“Fuckin’ joke,” I mumble, grabbing the shinai mounted on the wall with metal brackets
For fifteen days, I’d gladly accepted eleven strikes across my back in exchange for a roof over my head, food on my plate, and a place to train. Each day, the blows threatened to break me mentally, but I’d come out the other side stronger. My blood has stained the bamboo, but I don’t view the weapon as an instrument of torture. It’s my trophy. I’d reached a point where the shinai was no longer attacking my back. My back was attacking the shinai.
I’d proved my mettle by withstanding their lashings.
I’ve decided that I’ll part ways by proving it another way.
The shinai gripped firmly in my hands recoils off the bridge of Roho’s nose. His head snaps back, and he drops to the ground with the grace of a flailing elephant. He scuttles his back against the wall, covering his face with both hands. The next swing I take splinters across his forearms and is met with an audible grunt.
I don’t deserve it?
I rain down with the stick vertically, connecting with the crown of his head. I lift it up once more, but as I go to swing down, I’m met with resistance. Masato has grabbed the shinai and wrestles with my grasp on the handle. After a brief struggle I relinquish my possession, shoving the stablemaster back. Turning back, I pounce on top of Roho, letting lefts and rights fly.The Sumo does everything he can to block the heavy fisted blows, but it’s no match for the unbridled rage I’ve released.
I don’t belong?
“Ted!” Masato yells, grabbing onto my waist. “Enough!”
For a retired Sumo in his fifties, Masato still possesses the strength of an ox. He hoists me off Roho and spins back, placing himself between the two of us. I try to push forward but his hands on my chest do their best to stop me. I can see over his shoulder, and Roho is split open, blood leaking down from his hairline.
“I earned my fuckin’ opportunity!”
Masato shoves me back once more, and I toss my hands up in the air, conceding for the time being. With heavy breaths, saliva fires forcefully from my lips. Roho has begun to pull himself up, but he is slow in doing so and is still trying to collect his bearings.
“I told you day one, the most important battle you’d face is against yourself,” he sticks his finger in my face.
“Yeah, you did,” I drag the back of my hand underneath my nose. “And for the first time in GOD knows how long, I’m finally winning.”
“This isn’t winning!”
Roho’s hands are on Masato’s shoulders. I keep my eyes locked with Masato, but I carefully stalk the house’s bully through my peripherals. When Roho’s head pops up from behind Masato’s left shoulder, I hurl my right fist forward, brushing Masato’s ear as it passes by enroute to connecting with Roho’s cheek bone. His knees buckle and he drops back down to the ground.
“The fuck it ain’t,” I scoff as Masato drives me back first into the wall, pinning his forearms against my chest.
“Get your belongings and get out,” his nose grazes the tip of mine. “You are not welcome here.”
“I did things your way, and proved I could win. But when push comes to shove?” my smirk is ill received by Masato. “I’ll always win my way.”
And boy oh fuckin’ boy does that not bode well for you the two of you, John and Jatt. Our proud representatives of the Tag Team division. How in the fuck Lee actually came to the decision to let you two defend those straps, I’ll never know. I alone have made you my bitches, over and over and over again. I’ve taken everything you’ve held dearly, and turned your entire world upside down.
Quick sidebar Johnny, while we’re on the topic of things we hold dearly.
Your daughter. I haven’t been around you too long, but I’m fairly certain I’ve heard this story before. Is it an annual tale you choose to tell? Will we be treated to it next year when you return from your umpteenth retirement?
Go on, I’ll give you a second to reply.
Snort a line outta Jatt’s ass crack, and get those remaining neurons firing. Hit me with an ‘I’ll take your woman and perform *insert sexual act* and she’ll love it’ remark. While you’re at it, if you log onto Urban Dictionary, you might find something on there to fool us into thinking you’re actually creatively gifted.
It’s not likely, but fuck, you never know.
Now that I mention it, make sure to invite Jace over. You can call it a meeting of the simple minded…er, like minded. Your cringe inducing dialogue is practically interchangeable, it wouldn’t hurt for the two of you to hold a fantasy draft of sorts. Set some boundaries so you’re at least hitting us with some variety. You get sexual assault, he gets sexual acts? You get women’s rights, he gets all STD’s? Jatt can serve you both Pina Coadas and you can make a whole night out of it.
Just don’t forget to take your pill. Wink wink.
Or, and Im really partial to this recommendation, you can both just fuck right off altogether. The two of you are known for that, right? That and a lack of consent…
NO MEANS NO!
And don’t you fuckin’ dare horn in on baby oiled biceps! That schtick belongs to Shawn Cutter, the intellectual property of Steve SWOLEX. Sick name, right? That’s a freebie for you when 20th Century Fox sends their cease and desist order.
That’s a big IF though. I mean, after you step into my Fight Club, you’ll have no fuckin’ idea who either man is anymore.
But I digress.
Where was I? My bitches. Took everything. World upside down. Cool, back on track.
That was just me. Just me fuckers. This time around, Dan Ryan, the OG Killer in High Octane is following you out. Conor Fuse, the desensitized gamer with the short fuse is following you out. You’re stepping into my lair with the Championships I never lost. This ain’t the USS Octane’s mess hall and you ain’t pulling rank. I will, however, be pulling the plug on your disgraceful existences.
It’s going to be fuckin’ sick.
Question Three: Have you ever watched a pack of feral cats play with their meal?
No? YouTube it.
That fuckin’ sick.
We decide when it’s over. We decide who’s broken body we’re bringing with us. We’re walking into Lee’s battlefield with the LSD and Tag Team Championships.
And that’s when the REAL fun will begin.
June 6th, 2021
15 Minutes Before War Games
I’ve waited an entire fuckin’ year for this.
Seated at my locker, I dump a half bottle of water over my head, slicking my hair back. Flicking the excess from my fingers in front of me, I wipe my palms on the front of jeans. Glancing down to my left, I look at the elevated scar on the front of my left shoulder. Riding vertically up either side are five dots the same pigment of pink as the scar, the healed holes I removed staple bits from. I clench my fist and curl my wrist a few degrees upwards, letting my elbow bend and the bulge of my bicep fill with lactic acid.
An entire fuckin’ year.
The Two One Four patch on the left breast of my pocket catches my eye. Running the tip of my right index finger over each number, I mouth them as I do so. Along the bottom edge, I notice the stitching has begun to let go, not holding onto the denim as strong as it once did. It’s kind of poetic in a way, given the journey I’ve taken and the feelings I have heading into tonight’s War. On one hand, a forceful tug could rip it off. On the other hand, it’s still strong in spite of it’s frays.
The locker beside me is empty, on it’s wooden seat is that note from Red and a pocket knife. Standing up, I grab the weathered remnant of long ago, rubbing the corner between my fingers. I’ve held onto it for far too long. Tonight is the night I let go. I no longer need it. Snatching the knife from the seat, I flip the blade from it’s closed position. Giving the familiar cursive one final look, I hold it against the wood backing of my locker and plunge the knife through its center.
I will be the fuckin’ guy.
“I promise.” I say as my smile grows, the most genuine it’s been in a long time.
No. Matter. What.
It’s about fuckin’ time I get my hands on Cancer Jiles.
Things started off real cute between the two of us. Yeah, you got butt hurt when I made fun of you for losing to Scottywood…
Pause. Aha Aha Oh Aha Oh. Fuckin’ Scottywood. Unpause.
… and things started to escalate from there. You always made sure to mention me on your CNN reports, I’d drop easter eGGs in my promos to give you a pop. It was good old passive aggressive fun between a couple of frenemies.
Then you had to involve a surfboard, you sick son of a bitch.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a tubular fuckin’ highlight. Sure, I was concussed, but that’s the price you pay to become an overnight meme sensation. That wasn’t my issue. My issue was you cost me the Team Championships. You fucked with my career. I’m not COOL with that. I’ve worked too fuckin’ hard to get it back and whether you realize it or not, you set off a series of events.
I haven’t lost since that kick.
I’ve won multiple Championships since that kick.
I’ve been The Best Alliance’s fuckin’ kryptonite since that kick.
And I’ve been biding my time since that kick.
Payback is a bitch.
You fucked with the wrong guy. Now it’s my turn to fuck with your career. You made me a meme, I’m gonna make you a memory. Your mildly successful run is about to be derailed. No one ever bought into the hype quite like you did. I sincerely hope you enjoyed jerking curtains, because that’s what awaits you after War Games. That’s assuming you even make the cards on a regular basis. But hey, if you find yourself dumpster diving for HOTV scraps, maybe you can get a bit more mileage out of an eGG Bandits reunion?
Take your best shot. Oh wait. You already threw it…
I can see behind those douchebag shades, those eyes all green with envy. It had to hurt: everyone would rather talk about all my potential coming true, instead of the freshly crowned champeen?
I’d jump into explicit insults right about now, but the truth is just too fuckin’ sad.
And the saddest fact of all?
You’ll be remembered as nothing more than a transitional Champion during the company’s down period.
Stop crying, your salt shoes are melting.
Well I’ll be remembered as the Warrior who walked into that cage first. The Warrior who watched seventeen other men and women come in after him. The Warrior who was left standing when the night reached its conclusion.
Your real God Of War.