So nice of the old man to show up last week and set the record straight. He’s never done this before. But there’s a time and a place to deal with him directly and everyone else standing across the way. For now, throw your best at me. It’s okay.
I dare you.
… … … … …
July 11, 2020 – 19:50
Welcome to the land of High Octane Wrestling, ‘The Vintage’ Conor Fuse.
Wandering through the hallways of a new game is always daunting. This one in particular because for the first time in my career, I’m on my own. No brother by my side.
It’s what I wanted.
I’m actually not wandering the halls so much as I am trying to find where I have to go. I’ve been given the opportunity to record a promo tonight. You know, stand in front of the cameras and sell myself to the fans. Isn’t this a make or break moment? First impressions are everything, right? It’s what my mom says.
“Room 107B,” I keep mumbling to myself. “Where the fuck is Room 107B. I passed 107. And there’s 108. 109. 110. Jesus. What the fuck is going on?”
Seriously. I’d have preferred a map. Video games always have the handholding elements, if you need them.
I can hear wrestling from inside the arena. The crowd is hot, they’re cheering heavily. I’m not sure who’s up right now, it might be dark match stuff but I saw High Flyer on the card along with John Sektor, a name I’m familiar with. Actually, I’m familiar with everyone. You don’t go into a game blind, Gamer’s Code. I’ve read the manual. No map but there’s always a manual.
My hands shake. Knees, weak. Arms are… sweaty. Gross. I’d have been okay if my arms were heavy, even mom’s spaghetti. It’s very tasty. Eminem knows his shit, btw. But now I’m gonna have to look like this in front of a camera and say something… interesting? Us gamers already have a bad rep for being sweaty and gross. If I actually LOOK the part then I’ll fall in line with these stereotypes. Fans will tune me out A-SAP.
“Hey, you look a little lost,” a voice says behind me as I stop in my tracks. I collect myself. Gotta make sure my facial expressions don’t suggest I’m struggling.
Spinning around I see a guy approximately my size, blonde hair, though it’s much shorter and organized than mine. He’s got a cocked eyebrow and continues to stare at me as if I’m supposed to answer.
I suppose I should?
“Hey, um… no, no. Not lost. I’m good.” I stumble through my words. I’m not convincing anyone.
“Are you sure, man?” He keeps the same facial expression. He doesn’t back down, he’s very persistent.
“Okay, look…” I begin, glancing around the hallway, thank god nobody else is around. “I may have missed a room. Looking for 107B. I went past 107, 108. I double-backed. I triple-backed. Dare I say, I barebacked… wait, do those kinda jokes fly here? It’s quite low-brow. I heard some of the promos, you guys all rip on each other pretty hard. That Cancer Jiles dude? Man. Damn. His jokes are almost dead baby-like. So then yeah, I guess I can do it. And I’m talking too much, aren’t I?”
The man in the dark gray trunks walks up to me and puts his arm around my shoulders.
“Hey…” he starts. “They say this about me.”
“Really?” Now my eyebrow is cocked.
“Yeah, I never shut up. I’ve always got something to say. I can be witty and then put a foot in my mouth. It happens.”
Well I guess it’s nice to meet someone who’s owning up to his faults so quickly.
“The name is Darin,” he removes his arm from my shoulders and extends a palm to shake. “Darin Matthews.”
“Conor Fuse,” I reply. “And now that I think of it, I know you. I’ve watched some of your matches recently. Sorry I didn’t figure it out when you said hi. I guess you could say I am a little stressed. First day.”
Matthews nods as we find ourselves walking back to where I initially came from. “You signed up for a difficult promotion, too. HOW is a tough go…”
Darin’s voice trails as I turn to look at him. I can see his mind drift. He seems like a real nice guy, someone I could legitimately hang out with when each week is said and done. I heard rumblings about how unfriendly this company can be. In some ways, I’d be more worried if this place was friendly. Obviously it’s competition at the highest level. Main eventers, mid-carders and n00bs like me, we all gotta jockey for position. No wrestler is truly a friend. It’s beyond Gamer’s Code, it’s pure competition.
I digress, on the outside looking in, HOW is a cesspool of the biggest Last Level Bosses I’ve ever laid witness to, led by a wicked old man who rages at anyone without the surname of his family. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve watched his recent war with Chris Kostoff. I’ve heard him mouth off to Scott Stevens. Granted, it’s Stevens. I know the BOT from other leagues myself… but the owner is a fucking prick, with a mouth full of fire and a temper unlike others. I intend to steer clear of him.
Snap, Darin Matthews is in front of me clicking his fingers together.
“Hey, hey are you there, Conor?” He says with a smile and takes a step to his right, revealing room 107B. “You have to enter 107 to see rooms A, B and C.”
I roll my eyes. “Yep, makes sense. I’m an idiot.”
Matthews winks. “So am I.”
I pat Darin on the chest. “Well thanks a lot, dude. I mean it. I just gotta go in there and tell the guys to record my promo for next week. I’d say wish me luck but-”
Matthews cuts me off. “Good luck, Conor.”
He says without a hint of sarcasm. He seems genuine. I can tell he’s been wronged here before.
“See ya around,” I remark, reaching for the handle, pulling it down and entering the room.
“Definitely,” Matthews states.
— — — — —
As we jump forward to the present… John, I never thought I’d get another shot at the best wrestler in the world before he hung up his tights. There are no tricks or jokes on my end this time. No trying to get in-between you and your protégé. I’m staying out of your issues entirely. While Lee and onlookers may think the deck is stacked against me, I’d like to remind them who succeeded in the World Championship Best Tournament and has overcome odds every step of the way.
I consider this an opportunity, instead of throwing me into an impossible situation like the boss intends. I have another shot at the elusive John Sektor, a man who I’ve never defeated. We’ve run into each other before, with March to Glory being our main collision. I was sad to learn you were going to retire. We only have one real life in this world and I understand you have to do what’s right for you. So I’m not going to beg you to stay, or pray to be the final nail in your coffin. No. Our upcoming match isn’t about a win or a loss. Of course in the spirit of competition I’m going to give it my all regardless, but I am about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. An opportunity that will never come again. I’ll walk into the biggest game, with BOTS and Bosses on all sides as the man with a target on my back.
Perhaps you haven’t walked into a War Games as World Champion but I’m sure you’ve found yourself in similar situations. You’ve seen it all. And on Sunday, I will learn from you again. I failed in our recent Tag Title match. It ruined Noble and I as a team, it crushed the ability for me to consider myself as the best wrestler in High Octane. No worries. I will still learn from you and I know you are gunning for my achievement when the steel structure encloses upon us a month from now.
You are on the short list of the most prominent names in wrestling. I have learned a lot from you over these past two years. More than I could’ve imagined. And even though a true one-on-one contest may never be reality, I’ll take what I can get.
Like I said, this is an opportunity.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes recently but channeling your level of commitment… it has driven The Vintage to this point. HOW rookie Conor Fuse would follow John Sektor, Dan Ryan and Mike Best exclusively. Those were the names of the Bosses I wanted to battle. Those were the most impressive athletes I have ever laid eyes on. Then there was your former partner, Jatt Starr, whom I idolized further.
To be honest, I never thought I’d be here. As World Champion. As the wanted man… the person who’s turned his back on a friend, ignored others and grown an ego himself. Only to be humbled by the WORD of GOD.
So be it.
I’m gonna make sure by hell or high water, cheat code or Game Genie, I’ll see you again. I won’t steal your moves, I won’t knock you out.
I’ll simply absorb what’s coming.
I always have.
… … … … …
July 11, 2020 – 20:10
I really don’t know how I feel about the promo I recorded. I called out… everyone and nobody at the same time. I stood in front of the camera and spoke about video games, frequently. This is how you get a label, Conor, and not a good label. This is how you become typecaste as a dipshit. Sure, the world IS one big video game when you really think about it but tone it down, dude, tone it down. Maybe I’ll come back next week and record something better.
Regardless, I open the door and walk into the hallway, stunned to find Darin Matthews still standing there.
“How’d it go, Conor?” He’s leaned up against the side of the wall, looking very casual… or trying to anyway. I’ve caught onto his act but I won’t call him out. I’m new here and like I said, he really does seem like a good guy.
“It went, man. It went,” I reply and Matthews nods along.
“You’ll get better,” Darin adds encouragement.
I smile in return and then there’s an awkward silence. Maybe it’s more on my end, since my mouth is usually motoring through.
“So… how good of a first impression do I have to make here?” I inquire. He places a finger to his chin and contemplates the thought. I get the sense this is the first time he’s ever been asked a question like this and yet he knows I’m new, so he wants to come across as if having all the answers.
“You’ve got to stand up for yourself but I wouldn’t worry too much,” Darin responds. “For now.”
“Is the old man as big of a dick in real life as on television?” I roll right into my next question.
“I wouldn’t be too concerned about him, either. He won’t acknowledge you, he has more important things to do,” Matthews says. “He threatens to ban me from HOW on a weekly basis. I’m sick of his power trips.”
“Well, he IS the boss.”
Darin shrugs, puts his arm around me again and we continue down the hall.
“Conor, it was nice meeting you. I have a tag match against the eGG Bandits, I’ve got to be out there soon but if you have any other questions, I’m your guy.”
“You’re my guy.”
Matthews drops his arm and pats me on the shoulder. I wish him luck in his tag match and we go our separate ways.
— — — — —
I have a lot of respect for you. At March to Glory you certainly stepped up and showed Noble and I a thing or two. You waited until I went to the top rope to fly across with a superman punch, knocking David into me, tangling my boot in the ropes and helping motivate the legend to fly from the top buckle himself. It’s impressive. Look, my focus on Sektor is not taking anything away from you. You beat us. You beat me. And now you can do it again. They say you’re the best MVW has to offer and I certainly agree. I don’t need to sing your praises anymore. From HOFC to tagging with The Gold Standard, you’re well on your way to a successful career.
Don’t let that success dictate how you behave.
I’ve recently allowed myself to be overwhelmed in the spotlight. I’ve pushed away friends after others have pushed away me. I should’ve been smarter. I thought I was smarter. But I can pick up the pieces. This isn’t the first time Conor Fuse has faced adversity and risen to the top. It won’t be the last. I refuse to overlook the protégé. I cannot let you sneak up on me again. What’s the saying… fool me once? Gamers don’t get fooled twice. I’ve studied you. Closely. I believe I have a counter for every offensive maneuver you can send in my direction. I guess we’ll see how clever I really am starting on Sunday. In more ways than one.
… … … … …
Atlanta Hotel Room
April 17, 2022 – 02:00
Long day, champion retains. You know how it goes. This lovable mother fucker just defeated the cheating, slimy, David Noble. Walking into my shitty hotel room, most of my stuff is packed away for the trip into Orlando. It’s great to be 97 but it sure is lonely. Apparently none of the Elders are answering their phones. Yeah, yeah, they walked out on me after I beat my former partner but they’ll come to their senses. Old people are impatient, I’m kinda surprised they haven’t already.
Pulling out my phone, I’m stunned to see I have five missed calls in the span of the past twenty minutes. Guess I didn’t notice the Elders did reach out on my way back to the hotel room.
I dial into my phone and press # for the first message.
“Connnnnnooooorrr, your guy Zion here what’s-” Ugh. Fucking Zion. So over him.
“Conor!!! It’s the your guy, the Zi-Guy and-”
“Conorrrrrrrr! Time to #RallyZion and ALSO #RallyConor, I can’t believe the Elders-”
Are these all fucking Zion?
The last message confirms it.
These are all fucking Zion.
I collapse on my bed. For the past year I’ve complained about the 214 and now David Noble. Friends who weren’t friends. Friends who never had my back.
Zion’s had mine.
He was the first person I met in High Octane. Legitimately. The flashback in my head, when I walked into the Allstate Arena on day one, wasn’t a false statement. When I joined HOW, when my name was posted on the roster… Zion reached out.
Perhaps I’ve been a little too arrogant recently. Maybe I need to be grounded and have a dose of reality. David Noble did me wrong. He never committed to HOW while we were a team.
But dude, Conor… you hit him with a low blow.
You did this.
The Elders are disappointed in you for this reason.
It’s hard to find good friends. Zion was in your corner last War Games. You drafted him for this battle, too.
I pick up my phone. I pull up Zion’s profile. My finger hovers over the call button.
And then I place the phone in my pocket.
Naa. Fuck him. Screw ‘em all. I’m World Heavyweight Champion. I’m the Locker Room Leader. I’m above evvvrryybody. I don’t need shit. I’ll simply continue to pile up wins and have every wrestler whimper at my feet.
I own High Octane from here on out.
Whatever could go wrong?
— — — — —
I owe you an apology. You have always been there for me and I have not always been there for you. You recently invited me over, where we can strategize for our upcoming match. I will never forget what you did for rookie Conor Fuse when I first entered HOW. I was ready to leave. But you welcomed me. You didn’t have to. And I will be in debt to you forever.
I’d like to think I’ve tried to help you, as well. Either it be the #RallyZion battle cry, or looking out for you at last year’s War Games, you’re good with me, man.
…Until my head got too big.
I have been humbled. And you know what? It’s not by the old man. He merely lights an additional fire under my ass. It wasn’t like Imma go soft with #97. I have bled for this company. I have carried this promotion in the wake of Mike Best’s retirement tour. A Best does not have to love me, or like me, or even tolerate me. But they’re gonna. Because the Christopher America’s come and go. The legends pop their jolly on nostalgia and then they’re on their way. A Scott Stevens is a committed guy but he can’t do the things I can do inside the ring.
Only I can.
And I make Lee a shit ton of money.
Bring the Ban Hammer back, buddy. Bring whatever you want to. I’ll stand with you any day of the week. I will not ignore Darin Zion. Not again.
This is a leveled up Conor Fuse. And the events of last week?
Well they just insure what I already know.
I am unstoppable right now.
And I’m gonna do it. With the help of a good friend, “my guy”, Darin Zion.