“Ya know, I coulda really been somethin’.”
We hear his voice before we see his face, as the shot fades in on the tense, tight lipped expression of James Cornfield. He isn’t wearing the shady grin of a car salesman today… the owner, booker and sole proprietor of Pro Wrestling: Assault sits in a plain wooden chair with a black backdrop, elbows on his knees.
Studio lights make the shot look professional… it would appear that at last, there’s a little bit of High Octane money in the production of these Pro Wrestling: Assault promos. Maybe they made some kind of a deal with management… or maybe Michael Oliver Best was just tired of seeing cheap, grainy crap on their network. Either way, it’s hard to say that Cornfield looks good…
…but he certainly looks better.
James Cornfield: I know most of ya never heard of me, but that makes sense… I’m old, and you’re ignorant to the history of the business you claim to love. I’ve been promoting wrestling since before most folks in H O Dubya were even old enough to watch wrestling, and I was… oh boy, I was the best.
He looks away from the camera as he remembers.
James Cornfield: I was living in Paradise. I mean that literally, folks, follow along if you’re playing the home game. Paradise, Nevada… started out running shows out of parking lots during shift change at Caesars when we didn’t have enough cash to run the building… till the cops ran me off the strip. But I got bigger, I rose again, and before you know it I was running out of dingy little… nightclubs… barely tall enough to fit a ring inside them, much less for guys to get their high spots in. That is… till the athletic commission ran me out of the city limits. But I came back. Got bigger.
A nod toward the camera.
James Cornfield: Rose again.
The faraway look of remembrance suddenly gives way, as he’s jolted back to the present. The whimsical, nostalgic smile leaves his face as his expression suddenly becomes much less sincere. He’s still smiling, but we’re back to the car salesman version of the man we know and barely tolerate.
James Cornfield: But look at me, making everything about myself, ain’t I? Point is, ladies… and… gentlemen… that two weeks ago at Refueled… well, we failed. Ivy English failed. Pro Wrestling: Assault failed. And a lot of people are afraid of failure. Afraid to look weak. Afraid to keep betting when the chips are down, so they walk away from the table. Fortunately, and maybe unfortunately, James Cornfield is no stranger to failure. In fact, I’ve made a heck of a career out of it.
A slow, accepting nod from the promoter, who briefly looks at the floor. When he looks back up, the slightest hint of a fake smile crawls across his lips.
James Cornfield: But I always rise again.
He rubs his chin, thoughtfully, making a V between his thumb and forefinger. The smallest beads of sweat mark his dwindling hairline under the hot lights of the promo set.
James Cornfield: It’s the long shot to end all long shots. Sektor and Ellis have one more match in the Maurako Cup, against Clay Byrd and Steven Solex. If they win, the group is theirs. If they lose, well… then my boys need to win every other match in the group to even have a shot at a tie. We can only succeed if Sektor and Ellis do not… they don’t lose, then we can’t win. But like I said, James S. Cornfield is no stranger to failures.
He clears his throat, and a tremendous, wet cough comes with it. The sound of phlegm and thirty years of chain smoking cigars is hardly muted by his own hand as he covers his mouth, before going on.
James Cornfield: Hell, I’ve got a whole army full of failures.
A snide smile.
James Cornfield: That’s what I do. I’m a collector of the unwanted. Ivy English had never wrestled in front of more than fifty odd people until last Sunday night. Gunner Knight has a record. GenoSyde would be dead in a gutter somewhere without me. And that ain’t it by a long shot, folks… I am a bastion of the unwanted. A beacon of hope to those who never made it. They serve your food. They clean your floors. They haul your packages. And for every one that your corrupt, morally bankrupt organisation manages to crush, two more will pop up in their place.
He steeps his fingers in front of him, narrowing his eyebrows toward the camera.
James Cornfield: We are more than a young black kid with a belt and a mindless savage with a mask. More than a sweaty old wrestling promotor, chasing an old grudge. More than a bunch of guys who almost made it, but never quite did. We are Pro Wrestling: Assault, and if we couldn’t do the impossible… well… we wouldn’t still be here, now would we?
He clears his throat again, sounding phlegmy.
James Cornfield: John Sektor and Adam Ellis have put us into an unenviable position… every remaining match in this tournament is must win. No margin for error. No room for mistakes. We are failure incarnate, and we have been sent out to sea, to sink or swim on our own accord. When they kicked me off the strip, I came back stronger. When they ran me out of town, I came back stronger. And when Lee Best rolled into Las– you know what? Doesn’t matter. What matters right now is that Ivy English and GenoSyde, they’re part of the Cornfield Army. The Army of Failures. The Army of the Unwanted. And this week, they will rise again. This week, they will come back stronger.
He reaches out for another sip of his water, his mouth crackling and dry.
The hot lights of the studio bake into the center of his forehead, which is by now sweating profusely. He looks like a politician on trial, who absolutely did whatever he’s being accused of. Cornfield wipes the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief, before going on.
James Cornfield: Black Mamba and Scott Stevens are a pair of punchlines.
He chuckles and shakes his head, having said it almost ironically.
James Cornfield: Scott Stevens is a certified Hall of Famer, and Black Mamba oughta be. Over thirty years in the wrestlin’ business between ‘em, and Stevens is a member of a bonafide wrestling dynasty. Maybe it’s a funny joke y’all been telling all these years… maybe it’s my fault I ain’t laughing, maybe I just don’t get it. Or heck, maybe that’s the problem with H O Dubya.
Jimmy stands up from the stool that he’s sweated on, shoving his hands into the pockets of his cheap suit. His gut hangs over the front of his slacks, which is now much more obvious in the video.
James Cornfield: Kid like Stevens is a big deal everywhere he goes… everywhere but H O Dubya. Held the Fist of Defiance. Was a multiple time world champion before he ever even joined up with the Chicago Circus. Only place they ever treated him like a joke was in Lee Best’s playground, cause that’s what Lee Best does. He emasculates you. He takes your pride. Buys your soul and bleeds you dry, then leaves you to die. But despite those years and years of abuse, and jokes, and laughter… Scott Stevens was voted into the H O Dubya Hall of Fame by a jury of his peers. A Hall of Fame that is allegedly harder to get into than the gates of Heaven themselves. Nah, make no mistake about it… Scott Stevens and Black Mamba are no joke.
He shakes his head, legitimate disgust in his eyes.
James Cornfield: Funny how everything I respect about this place lives in it’s gutter.
Removing his hands from his pockets, Cornfield takes another sip of water, his hand slightly tremoring as he sets it back down on the table. His age is hard to discern… he’s clearly not a young man, but he isn’t quite your grandfather, either. The extra weight hanging off him is adding years to his face, and taking years off his heart.
James Cornfield: Stevens… Mamba… we got a problem this week, and that problem is that this match is must win. Pull no punches, stop at nothing, bend the rules till they break must win. That little fiasco that ended Refueled last week was a preview of what is possible when the Army of Failures assemble for battle, and I can assure you that we will do whatever is necessary to keep our chances in the Maurako Cup alive. So let me tell you what…. you kids like old game shows? Let’s make a deal.
He claps his hands once excitedly, rubbing them together in front of his stomach.
James Cornfield: Y’all are already eliminated from this tournament. Can’t win. No stakes, nothing to lose. Now maybe you wanna fight for your pride, and I can respect that. My boys can respect that. You wanna go to war, then let’s go to war… but if you don’t?
He leans in toward the camera, lowering his voice like he’s telling a secret.
James Cornfield: …then come work for me, instead.
There’s that big car dealer smile.
He might be selling a load of bullshit, but there is a sincerity in his eyes. He really seems to respect Stevens and mean what he’s saying, even if he’s saying it with absolute malintent.
James Cornfield: Save your pride. Save your good health. Step aside and acknowledge that we must win our must win matchup, come work for Pro Wrestling: Assault, and get the respect that you deserve. The accolades that you deserve. The opportunities that you deserve. Mr. Stevens, do you want a real opportunity to become a world champion again? Or do you want to keep taking the satirical handouts that H O Dubya pushes in your direction every time the company wants to protect a champion till a pay-per-view defense?
The sweat is pouring from the sides of his templates, as he clears his throat.
James Cornfield: Think it over.
Slowly, he sits back down on the stool, fetching the glass of water.
The adrenaline was pumping, and now it’s dumping… sweat shows through the thin white dress shirt under his coat, patching like he’s been soaked through. He pulls a cigar out of the inside pocket, biting off the end and sticking it into the side of his mouth.
He pulls the lighter out, waving it around the unlit cigar.
James Cornfield: One way or another, PWA is walking out of Refueled still in the race, so it’s a matter of whether the lights you’re looking up at on Sunday are in an arena or in an emergency room. That’s a Cornfield Guarantee… if there’s one thing you can always count on with James Cornfeld, it’s that he’s kind of like a… hmm… a Golden Phoenix.
A billow of smoke leaves the end of the cigar, now lit.
James Cornfield: He’s always gonna rise again.
The promoter gives a pithy little snap and gun to the camera, followed by an untrustworthy wink.
The video comes to an end.