December 19, 2020 – 10:00
Some call him Scottywood, 39% COO, The Hardcore Artist, Hall of Famer, Guy Who Fucks Owls (wait, that was 2021 right?).
I simply call him a measuring stick.
I remember the day like it was yesterday, approaching the Lee Best doors meant something entirely different this time. ICONIC isn’t just a regular show. It’s The Event. Let’s face it, at this point in my career HOW hasn’t been too kind. It was a learning curve as I sat with a .500 record. But a victory at the top pay-per-view can rewrite the past. Defeating the legend at his own game, a hardcore match, is a Vintage coming out party. Literally. Hardcore matches are so 1990s.
The Best Arena is transformed into a palace. Additional mainstream media attention everywhere. Many people I’ve spoken to last week have no idea what wrestling truly entails. They ask simple questions, I give elaborate answers because my OCD can’t STFU.
I walk into the Lee Best doors a scared little boy. Not scared of what was in front of me, merely terrified to lose, having worked so hard and pushed myself so far. I remember my apprehensiveness. You can honestly feel tension in the air. It’s the night everyone is watching. Some casuals won’t tune in again until ICONIC 2021. My concern was never about mailing it in, that’s not happening. My concern was caring too much, tied up in my own head and then blowing it.
Luckily, I escaped on this night.
I see myself taking it in. Strolling through the backstage hallways, wondering if this will be my last night. Finding my locker room, which at the time was basically a broom closet, I sit on the floor and pull out a flyer listing the card for ICONIC 2020.
Conor Fuse vs. Scottywood, the show opener.
High Flyer vs. John Sektor
Steve Solex vs. Joe Bergmen
LSD: Lindsay Troy vs. Jatt Starr vs. Steve Harrison vs. Hughie Freeman
World & ICONIC: Mike Best vs. Dan Ryan
First, only half of these guys still work here. Second, for as proud as I am to be anywhere on the poster, my eyes are directly locked on the main event. It’s not about who more than how.
How did they get there?, I remember asking myself, never thinking I would find the answers.
It’s a cool thought but tuck it away forever. Maybe next year you can be somewhere on the mid-card.
Folding the flyer back up, I place it in my pocket and stare into the brick wall across the way. I can’t jump ahead of myself and consider things which are never going to become a reality.
Hell, I’m just happy to be here.
… … … … …
London, United Kingdom
December 23, 2021 – 10:00
And now a feeling I’ve been through once before, a year earlier.
I arrive at the O2 Arena. Of course the event isn’t for another three days (four for the World Title). As I walk up to the building, no one else is around. No media. They will soon appear in droves but I already have tension running up and down my body.
This won’t be your typical Chicago crowd. These fans are going to see us for the first time in years. Some of us for the first time ever, me being one of them. Others will have recognized me as the kid who battled Scottywood. “He moved up the !ranks fast,” I’m sure will be a random comment.
“I have to stay within myself, I can’t be too hyped,” I mention when considering everyone who will be watching. No doubt I will want to impress the fan that hasn’t tuned in since ICONIC 2020, feeling the need to validate my position. And for those new eyes, can I make someone else a believer?
I think it’s easier to be the hated one, in all honesty. No one’s gonna rally being Roberts, he can simply focus on flying around the ring, sucking on flesh.
There’s a lot of noise I can get lost in. The reality of my situation is I have to focus on my opponents. Nothing else matters.
And stick to my game plan.
… … … … …
December 19, 2020 – 11:00
Scanning my gameplan notes in a glorified janitor’s storage room, I’m starting to feel over my head. No rules, weapons legal and real physical punishment outside of wrestling holds. I wasn’t cut out for this.
“The only way out is through,” I keep saying.
“Grab a weapon, any weapon and use it until you can’t,” is another reminder. “Render the chair useless. Pick up small pieces of the wooden table, dig them into Scotty’s eyes. And whatever you do, wherever you go, don’t take your eyes off the SOB for a second.”
My stomach’s in knots already.
Asking me to do something I’m unfamiliar with, go to extents I haven’t before.
I don’t know.
… … … … …
London, United Kingdom
December 23, 2021 – 11:00
One year later I’m in the main event. I find a place to rest adjacent to the arena and pull out a small notepad. During my hotel isolation I made notes on everyone from memory. Sometimes studying film allows me to be caught in an opponent’s current trends, missing the overall scouting report. Without following HOW closely since RATR, I won’t make this mistake.
Cecilworth – under that wirey frame lies a wrestler who’s able to do more than he should based on appearance alone. A mix of submissions and debilitating blows, this is a guy I’m gonna keep at arm’s length.
Jeffrey – he’s got real high flying abilities. He’s perfected his style for it to hurt you, too. Not flips for the shits and giggles of it. Moonsault off the top rope, that’s cool in theory but drive a knee into his opponent’s neck while doing it requires pinpoint accuracy. It tells me the man isn’t as insane as his entrance makes you believe. He’s methodical. Smart.
Clay – brawler. Scottywood on steroids. While he’s pushing 40 you can tell he has so much natural skill in him. The type of guy I can’t take my eyes off or I’ll be punished. I don’t think I can absorb too many of his blows.
In any match, it’s clear I’ll have to extend myself. Ask me to do things I typically wouldn’t. There’s so many variables here, flipping around the ring, running fast, isn’t going to end in a Conor Fuse W. No matter how quick I’ll run… someone’s gonna catch me because they’re in the right place at the right time. No easy escapes.
The World Championship contest isn’t asking me to get hardcore but it is asking me to find a different side. Perhaps I have to hit harder, move slower and if I’m gonna steal an opponent’s finishing move I can’t be cute with it. Otherwise, I’m down on my back with a loss.
Like Rumble at the Rock.
… … … … …
December 19, 2020 – 12:00
Although media availability was yesterday for the big matches, on the afternoon of ICONIC 2020 us low card wrestlers have our chance to speak. It’s not in front of a podium, it’s a scrum… with three reporters.
“Hi, Yannick Fillimore from Booked Better,” a man with gray hair in his early 60s says to me, mic in my face, “what’s it feel like to wrestle in your first ICONIC?”
“Yeah,” I reply, scratching the back of my neck, “feels great, feels great.”
You know for someone who can’t seem to shut up, I’m barely making an impact right now.
“I, uh…” realizing I need to continue or else I’ll never make a sound bite, “Look, I’m treating my match as if it’s the main event. This is the most important contest of my career. If I beat Scottywood, it could do wonders for me moving forward.”
Fillimore nods, telling me through body language I had a better response. Doubt he uses the clip, though.
“Lauren Alpern, Wrestling Journal,” the woman puts her mic in my face, “why did you agree to Scotty’s demands of a hardcore match? You’re not a hardcore wrestler.”
Coming in hot, eh Lauren.
“You’re right, I’m not,” I’m trying to find more to say. “But sometimes in life the only way out is through. If I want to achieve greater heights, I have to beat Scotty at his own game.”
I’m not sure this was the answer Lauren was looking for. I field more questions but I don’t go in depth. There is nothing wrong with being in the mid-card or opener. Like I said, happy to be here.
… … … … …
O2 Arena – Media Room
London, United Kingdom
December 23, 2021 – 12:00
Well this year I’m a part of the real media availability. This is my hour, as I’m told to walk out and sit in the middle of the podium. The moment I step from behind the curtain… the room is rather full. Not three reporters, more like thirty.
Making sure I don’t trip over a cord as I walk, I carefully turn before taking a seat in the chair. Am I nervous? Perhaps… but I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life.
“Conor Fuse will be taking questions for the next thirty minutes,” one of HOW’s media staff says behind me as I lean forward in my chair, extending my arms to the microphone.
“Happy to be here?” I mutter to myself, seeing the sea of reporters.
Hands go up. A lot of hands. Some people talk on top of each other, while others wait to be chosen. At first, it’s overwhelming. Then I feel a faint smile across my face.
“Yep. Happy to be here,” I confirm.
— — — — —
The time is almost upon us. In my humble opinion I stand with the top six wrestlers in the world. Personally, I don’t give a fuck who “deserves” to be here or what the match was initially billed as.
Apparently some do. Got a bunch of grown ass men who are supposed to be the most elite talent in the world complaining about MOAR talent added? Throw Hannibal Frost in for all I care. WTF is Johnny Dorn up to? Jesus Christ, I’m hearing lots of behind the scenes complaining, complaining, complaining. Yes, this match got much more difficult. Doesn’t it mean the winner of the contest is gonna be much more prestigious?
Did I deserve my rematch? I dunno. I deserved a match with JPD for a rematch. Does Jatt Starr need the seventh spot? He’s fucking Jatt Starr, the most loyal HOW wrestler since the early days. Guy has done more for this company than anyone else here and will likely outlast us all. Yeah, he’s ex-Best Alliance. If only anyone else could be so loyal to some filthy owner who doesn’t deserve it. Jatt’s funny, he’s a serious ring technician, he’s the man of a million skills, not just a million nicknames. The bottomline: Jatt deserves to be here. I am honoured to share the spotlight with him.
Clay Byrd has come close, many times. So he found payback, big deal. Still, welcome to life Clay. I didn’t ask for SRK to referee my World Title match with Cancer Jiles. Now four others come along for the ride.
Cecilworth, let’s be real. You’ve barely done anything but pop in here and there in 2021, other than attempt at playing king of the hill so you can have your singles feel-me-up match with Mike. And yet I’d say this match isn’t the same without you. I want to see next level Farthington. Others have told me Cecilworth vs. Conor would be fun. Oh, it would.
The wrestling world comes with lots of complaining, I get it. Regardless, the table is set, the seven are here. Before I leave I’d like to hit one of the people who helped pull me up during this difficult time. It was indirectly, of course, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my initial ICONIC opponent, Jace Parker Davidson.
Jace, in early 2020 I walked into an HOFC match against Jiles, Mike and you. Specifically choosing to ignore you, I ate a curb stomp for my silliness. Honestly, I’ve never forgotten the moment.
I will never overlook you again.
I was anticipating running into you eventually. No doubt a singles match will happen one day in the future because our 2021s were very similar. The way I look at it… there are TWO people who carried this company on its back from the start of the year RIGHT to the end of it.
Conor Fuse and JPD.
There are TWO people who have the moveset that can pop the fans instantly.
Conor Fuse and JPD.
There are TWO people who had extremely successful championship reigns, placing their MARK in High Octane as the 2021 MAJOR PLAYERS.
Conor Fuse and JPD.
And there are TWO people who rightfully deserve a shot at REDEMPTION.
Conor Fuse and JPD.
As we all know, there are NOT two people who can redeem.
I respect you, Jace and I have learned to take you very seriously. Watching you these past two months has inspired me. “I can do what he does,” I say to myself. Witnessing you defeat Jatt Starr and Cancer Jiles was inspiration I needed to start feeling like myself again.
Because you’ve been to the top, lost and rediscovered. You should be spoken amongst the greats.
There is, however, one specific thing I wanted to comment on.
“HOW has never seen a motherfucker like me before.” – recent statement by JPD.
Yes, HOW has.
And I’m standing right here.
I can do everything you can do inside the ring. I’d like to think I can do it a HINT better, too. Oh, this is no slander. I mean every single word about you being a legitimate wrestler. But get my blood flowing and I’m pretty sure I can out-dive you.
Guess we’ll see, huh?
I’d also be an idiot if I didn’t mention the champion directly.
Mike, I’ll save the majority of comments for our next one-on-one battle, since there are so many moving parts in this, the next chapter. Simply put: I told you I would be there for you. I said I won’t let you down, in a world where everyone else does. I took you to the max and you helped me realize I have a next level in me. When I step into the ring with you Mike, you’ll never be able to mail it in. Congratulations on breaking The Ultimate Gamer for an extended period of time, as you have broken a plethora of wrestlers before me.
Never came back.
Well I’m happy to still be here. A theme I’ve been saying a lot today.
AND I want more.
I continue to love how you make an enemy out of anything, speak with such heart and passion.
You are the World Champion. So how CAN I honestly beat you?
Hey, December 27 I technically don’t have to. But I’ve always despised playing on Easy.
To all six of my opponents come Monday… I’ve been asking myself nonstop for weeks now what it will take to overcome all of you. But let me flip things around and ask one final question.
Do you have what it takes to overcome me?
Because I pull myself up, heart on my fucking sleeve and never, ever take a match off. If your name is Jatt Starr, I go at you hard. If your name is Mike Best, I go at you hard. If your name is Black Mamba, I go at you hard.
It doesn’t matter who stands in front of The Video Game Kid. I may not walk into ICONIC the champion but I am just as big of a threat. Backed by a house of 20-thousand strong who scream !RANK at the top of their lungs, you do not fight a simple gaming manchild in the middle of the ring.
You fight the Conor Fuse who got hardcore with Scottywood. The Conor Fuse who was abandoned by his friends. The Conor Fuse who Max Kael’ed that pimple faced penis headed dipshit and took his World Fucking Championship.
And you sure as shit fight the Conor Fuse who took Mike Best to the limit. The one who fell short, was devastated but found a way to pick himself up.
You get all of that. And then some.
It’s time I started to steer the narrative in my direction.
ICONIC will be vintage.
Vintage is ICONIC.
And Conor Fuse, your World Champion.
— — — — —
It would be the biggest mistake of my life if I didn’t reach out to you and the Elder Scrolls right now. I am sorry I left without saying goodbye. It was nothing personal, just something I really needed to do.
I’ve recognized there are times in life where I’ll have to go alone, no matter how I feel. I can’t have a group of friends backing me up, wrestlers, retirees or otherwise. Working through the toughest loss of my life was a situation I had to face myself. Me and me alone.
I cannot thank you and the others enough for the wisdom and support you’ve provided. From hacking the HOWrestling.com website with Elder Scrolls trolling (please keep this up, I love it) to steering me in the right direction when I’d fly off the rails, my career trajectory changed after I weaseled my way into the Dearness Living Community. What was meant as a joke became, as always, way more important and endearing. I also grew into a household name and a main event player. You played a major role.
However, the most important message I’ve received by living in the DLC is an indirect one. As we grow older in life things are taken from us. This is life. In ten year’s time I won’t be able to jump around the ring. If I keep going at this rate, I’ll barely be able to wrestle in it. In twenty year’s time I most definitely will be a passenger, watching the new iterations of Mike Best, Jatt Starr and Cecilworth Farthington. I will enjoy the kid in the Conor Fuse role.
Yeah, I lost my World Championship and it crippled me. But it’s not worth mentally crippling myself further because I’m wasting away my prime. I still have it all in front of me. When knocked down, I can rise.
ICONIC is a moment for legacies. It’s an idea I never prescribed to but it’s a notion I won’t push away, either. Realistically, all I wanna do is lay it out there and see what happens. After all, this was my strategy for War Games and look what happened.
I am more than a loss, no matter how devastating. This is what I needed to learn. A conclusion I had to come to on my own.
When I step into the ring on Monday, I will take every experience I’ve had… from walking through the High Octane doors with Kool-Aid in my hand, being curb stomped by Jace, barbed wired by Scotty, crushed by Mike. I will also take the good with me. Believed in by the 214, endeared by the Elders, adored by the fans. Every move I hit, every fist I dodge, will be an accumulation of the person I have become. I may not win. I may not achieve. I will certainly lay my career on the line and have the time of my life doing it.
Thank you for always being there. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Your friendship means more to me than any world championship ever could. In the end, when my career is over, I can’t take a title belt with me. I can, however, keep the memories of my journey. And without you, they would never be as vibrant.
When I wrestle on Monday, know I am doing so with the passion I am backed by everyone who’s ever believed in me.
Long live The Vintage.
See you on the other side, my dear friend.