RUNNING IN SQUARED CIRCLES (2)
Hotel San Carlos – Phoenix, Arizona
October 5, 2021
Wherever I travel, I look up the most vintage place possible. Real throwback hotels, retro in lifestyle and not just video games. The San Carlos Hotel is amongst the oldest in the city, right downtown. I’ve finished checking in and even with my significant status as High Octane WHC, as long as I wear a baseball cap low to my face and tuck my hair into it, no one recognizes me. Of course, the registered name I’m under should be a dead giveaway. Guess I’m lucky because the front desk clerk clearly has no clue about wrestling. He certainly knows video games, though. Short and round, barely fitting into his uniform. Yep, he’s prototypical. We chat about the new Metroid: Dread game. He told me he played through the previous Metroid games over the weekend. Exciting stuff. Afterwards, he points me in the direction of the bellhop, a kid dressed in a red button up jacket and red and gold top hat. As I said, true vintage locations for me. I scoff at the idea of a bellhop, considering I travel lightly. It’s small hand luggage only, filled with a change of clothes, my ring gear, the world title and a Zelda Nintendo 3DS XL. Maybe I should take my Metroid games out and discuss things further with the desk clerk but I decide otherwise.
Off to the elevator, I’m on floor nine. The hotel lobby is quiet as I call the elevator. Only a couple of elderly individuals roam around. Feeling right at home already.
“Take your bags, sir?” I look to my left, noticing the bellhop beside me. He’s definitely a kid, likely sixteen or seventeen.
“Oh, no worries, dude,” I reply, lifting my only piece of luggage. “I travel light.”
The bellhop reaches out anyway. “It’s okay. I can take it for you,” he laughs a bit uncomfortably. “Besides, it gives me something to do.”
Shrugging, I hand the suitcase over to him and he presses for the elevator. “Sometimes, you really have to push,” he explains, revealing the light wasn’t on and I hadn’t called it after all.
“Old building,” he adds.
“I prefer the term vintage.”
We wait in silence before the lift arrives. Once inside, the bellhop asks me what floor I’m on so I let him know. As we head up, I can tell he wants to make small talk but doesn’t know what to say. I also realize I’m rather reserved right now, too.
I stare straight at the doors. I’ve got a lot on my mind and although there’s a pretty good chance I’ll have things in common with this kid, I’m talked out from the desk clerk.
I can feel the elevator come to a slow grind and then stop completely. The bellhop looks up at me, blushes and goes right into the buttons, trying to remain calm.
“Sorry, sir,” he begins, “sometimes this happens but it doesn’t take long to fix.”
He clicks into the intercom and lets the front desk know the lift is stuck. As he does, the bellhop turns to me a few times, attempting a smile.
“No worries, man,” I reassure while he does his thing. After he’s finished, he looks at me and nods his head frequently.
“Won’t be long, sir. They have to reset the circuit breaker. Ten minutes tops.”
I can tell he’s been worried about my response the entire time. I haven’t been angry. I try to convey this by giving him a wink.
“Dude, it’s all good,” I confirm once more, “just… uh, don’t call me sir. It’s my dad’s name.”
Instantly relief crosses his face. It makes me wonder what kind of clientele he deals with on a daily basis. It’s an elevator issue in a vintage building. Plus it’s merely a ten minute wait. I’ve got lots of things to do… lots of things on my mind… but it’s no big deal.
“You got it, sir,” he tries to catch himself saying ‘sir’ but it’s too late. I realize the likelihood of him being able to abide by my request is unlikely.
“The name is Conor. Call me Conor,” I inform, looking at the bellhop’s name tag. I reach out and flick the tag towards myself. “Dennis.”
He grins politely, adjusting his top hat. “Yes sir,” he replies.
“So, uh, ya enjoy working here?” I ask. It’s not even small talk. His behaviour piqued my interest.
“Yes sir, very much so, sir.”
I don’t exactly believe him but I’m not gonna call him out.
“What kinda stuff do you do for fun? Play video games?”
Dennis shakes his head no. “Not really, sir. Video games aren’t my thing.”
Damn. I thought he’d be a Pokemon GO kinda guy. So much for us having a lot in common.
“What brings you to Arizona?” He inquires.
“Oh you know, business…” my voice trails. Dennis nods like he’s heard it before.
“Yeah, that’s what most people come here for,” he states, kicking his feet around. “Lots of business.”
His voice trails too but I refuse to be left in an elevator with a kid I can’t hold a conversation with.
“Hey Dennis, what do you wanna do when you’re older? Got any big dreams?”
It takes the bellhop a moment, as I’m left wondering if he’s working through thoughts or seems ashamed of the answer he’ll give me. “Music. DJing. I love mixing. House, dubstep, synth-pop, tech. All kinds.”
I tilt my head to the side and pat him on the back. I have no f’n clue what he’s talking about, I assume these are styles of music like styles of wrestling. House sounds neat. “That’s cool, man.”
“Yeah. DJing or I wanna be a YouTube Influencer,” Dennis’ passion runs through his voice.
Figures. It’s what all the kids want to be these days, I don’t get it. I missed the boat by a couple of years.
“Yeah, YouTube influencer. I already review dubstep…” his voice becomes more grounded. “I have a YouTube channel but not many followers.”
The elevator starts moving again, it’s been fixed. “Hang in there, Dennis. Those are some awesome, albeit challenging ambitions.”
“Yeah…” he mutters. “It’s hard. Sometimes I get the random thumbs down on videos or hostile remarks in the comments section.”
I know a few of those people. It’s easy hiding behind a computer screen. Gotta be a rough go for a kid like him.
“Hah, I hear ya on the thumbs down,” I say supportively. “It stings. Some melonhead keeps thumbing down my Re-Fused videos.”
I know Dennis hasn’t a clue what I’m speaking about as we arrive at floor nine. The kid’s about to exit with my bag but I tell him I can easily take it from here. I tip him a couple hundred and he’s blown away.
“Wow, thank you sir- I mean Conor.”
Ah, fuck it. “Call me sir, call me whatever you want,” I note while leaving the lift and attempting to find which way down the hall.
“Dennis?” I say, glancing back as he holds the elevator doors open.
“Do your YouTube thing, review all of the music. If you get ten thumbs down, keep going. Don’t let anyone else ruin your dreams, okay? Be smart but don’t quit. Maybe you make it big at twenty-eight, maybe you catch a break at forty-four. Maybe you don’t find any success at all. Either way, it beats looking back at the end of your life and realizing it’s over.”
Dennis nods, as if my words got through. “Thank you, sir. You have a great day.”
“Don’t mention it.”
The doors close and I’m off to find my hotel room.
… … … … …
Local Wrestling Gym
March 20, 2002
“Why- why’s he so angry?” I ask softly, just in case Jack can hear me. Stu’s two-hour class is over and I can’t believe he allowed me to take part. To be honest, I didn’t do that much but I didn’t have to. Simply being in the ring with five others was more than enough for me. I learned to run the ropes and drop a better elbow. Stu’s students thank him and flee. Most of them look to be in their early twenties with big goals. Reflecting back, I realize none of them ended up “making it”. I never heard their names again.
“Why’s Jack so angry?” Stu clarifies with me. “Hmm, that’s a good question. He’s been this way for years. Worked with him in a few promotions.”
I eye Jack from across the way. He’s finished his class, too. Although I couldn’t help but notice none of Jack’s students wished him well before leaving.
“Was he good?” I wonder out loud.
Stu seems indifferent. “He was… okay. Lost lots of big matches in his career. It kind of typecasted him. He was brought in here and there but never got over the hill so promoters grew tired of booking a guy with limited wins and credibility.”
I start to feel sorry for Jack. “That sucks.”
“Ah, it’s okay. Same story as mine. I could never make it to the big promotions, either. I beat the odd local wrestler but on the national stage, you’re wrestling the best guys in the world.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” I state as genuinely as possible.
“Shit, kid. Don’t worry about it,” he chuckles. “Unlike Jack Farley, I’m okay. A lot of people don’t make it in this business, Amazing Conor. For some, it’s a tough pill to swallow. For me?”
Stu takes a step back, as if trying to show off how out of shape he is. “I had a good time while I could.”
Stu’s a good guy. Over the two hours of class, he took the time to point out flaws he saw in his students but never shouted. He was honest and fair, yet pushed everyone further. I could tell deep down he knew the prospects he was teaching won’t “make it” but he treated each person with the respect and dignity they could be the exception, not the norm. Hey, I might be nine years old but I’m no dummy.
“Sir,” I begin, “can I take part in your class next week, too?”
Stu starts packing up his belongings before tussling my hair. “Of course, Conor. I only have one rule.”
“Don’t call me sir. It’s my dad’s name,” he mentions.
“You got it, sir- Stu,” I realize that’s gonna be difficult to get outta my vocabulary.
“Better,” he winks, continuing to pack as my eyes wander over to Jack Farley. Disgruntled, pissed off, he seems so sad. I make sure I don’t stare for too long, the thought of him knowing I’m still here scares me to death.
Mr. Farley puts a crash pad under the ring, zips up his backpack and throws it across his shoulders. He storms out, head down, with nothing more than a simple “bye” to Stu. And I can’t help but wonder about the high hopes he once entertained in the wrestling industry.
Until they were taken away. Forever.
… … … … …
Local Wrestling Promotion – Phoenix, Arizona
October 5, 2021
FYI, this is the first time I’m doing this. I typically don’t attend indy shows. If I’m interested in something, I’ll find a live stream or ask one of my “connections” for a VHS. (Yes, tape trading’s still in, I swear.) But tonight, something has drawn me here. Perhaps it’s my recent trip through memory lane. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with my upcoming battle vs. Kevin Capone, as well. A seasoned wrestler who had to cut his teeth in places like this, fighting across the world… until now.
“This match is for ONE fall! Introducing first, from Anthem, Arizona, weighing in at two-hundred-twelve pounds… ‘Masterful’ Kyle Watson!” The announcer bellows to the fifty+ people in attendance. I’ve always wondered why ring announcers need to say how many falls each match is. It drives me batshit crazy because 99% of them are for one fall. Stop giving me information I don’t need to know. Annnnyway, Kyle Watson appears to a chorus of boos. He looks to be my age, somewhere in his late twenties. He slides into the ring, flips off a boy in the front row and shouts into the crowd. What a stereotype.
“And his opponent, from right here in Phoenix, Arizona… weighing in at two-hundred-seventy-eight pounds… JON McCOY!!!!”
Generic theme music plays. A larger, beaten down man who’s seen better days emerges to cheers. I can immediately tell he’s not only a fan favourite but a small promotion lifer. The group beside me talk about McCoy as if he’s the real deal but the venue we’re in and the overall environment tell me otherwise. No. I’ve watched a lot of tape in my time. I’ve seen wrestlers from everywhere since I was nine, it’s what I do. This “Real” McCoy might slay in local arenas but bring him to High Octane and someone like Bobby Dean will eat him up (perhaps literally).
The match begins. McCoy is slow, yet methodical. Obviously it’s not his first rodeo against a young punk who thinks he knows it all. McCoy allows Watson to set the pace and when the young guy makes a mistake, the Phoenix native is quick to pounce. Then it’s on. Knees to the head. European uppercuts galore. Throw in a spinebuster slam here, a leg drop there and McCoy whips Watson around via Wrestling School 101. The fans love it.
Pulling out my iPhone, I google his history. I can’t find much other than him wrestling for this promotion dating back to the early 2000s. Wikipedia notes a few tryouts in mid-sized organizations but nothing more. I can only assume those didn’t go as well as expected. He lost, or didn’t entertain the masses well enough. I continue to scroll through google and come across an advertisement with his name on it. ‘THE FUTURE OF WRESTLING: JON McCOY vs. DARREN MILLER’, the poster reads. However, McCoy looks very different. He’s at least fifteen years younger, in excellent shape and has a full head of hair. I can only wonder if this match was big and what transpired.
Back to the present, McCoy whips Kyle Watson into a turnbuckle and goes booming in after him. Watson ducks a clothesline attempt, kicks McCoy in the back of the leg and hits him with a reverse DDT. The crowd boos and I steer focus back to my iPhone. I don’t come across much else regarding McCoy. He’s a name I would’ve never known had I not attended this show.
McCoy fights out of a sleeper. His elbow work is solid, his hits really connect. It’s a shame he’s been lost inside that overweight frame and aging body. I’m left wondering what he could’ve done when he was much younger. If only I witnessed Jon McCoy vs. Darren Miller.
And now I think about my upcoming match vs. Kevin Capone. Rumours are swirling on the dirt sheets Kevin isn’t “ready” for our battle. This leaves me confused.
Kevin, you’re a vet, you’re experienced and it’s a World Championship opportunity. There’s no excuse for not being ready. You can be unsure of yourself, yes. Apprehensive or reluctant, I get it.
But not ready? GTFO.
You better man up. I’m not in the business of wrestling half-assed matches as the HOW World Champion. I’m ‘The Vintage’ Conor Fuse. I flip, flop and motherfucking fly. Bobby Dean and I recently entered a battle against one another. He showed up out of shape and out of hope so I busted his face open even though an opportunity was right within his grasp.
You realize the opportunity that lays before YOU, right?
The top title in the top company in the world.
Or you can mail this in. Jon McCoy’s about to hit his opponent with an Alabama slam and pin him one, two, three. The people next to me said it was his finisher.
At the beginning of this story, I said I respected your ‘get knocked down, get back up’ attitude and I do. Immense kudos for returning to HOW; I don’t want to take your dreams away. You worked extremely hard to get here. Dude, you defeated Cancer Jiles. Do you know how long it took me to beat that nimrod?
But to say you’re not ready… to say Imma walk all over you…
1.) Then I guess I will.
2.) Perhaps that POV is the reason why it’s taken you so long to make it on a show like this to begin with.
I hope the dirt sheets are wrong. If they aren’t, fix your attitude. You mail this match in, I’ll have you drinking from a straw in the Banner University Medical Center. Although once you recover, feel free to kick around Phoenix, I’m sure Jon McCoy needs new opponents. There might be a local wrestling school for you to teach from, too.
My time on top has only begun. You can join me here but STFU, suit up and let’s go. Because I don’t want to crush your dreams but I will if I have to.
I snap back to reality. The match is over, McCoy pins Watson in a battle only a few will care about and no one will remember tomorrow.
Maybe Sutler’s right, maybe I have changed. I look down on these guys like I’m better. A drastic shift from when I first started this sport.
You know, change might not be a bad thing. So I have a little more confidence. I walk into my second title defense with Kevin Capone along with newfound swagger, heaven forbid. I’ve busted my ass, paid my dues and have impressive victories on my record. I’m not wrestling in gymnasiums or teaching children the basics. I’m on a path to the Ultimate Level and the mega 8-4 castle. I’m sorry Kevin, you’re simply in my way.
I do want a good fight; I’d truly like to give you a moment. But if you’re running scared then let’s make this quick. I’ll hit you with a Head Stomp, pin and move on. I won’t even bother with the theatrics of Weapon Getting. Although I could Weapon Get your catchphrase…
SRK said I’ve changed. And maybe I have.
Perhaps not much.
Perhaps a little.
Either way, once you arrive in Phoenix, enter the squared circle and “come find out with me”.
Make a name for yourself, sir. Become a household commodity. Or fall apart like a 2K wrestling video game and don’t waste my time. In the future, be nice to the nine-year-old boy who comes to your academy. He might just be the special one that makes it.