As night fell across the country, the moon rose up to its celestial throne as rain lashed down upon an almost abandoned building somewhere outside of Boston. Each of these things ordinarily signalled a cosy night, full of relaxed contentment and blessed dreams. For Shane Reynolds, however, it yet another night to ponder his legacy. Sat crossed-legged in a darkened room, his eyes (both functional and damaged) stared piercingly from beneath his mask. If there weren’t already eye-holes, his gaze surely would have burned them. His lips didn’t move, but within the equally dark confines of his mind, his voice echoed to his mind’s ear.
“For a long time, I never truly knew who I was. Hence, I flitted from persona to be persona, playing at being somebody I wasn’t. I was a high-flying extremist. I was the people’s hero battling the tyranny of Lee Best. I tried to be the kind of quirky weirdo that only Max Kael can pull off. I tried to be the charismatic egotist that Mike Best and Jatt Starr embody. I tried to be everything that I wasn’t – even crafting whole delusional narratives about my life.”
Shane chuckled to himself at the memory of such things.
“Hell, I even imagined myself as a serial killer at one point. I was slicing and dicing around the country between shows but never getting caught… as if that made any kind of sense. One time, I went so deep down the rabbit hole of madness, I even began to believe that the world of High Octane Wrestling was fictional…that I was fictional…and merely the product of some wannabe writer in England.”
Whatever good humor Shane was feeling over the past had now firmly vanished.
“But I see now what I refused to accept before. My name is Shane Reynolds…and I am a wrestler. That’s all there is to it. I’m a professional wrestler and it’s time to embrace that and everything that it stands for. Because, if there’s anything else that I am it’s that I am an emo son of a bitch. As such, what goes on in that ring is life or death to me.”
Another memory is suddenly stirred up from within the dark recesses of Shane’s mind.
“As a wise man once told me: if you can accept and embrace your true nature, nothing anybody says about it will have any impact. So, people can call me a brooding bitch and tell me to cut myself to ribbons. It washes off me like water off a duck’s back. All that matters is what happens in the ring. And nothing short of an emphatic defeat is going to provoke such behaviors in me. No, instead, the only person I intend to make bleed is Bobbinette Carey…and whomever I am set to face off against at Chaos.”
Perfectly on cue, the light flickered on, finally illuminating the room Shane had been sat in the entire time. Rather than just surrounded by his thoughts, the walls were revealed to be not only padded but covered with carvings of Bobbinette Carey’s name. Each etching was also crossed out, denoting what Shane envisioned for her future on the roster of HOW. Rather than focusing on them, however, Shane turned his attention to the door. Through the window, he could see two masked figures hesitating.
“Stop dawdling,” Shane yelled. “Come in!”
Shane slowly pushed himself to his feet. As he did so, his knees groaned and his back creaked. For a split second, Shane once again regretted his decision to return to the world of professional wrestling. Though he had spent the intervening years keeping himself in shape, including one workout that day and a second scheduled for later in the day, it didn’t change the fact that the years since he’d been an active wrestler were many. And the inevitable was starting bear down on him.
After a little more back and forth between the two men outside, one of them entered. Like Shane, he was dressed all in black. His mask was wholly unique, however, and designed to resemble a jagged jigsaw puzzle. As such, that’s how Shane always referred to him.
“You wanted to know when the Chaos card was out…” Jigsaw started.
Shane nodded, knowing already from this intrusion upon is meditative brooding time that he must finally be on it. Another inevitability that had hung over Shane since he made his return known at War Games.
“…You have a singles match against Zach Kostoff,” Jigsaw finished.
Shane’s brows furrowed beneath the mask, both in recognition of that particular surname and the tone with which Jigsaw imparted that information.
“You sound pleased,” Shane queried.
“Well, it’s an easy win, right?” Jigsaw confidently explained. “Just look at how he was defeated by Rhys Townsend last week. He’s practically a jobber like his dad.”
Jigsaw’s confidence rapidly evaporated beneath the sudden intensity of Shane’s glare.
“For starters, even if he was a jobber, you saying that is just going to jinx me. And how do you think I’ll look if I lose to such a wrestler?”
Shane didn’t wait for an answer, his glare somehow getting even more fierce even beneath his own mask.
“And who do you think I’ll take it out on?”
Jigsaw bowed his head. “I’m sorry, sir.”
Shane nodded his acceptance of the apology, choosing not to express the second part of his irritation with what Jigsaw had said. Namely that the person Kostoff Jr had lost to was Rhys Townsend. If there was two people Shane knew would truly make him feel his age, Rhys Townsend was one of them. He had come back gunning for the World Championship…a lofty height Shane suspected he could never reach again, even if he refused to ever speak such beliefs out loud.
Shrugging that thought aside, Shane veered the conversation back to the opponent at hand. “Let me tell you something about the name Kostoff. Once upon a time, he was the king of the mountain. And I was a little jobber that couldn’t even come close to matching him. Not until I’d watched and studied him. Whether he knew it or not, he was my keenest teacher. Everything I learned and everything I achieved was built on the foundation of what Chris Kostoff taught me.”
“I had no idea,” Jigsaw said, once again apologetically.
“Nobody had any idea,” Shane continued. “That is why I’m not going to take Zach Kostoff lightly. As well as having his father’s raw potential, there’s every chance he’s yielded the very lessons that once made me great. Add into that the fact he’s way younger and I’m rustier than that missing Titanic sub soon will be, and we have potentially a lethal, unpredictable mix on our hands.”
“Are you worried?”
“I’d be a fool not to be,” Shane answered. “This is the first opportunity to demonstrate the kind of doom that Bobbinette Carey has to look forward to. Destroying the Kostoff legacy would make for a great prelude for destroying hers. That’s why, for all worry, I’m also choosing to remain confident. I’m going to give it my all to achieve victory on Sunday, no matter what I have to do, no matter what rule I have to break if necessary. I want his blood on my hands and smeared on my mask. And I want Bobbinette Carey even more fearful of what’s to come.”
“Speaking of Bobbinette,” Jigsaw interjected. “She has a tornado tag team match on Sunday.”
“Who is she teaming with?”
“Jace Parker Davidson,” Jigsaw answered. “And Conor Fuse is in the match too.”
“Interesting!” Shane pondered. “Keep an eye on all of them too, see if either of them may choose to be a proper ally to her.”
“And get everybody ready,” Shane instructed. “It’s time to spar.”
“Yes, sir!’ He repeated. “Who do you want to spar first?”
“First?” Shane parroted, with an unseen smirk spreading across his lips. “No! You misunderstand me. If I’m going to be truly prepared for the spawn of Kostoff, and whatever may be thrown at me, I’m going to need to take you all on at once.
Shane paused to take in his minion’s stunned reaction. To Shane, it made perfect sense. Zach Kostoff was equal parts his father’s son and an unknown quantity. As such, to defend and counter multiple different move-sets and styles at once felt like the perfect training – to prepare himself, as stated, but also to shake off as much rust as possible.
“Now get to it,” Shane commanded. “And I don’t want a single one of you to hold back! No Kostoff ever would”
He ran off to do as instructed. Shane watched him go and, as the door slammed shut behind him, he began to wonder what he had let himself in for. And whether the path he had found himself back on was the right one or whether he’d made a huge mistake. Whatever the case, he knew he’d found out soon enough…not with the first of many sparring sessions… but when Chaos itself rolled round on Sunday night. When that bell rung and Zach Kostoff charged at him like a bull at a red flag…
Shane swallowed hard and then pushed the thought out of his mind as he himself left the room, heading to the hall where a wrestling ring had previously been set up. Shane turned off the lights as he went, leaving only the pounding of the rain against the window to fill the void.