In the intoxicating embrace of a Mexico City cantina, where the scent of mescal mingles with the restless chatter of souls seeking solace, Charles de Lacy and Marwood found themselves seated at a small formica table, like protagonists adrift in the pages of a lost Kerouac novel. The air clung to them with a dampness that mirrored the weight of their shared expectations, their eyes glazed with a blend of resignation and lingering hope.
The cantina, a microcosm of a city teetering on the precipice of chaos, breathed with an erratic pulse, its haggard patrons ensconced in a world of libations and recriminations. Flickering candles cast erratic shadows on the walls, dancing in rhythm to the melancholic symphony of clinking glasses and muted laughter. It was a refuge for those in search of respite, where time lost its grip and spirits (liquid and ephemeral) wandered, unfettered by the demands of a world they had long sought to escape.
De Lacy, an enigma cloaked in the fabric of flamboyance, wore his past like a tattered cloak that failed to protect him from the harsh winds of reality. His eyes, haunted by undisclosed secrets, betrayed a soul that had danced with both demons and dreams. Marwood, his loyal companion, bore the brunt of their intertwined destinies, the burden of witnessing the unforgiving cycle of triumph and tragedy that had quickly become their existence.
Their presence in that cantina was a pilgrimage, a desperate act of redemption. They were two wayward souls, drawn together by little more than their shared heritage and respective histories – littered with shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises. The world outside may have overlooked their struggles, dismissing them as mere casualties of circumstance, but within the cantina’s embrace, their stories found solace, etching themselves upon the walls like faded murals.
As the hours bled into the night, and the mescal coursed through their veins like liquid fire, they engaged in a dance of words, their conversations veering from contemplative silence to uproarious laughter. They spoke of triumphs celebrated and battles lost, of the elusive nature of fame (Marwood) and the fragility of human connection (de Lacy). It was a dialogue steeped in the very essence of their existence: a perpetual search for meaning and redemption in a world that often seemed indifferent.
It was in this atmosphere of shared struggles and fleeting hopes that de Lacy finally found the courage to confide in his comrade. As the room hummed with the lively chatter of patrons, their voices merging into a cacophony of stories and laughter, de Lacy’s voice lowered, imparting the proceedings with the gravity of a long-held secret.
“Marwood,” he began, his words tinged with vulnerability, “you are aware that my parents and I are… estranged?”
“Yes, you said as much. Not too keen on your career choices if I remember correctly.”
“Well, my involvement in this business was a blow to them, yes,” de Lacy took a deep breath, “But I’m afraid there is a little more to the story than that.”
Marwood cocked his head to one side much like a curious Labrador responding to its owner’s unexpected sleight of hand.
“The reason my parents disowned me was far more than a mere disagreement over wrestling.” de Lacy’s eyes, defeated for once, searched desperately for understanding in Marwood’s gaze.
Marwood’s brow furrowed, a mixture of curiosity and concern. He knew that beneath de Lacy’s flamboyant persona, there lay an intricate web of experiences and scars. He leaned back, inviting de Lacy to continue.
“When I was sixteen,” de Lacy continued, his voice barely a whisper, “I made a series of choices that would forever alter the course of my life. Choices that led to my parents turning their backs on me.” He paused, the prospect of his impending confession hanging heavily in the air.
“I fathered illegitimate children,” de Lacy confessed, his voice filled with an uncharacteristic matter-of-factness. “Not just one, but a series of them, each with different mothers. It was a time of youthful recklessness and misplaced desires.”
Marwood’s eyes widened, absorbing the gravity of de Lacy’s revelation. He had known de Lacy for only a few weeks, but in that time, he felt he had learned a great deal about the man’s moral character. Vulnerability was anathema to de Lacy, or so Marwood had thought, and this was a side of him that had remained concealed, hidden beneath the robes and the charisma. It was a glimpse into the flawed humanity that wrestled within de Lacy’s larger-than-life persona and it shocked him.
“I tried to be a father to them, you know,” de Lacy continued, his voice tinged with a hint of sorrow. “But I was young, naive, and ill-equipped to navigate the responsibilities that came with it. I couldn’t provide the stability and care they deserved. After all, I had my own hopes and aspirations. Ultimately – regrettably – I put myself first.”
A heavy silence settled between them. The cantina seemed to fade into the background, leaving only the two men and this unsolicited confession.
Marwood reached out, placing a hand on de Lacy’s shoulder, offering a silent understanding that words couldn’t convey. In that moment, their connection transcended the world of wrestling, transcended even the unwritten contract between two compatriots far from home in a strange and foreign land, weaving a bond of empathy and compassion.
“I’ve carried this guilt with me for years,” de Lacy admitted, his voice filled with pain. “It’s haunted me, Marwood. It’s haunted me more than any opponent in the ring ever could.”
Marwood squeezed de Lacy’s shoulder, his touch conveying a sense of solidarity. “We all carry our demons, my friend,” he whispered softly. “But it’s never too late to make amends, to find peace with the choices we’ve made.”
As the night wore on, and de Lacy’s revelation was given time to settle, the two men remained seated in the cantina, their conversation flowing with a newfound honesty. In that moment of vulnerability, de Lacy discovered in Marwood something he had never truly possessed before – a trusted confidant. A person who, far from judging him for his mistakes, found his indiscretions humanizing and relatable.
“Thank you, Marwood,” he managed finally, in a voice quivering with gratitude. “While I’m not sure I will ever be able to truly forgive myself, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to unburden myself after all this time.”
With a deep breath, de Lacy straightened his posture, his gratitude intermingling with a growing sense of determination and purpose. The weight of his past no longer shackled him; instead, it fueled a fire within him, igniting a fierce resolve that burned brighter with each passing moment.
As the noise of the cantina buzzed around them, de Lacy locked eyes with Marwood, a spark of mischief glimmering in his gaze. A mischievous smile curved his lips, transforming his countenance into one of audacious confidence.
“But enough of the past, my dear Marwood,” de Lacy said, his voice taking on a newfound bravado. “Tonight, let’s set our sights on the future, on the War Games event that awaits us. The ring becomes my sanctuary, a place where I unleash the untamed spirit within.”
Raising his voice, de Lacy’s words carried through the cantina, drawing the attention of those nearby. “To my opponents,” he declared, his tone dripping with a mix of arrogance and defiance. “You think you’ve seen power? You think you’ve witnessed true strength? Prepare yourselves, for you stand before the embodiment of resilience, the personification of redemption!”
The cantina fell into a hushed silence, anticipation looming palpably as de Lacy’s voice reverberated, daring anyone to challenge his proclamation. His eyes scanned the room, locking onto those who dared to doubt his prowess.
“To the doubters, the naysayers, and the skeptics,” de Lacy continued, addressing no one in particular, his voice growing in intensity, “I welcome your skepticism. It fuels the fire within me, for I thrive on proving you wrong. Each adversary who steps into that ring with me will be met with a hurricane of unyielding force, a tempest of determination that will leave them in awe.”
A wave of excitement rippled through de Lacy’s being, the thrill of the upcoming challenge coursing through his veins. With each word, his charisma and larger-than-life persona commanded attention, capturing the essence of the man he had become.
“To my fellow War Games competitors,” de Lacy took a greedy slug from the clay cup of mescal. “I am a Yorkshire man, and I am a cunning man. To those of you unfamiliar with this particular corner of England, MY corner of England, let me enlighten you.
“It is not for nothing that Yorkshire’s verdant fields are known as God’s Own County. It is a place of extraordinary beauty and historical significance. It is a land where the rugged landscapes carve a resilience into the souls of its inhabitants, where the whispers of history echo through the ancient stone walls. From the imposing majesty of the Yorkshire Dales to the wild expanses of the North York Moors, the very essence of this land seeps into the blood of its people.
In Yorkshire, we possess a tenacity that is born from enduring harsh winters and relentless winds that batter the coastline. We have weathered the storms, both literal and metaphorical, and emerged all the stronger for it. Our character is forged in the face of adversity, and our resolve is unyielding.
When I hear the likes of Christopher America and Steve Solex proudly declaring the supposed virtues of the so-called ‘Home of the Brave’ I can’t help but wonder if they believe their own rhetoric.
Don’t get me wrong, my reservations do not stem from blind animosity or disdain. They’re not even founded in patriotism. In fact, I must acknowledge that the United States has afforded me opportunities beyond measure. It is within those vast American shores that I have found my livelihood, where I have honed my craft and earned my keep.
Yet, as I traverse this land of grandiosity and opportunity, I cannot help but perceive a disconcerting lack of moral fiber in many of its inhabitants. The pursuit of material wealth, the hunger for fame, and the insatiable thirst for power seem to overshadow the values that I hold dear. Where is the humility that comes from genuine toil?
For while I may have been born into privilege, everything you see before you today has been hard-earned through the toil and sacrifice of my own sweat and blood!
America is a land of opportunity, certainly, but it is also the land of the opportunist. The land of the lottery winner, the talent show contestant, the Hail Mary pass. A land in which mediocrity is rewarded and failure is tacitly tolerated. How else could one explain Zach Kostoff’s presence in Mexico City? Having comfortably dispatched with him in our War Games qualifier, I am subsequently informed that he is to be entered into the War Games as a wildcard.
Now call me old fashioned – it wouldn’t be the first time that charge has been raised against me – but I was always of the opinion that in physical pursuits only the strongest survive. That’s not to say the strongest physically. Good lord, no. Imagine a world in which the power lay exclusively with neanderthals like STRONK. No, no, no. I mean those with strength of character. And yet Kostoff’s failure to best me in a qualifying match, in one-on-one competition, is rewarded with a shot at War Games.
Is this a wrestling promotion or a charity? Should we bestow medals and accolades on all HOW participants merely by virtue of their participation? The list of Hall of Fame inductees would certainly suggest this to be the case!
And yet Kostoff isn’t the real subject of my ire. In fact, I find a lot to admire in the young man. He has been granted another crack of the whip and will no doubt relish the opportunity to make amends.
Jatt Starr, on the other hand, that cretinous n’eer do well, is even less deserving of his spot in my humble opinion. Ever since my arrival in HOW I have seen him hide behind that muscle-bound dolt Dan Ryan like a cowardly puppeteer, perfectly content to let the big lug do all his heavy lifting. Well, at War Games you will be stripped of the refuge provided by Dan Ryan, forcing you to confront the repercussions of your deeds with unwavering independence. And believe me, within the confines of that cage, there WILL be repercussions.
Jatt Starr is the embodiment of all that is wrong with your United States. He represents the paradox of thriving individualism and waning collective responsibility that pervades your shores.
It is a bittersweet realization, for while I appreciate the blessings that America has bestowed upon me, I cannot ignore the shortcomings that tarnish its gleaming facade. I see a nation that sometimes forgets its own history, a nation that boasts of freedom while sometimes succumbing to the chains of ignorance and prejudice. It is a nation of contradictions.
But let it not be misunderstood as an affront to the American people as a whole. For within this vast expanse, I have encountered kindred spirits, individuals whose moral compasses align with my own. It is these souls who restore my faith in humanity, who remind me that even in the face of overwhelming odds, integrity and righteousness can prevail.
Young Conor Fuse is a prime example. There is at least some comfort to be had in seeing him spearhead a new generation of HOW hopefuls, a generation of earnest men who value honesty and integrity over a quick buck and a fast track to success. His associations with Jatt Starr are unfortunate, but by no means his fault.
And Bobbinette Carey, while I must confess that I can’t claim to grasp the full extent of the mental anguish you presently find yourself in, based on our prior encounter, I am well aware that you possess an indomitable spirit and an admirable proficiency inside the squared circle. You’re a fiercely self-reliant soul, perfectly equipped to handle any challenges that come your way.
And so, as I prepare to step into the War Games arena, I do not bear ill will towards my fellow competitors from the United States. Rather, I extend an invitation—an invitation to engage in a battle of not just physical prowess, but also of character. Let us rise above the distractions that plague our respective homelands and show the world what true valor and moral fortitude look like.
In the end, it is not the land of one’s birth or the nation from which we draw our strength that defines us. It is the content of our hearts and the choices we make that truly shape our character. So, Clay, Steve Solex, Michael Lee Best and all others who dare to challenge me, know that I do not question your physical abilities, but I challenge you to rise above the superficial trappings of success and embrace the deeper virtues that make us not just formidable competitors, but honorable men.
May the War Games serve as a crucible for our souls, where true greatness is not measured solely in victories, but in the integrity with which we conduct ourselves both inside and outside the ring.
And to any of my compatriots who may plan on watching from home, as I step into the ring of War Games, I carry with me the spirit of England and Yorkshire. It is a spirit that knows no retreat, that embraces challenges with an unwavering determination. From the cobbled streets of York to the industrial might of Leeds, we have a heritage of hard work and resilience instilled in the very fabric of our beings.
In this contest of strength, strategy, and sheer willpower, I draw upon the Yorkshire grit that has made me the man I am today. Beware the Yorkshireman in this ring. For I possess the strength of generations who have tilled these lands and faced down adversity. I am a product of this land, and it has imbued me with a fierce determination that will not be easily overcome.
As this mescal burns a trail of fire down my throat, know that the spirit of Yorkshire ignites within me. I am a force to be reckoned with, armed with the indomitable spirit of God’s Own County. And it is not for nothing that I stand here today, ready to prove my worth in the War Games.”
De Lacy came to a halt, his words hanging in the air like a grand proclamation. The once lively cantina, now draped in an eerie stillness, failed to respond with the expected fanfare. Instead, vacant gazes greeted his impassioned speech, leaving him yearning for a resounding applause or at least a nod of acknowledgment. Yet, in the blink of an eye, the bustling cacophony resumed its boisterous reign, as strident voices clamored for attention, vying to be heard above the raucous din.
Beside him, Marwood’s eyes sparkled with unadulterated pride. Initially apprehensive that the confession had drained de Lacy of his last ounce of self-assurance, Marwood’s faith in his friend was swiftly reignited by the ensuing monologue. Even though the locals seemed impervious to its impact, Marwood saw in de Lacy’s resolute words the rekindling of a fiery spirit that affirmed his unwavering belief.
Still, Marwood couldn’t contain his laughter, his shoulders shaking with mirth. “Well, de Lacy, I must say that was quite the spectacle!” he exclaimed, wiping a tear from his eye. “The locals may not have applauded, but I reckon you’ve given them plenty to think about.”
De Lacy smirked, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Aye, Marwood, it seems we’ve discovered the secret to silencing a cantina full of chatter,” he quipped. “Who needs applause when you can render them speechless?”
They both burst into laughter, attracting curious glances from the other patrons. “But in all seriousness,” Marwood said, still chuckling, “you’ve faced your fears and laid bare your secrets. It takes guts, my friend.”
De Lacy nodded, a grin spreading across his face. “Guts and a touch of madness, it seems,” he replied. “But if there’s one thing we’ve learned tonight, it’s that a little bit of madness can go a long way in this crazy world.”
As they made their way towards the exit, still chuckling, de Lacy and Marwood set off into the night, ready to conquer the wrestling world with a blend of authenticity, humor, and a healthy dose of Yorkshire charm.