Outside the American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX
April 13th, 2021
Not as ominous as The Best Arena but I’m not comparing. In four days time, this will be Dr. Eggman AKA Cancer Jiles’ 8-4 castle.
I’m sitting on the ground, directly in front of the structure, or rather, the structure is directly in front of me.
The castle is in control, not I.
Been to Dallas a few times in my travels as a performer but never has this building looked so daunting.
How did I arrive here quickly? No, not physically. I mean metaphorically for the High Octane World Championship. A few weeks ago, I was flipping off on the HOW newsfeed, shouting about Sutler’s silly Time Travel Technology (TTT™). I made a case for my Warp Whistle Mechanics (WWM®). It’s nonsensical stuff to keep me entertained. I also find Sutler extremely arrogant for someone who’s a bigger punkass dummy than I am. I digress, he’s not the Boss I’m to do battle with. But I do wonder… did my Warp Whistle Formula (WWF©) actually work?
Because we know what’s in front of me now.
It’s been a few days to digest what’s happening. Lindsay says I have the skills. Teddy believes in me. Zeb does, too. Sometimes I can’t understand Zeb but pretty sure he said something like “o’ yer’ll be world champ”. I appreciate that. I appreciate all of them.
Two weeks ago they asked me to join their co-op and here I am ALREADY. COOL Boss waiting. Big Boss lurking in the shadows. Maybe he’s here right now scoping out this arena (for as much as a blind man can), or he’s inside, working away on a master plan of cheat codes.
A chill runs down my spine and it’s not because of the COOL weather.
Big Boss knows who I am now.
I’ve spent all this time feeling like I am going to lose… because I am nowhere near as worthy of a wrestler as Dr. Eggman.
Now, I feel added pressure.
There’s a notion that I could win but I won’t. And Big Boss would make sure of this, wouldn’t he?
Is this a message? This has to be a message. I chose a side, the wrong side and now Big Boss is going to end my Game. He wouldn’t throw Lindsay out there, she’s too clever. She knows the guy’s manual inside and out.
Teddy? Well, he accomplished the LSD title already.
Zeb? Yeah, he could’ve done that but Zeb’s been here longer than I have.
No… this is a message. A cold, hard message.
I’m focusing on Jiles but there is more to this.
Than meets the eye.
I picked the wrong side.
And I’m an easy target.
THE easy target.
Everyone thinks I’m an easy target.
The American Airlines Center doesn’t look inviting. You can tell it’s kinda colourful. Red bricks intertwined with lots of glass windows up and down. I count five stories high but it plays more like twenty. These things are important to me. You think Mario simply walks into Koopa’s Castle and doesn’t admire the exterior? He always looks up to the building before he enters in cutscenes.
Who builds that shit for Koopa, anyway? Seriously. I want his interior designer.
Bet you Big Boss is going to Bowser TF outta the AAC. A lava pit here, some fireballs there. In four days this will be the Final Castle. And Dr. Eggman will finish me off.
The odds don’t look good. Even in a clean fight, the numbers are rough.
I’m not gonna suck back some spit, snot or mucus here. Beyond the clever gestures.
DING, my iPhone notification. It’s LT. She’s sending YouTube clips on Jiles. I’ve done my homework on his wrestling style. In a way, we’re similar. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always appreciate more input. I’ll check those vids out.
DING, Teddy’s sending texts, too. They have lots of swears in them but the main context is “SUIT UP CHAMPION!” I’m paraphrasing.
DING, Zeb wants to hang. I have been distant since I got here.
If I close my eyes and listen intently, I can almost hear the Texas crowd cheering from inside the arena.
I can almost hear Bryan McVay announce my name.
“This is enough for one night.” I say out loud. “Time to head back to the AirBnB.”
As I turn away, yep, I can almost hear Bryan McVay announce my name.
Grapplers Local 214 AirBnB – Dallas, TX
April 13th, 2021
It’s another real solid place LT booked. It’s no studio penthouse, though. No vintage vibes here. This is a home and it’s got a pool. Tanned coloured walls with white coloured ceilings. There are four bedrooms because, as you know, we added one more with Ray. However, the ad LT sent us said this place could house 12 people.
Makes me wonder if we’re going to up our ranks.
Where’s my discord BOT when you need him?
Anyhow, I leave recruiting to the professionals. Not for me to decide.
The only thing that sucks about this place is there are no bunk beds (1-1, .500, Lindsay) but there is a double-bedroom Zeb and I share. I’m in there right now. Nice little gray and purple coloured mural off to my left. I can’t quite make out what the picture is supposed to be. Art was never my thing.
Zeb isn’t here. Not sure where Teddy and Lindsay are, either. Likely strategizing. Maybe the local gym? Personally, I’m gonna give up on my narrative, put my head down and see what happens tomorrow. Maybe I’ll fast forward you, dear gamer, to Sunday when it’s over.
As I lay in bed, I stare up at the white painted wall, wondering how I can get my Life back on track after I lose this weekend.
“It won’t be THAT hard to do, dude…”
Sleeping – Inside My Head
April 13th, 2021
So, I’m a dreamer. If you haven’t figured that out already. I keep a dream journal but it fluctuates on how often I use it. Hate writing. Tonight I find myself in unusual surroundings. Floating. Floating through a clear tint of gray while purple circular platforms loom around. The odd SNES controller and gaming cartridge stream by, accompanied by eggs.
Boiled. Poached. Scrambled. All of the eggs.
This isn’t what Cancer Jiles seems to be about anymore but nevertheless, I guess these are my earliest and most impactful memories I have upon watching him.
There’s the High Octane World Heavyweight Championship to my right. I reach out… but it flutters away.
Reach out again, it flutters further.
So I decide to grab one of the purple platforms and canoe towards it.
Until it vanishes completely.
I continue canoeing. No clue where I’m going but it’s become very clear… my gaming devices are being replaced by faces of The Best Alliance. Wonderful. (That’s sarcasm.)
Solex. He’s hitting on a woman who clearly wants none of it. Hope she slaps him.
Clay. Readjusting his cowboy hat and lasso.
Steve Harrison. Drinking a glass of strawberry milk, 3%. Hey, it’s my dream.
Sutler’s here, too. WHAT THE HELL, SUTLER? You don’t belong! Time Travel Technology (TTT™) doesn’t work in dreamland!
All these BOTS are soon replaced by The Man. COOL.
He’s ten times the size and engulfs my entire peripherals. He looks down at me…
Smirks and laughs hysterically.
Are those tears? I’m THIS MUCH of a joke to the guy?
“Hey, Conor.” That voice sounds familiar. It’s definitely not Dr. Eggman’s. “What are you doing here?”
I look to my left and see…
“Uh, well, dreaming away. What about you? Are you my subconscious or something?”
I literally laugh at myself while nodding. “Or something.” I reply.
“So, I’m gonna lose, right?”
“I think so.” My subconscious states.
“Anything I can do?”
“No, sorry dude. This is a message from The Boss, to you and everyone else. Don’t mess with him. You’re right. You’re collateral damage.” My subconscious is not pulling any punches.
“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence. Imma canoe away now, okay?”
“Okay.” He says as I start to. “Canoe away. Continue to tell yourself the same narrative: You’re done for, it’s over. I’d hate for you to find a different perspective.”
I don’t understand myself.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
My subconscious smirks, kinda like that giant-sized Cancer Jiles did.
“I mean the writing’s on the wall, correct? There’s no opportunity in front of you. You’ve got no chance. Some would even say you have no chance in he-”
DING, I’m awoken by a notification.
COOL promo. Uploaded to YouTube through the High Octane channel.
My vision is a little blurry so I rub my eyes. Luckily, my ears work fine.
“Conor Fuse. Hello, I’m Cancer Jiles-”
I don’t need to recap. Sure you’ve heard.
“Conor with 2 N’s?” I say, as the promo plays on. “There’s no right or wrong way to spell my name! It’s not Canncer Jiles… is it?”
Boy, he sure sounds awfully confident. Not only about my name.
New co-op. New champion. New tights.
I’m done for.
He’s been playing this Game for years and finally got to the top. He’s not gonna let me walk in there and beat him.
I’m heading out to clear my mind.
My subconscious doesn’t know shit.
Select Start – Dallas, TX
April 13th, 2021
Decided a walk won’t do me any good but an arcade bar is where it’s @. It’s no START Bar like St. Louis but it’s ‘aiiight.
Arcades everywhere. On my left, I see DEFENDER, Joust, X-Men, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and of course, Pac-Man. To my right, I see Tetris, Q*Bert, Space Invaders, and Mrs. Pac-Man. Nice. Some arcade bars forget Mrs. Pac-Man but I find that, ultimately, it’s a greater game than Mr.
Who says women need to be in the kitchen, huh Solex?
However, before I divulge into these events and bleed my feelings away… maybe a drink? I really don’t want to become dependent but my nerves are WHACK after my dream.
I spin around to the bar. It’s retroed out, PAC-Man plastered on the front of the stand. Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are blue and scattered about. Can you tell which one is which when they’re all blue? I can.
“Hey, bartender,” I click my tongue loudly so he can hear me, “can I get let’s see… uh… a shot?”
The bartender nods. Already nicer than the dude in St. Louis. Well Conor, if you’re gonna drink, this is the place to do it!
“What shot do you want?” The bartender asks me.
“Hmmm, I only know tequila.”
“Tequila it is.”
He pours and places it in front of me alongside the proverbial salt and… lemon?
“Lemon?” I ask the bartender. “Where’s the lime?”
The bartender laughs, although he’s not rude about it. “Kid, limes are expensive. Lemons are cheaper and do the same thing.”
I nod and lean in. The bar is rather empty so I don’t know why I’m needing to ensure this is a private conversation. “Sorry, I’m new to this.”
“No problem, kid.”
I knock the salt on the floor. Oops.
“Shit,” I moan, “it’s all over my shoes.”
I feel myself raising an eyebrow.
And confidence growing.
“Sir, would it be okay if I… kept this salt shaker?” I put money on the counter, bend over and pick up the shaker while ensuring I place enough of the lost salt back in it.
The bartender’s indifferent.
“I think this is exactly what I’m looking for.” Too excited to hold back, I take my iPhone out and begin texting but don’t worry, I often speak the text I am entering.
“Hey… want one final attempt… if that’s COOL. Can meet you at 9:00am outside the arena tomorrow?”
I look up at the bartender as he takes the money and stares a weird hole into me.
“Sir, I can assure you, I am not on anything.” I give him my most serious voice. “But I did have an epiphany. And I’ve found the most awesome new power-up.”
With (most of) the salt back in the salt shaker, I sprinkle a little onto my shoes.
Yep, the bartender definitely thinks I’m on drugs.
At least it beats him thinking I’m Easy.
Outside the American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX
April 14th, 2021
“Thank you for letting me try again.” I remark. “I know it’s not ideal but there’s still two more days for a promo.”
“No problem,” cameraman Bryan reassures, alongside that same audio sidekick from days ago. We’re outside the American Airlines Center. I texted Bryan last night and asked him if I could have another crack at a promo. I don’t think Re-FUSED LIX is sold out yet so it’s worth a shot.
Either way, this speech isn’t to sell tickets. I’m also not doing it to respond to Dr. Eggman.
I’m doing this one for me.
“Here’s the thing,” I mention to Bryan, “he didn’t have to choose me. He didn’t have to choose ANYONE.”
I can tell Bryan’s more interested in getting the camera set up and less interested in what I’m rambling on about.
“He could’ve said, ‘here are the keys, here’s an XBox controller. Play all the games you want in my lounge. Just don’t spill your yolk on my leather couch’. He could’ve said that. But ya know what? He didn’t.”
Bryan reluctantly plays along. “Who’s ‘he’?”
“Yes, Big Boss.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Listen, Bryan,” I snap, I finally understand. “Big Boss hand picked me for Jiles’ first title defense because I’m deemed easy. No one takes me seriously. Half the time, I don’t take me seriously. It’s simple to consider my love for video games and my human, uh, man-childness. But if Big Boss REALLY wanted to pave the Easy Mode way for Dr. Eggman…”
“Cancer Jiles dude. Former EGG Bandit Leader. God, stay with me.”
Although I realize I DO have Bryan’s attention now.
“If Big Boss REALLY wanted it to be easy for Jiles, he could’ve rolled out a paralyzed Scott Stevens. Like, literally, rolled him in a wheelchair to the ring. Stevens would do anything for Big Boss. And if he really really, and I mean REALLY REALLY, wanted to put Dr. Eggman on Easy Mode, he’d not book him.”
“Well it’s probably contractual Jiles defends the title x-amount of times a month.” Bryan says, killing a little of my buzz. A little.
“That’s fine. I’ll bite,” I reply. “There’s a few active BOTS below me. Use them. Or throw in someone NEW. I’m not completely useless. This is a message, yes, but this is also a TEST. What mode can Dr. Eggman handle? Easy? Medium? Hard?”
I suck back some of my own saliva but I don’t spit it out. No, I swallow. Some nice ammunition for you, COOL Champ.
“A message and a test. The message? That’s to me. You’re a dead man Conor Fuse. You chose the wrong side and my Alliance will pick your bones dry. The test?”
I pause. Grin.
“Big Boss to Dr. Eggman: Don’t screw this up.”
Digging into my pocket, I pull out the salt shaker. Sprinkle a bit on my shoes.
“Got a new power-up, Bryan.” I look at the camera and give him a nod. “It’s helped me crack the code. Put it into perspective. Pour a little salt on my feet and I can see clearly. In all likelihood, I’ll lose but this match isn’t ONLY on my shoulders. It’s on Jiles, too. And I can deal with that. The Man is not as confident as he makes himself out to be. His promo was good. Solid. Fun. A riot. But he’s compensating. The blank spaces on his tights? His new BA-shades? He’s not sure he can do this. And even if he IS sure, he KNOWS he can’t screw this up.”
Bryan blinks at me, once. “You got all this… from salt?”
“Kinda. Somewhat. Not-exactly-but-piecing-it-together step-by-step.” I pause for air. “I’m ready for my promo. Let’s gooooooooooooooo!”
You’ll see the promo when it airs live but I’ll go over some of its points right now. I’m speaking directly to you…
Dr. Eggman, Cancer Jiles, COOL Champ, THE 8-4 Boss.
I initially said I wasn’t going to ask you questions. I don’t care why you joined The Best Alliance and still don’t. I don’t give AF if Big Boss laced your new boots in yolk, salt, Chaos Emeralds or something else entirely.
But if you are joining the BA for the sole reason of finding the Easy way out, consider myself disappointed.
Scared but disappointed.
Because you’re better than that.
Wanna touch dicks with the devil?
Last I heard, Big Boss is not that clean.
You’ve got the cheat codes now. Don’t screw this up.
Don’t shit the bed.
‘Cause if you want to add a bunch of faces on your tights, so you can converse with them, be my guest.
You better make damn sure you beat me, though.
If you don’t, that’s gonna be awkward.
All that blank space on your tights.
Who would keep you company?
I guess you could dial up Bobby Dean. Beat him. Add him to your spandex.
Zion’s looking to get his BA hands wet.
Your yolk would be awfully nice lubricant for him. I’m trying it out myself.
Be that as it may, those are quite the lonely pair of wrestling tights.
Ah, yes, you’ve still got Big Boss’ dick to play with.
Better than an XBox controller?
Hope his scrotum has a rumble pack.
Does the old man have Parkinson’s yet?
Talk to him and relive the glory days from your 0 successful title defenses. I’m sure he’ll be COOL with that.
Really sounds like you’ve got a stand-up group that cares about you and you’re comfortable with all of them. Definitely get to know Hughie, he’s got more ADHD than I do. You’ll love him.
You picked the wrong olive branch, I promise. That shield Big Boss gave you isn’t from Hyrule, either.
All the faces in the world on your tights but you’ll still die alone.
You’ve burned your bridges… and yet, you didn’t have any friends when you achieved the World to begin with.
Coulda kept this hero thing going but instantly decided not to.
Exchanged your salt shoes for Big Boss’ sugar. Hope he uses the proper amount of tongue.
Took the Easy route instead of Difficult.
When I’m done with you, you’ll be over Easy.
I got the quips.
I thought you were cool, chill, a fun guy. Maybe you still are. But I am left wondering.
You might be The Cap-i-tain Now but I am The Power-Up King.
The next World Champion?
But yet plausible.
Because when I run this context through my head…
Suddenly, you’re not that scary anymore.
You’re 8-4. You’re COOL. Upgraded T-shades for BA-shades. I dig it.
But with some salt on my own shoes and fight in my spirit, I’m no longer contemplating where my face will be placed on your wrestling tights.
You know what?
Sounds good with me.
I just hope you’re The Man you think you are.
It would really be a shame… if you weren’t.