SOS – Send Out Stevens
I have to be real with you. You live in a dreamland and this is coming from the video game kid. Let me get this straight, I beat you. Regardless of how the match played out, I beat you. And then you walked to the ring and announced a challenge for a March to Glory rematch. Next, you claimed I ignored you even when I said, a number of times, I can’t promise you to run it back. I am not M.O.B. Instead, I simply offered you advice, which you chose to disregard: Go level up, fight other Last Level Bosses and if you succeed, everyone would take notice. You would have to, under no other circumstances, be granted redemption and a hell of a lot of notoriety in the process.
Whatever. I guess this is High Octane now. Fail, make another challenge anyway and receive it. Okay, no worries there… I’ll never back down from a fellow gamer. And the truth is I don’t mind you, Scott, even though I have bones to pick.
Here’s one. Colour me confused outside of the typical #97 shades because you initially said all of the following in the span of 5 minutes:
-You didn’t think you could beat me.
-Called a potential Scott Stevens victory a miracle.
-Yet also said you know you will beat me and apparently I know it, too.
So what’s the fucking narrative, big guy? Best I got is you’re a walking contradiction who assumes he’ll be the next World Champion while clearly understanding Conor Fuse prevails.
I can fix your narrative, let me help a brother out. Let me be the final nail in your coffin, the last life before falling into the endless doom pit. While you were fucking off in the Maurako Cup BLAMING your partner, I treated it as the most serious tournament ever established, asking myself how I can be better FOR my partner. That’s what winners do, it’s a CHAMPIONSHIP COMMITMENT you don’t have. As “The Badass From Texas” freeloads onto The Vintage’s train for another World Title shot and screams at Black Mamba, I was out there busting it up like a real badass in every aspect of this sport, taking nothing for granted, blaming NOBODY but myself. Life and death with David Noble, turning a surefire negative and streamlining it into a positive. Take what I can find, not weasel my way into World Championship try #2.
But hey, here we are so what the fuck do I know.
I’ll always welcome a challenge… even from a challenger who’s never defeated me. Therefore, I’ll bite. Conor Fuse vs. Scott Stevens, the reboot is on.
Tell me what’s changed, Scott? Actually fucking tell me what’s changed with you. How will things be different this time? You got a new training regiment? Gonna enter with a fresh strategy? Or are you just showing up to a radio jockey interview, wearing a Mike Best t-shirt and spend ten minutes of your air time explaining how it’s a super neat shirt, how there’s printing on the front and back of it (you literally did this) and how I, the impressionable kid who’s obsessed with fighting a plethora of villains from every angle possible, am obsessing over Mike Best instead of creaming my pants about you… when I was totally, like bro, totally obsessing over you.
I study tape, Scott. A lot of tape. You know the funny thing is you study a lot of tape, too. You understand HOW’s history inside and out. If we played a game show titled Stump Scott Stevens: The High Octane Edition, I would never, in a million years… even with unlimited How To Be A Millionaire lifelines… be able to out-answer you. You’re smart, knowledgeable and actually have a decent work ethic when you want something. And yet you’re the same person you were two years ago, as you were five years ago, as you are right now.
The problem is in your application.
Am I wrong? You’re riding the coattails of your previous HOW success from an era of days gone by. Hence why everyone’s caught up to you. You blame others (see: Black Mamba), you don’t listen (see: practically everything you do), you’re an honorless combatant (see: disguised as a referee while throwing Jace over the top rope and haggling for another undeserved opportunity) and more often than not, despite the potential for a strong work ethic… you’re incredibly lazy. While I do forgive you for mailing in your 2020 match against Conor Fuse… there’s a part of me which will never forget. When I needed you the most as a High Octane rookie, you didn’t do me a solid. You didn’t give a fuck about Fuse. You dragged your ass into the ring and rolled out moments after, hardly wanting to be there. But now, title in my hand, oh you’ll wrestle your heart out now. You could’ve asked for a rematch against me in 2020 but nope. Show me the real inner you, a thirsty opportunistic dickhead who doesn’t care about bettering himself. Easy way Stevens, all day, every day.
I got news for you, this isn’t the Participation Championship you selfish, gutless prick. It’s an absolute privilege to be crowned #97 in this iteration of High Octane. I am so proud to be The Guy. You will NOT take this away from me you pandering dipshit.
I despise athletes like you. Taking up space where someone else could have their shot and a well deserved one at that. Arthur Pleasant took me out with an SNES controller, I want a piece. Steve Harrison thinks he’s legitimate tag team money and he has a point. I want a piece. Jeffrey James Roberts is a better high flyer than I am. There, I said it; I mean it. I WANT A PIECE.
Vintage vs. Texan 2.0. You didn’t get the memo.
I’m gonna make sure you get it this time.
And listen, it’s not a bad message. There’s a place for you in HOW. There’s also another pay-per-view with your name on it one day. But at the moment, Scott Stevens is my television opponent. Again.
Maybe one day we wrestle for the title at a pay-per-view. Could be the main event of ICONIC. Or even better, you’ll be there and I won’t.
Earn it. Show me. Prove it through this match and after I defeat you, prove it moving forward. Tuck your tail between your legs, and NEVER mention my name until you rack up the Ws.
You know what bothers me? When an athlete is convinced there’s only one pathway to the top of the mountain. In wrestling, it’s the World Championship. Everyone goes batshit insane over the top prize. It makes sense. Who doesn’t wanna hold #97MarioRed? I’d question the person who’s content with their lower tier position.
And yet, do you see John Sektor complaining about where he is? His 2021 was unbelievable. A seriously impressive run with the Tag Team Championships alongside Jatt Starr and an LSD reign which may never end. At March to Glory, I don’t consider him second tier. I consider him the absolute god damn show. The main event. The historical mother fucking legend of yesteryear AND the present. The suplex machine. Technical wrestling personified. No questions asked.
They say in basketball the best players learn to play when the rock isn’t in their hands. In hockey, you learn to skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it is currently. In football, wide receivers run their routes knowing the pigskin might not be coming to them.
Wrestling’s the same.
And I’m gonna teach you the squared circle lesson.
After you lose to me, Scott… you’re gonna learn to play without the ball, skate without the puck, and run routes without a pass. Call it as you may, there will be NO #97 re-re-match, no Conor Fuse mentioned in your air time. This is not a bad thing, I’ll be doing it as a service to you.
Recapture your badass glory, stop obsessing over it. Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Don’t look past a GOLDEN opportunity in front of you, via a Tag Team Title tournament and a chance at a new direction. Ignore the pipe dreams and start living in the moment. Let me tell you something, if I lose to you this weekend, I could walk out there and do the same thing. Get on a mic, call the Texas Tough Guy out and attach myself to you nonstop. Like a leech, suck your blood dry.
This doesn’t do me any favours. I’ll obviously learn shit. Instead, my best response would be to sit down, lay out the cards in front of me and ask myself where I went wrong. Then I’ll find some other guys to fight, work on those mistakes and see you down the road.
Probably winning a tag tournament match wouldn’t hurt.
In other words, I play without the ball, I skate without the puck. And I LEARN how to do it.
Plus, I can still be respected. I think it’s more commendable than whining and begging for a rematch. Doing this would make me come off as a feeble, fucking joke of a loser, completely disrespecting YOUR victory against me. A victory, where if you do win, you will have EARNED.
In October I lost to Mike. Straight up bro, I deserved nada. I stepped away from the spotlight. It was on Mike and rightfully so. He earned his keep; I crashed and burned.
Sunday is gonna be a valuable lesson. If you lose, there won’t be another call out. You start from the bottom and prove you’re not a quitter. You work your way up… level by level, like a real gamer.
You are more than a loss, Scott. You’re more than a World Title, too. At Refueled, you will receive this message.
Whether you actually listen to it or not is totally up to you.
… … … … …
Dearness Living Community (DLC) – Commons Room
March 7, 2022 – 8:00
“What does it mean to take a man’s dreams away?” I wonder out loud, as I do some minor soul searching. Scott has certainly blended together the correct neuroplasticity to continue finagling for the ultimate prize, directly after he was told he didn’t have it.
In front of me sits Walter Newport, my fondest DLC friend. Hasn’t aged a bit in the year I’ve known him, although he’s clearly pushing limits. I’ve taken time in-between Refueled to visit my old stomping grounds. I figured if anyone knew what it would look like to have their dreams taken away, it’s a Dearness resident. I don’t mean this rudely, we all grow old. The people under this roof have just beaten me to it.
I fear aging. Straight up, the most honest thing I’ll ever admit. I fear the elder stage because it’s inevitable. One day, Conor Fuse will retire, like Babe Ruth and Mike Tyson before him. One day, Conor Fuse will die, like everyone else. It’s a dark thought but it doesn’t have to be. Living in the DLC for a full year has taught me these lessons. It’s also taught me to live in the present. Right now, I’m at the top of my game. While the future of retirement and demise remains mandatory for even the most prestigious individuals, I focus on today. Perhaps that’s why I wrestle with everything to lose, night in and night out. Maybe that’s why I take the risks I do.
Walter has been thinking about my question for some time, as in what it means to pull a man’s dreams away from him.
“When things started to be taken from me, Conor,” he begins, leaning forward. I see his wheels spin. “I had a difficult time comprehending. Eventually, acceptance sets in but you’re always reflecting on the past, in some way.”
“Does this happen with everyone?” I jump over Walter after he finishes his sentence. I consider him the spokesperson for every greybeard out there.
The old man shrugs. “Maybe not for everyone.”
Walter leans back in his chair and stares into the window beside us. These questions bother him. He’s clearly thinking about his own past and what he doesn’t have anymore.
“Wally,” I start, cautiously. I don’t wanna upset the guy further. “Sorry for approaching this topic.”
He brushes me off by throwing an arm in my direction. “It’s okay, kid. You’re bringing this up because of Stevens?”
“Conor,” Walter’s eyes scan the floor, focusing on how he can articulate appropriately. By now, he knows I’m a ravaged ADHD case and will fixate on each word he says. “Everyone comes after the champion, c’mon son. Stevens is no different than Harrison, Sunny O’Callahan or Bobbinette Carey.”
I’m snappy with my reply. “Not Bobbinette. She’s cool.”
Walter’s expression changes to one suggesting I’m an idiot. I become defensive, raising my arms in the air as if held at gunpoint.
“Okay, another time. You were saying?”
He speaks as if I never interrupted. “Stevens wanted a rematch. It’s a typical thing someone in his position would do. His situation is no different than you facing Clay Byrd in round one of the Best Tournament, or defeating Jeffrey James Roberts in the finals.”
I’m about to open my mouth but Walter cuts me off.
“I know, Conor,” he says with a crack of a smile, “You’re going to say you’re disappointed facing him again so quickly. Begging and becoming a nitwit to the system of HOW does not equal a championship opportunity, particularly when his overall record is miserable. This is why you’re who you are and it’s not something you would do. I also understand you had high hopes for this journey, to face a ton of ‘BOTS’ and ‘Bosses’ -did I get those terms right?- and seeing the same old guys in front of you isn’t inspiring…”
Walter’s voice trails. I’m a little dumbfounded myself. Probably couldn’t have said it any better.
“Well… shit… yeah…” Rarely I’m at a loss for words but the old SOB took them outta my mouth.
Walt nods. “So, let’s get our facts straight. If you lost, you would move on to other things but he didn’t and instead, got his way in the form of a rematch. How about you suck it up yourself, Conor.”
“Hey hey hey,” I’m backpedaling, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t fight him. I have a problem with how Scott went about being the antithesis of what a champion should be.”
Walter gives me the look. “Got it.”
The Elder leans forward in his chair once more, although this time his eyes drift off into the window and the outside world. A world he barely sees, since his strength has deteriorated significantly.
“You want to fight all of the others, right Conor?”
I shake my head yes with excitement.
“They’re not going anywhere. Defeat Stevens. Treat him as the ultimate roadblock. You crave JJR? How about John Sektor in a title-for-title match? What if Mike Best wasn’t so serious about retiring? Can’t tell me the boy has spent his entire career being an honest and upstanding citizen…” Walter takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “They’ll be waiting. You can have everything Conor…”
The old guy starts dozing while finishing his sentence.
“And then some.”
… … … … …
March 7, 2022 – 11:00
I’m gonna be honest here. Since the new year, I haven’t been having a lot of fun. As I stand in the checkout line at a grocery store, perhaps this comes as a surprise. The reality of my situation, being in a Whole Foods, only further elaborates how much fun I’m not having. In my shopping basket are the essentials and no, it’s not Cheetos and Kool-Aid. I’d never run dry on the certified shit. Only cereal, milk, eggs and bread in this basket. I’m a prune juice shy of fitting in with the DLC.
I could point to this mundane life (FYI I always thought the saying was Monday-life lol). Day-to-day regular tasks aren’t too exciting. But The Vintage’s activities are supposed to be enthralling! I’m #97, I have a group of solid friends and I’ve been extremely successful. What is there to complain about? Why am I not having fun?
After I lost to Mike, I also spent a long time feeling miserable. That was different, I knew the reason. I failed myself, the fans and HOW. I failed Mike by losing to him. It’s easy to come to that conclusion. Besides, I’m not inconsolably tormented. I can function, wrestle on a daily basis and communicate with people. I’m not closed off. Listen, if I could put a finger on what’s bothering me… then I’d have addressed it already.
“Oops, sorry sir,” I say to the large man ahead, realizing I was swinging my hand held shopping basket into his backside. He turns, slowly, his massive frame looming over my smaller physique. Funny thing is if he made a scene, I could take him. I’m a fucking wrestler. I’d jump onto the display of Coco Puffs to my left, flip and throw his head into the tile floor with a hurricanrana… or head scissors takedown. Whatever I’m feeling. Could go either way.
I digress, I’m not here to make trouble. The man scowls at me, as if to say don’t do this again. I’ll be on my best behavior, so I reply with a smile, nod and glance at the floor. If you don’t want confrontation, ya gotta suck it up and surrender leverage.
Back to my thoughts, as my eyes drift around the store. I’m fourth in line and I’ll be waiting a while. I don’t do self-serve and I’m two items over hitting the express checkout. While others might cheat the system and say they have ten items, I keep an honorable code throughout all areas of my life. I’m like Batman. He stops himself from killing, Dark Knight Code 101. I keep myself from cheating, Vintage Code 102. I assume if I cheat once, just once, I may never go back. Capeesh?
My heart rate didn’t even accelerate about the potential confrontation with the man in front of me. The only thing making me feel alive at the moment is the Maurako Cup tournament and teaming with David Noble. The group stage, semis and pending finals matches are massive but temporary. An hour after our battles are over, the feeling of hype goes away. I worry this will have an impact on how I wrestle Stevens but of course, when the bell rings, I’m ready to go. I have no plans to lose the World Championship anytime soon. In a very indirect way, I will feel alive fighting for my #97 life, don’t misinterpret.
I don’t think the lack of excitement has anything to do with who’s in front of me but I used to live with such elation in my heart during these stupid daily tasks, too. The High Octane campaign would motivate me 24/7.
My mind wanders to other thoughts. I guess enough time has passed because I’m in front of the cashier. She’s cute, blonde hair, looks to be around my age. I should ask her out.
“Hi there,” she says. Her eyes suggest she might be interested in a more in-depth conversation.
“Hey.” Wow, Conor. That’s all you got?
Apparently so. I simply watch her scan my twelve items and she asks if I want a bag. I nod my head. Riveting stuff.
Out the doorway I go, begrudgingly to my car. The interaction could’ve been so much better. And yet, here I am.
… … … … …
My “New” Place
March 7, 2022 – 13:00
I’ve been staying in Chicago while traveling across the U.S., although I knew moving out of the DLC was an important step. I had been there for a year and didn’t want to be stagnant. As anyone in their late twenties can identify, the suburban life is the next logical progression. Then again, maybe some of the doom and gloom I’m facing is due to the fact I live alone, in a condo with not much happening. I stare around the living room. There’s my Nordic Game Supply HyperX Blast Core Gaming Chair (ergonomic, faux leather upholstery, red-black PC racing tilt foam armrests), 85” 2021 QN900A Neo QLED 8K Smart TV (ultra-fine contrast in 8K revealing every hidden detail, A.I.-powered 8K picture completed by 16 neural networks and hey, check this out, superb brilliance across the colour spectrum. Boom) and every video game console you can imagine. Picked up Elden Ring, can’t wait to throw the mothafucka in my Xbox. For sure, there’s wrestling tapes, too. I’ve pulled the Scott Stevens film. We’ve got his full history in HOW and dipped into the unmentionable federations. Imma do my homework, take the guy seriously. I said I’ll beat him but of course anything can happen. He’s coming for the true prize. I will defend it at all costs.
“Hey there, pal.”
Twiddling my thumbs, literally, I map out the rest of the day. Watch Scott Stevens matches, followed by the gym and cap it off in the local wrestling school applying additional maneuvers to counteract the angry Texan.
“Hey, hey Conor… you around?”
I clue in. It sounds like someone’s been vying for my attention. However, now the voice is much more prominent.
Hearing him crystal clear, I rise from my chair and walk around the living room.
“Conor, what’s up, guy?”
Ugh, he moved. My eyes scan the walls. Dull, white paint, large open room. I could redecorate but I’ve been awfully indifferent at doing much of anything other than High Octane.
“I’m over here, dumbass.”
Finally, I lay eyes upon him.
“Hey, there you are.”
Taking a deep breath, I exhale slowly. I can feel my hands tremble, my mind racing. I never expected to see him again.
I stare at my reflection through the window.
“Good to see you, Conor. Heard you’re not having a lot of fun these days?”
My reflection smiles back, sadistically.
“Wondering if I can help?”