I’ll go for the jugular.
Jace, absolutely, positively, no doubt, go straight-up fuck yourself buddy. I see you over and over again, you never go away. Like a leech on my ass or an annoying prepubescent n00b on your 12th-straight hour of Fortnite pissing all over everyone else’s good time, we can rehash the usuals: you walked out on Jatt and I for the Easy Mode path to glory. I’ve come to terms with this. I promise you, I have. You’re welcome to think I haven’t moved on. Think whatever the fuck you want. Last time, I wanted to face you. I needed to face you. I had an internal desire to mangle your pigshit mug into five different pieces. This time? You’re just a puppet doing your boss’ work.
Feels good to be a pawn?
Hate to say I told ya so.
Regardless, I came to terms with your insecure, complacent attitude long ago. You’ll never be the star in this current iteration of High Octane. Nor, however, do you want to be. And I proved it when I pinned you a couple of weeks ago. Funny enough, you had me defeated. “In theory.” Similar to our HOFC cage battle a year prior, you may have had me down for the count. But as push came to shove, you got in your own head and made it more than what it should have been, victory be dammed. You didn’t want the W, you wanted to embarrass me further. You saw me stir and you HAD TO hit me with another curb stomp. One isn’t good enough. Let’s really lay down the hammer. MDK, JPD.
And that, Jace, is not how things work in this wrestling game. I thought you would’ve known by now. You can say I’m obsessed with you. You can say you’re a thorn in my side. Hell, you said a lot the last time we fought and I never got a rebuttal. I might not get one this time, either. But what really would’ve bothered me, Jace, what really would’ve worked my Gears of War into overdrive is if you merely hit me with your finisher, flipped me over…
And hooked the leg.
I hold grudges. Like a rattled, self-effacing gamer, oh, I hold significant grudges. Pretty sure this is common knowledge now. Walk out on me, you will occupy space in my subconscious. Rent doesn’t cost a lot. I’m a cheap whore.
But hey, moron, I only dip my foot in the angry ocean on an at need basis.
I beat you. I pinned you. I hit you with my finisher and then hooked the leg. I didn’t decide to go for another super splash. No cuteness with Weapon Getting your shit. I said I wasn’t gonna. I said you were gonna see Conor Fuse, fair and square.
I wanted my revenge the legal, honourable way. To prove to you… I was the answer. I was your teammate. And you would’ve been better off on my side.
Always better with the good guys.
I can’t do that if I don’t follow a strict game plan. I definitely can’t do that if I allow you to throw me off. I can run my mouth before the match. I can live, eat, breathe and sleep JPD 24/7. But when that bell rings all bets are off. If I let you in my head after the 2 DINGS echo throughout the arena, then I’ve given you the victory.
It happened vs. Mike.
No. After the bell is called for, we wrestle. Context be damned, I’m walking out of there with the victory. If it means I didn’t kill you, so be it. Who knows what opportunities will come in the future.
Little fun fact for ya: take what you can get. You’ll be surprised what you can find.
And I’ve found two World Championships in the wake of everyone else’s fucking bullshit. Great, a credit to you Jace Parker, for never fully leaning into my video game mindset and seeing me for something MOAR. In that sense, I’ll give you tons of credit. ‘Cause I’m beyond basic comedy. I will thoroughly disembowel you if you step over the line.
But you didn’t act like I was more than a gaming dumbass on Chaos 006. You took my resiliency for granted.
So here we are again, in a circumstantial position. You, on The Board’s side and me…
With nimrod, wannabe main eventer Steve Harrison. Who’s also proven he can’t go it alone.
I digress, I’ll deal with him later. Same with GREAT. But you, my “rival”, JPD, last month I proved where you belong. It’s under me. Forever under me. And yet, you don’t go away.
You have no business jamming your nose into my deal with Bobbinette and particularly my issues with the powerlifter. You weren’t there as he choked the living fuck outta me, so why you were there to call security… asking for ELITE Protection… when all I wanted to do was try talking sense into this bone headed, brain dead, steroid injected second coming of Captain Qwark… well, I have no idea.
Maybe you’re trying to stay relevant.
You tell me you’re a tough mountain to climb. I climbed you.
You say you can teach me a few things. You didn’t.
You argue I’m a shell of my former self, that Conor Fuse is lost because he’s no longer #97.
Whatever you say bud.
I have bigger, better and MOAR important things to do. Like honour a real friend… figure out who’s trying to kill her. Legit, real murder, not gaming nonsense. Also for me to climb back up the !RANKS. Find my redemption against Christopher America, World Title or not.
And prove to the boss, I am the man he’s convinced I’m not.
The Player One of H-O-W.
JPD, you’re in this match because Lee wants to dangle you in front of my face. He wants to throw Harrison and I together so, in fact, we won’t work together. But I’m a bigger man than that. I’m a smarter player. I’ll put aside my differences; I’ll team with the #1 contender. He won’t get along with me, this is certain. He’s drawn his line in the sand, after I tried to humble myself and say we should’ve pulled together for War Games.
So be it.
Like a noble warrior, I’ll still offer my other controller. I will try to do the right thing. Survive. Endure. Progress.
Maybe there’s a miracle in our team. Or there’s a dose of reality coming.
But it won’t be from you, Jace. I know where I stand with you. Convince yourself if you wish… but you know where you stand with me, too.
Not on my radar.
Not on my level.
Enjoy working alongside GODSON 2.0.
We’re done here.
— — — — —
Honestly, screw tag team matches.
I almost never win them and I know, this upcoming contest in particular, has been designed for me to lose. Along with my opponent. Because fuck the gaming kid, right? Fuck Harrison, too.
…I’m actually okay with the Harrison part.
Big boss man sits in his high chair, constructing level after level on Hard Mode for Conor Fuse. It’s fine, nothing new. I survived my War Games team once again…
Only to be out numbered and ambushed. But I was still the last opponent standing in the wake of Lee Best Returns.
I have to push myself harder, train even faster, find a more efficient way to study film and implement my changes in an extremely time sensitive manner because when you’re down, you’re almost out the door. And Lee is itching to boot me.
I’m just not leaving.
I’m not as easy as the others he’s had a problem with. Sure, I’m not World Champion anymore but there’s a time and a place to address that matter. Some would say I’m second fiddle to Bobbinette Carey ATM.
Some would say.
I know my place. I know my abilities and what’s in front of me. Teaming with Steve Harrison, a guy who legitimately thinks he’s better than me without ever actually proving it… this match has Hard L written all over it.
“Whatever.” I scoff, sitting beside my favourite Elder, Walter Newport, outside the Dearness Living Community on a park bench. “This is designed for me to fail.”
I weigh my options and give my head a shake.
“Got that dumb freight train in front of me, GREAT SCOTT. Another boobish bulldozer but can pack a wicked punch,” I mumble, feeling my eyes roll to the back of my head. “Seems to be a fad. ALL CAPS, can’t put together a concise sentence and stabs the juice in his ass. You don’t get those muscles without the Gatorade.”
Which reminds me.
“What the hell did I ever do to STRONK? Why the fuck does that pencil dick think I’m the guy who’s tryin to kill Bobbie?”
Walter doesn’t answer. He stares straight ahead, into the park where kids are playing freely. I wish my mind could be this empty. When I first entered HOW, the only thing I wanted to do was play video games and wrestle. It was a good life, 2020 High Octane. Why’d everything have to become so complicated? Apparently now I’m a murderer and Bobbinette’s side-bitch.
And Steve Harrison’s scapegoat.
And GREAT SCOTT’S chew toy.
And STRONK GODSON’S reason for a serious attitude change.
And Jace Parker Davidson’s fixation.
“Fuck that guy. Seriously. I’m exhausted with him.”
“With who?” Walter quips and slowly raises his head towards me. Hmm, he was listening.
“Nothing, dude,” I reply. “Got a lot in front of me right now and this tAg tEaM match doesn’t do me any favours.”
“When you speak in tHaT tOnE, it doesn’t do me any favours, son,” Wally replies.
Whatever. Sometimes my patience wears thin.
“The facts are…” funny how my mind drifts, I thought I’d have my thoughts lined up. Apparently not. “I’m in a bad spot this Sunday. Harrison won’t return my calls -not that I’ve called him a lot or have his number LOL-, we haven’t found Bobbie’s murderer -she thinks it’s Scott Stevens and I think Scott Stevens can’t even put together an appropriate game plan to wipe his own motherfucking ass so why the living hell he can strategize killing The Epicness is beyond me-, Jace will stand across from me in the ring, AGAIN -so sick of this guy, like so so so so sick Imma vomit- and then there’s GREAT SCOTT. If you can believe it he seems stupider than Stevens, screams louder than Stronk and has a mafia background where his parents were murdered and shit… and honestly he rambles on so much I think he’s a pathological lair and nothing he says makes any sense where he might actually be a genius, fooling everybody into this false sense of security, because he’s won a lot of matches. In some way, he’s kinda like me. At face value, everybody looks past Conor Fuse but then I punch them square in the face and-”
It hits me. I’m a fucking mess. Or inadvertently doing my own GREAT SCOTT impression.
“I got a lot going on, Walter.” I guess I’m trying to wrap my thoughts up.
Walter leans back, lifting his head, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “I can hear that.”
I reach down for my backpack. Opening it up, I pull out a large photograph of Bobbinette’s Hit List, linking the various “characters” together and the bullseye pointed to Scott Stevens. I, however, see a much different pathway. My eyes scan each picture, I’m always double checking, triple checking, if you will. Once I propose my theory to Bobbie, there’s no going back.
“You know, Wally,” I start off in a quiet tone, still unsure of how I’m going to verbalize my thoughts. “I think I know who it is. And it ain’t obvious…”
Walter remains in the exact same position, resting against the bench, head up, eyes closed and yet his left arm finds the sheet of paper in front of me and pushes my arms down.
“You need to focus on your match, son,” he says sternly. “I know you want to help Bobbie and you’re happy to have a real friend in High Octane, one who you think isn’t going to leave you. You’ve done great so far. But it’s only going to become more difficult for you to manage another person’s problems.”
I can feel my eyes roll into the back of my head again, this time for a different reason.
“I can handle it.”
Maybe I’m contradicting myself. A moment ago I said I have a ton of shit in front of me. Walter gives me the easy out, the simple option. Focus on the tag team match. Worry about Bobbinette and who tried to kill her after.
And yet I’ve never enjoyed playing on easy.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it.” Having a moment to process what Walter told me, I recognize he’s not wrong. “I’m going to focus on our match. I will team with Harrison, even after the shit he’s said about me. I’ll forget my issues with him and with The Highwaymen. It wasn’t their World Title to lose at War Games and yet they certainly acted like it. The belt was mine. I lost it.”
Walter says something in response but I’m not paying attention. My eyes drift back onto the Hit List in front of me.
It’s not a certainty. Call it a hunch.
But deep down, I think I’m right.
“Walter, it was nice to meet up again.” I give the Elder a pat on the back. “I fly out to Cleveland tomorrow. Then back here next week. We’ll have to get together once again.”
He gives a faint smile, running out of energy.
“I gotta get going but I’ll listen to your advice. Tag match matters. Nothing else. Put the rest aside.”
Placing the Hit List into my backpack, I zip the top and say goodbye.
If it could only be so easy.
There’s no way I don’t juggle everything.
— — — — —
Steve Harrison, my temporary teammate. I am speaking to you directly because you have as much of an angle on this match as my opponents.
I will put aside my differences with you. For a night. Because as I told Jace, there’s a time and a place. Come Sunday, it is not the time for Conor Fuse vs. Steve Harrison. We’ve waited for this long… joined High Octane around the same time and never faced each other one-on-one.
I have a feeling it won’t be long before that clock ticks down.
Of course it won’t be this weekend. We are asked to team together, likely under the belief we won’t be able to. And realistically, why would we co-exist? I legitimately gave an apology to The Highwaymen and your “leader”, Clay Byrd, showed why his continual piss poor attitude cost him World Championship after World Championship. With this in mind, I could say go fuck yourself and proceed to shred you like you recently did when my name was in your mouth, Steve.
But I won’t.
Be cool or spew fire in your direction, either way it’s an interesting strategy. Team with a guy I’m supposed to hate. Suppress my emotions or let them fly? Perhaps we’re fucked either way.
But if you’re as talented as you say you are, if you are the true number one contender for a title I held twice and carried the company with for the first half of 2022… then I know you’ll do what’s right. We’ll work together. I wouldn’t want you at anything less than 100% for Christopher America. And I’m sure you’ll want me to be at an excuse-free level when it’s time for us to collide. For real.
The Vintage can only ever promise you match in, match out, I give it my all. It doesn’t matter if I hold a World Title or if I’m juggling 500 things in front of me. What matters is… if someone can pin my shoulders to the mat, they’d have earned it.
I will never toss away a match of any kind, with any person, for the sake of a personal grudge. Why would I cost myself? It makes no sense. A lesser man might but I am not of that ilk.
I teamed with Jace Parker Davidson.
I drafted Arthur Fucking Pleasant. Yes, I know.
I’ve joined alongside those with nothing left to give. See: Dan Ryan, who was on a dead leg and retired after we lost the Tag Team Championships to you Harrison, two weeks after winning them.
I’ve had my share of bad partners. In fact, I’d argue, you might be the best teammate I’ve ever been paired with. So show me, first hand, who you are. And in return, I’ll show you why, when the time is right, Conor Fuse vs. Steve Harrison has dollar signs.
Do I like you? Obviously not.
You like me? You’ve made things crystal clear.
But cloud your head on Sunday and we’ll have an additional layer to our feud that isn’t needed. We’ll clearly be against each other much sooner than later, no matter what.
Jace may be a guy to look past but GREAT lives up to his namesake. I’m sure they’ll come by the match honorably, too. (That was sarcasm.)
From here until the bell rings, I’ll zip my mouth. Anything else I have to say can wait.
After our hands are raised.
Because that’s a championship pedigree.
Show me you’re on the same platform.
— — — — —
03:00. Late at night or early morning, take your pick.
I am upright on the foot of my bed, iPhone in hand, scrolling through the names in my contact list.
Bobbinette Carey. Jatt Starr/Simon Sparrow. The two most prominent people. Then there are others in The Game Boy or Walter Newport. Friends for life who I can always count on when needed, under the right context.
There are also names I will never reach out to again, those who no longer work for HOW, nor do they intend to ever come back. My OCD simply does not allow for me to delete them off my contacts, otherwise they are deleted from memory.
And then, after scrolling back and forth, forth and back again, aimlessly looking at my screen…
I see him.
I open a text message and I begin to talk out loud while I type the letters.
“Hey. It’s Conor Fuse. I don’t know if you have my number but I searched high and low and eventually found yours. I hope it’s your digits. Or this would be awkward. lol. Listen, I’m in a tough spot. I’ve got one guy after me, I’m looking for another capable of murder. On Sunday I team with Steve Harrison against a nemesis and a gigantic freakshow. I’m in a rough spot but I’m going to trust Harrison. It’s a risk but I gotta do it. Anyway, not a dude to normally reach out but I think all things considered, it’s time I made amends. I don’t know what I’m looking for specifically but can we talk? Potentially bury our issues, if you’re willing. I know you hate me but reach out if you’d like, or ignore me completely. However, if you’re willing to give me five minutes, I think both of us could use a hand.”
I give my head a shake and delete the last two sentences. I start typing again.
“I’m sorry for what happened. I really am. I will prove it to you.”
And I delete those sentences.
“I got caught up in a lot, I wasn’t acting like myself-”
I stop and stare into the text. I highlight the entire paragraph and hit the space bar.
Starting from scratch, I key the word “hey”.
The empty space stares at me.
…Stares at me.
…Stares at me.
…Stares at me.
Then I close the text message, clicking off my phone.
“We’re not at that stage yet, Conor.” I say to myself, before finding my pillow and resting my head.
But very soon… we might be.