For over a year now, High Octane Wrestling has found itself Refueled. No one had quite foreseen the form that the company would take back on that very first show last April. Sure, there was a much hyped World Championship tournament, with some of the best and brightest in the industry of grapple. HOW had often found itself in this situation. The LBIs, War Games, these events would catch the eye of the outsider and pique their interest and curiosity. They’d step into the ring, wrestle a few matches but then next thing you know, someone’s getting murdered by a shovel and they decide that perhaps this isn’t quite the home they had been seeking.
High Octane always had something of a reputation within the industry as being perhaps one step too far. The roster just a little bit too out there. Over time, friendships erupted both in front of and behind the curtain and what could have been a tight network of brothers and sisters became a bunch of bitter burn outs waiting for their next paycheck and managing to put on a show through sheer inertia more than anything else.
The blow ups of the burnouts could become very bitter, very public. Trial by public opinions became commonplace on the Twitters, on radio and television. Over time, High Octane became “that place”, sometimes the reputation earned, sometimes unearned. The number of prospective talents who wanted to dangle their feet into the shallow end of the company paddling pool dwindled. The events became just that much harder to pull off. Former stars were dragged back for a match or two but they were hollow behind the eyes. New sensations couldn’t find a pathway to entry.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
Suddenly, everything was an “interpromotional brawl”. Fans lost track of who belonged to which company. Hell, some of the wrestlers did too. Legends faded away and allowed the underappreciated to finally have some of that spotlight shine.
As the doors closed in 2016, Brian Hollywood being the final face of the company, was it just time to wrap things up? Was it a natural conclusion? Or had the reputation of High Octane been the final bullet to an unprecedented run in the wrestling industry.
2019 was a time of caution and yet hope. Those barnacles who clung so tightly to the ship at the end, the Zions, the Stevens, the Hollywoods, the Woodsons, they all rushed back into the fold. They didn’t do so alone, though. Hall of Famers… your Kaels, your Sektors, your Bests… they were back too.
The old perception had started to soften, though. People that would have never joined in the previous eras were suddenly standing proudly in between the #97Red clad ropes of the ring. Eric Dane, Lindsay Troy, Dan Ryan, MJF, High Flyer…
The scuttlebutt in the back was that these folks were here for the short haul – make an impact, shake a few hands, create a few memories and just have a chance to say that they were there. They’d done War Games, they’d made a mark and they’d be on their way before High Octane got all very “brutal murder-y” again.
Yet, it didn’t quite happen. Those much maligned roots of the company never really quite took hold to grow afresh. The focus became not on the gross and inappropriate, but instead brutal, smash mouth contests and skullduggery became the name of the game. Word spread that perhaps that perception was no longer true.
Perhaps it was never true.
The good word spewed forth like a particularly leaky faucet. Those short appearances became long term contracts for most. A few months of fun and a big War Games blowout became a weekly television product. More big names from the scene arrived. Your Bruvs, your Murrays, your Perfections. Was Deacon ever big? Sure, let’s go with it for the point I’m making here.
HOW had changed, it had reformed, and the perception was better than it had ever been.
Yet a man who refused to change, a relic of the dark ages, still roamed the hallways. He cared not for sporting contests. He cared not for glory or gold. He cared not for schemes, plots and ploys. The man had been there from the start. Seen it all, did it all. A witness to the murders. A witness to the sexual assaults. A victim of a bespiked babe. None of it ever deterred him. He was High Octane through and through.
He was Kostoff, and he’d murder your entire family if he woke up in a bad mood.
It seemed almost fitting then that the face of the Refueled era of HOW, a man who had mostly avoided the murder moments of all things High Octane (excluding one unfortunate moment to do with a Noah Hanson impersonator and a gun) would stand in the ring for the first time against a relic of matters High Octane past.
The final nail of the coffin. The exorcism of the perception.
Our intrepid hero, Cecilworth Farthington found himself at the doctor’s office for the first time in a while. He’d had some bruising moments over the past year, particularly when Dan Ryan was feeling particularly “smashy” but he had yet to experience skull murder a week before a rather important title bout. His head had been pounding for the entire week after the attack from Kostoff at Resurrected and was yet to show any signs of slowing down. His brain had well and truly found itself boggled and not in the fun way where you toss the word dice like some form of shit talking titan.
Farthington: …And then he lifted me up like some form of disgusting infant and casually tossed me noggin first into a bunch of steel steps. Those things are heavy, like… I heard they weigh one thousand pounds.
Doctor: That can’t possibly be true.
The poor doctor who had found himself pulling the short straw this shift had just found himself victim to a thirty minute retelling of the events of the previous week. Sure, it was more interesting than looking at his fifteenth open wound for the day but at least in those cases you just bandage shit and call it a day. This client though, he was a talker.
Farthington: I think I would know more about the weight of wrestling ring steps than you. Have you ever been tossed into any skull first?
Doctor: Well… no… but…
The HOW World Champion used his free hand to shift his weight around in his seat, the other hand was continuing to hold an ice pack against the back of his skull. The same ice pack from Saturday night it would appear, that ceased being ice many moons ago. It had become quite apparent over the week that CM!JF wasn’t entirely sure how the packs worked and had constantly been holding the same one against his head because “that’s how I saw it on the television”.
Doctor: Look, given the fact that your skull appears to have grown six inches in the past week, there’s no way I could possibly recommend you compete in the ring this week.
One would think this would be something of a reflective moment for our hero, perhaps he would take a moment to survey the damage his body has suffered…
Farthington: I don’t pay you for your opinions, I pay you to give me the magic tablets that make the head pain go away.
The doctor squirms around, clearly uncomfortable, he knows what he SHOULD be doing in this situation. He knows what his moral duty is to his patient. He also knows that he doesn’t want to lose a human ATM.
Doctor: I’m sure this next bout of yours can wait…
Farthington: You’re talking like you don’t know anything about my wrestling history or upcoming matches. We all know that all people in every profession follow every single waking moment of every single wrestler’s career. That’s just facts.
A weary sigh escapes the open jaw of the doctor, the absolute mad utterings of the champion are just another sign that he shouldn’t be doing exactly what he knows he is just about to do.
Farthington: So… about making the pain go bye-bye.
We hear the frustrated scribbling upon a prescription pad as we fade away on a clearly detected medical professional once again compromising his moral for the lavish lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.
When injured, the pressures of being the World Champion become all that more immense. Every public appearance, every flash of the bulb for a photo shoot, they leave you exhausted, a foggy outlook permanently clogging up your vision. You feel like every response to a question takes twenty hours to answer.
Were you meant to kiss the hands and shake the babies?
No, that can’t be right.
You power on regardless, you can’t be seen to look weak. Not with HIM on the horizons. He can sense it. He can smell it.
Feeling as if he’s slowly shifting his way through molasses, Cecilworth is shoved by some nameless PR rep into his next interview. He can’t even take in his surroundings before the flashing lights cause the brain fog to densen. Farthington’s brow furrows as he tries to clear his head. The focus on the dull, thudding pain inside distracts from the question. On first attempt, all he hears from the interviewer behind the camera is close enough to the Charlie Brown teacher trombone.
Interviewer: Wom wom wom… WOM wom womwomwomwom?
Cecilworth cocks his head to the side, trying to blink away another camera flash. He furrows his brow deeper, giving just enough of a sense of relief to be able to muster up a reply.
Farthington: Yes, indeed!
The interviewer looks befuddled by the response.
Interviewer: Womwomwom, wom? Womwomwomwom War Games! Wom wom.
Okay, sure he didn’t catch most of that but he knows how to answer it.
Farthington: Look, last year I came second in War Games in very suspect circumstances. I mean, who puts a knife under the ring anyway? I can’t believe John Sektor refused to support a good natured lynching of an irritating young girl. You’d think a man with his moustache would love that sort of shit. Still, I accomplished something that very few people in High Octane Wrestling have ever achieved. I left War Games with the exact same championship I entered with. Basically unheard of. But I did it. I plan to do it again. However, I do have to get there first and that runs through Mr. Kostoff.
The murmuring of all the staff in the room starts to leave the champion unbalanced. He can barely focus on his own words, never mind what anyone else is saying. It may all be meaningless chatter but Cecilworth can’t even determine if it’s English at this point. They might as well be doing Swedish Chef impressions for all he knows. Farthington looks towards the interviewer, a clear confused look has swept across her face. Or is it his face?
Fuck if Cecilworth knows. Could be a large sentient slug for all he can make out at this point.
Interviewer: Borkdeborkdebork borkedybork. Bork bork bork?
At this point, the champ has given up even trying to pretend to interpret the question.
Farthington: Look… Stac—Stev…Stanl… Stoo… person in front of me. What we have on Saturday night is a match quite unlike anything the current era has ever seen. It would be hard to dispute the fact that I very much represent the face of the Refueled era. I have earned the right to call myself the longest reigning ICON champion in High Octane history. I am on track to becoming the longest reigning World champion in High Octane history. My career was not setting the world on fire many moons ago but now… I am the tastemaker, the trend setter, this company now revolves around my image. Mr. Kostoff on the other hand…
Interviewer: Bork bork de bork bork?
Farthington has absolutely no idea, but he’ll roll with it.
Farthington: Exactly. He is a man out of time. He is a man out of place. He is desperately fighting for and clinging on to a past that no longer exists. He bases his career on the sepia-tinted memories of what once was. Can he absolutely destroy me? Well… I think the large lump that has developed on the back of my skull would be a testament to that. Yet, as much as I know he can out brawl me, as much as I know he has a hidden wrestler buried deep inside him, I have a sense of tranquil confidence about the events that will unfold this Saturday. See, I am something of a Prophet. The Refueled Era has spread my word. Championships give you the loudest voice, the largest audience.
Not even waiting for the nonsense words to roll forth that he won’t be able to hear anyway, Farthington continues forth.
Farthington: High Octane Wrestling has not been this hot in a LONG, LONG time. Why is that? It’s because the worst excesses of the company have been stripped away. Pay per view main events are no longer glorified snuff films, they are brutal exchanges, they are pure wrestling but they are not violence for the sake of violence. Does a man occasionally get toilet murdered? Well, yes, but that’s which gives the company a sprinkling of mystery and excitement. That’s why I need to win on Saturday. That’s why I NEED to win. Kostoff represents everything that was ever wrong here. Kostoff represents everything I fought so hard to correct. For him to have the World Championship around his waist? That’s a Pandora’s Box we do not want to open. It may kill me. He may kill me but if he does, I will be a corpse with the World Championship around my waist. We have come too far to allow anything else to happen.
Another bulb flashes, this one staggers the champion and he stumbles backwards into the white canvas backdrop he was standing in front of.
Interviewer: Bork bork bjork… borrrjk… boooooorrrrjk
The nonsense words start to fade into nothingness as Cecilworth’s vision blacks up. He knows he’s still standing but he can’t see or hear anything. For a few moments, he remains suspended up in the air. Then, the feeling in the legs go.
Down goes Farthy.
Down goes Farthy.
Farthington collapses on the edge of his bed after another exhausting day as champion. Each one has seemed worse than the last since Kostoff finally reared his ugly head directly in the pathway to War Games. He reaches over and sets the room lighting to the dimest possible, any brighter and his head is going to explode again.
Sitting atop the edge of the bed, he begins to slowly scroll through his contacts, scrunches his eyes, his vision still clearly blurred. Getting to his desired destination, he smashes the call button.
Farthington: Hey… look… we need to change the game on this one. I need you.
Cecilworth manages to cling on to his one remaining clear though for the day just enough to utter the prior statement. He tosses his phone on top of the bedside table and rolls over atop his bed. As he drifts off, the thought that has been eating away at him all week surfaces one final time…
He can’t win this one with wrestling alone.