I would be lying to you if I said I even had the faintest idea of where to start this week.
Is the most obvious thing the whole This Is An Important Match In The Rankings thing, or is it the English/Welsh thing?
I mean, I’ll be honest…I’m conflicted, right? A step closer to the thing we should all be here for (Though if you listen to Dan Ryan, it’s fine to coast along with no ambitions to ever be shit in High Octane Wrestling), because that’s what beating de Lacy would mean. Pretty much guaranteed a spot in the top 5 if I win. I still haven’t seen even a glimpse of a singles title shot yet, so I gotta believe that would put me one step closer to one.
And there’s a whole load of other stuff to unpack there, right?
That. That feels like the wrong place to start.
I feel like I should be starting with the English/Welsh thing.
But where even do I start with that? So…(and I mean no offence with this), maybe you’re from North America and you just figure that we just come with a cooler flag, and yeah, you’d be right, we do. (The Union flag isn’t actually the English flag, by the way. In theory, that’s supposed to represent the entire country, but do you see a fucking dragon on it?) So do we go back to like, Llewellyn the Great? Or Owain Glyndwr? Dic Penderyn? The Welsh Not? The miners? Like…how in the fuck am I meant to explain hundreds of years of animosity, hundreds of years of having your culture oppressed, of being treated like a second class citizen in your own country?
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t go starting fights with literally any Englishperson I see. It ain’t On Sight. Because, y’know, on a person to person basis, Englishpeople are fine. Absolutely no issues with your average Englishperson, because just like everyone else who lives on this shithole of a fucking island, they get life is pretty shit here.
But the country? Or the concept of England?
I think, to most Welshpeople who consider themselves as a “proud” Welshperson…there’s just something about it. Especially when it comes up in sport. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing at your local five-a-side league on a Wednesday night, if you’re all Welsh, and they’re all English, then as soon as that whistle goes, then yeah, it is On Sight. Darts at the pub. Mini golf. Go-karts. Cards. Whatever it is, it doesn’t fucking matter. It is on.
Because it isn’t hard to find an example of someone in England making a shitty decision for Wales. It isn’t hard for anyone Welsh to find the motivation…if you’re from South Wales, most people have some family member who suffered in the Miners Strikes during the 80’s. Grandparents maybe who were involved in the ones in the 70’s. Maybe other family if you go further back.
Wah wah wah.
Poor little Wales, right?
Do not mistake me. We don’t sit around dwelling over these things as a nation. They happened, we move, y’know? But when you face the English, if you know your history, the thoughts are always there. The motivation is always there.
It’s always about a little bit more than just the England versus Wales if you’re Welsh.
I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to actually elucidate when you sit down and attempt to write it out.
But my point regarding that little brief burst of history is that there have always been English aristocrat types making shitty decisions about Wales and doing shit like killing Welsh children, and the guy I face this week?
English aristocrat type.
Am I right, old chap?
Pinky out while you drink the tea, hours of classes on how to talk properly (Received pronunciation…I know your upper class bullshit tricks.), no doubt boarding school to play soggy biscuit with the other chaps growing up, butler, family manor…that sorta bullshit…? I mean, you’re obviously in disgrace with the family or else they wouldn’t have you doing some simply ghastly profession like professional wrestling, let alone wrestling in the sort of place that has you debasing yourself for Lee Best’s pleasure when he calls.
It just simply wouldn’t do if Papa had to foul himself by telling people what you do, or, even, ew, the fact that you work for a living, and so, no more summer balls for you.
Am I right, Charles?
Normally, this’d just be the time where I’d be like, it’s irrelevant anyway, just gonna be a match in the ring, blah blah blah.
But it isn’t irrelevant. Because I know I’m…well, I might not have all the finer details, but I’m pretty sure I’m painting the broader picture pretty accurately. And given what I was saying earlier about the history, I’m sure you can see why Charles may well be considered something of a motivating factor for me. Same as it does in the annual rugby, or the irregular football matches…this match just means something more to me because I’m Welsh and you’re English. It adds a little something.
And then there’s the rankings thing I talked about earlier. One of us will be a top five wrestler after this match, unless we wrestle to a time limit draw. Do we even have a time limit on Chaos? I’m assuming so, and I assume it’s a half hour, but honestly…I didn’t get a Welcome Back to High Octane Wrestling pack, so I’m not 100% on exactly what the rules are. Either way…my point being, the draw is unlikely. One of us will win, and therefore, one of us will move into the top five.
In the same way I’ve gone and looked, I hope you have. Because like I said before, unless you’re just here to coast, that shit means something. That shit puts you one step closer to a shot at Conor Fuse, or Mike Best, or whoever is World Champion. It keeps you in people’s awareness, it makes sure people give a shit about what you’re doing. And it makes sure you are moving towards the biggest prize in professional wrestling. Or sports-entertainment. I don’t really care how you want to define it…the point still stands.
The biggest prize in the sport.
Maybe you haven’t looked. Hell, maybe you don’t even know I’m Welsh and just assume that I’m one of the many recent Hall of Famer returns and I’m just…another guy. Maybe your head is up your ass.
I have no fucking idea.
But I hope you read this. (Or you get your butler, or man-servant, or whoever the literate person in your household is to read it to you.)
Because I want you to know why I’m going to put you through absolute hell out there on Sunday night. That this is England versus Wales, and the Welshman coming at you is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step foot in High Octane Wrestling. That it’s not just another win for me, that, again, the country shit…that’s there.
So that, and then also, rack up another win? Put myself in an even better position to be the next person in line for a shot at the World Championship? Because, yeah, maybe I’m just adding numbers. Just making it grow. And yeah, I walked away because I just didn’t care about it. But now? The reason I turn up every week is the number six.
Yeah. This is the shit I live for, Charles. The matches. The competition. The opportunities to prove myself as the best wrestler in the world. This means absolutely everything to me. High Octane Wrestling is the only home I know. That World Championship is the only World Championship that means shit to me. Matches like this…the matches where I build towards my goals, the tough ones that just randomly show up in the middle of a pay per view period?
I live for this shit.
Somewhere in what is now considered North Cardiff, due to the inevitable metropolitan creep that comes with any growing city anywhere on the planet, the thing we’re interested in today is a large…well, medium sized warehouse. It’s probably not really big enough to store a whole load of shit in, but there’s plenty of room for it to have been turned into a wrestling gym. It’s the sort of place you bought twenty, thirty years ago for this sort of thing. Not particularly well insulated, not the world’s greatest warehouse or anything…but more than adequate for purpose.
Officially closed, the gym still echoes with the sounds of back slapping canvas. If you were to close your eyes, you’d perhaps think it’s a drummer, warming up very slowly, given the consistency of the familiar sound of body on canvas, that bang like sound that every professional wrestling fan can recall on merely a moment’s notice.
Footsteps…silence…bang. Repeat. And repeat again. And again.
You get the idea.
The walls here are as simple and as unadorned as the plain, yet new wrestling ring that sits centre stage in the warehouse. The former corner of taco detritus now appears to be entirely free of taco detritus, instead there just being…nothing. Despite the stereotype of the gym having posters of local events, or wrestlers it’s trained, here, there genuinely is nothing. Not a squeak of the fact that the influential Michael DeNucci trained here. Not even a hint that the five time World Champion in the ring learned his craft here.
This is quite obviously one of those places where if the walls could speak, they would, for sure, have some stories to tell.
I mean, Trent’s probably smoked with the walls and has heard all of the stories, but, also, one would expect that a bunch of the good stories probably involve Trent.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to have had to have taught that man of questionable intelligence to wrestle?
But the scene the gym is filled with is a stereotypical one. If you’ve followed High Octane Wrestling for any real length of time, or if you grew up with professional wrestling, or you watch the indies…you know it. The protagonist, the “named” talent in this little endeavour is stood in the ring, hurling move after move after the no name trainees who have either come from his own wrestling school (beating on your own students to look good is a time honoured professional wrestling tradition, after all), or perhaps from some local one. Maybe they were tricked into it by being told it was gonna be ringtime with whoever the named talent is, or perhaps it was all straight and up front and they’re getting paid.
Either way, you know the scene. One rolls in, there’s a brief exchange, it culminates in some impact move from the name, they roll out. And then someone else rolls in. You get the shot of the wrestler’s impressive physique, they generally look dominant, everyone goes home happy. You know?
Today, the suplexes, as you might expect, are German, as our protagonist inside the ring, the gut on full display, is High Octane wrestler Rhys Townsend, and the extras are paid local talent.
Another picture perfect German suplex. Machine like efficiency over the last few minutes, you could even say. But it doesn’t continue. There’s a couple deep, chesty coughs – the sort that come when you smoke too much cannabis, before the previously stained only by sweat canvas becomes stained by vomit.
Shortly after, Townsend collapses into a seated position against the turnbuckle, sweat dripping off the body that is clearly designed and fuelled by tacos. The random pieces of jalapeno in the vomit also give that away, as does the…unique body that no other wrestler in High Octane Wrestling strives towards.
“Alright buddy…I reckon that’s enough for the day.”
The voice of the man Rhys describes as his “numbers” guy is here, as always. It would probably be more accurate to describe Dafydd as somewhere between an accountant and an agent. One of those sort of people who show up when you have enough money to warrant being able to pay someone to take care of such things.
Doubly important when you’re a dumb motherfucking professional wrestler who decided to open a chain of taco trucks with the occasional restaurant thrown in here and there.
“Nah…just gimme a bottle of water, lemme wash my mouth out and we can go some more.”
“Mate…I really ain’t sure it’s a good idea to be pushing yourself like this when you’re due to wrestle on the weekend. Fuck mate, I think you ought to go put in a whole bunch of cardio in the gym first.”
“Yeah. You know. The other half of training to be a professional wrestler that you seem to have entirely forgotten.”
“I mean…I think there’s more than just in ring training and gym training, there’s also study…”
“As if you need an excuse to eat more tacos.”
“I mean, I don’t need the excuse, I’m just saying.there’s study, too. Gotta know about my opponent. Important shit. Gotta know what they’re gonna do, their favourite moves, counters, general style, anything that might give away anything I can take advantage of.”
“Doesn’t mean you gotta eat a whole twelve tacos every time you study.”
There’s silence between the two men. It hangs heavy as the random wrestlers in the background seem to have taken their cue without having to be told, packing their shit up quietly as the two continue their conversation.
“It ain’t always twelve.”
“Yeah, sometimes it’s twenty four. Look, you get my point…this is great. Compared to the 97Red period, it’s like you’re actually taking this shit seriously, rather than just telling everyone on Chaos that you’re taking this deadly serious, before running off on some taco related adventure. Or stroking a tank turret, talking shit about the fourth wall because you were butthurt about an opponent. So seeing you get into the ring and actually train before your matches?
It’s fucking awesome, buddy. But do you really think it’s wise to push yourself beyond your limits when you’re just training, or do you think it’s really fucking stupid? Yeah, sure, I get this is where you’re gonna tell me that in ring time is the best thing to get into ring shape and to stay in ring shape…I ain’t stupid, I’ve watched YouTube videos about this shit, but still bro, you gotta do some, I dunno, some actual fucking cardio in the gym. Maybe even some weights. Shit…I don’t actually know what you do in the gym, I’m just there to ride the bike, make sure I don’t get fucking fat, but I know you’re meant to be lifting heavy things. And I don’t mean heavy tacos…”
The silence hangs there again, and this time, you might even be warranted to describe it as a sullen silence. Dafydd hands his employer the bottle of water he probably wanted before the lecture, but, such is life. The silence is still there…well, largely there, it’s sullenness is occasionally punctuated by the sound of people leaving, the door slamming away. But still.
“You ain’t wrong.”
“Nah, Rhys, I know I’m right. You know I’m right. So why?”
“Yeah, c’mon. We’re bros. Be honest. No judgment.”
“Scared, dude. Scared that if I properly throw myself into things, that I’ll fall short. That my peak was actually ten years ago, and all I’m doing here is just bullshitting people into giving me a paycheque to do a thing I love, despite not being what I was before. That I’m a fraud. That I’m just…not as good as I once was.”
“Right, I get that…but I know you’ve looked at the rankings. You know that’s not true, bro.”
“I mean…yeah, but that’s just…matches on Chaos. Y’know? I got mad about, yeah, you’re right, something stupid, took my eye off the ball and took a step back from what I want. Didn’t finally win a pay per view match. Missed out on that fatal fourway that meant Fuse had the chance to win the World Championship – might well have been in that if I had won at the pay per view.”
“Yeah, and you beat Jace Parker Davidson right before he went on to main event against Stronk for that championship. Lost at the pay per view, sure, but that can happen to anyone. Been pretty great in singles since the pay per view.”
“Still mate. Lost at the pay per view. Still…”
“Annoyed about it now?”
A small laugh comes out of Townsend’s mouth as he replies.
“But it’s the past, mate. You love to say that. You remind yourself all the fucking time to not sit on what you’ve done, to keep your eyes forward, but you’re gonna go dwell on something that happened like, what, a fucking month ago?”
“So when are you gonna stop being an idiot and fucking moping? You know as well as I do that if you want a shot at the World, or LSD, or whatever Championship, you need to keep your eye on the fucking ball and keep winning. I don’t need another forty five text messages about how you’re angry that you’re being listed in the LSD division, because right now, you’re not listed in that division – because you somehow won. Win again, and guess what? You’ll be ranked even higher in the World Championship division.”
“Again…stop being a fucking idiot.”
“Fine. Fine. I get what you’re saying, Daf, I do. And you ain’t wrong. I shouldn’t be moping about that shit – I should just be making sure it doesn’t happen again. And I mean…I get what you’re saying about the World Championship, but honestly, mate, de Lacy? I ain’t looking past him.”
“Ain’t saying you should. Just saying you should be aware of the sorta thing a win’s gonna propel you towards, that’s all.”
“I’m fully aware, just as I hope he is. English/Welsh stuff too. I know, Daf. Lot to gain this week. Lot to lose. But that’s every fucking week these days.”
“Too right. You wanted the target on your back…”
“And I got it. Yeah. Every week is a week that matters.”
“Exactly. So how about we stop pushing in some stupid training and, I dunno, go smoke some weed and watch some wrestling. Without the Stoner Munchies Killer Pack from the shop, yeah?”
And that’s about the time when we leave the two, in the gym. Townsend, still exhausted by the exertion, vomits just a little more, before he finally manages to lever himself out of the ring. The sounds of the two talking about a cleaning company that disinfects a wrestling ring canvas in the local area echo around the place, but, really. We should be going.
Got things to do and that.