Dear [CURRENT OPPONENT],
Forgive the anonymity of this letter, as I mean no disrespect. See, if you are reading this, it means I was unsuccessful at Rumble at the Rock and/or I did things I could have never imagined. Please understand I know myself well and since I lost the World Championship to Mike Best, I won’t be able to handle it.
Have you failed before? If so, how did you overcome it? I failed at the last level, in the high castle, to the final boss who doesn’t even have a World/Level to represent himself, that’s how good he is.
Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Most of us have.
All I ask of you, [CURRENT OPPONENT], is to help pick up the pieces. The funny thing is I’m not even sure how you can do this right now. It might be too late for me.
I will likely consider quitting the game but as I said earlier, I know myself. Quitting is never an option. Quitting is for losers who don’t DESERVE the World Heavyweight Championship before, after or currently. I carried this company throughout the summer, alongside SRK and it was something indescribable. The cheers were deafening, the attention was unsurmountable. The feeling… the feeling each day I woke up knowing I, Conor Fuse, The Power-Up King, was the guy everybody was coming for.
I can’t even explain it. It was euphoric. To be THE GUY, the one the fans can live vicariously through. When I was handed the WHC, I heard the cheers. I captured the fans’ imagination. I was a hero.
Realizing this letter means I lost, I clutch the #97MARIORed tighter.
I deserved this.
Does Conor Fuse go back to World 1, Level 1? Perhaps. Maybe by some sheer luck I’m granted a shot at redemption. I’m sure there will be challenges in my way, regardless. No “straight to the front of the line” for Conor Fuse. Nor should there be.
This is where you come in.
You have an opportunity to teach me a lesson. Either show me I need an attitude change by defeating me soundly or allow me to see I still have… something making me worthy to play in this World.
I don’t know who you are but you will know me. It’s doubtful I’ve done much at a Re-FUSED since RATR. However, you can count on me; I won’t completely bail. I’ll be in the ring, waiting for my trial, ready to put things back together. It might take time. God forbid it takes months… or years. When I stepped out of Alcatraz in 2020, it changed me. I will not be the same person after the 2021 version, either.
I’m unsure of what this change means. Is it good or bad? I likely can’t fathom.
If you’re Scottywood, I give you permission to beat the living piss outta me. If you’re John Sektor, please know I hate you for turning on Jatt Starr. If you’re RAH, show me the light. If you’re Bobbinette, what’s up with those plether gloves? I’m kidding. Sorry. Just trying to make a lighthearted joke in a really dark time. You do you.
If you’re Cancer Jiles, tell me “I told you so”. Steve Solex? Show me how to disrespect my opponent. If you’re Jeffrey James Roberts you have permission to murder me. Bite my face off. It’s only skin, I think it grows back.
And if you’re someone else, know it’s all the same.
I am broken.
I have failed.
I hold nothing.
You can knock me down further or finish me off. What’s the difference? No one cares about the gaming kid now, huh.
But on the odd chance I can pull it together and find myself in those four corners again, you will have everything to do with it.
This game is hard, [CURRENT OPPONENT]. Sometimes, impossible. I bet I’m preaching to the choir.
Enough about me. What can I do for you? Are you as broken as I am or are you more resilient? Do you care about wins and losses? Do you think you’re the guy to defeat Mike or are you aiming for another?
Tell me, please, inside the squared circle. I will put my trust in your hands when I walk into [ENTER CITY HERE] at [CURRENT REFUELED]. I may leave a changed man once again. Of course, it won’t be as intense and life altering as Rumble at the Rock, yet I refuse to be someone who’s stagnant. Grow. Change. Evolve. Whatever lessons learned, whatever battle comes my way, I will find a new path.
It sucks to lose. Study endless film, put in limitless work, be the posterboy of HOW. Find yourself on every mug, t-shirt, video game… to the point Jesus himself is resurrected. His head twitching at the thought he’s not the guy anymore. So he comes for his crown, pride, yadda yadda and ends you fast.
Some people join High Octane and think the bare minimum can do it. They learn quickly how wrong this notion is. No, the effort it takes to reach the top is almost impossible. Nearly unsustainable. A real achievement. When I run it through my mind… I’m not sure I have it in me again.
Like I said, this doesn’t mean I’m quitting. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna mail the rest of my HOW career in, either. I’m a simple gaming kid. Sometimes you just gotta be real with yourself. And since this letter has come to light the reality is…
I might not be as good as other people said.
What do you think?
I’m rambling. The ball is in your court, [CURRENT OPPONENT]. It’s the 4th quarter, overtime with twenty seconds left, the last level on an old cart with no save states. Whatever metaphor you want. Tell me your story inside the ring and I’ll see if I can identify.
I really would like a second shot at Mike. As of this writing, it will take tons of effort to get back to 8-4.
But I have changed.
For the better or worse?
Guess we’re gonna find out.
[CURRENT OPPONENT] you are what I need. The sacred timeline has put us together for a reason. So go ahead, finish me off. Let’s end this misery.
…Or keep me alive. Grant me the beginning of a second chance. A chance, deep down, I can figure out if I’m motivated enough. If I stop being a little crybaby brat and recognize it’s ALL still in front of me. The ability to !Level-Up doesn’t vanish. There was always going to be another castle. ALWAYS.
I was the reason Mike Best returned. He didn’t want to take my dreams away so much as he wanted a true challenge and I was the guy who drew his attention. A new Rogues’ Gallery member, the ULTIMATE villain.
Conor Fuse was the reason.
So how about I STFU instead. Stop wallowing in self pity. Look myself in the mirror and say:
HEY MOTHERFUCKER, you get back in that ring and GO. Prove to the world, once again, you’re fast as shit, resilient as fuck and nobody can stop you. When I walked into High Octane on Day 1 they said “HIM!?” and laughed in my face. One year later they are showering me with praise, saying I stepped up to unspeakable heights.
Yet, [CURRENT OPPONENT], I only lasted two months. Maybe what they said about me at the beginning was correct.
Wrestling is complicated, isn’t it? One minute, you’re the main focus. The next, you’re wandering down a depressing path.
So I will end it here. Since this letter means I lost, I’m going to enjoy my final days as champion before life changes. It was a good run, it was the pinnacle of my career.
But it’s over now.
They say you can’t kick a man when he’s down but in High Octane I’ve learned it’s just kick away regardless, pile on and let’s get this fucker outta here. After all, it’s one less person to compete against.
What will you do against me? Can’t wait to find out, I guess.
… … … … …
Dearness Living Community – My Room
November 21, 2020
Running behind schedule is never something I’m comfortable with. Ten minutes might as well be ten hours. I track everything to a tee and when time gets away from me, it throws my day outta whack. People often wonder why I’m physically fit because obsessing over video games and being a top level athlete typically don’t mix. Well I have news for you…
I’m not that obsessed with video games.
Not like I am my career.
And now, on the big stage, I’m not doing so hot. A loss to Hughie Freeman has left me asking a lot of questions. The Hardcore Artist looms come ICONIC and if I don’t put up, I should definitely shut up because “The Vintage” is DOA.
So far, I’m not sure this move into the DLC has paid off. I weaseled in to eventually seek retribution on Jatt. So far, it’s only killed my sense of taste (the food here sucks) and destroyed my sense of smell (old people smell awful). Not to mention I have to speak louder than Benny Newell shouting for another round in order for anyone to hear me.
And repeat myself, like, as many times as Dan Ryan has daughters.
Anyways, cracking my knuckles I put the VHS tape in the machine. I have High Flyer in five days and I need to brush up. Flyer IS my childhood hero so I’m familiar with everything about him. I know his moveset like the back of my hand. I AM his moveset. However, I refuse to rest on my memory. I can’t leave any excuses when I face him this weekend.
I NEED the W.
I’m about thirty seconds into Flyer’s last HOW match before there’s a knock on my door.
“Yeah,” I shout over, feeling my eyes roll in the process, “it’s open.”
It’s been meet and greet after meet and greet since I moved in a month ago and officially started staying here on the steady earlier last week. I don’t know all their names yet. Richard, Ruth, Louie, Tina, Jasper… some others. Believe it or not I can tell you the entire combination of moves High Flyer hit in his match with Tony Davis, IWO, fifteen years ago to the date but remember random names to faces, not my forte.
A man wanders in. He looks to be the eldest resident I’ve met yet. Tall, around 6’5”, 240lb frame but the years have likely taken him down to my weight class. Long, silver hair and eyebrows so wild you could hide a bloody nickel in there.
“You’re up early…” the man’s voice trails as he continues to wander into my room, glancing around.
“I’m actually running late,” I snap, no longer interested in watching this man’s reaction to my humble abode. “Ten minutes- wait, now twelve minutes behind this High Flyer match. Say your hellos and be done with you.”
I don’t hear a reply so I begrudgingly look over. The man is motionless, eyeing me like he heard every word I said.
“Well nice to meet you too,” he quips.
Alright, I didn’t mean to be that rude. Like I said, I’m in a rush. I have three hours for film, then three hours in the gym. This is followed by an hour of 3DS play (hey, you gotta work some time in for self-care, am I right?) and then it’s back to more film, ending off the night with a trip to the gym, applying moves to counter Jack Harmen. Yes, I’ll also have breakfast, lunch and dinner, too. And no, it won’t consist of just junk food.
“Sorry, sir,” the tone of my voice conveys I mean it, “Conor Fuse. Nice to meet you.”
The man nods and begins gingerly walking into my room again, as if not off-put anymore.
“Gotta finish watching this match, then write down Flyer’s weak points… consult my dictionary of abilities, see what I can use from my arsenal to combat it, etc, etc. It’s this whole convoluted process and I didn’t think you…”
I pause, seeing the man pull up the vacant chair and place it beside me. He takes a seat as I attempt to finish my sentence.
“…you’d be interested in any of this stuff.”
He’s subjectively tuned me out.
“You’re a wrestler?” The man asks and I confirm. “I enjoy the odd show.”
The old man leans forward and peers into the television screen. “That’s High Flyer, I’ve heard of him.” My eyes don’t leave the man’s face, trying to figure out if he’s pulling my leg. “High Octane Wrestling. Ya, I’ve heard of them, as well. They’re the company running across the street… uh… hmmm…”
I can see the old man’s wheels are trying their best to turn.
“Bb-… est… Best. Lee Best. The dummy with the eye problem.”
“I- uh- well-” I attempt to interject but, again, the old man isn’t hearing me.
“Heard he’s a swell guy,” the elder says with sarcasm.
So this is a little awkward. Yet the old man is definitely intrigued because he’s watching the High Flyer match intently. I didn’t even realize I forgot to hit pause.
“You wrestle here?” He asks and I nod again. The man laughs. “Well I guess I should watch frequently, shouldn’t I?”
I guess you should, sir. This is the first resident -and I’ve met a number of them this week- who actually seems with it.
The man takes his eyes off the television. His eyes wander around the room once more.
“Can’t say I’m familiar with that,” he remarks, eyeing my Xbox 360.
“Or that…” my Bandai Super Vision 8000. Okay, I won’t hold this against him. Not many people would be able to name this second generation bad boy made in 1979.
“But I am aware of that,” the man nods his head towards the TV once more.
“I’m sorry…” my voice starts coming back to me. “I never got your name.”
The elder laughs, like he forgot it himself for a moment.
“Walter,” he sticks out his hand and we shake. “The name is Walter. Been living in Dearness for five years now. Glad to see we got some youth in the building.”
The old man is interested in the wrestling match on my TV.
“Well, Walter,” I say with a smile, finally pausing the video, “it’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, son.”
I rewind the match and start from the beginning. Taking out my notepad, I flip open to the first page, bite the pen lid off and spit it across the floor. All the while, Walter looks over at me with a smirk on his face.
“You’re a good kid,” he mumbles. This causes me to lift an eyebrow.
“We just met each other…” I respond. “I could be a filthy asshole pretending to be nice.”
This response isn’t something Walter agrees with, his head shakes from side to side.
“Son, I’ve been around the block. I know character when I see it.”
And off to making notes I go.
“If you say so, Walt. If you say so…”
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Dearness Living Community
November 2, 2021
“What’s the situation, Walter?” Margo asks as she stands idly beside a collection of residents outside the commons room. Walter walks over with a concerned look on his face.
“Well,” he begins, scratching the back of his neck. “Conor hasn’t come out of his room since the loss to Mike.”
The hallway is library quiet. The residents look distraught but nobody is in worse shape than Walter. The ninety-five-year-old man’s hands shake profusely, more than normal, as he lowers his right hand from his neck and presses a left finger against his temple.
“Have you tried knocking?” Tina mentions with an innocent look in her eyes, truly believing no one else has thought of this already.
Walter, ever so nicely, replies with a slight of the head ‘yes’.
“Knock again dammit,” the disgruntled Louie complains from the sofa inside the commons room. His statement seems to garner support amongst the residents.
“Look,” Walter says, “I have a spare key. I’ll go and see what to do. I don’t want to disturb the boy. We all know how upset he can get after a loss.”
The elders allow Walter the space to do what he needs. Even though Conor has ties to many of the residents, the entire building is aware Conor and Walter hold a special bond. It has been like this since day one.
Slowly, Walter moves down the hall. Of course he’d move faster if he could. The pain inside Walt’s chest is heavy, the sadness reflects the mourning for his friend. To think last week the elders were going to throw a surprise party for Conor, as it had been a year since the gamer moved into the building. Conor brought life to Dearness and nobody was happier for it than Walter. While there might have been an ulterior motive for Conor taking up residency in the first place, it grew into something more. It grew into legitimate friendships. The elders would often troll High Octane talent, hacking into the HOWrestling.com website. It was fun for everyone to get in on the game. Now… there was no fun.
The wise elder approaches Conor’s room at the end of the hall. He tries knocking… nothing.
He tries it again… nothing.
“Conor, I’m sorry but I’m coming in…” Walter warns as he fumbles the key in his unsteady hand. It takes the elder a good minute to work through his Parkinson’s which are getting worse by the day. This only brings more frustration to his face, realizing he can’t move fast enough.
Finally, the door is unlocked and Walter enters, just as slow and unsure of himself as the first time he was in Conor’s room.
Except tonight, the feeling is immediate. Walter’s eyes go wide with fear.
The room is empty.
No 4K television, video games or VHS machine.
No tapes. No gaming chair. No consoles.
And not a person inside, either.
A tear runs down Walter’s face as he arrives at the edge of Conor’s empty bedroom, seeing a note on the mattress. It takes the elder a moment as Walt closes his eyes to ensure his hand is steady enough to pick up the letter, reading:
I’m sorry I failed you.