Oh, Chris. You wanna get down deep in the mud with me, do ya?
You really wanna get in the weeds, champ?
Let’s dive in.
I plugged away for over a decade completely off the radar of HOW, which saw itself open and close for much of that decade. Then, one day, I heard about an open invitation to join the DeNucci Cup, a tournament that spoke to my style and sensibilities. That was my introduction to High Octane Wrestling, and you know what I got out of it?
A bunch of pretenders that couldn’t hack it in the first round, paired up against the supposed cream of the crop in this business.
Beating nobodies not worth naming the first two rounds is one though, but in that third round? I got a man that many would consider a legend in his own right…Steve Solex. Everyone and their mom said “oh, this outsider doesn’t stand a chance, score one for the Best Alliance in this here DeNucci Cup!”
And then I fuckin’ beat him.
Fast forward a few weeks, the Cup is done and dusted, and I find myself facing Steve Harrison, a man who thought he had me beat from the outset before we even stepped into that cage.
And then I fuckin’ beat him.
The list goes on. Chris Kostoff, Brian Hollywood, Scott Stevens, Bobbinette Carey…they all learned what dismissing me would do for their luck inside that ring.
You think you can intimidate me into thinking I don’t have a shot at beating you? Running down your laundry list of insults like you’ve reinvented the wheel, thinking you can so much as shake me? All you’re doing is riling me up, and that shit works out in my favor, Chris.
Telling me I’m nothing is not new, Chris. Telling me I’m worthless is not something I haven’t heard from nearly everybody else here over the past year…but it also hasn’t broken my spirit. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, you can do to break my resolve.
Running down months and months of my past failures is only going to remind me that beating you in the middle of that ring will make up for all of that in a goddamn instant.
Joke about my losses as much as you want, Chris…what will that mean when it’s you looking up at the lights when this is all over? What will it mean when you’re forced to admit you fucked up by underestimating what this “desperate rehash” can do to you?
Since you wanna bring up Scott Stevens in all this, let’s have a quick look at the situation.
Scott Stevens scraping his way into War Games this year makes him someone else’s problem…namely Mike’s. He wants to play coach so bad this year, he can have whatever piece of meat he wants to beat into shape.
At least I have the possibility of working with people I can tolerate this year, unlike someone around here stuck dealing with the ilk he’d never associate with any other way. All that patriotic bullshit you spew is biting you in the ass this year, isn’t it?
If you really wanna know my thoughts and feelings on War Games, though, I’ll be glad to share. I’ve been in two of them already, Chris…I know how that shit goes. You ain’t gotta walk me through what it’s like to be in the thick of it, I know that experience by heart.
I was in over my head the first year. I can’t even deny that much, considering I tried to avoid being in it until their leader felt it necessary to come to me for assistance.
The second one, though? That was a sign that things would change that year. I did what I set out to do…I proved I could do better. I even eliminated Scottywood, ruined that man’s big plan going in, and the Hardcore Artist hasn’t quite been the same since.
I mean seriously, look at him. Shit’s weird, man.
Same goes with Bobbinette Carey, bless her heart. She thought her status as a Hall of Famer made her bulletproof against this ol’ Fighter…and nowadays she’s trying to figure out who the hell she really is. That’s something I witnessed with my own eyes just last week, and it made me realize just how much of an effect the past couple months have had on her.
Holy shit, it’s gonna be a long spring.
But hey, you wanna talk about making opportunities?
Let’s talk about you riding high into HOW purely just to be in War Games last year. Talked a whole lot of talk, hyped yourself up as the end all be all heading into that event, and to your credit you did beat Joe Bergman to qualify…but the fact remains that you were one of TWO men left standing inside that cell, and for that accomplishment you were handed…handed…the HOW World Championship the next week.
You earned the War Games win, sure, but because of some strange need to give Tyler Best a title his dad was associated with, you got “left with” the biggest prize in this business.
What a fucking joke, Chris.
I don’t blame anyone for leaving that little detail out when discussing your title reign, though…after all, whatever method and manner saw you gain possession of the title doesn’t change the many, many times you’ve successfully defended it. Even if some of those defenses aren’t, well, squeaky clean…it was your hand raised at the end of the night.
But none of that is lost on me, especially in light of the past couple months.
You wanna talk about “unwilling to change?” Let’s talk about a man whose patriotic ego finally got the best of him, and how everything is falling apart at the seams as a result. A man who let some outside entity break him down like the Berlin fuckin’ Wall, and has been trying to feel extra American to make up for it.
Holy shit, Chris.
I think we’ve reached a breakthrough here…and now it’s about time I break through you.
A man who, for all the goodwill he’s built up for himself over the past year, has gone past his breaking point going into what he thinks is just another night.
And that’s the mindset that’s gonna screw him over at Chaos 29.
Because he thinks I go around asking, begging for matches and title opportunities.
I give people a chance to stand up, to answer the call…but most of the time, people are too wrapped up in their bullshit to answer. And that kind of bullshit I choose not to engage with for a reason, Chris…because my time is precious.
I don’t need to go around backstage, picking fights with everyone and their mother just to prove a point, to make my message heard.
The fact I don’t stoop to those lows is what makes me different, Chris.
But I don’t go begging for opportunities, either.
You think I hung around Lee’s office last week, asking “oh please, dear GOD of HOW, put me in that ring against the World Champion just this once, won’t ya please?”
No the hell not.
How I got this opportunity might feel like a mystery, but what I make of it won’t be.
If you think I’ve been annoying going into this match, just you fuckin’ wait till the bell rings. Because watching you run through Conor Fuse, through each of the Highwaymen, through Brian Hollywood of all people, on your path to well over 300 days as champion…it made me recognize the patterns. More specifically, the hurdles one needs to clear to be on your level.
That need to throw your weight around, to let your strength and prowess do its job. That willingness to let whatever shenanigans get involved so you can steal a victory if necessary. After all, the record books only ever see the wins and losses, right?
Just one problem, Chris. Someone found the cipher, managed to crack that code…and that is precisely the cipher I have chosen to study from. Because fair play my guy, up until now you’ve seen nigh on invincible in the ring…but not anymore. You’re just a man, even with your talk of energy in pubic hair.
Seriously, between that and the–excuse me–”commitment ceremony” with the World Championship, you don’t see where some of this shit looks and sounds weird?
You, Christopher America, are not a god amongst men. You are nothing more than a worn-down, tired ring veteran, in need of a damn good rest after all your hard work.
And I am more than happy to put you down for good.
Because much like Solex, Harrison, Carey, and so many others that went into their match thinking they had it all sorted out…I have a certain effect on people. They came out of those encounters far different than they came in.
So how will dealing with a Fighter affect you, America? What damage can I do to the almighty HOW World Champion? You want me to test that resolve of yours, eh? I think I’ll do just that.
Because what happens when little ol’ Xander Azula makes a fool out of Christopher America?
A man that has put so much stock into being the champion, wants to call me out on what happens next if I lose? What happens to you, Chris?
For all your bullshit about me repeating a cycle of losing and coming back…you’ve hit one nail right on the head. I do in fact bounce back, every single goddamn time.
Because I am unrelenting.
What are you, these days?
One failed title defense away from retirement? Talk about writing on the wall, man…what happens to you the moment you hear Bryan McAvay yell “and NEW HOW World Champion?”
I can almost see it now, Chris. Watching as you start unlacing those boots of yours right then and there, leaving them in the middle of the ring as you walk to the back to have everyone shake your hand and thank you for your service before you ride off into the sunset.
I won’t give you the satisfaction.
See, for all the shit you chose to dredge up from my past year, you made a good point…I do kick myself for not finishing the job with Mike Best. That shit will gnaw on the back of my brain for years to come.
Thanks for opening that wound back up, Chris, appreciate you trying to get my dander up on what happened last ICONIC…because now I’m gonna finish the job with you.
Only you won’t get some cute moment of closure in that ring. You won’t get to take your boots off, either. No walking out on your own legs, no riding off into the sunset…you’ll be leaving the ring on a stretcher, and out the Smoothie King Center in a damn ambulance.
Lee Best can cry over your broken and bruised body if he so desires, but knowing him? He won’t cry about it for very long. Lee Best is very much a “show must go on” kind of guy, Chris…you know that as well as anyone.
He’ll probably pivot away from the mess of Sunday night, and focus on how to make sure the World Champion gets into War Games somehow. He always finds some trick up his sleeve, whenever it best suits him.
But you won’t have to worry your pretty little head about all that, Christopher…because you won’t even be making it to War Games when I’m done with you.
All that dismissal, all that brushing off you’ve been doing with your empty words, is gonna come back to bite you in the ass on Sunday, because I’m about to be a real fuckin’ problem.
You can finally rest easy, champ. You can hang your boots up and go home. Go back to watching your stories, spending every other weekend telling those with ears to hear about the time you nearly went back to back War Games as HOW World Champion.
I’ll take it from here, and usher in the new era of HOW the people deserve.
Flag Man, I got this.
Somewhere in the Sky
Between Arkansas and Louisiana
“Attention passengers, we are nearing Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport…”
Xander has been awoken from his much-needed nap by the announcement of his flight’s imminent arrival, well ahead of schedule as he looks to make the most of his week in town ahead of the biggest match of his career at Chaos 29.
The nap, then, was necessary for two reasons. One, to get a fair bit of rest after a draining week behind the Fighter…and two, it was the easiest way to avoid any trouble. The remark from the attendant was still on Xander’s mind, hours after boarding the flight…and he was determined not to throw hands at anyone, no matter how annoying they might be.
The usual bouts of crying from kids, whining from adults, and overall tension of trying to keep a low profile after getting caught up in what he can best call a lapse of judgment over the weekend all called for him to keep to his damn self, and the best way to do that was put in some earbuds and snooze for a while.
And to his credit, Xander managed to keep out of trouble the entire flight. A shocker, to be sure. As the plane touches down, Xander lets out a heavy sigh of relief that the anxiety he’s been facing this entire time was for naught…until just moments later, as the plane begins to deboard, someone happens to notice the Fighter that’s been on this flight this whole time.
Azula’s defenses immediately go up, because the last thing he needs is to get in another fight…it won’t do him any good to be stuck in jail before the biggest night of his life. No sir, no need for any of that mess at all. Alas, that fear is unwarranted as a teenage boy appears before the Fighter, who has a big smile on his face.
“Good luck this weekend against America,” says the boy, looking quite excited for that match. “I sure hope someone shuts that guy’s mouth up for once.”
Xander nods in agreement with a chuckle.
“Goddamn right, kid, that’s the plan.”
The conversation is interrupted by an older gentleman stepping in as if to intervene.
“Hey, watch your language around–”
The gentleman doesn’t get to finish his sentence before Xander snaps a retort his way.
“Hey, fuck off old man.”
The man is flabbergasted by Xander’s response, nay his demand, as the boy tries to reassure the older gentleman, patting him on the back.
“It’s fine, dad. Xander’s just feeling nervous going into his big match this weekend, he’s got a lot on his mind.”
“Oh shit, sorry sir,” replies Xander, the sweat nearly rolling down his forehead as he quickly realizes the grave error he’s just made, shifting his eyes between the pair to connect the genetic dots as it were.
The gentleman just glares at the Fighter before he and his son head off, leaving Xander to walk on his lonesome once more through the gate, heading toward the terminal. From there he goes to the baggage reclaim, grabbing his luggage when he hears some muttering from folks nearby…with one remark grabbing his attention courtesy of an older woman.
“Oh boy, here comes Mr. Angrypants,” she mutters to what is either her husband or brother, it’s not quite clear…but the chuckle from the man very much is, much to Xander’s chagrin as he rushes by them. At this point, all Xander can think about is getting out of the airport, heading to the hotel, and waiting for his crew to arrive first thing tomorrow.
Moments later, Xander is able to do just that. After an annoying taxi ride where the driver asked him question after question about what it’s like being in a wrestling ring, and trying to avoid eggs quite literally being thrown at him by a smattering of Christopher America fans–a waste of money, Xander thought to himself–as he entered the hotel, the Fighter is finally able to kick back and relax for the night, even with the occasional messages coming in asking what the hell he was thinking by attacking “some fan” outside the show last week.
Which is a grossly unfair assessment to make from what very few claimed to witness that night. The only people that truly know what was happening behind that incident are Xander and the random stranger trying to make a statement at the Fighter’s expense.
“Well, maybe his girlfriend too,” Xander mutters to himself with a chuckle, putting the phone on Do Not Disturb for the evening.
Holiday Inn French Quarter
New Orleans, Louisiana
“Well look what the cat dragged in.”
A smiling Xander is standing in the parking lot, having a nice time at the expense of his Eternal Circle crew as they shuffle out of the Erismobile. Their reaction to the Fighter’s remark is varied, but Mysti at least appears to be happy to see the leader of this motley crew for the first time in over a week.
Thomas Crowne, who up to this point has had his share of disagreements with the Head Disciple as of late, looks much less enthused.
“Hey man, someone needed to fix that piece of junk and get it out of Missouri,” the young follower retorts, only for Xander to shake his head in disagreement.
“Nah, I said we could leave that with the rest of our past nonsense. Figured if we couldn’t sell it for parts, maybe Bergman would just take it off our hands…but hey, it’s here now isn’t it? Managed to survive a ten hour trip. We’ll roll with the punches.”
Vagn and Mysti have a laugh at this, while Thomas is clearly still sour about the road trip. Xander catches wind of this and nods with a light sigh.
“Listen, I get it. You guys went through hell trying to get here, and I appreciate that. As a matter of fact, after the weekend I had, I wanted to show my appreciation so…”
Xander reaches into his pocket, pulling out the wad of cash that he earned a couple nights prior with a big smile on his face. He unfolds the small pile before counting out a hundred at a time, giving each portion to his fellow disciples…who look at the money in surprise, even astonishment. They remain silent for a moment, until Mysti finally chimes in.
“Wait, did this…did this have something to do with Sunday night?”
“Billy Big Balls fucked around outside the arena thinking he’d get the better of me, and he sure as hell found out why challenging a Fighter was a bad idea,” Xander replies with a wicked smile and a chuckle, putting the remaining hundred back in his pocket. “Rest assured, that’s good money he was willing to part with. I’m not a thief, after all.”
The crew have a laugh at this, following the Fighter close behind as he heads back into the hotel. A rough weekend finally behind him, Xander can now pivot to the one ahead, and with his crew back in tow he can stay focused on the mission at hand. Defeat Christopher America. Become HOW World Champion…and maybe, just maybe, make Lee Best sweat a little harder as he tries to shuffle around plans over the next month. Xander can’t think of anything better than to see the panic in the GOD of HOW’s eyes on Sunday.
“Because what’s HOW without a little chaos,” Xander mutters to himself with one more chuckle, the group disappearing into the main lobby, the doors slowly closing behind them as we fade to black.