August 11, 2022
I’m a pretty forgiving guy but if you break my trust, all bets are off.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it, Bobbie. I’ve played a lot of Red Dead Redemption in my time, you’re gonna be fine,” I try to speak as calmly as possible through my cell phone, since I have no idea what heightened state my “BFF” is in. I can only imagine what she’s going through. She’s got a serious target on her back. Someone is after her life. Legitimately. And that person is a mother fucking coward for not showing their face. We’ve got enough on our hands as it is. I glance at myself through the rearview mirror, the scar on the side of my head looks like it’s gotten worse in the span of two months. How is that possible? My head still spins unforgivingly at night. My shoulder cracks and pops as I move it around, even as I turn the steering wheel. It’s as if I fell asleep and woke up ninety-years-old. Man, War Games hit me hard. Plus the toll numerous World Championship title defenses has on your body…
I came back too soon, didn’t I?
I grit my teeth. Driving through the desert is harsh. Every few minutes I hallucinate. A body of water here, a piranha plant there. I stopped playing video games since I’ve hit the bottle. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something.
“Bobbie, Bobbie, trust me, we got this,” I forgot I had her on the other line and she was going off on a tangent. “I’m working my way down to Tombstone. Couple days early, to get a feel for the environment. I mean, I used to frequently play the desert levels on Mario. I figure it’s all the same shit when you’ve seen it on a screen. Besides, we got it easy, right? We’re not in a deathmatch or anything… wait a second, are we?”
Pretty sure we aren’t. I’m working at fucking 60% life here. We better not.
I haven’t told Bobbie about my recent drinking issues, or the fact I’ve punted video games to the side. To be honest, this is our first full conversation since I returned. I haven’t talked much. I haven’t wanted to. It’s not like I’m depressed. After I lost the World Title to Mike Best I was significantly down on myself. That was depression. While War Games ‘22 saw brutal odds, I knew walking out of there with #97red would be virtually impossible.
I just didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to walk out.
Well God has a wonderful champion who can present the company in his image. He’s American, uses the imperial system and doesn’t know what a 2-4 is. Plus, I’ve heard the champ thinks he retired me. Boy, what goes around comes around. I spent the past six months thinking I retired Cecilworth only for him to return and nightstick me upside the head.
Careful what you say, Christopher.
For another time, though.
“Bobbie, listen, we can meet up when you get into town. From there, Imma watch out for you all the way through. We can even travel together, okay? Particularly if we- no no, excuse me, when we win the Tag Team TELEVISION Championships, we’re gonna have to. Bet we’re defending those straps on a weekly basis, sis. You think you were sick of me before? You’re gonna wish that mystery person does kill you after hanging out with me 24/7.”
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have gone there.
I crinkle my face and hear Bobbie’s unimpressed response. I apologize and attempt to change the subject.
“Look, Imma do this for you, girl. I had no intention of returning, I really didn’t. I beat the High Octane game. I was ready to move on… but I’m coming back for you. To protect you. Ahhh not that you need a man to protect you. I chose my words wrong. Imma just saying, uh, fuck those guys and everybody needs friends. YEAH! Plus, if I can superkick some faces in, it’s an added bonus.”
I take a quick swig of my “juicebox”.
“I will let my rage guide me, Bob. I’m a pissed off millennial. I’m close to Gen Z, but not a real Gen Z so you’re lucky there because Gen Z’s are fucking trash panda. You think I’m annoying?” Catch yourself, Conor. Don’t drive her crazy. “I have an agenda. The Highwaymen need to get what’s coming to them after being the worst teammates in history. Stronk Godson… I’m really excited to tangle it up with him. Jace? Hey, it’s clear how I feel about Jace. I hated him, then liked him, then hated him again, then liked him. Then we were teammates for a minute. I avenged his loss to Scott Stevens. Apparently he didn’t give AF so I hate him again. Hmmmm maybe I dunno how I feel. And Azula and Hollywood?” I pause, not knowing what to make of those two. “Collateral damage, I suppose.”
Another swig of my juicebox as I listen to Bobbinette’s reply.
“I hear ya, girl. K. You arrive and we’ll go through a game plan. Remember the notes I gave you on Harrison?” I turn around to look at the plethora of manila folders in the backseat of my car. “Well I’ve brought everything I’ve got on all of ‘em. Even Stronk. Sorry, EVEN STRONK.”
Gotta make sure I speak loudly.
Bobbie and I finish making arrangements on where we’ll meet up before the conversation ends.
“This is worth coming back for, Bobbie. Don’t worry. I got you.”
And the drive to Tombstone continues.
“Is this worth coming back for, Conor?” I ask myself.
Guess I’ll know the answer in a couple of days.
— — — — —
August 9, 2022
2 days earlier
Midday. Sun’s out. In the middle of a heatwave. I restlessly wait by the park bench across the street until he arrives. Canteen in my hand, filled with the good stuff, I take a quick shot before noticing he’s standing beside me.
“Hello, son,” he says softly as he points to the bench I’m in front of. “Mind if I take a seat?”
“Sorry, Wally,” I move out of the way rather quickly, making sure he doesn’t have to stand on that broken down hip any longer. Days seem like years and weeks are an eternity when there are gaps in-between visiting the Elders.
“Long time, huh?” I say rather awkwardly, unsure of how our interaction will go.
“Only a couple of months,” he replies, looking frail and weak. He will probably say otherwise but I can really see the deterioration. It’s heartbreaking.
“So you’re returning to HOW?” He asks, cutting right to the chase, eyes locked on me, fighting through the sun.
I shrug my shoulders. “I think so?”
It’s a struggle. A couple of weeks ago I was so certain I wanted to do this again. I was also drinking heavily. It’s a new experience. I didn’t know I would be led so convincingly by my emotions. Maybe that’s the reason people get help for this kinda thing… or stop drinking altogether. Alcohol is evil. But now, as the dust has settled, I wonder if I want to kick up some dust in Tombstone.
Not a great analogy. I’m pretty rusty.
“You sound convinced,” the Elder replies sarcastically. “You are as aware as anybody else that if you’re not going in there with one-hundred-percent commitment, you might as well not go back.”
A fair point. I love Mario to death (Mario Maurako, to be clear. The love I have for video game Mario is beyond explanation.) but he didn’t have his heart in his own comeback tour and the Argonauts of Awesome withered away into nothing.
Took me a while to remember what we were even called, that’s how much of a lasting impression the AoA had on my memory.
“No, Wally. The only Argonauts I know are in the Canadian Football League…”
Walter looks at me, wondering if he’s having a stroke.
“Sorry, Walt,” I say, slapping the side of my head. “I was having a conversation with myself again. I’m a little rusty.”
“No problem, son,” he assures.
Walter gives me space to think. I gaze into the Dearness Living Community, the place I called home for 2021. The place where I grew into The Vintage, the two-time High Octane World Heavyweight Champion.
Also the place where I let my head get too big and made poor decisions at the end of my reign.
“Thanks for speaking to me again,” I mention, trying to sound as genuine as possible.
“No problem, son,” he once again assures.
“The way I see it, Walter,” I begin, “I’m already committed. I said I’d go back. I see the anger I have, directed at so many people inside that organization. The boss, for one. I held up his mother fucking company for an entire year and now that I’m gone, he ups his game. Don’t forget the slander he threw at me, calling me a joke of a champion…”
My voice drifts, I drag myself to that very moment.
“And there’s The Grandson. Mike might be gone, but Tyler’s a spitting image of his father. We could have a real go. A serious long term rivalry. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
I consider the future.
“Christopher America. Would be great to take him on in singles competition. I was wrong about the guy. Thought he’d flake out like the other old vets. He hasn’t.”
And the usual suspects.
“Jace. God dammit do I want to get my hands on that scrub. Guy needs a dose of truth. He’s nowhere near as good as he thinks he is.”
Also, my friends…
Walter pipes up. “You think you can trust her?”
“Yeah, I think so. There’s a decent person under there.” I state with confidence.
The Elder, not so much.
“She’s worth coming back for?” He inquires. “You don’t sound convinced.”
Maybe I did not speak in confidence.
I take a deep breath, look at my favourite Elder and then smack him on the shoulder.
“Hey!” For the first time in our relationship, I see Walter’s rather angry. He rubs his shoulder and scoffs in my direction. “What the hell was that for?”
“My bad,” I put both my hands up in a defensive state. “I just needed to know it was you.”
“Uhh, well, I’ve been seeing visions of-” I better stop or I’ll get into my whole drinking phase. “Nevermind. It won’t happen again.”
Walter turns to the other half of the bench and gives his head a shake. “The least you can do is sit down, alright? I’m tired of staring directly into the sun.”
Sure, man. Whatever you say.
“So how are the others doing?” I ask about the Elders.
“Alive.” He responds with a half smile on his face. “When you’re our age and you wake up alive, it’s the only thing that matters.”
“Listen, I’m still in the peak of my career,” going off Walter’s comments, I continue. “I don’t want any regrets. I might not be ready to return full time. Physically, I am NOT ready. But Bobbie’s a good gal and it’s hard to find friends in this game. Besides… WTF am I gonna do, allow her to team with Scottywood again?”
Walter shakes his head in disgust. “No. Fuck that.”
Now you’re talking my language, old man.
“Damn right, fuck that.”
We both allow for a moment of silence. Walter watches kids play in the field across the way and I swing my feet back and forth on the bench.
“Hey, I might need you guys again,” I eventually break the silence.
“And we’ll be here when you do.”
— — — — —
Guess it’s time to rundown the goons…
I’ll start with Azula and Hollywood. I have no real issues with either of you, but since, for some reason, you find yourselves a part of this tag team match and I have no idea why, I’m gonna have to put the both of you outta your misery. A quick draw to the head should do it.
Xander, while I appreciate the effort you put in on a day to day basis, you don’t have what it takes to hang with Bobbie and I. Hollywood, you can’t hang either but I love your attitude. That’ll get you out of this event alive. Barely.
Harrison, Bergman. Any friend of Clay’s is a dipshit of mine. You know where to stick your thumb, Steve. Straight up your completely overrated ass. You wanna talk about never giving anything up? Boy is the kettle black and filled with milk. The thumbs down gag is so fucking old and contrived. You have honestly beaten the joke into the ground where it is beyond not funny, it’s just sad. What a bunch of absolute bullshit nonsensical smack talk by a muppet who hasn’t reached half the levels I have. By the way, WTF is a “Captain and Caveman”? I can’t grow facial hair. Dude, your trash talk was so cringe I actually felt sorry for you. Still can’t get over the hump I see, guess that’s why you’re so mad at this gamer. Tell me what “world of yours” I entered? The world where you’ve never pinned me? But I’ve pinned you? That one?
Maybe I mistook you because I barely heard a word you said. I had both commemorative World Championship titles shoved in my ears. /Patrick Roy reference. We arrived in HOW around the same time and while I’ve been to 8-4, main eventing pay-per-views, you simply mooch off everyone else’s success. A Cancer Jiles here, a Clay Byrd there. You gonna hit that upper potential? Never? Yeah, I figured as much.
Stronk, NO NEED TO SHOUT ALL THE TIME DUDE, I’m not an Elder, I hear ya. Hell, I’m still in my 20s for a couple more years. You’re a funny guy, Godson. You’re entertaining, you make me laugh. Hey, they say I’m a pretty funny guy, too. But what’s gonna happen when you finally get popped in the mouth, huh? When the laughter comes to a hard stop. ‘Cause it’s gonna happen eventually. I promise if you kick around here long enough, you’ll have your ego fed to you on more than one occasion. Maybe you’ll run into a Best. Sure, they’re on your side “right now”. They won’t be forever. Today, you provide them a sense of protection. The Board hordes the top level guys. And why not? That’s how you win a War Games. It’s not how you become The Guy, though. But you didn’t quite make it to the end of the war anyways, did you? What happens when the pride of The Grandson wants to prove he can beat you? And then he does. What happens when you suffer your first real significant loss in this company? Yeah, you’re hilarious. Very funny Stronk man. Sorry, VERY FUNNY STRONK MAN. Gotta belt that shit out. I’ve seen guys die here. Like, actual death. I’ve seen some players enter this company with a lot of fanfare, even remain undefeated for a while and then one major test of adversity takes place… bye bye. Enter: The Ultimate Gamer. Here’s a LEGIT test for you. Trolling around that TV title was a quaint little adventure. LSD was nothing to sneeze at. But I’m World Championship material.
It’s fun to beat up the weak, Stronk. It’s fun to raise your squeaky voice, grab your premature dick and twist a batch off all over God’s face.
Gooey goodness, bro.
Meanwhile, I fucking electrocuted a man.
I also told a teammate he wasn’t good enough… then proceeded to provide that reality check tenfold as I motherfucking pumped his head into the canvas.
He fled a month later.
I’m a cute gaming guy and you’re an adorable muscular meathead. Maybe I just met my newest rival.
There’s a time and a place for everything. Your day will come when your shtick runs dry. Whatcha gonna do then?
Nothing, you one trick pony.
Last but not least… my good pal, JPD. The man with a bullseye.
Oh Jace. The epitome of a moron. Thought we had something good on our hands, eh. Me, you, Jatt and Mario. A real group. Guys who would legit watch out for each other but then you got scared, tucked your tail between your legs and ran off to God and his son. Such the easy way out. I should’ve assumed nothing less from a guy who cried his way into the Hall of Fame, after Scott Stevens got in there first.
Maybe that’s what triggered this. Reality hit you smack in the face. Lose to Stevens, realize you’re not as good as you think you are.
In fact, I remember our conversation vividly. Jace approaches Jatt and I… I believe the discussion went something like this.
Jace: Hey guys, I got an offer to join The Board. I’m gonna take it because I’m not good enough to beat them but I am good enough to be on their team and play a minor role in racking up the victories. I won’t win on my own but I won’t lose, either. It’s a killer deal for me!
Pause for dramatic effect.
Jace: I still like you, Conor. I still like you too, Jatt. You’re both very good wrestlers but with The Board, I’m protected forever. Until they get rid of me. Or until The Son doesn’t even choose me for his War Games team LOL gosh golly that would be awkward. But hey don’t worry, I’ll still blindly stay loyal to the house of Best. ‘Cause I have no brain for myself, you see.
Pause for further contemplation.
Jace: One minute I’m noble, the next I’m a fucking dipshit. I’m LT’s Daddy and yet I probably couldn’t take her at this stage in her career, despite me being in PRIME condition. Now I let Stronk carry me. Literally, he carries me. He deadlifts me and then he will take hold of this team with his CONSISTENT YELLING AND DOMINATION. I ride his coattails to MOAR success. But hey, I was Wrestler of the Month! That’s as good as a long World Championship reign, eh Conor?
No arguments here Jace lol.
Last December I was promised a singles match against you, only for it to turn into a Best Tournament, crowning a #97. I didn’t get my one-on-one match but I think I did better overall. You’d have to jog my memory, it’s been a while.
One day our paths will finally collide without any other voices in the room. But since you decided to kick Bobbie in the puss and toss her off the boat, it’s only fitting I MDK you outta this Tag Team Championship bout and make The Board consider the notion that if they wanted a real superstar on their side… they should’ve gone with me.
I’d have turned them down, though. Hard no, laugh in their face. I’d rather fight against the top level talent and not submit to them. There’s something fun about a challenge and not pussyfooting around the prime of my career. I don’t get this fucking company sometimes. We have so many wannabe bAdaSSes up in here and yet everyone’s trying to make super teams. Jace, you’re the fucking Kevin Durant of High Octane.
Dance puppet, dance.
Talk about abortion to Bobbinette again, I’ll make you wish you were an abortion statistic. I’ll unleash a sporadic motherfucking hell on your shitty Hughie Freeman tattoo job. Go ahead, look up his arm sleeves. It’s like I’m seeing double.
I’ll take that second fiddle face of yours and ram it right down Meredith’s asshole. You were dating her, right? I’m outta touch.
You want me bud, you got me. Imma knock you down a few pegs so you remember your place. Jace Parker Davidson, I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.
There will be a murder come Dead or Alive, there’s no doubting this. If I have my way, there’s gonna be two.
And this one, my friend, is on the house.