Same sign as before,
Nothing’s gonna be anymore.
And the church burn.
Whatever be the cost,
Got the feeling that I must,
Bring that flame to the cross,
Bring that flame to the cross.
And the church burn.
God shall frown upon me,
Ardor and the only,
Martyr that is lonely,
Starter of the boneless
Well, there you have it. Another badly advised Hall of Famer returns. I mean, who comes back and picks literally the biggest fight they could? Nobody who has a brain, I don’t think. I mean, perhaps you, dear reader, are sitting at home thinking that that’s EXACTLY what I’d do. Maybe you’re Scott Stevens and think it’s a tremendous idea, only you’ve got the problem that nobody gives a fuck about you.
Like, not even your Mum.
Bit of an issue, really.
But we’re not here to take a giant dump on Scott Stevens. The man still seems to be doing that on his own, on a fairly regular basis.
Nah, we’re here today with the man who left Lee Best in a pool of his own blood at War Games. And technically, if you really did want to paint the biggest target possible on your back, then, well, this man did totally the right thing. Just it’s not exactly what you’d call sensible. Maybe you do want all the pressure on your shoulders when you return, y’know?
Perhaps you feel like it drives the best performances out of you when it happens. Perhaps. Perhaps you immediately sink. Knowing this man, it’s probably somewhere in-between – try it out, if you swim, superb. That sixth World Championship is surely coming at some point. And if you fail? At least you’ll fail spectacularly. Maybe even fail upwards. Which isn’t so bad, right? At least it’s progress.
And at least you’re doing it off your own back.
At least it’ll be your own failure.
It’s not particularly hard to look around this business and find people with excuses for their excuses, and who couldn’t even be fucked to get up out of bed for War Games. There’s a German who couldn’t.
Same German, who, when I was a young, innocent narrator, and our protagonist was starting to make his way in the world of sports-entertainment, was held up as an example of a dominant champion. Someone to be feared. Some eleven odd years later, and what’s he now?
Just another Hall of Famer who fell into hubris. Who believed that he was still as good. Maybe even better than he used to be. What happened to him? Our then masked protagonist was a part of the beatdown that took him out the picture. Sent him back to those weird-ass Berlin clubs with the fixation on wet look PVC. I mean, obviously others were involved, too, but you get the point.
So, if you do decide to go paint that big ass target on your back on your return, you have to be sure people are gonna give a fuck that you’re even back in the first place. Sure, you can make big ass claims about championships and so on, but, y’know. People have to care about the name. People have to care about the person, about what they used to be…there has to be interest to see if they can still do it.
You might as well have returned in a dark match and just go to the very, very back of the line to start grinding.
Which nobody really wants to do. Especially not if you’ve achieved before.
So, after my long, introductory monologue, I can hear my dear readers asking me exactly when we’re gonna get to the point – I can especially imagine the son of Chris Kostoff saying that. Which shouldn’t really be a surprise, no? When your command of the English language is as bad as that family’s, are you really shocked that they don’t want to read or hear words?
Might force ‘em to engage all four braincells. Don’t wanna burn those out too quick, y’know? A Kostoff doesn’t know when they’re gonna get more. And you need at least one braincell to fuck, another to eat and drink…
So. With the long-term survival of the Kostoff family to think of, I should probably get on with setting the actual scene, no? More I ramble and use big words, more likely I am to burn some of those precious braincells out. So. We move.
Scene setting. That’s usually about what a humble narrator does now, is it not?
The city of Cardiff, Wales is bathed in early June sunlight, the place somehow managing to look at least 10 degrees (Yes, 10. Real temperatures come in celsius, not fahrenheit. C’mon. Fahrenheit is fucking DUMB. Stuff freezes at 32? No. Water freezes at 0. Assholes.) warmer than it actually is. It’s one of those days where you look outside and you figure…teeshirt and shorts. Maybe even vest and shorts. But then you walk outside and immediately regret the shorts decision and wish you’d opted for trousers. Or pants. Whatever.
It looks beautiful, though.
Cardiff Bay is a particular area that’s guilty of this. A beautiful bay, containing the seat of Welsh Government, a concert hall and many, many restaurants, the breeze that whips in off the Bristol Channel is certainly bracing. Enough, at times, to make you wish you’d brought a hoodie, as well. The pants/trousers situation, well, if you opted for trousers/pants, you’re alright about life. Shorts though?
Well, you’re probably wondering why there aren’t any shops that sell clothes down the Bay.
I mean, why would there be? It’s a tourist trap. Not that it stops the residents of the city going there and using it – it might be set up for tourists to come in and drop money on sub-par Welsh cakes and shit pints in chain pubs, but it’s still a pretty beautiful place, on it’s day. Which you could argue that today is, though no doubt there’ll be some stunners later in the summer, too. So we find ourselves today, on one of the benches lining the various elaborately paved pathways around the Bay, focussing on a pair of men. One looks like a fairly average human being, standing somewhere below (but not too far below) six foot, looks like he occasionally goes to the gym, and he’s the sort of guy that’s probably wearing all sorts of insanely priced, branded clothing that has no clear or visible branding on it, but, y’know. He could show you the tags, if he really wanted to show off.
And the other?
He’s a little more familiar to you and I. I mean, I’d hope he’s more familiar to me…narrating things for him only paid for my mortgage, after all. But he’s a little over six foot, wearing the clothes that you’d expect someone who loves heavy metal and weed to wear. A black band shirt, black jeans, some Nike SB mids on his feet. A spliff hanging out of one hand, he adjusts his arse on the bench before taking a long, deep inhale of the spliff, the smoke pluming out of his facial orifices as he breathes out.
“So why, Rhys?”
“Yeah, I mean…why? You said you wanted to go back, and I was like, yeah sure bro, no problem, I can sort that for you with a single call. So I did. I got you a sweet setup, too. Wouldn’t have had to have worked that hard, coulda just shown up every week, did your thing, and then in a couple months, maybe you get that shot at the World Championship, ya know? I was certainly not fucking expecting you to do what you did. It was all fine until Fuse…”
Laughter emanates from the larger man, his gut of power poking at his shirt, making itself known as he does.
“Probably shoulda taken him out, too. Pretty sure that guy has a collection of body pillows that rivals my collection of HOW Championships.”
“Probably, yeah. But why the harder path, Rhys?”
“Eventually, maybe, but not in the short term. Not like you’re gonna get little kickers from Lee Best for every wrestler you destroy under his instructions, is it?”
“No, but like you said, the long term, Daf. I said it in that letter I wrote after War Games, I could easily have just taken up my spot in the Final Alliance, go work with the most boring American to ever American, maybe give STRONK some advice about how to do the juice good and maybe offer him some of my old Best Alliance tights, given he just basically seems to be Best Alliance me. Hang about with Mike and whatnot, sit there jerking each other off until the opportune moment comes to stab one of those assholes in the back and move up in Lee Best’s estimation…that’s a short term play, mate. A short term play.”
He punctuates his explanation with a little more smoking.
“Because if it ain’t obvious, Lee Best’s probably gonna get bored of you at some point. You have to play fake pretend nice with everyone else in that stable when really, all you wanna do is stab them in their fucking nose or some shit. So throwing my lot in with them? Short term. Boring. Hashtag predictable. Y’know?
A shrug, as the Hall of Famer looks around, adjusts his shirt, smokes a little more, lets the silence fill the void for a few. I mean, not that it’s silence in Cardiff. The screeching of the substantially sized food stealing seagulls is almost a constant in this city.
“So I figured I could do things that way, right? And it might take me fucking MONTHS to find out if I’m still good, or if I’m shit. Or…I could do things the way I’ve done them and I’ll know, a whole bunch sooner. Either I’m as good as I was ten years ago, and if that IS the case, then everyone in the Alliance knows they should be on high alert. Everyone should be on high alert. Or I could just be another burnout Hall of Famer return, and nobody needs to worry because I’ll spend fucking eternity in the midcard feuding with Brian Hollywood and Darin Zion.”
Another laugh, another inhale, another seagull screech.
“If that is the case, Daf, I fully expect you to shoot me. I’d rather die.”
It’s his friend’s turn to laugh now.
“You know I would, Rhys. There’s no real money in that.”
“Exactly. Yeah, I want the sixth, but I’d also like more loot. Everyone does.”
“I mean, I guess it’s fair enough. You know I’ve got your back, anyway.”
“I’d fucking hope so, mate. I pay you. You do all the numbers bullshit, you make sure I get the loot I deserve, and you get a nice cut of it.”
“Exactly. So I ain’t really too bothered that I mighta pissed off some old man.”
The conversation gently pulls into the station, stopping off to drop off some thoughts, and pick up some others. Family groups walk past on the path in front of them, the sun shines off the water in the Bay. The two watch the river bus pull into it’s stop, disgorging it’s passengers. The world continues around the two men as they watch. It’s the sight of a blissful half term holiday, if we’re gonna be completely honest about it. If you don’t mind sugar addled screaming children, that is.
“So, Kostoff then, bro.”
“Yeah. Though it’s not the same Kostoff, he’s probably dead or something. Maybe killed by a grenade up the ass – I honestly don’t know, and I don’t care to comb the archives to know. It’s his son? I’m sure it’s a similar deal to his father. I’m not here to talk, I’m just here to fight! And so on and so forth…”
“Yeah, but first match back. Could be a trap. He could be next World Champ type material.”
“Dafydd, bro, if I was booking my return match, I woulda faced STRONK in a non-title. If he is future World Champion material, I welcome it. I’ve returned to compete, y’know? I wanna be hitting up the pay window, not just waiting for my agreed appearance fee to come through. Ain’t gonna be doing that if I’m just facing nobodies who aren’t ever gonna be shit, am I? It’ll just be boring, easy shit. Pay window will be boring. I don’t want that. I want fuckers to go after me with the same vengeance I went after a Hall of Famer with back in the day. I want those fuckers to see me as nothing other than a pretty name to plant on their CV…it’ll be even better when they’re face down on the mat, slapping the canvas as hard and as fast as they possibly can because the World’s Best Single Leg Boston Crab has been applied.”
“That’s fair. You gonna cut a promo on this baby Kostoff before the match?”
“What, just sit here and cut a promo out into the world and hope that Kostoff somehow sees it, despite there being zero cameras around?”
Dafydd, the agent, the one who’s not high, laughs heartily.
“Rhys, you might miss it because you’re high, but I’ve seen at least three groups of kids staring at you like they can’t quite believe what they’ve seen. I’m sure that when we get up at leave, you’re gonna get mobbed for selfies. So I’d say there’s a fair amount of cameras around, personally. You might end up with some shitty cameraman, but…I’m pretty confident that whatever you say will get back to Kostoff.”
“Touche. But…I think I’d rather be sure he sees what I’ve got to say. Y’know. Film it myself. Front facing cameras are wonderful tools, after all.”
“Your call buddy. You want me to get out the way?”
“Nah. Nah, it’s chill.”
There’s another brief interregnum, Townsend finishing his spliff and flicking it over the path, towards the water, following this up with a chug from the Hamilton 44 Monster Energy he’s had sat on the bench near him. His phone, a battered old iPhone that’s long past it’s best emerges from his pocket, and a short struggle later, it’s out, the selfie camera is clearly on and ready to go…and after taking a moment to compose himself, to sort the words out in his head, the mellow South Walian accent starts to flow forth once more, the words standing in a violent contrast to the smoothness of the accent.
“This…this feels familiar. I can remember my first big real match in this industry. Chris Kostoff, in the Prison Yard, at Rumble at the Rock.”
He stops, wistfully looking out to the sea.
“Hell of a match. Beat the living shit out of each other, which was a thing we did a couple more times before I walked away. And now? Now, I hear your old man’s dead. A shame. I woulda loved to have gone another round with that old fuck. Always a war. Always fun.
Now, though? Now it’s you. And I don’t know fuck all about you, Zach, other than you got a fucking big name to live up to. I could go look at what you’ve done in High Octane Wrestling so far, but, if you’re anything like your father, you’ve probably got far more in the loss column than you do the win one…which’d be a thing that would only tell half the story with your father. No?”
The five time champ smirks down at the phone screen.
“Does it only tell half the story with you, Zach? Or are you just living off that last name you’ve got? This is, obviously, a thing we’ll find out when Chaos rolls around, right? But look…I get you’re young, you’re hungry and you should be looking to make a mark on this business, right? Nice, juicy Hall of Famer for you this week, right after you, uhh…choked away a pretty great opportunity to get into War Games, as far as I saw. I mean, we’ll call it a chance to rebound, right?
Now…don’t be stupid. Please. I’m not gonna make the same mistake your father did when he stepped into the ring with me for the first time – I’m not gonna figure it’s gonna be easy because you’re just a kid. If you’ve bothered to do any research – and I’ll be honest, considering if I went and got a transcript of your last promo, I’d bet that the opening crawl of any of the Star Wars movies has a higher word count, I’d be shocked if you had done any research at all – then you will know full well that I was you. I was the young and hungry kid who made his name off a Hall of Famer – your father. Am I gonna let you make your name off me?”
A full bellied laugh emanates from the powerful Welshman.
“Fuck no. I am not your chance for your first win that anyone gives a fuck about, Kostoff. This isn’t the first step on Zach Kostoff’s journey to the Hall of Fame spot right next to his father’s…the first time someone might think you were employed for something other than your last name…this is the first step on Rhys Townsend’s journey to his sixth HOW World Championship.
I’m sure you’re gonna reply to this while drinking a bottle of water and getting dressed while being filmed magically by some camera crew who have Predator-esque cloaking devices. I’m almost definite you’re gonna tell me I’ve talked too much. So I’ll say this, Kostoff. Yeah. I say a lot of words. And I know you won’t…but all that says to me, all that says to every single other wrestler, every single other sports-entertainer in the back is you are scared, so you spew the same faux-hardman bullshit trash talk and hope that nobody notices that you’re experiencing the opening phases of a panic attack because, oh shit, I’ve gotta use my brain and be creative?! OH NO.”
The laughter, the mirth – it’s gone. It’s so gone. Instead, it’s just a vaguely disgusted look etched across the strong collection of features that you might call Rhys Townsend’s face.
“So c’mon. Tell me I’m talking too much. Tell me you ain’t scared, say the same bullshit that was just as tired ten years ago when it was spewing out of your father’s mouth. Show up at Chaos. Actually show up. Not just the usual Kostoff bullshit where you’re showing up for a fight, but actually turn up for a match that could make your career. Do something to show the world that you belong in High Octane Wrestling and not in some shitty Florida high school gymnasium…personally?
I don’t think you will.”
We can see Townsend’s thumb mash at the record button, trying to stop the filming. It takes him two or three attempts before he finally manages it.
“We can edit that awkward ending out where you didn’t quite hit the large red button, Rhys.”
“Yeah, fuck you…”
The two laugh, and, well, let’s be honest, dear reader – right about now seems like a pretty good time to call an end to our time together. We could well continue along with these two, listening in on their conversation like a cucked husband listens to his wife getting railed, but for one, it’s a bit weird, and for two, are we not here for professional wrestling related content?
Llifed dagrau’r gwangalon,
A llyfed y taeog y llawr,
Er dued yw’r fagddu o’n cwmpas,
Ry’n ni’n barod am doriad y wawr,
Ry’n ni yma o hyd!
Ry’n ni yma o hyd!
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth!
The tears of the weak flowed,
And the slave licked the floor,
Although the fog around us is a trend,
We’re ready for the break of dawn,
We’re still here!
We’re still here!
Despite everyone and everything!
Zeal and Ardor – Church Burns
Dafydd Iwan – Yma O Hyd