Your Princess is in Another Castle (1)
Here we are.
No Hugo, Game Boy, Nintendo VR, Dan Ryan or John Sektor. No cage or Tag Team Championships. No Best Alliance or Elders. No old jokes. No nonsense.
Just you and I.
For MY World Heavyweight Championship.
You block my path to Alcatraz, to the ultimate redemption story. Did I tell you I apologized to you in a recent proclamation? Did you hear about what you truly meant to me? If you didn’t, I’ll quickly reiterate.
No loss to Jatt Starr at last year’s Rumble at the Rock and Conor Fuse doesn’t find this level of success. You chose me and I brought it to you. I propelled you to the LSD Championship, you catapulted me to levels beyond.
The fun we had inside those walls. I often think about it, don’t you? Jatt Starr walks the fine line of clever and loud, loyal yet flamboyant, funny albeit threatening. It’s a tightrope but you know this. You don’t wear those Hall of Fame shoes otherwise.
How I have waited patiently for this moment, Jatt.
— — — — —
August 29, 2021
“Blanked out there for a second.”
I don’t flinch but I can feel THE GAME BOY looking down at me. We sit in the last row, dead center of the arena. Follow the line from my boots to ringside and it’s right at the spot where I was awarded the top High Octane Achievement.
Of course, this wasn’t the only award I was handed… the bullseye on the side of my head is large. Dude couldn’t even let me smile, had to whip it out A-SAP.
I digress. This part of my story is for another time.
Holding the strap across my hands, I glance into its golden reflection. According to my calculations, 59 wrestlers have peered into this item, some more than others. I can feel the stories as I clutch the leather. The hopes and dreams of each successful gamer, breathing new life into their campaigns. I’ve seen the title passed around a few times, from a former “fall” guy who put his career on the line and did the impossible, to a silver spooned brat.
“They say I’m the most noble champion since Halitosis,” I mention as GAME BOY listens intently. “That’s a fun name, isn’t it? Halitosis.”
The title glistens in the dim house lights while the custodians clean. Early in my career, GAME BOY and I used to stay inside these walls for hours. Before the show, after the show, it didn’t matter. There was something so calming about The House of Lee, even if I don’t care for the boss.
Study the arena, know its ins, outs, everything about it. My Strategy 101. For example, I know if I hit the south-west corner of the ring, I can hear the crowd cheering a little louder. The ambiance of the building allows for noise to reflect the fullest in this location. Therefore, when possible, I’ll pull my opponent to that turnbuckle if it’s time for the Super Splash 450. Others might think I’m crazy or grasping at straws but in a league THIS good you need every advantage possible. In the game of baseball, hitters watch endless film on pitchers looking for their tells. Architecture has its tells, too. Besides, feeding off the energy in the stands never gets old.
Perhaps that’s why he returned.
Again, I digress. Getting ahead of myself.
“Maybe I can unlock Halitosis. Would he be willing to come back?” I laugh, realizing the stupidity of the comment. “Would be nice though, ya know? Have some real do-gooding friends around. Ones who won’t leave you. Either way, I’ll have to go back and watch his tape.”
GAME BOY is pure ecstasy. I can tell by the way he sits. Man doesn’t move an inch, almost never does but he is my faithful and most trusted friend. He’s so trusted, he stopped accompanying me to the ring many moons ago and still stays by my side.
“The misdirection with MAXKAELJr. was awesome, huh?” I wink at my henchman. It was a long, trying journey to get here but I’ve done it. King of the castle. Champion of the greatest wrestling organization in history. The Ultimate Gamer.
Unreal. Beyond my wildest dreams… literally. I dream a lot.
“I wonder…” My voice trails as I drift into my reflection on the gold plates. “How many people held this and thought it would be forever?”
Hmm, maybe all 58 others?
“And how many people held this, realizing their end game would come?”
Lee hates my guts. Never met the guy though it’s the impression I get. I suppose Conor Fuse is in for a wild ride.
“Whatever happens, whomever challenges…” I say, looking over to GAME BOY once more. “I’ve enjoyed the trip and I’ll try to stay on top for as long as I can.”
We sat here the day I found out HOW wasn’t what I thought. Wrestlers face career-ending injuries in the land of High Octane. I’ve seen it time and time again. Talent come, talent go. Snap your fingers, everything you once had is gone.
No one remembers you. No one cares. It’s onto the next big thing.
And no one in the south-west corner will cheer you, even if you have every good intention in the world.
“That’s wrestling.” I say out loud. I realize GAME BOY may have no clue what I’m talking about. “That’s competition. That’s life, my little buddy.”
My reflection in the gold plates tells me my time is already ticking. It started the second I was declared WHC.
Enjoy this moment because they are coming to take it away. One day, the phrase will be “___[blank]___ is the most noble champion since Conor Fuse.”
My goal is to delay this sentence for as long as I possibly can.
… … … … …
Dearness Living Community
August 29, 2021
I key into the main floor, appearing rather late. The celebration has been on for an hour or two. None of them watched Bottomline live but they ordered the replay, witnessed my big victory and now it’s time to commemorate the occasion. At least it’s what Walter told me on the phone before arriving.
“Be careful with us, we’re brittle,” were his last words to me.
The Elders shout “congratulations”. There’s confetti, streamers, kazoos, hand clappers, those plastic blowouts. Does Margo have a live sparkler in her hand? Jesus. The whole floor conveys a five-year-old’s birthday party but I won’t complain. A giant banner hangs above reading “YOU DID IT” and everyone rushes me the second I walk through the door. However, it takes them a while to approach.
“Conor, yes!” Shouts Louie. He’s usually the disinterested Elder but I can see my W has peaked his interest in the product. “I hate that stubborn Sutler boy!”
Richard, Ruth, Louie, Franklin, Stanley, Maxwell… the main crew is here. Even Adley seems to know what’s going on as he sits in the corner of the commons room and claps his hands profusely while smiling into the ceiling.
“Thank you, family,” I begin, clearing my throat so I can speak louder. “I couldn’t have done it without your support, honestly. I stand by what I said before going into the championship match, all of you mean more to me than this…”
I take the championship out of my backpack and hold it up.
“But give it some time,” I say with mild sarcasm, “and I’m sure this will end up replacing you Elders.”
It’s handshakes and hugs everywhere. Kinda lame stuff. If anyone from HOW was to see this, they’d laugh me out of the company. I don’t think the Sutler Reynolds-Kael championship celebration looked anything like this wholesome event. Regardless, I am truly grateful for the Elders’ support. They’ve taken the shit-talking Scrolls nonsense to a whole new level and it’s generated further interest in yours truly.
“Listen, people,” I say while patting Isaac on the back. “Believe it or not, I only showed up to the Best Arena ten minutes before my match. I had somewhere else to be. I don’t know the previous results… if RAHHHHH defeated my false hero… if my remaining friend, Darin Zion, won the TV title. The only thing I know is…”
I pause for dramatic effect.
“I DEFEATED THE SON OF SCIONS FOR THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP!! LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOO!!”
The party is on again as I give Isaac a body shake and discard him to the sofa.
“Plus, I have a mind-bending headache,” I mumble, rubbing the back of my skull. Hope nobody heard me. As I said earlier, there’s a time and a place to address the culprit.
“You fucking murdered that cum dumpster baby!! AAAAAAHHH!!!” Screams Margo in a blood-piercing rift, while everybody cheers wildly and I slowly make my way out of the crowd and down the hall. Carrying my duffle bag in my right hand, I swing the World Title around my left shoulder and smack the middle plate. The walk of victory to my bedroom never felt so powerful before. Not even Marin made me feel this way.
“Hey, kid,” Walter greets, leaning against the outside of my bedroom door. I didn’t notice him until I arrived.
“Walter, buddy, WTF. Aren’t you supposed to be partying?”
Walter looks me over from head-to-toe, then eyes the title, then eyes me. He smirks. “I told you, don’t speak in acronyms. No clue what it means.”
Rolling my eyes, Walter moves so I open my bedroom door and we both enter.
“Walter, WTF is like the most known acronym. People actually say it, I’m not trying to confuse you further.”
He doesn’t bother replying. I toss my duffle bag across the floor and collapse on my bed, leaving Walter my gaming chair.
“Listen,” I begin, “I’ve got to watch the rest of Bottomline. You’re welcome to join me but no spoilers please. Obviously I heard what happened with Mike. Felt it, too. The rest? I have no clue and there’s a particular outcome I NEED to see…”
Walter nods, rising from my chair. I’m surprised he didn’t complain about ‘just sitting down’ but I’ve already gotten up. On all fours I find the hidden box under my bed. The label on it reads “OPEN WHEN ACHIEVED”. Looking behind my shoulder, I see it’s caught Walt’s interest.
“Alright, come over here,” I state. Resting the box gently on my bed, I peel the tape off the lid and reveal a new set of ring gear. Red leather trench coat, red NES inspired tights, even a red shooting sleeve for my left arm.
“Mario 97red,” I proclaim, grabbing the jacket and trying it on. “Had these made for me in the odd chance a day such as this would come.”
Walter smiles and helps me put on the jacket.
“You did well, kid,” He smacks me on both shoulders before slowly walking out of my room. “Enjoy the moment. Whatever you have to watch on Bottomline is meaningless compared to your victory.”
You’re wrong, Walter. Very wrong.
What I need to watch is more important. It’s the most important piece of information I’ve been waiting for.
… … … … …
HIGH OCTANE-97 WORLD PROGRESSION
Jatt Starr →
Scottywood → High Flyer → Tag Team Championships → Cancer Jiles → Final Boss World Champion SRK (you are here)
… … … … …
#8 Conor Fuse vs. #18 Jatt Starr
October 24, 2020
My first real taste of High Octane, quite the battle. I walked in very unsure of myself that night, having no idea how I’d line up against the legend. I had been on a roll but I knew this match was different. The setting surely caught me off guard.
I find myself at ringside, in an outcome I know far too well. Inside the ring, Jatt Starr and HOW Rookie Conor Fuse go back and forth. I bleed like a stuck pig, he bleeds like he’s four weeks pregnant. The two of us show no quit. I’m surprised this Rumble at the Rock version of myself seems fearless.
I go for some impact moves, Jatt counters. It’s clear I’m running on adrenaline and I have not mastered the art of using emotions to my favour. Jatt’s crafty. He slips away, he’s coy, he’s got a plan. Been here a million times over. The boys in the back, they say Jatt stalked me like a predator before he walked into Lee’s office and lobbied for a match against The Ultimate Gamer. The man isn’t HoF because he’s funny, he also knows what he’s doing.
I continue to have at it and Jatt continues to escape at the last possible second.
That is… until I surprise him. I hit “my grandfather” with a tilt-a-whirl DDT and he barely kicks out before the final drop of the hand. In another dimension, maybe I achieve victory. But back to this world, I don’t hit my combo buttons right. I grow impatient. I’m right at the cusp of the W, so I look for a punt kick. It WILL finish the Sultan of SeaJattle off. I might not have Mike’s knee but I have damn good feet. They take me everywhere I need.
The punt kick misses. Jatt breaks free, pops up, boots me in the chest and connects with The Falling Starr.
And then I kick out.
“Shit,” I add, watching from the apron.
The canvas is a coat of red. Nowhere near the 97 shade everyone desires. It’s almost a pinkish tone. Jatt rolls to his side, his hand is raised. For the legend is the victor on this night and I have much to learn.
“The old man games good,” I mumble under my breath, watching the Mayor of ManJattan celebrate, albeit barely. “Bravo.”
But as Jatt Moto continues to piece together his conquest, I can only focus the rest of my energy from this flashback on myself. Rumble at the Rock Conor lays on the canvas. His eyes are open but nobody’s home. He’s lost a ton of blood. Moments seem like hours. Hours, an eternity. Christ, this has lived in my head for nearly a cycle.
Finally, 2020 Conor Fuse blinks once, twice and moves slowly on his side. Shrills from inside the prison echo to the floor where Rookie Me resides.
“Get up. Get up, son,” I say from the apron while clapping my hands together. Maybe I didn’t have fun in this battle after all. I witness the flood of devastation in RATR Conor’s eyes, the gush of blood dripping down his forehead. His eyelids barely blink. The truest form of sadness consumes his face. It’s not so much a sense of disbelief as it is a notion of predictive dread. It’s the same look I’ve seen from others many times before. People have packed up over less than this. Far, far less. How close was I to doing the same?
Jatt Starr left me without answers.
“C’mon buddy,” I lean over once more, offering my hand. I’m not sure if he sees me yet. “You did well. You did so well. You kicked up right after the three. Referee Joel Hortega almost called off the pin. God, it was close!”
By now, RATR Conor Fuse is on his knees. He raises his left hand and checks how badly he’s bleeding. I can tell he hears the inmates shouting abound. It’s intimidating, horrifying. Is that Max Kael’s voice?
Back to myself. 2020 Conor remains on a knee. It’s taken him quite some time to contemplate the outcome. I know exactly what’s going through my head, the past races back. Can I hang here? Will I be able to defeat anyone moving forward? I don’t think I’m cut out for HOW and Alcatraz in particular. It’s a tough game, so I gave it an honest shot.
“Hey, HEY…” I say and Rumble Conor suddenly looks in my direction. Does he see me? I keep talking anyway. “I feel you, man… the heartbreak and how bad you wanted this. I’m sorry Jatt beat you.”
I begin to smile, as I pull back my trench coat to “inadvertently” show off the World Heavyweight Championship around my waist, hoping RATR Conor can see I did, indeed, make it. There’s no need to worry about the future, buddy. I got you.
Instead, the 2020 version of myself stands. Hands on hips, he looks around the prison. It’s clear he hasn’t felt my presence. After a deep, impending breath of doom, Rookie Conor Fuse lowers his gaze and wanders to the back being led out by Hortega.
“HEAD UP, goddammit!” I shout in a last ditch effort for him to hear me. “Don’t you dare quit! KEEP YOUR FUCKING HEAD UP!! Look what I have for you? The HOW World Championship! We did it, Conor. All of this was not impossible… you stepped up your game! You became THE guy! Max’s son, you haven’t met him yet but he begins his journey in High Octane after tonight. He will be your sworn enemy. Nearly untouchable! When everyone else failed, YOU were the guy who smacked him upside with a reality check. You should’ve seen the look on his face, man! I… WE defeated Sutler against all odds!! It was incredible.”
My eyes start to swell. Jatt has taken everything from me.
“You’re going to get there, Conor! Jatt Starr will pay for this, I promise you! I don’t care how long it takes! Accolades be damned, I want my revenge!”
But it doesn’t matter, RATR Conor can’t hear me. He’s vanished for the night and I, too, am starting to fade away.
I feel anger pulsating through my veins. I have everything now and yet an empty space remains as I relive this humbling incident. Erin Gordon and I were supposed to battle in Alcatraz. SHE was my Level One. Jatt is a wolf; Jatt is a Legend. And you were fed to him. Lick your wounds, kid. Brighter days ahead!
Suddenly the World Championship around my waist doesn’t feel so heavy. Is it even there anymore?
“I’ll be back! MARK MY FUCKING WORDS, Alcatraz! These walls will bleed THE VINTAGE’s name for years to come!” I bellow again, pounding my chest, looking up at the cells. This atmosphere is daunting. My hands are tightening and I tremble with fury. “One day, this building will BEG for Conor Fuse’s passion, determination and twisted heroism! I will return. This is a promise. This is my decree!”
The rabid noises, the deteriorating brick of the prison barricade continues to convey a sense of hostility. No one can hear me, not even my former self but I don’t care, let it fall on deaf ears. As I run through the events of October 24th, 2020, the night living in forever infamy.
“I will do whatever it takes to make it back inside this structure FOR REAL. I will avenge you, RATR Conor!”
And I fade away.
“I swear it.”