2 days before Lethal Lottery
“When will you realize you can never be me?”
She bugs me more and more now.
“I will be more than you. I’ll be better than you.”
The checking counter girl looks at me funny.
“What are you looking at?”
An awkward silence follows.
“In your dreams.”
The whole store comes to a standstill.
“It’ll be $40.”
I hastily pay up and leave the store while everyone’s eyes are still fixated upon me.
I walk on the sidewalk, a little embarrassed about what happened in the store. But Ellie won’t let me be.
“Why are you so angry?”
“I’m not angry. I’m just sick of you. You seem to follow me everywhere now.”
“Do you know why that happens?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. I just want you to disappear and never come back.”
“Come on, be honest. I know you want to understand what’s happening.”
“Yes, I’m going insane. Because you won’t leave me alone. You’re dead! Go away to whichever realm you belong to.”
“Lady! Watch it. Do you want to die?”
How dare he? I walk up to his car window.
“Hey! What’s your problem?”
“My problem is you. I’ll walk wherever I want, and I’ll do whatever I want. I’ll break your fucking legs right now if I feel like it.”
“Ok, ok! Jeez. Get a grip. Somebody’s gotten up the wrong side of the bed.”
He speeds away before things escalate.
“Hahahaha! Look at you. All that anger”
“Fuck you. I don’t know why you keep messing with my head, but get this. I am Wren. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“You’re nothing but a cheap imitation who can’t hang in with the real professionals of wrestling. Your jig will be up soon enough.”
“Are you jealous that I may become a better Wren than you ever were?”
“No. Absolutely not. I’m sad that in your mission of survival you had to betray the only friend you ever had. The only person who may have ever cared about you.”
“You have absolutely no idea what it takes to survive. For all the ‘hardships’, you spent an incredibly protected life. First by me, and then by, what’s her name… Horigishi, Horigashi, I don’t care. So, you don’t tell me what I need to do to survive.”
“Is this why you keep seeing me?”
I have no answer. Why do I keep hearing her? Seeing her? Why won’t she leave me alone?
“Soon, you’ll be stepping in the ring with 29 other superstars, once again pretending to be me. But for what? What will you gain by fighting as me? You obviously don’t like or hate anyone on the roster and while everyone wants a shot at the championship, what will you be fighting for?”
“I’ll be fighting for what I’ve always fought for. Unlike you, I don’t fight for honor. I fight to survive. You can try and spin it as you like, but there are damn few in that match who want to survive as badly as I do.”
Was I really trying to convince an apparition?
“You think I took over your persona to be you. I didn’t. I want to bring a semblance of life to my survival. To kick start something I have never had, a life where I no longer need to run. And you gave me that opportunity. I’m thankful for your naivety, for putting your trust in me. But I don’t owe you anything.”
“Nope. You owe an explanation to yourself. You think somehow this will make everything you’ve ever done go away. It will not. You’re just living a lie.”
“May be I am living a lie. It’s still better than anything I’ve ever lived before.”
A small child is staring at me in confusion.
“Who are you talking to?”
“No one. Why are you alone? Where’s your mom?”
“She’s over there. She thinks you’re insane.”
I kneel down to her height.
“Do you think so? Am I insane?”
Before she runs away, leaving me to ponder.
Backstage - The day of Lethal Lottery
The show is still a few hours away. I have Wren’s gear in front of me, but for some reason I don’t want to put it on yet. There’s something inside me that doesn’t want me to put that thing on. I decide to leave the locker room to get some fresh air. I see all the staff hard at work. I walk into the inside of the arena where the show would take place. Wow! What a stadium! I hear that at full capacity, it can accommodate more than 100,000 people. And we are expecting a full house! I walk through the stands to the middle of the arena where the crew is propping up the ring. I walk around it.
“Hey, who are you?”
“I’m with Wren. I’m her manager.”
“Performers or their crew are not allowed ringside before the show. You have to leave immediately.”
I wasn’t going to hang around to be lectured again. I take in the view one more time. The massiveness of the arena bewildered me. I take off to backstage area.
“You see all this? This is what we professional wrestlers strive for. Being at one of the biggest stages of ‘em all. And here you are, someone who will never understand what it’s like to struggle day in day out just to be here, let alone try to win the whole thing.”
“Not you again. See, I get it. I truly get it. Somewhere deep inside me, may be I did care a little about Ellie, but this is my life now. This is who I am. I understand what’s it like to be here.”
“Do you though? Do you understand how much each of these performers have given up just to have a chance at it? Do you understand the feeling of winning the championship? Or do you understand when you’re oh so close, yet so far from winning it?”
“I may not be a professional wrestler, but I know what it’s like to survive. I know what it takes to come ahead of everyone. There are 29 other superstars who will be trying to win this thing, just so that they can have a crack at the championship. For me, it means more. It means beginning a new life. It means shedding a skin to dawn a new one. I may not be a very good ‘you’, but I’m going to be a damn good Wren. I’ll change they people look at Wren. A Wren who’ll do anything to get ahead. A Wren who isn’t trying to please people with her eye catching performances, but who’ll trample on anyone to get what she wants.”
I look at the arena once more from the stands. For everyone else, it’s just a shot at the title. For me, it’s a reboot. Wren 2.0 is ready.
Three Days After Meltdown 147: A Bar In New York
I had finally gotten Vox to leave me alone, at least I hoped. Sure I had to agree to donate to his stupid charities, but money is nothing I can make back whatever I donate to him in a day, and beating Lynx and Tastic? That'd be priceless. For now though I needed to finally catch up with Harper, now that the distraction was taken care of. I walked back into the bar and sat back down at the table, shaking my head in annoyance upon doing so.
Harper: Fun times dealing with the troll?
Harper laughed, and I did too.
Callie: Think I took care of that problem finally, but just to be safe i put my phone on silent. I came here to catch up with you and that's what I intend to do. So, what were we talking about before all that?
Harper: Uhh you were saying something about the Elite Championship and what you've done for it and how those two guys your facing this week are ruining that.
Callie: Ohh right, well yes they are the scum of the earth and I hate them both. But forget them, they're irrelevant right now. Are you still doing the art thing?
I watched her nod her head.
Harper: Yeah, it's going alright. Not going to be some world famous artist anytime soon but it's going alright.
Callie: That's good to hear, and don't worry one day you'll be world famous just like me, or well almost as famous as me, even Gabi isn't as famous as me.
I laughed and flipped my hair with a bit of arrogance.
Harper: Uh right, how is Gabi doing anyway? Still recovering from her injury?
I shook my head.
Callie: Not really recovering anymore, but she won't be wrestling anymore either. The doctors told her if she was to wrestle anymore she'd risk reaggravating her arm and truthfully I think the injury scared her too much to try a return anyway.
Harper slowly nodded.
Harper: Can't say I blame her, that was scary to watch when she got injured in that mayhem match.
Callie: I know! And yet my petition to ban the mayhem got shut down.
I shook my head in disgust.
Callie: But oh well I don't really need a tag partner anyway without tag team championships to win, and I know if I ever need her to be in my corner for a match she'll be there. That's what matters.
We continued talking and had another drink each, staying there for about two hours before deciding to leave. We vowed to keep in touch and I planned to keep that promise. Sure Harper was a little weird but she was the closest thing I had to a real best friend and she was the first person not in my family to believe in me, and someone like that will always have a place in my life.
The Day After Ascension: Inside An Airport, Tokyo, Japan
I was getting ready to leave Japan and head for Australia for the Lethal Lottery, fresh off my victory at Meltdown over my two biggest enemies and once again I had pinned Matt Tastic. I had proved again that without weapons, he can't beat me and I sent a message to Lynx in the process, my championship would be coming home to me soon, hopefully at the Lottery. As far as I was concerned, I was done with Tastic I had nothing left to prove with him and a paper champion like him didn't deserve a rematch, unlike me who was raising that championship to heights it's never reached before just by having my name on it. Suddenly my train of thought was interrupted by getting a text from Gabi.
The Next Day: WZCW Headquarters, Las Vegas, Nevada
I finally made it here, the headquarters of the company. I still wasn't sure what or who exactly I was looking for going in, but I couldn't think of a better way to get answers if there was a conspiracy against me, so my plan was to go in, look around, and see what I can find. As I walked in, I debated heading up to the offices, but then I saw a sign with an arrow pointing towards the shipping department, and decided to head that way first, after all I need to make sure my merchandise was the top seller. I walked in and saw about a hundred people working, I walked over to the first line I saw, people packing up t-shirts.
Callie: Oh look some t-shirts, let's see who we got here...oh Lynx! Big surprise. But nobody needs that.
I rolled my eyes and threw the shirt on the ground and stomped on it. I went through some other shirts I saw along the way.
Callie: Let's see here...Batti, Matt Tastic, and Logan McAllister. Two people I've beat multiple times and a crappy tag partner from Boston, nope, nope and nope!
I took the three shirts and tossed them in a near by trash can.
Callie: Seriously? People are buying this stuff? What's wrong with them? And where's my t-shirts?!
I looked around until a worker spoke up.
Worker: Um you don't have any t-shirts for people to order...
I glared at the man and walked over to him, he might have been a foot taller than me but I could see the fear in his eyes as I approached. I like when I can do that to people.
Callie: And why's that!?
Worker: I...I don't know, that's not my department.
I shook my head in disgust and walked away, that guy sure was an idiot. Let's try and talk to the merchandise makers, see if they can give me answers. I walked into their office, surprising them in the process as I stood in front of them.
Callie: HEY! I just found out there's no shirts for me, what's up with that!?
I glared at the startled employees who scrambled to come up with answers. I waited and tapped my foot in annoyance, finally a woman spoke up.
Woman: Well, we tried to come up with some designs but we haven't come up with anything we thought was good enough to show you for approval...
I rolled my eyes, does WZCW just employ a bunch of idiots? This isn't hard.
Callie: Good enough? All you need to do is put this,
I waved my hand around my face.
Callie: On shirts and it'll be the best selling shirt you could ever make! Duh!
I walked to the front of the room and stood next to a board full of ideas for new merchandise, I looked at it, saw nothing on there for me and kicked it over.
Callie: Forget all that, here's your new idea. A mystery box full of items, and every one of them is something to represent me. Shirts, plaques of my championship wins, posters, action figures, pillows, everything you can think of!
The same woman from before spoke up again.
Woman: Well I guess we could come up with some merchandise for you, and mystery crates are actually an idea we've been working on, but just having your merchandise in there wouldn't really work...
I glared at the woman, who does she think she is arguing with me?
Callie: Excuse me, what's your name?
Callie: Well Janet, let me tell you something. I don't know who you think you are talking back to me, but I am a two time Elite Openweight Champion and the future Lethal Lottery winner, and if you dare talk back to me again I will show you why I'm so successful in the ring and beat some sense into you. Now unlike you, I have a life and I have places to go and things to do, including heading to Sydney to win the Lethal Lottery, so I need to leave but I expect to see lots of merchandise made for me soon and I better see a Callie Clark collector's box, or else I'll be back.
I held up a fist to this Janet woman and watched as she nodded her head. I smirked, satisfied with how that went and walked out the door, but stopped before walking out.
Callie: Oh Janet, one more thing. Since you seem to be in on the conspiracy against me, you can tell the people in charge of this company that I will get my title back, and on top of that I will win the lottery, because the only thing better than being champion of one division is being champion of two!
I walked out the door and shortly after that, left the headquarters after finding out that I couldn't talk to any of the losers that place. I wasn't happy about not getting my way, but I got my point across and at the end of the day there's no better way to get my way, then by winning matches like I usually do?
Two Days Later: Callie's Hotel Room, Sydney, Australia
After my little detour, I finally made it to Sydney and brought with me a brand new costume, ready to make it's debut at Lethal Lottery. I had just finished settling into my hotel suite, because I deserve a suite after all I've had to deal with recently, and sat down on the bed. I needed a moment to relax. Before I could even turn on the TV though, the room phone rang, who's calling my room and why are they bothering me? This better be good...
???: Hello Callie this is Leon Kensworth, I was hoping to get an interview with you about the Lethal Lottery Match coming up. Do you have some free time right now?
I thought about saying no, Last time I talked to Leon he got on my nerves, but then I thought about how I had some things I wanted to say and that would be a good way to do it and make sure everybody heard what I had to say. I guess I could tolerate Leon for that, after all at least I can put him in his place if I have to.
Callie: I guess I can do that, but it better not be long, I have a massage to get today.
Leon: Okay great, we'll be right up!
15 Minutes Later:
I sat down in a chair after waiting for Leon to get set up, it took him long enough. Finally it was time for the interview to begin.
Leon: Ladies and Gentleman I'm here with an exclusive interview with former Elite Openweight Champion, Callie Clark. Callie, some are mentioning you as a favorite to win the Lethal Lottery this year, how do you like your chances of winning?
Callie: Well first of all, everybody should consider me one of the favorites Leon, I mean look at my win-loss record, only 3 people can say they've beat me, and two of them, Lynx and Tastic, I've beaten just as much if not more times than they've beat me. I'm not worried about the lottery Leon, the only thing I'm worried about is getting a good entry number, because that's the most important thing.
Leon nodded his head as he listened to what I was saying, knowing it was the truth.
Leon: Good points, obviously entering into the match later is a huge advantage. But some would say your size is going to be a big disadvantage in a match like the lottery, what do you say to that?
I laughed, the fact that people still think that is hilarious.
Callie: Leon, when was the last time the biggest person in the lethal lottery won the match? The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and in some cases, the dumber they are. I know I'll be one of the smallest competitors in the match and some might think that'll hurt my chances, but I know I'll be one of the smartest competitors in the match and that's what matters. I'm not going to try and throw out a competitor like Harald Var Krigare by myself, I know I can't lift him, but all I have to do is wait for people to gang up on him and join them, or wait until he's on the apron and knock him off. So to answer your question, my size isn't a disadvantage. Now let's move onto the good questions.
Leon slowly nodded his head, and went through his note cards finding the next question he wanted to ask.
Leon: Um right okay then, there will be a good number of people in the lottery match you have never faced, and there's sure to be some surprise debuts or returns during the match, do you have a plan for those people?
Callie: Oh what kind of stupid question is that?
I shook my head, I might have to request a different interviewer next time.
Callie: What kind of plan will I have for them? Simple. I'll punch them in the face and do what I can to try and eliminate them from the match obvi. I don't care about legends, new superstars, or anything else you wanna call them, everybody in that match is standing in my way of getting to the main event of Kingdom Come and winning the World Heavyweight Championship. I'll do everything I can to get there, and I don't care who I have to go through to get it. Now for real, ditch the stupid questions or I'll cut this interview short.
I watched Leon shift in his seat, and think for a moment before asking his next question.
Leon: Okay, you mentioned the World Heavyweight Championship, and at the Lethal Lottery, history will be made as 3 of your fellow female superstars will be competing for it, the first ever all female World Title match, who's your pick to win that and do you think this is a big step for the women of WZCW and wrestling as a whole?
I rolled my eyes, I was already sick of the hype that match was getting.
Callie: Ugh who cares if they are facing off for the World Title? The fact that a loser like Batti who can't beat me got that spot over me, is a bunch of crap. She shouldn't have even been in the #1 contenders match, and now she could become World Champ? Well I'll tell you this Leon if she gets that title and I don't get the first shot it just further proves that this company is trying to hold me back. And then you have Eve the choker, trying once again to prove she can win the big one, and Kagura, who could only win the world title while the champ was knocked out. I don't care who wins that match, and I don't care about all the "rah rah girl power!" everybody expects me to have, I hate Batti, I hate Eve, and I'd probably hate Kagura if I ever dealt with her. I hope they beat the hell out of each other and the two losers don't make it to the lottery match so I have two less people to deal with how about that Leon?
I grinned and saw the surprise on Leon's face, clearly he wasn't expecting that answer to his question. He took a moment to gather himself before speaking again.
Leon: I guess I can see your point there. One final question then, who are you most worried about going into the Lottery? Anybody you're wanting to get out quicker than anybody else?
Callie: I want to eliminate everybody as soon as I possibly can, but I'll play your little game. If I'm in there with Lynx I'll make sure he's eliminated before me, and I think everybody would agree with me that it's important to get rid of people like Titus, Blades, and Tastic as soon as possible since they are widely considered the "favorites" to win by the idiot fans. Oh that reminds me, I'd love to throw out Tastic too, it never gets old getting one over on him, that always brings a smile to my face. Now let me ask you a question Leon, what did I do when I successfully defended the Elite Openweight Championship?
Leon: Well most say you broke the curse on it.
Callie: Exactly, and you could even say I made history, and another question, when I won the Elite Openweight Championship for a second time what did I do? I'll give you a hint, you said Batti, Eve and Kagura are doing that same thing earlier.
Leon: Umm, make history?
Callie: Bingo. I make history Leon, I'm the curse breaker, the only female to win back a championship, the woman who has been damn near unstoppable since I joined this company almost a year ago. And guess what? At Lethal Lottery, I'm going to make more history by becoming the first female to ever win the Lottery.
Leon: Well that's certainly possible, and I wish you luck with that. You'll certainly need it with how strong the field is going to be.
Callie: Luck is for losers Leon, save it for my opponents.
I smirked and winked at the camera just before it finished recording. I was confident and ready for whatever craziness the Lottery match might bring, as ready as I could be at least. All that was left to do was find out where I was entering, eliminate some losers, and add another accolade to my resume. Once again Callie Clark is going to make some history as the first female to win the Lethal Lottery. Nobody will stop me, this is my time.
I'm a kid in this one, deal with it. Or don't. I don't care.
[A scene is shown in technicolor. There is a dream like cloud surrounding it. It is set in an arena, and there is a wrestling battle royale going on. There are 9 men in the ring.]
Play-By-Play Announcer: We have one man left to enter! We have nine men in the ring. Who could be the last man in?
Color Announcer: Oh goodness, it's the shortest person here. I can't believe they let him in! Who let a CHILD into this competition?
*A child who looks like a younger version of Vox runs out to the ring. The crowd is cheering him on loudly*
Child Vox: I'm here to kick your butts!
Giant Man: HA! I'd like to see you try, little boy!
*Child Vox picks the Giant Man by his leg and then over his head. He quickly throws him out of the ring*
Play-By-Play Announcer: MY GOODNESS! HE MUST BE THE STRONGEST MAN ALIVE! Giant Man is 12 feet tall!
Color Announcer: More like shortest CHEAT alive! I can't believe that coward would let him win!
Play-By-Play Announcer: You're a butthead, shut up!
*Child Vox then runs at three other men in the ring, and they jump over the ropes in fear*
Play-By-Play Announcer: No one wants a piece of the 4 year old Irishman!
Color Announcer: I do!
Play-By-Play Announcer: Then go get some!
Color Announcer: He was the last person in the match, it wouldn't be fair.
*Child Vox eliminates two more people, and the other man in the ring evens it to just Child Vox and Weird Man*
Color Announcer: HERE COMES WEIRD MAN! HE HAS BEEN CHAMPION FOR 55 YEARS! IT'S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE!
Play-By-Play Announcer: How do you know that reference?
Color Announcer: WEIRD MAN!
*Weird Man picks Child Vox up and tries to throw him over. He succeeds in throwing Child Vox over the ropes, but Child Vox turns around in midair, and goes to dive at Weird Man. He hits him in the chest which causes Weird Man to back all the way up to the other ropes and fly over.*
Play-By-Play Announcer: It's OVER! The Young Irishman wins! He is the champion of the universes!
Color Announcer: I'm disgusted. Give him the stupid thing. I'm gonna go cry and eat my boogers.
*A man with a corded microphone comes into the ring, he goes to interview Young Vox*
Interviewer: What a performance! What are you going to do?!
Young Vox: *Points to the air strongly* THIS IS FOR MY DADDY! I MISS YOU DAD!!!
*The scene hard cuts to Young Vox standing on his bed, wearing a cape and wrestling pajamas still pointing at the sky with a tear in his eye*
Young Vox: I'M THE BEST, AND I DO IT FOR YOU!
Young Vox's Brother: Shut up. Mum wants you downstairs.
Young Vox: But...I'm the best...
Young Vox's Brother: Go be the best downstairs.
Young Vox: Ok...
*Young Vox gets off the bed and starts to leave the room*
*Young Vox's Brother grabs Young Vox's cape*
Young Vox's Brother: Hey buddy, did you beat Weird Man this time?
Young Vox: Ohhhhhh yeah! But it wasn't easy.
Young Vox's Brother: Hey, it ain't always easy. Even if you're the best.
Young Vox: Yeah, but it's all over now, Baby Blue.
Young Vox's Brother: Why do you know what that is?
*Young Vox shrugs and runs downstairs*
*Young Vox's Brother picks up a picture of their Dad and smiles at it, longingly. A tear falls onto the picture.*
*The scene hard cuts again to an adult Vox, he is staring at a photo album, the same picture that was stained with one of his brother's tears*
Vox: I'm the best, and I do it for you. *He smiles* I have the chance to do it here, too. I'm the best, and I'm going to do it for you. I don't care if there will be five, ten, thirty, or one hundred men and women in that ring. I am the best, and I do it for you.
"Intensity: Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that." - Ron Swanson.
We see Yemrez standing in the balcony of a hotel. The air was cold yet they felt soul-soothing to Yemrez. She drinks a full bottle of water. There was a bunch load of stress. Concerned about what lies in her future after she does what she was doing to do. It wasn't gonna be easy for Yemrez. To spill out what was choking her from inside. Or may be, making her hollow from inside. We rarely get what we always want from our life. But that never stopped Yemrez to try it. With utmost dedication. But this time, the result was known. It is like a race is rigged before it is started. Unlike the predetermined endings where winner is decided, here in Yemrez's, the sole loser was decided. And unfortunately, the loser was Yemrez Reqonic. Not just in the Olympic Finals. Where she came second and claimed the silver medal yet considered that a loss. Not just in the life where she had lost her would-be husband and her daughter-like sister. Not just in wrestling where she lost more than she won. But as a whole. How? That's what Yemrez wanted to reveal to each and everyone in this WZCW world. A confession that she would love to hide. But that won't be justified. Those who believed in Yemrez. Those who loved Yemrez. Those who were inspired by Yemrez. Each and everyone of them must know what's up with Yemrez. With all the might in her, Yemrez proceeded to post it on WZCW.com. Just a day before Lethal Lottery. Where she wasn't even near being a favourite to win the match.
Fémının Pro Wrestling
March 9th, 2018
A towering building is in view. It had finally come down to this. Lynx was sure of it that he and Doreen had tracked down Josh Browning. Now it was time to confront this mysterious individual. Lynx looked over to his friend Masamune and his cousin, Willy, who were standing behind him.
Lynx: You two. Make sure no one enters or exits this building until I come back.
Masamune: You got it, dude. Willy, anyone getting past us?
Lynx nods his head and opens the door. Masamune stands to the left of the door and Willy to the right, prepared to not allow anyone to pass. Lynx sees the lobby to be very quiet. An old man is behind the counter. The name on the sign in front of the man reads "Hershel Hogue - Admin Clerk". The old man looks up and sees Lynx.
Hershel: So good of you to stop by, Lynx. Mr Browning is waiting for you on the top floor.
Lynx: So he really is here? Ok. Good. I'll just hop in the elevator and be on my way up there.
He turns over to the elevators only to find a sign on the elevator door. "OUT OF ORDER! PLEASE USE STAIRS!" is what the sign reads.
Lynx: Oh you've GOT to be kidding me. Hey! Is this thing actually broken or is this another mind game of Browning's?
The old man looks in Lynx's direction.
Hershel: No, sir. It's broken. We ordered new parts to fix it but they have yet to arrive because my coworker that ordered it failed to put the correct destination address on his documents. Quite frustrating, really. You will have to use the stairs.
Lynx pauses for a moment. He did not mind the workout that taking the stairs may entail, but this seemed to be too much of a coincidence.
Lynx: How many floors up is he?
Hershel: 30, sir.
Lynx: Unbelievable. Ok, thanks.
He walked over to the stairs to begin his climb up. The stairway led to a door, which he opened. He looked upward and saw several flights of stairs in the vertical hall. Once he entered the vertical hall, the door shut behind him and he heard a voice over the intercom.
Josh: It's me. Josh Browning. I have been waiting for this encounter, Lynx. I'm issuing you a challenge. Each floor contains a different picture of one of your opponents in the Lethal Lottery. If you truly believe you can defeat the competitor in the picture, feel free to move up to the next floor. If not, then turn back the way you came. See you at the top of this tower, bro!
As soon as Josh stopped talking, a catchy yet ominous melody began playing over the intercom.
1. BLAZING TIGER
Lynx looked around for the pictures of which Browning spoke. On the other wall he saw a picture of Blazing Tiger, a new WZCW rookie. Underneath the picture was a note with Tiger's name. Lynx recalled Browning's challenge. Sure, he felt confident he could defeat Blazing Tiger. Without any hesitation, Lynx made his way to the stairs to go up to the next floor.
2. JABARI KASIM
On this floor he found a picture of another new wrestler with a similar note. This was Jabari Kasim. He thought to himself for a moment. He knew very little about this wrestler, but still felt confident in being able to defeat him in the Lottery. Lynx took a breath, exhaled, and he went up the stairs to the next floor.
3. STEVIE BROON
Right by the stairwell was a third picture and note. This one was of Steve Broon. There really did seem to be a lot of new wrestlers coming in lately, Lynx thought to himself. Another new face who he was still unfamiliar with. His level of experience would be in his advantage at this time. He wondered if the order he was seeing these pictures had anything to do with the order that Browning had made for the Lottery entrances. He shrugged and headed up the steps.
4. HARALD VAR KRIGARE
On the fourth floor he saw yet another new face in the picture. Lynx looked at the picture of Harald for a few seconds. Later down the line he might not be so sure, but for now Lynx felt confident in being able to eliminate this large new competitor due to his own level of experience. Still unsure if this was Browning's entrance order or not, he continued up the stairs.
5. YEMREZ REQONIC
On the fifth floor Lynx found a picture of a familiar face, that of his opponent from the Gold Rush event, a match that Lynx had won. The chaos of the Lottery match adds many additional variables, though Lynx was not concerned. He continued his upward climb.
He reached the next floor and saw a picture of Wren. Their paths had crossed before, in the first round of the Gold Rush tournament. Lynx was victorious in that encounter. Feeling sure that he could replicate such a victory he made his way to the stairs and then stopped. He turned around and looked at the picture of Wren again. Surely this couldn't be the order selected for the entrances. Why would Browning provide that information? There had to have been a different significance in the order places for these pictures. Lynx walked up the stairs.
7. VEE ADZ
The picture on the seventh floor was that of a very intelligent competitor. A former Eurasian number one contender. As smart as Vee is, the chaotic nature of the Lottery match would work in Lynx's favor. He wouldn't have to worry about outsmarting Vee here. The upward climb continued.
8. RANDY STUDD
The eighth floor had a picture of a competitor that would benefit from the mayhem (pun slightly intended) of the Lottery match. A former Mayhem Champion. Someone like Studd could do well in this match, but could Lynx eliminate him? He thought for a moment and then recalled having been victorious against Randy Studd before. Up the stairs he went.
A picture of a friend awaited Lynx on the ninth floor. Vox had been both an ally and an opponent to Lynx. Much like Randy Studd, Vox would benefit from any mayhem the match would bring. He then pictured Vox asking an opponent mid-match for a donation and getting eliminated as a response. After laughing to himself he went up to the next floor.
10. CAN YOU DEFEAT AN UNKNOWN OPPONENT?
Lynx had completed 1/3 of his climb up the flights of stairs. What was on the wall of the tenth floor surprised him. There was no picture here. Just an empty picture frame on the wall with a note underneath it that asked him if he could defeat an unknown opponent. He knew there were always surprise returns and random appearances in matches like this. Was he prepared to face someone without knowing who in advance? This one really made him stop and think like none of the previous nine had. No. He was not going to let any kind of fear of the unknown stop him. He nodded his head and walked up to the next floor.
11. WHAT IF THERE WERE MULTIPLE UNKNOWN OPPONENTS?
Another unknown? Lynx knew and understood the likelihood of this happening. The best thing to do would be to study some footage of past Lethal Lottery events. He had no idea who may show up unannounced, but he was confident he could make himself ready. Expecting to find another unknown, he made his way up to find out what was next.
12. TONY MANCINI
Instead of a third unknown, Lynx saw a picture of the current Mayhem Champion upon arriving at the twelfth floor. Mancini had improved a lot as a competitor and Lynx was awar of this. Lynx was also aware of an advantage he would have over Mancini. Lynx is entering this match at 100%. Mancini would still have to defend the Mayhem Championship against Randy Studd. This decreased Lynx's concerns of whether he could defeat Tony or not. He then walked over to the stairs to proceed upward.
13. LOGAN MCALLISTER
On the thirteenth floor he saw a picture of Logan. A wrestler who at last year's Lethal Lottery had won the very title Lynx held. Logan lost the title that same night. Lynx's reign as Elite Openweight Champion had lasted longer than Logan's and he felt confident he would last longer than Logan in the Lottery as well. Some associate the number 13 with bad luck. Logan didn't have the best of luck last year, Lynx thought, and he won't this year if they are in the ring at the same time either. He walked with confidence to the stairs to move on up.
The picture on the fourteenth floor further proved the pattern Lynx had begun to notice. With each floor the difficulty of opponents had been increasing. Vega was one of the greatest Mayhem Champions in WZCW history and even competed for the WZCW World Heavyweight Championship at one point. It took a moment for Lynx to find he did have an advantage. Vega had been gone for almost 4 years. Luckily for Lynx it was not 2014 Vega who he may end up in the ring with. This gave him the confidence to proceed to the next floor.
15. ACE STEVENS
He had made it halfway up the tower. On the fifteenth floor was a picture of one of the Eurasian Championship contenders, Ace Stevens. Lynx pondered for a bit and then recalled Ace's contendership status. Ace has a massive challenge in trying to dethrone Titus before the Lottery even begins. The same would hold true for any of the Eurasian challengers. Lynx proceeded to the steps.
16. TRIPLE X
The next floor had a picture of a former opponent, Triple X. The man in the picture was one of Lynx's biggest challenges he had come across in WZCW. He defeated Triple X at Unscripted. He could do it again if their paths crossed in the Lottery match. Not to mention how much the Eurasian match might take out of Triple X before the Lottery itself. On to the next floor.
17. MARK KEATON
Now the competitors were really getting tougher. Lynx had met Keaton in the ring before and lost. For the first time in his climb up the tower, he felt unsure. He did have an advantage, though. Keaton will have the same problem that Triple X and Ace will. Having to wrestle for the Eurasian Championship first before the Lottery match. He looked at the Keaton picture for a few more seconds. Yes, I can do it, I can defeat him this time Lynx thought to himself. He slowly approached the stairway, looked back at the Keaton picture again, and then walked up another flight.
18. WHAT IF A LEGEND RETURNS?
On the eighteenth floor came the third unknown that Lynx had expected a few floors below. An empty picture frame on the wall with a message bringing up the likelihood of a much bigger name making an unadvertised appearance. It has happened at previous Lotteries and could happen again. Lynx hesitated a bit, but nodded his head and walked up the stairs.
19. WHAT IF MULTIPLE LEGENDS RETURN?
Sure enough, the likelihood of more than one legend making an appearance was brought up on the nineteenth floor. Lynx knew this was quite possible to happen. Maybe the legends show up at similar intervals and they end up eliminating each other? He would have to depend on the unpredictable nature of the match to work in his favor if he shares the ring with multiple legends. Feeling he still had a chance in such a scenario, he walked over to the stairs to move on to the 20th floor.
20. CALLIE CLARK
He had now completed 2/3 of the climb. On the twentieth floor he saw a picture of his recent rival, Callie Clark. The woman he won the Elite Openweight Championship from. Sure, he defeated her in their last match, but they were all but destined to cross paths again. She was by far one of his most dangerous opponents in the Lottery given that he took her title. Eliminating her after having taken her title would give him momentum for any future encounters with her. He stared at her picture, right into her eyes.
Lynx: Your time was up at Meltdown 157. I'll see you at the Lottery, where I plan on eliminating you.
Callie had been picked by many fans as one of the favorites to outlast most of the competion in the Lottery. Lynx was ready to prove those fans wrong. He took one last look at the Callie picture and went up to the next floor.
21. THE BEARD
A former World Champion and one half of the Kingdom Come 6 main event was in the picture on the twenty-first floor. Do I have what it takes to defeat him? Lynx wondered. He really wasn't fully sure. He had come this far though. He could not let intimidation hold him back. Lynx was willing to accept the challenge of possibly having to eliminate someone like The Beard. Being willing to do his best and still try was good enough for him to keep moving on upward.
22. FLEX MUSSEL
Now the competition in the picture was reaching very high levels. Flex was another favorite to outlast many in the Lottery. Lynx knew that Flex would be one of the more challenging opponents. He had not forgotten what Flex had done to Theron, the legend who had inspired Lynx to join WZCW. Lynx didn't just know he could eliminate Flex. He knew he HAD to. For Theron. Wherever he was. Lynx walked up to the next floor.
Just when he thought the competitors in the pictures could not get any tougher, he saw a picture of one of the three women competing for the World Championship at the Lethal Lottery event. Under Batti's picture was a note that read "If she does not win the World Championship, can you defeat her?". He knew the likelihood of encountering any of the three World Championship contenders in the Lottery and how difficult it would be to eliminate them. His only hope was that they, like the Eurasian and Mayhem contenders, would not be at 100% walking into the match. The odds would be against him, but he knew he could still do it. With that he proceeded upstairs.
24. EVE TAYLOR
The next floor's picture had another of the World Championship contenders. Eve Taylor was in the picture with a note just like Batti's. Lynx had been a tag team partner as well as an opponent of Eve's in the past so he had an idea of what to expect from her if they crossed paths in the Lottery. He then remembered how she was the favorite to win last year. He wondered if the failure from a year ago would come back to haunt her, causing another shocking elimination. That, plus it was not her only match that night. With some hesitation he kept moving up the stairs.
The first female WZCW World Champion was in the picture on the twenty-fifth floor. Under Kagura's picture was a note that read "If she does not retain, can you defeat her?". Kagura had shocked the world when she cashed in the Queen For A Day opportunity. Lynx had defeated Kagura in a previous encounter once before, back when he was still new. They bad both improved as competitors since then, but he knew it was still possible, even if the odds would not be in his favor. He took a deep breath. The intimidation was starting to get to him. There were still five floors remaining. All of which could even be tougher than the current World Champion. He had to keep going. Lynx walked up the stairs.
26. MATT TASTIC
A former Lethal Lottery winner and one of the most successful wrestlers ever awaited Lynx in the picture on the twenty-sixth floor. The level of competition was reaching the top tier now. If Lynx was going to defeat Matt Tastic in this match it would take everything he had. Tastic had done it all including winning this very match. This would be a big opportunity for Lynx to step up. What if he did get the chance to eliminate Tastic, the one who won the WZCW World Championship in a past Lottery? After reassuring himself mentally that he was up for such a challenge, Lynx decided to continue up the stairs.
27. TITUS AVISON
A legend among legends. The man who had held the Eurasian Championship ever since Kingdom Come 7 was in the picture on the twenty-seventh floor. Titus had become one of the most feared men on the roster and surely was another of the favorites in the match. Were it not for the fact that Titus had to defend his title first, Lynx did not think he had a chance at defeating him. As luck would have it, Titus was not expected to enter the match at 100%. Maybe he COULD do it! Lynx was determined to continue his climb. So he did.
28. TYRONE BLADES
The man that many considered the greatest ever was in the picture on the twenty-eighth floor. The mighty Tyrone Blades. The one who made everyone step up their game no matter who he was facing. Could Lynx do the unthinkable and defeat the best there is? He knew that there was no greater opportunity. If he got a chance to eliminate Blades it would do wonders for him. It would be hard. Extremely difficult. There's no turning back now. He was not going to give up on this climb to the top of the tower and he won't give up when he gets to the Lethal Lottery match regardless of if it were to come down to Blades and Lynx in the end, he would do everything he could to get that win. He felt a shiver down his spine as he looked at the picture of Tyrone Blades and made his way to the stairs. Two floors remained. Lynx suspected his own picture may be one of the two remaining, but what about the other? Who could possibly be left if Tyrone Blades wasn't number 30....?
29. CAN YOU DEFEAT A HERO?
Slowly, one step at a time, Lynx walked up the stairs. There was no picture on this floor. Only a note asking if he would be able to defeat a hero. Who could that be? Lynx wondered. No one is better than Titus or Tyrone. This individual being placed at a higher challenge must mean it would be tougher for Lynx due to who it is, not necessarily to the opponent's skill level. Could it be? The one who inspired him? What if he were to share a ring with Blackjack Theron Daggershield....? Having to eliminate his hero would be bittersweet. Lynx knew there was an opportunity there, if Theron were even to appear. No such moment had been advertised. If he ended up having to do it, he was willing to eliminate the one he had looked up to. He looked up and saw that only one flight of stairs remained and it led to a closed door. He walked up the stairs very carefully and slowly. His heart was racing.
30. CAN YOU WIN THE LETHAL LOTTERY, LYNX?
He opened the door at the thirtieth floor and saw a framed silhouette of himself. Not even a clear picture, just a shadow matching his own self. A note underneath asked him if he truly could win this match.
Lynx: YES I CAN....!
A response from Josh was heard over the intercom, while the music continued playing.
Josh: Then come on up to the roof, bro!
He could hear footsteps of someone running up stairs from behind the door next to the Lynx silhouette. He opened this door and saw a microphone next to a bunch of security computer screens. There was another stairway next to that. He walked up that stairway and opened the door at the top of the stairs. It led outside. The music is still playing, but the wind blowing and thunder in the distance are also heard. He saw a large muscular figure in a blue robe with his back to Lynx so he could not see the individual's face. There is a pillar next to the robed figure.
Lynx: Josh Browning. We meet at last.
Josh: Yep. How did you like the game we played today? Feel ready for the Lottery?
Lynx: Turn around and face me.
Josh: You sure, man?
Lynx: Who ARE you!?
Josh: Someone who knows you can't stop the end times from coming.
The man turns around to face Lynx. He has a hood over his face, so his mouth and beard can be seen, but not his full face.
Josh: I know of your desire to stop the Apocalypse. I wanted to teach you a valuable lesson. Fixed points in time cannot be changed without divine intervention. Bro, you can't prevent the world from ending. God made it and one day He will come back to end it.
Lynx: Wait, I thought you were a coach. Now you sound like a pastor. Is Josh Browning even your real name?
Josh: It is, but you may have heard me be referred to by a different name. A hero who inspired you is a disciple of mine. He once called me.... Mark Flight.
Browning takes his hood off to reveal his face. He has long dark hair and a dark beard.
Lynx: Mark Flight? The guy from the World Magic Conferences that Theron used to speak at?
Josh: The very same, bro. Although, the actual name of the event is the World Missions Conference. I have not led a World Missions Conference in almost two years. I went into the missionary leader oversight field after that and then took up coaching for a bit back here in the states.
Lynx: And then you got hired by WZCW to randomize Meltdown Madness as well as coming up with the Lethal Lottery entrance order?
Thunder is heard striking in the distance.
Josh: No, bro. Why would they hire a pastor turned missionary turned coach to make the Lethal Lottery entrance order? Come on now. Some guys from your Talent Relations department do that. Just like every year. I don't know any more than you do about who is competing at the Lethal Lottery. I only gave James that message about making the Lethal Lottery entrances so that you would come here.
Lynx: So.... WHY did you want me to come here!?
Josh: Don't you get it, bro? You CAN'T stop the Apocalypse! You CAN'T control the WZCW! This was all a learning exercise to teach you about FATE. Here's the deal, bro, you can't stop what is already fated to happen. What you can do instead is trust in God to give you wisdom and guidance.
Lynx: You wanna talk about FATE!? The only fate I have is ensuring that the world never ends in the future I was sent back in time from! If I still exist then the wrong results at any given show at WZCW could put the world back onto the brink of destruction!
A few seconds pass before either speak.
Josh: Then who's winning the Lethal Lottery?
Lynx: I AM!
Josh: I see. Bro! Come on out.
From behind the pillar next to Browning a familiar face is seen walking up to Lynx. Long blonde hair, red cammo pants, a huge sword in one hand, and zelda triforce images on his red boots.
Theron: It's been a long time coming, Panther. Nice job on winning the Expert Prestige Championship. If you want to know what REAL courage is, do well in the Risky Raffle and then come find me.
Lynx: I thought you were overseas saving the world? Where would I find you?
Theron: Oh, I won't be hard to find. For now, focus on the Risky Raffle. You already did something I couldn't when you defeated Mint Morrison to win a title that eluded me during my career. Now I want you to do something else I couldn't, and win the Risky Raffle. Good luck, Panther. Everyone is counting on you.
Lynx nods his head. The music stops playing. A long bolt of lightning is seen in the sky behind the three men and a loud thunder strike is heard.
Lynx: I won't let you down.
Come join the best section on the forum WrestleZone Championship Wrestling! You know you want to!
The scorching African heat had been beating down on us all day. It was mid afternoon when we reached the outskirts of the town of Katsina. Most of the roads in the area were in poor condition, as had become increasingly normal as we traveled further north in our journey. The camels we used for travel were visibly tiring as we approached a stable just inside the city proper. I still recall some of the jokes the inexperienced team made when we were told camels would be our means of transportation for much the remaining journey.
Nigeria had a rich history if breeding powerful pack horses, among the strongest and most durable in all of Africa, but our main financial backer, Maxwell Hunter insisted we were spreading our budget too thin at this point. So he labored on, for the better part of two weeks in the region. The proper cities in the northern part of Nigeria were more spread out than most other areas, so we took ample time to rest and recharge each time we stopped. The terrain was not as rough as other parts of our journey. We were in an elevated region, but the major mountain ranges were far rougher than this. Most of the thick tropical jungle we encountered was along the border with Cameroon. The issue was this region was so arid, water was scarce. It sounded like a bad infomercial for Save The Children or Action Against Hunger, but unless you had the pleasure and good fortune to live in a populated area, you often had to travel miles for fresh water.
We helped a couple of the stable boys unload our gear and were pointed in the direction of an inn where we would be staying overnight. This is where we would meet our local guide and translator, Ode. Most of the people we encountered spoke very passable English. Not to the level of a native speaker in Britain or America, but education had come a long way in civilized regions of most of Africa. Ode was there because many of the people in isolated regions of Northern Nigeria and Southern Niger, where we would be for the next few weeks, instead spoke some variant of the Hausa language. It was one of the many native languages of Africa that was slowly being replaced by more modern languages.
All I knew of Ode was that we was a native of the region, actually being born in one of the many isolated villages. His mother died when Ode was young and he grew up in an orphanage in Kano after being found by missionaries. He had a US college education though, and was interested in film, which made him far more qualified than the vast majority of the film crew.
We took a quick stroll through town before we made our way to the inn. Once inside I was greeted and asked if I was here for anything in particular.
"Business." I replied.
"Do you know De-Wey?" The man asked as I sat down my bag.
"Yes, I am Dewey. Dewey Westbloom. Film maker."
The man smiled as we shook hands and motioned for me to follow him.
"I have heard of you, though I cannot say I have seen any of your work. I hear you intend to profile the native people."
"Yes, it is my goal to allow those all around the world to view the life of traditional tribesman in their day to day lives. To dispel the notions of rampant cannibalism and savagery."
The man stopped, then turned to face me.
"I respect your goal, to show us as people just as anyone else, but the myths of tribal life were not built on nothing. They are more than tales of epic white men who tamed the wild African savages of the eighteen hundreds/ However, like all myths, there is some truth to the stories told."
"My journalistic integrity drives me to uncover truth, no matter how outlandish the truth may appear."
"Much of the African wild remains a mystery, tall tales still abound. There is one, rooted locally, of a man who is more god than man. A giant in the flesh. Maybe your journalistic integrity will lead you to the truth about him."
We arrived at my room and I was told Ode would be up shortly.
I rummaged through my bag, to find a journal I had kept. I opened to a page I had marked with a dog ear. This legend of a giant who roamed the land, this was not the first I had heard of him. I traced back the notes, the first mention was when we arrived in Nigeria in the southern city of Lagos. The same myth popped up in the cities of Kano and Jos. As we moved further north, the legend of a literal giant became more frequent, but the crew and I wrote them off as ancient myth. Surely with so many mentions of a legend, they were trying to cut a scathing promo on a historical champion.
I pulled out my satellite phone, hoping to make a call to Maxwell before my meeting with Ode. The conversation was quick and one sided. The budget was empty and we didn't have enough material for the full film. We had to find something to recoup costs soon, or the plus would be pulled and the entire trip would be for naught.
Soon, a knock came at my door. A deep voice came from the other side.
"Mr. De-wey, it is Ode. I have a small errand to run but if you will meet me in about fifteen minutes in the dining room, we can discuss your intentions."
I rose to greet him, but when I got to the door he was gone. I took a moment to gather my journal and maps, and made my way to the dining room.
When I arrived, I did feel eyes on me. Being a white man in exotic lands wasn't new to me, but it occurred to me I still had the stink of the day on me. I was given a menu and a glass of water by a waiter, and was told Ode would be along shortly. Sometimes being the only white man in a room had its advantages.
I looked over the menu and settled on some beef Kilishi, a local favorite of mine, and Luru soup. I also asked for an order of funkaso to be delivered to my room later. The local take on pancakes was a sweet dish that I had never experienced elsewhere.
Soon I saw a man who had to duck to fit through the door frame walk in. he smiled when he saw me and took a seat across from me.
"Mr. De-wey, pleased to meet you. I am Ode, I was hired by Mr. Maxwell Hunter to accompany you on this portion of the trip."
I shook his hand, a powerful grip. He was a large man and though I tried to avoid the cliche, I instantly knew how he had achieved a college education.
"Pleased to meet you Ode. I'm sure your inside knowledge will be a great help along the way. So I must ask, what position did you play?"
Ode smiled before he spoke.
"While I was not particularly good, I was center for the varsity team. Being blessed with such height made up for a lack of even basic basketball skills."
Ode was indeed tall, his hands much larger than mine. I noticed he wore open toed shoes, likely a product of the difficulty in finding appropriately sized footwear.
"It was actually at Notre Dame that I was introduced to Mr. Maxwell. He was my sponsor when I arrived in America. He always spoke of my greatness on the court, but those American players, they are so much more skilled than those from my village. I was a big fish in a small pond, literally. I think my failure to develop into a serviceable player, especially after my knee surgery, did not sit well with Mr. Maxwell. He still continued with, what phrase did he use....under the table? Yes, under the table gifts during my four years though."
I could not help but laugh to myself over Ode being given special attention and privilege due to his status as a collegiate athlete.
"I hear you have an interest in film."
The smile on his face widened.
"Oh yes, I have always loved American cinema. It is why I was so eager to help on this journey.
"Well I am glad to have you on board." I reached beside my chair and pulled up one of my maps. "Are you familiar with the region circled?"
His smile faded a bit.
"I am Mr. De-wey, and if you intend to go there my presence will certainly be required. There is much tribal conflict in the region, and without my acting as your guide, you may end up in an unsafe area."
My eyes widened a bit. We were never told of such strife in the region, but it was not something I had not handled before.
"I'm sure we will be safe, but I am glad we will have you as insurance. Before I chart our path, there is something I want to ask you about." I pulled my journal onto the table and opened to my bookmarked page. "This may sound silly, but have you heard the stories of a giant that reportedly roams the wilderness?"
Ode chuckled. "If you intend to send someone else to college on a basketball scholarship, I don't think Mr. Maxwell would be so happy."
I smiled back. "It must just be a legend after all."
Ode checked his watch. "I apologize, but I have another errand to run. I have been trying to find funding to set up a theater here, and that requires my attention again. What time would you like to meet in the morning?"
I checked my journal and maps again. "The village I'd like to film tomorrow is more than an hour away, so I would like to be geared up and ready to set out by nine."
Ode shook my hand again and stood to leave. He took a couple of steps, then turned back to face me.
"You know, I can get you a truck. There is no need to continue to burden the crew with camel back travel."
I smiled. "That would help us greatly."
Ode nodded back at me before he turned to walk out, again ducking under the door frame. My food arrived and I decided to take it to go, so I would have more time to chart out our course.
When morning rolled around, I packed my gear and met the crew and Ode just outside the inn. Ode came through on his truck, and a few of us packed in and set off. Ode warned again of the potential danger. Our intention was to profile Dambe, a traditional and violent spectacle akin to bare knuckle boxing.
"Ode, do you know the name of the village in this region?"
Ode turned back to face me. "I do not. All I know is that it is one of the few villages along the border that still practices Dambe as a mean to prepare for war. Many of the villages have turned it into a traveling spectacle. They play up the event to entice crowds to pay money."
One of the issues, as was common place, is that there is no official record of the villages in the region. We only had an approximate location based upon the migratory patterns of their sport animals.
After more than an hour of following the roads, we were forced off road in search of the village. The truck had some issues, but the terrain cooperated with us for most of the trip. Soon, we began to find signs that the tribesmen had been in the area. It took some time, the sun was at its peak, before we finally came to the outskirts of our destination. Some farmers tended to small flocks of cows and sheep, so we knew it wouldn't be long before we reached the actual village.
When we arrived, Ode was the first to step out and did his best to quell any fears and concerns the tribal elders had. They were skeptical, so Ode came to the car to fetch me.
"Some of the elders speak some English. They want to hear in your own words why you are here."
I nodded and walked with Ode back to the elders. They were never hostile, but it was obvious they were on guard. We spoke briefly, with Ode filling in the gaps. After a few minutes and my reassurances that I meant them no harm, they invited us to watch their Dambe tournament that afternoon. I thanked them and offered what provisions I could to show my hospitality. One of the elders was particularly interested in the chocolate bar I had, so I broke him off a piece. He shoved it in his mouth and a smile broke out on his face. This caused those of us around him to laugh.
Ode and I walked back to the truck to get some equipment.
"I have never actually witnessed a tournament, this is a lucky occurrence for us."
"Was this a common sport in your village?"
"Not as common today as it once was. I have heard stories of a death in one such contest before my birth. This lead my village to reduce to number of fights."
"How did he die?"
"My father, he was a respected fighter with an impeccable record. One day, he was to fight a rival. Tradition says you are to wrap your lead hand, the spear hand, in a thick cord wrap. My father's rival, without anyone knowing, dipped his spear hand in resin and rolled the wrap in broken glass. An illegal practice."
"Ode, that is awful, I am sorry that...."
Ode burst out into a fit of laughter. "Haha, I got you Mr. De-Wey. It was a joke."
"My father was killed before I was born though."
"Yes, I still have the head of the lion that killed him on my wall."
I shot a crooked glance at him. He smirked.
"Actually, my father was the one who wrapped his hand in the glass."
I looked at him, he was still smirking. It was clearly a joke to him. We arrived at the site of the fights. A crude ring has been set up with sandbags and the crowd had gathered, most in the shade of the nearby trees. One of the crew set up a camera and after a few moments to find the best lighting, Ode and I stepped in front. The cameraman gave us the signal that he was rolling.
"As our journey through the untamed African wilderness continues, we have a special treat for you today. I am here with Ode Okeke, Nigerian native. Ode, can you give us an explanation of what is about to take place behind us?"
Ode was a little nervous as he spoke.
"In Nigeria, we have a sport called Dambe. Put simply, Dambe is the literal translation of the Hausa word for boxe. While exact rules vary from region to region, it is essentially bare knuckle boxing. It dates back to the days of tribal warfare and was originally used to prepare tribal warriors for combat. Two men, know in traditional Hausa as daæmaænga, start by wrapping their strong hand, known as the spear, in a thick clothes wrap. They then traditionally wrap a knotted cord around the wrap. This is their primary means of offense. The off hand, known as the shield, is held open and can be used to grab and hold an opponent. In many tribes, the daæmaænga will also wrap a heavy chain around their lead leg as a means of both offense and defense. Though originally only a boxing event, the sport has evolved into more of a pure striking sport with more and more men using kicks. Violence is expected, with the referee only stepping in to end the fights. Fights last until one of the two men if knocked down, known as a kill. If at any time either fighter has their hand or knee touch the ground, a short break will be called by the referee to allow the fallen man to regain himself. While the violence is expected and the goal is to essentially knock your opponent out, the men typically have no desire to do long lasting damage."
I nodded at Ode and allowed him to take a seat under a nearby tree.
"Thank you Ode. According to the tribal elders who have allowed us to film, we will be witnessing a full fledged tournament today. Ode made mention before we started filming how rare this is and how lucky we are to witness such an event."
With that the cameraman stopped filming and we made our way to Ode. He seemed excited to be helping, but I noticed a grimace upon his face when the cameraman set up to begin filming the men prepping for fights.
"Is everything okay Ode?"
He took a deep breath. "I am proud of my people Mr. De-Wey. I would not change who I am for anything, but my time in America showed me that not everyone views my people as equal. I am no savage. I am educated, I have degrees in both Film Production and Sports Science from Notre Dame University. I have value in this world, but many of these people, my people, they are nothing more than savages. In my time at Notre Dame, I saw many people in Indiana are not good people, quick to judge those that are different. Many Americans, hell, many people all over the globe, are quick to judge what is different. I do not want my people painted in a negative light."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "The world will always be home to terrible people Ode, it is simply the way humans are. My goal however, is to show that these people, your people, may be different, but they are still human. How is this ritual any different than the UFC or professional wrestling?I give you my word, I will not allow your people to be painted as ignorant bloodthirsty savages."
Despite being much taller than me, Ode smile seemed to have a childlike quality.
"Thank you Mr. De-Wey."
I patted his back and settled in next to him to watch the tournament.
For the next couple of hours, we watched the intense action. Men of all sizes did battle. Many were left bloody from the affair, but there was always a show of sportsmanship after the fight. I made mention to Ode that the compassion the men showed after their battles was more than many civilized people could say, and he agreed. Finally the tournament finale was upon us. The two men who had advanced wore their battle scars with honor as they stepped into the ring. One of the tribal elders made his way between them and began to speak in his native tongue. Ode gave me the gist of what he was saying, how the winner of this fight could challenge the gods themselves. Suddenly, as the elder introduced the men by their names, something that had not been done before, Ode laughed.
"The man on the left, his name is Akachukwu. His name means 'the hand of God' and he is in a fist fight. How can he lose?"
I did not find the joke as funny, but I faked a smile. The other man, Ochuko, took the early advantage in the fight and knocked Akachukwu down on two separate occasions in short order. Soon however, the crowd began to chant something, and Akachukwu seemed to come alive. His attacks forced Ochuko against the edge of the ring, the referee having to warn him many times to not step outside the border. Finally, with a thunderous right land, the right hand of God, Akachukwu floored Ochuko, sending him falling outside of the circle and flat on his back. Ode and I could not help but join in the cheers for the winner.
"That truly was an amazing sight."
Akachukwu was soon mobbed by his friends and family. The referee helped Ochuko to his feet, just as the sound of a drum rang out. In an instant, the crowd fell silent. The elder began to speak. Ode whispered to me as he did.
"I have never heard this before. The elder, he says that Akachukwu has earned the right to prove himself to the gods."
I took a few notes in my journal so I would have something for a voice over later. The crowd around Akachukwu began to leave his side and a worried look came over his face. From a nearby hut, a tribal shaman emerged and began to chant something. Ode himself was unsure what was happening. Soon, from the hut, emerged the source of legend.
Ode's eyes widened. "This man, this giant, he is the god they speak of."
The giant man, who stood even taller than Ode, was the largest man I had ever seen. I couldn't tell from where I was sitting, but he stood well over seven feet tall. Some of the crew pulled out their phones and began to film.
"That is one big nig...."
"Dude! You can't say that!"
Ode and I stood in awe as the man was lead to the ring. Akachukwu approached him nervously, as the other fighters formed a circle around them. One of the elders banged the drum, and Akachukwu began to strike at the giant. The blows had no effect, the giant simply swatted them away as if they were flies.
As Ode, the crew, and myself all stood, the giant threw a single punch and sent Akachukwu to the ground. The giant stood over the fallen man, before glancing at the shaman from before. The shaman gave him a look, and the giant placed his foot on the neck of Akachukwu. Akachukwu struggled, arms flailing as the life began to be choked out of him. The rest of the fighters realized what was happening and rushed at the giant. With ease, he threw them aside. Multiple men tried at once to attack the giant, and all failed. In the commotion, Akachukwu managed to crawl away. Soon the giant stood tall over the bodies of the fallen men. The shaman motioned for another elder to sound the drum, then the shaman shouted something in Hausa to the giant. The giant then proceeded to walk back to the hut and disappeared from view.
Ode and I looked at each other, doing our best to make sense of what just happened. Suddenly my satellite phone rang, it was Maxwell. I walked some feet away from the crowd and spoke. Maxwell however, gave me only a number to call. He said he had a business opportunity and he needed input from Ode and myself. I wrote the number down and said I would call when we returned to the city. Maxwell informed to to call right away and do exactly as I was told. He hung up with no warning.
I called Ode over and I dialed the number Maxwell had given me. I pressed the button to put the call on speaker so Ode could listen in. It rang a few times before someone picked up.
"Hi, this is Dewey Westbloom, I was told by Maxwell Hunter to call this number."
"Ah, Mr. Westbloom, I was expecting this call. You are prompt, I like that. My name is Kenneth Banks. Mr. Hunter and I have a business deal in the works and we need you to help us complete it. Before I go any further, I need you to make sure you are alone."
I motioned to Ode, who nodded and went back to the crowd.
"What I am going to propose is unconventional, but it will make all of us involved a lot of money."
I noticed some of the crew watching over the video as I took the phone off speaker, wondering what I was about to get myself into.
WZCW: Join Today
"Sometimes, you don’t have to pull the trigger." -Priya
We are welcomed by the serene sounds of a flowing river on this sunny day. Immediately we see Vega sitting on bright, almost neon green grass beside this river, his glassy eyes glaze unfocused towards the rushing water. He sees something out of the corner of his eye and slowly moves his head in that direction upstream. He squints while studying what captured his attention. Vega’s head tilts as it becomes clearer;
a human body gently flows down the river towards him.
Vega doesn’t react as the body floats passed him and slowly disappears into the distance. Before he can formulate a coherent thought, another body approaches in the river. Vega sits there, legs stretched out, watching the lifeless body float on by. Right on cue, another body enters the scene, followed by another, and another. Dozens of naked, lifeless corpses begin floating by. Vega calmly gets to his feet and begins walking towards the water.
Vega doesn’t respond.
He just continues to wander towards the river until, without breaking his stride, he just walks right into the water. Vega floats down the river surrounded by the drifting deceased, making no effort to stay afloat. His head bobs above and below the water as the speed begins to pick up. With every second that passes it feels as if more and more bodies float beside him. It gets to the point where the amount of bodies become too much, and a proverbial log jam is created. Vega hits this human dam causing him to come to a halt. Bodies begin piling up on him, and slowly he disappears in a sea of lifeless limbs.
Are you in there?
Vega doesn’t respond.
He isn’t even visible. All the color in the scene begins to change as the sun abruptly decides to set. Movement begins within this lifeless landfill. Vega shoves some limbs out of his way as he gets to the surface. He crawls over an endless array of bodies on his hands and knees when a rumble in the distance catches his attention. He looks up to see man on a motorcycle riding at a blazing speed right towards him. Vega finds himself standing straight up with a jet-black handgun in his right hand and aiming it directly for the biker. He has the biker right in his sights, but nothing happens. He furrows his eyebrows as he curiously stares at the side of his gun. Convinced there’s nothing wrong, he points it back towards the biker. This time he notices that the biker is brandishing a pistol of his own. Vega wants to shoot, but before he can he hears…
…the piercing sound of a gun reverberates inside his head as the biker zooms right passed him. Vega turns to see where the biker went but is blinded by flashing lights.
The lights are from Hollywood style spotlights shining down in front of Vega, illuminating a tall man with a crimson red face, wearing a golden belt. He is holding small golden statues in each of his hands as cameras and photographers surround the scene. Vega approaches the man and reaches for his crimson face. Slowly, Vega pulls the man’s red mask off to reveal a faceless figure with sunglasses. After taking a deep inhale, Vega steps back and aims the gun at his faceless foe.
Are you okay?
Nothing. Again. Vega helplessly stares at his gun, when the lights, and the faceless man suddenly disappear. A piece of paper floats in the air. Vega grabs it. It’s an autographed picture of the man behind the red mask.
Vega lets go of it. It slowly floats down to the ground, next to a closed briefcase he’s just now noticing. He bends at the knee and opens it up. Inside, he finds a crown fit for a King… or Queen. He grabs it with his left hand, but as he gets to his feet a hand reaches out and takes it away. A woman with long black hair and a golden belt places the crown over her head. It glows like a blessed halo. Vega takes aim for the woman’s head, but she stands there fearlessly staring down the barrel of the gun. His hand shakes, and he lowers the weapon, shaking his head in disbelief. The royal woman turns her back to Vega and walks until she fades away.
A metallic banging sounds off in the distance. Vega starts walking towards it when he hears something else… a countdown.
Complete darkness covers the scene for just a moment before the light returns along with a futuristic looking man with a golden belt holding a clock in his hand. The man opens his mouth, but we can only hear the sound of a ticking clock. Vega aims the barrel of the gun directly into this man’s clicking mouth.
The metallic banging in the distance draws Vega’s attention long enough for the futuristic man to disappear into the darkness to continue his travels. Vega ignores his disappearance and continues towards the sound. A door appears in the distance. The door knob rattles with another loud bang metallic bang is heard.
Vega points the gun at the door but can’t pull the trigger once again. Suddenly, the sound of the river returns. Vega holds the gun close to his eyes to study it closer. Unable to figure out what he is doing wrong, he falls to his knees… and inches the barrel of the pistol right up against his temple.
The smashing of a fire extinguisher down against a bathroom doorknob breaks us into reality. Priya stands there in a growing puddle of water holding the extinguisher as the door slowly swings open. There kneels Vega on the wet tile floor of his bathroom with a jet-black FN Five-Seven semi-automatic pistol nestled up against the side of his head. The sound of the water rushing out of his faucet into the porcelain bathtub sounds like a flowing river, the overflowing water crashes down next to Vega, who just kneels there looking up with his glassy bloodshot eyes and wildly dilated pupils. Priya, however, is literally blind to all of this, but still senses something is very wrong.
Will… are you in there?
Are you okay?
Vega doesn’t respond.
Instead, the hand holding the pistol begins to shake. Priya hears the weapon rattle and remains calm, vaguely aware of Vega’s history.
He motions his head towards her.
With the gun still at his head, Vega finally responds…
I can’t pull the trigger.
Priya walks into the flooded bathroom and kneels down in front of Vega. She gently caresses his face with her fingertips, sliding them from his mouth, to his nose, to his eyes, and slowly to the weapon. Vega lets Priya grab the pistol without a struggle.
It’s okay, Will. Sometimes, you don’t have to pull the trigger.
Priya turns her head over towards the overflowing bathtub.
Sun Tzu once said, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
She leans towards the bathtub while reaching for the faucet. Priya shuts off the water with one hand while still holding the gun in the other. She sits against the bathtub, both her and Vega drenched.
You know Will, sometimes I think the only reason you ever allowed me into your life is because you thought I would never be able to see the real you.
Priya lifts herself up off the floor.
The truth is… I can see the real you…
and this isn’t it.
Vega looks up towards Priya. He reaches out his hand… but Priya is blindly unaware of the gesture. She turns around and exits the room, leaving Vega alone, on his knees, with one hand stretched out.
Chapter 1: The Dollar
"I've looked around the locker room lately, and I see giants, but I don't see any monsters."
Ramparte sat in the corporate office with the General Manager of Ascension. Becky Serra glanced up from the forms she was filling out and sat Kenneth Bank's old pen aside. The Recluse fidgeted a little in his seat, barely composing himself.
"After tonight...oh boy...you're going to kiss the soles of my feet, Becky."
"Big words, Ram. Glad to see you out of your wheelchair by the way."
"Thanks. But tonight isn't about me. It's about you. It's about you and how much money you're willing to make."
Serra turned back to her signing. "Not sure I follow."
"I have a gift. There is a man in my care who can help liven the place up a bit. A modern monster. Somebody who...has a few things wrong upstairs. Poor guy survived in a demolished movie theater for years. Fairly sure you heard about this online."
"Might have skimmed over it. This sounds like a liability. No dice, Ramparty."
Ramparte gritted his teeth, realizing his name was still a joke among the higher ups. He nodded, stood up, and picked up one of the folders on her desk. Rebecca stared hard at the former tag team champion.
"They're only liabilities when they're on the books, Miss Serra. Like I said, this man is my gift to you. Off the record. He doesn't need a paycheck. He's the government's problem. You can write him off as a charity case, because in all actuality that's what he is. You could be a true humanitarian if you let him have a match here and there. Makes the company look good, you'll rake in money - that thing you love so much, and the public never has to know our secret. What they don't know won't hurt them. And besides, it's not like we haven't hired a crazy now and then." The alumni dropped the folder back onto the pile. "Everybody loves them a monster in the Lethal Lottery."
"Alright, but why aren't you asking to get in yourself? You know your credentials are more than enough to enter. I'm having a tough time understanding what's in it for you to help out some guy you met. Not to sound insulting, but I'm not stupid. This is sketchy, especially with your history in WZCW."
Ramparte walked across the Prussian blue rug and gazed out the window; it stretched from floor to ceiling. His reflection grimaced. "I'm genuinely offended, Serra. I have always done right by WZCW. Never took up arms. Never questioned yours or any authority figure's decision. That's more than I can say for someone like Tyrone Blades, and that slut he's with...forgot her name. But anyways, I know I'm hard to work with. I'm doing all I can to do right this time around. Karma has been important to me the months I was confined to a wheelchair. I prayed to God every single day that, if I walked again, I'd pay it forward. So this is me trying to be a human being, Miss Serra. Trying to give somebody else a chance. Someone who desperately needs it."
"And you think a large disturbed man is a good fit for this company?"
"This is wrestling. Where else could he go?"
Chapter 2: The Destroyer
Chapter 3: The Debut
"He's not going to be in a straight jacket or chains is he?"
Ramparte chuckled as they walked down the hall together. "No no, nothing silly like that. He's no different than you or me. He can even speak, though he doesn't do it often. I should say there are a few assistants with him, though. They're here to aid him as he transitions back into society. And don't worry - they aren't equipped with cattle prods and night sticks. Professional counselling is their defense, and it is solid."
Becky Serra looked relieved. They came around the corner and the aids were there, speaking calmly to the sitting man.
"So this is our new superstar. Hello there friend!" she said with syrup in her voice.
"Please don't speak to him like that. He's an adult and he knows as much."
"Okay okay. Well I hear you're a big guy wanting to work with us tonight. I'm someone who can make that happen. Want to wrestle?"
The man stared at the General Manager for a brief moment. His eyes peered down, deep in thought. A minute felt like an eternity for Ramparte and Becky Serra before he put his hands on his knees and pulled himself up. He towered over both of them, swallowing up most of the hallway. When Serra spoke to Ramparte, she did it without breaking her gaze.
"What's his name?"
I shot my head up and turned around. Anjo, one of the head monks was standing behind me. I sighed, hit pause, and hung my head and handed my phone over.
Anjo took a moment to look at the phone. He started the video from the beginning. He watched for a few seconds before he spoke.
"You are in no trouble. Many of us come to this place to distance ourselves from our old life, and we struggle with moving on. Even Buddha himself was tempted many times by the demon Mara with promises of beautiful women."
I stood from the mat in the floor, taking a moment to straighten and stretch my back.
"I promise, Anjo, I am no longer tempted to return to that lifestyle."
Anjo chuckled slightly.
"Other than your reluctance to cut your hair, you have shown great devotion thus far. you are even starting to look more and more like Budai each day."
Anjo poked my stomach. It was true. At my peak in WZCW, I was weighing in at three twenty five. Last time I had checked myself here, I was over three sixty.
"Old habits die hard."
As I said this I motioned to a cheeseburger wrapper at the foot of my bed.
"Ah yes, your reluctance to adhere to the vegetarian diet. Or in your won words, 'I ain't eating no rabbit food!'"
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. Anjo smiled back.
"Walk with me Michael."
He motioned for me to follow, so I slipped on my sandals and followed him out the door.
"How long have you been here Michael?"
I took a moment to think and count on my fingers.
"Well I got out of the hospital in early August of last year. Took about three or so months of rehab before I was able to get around again unaided. I remember spending Christmas alone."
I trailed off a moment as we rounded a corner and stepped into the monastery garden.
"It wasn't long after that, that I decided I needed a new start. Did some research, ended up in Denmark by mid January. Found this place a few days later. So six weeks maybe?"
"Do you know in that six weeks you have made more known about your old life than anyone? This place was completed in twenty fifteen. Hundreds have passed through here. Some just needed a quick boost, others seeking long term salvation. Out of all of them, no one has revealed their inner demons and pains like you have."
"I'm desperate to move on from my old life."
"You say that, but you still cling to your old ways. Cutting your hair, trimming your beard, they will not lead you to enlightenment. Nor will giving up the consumption of meat. However, you have been reprimanded multiple times for using forbidden technology. Each time you accept your punishment without issue, but you turn right around and do it again."
"It is only the one video."
"We have noticed. Each time you are caught, and it appears you want to be caught, you take the punishment in stride. Not a single complaint or utterance of discomfort at the punishment, but you continue to go back. Why?"
I stop walking, pausing to look at my reflection in the nearby koi pond. I don't answer, I just watch the fish that swim by, expecting food.
"This is why I have asked to talk to you today Michael."
He begins to walk to a nearby meditation hut and motions me inside.
"Come, and allow us to reflect for a moment."
I walk inside with him and we take a spot on the rug, facing each other.
"Please, use Quarter Lotus position."
I try to get into position but struggle a little.
"Is it okay if I use Burmese? Easier on my thighs. Cheeseburgers and all that."
Anjo nods his head and we take our positions and close our eyes.
"Focus only on your inner self."
I did my best to concentrate, and soon the world around me began to fade away.
"When you find yourself alone, void of the world, please tell me."
I focused only on myself, tuning out the faint sounds around me. Soon, in my head, I found myself alone in a dark room. I acknowledge to Anjo that I was ready to continue.
"Now, Michael, I want you to look deep within and tell me, why did you come here?"
Instantly I spoke.
"I told you, to start over. To kind peace for myself."
"Your actions betray your words. Look deeper. Speak only when you are sure of the answer."
My mind raced. It was as if in that dark room in my mind, my life started to play out before me. I saw myself as a child. Bullied, abused, abandoned. The image of me crying was a constant.
"To find peace. "
Anjo did not speak. The pictures continued in my head. To me as a teenager. More bullying. Rejection. Lack of friends and isolation.
"I told you, to find peace with the life I lived."
Again, Anjo did not speak and my life continued to move forward inside my head. I got to my early adult years. All I wanted was peace.
"Peace Anjo. Peace."
Anjo spoke, catching me off guard.
"Open your eyes."
As I opened my eyes, Anjo pulled out my phone and brought up the video again.
"We all want peace Michael, that is why we are all here. Your actions though, they render your words useless. your actions continue to betray you."
He hit play and spoke over the video.
"Many of us come here directionless. At low points. When this place was founded, our mission was to use the teachings Siddhārtha Gautama bestowed upon us to help people end struggle and find peace. We have helped drug addicts, criminals, the mentally ill. We do not discriminate and we do not turn away. We work with any and everyone to help them achieve peace. Your reluctance to commit full stop to a Buddhist lifestyle is not the reason you fail to find peace. You fail to find peace because you continue to lie to yourself about why you are here Michael."
I was impressed at his ability to call me out without being angry. I was also impressed at his ability to see through my bullshit.
"I just want peace. It is all I have ever wanted in life."
Anjo handed me my phone.
"Though many of us who serve here are not as connected to the world as most, we are not ignorant to the outside world."
I handed my phone back to Anjo, he motioned me to stand. We slipped our sandals on as he motioned me back outside.
"We know who you are Michael."
I quickly cut him off and corrected him.
"No, you knew who I was. Everyone knew who I was."
"You were one of the best professional wrestlers in the world. Your name was on marquees, your face in the cover of magazines. That was taken from you, and you are angry."
I motioned to some rocks on the far edge of the pond. Anjo nodded and we made our way toward them, resting upon them.
"I am not angry at what Mark Keaton did. What Mark Keaton did is commonplace in my line of work. Even I took advantage of shortcuts."
I raised my robe enough to show Anjo my leg.
I pointed to a black and yellow bar code tattoo.
"This was the symbol of James Howard, my first tag team partner. James was like the older brother I never had. He and his wife took me into their home, they cared for me when I was at my lowest. How did I repay him? By beating the hell out of him, lifting him to the top rope, and slamming him as hard as I could. All so I could win a title."
I then pointed to another tattoo. Script of the words "Live Más."
"This was the name of the team Matt Tastic and I formed. Guy was my best friend in the entire world. He even tried to help me the night Mark Keaton tried to end my career. What did I do for him? Used him to catapult myself into a number one contender position. It wasn't even for an actual title, and I threw that away."
I pointed to a third. A broken heart and lipstick print.
"This one, for Eve Taylor. I loved Eve, no two ways about it. I valued winning more than her love though. So when it became obvious what I was using her for, she bolted. I don't blame her one bit."
I let my robe fall back down my leg.
"I'm no stranger to using other people. Shit, my entire career is basically me using others as a stepping stone to success. Look at every title I ever won, then look for the boot print on the back of someone who got me there, I was supposed to be a good guy too! The crowd loved me!"
Anjo looked as if he wanted to speak, but he allowed me to continue.
"Ever since I could remember, every single fiber of my being, I just wanted to find a place to fit in. That place was WZCW. Not many people know, but I didn't start my career in WZCW. I was wrestling small shows in bingo halls and high school gyms around the Midwest. It was by a stroke of luck that Johnny Klamor was doing a story on the Midwest wrestling scene, and happened to be at a show I main evented. He pitched me to WZCW brass, and I got hired a few weeks later. From day one, when I walked from behind the curtain on Aftershock, I knew I found my home. WZCW has plenty of stars who had lives outside of wrestling. Titus is still one of the best actors in Hollywood today. John Constantine was a senator before he was ever World Champion. Justin Cooper was the worst person to win a Grammy since Milli Vanilli. Ace Stevens was about as funny as Dane Cook, but both of them had a life outside of WZCW. Eve Taylor was a world renown model. They all had success outside of WZCW. They all had a life outside WZCW. Me? I dropped out of community college because I couldn't stop playing Modern Warfare Two. WZCW was my success. WZCW was my life!"
"Thank you, Michael."
"For admitting what you seek."
I look at Anjo, a bit puzzled.
"Many people, they come to seek peace, but do now know the peace they seek. Your peace, is acceptance. WZCW was your peace."
"And it was taken from me."
"While I do not wish you had moved far from your home, to a foreign land, I am happy you have found your answer."
Anjo handed my phone to me, he had the number of WZCW HQ pulled up, ready to dial.
"Anjo, I have done all there is to do in WZCW. I have won World Titles. I have main evented Kingdom Come. I have set records in the tag team division. Why would I want to go back? I hold no hatred to Mark Keaton. I hold no ill toward anyone."
"To regain your peace."
I smiled at Anjo as I took the phone.
"Thank you Anjo, I will never forget this place and what you have done for me."
"I wish you the best, Mikey. You are always welcome here. Just please, next time, shower before you visit. It will take us weeks to get the smell out of your room."
The Kübler-Ross Model of Coping with Loss: A Case Study.
Stage 1: Denial
The rain hadn’t stopped for weeks. Torrential downpour after torrential downpour. Tonight it was even worse. A howling wind swirled around the darkened steeples of the building, which loomed over the street, scarecrows but for people. A lone individual was walking through the storm, clutching an overcoat around him as he walked. His gait was peculiar, a well-defined man, he was clearly sportingly active, yet he walked with a laboured limp.
Shut shop shutters lined the boulevard on both sides with a sole light spilling out into the darkened air. The light belonged to a bar, a run-down beer shack with no real character or anything there. The tattered sign had seen better days, but the name was just about visible on the broken wooden board. The Dream Inn. The Dream had certainly turned into a nightmare. The man didn’t want to go in, who would? But it was getting colder and wetter so he had to. Any port in a storm.
Inside wasn’t much better than outside. The carpets were sticky and an air of stale beer and disillusioned souls permeated the atmosphere. Nicotine stained woodchip wallpaper and faded photographs of forgotten patrons decorated the wall. With his arrival, the number of customers had doubled. His sole company was a sweaty man playing on the fruit machine. He didn’t look like he ate a lot of fruit. Beside him stood a pint of Guinness, which was by now the warmest thing in the city. Pound coin. Down the slot. Another. Down the slot. Another. Down the Slot. Jackpot! Down the slot.
The Gents toilet door opened a bar manappeared, carrying a mop and a cloth. The unmistakable smell of an ancient, freezing urinal trough followed behind him. He took the cloth and mop behind the bar and took his place at the beer pumps. Without washing his hands, naturally.
With a voice as gravely and broken as the road outside, he looked at the Soaking Manbefore him.
So, what’ll it be?
The soaking man couldn’t bring himself to speak yet. His bloodshot eyes perused the back bar, but it was hard to read the labels through the dust on the bottles and the tears in his eyes. The bar man looked at him, and added a little more force to his words.
What would you like to drink?
I need a drink to help me forget
Forget what, comrade?
The bar man nodded solemnly, and began to pour a large whisky into a glass that was either frosted or filthy or possibly both. Neat. No ice.
He slid it across the bar, and returned to toilet cleaning duties, inviting the smell, which had only just ceased lingering back into the room. The room fell silent but for the beeping and coin falling sounds emanating from the man at the Fruit Machine. The soaking man looked at the whisky, the rain still falling from his hair and nose, dripping into the whisky. Diluting its efficacy.
He drank the whole glass in one, and loudly banged his glass on the table. The bar man, and the smell of urinal cakes, came back into the room as the sound occurred. He went behind the bar.
The bar man dutifully obliged before returning to clean the toilets. The door opened wider this time, and for the first time the soaking man could see inside the toilets. There was not enough disinfectant in the world to fix the scene he saw. Nor enough weedkiller.
And so the scene repeated itself five or six times over the course of the next couple of hours.
Seat. Drink. Weep. Repeat. Seat. Drink. Weep. Repeat.
Then, finally, another customer arrived in the bar.
Like the soaking man before him, he had difficulty seeing what was at the bar. He turned to the soaking man on his stool, who was looking at the tumbler of whisky, refilled for the seventh time.
Hey Buddy! What you got to do to get service around here?
The soaking man turned towards the new customer, and when he did so a flash of inspiration appeared in the new customer’s eyes.
Heeeeyyyy, I know you. You’re that wrestler aren’t you?
Yeah you are, what was your name?
You’ve got the wrong guy.
Garth Black! That’s it, you’re Garth Black
No. I’m not.
Yeah you are, you lost your title match last week! To Justin Cooper. You got knocked out.
I’m telling you, you’ve got the wrong guy.
Mind if I get a selfie?
The new customer ignored this and got his phone out anyway. As he was attempting to get them both in frame, Black snatched the phone from his hands and dropped it straight into his glass of whisky. The man was flabbergasted.
What did you do that for, you asshole!
I said I didn’t want a selfie.
You have an attitude problem, no wonder you’re no longer the champion.
With this, the soaking man got up from his stool and landed a right hook on the face of the new customer.
I told you, I’m not Garth Black.
The man who was not Garth Black took the phone from the glass and threw it at his prone antagoniser, sparked out on the floor. He then downed his drink and waited for the barman to come back out. When he did so, he walked past the fruit machine, stepped over the man on the floor and poured another drink.
Stage 2: Anger
My name is Jezebel Jones. And this is my tale. It’s how I learned that you should never meet your heroes. I’ve always wanted to be a wrestler. Always. From the day I was born, I’d put my little twin sister in headlocks. I could run the ropes before I could walk. All I’ve ever wanted was to do this. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a wrestler.
But, you know, I don’t look like other girls. My hair is short, my nose is pierced, and I can’t help it if I like awesome music and nobody else does. I’m gonna be huge. But there’s one wrestler who always inspired me. One wrestler who I always thought I wanted to be like. His name? Garth Black.
Garth Black speaks out, just like me.
Garth Black looks different, just like me.
Garth Black conquered his daemons, just like me.
Garth Black stands up to the man, just like me.
Garth Black believes in women’s rights, just like me.
Garth Black is a world champion, just like me.
One day, anyway.
When he left, WZCW just wasn’t really worth watching any more. These people, Vis Imperium, Constantine, Tony Mancini, Hollow Ones. They were precisely that, Hollow, completely lacking in the deep down things that matter. They didn’t speak to me like he did, they didn’t have anything to offer. If a guy like Randy Studd turned up at my front door, I wouldn’t even recognise him.
So I heard that there was going to be a signing event at an indie show in town. I haven’t started to train just yet, so I knew I’d have to buy a ticket. So I bought the ticket, bought three bus tickets and traversed the city. It cost me nearly a hundred dollars and three hours of my time to see him, but it was going to be worth it.
I knew he wasn’t going to charge me for a photo or an autograph. I knew he’d tell me all about his time on the road. I knew he’d give me some pointers, maybe he’d even offer to train me. Or introduce me to Daddy Mack. I don’t even know. I wanted so badly to speak to him. In the queue my heart started to race. I was getting closer, I could see him. It was wonderful, third in the queue, my idol, second in the queue, my idol…
My drunk idol. What a waste of space.
I told him how much I respected him. I told him how much I wanted to come back. I still remember every single word he said back to me. I had recorded it, hoping to get on record the words of a great man. Instead what I got was the angry ramblings of a drunkard.
“YOU DON’T EVEN CARE WHO I AM! I AM THE GRREATEST WORULD CHAMPION THERES EVER BEEN AND THEY PUT THAT SAP, THAT CHEATING SAP IN THERE IN MY SPOT. WHAT MORE DID I HAVE TO DO? WHAT MORE COULD I DO. YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME JELABEZ, YOU ARENT A TRUE BELIEVER. IF YOU WAS YOUD BE TELLING SERRA YOU WANT ME THERE. YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE FOR ME, I WANT TO GO BACK. I’M SO ANGERY!”
And so it continued. I’m not even sure I still know what he was trying to say, but I think the general gist was that he was angry. His subsequent actions certainly suggested it. I had poured my heart and soul into this, the only man I trusted, and this was how he repaid that trust.
Black then flipped the table before him, and the one’s before the other wrestlers. He called them all sellouts and stormed out of the arena. It was like Jesus in the temple. Except Jesus was now the bad guy, and my Jesus, who I’d poured all of my devotion into had let me down. I think that was the day I gave up on all men.
Garth Black is an angry, pathetic asshole.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Stage 4: Depression
West London Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre Case Notes.
Patient name: Garth Black
Admitted three weeks ago suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Alcoholic tendencies. The patient has seldom seemed himself since he has been admitted. He is withdrawn, to the point of silence at times. Initially he was in the general ward, but it has become clear that he requires constant suicide watch. He seems to have driven himself to this point through constant revisitation of a traumatic incident a few months ago.
The patient has been very reticent to talk to us throughout the course of his treatment, having a clear aversion to authority figures. At first his proclamations seemed fanatical, but having contacted friends and former colleagues we have seen that rather than being delusional, the patient has been driven to despair by being proven right. Having asserted that the centre believe his story of how he ended up here, he has now indicated that he will be willing to talk to one of our counsellors, providing it is a junior member of the team. We have agreed to this request, and henceforth the notes in this case file are those of Dr. Robert Taylor, a complete and utter novice, but a specialist in dealing with the mentally incapacitated:
The patient was never really ok with the situation that he faced in WZCW. He felt outside of the kliq. This led to him being very isolationist in his approach from the outset. Having been betrayed by multiple opponents and partners across the time he was in the company, he said that he was no longer capable of trust. The only people who had never let him down, he had turned on in a fit of anger a few weeks ago. There seems to be a great remorseful streak within his mind.
The redemption is not yet complete though. He feels a sense of tremendous betrayal at his former employers who he felt have punished him for the identification of their own shortcomings. It is the opinion of the medical staff that he is likely to seek revenge on his employers, but the sad fact remains that he is a bigger danger to himself than he is to any outside agent. His stated aim is to ‘be able to get up in the morning, look myself in the mirror and not want to smash it.’
With that being said, I believe if and when discharged he will seek retribution from as many of his former colleagues as possible. It is my understanding that there is an upcoming work event which will see many of his colleagues competing together. He has stated that his desire is to eliminate as many as possible, particularly any of the turn coats that rode his coat tails. He has repeatedly referred to a Mr. Tastic, a Mr. Blades and a Mr. Avison as people he holds personally responsible for having led to his decline as a performer.
The Centre was worried that this talk of elimination meant we should contact the police, but having looked into the patients notes, it is clear that he is a professional wrestler, and the event to which he is referring is a wrestling event named ‘WZCW Lethal Lottery’. It is clear he fears nobody within this event, but the Centre fears that should he be included, he is likely to make a spectacle of himself, and rather than making himself the spectacle as he intends.
Having spoken to a Miss Serra, a senior manager at Wrestlezone Championship Wrestling, she has reassured me that the patient’s invitation to the event is as a guest only, and he will not be invited to perform. It is the belief of the Centre that this is for the best as in the patient’s current fragile mental state, I feel he will wish to seek too much of the audience’s attention and should he fail to get it, he will feel feelings of rejection and dread.
This patient does not have any identifiable characteristics, but is very clearly suffering from feelings of being unfulfilled, unsupported and unappreciated, and in the medical opinion of the centre he will only be able to remove himself from this spiral of his own creation if he is to open up himself to accepting his own responsibility in his downfall. The patient seems unwilling to do this, so has built himself a mausoleum to misery that he is reluctant to remove himself from.
It is the opinion of the Centre that it is in the patient’s best interest to leave the Centre and to try and find some self-motivation, but my fear and suspicion is that this sadness that he feels within will be directed outwards towards his former colleagues if he is to come into contact.
I’d rather them than me.
Stage 5: Acceptance
It was half past seven in the morning and the sun was breaking through the crack in Garth Black’s window. The ray of sun had made its way patiently around the darkened room and now it found itself slowly sweeping across the pillow. It had been a long few months, with some ups and a lot of downs, but for the first time in months he slept peacefully. Sure, he still had his plan of action, and he was still going to burst on the scene, but he would be doing it for himself and nobody else.
He dreamt of the countdown, and as each number was clamoured by the audience is heartbeat raced slightly faster. Who needed alcohol when you could have adrenalin? In Black’s dream he was in the gorilla position peeking through the curtain, just as the sun was doing in his room. He looked at the ring and he could see the blurry figures of the former colleagues that he was about to see. It didn’t matter who they were, and the fact that they were a little wooly around the edges as he looked at them was unproblematic- they looked like lambs to the slaughter because that’s precisely what they were.
As the countdown reached zero, a faceless wrestler in black tights ran past him. He looked like the base model on create-a-wrestler. But of course, to Black, most wrestlers looked like that. Black realised what the problem was – he didn’t have an entry number. Luckily, one rolled up to his feet. Excited, he cracked it open to reveal that he…
…didn’t have a number. Heartbroken and struggling, he started to feel very unsettled. Perhaps this wasn’t a dream after all, maybe it was the Dream Inn. Then when despair was all around him, his mentor, his one saving grace, Daddy Mack appeared next to you.
Brother, if you build it, they will come!
The Ring. Then the wrestlers will come, yeah.
There already is a ring, and wrestlers! The problem is that I’m not one of them!
Well, then brother, just hit one of them with a chair and take their number, yeah.
Now you’re talking my language! I’ll do it. Thanks, Daddy Mack!
Avenge my death!
You’re not dead, I’m staying in your spare room!
In which case, yeah, knock them dead, yeah!
Thanks Mack Daddy.
Black felt his heartrate slow, he was back into a deepened slumber in the spare room in Daddy Mack’s house. The sun had by now started to move across his face, and he was slowly awakened by the sunlight. He looked around the room, happy to be in familiar surroundings and now blissful in his awareness of what happened in his dream and the idea that his mentor had given him in his dream.
Mack would have never told him to do anything underhanded in the real world, but the Daddy Mack that occupied his dreams was a little less of an altruist. Black thought to himself that he preferred the Mack of his dream. Not everything has to be black and white you know. Sometimes you need shades of grey.
Black stirred in the bed and put his feet on the floor, one after the other. He thought to himself that putting two feet on the floor like this would be suicide later on in the evening, when he was going to surreptitiously enter the Lethal Lottery. For now though, it was the way to start the day and the way to be prepared for action.
He turned on the radio, and Lovely Day filled the air. He knew it would be exactly that. He moved across to the shower, and cleaned himself, before drying dressing and putting on his lucky sweatbands on. Now he was fully clothed, with his wrestling attire underneath, invisible to any outside observers, but he knew. And he knew exactly what it meant.
He brushed his teeth, ran a comb through his hair and walked back into the bedroom. Before him stood a full length body mirror. He didn’t usually like looking in the mirror, but he thought that he had better check that his attire really was discrete. And it was, but that’s not what he saw in the mirror. He saw himself, and everything about himself.
He knew he was flawed, he knew he could be neurotic and he didn’t have the body he had when he started in this business, ravaged as it was from time and the extra-curricular activities. But it was him. Every inch of what he saw when he looked in the mirror, ready for the Lethal Lottery was the sum total of his copious life experiences.
He wasn’t perfect, nobody is. But he looked at himself and he saw the man he was, and it was the man he wanted to be.
For the first time in a long time, maybe in forever, Garth Black was content.
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