AS 104 - Eve Taylor versus John Doe
Submissions for this match should be submitted before Tuesday the 1st of March at 23:59 EST
Reinstate The Fox!
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
- Oscar Wilde
Two nights after Ascension 103...
Chastity: Tell me the reason you're in this match, John.
John is lying on a cold slab of stone, rubbing his temples. Chastity blocks the doorway, hands on her hips, her face already pinked from the rise in her heart rate. Her otherwise pale skin glows almost blue in the moonlight that peeks in from the high window across the room. She clears her throat, waiting for a response. John has heard her, but continues to avoid the line of questions.
Chastity: I know you heard me. You've heard everything I've said. Now spit it out. Did you request this match? Is that your...thing? Beating up on women? Is that what it takes to be near you? Is that what gets you off, John?
The new stream of questions touches a nerve, and John sits up almost methodically, letting his boots touch the floor while he grips the edge of what he's used as a bed. His gaze starts straight ahead, but slowly turns as he moves his head to look at her.
John Doe: What are you talking about? Why does any of this interest you?
Chastity: I...I've tried to get close to you. To see the real you. To see...Michael. And you shut me out. You shut everyone out. I thought the mask was just something to hide behind, but it's turned into who you are. It may not be on your face, but without it you're stoic and mute. There's no sign of life. I'm trying to understand who you are!
John Doe: The mask was needed for when I had no identity. I've discovered my past, and reclaimed my identity, and the mask is just a figurehead now. The mask that is seen on TV is just for the spectacle. My face...the face you're seeing right now. This is me!
Chastity: Who are you trying to convince, John? Me? Or yourself?
Without waiting for a response, Chastity turns on her heels and leaves, slamming shut the heavy wooden door behind her. John drops his head into his hands.
He rises to his feet, and crosses the room, his head still bowed. He leans against a small sink situated in the corner, and raises his head slowly. His unmasked face looks into the eyes of the masked face reflected in the mirror.
Their smirking grins are the same.
The next morning...
Ramparte: You're a marked man, John.
John kept to himself overnight, but reached out to his newest ally, seeking information on his upcoming opponent.
John Doe: What makes you say that?
Ramparte: Everyone knows Eve walks a fine line between genius and psycho. And right now, without her Senshuken...she's a spark plug. They're feeding you to the wolves, putting you against her.
John Doe: You don't think I can beat her?
Ramparte: I know you can, and you will. But, with Eve, winning the battle, and winning the war, are different things. Last year's Gold Rush is where she lost the EurAsian title. She had Theron dead to rights, and the match slipped from her hands. So she was sensitive enough this time of year. Now, her Elite Openweight belt has been taken from her, and she heads into Gold Rush unsure of who her opponent is, and worst, unsure of herself. She'll go to any length to recover what was stolen.
John Doe: Theron...
Ramparte: The one and only. Beating her catapulted him to heights he had never seen before.
John Doe: You don't say...
A few silent moments passed as Doe continued to pace the room. Ramparte continued eyeing the expansive bookcase that was provided to him by the Doctor.
John Doe: That's Eve's mask. The belt. Without it, she's exposed. Her true colors are left to shine. I've faced her twice before, you know. My first match, where her and the ANT defeated myself and that...fool...Armando Paradyse. That was the beginning of the end of Cerberus, when she chose to challenge for the tag titles.
The name Cerberus hits Ramparte like nails on a chalkboard. He cringes, turning to John.
Ramparte: You were saying?
John Doe: She had something to fight for, and her will to fight was breathtaking to behold. At Lethal Lottery...the...final...nail in the coffin, some would say, of Cerberus. We faced off there as well. I even managed to have the upper hand when we crossed paths. Ironically, the night the Trinity rose to power was the same night Cerberus fell apart.
Ramparte: And your point, John?
John Doe: It seems to me this match is destiny. Eve and I have danced around each other since my arrival here, and now we collide once more. Thank you, for your help. I expect Eve to bring something I have yet to see from her, and will do my best to prepare for it.
Ramparte: You're welcome, but my help does ot come without a small price. You can get what I asked for?
John Doe: You'll have it soon.
A few days later...
Dr. Zeus and Ramparte sit quietly at a large table. Aside from a mug for each, there is nothing else. Chastity stands at the stove, toiling away over something unseen.
Then there's Batti.
Endlessly. There's something about a WZCW manga and asking Rammy-chan for a pet octopus. The rest drones on as white noise.
She stops abruptly, her eyes widening. She turns and leaves, much to the delight of Ramparte who lets out an extended sigh of relief. A hand touches his shoulder, and he's startled back to reality. A quick glance upwards, and he catches the gaze of John Doe. After a thud, a broken mask is plopped on the table in front of him. The space for the eyes used to be covered in glass, but it is mostly shattered now. The heavy metal mouthpiece is dented on both sides. The leather straps that fastened it are worn.
John Doe: For the information you have given me. We're even.
Ramparte: Yes. Thank you.
Chastity continues working away at the stove, ignoring his presence. She doesn't hear him approaching her.
John Doe: You were right.
Chastity: Yeah? What about?
She turns to face him.
John Doe: Me.
She nods, and leaves the room with John following. They walk silently down a long hallway until he breaks the silence.
John Doe: The loss to the Phantoms. The harder-than-it-should-have-been match against that Mancini guy. Finding my father was important, yes...But the rest of my past? It needs to stay there. The cost of knowing anything else about my past is becoming too great. Michael Darrow is taking over, and I cannot let that fracture destroy me. I need to remember who John Doe is, and become the masked man once again.
Chastity stops, turning towards John, clearly frustrated.
Chastity: And beating on Eve will accomplish that? Why do you need the mask? You can achieve everything you want without it.
John Doe: Eve is just another pawn in the Trinity's plan. She'll fall, just like the rest. And you're missing the point of the mask. Without it, I am merely Michael Darrow. The kid that was in a wheelchair for half his life, and got choked out in his first pro fight. John Doe has risen through the ranks of WZCW with little resistance, and grabbing the tag championships motivated me more than ever. This is the face people fear. This is the face that will haunt them at night.
Chastity turns her back to him, her hands over her face.
John Doe: I'm refocused. With Ramparte and my father behind me, the sky is the limit. Eve is the first victim. There will be more. And this mask will be the last thing they see right before their fall.
Hours before Meltdown 127...
The room is pitch black without even the smallest bit of lit creeping in.
Tonight is your Lexington and Concord as the first shot will be fired straight through the heart of this company. Your name will echo through history. Your face will be engrained into nightmares for generations. All that's left to do is follow the path you have set before you.
A candle flickers to life.
Within a minute there are nearly 100 candles lit.
No one is in the room.
In the center of the room, there's an antique gold picture frame displaying Eve wearing her EurAsian championship. It's signed "To my biggest fan...Michael xoxo".
"The human face is, after all,
Nothing more nor less than a mask."
- Agatha Christie
The patrons inside the coffee shop watched on as Eve Taylor ripped another page out of her notebook and tossed it behind her, completely missing the closed rubbish bin where her hill of discarded pages started becoming a mountain. She didn't care what anyone else was doing or thinking; she was a paying customer just like the rest of them! There's a guy across the room in the corner of the shop watching some risque cartoons but nobody batted an eye... but no! The pretty girl talking to herself under her breath disrespecting a dead tree was in the wrong! Bloody hipsters. This was the reason why Eve rarely goes on Social Media any more. Too many irrelevant opinions and causes being spread amongst the idiotic masses. The only cause that mattered was trying to find the person - or more aptly, monster - who stole Senshuken from her and it was in her opinion that this idiot deserved a spread of massive welts across their body.
"Dammit!" Eve angrily whispered to herself.
She got too flustered in her thoughts again. Every time she let her emotions take over the little voice in her head, she couldn't control herself. Eve would get distracted and everything she tried to bottle up would come pouring out. As livid as she was, Eve couldn't afford to give into her emotions any more. She needed to calm herself down; Eve needed to take a deep breath and find a moment of clarity so she could think of something other than the image of Senshuken being abducted by the wicked face that plague her dreams. The longer she spent giving into her emotions, the less of a chance Eve had to figuring out who'd do such a thing.
At that moment, her order got called up and Eve went over to the counter where the barista did her best to serve her with a smile. Eve tried to give a smile back but she was struck with the flashing image of that damned evil smile again, forcing her to quickly grab her coffee and go back to her seat. As she did, she put the cup down and look at the clumps of paper on the ground.
"I better collect those up" Eve sighed, "Just like I better collect my thoughts."
Eve didn't know how long she had sat in her chair inside the coffee shop but she definitely saw that every customer and employee had a new face. She did not recognise anybody from before when she first entered a shop, except for one face that was approaching. A familiar face from work whom she had invited to this shop.
"Hey Evie!" The familiar face excitedly said.
Ascension's number one ring announcer Selena Anderson - a work colleague Eve had come to befriend during her time in WZCW - answered the call to come out to Eve and hear what she had to say. Eve didn't want a professional interviewer asking her the hard questions. Eve needed someone to talk to without the hassle of being picked apart for her every word... that and she hadn't hung out with Selena in a while so that's a bonus, too, Eve supposed.
"Thanks for inviting me!" Anderson continued as she hugged Eve. "It's been too long since we've done this!" She pulls back from Eve. "Actually, have we ever done this before? One-on-one?"
Being in the confines of Anderson's strong arms, Eve did her best to shake her head.
"Ah, who cares!" Anderson exclaimed, going back to hugging an unwilling Eve. "It's nice to catch up!"
Eve sorely wished she could catch up with Senshuken but sensing Selena's enthusiasm, she didn't mind the substitute... even if Stacey Madison wasn't around to keep her positivity in check. Selena was a little known for being an unbearably happy individual but with Stacey by her side, she was dragged down to most peoples' level.
"I was catching up with Miss Hardwood the other day and apparently, she spoke to the big boss Mr. Banks and I might be getting a temporary promotion! Yay! How exciting! I wonder what it'll be? I hope they finally give me the Meltdown announcing gig. As much as Truman Harrys might be a nice guy, he's held that spot for a bit too long, don't you reckon Evie?"
Honestly, Eve didn't care about most of that stuff. Selena was good at her job and she deserves a promotion, good for her... but there were more pressing matters to attend.
"Sounds awesome but Selena..." Eve responded, quickly changing the subject, "... what do you mean catch up with Miss Hardwood? You two are friends?"
"Practically! How can we not be? She's a nice lady and good at her job, too."
"I'm sure she is..." Eve muttered under her breath before continuing with her questioning. "So, does she have any developments about who stole Sens- uh, the Elite Openweight championship from me?"
Selena thought for a moment before shaking her head.
"I don't think she mentioned anything about your title. She didn't seem too impressed when I questioned her about it, too. She scoffed when I said your name on Meltdown. Any reason?"
Eve recalled treating Miss Hardwood with little respect on Meltdown. She didn't regret it; she had to put that girl in her place and let her know which bitch runs the place.
"No idea. Well, I may have a theory as to who stole my title."
Selena's eyes lit up, happy for Eve. "Oh really!?"
"Yeah but I needed to run it by someone first before I brought it up to management. Don't want them to think I've gone crazy in search for my title now can I?"
Anderson hesitated before answering. "Well... you kind of walked out onto Meltdown and beat the holy crap out of Veejay before screaming & pulling your hair out. Also, you've named your title. I don't think a conspiracy theory is going to thing to send them the red flags, darling."
If it wasn't the always gleeful attitude that got Selena under someone's skin, it was her condescending attitude she used to tell you things matter-of-factly. For that, Selena was getting the entire story.
"Well, I managed to clear my head finally and thought about it. Who would really want to steal my championship from me? That answer led me to every single person on the roster because who doesn't want to become the Elite Openweight champion? If you're not in this business to win championships, you're in the wrong business."
"So what you're saying is that this person didn't steal this title because they want it?"
Eve was a little surprised Selena got on her train of thought so quickly. "Exactly. I've laid out an open challenge to everyone and anyone: prove to me that you're a worthy contender and I'll happily put my title on the line. Hell, I'd even put the title on the line on a whim if I'm in the mood to defend my title. This narrows down my choices significantly."
Eve throws down her notebook to reveal all her notes. Selena looks down and sees a web of arrows and names with reasons and symbols and illustrations. It looked like what a set of doctors or police officers on prime-time drama would do when searching for a disease or the culprit.
"This is... quite elaborate." Selena said, examining everything.
"At first, I thought it was Garth Black because he got jealous of losing the title match with me at Apocalypse... but then I quickly realised his heart wasn't in it in the first place. Why go to all that trouble when you don't care about getting the title in the best-case scenario? Then, I queried it to be Noah Ryder playing mind games with me since he's been hanging around like a bad smell teasing me with that damned briefcase but he wouldn't have held onto this title for this long. Plus, he can cash in his title shot at any time. He doesn't need to steal the belt when he can do it legitimately. I thought for a second it could've been Veejay but beating him up on Meltdown, I've ruled him out completely."
"What evidence do you have for Veejay not being the culprit."
"Because I defeated him in a professional wrestling match. Duh!"
"Oh, right." Selena said, somehow completely agreeing with Eve's flawless logic. "He would've told you if he stole it once you beat him. Definitely not him."
"No way, Jose."
"What about Gordito?"
"What makes you say him?"
"I don't know. I suddenly had the urge to say his name."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"You're the one who spent hours drawing an extremely detailed conspiracy web with... really delicate drawings. Did you seriously do these? They're amazing. Have you considered become an artist?"
"Maybe for All-Stars."
Eve needed to break up the dialogue for a bit and try to get some thoughts running through her head so she didn't blow her load on who she thought stole the title, being coherent as humanly possible. She had to ease into the reveal slowly and make sure to present her arguments clearly so she could convince someone like Selena who made damn sure to let you know if you were wrong in that stupid attitude of hers. All Eve had to do was be gentle and easy.
"It was Abel Hunnicutt."
Yep. Gentle and easy.
Eve wondered if the narration in her head even mattered sometimes.
"Abel? Why Abel?"
"Think about it!" said every conspiracy theorist ever. "Out of all the WZCW superstars to come here in the last year, which one has been touted as one of the best yet hasn't shown anything to represent this into success?"
"Well, Abel Hunnicutt would be one but there are others."
"Sure, but let's take it a little further. Tell me, what's happened recently in the life of Abel Hunnicutt? What are the important bits?"
"Um... he lost to Matt Tastic in the first round of the Gold Rush tournament but that happened after your title got stolen."
"Yes but before that: Abel Hunnicutt came off a defeat to Garth Black at Kingdom Come, the biggest stage of them all. The oldest veteran to have little success Garth Black beat the up-and-comer & future star Abel Hunnicutt after weeks and weeks of being attacked backstage by Abel himself. After having a successful run in the Lottery, that's got to weigh heavily on your mind, right?"
"Okay, I mean this isn't really concrete evidenc-"
"What has been the MO of Abel Hunnicutt since debut? He's attacked numerous people backstage and left them to waste as a way to send a message. With such a competitive environment with guys like Garth Black and Noah Ryder gunning for my Elite Openweight championship. Since he hasn't been successful in the ring, why not fall back on his speciality and attack me backstage? Take my title in the process and get my attention."
"Alright but I'm still asking as to why would he pick you. Why not Titus or Dr. Zeus? What's so special about the Elite Openweight title?"
Eve darted a look at Selena, who instantly knew what she had just said.
"In respect to your title, of course."
"... well, I'm glad you asked..." Eve said, still a bit stung by Selena's lack of respect towards Senshuken. "Who is Abel Hunnicutt managed by?"
"Steven Holmes!" Eve exclaimed, repeating what Selena said. "What was Steven Holmes famous for in his career? What did Steven Holmes call himself? Which stable did he join in the twilight of his career?"
"Uh... the Elite?"
"Yes, the Elite... he was obsessed with becoming the Elite and his first real recognition of this was when he won the Elite X title way back when and rebranding it the Elite title. He wanted to show a certain prestige and class to the championship, renaming it and rechristening it in his own image. What happened to the Elite title recently? Not have new rules come into place but it has since been renamed and reborn into the Openweight title. Don't you think Steven Holmes would be boiling deep in his skin that someone like me would be holding his title with such a dirty name like "open" in it? Someone like him would lead you to believe that only the Elite competitors can challenge. How can Elite-only competitors challenge for an Elite-only belt when it has the word "open" in it?"
"I think you're stretching your reasoning here, Evie."
"I'm not done, Selena. The Elite title wasn't the first championship Steven Holmes challenged to rebrand. Do you remember back in 2009 when Matt Tastic, then the Killjoy, had to defend his Mayhem title in a Six Man Ladder match? What happened at the end of the match?
"The title was stolen."
"Who ended up stealing the title?"
"At which event?"
"When did I get attacked?"
"Do you think I'm stretching now, Selena? Steven Holmes has already conducted this heist before and he lent his expertise to Abel Hunnicutt so he could do it again."
Again, Selena hesitated. "It sounds solid but I'm not convinced."
"Okay, how about this: I've openly stated many times in the public forum where Steven Holmes has been able to hear me that I want to face Celeste Crimson. She is my dream opponent and before my career ends, I want to defeat Celeste Crimson.... who is the spouse of Celeste Crimson?"
"Funny how his name keeps coming up, huh? Every motive under the sun is not one of competition but one of a personal nature. Steven Holmes has pulled off this sort of theft before when he wanted to clean up the Mayhem division. He is known as the Elite and his career is intertwined with the Elite title. He wants to preserve that legacy and he cannot stand to see it 'destroyed' any longer, especially with the woman who wants to wrestle his retired wife in the ring... and if that isn't enough..."
Eve flips the page, revealing a detailed drawing of Abel Hunnicutt with a wicked smile and deathly eyes.
"These are the facial features that keep re-appearing in my head. This is the only features I remember from the attack and Abel has the expressions to fit the bill."
Eve drops the notebook (dropping the mic & walk away style) and slowly sinks back into the chair, waiting for Selena to give a response but she can't seem to find one. She picks up the book and flips through her notes, giving it another look through but again, she finds nothing.
"... I can't fault you."
Eve springs to her feet with a satisfied smile on her face.
"Excellent!" Eve exclaimed. "Then it's settled, set me up with Miss Hardwood. I've got to deliver this to her so management can finally take action. I've got to prepare for Steven Holmes and his puppet Abel Hunnicutt... and potential of Celeste Crimson coming back." Eve licked her lips at the thought of Celeste. "I can't wait to get on top of her and pin her to the ground."
"Wait... what about your match with John Doe?"
"Huh? John Doe?" Eve said with some confusion. "Oh, I guess I'll prepare for him, too. Can't let him beat the champion, after all. I've got my hands full with Magnitudinis or whatever terrible Latin name they've chosen themselves. Thanks for all your help, Selena. Ciao!"
It was too late, Eve was on a mission and left Selena behind. She knew who took her Senshuken and she had no time to waste. She needed to file this report ASAP and get training. She could feel Senshuken calling out to her; she could feel Senshuken on her finger tips... and she wasn't about to let go again.
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