Unscripted: Justin Cooper (c) vs. Constantine [World Heavyweight Championship]
They first wrestled against each other five years ago at this same event in a triple threat match. Last year, with the current roles reversed, they fought once again for the WZCW Tag Team Championships. This year, they will meet once again and for the first time it’ll be a singles contest between these two top stars. This story is a long one but it heated up once Justin Cooper overthrew Constantine for control over the powerful faction known as Vis Imperium. Since that point, Constantine has risen against the group and aimed to remove the poison which he introduced to WZCW. Cooper and Constantine have clashed several times in the past in various multi-man matches but never in a singles match. That all changes at Unscripted, with the World Heavyweight Championship on the line. Constantine was the victim of a bounty placed on his head by the World Champion and it was collected just a few days earlier on Ascension. What role will the injuries play in this match? And what role will Hell in a Cell play in determining the outcome of this contest? The most dangerous structure in wrestling returns and looks to claim another victim; who will survive and walk out as WZCW World Heavyweight Champion?
RP Deadline Tuesday 14th November 23:59 (Central).
Extensions available upon request.
Pain, Pride & The Turning Tide
It had been a very tough two weeks since Ascension 122. But as Constantine languished in his bed for what seemed like the umpteenth day in a row, he could tell that the pain he had gone through was coming to an end. An end, Constantine often thought, that would be like lifting a massive weight off of his shoulders – ridding him of all of the stress, anxiety and anguish that had been brought upon him. With his torso exposed, Constantine could not help but notice the bruising and swelling around his ribs. Three ribs completely broken and two fractured for good measure, it had turned out. But through the immense pain in his body, Constantine toiled with even more pain emotionally. The world had come to know of Constantine's plight against Vis Imperium – he had made it no secret. In fact, he fed off of their hunger and desire to see WZCW no longer under the oppressive rule of Vis Imperium. But lying in his bed now, he felt the weight of their crushed expectations firmly upon his shoulders. He had disappointed them thoroughly and he knew it.
Retrieving his tablet PC from the bed-side table off to his right, Constantine dragged his index finger across the screen and began to browse the various pages. Bringing up a sports website, The Power Trip could not help but look of articles with his name on it. A task that was easily accomplished within a second or two. The title of the video was “John Constantine out of Unscripted main event” - a bold claim no doubt. And an unsubstantiated one at best. As the video began playing, the face of a beautiful young woman could be seen. With a smile on her face, she began speaking.
Young Lady: What is up, sports fans? Welcome to a very special bulletin on the eve of WZCW Unscripted. The whole world had been talking about this huge event and now, at last, it seems as though all of the talking is completed and all that remains is to get the action underway. That was until, rather unexpectedly, John Constantine's participation in the event was thrown in to doubt. It is now being reported by NASPN that the number one contender to Justin Cooper's Heavyweight Championship may have broken up to 7 ribs in his altercation with Logan McAllister only a few weeks ago. Many industry insiders are now speculating that John Constantine may have to be pulled form the event altogether, leaving the main event of Unscripted without a challenger. Upon learning this news, we reached out to WZCW for comment but were given no reply. It seems as though there may be more to this than first thought but for a concrete answer, we may have to wait for Unscripted.
With that, Constantine hit the power button of his tablet PC and allows it to fall to his side. There could be no doubt that Constantine had the backing of the WZCW faithful and, of course, videos like the one he had just watched were part and parcel of that deal. But lying there in his bed for the 8th day in a row, Constantine had never felt more useless.
Constantine: What is the God-damn point...
The number one contender's tone was muted and perhaps even lifeless as he placed the tablet back on the bed-side table. Beating Justin Cooper was something that had proved difficult to do for even the greatest that WZCW had to offer recently. Cooper had taken the bull by the horns on the day that he had ousted John Constantine from Vis Imperium. He had used the momentum and control of the group to make not only the stable better. But also himself. Younger, fitter, and healthier men had went toe-to-toe with Justin Cooper in recent times and none of them had gotten the job done. It was for that realisation that Constantine had never felt so fa away from beating Justin Cooper. And, indeed, as he lay in his bed, the idea of beating Justin Cooper with broken ribs seemed just as laughable to The Power Trip as it did to Vis Imperium and Justin Cooper.
The truth of the matter was that he was already defeated.
A Few Days Prior
It felt as though Constantine was never far removed from the medical centre that facilitated WZCW personnel these days. What with his knee and now his ribs, it seemed to be an unending cycle of pain and hurt that brought him there. It was an astonishing fact, as least to him, that he had seen the inside of the building more times in the last year than he had ever seen it in his entire career. A realisation that the doctor was very swift to confirm. His body was falling apart, thanks to the damage inflicted on it by the nature of industry.
The news that he had broken three ribs and fractured two more had not come as a surprise to The Power Trip. He had broken ribs before but never to that extent. But the fact of the matter was that he knew how it felt. The pain that surged throughout his chest whenever he took a breath – only made worse by any slight twist of his body. It was a pain that was hard to describe but even harder to love through. The prognosis of 3-6 weeks of rest, however, was like an arrow bolt straight through his heart. Everything he had worked for, everything he had done to lead him to this point in his career was for nothing.
As he waited in his limousine for Mia to return, he could tell that there was a tough talk coming. Mia had always been supportive of his efforts, at anything he did – perhaps even more supportive than any spouse should have been in her position. Constantine knew he was a lucky man to have her. But her support often wavered at the thought of her partner going through more pain than was necessary. She had been oddly quite during the appointment and had adopted the same concerned look that she had when Constantine learned of his knee issues. A look that always signalled the calm before the storm and Constantine knew today would be no different.
As the car door opened, Constantine closed his eyes, waiting on the inevitable to come. But as Mia slunk into the leather interior, all there was was silence. Silence for the longest time – deafening and awkward. Constantine kept his eyes closed but felt the stare of his partner burn onto the side of his face like a poker being singed into his skin.
Mia: How long, John? How long are we going to keep doing this?
The Power Trip allows his chin to dip to his chest in resignation. He knew that Mia was right, she always had been. It wasn't her fault that she cared so deeply for him. He had often fed her ideas and promises that he knew, deep down, he would never be able to fulfil. But as the words slipped from his mouth on this day, he knew he meant them.
Constantine: Not long, Mia. I promise. All of the times that we've sat here after being told that my body is done... All of those times when doctors told me to seriously consider my future in the wrestling business...
Constantine opened his eyes and stared at his partner's loving gaze – a deep pang of hurt and pain tingling down his spine and sending tears to his eyes.
Constantine: Not once did I ever consider it. Not once did I even think about leaving wrestling behind. I was... obsessed with getting back that Championship and going out on top. But now, right now, my ears are open and I am finally listening. In Justin Cooper I have met my match. Someone who just wants to be the king of the mountain a little more than me. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy his enemies and leave them broken and beaten. I can't let my pride get in the way any more.
Slowly, Constantine reaches for Mia's hands and clasps them tightly.
Constantine: The end is on the horizon, Mia. All the worry and the concern that you feel will be a thing of the past in so little time, I promise.
With that candid speech, the fire inside Mia seemed to subside. Maybe it was the truth in his words or the genuine concern in his tone but Mia must have known that he telling the truth this time. All of the arguments and discussions in the world would not stop Constantine from getting in the ring at Unscripted and giving everything against Justin Cooper. She knew that as well as he did. But there was something more to Constantine's words this time. Something that Mia had never heard from The Power Trip before. And that, rather frighteningly, was fear.
A couple of days before Unscripted
The time had come.
Constantine's ace in the hole for his upcoming match against Justin Cooper was a project that he had long since worked on. But as time went by and the event drew closer, the fear inside of Constantine's heart grew stronger and more prevalent. So much so that, given the resignation already in him, he had thought about foregoing it completely.
But the truth of the matter was that Constantine was not totally defeated yet. His body was more beat up than it had ever been and there was a lingering doubt in his mind at all times that suggested to him that walking into a Hell in a Cell match with one of the most vicious superstars to ever grace WZCW was beyond a mistake. Alas, through all of the hurt and all of the pain, Constantine's pride would not allow him to just roll over and die like Cooper would have wanted him to do. In fact, the more he thought about Justin Cooper sneering about the pain that The Power Trip found himself in, the more he was able to motivate himself.
But this... This was something more terrifying than all of that...
'Abel Hunnicut', a name that would love on in the legends of WZCW. The name affixed to a man with more savagery and more destruction in his soul than Constantine ever thought possible. But also a man of honesty and of truth. More importantly though, a man who had fought side by side with Constantine the last time that he had beaten Justin Cooper. The same man who Constantine used to propel himself towards the top of the Tag Team Division so easily. If there was ever a man who would give Constantine the truth and the key to beating Justin Cooper, then Abel Hunnicutt was that man.
As Constantine rolled up to the shack that he knew Abel called home, he took a deep breath in. He thought about how hard it had been to convince Abel to even meet him. All of the missed phone calls and silences on the other end of the phone when he did get through. Abel was hurt by his loss to Austin Reynolds at Kingdom Come, that much was abundantly true. But Constantine sensed there was something deeper in Abel that he was responsible for. The destructive behemoth of a man had been manipulated and used by Constantine in an attempt to wrestle his services away from Steven Holmes. An endeavour that had proved fruitful but something that Constantine could neither control or comprehend. It was no surprise that Abel had not been heard from since Kingdom Come. It was all Constantine's fault.
Getting out of the car and walking towards the shack, Constantine steadied himself for the rage of Abel. He was sure that Abel would attack him and he also knew that he deserved it. For days leading up to the meeting, Constantine had thought about what would happen if he was attacked. But the best course of events he could think of was to accept his beating and move on. He had destroyed Abel and left him to rot after the fact. He deserved it.
Swinging open the wooden door, Constantine called out into the darkness.
Constantine: Abel! Are you here? It's me, it's John...
The eerie silence inside of the shack sent a shiver down the back of Constantine as he moved further into the room. The moonlight shone in through the opened door but assisted Constantine in no way in picking out the figures in the dark. Suddenly, the door behind him slammed shut and plunged the shack into darkness once more. The Power Trip swallowed hard and closed his eyes, doing his best to accept his fate.
Constantine: Do what you must, Abel! I know I wronged you! I know that I used and abused you to the point where you had no one left! I have long since accepted the way I treated you as being frightful and disgusting. And for all of that and more, I am truly sorry!
Nothing. Almost unbelievably, nothing. Constantine was not struck down by a fist so large it was like a wrecking ball striking you. Neither was he shouted at or set upon by the fiery tongue of Abel Hunnicutt.
Voice: You honestly thought Abel would be here, John, old chap? Come now...
With that, another tingle shot down the spine of the number one contender. He knew that voice better than any he had ever come across. The words that he used, the tone that he applied – there could be no doubt as to who occupied the room with him that night. And as a match lit off in the far corner of the room and then ignited a gas lamp, Constantine knew that he had been duped by none other than Steven Holmes.
Holmes: Yes, indeed, John. Me.
A look of confusion crosses the face of Constantine as he allows his arms to fall to his side. He glances around the room, looking for Abel as he surveyed. But true to the word of The Elite, Abel was not there.
Constantine: I don't get it... Why?
Holmes: Why would I do this? Come now, John, you know the answer to that. Please, have a seat for a moment.
Constantine stares at the shady features of his long time friend and enemy, still wondering what to make of all of this. He had been duped, that much was very true. But he had to keep his guard up after everything that had gone down the last time Holmes and Constantine had met.
Holmes: Please? I insist...
With that, Holmes extends his cane towards a nearby chair, barely illuminated by the dim light in the shack. Swallowing his pride and his better thoughts, Constantine makes his way to the chair and spins on his heels until he is once again facing Steven Holmes across from him. Constantine silently looks through The Elite, waiting for him to show his hand but Holmes seems very calm indeed – a choice of expression that sends more alarm bells ringing for Constantine than a look of rage would. Knowing that his journey would be wasted otherwise, Constantine finally puts his two hands on the arms of the chair and sits down.
Suddenly, and without warning, The Elite jumps out of his chair and moves towards Constantine. Before Constantine can make a move, the cane of the former Heavyweight Champion is thrust into his chest and held there. The calm expression of Holmes is eradicated as a dangerously sick and venomous look now crosses his features. Constantine yells out a massive yell of pain as Holmes presses his cane even further into his ribs – a sickening laugh coming from him as he does.
Holmes: Now, Johnny boy, I'm going to talk for a little while. And if I even hear so much of a word from you, I'm going to make sure that the pain you're feeling is multiplied to exponential levels? Does that make sense?
Constantine's fingers are dug into the arms of the chair as he whimpers in extreme pain. After a few seconds, Constantine nods his head quickly in affirmation of the agreement.
Holmes: Good boy. Now, the first question you ought to ask yourself is how desperate you must be to come here? If you didn't think that I would have re-taken control of Abel, then you are more stupid than I ever recall you being, quite frankly. I'll say it again, John, Abel is not here. But perhaps that is for the best too. He has not forgotten all of the transgressions that you did to him. And neither have I for that matter...
Constantine: I'm sor-
Suddenly, Holmes pushes his cane further into the ribs of The Power Trip as the words escape from his mouth – a look of rage crossing his features now.
Holmes: Remember the agreement, John. And don't try to fool me with your apologies either. I see you, old friend. Perhaps more than anyone else, I see you. The idiots of WZCW might not see it but I see it, John. You say that you are fighting for them and giving them what they want. But no one has realised that you have gotten what you wanted in the process. Oh yes, John, I see right through you.
Holmes relaxes the grip on his cane as Constantine finally takes a deep breath after multiple short ones.
Holmes: But as I stand with my cane in your ribs, at least I have the answer to my earlier question. I must admit that when you first tried to make contact with Abel, I was very much over the whole thing. But as you continued to push hard for the meeting, it struck me that it was the perfect time to take revenge for my treatment at your hands. I manipulated you once more, John, Abel was never coming. You are tremendously desperate for help and for answers, that much is abundantly clear to me.
Holmes lets out a small laugh.
Holmes: I mean, come on, you must have known that this was coming!?
Constantine stays quiet, his head dipped to his chest but his finger nails still tearing into the arms of the chair he sits on for a slice of relief.
Holmes: I can see the pain coursing through your body, John. I know that the rumours of your condition are true. And yet you would willingly come here, into the lion's den, for any shred of help you can get. It's pathetic. And more than that... It's taking the fun out of it for me.
With that, Holmes suddenly pulls the cane from the chest of his long time colleague. Constantine pulls both of his hands to his chest as the surge of pain begins to subside. As Constantine finally raises his head, Holmes is making his way back to the chair he sat on with the help of his walking cane. The limp that had once been very slight was more pronounced than Constantine ever remembered. Weakness, Constantine though, as he plotted his immediate revenge. Holmes reaches his chair and slumps down into it, looking right at Constantine's furious but pained expression.
Holmes: Hmm! I'm surprised I even made it back to this chair, John. You're probably sitting there plotting how to get back at me. You know that I am not fit for a fight, don't you? It doesn't matter if you are or not, the fact of the matter is that the Constantine of old would not have allowed a moment's thought to ending me in that moment. He would have just carried it out. Maybe you are a broken man after all.
Again, Holmes lets out a small laugh as Constantine fires back for the first time.
Constantine: I'm injured!
Holmes continues to laugh, this time louder than before.
Holmes: That's all you've got. John? You're injured!? What a ridiculous excuse. No, there is something much more daunting at play here and I think I know what it is. We've all been injured before. Hell, you've been more injured in the past. What's going on here is that you've lost your passion for the fight.
Constantine's eyes finally move from Steven Holmes – almost embarrassed as he is finally rumbled.
Holmes: Behind all of the bravado, the Hall of Fame recognition, the titles and success... Here, in front of me sits the great John Constantine – afraid and alone! Ha! That's almost enough hurt to fill me up for the day, quite frankly.
Constantine: And you? You're not frightened? Sitting alone here in the dark thinking that I was coming to steal Abel from you once again, no doubt?
Holmes lets out another laugh, clearly enjoying the meeting between the two.
Holmes: If I had known what John Constantine was turning up here tonight, I would not have bothered, in all honesty. Look at you, John. You are utterly terrified. A shell of the monster that I used to know. It'd be almost pitiful if I weren't enjoying it quite so much. No one would fear a man in your condition. John, look at yourself!
The Power Trip didn't need a mirror to look at himself, he knew that everything that Holmes said was wholly true. He was a beaten man, mentally and physically. Justin Cooper had taken him to his limits and now all that remained was the embarrassment of losing to him at Unscripted.
Holmes: I almost cannot believe what I am seeing, John. The great and mighty John Constantine beaten by someone as laughable as Justin Cooper. You're a joke!
Constantine: You don't understand, Holmes. No one does!
Holmes: Well, why don't you enlighten me, John. Hell, it can't be any more laughable than what I have seen so far.
Constantine takes a deep breath in and turns his head away from Holmes. Slowly, he begins spilling his heart.
Constantine: He's incredible, Steven. Hell, if I am honest, he is better than any of the two of us in our primes. Cruel, wicked, supremely talented in the ring – he played me at my own game and won the battle. All that remains is to finish me off and win the war at Unscripted.
The Power Trip stops for a moment, considering his next words.
Constantine: I thought I had seen everything in WZCW, Holmes. I thought that I had been gifted the experience of this industry and would be prepared for anything that anyone could throw at me. But this Cooper, he is something entirely different. Whenever you think that you have one over him, he rebounds and puts you back on you knees. I don't know how I didn't see my Vis Imperium betrayal coming but I didn't. And what's more, he took advantage of it for his own gain.
Holmes: Yes, I must admit that was a particularly delicious part of this tale, John.
Constantine: I just don't know what makes him so good, Steven. I have studied him from the moment that I won the Gold Rush Tournament and there is nothing that stands out about him other than his wickedness and cruelty to anyone that stands against him. But he is an enigma in that he has what it takes to back it up in the ring, Before, I thought that he was a dog barking and trying to get some attention. But since he beat Mikey Stormrage, he has gone on to prove to everyone that he is a special talent. I just can't put my finger on it...
Holmes: Sure you can, John. It's pretty obvious...
Constantine raises his head towards Holmes for a moment.
Holmes: The truth of the matter – and the difference between you two – is your sense of purpose in WZCW. Before me sits John Constantine, one of the biggest legends of WZCW that ever graced the ring. A man who has won everything that there is to win. A true Hall of Fame superstar that has given his all to cementing his legacy. A legacy that goes far beyond most everyone.
Holmes stops for a moment as he looks at a broken Constantine across from him.
Holmes: But at Unscripted, you will go up against someone who is so hungry for more success. A man with something to prove is a man with nothing to lose, John, you know that better than most. For his entire career, people have been saying that Justin Cooper could never be a top-level talent. But you and I both know that the more people tell you that you can't, the more you are dead-set on proving them wrong. He is so hungry, he's like an animal. He wants this win against you so bad, John. He wants to cement his position in this company with a win against the biggest fish in the sea. And if turn up like I am seeing you now, he will eat you alive.
Constantine fires back with venom.
Constantine: And what do you suggest I do about that, huh?! My body is broken, Steven! I am a defeated man!
Holmes: And yet you came here. With everything to lose and very little to gain, you opened yourself up the possibility of being brutally set upon. Why?
The Elite's question does not garner a response from Constantine as he once again dips his head.
Holmes: I know the reason, John. Like I said, I see right through you. You came here for help. You came here to get a blast of the past that would put the fuel back in your tank. The good ol' days when you were on top of this business and making everyone cower at your feet. Well, John, those days are gone. For every victory you get now, you are going to work doubly as hard as you ever did. The future for you, if there is to be one, is going to be the most challenging times of your career. I can believe that your body is beaten but I cannot accept that the great John Constantine is already beaten by Justin Cooper before he even steps into the ring!
With that, Holmes shoots out of his chair and holds his cane right at the nose of the Power Trip.
Holmes: So tell me this, John! What does this victory mean to you?
Constantine: Everything, I guess.
The hushed tone of Constantine's voice does not sit well with Holmes as he smashes his cane into the nose of Constantine, allowing the blood to pour from the bridge of Constantine's nose.
Holmes: Where's the hate, John! Where's the bloody anger!? This man has made you look like a bloody fool for the last few months and you are going to sit there and mumble at me? Maybe when he is done brutalising you at Hell in a Cell, he will move on to your partner and your lovely daughter, hmm? Would you like that, John? So defeated you are!
Constantine: Don't talk about my family, you son of a bitch!
Holmes smashes Constantine on the side of the head with his cane once more.
Holmes: And what are you going to do about it, you little bitch? You came in here for this, John. You deserve it remember? Justin Cooper is the future of WZCW and you are nothing but a remnant of the past, huh? Your family don't deserve to look up to a man who will not fight for a purpose, John! Maybe Justin Cooper will take them from you just like he did with Vis Imperium!
Suddenly, Constantine shoots up to his feet and pulls the cane from Holmes' hands. He immediately turns it around and points it towards the throat of The Elite. Holmes, rather strangely, looks pleased with the reaction of The Power Trip as a look of sheer, unprecedented rage appears on Constantine's face.
Holmes: How are those ribs now, John? Hmm?
Constantine looks down at his torso and, for the first time in weeks, does not feel any pain. As the adrenaline continues to surge through his body, Constantine feels as though he is on top of the world. He lowers the cane with a look of shock on his face. He feels his ribs but the pain is barely there. He looks back up towards Holmes, who has adopted a look of contentment after his vitriolic words.
Holmes: You see, John, the fight is still very much inside you, like I always knew it would be. It was just a matter of finding something worth fight for. Championships, revenge, success – it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. But family is something that we will, as men, always bring our best for.
Holmes holds his hand out for his cane and, after a few seconds, Constantine finally hands it over. Holmes gives him a warm smile before hobbling over to the lamp and turning it up as far as it will go. Suddenly, the dingy shack is fully lit, giving a new atmosphere and look to the small wooden building. Holmes hobbles over towards the far wall, where a shaped figure is covered with a dark black sheet.
Holmes: That adrenaline that you feel coursing through your veins now, John, it means something. I want you to remember that feeling as you walk down the ramp towards the Cell and towards your destiny with Justin Cooper. I want you to recall that you felt no pain under the most intense pain going on in your body. I want you to remember that pain is subjective. I want you to remember how great you are in a wrestling ring. I want you to remember this moment and how good it felt to deal with the problems that you have created!
Holmes stops for a moment before pulling the sheet from the figure. As he does, a glittering wave of gold greets The Power Trip. Golden spikes and skulls, intertwined with the most royal of red capes. Beautiful and frightening at the same time.
Holmes: This is a present from Abel, John. He knows better than most how much you needed reminded of what you are. You are John Constantine! You are one of the best to ever do what you do. Remember that and you can't lose...
The room smelt of burning wood and whiskey, at least from his perspective. It was late in the afternoon and together they sat discussing the future of not only Vis Imperium but of WZCW. Two men, playing a psychological game of chess, and one had been winning from the start. Kenneth Banks, the Owner of WZCW, had been the man playing the fiddle, ordering Vis Imperium to do this or that for months. Justin Cooper sat opposite Mr. Banks, the former was sipping his second glass of whiskey for the meeting while Banks hadn’t touched his own. Sitting upon Justin’s lap was the WZCW World Heavyweight Championship, his hand firmly gripping the leather strap.
“We can easily manipulate the votes to best fit our agenda, Justin. I see no reason why we even need bother with the idea of putting the future of Vis Imperium on the line when we have a perfect opportunity to rid ourselves of that pest,” Banks said, his voice twisting in spite at the near mention of the annoyance that was Tyrone Blades.
From across the desk, Justin kept his head lowered so he could roll his eyes without being noticed.
“Rid ourselves? I must’ve forgotten the point where Ty was bothering me. Last time I checked, he was your problem. You’ve dragged Mark, Xander and Andrew into your little game with Ty, even Titus is now scrambling against you, but that has nothing to do with me. Nothing,” Justin answered, he looked up and smirked afterwards.
“The war against Tyrone Blades and his ultimate extermination is the sole goal of Vis Imperium,” Banks replied in a stern tone of voice. “Last time I checked, you were part of Vis Imperium. Correct me if I’m wrong, Justin.”
The World Champion again raised his head, he felt a flicker of heat from the open fireplace just a few feet away from him. His eyes grazed across the front of his title belt and then returned to Banks.
“For now,” Justin responded.
“And what does that mean?”
Not since he won the World Championship had Justin felt such a swelling of emotion. He was overjoyed, Unscripted couldn’t come fast enough. You see, Justin Cooper hated Mr. Banks. Promises had been made and those same promises had been broken, Cooper sought control and Banks turned him into a puppet. From the main event of Kingdom Come as a free man, to his bout at Unscripted as a tool being used in a war he wished to have no part in.
“Do you remember when you were in school? You were probably at some elite private school, wearing a tie, long pants even in summer, jackets and what not. I assume I’m close,” Justin said, a hint of spite in his voice.
“Well, you may remember that there was always one kid who annoyed the hell out of you. That one kid everyone in school couldn’t stand. He’d cause trouble all around school but never got what he had coming to him. You wanted to see him punched right in the face but it never happened. See, most of the time, that kid had friends who were much larger than everyone he was picking on. That bully who never went after anyone his own size.”
A short pause was taken by Justin, he sipped his whiskey and leant back in his chair.
“That bully only ever picked on people because he knew, no matter what he did, he had people willing to take the punch for him. Ever since I’ve been in professional wrestling, people have called me that bully. Ask around and I’m positive people would say that story describes me but it’s not. It’s wrong, Kenneth. I might be a prick, an asshole, a cheater or the devil himself but I’m not a bully. I don’t just punch down, I punch up! I target the very best and I’ve proven I have no problem standing across the ring from Ty Burna and spitting in his face.”
“What’s your point,” Mr. Banks interrupted, he took a sip of his whiskey, clearly frustrated.
“My point is that you are that bully,” Justin laughed as he said it, jumped to his feet and downed his drink in one go.
A confused look came over the face of Kenneth Banks, he studied Justin for a moment before putting down his own glass.
“It seems you’ve had far too much to drink. I’ll call Mr. Keaton to come and retrieve you. Wait outside in the reception area, Justin. I have work to do and it seems you’ve outlived your usefulness today,” Banks said. He picked up the phone to call his assistant but Cooper shouted, waving him off.
“No! You fucking listen. You have gone and picked a fight with somebody who isn’t afraid to hit back. You didn’t know that. You thought that Ty Burna was just another guy. That tiny little brain you have inside your head, somehow you failed to recognize that Ty isn’t just another guy. That’s disrespectful to me and to everyone else in the god damn locker-room. I had to rip my body to pieces to beat him, Mark ended up in the freaking hospital because he jumped off the titantron just to beat Ty. In case you didn’t realise, Ty hits back!
And now, you expect me to cover up your mistake. Do you think I’m going to stand in the way as Ty and Titus throw their punches? No. This isn’t a war, it’s a game and you’ve lost.”
The veins on the head of Kenneth Banks were protruding from his forehead, he was bright red and the paper on his desk had been crushed within his palm. Meanwhile, Justin Cooper was gleeful with his World Title upon his shoulder.
“Do not test me, Justin. You work for me. Remember you place! You need Vis Imperium if you want to keep that title,” Banks shouted, his fist firmly down on the table.
“I do? I seem to remember winning the Lethal Lottery, on my own.
I remember standing on the top rope as confetti fell upon my head at Kingdom Come to win the World Title, and I did so without the help of Vis Imperium. I recall outlasting Garth Black, the man who upset this company more than anyone in the history of the business, twice and doing so once in a Last Man Standing Match.
If you would cast your mind back, and I know it’s hard Kenneth because you’re so self-interested, to think for a split second about someone other than yourself. Please, try and recall the last pay-per-view when I wrestled Flex Mussel. Was it Vis Imperium who KICKED OUT of the Mussel Bomb or was it Justin fucking Cooper?!”
The two men were shouting directly at each other, whether fuelled by the alcohol or by his own personal legacy being tarnished by association, Justin Cooper was unloading months of built up frustration.
“I don’t need Vis Imperium to keep this,” Justin yelled, holding the World Title out in front of him as Mr. Banks continued to stare, his gaze oozing hatred. “I said I’d stick by you so long as it didn’t influence my World Title reign and guess what, by you asking me to get involved in this game of yours, it’s taking away time I should be spending on preparing for Hell in a Cell!
I joined you because you made promises that I would get to control my own career. I’ve never had that before and I wanted it. I threw away everything I had built to side with you, Kenneth. I lost everything in the hope of gaining the one thing the fans, the love and support, all of it, the one thing they couldn’t give me… control. Yet, here we stand, I’ve lost everything except the World Title and gained nothing in return from this partnership.”
Slowly, Cooper approached Mr. Banks and got right in his face.
“Be very careful about the next few words that come out of your mouth,” Mr. Banks said, he was looking at Justin the same way he looked at Tyrone Blades. They were one in the same at this moment.
“What kind of threats do you have left? At Unscripted, I fully expect Ty to bring that baseball bat down across your head… repeatedly. And, I’ll make time before my match with John to watch it. I’m not your fucking puppet.
I am the WZCW World Heavyweight Champion, the third longest in the history of this promotion. If you think that I’m just some guy who needs you and Vis Imperium, then you’re sorely mistaken.”
Mr. Banks shook his head, he raised the glass of whiskey and drank it in one go. His gaze returned to Justin who began to take a few steps back and head for the door of the office.
“You think you can defeat Constantine by yourself?” Mr. Banks yelled, he almost had to laugh at the idea.
“Whether I can or cannot, we’ll see. I know this for sure, I’ll do so as a champion and not a puppet,” Justin replied as he pushed the door open to leave the office.
Quickly, Banks hurried around the desk and chased after him. He shouted repeatedly as Justin made his way through the lobby, meeting up with Mark Keaton who stood at the elevator.
“I run this company, Justin! I make the decisions and you will not disrespect me! You were lucky I let you return two years ago. You cannot win without me, without Vis Imperium you are nothing. You’ll see, at Unscripted, you’ll see what happens when you no longer have my support inside Hell in a Cell.
You could’ve had it all, Justin! You could’ve been in the Hall of Fame! Well, you can kiss that goodbye! You’re a footnote, I’ll make sure, if it’s the last god damn thing I do, that you’re forgotten!”
The doors of the elevator closed, the ramblings of a mad man ceased to penetrate the ears of the World Champion. It was a welcome silence for the World Champion, the last thing he had heard did trigger some thought within himself. Could he beat Constantine inside Hell in a Cell?
“How’d your meeting go?” Mark asked, his fingernails freshly painted and yet he still chewed at his index finger while the elevator travelled to the parking lot.
“Splendid. We’re having cake on Saturday,” Justin replied, a smile on his face as he patted his best friend on the back.
“He’s a good guy, Justin. He wants to see us succeed. I know you don’t like how involved he gets sometimes but Mr. Banks has a vision for the future. For us, Vis Imperium and for WZCW. We will be at the forefront, he promised.”
There it was, the word. Promise.
“I’ve had enough of his promises, Mark. I’ll stand by you no matter what but do not convince yourself that you need to take a bullet for that man. We, you and I, built ourselves from the ground up. You were the Rookie of the Year long before you put the ‘V and I’ on your t-shirt.
Never forget that, my friend.”
Keaton nodded, he was glad to hear his friend praise him. Their relationship had been rocky at times, especially as of late but they were almost like blood. They fought but in the end, they came back to each other.
“Are you nervous about Sunday?”
Without thinking about it, Cooper’s grip on the World Title became tighter at the mere mention of Sunday.
“Have you ever wrestled inside Hell in a Cell?” Mark asked.
“No. I don’t fear the structure. Honestly, I haven’t feared anything since we fought Ty at Gold Rush last year. This feeling, it’s different. I’m not afraid… I’m just worried. John is a tough guy. I’ve beaten him before but I’ve always had you by my side. I won’t this time around. It’s one on one, me versus him and everything I’ve worked so hard to get is at stake.
It’s like I told Kenneth, I didn’t need Vis Imperium the time I won the title or when I defended it three straight times. I believe that. Vis Imperium was never with me those times and I don’t need them to beat John. He’s a good wrestler, but he has one foot out the door. In this business, you cannot be half committed. It’s all in or get the hell out. His attention is on this retirement tour, he is so caught up in all the ‘last this’ and ‘final that’ so much so that it has to be overwhelming. If the top guys, fully focused, Flex Mussel who trained every hour leading up to our match, failed to beat me; how can I lose to a guy who has his room booked at the retirement village?”
It was without a doubt the biggest match of his career. The stage may not have been the biggest but for Justin, this was bigger than Kingdom Come. If he wins at Unscripted, that secured his spot as the second longest reigning World Champion in the history of WZCW. There he stood, in the elevator with Mark Keaton, his nerves twisting his stomach, as he thought about being on the doorstep of history.
“You’re the best I’ve ever seen, Justin.” Mark said, he was sincere.
“We’ve been through hell and back. Who would’ve thought two years ago that you and I would be in this position? World Champion and the next Eurasian Champion riding down this elevator, the world at our fingertips, two best friends travelling the world. This is meant to be, Justin. You’re meant to win. I’ve tagged with both you and Constantine, believe me; you’re better. You can beat him. Do it for yourself, for your family, do it so that at Lethal Lottery, you and I can make that walk down to the ring when you defend the World Title for the fifth time and do so in your hometown.”
That caused Justin to smile, he hadn’t thought of that.
“I’ve beaten him before, Mark. I know that. John and I have clashed three times at Unscripted, we’re 1-1. I’ve gotten the better of him the last time we wrestled but as I said, I don’t need Vis Imperium to beat John Constantine. However, after all this time, I may need you.”
The two friends exchanged a gloomy look.
“I can’t be there. Hell in a Cell and all,” Mark said, it ate him up inside he couldn’t make the walk to the ring with his friend.
“I know. Just keep an eye out for me, would you?”
“Sure thing,” Mark said, he forced a smile out to his brother.
“It’ll be good to know that someone watching is rooting for me to win.”
The door to the elevator opened and revealed the carpark. Together, Mark and Justin stepped out and head for their car. The days to Unscripted were quickly fading. It was judgment day for Vis Imperium, somebody was going to get punched in the mouth and on this day, Justin Cooper made sure it wasn’t going to be him. His attention was focused on Constantine, it was all about his World Title.
For the first time ever, Justin would step inside Hell in a Cell. He would be without the aid of not only Vis Imperium but Mark Keaton. To secure his spot as one of the greatest of all time, Justin would have to defeat Constantine. The man who had been stripped of Vis Imperium by Banks, his treasure handed to Justin while Constantine lay bleeding on the trainer’s table back at Apocalypse. He had placed a bounty on the man’s head. He had sought to weaken him. It had come down to this, both men were alone – two men who had relied on stables in the past – now it was time for the two of them to stand alone.
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