You’re being serious?
Six months of ignoring me and everything I’ve said and done and when you’re finally contractually obligated to address that I not only exist, but am your next challenger for the World Title, and this is the best can come up with?
Oddly themed conspiracy theories and ostentatious grandstanding?
I mean, really?
Let me be brutally honest here for a minute and tell you that I giggled through everything that you said, Blanca, and then for the better part of ten minutes after I was done I could barely catch my breath from the sheer joy of honest to goodness gut-busting, knee slapping laughter. Hell, there for a minute I was sure that you were high when you said it.
But no, you’re being serious, aren’t you.
That right there is gonna be your downfall, buddy. You’re delusional and you’ve lucked into more success than that itty bitty frame of yours was built to accommodate. The Year of the Luchador is over, kid, and you didn’t even have the decency to wait for me to end it for you properly.
You did it to yourself.
Alright then, if that’s how you wanna play it, let's do this thing.
I’ve been out of the STRONGHOLD for a couple of days now. My weeks there had been exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of my physical training and mental health. While I was out there I had plenty of time to ponder my plots and schemes and make sure that my body is at maximum wrestling capacity, ready to go to the ring in the Dome and give the World Champion the best match he’s ever had. Since leaving the dojo I’ve been staying in Ark Hills right in the heart of Tokyo in the five-star palatial resort that is the Ana InterContinental Tokyo.
From out here on the balcony the view is breathtaking. I can look down over the districts of Akasaka, Roppongi and Kasumigaseki and survey them like a king.
Like a God.
The nightlife below me is a giant flashing neon distraction, though. One that in the past I’ve had no qualms with succumbing to. Those were younger days, though. Simpler times when I could show up hungover to a sold out main event and still work circles around my opponents. That’s how good I was back then.
I was King of the fucking World.
So what am I now? Right here, tonight, on a balcony in Tokyo I am a challenger to a title, another in a long line of minor annoyances if you’d hear the Champ tell it. I am a man past his prime, still head and shoulders better than the rank and file. But the best…
The Best in the World?
Well, I guess we’ll find out Sunday night.
Tonight, however, I am still a challenger, and I still have a job to do. The UTA Production Staff has been so kind as to lend me a cameraman who’s promised me on his honor as a journalist that he has no plans of even speaking to me, let alone trying to lead me through an interview with a series of boneheaded questions.
He said he figured I was here to shoot, so he’d come along to shoot too.
It was a metaphor, he was trying to develop a rapport with me that was entirely unnecessary for the job at hand. You see, I’m a professional at talking people into buying tickets to see wrestling. All he’s got to do is record it and not manage to fuck it up in post.
Point is, I’m standing above a city I love, I’m three days out from my first World Title shot in several years, and I’ve got plenty to say about the incumbent champion. The light goes red and I have my cue.
It’s now or never.
“You wanna talk about a bunch of nobodies and talentless hacks?” It’s a rhetorical question. “Fine, we’ll start with the rag-tag group of so-called challengers and opponents that you’ve limped through since winning that World Title and going on this historical reign as Champion.”
For a split second I consider taking it easy on the kid. It’s obvious he’s in over his head and grasping at straws, right? What kind of man would I be if I let him come into International Affairs questioning everything that he’s been telling himself over the last six months.
A smart one, that’s what kind.
“First rule, kid, you do what you have to and you do it by any means necessary. If that means rigging a draft so that the spotlight is on you, so be it. That’s the whole point of it all, the spotlight! You don’t carry around that World Title belt like a binkey because it matches your lip gloss, you do it because it puts you in the spotlight.”
Pay attention and please, try to keep up.
“You won that belt from Sean Jackson by dubious means. He stubbed his toe and got a papercut or something and then you claimed victory. I refuse to remember what actually happened, Blanca, because as far as anyone on the outside looking in knows it was just your turn that the feeding trough.”
Smirking, I give him a wink.
“That what you boys in Dynasty do, right? You pass the belt back and forth between yourselves because nobody else in whole dad-blasted multiverse can compete with the amazing talent that makes up the UTA’s own Dynasty. You know, when they can all be bothered to show up and/or care.”
Below me in the streets little men and little women scurry back and forth from one night spot to the next. Tokyo is nothing if not a place to blow off steam. I suppose it has to be, though, the way these people push themselves.
Maybe that’s why I like it here so much. I’ve been pushing myself like a slave-driver for longer than I can remember, never allowing myself to be anything less than the best. Maybe that’s why I went off the rails so often as a younger man…
Too much stress begat too much relief.
I put the thought out of my mind.
“And then what did you do, Eddie? To cement your legacy and make a bold first step as the World Champion, you go out and lose to Lew Smith. Seriously. You’ve got the gift of gab and you can filibuster until the cows come home, but in the end we both know that I have raw tape of Lew pinning your shoulders down, the referee counting to three, and Lew Smith being announced as the new World Champion.”
I can feel the lense of the digital camera tightening on me for a closeup and I smile. Not the smirk that I like to throw at opponents, but a real deal genuine smile.
“Now, go ahead and spend thirty minutes telling me about how you were screwed and you were robbed and James Wingate is evil and oh by the way he gave you the belt back point blank without even restarting the match. Yeah, keep on telling everybody how he’s the real enemy. I’ll let you know when anybody starts believing it.”
I let that hang in the air for a moment, savoring the silence. That this guy walks around calling himself undefeated over the past year makes me sick to my stomach. This is a wrong that I very much intend to right just as soon as the opportunity presents itself this Sunday night.
“And then there was your second genre-smashing title defense. You know the one, where Maria Van Claudio actually looked like she was gonna win there for a while and you only barely got out by the skin of your ass by a double disqualification. Seriously guy? You’re the Franchise Player, the Face of the UTA, and the greatest of any generation and you couldn’t pin Maria Van Claudio?”
This one sticks in my craw. That stupid cooze went from flopping out of the Ring King tournament in the first round to a World Title shot? Yeah, because that makes sense. Next you’ll be telling me how she’s right up there with Zhalia Fears as one of the top wrestlers in the promotion.
I can’t help but roll my eyes.
“Moving right along one of your three pinfalls in the last six months came over Chris Hopper in a tag-team match that you weren’t even the star of. Past that you went to Ring King and you faced the one, count ‘em one legitimate contender that you’ve seen in the entirety of your reign and it took five guys, a Lead Pipe, a broken arm, and a bogus disqualification for you to keep that belt from Alex Beckman. Don’t believe me? Go on back to the tape and see it for yourself. I’ll wait.”
And I do.
I stand in silence, the ghost of an urge for a cigarette treading at the back of my mind as I let La Flama Blanca stew in a pot of his own bullshit. I bet the guy’s really checking that tape right now.
I give him another minute before continuing.
“Seriously dude, five guys, a weapon, and you still couldn’t pin a girl who was challenging you for that belt. That makes two, you know. Two little girls, neither of whom really had any business in the ring with the World Champion, and you couldn’t pin either of them. That’s kind of like a running thing with you, right? Inability to get it done with the ladies?”
“That must go over real good down in Mexico with the hombres, am I right?”
Yeah, dick jokes, I’ll go that low.
“From there you got dominated by a fat man in a dirty red Santa outfit and damn near outwrestled by a stupid little girl with her head in the clouds. And that’s it. I mean seriously, that is a direct and honest synopsis of this senses-shattering title reign of yours.”
Shrugging, I openly question the validity of the Champion’s words.
The guy can’t go five minutes without telling anybody within earshot how he’s the only Goddamned guy who ever mattered in the UTA, how he’s redefined the industry and how the continued gifting to us of his sparkling personality is the only thing keeping the doors open.
You know what I say?
Go ahead, knock yourself out.
Don’t sign that contract extension. Go take your shot at MMA, or see if your l’il buddy Mikey can get you a walk-on role in one of his movies, go see how long you last without WRESTLING propping you up, because I can promise you it’s not the other way around.
“Now, we can discuss semantics until we’re blue in the face and we’re never gonna agree on anything, that much is guaranteed. I’m sure you’ve got hours on how I’m no more worthy a challenger than any of them because of that ridiculous Gauntlet that I went through a couple of weeks ago. So, go ahead and get that the rest of the way out of your system, but you and I both know that I punched my ticket to the Main Event of International Affairs all the way back at Ring King where I personally pinned the current Wildfire Champion Colton Thorpe, his top contender Cayle Murray, Bobby Fat Body Dean, and the current Legacy Champion John Sektor.”
Again I let it linger in the air.
“Now tell me again how I let Sektor take the heavy hitters. Tell me more about how I should be wrestling Thorpe or Murray, both of whom I pinned inside The Chamber. Tell me about your buddy Mikey Unlikely who I helped defeat all the way back at Black Horizon, not to mention taught him how to put Will Haynes’ dick in the dirt. Tell me how I don’t deserve this match when I pinned four men in one night inside the Chamber at Ring King.”
My blood is boiling, I can feel the vitriol rising.
“That’s two Champions and two top Contenders that I pinned in one night, Ed. Now think back to two minutes ago when I said that you’d pinned three people in the entire six months that you’ve been holding that World Title. Think about that, use your math, and let it sink in real good and deep.”
The Champ had tried to take the high road with me, giving me all of the backhanded compliments he could muster on his way to making up fourteen excuses he can rattle off as soon as the match is done Sunday night and he doesn’t have that shiny belt to put him in the Spotlight anymore.
That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Get the fight over, tell the world how it’s gonna be a great battle between two great gladiators, both willing to die for that fleeting moment of glory…
Not me. Not this time.
You can’t pay me enough to put that guy over, and if I can’t beat him come International Affairs then I am every bit of the talentless hack that Blanca would have the world believe that I am. If you want my opinion, the World is going to tune in Sunday night to UTA in the Tokyo Dome so they can witness live the biggest lesson in wrestling that’s ever been given.
And this isn’t me looking past Blanca. The guy’s got some moxie, he’s got Dynasty and he’s got that whole flippy-doo thing down to a patented science. The difference, however, is that this time it’s all about the show. It’s about the spectacle. It’s about Dynasty and Colton Thorpe and every little thing that happens between the bells.
It’s about more than La Flama Blanca could ever possibly know.
And that’s where I come in.
“So yeah, maybe I understood the game a little bit more clearly than anyone else back at Ring King with the right to draft a roster on the line. Maybe I did make it a point to draft a show with a distinct lack of World Title contenders.”
I shrug. Maybe I did.
“That doesn’t stop the fact that Victory has consistently put on better shows with better wrestlers putting on better matches that drew better TV ratings than OtherShow, where all of those Big Name Talents did their sheer best week in and week out to bore the viewing audience into a never ending coma.”
That smile floats across my face again. You know, the real one.
“Maybe I knew that my own brute force of personality and drawing power combined with the two hottest feuds in wrestling today would be the recipe for success in the television marketplace. Hell, it’s almost like I have experience running a successful promotion of my own. Did you know that, Blanca? Did you know that I own a promotion outside of the UTA? Maybe you could tell us about it, hmm?”
Again I feel my blood boiling and my eyes rolling.
“Don’t you think I had to sign three-dozen waivers and disclaimers prohibiting me from actively or passively recruiting members of the UTA roster to defect to another promotion? No, of course you don’t, because you don’t have the slightest inkling of how to run a wrestling company. You barely know how to be the top Champion of one.”
Like the Cheshire Cat my grin widens.
“Or maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m here undercover to recruit for DEFIANCE. Maybe you’ve got your little panties in a twist because you didn’t get one of the contracts that I’ve been handing out at shows like foam fingers.”
Fuck you, Eduardo, for not getting it.
“Keep runnin’ your mouth, Blanca. And while you’re at it, keep spouting off other people’s catchphrases for us. Maybe you could hide it better in 2014, or maybe I’m just smarter than the average UTA Wrestler, but you’ve been jocking Perfection’s Ungratefuls for months, and now you’re calling people bellends like a genuine Jesus F. Kendrix. What’s next, you gonna get on the mic and yell GOD DAMN SON as loud as you can for no discernable reason?”
Shaking my head, I can feel my giggles returning.
Parts of this really are quite laughable.
“The point is you’re nothing without something to latch onto. You can brag about how awesome you used to be before I got here six months ago, but in that six months you haven’t accomplished a single fucking thing outside of collectjng the entirety of my ire. Let me tell you, sir, that’s not something that you really want when your World Title is on the line. So get ready…”
It occurs to me just now that I don’t need to win this match.
Of course I want to. More than anything else I want to put La Flama Blanca down, drive a big fat nail into the Year of the Luchador, and remind everybody in the UTA Universe, wrestler and fan alike, what it’s like to have a real World Champion.
I want to prove to the world almost as much as to myself that I’m still the best wrestler in the World. All of these things and more I want for our match at International Affairs, but in the grand scheme of things I really don’t need the win.
My big money contract is in place, limited dates and all.
My legacy has been verified and reborn all at the same time just by getting here. I’ve done what nobody in the business thought I had the heart or the patience to do anymore. I can go out there, put on a great match with the World Champ, count the lights at the end of the match and I’m still gonna cash the biggest check at the end of the night.
You, Eddie, you need that signature win. That one night that you can point to for a thousand nights in the future where you were the Best Wrestler in the World and not just the luckiest. You need me so badly you can taste it, and you don’t have any idea what to do about it.
You need me to be the Crown Jewel in your collection, the shiniest of the big shinies to distract wandering eyes from all of that dull, boring dreck that you’ve gotten so used to pedaling week in and week out.
You need me, Ed, and I don’t give one solitary fuck.
“Get ready for the longest night of your career, kid. Maybe you’ve got the guts or the brains to slip one past me, but if I have anything to say about it it you’ll end up just like you did at Victory when I put you through a table for having the balls to come at me the wrong way. International Affairs is going to end with you unconscious on the mat and Eric Dane standing over your broken, beaten body.”
For the last time as a challenger, I smirk.
“With your World Title hoisted over my head.”
"Everyone in Solitary Confinement snaps eventually!"
- Conrad Teller