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The Road

User Poets

The Shadow Pope
Jan 6, 1995
Top of the Pile
(FADEIN: Eli Flair, in the darkened Merritt Auditorium.)

I know you.

You were overlooked by the fans. You were given second billing when you worked your ass off nightly. You were the first one to the arena, the first one signing autographs, and the last one to leave at night.

You wondered what it was that the veterans, the top of the elite, had going for them that made them so popular. You spent hours comparing yourself to them, agonizing over every aspect of your in-ring character, over your skills at actually wrestling a match. You tried so hard to prove you deserved to break through into their exclusive club.

Did you ever get that shot? Did they mess with you? Did they soundly defeat you and send you back to the middle of the road where you belong? Did it make the years of preparation seem worthless and wasted? Did you end up with a massive chip on your shoulder because of the actions of the few? Did you decide that, if you couldn't get through to the top, then nobody below you, would get through to the middle?

I think I know you.

You're tired, from years headlining shows. The money is good and the fan reaction is prime, but your life is in a fishbowl and you're required to be 'on' all the time. Waking up every night in a different hotel room, with a different face on the other side of the bed has taken its toll, and you've turned to pills to make it to the next shot. Maybe next time, you'll take two pills. Maybe next time, you'll take something stronger.

You saw the boys just below you and you knew they were ready, but you couldn't verbalize the problem with the top of the card. You were frustrated by their lack of understanding about the way the spotlight slowly kills you from the inside out. They mistake concern for a glass ceiling, but you know the difference. You've been taking it on the chin for years, keeping companies afloat while the midcard is able to flex their muscles without worrying that their actions will make or break the show, and turn around and talk about how you're self - centered and selfish, and refuse to get out of the way. But they don't know, do they, about what you sacrificed to get there. They haven't logged a quarter of the miles you have, or a tenth of the blood you've spilled. You hear them talk about paying their dues, but you know they have no idea.

You don't trust people - you know them too well.

Yes, I think I know you. You're unsure of yourself. You've just broken into the business and you're trying your hardest to make an impact. You see these guys who've known each other for years, who know how each other works, acts, and reacts to the rest of the boys, and you think they're doing their best to exclude you. You know they see your talent and want to make sure you don't get to showcase what you can do.

But they don't know about how hard you've worked to get there. They don't know about the nights in training, with no positive reinforcement from fans, long drives to a night of painful impact and no money. You see them with their fancy cars and gigantic payoffs and you know they've gone soft, that they've forgotten their roots.

You see their five star hotels and their first class tickets along with their top billing, and you know that you know the difference. You know you'd never let success go to your head like that, and all they need to do is see you fulfill your destiny and you'll make everything right again.

Yeah, I think I know you.

You're having the time of your life, you're trying to convince yourself. By all rights you should be, but every tie to your former life makes you unable to look in the mirror. The people who know you beyond a gimmick and a ring name, you can't relate to them anymore. You can't relate to them because they don't know what it's like to have tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people chanting their name or calling for their head. You know they've never been in so much pain that they couldn't sleep, but couldn't take a day off or go to a hospital because no work means no pay means no cash to get to the next town.

You've been on the road so long you've forgotten where you used to live, and when you try to speak to normal people, you realize you no longer speak the same language. You know they'll never see what you've seen, and you're both thankful on their behalf and know for a fact that they're missing out. You hate the road, but you're addicted to it.

I know you.

The Road is there when you need it, but like an old friend, it knows enough to leave you alone from time to time. The Road has taken you to the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows. From sold out arenas to back alleys where you'll buy anything to stay awake long enough to make it to the next roach-infested sh*thole of an arena. You know what you've sacrificed to make it where you are, and no matter where it is, you know it's been worth it by both the fact that you survived it, and the fact that you're still in it.

You don't trust the boys, but you like and respect them, and you can see the Road on all their faces, and you can see the miles they've traveled to get here. You know that no matter how long The Road they traveled was, there's a million stories for every 3 AM. You can listen to the boys try and play Top That with each other, but you just smile and sit back, and listen to the tales.

You don't answer because you know the difference. You know The Road is never the same twice, but it wreaks just as much havoc, no matter what the path. You know the fact that while the check in your hand just bounced and you're looking at another twenty-four hours without a meal, someone else just lost their transmission on the interstate because they can't afford a place to sleep and the maintenance on their car.

You wonder about these kids, and if they'll ever understand the kind of committment it takes to make it half as far as you've made it. You see understanding in some, but not enough. You hold back on sharing your real wisdom, your real friendship, until you know that the person in front of you will be able to accept it for what it is.

Well, maybe everyone does understand. But if they do, they do a really good job of hiding it.

Yeah, I think I know you.


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