Disclaimer: The following is brought to you by Tact Enterprises, Inc. Trademarked images, logos, and other copyrighted material shown are property of their legal owners.
Also sponsored by....
(We are treated to a view of the world-famous Times Square, New York City, during the dawn hours. The scene speeds up and, as the sun comes up, we see a montage of activity: people filling the sidewalks; cars filling the streets; food carts being pulled through; a window cleaner scaling the side of the Marriott Marquis hotel; NYPD gathering at the police box. The sun begins to set and hordes begin to crowd the TKTS booth, for last-minute, discounted Broadway show tickets; McDonalds and Sbarros pizza get more traffic from the after-work commuters needing a snack; Toys 'R' Us sees an uptick with families filing in; and people head to the subway hub at this location. Night falls, and the city lights dominate with their colorful brilliance. The cycle begins to repeat itself as night turns to dawn.
Things speed up, so we see dawn turn to day, then to night, and back again. The cycle repeats at an increasingly rapid pace until we pan up away from the city slickers and tourists, at this point mingled together by the speed of the footage, and as night comes we see people and lights all mix in a blur. The camera pans up from the ground, and the footage slows as we see the 'Supermoon' in the sky, shining brilliantly...
And we hear a solemn, baritone voice speak.)
LARRY TACT V/O: "The days have ticked by, words have been exchanged, and as the saying goes, actions have spoken louder. The best of us -- and one 'lucky loser' -- do not have the benefit of time to lick any wounds for long. Now is not the time to bask in thoughts of victory or having advanced. Time is one of our most precious commodities, and there is none for those festive impulses. And there is no need, either, with the promise of another round ahead. For 64 wrestlers, our greatest achievement so far is to have simply lived to fight another day."
"Because Ultratitle is underway, and in full force."
(When we next FADEIN, we see Larry Tact walk into the corporate office building of Empire Pro Wrestling. How do we know this to be EPW's home base? Well, the rather gaudy, wall-mounted EPW logo behind the lobby desk is an indication. Maybe surprising to some, there is no giant, framed photo of Dan Ryan present on the wall. Or maybe it's just getting touched up at the moment.
Tact is wearing anything but formalwear, but cleans up well in a pair of relaxed-fitting, black Kenneth Cole jeans and shoes; deep-sea blue, button-down Versaille Grid sport shirt; 3-strand titanium necklace, partially concealed under the shirt; and a silver Bleu de Cartier watch. He crosses the lobby to the desk and meets a man waiting for him. The gentleman is wearing a sport coat, shirt, and slacks. He is shorter and less athletic-looking than Tact, but certainly still fit for a middle-aged man. Regular EPW viewers will recognize this man as Dean Matthews, one of the regular color commentators of the Aggression and Pay-Per-View broadcasts. The two exchange a handshake and proceed down a hallway.)
DEAN MATTHEWS: "I'm glad to see you up and about, Larry. What with Derek Martin trying to splatter you all over Philadelphia, I thought there might not be much left of you to bring to the second round."
TACT: "Well, the bastard got me one at the end there, no doubt. All he really accomplished, though, was leaving something for me to remember, if we ever cross each other again. For his sake, we'd better not, and I'll leave it at that. But as for me? Come on, Dean. You know I've been through some rough spots before. I chug on because that's what we do in this sport, am I right?"
MATTHEWS: "Reminds me of Russian Roulette, between you and Impulse. Dave and I thought you'd have to forfeit after you dislocated your shoulder. So, okay, you've suffered worse. But it's only going to get tougher, you know. Chris Hopper next, and from everything I've heard of him, he's significantly higher-caliber than Martin. And 'Dead End' is no small potatoes, either."
TACT: "What would be the point of having an Ultratitle tournament if anyone were a pushover?"
(They turn off the hallway, into a small enclave where several elevators are present. Matthews presses a button to call one, and adjusts a sleeve on his coat.)
MATTHEWS: "Point. Which makes me curious as to what you've got in mind for right here and now..."
TACT: "It's funny, I actually have Lindsay to thank, in part.
MATTHEWS: "Excuse me? Lindsay Troy, as in... the Lindsay Troy who had you fired from here, at one point?"
Almost on cue, the "DING!" of the elevator sounds. The two walk inside and the doors close, sending them up.)
TACT: "The very same. Since I came back, I've been searching my core of beliefs. I want to make it clear what matters, and let the rest of the noise fall away. The elite of the wrestling industry aren't most focused on what will drive their opponent's into a tizzy. It's not about self-glorification. It's about what drives you hardest. It's about your passion."
MATTHEWS: "So, what did you find?"
(Another "DING!" and the doors open. Tact and Matthews walk into a recording studio, presumably for wrestlers or the company to do their promotional work. Tact grins.)
TACT: "I could tell you, but why leave it at that, Dean? Let's get it all in line and I'll do you one better: I'll show you."
MATTHEWS: "I'd be happy to. It'll help me fulfill one of my own passions: doing something to get under the skin of that arrogant jerk, Mike Neely. Oh man, he's going to be sour he decided to try and track down Boogie Smallz."
MATTHEWS: "Yeah... something about needing 'sweet relief' after what happened to 'Triple X' in Round One. You know seeing that must have done some permanent damage to whatever's left rattling around between the guy's ears. I don't ask; I just pretend to care as best I can while keeping my revulsion of his presence to a minimum. You think you have it tough? Try spending every Aggression and Pay-Per-View sitting next to the pompous, ignorant ass!"
(They both laugh and start staging and working the equipment, while almost certainly continuing to exchange jokes and stories about EPW's least favorite color analyst.)
"You know, if someone had told me before this grand old tournament started... that I was going to be facing a Hopper... I would have been intrigued at the prospect of an encounter with Max Hopper."
(FADEIN on Larry Tact, sits on a stool in front of us -- arms extended, palms up -- wearing the same attire. Behind him is a very large video screen, hanging from the ceiling. Currently, it has the Ultratitle logo and trophy displayed. Tact's olive-green eyes don't waver from our direction.)
TACT: "Clearly, Max Hopper is not my second round opponent. But the intrigue is still there. Maybe it's a thing with all 'Hoppers.' And while we're on it... how many of you are there in this industry, anyway?"
"I can pretty much guarantee you... there is one and only one, LARRY TACT. And as Derek Martin found out, it doesn't bode well to have your way go through me, because you just don't get where you're looking to go."
(He flashes a momentary smirk, and crosses his arms over his chest.)
"There have been a couple of notable upsets in Round One, and none so prominent in my bracket than the fall of 'Triple X' Sean Stevens. It gave some people perspective. Hell, Chris Hopper himself had already mentioned Stevens as someone that was on his radar. Two veterans, two former multi-time, multi-promotional Champions, who might very well be capable of putting on a spectacular match. Hey, I might pay to see that..."
"Just not here. Not now. Because this isn't the bracket for the likes of those who want to peer into the future. And this isn't the match for that."
"A word to the wise, Chris... just keep those wise, veteran eyes focused on what's directly in front of you. Otherwise, there's no doubt you'll end up blinded and gone. Another would-be 'serious contender' for Ultratitle, forgotten. Lost to the drift currents of elimination."
"And if you bring your best focus? Then maybe we can have ourselves a round two match to remember. Something special; one to set a standard, showing others just what it means to BE in serious Ultratitle competition."
(He nods, then takes up a bottle of SmartWater from under the stool and has a drink..)
"For me, that's what it's about, every round, every match, Chris. I don't need to see who may or may not be on the other end of the bracket. I don't have this desire to be pulled into the discussion of what I see ahead for myself in this tournament."
"Because it's all right at hand, Chris. It's all contained here and now, in this match. You are everything I need to overcome, at this stage."
"Ultratitle isn't about flaunting my accomplishments, running off all the titles I've won, and belittling others. Admittedly, it is for a lot of people, and that's their prerogative. Everyone has their style, and their way of going about this. Diversity is a spice of life, and wrestling is hardly lacking in that."
"But this is about honoring the builders of the past, and it's about evolving beyond. It's about saluting those who have supported, and continue to support this industry. It's about all the layers of what Ultratitle has represented, and means to this industry. The people who have made it, and also those who fell along the way."
"Which makes it hard to believe anyone could NOT show up for Ultratitle, and NOT be driven to perform at their best. But we've had that, too. Needless to say, Chris, I'm not one of those few."
(He downs some more water.)
"I came into this tournament not just wanting to take on the layers of challenges that Ultratitle presents... not only to honor and evolve... but also to show the world just what it is that drives Larry Tact to be one of the standouts on this circuit. And why, in turn, that makes me one of the standouts... in this entire industry."
"Chris, I hope I don't need to tell you that I'm not exhibiting arrogance, boasting, or being anything but genuine when I tell you... I have as much passion for sports as anyone, and wrestling is where it peaks. From the beginnings of watching my teams, with my favorites. Feeling the highs of success and definitely the doldrums of failure."
"I evolved my knowledge by watching, and my skills through participating. I learned about what it means to truly be passionate; from meeting the players and the coaches; to being in the crowd watching live; and hearing the broadcasters enshrining the greatness of the action as-it-happened..."
(The ULTRATITLE screen behind Tact begins shifting.)
"... Bottom-dropping-out disappointments..."
"And then, when the time came, I pursued what brought the most out of myself. I work to a point where I can stand toe-to-toe with anyone, in the only sport I really wanted to seriously compete in -- wrestling."
(He shakes his head, his expression showing some disgust.)
"Tell me this, Hopper... if you're so naturally gifted as you say, excelling at athletics and all... why stop at what you were successful at? Are you saying you were good enough to be NBA quality, but turned that down? Or did you just quit on it before getting to that particular level to find out... it just doesn't make sense."
"It's like saying a world-class Internal Medicine surgeon decided to try Pediatrics... and after misdiagnosing and making every child he sees on his first day, cry... the guy decides he's going to be a Pediatrician, rather than returning to being a world-class surgeon."
"And now you are Ichiban Number One! You know, there are people from this circuit who will tell you a very similar story, having been competing in Japan and called 'Ichiban.' I guess it's just one of those things that gets around... like genital warts. I guess people with that may not be considered Ichiban... but enough digression."
(He takes another drink of water, then chuckles.)
"Believe it or not, I didn't have such a luxury of someone suggesting I just 'give it a shot,' when breaking into this industry, Chris. I went to earn my higher education, but I knew the only thing that would truly satisfy me, but I needed to fund it myself. Once I chose to go for it, during school, to me it meant there was no turning back. That didn't mean any smooth transition, or having the option to go another route if I didn't immediately succeed. Some weeks, I spent my last dollar finding a way to get to the training facility. Other weeks, I had nothing but my raw desire to motivate me through the punishment, to one more week... hell, even one more DAY... much less looking further ahead."
"They will break... you... down. They want to see who you really are, Chris, at your very core. To do that, they will tear you up and expose it. And then, they don't just build you back up -- not a chance. You go in there, like an animal, and you EARN every single inch and shred of progress, and screw off to anyone who gets in your way. You FIND a way to get through the obstacles, if you want it enough. You create your success."
"At some point, the talent level dissolves when you are at that bottom, figuratively stripped down and naked. I saw guys who were supposed to have All-World potential, but they broke and couldn't right themselves to regain their confidence, and put that talent on display. They couldn't handle the process. And they were the lucky ones; unlike those who were broken, figuratively AND literally."
"So sorry, Chris, if the story of your choice to 'give it a try' in wrestling doesn't make me shed a tear, or want to dole out the utmost respect to you. In our match, you can be damn sure I'll put you to the test. I can't say how you'll come out of that, though... and I don't mean whether you'll win or lose."
"I'll respect you as far as this: you're my Round Two opponent. You will get my attention from here until the match is over. But you seem a lot like someone who believes all the hype surrounding him at his home promotion. Someone who soaks it all in and decides, yes, he really IS the greatest this business has been graced with."
"More often than not, those guys end up humbled on the canvas, on their backs, because once their shell is cracked they leak out like a spoiled egg yolk. Slowly at first, then bursting apart through the fragile cracks."
"But this is your chance, big man. What makes Chris Hopper any different?"
(The video screen changes back to ULTRATITLE logo and trophy.)
"Look where you are, Chris. You're where the Ultratitle was conceived, on the F-Wrestling circuit."
"There's a reason why wrestlers from ALL OVER THE WORLD come to compete for Ultratitle tournaments HERE."
"From the Ultratitle marquee of Melton to Manson to Nova, and so on... there's a reason why Ultratitle winners have emerged from the F-Wrestling circuit, Chris."
"It's not because there haven't been outsiders who have taken their shots. You aren't the first, and depending on how this tournament goes, this bunch may not be the last to try."
"It's simply because F-Wrestling is the TOP of the industry."
(He tosses away the water bottle, perhaps even leans forward slightly towards us.)
"Chris, I know you've been very vocal about all your titles and athletic accomplishments. The fact is, they really do mean very little here, at this moment in time. I'm not saying you don't deserve credit for each and every one. But this isn't the place to get that credit and adoration."
"I would think you can scarcely scan through one match in this tournament without finding someone who's held a Championship; won a tournament somewhere else; or been awarded another accolade. It's enough to get you in, but going off that won't get you far. Whether it's by the hand of another veteran, or someone like Jason Murray or Cobra lying in wait, hungry enough to mess up the chalk and make their unlikely impact."
"In Thailand, I hear the women love the big talkers. In Columbia, too, and they like to see the gold. You try to get by with that, against me, in Ultratitle? Then you'll never be far from the humbling of a lifetime."
(He stands up from the stool.)
"F-Wrestling is where I earned my stripes, and developed my craft. And I was sure as hell not going to let Derek Martin, who made a name for himself elsewhere, pass me by on MY HOME FRONT."
"Looking ahead, thinking you have a straight shot to deep in this tournament? It didn't work so well for Sean Stevens, Dan Ryan, or Blaine Hollywood. And against me, last round, Derek Martin couldn't hurt me like he thought, in order to advance."
"So Chris Hopper, you're welcome to buy into your hype, believe that you'll come here to F-Wrestling... to the Ultratitle tournament... and show me up on my home turf. But when you try to follow through... just like the surgeon-turned-pediatrician..."
"Those watching from your home, pumped full of hype and expectations... will lament your loss."
"But the silver lining? Once you're out of Ultratitle, you can go back where you belong. They'll still appreciate you there."
The voice is familiar as belonging to veteran superstar "Too Cool" Chris Hopper. The screen fades up and we see Chris standing next to a tree in a large meadow. The spring has been kind to this area, with just enough rain and sunlight to create a lush extravagance of foliage in every direction. The "King of Cool" leans against the tree wearing the usual Levi's denim blue jeans, the ones with the extra comfort where you need it, and his button-down white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He doesn't even have his trademark sunglasses on despite being outside in the warm afternoon sun. The shade of the large elm tree seems to be quite enough for him. He is the picture of ease in this environment, as he continues speaking with a laid back quality to his voice.
"You were completely accurate in one thing you said and that is that we are in the UltraTitle Tournament. The battle to be the best of the best, where men like Dan Ryan, Derek Martin and Sean Stevens have all tasted defeat from the stiff competition. Not that it matters, as you have aptly put it, our focus now sits squarely on each other.
"And that is as it should be -- to be the UltraTitle winner, you do not defeat 127 other men, but rather seven. We both got our first and now it's just the two of us."
He pauses, taking a moment to enjoy the fresh air. You would think someone in the second round of such a tournament would be on edge, or even frantically putting a game plan together, but not the man who lives each day as cold as ice. He finally continues his thoughts.
"This tournament is something that only comes around every so often and just to be part of the field means you have something to bring to the table. It means you have skills, the backing of your promotion, and also desire from the fans to see you perform. As much as I have come to love ACW in my time there and as important as it is to be representing them in every appearance and event I am involved with, I also realize that none of them will be standing in that ring with me when I lock up with you.
"This tournament will give bragging rights to one man across the entire spectrum of our sport. It truly is what is most important in this time and place. It is all I am focused on and all that truly matters."
(Hopper is pensive) "And that begs a question..."
His focus shifts to stare at the camera. He raises one of his eyebrows in a questioning glance.
"Why isn't that enough for you?"
He flashes a sly grin as he stands away from the tree.
"The fact that you are fighting for one of the most prestigious honors in all of wrestling should be enough for any person to give their best. Yet, you seem to want to spend precious air time -- too much, if you ask me -- talking about the PAST, discussing how tough FWrestling is, and showing video clips of men who did amazing things in sports that are NOT wrestling.
"Don't get me wrong, I fully understand you extolling the virtues of history within FWrestling. It has tradition, excellence, and arguably one of the deepest talent rosters in wrestling history. Yes, it is home to the UltraTitle and where it was dreamt up and established. That means it must be part of the equation within this medium, but it seems like you are going overboard in trying to make yourself the champion of all things FWrestling. Why is that?"
Chris begins to walk slowly as he talks. The scenic view behind him shows the large meadow with trees here and there, all of them standing tall and strong in the gentle breeze of the day. The comfort level is high, but that is because this is the kind of area he grew up in. People always consider him a man from the city, but he grew up in a small town in the farming areas of Southern Indiana. This kind of setting really shows what he is all about.
"Why is it so important that you be seen as 'that FWrestling guy' within this match?
"I'll be honest, that is where you get off track."
The veteran reaches another tree near the edge of the open meadow, where a denser forest looms behind it. This tree is not quite as big as the others and it seems to have some of its bark missing. The color of its base is slightly different from the other trees of like classification, but it isn't thriving. Hopper looks it over for a second and continues his speech.
"You spent so much time talking about FWrestling and lauding yourself for being part of it. You called me an outsider who is here, lauding his past titles and accomplishments in order to win a title that you feel is the birthright of those in FWrestling. Yet you are utterly mistaken...
"I'm not an outsider.
"I'm not calling you a liar. I'm not even calling you stupid. I think the best word that describes you when it comes to my true status is IGNORANT."
Chris takes a moment to make sure he used the right wording. He nods thinking to himself that ignorance is not as mean as stupid and then continues on with his diatribe.
"You see, I have a long history and have enjoyed success. That much is true. Perhaps I played too much on that when I was facing Howie that you didn't bother doing any due diligence before shooting off at the mouth about me. What you fail to mention is that I am part of ACW. Now ACW is sort of a big deal. It is award-winning and has a deep roster. In fact, ACW wrestlers make up nearly ten-percent of the wrestlers remaining in this tournament. The one thing you obviously didn't know about us?"
There's that cocky smile again. He loves when he gets a chance to poke and prod at somebody that thinks they are superior or a know-it-all in any form.
"ACW is part of FWrestling."
His eyes widen a little and his face makes that "it's true" expression as he nods in the affirmative. He really is acting like he is educating a preschooler here and not an opponent. Can it be construed as dick-ish? Perhaps, but honestly he doesn't give a rat's ass. Chris stops the nodding and returns to his normal expression s he continues.
"Next time you visit the corporate site, I invite you to check the list of leagues and not far down from your precious EPW, you will find ACW.
"You see I have heard about FWrestling for years. I wanted to see what it was all about. I was approached by ACW and signed on the dotted line. I'm just as much a part of FWrestling as you are, Larry, and the notion that I am somehow not shows just how ignorant you are of the very place you desire to represent."
"The Dan Ryans and Sean Stevens of the world would not have assumed anything without checking it out first. And that is the difference between you and them. That is why they are who they are and you are just a lowly TV Champion."
Chris takes a moment to look at that withering tree again. He smirks a little at it and again addresses the camera.
"Larry, you really spent so much time extolling what was in your 'core' that you showed your weakness. You're that guy who wants to be taken as seriously as a heart attack at every turn.
"Don't get me wrong, I take you very seriously because you are the man across the ring from me in this round and that makes you worthy of every ounce of my focus and aggression. But it seems like you really try too hard. Every piece of information you put forth in trying to puff yourself up is easily stripped away when it is exposed."
Chris pulls a piece of bark off the tree.
"You obviously crave respect for being in FWrestling, but don't know enough about it to speak intelligently regarding its membership."
He slowly pulls another piece off. Somewhere a tree-hugger is getting pissed off at the injustice being done to this nearly dead plant.
"You crave respect, but never give any true reason for it except to discuss how you are in the same area of the sport as other men that are higher ranked and more respected than you are."
He pulls another piece, and this time it is a long piece that takes several seconds to pull away. This leaves a very large exposed area on the tree where you can see the slightly brown area under the deadened bark.
"You speak of you passion for the business and how it is greater than mine, but only speak of high school accolades and decisions instead of the professional achievements because, in truth, you don't measure up."
Hopper holds out his hands to show off the exposed area with that sly grin back on his face.
"What you are left with when everything is stripped away is the true core. In that place, you are the kind of man who makes generalities based on a man's last name, assumptions based on teenage victories , and you are the kind of man who desperately wants a seat at the table."
He turns to face the camera. The grin is now gone, replaced by a serious look.
"You want to be like Ryan, Stevens, and the others who are your yardsticks to measure yourself by? You want a seat at their table so badly?
"I'm happy to oblige.
"When we face in round two, I'll be happy to give you that seat right next to them...at the loser's table."
He raises a finger.
"It is time that you stopped worrying about what FWrestling thinks of you and start worrying about what I'm going to do to you.
"I'm not going to try and end you. I'm not going to try and embarrass you. Hell, I don't even know you to dislike you. Being an ignorant twit is not a reason for hatred, at least for most people. I can tell you what I plan on doing, though. I'm going to take your broad shoulders and hold them to the mat for three counts. That is all that is needed and all that is required."
He turns and says one last thing.
"Larry, our match will be one of the second-round classic for sure. And after my arm is raised...
"Say 'hi' to your buddies in the loser's lounge for me."
He walks away from the camera as the breeze picks up and the screen slowly fades to black.
Disclaimer: The following is brought to you by Tact Enterprises, Inc. Trademarked images, logos, and other copyrighted material shown are property of their legal owners.
Also sponsored by....
(We find ourselves looking at Larry Tact, sitting in the front row of several rows of black steel chairs. Tact is dressed in sand-blasted blue SilverTab jeans; a sleeveless black shirt with 'Simply Tactilizing' written in gold cursive; black shoes, and wearing silver-rimmed, blue-lensed sunglasses. His golden blonde hair is tied back, and he leans forward slightly; fully engaged with us, and nothing else, as he speaks with his hands on his knees.)
LARRY TACT: "I heard you had a lot to say to me, Chris, so I did some listening. It turns out you had a whole lot of questions for me. Yet, you couldn't find it in your own fortitude to tactfully answer all of mine. Had I raised my expectations of you too high, Champ? Maybe I did... but better to over-prepare, then."
"Oh and, as an aside, not everyone in Ultratitle has the backing of a promotion. The participant list is all you really need to see to know that. (mocking tone) Just check the corporate website, Chris."
"Now, instead of returning the favor, and dodging your questions, I'm going to show you something. I'm going to show you how to MAN UP and address empty claims... clear the air... and, whether you like my answers or not, make a real statement."
(He pauses, leans back some, and relaxes his hands together on his thighs.)
"I'm not sure when bragging rights needed to be the most important thing about Ultratitle, Chris. Maybe for you; not for me. If you didn't stop at just hearing what I had to say, but actually LISTENED, you'd know that I have my own priorities within Ultratitle."
"In any sport I competed in, bragging rights was always such an instant gratification. It wasn't substantial, when you competed in as ultra-competitive a scene as my peers and I. And yes, it's true, there are other sports I enjoyed. I think I made it clear, in fact, that those sports helped shape my drive to someday compete somewhere with as much fervor and intensity as the athletes I watched. Through viewing, I developed a mind that was keen to pick up on details of how top-tier athletes competed. In my competing, I got an inkling of how fierce and outrageously difficult it would be, if I wanted to someday pursue my dream."
"In the end, what it was that drove me over the edge to go for it; what brought me that almost-insane desire to be at the top level of its sport -- first from watching, then competing -- was wrestling."
"I find it a little comedic that you would question my using other sports when you, yourself, spoke of your athletic achievements outside of wrestling, not long ago. I guess it's different if you're just talking about your personal greatness, rather than crediting others'? I already covered how much you went on about your past in this industry, so no need to revisit that again. But if I didn't know better, Chris... I'd call you out for being a tad hypocritical."
"As for my wrestling influences? Well, if you have a burning need to see some of what inspired me, then by all means, Chris... allow me to educate you..."
(The shot pans around, and we see Tact was facing the large video screen of his previous spot. The lights in the studio dim, the screen comes to life, and we see a countdown: 3 ... 2.... 1...
BILL BUCKLEY: Fans....this one is underway...the first match of the CSWA World Heavyweight Championship Tournament...right here in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mark Windham and Joey Melton are vying to become the first World Champ here in the CSWA as they lock up in the middle of the ring with a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Pushoff by Melton sends Windham into the ropes. Windham ducks the clothesline and catches the smaller man with an elbow! Melton hits the mat and quickly takes a powder outside the ring!
(The action FADESTOBLACK... only to be replaced with a compilation of different shots: the CSWA CORPORATION in 1988-89; Hornet capturing his first US Title; a clip from "Buckley's Better Beef;" Hornet competing in the JWA; wrestlers competing in the first-ever IRONMAN of CHAMPIONS event of 1992.... AND THEN...)
December 1994... PRIMETIME in SAN DIEGO
BILL BUCKLEY: Wait a second, one of the fans just jumped over the guard rail! He just nailed Hornet with a right hand! HE dressed in all black and has a mask on! Hornet's up, but the masked man catches him with a clothesline! (FADETO...) The man has some kind of bag with him and he takes a brick out of it! He just slammed it over Hornet's head and broke it!!! Oh my Lord, we've got to have some help down here. (FADETO...) Wait, he's taking off his mask! I DON'T BELIEVE IT! IT'S MIKE ROITER!!! Mike Roiter has gone insane!!! He's got one more trick for Hornet from his bag, though. He hooks a noose of rope around his neck and throws Hornet over the top rope!! Hornet is being HANGED!!!!!
(CUT TO...) ROITER: I'M THE CHAMP! I'M THE UNIFIED CHAMP!
July 1995... FISH FUND X: Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory
RJ: The following match is one fall with a 30-minute time limit. It is for the CSWA's United States/National Heavyweight Championship. First, the challenger. He is from parts unknown and stands at six feet, seven inches and 325 pounds of pure muscle. He is a former Greensboro Champion and former two-time USN Heavyweight Champion. He will attempt to make it three times in this rematch. He is
BB: ONE.......TWO.......no, Bonecrusher rolls out!!! HEAT almost had the win! Bonecrusher pulls HEAT up and puts him down with the Implant DDT!!!! This could be it! ONE................ TWO.........THREE!!!! We have a new United States/National Champion!!!! Bonecrusher has become a three-time USN Champion!!!!!
(FADETO... clips of CSWA ANNIVERSARY 1997, featuring the 'World Tournament' Final Four: GUNS Vs 'King of the Slackers' Troy Windham... Masked Man #3 vs 'MAD' Joe Massacre.)
(FADETO... face-off shots of Hornet/Steve Radder; Deacon/Eli Flair; Joey Melton/Troy Windham; Pat Black/Mike Randalls; Eddy Love/Kevin Powers; The Ego Buster Vs Mike Sparks... all from the CSWA World Heavyweight Tournament of 1998.)
(And with one more FADETO... we are back looking at Larry Tact, whose eyes show a man remembering some very fond memories. And then, with a nod and a breath, he returns.)
TACT: "Truth be told, there just isn't enough time to do it all justice... over a decade of my wrestling boyhood, that is. Yes, I tended to gravitate towards CSWA viewership, along with hordes of others. Hence, my eventual focus on F-Wrestling was a natural progression. There you had a tiny sampling, Chris, of those who have given so much for this industry, and helped pave the way for today's stars."
"And man, from everything you had to say, you made it CRYSTAL CLEAR for everyone... you do NOT understand how F-Wrestling's history -- and Ultratitle's past -- play into the present. It isn't just "a part of the equation".... it IS the equation that led us all here, regardless where we underwent our rite of passage, to this point. To Ultratitle 2012."
"Whether you want to accept it or not, the PAST is the reason why Ultratitle IS what it is today. It has nothing to do with what you, or I, or any of us taking our first shots, have done. We don't factor into Ultratitle's importance yet -- haven't earned it. But I knew that I was inspired to pursue Ultratitle, in part, BECAUSE of what others have done in its history. I want to experience it, and Chris, I'm not ready to go yet. I'm not going to let somebody who can't even wrap around their head, the idea of what makes Ultratitle relevant -- maybe because his ego is getting too much in the way -- take me out of this."
"I'm doing what I can to honor those whose blood, sweat, tears, broken bones, and prevailing victories have laid the groundwork for the field we fight on now. And how? By doing what I do best: wrestling with everything I have. Bringing my best, both beforehand -- to make my match as big as it can be, every single round -- and absolutely, once that bell rings."
(He leans forward again, removing the sunglasses and hooking them on his shirt collar.)
"You don't need to see it as admirable, noble, worthy of the time and effort I'm putting in, or respect it. Here's the thing, Chris: I never asked you to... never asked for your respect or approval. Those aren't at the top of my importance list going in, and that hasn't changed. As far as I see it, you haven't earned that, either."
"The fact is, this tournament hasn't come around often. And media hype, predictions, fan hopes aside... whoever survives all this... they WILL have become something more than anyone could have reasonably expected of them. Because that's what it will take to prevail in this war of attrition."
"As for being the 'Champion of all things Fwrestling?'"
(He looks around, points to himself momentarily, then shakes his head.)
"Nope, didn't claim anything of the sort. But, wait, I think I may be onto you, Chris. What you REALLY meant was... I'm the only guy making a big deal about how F-Wrestling be framed and depicted. I'm the F-Wrestling vet who is standing up and making the strongest statement about this circuit... that it should be recognized as the critical and top rung of the chain that is the wrestling industry. In short... I'm stepping up with something DIFFERENT... even, dare I say... ORIGINAL, to discuss?"
"If that's the case, I hope it's not blowing your mind to break from the more generic topics, man. I have no defense for that, except to say... I've always been more the type of person to go upstream, so to speak. I aim to create, not just contribute to what's already out there. Try not to be overwhelmed; do what you can to keep up with me, Champ. Don't worry... I won't be asking so much from you, for much longer."
"And let's not forget your crowning moment of your grand presentation for me and the world. The moment when I could almost feel... like you really thought you had me, but good! You declared, for all the world... that YOU, Chris Hopper, are apart of ACW and that ACW... in fact... is apart of F-Wrestling!"
"If I didn't see the ego just SEETHING out of you, Chris... although, really, how could anyone miss it? But if I didn't see that, maybe I would have felt a little pity, for someone who seems to want to make points so badly... but keeps falling, repeatedly, flat on his face..."
(He chuckles, and flashes a small smirk of his own.)
"Fortunately for me, I have no reason take pity on you."
"Chris, you came into Ultratitle as ACW Gateway Champion, and that was made clear. How do you suppose I missed that? Which means... (scratches chin)... the only other explanation is... (snaps fingers suddenly)... I left ACW out, for some reason!"
"Yes, Chris, the fact is I didn't make one mention of ACW. But why? Well, you answered that for me... ACW is, technically, affiliated with F-Wrestling. Which means... I DID know that! Oh, bravo. Gold star."
"So then, what does it all MEAN, Chris? Quite simply this. I understand you are apart of ACW. And I understand ACW has a partnership with F-Wrestling. But Chris, you yourself made clear your vast array of World Championships... ones you hold so dear, you specifically made such a grand display of showing them during this very Ultratitle tournament. And like I said, you should be credited for each and every one of them. It all makes up what Chris Hopper means to the wrestling industry."
"And therein lies the point. Those titles are not apart of F-Wrestling, Chris. Your legacy? It's not tied to F-Wrestling. And although I'm aware ACW is a highly-touted promotion, Chris, its own existence as apart of F-Wrestling has been LESS THAN one year long. I've been around this circuit long enough to see promotions have stays longer than that, Chris, and as far as their remembrance as 'F-Wrestling' branded? They were quickly forgotten. So, basically, ACW still has more to prove to those who have been longstanding members of this circuit, before its paid its collective due."
(He sighs, shaking his head.)
"But I had no intention of taking anything away from ACW, Chris. I didn't even want to take away any of what you've accomplished. I haven't competed there, and I don't intend to pass widespread judgment on its roster, or Championships. It's simply a fact that your legacy doesn't come by F-Wrestling. You became who you are through a great many promotions, but they weren't here. You clearly want to throw yourself in with our lot... try to instantly attach yourself, like some All-Star parasite... but it isn't going to work out how you want it to."
"Dan Ryan, Sean Stevens? They'd look at what you said, and might just laugh in your face. I could ring off DOZENS of guys who aren't even here anymore... and are more apart of this circuit than you."
"... And yeah, I'll say it... even JEAN f'king RABESQUE."
"See, Chris, you don't just become branded as F-Wrestling for joining, overnight. None of them did. Stop pretending. Don't try to be something YOU ARE NOT, because it only further exposes your own weakness."
"And weakness like that doesn't survive Ultratitle... not against Larry Tact."
"You're taking me seriously? That's great to know; I'm glad you cleared the air on that. Do you want a prize?"
"Here's what you're showing us all, Chris. You WISH I craved the respect of all.... WISH I was dying to be acknowledged, already, among the elite of this circuit... are practically BEGGING for me to have said my passion for this sport, and industry, is greater than yours..."
"Truth is, that's all words coming from YOUR mouth, not mine."
(His olive-green eyes narrow just a bit, a hint of disdain appearing.)
"I have enough self-respect to not need yours. I understand there's good reason for why my face is not yet etched on the 'mountains' depicting this industry's absolute finest. Will it be? That's still to be determined, and not something I have the desire to even contemplate, at this point. Plenty of athletes don't think about that stuff, and end up Hall Of Famers. It's my preference."
(He pauses, relaxing his gaze, but not his attention on us.)
"I don't strive to be thought of as Melton-like, Manson-like, Nova-like. Ask those who have seen me compete -- I'm sure there are a few, somewhere. I've never needed 'yard sticks' to measure myself by. If you knew F-Wrestling, you'd know we call that the age-old d'ck-measuring contest. People who, instead of having actual, compelling things to share, just like to whip it out along with their opponent, and see who's got the longest -- that's figurative, of course. They literally just go on talking about... I don't know... how many titles they've won over the years... how cool they are... how they're just flat-out BETTER than their opponent... sh't like that."
"I'm not someone who 'swings' that way. Instead, if I do what I know I'm capable of... and achieve enough of the goals I set for myself... then maybe one day, you'll hear 'TACT-like' in the vernacular. But regardless, I will make my own legacy, not aspire to be viewed as a copy of someone else's. This match, just like Round One, is another step in that direction."
"And I also understand that Chris Hopper isn't on the level with any of the names on this circuit's marquee. I'll make sure to show as much."
(He slides the sunglasses off his shirt collar, and replaces them over his eyes, shrugging.)
"But since you've made it clear you will put my shoulders to the mat, well, maybe I just shouldn't show up? I mean, how can I POSSIBLY doubt you, Chris, after all the wonderful things you've had to say?"
(A grin begins to cross his face.)
"Maybe it's that part of me... that tendency to go against the grain... but I'm going to have to deny you your Round Two Ultratitle moment. I'm going to, in fact, prevent you from putting me down and out for the three."
"And even though you haven't bothered to attempt to set foot in EPW, and see what it's like to contest for ANY Championship, before passing judgment... this supposedly 'lowly' TV Champion is going to find a way to put you out of your DAMNED Ultratitle misery."
"Because at the end of our match, Chris Hopper... what your efforts, versus my own, will have truly earned you, is quite simply..."
The screen fades up and shows wrestling veteran, "Too Cool" Chris Hopper, sitting backwards at a picnic table with his back resting on the table and his legs out, crossed at the ankles in comfort and pointed toward the camera crew. This is not some small park, but rather the patio dining area of a restaurant. He is wearing his usual attire, blue jeans and a vintage "Chris Hopper, Master of the Icebreaker" T-shirt. His leather jacket sits folded next to him on the table bench and his dark sunglasses are neatly hanging by the bottom of his shirt collar. He doesn't look angry, hell he doesn't even look annoyed. He has an expression that can only be described as amused by something.
"Years ago in a Presidential debate, a sitting President named Jimmy Carter began to talk about many issues that he felt were vital to securing his re-election. This incumbent had arguably one of the worst records in our Nation's history, despite being a fairly honest, yet inept, man. After his long statement where he tried to tout some of the successes of his administration, which were few, the challenger, former California Governor Ronald Reagan, simply began his remarks with that simple phrase..."
"There you go again."
"It was a means of drawing the debate back on point and making sure that those who were listening knew the problems with his tenure. It ended up being the defining moment of that election and led to a landslide victory for Reagan as Carter never recovered. I say it in this context as I believe you are off your game now after my last message to you and the fans. In fact, you are so off your game that you doubled down on your first gamble..."
He uncrosses his legs, puffs out his chest, and does his best Larry Tact impersonation here...
"Hopper, you aren't really FWrestling material. You never have been FWrestling material. Here look at all these matches and hear all the names I can drop that prove why I belong in FWrestling and should be UltraTitle Champion. Blah, blah, blah..."
The "King of Cool" takes a second to clear his throat and takes a drink of his beverage on the table.
"Thanks for proving my point, Larry. I appreciate it."
At that moment, it becomes obvious where Chris is dining as a young, attractive brunette with the tell-tale orange short-shorts and skin-tight white shirt comes into view.
"Can I get you anything else?"
"I'll have another Dew, please."
As she turns to walk away, we see the letter "H" and part of the letter "O," which is made to be like an Owl's eye on her very full and strained work shirt. Chris can't help but turn his head to watch her walk a few steps away and immediately turns his head back to the camera.
"Where I come from, making a strong statement doesn't mean showing video footage of your past matches. Nor is it dropping as many names as possible. It comes from being the best and achieving success on your own merit and not because you have been around long enough to know a lot of people in a particular circuit."
"That has always been your Modus Operandi, hasn't it Larry? You see, I have a friend that I chat with a lot that you might know. His name is Pat Gordon. He was a tag team partner of yours back in the day and you two even won some hardware together. I called him up and asked what he knew about you and the word that he kept using was interesting..."
"I thought that his use of language about you was curious, to say the least, but now I am understanding what Pat meant."
He sits up and puts his elbows on his knees and takes an almost serious look. It is as if he is about to share some important information and his posture backs this point up.
"He said you were all about you and what you could get out of something. During your tag team run, you used his name and success to get the team over and once you 'arrived'...well you moved on to the next person to sponge off of and move up the ladder. I honestly didn't want to believe that someone who had such a track record and beat a man like Derek Martin was that way and, admittedly, I had assumed you grew past that point after years of forging your own singles glory..."
"But then I heard all of your garbage and I see Pat was dead on correct."
"You can't stand on your own. You never really have. I watched the tapes and not just the parts you decided to waste good promo time showing us. I watched the entire matches and I noticed that you were carried in every one of those matches. Every....single....one....of...them. You sponged off the talent of the man working against you and then you picked the right moment to let go when you had soaked up enough to move forward."
"You are using FWrestling in much the same way. Hell, you are even using your EPW connections to put forth your promo videos! You aren't even stepping out to do THAT on your own, sponging off the resources and connections you have there! I wonder if the fans really notice that in the words you spout off because if they do, then they ought to be offended."
The busty waitress has returned with a full glass of Mt. Dew for "Too Cool." She leans down and seems to whisper something to him and he just nods, hands her a hundred-dollar bill, and says "Great." as she exits.
"You spent quite a lot of time discussing your tenure in FWrestling and trying to dismiss ACW as being a true part of it. You tried to dismiss my claim that you are dying to be the 'champion of all things FWrestling.' All you did was prove Pat right because you are using the FWrestling connection, sponging off of it in order to seem like the best man in this match when, in fact, BOTH of us are technically from FWrestling."
"Did I say I had as much time in the circuit as you did, Larry? No."
"Did I say ACW had a long history as being part of this fraternity of federations? Nope."
"All I did was point out the obvious, which is....you don't even know the make-up of the very circuit you are trying to sponge off of. And when you get called out for being ignorant about the membership of the circuit, you try passing it off...
(using the Tact impersonation voice again) "Well ACW is part of FWrestling, but they haven't been here long enough for me to think or care about. It doesn't matter anyway as I have been here long enough to remember tons of leagues that have come and gone. I'm FWrestling to the core, Dammit!"
Again he clears his throat after the fake voice. Something about mocking opponent's voices always seems to cause that.
"And you have been in the circuit longer, Larry. You have watched other federations enter and exit. You have rubbed elbows with some impressive and not-so-impressive performers. All of that is true and congratulations on having longevity."
"But all that means is that by dismissing ACW, you are still dismissing the very entity that you want to be the champion of. That shows just how ignorant you are of the entire situation. I chose to call you ignorant because there is no way you are really stupid enough to try and elevate yourself by dismissing the circuit that made you."
"Well, perhaps you are."
Chris turns slightly and takes a drink of his beverage. He gives that wistful "Ahhhhh" after the drink and sets the glass down on the picnic table.
"They say that when you get someone defending themselves to the utmost than the accusation must have some merit."
"Think about it for a second. OJ Simpson is still looking for the 'real killer' of his ex-wife and that Goldman kid. Robert Blake is still claiming he didn't murder his wife. Hell, even the Knicks still blame Spike Lee for the results of the one NBA video you showed earlier and that shocking loss to the Pacers way back when."
"The problem is that when accusations hit too close for comfort, it usually causes a response of lashing out in full-throated defense."
"I remember Bill Clinton's strong denial of, 'I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski.'"
"Yes you did, Bill. She says so, but most importantly a stain on her dress said so too but yet he kept yelling out his innocence until the facts made it impossible to deny."
"You're no better, Larry. You start trying to dismiss my assertion that you are trying to make yourself out to be something more than a TV Champion in one of the FWrestling leagues and you go on to spend several minutes defending yourself. Puffing out EPW and claiming that I haven't stepped foot in there and etcetera, etcetera."
"The easy thing is to fire back that you haven't ever been in ACW either, but that isn't what is important. Here is what I learned from all your self-defense, Larry..."
"You obviously think more of me than you are letting on. You spend time trying to defend yourself as someone who isn't one of the 'big names' in the circuit. You claim to be out there trying to be different and make your own way and doing things differently. You attempt to also rip me as not being an important name and not even ranking above losers from the past and what not. Yet you seem to have done an awful lot of research on me. You seem to be trying really hard to pull me down to your level and I think that is because you recognize someone better than you when you see it. You can deny it, fight against it, verbally rail your opposition to it all you desire..."
"But if you didn't see the greatness you were stepping in the ring against, I doubt you would have spent so much time in attempting to make us seem like equals."
Time for another sip of Mt Dew. You know, if he'd thought about it, Hooters and Mt Dew could have both corporately sponsored this promo. Nah, unlike his opponent using EPW to cover expenses of a promo, Chris can do this on his own without using those sorts of resources to pay for things.
"In a way we ARE equals. You hold the EPW TV Title and I hold the ACW Gateway Title. In all honesty, they are the same level title in the organizations. Both of us are the best wrestlers on television for our respective federations. In that way, we truly can be called equals..."
"But that is where the comparison ends."
"You see, when I used the term lowly, I wasn't speaking of the title itself. I was speaking about the man holding it. I'm certain EPW has a long-storied history with the TV Title, but as a man once said, "the wrestler brings credibility to the title, not the title to the wrestler.' And you are lowly by comparison to some of the others in EPW. That fact burns you up like a nerd sitting by himself in the cafeteria, wishing the cool kids across the way accepted him for more than just his homework help."
"If you had your way, you would put yourself higher on the card. Your ego is out there in all its glory, and that is fine. We should have an ego in what we do, especially if we desire to excel in our chosen field. You have to hold onto that ego because that is what will drive you to reach the summit and attain the honor you desire most in your life, whatever that may be."
Again he leans up as if ready to pass on some knowledge.
"As for me? Yes, I have an ego. I not only have an ego but it is deserved. I do have a legacy of success everywhere I go. When I was recruited by ACW, I was offered the moon. I refused. I said that I wanted to earn my way up the ladder. Stick me in there at the very bottom and let me prove myself to the crowd and to the guys in the back. It took me two months to become Gateway Champion and I am loving every second of it."
"I won this title and our General Manager took me aside and told me that he hoped I did the belt proud because the division had fallen flat. The title hadn't been defended on television for several months and fans had even forgotten that it was part of the ACW ladder. He wanted me to bring credibility to the title."
"Did you catch that?"
"He wanted credibility brought to the title and so it came to ME. Since I won the belt, it has been defended on every episode of television possible and against any man desiring a shot. The fans are backing the division again and that means I did what I was supposed to do."
Chris shakes his head in a disappointed tone.
"And that is what you don't seem to understand, Larry."
"In all of your ranting about the UltraTitle and what it would mean to win it as an FWrestling veteran, you mention a lot of the legacy of the title and the circuit. You have a great statement about the past of the tournament title and how that inspired you to go after it this time when the tournament came around. It is as if you hope the title, should you manage to capture it, would finally bring you the credibility you desire for the career you have had."
"Allow me to help you out here....it won't."
He smiles slyly, but briefly to let his last sentence sink in before continuing.
"You see the UltraTitle, as you aptly did state, is not something that means a lot by itself. Winning it means nothing if you are not able to bring credibility to it."
"You claimed you wanted to wrap your head around it, experience it and have it raise you up to a new level in your career. You are worrying about what the Title can bring to YOU and not vice versa. You do have a proper perspective on what the title has meant in the past, because it DOESN'T mean anything unless the likes of Melton, Nova and etcetera win it and give it credibility."
"That has been my point when it comes to 'legacies' and this tournament. Yes, the UltraTitle was firmly rooted and started in FWrestling's past, but it has grown to be so much more because of the men who have won it and lent their credibility to its lore. It is now something that I want to bring my credibility and legacy to being part of. I'm not in this tournament to make a name for myself in FWrestling. I'm in this to win the UltraTitle and then to bring even more credibility to it by continuing the tradition of being a worthy champion. Taking it to other circuits as well as FWrestling and showing the world what a man of this stature can do."
He sits back at the picnic table, looking at ease, but not quite as laid back as when the scene opened.
"If someone of lesser stature lucks his way to victory in this tournament, then it doesn't validate them or raise them up at all. It simply cheapens the UltraTitle. That will not happen with me in the tournament. I will not allow someone who seeks to cheapen and weaken the legacy of the championship by using it to further himself and sponge off its past to earn victory."
"You are not that man, Larry. You are not the man that will add more credibility to the UltraTitle. Perhaps if you went to Bikini Bottom.....I hear they treat sponges really well down there."
Chris stands up, but not to continue making a point. The waitress has returned, but no longer has her Hooters attire on. She is wearing a skin-tight red dress that accents all her curves. Chris turns and greets her with a hug and looks her up and down.
"Any place you'd particularly like to go?"
"Anywhere you want. Just get me out of here!" She mused.
She latches onto his right arm as he turns back to the camera.
"Come Round Two, I'm not taking anything for granted. I know your tricks and the way you approach every match to further your agenda. There is nothing I won't be ready for."
"I've never shrunk from a challenge in all of my life. If I fall short, you won't hear excuses either. The best man to give continued credibility will win this tournament."
"And it sure as hell won't be you, Larry. Get ready to find out the difference between being 'tactful'..."
He pauses and takes another long look at the girl now clinging on his arm and then takes his right hand and motions to himself with an open hand.
"And being 'cool.'"
"See you there, chump."
Hopper gives the exaggerated "Barney Stinson wink and nod" to the viewers before turning his attention to his gorgeous companion. The couple turns and walks off the porch stage left, Chris' date showing off more of her curves as she exits with him as the scene fades to black.
FWrestling.com was founded in 1994 to promote a community of fantasy wrestling fans and leagues. Since then, we've hosted dozens of leagues and special events, and thousands of users. Come join and prove you're "Even Better Than The Real Thing."
Add Your League
If you want to help grow the community of fantasy wrestling creators, consider hosting your league here on FW. You gain access to message boards, Discord, your own web space and the ability to post pages here on FW. To discuss, message "Chad" here on FW Central.