"Now that your expectations are filled and your streak continues, we can get down to business."
(FADEIN: The locker room, approximately ten minutes after Eric Dane submitted to the Total Elimination. Eli Flair has a small, hand held camera on the bench across from him. He was still dressed in his wrestling tights - shirtless, with the tape unwrapped from one arm.
Curiously, there's not a hint of sweat and he doesn't look out of breath.)
FLAIR: Welcome home, Edmunds.
This is home, by the by. No matter how hard we run, how far we go... this is where you and I both cut our teeth, and this is where we always return.
(He ran his hands through his hair.)
FLAIR: And this is where, at least one of us... is going to finish up.
FLAIR: No, I'm not making a wild and bold prediction about your inevitable exit from the tournament, Edmunds. I'm reminding the fans and the boys that I am not, in fact, back. I am here to win seven matches and return to the life I quite enjoy.
In a career filled with World Titles, five star matches, and more standing ovations than my previous opponents have had main events put together, I'm damned lucky to be able to say that when I walked away from active duty three years ago, I did so with no regrets. I had a hell of a run, I wrestled my way, and I never compromised what I wanted to do. I walked away with my integrity intact.
But I did walk away with one blank spot on the wall.
I wrestled in my first Ultratitle seventeen years ago, and I lost to JT Tyler in the Sweet Sixteen. He was the undisputed living legend of the first promotion I ever called home, and I took that fact - and the fact that, two months after Doc Silver beat him in the Final Four, JT took the UNIFIED World Championship from Mike Randalls himself. My second attempt was a year later and I made it all the way to the Great Eight, where Julius Godreign knocked me out enroute to losing in the finals to "Golden Boy" Paul Pierce, the man who took the UNIFIED Title home that year.
Third time's the charm?
In a way. Nova ended my run in the Stairway to Hell in the NFW West finals in 2007. I lost, but in doing so I wrestled for seventy minutes in what was undoubtedly the match of the year.
(And again, Eli inhaled deeply, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.)
FLAIR: The only thing in my eighteen year career that I've tried to accomplish without success was an Ultratitle. The only thing that could've pulled me back into the hurricane was the chance to fill the empty space on my wall.
And it was a good decision, I have to say. I've seen some of the boys here that I haven't seen in years. Kevin Powers. Kendall Codine. Lint Douglas. Even Gemini. Some of 'em didn't make it too far, but all of 'em proved that they can still go when they have to.
I've proved that I can stil go when I want to.
Which brings us to you, Sean. Which brings us to me.
(He leaned back, and started to remove the tape from his other hand.)
FLAIR: We have something in common, Sean. Nobody thought either of us would get this far. Everyone seemed to assume Eric Dane would have my number in Round 3. Everyone assumed that if Cancer didn't get you, the Republican Party would.
(Full blown smile.)
FLAIR: Eric Dane showed what he's made of tonight. For all his publicity and all his reputation, he showed the world that the Defiance he so proudly hails is lukewarm and irrelevant. Just like the Phantom Republican showed you, Sean -that to tie yourself to an idealogy without room for expansion or discussion is a recipe for failure.
But we both know all about failure, don't we?
We've both been predicted for it.
I can't speak for your career, Sean - but the experts, the people that apparently study this sport, in'n out, they've always bet against me. Which is a little nonsensical, when y'think about it. On one hand, my opponents - Vagamite, Dylan McKail, and Donny included - always seem t'be operating on two levels. I'm both overrated and overblown, old and out of shape and disrespecting of the grand tradition of the Ultratitle that they were all part of for less than two months... and yet, a victory over Eli Flair was supposed to be the making of the man.
I've been sayin' it since 1994, and I said it when I tossed my name into this year's tournament, Sean - there are two standards in this business. There's a standard that Eli Flair is expected t'live up to, and there's a standard for everyone else.
Ironically, only one've us has fulfilled our end'a the bargain so far. In the all - encompassing sense'a the word.
(Eli put his foot on the bench next to the camera and started to unstrap his first knee pad.)
FLAIR: And then there's you.
You could win this thing, Sean. You have the talent. You have the experience, and you have the advantage of being the wily veteran who knows better, matched up against these witless, talentless shrikes who think you should be overlooked for reasons unfathomable to me.
Of course, that definition also applies to me. With a few exceptions.
The most obvious? I don't have a VWF to divide my attention.
Or a CSWA.
Or a CWC.
Or an Empire, or a New Frontier.
Or even a Defiantly Mediocre.
No, Sean... for the next three weeks, the only thing that's on my mind is you.
(He put up the other foot and removed the other knee pad.)
FLAIR: I excelled at this sport when my concentration was divided, Sean. Do you think the odds move in your favor when I've only got one thing to focus on?
Next year could be your year, Sean. Hell, any year other than now, you'd be one'a my top picks t'go all the way.
Two thousand and twelve?
You're going to get to witness, firsthand, what happens when the irresistible force and the immovable object share the same space called the King of Extreme, and you'll get to experience the unfortunate implications of being his opponent.
(Eli dropped his feet to the floor and leaned in, close enough to make anyone watching this video subconsciously back up.)
FLAIR: But I like you, Sean. And I'm willing t'give you some friendly advice.
You wanna get outta this with a minimum of pain and discomfort?
“Eli Flair, the underdog. Eli Flair, the scrappy little fighter. Eli Flair, the modern day David.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re trying to usurp MY story, Eli!”
The man known as “Simply Sensational” walked across the hotel room. The room was fairly typical, aside from the mountainous pile of makeup on the end table.. but not everyone has a Karla. He pivoted on his rear foot and walked the other way.
“But let’s face it, Eli,” he said as he continued to pace, “nobody’s falling for it… most certainly not me.” He stopped and stared into the camera. “Eli Flair? The GREAT, WONDERFUL, TALENTED, Eli Flair? Nobody expected you to get to the Sweet Sixteen?”
Laughter rang out from behind the camera. It quickly spun around in time to see Miss Karla slapping her thigh.
“THAT is comedy gold,” she barely got out in between fits, “Someone send Cancer Jiles a copy of Eli Flair’s latest.. PLEASE!”
The camera turned back to Edmunds, lured by the sound of snapping fingers.
“I’m only going to indulge you this once, Eli, and entertain this claim that somehow you have been held down by the opinions of others.”
Edmunds walked over to the desk and shuffled through some papers. After a few moments, he grabbed a piece of paper and walked back to where he was.
“I did a random sampling of, let’s see, 41 official predictions made by pundits before the Ultratitle tournament began. When there were 128 people all foaming at the mouth ready to tear through the competition.” He pulled a faux-pair of reading glasses out of his pocket and puts them on, resting them at the very tip of his nose. “And do you know how many of those 41 pundits chose Sean Edmunds to make it to this match we have right now, Eli?”
He paused and waited.
“THREE.” He shook his head with a disappointed look. “And you know how many expect me to go on to the Elite Eight?” He looked up with disdain. “One person, Eli. One.” He looked back down at the paper. “So surely, if we’re so similar as you claim..” he ran his finger across the paper and then looked up, an eyebrow raised. “Hmmm.”
Edmunds took the glasses off .. looked back at the paper, then back at the camera, then back at the paper… and finally back at the camera.
“Twenty-three people, Eli.” He tossed the paper down. “Twenty-three people put you in this match. Nineteen people have you moving on to the next round.. hell 12 people have you going to the Final Four.”
He sneered again.
“So tell me, Eli, how alike we are. Tell me how you’ve been overlooked even though more than HALF of the official predictions I looked at have you in this match from the very beginning … and then explain to me why anyone should believe that you are some sort of underrated upstart just trying to make a name for yourself again.” His eyes burned with fire as he speaks in a ‘holier than thou’ tone, “Eli Flair,” he began, obviously having the review memorized, “has the easiest path to his bracket final of any of the big names.” He drops the tone and continues on in his normal voice, “Even now, Eli, even after I sent Cancer Jiles and the Phantom Republican flailing into oblivion, people look at me with blinders on. ‘Well, Jiles failed and the GOP failed. Surely Eli Flair will succeed.’” His annoyance wears on his face like a snug glove. “I get it, Eli. You’re smarter than all the pundits out there. You know that I have what it takes to send you home empty-handed.”
Edmunds tossed the glasses on the bed and walked to the window. Using two fingers, he pushed down on the blind to peer at the outside.
“But I’m done, Eli. I’m done with your lies and your stories. I’m done with your ‘woe-is-me’ tearfest about how the one thing you’re missing in life is the Ultratitle. I’m the god-damn best fucking wrestler left in this tournament and I’m sick and tired of having to pretend that I’m not.”
Karla finally strolled into the shot and ran her hand down Edmunds’ back.
“You are, Sean,” she cooed. “And Flair knows it.. that’s why he’s trying to swoop in and steal your thunder. He’s done everything expected of him so far .. so much so that his tournament story is boring.”
Karla looked into the camera and winked slyly.
“I know, babe,” Edmunds assured her as he turned around, “and soon everyone else in this tournament will know, too.” Edmunds grabbed Karla by the waist and pulled her into him. “You see, Eli, you’re going to need to focus all of your energies on me. You’re going to need every … last … drop of that evaporating talent pool of yours.” Edmunds smirked. “We’ve never stepped into the ring together before. Despite all the years that we’ve floated in the same circuit.” He shrugged. “I guess you were lucky.”
“When I win the Ultratitle tournament, and mark my words, Eli, I will win the Ultratitle tournament, it will be yet ANOTHER feather in my cap .. as I continue on my quest to make 2012 the year of ‘Simply Sensational’. In the past few months, I was not only the SOLE SURVIVOR at The Experts Rival Factions for Team VWF, but I single-handedly carried the team to victory. SCCW was so embarrassed by my complete and utter destruction of their biggest stars .. that they had to close up shop and disappear into the woods with their tails tucked between their legs.”
Edmunds stood brazenly, his chest puffing out further each time he gloats.
“I’ve defeated the VWF World Heavyweight champion multiple times … the latest occurring not even two weeks ago, in fact.. and I am currently the sole points leader in my Group in the Extreme Tournament..”
Edmunds’ presence seems to have filled the room … it also helps that the camera shot has slowly zoomed in to create that effect without the viewer even realizing.
“I am not Eric Dane. I am not Vagabond or Jacob McKail.”
“I’m going to beat you, Eli. I’m going to beat you in the middle of that ring.”
Karla rolled onto her tippy-toes and gave Edmunds a peck on the cheek.
“If you want,” he quipped, a full-blown smile crossing his lips, “I can send you an autographed copy of the Ultratitle so you can finally fill that blank spot on the wall.” He laughed. “But that blank spot in your career .. well .. you’ll just have to wait ‘til next year.”
Edmund looked deep into the camera, his baby blues piercing the viewer’s soul.
“Don’t adjust your television sets,” he purred, “I am this Sensational.”
And with that, the camera continued zooming in on Edmunds .. his upper torso, his face, his flaring nostrils … and then it cut .. to .. black.
"No, he's just a tool," replied Ivy, "and his chick gets on my nerves."
"Right," said Eli, "I figured."
(FADEIN: The middle of the Merritt Auditorium. There's always a wrestling ring in the middle of the arena area: when they have concerts and festivals and expos of any type it's taken down for logistical purposes, but after the event, the ring always goes back up.
CS Enterprises never forgot where their bread was buttered.
In the middle of the ring, lying flat on his back with his hands behind his head, was 'Total Elimination' Eli Flair. He was wrapped up in his black leather trenchcoat; black combat boots are visible on the other end.)
FLAIR: Eli Flair, the underdog. Eli Flair, the modern day David. Eli Flair, the little engine that could.
Where do you come up with this, Edmunds?
Do you... listen... to your opponents, or do you take individual words and fit them into the role you've already decided that you want 'em in?
In your narrative, according to your reactions, I'm the returning legend with seven hundred and four endorsements in a field of thirty, matched against the terribly underrated Sensational Sean Edmunds, and this is the match that makes his mark on the world of professional wrestling.
Why? Because in your random sampling of asking people about the Ultratitle, more people said my name than yours?
Is that the extent of your righteous anger, Sean? You take the word of a bunch'a idiots and decide you're being held down?
(He sat up, his elbows rested on his knees.)
FLAIR: Ask Dan Ryan about popular opinion, Sean. Ask August Joyce if there's any truth to the rumor that perception decides matches.
Am I the favorite in this match, Sean? Couldn't tell ya. I haven't asked anyone if they think I'm a favorite or an underdog or guaranteed to win or guaranteed to lose. Honestly, I don't give a flying f'k about anyone's opinion over my chances: opinions have nothing to do with reality.
What I did, Sean, was listen to the chatter. What did we hear about?
Eric Dane. Cancer Jiles. Matt Caje. Alias. Max Blackshire. The Phantom Republican.
Maybe you were talking to the independent - thinking, free spirited, anti - mainstream contingent that actually actively get what I do and what I've stood for in this industry, but we all know those people don't answer opinion polls since they're largely meaningless.
But lets pretend opinion polls matter, Sean... and let's pretend that your random sample of six people represents the entire world of professional wrestling. What does it say t'you that here, in two thousand and twelve, what you've declared to be the Year of Simply Sensational what with being a Viking, and defeating an entire wrestling promotion by yourself, and being all Extreme and whatnot, that fifteen times as many people as predicted your success predicted mine.
Outside of the Ultratitle, do you know what the highlight of my year was? Reading War and Peace over the course of two weeks.
Outside of the Ultratitle, do you know how many matches I've wrestled in the past five years? Seven.
Apparently the legend of what I've contributed to the business is stronger than what you're doing in the here 'n now. How's that taste?
(He rolled backwards, ass - over - teakettle, and ended on his knees close to the ropes.)
FLAIR: So what did we learn, Sean?
What you've done this year, all the bragging you're doing? Meaningless. There's only one number that matters right now.
Three - and - oh.
By the numbers, you and I have an equal chance of getting to the Sweet Sixteen. By the numbers, everyone in the Ultratitle right now is exactly as good as each other, and we're all better than the one hundred and twelve wrestlers that didn't make it this far.
I'm not Cancer Jiles, Sean. I'm not Jackson or the Phantom Republican. Never claimed you were any'a my inferior opponents, either.
What's your point?
Is this what this tournament means to you, Sean? Number crunching and statistics and spreadsheets and formulas that provide proof that you're both underrated and the most deserving to win? That's the very definition of an irrational number.
Evaporating skill, Sean? We're in the exact same place. What you're saying is that my skills have evaporated all the way down to the point where we're in the same place, Sean?
Are you sure?
Are you feelin' lucky?
FLAIR: It's not what I have, Sean... it's what I don't have.
I don't have a parrot sittin' on my head with no discernible personality of her own whose entire purpose appears to be to tell me how awesome I am and back up everything I'm sayin'.
Seriously, Karla, you're borderin' on a Stepford wife.
I don't have to work against my own expectations, Sean. You're expectin' to win this thing, because you're bound 'n determined t'make this the Year of Edmunds. Sweatin' the victory is more like it, Sean.
This match has nothing to do with my name or my legacy. I win this match - or this tournament - and I go from the greatest wrestler you've ever seen to the greatest wrestler anyone has ever seen.
My fifteen World Titles, my fifty some-odd secondaries and Hardcores, my main events and Match of the Years and legendary feuds and interviews, none of 'em are devalued. I walk away content with the fact that five years after my full time career ended, I'm better than ninety percent of the best wrestlers of two thousand twelve.
You want an analogy? Ten years ago, the best song released - at least in my opinion - came outta nowhere. In the age of shallow hip hop, shallow generic metal, and pop vomit, one song made people remember.
'You Know You're Right.'
Written eight years prior.
Legends live forever, Sean. You feelin' tired?
No, I'm bein' condescending just for the sake 'a bein' condescending. But all'a the accolades and accomplishments you've tossed out at me today? They're just a bunch'a letters t'me. As far as I'm concerned, you made 'em all up to sound better.
You probably didn't, but I don't care enough about 'em to verify. Wins over a bunch'a idiots that Hornet, Randalls, and I would've demolished in about six second a decade ago.
Today? Seven seconds. See how easy it is to make predictions that you don't have t'back up?
Three and oh, Sean. Three and oh are all that matter.
But this particular pairing'a three wins... doesn't really favor you, does it?
(He rolled backward onto his feet and stood up, and walked swiftly toward the camera.)
FLAIR: You've been havin' a good year, you say, Sean. California wildfire. Uncontrollable 'n powerful beyond all measure.
Hiroshima, mother f'ker.
FLAIR: I look at you, Sean, and I listen t'you rattle off all'a your accomplishments, and all I hear is a man tryin' his hardest to justify his place against a superior opponent. As if you're tryin' to convince yourself that you've got a shot.
You sure ain't tryin' t'convince me, because I've lost to opponents worse than you and I've beaten opponents better than you. Ain't nothing you can say t'me that'll change my opinion on our matchup.
Karla doesn't have a mind'a her own, all she does is nod and say 'You're right, Sean, you're right. You might need t'replace her batteries.
So it's you, Sean. You're tryin' t'convince yourself that you've got the stones to get past the King of Extreme.
Now, tell me... why should I give you the time'a day... if you don't even believe in yourself?
"Hey, Ivy," said Eli.
"Did I get that math sh't right?"
"Yeah," replied Ivy, "you were pretty accurate."
"Nice," said Eli. "Might've been twenty five years since I took trig, but I paid attention both days I went to class."
The camera shot slowly faded in as “Simply Sensational” Sean Edmunds backed away from the camera he placed on top of what we can only assume is his television. He continued to inch backwards, reaching behind him until he hit the arm of the couch, and then took a seat.
“I said I was done and I am. If you want to completely ignore what you said in your own video about how no one expected you to be in the Sweet Sixteen, when 23 of the 41 official predictions had you here before this thing even kicked off.. about how all your life the experts betted against you when just days earlier one of those same experts said you had the easiest road to the finals of ANY competitor remaining in this tournament.. then,” he shrugged nonchalantly, “that’s on you. This ain’t 1995 anymore, Eli. You can’t just tape over the VHS cassette and re-record a new video where you go ON and ON,” Edmunds rolled his hand in the air, “and ON about how your opponent is apparently practicing some sort of voodoo mathematics. It’s out there for the world to see.” He leaned toward the camera and raised an eyebrow, “but hey, like I said, I’m done indulging your personality disorder.”
Edmunds leaned back into the couch and rested his arms across the top of the cushions.
“I mean, honestly, I’m not sure if it is just your own recklessness .. or if you honestly push the things you say out of your mind as soon as they slither off your tongue. Is it early onset of Alzheimer’s? Is Ivy just not keeping you abreast of the things you spout off, or maybe you think that if you say something fast enough or if you say a bunch of things all at once and surround it with really cheap strawman arguments, that no one will remember?” Edmunds shook his head. “You were lured out of retirement by the chance to win the one thing that has eluded you all your career. Don’t try to deny it, Eli. You sent heads all across the country crashing to their tables, desks, pillows, etc. etc. after giving us a history lesson from events that took place seventeen years ago. You know, back when picking up the telephone would ruin a good ole’ porno-picture that had taken ten minutes to download half the damn image by knocking you off-line..”
The door behind Edmunds slammed shut. He glanced over his shoulder as Karla dropped two brown grocery bags on the counter.
“Oh, I loved 1995! Waterfalls by TLC, Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio!” Karla quickly scooted around the couch and plopped down next to Edmunds.
Edmunds rubbed her knee, “And the year that Eli Flair lost in the Sweet Sixteen to JT Tyler, but that was okay because two months after Doc Silver beat JT Tyler in the finals, JT Tyler won the title from Mi…”
Before Edmunds could finish the sentence, Karla began to wobble back and forth and her head eventually plummeted to the couch cushion next to her.
“See what you do, Eli?” He sighed. “Karla’s out cold. Or maybe she ran out of batteries. I dunno, I’ll ask the Puttermans for some Duracells and maybe that’ll patch her right back up.”
“But really, I mean, can you blame people?” He raised his hands, palms up. “Eli Flair comes into their living room, dorm room, wherever, and starts talking about his reoccurring failures. About how his Ultratitle past is less-than-stellar.” He looked into the camera with disbelief. “Really, Eli? Is that the track record you’re trying to impress me with? I better pack my belongings and get ready to exit the Ultratitle tournament by someone who can’t get the job done? JT Tyler. Julius Godreign. Nova. Maybe if they were my opponents in the Sweet Sixteen, beads of sweat would dot my forehead. But Eli Flair?” Guffaw! “Thanks, but no thanks, buddy. I like my chances.”
Edmunds pushed himself up off the couch and made his way, as the camera followed, to the back porch. Edmunds pulled the handle of the sliding glass door and stepped into the breezy beach air before pulling one of the chairs out from the table to take a seat.
“But let’s talk business, Eli, because I know that last round your opponent, well,” Edmunds closes and eye and nods his head back and forth as if to say “ehhhhh”, “He sort of disappeared on you. Came into town with his head out of the game. Practically laid down in the middle of the ring for you.” A smile. “Par for the course for the imbeciles in DEFIANCE from what I hear.”
He paused for a moment to reach down and pop open the cooler next to the table. A few seconds later, a nice cold bottle of spring water rested in his hand.
“But, you see, I’m not exactly a take-my-ball and go home type of guy. I’m not a primadonna. I don’t throw huge hissyfits.” Inside the house, you can hear a “LIKE HELL YOU DON’T!” … but Edmunds’ ignored it. “You won’t get second-rate commitment from me, Eli. I’m gunning for the Elite Eight. I’m gunning for the Ultratitle. I don’t have an empty spot above my mantle that I’m longing to fill. I didn’t put down 50 Shades of Grey to chase some dream that’s long passed me by.” He sneered. “The Ultratitle will be the feather in my cap. Just one more indication that the Jubilee of Simply Sensational is in full-swing.”
Edmunds lifted the bottled water to his lips, “Today the Ultratitle. Tomorrow the Extreme Tournament. Then the World… Heavyweight championship of the VWF, that is.” He took a few gulps. Then placed the bottled water on the table. “Don’t worry, Eli,” he smiled wide, “when you become ‘Totally Eliminated,’ you can have Ivy strap the catheter back in and I’ll dedicate my impending domination of the rest of these talentless hacks to you.” He shrugged, “For inspiring me... and showing me that even when you fail time and time again, it’s the chase that’s meaningful.”
Edmunds laughed as he prepared to take another gulp of water. He raised an eyebrow, though.
“I must thank you, I suppose, for acknowledging that I’ve been burning through my competition across the *wrestling world. I really do appreciate the compliment.” He scratched his temple. “But I’m somewhat confused about why you would, seemingly out of the blue, question my own confidence heading into this match .. when you compared yourself to a city that was devastated by an atomic bomb.” A smarmy smirk is struggling to break through. “I mean, I know you’ve struggled to be successful in the Ultratitle tournament .. but to say that you’ve been utterly demolished?”
“He’s saying that he’s the Atomic Bomb,” Karla dryly replied.
The camera spun around to Karla standing in the doorway, shaking her head at Edmunds.
“Oooooooooooooooooooooh!” he exclaimed. “Well, then, I suppose he’s got a point. He is Hiroshima.”
Karla sauntered over to Edmunds and plopped down onto his lap.
“I mean, let’s face it, Eli Flair’s history is littered with ‘second-bests’.. and Nagasaki was the bigger bomb.” Edmunds smiled. “But then again, I’m sure Eli’ll forget all about that when he responds.”
“He’s just upset that I called him boring.”
“Eli, listen.” Edmunds stared into the camera, his eyes sparkling. “You were a hell of a competitor years ago. You’ve done a great service to Vagabond, McKail, and even Dane. They’ll grow from their experience in the ring with you. But the only reason you came hopping out of that rabbit hole was for my Ultratitle. And when I walk out of the match victorious, maybe, just maybe, when you’re 30,000 miles in the air, you’ll use this experience to better yourself .. you know, for the next time Ivy digs out your sarcophagus for the umpteenth attempt at closure.”
“Don’t adjust your television sets,” he paused to look around at his settings, “I am this Sensational!”
As the camera faded to black, Karla turned her head to Edmunds.
“Wait,” she questioned, “does Flair even realize what the Hiroshima Bomb was called?”
Edmunds cocked his head and raised an eyebrow, “What was it called?”
Karla turned to the camera and deadpanned, “Little Boy.”
(FADEIN on the basement. Eli Flair sat in the main chair at the control panel of the studio, his legs crossed, his hands on the armrests, sort of swiveling back and forth.
He stopped about two seconds after the video clicked on, as if he was 'pacing' in the chair to collect his thoughts.
After one more spin, he stopped, facing straight into the camera. Behind him, the actual studio was dark.)
FLAIR: So this is what the sport I gave my blood, sweat, and years to has become.
This is what I fought for over the course of fifteen years. This is the end result of the barbed wire, the cages, the ladders, the sixty and seventy minute marathons, and - according to McGinnis - the last recorded wrestling promos that actually challenged the boys and the fans to think.
I don't agree with her assessment, by the by. I may look down on most'a you but I'm not completely heartless.
But this is what it comes down to, Edmunds? You say a lot of words that your Stepford Wife parrots, signifying nothing.
Twenty three of forty one official predictions had me here before the first match, Edmunds, while three official predictions put you here?
(Eli started to talk, but stopped, covered his face with his hand and looked up, annoyance written all over his face.)
FLAIR: I did some homework, Edmunds. I actually went out there 'n found the official predictions from the experts that you've been railin' about for the past two days.
(He leaned forward, looking quite serious.)
FLAIR: Do you know what I found? Do you know what it takes to be an expert, according to you, Edmunds? All it takes is an email address.
Think about that.
You're stressing yourself, you're ranting 'n ravin' - all because a bunch'a random f'k jackoffs said so? Damn, son, do you realize that in the field'a experts that you're puttin' all your chips on, someone picked that idiot Tarrasque to win? Someone picked Jester boy to win.
But you're stressin' over the negative, Edmunds. McGinnis likes to say that opinions are like as*holes - the Internet's full'a both. And you're givin' me hell because what, twenty three people said 'Eli Flair's gonna make it to Round 4'?!?
(He stopped, unmoving, for about five seconds.)
FLAIR: Are you sure you're not makin' fun'a yourself, kiddo? Is this all just a send - up that proves my original point?
I mean... let's look at it a different way. I looked at the final four predictions for these idiots because I don't do this computer thing: nobody chose you for a final four berth, let alone a victory. One person chose me to win.
Seven people picked either Dan Ryan or Joe the Plumber.
In a field'a one twenty eight, Edmunds - when you've got different communities comin' together to make this work, you're gonna get a ton'a disposable heroes and dime - a - dozen villains who get picked t'make it farther than they should because the people makin' the picks don't know half the names.
Sh*t, apparently it was a scandal that I'd never heard'a Eric Dane. Why would I? But instead'a sittin' on my ass, b*tchin' about how only one person thinks I can win this tournament - I said 'I'm currently better than one hundred and twelve of the top rated wrestlers in the history of this industry.'
More t'the point, I didn't say a motherf'kin' thing about it, because I ain't never seen this thing until you told me about it and McGinnis punched it up for me.
If you had the slightest bit'a personal pride, you wouldn't dwell on this sh*t, Edmunds; you'd laugh at it. Like I did.
(He covered his mouth with his hands as if he was mock - surprised.)
FLAIR: Did I just dismiss the wrestling fans? Wouldn't be the first time. But by your rationale, Edmunds, if I went into those 'expert predictions' with a hundred anonymous identities, and picked Sean Edmunds to win for every single one'a them, would you no longer be the underdog? Would you suddenly be The Man To Beat in this tournament?
Or would the opinions of people fillin' out a bracket mean exactly then, what it means now: not a god damn thing?
For the record, Edmunds, not once did I ever refer to a group of amateur brackets when I referred to the people who study this business. Not once did I ever even have as a thought in my head, the people who fill out brackets to be either experts or real people.
I guarantee you, every single one of those defined - by - you - experts have at least ten matches in their brackets where they picked one over the other because they 'never heard of the opponent.'
And these are the people you're basing your external chances on?
(Eli shook his head.)
FLAIR: I've listened to a series of radio shows and read a bunch'a in-depth analysis on the various matches and brackets and predictions, and none'a the stuff I've checked out have been a 'Select this option to choose a winner and be a Sean Edmunds endorsed expert on all things Ultratitle.'
No, Sean - when I said nobody thought either of us would get this far, I was referring to the actual conversations that took place where the matches were analyzed, dissected, deconstructed, reconstructed, and talked about in far too much detail by people who actually went out and tried to learn about the various participants. Sometimes they had more information than others, but every bit of discussion was predicated on actual research and tendencies.
I didn't hear my name past the discussion for the second round, and I don't know that I heard your name at all.
My original comment, Edmunds, was congratulatory to both of us, for taking the expectations of the experts as I define them, and shoving them up their collective asses. My original comment, Edmunds, was a compliment. But you seem to have this need for tension, and for there to be a problem.
Congratulations, you got your wish: and it's your problem.
(He leaned back in his chair.)
FLAIR: There is a fundamental difference between being overlooked and being an underdog, Edmunds. You're an underdog. A group of untalented monkeys decided you weren't going to make it this far, so you took that up as your mantle. Maybe you've been outmatched your entire career and it's been one long, continuous string of overcoming the odds? Don't know, won't pretend to know enough about you to bother.
I've never been the underdog. I've never fought the odds unless it's been draggin' myself to the ring for a World Title shot on a bum leg and still stole the show. You know what I've been, Edmunds?
Taken for granted.
My career might contain more gold than the Defiance brain trust put together, but it's also been an endless string'a 'We'll put Eli on third from the top, he'll give the fans something t'talk about and keep the momentum hot for the main event.' I knew my role in this industry, Edmunds - it was to deliver unforgettable moments to the fans while the heroes 'n villains took it home. And I loved it.
That's right, I loved bein' taken for granted. T'me, it meant that nobody had to say a thing t'me, it was just understood that I'd make every match memorable.
I ain't jealous, I never wanted t'be the top guy. Too much pressure t'have a company on your shoulders and t'be responsible for the take - home'a the rest'a the boys. I was proud'a my role as the guy who never disappointed, and I'm just as proud'a the fact that when I left this business, it was at my absolute peak. There ain't a single person alive - fan, wrestler, promoter, or expert - who could honestly make a case for overstaying my welcome.
Believe me - you can ask the three stooges who tried their best to say otherwise - I'm proud'a my body'a work and wouldn't be here if I wasn't ready to steal the show one more time.
That's the difference between us, Edmunds. You're so intent on bein' the top guy, on takin' the spotlight all for yourself, you can't see the big picture.
FLAIR: You've dealt with cocky for three rounds so far, and you've been able t'donkey punch your opponents one after the other on a technicality: the fact that they could talk a good game but when it came time t'back it up, their talent shriveled worse than Joey Melton on his honeymoon when he had t'try to be the man.
I don't have that problem.
You could win, Edmunds, and you could lose. You win, congratulations, you get to move on to the Elite Eight. You lose, congratulations, you can go back to becoming World Champion of the vikings.
In that respect, we're also very similar. I win, I move on. I lose, I go home.
I've said it from before the tournament began, Edmunds, no matter how much you or Donny tried to spin it the other way: I want the Ultratitle. I certainly don't need the Ultratitle. Closure is for people with something to prove.
FLAIR: Makes sense, then - that you'd be the one t'bring it up.
(He stood up and walked out of frame. After a few seconds of silence and stillness in frame, the camera abruptly jerked to the side, facing the soundproof door that led from the studio to the house. Eli was in frame, but as he was much taller than the camera, all you could see was the design on his shirt that was the simple letters W.W.A.D.)
FLAIR: As far as Hiroshima and the Little Boy are concerned, Edmunds, ask yourself something: are you really comparing destructive power of one atomic bomb against another?
(He chuckled again, off camera)
FLAIR: If that's all you've got: that my analogy of a California Wildfire against a bomb that destroyed a city was faulty because it wasn't a bomb that destroyed a bigger city... do yourself a favor and tap out during the opening instructions from the referee.
Even better, don't even get outta bed for the Sweet Sixteen.
Nothing good can happen to you that day if you're resorting to arguing semantics over varying power of weapons of mass destruction... if that's all you got, you lost this thing the moment you first said my name.
The sound of grunting and mat-slamming can be heard.
“Oh, I don’t think so!” the familiar voice commanded. “Stopped in your tracks!”
A bell rang forth, followed by the canned sound of a crowd jeering.
“YES! YES! YES! YES!”
The camera finally shook to life as “Simply Sensational” Sean Edmunds stood in his boxers, holding his Xbox 360 controller in the air. The camera zoomed past him onto the television where the Sean Edmunds CAW stands similarly with his arms raised. A defeated avatar of Eli Flair rolled to the outside of the ring and brushed his hands in the air with disappointment.
“Preparation?” The camera spun around and focused on Miss Karla. She leaned against the pillar, a cup of coffee, or tea, resting comfortably in her hands. She picked up the NFW-branded game and scanned the front cover, which featured an image of the hellacious NFW Western Conference Finals match between Nova and the aforementioned Flair. Bored, she tossed it on the couch next to Edmunds. “With a game from 2007?”
“Well, I mean, Flair hasn’t wrestled professionally since this game was released, so I figured what better way to scout out his repertoire.” Edmunds gloated happily at the screen. “See? The Elite Eight just got more Sensational!”
Karla rolled her eyes. “How about you shower and head to the gym today? The match is coming up soon.”
Edmunds stared vacantly at Karla.
“You know,” she paused, “that place with weights… and a ring.. and, most importantly, a sparring partner?”
Edmunds turned and stared at the television, his CAW still celebrating in the ring. “But I have Codine next!”
Edmunds turned back to Karla and pointed helplessly at the television. Karla slowly shook her head in disapproval.
“Ugh, fine.” Edmunds caved. “I didn’t finish the Codine CAW correctly anyway. He still wrestles too much like Beau Michaels..”
“He’s strawmanning again, is he?” Edmunds punched at the red ball. “Still going on about numbers and what constitutes an ‘official expert?’” He punched at it again.
“You know Eli, he gets so wrapped up in one small detail he forgets why we’re on the subject in the first place.” Karla dabbed Edmunds’ chest with a towel.
“He thinks he can change the subject,” Edmunds shrugged, “Let him try. He’s just wasting energy on something that I don’t need to drag out in front of the television cameras for THIRTY-FUCKING MINUTES,” Edmunds broke the fourth-wall and stared directly into the camera. Finally he went back to punching the bag, “Fact of the matter is, he tried to say that no one expected him to be in the Sweet Sixteen. I called him out. Now he’s butt-hurt and trying to divert attention from the fact that Eli Flair is exactly where everyone thought he’d be right now.”
“Yea, but Eli Flair has always been a one-trick pony.” She tossed the towel to the side and began to help Edmunds take off the gloves. “Sparring partner just got here. Should be out in a few.”
“I’ll do a quick 5-minute cardio then.”
Edmunds began walking to the bikes. He grabbed an ice-cold bottled water from one of the many fridges in the gym and sat on the closest bike he could find.
“Eli, save all your clarifications, your back-tracking, and your self-serving doublespeak for the interviews you’ll have to give after I’ve dumped your ass out of the Ultratitle Tournament.” He hit a few buttons and began peddling. “Because I couldn’t care less. In your world, as you’ve said, there’s an Eli Flair standard and a standard for the rest of us. You operate on deceit, on twisted words and confused looks. It should be interesting, then, to watch your world implode when I pin your shoulders to the mat… to watch as you curl up and realize that the Ultratitle will never be yours.” He smirks. “I know, I know, Eli. You want the Ultratitle, but you don’t need it.”
Edmunds began to peddle at a steady pace, and sat straight up, causing the monitor to beep at him.
“Nobody believes that for a second, Eli.”
“What about those 41 smarks?” Karla walked into the shot.
He tossed her a sly look. “Nobody, Karla. Because the fact of the matter remains, Eli Flair has an empty spot in his trophy room just waiting .. just WAITING to be filled by the Ultratitle. Nobody is that obsessed unless they really, really really need the object they’re obsessing over.”
“A few more minutes on the bike.”
Edmunds nodded and bent back down to grab the sensors.
“For all those years that you toiled away as a second-tier talent, you would think that you would have more appreciation for what I’m trying to do. Here I am trying to finally get the recognition I deserve after continually being told that my match versus Chump A would be my swan song in the Ultratitle Tournament … or my match versus Chump B would be my last.. or my match versus Chump Eli would be my last… surely someone like yourself would admire my drive and determination.” He wiped his forehead. “I know, Eli, you ended your career while you were at the top of your game …”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Now would you consider the end of your career to be the loss against Nova in the Western Conference Finals, the loss against Dan Ryan at Wrestlebowl Night 2 .. or is there another embarrassing loss somewhere that I wasn’t able to find that you consider ‘going out at the peak’ of your career?”
He shook his head as if to say ‘whatever.’
“Whatever.” He grabbed the bottled water and refreshed himself. “The fact of the matter is that while you’ve been re-writing your own personal history in the years that you’ve been away from the ring, I’ve been out there day in and day out. Instead of bettering my stories, Eli, I’m bettering myself. You should try it sometime …”
The bike beeped repeatedly signaling the end of his cardio. After dismounting the bike, he began walking to the ring in the distance.
“So you can make the coy comments about where I’m currently wrestling. You can try to sweep the fact that you’re stepping into the ring with a man who is demolishing the competition in two separate tournaments and beating World Heavyweight champions right here in 2012, under the rug.. but you can’t run from that fact. You can live in 1995. You can look back fondly to 2007 .. you can tell the world ten-times over that you walked away as the greatest wrestler in your lifetime… but this isn’t your time anymore. You’re a popular choice with the critics. You’re a popular choice with the smarks. Even five years out the game, the experts chose you to go far in this thing .. wisely, there was only one idiot who thought you’d take the entire tournament .. but there’s no accounting for poor taste.”
“Some might say that you’re the novelty pick.. People look back seventeen years ago and they remember what you were like when the world was at your feet .. they look back to five years ago and remember the machine you say you once were… but Sean Edmunds, I am that machine right now. I am the better, newer, and improved Eli Flair.”
“You seem to want to try to push me into this box, Eli. You want me to dwell on the fact that I’ve been told over and over that I am weak .. not talented enough to move forward… that every match is my last here … but you’re so blinded by the world that you’ve created for yourself, that you ignore reality.” He flexed. “I don’t care that Vegas says you’re going to win by a comfortable margin. I don’t care that all the chatter says that you have the easiest road to the bracket finals of any competitor. If I listened to that, I would have been gone in the first round. If I were to believe the idiots running around talking … I wouldn’t have saved this tournament from the idiocy of Cancer Jiles. I wouldn’t have saved this tournament from the blandness of the Phantom Republican.. and I wouldn’t be saving this tournament from your one-trick-pony show.”
Edmunds reached the ring and hoisted himself onto the apron.
“Face it, Eli.” He stepped through the ropes. “This is 2012… and you’re 200-late.”
Edmunds turned to face his sparring partner. He threw some punches in the air before dropping his jaw. Standing across from him … at a mean 5-foot-4, 160 pounds .. is an elderly man.
“KARLA!” he yelled.
Laughter could be heard echoing off the gym’s walls … somewhere Karla was having a grand old time.
The camera focused in on Sean Edmunds as he stood in front of his television. He glanced around to see if Karla was anywhere in sight, and being satisfied that she wasn’t, turned on the Xbox360.
“I can fit in one more Eli-bashing before I go to bed,” he convinced himself.
The screen lit up and Edmunds began setting up the one-on-one bout between E-Flair and E-Edmunds.
Edmunds tensed up and gripped his controller.
He turned around and was met with Karla’s confused look.
“Really? I thought we went over this.” She walked over to Edmunds, but he slowly moved the controller to behind his back. “Give it to me,” she demanded.
“C’mon, what harm is ONE more game going to do?”
He pressed the start button behind his back .. all of a sudden the Edmunds CAW came waltzing down the walkway… a sexed up blonde walking behind him.
“IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?!” Karla wailed.
“Oh, ha! Yeaaaaaa.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. One mor..”
Eli Flair’s “video package” interrupted her and she stared at it in disbelief.
“Oh my,” she stood there dumbfounded.
“It’s a relic of the times, Karla!” Edmunds rested his forearms on her shoulder to get in a better position.
Karla walked over to the Xbox and turned it off.
“But!” He began to protest.
Karla held up a finger.
“No, Sean. Just no. Leave that game where it belongs; in the past.” She signed. “I’m going to bed. Make sure you’re up early tomorrow… I want to get to the arena as soon as possible tomorrow so that I can start redecorating Troy Windham’s old locker room to my liking.”
Karla walked out of the room, her head shaking the entire way. Edmunds watched her go and then looked down at the controller.
“I mean, I know that when he walks in the entrance video, Flair looks like an ape with a dildo up its ass.. but she didn’t have to turn it off.”
Edmunds was met with only silence. He shrugged.
“I guess I really should leave things in the past that belong in the past.” He looked into the camera, “maybe, Eli, you should, too.”
The lights in this small, damp hallway lurched back and forth on the ceiling. The faux-spotlight ran down one wall, across the dusty floor, and up the opposite wall. In the background voices peppered the air.
“THIS!? FLAIR DID THIS! HE HAD TO HAVE!”
The screeching voice of a harpy raged on.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! SWEET SIXTEEN AND THIS! WE GET THIS!”
All of a sudden, a beam of light emerged from a dark corner. The creaking sound of what must be hundred year wood followed almost immediately after. Miss Karla, in full regalia, swatted at the air in front of her.
“SPIDERWEBS! FROM 1695! I AM GOING TO KILL HIM!” She cautiously stepped forward into the hallway.
“Simply Sensational” Sean Edmunds gave her a little bump from behind and smiled. He shut the door behind them.
“It’s okay, Karla.” He attempted to soothe her. “After tonight, Eli won’t be around to try to play mind games.”
“OKAY?! HOW IS THIS OKAY! I PRACTICALLY GOT A SPRAY-TAN FROM THE SHOWER!”
“Oh, c’mon, Karla, the water wasn’t THAT rusty.” He chuckled.. and then sideswiped a balled fist headed in his direction. “Come here.” He reached for her hands and pulled her close. “I need you focused out there, babe.”
She huffed as the two moved underneath the swinging spotlight. “I should have known he would try to pull something like this,” she fumed, the steam pouring from her ears.
Wait. No. That’s steam from a pipe behind her. Hard to tell at first since the light keeps moving.
“You’re just mad that you didn’t think of it first,” he remarked coyly.
She glared at him, but then shrugged. “Well, that thought MAY have crossed my mind.”
Edmunds smirked. “Eli Flair knows that he’s going to have to pull out all the stops to beat me tonight.” His eyes darted down to Karla’s loaded purse. “And I’ve come prepared to make sure that won’t happen.”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
“Now let’s go out there and show the world once again that Sean Edmunds … is the BRACKET BREAKER.”
The two locked eyes and gazed longingly .. until the light above the head began to flicker. They looked up .. just in time for the sole light in the hallway to burn out, leaving them in complete darkness.
“As soon as we figure out how to get out of this hallway,” Edmunds quipped.
Karla’s frustration ends the scene … and the camera cuts … what? It’s already black!
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