"They say it was the heat of the moment, it was a declaration made out of emotion, not logic - and that I should take a few days to let it marinate, then quietly withdraw."
"There's variations on the theme, but my social media has pretty much exploded with this sentiment. Has Impulse lost his mind? Does he realize that he's put forth a 50-50 chance that, by his own words, he's going to retire at the conclusion of Wrestleverse? Hasn't it dawned on him that this is a Four Corners match, where the outcome is determined by much more than just his and his opponents' skill?"
"Yeah, I've thought about it."
"I'm All In."
(FADEIN... on the Official Poster For WRESTLEVERSE. The four of us are taking the prime real estate while the rest of the matches are given pretty much equal billing.
Except for 'Eli Flair and Aaron Jones.' Eli is apparently still trying to get their team named 'Jonestown Tea.' Dude. Too soon.
I had made a suggestion to Freedman that I'm glad to see was heeded - the Empire Pro World Title belt is plastered behind all four of our heads, showing what we're fighting for. Not only does it look cool, but it's a subtle middle finger in The First's eyeball since he's not wearing it on the poster.
Let's do this.)
"I've been laughed at for calling myself counterculture. I've been mocked for referring to my career as a Revolution."
"It's always by people who don't understand the meaning of words."
"Revolution: a sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work or think, etc."
"This industry got away from wrestling a few years back, and it became all about the gimmick."
"What are you? A cowboy. A muppet. A slacker. A stoner. A viking. A film director. The Oldest Soul in the Universe. A Locker Room Cancer. "
"And everyone yawned when I said I was a wrestler. Everyone said 'Kid, you're too small to make an impact without a gimmick to catch the fans' attention. I entered this sport with nothing but my ability."
Not even a face.
"I was too small to make an impact without a gimmick, but I did. I was too small to catch the fans' attention, but I did."
"I'm a wrestler."
"And that's all I ever needed to be. That's what this business needs."
"Counterculture: A culture with values and views that run counter to those of established society."
"The Empire's culture features a political predator as its World Champion."
"The man who sets the tone."
"The culture of Professional Wrestling, for far too long, has been 'Win, any way you can - but be shocking as often as possible.' When everything's done for shock value, nothing's shocking anymore. When a chair to the head is as legitimate a wrestling hold as a single leg takedown, wrestling has become counter to its values."
"I'm counterculture... I'm a revolutionary... simply by being a wrestler."
"Think about how ridiculous this sounds, just for a second. But it's true. And it's working."
"And of the hundreds and hundreds of E-Mails, tweets, and Facebook messages that I've received since I went All In, this is what the fans needed to rejuvenate their love of this sport. This is what the fans needed to realize that there are still principled athletes who will defend their integrity and the integrity of the sport with everything they have."
"I won't let the fans down. I can't."
"It's a simple thing: I am the best wrestler in the Empire, and I'm willing to stake my career on that. So often you hear people make the most grandiose of statements and never have to back it up."
Grandiose: great word, huh?
"Well, I'm nothing if not my own man. It's all or nothing on this."
Almost all, and almost nothing, anyway.
"Except for Rocko Daymon. I'm okay with Rocko Daymon walking out of this match as the Empire Pro World Champion, for a very simple reason: the line of succession stops with him."
"Rocko won the title and never got to defend it before injuries forced him to vacate. That means Rocko has a bigger claim to the belt than Cameron Cruise and his Poor Unfortunate Soul does. Rocko has a bigger claim to the belt than the Sad King Anarky. Rocko has a bigger claim to the belt than either member of the The family."
"Rocko, I don't consider you the best wrestler in this match, but I do consider you to be the most worthy to compete for the Empire Pro Championship than any of our other opponents. I'm gonna come at you with everything I've got, and I'm gonna do my best to both make the pinfall and keep you from doing the same, but when the bell rings, if you've got your hand raised I'll applaud you and shake your hand."
"And since it won't be me who gets pinned in that circumstance... I hope you'll be man enough to put the belt on the line in a one on one, fair and equitable rematch."
Yes, I'm willing to do the same.
"But I won't be giving any quarter to the fact that I'm going to win. I have to win."
"I've been saying it for six years: I have to win."
"It's a situation I've been in before; wrestling for the World Title with everything on the line. Maybe not so much physically, as psychologically."
"You remember that, right Castor? I think you were there."
"This isn't like the last time we danced this dance. There isn't anyone in the background telling us in so many words, 'Yeah, you've got the belt but your pitch count is thirty.' There's no grand overseer and there's nobody that's being touted as 'more important than the World Title.'"
"This is it."
"This is the biggest prize in the world of Professional Wrestling, which makes it fitting that Impulse and Castor Strife are competing for it."
"I only wish Castor Strife was involved in the match."
"Because the man standing in front of us, calling himself Castor Strife, isn't the same man who took professional wrestling by storm."
"What did Cally say? Money will cool people out every time, and that's what happened here."
"This ain't about mainstream versus indie, Castor. This ain't about selling out or buying in. This is about you presenting yourself one way until you had the money, the power, and the respect... then doing a complete 180."
"Which is the real Castor Strife? Outlaw wrestler? Demented director? Or the Establishment? The Authority Figure? The guy who enforces the rules?"
Do you even know anymore?
"Strife, Stryfe... whoever you are... professional wrestling has passed you by. And you have nobody to blame but yourself."
"Or you could blame The First."
"I've gotta hand it to you, The First... you're good."
Not at wrestling.
"You know how to play the game. You know how to garner the most headlines and the biggest paycheck - by being the World Champion - while putting in the least possible amount of work."
That's known as the 'Screw you, I got mine' philosophy that's popular with the worst aspects of conservative Americans. Is Muse's mind blown yet?
"To have held onto the Empire Pro World Title for as long as you have without doing it through your wrestling ability is impressive. To have won the title for the first time on a wave of fan support, then to turn around and tell 'em that you were a lying scumbag who never gave two bits about em... That's a sociopath of a different color."
"We danced this dance once before with a few less partners, and yes - you got the three count."
"Because you know how to play the game."
Not because you knew how to wrestle.
"Everyone in this industry, in the world, in the universe - has something to lose. Even a man like Rezin has something or someone that they're afraid of losing. And I give you credit for retaining your title against me, The First - by having Muse attack Rose."
A half second delay was all the opening you needed.
"You certainly have the moral low ground considering you're in the same boat - and I wonder what your reaction would be if you had an opponent or an affiliate of your opponent who decided to beat the hell out of Muse while you tried to focus on a title defense."
Probably wouldn't happen, most of the wrestlers I've come across have standards.
"But I should thank you - and Rocko Daymon should thank you. And Castor Strife, wherever he is, should thank you."
"You've laid your cards on the table, The First. You've got no more tricks."
"You've got no more fig leaves to hide behind, and the Emperor wears no clothes."
"My career against your title. Interesting how you're putting up something that you have no credible claim on. I'm not worried."
(Our shot fades in slowly on a long and extended fly-by shot of the snow-covered mountain peaks of the Cascade Range, with the symphonic number “Mars, Bringer of War” of the Planets suite. After a few moments, a VOICE resounds...)
The message has always been clear since the day I walked back through the door…
“Rocko Daymon is here to reclaim his World Heavyweight Title.”
And despite all the obstacles put in my path, both physical and mental, I have found the will and perseverance to bring myself within one step of fulfilling that bold promise made a little over a year ago.
So if you haven’t been listening… now would be a good time to start.
(We fade to a shot of the speaker, ROCKO DAYMON, standing before the Wrestleverse V banner and sporting his “Fumetsu” brand t-shirt. He speaks with full conviction and an unwavering gaze…)
It would seem an ample opportunity for me to lay down a Richard Sherman-style speech in regards to what went down back at Aggression 76… but honestly, I’m not feeling it.
Cam… I speak with nothing but respect when I say that you are -- and always have been -- one of the toughest sons of bitches I’ve ever locked horns with over the course of my career. What you delivered in that ring back in Philadelphia was nothing short of World Championship caliber… and once again, you proved yourself to be Empire Pro’s undisputed centerpiece athlete.
I can easily say… I wouldn’t be half the athlete I am today if you haven’t been the man that continuously pushed my limits over all the years we’ve been at it. And what you brought in that ring pushed my limits yet again.
If I had been a half second slower up there on that top turnbuckle… then my Mission would be over, and you’d be walking into Wrestleverse Five with an opportunity to win back the World Heavyweight Title. And I have no doubt… you would have a great chance in retaking it, had that been the case. But it’s not… because you made one small mistake.
(He tilts his head to the side ever so slightly, his already stern gaze seeming to harden even more.)
You expected me to quit.
(He shakes his head.)
You can call me out on all the times I’ve walked away from this game… but that’s not the case at present.
Maybe you were right when you said you didn’t have to kill me in order to win and move on, but if you were expecting me to just roll over and die and accept that I couldn’t beat you, then you’ve sorely underestimated how far I’m willing to go to get what I want. And so I refused to give up in those final moments, as the two of us stood locked together at that great height. As I said, Cam… regardless of the questionable choices I’ve made in the past, right now there is no quitting for me. I’m too far in to turn back…
I have no doubt that sooner than later, you will get your chance to settle the score. And who knows… maybe the big strap will be on the line when that time eventually comes, and we can give this federation a TRUE reality check in professional wrestling excellence. But to get there, I have to move on… and make the best of this victory.
I have to finish the Mission… there in the ring, at Wrestleverse V.
(Scarred, modestly tattooed arms fold over each other over the former champion’s chest, obscuring the Japanese lettering on his chest. He takes a step forward, as does the camera, and now he fills the frame just a bit more.)
This has been a little over a year in the making… and every match over that short amount of time has been a step toward my ultimate goal. Every victory has been a sign of my preparedness to take on the challenge waiting for me in the ring in New York. Every setback has been a lesson in limitations… proving I still have more to learn, and even someone as experienced and great as myself can still improve himself after all this time. I’ve made the most out of every opportunity that’s been given to me, and so far, all my hard work has paid off.
But all of this will be meaningless if I can’t stand among the tens of thousands filling Madison Square Garden at the end of the night, holding that EPW World Heavyweight Title over my head for the second time in my career. To see me fall after so hard of a climb would only prove my critics right… that Rocko Daymon is the epitome of a choke artist.
A lot of folks back home in Seattle are riding high on being the home to the new World Champions… but if I’m not careful, I could just as easily be the next Peyton Manning of professional wrestling; a career of excellence overshadowed by a nagging inability to win when it’s all on the line.
But I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to fight on harder and more determined than ever before… because given the other three men standing in the way to my victory, I can’t give anything less and expect to walk out of that ring as a champion.
It’s been a few years since I’ve tangled with CASTOR STRIFE… but the memory of those battles hasn’t faded completely. And given that experience, it wasn’t any surprise to me to watch his rise to fame in the time between then and now. Although the question now is… is he the same hungry and twisted ring warrior I remember to be, or has his time at the top made him complacent? Some seem to think the latter is more of the case…
But me? I’m not worried about finding an answer to that question. Castor Strife is not a man to be underestimated in the slightest… and I find it hard to believe that he simply put himself into this match simply for exposure. Strife is a man who always has an angle, and always finds a way to overcome the strengths of any opponent standing across from him in that ring.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the young challenger IMPULSE, who eschews the mystery for unadulterated honesty. He lives to epitomize absolute wrestling, stripped down without the falsities of gimmicks and other distractions… and he sticks to that with a conviction that I can’t help but respect. I’ve never known any other athlete to commit himself to this sport with such conviction and dedication outside of myself.
And to add to my worries, he’s banking his career on walking out of that ring triumphant in front of his hometown NYC fans. It’s a bold proclamation to make… but he’s a bold competitor, and I’d be a fool to take him lightly on that statement. But with Randall Knox going all in, it’s only going to make it that much more difficult to realize my goal. A man fighting with his career on the line fights like no other… as I have, more than once in my lifetime.
And last but not least, there’s the man carrying the belt himself… THE FIRST. Carrying the belt… but I’ll be damned if I call him a “champion”. There’s not much I can say on the man as a competitor that hasn’t already been said by others, so I’ll forego stating the obvious. What needs to be said is what is often overlooked…
The First is smart. Smart enough to think one step ahead of the likes of both Cruise and Impulse… and given that, I’d only be damning myself to the same fate if I chose to dismiss him as an inferior wrestler like everyone else. Inferior or not, the perceptions of the outside world mean nothing to the First. All that matters to him is satisfying his own needs of greatness… keeping that belt. And he will go to any lengths to keep that belt, no matter how much he has to scheme, plot, or backstab in order to make that happen.
I’ve been meditating quite a bit going into this contest… wondering what sets me apart from these three. More specifically, what’s it going to take to overcome whatever it is they bring with them in that ring. Because to be quite honest, individually, I couldn’t tell you how I’d match up with any of these guys…
All my strength, talent, and experience aside, you could make the argument that any of these three could best me in singles competition. Castor Strife is possibly the only man who could find a way to kill the Undying. Impulse is the greatest pure wrestler on the planet, and I couldn’t hold a candle to his skill set. And The First, with his cunning and complete disregard for fairness or honor, could easily pull the wool over my eyes as he’s done with so many others.
So… what makes me think I even have a chance in this match?
(He rubs his brown chin curtain thoughtfully… and perks an eyebrow.)
I suppose, if anything, the one advantage I have in this match… is the match itself.
I’ve gone through a great deal of matches over this past year with more than one opponent in the ring, and I can tell you that it’s a very different experience than your standard one-on-one. When you have to divide your attention, the ability to win a match becomes less about your skills, or your individual strengths… but more on your ability to see clearly through the storm, and put yourself in that one pivotal moment that determines who prevails, and who falls.
Over the past year, since Castor Strife first announced this match, the other three men have been looking amongst themselves… but me? I’m the wild card in this match. I’m the man that’s been battling his way into this contest one match at a time… and through it all, I can confidently say that I’m the one man who has been able to find a sense of order out of chaos.
That doesn’t guarantee anything… but it’s enough for me to walk into that ring knowing that I am more prepared for what awaits me than any of the other men vying for that title.
(He unfolds his arms to take a moment to look over his hands, clenching them tightly with grit and determination. Then his eyes find the camera again…)
To the men in this match… I have only this to say, for right now.
We’re all here for different reasons. We’re all fighting for different things. I don’t consider myself better or more righteous than any of you. I understand that what I’m fighting for is mostly derived from my own ego… fighting for a sense of self-worth, and the approval of millions of wrestling fans across the globe.
But however this all plays out, understand that Rocko Daymon’s career will NOT die anytime soon. So long as my body is still capable of competing, I’ll always be pushing my limits… putting any person who so much as thinks of putting that strap around his waist on notice. If you aren’t walking into that ring expecting to go above and beyond everything you know yourself capable of, then I will tell you right now… you don’t stand a chance against me.
The time has finally come… and my ascension is at hand.
(Rocko Daymon walks out of the frame… and as he does, the image fades to another lasting fly-by shot of the mountains in the Cascade Range, before slowly going to black.)
(FADEIN: CASTOR STRIFE sitting on a Director's chair, wearing tight black jeans, Italian leather shoes, and a white silk shirt unbuttoned three times down. His hair is tied back. Behind him stands a gallery of individuals wearing animal heads and gas masks from the neck-up of a their pierced and mutilated bodies. One of them wears a t-shirt that reads, "Contractually Obligated Castor Strife Avant Garde Background Artists To Make You Feel Like You Got Something Out Of An Egregious Trash Talk Promo, Local 1079." Next to them stands a female wearing a low-cut t-shirt, "Contractually Obligated Titties")
CASTOR: "Wrestleverse V. The biggest title match in EPW history, at the biggest pay-per-view, in the World's Most Famous Arena. Featuring YOU, Impulse. All made possible by ME. No attempt to hang onto power, no upstaging of the television main event leading up to this. Nobody was suspended, thrown in prison, or tossed into a local river."
"As 'Authority' reigns go, there is no question that mine ranks up there as the most effective, efficient job ever dutifully executed."
"But for my troubles, I get labeled a 'sell-out'. I've 'changed.'"
"Impulse, let me put something on the record for those fans who may not be aware. You are as well-compensated as I am, down to the penny. The only difference between the two of us is that like many a politician, you disguise yourself in common-man clothes, drive around in affordably middle-class vehicles, and take shots at dive bars that your wealthy girlfriend pretends to work at in order to maintain a familiar appearance. Me? I do no such thing. The people are aware at all times of my creative magnitude, my opulent self, and that's the way I like it. It is an honest arrangement."
"Your ego is equal to mine, and maybe you've eclipsed me at this point."
"After all, my money is always invested back into the show. I have sunk an untold fortune into television programming, films, and events that heighten the creative and entertainment value of the product. You're just as rich as I am - my question is, where is YOUR money? With how cheap you pretend to live, it's a wonder that your mattress can stay balanced atop all that dough."
"There goes Impulse McDuck, swimming through a mountain of gold coins, laughing at all you peasant mooks who bought his t-shirts and filled his Swiss bank accounts. Presidential hopefuls are LINING UP on his doorstep, begging Impulse to form a Super PAC. He won't do it! He keeps it on the local. He's a man with his ears to the street."
"Has time passed me by? Come on, Impulse, you know me. My colors are more varied than a chameleon, or a peacock. Between you, Rocko, and The First, all we ever hear about is the PAST."
"Well I have a short-memory. The past means nothing to me. I change, yes, but for the better. I EVOLVE. It's why I've been able to maintain such a high level, while you stagnate, Impulse. Your facade is the same lie you told on Day 1. You need to embrace reality, or invent a new lie."
"My own relevance grows by the year. From Ultratitle, to show promoter, to EPW Owner and booker of Wrestleverse, my upward trajectory encounters no ceiling. Where will I be next? It's anyone's guess, but as many have learned about me, wherever I end up, it will be further ahead from where I was."
"Wrestleverse marks the end of my tenure as EPW President. But is the beginning of a new chapter for me, more suspenseful than the last. If there is one aspect of the past that you should cling to and remember, it is this: Castor Strife has always been, and will always be, two steps ahead of all others."
"Former Champion fights and claws his way back to the top and vindicates every shortcoming his career has had over the past few years."
"I'd buy that from whoever was selling it. Actually, the only thing keeping me from pulling for you with every bit of wrestling fan that I've got in me..."
"Well, that's pretty obvious."
We've been outside The Garden for over an hour now, fighting bitterly cold wind, the constant crowd of people, onlookers and looky-loos, and the general sounds of downtown. The Empire media people wanted to do some promo with all four of us, from what I understand.
Since I'm from here, they started with me and Cally so they could get some ideas. Sure, there's plenty of photo opportunities in the city, but they're cliche and overdone.
The Garden has prepped itself for us with a gigantic banner on each 'side' of the building, effectively cutting the circle into quarters. Each banner has a promo shot of one of us in the main event, along with a phrase that defines us.
The First - "I rule the Empire."
Castor Strife - "This is my sport."
Rocko Daymon - "The Legend Resumes."
Impulse - "All. In."
They're starting us all right here, and then they'll move wherever. And someone else is filming, I guess for the home video release.
DVD, Blu-Ray, EPWNetwork... it's all home video.
Rock on, voiceovers. Rock on.)
"I'm actually humbled by the number of fans who came up to me during the promo shoot, telling me they were also 'all in.' Even more impressed with the variation and proliferation of the 'All In' T-shirts that the fans have made."
"That's one of the last things I learned from the old man and the Ol' Professor: if the fans buy official merch they'll put royalties in your pocket. If they make their own custom shirts, they'll put you in main events for twenty years."
It's been true, so far.
"That should give you hope for the future - for your future, Rocko: the way the fans responded. They have long memories for legend, but little patience for nostalgia. If you didn't truly belong in this match, you wouldn't be here."
"Think about that for a second."
"Is it meaningless to stand in the middle of the greatest wrestling arena in the world and face off with a wrestler who believes so completely in the possibilities of this sport that he's all in, and come up short?"
"I'd hope not."
"Just like it's not meaningless for me to face off with a former World Champion who was never defeated for the title and come up short in my own second chance, in my own moment of redemption."
"I'm talking about a matchup of skill against skill with a fellow athlete, not taking a faceful of mist from a pretender champion who's just been lucky that his career hasn't been relegated to the Sean Stevens category of Trivial Pursuit: Empire Pro Wrestling edition. It's not choking to lose a match to a superior athlete; that's business. That's the risk of competition."
It's a standard that doesn't apply to Castor Strife and The First, by the way. Castor Strife is in the match by virtue of having the power to say he's in it, and The First needs to be there to carry the title to whoever will take it from him. Because neither of them represent wrestling.
"What sets you apart is that you're an athlete with a mission and a need to excel. What sets you apart is that you're more than a name, an entrance theme, and a finish."
"You're an idea."
"You're a thought."
"Nothing can stop a thought."
"But I'm a wrestler."
"And a wrestler is going to win this match."
Not a Parasite, not an Egomaniac.
Not a Thought.
"No matter how well paid we all are."
"Maybe I have passed you by, Castor, but not in the way you're thinking."
"Ego? I always had an ego. It comes with being the best wrestler in the world."
"Money? Couldn't tell you. I don't ask what other people make and don't tell others what I do."
"But you're as simple and devolved as I've suggested if you think that's what it's all about."
"I've known platinum selling musicians on major labels who haven't sold out, and creatively bankrupt hangers - on who act like they deserve the VIP treatment everywhere they go, when their only contribution is asking dumb questions and puking on couches."
"Do you even know why I call you a sellout, Castor? Do you even know what the word means?"
"Loosely speaking, it refers to compromising your values or integrity for the sake of more money or a bigger reward."
See also: KISS: The Disco Album.
"Although in your case, I guess a more fitting term would be 'believing your own press.'"
"Do I make more money now than I did when I started wrestling? Sure. Does Cally make more money now than she did bartending? Of course."
"In your mind, being on a higher pay scale means you're required to move to higher social circles."
Well, you certainly did that, at least. Every new plateau you hit seemed to come complete with more sycophant friends, with the old ones left behind. Assuming they were friends at all, and not just means to an end.
"You can call it evolution, I can call it appealing to the lowest common denominator."
"You're a chameleon, always changing your colors to suit what'll benefit you the most at the moment. You call it evolution, I call it pandering."
"Yeah, you'll be further along than where you started, but sooner or later you'll be handed a shark tank and a pair of water skis. What do you plan to do then?"
"But I do thank you for bringing this into terms of money, Castor. It's made myself and Rocko Daymon - the wrestlers in this match - realize the path of least resistance to getting you out of contention."
"Cut you a check and give you a guest spot on Jersey Shore."
(FADEIN: The First sitting on the steps of downtown Front Street. His face painted in the Kefka motif, black button up shirt and slacks, hair jet black in a ponytail. Muse sits beside him playing “Live in Fear” on an acoustic guitar. First’s personalized EPW World Title rests on the step beneath him.)
FIRST: No legitimate claim on it? How you reason that Impulse? Did you not fight me for this title and di I not get my arm raised? Is it my fault that your weakling girlfriend was getting the shit beaten out of her by my wife (First kisses Muse on the cheek) Thanks babe…And that you decided to watch that beating and while reflecting on what a poor selection you had made in your love life I laid your ass out and pinned you…
And you have the nerve to claim I’m illegitimate? I’d love to know how you got a re-match, you’ve done nothing to earn it, you having Rosie putting out for Freeman? She turning tricks for Ryan, or does she and Lesbian Siegel do stuff and they just watch? If anyone has no business being in this match it’s you. I beat you. You should be at the back of the line. Instead management had decided that America needs to listen to your smug ass talking big about things you don’t have the talent or will power to make happen.
You’re a funny man Impulse. Before you ranted and raved about taking the long path to the title, to honor your belt that was holding you back. Oh how you railed against me when I told you to topple Anarky and to save the Empire…Yet now look at you, you’re going all-in. You’re risking everything on one match for the EPW World Title.
Never anything in moderation with you, it’s either the long walk or everything all at once you’re an odd duck Impulse.
Funny thing is the term ‘all-in’ it’s from poker. It’s what a man says when he bets all his chips. See thing is, in a spot like that often times a man has to leave his fate up to chance, the wrong card and he loses everything. You’ve done the same thing. There will come times in this match when you will not be there to break up a pin, not there to stop somebody from tapping out. You rest your career on the actions of others, the hope that the kickout will be made, that the tap won’t happen.
This isn’t about your talent, your skill, or your drive this is about a man asking the fates not to screw him over. To ask Rocko Daymon to kick out after the second Director’s Cut. To ask Castor Strife to keep fighting through second after horrific second of being trapped in the Tacoma Cloverleaf. You are asking men who don’t care much about you to save your career for you time and again.
You could say the same about me and my title, but I had no choice, the belt was going on the line, I’m just glad it’s under one fall rules because otherwise the assured three on one mugging you cowards would inflict upon me wouldn’t give me a fighting chance to retain my title, at least this way you are all constrained by your own greed to allow me to have some room to operate. Gives me a chance to keep my title, keep the company from having one of you idiots run it into the ground.
See I don’t need “All-In” I don’t need a career hanging by a threat with one last shot at glory like Rocko and I don’t need to walk into EPW with all the Proper Assurances like Castor to know I’m in a fight and it’s time for me to back up my talk once again. You all act so mighty and so cocky, but really none of you have beaten me so really what have any of you ever done?
This is the funny thing about all of you, you talk down to me, belittle me, call me a fraud and all the rest of it, but in the end…I always win, I’m the one who leaves with his hand raised. That I get to take Impulse’s career along with shattering what’s left of Rocko’s is just icing on the cake. WrestleVerse is my coronation to greatness, the moment all doubt about who the best ever in EPW is stripped away and none can deny me.
You are all fighting merely to hold this title, to have a chance to even begin to be in the conversation with me. I am fighting to become a legend…To become truly immortal…The only sadness I suffer in this quest is the meager quality of the opposition I shall destroy in honor of my achievement.
Hooray, the Champion graces us with his presence! The Champion is here!
Tell us a story, Champ.
Tell us the one about how you single handedly took the World Title from Sean Stevens, the greatest Champion to date in this company's history.
Tell us about the time you stood face to face with Anarky and reclaimed the World Title in an epic battle that left no doubt on anyone's face that you were the rightful Emperor.
Or the cunning battle plan that saw you outfox and outwrestle Cameron Cruise with the Champion's Advantage nullified?
And, of course, I can't leave out my personal favorite, the time you took the athlete generally considered the best pure wrestler in the sport today, and pinned him in the middle of the ring.
Tell us the stories, The First.
I know, you have no shame and no regrets. You're proud of the way you won the World Title with Reeves' assistance, with help from Multiple Dis, and by somehow getting to spray mist on Cameron's face when the rules of the match stated that doing so would cause him to become World Champion.
Of course, you did lose the title to him and sprayed him to gain an advantage for the immediate rematch, so I guess he won the moral victory.
Here's the point, The First. You can talk all you want about your legend and about how I was simply handed a spot on this match. Maybe you've got validity. Maybe I didn't do anything to earn my place in this match.
It's interesting to me, though, how long you spent telling me I was wasting my time with the Intercontinental Title when I should've walked into the company, smacked Anarky in the face, and won the World Title from him in my debut while berating my lack of earning a shot at you for Wrestleverse.
Usually I only see hypocrisy that blatant before the phrase "and Combs."
That's the thing that strikes me most of all, The First. You don't get it.
Look at the belt.
Your World Title belt. It's your most prized possession, more, I'm sure, than your wife and kid.
Look at the front of it.
Empire Pro Wrestling.
It notates the best wrestler.
Do you still wonder why I say you have no legitimate claim to the belt?
You don't get it.
What have you done, what has Muse done? You've called me a homophobe, you've called me a Duck Dynasty Red Stater.
I mean, other than the fact that you're wrong, so what? I could be a Holocaust - denial radical Bundy-ite who thinks everyone except for the seven people who believe exactly what I believe should be castrated and thrown in a pit of tapioca for seven years at a time until they see the Way of the Frio Nut.
What does any of this have to do with my wrestling ability?
I appropriately called Castor Strife out on his relatively newfound status as a Media Gadfly because he focuses on the Celebrity part of his job instead of the Wrestling part.
When it comes to the job, the ring is all that matters.
What does anything you've brought up have to do with your ability against mine against Rocko Daymon's, against Castor's?
It's all smoke and mirrors with you, The First.
Or should I say, bread and circuses?
With enough distraction, you can convince the fans of your greatness when it's nothing but an illusion. This company deserves a better class of Champion, and I'm going to give it to them.
I said it before, The First, and it bears repeating as you let your ego continue to talk: you're finished. The World Championship of The First comes to an end at Wrestleverse.
Quite simply, you've shown us all your tricks.
All that's left is your wrestling ability, and it will not overcome mine.
CASTOR: "I'm flashing the Bat Signal to all my fans worldwide. Let's see if the Castorphants can make "Proper Assurances" t-shirts with my face on it faster than Impulse Nation can hand-make "All In." Let's give Impulse the dissatisfaction of losing both the EPW World Title match and the DIY t-shirt wars on the same night."
(Fade in from black on ROCKO DAYMON, decked out in his formal wrestling attire, stoically pacing back and forth in the ring. Based on our surroundings, we can infer that we’re in The Dojo back in his native Seattle. In the background, a stereo on the shelf is playing through Earth’s “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull”.)
The day is almost here, gentlemen…
(Daymon broods in a manner that only ages of sacrifice and perseverance can attest to. He speaks low, but audibly…)
Tomorrow night, I’m getting on a plane to go to New York. And the next time you’ll see me, I’ll be there in the ring, at Madison Square Garden. The main event of Wrestleverse V…
(The shot cuts to The Dojo’s current class, standing outside the ring, looking in. It’s a small group of five, ranging in ages and body types. They all look fairly banged up, but all of them are nevertheless completely fixated on their teacher’s words.)
All of you will be right there in the front row, at my expense… but don’t mistake my intentions. I’m not paying to fly you across the nation so you can enjoy a vacation. Consider this a field trip… a learning experience.
(Cut over to Rocko’s right-hand man and the Dojo’s head trainer, FRANK ARES, leaning up against the corner ring post. He’s also watching the school’s founder speak, taking in every word…)
I’m bringing you all with me to give you the opportunity to watch the pinnacle of professional wrestling greatness, right there before your very eyes. I want to you watch and take in everything you can… in order to understand what it takes to fight at that level, and succeed.
(We return to Rocko, now looking down into the faces of his pupils.)
But you’re not going simply to watch me. You guys have seen me cut it in here plenty of times… there’s nothing new for you to learn in watching me. But there’s plenty for you to learn from the other three men involved in this rumble.
Castor Strife reached the peak of the industry by being everything he claims to be: evolutionary. And that’s everything we’ve been trying to accomplish here at the Dojo since we opened. There isn’t a finer example of that skill than Strife himself. Watch how he moves… watch how he thinks. Understand what sets him above the usual standards.
Of course, I shouldn’t have to tell you to watch Impulse. The man is a wrestling encyclopedia… a machine of flesh and bone programmed to wrangle any man of any size or shape to his limits. It doesn’t matter who really has the belt in this equation… because if there’s any man in the company who has been it’s representative unspoken TRUE champion, it’s him. It’s remarkable that a man so young can accomplish so much, and still show potential for more… which is why you need to watch him, and learn as much as possible, about his mental discipline and emotional fortitude. These are the qualities not simply of champions, but future legends.
And yes… I’ll even say that you must watch the World Champion himself. The First is arguably the one man who has shown the least amount of pure wrestling dominance out of the four involved in this match… but it’s what he hasn’t show us yet that you need to watch out for. Watch his eyes… watch his every subtle movement and action. A scoundrel to some, what many overlook is that the First claimed his current stake by being a master manipulator, thinking ahead of his opponents every step of the way.
(He pauses for a beat… steps through the ropes to join the younger wrestlers on the floor. Now rather than standing above them, he stands among them.)
You are going to witness four of the greatest wrestlers of our generation all together in one match. And the greatest prize in the history of professional wrestling -- the EPW World Heavyweight Championship -- will be up for grabs. You only see a match like this once every rare Pay Per View event… or hell, every decade, as far as I’m concerned. Which is why I want you to be there…
In order to be a great wrestler, you have to know great wrestling… and through that battle, not just all of you, but the entire world will come to know just what that is, once one man stands triumphant over the rest.
I can’t tell you it’s going to be me… because there are no guarantees. Not in wrestling… not in life. Confident as I am, anything can happen. That’s what makes it a sport. And as it grows even more unpredictable through increasingly fierce competition, then the more the fans will benefit.
So I hope this experience proves beneficial to you… in case any of you ever find the opportunity to put yourself in that very place one day.
(Looking over his class, he nods… a rare moment where he seems content with who he sees as the future of the business.)
...that’s all for today. See you guys in a couple weeks.
(The students bow respectfully, as with any traditional Dojo, and Daymon returns the gesture as the class dismisses and the handful of pupils hit up the lockers to change and gather their things. Ares approaches, and Rocko’s brow strains slightly with a tinge of worry.)
Hasn’t been seen for a month. Probably couldn’t handle it…
That doesn’t seem like him…
I keep telling you… you keep up going hard on these guys, you’re going to start scaring them away.
We have to be hard on them, Frank… it’s the only way to prepare them for the long-term. Even still, Stephen was a trooper. He wouldn’t be gone this long without at least giving us some sort of notice…
Look, you’ve got other things to worry about other than Stephen Waltz. The friggin’ EPW World Championship is at stake here! Just try and get some rest before tomorrow… keep your focus, and all that. I’ll shut it all down here.
...no. You go home. I’ll close the place up tonight. You’ve practically been running this place yourself for the past year anyway. It’s time I put some work into it...
If you insist, Boss. Just take it easy… and don’t stay up late.
Good night, Frank…
(Ares steps out of the frame. Off camera, we can hear him exit through the front doors, following the others on their way out. All alone, except for the sounds of Dylan Carlson’s atmospheric drone music, Daymon shuts his eyes and takes in a deep breath… finding a place of serenity in himself. The wrinkles on his brow show a lifetime of heavy contemplations, but only now, standing in the middle of a lifetime of hard work and achievement, does he appear to show a sense of complete understanding.)
Last year, three of the greatest athletes of our time stood in the EPW ring, and set the foundation for what would ultimately become this one highly anticipated main event battle on the grand-daddy of Empire Pro events. And the time, the fourth man was no more than a mere afterthought…
I wasn’t hand-picked to be in this match, based on prior accomplishments and credentials. When I came back to this company, there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not I could live up to my own expectations. Yet all this time later, I’m the one man who successfully earned my spot in this match.
And there’s something to be said about that… because lately, I feel it hasn’t been said enough. Taking back the belt has been the message from the beginning. That’s always been the Mission, and my motivation for being here. Yet sometimes I wonder if the deeper meaning is getting lost on some of my viewers… because I feel there’s more to it than just an old man with incredible talent and incredible drive.
If all this was JUST about retaking the title, then I could have easily pulled the Sean Stevens card and put in a request for an instant shot at the belt the moment I walked through the door. Dan Ryan knows who I am… he knows what I can bring in that ring. But I wasn’t interested in any of that… I wanted to make the journey from the bottom to the top, one more time.
Because claiming the right to declare myself as the champion of the world is one thing… but to be the undisputed greatest in all of professional wrestling? Knowing I climbed every rung of the ladder in my journey, faced all odds and overcame everything to put myself in that top spot? Knowing that I never compromised my integrity or my beliefs or my ability to put 100% in every match?
That’s how I define being the best wrestler in the world.
(His sage-like gaze finds the camera…)
It’s not a claim… simply a standard, that I painstakingly try to live up to every time I step between those ropes. It’s my desire to live up to that standard that pushed me past obstacle and brought me to this point. And while the story of a returning legend looking for one more reign as champion is nice for the media and the fans to pine over, what many fail to forget is that I’m the one man in this match who’s been consistently working his way up to Wrestleverse V.
Maybe the three of you weren’t around long enough to remember… but before the Undying, before the Legend, the Myth, the MAN, and before even the World Heavyweight Champion… Rocko Daymon was known in the hearts and minds of the Empire Pro fans as the Paragon of Professional Wrestling Excellence.
How I’m perceived isn’t what important. What is important, to me, is knowing that every time I compete, I carry myself as the best… and fight to the best of my ability.
(He folds his arms over his chest.)
Understand, Impulse… you don’t have to distinguish yourself to me as a wrestler... because I know one when I see one. I know plenty about wrestling... and I’ve been showing a great deal of it over the past year, competitively, one show after the next.
The man on a Mission? The “Thought”? That’s a purely intangible concept… immaterial. It can’t harm anyone. But this…
(He raises his fist before the camera.)
THIS… is very real. And this WILL hurt you at some point between the bells, Impulse.
And with a Thought behind it, it can hurt immeasurably more than anything you’ve yet to experience in that ring.
The best wrestler will win this match and leave Wrestleverse V… but frankly, Impulse, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s you at this point. By all respects, you make a fairly compelling argument… but I didn’t come here to argue. Just win. And that’s what matters in the end. This isn’t about who makes the best point, or who’s “right”. The truth in this sport is defined by our conquests and failures.
Whether or not I fit your definition of wrestler is not really my concern. What distinguishes me is not what I’m fighting for… a second shot at the title. It’s the experience… the commitment… the preparation. What distinguishes me is that I have been building momentum for the better part of a year… while you’ve been coasting.
Beat me in that ring, Impulse, and I’ll give you the nod. If you can outlast me at my very best, and walk out of that ring with the World Heavyweight Title, then I won’t think of you as anything less than the very best wrestler on the planet, in this era of professional wrestling. You’re the only other man involved in this match that could earn that credit.
(He tilts his head to the side… we can see subtle changes in his expression.)
I don’t say that to depreciate your talents, First and Strife… but all week, I’ve been waiting to hear a compelling argument come out of either of you, and have yet to hear anything of substance. No claims, no intentions… just moving lips and the regular word patterns we’ve come to expect from you.
Talking for the sake of talking… but saying nothing of merit to convince me either one of you can outlast what Impulse and I are going to unleash once that bell sounds.
Castor… I honestly don’t even know why you’re here. Not just in this match, but simply in this federation. Venturing into new territory? Or banking in on a hot market? Or maybe there’s another agenda… maybe you’re not alone in this, and we just haven’t seen what’s waiting behind the curtain.
Whatever it may be, you’re not leaving Madison Square Garden with the World Heavyweight Title. Any other day in any other federation, maybe you’d best me… but even though this match is taking place in New York City, as long as we fight in the Empire Pro ring, in front of the Empire Pro fans, you’re fighting in MY home.
And if you thought you could walk into my home and sit yourself in my favorite seat without hearing about it… then, Castor, you’d only be proving your critics right.
You’re not the only one who evolves to this ever-changing sport. From the ten years spanning this federation’s existence, I’ve appeared in many forms, and shared the locker room with countless generations of wrestlers. Through all that time and all that change, I’ve continually found ways to stay ahead of the competition… always in reaching distance to the top.
With your coming to this federation, I will do what I always do, and prepare for the changes that will follow…
...and those that don’t have the will or the strength to follow suit… men like our own World Heavyweight Champion… they’ll be lost in the shuffle.
(He narrows his eyes.)
Let me be clear, First… I shouldn’t have to tell you what I think about you carrying that belt. That alone should be obvious. So let me tell you something you probably don’t know…
Your reign ends at Wrestleverse.
Not because I think I’m better, or smarter… not because I feel immune to whatever schemes you have in the works. You won’t succeed in this match, simply because you no longer have the will.
The truth was clear as day, just by the look in your eyes of your last promo. It couldn’t be more obvious that you’re just phoning it in at this point. Your unwarranted and unearned time at the top has lost its luster. You’ve finally grown bored with it… because you killed what sport there was in trying to earn that belt the legit way. You could always cheat your way into another win, but I don’t think you will, First…
I don’t think you care enough, at this point.
You speak because you have to. You wrestle, because it’s the obligation of a champion. But everything about pursuing greatness… claiming yourself to be the best… you’ve deluded yourself into your broken philosophy for so long that you’ve apparently lost all the will to push yourself or show any motivation to overcome and outsmart your enemies by any means necessary.
(He shakes his head.)
When Steven and Stalker put me out of action, this federation needed a hero to step up and stand up to the powers holding sway over the entire locker room. You brought together HOPE to battle against the Anthology. You were the fan-favorite underdog against the unflinching King, “Triple X” Sean Stevens. Somehow, you triumphed over everything, against all the odds…
...and somehow, everything you accomplished was dashed away in the blink of an eye, when you up and left without explanation.
This new First… the man under the Dis mask, who has instilled the stagnant reign of terror… I’m almost convinced it’s not the same person. Perhaps we should be calling you the Second…
Your second reign will certainly end when Wrestleverse comes… either by my hand, or that of Impulse. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you welcomed it. Some men only show their true worth when they have something to fight for… and apparently, you’re one of them.
(He drops the silver robe… approaches the ring.)
However it turns out… none of us will leave Madison Square Garden the same. Some of us may leave, and never come back...
(He slides under the ropes and finds his feet, slowly turning himself in a circle and eyeing every turnbuckle with the countenance and dutifulness of a religious fanatic.)
But with or without that World Heavyweight Title… regardless of who gives me the respect and credence I’ve fought for over these years, or how I’m perceived based on what I’ve accomplished… I’m going to keep on fighting here in Empire Pro. Always pushing myself to live up to that standard of greatness… that ideal definition of the best in the world.
No excuses… no regrets… no promises… no compromises...
(His eyes find the camera.)
Just a will to fight Death long into the night…
(Somewhere off in the distance, we can hear what sounds like a chime… or the ringing of a bell. Daymon turns his head around, ready for action…)
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