Post by Lockhart on Sept 13, 2020 6:58:34 GMT -5
Ryan occupied the corner seat of the booth they had hired for their night out in the Los Angeles streets. The bass of the music rocked the floor beneath him, giving him reason to tap his feet along to the beat while he watched Her.
He didn’t know whether he liked Her or the “idea” of Her. There was something there that he could look at and romanticize; the late nights out, the drugs, the amused smile and the knowing looks she’d give him, like she thought she had him wrapped around her delicate fingers.
The sex was good too, he supposed.
Amber slid into the booth about an arm’s length away from him, sipping a blue liquid which he did not know the name of - the same for which could be said for all the other people who occupied the seats with him.
It didn’t matter anyway, did it? Their faces were dull, bland, uninspiring; defeated by the world in which they had unfortunately been birthed into. Unworthy of being remembered by him.
Her’s, though. Now that twisted the narrative completely.
He looked directly at her, ignoring all the silhouettes who now surrounded him, his attention focused squarely on Her.
‘Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?’
Only now did she look at him, her eyes caught reflecting the flashing lights above them. She gave him that same half-smile she always did, although he couldn’t identify the emotion hidden behind it. Pity? Guilt? What was it?
‘Well, we weren’t serious.’
‘We could’ve been.’
‘What? You? The Wrestler? The World Champion? The #BeachKrew Pretty Boy who fucked all those junkies and groupies that followed you guys around like the plague? I’m not an idiot. We both knew what this was.’
‘Maybe I wanted something more.’
‘Like what? Marriage? A kid? Neither of us want that. Not really, anyway.’
‘You told me you were pregnant.’
She rolled her eyes.
‘No. That was just you being delusional. Again. Like you always are. You never know what Ryan you’re going to get on any given day. The dark, brooding, introspective Ryan. The coked-out Ryan who can’t string together a single fucking sentence. The chill, witty Ryan who always knows the right thing to say.
‘What the fuck are you talking about?’
‘You’re sick, Ryan.’
‘I can’t fuckin’ believe this shit.’
‘You need help.’
Using the table beneath him, he forces himself up to his feet, now shouting at Amber.
‘If this is all you wanted to fuckin’ say to me, then why’d you invite me out in the first place?’
‘Me? You’re the one dreaming all of this up, psycho.’
I think she’s right.
Enter Lockhart, holding up the list he introduced to the world after defeating FPV at Evolution III, albeit with a couple more names crossed off than there had been last time.
Admiring his work, Lockhart grins and jerks a thumb toward the list with his free hand, while leaning back in the chair of his Boston apartment.
‘It’s looking pretty good, don’t you think? Granted, I’ve been robbed of the chance to add my boy Richards to the list properly, but him dipping before he could even get in the ring with me again is no fault of mine. But that’s besides the point: At Uprising, I did exactly what I fuckin’ said I would - I would beat Dandy DiVito and confirm the fact that I am the #1 Action Wrestling Original.
‘There is no more debate. No more uncertainty. I avenged my one loss in a “ladder match” by pinning a Top 5 Action Wrestler to the mat three times, mounting a comeback after being attacked before the match, and shaking hands with the guy after the fact. An instant classic that won’t be forgotten, and another notch onto a legacy that cannot be touched by a single damn man or woman alive on this roster.
‘But we’re back where the grind started. Clash. The Proving Grounds where I went from a relative unknown to the legend you know today. And what they’ve given me? Well, let’s just say this is the most excited I’ve been for a Clash in a long time.’
He pauses now, a look of thought coming over him.
‘There’s a certain feeling I get whenever I see Carter Shaw. It’s like watching a mildly talented teenager performing a cover of their favorite song. They do a decent job, they attempt to put their own twist although it’s evident that they just don’t have a voice of their own. Not yet, anyway. By the end of the performance, you’re left feeling good, but not completely satisfied. It did its job, but it didn’t go above and beyond.
‘This is the feeling I get when I see Carter Shaw, because Carter Shaw is a discount Ryan Lockhart, without any of the edge, nuance or marketability to reach the heights that his hero did.
‘I want to congratulate you, Carter. You got the biggest match an Action Wrestling hopeful could ever dream of: a shot at THE main man. While Walter is the flavor of the month, you’re looking at the foundation. The past, the present, and the future.
‘So again, props to you for working your way up until this point. Now you get to face off against your favorite wrestler. The man people have been whispering has “shades of Lockhart” whenever they see him walking the halls.
‘Well, why don’t we analyze that?
‘Similarities: Both from Boston, both self-identify as “fighters” who have become great “wrestlers.” Both had to fight in the streets to make money. Both dealt with poor financial situations in their youths. Both won All-In during their Rookie Year at Action Wrestling. Both have been Television Champion.
‘Differences: Everything else. Whether it be the intangibles or just the straight up facts, there is just no universe where Carter Shaw stacks up in any shape or form to Ryan Lockhart.
‘But I’ll give credit where it’s due - you’ve done well for yourself. Even if you’re just a Lockhart tribute band, you’re making all the right moves. Getting the results when you need them most. Getting your name out there. It’s all very respectable, isn’t it?
‘This is where things get hardest, though. You’re Mr. All-In. The fourth to hold the case, and hoping you’re the second to actually be successful with it. Holliday wasted her chance. Hope couldn’t even get out of the starting gates with the belt after she cashed-in. Only one man has proven they know what to do with the damn thing.
‘You gonna follow in my footsteps like a good little bitch and actually make good on your “guarantee?” Or am I about to cut you down to size and mentally fuck you to the point you’re gonna choke that thing away? You play Poker, right? Put your cards on the table, because this is where you prove if you’ve got it or not.
‘Crumble under the pressure and get wiped by Lockhart? Then you’re exactly what I think you are: a fluke. Put up a fight and still get butchered in the end? I’ll have some hope for the next generation here.
‘Which is weird to say, considering you’re older than me. But that’s just the matter of the situation. I’ve proven I’m a fuckin’ prodigy of the sport, and you’re just trying to follow the blueprint that I’ve created. We’ve seen it all before. Everyone tries to shoot like me. Everyone tries to mimic greatness.
‘But here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t get, Carter… a lot of people just ain’t cut out for this shit. And look, you’ve got chops. We grew up in similar circumstances, so I’m not about to sit here and question whether you’re tough or not.
‘But when I look at you? I know you don’t have the X Factor. Your promo work is subpar at best, and absolute unbearable at worst. We get it, it’s called All-In. You liken it to cards. Applaud for Carter, everyone. He made a connection that a 12-year-old could make. And when he’s not doing that? He’s actually doing in-ring promos because he can’t muster up the effort to post something with an ounce of creativity or effort to it. For someone who considers themselves a grinder, you sure know how to cut corners, don’t you?
‘You’re the definition of playing checkers. Fuck, even Lissie Hope’s melodramatic, self-absored loathing of herself and her shitty personality traits are more entertaining than the garbage we’re forced to endure when watching a Carter Shaw promo.
‘You’ve shown zero evolution from your beginnings here in Action Wrestling outside of when your mother died.’
‘If at the age of 28, it took your mother dying to figure out what your purpose in life was? Then maybe you’re not as cut out for this as you think you are. This alone shows your whole mentality to this sport alone. We’re both fighters, but we approach this differently. You are codependent and uncertain. You go wherever your path takes you, but you are not an active participant in deciding your own destiny.
‘That’s why the All-In Briefcase means so much to you, doesn’t it? After years of having things decided for you, after being forced down a path you perhaps didn’t want to take when you were younger, after watching the life of a loved one being taken away from you without having any say in the matter at all… you’ve finally got something where you’re in control.
‘And that fuckin’ scares you, doesn’t it? Sends shivers down the spine, threatens to cut you down into half the man you’ve shown yourself to be. It’s a crossroads that few can ever make it out of.
‘That’s why you look at me and you see what you want to be. I snatched destiny and made it my bitch the moment I walked through these doors, something you failed to do until months into your career. While I was fighting the baddest motherfuckers on the planet for the World Title only 10 matches into my career, you were still building your way up. You were still figuring out what you wanted to fight for. While I was staring face to face with a fuckin’ demons like Wade Moor, you’re still coughing up losses to the likes of Claire Hawkins. This is where our paths diverge. While you did your best to follow in Daddy’s footsteps, you couldn’t do it exactly like him. But that’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here to show you what this level of excellence looks like in person, not through a television screen while you frantically write down notes on How-To Be A Future World Champion.”
‘Well? Still having any doubts? Still don’t know if this is what would really make your family proud? Still worried about Corey Bull or someone causing your problems? I hope not. I want you at your best, I don’t want any excuses to surface after I crush you.
‘Because Carter… this is your make or break moment. Put up a fight and die honorably, or get utterly fuckin’ embarassed. It’s your call.
‘You made a mistake a couple of weeks ago. You thought Dandy was the cream of the crop that we had to offer here. You incorrectly addressed him as THE Action Original. But no, Carter. Who you stepped into the ring with was a man broken by Lockhart.’
‘Respect him as a warrior, give him his due, but that’s what he was. A man who had been taken out by the one true Action Original. Mr. Action Wrestling. The inaugural Mr. All-In. The Longest Reigning World Heavyweight Champion of the Modern-Era of Wrestling.
‘The legacy you desperately seek to obtain is the one that I have crafted and carved by dismantling all available opposition. You’re on your grind now, you’re on your way up. But at the end of the day? That’s all you fuckin’ are. A grinder. Yeah, that’ll get you places. That’ll get you the occasional big win.
‘But you’re no Ryan Lockhart. You’re not the guy who became World Champion at the age of 24 and ended the first chapter of his career with a 43-4 record. You’re not the generationally gifted talent who influenced an entire wave of athletes without even trying.
‘You’re Carter Shaw.
‘If I’m LeBron, you’re the Grit and Grind Memphis Grizzlies. You can be respected and admired. Hell, you’ll even upset champions if they aren’t careful.
‘But I can guarantee you that I always take my competition seriously. You don’t obtain and maintain the best record this company has ever seen by taking days off.
‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. When the most talented works the hardest? Everyone else is left with no choice but to accept the inevitable.’
‘And what I said about this being make or break for you? That’s the fuckin’ truth, man. If you can’t stop me now, what will prevent me from ripping that World Title from me after you’re done cashing-in? Sure, you might be able to get the step on Walter or whoever dethrones him...
‘But I am the greatest one-on-one wrestler in the world, a fact that has been proven over and over again. If you don’t show me something now? I’ll fuckin’ son you for that belt just like I’ve sonned pretty much every other person in this entire federation. Everywhere you look, there’s someone that’s been fuckin’ slept by me. All those guys that you’re still lumped in with? All those people that, if you were to go up against them, would be a 50/50 toss on whether or not you’d walk out with the W?
‘When you put Lockhart into those equations, those chances go from 50/50 to 100. Spencer Adams, Kyle Kemp, Odin Balfore, Corey Bull, whoever you can fuckin’ name off the top of your head. These are all people of a “high” calibre that I toyed with on a regular basis.
‘This recent run of yours? It’s a stretch that any other wrestler on the roster would kill for. You win All-In, then you’re right back in the mix, taking out Dandy DiVito and an active champion on our roster. You’re feeling good, you’re on a roll. This is the hottest stretch of your career thus far.
‘This same stretch that you’ve had? The same one that has you feelin’ yourself, where you’re now demanding that people respect you and what your fists can do?
‘That same stretch is what I’ve been doin’ since 2018. Those same people you inched past are the same people I’ve been bodying since I arrived.
‘You’re about to learn Carter… that I AM the standard. Though they don’t let me show it as much as I used to anymore... I’m still the fuckin’ King of Clash. I’ve gone through murderers’ row 100 times over, and I’ve never faltered. Not only am I a model of excellence, but I’m the model of consistency as well. At this point? It doesn’t matter who you’ve beat, what you’ve won, or where your life choices have led you.
‘All of it is useless when you’re coming up against the Greatest Action Wrestler of All-Time.
‘This is what you’re dealing with, Carter. The pressure is mounting. You’ve seen bright lights, but the ones that’ll be shining on you this Monday? They’ll burn you if you’re not careful.
‘This is your ultimate test. Earn my respect and live to maybe see a couple months of a World Title reign before I knock on your door and relieve you from that duty… or crumble, and the minute you lay your hands on that fuckin’ thing? I’ll be there, ready to prevent you from being like all these other “champions” who have tried to ruin everything I’ve worked for.’
He stares directly into the camera, his gaze piercing.
‘Show me what you fuckin’ got.’
Yesterday, I found an old video (actionwrestling.freeforums.net/thread/953/on-another-level) saved to a flash drive. It was a video for my future self. Who did I think I was back then? Some fuckin’ prophet? Someone who actually knew what they were talking about?
I was 23. I was a damn kid. I sounded like one, too. Everything I said felt like it was from a different era, or from someone who looked like me but from an alternate universe. The same, but altered.
But maybe he was onto something. Maybe he saw my downfall and attempted to warn me of it. He knew something was wrong… and I tried to ignore it. Tried to quell it. That’s what we do with the monsters and beasts inside of us, right? The primal instincts that we all have. Those urges that tempt us and threaten to turn us into different people.
Maybe the signs were showing a long, long time ago, and as a way to “protect” myself from them, I tried to erase them from my memory entirely. Maybe that’s why this experiment fucked me up so ba-
I can’t blame the experiment.
This all started a long time before that.
Ryan picked at his food absently, paying little mind to anything as he stared out the window of Mark’s home. He had been coming over a lot more often as of late. Mark suspected this was a method to help him cope with his “condition” although he didn’t dare ask the question aloud.
As Ryan looked at him, Mark could immediately see the reluctance in the gaze of his friend, who still pushed on, voice wavering slightly as he spoke.
‘I think I need their help.’
Mark regarded his friend, seeing both reluctance and desperation in his eyes. He offered him a smile of reassurance, one that said...
"Everything will be okay."
But will they?