CALAMITY VII // ALL DUE RESPECT [PART 5 OF 5]

By: Dickie Watson

Date: 13th Oct 2021

CALAMITY VII // ALL DUE RESPECT

ALLOW ME YOUR ATTENTION
WON’T YOU LEND ME YOUR EAR FOR A MOMENT?
I KNOW THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TENSION
BUT I FEEL COMPELLED TO EXPLAIN MYSELF

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The siren’s wails echoed throughout the British suburb, sounding the resolute emergency over the waves of the world and letting everyone around them know there was a catastrophe for some family. The third story flat, one room because that’s all that the occupants could afford, was already hard enough to get to with its rickety boards and its dilapidated bannisters. The red and blue lights were flashing outside the window, lighting up the white, spackled ceiling and the wood-paneled walls, and the thuds of the boots of the paramedics as they raced up the staircase echoed like a tattoo of angry locusts. They would bash in the door minutes later with a door ram, but Inside, his hands gripped around the receiver of the telephone hanging from the wall in the kitchen, a little boy no older than three stared at the scene in front of him.

A woman — brunette, hazel eyes, fair skin — laid upon the floor of the bedroom, her dotted and bruised arm outstretched for all to see her vice. The man that had been with her child didn’t know, but that was normal, and the second the convulsions started, he’d run for the hills. So many people had come in and out of their home that he didn’t know who anyone was, except for her. Now she lay, on her own, on the floor next to the bed, shirt askew, pantsless and very much alone. Those hazel eyes of her stared blankly in the direction of her own child, but she saw nothing. The child didn’t scream. The child said nothing.

The telephone operator spoke to him, told him everything would be all good and fine, but he didn’t understand it. She spoke in a foreign language to him. And so did the kind lady who came with the police and the paramedics once their door was broken down. Her blonde hair and blue eyes were so very different from what he knew. He recognized the accent, but he didn’t understand her words. Everything seemed so slow and muted. He stared at his mother as the paramedics surrounded her.

I grew up distrusting everyone I came into contact with. It made sense, you know, with the life I had. Trauma was never something a child should have to go through, but there was….dealing with it even then. It was weird to be in a foreign place, weird to have picked up your whole life with one single parent and move to an entirely foreign country. But she did it, picked herself up and estranged herself from her own family to find the man that she loved so dearly.

Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I’d gotten her belongings handed to me. The Orphanage, they kept everything both for you and from you for a majority of years until you hit legal age. She wrote so much. Her father was some tyrannical dude, and she wanted out. Then she met the man who got her pregnant and she wound up in London. Seems facetious, but that’s what it is. She fell in with the wrong sort of crowd, you know. My only memory of her is of her dead on the floor, so if that doesn’t tell you something, I wonder what would.

The image blurs in and out, the grim and the gloom still present even in the next set. The hallway of an orphanage, a young teenager with raven hair being led out from the front doors. Above, on the stairway itself, a nine year old version of the three year old, hair covering his eyes as he watches her leave. A nun, the orphanage’s headmistress, leans down and speaks to him. She pats his shoulder and he looks at her with the sort of untrusting eyes that kids get when they’ve been subjected to heinous things. He’d been adopted and returned so many times at this point he was starting to think that he was never going to find a home.

I quote unquote had a mom throughout my childhood. Barely. At least, that’s what I considered her to be. Even in and out of homes, I always considered her that. I guess I felt like I needed something to stabilize me. Something that I could fall back on. She was absent after nine, and maybe it was too much to put on her head, but she was the one who needed me and I found myself willing to give her that need to parent, need to smother, need to feel like she’d done something good over the years…I accepted it, at least, when she was around.

But then I joined the same sport she was in. And fuck, I worked hard to get into it. Never fit the mold, never seemed like I should be there. But it was her sport. The one she worked so hard to attain glory and stature. Kissing up to staff, sliding into the back, fucking owners whenever she could get a chance — hell, when the head of Wolfslair has stories about how she used him too, you can’t help but think that the only way she knew how to win was to slide into some DMs. She tied herself down in image only and I wonder how long it’ll take before her husband realizes she’s just using him. Just like I realized she was using me. And when I surpassed her, when I did more than she did in sixteen years or whatever the fuck in three, she peaced out and fucked off. Typical of people like her. Can’t stand to not be at the top, and remove anyone that could do better. I think that was the only time that I couldn’t handle life.

A derisive laugh.

Fuck, I look back and I realize just how fucking gaslit I was. I had a reason to be angry, a reason to feel betrayed, and she turned around and mom’d me into oblivion, telling me I was wrong, calling me a child. I didn’t win that night, but that was just a fucking battle in a war.

I’ve fuckin’ won the war at this point, and I’m okay with that.

Time winds forward. Images of the same kid growing older, attending university, training, getting the crap kicked out of him day in and day out. But he never stopped. He never pulled back, he just pressed forward. Always pushing forward. Even when he should have stopped, when he should have calmed down, he wasn’t able to. He wasn’t the type to stop, wasn’t the type to put down the sword. He graduated, he moved, he became something. He married a beautiful girl, they lived happily together. Or so he thought. Until their life was upended the same way that his family was.

She left him for a dude with two brain cells that she could feel superior over.

Now that I think about it, now that I can see it clearly, my ex-wife was only ever there to put a harness around my body. To keep me from going too far, to keep me from my own form of glory. Hannah never really supported me, if we’re perfectly honest. She was good at the game of saying it, but she didn’t want to see me at the top. She showed her true side when we had one fight. One. And now here I stand at the top…alone…

He won championships. With others that he had no reason to trust except he was thrust into their vicinity. Tag team champions, inaugural championships, he’d held them all and he held them with pride. A world championship in his first year came to him in a battle royal where he outlasted everyone else. His second, he earned. His third? Gleamed up at him every time he showed up at the Tower, every time the Occhi passed him by. Every time he was there. Every time someone in the fucking arena decided that he wasn’t what they wanted.

Every time fucking Paul Montuori and his posse of invalid fuckwits tried to make him smaller, he reminded them he was there. He not only beat the rest of the fucking FIGHT roster at their own game, but he pinned Paul Montuori once.

He would do it again.

Except I’m not. I’m at the top, but I’m not alone. It started small. A way to simply get back at the people who thought that they would hold us down. The numbers game. The cowards game. The ‘I-Can’t-Contend-With-You-On-My-Own-So-Let-Me-Try-To-Increase-My-Dick-Size-By-Adding-Other-People-With-The-Same-Amount-of-Inches-Or-Less” game. They thought it would stop me. They thought it would stop Shawn’s momentum.

Lo and behold, it hasn’t. It only made us that much more pissed and irritated with the FIGHT world. Kasey came in, Betsy came in. They evened it out, but it wasn’t enough. Not completely. Aiden rounded us out, and suddenly, the tabloids came in and the people predicted it — we became the favorites, the predicted favorable outcome. New Status Quo was everything that the established fucks in the back thought they were. Determined. Focused. Hell, when we put our eyes on the prize, there’s nothing that stops us. We have not only a focus, but a fuckin’ mission.

Prove.

Everyone.

Wrong.

We didn’t come to fight to fuck around, stick our dicks in every other roster member like quite a few of you, or come to play. I didn’t come here because I was looking for a fresh start. I came here because I wanted to prove that this was no fluke. That I could rise to the top of yet another company and do it without the people around me. I’ve been standing on top of the fuckin’ mountain since the end of July, and if anything, my view is that much sweeter when I’ve got people who don’t pander for attention, who don’t try and upstage anyone.

Warstein is the paper “leader”, but in reality? Every single one of us are capable of leading, capable of creating the conditions to weather this shit out. I don’t have to distrust them when I know their motives and they know mine. I know Warstein has been chomping at the bit to get at me and face me, to which I whole heartedly accept when the time comes. I know that Kasey will do everything in her power to help. I know that Betsy has my back as much as she has her brother’s. And Aiden? We already move as a fuckin’ synchronous familial unit because our trust in one another is that much stronger.

And I know they all have my back the second I go out there to face Montuori. In spite of all of the bullshit you’ve all tried to throw at me, Dynasty.

Rightful champion, correct champion, the true Empire Champion…everything had been said once, twice, thrice. But the thing he knew? He knew it took more than people saying you were going to be such a thing. It took doing it. And despite his lack of productivity in the company so far…he knew that it was going to take the perseverance he was known for. That never quit attitude. That never surrender, do or fuckin’ die.

Perseverance bled from Dickie Watson like a babbling brook into a stream.

He was relentless. And no matter how many jabs he took, he’d come back firing on all cylinders.

Every. Time.

As the screen goes dark, a singular piece of paper with a nondescript image upon it, ripped from its original, floats by, zooming quickly from the center out.

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I DON’T MEAN TO OFFEND YOU
BUT YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR MIND
IF YOU THINK I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU TAKING SIDES
AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHEN YOU BREAK IT DOWN
I’M NOTHING LIKE YOU

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WOLFSLAIR TRAINING FACILITY
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY
AFTER VENOM #10

The conference room on the second floor of the training facility wasn’t often used. It had windows that allowed the occupants to see into the training floor, but other than that, it was pretty much sound proof. The only time that people seemed to need it was when the bigwigs were having a meeting, and they didn’t want the trainees to hear, or when someone needed to review tapes. But this was bigger, the meeting that was about to take place. The sound of a beep and the click of a lock turning in a door, allowing entry to the room could be heard as the five of them headed into the room, the door slamming shut behind them once the last one was through.

New Status Quo.

They took seats around the conference table as they set their championships upon it. Dickie peered at the rest of them as he sat down across from Betsy, Aiden sliding into a chair and allowing it to roll backwards. Like a child, he picked up his feet and allowed perpetual motion to move him in whatever direction. Kasey sat down next to Betsy, sitting close to Shawn. Warstein, on the other hand, sat at the head of the table, a figurative gesture to be sure.

The Islands Champions had things they needed to do. To prepare for. They were already on the same page, but this was just the solidification of the things they knew.

This is where you guys train?” Kasey questioned, looking out the window of the conference room. “It’s nice.

Yeah. Honestly, wouldn’t have even thought about coming here except the damn Occhi can’t get in.” Dickie quipped, sliding side to side in his chair.

The whaty-what?” Aiden questioned.

Occhi. The automated drones that follow you around and basically display everything for the viewers. Lovely little creatures.

We’ve got another tower ascent.” Shawn stated, looking over at Dickie as he leaned forward, rubbing his chin as he did so and trying to push the conversation in a different direction. “We’ve done this before.

True.” The Calamity agreed with his stable mate. “That’s how we opened this world, you know. We both ascended, we both made our gains, and…well, I’d say sorry but there’s no point. We all had a role we had to play, right? The fact of the matter is that beyond myself and you, Montuori, Moore, Tabor, and myself have all made it up to the top. That’s two Dynasty, two New Status Quo.

And one The Cure.” Kasey looked pointedly at Shawn.

Dickie, you’ve already dealt with Todrick. Both in clearing your own match and then…” Betsy added.

Oi, mate, that’s right. You eliminated Todrick at the top of the Tower at Blood Money.” Aiden spun in his chair, looking up at the ceiling. “And Montuori–

I’ve eliminated three people at the top of the tower once, yes.” Dickie spoke calmly, but his eyes hadn’t deviated from Shawn. “Five of us got up there, three of them down by me. There was a shitton at stake then too: a new belt, a new company. We didn’t have the grudges, the issues, the shit that we have leading up to this now. Effectively, the one thing that they’ve done is made us hate each other all just a little bit more. Montuori and Dynasty have been trying to fuck with me since day one. The Cure with you, Shawn. As much as possible. If they could have done anything more, they would have literally given us weapons to cut off each other’s heads with and tried to get us to kill each other. But we need to go into this with intelligence, not anger.

They’re going to be looking at us, trying to get us to be on our own. From what I can tell, none of them are going to play nice. Ascension is going to be a bloodbath.” Betsy placed her elbow on the table, her chin in her hand. “But that’s the way we like it, of course.

Aiden looked at her, aghast. With intense sarcasm, he held his hand up to his face, covering his beard. “I will have you know that if me face gets so much as a singular knick-knack on it, oh I’ll personally have to bash whatever motherfucker’s face in.

Betsy snorted but rolled her eyes.

We have targets on our backs.” Kasey supplied then, moving the conversation forward. “Large targets. I think…Dickie is going to be the one with the largest target on his back. After he beats Paul. But we can’t count out FYA. Preston was a champion, Maher was a champion, Allison…even with all of the drama between the whole Dane and Joe thing…I’ve heard of what she can do. And Sahara…

Betsy scoffs, another roll of her eyes. “That was lucky. And if she doesn’t think I’m going to get back at her when we climb to the top of the damn thing…ooooooh-ugh.

Sister mine,” Shawn inserted, trying to assuage her.

All I’m getting at is they’re our wildcards. I’m sure they want to rise to the top just like all of us want to, but we can’t count them out. We can’t count anyone out. Dynasty will be chomping at the bit again…especially when that championship doesn’t come home with them. They’re going to want something out of this. And The Cure.

Eoin’s useless.” Dickie commented.

He the ginger one?” Aiden questioned. “Looks like a fuckin’ Irish zombie, big fucker? I wonder how long the handprint would stay if I chopped him with me hand…

Yeah.” Shawn nodded, cutting Aiden off, regardless of whether the Australian wanted to continue or not. “Apathy is one that we need to watch too…nothing like a gothic chick that probably wants to sacrifice whomever to whatever god she can to get ahead. The Cure is simply a group of people who are a remnant of of the past, those who think they can band together and forge a repetition of the things that made them special. But there’s no amount of blood and gore and seances and bullshit threats they can use that will bring back Outlaw. We have to remind them that their desire to treat this like the fucking joke that place was isn’t an option. They have their weaknesses. We don’t. Not yet.

Kasey’s your weakness.” The words came from Dickie like a slap in the face, but even he recognized the tone and shook his head. Kasey frowned. “I don’t mean that badly. I mean that Kasey is going to be the target that they’re going to use to get to you, Shawn. And if you think about it, Betsy would be too. Sister. Girlfriend.

If it’s all the same, Dickie, your hetero lifemate over there is a target then too.

Dickie snorted. “Except Aiden has a hard head and will literally take multiple shots until he literally can’t walk anymore. Then he’ll drink something, come back like a super sayian and get some more shots in. There’s a difference.

Aiden stared at him, narrowing his eyes. “I’m trying to figure out if anything in that statement was used to insult me…or…” With a snicker, Dickie leaned over and patted the poof of his hair condescending. Aiden swatted at him. “Oi, isn’t the fuckhead Enforcer in that stable too? Remember when–

When he wasn’t going by Anthony Cross in other places and talked about his ex-feds like they were married to him once upon a time? Yeah. I beat down the fucker as well when they tried to insert themselves into my shit. Let us handle him. Again.” Dickie added. “Give him a grand ol’ Drive-By–

DROPBEAAAAAAAR.” Aiden yelled. Everyone else winced except for Dickie.

Leave Moore to me. He’ll be hurting from the first night, especially with his pride, but I want to make it absolutely clear to him that his desire to paint FIGHT in the same colors that he left everything else…it’s not an option.” Shawn leaned forward, looking directly at Dickie. Like he knew what was going on in his mind up to this point. Dickie hadn’t initially been all in, but it was clear that he felt better with Aiden around. More open. “Just like I’ll leave Montuori to you.

Dickie looked back, the smile slipping off his face. “Dynasty is a fucking thorn in our side, and we’re going to need to be meticulous in taking them out. The problem is that I don’t particularly hate any of em. I had to tag with that prick and we went in thinking that we were going to win, but…I mean, the fucker can’t listen to anyone but his–

He paused, inhaled, and then exhaled. “Todrick and Ricky aren’t horrible. Michelle I could honestly live without. Joe is inflated with not much substance in his tiny brain. The world isn’t about fast cars and live fast, die young bullshit that we all celebrated as children with our rap music and our ugh factor. The amount of callousness and arrogance bleeding from them all makes me want to grab someone’s tracks and pull ‘em out of their head. And Paul? I’ll save what I have for Paul later. Let’s just make sure we’re prepared for this. A lot rides in this season finale. Our group titles. Our titles. Our credibility as the leaders of this company.

I’m not particularly concerned with us. We have each other’s backs. We’ve been around each other for a better part of a year — and a little more with Kasey. We know what each other wants. There are no surprises Kasey, you’ve been kicked so many times that finally you’re starting to see your worth in the grand scheme because you keep coming back for more. Shawn, you said it yourself, how long has it been since we first made contact? We sat in the tower at Blood Money, waiting for the fuckery to calm down. The Occhi caught us, and it’s clear: we’re smarter than a lot of the people just going for the gold. Betsy, you’ve got that thing–

Excellence?” She supplied, laughing lightly. “She is helpful from time to time, isn’t she?

But I think it’s more than that, Bets. I think it’s the fact that you force people to believe in you. Aiden, you’ve got all of us because you put the team before yourself. You’ve got people — i.e. me, — who you push to be better than they think they can be. We lift, support, build, and bring this fuckery down. This? Well it’s not Legacy, but it’s a family of its own. It makes sense. We don’t have problems. We’ve been united in this common goal that we’re tired of being fucked around with. All of us are some of the most gifted, talented, and determined fucking wrestling champions in this business. Everywhere we go, we make waves, we do what everyone doesn’t expect us to. We are solid. We are a fucking team. And there is no way that we can’t make it to the top and survive the onslaught.

Shawn smirked, Kasey smiled. Betsy nodded, Aiden continued spinning in his chair, but held up his thumb. Dickie looked at them all. “Now. I’m going to prove to the rest of this company that I’m not the Empire Champion for no reason. And we are going to prove that the future of this company lies within us. Not Dynasty, FYA, or The Cure.

The team nodded, agreeing. That was the positive. They were all on the same page, and they always would be. As they began rising from their seats, Aiden finished spinning in his chair. He set his hands on the table to steady himself.

You good, mate?” Dickie questioned, raising an eyebrow.

Think Ima be sick.

A sigh issued from Dickie’s lips. He reached out a hand to his friend, who took it, whole heartedly “C’mon, you fuckin’ idiot.

Oi, I resemble that remark!

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WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, YEAH
YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR MIND
IF YOU THINK I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR REASONS WHY
THIS AIN’T GONNA END HOW YOU WANT IT TO
I’M NOTHING LIKE YOU

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The door slammed behind Aiden, leaving Dickie in the room alone one more time. On each side of the room, there were two doors — the one Aiden came in and out of, and the one on the opposite end. Dickie sat on the couch, listening to the tick tock of the grandmother clock on the wall force time to move, and move and move. The god awful flowered, yellow wallpaper. You all know the story, right? The woman driven mad by having to stay in a house, trapped by the yellow wallpaper. The delightful — or rather, terrible — smell of old wafts within the room. He wasn’t quite sure if that’s what it was before when he sat in here, just minutes ago, or if this was a new room entirely. Regardless, he exhales, inhales, and rubs his hands on the tops of his jeans.

He glanced down at the rickety, mediterranean-styled table, finding a small, nondescript brown package. He stared at it, the tick tick in the background a dull sound, something he could easily ignore if he wanted to. He reached out, tearing into it. A picture of himself, ripped edges on both sides of the photo. He has blood dripping down his nose and another bruise under his opposite eye, but he seems to look pleased. He didn’t know when it was taken. But showed something. He flipped it, looking at the back for some understanding of the image.

There was none.

Quietly, he pocketed it and rose to his feet. Dickie began to move to the door Aiden came through, but as he set his hand upon the doorknob, he paused. Something…something was telling him to go the other way.

It’s easier to take roads you’ve traveled down. Why bother inventing anything new when the tried and true method of doing this is what worked before? Why bother challenging the status quo when you’re safe, sound and secure? Is that what history is supposed to do? It’s supposed to tell us what worked and what didn’t so we continue to be safe in our lofty goals. We don’t move. We don’t try. And we certainly don’t fail.

He turned his head, looking back at the opposite door.

It’s harder to take the road less traveled. Whether you know or not what lies on the other side is a factor, but oftentimes, you don’t. You have to go on your instinct, moving forward, building yourself the opportunity for a better life, a better love, a better…whatever. Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side, or maybe, as you move through the hardships, you make for yourself a better time. A better future.

He headed to the opposite side of the room in less than three strides and grasped the doorknob there. He paused for a moment, and then looked directly into the picture frame as if he was staring into the viewer’s soul. A smirk climbed up upon his lips and he smiled.

Isn’t that what this has been about, everyone?

He swung open the door with such force that the wind blew in, knocking the fake plants over, and extinguishing the lights. He stepped out into the fray, his booted feet pressing against the tarred asphalt pavement. New York City, for all intents and purposes, was dead. Dickie stared up at the large television screens and ticker tapes, normally reading all the current news. The billboards, so alive with color on a regular basis, deadened in the dark, their pictures nondescript and uninviting. There were no cars. There were no sounds. Just the young man, his leather jacket, and an expression of determination upon his features.

Finding the road less traveled, being thrust into events that none of us were ready for, much less prepared in any kind of way. Tagging with people that you were at war with, climbing the Tower itself, forcing us to move forward in a world that we didn’t understand, we didn’t know. Forcing us to rise to a challenge constantly. FIGHT! hasn’t just been about the gangs and the groups and the ability to fight in what we know as wrestlers. It’s been a place built to challenge what we know and force us to work harder, better, faster and stronger. Some of us got the cue.

He looked up in the distance. The only thing that seemingly has light in this desolate darkness is the Hearst Tower. The home to all of them. The place Dickie had been the leader of since July. It was like a beacon for the hopeless, a place for the most destitute to come to and relieve themselves of their worries and their cares. But what was it truly? To Dickie, it was an outlet. For his doubts, for this anger, for his pride. He wasn’t happy with the way things had been, and he’d said that. Over and over. This was the turning point. This was when it mattered.

Some of us didn’t.

With measured steps, Dickie began to walk towards the tower. He held his neck upwards, his back straight as he did so, his eyes focused ahead. He didn’t glance off to the side, he didn’t bother looking at the things around him. No. He was focused.

Challenges abound in companies like these. A new sight, a new concept, a new something to breathe in. Something to change the status quo of the same matches over and over again. A two night special, in which we have a plethora of singles matches to combat the gang warfare that’s going to take place the following night. As teams, we ascend to the top of the Tower. It’s not figurative, the goal. But the proceeds are many for the team that makes their presence known to the rest of the wrestling world. But…that’s a challenge. Some people…well, they’re not ready for challenges.

When we walked into this company at the beginning of this whole thing, everyone had the opportunity to see a fresh start. For myself? I’d been downtrodden by a wrestling company that got bored of my abilities. This isn’t arrogance, this is true. So I came here. I took myself and made myself rise to the top. I didn’t know anyone else. I didn’t need to know anyone else. Inaugural championships are the things that I like to try for, so when I had the opportunity for another one…well, I didn’t stop. No matter how many times I’ve been told that I wasn’t going to hold onto the championship for very long, that I wasn’t what this company needed…there was no attempt to prove my worth wrong. The company itself praises me from day in and day out, and that’s not because I’m not capable. That it was some fucking fluke and I don’t deserve it.

No. They know my worth. The roster knows my worth. Despite the shit said, despite the constant badgering by overhyped cuntbags, I know who I am. Eventually, all of you will get in line.

He doesn’t stop walking, but a smile rose up on his face once more. He inclined his head forward, nodding ahead of what he has to say.

Yes, even you, Paulie. PMont. Penis Envy, whatever you want to be called. The Second Coming, all of that jazz that comes around a name when you look like Jesus incarnate. You know, it took me a while to figure you out. Took me a while to figure out a lot of people in this outfit, but you…nah, you were a little bit harder. You were like the live male version of Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold, or maybe even the true definition of bipolarism. The rest of the people in this company you had fooled, but the rest of us walking in…well, we weren’t necessarily impressed.

You see, people like myself and Shawn, we don’t just talk a big game. We live what we speak. And if suddenly, we fall short…we try and try again. We adjust to the task at hand, take in everything that we can, make our judgements from evidence and then move forward from there. Same with Aiden. Same with Kasey. Same with Betsy, and a plethora of other individuals that exist in this sport in other promotions. We don’t just talk out of our ass in the hopes that someone will believe us and agree wholeheartedly. We don’t say things differently from week to week — we don’t need to change our tune to fit in with the task because we keep the same energy. We just adjust our approach to the best strategy that we can devise to go in, calculate appropriately, and win. Remove the odds, if you will.

That’s why I am the Empire Champion, Paul. That’s why I am at the top, that’s why I have the championship belt, why I was able to defeat you at Blood Money, and why I’ll be able to do it again here at Ascension.

Let’s look back on that day, shall we? We fought each other, when I didn’t know the baggage you brought with you into this company, and you didn’t know who the fuck I was. We traded blows, we outsmarted the competition. No one begrudges us that…well, maybe Joe does on your side, but when push comes to shove, no one else does. We fought our hardest, and we made it there. And then I planted my foot into your moneymaker face and pinned you for the one, two, three. You couldn’t stomach that. You said it yourself, didn’t you? Say whatever you want to the rest of the world, but don’t lie and say you didn’t become super fucking jealous in two point three seconds. I beat you, and you’ve had a hate boner for me since.

It’s okay. I get it, you know? I stopped your chance to outshine your family. I stopped your ability to become more than what you’ve ever been. And what is that? You carry the name Montuori like it’s some special name, and call me ignorant if you like, but where I’ve only seen it carry weight is here. Google the family name and what comes up is an oil company, a soccer player and a thousand obituaries in which your name will be added to after Ascension. Your pops was a wrestler — cool. Like father, like brother, like son. Outside of the circle you’ve been a part of, no one knows your past, and to be honest? I wish I could say sorry, but…

I’m not.

He added a half-hearted shrug, passing the familiar streets of New York with ease. He paused for a second, checking if his destination was the same and in view. It was, and with that, he continued moving forward.

I thought from the get that we were similar, Paulie. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered from the men and women who surround themselves around you. We were both younger brothers, thought of as less, the tag alongs, the do nothings, the ones that were only there to make their siblings look better. But we both knew it. We were destined to be more than our predecessors. In my case, a brother and sister — for you, a brother. When Joe kicked my head in after you and your ballboys fucked around with me and your goddamn numbers game, you pleaded with him to settle your own shit. To be allowed to do what you needed.

That’s where we’re different.

You see, I never waited for permission to rise. In fact, I did it in spite of everyone in my family that told me that this wasn’t the best idea I’d had. And now look at me. Multi-time world champion, tag champion, mid-card champion. In spite of their wishes, I rose to prominence far quicker than anyone else that I knew. I did it because I knew I could, and look at me now.

I don’t need fast cars and women, to live a previous life of fucking and banging people without attachments. I don’t need money and the thrills of a life that isn’t worth anything except arrogance and pride. When you don’t have any of that, do you think people will give a flying fuck about you? Lambos and jewelery…you think Alexis is going to continue loving you if you fall apart at the seams? You think anyone gives a shit about you without any of your attachments? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

You were given everything. Your brother still continues coddling you, helping you when the stakes are down, trying to erase any kind of problem in your path. You and I are not the same, and we’ll never be. I may have my own aesthetic you think is bullshit that you’ve attacked quite a few times, thinking a grade school level insult was for the lulz, but at least I’m not on that level. While I’ve fought for everything that I’ve had, you’ve been handed the world. All I see when I look at you is that you’re a petty, spoiled little cuckstain that’s trying to fight for your own glory but you don’t even know how to.

He shook his head, coming to a stop. Laying on the ground, almost as if it was placed there for him, is the Empire Championship. He reached down, slowly lifing the gold upwards. He looks down at it, the shine bright from the plates.

All of that arrogance, all of that pride, all of that pettiness and spoiled muckery that you have, and you want to try to hold this because your groupies have told you you’d be a better champion? That’s what you think will carry you to the glory that you think you can have? You lost to fucking Brandon Moore, sit down at the kid’s table, motherfucker. You couldn’t handle what being a champion means. You think it’s as base as shaking fans hands and carrying around a pretty belt, but could you handle the constant target on your back? Not knowing who was going to come out of the woodwork to take your championship from you? I don’t think you could.

You portray yourself as this dope ass motherfucker, but hell, I haven’t seen it yet. You’ve been coddled, thought to be better than you really are. Everyone talks about how you’re the best, you’re the champ here, but what have you done besides pissed, whined and moaned? It didn’t go this way, didn’t go that way, should have had that belt…well guess what, buckaroo, you don’t. And you won’t. You can sit there and post bullshit on Twitter, take a tick-tock clock and think it’s cute and a bit devilish and think you’ve got me scared, but all you do is really annoy the shit out of me. We’ve been at each other’s throats, and to be honest, we had Toxic Tag won but you couldn’t fucking take a cue from someone else without getting your balls caught up in your throat and fighting me. That wasn’t my fucking fault, and you know what? I didn’t and don’t give a shit about it.

But go ahead. Blame me for your failure, just like you’ve blamed everyone else in your life for your continual fuckups. You’ve been wrestling for a decade off and on, disappeared for a while, but you would think that even in all that time…you would have something recognizable. Something more notable than talking to a fucking goat in Fade2Black. Yes, I went into the archives. Yes. I took this more seriously than you thought I would. You have nothing of relevance to your name except a bunch of awards for sticking your dick in girls who were more the star than your peen. You got yourself banned from multiple places, and basically had yourself banished because you were a fucking failure. You said it yourself, did you not? You were the king of the midcard. You’ve done nothing of note your entire career.

He hoisted the championship up and over his shoulder, continuing towards the Tower in a methodical motion.

That’s what you want to come at me with? The ‘I’ll be better than yous’, the tick tocks on the clock, but the party don’t stop, no? You, the failed product of your own ineptitude rising above someone with the perseverance and determination of a fighter. I don’t think so. I’m not at the top because I fucked around and found out, I’m at the top because I’m a doer. I work for this shit, and maybe I haven’t been all in, but that ends today.

As he approached the Hearst Tower, he held his championship with pride.

I don’t come into this as a lucky duckling ready to fall apart at the seams. I come into this with eyes open, ears listening, and arms wide. Through it all, Montuori…you’ve made every single possible mistake you could coming into this, but the worst is assuming like you did all over Twitter that this was what it was going to be. This isn’t the type of person you’ve been facing in Fade2Black, Outlaw Pro. We popped up into this world of FIGHT! to prove that it takes more than what you think it does to survive. You won’t be walking out of that tower with the belt in your hands.

It stays with me. The rightful, true owner of the Empire Championship.

With all due respect, mate…your time isn’t now, or ever. Maybe…maybe when you learn to stand on your own two feet. When you learn to fight your battles, you’ll surpass the rest of your family. But until then? Not on my watch, not on my dime. You’re not comin’ for me, Paul; rather, I’m coming for your fuckin’ throat. Fuckin’ bet.

At the bottom of the tower stood his group. Shawn, Betsy, Kasey and Aiden looked forward. The group turned, Islands Championships on their shoulders or their waists. Dickie took his, carrying it with a hand.

We are the future. We are everything you are not. Fuck your status quo.

He smiled, and so did the rest of them, almost as if it was planned.

It’s time for a new one.

⬈⬋⬈⬋⬈⬋

The group of five stood at the bottom of the Hearst Tower. They were ready to ascend, ready to rise to the occasion. Like they always were. Like they always would be. Betsy looked at the other four, reaching into her pocket and pulling out the image of the photograph. “We all got one, didn’t we?

A murmur of ascent closed around them. Each dug into their own pockets, reaching for the frayed and torn photographs they’d received at random. Dickie looked down at his, finding his own face looking back up at him. He glanced upwards; each member was doing the same.

Okay, but like…the background looks the same in all of it. And the rips…” Kasey stated, pursing her lips slightly.

You might be onto something,” Betsy supplied. “Here…let me see yours, Shawn.

She took it from Warstein. She watched as the picture, at the edges, seemed to connect to each other, unable to be taken apart. She looked at the back, and the words hashtagged on the back. On Shawn’s, patience. On Betsy’s, belief. Shawn reached over for Kasey’s, allowing the pictures to merge together again, adding determination to the fray. Aiden handed his over, connecting it on the opposite side of Kasey, and the word brotherhood rose upon his. Lastly, Dickie handed his over, and the word perseverance was visible.

The image was of them, on the top of the Hearst Tower. Beaten. Battered. But happy. Ecstatic. It wasn’t known when the picture was taken, but the symbolism is what mattered more, especially to Dickie. Each of them carried these traits into their team, each of them carried something different. Each of them used that trait to the best of their ability in ways that made sense. New Status Quo may have been formed as a common ground faction, but it was more than that.

It was family.

It was the future.

It was the way things were going to be in FIGHT!

There were no other options.

⬈⬋⬈⬋⬈⬋

I CAN FLY
AND YOU’RE GONNA FALL FACE DOWN
WHILE I INSPIRE GREATNESS
AS LONG AS I’M ALIVE
I’LL FIGHT
AND YOU’LL BE STUCK IN THE SHADOWS OF
THE HEIGHTS OF MY GREATNESS