The walk back to the locker room was strangely eerie. It felt like the entire building was either empty or that Silas and Ito were isolated in a small bubble. From the outside, crew members were applauding the accomplishment and congratulating him while the athletes gave him only a small acknowledgment, but to Silas, it was a moment that continuously circled in his head. It didn’t feel real, in a way. The last time he got some form of world championship shot was the ironman match that was rushed to TV instead of a PPV.
There were a few times he main evented television, especially during the Alpha and Omega tournament, but a PPV main event had alluded him for nearly two years. Several times he had come close, but in one form or another, the opportunity was yanked away from him. Sure, he was in the Golden Intentions rumble, but if you are sharing the slot with 29 other people, it’s not an accomplishment unless you win.
Not this time. Fourteen Evolutions worth of work, nine matches, nine hard-fought duels, just to get to not only a PPV main event but also a golden ticket to the world championship.
The One True Omega had been born, and at the beginning of December, he was going to claim his crown.
Finally, the two of them were alone in the locker room with not another soul in sight. Silas grabbed the towel and started to dry his hair, whilst Ito prepared his bag for the next leg of the tour. For several moments, the didn’t as much as look at each other, both consumed in their activities which leaned towards getting ready to leave.
Silas finally opened his locker and saw on the middle shelf that a series of beautiful flowers had been arranged, alongside a note. ‘Congratulations on your Omega Block success! We look forward to seeing you at Genesis for your CWF World Championship match against Freddie Styles. Good luck! - CWF Management.’
It clicked, at least, and the two of them set eyes on each other. From the neutral, slightly stern faces of both Silas Artoria and Hidetaka Ito, they finally cracked a smile in the first acknowledgment of the situation.
There’s no need to feel even slightly down when you’ve finally proven that you’re one of, if not the top athlete in the entire company. There was proof. Hard, irrefutable proof, beyond vague words of grandiose tones.
Silas started a slow, deliberate chuckle. And then Ito joined in, also slow.
And then it grew, and grew, and grew.
Sure enough, the laughter consumed the two of them as if they were inside a sanatorium. Silas threw up his arms in pure delight.
SILAS ARTORIA: Oh, praise the gods above. If I were a drinker, five bottles of red wouldn’t be enough to knock me off my feet!
He grabbed the flowers and showed Ito, delighted in their existence.
SILAS ARTORIA: Do you know what this is, Ito-san?
HIDETAKA ITO: Beyond flowers, I presume?
SILAS ARTORIA: Exactly!
He held up the note, written in clear black ink.
SILAS ARTORIA: This is written proof of validation! The sprouting tree of ambition, and the evidence I have been waiting for!
The note is thrown to the side, near Silas’ bag.
SILAS ARTORIA: All this time, I’ve been telling the people at home and the CWF that I was a man who deserved to be in the upper echelons of the company. But the opportunities were crushed one by one as athletes with no loyalty to their work and traveling star acts caught management’s eye. It’s like motorsport, in the sense that talent can get you a fair distance, but it’s nothing compared to the interests of those running the companies and entities behind it.
He threw the towel in the air and laid down on the bench, flooded with pure euphoria and joy.
SILAS ARTORIA: Meritocracy eventually wins out in battles of attrition, don’t you think so, Ito-san?
Ito could only chuckle at the young man’s words.
HIDETAKA ITO: Some would say you have had a chip on your shoulder.
SILAS ARTORIA: A whole bag of chips and a fried sausage worth, I’d lean towards.
The two of them laughed at the statement, even if it’s because of how close to the truth it was. Was it him now, considering the transformation and self-discovering he had over the past two years? Likely, but when you’re so close to the peak of the mountain, it’s only natural to think of yourself as some unstoppable force, and you’re about to show the world that it’s the case.
Silas stared at the lights above, orange and more saturated than the usual shallow and grey appearance he had come accustomed to. Made sense, given his new self declared title, unless it was the Mexico City lighting quality. He was full of bliss either way and finally, he had very little to worry about. His final opponent was around the corner, but he had finally validated himself, and it took two years.
SILAS ARTORIA: When did you start watching me, Ito-san?
Hidetaka had finished zipping up his bag when he heard the question. It was something that he doesn’t actively think about, which is normal considering the sport has no real beginning or end, but it’s something he’d finger he’d have an instant answer for since Silas was his student. The Crescendo tournament was when they encountered each other, but when it comes to when he started watching Silas more actively, one event comes to mind.
HIDETAKA ITO: I think during the run-up towards your Tokyo Dome match, against the Lost Boys?
A hearty chuckle came out of Silas. Ah, the memories, filled with madness and nostalgia. The Tokyo Dome match against Sean and Dean was a milestone, but Silas doesn’t consider it ‘the’ starting point.
SILAS ARTORIA: And how different those days were. A Canadian boy with a pocket full of dreams.
SILAS ARTORIA: If you started watching me in the CWF then, that means you haven’t heard of a certain Danny Gordy.
HIDETAKA ITO: Maybe a whisper here and there, but nothing of substance.
Silas sat up, stretching his firm and stiff shoulders. The after-effects of the match were still lingering, although the second wind from the win levitated some of the pain. The name elicits a strange mixture of humour and irritation to Silas, as it was one of the very first confrontations he had when he first started. Back straight, be continued.
SILAS ARTORIA: When I first arrived here, I was a mere boy. I went up against a french woman before taking part in a battle royal. I wasn’t even the only Silas in that match, which must’ve made Mike and Jim fairly confused at the time, although the other one faded into pure obscurity. There were faces you may recognize in that match, if only because they’re regulars here. Raven, Duce, Shadow, Valentine if you’re stretching it, but the winner of the match was a man called Danny Gordy.
HIDETAKA ITO: Did anything come from that?
SILAS ARTORIA: For me, brief experience with a few people I would be in battles with for several months, especially Raven, but for Danny Gordy, he gained the CWF Academy Championship. He’d have to defend it every show before the belt was discontinued in favour of the Paramount Championship, but Gordy was...well, let’s say a fairly unpleasant human being at best.
Interest grew in Ito, his face expressed it...
HIDETAKA ITO: Examples? We’ve both dealt with vile individuals.
...and Silas reveled in giving out details of the waste of space.
SILAS ARTORIA: The limited-time I saw him painted the picture of a gluttonous, unappealing, undesirable athlete who somehow slipped through the cracks and won a championship. He was in perfect shape, and that shape was a circle. Certainly suitable if you’re a yokozuna, but not the image you’d want to plaster on posters if your aim was the sell tickets to your shows.
Silas paused for a very brief thought.
SILAS ARTORIA: You remember Koki Rei from JWA. Built like a brick house?
HIDETAKA ITO: You think I’d forget Koki?
SILAS ARTORIA: Well, imagine him but wider and far less skilled.
HIDETAKA ITO: And yet, this Gordy fellow won a title and eliminated you from a battle royal.
A quick handwave of the situation. He had a valid excuse, after all.
SILAS ARTORIA: Blame Valentine. He came to the ring late, eliminated a bunch of us, got disqualified before Gordy tossed him out. A victory with a lot of shenanigans. The CWF was a lot more chaotic back then.
HIDETAKA ITO: So what is your point here?
SILAS ARTORIA: I called him out the week after to challenge him for the title, and he ran away before he could even respond. I didn’t even get the match! Not even a little mention!
Silas leaned forward and became more deliberate with his words, careful in the structure and presentation. The euphoria was still within him, but it had started to become clouded with memories of a time Silas could call ‘trashy’.
SILAS ARTORIA: That moment when Gordy ran away and I was given Autumn Raven to face, was when I knew I was far more skilled and stronger than the others were willing to admit. Sure, ego played a part as it does for people who start working for big promotions, but the fact was that Gordy ran away when he was supposed to face me. If someone who was well established feared another who only had been in the federation for two weeks, then what should that tell management?
Another beat goes by, with Silas’ mania slowly rising.
SILAS ARTORIA: That you have a golden jewel within your hands. So many people have come and gone--that card with the battle royal had twenty-four athletes compete that day, and only five are within the CWF today!
HIDETAKA ITO: Does that include your Genesis opponent?
The question sent Silas into deep thought. He had glanced at the card so many times in revising some of his early matches that he could almost recount the whole thing. Things were far different back then. There was more uncontrolled chaos in comparison to the much more professionally run environment it is today, and if he was taking on his battle royal opponents as the man he was today, he might’ve steamrolled them.
The five who remained had, by now, became household names. Autumn Raven, his long-time rival had enjoyed a late tournament resurgence. Duce Jones, a man he has never faced before outside of a brief spat in that battle royal. Ataxia, the masked lunatic with fewer brains in favour of unhinged mania. And finally, there was--
SILAS ARTORIA: Yes.
--Freddie Styles. The King of the Alphas.
SILAS ARTORIA: By Christ, we were very young and naive back then.
HIDETAKA ITO: Over two years?
Silas creaked out a smile.
SILAS ARTORIA: Two years may sound short, but a university degree takes three. You can learn a lot in a short amount of time, especially when you’re exposed to the elements of the business.
HIDETAKA ITO: So what has changed about you?
Hidetaka pulled up a nearby chair and dragged it opposite to Silas, sitting comfortably and ready to analyze his student with copious detail. Every muscle, every expression, he wanted to see it.
HIDETAKA ITO: If you have always known you were this grand talent that needed to be exposed through results and factual numbers -- whether it be by persistence, luck, or a combination of the two -- what has changed about one Silas Artoria, based in Toronto, Canada?
HIDETAKA ITO: What have you learned throughout your time here?
Ito had chosen his words carefully. For the past several weeks he and Silas had been rewatching their Crescendo matches, due to the similarity both it and the Alpha and Omega tournaments scheduled and managed their contests. Time after time, Silas was beaten down, sometimes to a fine pulp, but there was something to learn from each of his encounters. Those lessons were easy, for they were based on mindsets and strategies, but Ito demanded something far more than regurgitation.
Silas was asked how he has learned and changed, not over the Crescendo or Alpha and Omega tournaments, but over the past two years, he has been in the company. The road was long and full of hurdles and misfires, failures of character and moments of triumph, setbacks due to outside forces, all the way to the tournament becoming the perfect opportunity.
He delved deep into his memories, some melancholic, some tainted with the stains of uncontrollable rage, and he felt each of them pass through his very soul.
Silas, Autumn, Dean, and Sean embracing in the middle of the Tokyo Dome.
SILAS ARTORIA: Teamwork…
Slamming Tara Robinson through a table after the crumbling of the Coalition.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...the value of self-control…
His half a year losing streak in 2018.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...the relationship between performance and mindset…
The multiple times he was given harsh words by Dr. Leggett.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...the bright side of authority...
Nearly winning the Paramount Championship, if not for the ref being completely occupied by an irrelevant situation.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...situational awareness…
Hidetaka Ito coming into the picture.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...the need for continuous tutelage...
Inner Circle arriving and disappearing, decimating the roster and the title’s prestige on the way out.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...the importance of presence…
And finally, the end of the Alpha and Omega tournament. The King of the Alphas, and the One True Omega, standing in the middle of the ring, firing the first shots.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and how to take advantage of the situation.
HIDETAKA ITO: I think you learned that last one long ago, young man.
Silas flashed back into reality, seeing Ito with a smile on his face. The answers were unfiltered with no sugar-coating, it came straight from the memories, and it was satisfying to see it.
Finally, Ito asked possibly the most important question he has throughout his entire time in the company, the one that would determine if the hard work was to go to waste.
HIDETAKA ITO: Do you fear your match with Freddie Styles?
Almost in an instant--
SILAS ARTORIA: No.
HIDETAKA ITO: Good.
Ito’s smile widened.
HIDETAKA ITO: It means you’re ready.
Lesson number nine: seize the opportunity.
The run, from a numbers perspective, had been abysmal. Zero wins to his name, lowest at the bottom, and one of the worst performances in the history of Crescendo. In twenty-five years, there has never been an athlete who went eight matches without a single win and considering his next opponent, it could end up becoming a clean sheet.
Hidetaka Ito, current JWA Heavyweight Champion, the longest-reigning champion in company history at 783 days, and revered as one of the most innovative and toughest competitors alive today. He had seven wins and one loss, but with a victory over Silas coming up, it would be fair to more or less call the match a victory tour.
Silas didn’t do anything as Ito tossed the smaller Canadian around like a ragdoll, giving the crowd what it wants. It was a showcase of dominance without a care in the world, almost reveling in the beatdown.
And yet, the strikes and throws felt a little...weak, as if Ito wasn’t putting any effort into them. It did feel like the native had it in the bag already, and must’ve felt that he could take it easy knowing that the tournament was his. The showboating was extravagant, he was more focused on the crowd, to the point that Silas was the last of his concerns.
And it was the mindset that Silas was looking for.
Ito took in the crowd reaction after he threw another weak throw, weak enough for an opportunity.
The voices within his head spoke to him, it crawled into Silas’ head, and he targeted his prey with a fixated fervor. Ito whipped him to the ropes for a big boot, but Silas saw it coming and delivered a high impact knee. The strike echoed throughout the arena, just as he delivered another one to keep up the stun.
Finally, Ito is quickly ascended towards the sky, before crashing down into a cutter.
One, two, three, it was all over.
The crowd looked on in silence, shocked at the result.
Silas Artoria, the Canadian nobody with the worst Crescendo record to date, pinned the JWA Heavyweight Champion.
And in the adrenaline generated from the win, a little twinkle formed in his eye.
1 win, 8 losses.
On a hillside overlooking the City of Brotherly Love, the deep hum of an open-top car approached the peak. The sun had been gone for some time, and a rich full moon provided the area with some beautiful natural light. Blue, it was, but in a calm, melancholic way. The car stops, and peeking above the windscreen was a familiar face.
Silas Artoria, with a standard jacket to suit the cold weather, gazing down on the city, completely lit up by the street lights and buildings still open for business. A smile complimented the look before the man himself jumps out of the car to lean on the front. Less comfortable, but better if you wanted an unobstructed view of the city.
SILAS ARTORIA: Philadelphia…
He quickly adjusts himself, slightly shifting his shoulders.
SILAS ARTORIA: The City of Brotherly Love, Birthplace of America, home to 1.5 million people. Known for the Liberty Bell, the First Continental Congress, and having arguably the most passionate wrestling audience to grace this wonderful planet.
There was a small hint of sadness within Silas, upset at the past. Philadelphia is, of course, one of the oldest cities in the country and widely considered the birthplace of the United States, but behind the rich culture, the raucous wrestling crowds, and it’s million-plus population, laid something underneath for Silas.
It wasn’t vexed darkness.
It was regret.
SILAS ARTORIA: The last time we were in Philadelphia was for Golden Intentions, last year. The one we had this year was something I was much more proud of, but last year?
He pauses, contemplates what happened, and how deep he was into the worst period of his career.
SILAS ARTORIA: It was arguably the worst PPV I have ever participated in, not because of the event itself, but where I was during that time.
SILAS ARTORIA: I can’t remember how long my ridiculously long losing streak was, that’s the reason why I have both the highest number of wins and losses of the modern era, but when your head isn’t in the right place, it affects you. It turns you into a hollow, walking the earth without purpose and praying for some sort of miracle. I had a championship match against Ataxia which ended after he low-blowed me; truly symbolic of me at the time. Zero eliminations in the rumble itself, and was content in disappearing into the abyss, forgotten.
He gazes upon the City of Brotherly Love, focusing mainly on the Well Fargo Arena in the distance, the same site of both the dark times and the upcoming Genesis PPV. At some point, hidden within the small shadows under the moonlight, a small, hopeful smile appeared on his face.
SILAS ARTORIA: Times have certainly changed.
SILAS ARTORIA: The Alpha and Omega tournament was the ultimate ladder towards validation. Sure, I won the Paramount Championship at the beginning of the year, I’ve been a CWF fixture at the beginning of the year, but I’ve always been confined into the background whilst the bickering of others took precedence. All it took was a brief spat with management, and immediately you were in the main event.
Single chuckle, the motivation within starts to build towards some form of crescendo.
SILAS ARTORIA: Not in this tournament! It was a level playing field where the more notable names in the company would duke it out against each other, regardless of previous or current conflicts. You were completely exposed in terms of talent, and it was a much-needed reset for the whole roster! Previous main event talent tumbled under the pressure, like Duce Jones and Ataxia, whilst those who were held back by the politics of the company ascended the card! Jay Mora was reduced to a pulp, whist Zolton and Amy Jo Smyth solidified themselves as must-watch talent! If you took a look at the final results table two years ago, you all would’ve called it some blind and ignorant fan's fantasy booking!
SILAS ARTORIA: The Alpha and Omega tournament was the first chapter of a new era, and standing on stage, front and centre, are two talents that represent the past and the future!
He stops, breathing heavily and through his teeth, glazing at the camera without a single second spent blinking.
SILAS ARTORIA: The past, the King of the Alphas, Freddie Styles…
Slowly, be points to himself.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...or the future, the One True Omega…
SILAS ARTORIA: ...Silas...Artoria.
He lowers his hand and fully rests himself against the vehicle, as the moon continues to light up the environment. He is calm, but firm with his words, almost growling with conviction.
SILAS ARTORIA: Genesis...couldn’t be a more fitting name, couldn’t it?
Moments to breathe, there’s still a match to partake in.
SILAS ARTORIA: To me, Genesis isn’t about rebirthing, for I have already been reborn through bruises and sweat.
A tilt of the head.
SILAS ARTORIA: But for Freddie Styles, it is about a rebirth, for he has grasped the belt before, in both the modern era and the classic era of this company.
A smile appears.
SILAS ARTORIA: This isn’t ten or even five years ago, Freddie, when the CWF was a fantasy project made real in an era of stagnation. This is the modern CWF, where younger and more adventurous athletes walk in and take their place in the halls of eternity! It’s where unknowns make a name for themselves, and it’s their efforts that have brought the CWF in a new golden age.
SILAS ARTORIA: And that’s something you cannot handle, ‘King of the Alphas’.
He gets up and starts to walk around the vehicle, pacing his steps very carefully.
SILAS ARTORIA: You said in the press conference that I haven’t walked the miles you have, and that might be true.
Around the front.
SILAS ARTORIA: You said that no one believed you would make it here, and you might be right.
SILAS ARTORIA: But the fact remains that my mileage has been continuous throughout this new, whilst you only popped in when the cards began to turn in your favour.
Stops by the driver's side door, and stares into the lens of the camera.
SILAS ARTORIA: You told me, right to my face in Mexico City that I shouldn’t question you about loyalty to the company, in the same paragraph where you whined and bemoaned that you have to cut your precious vacation short to represent the CWF. A real representative wouldn’t complain about their past whilst they’re holding the belt that acts as their crown
SILAS ARTORIA: I meant it when I implied I didn’t want to be proven right, but the evidence makes me wary of you.
He furiously points to himself.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’VE HAD TO GO THROUGH ROUGH PATCHES! I HAD TO WALK THE HOT COALS YOU CLAIM TO GO THROUGH! AND NOT ONCE DO I BEMOAN IT!
The fury on his face gave way to a light smile...something...sinister. A dark chuckle accompanies it, like assisting a guiding sibling.
SILAS ARTORIA: I embrace it.
SILAS ARTORIA: I learn from it.
Hand of the door handle.
SILAS ARTORIA: And I most certainly don’t cower away for three months after losing a title belt.
Other hand towards the lens.
SILAS ARTORIA: And that’s the key difference between you and I. Whereas you scurry off back to Atlanta with your tail between your legs, I march towards the frontlines even if I am deemed unfit to do so. Go ask Dr. Leggett and he’ll tell you that I ignored his advice and went in a Hell in a Cell match! He’ll tell you that I do not go down without a thorough fight!
Said hand reaches his temple, calmly stroking across it.
Something is speaking, and the grin did not fade away.
SILAS ARTORIA: And he’ll tell you that my resilience is unlike anything you have ever seen before.
SILAS ARTORIA: You are a manager, Freddie…
He opens the car door.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and I am a leader.
Slowly, he steps inside the car and takes one last look at the shining lights of beautiful Philadelphia. He breathes the cool air on the hilltop one last time and soaks in the atmosphere.
SILAS ARTORIA: Philadelphia...the birthplace of America…
The engine turns on, and Silas, for the last time, takes a good look at the camera lens.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and the birthplace of the Artoria Era.
Finger-guns to the camera.
SILAS ARTORIA: BANG!
The feed cuts off.
See you at Genesis.