There was a time before, a time above, when we were still in the light. When I was still in the light. When that light shone… God damn, was it beautiful.
The bright lights of the big stage. Of Hostility.
Enemies came and enemies fell. Other federations rose up to challenge us… numerous others popped up for something called “Fed Wars.” They all fell before us.
And I… we… were at the forefront of it all.
For almost two years, we fought at the front lines. Sometimes we fought other people, sometimes we fought each other. Sometimes we fought corrupt regimes, and sometimes we found ourselves part of them.
We really thought Hostility would live forever, in that time. That we’d keep it going, create something that would last, that would withstand the tests of time, that would take on a life of its own and change the business.
Legacy was something that was always in the backs of our minds during those days.
What would this look like in a year?
We really, in our hearts, knew that what we were doing was special.
We believed in Hostility, in what we fought for, in what we fought against.
We believed in ourselves, and in Hostility.
One thing never changed, during that time… we never stopped believing.
We never gave up.
We never surrendered.
We never stopped fighting.
Until we did.
Until we walked away, and Hostility withered on the branch.
Until Hostility was left to the devices of bad actors, acting in bad faith, and it died.
It didn’t die with a bang, as some historians may suggest it did.
It died with a whimper, and it went unheard.
Unheard by the world, and unheard by us.
And for years, that was it.
Hostility was dead.
Until suddenly, apparently, it wasn’t.
Carson City, Nevada
“Come on, mango, it’s just one night,” says Chris Bond, leaning against a wall in the austere apartment. Before him, holding a piece of paper in his hands, shoulders heaving with the weight of expectation and legacy, stands a man who hasn’t been seen in nearly a decade.
Doubt weaves its way across Alex Rockridge’s face like a spider web, dark eyes scanning the page, looking up and down.
“Autumn Raven, Alex Rain, The Lost Soul… never heard of ‘em,” he mutters, before looking at their scheduled opponents. “For Hostility… Bubba Love, Lucas Green… who?” Then he comes to a name he recognizes. “ ‘Beautiful’ Bobby Dean. Wait, wasn’t he brought in by that Mad Max guy?”
“That’s right,” grins Bond. “The original shithead who put your name on the map.”
Mad Max punches him again across the painted face, causing him to stumble back toward the edge of the cage. “This is my world!” he cries once more, like he did so many years ago, and grabs the Legacy Championship before charging him with it. “MY WORLD!”
He grunts, drops to a knee, and watches as the belt sails over his head. Then he rams his shoulder into Max’s gut, jarring the belt loose. It falls, and he grabs it.
“Not… any… more!” he growls through gritted teeth, before rolling past Max… CLAWS OF FATE SUPERKICK! MAD MAX FALLS OFF THE LEGACY MOUNTAIN AND INTO THE ANNOUNCE TABLE DOWN BELOW! THIS IS IT! IT’S HIS TO WIN!
He stands there, holding the title, staring at it, then looks around him, at the thousands of people in the audience, here to watch him fight. Here to watch him win. He takes a deep breath, grins for them, and then jumps with the title.
“That’s it!” cries the commentator. “That’s it! He’s done it! First to hit the floor with the title wins!”
“YOUR WINNER…” booms the announcer, over the sound of a standing ovation, “AND NEWWW LEGACY CHAMPION…”
Rockridge shakes his head. “Didn’t BBD used to get your coffee back in the first Industry?” he asks. “You know, the one with you and Polowy, when you were a prick.”
“Not sure,” Bond shrugs, sweatily seeking to change the subject. “Check out the next one.”
“The Hostile Takeover… wait, there’s a tag team that’s already doing the invasion thing?” he asks. “Who’s in it?”
“Tobias Devereaux,” says Bond. “Did a lot of midcard work. Jimmy Allen. Not really sure who that is, but… hey, they won the tag titles, right?”
Again, a head shake. “People who have either never heard of us, or have most likely forgotten about us?” he asks. “People who we forgot existed, who have just been spinning their wheels the past seven years?” He looks at the championship belts in his trophy case, relics of a bygone era. “That’s not something to come back for, Chris. Something to fight for.”
“Look at the next match down.”
His eyes fall onto the name Chester Lundmark… versus…
He sucks in air so quick, he can barely taste it. Thoughts race, and a mild panic rushes over him in a tidal wave.
“Oz… Ozric,” he gasps, falling into his chair.
Bond nods. “They took the clown out from the mothballs.”
“I cannot believe we are finally here!” screeches the commentator, as the two stand on opposite ends of the ring. “The moment we have all been waiting for! Weeks of build-up and anticipation… The Villain has found his Hero!”
Mortimer almost twirls in space, smirking, bones popping with each movement, his body twitching spasmodically with the jumpy energy of a predator waiting for the right moment to spring. He is pure chaos, an avatar of malevolence, and his eyes twinkle a strange gleam. A gleam that says, “There’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
It is now, in this moment, as they stare at each other, neither one willing to break eye contact, that he realizes… this man, this twisted little man, knows what he’s thinking.
This animal knows him better than anyone he’s ever faced.
Ozric Mortimer understands him, and he’ll never be able to fix it.
“I might not be able to stop you,” he finally says aloud, dropping his coat, “but I will never stop trying.”
He snaps back into reality. “Why would they dig up that… that, that… psychopath, from his rightful resting place?” he snaps. “Do they have any idea what they’re doing?”
“My guess?” sighs Bond. “Trying to win a war. CWF was the fed that put the nail in Hostility’s coffin in the first place. I think?”
Bond rubs his throbbing temple with two fingers, a migraine clearly approaching. “I don’t know, man. I spend most of the end drunk, so I don’t remember.” He chuckles. “After you left, there wasn’t much of a reason for me to give it my all, you know?”
“So they say CWF put Hostility down,” says Rockridge, a wry smirk on his face. “But it wasn’t the Hostility we remember. Who are we even fighting for, anyway? Who’s calling the shots?”
“Uh, that would be Milenko.”
Bond blinks. “You know, James Milenko?”
“Like the Insane Clown Posse guy? I know we’re getting old, but I feel like I’d remember working for a juggalo.”
“It’s pronounced ‘juggler,’ and that’s the wrong guy. I think. This guy’s JAMES Milenko. Slick hair. Real son of a bitch.”
Rockridge strokes the beard that’s taken over his chin the past six years. “I feel like I’d remember kicking a guy like that in the face.”
“You probably did!” cries Bond, pounding his fist on the table. “This guy was the mastermind of the whole thing. The Dr. Frankenstein of Hostility.”
“I thought Milenko was the monster’s name,” says Talon.
Bond shrugs. “You’re probably right. But this is the guy that got you into Hostility, remember? To fight against Maxipad?”
“Oh yeah,” Rockridge chuckles, remembering the first time he thought Mad Max was a threat… one of the original owners of Hostility. “Wait, didn’t we kick Max out of Hostility and make sure Milenko was the only one in charge?”
Bond shrugs. “I dunno, amigo. All that was a bit before you won the World Title and we took over the show, according to a bunch of losers at least.”
“Right…” Rockridge smirks. “The title.”
Baltimore is on its feet as he staggers to his own. The fact that he’s standing in the same arena his hero won his first major title in does not escape him. The fact that he entered this as, at best, third-favorite in the match, does not escape him. The fact that his career just started in the last nine months, and already he’s done so much…
Survived a sinking federation.
Cast out the co-owner of Hostility.
Defeated his own, tailor-made nemesis.
And now… he’s fought for the Hostility World Heavyweight Championship.
Ozric Mortimer is on his hands and knees in front of him, the champ… Polowy… is raging on the floor outside the ring, and his friend… his compradre… his tag team partner and confidante and best friend… Chris Bond, is right next to him.
Bond nods. “Do it,” he says, before diving out of the ring and onto the champ.
He stands there, a wave of silence over him. He can’t even hear the crowd. It’s just him and the clown, right in front of him. A ring.
Ozric rises to his feet, and suddenly the hero knows what else it is that’s in the arena with them that night.
“He’s got Ozric dead to rights, what’s it gonna be… he pulls him in, arm around the neck… WINGS OF DESTINY! HE’S GOT HIM! ONE! TWO! THREE! WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!”
The crowd roars as he rises to his knees, the belt handed to him, and tears well up in his eyes. He can’t believe it. They can’t believe it. The journey of a lifetime, and here he is…
“The winner of the match, and NEWWW World Heavyweight Champion…”
“Too much time has gone by,” he says. “I haven’t laced up the boots, or even seen in public, in what? Seven years? They’ve gotta have better options than a guy who wrestled for a year and a half and then never did again.”
Bond sighs. “Look at the rest of the card,” he says. “It’s not like they got Heroic Henry in there, or Xander Daniels, or Polowy… Sara Pettis… KVT… shit, they probably could have gotten Mad Max in there and didn’t.”
“They didn’t even get fucking AirStrife,” laughs Rockridge. “Simon Marks and Azrael? ‘Oh, and the fact that Simon Marks is the most flamboyantly gay wrestler this side of the Mississippi. I hope Azrael is ready to feel... Violated.’ What? I thought we left all that back in 2011.”
Bond shrugs. “I guess they’re leaning in on their base.”
Rockridge sighs. “No doubt they’re gonna get Reaper back in there for some old razor wire dildo jokes, right?” He scans the card again. “Nope, not there. Maybe a backstage segment. Oh, hey, they got Nathan Paradine for this? Nice guy.” Thoughts wash over him… Bond can tell he’s got the advantage. “What, Steven Steele couldn’t get off the couch after we made his career?”
“Yeah,” says Bond, “I mean, I only handed him the World Title…” He stops abruptly, knowing he’s touched a sore spot.
“He’s got Steele by the legs, putting him in… he’s breaking out Athena’s Judgment! He’s got Steven Steele locked in there, he’s going to close out South of Heaven as the champion, and how fitting that this man, this Hero, who put the company on his back the past year, walks in and out as Hostility World Heavyweight Champion! Wait… what’s this?”
He looks up, stares the man in the face… this man… his friend… his brother…
Chris Bond stands in front of him, then hits him with his superkick, and time slows and he looks his friend in the eye, and sees nothing… and he’s out cold.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! BOND HAS SCREWED HIM OVER! BOND HAS THROWN FRIENDSHIP AND BROTHERHOOD INTO THE TRASH!
AND AFTER THE GREATEST NIGHT IN HOSTILITY’S HISTORY… STEVEN STEELE IS THE NEW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, AND IT’S ALL RUINED, ALL SOILED, ALL BECAUSE OF CHRIS BOND!”
“Sorry again about that, by the way,” says Bond, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
Rockridge turns around and grips Bond by the shoulder, a warm smile on the aging face. “We buried that hatchet a long time ago, man,” he says. “Besides, I still had the Fed Wars Championship to keep me warm.” He looks back at the card. “Looks like Milenko’s hurting for support here… I mean, IM Hate is going to war in the main event to represent Hostility? They couldn’t unearth Ozric for that? The Clown had to be wasted on a hardcore match?”
Bond cackles like a lunatic. “Remember when I Hate Me was supposed to come in and set the world on fire, be the greatest villain ever seen by Hostility, and then he couldn’t win the Legacy Title against AirStrife in like six matches?”
Rockridge laughs. “Fucking AirStrife,” he says. “Didn’t IM Edgy lose to Pat Atoe once?”
“Oh man, maybe,” says Bond. He checks his phone, but then remembers the plain, simple truth: no website for Hostility exists anymore. He sighs. “There’s nothing left of the old days.”
“And the old days are all that’s left of me.” Rockridge grimaces. “Who would they even have us facing, anyway?” He smirks. “Because I’m not coming out of retirement to line up next to a bunch of scrubs in a match where we’re the real villains here.” His eyebrows knit together. “It has to be real, it has to be someone who needs a kick in the face, and it has to be something worth fighting for.”
Bond fishes in his pocket, and fiddles with another piece of paper. He hesitates, weighing whether or not he wants to hand it over. “What’s worth fighting for to you, anyway?” He looks up, staring his brother long and hard in the eye.
“I don’t know.” Alex Rockridge struggles with the words. “Because it used to be honor. Respect. The legacy and good of Hostility. Used to be for Mom and Dad.” He lowers his head. “So much of that is gone now, and what’s left? Even if this fight was actually about Hostility… I was long gone before Hostility died a slow, agonizing death, that probably actually had nothing to do with these CWF guys. They’re probably just a good group of guys and girls, trying to hold it together, just like we were damn near a decade ago. Why am I supposed to go in and fight someone who’s just trying to earn a living? I can’t support an invasion, put people out of work. If we were in CWF, we’d be on the front lines stopping these old bastards from a dead fed from seven years back… and we’d be stopping them before they got their decrepit asses through the door.”
He stands up and paces. “There is no Hostility. For me, there hasn’t been a Hostility since I left seven years ago. They can bring the name back all they want… but it’ll just be a pale imitation of what used to be.” He grimaces, runs his hand through his long, greying hair.
“Is that what we’re gonna be if we do this?” he asks. “A pale imitation of what we used to be?” A low, disgusted growl rumbles in his throat. “I’m not the guy I used to be, Chris.”
“You think I am?” asks Bond, getting up off the couch. “I haven’t been the Chris Bond from Hostility in years! What am I supposed to do?” He shakes his head. “I could turn it down. I’ve earned retirement. Hell, so have you.” He pauses for a long moment. “But I think we’ve also earned the chance to go out on our own terms.” He hands him the paper. “And this is who we’d be facing, and the write-up CWF came up with.”
Rockridge grabs the paper, opens it slowly, with consequence, and reads it.
“Who the hell are Duce Jones and Freddie Styles?” he asks, as sirens go off somewhere in the city below. “The Smokin’ Aces?”
“Apparently they’re real pricks,” says Bond. “You know how we all always wrote our own promos in advance for segments, so we’d know what we were talking about when we got our hands on the microphone? These guys are apparently the types who think they’re the Rock, going back and forth between first and third like they’re the Rock or something. You know, all that shit that Chris Bond hates so much.” He smirks.
Rockridge sighs. “You don’t have me brimming with confidence that this is a fight worth our time,” he says. “And so these guys are shitheads… so what? You’re not giving me anything to fight for, here.”
Bond narrows his eyes. “Keep reading.”
Rockridge’s eyes return to the page. “On paper, The Aces have been on a massive winning streak as of late, minus losing the tag team titles at Northern Crown. Regardless of who currently holds the titles, they COULD be considered the most established tag team in the CWF right now,” he mumbles. “So far, so good. Not sure how I’m supposed to feel like they’re solid competition. Probably wonder what the fuck a Talon is, too.” He growls. “Dumbasses. It’s a claw belonging to a bird of prey.”
“Keep going, you pedantic jackass,” says Bond.
Rockridge sighs, and goes back to his task. “Milenko has pulled out all the stops, greased all the wheels, begged, and pleaded to secure their opponents. "The Hero of Hostility" and his bestest…” He pauses. “Heterosexual lifemate Chris Bond?” He snaps toward Bond with a rage. “So the hype people don’t even get that we’re brothers, and they don’t get the first thing about what we did and what we were in Hostility. Right?”
Bond is silent.
“They have agreed to come out of a nice retirement in order to make it known that Hostility isn't a place to be trifled with and revenge is a dish best served cold. Expect a brawl unlike that which the Aces have seen as they face off against the biggest names that Hostility has to offer in what is sure to be an epic confrontation of epic proportions.”
Bond breaks his silence. “It is just one night, after all,” he says. “Not like this thing is ever gonna come back full-time. The time for that would’ve been years ago, right?”
Silence from Rockridge.
Bond’s patience has run out. “Listen, you bitch,” he snarls. “This isn’t about Hostility. And so what? We went to DREAM, and it was still the same song and dance. We went back and forth through sVo, and it was still the same old thing. Hostility may have been where we became who we were, it may have been where we met and fought the people who made us who we were… but it wasn’t everything about us, was it?”
“No,” says Rockridge.
“So are you willing to let these insults pass?” asks Bond. “Or are we gonna go in there and show the world that these old guys are still worth a damn?”
Rockridge’s fists clench, and he shakes in place… as though an earthquake is awakening within him.
It isn’t Rockridge who answers him, and Bond can tell from the timbre in his voice. It’s something deep-down, something elemental, something that hasn’t been awake in almost seven years.
What answers him isn’t Alex Rockridge.
“One last ride,” he says. “One last fight.”
Hostility is dead.
My career is dead, a self-inflicted wound putting down something that had run its course. You can’t revive something that isn’t there anymore. Not forever.
Chris Bond’s career is on its last gasp. Soon, the light of one of the great watchmen of wrestling will go out. He will ride into the sunset, one final time, and then there will be no more Bond.
There’s something beautiful about the end of a career. Something romantic, something iconic, something legendary.
There’s something poetic about the last fight of a fading hero, the last light of a dying star.
People love heroes, but even more so they love to watch a hero’s last ride.
A hero’s death.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid running into battle against the Bolivian Army.
John Marston walking out and facing the firing squad.
The Dark Knight flying a bomb out over the bay and away from Gotham City.
Tony Stark struggling, when everyone knows what the score is, and trying to take on the Mad Titan one-on-one.
We as a society are fascinated with the end of a hero’s story.
Get yourselves ready, boys and girls, because there’s one more shot left in this chamber.
It might be lower in the card, and it might be just a small bit of noise, but the Smokin’ Aces will be the latest in a long line of shitheads that we’ve left in our dust.
Have you ever tried to ice skate uphill?
It’s the definition of impossible. No matter how hard, or fast, or long you skate, you can’t beat gravity.
Trying to ice skate uphill is one of the most futile things one can do. You might as well stand on the beach and yell at a coming tidal wave.
Facing the two of us, united again at last, brothers in blood and in arms… it would be better for them to not even show up. The fans might feel a bit robbed, but hey… maybe we’ll throw together an open challenge if we’re stood up?
Then again, maybe they’ll show up.
Maybe people will keep trying to recapture the magic of something that mercifully died seven years ago.
Maybe the tidal wave won’t come.
All I know is, some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill, and this story isn’t quite over.
Not without one last ride from the original Heroes of Hostility.
One last fight from Chris Bond.
One last show from Talon.
Bring it on.