* KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK *
Footsteps moving swiftly across a carpeted floor, before the door of room 215 in the Melbourne Marriott Hotel swung open to reveal the hulking figure of a man who almost filled the space where the door once stood.
“Must you always be such a bull in a china shop?”
The question was posed by the inhabitant of the hotel room, one Stan Summers, who stood stiff and upright by the door frame, almost uncomfortably so. His latest visitor, however, looked utterly at ease as he stepped across the threshold without invitation, gazing around whilst wearing a mildly amused expression.
“Well Stanley, we can’t all be as... particular as you, now can we.”
Scott Dann, who at this point we know only as Stan Summers’ ‘enforcer’, spoke at a surprisingly high pitch that belied his muscular frame; a frame that, on this particular day, was being enhanced and accentuated by a pair of stylish stonewashed denim jeans and a tight, white short-sleeved t-shirt. The accent was unquestionably British, but softer and almost lazier than that of his counterpart, with fewer of those proper Queen’s English inflections that were ever-present whenever Stan Summers spoke. And despite his generally intimidating appearance, his untidy shock of bright blond hair, big blue eyes and fresh-faced look could quite conceivably give the impression of an overgrown toddler on steroids.
The big man strolled around the hotel room almost as if in a daze, stopping briefly here and there to prod a perfectly-arranged ornament or poke a precisely-placed personal effect.
“What do you mean?” Stan asked, closing the door before turning around to face Scott with the makings of a frown forming across his brow.
‘The Enforcer’ looked back at him with a look of shock on his face.
“Are you serious?” he replied, spreading his arms wide to gesture at their surroundings.
The hotel room was, to put it plainly, immaculate, and a far cry from one usually occupied by your average wrestler. It was clear that Stan Summers had spent quite some time within these four walls judging by the number of personal items and belongings adorning the room; however, everything was placed very neatly, precisely, almost unsettling so. Mobile phone, TV remote, glasses case, all lined up at perfect right angles to the surface on which they sat. On one side of the room, the sheets and duvet cover looked as if they had been smoothed to within an inch of their life, whilst across the room the curtains perfectly framed the window, sitting straight as a die – you wouldn’t be surprised if somebody had told you the distance between them had been calculated to provide optimal light saturation, and measured to the last millimetre.
This, then, was a man with an eye for detail; perhaps obsessively so.
Summers, though, seemed thoroughly unperturbed, dismissing Scott’s shock with a casual wave of the hand as he stepped swiftly but precisely over to sit at the small desk sat opposite the bed.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” Stan said calmly. “There’s nothing wrong with being tidy, and having some order in your life.”
“Yeah, but there’s tidy and there’s... well...” Scott paused, clearly struggling to find the words to describe the scene surrounding him, and eventually settling for another exasperated flail of his massive arms.
The flailing was ignored.
“You should try it some time.” Stan said, in a tone clearly meant to carry dignity and gravitas, but in reality was one that just made him sound like a pretentious prick. “You never know, if you introduced a bit more order and precision into your simple little life, you might find it becomes that much more... enriched.”
Dann shot a look towards the back of Summers’ head, his expression halfway between annoyed and confused as he once again struggled to find the right words. In the end, he settled for a disgruntled “Pffft”, before throwing himself down onto the end of the bed.
“What did you drag me over here for anyway?” Scott posed the question to the back of Summers’ head.
The Wrestling Inspector paused for a moment, staring intently at his trusty fountain pen as he passed it from one hand to the next.
“There is... much to discuss.” he said thoughtfully.
“Is there?” Scott asked with a raise of the eyebrows. “The way I see things set up, it’s all looking pretty straightforward.”
“Well, you’ve pulled it off, haven’t you.” Scott spoke matter-of-factly – it was a statement, not a question. “For starters, you’ve managed to get me signed up to the CWF without so much as a job interview or a tryout match. Not a bad indication of your influence, I’d say.”
Summers tipped his head to the side and stuck his bottom lip out, wearing an expression as if to say ‘You’ve got a point there’.
“Not only that,” Dann continued, “but you’ve managed to get me my debut match at a pay-per-view no less!”
The Enforcer clapped and then rubbed his hands together, a look of fierce determination adorning his face.
“Quite frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on Nathan Paradine, and make doubly sure The Australian Disappointment Machine stays ‘Down Under’. Y’know, I’ve always carried a particularly special hatred for those Aussies – beer-swilling, uncultured criminals, every single one of them. Or so I thought, until I was able to watch Mr. Paradine last week.
“I’ll give him credit – he certainly doesn’t live up to the stereotype, unlike those unbearable cretins, The Lost Boys.”
Dann couldn’t help but shudder slightly, pulling a face as if a particularly nasty smelling Australian turd had just been wafted under his nose.
“But the fact that that drongo has managed to find a couple of brain cells to rub together long enough to learn a couple of flashy submission holds and hard enough to string a couple of witty sentences together doesn’t make him any more bearable. The plain and simple fact is that Nathan Paradine is an entitled, arrogant clown. His over-inflated ego has already contributed to a CWF career with more false promise than Richard Nixon during Watergate.
“That fancy Fujiwara Armbar variation you learnt in Japan, Nathan? Yeah, couldn’t stop The Samoan Ghost Connection from wrenching those Tag Team Titles from yours and Deveraux’s hands, could it? All of that bullshit bravado and those wearing wisecracks? Didn’t help you weasel your way into the Paramount Grand Prix finals, did they?”
Almost without realising, Scott Dann had hauled himself to his feet, and was now pacing slowly around the hotel room, almost as if in a trance. The hand rubbing from earlier continued, however his right hand was now balled into a fist, the knuckles of which were being rubbed menacingly by his left palm as he continued his diatribe.
“No... the closer we look and the deeper we delve, it’s starting to become apparent that The Australian Submission Machine has been pretty faulty of late. A machine that’s been programmed to fail, you could say. And personally, I can’t wait to throw a few more loose cogs into the gears at Confliction... and loosen a few teeth while I’m at it...”
“Fighting talk, I’ll give you that.”
The Wrestling Inspector spoke in a quietly satisfied tone, having watched his ever-more motivated charge with interest. Dann turned quickly back to face the seated Summers, looking momentarily shocked and surprised, almost as if he’d forgotten that Stan was there. He soon composed himself though, and settled back down onto the end of the bed, still looking slightly pre-occupied with the thought of inflicting Paradine’s pain. Summers looked at his enforcer through narrowed eyes for a moment, before similarly shaking himself back into the here and now, turning back to his ever-present ‘W.I.R.E.’ clipboard in a business-like manner.
“Yes. Very good.” Stan said briskly. “But we mustn’t let that distract us from the bigger picture. We have other, more important...” He lifted his clipboard aloft, having flipped it over so that the ‘W.I.R.E.’ logo was visible, and tapped it for good measure, “... more official business to take care of.”
“Oh. Yeah.” came Dann’s rather obtuse reply. “How could I forget about you keeping an eye on CWF’s resident meathead, Quentin Scarboro? The first chapter of your CWF audit, as it were.”
Scott Dann paused, thinking hard for a few moments, before continuing on.
“What exactly is it that you’ve seen in him?”
Summers looked up, almost as if staring straight through the wall that sat just a couple of feet in front of him, and out into the void. He brought his pen up to his mouth and sucked on it with an uncomfortable intensity, considering the question, before speaking in a thoughtful, measured tone.
“It’s hard to nail it down to any one particular thing. Quite frankly, I find his backstory fascinating, or what we know about it at least. Here’s this reluctant hero, thrust into the limelight through no choice or fault of his own, struggling to find the right path. I don’t know... it’s just... fascinating.”
Another pause, Summers continuing to stare away into nothingness, before speaking again, this time in a slightly different tone; one of intensity, without doubt, but maybe with a hint of reverence mixed in as well...?
“He’s an enigma, no doubt, and one I’m eager to assess and investigate further. I can’t be certain about him though... I just can’t help thinking there’s something else going on. Something more...”
Summers lapsed into silence once more, a silence only punctuated by the faraway squawks of a couple of seagulls, and the rustling of a fidgety Scott Dann. Finally, it seemed as if The Enforcer could do nothing but break the rather pregnant pause.
“Well, if you ask me, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.” Scott said matter-of-factly. “The man’s nothing but a simpleton who can’t help but let his heart lead his head. It’s a wonder he’s not got into even more life or death situations along the way. Quite frankly, I don’t understand your fascination with him.”
With what seemed like a monumental effort, Summers snapped himself back into reality, depositing his fountain pen in his suit jacket pocket in what was fast becoming a trademark manner. He simultaneously tucked his clipboard under his arm, rose to his feet and turned to face his still-seated enforcer with surprising grace, painting a mocking smile across his features as he playfully pinched Scott’s cheek.
“And I wouldn’t expect you to understand, my little baby-faced assassin!” he said in a childish, mocking tone, raising the ire of Dann, who swatted his hand away and scowled.
“Now come on, get yourself up.” Summers followed up, suddenly all business.
“Why? Where are we going?” Scott replied, in the manner of a child questioning a parent.
“You’re getting a bit too big for your boots. I’m not having one iota of overconfidence from you jeopardise the effort I’ve put in so far, or the huge amount of work that is still to come. It’s time for me to do what I do best.”
Scott looked up at Stan with a questioning look, into eyes that glinted with enthusiasm, and more than a little malice.
“I think it’s time, Mr. Dann, for you to experience your first Stan Summers Ability Assessment...!”
When we next catch up with the unlikely duo of Dann & Summers, the plush interior of room 215 had been replaced by a dingy wrestling gym in what one imagines would be described as “the wrong side of town”. The peeling walls and faded light provided by a solitary lightbulb which hung rather sadly from the high ceiling contrasted starkly with the modern, fresh surroundings the two men had found themselves in earlier that same day. The haphazardly-placed gym equipment couldn’t have been more opposite to the surgical precision usually demanded by The Wrestling Inspector.
Yet the somewhat underwhelming surroundings had seemingly done nothing to dampen either man’s spirits – on the contrary, both men looked to be in their element. In one corner of the cavernous yet dated room, ‘The Enforcer’ Scott Dann was hammering the shoulder press with gusto, the glint in his eye unmistakeable despite the rivulets of sweat running down his face, the determined grimace, and the steady discoloration of the entire top half of his body.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the room, ‘The Wrestling Inspector’ Stan Summers stood observing a young and somewhat weedy-looking trainee being put through his paces by a clearly older and savvier teacher. Summers looked utterly out of place in this environment, stood as usual in his customary suit jacket and matching trousers, his sensible spectacles perched precariously at the end of his nose.
Yet ‘it’ was there – the same look in the eye as could be seen in Scott Dann, clearly evident as Summers eagerly absorbed every hold and counter-hold being performed. The Wrestling Inspector watched every second, pausing only to scribble down the occasional note on his black clipboard, which was naturally tucked into the crook of his left arm, as always seemed to be the way.
Scott Dan and Stan Summers - two very different men with drastically different looks, and hugely opposing approaches. Yet two men who had clearly recognised their strengths, and were doing everything they could to be masters of their chosen arts.
“Y’know, I’ve never understood how you can get so much out of just standing and... and watching.”
Dann, having finished his latest set of reps and towelled off, had sidled up to where Summers was stood still drinking in every last drop of the in-ring lesson being delivered before him. The Enforcer stood alongside his mentor, arms folded and frowning slightly as he followed Stan’s gaze into the ring.
“I mean, doesn’t it get frustrating, just standing and watching?” Scott continued. “Don’t you just want to get in there and... and...” He looked around, apparently searching for the right words, but settled for simply smacking his right fist into his left palm to make his point.
Summers didn’t flinch.
“Well Mr. Dann.” Stan began slowly. “Perhaps if you had done a little more studying and observing back in the day, you might have managed to amount to something more than a lowly assistant.”
Stan turned his head to grin at Scott, who let out a noise of derision, shooting daggers back at Stan.
“Assistant! Pffft. Give over!”
“Ah. My mistake.” Stan said, turning back towards the ring, still smiling blithely to himself. “You’re right. I believe we did agree that ‘Enforcer’ was the terminology we would use, certainly in public, to help maintain whatever reputation you may think you hold...”
Another turn of the head, and another pointed smile. This time it was ignored.
“Hmph. I wouldn’t worry.” Scott retorted. “If you really want my opinion - I’ve been revelling in this role ever since you... ahem... so kindly bestowed it upon me.”
The last six words were spoken in a mocking tone and accompanied by a simpering smile. This time it was Stan’s turn to do the ignoring.
“The way I see it, it’s allowed me to blossom. Doing this job allows me to do what I enjoy and what, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty damn good at.”
“Remind me... what exactly is that again?” Summers asked, continuing the banter.
“Battering anybody who stands in my way.” Scott replied bluntly.
“Ahh, yes. That’s the one. Well, it would be remiss of me not to remind you that you will need a slightly more well-rounded strategy than ‘battering whoever stands in your way’ if you’re to triumph against Paradine at Confliction.”
He gestured into the nearby training ring.
“Hence why we are here today.”
“You think I don’t know that?!” Scott retorted angrily. “You think I’m not perfectly aware what you’ve gotten me into, and what I need to live up to when I step through that curtain and into the middle of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to face off against a hometown favourite? You really think that I don’t realise that I have everything to prove – to you, to the CWF fans and to myself?
“Listen, I might be younger and less experienced than you, and I might not have your encyclopaedic knowledge of every wrestling move ever performed, but this ain’t my first barbeque, sport. And unlike Nathan Paradine, who claims to be this submission specialist but apparently seems only to have specialised in failure so far, I’m no one-trick pony either.
“The simple fact is, I don’t care how I beat Nathan on Tuesday. Knock him spark out with a size sixteen? Sounds simple enough to me. Bludgeon and batter him into submission? That works for me too. Match him hold for hold, and use his own technical prowess against him to tie him into knots so tight that even the Boy Scouts won’t be able to untangle him? Ohhh, the irony may well be too much to bear for even me, but sure, I’ll go down that route if I need to.
“I’m well aware that you’re the man that’s going to be setting the rules in the CWF for the foreseeable, and that I’m simply the man to enforce those rules. But fuck, believe me when I say I have absolutely no issue with bending those rules just enough for me to get my... sorry, our message across, and make an impact at Confliction.
“Because let’s be honest, that’s what it’s really about isn’t it? Making an impact. And I think that is the crucial cog that is missing within The Australian Submission machine. Clichéd it may be, but at the end of the day – talk is cheap. And clichés only become clichés because they ring true for so many people, they get repeated ad nauseam. The fact of the matter is this – for all he harps on about his apparent achievements, for all the tales he manages to so eloquently tell, Nathan Paradine has failed to make an impact in the CWF.
“I won’t be making the same mistake at Confliction. I’ll take my chance. And I will make my impact. I’ll make an impact on you, I’ll make an impact on the CWF and, most importantly and enjoyably of all, I’ll be making an impact on Nathan Paradine’s skull.”
The two stood face to face, The Enforcer’s heavy breathing the only sound breaking the silence. The trainer and trainee had slipped almost undetected out of the ring and out of the building during Dann’s monologue, leaving just Stan and Scott stood inside the gym.
Slowly, a satisfied smile spread across the face of The Wrestling Inspector. He afforded a small nod as he looked at his motivated mentee.
“Much as I’m loath to admit it, I do so enjoy it when you get fired up.” Stan said finally.
“But come.” Summers continued, gesturing for Dann to step into the ring. “This is all well and good, but it is vital you complete your Ability Assessment before we start the process of properly planning for Paradine.”
Almost on cue, the previously departed trainer stepped back through a side door, slid under the ropes, and into the ring, as if waiting to begin the aforementioned assessment.
Scott rolled his eyes in spite of himself, but followed the trainer into the ring, muttering under his breath as he did so, just loud enough for Summers to hear:
“Always has a plan... always following process and procedure...”
The Wrestling Inspector smiled slightly, but the smile couldn’t hide the unmistakeable return of the look – that look – in his eyes, visible even behind the grey-framed glasses.
The look that highlighted that he could tell that the process and procedure was starting to pay dividends.
The look that showed the conviction that Summers had in his plan that was slowly beginning to unfold.
And the look that demonstrated that, for all the suggestions of his obsessions with planning, process and procedure, nothing would bring Stan Summers more satisfaction than to witness... to listen... to feel fist meet flesh, first-hand.