“Yeah, I done did a lot of things in my day, I admit it
I don’t take back what I say, if I said it then I meant it
All my life I want a Grammy, but I’ll probably never get it
I ain’t never had no trophy or no motherfuckin’ ribbon
Fuck the system, I’m that nigga, bend the law, cut the rules
I’m about to risk it all, I ain’t got too much to lose
Ya’ll been eatin’ long enough, it’s my turn to cut the food
Pass the plate! Where my drink? This my day, lucky you
Fuck you too!”
- Joyner Lucas, Lucky You
There is more to the measure of one’s success beyond the societal ideal of what victory is. One does not simply have to be at the top of the mountain in their respected field in order to be considered successful. Not that reaching the peak of one’s profession is simple. But there are, after all, such things as moral victories. A sense of satisfaction - a sense of accomplishment - in knowing that one made it, gave it their all, and made a good showing of themselves. For many walking the Earth today this was enough. In fact, it was more than enough. It was the most that any logical person could hope for. There is no shame in that. There is no failure in looking back, processing, and saying ‘I went in to do what I intended to do and I gave it everything I had.’ There is absolutely no reason to regret such circumstances. Because even in those moments of relative success, the truth is, those individuals probably accomplished much more than the mass majority could have.
Moe Davis and Sebastian Diakos were prime examples of that. Were they victorious at Confliction? No. Of course not. But what they did do was survive. They stepped into the arena. They climbed into the ring. They engaged in a battle against the Sin CIty Saint and they survived. Did Johnny Graves get the three count? Did he get the victory? Yes. But Moe Davis and Sebastian Diakos put in a good showing. They fought. They didn’t quit. They didn’t give up. They gave it everything they had. Moral victory. And just as Johnny had informed them before the match, they would forever be able to say that they were there when Johnny Graves began his CWF career. They would forever be able to boast that they gave Johnny his first challenge in CWF. Well, not challenge exactly. Not in the way most people would consider the word. But they did oppose him between the ropes.
Maybe if Davis had kept his focus on what mattered and not the trash talking piece of ass outside the ring things would’ve ended differently. Probably not. But maybe.
What was her name?
It doesn’t matter.
With the dust of Confliction settled, it was time to focus on the next task at hand. The next challenge. That would come in the form of Freddie Styles at CWF’s flagship show: Evolution. From pay per view to the flagship show, Johnny Graves was proving his name would put butts in the seats. Sure, for the second time in a row he would be in the opening match. But it was something. Better than being in dark matches or on the B-show. He was slowly but surely proving that his name would ring out amongst the hallowed in CWF history.
Word was that Freddie Styles was a Hall Of Famer. Apparently he was someone highly respected in the CWF locker room. He was someone that was not to be taken lightly. But then why would he too be in the opening match on Evolution? How long had it been since Styles had tasted any real success in the CWF? Or the wrestling world in general? ...If they were going to book him in the opening match against someone the CWF considered a “rookie.” Maybe Styles had started to slip. Maybe he wasn’t the same guy he was when building this hall of fame career of his. Or maybe, just maybe, the CWF had some things going on a little more important than the future hall of famer cutting his teeth on a current hall of famer.
It had been little more than seventy-two hours since Confliction had come to a close. Seventy-two hours since CWF showed the world what they were capable of. New CWF Champions had been crowned and Johnny Graves had been successful in his debut against Moe Davis and Sebastian Diakos. New Paramount Champion, new World Champion, new Tag Team Champions. All in all there were plenty of reasons for CWF fans to be excited. Certainly there were reasons for them to be angry as well. Particularly if you were fans of those individuals who came out on the losing end of things. But even then, as a fan, you had to be thrilled to see how your favorite wrestler would bounce back from such devastating defeat.
In the days that followed Confliction - despite his boasting on social media - Johnny Graves had quickly made his return trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. There was no time for taking in the sights of Melbourne. Not that he wanted to anyway. There was little time for extravagant parties and nailing Australian models. Though he would probably regret that decision. No, Evolution was a mere few days way and he needed to prepare himself. He was taking on a new opponent. Someone he had never faced before. Someone he had never studied before. Someone - to be completely honest - he had never heard of before. Freddie Styles. The Hall Of Famer. The next name to fall victim to the StarKiller.
There was a reason Johnny had decided to name his finisher the StarKiller. It was for moments like this.
The lighting was dim in the small dive bar on the outskirt of Vegas city limits. The kind of lighting that was typical in a place like this. The kind of lighting that invited all manner of unsavory behavior from the patrons that called this watering hole home. And that was the thing about this place. Despite the fact it didn’t fit in to the public ideal of what Vegas was, it was home to those that frequented it. Outsiders were not welcomed with opened arms and would find themselves under the suspicious eyes of all that occupied the establishment when they wander in off the streets. Many-a-tourists had found themselves on the business end of a knife or gun barrel when looking for a cheap place to drown their sorrows after losing all their money on the strip.
Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” blared from the rattling speakers as Johnny Graves slowly lifted his glass of whiskey to his lips and took a slow, measured sip before returning it to the carved wooden table before him. He attempted to keep his identity somewhat under wraps choosing to wear a plain grey hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and grey and black Jordan Vs. The hood, as was custom for Johnny was pulled over the black baseball cap he wore on his head. Still, despite his lack of flashy attire, everyone in the establishment knew who Johnny Graves. Not because he was a professional wrestler. But because for years, Johnny Graves at operated outside of the mainstream - outside of the law - in Las Vegas. He was not someone to trifle with. Not unless you wanted a serious beating thrown your way. Or perhaps even to disappear.
“When do you leave for Phoenix?”
Seated across the table was a massive mountain of a man. Dark skinned like Johnny, he wore a black button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to mid-forearm, black slacks, and a black fedora pulled low over dark black sunglasses. They weren’t necessary in the dim lighting of the bar by any means. But the man wore them anyway. His name was Bishop. Bishop Kingston. At least, that’s what the people of Las Vegas knew him as. His real name was… well that’s not important. His name was Bishop and that’s all people needed to hear to suddenly become extremely uncomfortable. He was an enforcer. An extremely good one. He was also one of Johnny’s closest friends. No, more than a friend. A brother. That was saying a lot of a man who trusted very few.
“I’ll leave Sunday mornin’,” Johnny explained in a low, dry tone. “I don’t want to spend any more time in Phoenix than absolutely necessary. You ever been to Phoenix? It’s a fuckin’ shit show! The people there are so goddamn ass backwards they wouldn’t know progress if it slapped ‘em in the face. Not to mention it’s hot. It’s so fuckin’ hot. All year round. Why is it so damn hot?”
Bishop sat in silence for a moment staring at Johnny through the lenses of his sunglasses. His expression blank. Making it impossible to venture a guess as to what the man was thinking.
“It’s hot in Vegas,” Bishop countered plainly. “It’s always hot in Vegas.”
“Yeah,” Johnny confessed with slight hesitation. “But not like Phoenix. Phoenix is like… repressive heat. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not just the heat. Maybe it’s a combination of the heat and the slack-jawed morons that call it home. Whatever the reason for Phoenix suckin’, it fuckin’ sucks! I don’t want to be there. At all. Hell, if I could out of havin’ to go there I would. But ya know… what would the CWF do without it’s future?”
“Oh, so you’re the future now?” Bishop questioned accusingly.
Johnny smirked and leaned back against the booth they had in. His fingers played with the glass before him absentmindedly, spinning it around and pushing it away before pulling it back. His eyes were locked on the glass, though his attention was miles away from the bar he sat in. Finally he would lift his gaze to look upon Bishop once more.
“Everywhere I go I am the future,” Johnny explained confidently. “I told the fans of RISE I was their future and I defeated their world champion night one. I told the mma world I was the future of the sport and I’ve knocked out every bastard they’ve put before me. You think CWF is goin’ to be any different? You think just because I’m wrestlin’ some CWF icon - or whatever he is - things are goin’ to change? I will do what I always do. Knock Freddie Styles out and continue my climb to the pinnacle of professional wrestlin’. Not to mention CWF.”
Bishop would nod his head slowly as he contemplated Johnny’s words carefully. There was a moment of silence between the men as each allowed themselves to delve into their own personal thoughts. Finally it would be Bishop that broke the silence.
“So what’s your plan then?”
Johnny would again turn his gaze to Bishop after observing the patrons of the bar momentarily. There was one couple in particular that had captured his interest. At least, for the time being.
“I’ve watched some tape,” Johnny explained turning his gaze back down to the glass of whiskey before him. “He’s good. I mean, I ain’t goin’ to blow smoke up his ass, but he’s good. Talented. I’m not goin’ to question him bein’ a hall of famer. But he’s got weaknesses. Like they all do. I’ll exploit ‘em. Then I’ll hurt him. Then I’ll finish him. It’s really no different than anybody else I’ve faced. You find the soft spots and you milk ‘em.”
Bishop nodded slowly, his massive hand wrapped around the glass that contained his drink: a snifter of Cognac. He raised the glass to his lips and drank from it, swallowing the rich liqueur smoothly. He would replace the snifter to the spot on the table it had originally occupied before speaking again.
“He’s smart,” he would warn. “At least if everythin’ you’re tellin’ me about him is accurate. The guy’s a hall of famer. The guy’s been around. I’m sure he’s more than capable of adjustin’ his game plan in the ring. I’m sure whatever weaknesses you think you see will be found as quickly by him as you. Don’t get gassed up, Johnny. Don’t think you’re bigger and badder than you are. You haven’t been doin’ this as long as he has. You haven’t had the matches. You don’t have the experience. Don’t take him lightly.”
Again there is a moment of silence between the two men. Finally Johnny leans forward, his forearms resting on the table top as he stares at Bishop intensely.
“So what are you sayin’?” Johnny questions defiantly. “You sayin’ I can’t defeat Styles? You sayin’ he’s goin’ to pull some veteran maneuver outta his ass and beat me?”
“I’m sayin’ it never hurts to have a back up plan,” Bishop corrected, his tone low and serious. “I’m sayin’ you wouldn’t hurt from havin’ me lookin’ out for you.”
Johnny leans back, his signature smirk forming on his full lips. He watches Bishop for a moment, the wheels of his mind cranking with thoughts of the possibilities.
“So you want to watch my back?” Johnny questioned. “You tired of this enforcer racket? Tired of making sure dumbass college boys pay the debts they owed? You want to break into professional wrestling? Bring that glorious violent nature of your’s to the squared circle?”
“I’m sayin’ if you need me,” Bishop explained, “I’m there.”
“So I hear that you’re some kind of hall of famer. I hear that you have the respect of the locker room. Hell, Duce seems to think you’re some kind of demigod the way he talks about you. But until this match is over, until the dust has settled, I’m goin’ to ask Duce to do me one favor. I’m goin’ to ask him to take his tongue out of your a[beep]s and be real for a second. I stepped into the ring against two men. I went against two men who had - at one point in time - been tag partners. Which means they know how to work together to soften up an opponent. Now did they do that? No. Did they put down the Sin City Saint? No. Were they able to find a way to defeat the Sin City Saint? No. They lost. Just like everybody before them. Now, don’t get it twisted, Styles. I’m not sayin’ you’ve never competed in a triple threat. I’m not sayin’ you’ve never won a triple threat. I’m sure in the years and years… and years… and years that you’ve been doin’ this thing you’ve won many triple threats. I’m sure your reputation is well deserved. I would never dream of takin’ anythin’ you’ve accomplished away from you.
All I’m sayin’ is I’m better than you.
I know, I know it sounds like bull[beep]t. It just sounds like the young upstart talkin’ sh[beep]t to the seasoned veteran, tryin’ to prove to everyone that he ain’t intimidated. It sounds like someone who’s tryin’ to reassure themselves that they belong and can hang with the best of the best. But the fact of the matter is I do belong. I can hang with the best of the best. Not only that, but I am better than the best of the best. You may be the most highly respected wrestler walking the backstage area. You may be a hall of famer. You may have everyone in the CWF and their f[beep]in’ momma’s comin’ to your defense but the fact of the matter it means nothin’! Not a damn thing. Because you are about to step into the ring with the Sin City Saint; the knockout artist; the most dangerous degenerate sonuvabitch walkin’ God’s green Earth.
I don’t know how you compare to Moe Davis and Sebastian… Sebastian… whatever the f[beep]k his last name is. I don’t know if you’re better than them or you’ve just be doin’ it longer. I don’t know if you could wrestle circles around them or just out last them. I don’t know anythin’ about you honestly. And I don’t care to. All I need to know if your strengths and weaknesses between those ropes. Based that information, and that information alone, I will defeat you. Because knowin’ how to exploit you is the key to humiliatin’ you. All the other factors mean dick! Because I want it more than you. I need it more than you. I will do anythin’ to get this win. That includes puttin’ my body on the line. That includes cripplin’ you. That includes beatin’ you until your face is little more than blood and shattered bone; just a mess of humanity lyin’ in the center of the ring. I will face manslaughter charges in order to prove that I am better than you. I will beat you. I will hurt you. I will silence you.
This talkin’ thing, I’m good at it. But fightin’... fightin’ I’m godd[beep]n excellent at. Those two bitches at Confliction was only the start. They were merely the steps down to the shallow end of the pool. Now I’m movin’ on to the five foot section of the CWF’s pool. And if you think for one second - if anyone thinks for one second - I’ll flounder at you… well then the wrestlin’ world is filled with more dumbass marks than I thought! Freddie Styles… I am goin’ to hurt you. I am goin’ to silence you. And when all is said and done… I am goin’ to defeat you.
Live with it or die from it. I don’t really care either way…