“I need to talk to you, man.”
It was sometime in 2003. Reed Sharpe was recovering at home from a surprise beating a few weeks ago by a capoeirista named Liquid, and his mother had just brought him the cordless phone while he lay in bed. He could hear the tone in his brother’s voice that he was about to hear some bad news.
“What’s up, Rob?”
“I just got out of a meeting with Jennings and Gaughran. We talked about how you were progressing in IWCW, and… it ended up with us talking about New Millennium and when we tried to get you a production gig in that NWC territory, and, well. They say it isn’t working out, and it hasn’t been the past three years.”
Reed had expected to hear something like this, but it still felt like a punch in his bruised gut. As he took the news in, he pulled the headset away and silently asked his mom for another glass of water.
“Well, damn. That’s not good, is it?”
He could feel the tears welling in his eyes. In ‘99, Rob Sharpe had been impressed by the young man’s performance in some high school gym show in New Jersey. They had trained under the same watchful eye of one Stanley Sharpe, a Holocaust survivor and wrestling journeyman whose name the elder of the two took in tribute. Rob offered the kid a gig with the rising New Millennium Wrestling, and came up with the idea of billing the smaller high flyer as his younger brother and a counterpart to his own hardcore, high-impact offense.
However, injuries caused by Reed’s recklessness frequently put a wrench in any plans for the kid. And after four years it seemed that Stan Jennings and Rob Gaughran, the minds behind the promotion with an orphaned acronym in IWCW had decided enough was enough.
“I’m really sorry, man. BUT. But.”
Rob took a deep breath, audibly gritting his teeth on the other end, frustrated at the whole situation.
“IWCW may be giving up on you. But I’m not. I got your back, man. You’re still in school, right?”
Rob knew that Reed had been taking classes, something about physical therapy.
“Yeah. I’m about to start the clinical phase in the fall, and I’m hoping it’ll be a year before I graduate.”
“Right. Stick to that. Keep training when you can, keep in touch with ol’ Stan, and once you get that degree and whatever licenses for that work, then go full throttle into wrestling. That way, if things don’t take off you have something to fall back on.”
“Got it. I’m not giving up on you. And neither is ol’ Stan.”
“…thanks, man. I owe you one.”
A chuckle on the other hand.
“Just remember this if I ever end up in a bind and need you to look out for me. Brothers for life?”
“Brothers for life.”
“Good man. Get well and do what I told you. You’ve got this.”
“Thanks, Rob. Bye.”
“Catch ya later, Dave.”
As the “end” button clicked and the call ended, Reed Sharpe was a thing of the past. The man known these days as David Fox, resting in his bed, would begin planning his next move after he woke up.
The elevator doors parted as Saori Kazama stepped out onto the 28th floor. She looked around, then down onto her cell phone to make sure she was in the right place. Then, she went walking again. For some reason, “Moving in Stereo” by the Cars started playing in the background, emphasizing her movements and the flow of her raven hair.
Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereo
Life’s the same, except for my shoes
Life’s the same, you’re shaking like tremolo
Life’s the same, it’s all inside you
As she walked into the main hall, she seemed to notice the music, looking all around until she focused on one place and groaned out an order in Japanese;
Yamete, or roughly, “cut it out.”
The ex-sumo known as Mushigihara, one-half of the Dangerous Mix, stopped the music from his own phone, smugly chuckling at her.
“Is David in the room?”
Mushi nodded and pointed to the door with a casual “osu.”
With a nod, she turned on her heels and knocked.
“Forget your key again, big guy?” a voice called from behind the door, as its owner, David Fox opened it and stared at his wife for a moment, before lunging over and quickly wrapping his arms around her, eliciting a little squeak from her. Or was it from him? Who knows?
“I missed you too, David. Having those dreams again?”
David Fox shook his head and groaned.
“Yeah. Last time, my own gravestone fell on my head.”
Saori winced, “harsh.”
“Yeah. But other than that, things are pretty sweet here. One of the teams threw a little Easter dinner party for us, so that was nice. They even made sure to make some vegetarian stuff for me!”
“OSU.” The God-Beast called out to his partner as he thumbed through the pages of his book.
“Hey, you didn’t have to have any, you know! I got leftovers for days!” He looked to Saori and put on a fake posh accent, “may I show you the venue, madam?”
With a smile and a kiss on her husband’s lips, Saori responded with a warm “certainly, kind sir!” as they departed into the Dangerous Mix’s suite.
Did you know that despite the name, sudoku puzzles didn’t come from Japan?
That’s right. The inventor of modern sudoku puzzles was a retired architect named Howard Garns, who came up with the concept and called it “Number Place.” It wasn’t until it came to Japan and was given the name “sudoku,” a sort of acronym for “the digits must be single” in Japanese, that it became so popular in the West.
Mushigihara did not know why he was thinking about this as he scratched his temple while staring at his half-finished number puzzle, but it was making him chuckle a bit. Him, David, and their fellow tag teams, having to climb up and slide down with puzzle pieces and put the thing together, a mix of mental acumen and physical grit.
A 7 here, a 3 there. As the squares filled, he found the perfect place for a 1 and a 5.
Not that different from sumo, really. He wasn’t so sure if climbing would be his thing, because a man his size and slides? Not a good mix.
Or would his size help him slide to the bottom faster? Physics wasn’t his forte, and his old manager, who was a science teacher in a past life, wasn’t around to ask. A pity. 6. 8.
He knew the challenge ahead would be a giant jigsaw puzzle, but he had already done a few of those this week, and he knew there probably wouldn’t be a thousand pieces. And he wouldn’t be facing this alone.
He just wasn’t sure whether that would be a help or a hindrance.
The God-Beast smiled and nodded to himself.
Is this some kind of puzzle?
Those words kept bouncing around the inside of David Fox’s head as he lay dying, the cold air from above ground kissing his dirt-covered face.
It was the dream again. Inside the coffin. David had managed to stop the gravestone from crushing his head like it did last time, only for it to tip over and crush his chest. He knew it broke his ribs enough that one pierced his heart, and he knew that the game was over for the night. As he laid, struggling to draw breath, his mind bounced between frustrations over his failure, and the Tag Team Survivor Challenge awaiting him and Mushighiara in the waking world.
A puzzle, where the pieces have to be grabbed from the top of a high climb, and somehow they had to do it, down two men with 2Become1 out of the picture. The frustration of another failure, another guaranteed visit into this dream world, and the challenge ahead once he woke up, he couldn’t decide what made him more mad as the light began to fade from his eyes, only to be replaced by the darkness of the void…
…and his dark MGM Grand hotel room.
David Fox sprang up to a seated position, and looked around as best as the limited light could.
Mushigihara was sleeping well on the other side, almost too big for his queen-sized bed, as if a shaved bear had somehow made its way to the Strip and set up camp in this luxurious room.
He looked to his own side, and Saori was sleeping peacefully, like the angel she was, according to him.
The last time he woke up from the grave, he was overwhelmed to the point of tears.
Now? He just sighed and got up, quietly walking out into the hallway of the suite and into the little lobby that was set up in the middle of the floor.
With a series of lowly muttered profanities, the man who prided himself on being a survivor pushed several chairs out of his way, giving himself as much space as possible, before dropping to the ground on his stomach, pushing himself up by his arms, and started hiking alternating knees to his chest. The classic “mountain climber” exercise.
David Fox had a lot of climbing to do, still, both in his dreams and in the waking world. And he was not going to give up, and he was NOT going to be unprepared as this next challenge approaches.
There was still too much to do to give up now.