August 7, 2011.
Knock, knock, knock.
Eiichiro Yamazaki couldn’t have been more out of place if he tried. Not even a month ago, he was cobbling together a life in his native Japan, transitioning from life as a sumo wrestler into life within the squared circle of Japanese puroresu. Now, he was in America, with little idea of what the hell he was doing here, next to a stranger who whisked him away and offered to help him with his training and his fitness.
Ryan Andersen scoffed as he turned his head down the hallway of the business complex they were in; eggshell walls and doors adorned with signs for businesses like “Concrete Answers” and “Tidy Trauma Crime Scene Cleanup,” before turning back to the door they were standing at, “The Icebox Wrestling School.” Ryan groaned and grumbled to himself about how stuffy the hall was in the August heat, until the creaking door broke his train of thought.
“And who the hell said YOU could ever show your face here again?!”
Standing in the doorway was a tall, pale man with dark hair, who pushed himself directly into Ryan’s face, staring nose-to-nose with his “guest.” The big Japanese man nervously steps back, waiting for either one of these two to make their first move.
The tension and the silence is broken by the stranger wrapping his arms around Ryan.
“How the hell is my favorite little brother, huh?”
As he cackled in glee, Ryan shook his head with a chuckle, “it’s good to see you too, Mark.”
“Solid Gold Rock ‘n Roll.”
David Fox and Mushigihara greet us, in the present day, dressed casually for the New Orleans heat, and sitting in what appears to be a backyard. Mushi smolders as he looks into the camera, seated and hunched over, while Fox paces around what appears to be an unlit fire pit.
David Fox: Much has been said about that team; one of the rising stars of PRIME’s tag team division. After they were eliminated from the Survivor Challenge, they proved that said elimination was most likely an error. And now?
David stops and looks to the cloudy sky. He holds a hand out and gets a feel for any rain coming down.
David Fox: They’re coming our way, like a thunderstorm inching its way toward the Dangerous Mix. They are not opponents we intend to take lightly. After all, they’ve been one of the more dominant teams here in PRIME, and a victory over them would be a big feather in me and Mushi’s caps, right, big man?
The hulking God-Beast turns his head toward his tag team partner and mutters a low, calm…
David Fox: Exactly. So we’re… taking a little break while we prepare for this match. The raw power of Barry Delgado, the agility and kicking power of Trent Sadikaj… well, it’s KIND OF a style clash. Even though the strongman’s shorter than ME, and the speedster’s taller than Mushi.
David starts to pace again, and scoffs a bit.
David Fox: But it doesn’t matter. The game’s still the same. Outwrestle, outfight, outlast, repeat.
Fox turns his head toward us, without so much as a skip in his pacing.
David Fox: And then, repeat again. And again. And again.
Mushigihara nods and makes a low hum.
David Fox: Until we finally perch ourselves atop a competitive tag team division. But that’s planning too far ahead. Just know this; the Dangerous Mix will step in that ring against the rock ‘n rollers, and we do NOT intend to lose. There is simply too much at stake; not a title, not even bragging rights.
David stops, and the camera closes in on him, getting up close to a profile view of his face.
David Fox: This match is to prove to EVERYONE in PRIME Wrestling that we’re a legitimate force to watch.
Mark Andersen was the owner and head trainer of The Icebox, a professional wrestling school in the Philadelphia suburbs, and a former professional wrestler himself. Nicknamed “the Iceman,” Mark built a reputation on his world-class grappling skill, which he developed after an amateur wrestling career that saw him win two college conference championships and All-American honors, and supplemented with black belts in judo and aikido.
The main training room was decorated with a few pictures of Mark throughout the years, the most striking of them being a shot of a younger Mark alongside a younger Ryan, jubilation on both their faces as they each sport their own tag team championship belts.
“So, Ryan, is this big fella the one from Japan you took under your wing?” Mark asked in his office as he poured some expensive-looking bourbon into a glass set in front of his brother.
“Yeah,” Ryan nodded, “made a bet with Alex Markham that I could whip him into shape.”
The Iceman bellowed out a hearty laugh before starting his own pour. “Oh, my. How IS old Alex anyway? And why are you taking this guy to America for training? Surely he’d be better accustomed to that training and style if he’s crossing over from sumo, right?”
Ryan looked at his whiskey and sighed. “It’s not so much about training. His cardio’s…”
Ryan looked over to make sure the big guy wasn’t in earshot, before nodding in affirmation. “Terrible. And I figured since you and I both work in fitness training, and because he’s, well, yeah, an athlete, I thought we could get the job done.”
Mark looked at his brother, and then at the big guy practicing his running across the ring. From a distance he could see he was struggling, but still pushing. Mark contemplatively sipped his whiskey and nodded.
“I guess I can see it too. The potential, I mean.”
“That’s what Alex said too!” Ryan blurted, before taking a gentle sip of his drink. He knew Mark hated it when people knocked their booze back like a shot, and didn’t want to give his brother another thing to deride him about.
“Alright,” Mark said as he gently placed his empty glass on his desk, right next to a picture of a young boy and girl of middle-school and daycare age, respectively, “I’ll go out there and talk to the lad. What did you say his name was again, man?”
“I didn’t,” Ryan shrugged, “his real name is Eiichiro Yamazaki, but his sumo name is Mushigihara.”
“Mushi,” Mark chuckled, “Japanese for ‘bug.’ I guess he DOES kinda look like a giant pillbug, huh?”
The elder Andersen stood up and walked out of his office and towards the training ring.
David Fox turns towards us and gives a front view of his face; youthful despite belonging to a man in his early forties, and intense.
David Fox: Tell you the truth?
David Fox: I feel like we’ve been floundering in PRIME since Survivor.
The camera pulls back a bit. Fox takes a seat next to his partner and bows his head in thought.
David Fox: Maybe it’s growing pains as one of the new teams. Maybe it’s a case of little fish jumping into shark-infested waters. And maybe it’s us.
The God-Beast reaches out and puts a hand on his partner’s shoulder. David looks up, just in time to see Mushi shaking his head at him, as if to say “no.”
David Fox: But whatever the cause is, the point still remains. Mushi and I are hungry. Hungry for gold, hungry for glory, and hungry for that top spot. And next week at ReVival 11, we make the first step on that long, hazardous climb to the top.
Mushi grins from ear to ear and nods, as Fox turns toward us.
David Fox: Masters of the Multiverse B-Team, you might wanna make sure you set your DVRs that night and take some notes, because we’re going to show you two how to handle a pair of rock ‘n rollers of that caliber.
“Sou, Mushigihara, da ne? Genki desu ka?”
(“You’re Mushigihara, right? How are you?”)
The former sumo almost jumped. He looked behind him, finding the trainer that almost scared the hell out of him earlier.
“Hai, nihongo o hanashimasu. Watashi wa Mark.”
(“Yes, I also speak Japanese. My name’s Mark.”)
Mark Andersen extended his hand to the mammoth, who shook it firmly, but politely. Ryan hurried out of the office to join his older brother and his newer protege.
“He doesn’t speak much,” Ryan interjected, “but Mushi does understand English.”
Mark nodded and chuckled. “Fine by me. So I see you trying to run the ropes. You got the form down, we just need to work on your pacing and your cardio.”
Ryan added, “it’ll be easier for you to get the basics in once you trim down. Good thing Mark and I train athletes to keep them lean and mean in the first place!”
Mushigihara nodded; he could actually make sense of what the brothers were going to do for him, and for the first time since his trip began, he actually felt kind of… confident?
“I wanna show you something, Mushi,” Mark said, in English, before patting the big guy on the back and taking him towards a wall covered in framed portraits. This wall had a plethora of pictures of wrestlers past, present, and future.
An elderly man who clearly had kept sharp in his old age, dressed in a button-down shirt and jeans, wearing a rather rustic title belt with an American flag motif around his waist.
A young, boyish man built like a martial artist, in longboys and kickpads.
Mark and Ryan Andersen, in their younger days, with another pair of tag team belts.
An assortment of younger, hungry fighters, trained through the years and achieving various milestones throughout careers in the square circle.
And two empty frames.
“All these pictures,” Mark quipped, “are people who shaped, or were shaped by, this school. And these empty frames here? They’re there to be filled by the next people to be shaped by the Icebox. And if someone isn’t the next wrestler to make an impact? Maybe they’ll be the one after that. Or, we’ll put in another frame so they can be the ones after that.”
Mushigihara stared at the empty frames, nodding as if in agreement.
Night has begun to fall. That fire pit our boys were at before has now been lit, as the glow of burning embers lights their faces.
David Fox: Soon, we will be at the MGM Grand for ReVival 11, and our march to the top of the mountain will continue on. Delgado and Sadikaj, you’ve done your homework, but the real test begins once that bell rings. Two teams, fighting for one path upward.
Fox takes a moment to bask in the calm of the moment tonight.
David Fox: We’re going to bring it all in that ring, because we have to. Because we have to prove ourselves. Because we are going to fight like we have to.
David Fox: See ya next week, boys.
November 13, 2011.
Mark and Ryan Andersen stood outside the ring, as the big man inside ran the ropes, and rebounded shoulder-first into the face of an erstwhile trainee.
Mushigihara had dropped about thirty-five pounds since he first set foot in the Icebox a little over three months ago, and it showed. The former sumo wrestler had become a touch quicker, and his increasingly streamlined bulk was utilizing itself more. He grabbed the trainee by his hair, before getting his meaty paws on the kid’s body and hoisting him overhead like a barbell, before dropping him face-first to the mat like a hot stone.
He then ran the ropes again, and with a mighty leap, splashed down with all his weight onto the prone trainee, before rising back up to his knee to review the carnage he had caused, and roaring with aplomb and might.
“I never asked,” Mark said as he turned to his little brother, “what did old Alex bet on you getting Mushi here into shape?”
“A bottle of Yamazaki 25-Year-Old,” Ryan replied.
Mark whistled in delight. “High roller, huh?”
Silence, as Mushigihara rose to his feet, raising his own arms in victory.
“You know we’re splitting that shit, right, bro?” Mark snarked.