It takes a lot of work to try and shake off a perception. The older you get, the more people see you as what you were, very little time is spent on what you are. Nostalgia is certainly a massive factor in that. The warm glow of the past can be incredibly alluring, often the brain hides away the heartache and pain of the past, so clinging on to a mirage, clinging on to what was, it’s all the easier.
Many people love thinking back to when times were “better”, it’s a form of escapism, I suppose. Dwell upon the moments where you felt valued, loved, powerful, talented, strong… becoming the documentary editor of your own mind. Convince yourself that times are different now, that the past embraced you and shake off that sense that the present rejects you. That reality can certainly provide some comfort of the soul. Thinking back to the days when you were “somebody”, truly the grilled cheese and tomato soup for the emotional doldrums.
A small percentage though, they loathe the past. The past can be a minefield. What was your greatest accomplishment one day becomes totally meaningless the next. I think about the Ryan family right now. Cecilia supposedly crafting her own path, building up a name, a reputation. Hell, being successful at it.
All of it pointless, none of it earned.
It does start to get the mind wondering though. How deep did the rot go with the Ryans?
Until Phil Atken returned to the wrestling industry at Culture Shock, he had only a small list of accomplishments to his name. Defeating the legendary Dan Ryan was one. With the events of the past week, was there really any true meaning to defeating the Patriarch of a Pump and Dump scheme.
Maybe everyone who continued to treat Phil Atken like a dumb babby idiot man after his win against Ryan was correct all along.
It didn’t mean shit.
That’s why only fools live in the past. Those cherished thoughts you cling on to and hug tightly, their meaning can so quickly dissipate. A dream becomes a nightmare. Moments that once lifted now drag you to the abyss.
Yet people still have dogged determination to use these moments to inform their perceptions of the present.
Dirk Dickwood was once a man who should’ve mattered greatly to the wrestling industry. He was the manager of a talent riding a rocket straight to that company’s Hall of Fame. He was the power behind the throne, ensuring that deals were done, meetings were had, contracts were signed. He was a power player in the industry and he deserved to be. Every talent that had his backing ended up with championship gold around their waist. Yet, he has a weird name, so I guess that’s the thing to focus on.
Hank was a tag team champion and a terrifying monster in the wrestling ring. In his brief tenure as an in-ring competitor, he tore through the best of the best. No one would know it, because… well… it’s not like he can mention it but one of the men he defeated on his way to glory back then is the current number one contender. Still, he’s mute, so let’s ignore his actual accomplishments, shall we.
Gary Tongueman was a dedicated dentist with a flourishing practice. He decided to follow his dreams when he hit his 30s and signed up for wrestling training. He had the backing of Hall of Famers and champions on his journey to the spotlight and it all got cut short. Gary broke his arm and no one has ever been able to figure out how it happened. He was in a training room all by himself and yet, snippity snap went his arm. That didn’t stop him from wanting to be part of the industry. Gary has loyalty like no other but he’s not a roster talent, so assaulting him is high comedic art.
The lazy labellers like to point out that everyone in The Glue Factory has four letter names, the pathetic don’t even go that deep. To them, the perception of The Factory is the comforting idea that all four men are abject failures.
The wise, though, they see the danger in front of them.
They look at the eyes of the Proprietor.
They see what is coming.
We find ourselves in the past at a date of… oh, let’s say “somewhere in the middle of ReVival 8”. The Glue Factory are having a pre-match pep talk in the small, private dressing room that Dirk had managed to negotiate for the team. It turns out that having a middling successful craft glue company can buy the most meagre of perks at the MGM Grand. The Glue Factory’s Face and Proprietor, Philip Martin Atken paces up and down, up and down, up and down around the room, gently rocking his neck, clearly deep in thought about his upcoming match with The Anglo Luchador.
The rest of the Glue Boiz – Hank, Dirk and Gary have placed themselves off to the side, watching the live feed of the show, giving their boss a wide berth for his pacing circle. Although the team had only come together over the past few months, they already knew enough about Phil to give him all the space he required ahead of a wrestling match.
There was only a few minutes left before Atken and Hank were due to take their leave and head towards the ring but before Phil could conclude his pre-match self-strategy session, he was snapped out of his stupor by the shouting of Dirk Dickwood.
“PHIL! YOU NEED TO SEE THIS!”
Wiggling his head out of the daze he had found himself in, Atken scrunched up his eyes and turned towards his Chief of Operations. Atken was waiting for further explanation before he determined whether he was going to kick Dirk’s head off. He reckoned with the right angle, he could probably get it into orbit, forming “Dirk Dickwood’s International Space Station and Glue Factory Outpost”.
The visions of Dirk’s floating skull danced in Atken’s head for mere moments, until Hank grabbed his arm and yanked him right in front of the television. Atken watched with interest, curious what was causing all the hubbub and hoopla. As it dawned on him what he was watching with his own two eyes, he could only form one question for his team.
“Why does Melvin’s office have a smoke machine?”
Dickwood can hardly contain himself, trying to spit out a sentence through his chuckles. “Dusk brought it with him…”
The Glue Factory’s Humble Proprietor seems less amused and bemused by Dusk’s antics than the rest of his sticky stallions. As Dusk starts to make demands for a match with Atken, brandishing a lead pipe as he does so, Atken’s bottom lip curls up into his mouth. The disdain is evident as he manages to spit out a few words.
“That little smug fucker doesn’t get it. So Dirk, I’m going to go to the ring now, I’m going to stand opposite his little friend The Anglo Luchador, and I’m doing to make sure that he does start to fucking get it.”
Dirk turns around to reply but can’t manage to get anything out as Atken has already beckoned Hank to his side and stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Dirk turns towards Gary, an air of uneasiness is clear. Dirk manages to compose himself and questions the intern.
“He’s not going to try and kill The Anglo Luchador, right?” Dirk asks, less expecting words of wisdom from the intern, more trying to reassure himself.
Dusk perceives me as something of a coward, a cheap shot artist with nothing to back up his words. That was made very clear with his little pipe based interjection in Melvin Beauregard’s office a few weeks back.
So, I decided to smash that mirror he was trying to hold up to me in a million tiny little pieces.
I have to ask, ole Duskeroo, when you were flaunting your micropenis energy in Melvin’s office, were you anticipating the fact that I was about to choke the life out of one of your friends mere moments later? Were you anticipating that I am an actual threat to your safety and future in this very industry? Were you anticipating that I would be more than willing to step into the ring against you at The Great American Nightmare?
Of course not.
You thought that this was going to be a classic battle of hero against coward. You bet on yourself, you thought that if you reminded the fans enough that you used to be an Intense Champion, made enough threatening gestures, swung around enough weapons, billowed enough smoke, you would vanquish the cowardly Atken and claim the title you believe to be rightfully yours.
Fuck me, you live a fairy tale world.
What was the idea in your head? That lil baby Dusk with his beautiful blue eyes would conquer The Evil Giant Hank and the Cowardly King of Glue?
Maybe you should start paying more attention to the man behind the curtain, eh?
We’re now at ReVival 9, isn’t that marvelous? The show has just started and we have returned to Glue Time Central. With the Humble Proprietor having the evening off, it’s much easier for the whole gang to focus on the show. Also, without Phil pacing and muttering to himself, the “weirded out” quota of the Glue Gang has also drastically decreased. Everyone is very much hooked to the viewing of the triple threat between Dusk, GREAT SCOTT and Pete Whealdon. Dirk Dickwood has even brought a yellow legal pad to furiously scribble notes on.
As Dirk begins to uncap his pen, Phil turns to his Chief of Operations. “Does that Pete Whealdon guy look okay to you? I see sadness in his eyes…”
Dirk tilts his head like a confused dog or Tucker Carlson, “I… I’m not sure what you’re getting at here Phil.”
Dirk forgets the conversation that he’s in almost instantly, as he returns to the notepad. So far, he has written “Dusk” at the top of the paper and then drawn a “Cool S”. Gary turns his attention to Dirk. “Dusk is really spry…”
Dirk writes down “spry” as a bullet point. Not paying attention to any of the work of his team, Atken continues to muse out loud.
“Sorry, I don’t want to belabour the point but given so many glory hogs exist in this company, a man who looks like his soul was reaped moments before his music hit really stands out a bit, and I was just thinking… OH! THAT WAS RAD!”
Atken is stopped in his tracks upon witnessing a Scottacanrana.
“Wait, is GREAT SCOTT going to win this? It looks like he’s going to win this!”
There’s a mixture of excitement and confusion in the voice of Gary Tongueman as he watches the force of nature known only as GREAT SCOTT take control of the match. The colour singlet and exciting power moves of Melvin Beauregard’s charge distract Atken for a few moments but he is quick to return to his original train of thought.
“It’s like someone murdered his grandmother in front of him and then pushed him onto the stage…”
Dirk turns to his boss, a little bit exasperated by his focus on Whealdon, as opposed to his Great American Nightmare opponent, Dusk.
“Phil, please, it doesn’t matter if Pete Whealdon is a happy man or a sad boy. It matters not a jot. What does matter is your upcoming match with Dusk and from what we’re seeing here, you’re going to have to be careful…”
Phil nods, which you would think would indicate agreement with Dirk.
“…like someone tore up his childhood teddy in front of him and then made him wrestle in front of an EDM bear as a horrible prank…”
Dirk gently whacks Atken with the legal pad. “STOP. LOOKING. AT. WHEALDON.”
Atken tries to refocus on the match at hand, but as he looks towards the television, the referee’s hand slaps the mat for the three.
“…I told you the Scottacanrana was powerful…”
We hear the ringing of a cell phone in the dark. There are a few audible groans, followed by the answering of the call.
“So, sorry Phil, you were right to focus on Whealdon.”
A heavy sigh is head in the dark. There is silence in the air for a few moments.
“OH, FOR FUCK SAKE, DIRK!”
I’m struggling with you, Pete. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful, in fact, I think it’s probably the highest honour I can likely bestow on anyone in this company. Every other match I’ve had so far has had such a clear connection to my Mission Statement. Every other match, every other interaction, old stars have been shoving younger talent into the shadows so that they can have one last acknowledgement in wrestling’s biggest spotlight.
Dusk tried to humiliate poor Tapioca Puddings at Culture Shock. Tapioca never truly recovered, not even with my help. Now, thanks to the dastardly actions of the bastard Dusk, we don’t know if we’ll ever see that innocent soul again.
Larry Tact couldn’t resist one more run at the top at the expense of his protégé. A young talent that could’ve relaunched Tact Enterprises, if he’d been the one given the opportunities that Larry snatched. Larry wanted the plaudits though. I reminded him that investments can go down, as well as up. Betting on yourself is always a risky business.
The Anglo Luchador has been corrupting a wealth of young, hungry, passionate PRIME stars to become part of a comedy cavalcade. Just a straight up clown car that no one can seem to escape the orbit of.
To hurt them, to humble them, that felt right. That felt purposeful. Meaningful. It gave me a sense of internal justice. You though, Pete, you haven’t hurt the future. You have merely existed. I guess that has been good enough for you.
Trying to return to the ring is tough, I’m with you on that. So many ghosts, so much baggage. Is it worth all the pain?
I wasn’t really sure about this whole idea to return to the ring. I’d been embarrassed so many times in years gone by. There’s not too many people in this industry of ours who can claim they found out that they were fired in the middle of a radio appearance, but ole Philly A can.
Don’t get me wrong, Dear Sweet Peter, I brought a lot of it on myself. I tried to put pride into being a scummy little dipshit. An edgelord. Someone who said THE BAD WORDS and hoped that it would convince people that I was cool. When that failed, I think I tried some political bullshit nonsense to get people to like me. People somehow loathed me even more.
Maybe you should reflect on that Anglo…
Still, I was very cautious when I saw an opportunity to come back to this beautiful sport. It’s very difficult to shake off the past. Very difficult to try and become a new man. People, even if they weren’t around for your past, want to keep you in the hole. Building yourself up by putting others down is the mother’s milk of the wrestling locker room.
I suppose the rational question would be to ask me why I came back. After ten years away, after a fulfilling life removed from this humiliating and humbling sport, why would I even want to step back in the ring. Why put myself through the rigorous training routine? Why spend every evening in bed unable to sleep because of the agony running up and down my body? Why shorten my lifespan?
The simple answer, Peter, is I felt that I could finally prove myself. That after years of trying to come to terms with who and what I am, after a decade of finding my own voice and becoming a truly independent being, I could redeem myself. Instead of people talking about the name Phil Atken in the same tone you would when you recalled your third least favourite summer camp counselor, I would matter.
I want awe. I want people to think “he’s almost fifty seven and he’s murdering people, how the hell is he able to do that?”
I want revenge too. The industry was harsh to me, I was often made a mockery of. Some real dark days of the soul when I first took a stab at the grappling arts. Some of the fuckers who helped wrack up years of counselling bills for me are still running around, playing the same game. Many of them are on this very roster. Inflicting pain onto a new generation. It sickens me.
I think it’s a lot easier to do this when you have a vision. When you have clear purpose and intent. I feel sorry for you Peter, I know that is something that you currently lack and that can sting, that can weigh on a man. The constant sense of circling the drain, just hoping beyond hope that someone will see you, someone will pay attention, someone will value you. Through recognition comes an internal sense of worth and currently, you just don’t have that.
So, the defence mechanism kicks in. The aloof “cool” bad guy, you embrace the sleaze. You embrace the indifference. If you pretend not to care, then neither wins nor losses can hurt you. The risk is, Pete, what starts as a defence mechanism becomes internalised. It becomes your new reality.
I want you to snap out of this. I want you to come to the ring and fight me with everything you have. I want you to come up with a level of fire and fury that would imply that I fucked your dog and shot your mother seconds before the bell rings. Every dirty trick you have, every shortcut, every brutal kick…
I want the man who destroyed Solomon Richard’s brain.
Do I want it for selfish reasons? Of course, I have an important match coming up. I need to continue to push myself, test myself, see what my body is capable of. I need to KNOW that I can go.
But I want it for you too Peter, I want to bring life back to your sad eyes.
As I wrap my arm around your neck and gently put you to sleep, I want you to whisper “thank you” in my ear.
Pete Whealdon: A Glue Factory Success Story.
That’ll shift the perception, for both of us.