What If You Win?
Posted on 02/18/23 at 9:52pm by Private: David Fox
Event: ReVival 23
Private: David Fox
“So tell me a bit more about your partner.”
Peter Cianciolo broke the silence as his newest client stared out the window of the office. As a therapist in the New Orleans metropolitan era, he was used to dealing with athletes in the area, but Henry Yamazaki was only the second professional wrestler he’d had, a fact that somewhat surprised him as New Orleans was the headquarters of DEFIANCE, one of the larger companies in the country. Henry turned his head to the therapist and chuckled awkwardly.
“Is there really much I could tell you that you don’t already know? I mean, he sent me your way, didn’t he?”
Henry Yamazaki was the second professional wrestler to be seen in Peter’s office, and clearly the man professionally known as David Fox was the first.
“Well, true,” the licensed social worker nodded as he sipped his coffee, “but we aren’t here to discuss David. We’re here to discuss your concerns and issues, for yourself specifically.”
Henry looked down at his feet for a moment.
“Well, we’ve been allies and enemies in the ring,” Henry said, his gaze shifting involuntarily through the office, “and, well, the whole thing about me hiding my ability to speak really threw things for a loop when that all unfolded. But besides that, we’re just… very, very different people.”
“How so? Some might say that people who have stark differences between them make for stronger partnerships than people who are very similar.”
“Yeah, but…” the burly Asian’s voice trailed off a bit before he caught himself, “like, there are the simple differences, that aren’t such a big deal. He’s white, I’m Asian. He’s married, I’m single. But also…”
Peter nodded at his client, as if to gently ease him along into saying more.
“Well, the big thing that sticks out is, he’s one of those ‘career’ kind of wrestlers if that makes sense. Like, he’s worried about being successful, being a star in the sport, going down as a legend… or as much of one as you can be in pro wrestling.”
“And you aren’t?”
“It’s different,” Henry sighed, “I’m not ‘the wrestling guy’ compared to him. I’m in it to make money, and to succeed more in terms of how much I get out of it, than how I’m remembered twenty, thirty years from now. He beats himself up over every mistake, every misstep, and he beats himself up over it. And it makes working with him even more frustrating!”
“Do you not care about winning or losing, then?”
“Of course, I do,” Henry snipped with a tinge of indignance, “if you win, you move up the rankings, which means you get the championship opportunities, which in turn means more money, more perks, and all of that. Don’t get me wrong, I liked pro wrestling well enough as a kid, but I didn’t stick with it. My thing was football.”
“And how long were you playing football?” Peter was attentively scrawling notes, listening to the big man.
“I played through college, at University of Hawaii. Then I flew to Japan to try my luck at their semi-pro league. That’s how I got into sumo.”
“And from there on to…”
“THE professional wrestling,” Henry said, finishing Peter’s sentence. He chewed on his thoughts a little more.
“How do I put it… to me, wrestling is how I make a living, but David went and made it his life.”
Las Vegas, NV
“Not a bad fight, huh?” Rob Sharpe asked nobody in particular as he sat at the closest bar he could find after another successful match in Sin City Championship Wrestling, and sipped from a generous pour of Johnny Walker Blue Label. The 25-year-old reigning SCCW Television Champion had torn it up in the ring against someone whose name has since been lost to time, and came out victorious, hence the celebratory “good stuff.”
“You did good, babe,” his wife Bridget said as she sipped a dry martini; she went by the stage name Rachel, because she thought alliteration would go well in promoting her husband, as if the man who brought his trademark Philadelphia working-class attitude to the ring every time would have a hard time finding an audience. And find one he did, swinging fists with the kind of power that would have put him at home in another kind of heavyweight ring.
“Is the little guy in the hotel room?” Rob and Rachel brought his “brother” along with; the 20-year-old wasn’t there to perform, but as a fellow trainee from the Old Mill, Rob felt like it would do the kid some good to finally ride along and take in the sights and sounds of one of the hottest territories of the National Wrestling Council, then the biggest name in the business. The kid took on the name “Reed Sharpe,” once again because of the idea of alliteration, in tribute of old Stanley Sharpe who once upon a time was the undisputed top junior heavyweight in North America and had settled in the Philly area to open up the Old Mill. Rob knew the kid had to be bored out of his mind since he couldn’t drink or gamble, but rules were rules.
“No,” she replied, “he said he was gonna go into the business center, with all the computers. Probably waste time with the newsboards.”
“Eh, not like he has shit else to do unless he brought that Game Boy of his.”
A pause, before the couple raised their glasses and clinked.
“To a new chapter.”
“To a new chapter.”
Meanwhile, in the MGM Grand’s Business Center/computer room…
DRTydawg80: DUDE VEGAS IS SO AWESOME
DrDANger426: I thought you couldn’t gamble or anything there?
DRTydawg80: no I mean the wrestling
DRTydawg80: Rob kicked so much ass in SCCW tonight and I saw this one guy who was just so funny to watch and still could wrestle like crazy
DrDANger426: thats cool, whats his name?
DRTydawg80: “Black Sheep” Jared Sykes
DRTydawg80: like he just looks like any dude but he was cool as shit
DrDANger426: did you get to meet him or anything?
DRTydawg80: no by the time Rob was done showering everyone had just about left the place
DRTydawg80: thats alright though
DRTydawg80: I wanna wrestle him someday
DRTydawg80: just like I wanna wrestle Doman and Scott Sloane and all those J-Crown guys
DRTydawg80: someday, Danny, someday
DrDANger426: sorry, mom wanted me to put the trash out and she’s saying it’s almost time for bed
DrDANger426: do you think you will someday?
DRTydawg80: I gotta get caught up on school and not get hurt either
DRTydawg80: I just hope it won’t be too late by the time I’m finished
DRTydawg80: Danny can you do me a favor?
DrDANger426: what’s up
DRTydawg80: next time you and dad go to the record store can you ask him to look for anything from a band called 6gig?
DRTydawg80: I looked up the lyrics to Jared Sykes walkout music and it gave me a song from them called “hit the ground”
DrDANger426: do you know when you’ll be coming home?
DRTydawg80: not yet, probably day after tomorrow
DrDANger426: ok mom says time for bed
DRTydawg80: ok, goodnight, little bro
DrDANger426: good night Davey
DrDANger426 signed off at 2:45:22 AM
“D’you ever think this would happen, Davey?”
Troy Matthews and David Fox were laid out on the rooftop of David’s rented New Orleans house, taking turns and puffs from a shared joint. Troy had just taken a deep pull before breaking the long silence between the two.
“What, getting in the ring with Sykes?” David replied, absentmindedly tracing paths between the stars in the sky with one fingertip, “until last year I woulda said ‘no way, absolutely not,’ but now? Knowing that it’s just a few days away?”
A pause as Troy handed him the joint.
“I still don’t believe it’s really happening,” he followed, before taking a puff.
“To think how it all started, that night in Vegas,” Troy chuckled, “just some dumb kid blown away by this one dude who was probably on his way to becoming a star someday. Just that nobody knew just how much of a star he’d become. Most popular wrestler in PRIME. Him and his gal have had a death grip on those Tag Team Championships. And now, here we are, the kid living his dream and his monster of a tag partner against that white whale and his partner in and out of the ring, for the gold, no less!”
Troy let out a long whistle as he stared at the moon, then turned to his future form. “No pressure, right?”
David took another pull from the joint and let out a tiny cough. “Heh, no pressure at all.”
“So why are you having this… friction with your partner?”
Back in Peter’s office, he was looking at his notepad filled with all the differences between his client, Eiichiro “Henry” Yamazaki, and Henry’s tag team partner David Fox. Henry sighed and looked to his therapist.
“Well, he did spend almost a decade thinking I couldn’t talk.”
“Though you admit that was on your own accord,” Peter replied.
“Yes, it was. But that doesn’t change anything. We actually had a fight against each other in… 2014, I believe? Beat the hell out of each other. But after that, we really didn’t keep in touch for a while, about two years.”
“And what happened then?”
“David had a match with a really big, crazy man who beat the hell out of him, even more than I ever did. As in, he got rhabdomyolysis from all of the trauma, had some nasty ruptures. He almost died.”
“My goodness,” Peter responded, with genuine surprise as opposed to the stock, empty expression usually reserved for someone thoroughly detached from the situation.
“My manager… advocate, really, reached out to him,” Henry continued, “got him back on his feet. Not just physically, but mentally. He’d been going through some rough times, which didn’t help him in that match. Ryan, my manager, he’d tried to get David to move on, while he was still relatively healthy.”
Henry shook his head.
“But he pushed on. Did well for himself in the ring and won a few belts after he got his act together, at least. Even got back with his girl after they’d split up. They got married a while back and they have a solid marriage.”
“Well, it certainly seems like he was able to really put himself back together after everything he went through,” Peter said, “but we aren’t talking about David here, we’re talking about Henry.”
“I’m getting there,” Henry snipped, “just… hear me out, please. We’ve been teaming up again in 2021. We’ve had some success, but not as much as I’d like. Again, with the whole ‘winning means title shots and more money’ thing. Not his fault, though. Tag team wrestling has just… been on a steep decline in recent years. A lot of companies don’t even bother with it anymore. But that’s besides the point.”
“But then David told me he was planning to start winding down his career.”
“Do you have any regrets after this long in the biz?”
Troy Matthews broke another long silence after taking a hit.
“Of course, plenty,” David said as he stretched his hand out for the joint, “we’d be here all night talking about the ways twenty-five years of wrestling didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped.” He withdrew his hand and brought the joint to his lips for a puff.
“I had dreams of facing a lot of big names in the sport. The Scott Sloanes, the Trent Shylaxes. Those guys 20 years ago who set the world on fire… then just vanished, without a trace. Completely forgotten, except to obsessive headcases like me.”
“And soon, I’m going to be one of those guys, moving on, forgotten. Maybe there’ll be someone as bad at letting go of the past as I am, who’s looking up to me and looking me up. Who knows?”
Troy scoffed. “Imagine some starry-eyed kid showing up at your doorstep long after you hung up the kickpads and asking if it was really you, like the thought crossed our mind to do with some of those old guys.”
The pair shared a good laugh, probably the only noise in the neighborhood at this hour.
“Nah,” David chuckled, before taking another puff and handing the joint back to his past self, “they wouldn’t know me from anybody. And besides, I wouldn’t know the first damn thing to say to them. ‘Can I have your autograph, can you teach me how to wrestle,’ shit like that?”
“But in the end, I’ll still have that match with Jared Sykes, win or lose.”
“Nervous?” Troy asked, his hand out for his turn with the joint.
“A little,” David replied as he handed Troy the weed, “it’s not just about being in a ring with Jared; if we beat Jared and Justine, it would be the biggest win of our careers, and easily THE biggest win of mine. But if we come up short, you know what I’m gonna do?”
Troy hummed in curiosity, his mouth otherwise indisposed.
“I’m gonna go in that Smoothie King center locker room, take a shower, come home, and open the drawer in my nightstand and pull out the list of career goals I wrote way back when… and I’m going to write a big, fat checkmark where it says “WRESTLE JARED SYKES.”
Another long pause as Troy puffed up.
“I’m thinking about letting Mushi go,” David said, sending Troy into a coughing fit.
“Letting him go?” Troy said between hacks, “what do you mean?”
“The way I see it, I only have a few more years left in the ring, if I’m lucky,” David sighed, “and he doesn’t need to be there to prop my carcass up along the way. He’s got his own career to look after, his own interests. It ain’t fair for me to be the millstone around his neck when he’s trying to make make a name for himself, on his own terms.”
David stood up on his feet and stepped just a little bit closer to the edge of the roof.
“My regrets, my wrongs to set right, my loose ends,” David continued, “they shouldn’t be his burden just because he didn’t do to me nine years ago what Paxton Ray did to Jon Rhine. We’re gonna go out there and give Sykes and Calvin the best damn fight we can. And when it’s all said and done, I’m gonna sit in the locker room and break the news to the ol’ Kaiju.”
David smiled for the first time tonight, as if the weight of the world had just been taken off his shoulders and he could finally breathe freely for once.
“Yeah,” Troy said, blowing a cloud of smoke to the heavens, “but what if you win?”
“I hate to say it,” Henry Yamazaki said after taking a big quaff of water from Peter Cianciolo’s office cooler, “but sometimes, being around him, remembering the times we fought in the ring, who I was back then… it all makes me think about those times when I was a remorseless monster, hellbent on destroying anything that moves. I don’t want to be that anymore. And although I know it’s not David’s fault… just his presence brings those old feelings and urges back. I want… to actually be a hero?”
Henry’s intonation rose, almost as if he was asking a question, something that Peter caught onto almost immediately.
“I don’t know if he’s exactly ‘keeping me’ from my goals in wrestling, but ever since I realized I wanted to do good as a wrestler, it’s been a struggle; trying to do good, the urge to just be a hellion to everyone and everything, to the point where I’m wondering what kind of person I really am. I guess the years of being borderline-mute really did a number on me, huh?”
Henry chuckled, and looked over to Peter expecting some kind of concurrence from the therapist.
Peter made no expression or sound.
“We have a big match next week, in New Orleans. Tag team championships. The champions have held the belts since the company started back up. One of them is the most popular wrestler IN the company, and his partner’s one of the toughest women I’ve ever seen wrestle. We can beat them. It will take a lot of work and coordination, but we can beat them. But if we don’t…I think I’m going to talk to David backstage, and we’re going to have a long, serious talk about our future as a team.”
“Well, Henry, we are just about out of time,” Peter finally said, “but I’m going to give you something to think about before you leave; you are talking about this match like you anticipate losing, almost as if you want to lose. But here’s something to think about Henry…”
Peter rose from his chair just as Henry stood up from the couch, and gave his large client some piercing words as they shook hands.
“…what if you win?”
“You have a point,” David said, having gotten the joint back and taken a puff as he watched the sun begin to rise, “he’s beatable, just ask Abe Lipschitz. But he’s not going to let his guard down two matches in a row. Plus Justine Calvin’s a tough one in her own right, so Mushi and I can’t just ignore her. We’ll just have to be absolutely perfect in the ring, make no mistakes.”
“Wonder how that’ll be possible with me thinking about our futures, huh…”
David looked back to where Troy Matthews was sitting, only to find no one there. David sighed, then took one last look at the rising sun, before slowly making his way through the bedroom window.
“What if I win?” he asked, as he laid down in bed, and his eyes began to open.
Troy family residence,
“Thank you so much for taking good care of my Davey, Mister… Sharpe, is it?”
Leanne Troy took Rob Sharpe completely off-guard with her thankful hug.
“Mr. Sharpe is our trainer, ma’am,” Rob awkwardly replied, “please, call me Rob.”
“Trainer… so I assume that isn’t your real name, either.”
“No, ma’am, just ask your son why we call him ‘Reed.’”
Rob couldn’t help but chuckle to himself.
“But in any case, thank you for keeping my son out of trouble,” Leanne said.
“If I may toot my own a bit, ma’am,” the soft-spoken man with a thick Philadelphia accent replied, “he was perfectly fine staying out of trouble on his own, because he would rather not deal with a six-foot-three former Division II linebacker who carries a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
“Oh, my,” Leanne gasped, “you wrestlers really can be a bit violent, can’t you?”
“Only when the mood takes us, ma’am.”
Upstairs, David “Reed Sharpe” Troy was reuniting with his brother Daniel.
“Dude, I had a blast,” David said as he started unpacking his things.
“I-I-I’m glad, Davey,” his little brother said; the 16-year-old Daniel had trouble communicating a lot of times because of both his autism and his stutter, but David always gave him the time and space to say what he needed to say. “So Jared Sykes was really c-c-c-c-cool, huh?”
“Yeah, man,” the aspiring wrestler said, “like I said before, I wanna wrestle him someday.”
“Oh!” Daniel pointed one finger up, as a thought suddenly came to him. He went over to his desk and opened the drawer, pulling out a CD and showing it to David; 6gig’s Tincan Experiment.
“Put it on!” David called out; Daniel got to it without saying a word, putting the disc in the CD player they shared, and setting it to track 2.
David sunk into his bed, letting the thumping drums and fuzzy guitars carry him away.
I thought I could break the sound barrier just by trying,
To hit with focus and at random and never dying
A waterfall, flowing upstream, only human
I thought I could break the sound barrier…
David was sure his mom would ask him to turn the music down, but in that moment, he could only envision his future in wrestling, the path his career would take, and the opponents he would face down the line.
I’m only stopping for heavy breathing
I’m only stopping to hit the ground
Only stopping to regain feeling
I’m only stopping…
The last thing David could remember saying before sleep took him after the long journey home was said with such conviction that he remembers it to this day.
“I’m gonna wrestle Jared Sykes someday, Danny, just you wait.”
To hit the ground!
“And what if I beat him…”