Proving Ground Sept 23, 2016 16:26:12 GMT -6
Post by Matt Slater on Sept 23, 2016 16:26:12 GMT -6
Ironic, isn’t it?
For over three years, I chased Seth Iser’s demonic shadow. Every so-called victory he gained over me fuelled my desire to gain retribution. He scolded my face with Red Mist. His “Black Magic” Tombstone Piledriver forced me to retire from Professional Wrestling. Yet the haunting memories of his questionable superiority made me come back, against the doctor’s orders and against sensible logic.
Through every tribulation and tragedy, I continued on with my mission. I lost support and compassion from certain allies. Other acquaintances ignored or failed to understand my plight. Even a loved one perished in the process. But the beast inside fuelled my anger and desire to right the wrongs. Nothing would stop me. Not this time. Not when it was now or never.
With rage and darkness increasing - along with my identifiable alias as a Silver Knight being broken and discarded - supremacy needed to be sought, even if it meant borrowing tactics from his book of mind games to lure him out. Soon the controversies would end, ultimately deciding who really was the better man.
I would not let him win. I could not accept wrongful defeat and allow him to savour his appalling streak; even if it meant losing everything I held dear. Even if it meant losing myself to the corrupting fires within.
With no rules, only winning by submission, Heatstroke proved to be the battleground of finality. He busted me open, coating my body in blood. He damaged my ribs and my neck exponentially. But he would not vanquish me. I promised - I vowed - to fight on until my last breath.
His Red Mist was blocked. I nearly cracked his skull with a steel chair. Instead of using Cera’s Warhammer - given to me by Heath Williams upon request - I punished him with his own Tombstone Piledriver, a move temporarily allowed for this particular war. And then I made the self-proclaimed “God” tap out with an STF.
Justice had been cemented. My retribution was complete.
Yet mere weeks later, I found myself passing out at the hands of Joanna Thade. Trapped in a Texas Cloverleaf, I fought for the ropes. I tried to tolerate the brutal anguish emanating from my abdomen. And then I blacked out from the pain.
How ironic that I spend so long chasing a victory over my fiercest, most detestable nemesis, finally earning that triumphant moment by making him surrender and quit… only to lose by submission myself to someone who primarily dabbles in the violent arts of chaos.
I genuinely smiled when the essence of redemption flowed through my veins in Norfolk, Virginia. Now that smile has once again diminished into an expression of frustration.
The realization I could not overcome the obstacle known as Joanna Thade, the Warchild, continues to dominate my psyche. She made the challenge. I mutually accepted. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, given how destructive and methodical Seth Iser would be.
But I never back down from anything. People can call that an heroic trait or a stupendous flaw. Whichever they go with, it does not completely define me. What defines me is how good I am, and what I will ultimately go through to prove what the fans have said about me all along.
Why they call me a legend. Why they consider me the best wrestler in VoW. Why they consider me the best wrestler in the world.
I want that rematch. I want to establish what I have proven to the fans who continue to chant my name and support my endeavours so many times before. Even with career-fatigue and age contributing negatives, I still have the qualities and concentration to prove it over and over again to those who legitimately doubt it.
Wrestlers and fans alike say holding championships prove that more than anything. I am not a champion currently, but I do not need to hold one to demonstrate my value. Every wrestler knows what I am capable of between those ropes. That is all I need. Recognition. Reputation. Respect.
But now I find myself partnered up for Tag Team action, working with a strong, spirited fighter against a current champion and someone who has been rather unfortunate since arriving in this promotion. Comparing sides, there is only one team with enough experience and tenacity to get the job done. I do not even need to state which unit that is. Confidence is guiding me away from lingering disappointment.
Yet why do I sense another dire consequence rearing its ugly head beyond the visions of grandeur?
If Ace Watson and Jessica E Mathis leave Villanova, Pennsylvania as victors, I need to seriously re-evaluate my approach. I need to re-evaluate myself, searching deep into that mirror for a worthwhile solution.
My ribs may still be tender, my neck may still be sore, but I will do all I can to prove myself again, just for the sake of those who are still too foolish or ignorant to understand.
Soon enough, they will all understand why I work harder and fight harder to exist as the best. The ravenous beast inside demands it.
But after studying how Ace and Jessica have been recently - failing to meet their potential or simply cheating to gain a victory - and how Jessica will willingly stab her own partner in the back as a way to mark her intentions at going after the Zero Gravity Championship... should they stand victorious above two people who have continuously proven their worth as skilled competitors in a sport that relies heavily on those qualities and trained together before…
Well that would be even more ironic, wouldn’t it?
When people think of Philadelphia, the same historical notifications always come to mind. Rocky Balboa and his famous step-running scene at the Museum of Art. Independance Hall - so named due to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution within its walls. The beneficial works of founding father Benjamin Franklin and provincial founder of Pennsylvania William Penn. The Liberty Bell. Reading Terminal Market. And of course the eponymously named movie set in the city itself, featuring a dramatic performance from leading actor Tom Hanks and an impactful song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen.
Hardly anyone would consider the National Museum of American Jewish History when talking about the city’s variety of attractions. Yet that was where Matt Slater roamed and studied, basking in the polished, preserved ambience of its special collections and artefacts.
While terror, invasion and conflict remained fresh in the minds of the American public, following the recent bombing in New York City a number of days after the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Slater was exploring avenues that followed the same depressing path. He was surrounded by images of people who were threatened by terror every waking moment, based on their religious beliefs and ethics. The first settlers on American soil debated equality and freedom of religious belief amongst the large Catholic contingent, who were not fond of these Jewish travellers suddenly setting up shop in their vicinity. And then, of course, World War II happened, with mass genocide occurring in concentration camps across Europe as governed by the Nazi regime.
Even to this day Jews were being vilified and targeted by anti-semitic groups. But from how far they had come to protest against prejudice, build a lasting foundation of communities across America and live freely in the land of opportunity was a heart-warming, inspirational story.
It was just a pity religious hate-crime, racial profiling, discrimination and prejudice continued to exist across the United States, including in Philadelphia itself.
While analysing an immigration poster, taking note of these people who helped formulate various Jewish communities and providing support for the nation as a whole, Matt suddenly received a punch to the thick flesh of his upper arm. The sudden connection caused him to turn and raise his hands defensively, acknowledging the arrival of his tag team partner for Breakthrough #52, Valerie Beasley.
‘Continuing to be a bookworm?’ This comedic statement from Valerie received nothing but silence, with Matt relaxing his posture and sighing. It was strange for Matt to witness her without Todd’s presence, but his mysterious disappearance was something she was gradually working on. Currently no new developments had emerged, but she was clearly not going to allow his whereabouts to affect her mentality. ‘So why did you invite me here? I don’t want to sound anti-semitic or anything but… a museum? You know I prefer places with healthy food or fitness equipment.’
‘I got to thinking about a number of things,’ Matt replied dryly, visualizing the same immigration poster he was studying before a while longer. Valerie followed his direction and also stared at the poster, merely shrugging afterwards and swinging her arms across her body. ‘Mainly I’ve been thinking about how people are, what makes them tick and do the things they do.’
‘So you want to become a psychologist for the day?’ Once again Valerie lightened the mood, causing Matt to smirk briefly as he looked at her. She was an attractive woman with a heart of gold, but if anyone managed to upset or infuriate her, they were going to be quickly subjected to a brutal beating that would make them beg for mercy.
After staring at her pleasant features and radiant eyes a while, Matt shook his head lightly. ‘I know a lot of people are contacting family and friends after what happened in New York. It’s a terrible thing to encounter or suffer. Even 9/11 is still fresh in people’s minds.’
Valerie hung her head in thought, obviously contemplating the reference of America’s deadliest terror attack that still brought forward sadness and anger.
‘But why do we do what we do?’ Consequently, Matt furrowed his eyebrows. ‘Okay that was a lot of do’s, but my question remains. Humans going to war with each other over religion? We’re still killing each other over petty disputes and the color of people’s skin? The fact is, as much as we’ve developed technological advancements, communication and eradicated several horrible things, there are still events going on around the world, even in this country, that make me lose more faith in humanity. We’re still immature, uncivilised animals acting like we’re super intelligent and controlled.’
‘People can be dumb as fuck sometimes.’ It was as blunt a statement as Valerie could summon, returning to her usual seriousness and personable edge. ‘But listen, you do need to put your focus elsewhere. It sucks what happened and people are mourning, but we can liven their spirits by showing we won’t be intimidated by terror.’
‘That’s exactly what Jessica E Mathis talked about a few days ago.’ Surprised by Matt’s response, Valerie nodded her head and smiled at a relevant topic they both needed to concentrate on. ‘But speaking of that, there was another reason why I came here and invited you along.’
‘And that is?’
Failing to reply immediately, Matt guided Valerie to a large open section of the museum and pointed around at the artefacts and pictures on display. ‘These people constantly had others opposing them, telling them they were wrong for their beliefs, telling them they didn’t belong and would never amount to anything. You and I… we received that same treatment breaking into Professional Wrestling and MMA. I was ridiculed for my size… although nowadays I’m fairly average as times have changed… but I was told I would never make it. Every day I trained hard. Every day I honed my craft. And over a decade later, people have considered me a legend and the best wrestler in the world. They still consider it even now. Just like these influential figures on these ways, we went against the oppression. We fought on and built a foundation that others can work from. You did the same in MMA with your accomplishments until you branched off and came to VoW.’
‘And I’ve made bitches tap out and recovered from two knee injuries,’ Valerie stated proudly.
‘Exactly. Now people might think I’m being disrespectful by comparing our voyage as athletes to these other people who were marked for death and exiled constantly due to their beliefs and heritage, but I don’t mean it in an insulting way. I simply want to feel the same burning desire they had to succeed again. There are people out there who still doubt what we can do, and doubt we can make a difference. And one of those people is Ace Watson.’
Valerie immediately gritted her teeth and clenched her hands into fists at the mention of his name. ‘He’s going to get a fist straight to the jaw if he disrespects us.’
‘But that’ll be part of his game plan. He knows we will--’ Suddenly, Matt stopped himself continuing and held up a finger. ‘Hold that thought.’
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his cell phone and handed the device to Valerie.
‘I’m in the mood to get a message sent. Could you do the honors of recording?’
‘Sure… but now you owe me something in return later.’
Raising an eyebrow, Matt looked confused yet slightly intrigued by her response. This lasted until Valerie held the phone up in both hands, taking a sturdy stance despite her knee not exactly being completely healthy. ‘Okay, whenever you’re ready, Matty.’
Matt never cleared his throat. He never even measured his distance from the camera before speaking. He simply looked straight at the minute lens and channelled forth whatever he was currently thinking.
‘Ignore whatever you see behind me in this location, ladies and gentleman. Yes, it is a museum, and yes, I have been expanding my knowledge after taking a break from training. But something occurred to me just now that I needed to share with you all. Especially to my two opponents this week, Jessica E Mathis and the Zero Gravity Champion Ace Watson.’
Valerie growled at his name again, although whether it would be detected on the audio awaited to be known.
‘There’s been a lot of talk lately about respect in our industry, and about gaining opportunity. When I was starting out as a wrestler, I needed to earn respect from my peers. I needed to harness every opportunity that came my way, which turned out to be slim pickings where I was developing my abilities. But overtime, those wrestlers that told me I was worth nothing and wouldn’t amount to anything realized what I could do. They understood that I had the drive, the motivation and the ability to be a good professional wrestler. And then they said I was a great professional wrestler. And then they said… that I could be one of the best wrestlers in the world.’
The floor squeaked from the turning of Matt’s leather shoe on the polished floor, creating a strange sound cue that seemed to help convey a transition of the message.
‘Jessica, I’ve seen the talent you’ve put on display here in VoW. After studying what you’ve done, I can see a lot more potential in you. But the key thing that is defining you at the moment is your unwillingness to surrender unto defeat. You have yet to win a single match in this company, but you still push forward to improve and get that first victory. That makes quite the impression. It’s a respectable sight to witness.’
Suddenly, Matt chuckled.
‘Or it would be, had you not started taking notes and pieces of advice from Ace Watson some time ago.’
Matt shook his head.
‘I understand that he is going to be your tag team partner at Breakthrough #52, and I understand that he has a lot of experience and talent to share, but given what he’s been doing lately? That can remove every bit of respect people have for you when it comes to your unwillingness to quit. He is going to fill your head with dark tactics and schemes that will generate a stigma surrounding you, Jessica. But if you want to open your mind to his words, seeking to attain your first victory by doing what he suggests, taking the easy route and blatantly cheating to questionably earn more money and opportunity? Then what is the point of even developing skill? What is the point of claiming you’re better when in fact you simply broke the rules?’
‘Now you haven’t done that yet, and you've even said recently that you would do your own thing and go against Ace to get what you want, so there is still hope for you as a genuinely respected and admirable competitor. But if you think about doing it against Valerie and I? That decision is going to turn out to be your greatest mistake. You have the mind and the athleticism to be much more than a controversial figure. Look at how Valerie dealt with her losses. Look at how I deal with mine. But if you want to stand under Dazi’s learning tree,, as you made a note of before, that’s fine. That’s okay. It's up to you if you want to follow the teachings of a woman that would sooner mutilate a wrestler than conquer them in skill-based combat. But don’t come crawling to me or Valerie after you lose again if you think of running with their tactics. You could end up being tapped out as a consequence… just like Ace could be again, thanks to Zahara’s magical skills.’
After rubbing his chin, Matt's eyes widened as he smiled broadly.
‘Speaking of which… hello, Ace! How are you feeling? Injury free? Still trying to cling to the top of the mountain you say you’re at as the longest-reigning champion in VoW right now? I can’t take that away from you, and before you say it yes… I passed out against Joanna Thade. And even though I never tapped, I’m still frustrated by the result, because I know deep down inside that I’m better than she is. Just like I believe I’m better than you arrogantly claim to be.’
But I bet you think I enjoyed that experience with Joanna, didn’t you? I bet you think I was getting hot and bothered, stopping myself from touching my groin and hiding my boner from view. Well, sadly, you’ll be wrong. I was more concerned about defeating her and maintaining my legacy. I’m not following these women around desperately with blatant lust in my eyes, Ace. As much as you think that’s true, I know what I did before. I don’t regret posting pictures of other women on Twitter and complementing their beauty. I wasn’t ashamed to be part of that regular Wednesday activity, which you’ve suddenly converted into being a celebration of you and your Zero Gravity Championship reign. Then again... it did start getting old real fast. Actually... it started to annoy me somewhat... along with these other hashtag trends that have come up. But anyway, I like all women, including the one who is stood behind this phone recording me right now.’
Upon hearing this statement, Valerie turned the camera around to put herself into focus, generating a smile and raising a fist up to the side of her head. Eventually she resumed recording Matt, who maintained his relaxed posture.
‘Yet the truth of the matter is, Ace… first of all, I’m not a sexual fiend aiming to sleep with every female on the roster… and secondly, you simply can’t accept people taking the spotlight away from you. You want to be the main focus. You want everything to revolve around you. When other people are discussing moments that don’t feature your presence, you seek to include yourself and make it about you. And the reason you do that is because you have a complex that is powered by envy.’
‘You might be the Zero Gravity Champion, and you might have garnered two defenses to keep hold of that prestigious title. But how did you accomplish those victories? You snuck in through the backdoor like a coward and claimed it was a genius strategy.’
‘I have encountered and wrestled many other athletes like you, Ace. Every single one of them contained the same attitude, believing they were superior to everyone else without truly proving it. Well now you have a chance to silence the critics. I’m not a fool, Ace. I know you can be an outstanding wrestler when you’re in control. I know you’ve developed numerous skills that can stretch and punish wrestlers into submission. You’re incredibly deceptive, and you're as tough as they come, fighting through various injuries and setbacks. But you rely so much on dirty tactics and tomfoolery these days… what a word that was… that it’s detracting from what you could potentially be and... I'll be honest, it's making you an absolute arsehole.’
'I could say so much worse about him,' Valerie interrupted, yet Matt remained focused on his message.
‘If you want to take the route of Seth Iser and live under the umbrella of hypocrisy, then be my guest. If you want to become like Elskerinne and obnoxiously dance around, making pathetic statements and never learning from your mistakes, then that’s your decision. But the only way you’re going to earn my respect is if you stand your ground and put your abilities to the test without resorting to cheap methods. Valerie earned my respect long ago by avoiding the easy path. She has suffered two knee injuries since being in VoW, but she rehabilitated herself, came back with a clear mindset, and defeated her opponents with her skills and endurance. If anything… I think she’s a better competitor than you are. In fact… I think she would prove herself better as Zero Gravity Champion than you claim to be doing right now. And on that note, Katie Moicelle and Ziu Zhong were not only better Zero Gravity Champions than you. Lexi Pearl and Patrick Jones were too.’
As Valerie uttered a gasp of fake shock behind the camera, Matt lightly rotated his neck and exhaled.
‘I’m going to end on this. In Villanova, Pennsylvania, the Bitch Slayer and myself are going to see how you two deal with the pressure of overcoming two competitors who have proven themselves time and time again. We are going to stand in that ring as a unit and use our abilities, individually and collectively, to wear you both down and earn another victory. Prove what I’m saying wrong by taking us on at our own game. Prove us wrong by actually using those skills you two have and working together to keep us down for the count. Prove that you can gain recognition for your skills, along with the respect and admiration that comes with it. Maybe then you'll start to be discussed in a positive light and regarded as a great wrestler. But until you do, genuine respect will not flow from my lips. You will be contending with the best at what we do. Let’s see if you have the drive and motivation to shut us up.’
Once Matt concluded his final thought, Valerie once again turned the camera around, displaying a serious expression. Seconds later she tilted her head, widened her eyes and curled her lips into a confident smirk before she administered her catchphrase. ‘Beware the fist.’
Matt generated an amused chuckle, watching Valerie stop the recording and save the video file before he responded. ‘You had to get that in there, didn’t you?’
Valerie smiled wide as she chucked the phone to him, which Matt awkwardly caught between his barely-prepared hands. ‘It keeps them on their toes. Speaking of which, I need to start keeping you on yours.’
‘Oh do you now?’ After storing the phone in his jean pocket, Matt walked closer to Valerie. ‘How about we see how fast I can floor you again?’
‘Is that a joke?’ Flipping her hair back, Valerie gestured for him to bring it on. ‘Well, to use your own words… come and prove it then.’
Accepting the challenge, Matt suddenly bounded forward and wrapped his arms around Valerie’s waist. He powered her off the floor with his upper body strength, yet that was when his ribs reminded him of his current fitness.
Countering the lock due to Matt’s painful hesitance, Valerie laughed as she twisted behind him and booted her tag team partner in the buttocks. Then, with another challenging wave, Valerie jogged away from Matt as he groaned and walked after her, creating an interesting chase that led to the outside of the museum and out into the bustling city.