â€œAPW restored me; CWC Ascension gave me a reason to believe; now The Experts awaits; can I grasp that immortality?â€- John Dionysus, April 2012Many years ago...
For Dionysus this was the end of his cycle. He pulled his blood soaked body from the mat, the fire on which he immolated himself, and dragged his broken, battered and bruised body back to the locker rooms. His nostrils were immersed with the pungent smell of aromatic spices; maybe someone was burning incense in the locker rooms; maybe this was just a dream fabricated by a shattered mind; maybe it was the scent of the impending self-combustion. He surveyed the scene and his mind knew that this was the nest he had created for himself. He inhaled deeply, allowing his mind to tread in every small detail, and opened his eyes to be confronted by the promoter â€“ the match that would ignite Dionysusâ€™ self-made pyre.
â€œHereâ€™s your fee,â€ the promoter stated without any enthusiasm as he handed over a brown envelope. â€œWeâ€™re finished. I canâ€™t rely upon you anymore; youâ€™re a liability and Iâ€™m putting an end to you before you can waste any more of my money.â€
â€œJust one more chance.â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard it a thousand times. Itâ€™s over Johnny, you and this business are done. I just canâ€™t afford to back you anymore.â€
â€œIâ€™m begging you. I need this.â€
â€œBut I donâ€™t. And donâ€™t look at me like that.â€
â€œLike Iâ€™m holding a frigginâ€™ gun to ya head. If I were this would be a mercy kill, take my word for it. But as it is, this is suicide, Johnny; youâ€™ve tied yourself to this stake.â€
â€œBut youâ€™re the one lighting the match. Donâ€™t do this.â€
â€œSorry Johnny. I just donâ€™t think you can be that guy
, and if youâ€™re honest without yourself, then neither do you.â€
The promoter vanished like a wisp and Dionysus was left all alone in a locker room full of humanity; left to crawl into a ball in the nest of his own making and ignites into the flames of failure; ashes of contempt are all that remained.
The consequences of the above event are untold and represent a tragic tale that it does not befit us to explore here and now. It will suffice to say that John Dionysusâ€™ years in the wilderness (â€˜those years of oblivionâ€™ as he describes them) were filled with dark days indeed.
But in the summer of 2011 a momentous event occurred that plunged Dionysus was his slumber and forced him to break free of the shell of his brooding back into the world of professional wrestling he had left so suddenly...and, admittedly, at the behest of others.
Events unfolded that eventually led John Dionysus to sign a contract to Action Packed Wrestling where he quickly rose to the status of Xtreme Champion, and forged a reputation as a determined and spirited competitor in the ring in a number of bouts that included opponents as varied as Kurt Noble, Level-One, Terry Marvin, Keaton Saint and his present arch-nemesis Michael Harris.
At the beginning of April John Dionysus emerged reborn not as an unreliable drunk who was a liability to promoters, but as a promising talent who many felt was on the cusp of global break-out. Chance had taken him into CWCâ€™s annual Ascension tournament and while Dionysusâ€™ campaign for â€˜Ascensionâ€™ ultimately failed, by the time it was ended by TWO Noble Neckbreakers at the quarter-final stage, Dionysus had emerged from the shadows.
But since then things have spiralled downwards for the APW Xtreme Champion. Without a win since APWâ€™s signature Rasslemania event on March 25th, and having suffered defeats to a number of APWâ€™s franchise stars, Dionysus is left to contemplate his true purpose in this profession. He had returned to wrestling to prove his name was one worthy of esteem, but lately the feeling the subsisted inside his soul was that he would go down in the annals as one of those â€˜good, but no greatâ€™ practitioners of this fine art of combat.
This is the frame of mind Dionysus finds himself in as he begins a new campaign, this one within the realms of The Experts.
Great prestige â€“ immortality even - awaits any combatant who can assail the competition and be crowned â€˜The True Expertâ€™ during the summer months, and although Dionysus may say he can see this goal emerging on the horizon, there is desperation in his belief that he can never reach the destination, that this is one journey that his legs cannot muster.
But he has to try. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity
*April 29th 2012...
As in the car pulled into the car park John Dionysusâ€™ reminiscence ended and he felt the knot in his stomach tighten. It wasnâ€™t an unfamiliar feeling, although he hadnâ€™t felt it in some time. He was nervous. It was less than two hours before High Stakes
would go live, and for the first time in months he was nervous. He let out a heavy sigh as an attempt to relieve the inner tension.
â€œWell here it is, John,â€ said Dionysusâ€™ agent Vern Wheeler. â€œThe Legacy Plaza.â€
Dionysus nodded silently. Wheeler knew all too well his clientâ€™s penchant for brooding and pensive moods, but these had become more infrequent in recent months as Dionysus plotted a course up the ranks of APW. Now it seemed melancholia had returned to inhabit Dionysusâ€™ mind.
â€œIâ€™m worried, John.â€
Dionysus snapped out a reverie and looked at his agent with narrowed eyes.
â€œIâ€™m worried your mind isnâ€™t right for what you are going to face tonight.â€
â€œIâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œIf youâ€™ve got something plaguing you, you need to rid your mind of it before you walk through that door over there.â€
Dionysus opened the door and started to get out.
â€œJohn, I can help you.â€
Dionysus climbed out and looked back at Wheeler.
â€œHelp me? Like youâ€™ve helped me deal with Michael Harris?â€
â€œThatâ€™s completely different.â€
Dionysus slammed the door and walked off, leaving his agent alone in the car.70 minutes before High Stakes...
With the clock ticking down Dionysus, still agitated by his exchange with Wheeler, decided to walk the corridors of The Legacy Plaza, bumping into fellow APW Megastar C.J. Gates as he did.
â€œHey John,â€ C.J. greeted, â€œgood luck in the rumble tonight.â€
â€œCheers C.J.â€ Dionysus said non-committally before catching himself and adding, â€œand to you too. I know the APW guys will be rooting for you.â€
â€œNot all I suspect.â€
Dionysus smiled and began to walk off but C.J. called out to him.
â€œEverything okay, John? You seem a little distracted.â€
Dionysus blew hard, then decided he would vent.
â€œI just have this feeling Iâ€™m wasting my time here.â€
C.J. raised his eyebrows quizzically.
â€œIâ€™m looking at this match and I just donâ€™t see a way through it for me. And even if by some stroke of luck I win, what then?â€
â€œWell, youâ€™ve got a great shot at making the Extreme Tournament Finals. Thatâ€™s a pretty big deal.â€
â€œI know it is. But am I worthy of that shot?â€
â€œIf itâ€™s yours, of course you are.â€
â€œYeah, but I just get this feeling there are 29 other wrestlers who would make better use of that opportunity.â€
I donâ€™t think you really believe that. You are the current APW Xtreme Champion, which says plenty about you. Look at how you surprised everyone at Ascension. Nobody picked you for the final eight, not even me. You proved you are a future contender in Sao Paulo, and to be one of the final eight wrestlers of all CWC-affiliated promotions â€“ thatâ€™s no small thing.â€
â€œBut ultimately I lost.â€
â€œTo Kurt Noble.â€
â€œA loss is a loss.â€
â€œTrue, but there is no shame in losing to Kurt Noble. Heâ€™s a fantastic wrestler and a great wrestler.â€
â€œA good guy too.â€
C.J. looks uncomfortable. â€œYeah, that too. But that isnâ€™t the point. Coming up short against Kurt Noble doesnâ€™t make you a bad wrestler. And youâ€™re not the only one around here who knows what a defeat to Kurt feels like.â€
Dionysus nods and smiles; C.J. reciprocates.
â€œItâ€™s not just that,â€ Dionysus began. â€œHeâ€™s beaten me twice in a month; on top of that I was beaten by Level-One in my last APW match; I have Michael Harris picking me off at every opportunity. I just get this feeling Iâ€™ve hit my ceiling, Iâ€™ve maxed out what I can do. Maybe I just have to accept I canâ€™t be one of the best, and whatâ€™s the point if you donâ€™t believe you can win.â€
â€œThat is exactly it â€“ you have to keep believing, John. You think my career has been a series of endless high notes? I know the taste of defeat and I know exactly how it feels to take a few big losses. Iâ€™ve come up short in big matches on a number of occasions: the Extreme Tournament, Ascension, the True Expert Championship â€“ theyâ€™ve all evaded my grasp. Even tonight I may lose, but I stick by the virtues that got me here to begin with, and hopefully with enough hard work and a bit of luck it will go my way one day.â€
C.J. paused then added a few second later.
â€œFailure is never a barrier to success, John; it only makes the success sweeter. And trust me John, thereâ€™s a lot of people who believe you can win out there tonight and carry the torch for APW.â€
C.J. patted Dionysus on the shoulder.
â€œIâ€™m one of them.â€
C.J. looked at his watch and signalled he had to get himself ready, leaving Dionysus alone to absorb the advice of the former APW Undisputed Champion and potentially next True Expert Champion.45 minutes before High Stakes...
Dionysus walked into the communal locker room and was immediately struck by stench of liniment and sweat â€“ that unique fragrance associated with a room full of jocks. He made his way through the melee and noted the atmosphere was already quite tense. Not much was being said amongst the constituents, but the profusion nervous glances, gestures and the general avoidance of eye contact spoke volumes.
Dionysus dropped himself onto a bench. He has spent some time thinking of the words C.J. Gates had said to him, and there was one thought resonant in his mind: he could not walked that aisle having already defeated himself. He had to make his opponents at least work for his scalp.
â€œItâ€™s Dionysus, right?â€
Dionysus had barely even noticed who was readying themselves next time and he turned to find a face that was familiar if not completely recognisable. An arm was extended towards Dionysus.
â€œIâ€™m Anthony Bailey.â€
Dionysus looked into the eyes of this confident young man and shook his hand, noting its warmth.
â€œA room full of jocks who usually have it all to say,â€ Bailey began, â€œbut barely a word uttered now.â€
â€œThis is merely the calm before the storm,â€ was Dionysusâ€™ matter of fact reply.
Dionysus ran the name through his head over and head: Anthony Bailey. He couldnâ€™t pin it down.
â€œItâ€™s great to see APW putting up a good showing at this event.â€
Now he remembered. Bailey was another APW wrestler, although he wrestled on its Asylum brand, whereas Dionysus was associated with Overdrive. His memory kicked in and a flood of facts burst forth in his mind. Bailey had joined APW around the same time as Dionysus, and although on different shows, and with a vast difference in age, their trajectory in APW had been very similar. Bailey had recently acquired the Tap Out Championship, was being tutored by legend Sally Talfourd, and held recent victories over the World Champion Jason Kash and both of his #1 contenders. No doubt about: Bailey was a future star.
â€œTrust me, this has got nothing to do with rival factions or party politics; this is every man for himself.â€
â€œOf course, weâ€™re all here to win it. But wouldnâ€™t be great if the last men standing were all APW.â€
â€œAs far as Iâ€™m concerned weâ€™re all in the same boat here. Every man and woman I see in that ring is just another body to throw over the top rope. No offense buddy, yourself included.â€
â€œNone taken. But watch yourself out there; it might just be me throwing you over the top.â€
Both men exchanged a smile; a rare thing in the next few hours. Suddenly there was a bit of a commotion as another competitor entered the room and made straight for Dionysus and Bailey. It was Terry Marvin, another one of APWâ€™s competitors in this match.
â€œWell, looky what we have here. If it isnâ€™t a couple of jackasses I will merrily toss out of that ring.â€
Dionysus stood up and took a step towards Marvin, who grinned and said.
â€œEasy there, killer. Donâ€™t wanna give yourself a hernia before I beat your ass in front of thousands of people.â€
â€œAnd just what makes you think youâ€™re so good,â€ Bailey chirped in.
Marvin guffawed as though Bailey had just told himself absurd.
â€œBecause Iâ€™m the one they all came to see.â€ Terry surveyed the locker room and decided he was above sharing, took one last look at Dionysus and Bailey and tossed a bottle of lotion at them, which Bailey caught.
â€œThere you go ladies, now you can rub each other down.â€
Terry Marvin walked off chuckling to himself; Dionysusâ€™ eyes were fixed on him until he left the room.
â€œWhat a jerk!â€ Bailey pointed out.
â€œA jerk with a plan, no doubt. If I do one thing tonight I hope itâ€™s throwing that bastard out of the ring and shutting him up for once.â€
â€œAmen to that.â€
Dionysus sat back down and began to prepare himself both physically and mentally. He had been racked with doubt going into this match about whether he should be here, and whether he could have the calibre to compete at the level of The Extreme Tournament, but this exchange with Terry Marvin confirmed that he had to do his utmost to try and be there, even if it was to stop a guy like Terry Marvin.
It was Marvin himself, more the kind of talent he represented: the arrogant, good-for-nothing bastard who strutted about the business as though he were entitled something nobody else was. He remembered that he returned to this sport not only to be a better man and to save himself, but because he believed he could be something wrestling needed. He was part of that unofficial movement of wrestlers who believed it was ultimately an honourable sport guided by a code of ethics and virtues that men like Terry Marvin flagrantly desecrated.
Men like C.J. Gates gave Dionysus inspiration; up and coming talents like Anthony Bailey gave him hope; but men like Terry Marvin were a scourge to the industry and needed to be silenced for wrestlingâ€™s own sake.10 Minutes before High Stakes...
As the thirty men who would compete in the battle royal congregated in anticipation of the start of the event John Dionysus stood alone with his thoughts. He already knew his number, was eager to get out there into the ring where the adrenaline and the habits born of years of training would kick in and drive out his mind all thoughts except one: victory. However, he knew he was in for a long and anxious wait.
A tap on the shoulder broke his daydream and he turned around to see Terry Marvin.
â€œWhat do you want?â€ Dionysus demanded.
â€œThe time is night, Johnboy.â€
â€œWhy do I have a feeling you arenâ€™t about to wish me good luck?â€
â€œLook around you Johnny, survey the face of the enemy.â€
Dionysus did not flinch as his gaze remained on Terry Marvin.
With a smirk Marvin said: â€œIt doesnâ€™t have to be that way, Johnyboy. If youâ€™re looking to forge a last minute alliance, nowâ€™s the time to ask.â€
Dionysus shook his head with disbelief.
â€œWhat about all that â€˜Iâ€™m the one they came to seeâ€™ crap in the locker room?â€
â€œListen to me, Johnyboy, donâ€™t take it so personally. I know your number and I know weâ€™re gonna be out there together. Why not agree to a â€˜friendly allianceâ€™ to see off â€˜the competitionâ€™, then when itâ€™s me and you,â€ Marvin paused to say through a smile: â€œmay the best man win.â€
â€œWhat you really mean is: I watch your back out there, and when the times comes you stick the knife in mine.â€
â€œSuch a cynic, Johnboy! Think about it: when are you ever going to get an opportunity like this? Iâ€™m giving you a free pass to ride the coat-tails of â€˜Godâ€™s gift to wrestlingâ€™. There is no shame in second place, especially when itâ€™s to â€˜The Real Showâ€™.â€
Dionysus snorted and a smirk of his own appeared on his face as he chewed over the proposition. Eventually he responded.
â€œItâ€™s a tempting offer Terry, it really is. But you know what, Iâ€™m nobodyâ€™s bitch and, frankly, Iâ€™m insulted at the suggestion. Iâ€™ve got a better arrangement for you: you take care of yourself, Iâ€™ll take care of myself, and if weâ€™re both lucky to be there at the end,â€ Dionysus curled his lip to say: â€œIâ€™ll happily throw you over the top rope.â€
Terry Marvin shook his head to feign disappointment.
â€œI gave you a chance Johnboy, I really did. But least you can say you were an eye-witness on the day Terry Marvin began his journey to becoming The True Expert.â€
Terry takes a look at the APW Xtreme Championship belt Dionysus is wearing.
â€œStill carrying that piece of junk around, huh?â€
Terry chuckled and walked into the congregation shouting.
â€œOutta the way you sons of bitches, â€˜The Real Showâ€™ is coming through.â€
Dionysus watched Terry Marvin leave again and let his mind drift in search of some words of motivation or inspiration. He realised he had a reason to be here, but also that his presence was credible. Everything he had done in 2012 had led him to this point and prepared him for the moment that awaited him. In APW he had resurrected career and give his name some much needed dignity; CWC was the first challenge towards greatness, and although he failed, he knew failure was necessary for success right now, and success was about learning, learning about change, change from the passive to the assertive, a change from not just waiting for it to happen, but making it happen.
The chance to reach for immortality was there, it was calling out to him, and all Dionysus had to do was show the courage to reach...the abyss could not take him this time. Not anymore.
All he needed was some belief in his talents, a chance to prove his worth, and that little bit of luck.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by someone calling his name. He looked up; they were doing the entrance draw.
â€œJohn Dionysus,â€ the voice repeated.
Dionysus held up a hand to signal he was present.
Dionysus smiled. Luck had done its part; now he had to try and provide the rest.