The "Almost Were" Diaries
So I've been getting the itch lately. The itch to come back and start up a new dynasty. I've got some ideas knocking around in the back of my mind and they're beginning to sneak into the front part again.
But before I can focus on that stuff, I have to get some things out of my system first. I've had two diary ideas rattling around since I finished the MWA diary six months ago and I need to get those ideas out of my system.
So I thought I'd have some fun and post them here. They're not long, just prologues, really. Both are set in the same "universe" as my previous SWF and MWA diaries, so fair warning: if you didn't read those, you might be a little lost.
Any comments are welcome. And away we go...
PHOENIX PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING: Revenge served cold
It’s all because of my lucky shirt.
What, you don’t have a lucky shirt? Too bad, man. Too bad. Me, I got like a dozen of them. I’ve worn one of them every time something good happened to me. The day Cindy Markos agreed to go to the prom with me even after she had been asked by like every other guy? Wearing one of the shirts. When I tried out for the wrestling team and got into varsity when I was still in eighth grade? Wearing one of the shirts. Who would have thought that wearing a bunch of old wrestlers would bring a guy good luck? But here I am, living proof.
Maybe I better explain where I got them from.
Back when I was like ten, my ma asked me to clean out our garage. Even offered me fifty bucks if I did a good job. I’m still waiting for the money, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, after like eight hours of breaking my back, I came across these two cardboard boxes up in the rafters. We had all kinds of junk stored up there, most of which I wound up tossing, but when I got these two outside, I couldn’t throw them out.
They both had my dad’s name on them.
I never really knew my dad. Ma doesn’t talk about him too much. They split back when I was like three, so I don’t remember too much about him. Just a big guy, big laugh. Ma let me keep a few pictures of him but that’s about all I had of him. And I knew that if I showed those boxes to ma, she’d make me throw them out. So I snuck them into the house.
Or at least, I tried to. Ma caught me. She saw what I had and I had to beg and plead with her to let me keep them. She finally agreed, saying that they were probably just some junk Dad ordered before he split.
So I carried those boxes up to my room and very carefully cut the tape. And when I opened the box, there he was, staring up at me.
Tommy Cornell. Or at least his picture, wrapped behind plastic.
I carefully pulled it out of the box, only to discover another face underneath, this one of Wolf Hawkins. And then another under that, of Runaway Train. Shirt after shirt came out of the box, a dozen in all, all from different promotions, each one bearing the face of different wrestlers. Sam Strong, Dan Stone Jr., even one of Joel Kovach. And the other box, it held all sorts of DVDs and collectibles from around the turn of the century. I couldn’t believe my good luck! Dad had left me a small fortune in wrestling souvenirs. Oh, sure, I know he didn’t mean to. He probably ordered it all right before he split and Ma just chucked the boxes into the garage and forgot about them, but I didn’t really care about that right then. They were treasures.
I mean, I had always been a wrestling nut. I found those boxes back during those crazy days. The MWA was rolling over everyone. Jerry Eisen might’ve been able to take them out, but this was right around the time of the Trenton Triple Cross, and we all know what happened to the WWA after that. This was right before Alicia Strong took over USPW, before NOTBPW split over Lucy Stone-McFly. I loved it all. Oh, sure, I was a total mark at the time, but I figure that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? You start stupid and eventually you figure it out.
Over the years, I sold most of the other junk but I held on to the shirts. They were my lucky charms. And the Tommy Cornell shirt was the best. It was the one I wore when Cindy Markos made my day. It was the one I wore on the way into the gym when I tried out for wrestling. I wish I could have worn it during that big match my senior year. Blew out my knee and as a result, I had to sit on the bench for the rest of the season. I had to sit there while the team went to state and I had to sit there while Billy Fredricks blew our shot by losing in a match I knew I could have won if it wasn’t for my stupid knee.
But thanks to the shirt, I did okay afterwards. I wore it on the day when I had my operation and no matter what the docs say, I know that’s why I was able to make such a quick recovery. I wore the Tommy shirt when I took my college tests; why else would I have done well enough to get in? And while some people made fun of my for wearing such “vintage” gear in college, I knew they kept good things turning up for me.
Until that day after I graduated. Until the day it seemed like the Tommy shirt let me down.
Damn, Scap... It's good to have you back, even if it's just a few prologues that may never go anywhere
I was 23, in a dead-end job, and dreaming of bigger things. You know the way it is. Well, I knew a guy who knew a guy, someone who worked for the MWA. He was able to pull some strings and got me an audition with them. I met with some of the road agents. I think Sam Keith liked me, but I can’t be sure. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. The point is, they booked me in a dark match. I was going to come out and wrestle some guy, don’t remember who. Not important. This was going to be my night. I was going to show those guys what I had and I was going to be a star.
I planned that night out perfectly. I sprung to buy some new trunks. And I knew what I would have to wear: my Tommy shirt. I mean, it hadn’t failed me yet. I would need its mojo to make sure everything clicked.
I showed up at the arena that night and was met by some backstage schmuck. He went over the details. I’d be in the second dark match, I was supposed to lose to their man, listen to his direction, all that. Then another guy showed up, told me that the try out wasn’t a guarantee for a spot on the roster, that I might be sent down to Gil Thomas at MAW to learn the ropes. I barely listened to it. Instead, I was envisioning my entrance. I’d come out, Tommy’s sneering face on my chest, and I would earn my spot.
I got dressed quickly. I think a few of the boys must have noticed my shirt. One of them bolted out there pretty quick. Whoever it was must have snitched on me, because next thing I know, the rest of the locker room cleared out.
And then he walked in. Tommy Cornell himself.
He shook my hand, called me “kid,” asked me if I was nervous and offered a bit of small talk. Then he told me to take off the shirt.
I couldn’t believe it. What was his problem? Yeah, it was a TCW shirt, but TCW’d been gone for years at that point. I tried to argue with him – respectfully, you know? – and he listened to what I had to say but insisted. “Company policy,” he said. “Scap didn’t want anyone wearing any shirts from other promotions out there.” I tried to insist, and he said he was flattered, but he had to insist. If I really wanted a shot, I’d leave the shirt in my bag.
Then he left. Well, what was I to do? I had to wear the shirt out to the ring. I needed its luck. So in the end, I wore it out there. I got into the ring, took it off carefully, gave it to the attendant (and made a big deal about him not wrecking it; I was the heel, after all). And then I locked up with my opponent. Who was it again? Oh yeah. Matty Faith.
And we put on a spectacular match, let me tell you. Sure, it was my first time and I was a bit nervous. But after the first couple of tosses, we hit our rhythm. We dropped into an easy flow. And I even wound up calling most of the match. Sure, Matty started out okay, but pretty soon, he knew I knew what I was doing. In the end, he pinned me, the way it was supposed to be, but I could see the respect in his eyes.
After the match, I pulled on my lucky shirt and went into the back. I had nailed it. I fully expected Scapino himself to come out and offer me a spot on his roster.
That’s not what happened.
I sat in the back by myself through the rest of the show, waiting. I kind of expected that; I mean, Scapino had a show to run. But I guess I figured that at some point, he’d be able to slip away. Everyone knew that he was more of a figurehead at that point. At least, that’s what the dirt sheets said. By the time the show wrapped, I was fuming. The jerk couldn’t take two minutes out of his schedule to talk to me?
Then the door opened and Tommy Cornell walked in. He looked me over and I’m sure I saw the faintest smirk when he saw my shirt. Then he sighed. “Sorry, kid, no good. You’re out.”
I stared at him. What? Was this a rib? No, Cornell had never been that good of an actor. He was serious. “Why?”
He rolled his eyes. “Let’s see here. You didn’t listen to anyone’s instructions. Matty was supposed to call the match, not you.”
“But I did just fine–”
I fell silent at his glare. “And there’s the shirt. I told you not to wear it out there.”
I looked down, the younger Tommy sneering at me. I looked up again.
I sat up straighter, fire shooting up my spine. “I want to talk to Scapino.”
Tommy’s face softened a bit.
“Look, I get it. I appreciate it too. Reminds me of the good old days. And truth be told, you’re good. I tried to convince Scap to send you down to MAW, but he wouldn’t have it. And ... he’s right. We need workers who will listen to instructions. If you pulled a stunt like this back when I still had TCW, I’d turn you out as well. Now grab your bag and go.”
I considered refusing, but the look Cornell gave me told me it wouldn’t be a good idea to try. I snatched up my stuff and stomped out of the room. On my way out of the arena, I saw him.
He glanced in my direction, looked me up and down, and then turned back to one of the backstage workers. I glared at him one last time and then left the arena, knowing I left my dreams behind as well.
Five years passed. Five years of working a dead-end job. Oh, sure, I kept going to the gym. I even sprung for the occasional instruction in wrestling moves. But it felt like I was going nowhere. And it was all Scapino’s fault.
I did my best to get some revenge. I became a regular on a number of websites. If the MWA made a mistake, I was the first to point it out. I soon became known as one of the MWA’s harshest critics. But most people told me to shut up the minute I appeared in a forum.
And then everything changed.
I still remember. I had gotten home from work, changed, and just logged on to a website when someone knocked on the door. I went over and got it. You can imagine my surprise when I saw who it was.
It had been years since I last saw him on TV. Hell, it had been years since anyone saw him on TV, ever since the SWF and WWA folded. But there he was.
“You Quintin Carson?” he asked.
“Yeah. Come on in.”
Eisen stepped into my apartment and looked around. I could read the disgust in his eyes but I didn’t care.
“Can I get you something?” I asked. Lame question, I know, but really, what else could I ask?
“No.” He finally stopped his circuit around the room and then turned to me. “I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here.”
“The question may have occurred to me, yeah,” I said.
“I’ve been lurking on a number of websites for a while now. It seems you’re not too fond of Scapino.”
“You got that right,” I said.
“How’d you like a chance to get back at him?”
I froze. Sure, Scapino wrecked my life, but get back at him? How would I do that?
“I don’t wanna do anything illegal.”
“You wouldn’t have to. You interested?”
“Well, sure. What’s on your mind?”
Eric didn’t answer. Instead, he pulled out his cell phone and pressed a few buttons on it. A minute later, someone knocked at the door. He went over and, without checking with me, opened it.
Some guy walked in. I looked him over. Something of a scrawny geek, brown hair, blue eyes. He kinda looked familiar, but I couldn’t place the face.
“He’s in,” Eric said.
The newcomer looked me over for a moment then smirked. “Good. You tell him what we’re doing yet?”
“Not yet. Wanted you to be here too.”
I looked between the two of them for a moment and I considered throwing them both out. Then Eric sat down on my couch and motioned for his partner or whatever he was to sit in a chair. The man did so, perching on the seat’s edge.
“Here’s the deal,” Eric said. “Scapino’s built a tidy little empire for himself. He’s the only major player in North America right now. Sure, you got that Beachhead promotion out in California and there’s that group out in Philly. But nobody has the bank or the guts to take Scapino out.”
“And you do?” I asked, then laughed. “Come on, Eric. Who are you trying to kid? You don’t have a promotion ever since Jerry shut down the SWF. And everyone knows you’re broke. No way you can bankroll anything.”
Eric’s face flushed red and for a second, I worried he might attack me. But then the other man cleared his throat. “You’re right. We don’t have a promotion yet. But we will soon.”
“And who’s gonna pay for that?” I asked.
“I will,” the man said. “Have you ever heard of Trenton Evenrud?”
I frowned. “Yeah, the Awesome Max Wrestling guy ... or whatever it was called. Got sent away for a long time for tax evasion, didn’t he?”
“That’s true. And I’m sure you’ve heard about the offshore accounts the feds never found?”
“I might have, yeah.” According to some of the websites I visited, Evenrud squirreled away tons of money in offshore accounts before he was caught. Everyone thought they were gone forever until Scapino found out that his partner, the Rev...
My eyes widened. That’s who the new guy reminded me of. He looked just like the Rev, only a lot younger. “Who are you?” I whispered.
The man smiled, a feral grin. “Jackson Barris. The Rev was my father.”
I sat down. “And those accounts?”
“The feds got a few of them. But not all of them. And Dad told me how to access the money before...” Jackson’s voice trailed off, his face pinched.
I understood. The Rev had never done time for his role in the AMW scam. He got a hotshot lawyer who got him a sweetheart deal, probation only. But he never worked in the industry again, not after that disastrous trial. He died several years later.
Jackson squared his shoulders. “The point is, we’ve got more than enough money to start our own promotion. The time is ripe. Scapino thinks he’s beaten everyone, that there’s no one left to take him on. He’s grown fat, lazy. You’ve seen it. You’ve posted about it. He’s going down.”
I loved it, loved the idea, loved the thought of that jerk getting what was coming to him. But there was still something nagging me.
“So why me? Why do you need me?” I pointed to Jackson. “You’ve got the money. Eric here has the pedigree and experience in the business. So what would I be doing?”
I stared at Jackson for a moment, then my gaze flicked to Eric, who looked positively sick. Then I laughed. It had to be a joke. Some sort of hidden camera show. Or it was a dream. “Come on...”
“Except what I just said still stands. Eric here’s got more experience booking than I ever would. I mean, he ran SWF, for cryin’ out loud.”
“So he did. And I believe someone once compared it to putting a prom dress on a corpse.” Jackson looked down his nose at Eric, then turned back to me. “The simple fact is this: I’ll only provide the finances provided Eric doesn’t have anything to do with booking. It’s my belief that he isn’t up to the task. He knows this and he’s accepted it after a fashion.”
Eric grumbled something under his breath but nodded.
“But still, why would you want me? There have got to be dozens of guys out there with more experience, more credibility...”
“Perhaps. Except those people all have one of two things against them. They either fear Scapino too much or they don’t hate him enough. I assume you have neither of those problems?”
I smirked. “Not at all.”
Jackson mirrored my expression. “I thought not. And you sell yourself short. I’ve found your critiques of the MWA’s storylines insightful and thorough. I have no doubt you’d do fine. Besides, I find a certain amount of poetic justice to this idea. After all, didn’t Scapino get his start this way?”
My smile grew broader. “I believe he did.”
Jackson clapped his hands together. “Then it’s settled. Eric will act as owner and CEO of our promotion. You will be head booker.”
“And what about you?” I prompted.
“Silent partner. We don’t want the feds to figure out where you two got the money. If that happens, it’s gone. So I stay in the shadows and let you two have fun.”
I nodded. Made sense. It made a lot of sense. “Where do I sign?”
Jackson glanced at Eric, who smiled for the first time since I met him. He turned and started for the door. “I’ll have my lawyers call you in a few days. We’ll get everything drawn up, nice and legal. Within six months, Phoenix Professional Wrestling will be up and running.”
I saw my guests out and watched as they walked down the hall to the elevator. I then shut the door and leaned against it, my brain furiously trying to catch up. Had that just happened? Had I just been recruited to be a booker in a new promotion, one dedicated to bringing down Scapino in the MWA? Now it seemed like a dream.
But then I looked down and laughed. I should have known. Tommy Cornell sneered back at me. This was going to be good.
This was the first idea I had, a sort of “sequel” to the SWF/MWA diaries, but told from a different perspective. But it wasn’t just going to be a diary. Oh no. It was going to be part of something a whole lot bigger: a mod of the Cornellverse, set in 2035. I was going to use my MWA data as a jumping off point and then sim the game up to that date and then create a mod around whatever I found.
I had some ideas for what I wanted to put in the mod. For example, the Beachhead promotion that Eric mentioned was going to be a Japanese-style promotion set up on the west coast. NOTBPW would be feuding with its daughter promotion, Maple Leaf Wrestling. Phoenix Professional Wrestling would have a familiar face as owner and a young unknown as booker. And rising above it all would be the MWA empire, with MAW, the GLWA, and possibly even AAA as its feeder leagues.
Once I had the mod finished, I was planning on writing this diary to go along with its release. I had a few ideas of where it would go. Quintin, the main character, would naturally want to steal some of Scapino’s top talent, so we’d see him going after Tommy Cornell Jr. and possibly the Seraph and Cherub. I also thought that the simmering tension between Eric, Jackson, and Quintin could boil over every now and then. If nothing else, I figured it would be fun to write a new diary where my old character was the “villain.”
So what happened?
I was always a little hesitant to make my own mod. For starters, I was reluctant to invest the huge amount of time it would take to sim through twenty years of the game and then recreate that information in a mod. Second, while I had an idea of how I wanted to sculpt the U.S. and Canada, I had no clue how the rest of the world would shape up or what to do with it. But I was still willing to give it a shot.
That is, until I accidentally deleted my 2007 game data.
Without that to work with, I knew I was out of luck. I could have gone back and tried to recreate a lot of the data from the diaries, but that would be even more work and, in the end, I gave up the idea.
But I had to write this little prologue because it’s been haunting me for the past six months. In a way, this is just to exorcise that particular idea, stir the tanks a little, and move on.
Which brings me to the next diary that almost was...
HOLLYWEIRD GRAPPLING COMPANY: The S-Conspiracy
July 17th, 2040
I think I’ve spent more time in my office or on the road than I have in my home. I thought nothing of it when I was younger. Now, though, I can’t stop thinking about it. Wanda has been after me to retire. Hang up my boots, so to speak. It started last year when I turned sixty-five. Wanda pointed out that most “normal” people retired at that age.
I rejected the idea, pointing out I was still needed to run things. She countered, pointing out the small cadre of writers I had trained to put together the feuds and the storylines. I riposted with my role as CEO. I cast the vision, set the goals, directed the MWA. Next thing I knew, the twins were shadowing me everywhere. Before I knew it, Chris and Kari had sidled in as my right and left hand men ... well, you get the idea. Next thing I knew, my kids joined my wife in suggesting I should retire. After all, they were both 26. There were two of them. They could split the load between the two of them and allow me to “take it easy.”
In some ways, I knew I had nothing left to prove. As morbid as it might sound, I had outlived Richard Eisen by several years. My company had gone from next to nothing to a global powerhouse. I could step away with my head held high, let the twins take over, and spend the rest of my life with Wanda.
Yet I couldn’t leave it behind. Wanda’s deadline had come and gone. I was still going out with almost every show. I kept coming in to the office. Something kept driving me. And I had no idea what.
There was a knock at the door. I leaned back in the chair with a glance at my appointment calendar. Ever since I let Kari start running things backstage, my schedule became lighter and lighter. Nothing was listed. I sighed. It was probably one of my family members, coming to apply some not-so-subtle pressure again.
Might as well get it over with. “Come in!”
Much to my surprise, it wasn’t Wanda or either of the kids. Kumiko Nomura smiled at me as she walked in. I rose, wincing as pain dribbled up my legs from my knees.
“Junior! So good to see you.” We hugged. “Have you lost weight?”
She smirked at me. “Not as much as I’d like. You’d think chasing down rugrats would be more slimming.”
I laughed. “And how is life on the outside?”
She sighed as she sank into a chair. Junior had a good run with the MWA but left the business after falling in love with a kindergarten teacher. She never looked back, settling in to raise a charming family.
“Not bad. I assume you’ve heard about my latest project?”
I nodded and my jaw clenched. Junior had taken to writing books about the business. She started with the inside story of the Survivors, then moved on to biographies of Tommy Cornell and Jim Force. From what I’d heard, she was preparing a master work, detailing the various promotion wars over the past several decades. She had spent several months interviewing everyone who would talk to her. I hadn’t thought she’d be successful, but a surprising number of people had sat down with her. She hadn’t approached me yet, but I had figured it was only a matter of time.
“So is this my chance to tell you everything?”
She smiled. “Not exactly. I need you to clarify something for me. A year ago, I interviewed Sam Strong to get his perspective on the whole USPW/MWA war. And he said something ... well, kind of unusual.”
“What was that?”
“We were talking about the old Hollyweird Grappling Company, specifically about his first big match against Rip Chord in 1997. Your name came up and he said something about you messing up the booking of the match. When I asked him what he meant, he said you nearly wrecked everything with a bad call.”
Cold sweat beaded across my forehead. This wasn’t good.
“Thing is, I could tell he was nervous. Probably lying too. So I went back and checked the records. You weren’t the ref for that match. As a matter of fact, you weren’t even in the building at the time. Something about food poisoning.
“And then I remembered something you told me a while back. You said that Tommy was glad to dump you on Richard Eisen because you kept criticizing what he was doing with the booking. And it got me wondering why a referee would think he could give booking advice. Something really didn’t add up.
“I tried to talk to Sam about it again, but he wouldn’t talk about it. Alicia didn’t know anything. And Rip Chord is gone. So that leads me to you. What did Sam mean by saying that you messed up the booking?”
I groaned. I should have known something like this was going to happen.
“I really can’t talk about it, Kumiko,” I said, a hard edge to my voice.
She smiled, her eyes hooded. “I’m not one of your workers anymore, Scap. You can’t exactly intimidate me. So this is what’s going to happen. Either you tell me what he meant, or I’ll talk to Wanda about it.”
I winced. Just what I needed: an additional reason for Wanda to get after me. So what to do? Could I bluff my way out of this, claim I didn’t know? Too late for that. Me and my big mouth, trying to bully her into dropping it. Tell her the truth? I couldn’t exactly do that either.
“It’s not that simple and it’s really not up to me,” I said, then held up a hand to forestall her next complaint. “Things are a lot more complicated than you realize. I could tell you the truth, but I could get into a lot of trouble. Tell you what. Give me a week. I’ll make some calls and see what I can do. But if I tell you I can’t talk about it, I mean it. Okay?”
Kumiko’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but then she nodded. “Fair enough.”
The moment she left the office, I started rummaging through my desk. I had a lot of calls to make.
A week later, Junior returned to my office, pad in hand. Her eager expression faltered when she stepped through the doors. Her eyes darted from me to my other visitor and then back again.
“What is he doing here?” she asked.
I rose from my seat. “Then I take it I don’t have to introduce Mr. Stallings?”
J.K. got up from his chair as well, crossing the office to shake Junior’s hand. I could hardly blame her. For the past several years, J.K. Stallings Jr. had lived as a recluse, sequestered away in his mansion in Coos Bay, Oregon. He rarely ventured out, leaving his underlings to run his mammoth software empire.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” J.K. said. “I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time. But I’m afraid I can’t stay long. Scap tells me you have some questions?”
Junior collapsed in a chair, her face dull for a moment before she blinked. “Yes, I guess I do. I was talking to Sam–”
“Scap has already filled me in on the details.” J.K. sighed and looked at me. “I have to say, I’m not happy that this has come up, even after all these years. It puts me in a tenuous position to say the least.” He sighed again then met Junior’s gaze. “That’s why I insisted on coming here. If Scap is going to tell you this story, I want to be here.”
Junior leaned forward in her chair. “Why? I don’t get it.”
“I think you will in a little bit,” I said. “To answer your question from last week, yes, I did screw up the booking between Rip and Sam. But to truly understand how, we have to start a little earlier. July of 1996 to be exact...”