It was a couple of days removed from the first FWF show and Harry Black had pretty much milked the Las Vegas hospitality that had been laid on for him by the management of the new federation as much as he could. Despite not being booked to appear on the first episode of Pandemonium, Harry had been flown out to Vegas first class and put up in a swanky suite in the MGM, the location of the first show. If the free holiday in the desert hadn’t been enough, Harry had also managed to order as much room service as possible, all on the company credit, not bad for a jobber brought in to make up the numbers!
Despite the fact that this ‘gravy train’ had reached the end of the road this week, Harry was looking forward to the next adventure on the FWF’s dime as he sat in the departure lounge of McCarran International Airport waiting to jump onboard a short flight to John Wayne Airport and Pandemonium 2 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Dreams of merging into the background of the locker room, feasting on free catering and trying to steal a few more free towels out of the next hotel began to drift into Harry’s mind as he relaxed back in his seat and closed his eyes.
However Harry’s eyes didn’t manage to stay closed for long as he felt the presence of someone standing in front of him a few seconds before hearing them try and give a polite cough to awaken him.
“Erm, Uh, Excuse me there? Mr Black?”
Harry slowly opened his eyes and noticed the spotty kid standing in front of him, shifting his weight from foot to foot nervously. Harry took a few seconds to observe the kid before replying. He must have been no only than 18 years old with thick glasses and far too much grease in his hair. He was wearing a blue polo shirt with the FWF logo emblazoned on it just above his left breast. Harry felt mildly irritated as he gruffly answered the kid in a strong London accent.
“What you want kid, an autograph or something?”
Harry moved to take a pen from his pocket only for the kid to wave his arms around and nervously laugh.
“No, No, not from you sir!”
Black side eyed the kid as the youngster realised what he had said and how it could be taken by the former Royal Marine.
“Sorry, sorry Mr Black. I am here on behalf of the FWF as there has been a bit of a change in your travel plans.”
Black slowly looked the kid up and down, any change that resulted in sending this whiny kid to deliver the message probably wasn’t going to be a good one. Harry gestured with his hand for the kid to get on with what he was going to say.
“Well Mr Black, I don’t know if you have seen the news on the internet over the last few days?”
“Not a fan of the internet kid, the only cookies I am interested in are the ones that I can eat!”
The kid looked at Harry incredulous that someone could not be a fan of the internet in this day and age before continuing with his story, as Harry sniggered at his own joke.
“Well the pilot episode of Pandemonium wasn’t exactly a hit on the network so there are a few discussions about the future direction of the FWF. The FWF management have had to make a few cutbacks incase it gets pulled from the air after the next show and I’m afraid that includes cutbacks in your travel and accomidation…..”
Inside Harry was fuming, basically the whole reason he had just got involved with the FWF had been pulled like a rug from underneath him. At least he still had the free catering at the big arenas that the FWF ran, maybe the whole thing wouldn’t be a bust…..
“The other thing is I’m not sure about is the location of any of the shows after next Pandemonium, the rumour is that the management will be downsizing the arena sizes and running a few smaller shows to get some momentum.”
“God fucking damn it!”
Now Harry was hot, the kid nervously jumped back a few steps at the outburst which saw a few of the other passengers turn around and shake their head in disgust. The kid, which Harry still hadn’t asked for their name, tried to rescue the conversation by pulling out an ipad from his side pocket and navigating to the FWF.com website and shoving it in the face of Harry.
“It’s not all bad though Mr Black. If you haven’t seen the website you might not know that you have actually been booked for a match next week!”
Harry knew the kid thought that this was good news, but for him it really wasn’t. Getting into the ring was something that really didn’t light his fire anymore. Harry’s eyes glazed over as with lightning quick fingers the kid navigated the ipad to the biography page of Harry’s opponent for the next FWF show, a gentleman named ‘Kentucky Tarzan’, before excitedly explaining at what he would be up against on Monday.
“This would be a huge opportunity for you to make a big first impression Mr Black. You see Kentucky Tarzan is coming into wrestling from MMA and had a 3-1 record! He even has a 4-1 record in wrestling already!”
Harry’s heart silently sank, his record was more like the opposite of his opponent times ten, this wasn’t the easy street that he had been expecting. He was here to make up the numbers, maybe do a few easy opening show matches and keep hold of his green card to stay in the country. No one had said anything about fighting god damn MMA people!
“You sure there isn’t some come of mistake on that interweb machine of yours? I mean maybe I could fight one of those other guys?”
“Don’t be nervous Mr Black, I’ve read your biography as well! Royal Marines, former boxer, vetern of the independent scene! I know it’s your first one for a while but I am sure you can win the match!”
Harry wished he had the kids confidence in himself, however even the name of his opponent put him on edge.
“All I know is you must be one tough son of a bitch to have a name like Kentucky Tarzan and not get laughed out of every building you go to!”
“He is good Mr Black but this could be a match for the ages! This could be the match that secures the FWF it’s TV deal! It will be a real clash of styles with your boxing and brawling background and his MMA abilities!”
The kid was beginning to mark out and it was pissing Harry off even more. He grabbed the ipad from the kids sweaty palms and awkwardly navigated his way to the roster page to see if he could somehow book himself in against a different opponent.
“Christ look at the names of these guys. Dick Fury? Enforcer? Lizardperson? Lunchbox Larry? Just how tough are these bastards to have ridiculous names like these and still be in business?”
Now Harry was panicking. When he had first held talks with the FWf officials it was all about getting a job to keep his green card and not have to return home to England in disgrace. Every wrestling promotion that he had been a part of over the last ten years had fallen apart and he was desperate. So desperate that he might have stretched the truth a little while selling his current levels of ability and fitness to the FWF management. He had planned on being one of those guys signed to the roster, collecting a paycheck and just blending into the background for a little while, however now things were seriously going downhill.
“Look Mr Black, let me show you this video that recently got uploaded to the website so you can see what you are up against.”
The kid grabbed the ipad from the grizzled hands of the former Royal Marine and with a tap of a few virtual buttons Harry was confronted by a video of the man known as Kentucky Tarzan, covered in mashed potatoes. The young FWF employee giggled away to the video as Harry stared at it open mouthed, wondering just what he was watching.
“What the hell did I just watch kid?”
“That’s your opponent!”
“Yeah I gathered that, but what the fuck? I thought he was a few seconds away from challenging me to a gravy match. Now I seen a few birds have one of those matches in this bar wrestling show I was on and let me tell you, I don’t care how dire the ratings are I am not down for that, especially against some MMA geezer!”
The young kid struggled to keep up with the vernacular of Harry Black that had started to slip back into his cockney accent the more irritated he got. Fearing that he better make a swift exit from the conversation, the young kid pulled out a set of car keys from his pocket and put away his ipad.
“Well Harry, urm, these are the keys for the rental to get you to Anaheim. I’m sorry that they had to cancel your seat on the flight. Erm, once your there if you book yourself into a hotel, the FWF management will let you reclaim expenses for up to $20 per night….”
The young kid quickly dropped the car keys into the empty hand of the shell shocked Harry Black, before making a swift exit before dealing with any potential repercussions, his mark out moment over a future match between the British boxer and the Kentucky MMA fighter nothing but a distant memory.
Harry sat in his seat a few seconds longer until he saw the board change to ‘boarding’ in the airport lounge for the flight that he would have been getting. Harry took a few seconds to think of those around him that were getting up from their seats and gathering their belongings to join the boarding queue before jumping on the plane to watch the latest movie and enjoy the free food and drink. Not wanting to torture himself any more Harry rose to his feet and stretched out his tired legs.
The direction of things had definitely changed in the last ten minutes from a cruise down easy street to the realisation that he would be making his own way around the country, spending his own limited funds and stepping into the ring with MMA fighters covered in mash potatoes. Kentucky Tarzan would be his first opponent, he just hoped that he could cram enough training into the next few days and rely on his muscle memory to make sure that it wouldn’t also be his last.
"I NEED CHEESEBURGERS"
- Kentucky Tarzan