The screen is black for one second, two seconds, three; just long enough to make you question if your cable has gone out, when “All Business” Alex Bruder’s voice comes in through the right rear channel if you have surround sound. This is one time audiophiles may have preferred to have cheaped out instead.
“Good ol’ ‘Metro’. It’s hardly a surprise after all of your big talk about being the man, about being the heart and soul of Classic Wrestling, to find that Classic’s about to fold just like you.”
The picture’s still black, and Bruder coughs out a short laugh before continuing with venom in his voice.
“I pride myself on my honesty, ‘Metro’. It’s the biggest difference between us. I detest you. Maybe for a minute, maybe when you first eked out a win against King Kong Frank with a fistful of overalls, I thought there might be something to you. But ever since then, you’ve been talking out both sides of that constantly running mouth. You need those kids to cheer you, Vito, but you’ll use the ropes to get a win. You want to visit hospitals, but you’ll fake being injured if it will get you the big payday. You scream that you’re a good guy, but you don’t know the first thing about being good. You are hypocrisy personified, son, and God hates a hypocrite.”
Another brief pause, and Bruder’s voice turns even sourer.
“Have you seen that, Vito? All that you’ve built up in the last year, laid low? Your MECCA destroyed, the title you stole from me taken from you while you lay flattened on the mat. Was it worth it, Vito? Yes, you got to peacock around, trying to convince anyone who’d listen that you weren’t a mouthy fluke, but a legend instead. But if you’re a legend, you’re a cautionary tale. Like Prometheus, you stole the fire from Mount Olympus, and like Prometheus, you’re going to suffer for it. After Classic’s last show, you’re going to wish all you had to endure was eagles pecking out your guts for eternity.”
“I want to remind you, ‘Metro’, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise.”
The screen comes alive. Standing in the middle of the ring, we’re staring at the crowd in the Classic Wrestling studio, captured in slow motion. Women cover their mouths, small children are weeping in agony. Clearly something terrible has happened. Alex Bruder’s voice comes in again, as if he were right over your shoulder.
“Better than any man in Classic, you know what it’s like to be at my mercy. For all your bravado, for all of your inflated ego, you know what happens if you’re not having your very best day.”
The crowd dims, and the color fades at the edges..
“You know what it’s like when you start running out of options. When you can’t reach the ropes. When you can’t beg the ref for help. When your only hope is to power out of my grasp, but all of your strength has abandoned you.”
Light bleeds out the corners, and what was once a full screen is now a shrinking circle. In its center, a mother pulls her crying child into her chest to shield his eyes.
“I think all of your best days are in the rearview mirror.”
The circle grows smaller, and now only the mother and son remain.
“We do this one last time, ‘All Business’ Alex Bruder and good ol’ ‘Metro’ Vito Valentino, and we do it in a submission match. I’m not going to get disqualified if I don’t let go of you when you grab for the ropes, and you’re not going to catch me in a panicked roll up. Bless your black heart, Vito, I know you’re going to come at me with everything you’ve got left. You’ll do it for yourself, and you’ll do it for them. You’ll give it your all because you don’t know how not to. But the party’s over, and at the end of the night, someone will have to turn off all the lights and shut the door on Classic Wrestling.”
The circle collapses, and now only a bright dot remains in the center of the screen.
“But it won’t be you, Vito. Because I’ll have turned your lights off already.”
The dot vanishes, returning us to darkness.
“No need to thank me. For Classic’s last night…”
Bruder takes one final pause, for old time’s sake.
“…it will be my pleasure.”