The Classic Wrestling banner can be seen just beyond “All Business” Alex Bruder, the lights lowered and his face illuminated. He stares into the camera, his nostrils flaring, daring the viewer to look away. After a few seconds that feel like minutes, he speaks, slow and quiet.
“I stood in front of God and everyone and said that Fargo kid was good, and he was. I said he’d be a challenge, and the whole world knows that was true. But I’m a man of my word, and I said that no matter how good he was, I’d find a way to beat him. And I did.”
Another brief pause.
“He’s a little sore about it, actually. I’m not surprised. Nobody likes to lose, and the people with the drive, talent and determination to medal at the Olympics less than most. Not less than me though. He’s angling for a rematch, and I’m sure he’ll get it someday. Not today, though. No, he lost, I won, and that puts me one step closer to being the Real World’s Champion. I don’t have time for grudges, not when I’m only two wins away from fighting for the greatest prize in this sport. Fargo’s the past. The future, well, that’s a bit of a surprise, truth be told.”
Alex cracks a brief, thin smile before continuing.
“‘Metro’ Vito Valentino. No disrespect, brother, but when I saw the bracket, I was certain that when I made it past the Olympian, I’d have to figure out a way to beat a chain-swinging mountain man. I knew there’d be a way to do it, but don’t confuse that with being happy about it. There’s a difference between what a man can do, and what a man wants to do. Now I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I had a moment of relief when you pinned him. Just a short one, though, as I’d replaced one problem with another. Sure, I didn’t have to take on King Kong Frank anymore, but now I had to face the cunning son of a gun who beat him. You should be proud of that win. I would be.”
Alex looks down.
“I think you are proud. But I heard you talking about it, about how you fought the good fight, you played by the rules, you did everything in your power to beat Frank, and you didn’t see a way to win. So you bent the rules. You grabbed yourself some extra leverage, and you put his shoulders on the mat for the three count. You won, he lost. But when you think of yourself, you don’t see yourself as a shortcuts sort of guy. You said as much, that it was a last resort for you, but when you saw me pin Jack the exact same way not forty minutes later, you were up in arms. You look at me as a sneaky little cheat, while your own identical actions are completely justifiable. You grabbed his overalls because you couldn’t win if you didn’t. In your mind, I had a handful of tights just because I could.”
He gets louder now, nowhere near a shout, but it’s noticeable.
“You see yourself as a good man. The sort who pays their taxes and takes care of their family. But when the rubber met the road, you found that giving it your all wasn’t going to cut it. You were too proud to lose in the first round, so you set aside the man you wanted to be, to be the man you could. To be a winner. And now your pride is talking to you. It’s telling you that you’re not like me, a man who’s honest about his intent, who openly acknowledges that winning dirty beats the hell out of losing clean. Pride is telling you that you were backed into a corner, and that you had no other choice, while for a fellow like me, it was done with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.”
Alex takes another second, and calms down.
“Now, that ain’t exactly fair, Vito. I’m not much for smiling, and if I could carry a tune worth a damn, I’d be doing that instead of putting my body on the line fighting warriors for a payday. Your pride is going to kick your ass some day, but it’s going to have to wait its damned turn.”
Bruder glowers at the camera, his eyes burning.
“I’ve got next.”