Michaels sat on a bench in a locker room, a place he hadn't been in quite a while. He looked around and reminisced, thinking about all the time he'd spent in rooms just like these, around the country and around the globe. No matter where he went the locker room was almost always the same. It was never like you saw on TV, the wrestler-specific locker rooms were figments of TV writers' imaginations. This was what it was really all about. Each guy had a slot or locker along the wall, a couple common benches in the middle of the room, and the showers down at the far end. This is what it was all about. This was the room where you'd take one guy's street clothes and hide them in another guy's bag, fill another guy's sneakers with baby powder, soak a rookie's street clothes and stick them in the freezer, all the great pranks. Michaels had pulled a few good pranks in his day, like the time he glued Muntjack's rent-a-car keys to one of the benches in Boston, or when he'd taken the lenses out of Flyer's sunglasses and hidden them in his sandwich. Those were good times, but it was different now. Even though he'd wrestled with a few of these guys at least once in the past, he was still kind of an outsider. He watched the hustle and bustle of the wrestlers, referees, crew members and the like coming in and out of the room, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be, making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. Finally, one of the crew members walked up to Steve and tapped him on the shoulder, breaking him out of his daze.
"Mr. Michaels?" the crew member started, "Your promo is after this next match."
"Thanks, Charlie." Michaels said, gathering his thoughts and standing. Charlie walked away, and Michaels made sure he looked presentable in his dark green short-sleeved button down shirt and khaki pants. He straightened himself, put on his sunglasses and walked out of the locker room, towards the Gorilla. He watched the match on the monitors, applauding the guys when they came back through the curtain. He psyched himself up the way he always did, by hopping up and down in place and slapping his cheeks a few times, then his theme song hit, and he stepped through the curtain.
The crowd exploded, seeing Michaels in an arena for the first time since April of '04. He walked down the aisle, waving and shaking hands with the fans. He ascended the stairs and stepped through the ropes, grabbing a microphone from the ring announcer. He perched his sunglasses on the top of his head and began to speak.
"Hello, Philadelphia!" Michaels yelled, to a cheap pop, "Let me tell you, it feels good to be back! I want to thank you for that wonderful, gracious welcome, it's nice to know you guys still know my name. I'm out here, today, as you probably know, to talk about Chris Sharpe." The crowd let out a cheer. "Ah, you know who he is, too, huh? Well, if you know Chris, and you know me, then you know that the two of us are pretty good friends. You also know that he and I are gonna be kickin the crap out of each other this Friday on Pay Per View. And let me tell you...Chris may be my friend, but kickin the crap outta someone is probably one of my favorite hobbies." The crowd cheered again. "Ah, you like that, do you? That's good, that means you guys will like the match, cause it's gonna be brutal. Chris and I are gonna step in this ring on Friday night, a mere FOUR days from now, and we are going to beat the living hell out of each other with whatever we can get our hands on, including that big ole ladder. And I'm pretty sure that that's gonna hurt. Now, I heard the other day that, in his first match in FsW, our friend Chris broke his ankle. That's a shame, really, cause it almost makes this match unfair. If I focus on that weak ankle, the poor boy can't climb a ladder, can he? Well, I'll tell ya, I'm not adverse to taking any advantage I can get, so Chris, be sure to wrap it extra tight on Friday...just as a precaution. I'd hate to have to rely on an old injury to beat you...though I think I could live with myself if that ended up being the case. My main concern, of course, is not the health of you, me, or your ankle...my main concern is that EWA Title that will be hanging from the ceiling. I've cleared a place for it on my wall, right between my GWA Intercontinental Title, and the first-ever FsW World Title. That spot is open, and waiting to be filled, and in four days, it will be. Ohhhh it will be. The EWA World Heavyweight Title, the last piece in my collection, the last piece of gold I need to attain before I can truly call my career complete. Chris, I know how much you want that title, and I know how much it would mean to you to hold that title high above my prone form as you stand atop that ladder, but I've got sad news for you...it's mine. It's all mine, I am as ready as I'll ever be to face you on Friday, and when it's all said and done, when all the smoke has cleared, all the confetti's been swept away, and all the FsW fans are tucked into bed asleep, I, Steve Michaels, will finally be EWA Champion. You may not like it, you may disagree, hell, you may even think that you yourself are going to win that match, but that's not how it's gonna be, my friend. That's not how it's gonna be at all. The record will show, for all eternity, that on Friday, June 3rd, 2005, Stephen T. Michaels, in his final professional wrestling match ever, climbed to the top of that ladder, pulled down that EWA Title belt, and wrapped it around his waist. That, Chris, is how it's gonna be, and I'm afraid you're just gonna have to live with not being EWA Champion...ever. This rivalry has been building for years, and finally, it will be resolved. Who is the better wrestler, Steve Michaels or Chris Sharpe? For most of the guys in the back this is a Battle of the Elders, but I can tell you this, this Friday, on Pay Per View, it's gonna be a match like none you've ever seen before. There will be blood, there will be sweat, there will be tears, there will be injuries aplenty, and in the end, all questions will be answered. This is the Ultimate battle, and once it's over...I will be EWA Champion."
Michaels dropped the mic to the roar of the crowd and placed his sunglasses back down in front of his eyes. He walked purposefully to the back and stepped through the curtain. He took a deep, calming breath, ran his hands quickly through his hair, and stepped out of the zone. He walked to craft services and grabbed a bottled water before returning to the locker room. He zipped up his bag and threw the shoulder strap over his neck with a sudden groan and look of shock and pain.
He looked around to see three guys sitting together in the corner, snickering. He unzipped his bag, pulled out his change of clothes and a couple towels, and found the culprit. He reached into his bag and pulled out two 100 pound plates, one at a time, dropping them on the floor with a loud metallic clang.
"Youuuuu guys are funny..." Michaels said, rolling his eyes, "Is that the best you could come up with? Man, kids these days." He trailed off and chuckled, reloading his bag, zipping it up, and successfully throwing it over his shoulder. "Little bastards..."
(This was written as the second half of a promo for a "TV Taping" in Chris' fed)
"Espionage" by Green Day begins to play, and the crowd goes nuts. Sharpe grins and looks towards the entrance, waiting for his friend to make his sudden and surprise appearance. No one walks through the curtain, however. Sharpe looks puzzled when Michaels' voice booms through the arena's speakers.
STM: Chris...Hey Chris! Up here, big guy!
The big screen flashes and Michaels appears, sitting atop a ladder in the middle of a darkened ring, lit by a sole spotlight.
STM: If you're gonna climb to the top of this ladder on Friday...you're gonna have to beat me up it, cause, as you can see, I'm already here. And once Friday rolls around, I'll be up here again, unfastening that EWA Belt and claiming it as my own. It's sure gonna be nice to see you try, though! I did get you a gift, though, y'know, so you won't leave that arena totally empty handed.
Michaels reaches behind him and pulls out a shirt, he shows the front of it to the camera, it reads, "EWA Champion Steve Michaels kicked my ass and all I got was this stupid t-shirt"
STM: I hope you like it. I'll even sign it for you, if you want. Cause, really, it's all you're gonna take home on Friday, y'know, other than the bumps, cuts, and bruises. Oh, and the empty feeling of failing at your ultimate goal, y'know, getting the EWA Title. I'm glad you're confident, though. I'm glad that crazy ego of yours is still hangin around. Do you think I wouldn't have been packing houses if I'd stayed in the ring? Are you actually suggesting that I, Steve Michaels, the first-ever FsW Champion, would have had the crowd-drawing power of a plate of truckstop meatloaf? I'm afraid I'm gonna have to call you on that one, buddy. I didn't retire because I was old and boring, I retired because the mystique was gone. So I moved on, from the ring to the front office, not because I couldn't wrestle any more, but because I wasn't feeling it. And then once the HWF closed, that was it. I knew it was time to move on. But let me tell you this, Chris. On Friday...I'll be back...I'll be back to 100, 110, 150% readiness. I didn't come back to half-ass my way to a loss, Chris. I came back because I want to prove everyone wrong. Everyone who claimed that I retired because I no longer had the skills, the talent, the drive. They're all gonna be in the ring on Friday, and they're all gonna be represented by you. And you...are gonna get whooped. We may be friends, Chris, but on Friday...I'm going to be your worst nightmare. I bet you wish I was there, huh...I bet you wish that you could get in my face, but we can't give that away on free tv! If these people want to see us in the ring together, they've gotta pay for it. I'll see you Friday, Chris...don't be late.
The screen flashes static, then back to the image of Sharpe standing in the ring
Michaels clicked off his TV after watching Chris Sharpe's latest training session and threw the remote down on the couch next to him. He stood, in his navy blue wind pants and GWA T-shirt and exited his home, locking the door behind him. Indeed it was time again for his nightly run. He clicked the button on his watch that started the Chronograph and started his run. In the month since he signed for this match he'd been training as regularly as he could, running each night, trying to add at least five to ten minutes to his run each time, sometimes he'd been successful, sometimes he hadn't, but his stamina had improved greatly since he'd begun. He was glad that it had stopped raining regularly, because running outside was much more entertaining than running on the treadmill at the gym and staring at the wall.
"See, Chris thinks he's got something," he said to himself between breaths, "running up and down that ladder on one leg, but that's crap. Sure it'll help him a little bit, but nothing he can do can simulate in-ring conditions. Who's to say that, by the end of the match, that ladder will still be in pristine, perfect condition? Who's to say how wobbly the ring will be that night? Who's to say the ladder rungs won't be slippery with sweat and/or blood? There's too many what if's to make that the wonder workout he thinks it is. Besides, there's no doubt that I've still got the edge here, cause he doesn't know my workout schedule, he doesn't know my regimen, my diet, how far I've come, shit, he doesn't even know what I was doing to keep in shape before this last month. I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in bacon covered in cheese...dammit, I'm hungry. FOCUS, gotta focus..."
Michaels paused to regroup, stopping on the sidewalk and doing some high-steps in place. He stopped and jumped a couple times, pulling his knees to his chest while he was in the air, then went back to his run.
"Alright, I'm leaving for Florida tomorrow morning, getting into Jacksonville around noon, one-ish, and then the hard work starts. The final preparations, both mental and physical, for the greatest match the wrestling world has ever seen. Chris thinks I'm not ready? Well I'm ready to prove him wrong. I'm ready to show the world that Steve Michaels still has one last match in him, and I'm ready to climb...climb to the top of that ladder, to the top of the world, and grab that title belt. Nothing can stop me, even if both my legs are busted, and I have to pull myself up those 20 feet with just my arms and my will, that EWA belt will be mine. No if's, and's or but's, I WILL be EWA Champion."
Michaels continued his run and came up towards his gym. He'd been running for about 20 minutes now, and he had something he needed to do inside anyway, so he opened the door and walked in.
15 minutes later, after taping a segment for that night's CWA Confliction show, he was back outside, running again, this time back towards home. He made it home in another 20 minutes, walked into his home, grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and flopped onto the couch to watch the end of the Sox/Orioles game.
Steve Michaels landed in Jacksonville, after a boring, uneventful flight. Michaels walked through the terminal to the luggage carousel, where he was surprised to see a man with a sign bearing his last name. He pulled his wheeled suitcase off the carousel and nodded at the man, who led him outside to a waiting limousine.
"Well damn," he said, "since it isn't Solar's money, he's goin' all out now! Shit, I never got chauffeured anywhere when the FsW was actually a fed."
Michaels climbed into the backseat of the limo and pulled out his cell phone as the driver shut the door. He flipped his phone open, dialed, and held the phone to his ear.
"Hey, babe," he said to the recipient of the call, who we hope, at this point, is his girlfriend, Kris. "I just wanted to let you know that I landed safely. Dude, they picked me up in a limo! ... I know! ... I know! It's crazy, I haven't ridden in a limo in years. There's a lot of stuff a couple people could do back here, remind me to rent one some time, when I get home. ... Yeah, I'll be home Saturday night. ... Yeah, I'll see you then. ... What? No, I left the car in long term, I don't need you to pick me up. ... I promise. I'll be fine. Alright, see you Saturday. I love you. ... Goodbye, my sweet."
Michaels flipped his phone shut and put it back in his pocket. He laid his head back and looked at the ceiling.
"Ohhhhhhhh Chris...it's almost time! Two days, Chris...two days until I sweep the rug right out from under your feet. Ahhh, it's gonna be so sweet. I can see it now, looking down, seeing you look up into my eyes as that look of utter disappointment crosses your face. I hate to say it, Chris, but it's gonna be a lot of fun to break your heart. You've been yearning for this for so long, you've wanted this match for as long as we've known each other. But it's not the match you've been looking forward to...is it? What you've been looking forward to is proving to the world that you are the better wrestler. The EWA Title isn't what you're after! It's just a nice accessory to prove that you were better than me. The thing is, Chris...you're not better than me. You might have been when you debuted, and my career was just a skosh past its prime, but now? Now that we're both old men in this business, I'm back on top. Not only am I back on top, but in two days, I'll get the belt to prove it. Y'know...speaking of that belt...I gotta wonder, where did Solar get it? Has Johnny Nightmare been keeping it in his closet for the past few years? I'm thinkin Solar broke in to Johnny's house...found the belt, took it home, shined it up, and is gonna hang it from the ceiling of that arena Friday night. I like this theory, except I'm not even sure if anyone knows where Johnny Nightmare lives nowadays. Ah well, all that matters is the belt will be there, suspended above the ring, and when all is said and done, it will be around MY waist, not yours, Chris. Besides, what do you need another title for? You've got that CWA Title glued to your hips, so share the love, huh brother? Not that it matters, anyway. I will not leave that arena without that title belt around my waist, no chance in hell. You kiddin? I'm gonna wear that thing for weeks, on the plane home, in the car on the way home, around the house, out grocery shopping, it'll go with me everywhere. Well, not in the shower...or during sex...but everywhere else, by god, everywhere else."
Michaels chuckled and took in the scenery. The trip to the hotel wasn't that long, so he couldn't nap just yet. Steve was tired, but he's never been able to sleep on planes. He had a fear of falling asleep in the cabin, and waking up in the ocean...and he can't swim.
A couple minutes later the driver opened the door and Michaels stepped out. The driver retrieved his suitcase from the trunk of the limo and placed it on the ground next to Steve.
"I'm sure Solar's got your tip, thanks for the ride, though."
Michaels lifted the handle on his suitcase and wheeled it into the luxurious Holiday Inn Jacksonville. He finished the check-in process, got his room key, and found his room. Once inside he flopped into the twin bed, set his alarm clock for half an hour into the future and dozed off.
Steve Michaels laid on the floor of his hotel room, shirtless, with a pair of bright blue adidas shorts and black and silver Saucony's on. Michaels' body was fitter and more muscular now than it'd been at any point in the last six months. He took a deep breath and started doing sit-ups, chanting his mantra, Chris Sharpe's final words, "I Will Not Be Defeated", three words at a time, each time his elbows touched his knees. After 150 reps he stood up, pocketed his room key, and started his run. He ran from the hotel to the arena, a 15 minute run that passed, coincidentally enough, Chris Sharpe's Marriott. He entered the arena through the security gate and a street-level locker room entrance, and made his way to the workout room. He walked over to five boxes, each six inches higher than the last, that had been bolted to the floor. He hopped in place for a few seconds, getting his muscles ready, then hopped up on to the first, six-inch high, box, then back to the floor. He did this ten times before moving to the next box, all the way down the line. Ten hops up on to the 30-inch box and he was done, for the moment. He took a seat on the last box and composed himself.
"Chris, Chris, Chris..." he said, talking, really, to the floor, "cocky? I'm not cocky. I'm not overconfident, either. I like to think I'm right at that perfect level of confidence. The level I need to beat you tomorrow night. Have fun on that plane with your PS2 and your hookers, sorry, Whores...Horde! I hope they'll be able to give you the necessary consoling on your way back to Texas without the EWA Title. 'Nothing can stop the One Man Army'? I know this...and I'm not trying to stop you. I know you're not going to stop, next week you'll still be in that ring, what I'm trying to do, is win. And once I win, I'll be going home, simple as that. Monday morning I'll be back in the studio, completely satisfied in my victory. What will you be doing, Chris? Sitting in your mansion, surrounded by naked chicks, just so you still feel like a man? I almost feel bad for you, Chris. I almost feel bad that you feel the need to prove your masculinity with the size of your house, or the size of your jets, or the size of your cars, or the size of your harem. Did you get picked on a lot as a child, Chris? Did those awful elementary school bullies run down your self-esteem so much that you had to prove yourself by making everything in your life huge? Or is there...something else. Should we ask Christina? Would she be able to give us any insight into your...problem? It's ok, Chris, I know you're still a good guy at heart, I'm sure you make up for your...shortcomings in other ways."
Michaels walked over to the chin-up bar that was fastened to the wall. He grabbed it, facing the wall and hung down, his legs bent at the knee, his ankles crossed. He started doing chin-ups, and talking to the wall, his eyes gleaming, brighter than they'd been in weeks.
"Ohhhh Chris...ohhhhhhhh Chris...sad to say you have no idea what you're in for. The pain you're going to feel when you fall 20 feet to the mat or, even worse, 20 feet to the cement floor of this arena...that's a pain that stays with you for days. And you know what else is going to stay with you for days, Chris? The other kind of pain you're going to feel...the emotional pain you're going to feel. That feeling you get, like your heart's been ripped out of your chest. That pain you feel, like a stone in your stomach, a void in your soul...the pain...of losing your dream. I've felt it before, Chris...many times before. Do you remember those six relationships I mentioned that had been ruined by this business? That was pain, Chris. Four of those girls, Chris...I thought they were the one. Four of those girls, Chris, couldn't stand dating a professional wrestler. Couldn't stand not seeing their boy for 350 days out of the year. Couldn't stand that when they actually got to see their boy, the only thing they could do was nurse his injuries and his sore muscles. It was a life they didn't understand, a life they didn't want to understand, a life where they were more than happy to believe the stereotypes of the big dumb wrestler who, when he's not in the ring, does nothing but sleep around and drink his ass off. The stereotype that YOU, Chris Sharpe, are propagating as we speak. Chris...I've felt that pain...and on Friday...all the pain I felt...I'm transferring to you. For everything this business has cost me over the past 15 years, every bump, every bruise, every broken bone, and every dislocated joint. Every busted relationship, every insurance policy I've been turned down for, cause my career was too "high-risk", EVERY WOMAN WHOSE SEXUAL ADVANCES I REBUKED, JUST TO GET HOME AND HEAR 'I'm sorry, Steve...it's just...I have no way of knowing what you're DOING out there...on the road...' IT ALL COMES DOWN ON YOU, SHARPE! Tomorrow night is the end...the end of the pain, the end of the trials and tribulations, the end of everything. And it ends with you. Aren't...you...lucky. I have suffered long and hard for this business, the business that made me who I am, the business that I love, and I have gotten nothing but shit in return. I should be a Legend, I should be remembered EVERYWHERE I GO...and yet...nothing."
Michaels drops from the chin-up bar after doing unknown number of reps. He turned and leaned against the wall.
"For 15 years I gave everything I had to this business, and I got nothing in return. And because of that, Chris...that's what you'll be leaving this arena with tomorrow night. Nothing. I am a man of my word, Sharpe, and I am telling you, right now, that tomorrow night I WILL become EWA Champion. You think you're prepared? You think you've got me pegged? You think I don't know your methods for studying your opponents? How long have I known you, Chris? And you think I don't know?! And you honestly think I wouldn't have prepared for that?! What kind of two-bit hack do you take me for, Chris? Who the HELL do you think I am? I'm not some no-talent ass-clown jackoff like your buddy Blake, or your buddy Joe, Chris. You think I haven't been studying you, Chris? Do you honestly think that I've made public my entire training regimen? I'm ready for you, Chris. I think it's a bit naive of you to assume that I'll still be wrestling exactly like I was one, five, ten years ago. In fact, I plan on taking advantage of that, cause I've been watching tape, too, Chris. I've taken just as much notice of my patterns as you have, and I've made changes, Chris. Changes you won't be ready for, changes you'll never see coming. I am more prepared for this match than for any other match I've ever had. When I was an active wrestler I wasn't much of a researcher, I just got in the ring every night and let my actions do the talking. But this, Chris...this is THE match. This is the be-all end-all, and I will be damned if I'm not doing everything I can to ensure a victory. My show's had a guest host for the past two weeks, so I could study, train, and research for this match. I WILL NOT LOSE, Chris. I. WILL. NOT. LOSE."
OK, that's all of 'em