The First Step

* * * * *

[Open on a newspaper clipping. The article is written entirely in Japanese, although a translation appears in subtitles across the bottom of the screen.]

“Former RJPW Heavyweight Champion Scott Cruise has announced he is leaving the promotion at the end of November. A mainstay for Royal Japan for just over six years, “The Wayward Son” has said he wishes to return to the United States in an effort to achieve the same level of success in his home country as he has in Japan.”

[Accompanying the piece is a photo of the aforementioned Scott Cruise. In the shot he is leaning back into a ring corner, his arms thrown back over the top ropes. His shoulder length black hair is dampened with sweat and combined with the look of weariness on his face we gather the photo was taken during a particularly grueling match. The subtitles cycle through.]

“…has announced that Cruise’s final match will be on November 3rd against longtime rival Ohanu Nawagana. The match is expected to headline the final show of RJPW’s Crown Series Tour which begins October 22.”

[The clipping blurs into oblivion before being quickly replaced with a new article. This one features a photo of Cruise and Nawagana locked in a exhausted embrace in the middle of a ring. Scott’s hair has been shortened considerably since the previous photo, now looking Marine-like in its shortness. More subtitles spell out the basics of the accompanying article.]

“…went out in style with a 32 minute marathon of a match with Ohanu Nawagana that ended when ‘The Rising Son’ pinned ‘The Wayward Son’ following a Tiger Driver. Immediately following the decision Nawagana and Cruise embraced, earning a standing ovation from the 17,000-plus in attendance who had come to see the final chapter in what had been arguably the greatest two-man feud in RJPW history.”

[Again the newspaper blurs into nothingness, this time being replaced with yet another small strip of newsprint. This one is written in English and appears to be from some sort of “news and notes” section from a magazine or paper. One specific sentence is highlighted.]

“Former RJPW star Scott Cruise has apparently signed with the NWC and will have his contract assigned to LCW in New York. He will continue to work independent dates and can be reached for booking by contacting…”

[The clipping soon fades into blackness.]

[The sounds hit us before the pictures do. The dull slap of flesh on flesh is detectable over the quiet hum of an indistinguishable piece of machinery; perhaps a furnace or generator. Somewhere in the distance we hear the muted pop of a small crowd. We fade up.]

[Standing before us is the man seen earlier in photos – Scott Cruise. He stands 6-foot-2 and looks to weigh anywhere from 230 to 250 pounds. (For the record, he kicks in at 242.) At the moment he is dressed in his typical wrestling attire which consists of a skin-tight black t-shirt and a pair of black trunks with red a “SC” slashing across each hip. The customary elbow brace hasn’t been latched on yet, so we get a clear view of the pink surgical scar that runs along the outside of his right elbow. At present he is winding a roll of white athletic tape around his right wrist.]

[The room is the typical, dingy sweatbox you’d associate with a small-time gymnasium’s locker room. No one ever said life on the independent circuit was pretty. A row of weathered green lockers lines the wall behind where Scott is currently standing, and a fellow, unrecognizable wrestler stands just over his left shoulder. The guy is currently doing quick squats and pounding his balled up right hand into the open palm of his left, hence the smacking sound of flesh. His looks are unimportant, although let’s just say there’s a reason why he’s an indy worker and not a true “star”.]

And so this is where it all begins.

[Without breaking concentration from the task at hand, Scott begins to speak. His voice is calm and low, with just a hint of nerves trickling through. He is attempting to present himself as a calculated speaker, although those who care to listen closely can sense that the anticipation is eating away at him.]

You know, I’d almost forgotten how much different things were back here in the states. I guess if you spend enough time away from something, you loose your sense of perspective. Course it doesn’t take much to bring it all flooding back. The sites, the sounds…

[He stops winding the tape long enough to draw in a massive breath through his nose.]

…The smells. Yeah, it doesn’t take much at all.

And here I am, backstage in some nameless gym in some nameless town. Rubbing elbows with guys who have only dreamed of seeing the places I’ve seen and doing the things I’ve done. For them this is a launching pad. Workin’ in front of 70 people for 20 bucks a pop is a stepping stone to something bigger; that elusive dream they just know is gonna one day come true. These guys, they’re full of hope. They’re dreamers.

Me? I’m here for a different reason, although I guess it’s all the same thing in the end. Success is success.

[Having satisfactorily wound the tape around his wrist, Scott hunches over and bites it with his teeth, yanking backwards with his head and ripping the tape. He folds down the loose end on his wrist.]

But still, things are different for me than they are for these other guys. I’ve been there. I’ve tasted the kind of fame, the kind of adulation they still only fantasize about. They’re still looking for a career, while me? I’m looking to broaden mine.

[He begins to repeat the taping process on his left wrist.]

Over ten years I been at this. Hell, man, that’s over a decade. Almost a third of my life. And yet here I am, back at the bottom, starting from scratch. 32 years old and I’m an old man. To these guys in this room… and to the guys in this Stealth Tournament… nuthin’ but a 32 year old old man. So why bother? Why head back out to the dirt circuit now, when I coulda stayed in the far east and kept living high off the hog? What would possess a man to give up so much in exchange for so little?

[Scott stops the taping process once again, this time just to stare off into space for a moment. His eyes get glassy as he looks off into nothingness, deep in thought.]

In a nutshell it’s all about ego.

Ya see, I need to do this. Not for my momma, not for the one true love of my life, not for money or glamour or any of that crap, but quite simply for me. For my ego.

[He glances out of the corner of his eyes towards the camera. A slight smile curls the corner of his mouth.]

Yeah, yeah, I could try and dress it up, put a pretty spin on it an’ try to make it sound more regal, but why bother. I am what I am, no need tryin’ to deny it, especially now. Besides, there ain’t a man in this business who’s ever had so much of a whiff at success who hasn’t had a pretty hefty dose of the egomania runnin’ through his blood. You don’t get into somethin’ like this unless you got a major league hard on for seein’ your name up in lights. It’s par for the course.

So, yeah, I’m here, back in the states, to get that fix. I’ve been to the top of the mountain before, but that was in another world. Now I need me a slice of the real deal. Home is home, you know. You ain’t made it, not for real, until you made it at home. So here I am.

[Having by now finished taping his left wrist, he repeats the bite and tear process and tosses the roll into a gym bag at his feet. He continues talking while he slides on a rather elaborate elbow brace.]

Now of course, past success ain’t a totally bad thing either. Sure, I’m in this dump now, but truth be told this isn’t one hundred percent necessary. I’m just doing a few of these gigs to get the feel back, to remind myself just how badly I wanted to get out of this kind of low grade flea circus to begin with. But I got me a real gig, and soon enough I’ll be heading on into New York and I’ll be making my mark. I didn’t come halfway across the world just to be a nobody.

So in the meantime I figured I’d flesh out my schedule. Knock of a couple months of rust and work out some kinks. That’s where S.M.I.T. comes in. The Stealth Mode Invitational Tournament. Perfect. Cause like a Stealth Fighter I’ll be comin’ in under people’s radar and droppin’ a bomb on ’em before they know what hit ’em. Little bit of scorched earth for the gang in the NWC. You wanna know who Scott Cruise is? You won’t have to wait long, my brothers, cause I’m about to run a strafing mission right across your little playfield, and I ain’t takin’ prisoners.

[The brace secured, he turns to face the camera full-on.]

And it all begins with you, Dez Bradley. Pit-stop number one on my road to the top goes right through your town. So let’s do it. Let’s get this show underway, because while I’m a fairly patient man, I’ve been sittin’ around a little too long now and it’s about time I got my feet wet here in the NWC.

I came home with one goal, and that was to prove I could rise to the top of an American fed just like I did overseas. And the NWC? The NWC is where I’m hangin’ my hat. And you, Bradley, you’re my introduction to this new world. I know you’re ridin’ high after what’s been goin’ down there on the islands, but I’m here to serve notice to ya that it doesn’t matter one lick who you’ve almost beat in recent weeks. And for that matter it wouldn’t a meant crap to me had you beat them anyway. You know how it goes… I’m not them… they’re not me. You’ve never faced me… blah blah blah.

[A slight snicker.]

Let’s face facts, Dezbo… I don’t really know you, and you really don’t know me, and there ain’t gonna be nothin’ personal between us when we step through those ropes. But ya know, that don’t mean this ain’t a personal issue… for me. Call it a quest if you like. It don’t need to have a name.

Just know that I’m comin’ into this thing to win, and I’ve been at this game longer than you, so I know things. And I’m the kind of guy who’s willing to do anything and everything I can to win. Don’t you forget that, boy, because if you do, it’s gonna bite you in the ass. And while you’re sittin’ there like a fool, rubbin’ your behind and wonderin’ just where that snake came from, I’ll be on my way to round two, forgettin’ all about you.

[Zoom in ever so slightly. The eyes of a man brimming with intensity stare back at us.]

“The Prodigal Son” *has* returned.

C’mon, world… Impress Me.

[A sneer. A fade to black.]

* * * * *



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