Like I told you all a couple of weeks ago; I've never been the type of guy that could suppress his anger and make it go away. It would just burn like a fire inside of me, occasionally smoldering down until some trivial event would stoke the embers and bring it raging back uncontrollably. I never learned to make it disappear, but I learned to channel it. I learned to unleash it in the gym and let it burn itself out. At least at the end I'd have something to show for it... even if it was only abs and a boner inspiring dropkick.

I listen as my agent calls out instructions from the floor outside the ring.

SILVER: Hip toss! Watch that elbow!

My training partner bounces off the ropes and tries to throw a wild elbow at my face, but I sidestep and hit the hip toss as instructed and send him crashing to the canvas. He winces, but recovers quickly and tries to sit up. I pounce on him before he can get upright and press him flat with my torso, working around from side control to north south position and raining down a few hammer fists into my training partners ribs.

SILVER: Good! Don't let him recover, maintain control!

I move from north south back to side control, then step over easily into a full mount. My partner covers up as I throw a few more right hands at his head, but as soon as he does I snatch an arm and throw my leg over his face and move into a tight armbar. He tries to roll into it and relieve the pressure, shifting his weight on top of mine. I quickly adjust my legs into position for a triangle choke, and cinch up the patented Ravenlock. He struggles furiously, flopping in my guard like a fish left on a hot boat deck. After a few seconds he gasses out, and doesn't struggle at all.

SILVER: Beautiful, buddy! He's out like a light! Let him go!

I relieve the pressure and drop my limp training partner to the canvas, rolling away from him and to my feet. Jeremy climbs from the floor to the apron and motions me over to the ropes, a bottle of water in his hand. He tosses it to me as I approach, smiling like a proud father.

SILVER: That was great, James. Chasm isn't going to stand a chance.

RAVEN: Chasm wouldn't stand a chance if I had both hands duct taped to my sides and a leg chopped off at the knee. It doesn't matter how my training goes, he could never beat me and he never will.

SILVER: I know, I know. You're great, and I hear you roar. Still, I'd rather have you train than not train, and I'd rather have you train well. Both boxes checked.

I down a quarter of the water bottle in two deep sips and take a look back at my training partner, still slumped over on the mat. I shake my head in disappointment and look back to Jeremy.

RAVEN: Let's be honest, this is barely training. That guy is trash.

SILVER: What did you expect? You wanted someone that could emulate Chasm, right? I got someone that was as athletic, as coordinated, and even looks exactly like the mother fucker!

RAVEN: You got me Howie Mandell.

SILVER: Like I said, he's the perfect guy to emulate Chasm's ring prowess before your first Universal title defense.

I hear a slight gurgle as Howie begins to stir behind me. I make my way over to him and offer him the bottle of water as he lifts himself up on his hands and knees. He eyes it.

HOWIE MANDELL: Did you already drink out of that?

RAVEN: Yeah, I did.

HOWIE MANDELL: No thanks, I don't do well with germs.

RAVEN: I'd heard that, but thought it was bull shit. I mean, I was just sweating all over you and tossing you like a bitch... how'd you stomach it?

Jeremy steps through the ring ropes and joins us in the ring, a smile on his face.

SILVER: He was paid handsomely.

RAVEN: C'mon man, he was on Deal or No Deal and Americas Got Talent. He doesn't need my money.

SILVER: He was paid VERY handsomely.

HOWIE MANDELL: Don't talk about me like I'm not sitting right here. Don't write my career off for those terrible shows either, I do stand up, and I do-

SILVER: We're going to stop you right there, Howie; we don't care about what's coming next.

Mandell looks crestfallen. That was some cold shit. Accurate, but cold.

SILVER: It's nothing personal. We paid you to come pretend to be Chasm, not to recite your resume and pass around your managers info.

RAVEN: Yeah, can we talk about that? How did you land on Howie fucking Mandell to help me train for a title match?

SILVER: We've been over this! He's perfect! He has the exact same skill set and in-ring ability as Chasm does! It gives you the perfect look leading up to the match!

I turn to look at Howie.

RAVEN: Have you ever wrestled before? Have you ever even trained?

HOWIE MANDELL: Like, pro wrestling? Or does high school count?

RAVEN: Pro wrestling.

HOWIE MANDELL: Nope.

RAVEN: High school?

HOWIE MANDELL: Nah.

RAVEN: Why did you need to clarify then?

HOWIE MANDELL: You put me on the spot.

RAVEN: Any combat background? Kick boxing? Jiu Jitsu? Karate lessons as a kid?

HOWIE MANDELL: Nada.

I turn back to Jeremy, who's beaming proudly.

RAVEN: You're right, he's perfect to be our Chasm.

SILVER: RIGHT?! And he's bald! And his voice is annoying! And his face is annoying! It's perfect!

HOWIE MANDELL: GUYS! Stop talking about me! Please!

SILVER: You saw how many zeroes were on that check, Mandell, we'll spit in your face and fuck you if we feel like it... otherwise it bounces. Understood?

HOWIE MANDELL: Yes sir.

SILVER: Good. Take two minutes boys, then we go again.

RAVEN: That's what she said.

Howie shakes his head in disgust and turns away from us, making his way to the far corner to rest up for the next round of sparring. Jeremy pulls his cell phone from his pocket and pretends he didn't hear me. Fuck them both. That was solid timing.

I make my way back to my own corner and stretch, my mind wandering. I think about my last match, the gauntlet that finally saw me put down Pest and the rest of the make shift job squad Vinnie Lane threw together. I think about my recently resurfaced scumbag of a father who wants to insert himself into my sons life for the first time. I think about Robbie Bourbon and Jack Cain booting me from the ranks of the Mother Fuckers and vowing to take my head off to get the Universal title out of my grasp. I think about Chris Chaos on Savage, and my shot to avenge the one bull shit loss I've suffered since returning.

I'm ready to take them all on. I just have to get through one minor speed bump on Warfare.

SILVER: That's time, boys! Let's go!

I spin around and see Howie Mandell charging across the ring at me, his arms flailing wildly as he hurls horrific slaps at me. I sidestep quickly and hook his neck, leaping into the air for a picture perfect Flight of the Raven that knocks him out cold.

SILVER: Well that was quick.

RAVEN: What do we do now?

SILVER: Wait for him to wake up, and go again.

Fair enough. I think I'm ready for Warfare. I think I'm ready for Chasm.

#AndStill

FADE TO BLACK... FADE TO BLACK... FADE TO BLACK... FADE TO BLACK... FADE TO BLACK...


Don't say I never did anything for you Chasm.

Let's forget about the old days, when guys like Raziel and Cyren would kick your name around like a shitty worn out football and I would stand up to defend my Canadian brother. Let's forget about the times I ran Titan Wrestling and the XWF and hired you when nobody else would put you on television. Let's forget about the fact that you conveniently returned to the XWF in the wake of my arrival and used the "old school XWF" shine to talk your way into what feels like a dozen title matches.

I'm handing you the shot at the Universal title that you've always wanted. No gimmicks, no strings attached, no 6 man Hell Dome or 8 Man Battle Royale... just you, and the Canadian Icon you always wished you were standing in front of the lifetime achievement award you so desperately crave.

You're welcome.

Your original idea was remedial, no offense. There's no way you can beat me once, Chasm... what the hell made you think you'd be able to do it twice? You think you can land the Rift before I superkick your lipring off your face? I don't. I think Gabe Reno will win an XWF popularity contest before you find a way to pry this gold from my fingertips. Bruce Blingsteen will sign his name to fight someone with talent, and Finn Kuhn will live up to the potential he once showed. Michael Graves will fuck someone old enough to drive, and Thaddeus Duke's balls will drop. The Sugay sisters will release a promo that doesn't rely on their sexuality as a crutch.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down, Chasm?

It's not going to happen.

Savor this moment, enjoy the walk to the ring and the handful of fans that cheer your final opportunity at a belt of substance. This is it, Chasm. Don't kid yourself, you will never get a sympathy shot like this from a kind hearted champion again. You will never get XWF management to believe in you as a viable contender again.

You're going to get smashed, bud.

Shit kicked. Molly whopped. Pounded within an inch of your life by a guy that could model for GQ any day of the week. Pick a term for it, but the definition of the word is "Chasm fucked, Raven still champion". It's not because I dislike you, you know that.

It's because I want it more, I always did.

From the moment I debuted in the XWF, to the moment I went into exile and thought I'd never wrestle for the XWF again... I wanted it more. I did everything in my power to get back to it and hold it once again. I felt the glow of the sun a little less fully with each day I didn't hold it on my shoulder.

You never had that.

Maybe you didn't have that void to fill, or that level of aspiration. Maybe you did and just lacked the talent, in which case you've held out remarkably long without killing yourself and that's commendable.

You'll have to shoot me and drag me from the ring to make me quit, or slip me a Cosby cocktail to hold me down for a three count. I will NOT lose to you, Chasm... you've become a joke to the new stars of the XWF, and it's your own fault. I will NOT lose the Universal title. Not to you, not to Robbie Bourbon, not to Neville or Reno or anyone else that manages to hoodwink their way into a shot.

I'll see you on Wednesday, old friend.

Just remember, when you wake up in the hospital on Thursday morning; bloody and concussed...

Don't say I never did anything for you.

Fear the Raven... Forevermore