Fully Loaded 23rd July 2000.
This was one of the best and worst matches he’d ever worked. First time on pay-per-view wrestling the man lifting a high knee into his apparently cracked ribs and then with a sickening thump his back and hips are planted hard into the canvas. Big warm body pressing into his own, but with all that weight held up on an elbow and knee, he can easily breath and even more easily lift first his hips then his shoulders off the mat. Normally the move would only garner a two count. No way was he going down for a high knee lift, had to be at least a finishing maneuver…or in this case at least three finishing maneuvers, because this match wasn’t going to be decided by a one-two-three. Instead, the counting was going to continue to ten.
"Only the second Last Man Standing match in WWF history.”
Unless Jericho or the Game got to their feet first.
"Jericho’s springboard dropkick taking the Game outside the ring.”
The worst thing about this match has to be the body contact. Stupid thing to bitch about when his entire career is based on getting a hell of a lot of contact with other men’s bodies, but of course when it came to this man and this much contact, his expression becomes wry as he idly contemplates another occupation. Professional worker he might be, but he was only human and every time they collided with something less than extreme violence, he forgot his own name.
"Triple H has got Jericho’s body opened up there in an Abdominal Stretch.’
Body contact like this was the problem, stealing his focus from his work, taking his mind off the next twenty minutes and replaying seconds of touch over and over in his head. His body honed to respond to the prompts, to create his own and perform physical feats that seem so commonplace now but once would have dragged impressed gasps from the nearby horde.
"This kid’s not gonna die as he scores with a Spinning Heel Kick.”
A woman’s piercing shriek rips across the ring. Identification unnecessary as no-one who knows her could forget that voice. Moments later, after a series of moves and counters that are almost painful in their intimacy, he comes to rest across the crowd barrier, head wrenched back by his enemy’s fingers, backside presented to the man in a such a fashion to cause a snort of irony to issue from his throat. But it isn’t the man the attention is on now. Instead, as delicate fingers turn his check from pale gold to brilliant red, the woman begins her strut, the crowd roars its hatred and he has a moment to regain control.
"Okay, ya made yer point there Mrs. Helmsley.”
“Irish whip, elbow, ropes, sleeper with body scissors.” Strands of dark, blond hair catch in his eyelashes, strong jaw encased in hot skin and close trimmed beard press against his closed eyelid. He nods imperceptibly. “Cool.” Fingers tugging in his hair, forcing him to his feet, then hands lock around forearms and air whistles past his skin as he is hurled, cannon-like into the corner of the ring. Then the worst of the match rears its head again as massive arms wrap around his neck and skull, sweat-slick skin slides against his back.
Sheer torture, to have this man hold him in such an embrace. To have it indicate hate instead of something else. Falling to the mat, caught tight, cradled so there is no harm to him. Legs lift behind his hips, powerful thighs surrounding him, controlling him, presenting the world with a furious hateful passion.
“Body Scissors from the Game, around the injured ribs of Jericho, along with the sleeper.”
“You okay?” Warm breath murmurs, lips tickling the fine shell of his ear. “You’re pretty quiet tonight.”
God. Casual conversation while wrapped together like lovers, but the concern in his enemy’s voice is blatant and understandable. Normally a raucous and verbal performer, happy to improvise and discuss the match in the secret code of the ring, he’s barely spoken to the man in the last ten minutes, most of the plan doesn’t require it and his subdued behavior is more obvious than he’s thought. He’s clinging to the edges of his control right now, forcing his body to do as instructed, to play his part and celebrate his craft, while fighting the urge to press his hips back into the hot flesh he can feel at his lower back.
“S’nothing.” He replies through clenched teeth, heavy forearm under his chin. “Fuckin’ tired. It’s all good.”
For a moment the arms tighten, almost a hug. He freezes, body once pliant now on a thousand edges of tension. Then the limbs are gone, a broad palm in his back pushes him away and he sprawls like a broken doll in the centre of the ring.
“Stay down kid. Just stay down, it ain’t worth it.”
This time, the long count works. Face to the mat, mantra of control repeated over and over. He needs a diversion and sudden inspiration comes. A ribald comment from back-stage springs to mind, the coarse humour bringing a smile to his lips and some element of relaxation to his frayed nerves. For the next ten minutes, he manages to cope by telling himself dirty jokes.
It lasts near to the end of the bout. Lip swollen from the woman’s blow, hair a mess from rough fingers, he pulls himself to his feet and makes a beautiful show of nearly falling.
“Fine from here.” The black and white mutters low under his breath, orders received and passed on.
Timing now is everything. They have been cut loose, allowed to wrap things up as they see fit, only the finale set in stone. His enemy has scarlet across his face, a macabre mask that’s contradicted by the furious excitement in the whiskey coloured eyes.
Another clash, more performed pain for everyone to enjoy.
“Triple H has reached the ropes but Jericho doesn’t have to break the walls.”
Less body contact now. Higher impact, greater thrills. He can do this, there isn’t much more time to fill. Balance now. Standing on the high table, arms locked together for safety as much as position.
“Oh no. God in Heaven, this is like a car wreck.”
He can hear the man in the hat, he stands not far away. It is always like a car wreck…without any cars of course.
Looking through crazy strands, he watches the other man from three feet away. Timing has had its tribute and he does not need to move again, only to watch through lidded eyes and listen to the numbers. To gaze at his opponent, his enemy and maybe, for at least a little while, indulge what can never be.
The striped shirt is dry and cool against his shoulder, arm around his waist an unrequired assist, but his agony must be seen, his vulnerability displayed and applauded. Or is it his strength?
“Hey CJ. Match looked great.” New voice and he opens his eyes to be surrounded by black. Curtains, t-shirts and clipboards. “You guys worked that like a bitch, can’t believe that’s your first Pay together.” Straightening he offers his thanks to his human crutch and rakes a hand through his hair to pull it away from the perspiration on his forehead. The stage-manager stands back to let him pass, a small corridor amongst the talent and crew waiting backstage. He has no ego about where the opening came from; it had already been made for the man who preceded him from the ring.
Impact. But nothing like before. This time the hands mean not to bruise but to clutch, pretty, sparkling eyes filled with excitement rather than loathing. Her sequin top catches on his skin.
“Fantastic Chris. Best. Match. Ever. Hunter practically tore off the door to the dressing room he’s so pumped.” Octaves reaching violin range, he hugs her again, she is used to the sweat and blood.
“Really?” He leans back from her to gauge the truth in lovely brown eyes. “Good. Thinking we nailed it and hearing we nailed it are two different things Steph.” The talking pulls at his lip, bringing a slight wince as the torn flesh protested the punishment.
The excited eyes turned quickly upset. “Damn Chris. I’m never doing that again...” He shakes his head to cut her off but she barrels over his interruption. “…no seriously. You all tell me to just hit you boys and I know it’s nothing compared to other stuff, but I hate it. I can slap you without breaking the skin at least…one of the girls will show me how.”
Mutinous, defiant, she kisses him hard on his bruised mouth and pulls free. Ridiculously high heels snapping as she heads towards the other side of back-stage. Rolling his eyes, he probes one finger at his newly-smarting wound and rewinds his way back to the dressing rooms. Various congratulations and back-slaps adorn his parade, moments of acknowledgement that he keeps close, words bolstering not inconsiderable confidence. ‘Yes, you can do this thing. You are very, very good at it.’
Destination in site, locker and shower. Then a hand around his arm, frisson of pleasure at the touch, identification completed by body before even razor sharp brain can catch up. Silent tug into room empty save for the two of them. His own form responding to the tactic like it had in the ring; he feels the press of hard plaster against his back and is intimately conscious of the small distance between his skin and that of his enemy.
Arms crossed over his chest, Hunter begins a slow perusal, starting at wild hair, ending with black lacing. It makes him want to gasp, to run, to do anything but stand still and endue that gaze, to come up with something, anything to stop those eyes and his body’s primal response.
“I think we hit….”
“So did you really hate it as much as you seemed to or am I just completely paranoid around you these days?” The interruption does more than stop his words; they completely derail his thought process.
“What? No, it was fine…I just…” Paranoid? The man who exudes such confidence that people feel better about themselves just knowing he’s in the same room, is paranoid? Around him?
But he was cut off again, big arms unfolding, one of Hunter’s hands resting palm flat against the wall by his face.
“Because I thought that was one of the nastiest matches I’ve ever pulled off. We got the moves in amongst all the brutal shit and you, you mouthy, smart-assed little brat,” Hunt moves closer, stealing away the desperate inches, nearly naked body close enough to caress, mouth just moments from his own. “...you barely…said…a…word.”
And he couldn’t now. There wasn’t the slightest puff of air in his lungs; it had all been stolen away by his reactions to Hunter. He clenches his hands into fists and presses the knuckles back into the wall, to stop them from exploring the territory so perfectly presented. Lowering his face, he closes his eyes, licking his lips to encourage some words to come…anything so he wasn’t rendered silent by this man.
Him, rendered silent? No wonder Hunter thought something was wrong.
“Said I was tired Hunt. Nothing’s wrong…big match environment…”
Once again cut off before the sentences could get any more foolish.
“That better be a lie Christopher, because you’ve got one chance to tell me what I did to make you like that or I’m gonna do something else that’ll probably get me sued.” The words were harsh now, an indication of anger or frustration he couldn’t tell. But they still made no sense, each component translated but the meaning of the sentence a mystery.
That did it. The idea that he would ask for Hunter’s money for anything, shot a spear of inappropriate amusement through him, curling his lips and raising his gaze to the concerned?...concerned one just above his own. A laugh smothered by his hand, the wall no longer in danger from his tense fingers, he shakes his head, bright blue eyes lighting at the thought of court-rooms and lawyers.
“What? What?” Expression perplexed, but at least no longer concerned, Hunter moved impossible closer. “Fucking hell, Jericho you’re unpredictable! What in…”
Hands rising up to equally chaotic hair, he rolls his eyes at his own cluelessness and this time interrupts the other man’s words, his lips pressing quickly against Hunt’s astonished ones, a snatched flick of tongue along his rival’s. Lowering back down off his toes, he grins into an expression he was certain no-one else had ever witnessed.
“That is what I had an issue about Hunt.” Letting go completely, he leans back against the wall and crosses arms over chest in a perfect reversal of their previous postures. “Now did someone say something about being sued?”
Because there was still the smallest, infinitesimal chance that he was wrong.
As a deep-throated snarl echoes in the room, lips and tongue mauled by a ferocious kiss, his head bumped gently back into the wall, body lifted high and hard in a ring-like move, Jericho resolved that no…he wasn’t even close to being wrong.