Post by Thaddeus Duke on Jul 6, 2021 10:42:41 GMT -5
Woolworth Tower || Tribeca – New York City || 9:31 PM
“Now Thaddeus,” Edward begins. “In recalling the adoption of Frankie, you mentioned XWF’s Relentless show. I think this is as good a time as any to shift gears and put some focus on your wrestling career.
“When did it start?” he asks. “Who trained you? What can you tell us about the first year of your wrestling career?”
“I started my career in October 2016 when I was 17 years old,” I begin. “I wasn’t a fan previously. My father was and is a legend with a Hall of Fame plaque to prove it. He wasn’t a great father but he was as good at it as he was ever gonna be and I resented wrestling for a long time. It’s what made my father so absent.
“I wouldn’t even watch his matches.”
“What changed?” he asks of me. “What was the spark inside you that changed your mind?”
Pausing to reflect inwardly back to a very different time in my life, I recall my best friend James Edwards, better known as just Jim or Jimmy, who would later become my chief of staff. In one of our many candid conversations about my father, I remember telling him how utterly stupid and lame wrestling was.
“It’s all stupid, it’s fake and scripted,” I recall saying to him one morning when we were in residence at the Vatican. Not long after the new year. Not long after my 17th birthday.
“Not that promotion,” Jim would say to me. He would go on to the XWF website and show me clips and matches, mostly of my fathers. It’s when I learned that no, not all wrestling companies are created equal. For all the companies that exist that predetermine their outcomes, there are others that make it all a shoot. Places where you earn your wins as well as your losses by legitimately beating or legitimately losing to another competitor.
He’d show me a lot of my dad. Sebastian Duke was and still is a powerful force in the XWF. While his wrestling days are mostly behind him, I watched and relished in the fact that he could hold a crowd in the palms of his hands and manipulate their responses to him. A lot of fans cheered him. A lot of fans didn’t. Yet all of them reacted.
“The ability to hold a crowds attention,” I begin to finally answer Ed. “The ability to make this grandiose entrance and command attention. To have thousands in the arenas and stadiums hang on your every word. It’s a powerful force. The competition aspect, too. I’m a highly motivated, highly competitive individual.
“Watching my dad be the force he was in the ring…” my voice trails off for a moment. “I had to try it.”
“So the prospect of making millions of people all over the world love you… or hate you… is something that intrigued you,” he summarizes correctly.
“Yeah,” I reply with a nod. “I started training myself, first by studying matches and moves and how they were performed. Then by jumping into my dads sparring ring in his gym. Jim was my guinea pig,” I remember fondly. “But I damn near broke his neck once and my dad, who at first didn’t want me to go into wrestling, decided that if I was gonna do it anyway, then I may as well learn from an actual professional.”
“Getting trained by an actual legend no doubt helped you along,” he says. “How long did you train?”
“If I’m interested in something, I have the ability to pick up on things very quickly and wrestling was no different,” I answer him. “I trained for about eight months. I could have entered earlier but I wanted to be technically sound first. So I waited, kept studying tapes and putting things I learned into practice.”
“And that first year…” he reminds me.
“Very successful,” I answer him. “A bunch of wins, three different reigns as Xtreme Champion…”
“The Xtreme title,” he prefaces. “That’s the…”
“Second most prestigious title the XWF offers,” I answer him. “That first rise for me was something I’ll always remember. I came off as an entitled spoiled brat but… my opponents always had a boner for saying I was only who I was because of my father. It’s what they expected, so that’s carried myself.
“Within the first six months I was headlining pay per views and challenging for the Universal Championship.”
“That’s their world title, correct?”
I nod confirmation. “And in my opinion, the most highly competitive title in the most competitive company and the richest prize in the shoot wrestling game.
“I even wrestled James Raven on television in a classic. The result was a loss in the standings but… no one loses to James Raven. He taught me a lot in that match.”
“You look up to James Raven?” he asks.
“Everyone should,” I answer him quickly. “There’s a reason he’s the greatest of all time. No one has done it more successfully, more consistently and as thoroughly entertaining as he has. He made me better at being me.”
“Not long after that match, you’d step away from wrestling for more than a year,” he leads in another direction. “Why’s that?”
“The Illuminatus civil war,” I answer him. “The future of my people was on the line and that was one place that taking an ‘L’ just wasn’t acceptable. My people needed me and I couldn’t do both.”
“Upon the victory over your fathers forces, you made your return to the game, but it was short lived,” he continues leading me. “Care to tell us about that?”
“I didn’t realize it at the time,” I begin candidly. “But I was suffering from PTSD. It took a toll on me professionally and personally. While I was moderately successful in that short run, even picking up the first of my Television Championships, I was but a shell of the Thaddeus Duke I exhibited in my first year.
“My personal trauma caused me to act outside of my nature, too. I wasn’t easy to deal with behind and in front of the curtain. Partially out of spite, partially out of interest, I began investing big money in promotions not named the XWF.”
“I can’t imagine that went over well,” he says with a bit of a smile.
“It didn’t,” I laugh. “I can laugh about it now, but one of the XWF owners, Theo Pryce, is my dads half-brother. He fired me from the company. And to be honest, its the best thing he ever did for me.”
“Your uncle fires you from the company you love, the one you consider your home… and its a good thing?” he asks, urging me to elaborate.
“I certainly didn't appreciate it at the time, but it gave me the downtime I needed to get my head right,” I answer. “I started going into therapy after the plane crash which happened just a few weeks after I was fired. In a few months, I started feeling the itch to get back in the ring again. Theo was one of less than a handful of people that knew where I was and what I was doing when I temporarily abandoned my life as Thaddeus Duke and called myself Jaime Henry.
“He was okay with me coming back to the company but suggested I not do so as Thaddeus Duke. It was him that suggested I take my day job as Alister Henry’s collector and bring that to the XWF. So, I returned for one match in January of 2020 under the guise of The Collector.”
“One match? Why just one?”
“It was a great time,” I begin to explain. “To feel that electric energy from the crowd and even though I was under a mask and using a different name, I felt like they knew in their hearts that the masked man they were looking at was their Lionheart.
“After that victory, I sat alone in my dressing room and decided it wasn’t time yet. I decided I needed more time to get my head together. I was feeling good again but at the same time, I was afraid of falling back into the recent past and being a piece of shit to people I care about.
“So as quickly as The Collector arrived, he was gone.”
“Do you ever regret that decision?” Edward asks.
“Not for a second,” I answer him quickly. “I needed time to make sure that the ‘good’ I was feeling wasn’t just some facade. So when I stepped away I kept watching, kept studying, kept up my ring speed in the gym, waiting for the day where I’d tell myself… okay it’s time.”
“When did that happen?”
“One of the misconceptions about being the son or daughter of a legend while also doing what they did, is people thinking you had it easy,” I begin to explain to Ed, to OCW. “Wearing his last name got me in the door, that’s it.
“We suffer from constant comparisons of the famous name that came before us. We struggle to step from their larger than life shadows. We struggle to make people look at us as our own person and not just the son or daughter of those that came before.
“My father was approached in May of last year about being inducted into the XWF Hall of Legends. That, to me, was throwing up a metaphorical Thad Signal. His entrance into the Hall put the final nail of his regularly active in-ring career. So I set the stage for my return to active competition. One in which didn’t force me to try and step from his shadow while he was still making it.”
“And you returned under the guise of The Collector,” he reminds me.
“Yeah,” I nod. “I wanted to time everything right. I had very little interest in remaining under the mask long but I wanted my father to have his moment too. I mean, he did earn it. So in June last year I returned as The Collector while the XWF was preparing for the July Leap of Faith pay per view. That event is where my father was set to be enshrined into immortality. It was where I planned to compete without my mask for the first time.”
“It was a good night for the Duke family, wasn’t it?” he asks.
“My dad went into the Hall and for the first time in nine months, the Thaddeus Duke name was relevant again in the pro wrestling world as I won my second Television Championship over a great champion named Thunder Knuckles in just my third match back in the game.”
“And that’s where your feud with Chris Page began is it not?”
“It is. He was in the midst of a feud with TK over the title I just won and wasn’t able to beat him. In his infinite wisdom, he stole and maintained possession of my title.”
“That would kick off a feud that only came to its conclusion this past January,” Edward prefaces. “What can you tell us about that feud? About the last year really, of your career?”
“We had a feud spanning the course of six months, including several matches where we swapped wins and loses. It also encompassed three separate championship divisions.”
“You’d lost the Television title to Chris Page,” he informs the OCW audience. “At the previously mentioned Relentless show, you went over in DQ fashion in a non-title pure wrestling rules match, that’s where Page and his partner attempted to end your career. You were on the shelf and came back six weeks later with revenge on your mind.
“Tell us about that.”
“Page, together with Robert Main collectively known as Cataclysm,” I begin. “They dominated the tag team scene in the XWF for six or seven months. Knowing that was his strength, knowing I had zero friends… it kind of happens like that when your mouth is as big as mine… Page thought it wise to throw a challenge to me for November’s High Stakes pay per view for he and Robert’s tag team titles.
“During a fight on the go-home Warfare leading to High Stakes, I was outnumbered by Cataclysm. They were handing me my ass on a silver platter and I still had no partner. I was ready to go to High Stakes and face them by myself if I had to. That night as I laid in the ring drifting in and out of consciousness, Doc D’Ville made his presence known…”
“Before you go on Thaddeus,” he interrupts. “Can you enlighten OCW as to just who Doctor D’Ville is?”
“I can try, but I'll never do him justice. D’Ville is the XWF’s personification of evil,” I explain. “To this day, I’m not entirely sure why he helped me. It was a combination that never should have worked, but it did. Again, he was evil personified, equally hated but respected by the XWF Universe. While in contrast, I was the golden boy. Loved and adored by the XWF fans.
“Doc though, is one of the greatest, most feared, most highly respected names to ever grace an XWF ring.”
“You were white hot around that time,” Edward redirects slightly. “What happened at High Stakes?” he asks with a smile.
Thinking about it now, it was the greatest night of my professional life. Reflecting back on my career, the first rise of Thaddeus, my downfall brought on by my own hand, my own head. To the return, the resurrection of the Lionheart, so to speak.
“To come back after so much turmoil surrounded my name,” I begin to answer him. “After making enemies with people that only ever tried to be my friend. To be given the chance…” my voice trails off some as I choke back some emotion. “To be given a second chance to do what I love, a chance to repair the bridges I once set aflame. To put that part of my history to bed and repair my image, my standing within the community in which we all belong. To hear thousands of men, women and children screaming for me, urging me to continue to do what I feel I do better than most.
“Cataclysm was undefeated as a team,” I pause with a smile. “Until Doc and I came knockin’. We conquered the tag team scene in the XWF together and at the end of that title match there were new tag team champions. Then I went back to the locker room…”
“And you weren’t done yet, were you?” he asks.
I shake my head with a smile. “I’m a really emotional person,” I say, pausing to gather some thoughts before elaborating. “I feed off emotion. The fans that pay to see me give me their emotion from bell to bell. I wear my own heart on my sleeve. Anger, sadness, joy, what have you. If I’m feeling it you’re gonna see it.
“I make it back to the locker room after the tag match. Sitting quietly for a few minutes as Vinnie Lane begins his induction ceremony into the Hall with the biggest match of my life coming in just minutes…”
“The battle royal,” he informs the OCW masses.
“The Universal Championship was vacated and at High Stakes the XWF was crowning a new champion. I went through 18 of the very best the XWF has to offer and won it all…” again, my voice trails off.
“So the once embattled Lionheart of the XWF, returns and makes that climb toward immortality all over again. Unlike the first time, this time you were triumphant,” Edward prefaces. “So put us in the ring with you. The bell rings, your music is playing- you’re the last one standing, the fans are going ballistic, you’re handed the championship that so many fail to achieve and not yet 22 years old at the time. Regardless of what company or branding is on the title, it’s a world championship.
“You hit your knees in the ring, staring at the championship with your fans…”
“Duke Nation,” I interrupt him. Years ago, an opponent (and now friend) of mine coined my fanbase with the moniker and it just stuck.
“Duke Nation is in a state of euphoria,” he corrects. “Their hero, their warrior has just won the biggest prize in the company they love.
"What is Thaddeus Duke feeling?”
“Overwhelmed,” I answer honestly. “It was the things you mentioned but it was also the feeling that I’ve finally and successfully stepped out of my fathers shadow. To do what he did, in the place that made him famous, while simultaneously doing it better than he ever did is really hard to put into the proper words.
“I don’t know if the words really exist.
“To earn the right to be the world champion, to earn the right to be the man, to do it at a high level, to be the leader of the pack… It’s something everyone of us in this business strive for. And there’s no feelings, professionally speaking, that match winning the world title.”
“So as the now reigning, defending champion, you finally put the feud with Chris Page to rest. It didn’t come out in your favor…”
“It didn’t,” I interrupt him. “But I put more than 90,000 fans in Lambeau Field to watch wrestling in Green Bay… in January… Now add to that, that some have compared that match between me and Page to Flair and Steamboat. There’s no higher honor in wrestling than to have your matches compared to matches that are widely regarded as the greatest matches in history.
“You could put Chris Page against Thaddeus Duke seven times and one of us will win four, the other would win three and not a person on the planet could predict who wins the fourth. That’s how close we are as competitors. My reign ended prematurely, but if I retired today, I’d be doing so convinced that I’m absolutely 100% one of the best to ever do it.”
“You’ve now concluded a full calendar year back in the business,” he begins his redirect. “Having recently won the XWF’s Hart Championship. Tell us why OCW?”
I look at him with what I’m sure is a look of confusion.
“We’re about out of time,” he points out. “Thaddeus, you’ve done it all. You’ve been a regular in one of the largest promotions in the industry. You’ve been a competitor for not quite five years in total, but active approximately two and a half of those years. Yet you’ve managed to win 8 total championships across five title divisions.
“So why OCW?”
“Because I’d like to be a part of something fresh,” I start to explain. “OCW is just beginning again and there’s promise on this roster. Adding my fame and my name to this company guarantees they won’t stay so small for very long.
“To build something, or help build something that’s bigger and better than OCW has ever seen intrigues me.
“I’m not taking anything away from those that are already here. They’re all talented in their own ways, but I’m just on another level. My goal isn’t to bury them, so to speak. My goal is to make them better, to bring them to up to my level.
“Why have just one diamond when you can have eight?” I pose rhetorically. “I’ve already made a difference in generating interest in OCW’s product and I haven’t even had a match yet.
“I know how I carry myself. I know how they look at me. Maybe I’m just 22 but I bring a lifetime of knowledge and experience along with me. There’s lessons to be learned from the things I do and the things I say… if the others on OCW’s roster are smart enough to watch and listen.”
“Thaddeus, thank you,” Edward says as he stands up with an extended hand.
“To think this was just the tip,” I say with a smile as I stand and accept his handshake. “I mean… of what makes me tick. Not the other thing.”
Edward Jones chuckles as I escort him toward the front door. It’s a lot, I know, but it really is just scratching the surface. It’s what happens when you’ve been meticulously cultivating one life but multiple lives simultaneously for several years.
I come off arrogant, cocky, obnoxious in some ways and I know it. I don't shy away from it but at the same time, there's more to me than that. I'm a caring guy. A loving guy. I am in no way perfect. I have flaws like anyone else. But you put a camera in my face or a microphone in my hand, and I feel at home. I have electric charisma and I use that to further the business and the Thaddeus Duke Brand.
By pissing you off.
OCW, welcome to the Thaddeus Duke Show.