His Canadian title belt slung over his shoulder, The Armenian Beast strode through the corridors of the UWE arena. When you were the size of The Beast, ‘stride’ was one of only a very short list of possible gaits you could employ. You couldn’t really tell but he was positively knackered. Well, unless you knew Gurgen intimately, and, be realistic, who in his right mind would ever want to know the Armenian Beast intimately enough to tell his physical and mental well-being just by looking at this gait? Especially since, for The Massive Moron, mental ‘well’ being was a relative concept. His mental state tended to start at horrific and go downhill from there.
He didn’t let anyone on, though. He high-fived crew members, promised to meet other wrestlers for drinks later, paused for selfies with fans who had been granted backstage passes … especially the female fans … definitely the female ones!
But, damn, was he ever grateful to reach the personal locker room he, as Canadian champion, had been afforded. As he assaulted the door, he reflected on his past week. Ever since he discovered he was to face the one man at UWE more deserving of the title ‘insane’ than him, the masked madman, Asylum, he had stepped up his training. Which for him meant, get up before noon and only drink one bottle of wodka per day. And the match itself had not exactly been a walk in the park … unless one liked to run through the park at a breakneck pace for a full hour and purposefully run in to every single tree in the park headfirst, then, yes it was a walk in the park.
So, it was no wonder that, the instant he closed the door behind him, shutting out prying eyes and smartphone cameras, his mighty shoulders slumped. He took the cherished title belt from those very shoulders, held the prized possession at eye level and carelessly tossed it in a corner.
There, across the room, stood his target … a folding cot. Using the excellent sense of distance one invariably develops when one was a professional wrestler, Gurgen surrendered to gravity and planted himself, face first, onto the cot. But, as is so often the case when one was deathly tired, sleep refused to overtake him instantly. Still, the noise of his own breathing lessened, the pounding of his overtaxed heart, both subsided.
However, now that the room was sufficiently quiet, he heard a second cadence of breath. With the rage that can only be summoned by those denied their righteous slumber, Beast rose from his cot, uttering an almighty growl like the engine of a high performance vehicle that accidentally got shifted from fifth into second gear. In one fluid movement, he grabbed ahold of the cot and swung it above his head like an unwieldy club. In doing so, he partially knocked down a lighting fixture.
“Who disturb Beast!” he bellowed in the broken English which was all his addled mind could muster, even after a decade and a half residing in the New World.
In the intermittent light afforded by the swinging fluorescent lighting, he spotted the intruder.
“Oh, it be Uncle Dzugashvili,” he realized, lowering the cot-club in the process.
Then, he realized two things … with his uncle he could actually converse in Armenian and he also remembered the depth of the love he held for his maternal uncle. The latter realization instantly made him raise his makeshift club again, and it made him wish for a woodcutter’s axe instead, or a chainsaw, or a woodcutting pit-bull terrier that had tasers affixed to its body.
In a voice that made the very door along with a number of not entirely secure fixtures tremble, he snarled, in Armenian, of course, “What are you doing here, Uncle?”

The former Armenian senator put on his fakest smile, and that, considering he had been in politics for the better part of four decades, was saying something, and replied, “Why, Gurgen, can an uncle not visit his favorite nephew?”
He extended both hands, intending to grasp Gurgen’s face for the tradition embrace of one kiss on each cheek.

Gurgen, however, dropped the cot, swatted the hands aside and surged up to his uncle. He growled, “No,” expelling some spittle. The two men were close enough together so that a daddy longlegs seized upon the opportunity to vacate the jumbled growth of Gurgen’s beard and bridge the gap to Dzugashvili’s stubble covered chin.

As the kinsmen stood there in silence, the daddy longlegs trekked across Dzugashvili’s face up to his shaven dome. For all his seeming self-confidence, the uncle daren’t move to brush the offending arachnid aside, lest it enraged the Beast further.
Since death seemed not immediately imminent, he did dare to speak.
“I have an opportunity for you.”

Beast inhaled sharply and in doing so, pulled back from his uncle. For a moment, Dzugashvili wondered if a head-butt was imminent but no such molestation followed.
“I know your opportunities!” Beast spat out, “Somehow, whenever you have an opportunity, it’s me who ends up battered and bruised. And the mountains of cash you promise never seem to be quite so high.”

“It’s different this time,” the uncle maintained.

Gurgen threw up his arms and began pacing about the room. “How is it different? What is it now? Wrestling bears in a circus? Wrestling in a tutu? Wrestling naked, covered in baked beans in tomato sauce? HOW?!”
He grabbed his uncle by the scruff of the neck and pressed him up against the wall.

Ok, NOW death seemed imminent. But this had been anticipated. Going near the Beast was a dangerous endeavor and not something one should attempt unless one had a solid exit strategy. It was time for his exit strategy.
His face already being crunched up by Beast’s mighty, meaty paws, Dzugashvili managed to express, “It’s wrestling in Armenia.”

The Armenian Beast released the undignified Armenian dignitary. “Wrestling in Armenia?” He tried on the words as if they presented a concept entirely alien to him; as if they weren’t real unless they were spoken aloud. He cast his gaze off into a distance far beyond the four walls of this locker room. In front of his mind’s eye, he saw the flowing foothills of the southern Caucasus Mountains and the woods covered peaks beyond. He saw the cars of the country folk, some of them brand new and made in the Czech Republic, Germany or Japan, some of them older than his boots and made in countries that no longer existed … East Germany … the Soviet Union. The perpetual cranes rose above the village rooftops in their effort to clear away the crumbling Soviet architecture and replace it with vibrant new buildings, a testament to Armenia’s resurging economic power.
And then, the little movie in his mind conjured up three Skoda police cruisers, all heading for him. He shook his head, snapping out of his reveries.
An admonishing index finger shot forward. It landed squarely on Dzugashvili’s nose, squashed the nose and drove the man’s skull up against the concrete wall.
His newly acquired rage made Gurgen skip back to English for a moment, “Uncle lie! Beast been exiled years ago! If Beasty go back, cops come and throw Beasty in jail!”

In a sickly sweet voice, Dzugashvili reassured his nephew, “Gurgen … We’re blood! Don’t you think I’d take care of you?”
He risked moving Gurgen’s hand aside and continued, “I had a talk with some people. Pointed out to them how big and famous you’ve gotten.”
He deliberately kept it simple. Mustn’t tax the Irradiated Imbecile’s brain too much.
“Told them it would be great for Armenia’s image abroad to welcome you back … and guess what?”

“Ok,” Gurgen said, “What?”

He leaned in close and, in hushed tones, as if divulging some great secret, confided in Gurgen, “They’ll let you come back.”

“Back … home,” Gurgen mused, the same cops from his previous dreamscape resurged in his mind, but this time, they came, not to throw his big, hairy ass in jail, but to grant him gifts … wodka and Ararat and big cans of pre-cooked lentils.
Practically tasting the lentils already, he acquiesced, “Ok, I’ll go back home. I’ll fight for this new federation. What’s it called anyway?”

“Fight 2 Win,” Dzugashvili told him.

“Well, of course, why else would you fight? But what’s the federation called?”

“That’s the name … Fight 2 Win,” Dzugashvili insisted.

Gurgen stroked his beard. A weevil got dislodged. It tumbled to the floor and scurried for safety.
This seemed wrong somehow. The name didn’t even have ‘wrestling’ in it. What sort of federation was NOT called ‘somethingsomethingwrestlingsomething’? Well, the one thing you could always rely on with Uncle Dzugashvili was that you couldn’t rely on him. So, naturally suspicious, Gurgen checked, “Are you trying to trick me? Do you think I’m stupid?”

Overestimating his command of the situation, his uncle quipped, “Well, your tagline IS ‘Dumber than most plant life’.”

Gurgen nodded, this was true, but it did not fully satisfy his misgivings. Once again, he placed his former and prospective manager between a rock and a hard place … or, well, a concrete wall and a hairy place. Now it was his turn to whisper, but his intent was not to sooth, “Know this, Uncle. If you deal me double, like you have done so many times before, I’ll personally rip the ears of that stupid, fat head of yours and shove them down your throat so far they’ll come out your ass.”

Dzugashvili confirmed reception of this message by gulping audibly.

Beast patted his cheek. “We understand each other … good.”

To be back home after FIFTEEN years of exile. It was … intoxicating. More so than a bucket of wodka on an empty stomach. More so than all the pills and powders and syringes he had seen others consume through mouths and noses and veins. More so, even than Maeve, his lady love, naked and willing, waiting for him in his bedchamber after an especially arduous fight. We staggered about in a daze, really. People recognized him, of course. He even inadvertently cause a bit of a riot at Yerevan International Airport. His beloved kinsmen and women flocked to him like consumers to a store on black Friday. EVERYONE wanted selfies, and autographs, quite the task for a man who’d go months without even holding a pen. People wanted to shake his hand, hug him even. And the gifts … wodka of course, and Ararat, and stuffed animals and stuffed hearts and for some reason, quite a few ladies thought that he required underwear. Now, true enough, his personal hygiene, or lack thereof did necessitate the switching of underwear at irregular intervals, but these ladies kept handing him women’s underwear. Still, he felt that it would be rude to refuse gifts given in earnest. So, soon enough, the inside pockets of his unfathomable fur coat looked like a lingerie store.

In the end, the police had to get involved as people were in danger of being crushed. And now, Gurgen found himself … not in a hotel room, not getting reacquainted with his family, no he found himself in a meeting room at Yerevan city hall.
“There are still some details to work out,” his uncle, resuming his role as manager of the Beast, had told him.
And apparently, to work out these details, he had to go sit in a room with four men in those suits with the Italian names he couldn’t hope to pronounce. They were introduced to him as the mayor of Yerevan and the ministers of culture, tourism and economic affairs. These men greeted his uncle with all the gestures and words to make it seem heartily, but even the Massive Moron could tell that there was not an ounce of sincerity in anything they did, neither towards his uncle, nor towards each other. And, quite contrary to the common folk, they seemed almost entirely oblivious to Gurgen’s existence.
So Gurgen sipped the tea and ate the individually wrapped cookies, which he struggled to divest of their wrapping until the men who considered themselves important were finally ready to actually talk.

“Quite the comeback, Dzugashvili” said the tourism minister, “From pariah to celebrated hero of the people.”

“What can I say,” opined Dzugashvili, “Gurgen here is a natural resource.”

Gurgen glanced over to his uncle, not sure if that was praise or a slight.

The culture minister took charge, “Now, we’ll have to make some changes. His theme music for instance …”

“What about it?” Gurgen barked, “You don’t like Motorhead?”

“I’m sure,” the minister replied, “that among people who enjoy such … noise … March or Die is a perfectly acceptable tune. However, since you’re the great Armenian hero returning to Armenia to fight for the honor of the nation, we figured it would be more suitable to use an Armenian band. Well, in a manner of speaking anyway.”

Gurgen shrugged. “I don’t know any Armenian bands.”

The minister for culture glanced at his colleagues, he had been warned that communication with the Beast would be a bit of a challenge. None of the people at his side of the table seemed eager to aid him in this endeavor so, he was forced to continue, “We were thinking we could use System of a Down.”

Beast scratched his chin, dislodging a cute little grasshopper which, to the great distress of the politicians around the table, cheerfully leapt off the table.
He had worked with Serj Tankian before in a sort of ‘us Armenians need to stick together’ sort of deal. He couldn’t think of any songs of either Serj or System that he’d like as a theme … but he wasn’t opposed to the idea as a whole.
“Fine,” he said, raising both hands in a gesture of surrender, “give me another theme, I don’t care.”

“Excellent,” beamed the mayor, “Now, the venue, as you know, you get to pick where to fight.”

Gurgen turned his head ever so slowly towards his uncle. “You didn’t mention this. This is silly, I fight in the ring. Where else can wrestlers fight?”

The politicians shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. This was the first glimpse of the Beastly anger they had been warned of and they liked it not.
“It’ll be ok,” the mayor soothed, “we have a list of prime locations throughout Yerevan. Town hall, the museum of fine arts, the grand …”

“Zoo,” Beast barked.

There was a brief moment of silence. The word had come so abruptly, the mayor wasn’t even sure it WAS a word. For all he knew, Gurgen had just sneezed.
Yeah, that was probably it, best continue before the Hairy Horror’s attention slipped.
“The grand concert hall, the central …”

Gurgen’s meaty paw landed on the table, rattling the delicate tea cups in their saucers.
“Zoo!” he repeated.

“Zoo?” the mayor tried the word on for size, “You want to fight in … the zoo? Mr. Hovhanissian, this is our opportunity to advertise our great capitol … show it to the world! We can’t show people the ZOO!”

The mayor started that chuckle that was born of calculation rather than merriment that politicians so loved to employ. The ministers joined in.

Gurgen suffered their derision for a few seconds and the laughter did gain a genuine quality, but mostly because they enjoyed making fun of the imbecile. Then, the Irradiated Imbecile rose from his chair. The thing careened backwards until it impacted the drywall, leaving an indentation.
Still the ministers thought this was funny.
The Beast raised his mighty paws in the air and slammed them down upon the table. Not a single one of the teacups remained upright. The table, while a good deal sturdier than the ones they used over at UWE for table matches, still succumbed to the rage of the Beast. A pronounced crack lead down the middle of it. The ministers just sat there in stunned silence, tea dripping down from their faces.
“Zoo!” Beast repeated, “The Beast fights in the zoo, or the Beast goes back to Candana … Canadna …”
He paused, trying to remember what the bloody country was called. He ended up settling for, “Canadia!”
Since no opposition seemed brave, or stupid, enough to manifest, Beast continued, “The animals in the zoo are Armenian too, right? Bears and wolves and deer and penguins and …”

The minister of culture dared to point out, “Actually the penguins are from …”

Beast slammed his paws down on the table again. The poor item of furniture was in danger of collapsing altogether.
“No,” Beast insisted, “They live in Armenia, they’re Armenian beasties. Seems fitting, no? Armenian Beast fighting among the Beasties?!”

One last time, the minister of culture attempted to raise an objection, “But, I really do think the museum …”

Beast placed his fists on the table and leaned forward. Only now did the assembled politicians truly realize just how damned big Gurgen was. The table groaned, the Beast growled, the politicians whimpered.
In a surprisingly soft voice, Beast said, “Zoo.”

The trio of valiant leaders of their nation/city nodded profusely. “Zoo,” they all agreed.

Beast reached across the table and patted the minister of culture on the cheek. “Good boy.”
Satisfied, Beast straightened up, he grabbed the bowl of individually wrapped cookies and emptied it into one of the many pockets of his abiding fur coat. For good measure, he took one and tore it open, catching most of it in his hand. He shoved the crumbles into his maw and said, spewing half masticated cookies everywhere, “Good meeting, everyone.”

As the Hairy Horror vacated the conference room, the mayor told Dzugashvili, “He’s insane?!”

“What gave it away?” Dzugashvili asked, “The fact that they call him the Irradiated Imbecile, or was it Massive Moron that tipped you off? You see what I have to contend with?”

“For the first time in my life,” said the tourism minister, “I think I actually feel sympathy for you.”

Dzugashvili smiled, well, grinned more likely, it was uncertain the man was capable of a genuine smile. “Come on boys, we’ve got a zoo to convert into an arena!”

The screen is blank. Is there music playing in the background? If there is, then it’s very quiet. If that … March or Die? Hard to tell.
Ah, now we’re getting a picture. Feet … feet making their way through snow. We zoom out to see Gurgen Hovhanissian, The Armenian Beast, trudging through the treacherous mixture of partially melted and refrozen snow, combined with half an inch of fresh snow. He seems to be on a construction yard. The construction workers greet the great man heartily. Hipflasks pass between them, which Gurgen responds to by handing over his full sized bottle of wodka … one of the less expensive brands … oh hell, let’s just admit it, it’s the cheapest gut rot he could find. But given the amount of wodka he has consumed in his lifetime, his gut must have rotted thoroughly and completely years ago, so what did he care?
We zoom further out, the camera must be mounted on a crane, it seems. Now we see that we’re indeed in Yerevan zoo. The construction works are centered on crowd control measures. They’re expecting a LOT of spectators. Also, they’re reworking the entrance to the wolves’ pen. They’re installing a grand gate to that enclosure. It is here that the camera rejoins the Olfactory Oaf.
Hands on hips he surveys the work. He tests the hinges of one wing of the gate and nods approvingly.
“This will do nicely,” subtitles claim he just said in Armenian.
 Over Gurgen’s left shoulder, an inset appears, Gurgen is sitting in a hotel bar with uncle/manager/former senator Dzugashvili.
“So, who am I fighting?” Beast queries, in Armenian of course, thank providence for subtitles.

“Shane Clemmens, apparently,” Dzugashvili reads from a flyer in front of him.

“What do we know about him?”

“Bugger all, basically,” Dzugashvili says, tossing the flyer aside, “either he wrestled under a different name before, or he’s new or Google blocks search results in Armenia … in any case, he’s a guy and he’s called Shane Clemmens … that’s the sum total of everything we know.”

The inset disappears, Gurgen has now taken up position in the middle of the gate.
“Hello Shane Clemmens! And welcome to Yerevan zoo!” As he’s speaking English now, the subtitles have gone, thought given that his accent is about as thick as his mind is, they might have just kept them. Oblivious to any letters that might be appearing above or below him, Gurgen pressed on. He gave a sweeping gesture across the construction work in progress around him.
“This be where us gonna fight.” He looks up at the sign above the gate. It’s in those curly whirly letters of the Armenian alphabet. “Wolves,” Gurgen declares, “Sign say wolves. Shane like wolves? Beast hope so.”
He has himself a little chuckle, though it sounds more like a hyena hacking up a hairball.
“Of course, zoo keepers put wolves in lockup for match … probably.”
A mischievous grin spreads across the Beastly face.
“So, never Shane mind those Beasties … Shane worry about this Beastie.”
He slams his paw across his chest. Numerous small object fall from the beard. The camera doesn’t zoo in on them, but they do seem to be … scurrying off on their own accord when they hit the floor.

“Shane worry about Beast … and Shane worry about beard.”
“Oh no,” Beast says in a comically high pitched voice, or, as high as he can go, “Not beard!”
Switching back to his regular voice, he continues, “There be things in beard science no even know yet.”
Beast steps to one side of the shot, making room for another inset. He probably has someone choreographing this video.
The new inset shows us footage of Beast applying his patented finisher on wrestlers of all sizes … the dreaded Rub Beard in the Face.
Beast digs a remote from his unfathomable coat and asks, “That go bit quick for Shane? Here, Beast slow it down bit.”
He presses the remote and indeed, the footage slows down. We see Beast descending upon a prone opponent. He reaches from behind into his own beard and then shoves two beard-wrapped fingers into his opponents mouth for the worlds least sanitary Mandible Claw.
Live Beast presses the remote again and recorded Beast accelerates to regular speed. The opponent flails his arms about wildly, but that soon subsides.
“Aaaaand,” Beast narrates, “man be gone.”
The opponent’s arms go limp and the referee calls for the bell, not even checking the poor victim’s arm for signs of life.

The inset pauses on the image of the unconscious man, then it disappears.

Beast tosses aside the remote. He clasps his hands together and rubs them a bit, gathering his thoughts, an arduous process for the Massive Moron. Half of what little was left of his brainpower, after getting fried in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and spending much of the following thirty-something years in a wodka-fueled stupor, is spent on devising ways to obtain yet more wodka while the other half perpetually considered a parade of female girls with boobs … sometimes he was lucky to remember his own name.
“So, Shane,” he finally speaks, after a pause long enough to make you think he had gone into a standing coma, “that be what gonna happen.”
“But!” an index finger punctures the frigid air of the Armenian winter, “Shane no let that stop self. Shane be lots of welcome in Yerevan zoo … and in wolves’ pen. Us have good fight. Fans gonna love. And … may best man … nonono … may best BEAST win!”