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Bonus Chapter

User Poets

The Shadow Pope
Jan 6, 1995
Top of the Pile
Just after NFW Wrestlestock II... because everyone has one last fight in 'em...


Part 1 – The Setup

April 21, 2008
12:11 AM

Forty six minutes ago, the Eaglestar defeated the Ego Buster to become the NFW World Heavyweight Champion. Forty one minutes ago, the ring was cleared and the fans who had been living in the desert on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco for the past five days were systematically moved out of the seating area so the crew could begin the arduous task of stripping the scene and packing everything up so it looked like we were never here.

“I think there’s a few hundred people who are planning to spend the night and head back to civilization tomorrow when it’s actually light out.”

“Well, the bus call is 8 AM sharp, so use your discretion.”

“Ivy… every time you say that I die a little inside.”

Part of the breakdown has involved the dividers that separated the performers and staff from the people. The stage that the bands played on was taken down during the wrestling event, and Wrestlestock promoters determined it was dark enough to protect the performers from being mobbed. Besides, most of the bands were smart enough to adjust their schedules accordingly to follow the leaders and leave in the morning.

“Can I have your autograph?”

“Sure,” said Angel with a smile, as she handed the little girl in her arms off to a much larger man, “What’s your name?”

“Monika,” the girl answered, “I don’t even like wrestling, I just wanted to see you guys perform.”

Angel’s eyes seemed to melt into a smile, as she affixed her signature to the copy of ‘Fire Water’ that the girl had handed to her, shiny in the beam of the headlights, and gave her a hug. “Thanks,” she said, “that really means something.”

Shyly, the girl rejoined her friends.

All around, people buzzed past, anxious to get to one or another bonfire/after party. The few who stopped generally had the same thing to say.

“Hey, you’re Eli Flair!”

“Ivy, I love you!”

“So when are you coming back to the ring?”

“Angel, I love you!”

And so forth. Eli had been taking the questions with much good humor every time he was in the vicinity of a wrestling fan, as they had been very good to him over the course of his long career, and most seemed to accept that he had moved on.

At the moment, they were mostly alone. Most of the band was off at one or another bonfire, leaving just Valerian’s Garden lead singer Angel, her husband/personal security guard, professional wrestling legend Eli Flair, their five year old daughter Mariella, who was ecstatically up past her bedtime, and their manager and ‘sista from anotha mista’ Ivy McGinnis to mind the bus.

“Okay,” said Eli, as he closed the storage space under the bus, “I think we’re packed. Time to hit some parties.”

“Oh, no you don’t,” said Angel, “You hit enough of those bonfires earlier in the week while the rest of us were working our asses off. No parties for you.”

“That’s it, Angel,” said another voice, “you tell ‘em.”

They all recognized the voice, but waited to react until he appeared in the halo of the headlights.

“Uncle Sean!” shouted MJ, as she ran at the Blue –eyed Badass. ‘Triple X’ Sean Stevens dropped his bags and picked the little girl up with a half spin, and kissed her on the cheek.

“Hello, little girl,” he replied, “What are you still doing up?”

“Mommy told me I could wait for you,” replied MJ, “I drew you a picture!”

“A picture!” exclaimed Trip, “Why don’t you go get it for me so I can see it?”

“Okay!” said MJ, as Trip put her down and she ran inside the bus. Triple X returned his attention to the three adults still hanging about the outside of the bus, “Eli, good to see,” he said, as he shook the former King of Extreme’s hand and patted him on the shoulder.

“Likewise, sir,” replied Eli, “Tough break with Teresa.”

“Eh, what are you gonna do?” he asked, “Angel, great performance,” he continued down the line, as he hugged the diminutive singer and kissed her on the cheek.


“Best for last, Pooh Bear, best for last!”

Trip picked Ivy up in his arms and kissed her long and hard on the lips. Even after they broke the kiss, he held onto her for several long seconds.

“It’s right here!” said MJ, breaking the tension. She carefully descended the stairs and ran back to Trip, and handed him a hand drawn picture of the Wrestlestock arena area from very far away. The Smokescreen shows three letters: XXX, and if she was an adult the art would be called intentional – surreal – simplistic or something equally pretentious, but she’s five – and she seems to have real talent.

“I’m honored,” replied Trip, “I’m going to take this with me on the road.”

“Mommy, I was quiet when I went to get my picture but I heard Shannon moving around. I think he’s awake, can he come out and play?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Angel, “We should let the little guy sleep. Besides, I’m about ready for a soft seat and non – intensive conversation.”

“Hear, hear,” replied Trip, as the only other person in the mix who had done some serious physical exertion in the past few days. Eli opened the storage space and put Trip’s two bags inside, and they joined the ladies on the bus.

Inside, Triple X immediately landed on the left hand couch and put his head on Ivy’s lap, and his feet up on the armrest. On the other side, Angel and Eli had taken up the same position, only Angel had her head resting on Eli’s lap, and she wasn’t quite tall enough to reach the armrest with her feet.

“Man, Ivy – these two are a drag,” said Eli.

“Quiet,” cautioned Ivy, “you just spent a bunch of days hanging out, so you don’t get an opinion today.”

“What about you?”

“I’ve given birth,” explained Ivy, “in Wyoming, of all places.”

“Did you get to see all of the wrestling?” asked Trip.

“I did,” replied Eli, “and don’t sweat the chick. She ain’t unbeatable, and you’re too damned good to not get another chance at her.”

“I’ve watched her promos, too,” added Ivy, “and she’s pretty much saying the same thing, over ‘n over again. Eventually the fans’ll see through the large, obtuse vocabulary and realize.”

“I’m past it,” said Trip, “What about Ryan and Nova?”


“Glad? Not?”

“I really couldn’t pick a winner,” explained Eli, “they were my last two matches, and I thought they both had the chops to take it. But I’m glad for Nova, and glad that Ryan’s doing like I did, and is getting to remove himself from the sport in the way he wants.”


Something seemed off in Trip’s response, at least, Eli thought so.

“What’s that?”


“Seriously, Trip,” pressed Eli, “something on your mind?”

“No,” answered Ivy, “and now’s not the time.”

“Agreed,” said Trip.

“Now’s the time,” insisted Eli, “Something I should know about?”

Triple X sat up, leaned forward on the couch, with his elbows resting on his knees, and stared straight into Eli’s face. “If you really want to know,” he said, “and please understand, this is purely in the sense of the history we’ve had in the past decade or so.”

“Yeah?” asked Eli.

“I just sort’a wished I was part of the end of the road is all,” continued Trip, “we had something like a dozen one on one matches and at least half that many one – offs. But that’s just my opinion, nothing against Ryan or Nova, but when someone thinks ‘The match for Eli Flair to ride off into the sunset with,’ I don’t think anyone really puts Nova or Ryan in the top five.”

Eli tensed, just a bit, but it was enough for Angel to sit up, a look of slight disappointment on her face.

“Who’d you put in the top five then, Trip?” asked Eli.

“In no particular order? Me, Troy, Deacon, Hornet, and Creed. And you did manage to ‘settle up’ with the other four before calling it a career.”

Trip could see he’d agitated Eli, and raised his hands. “But I’m just talkin’ here, and you asked. You know I couldn’t be any happier for you.”

“I know, man,” replied Eli, “and I appreciate it. It’s just, I did tell the world that the Ultratitle Season 2 was the end of the line and I already had to break that once when I did wrestle Ryan… I don’t wanna be one of those guys who overstays his welcome, y’know?”


“Yes, Ivy?”

“Can I talk to you for a few minutes, in private?” she continued, gesturing towards what was ostensibly the ‘master bedroom’ of the bus, but for this band had become a grand storage space.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, as the two founders of Team Extreme followed each other behind a closed door, “What’s going on?”

Back near the front of the bus, Trip noticed Angel’s eyes follow Eli and Ivy to the back, and as soon as the door closed, they dropped to the floor.

“Hey,” said Trip, “did I miss something?”

User Poets

The Shadow Pope
Jan 6, 1995
Top of the Pile
Part 2 – The Old, Coiled Muscle

Three seconds after the door closed, Eli knew he was in for it.

Not from Ivy. He was used to her glare and ‘You wanna die?’ stare of death.

But he heard Angel’s I’m not in a good mood now band start to play over the sound system: Joy Divison. Anyone who knows, knows.

“What’s the problem here, Eli?” asked Ivy, as she folded her arms.

“There’s no problem,” replied Eli, “I just don’t think another match is what anyone really wants to see me stumble through.”

She shook her head, and sat down on the only corner of the bed without something piled on it. “That’s two things you’re wrong about.”

“Okay,” he said, giving her the floor.

“Forget about company lines, and Melton’s bull****, and not having a match booked for the next card. A year ago, if Alex called you up and said ‘I’d like to have a match with you as you’re winding down,’ you’d make time for him, right?”

“A year ago, probably.”

“And what if Brandon asked? Or Pierre? Or Flyer? Or D? Or Randalls?”

“Funny you should mention Randalls, because Angel—“

“Focus, sir,” interrupted Ivy, “You’d’ve made time for all of ‘em.”

“A year ago, yes,” agreed Eli.

“And what if, let’s say, Alex called you up and said ‘I’d really like to hook up one more time,’ and you said ‘Sure,’ and he said, ‘But the only date I have available is the day after Wrestlebowl.’ Would you’ve told him, sorry, but that’s the day after I said I would retire based on the fact that I want to spend time with my family?”

Eli leaned against the wall, and ran both hands through his hair, letting stray strands hang in his face. “No.”

“So why’s Sean different? He’s askin’ for one day, and he’s not even askin’ because he respects your friendship far too much. I’M the one askin’.”

“I can’t,” insisted Eli, shaking his head, “I promised Angel.”

“Do you think she’d really give you **** over this?”

“No,” he replied, “but that’s not the point. It’s her turn. She put up with a lot while I was jet – setting all over the place being the King of Extreme. She raised Mariella single handed for most of the first four years of her life, and now it’s her turn to put her full attention towards her career and for me to do the dirty work with MJ.”

“That’s not fair to you,” countered Ivy, “You were on the road.”

“She wasn’t?”

“One match isn’t going to change anything.”

“It will to me. I don’t want it to even appear that I’m going back on the promises I made her.”

“Going back on your promises to her would be going back to a full time schedule,” reminded Ivy, “Look at it like this, we’ve got four more dates this week then we go back to the studio. They’ve been taking their time on this album because they can afford to. If you were ever going to do a one shot, you’ll probably never have a better time.”

Eli didn’t answer.

“Do you miss being on the road with the boys?”

“Yes,” came his immediate response.

“Do you think, if you and Sean set something up somewhere in the next few weeks, that you could wrestle a single match that would be at the level you expect of yourself?”

“Yes,” he replied again.

Ivy stood up, walked right up to him, and stared up into his face, catching his steel gray eyes with her emerald greens. “Do you think you could sustain the level you expect of yourself if you went back on the road full time?”

He hesitated, which Ivy didn’t expect. Eli raised his leg towards her, and she put her hand on his knee. She shuddered as he moved it back and forth, as she felt the tendons and ligaments stretch, quite against their will.

“No,” he said, finally, “I don’t think I’m quite angry or motivated – with – something – to – prove enough anymore to fight through this on a nightly basis.”

“One match,” repeated Ivy as she stepped back, “on one night. You want me to talk to Angel, reassure her it’s just a one shot?”

“No,” replied Eli, “it’s my responsibility, I’ll tell her.”



Suddenly, spontaneously, Eli looped an arm around Ivy’s waist and picked her up seven inches off the ground. “Thanks, kiddo… you’re one in a million.”

Ivy smiled as he held her aloft. “No, sir… one in a million means there’s still more than one of me. And there ain’t.”


The door opened, and Ivy headed back to the front of the bus a few steps in front of Eli. Angel and Trip were in the same seats as they were when they left – only now, Trip had a beer in his hand, and Angel had a bottle of water.

“Alright,” said Ivy, “I think we’ve figured this out.”

Sean looked at Ivy, then back at Angel. Angel could only laugh.

“Don’t look at me,” she pleaded, pointing at Eli, “I married that one.”

User Poets

The Shadow Pope
Jan 6, 1995
Top of the Pile
Part 3 – The Other Side

No sooner had the door to the back closed, than Angel immediately picked up the remote control to the audio system and mashed a few buttons. After a few second of the unmistakable sound of a CD changer flipping through what sounded like a mountain of music.

As ‘Decades’ by Joy Division filled the bus, Angel tossed a small booklet to Trip. “Here, let me know if you see something you like. Figure we’ve got about five minutes before Ivy twists his arm and all.”

Trip put the booklet down on the floor. "On a scale of one to ten, how ticked off are you at me?"

“I’m not…” started Angel, trying to find her words, “ticked off, per se… I just should’ve seen this coming the second we said we’d take the gig.”

“Listen, Angel,” Sean began. “I know what you're thinking, and you might think that I'm the most selfish person in the world,” he whispered, hoping not to wake the children. “But, you have to understand one thing. I LOVE Elijah Jonas Flair. He is my brother, I will do anything and everything for that man. But, I am a FAN of “Total Elimination” Eli Flair. He is a legend. A trendsetter. And, is more responsible for my success than any other wrestler. I can't lie and say that I liked the way he left the business.”

“You don’t need to paint a pedestal for me,” assured Angel, “I saw it myself dozens of times – hell, the last Wrestlestock, what he’s meant to your business,” she cocked an eyebrow to try and make him think she was in a joking mood, “and I know a thing or two about adoring crowds.”

She leaned over and touched her toes, stretching out several semi – audible cracks in her back. “Gothic Diva, huh?”

“I've seen worse,” Sean replied.

“I’m upset at the fact that I thought this was over, and I’ve been spoiled rotten by the past year and the fact that we’ve been a real family – I’ve had a real family, for the first time.”

“And, how does this change anything?” the 'blue-eyed badass' asked.

“Because he’s going to get the wrestling thing in his blood again,” explained Angel, “and want to un – retire. He’s still in incredible shape, he can probably still go at him and Ivy’s standards for a few more years, and after the money he pumped into this band to make sure we could eat and tour long enough to get our footing and finally start paying him back, I’d be an absolute ***** if I told him I didn’t want him to go back. I’m an absolute ***** for thinking what I am.”

“No you're not,” Trip sighed, putting a hand on her shoulder. “That doesn't make you a *****, it makes you human. You and I haven't had the opportunity to talk as much as I would've liked, but because Eli and I are so close, I know your story. I know what you've gone through, and am a fan of your story. Your progress. Your music and overall happiness. But, I think it's because of the fact that we've never had a real meaningful conversation, that prevents you from knowing my motives.”

Stevens paused, choosing his next words carefully. “I want you to have your family. Not just for you, but for that man in that room – who's probably getting chewed up and spat out by my little lady. This is not about Eli making a return, it's about Eli saying goodbye the right way. There are people that helped Eli Flair get to the status that he's attained. It's a big blob of paint, it's messy, but if you ask that man to look over his resume, I'm sure he'll remember every aspect of each match with those individuals. Dan Ryan and Nova are NOT in that painting. That's the only thing I was trying to say.”

“He retired once before, do you remember that?”

“Yes, and it was premature. He knows it, Ivy knows it, and I'm sure deep down, you do, too.”

Angel shook her head. “It was different. I was with him every single day for those three months. I know it wasn’t a ‘real’ retirement, he never said it was forever, and all that, but for weeks he was watching the shows as a fan, not a wrestler. He was just keeping track of everyone he remembered from his days on the road. I could see the look in his eyes for three months, Trip – Sean, he was ready to leave it all behind.”

“Then that guy Neo started a fire at Madison Square Garden and he decided he was needed.”

She shrugged, and folded her legs up underneath her body, covering her bare feet. “No, we’ve never been particularly close, more due to circumstance of time than anything else, but as one of his favorite people, one of his closest friends, can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me that you know for a fact that if he decides to do this, it’s definitely a one – off?”

Sean positioned himself in front of her, looking her directly in the eye. “You have my word. One, because I know he wants nothing more than to keep you happy, and digs being your bodyguard, and being around you all. Two, because after we're done beating the crap out of each other, he'll remember how he felt every night, after every match, and realize that it's a blessing that he's able to walk.”

Angel smirked. “That’s why he had a smile on his face in those pictures after his match with Nova, right?”

He snickered, “Some people – who shall remain nameless – bound by iron clad contracts aren't so fortunate.”

She stood up and walked, very carefully, to the mini – refrigerator near the ‘dining area’ that was little more than a table with dinette – style seats. Angel pulled a bottle of beer from the shelf and held it out towards him.

“Definitely,” said Sean, “thanks.”

Angel took the beer and a bottle of mineral water for herself, and returned to her seat on the couch opposite Sean. He took both bottles in his hands and opened them both, and she clinked her bottle against his before they both took a sip.

Then, she pulled her long flowing skirt to knee length, and put the ice cold bottle on a large, nasty bruise.

“You know as well as me,” she said, as she sensed him looking, “that it doesn’t matter if we get hurt doing what we love, long as we’re doing it. But thank you.”

She met his blue eyes with her own, and smiled.

Before either of them could say another word, the back door suddenly opened, and Ivy walked out, three paces in front of Eli.

“Alright,” said Ivy, “I think we’ve figured this out.”

Sean looked at Ivy, then back at Angel. Angel could only laugh.

“Don’t look at me,” she pleaded, pointing at Eli, “I married that one.”

User Poets

The Shadow Pope
Jan 6, 1995
Top of the Pile
Part 4 – The Ecstasy of Gold

“Saddle up,” said Troy, as he slowly started pulling the bus forward, “next stop, Beaverton, Oregon.”

He closed the door a split second after he would’ve clipped Nine at the ankle. Harsh, but bus call at 8 AM means bus call at 8 AM. It’s not even as if they could’ve hitched with the other two members of the road crew, Reg and Brian, in the rider truck. They left at 6, to make sure they were there well in advance of the band. The last time Valerian’s Garden played at Club Midnight they didn’t get onstage until nearly midnight because of electrical problems. And it was a fair tradeoff to get there hours early on this go – round, considering they just paid their crew to party at Wrestlestock for three days before doing one days’ worth of work.

“Did Teej make it in time?” asked Angel sleepily, from her spot on the couch.

“Yes, Angel,” replied Eli, “he got back an hour ago. Go back to sleep.”

Eli, Angel, Ivy, and Sean had elected to ‘stay in’ last night, and ended up playing cards and drinking until the sun started to rise. Ivy was sound asleep on one of the couches, while Angel was fading in and out on the other.

Sean and Eli had put away the drinks, but were still dealing the cards. It was anyone’s guess if they were playing an actual game or just picking up and tossing cards at random, but the ‘rules’ seemed to make sense to them.

“I don’t think we’re gonna be able to run this in NFW or Empire,” said Eli, “I don’t know that the Professionals would let me in on a one shot deal, and I don’t know how one – shot it’d end up with all the nutcases currently shining over there, and without a history with Empire I doubt they’d care about a one shot.”

"Oh, they'd care," Trip shot back. "But, I'm a bit of an asshole there, and I don't think I could attempt to do some of the things to you that I've done to others. That just doesn't work with us anymore. Besides, the boys were kinda rough on Dan for letting Troy” Eli's arch nemesis, “Windham walk in the door and main event because of what he did in Greensboro.”

“Mmmmhmmmmm,” replied Eli, “But Troy’s also a special case. Some would say as**ole, but definitely ‘special.’ Hit me.”

Trip tossed a card – the deuce of spades.

“Damn,” said Eli, “ground rule straight flush. What about that place that runs the invitationals? Do they do one off matches, that you know of?”

“Yeah. They do,” mumbled Trip under his breath, as he scanned the cards in his hand.

Eli looked at him, dropped his eyes to his cards, then back up to Trip. “Yeah, they do? Well what’s that mean, yeah they do?”

Trip remained focused on his cards. “Dealer takes one.”

“You need to discard.”

“No I don’t.”

“…Fair enough. So what’s the ish then, sir? Not a fan?”

“You know me, E. I just want to wrestle, minus the BS and politics. I don't know if it's me being paranoid, or what ... but, I feel like if your name isn't Troy – as in Lindsay, not Windham – Dan Ryan, or somebody that the owners understand, you get shafted. Hit me.”

Eli picked up the rest of the deck and reached to the middle, and handed Trip the black – and – white joker. “Aces.”

They picked up their cards and traded – Eli took two and Trip took three.

“Dude, you know you can get shafted if you’ve just sold out Fish Fund Park Arena and have a platinum T-shirt.”

Trip looked confused.

“Million seller. But you know what I mean,” continued Eli, “what you need to do is get yourself over whether the company wants to get behind you or not. True talent can’t get overlooked. But you know that, you’ve done it yourself.”

Trip smiled, slyly at the platinum T-shirt line as if to say 'I'm going to steal that one', “True. I'm not really worried about getting over. I'd be wrestling the King of Extreme for God's sake. We don't need anybody's promotion to sell that match. Our history alone can do it. My biggest concern is, do those assholes over there deserve it? Do they deserve Eli Flair's last match? They don't like me over there because I'm too arrogant. They won't understand you because you're not going to dress up in a Viking suit, and juggle. You and I are wrestlers, the people that run that place are looking for entertainers. Should we reward them for their sins with a match that's sure to go down in history?”

“I could be a Viking,” said Eli, snickering, “Elijah the Hun, can you see it now?”

Trip shook his head, and slowly lost control and started to laugh.

“But seriously, kiddo,” he continued, “think about it. This is a place that runs one – offs on a regular basis, it’s the best shot we got t’get this up and runnin’. Are we really rewarding this company with anything, or are we saying to the fans, it’s more important to us that we get this match to you, than where it takes place?”

Stevens breathing heavily, still recovering from the thought of Eli as a viking, “Has anyone ever told you that you're even starting to sound like Ivy?”

“Is that so bad?” rose a voice from the depths.

“Quiet, alkie,” replied Eli.

“Not if you ask me,” the blue-eyed badass conceded.

“Smart man,” replied Eli, “But seriously, it makes sense, sir. All we need is to get booked, After that, let ‘em promote the match however they want. Let ‘em put whatever taglines they want. Is that – could that – ever change the fact that it’d be Sean Stevens against Eli Flair, and the fans know exactly what that means?”

Trip extended his hand to his old friend, “Spoken like a true salesman. It's not about them, it's about you. And, like I've said a million times, I'll do anything for you.”

“Wrong,” replied Eli, as he shook Trip’s hand, “it’s about us. So now there’s just one more question.”

"What's that?" Trip responded.

“Do we leak this to the sheets, or just let it come out and build a life of its own?

"Honestly? You're one of the most beloved wrestlers in history. You have a following that only a select few can compete with. Whether we leak it or not, it'll get out."

“Eh,” replied Eli, “let’s let ‘em announce it and see who they call first. Dibs on Ivy. Now… who’s winning?”

Trip looked at his cards. “I have absolutely no idea.”

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