Sunday, April 22, 2012
11:15 AM local time
(The car pulled neatly into the parking space labeled RESERVED: MR. HONOLD. An old, barely – there security guard watched and did nothing as the car’s engine turned off, the door opened, and a man who was quite clearly not former CSWA Vice Commissioner AJ Honold stepped out.
He closed the door behind him and walked toward the main entranceway. Ignoring the large sign that said PLEASE USE REVOLVING DOORS’, the man pushed open the side door and swung it with sufficient force so that it closed a half inch behind clipping the edge of his black leather trenchcoat.)
“How do you know he’s not coming?” asked the older man in the suit, who was waiting by the front desk.
“Please, Rudy,” replied the man from the car, “Tard and the Red Midget killed Honold years ago and ate the remains. How are you?”
Former CSWA Front – Line reporter Rudy Seitzer reached out and shook his hand, all the while shaking his head. “Doing well, Eli. You? Retirement looks like it’s been agreeing with you.”
Eli Flair nodded as he signed in with the front desk. “It’s great, man. Fifteen years of ever – escalating paychecks, coupled with the same daily expenses gave me quite a bit’a cash to work with on this side. And I figure, I’ve made exactly two investments in my life: building the recording studio in my basement that the Garden recorded Holy Songs on, and going in with Ivy on the bar.”
“I’ve been meaning to stop in there,” said Rudy, “It’s running smoothly?”
“Smoothly?” asked Eli. “Ivy runs the business end, Cally runs the house, and I get my cut at the end of the week. Ivy told me if I didn’t want to take an active hand, I would have to be a silent partner: man, it’s the dream job.”
The elevator doors opened and the two men stepped inside: Rudy pressed the button for floor fifteen, and they were off.
“That’s gotta be a record,” said Rudy, “You actually convinced Ivy McGinnis to do all the work for something that you’re splitting the money on. How do you do it?”
Eli laughed. Years ago, he and Poison Ivy had decided that the rest of the CSWA broadcasting staff was a collection of tools, and for the length of Eli Flair’s entire career, the two of them have only condescended to allow themselves to be officially interviewed by Rudy Seitzer.
“I look at it like this,” said Eli, “For a decade and a half I did the heavy lifting in the ring and Ivy got to be herself: loud, abrasive, Irish, and from Queens. Now it’s payback.”
Rudy nodded, and they rode in silence for a few seconds.
“You mentioned the Garden,” said Rudy, suddenly, “How’s the family, anyways? How’s your beautiful daughter… oh, Lord, what was her name?”
“Mariella,” said Eli, “Mariella Jade. She’s nine now.”
“Wow,” said Rudy, “They grow up so fast. How is she?”
SOME TIME AGO…
The front door opened and Eli stepped through.
“Hello?” he called out, but there was no response.
Eli closed the door and looked around: it had been over three years since he and his family had purchased this house in Warwick, New York, and at the age of thirty six had become a first – time homeowner for the simple reason that he wanted his daughter to have a nice place to grow up.
Six months of renovations and refittings made the place habitable for their needs: a fully functional recording studio in the basement meant that his wife, Angel, wouldn’t have to keep travelling to Los Angeles to record with her band. Plus, since they operated out of their home, the band could stay here for free while working.
He walked straight from the front door into the kitchen and made an immediate left turn, there was a light on just above an intercom, the light told him that there was some kind of recording taking place: caution was to be had when going downstairs. Yes, everything was soundproofed, but it makes more sense to give everyone full disclosure.
Particularly when the recording studio includes a bubbly, extroverted nine year old with a ton of friends.
Eli opened the basement door and quietly entered the studio.
“I don’t know why
I can’t get through this
I don’t know why
I never let go
Every night and day
It’s the same old chorus
Same old sh*t
That you already know”
He caught his wife’s eye through the soundproof glass – she didn’t return his smile.
That’s fine, she’s ‘in character’ right now.
The guitar player for the Garden, Mick Rodriguez, was at the sound board – slash – control booth. Years ago, he and Angel were an item. This might have caused friction in the band, or between him and Eli, but the issues they had were partly caused by his rampant alcoholism and partly exacerbated by their old manager.
Both of those issues have been taken care of, so there were no more problems.
”So fix me now
Just fix me now
Please fix me now.”
“How’s the session?” asked Eli.
“She’s battling,” replied Mick, “Still has a sore throat.”
Eli listened for another few seconds. “It doesn’t sound like it,” he observed.
Mick shrugged. “That’s why I said ‘battling.’”
“There’s a miles-wide pit
Deep inside my heart
And nobody can see
That it’s tearing me apart
And all I ever want—COUGH COUGH F'CK!”
Angel threw her headphones to the floor inside the recording pit.
“Calm down,” said Mick, through the intercom, “Take a break, we’ll come back to it.”
She closed her eyes and nodded, and exited the studio, obviously angry at herself.
“You sounded great in there,” said Eli, trying to help.
“Thanks,” said Angel, “unfortunately, you’re wrong.”
She reached for a thermal mug with a lid on it, and Eli knew what was in it before she even sipped: hot water, a regular Lipton teabag, a regular Earl Gray teabag, and plenty of ginger and honey. Every time Angel did vocals in a studio, she somehow got a sore throat.
Ironically, their last tour was fourteen months long and she was the only member of the entourage that didn’t get sick.
Finally, Angel hugged her husband and settled into his chest with a contented sigh.
“I missed you,” she said, the same as every other time he spent a night in the city, “How did things go?”
“Typical night at the bar,” replied Eli, as he kissed the top of her head, “except we were welcoming Cally back after she got hurt. Few idiots that I had to toss, but other than that it was just another night.”
“Good,” said Angel, “She looked like she was doing better?”
“She did,” said Eli. “Hey, where’s the kid? I called out for anyone when I got home but nobody answered.”
Angel tensed in his arms. “MJ’s in her room,” she said, “she was at her friend Jayne’s house earlier but called me, very upset, saying she wanted to come home. She didn’t talk to me about it and went straight to her room when we got here. I tried to get her to tell me what was bothering her but she insisted that everything was fine.”
“Okay,” said Eli, waiting.
“She then asked, in her next breath, when you were getting home.”
Translated subtext: Eli, go talk to your daughter.
“I’m on it,” said Eli.
He kissed her on top of the head again and let her out of his grasp. Eli bumped fists with Mick before turning around and going back upstairs. This was the dynamic they agreed on without ever having to discuss it: for the first four years of Mariella’s life, Angel had her on the tour bus and really took the lead on her care and raising. Ever since 2007, other than the isolated spots where Eli was on the road, he was taking the lead on parental issues, particularly when Angel was recording.
They were about as equal as any two parents could ever be when it comes to raising a child; the decision on who took the lead was almost wordlessly worked out every time.
Up the stairs to the second floor, Eli passed by a series of framed and hanging photographs, involving music industry types from the boys in Type O Negative to the boys in Killcode, to Alice Cooper to Rob Zombie, to Trent Reznor to Ozzy himself, all with Angel and MJ, or all three of them. Eli had a tendency to tap the picture of himself, the Garden, MJ, and the whole of Type O Negative, because it included the late, great, Peter Steel holding Mariella in his arms. She really did love her Uncle Pete.
At the top of the stairs, Eli turned right and knocked on his daughter’s bedroom door.
“MJ?” he asked, as he cracked the door and pushed it open.
“Hi Daddy,” said his daughter, distracted.
Eli peeked in and saw that she was drawing. Even at the tender age of nine, he was impressed by her artistic ability; give her a few hours and she could do photorealistic drawings of anyone you showed her a picture of. The only thing she was more talented at than drawing was mimicking the guitar playing of the greats.
Seriously: she won her third grade talent show with a cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Her parents started the standing ovation.
Mariella Jade Flair was sitting at her desk, drawing with a sharpened pencil. On the bed next to her, her five year old calico cat Isis was soundly napping. It was a nice change, Isis was typically a terror.
“Mom told me there was a problem today at Jayne’s, do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” answered MJ, too quickly.
“Okay,” said Eli, “but you know we always talk about things in this family, right?”
She stopped drawing.
“Daddy,” she asked.
“You’re not taking advantage of Mommy, right?” asked MJ.
The question actually took him by surprise.
“What do you mean?” asked Eli.
“I was at Jayne’s house today,” continued MJ, “and her parents were both home and I heard her mom say to her dad that you didn’t have a job, and he said that that must mean you’re a loser and a freeloader and a gold digger and that you’re taking advantage of Mommy. I told Jayne her daddy was a liar, and she yelled at me and I said I wanted to go home.”
Eli took a deep breath. This was a conversation he wasn’t looking forward to.
“Now, MJ sweetie,” he said, “you know Daddy isn’t taking advantage of Mommy. You know Daddy was working real hard when you were just a baby to pay the bills and now that you’re a little older, it’s Mommy’s turn right?”
“I know,” said MJ, as she finally turned her head toward her father, “But Jayne’s daddy is the same age as you and he’s always at work, she told me. How come you’re not always at work?”
It was a good question.
Frankly, at this moment, Eli kind of wished his daughter asked him where babies come from.
“MJ’s getting older,” said Eli, “she’s a spitfire, just like her mom. Misses both of us when we’re not home, but fortunately we’ve been able to manage things so that we’ve never both been gone at the same time.”
“That’s important,” agreed Rudy, “plus, you’ve got McGinnis right there.”
“Ivy?” asked Eli, laughing, “She’s probably last on my list for babysitting purposes. Believe it or not, Rudy, I actually know – and get along with – my neighbors.”
The elevator dinged, and they both stepped out. Rudy moved quickly to the HD camera, while Eli stopped and took in the memories.
Floor fifteen was long known as the official TV studio for the CSWA. Every ‘in – studio’ promo was cut from this room, and every second – run TV show was filmed here.
“We’ve got an hour and a half to do this,” said Rudy, “so don’t feel pressured.”
“Rudy,” replied Eli, “it’s me. Is the record book still posted?”
Rudy Seitzer laughed. “Yeah it is,” he said – gesturing to the wall.
“I swear,” said Eli, “Joey was just f’kin’ with you.”
“He didn’t need to eff with me for almost an entire day,” countered Rudy.
“How about this,” said Eli, “If I’m done with this before noon, we get some lunch and I pay.”
“Deal,” replied Rudy. “You know, this kind of puts you at an advantage for the rest of the Ultratitle: most of these guys don’t have access to the CSWA’s studio facility for their promo.”
Eli laughed as he stood in front of the green screen. “Really, Rudy? Did you take into account the fact that I had to drive from upstate New York to North Carolina just so I could say my promo was shot by Rudy Seitzer himself?”
“Touche,” said Rudy, “Okay, Eli… we’re live in three… two… one…”
(FADEIN: on Eli Flair, clad in his black leather trenchcoat, old school Craig Miles: AMERICAN F**KING HERO T-shirt, and shoulder length, greasy/scraggly hair with the slightest hint of gray in it. He was standing in front of an official 2012 ULTRATITLE TOURNAMENT banner that was obviously projected onto a green screen.)
ELI: I heard something a few days ago that made me think of my current situation.
’New Ideas Come From Old Buildings.’
“The context of the quote was that people who live in cities are, by their nature, more creative and more personally satisfied with their lives than people who live elsewhere. When you got nothing, you can’t afford much, so by default you live in an old, run – down building with very little in the way of amenities, and when you’re living a lifestyle that lean, you can squeeze out all of the bullsh*t and focus on what matters.”
“I guess the professional wrestling equivalent would be that Merritt resurrected an old idea in the Ultratitle, and by that singular action, has attracted one hundred and twenty eight wrestlers to his vision; over ninety percent of which never wrestled for the CSWA and over half of which, never for ESEN Television.”
“This is uncharted territory for most of us: this is where Merritt is making things up as he goes along.”
"I have a few things to say to the old – heads in this tournament, and a few things for the newcomers.”
“To the old – heads, don’t think anything you’ve done from the beginning of your career until now matters the slightest. This is the Ultratitle, where we all start off with an identical 0-0 record. I’m a fifteen time World Heavyweight Champion and a bona fide legend in some of the most legendary wrestling promotions that ever existed, and none of it will mean a thing in 2012 if I lose to the Vagabond in the first round.”
“Likewise, to the newcomers to ESEN, don’t be intimidated by the fact that you will probably only understand about thirty percent of what’s happening around you. Some of the vets in this tournament like myself, Joey Melton, Troy Windham, Doc Silver, and others – have been playing this same game and dancing this same dance for a full twenty years, and all of us are together with a very familiar endgame for the first time, in some cases, in this millennium.”
“Just be careful. Just because you used to be a legend doesn’t mean you’ve got a Golden Ticket to the second round. Likewise, and conversely… just because you’re a young lion without the physical limitations or the emotional baggage of the veterans in this tournament, doesn’t mean you’ve got a cakewalk past your opening round opponent.”
“Like mine, a man who calls himself Vagabond.”
“I’d be lying if I said I knew a thing about you past your name and the sparse details you gave to Marsha in the CS front office, Vaggs… I’m gonna refer you back to what I opened with.”
“New ideas come from old buildings.”
“Creative youth will take the best of the artists of the prior generation and re – envision what they did as their own for the next round of art. Problems arise when the next generation of artist simply doesn’t understand what it is they’re doing.”
“Like you, Vaggs.”
“So you beat up some guy.”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you’re the highest form of aggressive offense in the world? Martial Artists and kickboxers, etc – they learn technique and aggression, but they also learn finesse and control.”
“As a professional wrestler, you learn the anatomy of what will beat your opponent with the least amount of effort. You also learn resilience, as in, the ability to take your opponent’s nine best shots and stand back up all nine times.”
“As a professional wrestler, the fact that you took the time to beat up… some guy… tells me you’re not ready for the Ultratitle.”
“Maybe someday you’ll be the most exciting man in the squared circle, Vagabond… but for now, you’re collateral damage.”
“Good luck in the future, because you’re going to need it.”
“How was that?” asked Eli, knowing the answer.
“Money,” replied Rudy. “Hey, Eli?”
“Sup,” said Eli.
“Don’t you think it’s unfair that you get to use the facilities here, while some of these guys have to make do with what they have?”
Eli looked like he was thinking about it for a few seconds. “F’k ‘em, Rudy,” he finally replied, “First of all, I earned it, and second of all, I live upstate New York, is it really convenient for me to come to Greensboro to cut a promo? For some reason, man, I just like you.”
He smiled, and Rudy returned his grin. “Fair enough, E,” said Rudy, “I remember hearing something about a first round?”
“Then let’s go,” said Eli, “Pick your spot.”
“Sure,” replied Rudy, “Please tell MJ and Angel I sent my best.”
“I will,” replied Eli.
SOME TIME AGO…
“I’m serious,” said Eli, “I think we need to tell her the truth about my wrestling career and let her know exactly what I did to get us to this point.”
“I don’t doubt that she should know who her Daddy is,” agreed Angel, “and what he accomplished, but let’s be honest, Eli, your matches are scary. I don’t think they’re appropriate for her.”
Eli rolled his eyes and looked to the roof of their master bedroom. “I agree with you, Angel,” he assured, “and I think my most infamous matches are far too violent for her to see right now, but at the same time, if her friends are telling her that my retirement is a sign that I’m taking advantage of you, it makes sense to show her my matches so she knows exactly what I did and can make her own decision to defend the family to her friends, or keep it to herself. But it should be her choice.”
“I agree,” said Angel, “and that’s why we need to talk about things.”
“Actually,” said Eli, “MJ recently watched the Gold Rush, and she decided that you’re her favorite broadcaster, too.”
“It’s my staunch professionalism,” said Rudy, with pride.
“No,” countered Eli, “It’s probably due to your rapid hair loss.”
He smirked and shook Rudy’s hand.
“See you tomorrow,” said Eli, “for the next one of these.”
Monday, April 23, 2012
11:49 PM local time
"This was fun," said Rudy, draining the last bit of beer from his pint glass, "but I think I should be getting home."
Eli Flair and Ivy McGinnis, sitting around the table with him, both laughed.
"You're in the Bronx, Rudy," said Ivy, "remember? You can't go home until tomorrow, I don't think there's any flights back to Greensboro this late."
"[FONT="]Touché[/FONT], McGinnis," he said.
"What was that about my ass?" asked Ivy, pretending to be offended.
There were a lot of years between these three: some bad, mostly good, and it was the first time in a long time that all three had been together.
It was an innocent enough setup: after Eli Flair finished his introductory Ultratitle promo the two men were about to part, but instead, took a quick tour of the CSWA Hall of Fame museum for nostalgia's sake. This museum was unlike most Hall of Fames: they celebrated memorable events and matches, not individuals. The sole exceptions were four dedicated monuments, one for Hornet, one for Mark Windham, one for Joey Melton, and one for Beauford 'The Dark Knight' Parsons - the first four members of the CSWA roster.
The trip had to be brief, as Eli was driving back north that afternoon, and as an afterthought, he invited Rudy to come along. Yesterday.
"Two more years to retirement," said Rudy, as he finally loosened his tie.
"You've been two years away from retirement for like a decade now," said Eli, "Is it ever gonna happen?"
"Maybe," replied Rudy, "Merritt has been cleaning up the books for the past month and there's a buyout option with a very generous severance for all CSWA employees who were in good standing when the promotion closed its doors, provided we stay on through the end of the Ultratitle."
He leaned back and crossed his legs. "Maybe I'll retire to Seattle. My daughter lives there with my grandkids, it'll be nice to finally slow down."
Eli looked at Ivy, and she returned his stare with a pair of eyes that bore into the back of his skull. Having a son didn’t slow her down, it didn’t even make her pause. He knew she knew he was thinking about calling attention to her manic work ethic, but decided against it.
“Anyways,” said Rudy, breaking the silence and the tension, “you never finished your story from the plane, Eli, you said Mariella was having trouble with a girl at school?”
He nodded. “It really all boiled down to the fact that she never got to watch any of my more infamous matches….”
SOME TIME AGO…
“I’ve met her father,” said Angel, “and he’s a pretentious jackass. One of those banker types from the city with very archaic ideas over what the traditional gender roles in a relationship should be.”
Angel was leaning against the island in the middle of their kitchen, drying a pot. Eli was leaning against the opposite wall with his arms folded.
“It doesn’t change the fact that he’s technically correct,” replied Eli, “Your royalties are paying all the bills in one fell swoop, the money I’m getting from the bar wouldn’t have paid this place off in less than two years.”
“And as usual,” said Angel, “you’re forgetting about the fact that your hard work and your savings are what allowed us to be in this position to begin with. We can afford to let me indulge in music because of how hard you worked over the years.”
She put the pan back down on the island and hugged her husband.
“Even still,” replied Eli, hugging her back, “I want her to know what I’ve done. I know we talked about letting her see my matches, I know they still bother you to watch and we don’t want to upset her, but at the same time, she should have the opportunity to make up her own mind, right?”
Angel took a deep breath. She never enjoyed watching Eli’s matches, and to that end, has never actually seen some of his most legendary. Even with him standing there with her, even with him safe and healthy and relatively undamaged for the rest of his life, the thought of some of the most damaging matches he’s been in nearly put her into an anxiety attack.
“Okay then,” said Angel, “let’s go be parents.”
Eli took her by the hand and they walked in solidarity toward the stairs.
“What did you end up doing?” asked Rudy.
“We showed her my match against Trip from the FWO’s 2009 Cyberslam,” said Eli, “Figure it was a show – stealer, but it wasn’t one of my worst – and it was against someone she knows and trusts so it would be easier to explain things to her.”
“Plus, Sean won in double overtime,” continued Ivy, “so it also illustrated what was important about the match: entertaining the fans, just like her mom does.”
“And working my ass off, just like her mom does,” added Eli.
“How’d it work out?” asked Rudy.
“She was a fan,” admitted Eli, “I’m not sure what I was worried about.
At that, Rudy looked at Ivy, and they both looked at Eli incredulously.
“You sure about that?”
“Okay, so we’re not going to show her the Stairway to Hell match anytime soon, or the barbed wire matches with Winters or Powers, or… sh*t, any of the matches I had with Troy, but still.”
He kicked Ivy’s chair. “Ass nut.”
“Did you really just call me an ass nut?” she asked.
“I’m gonna get another round,” said Rudy, “you guys want anything?”
“Thought you were leaving,” said Eli.
“You were right,” replied Rudy, “Can’t leave until tomorrow, why not have fun?”
Their conversation was broken up by a high pitched squeal from the jukebox.
“Might as well hold off,” said Ivy, as the two bartenders on duty, Loriann and Valerie, started to sing as loud as they could at each other.
“Why’s that?” asked Rudy.
Ivy pointed to the large sign above the bar, indicating Cally’s Rules. Specifically, Rule #5, which states ”No drink service when the Band of the Day is playing.”
On the chalkboard directly behind the bar was another notice: Cally’s Band of the Day: Type O Negative
“She never updated it,” said Ivy, “before she took off for a bit, so they’re still playing the part.”
“Have you heard from her?” asked Eli.
“Nope,” replied Ivy, “other than hearing from Teej that she’s staying with him. So, at least she’s safe.”
They sat in silence for a moment and listened to the bartenders sing out that they hate everyone, and Ivy pulled out her phone.
“Sean?” asked Rudy.
“Brian?” asked Eli.
“Ultratitle,” replied Ivy, “It’s after midnight central time, so ESEN dot TV updated all of the Ultratitle information, and I’m nosy and impatient.”
She tapped a few things on the screen. “Well, would you look at that,” she said.
“What?” asked Eli, “Finally, something from Vagabond?”
“Yeah,” replied Ivy, sarcastically, “A big fat, f’king zero.”
“You’re kidding,” said Eli, “What’s this kid waiting for?”
“He’s still got a few days before the show,” said Rudy, “Biding his time, maybe?”
Eli shook his head. “This is Ultratitle, Rudy. Merritt and pals want to know you’re committed to representing the thing as vocally as possible.”
Rudy laughed. “Five minutes on a soundstage and you’re an expert?”
“Hey, I came out of an enjoyable three year retirement for this,” said Eli, raising his hands in defense, “I get a pass.”
“He’s got a point, Eli.”
“Et tu, McGinnis?”
“You just lumped me in with ’and pals’,” continued Ivy, “so you deserve what you get.”
“Is that a challenge?” asked Eli.
“Back alley,” replied Ivy, “Right now. No prep, say something to Vagabond to try and lure him out of wherever he is.”
Eli thought about it for… all of ten seconds.
The three all rose as one and filed through the half – full bar toward the back door. TC’s Pub had a walled – off enclosure behind the building so smokers could go outside to indulge in their filthy, filthy habit without putting down their drinks.
“You’re such a pain in the ass,” said Eli, “How does Trip put up with it?”
“Easy,” said Ivy, “I massage his ego by reminding him what happened the last time he wrestled you.”
SOME TIME AGO…
The DVD of the FWO Cyberslam 2009 spun down as the match they wanted to watch ended: it was ‘Total Elimination’ Eli Flair’s final match, against his close friend, ‘Triple X’ Sean Stevens.
What made this one special was that they watched it as a family. Eli Flair sat on the couch with his wife to his left and his daughter to his right. This was one of his tamer matches, but at the same time, one of his hardest hitting and most exciting to watch.
Even though it was three years ago, even though he did not suffer any serious injury, and even though, obviously, he was sitting with her in good health, Angel couldn’t help but to cover her eyes at Eli’s whip into the guardrail, as well as when Triple X was holding the chair and they both careened to the outside.
Mariella, on the other hand, was on the edge of her seat.
She was as into the match as if it was airing live, her body language actively showing that she was rooting for her dad to get the win over her uncle. Every cover, every almost – three – count, she was unconsciously smacking her knee with her hand.
When the bell rang, she jumped in the air and hugged her dad. She then argued with the DVD over the fact that the time had run out, and cheered the decision to go for a five minute overtime.
When the bell rang again, she was excited, but held fast since she knew what had just happened, and cheered at the sight of her aunt Ivy demanding that they keep going.
And when her uncle, Sean Stevens, finally got the three count, she had her hands over her mouth as if to silently say, ‘It can’t get any more than what it is, can it?’
“Wow,” she said, “That was really cool, Daddy. Were all of your matches like that?”
Eli took a deep breath. “Well………………..no, not exactly. Sometimes things happened.”
“Like what?” asked MJ.
“You know Daddy’s friend Deacon, right?”
“One time we were on the top rope and fell to the mat and went right through it.”
Her eyes grew wide.
“And one time,” continued Eli, “I wrestled a man outside in the middle of a thunderstorm downpour. That was fun. You remember your uncle Craig Miles, right?”
She nodded. For all the insanity the PROFESSIONAL had brought to the sport, he was always a class act with Eli’s family.
“That was his event,” he said.
“Can we watch some of those?” asked MJ, excited to see her dad in action.
Eli looked at Angel, who had a concerned but proud look on her face.
“I think we can arrange that,” he said.
(FADEIN on a mostly empty back alley that seems surprisingly well lit. There are a few people milling about the background, and the vision is shaky, like it’s a small hand held camera that someone is holding only marginally effectively.)
“Is that thing runnin’ yet?”
“We’re rolling. Go. GO!”
(Eli Flair is standing in the center of the frame; the backlight from the street makes him look larger and more imposing than he typically would. From how he’s standing, his arms are probably folded and he’s wearing his black leather trenchcoat.)
ELI: I’ve been waiting.
Seriously. And I’m getting impatient.
I don’t know if you’ve ever driven ten hours with an old man in the car, but it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world.
(“Hey!” said an off – camera voice.)
ELI: When I got the run sheet and was told my first round opponent for the Ultratitle was gonna be a guy named Vagabond, I shrugged. I don’t know Vagabond, I never met him, never wrestled on a card with him, and can’t recall ever meeting anyone who did. Makes sense, later on I found out that he’s essentially a complete newcomer to the world of Professional Wrestling.
If that’s the case, then his silence, so far, is probably a sign of one of two things.
One, he’s completely intimidated by the history involved in this tournament, the reputations that precede their owners, and the legend of what I used to be to this sport.
Or two, he has no idea who I am, who Joey Melton is, who anyone else is, and is sitting out to try and figure out why these old men are talking so much.
Or it’s a combination of both.
Personally, I hope it’s more number two than number one, that way we can avoid all of the ‘Eli Flair, you used to be someone but you’re old and broken down and it’s time for the new blood to take over’ stuff that I’ve actually been hearing since I was twenty nine years old.
To that, I say the same thing I’ve been saying for eleven years: you’re welcome to try.
But it’s more than that.
This isn’t a wrestling promotion with a set hierarchy or an established main event scene. This is the ULTRATITLE, and we’re all on a level field.
We’re all 0 – 0 here. Even the seeding was random.
It’s a big opportunity for all of us, but even moreso for the younger guys – like you, Vagabond.
This is your chance to show every major promotion with a stake in the Ultratitle outcome that you’re a player in the industry, and that you have what it takes to have a long, healthy run on top of any company that you decide to call home.
Not to toot my own horn, but even after three years of near complete isolation from public life, a win over me would do amazing things for your young career.
Unfortunately, you have to want to do it.
You have to put forth the extra effort.
Talking won’t win matches, but talking – and doing it effectively – will get the tournament organizers and their contemporaries to notice you.
Unfortunately for you – so far, Vagabond – your silence is speaking volumes.
I’ll even give you one on the house: I’ve had bad knees for over ten years. The past three have almost completely rejuvenated them but I don’t know what an extended match will do.
And another: I’m a fifteen time World Heavyweight Champion, and in the totality of my fifteen year wrestling career I was probably a World Champion for less than eighteen combined months.
Here’s a fun one. There’s an overrated prima donna who went to Japan to be a third rate knockoff of Troy Windham named Xias – who has essentially built his career for the past nine years on the fact that he pinned me with a small package for a secondary title in the FWO once. Probably the worst match of my career.
But do you want to know a secret?
Winning isn’t everything.
Dr. Silver has never lost a match to me, and since our last meeting sixteen years ago, I’ve headlined pay per views at Madison Square Garden while he’s headlined the monthly Wrestle Wars at a bingo hall near you.
Just as an example.
Your career will do infinitely better if you lose a seventy minute Stairway to Hell match against the most recent Ultratitle winner than it does after a three minute long victory against some f’kin’ guy named Sunburn.
I can attest to that, firsthand.
This is a tournament, however – and for the losers, there is no tomorrow. There is no chance to come back and take on the next challenge, and that’s really the only thing I have to apologize to you for; because you won’t be able to take advantage of the long – standing tradition of losing a match to Eli Flair and turning it into a bigger career accomplishment.
Not here, at least. Give it a try in Defiance.
So, your career will do just fine with a hard fought loss. Take comfort in that.
Because after eighteen years of being Professional Wrestling’s Ninja… it’s time I did something for myself.
(The camera dropped, but voices could still be heard.)
“Okay, we’re done, Ivy. How do you edit on that thing?”
“Edit? My friend, there’s no edit on a smart phone. That just streamed live to the Ultratitle Hype Center.”
“… Streamed live.”
“Hey, you’re the one who bragged about doing this stuff in one take.”
“I just thought of something incredible.”
“What’s that, Rudy?”
“Now that you cut that, I can write off this entire trip as a business expense.”
(The female voice – Ivy – suddenly got louder.)
“Hear that everyone? Drinks are on CS Enterprises, by way of Rudy Seitzer!”
"I WON'T HOLD A GRUDGE" A few words from Vagabond
(Inside a locker room at an undisclosed location)
"I don't know what to say. I'm at a loss for words, I really, truly am. That's no easy feat, ELI FLAIR. Usually I'm the guy you can't get to shut up. But for once, I'm almost speechless.
"Could it be that I don't have much to say to you? Yeah, that sounds about right. Like you said, you don't know me, and I don't know you. Now I'd just like to say I prefer to keep it that way. So here's the bottom line, ELI: I don't need to verbally tear down everything you've said. I don't need to compile a list of names nobody's ever heard of. I don't need to go off on a tangent about what I've been through and where I plan to be when this thing is all said and done.
"But if someone were to say something on my behalf..."
Vagabond looks to his left, and then to his right. Once he's convinced that he's alone, Vagabond stares into the camera and simply shrugs his shoulders.
[Vagabond] "I guess I'll just have to speak for myself, which is fine by me. That's what I get for being a loner. Friends are enemies with really good disguises. Well, screw them too. Friendships are for the weak. They are not required in order for you to have a long, happy and successful life. If it's companionship you want, get a f*ckin' dog. If it's human interaction you so desire, get a friggin' job. Wa-la. Neither one of those two things require friendship. I rest my case.
"You see, I'm not going to argue with you, ELI. About anything. Because when you're wrong, you're wrong. People will see that. They don't need to hear about it from me, they can see it with their own eyes. You're underestimating me, clear as day. You belittle me because you're TRYING to get inside my head. BUT IT WON'T WORK, FOO'! Better men than you have tried. So, really, what makes you think it'll work for you?
"Oh, that's right: because you're 'Total Elimination' ELI FLAIR. But unless you wanna drop the I-O-N from your moniker and add an E-D, I suggest you shut your mouth right now. Get it? Got it? Good. Because nothing you say is going to get to me. It never has before. I've grown to accept I'll always be doubted. By now I'm practically immune to it. To some people I'll always be this five-foot-eight, one-hundred-and-fifty-five-pound, piss-poor excuse for a wrestler. I'll always be the underdog. But that's okay. A guy like me can only move up. Meanwhile, you have a reputation to uphold, ELI. Nobody expects anything of me, but you? People are expecting great things from you. Can you feel the pressure start to build? Can you handle it, or is that the reason you haven't wrestled since 2009?"
[Vagabond] "Did I hit a nerve?"
He smiles like a little boy trying to get away with something. His big blue puppy-dog eyes really sell it, too.
[Vagabond] "That sucks. For you, I mean."
Vagabond reaches into his back pocket and retrieves a pack of Pall Mall Menthol 100s. He pulls one out, places it between his lips, and then pats down every pocket until he finally finds his lighter. He lights his cigarette and takes in a few drags.
[Vagabond] "I told my new lady friend I was gonna quit this dirty habit. I wonder how long it'll be before she realizes that's probably not gonna happen any time soon. I've been a smoker for fifteen years. You do the math."
That would mean he's been smoking since he was nine.
Vagabond takes another puff and exhales slowly.
[Vagabond] "I don't have 'quit' in my vocabulary. I was forced to fight from the very beginning. The day I was born, the umbilical cord got wrapped around my neck and I nearly suffocated. In elementary school I use to get into fights every day. Back then the punishment for 'lashing out' was that you got to watch everybody else have their milk and cookies while you sat in the corner to 'think about what you did.'
"In high school I got suspended at least once every other week. I never went to college, but I reckon if I did... well, you get the point. I've got anger issues. Wicked. Except I don't 'act out' to get attention. There's usually a good f*ckin' reason why I'm pissed. Usually.
"I did break a kid's nose once for staring at my then-girlfriend's ass. Turns out he was actually checking out the girl beside her. Oops."
He puffs on his cigarette some more. He sighs, breathing smoke out of his nose.
[Vagabond] "Whatever, sh!t happens. We became friends right afterward. Does the name Duncan Brennan ring a bell? He's my best friend. Probably my only friend. Because I can trust him. I tend to keep everyone else at an arm's length. I just don't have the time to pretend like I give a rat's ass. I've gotta watch out for numero uno. I wouldn't expect anyone else to. It's a wicked world we live in, and it really is survival of the fittest. If that means you have to watch a few good people fall flat on their faces, so be it. Contrary to what my lovers will tell you, I am not God; I can't help everybody. There are times I even struggle to help myself."
Vagabond takes his last puff and then drops the butt on the floor to stomp it out.
[Vagabond] "I can be my own worst enemy and my biggest critic sometimes. Sometimes I say things I don't mean. Sometimes I start fights with people just 'cause it amuses me. Truth is, I get bored. I recently got so bored I even took the time to listen to ELI run his mouth. Well, that idea blew up in my face. He's boring, too. Warn me next time, okay? I'll sit on the toilet, so then maybe I'll actually give a sh!t.
"Seriously though, you suck. I think I hate you.
"But I won't hold a grudge. After I beat you, you won't even be an afterthought. I'm movin' on up. You? You're my near-7' mountain of a mole hill. My super-sized stepping stone, and that's all you'll ever be. 'That Guy' Vagabond beat in the first round of the Ultra-Title Tournament, from which he went on to win the whole shebang.
"Yeah. True story. I'll have to tell you about it sometime. Till then, peace the fock out, yo."
Vagabond flashes the peace sign to signify the end of the promo.
Duncan Brennan sets the camera down and approaches Vagabond. They bump fists.
[Duncan Brennan] "Not bad for a first-timer."
[Vagabond] "Why thank you."
[Duncan Brennan] "No problem, buddy. I know there's a method to your madness."
[Vagabond] "Well, the way I see it, there's no doubt ELI was tryna' get inside my head. So I figured what the hell, I'll play along. Worse case scenario? I'll piss him off enough that he'll lose focus. I could use all the help I can get. After all, he's twice the size of me. And then some."
Duncan nods his head sympathetically.
[Duncan Brennan] "No worries, man. Four whole years you've busted your balls for this sport. It'll pay off eventually."
[Vagabond] "I don't want it to pay off eventually, I want it to pay off right now. I'm so sick of waiting. I'm done putting on the best performances of my life for crowds less than ten freakin' people."
Another nod of agreement from D. Brennan.
[Duncan Brennan] "I understand completely, man. I've been right there beside you through it all. We've both given a lot to this sport."
[Vagabond] "Which reminds me, why didn't you sign up to be in the tournament?"
[Duncan Brennan] "'Cause it's your thing, man. Not mine."
[Vagabond] "I'll try to make you proud."
[Duncan Brennan] "You better."
They share a laugh and a mutual pat on the back.
[Vagabond] "You really are my best friend, D."
[Duncan Brennan] "Hey, what are friends for?"
[Vagabond] "There once was a time I couldn't answer that. Thanks for everything, man."
[Lex] "Am I interrupting a tender moment? I can come back later if you'd like."
Vagabond and Duncan turn their attention to the doorway where Lex is now standing. She has on a pretty pink dress and a ribbon in her hair.
[Vagabond] "Lex! Baby! You look beautiful!"
Vagabond opens his arms wide and moves toward Lex, who does the same. He quickly takes Lex up in his arms, twirling her around in a passionate embrace. Once he sets her down...
[Vagabond] "How long were you watching us?"
[Lex] "Long enough to see how much of a dork you are. Hehehe."
"Dork? No. A dork is a whale's penis, isn't it? Do I look like a penis to you?"
[Lex] "Well, no. But I wouldn't mind taking a look at yours..."
Lex looks down at Vagabond's package. She looks up again and winks.
[Vagabond] "You're a dirty-minded little lady, you know that?"
[Lex] "Shh. You love it."
[Vagabond] "Damn right. Don't ever change."
[Duncan Brennan] "Awkward."
Vagabond looks over at Duncan.
[Vagabond] "Sorry, man. Let's get outta here, it's Friday night. The three of us, we'll paint the town red."
[Duncan Brennan] "No can do, bro. I've got a match tonight."
[Vagabond] "Fair enough. Gimme a call when it's over, or drop me a text. We'll swing back and pick you up."
[Duncan Brennan] "Sweet! My first ride-along in the new 'Stang."
[Vagabond] "Yeah, I still can't believe DEFIANCE gave me such a large sign-on bonus. I've needed a car for a long time. It's so nice to finally have one."
[Vagabond] "All right, well we're gonna get headed. Good luck tonight."
[Duncan Brennan] "You kids behave yourselves."
Both men chuckle while Lex just rolls her eyes, but in a good way (if such a thing exists).
They part ways once outside the room. Vagabond and Lex go off in one direction, Duncan in the other. Guess that means this is over. For now.
OOC Note: I wrote this entire promo (even the "match results"). I did not copy somebody else's work. This is all of my own creation. Enjoy!
When there's always a camera following you everywhere you go, it's damn near impossible to keep anything a secret. But that didn't stop Duncan Brennan and Vagabond from plotting their revenge on a certain little punk who likes to run his mouth and tell made-up stories about people. He even went so far as to dress like Vagabond and attack an innocent worker, framing Vagabond for the whole thing. So clearly this kid, Vincent Patterson, wants attention, but perhaps he's bitten off more than he can chew... (The following is a video package of what happened after Vagabond supposedly left to go out on a date with his newly-acquired lady friend, Alexanndra--or Lex as everyone calls her--while Duncan was booked to wrestle in what would be his last match for the indy promotion called The Xtreme New England Xperience. It begins near the end of said match.)
In the ring @ an X.N.E.X. LIVE event - Duncan Brennan continues his assault on Patterson despite the referee's attempts to interject. Said official has Tno other choice but to call for the bell. Unfazed by this disqualification, Duncan continues to kick Patterson in the ribs, the back, and even his skull. We can see movement at ringside... It's Vagabond! Vagabond has come back to the X.N.E.X.! The fans celebrate. V-Bond rolls into the ring and stares down at the bloody pulp of a wannabe-superstar, Vincent Patterson. Duncan stops kicking him at Vagabond's request. Vaga pulls out a microphone from his back pocket and brings it straight up to his mouth.
Vagabond: "THIS... THIS is what happens when you cross me. Patterson, you're messin' with the wrong tag team, chico. Was it worth it? Framing me so I'd get fired? Well I'm still here! Not for long, but for now anyway."
The fans start to boo. All forty of 'em.
Vagabond: "I know, it's a shame you have to watch your World Champion resign. But what did you expect would happen when this piece'a trash right here got his filthy little paws on a camera and took my clothes outta my locker? Sanders doesn't give a sh!t. All he cares about is finding someone to point the finger of blame at. He and I haven't been seeing eye-to-eye, but I know he's just doin' his job. For all we know it really could've been me who attacked that volunteer. I didn't. But people will always be second-guessing me now."
Vagabond lowers his microphone and stares out at the audience momentarily.
Vagabond: "Ever since I signed with DEFIANCE WRESTLING--"
Everybody boos. It's apparent these fans are going to miss having Vagabond around.
Vagabond: "I know, I know. But hear me out. Ever since I signed with DEFIANCE WRESTLING I've had cameras in my face, paparazzi at my door, and a great big f*ckin' headache no amount of Tylenol's gonna fix. But it's not like I have a choice anymore. Sanders wants me gone. You can thank him for me leaving."
Vagabond: "At least you people know the truth now. It wasn't me who attacked that poor man. It was this man right here."
Vagabond points down toward the barely-concious Vincent Patterson.
Vagabond: "And the truth... shall set me free."
He drops the microphone and instructs Duncan to carry Vincent over to the turnbuckle. Vagabond positions himself at the opposite turnbuckle. Just as Duncan whips Vincent out of the corner, Vagabond charges. He leaps up into the air and connects with a devastating Roundhouse Kick to the side of the face. Vincent falls like a sack of potatoes. V-Bond throws his hands up to a standing ovation from the fans. It's time for The V-Bomb Special! Vagabond wraps his arm around Vincent's neck like he wants to give him the Twist of Fate, ... but instead of planting him right there, Vagabond runs forward into an R-K-O on Patterson! The fans go wild!
Duncan approaches Vagabond, takes him by the wrist, and raises his arm into the air. "Life Is Beautiful" by Sixx AM picks up over the speakers, and it's not long before the crowd starts chanting 'We-Will-Miss-You!' These diehard X.N.E.X. fans, while low in count, are very passionate about their favorite wrestlers.
After waving goodbye from the top of the entrance ramp, Duncan Brennan and V-Bond pose one last time for their faithful fans, and then turn and disappear behind the curtain, never to be seen at an X.N.E.X. event ever again. The camera focuses in on the bloody, motionless Vincent Patterson, now covered in garbage the fans have thrown into the ring. And with that, the show comes to a close.
[Vagabond] "(Voiceover) It is done. I have cleared my name."
Our audio seems to be working just fine, but there's still no visual.
[Vagabond] "(Voiceover) I, Vagabond, gave that punk, Patterson, a taste of his own medicine. It wasn't easy gaining access into the X.N.E.X. building. We couldn't tell anybody where we were, or else Vincent Patterson might've found out I was there. Watching. Waiting. Ready to strike. Had he known, he would've ran straight to the C.E.O. and had me thrown out 'cause I really wasn't suppose to be there."
Suddenly our visual feed comes to life. Vagabond and Duncan Brennan, seated side by side on a locker room bench. Behind them is a sign that reads DEFIANCE in great bold lettering. We must be inside one of the locker rooms at DEFIANCE Headquarters.
[Vagabond] "I don't need to fight people backstage, I do it in the ring. And I'm quite good at it, I must say. But the point is, I don't get paid to hurt people backstage, in the parking lot, and most-certainly not on the toilet. I get paid to wrestle. In the ring. So that's what I do. When people wanna start dragging my name through the mud, I get a little upset. That's why I got my hands on a copy of that video; so I could show you what I do to people who try framing me. It's the exact same thing I do to people who run they mouth behind my back, or mess with me or somebody I care about. This is a warning for ELI FLAIR. I might not win the match. I might even get myself disqualified, who knows? But when it's all said and done, everybody will be saying 'dayum! That Vagabond is one tough sumbeetch.' THAT, I can guarantee. You may beat me. You may hurt me. But I'll always bounce back. Always.
"And that's all I hafta say about it. See you at the show, chump."
Vagabond and Duncan salute the camera as we fade to black.
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