It’s promo time.
“Last week was…”
Eric Dane is dressed down for once, a black t-shirt and jeans. Gone is the handmade Italian cotton and wool, absent are the dragon-skin boots. In their place is a pair of your run of the mill Nike tennis shoes.
It’s a different look for The Only Star.
“I don’t want to say disappointing because I won…
Hair is slicked back, no particular styling has been introduced. It’s just water and a straight comb. Nowhere to be found is the silver headband he’s taken to wearing to keep loose strands out of his face. Also missing is that ridiculous infinity scarf.
“However, I can’t call it a resounding success, either.”
This right here, today, is a very bare-bones Eric Dane.
Is he tired of showing out for the CWF? Possibly. Is he to the point that he feels like he can be himself in front of a CWF camera? Maybe. Is there a chance he would ever admit to any of that? Absolutely not.
“Bronson lost. MJ got her panties in a twist because I told her the truth. The Oreo Biscuit Mafia continues to [finger quotes] ‘control’ the CWF even though the entirety of their collective roster couldn’t buy a win at this point without a credit check and a co-signer.”
He purses his lips almost into a duckface, raising his eyebrow and shrugging just enough that you get the point. He doesn’t get them, either, so we can all stop pretending now. Naw’mean?
“So I’ll call last week what it was.”
Eric Dane is no less smug without the fifty-thousand dollar get up, apparently that’s just his general demeanor. Face-punchable isn’t quite strong enough of an adjective to describe him, but as of yet I haven’t found one that is better.
“I’ll get to that later, though. First I feel like it’s my civic duty to give a retraction. You see, just last week I told The Shadow that Bronson Box was a violent man, one not to be trifled with. And what does Boxer do to hammer in my point? He loses clean in the middle of the ring.”
The beginning of a sneer curls into one corner of his lips.
“And so, helluva guy that I am, I feel like a retraction is merited. I will say this though, Evolution 25 is going to be a whole different story. For his own good Bronson fucking Box had better be The Wargod once we get to Ohio. He’d better be the all punching, all kicking, face mangling son of a bitch APOCALYPSE MACHINE that I advertised him as when I brought him to CWF or else I’m very much going to send that Scottish fuck right back home to that shitty little bar in Banff.”
One could get the idea that Eric does not like Bronson Box. One couldn’t be further from the truth, but the man that likes him and the man who unleashes him are not always one in the same.
“I’m not too terribly worried about it, though.”
“If there’s one person on this planet harder on Box than I am, that person is Hollis McAllister, Bronson Box himself. Nevermind that he knows exactly what my expectations of him are, his continued quest for what he refers to as Violent Perfection won’t let him rest after last week.”
“I fully expect the man to come out of the gates and try to eat your face. Funnily enough I’d be willing to wager that he’ll be completely rabid even before I have my own little chat with him where I both explain to him the urgency in his getting his shit together, and direct his rage in the direction if Mister Aren’t I Cool himself, The Shadow.”
He shrugs, this is all old hat to The End Boss.
“Don’t get it twisted, Boxer will fall in line, and he will stand right beside me as I rip and tear at your very reputations. We will redefine the word cohesion at Evolution as we defiantly leave our impression on you and your Forsaken, the CWF, and the wrestling universe at large.”
“I understand that you don’t understand, Shadow.”
“I can see it in your eyes.”
“I can hear it in your voice.”
His smile softens.
“Thou ought ne’er fear, though.”
“For I can be your teacher.”
“I can be your Savior.”
Evolution had ended an hour ago.
Angus Skaaland was starting to be annoyed.
About forty some-odd minutes ago.
He’s on the verge of leaving, fuck Eric Dane, and driving all the way back to New Orleans and DEFIANCE where he could tell Eric Dane to fuck off and he could never see Bronson Box again and he could just go back to living his life and getting paid to do what he loves.
Which, of course, he can’t.
And he knows it.
Nevermind the complicated mess that is DEFIANCE’s current ownership situation, Eric Dane had founded the place, he had built the place. He had spent blood and anguish and years of his life and countess hundreds of thousands of dollars to make DEFIANCE what it once was. Angus knew that there would be no leaving Eric Dane for DEFIANCE, it was a physical and existential impossibility.
“Goddamn motherfucker, can’t call a motherfucker and let him know he’s gonna be late, fuck naw, you gotta be all passive the fuck aggressive, leave a motherfucker hanging out here in the parking garage with his dick twisting in the wind…” Angus had been muttering to himself for the better part of ten minutes.
He paused long enough to light a smoke…
...take a deep drag…
This was the reason that Angus was called the Motormouth of Malcontent, it has nothing to do with giving himself a nickname and everything to do with his clear inability to stop bitching and moaning.
If he thought about it, he’d shrug.
Story of his life.
Another deep drag and out comes his smartphone. I can’t call it an iPhone because of contractual obligations, but I can say that it most certainly is not an Android.
He taps and swipes his way into the phone, the contact list, and into a phone call. A second passes and a connection is made, he waits impatiently for an answer.
“C’mon, motherfucker, be up.”
Another pause, waiting.
“Pickuppickuppickup!” More muttering.
Another second and then…
“Richie!” His voice lightens considerably. “Did ya see the show?”
“Yeah, and now he’s making me wait.”
Listening intently, he stifles a laugh.
“Ha! Yeah, on his period I guess.” Smoke wisps around his face, pumping out of his nostrils like some kind of reverse filtration system.
“Do I have your attention now, Shadow?”
The Only Star continues.
“Can you be bothered to look away from your crusade against Elisha and his cohorts and cronies long enough to understand your current opponent?”
“You know, the imminent threat as opposed to the looming?”
He waits, allowing his words to simmer.
“I want you to understand something.”
“You. Mia. MJ. Everyone.”
“There are two things about me that you can always count on, Shadow. Number one, no matter that you will almost never be able to figure it the fuck out, understand that I don’t come unprepared to a situation. Ever. I will use every resource at my disposal to understand every facet of every eventuality.”
“Unlike the people that you’re used to dealing with, I haven’t stumbled and bumbled my way through over two decades of championships and glory. It’s no accident that I came to the CWF in a top spot, I’d tell you to ask MJ but I can’t promise you that she’s not pondering the same questions about how and why I came in when and how I did.”
“Awareness, my cloak-wearing friend, clearing obstacles and more than that keeping your eye on the goddamned prize. I’m sure you understand.”
“That’s one thing you can count on.”
“The second thing, and I’m gonna need you to write this one down, commit it to memory, and don’t come crying to me later when you figure this all out, the second thing you can one-hundred percent goddamn guarantee, is that Eric Dane has a fucking plan in place.”
He smirks, proud of his revelation.
“Not only is it in place, you castle-dwelling twat, but it’s ingrained in the system. It goes so much further up the pay-grade than you that you couldn’t guess the answer if you could ask the audience or phone a friend. Every single thing that I do, every single word that I say…”
The smirk widens into a full blown grin.
“Everything is for a reason.”
A moment passes before he moves on, changing gears just as you think you’re starting to understand. That anti-friendly smile that you can’t stand returns.
“These are all things that I’ve been called.”
“Things that maybe I am.”
The camera pulls in tight on his face, cerulean eyes welcome you as a million dollar smile deceives you. Even as he tells you everything you need to know you begin to doubt. That is how this works, how he works.
“These are the reasons, those the likes of you can’t fathom, that I do what I do. And to be perfectly frank you weird cousin-fucking pervy-uncle looking motherfucker, they aren’t meant to be about you, not everything is.”
Angus thumps his butt.
“Yeah, honey, I’ll see you soon.”
To hear him attempting to be sweet for someone is almost off-putting. The guy really is a creepy fuck; Even now when he’s purposefully not being a flaming doucher because he actually respects someone and cares about their feelings and opinion, you just can’t get the bad taste out of your mouth.
“I love you, too.”
Absently he makes a kissy-face. Immediately he hopes nobody caught it.
“G’night.” Angus smiles. He lets the line go dead and stuffs the phone back deep into a pocket. He reaches for another cigarette.
“On my period, am I?” That voice is unmistakable.
The Only Star.
Eric Dane stands directly in front of his lackey, personal assistant, and friend. At least Angus had always thought they were friends. Eric never treated him shitty, like he did everyone else. He’d never made their arrangement feel like a job.
That is until recently.
“Fuck’ve you been?” Angus was no longer muttering.
“Feels like we’ve had this conversation once already tonight.”
“As a matter of fact, it feels like we had it, you got a few quick jabs in, then you ran off to play with your new friends for a while instead of sticking around and doing your job.”
It wasn’t looking like Eric had cooled down any since he’d walked out on him a couple of hours ago. Angus guessed he deserved whatever ass-reaming he was about to get. That didn’t make it any easier to take Dane’s bitter medicine.
“Yeah, well, I feel like I’ve been standing here for an hour, waiting on you, and so the question is, and remains, a valid fucking question. Where the fuck have you been?” For once, Angus is the smug one.
Dane’s demeanor is not affected.
“I’m the fucking boss,” he started. “It’s my prerogative. Yours is to do what you’re told and be Johnny on the Spot when I’m ready to leave.”
Angus spits bile on the ground beside himself.
“You used to be cool.”
“You used to be broke.”
“You’re gonna quit holding money over my head sooner than later.”
The Only Star raises an incredulous eyebrow.
“Or what? You, who I trained to wrestle, who couldn’t wrestle his way out of a paper bag, mostly because he wasn’t a tough guy and he don’t know how to throw a real punch, let alone a working punch, are going to…”
“Make me?” Eric cocks his head.
Angus just shakes his head.
He takes a moment, the boss gives it to him strangely enough.
“I’m not in high school.” He chides. “We’re not fuckin’ doing this, whatever this is.” He pops the trunk of the Phantom that he’d been leaning on since the end of Evolution. Eric tosses in his bags and shuts it back.
“What is that we are gonna do, then?”
“You da’ boss,” Angus answered. “Whatever you want.”
“And then there’s Mia.”
“Or, is it Amelia?”
The nod continues, somewhere between negative and positive. This is the worst kind of reinforcement: neutral.
“How should I fuckin’ know, right, when you can barely figure it out for yourself.”
“You know, I can’t even believe I’m about to do this, but fuck it. Here goes. Mia, I want you to know that I’m sorry. Sorry for popping off at you, sorry about the Harley jokes and sorry that you think I bailed on you last week at Evolution.”
“For the life of me, Mia, I can’t decide why I’ve taken a liking to you. One thing that neither of us can change, though, is that I have. You were the first person I spoke to here in the CWF and you were genuinely a fan growing up.”
“More than you know, I appreciate that.”
He shrugs again.
“Not that you’ll believe me.”
“Nobody ever does.”
Another shrug, he doesn’t often speak like this to someone. Especially on television. To say that the underlying anxiety that drives him doesn’t have it’s metaphorical hackles up would be to completely ignore the truth right in front of you.
“I speak, people don’t listen. Oh, they hear plenty of what they want to hear, but very rarely does anyone actually listen before taking up their turn to speak. I question, and people think that I’m calling them stupid, telling them that they’re wrong…”
He trails off.
“Look, here’s my point. I see something real in you, kid. Maybe something like myself fifteen or twenty years ago. I could, I dunno, help you out or whatever. You wouldn’t be the first person who’s career I’ve put on the right track…”
“But the thing is, you listen to the wrong people.”
“You listen to Amelia. Honestly that’s probably for the best. If you want to get right down to it, you might want to start reconciling with Amelia because she is the ego to your id. That is to say, other part to the same whole.”
“But then you listen to Ataxia, a guy who won’t show his face.”
“Then you listen to The Shadow, a man who has ultimately let you down time and again here recently, culminating with that little scuffle that we got into last week with the Origami kids. Yeah, I know he gave you some kind of a ridiculous explanation about some big fight that he got himself into…”
Eric’s eyes roll again.
“A fight that wasn’t shown on television.”
“On a wrestling show.”
“Where they televise fighting.”
He stops, again to let a point sink in.
“Sure, maybe there was a fight. Maybe there was a big ol’ distraction put in place to keep the big man and the crazy guy and whoever else was back here not to mention Christ knows how many druids or whatever the fuck those assholes are pretending to be from coming out and helping you, but tell me this.”
“Why wasn’t it televised?”
“They showed it when Bronson and myself locked all of those idiots in a room so that MJ could beat Judas into mashed potatoes with a bat. They showed it when Tara Robinson got put through a table by Silas What’sisfuck. They show everything on TV, kid, that’s how they make their money.”
“And as for me, do us both a favor and quit pretending you don’t know what happened out there. We had a match, a damned fucking fine one at that, and afterwords those wannabe cult fuckwits swarmed the ring. There were dozens of them, Mia, and I don’t give a shit who you are or how crazy you like to tell people you are, nobody fights dozens of people alone.”
“You get the fuck out of Dodge!”
“You retreat, recuperate, and strike back.”
“Otherwise you take a beating. Me, personally, I’m not one who enjoys getting my head kicked in by fifteen or twenty guys. There is no honor in that, no valor, only stupidity and physical injury. I jumped out of the ring for the same reason that I thought you would have.”
This is the part where he starts getting a bit heated.
“But no, for whatever reason you didn’t, and I came back and I beat up five or six guys and managed to elude ten or twelve more, for you, because for whatever reason I don’t hate you and that’s as close to a positive relationship as I have in my life and then you and your band of merry morons have the pure temerity to say that I did it for the spotlight?”
“Are you fucking serious?”
“The spotlight was in winning the match, Mia.”
“Jumping in there with a pack of fuckrats like the Ouroboros was risking my neck, something that is not only bad business but completely out of character for me, and I got you out of there before any of those assholes could put either of us down for good.”
He smirks and harrumphs.
“Not Ataxia. Not The Shadow. Me.”
“Apparently the only person in your life who respects you enough to tell you the truth. And speaking of truth, let me give you a little bit more of it. In Columbus at Evolution if you come at me just any kind of way I’m going to go out of my own way to teach you a physical lesson.”
“You see, I don’t care that you’re a girl.”
“I don’t care you’re smaller than me and less experienced.”
“I care about winning, and I care about getting my point across. Both of these things I can and will go through hell to accomplish. Believe me, Mia, when I tell you that you’re not the first schizophrenic that I’ve dealt with. The whole Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine is the kind of trite, hackneyed wrestling trope that I thought I’d seen the last of in the nineties.”
This pausing thing, it’s like he’s perfected it.
“So allow me to put this out there. Mia, I’ve got nothing against you, so long as you understand that I always put business first. However, this Amelia shit…”
He shakes his head, disappointed.
“If you spring that nonsense on me in Ohio I’m gonna beat you like you stole something from me, I’m going to feed you to Bronson Box, and I’m gonna stuff my knee, adamantium-laced brace and all, all the way down your throat until you’re shitting shiny, unbreakable, fictional metal.”
“Don’t believe the hype, kid, believe the truth. The Shadow isn’t the first guy in a robe who hangs out in castles and has fake druids at his beck and call. Hell, I carved a star in the chest of a guy just like him back in Two-Thousand, and that guy at least had the decency to be seven fuckin’ feet tall and somewhat physically imposing. Your partner there looks like a frail, feeble little man.”
The smirk returns.
“And he hits like a bitch.”
The smirk widens.
“And he uses you, Mia. He feeds into this Amelia shit and he lets you think and hear and feel things that he knows you want to think and hear and feel, rather than the universal truth of the matter at hand.”
“And that truth, Mia?”
“You’re better than him. Better than his group of cannon fodder. Ataxia may be on the level, I haven’t decided yet, but this Shadow prick is a textbook user, abuser, enabler, and furthermore he’s a fucking idiot.”
“You think about that the next time you say something stupid to me about being solo my entire life or how far I could go if I trusted someone of equal talent…”
“That’s cute, you know, but I can tell you that while I do see a lot in you, you ain’t fuckin’ there yet, and your sorry excuse for a partner ain’t never gonna get there. I’ve yet to come across my equal, and truth be told I’ve turned on every partner I’ve ever had in this business…”
“Bronson Box knows this.”
“And now, you know it too.”
His grin widens to Cheshire proportions.
“And so I’ve laid it all on the table, Mia. You may stop questioning me and start believing me, or you may bring what you think is your best self in Amelia and you can attack me like so many others, with reckless abandon and a full complement of brash overconfidence.”
“You’ve tried that already, last week, and you lost.”
“Try it again and you’re going to get hurt.”
“Colon. Apostrophe. Left parenthesis.”
Angus waits for a response.
For a moment, he gets nothing.
The Only Star looks back at him through narrowed eyes, cocks his head in thought, and stands there, contemplating. The two of them had gone back since the days that Eric had trained Angus, and Angus had always been a good lad, earned his keep and gave well above and beyond what was ever expected of him.
“Alright.” He finally answered. “We’re good.”
“Yeah. Now throw me them keys?”
It was Angus’ turn to raise an eyebrow.
“I’m serious, I need you to do something, and it doesn’t involve the use of the keys to this Rolls that you’ve been scuffing up for an hour.” Eric chides.
“Pfft, good thing it’s a rental, am I right?”
They share a chuckle.
“So, whaddaya need me to do?” Angus asked as he gave up the keys.
“I need you to go find Hollis, and I need you to figure out how to get him to get his shit together before next week.” Eric sauntered around to the driver’s side of the ultra-luxury coupe.
Angus scrunches his face in some mixture of disgust and contempt.
“The fuck? Why?”
“I’ve got an advance copy of next week’s lineup, it’s me and Box against Mia and The Shadow. I’m gonna need that bald-headed prick to be on his fucking A-game if we’re gonna beat the Tag Team Champs, especially if I’m going to make a statement while doing it.”
Angus considers this.
“You know,” he said. “I feel like last week I made some progress with him.”
“Yeah? That why he lost his ass to Shadow?” Eric smirks. He’s never been one to let any little failure go, Angus will probably be hearing about this for the rest of eternity. Bronson Box most assuredly will be.
“Fuck you, buddy.” Angus replied.
“Nosir, fuck you.”
“And now that I’ve taken care of the business at hand, I’ve saved the rest for last. I try not to talk out of turn, you know, but today I feel like I need to speak directly to a couple of people who I may or may not be dealing with come Evolution.”
He pauses. He wants to light a cigarette so badly it almost hurts to think about but he endures. He can’t smoke, his heart won’t allow it.
The word tastes like shit and piss in his mouth.
“You and your Oro- whateverthefuck’s.”
He spits it out like bile.
“I’m getting sick, and I’m getting fucking tired, of seeing your ugly mug gawking at me from varying points, coming just close enough to fuck up my day but not close enough to take the receipt that you have to know you’ve got coming.”
He hawks, and spits for real.
It’s called symbolism.
“You’ve very obviously managed to fenagle Rish around your little finger, and for that I applaud you. It’s a tact that I probably would have taken myself had I been given the same opportunity. What I haven’t seen you even try to do, however, is take that power that we all know you have and do anything with it.”
“You don’t hold any titles.”
“Your cohorts don’t hold any titles.”
“At this point, some of your cohorts are missing teeth and/or have yet to awaken from the coma that I put them in for having the stupid fuck idea to jump the guardrail on me.”
“So tell me, Moon Moon, what is it exactly that you’ve got control over? You can put me and my friends into stupid matches that don’t matter until the cows come home, but that will never make you anything more than a distraction. A distraction that I’m very quickly going to cut off at the ankles on my way to doing something that matters around here in the CWF.”
“Something you wouldn’t know much about.”
“You know, winning matches.”
“Being meaningful in the life of someone other than Cassandra or The Shadow? I know you’re probably not interested, whatever, if I rolled my eyes any further back at the sound of your name they’d fall out the back of my fuckin’ head.”
“Case in point? This week’s main event. A perfectly wonderfully booked match, not by you I’m guessing, where the biggest single piece of power in the game, the CWF World Title, is defended by a person who isn’t in your stupid little cult against a person who isn’t in your stupid little cult.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“It must really stick in your craw, am I right?”
“Whatever, chump, you and yours are old news.”
The End Boss spits again, wiping a straggler of spittle from his lip before continuing. That smug, asshole smirk creeps right back onto his lips.
“And that leads me to you, MJ.”
Said smirk widens confidently.
“I’ve saved you for last, Mariella, not because I’m too stupid to heed my own advice, but because you are the only one of whom I expect to understand it. We are Gods among insects, you and I, only you seem bound and goddamned determined to miss the point and do things the hard way.”
“Just like your old man.”
The Only Star shakes his head in mock disbelief.
“Come on, MJ.”
“Eyes on the prize.”