”It was bittersweet.”
“On the one hand, I’m in. I’m one of the eight finalists for the vacant CWF World Championship. I’m the only woman who made it in. I’m one of only two former CWF World Champions involved.”
“On the other, I won my triple threat match on the heels of the Golden Paradigm... expressing themselves… all over Silas Artoria. I gave Dane holy hell when I got backstage for that; this is something I simply won’t stand for.”
“Not that I mind Silas Artoria getting his dick kicked in, mind you… it’s just that… now he’s got an excuse as to why he lost, and once I’m the CWF World Champion again, he’ll be back like the gnat he is.”
“I’ll never forgive Eric Dane for causing me to have to wrestle Silas Artoria again. But I’ll get over it.”
“Eric might not, though… after all, I have to beat him to win the CWF World Title again.”
As the Uber pulls in front of MJ Flair’s house in Warwick, NY, she catches her breath a bit.
The lights are all out.
The lights are… never... all out. Ever.
MJ pays the driver and pulls her bag out of the back. Last night’s show was at Nassau Coliseum on the island: about a two hour drive from her house if traffic cooperates. It rarely does, but regardless, it was easier to pack her ring gear and a change of clothes into a backpack and not have to worry about a suitcase: living so close to the center of the universe has its perks.
Still, the lights are off.
When MJ was six years old, her parents bought this house to settle down and give her some semblance of a normal childhood. Her father had largely retired from full time wrestling and went out for eight to ten days a month to wind his career down, but her mother was right at the cusp of greatness in music. Valerian’s Garden’s third album had unexpectedly gone platinum, several times over, and it was imperative that she have a way to remain in the public consciousness.
Enter: Spyder Studios. Inspired by the great Steve Albini, MJ’s mom and her bandmates remodeled their basement into a high tech recording studio that, not only could Valerian’s Garden use on the cheap, but literally anyone could as well. Rates were rock bottom, and they included guest bedrooms, hot showers, and hot food. Between MJ’s mom Angel, manager/aunt Ivy, and keyboardist Nine, there were three competent engineers (and in Nine’s case, one expert level) that could record at all hours of the day and night.
The upshot to this was that there was always some form of activity, with the main house rule being “If you disrupt MJ’s life in even the smallest way, you are banned for life.” Her parents were intent on her having as normal a childhood as possible.
But all of this activity meant that someone was always up and moving, and the lights were always on.
MJ walks to the front door, actually apprehensive about entering her own home in this state. She slides the key into the lock and cautiously opens the door, peeking around the corner into the main hallway. There was a small night light on in the kitchen, the sound of the television on to the left, and the ever-present “OCCUPIED” sign lit up by the basement/studio door.
She steps in and to the left, to see her father, wrestling legend ‘Total Elimination’ Eli Flair, the original Original Nobody, sitting reclined on the wraparound sofa, watching an old wrestling event. MJ recognizes it as the CSWA’s Fish Fund XI: End of an Era, a two-day event from the fall of 1996 that still remains widely accepted as the biggest show in wrestling history. Specifically, he was watching the main event of the night: a WAR GAMES, Submission or Surrender match between Maxwell Diamond’s Diamond Exchange and “America’s Team,” which consisted of Hornet, ‘The Living Legend’ Mark Windham, CS Express, and a mystery partner.
ELI: Your aunt Ivy called before; Paul and Mark were at the bar tonight. They’re in town for some legends signing at the Javitz center; I was feeling nostalgic.
‘Paul’ is Hornet’s real name; as a three time Unified World Champion and holder in excess of sixty separate World Championships, the long-retired ‘Greatest American Hero’ was widely hailed as the greatest wrestler of his era, and some still maintain that he’s the greatest wrestler in the history of the sport. In Eli Flair’s case, their career paths took them from allies to enemies to a respectful stalemate, but retirement has eased old tensions.
MJ puts her bag down by the front door and joins her father on the couch. She unlaces her boots and kicks them off, wincing a bit at the stiffness in her back as she does so.
MJF: Not watching night two?
As this was a two-day event, a good number of the wrestlers pulled double duty, but Eli himself only wrestled on the second night, defending his CSWA Presidential Championship in the third-from-the-top spot.
ELI: Naaaah, too much baggage from that one. War Games was much more interesting ta me.
MJ leans back, cracking her neck and back in the process, and leans into her dad as he puts his arm around her. She watches the match with him, specifically, a spot where “Mr. Magnificent” Tom Adler is trading punches with Hornet.
MJF: He’s so good; everything he does looks frickin’ effortless.
ELI: Can’t argue that. Man’s tireless when he gets in the ring.
She puts up her feet as the final bell rings, and WAR GAMES begins in earnest.
ELI: How’d you do?
MJF: I won.
ELI: I figured that. How’d you do?
MJF: I held my own. I’ve beaten Autumn Raven before but she was fuckin’ possessed tonight. Silas Artoria… Dane, Box, and Whealdon kicked the shit outta him before he even got to the ring.
A moment of silence.
ELI: So he didn’t have a fair shot?
MJ’s shoulders tense as she sort-of-not-really shrugs.
Her father chuckles.
ELI: Do you care?
MJ thinks about it.
MJF: I mean, I don’t really wanna deal with him anymore and this is gonna give him an out to say that he was robbed and should’ve won, which means if I win End Games or lose End Games, I’mma have to fight him at least once more.
ELI: Sure, but do you care?
Now, MJ cocks an eyebrow.
MJF: Don’t follow.
He removes his arm and sits up, holding both hands in front of him.
ELI: Okay. So you’ve got this guy that gets jumped before the match, and he’s likely gonna claim that he was robbed, and likely gonna expect you to give him another shot, yeah?
MJF: Safe assumption, I think.
ELI: Reverse it. Let’s say you were jumped and he beat you after that. D’ya think he’d give a flying fuck and acknowledge the unfairness’a the situation?
She thinks about it for a second.
MJF: Probably not.
Her father shrugs.
ELI: Then fuck’em. Do you care if he feels slighted?
MJF: Not even a little.
The match continues on television, as America’s Team’s final member emerges: ‘Devastating’ Mike Randalls, another former Unified World Champion.
MJF: So where is everyone?
ELI: Your mom and the boys are downstairs.
MJF: Where’s… everyone else? Mayhem was s’posed t’be recording until August, yes?
ELI: Your mom sent ‘em home. She’s in Go-Mode.
MJ’s skin sweeps with goosebumps.
”Who is the best?”
“That’s really what it comes down to. Eight athletes, six former World Champions, three former CWF World Champions. Caledonia was a dominant Champion, but personal matters sent her away.”
“As a friend, I wish her the best, but as a competitor and professional rival… if she can’t hack it, she belongs away from the ring.”
“But if you look at the history of this sport, it’s this type’a match that really separates the good from the great. Look at the history of any multi - person tag match; a disproportionate number’a top notch athletes’re gonna falter.”
“Let’s say you can objectively list the eight greatest wrestlers in the history’a this sport and put ‘em into a four on four elimination match, and they’re fightin’ until there’s one survivor. Seven’a the eight greatest wrestlers in the history’a the sport are gonna lose.”
“Doesn’t mean the unlucky seven are any less deserving’a their esteem… that’s life.”
“All eight’a us are here for a reason: we won when it mattered. Even the Ringmaster, wrestling in his debut match in this company, he earned his spot.”
“No matter how much Jacehole might bitch, moan, and act like a Jacehole… we’re all on even ground with even odds’a winning.”
When the ‘OCCUPIED’ sign is lit, the basement door automatically locks. There is a buzzer that rings into the control room that’s used for requested entry; this is a safety feature that ensures the integrity of the recording process. Through her entire childhood, MJ made sure never to press it; respect was a big deal to her parents and if the bands in question are respecting her privacy, she was respecting theirs.
That was then; this is Go-Mode, and MJ presses the button, fidgeting with nervous energy. After about a minute’s wait, the intercom buzzes back.
It’s the voice of Valerian’s Garden’s bassist and co-founder, MJ’s mom’s best friend, TJ.
MJF: Uncle Teej? Can I come down?
TJ (Intercom): Indubitably.
The door buzzes, and MJ opens up and tiptoes silently into the basement. At the bottom is another door, always unlocked, and she enters the control room. Immediately, the sound of a guitar feeding back fills her ears, as, inside the actual recording area, the five members of Valerian’s Garden are arranged in a circle, talking to each other.
TJ, bassist, creative partner. Mick, guitarist, serious to a fault. Nine, keyboardist, master engineer. Sex, drummer, the tension breaker and rock.
Angel. Singer, poet, Gothic Diva. Mother.
Angel: Yeah, Mick - I think if you let the last note of ‘Dirty’ feed back for like ten seconds we can segue right into ‘I Want That,’ all nice and smooth like.
Mick chews on the unlit cigarette in his mouth and ponders for a moment He looks toward the drum kit and nods.
Sex: One, two, three…
The band rears back and comes into the final few measures of their song, “Dirty,” as Angel catches MJ’s eye. A smile forms on her face, but she holds up her hand. As the song hits its conclusion and the other three musicians stop, Mick allows his guitar to feed back for ten seconds or so before he begins to play a different, complimentary riff that the others immediately join. Angel nods her head in tune to the song for three measures, before putting the microphone to her lips.
Angel: Fat baby lying on the floor, says I want that. Rich mama walkin’ out the door, you don’t need that…
She lets the song drift off.
TJ: Works for me, mama.
Without a word, MJ enters the room completely and grabs each band member in a hug, one by one. She stops at her mother, picking the much smaller singer clear off the ground, though she puts her down gingerly, wincing a bit at her back.
Angel: Hey! When did you get back?
MJF: Just now. What’s this I hear about Go-Mode?
Angel smiles, and the two enter the control room for some privacy.
Angel: We’ve been cooped up in this damn studio for weeks writing this record; it’s just not flowing. I told the boys, we wrote our best stuff on the road, so fuck it, let’s hit the road. Speaking of which…
She sits down at the main control panel and gestures for MJ to take the other seat. Angel folds her hands in her lap and leans in.
Angel: How’d things go?
MJF: I won; I’m in for the End Games match.
Angel claps, her steel-blue eyes dancing with joy.
Angel: That’s great! Seven opponents, and you’re World Champion again.
MJF: Easier said than done. It’s gonna be uphill.
Angel: For them, maybe. You’re gonna kill ‘em.
Eyebrow up. Suspicion.
MJF: Mommy…? You hate wrestling.
Angel stops her with a raised finger.
Angel: I can appreciate it more now in hindsight, with your father’s risks all in the past. The wrestlers themselves are like anyone else: some are great people, some are loathsome cunts. What do I care, though? I’m concerned with you.
MJ looks doubtfully at her mother.
MJF: You’ve liked Uncle Paul, Uncle Mark, Mr. Randalls, and Impulse, and you’ve been all ‘to hell with everyone else.’
Angel: That was then. I was younger, I was angrier, and I thought the wrestling business was keeping the music industry from taking us seriously. But I mean… that was my own insecurity. Five million albums sold can’t be wrong, right?
She gently taps MJ on the knee.
Angel: Someone says I’m biting off Daddy’s fame? Someone says we owe our career to Aunt Ivy? Fuck ‘em. We built that with three hundred shows a year. We built that with three hour sets. We sold out the Garden, we sold out the Astrodome. Holy frankenfuck, Mariella, we sold out Wembley two years ago. That doesn’t happen unless we’ve got something of substance.
And Angel points her finger at her daughter.
Angel: You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t earn it.
For her entire life, MJ does not recall her mother ever using the word ‘deserve,’ in the context of ‘We deserve this.’ It has always been ‘We earned this,’ or ‘You earned this,’ or something similar. The difference may be cosmetic but the implication is significant: Angel’s choice of words speaks to her belief that the most important component of success is hard work.
MJF: Yeah, some’a my opponents don’t believe that.
MJ gives her mother her full, undivided attention.
Angel: Their opinion does not change the facts, and the facts are that you earned this.
”Would it surprise any’a you that the person in this match I feel the most is The Ringmaster?”
“He’s a newcomer to the CWF. He’s probably the most overlooked athlete in the End Games match because he’s a newcomer. Shut your face, kid - the adults are talking. Even as a veteran of the sport in general, you’re a newcomer to the CWF, and what happened before doesn’t matter.”
“This is a philosophy that I don’t believe in, in the slightest.”
“Age aside… you’re me, six months later. I came into this company with no fanfare and no advance warning, and tried my luck in Modern Warfare. By the time the tournament was over, even though I didn’t win, I was the talk’a the town and everyone that wasn’t a complete fuckin’ idiot was payin’ attention.”
“Trust me, Ringmaster… I’m payin’ attention.”
“You could be the sleeper t’take the whole shebang; you’re certainly here for a reason.”
“But you won’t, for a very simple reason: I refuse to underestimate you. You might be on my team, but that’s a marriage’a convenience; if it comes down to it we need to be prepared t’be mortal enemies, at least for one night.”
“Your night might be imminent, Ringmaster… but it ain’t at Summer Games.”
“Neither is it yours, Pandalike. Welcome back, by the by. Or should that get retconned to several months ago, Revenant?”
“You’re sort of the opposite of Ringmaster, Panda. You’re part’a the CWF Old Guard; a relic from a prior era.”
“I’m a fan’a the classics, though. No disrespect. But you’ve been so twisted around, I really have t’wonder what’s goin’ on in your head.”
“Are you Pandalike? Are you Revenant? How can you be Champion when you don’t even know your name? What happened on that plane? Are there any residual effects?”
“Don’t need t’know right now, Pandy… when you figure out who ya are… I’ll be waitin’.”
New York City. Downtown. The Highline Ballroom.
Go-Mode culminates in four hours, but the band and crew are relaxed and taking their time getting ready. It’s like Ivy McGinnis said - ‘Relax, don’t worry: we do this every day.’ Valerian’s Garden officially played their first gig under that name two decades ago.
It was the previous century.
They know how to put on a gig.
MJ Flair, on the other hand, is a bundle of nerves. This is the first time in six years that she’s been at the first gig of a tour, and she’s feeling the bubbles: the excitement of seeing her mom control a crowd of thousands with her words and her songs. Even the stress of her own iminent headlining moment in DC in just under a week melts away in this environment.
Angel: Teej! Soundcheck, ten minutes!
The bassist gives a dismissive wave from the stage as he adjusts something on his stack. Angel spins around and walks noiselessly towards her daughter, frantically texting away.
Angel: You excited?
The younger Flair flinches.
MJF: Mom! Don’t sneak up on me like that!
Both women look down. Angel is walking around the venue in a pair of thick black socks. She typically performs barefoot, but nobody in their right mind would put their bare feet on this floor. So, compromise.
Angel: I’m like a ninja. You excited?
MJ holds up her arm, showing the goosebumps.
MJF: I’m proud’a you, Mommy.
Angel puts her arm around her daughter’s waist and spins her around slowly, taking in the room.
Angel: A lotta work, and a lotta luck, kiddo. Luck that we played in front of the right people at the right times, but the work is what got us here. We’re not the greatest band that’s ever lived -
MJF: Yes you are.
Angel: - You’re biased. But we really aren’t. We work incredibly well together, but the work that went in was the quality of the performance. Whether we nailed it or bungled it, we’ve busted our asses to give the fans a quality show.
She looks at MJ, with a half smile on her face.
Angel: Like you.
MJF: I try my best, but I’m still only eighteen and -
Angel: MJ, stop.
Surprised, MJ stops.
Angel: You’ve been pushing that narrative all year, and it’s getting tiresome. Yes, you’re eighteen. So what? You need to pay your dues? You need to ‘earn’ your spot? Here’s a newsflash, kiddo: you have.
Having grown up with open minded, supportive parents (her initial foray into professional wrestling notwithstanding), MJ is uncomfortably not used to her mother criticizing something about her behavior.
Angel: If you have the talent, the time doesn’t matter. You think we dialed it back when we blew every headliner off the stage? You think your dad ever gave ninety nine percent because he wasn’t the main event? Fuck all that noise.
MJF: Language, Mommy.
Angel spreads her arms wide.
Angel: My house, my rules.
MJF: Technically it’s the Highline.
Angel: Technically, it’s a sellout - turnaway. My house.
She points off into the distance.
Angel: That ring? That’s your house.
MJ takes that in, unsure as to how to take the support.
MJF: I still can’t believe you watch wrestling.
Angel: I don’t. I watch you.
It’s at this very perfect moment that a member of event staff approaches the women.
Staffer: Excuse me, Ms. Flair?
They both look at him. He points at MJ.
Staffer: The younger. There’s some guy at the door who says he’s your boyfriend, insisted he should be on the list. Says his name is Roger. Should we chase him off?
Angel looks at her daughter.
Angel: So I finally get to meet the mysterious Roger, huh? Send him in, thank you.
Before MJ can respond, the staffer walks away. Angel notices her daughter’s shift in mood.
MJF: It’s complicated.
Angel: How complicated could it be?
At that moment, Roger comes in through the entrance right off the main staircase. He makes a beeline for MJ, power walking all the way.
Angel: Well, you must--
Roger: So you don’t call me in a week, then you come to the city and don’t tell me? What kinda game you playing, MJ?
Angel: Excuse me--
Roger: Chill. I let you get away with a lot, but this constant taking me for granted? My dad was right, bitches like you are -
And that’s that. Angel shoves him backwards and stands between Roger and MJ.
Angel: Who the fuck do you think you are?
Roger: This is between me and her, mind your own fuckin’ business.
With that, Roger shoves Angel out of the way.
MJ rears back and punches Roger in the mouth.
Roger staggers back a step, and punches MJ in the eye.
All of this takes place in about a second and a half, and everyone in the building seems to be moving towards the conflict in slow motion.
Except one person. A hand wraps around Roger’s throat, picks him up, and slams him, back - first, on the floor. Roger locks eyes with the head of security for Valerian’s Garden, whose grip is tightening. He might have a chance if the head of security didn’t dwarf him at nearly seven feet tall and three hundred pounds.
Also, if it wasn’t Eli Flair.
ELI: You put your fucking hands on my wife and daughter?
The calmness in his voice undercuts the purple hue that Roger’s face is taking on.
ELI: You put… your fucking hands… on my family.
A small smile crosses his face.
ELI: Big fuck mistake.
He lifts Roger back to his feet by the neck while MJ helps Angel up, and he looks around to anyone with a phone.
ELI: Can we get the cops here, please?
MJF: Daddy, no.
Both her parents look at her like she’s crazy.
MJF: It’s not worth it. Just… get him outta here, okay?
Roger begins to struggle against Eli’s massive hand. MJ walks up to him, just out of reach.
As Eli starts to walk him out by the neck, Angel hugs her daughter tightly.
MJF (Shouting after him): Dick!
”Dick, Dick, Dick…”
“This is it, Dick.”
“This is your one shot at getting away from the middle’a the pack. This is the only chance you’re gonna get to prove yourself as something other than a one - note joke. A meme come ta’ life.”
“How many Dickuendos can Rolash and Gunt cram into their commentary? The world may never care.”
“The brutal truth is this, Dick: you peaked in the third grade. Soon as you learned your name was a euphemism for the word ‘penis,’ you thought you had the punchline to every joke.”
“What nobody told you… was that you’d be the punchline to every joke.”
“But this one is gonna go the same route as the last, Dick: you’re gonna eat your own. That’s your lot in life. You’re just talented enough to not bore the fans into a coma and you’re just memorable enough for the wins over you t’matter.”
“What exactly do you do? You run over the waifish kids with the hungry eyes and their fifty bucks a night t’make yourself feel like y’matter. Occasionally ya get lucky with a freakish pinfall over the middle’a the road t’make yourself feel like you’re a player.”
“Have you wrestled the MJ Flairs? The Eric Danes? The Bronson Boxes? The Jarvis Kings? Even the Jaceholes?”
“I can’t speak for the others because I give less than a shit about you and your stupid career, but you have wrestled MJ Flair.”
“How’d that work out for you?”
“As much as you run me down and shit on my name and my talent… you couldn’t beat me then, and you can’t beat me now. As much as you try to ‘air quotes’ my career, Dick?”
“You’re less than me, and you’ll always be less than me. Choke on that, dick.”
“The same can’t really be said for Jarvis King, can it? Former CWF World Champion, current CWF Paramount Champion, verifiable CWF legend. You’re good, you.”
“I ain’t gonna be like the rest, Jarvis. I’m sure at least one person in this event is gonna tell you that you’re an old man whose time’s come, that you’re in the Hall ‘a Fame and should step aside for the new kids on the block.”
“That ain’t me, Jarvis, cause I know you got the right stuff.”
“No, I want you in this match. I would love for the End Games t’come down to you and me so I can pin you for the win. Why?”
“Because you’re Jarvis King, and if I want your spot it ain’t on you t’step down - it’s on me t’take it from ya.”
“If I can.”
“And I can.”
The show is over. The fans got their moneys’ worth, including the performance and an hour or so of post-show autographs and photos. Valerian’s Garden and their entourage has moved to TC’s Pub in the Bronx, partly because it’s a relaxed atmosphere where fans can be themselves, and partly because their manager and head of security each own 50% of the place and Garden can drink for free. Faithful bar manager Cally fills a dozen shotglasses with Jameson, and everyone partakes.
Yes, this includes the very-much-underage MJ Flair.
Cally: Well, look on the bright side?
MJ stares at her through one and three quarters wide open eyes. Cally gives what she hopes to be a reassuring smile.
Cally: At least you found out now, right?
Two thumbs up from Cally, who does her best to keep things light. MJ’s eyes drop, and she takes down two shots in rapid order.
MJF: Yeah, after wasting months of my life? You and Tara were right, Cally… I should’ve seen the warning signs.
Angel: All I want to know is, has he hit you before?
MJ shakes her head rapidly, while Cally shrugs.
MJF: No, never-
Both MJ and Angel look at Cally, who is suddenly very self conscious.
MJF: He’s never hit me before, Cally.
Cally: No, not with fists, but with words.
Angel leans in. MJ facepalms.
Cally: From me and RK’s intel, he’s kind of an insecure manbaby who needs to be Alpha Male Numero Uno, and his tiny nards couldn’t compute dating a strong woman who didn’t need him to solve all of her problems. Also, his mom was rude and his dad was looking at her like a snack.
Angel’s look moves from Cally to MJ.
Angel: Mariella. Seriously. What’s going on?
MJF: Okay, so he wasn’t perfect. I know that.
Quietly, Cally slips to the other end of the bar while Angel’s eyes go wide.
Angel: Wasn’t perfect? That’s a little understated, isn’t it?
MJF: It was nice being with someone that didn’t seem intimidated by you or Daddy being my parents, who wasn’t intimidated by my career choices, who seemed able t’go with the flow, y’know? Yeah he was a little alpha male-ish but I never really thought much about it. I wasn’t ever in a position where I was forced to do anything I didn’t wanna so it wasn’t a big deal t’me.
Angel: It is a big deal. I’ve told you about some of my poor choices; how a boy treats you is crucial for a happy relationship. Look at your father and me.
They turn towards the far end of the bar, where Eli Flair is drinking a beer quietly in a booth next to Ivy McGinnis, who is animatedly talking on her phone.
Angel: He’s confident in who he is and what we are; he didn’t have a problem with me getting into a bus full of men to go on tour, even though one of them was my ex boyfriend. He and I trust each other because neither of us has ever given the other a reason to the contrary. So… there’s literally only one area where you could have even a hint of responsibility for this.
MJ arches an eyebrow.
Angel: Did you ever give him reason not to trust you?
Angel: Next time you date someone, can we meet him right away and avoid all this rigmarole?
She leans in and hugs her daughter.
At that moment, Eli and Ivy rejoin the pair.
IVY: Well, that’s that. Dumbass called the cops and they’re on their way here to get a statement from both you and your dad.
He finishes his beer and waves to Cally to ask for another.
Angel: Awesome. We can tell them what happened.
MJ isn’t worried. Her aunt Ivy is friends with practically every member of the NYPD; they’ve seen her grow up and they’ve always been friendly.
MJF: Any idea how long?
IVY: Half hour, maybe? Cut it off, MJ.
She takes the third shot of Jameson out of MJ’s hand and downs it herself. It’s unlikely that the police would bust them for MJ’s underage drinking in her family’s bar, but why risk it?
Cally: I’m also a material witness.
They stop and stare for a moment. Cally’s eyes waver between all four of them.
Angel: I’m sorry, Rosie… Pretty sure we all thought you were about to sing.
She looks at her husband, daughter, and manager and they nod their assent.
Cally: … It crossed my mind.
MJF: Just let it out, Cally… you’re among friends.
As if she needs any encouragement. Cally steps on the cooler, steps on the bar, and drops to the floor. She walks to the internet jukebox and searches, and “Material Girl” by Madonna fills the grungy dive bar. Ivy drops her head to the bar.
IVY: Friendship only goes so far, MJ…
”The Golden Paradigm is all over this match. There’s me, there’s Bronson Box… and there’s Eric Dane.”
“It’s funny, this all started with Eric getting my back against an Oreo Bro. Like Y2K, nothing ever really happened.”
“We have mutual friends, Eric Dane and I. They like him and respect him: they still call him the Boss Man even though they don’t work for him. Based on what I’ve seen so far and what I’ve been told, I’m not surprised t’see him here. Anything he’s lost to time, he’s made up for with guile and smarts.”
“I get it, man. How much time could you have left? Every great champion wants that one last run with the belt. Could this be it for you? I really don’t know. Knees aside, I haven’t felt like you’ve lost a step in the ring from what I’ve seen. I think you could win this match and take the title to Andy Murray’s Wrestlefest shot.”
“And I’d shake your hand if it happens.”
“But it’s like I said to Jarvis King - this is a sport where you don’t just step aside. This is a sport where you’re the man until someone takes it from ya, and in the CWF, at least, when comparing you and I… I’m the man.”
“Who saw that coming?”
“Like you and your hope for one more moment in the sun, Eric… I have a vision, and unfortunately, our respective visions are incompatible. I am going to win this match, win back the CWF World Title, and headline Wrestlefest in front’a my hometown.”
“And I have no problem runnin’ you over to do it, my friend.”
“You made the comment that I didn’t have staying power yet, even as a former World Champion, because I didn’t have double digit reigns, or, as you so condescendingly put it… three. Well, I can’t get to three until I get to two, and I’ll tell ya, Eric… it’s about to happen.”
“Can you do something about it? Sure. You can stop me. If you can.”
“And if you can’t, maybe Bronson Box could?”
“I dunno, Bronson… we haven’t had much conversation. But I like you too: you’re no-nonsense with a mustache and a bad attitude. I don’t feel like I need t’worry about you hittin’ me from behind to screw me out of a win or anything like that, which is nice.”
“No, if you’re gonna screw with me, you’ll look me in the face while ya do it.”
“But this ain’t your moment either, Bronson. I know it could be, you’ve got the chops and you’ve got the skills. And you’ve got the track record to back it up.”
“Once I win my second CWF World Title, we’ll get you on the schedule.”
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen here. There’s three of us, and I feel confident enough that we’d at least work together until it’s down t’just the three of us. At the same time, there’s only one belt and only one of us can be the CWF World Champion.”
“And it even scares me to think about what I’d do to two guys I consider my friends in order for it to be me.”
The JFK International Airport is just as busy as always, with the line at security snaking all the way around itself at least once. MJ Flair takes a deep breath and lets out an overly dramatic whimper.
Angel: A train probably would’ve been faster.
MJF: Ain’t no way. I’m goin’ to DC to win a World Title, I’m splurging for the first class seats.
MJ adjusts the strap on her carry on bag and hugs her mother tightly.
Angel: Good luck, MJ. We’ll be watching.
MJF: Really? It’s a cage match, ya know. Could get messy.
Angel opens her mouth to respond, but stops for a few seconds.
Angel: We’ll be watching on replay after you call me to tell me you’re okay.
They hug again, and MJ walks towards the line.
She turns around, and Angel reapproaches her, and talks quietly in her ear.
Angel: Remember this, okay? No matter what anyone says to you, about you, or around you, you worked hard and you earned this. Not me, not your dad, not your aunt Ivy. You did this.
MJ hugs her mom again.
MJF: Thanks, Mommy. Jacehole would disagree, but…
MJF: So… what?
Angel: He can disagree with whatever he wants; do you care? Did the insults he threw at me and the boys cause one person to not buy an album or a ticket? Do the insults he throws at you make you any less a part of this event?
Angel: Then he doesn’t matter.
She taps her daughter on the chest, right over her heart.
Angel: This matters. Own it.
MJ hugs her mom for a third time and kisses her on the side of the head. She walks back to the security line and takes her spot, twisting her mom’s words around in her head. Hard work got her to this point, so there’s only one thing left to do.
”We’ve all earned our spot in the End Games match. Theoretically, we could all come out on top as the CWF World Champion. But that’s the window dressing; that’s the pipe dream. In reality? This match comes down to two people.”
“Mariella Jade Flair.”
“And the Jacehole.”
“With all appropriate respect to both Caledonia and Duce Jones, this year has been defined by my title reign, and by Jacehole’s title reign.”
“I worked hard. I nearly made it to the finals of the Modern Warfare tournament, then spent the next six weeks earning a World Title shot. I represented this company with dignity and with respect on our Far East tour, giving an opportunity to anyone that asked. I did the best I could to be a Champion this company could be proud of.”
“Jacehole, on the other hand? Not so much.”
“You beat Duce with the referee in your pocket, you aligned with Yente, and you managed to defend your Championship exactly zero times between winning it and losing it.”
“Every action you took as the CWF Champion was taken for the betterment of Jace Valentine - CWF be damned - and you have the gall to question what I bring to the table?”
“Fuck outta here with that nonsense, you stupid sonovabitch.”
“I’ve noticed, Jacehole, in the reality you’ve created for yourself where you’re the greatest wrestler in the CWF, that you manage to forget the fact that you lost the World Title to me. Clean as a fucking whistle. I don’t shy away from the fact that you eliminated me from the Modern Warfare tournament; you can’t change what’s happened, only how you deal with it.”
“Greatest wrestler in the CWF? Bitch, please: you’re not even the greatest wrestler on your own team.”
“Jacehole, you live in Jacehole world, where everyone exists t’validate your greatness. Here’s a newsflash for ya: when all your friends are sycophantic leeches, you don’t have any friends. The rest of us live in the real world. Do you know what Jace Valentine looks like in the real world?”
“You’re a sad, lonely old bastard whose day is past. The smooth talking ladies man ran outta juice years ago, with a schtick that only works on the very young and the very naive. Nobody listens to ‘Advice On,’ except to laugh at how hilariously outta touch you are.”
“I told Jarvis King that I didn’t expect him t’give up his ‘spot’ - because I haven’t earned it unless I take it from him. That’s true, Jacehole. That’s the law’a the business.”
“I took your spot five months ago, Jacehole, and you ain’t gettin’ it back.”
“There’s no Academy anymore, Jacehole. There’s not SSRIentologists, or Oreo Bros, or Sunset Media or Childlike Empresses. There’s no mess that you made that you can get validation from cleaning up.”
“There’s just you, Jacehole, and your day is past.”
“This match is called End Games: and it is. It’s the end of your ability to impersonate a wrestler with a claim to the CWF World Championship. If I don’t accomplish that, Dane will. Box will. King will. The fucking panda will.”
“Now and forever, Jacehole… you’ll be a fucking Jacehole. And you have nobody to blame for that but yourself.”
“Me? It’s time earn my spot at the Wrestlefest main event.”