“The drawback of being World Champion? Ain’t nowhere ta go but down.”
- ‘Total Elimination’ Eli Flair
We’re backstage at CWF Paradise. Or, as backstage as it gets with an outdoor event and a bunch of Quonset huts or the equivalent. This particular hut serves as a medical unit for the roster: something that seems more and more required as time goes by.
MEDIC: Raise your arm for me.
Former World Champion MJ Flair sits on an examining table, gritting her teeth as she raises her arm.
MEDIC: Good, good. Rotate forward, please?
There is palpable pain on her face while she does so. Off to the side, Adrian Evans looks on in concern.
Adrian: It’s a good thing you’re not your father; he’d have stayed in that hold until the referee stopped the match and would’ve been out for several months. But at least he’d have his pride.
MJF: Jokes, Adrian? Not helping right now.
The former Champion continues to grimace as the medic moves her arm into various positions, when all of a sudden…
Caledonia: Oh my goodness, MJ… are you okay?
MJ’s eyes lock onto her opponent’s, but they uncontrollably drift to the title belt in her hands.
Her title. No, not anymore.
MJF: Dunno yet, but this guy, I think he’s punishing me for forgettin’ the safe word. Ouch!
He stops manipulating MJ’s arm and writes a few things down.
MEDIC: Looks like a muscle strain and a partial dislocation. No permanent damage, but you’ll feel it for a few days.
And he hands her a script.
MEDIC: For any pain, if you want it.
Sensing the awkwardness of the moment, the medic quietly leaves the tent.
Caledonia: I’m sorry-
The Champion stops talking.
MJF: That’s the game, sweetie. Doesn’t always work out the way y’want it to, but ya fight the fights that need it.
She walks towards Caledonia, and, once they’re eye to eye, she taps the title belt.
MJF: Wear it with pride, kay?
Caledonia smiles, and the current and former Champion reach out to hug.
And just as suddenly, they step back: MJ rubbing her shoulder.
MJF: Allrighty, that one, I blame ya for.
Laughter. Adrian pulls out his phone and steps towards them.
Adrian: All right, ladies - MJ, the car is here, we need to leave now. Ms. Highlander?
He extends his hand, Cali shakes.
Adrian: Congratulations. Please remember, our offer of assistance is still on the table.
Caledonia: I’ll let you know. Things have gotten more… complicated.
Adrian: Don’t they always. Ms. Highlander.
MJ and Adrian leave the hut, Adrian carrying both of their bags. There’s a pleasant breeze coming off the ocean, and MJ puts a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
Adrian: You okay?
MJF: Yeah… Yeah I am. I feel… calm?
Adrian: Take all the time you need.
The phone buzzes.
MJ rolls over in bed and picks it up. Her eyes are taking a while to adjust to being awake, but she can see the name on the display: Roger.
She keys in her password and starts to scroll through the myriad of messages left in the past two days, all without a reply since her first:
“I’m fine, but I’m a little depressed and a little beat up, so I need a few days. I’ll text you when I’m ready.”
He replied ‘K,’ but continued to text.
“Thinkin about you, text me.”
“Killcode just got signed; they’re having a party; we’re invited. Call me.”
This last one is a keeper.
“What’s up with this #marielledonia hashtag? Something you’re not telling me, besides everything right now?”
Aunt Ivy calls it the ‘Flair Temper,’ but at the moment, MJ is more her mother.
She climbs out of bed and, in one smooth, practiced motion, traps all of her hair behind her head in a ponytail. MJ glances at herself in the vanity mirror, then stops for a bit of a longer look.
She is definitely her parents’ child: she inherited her steel gray eyes from her father and her pale, blemish-free skin from her mother. They both have jet-black hair (though her father’s has started to salt-and-pepper a bit), so that was a certainty.
Neither of them, however, get as flushed in the cheeks as MJ when she’s angry. This is all her own.
MJ opens her bedroom door and sticks her head out, listening. There’s conversation happening somewhere, like there always is in this house, and MJ does her best to pick out the voices. Amidst all of the unfamiliars…
From somewhere downstairs, MJ’s father calls out a response.
MJF: I need to get to the city tonight, can you drive me to the train station, or should I call an UBER?
ELI FLAIR (Faintly): Need t’head inta the bar tonight, if ya can wait a bit I can drive ya all the way. Where y’headed?
Oh. Well. That’s convenient.
MJF: Actually, I have no idea. But I’ll take the ride, Daddy. Thank you.
She closes her door and immediately picks up her phone. Instead of texting, like literally everyone else her age does, MJ dials a number.
The voice on the other end is full of energy, but sounds laid back at the same time. Since we all have cell phones in this day and age, he obviously knows who it is.
MJF: Joey James! How are ya, sweetness?
JJ: I’m good, MJ, I’m good. What’s up? You coming out tonight?
MJF: Plannin’ on it, my good man. Listen, I don’t wanna call the guys and gum up their night with my malarky, is there any way you can put me on the list? You know I’ll promote whatever they ask, I just need t’get in there without much hassle.
There’s a bit of paper rustling on the other end of the phone. MJ takes the opportunity to start going through her closet… though none of her ‘public’ outfits really seem to fit her mood. Fuck a duck, for how much she wants to kick someone’s ass, at this rate she might as well just show up in her ring gear.
JJ: I can put you on Seventh Void’s list, hold on a second…
More silence, more pages turning. MJ pulls a shirt out of her closet, then another.
JJ: I’ve already got you here.
MJF: What? How? Did Slitz just assume or something?
JJ: Slitzy doesn’t do that. Hold on a sec.
While Joey does his thing, MJ locks her bedroom door and crosses the room to her private bathroom, turning on the shower. She checks the time: it’s getting late, and if she wants to actually see the bands play, makeup will have to be minimal.
JJ: Okay, so I talked to Slitz, and he said you already asked.
MJF: Interesting, except I didn’t do that. Did he say he talked to me?
JJ: No, he said Roger made the request plus one on your behalf.
Laughter. Lots of laughter.
MJF: Of course. This… makes sense.
JJ: Someone’s in trouble, aren’t they?
MJF: Do me a favor and kill the plus one?
JJ: Done. Just make sure I get to see the fallout?
MJF: Who loves ya, Joey.
She hangs up the phone and closes the bathroom door.
MJ can hear the commotion from a block away.
“Dude. I’m on the list. I’m Mariella’s plus one.”
“Sorry man, MJ’s not here yet and I don’t have a guest listed for her.”
“Slitzy’s busy with the gig. Call MJ, if you’re her plus one.”
MJF: Hey boys. Teddy, he was on the list but I told Joey to take him off. He can go in with me in a second, we just need a minute.
The doorman nods, and he gives MJ a hug.
Teddy: Good enough, kiddo. I’ll keep an eye.
Roger rolls his eyes while MJ lets Teddy go. She turns towards him and tilts her head away from the venue, and she starts walking.
Roger: What the fuck, MJ.
MJF: What the fuck is, why are you trading on my name without talking t’me? Why are you blowin’ up my phone when I asked you t’gimee a few days? Why can’t you listen?
Roger: I figured you’d want to come out to see this. You’ve never missed a Seventh Void gig.
MJ holds up her hand.
MJF: That’s my choice, not yours. I would’ve been sad t’miss this, but it was the best thing I could do for me, dude. My shoulder’s killin’ me still, I lost my title, and I think I’ve earned the right t’sit home and feel sorry for myself for a few days, no?
Roger: What you were doing was shutting me out. I want to be there for you, MJ. I want to pick you up and carry you through the tough spots so we can enjoy these things together. I want to be your hero and you’re fighting me on it.
Silence. MJ stares, dead - eyed at him.
MJF: ...Have ya met me?
Roger looks confused.
MJF: I don’t want or need a hero, Roger. I wanted a partner. I don’t need t’be rescued, I can take care’a myself, most’a the time. If I need something else I will tell you I need something else. All I ever wanted from you was t’have my back, not fight my battles for me or get pissy when ya can’t.
At this, Roger leans against the building behind him.
Roger: Well, that’s not what I need from this. I need to be able to be the man in this relationship. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I don’t like the fact that you don’t need me.
MJF: ...I never said I didn’t need you. I just said I didn’t want to have to lean on you for everything.
Roger: Not like your new best friend, hashtag Marielle-donia?
MJF: I can’t help what people say.
Roger: But you talk to her. You talk to all of ‘em more than me.
MJ turns around and stomps her feet a bit in a circle.
MJF: That’s because you’re not there. You have no frame’a reference, and if I’ve gotta explain it, it’s not the same.
Roger: Thanks, MJ.
He turns and walks back towards the bar. Before he takes three steps, MJ grabs his arm and spins him.
MJF: Y’know, I fell hard for ya. I was afraid our age difference would make things weird, but I liked the fact that you had your own life ‘n wouldn’t be all weird with me on the road. And I’m sorry you’re feelin’ left behind, Rog… but… this relationship will never understand that life.
He doesn’t respond, but he pulls himself away and walks back towards the bar. MJ watches him, disbelieving, then turns and walks her own way.
Cally: He’s a stupid head, don’t give him any more thought.
TC’s pub, way uptown. Somewhere in the 200’s block, if you need a more zoomed-in location. MJ sits at the bar, dabbing her eyes with a napkin, while Cally - bar manager Rosalyn Callasantos - stands behind, being as supportive as she can.
MJF: I seriously just thought he was different, Cally.
Cally: So you’re wrong sometimes. He seemed pretty bossa nova to me too, I’m sorry he was so hexed.
MJF: I blew up at him, too. I never saw his point’a view, y’know? He’s back home, all alone, while I’m jet-settin’ all over. You and Knox have the right idea, aunt Ivy and uncle Sean, they’ve got the right idea. Mommy and Daddy didn’t really tour together but they were both doin’ their own thing. Can it even work like this?
Cally: Sure it can. I think it can. Maybe. But you need the right chemistry of a guy. He’s not a bad dude for wanting to be ‘the man,’ or whatever. He just can’t expect t’slide you into that role when it’s not you, chickadee. Am I right?
MJF: No, you’re right. But it doesn’t hurt any less.
She looks around.
MJF: Where’s my dad?
Cally: He’s in the office on the tele.
MJF: Good. I don’t need him t’see me upset.
Cally leans in and smirks.
Cally: Would he bust some heads?
MJF: I… never actually introduced Roger to my parents.
Cally: Why? Cause they’d bust his head?
MJF: I dunno, it just never came up.
Cally: Is he pro-head-bust?
Now, MJ laughs.
MJF: You have problems.
Cally: And a busted head ain’t one.
She leaves MJ to handle another customer, but MJ’s mood is noticeably brightened. Still, this is a situation that will need to be dealt with, somewhere.
“Dean Coulter… you’re a fuckin’ idiot.”
“You had it all, man. You and Sam were the CWF World Tag Team Champions. The Lost Boys were half of the Coalition, a group that had some issues but, in theory, fixed ‘em all at Unhinged. You were on top’a the world.”
“The single dumbest thing you’ve ever done, ever - was leavin’ your partner behind. Sam would’ve followed you t’the end’a the world, and he’d’ve had your back, no matter the issue. Ask him now - I bet he still does.”
“Was it worth it? Was the Oreo Bros really worth it?”
“I know, I know… you say they’ve got something on ya, and that’s why you’re with ‘em.”
“Who better t’battle a group that’s threatinin’ you and yours, than your partner? Than the guy that’s got your back? That knows you better than anyone, includin’ yourself? If you’re telling the truth about why you hooked up with the Ouro Borealis, you’re almost in a hostage situation, and who better t’help you out than your tag team partner?”
“And if you’re lyin’ about why you joined up, and you simply switched teams for strategic reasons… Well…”
“How’d that work out for Jace Valentine?”
“Y’see, Dean… right now is the worst time for you t’have an identity crisis.”
“Are you a Lost Boy, or are you just lost? Are you an Ouroboro, or are you a Patti Hearst? Are you betraying your boy because you have no choice, or do you have no other choices because you betrayed your boy? And make no mistake - flippin’ from the Coalition t’the Oreos without talkin’ to him about it is a betrayal.”
“All this rushin’ around your brain, and you’ve drawn me. You’ve got the former World Champion who’s not really all that okay with the F word in front, even if I’m happy for the current Champ.”
“But here’s the fun part, Dean. Are ya ready for the fun part?”
“The fans that you shat on, you said they turned on you when you started t’act for yourself and protect ‘you and yours’? They pays their money, they can do whatever the fuck they want in that arena. As far as you and yours go… what about Sam?”
“You wanna play the victim, Dean… you’re allowed t’do so. But when ya abandon your tag team partner, then tell the fans they suck for not supportin’ ya… they support the Lost Boys. Y’can’t blame ‘em for not supportin’ your sudden decision, apparently, t’dismantle the Lost Boys.”
“I mean, I guess y’can…”
“But we’ll see how far that gets ya.”
MJ enjoys the night air in the alley behind the bar. It’s a slow night, and there’s nobody out here smoking - hopefully they’ve all simply stopped the habit in and of itself.
Her phone has been blowing up all evening: people asking where she is, people sending video of both Seventh Void and Killcode tearing it up, and people who may have seen or heard of the… incident… simply sending their love.
No message from Roger, however.
Relationships are complicated; MJ knows it already. Her first love dumped her because she was trying to start a wrestling career and she simply had no time for him, and it broke her heart to have to explain that the high she gets from performing, nothing he can do with her or for her can ever compare to it.
Roger was the first person she’d ever dated who had a full time job and adult responsibilities, and she assumed he would be able to get it; he’s got his own life outside of them, after all, and he’d be able to live his life while she lived hers.
That was a fail.
For now, at least. Reconciliation could happen, but not until a long talk.
People are complicated.
Professional wrestling, for all its nuances, is comparatively simple: all MJ needs is someone to hit.
That’ll come later.
Right now? For the first time since she lost her CWF World Championship to Caledonia… MJ Flair feels almost normal.
And it’s enough.