Ash Tree Lane in Warwick, NY is silent as a winter morning where everything is covered by a layer of snow. The only thing that breaks the quiet is the sound of a purring car engine, pulling into a driveway. Eli Flair makes sure to turn the radio off before he kills the engine and steps outside: a lifelong city boy, he still has to make a conscious effort to respect the quiet of the suburbs.
The house is mostly dark and fully empty: Eli Flair doesn’t like this. Having spent most of his teenage years alone and surviving only on the kindness of friends, the first half or so of his professional wrestling career were much the same. He no longer survived on the kindness of friends, but he spent every moment away from the wrestling ring alone. It was ultimately beneficial for him, as he gained a reputation as a solid workhorse who could always be counted on to go anywhere and do anything for a company and for his fans, but it was a lonely life.
Then he met Angel. Then Angel had Mariella Jade.
Eli hit the brakes on his wrestling career and spent the final eight years of it working part time, partly because his body was breaking down and he needed to rely more on guts and attitude than his disintegrating knees, and partly because he was determined that he would be more involved in his daughter’s life than his parents were in his. Or Angel’s parents were in hers, for that matter.
He has always enjoyed quiet when he’s not in an arena, which makes it interesting that he misses the chaos of the road. Even now, he could be there, but his former manager and his wife’s current manager, Ivy McGinnis, is on the road with the band. As the duo are also business partners in a fairly successful Bronx dive bar, the practical outcome is that only one of them can tour with Valerian’s Garden at a time.
It causes conflict in his mind. On one hand, he likes quiet. On the other, he does not like being alone. Since every engineer or producer who works in Spyder Studios is on the road with Valerian’s Garden, there isn’t any reason for other bands to be at the house to record.
So, he just takes it in stride. Eli walks to the front door and unlocks it, walking into the empty house with a heavy heart.
Except, it isn’t empty.
As Eli enters the front door, he looks straight ahead. Immediately to the left is an empty living room, immediately to the right is an empty dining room. Further down the entrance hallway is the closed and sealed door to the basement studio, and in the back of the house to the left is an empty family room and to the right is an empty kitchen.
Straight back is the backyard. The light is on, and a figure with a full head of black hair is sitting there.
Eli walks straight back, opening the sliding door to see his daughter sitting there, staring off into space. He almost doesn’t react to the open bottle of Glenfiddich 50 year old. This shows an incredible amount of patience on the King of Extreme’s part, as the bottle of single malt scotch that his underage daughter is drinking cost him twenty six thousand dollars a few years ago.
ELI: You okay?
She drinks another swig from the bottle. Eli sits down next to her and takes it from her, drinking from it himself.
ELI: Don’t bullshit me, kiddo. What’s the deal?
MJ does not look at him. She shakes her head and hugs her knees. Eli puts an arm around her shoulders and hugs her tightly.
ELI: Is the stupid boy still calling you?
She shakes her head.
MJF: Well, yeah, but that’s not it.
He takes another drink.
MJF: I got fined by the CWF for telling the truth.
He stops, mid - drink, and looks at her.
ELI: Wait, what?
MJF: Yeah. I do that podcast, I talk about what’s gone on so far this year, and I get a letter saying that I showed lack of character, or attitude, or whatever, and essentially they took away my money from Summer Games.
ELI: Okay… so they took away your money and sent you home. Could be worse.
MJ looks at him. She tries to take the bottle but he pushes it away.
ELI: What, suspended? Fired?
She shakes her head.
ELI: Help me, kiddo. Help me help you.
MJF: They put me in a World Title qualifying match.
ELI: Seriously? Fuck’s the problem, then?
She pushed back from him.
MJF: They’re trying t’tell me what I’m s’posed to say! You and Mommy always said I should say what’s on my mind and not be afraid t’voice my opinion!
Eli looks down. His hair falls into his face, and he starts to laugh.
ELI: Speak your mind, kiddo… but it could have consequences. Seriously, y’didn’t think’a that?
MJ stands up, but nearly falls over. She holds onto the handrail and steadies herself.
ELI: Your aunt Ivy and I talked a tonna shit back in the day, and we took our punishments on the chin. Fuck, Merritt prob’ly took six figures offa her just on her columns.
MJF: But they’re--
ELI: Naaah, stop sulking. So they fined you for shit talking. They’re also givin’ you a shot at the top again. You know what that means?
Her look tells him that she doesn’t.
ELI: They need you more than they need your silence ‘n compliance. Long as that’s true, all you’re ever gunna get is a fine and a slap on the wrist. Honestly, MJ… put on yer big girl pants‘n get over it.
She nods, but nearly falls over. Eli grabs her wrist and helps her stand up.
ELI: Time for the drunk sleep. How much did you drink, anyways?
He picks up the bottle and feels the heft: it’s still nearly full.
MJF: Liiiike… five sips or so?
Eli shakes his head.
ELI: Shiiiiit. Where’d you get your tolerance from, lightweight?
”One word matters more than any other in professional wrestling.”
“It’s a simple concept: if the fans love you, they really love you. If they hate you, they really hate you. Either state is fine by a promoter: the only thing they don’t wanna hear is the sound of silence.”
“Illustrated: I’m cheered like crazy; I’m over. Jacehole has arenas full’a people wanting to kill him; he’s over.”
“Being ‘over’ is all that matters to a wrestling promoter. The amount’a shit that they’re willing t’put up with in order to make some money is gargantuan.”
“Great word, right?”
“We go into that ring and we win or lose on our own merits, but when you’re over, you’re more likely t’get those opportunities. That’s life.”
“It’s been a rough couple’a weeks for the CWF. Some’a the most ‘over’ wrestlers in the company have been fired, quit, walked out, tossed out… you name it. All of a sudden, being over is a rarity at the top’a the heap, and all of a sudden, I’m over and my dreams ain’t.”
“I had one goal when I defeated Jacehole and the Aces back at Confliction: headline Wrestle Fest in my hometown. That dream took a hit at Paradise when Caledonia took the CWF World Championship away from me. It took another when Andy Murray tossed me over the top rope at Golden Intentions. And it flatlined when Eric Dane pinned me at Summer Games.”
“And yet, here we are. One victory is all it’ll take t’put me right back in.”
Adrian: We couldn’t check into the hotel first?
Adrian Evans and MJ Flair stand outside the Scotiabank Arena, looking into the ‘back entrance’ where tour buses and the like typically park. Their taxi waits patiently: a large, pre-ride tip makes sure of this.
MJF: Not yet.
She looks longingly into the bowels of the entranceway.
MJF: Daddy was right there when he got the text.
Adrian raises an eyebrow.
MJF: Mommy was on tour and Aunt Ivy booked a dozen dates through Canada to coincide with Daddy’s wrestling dates.
Adrian: A Canadian tour.
Adrian: In January.
Adrian: Okay. The wrestling, I can understand: the boys come in, do the show indoors, and leave in a bus and fly to the next place. Valerian’s Garden, though? Then?
MJ looks at him and smiles a half smile.
Adrian: They were in a van and playing dives, and your mother was something like eight months and twenty nine days pregnant.
MJF: It was important to Mommy and Daddy that they be together when I popped.
MJ looks back at the arena.
Adrian: I mean, it’s a nice story, I just question the logic of it. Obviously it all worked out because they were together.
MJF: This means something, though. Having that qualifying match here is fate. I think this was all meant to happen.
Adrian laughs. MJ looks at him and gives him a playful shove.
Adrian: Ms. Flair, we’re here in this circumstance because Mr. Dane learned the same thing you did - that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
MJF: You didn’t like him, did you?
Adrian: He was perfectly passable, but it’s worth him being gone that he took that loathsome cunt with him.
MJ covers her mouth in mock surprise.
MJF: Mr. Evans! You used a dirty word!
Adrian adjusts his tie; he smirks at her.
Adrian: I’m a professional, Ms. Flair - but I still work with your aunt.
He grows deadly serious as he looks her in the eye.
Adrian: This is your fourth chance, Ms. Flair. Caledonia, Golden Intentions, End Games. Finally, you’re in a position that just one opponent stands between you and your goals. Do not squander the opportunity.
MJ crouches down to look him face to face.
MJF: You don’t need t’tell me, man. Amber Ryan gets back t’back shots at the title, meanwhile I need t’wade through seven opponents, 29 opponents, or the entire cast’a the Expendables interfering until now.
Adrian nods, and he opens the taxi door for MJ to step through.
MJF: Carpe the fuck diem, my friend.
Adrian: Tally ho, Ms. Flair.
”Is this a conflict of interest?”
“The Commissioner wrestling for a spot in the Wrestle Fest main event? Should you be doin’ this, Ataxia?”
“I can’t answer that. But I guess it doesn’t really matter when push comes t’shove. So far you haven’t screwed with the rules or with the company in general t’give yourself or the Forsaken an advantage over anyone.”
“But respect only goes so far. The fact’a the matter is, this is go-mode. This is tunnel vision.”
“There is no fake Ataxia. There is no Forsaken. There is no Jacehole - slash - Smokin’ Asses connection here. There is you and me, and there is a ticket t’the main event’a Wrestle Fest.”
“Someone else might call it their birthright. Someone else might call it their destiny.”
“I’ll call it fate that, despite every setback I’ve hit on, I’m still standin’ here, one win away from headlining the biggest show’a the year. But it ain’t my destiny, and it ain’t my birthright.”
“My family doesn’t get those. We get opportunities.”
“I have one option: make the most’a those opportunities. I have one option. Win.”
“Or die tryin’.”
Tara Robinson remains by the hotel room door, almost afraid to touch anything. MJ Flair readjusts the tie on her Four Seasons complimentary bathrobe and sits on the main room sofa, gesturing for her friend to join her.
Tara: Dude. You don’t screw around, do you?
MJF: For a big show? Never. Drink?
Tentatively, Tara steps out of her shoes and walks through the spacious suite. She takes MJ up on her offer and pulls a small bottle of whiskey out of the minibar before sitting down. MJ crosses her legs, but examines her toes closely: as much of a crossfit princess tomboy as she is, it’s been far too long since her last pedi.
Tara: So it’s you and Ataxia this go-round. You handled him pretty well last time you faced off at Evolution 24; do you expect much of the same?
MJF: I think it’s foolish to ever expect any opponent t’be the same as the last time ya faced off. I caught ‘Tax in the Morning Star, so he’ll be lookin’ for that, no question. I’m not the same wrestler I was last time out, and neither is he.
Tara: Of course. Ataxia was new to the Commissioner role last time, and he was holding the Impact Championship. How do you feel you’ve changed?
MJ smiles sadly.
MJF: Little wiser, I think. Little more jaded, no pun intended. But I think it’s a net positive. You know? The Golden Paradigm was a learning experience. Weeks spent as the almost - there was a learning experience.
Tara: And what did we learn?
MJF: At the very least? Don’t take these opportunities for granted. I mean, y’take a guy like Silas Artoria -
Tara holds up her hand; she doesn’t even want to hear the name. MJ laughs.
MJF: But the point is that he talks like he deserves opportunities that he doesn’t earn. Same time, ‘Tax is a clown but he ain’t arrogant, ya know? I’m all too aware’a the fact that they’re few and far between.
Tara: Speaking of opportunities, assuming you get past Ataxia, do you have a preference for your Wrestle Fest opponent?
MJ points to her own eyes, then to Tara.
MJF: I see what’cha did there, man. A preference? No, not at all. Y’talk about opportunities - I haven’t looked it up but I think this might be the closest that ‘Tax has ever gotten to a title shot in the time I’ve been in this company, as in he’s gotta beat one person t’get there. Flipside, Ripper and Colton wander back into the CWF and they’re immediately gifted with the once-removed match. You think they appreciate it?
She makes a ‘cutting’ motion by her neck.
MJF: Ain’t no way.
Tara makes some notes, then nods her head absently.
Tara: That’s about all I need right now, my friend. You want to get some dinner?
MJ stands up, nodding her head.
MJF: Sure, let me get dressed - Cafe Boulud in this place looks like it’s got a decent menu. My treat?
Tara: Wherever you end up staying for Wrestle Fest, can I be your roommate?
MJF: It’s only like an hour and a half from my house so I’ll probably just stay in my own room. But yeah, you can crash there if ya want.
”And so. This is my confession.”
“Who am I? I’m a former World Champion, descended from a family of world beaters who have no reason t’be world beaters. I’m the personification’a the road less traveled. I’ve never, ever, ever wrestled for a Championship without…”
“Ataxia? I have no ill will towards you. I’m a fan, I’m a booster. I like you Forsaken people just fine. But that’s stayin’ outta the ring, for one reason at the very least: I have to win this match.”
“I have no choice.”
“I came up short when the cast’a Cheaper by the Dozen interfered. I came up short at Golden Intentions. I came up short at End Games.”
“I’m all outta miracles, ‘Tax. I’m all outta second chances.”
“And I’m all in.”
“I’d be overjoyed t’give you a shot at the CWF World Championship after Wrestle Fest. I’m happy as hell t’line up you, Mia, Shadow, and Dorian and defend the Championship one after another after another if it came down to it.”
“But that’s a complication for tomorrow. Today is about you and me, and about me competing at Wrestle Fest in the main event for the CWF World Championship.”
“There is nothing else in my world but the Championship right now.”
“Colton. Ripper. Doesn’t matter. They don’t exist. It’s just you, Ataxia. It’s just you and me and one of us changing the world. Do you understand how significant this moment is?”
“There’s the World Champion, and there’s the Number One Contender. The World Champion wears the title, and the Number One Contender is the person that wins Golden Intentions. You and I have one chance to walk outta Toronto in an impossible situation. You and I have one chance t’be neither’a the athletes enriched by the chance t’headline the biggest show’a the year, and yet we’re fighting for exactly that.”
“Matches are won, Ataxia. Matches are lost.”
“Dead dreams don’t come back to life. Except when they do.”
“I wonder how this goes for you, Ataxia. In a way, I envy you. You lose to me, you’re still the Commissioner. You’re still part of the Forsaken. You’ve still got Mia. Life goes on, you’ll inevitably get another shot somewhere along the way.”
“I lose to you… there is no tomorrow.”
“I’m all in.”
“Can you comprehend the situation you’re in, Ataxia? My dream was dead and now it’s got a new hope. I’ve wrestled as hard as I possibly can, and then some. I’ve made it to the last inch’a the dream time and time again, only t’come up one inch short.”
“Now I’m one win away. One win over one opponent.”
"That one inch is finally within reach."
“Do you understand what I’m willing t’do t’win this match, Ataxia?”
“I know the score. I know that we’ve lost far too many people in the past two months, and that the CWF is in desperate need of a hero. Regardless’a which one of us wins, the CWF is in desperate need of a Champion that has known the company’s struggles and successes, and who would truly appreciate what it means t’be Champion.”
“I understand that. You understand that.”
“Colton? Ripper? Who fuckin’ cares.”
“But even more than the CWF needs a hero, Ataxia? I need to win this match.”
“And I will do anything to win this match, ‘Tax. I would lie, cheat, steal, or kill to win this match. And then some.”
“Beware the lengths to which a desperate woman will go.”
“Good luck, Ataxia.”