August 23, 2018
CWF Evolution 28
It’s taken MJ Flair more than twice as long to get back to the locker room tonight. She’s been stopped more times than she can count by crew, staff, and her wrestler peers to congratulate her on winning her match against Ataxia and earning a ticket to the Wrestle Fest main event.
There’s a tug of melancholy in the back of her brain, but she puts it aside for the moment. MJ pushes the door open to the womens’ locker room (a hilariously empty area these days, especially with Mia Rayne in a coma in a Buffalo hospital: it’s a full sized locker room shared by MJ, Autumn Raven, and Chloe Hawkhurst), and immediately peels out of her sweat - soaked top. She grabs her bag out of her locker and gingerly retrieves her phone.
‘Gingerly’ - sweaty smears don’t help anyone.
She turns on the power and waits for the update while she unties her boots. MJ keeps an eye on the numbers on the bottom of the screen until they stop updating.
Ding! A new record. Sixteen voicemails and a hundred and forty seven text messages!
It’s easier to listen than read at the moment, so MJ continues to peel out of her wrestling gear while the voices play.
“EMMMMMMMMMJAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! Love you girl!”
“Hello Mariella, it’s Rog--”
“Small fry! It’s Cally, RK and I just watched the things and the things are awesome! Miss Ivy says we’re ready for the deluge of wrestlefightmen when you win your belt back, but please let Mister Bruv know that Mikey Money is still not an acceptable tip for my bartenders! Love you, cublet! Bye!”
MJ laughs. Cally never gets to the point quickly enough.
“Mariella, it’s Claudia Wells, Jacy’s mom.”
And the laughter dies in her throat.
“I just wanted you to know that we saw your match tonight, and we’re proud of you. We plan to come to Wrestle Fest with your parents at the Garden, and we hope to see you before then. Mr. Wells and I miss you very much and look forward to seeing you as soon as we can.”
Before her voicemail can announce the next message, MJ hits the prompt to stop the playback. She sinks to the floor, and puts her head in her hands, trying her best to control her breathing.
Flashback: December 21, 2017
Modern Warfare, second round.
“Marksman” Jay Mora speaks.
“Do you think about her every time you enter the ring? Do you think about your best friend everytime you hit that ring without your mask? Think about the day she died? She was driving to pick you up from LaGuardia, right, MJ? It drove you to quit wrestling, and beyond a shadow of a doubt has to haunt you to this day. If you had just called someone else she wouldn't have died. If you would have just taken a cab. How does it affect you in the ring MJ? Does her memory distract you or uplift you? If it were me I probably would have just crawled in a hole and never come out again. If I was the one responsible for my best friend dying, I would never forgive myself. I wonder if you have. I wonder what kind of burden that is that rests on your head every time you step into that ring.”
August 24th, 2018
Adrian Evans: I didn’t know that.
MJF: No reason why you would; we weren’t friends then, you were just my aunt’s fixer.
They sit on MJ’s bed in her room of the suite at the Four Seasons, Toronto. Adrian is conservatively dressed in a dress shirt and suit pants, his tie and jacket hanging on the back of the desk chair. MJ is the exact opposite of his professionalism: a Guns ‘n Roses tank top and booty shorts, tastefully completed with fuzzy socks: Canada is cold at night, even in the summer. Adrian sips from a flask and passes it to MJ, who does the same.
Adrian Evans: And that’s why you stopped wrestling for WrestleUTA.
MJF: How could I keep going? I wrestled shitty that night in the Ace in the Hole match and called her to complain. She swore she was good to come get me, so I left it at that. Got off the plane, got my stuff, waited… and waited. When I tried to call her it went right to voicemail, so I called her mom, and she… told me what happened.
Adrian, a skilled interviewer, takes the flask but doesn’t answer. He waits for MJ to fill the silence.
MJF: So I stopped. I called Wingate, told him I had a personal issue that needed my full attention, and I went home. I blamed myself for a long time, despite Jacy’s family never doing the same.
Adrian Evans: What changed?
MJF: Like I said, Jacy’s family never blamed me. They reached out, they invited me to everything under the sun to celebrate her life…
Adrian Evans: Sounds like she was special to you.
MJF: She was my best friend from like first grade on. Tons’a kids in my classes either just wanted to meet one’a my parents, or their parents were intimidated by the house of ill repute or whatever.
Adrian Evans: Ill repute?
She rolls her eyes.
MJF: Wrestlers, musicians, artists - obviously everyone who lived there was a drug - addled debaucherous lecher or whatever. Jacy never cared, Jacy’s parents never cared. She was just a friend to me, and it was her parents who convinced me t’give this another go with Modern Warfare.
Adrian takes the flask from her.
MJF: I’m sorry, this hits me every year. I still have her voicemail from the day, and when her mom called me to congratulate me…
Adrian Evans: You need a break.
MJ shakes her head. She reaches for the flask, but Adrian holds it away from her and drains it.
Adrian Evans: You need to take some time off. There’s a major event on its way and you need to be at your best for the go - home.
He stands up and points at her.
Adrian Evans: I’ll be on my way to Buffalo tomorrow morning; take some time here in Toronto for yourself.
On his way out of the hotel suite, Adrian opens the mini-bar and removes all of the alcohol, stuffing the tiny bottles in his pockets.
Adrian Evans: And you need a good night sleep, not more of these.
MJF: You’re paying for those.
Adrian Evans: And you’re paying me. It evens out.
With a nod of his head, Adrian Evans leaves the room. MJ scoots backwards to the headboard of the hotel room bed, and she opens up her phone.
A few seconds later she closes it up and turns off the light.
”With apologies to Duce Jones.”
“As we approach WrestleFest IV and the World Title showdown between myself and Colton Mace, I need to state the obvious.”
“Anyone can become World Champion. It does not take talent or skill.”
“I can see the pitchforks and torches already; let me clarify: it takes talent to be the World Champion. It does not necessarily take the same talent to win the World Championship.”
“My invocation of Duce Jones is proof of that. He’s a great wrestler; he’s a talented athlete, and he’s earned everything he’s gotten in this sport so far. But as far as the CWF is concerned, he is a former CWF World Champion for one reason: he was up against Harley Hodge at the right time. He didn’t specifically earn it.”
“Allow me to elaborate: Duce Jones is a former CWF World Champion because Harley Hodge defeated Pandalike. Harley loses to Pandy - who knows what happens. Harley gets DQ’d or counted out, the CWF World Title is taken outta the equation.”
“I don’t mean t’disrespect Duce, I just wanna tell the truth, and the truth is that Duce is a former CWF World Champion because that’s how a tournament laid out: he never capitalized on an earned shot in the traditionally accepted way.”
“And that’s my point: given the right circumstance, anyone can win a World Title.”
“What happens after that - if the Champion shows her quality; if the Champion fights with honor - is that the Champion will earn a second shot at the belt and prove that she has the staying power.”
“My shots at the top since I lost it have been a little fucked up: a thirty wrestler battle royal. An eight - wrestler End Games match. A one on one shot that ended up interfered by the entire cast of Eight is Enough.”
“The irony’a comin’ up short on those shots ain’t lost on me.”
“But I’m here because I defeated perhaps the longest running CWF Impact Champion of all time - the CWF Commissioner, Ataxia. My opponent, Colton Mace, is in this match after re-debuting after a year away from the company, by defeating another newly re-debuted wrestler in Ripper.”
“Irony: this would be Colton Mace’s first CWF World Title win, which proves my point that anyone can win one World Title.”
“But this isn’t about Colton Mace. This is about correcting an error made several months ago. Again, along with my apologies to Duce Jones, my apologies to Caledonia: but chica, you weren’t ready.”
“And yet you were, because you won. But you weren’t. You were ready t’become the CWF World Champion, but it feels like ya had no idea what that meant.”
“T’be the World Champion, it means you set the tone. You are the representative of the company, and the company should feed off you. I can’t really say one way or another on my previous World Title run, but Jacehole was all about the accolade, not the Championship. Eric Dane wasn’t the World Champion long enough for anyone to even ask’em if he wanted anything in his cup’a coffee.”
“Caledonia was all about her own private war with the Oreo Bros. The issue with this is that many of us in the CWF - myself included - proved the Oreo Bros to be semi-incompetent and never, ever, ever a threat to the CWF in and of itself.”
“Unfortunately, Caledonia took the CWF World Title with her on her battlefield tour of the irrelevant. Even when she defended against Cassandra and Amber Ryan, it was ultimately a pointless endeavor as Amber got another shot literally six days later.”
“I don’t blame Caledonia for her shortcomings, but I do blame the CWF as a whole for its inability to recognize when someone should not be the Champion.”
“So my goal was always to defend the CWF World Title against the top contender, whoever they were - and regardless of their spot on the weekly show. This is in stark contrast to Caledonia, who used the World Title to wage her own personal wars, or the Jacehole, who seemed t’be allergic t’defending the World Title at all.”
“Mainly, the question I’ve got is, why would Colton Mace be any different?”
There are several people standing in front of TC’s Pub; most of them have cigarettes in their hand and are ignoring the fact that they can go out the back door and smoke and drink together.
MJ Flair walks through the crowd to the front door, and pushes her way in. Behind the bar, tenders Valerie and Tracy work the room, serving what they can --
MJ stops. She looks at the source of the protest, and looks past her.
Calico Rose stands behind the bar, not really seeing who’s coming in, but she moves expertly around her area.
MJF: Can… I get a root beer?
Cally: Sure. But do you have actual money?
After a second, MJ notices the sign on the wall.
“WE DO NOT ACCEPT MIKEY MONEY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES”
There is a handwritten addendum to this, specifying ‘OR COLTON CASH’ in equally large letters.
MJF: Cally. It’s me.
Cally raises an eyebrow.
Cally: Small fry, we’ve had t’turn away like a grand’a funny money today. RK and I both schooled the childrens on what Mikey Money looks like but this new Colton Cash stuff, my guys don’t recognize it yet.
MJ shakes her head, laughing all the way, while she sits at a bar stool.
MJF: Well, I mean… can we start with the obvious?
Cally stops and points a finger.
Cally: I know you’re cool, smally fry. And I know most’a the WB is about the same, but enough foolish games don’t tip that I need to say the things. You know that.
Without a comment, Cally smiles quietly and retrieves the previously - requested root beer.
Cally: There are enemies all around us, small fry.
MJF: Even me?
Cally: The second I assume you’re cool, Mikey Unlikely will… likely… be all Mikey Money about things. And while you wrestlefightmenwomen all get free drinks, tips ain’t included.
Considering this, MJ nods her head, and drops a hundred dollar bill on the bar. She sits down and shoves it towards the bartenders. Cally looks at her, looks at the bill, then looks back at her.
Cally: You know, if you didn’t bring the Bruvs into our orbit this wouldn’t’ve happened.
A smile curves around the corners of MJ’s mouth.
MJF: Ya can’t count on that, sweetie. Not ever.
Cally wipes off part of the bar and leans towards MJ.
She winks at the young wrestler.
Cally: We’ve got like fifty people plannin’ to get over to Fan Fest. You’ll be there all day, right?
While MJ sips her soda, she blushes a bit and averts her eyes.
MJF: I dunno how many people are gonna wanna go there, but I’ll at least be all on it until the line’s done.
Cally: Fair enough, dear… fair enough.
”We’re supposed to be looking at MJ Flair vs Colton Mace for the CWF World Title. Ideally, this is a case’a the two greatest wrestlers in the CWF facin’ off for the belt at the biggest show’a the year.”
“In reality? Not so much.”
“I promise you, I’m not shittin’ on Colton Mace’s abilities. He’s a CWF Hall of Famer, and he’s got just as much right t’be in this match as I do, having won the same type’a qualifier as me in Toronto.”
“No, the issue I have with Colton Mace as my opponent is much different: does he deserve this opportunity?”
“Yes, Colton - I know you’re in the Hall of Fame. I remember what happened in Buffalo; you claimed you were the only one that deserved the CWF World title and that I should just step aside.”
“Or some shit. You rambled for like an hour.”
“Here’s the thing, Colton: you may be a legend, but the legends only grow when you’re there t’add to the legend. You’ve been an absentee landlord for almost a year, and your legend has been severely anemic ever since.”
“Don’t worry, the CWF has thrived; in no small part t’the fact that athletes like myself - and, for that matter- me - have been keepin’ things moving. But that’s all good, since the field is vastly different these days. There ain’t no Academy. Ain’t not SSRIentologists. Ain’t no Maya Jensen or Harvey Danger or Jaceholes competin’ anymore.”
“Ya claim dominance over the field, but ya don’t fuckin’ know what the field is anymore, Colton, do ya?”
“Ta make it simple, we are the cro-magnon to your Neanderthal.”
“Though I do promise not t’murder you in ya sleep.”
“Thanks so much, MJ. Can I get a photo?”
It’s almost seven PM. The Hall of Fame ceremony has already begun. MJ Flair doesn’t seem to care: she’s been focused on the next person in line since 8 AM and has never given a second thought to how long she’s been here.
She leans over the table and loops an arm around the fan’s waist, smiling for the photo. MJ is a little self conscious over the fact that she’s currently wearing her ring gear, but it was one of those things that works better for the company: the management folks asked her to change into her ring gear for the photo ops, and it was just easier to remain ever since.
Security Guard: All right people, move along.
MJ waves off the guard just like she’s been doing for all of Fan Fest, and continues to sign everything that the fans have brought to her and taken all of the pictures suggested. She has become so versed at this that she even avoids looking Tara Robinson in the eye when she returns to her table.
Tara Robinson: How’s it going, MJ?
MJF: I’m like a hundred yards from the promised land, chica. Doors are locked and the line is almost done. Somehow, I’ve managed t’disappoint literally none’a my fans tonight.
She hands the picture she just signed to the fan in front of her, and raises her arms in victory.
MJF: I am all that is man! Or… woman!
Tara Robinson: No doubt, girlie. Even still, you got a statement?
MJ stops, and starts to say a thing, but she smiles and shakes her head before long.
MJF: Gimmee a minute, chica.
Tara waits… giddy for the eventual gold.
”So, this is my confession.”
“Colton Mace is a competent wrestler, wholly unsuited to the CWF World Title.”
“The CWF itself has been mired in an identity crisis for the past four months, ever since Caledonia defeated me for the World Title.”
“Lucky us. I’m still here.”
“So here’s my confession. This fight has less t’do with who’s ready for the title, and more t’do with who’s able t’shoulder the responsibility.”
“Colton Mace is a selfish little bastard. He wants t’be the CWF World Title so he can finally say he won a World Title somewhere, anywhere. Colton Mace doesn’t give a flying fuck about the CWF in and of itself.”
“Colton Mace has proved himself t’be the kind’a Champion that’d consider it a victory if he can get himself disqualified against every competent opponent put in his way.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Colton Mace appeared in the CWF after a year on the shelf, perhaps not surprisingly just when he didn’t need t’climb the ladder t’get a shot at the CWF World Title.”
“I’ve been here, Colton. I’ve been fighting the good fight, I’ve been defendin’ this company against anyone that’d disparage it.”
“Where were you? Loser Leaves Town? Since when does that stop anyone?”
“You and I, Colton… I don’t even feel like we’re the same species anymore. I was a professional wrestler before I was legally allowed t’be one. In the interim, I won three’a the five Championships that the company I was with offered.”
“After a sabbatical, I came to the CWF, nearly won the Modern Warfare tournament, and was the CWF World Champion for nearly a hundred days.”
“What’cha got ta compare?”
“The fact’a the mater is that I never waited for the good things t’come ta me, Colton. I was proactive. I went out and got ‘em.”
“Of course not.”
“This match is gonna be a big deal, Colton. Not just the two most talented wrestlers in the CWF right now… this is gonna be a validation of one of our attitudes towards the CWF in and of itself.”
“Does hard work pay off? Does being in the right place at the right time pay off?”
“Does it matter if one top contender gets a bigger piece’a the media than the other?”
“Seven fucking days, Colton… and we’ll see who’s right and who’s wrong.”
“Spoiler alert: I’m not wrong.”