January 16th, 2019
A sleek black SUV rumbles down a dirt road in the Minnesota backcountry, the headlights casting long shadows over the snow-covered underbrush and sending small animals scurrying into cover. Occasionally, the moon breaks through the thick cloud cover to hover ominously in the sky.
The SUV slows and turns into a slushy clearing, gradually drawing to a complete halt. The engine shudders into silence however the headlights remain on, illuminating a deep pit and a frozen mound of dirt next to it. The driver side door to the SUV swings open and Nathan Paradine emerges, pulling a peacoat collar and scarf tighter around his throat to guard against the chill. With a gloved hand he reaches into a pocket and produces his sunglasses, sliding them onto his face despite the darkness.
Paradine: “Christ it’s cold. Two winters in a year, who’d get that unlucky?”
He trudges through the snow to the edge of the pit, peering down into the depths with a frown. From another pocket he grabs a small flashlight and shines it into the pit. At the bottom is a shape bound in canvas and tied with twine, looking oddly like a human body. Paradine lowers himself to his knees and reaches into the pit, poking the canvas with his finger.
Paradine: “Hmph. Good and dead by the look of it.”
He tilts back and seats himself on a patch of bare earth at the edge of the pit, watching the thing bound in canvas carefully. He places the flashlight into his mouth, reaches into his coat and pulls two more objects from his seemingly endless supply of pockets; a lighter, and a bottle of lighter fluid. He flicks the torch off and places it onto the ground next to him.
Paradine: “The things I do to make sure something is properly put to rest. Really, isn’t this the best way to go? A fire, the flames rising towards the sky, the smoke carrying your spirit off to what I hope will be a better place… I may be acrimonious, but I’m not a completely bad person. I can appreciate effort, and I’m willing to reward said effort. Even if it was ultimately futile, and wasted, and the person in question probably would have been better off not trying at all.
He ignites the lighter in front of his face, letting the flame hover for a moment before releasing his thumb, leaving his face submerged in the half-darkness from the headlights behind him.
Paradine: “At Frozen Over, Tobias Devereaux and I won the CWF Tag Team Championship from Jimmy Allen and his… well, partner, I suppose. Rival? Frenemy? I don’t know and I don’t care, all I know is Dorian Hawkhurst keeps popping up in my business and it’s really starting to piss me off. Or at least it was, winning a title belt went quite a long way towards soothing those ruffled feathers. But make no mistake, Dorian and I have unfinished business in the ring together and I do intend to come collecting. It seems he’s starting to make enemies all around… anyway, where was I?”
Paradine rubs his chin thoughtfully.
Paradine: “Oh yeah! Winning the tag team championship. I’m sorry, I tend to get a little bit distracted in my old age. Each week Tobias and I are going to go out to the ring to defend our new title belts, and what we’re going to do is going to be nothing short of brutal, sanctioned violence. You see, Tobias and I go way back, to when he was a young man and I, well, I was younger at least. To a place based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. The Sanctioned Violence Organization. Now I’ll be honest, when we were there together I didn’t see much in Tobias, I honestly thought he’d be nothing. But in the intervening years while I was away from wrestling he has grown as a competitor, and now? The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say. And it’s proving to be quite a fortuitous partnership, as Tobias has become quite a notable wrestler. I can see only good things in our future from here… unlike for my friend in the hole.”
He gestures towards the pit dismissively.
Paradine: “You might wonder what exactly is in there. It’s Jimmy Allen, or at least, what Jimmy Allen was. A beaten, broken waste of space made a ruin by Sanctioned Violence. The value of this grave is worth his value as a champion and mate, it isn’t really worth a great deal. We can put to rest an unfortunate chapter in the history of the CWF Tag Team Championship and start something new, something fresh… something hostile.”
Paradine pops the cap on the lighter fluid and squeezes the entirety of the bottle into the pit, soaking the canvas in liquid. He climbs to his feet and ignites the lighter again, waving it back and forth before tossing it into the pit. The canvas bursts into flame, flaring brightly for a few moments before starting to burn with a thick, acrid black smoke. Paradine waves his hands in front of his face and takes a step back.
Paradine: “*cough* -goddamn smoke, shouldn’t have gotten so close-”
He waves more of the smoke away and looks into the pit again. Instead of being confronted with burning flesh and bone, he finds the melted, twisted form of a storefront mannequin wrapped in the canvas, the fire quickly distorting the plastic into a mess.
Paradine: “Well. I might have told a tiny little white lie. It wasn’t really Jimmy Allen in there, but it might as well have been; both that mannequin and Jimmy have about the same amount of wrestling ability, and the mannequin probably has more charisma. Metaphorically however, the meaning behind this burning is still the same. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Jimmy’s career in the CWF was a bust. And besides… you didn’t really think I’d try to cover up a murder in a promo, do you?”
Paradine throws his head back and laughs, his hands on his hips. The first chapter of his CWF career is closing and has culminated in a Tag team title victory... but what lies ahead in the Modern Warfare tournament?
Woodland Park Zoo
January 18th, 2019
Paradine is standing in front of the red panda enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo, frowning as he peers closely at the small animals scurrying back and forth. He taps on the glass irritably, drawing the ire of several people standing nearby also observing the pandas.
Paradine: “Come on, do something you little bastards-”
He taps on the glass again and the red pandas disappear into the depths of the undergrowth. The people nearby shake their heads and mutter to each other in anger, while Paradine shrugs apologetically.
Paradine: “Sorry guys, but let’s be honest… they weren’t really doing anything were they? Bit of a letdown really, if you ask me.”
The people move away, leaving Paradine on his own in front of the enclosure. He peers into the glass again, but the red pandas are definitely gone.
Paradine: “I came here to the Woodland Park Zoo to hopefully see a panda today, however all they had are these little red pandas. They kind of look like possums if you ask me. Or raccoons. I was looking for the big, fat black and white variety.”
He holds his arms out wide and blows out his cheeks, to illustrate the “fat” point of his comment.
Paradine: “You see I’ve been doing a little bit of research on pandas over the last few days and boy, what a bloody time that was. You see, they’re not really vicious, unless you’re a particularly delicious bamboo plant. They don’t really do much of all in fact, they’re more or less useless… which makes me wonder why a professional wrestler would want to empathize with their plight. Take the bamboo plant I just mentioned. Pandas love the stuff, they chomp it down like there’s no tomorrow… but here’s the thing, it’s actually awful for them. They can’t even digest most of what they eat. They kind of sound like a good portion of the CWF fanbase actually; constantly fed shit, tricking themselves into thinking they like it, then discovering it wasn’t actually all that good for them after all.”
Paradine has a small chuckle at his own choke. He slides his sunglasses down to the tip of his nose and flashes a quick wink.
Paradine: “Or we could look at panda procreation. A female panda has to take charge to get herself knocked up, because relative to their bodies male pandas actually have some of the the smallest penis-to-body ratios of any animal. I’m just saying… if I was going to base an entire persona around an animal, I wouldn’t go picking one with a micro-peen, you know what I mean?”
He sighs, and rubs his forehead with his hand. He isn’t mad about Pandalike’s choice to highlight the plight of the panda… he’s just disappointed.
Paradine: “Pandalike, I don’t know who you are, mate. I don’t really care why you decided to try and bring attention to these stupid animals that, as far as I can tell, actually do more to try and kill themselves than they do trying to stay alive. I just cannot find empathy for a creature that doesn’t want to survive and quite frankly, that is going to extend to you if you step into the ring with me. You’re not a mangrove-dwelling crab, or a snake-river salmon. These black and white oxygen thieves aren’t worthy of extensive conservation efforts and neither are you, Pandalike. It would have been better, much better, if your career had have remained more or less extinct.”
Paradine looks up and shrugs.
Paradine: “The only endangered species around here seem to be quality competitors in the Modern Warfare tournament. Once I’ve dealt with Pandalike I’ll be looking ahead, because I’ve already proven that I have the winning quality that so many others seem to lack. I became a champion in my second ever match here.. And my first ever match without a stupid gimmick attached to it. When that bell rings, with standard pinfall and submission rules, I am unstoppable. Remember that, when you lie beaten Pandalike. You tried, but some things… are simply not meant to continue, despite our best efforts to the contrary. Like pandas, for instance. Or your career.”
To his left there is movement. Two security guards approach Paradine, both of them ready for the Australian Submission Machine to resist their attempts to restrain him.
Security Guard: “Alright sir, we’ve had some complaints about you from the other guests at the zoo. We’re going to need you to come with us nice and quietly, now-”
Paradine: “Because I tapped on the glass? Mate, you have got to be kidding me.”
Security Guard: “Just come with us, please? And turn those cameras off.”
Paradine: “Nah, keep filming guys. Let me show you two a hold I learned when I was touring Japan about a decade back- whoa, wait- hang on!”
Both the security guards bounce on Paradine and tackle him to the ground. Caught by surprise, the security guards manage to restrain Paradine with his arms behind his back. They haul him struggling to his feet and begin to march him towards the entrance to the enclosure. Paradine twists his head back, shouting over his shoulder as he is led away.
Paradine: “Oi, one more thing; FUCK PANDAS!”
Cut to black.