Tacoma Dome, Washington
January 29th, 2019
The dull roar of the crowd is still evident as Nathan Paradine staggers backstage following his match against Impulse, his eyes blinking rapidly as sweat drips down his forehead. He rolls his shoulder carefully and winces as he navigates the backstage area, nodding curtly at a few stagehands and other personnel proceeding to go about their work for the evening. Eventually, he finds a small area devoid of life and far away enough from the gorilla position and the audience that any noise is suitably muted. He spies a large container and collapses on top of it, breathing heavily, still favoring his arm.
Paradine: “Ah… shit.”
He leans back against the wall and closes his eyes, focusing on his breathing for a few moments. Eventually he spits upright and spits onto the ground before running his tongue over his death, feeling for anything loose after his match.
After successfully dispatching Pandalike the previous week, he has now been eliminated from the Modern Warfare tournament by Impulse. Did he underestimate his opponent? Definitely, and now he has paid the price. But does winning the tournament, and the CWF World Championship, really matter? After all, he already has championship gold…
Paradine: “The Tag Team Championship.”
With a start he realises that he left the belt at ringside, next to the timekeeper after he made his entrance. In the aftermath of his match with Impulse, he forgot about the belt entirely. And why shouldn’t he? He feels like a stopgap champion. He’s friends with Tobias Devereaux, God, he even likes the man! How strange is that! Yet… the circumstances that led to him winning the belt feel almost coincidental. A late night phone call from someone he hadn’t spoken to in years, thrown into a match he had no part being in, and suddenly a Tag Team Champion in his second match with the CWF. It’s strange, since he’s never really played well with others so to speak.
Three names that mean almost nothing to most other people. Three men that trusted Paradine as a partner at different points, and three men that he ended up on the opposite end of the ring from. Nathan Paradine never wanted a tag team partner. Nathan Paradine never needed a tag team partner.
But maybe… just maybe… this time, it could be different?
Paradine leans forward, his arms crossed over his legs. Over the last few weeks, he’s realized that he isn’t the same man he was ten years ago; hell, he isn't the same man he was five years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have someone watching his back this time around. But is it even worth trying to maintain a tag team when it’s all but certain he’ll be sent to Hostility in a few short weeks? He grits his teeth at the thought of the contract mess Boetticher told him about. Fucking lawyers. It’s their job to avoid this sort of thing happening!
Paradine: "I'm not meant to be in a tag team, damn it. This was a mistake. But... I have a target on my back here, at least until I can ship out to Hostility. I need Tobias to help me. I'm going to have to make this work, somehow."
He nods thoughtfully to himself. Could it finally be time that the Australian Submission Machine turns over a new leaf?
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
February 5th, 2019
It's bedlam backstage as a scowling Nathan Paradine is ushered along a corridor by a retinue of referees following the tag team match pitting Sanctioned Violence against the team of KC3 and Silas Artoria. Paradine halts in front of a locker room door before suddenly driving his shoulder into it, bursting it open before the referees can stop him. He steps into the room and looks around wildly.
Paradine: "KENDO! GHOST! Where are you!?"
Several referees seize him and manage to pull him back into the corridor. Paradine struggles for a moment and then resigns himself with a sigh, allowing the referees to continue moving him down along the hallway. As they walk the CWF Medical Director, Doctor Harmon Leggett, hurries past.
Paradine: "You'd better be going to check on Tobias Devereaux, mate!"
The group continues moving, until they reach a nondescript wooden door. Paradine is visibly puzzled, and he looks around at the referees escorting him.
Paradine: "Is this some sort of joke?"
The referees exchange glances. Trent Robbins steps forward and clears his throat.
Robbins: "We were told to bring you here, sir."
Paradine: "Huh. Well..."
Paradine pushes the door open and marches into a small room that has been cleared save for a battered looking desk and two folding chairs. Papers are scattered about the surface of the desk, and sitting in one of the chairs is Paradine's lawyer Leigh Boetticher. He chuckles at the sight of the ring-worn Paradine, who rolls his eyes in response.
Boetticher: "You look like shit, you know that?"
Paradine: "Remind me why I pay you again? Because it definitely isn't so you can insult me whenever you see me. And what the hell is all this, anyway? I want to have a shower and get to my hotel room to sleep, not look over legal documents in some janitor's closet."
Boetticher: "Oh believe me, you'll want to see this. But before that, what the hell happened to you out there tonight?"
Paradine sighs and collapses into the free chair opposite Boetticher. He rubs his face and speaks without looking up.
Paradine: "I got goddamned jumped out there, that's what. Or I should say we... Tobias copped most of it. I don't know where he went after the match. The bloody referees just brought me straight here to you more or less."
Boetticher: "Hm. That's interesting."
Boetticher's bored tone of voice makes it seem like Paradine's story is anything but interesting. He shuffles the papers on the desk and pushes one document towards the Australian Submission Machine, who looks up wearily.
Boetticher: "I've been looking into your contract situation, and to put it in legal terms... you're more or less fucked. The CWF retains the exclusive rights to any appearances made by you, whether it be for promotional or competitive purposes. You've already been removed from the first Hostility card. Looks like you'll be staying on Evolution for the time being."
Paradine: "You have got to be fucking joking me."
Boetticher: "I wish I was. I'm still trying to work it out, but with the current climate in this godforsaken place... the top brass are clinging to every contract they have. You're a Hostility guy in the CWF's pocket, and that's where Jon Stewart wants you to stay. Just play it cool for the time being. You're a tag team champion, right? Focus on defending your belt, or whatever."
Paradine: "Defending my belt? Leigh-"
Paradine leans across the table and motions for his lawyer to move closer.
Paradine: "All I have going for me at the moment is this Hostility gig. This thing with Tobias? It's not going to last. I want it to, I really do, but I don't do tag teams all that well. And don't forget, he betrayed Jimmy Allen. That's how I got the belt in the first place. I like Tobias, he's a good mate, but I don't trust him. I don't trust anyone here, understand? I need to get gone."
Boetticher: "I'm working as fast as your cheques clear my friend. Until this is resolved though, I suggest you make the most of your little team. Tobias asked you to be his partner, that has to count for something right?"
Paradine: "Have you never watched a professional wrestling show before, Leigh?"
Boetticher: "I haven't, actually."
Paradine: "I've had three tag team partners before, and they all ended badly. That's how it goes with tag teams in this business, there's nothing amicable about the situation when things go pear-shaped."
Boetticher: "Oh yeah? Just who were these other guys then?"
Paradine: “Back in the early days of Hostility, there was a guy named Paul Riley… he was just a kid really, he didn’t know what he was getting himself in to. I got sick of him after a while I guess, I beat him in a match and then he was gone. That was that.”
He looks down and his hands and examines his fingernails dismissively. He takes a moment to compose himself before speaking again.
Paradine: “And then there was Xander Daniels… that was a disaster waiting to happen, looking back on it. But we were young and hungry, and we felt like we’d been overlooked at the time. There was a woman, my ex-wife… well, Xander got his hands on her after our tag team fell apart and it didn’t end well. She doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore, and I can’t say I blame her.”
Paradine shrugs, as if to say what can you do?
Paradine: “And Cody Williams… goddamn Cody Williams. Our careers have been intertwined, and it hasn’t ended well for either of us. I broke his neck, twice. I don’t know where he is now though, I hope for his sake it’s somewhere far, far away from me.”
Boetticher: "So you've had a bit of bad luck in the past, so what? Listen to me. The best thing you can do right now is play nice with the CWF and hope that they'll let you out of this contract, you understand? If that means sucking it up and teaming with this guy you don't trust then you'd better do it, got it?"
Paradine: "Against Kendo and... this Crimson Ghost guy? Actually, that reminds me... I want you to look into a trademark infringement for me. I'm the Australian Submission Machine, Kendo is the Samoan Suplex Machine. That's gotta be against the law somehow, right?"
Boetticher rubs his chin thoughtfully.
Boetticher: "You don't think you can beat these guys, so you want me to go after them in the court room instead?"
Paradine: "What!? Mate, I'm not worried about this match. It's Tobias that has me on edge. Kendo and Ghost think they made a statement by attacking us tonight which couldn't be further from the truth. They did it because they're scared. They know that they're not a match for either one of us. Kendo is... interesting. We wrestle a similar style, which in any other circumstance I'd consider good fun. But at Modern Warfare... I want to show him that raw strength doesn't overcome seasoned ability. It's this Ghost guy that I'm more worried about."
Boetticher: "And why is that?"
Paradine holds a finger up to his head and circles it around, the universal sign for "he's crazy".
Paradine: "He's a kooky one. There are two types of crazies in this business; the cold, calculating kind that explode at certain times. They don't worry me. It's the ones who are outwardly crazy all the time that rub me the wrong way, because that's just them. There's no fucking off switch. Who knows what he could be cooking up in his mind? This Odd Couple bullshit seems to be getting his gears turning."
Boetticher laughs out loud at. Paradine rolls his heads and folds his arms over his chest, unimpressed by the outburst.
Paradine: "You don't understand how this business works. Leave the wrestling and dealing this these guys to me, alright? You just focus on this CWF contract, and we'll leave it at that. I'll want an update at Modern Warfare, you understand?"
Boetticher: "If it'll make you sleep better at night my friend, but I doubt I'll have good news."
The scene comes to an end as both men stand up, both regarding each other carefully. Should Paradine be more concerned about the admittedly random coupling of Kendo and The Crimson Ghost? And what will be made of his contract situation, especially with the upcoming Hostility draft?