”I watched the ending of that match from the floor. On one hand, I was just gettin’ up, and even if I sprinted and managed t’not break my neck tripping on the bottom rope, I probably wouldn’t’ve gotten there in time t’make a difference. On the other, Dane had the ropes; the pinfall was bullshit.”
“Back when Rish took control’a this company away from Yente, he made a deal with the Childlike Empress and the rest of his oreos; they got control of the SSRI and he got renewed control of the CWF.”
“Whatever. It shouldn’t’ve affected anything at all; the Oreo Bros are - slash - were the Lieutenant Worf of the CWF. Supposedly, they’re the monsters. Supposedly, they’re the unstoppable force of this particular universe; everyone subsequently punches them in the face and steps over ‘em on their way to better things than the Ouroboros will ever achieve.”
“Am I wrong?”
“I’ve run through it before, but it bears repeating: when I stepped foot into this company, the Childlike Empress was considered to be this beast: this monster that was like the Voldemort of the CWF. He Who Shall Not Be Named. Ever since my third match here, when I stepped up to Elisha and made him clean off my boots, he’s been a bit of a joke.”
“Jace Valentine sides with the SSRIentologists and Yente when they screw Duce Jones out of the CWF World Title, and the first time he actually defends the belt I pinned his ass t’take it away.”
“Dean Coulter - I’m sorry, JUDAS - goes culty and he and Sam immediately lose the CWF World Tag Team Titles.”
“Rish probably knows his days are numbered with the non-aggression pact he signed with the Ouro Borealis, but he’s gonna milk it for all it’s worth. He knows where his bread’s buttered.”
“Why else is Cassandra allowed to stay at ringside when I wrestle Dean? Why else are Jezebel and Choronzon allowed to stay at ringside and turn a tag team main event into a four - on - two handicap match?”
“Rish is a weak little bitch that, I’m sure, bent over and gave the Oreos everything they wanted as long as he got his company back. Good on him, except that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and eventually, inevitably, every cult of personality fails.”
“This is all oddly applicable to Evolution 23, by the by.”
The second that MJ Flair steps back behind the curtain, her eyes lock with Adrian Evans, watching from the Hot Zone.
Adrian: What was that?
MJF: That was a metric fuckton of bullshit is what that was.
She doesn’t break stride, and Adrian needs to power walk to keep up.
MJF: Should’a known, Adrian. Should’ve fuckin’ known.
Adrian: Known what?
MJF: Rish makes a deal with the devil, and we’re supposed to assume it ends there? My ass. You don’t get two people interfering in a main event match and a bullshit pinfall by accident. Only thing I don’t know for sure, was it a favor to the Ouroboros, or was it a fuck-you to me, for all the shit I’ve been talking?
As they walk, Adrian glances quickly at one of the main walls. He looks away, then double takes.
Adrian: Ms. Flair.
MJF: Either one’s just as likely; I know I probably brought it on myself, but I’m genetically predisposed t’be confrontational.
Adrian: Ms. Flair.
At last, MJ notices that Adrian has stopped walking with her; she turns around but stays put.
MJF: I mean, what d’they expect? The SSRIentologists talk about how awesome they are; everyone under the sun kicks their collective asses, and they’re still talkin’ about it. I guess they don’t have t’be good if they’ve got the bossman in their pocket, but the arrogance… The fucking arrogance is what gets me.
Finally, she stops and listens.
Adrian: They’ve already booked the next Evolution.
He points at the banner on the wall. MJ walks next to him and looks for herself.
MJF: Son of a bitch…
Adrian: You know, Ms. Flair… I think you have a point.
”So let’s review.”
“I talk shit about the Oreo Bros. The Forsaken talk shit about the Oreo Bros.”
“I kick Elisha in the taint. The Shadow kicks Elisha in the taint on several occasions.”
“Now? Evolution 23? Not only are The Shadow and I facing off against each other in a tag match, but half of the Forsaken are taking each other on for the Paramount Title as Miataxia implodes, and the final member of the Forsaken is mysteriously taking on the Institute’s most dangerous opponent, our World Champion.”
“Ouroboros? Conspicuously absent. Judas - the poster boy for the Oreo B-Team, is the only actual combatant. What does this do? It gives the rest of the Oreos a free shot at anyone else that they might want t’take outta the game, especially this close to Golden Intentions.”
“And we’re s’posed to think that Rish isn’t tryin’ t’take any of us out? Sure.”
Angus Skaaland’s mouth has been open for the past twenty minutes. This includes their car service pulling up to the hotel, walking inside, taking the elevator nearly to the top, and walking the hallways to MJ and Adrian’s room.
Angus: ...Why the fuck did Eric fight with your dad for so long…
Of course, this is probably helped by the fact that MJ and Adrian are staying at the Four Seasons. Angus talks to nobody in particular as MJ is in the bathroom changing clothes, and Adrian is busily typing away on his phone.
Angus: Mariella? Can we be besties?
Even distracted, Adrian chuckles to himself. The moment is broken up, however, by the tinny sound of “unsuccessfully coping with the natural beauty of infidelity” by Type-O-Negative. Angus looks around, and his eyes fix on the table next to the sofa: MJ’s phone.
Angus: Mariella? Some dude named Roger is calling, you want--
Before he can finish his statement, Adrian pops up and grabs him by the wrist. He and Angus share an uncomfortable stare, but Angus quiets down as Adrian shakes his head. No.
Angus: Never mind!
Adrian: That’s the ex; they had a very public breakup and she doesn’t want to even talk to him.
He considers this for a moment.
Angus: I get it; bitches be crazy.
Adrian: I don’t know about that; he didn’t seem to understand that the pressures of being World Champion meant that she wouldn’t always have time for him. As the shows passed, trying to balance her responsibilities with her relationship really wore on her, and they ended up arguing in the middle of the street.
Angus: So… bitches be crazy?
Adrian rolls his eyes.
Angus: What? That’s why I find it much healthier to have a string of one night stands.
Adrian: And this is where we remember that Ms. Flair didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family.
Angus: Hey! I… Well played.
Adrian does not respond: his attention is back on his own device. Angus looks around the room for another moment.
Angus: Mariella, do you mind if I raid the mini-bar?
Angus: Close enough.
He opens the tiny refrigerator with obvious joy in his face.
”In at least one way, I’ve found myself t’be unique in the world of professional wrestling.”
“Both my parents are alive, neither of ‘em are involved in cults or drugs, and my childhood was filled with love and support, albeit with a ton’a travel. I never had to deal with kidnappings, death, dismemberment, or trauma.”
“I didn’t have to join a cult or a gang to find support from peers. I joined a few bands and still jam with ‘em from time to time, but… Yeah, that’s different.”
“What I’m trying to say is that I don’t get the cult behavior. I understand the point of teaming up for the greater good of yourself and the people you’re with. Like the Forsaken. Shadow, Dorian, Miataxia - they watch each other’s backs. They’re good for each other and they care about the welfare of the CWF.”
“Besides, Miataxia are just fuckin’ adorable.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the Forsaken. There’s nothing wrong with the Coalition, for that matter. Silas Artoria is a colossal douchebag, but I don’t hold that against Autumn or the Lost Boys.”
“The Ouroboros, on the other hand…”
MJF: You’ve dealt with cults before. I’m just lookin’ to pick your brain.
MJ sits across a table from Randall Knox, former professional wrestler and three time World Champion, better known as Impulse. They each have a beer in front of them: Knox, an IPA and MJ, a root. Knox smirks, but he also looks down as if holding down a bad memory.
KNOX: Dunno if they were really a cult, but based on your definition, I guess they qualify. The Hellfire Club had the front office in their pocket; they pretty much had the run of the place. Castor Strife was the World Champion, defending against guys like Dan Ryan and our buddy Eric Dane, and against myself - and for some reason, the World Title was never the focus of the advertising; it never closed the show. Castor and I knocked the hell outta each other the night I took the belt from him, and then I was left off the following tour for… reasons.
MJ nods, listening intently.
KNOX: The problem wasn’t so much the draw; people hated the Club and wanted to see them lose, get beat, get beat up… The problem ended up being that morale in the locker room was in the toilet, and nobody really felt like they could advance, no matter how well they wrestled or spoke.
He takes a long pull of his drink.
KNOX: Your situation isn’t quite there. The SSRI might have your boss in their pocket but he’s clearly giving opportunities to the people that deserve ‘em. I’ll agree it’s an issue if the Ouroboros have the ability to affect the finish of any match without consequence, but as it stands they’re virtually powerless in the commonly accepted run of a wrestling promotion. That’s a good thing: you need to deal with them now - before they get the power.
MJF: How would they get more if they already have Rish?
He shakes his head.
KNOX: They don’t have him - at least not completely. The time might come where they demand favors, but I don’t think they see you all as a threat right now since you’re all fighting each other.
The bar is starting to fill up; people have looked at Knox and MJ and they’ve been whispering. This is usually the time that Knox prefers to leave, as he hasn’t really enjoyed being out in public since he’s tried to return to private life.
KNOX: But I wish you luck, my friend… whatever it is, you’ll do great with it.
MJF: Wait just a second, RK… how do I handle them? How did you handle yours?
He pauses: there’s that look again.
KNOX: I walked away.
And he leans in and looks MJ right in the eye.
KNOX: Don’t do that.
He drops a handful of bills on the table and, as nonchalantly as he can, leaves out a side door. MJ remains for a while, drinking her root beer, pondering his words.
There’s a buzz from her bag, and she pulls out her phone. It’s Roger again.
“I walked away. Don’t do that.”
She turns off the ringer… then starts to text.
”Shadow… we’ve been friends. If not friends, allies. We’ve teamed up together, and not once have we had an issue. I don’t have one now with you, or with any of the Forsaken.”
“But you’re an opponent, and I’m gonna bust my ass t’beat you like an opponent. Just like you’re gonna do t’me and Dane.”
“Revenant… I don’t know you. You seem a decent fellow, all things considered. There’s no hatred and no need for it.”
“There’s no need for it. Keep that in mind.”
“This is just one match. This whole show, for that matter, is like a preview of Golden Intentions; we’ll see who’s got the momentum goin’ into the dance. But this match in particular is more than just a match.”
“It’s an audition; same as Paradise.”
“Are you good enough t’hang with me to try and take on the Oreotown Cult? Am I good enough t’hang with you? Winning a title, losing a title - I fully admit that that could’ve been a fluke. Beating Elisha… well, that’s a wash.”
“Facing off in the ring, testing skill on skill? That’s the way to do it.”
“So it’s a treat for the masses, Shadow. Rev. You two against Eric Dane and myself, with the Ouroboros hopin’ we kill each other.”
“Ain’t gonna lie - it’s gonna be a knock-down, drag out. But it’s gonna be as clean a fight on this end as I can make it, because the enemy of my enemy and all that shit.”
“Haven’t bitten off more than I can chew, Shadow… and there ain’t no such thing. I haven’t found a home in the CWF just for a bunch’a mindless minions t’take it away: I’m all in until the fat lady sings ‘Who’s that kid with the oreo cookie.’”
“Bring it, Shadow. Bring it, Revenant. Bell to bell, give us everything you’ve got.”
“Let’s just remember who the real enemy is.”