Nathan Paradine: "And then, there were eight."
The scene opens on the training floor of the Hostility Battle Academy, where sixteen folding chairs have been arranged in front of the wrestling ring in the middle of the room. Only eight of the chairs are occupied; of the sixteen expected students for Nathan Paradine's first wrestling class, only eight have actually shown up. Paradine himself is standing in front of the seated students, arms folded over his chest, scowling as he stares daggers through each member of his class.
Nathan Paradine: "I know there was some... sudden reorganising in regards to this class. Thank you for being so understanding of my busy schedule as an active member of the Championship Wrestling Federation. Although I was expecting a few more people to show up, I guess we'll have to make do with what we've got, won't we? And that's okay, that's fine. I'm sure we'll all become very well acquainted with each other over the next six weeks as we go over the first course; an introduction to the wild world of professional wrestling."
The students exchange uneasy glances at each other. Five men and three women aging from their late teens to their early thirties make up this initial class and there are definitely some second thoughts running through their minds. One girl raises her hand and Nathan points her out.
Nathan Paradine: "Yes, uh..."
He pulls a sheet of paper with the names of his students hastily scrawled on it out of his pocket, but the girl clears he throat before he can peruse it too closely.
Girl: "*ahem*. I'm Sabrina, Mr. Paradine. I was just wondering... is it only you teaching the class? In the brochure it said you'd have trainers from Hostility here too, but I don't see anyone else."
Nathan Paradine: "Thank you Sabrina! That's an excellent question. As I mentioned before, as an active member of the CWF roster my availability can be somewhat, uh, limited from time to time. Fortunately I've reached out to several members of the old Hostility roster to see if they'd be interested in joining us here, and I'm glad to say that one former stalwart has agreed to act as a co-trainer."
Another hand shoots into the air, this time from one of the older men.
Nathan Paradine: "Yes, Mister...?"
Man: "I'm Austin, sir. Is it Talon coming here to train us?"
Nathan Paradine: "Uh, look. It isn't Talon, unfortunately."
Sabrina: "Is it Kathryn Velmont-Thomas? Or Hugo Sterling?"
Another one of the male students rolls his eyes and boos loudly at the mention of Sterling's name.
Nathan Paradine: "I know you, you're... Eric, right? No, Elric! That's it."
Elric: "Is it Chris Bond?"
Nathan Paradine: "No, it isn't bloody Chris Bond! It's-"
The door to the warehouse slams open, accompanied by a loud, sing-song "Yooooo-hoooooooooo!" as "Sexy" Simon Marks saunters into the room dressed in a very tight, very small pair of shorts and a sweatshirt with fashionable slashes across the chest. With a wave he approaches the class and tosses a laded sportsbag down to the ground with a thud.
Nathan Paradine: "Allow me to introduce my co-trainer everyone. This is Simon Marks, a former Hostility Extreme Champion and a celebrated wrestler in his own right. He's been retired for a few years, but we reconnected at the Hostility/CWF show earlier this year. His menthods might be a little unothodox, but-"
Simon Marks: "But I get the job done darling, one way... or another."
Marks licks his lips and a collective shudder passes through everyone else in the room, Paradine included. The Australian Submission Machine consults the sheet of paper again and peers at the four remaining unintroduced students, two women and three men. There's nothing particularly remarkable about any of these students, something that Paradine hopes to change by the end of their training with him.
Nathan Paradine: "So we've got Sabrina, Elric and Austin. You five must be Hope, Shelby, Viv, Luther and Ricky. Now, that's everyone introduced. Simon, why don't you take over and run through some basics with them, y'know; see what they can handle right from the get go."
Sabrina: "And what are you going to do? I paid to be trained by you, not this guy."
Paradine points over his shoulder towards the office, looming over the training area.
Nathan Paradine: "I'll be watching from afar. You see whenever I step into the ring I always give one hundred and ten per cent no matter the situation, mate. If I was to roll and drop and all that with you students I'd take it far too seriously, and since you're not properly trained I could end up causing you a serious injury just by being within proximity of my intensity. So, Simon'll take you for the basics, and when you're a little more wet behind your ears I'll step in and show you a few tricks. Okay?"
There's some quiet grumbling among the students, however they follow Marks as he indicates to follow him to the ring with a flourish. Paradine watches for a moment before ascending the worn stairs to his office, making a mental note to fix the third step from the bottom before it gives entirely under the weight of someone's foot. He settles into the chair behind his desk as the muffled thuds and grunts of the students can be heard below before pulling out his iPhone, tutting as he notices a single missed call from Leigh Boetticher. He redials and holds the phone to his ear, angling his head just far enough to catch a glimpse of the training ring from the windows of the office.
Nathan Paradine: "Leigh. Here I was thinking I could go an entire week without talking to you. What have you got for me?"
Leigh Boetticher: "I've got an idea for you buddy, and I want to take it under serious consideration. I want you to stop proclaiming your sure chances of victory, because every time you do you end up losing and then you look like the jackass that lost to the guy who was easy to beat. It's hurting your stock and making it very difficult for me to get any sponsership or endorsement deals for you."
Nathan Paradine: "You know I hate spruiking a product I don't believe in. If you get me a deal like that I'm going to end up needing a manager again, or an agent, and it's already enough that I deal with you. That plus the school? It's going to do my bloody head in mate."
Leigh Boetticher: "Don't you worry about it. I've already got someone in mind, a friend of my brother. She's great at brand management, and I think she'll be just what we need to get you to the next level."
A moment passes before Paradine grunts in affirmation.
Nathan Paradine: "Alright. Whatever you say, Leigh. If you think this is what I need, so be it."
Leigh Boetticher: "How is the first class going, anyway?"
Nathan Paradine: "Eight of 'em showed up in the end. They could be promising, I guess. One girl seems to have a bit of an attitude, another bloke is a bit of an odd one. I've got Simon putting them through their paces now."
Leigh Boetticher: "Who knows, you could be looking at your future CWF Tag Team Champion partner down there."
Paradine scoffs at this notion.
Nathan Paradine: "Ha, you're a funny bastard. You know I don't do tag teams well."
Leigh Boetticher: "Oh I know. That's why this week you're up against a guy named Konrad Raab, and guess what? He's as old as fucking time itself, at least by wrestling standards."
Nathan Paradine: "How old is old?"
Leigh Boetticher: "Older than you? He's German, he's in his fifties, but it looks like he's still pretty physically fit. Looks like he got into wrestling late. He's been signed by Rishel for the tournament by the sounds of it, and he's already got two points thanks to a win last week. That's two more points than you by the way my friend, just in case you haven't been keeping count. He's a real samaritan too, adopting kids and shit."
Nathan Paradine: "Yeah, he sounds like an all around top bloke."
Leigh Boetticher: "I'm going to presume that isn't an issue for you?"
Paradine sighs and examines his fingernails, frowning at a small chunk of his thumbnail dangling loose.
Nathan Paradine: "You know it isn't. They all tap out the same, Leigh."
Leigh Boetticher: "Yeah, that's what I want to hear! None of this submission sensation stuff, just quiet confidence. You're a killer Nathan, and that's how you need to present yourself. Stop trying to talk a big game and instead let your actions do the talking for you. You've beaten Lindsay Troy, you've beaten Silas Artoria, hell you retired that Xander Daniels punk! Focus on what you have done instead of what you will do to Konrad Raab. What else do I have here... uh, it looks like he loves ice."
Nathan Paradine: "Ice? He's a shard monkey?"
Leigh Boetticher: "A what?"
Nathan Paradine: "You know, a shard monkey. Likes to spend his afternoons burning the glass barbie. Doesn't mind a few hits of the old crystal pistol, you know what I mean?"
Leigh Boetticher: "No I do not know what the fuck you mean. Is that some sort of Australian slang you're speaking?"
Nathan Paradine: "Ah... like, a tweaker. A meth-head, or whatever. Ice is meth, mate."
Leigh Boetticher: "Oh, right, very Breaking Bad. Athletes in America get away with a hell of a lot, but I don't think even Jaiden Rishel would let someone compete if they were on meth Nathan."
Nathan Paradine: "Heh, you never know. So you mean just like normal ice? That's a little bit weird, but to each his own I guess. And you said he's German? I knew that Rishel was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but I didn't realize he was accepting bad cosplay from the worst Batman movie of all time. Or the best, depending on your perspective I guess. I will say one thing about him..."
Leigh Boetticher: "What's that?"
Nathan Paradine: "He really 'Raabs' me the wrong way."
There's silence on the other end of the silence. Paradine glances at the screen of his phone to make sure the call hasn't been dropped before Leigh clears his throat.
Leigh Boetticher: "Listen, don't you ever try for a career in comedy. It doesn't suit you. That... was awful."
Nathan Paradine: "Yeah, fuck you too. I'll talk to you next week. Bye."
Paradine ends the call and stands up with a stretch before tossing the phone back down onto his desk. He walks to the window and looks down onto the ring, where Marks is mounted on top of a visibly uncomfortable Austin applying a stretch hold. The scene comes to an end as Paradine folds his arms over his chest and nods to himself, content in his new position as head trainer, mentor and all around gatekeeper of the future.
Nathan Paradine: "Fuck him, my jokes are funny."