LAS VEGAS – In a move that will have lasting ramifications on the sport of professional wrestling, news broke in the hours after ReVival 18 that Paxton Ray has been reinstated as an active member of the PRIME roster. Ray’s assault on his partner Jonathan Rhine following the conclusion of their match at UltraViolence in September led to spinal injury that has robbed “The New Life” of the rest of his career, and left the once-prodigy with a rocky road to recovery and a future shrouded in shadow.
Despite a warning that neither PRIME President Lindsay Troy nor Jared Sykes had seen the last of him, many in the know believed this to be the end of Ray’s journey within professional wrestling. Anyone expecting a quiet exit would not have predicted what happened only two weeks following his dismissal, when Ray forced his way into the MGM Grand Garden Arena during a live broadcast of ReVival and attacked several members of the production crew. The experience was particularly harrowing for junior production assistant Mark Lemon, who was thrown through a pane of glass into an empty office and suffered multiple lacerations in addition to a concussion and separated shoulder.
Still, this did not prevent Sykes from storming the ring during the broadcast of ReVival 18 to declare his intent to travel to New Orleans to make the fight happen, if need be.
“People keep asking me why I want this fight,” Sykes said. “The answer is I don’t, not really. But the way I see it is that I don’t really get a choice in the matter. Either I go there, or he keeps coming here, but eventually this is going to happen. I was just hoping to try and control the situation as best I could.”
The level of violence in PRIME is reminiscent of another promotion that based its operations in Las Vegas, the now-defunct Sin City Championship Wrestling.
“Are there parallels? Sure,” Sykes said. “And to a certain extent I guess there’s a feeling of responsibility. I don’t know if this will make sense, but I watched a lot of my friends get hurt back then. Nobody got out of there unscathed. It left its mark on all of us. There was nothing I could do to try and stem the tide in those days, all I can do now is try and make sure that it never gets to that level again.”
Sykes’ in-ring partner, Justine Calvin, declined to comment for this story.
While the move has no doubt proven controversial, PRIME President Lindsay Troy has not shied away from the pushback. When contacted about this article, she provided the following statement directly:
“After conversations with Jared [Sykes], Jon [Rhine], Shweta [Kallemullah] and the Executive Team regarding the events surrounding Paxton Ray’s termination, we have made the decision to reinstate him on a probationary basis. The length and terms of this probation period have been communicated to Paxton’s lawyers. I will have no further comment on them at this time except to say that Paxton’s reinstatement may be revoked at any point now and in the future.
“This is not a decision that was made lightly, nor is it a decision that everyone will agree with. The people who were most closely affected by Paxton’s actions at UltraViolence do agree, and now there will be an opportunity to see some retribution paid in a PRIME ring.
“Paxton is scheduled to compete at ReVival 19 against Jacob Mephisto, but at Colossus, he will take on Jared Sykes in a Lights Out match in the main event of Night One. This will be unsanctioned, and there will be no disqualifications. I expect there will be more to come on this in the next few weeks, but for now, that’s all I have.”
It should come as no surprise that the response from Paxton Ray’s camp has been positive. Not long after his termination, Ray retained the services of Fleetwood, Fleetwood, Harper, and Fleetwood, a law firm based out of New Orleans.
“We are delighted to hear that Lindsay Troy has reversed her decision, and we commit to making sure Paxton Ray doesn’t make Ms. Troy regret her decision,” said a representative from the firm.
Despite this sentiment, there is the lingering concern of the distraction that Ray will provide now that he is once again a member of the locker room. Internally, the PRIME roster was quite vocal in the aftermath of Ray’s actions, and the company’s private chat platform was alive with talk of revenge. Thomas Battaglia, known professionally as The Anglo Luchador, was among the loudest of the voices to be heard.
A representative for the Anglo Luchador provided us the following statement: “The attack was reprehensible. Jon and I became friends over the time we spent, but even putting that bias aside, I want no part of that gruesome monster in my wrestling company.
“However, we’re in the wrestling industry. I don’t want him in PRIME after December 16, but I think I speak for more than just myself when I say I’m glad he’s competing at Colossus. If Jon can’t get his pound of flesh in return, I want, no need King Blueberry to take it from that lowlife’s heart. I’ll be disappointed if he’s still on the roster afterwards, but if we leave just enough time for Jared to get his revenge, I’m okay with it.”
The Luchador is the current PRIME Intense Champion, a title that is contested in matches with an elevated brutality. To some his comments on the matter may be surprising, but the Luchador is on record in defending deathmatch wrestling – a style of combat that often borders on the barbaric – as a noble contest between willing participants, each willing to go to near-impossible ends for victory, while maintaining the notion that everyone gets to walk away at the end. To fans of this style, Ray’s actions constitute an affront to the honor that serves as a core tenet to their brand of wrestling.
His sentiment is not unique among the locker room, which could only serve to complicate matters among the PRIME security team. Wade Elliott is one of the men responsible for maintaining order within the PRIME locker room, a task that has proven challenging as the level of violence escalates on the road to Colossus. With Ray’s reintroduction to the professional wrestling ecosystem, there is an expected pushback as more and more voices are added to the growing chorus speaking out against the rehiring, or seeking some sort of retribution.
“An’ people used t’call me shit fer brains,” said Elliott. “But sure! C’mon back, Ray! Just don’t ‘xpect t’be saved by a taser next time y’try an’ pull more’ve that short dick shi…”
The Co-Head of Security wasn’t available for further comment.
ReVival 19 will be the first of Ray’s probationary period, and he is scheduled to compete against Jacob Mephisto, a man who himself is no stranger to violence. Rumors have been circulating that this is some sort of punishment, given the level of brutality that Mephisto is capable of bringing to the ring. As evidence, one need only look at his recent match against Anna Daniels, where both competitors were bound together by dog collars.
The road forward for PRIME is unclear, but Paxton Ray is once again along for the ride. For better or worse.
Cassie Broadhurst is a freelance journalist based in Springfield, MA with a focus on combat sports.
Originally published on RingDispatch.com. Reprinted with permission.