Time travel is real. How do you know? The PREVIOUSLY RECORDED logo in the top right of the screen as we return from commercial.
There’s a familiar-and-warm vibe as the camera opens up on the walnut-colored wood and expensive-looking environs. Imagine a bar where a cocktail tastes divine, but you just can’t shake the feeling of emptiness that you paid $24.50 for five sips of liquor and botanicals, no matter how delicious.
“Fancy meeting you here.”
The Fred Rogers of his own mind, and absolutely no one else’s, is Chandler Tsonda. He’s direct to camera. He’s wearing a black velvet blazer over a black crew sweater, and yes, the velvet of the blazer pops against the velvet of the bartops; c’mon, this isn’t a slum.
In front of the Model Citizen are two important totems:
- A Clementine-flavored White Claw 70. If you don’t understand the previous phrase, count your lucky stars; you are not this bougie. But it’s your standard zero sugar, zero carb, lab-created pittance of alcohol. Perfect for a lightweight.
- The Numbers Don’t Lie title belt. Perfect for a cruiserweight.
Chandler Tsonda: Welcome back to the Model Citiz-Inn. It feels like we never left. And I hate to disappoint, but if you’re watching this, then you know that I’m not going to make it to ReVival 40 RIGHT HERE. LIVE. IN MEMPHIS TENNESSEE!
How do you manage a whole ass cheap pop with a live crowd in a place you didn’t travel to? Only one man, one Numbers Don’t Lie champion, knows.
Chandler Tsonda: Memphis, I may not be in the building tonight, but I wouldn’t miss a chance to…(begins crooning)
put on my blue suede shoes and
board the plane.
The vocals are… not good, but there are cheap pops, and then there’s whatever the hell this is. A vocal eruption back in the arena accompanies the B- pipes. A small, loud portion of the crowd sings along.
Chandler Tsonda: Touch down in the laaaaaaand of the delta blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy, won’t you look down over me?
Yeaaaaaah, I got a first class ticket
But I’m as blue as a boy can be.
Does he do a little air drum on the dark wood table in front of him? You didn’t even have to ask.
And he adds a little flourish on the lyrics for that little always-unbelievably-extra Tsonda flair.
Chandler Tsonda: Tonight it’s rockin’ in Memphis
Walkin’ with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walkin’ in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?
The world’s most canned set of hoots, hollers, and applause greet the end of Tsonda’s singalong. There is a lot to cringe at, but one cannot disparate the production values.
Chandler Tsonda: Am I a cheap shill, a shameless mercenary chasing the high of an audience’s adultion? Am I fundamentally a whore for a good time and a loud pop? I mean…
Ting! would be the comic caption for what happens next, as Tsonda flashes the delirious smile of his. All pearly whites, arranged in the perfect photogenic way that could sell sunblock in Alaska in December.
Chandler Tsonda: But if we can be serious here for a minute, Memphis, I should admit that part of the reason I can’t be there tonight, is that I’m licking my wounds. No, literally. Avalon popped me something good in the mouth last week, and I’ve got a cut inside my front lip that hasn’t closed in the two weeks since. To say nothing of the…everything else that hurts
For punctuation, the Sultan of Style takes a sip of his faux vodka slush thingy, and winces.
Chandler Tsonda: I’m not sure if I’m cleared to travel, or wrestle, or whatever. I didn’t even ask yet. But the short of it, as you know, is that I’m in the ignominious brotherhood of Wait, THAT guy’s eliminated? (gestures to the bar around him) Pulled my seat up at the bar next to the Hanlons and the Rays, the Youngbloods and the Winters. Jiles. Kuroyama. Cross. Colton. You could probably get pretty deep into a “10 best wrestlers alive” just naming my fellow better-luck-next-yearers.
Tsonda picks up his White Claw and does a mock cheers.
Chandler Tsonda: (raising his drink) To the worst fucking fraternity that I never wanted to find myself in.
In one of the only sincere moments of his schpiel, Tsonda takes a deep breath and exhales. A born salesman, but never unserious about his psychotic competitive streak.
Chandler Tsonda: I got beat, I got beat up, and I’m out.
The Model Citizen stares at and taps the side of his drink pensively, then brings his gaze back to camera.
Chandler Tsonda: Coral knows we’re due for a rubber match sooner or later. And when we tangle? We’re going old school trilogy: our hero on top, and a real crowd-pleaser of an ending. For now, I’ll wait my turn. But speaking of trilogies…
Tsonda shakes his head.
Chandler Tsonda: Turns out there’s an absolutely rabid market for deepfake movies starring this (points to himself) gorgeous piece of business on some other guy’s body? You seen this?
He shrugs as if it’s a surprise to him as well.
Chandler Tsonda: Guess the Asian marketplace wasn’t getting enough Chan in their media diet. A bunch of interns told me this week that there are trilogies, quadrilogies, just a flabbergasting amount of these. Couldn’t make this up if I tried, but I’m evidently the star of more film series than I can name: Tsonda in Tsuburbia, Tsurfer Tsonda, Tsonda on Tsea, I mean…the rabbithole is deep.
This revelation would cause anyone to need a drink. Tsonda tslugs his White Claw.
Chandler Tsonda: Apparently these bootleg videos have a life of their own, and a massive community online dedicated to making me a movie star? Craziest shit I’ve ever seen. But in that vein, if you’ve always wanted to see Tsonda Tscats The Hits…I might have made a deal where every piece of merch sold tonight comes with a truly batshit bootleg DVD of a fake movie that, technically, stars yours truly. (winks to camera) You’re welcome for the record-breaking merch night, Troy.
Very normal stuff going on here. We’re being told it’s one of the most normal segments we’ve ever had in PRIME.
Chandler Tsonda: So that’s half of my early Christmas present to you, Memphis. I may be figuring out my next move, my Colossus opponent, and the like, but it’s the season of giving, and I wanna give you something special.
A pause for dramatic effect.
Chandler Tsonda: The other half of your gift is a classic Chan crowd-pleaser. I called my dudes over at B.B. King’s and told ‘em I needed a favor because I couldn’t be there tonight. They said, “hey what about the first thousand people who show tonight’s ReV ticket stub get their first drink on my tab?” And I said “what is this, Prohibition? Why not two drinks?” and they said that sounded like a damn deal.
Chandler Tsonda: Now don’t go running out on tonight’s show just to get boozin. Because, even if ReV 40 only has your boy coming to you from the Model Citiz-Inn, there’s nothing in the biz, maybe nothing in the world, that can go toe-to-toe with a Colossus go-home show. It’s the whole shebang, and if you can’t get chubbed up for that, then what are we even doing?
Another cheers. Those 70 calories and 0 grams of sugar won’t drink themselves.
Chandler Tsonda: (raising his glass for the final time) To Colossus, the granddaddy of ‘em all. See ya there.
We then cut to the backstage area.