ADVICE FROM ASSHOLE MOUNTAIN
Foster Nackedy is walking. After a few moments, he sees a backstage assistant and waves him over.
Foster Nackedy: Hey, Chris, get over here.
Confused, the assistant walks over.
Not Chris: My name isn’t Chris.
Foster Nackedy: Sorry, anyway can you deliver this to Lindsay Troy? It’s an invoice for the pads to my concussion helmet. They had to be replaced.
Not Chris: Uh, ok. Is that why they now have little mirrors on them?
Indeed, they do.
Foster Nackedy: Those aren’t mirrors, it’s reflective glass to help shield me from hits to the head.
The man who is not named Chris looks terribly confused.
Not Chris: But aren’t mirrors just reflective glass?
Foster Nackedy: Just get out of here, Chris!
The backstage attendant walks away quickly as Foster continues to walk in the opposite direction. After a second he stops and smiles.
Foster Nackedy: Well look who it is.
For someone who should be hypervigilant in the wake of the previous show, Jared Sykes seems caught off guard. His head snaps in the direction of Foster’s voice and he works his jaw as he tries to process the threat assessment of the current situation. Of course, this all grinds to a halt when his gaze settles on the shimmering dome on Foster’s head.
Jared Sykes: You look like a disco ball. Why do you look like a disco ball?
Foster Nackedy: Ah, Jared. There’s some things you don’t understand until you get to be my age.
Jared’s brow furrows as math begins to happen in his brain. Somewhere, Damon Hayes collects a royalty for this. For the furrowing, not the mathing. Both Sykes and Nackedy are only one year apart agewise, which Jared indicates by first pointing to Foster, then to himself, and at last holding up a single finger.
Foster Nackedy: Anyway, I’m glad I ran into you. I am very happy to see that you are insistent on climbing Big Assholes Everest. Just wanted to wish you luck on the climb!
Foster flashes two thumbs up. He also flashes light everywhere as he tilts his head and the reflective glass catches the light.
For his part, Jared mouths the words “Big Assholes Everest.”
Jared Sykes: Thanks? I think? But also… what?
Foster Nackedy: Just making the observation. You basically took on Paxton for injuring Jon, despite all of the carnage he caused. And you survived that, and to celebrate decided to pick a fight with the big Russian bastard who may be the only person on the roster who can out-yeet Paxton.
Foster puts a finger to his chin.
Foster Nackedy: Though we should really do a control group to test that. I wonder where Mark is nowadays.
Jared Sykes: Last I heard he’s still working at the Grand. Doubt we’ll be seeing him again though. Not sure he wants anything to do with this sport. Can’t blame him, to be honest.
He straightens a bit.
Jared Sykes: You know it’s funny you say I’m picking these fights, because it was Ivan who found me when the dust settled after Culture Shock. And then two weeks ago he made it a point to… Look, I’m not reliving what I had to watch back after the show went off the air. He fired that shot, bud. Now I have to deal with it. Different set of circumstances if you ask me.
Foster Nackedy: Uh huh. Makes sense. I chose my words poorly. You’re right, he found you, and if you just continue to be your sweet self who doesn’t antagonize anyone and refuses to give up no matter the odds, I’m sure the problem will eventually go away!
Jared Sykes: Right, because those two things are totally the same. One guy makes a few jokes on the company chat platform. The other’s cool with throwing people through ceilings. One hundred percent the same.
Jared glances at a hundred reflections of himself in Foster’s helmet, each one warped like a funhouse mirror.
Jared Sykes: But I guess that logic tracks. Remind me who you represent again? Isn’t it the guy who’s cool with paralyzing people for “reasons”? How many of those reasons are trivial shit like lame jokes or bad puns? I bet it’s zero.
Foster Nackedy: I still don’t really know why Paxton did what he did. I don’t really know why Paxton does anything he does. That’s probably a bad thing.
Foster shrugs again.
Foster Nackedy: And yes, I started this conversation to antagonize you, but I really do think you’ve been lucky so far. You’re a great wrestler, and you’re a stand-up human, I guess. But don’t you feel like one day you might poke the wrong bear?
A memory floods Jared’s mind of a pair of eyes getting smaller as they move away, falling in slow motion to a spot a hundred feet below. A moment in time that now exists only in grainy cell phone footage on the darker corners of the internet.
Jared Sykes: All the goddamn time.
He closes his eyes for a moment, pushing that image to the back of his mind as he’s done countless times before. It’s easier than it used to be; that devil at last exorcized.
Jared Sykes: Have you? See, the way I figure it… You’ve got your big bad bayou boy running around willing to punch anything that walks. Or worse. And he seems legitimately happy to start fights with everyone he can. But the thing is, when Paxton gets someone in a compromising position there’s always someone to make sure it doesn’t go too far. But what happens when the roles reverse? What happens when, say, the Russians get him in their sights? What happens when Mr. Insecurity brings the rest of his egg friends back into the fold? Or what happens if Cecilworth’s arts ‘n crafts club decides that Pax is next on their list? Who steps in then? You?
He glances once again at the sparkling ball on Foster’s head.
Jared Sykes: I mean maybe you can distract them for a minute, but…
It trails off in a shrug.
Foster was nodding slowly as Jared talked, and now he nods faster.
Foster Nackedy: Yeah. It’s a good point. Predators become prey. And unfortunately I have been concussed too much to be helpful. But can I tell you something?
Foster looks left and right before talking, as if he’s about to tell a big secret.
Foster Nackedy: I’ve been around this business forever. Coming up on 27 years now. I’ve seen a lot of bad men. I’ve trained a lot of great wrestlers. And this kid? The one who everyone hates because of the terrible things he did? He’s special. He’s better than Rhine, more ruthless than me. I think he can legitimately be the best wrestler Gray’s has ever produced. So yeah, maybe one day he’ll become a target. But from what I’ve been able to see? He’ll be able to handle it.
Foster Nackedy: Hell, maybe you two are similar in that way, and my fake concern about you is misfounded. Which means this whole talk was for nothing!
Jared Sykes: Maybe one day?
The expression on the face of the Dragonslayer is stone-cold serious.
Jared Sykes: Foster, I don’t think you get it. He is a target, and not just because of that shiny gold belt he carries. Sure, there are people here who’re fine with the way he does business, but the rest of ‘em?
Jared shakes his head.
Jared Sykes: You’re running with a marked man. You might not see it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So think whatever you want about what he is, because unless the Legion of Doom you’re building down in New Orleans is going to start invading the locker room soon, then before too long someone’s going to put a problem in front of him that he’s not equipped to solve.
Foster Nackedy: Well, assuming you’re right, it looks like we both have some advice to take to heart. Take care of yourself against the Russian, and I’ll try to keep Paxton safe from the enemies he collects like trophies.
Foster cocks his head to the side.
Foster Nackedy: Although maybe I should stage a Gray’s Invasion. Might be fun.
The Bad Name Bomber laughs.
Foster Nackedy: All right, I’ve got to find my marked man and get him prepared for his match. Good luck not getting your head knocked off, because I’m sure my boy will want another shot at you down the line, and you kinda need a head for that.
A heavy sigh escapes Jared’s lips as Foster walks away.
Jared Sykes: Yeah. I bet he will.
We then cut back to ringside.