We cut to Paxton Ray sitting backstage, tapping his fingers against the armrest of his chair. Whatever he’s waiting for, he doesn’t have to wait too long, as the door opens and Foster Nackedy walks in, finally free of all fake injury regalia…oh wait, no, he’s wearing a concussion prevention helmet.
Paxton Ray: God ya look like an asshole.
Foster Nackedy: We’re both dressed the part, then.
Foster walks in and puts a bag on the floor next to him.
Paxton Ray: So ya couldn’t find an interviewer?
Foster Nackedy: Nope. Either there were none available or they’re all afraid you’re going to Mark Lemon them. One of the two.
Paxton Ray: Well I guess I ain’t gotta get interviewed. What a damn shame.
The tone of his voice reflects that it might not be a shame at all. Foster smiles and starts digging through the bag.
Foster Nackedy: Well that’s where you’re wrong, Pax. You’re getting interviewed.
Paxton Ray: But ya just said…
Paxton stops when he sees Foster stand up with the item he pulled out of the bag. The item is a microphone. When Foster starts talking, it’s with an exaggerated broadcaster voice.
Foster Nackedy: Hey Nick and Richard, this is Foster Nackedy backstage. Thank you for that amazing introduction, you two are too kind.
Nick Stuart: I assure you we did not…
Foster starts talking over Nick because he can’t hear him and also because he’s very obnoxious.
Foster Nackedy: I’m here with PRIME superstar and perhaps the best Intense Champion of all time, Paxton Ray. Paxton, can we spare a moment of your time?
Paxton stares up at Foster, clearly unamused.
Paxton Ray: Jus’ ask your damn questions.
Foster Nackedy: Direct and to the point! No wonder you’re one of PRIME’s most beloved wrestlers! Anyway, I want to get your feelings on your match at Culture Shock with Nova, a PRIME Hall of Famer. What do you want to say to the Risen Star after such a brutal battle that left your best friend and manager concussed?
Paxton shakes his head.
Paxton Ray: Nothin’.
Foster Nackedy: Nothing to say to Nova?
Paxton looks down for a moment, then shrugs.
Paxton Ray: Nice try.
Foster Nackedy: Ever the good sportsman. Now, let’s move onto the second night of Culture Shock. You were the 12th remaining participant in a Battle Royale, and the person who eliminated you, FLAMBERGE, has a shot at your title. What do you have to say to FLAMBERGE?
Paxton Ray: Get ready.
Foster blinks a few times, waiting for Paxton to elaborate. When he doesn’t, Foster sighs and drops the exaggerated voice.
Foster Nackedy: You suck at this.
Paxton Ray: They say it’s the job of the interviewer to get good answers outta the subject. So maybe ya suck at this.
Foster Nackedy: Fair enough. Finally, there are rumors that Foster Nackedy’s gym, the great and incomparable Gray’s Wrestling Academy, has been under siege by two jerkfaces who don’t know when to quit. What do you plan on doing to defend your incredible manager’s baby?
Paxton Ray: I, uh…don’t care.
Foster Nackedy: You don’t care.
Paxton Ray: Nope.
Foster Nackedy: Well you should, and here’s why…
We never get to hear why Paxton should care, because the door opens and in walks…
“I swear to GAWD, catering never used to be this hard to find.”
The roar you heard isn’t because the people of Oklahoma love catering. For the second time tonight, OKC thunder isn’t a basketball team but a description of a giant pop. For him. You know, living legend, walking billboard for excellence, the most common SEO result when you Google “can you be too handsome?”
Chandler Tsonda stands in the doorway, disappointment on his face as he surveys what’s in front of him.
Chandler Tsonda: Well, shit. Neither of you has a real “about to make finger sandwiches” vibe about you.
Paxton Ray and Foster Nackedy look at each other for a moment. Embarrassingly, Foster drops the microphone.
Foster Nackedy: Quick, give him some threat about ripping his fingers off and feeding them to him as sandwiches.
Paxton, naturally, doesn’t pay any attention to his manager. A long time ago, before Paxton shocked the world by paralyzing his tag team partner, he would’ve pretended not to know who Chandler Tsonda was, because it fit the image everyone had of him. But that mask has come off a long time ago, and so now Paxton stands.
Paxton Ray: Whaddaya know. Another PRIME legend here to live offa his name.
He sneers, then points behind Tsonda.
Paxton Ray: Caterin’s that way. Get out.
Tsonda doesn’t bother looking behind him. That’s the way he just came from, but Tsonda knows that the tide has turned in this conversation.
Chandler Tsonda: Wow, and I thought we had developed a company value of inclusion while I was gone? I am not feeling like this is a psychological safe space.
The Model Citizen can’t help but grin. It’s good to be back.
Chandler Tsonda: This is where you jump in and we do kind of a charming back-and-forth hero villain thing. Not, like, annoying Marvel snarky, but sort of mid-period Sorkin, you know, proving that we’re both silver-tongued ne’er-do-wells who just happen to have different moral codes, and–
Tsonda stops as Paxton holds a hand up. After a moment, Paxton opens his mouth.
Paxton Ray: Nah.
Foster laughs, then walks up to Tsonda.
Foster Nackedy: Listen, Mr. Tsonda – big fan by the way, huge, probably the biggest here – obviously you’re a big deal. Hell, I’ve been trying to get Brandon Youngblood-senpai to notice me since I got here, and you just walk in and get his attention. So you’re awesome, a legend, did great in the Battle Royale. All of that is amazing.
Foster cocks his head to the side and grimaces as if these next few words cause him pain.
Foster Nackedy: Things are a little different around here now. Banter is fun, and I’m actually a huge fan of it. But this guy here? The Intense Champion who has left bodies and blood in his wake?
Paxton flares his nostrils.
Foster Nackedy: He’s not really that kind of guy. He doesn’t trade verbal barbs. And I’m sure by now you’ve heard what he does do. So, because I really do respect and admire you and all that, I am going to politely suggest you go find those delicious finger sandwiches you were talking about, and maybe a carrot stick or two, and leave us to our fun. Sounds good?
Chandler Tsonda: Nah.
As he says this, Tsonda stares right at Paxton Ray. There is a glimmer of violence in the silence that hangs between them.
Chandler Tsonda: To all of it. But especially nah to carrot sticks.
The Model Citizen defuses some of the tension with the infinite dollar smile, but he doesn’t break eye contact with Ray. The former Universal Champion tilts his head towards Foster, making it clear that he’s talking to him. Tsonda’s eyes, however, remain lock stock on Paxton Ray.
Chandler Tsonda: And you can tell your uncharitable friend that if he’s not much for sophisticated conversation…well, I’ve never had that funny little trash-can-and-thumbtacks title belt. I know from my record-setting Universal reign that heavy lies the crown. Just say the word, and I’d be happy to relieve him of the burden.
Foster stares at Tsonda for a few moments before nodding.
Foster Nackedy: …Right, right. We’ll just book you an appointment. That’s how it works with the legends, right? They snap their fingers and get whatever they want.
Paxton has not broken his stare the entire time as Foster serves as the narrator between the two men.
Foster Nackedy: Just going to warn you, and again, this comes from the best place possible…The people who want a piece of Paxton?
Foster looks back at Paxton.
Foster Nackedy: They, uh…they get it. And maybe they learn this belt is more than just trash cans and thumbtacks. It’s pain. Suffering. Unrecoverable damage.
After a moment Foster laughs and claps Tsonda on the shoulder, an act that clearly violates The Model Citizen’s personal space.
Foster Nackedy: But not you, I’m sure. You’re special!
An astute observer would see the balled up fist at Tsonda’s side. Chandler nods, as if he’s putting away a piece of information for later. He winks at Nackedy.
Chandler Tsonda: Mister mouthpiece, on this point…we agree. I’m one of a fucking kind.
The returning star looks back over his shoulder.
Chandler Tsonda: I gotta go get my bearings. First night back and all. But I don’t want you fellas to worry: when it comes to throwing hands, I hear it’s just like ridin’ a bike. And dude…
He returns the favor, leaning entirely too close into Foster Nackedy’s personal space. He very slowly brings up his right index finger and taps the side of Foster’s concussion helmet.
Chandler Tsonda: Boop.
And like that, the Model Citizen is gone like a thief in the night. Foster smirks, which disappears immediately as he looks at Paxton, whose stare and growl has still not wavered.
Paxton Ray: What a piece’a shit.
Foster Nackedy: Agreed. Don’t worry, Pax. Maybe he’ll sign an autograph next time.
Paxton shoots Foster an angry look as we cut…