BUT FOR TONIGHT
Sometimes, when faced with one of wrestling’s trickiest problems, you just gotta wander backstage.
And so, fresh off the result of a crackling three-way match, that’s what our resident thinker and problem-haver is doing.
Chandler Tsonda is in a pickle. He’s also still noticeably in street clothes, the lovely black ensemble from his earlier encounter with Daytona Diamonds, with the Numbers Don’t Lie belt still propped over his shoulder. It seems likely that Tsonda has been pacing backstage, rather than finding his locker room and settling in.
Nick Stuart: Every minute, we get closer to Chandler Tsonda’s showdown with Coral Avalon. But unfortunately for the Model Citizen, he’s no closer to solving the numbers problem.
Richard Parker: The plight of the lone wolf. I know it well. All-inclusive resort vacations for one, having to buy yourself a Christmas present in July and put it in the back of the closet, so you forget about it and can surprise yourself.
Tsonda appears to be muttering to himself, as he scrolls through his phone. Yes, he’s doing the dreaded “pedestrian not watching where they’re going, expecting some magical solution to present itself as a pop-up notification on the top of the screen as if—
The most likely thing happens, and Tsonda runs square into a brick wall. A historically quite surly one.
Paxton Ray: Hey, watch where you’re goin’, pal.
The Bayou Butcher takes a few steps back, and while he’s scowling at The Model Citizen, his fists are noticeably unclenched. Progress!
Chandler Tsonda: (visibly flustered) Well you should watch…where I’m…well, shit. Fine. I’ll put on my swamp monster avoidance lenses in the future. Tally on, Ray.
The Model Citizen does a “shoo, fly” gesture towards his long-time antagonist. He doesn’t quite put his chest into the next thing he says, as he half-turns away from Paxton.
Chandler Tsonda: And anyway, I got bigger problems than the great apology tour through 2024, Ray. I’m out here as the only solo act in the Almasy, looking down a gauntlet of dudes who got plus-ones and plus-twos and plus-Bobby Deans at their disposal. And I’m running out of time. So forgive me if this ain’t our usual extended heart-to-heart.
The Model Citzen gives a nod to punctuate his plan to exit.
Paxton Ray: Cool. Good luck or whatever.
Paxton turns to walk away.
Chandler Tsonda: Wait.
The Model Citizen seems, uncharacteristically for him, to be holding back. He turns back towards the Bayou Butcher with his full attention.
Chandler Tsonda: I maybe got a…proposition. I know you’re trying to get off the naughty list, and doing the whole third act Ebeneezer Scrooge bit. At least that’s what you say. How serious are you?
Paxton looks down at his feet, clearly thinking. Chandler doesn’t know this, but Paxton had a run-in not too long ago that has him thinking about this question. How serious is he?
Paxton Ray: Whatcha got, Face?
Chandler Tsonda: Number one: don’t do me no favors. This doesn’t change any of the vile shit that’s on your head, and it doesn’t change that you and me, we’re not friends. Unless you got a real nice skincare regimen that…frankly isn’t doing enough, then we got little in common, and even less to make small talk about.
The Model Citizen is on a roll, and he continues listing out stipulations.
Chandler Tsonda: Number two: if you say yes, we’re square. Not square for ReV 29, I’m gonna put an L on you plenty soon. But square on the apology; it’s water under the troll bridge that you call home. If you say yes, you got a clean slate as far as I’m concerned.
Tsonda clearly can’t read Paxton’s response, so he just keeps going. When in doubt, he always keeps talking.
Chandler Tsonda: And finally, number three: I’m fifty-fifty on whether these apologies are total and unequivocal bullshit. But if you wanna shut me up—and if I know a scintilla about you, you’d relish not hearing my voice for a good long while—this is the way to prove that you’re serious. That you want more than just to hear yourself apologize. Maybe give you a chance to even the scales. So you up for it?
Paxton blinks once. Twice. Then he raises his hands in the air.
Paxton Ray: Ya ain’t even said what ya need, ya fuckin’ nitwit!
Chandler Tsonda: (not missing a beat) Be in my corner tonight for my match against Avalon.
Paxton is visibly shocked by this request. He scowls as if he smelled something bad.
Paxton Ray: What the hell would ya want that for?
Chandler Tsonda: ‘Cuz I’m fresh out of fuckin’ options, genius brain. Like I said: we aren’t likely to be palling it up in the groupchat about how we’re both loving the new season of The Crown. But my options around here are a series of fuckfaces who are all equally likely to use the big stage of the Almasy match to get their moment in primetime to swerve the Hall of Famer and take selfies with my corpse. Whereas you….
As much as he can, Tsonda sobers up, and speaks in what sounds like a sincere tone to Ray. He drops the act.
Chandler Tsonda: I know a little about what it’s like to live down some real dickhead stuff in your past. And I’m willing to trust in that. And trust that you, repentant or no, would still love the opportunity to paste somebody right in their snotbox if they deserve it. You tell me whether I’m a sucker for trusting in that, Ray.
Paxton once again stares at his feet. Interesting boots down there, I guess. He heaves a large sigh, then looks up at Tsonda and nods.
Paxton Ray: Nah. You’re a ton’a things, but ya ain’t a sucker. I hate Bobby Dean and have for over a year, so ya got that goin’ for ya. I ain’t really interested in bein’ your friend either, ‘cause if this is how much ya talk t’your enemies I don’t even wanna imagine how much you’d talk to your friends. But for tonight?
Paxton reaches out and slaps Chandler on the shoulder. It’s not too hard, but hard enough to make a satisfying smacking noise.
Paxton Ray: Ya got your second.
Paxton walks by Chandler, his brief smile replaced by the all-too-common scowl.
Paxton Ray: What the hell is The Crown?
We cut elsewhere.