…I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS
There are a few key indicators that a wrestler has “made it”, chief among them is that Angelica Brooks – noted combat sports journalist and lead interviewer for PRIME – brings you in for a chat. For anyone this should be a point of pride, a moment to be rewatched on Youtube for years to come, and one day it will be just that for Ms. Brooks’ guest. Perhaps if the landscape hadn’t been as chaotic these last few weeks there would be more cause to celebrate now.
This is not the first time that PRIME fans have seen Angie’s guest, though until recently her face had been hidden by a mask. Justine Calvin, formerly known as “Reina Raspberry”, stands already dressed in her ring gear with her half of the PRIME Tag Team Championship slung over her right shoulder. The “Fighting For Jonathan” tee shirt that she wears covers enough bandages to make the pharaohs of Egypt envious, each representing an injury suffered at the hands of Vickie Hall’s entourage two weeks ago.
Angelica Brooks: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here with one half of the PRIME Tag Team Champions, Justine Calvin. Justine, if I may, you’ve been competing here since July under a mask as Reina Raspberry. Why the change now?
Justine Calvin: It felt appropriate, I guess. I know I haven’t been here very long – only a few months so far, but the way things have been going lately it just seemed right. It’s fun to play dress-up and wear silly costumes…
Her next words are delivered directly into the camera, an aimed shot at her partner.
Justine Calvin: But sometimes you need to know when it’s time to grow up, and put the toys away.
Angelica Brooks: I notice that your partner isn’t out here tonight.
Justine Calvin: Nope.
The response is short, clipped; a warning to steer clear of this line of questioning. For anyone else that might be the case, but Angie didn’t get to where she is by lobbing softballs.
Angelica Brooks: There have been some rumors lately around issues within the Kings of Popsicles…
Justine scoffs at the name. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
Angelica Brooks: Given your reaction, is it safe to say that there is some merit to those rumors? Things seemed to get a little heated between Jared and yourself during ReVival 16. There was a fair amount of speculation that his challenge to Paxton Ray at the start of the show was something that caught even you by surprise.
Justine Calvin: With all due respect, there are some things that I’d like to keep private, but I think it’s fair to say that things are a little rocky right now, yeah. There’s been… Let’s call it a communication breakdown. Did I know he was going to do that? No. Did I think he might go off the rails and pull a stunt like that? In all honesty…
Justine Calvin: Yes.
Angelica Brooks: And what are your thoughts on Lindsay Troy’s response? As you know, Paxton Ray has had his contract with PRIME terminated. He has effectively been blacklisted within the industry.
Justine Calvin: Good! It’s what he deserves. Actually, no, it’s the least of what he deserves. My dad was a fighter. Boxed up and down the east coast for years. The one thing he always taught me was that if you have a problem with someone, if you need to settle an issue with your hands, then you do it face-to-face. You do it eye-to-eye. And if it happens inside the ring, then you make sure that everybody walks away from it. Because what happened at UltraViolence? That… you don’t…
She trails off, taking a moment to compose herself. Angie, ever the consummate pro, gives Justine a minute to bring her thoughts back under control before moving on.
Angelica Brooks: I certainly understand the sentiment, especially in light of what happened at the end of ReVival two weeks ago.
A visible shudder rockets up Justine’s spine.
Angelica Brooks: We’re not going to show the fans at home what happened, but both you and your partner were also the victims of a surprise attack, this time by the returning Love Convoy.
Justine Calvin: Yeah. That was… yeah.
Angelica Brooks: I understand that you’ve only recently been cleared to compete. Is that correct?
Justine simply nods.
Angelica Brooks: Which means that tonight you’ll be defending the Tag Team Championships against Kenny Freeman and Randall Schwartz, the Masters of the Multiverse. What are your thoughts going into this match tonight?
Justine adjusts the championship belt that rests over her shoulder, wincing with the movement. Whatever the effects of the last show’s attacks were, they are clearly far from healed.
Justine Calvin: You know, we talk about this division being a meat grinder within the industry, and that’s true. Freeman and Schwartz had to earn this shot tonight against the same caliber talent that Jared and I have had to defend these titles against, so they know what it’s like to survive here. No one can take that away from them.
She takes a slow breath, though it’s unknown whether it’s to compose her nerves or to refocus after the pain of simply moving.
Justine Calvin: It’s cliche to say, but this championship means the world to me. It took me twenty years to get to this point, Angie. Two decades of sitting on the sidelines waiting for my turn, and now I’m here. I don’t have a trophy case full of championships at home. There’s just the one, and it’s this.
She taps the nameplate of her championship belt, the one that’s always bared her real name.
Justine Calvin: Lately it means so much more, do you know why? I had to survive against one of the best wrestlers of his generation to win it. We’ve been celebrating Jonathan Rhine lately, and for damn good reason. He was a two-time Universal Champion and a standard bearer in the company he spent most of his life representing. He gave his time and his energy to charity to help a little girl in her fight against cancer. And when that match ended, when it was our hands that were raised, do you know what he did? He congratulated me. Me, someone who he never had any reason to know, who until that night wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a lineup. He and I will never truly be peers, but he’s someone I now consider a friend, which makes this worth all the more to me.
Another breath, this one to try and stifle the emotion that’s starting to swell. Though she’d never admit it, at this moment she wishes she still had the mask. If nothing else it would at least help hide what she’s feeling.
Once she’s settled, she again focuses her attention directly at the camera.
Justine Calvin: So Schwartz… Freeman… I need you both to understand something. I applaud you for getting this far, because I know that the odds have been against you. You said that you weren’t going to let my partner “bully” you around, which is a fine sentiment, but it tells me you don’t know him. It tells me that you don’t know us. That you have no idea who we are, or what we’re about. Maybe if you paid more attention to things beyond desperately trying to get Senpai Scott to notice you, then you’d understand what you’re dealing with. A month ago I watched a friend’s career end in that ring. Two weeks ago? The same thing damn near happened to us.
There’s a tremble in her hand. It’s subtle, barely perceptible except to the trained eye, but to Justine it might as well be an earthquake. It’s joined by a rapidly accelerating pulse, as the memories coalesce into spreading panic.
Justine Calvin: This isn’t about coffee. This isn’t about some Cuisinart infomercial bullshit. Hell, it’s not even about these titles, not really. Tonight is about reminding everyone that what happens to my career is my decision to make. Not yours, not the Halls, and not the next Paxton fucking Ray to come down the pike! I’m sorry guys, I really am, but after what I’ve seen over the last month I don’t intend to let anybody dictate my destiny in this company. Except me.
With that she turns back towards Angie, and mutters a quick “thanks” that the microphone is barely able to pick up before turning and stepping out of frame.