I’M NOT A ROLE MODEL
The arena is still abuzz from the Brandon Youngblood/Bobby Dean match, even with the buffer of a commercial break. Suddenly, the fans have reason to roar again.
“Cynic” by Local H.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador? He wasn’t on my runsheet.
Richard Parker: Of course, he’s running around like he owns the joint. Really not beating the big ego charges from KING now, is he?
Nick Stuart: Look, he’ll tell you himself his ego is big, but uh, I don’t think Rose and Noble and the gang are what we call “reliable narrators” here.
The Anglo Luchador rushes out, head down, dressed in his gear, ready for the main event. He doesn’t slap hands, or really look at anyone, out of the ordinary for him. He slides into the ring and motions for Vince Howard to give him a microphone.
Richard Parker: Oh boy, he’s got something to say.
The Luchador taps on the microphone and lifts it to his mouth.
TAL: I know I’m due out here not much further in the future, but I got something I need to get off my chest.
It’s clear from the tone of his voice he’s bothered, and his manic pacing buttresses that mood.
TAL: You might have heard Rose, you know, Dusk’s daughter…
A cheer rises up for the PRIME Hall of Famer.
TAL: …yeah, Dusk, my friend. His daughter, though. Apple fell far from the tree. But she came out here two weeks ago, last show, and she said something, not anything original, and that’s the fucking problem.
Richard Parker: Language! My ears!
Nick Stuart: Rich, we’re TV-MA and on streaming. Plus there are people who come out here and say worse.
TAL: It’s the same from people like Nackedy, wherever that asshole is nowadays, or Pleasant, or the current Champion…
The Luchador stares daggers at Ivan Stanislav, still seated at ringside as he adjusts himself in his seat.
TAL: …or Tony Gamble or hey, I know, they’re all the bad guys here. Bitter, jealous. But they’re not the only ones saying it. People think I’m deaf at best, or just an idiot at worst, and they think I can’t hear. But I do, I hear people like Justine Calvin say it too. There goes that “hero,” a-a-and not in the way people talk about firemen or Sully Sullenberger or the fucking Avengers.
A hush goes over the crowd. The fans do not know how this is going to unfold.
TAL: And yeah, that’s on me. Part of being a wrestler is branding, right? The best wrestlers are amplified versions of themselves, and I’m not perfect by any means, but I try. I really do. I try to be the best person I can be, and…
He pulls the microphone back, puts his free hand up to his temple, and vigorously shakes his head.
Richard Parker: Look at him, he’s so full of himself.
Nick Stuart: I don’t think that’s the posture or the mannerisms of a narcissist.
TAL: …you know what, let me paint a better picture for you. Louisville, you guys like basketball, right?
A big roar rises up from the crowd.
TAL: Yeah, lots of history here, Denny Crum, Pervis Ellison, Rick Pitino, Terrence Williams, three titles, but I’m a Sixers fan, and one of my first memories was watching a guy named Charles Barkley. Remember him?
A roar comes up from the crowd. Louisville knows ball, even when the guys they’re cheering are Auburn alums.
TAL: Yeah, when he was traded, the Sixers broke my heart for the first time. Certainly not the last time, but this isn’t about my basketball fandom here. It’s about something Barkley said. He said that he wasn’t a role model. It was bold, because people wanted to be like Mike at the time. Bo knew, right? It was all marketing, and yeah, Charles saying that was marketing too, he said it in a Nike ad. But the point is he was being honest. Charles Barkley has always been honest.
Richard Parker: I’m more of a Shaq guy anyway.
Nick Stuart: Will you stop it?
TAL: So I have to be honest with you. I’m not a role model. I’m not a hero. I haven’t lived up to my branding.
He sighs and slumps in place ever so slightly.
Richard Parker: I hope his next words are that he’s forfeiting tonight and letting Cecilworth advance without breaking a sweat.
TAL: I’m not saying that I’m giving up and just doing whatever it is I want around here like three quarters of the rest of the roster. I’m just saying, heroes succeed. I haven’t. I failed Nora. I failed my brother. I failed you guys here and watching on ACE, and I failed my peers. Nate Colton. Kid was struggling, and what’d I do? Where was I? My kids call him uncle. What about Dusk, dying at home? Nova got chased out of the company by two guys I couldn’t stop from rampaging despite standing in their way in Paxton Ray and Hoyt Williams. I let branding and hubris get to my head, and people paid.
The crowd continues to murmur its confusion.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador baring his soul out here. I’m shocked.
Richard Parker: He’s finally talking some sense! Look, even Ivan is nodding.
Nick Stuart: Rich, I’m going to teach you about bias after the show.
Richard Parker: Don’t be silly, Nick. You know nothing about audio engineering.
TAL: I’m not a hero. I’m not a role model. I know people like to hand-wave heinous actions when you do them to awful, evil people, but I am still sick to my stomach using that shock collar, and even having it used on me didn’t feel adequate enough.
The crowd starts booing a little.
TAL: But the thing about people is that they never really stop growing or changing. Everything I’ve done since getting here, I’ve tried to do for the right reasons. I have no idea if I succeeded, but all I can do is try to atone for my mistakes and do the next right thing. If there’s anyone in that locker room with the moral authority to call me on my shit, go right ahead.
The Luchador goes over to the corner with the pace of a caged dog, slams his head on the top turnbuckle, and turns around whipping the mic to his face.
TAL: BUT I’LL BE DAMNED IF I’M GOING TO LET PIECES OF SHIT CONTINUE TO JUMP ME, DRUG ME, SPILL MY FUCKING BLOOD TO TELL ME HOW MUCH OF A PIECE OF SHIT I AM WHILE COMMITTING FELONIES ON MY PERSON.
The crowd unleashes a huge RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH.
TAL: Rose, David, you two lure me into the boss’ office, trying to use her and the Bad Dog as a shield, thinking you can weasel your way out of consequences when you drug me and throw me around and bloody me after I went through hell. All so you can lecture me on how bad I’ve been doing? And you think you can do it because it seems everyone gets their turn on The Anglo Luchador. Walk off scot-free.
Richard Parker: He’s not really doing a good job selling himself here.
Nick Stuart: You really are incorrigible, Rich.
TAL: That all stops. That all stops now. I’m done with branding. I’m done with trying to sell myself because in selling myself, I’ve lost myself. Tonight, I’m going to dump a can of solvent on Ceece. Next week, I’m going to show third time’s a charm against Youngblood. I’m going to win this side of the bracket and on Night One of Colossus, I’m going punch my ticket to face that Soviet relic with the berserk pituitary gland sitting right there on his gerontocratic ass.
Ivan feigns shock before shaking his head as if the Luchador was, once again, talking crazy.
TAL: But night two, David, Rose, the courier boy, one of those dickheads in that tag team, hell, ALL FUCKING FIVE OF YOU, I want to show you what happens when you don’t think about the consequences of your actions. I may not be a hero, but I know right from wrong. My mom used to say right is right and wrong is nobody. Well KING? All five of you? You’re all a huge fucking pile of nobody right now and I prove that at the biggest show of the year.
The Luchador throws his microphone, causing a huge screech to hit through the PA system, one that barely drowns out the cheers from the crowd. The Luchador walks off as the camera cuts backstage.