MAGIC THE GATHERING
The show returns from a commercial break and picks back up ringside.
Nick Stuart: Some great action thus far tonight, but we still got four big ones on the docket. The semifinals of the Almasy Invitational are still to come!!
Richard Parker: I sure do hope, no, I don’t want to jinx it.
As soon as Richard is done speaking the lights instantly go dark like there’s been some sort of malfunction. Then, the guitar hits. And the chanting begins. And instead of THUN-DER…
That’s right. The acclaimed and remixed version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, aptly named, Banditstruck hits like a Bobby Dean fart inside of a trash can.
The lights pop back to life, and out from the back, all tracksuited up, come Cancer, Coral, and Bobby. It’s unknown if Lady Troy canceled the Bandits pyro due to their tardiness, or if Jiles is hogging them for his MAIN EVENT round three dust up against Jared Sykes.
The three take their time walking down to the ring. DUH. Jiles engages with a few fans wearing King Blueberry merchandise. He tells them to burn their money next time, because that merchandise, similar to what their parents think about them, is worthless.
Richard Parker: Glad to see Jiles has recovered from the Dean’s earlier hot box.
Nick Stuart: Really?
Richard Parker: No.
Once they reach the ring, King Crumb and The Crownless King slide under the bottom rope, while King Lint of the Bellybuttons takes the long way by utilizing the stairs. Of note, Jiles goes out of his way to lean over the top rope and share a thought or twelve with Richard Parker. Also of note, Bobby, not the Maestro, is the one holding the microphone to start the proceedings.
Bobby Dean: Hello everyone! My name is Robert Dean, and I am Beautiful. Now, if you would be so kind please pass all of your snacks to the front so that I can collect them. Your candies, popcorn, chips, edible panties, whatever. We had to rush down here so I haven’t had time to hit up catering yet. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding. I am a growing boy.
The Honaleean struts about the ring.
Bobby Dean: Now, before I pass this off and go collect my treasures, I wanted to say a few things. Mostly, one, I don’t see nearly enough of you doing what I asked, and two, well I wanted to say just HOW proud I am of my two brethren of the shell. “The Eggsecutioner” Cancer Jiles, and “Hard Boiled” Coral Avalon.
Bobby Dean: Boys, I cannot put into words just how proud of you I am, but I’m going to try anyway. Seriously, who would have imagined ole Salty Shoes himself refusing to roll over! And my new best friend Coral, proving you CAN win and be a Bandit at the same time!
He is the only one.
Bobby Dean: Keep up the good work boys, your coat tails are getting easier and easier to ride! You give little Bandits everywhere, even those still marinating in the oven, hope against the tyrannical. Now, one of you go on and win the whole goddamn thing for us, while I cheer you on like the wonderful athletic supporter I am!
Two guys, one Bobby.
Jiles and Avalon share a hearty thumbs up.
Bobby Dean: Also, should both of you face off in the final, we’ll flip a coin to see who I walk down the aisle with. Lord knows I’m not making that trip twice! Not with that COOLOSSAL runway. Shit, it’d be Night Two by the second time I made it down there!
Everyone laughs. Everyone except the person who has COOLYMPIAN reserve. He just figured something out.
Bobby Dean: I’d love to keep this going, but that guy is waving at me with like six half eaten hotdogs. GOOD LUCK LATER TONIGHT YOU TWO!
Bob tosses the microphone to Coral, who just so happens to be the closest to him. Coral bobbles it slightly as he hadn’t been expecting the toss, but recovers admirably.
Coral Avalon: Thank you, Bobby, for all of your many contributions. And good luck right back at ya with those hotdogs!
Avalon looks towards Bobby, who is indeed coming to collect.
God help that PRIMEate.
Coral Avalon: Anyway, tonight’s pretty simple for me. I plan on coming back out here in, oh… a half hour or so from now, slapping the makeup off the Model Citizen, and calling it a night on my way to the semi-finals.
The reaction for Coral is decidedly more mixed than usual for him as he continues talking.
Coral Avalon: Sure, Chandler is a former Universal champion, a Hall of Famer, very extremely handsome, all those things. Sure he’s even pinned my shoulders to the mat before. Sure, this is my first Almasy. But, he hasn’t faced me at my peak yet. He has no idea what’s waiting for him. He doesn’t know the Hard Boiled egg I am now.
His eyebrows raise as though something occurs to him, and he turns to Jiles.
Coral Avalon: Hey, Jiles, do they still do photoshoots for models wearing casts? Asking for a friend.
The Maestro coolly nods as if he knows a guy.
Coral Avalon: …Cool.
Coral turns back to the audience, and everyone watching at home. However, before he can readdress them, his opponent later on tonight, Chandler Tsonda, abruptly makes his presence known. He doesn’t rush the ring like a lunatic, rather he just calls out from the top of the entrance ramp, though he’s wearing his ring gear.
Chandler Tsonda: No the fuck we’re not.
Before Coral can retort, Tsonda makes his way down to the ring. Being a man of the people, he takes solace on Robert who is still munching away at ringside by handing him a bag of chips he brought from the back.
That’s one way not to get curb stomped by a pack of mongrels before your match.
Chandler Tsonda: No the fuck we’re not, Avalon. We’re not doing sad sack underdog Coral. Not here. Not in Nashville, Tennessee.
The obligatory cheap pop subsides, but the Model Citizen’s temper seems not to have abated.
Chandler Tsonda: I have, in my weaker moments, actually kind of liked you. But—and I hate to repeat myself here, but it’s an eGG Bandits promo, so recycled shit that’s already been said is the expectation—what we’re not gonna do is waste any time setting up a plucky underdog story. Because you? (gestures severely with a finger at Coral) You’re fresh out of pluck.
No one has ever uttered that phrase before in the long history of the world. It doesn’t deter the Numbers Don’t Lie champion.
Chandler Tsonda: So it’s probably my mistake to feel any type of way about your little revisionist autobiography audiobook you’re reading out here. But my temper and my ego fought a handicap match against my self-control, and so here we are.
Tsonda leans back and takes a long look at his opponent.
Chandler Tsonda: That’s one reason I came out: my questionable ability to check my worst impulses. But the other reason is that whatever shell of the stand-up guy you used to be, deserves to know that I, we, everybody—we know this isn’t peak. This is the gutter, dude. This is “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And we see through it, and I don’t want you to waste any more breath on it, especially when you’re gonna need that breath when you’re gasping for air, surprised at the three count that just happened while your shoulders were pinned. Again.
The Model Citizen does the world’s most obvious “1, 2, 3” with his fingers. Consider it closed captioning for those watching along at home.
Chandler Tsonda: And don’t worry. I figured out a way to even the numbers tonight. So if you and these two shitheels were planning on going through me any way other than “outduel the GOAT in a straight-up fight,” I’ll make sure that if you are gonna get this hypothetical, magical thinking ass win that you claim is coming tonight, you’ll do it the hard way, not the hard-boiled way. Shit, maybe you’ll remember how to stand on your own two feet somewhere in there.
Coral holds up a hand.
Jiles laughs inside the ring. From his mannerisms you can tell he finds Chandler quite amusing. Granted, for all the wrong reasons, but still, quite amusing nonetheless.
Coral Avalon: Okay, Chandler, I’m gonna stop you there. Somebody give him a brown paper bag so he can properly hyperventilate while I’m talking.
The Seattle native gestures to his cool cohort, and he starts to gesture at Bobby next, but isn’t quite sure where he went. How do you miss Bobby? He’s Bobby! Undeterred, he continues.
Coral Avalon: First of all, I don’t need these guys to beat you. I wouldn’t ask them to help me anyway. God, it’s like you’re off in your own little world, where anyone who makes even a single questionable friend must be the villain vanquished by the handsome hero. The ridiculously handsome hero. With interns. Oh, speaking of, while I’ve got you here…
Coral digs into the pocket of his tracksuit, and pulls out his cell phone. He thumbs at it for a bit.
Coral Avalon: Do you know what I really like in a friend, Chandler? Certainly not a guy who couldn’t be bothered to send me a single message after UltraViolence, who definitely still felt bothered to have one of his interns send me endless spam messages the day he lucked into beating me just to rub it in.
Avalon pauses, and reads off one of them.
Coral Avalon: “Please enjoy Chandler Tsonda on the cover of Wrestling’s Top Hots!” Solid rag, 8 out of 10. Gotta be honest, I don’t think the photographer got your good side. Not enough self-righteousness.
The Crownless King smiles, and puts the phone back in his pocket. Jiles shakes his head in disappointment. Tsonda postures like yeah I said it.
Coral Avalon: But honestly, rather than worry about who’s going to be on the outside and who’s on the wrong side of the tracks or whatever you’re thinking… Why don’t we just settle this in the ring?
Tsonda takes a step forward.
Chandler Tsonda: I only came out here to do two things: hear the sweet melody of my own voice, and slap the taste out of an eGG Bandit. And (theatrically puts a hand to his throat) I’m starting to feel a bit hoarse. You sure you don’t want to ask your buddy if that’s a good idea or not? I know you need his permission.
The Man with the largest forehead in town grits his teeth. Though, before haymakers and bedlam can ensue, the man with the COOLEST sunglasses reaches out and motions for the microphone. Tsonda looks on unimpressed as Coral hands it over.
Cancer Jiles: I don’t think you want to do–
Before The Maestro can finish his sentence, his opponent in the ROUND THREE MAIN EVENT MEGA MATCH emerges from the back to a huge ovation. Like, four Avalon Foreheads BIG. It’s mostly all of the women in the crowd so that might be why it sounded so loudly.
He’s not supposed to be out here for a while yet, but when have things like schedules and regulations stopped Jared from doing something dumb? Ask the facilities crew at the MGM Grand about that. It’s been almost two years, and they’re still finding feather boas where feather boas should not be. Besides, walking into a hostile environment where he’s vastly outnumbered is like an addiction for this tiny idiot man. He can’t get enough of it.
Cancer Jiles: Well lookie here, two of the prettiest boys around and neither of them go by beautiful.
On his torso, Jared wears a screaming pink tee shirt with the word “JARRY” across the chest in block letters, accented by enough exclamation points that they run under his left arm and onto his back. It’s the kind of look that would send graphic designers into frothing frenzies talking about kerning, and tracking, and “no, goddammit, letters don’t work that way!”
On his face, Jared wears the expression of a man who lets women talk him into things.
Oh well, at least he brought his own microphone.
Jared Sykes: I know I’m late to the… whatever this is… but there was a lost child wandering the loading docks.
He climbs onto the ring apron and casually leans against the turnbuckles.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. It sounded like you had something absolutely captivating you were about to say, so hey…
He extends a hand with the palm facing up, the universal gesture for, “please continue, my brother in Christ.”
Cancer Jiles: It’s hard to be late to something you weren’t invited to, but we’re all here now so might as well make the most of it. Please though, join us, Jared. We’re not going to bite. Well, not us anyway. Maybe Ts-bag. Or are you waiting for Justine to come down and pull up the second ring rope for you? If I’m being honest I don’t think any of us would mind.
Coral uncomfortably fidgets. He does have a wife, and she’s always watching.
Jared sucks in a breath through his teeth, nods slowly, and very visibly mouths the word, “Okay” with emphasis on that first syllable. With that, he steps in between the ropes and joins the ever-expanding group inside the ring. Yeah, definitely one of those days.
For just a moment, he casts a hard sidelong glance in the direction of the person in PRIME he’s known the longest; the newest Bandit, Coral Avalon.
This is what you crawled into bed with? Who you agreed to ally yourself with?
Jared Sykes: Well, hey… We’re off to a great start. Thanks for getting right to it, and not wasting any time in proving me right for deciding to not pay any attention to the shit you’ve done for the last two years. Feel like I haven’t missed much.
The always tactful Maestro starts to walk about the ring, clearly buying himself time while searching for a proper retort. He winks at Coral, not that anyone could see it, and then “accidentally” steps on Chandler’s wrestling boot while managing to avoid an incident. When he reaches Sykes, he stops, gets in real close, and whispers something in his ear.
Jared looks up to the rafters, and slightly shakes his head in disbelief. All he can manage to muster is a short smile, and half of a laugh. Jiles takes a step back, and picks up with his in ring walkabout.
Cancer Jiles: I must say that’s a lot of MAIN EVENTS you’ve missed out on then, isn’t it Jared? Shit, do I need to explain the premise of the GOLDEN TICKET to you? Are you even aware that PRIME has a UNIVERSAL Championship? You can nod yes or no if it’s easier.
There will be no nodding.
Ship burning, yes.
Jared Sykes: Okay, you know what? Maybe I misspoke a minute ago… See, just because I try very, very hard to pretend you don’t exist doesn’t mean I’m completely oblivious to what goes on here. You know, not long before I came out here tonight someone told me that I apparently don’t give a fuck. Not about gold, not about any of it. But you and I don’t cross paths very often, and when we do there’s always something on the line. The Culture Shock battle royal. The Turmoil match this summer. And now later tonight. I know what’s at stake.
His gaze narrows. His tone darkens.
Jared Sykes: And I want it.
The Maestro of the MAIN EVENT comes to a halt…… annnnnd there goes the track jacket. Bobby, as if he knew what spot to already be in, easily catches it on the outside.
The T-shades stay.
Cancer Jiles: You sure you’re not just misspeaking again, Jared? Maybe this… wanting of yours is manifesting itself because you’re still riding high post facelift? Ya know, a little too much of the gas. After all, those are some pretty big words for such a pretty little boy.
Jared Sykes: What about anything I just said is unclear to you?
Cancer Jiles: The only thing unclear to me is why it sounded like you thought accomplishing such things were possible. When, in fact, they are not.
Jared Sykes: Naahh, it ain’t playing out that way.
Jared takes a step forward. For the second time tonight, he stands ready to escalate the situation. If he’s not careful he could leave the arena tonight as PRIME’s version of Violet Beauregard, the girl who chased a Golden Ticket and was rolled as a giant blueberry out of Wonka’s factory. If the irony of that thought registers, Jared doesn’t show it. Instead, there’s a small part of his brain that’s wondering – hoping – that Hayes Hanlon is watching this from somewhere in the building.
Jared Sykes: You have something that I want, and I’m going to do everything in my power to rip it out of your goddamn hands.
The grin covering Jiles’ face spreads from ear to ear. It’s devious, and reeks of deception. To further escalate the surging tensions a unicorn appears when King Crumb removes his T-shades. Okay, there is no unicorn, but there could be. That’s how momentous of an occasion it is when Jiles takes off his sunglasses.
Then, to really salt things over, he extends his hand, as if it would even know how to shake another.
Cancer Jiles: Care to find out early if you’re strong enough to do so?
Jiles’ outstretched hand is just sitting there, like a rattlesnake waiting to be stepped on in the middle of the desert.
There is a brief moment of hesitation. Everything about this screams trap. If he were calmer, if he were in a better frame of mind, Jared would know this. Realize it for what it is. But that’s not the voice that’s in control right now. No, instead it’s one screaming that he has to take it, because that’s what the better man would do. Besides, he has a point to prove. Hanlon demanded fire, demanded action, and what better way to shut the kid up.
And yet, that’s not the only thought surging through his subconscious.
He extends his arm.
Jared Sykes: About that…
And swats Jiles’ hand away.
Jared Sykes: Next time you offer your hand, make sure there’s a Ticket for me to take.
He lets the microphone fall from his free hand, where it lands on the mat with an audible THUNK. Without another word, Jared steps through the ropes and hops down to the arena floor. But this isn’t his moment, and there’s no way he’s simply going to be allowed to get the last word in.
Not with this crowd.
Cancer Jiles: …pretty boy coward.
On another night The Heart of PRIME might have let this slide, but as it has already been determined this is one of Those nights, and so Jared turns back towards the ring. He doesn’t make it very far, as a wall of security has already filed in along the entryway to prevent things from escalating any further.
Coral and Chandler go nose to nose. Sykes is trying to get back in the ring. Jiles is pulling a Justine and yanking up on the second ring rope to help him to do so. And Bobby has cleared out the entire front row of refreshments.
CUT TO SOMEWHERE ELSE.