MAIN STREET USA
Specifically, the hallway leading to the Argyle position. It’s traditionally one of the busiest places in the backstage area–wrestlers, referees, techs, and PAs are constantly shuffling in and out over the course of the show.
Most of them hustle up and down the corridor, doing their jobs, but the camera focuses on one in particular. He’s a handsome young man with a big gold belt.
Nate Colton, Five Star Champion.
He’s pacing back and forth, doing his best to not block the path of the other workers as he psyches himself up for his title defense in just a few moments.
That’s right, Nate. Focus. Tune out the distractions. Try not to think about how everyone else back here is fully dressed and you’re about to go out in front of a nationwide audience in basically your underwear. It’s fine, and not weird at all.
Colton shakes his head and starts pacing back and forth…and after a few turns, wouldn’t you know it, he finds himself face to face with someone else. A handsome young man with a big gold belt.
Hayes Hanlon, Universal Champion.
Nate Colton: Champ.
Hayes Hanlon: Speak for yourself!
The Event Horizon gives the Five Star belt on Nate’s shoulder a hearty slap.
Hayes Hanlon: You make that thing look good, man.
Nate Colton: And nice to see that belt back in good hands.
Hayes grins, peeking down at the Big Belt.
Hayes Hanlon: No argument there. Feeling good about tonight?
Nate Colton: Hell yeah, man. Got my first defense, got an opponent I know can bring it…this is gonna be great. How about you?
Hayes Hanlon: Never better. Been itching for another shot at Rezin since Great American Nightmare.
Nate’s look gets a bit pensive at the mention of the Goat Bastard.
Nate Colton: I believe it. That guy…he’s somethin’ else. I kinda feel like I’ve got unfinished business with him too.
Hayes Hanlon: Buddy, the way he’s going the whole locker room is gonna have some unfinished busin…
“By the BEARD of SAINT KACZYNSKI!!
The camera whips over to spy… who else?
Rezin: WHY do I keep runnin’ into ya douchebags!? I gotta start comin’ into these places through the sewer. Be far less nauseatin’…
The Escape Artist has evidently just arrived, as indicated by the gear bag held at his side. And the novelty pair of Mickey Mouse ears worn over the bald patch on his head.
Hayes Hanlon: Right on time. Get stuck on Space Mountain?
Nate Colton: I like the ears. Going for a new look?
Rezin: Oh what, THIS? Nah, had to make a lil detour into the Crappiest Place on Earth to settle some business with a cryogenically frozen head they got locked away below Spaceship Earth!
He spits on the ground.
Rezin: Auf wiedersehen, Walt, ya crooked fuck!
He pitches the mouse ears.
Rezin: Speakin’ of merch-shillin’ corporate scumfuckery… what we got goin’ on HERE among the ol’ junior varsity squad members?! Things gettin’ CHUMMY between the CHAMPS, huh? Are ya guys plannin’ on the next boy scout field trip?
His crazed grin stretches into a hungry sneer, while the glint in his already wild and paranoid eyes turns downright sinister.
Rezin: Say, Evansville… maybe ya could give Discount Burt Reynolds here a few pro tips for when we’re in the ring tonight! Some guaranteed BASTARD BUSTIN’ advice, yeah? After all, yOu WoUlD kNoW, right?
Hayes responds with an exaggerated, indignant gasp, defensively smoothing his ‘stache.
Hayes Hanlon: Discount Burt Reynolds?? Bro, even you can admit that this shit is Tom Selleck level minimum.
Nate Colton: I was thinking…Sam Elliott?
Hayes Hanlon: Thanks, but I don’t have that silky baritone to match.
Nate Colton: Fair. Surprised Mickey here survived with the Five Star Title as long as he did without shaving a ‘stache himself.
Rezin: HEY MAN! I survived the Five Star Championship because I’M ME! I’m DIFFERENT! I have a DIFFERENT CONSTITUTION, I have a DIFFERENT BRAIN, I have a DIFFERENT HEART!! I GOT TIGER BLOOD, MAN!
Rezin indignantly stomps off in the direction of the locker. The unflappable Universal Champion can only roll his eyes, but Colton is left pondering something.
Nate Colton: Tiger…?
He snaps the moment that months-long nagging sensation in the back of his head finally clicks together.
Nate Colton: That’s it! Lebanon Tigers!
Hayes Hanlon: Uh…what now?
Nate Colton: Man, that’s been driving me nuts. Back when I was in college, there was this prospect my coaches used to talk about all the time. Hersh…something.
Rezin suddenly freezes midstep.
Nate Colton: They said he was going to be one of the best in the state. Possible national champion, all of that. But he had a freak accident his senior year, and never made it. Brett…no, Brent! Brent Herschberger! Anyway, he was an Indiana boy, and I’m pretty sure he was from Lebanon.
The Goat Bastard is slowly pivoting around. As his face comes into view again, we can see eyes twitching. Lips gibbering silent tongues.
Colton has no idea, trapped as he is by his Midwestern upbringing. It is baked into their DNA; if they know someone from your town, they have to ask if you know them.
Nate Colton: You were from Lebanon originally, right Rezin? Name sound familiar to you at all?
The red-faced Rezin, looking like he’s on the verge of exploding, has become a human Vesuvius.
Rezin: (growling) WHOO… ARE… YOOOUUU!?
His leg goes into the wall…
Glass intended to be broken in case of an emergency is unintentionally shattered before the emergency. Rezin pulls the hefty fire extinguisher from the box and hoists it threateningly over his head.
Rezin: WHO THE FUCK SENT YOU?!
The lunatic bursts forward when…
Hayes Hanlon: Nooope!!
The extinguisher disappears from his hands, courtesy of a quick-thinking Hayes Hanlon.
Rezin twirls on a dime, and for the second time in two weeks, he stands face to face with the Universal Champion.
Beard. To. Stache.
Rezin: …bit early to be startin’ this, eh Champ?
Hayes Hanlon: Way too early, Erik. WAY too early.
Hayes tosses the extinguisher to the floor, staying squared to the Goat Bastard.
Hayes Hanlon: What’s your plan here, dude? How did you think that was gonna go? You think getting your ass kicked backstage by The Next Diamond was a good way to warm up for the main event?
Hammerin’ Hanlon inches in, mustache twitching.
Hayes Hanlon: Or were you looking for an excuse for when I flatten you in that ring later?
Rezin snorts. Rezin seethes. Rezin sputters. But ultimately, the Escape Artist backs down, and decides to leave on a threatening point toward the Universal Champ.
Rezin: Ya know what? I’m feelin’ generous tonight… so I’m gonna let ya savor the last few minutes ya got with that strap, before I go in there and fuckin’ peel it off ya… HHAAYYYESSS HHAANNLLAAWNN!!
The finger moves over to Colton.
Rezin: As for YOU, Evansville… I’m fuckin’ ONTO YA!
The Escape Artist…escapes, as suddenly as he arrived, leaving the two young champions stunned into silence. They recover quickly though, because rolling with the punches is what being a champion is all about.
Nate Colton: …thanks, man. You saved my ass.
Hayes Hanlon: He wouldn’t have gotten far. But definitely lit him up, pun intended. What was that about?
Nate Colton: I have no idea.
Both men look at each other, and like all of us, they have more questions than answers.
First and foremost: who’s going to take those Mickey Mouse ears?