NO PULLED PUNCHES
Backstage, Nova grips his gloved hands together and stares down at his left ankle, free of a monitoring bracelet.
There’s a knock at the door.
Nova: Come in.
The door creaks open, and Wade Elliott pokes his head and chest in.
Wade Elliott: Hey.
The Risen Star looks over.
There’s a pause.
Wade Elliott: (Rubbing the back of his neck.) Uh…just wanted to swing on through an’ say…good luck out there.
Nova nods slowly.
Nova: Thanks, man. Appreciate everything. Really.
He lights a cigarette and takes a drag.
Wade Elliott: Yeah, well, comes with th’ territory…
The ‘Bama Bruiser begins to step out of the doorway, then turns back.
Wade Elliott: Wish things were calmer, ‘n we could hang a minute, but ‘tween Paxton an’ th’ god-damn Love Convoy an’ everythin’ else, I’m pretty busy makin’ sure we still have a show t’ air.
The Starchild nods and takes another drag. The Bad Dog hands a dice-game box through the doorway, his eyes fixated on the rolls that could’ve been.
Wade Elliott: But hell, we can settle this after th’show, right Caesar?
Nova: (Exhaling deeply) I mean, I’m up, so technically the answer is still yes, but you better start rolling better.
Elliott breaks out into a broad grin and Nova returns it. The Southern Sparkplug shoots him a wink and disappears from view in the doorway, uncharacteristically leaving the door open.
And then, doing his best to appear nonchalant and completely natural, Hayes Hanlon steps into the doorway. Nova barely holds in a laugh as Hayes looks around awkwardly, opting to inspect the frame.
Hayes Hanlon: (Mostly mumbling to himself.) Hmm, that’s some real good craftsmanship. What is this, hickory? Or…maple?
Nova: Stop acting like a weirdo. Get your ass in here.
The young Hanlon hides a grin and closes the door, shoving his hands into the black dress-pant pockets now replacing his in-ring gear from earlier in the evening.
Nova: I know what you’re stressing about, and you need to chill.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude, how can I?
He grabs a nearby chair, spinning it and straddling to sit in it backwards, leaning over the backrest.
Hayes Hanlon: There’s only two ways this thing goes. Both are equally awesome, and both equally suck.
Nova takes a drag, allowing the young man to vent.
Hayes Hanlon: There is nothing I want more than a shot at the Universal Championship, and to take it off of Jiles at Colossus??? That’s the DREAM, man!
The Event Horizon pushes a hand through his hair. Nova looks on, smoke pushing through his beard.
Hayes Hanlon: But…I want you to do that. Tonight! And if you win…
Nova: (Interrupting.) And if I win, that means it’s you and me. At the Big One.
Hayes shifts to reply, but nothing comes out. Instead, Nova stands and steps forward, crouching to meet him eye-level, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Nova: And you’ll walk down the ramp, to thousands and thousands of roaring fans. The bell will ring, and you’ll give me fucking hell. No pulled punches. Nothing held back. And we’ll burn. This. Mother. Fucker. Down.
Hayes sits numb, barely holding off a tremble. The Risen Star gives him a clap against a broad shoulder.
Nova: Hard to write a better story than that, Hayes.
A weak nod follows in response. The Starchild stands, and the Event Horizon follows.
Nova: You’ve had a hell of a first year, kid. Don’t piss on it on my account. If I walk out with that belt, you come for it with everything you got. Promise me. You deserve it. I deserve it. PRIME, and Colossus, deserve it.
Hayes Hanlon: Alright. I will.
The two remain standing, the Hall of Famer’s arm still firmly on the Rookie’s shoulder as the camera fades off.
Hayes Hanlon: I promise.