OVERDRIVE THE SURPRISE
Once upon a time, the backstage environment at the average PRIME show was a fairly civil place to be. Sure, you had the occasional Bandit to deal with, but this is a universal truth for most wrestling promotions over the last few years. At worst a lone wrestler wandering the halls might find themself having to contend with one of the roving cultists. MESSIAH. Jacob Mephisto’s family. The other one.
God, there were so many cults. You couldn’t swing a smoke machine without shrouding one in misty secrecy. So spooky.
There was even a stretch where you might bump into a pigeon-man and his friend the literal sorceress. Simpler times, man. Simpler times.
Now those same halls are a veritable wild west of weirdos. A “WWW” if you will. Take, for example, the case of the disco man and his feral cajun, whose capacity for murder now extends beyond roster members. There’s an amorous group of trucking enthusiasts who by all right should be serving time in prison for war crimes. Speaking of crimes, we have Russians now!
These aren’t the groups that Jared Sykes is trying to avoid as he navigates the corridors. Lately he’s been finding himself followed around the arenas PRIME visits by a group of small-town community theater washouts. No, not the Bonafides. They’re currently too busy in another part of the building testing a new device to assist Biff in his day-to-day movements. If you hear screaming echoing through the corridors later, it’s because this contraption – dubbed the Arthrotron 9000 – has locked up while forcing him to do the splits.
Right now he’s actively trying to hide from “Questionable Career Decisions” Troy – so named because there is a specific shade of red in the outfit he wears – by standing still against a wall and hoping that this particular Boy’s vision is based on movement, like a T-Rex that smells faintly of deep dish pizza and desperation.
Miraculously, the ruse seems to work, because all of the Troy Boys are very stupid. And with that, Jared moves away from his perch and continues on his journey, and we can just end this all here because there is nothing else that could possibly go…
That accent. It’s French.
Ah, of course. There’s another group he has to contend with, and he has no one to blame for that but himself. This is what happens when you make snap decisions in the ring.
He stops, sighs, and then expresses a thought in a voice that wants to be a whisper but is still very much out loud.
Jared Sykes: Ah, Christ. Either someone screwed up the date for my birthday or…
He turns. Oh look, it’s FLAMBERGE. Hi, FLAMBERGE!
FLAMBERGE: Or what? You don’t have the person in your life who tells you this enough? No wonder you pal around with the Mustache. He seems to be the bitter egg too.
Picture two hamsters. These aren’t your garden variety pets. These little buggers live inside a man’s head, and are responsible for running the thoughts back and forth between the different parts of his brain. They have stumpy little legs, and have lived very long and troubled lives as hamsters go, but they have a job to do and dammit it’s going to get done. Right now they’re scampering to and fro about whether or not the man whose brain they live in should refute the claim about people who call him sexy, because it could lead to some very awkward conversations at home later. Instead, they offer up the best they have.
Jared Sykes: What?
FLAMBERGE: …the bitter egggggggg.
The Frenchman really leaned into the stank on that delivery, perhaps expecting this to flip the switch in Sykes’s mind. For a beat, both men just stare into each other’s eyes – bewildered, flummoxed, two brains in a Zoom meeting who can’t understand that their own microphones are off because they keep trying to explain to the other one how their microphone is in fact the one that is off. FLAMBO shakes the cobwebs out first and continues. His hand instinctively begins rubbing the back of his head.
FLAMBERGE: Alors, look, uh…what’s Mustache’s deal?
Sykes blinks a few times and shakes his own cobwebs out. The expression on his face is like what a dog might have if someone spent their weekend desperately trying to teach the poor creature the ins and outs of vector calculus. But there are no treats here. No good boy yum-yums to keep Jared focused. As such, those damn hamsters have a new mission, and they may well be dead by the time it’s finished.
FLAMBERGE: Listen, I realize – the you and I, we have never really had “the chat”. I also realize that oui oui, you and I, we will be on the opposite side of things at the Ultraviolence, and that will mean what it will mean – but really, I think you and I could end up getting along here. You, you are the tag team superduperman, non? Go on, you are! And with me, le lézard imparable Intense Champion, I know that I don’t really have to look over my shoulder at the you, since you could never threaten me, so…what I mean is, I think I would trust your word to me, since I know you will never have the power over me to take the advantage, non?
At the sound of “the chat” Jared’s eyebrows all but leap from his face. The brain hamsters – let’s call them Betsy and Gretchen, because why not – slam into each other and grind the whole operation to a halt. Fortunately, that was not an indicator that the French Phenom was about to teach Jared about the birds and the bees. Or maybe unfortunately. I bet that’d be a hoot.
FLAMBERGE: …so, like. Mustache. What’s his deal?
Jared Sykes: Yeah, to be honest I haven’t really talked much with Mustache since…
You have to admit, the name is catchy.
Jared Sykes: Dammit. Hayes is…
Deep breaths, my man. Find your inner peace. Ignore the fact that the kid just insulted you. And, while you’re at it, ignore that your narrator has just switched the way it communicates. Fortunately there’s a breathing technique he’s recently learned that will help with at least one of those things.
Jared Sykes: Look, I’m not qualified to speak for anyone else, so the best I can give you is a guess. But if I was in his position and was looking to reassert myself and try to find my footing again then I’d probably bark real loud about it, too.
Hang on a minute, FLAMBERGE, do you hear that? That sounds an awful lot like…I dunno, a cousin? A classmate? Some internal monologue out there is trying to scrape out their own little space around here, and I for one won’t have it. I think I heard something about “breathing techniques”?? Doesn’t he understand he can make his dog breathe however it wants with all the wiring we have back here? What a doofus, my protagoniste. HEY, DOOFUS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. HEY. YES, YOU.
“Protagoniste?” What sort of effete snobbery is this? We’ll simply not stand for it. Actually, strike that. We will, because no one has written any chairs into this yet, and dammit if I’m going to be the one to will that shit into existence. Then someone will want to smack someone else with it, and it will devolve into “A Thing.” And no, the floor is not an option. That’s where the dust lives, and it’s way too early in the show to get all messy. Have to keep these clothes clean for a little while, because at the rate ol’ Jarry here is going it’s only a matter of time before someone decides that he needs to do a big dead. Again.
Seriously, man, find a new angle. Angel Quinley has the market cornered on “horrific shit that happens in a wrestling ring” right now, and we’re not about to challenge that.
Jared Sykes: Doesn’t mean I think it’s the right choice though.
Oh sure, just casually ignore the fact you did the same goddamn thing with the Red Army a few months ago. Great, now we have to pretend to not be hypocrites.
Do you see the shit I have to put up with?
Jared Sykes: But here we are. Me, who’s apparently only really good when he’s got someone in his corner, and you… The dude I sent sailing at Culture Shock.
You’re telling me. I swear, it’s like my dog is trying to figure out how to sabotage this good thing we have going…something about “ohhhhhhhh letters from mama” or some crap. I’m going to have to rattle this French boy around somehow here in a minute. You’ve gotta shake ‘em every now and then, like an Etch-a-Sketch. You don’t want your dog to make synapse connections that you aren’t choosing.
FLAMBERGE: Yes, well. Every singles neck you’ve collected, I’ve collected too, then add another seven-to-twelve. Sail me away, cowboy sailor man, I’ll collect your neck next because the top rope can’t save you from me…or…you could be cool, and just, like. Tell Mustache I say “what’s up”. And tell him to unclench the haunches. It spoils everything.
Oh no, not the neck, that’s where your head lives! And you need that. I’m pretty sure you’d actually die for real without it. Plus, all the big thinking goes on there.
Okay, so that last one was a stretch. But it is also where your tear ducts live, and, well… you know. Don’t make me say it. Just embrace that the meme is real and everyone will be happier for it.
Jared Sykes: I feel like there’s a lot to unpack here.
Hey, while we’re on the subject of things that happen in this dude’s head, one time I convinced him that there was a trans-dimensional funk band that lived in his refrigerator. Man, you should have seen the look on people’s faces when he tried to explain it. Everyone thought he was on drugs. Like they thought he was on all the drugs. But nope, just had to compensate for a very boring Saturday.
STOP THINKING ABOUT HAUNCHES! Say something, anything. Literally ANYTHING.
Jared Sykes: Just remember, you want to collect mine? First you’ve got to take your own back.
Dammit, Jared, that wasn’t as cool as you thought it sounded.
Yeah, Doofus, way to steer your dog to biff that one. Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling FLAMBO. It was pretty cool TBH. Just, that’s a trade secret. You don’t get to tap into mine just like I don’t get to tap into yours. Union contracts. We lie when we have to and when it furthers the directive. You know this, of course. You use that trick all the time. Ugh…haunches, though. That’s like a dog thing. I need to figure out how to turn THAT switch off.
I don’t know why but just to add to whatever mess is happening, Cecilworth Farthington, PRIME’s Finest Five Star Champion (and least finest if you think about it) is rounding the corner in the middle of this conversation wearing a party hat, kazoo in his mouth. He looks at the scene before him and then looks down at his “Sorry About Your Shitty Title Loss and Then That Whole Tag Team Thing” cake in his hand. Cecilworth’s kazoo lets out a sad little toot as he beholds the situation he has walked in to.
Cecilworth Farthington: Guys, I have a cake for Joe and I need to give Joe the cake but I can’t give the cake to Joe while Jared is in the way of the Joe path.
Cecilworth finally actually notices that Sykes is here and is a physical object rather than a concept like, I dunno, concentric circles.
Cecilworth Farthington: Oh hi Jared, did Flambo already ask what the deal is with your angry friend? He is very angry with us for winning matches in a fair manner and I don’t get that. I mean getting mad at the people using families for kindling or I dunno, shock collar murders, those seem like things to be mad at. We’re just lil fellas having a good time.
Sid Phillips: Hey.
Cecilworth Farthington: Hi Sid, I have a cake.
Cecilworth shows Sid the cake.
Sid Phillips: Sweet. I love cake. Cake’s the best, next to… you know…
Powerbomb powerbomb powerbomb POWERBOMB powerbombington.
Sid Phillips: The thing.
FLAMBERGE was so absorbed with Sykes’s brutally killer one-liner that he’s only now registered the presence of Cecilworth and Sid. After a quick longing glance at Sid’s flowing locks, FLAMBO locks eyes with The Man Who Insists On Calling Him Flambo No Caps Lock Because Scottishisms Or Whatever, taps his nose, and points down A hall in A direction. He then walks off in that direction with no further dismount, apparently expecting someone to follow. Oh, and his narrator’s been KO’d by one of them powerbombs for those keeping score at home, Lord bless you.
Cecilworth Farthington: FLAMBO!
Now we have to wonder if Cecilworth was yelling or saying his name correctly this time. Will we ever know? Hard to say. He looks back down at the cake.
Cecilworth Farthington: I need to give Joe a cake.
He walks off in a direction, maybe north?
Sid Phillips: Whoops, gotta go. Later.
Powerbomb powerbombing powerbomb. South powerbomb.
Jared Sykes: But… the haunches.
My guy, you’ve got to cool it with this. Not everything can be about butts or butt-adjacent subject matter. I know you’re very sensitive about your own, and it’s kind of become a thing, but…
Where the hell did everyone go?
Well this is awkward. I think I was starting to like some of those guys. Like we vibe on a similar wavelength, you know? I know there was that whole incident with them beating the hell out of your friend who wears the sex mask, but like…
I SAID STOP THINKING ABOUT ASSES, GODDAMMIT!