PERHAPS, PERCHANCE, PERMAYBE
“WHEN MY BACK’S TO THE WALLLLL!!!”
Mic in hand, black dress shirt and slacks on, the Event Horizon bursts out from behind the curtain. His march is quick, his eyes are narrowed, and while the arena shows their support, Hayes Hanlon has very little to offer in return.
Nick Stuart: Welcome back to the arena floor after that…insightful…interview with Scott Hunter, and it looks like our former champion has something to get off his chest.
Richard Parker: About time, all he’s been doing is bitching backstage for weeks.
Nick Stuart: He’s had a rough go of it, Richard. He has every reason to be frustrated with himself.
Richard Parker: Then do something about it! Seriously, this kid had everything in his hands, and he dropped the ball twice. But now that’s everyone else’s problem? Give me a break.
Stepping through the ropes, Hayes takes a moment to peer around the ring, a scowl behind that trademark ‘stache. The entrance is short lived, “Daggers” trailing off, and leaving only the cheering and stirring of Cleveland’s finest.
Home Run Hayes, clearly with plenty on his mind, lifts the mic.
Hayes Hanlon: This isn’t how I saw it in my head, Cleveland.
A murmur through the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Hanlon starts to wander around the ring.
Hayes Hanlon: When I walked into 2023 with the Universal Championship on my shoulder, I can honestly say that I thought that thing was gonna stay there for a good long time. Did I think for a second that I was gonna drop it right off the bat? Two shows into the year? Against Rezin?
Hayes Hanlon: No.
Hayes Hanlon: And I know I shared some pretty words with Brandon Youngblood backstage before our showdown at ReVival 27, but did I honestly, honestly think that I was going to let even the Tower of Babel take it away? After everything I went through to get it back at Culture Shock?
Hayes Hanlon: No. I didn’t.
Hayes Hanlon: And since then, all I’ve given you is less than my best. Tropical Turmoil? Out. Lights out. Thanks, Jiles. JC Hall? A knock to the nuts and I guess I’m down for the count.
Hayes Hanlon: This is not how I wanted to follow up the Hanlon Year.
Hayes Hanlon: But there’s good news! Because PRIME has no shortage of punk-asses to take it out on. So on that note…
Hayes turns to the ramp, eyes staring right through the back.
Hayes Hanlon: Unless Cecilworth Farthington missed another flight, I’d like to see his limp, skinny ass take a few steps down that ramp right. Now. Along with the rest of his fucking circus!
And drag me into place
And lock the fire escape
I’ll break your pretty face
Hayes Hanlon’s request is asked and answered at the very same time as “Choke” by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me blares out of the Rocket Mortgage (™) Fieldhouse’s speaker system and beckons forth the 5 Star Champion to the entrance way, alongside the whole spectrum of Glueminati associates. Lizard folk, angry Scottish men, kind hearted mutes, powerbomb types, men with impeccable fashion sense, all there, all spread out at the top of the ramp. On many of the waists sit beautiful, pristine championship titles that glean in the area spotlight. Farthington stops his journey at the very top of the ramp, smiling and waving to Hanlon as he speaks words into a microphone.
Cecilworth Farthington: Oh, Hayes, hello again! Man, all this anger in you is really impacting that mustache sheen. It’s looking all sweaty and gross. Disgusting. Not like all of these beautiful polished titles that The Glueminati takes pride in.
Before Cecilworth can even gesture to the rest of the group, Joe Fontaine is already marching front and centre to the middle of the ramp to display his shiny wares before the Hanlon. There might be a little gyrating. Actually, a lot of gyrating. An uncomfortable amount. How can a man possibly do that many pelvic thrusts per second while wearing two championship belts? FLAMBERGE for his part is slowly rolling his head around as his tongue occasionally pokes out, which is normal human behaviour.
Cecilworth Farthington: I heard from my secretary that you really wanted me to be here tonight. Why? So you could yell at me about your career failures? I mean, you already did that to a papyraceous version of me, who gave you the exact response you deserve. So, now I’m here in person, I have granted you my precious time to inform you that yes, it was very funny that you lost to JC Hall but that seems like a you problem, not a me problem. With that said, I think we’ll just skedaddle on out because unlike you, me and my good close personal friend FLAMBO actually have titles that need to be defended and we’re kinda planning to keep ours, a skillset you don’t much possess.
FLAMBERGE: Also, that was the incorrect word to describe the Cecilworth’s ass. It is not the limp. It is mobile.
Hayes, who has done his very best to ignore Joe’s gyrations and FLAMBO’s tongue, is quickly back to the mic.
Hayes Hanlon: You guys don’t have a damn clue what you’re doing, do you?
It’s not much, but it’s enough to give the Glue’s Money Man pause. Hayes is finally able to offer something of a smirk behind his less-shiny ‘stache.
Hayes Hanlon: Sure, you’ve all got some gold on your waist. A little somethin’-somethin’ to show off to the cameras. Hey, I know all about it!
The arena rises a touch, showing their support for their former champion.
Hayes Hanlon: But I’ll be honest, fellas. This whole glue thing? It’s just been kinda…disappointing. Hasn’t it?
Farthington has a bemused expression on his face, or he’s trying to hold in a particularly pungent odor. One of those two things. FLAMBERGE looks at his Intense Title, and he looks at all of his colleagues’s belts, and looks visibly confused.
Hayes Hanlon: Seriously, man. And it was looking so good, too! I mean, your ol’ pal Phil took the Big Strap off of Youngblood, all thanks to the Lizard King here. Seriously, FLAMBO, that was a pretty bold move last year!
FLAMBERGE freezes in place, his eyes locked on Hanson’s mustache, perhaps calculating a fight or flight response.
Hayes Hanlon: But wait! Record scratch. Your “proprietor” winds up in a wheelchair and aww, no more Glue. Womp womp.
Crowd: Womp womp!
Home Run Hayes takes a moment to appreciate the crowd’s echo.
Hayes Hanlon: Not all was lost, though! Here he comes! Cecilworth Farthington! Here in PRIME! High Octane Hall of Famer! Dude, I didn’t even know the minor leagues had a Hall of Fame!
Cecilworth mutters “I don’t know what that is” to FLAMBO, shrugging his shoulders. Joe and Sid also exchange looks, the former mouthing the words “what’s an Octane?”
Hayes Hanlon: Joe and Sid join up, TAB jumps onboard, and whatta ya know, the Glueminati is reborn!
Hanlon pauses for dramatic effect, per usual. The Glueminati, very aware of what’s to follow, are less than enthusiastic.
Hayes Hanlon: Just in time for Tyler to get crushed by Mr. Fuck Around and Find Out. Right before he tucked tail and left us all with…
Hayes gestures to the collective standing on the ramp.
Hayes Hanlon: …this.
FLAMBERGE, somewhat confused, looks to Farthington and points at his own chest, mouthing the words “this?”
Hayes Hanlon: And since then? It’s nothing but nonsense for you idiots. Funerals for cars. Cardboard cutouts. FLAMBERGE doing his best impression of a literal cartoon character week after week. And somewhere in between, you boys just can’t seem to keep yourselves out of my god. Damn. Business.
Hammerin’ Hayes paces across the ring, keeping his dark eyes on the Boys in Glue before pointing a finger at their ring leader.
Hayes Hanlon: So here’s why I wanted your oh-so-precious time, Cecil. It’s because I want you to take a real, hard look at this little troupe of yours. Because while you boys might be pretty shiny for the time being, I kinda wanna hear you admit…
He lowers the mic, allowing the arena’s rumble to fill in the dead air before
Hayes Hanlon: …that the Glue has, time and time again, fallen flat on its face.
Hayes Hanlon: So what’s the point, man? What’s the big picture? Because we’re alllll waiting!
The crowd lifts into a unanimous cheer, and Hayes juts his jaw out in the center of the ring, energized from his stretch behind the mic.
Cecilworth Farthington: If I judged my worth on the braying of seals, my entire life would’ve been spent in the Farthington Manor Sadness Pit. It’s nice that you could use these… fine… folks for the morale boost you’re desperately seeking, my mustached amigo. Or perhaps, perchance, permaybe you want me to be frothing mad and challenge you RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW for the 5 Star Championship. Maybe you want me to be the man who defeats Hayes Hanlon and Nate Colton on the same night. I BET THESE FINE FOLKS IN CLEVELAND, WHEREVER THIS IS, WANT TO SEE THE 5 STAR GAUNTLET.
Cecilworth pauses for a second as the pro-Hanlon crowd roars in approval.
Cecilworth Farthington: However, I believe you have already met my secretary…
The massive frame of Hank moves to the side and reveals that Cardboard Cecilworth Farthington was present the whole time, WHAT A SHOCKING TURN OF EVENTS. Hank gently gestures at the “no” speech bubble. Sid also helpfully points at the “no”. Joe initially points more towards the crotchular region before he realizes his error and moves his hand towards “no” as well. FLAMBO whispers something in Cardboardworth’s ear and giggles. Meanwhile, Hayes squeezes his hands into fists, and shifts foot to foot, a vicious grin forming behind the ‘stache.
Hayes Hanlon: Or maybe…
Hayes rolls up the sleeves of his black dress shirt. Left, then right.
Hayes Hanlon: …maybe I’ll beat the brakes off of each and everyone one of you.
He tosses the mic, and beckons the Glueminati with his hands.
“RIGHT HERE!! RIGHT NOW!!”
Farthington turns to his crew with a nod, and the Glueminati start making way down the ramp. Hayes beats his chest, tearing his shirt off, sending buttons flying. However, before the Glue Boiz can reach the apron another figure enters the fray.
This is where usually there would be the first notes of a familiar theme song, all cued-up and ready to go as if the whole thing had been planned well in advance. Only there’s none of that. Sure, there’s still a rather loud crowd reaction, but Jared Sykes didn’t give the production truck the heads-up he was about to crash this party.
He moves at a decent clip, fast enough that he’s able to close the distance and slide into the ring before things escalate any further. He puts himself in between Hanlon and the gathered mass of Glue. There’s no microphone in his hand, but his lips are easy enough to read.
“The hell are you doing?”
Even with this new addition, the odds are clearly stacked in favor of Team Adhesives, and woe betide the man who needs the King of Forklifts to serve as the voice of reason. How fucked does someone need to be before the master of mannequins thinks, “You know, this is probably a bad idea.” Very fucked. All the fucked.
“What’s it look like I’m doing?” is what Hanlon mouths probably.
Over on the Glue side, Joe Fontaine has miraculously put Cardboard Cecilworth Farthington between him and the ring.
Realizing that no one is picking up that microphone off the canvas, the production team moves the camera in close and adjusts the ringside audio to compensate.
Jared Sykes: Take a minute and think this through. There’s what… five of them if you count Hank? There is no scenario where this ends well if you pick a fight right now.
Later, someone will point out how ridiculous this all sounds coming from him, the man who marched solo into a Red Army celebration. But he’s never been one to listen to his own advice, no matter how salient.
Jared Sykes: This ain’t the angle.
Hayes Hanlon: Oh yeah? Then what is the angle, dude?
With a long, slow sigh Jared scoops the microphone off the canvas. Preventing this from getting out of hand was supposed to be the plan, but no plan survives contact with a man and his cardboard doppelganger. What happens next is done against his better judgment.
What he says next he addresses directly to Hayes.
Jared Sykes: You set the ground rules. Control the terms. Try to play to what advantage you have.
And then, somewhat begrudgingly, he turns towards the Glueminati.
Jared Sykes: The night is young, and I see a lot of very busy people out here tonight. Also, Joe and Sid are here. So this isn’t going to happen now.
The crowd is quick to voice their displeasure. Jared, his face emotionless, casts one final look at Hayes before addressing Farthington and company once more.
Jared Sykes: Hayes wants a fight, and I can’t stop him from having one. Best I can do is try and make things a little more even. So here’s what we do… We give him what he wants, but we do it in Chicago. The two of us, he and I, against any two of you. But I’d take a little time before you decide who you send, because a few of you…
His eyes dart between Joe and Sid.
Jared Sykes: Know exactly how this can go.
Behind him, Hayes growls his displeasure. But Jared, the…professional?… ignores the youngster’s fire. A protective instinct from the normally aloof Farthington kicks in as he sees the expressions on Joe and Sid’s faces.
Cecilworth Farthington: Time to show Coral Avalon how a real mentor acts…
Farthington throws his hands up in the air, slowly backing off and back up the ramp. Farthington looks to Joe, Sid and FLAMBO and nods. They all do versions of nodding in return. FLAMBO’s version is very sensible and not worth discussing in great detail. Joe’s version is censored in 15 territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and most Skyrim modding communities. There’s a hint of concern on Farthington’s face as he mouths “Chicago”. He scratches the side of his head for a few seconds and returns to the microphone.
Cecilworth Farthington: The Glue Man Group are hungry, they’re eager to learn, eager to improve their craft, so if you want two men in hot, steamy, Chicago tag team action…
Cecilworth looks to The Glue Crew one final time.
Cecilworth Farthington: I can think of no finer example than allowing them the opportunity…
Cecilworth still looks rather uncertain about the words coming out of his headskull.
Cecilworth Farthington: To be at ringside and see what PRIME’s two greatest champions can do to the newly formed Sad Clan in the ring. You want Glue? You’re going to get the stickiest anyone in the history of PRIME has ever experienced.
Joe responds with enthusiastic clapping at the idea, and shouted something towards the men in the ring from behind the safety of “Cardworth” that could best be described as “completely unseiso”. Sid, meanwhile, just looks bewildered and looks questioningly at Farthington. FLAMBO strikes a very Judo-esque fighter-esque pose and licks his lips. Sykes keeps his chin up, aware of the grenade he just jumped on, while Hayes grits his teeth and shakes his head.
Nick Stuart: Ohh my! If I understand correctly, we’re looking at banger of a tag match at UltraViolence! Hayes and Sykes! Up against Farthington and FLAMBERGE!!
Richard Parker: Hayes better write Jared a thank you card. The kid was about to get a beatdown that would’ve made his cage match with Ivan look like a walk in the park.
“Choke” returns to the speakers, drowning out any jawing coming from the Boys in Glue, the Cleveland faithful roaring at the prospect of the tag showdown to come.
Nick Stuart: We need to cut elsewhere backstage, but let this sink in folks! Hayes Hanlon will finally get his hands on the Glueminati, and thanks to Jared Sykes, he won’t have to go it alone!
Richard Parker: And speaking of Sykes, he might as well stick around in that ring. He’s about to feel the LOVE with Darin Zion!
Nick Stuart: Stick around!