A LOT HAS CHANGED (POOR MONICA)
The camera cuts from the aftermath of our opening triple threat to the parking area, where a general thrum of activity tells the tale of ReVival 26 being off to the races. Various NPC’s in crisp PRIME polos zipping around. Our camera finds one particular polo wearer whose conventionally attractive and symmetrical face tells us she is about to get promoted from the faceless squad to center stage. Her first act on the big screen is to speak into a cellphone.
“Yes, I understand. I’ve gotta go. It looks like he’s here.”
The stage direction is [Camera pans right onto PRIMEate] but the stage direction neglects to mention that there’s some famously styled black hair, the face that needs no filter and no filler, and an effortless athleisure fit. And it doesn’t mention the monster pop for the Hall Of Famer, but that’s there too.
It’s the full Chandler Tsonda experience.
The polo-sporting young woman walks up to Tsonda, offering a handshake.
Soon To Be Named Woman: Chandler, my name is Monica. I’m a production assistant and wanted to welcome you back to PRIME!
The Model Citizen accepts the handshake, and looks around.
Chandler Tsonda: Hi.
Monica: Everything alright?
Chandler Tsonda: You know that thing when you go back to your elementary school and everything seems smaller? That confrontation with how the scale of life has changed since you were a little kid? Sort of a reckoning with our eye’s blink of time on this spinning rock in the middle of an uncaring cosmos?
The production assistant looks back at the former Universal Champion, her eyes wide like high beams.
Chandler Tsonda: I meant, uhh, it feels good as HELL to be back in PRIME.
Monica: Right, yes. Of course! Care for a quick tour?
Chandler Tsonda: Take me away.
The camera pulls back as the pair begins what can only be described as a classic walk-and-talk. Monica leads, pointing to various pieces of the arena setup as they move through the Paycom Arena.
Monica: I know a lot has probably since changed so it’s my pleasure to get you reacquainted with some things. Over here [points left] is our central hub, where you can find a directory of where all the locker rooms and amenities will be for the night.
Chandler Tsonda: Smart.
Monica: Over here [points right] is where logistics and gear live. If you’re short a knee pad—
Chandler Tsonda: Old, so yes.
Monica: —or you need to understand the ring layout for the night, that’s your go-to. And over here if you follow me [points ahead] is the primary medical station. Everything from getting taped and stretched and beyond. It’s all here.
Chandler Tsonda: Very old, very yes.
She stops walking. The camera stops moving. Tsonda looks around.
Chandler Tsonda: Something I said?
She pulls at the neck of her polo, a look of discomfort on her face.
Monica: It’s just…
Chandler Tsonda: They told you I used to be kind of a dick and you were expecting much worse.
Monica: They told me you used to be kind of a dick and I was expecting much worse.
Chandler Tsonda: Not to worry, Monica. See, I even remembered your name despite the incredible, and I do mean absolutely cavernous, difference in positional power between you and me! Not all heroes, capes, you know the deal.
Monica: You’re kind of…
Chandler Tsonda: Right. Yes. Doing it right now. Acknowledged.
Monica: Can I show you the rest of the backstage area?
Chandler Tsonda: I got it from here. I am however, desperate, to know where Tony Gamble’s locker room is. I’m planning on doing a whole bit where I pretend to not remember who he is.
Monica: [mutters to herself] Whatever makes the talent happy, Monica.
Chandler Tsonda: Say, thanks for the warm welcome, Monica. Make sure to tell Lindsay Troy I’m playing nice with others. I think I might have a bonus in my contract for consecutive weeks without doing something that incurs a fine, and I want to get the clock started on that bad boy.
Monica gives a polite smile and a wave, and thus her fifteen minutes of fame is ended. She walks, with a purpose, away from the wide open common area that Tsonda now finds himself in. The camera stays with the former A-List member, though, since, you know, the wrestlers are kind of the show.
Something catches Tsonda’s eye off camera.
Chandler Tsonda: Well, fancy that. Two old gun slingers walk into a bar…
The camera swings to the area that caught Tsonda’s eye. It has to pan up, and pan wide, to capture the size and musculature of…
A Big Mean Bastard Man: Speaking of clocks…looks like they’ve been kicking your ass, Tsonda.
…The Ace of the ReVival himself. Brandon Youngblood. The crowd lets out another roar at seeing one of the company’s final bosses, and at seeing a reunion years in the making. The two men exchange a moment of intense silent eye contact. And the crowd knows exactly what to do with this, their voices sing-songing in call-and-response chants. Impossible to tell which is louder.
The Model Citizen is the first to break. He adjusts and folds his arms, nodding at the sweet sound of the PRIME choir.
Chandler Tsonda: Old ain’t nothin’ but a number.
Brandon Youngblood: We keep telling ourselves that. Maybe one of these times, it’ll stick.
Chandler Tsonda: So you’re kind of…
He doesn’t finish the sentence, and cocks his head to look around the backstage area.
Brandon Youngblood: The guy with the biggest target on his back? The guy the fresh faces look to be their big stepping stone before ‘slipping’ on top of their head? The guy Hall Of Famers think is their golden ticket back to the main? Naw. I’m just a guy. Untied Wrestler of the Year guy.
Chandler Tsonda: So you say.
The Tower of Babel offers a chuckle.
Brandon Youngblood: Nah…just yanking your shit. Never really got a chance back in the day…would’ve liked to. Would’ve liked to do a few things. Got folks talking about chasing you down on the All-Time wins deal. Going to be tough…especially with you adding to that since ‘12. Got a helluva a streak going.
The Sultan of Style grins at a high wattage. He seems genuinely entertained by the frosty, if familiar, greeting from the 2022 Wrestler of the Year.
Chandler Tsonda: A pristine undefeated record, in fact. Not a loss on my name.
The smirk of the Diamond and his tone swiftly shift to trademark intensity.
Brandon Youngblood: Owe you one. Jewel in the Crown ‘07? Superkicking me at Culture Shock?
Chandler Tsonda: I superkick a lotta guys. Be more specific.
Brandon Youngblood: Oh…you remember me. Because I do you. Long memory. You’re the only person who ever managed to knock me out of a tournament in PRIME. Revolution or ReVival.
The Towel of Babel taps his chest.
Brandon Youngblood: Matt Ward used Sam Elliott to call me out. You took the direct approach. Never would’ve guessed that. All the same…I ain’t the Welcome Mat.
Tsonda puts up both hands in a shrug that is commonly translated to “I mean no harm.”
Chandler Tsonda: Not looking for a fight…not today at least. Just getting run of the place. You know, casing the joint to see how to end up with the biggest piece of gold.
The simplicity in The Model Citizen’s sentiment catches something in Youngblood. The casualness. There is an effervescent charisma oozing from the man’s pores. And if anyone has earned the right to feel their way about the Universal Championship, it would be Tsonda. Having the second longest reign with the Universal carried weight. Even still, the not-so-affectionately named Suplex Daddy is clear through the vibe check.
Brandon Youngblood: Look…’the joint’..there ain’t no casing. Lot’s changed since the old days. It’s what you fight for and what you put in. Sweat equity. No easy outs. Peter Vetra isn’t walking through that door. You have to give all to become special in ReVival PRIME. To stay special? If that’s why you decided to come back, then welcome…and I can’t wait to face up against one of the absolute best.
Chandler Tsonda: C’mon. Loyalty to this place? Loyalty’s for rubes and dipshits.
The 2009 Jewel in the Crown gives the 2007 Jewel in the Crown a sharp look.
Chandler Tsonda: …but I guess I see your point. If I was gonna, ya know, give a shit or whatever, I’d feel a type of way about keeping this place from going to the birds.
Brandon Youngblood: Shit’s always brewing on the horizon. Authoritarian Communism. Televangelists…both Abrahamic and Yogi. Eggs. Glue. A Best with a Universal Title shot. The fucking Hallmark Channel. Seems funny. It ain’t. So…might ask you to prove it.
Chandler Tsonda: I might say yes. But who knows? Mercurial as all get out, that’s what they say about me.
Brandon Youngblood: I’m serious.
Chandler Tsonda: Well then, PRIME’s lucky to have a knight in shining armor.
Brandon Youngblood: You don’t mean—
The Model Citizen laughs and shakes his head.
Chandler Tsonda: Moi? Pfft. That’s all you, Galahad. More of a classic Prestige TV Era anti-hero myself.
Is that a roll of the eyes in BY? Hard to tell.
Brandon Youngblood: Sure thing.
The Anger Golem flips a hand back towards Tsonda and keeps on walking the direction he was headed when we first saw him.
Chandler Tsonda: I’m talking like Raylan Givens or one of the spies from The Americans. Real complex type of—
Brandon Youngblood: Be seeing you around, Tsonda.
The Model Citizen, never one to be beaten to the last word, calls after Youngblood as he walks away.
Chandler Tsonda: Very complicated character, just layer upon layer of intricate relationships and motivations! I have seen a great deal of television and the accompanying recaps at Vulture!
And with the exit of PRIME’s keeper, Chandler Tsonda feels like he’s back. But he’s left to figure out just where the hell catering is all on his lonesome.