STILL THE GOOD GUYS
Signing autographs is part of the trade when it comes to professional wrestlers, though every one of them handles it differently.
When Justine Calvin was approached after her debut at the Great American Nightmare, the experience had a profound effect on her. It was, after all, the first time in her career as a wrestler that she’d been approached.
For her partner, Jared Sykes, it means something else entirely. For ten years he largely stayed away from the business, only venturing out into local New England promotions, and even then he did so under a mask. Even over his first year in PRIME, when he was back in the national spotlight again, the mask persisted as did the general aversion to interacting with people.
And in the aftermath of Colossus, some of those old mannerisms started to come back. A sense of familiarity, even if not one of comfort. That, and a little prodding from his oldest friend and partner surely didn’t hurt.
As the last photo is taken and the last pen put to paper, the two find themselves heading back inside.
Justine Calvin: I swear, as long as I live I will never get used to this.
Jared Sykes: I’d honestly forgotten what it felt like.
Justine Calvin: Seriously? We should get you checked out.
She turns and places one hand on each side of his head, moving it slowly from side to side as if performing an examination.
Justine Calvin: There might be some lingering brain damage. I mean, in addition to what was already there.
Jared Sykes: Funny.
Justine Calvin: I know.
Further down the line of rabid fans, we find the Universal Champion. Hayes does his best to keep up with the frenzy of autograph and selfie requests, scribbling furiously at pictures and notebooks, flashing pearly whites in front of cameras.
Eventually, he catches the eye of Jared, and his own dark eyes spell “please help me” pretty clearly.
Jared Sykes: Hey, it cool if I catch up with you in a few? There’s a hot boy in danger and I think I need to go rescue him.
There’s a wry grin on her face as Justine whips her head around.
Justine Calvin: Who? Where?
Jared Sykes: Remember what I said literally seconds ago about being funny?
Justine Calvin: Nope.
She spots the man in question and offers a wave.
Justine Calvin: Alright. Go say hi to your man crush. I need to talk to Killean about something anyway. Catch you inside.
It’s not long before Jared makes his way to where the champion is currently holding court, placing a hand on Hayes’ shoulder before addressing the crowd.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, guys. I need to borrow Super Troopers here for a minute. Promise I’ll send him back once we’re finished.
Hayes waves apologetically to the collected fans, but willingly follows Sykes as he pulls him away, taking a deep breath in the process.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude. It’s nonstop. From the moment I got to the arena.
Jared Sykes: Oh, don’t worry. It’ll stay like that for a while. One of the perks of being The guy. They’ll be everywhere now. Congrats, by the way. Nice to see that thing has some value again. Those last few months were rough.
Sykes leads them around a corner, hollers of eager fans turning into a murmur, giving both of them a moment’s respite.
Hayes Hanlon: (laughing to himself) Heh. “The Guy.”
He takes a moment, readjusting the Universal Title strap on his shoulder.
Hayes Hanlon: It’s gonna be a while before I can see it that way.
Jared Sykes: I can understand that. It always kind of fucks with you a little bit. But that’s the way it is now. You’re the one carrying it, so that’s who you are. I can’t imagine what it’s like in your case, though. I mean… Jesus, this is where you always wanted to be, and you did it. You actually fucking did it.
He stops, pausing in his tracks.
Jared Sykes: This might be a personal question, but can I ask… what does that feel like?
Hayes goes to answer, but stops himself, confusion spread across his face.
Hayes Hanlon: I…I don’t really know. It’s hard to explain.
The Event Horizon ponders a moment, leaning a shoulder against the wall.
Hayes Hanlon: The night it happened everything was just…energy. Y’know? Everyone cheering for you. Everyone on cloud nine. Everyone wanting to be your best friend and buy you drinks and tell you great you are. And I felt all of that…
Another pause, and a breath.
Hayes Hanlon: But the next morning…the only thing I say to myself was…”now what?”
Jared Sykes: It’s cruel that way. You spend so much time and energy trying to get the thing. Because of what it means. Because of what having it’s supposed to say about you. Then it happens… and… yeah.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, wasn’t trying to be a downer. Just curious is all. Different for everyone, I guess.
Hayes Hanlon: I could ask the same for you about the tag belts, but I’m way more curious about beating Paxton. How did THAT feel?
Jared Sykes: It hurt like fuck.
For a moment Jared is quiet as he figures out what to say next. To even a casual observer it’s obvious that the gears are working overtime in his head as he tries to piece it together.
Jared Sykes: It wasn’t what most people might expect it to be. For a minute, like right after it ended, it felt like I was seeing everything again through new eyes, if that makes any sense. But then, later on… I dunno, I just felt nothing.
He shakes his head and sighs.
Jared Sykes: That’s the part that no one tells you, that you’re never really prepared for. The guys who take? You never really win, because what’s gone doesn’t come back. Jon doesn’t get to walk again because I won that fight. Mark’s arm didn’t miraculously heal. This is what sucks about being “the good guys.” The fact that what’s gone stays that way, and knowing it won’t be the last time.
Jared Sykes: Jesus. Motherfuckin’ ray of sunshine I am today.
A small laugh from the eGG Beater.
Hayes Hanlon: Yeah…but at least we’re still the good guys. Right?
And a smile from the Dragonslayer.
Jared Sykes: Goddamn right we are.
They share a grin and a pat on the back. Then, with a quick look over their shoulders, they opt to escape the mob while they still have the chance.
We then cut to Simon Tillier, who wishes he had any other job.