THE CANADIAN INQUISITION
We fade in to a shot of Nick and Richard, our intrepid announce duo, sitting at their usual stations. And while Nick is being quite professional and looking directly towards the camera, Richard’s eyes are wandering.
Nick Stuart: Fans, we’re just minutes away from what I’m sure will be an exciting match as Paxton Ray takes on the rising Rocky DeLeon…
Richard spins in his chair as a fan passes behind him in the crowd. Instinctively both hands go to his neck, but Doug and his shock collar are nowhere to be found. The movement startles Nick out of his monologue.
Nick Stuart: Everything okay?
Richard Parker: That depends. Are you going to unleash another electric ninja on me?
Nick Stuart: His name is Doug. If he was an actual ninja you wouldn’t know his name, because of all the shadows, smoke bombs, and secrecy.
Richard Parker: (sad grumbling noises)
Richard slumps back into his chair in a full-on pout. Nick, ever the professional (except when he’s conspiring to have shock collars attached to his partner), turns his attention back to the camera.
Nick Stuart: After Tropical Turmoil our own Angelica Brooks sat down one-on-one with Jared Sykes…
He casts a sideways glance to Richard in anticipation of some snark, but gets nothing.
Richard Parker: (hurty neck pouting sounds)
Nick Stuart: …we’re going to take you to that footage now.
The scene shifts to a room that’s been done-up to look comfortable, inviting. There are two arm chairs set across from each other at a distance that skirts the line between casual and professional. Someone even brought in a plant for occasion. It’s a ficus, if you’re curious. It’s the sort of thing you’d see on 60 Minutes or CNN. Or, in another universe, featuring a behatted BBQ man from Oklahoma and his guest.
And just like some of those other properties, we have two little words in the corner of the screen to let folks know this isn’t happening live:
Seated across from each other are Angelica Brooks, whose thoughts on BBQ are currently unknown, and Jared Sykes.
Angelica Brooks: Jared, thank you for your time.
He nods. If he looks nervous about being there, well, there’s a very good reason for that. Interviews are something he actively avoided during his years away from the business, and despite being back in the public eye for well over a year it’s only recently that he’s started to get used to the question-and-answer dynamic again. But this one isn’t like the others. There’s a level of intimacy that comes with two people sitting across from each other that doesn’t exist in a press conference full of miscreants, or a backstage chat while chaos unfolds in the background.
Angelica Brooks: There were some rumors floating around before Tropical Turmoil both about your status with the company and about a possible injury that you suffered on ReVival 29.
Jared Sykes: Yeah, I guess we weren’t very good at keeping a lid on all that.
He offers a faint smile, because he’s at least going to try and act like this isn’t all spiking his anxiety.
Angelica Brooks: How is the shoulder recovering?
Jared Sykes: I mean it would probably go a lot better if I didn’t stop taking this damn thing off.
He nods to the sling that’s currently holding his right arm in place.
Jared Sykes: I got lucky. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I’ve had issues with it over the course of my career, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared this would be the end. Fortunately I dodged a bullet and have just been dealing with a sprain. I’ve already been told they won’t clear me for Rev’ thirty-one, but I should be good by thirty-two.
Jared Sykes: Well, if I can behave myself.
Angelica Brooks: Based on what you just said I’m going to assume there was no truth to the contract rumors.
Jared Sykes: Oh, there was totally truth there. Deal that I had was originally for a year. It was supposed to end after Colossus. I guess I was “high risk” signing.
Angelica Brooks: High risk?
Jared shrugs, but it comes with a flinch as the sudden movement pulls at a still-sore shoulder.
Jared Sykes: I mean it makes sense, if you know the history. I’m not what you’d call a “company guy,” I guess. I’ve never really stayed in one place for very long, and I have a knack for getting myself into trouble.
Now it’s Angie’s turn to smile.
Angelica Brooks: Like with construction equipment.
Jared Sykes: Something like that, yeah. And I’m the guy who got a mannequin on the roster, so I get it. The short term deal was supposed to help mitigate some of that, but then Survivor happened and when Justine came on we renegotiated some things and everything got extended until this July.
He pauses for a moment.
Jared Sykes: The editors should probably cut this part out. It’s probably going to be crazy boring for anyone watching. “Oh, hey, Jared’s talking about business deals.”
No sooner do the words leave his lips does Jared reach for the glass of water on a nearby table. Anything to keep his mouth occupied with something other than talking.
Angelica Brooks: I want to go back to something you mentioned a minute ago, when you said that you never really stayed in one place for long. You were one of the wrestlers that came out to the ring at the end of Tropical Turmoil after Brandon Youngblood retained the Universal Championship.
Jared Sykes: I was, yeah.
Angelica Brooks: If you’re not a “company guy,” to use your words, why go out there at the end of the show?
Jared Sykes: That’s… That’s a complicated answer. If you had asked me if I’d do that when the night began, I probably would have said no. I mean, it’s the kind of moment I’ve thought about – daydreams and stuff, but usually when I’m thinking about it I’m the one that everyone is picking up.
He shrugs again, though this time much more carefully and only with his left shoulder.
Jared Sykes: Pretty childish I guess.
And then a sigh.
Jared Sykes: But to answer your question, sometimes you just get caught up in the moment. You see other people getting excited and it becomes infectious, almost like you’re being dragged along by the current.
Angelica Brooks: Do you ever see yourself having that moment?
He wants to say no; he wants it so desperately. The answer is right there on the tip of his tongue, ready to fly as easy as breathing. But he can’t admit that, not here.
Jared Sykes: I don’t know.
Brooks offers a slow nod, one that does little to hide the truth she suspects.
Angelica Brooks: Is that why you told Nate Colton and Hayes Hanlon that they should “make sure to invite you to the afterparty?”
Jared Sykes: That’s different.
Angelica Brooks: How so?
Jared Sykes: It… so…
Jared Sykes: Both of those guys are at the start of their careers. They’ve both had a taste of success. They’re the future of the company, right? Young, talented, and hungry. The type of guys you’d want on the marquee. Did I think that one of them was in position to take the number one contendership in the Turmoil match? Absolutely. You put me in that same situation right now and I’d say the same thing.
Angelica Brooks: And how do you feel about the outcome of that match? Some are saying it’s almost poetic that it came down to you and Ivan Stanislav, given everything that’s happened between you over the last few months.
Jared Sykes: I’m not thrilled with it, but I don’t think that’s a surprise. My goal that night wasn’t so much to win, as it was to try and even the score for everything that he’d done before that. I don’t know if I was successful. Probably not, if we’re being honest about it. But I know for absolute-goddamn-certain that he failed that night.
Given the outcome of the match it’s understandable why Angie furrows her brow.
Angelica Brooks: What makes you say that?
Jared Sykes: Simple. After all the threats… all the bullshit… After all of the violence and the promises to put me in the ground, the son of a bitch couldn’t do what he promised. I said he’d need every member of the Red Army, that he better hope they’d be enough. They weren’t. I told him that if he slipped… if he took his shot and missed… that I’d make sure he was reminded of that fact for the rest of his life. How did Ivan fail?
In contrast to the way he’s looked thus far, the expression on Jared’s face is one of absolute conviction.
Jared Sykes: Because I’m still here.
And with that, we fade back to ringside.