THE SPICY OPEN
It’s a fairly innocuous shot to open a show, but it gets a reaction from the crowd nonetheless. Jared Sykes walks alone down a corridor in street clothes – nothing fancy, since he’s not wrestling tonight. There’s a gear bag slung over one shoulder. He’s not paying any attention to what’s going on around him; instead his eyes are trained on the phone in his right hand.
Jared Sykes: What the… Oh now he’s got things to say?
Judging by his reaction, whatever’s coming through isn’t something he’s keen on reading.
Jared Sykes: (sighing) Jesus H.
He steps to the side and lets the bag slide from his shoulder before furiously tapping a response. If it’s anything like most of the messages he sends it’ll be written quickly, there’ll be no punctuation of any kind, and at least three words will be misspelled.
…a similar corridor, with a similar situation, with a familiar Event Horizon making his own way in a similar fashion.
Kentucky, let ‘im know.
Regardless of a chorus of boos in the background, Hayes Hanlon is more interested in the phone buzzing in his hand. He peers down at the screen, and offers a sneer.
Hayes Hanlon: Oh, now he wants to get chatty?
Hammerin’ Hayes drops his duffel back, and thuds against the wall, thumbs tapping and swiping.
Hayes Hanlon: Auto-correct has been a thing for a while. Idiot.
Jared leans down to grab his bag from the floor when the phone vibrates in his hand. He doesn’t need to see the notification to know who it’s from.
Jared Sykes: That motherf…
His train of thought is momentarily diverted by a member of the production staff walking by. A quick nod of acknowledgement later, and Jared is back to machine-gunning a response.
Jared Sykes: Wonder if there’s a dumpster nearby Violent Purple can toss him into. Nah, he might enjoy it.
Hayes Hanlon: What a DICK…
The Comeback Kid’s ‘stache curls with contempt, and his blazing thumbs glide across his phone at lightning pace.
A member of production staff…oddly familiar…strolls by, but Hayes pays them no mind.
Hayes Hanlon: I wonder if this place has some kind of childcare, that’d be a good place for him to cry his eyes out…
Jared Sykes: Oh, because that’s original. I swear to god, this fuckin’ kid…
Fingers hit the glass with enough force that they might crack the screen. Jared, clearly frustrated with the situation, begins speaking to himself.
Jared Sykes: This is what I get for trying to…
His cheeks flush when his eyes catch something else on the device.
Jared Sykes: Yes, I know the show is live.
And still, his eyes dart around looking for the camera – any camera – that might be filming this.
Hayes Hanlon: Seriously? You freakin’ tool…
Having had quite enough, Hayes pokes a sturdy finger into his screen hard, then tucks it into the back pocket of his slacks. He picks up his duffel bag, taking strides the down the hall.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude will never get the…
As he rounds a corner, he’s stopped dead in his tracks, nearly walking square into the chest of…
Hayes Hanlon: …point.
Jared Sykes: Really?
Despite the situation, there’s a noticeable change in Jared’s posture from just a moment ago. He looks almost relaxed, at ease. Hands stuffed into his pockets. Shoulders loose.
But it’s a mirage, a ruse. Anyone who’s watched his career long enough can tell you that it’s the same stance he takes when he thinks there might be a fight, to make himself look unassuming and unprepared for what might go down.
Jared Sykes: Then let’s pretend I’m an idiot, and you go ahead and explain it reeeeeeaal slow.
Hayes scans the Dragonslayer, eyeing him up and down. He knows how Jared works; the relaxed stance only a mask for the combatant behind. And yet, instead of moving into any sort of guard, Hayes casually sets his bag to the floor, puts both hands into his black slacks…
Hayes Hanlon: I’m sure you’d like that. Problem is, I don’t think I have anything to explain.
Jared Sykes: Right, right, rightrightright. My mistake. How could I forget? You covered this all in your little Night Two pizza party, or whatever the hell that was.
Hayes Hanlon: I wouldn’t call that “pizza,” but yeah, I think I kinda covered it.
An awkward, tense silence follows. Hayes, showing hints of frustration, scratches the back of his head.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude, we don’t have to do this shit, you know. We can go our own way, do our own thing. Maybe we wind up in the tournament finals and we can sort it out then.
Jared Sykes: “We” didn’t have to do a lot of things, but here we are all the same.
Jared runs a hand along his face before scratching at the layer of stubble on his chin.
Jared Sykes: And since we’re here, I might as well ask… You getting what you thought you would out of the deal? Have to listen to any of Joe and Sid’s wild-ass stories yet? Makin’ sure FLAMBO gets enough greens?
He pulls his hand away to reveal a mischievous grin.
Jared Sykes: How is life these days as the Substitute Tyler?
Hanlon’s jaw goes taut, and his nostrils flare. His previously relaxed posture has tensed.
And he takes a step forward.
Hayes Hanlon: I don’t think “substitute” is the right word. I’d call it an “upgrade.” Kinda like you, when you finally took that stupid fucking mask off.
The ‘stache flinches a touch.
Hayes Hanlon: But it hasn’t got you all that far. Has it.
Jared Sykes: See, that depends on how you’re measuring.
Now it’s Jared’s turn to move in. He takes a step forward, and though his posture doesn’t change there’s an added edge to his voice.
Jared Sykes: You think a shiny belt defines you? Makes you who you are? Buddy, that’s just fuckin’ sad. But what I got out of that “stupid fucking mask” is more than you realize. Maybe more than you’ll ever really understand.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude, grow up. Miss me with all that shit. EVERYONE is here for gold, anyone who says they’re not is a fucking liar, including YOU.
Hayes points a stiff finger at the Heart of PRIME, and curls his lip back behind his mustache.
Hayes Hanlon: Especially you. The guy who choked on chocolate and had a nail dug in his chest. You’re gonna tell me you’re down to go through all that just to get your rocks off? Bullshit.
The Event Horizon holds up that finger, and shakes his head.
Hayes Hanlon: You’re here the glory, the gold, and the cash. Just like me, and just like everyone else. Including the liars.
Jared Sykes: You weren’t listening. I never said I wasn’t here to win, only that it doesn’t define me. If that were the case, then what the fuck am I? Or even better, what the fuck are you?
He holds a palm up, shrugging one-handed.
Jared Sykes: I swear, every time you open your mouth you make my point for me, and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Yeah, I’ve got plenty of scars to mark my time here. Some of ‘em you can’t see, because they’re on my skin. And yet here I am, week after week, because my life doesn’t revolve around a big ‘ol belt. My opinion of myself is based on more than ten pounds of leather and gold.
Home Run Hayes smirks, and slowly shakes his head.
Hayes Hanlon: What a fucking hero.
Jared Sykes: Nah, not even a little. But whatever I am?
He slowly looks Hayes up and down.
Jared Sykes: It’s better than this.
Hanlon clicks his tongue, and sucks air through his teeth.
Hayes Hanlon: You know, I kiinda feel like you should be thanking me. I could’ve let FLAMBO take your freakin’ neck.
He freezes over, and goes cold.
Hayes Hanlon: Right now, I kinda wish I had.
Jared Sykes: And what do you think changes if he does?
Hayes Hanlon: Maybe nothing, or maybe you would’ve actually got the point. For once.
He leers over, bringing himself eye to eye with the Dragonslayer’s narrowed stare.
Hayes Hanlon: To get out of my WAY, and mind your own fucking BUSINESS. Or should I start calling you The Anglo Luchador?
Jared Sykes: Kid, the only person in your way? Is you.
Hayes Hanlon: We’ll see. In the meantime…
Hammerin’ Hanlon leans in, and sticks out his jaw.
Hayes Hanlon: …I kinda wish you’d just hit me.
In response, Jared slowly clasps both of his hands behind his back. He leans in himself, bringing his face only inches away.
Jared Sykes: No.
And then, his posture straightens and relaxes again, though it’s different from the facade he put on earlier. This seems more genuine.
Jared Sykes: Like I said, I know what I am, and that ain’t it. You let me know when you figure out who you’re supposed to be.
Jared leans down and retrieves his bag from the floor. Without another word he slings it over his shoulder and turns to head off down the hall. Hayes stands tall, and exhales heavy and sharp through his nose.
With snort, he swipes his duffel from the floor, and turns away in the opposite direction as we cut to ringside.