TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN
Event: ReVival 26
Event Date: 04/21/2023
TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN
We cut to another area backstage.
PRIME’s ace reporter stands in front of a company-branded backdrop with mic in hand.
Angelica Brooks: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here with one half of what some people have started referring to as the “forever tag team champions” of PRIME…
There’s an eruption from the gathered faithful as the camera pulls back to reveal the subject of her statement. Tonight Jared Sykes stands alone, his partner nowhere to be found. He’s not scheduled to compete tonight so he’s dressed in street clothes. Of note is the tee shirt peeking out from under his hoodie. It’s old, faded, definitely not officially licensed, and reads “Secks-ual Healing”. After all, this is Ibrahim Seck country.
If you know, you know. If not, you’re probably better off. We just got rid of all the cults, and the last thing we need is to start inviting more of them in, because wouldn’t that just be a palpable shame.
Angelica Brooks: Jared, welcome.
He offers a small nod.
Angelica Brooks: We’re only two weeks removed from Culture Shock, where the landscape of PRIME radically changed. We crowned an inaugural Alias champion, saw a new Universal champion in Hayes Hanlon…
Another cheer from the crowd is accompanied by a grin from the Dragonslayer. The bromance is strong.
Angelica Brooks: But the night also marked the end of a year-long journey for you, one that started with the first Survivor event through winning the tag team championships at Great American Nightmare. With the tag team division no longer being officially recognized coupled with a finish that I’m sure isn’t what you wanted out of the battle royal, what’s next? And should we be reading too much into the fact that you’re here alone tonight?
Jared Sykes: Tonight? Nah. Justine’s spent the last twenty years helping to train the next generation of talent, and this weekend one of her students has a tryout with the New England Wrestling Syndicate, so it was important to her to be there for that. And yeah, the division is gone, but I’m incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish over the last year or so. The only people to hold those titles in the ReVival Era. Six defenses, I think is the final number. She’s not going anywhere, if that’s what folks are concerned with. As for what’s next?
He slides his hands into his pockets and shrugs. It’s his default reaction.
Jared Sykes: I honestly don’t know. In truth this is kind of a weird position to be in. We were kind of in our own little world, I guess. And with the titles being retired and the division on ice… I guess now we have to play catch-up with the rest of the roster, despite being here longer than most. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost like coming home to find all your furniture’s been rearranged. It’s still your space, only… Hell, I have no idea where this analogy is going.
Angelica Brooks: You spoke briefly after your elimination from the Culture Shock battle royal about the amount of people you were able to outlast. Has your outlook changed at all now that you’ve had two weeks to reflect?
Jared is quiet for a moment as the question winds its way through his thoughts. Twice he opens his mouth to speak, and twice catches himself. It’s only when he’s satisfied with the answer does he offer it.
Jared Sykes: It kind of sucks, the more I think about it. I got so close – so goddamn close, but still came up short. That’s not to take away from the people who finished ahead of me. Like I said at the time, that’s some rarified air. Hall of famers in two companies. Former World and Universal champions. Two next-gen prodigies carving out their own space in the business. I’m trying to keep things framed in that perspective.
Again with the shrugging. My god man, you’re going to blow out your shoulders at this rate.
Jared Sykes: There are things that I’m proud of in that match, like being one of the people who helped shove Ivan’s big ass to the floor. A little bit of payback after the ceiling incident I guess. But there are other aspects that I didn’t feel so great about. Despite the fact that Mister Stanislav had a hand in it, I wasn’t thrilled with being the reason Coral was eliminated. I know how hard he’s worked over his career to get a shot at being The Guy, and coming off the win against his students the night before… It’s like the universe decided that I was single handedly going to ruin his weekend.
He takes a minute to adjust the sleeves of his sweatshirt, rolling them up to the elbows. For most of his career Jared has worn a sleeve the length of his left arm, so for a lot of fans tonight will be the first glimpse at the tattoo that covers the skin.
Jared Sykes: I think what bothers me the most is that this could have also been Cal’s shot to do something she’s never tasted before in her career, but she insisted that I take her spot, and now I can’t help feeling like I wasted it. Can’t…
The voice that bursts from elsewhere is unmistakable. Some might have recognized it as it boomed out of Lindsay Troy’s splintered office earlier.
Ivan Stanislav: Jared Sykes! DYAAHAAHAA!!
It’s typically a bad thing to see an angry, glowering, and frustrated Russian Bear, like we had seen earlier, but in some ways it’s even worse to see one who appears to be in a positively fantastic mood. As wide as his arms are spread as he approaches, his toothy, white smile is even wider.
Ivan Stanislav: And the so beautiful Angelica Brooks, what a fine evening this is!
Angelica Brooks has no idea how to deal with this, but like the seasoned and unflappable reporter that she is, she stands her ground. Stanislav walks straight up to Sykes, and stands so closely that the camera has to zoom out to fit both men into the frame. Stanislav stands over a foot taller than Sykes, and is literally double his weight.
Ivan Stanislav: Why do you have a sad face, Jared, eh? Missing Justine? Lamenting that you may have cost her once in lifetime opportunity?
Stanislav’s smile barely masks the dripping, sardonic sarcasm that pours from between his enormous teeth. He lifts a huge paw and ruffles Jared’s hair. His hand threatens to envelope him.
Ivan Stanislav: Life is too short to be frowning, little Jared, smile and be happy for the present. After all, how refreshing to have conversation with Ivan Stnaislav, rather than simply flying through an object or breaking the sound barrier, eh?
Awkward stare between the two men, but Ivan appears to barely contain that smile.
Ivan Stanislav: That is just a joke, of course!
Stanislav places his hands on his hips and straightens his back more. His suspenders audibly stretch.
Jared Sykes: I wouldn’t expect anything less, bud. But by now I’ve more or less come to regard most things you say as jokes, given how far removed from the truth they seem to be.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, Jared, I had wonderful and productive conversation with Lindsay Troy earlier today. Perhaps you heard some of it? And I realize that despite not having Universal Title, and having to wait a little longer to get the shot that I had better eventually get, I am now free to just enjoy my time with other members of the roster. Like you, dear Jared. After all, you have never hesitated to try to catch my attention elsewhere, right?
Jared Sykes: That sure is a fun way to say “call out my bullshit,” but sure. We’ll go with what you said.
Ivan seems to completely ignore Sykes and nods politely to Angelica.
Ivan Stanislav: Please, Ms. Brooks, do not allow me to interrupt what is certainly an illuminating conversation with the King of Blueberries himself! Continue!
Stanislav moves towards Jared, as nonchalantly as one walking down the street, but of course when one is in the way of The Russian Bear, they risk being trampled.
Throughout his career, Jared Sykes has attracted all sorts of nefarious characters, drawing them into his orbit as if the man had his own gravity. Some would argue he seeks them out deliberately, putting himself in harm’s way over and over as some sort of warped badge of honor. To others it comes across as more of a compulsion, a twisted addiction that requires him to sacrifice his well-being for the high that comes from staring down the biggest monster he can find.
He doesn’t move, not willingly at least. The size he surrenders makes it easy enough for Ivan to push past him, moving him aside as if he were little more than a toy.
Ivan turns as he moves past Sykes and Brooks and backpedals without missing his stride. His smile is wide. His eyes are hateful.
Ivan Stanislav: I be seeing you, Jared Sykes. Smile for now, because you never know when life might yeet a frown your way! Do tell Justine we give our regards! Maybe we see her soon too, eh?
The Bear turns surprisingly quickly on his heel and walks away. Angelica opens her mouth to speak but is cut off.
And as quickly as The Russian Bear thundered into the interview, he is now gone.
Jared Sykes: Gonna be a real shame when someone finally shuts that guy up.
For the first time since they were interrupted, Jared turns his attention back to Angie.
Jared Sykes: (deadpan) A palpable, palpable shame.
We return to ringside.