WAIT UNTIL HE TELLS YOU ABOUT PLAN #9. IT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD.
Once, they called themselves the Kings of Popsicles. They were the last vestige of a loose faction formed ten years ago, when a collection of stalwarts decided to hide themselves – and poorly at that – under masks and have a little fun. Now, there is simply Justine and Jared, two people who trained together as kids, passed as ships in the night for most of their adult lives, then found each other and built something bigger than either of them both inside the ring and out.
Tonight, they sit in a unique position within the pantheon of PRIME tag teams, because the two people that the cameras open on now hold the relevant records within their division. The longest single reign. The most defenses. And as of six days ago, the longest total reign in the history of PRIME.
Once, they called themselves the Kings of Popsicles.
The Kings are dead. Long live the kings.
As neither of them are booked for the evening, the pair find themselves in street clothes; watching the night unfold through a monitor that’s been setup in their dressing room.
For Jared Sykes, having spent the last year behind the disguise of his alter-ego King Blueberry, this is the first ReVival to show him as he is. The need for a costume ended at Colossus, the situation demanded it. There would be no hiding from Paxton Ray, no running from the Love Convoy.
For both of them, the sound that rises off the crowd is deafening.
Justine Calvin: You used to it yet?
She makes a circular motion in front of her face with her right hand.
Justine Calvin: The whole mask thing, I mean.
Jared Sykes: Had two weeks to get used to it in Japan.
Justine Calvin: Yeah, but that was Japan. And things here are, well… they’re different.
He shrugs. Astute observers will note the addition of a new scar under his right eye, and a single gator tooth hanging from a black nylon cord around his neck.
Jared Sykes: I guess. Maybe it hasn’t registered yet. Honestly, given the way the last few months went, I’m mostly just wondering when the next person to try and kill me’s going to show up.
Almost on cue, three men walk up to the erstwhile Kings of Popsicles. One is a smaller man with a ridiculous topknot. One is the very essence of powerbombs distilled into a single man. The third is Coral Avalon, his left arm conspicuously in a sling. The man what powerbombs also has a bucket of popcorn with him, because of course he does.
Joe Fontaine: Hi, we’re here to kill you.
Coral Avalon: No, we’re not.
Joe Fontaine: …Okay, you got me. We’re not actually here to kill you.
Sid Phillips: I mean, you did think about it. You stood there and outlined at least ten grand plans for how to kill Jared, and you dismissed all of them because you saw what happened to the last guy who tried it.
Joe Fontaine: Did not.
Coral sighs and uses his free arm to take the popcorn bucket from the hands of Sid. He struggles for a bit with it, but finds a spot near the wall where there’s a chair.
Coral Avalon: Okay, but you did. I heard you. The part where you said you’d paint a hole in the wall and make Jared run into it was… not exactly within the realm of sense or reality, and I don’t think that’d kill him.
Joe Fontaine: I was running out of ideas.
Coral Avalon: It was your second one. It got dumber from there.
Joe Fontaine: Shut up.
Coral nods to Jared, a handful of popcorn in his hand.
Coral Avalon: Sup, Jared.
Jared Sykes: Umm, hi.
His eyes dart between each of the three men now sharing his personal space – their personal space – and then to Justine. The grin she wears is positively impish.
Jared Sykes: So, for the record, we have established that there was in fact a list, and Joe did in fact make plans to kill me. Yes?
Justine Calvin: Yeah, sounds about right.
Jared Sykes: And why are we doing this?
Her grin widens.
Justine Calvin: Probably because they’ve met you. Or that they had to tour with you over the holiday break. Or the, you know, all of it. That running into a painted tunnel thing? I feel like it might have worked, if only because of the stories you keep telling me about your friend Charles.
Jared Sykes: You’ve met him! I swear to god, the man has a plo…
He’s stopped by a wave of her hand.
Justine Calvin: Okay, we’ve had this conversation. That’s not how science works.
Jared Sykes: Science has nothing to do with it!
Justine Calvin: Anyway… What can we do for you, boys?
Coral Avalon: Oh, no, I’m just here to spectate. I keep the homicidal thoughts outside of PRIME, usually. And out of wrestling. And life.
Coral munches on the popcorn, and seems content to fade into the background. Joe raises his hand to interrupt.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah, so… congrats on making it past those weirdo sick freakazoids with their DJ Tristy Crispies and their ancient-ass music covers from the Stone Age. Really. World’s a better place that they aren’t champs, am I right?
Sid Phillips: Pretty sure he’s right.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah, I’m right, alright. Anyway, you can probably guess what the two of us want. Do the words “we got next” mean anything to you?
Justine Calvin: No.
It’s stated plainly, matter-of-factly, and without hesitation.
Jared Sykes: It means they…
Justine Calvin: Jesus H… Yes, I know what it means.
She pushes herself up and out of her seat, taking slow deliberate steps across the room to put herself directly in front of both Joe and Sid.
Justine Calvin: I know what you want, and I’m saying no. Now I like you guys, so please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you can’t have the match, or the shot – though technically I don’t have the power to book those. What I’m saying…
She glances back over her shoulder ever so briefly, her eyes wandering to a spot by her seat where her half of the PRIME tag team championships rests.
Justine Calvin: Is no.
Her gaze once again finds the guests in her space.
Justine Calvin: You don’t get to have them.
Joe Fontaine: Oh, well. If that’s the case, then… yeah, fuck that.
Joe turns to Sid.
Joe Fontaine: Right? Fuck that.
Sid Phillips: We’re being polite.
Joe Fontaine: Well, as polite as we get, anyway.
Sid Phillips: You did consider murders.
Joe Fontaine: Not seriously. Come on. Even I know that’s a bad idea.
Coral Avalon: There was the one with the flaming axe.
Joe Fontaine: I’m saving plan #8 for someone else!
He turns his attention back to Sykes and Calvin.
Joe Fontaine: Look. If you’re saying “no” to us even getting another shot, then fuck that. If you’re just saying it in a “you can’t beat us” sense, then fuck also that. In triplicate.
Jared leans forward onto his elbows, but he doesn’t say anything. Despite the knowledge of a list, and even with everything he’s had to endure over the back half of 2022, there is one path that would absolutely lead him to an untimely end. So he makes the smart choice: he keeps his mouth shut.
Justine Calvin: Joseph, I literally just said I wasn’t going to stand in the way of you getting another chance. Maybe you’d have understood if I said it in popcorn, but I’m not fluent in languages that don’t exist.
Jared Sykes: Just a heads-up, but she’s super protective about Galadriel.
Of course, even the smart decisions have a shelf-life.
Sitting near the wall, Jared is suddenly aware that all eyes in the room are on him, including one pair that seems to be trying to conjure lasers.
Jared Sykes: What? You named the belt. It’s cool. People do that.
Justine shakes her head as visions of flaming axes dance in her mind. If you were to ask her at this moment, the answer would be yes. Death by burning axe is for sure on the table.
Justine Calvin: Here’s the thing, and please believe me when I say this isn’t personal, but I was your age when I graduated my training class. I didn’t get an opportunity – a real opportunity – until last summer. I don’t plan to let anyone take this away from me. Maybe that’s crazy. I mean it’s probably insane, right? Have to lose eventually.
She folds her arms across her chest.
Justine Calvin: But not yet.
Joe gives her a thumbs up.
Joe Fontaine: Cool. Still taking them.
Sid turns to Coral, “whispering” to him.
Sid Phillips: Psst. What’s a Galadriel?
Coral Avalon: Cool elf lady from the Lord of the Rings. Solid choice for naming. Uh, also, just ‘cause you say “psst” before you say something doesn’t mean you’re whispering.
Coral tosses a piece of popcorn into the air and tries to catch it in his mouth. It bounces off his nose and hits the ground.
Coral Avalon: This is easier with the left, I swear…
Joe Fontaine: Seriously, guys, we’re trying to have a serious moment of champion and challenger here.
Coral Avalon: I can’t really do anything except be in the popcorn gallery right now. Also, you literally do this to me every single time, so now you know how this feels.
Joe makes a grumpy sound with his throat.
Justine Calvin: Not going to be the last time you make that noise, you keep pressing this.
Joe holds his hands up.
Joe Fontaine: Alright, alright. Fine. You name a time and a place, we’ll be there. Just don’t expect to keep Gally when you do.
Coral looks almost apologetically at Justine, as though he’s seriously regretting letting Joe do all of the talking here. Then he throws up another piece of popcorn and catches it in his mouth.
Sid shrugs his shoulders and decides to add to that.
Sid Phillips: For the record, when we win the titles, mine will be named “Francois Delacroix de Powerbomb the Second”.
Jared Sykes: Nah, here’s how this plays out.
Justine closes her eyes and takes a deep, cleansing breath. In through the nose. Count to ten. Slow exhale through the mouth. There’ll be a conversation later about the name of her championship belt, but nothing that the public gets to witness. For now, trying to remain calm is key.
Jared Sykes: You guys came in here all ready to throw down the gauntlet, and you did. That’s big, it really is. And you did it without weapons, or malice, and without committing any war crimes. Seriously, it’s a refreshing change of pace.
He rises from his chair and slides his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt as he takes a position next to his partner.
Jared Sykes: You want to make your mark, you want to stake your claim. Cool. So finish the job. Call your shot. Don’t half-ass it now, not after you’ve come this far. You put the control in our hands and say “name the time and place,” well, that’s how you get burned. See, anything we counter with puts us in the driver’s seat. You say that, and you give up your edge.
His partner, for the record, is now staring at him with her mouth slightly agape. Over the course of his career, Jared Sykes has said many things, and the vast majority have been questionable at best. But talk of strategy and tactics? Of when and how to best play your hand? It doesn’t matter whether he’s right or not, he might as well be speaking in tongues.
Jared Sykes: This is all on you now, Joe. Call your shot.
Joe Fontaine: Fine, then. Let’s do it at Culture Shock. I’m sure you can make a little more history before then, can’t you?
Jared laughs, and then a slow nod follows. It’s hard to tell whether he’s amused, impressed, or some combination of the two.
Jared Sykes: We’ll see what we can do.
Joe nods back. He takes a step back.
Joe Fontaine: A’ight, chief. It’s a date.
He makes a clicking sound with his tongue.
Joe Fontaine: Winds out!
Joe jumps off-camera. After a brief pause, he steps back into frame and looks to Sid.
Joe Fontaine: That means we’re leaving.
He jumps back out of frame again. Sid shakes his head and follows him by walking. Like a normal person.
Sid Phillips: Did you have to jump?
That leaves Coral with the former berries. Coral picks up the bucket of popcorn and holds it out for the two of them.
Coral Avalon: So, uh… want some?
We then cut to another area of the backstage… area.