“I’ve been going back and forth trying to figure out what I wanted to say for the last few days.”
“I decided that I’m just going to be honest with you, and I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings…”
“Well, that’s not actually true.”
“I really don’t care one bit about your feelings.”
And the true star of the show.
“That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ve never been one to sugar coat anything and the new year isn’t going to change that.”
“You see, I just don’t care how you may feel about me thinking that you don’t actually deserve to be here, because from what I’ve seen of you in the ring… Well, none of it really makes me feel like you have what it takes to be successful.”
Tony’s just a side character in The stool’s story.
“Especially against the talent here in PRIME.”
A long and daunting story that may not have the happy ending our hero – who began his life as a tree – thought he would have when he began the journey unfolding before our very eyes.
“I’m sure you think you do. You probably sit up at night trying to convince yourself that one day you can be the one with your hand raised by Elvis Nixon or Ashley Barlow, while your name is being announced as the new PRIME Universal champion.”
Tony shakes his head slightly, as he lowers his head and chuckles softly under his breath.
“That’s one hell of a fantasy, but we both know that’s all it will ever be. The harsh reality is that you’re not good enough to make it come true, and as much as you may want to ignore the words coming out of my mouth – you know what I’m saying is true.”
Unimpressed, the stool supports him nonetheless, because that is what he is there for after all.
“I don’t know if it is your pride that won’t let you walk away, but stepping into that ring in Buffalo is a mistake you cannot afford. You are going to end up with nothing but disappointment when it’s all said and done, and that dream of gold is going to slip further and further from your reach as you walk back up the ramp with your head lowered in defeat.”
His lips curl enough to complete a smile.
“I can only imagine the crap you’re going to hear the moment you get back to the locker room, because this is supposed to be your big debut. This was supposed to be the fresh start your career needed, your chance to finally prove everyone that has ever doubted you wrong.
Wait, is the scar on the wrong side?
“But you’re the one that has been wrong all along, and while Lindsay Troy was generous enough to take a chance and give you an opportunity someone at your age doesn’t deserve…all you’ve done was squander it.”
The smile fades away as Tony hops off the stool, standing in front of it for a brief moment and it becomes evident that the scar is indeed on the right side of his face – which means it is on the wrong side.
“That’s not going to change against Swanny, and if you think I’m wrong you’re selling the man short. Unlike you, he’s never had a chance like this. This is his opportunity to step into a ring where it really matters, and do what you have fallen short of accomplishing countless times.”
The camera slowly starts to zoom out, revealing more of the room and most noticeably the mirror it was pointed at until Tony himself is on screen with his back to the camera.
“He’s not going to squander this opportunity like you did, because he’s hungrier than you have ever been. He wants this more than you, and I don’t believe you have it in you to stop him. Especially not after that embarrassment of a match at Coolossus, and I’ll be honest when I say that it probably doesn’t even deserve to be called a match. I find it hard to believe someone like Cancer Jiles would be the one to pull you up off the ground and offer you another opportunity at relevance, but for some reason he has shown you an ounce of pity that I don’t think you deserve.”
Tony’s attention has remained on his reflection this entire time, without hesitation he continues.
“I want you to prove me wrong. For once in your life go out there and be more than just the butt of a joke no one laughs at, because this is the end of the road for you and I’m tired of watching you fumble the ball at the goal line when it matters the most. Give Swanny a proper introduction to the man who defeated Hessian in his PRIME, because he deserves better than the lifeless corpse that showed up to be a lesser threat than a damn mannequin to Youngblood.”
Tony’s eyes flutter open, the light coming in from the slightly opened curtain shining right on his face. The battle that is currently taking place is nothing compared to the one going on in his mind, but at least he just has to sit up to win this one. The other one is going to take a little bit more to win, especially since he can still hear the voice in the back of his mind. The words, echoing around in his head, just keep repeating themselves.
“Don’t worry, Swanny, he’s not ready for you. He thinks you’re a joke and isn’t taking you seriously, so you have nothing to worry about. Welcome to PRIME, buddy.”
= = = = =
“Glad to have you aboard.”
Those were the last words he heard from Cancer Jiles before he left his locker room in the FedEx Forum at ReVival 40. The King of Cool had a plan for Youngblood at Coolossus, and an opportunity for Tony that was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, the Tower of Babel never let Tony get his feet set and unloaded a flurry of offense he was not expecting. Tony had awakened something inside of Youngblood, and really wasn’t sure what had happened after the third or fourth time his head slammed against the mat. He didn’t even know that Bobby and Coral had come down the ramp, much less that Cancer was able to deliver the message he had for the Big Bad Suplex Daddy.
So now here he was, listening to Victoria yell at him without yelling at him.
“Are you even listening to me?”
He wasn’t, and hasn’t been for the last minute or two. It wasn’t that he did not care what she had to say, but he really was not in the right mindset to deal with it at the moment. All he wanted to do was see his daughter, to spend some time with her and figure out what he should get her for Christmas. More importantly, he wanted to explain to her why he did what he did. She deserved an explanation, and he wanted to be the one to have this conversation with her.
“Antonio!” she finally raises her voice.
“I hear you Victoria,” he responds, sighing loudly before he continues. “You’ve been there with me before, and know how this business is. Even if it was all just a show on your part, you understand what I have to do to keep the fans’ attention focused on me. Good or bad – love me or hate me – I need to make sure that my name is one of the ones on their lips at the end of the night.”
“Most of it focused on the pasta you left behind,” he isn’t sure if that was a jab at him or not, because he had seen some of the messages circulating through social media. What she said after was not a shot at him. “But all Olivia kept asking me was if you were okay, and I didn’t have an answer for her.”
Those are the words that hurt, because she didn’t know what this business was like. Even worse is the fact that he isn’t okay, and he does not know how or when he wanted to break that news to her. How do you tell someone that there is a good chance that you might end up in a state, where someone like Jon Rhine could look down at his legs and say it could be worse.
“You weren’t answering your phone,” she continues, her hands hugging the cup of coffee she’s been nursing for the last hour. “Even I was starting to worry.”
“I never made it back to my locker room, so the guys took it back to the office,” he explains, trying to get a read on the mother of his child that doesn’t raise her head. Her eyes watch the ripples bounce off the edges of the cup, as the slight tremble in her hands doesn’t allow the coffee’s surface to settle. “I spent a week and a half on the Octane without my phone or a change of clothes. I looked like Missy Elliott walking around in Bobby’s clothes, but I had to shower.”
“Now that’s something I wish I could’ve seen,” she chuckles softly for a moment, but the worry in her voice is no longer there as she looks up and into his eyes. “Instead of watching you struggle to crawl up the ramp after Youngblood tossed you around the ring like a damn rag doll. I made Olivia turn away, it was so bad.”
“Where is she?”
“With my mom,” Victoria answers, finally diverting her eyes. “She didn’t want to go, but we needed to have this conversation.”
He doesn’t even remember what she said, so he hopes there isn’t going to be a pop quiz.
“So what do you think?”
He felt his sphincter tighten.
= = = = =
“I think Swan Lake was dealt a bad hand,” Tony leans back in his chair, fingers interlocked as he stares across his desk at Johnnie Newsman. “I’ve lost two matches in a row, and I don’t plan on making it three.”
“What about beginning luck?”
Tony rolls his eyes as he sighs, surprised that Johnnie would think like that. It wasn’t that Swanny was terrible in the ring, but he was clearly in over his head. He actually reminded Tony of himself when he originally joined PRIME back in 2006, in that he wasn’t the type of guy that would give up. He has heart and a hunger that was only going to be filled with victories. He wanted to succeed here more than he needed breath in his lungs, and that was something Tony is familiar with.
“That’s just something people say when they can’t accept that they got beat.”
It’s the exact excuse Gamble would use if he lost, which just made those words from his dream the other day echo in his mind once more. Is he really doing to Swanny what used to be done to himself back when he first started?
Is he taking Swanny lightly because he doesn’t know much about him, discounting what he’s done and how long he’s been doing this?
“This is just Troy’s latest charity case, another Crash Jackson or Rich Patterson.”
While they haven’t won much, they’ve had a steady presence and have been very competitive in the ring. Could Swanny suffer the same fate, or would he be another Daytona Diamonds or Rob Williams?
Tony really didn’t want to find out the hard way.
“You know what, I’m going to amuse you, Johnnie,” Tony leans forward. “Why don’t you go ahead and get me some more information on the guy. You know, just to have a chuckle.”