Backstage at the KeyBank Arena in Buffalo
We can hear the show moving on out in the ring- the sounds of a “news” broadcast starting fades into the background as we find two brothers hot off the heels of their very first victory here in PRIME. Douglas Doubleday walks down the hallway just down from Argyle Position dressed in his brown suit with that hair– he pumps his fist, turning to walk backwards and face his brother trailing behind him. “Fair Play” Dabney Doubleday has a look of pride on his face- tonight was a milestone reached. The first of hopefully so so many- but this? This was a dream fulfilled live for the world to see. A sweaty mess, Fair Play is still clad in his red and blue ring gear- his satin ring jacket slung confidently over his shoulder, his blond hair stuck to his face in wet golden curls.
Lil’ Dougie: YES SIR! That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Dabs!
More fist pumping and celebration from the littlest Doubleday.
Dabney Doubleday: We’re here man, we stepped through that door, it happened but I still can’t- oh hey, still think the Lazy Susan was a bad idea?
Fair Play is still slightly breathless from his match with Darin Zion-
Oh, sorry. “Zenon Dylan”- Doubleday stumbles over his words, catching his breath as the two men reach the locker room they share with half the roster, luckily it’s sparsely populated at the moment. Dabney tosses his jacket over his bag and grabs a towel to wipe down.
Lil’ Dougie: Hey- color me happily surprised, ok? Grandpa’s weird old move was a hit. The shockeds pop when you started spider steppin’ around that schmuck- beautiful. Couldn’t have asked for a better first win- oh! The producers told me that little run in with TAL when we got here opened the show- what was that earlier about not steppin’ to the first person we see through the door?
Fair Play hadn’t thought of that- Douglas did manage to snag a little more TV time with his shenanigans. He nods with an impressed little smile.
Dabney Doubleday: I knew there was a reason I keep you around.
He gives his little brother knuckles across the shoulder.
Lil’ Dougie: You joke, but you’re a babe in the woods here, “killer”- I’ve got eyes you don’t have. That’s my job to see around all the corners you can’t- heck, that I don’t want you to HAVE to! You’re appeal, brother dear is that you’re- well, you’re One Swell Guy! You’re unblemished by the malicious garbage most of the yahoos on this roster have subjected one another to over the years. Baggageless is what you are! A walking talking ray of good will, of HOPE! That’s what the Dabney Doubleday brand is going to represent, right there! BAM! All these melancholic dips around here about to get some “FAIR PLAY” therapy, amiright?
PRIME’s newest manager knuckles his brother right back. His excitement, boundless.
It’s easy to look at Douglas Doubleday- at his dated looking brown suit and that mushroom sitting on his head and look past him immediately. Even Dabney- not only Douglas’ brother but inarguably his best friend sometimes finding himself forgetting what a canny operator his little brother can be. Nobody- nobody knows Dabney better than Douglas. Nobody can read a room like Douglas. There’s a reason Lindsay Troy let a very young Douglas hang back in the rafters, so to speak, at TCS during Dabney’s training and watch- and listen- and learn just as much under the big boss’ tree as his brother did. Douglas might be small but he too was born for this life- clearly.
Douglas looks at his brother sincerely.
Lil’ Dougie: Believe me when I tell you that in this day and age? The state of not just this place but the world at large? These people don’t know how much they need someone just like you around this joint. Our time is coming sooner than either of us ever thought possible, big brother- I can feel it in my bones.
The two continue talking but the audio fades as we move on.
Several days after ReVival 42
The Horseworth family has owned and operated Horseworth Family Funeral Homes here in the greater Tampa area for two generations before the current one. I don’t know about grandpa and great-grandpa Horseworth but current living breathing Horseworth is a real turd. Courtney Horseworth has no idea how to run a funeral home. He isn’t a funeral director like the other members of his family who have been involved with the business. Courtney mostly prances around and gets in everyone’s way and spends all the money- REAL great guy.
How is any of this pertinent? Well- one of the poor souls in who’s way Courtney often gets is his lead embalmer and resident “hey you guy” Dale Doubleday. Our own Douglas and Dabney’s father. Probably the most unassuming little man anyone has ever seen, his big 90’s dad glasses, his balding head, his pleated khakis and polo shirt. Jarringly we find Dale working diligently on one of the funeral homes’ customers- getting the poor fellow dressed in a snazzy blue suit. A similarly blue casket sits open a few feet away on the other side of the dressing room- just off of the preparation room, where the “sausage” is made, so to speak- Dale prides himself at this sort of work.
We’re similarly jarred as we notice beside Dale is “Fair Play” himself, the victorious Dabney Doubleday- gloved up and helping his father get this particular stiff ready for his family get together the next morning.
The two men are already in idle conversation as they work.
Dale Doubleday: So yeah, Mr. Horseworth has been workin’ me extra hard boys- it’s been a wild couple weeks, lemme tell ya’.
From out in the hallway we hear the voice of Douglas Doubleday- Dougie isn’t a fan of his dad’s work- like at all.
Lil’ Dougie: We understand, pop. Was just disappointing you didn’t get to see the win live, is all.
Dale Doubleday: DVR’s are a darn wonder, my gosh. I’m honestly glad I could fast forward a spell through some of the harder to watch stuff, boys, gotta be honest- I don’t know how you do it, Dabs. That weird Barry Zinzu fella wasn’t playin’ around.
We can see the pang of hurt on Dabney’s face as his father admits to skipping forward through his debut match from ReVival 41. He visibly tucks the feeling away and continues with the task at hand- currently that task is tying this gentleman’s tie. Which is hard to do backwards-ways. Dabney fumbles around with it for a minute before Dale wordlessly steps in and finishes the knot- Dabney just sort of nods to himself with his lips silently pursed and lets his dad do his thing. Dale notices the awkward silence from his eldest and pipes back up after a few heavy sigh filled moments.
Dale Doubleday: I take it your grandpa- that he’s excited about- you know, everything?
Douglas again from out in the hallway, as close as he can get without a clear view of the deceased.
Lil’ Dougie: He’s beside himself, pop- so proud! He even recorded the match on VHS and added it to the collection! I’m pretty sure he’s forced poor Masher to watch it every day since.
Dabney pulls off his black nitrile gloves, one inside the other and hucks them into a nearby red biohazard trash can. He sighs. Obviously emotionally done with this particular visit with dad.
Fair Play makes one last valiant effort-
Dabney Doubleday: Listen. I know you and gramps don’t have the best relati-
Dale as politely as possible cuts his eldest son off, just a slight shake of the head is all it takes.
Dale Doubleday: We don’t have to get into all that. So- ehh- tell me about your next big match! Who’s your next- you know- erm- victim? Is that the right word?
Dale dabs a little bit of makeup here and there on the gentleman in front of him, deftly adding some life to the pale cheeks of the deceased without making him look like he just stepped out of the Moulin Rouge. Dabney stays silent for a few moments, a look of deep contemplation on his face- he’s not sure what to say or how to describe Bobby Dean without sounding- well, you know- I mean you’ve all seen him.
Dale Doubleday: Son?
Dabney Doubleday: Sorry, it’s just that that’s sort of a-umm- loaded question?
Lil’ Dougie: He’s a load alright-
Douglas steps into the room with one hand over his eyes- feeling around in front of himself very carefully. As he paws at the air searching desperately for his brother’s shoulder he chimes in.
Lil’ Dougie: If we started explaining the eGG Bandits whole THING we’d be here all damn day- I’m not sure enough ibuprofen exists for that conversation, pop- these irreverent yahoos with their inside jokes and their memes that like ten dudes on reddit understand- they all have this mascot. Sorta’.
Dale cocks an eyebrow, looking up briefly from his work.
Dale Doubleday: What kind of mascot?
Lil’ Dougie: The kind with diabetes, I guess? I don’t know.
Their father good and confused, Dabney rescues the conversation- whilst also placing a hand on Douglas’ shoulder, leading his blinded brother to a spot beside him- well away from their dad and his “patient.”
Dabney Doubleday: Bobby Dean is a nearly four hundred pound veteran with his own- erm- his own way of doing things. He’s- I mean, he’s-
Lil’ Dougie: He’s a fucking gross weirdo.
Dale narrows his eyes at his youngest-
Dale Doubleday: Language, Doug.
Douglas instinctively shrugs, taking his hand away from his eyes in doing so. His hand immediately claps on his mouth as he nopes out of the room with the speed of a small flightless bird.
Dabney Doubleday: I have a lot still to prove, dad. Weird matchup he may be, Bobby Dean is step two- and War Games, God, that’s another step altogether. War Games- dad, this is the biggest thing to ever happen to me in my whole life. That ain’t hyperbone either. I’ve already been catchin’ flack, people sayin’ I’m only getting this opportunity because of my history with Ms. Troy. The men on my team are all SO experienced with this sort of thing- I just hope I haven’t- that I haven’t been set up to fail, you know?
Dale has been out of his depth parenting his boys since they fell headlong into his dad Cecil’s world- he’s a great grandpa but Cecil Doubleday was sort of a crap father. His first love was wrestling- a close second was his family. Cecil would refute that, but Dale lived it- and it wasn’t a lovely childhood. Wrestling was the thing that took his dad away. Now, in a way, it’s taking his sons too.
Dale knew after years of Dabney and Douglas powerbombing one another on the trampoline out back of their home that this was a distinct possibility- his son, the wrestler- but somehow he still wasn’t prepared.
Dale Doubleday: I know. Listen. I may not understand you and your grandpa’s world, son- and yes- I have reservations about all of this. You and your brother carting all around the country. From what your mother explained this War Games THING sounds awful- and dangerous! I just worry- that’s all.
Again from his post safely out of sight, out in the hallway-
Lil’ Dougie: I’m going to make mom strap you to the couch and watch that one live, old man. I mean it. I’ll tell dill-hole Coutney Horseworth to suck a di-
Dabney Doubleday: That’s quite enough, Dougie, come on man.
Dale Doubleday puts down his things and walks over to Dabney. He can see all over his eldest son’s face that he’s struggling- but as with fathers and sons through the eons Dale has absolutely no idea what to say to make the situation any better. He wants to hug his son and tell him how proud he is of him for throwing caution to the four winds and chasing his dream. He wants to explain how that dream- for him– that it’s all wrapped up in a childhood lived with a father on the road, alone.
The right words fail to come to Dale Doubleday in time.
Dale Doubleday: You- erm- you really seemed like you were havin’ the time of your life out there, kiddo.
We can sense Dale is struggling to feign enthusiasm about his son’s chosen profession.
Dabney picks up on that instantly. Oof.
The two men share another semi-awkward silence.
Dabney breathes in a deep breath, letting it out as he awkwardly slaps his open palms on his thighs for lack of anything better to break the tension.
He’s already heading towards the door as he starts talking.
Dabney Doubleday: Thanks pop. Hey, we- uhh busy busy- we gotta get goin’- love you.
The eager sound of Douglas’ voice tells us he’s super ready to leave.
Lil’ Dougie: BYE POP, LATER DAYS. YOUR JOB IS STILL SO SO GROSS TO ME, SORRY. LOVE YOU. BYYYYE.
They’re both gone before Dale can respond.
Dale- alone, quietly- before getting back to work.
Dale Doubleday: I love you too boys.
St. Petersburg, Florida
A nameless independent promotion too small to be worth mentioning.
The VFW hall is packed as much as a small indie crowd can be- rows of folding chairs had to be added at the last minute thanks to the late addition of brand new PRIME star “Fair Play” Dabney Doubleday to the card. Fresh off his first big win and steaming towards what I’m sure he and his brother hopes to be his second forthcoming against “Beautiful” Bobby Dean one might stop and wonder why young master Doubleday would bother with a rinky-dink booking like this one-
BAM! The sound of human flesh and bone against the “padded” turnbuckle- the large bald headed man in black trunks grimaces- stumbling out of the corner clutching his back. It only takes a few minutes of watching Dabney Doubleday work that we get a taste of the answer to that particular question.
Dabney Doubleday isn’t some steely-eyed technician. Though it’s clear he’s more than well versed in the technical aspects of the game just by watching the way he moves about the ring and controls his opponent. A big broad smile rarely leaves Doubleday’s face as he works- there’s a joyfulness in every step, in every maneuver applied. Never once does the thrill and joy of competing find itself soured- not when it comes to Dabney. Not when he’s out here. Any timidness, any worries, any anxiety about life, the universe and everything evaporate the second Dabney hears that DING DING and the sound of excited wrestling fans. Whether it be 20,000- or 200, like tonight.
A true showman in every sense of the word. No doubt Richard will eventually take umbrage with how often Dabney’s eyes are on the fans as his career progresses in PRIME, but he’s not just pandering- he’s reading them. He’s listening to them. Moves with them. Without them behind him, without their respect full-throated- honestly, what’s the point?
Dabney also knows that he has a second set of eyes at ringside watching his back- Douglas Doubleday slaps the mat encouraging his brother. Dabney knows he has a little leeway to stop and entertain the crowd thanks to Douglas’ eyes never leaving the competition.
Over Douglas’ besuited shoulder we spy none other than Grandpa Cecil Doubleday parked front row center. The very retired wrestler could not look any happier than when he’s watching his grandsons work. He jumps out of his seat looking especially proud as in the ring, Dabney takes down his larger opponent, hooks the arms in his shoulder snapping bridging double underhook submission finishing move. He then starts that odd but effective spider-walk around his opponent’s trapped person- constant movement, making it all that much harder to escape, not to mention leagues more confusing for the Lazy Susan’ trapped victim.
It’s later the same evening now- the wrestlers have all spent the last hour all around and in the ring hawking their merch and chatting with fans as they file out of the VFW and head to their cars. Most of the talent has packed up and left at this point- but PRIME’s latest is still shaking hands and signing autographs. Douglas fishes the very last of Dabney’s first PRIME shirts- his “FAIR PLAY: Not a Communist” in baby blue. A shirt born out of the brothers initial interactions with Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan when they touched down in PRIME. As the last few folks in line pass them by, Douglas immediately starts counting the money- Grandpa Cecil totters up to the duo, still with a huge smile plastered under his big bushy mustache.
Grandpa Cecil: All smiles, every single face out the door boys- well done. WELL done.
He claps Dabney on the shoulder. It’s about that moment Fair Play’s opponent from earlier in the night happens by holding his neck with a wince of pain on his face. He first looks at the Amazing Cecil with a pained look of respect-
Dabney’s Opponent: That damn spider thing hurts like a motherfucker, old man- your grandkid here is gonna collect a lot of wins with that thing up in the big leagues.
He shakes Cecil’s hand. Grandpa Cecil smiles- less proud this time, more cocky- he winks at the large man.
Grandpa Cecil: That was the intention when I came up with the cockamamie thing back in the 80’s! Little razzle dazzle then rip their blasted arms off at the shoulder blades, by God- tried and true plan that stills works today- clearly.
The man then turns to Dabs and offers a similar sign of respect. The two shake hands.
Dabney’s Opponent: Good luck in PRIME, Doubleday. Make us proud, kid. We’re all rootin’ for you.
He looks at Douglas before walking away.
Dabney’s Opponent: Don’t get his lily white ass into too much trouble, Dougie. I know how you get.
To which Douglas derisively snorts, never looking away from his counting of the merch money. Priorities.
The nameless journeyman makes his exit leaving the Doubleday clan to chat.
Grandpa claps his hands together, excited-
Grandpa Cecil: So! Tell me about this Bobby Dean schmuck! What’s the 411 on Mr. tubsy-wubsy?
Dabney Doubleday: He’s a weird one to wrap my head around, gramps- he’s been around ages. He’s a legitimate veteran. But he’s- I mean- his whole “thing” feels like an act. Like he’s jerking everyone’s chain, ya’ know? But- I mean, look at him? Who does that to themselves? There’s easier, healthier ways to play mind games for Pete’s sake.
Like the other day with his father at the funeral home, Dabney struggles to succinctly EXPLAIN Bobby Dean.
Douglas, finishing up his counting- shoving the wad of cash in his inside coat pocket. He cuts his brother off.
Lil’ Dougie: Don’t tie yourself into any more knots over this load. It doesn’t matter if his whole mukbang dimwit act is legit or not. Everyone always gets caught up with that when they have to face this creep. He does what you do- distracts, subverts expectation, he gets opponents lookin’ past him, at all his bullshit- gets ‘em to leave him enough space that even his wide bottom can fit through and snag a victory here and there. But it’s just here and there. You’re gonna frustrate him because you’re not some snarling world beater- you’re him minus the equivalent of several other people he’s luggin’ around. You give a damn, Dabney- he doesn’t. His record shows that, plainly. So does his waistline.
Douglas picks up the empty cardboard box that contained all of their now sold merch and just sort of hucks it over his shoulder into the darkened VFW hall.
Lil Dougie: You’re going to quit worrying and learn to love the big fat dummy barreling towards you. You’re going to wrestle circles around that nitwit, brother dear. Plain and simple.
We can tell Grandpa is just as impressed with Douglas’ analysis as he is with Dabney’s ring work. Douglas shrugs nonchalantly-
Lil’ Dougie: Hey- I might not have been on the mat taking bumps but I went to every training session at TCS that this goober did. I’ve stuck to this fool like glue- I’ve sponged up this business in his wake, Gramps. I’ve been in Dabney’s corner since day one when he set foot inside Troy’s gym. I’m in this, Gramps- where Dabs goes, my sage advice shall follow.
Dabney claps his brother on the back with a grin.
Dabney Doubleday: All the way to War Games and beyond, baby brother.
It’s here the audio drops out and the scene ends.