You’re recommended auditory companion: THE MELVINS
DAYS AS CHAMPION: 1
It’s the morning after the big Pay Per View event.
But for PRIME, the Nightmare continues.
The newest Five Star Champion is nestled within Badger’s Cafe, a quaint little diner a ways down the road from the MGM Grand.
He sits alone in a booth, belt on the table, sipping away at a steaming mug of black coffee between bites of a fat slice of cherry pie. The wholesomely edible Yin and Yang of sweetness and bitterness.
Exactly what he needs get himself rebalanced after last night.
He has no memory of leaving the ring, let alone slipping out of the arena unseen.
He knows what followed was a long night of wandering through the haze of flashing lights and neon signs lining the strip.
Most would’ve thought him lost. In reality, he was searching for something.
Silence. And solitude.
It was around daybreak when he finally found it, inexplicably stumbling in through the door of this establishment, title belt in hand, still shirtless and sweaty from the match.
It was an atypical and surprisingly sober first night as champion for someone as torrid and tenacious as our Goat Bastard, but he felt he needed to be somewhere quiet and uncrowded to fully process the gravity of the situation.
Rezin… the Five Star CHAMPION?
He really done and fucked up this time.
He snaps to attention when he hears the uneven shuffle of approaching footsteps, punctuated by the tap of a cane pegging the linoleum floor.
So much for silence and solitude.
He sets down his fork and waits for the shadow to fall over him before looking up to see a vaguely familiar face.
“…Karl Urban, from The Boys?”
Sure kinda looks like Karl Urban. He’s got the hair, the beard, the long black coat, the intense stare… but no, unfortunately, it can’t be anybody cool like that. Instead, we get–
“Hello, Erik,” says Rocko Daymon. “Been a long while.”
“…ah, fuck my life.” groans the Escape Artist. As if winning the title hadn’t been enough on his plate, here comes this human Valium tab full of empty platitudes limping into his life.
In some other time in some other place, Rocko Daymon might have been considered someone of note. But that time has long since been relevant. These days, he’s just a retired half-cripple that hobbles across the world, spouting useless adages and calling himself a mentor to people you’ve probably never heard of.
Daymon leans his cane up against the booth before gently sitting himself into the seat across the table.
“Surprised to find you here,” he says, looking around the diner. “Given your reputation, I would have expected a wild night of debauchery and destruction. Especially after such a triumph.”
Rezin shrugs off this observation, indignantly going back to work on his pie. “Believe me, I’d rather be doin’ lines of coke off the tits of a Kat Dennings look-alike, but here we are. Ya wanna get down to brass tacks and tell me what’s goin’ on here, cause your face is spoilin’ my breakfast.”
“Straight to business, then,” says Rocko with a nod. “In the wake of your ascension to Five Star Champion of PRIME, Lindsay Troy has tasked me to lend you guidance and training.”
Rezin nearly chokes on a mouthful of crust and cherry glaze.
“Goddamnbit, can’t you see that I’m EATING here!” he exclaims. “A bit early for bullshit, ain’t it? Why would she, of all people, give a fuck about my ‘guidance and training’? Ya know I’m supposed to be fightin’ her down in Miami here in a coupla weeks, right?”
Rocko’s smile seems to widen, conveying all the cliched stoicism and blank charisma of Qui-Gon Jinn from one of those shittier Star Wars movies.
“Be as it may, Erik, she still has a business to run,” he replies. “And right now, you represent that business.”
The (certifiably rusted and creaking) gears in Rezin’s head begin to turn, processing this logic. Admittedly, this is something he’s never been good at.
“This is a PR thing, ain’t it?” he says in a voice as bitter as the coffee he’s sipping. “Like, now that PRIME has a rotten PUNK like me as one of the champs, ACE Network is shittin’ itself over losin’ sponsors?”
His teeth grind, imagining the suits talking about him in regards to his marketability.
Daymon shakes his head. “I have no part in that business. What I do deal in is training, counsel, and career management. You will need these, should you wish to have a long, prosperous run as champion.”
Rezin’s face fills with skepticism.
“…and you’re gonna be the one to show me the way?”
Rezin’s howling laughter gets the attention of the diner’s staff and other customers.
“What the fuck makes ya think I need anyone’s help?” he says, snatching the belt off the table. “Especially after gettin’ this all on my own?”
Rocko’s eyes narrow on the strap. “And what, exactly, are your plans for that title?”
“Fuck, why do people keep asking me about ‘plans’?” Rezin mutters, more to himself than as an answer. “I keep tellin’ people, there’s a METHOD to the madness! I don’t need any plan; I just step into that ring and do what comes naturally! Always been my way of doin’ things, and always will be…”
Daymon sighs. It’s one of those long, low-pitched sighs that suggests a heroic amount of patience being tested.
“I know that you expected to lose that match.”
The fork in the Escape Artist’s hand freezes in place. He looks up from the plate. Rocko’s looking back, staring into his very soul. For once, there’s no bullshit in his eyes.
“Perhaps, Erik… you even wanted to lose.”
Rezin drops the silverware and sits up in his seat. The aging veteran wrestler has finally said something to earn his full attention.
“You said so yourself last night. ‘Failure is inevitable’. A truth that you have come to believe in so strongly, you deny yourself the motivation to change, stand, and grow. As an athlete. As a competitor.
“You have no fear of failure. Not like other wrestlers. If anything, for you, the game has always been about avoiding success.
“For you, failure is a safety net. A warm blanket to wrap yourself into and return to the calming sleep of self-loathing. An old familiar feeling to fall back into when your waking reality becomes too much to bear.
“It means you have no reason to worry about trying to maintain your success.
“It means you are free from the fear of being exposed as a fluke.
“Consequently, your acceptance of failure is exactly why you always condemn it upon yourself.
“But now you are beginning to realize that there is no going back to the safety and comfort of being the lowly, insignificant wretch you have made yourself to be. Now, you actually have to try.
“Because, somehow, the whims of the cosmos saw fit to reward you with this.”
He gestures to the belt.
“Whether you choose to accept it or not, you are a champion now.
“Which means you are not a fluke, Erik. I have always known that you had the talent and drive to achieve greatness in this sport.
“But none of that will be seen or respected without consistency to go with.
“And, based on your history, you are not exactly adept at putting your best qualities together in a way that can be translated to prolonged success.
“I am stating the obvious here, but being successful is not easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and discipline.
“Which is why I was sent to you. I can provide these things for you, Erik.
“I can light the path set before you.
“I can help you become the champion you know yourself to be.”
Rezin looks down at what he has left on his plate.
One bite of cherry pie left.
He scoops it into his mouth and chews slowly.
He knows it will be a long time before he tastes that kind of sweetness again.
After he swallows it down, he arrives at his decision.
“Ahh, fuck it. Let’s do it.”
Rocko nods approvingly.
The Goat Bastard points at the cane. “One thing though, I gotta ask… when did you get the walking stick?”
Daymon releases an ancient sigh. “Seven years ago, when I unfortunately relapsed into older habits, I was involved in an accident that–”
“Nevermind, I just realized that I don’t really care.”
Rezin signals to the waitress.
“Yo! Check, please?”
DAYS AS CHAMPION: 14
Two weeks later, there’s a knock on Ollie Arsvinnar’s door.
When the Viking accountant answers, he is surprised and delighted at who he finds on his doorstep.
“Erik! Where have you been?”
Rezin’s grimacing face is peppered with fresh bruises that are roughly the size of a certain Queen’s fist.
“Miami…” he grumbles in response, clearly not wanting to go into it any more than that. “You got a minute to rap?”
“Of course!” says Ollie, welcoming the Escape Artist back into his home.
A nondescript briefcase in hand, Rezin comes inside and enters the living room. He can’t help but notice the brand new flatscreen hanging on the wall as he takes a seat on the sofa, which is now covered in plastic.
“Nah, Becky took the kids shopping,” replies the Viking patriarch. “So, what’s up? Are you here for your cut of merch sales? T-shirts are still in high demand, I’m happy to report!”
“Cool, but, uhm… no, that’s not why I’m here,” Rezin says as he pulls the briefcase onto his lap and undoes the latches. “But I guess this is still kinda money related…”
Arsvinnar’s horned helmet nearly twirls around his head when the lid comes upon and he sees all the cash packed within.
“BY LOKI’S LOINS!!” exclaims the Norseman. “Erik, where did you get this?!”
Rezin scratches his beard, wondering how to explain that.
“Ehh, it ain’t important,” he says, deflecting the topic. Probably best he did not know about the fate of his old Viking porn collection.
Arsvinnar continues to be suspicious. He’s heard of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, but knows that when it comes to Rezin, there’s always something sketchy involved.
“Look, I know what you’re thinkin’,” says Rezin, sensing the doubt. “YES, it’s safe to have here, and NO, I didn’t rip off any drug runners or rob any casinos. It’s legit… which is why I’m bringin’ it to you.”
Ollie suspicion morphs into confusion.
“Thing is, I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past couple days,” Rezin goes on. “And no, for once, not the ‘I dropped acid and wandered through the desert’ kind of thinking. Been working with Rocko Daymon the past couple weeks.”
“Rocko? Really? How’s he been?”
“Fuckin’ boring as ever, but eh, at least he helps me put things into perspective.”
Having admitted this, he suppresses the urge to vomit.
“I mean, I’ve spent a lotta years not givin’ a fuck about where I’ve been goin’ in life, but now that I’m a champion and shit, I’m thinkin’ I have a real opportunity here to get my shit together and get my ass back on the grid.”
Arsvinnar continues to stand there, stunned. He never expected he’d hear these words out of the mouth of the Goat Bastard, but he’s hearing them now.
“Which is why, even though I know you’ve done more than enough for me over these past few months, I’m askin’ for your help again, Ollie.”
Rezin closes the briefcase, rises to his feet, and puts his investment into the hands of the Viking accountant.
“Should be enough cash here to get my house back. So before I do something stupid and crazy, like blowin’ it on weed or bomb-making materials, I just need ya to put it somewhere safe. Like a bank account or something. And, if there’s enough left over, maybe you could help me find an apartment, or a regular place to stay, just so when–”
Rezin’s words are cut off as his face is suddenly being crushed against a set of rock-hard pectorals. Arsvinnar’s mighty arms have ensnared him into a bro-hug fit for a berserker.
“Erik…” Ollie says, lightly sniffling as tears fill his eyes. “I am so proud of you right now!”
DAYS AS CHAMPION: 22
“Here I am.
“Question now is… what’s next?”
A bay door rolls open. Sunlight pours into a darkened storage unit, outlining the silhouette of a man standing at the entrance.
“On her deathbed, my ma told me that all I wanted out of life was to be seen.”
Rezin enters, breathing deep and glazed in sweat. Either he’s been working out or running from the cops.
The calmness in his typically wild eyes would suggest the former.
“All these years, I thought I was workin’ hard to prove her wrong.”
Dangling from his right hand is the Five Star Championship.
“But standin’ here now, thinkin’ back on all the ups and downs of my career, I’m slowly realizin’ to myself… I just keep provin’ her right.
“Years were spent flyin’ under radars… but now?
“Now I can’t help but be seen.
“…I can almost hear that bitch laughing all the way from hell.”
Much of his belongings in the unit have either been boxed up or removed. He’s apparently in the process of relocating.
One of the things left behind is a workbench. Probably meant for working on some of his more anarchist side projects. He approaches it.
“Sure, I may as well admit it…
“I wanna be seen.
“Who the fuck can honestly say they don’t?
“What I always wanted more, though… was respect.
“And now, a career of fightin’ for that respect brought me to this…”
He drops the title onto the bench and pulls up a stool to seat himself.
“So here I am.
“But if I’m bein’ honest, it’s a bittersweet, coffee-and-cherry-pie feeling.”
He pulls out a resin-caked pen knife and begins prying away at the gilded face of the belt.
“I can’t say I don’t love the attention. Or this feeling of vindication.
“Realizin’ I always had it in me. Realizin’ all these years of strife and suffering have finally paid off into becoming something fuckin’ worthwhile in this industry.”
After a moment of needling and elbow grease, something comes loose.
A small, gilded placard.
The name “HAYES HANLON” is etched on it.
“But on the other hand… I can’t shake this feeling that errybuddy in PRIME is just waiting to see me fall flat on my face again.”
Rezin tosses aside the old nameplate, and a piece of black slate materializes in his other hand. Using the same knife, he begins to carve letters into it, piercing the air with the ear-splitting sound of nails on a chalkboard.
“Guess even though the battle may be won, the war for the respect I want is still far from over.”
Several agonizing moments later, he leans back and reveals his name–“REZIN”–carved into the slate in coarse, jagged letters.
“Good thing there’s still plenty of fight left in me. Plenty of hunger…”
The slate slides perfectly into the rectangular gap that was left behind.
“Cause I ain’t ready to just sit back and take it easy…”
The Five Star Champion of PRIME rises up to his feet, and straps the belt around his waist.
“Not while I still have doubters out there.
“Not while there’s still plenty of ass to kick.”
He admires himself in a full-sized mirror kept in the corner, getting a full look at himself as a CHAMPION…
…except something is amiss.
He put the new nameplate in upside down.
The belt quickly comes off and goes back on, flipped the other way. Now the name is readable, but the face of the belt is inverted.
As blasphemous as upending a cross.
Somehow, on him, this looks even more fitting.
“This brings us around to the topic of the first ass that’s up on the kickin’ block…”
The Escape Artist turns to face us.
“I’m thinkin’ maybe you and I got off on the wrong cloven hoof.”
A smile forms on his face that doesn’t indicate one iota of sincerity.
“Based on all those perfectly mature, perfectly grown-up tirades you’ve been putting up on Jabber all week, I can sense that you may be a tad… unhappy with me.”
“What can I say? Last week, I had just flown in from Miami, where I had experienced what can be called a very, very shitty night. And by the time I got to the arena, I was well into a very, very shitty mood.
“And then, right when I thought I was about to step into the spotlight and put all that stress behind me… YOU just HAD to come down to that ring.”
His smirk melts into a sneer.
“I get why you’re pissed, and I’ll admit that maybe it was a bit brash of me to spit in your face, but c’mon, dude. You might as well have been spittin’ in MY face by movin’ in on my block of time like that.
“Bein’ a fuckin’ idiot is no excuse for your actions.
“I had to learn that fact the hard way.
“Why should you be any different?”
He pauses for a beat, to do what else, but light up a joint.
“I’ll give you this, though…
“I admire your ability to act without thinking.
“Some might write you off as stupid, but nah, not me. I think you’re zen as fuck.
“If you had the ability to write coherently, you could make bank penning the Tao Te SCOTT.
“You’re someone who doesn’t let himself get bogged down in things like self-doubt, or worrying about what may go wrong, or what he’ll have to do to succeed.
“The secret to your success is that you just go in there… and do it.
“No need to think when you’re that damb good.”
He exhales the first hit, misting up the camera with a cloud of dopesmoke.
“Seein’ what you do in that ring, SCOTT, there’s no mystery to why the GREAT HYPE train has come roarin’ outta the station.
“You’re the fastest rising star in PRIME right now.
“You have a whole wave of momentum riding behind you.
“Which is why I ain’t underestimatin’ you in the slightest, cause me and this title of mine are standin’ on the tracks right now.”
He shakes his head.
“Unfortunately, SCOTT… at ReVival, I’m gonna be the one that derails that train.”
He grins. Not devious, but daring.
“I doubt you’ve actually seen any more of me than what ya got from the brief look-over of my bio on the PRIME website while you were cookin’ up stupid jokes about my appearance… so allow me to fill ya in on something…”
He pats the inverted belt around his waist.
“There. Is. A. Reason. WHY… I’m wearin’ this belt right now.
“It ain’t cause of luck.
“It ain’t cause of popularity.
“It ain’t cause I racked up a buncha easy wins over opponents who didn’t know fuck-all about how to handle me.
“It’s cause of my GRIT.
“It’s cause of my FIRE.
“It’s cause of my TALENT.
“It’s cause I’m one of the GREATEST wrestling talents this industry has ever produced.
“And when the bell rings, you’ll see firsthand just how GREAT this ol’ Five Star DOPESMOKER can really be.
“Yeah, you’re pissed.
“And homeless, from what I hear.
“Welcome to my world.
“I was both those things long before you even walked through the door.
“I’m glad you’re pissed.
“I want ya seein’ RED in that ring.
“I want ya to do what ya do best, SCOTT: act without thinking.
“I’m probably crazy for sayin’ that–which, if we’re bein’ honest here, wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary for me–but I’m beginning to understand now that holdin’ onto this belt ain’t gonna come without takin’ a RISK here and there.
“And poking the bear (metaphorically speaking) to send ya into a blind rage in the hopes that you leave yourself open and vulnerable is a risk I’m more than willin’ to take.
“Cause if there’s one thing I am confident of in myself, it’s knowin’ how to survive knuckle-dragging meat-heads like you.”
Again, he pats the belt around his waist.
“And now, I know I can do more than just survive.
“I can SLAY.
“Same as the matador slays the bull.
“Spittin’ in your eye was just me wavin’ the cape.”
He throws his arms out to his sides
“So come at me, bro! Take your best shot!
“You ain’t dealin’ with the other contenders anymore.
“Now, SCOTT… you’re dealin’ with a FUCKING. CHAMPION.”
Fade to VOID.