ReVival 7 was a long time coming. Pride before the fall, Culture Shock now a memory taken for granted.
In climbing Everest, Brandon Youngblood had made good on the promise from the onset of his career. He was now the Centerpiece. The Ace. And in the history of PRIME, the few Universal Champions there were carried with them reigns of dominance. Chandler Tsonda, Lindsay Troy, Matt Ward, Jason Snow, Nova, their arrival at the summit would go on to be defined by the bodies they piled in their wake, the bones making up the foundations of their legacies.
Brandon was now one of them. Without peers. Without equal. Or so he thought.
Cancer Jiles had cut his way through the Almasy Invitational, making it to the finals. But for someone with his abrasive ego, the true way to defeat him was in not acknowledging him, shrugging off his bile soaked tirades, bluntly laughing in his face because everything he represented was an overexposed and over-explained joke.
Youngblood’s eyes were directed toward the greater horizon. Victory had eased his hunt. The honeymoon was in full swing.
The answer to his distraction oozed from a cryochamber, ripping him to shreds scattershot. He could never slow down. Could never give the wolves at the door the faintest of openings. Jiles thirsted for his blood. A still healing knee was annihilated with brutal efficiency, driven by a madness birthed from loss. For him, shame had made this truly personal.
The attack, from the aftermath and the gauntlet drop, should’ve flipped the field. Changed the game. Destruction through humiliation. A horse head and eggs wrecking luggage, and even worse, turning the Universal Champion into an afterthought. Brandon’s subtle mind game had brought out the worst in Cancer Jiles.
Unfortunately for him, the Tower of Babel had survived, and done, far worse. The jackal could never pay the bloodprice for what he had done. Goliath had been awoken.
Amy Campbell couldn’t help the sickness growing in her stomach as she pulled back on the plunger of the hypodermic needle, the vial filling with custardy synovial fluid. Far away from the screaming neon of Vegas, here she was, steeped in the familiar barbarism of wrestling, playing amateur surgeon like she and so many of her friends on the road had done in the past. She didn’t want to hurt Brandon, trying to concentrate and still even the most subtle of twitchy movements. He was a mess, sprawled out on their couch, languid, a grimace etched across his face despite the lidocaine bathing his kneecap. Despite her care, she couldn’t contain her rage. “Is Troy going to fire those fucking Bandits?”
He sunk the back of his head against the pillow propped against couch’s armrest, clenching his fists, the sickening pressure inside his knee alleviating briefly, only to be replaced by an awful searing ache within.
“At least fine them?”
All he could offer her was a groan.
“That stupid bitch,” she growled. “Can’t control goddamn anything. A bunch of joke ass pieces of shit. Egg bandits? What the fuck–”
“It’s not her–”
“Don’t say it ain’t her fault. Pissing hot seems to be a much bigger crime than trying to fucking cripple someone! I’m sure if it was Teddy fucking Palmer rather than Jiles–”
“Brandon!” She stopped him before he could even try to calm her down. The needle pulled clean, she began to dress his bloated knee with a wrap of gauze. “And why didn’t you go to the fucking doctor?”
His mind was racing. Anxiousness. He didn’t need this. Not now. “I don’t–”
“She don’t care about you. She’s never cared about you. Just as long as she gets her fucking match!”
“Enough!” Everything between them came to a standstill. Rarely since they’d gotten together two years before did they argue. “Lindsay Troy–”
“Is a piece of shit–”
This wasn’t the time for old hatreds. “This isn’t about you two!”
“No!” She shouted back at him. “This is about you needing to prove some point to the world!” She snapped some medical tape, finishing off the wrapping of her boyfriend’s knee. “Play the big damn hero champion like you’re invincible or some shit.”
He did his best to swing his leg from the couch, to sit up, struggling to do so. His face, flush with sweat, was beet red. When he finally managed, it took him a few moments to regain his composure, to get his breath back. “We both know what I signed up for–”
“I don’t remember signing up for you losing your leg–”
“Are you…what? Lose my leg? What are you talking about?”
She took the vial into her hand, sloshing it vigorously. “You know what we would be doing if there were pieces of tendon in this? Going to the fucking ER.”
Exasperation filled him, the pads of his thumbs rubbing against his temples. “It’s just a bad sprain.”
“Oh yeah?” she started. “Then I ask you again; Why. Didn’t. You. Go. To. The. Doctor?”
He froze. She knew him all too well.
“You and I both know why. Because you know you wouldn’t get cleared. Because the big match would get delayed, all because they’d have to test to see if an infection was growing in that knee of yours. And you know how get infections like that? Because people like me stick needles into you rather than someone with the fucking training!”
A grumble. “Thank you by the–”
“Don’t! Don’t give me this bullshit! I know better! Do what you can to get to the next match…keep chasing the dream…we did this shit to ourselves! For what? To keep fighting no matter how hurt we were? And where did it get us, huh? That belt doesn’t mean shit–”
“It’s not about the belt–”
“Oh yeah? It’s not? You’re full of shit.”
His nostrils flared. “It’s not about the belt…”
“What would another few weeks hurt, huh? Get healthy, get better, have a fighting chance–”
A disheartened tremble. Faint, hollow words left on repeat. “It’s not about the belt…”
And then, she cut to the heart of the matter. “I don’t believe–”
But before she could finish, he exploded to his feet, roaring, spittle flying from his lips. “He hurt me! He hurt me!” As quickly as he rose, he fell backward into cushions in a heap. He tried with everything he had to try and push back upright, but it was as though he was drowning. “He hurt me!” Panting, a whirlwind of juddering movements, his arms, his hands, his legs vibrating, only for him to slump pathetically into the couch,to hang his head, a protracted, guttural choke. “He hurt me. And I’m gonna hurt him.”
Staring into his burning eyes, she froze. Brandon had always been intense, but this malice, this intent, she’d only seen it from him once before.
Honolulu, sixteen years before. Summer wilting to fall. The Stan Sheriff Center was filled to capacity for Tropical Turmoil, where the winner of the five-person elimination main event would go on to face Hoyt Williams for the Universal Championship at King of Kings.
Amy was one of them, having fought her way in by beating Karina Wolfenden in a shocking upset. She was joined in the match by her newfound rival, Ellis Easton, a golden spoon sucking model and bit actor turned powerhouse under the tutelage of the machiavellian Eleanor Kannon-Hall. The other three were the pillars of the golden age of PRIME.
The unconquerable Cadillac, Angelo Deville. The most accomplished and dominant wrestler of his time.
The Rising Star, Nova. Already a two-time 5 Star Champion, a beloved and charismatic figure who could do it all.
The Only Diamond in the Sport, Brandon Youngblood. The current 5 Star Champion. The most carcinogenically brash and ruthless wrestler in all of PRIME.
The paths of all five of them intersected in a tangled web of foundational bouts that took PRIME to truly being ‘Number One By Definition’. Steel sharpening steel. This match was the culmination; many believed whoever won here would storm to the Universal Championship with nary a challenge.
Amy did the best she could to get her wind, having just been jarred by the CTRL ALT 1337 Nova hit her with. The high arcing moonsault, the effortless way he swung his legs and came down in a back elbow drop, it was breathtaking. She’d managed to shoot her shoulder off the canvas on the pinfall attempt, causing Nova to hit her with a burst of sharp elbows to the face. Rising up from the canvas, the Rising Star was ready to add the Red Raver to the elimination pool, just as Deville had done to Easton minutes before. With an effortless hop, he was perched on the top turnbuckle yet again, readying for the killing blow.
Nova was at the peak of his ability, coming into his own, banishing the notion that his loss of the 5 Star Championship to Youngblood mere weeks before was a foreboding omen. And in his surge he’d forged a deep friendship with Deville, born out of mutual respect, admiration, and acerbic wit.
She tried as best as she could to move, but she was frozen in place, just like she’d been on the Revolution leading into Tropical Turmoil, when she was forced to team with Youngblood against the team of Deville and Nova. They were no match for the pair, the victory sending a clear message going into this bout that the future of PRIME rested in their hands. The Rising Star was so close to his goal. Moonsault. Her head lolled against the canvas, her eyes focused on the entanglement of Youngblood and Deville. The only reason they were so out of sorts was her doing, all thanks to her resourcefulness and the body splash she’d launched into them with.
Humiliation. For Amy, it was the constant jabs at her promiscuity, disgusting sexism that never went away. And while Brandon hadn’t been reduced in the same manner for cheap laughs, Angelo Deville had made it his own special project to break down and diminish not just his character, but everything about him. So many Revolution segments spent dropping napalm on the Only Diamond without remorse. He made a mockery of his amateur wrestling career, Parodied his cadence and belittled how dimwitted he was in promos. Angelo had always been five moves ahead of his peers on the chessboard, and his dominion and condescension created awe and fear. The entire wrestling world simped at his every whim.
No matter what he did, Youngblood couldn’t puncture through The Deville. He couldn’t beat him, having fallen to his patented submission, the Soprano. His words fell hollow against the armor of the seasoned pro. Even with the 5 Star Championship in his possession, all Brandon could muster was flailing tantrums, making the mockery he suffered all the worse. Angelo had brought Nova into the reindeer games. They fed off each other. Were in such sync that it was scary what they could achieve together, or even more frightening, what they could tear down.
Bitter, hateful sting. His inferiority had calcified inside his mind. He was powerless against the tide. The moment Nova hit the moonsault, he’d be stuck in a handicap match with two of wrestling’s most skilled and savage competitors. They’d swallow him whole, and they’d piss on him the entire time they did it.
Amy saw the look in Brandon’s eyes. Craven. A scowl hewed. Nova leapt from the top rope, flipping in a beautiful moonsault. In a flash, Youngblood launched himself from the corner, breaking free from Deville. Nova’s legs were fully vertical on the descent. But suddenly, sickeningly,his momentum was halted with a forceful shove, the revolution stuck in gear. The thud his head landed with was nauseating, as was the manner in which his body folded upon the impact. The noise drained from the crowd, only to be followed with disoriented gasps and haunting wails. Lifeless. Wreckage sprawled across the canvas. The impact she’d braced never came. She saw Brandon from the corner of her eye, his eyes fixated on the carnage, his smile wild and drooling as he took pleasure in what he’d done.
Two birds. One stone. He’d found his way to truly hurt Deville. He’d eliminated Nova from the picture. The Rising Star barely avoided paralysis, and even though he’d go on to become Universal Champion, this moment had scarred him for life. The only person he trusted to have his back was the same one who tended to his fallen form, shielding him, roaring at the Diamond to get away from him, that he wouldn’t let him hurt the man anymore.
The genesis of FU.
Nova and Deville would nearly kill PRIME before Lindsay Troy led the charge to beat them back.
And it only happened because Brandon Youngblood couldn’t live with being made a fool of.
A lifetime ago. Apologies and soul rending had scabbed over the wound. When Cancer Jiles looked at Brandon Youngblood, he saw a Hallmark moment forged at his expense. He couldn’t fathom what was lurking beneath. How what he’d done had put him in ultimate jeopardy.
This was what he was facing now.
This is what he had done.
But why? What could make being made the fool require such a depraved and caustic response?
Broken memories in his mind, but in the fragments, he found a center. His father. Benjamin Youngblood. There he stood, staring at him in the reflection of the bathroom mirror, his long tooth comb sweeping through his dirty blonde locks, slicking them back, synthetic lilac dominating the air. It was unnatural, as was the smirk spread across his face. Bexar County was in the third month of drought, the harsh winds kicking up clay and volcanic ash to the point where he had to wear sunglasses on job sites just so he could see. Even still, he went the extra mile, making sure they were stylish. Always impeccable, Benji, never a hair out of place, always looking good, a company man with his Exxon embroidered tracksuit top.
Eight years old. Brandon was up well before sunrise, as always, putting coffee on the pot for when his parents woke up, before boiling water for their hot breakfasts. His father always had cream of wheat and four pieces of rye toast, while his mother always had oatmeal with some kind of fruit on the side. This morning, he remembered blackberries. His younger siblings, Chris, Candace, Tommy, each born two years apart from the other, were on their own to pick out whichever malt-o-meal cereal they wanted.
To this day, whenever Brandon felt a migraine coming on, the scent of his father’s hairspray came into focus. It was better than the smolder bubbling up from his own flesh thanks to the cigarette burn pockmarks littered across his naked thighs, the fresh and old oozing blisters mixed together in odd patterns. Sitting on the toilet, naked, his hands shook as he tried to balm the still searing wounds before dressing them with bandaids. If he didn’t do a good job, his underwear would stick to his thighs, and when that happened, each spot would sting whenever he moved. This was their secret ritual. His mother wasn’t aware, or maybe she was, but with a newborn Lindsay in the house, her maternal instincts were focused elsewhere.
“Were the cartoons worth it?” His father questioned, staring him down through the reflection in the mirror. “I can’t believe you scalded my cream of wheat.”
Brandon’s eyes were swollen from his tears.
“I can’t believe you’re so selfish.” As violent as his father had been, now, he was calm. Measured. Cool. “We’re going to make sure this never happens again, right?”
All Brandon could do was nod his head. I’m sorry, Sir. It won’t happen again, Sir. And it wouldn’t. No more cartoons in the early morning hours. Obedience was a virtue, guided by the powerlessness he’d never be able to wrest away from his father.
“Brandon!” There was a nervousness in Amy’s voice. “Don’t do this.”
His hands were a whirlwind of preparation, fresh sets of clothes tossed inside his travel bag. Every day since he’d come home was riddled with anxiousness, an inability to settle down. no matter how much trazodone and benadryl he choked down, he could barely sleep. He needed to get away. At least in the Pacific Northwest, he’d be alone. Nobody he cared for would have to deal with what he needed to become. The swelling in his knee had gone down, thankfully, the brace over his knee affording him stability.
“I know you want to get away, but just hear me out–”
“It’s going to be okay,” he lied. “I just…I just need to be alone, okay, Little Sneak.”
His pet name for her. It was cold comfort now. “So, you’re gonna go to that cabin and seethe? That the big plan?” She tried to hug him, but he shrugged her off, grunting, groaning. “Why not stay here? You can use the pool. Try to keep the pressure off. And I’ll be here, so if you need someone to talk to–”
“I need to be alone.”
“No. No you really don’t.” Stern. She tried to put her foot down.
“Just…I need to clear my head.”
“Like you did with Miles Lucky?”
“No.” Another lie. The truth hurt.
“This is why I’m concerned, okay…” she stood opposite him from the bed. “You remember when you got out there? You had a panic attack. You had a damn panic attack and I wasn’t there to–”
Finally, he looked up from his bag. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Resting on the top of the comforter was the cause for all of this. The PRIME Universal Championship. She looked at it, watched him as he jerked it near his bag as though it were weightless. When her glance returned to him, she saw his pause, saw the way the color drained from his face. “You’re scared.”
Admitting it carried an acrid taste. He couldn’t match her gaze. “I am.”
“But not that you’ll lose.”
“No,” he trailed off, “that I’m going to let him win.” The belt fell from his hands, back to the comforter in a heap. “I’ve worked so hard to become a better man. To be better than who I was. But being powerless like that? I can’t let him win. I’ve given him enough already.” For the first time in what felt like ages, his body relented. Relaxed. He sat at the foot of the bed, his leg dangling off the side, a silly visual given the bulk of his brace. “His blood is going to be on my hands and I’m going to enjoy it. But what comes next? Everything I’ve worked to become…it would be a lie. I don’t know…I’m just rambling.”
She joined him at the foot of the bed, her arm wrapping over his shoulders, drawing him close. “There’s a difference between fighting monsters and becoming a monster to fight the monster’s of the world. We both know that, Brand. Stay here, okay? Because we got to go to the farmer’s market, okay?” She chuckled, nuzzling against him. In the depths of despair, she would pull him to the surface. “And we’ll get you a big old wheelchair and you can pop some wheelies on it, and then I can give you my vape pen and you can just chill out watching some John Wick or whatever…”
Finally feeling human again. Brought back from the brink. “You’re the only reeferhead in this damn household.” he smirked as he playfully nudged her. “And don’t try no second hand smoke shit or I’ll tell the Queen what you were saying–”
Amy punched him in the stomach hard enough to force him to gasp. “Shut up!”
“Hey!” he guffawed. “She’s got good kicks you know.”
“I think you’re gonna get me some crab legs because…you’re an asshole and you owe it to me.”
She drove a hard bargain. He rolled his eyes. “Sure…”
Rising from the bed, she dusted her hands with exaggerated gusto, grateful deep down for the calm to return, however brief it might be. In truth, she still worried about him. How could she not? But here, in this moment, she wanted him to realize what was important. Turning around, she kissed his forehead, taking his temples into her hands as she looked down into his eyes. A final reassurance brought to port, salient, unlike some dilapidated scow named Octane. “You’re Brandon fucking Youngblood. You’re going to beat Jiles ass no matter what you do. But do it on your terms. Not his.”
Time to put the eGG Bandits at the back of the line once and for all, where they belonged.