I don’t have a theory, I have an immutable fact.
I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.
The mountains of mistakes I’ve made in becoming a professional wrestler would require Everest levels of preparation to ascend. I went into this with no high school diploma, no backup plan, nothing. My wealthy family cut me off for doing this in the first place, and I lived most of my early career living vicariously through the generosity of those who mentored me. Just a kid with his dream of following in the footsteps of those who came before me.
Over time, I’ve replaced the things I’ve sacrificed along the way to achieve my dreams. I got my GED. I got married. I have avenues and ventures to explore when I finally retire. I’ve stumbled, I’ve bumbled. I’ve fallen, I’ve picked myself up, or someone else helps me up. I teach. I learn.
None of it is part of any grand plan or anything, I’ve always lived my life from one ring to the next. The trick I’ve learned over the years is that I can always pretend like I know what I’m doing.
But I have to learn eventually, don’t I?
It only started hitting me more recently – probably around the time STRONK hit me hard enough that I couldn’t eat solid food for a day or two afterwards – that I’m about to become a father.
It’d been a long time coming. Annie and I had never felt right having children up until we settled down in Seattle and I found stable employment closer to home in PRIME. The trips to Japan have been less frequent and less taxing on my body. Not counting all of the time I’ve lost due to injury, this year might be the least I’ve wrestled in years.
Annie had been a trooper through all of this. Not just when we finally got a child on the way, but the fact that she married a pro wrestler (that’s me) and traveled with him everywhere for more than a decade before we finally settled down in Seattle. Or the fact that said husband (also me) was often surrounded by a cavalcade of the dumbest human beings on the planet. Or the fact that this pro wrestling husband (again, me) would sometimes come home with injuries that were extremely difficult to explain to our neighbors. For the record, I’m still at a loss on how to explain the Homicycle to the laymen.
She saw how gingerly I moved around when I got home from that entire mess in Mexico, and clearly knew what happened when she asked, “Garvin, again?”
“Freaking Garvin.” I’d replied grimacing, “I thought he died.”
Wishful thinking. The less I have to talk about that pile of redneck filth, the better. I heard he’s trying to sue me over introducing his face to King Arthur’s lance in Mexico. Good luck with that, Jeff, I know at least two wrestling lawyers.
We’d spent a day after I returned home converting the guest room of our house into the room for our child-to-be. A long time coming. The last occupant of that guest room left a sour taste in both of our mouths, which only got more sour when we found some of the shirts that Joe left behind when he left for good after last year’s UltraViolence.
“Do we send those back?” I asked Annie about the discarded T-shirts.
“No. Fuck him,” she said in her off-puttingly pleasant tone of voice, “Give them all to charity. Or burn them. Burn them and then send him the ashes.”
Annie might have been even more furious about what Joe and Sid did than I was, which said something considering that I had half a mind to yakuza kick both of them to death the next time I saw them. After Joe blocked her phone number, she went on a furious rant to me about how Joe had taken such advantage of our hospitality only to throw it back in our faces the moment he suffered a setback.
I listened. I always did.
Then I shrugged my shoulders, not really wanting to set something on fire today, “Yeah, I think I’ll do the charity thing.”
She frowned, doubtlessly thinking that she’d hate to see a person in need having to wear a Joe Fontaine T-shirt, but I knew she understood.
Neither of us wanted a headline like “POISONOUS T-SHIRT FIRE SWALLOWS MODEST SEATTLE HOME” appearing on the Sun, after all.
We’d keep finding little reminders here and there that Joe lived here for the better part of six months. Things he’d forgotten when he decided that he wanted to be closer to home again. The trash bin was full of crumpled up drawings – little more than child’s sketches – he made of him and Sid holding up the PRIME tag titles. He’d left the ring gear he’d worn at UltraViolence, including that ridiculous necklace made out of mannequin heads he wore to the ring.
It all kept reminding me how much I failed to realize Joe’s resentment of me.
Annie saw me staring at that stupid necklace, and gently pulled it from my hands and dumped it into the trash bag with the rest of the stuff she’s throwing out.
“Don’t blame yourself, Coral,” she reminded me, “You were oblivious because neither of those morons ever talked to you of their own volition. They’re cowards. This is all on them.”
I knew Annie well enough to know that she wasn’t only referring to Joe and Sid.
She was also referring to the man I needed to bring ruin to.
At few other points in my career have I ever felt so personally invested in bringing ruin to a man inside of a professional wrestling ring as much as Cecilworth Farthington. After the events of ReVival 29, how could I not? I never saw that coming, and damn it, I should’ve.
The warning signs were all there. I was completely oblivious, as Annabelle might say.
I should’ve seen the signs that Joe wasn’t going to take failure as well as I had, that he was wrestling for the wrong reasons, that he was too impatient. I should’ve seen the resentment coming. Maybe he saw my friendship with Jared and Justine as some sort of cardinal sin.
I’d done for Joe and Sid what I’d done for so many of my students. I trained them, guided them, and when they took an opportunity I didn’t feel they were ready for, I stepped in to give them more guidance than I would most of my other students. I hoped that I gave them enough to let them figure things out on their own. Maybe Sid would figure out something other than powerbombs. Maybe Joe would, I don’t know, not be the entire circus. I thought they’d find their success if only they were patient enough.
They weren’t, and they bought into glue, instead.
Even though Annie reassured me that it wasn’t on me, I’m still left wondering… where did I go wrong?
People often looked at a man like Theodore Gawain Young, and thought little of him.
He wasn’t very attractive. He was bald apart from the tufts of hair on the sides of his head. When he wasn’t wrestling, he always wore a trilby to cover up how bad his hair looked. He had an ugly smile, the kind with more gums than teeth. He had an almost perpetually bug-eyed look to him, which got buggier when you surprised him in some way. His singlet was black with an unflattering shade of yellow, and his boots matched.
But I don’t think any wrestler I’d ever met was as alike as me, yet so different.
Like me, he was born to wealth. Unlike me, he still had his. Like me, he chose wrestling as his primary vocation. Unlike me, he went to college. Cambridge, actually. Like me, he’d been wrestling for over a decade and a half. Unlike me, he’s still in his twenties. Even if he didn’t look that way.
I first met him when he was a gangly teenager already losing his hair, and he became one of many wrestlers I’ve mentored over the years. As Claire so often told other people, it’s my fault that everyone has to deal with Lord Gavin Yum, Esq., now.
I asked Gavin to be in Seattle because I couldn’t think of anyone better to help me prepare for the Farthington match. He was the man most familiar with his style. He was also, shall we say, motivated to help me thanks to the copyright law book that was flung at his head in Mexico City at a Bang! show by Farthington.
Gavin and I spent an embarrassing amount of time rolling around in the ring, trying to ensnare the other in a submission hold. Franco watched, coaching both of us from the recliner we dragged out for him. Old or new, the Kingdom looked after one another.
This information’s just between me and you. Don’t tell Lindsay or the rest of the Troy clan this, or they’re going to give me hell for admitting this. Ready? Brace yourselves. Gavin’s absolutely my better when it comes to submissions.
Okay. Whew. Glad to get that out there between us.
Anyway, it was just the three of us in the school. It still wasn’t fully operational.
For varying reasons, despite moving into Rocko Daymon’s old gym, nothing had gone right whatsoever. Moving everything on such short notice was ruinous to the school’s budget, even with Sonny letting me stay in the gym for “free” until I got things going again. And PRIME kept me extremely busy as the 5-Star Champion, between photoshoots, interviews, appearances, and everything else I’m expected to do as one of the top men in the company.
Because of that, the Gates of Avalon Wrestling School remained a glorified, half-baked gym for now with no head trainer and no new students. Only this building, an albatross that a couple of multi-millionaires wrapped around my neck.
Real talk, who the hell gave Sonny Silver so much money in the year of our lord 2023?
Speaking of head trainers, though, Franco wasn’t in any shape to be training anyone. I was barely in any shape to be doing training, myself. The two matches I’ve had since winning the 5-Star Championship over a month ago had been hell on my body. There’s few other one-two punches of pain quite like Pontiff and STRONK. I needed my ribs taped up after Pontiff stomped a monitor in me. I still needed them taped up for San Diego because of STRONK. It sucked to get out of bed these days.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m cleared to compete at Tropical Turmoil. As I matched myself up against Gavin, trying to visualize him as Cecilworth, I realized just how difficult a task I was faced with.
“I heard a rumor that the House of Lords has a higher than average number of broken arms compared to other parliaments,” Franco said, as both of us stepped out of the ring to take a break.
Both of Franco’s crutches were set on a lean next to his recliner. Three months ago in Japan, my friend and training partner tore his ACL and MCL on a simple leapfrog, a move he’d done countless times before. It reminded me of how Joe’s father’s career ended. It was the same knee that the Godslayer tried to tear from him years ago. The same one that had an Ewok thrown at it at last year’s Flynn Cup.
There was a good chance that the injury could be the end for his wrestling career, considering that he was already considering hanging them up well before it happened. I’d helped fund his hospital bills for his injury, which was another big setback for me and this derelict school.
“That rumor is quite true,” Gavin said cheerily, “He’s come so close to doing the same to me! Can you believe it?”
Honestly, I was surprised he hadn’t done it already.
Look, I liked Gavin. Better than most. I’m able to separate the man he was inside the ring from the man he was outside of it. That didn’t change the fact that Gavin, like a lot of people in my life, sometimes had the sense of a bowling ball with a manufacturing error that left it with a single hole.
“Honestly, Avy, I’ve known my old friend for awhile. Farthy’s trouble,” Gavin said, soberly, “Dangerous, even. Tread lightly.”
“Don’t I know it,” I muttered, before I turned my attention to the man in the recliner, “Franco, how would you deal with Cecilworth?”
“With two working legs.”
I stared at the heavy knee brace on Franco’s leg.
“Well, I’d probably walk around. Maybe jog a little. Do a pirouette.”
“I’m being serious, Franco.”
Franco smiled slightly, a rare expression from him. “So was I.”
Gavin might have been a moron most of the time, but Franco wasn’t. I knew Franco had a different meaning behind his words beyond messing with me. After all, Franco was one of the more consistently sensible people I knew.
“You’re saying I have to be unpredictable, too.”
“Yeah,” Franco said, and then he continued to elaborate my thoughts for me in that way he did when I had no idea how to put it into words, “Guys like Cecilworth, or Gavin here, want to dictate the pace of a match. If it goes fast, it’s because they willed it. If they grind it to a halt, they willed that, too. Worst part about ‘em is that they make you think that everything’s going well even while you’re getting ensnared.”
Franco had more experience with this sort of style than I did. I’ve wrestled in Europe, too, but not to the same degree he and Gavin did.
He then added, “I’m also saying that I’d like my knee to be better.”
“I mean, I’d like that, too.”
Gavin rubbed his hands together like they were cold, “As would I, old friend.”
Oh. Right. I might’ve met Gavin first, but Franco apparently worked with him for longer. Judging from the glares Franco had been casting his way, my guess was that they were not “old friends” as Gavin suggested. Come to think of it, Franco didn’t hear me mention his name when I was looking into that Lunchbox Larry guy. (By the way, still don’t know who he was, even after I took his arms for the trophy case.)
“If I may?” Gavin asked, politely, “Avy, good friend, you’ve spent your whole career trying to control the chaos, haven’t you? Like a rock in a storm. Thing about it is, I believe you’re going about this the wrong way.”
Franco’s eyes flashed, turning from me to Gavin and back again.
“I get it.”
“Get what?” I asked.
“Gavin might be onto something.” Franco said, and while he smiled dangerously, Gavin smiling in that ugly way he did at the acknowledgement made his smile falter slightly, “You’ve always pretended to know what you’re doing when it comes to submissions, since you do everything else so well. Farthington’s going to know that. He’s going to expect you to try and fight him on his level. Do the opposite.”
“In other words…” Gavin started to say, but I wasn’t going to let him ruin our train of thought.
So I interrupted him before he could deliver the final summation.
“Embrace the chaos.”
We had a doctor’s appointment scheduled early in the week before Tropical Turmoil, and Annie and I had an arrangement. A bet, if you will. If our child-to-be was a boy, I would name him. If they’re a girl, she would. Both of us would make fun of each other for our suggestions on what we’d name our kids, because I’m terrible at naming things and she’d probably give our kid like four names like she had herself.
But needless to say, Annabelle Natsukawa Wakana Avalon had very strict standards about what I’m allowed to name our child.
“Coral, if you name our child Lancelot, I’m going to set you on fire and then divorce you. In that exact order.” Annie said delightfully.
“That wasn’t even one of my suggestions!” I complained. “Why is fire your go-to lately?”
“Because if water is the universal solvent, then fire’s the universal problem solver,” Annie lectured, all with a smile on her face, “Anyway, we both know you’re half-thinking it, since you do a lot of half-thinking. You half-thinker.”
“You called yourself Annabelle when we first met, though, that’s like some 1800s white girl energy. If you name our possible daughter ‘Clementine’ or something, we’re going to have words. Of the strongly-worded kind.”
“I would never!” Annie complained, hand to her heart, acting offended, “Clementine is what I would name a pet lizard!”
“We’re not getting a pet lizard. Not after last time.”
The less said about what happened to Elizabeth, the better. I mean, she could try to keep FLAMBERGE as a pet, I’ve heard the rumors. But then I’d have to hear that French punk talk about how he beat me and I definitely didn’t need that in my life.
“I still don’t think we should do a gender reveal party, by the way,” I said.
“I mean, we should have a party and invite all of our friends, but not call it that. We’re not monsters.”
“I’m sure Gavin will be thrilled to be invited to any kind of party,” I said with a wry smile.
“Oh, God, not him. Anyone but him.”
Anyway, all told, the doctor was incredibly patient about the way my wife and I talked to each other with our playful bickering. Maybe they thought this was how we expressed our collective anxieties about this whole unfamiliar situation we’re finding ourselves in. Maybe I’m projecting because I’m definitely anxious about this whole fatherhood thing.
We went through the whole process. I only barely understood and followed along with all of what the doctor was telling us, because I was too busy staring at the projection of the child growing in my wife’s stomach. Maybe Annie’s own anxiety was because she had our child in there.
Eventually, the doctor told us, “It looks like you’ve got yourselves a healthy baby girl.”
Annie pumped her fist in victory, “Yes!”
I held my hand in my face, knowing that my wife just beat me in this bet. It wasn’t the first time Annie won a bet with me, and probably wasn’t going to be the last.
But I’m happier that the word “healthy” came up more than whether it was a boy or girl, though.
The health of my wife and our child was more important to me than any gaudy bauble I’ve ever won in wrestling, after all.
“Did you already decide on the name yet?” I asked Annie, once we got home from the doctor’s visit. “Figured I should brace myself.”
“Oh, I have,” Annie stuck her tongue out at me, before she told me, “Aoi.”
“Aoi?” I asked, “That’s a simple name, coming from you. How’d you arrive on that?”
“Well, I wanted something to represent both of us in the name, right? For me, it’s my home in Japan. For you, you’ve always worn blue when you wrestle,” Annie said, “So that’s why. What do you think?”
“Well, that’s… that’s almost perfect. I’ve got a middle name in mind, though.”
Annie smiled at me like she was a psychic, probably because she knew me way too well.
“Oh, I bet I know what it is,” Annabelle smiled at me, “It’s Emelia, isn’t it?”
Yep. Way too well.
I wasn’t the only Avalon who had the dream of seeing me succeed in this life. My older sister, Emelia, was there the day I first saw “Golden” Glen Miller drop the Golden Elbow over the head of “Scumbag” Scott Sick in front of thousands of screaming Memphians on television. I remember getting into a fight with Merlin over the remote control that day. I remember him falling and getting a bruise. I remember getting in so much trouble over that bruise despite Emelia and my cousin Harvard vouching for me.
She died in a car accident six years ago in Cleveland, where she’s buried now. The only person in the family who came to her funeral was me. Just like me, she left their gilded cage. And I dropped by every December to say hello.
“One thing, though,” I said, “I’m not wearing blue for the match with Cecilworth.”
“That’d be a first,” Annie said.
“I had a red version of the gear made. For one night only. Just for San Diego. Just for Cecilworth.”
I smiled, knowing what I had planned.
“I’m going to burn his ass to the ground.”