September 26, 2022
Rose sat in the chair after her father disappeared into his bedroom to talk to Lindsay Troy and found herself staring out into the vast horizon their hotel suite overlooked. She pulled her legs up and appreciated the silence for a moment before her thoughts trailed back to Troy.
She wondered what she was getting her father into and the exact nature of their relationship. She’d been fairly certain for years that the two had dated at one point or another, but her father never talked about it when pressured about it. Needless to say, though, Troy had a weird pull over her father and began to dread the conversation they were currently having.
As her thoughts spiraled out of control, she heard tiny footsteps that became louder and louder. Rose leaned back in her chair and looked over her right shoulder to see Adeline, who was looking for something or somebody.
“Hey baby, what are you doing?” she inquired, Adeline pausing where she stood.
“Looking for Grandpa!” she responded. Rose couldn’t help but smile.
“He’s in his bedroom, talking on the phone. Why are you looking for Grandpa?”
“So I can play a game with him,” she said with such determination in her voice.
“Oh, fun. What game do you want to play?”
“I want to play with the emojis on his phone!”
Confusion appeared on Rose’s face. “The emojis on his phone? What kind of game is that?”
“The kind where he pulls up his emojis, and I tell him things to put on there, and he does it. It’s so much fun, mama,” her tone bordering on ‘you should know this, mother’ level that Rose wasn’t expecting to happen for at least six or seven years.
“Do you want to play with me?”
Adeline rushed over and sat in her mother’s lap.
“Okay, you’re going to have to tell me what to do,” Rose continued.
“Pull up your Notes app on your phone. Then change your keyboard to emojis.” Rose wondered where her daughter’s sense of phone knowledge came from, reflecting upon her complete lack of knowledge on anything in this field at the same age as she tapped away on her phone.
“Exactly, mama. Now put pizza emojis on there!”
Rose swiped on the phone and then tapped to make the pizza emoji appear, causing Adeline to giggle. “That’s perfect!” she managed to get through her fit of laughter. Of course, Rose laughed as well.
“And this is what you do with Grandpa?”
“Yeah, it’s fun because he doesn’t know what half the emojis mean, and then he yells at his phone and throws it onto the couch.”
Rose snorted. “You love riling up your Grandpa, don’t you?”
“I just like to spend time with him,” she began, her tone becoming melancholy. “I sometimes hear him talking on his phone about not much time left. Is he going somewhere?”
The air of laughter and fun suddenly vanished as Rose looked over at her daughter.
“What do you mean? Do you know who he is talking to?”
“No. Is he going on a trip?”
Rose paused before nodding.
“Yes, yes he is. We’re going to Japan, actually. All of us!” She did everything to feign that everything was okay, but the back of her mind was grinding furiously at the bit of information her daughter had just dropped in her lap.
“What’s there to do in Japan?” Rose asked, not sensing the panic coursing through her mother’s veins at that moment.
“Well, there’s yummy food. And game shops. And park—“she began to get lost in her thoughts about the upcoming trip when the bedroom door opened, and her father walked out.
At the same time, the door to the hotel suite opened, and Brian walked in.
“Here, why don’t you take Mommy’s phone and go into your room and play emojis?”
Rose then handed the phone to Adeline. She kissed her mother on the cheek, climbed down, ran over to her grandfather, and hugged him tightly before running over to her father and doing the same. She then disappeared into her room.
Silence hung in the room for a moment before Rose broke it. “So, what did the Queen want?”
“The Queen?” Brian inquired.
Rose quickly replied, “Lindsay Troy.”
Craig looked over at Rose. “Just wanted to run a few things by me to see what my thoughts are.”
“If I’m ready to hang it up or not.”
Rose straightened up in her chair. “Really?”
“I thought you were ready to hang them up? Why would she inquire?” Brian interjected.
“She’d like me to put together one more run. Wrestle through to Colossus IX. Give it one more go and close my career on the right note.”
Rose looked confused. “What does that even mean?”
“A match that would be a true send-off. A true Colossus moment for me.”
“Who did she have in mind?”
A smile appeared on his face as he looked at her. “She wouldn’t tell me. She has someone in mind, I think.”
“Okay,” she responded. “Did she have any other ideas outside of a farewell tour?”
“There were a few others, but this is the one that she wanted me to think about first.”
“Did she have any matches she was considering for you?”
“Yeah,” he replied while handing over a small piece of paper with a few names on it. Rose looked at it, her eyebrows inching upwards as she read the three names on the paper.
“This is… a list,” she began, rereading it. “Shit. This is a good list.”
“I thought so.”
She then looked over at her father. “She’s serious about this one?” She pointed to the name in the middle of the list. “He doesn’t even wrestle anymore.”
“I assume she wouldn’t offer it up if it weren’t a real chance.”
“And what are you thinking about right now?”
“That I made you a promise.”
A smile appeared on her face. “Fair. What if I didn’t hold you to that promise?”
“Yeah, I second that ‘What?’”, Brian chimed in. “You have been holding a grudge about this, Rose. Why would you suddenly be okay with your father going forward with this?”
“Just go with me here. You get one more run. Four matches. Close it out at Colossus IX. And that’s that. You really, truly hang them up. I don’t give you a guilt trip about it. I don’t bust your balls about it. Remove me from the equation. Do you want to do this?”
“With those three names? Definitely. Except–”
“Is it worth continuing to put my health at risk?”
She thought about it for a moment. “Good point. Now ask yourself in three years’ time. Would you feel like you missed out on something?”
Craig paused before opening his mouth. “…yes.”
“Then that tells you everything that you need to know.”
“You understand that I’m right now thinking you’re trying to pull some reverse psychology on me?”
“Seriously,” Brian responded. “You were against him coming back. You wanted him out of the ring. Are you trying to pull something?”
“The thought had crossed my mind,” she started before laughing. “The thing that bothered you the most, outside of the concussion, was feeling like you’re fighting your body each step of the way, right? You felt like you didn’t quite have it. It was taking you longer to rebound. Except you just put on two of your finest matches back-to-back—a close loss to Cancer Jiles, who is now the Universal Champion. I wish you could put him on your list with the title on the line, that asshole. And then a victory against Larry Tact. Not exactly a top-tier talent, but a pain in the ass nonetheless. How do you feel today?”
He weighed the question in his mind. “…fine.”
“And that was a Last Man Standing match.”
“Okay. And if I go back for these four matches. What is to stop me from continuing to Culture Shock? And so on?”
“Because I think you have some history you want to close off,” she inched to the front of her seat. “These three? This is history. This is a chance for you to close the book on your terms. Not because a doctor is telling you. Not because some asshole is walking out and telling you they want to end you. It is you in the driver’s seat, wrestling these matches you want, and closing it off with potentially the biggest match of your career.”
“I don’t know, Rose.”
“What would Mom tell you?”
The question hung in the air, almost like a gut punch. “Rose–“
“What would Mom tell you?”
A sigh escaped his lips. “She would tell me to have no regrets, to leave no stone unturned. She would tell me that I’m not done yet.”
“Then, you have your answer. I want to see you close your career on your terms, doing the very thing you love more than anything, and that’s putting on matches the fans will talk about for the rest of their lives. You’re at that point. And these opponents? This is how you close out your career. Not against Larry Tact. Against them.”
Brian stepped forward, surprised at the turn in this conversation. “Wait, hold on.”
“You want a voice on this?” Craig shot him a surprised look.
“Yes. Because I’m the one picking you up off the bathroom floor—“
“I thought we were never going to talk about that again,” Craig interjected.
Then, Brian turned towards his wife, ignoring the comment. “And consoling you, walking you off the ledge day in and day out.”
“Well, that’s not fair,” she responded.
“What’s not fair is we had an agreement on this. What’s not fair is we had a path forward. He’s got a good point. What if he wants to keep wrestling at this? I felt like he was finally at peace.”
“Brian, this really isn’t your place,” Rose’s tone shot across the room.
“It’s not? Am I not part of this family?”
“Of course you are,” she pleaded with him, softening her tone.
“Am I not here for each show? Am I not helping your father train and be ready for his matches? Am I not trying to pick up the pieces weekly from one of you?”
“Brian, can we talk about this somewhere else?”
“No,” he responded to her. “Because outside of that, you two aren’t even thinking about Adeline and what she is going through with all of this.” He then looked over at Craig. “Do you remember yelling at her while you had your concussion? Or the promises you’ve broken as a result?”
The anger flared inside of Rose. “Brian! Enough!” As the words came out of her mouth, Craig closed his eyes and felt something pulling upon him.
“No, not enough. I get to be the quiet one in the background, but enough is enough. I have to speak up because you,” he pointed at Rose as Craig felt it becoming tougher and tougher to remain focused on the moment, “don’t want to piss off your father and you,” he then pointed at Craig. Except the words sounded distant to Craig. “You want another chance in the glory.
Rose exploded from her chair. “Brian enoug—“
Then the words were completely gone as it felt like his brain short-circuited.
April 26, 2007
Allen Fieldhouse: University of Kansas – Lawrence, KS
Craig stood near the gorilla position, prepared for his upcoming tag team match. He looked to his left and saw his forced-upon tag partner, Devin Shakur. He stood there with his bodyguard, Death Rider, who looked ready to strike in return for a superkick to the jaw earlier in the evening, but Shakur seemed to be holding him back.
Craig looked to his right and saw one-half of the team they were scheduled to face.
A smile appeared on Tony’s face as he walked through the curtain. The Grin was a member of the Fuck You stable. Craig had issues with the group – not just Gamble, but Nova and Angelo Deville, too, problems that began the day he started in PRIME.
As he stood there, Angelica Brooks walked over and smiled at him.
“You doing okay?”
“You are entering a ring where everyone around you hates you. Winters. Shakur. Gamble.”
He shot her a look. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“If you’re not careful, you could end up injured. Three against one, even in a tag match, aren’t the best of odds.”
“You’re doing a great job of lifting my spirits.”
A smile appeared on her face. “Just offering an unbiased view of everything is all.”
“I thought you were hanging out with Rose for a few minutes?”
“I am. Well, Matt is.
“…please tell me you’re kidding,” he glared at her.
“Fair enough. It could be Richard, though.”
“We wouldn’t be continuing this conversation if it was.”
Angelica cleared her throat. “She’s quite… precocious, you know. She seems to have an issue with sharing emotions, though.”
“I’m doing the best I can.”
“I know you are; I just wanted to share. I had to do a short interview segment, but I’m heading back to her now. I promise.”
He paused. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Just… watch your ba—“
Then, he heard static in his ears.
“You want him to step into the ring with Tony Gamble? This man will stretch your father out, and with the animosity the two have had for years, there’s no telling if he won’t be a bit motivated to break a finger of your father’s,” Brian fired back.
“I think that’s a bit much,” Rose responded, exasperated.
“Gamble is getting his feet back underneath him, and this is a chance to get the final one-up on Craig. He’s going to come out highly motivated.”
Craig cleared his throat, wondering to himself what he had missed. “He’s not wrong, you know.”
“Of course I’m not wrong.”
“Well, you’re awfully confident in yourself. I think Gamble has three victories over my father compared to his six victories over Gamble. My father has shown he’s got Tony’s number on more than one occasion.”
“Fifteen years ago. Gamble is coming off a victory against Mortimer. Have you seen the comments he’s making on Jabber?”
Craig looked over at Brian, confused. “What the hell is a Jabber?”
“Like Twitter, but for wrestlers.”
“We need our own special version of Twitter? How bad are we?”
Rose snort-laughed. “Pretty bad. Regardless, my father has the experience advantage and is much further down the path of knocking off the rust than Tony.” The words began to fade again for Craig.
“That might be nice and all, but what about his second match, against—,” was all he heard before he felt like he was being yanked again.
September 5, 2007
1st Mariner Arena – Baltimore, MD
Craig sat on the floor in his locker room, head in hands. The venue had primarily cleared out, minus a few stagehands and a few of the wrestlers, including The Lost Soul. Disappointment wracked his body, as did pain, and he didn’t want to move.
His time in PRIME had been fraught with ups and downs, with tonight being the latter. A couple of hours ago, he’d just been beaten by Tony Gamble and was only weeks away from a shot at the Universal Title with seemingly no momentum on his side. His last victory had come when tagging with Nova in June. Since then? He’d lost the Intense Championship. He’d lost against Danny Ferguson. He lost at Colossus IV.
Needless to say, he was facing a low point.
Enter, at the right moment, a person with a small head who rested it against his left forearm.
That person was not Tony Gamble.
He looked over and saw his daughter, days away from turning ten.
“You okay?” she asked, her voice small but far from meek.
A smile appeared on her face. “Glad I have that ability on you.”
“Well, you’re probably one of the only people in this place that likes me.”
“Most of the time,” she responded, half in jest and half not. “And what is up with that? Why don’t people like you?”
“Probably because I’m not a particularly likable person.”
“You should probably do something about that.”
“Got any suggestions?”
“Not really,” she started. “Just want to point out the obvious.”
“So, you and that Gamble guy. You two really don’t like each other, do you?”
Craig chuckled. “No, not at all.”
“But he’s like my height almost.”
“Am I supposed to like people based on height?”
“No, but I just wanted to point out that you lost to him, and he’s like my height.” He realized the sarcasm was strong with this one, much like her mother.
“Thanks for that boost of confidence, sweetie.”
“Can we go home now? I’m hungry.”
They began to get up. “And can you become friends with Lindsay Troy? That would be nice.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” he responded, though he could hear Troy in the back of his head saying ‘not likely’.
Craig then felt everything come back into focus.
“What do you want him to do then, Brian? You tell me to be understanding of him, I am, and now I’m getting my head taken off about it.” He looked at Rose and then at Brian before he felt himself losing focus once again.
“Your head isn’t being taken off, Rose. So let’s not be dramatic.”
“Dramatic? You can go—“
March 14, 2008
Monterrey Arena – Monterrey, Mexico
Craig looked at the Intense Championship. No words could accurately describe the feeling of winning the title. The feeling of beating Tony Gamble, though?
Angelica Brooks appeared by his side as he stood outside of the Gorilla position and watched Gamble limp down the hall after losing the opening match of Culture Shock.
He looked over at her. “I think so.”
“You are the most difficult person I may have ever encountered, and I talk to Brandon Youngblood.”
“Don’t repeat his name. Suplex Daddy might slam me through a wall.”
A perverse smile appeared on her face. “Still sensitive about that?”
“I passed out in the middle of the ring, Angelica. That’s not something you quickly get over.”
“I thought you would have been used to losing by now.”
He glared at her. “Hardee-Har-Har.”
“Well, maybe this time you can hold onto that title for longer than one match.”
“You do a good job keeping me grounded; you know that?”
“Figured it’s my duty.”
“I thought that’s what Lindsay was for.”
Angelica shook her head. “Yeah… you know, I don’t think you two will ever be friends. But, you know who would do good for you?” She kept him waiting on bated breath. “High Flyer.”
“Yeah, and maybe you need someone who isn’t so… dark and gloomy all the time. It wouldn’t hurt to have some friends. Friends that actually want to hang out with you. Not friends that detest looking at you, like the aforementioned Lindsay Troy.”
Then he felt himself slammed back into the present time. Part of him wanted to vomit; the other part felt more grounded than he had in the last few minutes.
“I think it would be best—“ Brian began before Craig held up his hand.
“I’m glad to hear you two arguing so vehemently for a decision that is ultimately my decision. However, I think I know my decision.”
Rose looked over at her father. “And?”
“I’m looking forward to stepping into the ring with Tony Gamble for the final time. He’s all bluster, but deep down, I think he would appreciate this match happening. It’s looking back at the past and we both have both fond and poor memories of the past, but those memories have helped form us into the people we are today.”
“But—“ Brian tried to interject, but Craig shook his head.
“It’s fine, Brian. How bad could it be? I’ve got a win streak against Tony Gamble of sorts. The victory at Culture Shock. A four-way match win at Revolution 155. The tag-team victory at Revolution 164.”
“Well, I think that’s decided,” Rose said with a tone of finality.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Brian seemed dejected.
“I mean, Tony will probably be excited about this match, right?”
He was met with silence. That told Craig all he needed to know.
“It’s like they say, if the early bird catches the worm, I’ll sleep in and eat pancakes.”
Craig then smiled as he walked back into his bedroom. Rose looked over at her husband with a look of concern. “Did my father just make a bad Dad joke?”
Indeed, he had, and it seriously concerned her.