I’m not worried about the future. Not right now.
The future has a Universal Title shot looming. The future has me uncertain of whether I’ll be facing off with Brandon Youngblood or Cancer Jiles.
Or a mystery third party that conceivably gets a shot between now and the Great American Nightmare.
Tomorrow is time enough to prepare for those opponents. Today is for me.
Today, I wrestle an opponent named the Anglo Luchador.
Not for a Championship.
Not for revenge.
Not for survival.
Not for my life, health, or career.
For the first time, I feel, since I was wearing a mask of my own, I’m wrestling an opponent for myself. I’m wrestling The Anglo Luchador for the love of professional wrestling.
He’s not currently in the conversation for the top tier of PRIME Wrestling, as far as I can tell. And I think that might be even a bigger travesty than Cancer Jiles getting himself another shot at the Universal Title.
“I read the news today, oh boy. About a lucky man who made the grade…”
“What wow,” asks Rosie. “OHHHH. Wowza.”
I have a day of press and personal appearances for PRIME – everything from the state of PRIME up until now, to promoting Great American Nightmare in general and ReViVal Seven in particular. Obvs there’s nothing happening with ticket sales but according to LT, the TV numbers have started to plateau and she’d like to see that audience increase. Apparently I’m one of the less terrifying options to meet the people.
To that end, Melvin B told the non-driving New Yorker that he’d send a car for me. Nice gesture.
The stretch limo parked in front of the rental house, however?
Allright, I said. This might take all day but it won’t be all night. I’ll text you when I’m done and we’ll figure out tonight.
“Okeeee,” says Rose. She takes my coffee mug and finishes it of as we walk to the door.
I unno, maybe it’s just me but Rosie in her bathrobe holding coffee, and me giving her a kiss as I leave in the morning to go to the job feels very retro to me. If it wasn’t for her dinosaur feet slippers that are more than three times the size of her feet themselves, it’s like Leave It To Beaver on an acid trip.
“Have a good day, honey!” she calls after me, clearly getting the vibe as well. “Vaya con pollos!”
“Good morning,” says the driver, as he steps out of the vehicle. I return the greeting but wave him off as I can get my own door. “My name is Oliver, and Mr. Beauregard has given me your itinerary, so the only thing you need to worry about is getting to the car after each one.”
That’s really decent of him, I said, climbing into the back. Will do my best to be on time.
Was never much for the trappings of ‘celebrity’ – and a limo with a driver definitely falls into that category – but I’m also not dumb enough to refuse the opportunity.
“Pardon my presumption,” says Oliver, “but I’ve been driving for Mr. Beauregard for six years now and this is the first time I’ve picked someone up in a neighborhood instead of at the hotel, the airport, or a bar. He must really want something from you.”
I work for the wrestling company, I said, looking through the refreshments. The fridge was stocked with small bottles of champagne and orange juice right at the front, and I don’t need to be asked twice.
“Ahhh, wrestler,” says Oliver. “I used to watch a lot of wrestling when I was younger. I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you – but I think if you ask me for big names outside of Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy, I’m totally lost anyway.”
Ready to feel old, I asked. I’ve had fair to middling relationships with both of them, but now I work with Dan Ryan’s daughter.
“That’s insane. But it makes sense, There’s a lot of work getting thrown into the wrestling venture.”
Oh really, I asked him. Do tell?
“A lot of it’s confidential, but you drive enough of these bigwigs around and you hear things,” said Oliver. “First stop, KKLZ studios, buckle up.”
The car speeds away from the rented house on Boothbay Street, and I see Rosie waving from the door until we’re out of sight. I’d asked if she wanted to come along (Melvin says he understands my value but if he did, he’d know that it’s exponentially increased when we’re a duo), but she said she has projects for the day.
Good on her. This is the first time in her life that she hasn’t had at least one full time job – either out of necessity or a need to fill her day. She’s completely indulging herself into the leisure atmosphere of Vegas, which she’s totally earned. Eventually it’ll grow boring, I’m sure. But why not ride the wave until then?
“Did I hear that right,” asks Oliver, seemingly out of nowhere, “or did that hottie at your door actually tell you to go with the chickens?”
There was a wrestler, years before my time. He said that as professionals trying to rule the world, we have to make a choice. World Championships, or happy home lives. The point he was trying to make, if I understood the story, is that those of us who fight for the World consider everything else secondary, including family. Those of us who focus on family are unable to give everything to the wrestling business, which means we’d likely never even be in a position to compete for the World.
He had a point to – Kodiak Vic Creed was a multi time World Champion with an estranged wife and a wrestler son named Alex who loudly and publicly hated his guts.
Me, I’m a three time former World Champion and I don’t feel like I’ve compromised anything I’ve wanted in my personal life to get there. It helps that Rose travels with me, we’re not tied down by family obligations, and we don’t have any kids to be responsible for.
No, the cats don’t count.
It’s been easy to look at my opponents so far in PRIME as ‘the other.’ Darin Zion is a narcissist. Rezin is a dirty hippie. Julian Bathory is a cultist and Brandon Youngblood is a man who made literally all the wrong choices in life – but who finally got his due.
Throw in a pouty-faced semi-finalist and a Time-lord for good measure. This is my life now.
The Anglo Luchador is different. I look at him and see a mirror universe version of what I could be. He’s not a cultist, he’s not a zionist, he’s not a self-important douche. He’s got a wife and a family and a mortgage and probably spends his weekends mowing the lawn and fixing the roof when he’s not on the road.
It must be insane, being the Only Sane Man in most of the locker rooms he’s frequented – especially here in PRIME, what with the battles he’s had with the cult.
No, the other cult.
No. The other, other cult.
As the Only Sane Man in plenty of places, I’m comforted by his presence, and I hope the reverse is true. But I look at him and I look at me, and I have to wonder.
How sane am I really?
“How’d it go,” asks Oliver.
Surprisingly fun, I said. You never know what you’re getting when you just show up to a random radio station morning zoo and step into the snake pit. Mike and Carla didn’t really know much about what we do but they were polite and professional, and that’s about all you can ask for.
“Good to hear,” says Oliver. “I restocked the lowboy, so feel free.”
He must’ve googled me or something – I’ve only heard the term ‘lowboy’ to reference a mini fridge down in New Orleans. And the Abita beer and olive salad seems to confirm it. I was never a huge fan of the olive salad on the muffalettas but it’s the thought that counts.
Appreciate it, I said. Next up we’ve got the MGM for a photoshoot. Joy.
“Not a bad day, though,” says Oliver, “Beats working at the docks.”
That’s fair, I conceded, laughing. Having done both, there’s a lot of benefit to either side of it. Six months ago I was working in a gym for a mid level five figures, and there are definitely days I miss that place.
I cracked a beer and looked out the window. There’s something to be said for anonymity, ya know?
“I get you,” says Oliver. “I’ve driven a lot of celebrities in my day and for the most part they fall into two camps. The ‘I’m famous so if you make eye contact with me, try to engage with anyone but my assistant, or talk to me in any way I’ll get you fired’ type, and the ‘I’m a regular person that just happens to be known by everyone,’ type. The first, pass. The second, I get the sense that they would be happier out of the spotlight.”
Some people love the spotlight, I said. Some people love the work, and the spotlight is an unfortunate or unimportant side effect.
“What about you?”
“I assume Mr. Beauregard is giving you the first class treatment because you can help him get more publicity, which tells me you’re a celebrity – at least in your field,” he says. “You don’t seem to love the spotlight. So which is it?”
I don’t hate it, I tell him. But I try not to let it influence me. What matters is the work in the ring itself. Did I win? Great. Did I have an opponent so tough and savvy that to beat them I was wrestling so hard that I’m standing next to myself? Even better. Did the fans in the audience get their money’s worth? That’s the trick, man.
Win or lose, that’s the work, I explained. All this extra stuff, the promos, the photos, the appearances – that’s the spotlight. I do it because it makes it easier to work with the bosses, and because I honestly feel like you’re more likely to get more opportunities if you can show you’re investing your time in the place, ya know? Like, lookit. I’m wrestling for their Universal Title at the next major event, that’s set in stone. I could turn my phone off, go on a six week vacation, and still walk in the door with my opportunity. Who’s that help, though? Doesn’t show the fans that this means anything to me. Doesn’t show the office that I care about the place. Doesn’t demonstrate to the boys and girls in the locker room that if I win, I’ll be working as hard or /harder than them to keep the place going.
That was a long rant, not something I’m known for. I shut myself up and force myself to bring it home.
The athletic stuff, I do that because I love it, I said. The rest of it I do so I can stay in the ring even longer.
“Your wife must love your conviction,” says Oliver.
Rosie? I asked. No, we’re not married. We were engaged for a while but since neither of us seemed in any hurry to plan or do the things, we just called it off and stayed partners.
I was about to answer him, but there was a buzzing from my pocket. Pulled out my phone to answer Rosie’s text – but had to laugh at the content.
You mind if we gain a passenger after the MGM thing, I asked. She’s there with a friend and should be done about the same time as me.
“If you’re going to the same place, it’s the same price tag,” says Oliver. “Between us guys, though… you don’t miss the chance to lock down a woman looks like that.”
I didn’t have an answer for him. Partly because it was the first thing he’d said that I thought was a bit outta line, but mainly because I wondered if there was some truth to what he said in the middle of all the misogyny.
Rosie’s my kite, that’s for sure. I keep her in the real world and she keeps me interested in it. And we never formalized anything in our life, we never ‘started dating’ or ‘went steady’ or whatever the kids do these days, we just ended up spending more and more time together until we were inseparable. I can’t imagine my life without her, and I wouldn’t want to.
I just wonder if it was the right way to go.
Someone like TAL – his family, his normalcy – that’s the real treasure. While he’s worried about what Balaam does next, he’ll still outlive his career. He’s got something that most of us will never know.
Balaam, Bathory, Filmix… all part of one cult or another depending on how you slice it. Someday, the dream will end and they’ll have nothing to fall back on, and the only proof of their existence will be in the record books.
My life, my career – I’ve built something away from the sport, and with Rosie I know the journey is the real destination – but I’m in the same boat. I’ll be remembered for my matches and my talents in the ring. But for how long?
Certainly not longer than the Anglo Luchador’s kids, grandkids, and great grandkids will remember his.
I remember being proud of the fact that when I walked away from the sport in 2014 – and then again in 2017 – I was able to find something else to fill my time.
TAL wouldn’t have had to look.
“Hi! You’re Oliver, right? I’m Cally. Or Rose. Or Rosie. Call me whatever.”
“Miss Rose, it’s nice to meet you,” replies Oliver.
Rosie gets into the back of the car first, and I quickly follow. All right, sir, I said. We’ve actually had to postpone the last presser and photos at the Bellagio fountains so I’m down to get something to eat. You hungry, dear?
She looks at me like I’m insane. And I am – she’s always hungry. Her feet go up on my lap.
“Check out my pedicure,” she says, excitedly. “So after you left I was looking up things to do and there’s a really really nice spa in there that had an opening. So I made an appointment and cabbed it down to Ria’s room, and we had ourselves a girls day out of pampering. Such a good time, snacks were yummy, margaritas were delish, and my feets have rarely had that kind of pampering.”
I’m surprised Ria went, I said, shaking my head while laughing. Did you two have fun, at least?
“Oh, you know Ria,” says Rose. “All doom and gloom and dragging her feet but she totally had a ball. By the way, I invited her over for dinner. She said she’ll check her calendar but she might have to work.”
You’re indefatigable, you know that, love?
“I’m a lot of things, babe,” says Rose, putting her feet back into her flippy flops. “How’s your day been? You two bonding? Are you best friends yet?”
It’s been fun, I said. Oliver’s not much of a wrestling fan so I was giving him a very abridged run down.
“It hasn’t felt like work, I’ll give you that,” says Oliver. “What do you think of the whole celebrity thing, Ms. Cally?”
“What, wrestlers?” she asks. “Who cares about the celebrity. The fun of it is getting to travel and meet new people. I could never afford a vegas vacation of my own, and even after we could afford it anyways, it always seemed like this desert mirage of mystery. Where else could we get to actually spend significant time here and soak up all the culture and whimsey, yeah?”
“So you’re a ‘The spotlight is unimportant’ kind of girl.”
“Heck yeah,” she says. “I like the part where we have opportunities to go do stuff that we wouldn’t have in a traditional nine – to – five kinda job. And I don’t take that lightly, which is probably part of why I like to go out into the wilds of any town we visit and get to know everyone I can.”
Her head tilts to one side like a curious puppy. “What about you, Oliver Driverman? What’s your favorite part of the day?”
“Honestly?” he asks. “When I get home from work and can stop driving.”
“Do you have a family?”
“Nah. Had a wife, it didn’t work out. I have roommates, we watch each other’s backs.”
“Good,” says Rose. “I mean, it’s sad that things didn’t work out but you stick with the friends that are family and you’ll be okay.”
“Like you guys,” he says. Mainly to himself, and without any apparent salt.
“Hmm?” asks Rose.
“I don’t see a ring,” says Oliver, apparently trying to cover up our previous conversation.
We talked a bit before about how you and me almost got married but didn’t, I said, bailing him out a bit. It’s not a secret, nor is it a sore subject.
“Ohhhhh,” says Rosie. “I mean, I guess so. Things worked out pretty well, I think. We have each other, we love each other, does a ring and a piece’a paper really change that?”
“Society says it does,” points out Oliver.
“Society can go kick rocks,” replies Rosie, one of the angriest statements she makes – which prompted a laugh from our driver. “If you do what makes you happy, who cares what society says?”
With that, she turns to me. “RK, I think we should buy Oliver Driverman dinner and continue this conversation.”
“I think that’s against regulations,” argues Oliver.
Well, I said. You did say I was your only passenger today.
Your time is paid for, and you’re not disappointing anyone by staying out late.
Who’s it gonna hurt?
He thinks about it for a second. “You two ever eat at Jammyland?”
I laugh. There was a wrestler before my time named Jammy. But nope, haven’t eaten there. Hit it, sir!
“You know,” says Rose. “We should invite some more people. Is Angelo back in town?”
Rosie has a point – society can in fact go kick rocks.
But I still can’t help but look at me and TAL’s almost parallel paths and wonder, what if?
It’s the paradox of professional wrestling that TAL’s gotta wrangle Balaam and out-talk his mouthpiece who just so happens to be one of the most famous talkers in the history of this sport – all while making sure he’s able to pick up the kids from soccer practice.
It’s the paradox of professional wrestling that a man in a mask – the very visage of a larger than life superhero – is probably the one with the most normal home life. It’s both something to be studied and something to be envied.
Does this make him a more dangerous opponent, or less? Is he weary from getting back onto the pirate ship after years of child rearing and making a marriage work? Is he more dangerous because he’s balancing his life better than Creed ever could?
Is he the idealized version of me, or am I the idealized version of him? It wasn’t long ago – thirteen years but a blink of an eye in the cosmic sense – that I was also wearing a mask to work.
I don’t know if there’s any answers to these questions. I don’t know if there even should be. And at our respective ages it’s probably a waste of time to play the what if game.
I like to look at what is, instead.
What is, is that I’m on a collision course with the PRIME Universal Champion.
What is, is that the Anglo Luchador is swimming with the sharks. He’s got his eye on the PRIME Intense Title while he’s all too aware that Balaam and the Cult of HOYT have their eyes on him.
What is, is that this is his chance to rise above that crap and remind the sport who he is and what he can do. I’m going to be coming at him with everything I’ve got and more that I don’t, and I’m hoping to continue winning. And when someone’s hand is raised, even if it isn’t mine?
If I can do my part to put a humble, hard working rock star in a position to get himself more money, more status, and more opportunity – that’s just about the most neighborly thing I think I could do.
And it will definitely change the conversation.