Posted on 01/20/23 at 11:30am by Paxton Ray
Event: ReVival 21
December 6, 2022
Foster Nackedy walked through a dimly-lit hallway of Gray’s Academy, the wrestling school he regained control of about two months ago. His stride slowed as he saw large splinters of wood sticking out from one of the walls about chest height. Frowning, he bent over and inspected the damage, keeping his hands far away from any pieces of wood that might get stuck in his finger.
“Come on,” he muttered, quickening his pace until he arrived at the open gym at the end of the hallway. He could hear his sneakers squeak on the floor as he surveyed the area, looking for his assistant. He found him in the ring, refereeing a match between El Cocodrilo and Quinn Fleetwood. Foster clapped once, loudly, and Aaron “Dith” Timble whirled around.
“Get your ass over here,” Foster commanded, his sneer turning into a grin as he noticed how quickly the assistant ran towards him. “The wall,” he grunted, not waiting for Dith to catch his breath. “Who did it?”
Dith gave one last pant and raised his eyebrows at Foster. “Who the hell do you think, Foster?”
Foster looked past Dith to the far ring, where Paxton Ray had Connor Nackedy suspended in the air. Foster’s eyes widened for a second, then relaxed as Paxton completed the suplex. Paxton stood up and looked at his trainer with a wide grin as Foster’s son gasped for air at his feet.
“Why’d you punch the wall?” Foster asked.
“Dumb fuckin’ question,” Paxton answered, not looking up. “Ya know I ain’t gonna stop hittin’ things til I find Nora.”
“I know, but maybe you can hit punching bags. Hell, hit my students. Let’s not bring the whole building down the second I take back over.”
Paxton looked up, snorting. “You’re more focused on what ya got out of our deal than holdin’ your end of it. Ya told me ya were gonna have my back.”
“Look, Paxton,” Foster said, grabbing a piece of paper on his desk. He slid it towards the edge for Paxton to look at a picture of his own face opposite Jared Sykes’. “I get it. You want your daughter back. And I will help you. I told you that on the drive home and I told you that yesterday. What you need to do now is be patient, and to focus on your match against Jared.”
“I’ll be fine at Colossus.”
“You need to be more than fine. It’s going to be the most intense thing you’ve faced in a wrestling ring so far, and if your head is somewhere else, you’re going to get caught by surprise. When Jon was training you, he said that your biggest issue was getting a clear head. That you’d be so blinded by rage that you’d just…act, and not think.”
Paxton laughed. “He thought he knew me pretty well, huh? How’d that end up for him?”
“I’m just saying, if this is going to work – if you are going to take everyone down in PRIME like you want, and if we’re going to find your daughter – you have to trust me. Trust me like you refused to trust him. Take care of your business, and let me take care of mine.”
“Fine,” Paxton said, standing up. “But I ain’t fixin’ that hole in the wall. I let Jon guilt me into the last one, but let me tell ya somethin’, Foster: we ain’t got the same teacher-student relationship, ‘cause I ain’t gonna be nobody’s student ever again. Get your little errand boy to fix the wall, and then find my daughter.”
Foster watched Paxton leave before leaning back and sighing. “Was the gym worth it?” After a moment he smiled. “Yeah, yeah it was.”
January 16, 2023
Foster stood in the hallway of Gray’s Academy, his hand on his chin as he surveyed the damage.
Entire panels of the wall were shattered, leaving shards of wood everywhere. Glass littered the floor near an office door that had been smashed and knocked off the hinges. And at the end of the hallway near the gym, Tani Albright laid in a heap, a small pool of blood forming below the student.
Foster shook his head, walking towards the gym and stepping over Tani as he did so. “We’ll get you help soon,” he grumbled.
His voice raised when he found his target. “Paxton, get the fuck over here!”
Paxton looked over from the punching bag he was hitting and grinned, then began the long walk across the gym. As he neared Foster, he said, “What’s up, boss?”
“You know what the fuck is up. What is this?” Foster said, pointing towards the hallway.
“You tol’ me to hit your students,” Paxton said, shrugging.
“Hit, not maim!”
“Not much difference, ya ask me.”
Foster felt his cheeks burn as his fists balled up. “I know you’re really enjoying this whole destructive act. Paralyzing people, taking out kneecaps, playing Rampage with buildings. But this is a business, Pax. I am running a fucking business. And I need you to act like a fucking civilized person.”
“An’ I need ya to keep your promise. It’s been over a month and I ain’t heard boo about Nora. She could be anywhere in the world by now.”
“I’m working on it,” Foster sighed, rubbing his temples. “But you have other things to worry about. You’re fighting for the Intense Title in less than two weeks. You’re going against the man who is ranked #1 in the company. You need to be ready.”
“Ya keep sayin’ that. Need to be ready for Sykes, need to be ready for Anglo. Is this how it’s gonna be, Foster? Am I gonna just always have to be ready so you can continue to not do the shit you promised? Ya get your gym, ya get your revenge on Jon, and I get nothin’?”
Foster put his hand on Paxton’s shoulder. “Paxton. We will find Nora. It’s a long term goal. But our short term goal is to win matches in PRIME, to win championships, to show everyone that you’re one of the best there is. And part of that is being prepared. You can’t just walk into a barbed wire match without any training. You have to be ready for the fight.”
Paxton looked at Foster’s hand on his shoulder and twitched his head in that direction. It was a small movement, but enough to get Foster to lift his hand. Paxton then brushed by Foster and walked towards the hallway.
“Where are you going?” Foster asked.
“You’re right, boss. I gotta go train,” Paxton shot over his shoulder as he left.
Foster stared at his student, then shouted, “You can train here, this is a fucking gym!” After a few moments of muttering under his breath, he looked at Dith who was nearby. “Call an ambulance for Tani, and then a contractor to find out how to fix the walls.” Dith ran off and Foster shook his head again. “Maybe it wasn’t worth it.”
Rashaun Bishop had run The Mud Pits for six years, which sounded impressive until you realized what actually happened in the neglected corner of 9th Ward New Orleans. Bishop commanded respect, and his unblemished record in the Pits confirmed it, but his duties every night were simple: collect money, say “Go,” then pay the winner and make sure the loser was removed from the Pits. For all the brutality and carnage that happened there, the participants respected the process and never made Bishop’s job difficult.
He sat in the corner, his fingers drumming against the arm rest, an unlit cigarette drooping from his lips. Two newcomers were fighting tonight; a big man named Brian and the other, a skinny man who referred to himself as “Juice.” Bishop snorted as Juice took a wild swing that Brian easily ducked under. “Givin’ yourself a nickname like that. Shoulda called yourself Chopstick.”
Brian took the advantage, sweeping Juice’s legs out and sitting on him. Bishop stood up; this is usually when a match would end. The man on top would hit a few punches, the man on bottom would give up, and Bishop would step in to do his job. But as he started to walk towards the fight, he saw something that made him stop short.
A man walked towards the Mud, his pace quickening as he neared the competitors. It wasn’t until the man had pulled Brian off of Juice that Bishop realized who the new challenger was.
The cigarette fell from his mouth. “Paxton, what the fuck?” Bishop yelled, though he made no move to interrupt. He watched the Bayou Butcher as he lifted Juice into a chokehold, then slammed him down into the mud. Brian didn’t have time to react to the carnage before Paxton whirled on him, laying him out with a punch that sent him splashing mud onto Paxton’s boots.
Snarling, Paxton reached down and lifted Juice to his feet while using his other arm to fish Brian out of the muck. He grabbed both of their heads and smashed them together, leaving both men to collapse upon each other.
“Paxton!” Bishop shouted again, but the Lafayette Bruiser was walking away towards an abandoned church at the end of the block. Bishop looked at the rest of the crowd who, like him, were confused, their collective feet stuck in the mud around them. “What’s he do…oh shit,” Bishop said when he realized.
St. Maurice Church never came back after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008 cardinals came to the abandoned church to have it deconsecrated. They may have removed the Lord from the beacon of hope in a hopeless neighborhood, but they left barbed wire around the perimeter to keep people out. Paxton grabbed a loose coil of the wire and wrapped it around his right arm, grimacing as it pierced his skin. He pushed it deeper, smiling as blood started to trickle out. Then he made his way back to the Pits.
“Hold up, Pax. Hold the fuck up!” Bishop said, finally finding his ability to walk. He cautiously stepped into Paxton’s path. Paxton barely sent Bishop a glance before bowling him over with his barbed wire shield, sending the large man into the mud.
For years Bishop had run a program that gave him respect, money, and no reason to fear anything in this world. Police ignored him, fighters feared him: the Mud Pits were Rashaun Bishop’s castle. Tonight it was under siege.
Juice received it first, a fist full of barbed wire cutting his jaw as he lay on the ground. Brian, who had started to stand, saw the carnage and tried to run. But the problem with running in mud is that it’s slippery, an aspect that helped sway deserters during battles. Brian collapsed a few feet from the fallen Bishop, who watched as Paxton pounced. Bishop could see the skin tear from Brian’s forehead as the barbs connected. Both Brian and Bishop closed their eyes at the same time.
When Bishop finally opened them, he saw Paxton standing over him, his teeth on full display. Bishop breathed deep as he forced himself to get to his feet. If he was going to go down, he’d go down fighting.
But Paxton just laughed and held his hand out, drops of blood falling into the mud. “I guess I won, didn’t I?” Paxton asked. Bishop stared at Paxton’s open hand, the flesh twisted and marred, before digging in his pocket and putting the money in Paxton’s hand.
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, but this is your last time in the Pits,” Bishop growled.
Paxton chuckled, slowly reaching across his arm to pull the barbed wire out. No matter how gingerly he tried, he had to clench his teeth as pieces of skin came out with the barbs. “It’s cute ya think ya can tell me fuckin’ anything, Bishop.” With a grunt, Paxton dropped the barbed wire coil into the mud. “I’ll play nice for now. But this was a good trainin’ session. Might wanna do more later.” Without waiting for an answer, Paxton walked out of the Mud Pits, dropping the cash onto the bodies of Brian and Juice as he left.
Paxton was nearly to his truck when he saw headlights fill the street. He tensed up before he realized it was not a police car. The car stopped and Foster Nackedy exited. He stared at his student for a few moments, taking in the carnage that had wound itself on Paxton’s body. Finally, Foster raised his eyebrows. “Guess training went well?”
Paxton shook his head. “An act.”
“Earlier, ya called it a destructive act. As if I’m playin’ some sort of game.” Paxton walked up to Foster and shoved his hand at him, sending flecks of blood and mud into Foster’s face. “This ain’t no act.” Paxton walked past Foster, then turned around. “Help me find my daughter, or find yourself another meal ticket.”
January 17, 2023
Paxton Ray emerged from the ice bath gingerly, moving his arm in circles as he reached for a towel with the other. He looked at the cuts and gashes on his arm and shook his head. “Sometimes I’m a fuckin’ monster.”
“Sometimes?” Paxton looked over to see Quinn Fleetwood leaning against the lockers. “Nice dick,” Quinn said.
“Whaddaya want?” Paxton asked, pulling the towel around himself with one hand.
“Foster wants you in his office.” Paxton nodded and walked towards the lockers as Quinn laughed. “Lot of visits to the principal’s office lately.”
Paxton grunted, shedding the towel and turning as he pulled his clothes on. “Wonder what he’s going to say this time, Pax. ‘Stop hitting things.’ ‘Take anger management classes.’ Oooh, I got one: ‘why the fuck would you stick barbed wire into your fucking flesh eleven days before the biggest fucking match of your career, which involves more barbed wire?’” Paxton looked up quickly at Quinn, who smirked. “I’m ready for my threat now.”
Paxton continued to stare at the eighteen year old. After he was fully dressed, he started to walk towards Quinn. “You don’t even deserve one, kid.” He patted Quinn on the shoulder, then walked away.
Paxton made his way to Foster’s office, his hands forming into fists. He found Foster sitting at his desk, a Gray’s hoodie on despite the lack of air conditioning in this part of the gym. Paxton closed the door behind him and walked up, slamming his hands on the desk and immediately wincing.
“Paxton, please sit.” Gone was the fire in Foster’s eyes, the sharpness in his tone. Paxton smiled and dutifully sat.
“I want to talk about The Anglo Luchador again.”
Paxton immediately stood up. “This shit again…”
“Please, Paxton. Just listen to me and I promise you will be one step closer to finding Nora. I promise. Just sit. Please.” After a long glare from Paxton, he sat down and Foster continued. “Now, what would you say is The Anglo Luchador’s biggest strength?”
Paxton scratched the back of his head. “Uh, he’s old so he has more experience than me?”
Foster snorted. “It’s not the answer, but it’s a good guess. And he’s not old, he’s pretty much my ag…” he stopped as he saw the huge grin on Paxton’s face. “Hey, fuck you. Anyway, he’s definitely smart and he knows how to win. But the reason you should be wary of The Anglo Luchador is because he’s a desperate man.”
“His wrestling style is based on desperation. If you watched the matches against Balaam, he was overmatched by the big man’s strength and brutality. Same against Mephisto. But every time it seemed he was done, each time his back was against the wall, that’s when he was at his most dangerous. Because when he feels desperate, he feels like he has nothing to lose, and that unlocks his power to truly unleash everything he has. And for every match of his title reign, that has been enough to win. So if you want to become the Intense Champion, you need to be just as desperate, just as resilient. Those cuts on your hand tell me you’re more than capable of it.”
Paxton leaned back in his chair, looking at the lights in the ceiling. When he leaned forward, he nodded. “Thanks for the tip. Guess I didn’t think desperation could be a good thing.”
Foster smiled. “I am all too familiar with desperation. Tom and I are a lot alike, as much as that would make him cringe. I am a desperate man, Paxton, and that brings me to your daughter.”
Foster stood up and walked past Paxton towards the door. “You have made it clear that you are not content to simply be a wrestler while Nora is missing. I understand that. But you have put pressure on me by threatening my academy, my plans, and my health. And that makes me desperate. And desperate men…” Foster opened the door.
“…do desperate things.”
Paxton turned around to the sound of footsteps and saw four men walk in. He didn’t recognize two of them, and thought he may know the short, round man in the bowler hat. But there was no denying the tall man in the back dressed in a black button-up and slacks, smiling the smile that threatened the fabric of PRIME in 2022.
“Julian Bathory,” Paxton said.
The Carpathian Devil grinned, but it was the round man who stepped forward and spoke. “Mr. Ray, I do hope you remember me. My name is Bertrand Ward.”
Paxton blinked twice, then nodded slowly. “Yeah, from the fundraiser dinner. Ya pretended to be a charity organization so your devil back there could snake his way in.”
Bertrand took his bowler cap off of his head and held it over his heart. “Ah, but we are a charitable organization, young Paxton. We help people who need it. Our reach is long and powerful.”
Foster sat back down. “Paxton, I told you that I would help you. And while I am not like Shweta, with her endless resources to go anywhere and do anything, I do know people who have those same abilities. You have told me that you are tired of ‘being ready’ and doing my bidding in PRIME without knowing anything about Nora’s whereabouts. But the bottom line is that you can’t find Nora. Neither can I. But these men?” He points at the members of MESSIAH. “These men can. So I need you to do your part. Be a wrestler. Fight The Anglo Luchador. Do your worst to him. Win the Intense Title. And let me – let them – take care of the rest.”
Paxton looked at each of the men in the room. He looked at the unknown muscle, silent and strong. He looked at the mouthpiece, smiling and unassuming. He looked at the snake, the almost Universal Champion, who stared back coolly. And finally he looked at his trainer, his manager, his would-be controller. “How long y’all been workin’ together?”
Foster smiled and unzipped his hoodie, revealing a tuxedo shirt underneath, the same shirt he wore when crashing the Fundraiser Dinner. “Not long at all, why do you ask?” he said, chuckling.
Julian Bathory stepped forward. “You are strong, both physically and mentally. You do not want to be controlled, and we don’t want to control anyone. We simply want to help. We will find your daughter, Paxton. Believe in us. Believe in MESSIAH.”
Paxton looked back and Foster. “What do they get outta this?”
“We simply want to help,” Bertrand answered. He then put his bowler cap back on his head. “And if we can not only help you in your quest, but help mold the shape of future wrestlers in this academy, we are more than happy to lend our assistance.” Paxton watched Foster as Bertrand spoke, noticing the head trainer’s gaze drop to the floor.
Paxton snorted. “A quiet coup after a hostile takeover. Not bad.” Paxton stood up and moved past Bertrand to Julian. “I’m gonna say this directly to ya. Not your mouthpiece, not your old stooges, and not your new stooge. I’ll be a good soldier for now. But ya better find her. And when ya do, I better be the first person to know.”
Julian smiled and, in lieu of a response, held his hand out. Paxton looked from Bathory’s hand to his own hand, which was still raw from the barbed wire punctures. After a moment of consideration, Paxton reached forward and grabbed Bathory’s hand.
Paxton released his grip, then turned around to walk away. He turned in the doorway and stared at Foster. “Thanks, boss. I feel ready for Anglo now.”
Foster watched the members of MESSIAH wordlessly leave the office, then sighed heavily and closed his eyes. “This was not fucking worth it,” he muttered.