THAT FIRST RIPPLE
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
HALFWAY THROUGH REVIVAL 26
Arthur Pleasant knew it when he saw him.
It was the moment he heard the one they call ‘The Anglo Luchador’ open his big, fat, presumptuous mouth all those weeks ago at ReVival 26.
“Hey! You! Artie P!” he heard the imbecile everyone called ‘TAL’ say. It was an egregious introduction and an awful first impression from somebody who had been a PRIME champion for such a long time.
Does this wretched, mask-hiding, cosplaying coward honestly think he can speak to me like this?
Does he not understand the number of neophytes I’ve destroyed before him?
Does his predilection for passive-aggressiveness give him the right to disrespect “the new player on the field”?
A new challenger has arrived, and someday soon I’m going to paint a masterpiece on that canvas with his blood.
Pleasant cringed as he heard TAL spew his cringeworthy witticisms and phony hospitality. The dreadful thoughts that rose to the forefront of his brain sent a wave of anger down into the pit of his stomach. Had he not seen this deceiver in the flesh shoot his half-witted finger guns at production, maintenance, referees, and other card-carrying members of PRIME’s declassé, it might’ve bothered him less. But the fact is, he did see it. Up close and personal. So hearing TAL casually contaminate Arthur’s presence with his own made him want to lash out violently with something razor-sharp. And perhaps pointy, too. Very pointy.
This snarky idiot seems to be asking for a much-needed lesson in humility, isn’t he?
The next several moments were like an out-of-body experience as Arthur couldn’t even recall what else this…this… MASK had spat out at him.
Arthur looked down at the Wish©-Ordered luchador nonchalantly walking up to him with a certain presumptuousness embedded in his step, and it sickened him as if he had just ingested a four-week-old raw oyster that was left baking in the sun. It wasn’t the words, you see. “Artie P” was probably the most inoffensive nickname ever given to him, and this was coming from a guy who, once upon a time, tripped a pregnant lady at a state fair during a promo he had cut just because this heretic had been eating the ghastly flavor of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Nicknames didn’t bother him if he did everything he could to earn them.
Instead, it was that tone.
That wise guy crackin’ tone he immediately recognized.
A tone with the sole purpose of undermining someone fresh to the scene who happened to encroach upon their land. The territorial nature of man is a story as old and unending as time itself, and he saw it oozing out of every pore from TAL. Arthur could smell it like a strong cologne doused on him with a firehose.
Each breathy syllable that came out of his mouth was rife with disingenuousness, sarcasm, and enough emphasis on taunting that he instantly recognized it from attempts by others in his not-so-distant past.
He’d be damned if he let another self-absorbed, self-proclaimed hotshot like TAL act that way toward him and let him get away with it.
“Something something Coral Avalon!”
“Insert cute little wisecrack here!”
Funniest guy in the room syndrome. Check.
“What is it you see when you look into my eyes?” Arthur asked plainly, forcing him to audibly communicate with this worm.
Pleasant could tell it caught TAL off guard as he deciphered a look he’d seen before countless times; bafflement fused with slight panic. Arthur asked the question again, giving TAL the benefit of the doubt in not initially hearing him, and still, nary a response. Nothing but eyes behind the multi-colored fabric.
Arthur knew it was time to skip some stones across that shimmering lake in which PRIME sits atop. After all, that first ripple grew widest.
PRIME would soon understand.
And if they didn’t? Fuck ‘em.
Time to shatter someone’s world.
FRIENDS TILL THE END
PARKING GARAGE AT THE PIT
It was all so puerile, to be honest. But at the same time, it had been expected. How could one threaten another’s family and not retaliate with mindless anger and hollow threats? And yet, there are specific measures one can and should take so they don’t look and sound utterly ridiculous. But TAL, one of the more respected members of PRIME, had been consumed by this unfortunate behavior. After all his indignation, MASK was nothing more than a petulant child whose outrage was matched only by his loss of focus.
And it was all because of Arthur Pleasant. Not one for clichés, Arthur couldn’t help but think of the phrase “Hook, line, and sinker” when it came to his budding
rivalry war with TAL.
From the onset of his PRIME career, he forewarned everybody that he was not someone to be trifled with, but it fell on deaf ears. This reaction unsurprised him, for sure. Arthur suspected this chatter was the byproduct of preconceived notions based on opinions formed before his arrival. That unavoidable dogma had been the Van Warren narrative since time immemorial, after all. Whether it was the whispers from Lindsay Troy trying to persuade her subordinates/sycophants that the ‘Provocateur’ was not worth having around in PRIME simply based on their violent past that spanned the world over, or if it was professional jealousy from colleagues he once crossed paths with in other promotions who had found their way to PRIME, he couldn’t be sure.
But everybody was warned.
That was the cold, hard truth.
It had been a few hours since Arthur Pleasant knocked Kohime Mori’s brain loose from its stem and sent her to the injured reserve list, thereby picking up his first victory inside a PRIME wrestling ring. Thinking about how good that buzzsaw kick felt against her tiny skull gave him goosebumps, and envisioning how her lifeless carcass collapsed to the mat had him euphoric. With his mind flashing back to earlier in the evening, Pleasant sat on the edge of the passenger’s seat of a black 2022 Hummer. His associate, Yuri Reznikov, leaned against the hood, smoking a thick stogie- a backwoods Russian Cream cigar, to be precise.
Arthur sniffed the air and recognized a few aromatic components from the cigar, notably a smooth, nutty, vanilla-like scent. It was truly sublime, even for the non-cigar aficionados.
“I’m not one for cigars, but that smells amazing. The fuck is that, anyway? Birthday cake? Cinnamon Toast Crunch?” Pleasant asked inquisitively.
“Nyet. Just a good cigar. They are excellent, and that’s all you need to know. They are not for someone who enjoys cigarettes.” Yuri counterclaimed to Pleasant’s sudden curiosity with a verbal hammer. Arthur shot his hands up as if to say, ‘Say no more!’ and pulled out a classy pack of Newports–non-menthols, of course. Smacking the bottom of the pack to tighten them up for an even burn, Pleasant pulled one out and tucked it between his extremely chapped lips.
“Whatever. I was just curious. Never been a cigar guy. You enjoy yours, Russian Arnold.” Arthur laughed as he heard his voice carry throughout the nondescript parking garage.
A car rolled up on them as they exchanged words over the pros and cons of Newports and Russian Cream cigars. It was a black 1985 Lincoln Towncar. Clearly, this was from a rental service that didn’t give a damn about loaning vehicles from before the 21st century.
“Could it beeeeee?!” Pleasant asked with pure delight.
The rear of the Hummer opened and inside sat a drone. Grabbing it roughly with one hand and the matching remote in the other, Pleasant pushed down on the back of the Hummer’s rear door. Always a man willing to help others. Make no mistake about it!
Without a word, Yuri handed the equipment back to Alexei Ruslan.
Pleasant smiled devilishly at this exchange.
“I just want to say thank you for loaning that to us. It came in quite handy!” he smirked, pausing momentarily before continuing his train of thought. “Though, it didn’t quite capture the audio I wanted. It would’ve been nice to hear the kids’ voices. Or his butter-faced wife’s sweet little counterfeit assurances. Now that would’ve sent him tumbling down that rabbit hole of rage. Still, the Battaglias and I thank you for your generosity.” Pleasant affirmed as he offered his hand out of respect.
Alexei smiled and offered his hand back.
“You’re welcome, Mr. Pleasant. You have shown yourself worthy of being called a friend. Not just to me but to Praporshchik Stanislav as well.” Alexei said blithely.
They embraced hands for several seconds.
The mutual respect grew.
As did the caution.
“Friends till the end, I say!” Pleasant declared, with an eerie inflection to his words.
Ruslan’s response lacked any inflection. “Friends till the end. Yes.”
EVIL NEVER FELT SO GOOD
NEW ORLEANS, LA
HOME SWEET HOME
06:00 PM CT
Rejoice, PRIME Faithful! For it was everyone’s favorite time of the year.
At the very least, it was a close third or fourth. Maybe? The pecking order of PRIMEium Live Events was never set in stone with the amount of talent and great matches that always occurred on them. Regardless, summertime madness gripped everyone in their netherregions as they eagerly awaited Tropical Turmoil on their favorite streaming service or smart device that might carry the ACE Network.
Well, perhaps not everyone.
There were still those thirty-percenters full of fifty-plussers who feared progress, change, and everything in between as they called up their cable companies from those obsolete landlines. Every fan had at least one of those types in their respective groups, so we shouldn’t tech-shame the anti-cord-cutters too much.
Regardless of how they’ve been waiting and what actions they’ve planned on taking to see one of the biggest wrestling spectacles of the year, many meaningful and thought-provoking conversations had been happening worldwide.
Topics like why Tyler Adrian Best is our generation’s newest and greatest hope who needs to take down that mass of steroids and regrettable choices in wrestling gear in one Brandon Youngblood. Or maybe the looming Tropical Turmoil match itself, with five of the most formidable competitors in PRIME, all trying to stay alive long enough before Praporshchik Stanislav slaughters them all en route to a guaranteed title match against the PRIME Universal Champion. There might even be a small percentage of people in the PRIMEverse who haven’t sprained their eyeballs yet from Anna Daniels’ awkward diatribes and actually want to see her retain the Intense Championship she –UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT– doesn’t deserve.
But something seemed different this time around. Something just felt like it had all gone awry.
The Anglo Luchador.
A classic tale of good versus evil.
Was that it?
Or was it something else?
Up until the final knock on Tropical Turmoil’s door, they’ve all seen terrible villainy from a sadistic sociopath and great– if only eleventh-hour – courage from an identifiable, yet affable hero. It was the moment in time when everyone expected the hero to win and the villain to get their just desserts as they were sent back to whatever circle of hell they managed to escape from in the first place.
Unfortunately, it was the real world they both lived in.
Good guys never won.
Bad guys always prevailed in the most despicable ways.
Violent, heinous events in television history, like the ‘Red Wedding’, or even the ‘Killing of Maude Flanders Via T-Shirt Cannon’, were always revered for their creativity and bold ambition instead of being condemned for how much they upset the softies that pumped network numbers.
These rampant thoughts wafted over a shirtless Arthur Pleasant as he sat on a wooden stool. He was hunched over the peninsula countertop of his kitchen, slurping from a ceramic bowl filled with darkened, chocolatey-looking milk. On his immediate right stood an opened box of Cocoa Puffs and a shoddily made object that was supposed to resemble a toy, according to China’s child labor force. Guzzling down the remaining contents, Pleasant set his bowl roughly on the marbled surface of the countertop.
Looking at the toy and its alarmingly sharp edges, Pleasant shook his head with feigned concern. Scratching the bloody smiley tattoo on his left pectoral and heaving a yawn, a yawn triggered from his overall peaceful demeanor.
“What the fuck?! A kid could have swallowed this!” Pleasant said with quiet outrage.
Arthur’s gone and hopped into the time machine.
“GET HIM!” a group of young adolescents shouted angrily as they chased ten-year-old Arthur Pleasant across the extramural area beyond the premises of one of only a handful of middle schools in the Alaskan town of Utqiaġvik- Barrow Middle School District.
Tears streamed down his face behind a rubber Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mask (Donatello, of course!) as Arthur outpaced them all with his sheer speed and determination not to have his ass kicked once again by the resident bullies of BMSD. The woods and a river were not far in the distance when he felt the sharp sting of something hitting him in the back of his right shoulder.
“Hahaha! Nice shot, Griz!” yelled another boy in appreciation of the B.B. Gun that this Griz jerk had in his possession.
Fuck me! Not a BB Gun!
“He’s heading toward the river!” shouted one of the larger boys in pursuit of the much smaller Arthur.
He had no choice. The woods and river beyond them were the only places he knew he could get away from his terrorizers. Young Arthur suddenly slipped on some uneven gravel and slid face-first for about eight feet. His right leg scraped against the gravel, swallowing a few of them into the center of a wound that just opened up across his knee.
The tears streamed harder as he limped his way closer to the woods. Blood poured out of the gnarly gash in his knee that held some gravel like a built-in pocket of skin. Arthur’s right shoe had blood stains on it now, ruining the pair of Adidas his Mom and Dad had bought for him during a back-2-school sale over the summer. It was the first pair of name-brand sneakers he ever wore, and he treasured them like gold. Now they were destroyed because a bunch of bullies at school felt he wasn’t cool enough to wear name-brand sneakers.
Fearing for his life, Arthur finally made it to the woods when another BB whizzed past his head. He instinctively ducked and continued limping deeper into the woods. The river was not far off as he could hear the thunderous force of water running ahead of him.
“YOU CAN’T RUN FROM US, ARTHUR!”
“YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!”
The words bounced around in his head like a bullet ricocheting off walls.
Why did they hate him so much?
Why did they hate him at all?
It wasn’t his fault he didn’t belong to the Iñupiats, Athabascans, and other such Eskimo tribes like a lot of the kids in the area did. Nor was it his fault that his parents were too cheap to spend money on anything that even remotely bordered on quality.
This isn’t fair!
He could hear his abusive Father say, “Life ain’t fair, so quit being a bitch about it.” before sucking back another glass of something he called bourbon.
Bright white stars.
Everything turned black and white for a moment.
One of the kids chasing Arthur had shortened the distance between them and threw a rock the size of a baseball at him. With perfect aim, it hit him right in the back of the head. Arthur dropped like a sack of potatoes as he heard their footsteps close in on him.
“Nice shot, Kallik!”
“Get him!” shouted a boy’s voice he recognized as Carter, the ringleader to this group of absolute heathens.
“Please, no…” Arthur cried out, holding the back of his head as it throbbed and throbbed. Blood soaked everything from his knee down to his shoe as gravel peeked out from the wound.
Carter immediately descended upon Arthur and began pummeling him into oblivion. His fists were as thick as cinder blocks and twice as unyielding. Or so it seemed as they rained down upon his midsection, chest, and masked face.
“Fight back, you fucking pussy!” taunted Carter as he punished Arthur to the point where he thought he was going to pass out. Finally running out of breath, Carter stopped punching Arthur and grabbed the rubber Ninja Turtles mask. Pulling at the eye holes, the mask began to rip as Carter tore it the rest of the way off of Arthur’s head with great force. With his index and middle fingers sticking out through the hole, Carter looked down at Arthur’s exposed face.
“Who wears a mask like this, anyway?” Carter said with hateful intent.
Carter struck a blow right onto Pleasant’s mouth, knocking a tooth out. The first of what would become many teeth knocked out over the years. Carter looked at the toothmark on his own knuckle and laughed sadistically.
“Hey man, I think he’s had enough.” called out one of the other boys involved with the escalating situation. While trying to get up, Arthur fought through the tears to yell out, “Because!”.
Carter kicked Arthur directly in the nose, effectively breaking it.
“Because WHY?!” shouted back the bully leader. All of the other members of Carter’s bully hierarchy stood in a circle, surrounding the scene while also watching out for any parents that might’ve been traveling through the woods.
“Because I like wearing it!” Arthur said, choking back more tears.
Shaking his head, Carter got up off of Arthur and just looked at the mask he held in his hand.
“Only stupid cowards wear masks!” he said before ripping ‘Donatello’ in two.
“YEEEEAAAAAAH!!” the other kids yelled, proud of their ringleader for destroying Arthur’s precious mask.
Carter wound his arm up and threw both pieces of ‘Donatello’ into the river, watching them float down amongst the wet rocks until they disappeared from view entirely.
Carter wasn’t done, however.
He viciously assaulted Arthur until he fell unconscious.
All the while everyone just stood around him and watched.
Arthur found himself smack dab in the present. Time machines are temperamental bastards.
It was like an endless echo stuck inside a sealed, subterranean cave as TAL’s words rang in his ears from ReVival 30.
“Gaslighting piece of shit.”
“Spineless sack of shit.”
Grabbing the unsafe-looking toy, Pleasant looked at it upon further inspection.
It was a little Ninja Turtle action figure about the size of something you might find inside a Kinder Joy egg. Of course, the figure had a little purple headband, too.
Tossing the figure across the room until he heard it splinter into pieces, Pleasant just sat at the peninsula of his kitchen in deep thought.
Had he…become the bully?
Had he…become the sadistic son of a bitch that wanted to smash his enemies into a messy red pulp?
Had he…become the evil of this world?
If he had, then evil never felt so good.
If it’s any consolation, TAL, this was never meant to be personal.
I know, I know. I went after your family. OoOoOO. Get over it, bitch.
Truth is? If I really wanted this to be personal? I would’ve made you bleed three ways from Sunday by now and ripped your ridiculous mask off your stupid fucking face. I wouldn’t have allowed you to stand in front of me and talk a bunch of bullshit at ReVival 30. If I wanted to make this personal for me, you never would’ve even made it past ReVival 26. I would’ve just flipped your fucking off switch and went on my merry way.
Ask anybody who knows me, TAL. I have shown monumental leniency towards you since this whole thing between us began. No, seriously. Go ahead and ask. There’s a lot of people in this business who can attest to that, TAL. I’ll wait.
Well? Did you ask around? Yes? No? Doesn’t matter, I guess. If you did, then you know how it all changes at Tropical Turmoil. My compassion towards insufferable good guys like you is fucking gone. No more being on my best behavior and holding back from cutting you open.
No more drones.
No more Jabber.
No more fucking bullshit.
Just pain. And lots of it.
I’m sure you’ve peeped my profile since I joined PRIME, TAL. In there, you’ll notice I am known as ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’.
At Tropical Turmoil? You find out why it’s not just a moniker when I crush your face with my knee and send you to the playpen of irrelevancy with Kohime Mori.
You fuck around long enough with me, TAL, and you eventually find out.