“Our greatest glory is not in never failing…
…but in rising every time we fail.”
Somewhere in the Bayou
CASA DI PLEASANT (AKA A REALLY SHITTY LOOKING APARTMENT)
Feeling the razor-sharp tips of some of the fangs that filled the vacant spaces where his adult teeth used to be, Arthur Pleasant sat upside down on his ugly, very plaid, unapologetically 1970s-looking couch. In protest of his own desires, he went over his match with FLAMBERGE.
He didn’t intend to utilize it during a match, but the opportunity presented itself like a fresh zebra carcass to a hungry lion.
Pluck. Chomp. Gulp.
Arthur could hear FLAMBERGE squeal like a little piggy when he sunk his wolf-like fang dental implants into the back of his skinny little ankle.
And was that… was that béchamel? Interesting.
I could really go for a fucking beignet right now.
Arthur’s thoughts came at him in rapid-fire succession and as erratically as ever. One after another. Like a conveyor belt on the fritz. Only, instead of a thin rubber mat sliding down items to a bottle-necked end, it was Arthur’s brain searching for some kind of balance.
“A smart man taps, Nick.” said the ever-misled, used-car-salesman-looking Richard Parker.
A smart man?!
A smart man wouldn’t give misanthropic opinions on things he knows fuck-all about.
Pleasant calmed himself. He understood full well that Mr. Parker was just doing his job, but he and his flamboyant nature rubbed him the wrong way in ALL the wrong places. All the way to his core.
Then there was the entire PRIMEverse chanting “TEETH! TEETH! TEETH!” at him.
Fucking FLAMBO. Thanks for that, dickhead.
Pleasant’s thoughts ran away from him like a locomotive off its tracks before he slammed his fists across his glass coffee table. Within seconds, the sound of glass fracturing emerged from the depths of the living room he found himself in. Spider cracks then formed under his fists as a roar of laughter followed the impulsive act of rage. Soon after that, Pleasant watched himself flipping off Elvis Nixon and FLAMBO on the television screen as he passed out from the lack of oxygen.
Arthur paused the video on his Amazon Firestick remote and exited the ACE Network app. He knew he should watch a match or two of Jared Sykes in preparation for their upcoming match, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do that at that moment.
To be completely honest, he didn’t give a damn about Jared Sykes. Or where he came from. Or what titles or promotions or factions or nicknames he’s been in or held. Or what he had been through in however long he had been doing this shit.
He knew he should, but he also knew he eventually would.
After all, Arthur Pleasant was a Van Warren, through and through, and this meant he was a student of the game. Researching his opponents before stepping into the ring with them was a big reason he had been so successful wherever he signed. But for the first time, given how things had been going since he arrived in PRIME, he just… couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.
He failed to make an impact in the Culture Shock Battle Royal.
He failed to make good on putting down FLAMBERGE.
He failed to do anything worthwhile since signing with PRIME.
An argument could be made that Pleasant’s career was just getting started and that he shouldn’t be so hasty in finding success. He’s heard it all in whispers from various corners of the locker room.
“Ahhhh Pleasant’s good! He’s just shaking off the rust!”
“Ahhhh Pleasant will find his groove!”
“Ahhhh Pleasant is yadda yadda fucking yadda!”
Maybe there was some veracity to those claims, but to Arthur, those words came from those who accept mediocrity and live comfortably in the den of complacency.
The fact that failure quickly became his modus operandi outright nauseated him, and thinking about Jared Sykes and anything he may or may not have been capable of would not rectify that situation.
It was time to step back because that was not who he was.
Do whatever sessin’ that needed to be sessed.
He let the throes of complicated family bullshit and the near-death beatdown from his former tag team partner in High Octane Wrestling hold him back from who he truly was.
A madman in and outside of that ring.
As he closed his eyes, all he could see was The Anglo Luchador lampooning him backstage. “Artie P”? Such a lack of respect. Such a brazen attempt to undercut the new guy walking, despite said new guy walking being a veteran of the sport for more than a decade. Pleasant, being the king of perception that he was, knew the condescension when he saw it, and TAL exuded this the moment they encountered each other in the backstage hallway of the Paycom Arena. He didn’t know if it was TAL’s artificial happy-like demeanor or that annoying Thomas Rhett poster he saw over his shoulder taped to the wall. Tickets “ON SALE NOW!” for that August 17th show, by the way.
TAL thought he was being funny by giving him an impromptu cutesy nickname, despite never having one interaction with each other in the history of either of their lives, let alone their respective careers. The disrespect was palpable. It was as big as an imported wheel of cheese and smelled just as righteous.
So much so that he could smell the aroma on his ridiculous mask the closer he stood to him.
The people Arthur trained with all those years ago back in Tokyo would have never stood for such effrontery.
TAL would come to understand that in due time.
As would Jared Sykes, simply by proxy and timing.
It was nothing personal, but from that point forward, an example needed to be made from whoever had been put directly in his path.
Bunkyo City, Tokyo, Japan
Twenty-year-old Arthur Pleasant walked through the back after a traditional Japanese Deathmatch with veteran Japanese Puroesu master SŌTA, a seven-foot-two, four-hundred-pound goliath of a man whose leg kicks felt like fully grown giant sequoias slamming into his body. SŌTA beat the everloving shit out of him for a good fifteen minutes, but it felt like a solid FIFTY. Pleasant had been chokeslammed through glass, powerbombed through exploding plywood, military press slammed through glass-covered tables, and even took a top rope splash from the giant while covered in–and laying on–tacks.
Oh, and it’s important to note that the tables here were not those big goofy American tables, either. No, no, noooo. These were the short and narrow bastards that could rip your body apart if you fell through them at the slightest awkward angle.
That was everything he COULD remember, of course. Who knows what other punishment he was on the receiving end of.
“Yoku niatteru yo, bōya.” said one of the veteran wrestlers as soon as Pleasant limped back through the curtain with pieces of GOD-knows-WHAT sticking out of his back, neck, and shoulder blades. Bleeding profusely, Pleasant gave a bow in gratitude for the kind words. If he didn’t, he’d be forced to wash their shitty underwear with a toothbrush and empty their piss buckets for a month.
Maybe two, God forbid.
Arthur Pleasant had been a ‘young boy’ for the better part of three years. He never thought he’d get to show anyone what he could do inside a wrestling ring, let alone face someone as popular and legendary as the Giant SŌTA. However, thanks to his association with a particular underbelly of the Tōkyō Resuringu, Pleasant began to see a quick ascension up the ladder.
His win on that night against a veritable giant, both physically and as a titan of industry, was one of the biggest of his career. Capitalizing on this momentous victory was not an option. If he didn’t prove he was the Unbreakable Gaijin they all said he was, it was all over. Not just in the ring, either.
The Yakuza didn’t take kindly to disappointing investments.
As Pleasant limped further to the back, towards his locker room–if you could call a doorless maintenance closet such a thing–he could hear the roar coming from all the company aces waiting for SŌTA to make his way to the back.
“Amējingumatchi, rejendo!” he recognized first. It roughly translated to “Amazing match, legend!”, give or take an eye-rolling prosaicism. It took every fiber of his being to not go back out there and spit in the fucker’s eye for not giving him the credit he deserved since the immovable sack of shit received a much better congratulatory response than the one he had received moments ago.
Especially when considering a couple of things. One, there had been a three-hundred-plus pound weight difference between SŌTA and himself. Two, Pleasant took most of the beating and came out damn near broken. Three? Pleasant only got the pin after a fluke roll-up and some chicken-wire chicanery. Or would that be chickenery?
You’re welcome for that. Venmo and Square accepted.
Shaking his head, Pleasant gently picked some of the glass out of his side. Bits of flesh clung to one of the pieces, forcing him to a reflexive wince. Water rushed through the rusted pipes above that surrounded him in the maintenance closet. Stepping into a dirty, boxed drainage area, blood, glass, and tacks all dripped and fell into the clogged drain, causing a pooling effect of sharp debris and crimson DNA. While Arthur’s plain black boots stood directly in the grisliness, he grabbed a green headless hose and switched on the red valve, creating a burst of ice-cold water from the rusted faucet.
Grimacing from the pain in which the force of the water shot out onto his open wounds, Pleasant cursed under his breath over no one really giving a shit. At least, not from the barely solvent promotion he found himself starting his career in.
Pleasant looked out to where a door would usually be bound to its hinges, and instead, saw a stocky-looking man dressed in a pewter gray tailored suit. Tattoos covered his hands as they poked through the white cuffs decorated with diamond cufflinks in the shape of two kanji symbols, “親分”. These represented the term ‘Oyabun’, which meant ‘Boss’ for the uninitiated.
“Oh SHIT.” Pleasant thought to himself as he realized who had just knocked on his phantom door.
Kazuo Ichii– the Inagawa-kai family’s ‘Oyabun’ himself.
In surprisingly articulated English, Kazuo Ichii spoke.
“We’ve invested a lot of time into you, Arthur-san. And money.” he said, pausing for a moment. Arthur didn’t dare interrupt who was obviously a very powerful man all over Tokyo. In fact, the puroesu icons who were all verbally jerking off SŌTA had grown eerily silent.
Kazuo continued, inserting powerful diction between each sentence.
“We helped you escape the confines of America’s broken system. Without us, you would have rotted in institutions and jail cells until your flesh rotted from your bones. It has been decided in the family that it is time you started paying us back. You are very skilled. You are dangerous. You are everything we knew you could be. And yet, you have so much to learn.”
Still hosing off tacks and glass from his abused anatomy, Pleasant grunted from time to time. Soon, though… a smile crept onto his face.
“Despite how much more you have to learn, we believe it’s time.” Kazuo continued.
“Do you really think I’m ready, Kazzy-san?” he said brashly, giving the disrespectful nickname to one of the most powerful Yakuza Bosses in all of Tokyo. It was almost as if Arthur Pleasant had a death wish.
But instead of throwing his hat and murdering Pleasant where he stood like Oddjob from 1964’s Goldfinger, Kazuo smiled. He understood Pleasant’s mannerisms and all-around irrational and sometimes foolish nature. Had there been others around, witnessing the interaction, Kazuo may have been forced to teach the young man a lesson. Luckily for Pleasant, he was by himself, despite the vulnerable position he found himself in, drenched in his own blood.
“What would you have me do?” said Arthur while bowing as a sort of apology for his ill-timed sense of humor.
Withdrawing a beige envelope from inside his jacket, Kazuo Ichii outstretched his hand and presented it to Pleasant. Wiping the blood that had been pouring down his face, he slicked back his crow-like hair so that he could see a little more clearly. Extending his own hand, his blood-soaked fingers touched the envelope, eventually grabbing at it until crinkle sounds filled the atmosphere of this tiniest section of Korakuen Hall. The Oyabun released his grip and nodded, suggesting Pleasant open the envelope.
Pleasant did as he was wordlessly instructed to do, and carefully peeled the “借金” waxed insignia.
His eyes widened.
“Wait, is this real?” Pleasant asked with genuine concern.
The smile from his Oyabun disappeared like the reflective light from a new moon.
“Hai.” he affirmed in his native language.
Reaching into his pocket, Kazuo Ichii pulled out a recently sharpened tantō knife.
“Fuuuuuck ME.” Pleasant thought to himself.
Knowing the customs of the Yakuza, he knew exactly what this meant.
If he didn’t complete the task given to him, he’d have to suffer the consequences through the brutal, ritualistic act of penance the Yakuza called ‘Yubitsume’.
Rolling his shoulders, he felt a rogue piece of glass fall out of it. Cracking his neck, a tack popped out and fell to the dirty drainage.
Pleasant said nothing. Instead, he simply nodded.
Failure was not an option.
Back to the Bayou
It’s still 04/26/2023
STILL AT THAT AWFUL APARTMENT
“I see you’ve been studying tape.” said a deep voice with a thick, Russian accent somewhere in the shadows of Arthur’s apartment.
It immediately popped him out of his sudden reverie and startled him. Pleasant sat up from his upside-down position and turned toward the direction from which the voice came from.
“I see you don’t know how to fucking knock.” he shot back.
There was a loud chuckle before the voice responded, slowly coming into the light.
“I’ve never been one to knock. You know this.” Yuri replied, looking as terrifying as ever as he stepped more into the light.
Yuri Reznikov. All seven-feet, three-hundred-fifty pounds of Russian Badass. In the flesh for the first time for PRIME viewing. His blonde hair was cut into a Caesar-styled buzz cut, with traces of white scattered about. Bearing a scruffy face, Yuri looked more menacing than ever as his tattoos have seemingly spread all over his neck and lower jaw area.
“No. No, you haven’t. And yeah, I’ve been studying tape.” he lied, casting a smirk as wide as a football field.
Skeptical over Arthur’s words, Yuri reacted to the unseen lie with a giant-sized guffaw. In the seven or so years Arthur had known Yuri, that was the first time he could remember hearing him laugh.
“You have not changed a bit, my friend.” Yuri responded.
There was an awkward silence between them. Finally, after more than a few moments, Yuri broke it with his booming voice.
“So what is it this time, Arthur? Find yourself in deep with the wrong people, again?”
Pleasant sniggered at Yuri’s presumptuousness.
“Why would you think that? Am I that incapable of dealing with my own shit?”
Yuri took a hand to his face and made tracing motions with his index finger.
“Have you forgotten about those scars on your face? The last time you tried to conduct business alone, you nearly needed a novoye litso.”
“Uhhhh…a fucking what?!”
“A, uh, what you say.. new face.” Yuri clarified.
“A psychopath blindsided me. That one’s on me. Totally. I mean, I should know one when I see one.” Pleasant admitted wistfully, sighing as he turned his head away from Yuri.
Yuri walked over to where Arthur sat on his couch. The gargantuan of a man sat down next to the person he once fought Teddy Palmer and Lindsay Troy with in a tag team match. Slapping his shoulder, he clasped down onto it rather roughly. Pleasant made his best effort to not show any indication of pain, but his right eye gave the slightest of flinches, thus betraying him.
Ironically, Yuri’s intimidating presence took Pleasant’s mind off his recent failures and forced him to ponder the imminent future.
“I don’t want you there at ReVival.”
Looking perplexed, Yuri released his grip on Arthur’s shoulder.
“Have plans changed?” Yuri said disappointedly. Muttering under his breath, Yuri followed this up with something unintelligibly Russian.
“Not changed. Just… delayed. You know. Temporarily.” he said confidently.
Yuri looked increasingly unhappy. Before he could say anything, Pleasant raised his hand to stop his counterpart from speaking.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be paid regardless. Handsomely, too.” Pleasant said with a crooked grin.
“I know I will, comrade.”
Yuri leaned in, noticing Pleasant’s wolf-like fangs.
“So what’s with the new teeth?” he said, stifling what would eventually become a hearty laugh.
Very rarely, if ever, have I found myself on a losing streak. I’ve fought against some of the very best this business has had to offer in some of the darkest corners of the world that one could ever imagine. I’ve taken on legendary former World Champions and have come out on the winning side from some of the hardest-fought matches in my career. I’ve ended championship streaks and inadvertently retired people through the humiliation of defeat after defeat after defeat after… well, you get the idea.
I could name-drop all day and night until my voice sounds like what Muriel Puddings’ face looks like, but I won’t. It’s pointless to call people out and propagandize my own accomplishments when I’m dropped into a world that simply doesn’t give a shit about what others do until they hit the ring. Because I’m.. heh… I’m starting to realize just how much of a different beast PRIME is from all the other canvases that I’ve painted with my own blood.
The competition is deeper.
The depth is scarier.
The fear of failing against some of the best competitors ever assembled under one roof is profound.
But here’s the thing about that.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: GIVE. ME. THAT. SHIT.
You’re in a similar situation, aren’t you Jared?
Yeeeah. You are. King of the Tag Team division one day. Exiled from your own kingdom the next. Then, if all of that wasn’t bad enough, you look into your rearview mirror and see a bomb drop down from the sky, eviscerating the whole fucking thing. Ouch.
So, I know you’re coming for me. Full throttle. I would do the same thing if I needed to crawl across a desert in the hopes of finding a new kingdom to rule on the other side.
But I don’t need to crawl across a desert in the wake of exile and devastation.
I need to run up a mountain and knock off who stands on top.
One step at a time, though.
Because it’s obvious that we both need this win.
We both expect nothing less from one another as we teeter on the edges of oblivion.
But one of us wants it more.
One of us… has to win.
One of us… has to look failure in the face and say, “Not today, motherfucker.” then stand tall in a PRIME ring.
So you know what?
Not today, motherfucker.