Post-Great American Nightmare. FLAMBERGE, tired but filled with a sense of accomplishment after his victory, pauses in front of his locker.
There’s a gift basket, covered in plastic wrap and tied off with a pretty teal bow on the top. Its contents? SUCH a variety of American snacks – Cool Ranch Doritos, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, classic Pringles, gummy bears, Goldfish crackers, Sour Cream and Onion Lays, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Cheez-Its – and a note. FLAMBERGE picks it up and smiles, immediately recognizing the handwriting.
Je suis tellement fier de l’homme que tu es devenu. Gagne ou perd, continue à te battre, ma petite épée. – Maman
He slumps on the bench after reading. If he weren’t so stubborn, we might see the start of the room getting a little misty – instead, he kisses the note and starts looking through his basket bounty.
“NO! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! I HAVE BEEN DETAINED WITHOUT THE JUST CAUSE!”
Outside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, things are decidedly less peaceful. Two Enemigos stand shoulder to shoulder with Dametreyus as a sweaty, bug-eyed Henri Lavigne blusters loudly in their general direction.
“FLAMBERGE is mon fils, my SON, you pigs! You have NO RIGHT to kick me out! NONE OF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT! I am in control of his future in PRIME! I AM IN CONTROL OF HIM! Not you, not that chouette détritus that signs your paychecks -”
“Say one more word about Lindsay Troy and see what happens.”
Dam steps forward and Henri reflexively takes a panic step or two back.
“Tu ne connais pas ta place-”
Dam cuts him off.
“No, Mr. Lavigne, YOU don’t know your place.”
Henri’s eyes look like they’re trying to escape his head, not expecting his insult to be understood.
“Yeah, I brushed up on my French after FLAMBERGE joined the roster. Je fais aussi un super pain aux bananes. Your kid is cool with me. YOU, on the other hand, are banned from any and all PRIME-related activities until Ms. Troy says otherwise.”
“And if I refuse?”
The two Enemigos both immediately take steps forward, past Dam, until they have control of both of Henri’s arms. Henri tries and helplessly fails to shrug his way out of their grasp. Dametreyus raises an eyebrow.
“This is not a fight you want to pick. Now be on your way – au revoir! Vamanos! Git!”
The Enemigos shove Henri away, and as he takes a few steps back, Henri trips on nothing and falls squarely on his much-cushioned butt. Dam and his boys turn to make their way back to the venue, when-
Henri’s last defiant (DEFIANT?) gasp. Dam turns and gives him a look universally recognized by owl scientists to mean “death” before Henri scurries away, first on all fours, then stumbling and tripping over himself, and finally off into the neon Las Vegas night.
In FLAMBERGE’s hotel.
Youngblood. Impulse. Hanlon. Scott. Daniels.
The top 5 has had some turnover in the aftermath of Great American Nightmare, but that doesn’t matter to FLAMBERGE. He set a goal, he made a list – this is something he has to accomplish. By July 2024, FLAMBERGE must prove himself against those five names in the middle of a PRIME ring.
Except, there’s a problem – well, problem is maybe too strong a word. The thing about being 23 and getting success early in your life (and to this point, early in your career), is that patience is a currency that hasn’t received much investment. This is doubly, maybe triply true for someone pushed and throttled and harangued by Henri Lavigne from the time he could walk upright. Waiting sucks. Two years SUCKS.
How can you prove you’re at Brandon Youngblood’s level when you’re booked against Garbage Bag Johnny?
“The only way forward is through,” his mother might tell him.
“YOU BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF HIM UNTIL HE DIES,” his father might eloquently put it.
“There’s surely some sort of Garbage Bag – Bag of Brets crossover content we can throw on Jabber and use to elevate our brand” was the text message he got from Mr. Darby. Unbelievable. There is no WAY.
FLAMBERGE sits on the couch in his hotel room, open can of Pringles next to him on an end table. A quick scan of the room sees that a few of the snacks his mom sent him have been thoroughly demolished – first the Cool Ranch Doritos, then the Goldfish. Pretty good, if a bit artificial.
He’s working up the courage to try the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It’s decidedly not haute cuisine, but it’s just SO far outside of his comfort zone that it keeps pulling his attention. Food shouldn’t be that color…so why does everyone love it so much??
He stares at his phone. The words “Garbage Bag – Bag of Brets crossover content” are words that he probably didn’t expect to read when he first joined PRIME, but here we are, the unrelenting money-march machine refuses to leave him alone.
Blocking phone numbers has only worked so much lately. Darby always finds another one, and another one. He is sure he saw one leading up to Great American Nightmare saying something along the lines of “don’t worry about the lawsuit”; not worrying about external shit has become a staple in recent months, so no issue there.
All he knew at this point was that he went toe-to-toe with one of the company’s Big Bads and he won a PPV-level match by decidedly NOT associating with Daniel Darby and cutting bait, even if that bait insists on following him around all the time. He’s going to need to have a hard talk with Darby at some point – probably another one with Henri, too. Not now, though. Not this week.
He takes a glance over to the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Ah, shit – someone’s going to call them FLAMBO Hots, aren’t they. Same people who go with the FLAMBÉ or the FLAME-BROILED thing (as if he’d ever eat Burger King). Better get ahead of that one.
After all, there’s a theme here. Same theme since the beginning, same theme every wrestler grapples with at one point or another – the whole “proving yourself” deal that the vast majority of the roster already did over years and years of battles before PRIME’s grand re-opening. FLAMBERGE has his own timeline, but PRIME has another…hence the lazy quips from the roster, hence the booking against Garbage Bag Johnny instead of someone from his list.
His phone’s text alert pings. Darby, again. Ugh.
“Remember – he’s NOT REZIN. So. Focus on bags and bag-related topics. BRANDING.”
Snark and puns and japes have never been FLAMBERGE’s thing – throwing wrestlers into the MOON, that’s the proper vibe, whether that came from Henri or not. Send Garbage Bag Johnny up there so he can put some footprints right next to Neil Armstrong and that other guy – Burt? No, you’re just thinking of Brets…Buzz, Buzz something? Hold on, time to make a quick note to self – got to grab a pen and paper, here we go.
Then he remembered that GBJ’s tag partner only LOOKS 60 years old and crosses out “Nova”.
That’ll clear it up. FLAMBERGE knows there’s at least one flag up there and at about a billion rocks, though one less Ria Nightshade than he planned when he first debuted.
Johnny can take her place just fine.
He takes another look at the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He’s GOT to, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s a gift from mom, it would be rude not to at least TRY. He goes over to the bag and rips it open, leaning his face into the bag and deeply inhaling a curious sniff – only to launch his head backwards, a barrage of sneezes following. Who the hell poisoned these chips with napalm??
Ok, ok, composure time. Grab a couple tissues, get the snot out, take a moment. Give it a second shot…easy now, don’t sniff too hard this time. He delicately pulls out a single Flamin’ Hot with only the very tips of his index finger and thumb, and after setting the bag down, he closes his nose with the other. He pops it in his mouth.
cronch cronch cronch
FLAMBERGE sprints to his bathroom and spits out everything in his mouth into the sink. He turns the cold water on max pressure and just runs his entire face and mouth under it, desperately fighting to rinse out the taste of cardboard and gunpowder.
“Qui diable mange cette merde??”
In that moment, FLAMBERGE never held so much resentment in his heart for someone as he did for Darby for ruining Brets Chips for him, maybe forever.
The Flamin’ Hots have a new, more permanent home now – the garbage. FLAMBERGE is so sickened by the smell still lingering in the room that he removes the garbage bag from the can and heads to the door.
“he’s gONNA THROW IT TO THE MOON!@!!1”, one imagines hearing…but that’s, no. We can all agree, that’s laying it on a bit thick. Don’t expect that thing.
He is, however, in a worse mood than he was before. If he was 22, 21, 18, 14, his father would see this mood and immediately drag him to the gym to either punish it out of him or work it out of him. That’s gone now, which brings a lot of relief but also some weird faint sadness that someone isn’t constantly observing how he’s doing anymore.
He picks up his phone one more time. Three more texts from Darby – ignore. He scrolls through his contacts and picks one, dialing.