April 26, 2003
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
It was another one of those long, boring nights after a show, and Troy Matthews was sitting in a Curry House CoCoIchibanya, alone. Less than two hours ago, Sapporo Pro Wrestling had wrapped up another big show in its home venue of Tsukisamu Gymnasium, and much of the roster, including Troy’s own mentor, the reigning Hokkaido Wrestling Federation Openweight Champion Alex “The Sentinel” Markham, had gone off to celebrate with a night of drinking and maybe some karaoke, gallivanting all through downtown Sapporo.
It wasn’t that Troy wasn’t a drinker; he was Irish. His dad made personally sure to teach him how to appreciate a fine glass of whiskey. He liked it just fine. It was just that he would rather be sitting at home, quietly contemplating the world around him, his spirit gradually lifted by his chosen… well, spirits, and going to bed when he felt like it, not being stared at by a bunch of pro wrestlers from a culture he wasn’t part of, speaking a language he didn’t understand, at some ungodly hour while he fiddled around the karaoke songbook for a tune he could sing that he actually LIKED. But he also knew that he’d be counted on to get those guys home safely, and so he had his phone out in case Alex messaged him any instructions.
Meanwhile, instead of fiddling around a karaoke songbook he was fiddling around a menu, looking for the vegetarian curry and trying to cobble together his VERY rudimentary grasp of written Japanese to find it.
“If you’re looking for the vegetarian curry, it’s this one.”
Troy’s focus was suddenly broken by a hand reaching under him and pointing to a picture on the menu, and a female voice speaking in crystal-clear English, “you know katakana, right? Just read along. It’s pronounced ‘be-ji-tah-ree-ahn.’ It’s a loan word.”
He looked up, and was looking straight into the eyes of a young woman he immediately recognized as the boss’ daughter; she mostly spent her time with her father, SPW promoter Shinichiro Kazama, and his most-trusted lieutenant Alex Markham.
Troy never really got a good look at her, because he wasn’t in that inner circle of the company, but now that he did?
She was really cute.
April 24, 2022.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Well, THAT sucked.”
Mushigihara nodded in agreement. The burly ex-sumo was in the middle of his wake-up ritual, and went back to it, pouring a cap of mouthwash into his face and furiously swishing it around each and every tooth.
“Well, I guess we oughta start packin’ our bags, huh?” Troy lamented, as he grabbed his carry-on bag and got up from the bed. Mushi coolly extended a meaty hand out to stop his partner, and shook his head.
“Osu,” the mammoth said with a wink.
“Well, no shit. How did you pull THAT off, big guy?”
Mushigihara looked out the window of the Dangerous Mix’s suite and chuckled.
The Night Before
MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas
Mushigihara lagged behind David as they made their return to their sweet, fresh off the Dangerous Mix’s elimination from PRIME’s Tag Team Survivor Challenge. As the exhausted God-Beast walked up to the front desk, he caught the clerk’s attention with a low, kindly…
“Good evening, sir, am I to understand that you will be checking out tomorrow?”
Mushi shakes his head and taps on the desk calendar with a smile.
“Wow, so you’ll be here for a while, then? And will we be putting this on the PRIME corporate account then?”
With a nod, Mushi smiles and gives another assertive…
“Well, thank you very much for letting us know, we’ll go ahead and place that bill on their account then. Have a good night, Mr. Yamazaki!”
Mushi nods and walks away, but not before pulling his wallet out and handing the clerk a handful of bills, leaving before she can even thank him.
“Hey, big man, the usual, coming up!” the bartender called out in response while pouring a nice, strong Manhattan for the God-Beast.
“Real smooth, big man. Though I’m sure Lindz is gonna motherfuck us when she sees the books.”
The monster chuckles and shrugs, with another “osu.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s a problem for FUTURE David and Mushi, huh?”
Suddenly, a voice called out, “hey guys, wanna say hi to Albert? I’m about to FaceTime Kendra.”
Activating Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program…
A beat, as David and Mushigihara looked at each other.
“C’mon, big guy. Let’s say hi to the pup.”
Transition 27% complete…
With a nod and another “osu,” the duo headed over to Saori, who was setting up shop by the balcony.
On the way over, David took a deep sigh.
A long, sustained silence.
Mushigihara is seated before us, head slumped down in frustration while David Fox solemnly paced around behind him.
David Fox: So we didn’t make it past the second round.
A pregnant pause, as David exhales sharply through his nose.
David Fox: Those DUI dipshits were just too good. And because somebody from the losing tribes had to be voted off, it just so turns out that me and Mushi’s number was up. Does it suck?
Fox stops, and looks right at us.
David Fox: Hell yeah, it sucks. But that’s OK, and you know why, PRIME?
Placing a hand on the back of the God-Beast’s chair, David Fox turns his whole body to us, now staring daggers into the camera lens that leads directly to us.
David Fox: Because whether or not we made it out of PRIME’s wacky reality show pastiche with those tag team championships, we already established from day one here, that our time in PRIME Wrestling is NOT over. Not by a LONG shot.
Mushigihara raises his head up, himself now staring at us.
David Fox: And next week, at ReVival 7, the Dangerous Mix will finally make its transition from the convoluted obstacle course… to the ring. Two more teams of Survivor cast-offs await in the MGM Grand, and those two teams will be in for the battle of a lifetime. Why? Because the Dangerous Mix?
Reverting Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program.
“The name says it all, really.”
April 26, 2003
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Troy Matthews and his new friend, the daughter of Sapporo Pro Wrestling promoter Shinichiro Kazama, were walking through the streets of Sapporo. He had just finished telling her about his days of Muay Thai fights in the legendary Lumpinee Stadium, the Madison Square Garden of the sport of kickboxing.
“That’s really cool that you fought in Thailand!” she gushed.
“Yeah. When it comes to kickboxing I was… pretty good, you know? And I loved Thailand, I definitely want to go back. Really down-to-earth people, and the food was EXCELLENT. Ever have Thai green curry?”
She shook her head, “no, can’t say I ever have.”
“Aw, it’s soooo good. It is SPICY though, WAY more than the curry here.”
“So, why wrestling?”
Troy shrugged and shook his head. “Well, I always liked wrestling too. I actually had to cut a deal with my parents that I’d manage school on top of wrestling, but I pulled it off. What about you? Well, I mean, other than it being the family business and all.”
They both chuckled and there was a long, somewhat awkward silence.
“You know,” Troy said as he tried to keep the talk from dying, “I didn’t expect your English to be so… good?”
She chuckled, “thanks. I was born and raised in San Francisco. I didn’t really start living with my dad until my mother died.”
The blood rushed out of his face as he reflexively apologized.
“Don’t worry. It was about six years ago. Though I AM a dual-citizen.”
“Really! Japan and America, right?”
“Yeah. But I’ll have to pick one or the other to keep when I turn 22, so… what’s that, a good three years to make that choice?”
“What were you thinking?”
She sighed. “I don’t know. I… don’t really know what there is for me here.”
He leaned in, as if he were signaling her to go on.
“I know wrestling is in my blood. But… the women’s scene here is starting to die off, and I don’t know if there will be a place for me here. And what about afterwards? I don’t want to just become somebody’s wife when I’m done, be someone’s mother. I actually ca–”
She stopped herself, looking at Troy, mortified that he might have picked up on her words and judged her.
“We’re almost at dad’s house. I’m sure he’d be worried if he came home and didn’t see me there.”
Troy smiled and nodded. “Right. And besides, I know I’ll have to escort some of the boys to their places.” He took a deep breath and let it sit in his chest for a few seconds while he got his nerve, before he finally pushed out the question he wanted to ask; “can I walk you home?”
There was something about him that made her feel safe. Safe enough that, after thinking on it for a few seconds, she smiled and replied, “sure.”
She was never afraid around the other, native wrestlers who worked for her father, but there was something about this guy who would regularly antagonize the local crowds and just be a rude, annoying jerk in the ring. She couldn’t even explain it to herself, but she felt warm and safe. And she started thinking about the time she’d get the nerve to properly ask him out.
But for now, she’d just be happy knowing his name. His real name.
“So we got some multiverse-explorers, a wife guy, and some bonehead who’s just along for the ride.”
We’re back with David and Mushi, who are now chuckling among themselves.
David Fox: Sheesh. And I thought *I* was a “wife guy.” Not sure I’d call my marriage a Hallmark journey, though; it’s filled with peaks and valleys. And a lot of struggle to get where we are now. Where *I* am now. I guess that’s why I always tried to make it clear to anyone on the other side of the ring from me, I’m more than just a wrestler. I’m a fighter. Same as the big man right here. We’ve been fighting our whole lives, and every match is just another chapter in those stories.
David Fox: And our fights have much higher stakes than some poor sap trying to appease his Karen of a wife in, probably one of the “I want to speak to your manager and/or pit boss” capitals of the WORLD in Las Vegas. It’s not exactly the kind of stuff that makes the romantic movie channels, but it’s an honest way of life.
David Fox: Which means, in the ring with me and Mushi? You’re gonna have a bad time. Poor Jonathan-Christopher Hall. But also? Poor Darin “Just Happy To Be Here!” Zion.
The God-Beast smiles at his tag team partner and chuckles.
David Fox: Yeah, what can you do? At least they’re not those poor schmucks trying to find a universe that doesn’t have us running roughshod on them. Those guys actually ARE a meme. But they got heart, if nothing else. That’s why we’re gonna take them deadly serious at ReVival; once upon a time, I was written off as a joke myself, and I went ahead and shocked a lot of people with my actual ability and made a name for myself.
With a low growl, Mushi nods in agreement. He would know, given that his current tag team partner was at one point his fiercest rival.
David Fox: Who’s to say that Kenny Freeman and Randall Schwartz can’t do that themselves? I know what it’s like, lads. Being counted out, left for dead, laughed off… only to prove them wrong. Wanna prove us wrong, boys? Now’s your chance.
David Fox: Just don’t expect any clemency when the bell rings, boys.
April 26, 2003
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
“Well, here we are.”
She pointed at the door with one hand and dug for her key out of her pocket with the other. He sighed, knowing that after this he’d be on his way to help babysit the roster of Sapporo Pro Wrestling as they drunkenly shambled their ways home. She unlocked the door and stepped inside, then turned around facing Troy.
“I had a really nice time. Thanks for not shooing me away at the curry shop.”
“Me too. And you’re welcome!”
“I was actually…”
A lump formed in her throat, as she dug around for the words.
“…was hoping we could hang out again sometime? It feels good having someone around here that I don’t have to feel like an outsider around.”
She looked in his eyes with a look that screamed “please say yes?”
He nodded, “sure. But, uh… I don’t think I ever got your name.”
“Saori. I don’t expect you to get it right so soon, but… yeah. What’s your name?”
“No,” she promptly butted in, “your real name.”
That took him back, to the point where he started to stutter, but her stare actually helped him calm down a little… and he felt weird when he realized that.
“My name is David. It’s a pleasure to be properly introduced… Saori.”
Without warning, she leaned in and gave him a peck-like kiss on the lips and grabbed the door.
“Have a lovely night, David.”
With a little dramatic flourish, she closed the door. David took a deep breath, and started on his way back downtown, putting a finger on his lips and blushing…