Private: Tyler Adrian Best
The PRIME Universal Championship.
It just sounds good on your lips. PRIME Universal Championship. It’s professional. It’s a good looking belt. I’ve got at least three pairs of Jays that would make that shit pop. And hey, it’s got lineage– you ask anyone in PRIME, and they’ll tell you all about a bunch of dudes with shitty white baby names names like Castor and Killean. I stood in the middle of the ring a couple of months ago with a big smile on my face, and I made the world a promise. Didn’t mince my words, said what was on my mind, and told everyone who cared to listen that I was going to win the PRIME Universal Championship. I said that I was going to carry it back to Chicago with me, and drop it on Lee Best’s desk. And now here we are… Tropical Turmoil is upon us… and there are only two things standing in the way of making that happen.
One of them is Brandon Youngblood.
Dusty old Brandon. King Boomer. Fedora the Explorer, still using MapQuest to find maidens in need of defending on the internet. This corny ass old man might have gray hair on his balls, but he’s not a small obstacle to becoming the Universal Champion. I’d never sleep on Youngblood. You know why?
Cause this is literally all he has.
This is it, folks. All of this– the Kingdom of PRIME, the Universal Championship, his old head status as an OG who can still go. It’s life support. It’s insulin. It’s a morning medication that he has to take out of one of those Monday-Sunday pill trays, just to make sure that he never misses a day. He needs to drop news posts defending the honor of Lindsay Troy. He needs to speak up, even though no one is fucking talking to him. He needs to be the top of the mountain, the winningest dude, the biggest name. He has poured his heart and his soul into PRIME Wrestling, and without it?
He has nothing.
Seems to be the case for a lot of dudes around here. Most of you motherfuckers are clinging to PRIME like a desperate little life raft, because you’d drown if you stepped foot into the rest of the pro wrestling ocean. This is your safest little space. Your panic room. The only place where everyone is gonna give a single minor fuck about your constant mental health crises, your ridiculous ideas, and your secret hatred of actual professional wrestling. A bunch of guys who should be enemies shooting the shit on Jabber, and all this time I’ve been making fun of you for it, but it’s only just now that I’m realizing why you’re so friendly with the people you’re supposed to be face-punching:
You don’t have any friends.
And why would you? What an insufferable group of fucking losers this place turned out to be. I’m here because I am contractually obligated to be. This is literally a punishment. My dad shipped me over to PRIME Wrestling to teach me some kind of lesson, and after trial running this shit for a couple of months?
Fucking PRIME ain’t it, guys.
I’ve tried so fucking hard to like it here. I’ve put a lot more effort than you could possibly know into trying to just stomach the constant irritating energy in these hallways. I held my tongue through ridiculous Taco Bell sponsorships and nonstop crybaby meltdowns every time someone is having a bad day. I’ve sat on my hands while Melvin spoke to me out the side of his mouth a thousand times, doing everything in my power not to tell him exactly how full of shit he sounds. And I’ve smiled through it, time after time after fucking time, while some douchebag who wouldn’t last five minutes in a HOW ring talked a whole bunch of shit about the company that my family owns, like he’s morally superior.
And Youngblood is the king of it.
What an absolutely self righteous asshole. This dumb bitch called Steve Solex a glorified water fetcher, less than 72 hours before the entire PRIME roster got clean swept by HOW for the second pay-per-view in a row. In the same news post where he called PRIME number one. And hey, I know I’m flushing my chances of being successful here down the toilet with every word that comes out of my mouth, but while we’re on the subject?
How the fuck is PRIME number one?
Cause it isn’t in concurrent years active. It isn’t in quality of talent, no matter how much Melvin wants to scream at the top of his lungs about how every member of the roster is better than everyone else who has ever lived. It definitely isn’t the result of winning a bunch of interpromotional contests, because PRIME just can’t do it. They can’t fucking do it. It can’t be done. Scott Stevens has won more matches against the PRIME roster than Brandon Youngblood has won against HOW. This is an actual statistical fact that you can say out loud in a room with air in it, and be correct.
I’m just fuckin’ done, man.
This place fucking sucks. It isn’t fun. I don’t find myself excited to come to work every week. When I said that I was going to win the PRIME Universal Championship and parade it back to Chicago, it was supposed to be cheap heat. It was supposed to just be something that a bad guy says, to put some asses in the seats. But fuck it, at this point, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to beat the absolute moose piss out of Brandon Youngblood, I’m going to take his championship, and I’m going to march it back to my grandfather in a little Fisher Price bag with a bow on top of it.
I’ve fucking had it.
If they kick me out of the Glueminati because Cecilworth still holds a grudge about an ex-girlfriend he can’t stop Facebook creeping, fine. If I get fired from PRIME because someone told someone else who told someone else that they were pretty sure that something I said was over some kind of a line, then fine. Keep hating on a wrestling company so terrible that your website looks just like theirs but worse, your radio sounds just like theirs but worse, and your titles are just like theirs, but worse. And keep hiring all of their former employees, too.
I’ll at least say that there’s never a dull moment in PRIME.
It’s just total, nonstop action.
Anyway, that’s my mandatory PR for this stupid pay-per-view. Enjoy watching me wrestle a guy who HOW midcarder GREAT SCOTT pinned clean on a weekly show a couple of months ago. A generational talent, that Brandon Youngblood. Once in a lifetime. The only thing that sells out more than the arenas he wrestles in are the tissue sections at whatever fucking Walmart is closest to his big, stupid face.
I look forward to how you’ll respond to all this, Brandon.
“What in the fuck were you thinking?”
The words circle around the skull of Tyler Adrian Best, but he can hardly hear them– it’s as though they’ve been whispered underwater. Normally, when Tyler completely tunes out of a conversation, it’s because he isn’t listening. But this time?
Well, this time he has a concussion.
Second time this year. The odds become better each time that he’s going to end up drinking his food through a straw at some point in his mid thirties, but every nineteen year old on the planet thinks that he’s invincible. There’s a mile-wide shiner across his left eye, accenting the crusted over split lip just beneath his nose.
He’s absolutely fucked up.
TAB looks as though he’s been hit by a truck.
Or a ladder.
Hard to say.
“Tyler!” Penny snaps, louder this time. “I’m talking to you.”
His head whips around suddenly, and he can almost feel his brain sloshing around inside his skull. His attention is pulled away from the suitcase that he’s been packing, full mostly to the brim with workout clothes.
“Oh, sorry.” Tyler fakes a smile, flashing teeth. “What’s up?”
He shoves the suitcase off to one side, grabbing an empty duffel bag to put in it’s place. Immediately, he begins shoveling the next round of clothes into it.
“I saw your promo, Ty.” Penny shakes her head. “Why the fuck didn’t you run that by me first? Literally my job is to make sure you don’t say dumb things. And that was all of the dumb things. All of them. This is a nightmare.”
She washes her hands over her face, dumfounded. The man standing in front of her is nothing like the man she’d come to actually like over the last couple of months. He was a ghost. A shadow of a man she’d grown to appreciate.
It’s like he’s a fucking zombie.
“It’s gonna be fine.” Tyler mumbles, haphazardly packing his things. “We tried it out here. Shit didn’t work, Pen. If you’re worried about your job, don’t— you’re on the HOW payroll, not PRIME. You won’t even miss a paycheck. I promise.”
It’s utterly baffling.
Penny isn’t even sure how to respond— what the fuck was going on? Tyler Adrian Best often erred on the side of overconfidence, so who was this pathetic little muppet wearing his shoes? Why was he talking like he had already given up?
“I’m not worried about me.” Penny frowns. “I’m worried about you. You go on some mysterious ass trip out of the country, you come back beat all to hell, you won’t tell me where you went or what happened to you. And now you’re talking like you’re just done. Like you’ve given up. I don’t get it. You’re so close, Ty. At nineteen years old. You could be about to do something unprecedented, and you’re out here burying the company and packing your bags. I… I don’t get it. Help me get it.”
The third generation Best shrugs his shoulders, but it’s almost inwardly. Defensively. Not in defiance, but in self-protection. Like a child, curling in on himself and trying to swallow his own body whole. He looks afraid and uncomfortable, like he doesn’t fit inside of his own skin and he’s trying to wrinkle it all up until it feels right again.
Penny Lane reaches a hand out, putting it on Tyler’s shoulder, and his body slowly exhales.
“I hate it here, Penny.” Tyler says, swallowing a lump in his throat. “I don’t want to be here anymore. Nobody likes me here, nobody wants me here, and this whole company fucking sucks anyway. Plus after what my dad did to me I—“
He stops suddenly, already realizing that he’s said more than he meant to say. The youngest Best goes 97 Red in the face, turning his eyes away from Penny as he roughly pulls his shoulder away from her arm— he shovels another armful of clothes into his duffel bag, getting more frantic in the packing and less concerned about keeping it even remotely tidy.
Penny takes a step back, eyes wide.
“Ty…” she begins, not even sure what to say. “Did… did your father beat you up like that? Why were you… where did you go on your trip, Tyler? What did you do? What happened to you?”
He refuses to look up.
His hands become a whirlwind, frantically discarding the now full bag and swapping it out for a cardboard box. He scurries toward the entertainment center, nearly ripping a gaming console out of the wall before throwing it haphazardly into the cardboard void.
“TYLER!” Penny snaps, mostly out of fear and frustration. “You need to talk to me. Right now. Right the fuck now. What happened to you? Who did that to you?”
Again, Tyler doesn’t respond. He desperately scans the room, looking for anything else that actually belongs to him and didn’t come with the apartment. He doesn’t intend to step foot in this place even one more time if he can help it— straight from Tropical Turmoil to the airport, with or without the PRIME Universal Championship.
He puts his hands on his hips, trying not to look at Penny. She’s been there every step of the way, literally from day one. Put up with all of his bullshit. Stuck with him, when she could have (and probably SHOULD have) walked away at any time. She believed in Tyler Best, even when no one else on the planet did. Even when he didn’t. A lump forms in this throat, as he realizes the truth.
He at least owes her an explanation.
“I, uh.” TAB rubs the back of his neck, squirming in place. “Look. I’m allowed to come home. That’s really all I can say. I wanna tell you everything, Penny. I swear to God I do. But that’s all I can tell you. I did some favors. I earned my way back in. Dad is gonna let me come back.”
The words dance in the nothingness. Penny looks him up and down, really putting the pieces together for the first time. He left the country for three days. He came home looking like he’d gone through literal hell, bruised from head to toe and so concussed that if anyone knew the truth, he wouldn’t be allowed to compete. His father is letting him come…. home.
She is almost without words.
“…Jesus Christ, Tyler.” She whispers, looking at the floor. “You’re… El Hombre Blanco.”
“Well. The prodigal son returns.”
June 13, 2023. That’s the first time that Tyler Adrian Best has looked his father in the eyes in nearly a year, and the tension is nearly as palpable as he’d expected it to be.
The exiled son.
The arrogant father.
Salt Lake City wasn’t exactly middle ground for an in-person conversation, but Michael’s sense of irony had all but forced him to fly out to Utah to finally speak to his son.
“So.” Michael fills the silence, trying to stifle the awkward. “How’s everything going? How’s… PRIME?”
The words swing from the gallows. That is to say, they hang lifelessly, desperate to be put out of their misery.
“Yeah, it’s good. It’s good.” Tyler crosses his arms, shuffling his feet. “Lot going on. I’m a glue boy now. Got a shot at the Universal Title. Arthur Pleasant is there now. Big piece of shit.”
The Son of GOD nods his head idly, as he taps his feet on the edge of his hotel bed. He kicks a chair out from the desk, offering it to his bastard child.
“I can’t do this shit, Tyler.” Michael shakes his head. “It’s fucking… pretend. Just tell me you’re ready to come home, so I can tell you how you can earn your way back.”
He stares a hole in the forehead of Tyler Adrian Best, crossing his arms in front of him. He thought that Tyler would come crawling back a lot sooner than this— he’d planned to let him swing for as long as humanly possible, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
He has to be the first to blink.
“Nah, I’m cool.” Tyler shrugs. “Got a good thing going on. But thanks anyway.”
He flashes a thumbs up at his father, turning to leave. No need to extend the visit any longer than necessary, especially considering that his father clearly just summoned him here to make him beg for forgiveness.
He had nothing to be sorry for.
“Wait.” His father calls out, with a sigh. “Tyler… what the fuck are you even doing?”
TAB turns his head, looking back at his dad.
“Listen, I get it..” Michael stands from the bed. “I had a ton of fun in UTAH. Came in, dominated the competition, had a few laughs. But I knew when it was time to come home. You’re never gonna be happy there. They’re never going to accept you. You aren’t one of them. Come on. It’s time. Just ask me what you have to do. It’s time.”
The look of disgust on Tyler’s face could cut glass— his hand reaches for the door handle, ready to walk back out of his father’s life the same way that his father walked out of his in the first place.
Ready to walk away.
Just walk away, Tyler.
“…what would I have to do?” The words fall out of his face almost against his will. “If I was interested, I mean.”
He slowly turns around, his eyes meeting the smirking face of Michael Lee Best. The HOW Hall of Famer is already holding a bag in his hands, confident that his son would do as he was told. He chucks the bag over to Tyler, which catches it and looks inside– there are only two items.
A very familiar mask.
And the HOW LSD Championship.
“Tyler, he beat the SHIT out of you.”
Penny‘s hand brushes over the side of Tyler’s face, careful not to exacerbate the damage as she takes it all in. The whole side of his face is swollen, nearly purple from the side of his eye socket down the edge of his cheek bone.
“I’m fine, Pen.” He pulls away, his face glowing red. “Gotta break a few eggs sometimes.”
He turns to finish packing, but this time, Penny doesn’t let him. She grabs Tyler firmly by the shoulders, shoving him back away toward the wall and getting between him and his belongings. Her eyes are wild, full of equal parts disbelief and blind panic.
“FUCK!” she cries out, almost overwhelmed. “He’s gaslighting you, Tyler. That whole FUCKING place just gaslights everyone, ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Do you know what a piece of shit you were when you got here? Do you know how REVOLTING I found you? You’re getting better. You’re fucking BETTER, Ty. This place is good for you. Anywhere that isn’t that fucking company is good for you. Why would you go back? Why would you throw this all away?”
She shoves him again, a little harder this time.
His back collides with the wall, and even he is surprised by the level of force. He doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t know how to respond. There are practically tears welling up at the corner’s of Penny’s eyes— he’s never seen her like this before. Something in the pit of his stomach feels absolutely miserable. Like he’s going to throw up, but worse.
He feels… ashamed.
“I should have told you.” he nearly whispers. “I’m sorry. He’s… my dad. It’s stupid and it’s shitty and it’s fucked up, but I need him to like me. I need him to respect me.”
She stares directly into his eyes, no more than six inches from his face. Her heart threatens to beat straight out of her chest, equal parts furious and devastated.
“He doesn’t respect you.” Penny vehemently shakes her head. “He used you. He beat the fuck out of you and made you beg to come back. FUCK him, Tyler. Fuck that guy forever. Stay here. Make something of yourself, for YOURSELF. You have SUCH an opportunity, and you EARNED that. No one handed that to you. Fuck, I’m SO proud of you, Tyler. And you just want to leave? You don’t want to finish it? You just want to quit?”
“I… I don’t know.” He stammers, flustered. “I don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to disappoint… you. FUCK I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t know what I should—“
“FUCK what I want.” Penny interrupts. “Fuck what he wants. What do YOU want, Tyler? For once in your life, make a decision for YOU. Stop caring so much what everyone thinks of you, and do something YOU want to do. Something, Tyler. ANYTHING.”
“I just—“ he barely chokes out.
“DO SOMETHING.” Penny yells again, colliding her open palms with his chest.
His brain is on full tilt, fractions of thoughts smashing against the sides of his skull like a pinball machine inside of a hurricane. He can’t think. Can’t breathe. It’s too much pressure. Tyler Adrian Best has been taking the easy way out at every available opportunity, but this time there’s no easy way out. No answer that sounds right. A fork in the road with no clear path forward. He stares his best friend dead in the eyes, his heart pounding in the sides of his ears, unsure about everything in the entire universe except for one thing.
And that’s when he finally does something.
He leans forward and he kisses Penny Lane.
…and she kisses him back.