Is It True?
Posted on 04/01/23 at 12:13pm by Nate Colton
Event: CULTURE SHOCK 2023 NIGHT ONE
Rule Number Twelve
Always think before you speak. Especially on camera.
# # #
Tanner Quest looked at him but somehow also through him, their green eyes determined to find the truth, whatever that may be.
And yet, Nate found himself looking at their hands.
They had a slight tremor, in those rare moments when the reporter wasn’t finding ways to keep them occupied. Adjusting the recorder, picking up their notes, twirling a pencil between their fingers.
“Are you all right?” Nate asked.
“I’m fine,” Tanner replied. “It’s just…I don’t usually do these in person.”
Not surprising after Colossus, he thought. Tanner had suffered a panic attack during the Night Two presser, and word spread quickly. Gotta let her–him?–let them know I won’t bite their head off.
“I get it,” he said. “I’ve got a thing with noise. Just take some deep breaths, focus, and you’ll do great.”
They nodded, and inhaled deeply. After a long exhale, Tanner’s hands steadied as they reached for the recorder. “Thank you. Let’s begin.”
“Ready when you are.”
Tanner cleared their throat, then activated the recorder. “Interview with Nate Colton, March 28, 2023,” they began, then turned their attention to the Next Diamond. “Mister Colton, you recently completed your first year in PRIME, the highlight of which is obviously becoming the Five Star Champion at Colossus. What does the Five Star Title mean to you?”
Good, a nice easy question. I’m fine with hitting a few softballs.
“Being the Five Star Champion is a huge honor. That title has a ton of history behind it; some of the best wrestlers ever have held it. That’s held true in the new PRIME; Hanlon and Rezin both went on to win the Uni, and I wouldn’t be shocked if FLAMBO gets there someday. I’m proud to be part of that history.”
“How would you describe your reign as Five Star Champion so far?”
Wait, I’m not done
“The other–” Nate started, before suddenly realizing he needed to change gears. “I’ll be honest, it’s been disappointing. I’ve held the belt for three months, but I’ve only defended it once. I get why it happened, but it’s not how I wanted it to go. If I make it through Culture Shock, I hope to have more chances to put the belt on the line.”
“You recently suffered the first loss on your record in almost nine months, when Rezin got himself counted out in your tag match against Brandon Youngblood and Jared Sykes. What are your thoughts on how that match played out?”
I hope Hayes drops that burnout prick on his head
“Obviously, I’m not happy about it,” Nate replied almost automatically. “I think Rezin overreacted. But emotions run high out there, and intentionally or not, I did hit him. My real issue is that he never committed himself to the match. We didn’t have a chance to work out a plan, and for a while I wasn’t sure he’d show up at all. Tough to win that way.”
Tanner’s reply came almost the moment Nate’s answer had ended. “But were you as committed as you should have been? After all, you told me yourself that you were very unhappy about the booking.”
Oh SHIT they are not playing around!
“I…look, that’s–” he stammered, before taking a moment. “That’s true. But I still wanted to make the best of it. Gotta play the cards you’re dealt, right?”
“Mm-hmm,” Tanner said, and scribbled something in their notes. When they looked back up, Quest’s eyes seemed to be even sharper, as if they had locked into some kind of weakness and were zeroing in. “And yet, you’re still quick to blame him for your team’s failure.”
You walked right into that one, idiot, Nate chided himself, and took a deep breath before responding. “I think that Rezin and I still have some issues that we gotta settle. But we’re on different paths right now.”
“Of course,” they said, and wrote something else in their notebook. Nate craned his neck a little as he tried to get a peek.
You’re already recording me, what are you writing down in–
The notepad was quickly snapped shut, and when Nate looked up he saw Quest staring at him, a tiny smirk on their otherwise stoic face.
# # #
Josie had deep, soulful eyes that he could–and wanted to–get lost in. They were a dark brown, and had a warmth to them.
And yet, Nate found himself looking at her hands. They were wrapped around a sea salt black tea latte; her purple nail polish contrasted her tan skin as well as the beige ceramic cup.
Your hands are so tiny and precious, how is that even allowed
Since their meet cute a few months ago, Nate and Josie added each other on the socials, and Josie and her friends mingled with Nate’s trivia team once or twice. Mostly, Nate had just found more excuses to go to the library. He even started reading shorter books so he’d have an excuse.
Finally they set up their first one-on-one encounter, because her supervisor Chuck told Nate, “Ask her out already, or I’ll put you to work.” Josie chose the location; a tea-and-dessert shop within walking distance of the library.
“I love this place,” Josie said. “It’s close enough to work that I can run over and grab a snack during my break.” She brought her cup up to her face and sampled its contents, and satisfaction washed over her face. “Mmm. How’s yours?”
She looked up, just as Nate was sliding his hand into the no-man’s-land in the center of the table. He quickly drew it back to pick up his own cup, then took a drink from his honeydew milk tea.
Oh my God that’s disgusting
“Mmm,” he said, desperately trying not to grimace as he set the beverage down. “Pretty good stuff.” He knew it was a mistake when he ordered it, but he panicked and chose the first thing on the menu where he recognized all the words.
Get your shit together, Nathan. You’ve been on dates before. This isn’t even a real date, it’s just coffee and it’s not even coffee
“How are you liking the book?” Josie asked. On his last visit, she’d recommended Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, after he asked if she’d watched the Amazon series yet. Nate didn’t even know it was a book.
It’s so confusing and I hate the interview format, I don’t know who’s talking half the time
“It’s really good!” Nate said. “The characters are really engaging, and the stories are classic rock tabloid stuff. I haven’t had time to finish it yet, but I like it so far.” Josie beamed in response, and Nate forgot entirely how adorable her hands were. Your eyes close as your smile gets bigger, I love that “How’s Muffin doing?” he asked.
“I’m taking her to the vet next week, but she’s doing a lot better. I took the cutest picture of her today, wanna see?”
Don’t have a lot of use for a King Charles but I’ll always look at a dog
Josie brought her phone out and, after a few taps, brought up a picture of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Muffin (or to use her full name, Cranberry Orange Muffin II, Duchess of Spring Valley) was curled up inside a shopping bag, snoozing contentedly.
All right that’s cute as hell but you couldn’t ever play fetch, the stick would probably bring the dog back
“That’s adorable. Glad to hear she’s feeling better.” He handed the phone back, his fingers brushing against hers for a moment. She gave a shy smile as she put her phone away, and Nate took another drink in the hopes that it would keep him from blushing.
Ugh, why am I doing this to myself
They went on for about an hour, talking about a variety of subjects. Coworkers, current events, family. Yes, he sometimes thought about going back to college. No, she hadn’t been back to Loveland to visit her folks lately, but she did FaceTime them a few days ago. No, he didn’t know why there was a small pig on his shoulder on the internet.
All the while, Nate’s heart ran a mile a minute, and his mind went even faster.
Just be cool and don’t fuck this up, just be cool and don’t fuck this up
# # #
“Let’s talk about Culture Shock. You’ll be defending your title against Tyler Adrian Best.”
Ugh, that fuckin’ guy
“It’s a tough draw,” Nate said. “He’s been impressive in the ring so far, and of course he’s got the pedigree. We all know about his family.”
Even if we wish we didn’t
Tanner nodded. “Indeed we do. There are quite a few similarities between the Bests and the Coltons–”
Don’t ever compare us to those fucking psychopaths
“–both established names in the wrestling industry, with a strong presence in the Midwest. What is the history between your two families?”
“I think this is the first time we’ve crossed paths,” Nate answered. “We know who they are, obviously. Can’t be that close to Chicago without knowing about the Bests. But we’ve never really dealt with each other until now, as far as I know.”
“Why do you think that is?”
Because they’re everything wrong with the wrestling industry and we wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole
“I think we’re just not on their radar. They’re mega stars, they’ve done shows all over the world…they’ve got an arena with their name on it. Dad’s name carries a lot of weight in the business, but that’s mostly on the indy level. It’s helped me a lot–got me in with other trainers, scored me some bookings around the country, and at least opened the door for PRIME. But I doubt it means a thing in Chicago.”
Tanner wrote down a few more notes before their next question. “Did you ever consider applying to HOW instead of PRIME?”
No thanks I’d rather keep my eyes
Nate shook his head. “PRIME was always the top choice. All due respect to High Octane and the Bests–”
Which is fucking NONE
“–but PRIME was a better fit for me. It was one of the great promotions from the original run, there’s more love for wrestling as a sport, and the talent pool was insane–and it’s only gotten better. So if I want to prove myself, it has to be against the best. It has to be in PRIME.”
The boss will love that one
“Interesting choice of words,” Tanner said, “given the name of your opponent. Would you consider Tyler Best to be among ‘the best?’”
“Tyler’s an excellent wrestler. I wouldn’t put him on Mount Rushmore or anything, but I wouldn’t do that for myself either. I think he’s done pretty well for himself so far.”
“And what do you think of him personally?”
I think he’s an asshole
“I think he’s an asshole,” Nate replied. “But he’s a wrestler, and I think he’s still a teenager. I probably wasn’t any better at that age.”
Another scribble. “Many people seem to think Best has been receiving preferential treatment since joining PRIME. Do you agree?”
No, everyone gets to be the number one contender after their first match
“I can’t really think like that,” he answered. “It’s easy to write him off as someone who’s only here because of their superstar dad. But you can throw a rock and hit a real example of someone like that in this business. If he was like that, he wouldn’t have beat Eddie, and he sure as shit never would have beat Tom. Tyler may be a prick, but he’s got the chops.”
“Do you think you feel that way, only because others have said the same thing about you?”
We are NOTHING like them, you complete…SHIT, what’s a good gender-neutral insult
Anger flashed across his face as he locked eyes with his interviewer.
…did they just flinch?
“I…” he stalled, trying to regain his composure. “I can’t control what other people say or think. If they want to keep selling me short, I’m happy to keep proving them wrong.”
# # #
Josie sat back down at the table, cradling another latte in her hands. Meanwhile, Nate was barely halfway through his first drink.
“You should have let me pay for that,” Nate said, but Josie shook him off.
“Nope. It was my turn.” Josie brought the cup to her lips–
I really want to kiss you
–before thinking of another question. “I’ve been wondering about this since we met. How do you know sign language?”
Shit how do I tell this story
“I knew a deaf kid back in high school. They seemed really cool but kinda lonely, so me and some of the other kids took lessons in ASL.”
I mean it’s basically true, right?
“Are you still friends?” she asked.
He shook his head. “We fell out of contact. Is what it is. I wish I’d kept up on ASL, though.”
“Why is that?”
YES THANK YOU let’s change the subject “Deaf people love wrestling too. Sometimes I’ll get a fan asking for an autograph in sign. It’d be nice to actually talk to them.”
Josie took another sip, and even though the mug obscured her mouth, Nate could tell she was smiling.
Hell yeah, killin’ it, just got to keep looking like an absolute goddamn sweetheart
“There was a group of deaf kids who came to our shows back home,” he continued. I hope this isn’t boring, please don’t be bored “They actually taught us some wrestling signs, so they could follow the ring introductions.”
“Oh, how fun!”
“Yeah, they taught us stuff like ‘match,’ which was…something, I can’t remember.”
Should have thought of that before you started telling the story, dipshit
“The best was ‘hardcore,’ which is pretending to swing a chair like this–” He brought up his hands to demonstrate, but accidentally jarred the table in the process.
Fortunately, Josie’s beverage was clutched in her tiny precious adorable hands, and was safe. Unfortunately, Nate’s pale green abomination was not.
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT
The cup jumped into the air, then wobbled wildly as it landed. After a few rotations, it tipped towards him. He reached forward to stop it, but both the cup and his hand seemed to move in slow motion.
He watched helplessly as it tipped closer…and closer…
Just as Nate had resigned himself to the idea of having to smell that honeydew monstrosity in his clothes all day, Josie snatched the cup and set it on her side of the table.
“Wow,” he said, almost as shocked as he was grateful. “That was amazing.”
“Years of practice,” Josie said, looking very proud of herself. “I work with old people who love coffee and hate lids. Speaking of which, I should probably head over.” She grabbed both cups and stood up. “I’ll throw these away.”
“But I still have, like, half of it left.”
Josie served him an aren’t-you-adorable look. “Nate, you looked like you were about to throw up every time you tasted it.”
“What? No!” Nate said defensively as he stood up. “It’s really good!”
“You’re not a very good liar, you know.” She turned around and walked to the trash, allowing Nate to take a quick, but respectful, look.
Damn girl you got a wait, what did she mean I’m a bad liar OH NO
Nate held the door open for Josie and walked her to her car. Perilously close to touching each other’s arms, with Nate chiding himself the whole way.
FUCK I blew it, she thinks I’m some kind of loser who can’t handle his tea
“…why did you keep drinking it, if you didn’t like it?”
Say there was too much sugar or you’re allergic to honeydew no that’s stupid sweet Jesus just come up with something
Or you could just be honest, dumbass
“Well…” he started. “You were really excited to bring me here. I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”
“Ohh,” Josie said with an air of sympathy. “That’s so sweet.” She reached out and grabbed his hand. “Nobody’s ever subjected themselves to honeydew to make me happy before.”
They shared a laugh, and Nate’s heart soared as she tightened her grip. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess maybe I was trying too hard.”
“Oh…kay, now I need to wrap my head around that. You’re…like, famous kinda. You’re on TV. You’re–”
Josie paused abruptly, like she was trying to save herself from saying the wrong thing. I’m what? TELL ME DAMMIT
“I wouldn’t think I could make you nervous.”
Okay, the honesty thing seems to be working let’s try it again and see where it goes
“I…went through a rough breakup a few years ago,” Nate said. “After that I focused on work, and tried to tell myself I was happier being alone. But then I met someone who’s very smart, and sweet, and funny–”
“And cute?” she teased.
YES I can finally say it
“Unbelievably cute. And I…I really like you.”
Josie smiled again, then stood up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.
“Ooh,” Nate said, almost involuntarily. You dork, he thought–but quickly responded to himself, Yeah, but I’m a dork who got kissed. “I’d have thought that nearly poisoning myself would be worth a kiss on the lips.”
“Maybe later,” Josie said. “When they won’t taste like honeydew. Yuck.”
He laughed again. “Okay…how about this weekend? I promise to brush my teeth.”
“I’d like that. Text me?”
“You got it.” Josie squeezed his hand a little, then got into her car. She gave him a little wave before driving away.
It got some strange looks in the parking lot, but Nate was inclined to agree.
# # #
“Tyler has already taken a few shots at you, in promos and on Jabber. How would you respond?”
By smacking that stupid tattoo right off his chest
“Honestly? I don’t really care.”
For the first time in the entire interview, Tanner Quest looked surprised. “Really? Why not?”
“Because it’s all bullshit.” Nate shrugged. “I know who I am, and none of his cute little trash talk will change that.”
“That’s an interesting approach. Don’t you agree that ‘trash talking’ is vital for a wrestler?”
Hell no, if I liked seeing assholes win all the time I’d watch the news
“Maybe. But some people treat it like the most important things, and they’re usually the other bullies and douchebags. They’re the kids we knew in high school who tried to make other people feel bad, and they’re trying to pull the same trick again. Put themselves on top, keep everyone else miserable and isolated, and pray that the rest of us don’t ever figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“We don’t need them. This is supposed to be a sport built on skill, dedication and sportsmanship, and not an abuse cycle where people try to get the pain out of their own hearts by putting it into someone else.”
Tanner cocked her head slightly. Something in their face had changed, though Nate couldn’t tell what that might be.
“One last question…”
This better not be about the pig
“How would you compare yourself to the rest of PRIME on a moral level? Would you consider yourself above them?”
Hard not to with this crowd
“Absolutely not. I’m nowhere near perfect. I’ll level with you; the whole time we’ve been talking, I’ve had hateful stuff pop into my head, about Rezin, about Best…even about you.”
It was very slight, but Nate noticed the interviewer’s hands tense up again, and the left one started to tremor.
Shit, no I don’t want that
Nate held up his hands defensively. “I’m…not proud of that, at all. And I’m sorry for making you feel uncomfortable; you’re just doing your job–and you’re really good at it. I got upset at some questions; that’s not your fault or your problem. I’m just sayin’, I think some pretty shitty things. But I try not to say them out loud, because all that’s gonna do is hurt people. I ain’t about that.”
Tanner relaxed a little in the face of Nate’s admission. “Strange approach for someone who fights for a living.”
You know that’s not what I mean
“It’s that devil on the shoulder, right? We all have him, we all hear him. But we don’t have to listen.”
Tanner Quest wrote one last thing, then nodded in satisfaction. “I think that will do it.” They closed their notebook and turned off their recorder, then stood up and offered a handshake. Nate accepted with a gracious smile. “Thank you for your time.”
About as much fun as a root canal