It’s Always Raining In PRIME
Posted on 03/25/23 at 8:00am by Coral Avalon
Event: CULTURE SHOCK 2023 NIGHT TWO
I love pro wrestling.
I’d be the first to admit, it’s a one-sided love. An abusive relationship where I fall down a lot.
After all, pro wrestling has almost killed me twice, and I know there’s this thing about the third time being the charm. I’ve dodged bullets, I know I have. Sooner or later, maybe someone actually lands that kill shot. I’m sure that someday I’ll have a reckoning with all of these killers roaming around this place like that Paxton Ray. Maybe Youngblood tries again to end my career. Maybe I’ll get matched up with Ivan again for round two of Yeetfest.
And yet, warts and all, I still love doing this.
No matter where I am on the card or what I’m fighting for, I’ll always love doing this. I love hearing the crowds. I love grappling. I love the adrenaline rush from turning the tables against my opponents. I love the work it takes to get as good at this as I am.
Everything about pro wrestling is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.
Coral’s only reason for being in New Orleans was to deliver a bad time to Eddie Cross.
The match with Eddie wasn’t personal. Coral saw an obnoxious loudmouth that needed a little education, and gave it by way of yakuza kicks and European uppercuts. Though he’d admit that his ferocious aggression in that match had more to do with wanting to get out of the seat of Avalon Industries Incorporated’s power more than anything.
After the match, he took a quick shower, packed up his gear, and was gone before the next match was even over. It was uncharacteristic of a man who loved wrestling as Coral did, the type of man who’d stick around well after the ringing of the last bell. As it would be discovered later, he had a flight booked out of the city that very night.
His plan was to be out of the city before the crew took down the ring if the curse of flight delays didn’t rear their ugly, misshapen, malformed, terrible heads. Most of the wrestling fans in the city were still in the vicinity of the questionably named Smoothie King Center, and weren’t here to recognize Coral in his “inconspicuous” hoodie and Mariners hat.
He sat waiting at the gate, checking his phone and waiting for boarding to start for his flight. The “shitty side Discord” he shared with the Crownless Kingdom had been a flurry of activity ever since Gavin joined… the chatter-box. Jabber was the usual nonsense that he stopped paying attention to a while ago. The current topics of conversation were about magic ducks and steroids, and Coral calmly closed the app and pretended not to notice.
He was about to put his phone away and then he heard a tinny notification sound. A text message. He stopped and stared at it. It filled Coral with existential dread the moment he saw it, even though it was a simple message.
“Be seein’ ya. <3 =D – M.C.A.”
Coral looked up, his eyes scanning around the relatively empty gate. He wouldn’t have put it past the sender to know he was in New Orleans, but no one had eyes on him that he could see.
His gaze returned to his phone, and the message on it.
He recognized the initials.
“Dammit, Merle,” he muttered to himself, “What do you want from me?”
None of this was “meant” to be my destiny.
From the moment I first saw “Golden” Glen Miller drop the Golden Elbow, though, I knew I wanted that for me. Deep in my heart, the only place I knew I’d belong is in the ring, no matter what it took to get here.
I was never born for this business. Never meant to be here, never the chosen one. I was just some rich kid from New Orleans who was supposed to be as far away from all this as humanly possible. If my folks had their way, I’d have never even laced up my boots and bled buckets across six continents and two decades.
Most people would never give up what I did to chase this dream. Leaving behind an easy life of wealth so I can slum it up on the road with absolutely no support except through the kindness of my fellow wrestlers? Now that’s a “Culture Shock”.
Yet I’ve walked a path few others would dare for this, from riches to rags, all because I saw that elbow when I did.
If that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is.
It was raining in Seattle when Coral’s flight landed.
He was exhausted. He’d barely slept on the flight back, and he wasn’t that far removed from his match with Cross. His left arm still throbbed from when Cross kicked it against the ring apron. You might know this as the same arm that became the first victim of the advent of the Crimson Miracle Bloody Bloody Death Homicycle, which was absolutely a name you never wanted coming for you.
Usually, the arrangement he had was that he and Annabelle would drive to the airport, and then Annabelle took the car back to their home. However, the nature of Coral’s red-eye flight back home meant that Coral needed to arrange something to travel back home from the airport. Hence, he’d intended to get an Uber.
Being a public-facing member of a professional wrestling league meant that Coral was very recognizable. As such, the olive-skinned, well-dressed chauffeur holding the sign with his ridiculous name written on it saw him, and recognized him. His expression never changed, but he immediately beckoned him over.
“Mr. Avalon?” he asked.
“Come with me,” he said.
Coral gave the chauffeur a smile only made easy by his exhaustion, and said, “You know, you don’t have the look of an Uber driver.”
The chauffeur smiled back, “’Cause I’m not.”
He repeated himself, “Come with me, please.”
Thoughts raced in Coral’s head. He knew more than some about that which lurked in the underbelly of professional wrestling. He was vaguely aware that something had been amiss in Sin City when he was there, but didn’t know any real details. He’d always been aware that he should stay away from Bruce Shanahan and his ilk. Anyone from a swamp might as well be the fucking Baba Yaga.
And he knew that when a strange, unfamiliar man claimed to not be your Uber driver but insisted that you came with him, you had to put your foot down.
“Okay, uh… timeout. Who are you driving for, if not for me?”
The chauffeur sighed.
“Sir,” he said, “It would be easier on both of us if you just came with me.”
“Who’s the ‘both of us’ in this situation? Because I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them.” Coral said, “I just want to go home, ice my arm, and hibernate until the spring thaw.”
Coral felt a hand on his shoulder. Then on his other.
Situational awareness was difficult enough when you’re exhausted, but Coral still mentally kicked himself for not noticing the two brick walls in sharp, well-tailored suits that’d come up behind him. Hired muscle, the type where necks were optional. The hands on his shoulders were just a warning. This wasn’t optional. Not without a fight, anyway, and Coral knew he wasn’t up for one.
“I assure you, Mr. Avalon,” the chauffeur said professionally, “My representative will only be taking enough of your time to return you to your home.”
Coral felt himself deflate like a balloon. He had a funny feeling that he knew who that representative was. He wasn’t up for this conversation, either, but he didn’t have much choice.
Coral was led outside where a pretentious white limousine slathered in droplets of rain was parked in front of the doors. Coral rolled his eyes at the sight of it. The chauffeur walked towards the passenger door and opened it up, and Coral was piled into the thing with both bodyguards sandwiching him on either side.
He was barely inside before the occupant of the limousine greeted him. “Coral, my brother! How long’s it been?”
Bards would tell heroic tales of the time the Crownless King restained himself from beheading the owner of that voice. Coral responded in a polite tone that did an admirable job in not being spoken through clenched teeth.
When people ask why I’m the “Crownless King”, I know they’re thinking too much about the “crownless” part of that title. After all, everyone knows that I’ve never been a world champion. That prize has eluded me. At first, it was because I wasn’t good enough. Straight up. I’d be the first to admit it. A man who steals what he is can hardly be called a king.
Now? Let’s be honest, let’s be real. Anywhere but here, I could be a “world champion” for as long as I wanted to be. But it wouldn’t be enough. Wouldn’t be right. I need something more.
What makes me a “king”?
I helped take the very dredges of the pro wrestling world that no one paid a second glance to, and we became a “Kingdom”. When you talk about pro wrestling in Japan, you’ll still be talking about what we built there. There’s a reason PRIME pays more attention to Bang! than ever before, and it isn’t just because Lindsay Troy’s got a bone to pick with my protégé’s half of the kingdom.
That’s the legacy I helped build. That’s what makes me a “king”.
The only prize I can win that’s worthy of that legacy is PRIME’s Universal Championship.
Merlin Clayton Avalon smiled at Coral in the same way that crocodiles did.
Coral was easily a forehead taller than him. He made up for their height difference with the white ten-gallon hat he wore on his head. His tailored forest green suit was cursed with a cravat, just absolutely cursed with it. Who really wore one of those in the goddamn 21st century? His was also one of those suits that did away with the jacket and went with a vest instead. His cufflinks were solid gold. His watch could probably be used to purchase a house. He was, in short, rich and wanted everyone to know it.
He had blue eyes, slick black hair barely seen underneath his hat, and a freshly shaven face. He was still youthful, and certainly hadn’t seen as many miles as Coral had, or had as many missed appointments at the Pearly Gates.
Sitting next to Merle was a third bodyguard. Coral was only mildly amused that Merle went through the trouble of surrounding himself with such muscle before deigning to speak with him. After a few moments, the limousine went into motion, carrying its passengers into the drizzling Seattle night.
“So, Merle, how’d you know I was going home immediately after the show?”
Merle’s smile showed far too many teeth, “Yer just predictable, brother. I figured ya wouldn’t stick ’round in our neck o’ the woods, so I just beat ya here on the jet. Got here an hour before ya.”
Coral closed his eyes and counted to ten in his head. It was hard because, as we all knew, math was destroyed forever in PRIME.
“So, I could’ve sworn I told you and everyone else back home that I didn’t want to see any of you again. Ever. I made that abundantly clear. I stay here, you stay there. It makes things simpler for all of us.” Coral said, coolly.
Merle held up his hands in a pleading gesture, “Now, that ain’t no way ya talk to yer brother. Just ain’t never hear from ya, that’s all.”
“Oh, save it, Merle,” Coral said, “You’re obviously not here just to make a house call with your… sorry, what’s the polite way to call the goon squad?”
He thought about it. What would Annabelle call them if she were here?
“Henchmen,” he decided.
Merle’s smile started to look more like an artist’s rendition of what a smile should look like if they were given second-hand information from someone with catastrophically poor eyesight, “Ya gotta understand. Ain’t got no guarantee that ya won’t just sock me one the moment ya lay eyes on me.”
“You’re right. You have no guarantee.” Coral agreed. After all, he was more or less kidnapping him in a limousine. And within ten yards of him. And existed. He smiled back at him, “Fortunately for you, we’re civilized out here.”
He was only speaking for himself. Marginally. For Merlin’s sake, he’d better hope Annabelle didn’t see him. She was a feral demon trapped inside a tiny Japanese-Canadian woman, and it only escaped when she saw people from Coral’s side of the family. Like Merlin.
“Sure,” Merle said in a doubtful tone. He leaned forward, resting his chin on interlaced fingers, “Now then, let’s talk business.”
Coral hated it when Merle wanted to talk business. “Not interested.”
“Ya sure ’bout that?” Merle said, maintaining his smile, “Gotta understand, brother, the game’s changed. Thought you’d figured that out when we bought that buildin’ out from under ya.”
The two bodyguards sitting next to Coral made it a point to hold Coral back from launching across the cabin of the limousine and strangling Merlin right then and there. Coral made no such move. He did think about it, though. Entertained himself with the thought, even. He decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.
“Why?” Coral asked. “I keep racking my brain about what you stood to gain. If it was to put me out of business, I obviously had enough connections out here to recover. If it was business, that building wasn’t exactly in a good part of town and I can’t imagine you’d get a good return on that investment. And if it was just spite, you wouldn’t be here even risking yourself – even with your hired henchmen – just to rub it in my face.”
Merle took his hat off, and handed it over to the bodyguard sitting beside him. He ran his hands through his slick black hair, smoothing it out, “Ya don’t understand a damn thing.”
“I think I have a pretty damn good understanding of how Avalon Industries works, Merle,” Coral said, “Your whole company preys on weak businesses, takes whatever’s unique, then spins it under its own umbrella. You’re all like a fungus that preys on ants to reproduce, and we both know it doesn’t end well for the ants.”
“Yeah, man, I saw that Last of Us show, too,” Merle smiled, “Ya ain’t far off, ‘mittedly. But hell, we’re in a shiny new age now. Can’t just dismiss somethin’ out of hand just ‘cause it don’t fit the family creed. Ma made enemies, and they ain’t the kinda enemies that we can live with, neither. The family needs ya.”
Coral felt the irresistible urge to jump out the window, but there was a no-necked gorilla blocking the windows on either side. Dammit.
“You can’t possibly be serious.” Coral said, turning his gaze back to Merle, “I got out of the family to pursue this path. You cut me off. I was in poverty. You all thought that I’d come crawling back to your wealth. Now you’re asking me to come back, and I’m sure as hell not giving up wrestling just because you ask.”
Merle’s smile never wavered. “Yer misunderstandin’ me. I ain’t tellin’ ya to do all that.”
Coral hesitated before he asked a very important question, “What?”
“Told ya. Shiny new age. Pay attention, will ya?”
Merle held his hands up, as though he was making a grand speech while also carrying a very large, very impractical sandwich, “Listen. Y’might not believe me, but I’m tryin’ to help ya on yer path.”
“You took my school from me.”
“I just took the buildin’, I ain’t never took yer school. Just encouragin’ ya to move to a nicer place, like that ‘ol Daymon’s gym.”
Coral blinked, and found himself suddenly on the back foot in the conversation.
Sonny Silver held the deed to a gym once owned by Rocko Daymon, and Coral was considering a move into that gym. He’d owe Sonny an even bigger debt than before, but he didn’t see any other choice. His options looked startlingly limited.
“How the hell did you know about that?”
“Brother, y’think I don’t keep up with yer goingson? Y’think I don’t know about Sonny Silver, Sports Entertainment Liaison to PRIME? Hell, prolly know as much ‘bout your wrestlin’ as yer pretty lil’ wife. Y’think I don’t know what yer capable of? Brother, I’d seen all them Kingdom T-shirts out there. Trendy as a favorite grunge band!” Merle’s smile was like the Cheshire cat’s, “All I did was keep an ear to the ground out here. Easy peasy, lemon squeazy.”
He continued, “Now, maybe y’don’t trust me.”
“Not even a little.”
Merle hesitated, not expecting Coral to agree with that so quickly.
“I get that. Just think about it, would ya? Ain’t no one ever got to the top without bein’ a little ruthless. Just like in business. And I’m thinkin’ I should know, I’m in the business of business!”
He laughed. Coral didn’t share in his merriment. He was too busy being baffled.
“You want to help me? Why? What makes you think I’d want your help?”
“You ask a lot of funny questions, my brother!” Merle said. He took his hat back from his bodyguard and put it back on his head, “Didn’t you read the letter?”
“The one the family sends me every year before Christmas?” Coral asked, and after Merle nodded his affirmation, he continued, “No, of course not.”
Merle smiled vaguely at him, but he’s clearly dumbfounded.
“You fer real?”
“Yeah. It’s been the same letter every year for over a decade. Professionally typeset, always with the same list of demands. You people really wanted me to divorce my wife because she wasn’t American, for God’s sakes,” Coral said, “Are you really surprised that I’d shred that thing the moment I get it and use it to decorate the Christmas tree?”
Merle’s reaction to this was, for the first time in the conversation, not the smug smile he’d been wearing this whole time.
“You don’t know.”
“That I’m head of the family, now,” Merle said, grimly, “Ma’s dead.”
That news hit Coral like a ton of bricks.
Merle was right.
The game had changed.
So, it’s all about the crowns, right?
Some would say my career has failed if I don’t become a champion, if I don’t finally claim my crown. No matter how much I succeed. No matter how good I am.
So, it’s time that I finally made it mine.
That’s why thirty-nine other wrestlers are going to face my entire armory. I’m going to win the battle royal, no matter what it takes. I’ll take the Universal championship after I do, no matter what it takes.
I love pro wrestling.
And it’s out of love that I finally become both its champion and its king.
That’s my destiny.
Thy kingdom come.
Coral returned home safely, fell onto his couch, and laid there until sleep took him. Before it did, he thought of what Merle told him. Merlin was now the most powerful person in the family. What could a man like that do with that much power? Whatever it was, it seemed like Merle’s plan involved Coral… and PRIME.
He knew Merle’s newfound interest in his career wasn’t altruistic. He knew his brother too well. He knew that he was looking at PRIME as though it were an exciting, exploitable business opportunity.
There was no mountain in professional wrestling greater than that of PRIME.
Coral could reach the highest highs of its mountaintop. Reach heights he never thought possible from the safe comforts of Japan. The wealth and glory were unimaginable. The prestige of being Universal Champion was like nothing else in the business of wrestling.
And it’s all treacherous.
Every detail of his life would get the volume turned up, colored in negativity and poison. He knew what the lights of PRIME could do to people. He’d seen what Youngblood was like at his lowest. He’d seen what Rayne did to take the Dual Halo. He’d seen what Nova did to become Universal champion.
That’s because it always rained in PRIME.
The rain muddied the mountain, covered everything in mud. The longest Coral stayed, the more the mud became a part of him.
A part of him always believed that if he loved pro wrestling, truly loved it, he’d have stayed away. For his own good. Now the sharks were finally starting notice Coral’s presence in the vastness of PRIME’s rain-soaked sea, and they circled him. Menacingly.
Yet he’d been on this path for too long.
There was no turning back until he took wrestling’s greatest crown.