I think it’s important to tell you something before we meet in New Orleans.
You’re about to have a bad time.
The day began as usual at the Gates of Avalon Wrestling School.
Franco Marchesi was training an ever-dwindling number of students. The class started with thirty would-be trainees, and have dropped to eighteen in the last month. This wasn’t an alarming occurrence. Not everyone took to wrestling like a duck to water. Not everyone had what it took to overcome the barrier of entry. Some get hurt and decide that was all the wrestling they could stomach. Some quit the first day upon realizing that falling down on a canvas or hitting the ropes hurt like a bitch.
Coral Avalon saw some interesting prospects among them, but his inability to contribute to their training frustrated him. The previous month was spent recovering from the injury suffered on the Bang! tour, and then the following month required that Coral train in preparation for back-to-back opponents. All he’d been able to do is coach while Franco did most of the heavy lifting.
Physically, he was fine. The soreness in his arm was a distant memory, and the haste with which he dispatched his previous opponent helped buy some time before his next opponent. Of course, Coral still needed to be convinced that he hadn’t just wrestled a ghost.
At least I know I can make ghosts submit.
Mentally, Coral found himself spending time studying tape to help prepare for his next opponent. Eddie Cross. The “N-one-ghtcraw-one-er”.
The tapes didn’t tell the whole story, Coral knew that. Eddie had “Gibby” in his corner, after all.
Coral watched a few of Dave Gibson’s matches in PRIME, too, as part of his preparations. Gibson (henceforth known as “Gibby” because that’s what Coral calls him) was an old-school style of wrestler, he was called the “King of Old School” after all. Coral had a long and storied loathing for that type of wrestler. The mental scars left on Coral from his clashes with the similarly-minded Jeff Garvin still lingered twenty years later. Sometimes Coral could still hear Garvin taunting him in his head, needling him over his failures. He was far better now than he was when he clashed with Garvin, but some scars never healed.
Coral was getting to the end of Brandon Youngblood’s last encounter with Gibby when a graphically bloodied Youngblood was locking in the Gridlock when Franco came into the media room.
“Hey, Coral, you need to get out here.” Franco said.
Everything about what Franco said alarmed Coral.
Franco never called him by his given name. He usually called him “Avy”, like most of his longtime friends did. He only used “Coral” when he really wanted his attention. Second, Franco sounded distressed, and that wasn’t normal. This was a man who reacted to most things with the same bland stoicism.
Coral picked up on this immediately, “What’s wrong?”
Franco repeated, “Just get out here.”
Coral hit stop right at the moment Gibby was about to tap out, and followed Franco out of the media room. At first, Coral thought that some of the students had started fighting and they’d have to break it up. Usually, though, Franco was more than enough to break such a thing up on his own.
This wasn’t that.
There was a man loitering around the front entrance of the school, and he couldn’t have been more out of place if he were wearing a neon sign around his neck and started screaming metal lyrics in Swahili. He was a man of middle age an inch shorter than Coral was, and wore a well-tailored Armani suit as black as ink. A red tie served as the only real color of his ensemble. His haircut was perfect, his smile less than genuine.
Coral had seen plenty of people of his ilk in his life, and had grown to distrust each and every one of them.
“Can I help you?” Coral asked, while Franco loomed over his shoulder. Being five inches taller than Coral, he served as an intimidating presence.
“Are you the one in charge of this… establishment?” the man said, looking past Coral, his eyes cast around the school disapprovingly.
The Gates of Avalon wasn’t some state-of-the-art gym. The exercise equipment was simple and practical. The two rings were serviceable when they were put in, but they were showing their age in 2023 and needed frequent maintenance from Coral to remain safe. The back of the gym had a collage of children’s fanart of Coral’s “Baron von Blackberry” persona that he’d collected over the last twelve years, which he put up as a mural last summer. As though the wall were the world’s biggest and least practical refrigerator. There was a certain degree of grime on the floor that no amount of cleaning seemed to remove. The walls, too, especially behind the areas where Coral’s various displays of his accomplishments were.
“I am.” Coral said. Coral held out a hand for a handshake, “Coral Avalon.”
Instead of shaking Coral’s hand, the man cleared his throat and pulled a piece of paper out from the inside of his suit’s jacket with all of the emotion of a copying machine.
“Mr. Avalon. My name is Kayden Knight, Esquire. I represent the owners of the building. I regret to inform you that your lease for this establishment has been revoked, by order of the owners of the building. You have seventy-two hours to leave the premises,” the man said, placing the paper in Coral’s hand.
It took Coral several agonizing seconds to process what the man in the suit was saying.
“Is this some kind of joke!?” Coral asked, at a volume that was definitely not an indoor voice.
“Hardly,” Knight said in a dull, bored monotone, “I only tell jokes at open night.”
“What grounds do you have?” Coral asked. He opened up the eviction notice he was handed, written in legalese that he barely understood. He was too angry and caught off-guard to read it properly.
“Why, it’s the state of this place, quite frankly. Simply dreadful.” Knight said. “We found evidence of black mold in the walls. The decision has been made to demolish the building.”
Coral knew that something was wrong. He’d only spoken to the owners of the building a week ago, and they’d given no indication that they intended to demolish anything. Not to mention, Franco would’ve mentioned an inspector checking for mold.
Coral calmed down slightly. Only slightly.
“I’m sorry, I’ve never seen you before in my life.” Coral asked, “Are you sure you represent Margaret Smith? She’s the landlord of this place.”
“I do not represent Mrs. Smith. That would be the previous owner of this building.” Knight said, “Mrs. Smith graciously sold this property to my client six days ago. I assure you that she has been well-compensated for her troubles.”
“Why is this the first I’ve heard of it!?” Coral asked through gritted teeth. A well of anger filled his stomach, and it was all he could do to hold himself back from putting this man through the ground and attempting to use the Fourth Armament as a literal strong-arm negotiation tactic.
The man in the expensive suit smiled vaguely, as though noticing Coral’s impotent anger. “Perhaps you should pay more attention to your local affairs, sir. You may consult with Mrs. Smith about her decision, should you wish. But I would advise you to begin relocating this… questionable business of yours, as soon as possible.”
With those words, the man spun on his heel and walked smoothly out of the Gates of Avalon.
Coral stormed after him with Franco following.
Evidently, the man had quickened his pace the moment he was out of the property, because he was already getting into the back of an expensive vehicle whose make and model Coral didn’t immediately recognize. Coral shouted at the car, but it was in vain. It drove off without paying any attention to the angry professional wrestlers shouting inarticulately at it.
The tapes don’t tell you everything.
So, what do your tapes say about me?
What kind of picture do I paint on video?
Do you believe those tapes give you the full picture of who Coral Avalon is?
Maybe they paint a picture of all the championships and tournaments I’ve won. Maybe they tell you about all of the different, very colorful opponents I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years. Maybe they tell you of the Kleptomaniac I once was or the Crownless King that I’ve become.
No matter what, though, the tapes won’t paint that picture with all of the right colors.
They won’t tell you that my life is a twenty-one year lane paved in my blood and sacrifices and experiences. They won’t tell you what I gave up to take that lane. They won’t tell you that I have no wrestling family legacy, and that I’ve had to build everything that I am from the ground up. Twice. They won’t tell you that I’ve literally died for this business, either.
But what I can tell you is this: no one in PRIME adapts the way that I do. I have walked the path least treaded to get back to PRIME. I have earned my respect.
As I’ve always said, I need no crown to be king.
“I owe you big for this, Sonny.”
The first person Coral called the moment after he’d received the eviction notice was his wife. The second was PRIME Hall of Famer and fellow Seattle resident, Sonny Silver. It was an unusual acquaintance to say the very least. Coral and Sonny had been enemies, rivals, and reluctant frenemies in at least three promotions. Sonny was a Hall of Fame-caliber wrestler known worldwide, while Coral was the independent wrestler mainly known to hardcore fans. Sonny was loudmouthed, brash, and uncompromisingly brazen. Coral was calm, collected, and needlessly dramatic.
“Fuckin’ right you do.”
After Coral and Franco sent the students off for the day, Coral went to visit the Silver Lining Gym. As it so happened, Sonny was there.
Generally speaking, aspiring pro wrestlers had two choices when they came to Seattle. The first was Coral’s “Gates of Avalon”, in operation since 2018. The chief reason Coral might have been reluctant to run a wrestling school in Seattle, though, was that the second choice was the legendary Silver Lining Gym owned and operated by Sonny and his brothers.
These days, it was mostly the brothers running it while Sonny worked as the spokesman and manager of DEFIANCE’s Vae Victis. Present-day PRIME fans might know him best as Nova’s (temporary) personal assistant, Colossus opponent, and dude what stole priceless memorabilia for his match against Nova just to win a prop bet.
A day after the eviction notice, Coral, Franco, and their crew were bringing as much as they could into the gym’s storage room. Two rings, some simple exercise equipment, and all of Coral’s tape library and memorabilia. The gym was utilitarian and gritty, more steak than sizzle. Sonny and his brothers were just like Coral, it’s more about producing high-quality talent than about presentation.
The feature of Sonny’s gym that Coral best knew was the sign in the back, written in large angry letters.
“Work the fuck out, or get the fuck out.”
Coral was shown to Sonny’s office, which wasn’t that dissimilar from his own. A couple of bookshelves with important documents, and then a whole hell of a lot of memorabilia and championship belts. The only difference was that Sonny had way more prestigious belts than Coral did. Sonny achieved his first crown nearly two decades ago. Coral still sought his first.
“Uh, for the record, Sonny, I heard rumors of what you were doing with Nova before Colossus, so I probably should’ve asked before I got into debt with you… how much property damage are you planning to do in my name?”
Sonny smiled vaguely.
“Avy, my dude, my man, my guy… do I seem like the sort of asshole who’d do monumental property damage with just anyone?” Sonny asked.
“It’s you, and I know you, so yes. Yes, I do. Especially if someone else is footing the bill.”
“Oh, come on.”
“And you know, Lindz didn’t seem all that thrilled about all that stuff with Nova when I talked to her before Colossus. That elevator incident in particular… what is it with Nova and elevators, anyway?”
“Lindz, Schmindz!” Sonny sing-songed, “That’s what we got Butch for!”
“No, that’s what you guys in Vae Victis have Butch for. I don’t have a Butch.”
“I mean, I don’t recommend having a Butch personally. He’s only really good as our wallet, but god damn… he’s good at being a fuckin’ wallet.” Sonny said. He reached under his desk and pulled out a flask. His eyes darts around the room with a measure of guilt before he takes a swig from it and hastily puts it back under his desk. “And, well, it’s an emergency, right? You got your pants pulled all the way the fuck down.”
“Like I’m on a clown show, yes.”
“And your balls are hanging out.”
“Wait, the clowns got my underwear, too?”
“You know it.”
Sonny smiled. Whether he was in full Liaison mode or not, his smiles tended to be infectious. It put Coral in a slightly better mood than he was walking in. “Don’t worry about it, Avy. I got you. How long have we known each other?”
Coral didn’t need to think too hard about it, “Since the Circle. Nineteen years.”
“No shit?” Sonny said, eyebrows raised, “Time flies. We got fuckin’ old, man.”
“Speak for yourself, I’m still under forty for the next year and according to reliable Japanese sources, I’m not officially old yet.” Coral said.
Sonny glared at him.
“Okay, fine, I’m old. What do you want from me?”
“Haven’t decided yet,” Sonny said with a shrug, and offered a smug grin, “But that’s the best part about owing me a debt!”
“I mean, that’s not why I asked that, but…” Coral trailed off, letting out a long sigh. He didn’t want this. If he was going to drop by the Silver Lining, he wanted it to be for a better reason than this. Like telling Sonny that the “Hidden Temple” training was back on, or that he’d finally won the Universal title, or something, anything that was better than losing his school to the whims of a new landlord.
Sonny raised an eyebrow, the wheels turning in his head.
“I’m not one for optimism, Avy, that’s a Caes thing, but… you’ll be alright.” Sonny said. “Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, you ever find out who your new fuckin’ landlords were? Might as well learn what kinda of pieces of shit they are.”
In all of the confusion of the eviction notice, dealing with the throbbing prick in a suit who delivered it, and calling people in a panic about his options… he hadn’t even thought about it.
He pulled out the notice from his pocket and started to look it over.
“From the Washington offices of Fleetwood, Fleetwood, Harper, and Fleetwood…” Coral muttered, letting out a groan that bubbled through the repeated mentions of the name Fleetwood. A sense of dread came over him and he felt cold. A word he learned from his work training younger people to become wrestlers best described the feeling. That word was the “douchechills”.
His eyes glazed over legalese he was going to need to talk about with his lawyer once he was done scrambling like a chicken sans head.
Then he got to the end of the statement, and his heart instantly teleported from his chest into his small intestine within the blink of an eye.
Written at the bottom of the document was the name of the new landlord. Or, rather, the holding company that now owned a wrestling school that will soon become demolished. Coral breathlessly told Sonny the name, and even he raised his eyes in alarm, “What the fucking fuck?”
The name at the bottom of the document was “Avalon Industries Incorporated.”
The tapes don’t tell me everything.
I’ve certainly watched yours.
The way you sniped poor Larry Tact in your first match. The way you bent Mike McGee in half in your second. How far you managed to get in the Belmont before Garry slapped the son out of you. The way everything fell apart against Tyler Best the moment you tried to use someone else’s move. You have some talent, I’ll give you that. You still have a lot to learn, of course.
I’ll be honest, though. I’m not entirely convinced that you truly know what you want to be.
Are you the gamer, Mr. “The N-one-ghtcraw-one-er”? Or are you the wrestler, Eddie Cross? Are you the son of Timo Bolamba hoping to keep the Bolamba legacy going? Or are you just another one of PRIME’s many living, breathing examples of daddy issues?
Well, while I don’t know who you want to be, I certainly know what you are: a bully.
Because while the tapes don’t tell me everything, all of your other actions tell me that so much more about you. The way you treated Simon Tillier in your interview before Tyler Best took you to the cleaners. That immature thing you did to McGee’s cherry red Kia Sorrento. The condescending way you speak to your peers on social media. They alarm me in ways that your wrestling doesn’t. They tell me of someone who’s looking for the kind of validation that he can’t get from behind a keyboard.
So when I say you’re about to have a bad time, Edward, what I mean is that I’m about to give you that validation you’re looking for. Because now you have my attention. And I can’t help but warn you in advance that I’m going to be in a bad mood going into ReVival 23, and need someone to take it out on.
Don’t be surprised if you have to ask me politely if you can have your arms back after I’m done with you.
Thy kingdom come.
Coral stared at the empty floor of what had been the Gates of Avalon Wrestling School for the past six years, the last of the equipment having been loaded up in the moving truck just moments ago.
Every attempt to confirm that this wasn’t just some sick joke led to more confirmation that it wasn’t, culminating in Coral contacting Mrs. Smith who confirmed she told the property. Knock knock, open up the door, it’s real.
Six years ago, he and Franco chose this location to do in Seattle what they already did at the Bang! At Your Dojo and train new generations of professional wrestlers. The business was a self-admitted loss-leader, which they recouped by allowing students to learn more nuances at Franco’s “Wonders of Wrestling in Seattle” and having fans pay to see their progress. For the two of them, it was a safe haven. A second home. A Camelot, if you will.
And now, it was all gone. Soon, there would be no sign it was ever there to begin with.
Coral’s life was going to change.
Even if he rebuilt his Camelot, even if he found a new location to run his school, that old specter from his old home in New Orleans would still haunt him. He feared the possibility of confronting it far more than he’d ever fear his opponent at ReVival 23, regardless of how dangerous or not he might be in the ring. Eddie Cross couldn’t reopen those old wounds, no matter how much he scratched and clawed at him.
Everything had moved way too fast and it made his head spin. Eddie Cross was almost a distant memory in his mind, even if he was about to become a part of his future.
His back hit the wall, and he slid down to a seat on the floor. He buried his head into his knees and found himself lost on a dinghy being tossed around in a stormy sea of emotion. It was raining, because it was always raining in PRIME.
Why did it always have to come back to the Avalon family?
And why now?