Sid Phillips stared hard into the camera.
His T-shirt, available now at the PRIMEporium, depicted a nuclear explosion shrouding the visage of a man in the middle of executing a flying powerbomb. The words “DROP THE POWERBOMB” were emblazoned along the bottom in a bold font straight out of your local Geocities or Angelfire website. It looked purposefully terrible.
In any case, Sid was ready to cut a promo for the ages.
He opened his mouth, and said:
He said nothing else.
Sid’s intense glare instantly turned into confusion. He looked off-camera, gesturing wildly with his hands.
“What!? That was good!”
The Gates of Avalon Wrestling School in Seattle was a humble building, built near the Seattle airport. It was little more than a hole in the wall, its signage vague, and its purpose unknown to all but those who knew its location either by advertisement or by working or training there.
Coral Avalon, one of the owners of the place whose name was on the school, preferred it that way.
He shared ownership of the building and the school with his longtime tag team partner and close friend, Franco Marchesi, who shared a like-minded thought that if you’re going to train in wrestling then you have to really want to do it. The building was so humble on the outside that the only way you’d know that it was a wrestling school was the sign posted on its door that had the name of the school typed on it. The school was funded mainly by Avalon’s work with the cartoon and in wrestling, and by Marchesi’s work running a local wrestling promotion.
The school wasn’t some fancy, state-of-the-art training facility. There were two wrestling rings, some weights, a weighted bag, and a media room whose purpose was to study other performers. That was more or less it. The closest thing you’d get to some fancy mural were the children’s drawings of Baron von Blackberry that Avalon sloppily pinned to the back wall, which was often the very first thing new students asked about.
Coral usually hid all of his relics from his wrestling career in his office. There were old championship belts, including the bloodstained ACW Scorpion Fighting Championship that the company had to make a new one for Coral to carry around, before Youngblood took it off of him when it became clear that his injuries from winning it weren’t going to heal without a long break. His trophies from the 2002 Belmont Classic and his three Bang! TC-X wins. His training license. Things of that nature.
He never displayed them openly because he wasn’t one to flaunt his successes. What few he had, anyway.
For Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips, this place had become a strange second home.
After every PRIME show, Coral would take them back here for additional training and research on what they had to do next. The work had been paying dividends, as the Winds of Change were still undefeated in tag team action. Joe had been making stellar progress at this point, to the point that Coral didn’t think Jared or Cal would even expect what Joe had up his sleeve at UltraViolence.
As for Sid…
Well, did you not see that first attempt at a promo?
We all know what Sid’s about.
The problem was, when you want to throw an elbow but instead get a powerbomb, certain questions have to be asked. You know, other than “how?” and “why?” and maybe “what?” Certainly a bit of “where?” too, as in “where do you think you are taking this man in the powerbomb position?”
For example, who’s going to want to train with him? There’s a non-zero chance that if you got in the ring with Sid, he was going to powerbomb you. You can only train with a guy like that for so long before you get tired of being powerbombed just trying to get a collar-and-elbow tieup going.
And so, Sid was forced to practice his elbows on the weighted training bag, which he could not powerbomb because it was attached to the ceiling. It was a fruitless exercise. The moment he got back into a ring to show what he had, it was back to Powerbomb Alley.
He felt stuck in a ditch.
And he wasn’t sure how to dig himself out of it, even if that ditch had done such a terrible job at containing the new champion, Phil Atken.
Sid’s serious look as we cut to the second try at his promo was somewhat undercut by an annoyed look in his eyes.
He now appeared as though he wanted to be anywhere but right there, sitting on an uncomfortable-ass stool that someone hastily built from IKEA.
“No, but seriously. Powerbombs.”
“So, what’s wrong?” Coral Avalon asked Sid at the end of one of their training days.
Sid had been stewing for a while. He barely asked questions or even paid attention when Coral was going over the Winds’ next opponents: Solid Gold Rock n’ Roll. Sid vaguely remembered some sort of asinine discussion about which of their albums was better, coming down to either Dirtbags and Vagabonds or The Forge Cycle Two. Or whichever it was. Sid didn’t know. He was a J-and-K-Pop kind of man.
Don’t judge him.
Okay, maybe judge him a little.
He’s pretty defensive about the whole thing. In a powerbomb-y sort of way.
“Look, man, I don’t know about this whole ‘elbow’ thing,” Sid said, “Powerbombing works out well enough.”
Coral smiled at Sid.
“It’s true that not everyone knows how to deal with you,” Coral said, “And it’s entirely possible that Boots and Boogie won’t know, either.”
Coral stepped backwards until his back hit the apron of the first wrestling ring. The main ring in the school was built to the specifications used by top promotions such as PRIME and the other organizations in the PWA. Despite its age, it was kept in top shape by the co-owners of the place.
Coral sat down on the apron, and tented his fingers, “But…”
“If you’d like a demonstration about what would happen if someone did know how to deal with you, feel free to step in here with me.”
Sid stared at Coral for a few seconds.
Coral Avalon didn’t have the championship pedigree or exposure to show it, but he was widely considered by hardcore wrestling fans to be one of the top wrestlers in the world. And for all of his foibles and oddities and failures, he was still well-regarded among other wrestlers around the world for his knowledge.
It hadn’t been easy for him to earn that kind of respect. There were long days of training mixed with the absolute disdain and jealousy he faced in his early career, as he fought his way to the top of various promotions well before he old enough to drink.
Yet, Sid didn’t understand any of that.
He just saw another nail to use his hammer on.
The hammer was a powerbomb, by the way.
Pretty sure you knew that.
Sid’s brow furrowed as he looked off-camera.
“Some people think they can outsmart me. Maybe, maybe.” Sid said, nodding along with his statement.
Then he looked directly at the camera, and said, “I have yet to meet someone who can outsmart the powerbomb.”
It hadn’t gone well for Sid.
After about a minute of Avalon running circles around him, remaining elusive while harrying him with simple trips and takedowns, he’d finally gotten enough of a grip of the slippery bastard to go right into the powerbomb.
And then he couldn’t breathe.
He suddenly didn’t have the strength or wherewithal to complete the motion, as Avalon cinched in the triangle choke in mid-air. He stumbled, fell to one knee, and was tapping out before he could complete his collapse to the mat.
After the hold was relinquished, Sid glared up at Avalon and simply said, “Again.”
Coral nodded, and so they went back to it.
Avalon was even more elusive than before, and the infuriating thing was that he wasn’t running away. He’d duck underneath a grab attempt, slip behind Sid, and pull his legs out from under him. If he wanted to, he could’ve grabbed another hold, but instead he chose to step back and let Sid get up. This time, it took two minutes for Sid to catch Avalon and lift him up for another powerbomb. This time, the counter was different. Avalon rotated himself towards Sid more than he expected, and grasped his head in a guillotine choke. Yet again, Sid found himself without oxygen, collapsing to the mat, and having to tap out.
It went on like this for a few more brutal minutes.
Sid would fail to catch Avalon for minutes at a time, and when he finally did, his own one-track mind would be his doom.
No one had done this to him before.
And after the eighth failure, Sid lay flat on his back on the mat, staring up at the ceiling.
“Jesus Christ,” he muttered, once he found where his breath was.
Coral had taken a seat at one of the corners. He was only lightly covered in sweat, as though he could’ve done all of that for another twenty minutes.
After a while of letting Sid recover, Coral grasped the top ropes and pulled himself back up to his feet. “You know who else could do that? Jared. Jared could.”
He offered a hand to help Sid up, and Sid took it.
“That other berry guy?” Sid asked, bewildered.
“Yup, that’s the one,” Coral said. He smiled at Sid’s dumbfounded expression, “I know, I know. He’s kind of an idiot. He loves getting himself into trouble, has gotten to know the taste of his own feet from how much he talks, and I don’t think he’s licensed to drive a forklift. But you get him between those ropes, and there’s not a lot of guys in PRIME or anywhere else that’re better than him.”
Sid frowned deeply.
“Look, I’m not telling you to stop doing powerbombs. That would be insane of me to suggest at this point. You have a freakish talent for putting people down with it. And you always have Joe to rely on to wear folks down so you can start doing your thing. That’s why you’re a team.” Coral said, and then he added, “Two plus two is five.”
Sid closed his eyes, and whimpered slightly.
He remembered the brutal training in the Nevada desert when Coral first said something to that effect. On its face, a stupid thing to say that would’ve heralded the end of math forever, but since math had been destroyed forever in PRIME, it instead made logical sense.
It meant something different, after all.
“So, why elbows?” Sid asked.
Coral shrugged, and leaned against the ropes as he pondered how to answer the question.
“Not to use an analogy that my first tag partner would use or anything, but… are you the sort of guy who plays all of his fighting games just pushing the heavy attack button?”
“Maybe. Why would I push the other ones?” Sid asked.
“Think of it this way. You hit a light attack, your opponent is disoriented, and while they’re disoriented, you hit them with the heavy without issue. The elbow’s the light attack. The powerbomb’s the heavy.” Coral said, “Seriously, what am I doing explaining how combos work to you? You’re twenty. You should know by now.”
Sid chuckled darkly.
He barely knew the command for the Shoryuken.
But he’d been on the wrong end of what Joe was capable of enough times to know… there’s a logic to what Coral Avalon said.
Sid ran his hand over his face.
He’s visibly frustrated at this point.
Probably because he did, in fact, meet someone who could outsmart the powerbomb.
“What do you want me to say? Everyone knows what I’m about. Or they think they do. Powerbomb Siddy, and a whole host of other nicknames people give me, or sometimes I give to myself. Whatever.” Sid said. He looked down at his hands, as though they were the only things he had while sitting on the IKEA stool that gave him comfort.
“Everyone knows what I’m about, and then I still go out there and I do exactly what I’m about. You know why? Because nobody can stop me. People thought I couldn’t powerbomb Bobby Dean. Guess what happened? Boom. People thought that we couldn’t go on a three-match win streak because I only do powerbombs? Guess what happened? Boom. And they think that because Joe is Joe, and I’m me, that we can’t take the belts off of Jared Blueberry and Calvin Raspberry.”
Sid chuckled, and then looked at the camera, “Well, guess what’s going to happen?”
He held his hands up as fists, and then opened them with all of his fingers spread out.
PRIME had been a trial by fire since the day Joe and Sid walked into the MGM Grand, and their lives had been busier than ever since those halcyon days of Survivor.
The work to keep up their momentum since their surprising wins had been exhausting for the second generation Winds of Change. All of the flights to and from Seattle, Las Vegas, and their home in Phoenix. The difficult training. Everything necessary to prepare Joe and Sid for their greatest challenge to date as professional wrestlers.
So it was little surprise that Joe and Sid sat on the couch in the media room, barely able to listen to Coral’s lectures over the sound of their throbbing muscles and sheer exhaustion.
“Guys?” Coral asked.
The match he’d been showing had just occurred days ago. Solid Gold’s championship loss against the Kings of Popsicles. For that matter, Joe and Sid had been conspicuously watching that exact match at ringside, sitting on a couch and eating popcorn. Coral had paused the action just moments before Reina Raspberry made the tag to King Blueberry, turning the match around for the Kings.
“Hm? Yeah! Yeah! I’m awake, I’m awake!” Joe said, as he was startled awake both by Coral’s question and Sid also being startled awake.
He clearly found himself wondering why he even bothered sometimes.
“Alright. Joe, then tell me what you see in Trent Sadikaj, then.” Coral said.
“Okay, so his vocals throughout Dirtbags and Vagabonds are unquestionably encroaching upon the realm of the rock gods. Like, seriously, no wonder that dude gets panties thrown at him everywhere he goes, you know what I mean? Seriously, Boots has the chops.”
“About his wrestling, Joe.” Coral said.
“Oh, his wrestling?” Joe asked, “Uh… I guess he’s alright. Agile for a big dude, gotta say. And in those Electric Boots, too! Hey, think I could do all he does wearing boots like that?”
“I don’t recommend it,” Coral said, “He’s probably used to them. You’d probably break your ankles just walking around in those abominations.”
“Yeah, just like how the Forge Cycle One broke some new ground in rock that no one thought possible.” Joe said, nodding.
Sid shook his head, disbelieving, “I can’t believe you two are still on about their music.”
“Hey, look. If their wrestling was even half as good as their music, they’d be the champions,” Joe said. “You think Jared Blueberry could ever strum a guitar like Long Don did on Dirtbags?”
“Pretty sure all of the musical talents among the berries are with Mrs. Blackberry.” Coral said. He winced a little in saying that name. His wife wasn’t too fond of the name he used for her when he was in character, mostly because she couldn’t see herself wearing a mask half as ridiculous as the one Coral wore that’d been derisively called a “sex mask” as of late. “Well, okay, I don’t know Cal that well yet. Maybe I’ll ask when I’m in-character again.”
He pointed to Sid.
“Sid, what about Barry Delgado?”
“I’m going to powerbomb that miserable little mustachioed turd gremlin through the crust of the earth and create a fissure from what’s left of his smoldering carcass that will spew molten lava for a thousand centuries.”
There was a long pause.
Joe and Coral exchanged glances.
“So, gonna take it that Sid’s not a fan.” Coral said.
“Maybe he’s more of a Squatter’s Rights kind of guy,” Joe said.
Sid shot up from the couch, and turned, and walked right out of the media room, leaving Joe and Sid alone in confusion.
Coral shook his head, “No, I think he’s more of a Neon City Samurai.”
Joe winced, “Ugh, not their best work.”
“Here’s the thing, though.”
We’re back to Sid in the studio. By now, he’s shoved the stool to the side and was now standing. Pacing in front of the camera.
“I’m not looking past Solid Gold Rock n’ Roll. Our eyes might be on the prize that awaits us at UltraViolence, but let’s not forget the kind of fight those two rock bois gave the berries. I might be the powerbomb incarnate, or whatever people call me, but I’ve got eyes and I can see the kind of fight we’re gonna be in for.” Sid said.
He paced some more, parting a path in the dust of the rickety studio they were filming from.
“You’ve got Sadikaj, this agile-ass beanpole with reach like you wouldn’t believe, and the movements of a snake. And you got Delgado, this fire hydrant of a man that hits exactly like a fire hydrant would if it got lobbed at your head. And those two go together like peanut butter and jelly, or ham and eggs, or honey and tea. You need that kind of rhythm when you’re in a rock band. I get it.”
Sid stopped, and ominously turned towards the camera, “But nothing disrupts that rhythm quite like me.”
He picked up the stool, and tossed it behind him in a motion quite unlike a powerbomb. Unless it was one of those one-handed powerbombs. We’re not going to stop and ask.
“See, I’m about to introduce something to your rhythm. It’s called a brown note.”
He stuck his thumb out and pointed it at himself.
“You’re going to hear the note I’m introducing to your little rock opera, and you’re going to fill your fucking pants. And the way I’m going to conduct this symphony of pants-shitting is through… well. You should already know exactly how I conduct these sorts of things.”
He smiled ominously.