“It is when suffering finds a voice and sets our nerves quivering that this pity comes troubling us.”
~ H. G. WELLS
I’m just going to get this out of the way. A lot has happened to me in the last… I don’t even know how many days now. Six? Say it’s been six. Nice even number. Let’s say it’s been six days of fucking triggers I’ve had to endure and I need to channel my anger and resentment from it towards something healthy(ish).
Dolores would be proud of me for externalizing my anger into words. Not that you, or anyone else for that matter, knows who that is.
So here goes. Apologies in advance to the affected party.
I feel sorry for you, Darin.
Not because of who you are as a person, being the perennial speck on the ass of a roster that you are now, always have been, and always will be. Nope. It’s unfortunate timing for you to test your mettle against me and get your win back from all those years ago when we danced that fateful dance in front of ole Leeroy Voldemort Walter White Best.
But that’s not why I feel sorry for you.
While you sat on your heart-shaped ass in catering, waiting for your chance to make a forgettable appearance at Tropical Turmoil, playing “third wheel” in the Fuck Brigade, I happened to be out in the ring reshaping the landscape of The McKenna Palace. By changing the nature of one of PRIME’s most recognizable shades of blue–hiding behind that mask though he did like the coward that he obviously is– I made sure weak-minded rubes of your ilk pay me the proper respect henceforth.
But, believe it or not, that’s not why I feel sorry for you either.
At Tropical Turmoil, TAL hit me with a move that stunned me to the point where time reared its ugly head and showed us why it is this all-encompassing, immutable entity. I mean, goddamn. Before I knew it, my shoulders were down on the mat for three seconds. It was supposed to be a Hallmark Moment™ of redemption for ME against one of PRIME’s biggest bullies, and somehow, some way, we got George R.R. Martin’d.
But even that’s not why I feel sorry for you.
An hour or two later? I’m strolling down the hall, minding my own goddamn business, starting the first of a 24-hour cooldown period when ANOTHER masked coward decides to get involved in my shit. Or, as I should say, assault me to the point where my career was close to being put down right then and there.
You see, Darin…that?
THAT is why I fucking feel sorry for you.
When we step into the ring at ReVival 31, I will be mean. I will be uncaring. I will be uncomfortably scary, unusually disturbed, and generate no less than four “YOU SICK FUCK!” chants in the Capital One Center. In fact, just throw in every other adjective in the lexicon to describe someone as macabre and twisted, and that’ll be me, staring at you from across the ring before the bell sounds. After it sounds, the wrath you’ve seen from my time in this business of ours, no matter what part of the world you’ve seen me compete, pales compared to the steel-melting, fire-breathing shit I will happily unleash upon you in Washington. It will make what Ivan did to Jared look like a game of slapsies between two happy children during recess.
I feel sorry for you because… you don’t deserve this.
You deserve a comeback, Darin. You deserve retribution for being the last thing on people’s minds when they visit a dirt sheet, looking to find out what kind of shenanigans we’ve all been up to backstage like they deserve to be a part of the show. But the harsh reality is that the powers on the thirty-fourth floor didn’t make this match for you to win. They made this match to shepherd my rage and prevent collateral damage.
You are nothing more than a deer looking into the headlights of an eighteen-wheeler whose brake lines have just been cut. You are a guileless rodent just trying to make its way in a cold, unforgiving world looking to cross a road at precisely the wrong time. That’s what you are to me right now, Darin. It’s crucial you know this.
None of this is your fault. That’s an important distinction, Darin.
The unthinkable amount of pain you’re about to endure has been made inevitable by the actions of one. Because of that action, your next best hope at success is competing in the Wheelchair 800-meter at the 2024 Special Olympics.
I think it’s in Calgary? Not important.
Do you understand what I’m saying to you, Darin?
If you thought I was heartless, dangerous, and psychotic before, then I feel even sorrier for you. So I suggest this: if JC and Abe don’t help you understand what will happen in the next few days, I would run for the hills if I were you. Post-haste. I would stop acting like the Switzerland of pro-wrestling and make your home exclusive to the Windy City because you have no earthly idea what I’m capable of when someone takes something from me.
I hope these words find you in time, Darin. Because if they don’t? Then I pity what’s about to happen to the physiology of a simpleton caught in the midst of a nascent war.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!
SAN DIEGO, CA
TROPICAL TURMOIL – PETCO PARK
Everything happened so fast.
Arthur Pleasant heard a voice but he couldn’t make out the words.
The throbbing in his head was matched only by the throbbing in his knee and shoulder. It felt like he owed somebody money and they came to collect.
Wait! DID I owe someone money?!
The taste of copper filled his mouth. A cough rose up from his lungs, causing him to spew out copious amounts of blood onto the arena floor.
“Arthur… ca… you… ear me?”
His neck felt like someone tried to strangle him with a strong piece of cloth. Maybe a tie. Arthur could feel the indentations on his shoulder from something that had a spiral texture. Perhaps a piece of rebar.
Someone DID hit me with a piece of rebar. What the fuck?!
Pleasant’s senses returned to him slowly. Bit by bit. He remembered rounding a corner, trying to find Yuri to talk business.
Yuri. If only you were there. But, this guy knew I was alone. He… picked his spot. Smart. Calculating, even.
Then? Things regressed as the world around him seemed even fuzzier. And weird(er). Arthur found himself slipping In and out of consciousness, and for a few moments, he could hear the sound of a woman’s beautiful voice singing in a delicate vibrato.
There were bells on the hill
But I never heard them ringing.
No, I never heard them at all
‘Til there was you.
“Arthur? Can you hear me?!” yelled a female paramedic from PRIME’s medical team.
“Is he… is he smiling?!” yelled out another much deeper voice from that of a man.
Pleasant couldn’t seem to stay conscious. Whoever did this did an absolute NUMBER on him. It was an exceptional beating, to be perfectly honest.
Black. Then, a faceless female figure with long beautiful blonde hair seemingly manifested out of thin air. She sat on a lone wooden swing held by ropes that went far into the sky in a black and white backdrop, dragging the tips of her toes into the mud beneath her feet. Giant sequoias surrounded the swingset, offsetting the black and white with a pop of color from bright orange flames burning the tops of these tall, monochrome trees. It all looked like a living piece of Wieco art.
Arthur heard the song again, but some of the words therein didn’t seem quite right. Still, the soft vibrato-styled singing was beautiful to listen to.
There was blood in the sky
But I never saw it raining
No, I never saw it at all
‘Till there was you.
Arthur emerged back into the world of consciousness again. To his surprise, he was four feet off the ground on a stretcher. Very few times in his career he found himself on a stretcher, and he had been in about a hundred grisly death matches throughout his career.
Someone hurt me enough to put me on a stretcher? Fucking impressive.
He knew where he was, but it didn’t really register. Not yet, anyway.
“Mr. Pleasant, everything will be okay. We are rushing you to Alvarado. Stay with me, sir!”
Black. The previously faceless woman with spiders from before then had a gown on. There were no creepy crawlers that time, as she stood posed like a ballerina on a wooden pedestal that spun endlessly, round and round. The chest area in the gown grew red.
Was this all just some kind of concussion-induced nightmare? Or was it more of a hallucinogen-induced one? Did someone slip acid in the water bottle he chugged after his grueling match with TAL? He wouldn’t put it past anybody on the roster to do something like that. Jabber has exposed the nature of a lot of people.
And there was death
And there were wonderful roses
They tell me
In sweet fragrant meadows of blood, fire, and dew.
It was a new mask. Black and blue. A half-mask that exposed a rounded jawline and wide lips. There was a new person hiding behind the new mask that attacked him. Bold motherfucker.
Much more aware than before, Pleasant was awake and fully aware of his surroundings.
“Get me off this fucking stretcher. Now.” Pleasant said calmly.
The calm before the storm.
“Sir, you’ve suffered a severe assault. You need to-”
“Get me off… this… this…”
Black. The tempest would arrive another day.
There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
‘Till there was you.
NEW MASK, SAME MASK
SUBURBS OUTSIDE OF SAN DIEGO
The pitter-patter of rain had pelted against the air conditioner for the last several hours as a slow-moving warm front fueled a thunderstorm that showed no signs of slowing down. With the A/C set on a cool sixty degrees to repel the sticky and uncomfortable mugginess that gathered outside like a mist from the Stephen King novel, Arthur Pleasant sat in an ugly “decorative” armchair of a nondescript, cheap motel room. A neon sign protruded from the rooftop of a brick building with crudely painted seagulls placed painstakingly all over the facade. The sign blinked, causing the “E” and “L” from the word “MOTEL” to buzz and flash while the smaller “VACANCIES” sign underneath it remained intact.
This Motel 6 was located across the way from San Diego, California, in a lovely seaside suburb known as Chula Vista. Pleasant didn’t like taking up rooms and being too close in proximity to where other talents stayed, so even this odd little shithole would more than suffice. Ever a beautiful area, the slogging thunderstorm removed any hint of sun or glint of shine from the storm’s gigantic radius. Perhaps this was a sign from the heavens that underscored Arthur Pleasant’s less-than-ideal mood in a post-Tropical Turmoil Universe in PRIME Wrestling.
Or, more specifically, what a MASKed man had done unto him during the latter parts of the show.
The shabby motel room had barely been taken care of as the maintenance team remained a myth, not unlike Bobby Dean digesting a vegetable or the karmic Chicago Street Riots of July 2023. Ah, yes. The smell of shitty pizza and pickles that have no fucking business going on a hot dog continued to emanate from the tears of #97thousand Second City Shitheads continued to permeate the west coast with its awful scent.
Chuckling at the thought of the plum-smuggling old timer being victorious against the egregiously over-confident brat, Pleasant ignored the mysterious stains on the walls and smeared residue on the windows. Instead, he focused on the beautiful view of a public restroom in a commons area outside the motel. At that exact moment, pain surged through his throat, rounded a corner to the back of his neck, and made a round trip to a newfound space between two of his uppers.
C. Mortgomery Byrnes.
The dipshit who knocked his dental implant out with a vicious, unprovoked incursion that nearly put an end to him.
It was a special one, too, that implant. A fang.
Arthur could feel the blood trickle down his mouth again. It hurt, but he didn’t give a damn.
Pain was temporary. Necessary, even. Blood? Incidental. The incoming war with this new enemy would require buckets of it.
Pleasant stared at himself in the standing mirror of his cheaply acquired room. Noticing the griminess all over the silica glass, it was apparent how the mirror hadn’t been washed since before the Global Title pokévolved into the Universal Title. Through the blots of filth and other impurities, Arthur saw himself standing in the wasted space of his motel room, still clad in his wrestling attire from Tropical Turmoil.
Why would this Mortimer do such a thing?
Was he offended by my treatment of TAL?
Was it some kind of initiation into GAS Gold and Black?
Right then and there, a lightbulb went off above his head as he remembered one of the many topics that spontaneously came up during a recent dinner party he held in his Father’s estate.
One of the guests happened to be none other than Ivan Stanislav.
The ‘why’ couldn’t have been more evident as Pleasant smiled. While he arched his lips, the bottom one resplit under the thin piece of medical adhesive tape PRIMEmed gave him after his match with TAL.
Touching his lip tenderly, Pleasant chuckled.
“So. It’s gonna be like that, is it?” Pleasant asked himself in the mirror.
There was no devious smile. Nothing suggested Arthur was happy about what happened to him when he took his focus off his surroundings for the tiniest nanosecond. He shot his foot forward and put it through the mirror without warning. Still in his sweaty, gross wrestling boots, Pleasant remained cut free as the backboard to the standing mirror broke in half, and the mirrored pieces became strewn about on the thin motel room rug.
At first, he thought it was dysgeusia, but soon the bitter taste of steel filled his mouth. All this from a mere recollection, too.
It HAS to be.
Pleasant rubbed his fingers across his neck, outlining the mark made by the piece of reinforced steel that Mortimer choked him with.
You should’ve finished the job.
MEETING AN OLD FRIEND
NEW ORLEANS, LA
The rain continued to downpour just as it had all week long. The only difference at that moment was how the night sky became illuminated by the fireworks that exploded in every direction as far as the eye could see. Americans everywhere enjoyed their hot dogs, cheeseburgers, beer, and quality family time on Independence Day— but not Arthur. Aside from having a distaste for simple BBQ foods and skunk American beer in general, the Provocateur, as he was once known, did not celebrate on the fourth of July.
Reaching into his pocket, Pleasant pulled out a single key. Grabbing the silver padlock of a ten-by-ten storage unit that kept a large corrugated metal door closed, Arthur unlocked it with a quick twist of his wrist. Pulling the padlock off the sliding latch, he stepped on the door handle to prevent the entire door from springing upwards. Minding his surroundings momentarily, he became distracted by red, white, and blue fireworks exploding in the sky. Turning his attention back to his storage unit, he removed his foot and the door sprang up about a foot and a half from the cement flooring.
Bending down, he pulled the door the rest of the way up with both hands. Holding onto the door handle for a moment, Arthur squinted as he looked inside the unit to try and see what all he had in there. After some more fireworks, the inside became illuminated briefly, and his eyes noticed several items in that fleeting moment of clarity.
A smirk slithered across his face.
Pushing the metal door upwards until it slid into the track on the ceiling, Pleasant sighed at the inconvenience of the darkness. Then, remembering a pull switch about five feet in front of him directly in the center of the storage space, Pleasant snapped his fingers and ventured into the darkness. Blindly moving his hands in front of him so he didn’t trip over anything that might’ve been left on the floor, more fireworks went off all around him. N’awlins sure loved this day more than most, he found.
Then, for a split second, he could see the pull chain. Reaching outward, he nabbed it and tugged downward.
The entire space lit up in a brilliant white glow from the LED lights installed in every corner of the boxy structure. In the right corner, with unlabeled boxes sitting on top of it, was the dog cage he had in his old studio apartment in Las Vegas. It was in this cage where his dog had died of malnutrition after spending several months on the road without looking back. If only he had a friend, neighbor, or simple acquaintance at the time to send a text to feed his dog and let him out for a walk.
“Poor Chopstick..” he lamented, remembering the putrid smell of a dead animal as he entered his apartment after a nine-month international excursion. He never saw the decay of a carcass quite like that before or since.
Pleasant shook his head as he returned to the present and scanned other parts of the storage unit. There were the grappling dummies he used to practice the Culture Shock Battle Royal, and before that, the 2016 Alpha Rumble from a place long and far from relevancy. Suffice it to say, they must not have helped very much since he could only make runner-up in the latter and was eliminated far too early in the former.
Mental Note: Burn the grappling dummies.
His eyes settled on something. It was a box that had been all but crushed from the weight of a large stack resting on it. There was a name written in black marker with an exclamation point at the end.
Pleasant realized he found him. There was a giant smile stretched across his face, causing his busted lip to open up again for the second time in less than a week. He could taste blood again, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was he found what he was looking for.
Soon, he would have his revenge.
And the levels of violence he would inflict to have it would be shocking.
I do not pity you, Mortimer.
You opened Pandora’s Box without provocation and I am not responsible for what crawls out of it.
If I have to go through your hero, Tony Gamble, or travel all the way back to Horace, North Dakota, and go through Mrs. Kjedelig, I will. I absolutely fucking will.
For every hit I received from that rusty piece of rebar, I will spill a bucket of your blood.
But go ahead and proclaim ignorance to your actions, close your ears, and ignore the advice of your friends.
All I need for you to do is watch.
Watch what I do to poor, poor Darin.
Someone I have zero issues with.
Then think about what awaits you.