Private: Phil Atken
It’s been a little while since we last had a chance to get caught up. How are you doing? Is the family well? Oh… oh… sorry, my manager says I need to get back to work.
Last we really had a chance to embrace and enjoy the life of the Glue Factory’s humble proprietor, Mr. Philip Martin Atken, he had just bailed out of the ring after a tense and terse exchange of words with the PRIME Universal Champion, Brandon Youngblood. Phil decided rather than enter into direct conflict with said champion man, he would in fact instead bail out of the ring and perhaps enjoy a small selection of voulevants that had kindly been provided in the catering area. I mean, that’s what I would do, so I’m just assuming that’s what he did.
We can actually find out though, that’s the whole exciting part of this whole deal! We join the man about to have the biggest match of his career as he rips apart the entrance curtain as he returns backstage. Still adorned in a tasty burgundy three-piece number, Atken looks over to his chief of security, Hank, and begins to froth at the mouth.
“That little arrogant prick… I swear to god Hank, I swear to god that when that bell rings at the next ReVival that I am tearing his balls. Yes Hank, both of them. I am going to rip both of his balls. Rip ‘em right off…”
The rather rambling ranting style of Atken as the flop sweat drips down from his forehead draws an immediate contrast to the cool and calm presentation of himself that had existed for the live cameras during the show. That mask had slipped the minute the curtain to return had been hoisted by its first inch. Anyone near the mad Scot could probably spot the eyes widening the closer he got in his retreat from Youngblood and by the time he got to the back, many scientists were concerned that his eyes would simply fall out. (Many such cases)
“I’m not like the rest of the roster, those who constantly find themselves batting away at the newest light reflecting off the disco ball of desperation, acting in the vein of a feral cat.”
The spittle flying from Atken’s mouth was providing a small shower to Hank and any unfortunate production member of staff who had to regain access to PRIME’s audio equipment from Atken.
“For fucking months Hank, FOR MONTHS, I’ve been promising PRIME’s overlooked talent, their new talent, their hungry for opportunity talent that I would be there for them. That The Glue Factory was for them and what thanks do I get? Nate Colton SLAPS ME IN THE FACE, metaphorically speaking and then I have to interact with that fucking scum that is Nova. Then to cap the fucking night off, Big Brando gets to paint himself as the hero…”
The steady and smug Atken that existed for the whole of ReVival 12 seems like a cheap facade when faced with the arm flailing, wild eyed rant machine that seems to be sending every production assistant in the MGM Grand darting in dear as his volume gradually increases to a level best describe as “foghorn”, which… well… some would argue that means that Atken achieved his goal already. Not me. I would never
“Oh, he’s the fucking cheerleader for the company now, is he? He’s open to all challengers? He wants to give shout outs… THIS WAS OUR PLAN!”
Atken slaps his meaty palm against a new wall, leaving it in place as he lowers his head.
“How am I meant to get people to listen to me when the Universal Champion is blasting the same message, Hank? HOW? They’re going to listen to him. They have no reason to listen to me… I tried this time… I really did. This streak that we’re on, that was supposed to get all the attention on me. I slayed the past of PRIME at Great American Nightmare and I did it on my own terms. I delivered on everything I promised. Yet, despite this, despite all of my achievements, when I opened the door to the Glue Factory, all I got was young master Nathan slamming my dick in the door.”
A few more slaps of frustration reverberate off the walls, causing Head of Security to try whatever Hank considers “consoling” as he last his giant mitt and is about to give his boss a “gentle” pat on the back before he realises that it’s probably neither the time nor place.
“All the fucking wasted money on the slick production video at ReVival 11. That was meant to be a moment of ascension. The Glue Factory was due to become part of the fabric of PRIME that night. It’s all people should have been talking about. I was meant to become PRIME’s thought leader and instead all people are talking about is a fucking Phoenix rising!”
Atken rears back his fist and it looks like he is considering smashing his fist against the harsh and uncaring concrete but before he probably makes a costly career ending mistake, he thinks better of it. He hangs his head down low and sighs into his chest, and after a small moment of self composure, nods to his Security Chief to follow him back to their quarters.
“I really can’t afford this loss”
Atken says in a world weary voice, looking up to Hank, who nods in the most compassionate way he is capable of providing.
“Dirk can’t afford this loss…”
Atken reaches up and puts his arm around Hank, just below the shoulder blades, because that’s all he can manage.
“You can’t afford this loss”.
A small smile creeps across Hank’s face in a manner that doesn’t provide certainty whether he is mentally rolling his eyes or wishes to be genuinely supportive of his boss. His intentions matter not a jot though, because to his boss, he sees a caring giant who wants to see him succeed.
“I need to get mad.”
As we return from the void, we hear the voice of a production assistant.
“And in five, four…”
The lights go up when we find Phil Atken sitting on a small stool next to a circular table, a neat glass of Scotch sitting down atop it. Atken looks a lot more composed than his strop backstage after his in-ring confrontation with Brandon Youngblood, the smug demeanour in which he has been observed to possess has return to the forefront of his face. As the count reaches closer to one, Atken picks up the glass and swirls it around from his palm, watching as the teeny tiny amount of liquid sloshes back and forth. The countdown concludes and Atken’s eyes lock with the camera.
“Brandon Youngblood, Brando, Youngy, Bloody… The Big Chonky… whatever you wish to call him or allow him to call himself, he’s fucking impressive and overcame a lot to become master of the PRIME ring. Many talented performers find themselves in a situation similar to his. They lust for one more run on top and if there’s a promotion that has the stink lines of nostalgia spewing forth from its armpits, these hacks drift towards it like a cartoon rabbit to a cooling pie on an old lady’s windowsill. Often it starts the same way it did for Big Brando, a tournament for that company’s biggest prizes and a participant list as long as Timo Bolamba’s private jet…”
Atken takes a small sip of his whiskey, clearly a little bit self satisfied, not realising he’s late to the newest PRIME dogpile.
“…yet so many figures of the past end up letting themselves down in these situations. The nostalgia of what they think they can do crashing into the hard reality of what they are actually able to do. Brandon Youngblood could have easily been another one of those figures – people who just want everyone to remember who they are, even if it’s to the detriment of the hardworking new talent, and humiliate themselves in the process. Brando could have easily been a quick example of an old hack that should have been tossed upon the pyre instead of sucking up all the oxygen. Then he went and won the whole fucking Almasy, becoming Universal Champion in the process.”
The glare of the lights and the heat therein was starting to make Atken writhe around in his seat, sweat dripping down from his brow. The occasional dab from his pocket square nowhere near enough to stem the tides flowing from the heat. With every sentence uttered, the composed illusion set by Atken was dripping away, the bottom lip curling upwards inside the mouth.
“I’m not going to lie, Youngblood’s success annoys me because he has earned it. My message is very easy to hear if I can point to men who have become self-parodies, the Novas, the Luchadors, the Dusks. Get an eager young talent to pay attention to those shambling wrecks and they start to think that you have a point. But Youngblood…”
Atken takes another quick sip from his glass, this one doesn’t go down as smooth as shown by Atken gritting and grinding his teeth after.
“…he just had to be a once in a generation freak. I look at him and I want to be angry, I want to be furious. I want to point my finger at him and blame him as the very symbol of everything that went wrong for my career. I want to yell to everyone that he is the Pope of the Old Guard and we’re about to see some white smoke. I wish I could build up that level of rage and disgust towards the man. I can’t… it’d be disingenuous, it’d be flimflam foolery, and I’m just not interested in lying to the roster or the fans. As much as it pains every part of me to admit it, Brandon Youngblood is the exception, he earned his Universal Title the right way and has already been fighting off worthy challengers…”
The teeth of Atken remain clenched tightly between thoughts, it’s clear that even uttering this out loud is causing the man a strong level of personal discomfort.
“When I look to my past, I see men like Nova… people who tried to smother my career dead for no other reason than to pop themselves. The stereotype of the egotistical wrestler to a fault. People who don’t give a solitary shit how many plaudits they’ve earned because they always seek more. Brandon Youngblood just doesn’t fit that. He isn’t that guy. He’s champion right now because he wanted to prove to himself that he could. He needed to know that he was the man he always thought he was. He was driven by the same force as me, spite, the most powerful motivating factor in our industry. So cheers to my resentment driven brethren, cheers to you, Brando.”
Atken mockingly lifts up his whiskey tumblers and tilts it towards the camera.
“I can spot one of my own a mile out. That empty hole still consumes you, doesn’t it? You thought you’d reached your mental summit and found yourself at a pit stop instead. Understandable when you’ve got Impulse wanting an “answer”, understandable when you have an unwilling starring role in absolute Bandit shite. It hurts when people talk up your opponents more than the champ himself. That’s what you’re feeling right now. That’s why you swaggered out there at the last ReVival and challenged the damn world. You want the win that recognises you as the absolute, singular, individual, one and only diamond in PRIME. The “what ifs” plague you. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume you were already looking past me, looking for that “establishing” win…”
Atken lifts up the glass and swirls it around on his palm one last time before slamming it back down on the table with a heavy clunk.
“Unfortunately for you… we both know better.”
Dirk Dickwood sat down at his desk in the Glue Factory offices with a distraught look that did not seem fitting for a man in charge of a skyrocketing brand. With Phil’s victories in the ring and some prime product placement during the Revival shows, The Glue Factory brand had the highest amounts of interest that it ever had. The unfamiliar feeling of success left Dirk Dickwood a little uncomfortable, clearly waiting for something terrible to happen. Dirk was used to the experience, it felt like any time his fingers had started to gently caress the exterior of the Sphere of Success, the slippery bugger would float on.
The deep worry that he had over the Atken vs. Youngblood match wasn’t the only poisoned pill that he had to deal with on the morning that we join his company. He also has a rather difficult conversation to have with his boss. An offer had come across Dirk’s table that he knew was far too good to pass up and yet, he also knew that to even suggest it may send Phil into the stratosphere.
As we join Dirk, he is in the middle of having a staring competition with the clipboard in his hand that he is snapped out of based on the slamming of the door behind him. Phil Atken steps into the office with an upbeat sigh and his hands upon his hips.
“I don’t think I say this very often, Dirk, but I think I nailed that ACE Network piece…”
As Atken stands in the middle of the room, basking in the air of self-pride, Dirk continues to look upon the clipboard. “Phil, I’m glad you’re in good spirits, could I just grab you for a minute and…”
Dirk is cut off as Atken lifts his palm and holds it in Dirk’s direction as he makes “shh, shh” mouth noises.
“Not now Dirk, this isn’t business time, that is enjoyment time.”
Dirk’s attention snaps from the clipboard and to Phil’s eyes, “when in the past decade have you ever enjoyed yourself, you better not be getting soft right before Youngblood…”
Phil doesn’t seem that fussed about Dirk’s very direct tone, “Dirk, in a week and a half, these self-satisfied smug pricks like Colton and Nova will finally understand that we weren’t playing a fun game of “yes and,” with them like the fucking improv troupe that eighty percent of the PRIME roster has become, we were giving them a bloody escape hatch. I think I’m allowed to enjoy this moment…”
Dirk tries to gesture Phil’s attention back towards the clipboard, but Phil waves him off again.
“Tell you what Dirk, leave it on my desk and I’ll get to it…”
I understand why in moments like this, people turn to their gods for support. There is a degree of comfort that there’s a force out there that can help to lift the crushing weight you feel sits upon you. It’s basically a way of sending the signal to the universe that you totally and utterly accept that this situation is actually out of your control. Only through a divine force will you find yourself with a true advantage. It probably puts people in a far better headspace than I currently find myself in. Knowing that ten years of suffering and pain could finally start to heal with a win in the ring… that… that’s heavy. Chokingly so. Sometimes I need to remind myself how to breathe when I look to Brandon Youngblood and the Universal Championship.
When I made the choice to come back to wrestling… I just wanted to show my precious Glue-ettes what their daddy used to do. They were too young and I was too angry to let them see the emotional scars that places like GCW and NFW left me. Those were not going to be aired in The Factory Household. PRIME was a chance to shake off the stigma, give the kids something to be proud of. I mean, that was the horseshit I told myself anyway. Part of me was convinced it was a waste of time. That the Old Guard would just give me the proverbial swirlies to strengthen the power of the clique.
Sure, I dreamed of a moment like I currently find myself in but I’m a practical man. Humiliation was the much more likely option. Just a line of people openly groaning that I had decided to exist in the public conscious once more, scoring off the days until I finally fucked off again. An irritant, that’s how I always saw myself. It’s how I was treated for most of my career and eventually, you just accept that’s what you are. There’s very little you can ever do to stop the stampeding herd of popular opinion once it starts rolling out from over the hill like it’s a scene in the fucking Lion King.
Just like you, Brando, I thought that the wins would give me credibility. I thought if I let my results stand on their own merit, it would be hard to argue that I wasn’t worthy of respect. Sweet little lies that we tell ourselves, eh? Yet, here we stand, you calling out the entire wrestling world, looking past me while claiming otherwise, and me… standing across from you in the ring and wondering if I can really do it.
Three seconds doesn’t seem like a very long time and yet I have a sense that when we step in the ring at ReVival 13, it will feel like an eternity, won’t it, Bloody Brilliant Brando?
I came to PRIME with a lot of anger in me, a lot of pain, a lot of self-doubt. Misery lived in my head and in my soul. Every match I had whether it was Tact, Luchador, Whealdon or Dusk… I could see how they had fed that pain. They were men who were delighted to rest upon their laurels. Men who spent more time arguing with biographical information in a pathetic attempt to score a “dunk” on me. When the bell rang in all of those matches, I was positively squealing with glee that win or lose, I was going to take a part of them with me. They were symbols of the twenty years of hurt that resided within me and watching the light go out of each and every single one of them was a consistent delight.
You though, Brandon, you actually respected me. You actually took the time to see that I wasn’t the man people were hoping me to be. You paid attention to what I was capable of in the ring and declared me a threat. You treated me as your equal.
Fuck, that made it hard for me. Hard to work out just why I would seek to choke you the fuck out. Much easier to get the job done when the bile starts rumbling in your belly the minute your music hits.
I went back and watched your words at the last ReVival, I let them actually sink in, let them percolate in my mind and then BLAMMO I finally realised where we differed Brando, I finally understood WHY I needed to win. I finally understood JUST how important this match is to the future of PRIME wrestling.
You want to open the gates of the wrestling world, you want to take on challengers anywhere and everywhere.
I can’t believe you would turn your back on PRIME like that. Nothing more than a platform for your brand, eh? BRAND-on Youngblood.
Maybe not my best work but it gets the point across.
I understand why I need to win now, I understand why you are part of the problem. Being the standard bearer of PRIME just isn’t enough for you. You want to show every single wrestling company that you are the best to ever lace up their boots.
I want to lead PRIME. Only PRIME. I want PRIME talent in the ring with me and I give my word to all talent that in the Atken-era, I will be there for you and you alone. If we believe ourselves to be the best of the best, we don’t have to go down to the Missouri Valley to boost our egos, we don’t have to deal with smug little local Chicago interviewers.
We stay in Vegas, we fight in Vegas. We are Vegas.
I don’t want to be a Phoenix. I want to be PRIME.
Dirk Dickwood returns from assigning himself a healthy and generous ninety minute lunch. He sits down at his desk and is immediately puzzled by the shredded papers that sit upon his desk. There’s a small sticky note with the poop emoji slapped upon the shredded mess.
As the camera zooms back a little, we see that the item in question is Phil Atken’s Phoenix Wrestling Alliance offer.
The Glue Factory’s Proprietor has replied with a resounding no.