Rocky de Leon
October 6, 2023, one hour after Sage Pontiff fell.
Stu’s voice echoed off concrete walls of the locker rooms beneath Soldier Field. “Kerry Kuroyama.” He bellowed the name of the victor of the match following Rocky’s, and his draw for the next leg of the Almasy Tournament bracket, as Rocky showered off.
Steam hissed and droplets plopped loudly on tile for a moment before The Sultan of Skree questioned, “…who?”
“No idea,” Stu responded in earnest. “He previously wrestled with another federation, but I will be honest – I have not wasted much time paying attention to the lower federations like DEFIANCE. Judging by the various nicknames Nick Stuart threw out during the match, Kuroyama might believe he is a kaiju. It has been some time since you wrestled someone with that particular delusion.”
“Oh shit,” epiphany rang in Rocky’s voice, “I know this guy! He made the movie Seven Samurai.”
Eyes outside the shower blinked slowly behind frameless spectacles, “N… no, Rocky,”
“Well, so what!? I make mad films, myself.” A squeak of metal on metal echoed through the locker room as the water sounds reduced.
“Are you being serious right now?”
“Ok, I don’t make films.” A hand reached out of a tiled stall and whips a towel off a hook. “But if I did…”
“Lord help me. Rocky, you know damn well your opponent is not Akira Kurosawa. Kuroyama only passably sounds the same. And his first name is fucking Kenny.” Stu rubbed his temples with the middle finger and thumb of his right hand as his eyes clenched beneath his palm.
“Of course I fucking know that. Look, dude, we’ve got nothing on this guy. He comes from out of nowhere, no one knows who he is except people in whatever fed he might have played around in before PRIME. I have no beef with him, he’s just… he’s just in the way of winning this whole thing.” The towel stopped fluffing black hair, brown eyes widened, and a hushed whisper emanated from the shower stall, “…Rashomon.”
Stu spoke without confidence, “Rasho… what?”
“Rashomon. Four people witnessed a crime, each telling a different perspective… sharing a different truth. One of Kurosawa’s masterpieces…” A sheet of damp blue cotton flew across the room, hitting Stu in the chest, and in a flurry of activity Rocky threw on his clothes. “Sorry, Stu. Have to go. Things to do. People to interrogate. Perspectives to examine. Arthurs to implicate.”
“Rocky. Stop this. You have a goddamned Pulitzer. I know you are not this stupid, and we have training to do.”
Rocky, however, was already out the door. He leaned back far enough to poke his head back in the locker room. His eyes met Stu’s.
October 7, 2023, 10:00am
I remember it like it was yesterday. Of course, it wasn’t – it was about two weeks ago on the evening of September 22, night one of UltraViolence. Shouts in the arena at Soldier Field were muffled by feet of concrete, occasionally bursting to life as I passed the turn that lead into the arena. It was dark in the backstage corridor. I mean, not TOO dark, it’s a stadium after all. People have to be able to walk, I get that. After being in the spotlights of the ring, though, it felt dark. You know, I’ve never really had to think before about the variable nature of light. Was it darker than the arena, or was it just “less bright?” Is there a difference?
“What are you doing, Stones?” A mild azure glow filled Rocky’s field of vision. He took a few steps back from the place where Arthur Pleasant took a hockey stick to his legs.
“Oh.” Rocky’s eyes narrowed at the sight of the specter. He sighed, “Hi, Mateo. I’m trying my best to recall what happened the night I was attacked. I figure I’ll need my perspective as well as that of the participants and any witnesses if I’m going to suss out the real truth.”
“That sounds like a lot of unnecessary work, dude,” a translucent shirt billowed in nonexistent wind while blue eyes scanned the concrete of the arena corridor, “Especially when you could just ask me.”
Rocky blinked, “Um. What?”
Mateo faced Rocky and stared him in the eyes. “You could just ask me. Saw the whole thing, bud.”
“WHAT THE HELL, MAN?! Why didn’t you help me?!” The pause lingered in the air as Mateo waited for the hamster in Rocky’s head to run on those wheels just a little faster. “…right. Ok, so what happened? In detail, if you could, please.”
Cerulean corduroy pants failed to make their tell-tale zwhip-zwhip as Mateo paced, “So like, you know, man, Espy always likes to sit on the side of the entrance aisle, right? She likes to get up close and personal with the wrestlers – makes it easier to heckle the assholes yeah? So yeah, man, she was here to watch and I was standing here waiting for her to stand up so I could get a glimpse of those phat, fat cheeks, knowwumsayin’? Course ya do. Yeah, Broski!”
A faintly glowing fist rose into Rocky’s face and waited. And waited. And waited. “Come on, man, don’t leave me hangin’.”
Rocky sighed, fist bumped the air, and the ghastly fingers jazz-handed their way back to Mateo. “So like I was sayin’, I was waitin’ to polter-clap them cheeks, and I saw this weasley dude in some dime store fake ‘stache and glasses get up run by here. Then I saw you come after him like some fuggin’ Coyote and Road Runner trope, right? Good form, by the way.”
“De nada. Anywhoozle, as Baggy McJNCOs made his exit, Captain Overbite reenacted the culmination of the Flying V and knuckle-pucked yer nuts.”
“Yeah, man. Flipped the puck, slap shot it, made that sucker go end over end right into Mr. Happy and his twin brothers, Dangler and Lefty. Honestly, I’m amazed if you’re still able to have kids.”
Rocky’s eyes narrowed, “That is most assuredly not what happened.”
Mateo shrugged, “Suit yerself. Saw what I saw. And what I saw says Arthur Pleasant plays the wrong sport. Man, I miss hockey.”
“Dude. We’re Mexican. What the fuck do you know about hockey?”
“I know rink fights get Espy hot and bothered. Every. Time. God, I miss hockey.”
“…aaaaaaand there it is. Alright, man. Thanks for your, erm, help.”
“Here for you, brother.”
October 15, 2023, 3:00pm
After pulling a few strings and calling in a few favors, Rocky found himself in possession of the security tapes from Soldier Field the night of the attack. While the location of the assault was in a camera dead zone (a fact with which Rocky suspected Arthur was intimately familiar), the Sultan of Skree was able to get a better look at the Dollar General Deceiver. His review of the security footage revealed the poor disguise belonged to none other than one Arliss Peters.
“Well. It makes perfect sense,” mumbled the Master of Moonsaults, mindfully, as he drove his rental car from Harry Reid International airport to the primary office of Peters, Peters & Roberts. “I can’t imagine anyone doing something that stupid for Arthur Pleasant without a shitload of money up front and a signed contract for ongoing payment.”
Rocky greeted the firm’s receptionist with a warm smile, “Is Mr. Peters available? Arliss, that is, not his dad or uncle.”
The young lady looked up from behind her computer screen and tried not to appear as though this was the least boring thing to happen to her in three months, “I can certainly check and see if he has time for you, but he is on the phone at the moment. You may have to wait a little bit. Is he expecting you?”
“Oh, no,” The Sultan of Skree leaned on the counter, “I don’t have an appointment. I’m a friend of his – just thought I’d stop by. We went to theater camp together, years ago. He was always great at putting together cheap costumes.” He glanced down, briefly. “I like your necklace,” brown eyes sparkled as a grin spread across Rocky’s face.
Pale skin reddened as delicate fingers ran over cheap jewelry, “I got it at Claire’s. Oh!” She glanced down at an array of lights on a telephone, “It looks like he’s off his call. Why don’t you go ahead and go in. I’ll announce you, um…?” She looked into Rocky’s inviting eyes and blushed.
“It’s Carl. Carl Lyons.”
“Got it!” A beep rang in the air and fuzz of an intercom system followed, “Mr. Lyons here to see you, sir!” She did not wait for a response. “I’ll send him in.” Her index finger slipped off the intercom, “I’m sure he’ll just be thrilled to see you!”
“Thanks darlin’.” Rocky winked and walked through the door to Arliss Peters’s office, and a quiet giggle stifled behind him when the door shut. The office was pristine; not a single piece of paper was out of place. His bookshelves were not filled with pointless leather-bound volumes, but rather solely with what were clearly well-used reference tomes kept in perfect alphabetical order. Arliss had decorated well, but modestly. His desk was designed for more function than form, a sit-stand mechanized model that said, “I’m here to get shit done,” rather than some toppled cherry or mahogany monolith that said, “I need you to think I’m important.”
Arliss was standing at the desk, staring intently at a pair of LED monitors and typing feverishly. He began to look up from his work as he spoke, “What can I do for you Mr. Ly… Carl Lyons? Really? Dammit, this is why we don’t hire teenage gate keepers. You couldn’t even bother to do better than a cheap Americanized version of Carlos de Leon? Come on, man, have some pride.”
A button on a panel attached to the edge of the desk was pressed, and the surface slowly lowered to a precise twentynine and a half inches as motors whirred and strained under the weight of the composite desktop and binders of pleadings and discovery related to a client unknown to Rocky. Arliss closed the volumes and ensured no identifying information was visible to the room’s other occupant as he stepped from behind the desk with fury in his eyes and determination in his walk.
“Why put in a big effort when a small one will do?” The same smile that charmed the receptionist did not appear to be working on Mr. Peters.
“That’s the trouble with America these days, in a nutshell. You were not invited here, you do not have an appointment, and you lied to my gatekeeper. You now have 60 seconds to get off my property before I call the police, Mr. de Leon.” A cell phone slipped easily out of a jacket pocket into Arliss’s hand. He had it unlocked and on the dialer screen near instantaneously.
Palms raised and faced Arliss, “Hey, man, I don’t want any trouble – I just wanted to talk with you about what happened that night we ran into each other at UltraViolence on September 22.” Rocky had hoped this would be a “gacha” moment, that the attorney would not have realized Rocky had made him through his disguise.
If Mr. Peters was in any way shocked by Rocky’s subtle revelation, he did not show it. “Well, I DON’T want to talk about it. I don’t generally like reliving assault, much less with the person that assaulted me.”
“Excuse me?” Righteous fury flooded Rocky’s chest. No one had ever accused him of something so horrible. He was here to confront Arliss for his complicity in Arthur Pleasant’s attack, not to defend himself against baseless accusations. “You lured me into the shadows with that awful disguise so that Pleasant could get the drop on me, and you claim I assaulted YOU?”
“You know full well that you did, don’t be ridiculous!” A thumb slipped up the edge of Arliss’s iPhone to trigger the lock screen, eliminating the threat of any immediate call to emergency services. “I no more lured you anywhere than I lured the gentleman that sold me a horribly overpriced bratwurst with the promise of remuneration! I had no idea you were anywhere near me. You, on the other hand, chased a random person through an entire event hall while wearing that hideous pterodactyl getup because you thought MY disguise was somehow sinister and even more ridiculous than yours.”
He paced with a steady tempo as he spoke, gesturing with his hands for emphasis at the most convincing moments. Rocky could see how he made partner, and knew he would have even without the family connection. “I did nothing illegal, and neither you nor anyone else had cause to hunt me down just because I may have looked a little silly. I was afraid for my life! Terrified! You should be ashamed, sir.”
Rocky huffed out in exasperation, “But why were you wearing a disguise!?”
Arliss stopped pacing and looked Rocky dead in the eyes, “Does it matter? Does a silly costume give you carte blanche to run after me? What, do you think you’re fucking Batman or something? I don’t like to be recognized in public. You know the kind of people I represent. Do you think I want the public to recognize me? I thought I was going to be dead on the pavement before Arthur saved me.”
“SAVED YOU?” Rocky’s eyes widened as Arliss slowly approached and stopped only a few inches from his face.
“Someone had to stop you,” Peters said in a near whisper, “and lord knows I wouldn’t be able to. I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing playing vigilante like that, but you need to remember that your lucha mask doesn’t make you a fucking superhero. Now, kindly please leave.” Arliss gestured to the door, then turned his attention to the girl behind the front desk, “MADISON! How the hell could you possibly not recognize the face of the man that attacked me on live TV…”
October 17, 2023, 1:57p.m.
The faint scent of peppermint and warm leather filled a small, but spaciously arranged, room on the top floor of a three story office building on the outskirts of Houston, Texas. Rocky’s eyes were closed as he laid back on a chaise lounge, basking in the sun pouring through the window despite the late season. Texas summer typically runs from March through November, so there was a little time left before he would need to wear warmer clothes. For now, he enjoyed the warmth of the rays bouncing off his skin as they passed through UV treated glass.
On the chaise had been numerous cushions, all of which provided different tactile sensations. Rocky had kicked them all to the floor, save for one he held to his chest. The square pillow was snow white, with long plush fibers, and wonderfully soft; squeezing it reminded him of hugging the husky his ex-girlfriend owned when he lived in upstate New York. It was a very pleasing and calming sensation, emotions he hadn’t felt a great deal of in the last several months outside of this room.
“One last thing before we end our session, Carlos,” Dr. Haitzurwahlet scribbled on a white steno pad. “Have you been taking your medication? The ambien? How are you reacting to it?”
Limbs curled tighter around a throw pillow as socks swished back and forth against upholstery. “…You would know about that, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, yes,” the good doctor lowered his clipboard, nudged his glasses up his nose, and observed his patient’s body language. “We have a shared database with most medical providers. It is quite handy.”
Rocky’s eyes opened, and he stared at the ceiling. “How does that work? Do you have to pay a subscription fee? Is it free to access with proof that you’re an MD? Or maybe you have to be in-network with a particular insurer?” Rocky tilted his head to the side and opened his mouth to continue offering guesses without allowing opportunity for response.
“You don’t get to dodge the question like it’s a punch in the ring, Rocky.” Doctor H. repressed a wry grin, pleased with himself over that one.
Eyes closed and lungs slowly filled and deflated. Ten seconds of dead air seemed like an eternity before he replied, “I… I haven’t started it.”
“And why not?”
Rocky glanced at the right pocket of his jeans. The pocket glowed dimly, and fingers ran gently over a Mr. Fantastic action figure that laid to rest inside it. He felt through denim for the rubber bands which held the limbs and head to the body.
“I’m not ready, yet.”
October 20, 2023, 9:47pm
Deep in the bowels of the KFC Yum! Center, Rocky found himself face to face with Arthur Pleasant. Arthur had just finished losing to Coral Avalon, and although he was sure to be in a foul mood, Rocky felt it would be the safest time for confrontation as he would certainly be wiped out and in no mood for yet another fight. Despite Pleasant’s weakened state, it appeared he still had the energy for insane bullshit.
“It was quite obviously self defense,” grinned a mouthful of shark teeth.
“Excuse you?” blood flooded facial vessels, and heat emanated from Rocky’s body in waves of anger.
Arthur hopped off the bench where he had been nursing his wounds, “Ah, thank you. I accept. Mr. de Leon, it was clearly self-defense because you assaulted me.”
“Oh come off it, Arthur. Arliss tried the same stupid lin-”
“I thought it would be obvious, no?” A manic grin fit for a Benderspink production reflected the fluorescent lights. A low chuckle emanated from Pleasant’s chest, and he continued,
“Self-defense, my dear, dear flying dinosaur person! Self-defense from an assault on my and everyone else’s intelligence by having a grown fucking man ‘SKREE-!’ in front of millions on the ACE Network.” Rocky’s fists began to ball in response to the insult.
Pleasant’s eyes narrowed and his grin widened, seeing that his words had snared his prey, “I can hear the subscription cancellations every time you insult us with your mere presence, and I didn’t journey my way to PRIME to only be watched by a dozen neckbeards armchair managing us through a jail-broken stream stick.”
Pleasant made a show of rubbing his temples and huffing a great dramatic sigh, “It is your mere… existence… that vexes me. Of course, if that wasn’t enough of a reason for doing what I did, Mr. Duh Leon, look no further than the mask you commit all these atrocities while hiding under.”
Blood boiled over, and a temper flared brightly enough to ward people into other highway lanes for safety. Rocky darted forward, grabbed Pleasant’s hair with his left hand, yanked back his head, and pulled his right fist back for a swing when Pleasant giggled. “Ah ah aaaaaaah! Tsk tsk.” Pleasant waggled his finger in front of Rocky and pointed toward a poster of Universal Champion Ivan Stanislav, basking in gold and crimson glory.
“Didn’t you hear? I have big important friends now. You wouldn’t want to insult them by attacking me in God’s own temple, would you?” Rocky’s grip slowly loosened, and he backed away.
“I thought not,” Pleasant winked and flashed one last sharp grin before heading toward the showers. “Be seeing you, lizard boy.”
But what is truth?
Is truth unchanging law?
We all have truths.
Are mine the same as yours?
~ Pontious Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar ~
We all have truths. You ever watch Rashomon, KK? Four people experienced the same event with very different truths, just like Mateo, Arliss, Arthur, and me. But enough of that, let’s put it aside.
What is your truth, Kerry?
Everyone in the stadium will see our match differently. Will PRIME’s faithful see you as the Paragon of Professional Wrestling Excellence? Will you shine like an emerald or will you fall to the ground, dull like the muck so many of our contemporaries will try to drag you down in? Are you really Seattle’s Beast, or just another husky for me to hug?
The truth can be hard to grasp, Kerry. Even for me, someone whose skills are devoted to finding the truth. I don’t know you, or what truths you keep deep inside. Even with all I know about Arthur Pleasant, I still don’t understand what drives him, regardless of the number of perspectives I discover.
So I guess the only thing I’m sure of is my own truth and the truth that exists in this tournament: through victory comes the final truth in this chapter of my story. So Kerry, it’s nothing personal, but I can see it in black and white. If I want to find my truth in the tournament, I have to do it by going through you.