“Yes, excellent! We’re thrilled with the number of impressions our co-branded Jabber campaign received, too!”
As we open to an efficiently-laid-out, bland, lifeless office, we’re forced to question Rusty’s assertion in Ocean’s 11 that “they say taupe is very soothing”. Some colors are just joy vacuums.
“Yes, I couldn’t believe it, either! Imagine, hooking in Youngblood like that! Fun to think of the future dollar signs there.”
Wearing an obnoxious banana-yellow suit, reclined in his office chair with his legs crossed on top of his desk, sits one of the men who’s invested a great deal of time, energy, and money to facilitate the career of his blue chipper, Mr. Darby. Sitting across from him, legs also crossed atop the desk and munching on a bag of Brets brand aioli-flavored chips is the aforementioned blue chipper himself, FLAMBERGE. Mr. Darby has a smartphone to his ear and keeps giving these little thumbs-ups and winks and nods to FLAMBERGE during this phone call. FLAMBO is unconcerned.
“Right. This will be match two of our current sponsorship deal, and after match three, we’ve penciled in a meeting to discuss the expansion of the PRIME, FLAMBERGE, and Brets partnership in earnest. If you ask me, I think things are going well so f-”
Cut off, he gives a flash of a frown before chuckling.
“Well, yes, sure, he DID lose at ReVival 5, but we all saw what really went on th-”
Cut off again. Darby gives a little head shake and mouths the words “It’s fine!” to the Frenchman sitting opposite him. FLAMBERGE looks like he could only be less emotionally invested in this conversation if he was literally the bag of chips instead.
“Right, don’t worry. The team understands the mission, and we move forward with gusto!”
Darby winks at FLAMBERGE. Crickets.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Thanks Georgie, we’ll be in touch.”
He finally hangs up his phone.
“Right, sorry about that. Little bit of business to tend to. So! How are we feeling today, FLAMB? Feeling rough and ready for your next scrap in the ring?”
Maybe you remember that feeling of being in middle school – it’s been a long week already, and here comes this dorkass substitute teacher trying to be “hip with the kids”. You didn’t ask for him to be there and you couldn’t give one half of one damn about anything this man has to say to you, and all you want to do is go home and play video games. We’re almost there.
“Ria Nightshade. Tough nut to crack, that one.”
At the mention of his next opponent, FLAMBERGE finally gives Mr. Darby the first slightest ounce of his attention, though the chips keep on coming.
“Been through quite a bit, to my understanding. A real testament to perseverance. Something admirable about finding something truer and realer inside yourself after surviving that kind of serious trauma, if you ask me – makes her dangerous. Interesting that PRIME considers her a villain, the more I think on it…”
Another chip is crunched with a mighty ka-RONCH as FLAMBERGE waits for his business advocate to get to the point.
“It’s important that you be at your most upper-best for this one, FLAMB, and I’ll tell you why – Brets was just on the phone, and they let just a little tidbit slip. I’m sure it was intentional and they wanted to put this fear in me, and by extension you, but they just said…well, now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t…”
FLAMBERGE stops mid-chip and just raises a single solitary mean eyebrow Darby’s way.
“…you’re right, I shouldn’t keep these things to myself. Let’s just say…it would be best for your marketing image, and for our leverage with Brets and future sponsors, if..well…ifyoustopgettingpunchedinthenutsandlosing but really, I’m not worried, I told them we know the mission-”
If looks could judo throw you across the room. Mr. Darby nervously composes himself.
“-sorry, sorry. I know. You don’t need ME to motivate you. I’m just looking out for our – I mean, your – best financial interests, that’s all. Besides, that’s honestly only part of the reason I asked you to stop by. We need to come up with a unified message for the press ahead of your next matchup, and while I will speak for you on camera, I don’t want to speak for you, if that makes sense. I want to dive deep into the mind of the great FLAMBERGE! To share with the public why this menacingly talented, dashingly debonair snack-fiend-that’s-also-a-snack is to be FEARED!”
Mr. Darby reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a legal pad and pen.
“So let’s get to work! Why should Ria Nightshade be afraid to wrestle you? …
…talk to me…”
“No, ignore this putain de charlatan.”
We’ve transitioned to a gym’s locker room with pearl white walls and navy blue lockers lining the walls. FLAMBERGE wears a loose fitting teal tank top and black shorts, hopping a bit from foot to foot in preparation for his workout. The hyper-controlling, aggressively-manipulative, rotund mustached speaker in his XXXXL dark Adidas tracksuit stiffs his pointer finger squarely into his son’s ribs.
“You do not win the fight for the MONEY, for the sponsor. This, the rabbit trap…you fall down this, you spiral. You spiral, then you think it is fine to do the anything for the revenue. I look at my life’s purpose project, I see mon fils on a bench advertisement pour la baume à l’aine.”
FLAMBERGE stops hopping, inquisitively looking into Henri Lavigne’s face.
“You listen to me now. This man, he tells you to fight for the dollar. I know, and you know I know, the thing to fight for is the dominance. This Nightshade, she has what you say, the tragic past. You have no such tragic past.”
Do we detect just a hint of a flutter in FLAMBERGE’s eyelids? You’ll have to rewind the tape to be sure.
“You had the best. You had ME. You, the boy child who had the sickness too much and who the mother coddled too much, I sculpted you into the WARRIOR, into the SINISTER! I have imbued unto you the ways in which the Lavignes make sure the fight is victorious. And – LOOK AT ME-”
Out of nowhere, Henri fires a cracking slap across FLAMBERGE’s face. FLAMBERGE’s eyes are WIDE, unblinking, three inches or so from his father’s equally matched lack-of-hinge.
“ -I have imparted on you the knowledge that you cannot view the opponent as the person. Your opponent is the wood and you are the chop. This Nightshade, this Nightshade, she thinks she has found the bad, she has only found the comfortable retreat. This person, she has a genuine good place in herself that she knows is there – and knowing it is there, you can CRUSH it.”
A penny for a blood pressure cuff at this moment, for both men.
“Do you understand?”
FLAMBERGE continues staring deep into the too-wide pupils of his father as he reaches into a nearby duffle bag, revealing a bag of Brets chips. Henri swats the chips away in a flash. And then, as Henri’s eyes seem to reach max capacity, the camera zooms in on his forehead…
…which is slowly pushed out of frame by the forehead of his son, with equally beady eyes.
He really said “our” before “your”, didn’t he. Wow.
Wind whips through FLAMBERGE’s hair and driving scarf as he cruises down desert roads in his beloved Lamborghini, the FLAMBO. Holy shit were the transport costs and papers a pain in Mr. Darby’s entire ass. FLAMBERGE remembers a conversation he had with Mr. Darby about it, and how Darby bragged about him “telling the shipping company that Supply Chain Issues be damned! My charge requires his vehicle!” He remembers feeling like he could have just bought another Lamborghini stateside and not dealt with the hassle before remembering in a twinge that his father suggested they may not stay stateside long, “depending on the sinister of the performances”. The son of a bitch managed to learn a ton of the English language but insists on retaining the French grammatical structures.
We’ll see just how much of a cut he’s going to make from “our” financial well-being if he doesn’t go on television in a better looking suit. Guy must think I’m Curious George with his Man In The Yellow Hat looking ass. Then again, I wouldn’t even have to deal with him if dad wasn’t so “dad”. He thinks everything is life or death – it’s one loss, dad. I heard those chants, they were for ME. He thinks that if they ever chanted “Henri! Henri!” in his day, he would be happy, mom wouldn’t have left. Idiot. It’s not all feast or famine – sometimes, it’s just chips.
One of the things FLAMBERGE finds appealing about Vegas is all these long stretches of open road going in and out of the city – but apparently, no one told him that the desert sand that kicks around the air around here is HELL on a car with the complex and delicate electrical and mechanical systems of this particular Lamborghini. Two, then three, then four warning lights flick on his dashboard.
Hell with it, maybe I should push this whole thing until it breaks. That money grubber Darby can foot the bill. Anything to please me, right? That’s his whole deal?
FLAMBERGE presses hard on the accelerator and the car whips along, climbing closer to and then over 160 KM/H. At least there’s plenty of gas in this thing and he can properly let FLAMBO loose.
After a moment, we see a convertible coming the opposite direction on the road driving the actual posted speed limit. As the FLAMBO screams towards it, the passengers come into view – an older couple maybe looking to get lucky at the Keno tables. They flash their lights at the FLAMBO, then slam on their horn. If the roaring of the FLAMBO’s engine weren’t so loud, we might have heard the man behind the driver’s wheel yelling to slow down. As they pass, the driver’s white bucket hat flies off his head and the woman in the passenger seat yell “HAROLD! YOUR HAT!”
…is that a crack of a smile on FLAMBERGE’s face?
…one day. This Nightshade, all I know is that one day, she said “enough” and became who she is now. For good, maybe mostly for bad. Maybe mostly for self-defense. The flaws are out there, and she’s allowed to have them because her father is not Henri Lavigne, and she can make her public and private choices independently because Mr. Darby isn’t trying to make a dollar off of every little thing she does. One day, at the right moment…that will be me.
For now…maybe there is opportunity in this hell. I win enough, maybe I get some peace. I know that as long as they’re at each other’s throats, Darby and my dad will keep trying to one up each other. Dad’s dad, but I’m as fit as I can ever remember. Darby’s Darby, but as long as his financials are tied to my success, he’s going to do every little thing I need him to do to “keep me happy”. FLAMBO’s proof of that. Speaking of…
Another happy press on the accelerator. We’re crossing 180 KM/H at this point. A fifth warning light pops up on the dash, and we hear something click.
He’d certainly be happy to pay that Uber bill to get me back to Vegas from way out here, wouldn’t he.
“I can’t believe Uber doesn’t have any sort of restitution cost for emergency cases like you had, FLAMB. $300 for an Uber Select when your car breaks down for no reason?? Ridiculous!”
Mr. Darby and FLAMBERGE are walking through a backstage hallway at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. FLAMBERGE, to his credit, looks sharp as a tack in a Euro-cut tailored navy suit, and Mr. Darby looks, well. He doesn’t think it’s sloppy. His mom might tell him that he looks very handsome, at least. The lime green is a bit…prominent.
“Glad you’re back safe though. And I think we’re REEEEEALLY going to nail this promo for ReVival 6! I know, I know, four hours was a LONG TIME for us to meet, but those notes I’ve taken from it? Pure gold! Whatever gold is higher than 24 karat! Platinum, even! Angelica Brooks is going to look back on this one day and say ‘Yes, this interview, THIS was the start of my most significant work as a professional wrestling journalist, the moment when that handsome spokesman Daniel Darby took us on an EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER about his even more handsome charge, the man who’s not up-and-coming anymore, the man who’s HERE AND NOW, FLAMBERGE!!”
Darby lifts his arms wide to accept the cheering adulation that just isn’t there. FLAMBERGE doesn’t even glance over.
“If you have something to say, of course, feel free to jump in if you absolutely must – but I feel REALLY confident that I’ve got a good 9, 10 minutes of material coming out of our little ‘jam sesh’. Ooh, now that I think about it, I better hold onto that legal pad and store it some place where I’ll remember it – when we collab on your memoir one day, we’ll want to have that in pristine condition, won’t we! Especially after the fans here what I have to say! Ooh, here she is! Hello, Ms. Brooks!”
Angelica Brooks politely shakes Mr. Darby’s hand. FLAMBERGE’s hands are in his pockets, and being the pro’s pro she is, Angelica decides to not make things awkward and doesn’t attempt a handshake with him.
“Alright, Mr. Darby, we’ve got an interview station set up right here, and your cue to speak is going to be me saying the name Ria Nightshade. Make sense?”
“Yes, yes, perfect. And dare I say it, Ms. Brooks – I hope you’re buckled in!”
It’s a polite and professional chuckle, which is more than many would give in this moment. The trio walks into the interview station with lots of PRIME branding on display. She is handed a microphone and waits for a cue from camera, nods, and begins.
“PRIME fans, after an incredible Culture Shock event, we are rolling through to a packed show at ReVival 6, and we are now here to get word from team FLAMBERGE ahead of his match on the show. It’s two of the most interesting personalities we’ve in PRIME, and two extremely talented competitors looking for their first win of 2022. Mr. Darby, I have to ask – what is FLAMBERGE’s mindset as he looks towards his matchup with Ria Nightshade?”
A beaming smile and a hint of flush wash over Mr. Darby’s face as he hears his cue. He adjusts his tie and winks at FLAMBERGE before leaning into the microphone that Angelica holds
“Well, Angelica, Ria Nightsh-”
FLAMBERGE snatches the microphone. Darby’s eyes are WIDE and he is taken extremely aback. Angelica has been around enough wrestlers at this point to not be super shocked. We hear his voice, deep and ringing like a beautiful French cello.
“Ria Nightshade, listen to me. I like you. I like what you’ve become, what you have created for yourself. And because I like you…at ReVival 6, I choose to push you until you break.”
He hands the microphone back to Angelica Brooks and storms off. Angelica looks at the departing FLAMBERGE and, not interested in Darby’s thoughts one iota, gives the thumbs up for the cameraman to cut. Darby speaks up once he catches onto what’s happening.
“Wait – NO! Hold on, Ms. Brooks, I have so much to say! This is Marc Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar but better! Please, don’t put the cameras away, wait! Guys! FLAMB! WHERE ARE YOU GOING FLAMB, WAIT!”
Soon, Daniel Darby is left all alone in the interview area. A production assistant walks up to him and offers an open bag of Ruffles. Darby looks like his puppy ran away.
His voice suggests we’ve now met Sad Panda Darby. The production assistant shakes his head as Darby reaches in and stares at his sad, lonely chip. He gives it a crunch and gets crumbs all over his terrible suit. The PA gives him a little pat on the shoulder and walks away.