King Sisyphus of Ephyra had a name that lived in infamy.
His fate was so infamous that an endless, impossible task that felt like a punishment was called “Sisyphean”.
Less spoken of was the reason he was given his punishment to forever roll a boulder up a hill in the deepest part of Tartarus.
For twice did King Sisyphus cheat death.
Whenever Coral Avalon was asked questions about his twenty-year career, two words were inevitably brought up.
An infamous name in wrestling circles. A match so barbaric that it’d never been done before or since that night in New York City, sixteen years ago.
It was the brainchild from the diseased brain of Lowell Dot Com, a man who slapped advertisements up and down both himself and the Scorpion Fighting Championship of All-Star Championship Wrestling he held in his possession. Lowell sought a match so expensive and ridiculous that it would be all anyone talked about, that it would overshadow everything else on the Legends pay-per-view it took place on.
Lowell spent a king’s ransom to arrange everything, all in the name of building something that could feasibly be called “Hell”. A structure that, to this day, had never been rebuilt in any company. To reproduce it would be lunacy. Absurdity. A mortal danger.
Coral wasn’t originally meant to be there. The week before, he came close to prematurely claiming the title from Lowell, only failing by a technicality. In so doing, he wound up “earning” his way into the match.
The massive cage was covered in barbed wire, and surrounded by coffins full of the dumbest, most dangerous shit ever cobbled together and used on professional wrestlers. Glass tubes, broken glass, explosives, and even more barbed wire. Weapons were everywhere, traditional and not. Every place you walked was a landmine, and some of those landmines were literal.
Coral was about as out of place as Tapioca Puddings on the beaches of Normandy.
The third man in “Hell”, Jimmy Cain, made the thing his home. Jimmy was an animal. A creature so unfit for society that they eventually locked him in a real cage in a federal prison somewhere.
Coral couldn’t escape the shadow of that match even if he tried.
In the years since, he always knew to expect to field a question or two about it if he ever got interviewed.
One of the first questions he’s asked?
“How did you get down?”
To win “Hell”, one had to climb to the roof of the cage, then climb a ladder to reach a shark cage suspended overhead, where the champion’s beleaguered intern was trapped holding the championship you had to retrieve. Seriously. Coral Avalon made that climb, then made the second climb, and ultimately stood as the new Scorpion Fighting Champion.
Coral would always give the honest answer: He didn’t remember.
After he made the climb down, he blacked out. He didn’t wake up until he was lying in a hospital bed, seeing the tear-streaked face of his then-fiancée sitting next to him. A blood-tarnished championship belt covered in Lowell’s advertisements laid in a corner with the rest of his things.
He didn’t know just how close he came from it being the end.
Thanatos appeared before Sisyphus, bearing chains.
Thanatos was the god of death. The son of Nyx, goddess of night, and the brother of Hypnos, god of sleep. Yes, sleep wasn’t the cousin of death, but his brother.
I know we’re about to be in a N.Y. State of Mind, Nas, but learn how mythology works. God.
Sisyphus was internally shitting bricks at the sight of him. This was the Greek equivalent of the Grim Reaper. He was hated and feared by gods and mortals alike, and the feeling was mutual. Fuck other people, said Thanatos. Probably. Thanatos saw taking Sisyphus to the underworld to be another notch in his to-do list and nothing more. He didn’t even care why Zeus asked him to take Sisyphus right this second. For Thanatos, this was Tuesday.
Externally, though, Sisyphus kept his cool.
Though surprised that it was Thanatos coming for him and not the ferryman Charon, Sisyphus feigned interest in Thanatos’s cool chains. He wanted to be shown how they worked. Thanatos, humoring a soon-to-be dead man, obliged him and handed him the chains.
“Oh, yes, these are definitely unbreakable. Why, they even seem designed to hold people of some divinity, like myself!” Sisyphus said. Then he pointed in a random direction and shouted in an alarmed tone, “Oh, great Zeus! What is that!? Is that an eagle!? Get out of here, eagle!”
Thanatos, who clearly never had such a stunt pulled on him before in his existence, turned to see what Sisyphus was looking at. And before Thanatos even realized that Sisyphus was fucking with him, the cunning king had ensnared him in his own chains.
He was trapped.
And without the god of death around, King Sisyphus could not die.
No one could.
It was the Undergroundcast the week after ReVival 20, and podcast host Angelica Brooks was incredulous. An otherwise unflappable reporter who’d heard every story in the wrestling world inside and out, Angie couldn’t believe what she’d heard.
Coral had been on Angie’s podcast before, years before PRIME came back, but it was in the context of what he was doing in Japan as the leader of the “Crownless Kingdom” of Bang! Pro Wrestling.
“Yeah. Flatlined and everything,” Coral told her. “I was medically dead for a few moments.”
He showed her the scars on his left arm.
Faded as they were from more than fifteen years of healing, there were still severe, jagged lines from where Coral landed left side-first into a coffin full of light tubes. Lowell had knocked him from the ring apron directly into the barbed wire cage, and Coral was stuck there unwillingly for several agonizing moments before he pulled himself free from the cage and fell into the coffin.
Adrenaline had allowed Coral to finish the match.
He never realized until after his brief visit from Thanatos that he should have listened to ringside doctors instead of shrugging them off in his stubbornness to win.
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah… I didn’t get to meet Him.” Coral said, smiling as he rolled up his sleeve again.
“And you still wrestled three months afterwards?” Angie asked.
“Oh, yeah. I damn well shouldn’t have. Health-wise, I was a mess all the way up until I got into PRIME with Allen and the gang a year later. It took a while to get the gears turning again even then.” Coral said, “But of course, the first match I decided to do once I thought I was healthy was to defend my title against Brandon Youngblood, of all people.”
And it wasn’t just any Brandon Youngblood.
It was a Youngblood freshly fired from PRIME, who had embraced becoming “the Pariah”. A man on a mission to right what wronged him, no matter how many lives he had to permanently alter to do it.
Fans often remembered what he did to Nova at Tropical Turmoil just ten months prior. Fewer of those fans remembered that facing this suplex comet passing through ACW was the reason why Coral Avalon wasn’t seen in a ring again for an entire year.
And so, Coral lost a championship forever stained with his blood, no matter how much they all tried to shine it away.
Ares twisted the head of a soldier on the battlefield as casually as one might open a soda bottle.
Yet the soldier stood there confused, his head pointed in the same direction as his ass was.
“You know, this is terribly awkward,” the soldier said, as nonplussed as someone suffering a mild inconvenience instead of convulsing on the ground, making death rattles.
Ares was pissed off. More than usual, anyway. When you’re the god of war, being pissed off was a waking state. In this case, he was pissed off because no one’s been dying.
Where the hell was Thanatos when you needed him?
Wait, wasn’t he supposed to take care of that king dude?
Curious, Ares decided to pay Sisyphus a visit, and what he discovered was the god of death hanging upside down in Sisyphus’s palace. Funny doodles covered his face, one of which was most certainly a dickbutt. Thanatos was not happy to be seen in such a state, and Sisyphus knew he was in big trouble as soon as he saw Ares free him.
And so, death claimed Sisyphus.
Coral always had trouble seeing out of the Blackberry mask.
The original mask was more designed for the wacky, goofball segments he found himself involved in, and not for wrestling. He struggled even when he took the Gateway championship off of Jadian Bridden. It was only after Sin City that Coral had a version of the mask made that he could properly use in the ring.
It was part of why he had so much trouble wrestling in Sin City Championship Wrestling in 2010, even on the day of his final match with the company on July 5th of that year.
His opponent that evening was a man named Terrence Kingsley.
Kingsley was the boogeyman. No, actually, he’s what the boogeyman checked underneath his bed before he went to bed. He was the Baba Yaga, and he probably lived in a hut that walked on chicken legs and ate children. Some days, a Slavic prince might wander onto his property and ask for help in killing a lich. You know, standard swamp pervert stuff.
Coral didn’t know where Kingsley came from, and never thought to ask. All he knew was that he had an air of danger about him, even before he introduced the light tubes.
While Coral couldn’t really see Kingsley as clearly as he’d like, he felt his face give way under the force of a flying knee. He knew he’d drawn the man’s blood. Maybe he’d broken his nose. Coral knew that it was the least he deserved.
He hit him again.
He thought of Spacely, the man that Kingsley savagely beaten within an inch of his life.
A third flying knee found its mark.
He thought of Jared, himself a victim of Kingsley’s brutality.
Now a suplex.
Most of all, Coral thought of Mackenzie Malone, at ringside cheering him on. She wasn’t related to any of the extended Joey Malone family, but she was someone that’d also been victimized by Kingsley. A scar on her neck told the whole story. She’d been a damsel in distress, and Coral couldn’t help but rise to her defense. It was in his nature.
Kingsley grabbed the referee, desperate.
Coral hung back close to the ropes, preparing to deliver another flying knee to the reeling Kingsley once the referee broke free.
A glass tube over the head, and it wasn’t Kingsley.
It was Mackenzie, aligned with the very monster that scarred her.
Even with the troubles with his mask, he couldn’t have seen that coming.
Coral staggered right into Kingsley’s DDT, as Eugene Ware excitedly set the land speed record for worst, most heinous shit ever said by a color commentator.
Kingsley stepped out to the apron, taking Coral with him. Out on the floor, the concrete lay exposed from earlier in the contest. Kingsley didn’t smirk. He didn’t smile. He merely recognized the opportunity before him. He pulled Coral into a standing headscissors.
A piledriver right off the apron, and onto the concrete.
A pall of silence over the crowd in its wake.
A moment heralded as the end of Coral Avalon’s career, the death of another of Sin City’s dwindling number of “heroes”.
Before his soul was taken away, Sisyphus told his wife to throw his dead, naked body into the middle of a public square. He told her, “Yeah, man, it’ll be cool, I promise.”
His wife believed him.
Sisyphus waited until he was brought before Persephone in the Underworld. Persephone, Hades’ bride by Stockholm syndrome, heard Sisyphus’s complaints about the state of his body in the real world. After all, what his wife did was clearly disrespectful to him, and he should be allowed to go back up to the living world in order to file his complaints with Mike McGee’s ancient Greek ancestor in HR.
Persephone shrugged her shoulders and said, “A’ight.”
And so, Sisyphus returned to the human world, lightly criticizing his wife, “Really? Naked? I don’t remember asking for that.”
His wife’s reminder that he did, in fact, ask for that fell upon deaf ears.
Because Sisyphus was excited.
After all, he definitely wasn’t going to go back to the Underworld.
He enjoyed a few days of being among the living again. He got drunk, messed some shit up, maybe sexed the wife a little.
And then Hermes showed up at his doorstep, more pissed off than anyone had ever since the messenger god.
“Hey. You’re coming back to Tartarus, motherfucker.”
“But I don’t wanna.”
Hermes rolled his eyes, and then powerbombed Sisyphus to death.
The color from Angelica’s face grew a shade paler as Coral recounted the story of his second “death”.
“Obviously, I didn’t die then, either.” Coral said. “Still wrestling, going even stronger than before.”
“I have to ask,” Angelica asked. “How?”
“I got lucky.” Coral said, “Kingsley couldn’t keep me fully vertical the whole way down. He had to land safely while trying to murder me, after all, or else he might’ve have broken his own tailbone. So the worst that happened to me was a concussion and a stinger. I was only out for a few months, but… long enough that Sin City went down without me.”
He thought about it for a few moments. The “what if” scenarios crossed his mind. Many of them were doomsday scenarios.
Then he added, “If Kingsley kept me vertical the whole way down and I didn’t land the way I did… then I’m pretty sure I’m either dead or in a wheelchair afterwards.”
“Still, that’s twice!” Angelica teased, “You know what they say about the third time, right?”
Coral cringed, visions of Annabelle scolding him mercilessly dancing in his head.
“Nothing my wife hadn’t already told me more than once,” he said with an uneasy smile, “After that night, I didn’t… You’ve probably heard this a lot of times from a lot of guys with even more of a reputation for toughness than me, but this business is hard. You have to be made of strong stuff to make it even independently, let alone in a major promotion like PRIME. What I realized that day was that after so many years of trying, maybe there isn’t a place for me under the brightest spotlight.”
He hesitated for a long while, long enough to get his hands to stop shaking.
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t still try.”
“I’m GREAT SCOTT, and I’ll f-ing kill you.”
That’s your catchphrase, isn’t it? I’m not the kind to use that language, just the way I was raised and all, but… that’s what you say, right? Like a refrain. The chorus to a song you’re screaming. “I’m GREAT SCOTT, and I’ll f-ing kill you!”
Son, I have some bad news.
One cannot simply kill the Crownless King.
It’s a whole production to even try.
But I get it. Really, I do.
People hear you talk, and they think that you’re some kind of loudmouth simpleton talking mess about things he doesn’t have the care to look into. Like a freight train that walked on its hind legs and drank six gallons of energy drinks. I know freight trains don’t have hind legs, but…
This analogy’s getting away from me. Let’s try it again.
Some people still don’t take you seriously.
Idiots, I know. I know. I get the same thing. I mean, have you seen my name? Wait. Of course you haven’t. You still think it’s Carl.
Well, don’t worry. I take you very seriously.
After all, everyone who’s treated you like a joke just because they’ve heard you talk has gotten suplexed to death, right? And I know you know suplexes they don’t even have names for yet, though I’m sure the name “SCOTT” is involved. I’m not sure there’s anyone in PRIME who could match you for power. Even I admit that I couldn’t.
Good thing I don’t need power.
Because I’m immortal.
“You’re GREAT SCOTT, and you’re going to f-ing kill me?”
Better men than you have tried, Scott Gratesburgh.
Whether it’s a living billboard, an unhinged lunatic, a voodoo swamp pervert, or even the Pariah himself, they’ve all tried to end my life one way or another.
And yet, still I stand.
I don’t think I’m going to die in a wrestling match against a man whose scathing takedowns for me are to get my name wrong and call me a “jabroni”.
So, you can bring a bear, or a glare, or someone who cares.
None of those will help you when I treat your bones like wacky inflatable tube men.
But there’s another reason why you can’t kill me. Something that goes beyond how freakishly strong you are, or how fast you are for a man of your size, or even the savviness that you display in that ring. You might narrowly be able to defeat me, but you could never kill me.
Because you don’t have what it takes.
We all know what happened to Sisyphus in the end.
They gave him a rock to push, and a simple carrot at the end of the stick, “If you get this up to the top of the hill, you can go free.”
But it’s hopeless.
It’s meant to be hopeless.
Sisyphus pushed that boulder, knowing full well that it’ll find its way back down to the bottom again just before it reached the top. Just when he’d believe that this was the run, a disaster would force him to restart.
Sisyphus might have cheated death.
But the house always won in the end.
Coral Avalon cheated death twice before.
Yet, the house always found a way to win.
In two days’ time, Coral would be in New York wrestling against GREAT SCOTT. His first big pay-per-view match in what felt like an eternity.
But this detour to a Cleveland graveyard had nothing to do with the big Montanan, his bear, or his glare.
The gravestone that Coral arrived at wasn’t anything fancy. She wouldn’t have wanted anything like that.
He squatted down to meet the gravestone at eye level, his hands tented in his lap.
EMELIA MORGAN AVALON
1981 – 2018
“In life, a scholar. In death, free.”
“Hey, Emmy.” Coral said, his eyes wanting to look elsewhere in the graveyard, but finding nothing but the stone truth in front of him, “It’s… been a while. Sorry. I brought Annie with me this time.”
“Hi.” Annabelle chimed in. She placed the flowers by the grave, and then stepped back to give Coral his space.
It took him a while for him to find the words he wanted to say.
“Hey, so… I made it back to PRIME, sis.”
He hesitated, in part to keep the tears from flowing. He hated coming here, though he made it a point to always visit before the annual condescending letter in tiny typeface from the worst dredges of the family reached him.
“You always said I shouldn’t have given up trying to make it big, and… maybe I should’ve listened a lot sooner than I did,” he said, before he let out a breath that was equal measures chuckle and sigh.
“I’ve got another chance to roll this boulder up the hill again, and hope it finally makes it to the top. Maybe things’ll be different this time. Maybe… I’ll finally get my crown.”
He remembered how Joe and Sid got their start in PRIME, rolling boulders down the Las Vegas Strip. He realized that’s how he got mixed up in finally coming back to the big leagues after more than a decade away from it all, having been the beloved darling of the independent scene he always seemed destined to be. He never could’ve imagined how those kids’ impulsiveness would lead him back to Colossus.
His smile faded, staring at the reality before him.
Emmy was more than just his older sister. She was his first fan.
His only supporter for that whirlwind first year he had in the business. She was there when he took the Belmont. She was there when he went the distance against Garvin in the first of many heralded matches. She watched him try and fail to reach the crown he longed for, hoping to see him grasp it someday.
Now she’s gone, and all Coral could do was continue to push the boulder uphill for a crown he might never win.
But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t keep trying.