November 20, 2023
San Diego, CA
Failure never became easier to accept. It seemed to flow endlessly from a bottomless well, gradually transforming into a suffocating existence. Each taste of failure grew more bitter, forcing it to be expelled. Every time David sipped from his personalized mug, which had chips and imperfections, he couldn’t help but scrunch his face and question why he allowed failure to dictate his life.
Yet, for him, it was the only path forward.
Losing to Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba, a towering figure, was the most devastating taste of failure he had ever experienced. It confirmed that disappointment did not improve the flavor.
Rose, struggling to accept the failure at ReVival 39, pounded her fists against the punching bag in her father’s gym. Her intense breathing and pouring sweat mirrored the exertion of a marathon runner or a player in the final seconds of the Super Bowl.
“If you keep hitting it like that, the chain might break,” David joked.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” she replied through short breaths.
He glanced at her, observing her dark brown hair with pink and blue streaks pulled tightly into a ponytail. He noticed her narrowed and focused eyes. Was he aware that she was going to sign the contract at ReVival 39, putting herself against a man who had previously won the Intense Title and had recently been through a brutal match with someone who had paralyzed another person a year earlier?
Not at all.
As she swung, her training partner asked the million-dollar question, “Whose face are you picturing?” The question caught her off guard, and she paused for a moment. “Why do you think I’m picturing someone’s face?” she asked.
“Because we all do it when we have more anger than our bodies can handle,” he replied.
She bit her lip and shook her head, unsure what to say.
“Is it Lindsay? Or your Dad?”
Her eyes returned to David. “It seems to change each time I hit the bag.”
“Well, that’s understandable.”
As he responded, she felt the anger boiling. “Understandable” was an understatement, she thought. David gave her some space to ponder while he observed her closely. She placed her hands on her hips and pivoted towards him, consumed by her thoughts.
“Why do you think he did it?” she asked.
David sighed. “Because he is scared to death.”
Her head shook. “Of what? Help me make sense of it.”
“You’re all he’s got. The thought of you getting into that ring, with competitors like Paxton Ray, Ivan Stanislav, or even The Anglo Luchador, and knowing he cannot protect you, must be terrifying for him. He cannot fight this battle for you. He understands that your emotions are guiding you more than your reasoning, and he wants to help you put roadblocks in place that will allow you to think more clearly and make better decisions about your next step.”
Rose walked over to David, extending her hands for him to remove her gloves. After he finished, she grabbed a water bottle and took a swig.
“My emotions aren’t leading me. Can you point out one inaccurate thing I said in Nashville?”
David replied, “I’m not saying it’s wrong, but if you act solely on your emotions, the consequences can become severe.”
Rose took a sip of water and added, “Although it’s not what I planned, this setback won’t stop me from pursuing my goals.”
“A setback just sets the stage for a greater comeback.”
Rose gave David a stern look. “Did you get that from a fortune cookie?”
He chuckled. “Something like that.” He then looked up at her. “You could always talk to him about it, you know?”
The words registered across her face but didn’t make much of a dent in her thoughts. “Enough about me. What’s your plan for your tag match against Tom? You’ve got two days.”
David removed his phone from his front pocket and began typing away.
“I was considering that. I just need to see if my partner is up for it.”
Rose groaned. “Your partner is a legit psychopath. I don’t get why Lindsay didn’t team you up with someone else from KING.” Then it dawned on her. “Oh, that’s right. Because she hates you.”
“Thanks for the reminder; I had nearly forgotten.”
A chuckle slipped from her lips. “You ever going to share that story with me?”
“That one has volumes and volumes to it. We don’t have time for that.”
He then returned to tapping on his phone. “You’re not going to like my idea, though,” he offered as he pressed send on the message he composed to the man with teeth for days.
“I imagine not,” she said as she walked away, ready to resume training, this time picturing Lindsay’s face instead.
November 20, 2023
Sandlick, West Virginia
“I failed you.”
The motel room exuded a heavy atmosphere of neglect with its worn-out and grimy appearance.
The once vibrant wallpaper that clung to every inch of the vicinity had become discolored, peeling over time like a wilted flower. The ceiling, sporadically stained with mysterious splotches only visible under ultraviolet light, hinted at years of water damage. The carpet, threadbare and blemished with unsightly marks, crunched underfoot with every step.
“I failed you.”
The air in the room was musty and stale, carrying a distinct odor of old cigarettes, dampness, and week-old Fromunda cheese scraped away from the wrestling trunks of one Bobby Dean. A faint whiff of mildew lingered, a reminder of the building’s lack of proper ventilation. Cobwebs hung in forgotten corners, veiling the remnants of past inhabitants. The furniture showcased an array of scratches and scuffs, but more importantly, it revealed even more stains than the ceiling did.
The bathroom, a small and dimly lit space, presented a scene of disrepute. The tiles, once gleaming white, had long since cracked and grew black with patches of mold that stubbornly clung to them. The sink was chipped and tinctured with a motley of darkened colors, and the tattered shower curtain barely hung on its rusted hooks.
“I failed you.”
Time seemed to have stood still in this unapologetic filth, leaving behind an unsettling ambiance, telling the tale of countless strangers who passed through, each leaving their mark on its worn-out surfaces. It was a place that reminded us of the importance of cleanliness, comfort, and the need for a fresh start.
Once again, a familiar voice and accompanying sound effect rang out through the inglorious lodgings.
“I failed you.”
Shirtless, Arthur Pleasant bore wounds from a stapler that he held in his right hand. At least fifteen to twenty staples had been self-adjoined to his pale skin. To say it was a horror show would be a gross understatement.
He placed the silver device right under his left pectoral region in an act of self-flagellation.
“I failed you,” he repeated with a strained whisper.
With each rupturing discharge, the stapler hurt less and less, his torso gradually numbing. Precisely because of this, Pleasant sat up on the shoddy-looking bed after he squeezed the last shot. A dollop of blood seemed to ooze out from a dozen or so swollen areas on his upper body, prompting Arthur to express a satisfied “Hmph”.
After enduring a significant amount of punishment, he stood up. Wobbling a bit, he reached down for a half-empty bottle of Popov that rested on the ghastly mattress. As he unscrewed the lid, the clear liquid inside sloshed against the bottle’s walls. He casually tossed it across the desolate room, reminiscent of a teenager flipping coins across the cafeteria.
As Arthur poured the kerosene-esque nectar down his throat, he reminded himself that he belonged there. After being eliminated by Coral Avalon in the 2023 Almasy Tournament, Arthur felt disgusted with himself. Despite his blindness and chest-thumping bravado, he vowed to take down the heaviest of hitters.
The Tower of Babel would crumble at his feet!
The Financier would be melted down into the shiniest of coins!
The Model Tsitizen would be exiled from PRIME into the furthest reaches of Tsociety!
The… The… The… The…
It was all bluster, and Pleasant knew it. He could feel the plot holes opening up from the unnecessary hyperbole as soon as it left his ugly mouth. What’s worse is that… he knew everybody else knew it, too.
He took another swig of the cheap, bottom-shelf Russian swill and heard a buzzing sound coming from the pocket of the only article of clothing he had on; a pair of plain black pajama pants.
Ignoring it, he walked over to a lopsided, dirty mirror. Pleasant wiped away some of the grime and saw the reflection of a desperate and dangerous man staring back at him. Swaying slightly from the effects of consuming two-thirds of a half-gallon bottle of 80-proof vodka, he ran his finger along the shiny pieces of zinc-plated aluminum.
He thought a few weeks back to Arliss Peters, Esq., his attorney on retainer, reading his deepest, darkest secrets from a confidential folder. The fuckhead had no clue about the gravity of the situation he was getting involved in.
…I trust you liked what you read.
Arthur ripped a staple from his left clavicle, causing blood to immediately drip from the resulting wound. Gritting his fangs, he took sharp breaths through the gaps, blowing strands of saliva with each pained exhale. Ripping anything out of a bony area like the clavicle was more painful than he realized, and his pain threshold was near inhuman.
I hope Alexei paid you well, too. Because–
Before another thought could penetrate the bubble that jutted out over the right side of his head, his phone buzzed again.
Again, he ignored it.
Tracing his fingers over a staple on his abdomen, he chuckled, allowing a lone, involuntary tear to fall from the corner of his right eye.
This time, he heaved a sigh and allowed himself the folly of what should have only been a momentary distraction. However, as he gazed down at his phone screen, he knew this distraction would be anything but momentary.
[###########NUMBER REDACTED###########] Hey. It’s DN.
DN? DN… Don… no. Darren…? No. Wait. David Noble?! The fuck did he want?!
Pleasant then realized something he nearly forgot in all his catastrophic self-wallowing: they were, for reasons only the PRIME Booking Gods could comprehend, teaming together for ReVival 40.
[###########NUMBER REDACTED###########] KING Gym (Address Redacted) – meet me there.
November 24, 2023
San Diego, California
Thanksgiving had come and gone for the KING family. They enjoyed a nice meal followed by a tough workout in the early evening and some drinking. The next morning, Cory, Jamaal, and Shawn left, knowing what was coming next.
Needless to say, they had no interest in it whatsoever.
“I have to say, inviting him here might be the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Rose said to David as she stretched out on the floor mat around the wrestling ring. “I mean, this man is a monster.”
“What do you want me to do? Just show up and wrestle with him? I’d like to win next Friday.
Rose gave him a look that could make anyone else flee in fear. David received it at least three times a week, and was sure Rose practiced it in front of the mirror.
“Just so you know, I have three snipers stationed in the area, ready to take him out if he tries anything with you.”
David wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, so he decided to err on the side of caution and assume she wasn’t.
“What do you mean ‘try anything with me’? Do you think he’ll bring me flowers like on a first date?”
Her head turned sharply towards him.
“I’m not in the mood for games. I don’t like him anywhere near me or my family.”
Just then, a black Jeep pulled up to the gym, and the man with the toothiest smile you’ve ever seen stepped out of the vehicle. As he approached Rose and David, he looked at them both with contempt, as if he was allergic to the air around them.
“This better be good, Davey. You interrupted a perfectly good three-day drinking binge for me to fly all the way out from Inbred, West Virginner, to Avocado and Rice on Fucking Pizza, USA.”
Pleasant noticed Rose eying him down. Inevitable, given they were both in the same building.
“The fuck you looking at?” Arthur yelled.
“I’d watch how you talk to me because I won’t think twice about grabbing the largest pair of pliers I can find and yanking those pretty teeth out of your mouth one by one. I hope you’re still not paying them off,” she shot back, the words dripping as if they were coated with poison.
“Cute! With that mouth, those balled-up fists, and that fucking attitude, maybe I should be teaming with you, then? You seem to have more balls than Davey here, anyway. Did he ever tell you what happened the last time we shared a ring? Hm?” Pleasant asked, smirking.
David shot Rose a glance and stepped between them, breaking their locked glance.
“I didn’t invite you here to fight or argue. We have a tag match coming up, and because we’re very different, I thought it would be a good idea for us to spend some time together. Tom and Rocky already have a connection, and although I don’t expect us to reach that level, your experience with Tom could be useful.”
He looked back at Rose, giving her a look that said ‘back off.’ She softened, but just slightly. He then turned his gaze back to Arthur.
“I think both of us would like a victory to end this year, and I’m willing to do what it takes to do just that. How about you?” David stood his ground as he looked at a man he’d shared a ring with once before.
“You know what? You’re right, David,” he said, surprising them both with his willingness to forgo undermining him with “Davey.”
“Neither of us has had much luck in a PRIME ring as of late, and, well,” Pleasant said, pausing for a moment, “I think we can relate to the frustrations of being eliminated from the Almasy earlier than we deserved.”
Arthur shook his head and continued to observe Rose from a distance.
“I had Avalon fucking beat within an inch, and you… well, let’s be honest,” he said with a smirk. “You would’ve had Bolamba if not for the rust. Want proof of that? Look around. He didn’t even have the fortitude to stay. Ray-Ray realized he never wanted to ever face you again. And with what I know about you inside that ring? Nor should he.”
Pleasant held his hands up, puffed his cheeks out, and slapped them with both hands. Air blew out of his mouth with a giant pop. David listened intently and nodded, taking everything said into consideration. Rose, on the other hand, looked like she wanted to rip his teeth out.
“We’re not going to get anywhere dwelling on what should have happened. I lost to Bolamba. You lost to Avalon. It is what it is. Let’s focus on the road ahead.”
“Oh,” Arthur started, his eyes narrowing, “but I am focused on the road ahead, David. After all, the past is but a window into the future. Are we not always told to learn from our mistakes? What do you think TAL is for me, after all? He got one over on me, see. I made a mistake by allowing him to survive me. So you can bet your fucking ASS I’m going to use that when I see him in that ring. In fact…”
Pleasant looked into David’s eyes, “You should too, David. When you see Thomas? I want you to picture Bolamba and actually use that fucking anger you and I both know you harbor.”
Rose snorted, listening to Arthur’s advice, but not because he was wrong. It was the irony of what David told her before.
“Tom’s downfall is his narrow focus, preventing him from perceiving the ever-changing world around him,” David explained as he approached the ring. “In a tag match, that becomes his entire world. He will become lost in his tunnel vision, unable to recognize the shifting momentum of the match right before him. Tag wrestling is a whole different realm.”
Noble paused and looked at Pleasant.
“You know that, though. In a tag team, you have to control your weaknesses and emphasize your strengths. That’s why Fuse and I defeated you last year when you teamed up with Roberts. We–”
Arthur held up his hand.
“That you did! Lest we forget, however, just who exactly beat the guys who beat YOU?!” Pleasant said with a mischievous smile.
Noble nodded, slightly irritated by the interruption.
“As I was saying, we played to our strengths while you two were more relaxed. If we focus on our strengths, channel our anger in the right way, and keep Tom and Rocky off-balance, we’ll be fine. To defeat a Lucha like Rocky, we need to target his legs and outsmart him. Predict his moves and let him make his own errors.”
Noble moves to the ring apron and sits on it, ready to get in there and start preparing for the match.
“First of all, Rock-O is no lucha. He’s a fucking simpleton. The kind of simpleton who thinks tecnico and rudo are Spanish-rock subgenres and something you might put in your coffee, respectively. Secondly, he… thinks he’s achieved what Mr. Doback always dreamed of achieving and believes he’s a goddamn DINOSAUR. Finally,” Pleasant says with a brief pause to his tangent, “He’s frightened of this situation. Why else do you think he hasn’t even attempted to strike back at me and instead waxes comedy to the masses about my last name? Trust me on that one,” he said, staring back at the ring.
“The moment I beat him down like the good-for-nothing piece of dog shit that he is at UltraViolence? You might say that I was greeted with intimate knowledge of what exactly makes the Lion of Loredo want to roar.”
David shook his head.
“That’s your weakness, Arthur. Don’t underestimate your opponent. This is why we’re here. We need to identify our weaknesses while capitalizing on our strengths. We have one opportunity, and I want us prepared. Let’s step into the ring and figure out how to achieve that, okay?”
David then turned and looked at Rose.
“I’ve got something on top of my nightstand at the house that could help us. You mind bringing it here?”
Rose sighed but then nodded. She brushed by Arthur Pleasant.
“Something on top of your nightstand? Annnnd you’re having her fetch it? Bet I know what that is,” Pleasant said, smirking towards Rose.
“Give me a reason, sicko,” Rose said sharply as she turned back to Arthur immediately upon hearing his innuendo. Pleasant feigned fear by putting his hands up.
“She’s saucy,” Arthur told Noble once she turned back towards her destination and was well outside of earshot.
“Just get in the damn ring and let’s do this already,” he responded, annoyed.
Always willing to hurt someone, Pleasant chuckled at Noble’s dismay. Pleasant rolled under the bottom rope and into the ring while Noble hopped up onto the ring apron.
“Okay, Cap’n. Enthrall me with your wrestling acumen!” Arthur said while pantomiming, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.
Noble, already thinking about knocking his tag team partner unconscious, entered between the ropes, preparing to spar and work out whatever kind of game plan they could cook up.
November 24, 2023
San Diego, California
Rose entered David’s bedroom and surveyed the sparseness, unsurprised by what she found. She noticed a blackjack on his nightstand, which she picked up, feeling perplexed. Holding it in her hand, she wondered if it was intended to temper Pleasant’s anger, something she believed he had an excessive amount of.
As she turned towards the door, she passed by an open top drawer on the dresser. She was about to leave the room when something caught her eye peripherally. Returning to the dresser, she noticed a plastic bag inside. She examined it briefly, noticing her father’s name scrawled on the inside, and cautiously opened it.
Inside, she found a small notecard with unfamiliar words on top of two pill bottles. She retrieved her phone from her back pocket and typed the words into her browser search bar.
After a brief moment, the page finished loading, revealing the purpose of the drugs inside the bag. She muttered a curse quietly and glared at the bag again. With a forceful motion, she closed the dresser’s top drawer, feeling the surge of anger coursing through her veins as she left, searching for answers regarding her discovery.