Fuck fuck fuck.
Fuckety fuck fuck fuck fuck.
Fuck a duck a duckfuck.
Sorry about that, sometimes your body just does that internal screaming thing and you need to find an outlet. You get it, I get it.
Beating Brandon Youngblood should have been one of the most fulfilling, rewarding days of my career.
Think about it, think about the list of people who have managed to do what I just did. It’s a small, rarified list, a list of the greats in this industry, a list of people who have and will always matter to the rich history tapestry that makes up this great game of grappling. I didn’t just beat Brandon though, I put him in a dangerous position, I made him HAVE to make a choice. Either he could leave the ring with a future in wrestling, perhaps even another Universal Championship around his waist some day or…
Well, he didn’t choose the or, did he?
I heard that foot clump against the mat like a lame horse in its final moments… I was sure this would be the time that the catharsis I seek would finally embrace me. Ivan may be the Universal Champion, but Brandon Youngblood WAS… IS… PRIME.
I beat PRIME. I won. Yet, I still felt empty. Maybe it was the knowledge that a fellow Brother in Glue was on the immediate horizon. Maybe it’s because I knew the toll I had put my body through to get the win.
Maybe it’s because Brandon surprised me with his tapping out. He wasn’t quite the man I expected him to be.
Smart man, smart wrestler. No shame in tapping out, no shame in fighting another day. So many in this industry choose to continue to fight through the pain and for that sacrifice, they win all sorts of wonderful prizes. Painkiller addictions, shortened careers, mangled limbs. I don’t say this to make anyone feel sorry about the plight that those oozing too much bravado.
They are the fools and we should never shed tears for them.
In my opinion, we’ve hit peak fool. I’m not talking about those guys who give you a hearty lil chuckle when you see what antics they got up to this week, those are the comedians, the jesters. They know their role is to make the court of the Queen guffaw with their shenaniganary.
Fools have this moral certitude that guides them.
I guess in modern vernacular, you could accuse a fool of suffering from the Alpha Male brainset. The desire to prove that you are an all powerful male who controls their own destiny. To tap is to admit failure, to admit that someone has dominated you to the point of no escape. To the fool, a slap on the mat is like a bullet to the skull. It is the end.
We suffer too many fools gladly in this sport.
Brandon Youngblood was nobody’s fool. He’s going to fight another day. He’s going to climb the ladder again.
When he does, I have every intention of being perched at the top, waiting for him. There’s a few neck-based receipts I owe the man after all.
When I look to Youngblood, when I look to the recent past, I am left with a surprising question.
Is Hayes Hanlon a fool, or is he the future?
A small boy sits in a darkened room, it’s hard to work out the layout or the items present, as night has set and shadows have crept throughout the space. The only source of light comes from the warm glow of a small CRT television set, lighting the face of the boy but very little else. The embrace of the television’s warmth appears to bring a small sense of joy and relief to the little laddy who sits in front of it.
Is he sitting on a couch? A chair? The edge of his bed?
Hard to say, the shadows know.
It’s through the bright screen in front of him that we can make out some defining features of the little fella of interest. His jet black hair has clearly been slicked back with what some scientists would describe as a “metric fuckton” of hair gel. His steely eyes gave the impression that even at his age, which can’t be any higher than mid-teens, he’d happily rip your tongue straight from your mouth for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. It’s not a night for tongue abduction though, it would seem, from the smile plastered on the face.
The young man seems to be returning from, or about to head to, a high end function of sorts. Either that or he’s chosen waistcoats and bowties as his day to day clothing vibe, and that’s sort of sad to think about, so we’re going to make a safe assumption on the “event” thing.
For a moment, the events happening in the shadows do not bring concern to the Boy in the Bowtie for he has his protection.
He has Dan Ryan, he has Lindsay Troy, he has High Flyer, he has Joey Malone… sometimes, when no one else is around, he also admits he kinda likes that guy who always has a shovel, but that’s just between us.
These figures dancing around the screen, screaming, yelling, suplexing and slamming, it was all so captivating.
Hayes, my friend, people in this company have started to get to know me pretty well. A lot of people seem to put value on these little thoughts I jot down ahead of a spirited contest with one of PRIME’s finest.
They expect me to find a quirky flaw with you and they expect me to jab at it. They want me to pick away at one of your emotional scabs until we’re overflowing with the blood of memories that you’d probably rather we forget.
I find it to be a bit of a talent of mine that I can see the true person behind the wrestling character. I’ve been the quiet man in the corner for so much of my life that it becomes almost second nature to sit, observe and fill in the blanks. I often know people better than they know themselves. As a famous television detective once said, this sort of thing, it’s both a blessing and a curse.
It’s a jungle out there.
The truth though, Hayes, I can’t put my finger on you. I can’t work out what motivates you. I can’t work out what levers to push to drive you to moral indignation, to get you on tilt. I’m normally good at setting up someone to make the smallest of mistakes in the ring and that’s when the vulture in me pounces, gobbling up all the scraps
You though? The internal voices are screaming at me to not even dare to figure you out. I don’t know if it’s some kind of Glue loyalty that’s settled into my subconscious. Perhaps a bit of gratitude to your Ultraviolence sacrifice.
I have this internal weight sitting on my chest when I think about you. It’s like to unlock who you are is to unlock some unspeakable evil. You may be closer to The Lament Configuration than the four piece puzzle of the Bobby Deans of the world.
There’s something missing. Something that has never sat right.
Why did you join us?
“WOULD YOU TURN THAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH OFF. QUICKLY. BEFORE SOMEONE SEES!”
The warmth that was present in the Bowtied Boy’s room mere seconds prior has turned frigid. The cold air is so frosty, it’s surprising that icicles had immediately formed in the ceiling, turning the whole situation into a crystal palace of sorts.
The boy takes his eyes away from the enchanting CRT for a few seconds to see a ruddy-red faced man towering above him. To the eyes of the boy, this figure had to be at least eight, nine feet tall and he was using all of his power and presence to draw in the boy.
Built like a Halloween decoration lawn skeleton, the yelling figure slithers towards the bright glow that brings joy to the child. It feels like his body expands in the very moment to block every inch of light in reaching the steely eyes of the boy. The boy steadies himself, ready to argue back, ready to fight..
The hand of the shadow brings that to a swift halt, smothering the boy’s mouth, blocking any precious words with a method of escape.
“No, this is time to listen, my boy. This… circus… this… vaudeville farce… this is what entertains you? This is how you spend your time outside of my watchful eye? NO MORE!”
The screech of the shadow causes the room to vibrate with such force that you could swear the room had found itself in the middle of an earthquake. The long boy once again tries to fight back and argue but he finds he has no voice. As if it was stolen from him by the figure that stands before him.
That would be the biggest concern of the moment if the flames shooting out of the shadow’s mouth weren’t starting to set the room aflame.
The boy tries to scream for help. He must scream.
No mouth though, innit?
Is it your desire to infiltrate our ranks, Hanlon, is it your desire to bring us down from the inside, perhaps?
Maybe you don’t want to destroy Glue, maybe you want to control it. Make it do your bidding. Get you back to the top of the mountain once more.
See, that’s why I’m so puzzled, my dear friend. You have already had two big mouthy bites at the cherry and you guzzled them down like a glizzy.
I don’t know what I just said but an intern said that it’s a fire line.
In your short career, you are already a two time Universal Champion. Men have spent their life dedicated to the pursuit of that very belt and have come up empty. There’s people sitting in the PRIME Hall of Fame right now who can never claim to have helped the universe in their very hands and here you are with two of ‘em to your name.
In your shoes, I would have rested on my laurels, kicked my feet up and traded on the reputation I had built in a very short period of time. I’d go on a cruise perhaps, all while waiting for the confirmation on my Hall of Fame spot.
You could have such an easy life. A handsome face like yours, very little wrestling scars… PRIME Ambassador Hayes Hanlon, eagerly hyping up the product like you have many times that you’ve stood in the centre of the ring. Hanlon the Hypeman. It would have given you such an easy life.
You didn’t want easy though, did you? You’re not that kind of man.
We’re something of kin in that matter. Before that buzzer sounded for the 41st time at Culture Shock, I felt that I had nothing left to prove to the industry I love. I’d done the work, I’d climbed the mountain, I had beaten legends and ghosts of my past. I had survived some of the most heinous wrestling match conditions and still left with gold wrapped around my waist.
I should have been content.
Then the buzzer went…
I thought I was doing an old friend a favour, LT asked me if I’d like to join the Rumble, a little swan song hurrah, a chance to go out on my own terms. I didn’t go into that match with a long term game plan, I didn’t plan to become the 5 Star Champion, there was no vision of mentoring young talent.
Then my former best friend’s child tried to break me mentally and physically… he SPAT in my eye, Hayes, not a weak little coward spit either, this was a big gob full of green mucus. This was the kind of eye spit that requires several weeks of ointment treatments to get your life back to normal. He served as a reminder that no matter what you have done in your past, people only care about your most recent achievements.
It’s funny when you look back and see the moments that make us. A couple of seconds in a Battle Royal brought back a Cecilworth Farthington I thought was dead and buried. The Cecilworth Farthington who would happily murder a man with a toilet if he felt it would bring him to the top of the mountain.
That man should have been dead… as dead as Max Kael should be.
We’re victims, Hayes, we’re victims of the competitive spirit.
The spirit drove me to become the best I’ve ever been, I think it’s making you lazy.
The room continues to burn and strangely all doors out of the room have disappeared. All that remains is wood paneling, adding all the more fuel to the fire.
The Boy in the Bowtie rushes around the room, desperate to find a way out as the flames grow higher and higher. The smoke is rushing into his lungs and that is causing quite the nasty cough for the young child.
No exit to be found, the boy rushes at the shadow standing before the television set.
After that? Nothing.
The boy has no memory of anything that followed. There’s some faint visions of screaming agony, of flailing up onto the shadow. Of it growing larger and larger as the young boy tried to scale to its very top.
The deep heaving he is currently experiencing lets the boy know that he just went through something quite tiring. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t remember what.
He looks around the room, no signs of fire anywhere, no smoke engulfing the room. The glow of the television set lights up the room once more.
The only thing he’s not sure about as he tries to straighten both himself and his bowtie out…
Why does his arm hurt so badly?
Hayes, I’m sorry I haven’t been much of a mentor to you. I owe you better, I really do. Every week you are so eager to talk and work out what Glue means for you. You want to understand our direction, our vision.
It’s a simple ask, I get it, you’re the guy who wants to find out what he’s signed up to. Yet, I’ve evaded you at every turn. I’ve hidden from you and the rest of the boys. I’ve kept to myself as I prepare for my wars in the Almasy.
I’ve been a selfish man.
I promise, I can and will do better, just not yet.
You need to learn a few lessons first.
No, I’m not that old a wrestler, I’m not going to ramble about taking you out to the woodshed until you learn how to respect your elders. I’m not going to yell at Hayes Hanlon shaped clouds about what it means to be the very best in the grappling arts. No, our lesson is a much more technical one. One that can only be taught inside the confines of a wrestling ring.
In a ring, you learn a lot about a man. You learn just how far he is willing to go to win. People have literally killed to win, Hayes, and I’ve let them. I’ve sat back and let them kill. I’ve let people wander the path of homicide. Sometimes I try to convince myself that Max Kael’s death was inevitable, I try to swear to myself that even if I’d traveled to Alcatraz on the night that he impaled his own skull… that the end result would have been the same.
It’s a sad thing when you can’t even believe in the lies you tell yourself.
I need to learn about you, Hayes, I need to learn where your limit is. I need to learn whether you are a fool. Just how much damage are you willing to do to yourself and others to get that third bite? When the bell rings, I’ll learn a lot about you, my friend. Will you learn the same from me?
I do owe you some answers though, and I think it’s only fair you get your biggest question answered before we become brothers on opposite sides of the battle.
You want to know what my vision of Glue is?
Wrestlers winning wrestling matches by being the best in the fucking game.
See, while you’ve been out there whining about the fact that people aren’t running in and interfering on your behalf so that you can shortcut your way back to Universal glory, I’ve been destroying my body to prove that I am PRIME’s best wrestler. My neck is currently held together by string and a prayer because I didn’t want to cheap out against Brandon Youngblood.
Phil Atken used FLAMBERGE for his career defining win.
I used a submission hold.
Who do you want to follow, Hanlon?
What wise counsel do you seek?
By ReVival, you will make a choice and I hope beyond hope you make the right one.
After all, I’ve got such sights still to show you.
Dirk Dickwood was having himself a grand old time to himself, and why wouldn’t he? As the General Manager of all things Glue, there was a lot to be proud of. The team was guaranteed a semi-final spot in the Almasy, FLAMBERGE was getting a shot at Ivan, the Intense and 5 Star Championships remained in sticky hands…
If the cards kept falling this way, Dirk Dickwood was happy to imagine a world where everything was Glue. All champions, all challengers. They’d even got to this point the old fashioned way. No lockboxes, no mazes, no hamster wheels, no slip ‘n’ slides…
Yes sir, everything was coming up Dickwood.
So it’s no surprise that he was entering the newest Glue strategy session with a song in his heart and joy in his guts.
The song was “Happy” by Pharrell, by the way.
Look, no one has ever accused Dirk Dickwood of being the creative force in the Gluesphere.
Dirk’s jubilant and joyous mood was going to be difficult to bring down, this was the most success he’d ever experienced in his career. Usually, he’d already been kicked to the curb by the time that talent under his gentle, guiding hand had reached this point.
Point being, it was very hard to bring this man down in the moment of euphoria he was currently experiencing.
As he bounced like an excitable pupper into the room, Hank to his back, he was sadly stopped in his tracks at the scene he found in front of him. The Founder of The Glue Factory, a former Universal Champion in his own right, Phil Atken was writhing on the floor in agony, coughing up blood. His face was caked in the viscous internal fluid that isn’t supposed to be on your outsides. Every small cough brought up even more blood.
To Atken’s side, the wheelchair he had been confined to ever since his unfortunate run in with Cancer Jiles and Julian Bathory over a year ago. It had been upturned and was currently sitting on its side, a singular wheel spinning.
Dirk was quick to take action, instructing Hank to help Atken back up to his chair. As Hank took care of the aged Atken, Dirk surveyed the rest of the room, trying to get a sense of just what the hell happened.
None of this was supposed to happen, Cecilworth had always reassured Dirk that Farthington Manor was one of the most secure facilities in the entire world due to something called “jizz pods”. Dickwood could never work out if Cecilworth was kidding or sincere about that.
As Dickwood surveyed the room, he tried to make sense of this tragedy. Hank was gingerly lifting The Founder back into his chair when the whiteboard that sat in the corner of the study caught Dickwood’s eyes.
This time, no strategy sat on the board, there was no list of tactics, of ways to win, of ways to strengthen the Glue brand.
No, just one simple message.
Three down, three to go.