Hayes gripped Redding’s shoulders tight as the two slammed into the ringside barricade, tensing every muscle in his body to hold ground and keep them from tilting over the edge. The bell had long since rung, but it fell on deaf ears. Partly thanks to the bellowing crowd close by, but mostly thanks to Alexander Redding keeping him company with a short forearm to the jaw.
“Red! We’re outta here!” came a shout from ringside, followed by Grady Patrick scrambling to his feet and escaping a swinging colostomy bag from the decrepit version of Nova in his silver jumpsuit. Teddy Palmer wasn’t far behind, spitting out a pile of caramel candies before assisting Grady in peeling Red from the Five Star Champion’s grasp.
“You got him next time, let’s go!” hollered Palmer, arms wrapping around his tag partner’s chest to pull him away. The Event Horizon’s pursuit came to a halt, shrugging off the hands of reaching ringside fans.
“Hey Champ!” Alexander barked.
Hayes wiped sweat from his face, breathing heavily while Grady and Ted ushered their companion toward the ramp. Red reached a fist into the air, his thumb pushed between his middle and index finger.
“Got your nose!”
The trio turned to escape. Hayes stood without an answer, his thoughts drowned by the roaring Las Vegas crowd. The silver jumpsuits of the old, feeble dopplegangers of Nova and Garbage Bag Johnny caught the corner of his eye, and a confused squint followed them as they disappeared into the throngs.
And then the PRIME*View burst to life.
The Garden’s patrons quickly shifted their attention to the image of Brandon Youngblood, shuffling down a hallway with the assistance of a pair of crutches. The raucous cheers faded. The bright lights faded.
No victory. No music.
He just stood awkwardly in the ring’s shadow while the Garden gawked at The Last Diamond throwing a horse head into the wall.
He didn’t even know where his belt was.
This is what I wanted, right?
New Kid in Town Hayes Hanlon.
Young Stud Hayes Hanlon.
Five Star Champion Hayes Hanlon.
Main Eventer Hayes Hanlon.
It’s everything I’ve wanted. Since I was seven years old. Since PRIME was dominating the wrestling world until the day it finally died, and even after. It’s the only thing I’ve wanted.
It just came to me so fast.
I didn’t expect that.
But still, here I am. Getting ready to defend the title in my second main event in a row. The dream came true.
So why am I feeling so…resentful?
Poolside at the MGM Grand was an experience. An ever-churning carousel of the drunk and unbridled at all hours of the day. Hayes came here to people-watch often, more so with his brother laying low since his trip to the hospital. And with Nova and Johnny tied to the Survivor Series on the 28th floor, the young Hanlon found himself to his own devices.
Never a good thing.
The beautiful people and substance-fueled debauchery provided a good distraction for the young man, though, hiding behind his gold-lensed aviators and letting the Nevada sun bake him to a well-tanned crisp. Skin cancer be damned.
A young couple on the far side of the pool had his undivided attention. Unabashed in their public display of desires. While they showcased an awkward, messy display of kissing and groping above the water, things were clearly getting “handsy” under the surface. Hayes smiled behind his mustache.
“You think you’re soooo sneaky,” he chuckled under his breath.
The buzz of his phone stole the fun.
Tuesday, May 17 – 2:03 PM
Laying low. Figured I should steer clear for a bit after your visit with mom and dad
Miss ya too
But hey, just got off the phone with Liv
Sorry to hear that
She said she was going to drop in on you for a surprise visit
Wanted to give you the heads up
Good luck bro!
He thumped his head against the backrest of the lounge chair, dropping his phone to his lap with a defeated exhale.
“Lovely,” he mumbled before lifting his gaze back across the pool.
The show was over.
“Did you get it?”
Hayes ignored Zachary’s question, his gleaming brown eyes glued to a piece of paper taped to the auditorium’s front door, “Oklahoma Cast List” in bold at the top.
Hayes smiled wide.
“Well?” asked Zach.
“I got Curly!”
“What? Wait, really?”
“I got Curly!” Hayes repeated in a burst of joy. “I got the lead, dude!”
Hayes spun around to face his sandy-haired friend, meeting him with a sharp high five. Zach stepped past to read the list for himself.
“I thought for sure they were going to give you Will Parker!” said Zach. “But Curly McLain! That means you’re singing the main number! Wait, can you sing?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out!” replied Hayes, retrieving his backpack from the floor and absolutely buzzing with glee.
“Oh my god, is that your brother?”
The barbed remark from behind forced the two seventh-graders to turn, a troop of teenage girls clutching textbooks stood gawking, like they had happened across a stray circus act.
A tall brunette, chief among them, rolled a pair of hazel eyes.
Olivia. Big sister.
“Ugh, yes,” Olivia forced. “And his little butt-buddy.”
Hayes and Zach stood frozen. Hell hath no fury like a group of teenage girls in pink sweatpants and tank tops.
“Is he doing the play?” asked a disbelieving short blonde. “Wasn’t he supposed to play first base?”
“Oh my god, seriously?” a curly red-head scoffed.
Hayes pursed his lips, gripping his backpack strap like a vice and shooting short breaths through his nose. Zach flashed his baby blues between his friend and the menace of teenagers nervously, placing a hand on Hayes’ shoulder.
“C’mon dude, let’s just go,” said Zach, attempting to steer Hayes elsewhere.
“He’s in love with that stupid wrestling show,” Olivia prodded, flaunting for her entourage. “I think he wants to learn how to act and perform so he can do all that fake shit.”
“Shut UP, Olivia…” the younger brother seethed, cheeks turning flush.
“Yeah,” laughed the blonde. “He probably just wants to roll around with sweaty dudes…”
The mocking giggles and snickers swarmed. Hayes started to shake, eyes glistening with anger; a tween tea kettle beginning to whistle. Olivia couldn’t help herself.
“Yeah,” she agreed with a snort. “You should see his room! The walls are covered in posters of sweaty shirtless guys.”
“SHUT UP YOU BITCH!”
The kettle boiled over. The jaws of Olivia and her groupies hung halfway to the floor. The outburst drew attention from students passing by, but hopefully out of earshot of any teachers.
“Ohmygod, what a little psycho!” spat the red-head.
More gasps. More snickers. More shame.
That is, until a hero decided to don his cape.
“At least he didn’t get caught giving Evan Clark a handjob under the bleachers, Danielle!”
The interjection from Zach seemed to silence the entire high school lobby outside the auditorium. The courageous insult stunned the collective. Danielle’s face was a real-life error code, her cheeks turning a deeper shade of red than her hair.
“You little shit!” barked Olivia, taking a threatening step forward, but Hayes had already grabbed Zach by the arm, escaping down the hall before any teachers could come to investigate the inappropriate retort. They could barely contain their excitement as they dashed away.
“Holy shit, dude! That was awesome!”
Zach’s bright smile was gleaming with pride as they rounded a corner.
“And did she really give Evan Clark a handjob?”
I know why.
I’m resentful because I wanted more time. A longer honeymoon before Troy asked me to prove I wasn’t a one-hit wonder. More time to sign posters and take selfies with fans.
Resentful that Redding gets another go ‘round. That he was allowed to call his shot in the first place. That a double count-out salvaged his next opportunity.
Resentful that Cecilia gets a shot at all. I guess the first two times I came out on top didn’t matter.
Resentful that twice I’m asked to “prove it” before the Great American Nightmare.
But that’s PRIME. You’re never safe. And that’s okay.
I know all about the “R” word.
“Well, cheers to you, little brother!”
Hayes clinked his gin and tonic against Olivia’s martini glass with a weak smile. Big sister took a mighty sip while holding the olive garnish in place. Hayes fixed his posture in his black button down.
“So,” she said, sucking air through her teeth to quell the vodka. “Here you are! Is it everything you dreamed of?”
“It’s been…something,” he replied, cagey at best. “Been pretty successful so far. Vegas definitely lives up to expectations.”
“‘Something?’ ‘Pretty successful?’ Aren’t you the big World Champion or something?”
“Five Star Champion,” he corrected, setting his drink to the side. “You’re thinking of the Universal Championship. The Five Star is more of a…”
“Whatever, it’s all the same to me,” she interrupted, waving him off before crossing a leg. “Are you having the best time? God, I’d kill to live here for six months.”
Hayes shuddered at the thought.
“I’m sure you’d do pretty well selling houses around here,” he pivoted. “But Mom and Dad say you’re crushing it back home. I heard that Bolton sale was a pretty big deal.”
She sniggered behind another hefty sip. “Those clients were assholes. But I was thrilled to take their money.”
A strained silence. Olivia bounced her high-heeled foot over her knee. Hayes swirled his gin and tonic.
“So,” she eased in. “What happened with Paul?”
Hayes leaned back in his seat, averting his eyes to the pink and blue lights of the Fireside Lounge.
“Depends on who you ask,” he replied, absently.
“Oh cut the shit with that spiteful crap,” she barbed. Another deep sip. “It’s nothing new with Paul.”
“Try telling her that.”
She chortled, flipping wavy auburn hair over her shoulder. Olivia was a sharp-featured woman, much like their mother. She snapped her fingers to a passing server, dangling her empty martini in lazy fingertips before a new one took its place.
“Still so sensitive after all these years,” she pressed. Hayes rolled his eyes.
“We had a big night. I had just punched my ticket to our first pay-per-view. We got our hands on some shit and…things got loose.”
“Loose?” she scoffed. “Didn’t he get his stomach pumped?”
Hayes flashed impatient eyes, then a nod.
“And where is he now? Did you finally detach from his hip?”
“Fuck YOU!” she snorted, swallowing another mouthful of vodka, a few drops slipping from her glass and onto her lap. She wiped them from her deep maroon dress with a nonchalant wave of the hand.
Hayes rolled his eyes, again drifting his gaze out to his surroundings. “He’s not around. Mom doesn’t want me ‘enabling’ him.”
She could barely keep the vodka from launching through her nose. “Oh my god, are you and Mom still on that trip?”
“We never got off it. I doubt we ever will.”
“Jesus. You need to grow up, baby brother.”
“Whatever. I haven’t forgiven her either.”
“‘For what?’” he fired back. “The affair? Does that ring a bell?”
“Gawd, now THAT’S something you need to let go of.”
“She cheated on Dad, Olivia. And they brushed it off like it was nothing. I saw that shit, more than once. She can go fuck herself as far as I’m concerrned.”
He snatched his drink and fell hard into his seat once more, downing it quickly and leaving the ice cubes to rattle. Olivia smirked behind glazed hazel eyes, studying her frustrated younger brother.
“If you knew the whole story, you’d have a different tone,” she cooed.
“And I’m sure you have all the answers.” A sarcastic reply.
“If you knew what he did,” she slurred, her martini swung dangerously in her light grasp.
A comment that forced him to pause.
“…what who did?” he asked cautiously, slowly turning his deep gaze back to his drunken sibling.
“If you knew what she went through…”
He stood from his seat.
“Olivia, what did he d…”
Her glass dropped from her fingertips to the painted concrete floor, tinkling shards spreading under their feet. A nearby server was quick to arrive with a broom and dustpan, though Hayes wouldn’t turn his gaze from his sister’s blank stare. Ultimately she would stand, smoothing out her dress with uneasy balance.
“Time to go,” she declared with a drowsy smile. “See you next time, baby brother.”
She exited their booth slowly, taking calculated steps through the lounge. Hayes watched her leave, absent to the server cleaning up the glass, as she disappeared into the neon.
All about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I know what the Five Star Title is and what it isn’t. The spotlight will always be on the one to hold the Big Strap, especially now in the early days of PRIME’s ReVival. I know that the Five Star fanfare will always play second fiddle.
But you need to understand. While there may be a number one contender for Youngblood’s Universal Championship, the Five Star Title is the banner that signals the next in line. Ask Nova. Ask Hoyt. Ask Jason Snow.
I am the next in line. If I need to prove it again, then I will.
Because ReVival 9 is MY show.
And Red? Cecilia?
YOU can get BACK in line.