“Je jure devant Dieu, my son, I am sick of this grifter and of this strangly-hold he has taken with the television time.”
We’re in a locker room, apparently post-workout given the sweat levels present on FLAMBERGE and especially the rotund figure of his father, Henri Lavigne. Henri pat-pat-pats himself on the forehead with a towel, though it’s almost like wiping a sweat-marker; he keeps wiping, but the sweat keeps coming.
“The work you do with the marketing and with the Brets, it is not this that got you la victoire! It was the work you do with ME. I am the craftsman of the FLAMBERGE!”
FLAMBERGE pauses for a moment, and with a bigger breath than he might have expected to need, starts spelling it out.
“Mon père, you know why it is this way.”
Not ‘why it HAS to be this way’, or ‘why this way is BEST’ – just, why it is this way. A matter-of-fact delivery, almost clinical. So emotionless, in fact, that Henri can only respond with the opposite – a haymaker of a punch into a closed locker door. He has dented said door and we nearly catch the faintest hint of a grimace, a slight motion to cradle his surely-sprained-if-not-hairline-fractured knuckles, though maybe that’s wishful thinking on our part. The Man They Call FLAMBO Even Though That’s His Car must have seen this coming, as his only physical response is a slow, lazy blink as he packs up his workout bag.
“And there it is. You are incapable of self-control.”
“SELF-CONTROL?! C’est de la lutte PROFESSIONELLE!! It is BUILT on such vibrance, the vibrance I and I alone HAVE in this family, you child. If I was thirty years the younger, if I had the physique and the natural talent you have been BLESSED BY ME TO POSSESS alongside this exuberance, I would surely be the PRIME champion by now and not the cast-off-the-tournament, lose-half-the-time, thinks-he’s-trop chic…”
FLAMBERGE presses a finger to Henri’s mouth, immediately shutting him up, though if eyeballs could spontaneously combust, we probably would have just seen it happen.
“Careful, mon père. Depuis que maman est partie, je suis la seule famille que tu as. And since you are INCAPABLE, as we’ve said, of the self-control…you cannot afford to lose this meal ticket.”
Brains short-circuit all the time – but here, we’re approaching a Texas-every-summer-now-apparently power grid failure in Henri’s mind.
“I…YOU…it…LIST-……..it is NOT, you do NOT-”
“-relax, father. Like you said…it’s professional wrestling.”
FLAMBERGE’s bag is now packed and slung over his shoulder and he begins to make for the exit. The sweat has not stopped pouring down Henri’s face and neck.
“Où pensez-vous que vous allez??”
“…I have a meeting.”
FLAMBERGE lets the heavy metal door bang loudly as it closes behind him.
“There he is, the SNACK-LOVING SUPERSTAR who’s ALSO A SNACK!”
If we can read Darby’s body language as we open upon his bland, decidedly-unmodern office, and boy howdy can we (given his cheeks-splitting smile and rapid tapping of his desk), we would comfortably guess that he thinks this catchphrase will catch on (cue the Ron Howard voice: it won’t.) We do notice one change to the drab setting from last time we were here – on the wall behind Darby’s desk, we see a huge and beautiful framed print of a Brets Camembert Chips advert featuring FLAMBERGE’s face in the bottom right 1/16th of the frame.
“How are we feeling? Big win against Ria Nightshade! Of course, it’s a genuine tragedy that the PRIME Wrestling Universe of Fans didn’t get to hear my truly game-changing soliloquy, but you know what? I bet down the line, I can make some edits here and there, find and replace ‘Ria Nightshade’ with ‘Bramble Whoever The Heck’, and recapture that feeling!”
If there’s a natural way to reply to this train of thought, FLAMBERGE is incapable of finding it – or perhaps he’s unwilling. He is seated on the opposite side of Darby, feet propped up on the desk, navy hoodie pulled over his massive poof of hair. A few beats pass. Darby coughs awkwardly to himself before resuming.
“So listen, FLAMBO-”
FLAMBERGE shoots him a look.
“…sorry, FLAMBERGE. As we both know, you are still very, very, VERY early in your career-”
The look from FLAMBERGE sharpens.
“-as they all do! And you’ve taken to it like a fish to water! A real prodigy of the sport, you are!”
The look softens.
“That being said, I wanted to let you in on something that ONLY THE PROS truly understand. I know you haven’t really…developed…friendships, or partnerships, or really any kind of connection in the PRIME locker room, or with any other peers for that matter-”
“-which I totally understand! Why WOULD you?? They’re all meat for the grinder, we both know this!”
Softens. One might think that Darby was excellent at playing Red Light/Green Light as a kid, if one were ever actually interested in learning about a self-interested marketing agent’s childhood.
“Here, let me pose it to you as a thought experiment. What do you think is the most important indicator of whether or not a professional wrestler will have a prominent career?”
FLAMBERGE takes a half moment to think before rattling off a short list.
“Athleticism, hard work, preparation, victories…”
Darby’s ear-splitting Family Feud Wrong Answer noise spikes the audio and FLAMBERGE winces for a half second before shooting Darby a dirty look.
“The real, number one, most important indicator of professional wrestling success, is…MARKETING DEMOGRAPHIC DATA!!”
Darby dramatically opens a drawer in his desk and pulls out a thick manila file.
“And I’ve got the goods on you, my friend! Most wrestlers would KILL for this kind of data so they could use it to steer their career choices! Every single day, wrestlers in that locker room are asking themselves a MILLION questions: ‘Should I turn heel? Should I focus more, or less, on my traumatic past? How many fat jokes are too many?’ With marketing demographic data, the choices are made clear FOR us! It’s like a treasure map to your career!”
Darby plops the file onto his desk with a mighty plop and begins flipping through some pages.
“Normally to get THIS level of data, we’d be talking about years and YEARS of wrestling, interviews, traveling, promos, vignettes, injury reports, EVERYTHING – but guess what, my snacky friend?? You’re with the best! Which means that we’ve practically got a shortcut to the top, right here in these pages, after just TWO MATCHES! Can you even imagine??”
Not every facial expression lends itself to a clear handful of descriptive words. We might sprinkle in a word like “incredulous”, though it’s more than just skeptic disbelief; we might throw in a dab of “leery”, though it’s safe to assume FLAMBERGE is more suspicious of the file itself rather than Darby’s earnestness. The best way to describe FLAMBERGE’s face at this moment might be to imagine hearing a dog speak perfect English for exactly one sentence before going back to barking forever. Deeply sincere confusion where, as time progresses, one second guesses more and more that the thing that happened actually happened, even though you’re so SURE it did – but that dog is just barking now, so did it really? Maybe you haven’t eaten enough today? An LSD flashback?
“I can see you’re just as excited as I am to dig in, so let me share some highlights!”
Darby pulls out a page near the top of the pile as FLAMBERGE continues to work through his whiplash.
“Let’s see, let’s see – AH, here we go! ‘Fan interaction with #FLAMBERGE on social media is significantly more positive during his matches, during moments we see him in action, and ESPECIALLY when the focus is completely, entirely, 100% devoted to HIM on screen being cool’! Did you hear that FLAMBERGE? People love seeing you be COOL!”
“…how much money did you spend to tell me that people like seeing me be cool?”
“And here here here, listen, listen closely to THIS one – ‘Fan interaction with #FLAMBERGE on social media is significantly more NEGATIVE whenever he shares the screen with Henri Lavigne. Fans view Henri as extremely unlikeable and abusive, and they think less of FLAMBERGE when they see him working with – HEY!”
FLAMBERGE snatches the paper out of Darby’s hand and begins furiously scanning it with his eyes. He mouths a few words to himself – ‘significantly more negative…unlikeable and abusive…think less of FLAMB-’
“Hang on. There’s more to this, Darby.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look, at the bottom, they begin talking about YOU. ‘Fans view Daniel Darby as a grifter, latching onto a young prospect with hopes of making his own stock rise’. Did you see this bit?”
Darby shuffles uncomfortably in his chair.
“Well, yes, I did gloss over that – obviously, this research isn’t PERFECT-”
“-there’s more text, Darby, but it’s on the next page. Let me see it. Give me the next page.”
Almost out of instinct, Darby begins slowly closing the file.
“Look, we don’t really need to get into ME, here, we’re here to further YOUR career, aren’t we? There’s loads more in here, we can go over-”
“Give me the next page, Darby.”
There’s some bass in FLAMBERGE’s voice in that delivery. Reluctantly, Darby opens the file back up and slowly passes over a page from the file, which FLAMBERGE grabs. He reads the first few lines, chuckles to himself, and wads up the page before tossing it over his shoulder.
“They REALLY don’t like you, do they Darby?”
“Yes, well, maybe there is SOMETHING to-”
“They called your face one of the Top Three Most Punchable in all of PRIME!”
“Every day, I am more and more thankful that YOU’RE the one doing the punching, and not me.”
They share a brief knowing look with each other. FLAMBERGE’s eyes scan beyond Darby and onto the framed Brets print on the wall. He points to it and continues.
“You know, you can almost see me on that, if you squint.”
He leaves the rest unsaid.
“You tell me you have this blueprint, and then you tell me my father is cancer. You tell me you have my best interests, and you use my brand to get a disgusting chip that is counter to EVERYTHING I’ve ever enjoyed about Brets into a wrestling segment that has nothing to do with me. So Darby, here’s where I am…”
FLAMBERGE’s feet are firmly planted back on the ground, and he rises, leaning over the desk and into Darby’s personal space.
“Why keep you?”
Darby gulps before hastily opening a second desk drawer as he reaches for something.
“Listen, I hear you – I do! That’s, look – ok. I get it. You think you don’t need me. However – if you didn’t have ME, you wouldn’t have THIS!”
Darby lifts a USB drive and points to it with some significance.
“What is it?”
“Come around so you can see my computer screen, I’ll show you.”
Darby connects the USB drive to his machine as FLAMBERGE makes his way around his desk.
“After your recent victory, I found myself with a surplus of funds to spend. I thought the best way to spend these funds was on YOU, and so…I hired a camera crew. And a voice actor. And a video editor.”
The USB loaded up, Darby clicks a file marked ‘Kjedelig_Sux.mp4’. We hear a voice – it’s absolutely NOT Don LaFontaine, because womp womp, he died in 2008…but wow, does this voice actor do a damn good impersonation. FLAMBERGE is VISIBLY UPSET as the video starts, featuring footage he did not know was being taken.
IN A WORLD full of over-the-top professional wrestlers…
Camera footage catches FLAMBERGE behind the wheel of a convertible – clearly not the FLAMBO (still in the shop after the events of the lead-up to ReVival 6), though still fancy enough.
…ONE MAN chooses to go ALL IN.
Footage of FLAMBERGE walking through the streets of Las Vegas in the middle of the day, hoodie up, chips in hand.
LONG has man marveled at the possibilities of the confluence of fame, fortune, FRANCE…and chips.
A zoom in on FLAMBERGE’s mouth as he gives a mighty CRONCH~~ that has been given copious reverb by the editor.
After defeating his hardest test to date, he faces something even more sinister, even more compelling and perhaps even SCARIER – he faces the most LUKEWARM opponent of his life.
Footage of FLAMBERGE coming out of a gym shower, towel wrapped around his waist, as he heads towards an ice bath. He nods at another gym attendee heading to take his own shower. It’s abundantly clear that whatever cameraman Darby hired is adept at staying hidden from sight.
On May 20, witness a battle that’s truly LOPSIDED –
We splash-cut into footage of FLAMBERGE working out in a wrestling ring – we see the faintest, barest hint of Henri’s bloated tracksuit in certain angles, though not for long.
completely DEVASTATING –
We see FLAMBERGE perform some moderately-impressive leg presses.
Another FLAMBERGE snack break as he’s minding his own business on a park bench in Vegas. For a hair of a second, it almost looks like FLAMBERGE catches sight of the camera and strains his neck to get a better look before we cut to a black frame.
‘FLAMBERGE VERSUS A GUY FROM A TOWN CALLED HORACE.’ RatedRforextendedviolenceandimpliedgore, contactyourlocaltheaterforshowtimes, viewatyourownrisk, startsFriday.
Darby hits the spacebar on his machine and turns to his charge, eyes gleaming, smile wide, ready to soak in a thousand heaps of praise. It’s hard to tell if FLAMBERGE is more, or less, or just differently stunned in this moment compared to when Darby pulled out the file. He shakes the cobwebs out and grasps Darby by his shirt collar.
“…delete this. NEVER do this again. And – LOOK AT ME!”
Darby’s eyes had been trying to avert their gaze from the surprisingly menacing young man standing over him.
“If you ever pull something like this again? Everything…EVERYTHING…I do to Mortimer Kjedelig…will be done to you.”
It is fortunate for Darby that we cannot see the state of his pants. FLAMBERGE releases his grip and storms out. Darby’s hands are shaking violently as he reaches to open a third drawer in his desk. After a spell, he pulls out a bag of Brets Originale flavored chips…he can’t open them at first. It takes a tug, then another, and he’s shaking so much – and in an ERUPTION of accidental energy, he rips the bag WIDE open and the bag’s entire contents go flying across his office.