Private: Eryk Van Warren
Several Months Ago
(Precise Date Unknown)
With a cigarette burning between my lips, I sit down at the head of the table in the dining room of my Las Vegas home. The acrid taste of Newport Non-Menthol Golds—because, according to my taste buds, menthol belongs exclusively to candy canes, cough drops, and Rezin—is barely noticeable as I take a sip of my coffee. Black, of course. As the fucking night, I assure you.
It had been over ten years since I first moved into Casa di Van Warren; a decision based more so for practicality than taste. Yet, even so, my two-thousand square-foot ranch-style desert dwelling had become an important part of my life. Not just for the last decade-plus years of a two-decade career in the Las Vegas-based SHOOT Project, but because of my now seven-year-old daughter’s first five-years of growing up here.
Every hallway I walk down and every door I open, memories — mostly good, some bad, all as vividly entertaining as the next — wash over me like a great flood. In the kitchen, war meetings were held with my fellow Soldiers while someone, usually anyone other than me, served up some tasty grub for everyone partaking in what unofficially turned into a weekly meeting of the minds and overall stratagem for whatever lied ahead on the next episode of Revolution, Dominion, or Oblivion.
Down in the custom-built gym I installed after the move-in — a precursor to the fitness centers and training facilities I invested in, rebranded, and doled out like I was the government handing out food stamps all up and down the east coast — I saw former tag team partners sparring with me and helping me adapt to various styles. Every one of these names, from Loco Martinez, to Azrael Goeren, and of course my fellow Mohawk Warrior turned lifelong nemesis, Cade Sydal, shared tag team gold with me in our careers. I’d like to think that utilizing my very own gym played a big part in that success. But that might be biased thinking on my part.
Then there’s the spare room, which would eventually become my daughter’s room. Esper. Her namesake comes from something out of Final Fantasy lore; which, I’m told, is something Almassy himself would geek out over. Good to know I have that much in common with the man, at least.
Damn. My precious little baby girl. She’d be right by my side, dipping vanilla wafers in my black coffee if it weren’t for her Mother absconding with her back to New York City. All because she didn’t want her daughter growing up in an environment such as the one her successful, if only maybe selfish, pro-wrestling star of a Father provided. Safe though it may have been for Esper, there wasn’t a God in the omniversalaxy that could convince her of that.
Then again, is the City of Sin a place where a child should grow up? This is a constant internal struggle of mine, but it’s another story for another day. Not quite ready to tell it in its entirety just yet. All in good time.
Shaking my head back to reality from the rabbit hole it quickly descended into, I remember that a black-ink pen is gripped tightly in my right hand. During my stroll down memory lane, I went into auto-pilot and finished off my coffee. It’s at this precise moment when I switch gears as the newfound cocktail glass brims with an amber substance in a loosened grip with my left hand.
Taking a quick drink, the ice cubes clink together rather enticingly as I taste the crushed up, sugary bits of maraschino cherries. Sighing with a deep sense of satisfaction, I allow the bourbon to rest in my mouth and swirl as one might normally do with an aged wine. With the syrupy palatableness cutting through the burning alcoholic flavor just enough to not singe my tongue, I swallow with delight as I look down at the brand new PRIME contract sitting in front of me. A surrealistic feeling trickles down my neck to the center of my back. Finally, I think to myself, “Is this really happening?”
It’s instantly clear to me just how monumental this moment is and how it needs to be absorbed properly. “Twenty fuckin’ years.” I say out loud into the emptiness of the dining room.
This is the first new contract I’ve perused in two decades and, wrestling Gods willing with all my extremities crossed, will actually sign that doesn’t have the watermark of a Spartan helmet on top of it. I take another drink of my cocktail and finally put the point of the pen down against the bottom line of the contract. Adding my signature, I sit back and place the pen down on the table.
It happened just like that. So quickly. Without so much as a decision but a natural reaction to wanting to be a part of something bigger.
Eryk Van Warren – the first contracted roster member in the new era of PRIME.
Hard to believe we’re here already. I remember when there was this little, itty-bitty rumor surfacing about how LT wanted to start ‘er old stomping grounds back up. I’ll admit that, at first, I was in the mindset of not giving a flying fuck. Nothing against LT or anything, but I just felt like there wasn’t room for yet another wrestling promotion opening up. Oversaturation of the market, I guess you could call it. One fed cannibalizing the ratings, or however they tabulate that shit now, and attendance numbers all being pulled apart in three, four, fuckin’ nineteen different directions.
But after getting to know ‘er a little more and understanding the type of history we’re dealing with here? That’s when I got it. I mean… truly fuckin’ GOT. IT.
Then I saw the ads online. Jesus. How rude it was that I couldn’t order the Crayola Color Chemistry Lab for my daughter without “PRIME: NUMBER ONE BY DEFINITION!” shooting across my tablet. Classic marketing genius there, I must admit. Hell, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how it put a smile on my face in between my bitching and yelling at the clouds over it. Now? Months and months of fanticipation later, we’ve arriVed at the epic return of PRIME. One of the finest competitive establishments pro-wrestling has ever seen.
Not too long after I signed my contract, I signed up on the ACE Network. Saw the extensive library from the days of yore all available to me. Some of it was free. Some of it nickel-and-dimed me to death with packages from old Pay-Per-View events and what not. But hey, that’s how it works now with all things streaming. MMA and boxing included. For fuck’s sake, not even the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake event is exempt from this.
So then I chose a random event from the old ReVolution show. I see that Dan Ryan is facing off against Tchu on this one. Fuckin’ love the Murder Daddy. If I’m being honest, I love that the Murder Daughter is following in his footsteps in 2022. So I watch it… and I’m blown away. The ring action. Nick and Richard’s chemistry with one another. Tchu’s amazing ability and incredible pedigree in that ring. It’s all so reminiscent of everything I’ve ever wanted in a wrestling company since growing up as a kid watching grainy VHS tapes of my dad, Jack “The Hustler” Van Warren, wrestling in the territories back in the 70s and 80s.
Goddamn was I pumped after watching that. Fuckin’ pumped beyond ANYTHING I ever thought possible for a man who has literally seen and done it all.
And now? I’m… actually a part of it.
The most incredible part of this? Out of all these PRIME veterans, PRIME Hall of Famers, former PRIME Universal Champions, former PRIME Intense Champions, former PRIME 5-Star Champions, and the rest of the gilded ilk that once walked these hallowed halls, it is an outsider like me who stepped up and put his name on the dotted line before anyone else.
Ain’t that some shit? I guess it’s true, that one quote. How’s it go again?
‘An outsider can see some things much better.’
Honestly, don’t ask me who that quote’s from. I’m not exactly the most learnt motherfucker here, so it could be anyone from Eric Cartman to Judas Priest. Doesn’t matter, I guess.
Regardless, I don’t really know where the rest of these PRIMErs were when LT sent out the inevitable sales pitch en masse to the collective loyalists, but somehow old ole decrepit me beat ‘em all to the punch. I find that very… telling.
Maybe I didn’t take enough time to think about stepping into a new world at 46, on the downslope of a 25-year career. Maybe all I could think about was making yet even more moments to think fondly of in retrospect ten years from now when I’m 56 and still trying to justify my presence in another ‘new-old’ promotion making a comeback. All so that I can make my indelible mark and prove to the elitist, uppity fuckin’ shade slingers wrong. I mean, I’ve made something of a habit out of being impulsive throughout my profession as the ‘King of the Iron Fist’, so maybe that tracks.
Whatever you wanna call this and however you wanna look at me, all I know for certain is this: despite all the championships, superlatives, multiple Hall of Fame inductions and other such career accomplishments…
…I’m still fuckin’ hungry.
In fact, I’m fuckin’ RAVENOUS.
More fuckin’ BLOOD.
‘Cause let’s be honest. I’m never giving this shit up. Ever. Not until someone forces me the fuck out by injuring me so badly, I’m not ever medically cleared to compete in the squared-circle again. Then, after the doctors prevent me from doing what I do best, that team of physicians are thereby moved into a bunker somewhere deep in no-man’s-land–probably somewhere between a fuckin’ shitty ass Primanti Brothers on the outskirts of Pennsylvania and Parts Unknown itself–so I can’t find them to, well, let’s just say impolitely change their minds.
Hell, it could happen sooner than later. It could happen in my debut match here in PRIME. I go for one of my old moves, the Dragon’s Fist, and after I springboard myself into the air for that flying forearm? Crrrrrrrrrack! I pull a fuckin’ Sid and here comes the viral video of Eryk’s career going down the drain on the ACE Network.
The simple and terrifying truth is I do not know when, where, or how the looming end to my career will come. Because of this uncertainty and the ever-increasing limits of my body, I have no illusions about Father Time watching closely at everything I do.
That’s just one of the countless reasons yours truly, ‘EV-Dub’ as some will come to call me, is here in PRIME.
Another? Simple. I respect the fuck outta LT.
She’s a legend.
She’s a QUEEEEEEEEEN, baby.
And it takes a King just as much as it takes a Queen to see a Kingdom rise from the ashes.
Many don’t know this, but Lindsay Troy and I have gone into battle on more than one occasion over the past year and change since I’ve known ‘er. I can’t think of another soul out there who’s brought out the best in me than the High Queen of Wrestling herself. Not recently anyway. And if you choose to ask ‘er about how remarkably awful that arm felt after I made ‘er tap? I’m pretty damn sure she’d say the same thing to me.
And now, that same person I tore the house down with, twice, who I hold the utmost respect and admiration for after they too did the unthinkable by making me tap in the middle of that fuckin’ ring, is reViving this place. You kiddin’ me?! There ain’t a God, Ghost, or Grammy Winning Artist that could’ve kept me away from this shit.
Finally, though, we arrive at what is probably the most important reason for me coming to PRIME. The Almassy Invitational.
Now, I know little, maybe even fuckin’ jack shit when it comes right down to it, about who this ‘Almassy’ person was. Nothing I can do about that, save for checking out some more archival footage of the man himself in action… which I may just do in time. But that notwithstanding, knowing who and what kind of person he was doesn’t really matter. I’ve seen and suffered enough loss in my lifetime to understand that, unequivocally, what actually matters is we have a fallen comrade amongst us. A man who was so well-respected by his peers to where LT honored him. So, when someone in this glorious sport of ours has fallen?
You honor that person.
You celebrate that person.
And when a tournament has that person’s namesake attached to it in memoriam? You fuckin’ commemorate that person by entering it.
Then you do your motherfuckin’ best and straight up win the son of a bitch. Fuck the ole ‘College Try’ bullshit. You go out there and treat this like it’s life or death. Because with Almassy looking down on us? Life or death could not be anymore à propos for this scenario.
You understand me when I say that, Ted?
This ain’t about either of us. Despite my finite knowledge of you through your cup of coffee for a stint down the street here in Vegas, and despite whatever beef Arthur Pleasant- my fuckin’ shit cannon, wart-riddled, trash human son of mine- has with you, this ain’t about some family squabble between two ‘hardknocks’ players. Nah, Ted. Far from it.
But this IS about what we’re both fighting for.
That… one… win.
Not just ‘a’ win. But THE win.
The win that makes one of us… and breaks one of us.
The win that tells the story of a man who brought his all and won when the chips were down, and the other story of a man who should’ve folded but pushed his luck and got caught with pocket Aces in the fuckin’ river.
The win that gives PRIME its first impression on who will ultimately become one of the biggest threats in this entire tournament.
And you and I both know what they say about first impressions, Ted.
So here we go. First round of the Almassy Invitational. #3 Seed Vs # 13 Seed.
Eryk Van Warren versus Teddy Palmer.
The world is watching and waiting with bated breath ‘cause they know what we know about this match: it’s gonna be a fuckin’ banger.
We’re gonna beat the unholy fuckin’ SHIT out of each other in a PRIME ring and get all the goddamn chants going at once. “THIS-IS-AWE-SOME!” they’ll be screaming. “FIGHT FOR-EV-ER!” they’ll be going hoarse over. “PRIME THAT SH-” uhhh… maybe not that one.
The PRIMEates are gonna be hype as fuck, Ted, and I know we’re both gonna deliver. No doubt in my mind about that. Why? ‘Cause I have all the confidence in the world for you just as much as I have it for myself, and there ain’t no way either of us would be here or be who we are if I thought any differently.
But that’s as far as it goes for you, man. ‘Cause I’m telling you, right here and now, I’m walking out the winner.
Barely walking, bleeding, and feeding more low-hanging fruit and worn-out “YOU’RE OLD HAHA” tropes and clichés for the unimaginative dickheads who wish they were as good as us, whilst wondering why I put my mid-forties ass up in this bitch in the first place, sure. But as a fuckin’ winner, nonetheless.
And you, Ted? You’re gonna hit the fuckin’ showers like Zion and Doozer did at ReVival 1. Sorry, not sorry.
But you can take solace in the fact I will make the most of this win. ‘Cause I’m not gonna beat you then say fuck it and go through the motions for the rest of the tourney like I’m betting at least 75% of the other competitors who brought it so hard they used up all their ammo in the first round on ‘Bracket Rolo’ did. Nah. I’m gonna make like a train of eGG Bandits on a poor lonely MILF in a cheap motel room and go fuckin’ deep in this bitch.
So deep, in fact…
… that I might just fuckin’ win it all.
Eryk Van Warren… PRIME Universal Champion?
Now that’s a title fit for a fuckin’ King.
The MGM Grand
A recording of my voice plays on the public announce system as I sit back in the barber’s chair of one of Las Vegas’ finest barber shops. At least, I’m told it’s one of the finest barber shops, of course. Jury’s still out on that one. It’s appropriately called, ‘The Barbershop’, so I’ll give them credit for their minimalistic style.
The promotional bit plays overhead and my soul groans as I’m forced to listen to my voice advertise the upcoming episode of ReVival for the ninetieth time today: “Download the ACE Network NOW on your device and gain access to thousands of hours of PRIME content! Tune in on February 4th, 9PM Central to witness the next set of First Round Matches from the second episode of ReVival!”
“Ugh. God, I sound sooooo bad. Do I sound like that in all my promos?!” I say as the barber named ‘Clyde’ takes a straight razor down from my cheek through the underside of the right side of my jaw. Having to hear that recording I made weeks ago during my week-long presser was a torture the world had not seen since the dark web became victim to a file being shared called ‘1Tapioca3Cups’.
“No, Daddy! I think you sound amazing!” my little princess Esper assures me as she sits from afar next to her Mother, Avalon Wells-Tate. Av shakes her head as she buries her head into an issue of Vogue Magazine. She’s barely said a fucking word to me since arriving here in Vegas as part of the shitty custody agreement that her lawyers somehow finagled. This all despite her running out on me halfway across the country with my daughter into the arms of another man who ended up dying from a heroin-related car accident, anyway. Fucking shmuck.
“Well thanks, baby. I knew I could count on you for a confidence boost!” I say, chuckling as the barber does his best to not cut my throat open as he shaves the stubble from my neck and closely traces the contour of my beard.
“You coming to the show, Av?” I say, knowing the answer before her luscious brown lips confirm it.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Eryk.” she confirms.
“I didn’t think so. And I suppose you’re not gonna let our daughter come either, right?” I say, half baiting her into an argument and half genuinely asking.
“You know that’s not gonna happen.” she says without hesitation.
I say nothing in return. No point in arguing with her. Especially not in front of my baby girl with what little time I have to spend with her. Ignoring Av’s shitty demeanor and unwillingness to have an adult conversation about allowing our daughter to see me wrestle.
Through my peripheral vision, I can see the mounting disappointment etched across Esper’s face. All she wanted to do was see her daddy do his thing.
God, she is beautiful. So beautiful that her looks can’t possibly have come from me. Nope. Her Momma, in all her ebony beauty, is solely where my baby girl received her looks.
“Eryk, we’ll be outside. Meet us at the hotel when you’re done.” Av says out of the blue.
I say nothing in return. Av grabs Esper’s hand and begins walking her out of the Barber Shop. With her beautiful brown eyes looking back at me glossily, Esper quietly squeaks out something.
“I love you, Daddy.”
My heart breaks into a million fucking pieces.
“Love you too, baby.” I say back, my voice trying not to break as my eyes well up.
Clyde, meanwhile, looks at me and says, “Hey. You think you could get me some tickets for the show? My wife and I are huge fans.”
As he nicks the skin underneath my ear from his momentary distraction, I chuckle. All in an effort to shake away the tears.
“Sure, Clyde. You got it.”
Then, like clockwork, my recording plays for the ninety-first time since I sat down in the barber’s chair.
“Download the ACE Network NOW on your device and gain access to thousands of hours of PRIME content!”
Thankfully, before the rest of the woefully recorded advertisement can play, we fade out.