“Do I dare disturb the universe?”
When I was in high school english class, we had to read a book called The Chocolate War. The main character had that phrase written on a poster in his locker, and it always stuck with me. I carried it through my formative years, into this sport, and ever since.
Do I dare disturb the universe?
It’s a tricky question, but when you look at where I’m at in PRIME Wrestling right now, a change needs to be made.
Do I dare deserve the universe?
Brandon Youngblood probably has an opinion on that.
Part I: Cally
March 1, 2013
John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens NY
Butterflies in my tum.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing here. Never picked anyone up at the airport before at all, to say diddly squat about my lovely boy and his new belt. I got my hair done up nicely with some wavy curls to it, and touched up the green streaks to really make them pop.
The blue is holding well. The blue always holds well.
RK has gone on a road trip alone before, but this is different. This time it’s for more than four days. This time it’s to another continent. This time, he left really nervous about this Cutting Room Floor match in Australia with Mr. Strife, and he’s coming home with the NFW World Championship.
This time… He loves me back.
And there he is.
I tell you, the TSA’s worst crime is the way they poo-pooh’d all romantic airport pickups. It’s not quite so emotional when you have to wait on the other side of the security railing.
My lip is between my teeth before I can think of it. My left foot crosses behind my right ankle in brand new pink Chuck Taylors purchased solely to make a good impression. My hands are trembling as I hold up my cardboard sign advertising that I’m here to pick up THE CHAMPEEN, and here he…
Thousand yard dead eyed stare. He’s angry.
What did I do what did I do what did I do why didn’t I just go with him why couldn’t I have been a better girlfriend or manager or partner or whatever it is I’m supposed to be–OH.
“Goddamn I’ve missed you,” says RK, holding me tightly.
I–, I start. Not sure what’s the deal. I missed you too, I said, sinking into his shoulder. I can feel his breath in the hair on top of my head and it’s a sensation that gives me shivers all the way to my toes.
He holds me for what seems like forever. That is the worst of the worst of the cliches, but in this case it’s true: time seems to stop. I want this moment to last forever, but immediately feel guilty about doing so. The closeness is intoxicating. The protection of myself in his arms makes me melt. The fact that I can feel how not-okay he is at this moment makes me want to slap myself in the face in protest.
“I just want to go home and pretend I’m unemployed for a while,” says RK, finally letting go and taking me by the hand. I start to walk after him, but stop after just a step or two.
Absolutely not, I said. I looked around, trying to form a plan in my brains. Home is a sanctuary and you shouldn’t be bringing the sadness to home, I said, and then I saw it.
Low lights, stocked bar, no people. Perfect.
C’mere, champ, I said. Let a lady buy you a drink first.
Now, I might be a wee slip of a girl at twenty five years old, but I’ve been bartending for eight years now and we speak the same language. More to the point, I know shorthand.
“Hi, good afternoon. What can–”
Please, I said, holding up a hand. Single malt, what’s unopened?
“I have a–”
Blackadder, I said, seeing the bottle in a closed (and presumably locked) cabinet. Statement, please.
“I just need to warn you, miss, that’s a thirty five dollar drink.”
Bossa nova, I reply, pulling my card out of my backpack. We’ll take two glasses and the bottle.
“That’ll be five hundred dol–”
Please keep the tab open, I said. we’re probably going to order some food as well.
Even though I died a little inside talking so bluntly to a fellow slinger, RK is my priority. Besides, I know that a little terseness combined with not causing any flippin’ trouble, and leaving a massive tip is all it takes to smooth the bumps.
Okay, I said, pouring two fingers into each glass. Talk to me, babe.
“Okay,” says RK. “So we get to Australia, right? Me and Castor for the belt, crazy stipulation, last chance for me. And I manage to win, hand gets raised, Harmen and Nova are there to congratulate me, all’s right with the world, right?”
I nod. He wants to keep talking, he just needs to know I’m listening.
“Tour moves on, Eddie pushes the focus back onto the Hellfire Club. All Stratton, all JJ, all the time. I’m beat up, but I’m good to go, I’m calling him telling him I want to defend my title.”
And he doesn’t book it?
He shakes his head. “‘Stay in Australia, kid. Get patched. We’ll send a camera to get some thoughts.’ So I listen to the boss like a good soldier and wait.”
“One title defense,” he says. “One. No plans on the horizon, no opponents lined up by the office, no word – positive or negative – on my proposed list of defenses.”
He leans back and I fill up our glasses again. Right now it’s taking all I can to keep my opinions to myself so he can vent his own unfiltered.
“It’s funny, Rosie,” says RK, “This is all I ever wanted. New Frontier Wrestling World Champion, and I’ve got it. And the past year, the past few weeks… they’ve successfully made me not care about it in the slightest.”
Mr. Ryan called him a battered housewife, making excuses for an abusive partner. It was crude but it was probably more accurate than either of us feel comfortable saying.
So what then, I asked. You’re not happy, you’re not appreciated, and it feels like you’re not even being allowed the tools to try and succeed.
I took his hand in mine, and I squeezed it tightly. I’ve got you, no matter what, I said. But you need to decide where to take this.
He takes his time before he answers. It’s something I’ve always loved about RK – he doesn’t react. He thinks about his response before he takes action.
Except for the night he kissed me for the first time. That was out of the blue.
That was how I knew it was real.
“I don’t run from responsibility,” he says, finally. “Better or worse, I’m the NFW World Champion. But the timer starts now, and the second someone actually takes it from me, I’m out the door.”
He holds his glass up. “You with me?”
I smiled, and tapped mine against his. Always, I reminded him.
“One thing’s for sure,” says RK. “I win another World Title, it’s bound to be better than this.”
Part II: Eli
May 4, 2014
Madison Square Garden – Locker Room
“Fuck, I’m old.”
It was not the first time that the King of Extreme, Eli Flair had had that thought. It was, however, the first time that he’d said it out loud. The nineteen year ring veteran felt every ache and pain from an act as violent as pulling on his shirt after cleaning up following the night’s event. As he pulled his black leather trench coat over his aching shoulders, his eyes caught a glimpse of the gold belt mostly tucked into his bag.
It was one of two Empire Pro Wrestling World Tag Team Championships, and it belonged to him. As it turns out, it would always belong to him, as the front office had declared that the company was shutting down at the conclusion of the night’s event, Wrestleverse V.
The King of Extreme limped away from the open locker in front of him, and out of the room itself.
And he stops just on the other side of the door.
IMPULSE: Hey champ.
ELI: Hey, champ.
Sitting on the floor opposite the entrance to the locker room, and still in his ring gear with title belt in hand, is Impulse. Randall Knox. As of about forty minutes ago, the new EPW World Champion.
The final EPW World Champion.
More importantly, Eli Flair’s protege. The past three months were the first time in either of their careers that they worked for the same company at the same time, and tonight was the first time that they’ve both been Champions at the same time. Ever.
And last. Eli knows it deep down in his aching bones that this was the last dance.
Despite his pain, he sits on the floor next to Impulse.
IMPULSE: I swear, I thought this would be different after the New Frontier. Maybe I’m just cursed.
ELI: Nah. Business’s changed, kid. Used ta’be you’d sign the contract, you’d stick for years, and you’d build somethin’ that’d last. Nowadays, these idiots think all ya need t’run a company is a ring, some ropes, and a building. It ain’t that. Ain’t that at all.
He leans in.
ELI: Problem ain’t with you, kiddo. Problem goes way the fuck deeper’n that.Ten, twenty years ago you’da been the biggest star this sport ever saw.
IMPULSE: Great. Invent time travel and I’ll be the man. Picking up from this, though? I’m twenty eight years old, sir. I know that’s not exactly ancient but it’s too late for me to start from scratch somewhere new.
He looks at the World Title in his hands, and points at Eli’s bag.
IMPULSE: How bout you, old man?
ELI: Naah. This was it for me, kid. I figured, I can still go hard on Sunday night, but Monday Mornings are a fuckin’ bitch, I call it now I can walk out with some gold ‘round my waist, and I’ve got a family that’s waitin’ for me at home.
He starts to get up but appears to have some problems doing so. Impulse takes the cue and climbs to his feet, helping the much larger man stand.
ELI: I ain’t gonna tell ya what to do, kiddo… but I’ll tell ya this. You call it now, anyone blames you, tell ‘em ta’ eat shit, you don’t owe this business anything else. But.
And he puts a hand on Impulse’s shoulder.
ELI: You call it here, it’s a genuine loss t’the sport.
Slap on the shoulder, slow limp away. Impulse watches the legend leave, then looks down at the belt in his hands.
Tomorrow is another day.
Part III: Ivy
May 24, 2017
The Rendezvous, New Orleans LA
“Two Abita Purple Haze, please and thank you, one for me and one for the child.”
Impulse turns at the sound of the familiar voice, and smiles at the owner. He stands up from his barstool to give Ivy McGinnis a familiar hug, both of them feeling the unfamiliar sensation of a foreign object against their bodies.
A cast on his left arm, a cane in her right hand. One is a reminder of the accidents that come from a wrestling career, and the other is a reminder of the consequences of same.
IMPULSE: Hey! When did you get in? What’s going on?
The bartender pops the top off two bottles and fills the glasses in front of him, putting one down in front of each of them as they sit, spinning to face each other. Ivy crosses her legs as comfortably as she can with a pressure bandage across her knee and hangs her cane from the lip of the bar.
IVY: What, you think my prized student gets himself another World Title, Mama Bear isn’t gonna show up and cheer on his first defense?
Impulse laughs. The woman sitting across from him has gone through several nicknames during the course of her time in professional wrestling. Psycho Bitch. Feminazi. Manager of Champions.
‘Mama Bear’ was the least likely, and it was the one she had the hardest time accepting. But at this point in her life – wife, mother, manager, business owner, trainer, mentor – considering the dozens of people whose own lives would fall apart if she suddenly disappeared, it’s the most apt.
IMPULSE: I appreciate that. Sorry to disappoint, though.
He holds up his wrist.
IMPULSE: Wasn’t exactly my choice.
Ivy waves him off, and sips her drink.
IVY: Nah, me and Sean and Eli, we’re proud’a you. Nobody would’ve held it against you if you’d ducked his rematch for another few weeks, at least until you got outta the cast. Showed guts, steppin’ back in and facing him the way you did.
She leans forward, and looks at him over the top of her glasses.
IVY: Course, you’d’a used that as the obvious weapon it is instead’a lettin’ him use it as a target, things might’ve ended differently.
At that, Impulse can’t stifle his laugh out loud.
IMPULSE: Would’ve been fitting, huh? Curtis Penn breaks my wrist in the same match where I beat him for the FIST of DEFIANCE, I could easily say I wanted to give his face a closer look at it.
He shakes his head and drinks.
IMPULSE: That’s not me, though. Never has been.
IVY: And thank fuck for that. The world has enough edgelords, and I’m not so arrogant as to say I’m not one of ‘em.
They toast glasses and sit in silence for a few seconds.
IMPULSE: You wanna hear something sick?
IMPULSE: I knew I was going to beat him, the second I felt my bone break.
She doesn’t answer, but she raises an eyebrow in definite interest.
IMPULSE: After getting demoted to the middle of the pack by winning the New Frontier World Title, and beating The First for the Empire belt on the same night that the company closed, I said it to myself, ‘So you’re hurt, you’re probably seriously hurt. Of course you’re gonna win this one, it wouldn’t be an Impulse victory without something screwy attached to it.’
IMPULSE: And here we are.
IVY: Here we are. We, anyways. Where’s her nibs?
IMPULSE: Rose? Hangin’ with Angus tonight. Something about showing him the proper way to fist bump since ‘his form is all apart.’ Just as well, I kinda wanted some alone time.
IVY: That’s fair. Good thing I don’t care about your alone time, huh?
He laughs again, but not as big of one as Ivy’d hoped. She leans in and puts her hand on his back reassuringly.
IVY: It ain’t over, kiddo. You’ll get another chance, you’ll capitalize on it, and the sky won’t be falling when ya do so.
IMPULSE: Sure. Honestly, Ivy – if it happens, that’s cool. And I hope it does. But I guess… I just don’t think that’s in the cards for me. The sport has changed… way too much from your heyday, and now what you do in the ring just isn’t always enough. It’s my lot in this sport to be remembered as the guy who was a good wrestler, maybe didn’t live up to the hype, and knew when it was time to step off. What I’d really love… what I’d really love to do is work with the kids in BRAZEN. All the wrestling, none of the baggage.
Ivy nods. BRAZEN was DEFIANCE Wrestling’s developmental system, and the athletes learning their craft could certainly benefit from someone like Impulse devoting all of his time to their betterment. Still…
IVY: There’s always gonna be time to train the next generation, kiddo. Your own in-ring career’s got a time limit on it; everyone’s does. Don’t let that run out on you, because that’s something you ain’t never gonna get back.
He considers this for a few seconds.
IMPULSE: Nah. Can’t get disappointed again if you don’t get your hopes up.
She considers the sarcastic half-smirk on his face, and shakes her own head.
IVY: You’re still young. You’ve got time to get your head back on straight.
She might be right, but I hear the clock counting down.
Part IV: Impulse
April 9th, 2022
MGM Grand Hotel – Suites
“Do that,” says Rosie. “Please keep on doing that.”
Mind outta the gutters, people. Her feet are on my lap and I’m giving them a good rub. Some days the arthritis flares more than others and she deserves to be pampered – especially when she’s in pain.
Fine, need a bit? She’s not wearing pants.
I feel like I should be running you a tab here, I said, laughing. I wrestled three opponents tonight, and here you are getting the royal treatment.
Rosie opens her eyes and looks at me, gently nudging the bridge of my nose with her big toe. “We made a deal, babe. I work over your shoulders and you work my feets. It’s not my fault you’re unreasonably relaxed after that fight.”
She suddenly sits up and pulls her feet away, but moves the rest of her closer to me.
“You’re okay, aren’t you,” she asks.
Yeah, I said, not entirely believing it myself. Yeah, I really am.
Her big brown eyes focus in on mine, and she pulls closer.
I promise, I assure her.
She picks up my hand and places it over her heart. “Cross your heart, everything is okay?”
All righty, that’s a bridge too far. I pull her in and kiss her, my hand reaching behind her head to gently cradle her close to me.
I can’t imagine how anything could be better right now, I said. I have you, I said.
We have this, I continued, gesturing to the uber-fancy hotel suite we continued to enjoy for another night or two.
And I’ve got a second shot at Youngblood, I said.
Rosie sinks into my shoulder and we cuddle up on the wraparound couch.
“Or whoever,” she says.
I consider this.
And reject it.
It’s gonna be Youngblood, I said. He didn’t work this hard for this long to lose it this quick.
A smile forms on Rosie’s face. It’s infectious, and I have to return it.
What, I ask.
“I haven’t seen you this bubbly about wrestling in a long time,” she says. “It’s… It’s nice.”
Well, I replied. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like there’s been anything to actually get excited about.
And there’s still time.
Do I dare disturb the universe?
Apologies to the boss lady, but I’ve disturbed plenty. Having an inflexible sense of personal integrity once gave me a reputation of being hard to do business with. Having the ability to walk away when The Company and me were at an impasse once gave me a reputation of being unreliable.
Winning a World Title was once a harbinger of personal or professional doom.
I don’t apologize for who I am, and I’ve never once tried to hide it. For better or worse, I’m principled, I’m stubborn, and I’m a perfectionist.
And I’m exactly as advertised.
Whether that’s good, bad, or ugly – that’s not for me to decide. But I am who I am, and I am exactly as I advertise. Shaped by unreasonable expectations, unforeseeable disappointments, and endless comparisons to those who came before me. And if The Company and I can’t do business, there’s no hard feelings to just cut ties.
Do I dare disturb the universe? I dare.
Do I dare deserve the universe?
It’s a word I avoid as often as possible, because my personal opinion is that none of us deserve anything. We work for it. We earn.
Brandon Youngblood didn’t deserve anything. He earned the Universal Championship. And he continues to do so every time he steps into the ring.
All it takes to win or lose that Championship is three seconds. Anyone can take it if they’ve got three seconds of luck, skill, or fate on their side.
I’ve been in that position before, and if you look at my career objectively, I’m far more often a victim of luck or fate than skill. All too often – too often for my tastes – even when I win, I lose.
I don’t want to be able to say Brandon got lucky, or that fate was on his side. He gets his hand raised, I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that he bested me with skill. I think I’ve earned that, and I think the PRIMEates have earned that as well.
Do I dare deserve the universe?
All I deserve is what I’ve earned: my shot.
Everything else will happen the way The Universe sees fit.