It’s fuckin’ creepy, bro.
On the surface, it can seem like nothing is happening. Like the front part of an 80 year old’s pants, ain’t nothin’ breakin’ the surface, bro. It’s just, flat, and quiet, and absolutely unable to seem exciting. Under that surface though? There could be a giant brontosaurus-type dragon seal thing that will rip you from bit to bit, for fun, son. Now, depending on what type of water we’re talking about, there are certain things you can rule out living down below but, even then, there’s no guarantee.
Just like PRIME.
Regardless of what you see on the surface of PRIME, it’s deeper than you’d ever expect and has more dangers than perhaps the real life water we call the Ocean. You call it the Ocean. I call it nightmare fishtank. On the surface, you can see the stars of PRIME – your Crumb Kings, Corporal Communisms, No Crown Kings, and Evil Mustaches – and think that those are the biggest threats, right? Paying no attention to what could be below. If they’re on top, they’ve got to be the most dangerous thing in the water.
Then you go below and see that there are just as many creepy critters waiting to pounce on their pray, making this part of PRIME slightly more dangerous and two-hundred times more unpredictable. A perfect recipe for violent carnage and constant chaos. A place where every turn could be the last turn you take as an older, larger predator eats you alive on their way up the food chain. Where every encounter can turn into an epic battle of dominance and fight for survival.
This is where I swim.
At the bottom.
Still finding my place in this nightmare fishtank hasn’t been easy. The main thing to know is that you can only trust the fish in your school and even those, it might be wise to keep at fin’s length. It’s hard to get food down here so it’s definitely easier to survive in packs. Max and Eddie seem to know what they’re doing so I’m sure we’ll chow on some chum soon enough. For now, I’ve got to prove I can swim on my own. So far I haven’t exactly passed the test but there’s another chance coming up.
Now, maybe they’re right, bro. Maybe wins and losses aren’t everything. I guess in the grand scheme of things, I’ve already got a huge dub simply being here in PRIME. Not moving on in the Almasy is a big blow though, bro. Nobody ever came to fame by losing the thing so it’s not gonna be all gold and glamour from the jump for me. A lot of people said it to me but, when it actually happens, it fuckin’ stings. I should have tapered my expectations better.
So on to Nashville to get over the next wall. Getting there has been tough enough but each match is a measuring stick. How much have you learned? Have you gotten better? Are you able to hold your own against perhaps the most talented wrestling roster ever assembled? The questions can be asked until the cows come home but only I can answer them.
This time they wanna see me take a different kind of test. Same questions, different format. This time it’ll come with multiple choice and essay sections in the form of Sage Pontiff and Rich Patterson. It’s another chance to see the different kinds of dangers that this place has hidden under the superstar-laden surface.
On paper, this one appears to be two fresh fish and one of those scary demon fish that can blend into the background. The truth is that it could turn into a full-scale war between three warriors that nobody even thinks about when they walk into the Bridgestone Arena on Friday night. Pontiff is the camouflaged fish, posing as a man of enlightenment and peace, but really will tear your face off if he finds the chance. Then there’s the fresh fish, fresher than me, Rich Patterson. He’s no young fish, though, so he’s likely got some defense tactics up his sleeve that could fool anyone willing to look past him.
A mistake I can’t afford to make again. Like Winters, and Max? to that extent, I gave myself too much credit before I realized how deep I was. How far down I am, I should have known that there is absolutely nothing sacred and no line that won’t be crossed to get over all the other fish at the bottom.
Certainly won’t be an easy fight, by any means, but one I’m damn well willing to give a try.
Crash looks out the window to take in the scenery of the Tennessee foothills as he cruises down the country roads. The PRIME money coming in lately has allowed our young subject to purchase a used, black 2020 Toyota 4Runner, which he uses at a casually quick speed to pass the farms and trees on this bright Saturday morning on his way to ReVival 39. The golden hue of daylight cracks through where the leaves have begun to fall. It’s somewhat like fall back home, in Buffalo, where the newcomer hasn’t been for years. Turning the tunes down, he rolls his window up and picks up his phone from the middle console, littered with roaches, Swedish Fish, and an ashtray cup thing with quite a few used cigarette filters in it.
He fidgets around, then presses the screen twice, the second being speaker. He sets the phone in his lap with the first ring. The screen says ‘DAD.’
Jesus, dude. Haven’t talked to them in… at least 4 months. Gonna be hard to explain. Hope they understand.
“Hello Jason!” He nearly lives up to his ring name and jerks the wheel, high, and now scared as hell.
That’s not Dad. Shit.
Crash sits up straight, seemingly knowing she’d correct him if she were sitting next to him and clenches his teeth. He grabs the bridge of his nose, pinching, and gets ready for an earful.
This is gonna hurt.
“How have you been, dear? You haven’t called in months. Is everything okay?”
Months? Feels like years.
The Northern Light’s normally constant grin drops out for a second, like the scene ends and his act is up, before he shrugs it all off and stuffs whatever those feelings are wayyyy the fuck down inside. He’s not trying to get all emotional right now. He’s got a match to focus on and it’s gonna take every thought, move, and decision to put his stamp on it.
“Yeah, Ma. I know. Sorry about that. Been busy is all.”
Crash isn’t lying, he’s been grinding and learning the ropes.
“Did you meet a girl? Ready to finally give me some grandchildren?”
She swoons. He sighs.
Already with this? Come on, lady.
“No, Ma. Just been workin’ hard.”
He can’t help but smile at the ridiculousness of his Mother.
“Oh yes, your father mentioned that you’ve got a new job, a little closer to home. I’m very happy for you, dear.”
Happy? For me? Since when?
The travelling grappler cocks his head, pretty sure she didn’t hear Dad right when he told her. He’ll take it though, so he grins mildly with a nod to the mobile speakerphone device.
“Thanks, Ma. Not really close to home but we travel. I’ve got a match in Nashville next weekend. I can always get you and D-”
“Oh next weekend, darling, I simply can’t. I wish I could.”
Her interruption just causes a sideye glance towards the phone before quickly pulling his attention back to the road. He scowls a touch before the side of his mouth kicks up, shaking his head sideways.
Just play along. I know better.
“I’ll have more down the road.”
A slight pause indicates Mrs. Jackson stopped listening for a second. Her son’s reaction makes it seem like this is how it goes. Like talking to a brick wall.
“Wonderful darling. How is that hideous thing on your face dear? Is it healing up nicely?”
The audacity of his own mother is enough to make him slam the steering wheel with his open hand. It’s not terribly loud over the phone so he does it again with emphasis.
“Well it’s as healed as it’s gonna get so yeah, quite nice. Christ, Mom!”
“No need to get nasty, dear. Oh, I do wish you were here. I have to run. Let me see if he’s around here.”
Just like that, the pulling of the proverbial teeth is over, and leaves a trail of destruction, per usual. The sour look on Crash’s face is enough to say it all. That’s why he called his Dad in the first place.
God I hope so.
“He’s around here somewhere. So how is the new job going, Jason?”
He silent screams at the road ahead, gripping the wheel with both hands, and rolls his head around in rage. A quick regather and he tries to carry on the conversation.
“Pretty good so far. Just trying to get better and make the big bucks, you know?”
There’s a pause on her end, clearly preoccupied with who the hell knows what, before he rolls his eyes and remembers what these phone calls are like. He’s not sure what distracted her because it’s anything else that draws her attention whenever they’re talking.
“That’s wonderful dear, really. Wonderful.”
She’s not even listening, dude. Fuckin’ hell.
“You know you can always come home and work for your father, Jason.”
She’s never understood why he does what he does. She’s never cared. She just knows it’s not what she wants for him and he’ll never be able to live that down. It’s always been her image and reputation over his whole life.
“Mom, come on. This is my dream job, this is what I do, what I want to do. I’m finally in a spot to do big things. I’m not coming home.”
There’s a cold pause this time. The cold kind that makes him actually feel bad about standing up for himself. Standing up for his dream. She has a gift for doing that to him.
Every fucking time.
“Right. Well… I just want the best for you, Jason. I love you. Please remember to call more often.”
And have such splendid and fun conversations like this? You got it!
“Here’s your father, dear.”
“Bye Ma. Love you.”
He lets out a sorrowful sigh. It’s a more common occurrence than not that he ends up causing an abrupt end to their conversations. Not on purpose, because what he said is the truth, but because he reacts like a lion with prey when he’s defending his choice to follow his dream.
“What’s up, Sport?”
Crash’s mood changes immediately. It’s uplifting, his Dad’s voice, and he bucks up with a smile well beyond that cool bro grin he does.
“How’s the big time wrestling star doin’ today, eh?”
He shakes his head slightly, not sure what to say to his old man, but knows the best approach for him is to be honest and real. There’s no shame in working your way up from the bottom. That’s how everyone does it. It just so happens his kid is gonna have to go through the mud on the side of the road to get to stardom.
“Not a star yet, Pops. On the way to Nashville. Got a match next weekend.”
“Oh yeah? Maybe I can cruise down. Bills play the Jets but…”
That’s the difference.
“No pressure. I’m sure we’ll be closer to home at some point down the road.”
A clap and slap on his dad’s end of the phone draws Jason’s attention away for a second. A quick laugh and another slap remind him to get back to the road. He does so without injury.
“My boy, travelin’ the road, mixin’ it up with the big shots! The boys at bowling talk about it all the time. Real proud’a ya, bud.”
He grins a bit before mustering up any kind of response to that. There’s not even a reason to be talking about it. He figures his old man is messing with him. That bastard.
“They do? I’m not really doin’ so hot.”
“Yeah, but you’re on the tube, dude! You’ll find your groove. You always do.”
“Thanks, Dad. That’s somethin’ I needed to hear.”
There’s a change in posture from our driver. He straightens, yet still a bit fatigued from the long drive, and he rests his elbow on the middle console. He maneuvers the wheel as he lets his father talk freely.”
“Ah, chin up, kid. This is what you wanted to do. You did your time getting’ here. Now do your thing. And, no matter what, always…”
Crash smiles wide, closing his eyes for a split second to take him back to his youth, and nods.
“Rock and roll.”
He planned that shit.
“That’s my boy.”
His Dad makes him chuckle, shaking his head. It’s not often he calls home but every time these two talk it’s as if there’s been no time missed at all.
“Your crazy, old man.”
“Maybe so, who knows? Your mother certainly thinks so.”
“We’ve both got that goin’ for us then.”
“Bah, she don’t know anything but fancy clothes and banquet dinners, bud. Don’t mind her. I’ll try and keep her from castin’ any spells on ya.”
They both share a laugh. There’s a reason he called his dad.
“So, tell me about this match. I got it on my phone, says you’re in one’a those, uh, threesomes with two other guys, eh? That’s pretty neat.”
Crash serves into the other lane but nobody is in it. Until he goes around the corner and has to jerk the wheel back to safety. The look of pure shock covers his face.
“Jesus. No, Dad. It’s a Triple Threat. I really hope you don’t go around talking to people.”
“Heh, sometimes. But I do get some funny looks.”
Another shared chuckle as Crash manages a curvy swervy part of the road.
“So you got anything on these other two? Or you flyin’ by the seat of your pants again?”
The look on his face says there’s no clear answer to that. He’s been busy trying to figure out how to get better. A lot of that time has been in the gym, at the bar, and with various female strangers – former strangers.
The disappointment spews through the phone in the form of a high pitched groan. This causes the hairs on his neck to stand up. It’s a really uncomfortable noise. Coming through the phone is ten times worse.
“Jesus, Jace. You got a golden opportunity here, you better not fuck it all up like you did in that Japanese thing.”
He’s not wrong. Damnit.
“I’m doin’ a little of both, I guess. I know a little bit about both. By little I mean, if you had a penny, and it had splintered into actual haypennies, I have like 80% of those on Pontiff and the rest on Patterson. I’m drownin’ for help here.”
His face scrunches up, hoping that analogy made sense to his old man, because he confuses normal people, let alone older people who treat the Buffalo Bills like a religion. The silence leads him to believe it didn’t.
“My phone says here that this Patterson fella is a decent guy. No background on him, seems like he has a likin’ to Coyotes though. That’s pretty neat, right?”
That’s not really any help but at least he’s trying. Gotta give him credit there.
It’s an easy person to picture as a capable opponent. New name to the roster, much like himself. Looking to get a win, also like himself. A lot in common so it’s no wonder they’re in the same booking.
“Then, yeah, here’s some info on this Sage Pontiff guy and… oh Jesus, Jason. You gotta mess with this nutball? You better be careful out there, son. Doesn’t seem like this guy plays around.”
That’s what I’m hoping for. Give me a reason to fuck Sage up.
The thought of that kind of violence causes Crash to white knuckle it, gripping the wheel much the way he would if he had a reason to get his hands on Sage. No reason other than he hears that he deserves a hard bargain and, well, after a few losses and a slow start…
“Yeah, that’s what I know about Sage. He fronts as a hippie, a dude with no dudeness at all. He’s nasty as shit, from what I’ve heard.”
I don’t like that shit one bit.
“You sure do have some work to do, kid. I gotta get to one of these shows, they look fun. I’ve been watchin’. I think you got robbed your first match. Last one, that was a tough one for ya, but you’ll get there.”
He comes to a stoplight and looks down, noticing how long they’ve been on the phone, and wonders if he really should call more. That’s always something that he wants to do but, between the shows, training and travel, it’s not always the first thing on his mind at the time.
I hope he understands. I think he does.
“Thanks, Dad. I’m workin’ on it.”
He can almost hear his old man smile at him. He knows that he’s got his back. Always has. Always will. Being out here alone isn’t the easiest so having his voice to tell him what’s up has always been the stabilizer. He knows what his son needs to hear. Even if it’s the cold hard truth.
“Go out there and give ‘em hell, kid. One step at a time right?”
Without the exchange of facial expressions, they both know this one is serious as fuck. His dad’s right and Crash knows it. He’s known it this whole time. What he didn’t know was how hard it would be. How hard the competition would be. How long the grind would be to simply stand out and make a name for himself. Every time he thought he did know… he didn’t know shit. The only thing he knows is to keep trying.
“Alright, gotta run. Love ya, bud.”
The fact that this phone call was simply to kill time and gave him a little pep in his step makes him smile. He knows that, out here in the open waters of PRIME, things aren’t always going to be so warm and cozy. Starting with his introduction to Rich Patterson and Sage Pontiff at the Bridgestone Arena. This was his chance to show that he has what it takes to last on the big stage. This was his chance to make a mark before UltraViolence. This was his chance to turn some heads in the front office.
“Love you, Dad. Thanks.”
The call ends. A small tear forms in Jason’s left eyes before he quickly wipes it away. That was what he needs to know. That’s what he needs to do. He knows what he needs to do, now it just comes down to doing it. Setting his phone in the cup insert of the console, Crash puts his eyes on the road ahead. Both metaphorically and physically. Looking ahead, he spots a green sign beyond the treeline.
NASHVILLE CITY LIMITS
Next city. Next match. Next chance to make a name for myself.
I won’t lie. I don’t expect it to be easy by any means.
On one side, I’ve got a guy a lot like me. New to PRIME, seems like he’s got a good heart, and he’s ready to wrestle. That’s somebody I can’t wait to get in the ring with. I’m lookin’ forward to seein’ what you can do, Rich Patterson. I promise you’ll get my best.
On the other side, I’ve got to deal with a dirty dude who wants to mud it up and gets even dirtier in the ring. I’m cool with that, too. In fact, I don’t need to get in the ring with Sage Pontiff. I want to. My main thing is giving the bozos who deserve a beating the ride of their life. Win, lose, or draw. Just so happens, Sage, your reputation precedes you and I feel like your one of these said bozos.
Wanna pair up and make your workload lighter, Rich? Go ahead. I’ll have to share some of the punishment this neo-hippie homicidal hobo is gonna eat for lunch. If he wants to cross the line, I’m more than happy to oblige this nutball with an equally embarrassing amount of ouch.
Just remember, boys, that we’re all in this together. Do whatever you want. I’ll be putting my name, reputation, and body on the line to make sure that, when people talk about ReVival 39, they talk about the night that Crash landed.