Cancún, Mexico – March 27th, 2022
For five days, we’d been living it up on the once-pristine white beaches of Cancún. We’d taken a spontaneous break from our training in Mexico City to experience the Spring Break season in Mexico’s premiere party city, and the sun was blazing down, the drinks were flowing and the beaches were being destroyed in the kind of way that college students only knew how. Used condoms, solo cups, saran wrap, boxed wine cartons, and all the other remnants of late night acoustic guitar gatherings around an oceanside campfire. In the cold light of day, it was no longer paradise, but as the revelers emerged from their alcohol and narcotic-induced comas around midday, the whole place seemed to come to life all over again. We’d immersed ourselves, forgotten about our worries, about the things that had gone so catastrophically sideways that we might never see the world through the same lens again.
You see, we needed to make ourselves scarce, because we knew that something bad was going to happen. Really bad.
No sooner had we arrived, Asher had begun chatting the ear off a guy who was leaning against a wall with his hand pushed up against his forehead. This lad had clearly had a rough morning in the blistering sun, nursing the after-effects of a night well spent. In less than five minutes, Asher shook the kid’s hand, and danced away from him with a smile as wide as the opening of the Gulf of Mexico.
As he approached us, he couldn’t contain himself.
Asher Jules: We’re gonna ‘ave a riot here, these tosspots are on anova planet man!
He unstrapped his holdall from his shoulder and unzipped a compartment inside, where he slipped a silver-colored harmonica from his sleeve and deposited it into the bag. My eyes narrow, wondering what he’s playing at.
JJ Starfire: Where’d you get that?
Asher Jules: Was just tellin’ that lad over there about how I’d lost me music whistle and how I was tryin’ta woo this bird and all that, and he gave me his one. Fink he just wanted me to leave him alone to be honest, he was meltin’. Wicked, innit? It’s got real silver on it an’ everythin’.
Noelle Rivers: That is definitely not real silver, Oliver Twist.
I think better of telling her that it was actually Fagin who was the thief in that story.
Asher Jules: ‘Course it is. What are you, a bloody geologist?
JJ Starfire: But.. what for?
Asher Jules: Why not? Prob’ly worth a few quid, innit?
Noelle scoffs, but I think she’s impressed and a little disappointed she didn’t get to him first. Asher was much more into lifting fancy trinkets, whereas she’d have spun a story about a lost passport, and the embassy, and flights, and end up getting the kid to take $500 out of the ATM, all the while thinking he’d be repaid for his generosity in other ways. Rich kids needed Darwin, because if it wasn’t her then someone else was going to separate them from their fortune anyway. But me? At first I tried to get them to stop, but as you come to know my housemates, you’ll realize that’s a fraught endeavor destined to fail.
On the fourth day, we thought our reckoning had come. We thought that all the pieces in play had fallen the way they were going to fall and this was the end of the line, because as we sat on a set of three wicker sun beds beneath a straw umbrella, looking out at the other adolescents out of their mind frolicking in the water and wondering what cons we can play on them to part them with their money or prized possessions, what seemed like an army of men dressed in all black moved through the crowd.
Asher Jules: Oi, look at them lot, someone’s about to get nicked.
Asher noticed them first, and Noelle’s back immediately went rigid.
Noelle Rivers: Yeah. Nobody’s getting arrested, you dumb fuck. They’re not feds.
I started to worry, but I didn’t say anything. They both jumped down my throat every time I expressed concern, because they thought I was naïve. But looking at these men moving with purpose through the crowd hit me in the pit of my stomach. Something instinctual kicked in, and I grabbed Noelle by the shoulders.
“We need to get out of here.” I muttered, as quietly as I could. Asher was first, and moved in the opposite direction. Through the crowd, I could see that there were more suits in that direction and I called out after him.
Asher Jules: We’re fookin’ fooked, lad.
We had two choices, into the resort, or into the sea. Neither seemed like they’d give us any long term reprieve, but we followed Asher as he rushed into the maze of huts and buildings that made up the resort. We pushed through wave after wave of mindless teenagers spilling out of the main hotel lobby and making their way to the beach, frantically looking over our shoulders for any sign of the suits, when all of a sudden Asher stops, out of breath, and braces his hands on his knees.
He scans the periphery and starts to smile.
Asher Jules: You buncha knobs, obvs you’re just paranoid, innit?
He’s sure we’ve jumped the gun, and he might be right, but I didn’t like that inevitable feeling of dread, and it hadn’t dissipated even though the immediate threat had. There was something wrong about it, and Noelle thought so too.
Noelle Rivers: What are you fucking talking about, you panty sniffing weirdo?
Asher Jules: You lot got shook over nuffin. Them lot probably found out about the bloke in the straw hat who’s got wraps in his bumhole passin’ out all the party favors. Nuffin’ to do wiv us.
And it was in that moment that a shadow caught our peripheral vision, and we realized we really were fucked. There were at least eight of them, and they’d cornered us. Noelle looked at Asher, Asher looked at me, and I felt like I was either going to burst into tears or piss myself. I hated being in trouble, and I knew this kind of trouble wasn’t going to end up with getting screamed at by an ex-con at a juvie trying to scare me into staying out of trouble. No. Not after what happened in Mexico City. Nah. We were going into a shallow grave, and as both Noelle and Asher looked at me, I did both.
Parts Unknown, April 5th, 2022
The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the privately owned former military jet and onto the runway was the bitterness. The grip of winter held on much longer here and as the crosswinds took my breath and nearly my belongings, the reality of our situation was beginning to sink in.
The men in suits were not there to kill us.
But what happened in Mexico City had finally come full circle, to its complete and catastrophic end, and life as we knew it would never be the same again.
As the captain – or commander, or whatever he was called – had explained, they’d been tasked with extracting us from Mexico and bringing us back to the ‘commune’ that Vincent and Vhodka Black lived on, safely. We were given a full debrief, and after that, Asher had stopped speaking. He sat with his eyes fixed on the oval shaped plexiglass that separated him from the Gulf of Mexico below, and he didn’t move for the rest of the flight. He didn’t even laugh at me for peeing myself in fear, or crying.
No such luck with Noelle, though. Vitriol seeped from every pore of her and even in her most honest and truthful moments, in the moments where the veil descended, there was always a question in my mind of whether there was a more broad ruse in play and she was socially engineering her way to an outcome.
During the flight, whenever I tried to stimulate a conversation about what happened or what it meant, she shut me down or told me to fuck off.
And now we were fuck knows where, with rain lashing down horizontally and at speed, and my already-wet tan-colored cargo pants and Tommy Bahama shirt providing very little protection from the elements.
Noelle Rivers: What the ever-loving bullshit is this?
To her credit, I was thinking along the same lines.
The commander ushered us down the boarding stairs toward a black SUV that was parked right at the bottom of it. Asher had to be carried, on account of he had refused to move, but in the end, the three of us were in the back of this vehicle and still not entirely sure of what was about to happen. The chauffeur, dressed in a full tailored tuxedo, had gotten back into the car and turned to face his passengers.
Chauffeur: Welcome to Parts Unknown.
To understand Parts Unknown would be to understand the dynastic Wolf/Black family, the Riggs family, and their roots and their origins. And let’s face it, nobody has time for that. Suffice it to say that for as long as there has been canvas strapped to plywood with ropes wrapped around them, there has almost certainly been a Wolf or Black or Riggs making generational wealth performing on it, so much so that they bought their own town. A desolate, dying town, and then they revitalized it. Revamped the schools, fixed up the living situation, built mansions on the peripheries of an absurd man-made lake. If you were an outsider looking in, this most certainly had the characteristics to become a Jonestown for the modern age.
Its location was a closely guarded secret and the very fact that we were here meant that the time for jokes was over, and over the following hours, Vincent Black had been explaining to us the gravity of our actions and what would be happening next.
He told us that we would need to be in the public eye, for our safety, and that we would be signing with a wrestling promotion to facilitate that. It made sense, we’d spent the last nine months in Mexico training for this, and sure, we might not be the finished product or even completely ready, but at least it made sense.
Asher was still sulking, silent but for an occasional quip that let us know he was still in there somewhere, but this had hit him harder than anyone else. I know how much he idolized our trainer in Mexico. It was like he was shell shocked, like there was a separation between the Asher in his mind and the one that was occasionally moving through the physical world. I wanted to comfort him, to see if there was any way I could help snap him out of it, but much like Noelle, he shut me down.
We were supposed to go to the Icon Statys, Inc headquarters to deal with all this contract stuff, but none of us knew where it was, how to get there, or how to even get out of this strange place they’d put us in, so whilst Noelle went to play with the gift Vhodka bought her, I kicked on the PS5 and loaded up Call of Duty. I mean, I’m sure someone would be over to get us at some point, because as had been very apparent to me over the last few months, Vincent Black does not trust us to have autonomous thoughts, nor does he trust us to do what he has told us.
Icon Statys, Inc – March 28th, 2022
As we stood at the front of the monolithic tower, Noelle and myself stared up and were trying to guess how many floors were in the building and what floor we thought we needed to go to for our meeting.
JJ Starfire: There are at least around about a hundred and two stories, man. Gotta be.
Noelle no-sold me. I knew she had her eye on this one valet in particular. His long black hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, and he had a carefully curated albeit patchy beard situation going on. His bright white and perfectly aligned teeth beamed out from behind a friendly smile as he anticipated our arrival. She leaned over to him, and said in a sharp tone.
Noelle Rivers: Get back to work, rent a bum.
His smile turned to disbelief, and Noelle walked past him like it was nothing.
JJ Starfire: Do you think they know that there’s a typo in their company name?
I tried to change the topic.
Noelle Rivers: The typo? Nah, that’s not a typo. When Damon Riggs made this company he realized that someone else had copyrighted “Icon Status”, and as everyone with a cunt hair of brain capacity knows that old fuck has about one idea per century, so instead of changing the name to something original, he just put a Y in there.
I had no idea if that was a true story, but also no reason to think she’d make that up. I mean, it kinda made sense. But if he was such a dummy, he’d managed to make his fortune anyway. God bless.
It felt like hours, sitting staring at the wall in that waiting room. Afternoon turned to evening, and I really regretted not bringing my Nintendo Switch with me. I’m not sure how Noelle got by with the wait, she just sat there emotionless. I think, maybe, when there’s nobody to yell at or attack, she kind of goes into some strange hibernated state. She looks awake, she seems awake, but she is just there. Existing.
So I’m fidgeting with my clothes (finally changed bee-tee-dub), picking at the seam of an old Brandon Moore shirt. For some reason there were about fifteen boxes of Brandon Moore merch dumped in one of the rooms of the house they had us in. And then I was bouncing my knee, tapping the glass coffee table. When I started humming, Noelle’s head turned almost like in the Exorcist and without even saying a single word, I knew what she was going to say.
At eight o’clock, this heavyset man with a horseshoe haircut and a navy double-breasted suit jacket appeared in the doorway. He made no apologies, and for all I knew, this was the time we were supposed to arrive, so I got up to greet him and he introduced himself as the Head of Talent, Rich Storms.
Noelle didn’t shake his hand, she left him hanging, which surprised him.
He wasn’t used to people challenging him. And that’s not to say that she was challenging him as such, but just that typically people were excited to be in his presence. His presence typically meant that your fortunes were changing for the better and big things were about to happen. But Noelle was anything from typical. And I guess that made me atypical by association, too.
But maybe things were about to get drastically better, and as he went over the particulars of this deal that had been negotiated with High Octane Wrestling out of Chicago, it certainly felt like we were entering a whole new world.
As he spoke to Noelle about how she would be challenging for a championship in her first match, and she disinterestedly gazed out at the city below, I reflected on all the things I’d learned since I last stepped into the squared circle. The psychology of the game, and why it was worthwhile to be successful. I thought about how, when FIGHT! NYC was born and Xavier Black and Stephen Stratford stepped away from the world title, Xavier quite literally passed the torch to me. He saw something in me, despite the fact that I was green as anything and had no training or even much interest. I have never wanted to let anyone down, and so when we went to Mexico, I really worked so hard.
And Noelle did too. And Asher was probably the best of us all at this point. But I think she was a little shaken up by what had happened, even if she didn’t want to admit it or show it. She was acting aloof like she didn’t want this, or didn’t care about it, but I know that whilst she may play the role, that information is seeping into her head about the import from PWA, and when push comes to shove, she is going to walk away with his belt.
I think it will come as a shock to them all. I mean, we all will.
And I really hope Asher cheers up, because it wouldn’t be the same without him. When I get back, I’m gonna make him a SpaghettiO sandwich and a cup of hot tea with milk in it. Maybe then he will come and sign his contract as well.
Rich Storms: JJ? Hello?
The old chubby guy pokes me, and I snap out of my train of thought.
Rich Storms: You okay there buddy? Having a nice daydream about what you’re gonna do with this newfound fame and fortune? What kinda sick mastubatory pleasures were you thinking about? Nah, actually, on second thought, don’t wanna know.
He’s off on a tirade, and as I try to interject, the train keeps rolling.
Rich Storms: So this chick they’re gonna test ya against, she’s hall of fame, right, creme de la creme. Bonnie.. Oh, uh.. Bobbinette Carey. She’s a two time champion in this territory, she’s a big fuckin’ deal, this is a real chance to really get your feet in the door and make a name for yaself.
I smile, and try to ask some more about her, but the train hasn’t reached the station yet.
Rich Storms: And I mean, this Carey chick, she’s got a mouth on her too. She don’t let nothin’ go, so step carefully too, yeah? We don’t want you gettin’ canceled first day on the job.
Canceled? Does he think he’s dealing with an unhinged potty mouth with questionable outlooks on the world?
I mean, fair, if you collectively described the three of us then we probably sound like a lot of fuckin’ trouble. But I’m one of the good ones. And I do know about Bobbinette Carey. I mean, who doesn’t? I spent the last four years of my life living with a wrestling-obsessed superfan, and she could name every pioneering female wrestler in every territory on the globe. She’d make me watch old Carey matches on YouTube, because she really did pave the way for a lot of women.
And now she was making more waves, trying with all her might to reignite the magic that she captured in 2010 and before. High Octane Wrestling was something that I watched from time to time in my room after training in Mexico City, I had some idea of what I was walking into. And I knew it was a proverbial murderer’s row, but at the same time it excited me. And to have her as the first name on the board was an honor. At least on paper. On paper she was still a Hall of Famer, on paper she was still a legend and former HOW Champion.
The reality is that for some time she had started to sour on me, and on the rest of the world that tuned in to Refueled and the rest of HOW’s programming. She’d been relating herself to Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and the fiasco that went down at the Oscars. How noble they were to stand up against discrimination and throw hands for the one they love.
The reality is that she stands with a thug who attacked a man for making a joke, a joke that he found funny until his wife gave him the look. And please do not mistake who I am. I am a big fan of powerful female role models and I am a big fan of strong female personalities not being squashed down by the ego of the man and his own pursuit of greatness, but to unquestioningly attack someone because your wife is so clearly toxic and self-obsessed that she wanted to turn a time-honored tradition of roasting the audience into a political statement to further her own clout, just shows the measure of the man that she stands with.
I am by no means anti-woke. I am a proud feminist. I support everybody’s right to live in peace and free from persecution and discrimination, but blindly supporting people who take the woke narrative to the militant level, beyond reason and logic is not only nonsensical, but actually quite dangerous. I won’t support it, I can’t.
It’s funny to me, that something Big Tony told me a couple years back is actually starting to make sense. See, Big Tony took us in when we were street kids, and he was this big ol’ guy with no airs or graces from Jersey and he wanted to just tell it like it is. This one night, he was lamenting about cancel culture and how it was a slippery slope, and it was gonna lead to good people getting punished for shit that they didn’t do wrong. Part of me ignored him, typical old dude with old people values, stuck in his old mindset. He didn’t know the new world and the new generation, he wasn’t ‘woke’. But he wouldn’t let it go, talking about how it was like an epidemic taking over Hollywood and nothin’ good was gonna come from it.
Talking about self-absorbed, self-obsessed people who live on a different moral plane to the rest of the world and how they get so wrapped up in the minutiae of being slighted or other people being slighted, that they go down this rabbit hole of fury and vitriol about something which has been built up in their head as so outrageous and egregious when in reality it has been drastically overblown. They take things out of context, or make massive leaps in cognitive reasoning, to push a narrative that suits their agenda.
And he’s not saying that bad shit doesn’t happen. And as I sit here and think about Bobbinette, and how perfectly this analogy she made about the Oscars encapsulates her as a person in 2022, I can see what he was starting to see.
All of these qualities are the qualities Bobbinette aspires to. She wants everything to be about her, and for everybody to orbit her in some capacity, because she has this gravitas, this air of superiority around her. Where everything she says is gospel and there is no room for mistake, misunderstanding or an alternative point of view. Her friends are there to listen to her, to follow her, to cheer her on and to play the bit-part to her leading role.
Maybe she believes that she’s the protagonist, that it is her destiny to be seen and heard and spoken of in the way that legendary social justice warriors like Rosa Parks or the heroes of the Stonewall Inn have been in the past, but the reality is that she is just another washed up bitter old has-been that’s chirping on anything and everything that’ll get her column inches, because the only thing worse than a narcissist being hated is a narcissist being forgotten. Just ask Jada Pinkett-Smith.
I looked around and realized that Noelle was gone. I was alone in the meeting room and I’d been daydreaming whilst the world moved around me. I wandered out into the spotlit hallway and walked toward the elevator. The most sophisticated elevator that you could even imagine. I bet it could do your laundry for you.
I’m excited. And nervous. We get on a plane tomorrow to join up with the main HOW roster, and to me, well, I’m just waiting for the gotcha. In a few days I’m gone from being certain that I’m about to get lynched because of what happened in Mexico, to signing for one of the most prestigious talent agencies in wrestling, and along with it, fighting someone that I grew up watching.
Noelle Rivers: Hey piss-stain!
Noelle called out to me and caught my attention. She’s sat in the driver’s seat of a bright red sports car.
Noelle Rivers: Get in, or I’m going without you!
I run across the concrete, past the valets and into the passenger’s seat of what I now see to be a beautiful Ferrari. The hand-stitched leather still smells like new. The vehicle is spotless, brand spanking new.
Noelle looks over her shoulder, and blows a kiss to the valet, who waves her off.
JJ Starfire: What.. the..? Who’s car is this?
Noelle shrugs her shoulders animatedly.
Noelle Rivers: I dunno, man. Who gives a fuck?
And as we fade to black, we’re left with the plate number which reads “HAVOK”.
She’s stolen Damon Riggs’ Ferrari, and I’m riding shotgun. There is never a dull moment.