“Did you hear that ish, man?”
Adrian Evans continues to type on his phone as MJ Flair does a little dance two steps back behind the curtain.
Adrian Evans: They did miss you, Miss Flair. You’ve historically drawn well in major cities, so it’s not really a surprise.
MJF: We need to do something. Go out. Mix with the people. Crash the front row. Punch Fartypants in the spine. Steal a car. Overthrow a government. Get a drink and go out dancing.
Adrian Evans: Calm yourself, Ms. Flair.
MJF: Nertz on that, man. Once Harmen takes the LSD title back and Mr. Ryan kicks Fartypants in the dick, it’s all gravy.
She jumps in place for a second, clearly full of way too much youthful energy.
Adrian Evans: Take it down a notch, Ms. Flair. Slow down.
MJF: I’ll slow down when I’m dead, man.
Before the former LSD Champion can sashay away, Adrian grabs her by the wrist and stops her. She looks at him with a varying mixture of shock and disbelief.
Adrian Evans: Calm down, Mariella Jade.
And the sound of her full name stops her in her tracks.
Adrian Evans: This is what you did last fall, and this is what you did last spring. You overcharge and ready, fire, aim into everything you do, and it gets you a lot of success, yes. But it burns you out and it causes you to stop and start, and it keeps you from building lasting momentum.
Her tension softens. MJ exhales, and allows herself to relax.
Adrian Evans: Now. We can wait around for Mr. Harmen and Mr. Ryan to finish up, and for Ms. Troy to get herself together after her war with Mr. Best. It’s your choice, but I would suggest we quietly slip away, let the fallout from a booking that you didn’t work fall where they may, and regroup tomorrow.
He folds his arms across his chest and waits, not breaking eye contact.
MJF: Aight, man. You’re right. Let’s go.
Adrian pats her on the back as the two walk in the opposite direction of the locker rooms, interview area, and nerve center of ICONIC.
November 10, 2019
It’s taking everything in MJ Flair’s being to sit still in the ‘functional’ infirmary, allowing the medical staff to check her vitals. She’s shed her T-shirt, and her hair is plastered to her head, face, neck, and back with a layer of sweat.
MJF: Are we almost done here?
The two medics continue to talk amongst themselves. MJ rolls her eyes and stands up, though after a step her legs go out from under her and she drops to a knee. This snaps them out of their conversation and are immediately one on either side of her. One helps her back onto a bench while another starts to open up a syringe.
MJF: Wait – what’re you doin’?
Medic 1: You’re severely dehydrated, miss. You need some intravenous fluid.
She shakes her head.
MJF: No. Uh-uh. No needles.
The second medic tries to hold her arm steady, but at that moment a loud, surprisingly commanding voice fills the area.
Adrian Evans: What is going on here?
Everyone looks – the principal is in the room. All-access pass around his neck.
MJF: Tell ‘em, Adrian. No needles. No IV.
Medic 1: Sir, she is severely dehydrated. She has heatstroke from overexertion in the sun.
MJF: I just need water, man. I need to drink some water.
It seems like an hour or more that Adrian is silent, weighing the professional concern of the medics against the desperate pleading plastered all over MJ’s face.
Adrian Evans: Can you give the two of us a minute, please?
The medics look at the diminutive presence with disbelief, but they also survey the situation. At the moment, MJ is their only patient, and while they’re concerned about her well being, she is lucid (if manic), and while she’s scraped and bruised, she’s not actively bleeding or requiring stitches.
MJ’s eyes remain locked on Adrian’s while the medics clear out, and as soon as they’re alone, she’s the one that looks away first.
MJF: How’s Harmen?
Adrian Evans: I have no idea. I’m your manager, Ms. Flair. He’s your partner.
She shakes her head, then sits down again and opens the bottle of water next to her, drinking down about a third of it in one go. She coughs violently afterward, but keeps it all down. Adrian waits for her, concerned, but clearly not about to step in unless she’s about to choke.
And she starts to pace, her steps steadier than a minute ago.
MJF: Okay. So Max pinned Jack, so he didn’t pin me. So I should get myself a rematch for the LSD at Refueled.
Adrian Evans: Ms. Flair…
MJF: That’s the ish, man. One on one. Daddy’s not a team guy, I’m not a team girl. I would’ve beat Kael if it was one on one, Harmen got in the way.
Adrian Evans: MJ…
MJF: I can do this, man! Fuckin… ya know, I didn’t wanna beat on Jack tonight. I was lookin’ out for him and that’s what happened. I need–
Adrian Evans: MARIELLA.
Shock. Silence. She drops her water bottle. He studies the crazed look in her eyes and the exhaustion written all over her face. It takes several seconds for him to speak.
Adrian Evans: You’re done.
We have lost cabin pressure.
Adrian Evans: You’re done. No rematch, no followup at Refueled. We’re going back to New York.
He immediately starts typing something into his phone, but MJ snatches it out of his hands.
MJF: No. Please, man. No. I’m not done.
Adrian Evans: Your parents and your aunt put me in charge, Mariella. I’m not just handling your business, but they’ve all trusted me to gauge your state of mind.
He grabs his phone back out of her hand.
Adrian Evans: And you’re done.
MJ sinks to her knees in front of him. She’s not begging; she looks like she’s feeling faint.
MJF: I can’t quit.
Adrian Evans: You’re not quitting, Ms. Flair.
As much as MJ has told him to stop calling her ‘Ms. Flair’ and to refer to her as ‘MJ’ – his return to his formal speak is a comfort to her, feeling that she’s back on familiar ground.
Adrian Evans: But you need a break. You’ve been burning the candle at both ends with your wrestling on one side and your promotional work on the other, having a social life, working on your art, being part of your family… this was inevitable, Ms. Flair.
He stares deep into her face. Adrian doesn’t see the strong, sarcastic woman that’s taken the HOW by storm to this point. In her place, he sees an exhausted little girl, too stubborn to ask for help.
Until he notices that there are tears freely streaming from her eyes. His mood softens, though his resolve is as strong as ever.
Adrian Evans: Lets’ go home, Ms. Flair… I think you need it.
He holds out his hand, and she takes it. They leave out the main entrance, passing by the two medics who are impatiently waiting. The first steps toward the two, and she holds up her hand to say something, but she catches Adrian’s glare.
He shakes his head.
The medic shrinks away from them.
She hasn’t taken the Hippocratic oath, and the price of this healing is likely not worth the effort.
January 22, 2020
Le bol à pain
New York City
MJ Flair sits at the bar, drinking her disappointing club soda with lime, looking into the eyes of the evening’s expediter.
MJF: That’s the ish, man. Went back to the life, but they’re putting all’a us against each other.
Next to her, her boyfriend Kevin sits on his break, drinking a beer.
Kevin: Babe, you think you’re ready to go back, I’ve got you. Just not sure if you’re ready to go back against your partners is all.
MJ hesitates. She looks down, takes a sip of her drink and looks back up.
MJF: Babe, it’s almost… it’s like it has to be them.
This is new. Kevin has no context for what’s what in professional wrestling, but he’s been attentive to MJ’s descriptions from the get-go.
Kevin: I mean, because of where this were when you took a break?
MJF: Dude, man, dude. You know the ish. We came in, we did the war games thing. The other four struggled while I snagged the LSD. Dane and Ryan won the tags but Dane bitched out, ya know?
Even as MJ knows her boyfriend doesn’t care, she looks at him expecting a response. Kevin shrugs, but nods noncommittally.
MJF: Anyways. Harmen loses me my LSD title and Harmen and Ryan lose us the tag team belts, but somehow Jack is still in the running for LSD and Ryan is still in the running for fuckin’ everything. Where’s LT? Where was I gon’ be, right? I mean, it goes the fuck back to the C-Dub. I ain’t the kinda wrestler that’s s’posed’ta be here, so ain’t nobody expects me.
Kevin laughs. MJ glares at him, with no real venom in her stare.
Kevin: Babe, I’m just saying. You know I’m not really all in on this ish. Even with that one idiot talkin’ shit, I don’t give a flying fuck about your industry beyond you.
He takes a drink from his beer, and he continues.
Kevin: But you ain’t a fuckin’ underdog, babe. You ain’t the mainstream, but ya totally not the outsider – you’re the obvious choice for people that hate the obvious choice.
MJ considers this for a minute.
MJF: Dunno, man. I’m just lookin’ at it–
Kevin: –You’re lookin’ at it like an athlete with six championships, on a team with three partners with like a hundred between ‘em. That respect? Babe, nobody can measure up to that. Just need to look at where ya are in this place compared to the rest.
She seems to consider this. Kevin continues.
Kevin: I like your guys, ya know. But you got like twenty years or more youth on all of ‘em, ya know? They’re hurt. They’ve got lingering injury and stuff. You don’t got that.
MJF: I know? But dude, they’re my guys, right? I can’t think of ‘em that way.
Kevin shakes his head again.
Kevin: Guaranteed, babe. You ask any of ‘em, they’ve been doing this long enough, if they want it enough they’d fuck over their partners to get there. Question is, would you?
MJ blinks, slowly. She seems reluctant to answer.
Kevin: Saul goodman. Ya don’t need to answer that, long as you know what you’ll do on the day.
MJ sips her drink. She averts her eyes, mainly because of what her boyfriend just said.
She’s been avoiding the question of what she’d do with her partners across the ring from her for weeks. But it’s iminent.
There’s no escape anymore.
Time to shine.
No settings, no fun, no frills or extras.
“It ain’t personal, Jack.”
“You might’ve got pinned at the Rumble. It might’ve turned the tide, Max Kael pins you for my LSD Championship. But I’m good, man. Seriously.”
“Still on the team, dude. We’re the Industry. You and me and LT and Dan Ryan. We’ve got this ish, right?”
“Never mind that you lost again to Max Kael. Never mind that Lindz lost to Eric Dane Cosplay. Never mind that Mr. Ryan won the ICON Title because he won the first of five falls in the Iconic main event.”
“It is what it is.”
“But I lost my title, man… cause you got pinned.”
“Dude, I don’t care, in and of itself. The rules are the rules. But if I’mma lose a belt, I’d prefer ta’ get beat for that belt. Myself.”
“Certainly don’t need help with that.”
“On the one hand, our goal is clear, Jack. You and me, and LT and Ryan. We should be workin’ together ta wrestle our ish no matter what, with the idea that Mike Best aka Eric Dane Cosplay should get his shit packed in every time he steps
into the ring for the Lee Best Invitational.”
“Shit takes time, dude. Shit takes time.”
“At the same time, dude. Jack. This needed to happen.”
“I needed to take a breather from High Octane for my own sanity. And despite the fact that I was out of commission… despite the fact that Max Kael pinned you for my LSD Title on Alcatraz… “
“I wasn’t there.”
“Couple that with the fact that I got no three? This is is overdue. Don’t wanna hurt ya, Jack… but that don’t mean that I won’t.”
“I don’t take the Lee Best Invitational for granted. You and me, Troy and Ryan. Eric Dane Cosplay. We’re all fightin’ this shit to get to the semi finals between the brackets. Any of us could get there.”
Except for Eric Dane Cosplay. He wins this, likely, he complained that we’re mean to him and High Octane Daddy pulled some strings.
“You had your shots.”
“Ryan had his shots.”
“LT had her shots.”
Her shots were non-title ish against Eric Dane Cosplay, but hopefully I can be forgiven for assuming he’s worth more than a watery shit.
“The fact is, I’m here to RSVP the Invitational.”
“The fact is, this is War Games all over again. We’ve got a common enemy but only one of us can hope ta’ win the bracket.”
“The fact is… while I was takin’ a minute for myself, my Industry partners were varying shades of ineffective against the Empire, while I’ve got a pinfall over Max Kael, a dual-pin over Fartypants… and a cold war with Eric Dane Cosplay.”
“I ain’t delusional, man. Owning the Empire ain’t a reason that I should beat ya, Jack.”
“But the fact that you’ve been perfectin’ the role’a the Runner Up ever since Rumble at the Rock?”
“Maybe you should do us all a favor and step aside.”
MJF: You hear that, man?
Adrian Evans looks around, absent-mindedly.
Adrian Evans: What, that mumbling?
She shakes her head.
MJF: Ain’t no mumbling, man. That’s those monks, right?
They stand in silence, listening to the atmosphere.
MJF: The Gregorian monks. I think. My dad used to know a guy who wrestled to this.
Adrian doesn’t really have anything to say in response, but he does arch his eyebrow at MJ’s comment. Out of nowhere, MJ grabs his sleeve and spins him around.
MJF: There, dude.
They both look.
MJF: The Deacon.
Adrian repeats the name as he watches the massive athlete enter the arena.
MJF: Something’s in the air, man… and we’re lucky we’ve got the front row.