Clink, clink. The sound of cutlery against fine china as the knife cut into the succulent steak, cooked nicely rare, vibrantly pink inside. The meat was surrounded by the expected accoutrements such a meal would expect in a fine dining establishment such as this: a crisp but light salad, some well seasoned potatoes and some gourmet onion rings The knife pushed some of the diane sauce onto the slither of beef before the fork placed it gently on the diner’s tongue which pulled it into their mouth to be masticated. Mmm, so juicy. Oh so tasty. Evan swallowed and felt it slip down his throat.
“When you’re hungry, there’s nothing quite like a nice, bloody slab of meat to satiate your cravings, is there?” He said, dabbing his lips with a napkin.
Evan was dressed to the nines, wearing possibly the finest suit anyone had ever seen him wear. It was bordering on extravagant with all its flamboyant intricacies. His hair was swept back in a neat tail to complete his immaculate appearance, only blemished by the visible stitches along the top of his forehead where Jatt had damn nearly scalped him. The room around him was equally high class. Behind him a fire burned away an ornate fireplace, trimmed with gold and adorned with a pair of abstract statuettes either side of a portrait of some ancient nobleman, which hung on the deep blue walls. Evan’s table was covered in the finest cloth, an intricate candelabra held five white candles, slowly melting away beneath their flames, surrounded by a wreath of dried flora. You could call the place “fancy” but that would be a grave injustice to how posh it really was. God knows why a punk like Evan Ward was in place like this, let alone how he could afford it.
He reached for the glass of wine beside his plate, a nice Chianti, and swirled it in the glass before taking a measured sip to let the taste roll over his taste buds.
“Since that delectable brawl down in Miami, where I went toe to toe with the demented mind of the Jattlantian Genius, I have come to appreciate the finer things in life. There’s nothing quite like facing certain death at the hands of a barbed wire wrapped zombie chicken baseball bat to make you reconsider your outlook on the ethics of the business. As the barbs dug into my skin, as the searing hot pain washed over my body as my skin was rent from my flesh, it made me question why we all do this. It made me question the right and wrong and all the grey areas in between… And you know the conclusion I came to?”
He paused to cut off another small chunk of beef and put it in his mouth and chew it. The delay was deliberate. He wasn’t rushing, he was taking his time to eat this steak because it was his time. If you wanted to know what he had to say, he was going to make you wait.
“I realised it’s all the same thing. There’s no difference. You can go out there one week and put on a wrestling masterclass one week, be the luminary sportsman the kids all look up to, then the next week you’re trying to separate someone’s limb from their body with a sledgehammer. There’s no difference, it’s all wrestling. We go out there every week and put our bodies on the line for this business. Yes, we do it to entertain all you fans at home, but we’re all really only doing it to be the best.”
He paused again, this time to take another satisfying drink of red liquid from the glass. He set the drink down and continued.
“We do it to be the best at grappling. The best at striking. The most skilled technician or the most powerful brawler. The best at bludgeoning buggers with blunt objects or the supreme at stabbing with sharp blades. It’s all the same, it’s all about being the best no matter how you do it. It’s like food, you could order a delectable steak like this and eat it like a civilised human being, with a knife and fork, savouring its taste and texture, or you could be cramming a greasy taco from a burnt out truck into your mouth like a slob, or you could be hankering for something more… exotic. It’s all food. It goes in one end, you mash it up, and shit it out the next day. Or in the next ten minutes in the case of the taco.”
He twirled his knife in his fingers idly, spinning it around with the obvious lack of effort of someone who had spent a lot of time practising.
“Now I’ve finished working my way through the Final Alliance, defeating and humiliating them all since I woke up from my months long nap, it’s left me feeling… empty. Where do I go from here? Yes, beating Jatt happened in spectacular fashion, forcing the ref to call the match before that barbed wire chicken ripped Jatt’s cheek right off his face, but the campaign I was running against Lee’s goon squad just kinda fizzled out, you know? There was no big pay off, nothing’s changed. I got my revenge on each and every one of them but they’re still there, you know? It wasn’t like BAM!”
He snatched the knife from the air and drove it right into the heart of the steak, bloody juice spurted out from the pressure.
“Take that, Alliance scum, you’ve all been defeated and by the ancient laws of the Wrestling Gods you must depart this realm!”
Evan picked up the napkin and wiped some of the steak juice from his face.
“No, there was none of that. They just lost and now they’re all moving on. I was but a blip on their radar. Lee wanted me dealt with, they couldn’t do it, so, meh, whatever. Having been through all this, after the battles and the trauma it just seems to have petered out into the most anticlimactic piece of nothing you could hope for. I could keep banging my vengeance drum and do the alliance circuit all over again but, honestly, what would be the point? Solex, Dan, Sektor, Jatt. I’ve bested them all, back to back pay-per-view victories against them… At this point they’re feeling less like my personal arch nemesis and more like just a bunch of people I know I’m better than. Guys I know I could go to war against and put on a bloody, brutal show against at any event and, chances are, walk away with the win. Treading that ground again just seems like a waste of time. Boring. Predictable.”
He picked up the steak as it stayed skewered on the knife and bit into it, ripping a large chunk out of it like a savage. Any pretence of being civilized and cultured in his table manners was gone, leaning on the table with an elbow while talking with his mouth still full of juicy beef.
“So, I’m just going to take it easy, you know? Not easy easy, just, you know, easy. No campaigning, no big dramatic injury to fight through, no looking for a fight, just going out there to wrestle against whichever opponent I get booked against. After all I’ve been through, life’s too short to bear a grudge. Beating Jatt half to death with a rubber chicken in a ring swimming with half the blood from my body taught me that. You could say that match was enlightening, that it awakened something in me. Like I said earlier, really, deep down, we’re the same, me, him, the Alliance. We’re all dudes who just want to go out there and take part in some bloody good wrestling, right? I can’t hold it against them any longer. They gave me some of the best matches I’ve had in my career so, really, I should be thankful. I should be grateful that they have made me a better, more superior wrestler, despite their ill intentions towards me.”
He ripped another chunk off the steak, leaving just a small bit on the knife, which he dropped onto the plate.
“I’m sure you understand, don’t you, Azula? That brawl you had against Solex, the way you took a shovel to the back of his head, mm-mm-mmm, so immaculate in its brutality. It was two guys, fists were flying, putting it all on the table. You can really have a meeting of the minds in a match like that, right, Xander? It’s such a shame you copped it at the end. Got a bit too cocky thinking a lynching would be all it took to put Solex down, didn’t you? I know, he’s got more guts in him than the offal bins of an industrial meat processing plant. You should have just taken that raptor claw of his and spilled them over the lawn. It’s the only way to be sure.”
He pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair, indicating to a nearby waiter that he had finished.
“Don’t think I’m taking the piss, I’m honestly impressed at the fight you had. It was a great fight. You should be proud, you did all you could but it just wasn’t quite enough to take the win. After watching that, I’m excited to be facing you this week. I’ve got a hankering for a bit more bloodshed this Monday and I won’t feel at all bad spilling yours because you seem like the sort of guy who’d be happy spilling mine. That sort of hardcore, three-fucks-to-the-wind, psychotic style of wrestling is an acquired taste for sure, but there’s an elegance to it. A spice you don’t get in your plain old graps match. It’s got more flavour. I’d go as far as to say it’s a delicacy which, once you get the taste for it, anything else leaves you feeling just a little hungry, right?”
A waiter came and took the not-quite-empty plate away while the maître d’ arrived to refill the empty wine glass.
“Thank you, garçon.” Ward nodded to him and took a drink of the wine once it had finished being poured.
“De rien!” The head waiter replied in a thick French accent to match his thin French mustache. “Might you be ready for your dessert?
“Oh, yes, please.” Ward nodded enthusiastically. “I’ve been so looking forward to this.”
“Oui, I shall bring it over.” And the waiter strode off to the kitchen.
“Yeah, I’ve got a good taste for it now.” Ward addressed the fictional audience once more. “Such a unique taste, I can’t get enough of it. It sure was bitter to start, but the more I’d been exposed to it the better it tasted. I love it. I want more of it. I need more of it. Are you going to give me more of it, Xander Azula? Are you going to satiate my desires for the finest violence on Monday? Or are you maybe hoping for an easy time, are you looking for some breathing room to lick your wounds from Outside God’s House? That’s not going to happen, Xander. Not a chance. The taste of blood in my mouth is nothing short of intoxicating and even if you hold back, even if you just want a boring ass match where you throw a few chops, hit some throws and lock in some rest holds until I’m tired out enough for you to slap me with your backhand… That’s not what I want from this match.”
A wild look had edged its way into Evan’s eyes as his diatribe had grown more intense. He was now leaning forward, figuratively frothing at the mouth.
“That’s not what the fans want from this match. We want blood, Azula. I want to witness that hardcore mettle of yours. I want to drag you down that fabled unsanctioned path you claim to walk and see where it leads. It intrigues me, Xander, because I’m kinda of new to this ultraviolent mindset and I want to set the bar against someone who’s claimed to have lived it for years. I need to know how I fit into it.”
“Ahem.” A cough came from beside the slightly crazed wrestler. The maître d’ had returned, holding a fancy tray with an ornate metal lid covering it. “Your dessert, monsieur.”
“Ah, thank you. Perfect timing.” Evan said, suddenly sober from his apparent blood lust, now salivating at the arrival of his dessert.
The waiter put the tray down and, with a flourish, removed the lid. “L’oreille coupée du souverain d-”
“Yes, yes I know what it is, thank you.” Ward waved a hand to dismiss the waiter, who bowed and strode off. Ward stared at his pudding and licked his lips. “Yes, Xander, you’ll make a fine dessert after the meal I had In God’s House. As fine a dessert as this.”
He picked it up and sniffed the intoxicating aroma of l’oreille coupée du souverain de Jattlantis. The severed ear of the ruler of Jattlantis.