James Cornfield: A tie coulda been interesting, boys.
Dressed in his finest carny garb, James S. Cornfield stands in front of a black backdop that looks like it’s seen better days. It might not look bad in standard definition, but the monetary behemoth that is High Octane Television makes it very clear that the owner, booker and sole-proprietor of Pro Wrestling: Assault is probably just standing in front of an old sheet in the back of his RV.
James Cornfield: Clay Byrd and Steven Solex couldn’t get the job done. Couldn’t beat ol’ Sektor and Ellis. But hey, I’m the pot calling the kettle black… heck, my boys couldn’t get the job done neither. We even teed you boys up… cracked Ellis’ skull, jumped Sektor at the barricade… and for what?
Cornfield shakes his head, clutching his cigar.
James Cornfield: Same old story. Divide and conquer.
He takes a seat on the stool to his side, the curtain behind him wafting in some kind of breeze. We’re absolutely in his RV… you can almost hear the engine running faintly in the background, if you really turn up the volume.
James Cornfield: Can’t nobody in this whole bracket break up a gosh darned pin, can they? But hey, let’s keep the past in the past… tomorrow is a new day. Best of luck to Sektor and Ellis in the next round. You swept the bracket, and I’m not gonna talk a bunch of trash. Well done to ya both. But that sure does leave us in the pickle this week, don’t it? I mean… Clay… Steven… what are we even fighting for out there? Bragging rights?
He furrows his brow.
James Cornfield: Never been much of a fan myself.
The promoter folds his hands in front of himself, smiling into the camera.
James Cornfield: I ain’t surprised you boys couldn’t get it done against Sektor and Ellis… Steven Solex is too busy finding himself, or himselves, if ya will… and Clay Byrd has been too busy runnin’ around and committing arsons to focus on the task at hand. Can’t believe you ain’t in jail, Clay, but hey… I’m no fan of the Best Family myself, so more power to ya. But truth is, boys, this week we’re fightin’ just to fight. And in times like these, you gotta find your own… motivation.
The smile on his face slowly fades, into a look of disdain.
James Cornfield: There are affairs in the House of Cornfield that need sorting out, and this is the week we’re gonna sort ‘em. So I don’t have a barrel full of trash talk for ya… barely know who ya are, and I’m sure as heck that you don’t care much who we are, neither. So let’s go out there and get it done in garbage time….
He gives a little nod to the camera, popping his unlit cigar into his mouth.
James Cornfield: …and may the best men win.
THREE DAYS AGO
“We’re eliminated. It’s over.”
There is a peculiar serenity in the air, a passive sort of calm that feels as though it’s coming menacingly before the storm. The brows behind James Cornfield’s horn-rimmed glasses furrow as he stares at the television screen in front of him, watching helplessly as Joel Hortega raises the arm of John Sektor.
He nods, solemnly, pulling the glasses from his face and wiping them off on the front of his button down shirt. Sektor and Ellis are celebrating in the ring, having just locked up the group and advanced to the next round of the Maurako Cup. It’s one thing to be eliminated at the end of a hard fought match, but it’s a different animal entirely to see your chances wiped away through the pixels of a television screen.
One loss had cost them everything.
One loss had cost him everything.
“You fucked me, Ivy.” James mutters, almost too calmly. “You’re my goddamned world’s champion. I told them you were the next coming of Jesus Christ himself. And you fucked me.”
The expletives cut a little deeper than usual, coming from the mouth of a usually priggish promotor. He doesn’t even turn his head to look at Ivy English, who sits nonchalantly on a couch that looks like it hasn’t been reupholstered since the 1980s. It’s a fleabag little hotel room, the kind whose doors open directly to the outside, and whose hallways always smell a little bit like urine and marijuana.
“That’s right.” Ivy laughs under his breath, condescendingly. “Blame the black guy. Get it all out of your system.”
Cornfield’s head turns slowly, his eyes ablaze.
“Blame… blame the black guy?” Cornfield stammers, in disbelief. “Lemme guess, Ivy… the referee counted to three because you were black, right?”
He rises from his chair, tossing the remote aside as he starts to get hot. Literally and figuratively, as it were– the veins in his neck rise to the surface of his skin, as he goes red in the face. The volume in his voice is on a steady upward incline, rising as he stands from the chair.
“Cause the man was holding you down.” Cornfield sneers, stepping defiantly toward the couch. “Guess what, kid? You didn’t lose cause you’re fuckin’ black, you lost cause you had the greatest technical wrestler in the world dead to FUCKIN’ RIGHTS, and you decided that instead of making a cover, the world just HAD to see IVY FUCKIN’ ENGLISH do a GODDAMNED MOONSAULT!”
He leers over the couch where Ivy sits, his forehead turning crimson. The PWA World Champion quite literally isn’t taking this sitting down, though… he stands to his feet, going damned near nose to nose with his booker, stone faced.
“Man, FUCK you.” Ivy shoves Cornfield backward. “Keep telling me what to do in a wrestling ring when your fat ass can hardly step between the ropes. You wanna tell me what the fuck to do, write me a check that don’t bounce, little broke ass bitch.”
Nearly out of his mind in anger, Cornfield forgets that he’s an overweight, ageing non-athlete, shoving his chest and face back into Ivy’s personal space.
“Keep deflecting.” James shoves a finger into Ivy’s chest. “You got cocky. You saw all those people out there, and you saw a chance to make a name for yourself, and you cost us everything. Not just you, Ivy. Me. Nelson. Everybody. Had to go into business for yourself. Had to get your shit in.”
He jams his finger into Ivy’s chest again, but harder this time.
“You don’t deserve that belt.” Cornfield grits his teeth. “You’re an entitled little prick who thinks the world owes him somethin’. You fucked up, Ivy. And you’re gonna keep fucking up. And that’s why you’re gonna keep working in broke down bingo halls for broke ass bitches like me.”
That one hits a nerve.
With a crash, James Cornfield goes ass over tea kettle, falling backward over the coffee table as Ivy shoves him about as hard as he can. Cornfield’s head smashes into the wall on the other side of the cramped hotel room, leaving a dent in the plaster as he instinctively rolls into the fetal position.
The PWA World Champion stands over the mess he’s made, his face practically made of stone. He stares down at the owner of Pro Wrestling: Assault, chest heaving.
“Nah, Jimmy.” Ivy laughs, snidely. “Imma move on to bigger and better, just like every halfway decent worker you ever had. And you know it. You can keep parading around that Goonies ass HEY YOU GUYS looking goof like he’s the next big thing, but HOW has me on the front page.”
He snatches the PWA World Championship off the side of the couch, throwing it over his shoulder as he steps over Jimmy, walking toward the door of the hotel room.
“They seen my talent.” Ivy shakes his head, opening the door. “You have a good time with Slingblade… after this dogshit, meaningless tag match, I’m taking your belt to Michael Oliver Best on a silver platter and asking him for a fuckin’ contract. Just like old times, right Jimmy? The Best Family is gonna clean you out and leave you with fuckin’ nothin’.“
Ivy English slams the door behind him, as he bursts out into the night air. The walls shake under the thundering force of the door, leaving Cornfield to roll onto his back and stare up at the popcorn pattern of the ceiling.
Just like old times.
The words resonate in his skull like they’d been yelled into a cavern, echoing into his bones until they ache. Ivy was probably right– High Octane Wrestling had made their bones off of pillaging the indies for years, sucking up talents like a soulless vacuum cleaner. Why wouldn’t they sign Ivy English? Why wouldn’t they sign anyone that was good enough to go toe-to-toe with a wrestler on the HOW roster? Like Ivy said, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Best Family had rolled over James Confield like he was nobody. Like his company was nothing.
Like he was fucking pathetic.
“Fucking prick.” Jimmy growls, standing up and surveying the damage.
Except that this time was different.
James S. Cornfield had waited eighteen years to enact his vengeance upon Lee Best, and by the time he got here, it was too late. Last Jimmy had heard, Lee Best was hooked up to a series of tubes, dreaming about whatever it is that a sociopath wrestling promoter dreams about when he’s in a medically induced coma. Cornfield and his merry gang of failures were going to upend the High Octane system and change it forever, with Ivy English or without him, and in the greatest act of irony?
Lee would never even know about it.
He’d sleep through the goddamned revolution.
With a grunt, Cornfield reaches out and grabs his phone off of the bed and hastily unlocks the screen. He scrolls through the contacts and smashes a finger into one of the names on the list, waiting for the ringing.
“Hey, it’s Jimmy.” he scowls, holding the phone to his ear.
One more tag match.
A meaningless one. It wouldn’t change the truth… Pro Wrestling: Assault would not be the next HOW Tag Team Champions, whether they beat Solex and Clay Byrd or not. But even a meaningless match is an opportunity, and there is no chance in hell that James Cornfield is letting Ivy English hand his World Championship off to anyone, much less High Octane Wrestling.
Lee Best might not be here to destroy.
But his promotion was live and well.
This was now about more than just the Maurako Cup. More than a tag team championship. More than getting his product in front of fresh eyes. It was time to send a message to the boys and girls of High Octane Wrestling. Time to send a message to the entire world of professional wrestling. And at Refueled at the Target Center?
It was time to send a message to Ivy English.
“I need you in Minneapolis…” Jimmy mutters, flatly. “…the Ivy has grown a bit too wild.”
His voice becomes gruff.
“It might be time for a new champion.”