James Cornfield: Real men wear pink, Mr. Solex.
The smiling face of James Cornfield greets us on screen, as ol’ Jimmy welcomes us to another episode of “How To Sell Wrestling Tickets”. It may not be a popular sitcom featuring one or two forced references to his opponents and a bunch of masturbatory bullcrap, but hey, it’s still showbiz, baby.
Jimmy is wearing a pink suit jacket and tie, with a light blue dress shirt underneath. He looks like sentient cotton candy, with a cigar burning between his fingertips as usual. Sitting in a big, comfortable chair in his recreational vehicle, he rests an ankle over top of his other leg in a figure four position, straightening up his back as he looks into the camera.
James Cornfield: Steven, Steven, Steven. Turns out the number one Dad is real number two on a microphone. Seems my info on Ol’ Schizophrenic Steveo was about as outdated as the new schtick he’s dragged back from the dead. Here I thought he was hearing voices, but apparently the only thing Mr. Solex is hearing these days is a laugh track.
He shrugs, shifting in his chair to get more comfortable.
James Cornfield: Ya don’t gotta pipe in the laughs if the jokes are funny, kiddo.
Jimmy ashes the end of his cigar, before taking another drag.
James Cornfield: Everything is a danged joke in H O Dubya, ain’t it? Buncha folks who were World Champions elsewhere, who came to Chicago to beat whatever tired premise into the ground that Lee Best thought was funny a couple of months ago. If Steven concentrated as much on being successful in the ring as he did at figuring out what dumb gimmick was gonna make him half famous again, he’d be in the Hall of Fame for being a champion, not for being the glorified IT department. Focus a little more on your PRIDE, and a little less on your PRIME…
A sly smirk. Less car salesman, more “pleased with himself jerk”.
James Cornfield: The kids today call that “meta”. Cause that’s what y’all do here, right? Pop the boss with inside jokes, instead of focusing on selling tickets to the danged show? For God’s sake, Steven, if you ain’t gonna have a lick of respect for the wrestling business, at least have a lick of respect for yourself. You’ve been repackaged more times than a Christmas fruitcake and ain’t nobody in H O Dubya can name three things you’ve done in the ring since you was wrestling Scott Stevens on the indies. And heck, at least back then you were a champion.
He shrugs, letting the cigar smoke waft around the RV. The whole thing is beginning to fill with a cloudy haze, giving the scene a slightly surreal look.
James Cornfield: I knew they done left Clay Byrd in the kiln a bit too long around the time he was committing arsons and felonies on live television, but I expected better from ya, Steven. One meaningless match, maybe we get a little heat on it, make a few bucks, and go our separate ways. But nope, you went ahead and chose disrespect. Well, me and my boys? We don’t choose disrespect, Mr. Solex.
He leans in toward the camera, lowering his glasses and peering into the lens.
James Cornfield: We choose violence.
The words take on a sinister tone.
James Cornfield: Now myself and Ivy English, we may not be holding hands and singing Kumbaya right now, but he still knows he’s got a job to do this week and he’s planning to do it. And I hope for your sake that Ivy is all it takes to put you and your cowboy friend down on Sunday night, too, because I can assure you that if GenoSyde needs to step into that ring and get it done, well… I might almost feel a hair guilty about leaving your kids to grow up without a Number One Daddy around. See, you can have your writers hang out as many jokes as you can fit into a take, and you can pipe in all the laughter you like, but after Refueled, you’re gonna be eating all that meatloaf through a straw. They ain’t renewing you for another season… show’s over.
One last puff of his cigar, as he blows smoke toward the camera.
James Cornfield: …credits roll. That’s a wrap.
Fourteen Years Ago
Las Vegas Valley Wrestling
“Alright… Jones. You’re up.”
Like the Leaning Tower of Pizza, a mountain of a man slumps slightly to the left, weakly raising his arm from the small crowd of young wrestling hopefuls outside of a broken, beat down wrestling ring.
He’s a monster, standing at six foot six, but almost uselessly so. The half dozen rippling, steroid-addled men surrounding him on all sides strike a stark contrast to his lumpy, out of shape torso, as a mild gut hangs over the girth of his gigantic basketball shorts. His name is Nelson Jones, and today is the first day of his new life as a professional wrestler. Or at least it will be, assuming the tryout doesn’t go the way of everything else in his life.
Abject, miserable failure.
“Don’t be shy, kid.” the distinctly southern man in the ring hollars. “The meek’ll inherit the earth, but they sure as goose shit ain’t gonna inherit a spot on my roster.”
The promoter standing in the ring hardly resembles the man we’ve come to know as James Cornfield. While the scowl on his face is a familiar one, it lacks the wrinkles left behind from years of wearing the same disappointed expression. He’s young, or at least younger. Not just in age, but in life energy.
“Come on then!” Cornfield laughs, a little cruelly. “You ain’t a banana there, Chubby Checker, you ain’t gettin’ any less green just standing around!”
Nelson slowly climbs the ring steps, pretending that the combination of the walk and the anxiety haven’t left him devoid of breath by the time he hits the apron. The lurch of a human awkwardly tries to climb between the second and third rope, struggling to get through to the inside as Cornfield watches on, looking like he’s watching a monkey hump a football.
“Boy, you’re damned near seven feet.” Cornfield shakes his head, in disbelief. “You ever get into my ring without stepping over the top rope again and I’ll send you packing faster than a rabbit on speed, you got me? Now get over here and lock up.”
Nelson nods his head, staring back down at the canvas.
A handsome, well-muscled young wrestler stands across from him, just to the right of Cornfield. His name hardly matters– at this stage of the business, ninety percent of the people you meet are gonna be back to waiting tables in a year or two anyway. Another relic of the early 2000s, lost to a business that doesn’t love you back until there’s a television camera pointed at your face. Whoever he is, he’s clearly Cornfield’s top guy– his ring gear is real ring gear, and he looks like he hasn’t been sleeping in his car for the last couple of days.
Awkwardly, Nelson shoots in for a lock-up. He barely managed to get the elbow and collar locked up, and in a rush, he’s flipped over entirely and smashed to the mat with an arm drag. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and as Nelson’s back hits the mat for the first time, a shocking pain writhes up the back of his spine, hitting him at the base of his skull like he’s been hit by lightning.
“Christ Almighty!” Cornfield exclaims, pulling his glasses down. “You got a hundred plus pounds on him, Jones. Do it again.”
It’s hard to stealthily gasp for breath, but Nelson tries desperately to get his wind as he rolls to one side, pulling himself slowly back to his feet. He squares up against his opponent again, shooting in for a tie up.
And gets arm dragged a second time.
Somehow, the previous fall didn’t prepare him for the second one in the slightest. It’s like being hit by a bus– the cheap ass ring has no give to it at all, the whole of his left arm feels the electric tingle as he lands awkwardly on his hip. Instinctively, a guttural yelp escapes him, a noise much higher in pitch than you’d expect from a man his size. Cornfield physically recoils when he hears the sound, looking equal parts shocked and disgusted.
“The FUCK?!” Jimmy puts an arm in front of his training coach, holding him back. “Hold on a damned second. How long was your drive down here, Jones?”
The behemoth doesn’t look up, still holding his arm.
“Thirty hours, Mr. Cornfield.” Nelson mumbles, eyes fixed to the floor.
“Thirty goddamned hours.” Cornfield shakes his head. “To what, be a fuckin’ tackling dummy? You think I called you here to watch you scream like a girl? The hell is wrong with you?”
Slowly, Nelson rolls into a seated position, again standing up to his feet. His hands shake, trembling as he continues to avoid eye contact. He’d made the drive all the way across the country for the opportunity to be something more than a custodian for the rest of his life, and the weight of his shame holds his head down like a barbell on top of his skull.
“Look at me, kid!” Cornfield snaps, beginning to lose his temper. “Are you here to waste my goddamned time? Cause anybody can mail me a fancy fuckin’ tape, but if you ain’t got a lick of an idea what you’re doing in a wrestling ring, you’re not just wasting my time, you’re wasting everybody’s.”
Nelson can feel the bitter sting of tears in the corners of his eyes, and it feels like he’s about to have a panic attack, right here in front of everyone. Slowly, he opens his mouth to say something. Anything. To offer any kind of explanation for what’s happening.
“I’m sorry.” Nelson swallows hard. “I just uh… I need my mask.”
Immediately, there is laughter from the peanut gallery. The other auditioning wrestlers outside the ring were already chuckling amongst themselves at the display, but this is all out laughter. It rings in Nelson’s ears, but he’s trying not to hear it.
“Your mask?” Cornfield repeats, as if he thinks maybe he misunderstood. “You need your mask?”
Nelson nods, slowly.
“Well Christ.” Jimmy stifles a laugh. “Somebody throw him his damned… mask… then, I guess.”
A beat up old duffel bag is slid under the ropes, bumping into Nelson’s leg. He reaches down in an anxious panic, rifling through his gym clothes and producing an oddly bound leather mask. He trembles as he tries to pull it over his face, fastening the buckles and securing it against his nose.
And then… it happens.
The world goes quiet. No more whispers from anyone outside the ring. No more laughter. No more trembling. His posture immediately improves, as his head slowly rises to meet the eyes of the wrestling promoter for the first time. He doesn’t say a word, and he doesn’t have to. A slow smile begins to spread across the face of James Cornfield– whatever is about to happen, it’s at least going to be interesting.
Nelson cracks his neck to one side, audibly popping the joint as the face beneath the mask goes expressionless. Cold.
He shoots in for the lock up, but this time there’s no hesitation. No anxiety. The namesless wrestler he’s trying out against suddenly becomes more nameless, as Nelson picks him up effortlessly and throws him across the ring. The wrestler picks himself back up, charging in for another lock-up, but this time Nelson grabs the trainer by the neck, tossing him upward and slamming him practically through the dusty old ring with a debilitating chokeslam. He dives onto the young wrestler, smashing his forearms into the skull of his opponent as though there was nothing more to life than snuffing the very existence out of him.
“Alright, that’s enough.” Cornfield says, calmly.
But Nelson doesn’t stop.
Swinging his whole head forward, the beast smashes the crown of the mask into the jaw of Cornfield’s trainer, audibly cracking it as the horrified wrestlers outside of the ring recoil in shock. A few of them slide into the ring to try and stop the onslaught, but in this moment, they’re nothing.
Bodies begin flying, as the beast formerly known as Nelson Jones throws them around in the ring, tossing some of them over the ropes. He is an unhinged animal, a force of nature that cannot be stopped, like a bear that has escaped from it’s cage. He grabs hold of the trainer again, pulling him up by the collar of his shirt – the man is already a bleeding, unrecognisable mess, but the blood only seems to fuel the raging beast. Nelson rears back to to bring another headbutt down in the center of his forehead–
“NELSON.” Cornfield snaps his fingers, commanding him sternly. “ENOUGH.”
Slowly, and somewhat calmly, Nelson lowers the trainer back to the canvas.
He looks down at what he’s done, and then back up at James Cornfield– he doesn’t look ashamed of what he’s done, nor does he look prideful.
He just… did it.
“Christ, ya almost killed him.” Cornfield shakes his head. “Alright… everyone else… just, I don’t know. Get out of here. We’re done for the day.”
Jimmy looks at the mass of man standing in front of him, and then back down at his trainer. His prized athlete… his world’s champion. His name isn’t important, and it stopped being important just here and now, in this moment.
“You got your ring name yet, kid?” Cornfield asks, mumbling.
The tiny gym is clearing out, as Nelson simply stares back from behind the mask. He doesn’t answer, and in fact barely seems like he’s all there. His eyes meet Jimmy’s, but they seem hollow. Empty. Like his body is just a vessel for something else.
He slowly shakes his head, his sweaty hair matting against the mask.
Cornfield eyes him for a moment, thinking about what he’s just seen. The potential in front of his eyes. Not just to make money, but to make a legitimate star. To get the fuck out of the desert and back onto the strip. To make something not just out of Nelson Jones, but out of this entire fleabag little company.
“Fuck it, ya do now..” Jimmy shrugs, patting Nelson on the shoulder. “Welcome to Las Vegas Valley Wrestling… GenoSyde.”
Cornfield kneels down, checking on his trainer. The man is slowly trying to get to his feet, but his face is a mask of crimson, already bruising beneath the mess. Jimmy tries to feign the slightest bit of concern, but it’s at this moment that his champion became the past.
And GenoSyde became the future.
“You start this weekend.” Cornfield smiles. “And for the love of fuck, bring the mask.”
It’s the same car salesman sneer that we’ve seen so many times on High Octane Television. But this one isn’t for a camera, or a crowd. This one is just for something special… for his new secret weapon. The weapon that will eventually get retribution against the man who got him kicked out into the desert in the first place.
Retribution against Lee Motherfucker Best.