Punch Punch Punch.
MJ Flair winces as she holds her left wrist in her right hand. She circles the heavy bag, shaking her head.
MJF: Stupid. Stupid.
Punch Punch Punch FUCK.
Same pain in her wrist. MJ looks at the overly huge mural on the wall and shakes her head.
MJF: Any genius words’a wisdom, man?
The mural is an overly large blown up image of her uncle (no relation) and family member (don’t gotta be blood to be family) ‘Triple X’ Sean Stevens, looking battered, sweaty, and exhausted, holding a Championship Title high above his head in the middle of a wrestling ring. Next to him, his wife, MJ’s technically-not-really aunt, Trip’s wife, Ivy McGinnis, has a huge smile on her face as she raises his other hand high in the air.
MJ circles for another few seconds and raises her hands again in a fighting stance.
“You’re twisting your wrist.”
And she whips her head around to the gym entrance, to see The Ego Buster himself, Dan Ryan, walking towards her.
Ryan nods in her direction.
Dan Ryan: When you do your set of three, you’re twisting your wrist on the third punch, that’s why it hurts.
Quizzically, MJ goes through the motions again as he steps to the opposite side of the bag.. Sure enough, Ryan is correct.
MJF: Thanks, man. I’ll work on that.
She fires another punch at the bag, but Ryan catches her hand.
Dan Ryan: Don’t hurt yourself, kid. You already tape your wrists all the way down at the show, you’re protected. You don’t need to do this-
MJ pulls away and fires a single right hand square into the heavy bag, and walks away.
MJF: Why are you here, man?
Dan Ryan: I need to know when my tag team partner’s having a nervous breakdown.
She raises an eyebrow. Ryan responds by gesturing with his face to the mural on the wall.
Triple X and Ivy McGinnis.
Dan Ryan: Man’s a three – time World Champion in my company and he held it for over two years at a stretch. You don’t think I keep in touch? Turn it around, though. Why are you here?
MJ doesn’t answer. She walks away from Ryan and picks up a water bottle, taking a long drink.
Dan Ryan: We’re about to go home before the Rock – figured you’d be doin’ your thing back in New York while you had the time.
He stares holes in the back of her head, but she doesn’t turn around.
Dan Ryan: What?
MJF: I can’t.
Finally, the LSD Champion turns toward the number one contender and meets his eyes.
MJF: Home is my parents. My boy. My gym. My cat. My friends.
She walks towards him, but moves right past him and returns her attention to the bag.
MJF: They’re distractions. That match showed me I don’t need any fuckin’ distractions, man.
Dan Ryan: The fuck you talking about?
MJ giggles. Just a bit.
MJF: Dude, I should’a seen that comin’. Ward, pinnin’ Jack? I should’ve been on that shit like a basic fuckboi on an Ed Hardy shirt. I wasn’t. I let Kael distract me and let him goad me into divin’ on top of him, and we lost.
She looks back at Ryan for a moment, her intensity broken a bit but her glare still serious.
MJF: We can’t do that here, man. We lose focus, we lose here. We lose here, we’re in the shits for Rumble where you’ve got a World Title ta win and I’ve got the LSDlife ta defend.
And she looks back at the heavy bag.
MJF: We don’t get there by bein’ comfy, man.
MJ punches the bag a few times, and throws a few kicks. Apparently taking Dan Ryan’s words to heart, she is no longer hitting the back with a series of three fists. Ryan walks up and holds the bag opposite her to brace it for her hits.
Dan Ryan: Damn.
Dan Ryan: I’m just tryin’ to figure out if you’re young and naive… or if you’re young and fucking dumb.
MJF: Fuck you just say?
Dan Ryan: You’re standin’ there tellin’ me that you lost at Three because… you… weren’t good enough.
MJF: I didn’t–
Dan Ryan: No, you didn’t. That’s the issue, kiddo. You can be the best wrestler in the world, and you’re still gonna lose matches, and lose ‘em clean. You can handle your own shit, you can’t handle the outcome all by yourself. Think you can? Act like you can?
Dan Ryan: You’re gonna lose the ones you should’ve won, and you’ll be wound so fuckin’ tight you won’t be worth a shit to anyone in this sport.
At that, Dan Ryan shoves the heavy bag away and walks towards the door.
Dan Ryan: You wanna work? You wanna train? Good on you. You wanna give yourself a nervous breakdown tryinna control every aspect? You ain’t worth a shit to me.
MJ stands, dumbfounded, looking towards the departing Ego Buster.
Dan Ryan: You wanna unclench your asshole and take a minute for yourself, reminding you of the important things to fight for? You let me know.
What an ass, she says to herself. What a pretentious cocksucker. He doesn’t know you, he doesn’t know how you feel. He doesn’t know what it’s like to feel responsible for the first setback that The Industry has faced since War Games.
Except that he’s right.
MJ inherited a touch of hypertension from her father and puts a hand to her sternum, pressing her palm gently against the bone.
MJF: Hey, man.
Ryan stops, but doesn’t turn.
MJF: Gimmee like ten minutes? I’ll come with you.
She can’t see him, but Dan Ryan smiles.
We fade in on a whiteboard. The following is written:
AMRAP 20 MINUTES
4 Dumbbell Thrusters
6 Toes – To – Bars
24 Double Unders
Men: 50 lb
Women: 35 lb
And we spin around to see the High Octane Wrestling LSD Champion, MJ Flair, sitting on a tall wooden box. She’s sweaty and breathing heavy, a bottle of water in one hand and what looks to have been, once upon a time, a tight ponytail working its way out.
Zoom in. She’s flushed, but her classic smirk quickly spreads across her face.
“Six rounds. Fifteen doubles on my last. If ya know what I mean, ya know what I mean. If ya don’t… don’t sweat it.”
She drinks a long swallow of water.
“What it means… is that I’m ready.”
“Maxx Kael the sequel. Halitosis.”
“My opponent and my partner’s opponent.”
“The four of us are at the pinnacle of High Octane Wrestling. On one side, there’s the LSD Champion with barely a stumble in her path, and the number one contender for Ninety-Seven Red that’s already owned its owner. On the other side? A Challenger in search of an identity and a Champion in search of a shred’a respect.”
“Was that mean? I could use nicer words, but why bother lying?”
“What that mean?”
MJ draws her legs to her chest as if she’s hugging her knees, but after a moment is clearly trying to stretch out the back of her hamstrings.
“We’re four confident, arrogant wrestlers – all with huge egos and somethin’ ta prove.”
And she puts her feet on the floor, standing up on unsteady legs.
“Dan Ryan’s the easiest one: he’s beaten the World Champion and wants ta prove it wasn’t a fluke before he gets the chance to take the belt. Ya get that, right? Wrestler. Killer. Lethal. Exists in a state’a Main Event Matches.”
“Dan Ryan wants Hal. Ya can get why.”
“I’m the overachiever. The straight-A student that ruins the grading curve for everyone else.”
MJ takes another drink and pours some water over her face, shaking her head violently.
“Ain’t nobody here’s proven they can stop me when the heat’s on.”
“Think about it. Where’s my stumble? Three on one at War Games until Pornstache Pissbaby breaks a chair over my head and gets me and Fartypants ta pin each other? Where’s Pornstache now?”
She pauses, but shakes off the memory.
“Maybe I didn’t need ta take the risks I did. Maybe I shoulda been more on top’a the fight opposite ring between Ward ‘n Mr. Harmen.”
“Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.” Fact remains, Maxx Kael Junior’s claimin’ superiority when all he did was be on his back with his legs in the air while someone else did all the work.”
“Like father, like son, huh?”
“What I want is a fuckin’ course correction.”
Approaching the white board, MJ writes down her stats – 6:25.
“And that’s the problem with Maxx Kael. Junior.”
She returns her attention to the camera, looking over her shoulder with a bit of drama.
“All he’s got is junior, without the name Henry Jones in front of it ta make it cool.”
Whomever is holding the camera backs up slowly while MJ returns to the box and picks up a towel, wiping down her face. She greets a few other athletes with a nod and a fist bump as she walks into what looks like a lounge area.
“Maxx Kael Junior. Same attitude, same ego, same ol’ Harold. What’s even the point, man? Why be a professional wrestler at all if all ya gonna do is co-opt some other guy?”
Picking a backpack up off the floor, MJ pulls out a T-shirt reading ‘HIGH OCTANE FLAIR’ on the front, and a zippered hooded sweatshirt.
“I can’t get around my name, so I’ve made it my own. But you, Maxx.”
“Ya claim ya wanna honor the name Kael, but what’s the point’a coverin’ the tune if it’s gonna be a carbon copy, man? All you’ve got goin’ for ya is the ‘junior,’ which, I gotta say… after starin’ at ya for the past few weeks, ‘junior’ sounds less like carryin’ on a legacy and more like adding a ‘ding’ to the Under Pressure bassline so ya don’t have to pay royalties to Queen.”
She pulls the hoodie on and zips it up.
“If ya can’t hack it bein’ the first… whoever the fuck ya really are, man… how ya gonna step into someone else’s skin?”
Hood up, bag over shoulder, and MJ walks back into the gym, walking on the edge of the floor next to the wall to stay out of everyone’s way.
“I’ll give it to Halitosis, by the by… he knows who he is, at least – and he ain’t tryinna be someone else.”
“You’re a good man, Hal. Good wrestler. Yanno… nobody can deny that. Two time High Octane champ since the Refueled era began? It ain’t easy, right?”
She stops at a water cooler and pulls a plastic bottle out of her bag. There’s something in the bottom of the bottle, and she begins to fill it with water.
Before you start to make assumptions, it’s protein powder. Stop being weird.
“But I can see it, champ. I can see the frustrations ya got, even in the midst’a bein’ The Man.”
Water filled, bottle shook, MJ takes a drink.
“Because, what it comes down to, Hal… who are you?”
“The Luchador with Insanely Poor Oral Hygiene. Dude. That ain’t never gonna be on a T-shirt. Ain’t never gonna be a crowd chant. Ain’t never gonna be on a billboard.”
“Ta be honest, it speaks t’the talent you got in the ring, cause a branding op like that? As recognizable as it is, it’s gotta be a negative on the ol’ reaction scale. T’be a World Champion with that as ya calling card?”
She applauds, though muted, with the bottle in her hand.
“But that’s it, isn’t it? Respect? We call ya Hal, for Halitosis.”
“Cause that’s what’cha got. Halitosis.”
“Take off the mask and get’cha to a dentist, dude – we might as well call ya Gen.”
“Ya know. For Generic.”
“You’re lookin’ ta prove that that’s not you. That your legacy in High Octane isn’t stealin’ one from Brian Hollywood, and then just happenin’ t’be the guy lucky enough ta score a match with Pornstache Pissbaby when ya did.”
“And, of course, you’re lookin’ ta prove that Dan Ryan doesn’t really have your number.”
She raises an eyebrow.
“Feelin’ froggy, Hal?”
“This is where we’re at, fellas. We four are hittin’ this match with something ta prove before we get to Rumble at the Rock.”
“I’d say the difference is that The Industry is lookin’ to erase a few missteps. Maxx and Hal?”
MJ pushes the door open and puts her hood up.
“I ain’t a bettin’ woman, but if I was, I’d be bettin’ on the two’a them usin’ this match as a metaphorical shout into the inky blackness of night.”
An evil grin spreads across her face.
“’I’m significant,’ screamed the dust specks named Maxx Kael Jr and Halitosis.”
“But do the gods listen?”
“White noise, motherfuckers…”
The door closes and MJ braces herself against the wind as she walks down the sidewalk.
“Be right there!”
Despite the fact that it was MJ Flair’s personal phone that was ringing, and that the person on the other end couldn’t hear her, she said it anyway. MJ slips the terrycloth bathrobe back over her shoulders and ties the sash at the waist despite being alone in the room, and leaves the bathroom of her Hotel Chicago room to grab her phone from the night table.
MJF: Hey babe, what’s up?
Second spoiler alert – before pushing the button she saw that it was her boyfriend Kevin on the other end.
Kevin: Hey babe. Ritchie took a night since we’re a bit slow so I’ve been expediting, had a minute to give you a call so I wanted to make sure you got in all right.
MJ smiles to nobody, and walks back into the bathroom. The bath is running and she’s keeping an eye on the water level, as she sits down to test the temperature.
MJF: Everything’s good here. Got in early, had time to hit the gym for a quick one. I tell ya, babe, me and Mr. Ryan don’t win this one it won’t be for lack’a preparation.
Kevin: Nice, nice. Glad to hear it. We’ll be watching from the kitchen and cheerin’ you on.
MJF: Thanks babe.
She stops for a minute, dropping a bath bomb into the water. MJ crosses her legs and grabs a glass of clear liquid that (spoiler alert) she lifted from the minibar.
Kevin: You okay?
Kevin: You just seem off, babe. Everything cool?
MJ smiles despite herself.
MJF: Yeah. Yeah, babe, everything is ok. Just… Mr Ryan made some really good points about not getting too intense on this stuff, but that goes against my nature. He’s right, but it’s hard ta break habits, right?
Kevin: I am well aware of how stubborn you are.
MJF: See? So anyways wait what? Dude.
On the other end of the phone, Kevin laughs.
MJF: I am totes gonna punch you, babe.
Kevin: Aim for my sternum, I don’t need that to saute.
Unflappable. MJ knows it comes from working in a kitchen, where the vulgarity is more important than anything under the sun except for the quick wit.
MJF: Truce, man. Truce. I’m ‘bout to take a bath, text me when you’re done with cleanup?
Kevin: Absolutely babe. Love you.
MJF: Love you.
She hangs up the phone, removes her robe, and lowers herself into the nearly-scalding bath water. It does a great job of relaxing her stressed muscles, and easing up all of the strain that was put on them during the workout.
As the fizzies of the bath bomb do their job, she can’t help but think about the past two days. Dan Ryan? He was right. MJ can control her efforts but she can only do so much for the matches themselves.
To think anything to the contrary?
No offense, but at the moment she’s far too relaxed to care.
FADE.Views: 6 Likes: