..."Was I just too confident? Did I let the fact that I won twice with the distraction make me let my guard down when it was finally out of my hair?"
"Or was that second win a fluke? Do I really need help? Do I really need...his...help?"
"What am I talking about? I'm a rookie. I'm gonna lose plenty of times. I'll learn."
"I can't accept that. I have to be the best. By any means necessary. I have to."
Frank Lawson sits alone in a locker room, reflecting on his loss at XWA On a Pole, along with other things. He had been putting his boots on in preparation for his match tonight but stopped with only one on after losing himself in his thoughts. The first couple matches of the night have already been completed, but it's still a ways yet before Frank takes on the Television Champion. He's got some time to ponder still.
Frank: "Joey Miles, huh? He's gonna be a pain in my ass, and my face, apparently. But I did get lucky to draw a free TV title match for the first round...gotta take advantage of that."
Frank finishes pulling up his left boot and starts to tie the laces. As he does, a small commotion can be heard outside the locker room door. Frank pays it no mind, but the camera pans over as it starts to get louder...until...
The door bursts open, and in steps Tyler Lawson. The former Instant Classic has apparently been traveling, as he has a duffel bag in one hand and is dragging a suitcase (albeit one with a broken wheel) behind him. Frank turns to look and is shocked by what he sees.
Tyler: "Frankie! Been looking for you!"
Frank is bewildered.
Frank: "bwuh-Tyler, what the hell are you doing here?"
Tyler seems full of energy, and speaks quickly and chaotically.
Tyler: "C'mon man I've been texting you all day! Haven't you checked your phone?"
Frank slowly turns around and fishes his phone out of his bag behind him. Frank takes one look at the lock screan and groans.
Frank: "Seventeen messages...six missed calls...of course."
Tyler: "Heh heh, my bad man, I got bored on the train."
Frank is still flabbergasted at the presence of his cousin.
Frank: "You took a tr-what are you even doing here?"
Tyler: "Well as soon as the pay-per-view ended I had to book a ticket back to Chicago!"
Frank sighs. He knows the answer to his question but he asks it again anyway.
Frank: "Tyler, what. are. you. doing here?"
Tyler takes a deep breath. He knew Frank wouldn't like this, but he's practiced responding to this.
Tyler: "Look, Frank, hear me out here. I was just watching the show, and I noticed some stuff, and I wanted to uh...give you some advice, you know?"
Frank: "Somehow I highly doubt you traveled 500 miles to give me advice."
Frank holds his phone out to further demonstrate his point. Tyler just continues as if he didn't hear him.
Tyler: "Okay, so, I've noticed that you're at your best against...single opponents. If you only have to focus on your opponent you could probably beat anyone. But that's obviously not gonna happen every match. Against Machado you got distracted by Lance Fisher and it almost cost you. But against Seiji you focused on him and you beat him no problem. Then in the 4-Way you had to split your attention between three opponents and you lost."
Frank scowls slightly at the reminder.
Tyler: "So...with all the changes happening here in the XWA...I feel like you could really benefit from having some back-"
Frank: "Yo I see what you're doing here."
Tyler: "Man just let me...just hear me out here...I mean look at Razor Xtreme. You've seen me kick his ass; in a fair fight you'd have no problem with him, but with all those goons around it'd be like you were facing four people! And then your opponent tonight, Joey Miles - he hates your face, you know - his sister might be in the hospital but he's got connections everywhere. Since he's not at a hundred percent who knows what strings he's gonna pull to get through this tournament."
A bit of a boo can be heard from the live audience; they don't particularly like the idea of Joey cheating his way to a Lord of the Ring victory either.
Tyler: "And then...on top of that is the reason I came in the first place...the reason I booked my ticket as soon as the show ended...David Michaels."
The crowd's mood immediately flips and a pop is heard for David Michaels, who hasn't been seen yet tonight. He made one hell of an impact at On a Pole and is fresh in the minds of the XWA faithful.
Tyler: "David Michaels showing up changed everything. You know as well as I do how dangerous he is."
For the first time, Frank's face shifts a little from annoyance to agreement. All those years when Michaels was making Tyler's life hell, all the battles they had, Frank had watched on TV as a teenager. He knows indeed.
Tyler: "The DxWo, D-Volution, whatever he called it: where David Michaels goes, fuckery and interference follows. It's only a matter of time before he's got a stable around him. And when you inevitably cross paths with him, or Razor, or Joey or whoever, I just want to give you what didn't have. Some backup. An equalizer. An Insurance Policy. Whatever you want to call it."
Frank: "Look Tyler, I get what you're talking about, I do. But there's...implications here. You can go right ahead and say 'Oh Razor can't beat you without Maddox Paine or whoever interfering' but who's gonna stop someone else from saying 'Oh Frank Lawson can't beat anyone without Tyler'? I don't want people to think I'm like...trying to use you to get ahead, like riding your coattails or anything."
Tyler: "Like I have any coattails to ride in the first place."
Frank: "...Honestly it's starting to seem like you're looking for an excuse to get back in the ring. If you want to wrestle again you can just talk to Bella Quinn and sign up for a show."
Tyler sighs, turning his eyes downward a bit.
Tyler: "Well...you're not far off. Being here these past couple weeks has made me realize I missed wrestling a bit, I won't deny that. But I don't want to wrestle again. My time has passed. I'm too old to start this from scratch. The world doesn't need another Tyler Lawson retirement tour.
There's a pregnant pause as Tyler and Frank both think about things a bit.
Tyler: "I...I respect that you want to make your own name here, and that you don't want to be upstaged. And you know I'm not trying to do that, I'm not trying to steal your thunder. I just want to help give you the best environment to make your own name. To do what I couldn't do. That's all...I just want to help.
???: "Pffft, what help would you be?"
Both Lawsons whirl around to find the source of this new voice. They didn't even hear him walk up, but eventually they find the man. Standing a dozen feet away, smirking, is the man Tyler main evented XtremeMania, the Big Ass American Bash, and several TV cards with, the one, the only, David Michaels. The crowd roars as he first appears. Tyler is significantly less happy.
Tyler: "Oh...David...what a surprise."
DM: "Well I was just walking by and heard you talking shit about me. Figured I'd stop by and tell you it was pretty rich to hear about 'fuckery' from the guy who could never get the job done."
Tyler scowls as the Showstealer continues to sneer at him. These two, despite both being beloved babyfaces, clearly still hate each other's guts.
DM: "Not once but twice did you try to wrest a world championship from me, and both times you lost, clean. Both times you failed to deliver. Hell, the last time I beat you so bad you reverted into the Butt Pirate. How do you expect to lead a protege to success that you never had?"
Tyler: "You haven't changed a bit."
DM: "Oh contraire, I've changed quite a lot. What hasn't changed how fun it is to own you!"
Frank snorts. Tyler shoots him a glare before leering back at Michaels
Tyler: "Can it. You may have stacked the deck against me in the past, but Frank'll have a much better chance of knocking you down a peg when the odds are evened. I'll make damn sure of that."
Tyler has taken a step forward toward Michaels, almost subconsciously being confrontational toward him.
DM: "Tyler, look. I'll be the first to admit I may have been a Grade-A asshole five years ago. But that makes you a Grade-D dumbass. You still failed. You'll never make a difference: not in your own career...and certainly not in his."
Michaels gestures toward Frank, then as Tyler turns to look he steps past and addresses the Zero Wolf.
DM: "Listen big guy, here's some advice from a former world champion. Unlike your cousin, I actually like you. I think you got a lot of potential, despite your poor choice in where to be trained. But you're not gonna reach that potential hanging around with this loser. The reason you lost isn't because of any sort of stacked odds or distractions. It's 'cause while you have size, and you have talent, you don't have heart, you don't have grit. You'll get those in time if you keep working at it, but having Tyler fill your head with dumb shit isn't gonna help with that, and it isn't gonna help you in Lord of the Ring."
Frank takes a step forward and gets right in David's face. Tyler may already tower over Michaels, but Frank's extra heft makes him look like a cruiserweight.
Frank: "Thanks, but I don't need any advice from some...washed up impersonator. Waltz in here after five years and get the main event first night back while people like me are working up from the bottom? Pfff. I wouldn't even need Tyler's help to beat your ass. So I'll see you in the finals, Michaels...if you make it that far."
Michaels cracks a big smile back at Tyler before turning back to Frank.
DM: "Oh he's feisty! I like your attitude, kid, but let me tell you something. I am far, FAR, from washed up. You may aspire to be the best, but I am the best, and I'll prove out there tonight that I haven't lost one. damn. step."
The old David Michaels intensity we all know and love has started to come out. He notices it too. Not wanting to escalate this into any sort of altercation, he relaxes a bit, and takes a step back from Frank's piercing stare.
DM: "I assure you I'll be in the finals, kid; it's...yourself I'd be worried about. If there's one thing this turd is right about, with this field, us solo folks have it rough. Especially when you draw dat that Miles first. He might be a cock but he's dangerous, that one. And on top of everything, I've heard he hates your face! So I'd say you should be more worried about whether you can beat him before you're thinking about any Finals."
Michaels gives a wink and walks away, leaving los Lawsons to stand together in silence.
Tyler: "...Fuck that guy."
The two cousins glance back at each other for a bit, processing what just happened.
Frank: "Y'think...what do you think he meant by that last bit?"
Tyler: "You can never know for sure what he's thinking. But you're talking about him interfering right?"
Tyler: "Knowing him...maybe? Him and Miles seem like an odd pair, but then again so did him and..."
Tyler sighs, reliving more bad memories, of the only man he has a worse record against than Michaels.
Frank: "Maybe...uh...Yeah...I think you might as well come with me tonight...just in case..."
Tyler: "Yeah...me too."
Frank: "Just as backup..."
Tyler: "Just as backup."
Frank goes to sit back down as the segment starts coming to an end. Tyler starts gathering up his luggage to shove in Frank's already-cramped locker as the shot starts to fade...
"Did I just...?"
"I really fucking said that by my own free will, didn't I?"