I grinned at myself in my own bathroom mirror - at the swollen, redstained lips with black stitches poking out, and at the brand new gap in my teeth. Upper left canine, still wherever it landed at… wherever the hell I wrestled at, last week. The doctors say I don’t have a concussion, but damned if my memory isn’t hazy.
My mustache is also missing, and some black stitchwork is spread across my upper lip. The doctors told me that the canine actually exited my mouth through that hole in my lip. Shot me full of novocaine, shaved the stache and then stitched my lip up.
“We’re so gonna make the motherf-”
Trying to make the F sound sent a stab of pain through the wound, and I choked on the words.
“So gonna make the sons-bitches pay.”
The B sound hurt too, but not as badly. My lower lip tasted like blood, and there was a big purple bruise the shape of someone’s boot toe on my cheek.
I’ve been kicked around before. I’m used to pain. I’ve had people go batshit across my head with chairs. Probably the most painful thing anyone’s done to me was the time I took a cactus to the face.
This was waaaay up there though. Top five, easily.
God, my face was swollen all the way up to my eye. The swelling was pulling the eyelid down, giving me this lumpy look. Like irradiated cauliflower.
And this was nearly a week after the attack itself.
The way concussions are causing problems in athletics these days, they kept me in the hospital for an extra day after sewing my face together. To be fair, that belt shot Thorpe hit me with, didn’t do the amount of visible damage the kick did, but yeah, it was a legit concussion risk.
So once I finally got home, I just slept and drank whiskey for a few days. Wasn’t until I finally got that sense that I needed to attend to business that I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom instead of the bottle. Discovered I’d been out of it longer than I’d thought it had been, too. All booked up in UTA… against Marie Van Claudio.
“Really? I scoop slam fucking Santa Claus, then beat a former World Champion, and now I’ve got Marie Van Cantbuyawin? Jeff is confused and does not like this.”
This is where I’m always tempted to just go back to the whiskey and let the world fuck off. But that little voice in the back of my head that told me to get up in the first place started in on me again - reminding me that she’s been improving, that it’s never a good idea to underestimate anyone but especially women with something to prove in the ring.
I thought I was talking to that little voice, but I’d forgotten that saying f’s hurt.
Now I was in a bad mood again. Great.
Before I started my talky-talking, I went to makeup department for maybe the fifth time in my entire wrestling career, and the first time since I resigned myself to baldness. Trying to hide the swollen red lip was a waste of time, but I got a skin colored patch over my stitches
“Marie, I’m going to tell you a story. I know that talking about the past is totes discouraged here in UTA, but it’s a story you ought to know. You’re all wrestling in the mens divisions and all that? I’m one of the reasons you’re doing that.”
“Waaaaaay back in like, 2001 or something, I was running a promotion, and I started out with a women’s division. But all the women quit except for one, and she and I kind of… had a relationship that prevented me from firing her. Yeah, that’s adequately vague. Anyway, due to lack of active division, I decided to turn her Woman’s Title into a Cruiserweight Title. I figured that it’d be like a cruiserweight in the heavyweight division, and that she could hang, it’d be a little thing to make my undercard unique.”
“Well, as it turns out, she went on to win 2 World Titles, which doesn’t sound impressive unless you know how _lazy_ she was.”
“But anyway. The reason I bring that up? Because I don’t ever want you or anyone else thinking that I’m one of those insecure dudes who can’t handle the thought of possibly being on the receiving end of an offensive move from a chick.”
I nod. It’s the little thing I do when I’m trying to convey straightforward sincerity.
“That works in both directions, though.”
“You see, I’ve known many women in the business who were pretty damn good in the ring. I’ve hired them, I’ve booked them, I’ve signed their paychecks. I’ve gotten kicked in the face by them, twisted into knots by them, powerbombed by them, botch-powerbombed directly onto my neck by one.”
“I know what a good female wrestler looks like.”
“And you, Miss Van Claudio, are not one of them.”
I get a slight twinge of guilt as I lay it down like that - but it’s the truth, and it’s not like I’m the first person who’s ever said it to her.”
“I’ve been here a month. You’ve been here for freaking ever. You have one more win than me, but one of mine is over a former World Champion and you’ve never beaten anyone who wasn’t a nobody. I did my research, girl. Brellis and Blackbeard? Yeah.”
“Now, as for how this match we’ve got is going to go, let me explain something.”
Again, I nod.
“I feel that the when a woman knowingly and willingly signs a contract that puts her in intergender match situations, it’s as disrespectful to go easy on her as it is to bore her with all the Usual Insults Against Women. And to reiterate the point that I just keep on making… I’m pretty good at wrestling. Combine the two. I’m not gonna go easy on you, and I’m pretty good. What’s the logical conclusion?”
“Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not dismissing you. I can see you improving, I can see you figuring out your place in the ring, your style in the ring, the way you interact, the way you move - and I do honestly believe that some day, possibly some day soon, you’re going to get that real win, and you’re going to embarrass the hell out of some poor dumbfuck.”
“But it’s not gonna be this week, and it’s not gonna be me.”
I can’t figure out whether to smile apologetically or scowl menacingly, so I just sigh instead.
“The Pantheon has decided that I’m a threat, so I’ve got that to deal with. I got nominated or voted or however it goes, wrestler of the week. I just pinned a world champion. I’ve got too much on my plate, and too much wind at my back, to even be able to afford letting you trip me up at this point.”
I’ve got some more tapes to study. I know from experience that not only are girls often pound for pound tougher than the guys, they’re so used to being outsized in the ring that they learn to be innovative, and they learn it quick. But if MVC favors the jump and grab style of innovation, or the flipkick style, or what I’ve always called the wriggleworm style (where they slide out of submissions and power moves and wrap themselves around your neck in some way or other), well, I want to be ready to expect it.
And when I’m done all that, then I’ve got a chart of vengeance to plot.