Title: Skin Deep
Featuring: Cayle Murray
Date: 6th Jan
Location: San Diego, CA
Show: Victory XLIV

It’s been a long couple of weeks.

I just fought – and beat – the most decorated wrestler I’ve ever met in the ring, and now I’ve got to deal with a pissed-off hellcat. Not only that, but half the world thinks I attacked Colton Thorpe, and the other half wants me to smack Eric Dane in the mouth.

Standing in the bathroom, I cup cold water in my hands and splash it over my weary face.

Anger, frustration, anxiety…

Madman’s saliva.

It all washes away.

“Amy Harrison.”

I grab a hand towel, dab my face down, and pull my favourite Victory tee back onto my torso (it’s a family show, after all).

“I always figured we’d meet in the ring sometime, lass: I just didn’t think it’d take so long. We came to the UTA at the same kinda time and took vastly different paths, but we’re both about to arrive at the same destination. I know we’re gonna have one heck of a tear-up in Atlantic City.”

I push my hands down against the sink’s edge for stability, then gaze-up at my reflection.

“You love these things, don’t you?”

Can’t say I’ve ever spoken into a mirror before, but here goes.

“I can tell you’re the type to stop and stare every time you catch glimpse of your own reflection. Hell, maybe I would too if I looked like you…”

Especially on a day like this, when I haven’t even bothered to run a comb through my hair yet.

“Jokes aside, there’s nothing wrong with taking a little pride in your appearance. Self-confidence is such a powerful tool, and you’re not gonna get too far in life without it. But it’s a thin line between confidence and vanity, Amy: a line you dance across far too often.

But your vanity isn’t the real problem: it’s the fact that you act like it’s your greatest strength, like it’s the only thing you’ve got.

I shake my head.

“Frankly, I know that’s not the case.”

Facing Marie was a little different. There was a girl completely hamstrung by her own failings. She’d get so hung-up on losing that she couldn’t focus on the match at hand, and that led to the losing streak growing longer and longer.

Amy’s the opposite – she’s too sure of herself – but the end product’s the same.

“A pretty face doesn’t entitle you to a damn thing here, Amy. It doesn’t give you a right to win, it doesn’t give you a right to the Prodigy Championship, and it doesn’t give you a right to throw your toys out the pram when things don’t go your way.

You swan around like the Queen of the UTA, like every man in the building should fall at your feet and worship the ground you walk on...”

Thinking about all the poor saps who fall for things like this, I can’t help but laugh.

“Know what I think?

I think it’s bullshit.

It’s an act.

Lemme tell you why.”

Deep breath. Here we go.

“D’you remember Victory XXXVII, Amy? ‘Cause I sure do. I remember seeing those betting lines, and everybody on the planet assuming Bobby Dean would just breeze by you. Nobody gave you a chance in hell that night, but you did it.

You pulled it off. You overcame.

And it had nothing to do with being the baddest chick on the roster, or being ‘better’ than Bobby.”

Gotta admit that I was among those who never gave the girl a shot. Always figured that she’d be just another egotistical, over-entitled brat who’d wash out of the business at the first sign of major adversity.

That match told me I was wrong.

“How about International Affair? You took the kind of hit that would’ve sent most of us to the hospital. Nobody would’ve said a thing if you couldn’t continue after that. That was the kinda bump that shortens careers, lass.

But you took it. When the medics tried to cart you off, you said ‘nah.’ You got up and jumped back into the fire. You fought some of this company’s warriors when you should’ve been lying in the back of an ambulance, and you won.

I’ve been through hell and back for a match’s sake a few times myself. Fighting through the pain barrier isn’t easy, but she’ll always have my respect for refusing to take the easy way out.

“But you didn’t do these things with good looks, ego, and entitlement.

You did them with heart, fire, and passion!

On those nights, with the odds against her, Amy Harrison refused to be denied. The narcissism vanished, and the warrior emerged! You weren’t just the stroppy child, but someone worthy of respect, and on those nights, you could’ve beaten anybody.”

Here comes the asterisk.

“Why can’t we see THAT Amy every week?

Where was THAT Amy when the time came to defend the Prodigy Title, and you spent more time worrying about MVC’s refereeing performance than trying to beat Lew Smith?

Facts are facts, lass. We both know Marie didn’t do a thing wrong in that match. She called it straight down the line, and your own paranoia cost you dearly. You forgot all about the passion that won you the title in the first place, and reverted to type: poor little Amy lost her belt, and it was her own damn fault.”

She could’ve had a reign to rival Beckman’s if she’d just kept her head straight, but alas.

“I’m not saying these things to rile or insult you: I’m saying these things because I want you to be better.

I know you’re better than the vapid tantrum-merchant that blames her problems on everyone but herself, and bullies Marie every bloody week.”

This type of person bothers me. I’ve suffered the same affliction myself, and I know how easy it is to cave-in and play the blame game when things aren’t working-out. It might feel right at the time, but years later, I feel nothing but embarrassment when I look back on this times.

“When you’re at your best – when you summon the positive qualities I’ve just outlined – you’re one of the best damn wrestlers this company has. I mean that.”

I hammer it home with a little thump on the sink, just in case.

“So why be the airhead? Why be the snotty princess? You’ve already shown you know how to overcome the odds, so why don’t you try to embody those traits on a weekly basis? Just think where you’d be right now if you performed like you did against Dean and in Tokyo on a weekly basis.”

No projections necessary: the words speak for themselves.

“I want you to stop selling yourself short, lass. I don’t want to fight another shallow, conniving villain: I get enough of that from Dane’s little gang.

I want to fight the Amy Harrison that shocked Bobby Dean, and came back from the dead at International Affair.

Bring anything less than that and I’ll be sorely disappointed.”

My brother used to say that he wanted his opponents on their worst day: that way, he had a better chance of winning.

I never quite figured out if he was joking or not, but I’m the opposite. A win’s worthless to me unless my opponent’s at their absolute best.

“Can you promise me that, Amy?

Can you be the same fighter who won the Prodigy Champion?

Or will you hear my words, get all offended, and fall back into your worst state again?”

That’s up to her.

“But here’s the thing, Amy: we’re not totally unalike. I love the mirror too, y’know, but not because I enjoy admiring my own reflection…”

Though I do look alright for a guy who gets punched in the face for a living.

“There’s something deeply therapeutic about gazing deep inside your own soul.”

Stood eyeball-to-eyeball with my mirrored self, that’s exactly what I’m doing now.  

“My successes and failures, highs and lows, goods and bads: here, I’m alone with all of them. Face-to-face, with no choice but to confront them.

Every time I make a mistake, this is where I come. I refuse to be a man defined by his missteps, and here, when I look at the man I am – and the man I hope to become – I find the answers.

Last week I did something I’m not proud of at all. Madman showed me the ultimate disrespect, and I let my anger overcome me.”

In fairness, you don’t know true rage until you’ve felt another man’s spit hitting your face.

“I lost myself for a few moments, and leapt on him like a lion does its prey. I’m not proud of it, and I owe everyone an apology, because I’m trying to set a good example. I’m trying to be someone the audience can believe in, and losing control like that just isn’t good enough.

But I’m already moving past it, and why? Because I stood right here, Amy. I looked myself in the eye, came to terms with what I’d done, and figured the whole thing out.”

I pause.

“It’s not Madman’s fault that I lost my self-control.

It’s not the world’s fault that I drank myself into rehab.

It’s not the world’s fault that I flubbed every major opportunity I’d been given before the UTA came knocking.

You can’t grow ‘til you take ownership of your failings, Amy. You can’t hope to move forward until the day you start taking responsibility. I know that through experience: look at my track record and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Maybe she’ll learn that; maybe she won’t.

“Next time you’re staring at one of these things…”

I tap the glass with my knuckles.

“… try and look behind the perfect skin and those big ol’ eyes. I’m sure you’ll find the answers.”

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