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Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Both Sides Now" - A Sneak Preview!!!

The Joe Naszhti Show was the hottest new series on television. Its host, who was nicknamed ‘Joe Nasty’ by viewers and the media alike, was one of a new breed of talk show emcees who routinely baited their interviewees for shock appeal on their broadcasts. He had a variety of guests on the show from all walks of life, and garnered an increasing number of viewers across the country when it was announced that he was going to have stars from the IWA on his Sunday segment.  

Jim Dandy and Mike O’Beirne entreated Lucien to appear on the show, insisting that it would be a major shot in the arm for the Company and wrestling in general. Lucien protested mildly before finally agreeing to go, requesting only that Anna be given a front row seat. He would have gladly gotten one for Manfred, who confirmed Lucien’s reservations by insisting he would not want to appear on such a show.         

 “I am afraid that I would end up striking that man for his insolence,” Manfred was adamant, having seen the show a couple of times to his consternation. “Be careful not to lose your temper, Lucien, lest you kill the dog on national television.” 

Lucien waited in the wings, having inspected himself after having his coiffure sprayed and stage makeup applied. He looked like a movie star in a $500 blue cerulean suit with matching tie and jewelry, starched pearl shirt and patent leather Beatle boots. The theme music played as the show went on the air, the audience chanting “NASTY! NASTY!” before the host took center stage. He gave them his standard greeting before a preview of the evening’s lineup, then good-naturedly ribbed a few members of the audience before taking his seat behind the table upon the dais at center stage.    

“Is is real or is it fake?” Naszhti asked rhetorically, resplendent in a $1,000 designer suit, his hair and goatee meticulously clipped. “That is the question in the minds of sportscasters, the media and audiences alike as they continue to watch one of the most fascinating spectacles in entertainment history. There are those who swear that this is as authentic as any other sport, while others say these are routines that are staged and even rehearsed. Yet many will ask, why ask why? Well, here tonight is one of what many are calling a new breed of professional wrestler. Here is a man who is not only a four-time amateur champion in his home town of Gottingen University, but a college professor at NYU who is known by his peers as a distinguished and well-spoken scholar and a gentleman. Ladies and gentlemen: Dr. Lucien Triskellion.”                  

        The audience broke into an ovation sprinkled by hoots and catcalls as Lucien waved to the crowd, winking at Anna before taking a seat at stage left of Naszhti’s desk.                                               

“Now, that’s no way to treat a University professor,” Naszhti chided the audience before shaking Lucien’s hands. “You’re billed at the Great One by the IWA, am I right? How did that come about?”                                                                                                                                                          

“I think it was started by some of my students trying to improve their grades,” Lucien cocked an eyebrow as the audience laughed with him.                                                                            

“You know, you’re a pretty big guy, but you don’t look like the typical professional wrestler,” Naszhti mused. “You don’t look like a college teacher either. I think you’d make a great leading man in a German movie, or any other one, for that matter.”                                                    

“I’m sure my girlfriend is pleased by that.” More laughter.                                                              

“That would have been my next question. Is she here in the audience?”                                         

“There she is,” Lucien pointed to Anna as she shielded her eyes in embarrassment, blushing violently. “She’s much lovelier with her hand away from her face.”                                       

At that she playfully stuck her tongue out at him, causing the audience to laugh as they gave her a round of applause.                                                                                                                        

“Well, let’s start off with the sixty-four dollar question. Is it real or is it fake?”                        

  “You seem to have plenty of room here,” Lucien looked around. “You seem to be in pretty good shape. We can roll around a bit and you can see for yourself. I’ll even let you have a free hold.”                                                                                                                                                            

At that point it was Naszhti who took the jeers and catcalls, mixed with whistles and cheers for Lucien.                                                                                                                                                

“I think I’ll pass for now,” Naszhti laughed. “Let me put on about fifty pounds or so, get back in the gym, and I’ll get back to you on that.”                                                                                     

“I’m sure it’ll be a great draw,” Lucien kidded as the audience chortled.                                         

  “You’re currently appearing as part of a clique, if you will, headed by a particularly notorious fellow called Jim Dandy. Is that his real name?”                                                                                  

  “Only his hairdresser knows for sure,” Lucien quipped.                                                                 

   “The other night, on national TV, one of your associates, Gojira Tsunami, attacked Athos Leonidas from behind with a metal chair. Now, Wrestling Galaxy magazine lists Tsunami at 6’6”, 400 pounds. They have Leonidas at 6’2”, 265. How do you justify that?”                                            

“I’m not sure you can justify such a thing,” he speculated. “You do know that Tsunami has recently returned to the territory. He’s trying to reestablish himself, and I think he was probably trying to send a message of sorts. Perhaps the message was somewhat overstated.”                  

“Back to the sixty-four dollar question,” Naszhti continued as the laughter subsided. “Tsunami hits a man who weighs almost half as much as he does with a metal chair from behind. The man is helped back to the dressing room but, no police, no ambulances, no coroner. Is there something wrong with this picture?” 

        “Well,” Lucien weighed his words carefully, “let’s look at it from this perspective. You watch hockey players swing sticks at each other on a nightly basis.             People get hurt, but you don’t see them hospitalized or killed. We’re not gladiators, we’re not trying to finish each other off. Put it this way, if Tsunami had hit Athos with everything he had, there would be a lot of Leonidas fans who might just stop watching our show. We certainly wouldn’t make lots of money doing that sort of thing.”                                                                                                             

“Okay, let’s talk dollars and cents. Vito Mastrangelo has been the champion for over four years now. He’s been selling out Madison Square Garden every month throughout that time. Obviously this man is a virtual gold mine for your company. If he loses the title and, as you touched upon, Mastrangelo fans stop showing up, your company stands to lose a ton of money. Do you think your company would take that risk in allowing Vito to be defeated for the belt?”                 

“Consider the fact that Vito bench-presses over five hundred pounds,” Lucien replied. “Plus he has four years’ experience of defending himself five nights a week against some of the toughest men on the planet, some of who have resorted to every dirty trick in the book to beat him. With that kind of strength and skill, I don’t know if it’s a question of someone allowing anyone to beat him.”                                                                                                                                        

At once the chant of Vi-to! Vi-to! Vi-to! began booming throughout the studio.                        

“The word is out that you also bench press five hundred, and, of course, you have vast experience in what lots of people might call ‘real’ wrestling. Plus there are lots of rumors that Jim Dandy is putting you in position for a title shot against the champ. Do you think you’ve got what it takes to carry the flag for your company?”                                                                                      

“I’ll tell you, Joe, at this stage of the game I’d be delighted just to get voted Rookie of the Year.”                                                                                                                                                                    

“Well, Lucien, I hate to heat your seat more than it already is,” Naszhti allowed, “but we have another special guest from your company who may be able to shed some light on the competition on the title scene, as well as give us some additional insight into that weird and wonderful world of pro wrestling. Ladies and gentlemen…the IWA heavyweight champion of the world, Vito Mastrangelo!”                                                                                                               

Lucien surprised himself by feeling slightly jealous as the fans went wild when Mastrangelo made his way up from the dressing room onto the stage. The champion was meticulously dressed in a tailored midnight blue suit, white shirt and dark tie. He was nearly mobbed by fans, and security guards had to rush from the rear area to clear his path.                 

  “Vi-to! Vi-to! Vi-to “, they yelled as he waved before shaking hands with Naszhti, sitting alongside him opposite Lucien. He felt somewhat slighted that Vito did not shake hands with him, but immediately realized that he was probably observing kayfabe.                                                     

  “Mr. Mastrangelo, it’s an honor to have you here with us,” Naszhti began. “I’m sure you got to watch our discussion with Lucien Triskellion on the monitors backstage. There was an altercation between you fellows on your show out of Washington DC a couple of weeks ago. It looked a lot like a hype for your coming title bout at the Garden with Professor Moto. What a lot of the fans want to know is why you and Jim Dandy aren’t cutting to the chase and giving Lucien the title shot instead.”   

       “Well, neither Jim Dandy nor I have any control over the rankings, it’s the same situation you have in boxing,” Vito replied in a soft, respectful voice. “I have all the respect in the world for Lucien Triskellion, but I’m not about to look past Professor Moto. He’s a very tough and powerful man, and he is going to pose a serious threat to my championship. I’m just hoping that my fans will be able to come out and give me some support, and I can guarantee them I’m going to give it everything I can to beat this man and come out on top.”       

      Just then there was a commotion in the rear, and the fans began standing as a massive figure dressed in black made its way to the stage. Bill Ohms came down the aisle dressed in a Stetson, Western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, stopping at the foot of the stage in front of Mastrangelo.                                                                                                                                                             

“Now, I just heard you say that Professor Moto was a serious threat to your title, and I also heard you say that you had all the respect in the world for Lucien ‘the Great’ Triskellion,” Ohms’ deep voice could be heard even without a microphone. “I know that this show is being broadcasted across the nation, and Mr. Naszhti is giving the American audience a chance to see what pro wrestling is about. My question to you is: why are you not telling everyone who the real threat to your title is, and why you aren’t willing to give Bill Ohms a shot at the world heavyweight championship?”                                                                                                             

“Well, now, like I just said, I don’t have anything to do with the rankings, and I don’t have any control over the promotion,” Mastrangelo tried to explain.                                               

   “That don’t have anything to do with it,” Ohms stepped up onto the platform, staring down at Vito. “The truth of the matter is, you’re a yellow, egg-sucking dog!”                                               

With that, he grabbed Mastrangelo by the hair, yanking him forward and snatching hold of his suit jacket. He pulled it over Vito’s head, ripping it up the middle before kicking and stomping at the champion as he fell out of his chair. Both Naszhti and Lucien rose from their seats, backing away as the security guards came storming down the aisle and tackling both men. It took six men to pull Ohms back to the dressing room, while two men helped the champion to his feet. Lucien walked over to the edge of the stage and held his hands out, shrugging at Anna as she watched the scene in astonishment.                                                                                                   

    “Uh, I’m going to have to check with our sponsors and see if I’ve got any vacation time available after this,” Naszhti managed as the audience was stunned by the altercation. Lucien returned to his seat as Mastrangelo was helped back to the dressing room.                                                 

“Now let me get this straight,” Lucien sat back. “Were you wondering why I didn’t want to be the champion?”  

 “I think that’s kind of a rhetorical question at this point,” Naszhti chuckled weakly. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve seen it with your own eyes, you be the judge. Is it real or is it fake? I’ll tell you one thing that I know for a fact: we’ve had a true gentleman and a great athlete on our show tonight. Let’s have a round of applause for Lucien Triskellion.”                                                

The audience expended their remaining energies into a boisterous ovation for Lucien as he waved back in leaving the stage. By tomorrow morning, replays of the show would be broadcast around the country as viewing audiences marveled at what had happened.                         

Cowboy Bill Ohms, within a matter of minutes, had become the biggest heel in the business, and Mike O’Beirne had become completely powerless to stop it.

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