The building was slowly filling up. The doors had just opened. The popcorn was fresh, the pizza was cooking. Riley was away from it all -- in a corner of the Oxford Arena that was away from fans and from the locker room. It was technically an equipment storage area. Marjorie and her crew used it to store extra lights in case something broke. He used it for his pre-show ritual.
Riley sat on the floor in track pants and a sleeveless RMW shirt. His trunks were on underneath his pants. He had his boots on already, but not his knee pads. His legs were splayed open and he was stretching. He was trying to prepare his body. There would be a war tonight. A war with Jimmy P.
Riley didn’t know Jimmy P well. They had talked briefly before the tag match in August and would talk more in a little bit about their main event match up. Jimmy P was one of the few guys who had been to both TCW and SWF. He and Donnie J had been stars in the cruiserweight division back when TCW featured a cruiserweight division. He and Donnie had been Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions. CZCW Tag Team Champions. He had been a multiple time CZCW Champion. He had teamed with Garcia to win the SWF World Tag Team Titles. Jimmy was accomplished. He had name value. He was still in the prime of his career and could still wrestle. He had been a casualty of SWF’s swelling roster and SWF’s attempt to keep up in the arms race. They had deemed him an unnecessary asset. Riley had once been unnecessary. He understood.
Riley stretched his torso towards his left leg. He let the muscles in his bodies pull and relax. Loosening them. Riley inhaled and exhaled. Jimmy was good for the company. Good for the locker room. He was probably Riley’s top opponent. Name value. Still in his prime. Not old and clinging on for life. Not young and still building a name. He was the whole package. Riley was looking forward to the opportunity. To the chance.
He could hear the chatter of the fans as they came into the building and took their seats. He inhaled and exhaled again. He closed his eyes.
“Hey babe.” Her voice called to him. He opened his eyes. She was already dressed for tonight. Makeup done. Hair done. Dressed as the seductress she portrayed in front of the crowd.
“Hey.” He replied. He was calm. Relaxed now.
“You ready for tonight?”
“Good. You’re going to kill it.”
“I hope so.”
She walked up to him and stood to the side. Her hand came down so should stroke his head. “I know so. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on you tonight. Another sell out I hear.”
“Good. That’ll be three thousand people again. We’re getting big.” He wrapped an arm around her leg, hand stroking her calve as he leaned against her.
“We are. We’re a real company now, pinocchio.” She said with a laugh. “Sell outs, big crowds. We’re not going anywhere.”
He laughed. “No we’re not. We’re entrenched.”
She smiled and started to pull him to his feet. He stretched his back now that he was standing. “You got an idea for what you want to do?”
“We’re going to call it in the ring. We know the finish already, but we’ll see how the fans are feeling and take it from there.”
She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I’m proud of you.”
He grinned and kissed her on her forehead. “Well thanks. I’m proud of you too.”
They stood there like this for a long moment. In this quiet part of the building, the quiet before the show starts. Just a moment between two lovers. They kissed for real before they broke it off. “Let’s go.” She said as she pulled him by the hand. It was almost showtime.
Riley walked off with her and took a deep breath. Tonight, he was going to perform in front of 3,000 fans. Tonight, he was going to wrestle someone who had wrestled in front of 20,000 people. At wrestled on a Supreme Challenge but also been a staple of the independent scene. Someone who got it.
Riley was nervous. He couldn't show it. He was the champ. He was the cornerstone. He couldn't show nerves. He had to be the cool hand of the locker room. Steady and sure. He could tell Lisa, but he won't. Not right now.
Right now, he was getting his game face on. Riley McManus versus James Prudence. Bring it.