My Debt Is Paid

By: Ricky Rodriguez

Date: 12th Oct 2021

The Baby Shower.

 

Ricky Rodriguez pulls into that rather long driveway leading to the glamorous, for lack of a better term, home. Awestruck by the home, he doesn’t realize the closeness between the two cars and swings his door open, hitting the passenger side door of the car next to him. He recognized it instantly as one of Joe Montuori’s insanely expensive cars. He groaned out before kneeling down to examine it. Even after trying to rub away with evidence with a finger, he shook his head at the noticeable ding.

 

???: ‘Don’t even worry about it.’

 

That all too familiar voice shook Ricky from his examination of the damage he caused to Joe’s car. His thoughts instantly shifted as he saw the source of that voice: Sahara. A smile dominated his features while he stood up. The two shared a brief yet embrace as Sahara returned to her previous train of thought.

 

Sahara: ‘Seriously though, don’t even sweat it. Stupid fuck probably has three more just like it.’

 

For emphasis on her point, Sahara spat onto the hood of that car before laughing out. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t put much more thought into it. Ricky laughed at the change in tone he’s had over the past few months, a lot in part to the woman he was now with. Waving off the incident entirely, Ricky retrieved the two gift bags from the trunk of his car and got a better view of the home. It was like nothing he had ever saw before. 

 

Finding himself taken aback by it, he shook his head in order to regain his composure. Ricky and Sahara followed the path inside which was just as stunning as the outside. Sahara had arrived earlier than Ricky did so when it came time to say his hellos, the two shared another kiss before splitting off and going their separate ways, for now at least. Luckily enough, it wasn’t long before Ricky caught sight of Paul Montuori. Throwing his hand up, he walked a bit faster than usual to catch up to him. It was Paul’s house after all, it was a sign of respect.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Hey man. Thanks for havin me. This place is fuckin nuts.’

 

Paul Montuori: ‘No problem man. It might help us all get on the same page too.’

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘We totally could use a bit of that. But hey, I wanna go say hi to Michelle, we’ll talk more later.’

 

Paul gave a nod of his head before telling Ricky where he could find her before he went off to continue what he was doing beforehand. Making his way to the backyard area of that home. Taking in the sight of it all, Ricky found himself floored once again. Before he could get too lost in it all, he shook his head and reminded himself of what he was doing.

 

Looking over the rather large crowd of people, he saw more than a few of them he recognized immediately and some he didn’t so much. But he wasn’t looking for anyone else right now, just the star of the event and there she was. He made his way straight for where Michelle sat, those bags still in his hand. He placed those bags with the rest of them before greeting Michelle with a warm smile.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Hey, thanks for havin me here. Everythin looks great. And also, thanks for what you said the other night. Really thought about things after that.’

 

His words trailed off as he glanced over to the side and saw Sahara sitting with Dane and Allison, his smile growing as he saw her. Sahara noticed him looking over and returned that smile as Michelle cleared her voice. Returning his attention to the person everyone was here for, Ricky was unable to resist laughing a bit.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Just remember everything I said and there won’t be any problems.’

 

Ricky nodded his head in agreement before turning away and starting to walk off. Noticing Austin and Toddy, he decided to head over that way and stop behind them. He threw an arm around each of their shoulders, the three of them laughing and talking amongst themselves.

 

As the baby shower continued on, Ricky had broken away from Toddy and Austin and found his way alongside Sahara as she hung out with Dane and Allison. He mainly kept quiet, as he usually did, when he was around the three of them together, choosing to only speak up when spoken to or when he had something important to say about whatever topic it so happened to be. 

 

There was an expression of being content as his body was completely relaxed in that chair. The appearance of Alessandra didn’t really surprise Ricky much, that is until she walked over to where he was sitting in order to get his attention. She slightly kneeled and spoke up.

 

Alessandra: ‘Hey Ricky, Michelle wants you.’

 

There was a bit of confusion in the expression of Ricky as he nodded to her. Telling Sahara he would be right back and gave her a brief kiss and got up from his seat. Looking for Michelle for a moment or two, it didn’t take long for him to catch sight of her and start heading over that way. As he walked, he couldn’t help but to wonder just what she wanted him for.

 

Once he saw Toddy joining him, it became more apparent just what he was needed for. Ricky couldn’t resist laughing as he saw Michelle getting more and more irritated with the pace Joe was coming in at. That laugh intensified greatly as he heard her outburst. His laughter subsided as he listened on to Michelle tearing into Joe verbally. As bad as it was, this didn’t surprise him in the slightest.

 

It was a pep talk. The troops had beem rounded up and it was on Michelle to say what needed to be said. When she began to speak up on Ricky and Toderick, the youngest of the group listened with the utmost interest. She made a lot of sense and it honestly was something Ricky needed to hear. As she mentioned them coming together on Night Two, despite anything that had gone on in Night One, Ricky nodded understandingly.

 

Tho, that understanding was quickly swept away as Ricky heard the last bit of what she had said. To say he really wanted to speak up would be an understatement. But, his more laid back personality shined through as it helped him keep his mouth shut. It became easier to keep his mouth shut as Michelle tore back into Joe.

 

Even if he wanted to, Ricky couldn’t hide that grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Once she finished with Joe, he listened on as Michelle carried on with her version of a pep talk. Everything was going well enough until Joe had to speak up. Even in a time like this, he just couldn’t resist making a threat towards Sahara. And that was when Ricky spoke up.

 

The two began to argue back and forth, Ricky standing up to Joe, figuratively and literally until just words weren’t cutting it anymore. Joe threw the first punch which Ricky was able to avoid and fired off one of his own at the stomach of Joe, knocking him back. Joe came back strong and the two of them began to exchange punches between one another. 

 

Punches suddenly became more when Joe harshly kicked Ricky in the stomach, knocking the wind from him. Before Ricky knew what happened, he found himself being literally thrown through the air onto that table.  His body crashing into that extravagant cake, the expertly made dessert practically exploded sending chunks of cake and frosting everywhere

 

That was the boiling point. Paul lost it, yelling at Joe at the tops of his lungs. Even as Toderick was helping him up, the young upstart heard every bit of what Paul was saying to Joe. And he was right. There really was no way the entire group could find themselves on the same page. Just when tensions were at their highest, emotions just took over and their Captain walked off.

 

Ricky took in a deep breath before sighing out in frustration. Reaching up, he wiped away a bit of the frosting from his sight. Looking back and forth between Michelle and Joe and Toderick, the feeling in the air wasn’t hostile or even anything close to it. It was a feeling of being lost, a feeling of looming failure and it was something none of them liked at all. Finally, it was Ricky that broke the silence.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I’m sorry..bout everythin. Ima just head out. Thanks again for havin me.’

 

He gave a nod to Michelle before moving to walk off. As he took his leave, he made sure to shoulder check Joe on the way out. Ricky didn’t say bye to anyone on his way, he just went straight for the vehicle he arrived in. Showing little regard for the mess he was covered in, Ricky took his seat behind the steering wheel and closed the door behind him. He didn’t start it at first, instead choosing to simply stare forward at the black circle in front of him.

 

Those eyes half closed, there was a look of disappointment on the features of Ricky as he just shook his head. His mind moved at, what felt like, a million thoughts per moment. For once, he didn’t try to quell them or even try to wrangle them in. He just..sat there, letting the scramble take over and choosing to just go with it.

 

Doubt. Frustration. Confusion. Those were just a few of the feelings that swirled around in the mind of Ricky. His chest was rising and falling steadily and the sound of his breathing through his nose was the only thing stopping the silence from taking over again. That breathing slowed as Ricky began to regain some semblance of control of his thoughts.

 

Totally wrapped up with everything going on in his head, he missed Sahara opening that car door and getting in. Only after she closed the door did Ricky get shaken from his thoughts. Looking over at her, mustering up his best smile, only getting a small, soft one to come to the surface. Sahara couldn’t help but to laugh as she reached across with a single finger, wiping off a bit of that frosting from his cheek only to lick it off of her finger.

 

Sahara: ‘What’s on your mind?’

 

The question rang loudly in his mind and for a moment, that’s all he could think about. There was so much he wanted to say in regards to that question. But it was hard to really nail anything down. Rather than waste time trying to, he just spoke as the words came to him.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I don’t belong here..with them. You’ve said that. Everyone’s said that.’

 

She nodded in agreement with what Ricky said and rather than speak up, she let him continue on.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And I know you’re right about that, they’re all right about that. But I can’t just walk away from it..from them like that. Me and Joe literally just fought. Fists to faces and all that. I just got thrown through a cake. Poor Paul fuckin lost it and stormed out. And yet..I feel worse for him than I do for my own problems.’

 

As that last word slipped free, Ricky let his head fall back to rest against that appropriately named head rest, sighing out as he did so.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen or how anythin’s goin down but if we win..I’m votin for the Blood Money. If we can somehow pull together and make this work then I can honestly say I don’t owe any of them anythin anymore. It’s best if I just step away from Dynasty. I know it’s fucked up but honestly? I don’t think anyone, besides Paul, would vote to keep it together and that’s something I’ve started to agree with.’

 

Sahara: ‘Getting thrown through a cake will do that to you.’

 

Bringing his head off of that rest, Ricky turned to look at Sahara for just a moment before the two of them erupted into laughter. As that laughter eventually subsided, Ricky shook his head and smiled warmly at her.

 

Sahara: ‘Whatever happens and whatever you choose to do, you know I’ll support you.’

 

He nodded, the look on the face of Ricky showing that he believed her words a hundred percent, to be the truth. That warm smile lingered across his features as he nodded again.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And I’ll do the same for you. Whatever happens in there, I know that I have you. And thinkin about it? There’s nothin more I want than that. The rest is just extra.’

 

Ascension.

 

The night of Michelle Moore’s birthday celebration at the Velvet Rabbit is where the scene would pick up, outside the establishment. Suddenly, that door flung open and staggering out from the interior of that building would be none other than Ricky Rodriguez himself. A stumble in his step and his eyes half closed, it was clear Ricky was enjoying the festivities just as much as everyone else, although not in the same manner as everyone else.

 

Suffice to say, things were getting intense inside, perhaps a bit too intense for someone like Ricky. Even more curious was the lack of stagger to his step as he walked around to the side of the building away from people in general. He wasn’t about to tell anyone what not to do but Ricky never took things beyond pot and liquor. But some of the stuff in there? Ricky had never heard of it before.

 

So, when things got to be too overwhelming, Ricky excused himself, stating that he needed to go outside to get some air and to, hopefully, ‘sober up’ just a bit, despite not really even being that intoxicated. More high out of his mind but with how almost everyone was acting and the things being passed around, it was a story he would hold onto as tightly as possible. 

 

Turning his back towards that wall, he leaned back against it with every bit of his faith in the hope that it would hold him. He let those thoughts of his wander momentarily before they fell to one thing and one thing alone: Ascension. It’s something that’s been on Ricky’s mind more and more but even that’s done nothing but increase with every day closer to the event. Taking in a deep breath, Ricky sighed out before speaking up.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Just when I thought Blood Money was going to go down as the single most insane match I’m ever going to take part in, here we are. Right around the corner from Ascension which seems to be able to blow away everything that happened then. Ascension is going to make Blood Money look like a regular ole ass match. But I know. I know what I have to do in this match. I’m prepared to take that fight to whoever I have to take it to.

 

I have a way I go about these things. Every opponent is the same no matter how you feel about them outside of the ring. I’m ready to fight everyone and I mean everyone. I know damn well that it could very well boil down to that. That’s what it’s come down to. I’m going to be completely honest with everyone here. I don’t feel like I can trust certain members of the Dynasty. I can’t say I like it, but that’s how things have to be, I guess.’

 

There was a hint of remorse in the voice of Ricky as those words just poured out. Shaking his head, he let it fall back to a resting position against that building. Bringing one of his hands up, he rubbed it across his face before getting back to it. Just the thought of it, how much everything has changed, for both the better and worse, clearly has an effect on Ricky’s state of mind.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Let’s start with the most obvious: the Queens Champion Joe Montuori. I mean, it’s not even his problem with Sahara, wantin to end her career and all that, that I could have left between them. But the lengths he’s willin to go? I honestly feel like he would take me out just in an attempt to get at her. Hell, he blatantly said anyone on ‘Team Sahara’ needs to watch their back. Clearly that’s something I need to worry about. If Joe wants to take things that far? To try and come after me to get to her? Then that’s a whole nother problem he doesn’t want.

 

Joe? This Joe? This ain’t the Joe that I honestly believed had my back. I wish things could be different with him. I wish he could have a match with her and let all of this shit go. But everyone involved knows that’s not possible at this point. Despite my feelins about Joe and that whole situation, I am ready to fight alongside him, until the end. But understand me when I say this. If you come for me? I won’t hesitate to bust you in your mouth and put you on your ass. Just remember that.’

 

Having said all of that, it was as if Ricky had a weight lifted off of his chest. The problems brewing between him and Joe had gotten to a boiling point. Getting to the point that the two of them got into a fist fight at what was supposed to be a celebration of new life, the son of Michelle and Brandon Moore. But no. Things were so fucked between the two, they ended up ruining a very extravagant and even more expensive cake. Speaking of Michelle tho.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Then there’s the Bronx Champion, fuckin birthday girl herself Michelle Moore. The lyin, deceivin, backstabbin, manipulatin, pretty much all around assy individual. She’ll just as quickly throw you under a bus as she would shake your hand. That’s just who she is. She’s honest bout it, least when she’s not tryinta trick someone. She blows up over the stupidest little shit. Y’know, some intern got her coffee wrong and fuckin Michelle spit it on her and dumped it over her head and then fired her. Who the fuck does that kinda thing? What kinda people am I runnin with? 

 

Honestly tho? I hafta say that she owns it and is more than happy to shout it to the world. She knows exactly who she is and what kinda person she is. She’s never shied away from it, unless, of course, it’s convenient for her. 

 

But above all of that, she’s talented. She has more accomplishments than I could even count. When it comes down to experience and in ring tactics? I couldn’t ask for a better partner. The only problem with that is that, knowin how she is and who the captain of The Cure is, I, along with anyone else, knows damn well this could go south in a hurry.’

 

A pair of almost inaudible voices caught the attention of Ricky. Thinking it could be someone from inside, coming out to look for him, Ricky hung back a bit. He kept that positioning for a minute until he saw it was two randoms coming out of the club for the night. Breathing out a sigh of relief, something that was curious to even Ricky himself, before getting his thoughts back about him.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Then we got our captain Paul Montuori. The very man who will walk into Ascension as the Empire Champion. Paul is a dedicated man. His whole ass focus is on nothin but that Empire Champion. It’s not on this match unless it has to be. And I get it, I do. That Empire Championship is more important to him than our match as a team.

 

There’s absolutely nothin wrong with that. It’s top prize of this promotion. That’s what everyone should aspire for. Hell, it’s my ultimate goal at least. But Paul, I’m not sure bout Paul. I guess we’re gonna hafta wait till Night Two to see which Paul Montuori shows up to fight this war with us. I, for one, am on the edge of my seat..or I would be if I was seated.

 

Either way, whichever Paul decides to show up, our objective at Ascension is clear: To protect him. It’s on us to make sure no member of either of the other three teams pin him or we’re out. And it’s not even the other teams we gotta worry bout. Literally anyone could pop up and try and fuck the whole thing up for everyone involved. Let’s just hope like hell the right Paul shows up.’

 

He knew just how pissed Paul was after his and Joe’s altercation at the baby shower. Hopefully he will be calmed down and ready to go when it’s go time. Seeing Paul like that, as mad as he was, it’ll be something Ricky will never forget. Ricky had already gone through three members of Dynasty and that left one. It was intentionally done that way as it was the member he trusted above all the rest of them.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Finally..there’s Toderick. See, Toddy starts a whole different story entirely. While yeah, Toddy is a member of Dynasty and my teammate on Night Two, we gottan entirely different relationship on Night One. Me and Toddy? We’re throwin down for Toddy’s Manhattan Championship and we’re gonna steal the whole fuckin show. And here’s the bright side. Whatever happens to the Dynasty after Ascension? We’re still goin in with that title. It’ll be around the waist of one of us.

 

But like I said, this isn’t that match and we aren’t teamin up. Toddy is my single best friend in this business. She knows more about me than anyone else. My good. My bad. My everythin in between. There’s been numerous nights where she’s helped me wrangle in my thoughts and get them to where I can think straight. I will, one hundred percent, fight for and with Toddy whenever it’s needed.

 

That’s night two tho. Night one is a whole different story entirely. Night one, me and Toddy, we go head to head as opponents for one of the biggest prizes in Fight: the Manhattan Championship. It’s something we’re gonna kick the hell outta each other for and there ain’t nobody else in this world I’d rather be sharin the ring with, nobody else I’d rather fight for that title..I mean Championship, sorry Brandon.’

 

Taking a few steps away from that building, Ricky let his head fall back as he looked up at the night sky above. The abundance of lights made those stars difficult to see but if you squinted hard enough and tilted your head just right, you could make them out. That alone was enough to bring a soft smile to the face of Ricky.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I’m not even going to lie: It was a hundred percent luck that I’m even in this match. As you all know, my last two championship opportunities didn’t exactly end up in my favor. Mason is a hell of an athlete and I just made too many mistakes. That kinda thing really fucks with your head. I had made up my mind, I wasn’t even gonna bid on an opportunity until I got my head right. Until I got over those roadblocks my consecutive losses built in my head. I doubted myself, my ability. I was fully ready to just start lettin the current take me wherever it took me.

 

But someone talked some major sense into me. Sahara. When the opportunity to bid on that lottery for a shot at Toddy came up? Sahara was right there, pushin me, tellin me how good I am, tellin me how I need to get out of my own head and to take a chance. I couldn’t say no. When a woman like Sahara tells you how good you are, you believe it. And I believed it. I took that chance and paid for my lottery spot. 

 

And then lightnin struck. By the grace of God, my name was randomly chosen and it was official: Ricky Rodriguez versus Toderick Tabor-Ramsey for the Fight NYC Manhattan Championship. I had my opportunity. The opportunity to show that I have grown since those matches with Mason. I’ve learned from the mistakes I made, both before and after, in that match. And that’s just what I intend on doin, to the fullest of my ability.

 

Even still, I can’t help but to feel a bit..off bout the whole situation. I mean, I failed to capture the Brooklyn Championship twice and now I get to jump the line and go straight for another championship? And not just that, but against the best friend I’ve ever made in this business. Sure, you can say I had just as much of a chance as anyone else in that lottery did, but it’s not always as easy as that to see..to understand.’

 

Pausing for a moment, it was clear Ricky needed a moment to regain his composure. Ricky was still young and very much inexperienced and statements like that always showed truth to that.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I know I shouldn’t care bout the how. I should be excited that I’m gettin the shot. And I am, goddamn, I’m over the moon with excitement bout it. Call it naïve. Call it bein young and dumb. Call it whatever you feel like you gotta call it but goddamn I’ve never felt a more bucket of mixed emotion as I did when my name was drawn. I’ve never been so excited, so nervous, so anxious, so..full of regret bout the whole situation.

 

See, if it was Joe still holdin that championship, it would be a whole different story. I’d take his fuckin head off without a single hesitation. I just need to be able to do the same to Toddy. I hafta be ready to do whatever I can do, in my power, to walk away with the Manhattan Championship. But therein lies the problem. My big dilemma.

 

How do you look across the ring at your best friend, knowin you hafta do whatever you need to do in order to put her down? How do you fight to take away somethin someone so important to you fought so fuckin hard for? Neither one of us is in a good spot here. Either you take away what your friend worked her ass off to achieve. Or you let your friend knock you back down after you pushed yourself back up. One of us will walk away with that championship but it’s gonna be heavy as hell on the heart.

 

She’s talked to me, just the same as I’m sure Austin’s talked to you. We both are well aware of what we have to do. For however long this match lasts, I can’t see Toddy and you can’t see Ricky. Only a Champion and a Challenger. It’s gonna be too hard otherwise. Too complicated. I hafta be able to push all of that to the side. And I hafta make the tough decision of puttin you down, Toddy.’

 

The eyes of Ricky closed, blocking out his view of the night sky and the world beneath it. Letting his head drop, his closed eyes pointed at the black shoes covering his feet. His hand moving up, he placed it against the back of his head to rub it. Slowly, he brought his head back upright, those eyes of his opening as he did so.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘As important as this match is to me, because of who you are, it’s that much more important to me because of what you carry. That Manhattan Championship and all the spoils that come with it. That championship is what I need to put myself up there in those top guy talks. I want my name mentioned when people talk bout how good Fight is as a promotion. 

 

That Manhattan Championship will make my name come up in those conversations. That Manhattan Championship, and the fight I’m ready to fight for it, will put me as one of those names. The suite. The recognition. These are the types of things that come with that title. Those are the types of things that I want. Now, I’m not sayin I wanna be Big Money Joe and drop a hundred K in one night.

 

But I want better. Better than what I have. And you can call me selfish. You can call me whatever you want but that’s just how it is. Everyone has always told me: In wrestling, the worst thing you can be is complacent. It’s our job to constantly grow, to always be better, to always want better. And now, I’m finally startin to be able to see that.

 

When I’m out and about, people think they recognize me. Oh hey, it’s that one guy. Or. Isn’t he that one wrestler guy? As nice as that is right now, it’s like I just said, I want more. I want people to think that they saw me and get super fuckin stoked about it. That is my definition of on top. But it’s not somethin to hold over people’s heads. At that spot? It’s on you to do what you can to better everyone else around you.

 

Whether that be givin them a helpin hand or talkin them up or even givin them somethin to strive for, somethin to work that much harder to get to. That last one, that’s always been one of my biggest motivators. I see people like Dickie and you, Toddy, and even bitch face Michelle and I think: I want to be at that level. The recognition, the skill, all of it. And now here I am, one step away from bein at that level.’

 

A light smile broke out across the face of Ricky after those words flowed as freely as they did. And just as fast as that smile grew, it shrank. That near childlike exuberance faded away, leaving behind a look of the utmost seriousness.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And that one step is all that separates me from what I want. It’s the most important step, thus far, in my career and it’s a step I’m ready, willin, and able to take. As great of a match as this is gonna be. As much of an honor as it’s gonna be to step into that ring with you, you hafta know that I’m comin with everythin. Everythin I’ve been taught. Everythin I’ve learned. Every ounce of my skill and ability is gonna be on display for the world to see, Toddy.

 

I’m gonna use every bit of that to take that Manhattan Championship away from your waist and wrap it around mine. The thing you worked as hard as you did for, is now somethin I hafta take from you. As fucked up as that is, I know you’re thinkin the exact same thing. And if you’re not? I’m sure Austin has let you know that more than once. 

 

But that’s okay, cause it’s just like you said: Night one, we beat one another up, we kick the shit outta each other and we force every eye in that buildin to be focused on us. But the night after? We put it all behind us and we show FYA, we show The Cure, we show the New Status Quo why we were chosen to be a part of Dynasty.’

 

A slight smirk peeked out from behind that serious look. And with that, Ricky began to make his way back towards the front door only to stop one last time.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘You’re in there, right now, celebratin Michelle’s birthday just like the rest of us here so Ima cut it off here. But you better believe I got more to say and notta lot of time to say it. I’ll talk more later. For now? We fuckin party like nobody else does.’

 

Those last few words completely changed the demeanor and body stance of Ricky. The scene was supposed to cut there but it caught Ricky pushing that door open. It just so happened that as soon as that door opened, the Bronx Champion Michelle Moore was in the process of snorting a line off of the rather large ass of a stripper. Ricky looked back over his shoulder at the cameraman, wide eyed.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘You better not still be filmin.’

 

Without another word, another sight, the scene cut away. Almost directly after, a promotional video for the upcoming Ascension two-night event, providing a very well put together amount of hype and anticipation for such a big event. As soon as it finished, the scene picked back up, it focused in on Ricky Rodriguez as he stood on the balcony of his modestly sized Fight Tower apartment. 

 

Contemplation was written over the entirety of his face as he gazed out at the city before him in all of its glory. There were only a few nights separating Ricky and Fight NYC’s Ascension event. So much was on the line there, it was something that had been on Ricky’s mind more often than not and that had only grown with each passing day. Taking in a deep breath, he sighed out before speaking up.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘That match with Shawn, it really opened my eyes on a lot of things. Gettin the shit kicked outta you will have that effect on you, I’m sure that’s somethin everyone of you can relate with. But it had me thinkin..what am I doin wrong? I’ve picked up a few wins here and there since the start of Fight. Beat Valkyrie. Teamed up with Paul and beat Amari and Dickie. Hell, I even picked up a win over the Captain of FYA Dane Preston. So, obviously I’m doin somethin right. I mean, those are some pretty big names, lotta accolades behind them.

 

But then I went in there with the Captain of New Status Quo and it was like..I’ve never been more outclassed in a match like that before. I don’t know what it was. Maybe he had a point to prove, a message to send, or whatever it may be. But understand this, it left me with a feelin that I have no intentions of feelin ever again. I promise you that. Tho, I will say, it gave me reason to really sit down and rethink everythin. It’s important to be able to find the silver linins and all that, y’know?

 

I’m not gonna let myself be put into a position like that again. Ever since that match, I’ve been kinda distant with everyone cept Sahara. I mean, sure I’m here but I’m definitely not here, if that makes any sense. I’ve been workin myself that much harder, that much more intensely than I ever have before. I’m gonna be in a completely different place than I was before. My head is still about me. I still know right from wrong but it’s..different now.

 

I’m not gonna take any liberties with you, Toddy. I’m not gonna do anythin I wouldn’t expect you to do to me. With that bein said, I want you to know that I’m comin at you with every hope, every aspiration I’ve ever had for this business on my shoulders. I’m comin at you with an aggression that I shoulda been showin since day one. But like I’ve said, I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. I’m gonna be better than that. And in order to do that, I hafta be better than you, Toddy. Assumin my thoughts and my nerves don’t get the best of me before then.’

 

That vape pen in his hand, he brought the tip of it to his lips and took in a rather deep hit off of it. Exhaling that hit, he breathed out a sigh of relief. For just a moment, he turned his head to look back over his shoulder at the sleeping figure of Sahara. A soft smile showed across his features before turning his attention back to the city before him.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘The closer we get, the more the nerves build and build and build. It’s enough to drive anyone fuckin insane. You think more and more about just what this event means. Everythin that’s on the line. Not only my match with Toderick but the Night Two as well. I don’t belong with Dynasty. I never have, ask anyone. I’m as different from them as they are from me. But on Night Two, despite all the problems we have, all the differences there is between us, we are gonna make this work.

 

There’s just too much on the line to let differences stop us from winnin this match. When it comes down to it, even if it’s for just one night, we’re gonna get this right. Me and Joe? We can put our shit to the side and fight as a unit rather than two people ready to swing on one another without a second thought. Michelle and Joe? They can do the same damn thing.

 

Call it naiveté or bein young and dumb but, personal feelins aside, I think Joe can clear his head and put all his shit to the side and do the right thing. Not the right thing for Joe but the right thing for Dynasty, whatever that may be. I honestly think he’s gonna surprise us all and come through in a big way. Is that cause he actually knows the right thing to do?

 

Hell no, it’s Joe, everyone knows better than to expect him to put somethin else before himself. It’s cause he knows, just as much as I do, what happens if you put your own shit in front of the team’s at Ascension. Think Paul’s gonna be happy if Joe loses his head and costs us this match? Michelle? Even Toddy? We all, hopefully, can put our own shit to the side for the team. And if not? There’s gonna be four really pissed off people who are comin for that ass.’

 

Shaking his head, Ricky turned his back to the city and let himself rest against that railing. He crossed his arms across his bare chest before laughing softly.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘There’s very few problems I actually want. Hell, I could prolly count the number of them on a single hand. But that problem? It’s one nobody in their right fuckin mind wants. It’s a cautionary tale, really. Look at the shit Paul and Michelle have put people through for less. Then someone like Toddy. Get someone like Toddy with her heart of hearts and give her a reason to show the other side of that.

 

This ain’t a problem Joe wants and I really wanna believe he knows that and will be able to do the right thing. But even if he’s not, everythin’s gonna work how it’s supposed to. I can’t say exactly how that’s gonna be but at this point..only time will tell. It’ll be on us to decide how things go when it’s all said and done. I’d like to stand here and say there ain’t no chance in hell we’re gonna walk away with anythin short of victory.

 

But I can’t do that. What I can do tho, is tell you that if we do, if we’re somehow able to get everythin together? Then this is our match to win. If we can just take that one step forward, in synch, in unison, then we will tear through every one of those other teams. If we can come together then we can..no, we will win this match. We will ascend.

 

I will say one thing tho. For all the shit we’ve talked to one another. For all the bullshit I’ve seen her pull. I wouldn’t have that kinda faith in this group if not for Michelle. I don’t doubt, for a second, that she’d sell any one of us down the river to benefit herself. But at the end of the day? Winnin this match benefits her. And like I said, that woman will do anythin to benefit herself. She’s even gone above and beyond to try and get us all standin united, she should be the captain if anythin. Whether it be the spades game or her baby shower, she’s been tryin like hell to get us together. For that, I for sure, can put all my shit to the side for the team.’

 

Another soft laugh rolled free as the sound of Sahara moving in bed caught his attention. Looking back over his shoulder again, Ricky sighed contently before turning back around to wrap things up so he could get back to the bed.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Toddy, lastly, I want you to know that whatever happens in this match, whatever the outcome is, it will not change anythin between us. We’re family and this match, this championship isn’t gonna change that. We’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna do what we do unlike anyone else can. We’re gonna do it with style. With flash. With more passion and emotion than most people ever know.

 

And when we’re done out there? They’re not gonna be talkin bout how Paul finally becomes the Empire Champion we deserve. They’re not gonna be talkin bout how Michelle kicked the high holy fuck outta Bam Miller. They’re not even gonna be talkin bout how Vhodka and Voodoo try, and very may well succeed, in killin one another.

 

Nah, they’re gonna be talkin bout how Toderick and Ricky absolutely stole the show. How we did things they’ve never seen before and things they’ll never seen again. They’ll be talkin bout how this is a match they will never forget. But most importantly, they’ll talk bout how we left everythin out there. All the struggle. All the fight me and you have in our entire bodies. 

 

Like I said before, Toddy: There ain’t nobody else in this, or any other, world that I’d rather be in this position with. I respect you more than anyone else and I know the kinda patience and understandin you possess. I can’t wait to see you out there. Let’s tear it down.’

 

There was a flash of a smile that showed across the features of Ricky as he took another hit off of that pen. Exhaling it into the night, he pushed off of that railing and made his way back inside. The scene slowly faded out as Ricky pulled that sliding door closed.

 

To..The..Top…When It Matters Most.

 

The darkened interior of an empty arena would be the backdrop of this particular piece of footage. A spotlight shone down, focusing upon a tall ladder set up in the middle of that ring. Standing at the bottom of that ladder was none other than Dynasty member Ricky Rodriguez. Before opening his mouth, Ricky placed a single boot covered foot onto the bottom rung.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Ascension. The act of risin to an important position or a higher level. That’s our objective. To get to the top and stand alone above The Cure, New Status Quo, and FYA. Sayin it, that’s the easy part. Gettin ready for it, that’s complicated as fuck. But actually doin it? That’s an entirely different task all together. But like I’ve said before, I have faith in us, I have faith in Dynasty. Call it blind faith. Call it naiveté. Call it whatever. But I feel, in my heart, that we have just as good of a shot at winnin this as anyone else has, in this match.

 

As for if anyone agrees with that, that’s not for me to say either way. We got some of the most accomplished wrestlers on Fight’s roster within our group. We got the best minds. Some of the most talented people to ever grace this business. Michelle Moore. Paul and Joe Montuori, despite my personal feelins for Joe. And Toderick Tabor-Ramsey. When it comes to bein the whole package? I couldn’t ask for a better team.

 

But our problems are publicly known. Y’all know just as well as I do, one wrong move and this whole thing crashes and burns. Not just any crash and burn either. With the flair for dramatics that my partners have? We’ll go down in a ball of flame that will light up the night sky. It’ll be a blaze of fuckin glory, lemme tell you. But see, here’s the thing.

 

As big as our problems are with one another? They’re not nearly as big as the ones they have with almost everyone else. That’s gonna be our savin grace, I think. You think Joe is gonna let Dane or Sahara get to Paul? You think Michelle is gonna let Allison or someone like Bam get to Paul? You think Paul is gonna let Dickie or anyone else get to him? Me and Toddy, we like everyone but we also know how important this match is so we ain’t lettin anyone get to Paul.’

 

Stepping up onto that rung, Ricky used the boost to bring himself to the one above it.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Startin off big here. New Status Quo. I’ve been in the ring with three outta five of them. Shawn and his olelady, I took the loss against them. I did better against her than I did him but that’s another story for another time. I lost. But Dickie, I didn’t get the pin on him but we handled business and I took the win on that one. That just leaves Betsy and Aiden. I’ve heard the stories. Seen the matches. I’ve done more than enough research on each of them.

 

Without a doubt, they’re the favorites to win this. Not even based on skill or accolades, cause between the five of them, they have a lot. And I mean a lot of fuckin accolades there. But they actually have the cohesiveness needed to win somethin like this. They’re not just on the same page, they’re in the same fuckin sentence. That’s somethin we sorely lack and that’s no secret at all.

 

But does that mean they’re gonna win? No, it doesn’t. I mean, just bein a good team doesn’t guarantee victory. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of variants and conditions that very well could prevent them from takin the win. It’s not my place to stand here and run through each and every one of them. Just know that anythin is possible. Anythin can and will happen. Ascension is gonna be a whole different game and that’s puttin it lightly.’

 

Bringing that foot up again, Ricky took yet another step further up that ladder.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Somethin I’ve had trouble understandin this whole time. Everyone’s talkin bout Dynasty, bout NSQ, and bout FYA but whattabout The Cure? They’re just as much of a threat, if not more so, than anyone else in this match. Now, I don’t have much, if any, experience with Apathy or Sarah Wolf but from what I’ve seen? What I’ve heard? Those two are two of the biggest fuckin threats in this whole match.

 

Then you add in the sadistic ass Captain Brandon Moore and things just get that much worse for everyone involved. I had my problems with Brandon when I first came around these parts but the more I learned and interacted with him, he isn’t really that bad of a guy. Kinda pushy but not a half bad guy. Even gave me this damn fine vest of mine.’

 

For emphasis, Ricky tugged at the sleeveless denim vest he wore over that solid black t-shirt.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Then you take and supplement all that deviousness with the raw power and muscle that is The Enforcer and Eoin? Not to say that the other three ain’t got power but Eoin and Enforcer are two entirely different stories. I’ve been in the ring with Enforcer and I’ve never met someone who hits fuckin harder than that guy. That dude is like a walkin cinderblock.

 

And Eoin? Just look at him. I’ve been in a brawl or two with him and he hits just as hard as Enforcer does. And they all seem to be on the same page. Just what page is that, tho? I couldn’t fuckin tell you. Tryinta figure that bunch out is like pissin in the wind. Just totally not worth it at all.

 

This time it was two steps that brought Ricky closer to the top of that ladder and even closer to the end of his ascension.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And then there’s FYA. Dane Preston, Allison Riggs-Preston. Good ole Murph. The legendary Kal Wolf. And..Sahara. Sahara, who’s just so much more than anyone wants to give her credit for. That woman is so much more than meets the eye. I mean, you gotta really get in there to see it but once you do, there really ain’t anyone like her. Some people might be thankful for that, but I, for one, believe there should be more people in this world like her.

 

Kal Wolf. Before I even started here, Kal’s is a name I heard on more than one occasion. Without a shadow of a doubt, he is prolly the one I wanna tangle with the most in this whole damn thing. That man deserves every bit of fanfare and praise he gets goin into this. But even with all that said, I won’t hesitate for a second when it comes to takin his head off.

 

Same goes for Murphy. I mean, Murphy is great. He took that whole Queens Championship thing and made it somethin that people wanted to see. Murphy, he ain’t like the rest of the people around here and it shows. The way he carries himself. There’s somethin bout that man you just respect.

 

And finally, Dane and Allison. Two people that I’m happy to say I was wrong about. When I first showed up, I had this whole perspective of those two and honestly, most of it was just based on what Joe and Paul told me. But then me and Dane had that whole thing and I stood up for what I thought was right and refused to back down. And I came out on top which made it all the more better.

 

Then, Allison, she pulled the rug out from under Joe. Even kicked his nuts up into his stomach, not even sure they’ve dropped back down again since that, but still. Now I can see why she did it. Hell, it’s still somethin I laugh about when I think of. But even beyond all that, since me and Sahara have been together, I’ve had the opportunity to be around the two of them away from all of this and I was wrong bout them. And I’ve never been more happy bout bein wrong.’

 

Those last couple steps were taken as Ricky finally reached the top of that ladder. Swinging his leg around, he perched himself atop that ladder, a soft smile showing across his face.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Am I gonna sit here and say Dynasty is gonna take this match? No. I’m not. Cause the truth is, any one of these four teams can win. I’m not stupid enough to deny that. Every team has just as many positives and negatives both as any of the other teams. So what I’m sayin is..you’ll just hafta wait and see.

 

Kinda anticlimactic, ain’t it?’

 

Flashing a playful smirk, Ricky laughed out, remaining seated atop that ladder as the scene slowly faded away for the final time.