The Joke Is Over

By: Tyler Streets

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 22nd Apr 2022

Allen Chaney has anxiety. 

Hol up, stop the presses. I can’t believe he admitted it. In this day and age, for someone to have that courage… to have that confidence… to step forward and tell the world. I just can’t imagine. Congratulations to you, Allen. Give this man a prize. Give him a title. Give him your sympathy, because he desperately needs validation but he isn’t going to just ASK for it. 

Because he has anxiety. 

Cool. 

Listen bitch, it’s 2022. Everyone has anxiety. I have anxiety. My fucking dog has anxiety. He’s got a little blanket he wears during thunderstorms. Anxiety isn’t a personality trait, and neither is being three hundred fifteen pounds and writing it off as being a “funny fat fuck”. Oh, so you’re every guy in high school who owned his obesity by making jokes about it before the other kids could? Please, tell me more, Allen. Tell me more about how you’re fucking unique, because it sounds like a treadmill and a SSRI would wipe about three quarters of your entire persona off the board. 

Fucking three fifteen. 

Does FIGHT have anyone on board for me who could comfortably fit in a full sized bed? I might not be proud of the way I had to do Uncle Ben at Venom 20, but the fuck was I gonna do? They’re throwing me directly from the brick shit house to the gluttonous bag of shit stored inside it, two weeks back to back. I’m a buck eighty and I’ll have faced six hundred pounds of opponents by my second match in the company. Maybe the boss just likes seeing me all oiled up, BIG SHRUG, WHO KNOWS, but I did what I had to do to pick up a win. Because that’s what it’s all about. 

Picking up wins. 

I’m here to be the Empire Champion or bust— I wanna wear a cool leather jacket and have a super cool haircut and be SUPER COOL like Dickie Watson, so I’ll baby oil my shit up one super heavyweight at a time if that’s how management wants to do me. Call me Ishmael, bitch, a win is a win—  I’ll live in his stomach for three days and then make him sneeze me out with a comically sized torch, if I have to. I’ll recruit a team of Japanese poachers to take me out on a weeklong boat ride just to put him down with a spear gun. Any of these punchlines landing for you, Allen? Cause I’m not a comedian like you, the only tight five I’ve got for you is a closed fist. 

Little sitcom ass bitch. 

Bring that laugh track to The Thrill and the Agony, Chaney, see how funny it is when I’m kneeing you in the face till you can’t stand up. 

Get it? Standup? 

Don’t you wanna laugh, Comedian? 

C’mon, Roastmaster Generic. Crack some jokes. Say something funny. Let’s see what you’ve got to say about a guy who is younger, tougher, better looking, and in better shape. Make fun of me for being an Instagram shill, while you beg motherfuckers to come to your bringer shows so they let you get on stage for ten minutes. Joke about my covering myself in baby oil, when you can’t lotion your chaffing ass thighs without vigorous use of a mirror. Tell me some fucking knock knock jokes, bitch. Say something funny. Make me laugh, cause I’ll laugh right along with you before I break your nose at Thrill and the Agony. See how many jokes you can tell with your jaw wired shut, my guy, and then talk to the world about your fucking anxiety. In fact, make an extra appointment with your little therapist this week, cause let me tell you something, bud… 

I’m a good ass reason to suffer from anxiety. 

This week, that little voice in the back of your head telling you that you aren’t good enough is right. That crippling fear that makes you wanna stay in bed all day? Listen to it. Cause it’s telling you the truth. At Thrill and the Agony, I’m the bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. I’m that fight or flight feeling, making your heart race. I’m the attack that makes you panic. But there isn’t a pill that can keep me at bay, Allen— beg management to call this match off all you want, because no amount of Serotonin can help you escape me. Get it?

Fuck, I’m funny. 

Maybe I should be a comedian. 

 

——————————

 

“Baby oil, Tyler? Really?”

The look of disgust on P$NNY L4NE’s face could stop traffic, which is fitting enough as she stares at a man called Streets. Her arms crossed in front of her, the Public Relations manager literally looks down on her client as he sits leaned back in a lounge chair. 

“What were you thinking?” She berates, her voice loud and pointed. “You’re a fucking gif now. A goof. A goof and a gif. We were supposed to send a message last week, and the message we sent is that you’re a fucking comedy act.”

“I won, didn’t I?” Tyler retorts, with a shithead grin. “C’mon, Penny, it isn’t that serious. All attention is good attention. No such thing as bad press.”

P$NNY grunts, uncrossing her arms as she reaches into her pocket and pulls out her phone. A few swipes and scrolls later, she produces an article on the screen and shoves it toward his face. 

“Yeah. That’s a myth.” she rolls her eyes. “Listen to this, Tyler. Tyler Streets versus Ben Reeves. Joke match, no rating. Two new guys fighting with lubricant, match ends when the big guy gets blinded by baby oil and attacks the referee. And the crowd goes mild. Your very first review. Congratulations. You went from an unknown to a nobody.”

She dumps the phone into his lap, so that he can read the words for himself. It’s all there in black and white, and he can physically feel his stomach turn as he reads them. Everyone knows you don’t read the comments on social media, but it’s another thing entirely to see a journalist shred you on an actual dirt sheet. He tosses the phone back, not wanting to read any more of it as he straightens up in his chair, elbows on his knees. 

“I had to beat him, Pen.” he shakes his head, looking at the floor. “Dude was over twice my size. It was better than taking an L… the fuck was I supposed to do?”

A sigh escapes from deep within L4NE, as she steps toward Tyler. She grabs hold of his chin, pulling his face up to look her directly in the eyes. 

“You were supposed to wrestle.” she says, sternly. “You’re a wrestler, Tyler. You were All-State. You were trained by fucking Lindsay Troy. You’re enrolled in a program with Mike Best, Cecilworth Farthington, and DAN FUCKING RYAN. You think this was better than a hard fought loss?”

She shoves his face away, almost beside herself with anger. With disappointment. Tyler Streets’ career is a good chunk of her rent and car payment, and she’d put all of her eggs into one basket in the hopes that he’d be a star. She’s in on the ground level, for better, for worse. 

This is the for worse

“What is Dan gonna say?” P$NNY goes on, the anger seeping out of her pores. “Do you think he’s gonna pat you on the back and say you did a great job? The Best family put you on a full ride scholarship to TEN-X and your fucking gimmick is now the baby oil guy. A loss would have been better, Tyler. Seriously.”

She grumbles her way to her desk within the studio, pulling a pack of cigarettes out from the top drawer. Quitting has been a challenge since taking on the eighteen year old work-in-progress— P$NNY pulls out a lighter, taking a deep drag as she lights up the end of the cigarette. 

Tyler’s eyes focus up, as he slowly nods his head at his manager. 

“Alright.” He says, softly. “I fucked up. How do we fix it?”

It’s a sincere question, but it seems to piss her off nonetheless. She’s his manager, not his fucking mother, after all. 

“We?” P$NNY asks, holding back an annoyed laugh. “We nothing. You need to fix this. All that shit you talked about Chaney this week? You need to go out there and back it up. You need to destroy him, Tyler. A brutal, one sided, decisive victory that makes people see you for what you are. That establishes you as someone who doesn’t do cheap fucking comedy. You wanna prove you’re not a comedian, then go out there and brutalize a comedian.”

Again, he can only nod his head. 

She’s right. He’d made an asshole of himself. It would be easy to hide behind the fact that he only had a handful of matches under his belt, but he should know better. He’d started training to be a wrestler when he was fifteen years old. He’s trained with the entire Group of Death, and while that might not mean much around FIGHT NYC, it meant something to a lot of the wrestling world. 

He was better than this. 

“Aight. Bet.” Tyler’s brows furrow, his expression going grim. “No bullshit this week. But he’s fucking big, Pen. Like almost double my fuckin’ weight. What am I supposed to do out there? You can’t out wrestle power. And homeboy is fucking strong.”

The PR manager laughs. 

“Do I look like a wrestling coach?” she scoffs. “Punch good, dude, I don’t fucking know. You are a prodigy by design— you have an entire team of Hall of Fame wrestlers willing to help you. Stop being an ass and let them do it. My job is to make you look good. And you’re making my job difficult.”

She grabs her backpack, slinging it over a shoulder as she stubs half a cigarette out into the ashtray on the desk. She wasn’t just Tyler’s manager anymore— the mysterious benefactor paying Tyler’s way to superstardom got her a full time gig at High Octane Wrestling, the head of Digital Media. A lot more was riding on Tyler Streets becoming a success than he has the capacity to consider… if the benefactor dries up, so does her job. And this wasn’t just a job. 

It was a career. 

“I gotta jet.” P$NNY heads for the door, but stops. “Listen, Ty Guy. I signed on because I believe in you. You have all the tools. Use them. Please. Take this seriously.”

With those final words of wisdom, she’s out the door. Tyler stands up from the chair, hands on his hips as he walks aimlessly around the room, trying to get his head straight. 

This was a lot different from wrestling school. 

He’d never been coddled. The opposite, maybe— it always seemed like Lindz had it out for him, like she held him to a higher standard. It hadn’t always been easy for him, but he’d always managed to scrape by. And he’d managed to scrape by with Ben Reeves, but it wasn’t the same. He didn’t feel any pride. Didn’t feel like he’d accomplished anything. This was the real deal, in front of real fans, and suddenly scraping by didn’t feel so good anymore. 

It was no longer cool to coast. 

“Get it together.” Tyler mutters, to no one. “You’re lucky to be here. Remember that. You’re lucky to be here.”

His life could have been a lot different. 

Single mom, no siblings. She was always working– two jobs, odd jobs, blowjobs, whatever it took to keep food on the table. And no shade, either, because she busted her ass to give her son a better life than the one that she’d lived. His father was just… some guy. Mom got coked up on a three day weekend back in Jersey, partied a little too hard, and nine months later, Tyler Streets was the result. Tyler never knew him. Never even knew how to know him. Hardly any other family, hardly any friends, a kid raised on video games and the ultimate product of the “Look At Me” generation. 

And he could have turned out to be nothing. 

Shit, he almost did

Reaching into his pocket, Tyler grabs his phone, quickly navigating to the favorites. It’s a nearly unfair Who’s Who of wrestling, names that he shouldn’t be allowed to say out loud much less put on speed dial. And yet somehow, in this unlikeliest of branches of the multiverse, Tyler mashes his finger over one of the names in his contacts, holding the phone up to his ear as it rings through. 

Lindsay Troy, owner of Troy Combat Systems. 

She was the reason he was here in the first place. Lindsay Troy had discovered him. Molded him. Prepared him for a life inside the ring, one that he had always dreamed about but had never even begun to consider a real possibility. She’d taught him more than just the basics on how to be a wrestler, she’d taught him how to be a fucking man

One phone call changed his life. 

And he doesn’t even know who made it. 

It never really made sense to him– he’d managed to place in a couple of state tournaments, but never made a big enough impact as an amateur wrestler to be scouted by one of the top wrestling schools in the country. He wasn’t some freak super athlete. He wasn’t seven feet tall, or a mass of rippling muscle. Athletic, sure. Talented, absolutely. But the kind of guy who should be on the radar of TCS? Not a fucking chance. He might be arrogant, but he wasn’t arrogant enough to think that he’d done this all on his own. There was someone else out there. The Patron. The mysterious benefactor. The man who was pulling the strings, and had been since he was fifteen years old. 

P$NNY called him the angel investor.

One man takes an interest in your life, and everything changes. Without that mysterious benefactor, he’d probably be working at a gas station right now. Making stupid fucking Tik Toks behind a register, stealing slurpees between shifts and debating about whether to make a run at community college. That angel investor put in the call to Troy Combat Systems. That angel investor put him in front of the big wigs at FIGHT NYC. That angel investor got him the gig at High Octane Wrestling, putting cash in his pocket as the personal assistant to the CEO. Without the angel investor, there is no vlog. There is no wrestling school. There is no enrollment at TEN-X, no PPV at Fight, no… anything. He’d be Adrian Tyler, certified fucking nobody. 

One phone call changed everything. 

One more couldn’t hurt. 

“Hey, LT.” Tyler smiles, into his phone. “It’s Tyler. I need some advice.”