You Are My Top Priority
By: Shawn Warstein
Date: 1st Oct 2021
After Venom Eight, the members of the newly named New Status Quo, all went their separate ways. A feeling of superiority mixed with a demeanor of determination. It was on this calm evening that I had called everyone together. Asked all of them to come out to dinner, as a bonding moment. Of course Kasey was there, new hair and all. Looking as lovely as ever, it’s hard for me to concentrate with her around. Betsy wasn’t far behind us, arriving with James Raven. As the four of us sat across from one another it was feeling like a double date.
“So James, Boat cruise huh?” With a side smile towards him. What most people don’t seem to realize is that James and I have been on the same page. While Legacy may seem distant, it’s bonds are stronger than ever. It shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone that I was asked to be on his team.
“Boat Cruise.” That’s all he responded, mostly because there wasn’t much to say on the matter at that moment. We both had different priorities at the moment. We could all see that him taking over as OCW’s General Manager was going to eat up a lot of his time, with Betsy taking up a significant amount as well. Who were we to cast judgement? I’ve been scarce since Kasey and I have been spending a lot of time separate from the world in general.
A waiter walks to the table placing down a few glasses of water, and handing out a few menus. As he begins to walk away Inreach over and grab a couple from him. “I’m not sure if I’ll need both, but we are expecting another.“
James looks up from his menu. “So you’ve finally caught the big fish huh?” A smirk washes across his face. “Kase, him and I have been chasing the Molotov for almost a year. Timing for us never worked out. Suddenly your sullen boy toy there decided to stop beating around the bush and just follow him to Fight.“
“That’s enough James.” His lovely counterpart and usually the voice of reason to him, Betsy, places a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure she knows all about it. They do talk everyday.”
“I’m just saying. He finally got him to buy into Legacy.” He goes back to reading the menu. Kasey, Betsy and I all look at each other. I gave Betsy a wide eyed look and quickly tilted my head at James.
“He doesn’t know?” I said towards Betsy. It caught Raven’s attention.
“Doesn’t know what?” James sets his menu down once more, and clasps his hands in front of him. “I don’t know that you are going by the New Status Quo? Or how about the fact that even I can see that it’s on shaky ground to say the least.“
I raise an eyebrow and scoff. “What do you mean by that, James?“
“Listen, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what he’s seeing.” He smiles quickly and continues. “Look at the table right now man. You. Legacy. Betsy. Legacy. Kasey. No offense, sleeping with Legacy. And then there’s him. Like we all know that this dinner is about bringing me into the fold.“
“About that.” Kasey holds her hand up to stop James. “I know that you think that, but that isn’t what this is about.“
James cocks his head back in a confused fashion. “I mean Shawn texted me two weeks ago about this.“
“I did.” I shake my head and squirt my eyes. “However, we have decided to go in a different direction.“
“Dif—” Once more James is confused as Betsy places a hand on his shoulder.
“Love, trust me. We all wanted you, but Shawn said…”
James looks up at me with a steely glare. “Oh, Shawn said.” James pushes himself away from the table. “Well if Shawn said then it must be the gospel. High Lord Warstein once again pulling the strings. Who the fuck put him in charge?“
“Calm down James.” I spoke softly in an attempt to get him to calm down. That’s the thing with James and I, we both think our way is the best way and sometimes get blinded by that fact. However this wasn’t one of those times. I knew I had the backing of Betsy and Kasey on this one. “No one put me in charge. Sometimes, someone just needs to stand up and take charge. You’re not out. Legacy is still as strong today as it was yesterday…“
James quickly cut me off. “What about Noah and Jax then? Where are they?“
“This doesn’t involve them.” I quickly point over to Kasey and Betsy. “It involves them. It involves me. You’re not in Fight, so as much as it pains me to say, it doesn’t involve you. I apologize for jumping the gun and asking you, but we have decided to go a different direction.“
“Who?” James questions immediately.
“You know who. Don’t act stupid.” I glance up towards Raven without lifting my head from the menu. “It was the best course of action.“
“Best cours—” James scoffs. “Do you hear yourself? Best course of action? You know I beat him right? You know I could beat anyone of those fucks in Fight.“
“Go on then James. Tell me.” I place the menu on the table and mimic James from earlier, clasping my hands in front of myself and placing them on the table. “Tell me ONE PERSON, other than those at this table and on your Boat Team that are in Fight. Come on then, use your cerebro if you need to, I’ll wait.“
“Shawn.” Betsy interrupts.
“Yeah babe, that’s enough.” Kasey interjects as well.
“You’re right.” I take a deep breath. “Listen James, we have been chasing the Commonwealth for almost a year to get them in our ranks. To get them on Team Legacy. I’ll admit it, we’ve failed. Until now.“
“But they aren’t Legacy Shawn.” James snaps. “They are NSQ. And only one of them at that.“
“Baby steps James. You know that.” I smile. “You and I had our rough patches in the beginning, and look at us now. We need them to trust us. Over there, there wasn’t a reason to, but here and now, there is. We are all fighting the same fight. War bonds people together in ways that nothing else can. Look at Betsy with BOB, who were the first people she called? We were. James you need to understand this, we all wanted you for this, but it has to be him. If we want to finish what we started…“
“Then it’s the only way.” James nods resignedly. “I get it. I do, but it was a dick move asking me and then rescinding it.”
“Well it is Warstein.”
The calm vibrato of Dickie Watson catches our attention. He walks right up to the table, ripped jeans tighter than you could paint, beanie over his head, and a sweater that clearly has been through some washes. He calmly sits down and grabs a menu. “Who’s buying?“
Shawn and James glance at each other and slightly nod. “New guy always pays.” James said with a grin.
“Yeah don’t worry, we only ordered five bottles.” I followed right after him.
Dickie looks at the two of us, and then to Betsy who shakes her head. “Good one.“
“Didn’t think you’d show up.” I stated.
He looks at the table and then back to me. “Honestly mate, I wasn’t going to, but then how could I resist a free meal.“
“Nothing is ever truly free.” A quick response from James and a thumb towards me. “With him there’s always something.“
“Oh, I know. It’s the Empire Championship. He’s been eying it since day one here.” Dickie gives me a wide grin. “I told him all he’s gotta do is ask.“
“Yeah, it’s no secret I want that title Dickie, but the sweetest victories are the ones you have to wait for. Plus we’ve currently got other priorities to deal with.”
“I know mate, and when we do go, it’s going to be a banger.” Dickie once again smiles. It’s a tad off putting, seeing him smile but at the same time it shows a kind of comfort. “So, what’s up?”
“Well did you call him?” Kasey asked while taking a sip from her glass.
“Of course. I did.” Dickie pulls out his phone and tosses it on the table directly in front of himself. “He’s in, and he will be there.“
“Good, I’m excited.” Betsy said while clapping her hands together.
“We all are.” I said while looking at James who slightly nodded his head. “However we all need to be on the same page going into Ascension. There are plenty of people looking to knock us off. We have only just begun to change the landscape. Our first priority was completed. All of us holding titles. Now we need to stay vigilant. We cannot allow one of us to fall.“
“We won’t.” With a hand on my left shoulder Kasey caresses.
“This week at Venom Betsy gets to take on Sahara, and I’ll show Ricky what it’s like to be in the desert without any water. We need to get through this week and then we show all of them that it doesn’t matter who steps in front of us, it’s all going to be for naught.“
Dickie raises an eyebrow. “Who the hell put you in charge?“
James slams his hands on the table. “THAT’S WHAT I SAID!“
James and Dickie share a look and then begin laughing. Betsy and Kasey follow suit behind them. Under my breath I answer. “Я так и сделал, и никто не сказал иначе.” No one heard me, and that’s okay this is what we needed. A moment to laugh at the misfortune of others, and to come together as a team.
The evening went about as well as one could expect. Everyone had a good time, the fifth was in place and there was only a slight amount of tension. That is going to happen when you have a room full of Alphas, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The five of us are without a doubt the most cohesive team in this entire company. Even with our small bickering, they are nothing compared to the reality show drama of all the other teams. As the night nears the end, I excuse myself from the table and head outside of the restaurant.
The normally bustling streets of New York were all but barren at this hour. The streetlights glowing in the crisp fall air. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I flip the camera on and press record.
“No time like the present, yeah?” I said while smiling widely. “No need for the time machine this week. So let’s just take it from the top!“
“Have you all noticed something amiss? Did you see something missing? Yes, while I agree that Fight is blowing up, what about episode nine? Where is all the fanfare? Where are all the news outlets gassing the place to the gills?” I quickly cover the camera lens and continue.
“That’s right. There was nothing to speak of.“
“Without the New Status Quo, no one cares. The only reason why people watch is to see us. That’s why when Dickie and I signed on, this place blew up. Now given a week off, the ratings tank. Not a single soul caring about the rest of the roster. It’s sad.“
“But Shawn, what about Dickie? He was there and assaulted Toddy.” I finally remove my hand from the camera, revealing my smiling face once more. “You’re right he did, and if you would listen closely he said no more on this uneven bullshit. No one wants to watch Toddy get assaulted, beaten and buried deeper than Hoffa. It was poor booking made at the behest of mismanaged management. Why else would we have been in lockdown, if not to keep the lions caged.“
“You see the problem with caging lions and starving them is eventually they start to eat their own. Then when there is nothing left they starve. Wasting away into nothing, dying in the middle of the room. No fanfare. No applause. No grief.“
“The little lion left to die.” I tilt my head and grin into the camera.
“Just them, alone as they close their eyes for the last time. No savior. No family. No bright light at the end of the tunnel. However sometimes the animals get loose. The pack moves together and goes on the hunt. That is until they run into the alpha predator. The lions turn into small little kittens.”
“That’s you Ricky.” I tap the lens a few times. “Yes You.“
“Sorry not sure if you caught the double. It means you’re a pussy. Honestly I wish I could drum up enough energy to care about you, but I just can’t. On my list of priorities, you’re somewhere below my Instagram. Note for you, I don’t have an Instagram account.” A nonchalant shrug. “Yet I’ve been told that you’re going to make me take you seriously. That you are going to put your best effort out front. Good. I would expect nothing less. See there’s a major difference between you and I. Do you know what that is? Everyone gives me their best shot. It doesn’t matter who it is. I elevate everyone around me to be better than themselves. Everyone looks to me as the measuring stick. The peak. The top. A person, that should they best me, they have bragging rights over mostly anyone.“
“I am the feather in peoples caps that they hinge their entire careers on. No one walks around in this industry saying that they beat lesser opponents. No. They say they’ve beaten the best. However there is a major flaw in that.” With my left hand I tap my chin several times before stopping and pointing towards the sky. “I’d have to be beaten often enough for it to make sense. Ricky, allow me to break this down for you REAL quick. Over the past two years, when someone goes one on one with me, they lose far more often than I do. I can count on one hand how many losses I’ve taken. I could easily list them out for you, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.“
“What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t matter. Even if you somehow swing above your weight class, you’re still going to come up short. This isn’t my ego speaking either. This is history and we all know that history repeats itself.”
“Over” I tilt the phone towards the ground.
“And.” I lift it up.
“Over.” And tilt it down once more and then center my face in the camera.
“I’m going for a callback to my second show here in Fight. I said “if you follow the pattern, you all know what is next.” That pattern, you ask? It’s really simple. It’s Shawn winning, then Shawn winning Tag Team Gold and finally Shawn winning the big one. The last three stops, all followed that. What makes you think that Fight is any different? Is it because you think you’re the one? Do you honestly think you have the juice to keep up with me? Ricky grab your apple juice box and take a seat, I’m about to take you to school.”
“When you think of people here to make your name off of, be honest with yourself, who is at the top of that list? It’s okay. I know it’s Brandon. You can admit that, but stop for a second and really think.” Pretending to scratch my head with a confused look on my face. “Now who is HE trying to make his name off of?“
“That’s right, me. That’s because majority of these ass clowns come from the backwaters of OPW and no one has heard of them, and now that there are REAL stars here, everyone wants a bite at the apple.“
“Now you can ask him for yourself, and he will Deny, Deny, Deny. Yet when you look into his eyes when you ask, you’ll see a man much like yourself. Someone who is outsmarted. Out maneuvered. And over matched.”
“It’s why he isn’t with you in Dynasty. He needs people who are unruly. People who are going to sacrifice themselves for his greatness.”
“But Shawn, he’s not in the CuRe, hur dur.” I crinkle you face and take a deep breath.
“Open your fucking eyes, a zebra can’t change its stripes. Much like a lion is the king of the jungle, that is until an ever greater threat arrives. No one dares step up to me. Sure Ricky you have your chest puffed up now. Your chin held high. Beaming with confidence. Until you step through those ropes. When the bell rings. Everything changes for you.”
“You’re Playing With Fire. Good song choice from your Twitter, it is so very appropriate.” I zoom the camera out and give a huge thumbs up. “See I have to give you credit, you’re taking on the challenge like few have. The problem is, it’s all fake. Like the Montuori’s on their reality television show. You’re just the wrong person at the wrong time trying to claim pure confidence. I said it’s all fake because someone I should take as a serious threat, is someone who would’ve asked for this. You didn’t.“
“You know you’re not ready for me.“
“You know that this isn’t for you.”
“So Ricky, where do we go from here? It’s readily evident that I don’t see you as anything more than a mere nuisance. So let’s have a quick callback, these are your words not mine.” With my hand I scroll through and pull up a video of Ricky talking.
“Who’s ready to watch me kick the hell out of Shawn Warstein’s ole girl?“
“That right there is all I need to know about you. You claim that you were going to take down my one and only, and failed. That’s all you are. Hot Air. You had an opportunity right then and there to show the world what you are about. She is, was and forever will be better than you. And NOW you think that poking the bear was a good idea? What you should’ve done was tell me.“
“Hey Shawn, looking forward to a good match. I’m gonna give it my all.”
“Instead you did what you did. Allow me to take a play out of your book.“
“Who is ready for me to kick the fucking head off of Sahara’s new play toy?”
“That’s all you are to anyone and everyone around. You’re a toy to be used and then discarded when something shinier comes about. You aren’t the next big thing. You aren’t even on the minds of anyone that matters. The only reason why I’m talking about you is because I HAVE to. I can’t allow you to think that I have any respect for you. I don’t.” I nod right after saying that. “I think that you are nothing more than a wasted talent who is slumming it with Sahara. But you’re going to do what you want, so please continue to roam the Sahara. She’s the worst thing to come out of Chicago since R. Kelly.“
“That’s not to say anything about her little mean girls club, but that’s for another time. It’s really sad to think that this is the biggest moment of your career.“
“Now that I’ve had a moment to sit on that. Like for real? That’s not something you say. Has anyone ever taught you anything about loose lips and how they sink ships? Or how snitches get stitches? Or anything at all? Ricky I’m proud of you for one thing. That you recognize that this is the biggest opportunity of your wrestling career. That finally people will see you in a grander light. That you will step up to the plate and smack a home run. That you will entrench yourself here in Fight.“
“To you this is a major priority. This is something that you need to give all your focus, but for as much as you tell yourself that, you won’t. I’m sure by now you’re already getting dominated by Sahara, because you’re clearly a bottom, and getting ready to say your safe word, when suddenly it’s going to hit you like a ton of bricks. You’ve lied to yourself. You aren’t taking this seriously, it’s just something that you’re going to be able to tell yourself when what happens, happens.”
“Welcome to the place where Dreams quickly become nightmares. Close your eyes. Picture it, you valiantly standing over me. I’ve been bested. The great Shawn Warstein has been slain. Now open your eyes and realize a fantasy when you see one. Venom ten is the peak for you. Enjoy it now while you can. Take a deep breath, exhale through your nose and walk through that curtain. Take it all in. Play with the crowd, but not too much, can’t have yourself looking too loose out there. Remember this is your moment.”
I hold the camera out and spin in the middle of the sidewalk. The orientation of the camera finally falls on my grinning smile once more. “All the lights are going to be on you for the first time in your life. All of the cameras, all eyes will be on you. Will you succumb to the pressure? More than likely. Will it get to you? This is clear and evident. Will you stand up and show out? Probably not.”
“Because for you, this is the biggest moment of your entire existence…“
“It’s just another Saturday.“
No sooner than I save the file and close my phone, the four of them come walking out. Dickie gives us a wave as he heads down the road. Betsy comes over giving me a hug and saying goodnight. James holds out a fist, and a quick pound from me. James and Betsy hop into Excellence and disappear from sight. Leaving just Kasy and I on the street.
“We should get going.” I wrap my arm around her shoulder and pull her in close.
The air was getting cold but that didn’t bother us. We walked for what seemed like hours. We stopped every so often to sit on a bench and just talked about everything we had been through. While our relationship is still new, the bonds we have formed are far greater than anything you could find on a dating site. What we started off as, to where we are now, has been nothing short of amazing in every sense of the word.
Eventually we made it back to the brownstone, the comforts of home. I have gotten used to seeing throwing knives laying about on the counter and the video game controllers strewn about the couch. She tossed the hoodie she had stolen onto the rack and I followed suit. She disappeared into the kitchen, while I walked upstairs into the bedroom.
A small smile on my face, as I see her clothes thrown about the room. Always one to be nervous around people she could now call her friends, never stopped her from always trying to make an impression. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pull it out. The only thing I see is her face.
Her smiling, beautiful, amazing, kissable face on my Home Screen. I ignore the notification and stare at the picture, getting lost in my own head. The door to the bedroom opens up as Kasey saunters in. A large bowl of ice cream in her hands, with two spoons cradled under the bowl in her palms.
She climbs into the bed gingerly and grabs the remote once she frees her hand. She looks over to me and I laugh slightly. “What’s so funny?” She asked while looking for something to watch.
“Nothing.” I climbed up into the bed and we nestled next to each other. “Just you have this thing…” I grab one of the spoons and dig into the ice cream. “I dunno. Just something that puts my head at ease.“
“I know.” She said in an almost flippant confidence while grabbing her spoon as well.
“I’m serious. When I’m with you, you’re all I think about. When you’re not here, you’re all I think about.”
“Shawn.” She brushes her hair behind her ear and looks me directly in the eyes.
“Just let me finish. I need you to know something.” I hesitated for a moment, not because I didn’t mean what I was about to say, but to phrase it correctly. “Kase, you are my top priority. Your happiness. Your feelings. You. Fuck everything else, as long as I’m here with you, that’s all I need.“
She smiled and didn’t say anything. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but she stayed. She didn’t get up and run. She didn’t call me a bitch. All she did was sit there next to me, watching movies, cuddling and eventually leading to…
Fade To Black.