You’ll take me seriously.

By: Ricky Rodriguez

Date: 30th Sep 2021

Priorities: Part One.

 

Within his apartment in the Fight Tower, Ricky Rodriguez laid upon that black and leather couch, his eyes half closed as he was clearly high as hell. The movie Old 37 played across that television screen but his eyes weren’t focused anywhere near the screen. Instead, they gazed upwards, aimlessly, at the ceiling above him. Even with Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder making that rather shitty movie something worth watching, Ricky’s wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what was going on with it.

 

For anyone who knew, it would have been clear exactly where Ricky’s thoughts and focus was at. He shifted a bit on that couch, his lower half partially covered with the light material of those black gym shorts while his torso was hugged by the grey tank top he wore. His mind was an uncontrollable jumble of thoughts and feelings. Joe and Sahara. Joe and Michelle. Austin and..well, everyone. As hard as he tried to play peacemaker, it felt like everything was getting out of control.

 

The problems between Joe and Sahara seemed like they grew more and more every day. From the attack on Mia to Joe going as far as to throwing bar stools at Sahara while everyone was at The Velvet Rabbit, one of them even catching poor Ricky in the leg. And now, after this past Venom, the lengths Joe was ready to go to in order to, as he felt, get his getback, had just left a bad taste in his mouth and an even worse feeling in the pit of his stomach.

 

There was nothing about this that Ricky liked. With Joe, he had respect for the man, both for what he has accomplished in the ring and because Joe helped pick him up when he was at his lowest. But despite all of that, Ricky still had that strong moral compass about him. He knew the things Joe did just weren’t right. Whether it was getting involved in Dane and Allison’s marriage, his new found obsession with ending the career and possibly the life of Sahara. 

 

Sahara. It felt like his loyalty to her was just as strong as his for Joe was. But it was for an entirely different reason. It started with just an attraction. See, Ricky has a type and it’s about clear as day. Blonde. Bitchy. Totally not the best type to be attracted to, but what’re you gonna do? But now, it’s so much more than just attraction. That’s what’s made everything that much harder. He was her Little Lion. 

 

And after the dinner he was invited to by Dane Preston, his feelings for her became more and more clear. Not just to himself, but the people around them both, as well. Suffice to say, that made everything both ten times worse and ten times better, at the same damn time. As great as everything was, there was always this black cloud looming over everything. Whether that cloud was Joe Montuori or Austin Ramsey, it was always something.

 

Thankfully, nobody had pushed Ricky to that point where he had to make a choice. Despite that, he knew in his heart that the moment was going to happen sooner or later. How could he choose? Before those thoughts could continue, that front door swung open. Ricky shot up into a seated position, his attention falling directly upon that now opened door.

 

Stepping into that apartment was, surprisingly enough, Michelle Moore. Confusion showed all over the face of Ricky as she closed that door behind her. She walked across the floor, decked out rather simply with a pair of black leggings and one of those Miss Michelle shirts that sell out more often than not at the shows.

 

While Ricky sat there on that couch, trying to figure out just what Michelle was doing there, the Bronx Champion walked up to where Ricky was seated. Her eyes remained locked onto him as there was an expectant look, as if she just expected him to just know why she was there. When Ricky kept his mouth shut, she spoke up in a rather demanding tone.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Right now.’

 

The brow of Ricky lowered as the confusion he felt grew that much more. Shaking his head, he turned his attention away from her and focused it onto that television, just in time to see those end credits rolling across the screen. A sigh rolled out from between the lips of Ricky as he looked back at Michelle.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘What are you on about?’

 

As soon as he got that question out, Michelle brought her arms up to cross them at her chest.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Joe or Sahara?’

 

Never before had a single question caused his heart to drop into his stomach quicker than this one right now did. He parted his lips as if to answer, only nothing came out. Not a word. Not even a sound. Nothing but silence.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘I honestly don’t know if you’re stupid or deaf right now. It’s not hard, Ricky.’

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘It’s not hard?’

 

That look of confusion quickly shifted into a look of disbelief. An off laugh escaped Ricky as he shook his head before relaxing back against that couch.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Think I haven’t thought about that same question over and over again? How the hell are you gonna tell me it’s not hard?’

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Because it’s not?’

 

She adjusted her stance, uncrossing her arms and shrugging her shoulders. 

 

Michelle Moore: ‘How is it hard? She isn’t anything special. She’s not going to choose you over those ass bags in FYA. Her loyalty isn’t with you. Joe will have your back. He’s a piece of shit, but he’s loyal. So again, I ask you. Joe or Sahara?’

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Will he tho? I mean, when all of this first started, I woulda agreed with you. I believed he had my back. But look at how he’s been, Michelle. He’s outta his fuckin mind. The only thing he cares about is takin her out, permanently. Doesn’t care about Ascension. Doesn’t care about anything else. He’s fuckin obsessed and you know it.’

 

Pushing his hands down onto that couch on either side of him, he raised up to a standing position. Shaking his head, he brought his right hand up to rub across his own face and then across the top of his head.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And I wouldn’t expect her to choose me over them. It’s two entirely different things.’

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Would you expect anything less from him right now? Sahara attacked and almost killed Mia and for what? She was an innocent bystander.’

 

She placed her hands on the back of his couch.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘And I’m glad to hear you wouldn’t expect her to choose you over them – because she wouldn’t. She would watch you die if it could benefit her in any way.’

 

Finding himself visibly taken aback by everything Michelle had just said, Ricky struggled to find the words, any words he could to respond to that. Shaking his head, he turned his attention to the black end table next to that couch and the silver dab pen on top of it. Without a word spoken, he grabbed it up and moved to the sliding glass door that led to the balcony of his apartment.

 

Sliding it open, he stepped in the entryway, leaning against the doorframe as he took a rather deep hit off of it. The arm that held it fell to his side as he exhaled that hit towards the outside. He shook his head once more before finally speaking up, his eyes still focused outside.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I don’t believe that.’

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Listen, I’ve been in this business for a long time. Bitches like her are a dime a dozen. She plays a good part, probably makes you feel good inside and shit, but she doesn’t give a shit about you.’

 

She stepped over to the entranceway where he was standing. He stared at her, if his mouth could hang open with shock any further it would touch the ground.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘Don’t look at me like that. I’ve known Sahara for a little while,  she’s bad news. She can’t control her actions and it leads to shitty situations like this one. Do you honestly enjoy this? Your career is just beginning,  Ricky,  turning your back on Joe and Paul could end it as quick as it began.’

 

As that last word left her lips, Ricky’s head dropped. Pointed towards the floor beneath him, those eyes of his were closed as he tried as hard as he could to collect his thoughts and to keep his composure. After a moment or two, he brought his head up to look at her, utter defeat showing in his features.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I don’t know what to do. Joe’s actin like he’s outta his mind. Austin is outta his mind. The only time I don’t really feel like I’m drownin in all of this shit is when I’m with her, y’know? Like, the other night. I had dinner with her and Dane and Allison and I swear it was the most normal night I’ve had in..I can’t even remember how long.’

 

He brought his hand back up, taking another hit off of that pen. This time, after exhaling, he extended it towards Michelle, offering it up to her.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I hate everythin about this. I really do.’

 

She shook her head no as he offered her the pen. She smoked but she didn’t fuck with those vape pens.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘I think you just made your choice, whether you realize it or not.’

 

She shook her head and sighed.

 

Michelle Moore: ‘You better talk to Joe and Sahara and find out where they stand with everything.  There’s no need to burn your bridges with Dynasty if Sahara’s just using you as a fucktoy.’

 

She walked away from the back door, making her way towards the front door of his apartment. 

 

Michelle Moore: ‘You need to get your head straight – the sooner the better. If you fuck us over at Ascension, I promise you, Joe and Sahara will be the least of your problems.’

 

Her words rang loudly in his ears while his eyes followed her as Michelle made her way out of that apartment. The silence was shattered by the sound of that door closing. With his back still pressed against that door frame, Ricky slowly slid down it onto his ass in that seated position. Letting his head fall back to rest against the metal behind him, he took in a rather shaky breath before sighing out just as shakily.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘This isn’t fair. I shouldn’t have to choose.’

 

He spoke those words to nobody in particular, his voice cracking with every other word he spoke. One last hit taken off of that pen, he exhaled it out before looking over and tossing it over onto the couch.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I need to talk to them. I need to know what to do. I have feelins for her, real fuckin feelins and I can’t just pretend I don’t. I can’t turn them off. But at the same time, I wouldn’t even be in this spot right now if not for Joe picking me up like he did. I owe him so much even if I don’t agree with what he’s doing. I owe him my loyalty. There’s no right choice here. Not until I talk to them..’

 

He dug his hand into the right pocket of those shorts before pulling out the phone that was within them. Hitting the button, that screen lit up and Ricky’s eyes focused on it as he prepared himself to have conversations he didn’t really want to have.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Why can’t the answer be easy? Why can’t I just know what to do? Why does this hafta be just so fuckin hard? This isn’t fair..nothing about this is fair.’

____________________________________

 

‘You’ll take me seriously.’

 

The feed began to roll as a pretty generic cityscape view was at the forefront of the scene. It began to move as it focused in on a small alleyway between two of the rather large buildings that towered above. Within that alley, there was a small group of about four or five people all kneeled down as they were in the middle of throwing dice. Their sounds of excitement and disappointment, both, blended together to the point you couldn’t hear the clacking of those small white dice bouncing off of the ground and against the side of the building in front of them.

 

The modest pile of money in the middle changed sizes with every roll of the dice. Upon closer inspection, one of the members of that group could almost be recognized as Fight NYC wrestler, Ricky Rodriguez. The young man was decked out in a pair of tan slacks with a matching pair of boots. His torso was covered in a white tank top and an unbuttoned black shirt over that. His features, lacking that usual exuberance he showed as he was focused entirely on the game he was in the middle of.

 

With every roll of the dice, emotions moved like a roller coaster, excitement turning to disappointment within the blink of an eye. Curiously enough, Ricky was not one of the ones playing. Instead, he kneeled down, his eyes following every roll of those dice, taking in the reactions of the ones winning and losing both. After a few more rolls, the game began to wind down, people breaking away from the group until only Ricky remained.

 

Standing up from that kneeling position, Ricky brushed the knee of his pants off. Turning his head, Ricky shot a slight smirk to whoever it was holding the camera. Shaking his head slowly, the Dynasty member extended his arms outwards, almost presenting the area around him to everyone watching. Letting them stay outstretched, Ricky spoke up.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘It’s funny how easily a grudge can take hold and really stick its claws into you. It can be a sideways glance. It can be a misunderstood comment. Hell, it could just be a bad day and someone doesn’t like your personality. That’s just what happened here. Before all this, I didn’t know Shawn. I mean, I had heard of him..heard a lot. But there was never any interaction there. And despite that, here we are. Me with somethin to prove against you and you, upset to the point you get pissed when I even mention you. All of this thanks to one single comment you made. 

 

That’s why nobody takes you guys seriously. Such an ignorant, ass backwards comment. Who the fuck are you to us, to me, that you know enough to drop a statement like that? You don’t know me from Adam, Shawn. But after this match, you’re more than free to give another, more educated, opinion. But before we get there..I need some clarification.

 

And it’s like this: Lemme ask you somethin, Shawn. Is this serious enough for you? Shady group of guys huddled up in a dirty, dangerous alley, throwin dice. Hell, some of those guys were blown outta their mind on shit I ain’t even heard of before. Is that the kinda seriousness you want from me, Shawn? Is this what you deem as serious? I mean, look at you. You look like you’d fit right in here. But me?’

 

Letting his arms drop, the sounds of them smacking against his sides and legs slightly echoing in that nearly vacant alley. Slipping that unbuttoned shirt off of his shoulders, he tossed it to the side without a second thought. Leaning down, he untied the laces of each boot, stepping out of them before unbuttoning and unzipping them. Shaking his lower half until those pants fell, Ricky stood defiant, a pair of white gym shorts remaining.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘This ain’t me. This ain’t my scene. This ain’t my serious. My serious? For all intents and purposes, my serious begins and ends in that ring. That’s where it belongs. That’s where I need to be serious, where I’m paid to be serious. Why should I take that mentality with me everywhere else I go, Shawn? Is that the kinda life you live? If so, I feel so fuckin bad for you, I really do.

 

Being serious in the ring is one thing. Which I am. Doesn’t matter who it is. Doesn’t matter how I feel about the person standin across that ring from me. When the bell rings, you see the difference between Ricky the wrestler and Ricky the man. Outside of Tag Team Matches, my goal is just as clear as the nose on your face. To win. I adhere to my morals and I go out there and do what it takes to get one up over my opponent.

 

Outside of the ring is an entirely different story. I like almost everyone. I’ll drink, smoke, and play games with almost everyone. I don’t take my work home with me. And my life is better cause of it. It’s fun. Full of adventure and excitement. Now, is it always sunshine and rainbows? No, it’s never gonna be that and it’s childish to pretend it should be. But that’s just part of what makes it as important as it is to me. 

 

That’s what’s been so key to my growth, not only as a wrestler but as a person as well. Look, I have my problems just the same as anyone else does but I’m learnin more and more with every match, every night out, every experience. And I’m gonna take everythin I’ve learned and I’m gonna use it to bring the fight to you like nobody’s ever brought it before. You might not take me seriously but after this match? You’ll take me seriously inside of that ring.

 

But before all of that. Remember how I told you this wasn’t my scene? Lemme take you to where it is.’

 

Thanks to some pretty good video editing, the change of scenery was almost fluid. Going from that kinda gross, dingy alleyway, the change over would be a near night and day difference. The sounds of gunshots and police sirens would be replaced with the pulsating sounds of remixed songs. Instead of the dull, flickering street lights, strobe lights of various colors flashed rhythmically. Lacking the scattered trash cans, they wouldn’t be missed by the rather large crowd of people filling the interior of that establishment.

 

Off to the side in a corner booth, Ricky Rodriguez sat with his arms propped up along the back of the booth behind him. On the table in front of him, there was an unlabeled bottle of clear liquor and a couple filled shot glasses. He grabs one of them up and downs it without hesitation before setting it back down. 

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘This is it, Shawn. This is where I’m most comfortable. I don’t know what it is. The liquor. The music. The lights. The people. Could be any combination of those, but really? It’s probably all of it put together. This is where I’m most at ease. I look out at this crowd of people and I see their faults, their insecurities. And somehow..it helps alleviate my own. 

 

I look at all of these people here and I don’t see a single person better than me, in this environment. There’s a reason for that. There’s no competition over who’s havin more fun than anyone else. There’s nobody runnin around, tryin to say they’re better at havin fun than you are. You don’t hafta prove you’re better, when you’re here. There’s just no sense to be found in those kinda thoughts.

 

But in the ring, it’s different. It’s a different mentality. In the ring, it’s on you to prove you’re better than the person you’re in the ring with. It takes a whole different kind of seriousness there than it does here. That’s where the insecurities come from. That’s where the doubt comes from. That’s a whole different fight. It’s one I fight each and every time I go out there. But it’s a fight I win. I fight through those doubts and insecurities and I give every bit of fight I have in me. And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do against you, Shawn.’

 

Adjusting himself a bit in that seat, Ricky reached for that other shot, drinking it down as he did the first one. Tapping his finger against the screen of the phone next to that bottle on the table, he looked over those notifications before going back to what he was saying.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Before this longest two week break of my life, I pulled one of the biggest wins in my life against Dane Preston. The same Dane Preston that put your boy Dickie down like a dog. I pinned him. I had him down on that mat for the one..two..three. No shenanigans. No Dynasty. No weapons. Just me, Ricky Rodriguez.

 

And why? Cause he wanted to believe I’m not as good as I am. He wanted to treat me exactly like what he thought I was. Some know nothin kid who is way in over his head. But I proved him wrong. I took every hit and I kept comin. And when it came down to it, I found a way to get the job done. That felt amazin. Not just cause I picked up the win but cause I stood up for myself and I came out on top.

 

That’s exactly what’s gonna happen here. I know you look at me and you see whatever you wanna see, Shawn. In that sense, you’re no better than Dane is. I’m gonna exceed your every expectation. The fight that I’m bringin? You’re never gonna see it comin. It’s not just a win for me, either. By pickin up this win against you, it sends a message. A very..very loud one at that.

 

From Dynasty to the New Status Quo. You’re more than welcome to try and shake things up but let’s be honest here. More often than not? Those things wind up fallin flat. They start good, don’t get me wrong. Y’all got the Empire Championship. Y’all got the Islands Championships. But Paul’s got Dickie in his sights, he’s got his focus locked in on that title and everyone knows what that means. Paul gets what Paul wants.

 

That’s how it happens tho. The gold is temporary and when that’s gone? Y’all become faces in the crowd. And with egos like the ones you four have? That’s not gonna work for y’all, oh no. I hope I’m wrong tho. Other than, you, Shawn, I don’t really have anythin against any of you. And after Venom, I don’t even think my problem with you will last cause I’ll have proven my point.

 

You’re gonna be layin there, eyes closed cause those overhead lights are bright as hell and you’re gonna hear my name called. And then you’ll know. No matter what I do out here, in that ring? You’ll take me seriously.’

 

A broad grin broke out across the fresh features of Ricky as he grabbed hold of that bottle. Moving it towards one of the shot glasses, he filled it up only to set the bottle back down onto the table. Ricky grabbed the shot and lifted it up, extending it forward.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Cheers Shawn, I’ll be seein ya.’

 

Bringing the glass to his lips, he threw it back and drank it down with a satisfied sigh. He felt every drop of that icy liquid all the way down, smiling as he did so. After setting the glass back down, Ricky nodded with emotion as the scene slowly faded away, giving way to a promotional video, hyping the highly anticipated Ascension event that was right around the corner.

____________________________________

 

Priorities: Part Two.

 

After the cameraman stopped his recording, him and Ricky shared a bit of small talk. Ricky even went as far as to offer him a drink, which he turned down with mentions of other jobs he had to get to. The two said their goodbyes as Ricky was left to himself. His hand found its way back around the neck of that bottle before pouring himself another drink.

 

His grip replacing that bottle with the now filled shot glass, Ricky brought it towards his lips. But before he could drink it down, the screen of his phone lit up brightly. Intrigue showed in the face of Ricky as he set the glass down so he could check his phone. Showing on the main screen was a box letting him know he had a text, who it was from, and what it had said.

 

JMont: Hey Ricky, let’s have lunch. We can talk everything over and make things right between us.

 

A soft sigh rolled free from between his lips, Ricky reached straight for that shot and downed it without a moment’s hesitation. Things with Joe were great. And then just like that, they weren’t. Joe was there from the start but then everything with Sahara happened. The Joe that Ricky sees now is nothing like the one that helped him up when he was down.

 

The change was more than that, though. Vhodka, inadvertently or not, had put a bug in Ricky’s ear. One that had been buzzing around in his mind ever since she brought it up. With their newfound feelings between Sahara and Ricky, things got a bit messy. With that in mind, it’s very much possible that Joe Montuori would take Ricky out if it meant getting his one up over Sahara.

 

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, much similar to the situation with Shawn, Joe dropped a single sentence that completely shifted the scales of Ricky’s dilemma. ‘Whoever is Team Sahara, watch your back.’ Now, Ricky’s loyalty is with the Dynasty. When the time comes, he’s fully prepared to fight the fight that needs to be fought. But after that threat?

 

Before the thought could come to completion, another notification showed across his screen, above the one from Joe. It was a Tweet from Sahara. But not just any Tweet. There was a picture of Sahara in a rather revealing bra and panty set. The caption was to let Ricky know she had gotten back from Chicago. 

 

A talk with Joe, a man who Ricky wasn’t even sure he could trust or a welcome home celebration with the woman he was growing rather strong feelings for. Those eyes of Ricky’s closed for just a moment before opening back up. He swiped away the notification from Joe. Replying to that Tweet, he let Sahara know that he was on his way.

 

Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. He didn’t know what consequences would come from his choice of priorities here. And frankly? He didn’t care. At the end of the day, Ricky knew he owed Joe Montuori a lot. Probably more than he could ever repay. But there was no way he could let Joe’s personal vendetta come in between himself and what his heart felt to be true.

 

Ricky never once defended Sahara’s choice to bring Mia into the fold, quite the opposite as it had been something they argued about frequently. But Joe was on a whole different level. He was obsessed with it. Despite not wanting to come out and say it, Ricky found himself almost nervous around Joe. Between the threats he dropped to Dane, saying he was going to involve firearms. And now threatening the career and life both of Sahara. Everything was mostly clear for young Ricky Rodriguez.

 

When the time comes, he’ll fight till his last breath for Dynasty. But until that bell rang, he knew exactly where his priorities were. Getting up out of that seat, he settled his bill before taking one more look back at the lively club scene behind him. And with that, Ricky made his way out of that building, a whole new feeling washing over him.