The Rice-Eccles Stadium. Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, it could seat over forty-five thousand people. Ezra's heart thumped in his chest as he stared out at the colossal arena from the entrance stage, watching the crew set everything up for tonight's show. Friday night KADA - and tonight, Ezra was going to be a PART OF IT!!!
"Honey, you look like you're going to be sick."
That unmistakable voice belonged to young celebrity, Lance Lovecraft, who interrupted Ezra's nervous panic. The British man didn't look like he belonged in a wrestling ring! He looked like a contestant on Drag Race. He was five-ten, maybe five-eleven in height, and he wore tight leather pants tucked into buckled black combat boots and a low-cut v-neck white shirt. He'd clipped a miniature top hat to his head, and his eyelids glittered red. What gave him away as a wrestler was the Tag-Team Championship belt he wore around his narrow waist!
"How did you do it?" Ezra asked him, arms wrapped around his stomach. "Your first night! Main eventing the end of year Pay Per View! How did you manage to go out there and compete?"
Lance shifted uncomfortably and folded his arms. "For all intents and purposes, I didn't. That match has been struck off the record. I debuted when I answered Sean Fox's open challenge and Diego saved me."
"But you still went out there. Weren't you scared??"
"Bloody petrified. In fact, I'm always shaking before my music hits," Lance admitted, offering a warm smile. "I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable before I have to perform."
Ezra frowned. "But you've been on TV since you were like, fifteen!! Don't you get used to it??"
Lance stared at the production crew as they set up the crowd barricades in front of him.
"Yes and no. Mostly no, I'd say. Most people only see Lance as he appears on their television. The dancer, the activist, the bitchy wrestler," he explained softly. "Even backstage at the arena, event or set, I'm already in business mode. You don't get to see the emotional wreck staring at the mirror in the hotel room asking himself why he's here. Some people adapt better than others. My best friend Jane has always been confident and camera ready. I'm sure she only ever did it to spite me! But I'll tell you what, Ezra. I don't regret any of it. I always have the time of my life and I always end up wanting more, no matter how awful the nerves get. That's what you get addicted to and that's what helps you ride out the storm. The first time is the hardest because you haven't experienced that nirvana that comes from performing on this scale."
Ezra felt humbled, and he hung his head and looked at his shoes. How easy it was to forget that Lance Lovecraft was a person underneath the character and makeup and status. He didn't even think the gender non-conforming star could possibly understand how scared he was. Wrong!
"It's not just nerves, is it?" Lance began to walk around him, lowering his head to study Ezra's face. "No, you're unhappy. Are you alright? Do you want to talk about it?"
"Ahh--" Ezra looked up into those glowing red contacts. "My boyfriend left me on Wednesday. He just left a note and disappeared. He always talked about being scared that I'll break my spine and stuff. He never wanted me to wrestle."
Lance whistled in sympathy. "He sounds like a right bellend to me. Certainly not somebody who deserves to ruin your big night."
"What if he's right, though? What if I do screw it all up and everything I sacrificed was for nothing?" Ezra bit down hard on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from completely melting down.
Lance, meanwhile, let out a laugh.
"You remind me so much of myself. It's bonkers. But if you have a chance to do what your heart wants you to do, you have to take it no matter what. If you sacrificed a lot to make it here, then the best way you can give those sacrifices meaning is by going out to that ring and making a name for yourself! If you turn tail, then that would mean your sacrifices are in vain. Don't let anyone get in your head. Your ex doesn't have the power and authority to stop you believing in yourself. Nobody does. Take the advice of a gender-bending gay man who can't even read the comment sections of his own social media profiles because people tell him he's a failure, he can't wrestle, he's corrupting children, he should kill himself. You have a chance to do what you've always dreamed about. The doubters and the haters? Bollocks to them. They don't exist. The arena is big, loud and terrifying, but that ring there is the same ring you wrestled in at your high-school gym and at the Knoxville PC. Your body knows what it needs to do. Everything else will fall into place."
Ezra took in a harsh, raggedy breath, jumping up and down on the spot as he digested the taller man's words. He did know how to wrestle! He'd been wrestling for nearly five years now - eighteen months of training and three years of performing! Since he'd been offered a developmental contract, Ezra had committed himself a hundred and ten percent. He went to the Knoxville performance centre every day he wasn't on the road, and he worked out once or even twice daily. So much of himself he put into this endeavour that he neglected his boyfriend and lost him.
"We should head back inside. Any minute now, Aunt Michelle will be coming to talk to us about what we're doing tonight."
Lance kindly offered Ezra his hand, and Ezra gingerly took it. Sean wouldn't be happy if he saw his protégé being so friendly with his archrival. Fox was a terrific mentor! He was strong, resilient and successful, and he was a little man fighting to make an impact in a big man's world. He'd been nothing but supportive and loving since Beau's sudden vanishing from their lives, and he knew when his younger friend needed sympathy and when he needed a verbal slap in the face. But Ezra couldn't understand why Sean was so angry and bitter towards Lance. All he knew was there was a lot of bad blood between them. The difference in opinion regarding their roles in the business didn't seem important enough for such hatred. Lance was as kind and supportive as Ezra, though, so he had no intention of jumping on either man's bandwagon.
Diego Silva, unlike Sean and Lance, was not someone that exuded kindness and tenderness. He was a big guy, around six feet tall. He was very well built, not quite as big as Jack Lièvremont, who seemed to live on protein shakes and hyperintense workouts, but he was broad-shouldered and thick around the middle. He was in his mid-thirties - Ezra wasn't sure of his age - but he looked younger than that. He didn't seem to smile much. He had dark brown skin and black curls on his head, and next to him, Jack was a ray of sunshine, despite his much more gothic appearance. To Ezra's surprise, Diego was holding a content baby Amélie on his hip!!
"Look at this little honey bunny! Oh, she definitely takes after her daddy! Lucky girl," Lance scuttled over to caress the baby's cheek with his fingers.
"Stop flirting with our opponents," said Diego to Lance, raising his eyebrow. A joke?
"She stopped crying! She's been miserable all day!" Ezra remarked happily, approaching the Brazilian and putting out his finger for the baby to grab at.
"I too," Jack looked exhausted. Amélie had kept him up most of the night and sabotaged his dreams of sleeping on the plane with her relentless grizzling.
"How did you make her do that?" Ezra asked Diego in hopes of cracking the solemn expression, and he succeeded!!
Diego gave a fond smile, and he instantly looked so much more approachable. "I have four children. Three of them are devils. My twins, especially. Compared to them, Amélie is an angel."
"I didn't know you had kids!!" Ezra's eyes bugged and he gasped, almost as if he were accusing Diego of deliberately withholding vital information.
"I like to keep my personal and professional lives separate," Diego's reply was somewhat frosty, and he lost his warm smile. "But what can I say? I have a soft spot for babies. They haven't learned how to walk yet. That's when the problems start!" He snickered when Jack let out a tired grunt of despair.
Ezra was wary about where this conversation might go. Jack's wife had very recently abandoned him to return home, rejecting both him and their daughter. Jack was wrestling with what he should do - give up his career to raise his daughter or let his parents in Quebec City take care of Amélie until Sarah came to her senses. He chose to redirect the topic to something they could all be excited about.
"Are you excited for our segment??"
While Jack made a noise of "not this again," Diego gave a slight nod and handed the baby back to her father. Lance, feeling clucky, began firing questions at Jack about his daughter - most of which Jack couldn't understand because of the man's strong accent and British slang.
"Has anyone gotten back to you about the documentary deal yet?" The wrestling veteran asked, his eyes firmly fixed on Ezra's.
"Ahh no. Not at all," Ezra had totally forgotten about that. He'd barely even told his friends and family! The excitement of a spot on KADA's main roster was a lot more intense than someone asking him about his past. "But Michelle says that they want Jack and me on TV first before we start all that up. Maybe after tonight we'll get to hear more about it!"
"Unbelievable. Everyone Bloom works with is the most disorganised, slow-running waste of time in the world," Diego grumbled, tapping his fingers on the table. "I don't want cameras in my house, but I didn't want to say no and shoot my career in the foot."
"Right??" Ezra blurted out, green eyes wide. "I was so scared of saying no because she as good as told us that if we said no, she'd never bring us up to the main roster! I'm not ready to be here!"
Diego's eyes narrowed and Ezra's blood ran cold. "Don't tell me that. I don't have time to coddle any more rookies. Either you're ready to go tonight, or you can get up right now and tell Michelle she's made a mistake, and you stay out of my ring."
"He's ready," Jack promised, almost glaring at Diego as he slapped Ezra on the back.
"He just said that he isn't," Diego hit back coldly. "So what is it, kid? Because you don't look or sound ready to me."
Ezra's jaw quivered as Diego's eyes stared holes into him.
"Aww, shut up, you colossal plonk," Lance brushed him off, shooting Ezra a sly wink. "Forgive him. He doesn't remember what it was like to be new. After all, Diego was running the ropes when the three of us were just little boys with big dreams."
"Look at you, still wearing that belt. Have you taken the damn thing off since we won it last week?" Diego teased him.
"Uhh, no! Why would I do that? It goes so well with all of my outfits!" Lance began to gyrate his hips, tapping his nails on the Tag Team Championship around his waist.
Although Diego was giving him a hard time, Ezra noticed that the dour Brazilian seemed to come alive in his presence. The rumours reported by the dirt sheets indicated that Diego Silva and Lance Lovecraft despised each other backstage, even though they were a gay couple on screen, so Ezra was surprised to see them exchanging playful banter. Everyone's phone soon buzzed, and it was clear they all received the same message.
Michelle (BOSS KADA): Meet you in catering in three minutes.
That wasn't a difficult request - catering was the social hub backstage. A place in the concourse that offered a buffet to the cast and crew of the KADA show. Ezra, under Jack's watchful eye, never liked to indulge too much. Sometimes a small plate of fruit or a couple of sandwich quarters. He was working incredibly hard to achieve a wrestler's body - he wasn't there yet, but he would be like a mini-Jack before long, he was sure! Or a mini-mini-Jimmy!! Sean had a sweet tooth and often treated himself to some pie or tart after he'd wrapped up for the night. Lance had never eaten anything while Ezra was watching. Huskie, an unpleasant, chubby man who rarely made it onto television tended to stack his plates with pasta, rice, skewers, cake - anything and everything he could put his hands on.
"Sorry about this being a public affair, gentlemen, but my office smells like something died in the wall," Michelle explained as she turned a chair back-to-front and sat down to face Ezra, Jack and Lansilva. "Alright! We've got our evening all set up. Don't bother changing into your ring threads; you're going out on camera in your streets."
"Oh, really? Bugger it. I would have worn something nicer!" Lance immediately complained, drawing an eye-roll from their boss and the Brazilian veteran in the room.
"You're right, this segment's a bust, we better reschedule for next week," Michelle decided, standing up from her chair.
"What?? No!!" Ezra blurted out. "No no nonono!"
He'd already called up his friends and family and told them they needed to watch KADA Wrestling tonight! Tonight at seven!! All these people were expecting to see him!!
"Relax, Luczynski. It's a joke," the older woman sat back down, eyes buried in the back of her skull. "But you should reschedule that heart attack you're having. We have money to make tonight."
It wasn't a huge exaggeration - Ezra was almost hyperventilating, the room spinning around him. Jack, half-concerned and half-amused, put a massive arm around his little friend's shoulders as the baby cooed.
"We're not wrestling tonight, then?" Diego got the conversation back on track.
"I didn't say that. Everything tonight has to look impromptu. So I don't want you going back to the hotel room and putting on your best showgirl outfit, limey Lovecraft. Lièvremont, I've got someone here to look after your little girl while you're busy, and she even speaks French. That's how much I care."
Though she said it so casually and flippantly, that was a pretty big deal in Ezra's mind. Michelle really did go the extra mile for her employees, and that spoke a lot to the young Polish-American. He was still raw from the way his last boss treated him - expendable, replaceable and unimportant. Like a possession. He was still angry about the way Margaret Bloom treated him - as a pawn. But Michelle, gruff and crude though she was, had a heart of gold. He respected her.
"I-- merci," Jack beamed at her, kissing his daughter on the forehead.
He had no choice but to bring Amélie with him while he worked this weekend, as he had nobody to look after her. Following their work obligations, Jack intended to fly up to Quebec City and hand Amélie over in time for the next weekend. Ezra was sad to know that this precious little girl was going away, but there was no easy decision to be made here. All he knew was that he was going to be the best friend to Jack no matter what!
The meeting was more involved than it was when Ezra was working in Litchfield and Minneapolis. In those smaller wrestling companies, the performers were generally given a matchup, an outcome, a couple of spots to complete and a time limit, then they were left to figure out the rest. Ezra was surprised how involved tonight's segment was going to be! It wasn't detailed bump for bump, but there were several checkpoints to memorise. Ezra was sure it wouldn't be a problem.
Unlike Jack, who took away the cutest little baby in the world to meet the babysitter but NOT before a big snuggle from Uncle Ez, and Lansilva, who had a photoshoot as Tag-Team Champions to attend to, Ezra left the building! His role was to re-enter with a front-row ticket and watch the show as a fan until his segment - slot four, right after the women's singles match! Jack's job was much the same! Act as a fan until it was time for him to leap into action!
As Ezra exited out one of the side doors, he realised once again how real this all was. He was about to go and perform on television. TELEVISION!! There were tens of thousands of wrestlers who dreamed of getting to KADA, and Ezra had snuck his way in there before his nineteenth birthday! Diego Silva's words went around in his mind. You don't look ready. You don't sound ready. I don't feel ready!! On the verge of panic, Ezra fell back against the wall next to the door and took out his phone.
"Short-ass, what's going on?" Eamonn answered the call with his signature monotone voice.
"I just wanted to hear you talk," Ezra tried to stop himself from breaking down into an anxious, weeping mess, sliding down until he was crouching. "Sup?"
"Oh, I'm just lying down in bed. Not freaking out on the phone to my brother. Being gangsta like that," Eamonn replied dryly.
Ezra half-laughed and half-choked. "You got me! I'm so screwed. I'm so sorry."
"It's Ezra, Mom! You know, that son you had before me? You think you'd remember something like that," Eamonn suddenly shouted, and Ezra couldn't help but chuckle. Nobody had a phone call in that house without Glennys thinking she had to be involved in some way. "I'd never be able to kick her off the TV, so I spent some of your money - not much, don't freak out! - on a small second-hand one for our room. Well, my room. Celeste sleeps in here, but only by the grace of me. Either way, I hope you don't mind. I didn't wanna miss seeing you tonight."
Ezra screwed his eyes shut. Eamonn was such a pain. He seemed to know exactly what to say to make it nearly impossible for his brother to consider telling Michelle that he wasn't able to do this.
"Celeste even cancelled on her friend's birthday party just to be here tonight and watch you," Eamonn continued, and Ezra's heart broke.
"Did she really??"
"No, not really. There is a party, but it's tomorrow."
"I can't do this to you, though," Ezra curled up into a tiny ball the best he could. "I shouldn't have just left you and tried to do something so completely stupid!! Beau knew I was going to fail too, and now he's gone before I could ruin everything. I think I want to come home, big little brother. I can't... I can't."
He bit the inside of his cheek as he shook, preparing himself for a tongue-lashing, but he didn't get one.
"If you wanna."
"Really?" Ezra was confused. "You told me to go and wrestle. You always told me you didn't want me to waste my life."
"You did go out and wrestle. If you're not vibing with it, then fuck it, you can come home. I won't be mad. It's not a waste. If you hated it and did it anyway, then that would be a waste and I'd punch you in the dick," Eamonn said simply.
Ezra's poor mind was being pulled in every direction. By guilt, duty, love, appreciation, sacrifice, hope... too many things to juggle. "But then everything you did was for nothing! All those transfusions and the kidney... if I give up, then that's not fair on you."
"Oh shit, you're still feeling guilty about that, huh? When are you gonna stop, Ez? You're such a downer sometimes," Eamonn lectured him, and Ezra heard him shut the bedroom door with that familiar double click. "I did that for you so you can do whatever the fuck you wanted. If you wanted to spend your life roaming around the cesspit that is Litchfield, then whatever. I told you to get the fuck out because you were depressed as shit and you hated your job and your life, and that's not what I did all those operations for. You don't need to be a wrestler to make me happy, you know. Legit, little big brother, all I ever wanted was for you to go out and live. You're doin' it. So I'm already happy for you."
"Really?" Ezra, deeply moved by his brother's rare affection, wiped his eyes.
"Totes. If you don't want to wrestle, then don't. But I'm pretty sure you want to. It's all I remember you ever talking about while I pretended to be interested and pay attention."
"I don't know if I can."
"Mathematically impossible. Around 80% of what's in your body came from my body. Since I believe in you, 80% of you believes in you too. That's just how it is. Deal with it."
"Okay sure. There's nothing sketchy to read into there!" Ezra managed to laugh, and Eamonn treated him with a rare giggle. "I still don't feel like I deserve this. Any of this."
"You didn't deserve cancer either, but it bit you on the ass anyway. Seems to me that shit happens whether you deserve it or not, so you might as well just roll with it. Life is good for you for a fucking change. Stop being guilty about it. It's boring."
"Alright! Okay!" Ezra exhaled and stood up tall - all five feet and three inches of him. "But damn, I want to come and see you. I miss you so much."
"GAY. Why would you say that?"
"We were having a moment!! "
"We were. You ruined it. I'm kidding. I love you," Eamonn spoke his short sentences so quickly that Ezra almost got lost.
"Hah! You love me!! You said it!!" Ezra beamed to the near-empty car lot, his spirits lifted by the reminder that Eamonn loved him.
"I do, and I did. Can you imagine how hard that was for me? If I can do that, then you can wrestle a match. Still, if you want to throw in the towel, we'll love you anyway. Just don't do it because you feel bad for leaving home. Don't ever let Mom win."
Ezra thought a lot about what Eamonn said as he dried his face, found his ticket, pocketed his phone and marched along the walkway towards the fan entrance. It was true. A lot of his self-doubt did come from survivor's guilt. He cheated death four times, and every time he did, it was because his little brother gave him that chance. Ezra never was sure how to make it up to him. It certainly didn't feel like he was doing the right thing by leaving Eamonn and Celeste with their manipulative mother. Even now, Glennys was still in his head, causing unnecessary anxiety and insecurity. Well, he would show her! He would march into the Rice-Eccles Stadium and give the performance of his damn life!!
It was thrilling to be among the fans! Nobody recognised him. Though Ezra was relieved, because he was supposed to be just one of them, he also wondered what might happen when a stranger did notice his face. He had tens of thousands of Instagram followers, many of whom were reasonably active and shared his pictures and videos to their own pages. Ezra liked to reply to at least five fan comments per upload. It felt good to engage with people that enjoyed his work! He wondered what all of these people would think when his segment came around! He was excited just thinking about it, and began to hop up and down as he waited for admission!!
Everything seemed so big when Ezra found his chair and leaned over the crowd barricade. He'd never been so close before! And he was only going to get closer!! Until the fifth segment, Ezra was going to act the part of overenthusiastic fan - he couldn't help but feel a little typecast - and the cameras would surreptitiously highlight him as he reacted to the in-ring action. He wished he had the sense to bring some fruit with him. He wasn't in the mood for heavily salted and fatty concession snacks and soda.
The beginning of the event wasn't extraordinary. The televised show began live at seven, and it was only fifteen minutes past six. KADA used this time to schedule untelevised matches to entertain the fans that had settled early. In the first match, Pearl - who Ezra cheered loud enough to make her briefly smile out of character - took on one of the developmental women from the Seattle Performance Centre. The match was to gauge how much progress Tamsin had made and if she was perhaps ready to be signed to the main roster, but it wasn't a thrilling affair. Pearl was fierce, crisp and powerful, but she wasn't able to work fast matches, and speed seemed to be Tamsin's strength. While Ezra judged both women to be excellent wrestlers on their own, the chemistry between them was sorely lacking. Management would be unlikely to pit them against each other in future.
During the climax of the battle, Jack arrived and sat down next to him. The big guy was so excited too. Though Ezra was desperate to discuss tonight's plan with Jack, he wasn't ready to take the risk. He couldn't expose himself and Jack as audience plants. In the second match, three wrestlers that Ezra hadn't met yet, but recognised as Dragonfly, Harry Hyena and Bob took on a trio of Salt Lake City's local wrestling talent. It was pretty neat! Without the restrictions that the televised matches faced, the men were all allowed to have fun and flex their creative muscles, leading to some exciting developments. Ezra didn't have to act - he was shouting and hollering from his place behind the barricade, getting up on his feet several times to the amusement of the people next to him - a father and son on the other side of Jack, and a boyfriend and girlfriend on his side.
It was Kodeine, the Heavyweight Champion, who kicked the show off. He entered to his heavy metal theme to a wave of cheers - though Ezra didn't like Kodeine much as a person, he was a damn fine wrestler - and he began to prattle on about his intensifying feud with Sean Fox - of course, Sean Fox appeared soon after to Lady Gaga's Paparazzi. Though Sean acted as a heel and had ever since his weird, random double tun last year with Diego Silva, the crowd wasn't so fast to boo him! He came across as someone who knew they were a top tier performer and backed it up every time. So what if - in character - he was an arrogant, narcissistic douchebag? His fierce wrestling skill and passion were too hard to disagree with!
The two teased a non-title match between them for later on in the evening, which heated the crowd, especially the girl next to Ezra, and then they broke down into a brawl. Kodeine got the best of Sean and laid him out with a superkick to the jaw!! What was going to happen tonight?? Was Sean going to get his vengeance?? During the second slot, the former Tag-Team Champions, Salamanca and Giorgio, came out and completely obliterated a pair of jobbers. Destroyed them! It made them look incredibly strong. They were angry about losing their titles last week to Lansilva, the filthy cheaters! And they were coming back for a rematch soon! Ezra made sure he cheered them on as hard as he could, knowing that the cameras would be highlighting him once in a while.
The third slot was pretty spicy, too! Rachel Reid made her way down to the ring as the announcer indicated that she would be participating in a singles match. Batty Betty, the Women's Champion, did not appear when her music played, however. Rachel took the microphone and directed the audience's attention to the screens, and a pre-recorded clip played. Rachel had ambushed the Women's Champion before the show in the concourse and savagely beaten her up. The crowd erupted into boos, and the pretty blond woman lapped it all up.
"That's pretty unfortunate for poor Betty, wouldn't you say? It looks like she's not able to compete, which means that she forfeits the match. So, you're looking at your winner tonight!" Rachel gloated, lazily falling against the ropes with her back to Ezra, facing the show cameras.
"You're disgraceful!!" Ezra shouted loud enough to make sure the cameras heard him.
"And you're nobody," Rachel smirked at him over her shoulder before returning her attention to the camera. "You all know the rules! By defeating the Champion, I earn myself a Championship match. That makes me the number one contender, and I'll be challenging Betty at the June Pay Per View. That is if she makes it to the match." She laughed wickedly, and the crowd booed extra hard.
Irina, the middle-aged Siberian woman who was champion before Rachel in the year before, came out to interrupt her. Rather than let the villainess rob Salt Lake City of a fight, Irina challenged her to an impromptu singles match on the spot!! Ezra cheered and clapped and even stuck his fingers into his mouth to whistle, earning more amused looks and laughs from his neighbours. Rachel accepted, deciding that it would send a strong message to the champion if she defeated Irina here and now. The match was reasonably brief, but it was intense!! Rachel looked very strong, and she won with a savage DDT, her signature finishing move. It was refreshing to finally see a definitive storyline going into the Women's Championship because it had no direction in previous weeks. Rachel was a great villain, and she told stories pretty well!
Following a brief respite, which would have been an ad break, Ezra began to wring his hands. This was it! This was now! Now was it!! It now this!!! As the lights shifted again, the unmistakable sound of Lansilva's arrival filled the Rice-Eccles Stadium and Ezra lead the chorus of boos!
"Not these fuckers!" The enthusiastic girl next to Ezra complained.
"They are the WORST!!" Ezra agreed, on his feet and pointing his thumbs down at the floor.
Diego and Lance walked out, hand in hand, smiling proudly at each other as they flaunted their new Tag-Team Championship belts around their waists, then they looked to the crowd and visibly recoiled. Ezra burst out into laughter. It was small touches like that that made him unable to truly hate Lansilva as characters. They SUCKED SO MUCH!! But they were funny!
"Don't worry! We won't take up too much of your time. Believe me, we don't want to be here either," Lance Lovecraft's deep but fruity voice brought another waterfall of audible displeasure crashing down on him. "You guys almost smell as bad as you look!"
"Salt Lake City. What does this city even exist for, anyway?" Diego set Lance up for the punchline.
"Because we need somewhere to quarantine America's human trash," Lance delivered with a spiteful smile on his red lips.
The two began to laugh together as Diego hopped up on the ring apron and sat down on the middle rope, holding the top rope up so that Lance could climb the stairs and step through with dignity. It was actually sweet, Ezra thought. Diego looked like such a gentleman doing that. It added a new dimension to their role as bitchy gay villains. It looked like they did genuinely have feelings for each other.
"Hah! Yeah, that sounds right to me! But on a serious note, as much as the whole world hates Utah, as warm, loving and charitable people, Lance and I just had to take the plunge and make an appearance," Diego Silva added. "We thought Utah needed at least one thing to be proud of."
"Hosting the KADA Tag-Team Champions!" The pair gloated in unison, unstrapping their belts and holding them high above their heads.
As the crowd booed even harder, Ezra's stomach was tied up in knots!! His part was coming up soon! He looked over to Jack, and the twenty-five-year-old appeared every bit as terrified as he was! He didn't seem to be enjoying the segment, but Ezra doubted he could understand most the nonsense spewing out of Lansilva's mouths.
"You people are all so negative! Really, it says a lot about you, and why you settled for mediocrity," Lance purred, strutting around the ring.
"I think they're jealous. Do these people look like high-achievers to you? Have you seen their football team?" Diego was more content to lean against the turnbuckle, his back to Ezra as he faced the cameras.
"You're right, honey! You are so right! I'm sorry, Salt Lake! That was insensitive of us. We should have skipped this show tonight and headed on to celebrate our Championship victory in a city that knows what it's like to actually win at something."
Diego laughed as the crowd hurled insults at them and began their own chant. You suck! You suck! You suck!
"Listen to them complain! Alright, well Lansilva is nothing if not generous. Why don't we give you a chance to prove that you're not a city full of losers? You agree?" Lance smirked and nodded his head. "Does anybody in this arena believe they have what it takes to defeat a Champion?"
The whole arena lit up as fans screamed and cheered and whooped and stood up, throwing hands in the air and begging to be a celebrity for the night. Ezra felt a little sorry for them. He was the chosen one. Still, he leapt up and down with his hands in the air.
"You!" Diego Silva pointed directly to Ezra.
As part of the program, big guy Jack was all too eager to get in the ring and teach Lansilva a lesson, and he hopped over the barricade. The cameras focused on him, and the audience revved up!
"Not you! No, you look like you have rabies!" Diego waved Jack away, then pointed towards Ezra. "That guy."
The crowd roared with approval as Jack returned to his seat, disappointment and hatred on his handsome face. Ezra, determined to make his moment a big one, launched himself over the crowd barricade and slid into the ring. The crowd laughed and groaned, realising that the cowardly villains were deliberately picking the smallest opponent possible. Holy RABBITS!! Everyone was on fire, and Lance and Diego looked formidable opposite him!! This place was so big! And he was on camera!! People were watching him RIGHT NOW!!!
"Well, this is just adorable! What's your name, honey?" Lance asked in the most condescending tone possible.
"Ezra!" He used his strongest, clearest, most determined voice!! The first impression is a lasting impression!!
"Well Ezra, I accept your challenge! But you be careful what you wish for, sweetheart," Lance stripped off his shirt and handed both it and his golden-plated Championship belt to Diego, who slid out of the ring. "Because I'm going to make an example out of you."
Quick as lightning, Lance's lashed out with a kick aimed right at his face. It barely made contact, but Lance slapped his thigh at the same time - the noise made it look like the boot connected much harder than it did. Ezra did his part by tumbling over as though he'd been hit by a train. The promo was over. Now it was time for action!!
"Ring the bell!" Lance furiously pointed to the nearby referee and then carelessly tossed the microphone over the top rope.
The moment the bell rang, Lance was upon him. He grabbed Ezra by the blond hair and ran him into the turnbuckle, throwing his head into the padding. Ezra made sure to surreptitiously stomp his foot on the canvas underneath - the noise made it sound like he hit it hard. So far, so good! Lance kicked him quite a few times in the abdomen. Though he was selling Lance's offence as best he could with his wrestling training, Ezra also had to act as though he was indeed an inexperienced fan plucked right out of the audience. It wasn't easy to do!
The next few minutes were predictable. Michelle described it as a beatdown when she instructed the boys on what they needed to do. No offense from Ezra and Lance was not to use his more competitive moves. It needed to look as much like Lance was gleefully bullying an untrained fan from the audience as possible, and to the Brit's credit, he did a fantastic job of beating the absolute HECK out of Ezra!! Because a fast pace brought out the worst of Lance's weaknesses, the two men worked slow and straightforward. This way, the Salt Lake crowd was compelled to feel sympathy for poor Ezra, who was fighting for their honour after Lansilva insulted them, and Lance was able to hide his inexperience.
Ezra struggled and attempted to fight back, but Lance was always too fast and too strong for him, dragging the contest out to humiliate and torture his opponent. The villain disrespected the crowd by refusing to even try and pin the victim, wanting to punish him for as long as possible. Ezra was kicked, punched, slapped, had his face thrown into the canvas and put in several excruciating submission holds - at least they looked that way when screamed in agony. Lance grabbed him by the hair and used it to throw him like a frisbee from one corner of the ring to the other. Though it was mostly misdirection and the move involved Ezra launching himself through the air, it still hurt! It hurt a lot! But the pain was part of the process, and Ezra fought through it every time!! It was worth it!!
"That's right, Lance! He had it coming!" Diego slammed the canvas with his hand.
"Piece of cake!" Lance gloated loudly and often, raising his hands in the air. "This is the best Salty Loser City has to offer? Hahaha!"
The hair whip was the final spot that the two young men had to perform before the finish, which was next on the agenda! Lance's extended pandering to the crowd was Ezra's cue to move to the next spot. Ezra, while his opponent had his back to him, discreetly stumbled over to the turnbuckle and climbed to the top. The crowd's excitement rose as Lance turned around, and Ezra dove at him, executing a top-rope crossbody! But Lance, as part of the script, spun to the side and Ezra hit the floor HARD. The crowd felt so cheated!! The disappointment was obvious as they let out a mass groan! Lance and Diego, meanwhile, both broke into loud, mocking laughter, pointing at Ezra as the boy rolled around on the canvas in agony and rubbing it in the fans' faces.
"Missed it!" Lance taunted Ezra, smacking him with an open palm across the back of his head several times. "Missed! Hahaha!"
To humiliate him further, Lance snatched the boy's blue-striped shirt - something Ezra had consented to - and tugged at it until the buttons popped off and the clothing slid off the boy. The evil Brit went as far as to rub the torn shirt in its owners face while the referee admonished him for rule-breaking - but nobody ever listened to referees in wrestling.
"Finish him off. I'm bored with this," Diego instructed, and Lance shot him a wicked smile.
Lance Lovecraft backed away a few paces, ready to execute his signature pirouette roundhouse. Ezra slowly got to his feet, and Lance began to spin, about to finally put an end to the beatdown by taking his opponent's head off with his boot. Ezra ducked under the kick that would have finished him, then he grabbed Lance from behind by the hips. Lance shrieked comically as Ezra rolled backwards and underneath until Lance's shoulders were on the ground and Ezra was more or less sitting on top of him, trapping his legs with his own. Tens of thousands of people came alive as the referee hit the canvas three times, Lance's frantic wiggling unable to free him from the pinning position he was in, and the arena erupted when the announcer declared that Ezra had just defeated Lance Lovecraft!!!
He had no time to bathe in the significance of winning his debut match, however! Immediately, Diego flew in and speared Ezra right to the ground. The segment wasn't over yet!! Diego, absolutely livid that Ezra embarrassed his partner, rained punches down on the poor rookie. Lance was quick to join him for a two on one beatdown, taking out his humiliation and frustration by repeatedly slamming the back of Ezra's head into the mat. Ezra's only thoughts as Lansilva tore him apart were that he was going to be very sore tomorrow and that Jack was taking forever to hop in!!
But Jack knew when it was his turn to shine!! Lansilva avoiding and then mocking Jack had all been foreshadowing for this part of the segment. The minute the heels began to assault Ezra, Jack leapt over the barricade and stormed the ring. Dazed and hurt, Ezra rolled out of the ring and collapsed on the padded floor while Jack went to town on the villains, using some of his signature moves! Lance Lovecraft endured a savage tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a spinning falcon arrow, whereas Diego Silva suffered an axe kick to the back of the head and the big man's best move - La Disparition! The crowd went absolutely mad as Jack then tossed both members of Lansilva over the top rope, and the two villains staggered away to the backstage area like the cravens they were!
Ezra slipped back into the ring, making sure he looked terribly hurt. Jack marched over and yanked Ezra's arm high in the air as the two looked at the cameras, and the announcer reminded everybody that Ezra had indeed defeated Lance Lovecraft in a singles match. Everyone in the arena seemed to love it! And if it wasn't enough, Ezra heard his own name being chanted! At first by small groups of people behind the barricades, then it slowly caught on. His name! They were chanting his name! Ezra! The boy almost collapsed and probably would have if his friend hadn't been holding him up. He had reached wrestling nirvana!!
Ezra wasn't sure what he expected when he and Jack returned backstage during the ad break. About a dozen people congratulated him on a job well done! Sean, Oliver, Pearl and Lance were all there, all applauding the little guy and the big guy on their big debut! It was strange to see Sean and Lance in the same place without them bickering and taking snipes at each other, but they were there to offer their support with big smiles! From each one of his friends, he received a hug.
"THAT WAS SO AWESOME!!" Ezra yelled so loudly that they probably heard him back in the arena. "Awesome awesome awesome awesome!! Did I do good??"
Sean laughed as he eventually pried himself out of Ezra's strong arms. "It was awesome, Ez. You were rough in a few areas, but you and Jack both did such a good job! You, especially! Even though you did well at pretending you weren't a wrestler, everyone could tell you have experience by the way you sold Lance's moves. Funny - he looked like the newbie instead of you."
Sean snickered, but Ezra couldn't bring himself to agree. "I thought he did well. He was clean and on point as far as I could tell."
The Cherokee man's sneer lessened, and Ezra wasn't able to feel awkward about what he said before Lance grabbed him by the hand to get his attention. He looked every bit as thrilled about the way the night had gone as Ezra felt!! It was intoxicating!
"Honey, you were the star of the show tonight!" The British boy praised him, light and warmth in his red eyes. "I'm so proud of you! Oh, I hope I wasn't too rough! Are you alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, let's do that again next week!!" Ezra was indeed sore, but it was a type of dull ache that reminded him how amazing it was to perform in front of all those people. "I am so much better than alright!! All I've ever wanted is to beat Lansilva and now I have! On my very first night!! AHH!!!" He jumped up and down on the spot.
Lance tossed his red bangs to the side and smiled. He had such a lovely smile! It was a far cry from the irritating smirk he usually held when he was in character.
"Hey, I'm sorry you got stuck with me on your debut night. I know you would have preferred to be wrestling against Diego instead of me. But I really enjoyed working with you. Taking your KADA virginity was a huge deal for me, so I'm glad I did okay."
Ezra raised an eyebrow. This wasn't how the talk was supposed to go! The rookie was supposed to show respect and gratitude to their opponent for putting them over - especially if the rookie won the match! He remembered his talk with the redhead man on the stage before they got their assignment from Michelle. Lance's seemingly unshakable confidence and perpetual smile hid his insecurities.
"Nooo don't say that!! I'm glad it was you! I wouldn't change a thing!" Ezra reassured him, and his heart warmed in his chest when he noticed that Lance's static smile changed - it became real. "Especially after all the stuff you said earlier. That helped a lot. It made our match... I dunno! Special!"
As Lance grabbed Ezra and kissed him on the cheek, Ezra caught Sean's eye. The Cherokee didn't look very happy.
5/24 - 5:28 am EZLuczynski shared a video uploaded by wayathefox The two types of morning people!!😁☕👌
Sean smirked at the camera. He was wearing glasses and his hair was tied up behind his head as he walked on a treadmill.
"So I brought the boys for some mandatory pre-flight cardio before we left for the airport. Someone loves a good sunrise workout!"
Sean turned his phone to the right and Ezra was eagerly exercising on his treadmill at a run, giving Sean a grin and a friendly thumbs up.
"But..." Sean laughed as he then showed Oliver on the other side, looking entirely miserable. "Someone else feels very differently about sunrise workouts!"
Oliver folded his arms on the top of the unmoving treadmill and hid his face in them. He gave an annoyed, whiny grunt as Sean laughed at him.
5/24 - 7:17 am EZLuczynski shared a video uploaded by JLiev1056 Jack is a real-life HEEL!! 😖😱😘
Jack snickered as Ezra ate his food at the airport terminal across the table from him. Ezra looked up at the camera, and an uncertain smile crossed his face.
"Ezra, that is a very nice shirt," Jack mentioned.
"Thank you!" Ezra beamed at him.
Without warning, Jack struck out and flipped Ezra's plate and launched his salad all over his shirt. Ezra gasped in shock and horror, then both men started laughing.
"Hahaha! Blast it all! You will pay for this, LIÈVREMONT!!!"
5/24 - 7:26 am EZLuczynski uploaded a video I CAN'T BELIEVE HE FELL FOR IT 😆🤣👍☕😏
As Jack arrived back at his seat in the airport and went to sip the straw of his Starbucks iced coffee, Ezra's quiet giggles made him suspicious.
"What did you do to my drink?"
"I promise I did nothing to your drink!"
Jack pulled off the plastic lid and dipped his finger in and tasted it. Satisfied, but still wary and keeping his eyes on his treacherous friend, he sipped from his straw and his face seemed to blow up and then he spluttered. Ezra collapsed into silent, wheezing laughter and pulled the straw from Jack's drink to reveal that he'd stuck the other end in a packet of ketchup when his friend was gone.
"This is not over!!" Jack vowed with a mischievous glint in his blue eyes.
5/24 - 11:26 pm EZLuczynski uploaded a picture There's another Luczynski who can use your help!! My little brother (@EnormousDuck) is making his own music and he's sharing some of it on his Insta, so make sure you head on over and have a listen! 😀🎵 It would mean a lot to both of us! I can always count on him to have my back and I miss him a great deal!! xx ❤️😊
The attached picture showed the two smiling Luczynskis, Ezra taking the photo with his arm around his brother's neck.
5/25 - 1:42am EZLuczynski uploaded a picture Hey Luczynskiacs!! I noticed that unfortunately some of my fans have been leaving some really offensive comments on Lance's profile. We are not our characters and even if we were, telling people to kill themselves is NOT OKAY!! I'm grateful for your support always, but it is NEVER acceptable to bully or harass ANYONE. It's unacceptable and I will immediately block anyone who posts malicious comments on ANYTHING because anyone who posts stuff like that is no fan of mine. Lance is one of the nicest people I have ever met and I could not have asked for a better partner tonight!! 😘❤️
The attached picture attached was simply a selfie of Ezra in his hotel bed, a massive smile on his face. Nobody had ever looked happier!