As far as autograph shows went, Lisa Marie had been to worse. Much worse.
But she couldn't remember any such shows where she'd had a harder time acting pleasant.
Certainly the fans that came up to her table clutching photos and magazines and other memorabilia deserved that much. They deserved a smile and a bit of small talk as she signed her autograph to whatever they handed to her. They had cared enough to approach her after all…even though they weren't going to see her on television again anytime soon.
And that fact galled her. No matter how nice the autograph seekers were, no matter if they addressed her as "Victoria" or "Tara" or by her birth name… she couldn't get the anger out of her mind.
After a decade long career as one of the top women wrestlers in history, Lisa Marie Varon was not under contract to a major wrestling organization. Not because she was too old, not because she was injured…hell, she was in the best shape of her life…but because the wrestling business was being run by idiots.
That thought was not the sour grapes of some disgruntled worker…that was the truth. For Lisa Marie wasn't angry just on her own behalf. She was angry on behalf of her peers as well.
The state of women in the wrestling business today was pathetic.
For much of the history of professional wrestling, women wrestlers had been pretty much an afterthought. A sideshow attraction in a business that was already thought of as somewhat of a freak show. But that hadn't stopped some remarkable athletes from carrying on and keeping the women's division alive…hoping for better things.
And not so many years ago, it seemed that those efforts had paid off. The "New Golden Age" of women's wrestling some had called it. A time when the mega popular Trish Stratus had become one of the biggest stars for the world's biggest wrestling organization, World Wrestling Entertainment…WWE.
Of course, it takes more than one woman to make a division. And Trish, wrestling's golden girl, had been competing against a lineup of the most well-trained, talented females that the business had ever seen. A group that included Molly Holly, perhaps the most technically skilled woman wrestler who ever lived, and Lisa Marie herself as "Victoria"…Trish's greatest rival.
And yet now, less than a decade later, it was all over. WWE had neglected and ignored their most talented females, thinking they could be replaced with untrained, silicone injected Barbie-dolls. Many of the veteran "Divas" (for that was the name the company insisted on marketing all their women under) had seen the writing on the wall and retired, despite the fact that they were in the prime of their athletic careers.
But not Victoria…she had carried on. Carried on even when she knew the cause was lost.
And then…a new hope. Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. God, what a stupid name…with an even worse logo: TNA. But poor name or not, it was a new nationally promoted company that dared to break WWE's monopoly on the business. And they seemed like they valued women with in-ring talent.
So Lisa Marie had left her WWE career, and even her name behind (the company had claimed legal rights to "Victoria" as an in-ring name) and joined TNA. Of course, she had to put up with some expected annoyances, like being assigned a new name "Tara" and having to refer to herself as a TNA Knockout…but hey, it wasn't any worse than being a WWE Diva.
She'd wished she could have kept calling herself Victoria though.
But in any event, TNA's opportunities for women soon dried up as well. The company was determined to expand and bring in major stars to compete with WWE. Major male stars. After TNA decided to put all its efforts into bringing Hulk Hogan under their umbrella (despite the fact that the man was well past his prime and incapable of working a full time schedule), the "Knockouts" soon became expendable. One by one they were let go so that more money could be spent on the men.
Lisa Marie had not been one of the women released, she was a big enough star that the company actually seemed to want her. But what was the point? There weren't any other women left for her to compete against. She had given her notice and resigned.
And now…she did autograph shows.
When there weren't any fans at her table, Lisa leaned back into her chair tried to think happy thoughts. Her quiet moment was soon interrupted by a voice from behind her…where no fan should have been able to go.
"Tough day, Sis?"
The words confused Lisa Marie. The voice didn't belong to any of her brothers, but sounded familiar nonetheless. When she rose from her chair and turned she found herself eye to eye with a man she hadn't seen in far too long.
"Lance!" she exclaimed as she threw her arms around her former workout partner and 'twin brother' Lance Storm. "I had no idea you were at this show."
"Got an offer to appear at the last second," he explained. "You know I don't do many of these shows, but when I heard you and a few other old friends would be here, I figured it would be a nice change of pace."
Lisa Marie decided that a quick coffee break from her table was in order, and she and Lance left her table to head to a nearby café.
Though they hadn't seen each other in person for a few years, conversation flowed as easily as if they were actual siblings. The joke about them being brother and sister had started years ago back when Lance had still been an active wrestler on the WWE roster. He'd always had a reputation for being a no-nonsense, intensely serious man, which was fairly accurate. But he was not above using that reputation to play very successful, if somewhat low-key, practical jokes.
The greatest such hoax he'd ever pulled off was convincing wrestling journalists around the word that he and Lisa Marie were brother and sister. It had all started innocently enough, with the observation that the two shared similar skin tones, hair color, and both had pronounced widow's peaks in their hairlines. But from there the story had taken on a life of its own, with Lance regularly adding detailed and outlandish stories about their 'shared childhood'. Eventually they went from being mere siblings to twins, in spite of the fact that Lance was Canadian and Lisa Marie was American. Once, when confronted with this fact by a questioning fan, it had taken Lisa Marie everything she had not to crack up while Lance, with a straight face, explained that his mother had been right across the Canadian border when she'd gone into labor and that he'd been delivered in the backseat of the car before they'd made it back into the states, where Lisa Marie had then popped out.
To this day, there were still people that believed the tale.
Unfortunately, catching up with her 'bro' was so much fun that it was easy for Lisa Marie to lose track of the time. An errant glance to a clock on the café's wall revealed that she and Lance were spending a little too much time away from their tables at the autograph show. They hurried to pay their bill and leave.
But this proved complicated when the cash register was a little short on small bills. Both Lance and Lisa were more than happy to walk away without their change…but the nervous young cashier was convinced she would get would get in trouble with her boss if that were to happen. Lisa Marie was able to suggest a quick solution.
"Look, it's just four bucks," she said as she spied the lottery display next to the cash register. "Give us four of those Mega-Millions tickets and we'll be even."
The cashier was happy to oblige, and Lisa Marie and Lance then rushed back to the autograph show.
The unexpected reunion with Lance had a positive effect on Lisa Marie's mood and she had a much better time for the rest of the autograph show.
Once the fans were gone and the various guests were packing up the contents of their tables, Lance returned and asked her to join him and another old friend for dinner. She was happy to accept the invitation.
So later that evening Lisa Marie was sitting down in a quaint little hole in the wall with great food, sharing a booth with Lance and a man who'd been a great help to both their careers, Jim Cornette.
"I tell you this is a fine evening," Cornette declared, his words delivered in his customary rapid fire manner. "Sitting here, sharing war stories with two of the best workers to ever grace one of my promotions." He paused for fraction of a second, an eternity for him to stay silent. "The fact that neither of you is working for nationally televised company is a crime. More than a crime. It's sacrilegious."
Lance shook his head and chuckled. "Hey, I'm retired. I had a good career and I'm proud of it."
Cornette leaned slightly towards Lisa Marie and pointed towards Lance in a conspiratorial manner. "You see that there? That is a man who is content with life." His tone took on a note of false outrage as he addressed Lance. "And that is why you were never Heavyweight Champion. One of the best technicians of all time, but you were always happy just to be working in the business. You're too well-adjusted. If you'd been just a little bit more of a psychopath, you'd have been top guy in the company no question."
"If insanity is what it takes to succeed, Corny," Lisa Marie said to her fast-talking friend. "Then why aren't you running the wrestling business today?"
"Oh Victoria darlin', I love ya," he laughed. He always referred to her by her old ring name, but she didn't mind. The name had originated when she'd been training in the old Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion that Cornette had been in charge of at the time. "But the truth is, maybe I've gotten a little too content myself. Time was I used to enjoy yelling and screaming at the WWE brain trust…ha, there's an oxymoron…but anyway, I used to love telling those morons exactly how they were ruining the business full-time. But these days? Hell, I'm glad to be gone from the company. I'd rather just go to little indie shows and talk to the fans."
As conversation continued, Lisa Marie mused over those words as she observed the two men. Lance did seem to project the aura of a man at peace with the world, but then he'd always been one of the most grounded individuals she'd ever known. And Cornette? Shockingly, he seemed content too. One of the most argumentive, hot-tempered, type-A personalities that the human species had ever produced…and now he was as cheerful and light hearted as a puppy with a pair of old shoestrings to chew on.
She was happy for both of them.
But it wasn't something she could say of herself.
Yes, she'd done well in the wrestling world. She'd been a five time world champion, with victories over the best in the world. The very best…Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, Molly Holly, Trish Stratus.
It always came back to Trish, didn't it?
Because for all her accomplishments, for all her victories, odds were that Lisa Marie…that Victoria…would be remembered only as Trish Stratus' greatest opponent. Forever the first runner up to wrestling's golden goddess.
Trish was the reason she'd become a wrestler in the first place. There were issues between them that pre-dated their in-ring careers. Issues that would never be resolved now.
Hence, the lack of contentment.
"Victoria? You with us?" Cornette's voice suddenly caught her attention. She'd become so caught up in her own thoughts that she'd drifted out of the conversation.
"I'm sorry, what?" she responded, slightly embarrassed.
Cornette and Lance took her lapse as a sign of fatigue and decided it might be time to call it a night. Naturally an argument started over who would pay the bill, and Lisa Marie had no intention of letting either of the men make a chauvinistic gesture and pay for her share.
But when she opened her purse, the crumpled lottery tickets that she'd purchased earlier in the day were sitting atop the rest of the handbag's contents. She placed them on the table for a moment to search for some cash, only to have them become a target of Cornette's sarcasm.
"Oh my goodness," he said. "Victoria, don't tell me you throw good money away of those lottery scams?"
She explained the circumstances that led her to have the tickets, as Cornette picked one up and studied it.
"Forty million dollars to a single winner," he read. "And the drawing is tonight. Or was tonight…depending on whatever time they do these things."
A waitress had wandered over as Cornette held the ticket and overheard his comments.
"Oh they draw the numbers at nine o'clock," she said. "They show it on the TV." The woman turned and called out to a co-worker behind the counter at the other side of the diner. "Hey, Pearl! Turn on the TV and get the lottery numbers."
Within moments, an old somewhat battered television behind was tuned to a local station, and the image of a woman wearing too much make-up could be seen drawing numbered ping pong balls out of mechanical tumbler.
"You got one," Cornette laughed as the first number was drawn. Another laugh followed as a second number matched up.
But the laughs stopped and stunned expressions crossed all their faces as the drawing continued and Cornette continued to match numbers. He demanded a pen and quickly wrote down all the numbers on a napkin…and then he Lisa and Lance took turns double checking and then triple checking the ticket.
Lisa Marie carefully took the small piece of paper back into her own hands.
It was a forty million dollar winner.
Three old friends were gathered in Lance Storm's modest room at the local Holiday Inn. The hour was growing late but all of them were too pre-occupied to feel tired. The object that had so captured their attention was, of course, the forty million dollar lottery ticket.
Still not quite able to believe the reality of the situation, Lisa Marie had nevertheless discussed a variety of issues related to the jackpot. Lance and Corny had helped her figure out the procedure to properly claim the prize. Some phone calls to her financial planner and lawyer had been made, and tomorrow she'd be driving to the state capital to officially accept the money.
But now there were many decisions still to be made.
The first issue was whether or not she'd be making the claim alone. The ticket had been obtained in lieu of change for a bill that both she and Lance had shared. She felt he was entitled to some ownership of the ticket. Also, she offered a lesser portion of the prize to Cornette, feeling that if he hadn't made a big deal about the tickets at dinner, she would never have checked to see if she'd won. The winning ticket might have ended up in the trash.
The fact that neither man instantly accepted the offer was a testament to both their friendship and the fact that they'd been pretty lucky in life, all things considered. In truth, each of them were "technically" millionaires already, though just barely. "Millionaires on paper" as it were, but that was nowhere near as rich as it sounded. No, even if they split the prize money evenly, they'd all be vastly wealthier than they already were.
Of course Lance, ever the pragmatist, pointed out that taxes and other things would need to be considered. After looking up a few facts on his laptop and doing some rough math, he estimated that the highest payout would be obtained by having Lisa Marie claim all the money herself as a single winner. She'd end up with around twenty million after the government had taken its share. But then if she wanted to give any of her winnings to her friends, they'd be taxed as well. And Lance being a Canadian only made matters more complicated.
"I swear to God," Cornette declared. "What kind of world do we live in where you can win forty million bucks, and before it's all said and done you wind up owing more than you won to the blasted tax collectors? Almost makes me wish I voted Republican!"
"My lawyer is going to send me some info tomorrow," Lisa Marie said. "It'll lay out all the different options. Donating something to charity might be a good idea."
"You could look into claiming it for your business too," Lance said.
"You still own that pizza place?" Cornette piped up as he looked to Lisa Marie. "I thought you'd sold it."
"I did," she replied. "But I have a custom auto shop now. It's doing well."
"Now, that's good to hear," he responded. "You know, I'm glad you two were smart with your money. Back when I broke into the business, most of the boys spent twice as much as they made every week. Of course that was a different time…back when there were no worldwide wrestling companies. WWE was just the WWF and only ran shows in the northeast. You had the AWA, the NWA, the WWC…everyone kept to their own territory." He laughed. "Hell, if anyone had twenty million dollars back then, they could have started their own wrestling company and run it for ten years or more before they'd need to start making a profit."
After those words left his mouth, Lisa Marie's eyes lit up. She looked to Lance and a moment later the same sort of gleam appeared in his own eyes. As they stood there silence, Cornette turned his gaze from one to the other.
"Aw hell," he finally said. "You've both lost your damn minds!"
To be continued…
author's notes: I've been a fan of pro wrestling for as long as I can remember. Nonetheless, I was SHOCKED when I discovered there was such a thing as wrestling fan fiction. But when I did, the desire to do a story in this genre almost immediately started to take hold. I've seen authors approach wrestling fics in vastly different ways...so here's a few notes on how I'll be writing.
- Pro wrestling is real in this story. It's a legitimate athletic competition where the grapplers are trying to defeat each other...not the pre-determined performances of real life.
- The wrestlers here are the characters you see on TV, not the real people. This is a strange thing with wrestling, as so many of the wrestling characters utilize "real" facts about their lives in their characters, some more than others. Since it varies so much by individual, different characters in the story will be handled in different ways. For example, as seen in this chapter, Victoria is simply a stage-name for Lisa Marie Varon - a fact that has been openly acknowledged in official WWE material pertaining to the character in the past. However, Molly Holly (who will be appearing later in the story) will be written as if that is her actual name, since part of her character's back story is that she is part of "wrestling's Holly family" alongside cousins Bob and "Crash" Holly. But the important thing to remember is that these are CHARACTERS...not the real people that portray them.
- Again, since these are characters, real life spouses and children are not going to enter into matters...unless they are also wrestlers and involved in the characters' back story. For example, everyone knows that Natalya (appearing in later chapters) is the daughter Jim Neidhart and niece of Bret Hart.
- All characters, unless otherwise noted, are single and free to have romances develop in the story.
- Wrestling characters change over time, sometimes in very bizarre ways. In this story, some characters who have gone through major changes will have those developments addressed...such as the fact that 'good girl' Mickie James (appearing in later chapters) first debuted in WWE as a deranged lesbian stalker. Ah...they just don't have storylines like that anymore.
- I try to write my stories so that they are understandable even to readers that may not know much about the subject matter. So if some of you wrestling fans are wondering why I bothered to explain that there are two major wrestling companies that Lisa Marie has worked for...well, you know that and I know that...but some people may not. Don't worry though. Basic information like that will be taken care of early on and become less evident as the story goes forward.
- Finally, this is a story that focuses on the ladies of wrestling as serious athletes...because that's what they are. The lack of respect by some wrestling fans is very annoying, and it encourages the companies to not bother promoting women with real talent. You say that the quality of too many women's matches these days is poor? What do you expect when one or both of the girls in the ring has never been shown how to work a match properly? Imagine how good things could be if there were a single roster that included Victoria, Molly, Trish and others alongside Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Hamada, and the ladies who are at the top of their game today. But no...we have the women today spread thin between two different companies...and misused by both. Okay...rant over.
- The point is, if you don't respect women wrestlers...get lost. This story isn't for you.