Chapter 1: Denial
Vince was not used to not being in control. He was the master of compartmentalizing, and once a wrestler left, they were dead to him. He threw his wrestlers away, discarded them when he had no further use for them, and could banish them to the indies or permanent retirement with one word. He was the titan of the industry. He won with both dollar bills and an iron will. Few could fight him, but he loved it when they tried. The strong survived, and fighting the boss proved it. It was exhilarating to watch them crumble below him, or at least for them to recognize that he was instrumental in getting whatever they wanted. Even the strongest had to humble themselves, to make themselves weak and he reveled in that moment.
Ambrose, though. He had admired the kid, he did. Scrappy kid who pulled himself out of nothing. He would never be as flashy or talented as Rollins, and never command the arena like Roman, but he was a useful (and for the past 5 years, a necessary) cog in the machine that was his business. He could get anyone and anything over, respected the business, never caused any controversy (besides marrying his wife- that should have been filmed, but they wanted their privacy, which to this day, he would never understand why) and could always be relied upon to get the job done. And he was paid handsomely for it, and for 98% of the workers at the company, that would have been enough.
But not for Ambrose. He wanted creative control and that was one thing Vince would not willing to yield. Anyone else would have taken the money and called it good. Or, he thought, pitched a fit, gotten fired, ruined their reputation and their hands would appear clean.
That was the thing that grated his nerves. According to the code, Ambrose did everything right. In an age of social media, where people posted and thought later, he stayed silent. He did all that was asked, kept his complaints to himself, did not ask or lobby for his release, showed up to every event, and house show. He put Rollins (and everyone else) over again and again. By wrestling law, he was free and clear. So, as a result, when he spoke, his words carried weight. He had won that right through blood, sweat, tears and silence. And everyone listened.
There was no good way that anything they said would come out looking positive for them. If they called him lazy or unworthy, everyone would show them the tale of the tapes. If they said that he was ungrateful, again, the internet would have no problem showing evidence disproving that. If they retaliated against Ambrose’s wife, the internet (and sponsors) would call foul. Hell, people were already feeling bad for EC3. His hands were tied.
Ambrose had won, he had been boxed in.
So yes, this was not normal. He had not seen it coming. And a part of him wanted to stay in denial, because the plan was always to have the three of them standing tall, Ambrose and Rollins putting Roman over. They were something special, and Ambrose walking away destroyed that. He would not let that stand. He needed to react, and create an environment where Ambrose, Rhodes, Jericho and all of AEW would be ground to dust.
Fuck him. Did he not realize that his actions had consequences? The spotlight that Ambrose’s choices directed at him? He felt like Shawn Michaels after the curtain call, after Hall and Nash left. He was holding the ball; all eyes were on him. All eyes were on Becky. And Ambrose’s actions weren’t making it easier. At least Michaels’s had fair warning about it. He was blindsided, with only a text the morning after.
It was better for you not to know. I’m sorry.
He did not bother responding. He was too angry. Ambrose had chosen his side in the war, and it was opposite him. There would be no prisoners. Everyone loved Ambrose for speaking “truth,” what did they know? This was his dream, he finally had it, and he was not going to allow a bunch of WWE rejects and people who thought they knew better take it away. Roman would have to be the rock, be the man of peace, boost moral when he could. He also would not move against Ambrose, oh he would tout the company line, but would never go on the offensive. Not against Ambrose, and now not directly against AEW.
What Roman and so many others did not seem to realize was that for Ambrose to throw his weight in with them was nothing more than a slap to the face of every person he worked with. He wanted to toss out the last 7 years? He wanted to ignore the Shield, their brotherhood? He thought he needed more? He wanted to ignore him? Wanted to pretend that their matches weren’t enough, when they gave each other everything? After everything he had done for Ambrose, putting him over. He planned that Ambrose would return, that was the plan. And Ambrose had just ripped the plan up and made him look like a fool.
No, that would not do.
So be it. Let him to be the man of vengeance, the man to lead the offense. This new company wanted a piece of the business, what did they know? What had they lost? How dare they think themselves worthy of the fans, when he had been in this business for half his life, fighting and pushing to get to where he was, the top man on the totem pole. He had the backing, the decades of experience. This was his to lose, not the others to win. And he would not lose. This new company would fail. He would rise to the top, Ambrose would fall. Ambrose was Icarus, flying too closely to the sun, thinking that it was better on the other side. One day, he would burn and return, repentant and begging for forgiveness. It would prove for once and for all that Seth was the better wrestler and man.
Until that happened- there was only anger towards Ambrose. He didn’t have room for anything else.
I wasn't sure about this one. Let me know.
Chapter 3: Bargaining
He had expected this. Not this exactly, he had thought that Ambrose would have waited until August, out of loyalty and respect to those who gave him everything. He was with Regal, planning NXT when their phones went off and an aid ran in and told them what was happening. He had to ignore the tiny smile and the look of pride from Regal, that man always had a soft spot for Ambrose. Clearly the man still had allies here.
He did not care about Ambrose; he was growing his own crop of stars. The problem was not Ambrose, but the faction he represented. People would want to see the Shield again. Saudi Arabia would want it. Eventually, his men would have to face them to cement their legacy, just as the Shield did with Evolution. If they did not defeat the best, there would always be whispers about who was better.
Vince would be devastated and would lash out. He always had to have the last word, and Ambrose had just denied him that. He would have to contain it, and make sure that none of it blew back on Renee. If anything happened to her, that bridge would be burned. The Shield would never be reforged and he had no doubt that Ambrose would expose all the secrets and gossip to anyone who would listen; and he was a damn good storyteller. But if Renee was left alone, he thought, Ambrose would be content to bitch and moan about creative and Vince, and not reveal any dirty laundry. The man knew plenty and that was not a headache he wanted.
He, after all, had what Vince did not. He had time. Let Renee have a few kids, and eventually Ambrose would return. It could be for the Hall of Fame, or Roman’s final match, but if he could prove that creatively WWE was better, then he would be back. They had gotten the Warrior and Brett Hart to come back, hell, CM Punk (to his utter annoyance) would be back sooner or later. It was only a matter of time.
This was not the end. It could not be.
Chapter 4: Depression
He tried to be happy for Ambrose, no Mox. He really did. But he couldn’t. That was his friend, his brother, his road wife, and he had left the company. He left him. He had gotten the text the morning after Double or Nothing.
I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you. It was better this way. Also, head’s up, I did the Podcast with Jericho.
He texted back, ignoring all but the last sentence.
Did you say anything that I need to worry about?
Nah, Uce. But I did tell him about the line that I refused to say. Take care of yourself.
That line. That line would haunt him till his dying day. He had not been told about it, until after he returned. He was so sure that he would easily be able to convince Mox to stay. He just needed to be reminded of the good times, of them traveling the world. Mox and he had a night in, just like they used to. He brought the beers and all the stupid junk food they weren’t supposed to eat anymore. And Ambrose/Mox/Jon/Dean started to talk. He let loose. Said everything. Talked about the frustrations with his heel turn, how hard it was to turn heel when all he could think about was his cancer and pain. How Vince wanted to capitalize on it, to give him heat. How hard it was for Mox to say the line about him dying and meeting God and how it destroyed the link between him and Vince. How Vince tried to get him to say something so horrific, that it would have ended his career. And it was about him.
He told him what the line was. And after that, Roman understood. Hidden under the layers of bravado and passion for wrestling was a heart that only let a few people in. Seth was there, but only on the outer layers, for while they were wrestling soulmates and brothers, it did not mean that they were really good friends. Jericho was there, having wormed his way in as a mentor or older brother. Dusty and Regal for being the men who saw something in him and Mox would always have a debt of gratitude to them (and to their families).
But, except for Renee, it was him who was closest to Mox. Despite their many differences, they were brothers, friends and they understood each other. For Vince to try and get Mox to say something about him would be an ultimate betrayal in Mox’s eyes. After that, there was no return. Mox was done. And it had hurt him. That Vince had wanted to use his illness to coax his brother into doing something he did not want to do.
But while Mox was ready to leave, he could not abandon his yard. This was his company; he was the leader. Everyone was looking to him, he could not falter. He had to build everyone up and be constant. But in the quiet moments, he could mourn. He could be sad. He could not follow his brother. They had different responsibilities, different goals and different jobs. His job was to stand tall, to inspire and keep order.
He could not fault Mox, but he could grieve that they were no longer together. It was going to be a long road without him, and he needed to hope that they would one day be in the ring together. Until then, there would always be a small void. He just had to get used to it.
Chapter 5: Acceptance
She knew. She knew exactly what he was going to do. He would never admit it, never throw her under the bus, but she was fully aware of the situation. She had ample time to accept and prepare for the changes that were coming.
She had been around when Punk left, and AJ stayed on for a year. She remembered what it was like when Nikki and John broke up. Hell, she was friends with both Beth and Lita. She understood what it meant. Some people wouldn’t talk to her because it could be perceived that a side had been chosen. People would watch her every move and some would shun her. The office would distrust her. Roman would give her the sad eyes of his and she would start crying. Seth would try not to be angry at her but wouldn’t be able to help himself sometimes. After all, she had chosen to stay. She had wonderful opportunities and she did not love wrestling the way her husband did. It was a paycheck, a good paycheck. She had friends and was content. It was building for a future. She had no reason to complain. It was different for him.
Her husband had not been happy or even content for a long time. He did not want to say that he was depressed, but she watched him come home after going to work. Her passionate, brilliant, funny husband was withering away. He lost his joy. She had to learn to accept that for him to be happy, it would mean that they had to spend more time apart. Their new normal would be that they would be lucky to spend two days a week together. He would be flying around the world a lot more. He wanted to do the G-1 and that was nearly two months away. They would have to manage it. She would not deny him joy, not after watching the happiness of life get sucked away. (He did accept that he had to be better with technology, though. She was not going to go more than a day without talking to him.)
She accepted all of this. She was Juliet to his Romeo. She would support both him and her company. No one would hopefully bad mouth him in her presence. But she accepted that it could happen. And if it did, so be it. She knew the truth. Her husband was amazing and wonderful. He made her smile and made her laugh. He was her best friend and they were in it together.
That is why she had no problem with him doing the Podcast. Chris and he were close, she would respect their privacy and let him talk. Jon said very little about her, and no one at work had the balls to ask what she knew or when she knew it. Vince tried, but all she said was that they did not talk about work at home and she only found out about it right before.
Yes, that was a lie, but no one could disprove it. She knew how to keep secrets. She would keep his. This was the start of a new normal, and while a small part of her was scared, she knew they were solid. It was the two of them against the world. And everyone else would have to accept that.