It was the evening just before LAW's weekly television taping, and Astrid Ostberg knew that she was going to have to show up at the arena tomorrow. As LAW Heavyweight Champion, this was nothing new for her. She had been present at many wrestling shows, both to defend her title and to represent the promotion as one of its top stars. By all accounts, this should have been routine by now. She should have been used to it.
Yet now that she sat here at her computer desk, in her modest apartment, Astrid couldn't help but feel something stir in the pit of her stomach.
In just about 24 hours, she was going to face off with Cyber Widow, a veteran and former champion herself who had made herself known as a fearsome force in the ring, notorious for injuring her opponents without mercy or remorse. And, as Astrid looked over at where it sat on her shelf, she thought about how she would be defending her most prized possession, the ultimate status symbol in her division - the Heavyweight Championship. The belt was something Widow had her sights on, and she'd made that perfectly clear. As of their last confrontation, it became apparent that tensions between the two of them were high - too high, in fact, to end in anyting but blows, and a match was scheduled to settle things once and for all.
But Widow wasn't just after Astrid's championship. She wanted to go one better, and to put her out of the business for good. Astrid wasn't just fighting to hold onto her title, but her very career. To the Norsewoman, wrestling was everything. It was her life, and there was nothing she'd rather do. It was in the ring that she felt alive; that she felt the culmination of all she had worked toward. Yet the life of a wrestler was a dangerous one. Astrid was all too aware it all could end in the blink of an eye - and not only that, Widow was determined to make sure of it.
Astrid knew she couldn't do this alone. If she had to face the Widow, she would need to seek advice from someone who knew her firsthand. Luckily, Astrid knew just that person. Leaning over her computer, Astrid watched as a video call came up, bathing her in the light of the scene it showed - of her father, Lars, back in their family home in Norway.
"Astrid!" Lars greeted his daughter warmly, a smile lighting up his face. "It's good to talk to you again. Living your best life out there as always, huh?"
"Yeah...I'm sorry I couldn't come home for Christmas last year. But I had my duties as a champion to uphold." She sighed as she recounted it, deflating against her desk. Lars, however, met her with a chuckle.
"Don't worry about that. I've been there myself. Congratulations on your last defense, by the way," he added, referring to Astrid's victory over Jess McLeary at We Are LAW 2021. "I'm sure it won't be your last, if I know one thing about my daughter!"
"That's what I'm hoping, too," Astrid continued. "I'd believe it. Jess gave me a run for my money, but I swore to push past my limits for her - and in the end, I think that won me her respect. My next challenger, though...I don't know if she'd be as willing to make peace."
"Why? Who is it?"
At the sound of it, Lars fell silent. "What..!?"
Astrid nodded. "Yes, Dad...I mean her."
Lars shook his head, slapping the table with his fist. "God dammit! Who let that woman back in the ring? She's going to hurt someone!" It was true, in fact, that Lars had been active at the time that Widow ended the career of Yoko Harmageddon with her Frankensteiner, and he was one of the wrestlers who spoke out against her, getting Widow effectively banned from every promotion for years. Now, though, things had cooled off enough for her to make her return in LAW - and Astrid was there to see it herself.
"I know, Dad!" Astrid replied. "She wants to face me for the championship-"
"Hell, if I need to go to Japan myself-!"
"Dad! That won't be necessary." After a moment, things calmed down enough for Astrid to keep going. "I know you're upset. But I can't back down. I need to fight my own battles, and if I'm being challenged, I can't run away. I need to prove that I have what it takes, no matter the odds. If I'm going to turn down a challenge like that...am I really worthy of being champion?"
Lars paused, letting the words sink in. But he smiled wider, and he nodded his head toward Astrid. "That's...true," he said. "Heh...that's my girl. Always carrying the weight of her title on her shoulders..."
"Dad," Astrid went on, "I called you tonight because I want advice. I know you've faced Widow before...if there's anyone I can turn to at a time like this, it's you. What should I do?"
"Ahh, well..." Lars rubbed the back of his neck. "I only wrestled one match against her, and it was one I lost, so I don't know how much help I can be...but if there's one thing you should know, it's that she always goes for the neck. The whole time, she was targeting my neck, with her kicks, even when she pushed me against the ropes...it was all building to the point where she'd hit the Frankensteiner on me, and by that point, my neck would be softened up enough to take it at full force." He winced again, just thinking about it. "Mmf...you know, I still feel that some times..."
"I heard that she was trying to cripple you, too..." Astrid continued, leaning in closer to the screen. "Is it true?"
"I'm not one to care for that woman's conversation," Lars replied. "But I wouldn't doubt it, one bit. Even the doctors told me that my neck muscles helped protect me...if I was an inch off, I might not have made it."
Astrid winced, but kept going. "So, you'd say that..."
"The most important thing you can do is protect your neck," Lars said, finishing her sentence. "She's likely going to focus on that, so be ready for her. Especially knowing how far this goes back. She didn't get to take me out of the business...and now, I feel, she wants to finish the job."
Astrid nodded her head. "Okay. I'll make sure of that...and don't worry about me, Dad. I know you're afraid...I'm a little nervous too. But after talking with you, I think I can do it." She smiled a little wider.
"I'll make sure to watch you, alright? So you can just think of me there in the stands..."
"And I'll win it for you! Thanks, Dad..."
"No need to thank me. Just make sure you put her in her place for me, alright?"
"Alright!" Astrid straightened herself in her seat, and as she lifted her chin, she felt the tingling sensation of confidence rising in her. With her father's advice, she was sure she could do it - but perhaps even more importantly, Astrid had her father's support, and the knowledge he would be there for her in spirit. And it was for that reason that Astrid was even more determined to prove to Widow she wouldn't let herself be bested!
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