The atmosphere, it’s electric.

The stage, it’s set.

The arena, it’s packed.

Red and white pyro EXPLODE out of the stage, the lights go nuts, and the patrons of the Star of the Desert Arena get real loud, real fast.

Once all that dies down, the lights in the arena go all the way down to black.

The arena is hushed.

And then…


The Real Deal, otherwise known as the Franchise, otherwise known as the Illustrious Johnson, otherwise known as one of the SHOOT Project’s brand new co-presidents runs up onto the stage from the back, sporting a pair of slacks, a sports coat, and pressed shirt. He’s carrying the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship, he’s got a microphone, so you know what’s up.

Real Deal: Fucking… WOW, Las Vegas. Wow.

The crowd, you know, does what it’s supposed to do in this situation. They let him know.

Real Deal: Fucking right. Nice. Listen, it’s kind of a tradition around here that when “the fuzz” comes up on the stage, it doesn’t take too long, we get to the action, and la-di-da, we have a Revolution. That’s the aim here tonight, but I really missed you guys, and I really missed this place, so I might… you know, go a little long.

He starts walking down to the ring.

Real Deal: First, we got a lil piece of business that we need to address, and that this here, this is Revolution: Showtime! It’s our little love letter to old SHOOT Project fans who still might wanna take a peek at what we’ve got going on, but while also offering a little bit of a different flavor, if you know what I mean. The matches, they’ll still be jam packed, the rules, they’ll still be a little lax, but baby, baby, baby… we’re excited.

He pats the World Heavyweight Championship.

Real Deal: So, to business. First, we’re gonna do a SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship tournament.

They pop.

Real Deal: It’s going to be 16 people, it’s going to start with the next edition of Revolution, the first, you know… technically official version of this era! We’ll set up the brackets, they’ll be released in the SHOOT Project’s VERY OWN Discord server, where you can connect with us DIRECTLY. Yeah, that’s right. Chat with us, on the internet, and let your voice be heard. That link’ll go live at the end of the show, my friends.

The crowd is murmuring, but hushed, because you know they’re googling what Discord is and how they can participate.

Real Deal: We’ll also be doing some interesting things for the other titles, but to be up front with you guys, we haven’t entirely decided our championship landscape is gonna look like just yet, EXCEPT for one thing. We’re definitely bringing back the Sin City Championship!

The “Wooooooooo” is mad audible.

Real Deal: Perfect. Listen, I’ve gone longer than I wanted to go. I know you’re ready to see what the SHOOT Project has to offer, and we’re excited to show you. I love you all, thank you for being here, and as much as I appreciate the Star of the Desert Arena folks for housing us, when the next edition of Revolution rolls around, we’ll be back in the Epicenter. Enjoy the show, everyone!

He drops the mic and we go into the first match!

We cut into an office, modern in design. The wood of the floor is accented with angle-patterned rugs, the light fixtures all crafted from slim elements with white accents. Sitting at a sleek desk with a plate that reads “Talent Relations” is a familiar face--Samanatha Coil herself, neatly attired in a grey business suit. She’s looking over some paperwork, with occasional glances above her glasses to the man sitting in a chair across from her: Nate Robideau. He is attired in his fashion--button down shirt done all the way to the collar, sleeves done, tucked into jeans. His mohawk is settled at the base in a tight braid, his face and temples devoid of any hair. His face is showing the stoicism we expect from him, his posture finishing-school perfect. She sets the papers down and regards him with a gaze of assessment.

Coil: We want to thank you for taking the offer seriously, Nate. I still don't know why you insisted on pleading your own case and handling all this paperwork yourself, we certainly have people on retainer who could have handled it...but thank you all the same.

Nate’s position remains still as he gathers the correct way to put things.

Robideau: A man should make his own way, ma’am. The opportunity your company has extended me is greatly appreciated, but it’s important, to me, that I handle...that part of my business myself. I meant no offense by it.

Coil: None was taken.

She leans back, idly twirling a fountain pen between her fingers.

Coil: Really, I’m just more trying to get a read on you. As you’re probably aware, despite any title you see on the door, hiring you wasn’t my decision alone. All we were really able to go off of were some of your old matches before the incident, we’ll say. And, of course, the entire reason you were even on our radar.

With this, she holds up a few pages of paper for emphasis. Robideau’s interest is piqued, and he accepts them before reading over them quickly. Nate looks down, smiling softly, and sets the pages back on her desk.

Coil: Have you called the old man?

Robideau: Hadn't given it a thought. He wrote me plenty, but that tapered off around year 7--I don't begrudge him that, though. 7 years is a long time to read about how everything in one man’s life remains unchanging.

He meets her eyes.

Robideau: How is he?

Coil: Still a right bastard. He got you started, didn't he?

Robideau: That’s a way one could put it, ma’am. I’d put it more that he took in a kid who had fallen in with the wrong crowd and put the fear of god in him. Mostly by teaching him how to take a beating.

Nate chuckles at his recollection, and Samantha does too.

Coil: If you only knew how many of his students have told me a version of that same story. But he’s always had an eye for talent, and we’ve had good working relationships with the Cross City Training Club. He assured us that a man of your bearing would keep up on his conditioning despite your circumstances. It appears he was correct. Now, I have a meeting in about 5 minutes, so I’m afraid I’ll need to cut this short.

She stands, and Nate stands as well, his body setting itself to his standard stance of attention. Samantha busies herself glancing at a few emails on her phone before looking up.

Coil: I could have my assistant give you a tour, if you would like? At least show you where the corporate health center is. It’s all very state of the art--it oughta be after all we paid for the equipment.

Robideau: No thank you, ma’am. I’m sure he has work to be doing, and I’ve gone so long without state of the art equipment, I wouldn't know what to do with it.

She pauses, then extends her hand. Nate grasps hers in a firm shake.

Coil: In that case, thank you for coming in.

Robideau: Thank you, ma’am. And if you could, thank all the other people who gave me the green light.

Coil: I will. I’m sure you can find your way out.

She steps off after gathering a tablet, a woman on the move. She’s out the door--but peeks her head back in.

Coil: Oh, and Nate? Give Verde a call. And tell him I told him to fry in Hell.

They both chuckle as she disappears, her laughter carrying down the hall. Nate stands for a moment, hands on his hips, taking in the slick surroundings. The stiffness in his shoulders is gone, and for the first time we’ve seen him, he looks like he’s on the precipice of relaxation. He strides out of the office with vigor in his step, and we cut away...

“Holy Defender” by Primitai hits, and the previously hushed arena comes alive at the loudspeakers announcement of one of the SHOOT Project’s foundational soldiers, none other than Jonas “The Butcher” Coleman. Coleman walks out to a substantial cheer, raising his arms and reintroducing himself to the SHOOT Project’s Faithful. He makes his way down to the ring and takes a microphone.

Jonas Coleman: Man it feels good to be standing in this ring, representing this banner, and just… being home.

The crowd pops for that.

Jonas Coleman: If you’d asked me four years ago whether or not I’d ever get back into ANY wrestling ring, nevermind a SHOOT Project ring, I’d have had no answer for you. Life was… a challenge, back then, but we’re not here for a trip down memory lane, are we?

Another loud cheer.

Jonas Coleman: Thanks for the indulgence. Time to monologue.

He smiles.

Jonas Coleman: I came back to this place, dreaded and scary as it is to some, for a number of reasons. One of which was the fat paycheck, but the other is that I have unfinished business here, and that business begins with the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship. It’s the one title that I haven’t held, and I want it.

He pauses.

Jonas Coleman: I want it badly.

They cheer.

Jonas Coleman: There’s a big ol’ pile of talent that’s waiting in the wings, and I know that they just announced the World Heavyweight Championship tournament, so at some point, you’ll hear from everyone just how much they wanna be the champ, how they want to carry the banner, how they want to BE that icon, but none of them… not… one… has suffered for the SHOOT Project like I have.

He waves his hand.

Jonas Coleman: I don’t mean to take away from anyone. Like I said, there is some mega talent out there, and the probability of one of them taking the crown and becoming your new World Champ is high. But I will NOT stop until I’ve had the chance to taste that glory, and when I do? It will be the dawn of a new age in the SHOOT Project. I will stand, defiant of all who has come before me, and hold that title high. Jonas Coleman, the Butcher, the SHOOT Project’s holy defender.

They pop once more, and he drops the mic as the scene fades.

A chyron on a black screen reads: ‘Round Samnerwood, Oklahoma before fading in

The gas station has seen better days. Some of the product is dusty, the floors could have used a mopping back when cigarettes were two dollars a pack, and the coolers make a godawful racket. A slow pan brings us to our subject: Charlie Jay Hitchens. She’s sitting in a beaten chair next to a door marked “Employees Only”. Her eyes aren't visible from under her ballcap, advertising some likely shuttered farming equipment supplier. Curiously, it doesn't appear that she’s bothered to buy new clothing--it has been washed, but the telltale rusty stains of animal blood plague the jeans and shirt. In her hands she fiddles with rope, taking her time.

CJH: I seem to remember a time before the fever took him where I seen a look from my Daddy I’d never seen before.

Her voice is tires on a gravel road, but soft in inflection, emotionless in it’s flatness.

CJH: Oh, we children had seen his disappointment. We had seen his rage. We had seen his drunken furies, such as they were. I don’t wish to make it seem like we were unloved. We were, but we were also reared on terror and the grip of worry.

She settles back in the chair, allowing us to see the lights of her eyes shaded by the hats brim. A fluorescent light in the ceiling flashes with strobe intensity before settling back to illumination.

CJH: It dawned on me as I grew strong--strong enough to better withstand his attentions, strong enough to taste the lash without tears, finally--that the word of my Poppy grew louder in me. I read his bible every day. I remember what he told me about my place in the Lord’s great pattern.

A pause, for recollection. Something behind the door shifts and bangs against it. Charlie pays it no mind.

CJH: Daddy was not a good Christian.

She finishes her work on the rope--working it into a picture perfect noose.

CJH: And that day, when I dragged him to Ole Mister Ballard’s big oak tree and strung him up with rope...I seen that look, through all his hatred and his stupor.

She smiles softly. It doesn't quite look at home on her weathered face.

CJH: I saw fear. Real fear. The fear of a man facing his death. And it was sweet to me, like butter and cinnamon on hot bread...Just like Poppy said it would taste.

Another shift behind the door. Banging. The light flickers again as the smile fades.

CJH: I aint kill my Daddy that day. Chopped him down before he could go. But once his coughing fits had subsided, I saw an even more welcome look. Understanding. He understood me and I understood him. None of us children tasted the lash after that.

She stands, stretching. The banging behind the door persists, along with what sounds like a muffled plea.

CJH: I know you’ll show me fear. Time’s gonna tell on whether you have it in you to understand.

She kicks the chair away and tosses the noose on the counter. She’s about to turn when she notices it--the pride of any backwoods gas station security system, a beaten Louisville slugger. A dry smirk as she lumbers to it, picking it up and testing its weight. As she slowly paces to the door, the bangs change to what sound like full kicks. Charlie begins singing, a raspy croak of a thing in a mournful falsetto--but there's a smile in the words.

CJH: “Y'know death don't have no mercy in this land...Death don't have no mercy in this land, in this land...Come to your house, you know she don't take long….”

With that, she opens the door--steps in fast enough for us to not get a look at what’s inside--and slams it shut. We’re left with the flickering tube light and the deserted gas station.