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.
We see Nate Robideau backstage, pacing about the locker room. He’s wearing a sweat suit, and every 3 steps or so, he executes a stretch. Arms. Knees to chest, bending over to touch his toes. There is an anxiousness in his motions, clearly a man with energy to burn. He finally plops down onto a bench seat, pulling off his hood and unzipping his jacket halfway.
Robideau: I fought so hard just to get to last week. I wanted that to be the culmination, the triumphant return. I did not expect to advance in this tournament. Truth is, the tournament was the farthest thing from my mind.
He shrugs with a slight smile.
Robideau: Was. I moved forward. And I’ve been focusing harder than even before on improving. Getting ready. Getting tough. Getting my mind right so that I could face something this big with the appropriate mindset.
He arches his back, popping both his wrists.
Robideau: I never guarantee a win. Too many factors at play. And Malice is unlike anyone I’ve ever faced before, speaking with full candor.
Bending over now, touching the floor. He returns to standing, pushing his hair out of his face.
Robideau: But Malice, I have talked to you enough. All we can do at this point is compete. This message is for the rest of you: Dan Stein, Jonas Coleman, Charlie Hitchens, Patriot, Azraith, Dresden. I have not been worthy of your attentions, but now we all stare down each other’s respective barrels. Perhaps this is all for naught—perhaps Malice handily wipes the floor with me. In many ways, each of you should hope that he does. I’ve been rusty, but the more and more time I spend in the ring, the more time I spend training in freedom…the better I’m getting.
His eyes narrow.
Robideau: We are all locked, horn entangled with horn, in a contest for one of the most coveted prizes in this industry. And it’s more than that. The winner gets to be the first of a new era. Whoever wins becomes living history, from the moment the bell is rung. Every one of us covets that, for one reason or another. Maybe it’s from a place of conceit. Maybe from a place of hunger. Maybe from a place of vengeance. Maybe because you just don’t know anything else.
He stands up, shucking his jacket and hauling a duffel bag onto the bench. He unzips it and pauses, looking back to the camera.
Robideau: Why do I draw more strength as that title draws closer? Why do I covet it? A man spends over a decade in a cage. He comes back and defies the odds to claim the title of a resurgent company, legendary in its pedigree. All those years training finally have meaning.
He looks to the floor, his eyes closed—a genuine smile breaking out across his features.
Robideau: All those years dreaming…finally come true.
With that, he grabs his tights and tape from the duffel, popping his neck. We cut away…
We are outside. In the parking lot. Being greeted with the sight of a new face. This one is wearing horn rimmed glasses, his hair a pompadoured strawberry ginger. He takes a pull from his can of Coors Original as the camera pans back slowly to show that he’s seated on a milk crate in the bed of a solid black, murdered out El Camino. The side of the bed shows the words “NUTHIN’ FANCY” stenciled on the body in bold white. We also notice, when he sets his drinking arm down, a nametag on his faded blue work shirt: “The Colonel”.
The Colonel: I seem to remember a time when we celebrated competition in the ring. Y’all remember that?
He fires up a Marlboro white, gesturing with it for emphasis.
The Colonel: Hell, I’m bored with ever’thing these days, seems. Ain’t a person left to fight in Kentucky. I’m serious as a fuckin’ heart attack, brother. You go check. Can’t find em.
He grins a brilliant shit eating grin. His right top canine has either been replaced with a gold one, or he’s wearing a single tooth front.
The Colonel: So, like many enterprising young sons of the dark and bloody ground, I’m headin’ out west where the wind blows tall. Whole world gonna have to get used to this handsome face, and y’all gonna have to get used to hearin’ about Haskell Payne. Kentucky Colonel. The most famous individual to come outta Rabbit Hash since…well, at least the second dog mayor.
He takes another long drag off the smoke and flicks it away, pointing to the camera.
The Colonel: Bet there’s a buncha folks askin’ what I bring to the table. What makes me different. Trust me, that’s gonna be self-evident soon enough. Needless to say, my momma brought up a hellraiser who fears no man, beast, or height.
There’s a grumbling as the Camino moves slightly. From the back seat, we hear a voice, deep with the same pattern of drawl, if a bit different in bass.
Backseat Voice: wher’th’…the fuck are we, man? Toldya…wake…wake me up when we got parked…
The Colonel: Hold on ya hillbilly…
Haskell pops a Marlboro light into his mouth and lights it. He pops open a cooler and fishes out a fresh Coors, crackling it open. He hands the cigarette and the beer through the open window.
The Colonel: …wouldn’t let me bring our beers in, man. There ya go. Hair of the dog.
Backseat Voice: …yep, yup, thankgyew…
Haskell hops to his feet, leaps off the side of the back bed, and lands with an authoritative stomp from his cowboy boots. He fishes out another brew and leans against Good ole Nuthin’ Fancy, grinning.
The Colonel: Point is, fact is, I’m here. We’re here. Like I was saying, Y’all gonna have to learn to take me serious, and if you don’t, I’ma have myself some fun breaking these size 8’s off in your ass. I’m prettier, faster, fly higher, fight harder, and I’m way the fuck more charming than any one of yall. That’s just facts. That’s court of law-ass evidence. Ain’t found a man yet can knock my dick in the dirt, and I know I probably won’t have much issue out here with you sun-baked sons of bitches. Any one of y’all want a shot at the title?
He slaps his stomach twice, flexing the bicep of his right arm.
The Colonel: Y’all know where you can find me. And if you get lost, just listen out for the roar of a crowd and some shack-shakin’ juke joint song. Chances are I ain’t far from it.
He polishes off the last of his beer, crushes the can, and throws it into the truck bed. We cut away…
“Carry On, Wayward Son” blares over the PA as the entire crowd comes to their feet. From out of the curtain, Trey Willett Emerges. He is not dressed to compete. He wears a pair of navy slacks and a white- button down with the sleeves pushed to his elbow, buttoned to the center of his chest. He stands at the top of the stage and soaks in the applause from the crowd for a few moments before slowly making his way down the ramp. Trey takes the time to shake hands with a few fans seated in the ramp area, and stops to talk to a few children on his way down. Somewhere around ten feet from the ring, Trey breaks into a jog and slides under the bottom rope and into the ring. He is slower to rise to his feet than many remember and almost loses his footing while getting both feet under him. Following his momentary slip, he climbs the second rope turnbuckle and tosses one hand into the air while bracing himself on the top rope with his other hand. He gingerly paces the ring for a few moments before pulling a microphone from his pants pocket.
Trey Willett: SHOOT Project is back!
The fans begin to cheer again, and Trey settles into the center of the ring, allowing the crowd a moment to react.
Trey Willett: SHOOT Project is back, but where is it’s Wayward Son? Where is the Willenium? Over the last several weeks I have watched the likes of Obsidian and Dan Stein talk about how they are the one and only. They are the SHOOT Project. I’ve listened as Jonas Coleman and Buck Dresden have laid claim to this project. My name has been thrown about lately as a relic from the past. A distant part of SHOOT history that is better left in the past.
The crowd gives reacts with boos and cheers and the mentions of the various names, then gives a muffled boo at the notion of Trey not being a part of SHOOT.
Trey Willett: I sat around and listened to that for just about as long as I could. I wrestled with the idea that maybe my time had come and gone. But the fact is, I still have more in the tank to give. I’m here and I AM SHOOT P…
Trey is cut off as “Saturn Burnz” echoes throughout the arena. Malice pushes his way onto the ramp and stares a hole straight into SHOOT’s Wayward Son. Trey, for his part, takes several steps back, until his back is pressed against the ropes. Malice says nothing. His hands and balled into fists, and a visible shake can be seen in both of his fists. Rumblings of confusion begin to fall over the crowd as Malice eases his tension and begins to walk towards the ring. Trey never breaks eye contact, but shows a look of unease. The music clears the PA as Malice steps through the middle ropes and into the ring. He is obviously struggling to make his body move after his previous battle with Nate Robideau. He stops in the middle of the ring, and Trey slowly makes his way towards Malice. As Trey comes within arms length of Malice, he is suddenly shoved backwards, falling to a seated position. Trey begins to scoot back into the ropes as the crowd lets out a collective gasp. Malice screams, not using a microphone.
Malice: GET UP AND FIGHT ME NOW YOU SON OF A BITCH!
Trey slides out of the ring and begins to make his way back up the ramp, hands on hips, shaking his head. The crowd has now fallen silent. Malice kneels down and picks up the microphone that Trey had dropped.
Malice: It’s all coming around, Willenium. The sins of your past have come back to punish you. Welcome back to SHOOT Project. I’ve been waiting.
Trey makes his way behind the curtain as Malice never breaks eye contact. He drops the microphone to the mat as the crowd continues in silence, unsure of what has just happened.
“Ali Bomaye (Rock Remix)” kicks in and brings the fans to booing as out from the back emerges Donovan King with Obsidian not far behind him. The two men are dressed completely differently. King steps out dressed in a sharp dark green three piece pinstripe suit with a black shirt and matching green tie. He saunters down to the ring as Obsidian walks behind him, dressed in a faded brown duster with an old red flannel shirt, torn up cowboy hat, and scuffed to hell and back boots. The two men walk to opposite sides of the ring and head to the ring steps, ignoring the jeers of the fans. King takes two microphones and walks up the ring steps, tossing one to Obsidian before he climbs the middle rope, glaring out at the sea of fans in attendance.
King: Cut the music.
“Ali Bomaye (Rock Remix)” dies down, bringing the jeers to an even louder decibel.
King: The nerve of y’all people. Two men come out and what do you do to show their allegiance to one another? You play the music of one of the men.
He shakes his head.
King: Y’all better be glad Obsidian is a merciful being because if it were me? Man I’d be in that production truck so fast…
Obsidian: Easy, Donovan.
King turns his attention to Obsidian.
Obsidian: You are a first ballot Hall of Famer. You single handedly kept this company afloat when it had to rely on petty fools for stability. You have done so much for this company, this business, of course they would play your song, my friend. They know what butters the bread of this company. Men like you.
King: It’s men like me that you see in the lights. We keep our head above water and never once…never…ONCE…do we acknowledge the bodies of men like you, my brother, that we’ve had to stand up on to stay afloat. But that ends here, Obsidian. I told you when we first spoke about this, I was tired of seein’ you on the outside looking in. You deserve to be recognized for who you are, what you do, what you’ve accomplished, and who you’ve helped. More than that, we both deserve to be recognized. Look at this place, man. Just look at it.
King shakes his head.
King: It disgusts me to see. You have newbies who don’t respect what came before and you have long dead legends tryna breathe new life into their stillborn careers. If those Instant Heat chumps wanted this place to be a success, would they really have a Jonas Coleman or a Buck Dresden or an Azraith or some new guy like a Nate Robideau or Charlie Jay Hitchens competing for the big belt? Nah, man, they’d have Obsidian. They’d have Donovan King. They’d go out and find the real movers an’ shakers of this business and they’d fix the mess they’ve made. Instead look. Here we are, the remnant of a dead era. An era of success. An era of power.
Obsidian: And as the Remnant, we will remain a stark reminder of what should have been. What SHOOT was. What it should be. Not some sad victory lap for old dogs. Not some participation trophy for new pups. We are the Remnant. We are all that remains of this bygone era that truly understands the truth. So we have allied together.
King nods his head.
King: My brothers in arms out there scrapin’ by. My brothers, my Dan Steins, my Cade Sydals, my Jester Smiles…you guys are my people. Still with gas in the tank, still worthy of praise, adulation, and belonging. You are the Remnant even if you don’t stand with us. Even if you are mowed down, broken, and left for dead on the side of the road by this emotionally crippled management system here. We are here for you. And to prove it to you, tell me…have you seen OutKast since we sent him a message to go home?
Obsidian looks around at the audience as they boo. King smirks.
King: No. No you haven’t. The tag team division Instant Heat wanted to be the cornerstones of and the 50 year old man that made his career burying the best of us out there for his own twisted benefit couldn’t hack it. So we judged him. We judged him and we sent…him…home.
Obsidian: I have known OutKast for decades now. I have never known him to cower so easily. I must say, however, in the face of our might, he is a shell of what he used to be. How long do you think it will be before he resigns himself back to Japan to run his company away from the lights of this place he knows he isn’t fit for?
King hops down, looking at his mentor and teacher.
King: I don’t care. I see that son of a bitch again, I end him. Same for his dumb ass sharpie sniffin’ partner, Real D…
Without warning, OUTKAST explodes from the back! He is in the ring in a flash, sliding under the bottom rope. Obsidian quickly moves to get between OutKast and King but is met with hard rights! Obsidian staggers back as OutKast prepares to hit him with the Alienator with suddenly King levels OutKast with a Reality Check superkick! Kast falls back and lands against the ropes just in time for Obsidian to grab him by his head and groggily lift him up for an inverted powerbomb he calls the Pitch Black Powerbomb. As he hoists OutKast high, King snatches his head and NAILS a Kingbreaker Diamond Cutter! OutKast is OUT as King looms over his fallen form. Obsidian takes the microphone.
Obsidian: Donovan…this…roach will not die.
King: Then we crush him under our boot.
King slides from the ring and looks underneath the ring apron before he emerges with a length of chain! King swings it casually in front of him as Obsidian grabs OutKast by his legs and holds him steady. King swings the chain above his head when all of a sudden…
I CAME TO TELL THE TRUTH
THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
REAL DEAL rushes the ring, slides under the bottom rope, ducks a chain swing from King and PLANTS King with a Reality Check! Obsidian drops OutKast and Real Deal in turn prepares to hit ANOTHER Reality Check on him! Obsidian, however, rolls from the ring and drags King’s body out as well. Real Deal picks up the microphone Obsidian left behind and drapes his arm around OutKast’s body, protecting his brother from any further assault.
Real Deal: You two wanna go? You call yourselves The Remnant? I just need to know so when I book Instant Heat beating the living fuck out of the two of you, I wanna get the names right.
The fans POP. He throws the microphone down as King remains knocked out on Obsidian’s shoulder. Obsidian points menacingly at Real Deal as Real Deal merely glares at them, ready for war.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” by Charm City Devils dies out as Buck is leaning against the ropes, staring at the camera. He is tired. He is breathing heavily into the microphone. He looks around at the audience, the fans cheering him on as he tries to catch his breath.
Buck: Azraith DeMitri. Nick Robideau. Jonas Coleman. Buck Dresden.
He looks around at the stage and then back to the audience.
Buck: Real soon…one of them names is gonna be your champion. One…of us…is the new World Heavyweight…Champion.
The fans pop as he says this.
Buck: I came…to this company because I…love this place. I came here…because I believe…I believe I can be the man fer this company. That I can give this company…a champion to be proud of. I believe that I…can be that champion fer this company and for all…of you. That I can…walk into this arena, head up high, an’ we…together…can make this place what is used to be. But I can’t do it without y’all. We can make this place…what it SHOULD be. We can make this place…SHOOT.
The fans cheer. He shakes his head no.
Buck: No…no. Goddamn it, no. LET THOSE MOTHER FUCKERS IN THE BACK HEAR US BECAUSE THIS IS SHOOT!! WE…ARE…SHOOT.
The fans ERUPT. Buck throws the microphone down as “Man of Constant Sorrow” kicks back up again. He nods his head and rolls under the bottom rope before leaping over the guardrail into the audience. The fans begin to chant “WE ARE SHOOT” as Buck nods his head along with them. He points to the camera and grins as we fade.