Eryk Masters: We are HERE at RISE! The SHOOT Project Epicenter is lit up, and can you believe the accommodations that Real Deal and OutKast have made so that fans could actually attend this show?!
The camera pans around, showing large, clear individual booths over the top of each seat, fans have plenty of room to go nuts at their leisure!
Other Guy: Yeah, it’s pretty incredible. First, it’s incredible to even be at a SHOOT Project Pay-Per-View once again, E. It’s been SO long. And second, it’s incredible that they were able to accomplish this in the Epicenter in just a few short weeks!
Eryk Masters: Not only that, but they started letting people into the arena earlier than normal to help observe social distancing rules and things like that, oh and also, everyone received their own SHOOT Project branded mask! Marketing at its finest!
Other Guy: No doubt about that, so with that in mind, we’re going to jump into things quick-like with a paid advertisement for Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot, who want to MAKE CHAMPIONSHIPS GREAT AGAIN!
Voice Over: In a world gone mad, one tag team will RISE above the others and claim Tag Team Gold.
The camera flashes on Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed in the middle of the ring. Patriot’s American Flag themed mask has more golden accents than usual. Stein wears a gold “Golden Boy” t-shirt with light blue and electric pink writing.
Voice Over: Make Championships Great Again, the best tag team in SHOOT Project, composed of the greatest SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion ever – and Johnny Patriot – stand to take the Tag Titles back home to Las Vegas.
The camera cuts to the Las Vegas strip where Johnny Patriot is walking an 80-ish year old woman across Tropicana, and Dan Stein is walking a much younger, much more beautiful blonde haired woman with large…tracts of land. Both men walk arm-in-arm with their companions.
Voice Over: These Great American Patriots perform community service out of the goodness of their hearts.
Camera cuts to Johnny Patriot ladling soup into a bowl at a homeless kitchen. The picture cuts to Dan Stein out back, drinking a beer with two other homeless men, though Stein smacks one of the men’s hand away from him as the man tries to reach for the bottle.
Voice Over: They connect with the local community.
The camera then cuts to Dan Stein’s face in the Carolina Crossface, with Stein biting down on Donovan King’s hand.
Voice Over: They never give up. They never surrender.
The camera cuts back to Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot in the middle of the ring. Patriot steps forward.
Johnny Patriot: And tonight at RISE, we’re sending all six of you boys back where you came from!
Stein winces at the slight xenophobia briefly before stepping forward.
Dan Stein: Because we’re Making Championships Great Again!
Voice Over: This message has been paid for by Make Championships Great Again for Tag Team Champions 2020. All rights reserved.
Buck Dresden stands in front of an open locker door, shoving things into it. First, his duffel bag. Keys, wallet, sunglasses. He closes it authoritatively—and jumps back a good three feet as it reveals the dusty frame of Charlie Jay Hitchens behind.
Buck: The Fuck..!
She sets her filthy cap high on her head and regards him with the dead stare that she regards most humans, forest creatures, and bones of dead things.
CJH: Peace, Buck Dresden. My intent here is not to gain revenge upon you. You’ve a fight upcoming, it is a low, low thing to cripple a man before he faces battle. That is the tactics of the serpent, of the jackal.
Buck hasn’t lowered his arms, not putting up his dukes quite, but ready to counter whatever is thrown at him.
Buck: Why are you here.
His words are less a question and more a command of knowledge.
CJH: I had a dream one night as the desert cooled around me. I had pulled a sack over your head and bound it around your throat with duct tape. You struggled like all possessed souls do during exorcism. It was so easy to bring you to the brink, to make you choke on your own hubris, to drive my heel into your collarbone until I heard it crack like a twig. Such a vivid dream. But that is all it shall be. I live by a code. I’m sure you have a code too, Buck Dresden.
She cracks a broken smile and removes her hat, scratching the back of her head.
CJH: You called yourself the light to my darkness. Light is a funny thing, aint it? We just assume it to be good.
On a roll now, she keeps on. Dresden hasn’t broken from a stance of defense, of readiness, but Charlie is making no effort to close the distance between them.
CJH: Lucifer was the light of the morning, the star at dawn. And I saw him in you, Buck Dresden. It ain’t enough that you won against me. You enjoyed doing it to me. Violence is work. Violence is a job. The surest tool to teach and train. Surest way to show the sinner salvation. Not for you though.
Buck: Wait. Enjoyed? You think I…
She taps her nose, her eyes clinical. Voice steady. Gravel under a truck.
CJH: You let me close enough that I could smell the diseases in you, Buck Dresden. Greed and lusts and addictions and pure hatred, a thrill at the thought of hurting another soul, fueling you just like rotgut and black beauties fueled my daddy. Most would catch the stench of your soul and see the glow of Old Scratch inside you and shun you. Leave you to consume yourself like all those who have come before you. But I love you as I love all of God’s children, Buck Dresden. I cannot watch your suffering without wanting to intervene. Either to save you or put you down like a rabid dog.
She clears her throat and spits to the side, then pulls her cap back on.
CJH: Win your rich man’s gold, Buck Dresden. Win, and win with authority. Make yourself proud. I’ll be waiting. We have all the time in the world to complete our work.
With that she calmly and slowly walks in the opposite direction, whistling all the while. As soon as we hear a door creak and shut, that’s when Buck Dresden drops his fighting stance. We cut to the ring…
The camera crew catches up with Azraith DeMitri, dressed in a clean black suit coming into the arena. His daughter, Judy-E, was following close besides, holding onto the Sin City Championship for him. When the interviewer steps in the way, Azraith doesn’t really have much of a choice in stopping, forcing a broad smile while his daughter looks on cautiously
Interviewer: Azraith, you’ve been somewhat quiet going into this match after last we heard, you suffered a minor concussion during training with…well…with your daughter sometime last week. Would you care to comment on that?
Az’s smile faded somewhat, but he shook his head. There was still a noticeable gash across his forehead and the side of his face, but the swelling has gone down, and the resultant black eye had faded.
Azraith: It happens. I can’t remember how many times me and previous training partners got too heated and someone zigs when they should’ve zagged. I’ve been medically cleared to wrestle tonight, and I’ve given my assurance to everyone in charge that if anything changes in terms of my health, they’ll be the first to know. I don’t want to be a liability to the company, I want to be its champion.
Azraith started walking away, but the interviewer stepped in front of him again.
Interviewer: If I could press you on that, you say champion, singular. Our main event tonight is going to crown the SHOOT Project Heavyweight champion, and some would say they would be the standard-bearer for the company.
Az lets the words sit a second, before shrugging.
Azraith: I mean…yeah. Some, I’m sure, would say that. I would just counter by saying that by the time they’re done doing their tournament and crowning a champion, the Sin City Championship will have been either fought for, or successfully defended at least three times, not including the night I won this belt. I haven’t had a match since I won this championship that HASN’T been for this championship. I said that I wanted to be a fighting champion and I meant it. Will either of them do the same with the World Heavyweight Championship? We’ll fuckin’ see, I guess. Until that happens, until they prove that THAT championship is the standard, I’ll be over here putting on fuckin’ bangers with guys like Nate and Patriot and MALICE. If I lose? I sure as hell know the championship will be in good hands with Nate, and he’ll sure as hell do the same thing I will. Right now this division, MY division are the standard bearers of SHOOT Project right now. They have to step up to get to OUR level.
There was a huge grin on Judy-E’s lips as she slapped the face of the Sin City Championship wordlessly, and Az laughed with a nod and patted her on the shoulder as they walked past the interview team into the arena proper.
As we cut to the ring, Nine Pound Hammer’s megahit song “Double Super Buzz” is still rocking and rolling–and The Colonel, Haskell Payne, along with it. He grins to the crowd and dangles a keyring with brass testicles on it before his music cute, and he hollers into a provided microphone.
The Colonel: Awright! Now I got in my hand the keys to my El Camino. Her name’s Nuthin Fancy. Only nice thing I’ve ever owned! Now I’m putting the keys and the title in the hand of Mr. Referee here—thank ya kindly—and I’m gonna sit my happy ass in this ring until someone wants to come out and try to take ‘er from me!
He hops up onto the top turnbuckle, having a seat as the crowd buzzes. Suddenly, there’s an eruption as MALICE exits from the back!
Eryk Masters: Malice, seeking some retribution after his loss at the last show!
But the fanfare is short lived, as right behind him, arms raised, emerges ‘RAVISHING’ RON BARKER—Followed almost immediately by TADAKATSU!!
The Colonel: Huh, alright, so all y’all want my sweet ride? Here’s how we gonna—now hold on a damn minute!
From the back emerges, to the confusion of an already cheering crowd, an aged man in plain black trunks–and another unknown entity in a polo shirt.
The Colonel: Who the…
Eryk Masters: OG, I’m being told that is none other than catch wrestling legend Joe Wrestleman, and recent signee Bradley Kenneth Holzhauer!!
Other Guy: We’re about to have a bloodbath on our hands! Honestly? I’m here for it!
The crowd explodes when out of the back lumbers another favorite son of Kentucky—ELGIN BLAIR! And behind him, another man—tall, with shaggy hair—that causes Haskell’s stock shit-eating smirk to drop.
The Colonel: Robby?! Dammit I left you napping in the back of the Camino!
Eryk Masters: Well now Haskell Payne has a choice to make! He’s facing down seven men—who will challenge him for his car???
Haskell paces, thinking, while all the competitors spread out on the entrance area, eyeing each other with suspicion, their bodies poised to leap into action.
The Colonel: Okay, okay! I think I got it figured. What we’re gonna do is–
Abruptly, “Chuuch!!!” By Bun B hits, and the crowd explodes at the heralding call of Josh Johnson—The REAL DEAL himself! His presence alone parts the gathered wrestlers like the sea, as he walks down the entrance ramp halfway, smiling and soaking in the response.
Other Guy: Ha! Bossman must have fallen on hard times—he needs a crappy car truck!
The man has a mic. He raises his hand, calming the crowd and signaling for his music to be cut off. He looks back, nodding the assembled grab bag of claimants, then to Haskell, shaking his head.
Real Deal: Haskell, Haskell, Haskell…buddy, we told you when we brought you in that we were in a transitional period. Still establishing champions through tournaments and battle royales—you knew before you signed that it would be a waiting game.
The Colonel: Lissen that might work for some average dick walking in off the streets, but you’re talking to–
Real Deal: –An average dick off the streets, Haskell. Buck, Azraith, Jonas, Dan Stein…these people have history. Pedigree. They’re known. And they stepped up from day one and earned their shots. But I like you, and I’ll admit this little open challenge for your car has me interested. So, let’s make it a thing. Of course, since I’m officially sanctioning this, I want to make it a little more interesting. Let’s say the winner gets the keys to your car and….Hell, I don’t know, how about a shot at the Sin City Championship?
The Colonel: That’s what I’m talkin’ about! You know this midsection was built to have a title on it. Which one of these sacks of shit I get to wallop?
Real Deal laughs and takes a moment to performatively shake his head.
Real Deal: “One”? No, no, no. You threw down the gauntlet for an Open Challenge. These competitors responded.
Haskell looks ready to protest, but a raised hand cuts off his momentum.
Real Deal: You’re going to face them all–Right now!
“Chuuch!!!” kicks back up as the wrestlers begin filing toward the ring, passing Real Deal, who slaps a few on the back with a grin.
Eryk Masters: A bombshell from our president! Haskell Payne walked in the ring tonight expecting to face one competitor with his El Camino on the line, but now he’s in a massive scrum for it!
Other Guy: It feels like an egregious abuse of his power, but Real Deal has a point here—that loudmouth hillbilly never set the parameters!
Eryk Masters: And with a chance at getting a guaranteed match for the Sin City Championship on the line, things just got way more interesting!!
As the wrestlers file into the ring, Haskell tosses his mic to the ground and puts up his dukes…
Backstage in a locker room sits Nate Robideau, his hair bound tight against his skull in one meticulous braid. He is already in his tights for the evening, and is currently working on taping his wrists while his trainer, El Diablo Verde, sits in a folding chair, eyeing a No smoking sign with dissatisfaction.
Verde: So why am I even back here instead of glad handing with the brass of this Godforsaken place?
At this, Nate smirks.
Robideau: You are not the encouraging words type.
Verde: What are you, twelve? This isn’t your goddamn t-ball tournament, Nate. You want me to slap you on the back? Tell you I’m proud of you?
The big man shrugs, his smile fading.
Verde: All you’ve done so far is bleed all over my concrete floors and shed weight. That doesn’t make you unique. You’re the same as 10 kids fresh outta high school who’re enrolled right now.
Nate nods and drops his eyes to the floor, busying himself with his left hand.
Verde: Why did you even invite me?
He takes a long moment before responding, thinking this through. He grabs the roll of tape and brings his foot up to the bench, looking the old man in the eye before working on his ankle.
Robideau: Jefe, perhaps I was mistaken. You were preparing me for a title fight on the biggest stage of my career. I thought…I thought you would like to see the match.
Verde: I own a television.
Robideau: Of course, I was just–
The old man cuts him off by thwacking his cane authoritatively into the floor.
Verde: You’re still making up for the fact that you’ve been an embarrassment to me and the good name of my school, and you think I have any interest in cheering you on? Your match isn’t an opportunity for me to have some fuckin feel good moment. It’s something I’m gonna watch so I can pick apart later. Or do you think winning that title means you get to be lazy? No more work, no more improvement? That’s of course if you go out there and don’t step in it. Like you’ve proven time and again you always do.
Verde now gets to his feet, hobbling around Nate’s bench as he busies himself on finishing his ankle and feet tape.
Verde: You don’t listen well enough. I know you don’t have a father any more for one reason or another, but I’m not a replacement for him. You keep looking to me for validation, you’re gonna keep being disappointed.
He stands, leaning in close to the old man. A Mountain staring down a dilapidated home.
Verde: What’s you gonna kick my ass, red man? You could. I’m washed. Broken down. So swing. All I give a half a shit about is you going out there and winning. And I don’t care about that for your personal growth or because I want you to achieve—I only really care because that’s better publicity for my school.
Nate’s right hand balls into a fist. We can watch the muscles in his arm tense up. He sighs, and walks towards the door.
Verde: Just like always. Too slow to react. Too much of a coward. Run along, I’m sure losing will make your son wanna give you a call.
The big man stops, hesitates, and then turns to Verde. Though a moment ago he was almost shaking with swallowed rage, he looks almost serene. As if a new clarity has washed over him. His eyes meet his trainer’s.
Robideau: Jefe? Fuck you.
With that, Nate Robideau strides out of the locker room, shoulders squared, silent, ready for combat—leaving a stunned El Diablo Verde to stand, gobsmacked, looking at the doorway.
“You ready for this?”
That’s the voice of Buck Dresden.
“As ready as I can be, I think.”
That’s the voice of Jonas Coleman.
“To the victor goes the spoils, right?”
“You got it.”
“I love you, brother. Let’s do this.”
“Love you too, Joe. WE are the SHOOT Project.”
“We are the SHOOT Project.”