A beat-up black Dodge Challenger putters up a dirt road to a nondescript white box of a building with no windows and a couple large red double doors along the side.
Standing there, looking at the doors in confusion, is Johnny Patriot – fully dressed in his red-white-and-blue luchador garb.
Johnny: This can’t be right.
The car, which has seen better days, squeeks to a stop and stepping out of the driver’s seat is Blaze Claymore – dressed from tip to toe in a business suit. Like David Caruso’s in an episode of CSI: Miami, Blaze Claymore dramatically removes his sunglasses and squints his eyes at the scene.
Blaze: What is this? Where are all the adoring fans? The press? The… anything.
Johny lifts his phone, which he has been aimlessly trying to shove into the non-existent pockets in his leotard, and holds it out in front of him.
Johnny: A left on…. Exit…. Well, that’s just… God Bless America.
Johnny lifts a hand to his head and hits it repeatedly.
Johnny: Stupid. Stupid.
Blaze: Hey! Hey! Don’t hurt yourself too bad before I get the chance to hurt you. What’s up?
Johnny: My GPS took us to one of SHOOT Project’s training facilities on the other side of town – not the Epicenter.
Blaze: Excuse me? So… no one is here!? And… our match?
Johnny paces wildly.
Johnny: There’s no way we can make it to the actual arena in time. We’re going to miss the chance for Master of the Matt!
Blaze collapses to the ground, grabbing gravel in his hand and shaking it wildly in the air.
Blaze: YOU MANIAC! YOU BLEW IT UP!
Johnny shakes his head and then jolts up with an idea.
Johnny: I can fix this. I can fix this!
Johnny swipes wildly on his phone and then holds it up to his ear.
Johnny: Yes! Mr. Johnson… It’s Johnny Patriot… Matthew Sul – nevermind. Blaze and I got a bit lost on the way to the arena. Is there anyone working the desert facility? The one by the Costco? No… the OTHER Costco.
There is!? Do you have satellite capabilities to stream from my phone?
Of course, of course, yes, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard too. Do you… have access to the security cameras? Can you feed those into the arena?
Uh huh. Uh huh.
Give us 20 minutes and Blaze and I will be ready to save Master of the Matt!
It’s a Christmas miracle! Uh huh. No… I agree sir. World peace would be a much better Christmas miracle…
Just… tap into those security cameras in 20 minutes and have someone text that janitor to get into referee gear!
Johnny Patriot closes his phone triumphantly as Blaze is wallowing on the road, smacking his hands on the gravel. He reaches down to pull Blaze up.
Blaze: Get your stinking hands off me, you damned, life-sized Bomb Pop.
Johnny: Ouch… but HEY! I saved the match! But we’ve got to run. We’ve got to get into the facility NOW and be ready in 20 minutes.
Blaze: I .. what?
Johnny doesn’t wait for Blaze to respond as he runs full speed towards the first double doors he can see. After finally processing what Johnny said, Blaze scrambles up himself and chases after Johnny Patriot – tearing his suit off as he does to reveal his own green leotard.
Blaze Claymore Vs. Johnny Patriot
We open to complete silence and an empty SHOOT Project Epicenter arena. The shot is from above pans around slowly, showing the empty seats and empty, pristine ring.
We hear the voice of Eryk Masters cut through the silence.
Eryk Masters: This is an opportunity to become imprinted in SHOOT Project lore forever.
The scene cuts to the gorilla position, just behind the curtains. The part in the curtain shows the arena stage, now lit up and shining with light.
The voice of Other Guy breaks the silence again.
Other Guy: This night creates moments that will play in highlight reels for years to come.
There’s a flash of light and we see the masked silhouette of SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion Judy-E DeMitri, best known as NEMESIS, standing ready. She bounces on the balls of her feet in preparation before her form morphs into that of her father, Master of the Mat Finalist Azraith DeMitri.
Azraith cracks his neck and rolls it around for a few seconds before his silhouetted form morphs into that of the current World Heavyweight Challenger, Joshua Breedlove, standing resolute, prepared to step into further glory.
Breedlove takes in a breath before the silhouette morphs again, this time into Master of the Mat Finalist, Lindsay Troy.
The silhouette begins changing again, faster and faster, switching from one SHOOT Project Soldier to another. The form steps forward through the curtain…
And we’re taken to the stark brightness of the desert. It’s empty and barren, the ghost of a wind blowing the smallest grains of sand around.
The ground begins to rumble and shake before splitting open and a massive Aztec-style pyramid erupts from the ground, rising into the clear sky.
There’s another flash of brilliant white and we see Azraith DeMitri and Lindsay Troy standing at the base of the pyramid.
The voice of Killer Mike cuts in with the beat of “Untitled.”
You are witnessing elegance
In the form of a black elephant
Smoking white rhino on terraces
Will I die slain like my king by a terrorist?
Will my woman be Coretta, take my name and cherish it?
Or will she Jackie O, drop the Kennedy, remarry it?
Azraith and Lindsay take off, climbing the pyramid from opposite sides. As Lindsay crests the first level, she comes face to face with Pat Cassidy. The pairing of Drunk and Disorderly turn just in time for a wall of the pyramid to explode outward as The Unholy CYBER Army step out, the World Tag Team Championships on their shoulders.
As Azraith continues to climb, he just narrowly passes Jacob Mephisto, slithering out of a crack in the pyramid wall. Mephisto stops short as he comes face to face with Jamie Johnson.
The beat continues and we pan up to another level of the pyramid where Mike De Los Huesos exhales a plume of chiba smoke and Victor Thane steps out, the picture of poise and dignity. The camera jumps to another side of the structure where the Sisters of Steel are also scaling the pyramid. Crimson colored dollar bills begin to fall around them as Blood Money comes from around a corner to face them.
Killer Mike continues to utter his lyrics as the sun begins to sink with increasing speed.
Dear Lord, have mercy
On the ones that go through life
Like it’s a game we love
I won’t be forced to shut up when I don’t feel the same
Cause people gonna lie
Some people gonna steal
You gotta be careful not to shit where you live
Them people might try to have you killed
Lord have mercy, life is such a battlefield
The camera turns again to another side of the pyramid and we fly a level higher where X-Calibur stands facing Ayumi Seppuku. Ayumi flashes to her former self for just the briefest of seconds before her face sets with unwavering resolve and X-Calibur moves forward.
We SHOOT upward and the wall of the pyramid crumbles as Bobby Dean, Josh Conway, Doozer, IAM, Go Gensai, Steve Solex, Chadwick Kyle, and Brian Calahan all rush out, climbing the walls with urgency.
The level above sees Dan Stein holding his newly won Shut Up and Fight Championship. His challenger, Void steps from the shadows. Light and darkness meet in the middle as we rocket upward again as the sky turns darker.
The structure shakes and threatens to crumble as we see Buck Dresden and Arthur Pleasant poised for battle, Buck wearing the Iron Fist Championship around his waist.
We finally crest the top of the pyramid where NEMESIS stands, raising the World Heavyweight Championship high. Behind her, Joshua Breedlove reaches the top.
Moonlight shines down on the pyramid and all of the Soldiers, save for two, turn into brilliant neon streaks of light and race off into the distance. The pyramid itself becomes lined in neon lights.
Lord have mercy, life is such a battlefield
The highest level of the pyramid splits and opens, revealing a throne of solid gold with red trim.
Azraith and Lindsay reach this point together and stand face to face they charge one another and, just as they meet, the burst into streaks of light as we zoom into the throne and the Master of the Mat logo takes over the screen.
We cut backstage to the Epicenter loading dock to a scene of absolute chaos.
A high-pitched, guttural scream erupts from Patience Montgomery as she pounces on a member of the SHOOT Project security staff, raining down fists.
Another security team member arrives to help his fellow staff member only to be waylaid by Decius Montgomery. Decius sends a savage knee to the man’s gut and then HURLS him into a loading dock door with a loud, metallic CRASH!
Patience pulls out a metal spike and DRIVES it into the forehead of the first security guard, drawing blood immediately.
Decius begins to stomp at him, the man trying to curl into the fetal position and absorb the blows.
Patience Montgomery: Oh, no you don’t, love.
She SNATCHES him to a seated position and holds the spike close to his eye.
Patience Montgomery: Now, hold still.
She mimes a stabbing motion, but instead gently draws a symbol in the blood forehead with her finger.
That symbol? It’s a very rough version of a stylized “666” made to look like B’s on a very sloppily drawn pentacle.
???: That’s enough!!
From off camera comes a horde of security led by The Real Deal Josh Johnson.
Real Deal: That’s enough. I’m not tolerating this. Not tonight, not ever. You two, you’re banned from the building tonight. And you. Get them under control.
Real Deal looks off-camera as he utters that last sentence. The Twins look poised to pounce but the sound of crisp, snapping fingers stops them. Jacob Mephisto walks into the view of the camera and takes a long bite of a shiny red apple. After a few seconds, he nods at the twins, who stalk off immediately. Mephisto shrugs at The Real Deal.
Jacob Mephisto: Heh… kids.
We cut away from the carnage to get on with the show!
Eryk Masters: It’s ALREADY wild in here, so I’ll just cut right to it… Hello everyone! We are LIIIIIIVE. It is time, OG. Time to settle all the scores, time to crown a NEW (new) Master of the Mat and number one contender. Time to see if Drunk & Disorderly can dethrone the champs. Time to–
Other Guy: Didn’t know you were gonna read down the whole card there, E.
Eryk Masters: Well, there’s just so much going on here tonight. Contenderships, Championships, tournament winners, whatever that was that opened the show (which was very funny by the way), and scores! Grudges get settled!
The camera pans around to the capacity Epicenter crowd who are cheering their faces off as Masters and OG continue their conversation.
Other Guy: Surprised we’re not hearing from the Big Guy right now.
Eryk Masters: SANTA IS HERE???
Other Guy: What? No, E. Josh. Our boss. The big guy.
Eryk Masters: Oh, well you know how that goes. He doesn’t often do the on-screen authority thing, unless I guess Chadwick Kyle is involved…
Other Guy: …he’s in our ear right now telling us to shut up and get the show going…
Eryk Masters: And on that note, we’re gonna kick this show off with a fuckin’ BANG as the team of Lindsay Troy and Pat Cassidy, Drunk & Disorderly, take on the REIGNING WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS… THE UNHOLY CYBER ARMY. GRRRRAAAAHHHHHHHH.
Drunk & Disorderly Vs. Unholy Cyber Army (c)
Eryk Masters: Another big win for the Unholy Cyber Army! Who is going to stop them!?
Other Guy: All I know is with the backing of Joshua Breedlove and the Empire, these guys have just gotten better and better and scarier and scarier. They’re going to be a tough, tough task to conquer, but the good news is that we have a contendership match coming up later this evening where we might get some clarity on their next set of opponents.
Eryk Masters: Who’s reading down the card now, OG!?
Other Guy: –when Ria Lockhart and Danni Johnson, the Sisters of Steel, take on BLOOD MONEY for the next shot at the World Tag Team Champs!
Eryk Masters: Just gonna keep right on going, aren’t you?
Other Guy: But before we get to that, we have a score that’s about to get set–
Other Guy gets cut off as the Epicenter lights flicker, dim, and then die, plunging the hallowed SHOOT Project battleground into total darkness. The SHOOT Project Faithful begin to boo and jeer restlessly, but in hushed tones as pinpricks of light from smartphones in the crowd give the arena an eerie glow.
The silence is broken by the telltale rattle of a rattlesnake and the familiar hiss. Except, this time, the hissing is longer, more drawn out, and joined by several more. The darkened arena is assaulted with the sounds of snakes pulsing through the speakers.
The SHOOTtron flares to life with the image of a bright red apple as the hissing stops abruptly. On the screen a serpent begins to coil around the fruit. The king cobra faces the screen and flares its hood, letting out a final hiss as the screen goes black again.
The voice of movie villain Otis Driftwood cuts through the speakers, harsh and cold.
“It’s all true. The boogeyman is real… and you found him.”
The sudden sound of “Wicked” Wilson Pickett’s voice blasts through the speakers.
“TIIIIME… IS ON MY SIDE…
TIIIIME… IS ON MY SIDE…”
The lights flare to their absolute brightest for just a moment, before settling back to darkness, save for a single spotlight highlighting the stage where Jacob Mephisto stands, staring down at the ring.
Mephisto wears red tights tonight. His face, usually decorated with the simple symbol on his forehead, has been completely painted tonight. The base white coat is highlighted with black accents and the same usual symbol on his forehead.
He begins his trek to the ring as the Wicked Pickett continues his mellow, yet somehow haunting, tune.
You always say
You wanna be free
But you come runnin’ back
You come runnin’ back
You come runnin’ back
Mephisto makes his way toward the ring stopping about halfway down and stares out at the sold out crowd, his pale, grey eyes scanning the fans who are hurling boos, jeers, and insults his way.
Eryk Masters: I’ve called a lot of matches for Jacob Mephisto, folks. I’ve seen him in his various iterations here. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I don’t think he’s ever been scarier than he is right now.
Other Guy: I can’t help but agree with you there, E. We obviously can’t count out Jamie Johnson tonight. He’s got a major knockout victory over Mephisto. But Jacob Mephisto is as dangerous as he ever was right now.
Mephisto makes his way to the ringside area and slithers into the ring underneath the bottom rope, the spotlight following him the whole way. As he pushes himself up to his feet, he approaches the closest cameraman in one of the corners and looks directly into the camera.
Jacob Mephisto: I hope you’re watching, Sandman. I hope you’re all watching. Hey, Jester, if you’re watching, I hope you like the paint. It’s our anniversary! Tiiiime… is on my side… yes it is!
These last words he sings along with the music as he chuckles, the twisted face paint somehow making the song even more sinister.
As the music fades and the lights return to normal, Mephisto stalks the referee for just a second or two before tossing his head back and laughing mirthlessly and backing into a neutral corner.
Eryk Masters: Yea, something more has changed in this man. But, we’re about ready to see a great match either way!
Jacob Mephisto Vs. Jamie Johnson
Jamie Johnson rises to one knee in the center of the ring. Exhausted from his battle with Jacob Mephsito he falls backwards and leans against the bottom rop, facing the entrance ramp. The lights in the arena flicker and “Prelude in C Blunt Funk” begins to play over the speakers.
Eryk Masters: That’s…That’s Adrian Reyes’ Music. What’s the REIGN Champion doing here tonight, OG?
Other Guy: Maybe he’s here to make the jump? Who knows, either way, this is about to get interesting.
The music continue to broadcast over the speakers as Jamie Johnson rises to his feet. He makes his way to the opposite end of the ring, facing the ramp and leans over onto the top rope.
Eryk Masters: I can tell you this much, Jamie Johnson just can’t catch a break.
Other Guy: I think Jamie would like to just get through a single match without someone coming down at the end to have something to say to him. This dude must have a neon pink target tattooed on his forehead.
From behind the curtain comes a motorized wheelchair. Sitting inside the wheelchair, Adrian Reyes is slumped back in the chair unconscious. Both of his hands are tied to the hand rests. The REIGN Championship is strapped around his waist. The audience lets out an audible “gasp.” The music cuts off as the chair continues to make its way down the ramp.
Eryk Masters: What in god’s name is this?
As the chair begins to slowly make it’s way closer to the ring, Jamie can see that Reyes is completley unconscious. The closer the chair gets the audience can see a note attached to Reye’s bare chest. The glint of the safety pin going through the paper and flesh glints in the arena lights as it gets closer to Jaime, who is now climbing out of the ring to get closer to Reyes. The chair comes to a stop at the ring as Jamie rushes to Reyes.
Eryk Masters: That note! That note is SAFETY PINNED to Reyes’ Chest!? Who would do this? This is just beyond disgusting, OG.
Other Guy: This just goes beyond, Eryk. I can;t think of any reason that someone would do this and what it has to do with Jamie Johnson. We need to get some help down here.
Jaime reaches forward and grabs the note, tearing the paper from the pin, careful not to distrub the safety pin. There is a smiley face etched into the note in blood and beneath it, simply “AVARICE” is written on the bottom. Jamie motions for some kind of help from the back as he drops the note to the floor and begins to untie the wrists of Adrian Reyes. Reyes slumps forward into Jamie’s arms. The lights in the arena go down once again. This time there is a purple glow illuminating the entrance ramp. The opening to “Saturn Barz” begins to play over the speakers. Jamie Johnson looks towards the entrance ramp. The crowd as fallen silent. After a few moments SHOOT Project staffers and Medics begin to make their way down the ramp with a stretcher.
Eryk Masters: Thank god we are finally getting some help down here. Reyes is hurt. He needs medical attention immediately.
Other Guy: We’re going to cut away here and let these guys get him out of here. I am just speechless.
Mike de los Huesos Vs. Victor Thane
Other Guy: Gotta say, those two guys fucking went at it. There was a lot of bad blood there.
Eryk Masters: Did you know that Mikey could go like that? Because I sure didn’t.
Other Guy: Lots of questions coming out of that match, honestly. Obviously, the Proper Villainz are no more, but Thane is GOOD in the ring. Akuma Lee is GOOD in the ring. Are these two guys just gonna be done or what’s the deal here?
Eryk Masters: Hard to say, OG. Thane didn’t make a lot of friends here when he was at his most prolific, so who knows. That’s a question for Thane, his agent, and the bossman.
Other Guy: Well of course he didn’t make a lot of friends. He’s a PROPER VILLAIN, E.
Eryk Masters: Be that as it may, it’ll be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out for Thane and Akuma, whether they’ll be done or not. I personally have no clue, and there’s nobody in my ear telling me to the contrary, sooooo…
A camera shows a giddy-looking Blaze Claymore practically skipping down the halls of the SHOOT Project Epicenter with a handful of what looks to be Kinkos print-outs.
Oblivious to the camera silently watching him, Blaze slows his skip to a walk and straightens his posture as he walks towards the nearest locker room.
The camera barely catches the letters “VA” from its position as Blaze shakes his head, slaps his cheeks with his hands.
Blaze Claymore: Onion. UN-YUN. UNNNNN YUN.
Blaze grabs his jaw and moves it around with his hand.
Blaze Claymore: Red leather. Yellow leather. Red leather. Yellow leather. You got this. You got this.
The SAG Award Winning* Actor knocks on the door loudly and grips the papers in his hand.
Opening the door and greeting Blaze is Punky the Clown. She cocks her head in confusion while Blaze stares back, either two stunned to move or trying to stare her down.
Punky: Can I help you?
Blaze Claymore: Ha! You wish! It’s me who is here to help YOU – by making sure you get the chance to scout the next big thing in SHOOT Project.
Punky leans back, amused.
Punky: Go on.
Blaze Claymore: I’m sure you’ve heard about my Master of the Matt match with America’s greatest hero, Johnny Patriot. We’ll be kicking off tomorrow’s Master of the Mat with a BANG! And when that’s done everyone will remember the name Blaze Claymore. You’ve heard it here first – do yourself a favor now and be there; your future self will thank you.
Blaze then hands Punky one of the pieces of paper in his hand – a flier promoting “Master of the Matt” with a dramatic font and big letters saying “A BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF SHOOT PROJECT” at the top.
Punky takes the flier without a word and nods. As she does, Blaze points a finger at Punky and slowly backs away, bringing another finger up to do a “I’ll be watching you” gesture as he slowly backs away.
Punky: Okay then. Bye now.
As she shuts the door the camera catches the voice of the other member of the Pop Punks, Bubble Gum, chiming in with a cheery voice:
Voice: Who was that? I love visitors!
Punky: I think it was that Blaze guy? The one who got thrown into a craft services table, remember?
Bubble Gum: Oh! Yes! That was great! I watched that on YouTube too many times to count.
Punky: Anyways – there’s some… thing he wants people to go to. Nothing important.
As the door shuts, the camera shows a stoic Blaze slowly begin to breathe heavily – his shoulders raising and falling in staggered bursts. Violently, he throws the rest of the fliers on the ground – sending them scattering everywhere as he silently, angrily, stomps his way down the hallway, past the camera.
Sisters of Steel Vs. Blood Money
There’s a knock on the door, causing Azraith DeMitri to look up and pull his ear buds out.
Ayumi Seppuku: It’s me, Azraith. I wanted to stop by and… chat.
Azraith stands up and makes his way over to the door, dressed down in a sweatshirt and sweatpants opening the door to see his friend standing there in what can only be described as if Mad Max and Jem and the Holograms shared the same universe.
In full ring gear, Ayumi smiles nervously and steps into Azraith’s locker room and grabs a seat on the bench, sitting down and clasping her hands together.
Azraith: Been a while, Ayumi. I like the new look…
Ayumi chuckles nervously.
Ayumi: Thanks… NEMESIS inspired me, actually.
There’s a heavy weight in the air as the Champion’s name gets dropped. Azraith sits himself back down and looks across at Ayumi.
Azraith: What’s this about? If this is about X…my mind is a bit focused on Lindsay Troy at the moment.
Ayumi waves her hand and shakes her head.
Ayumi: No, no… whatever happens tonight happens. I think it means a lot more to him than it does to me. What’s one more ego stroke, right? I just wanted to come by and say thank you – for being there when I needed it. For accepting me when I came back like I had never left. And for giving me that push to do what I needed to do to feel whole.
I… should have said something sooner.
Azraith leans back and laughs.
Azraith: All I did was just tell you what ya already knew. I appreciate it though, regardless.
Ayumi pauses and Azraith’s eyes narrow.
Azraith: …but that’s not all is it?
Ayumi: I… know how awkward this whole Master of the Mat situation must be for you.
Azraith: Understatement of the century.
Ayumi is silent for a bit, legs nervously shaking.
Ayumi: You know, when Lindsay and I first got VALOR off the ground, there was the Proper Villanz, who looked like they would run roughshod over the company – and of course Joshua Breedlove’s minions. Everything was black and white – but then Koga, Sarah King, and Vignochi showed up and I lost myself. I only cared about getting revenge – nothing else. Now I’m on the other side and the Villanz collapsed under the weight of their own ambitions, LIndsay and Breedlove got together, and the main event are two of my best friends – the two people who I owe everything to here in SHOOT – fighting for a shot at the title.
Azraith crosses his arms.
Azraith: It’s just a match, Ayumi… Am I terrified that I’ll need to choose between being Heavyweight Champion and taking that away from my daughter? You bet. But I’m not going to pull my punches in our match. That wouldn’t be fair to Lindsay or to NEMESIS.
Ayumi: And I wouldn’t expect you to. What I suppose I came here to say is that while I was focused on finding myself I ended up losing my connection to VALOR. I know who I am, FINALLY, after all these years but I don’t know where I “fit.”
Azraith doesn’t say anything for a while… but then leans forward and looks Ayumi in the eyes, peering out from behind white, purple, and black grease paint. Without any sense of anger, or sarcasm – just a quiet earnestness.
Azraith: Are you asking me permission to be in Lindsay Troy’s corner over mine tonight? Or in my daughter’s corner if I manage to defeat Lindsay? If that’s what it is I understand…but what do you want, Ayumi?
Ayumi opens her mouth to reply but then pauses – thinking, before her shoulders drop in defeat.
Ayumi: I don’t know.
The two of them sit in silence, for a long time, as Azraith’s question goes unanswered and the two friends look at each other, uncertain of what comes next.
Other Guy: So, we have a new team in line for a shot at the Unholy Cyber Army, and that’s the Sisters of Steel. I love that matchup, honestly. I think we’re going to learn a lot about them in the coming weeks.
Eryk Masters: Oh yeah, definitely. They’ve been tearing it up the last several shows and they’ve definitely earned the opportunity they will see in the future, and what’s more, SHOOT’s tag team division is fucking S-T-A-C-K-E-D. Blood Money’s on the fringe, Drunk & Disorderly are right there… the Montgomery Twins, maybe? There’s a lot on the horizon if the Cyber Army isn’t careful.
Other Guy: It’s true, and who knows who else might show up or come back or anything like that. But next up? Ayumi and X-Calibur are going to square off. This match came together fairly quickly, but there’s a lot of history between the two, dating back SO many years.
Eryk Masters: Will X-Calibur conquer a demon that’s haunted him OR… will Ayumi Seppuku continue reclaiming what she’s lost from the legendary beginnings of her career?! We… shall find out! NEXT.
Ayumi Seppuku Vs. X-Calibur
We open on a shot of nondescript Midwestern farm land, wheat as far as the eye can see, a bright red barn on the horizon. A broad American flag waves proudly in the wind from the side of the structure.
A baritone authoritative voice narrates.
This country was founded on the ideals of individual liberty, hard work, and the American Dream…
The shot fades slowly to a construction site. We see hard-hatted red-blooded Americans diligently working, referencing stretched out blueprints on a table.
America is a place where anybody, regardless of their background, can rise to the top through grit and determination…
The music takes a sullen turn, and the images on the screen succumb to bursts of static.
But something is wrong…
We shift to an exasperated elderly couple sitting at a kitchen table, a pile of overdue bills scattered about. The shot quickly cuts to a long unemployment line, followed by quick shots of gas and food prices rising drastically.
When there is poor leadership, we all suffer…
Black and white stills of SHOOT Project champions come on the screen one by one.
These are not the champions you need. These are not the champions you deserve…
The music abruptly stops, replaced by a patriotic melody.
In trying times like these, SHOOT Project deserves a champion it can believe in…
A champion that we can trust…
A series of shots fill the screen, showing the progression of a life: an Eagle Scout ceremony, sports trophies, a college graduation.
A champion we need…
The screen fades slowly to an absolutely beaming smile. As the shot pans back, it reveals a classically handsome man in his early 30’s, hair perfectly coiffed. A pristine charcoal grey suit, pressed white shirt, red tie and, of course, a prominent and gleaming American flag lapel pin. He speaks with a slight Southern drawl, just rhotic enough to drop the r’s in a charming way.
My name is Cal Crawford… and I approve this message.
Other Guy: How do you already have a Cal Crawford button pin, E?!
Eryk Masters: OG, some day you’ll learn that I am on the cutting edge of any and all talent in the SHOOT Project. A more APPROPRIATE question would be two parts. One, why WOULDN’T I have a Cal Crawford pin and TWO, why don’t YOU have a Cal Crawford pin?
Other Guy: I… okay… That was a big win by Ayumi Seppuku and X-Calibur is going to have to get his redemption another day, unfortunately for him. What do you think is next for Ayumi?
Eryk Masters: I’m not sure, OG. There’s a lot that she could get involved in. She’s got history with Breedlove, there’s the NEMESIS connection with VALOR and Azraith DeMitri, she could challenge for the Iron Fist Championship… she could get involved in lots of things. I think she’s poised to have a breakout year in 2022.
Other Guy: Speaking of potential breakouts, we’ve got quite the contest coming up for you next, as a bunch of newcomers all get together in a battle royal to determine the NEXT challenger for Azraith DeMitri’s Sin City Championship!
Eryk Masters: There’s a part of me that is still mega shocked that Azraith took that belt off of Breedlove, the LONGEST REIGNING–
Other Guy: Stop. But, that does bring up another interesting thread coming out of the last two matches of this show, E. If Breedlove wins against NEMESIS and Azraith wins, Breedlove is going to have to go up against someone he has never beaten, and someone who he admits himself has his number. And if NEMESIS wins–
Eryk Masters: We’re being told to “stop acting like we’re posting on Reddit and move on…” so, up next, a BATTLE ROYAL for the #1 Contendership to the Sin City Championship!
Steve Solex, Ignatius Albert Martin, Chadwick Kyle, Bobby Dean, Doozer, Go Gensai, Josh Conway, & Brian Calahan
Eryk Masters: Hell yeah! Big win for Conway! He’s had a great debut here, and he’s going to be challenging Azraith DeMitri, a SHOOT Project Hall of Famer and legend as his reward!
Other Guy: Is that a reward?!
Eryk Masters: I can’t remember if I ever fought Az in my wrestling career, but I’ve called enough of his matches to know that it’s going to be a brutal affair between these two guys. Conway’s had experience on his side in so many ways, but against Azraith, that advantage will not be present.
Other Guy: Oh that’s true. Az is like a 200 year veteran, and while he’s focused on the Master of the Mat tournament right now and the potential implications that come with that, you can bet that Josh Conway will be in for a HELL of a fight.
Eryk Masters: Wouldn’t it be something though if Conway can somehow knock him off and claim that belt? Big time way to introduce yourself to the SHOOT Project.
Other Guy: You’ve got that right. Up next though, we’ve got a bitter, bloody feud that could be culminating right here, E, as Dan Stein and Void battle it out.
Eryk Masters: I realize it’s not super appropes to talk about how the title is second hand in this thing, but Stein just won it, and this has been going on for months. It’s my pick for Feud of the Year, so I mean… while this IS for the Shut Up and Fight Championship, it’s about more than that, as Void and Dan Stein square off in a submission match. NEXT.
Void Vs. Dan Stein (c)
Eryk Masters: Both these men…I’m…my god, OG. I’m breathless.
Other Guy: This is the only way this war was going to end. After months and months of just…trauma between these two men. This is the only way for it to end.
Bruises and blood cover both men’s faces. Dan Stein isn’t beautiful anymore. Void isn’t a shadow anymore. They are just men, beaten and broken. Stein shakes his arm to check to see if there’s feeling still in it and he smirks. He points to his arm and then points to Void, who has yet to get him, despite his submission specialties. Stein looks to the crowd, who are exhausted from this war. With his one good arm, he points to Void and then motions for him to come and finish the job!
Eryk Masters: You have GOT to be kidding me! Dan Stein, you can’t beat this guy in this kind of match, let it go! Tap out! Go home! Be with your wife, your kid, let him just walk away with something! You KNOW he won’t give up!
Other Guy: That’s just it, Eryk, Dan Stein CAN’T quit. Maybe he should walk away, but he won’t! He knows, I think, if he gives Void an inch Void will try to take a mile! This will never be over if he can’t prove once and for all that The Lights can conquer the Dark!
Void reaches out and locks Stein’s hand in a test of strength, but Stein throws a kick that Void ducks, bringing Void’s arm between his legs! Stein tries to ride Void down to the mat in an armbar but Void blocks the drop! Stein’s feet SLIP from the blood below them! Void FLINGS Stein, who manages to land on his feet! He takes a step back, SUPERKICK NO! Void grabs the heel of Stein’s foot and twists him for an ankle lock! Stein, however, rolls through and Void lands against the ropes. Void turns and rushes Stein with a roaring elbow that Stein ducks, jumps to the middle rope, leaps back to Void, Void catches him, full nelson, Stein slides out, lands on his back, he throws his knees up and NAILS Void in the midsection! Stein scrambles from Void and he spots it: the sledgehammer.
Other Guy: Oh hell! Dan Stein sees the sledgehammer!
Void wipes the sweat and blood from his face as he hears Stein screaming for him. He turns…STEIN SMASHES VOID’S NOSE WITH THE HEAD OF THE SLEDGEHAMMER! Void’s nose is BROKEN. Void calls out in agony as blood GUSHES from his now broken nose as his eyes are swelling up even further. Stein looks at the sledgehammer as Void tries to reset his own nose. Void knows no other options, so he resets his nose with a sickening CRACK. Stein walks over to Void, who is actively now trying to claw at his swelling eyes to try to see and Stein DRIVES the sledgehammer into the back of Void’s neck! Void is down on his stomach now, gasping for air but unable to move. Stein picks the sledgehammer up once again and SLAMS it down on Void’s spine once more.
Eryk Masters: Void…almost appears lifeless. He looks absolutely…dead.
Stein picks the sledgehammer back up…and the handle is nearly broken at the head. Stein drops the weapon beside Void’s body and stands there, straddling the monstrous man’s body. He drops down to his knees, hooks Void’s arms around his legs, locks his fingers around Void’s mouth and nose, and sinks in a modified camel clutch, twisting Void’s already broken nose to the side! Void can’t call for help, he can’t reach for the ropes, his legs aren’t even moving.
Other Guy: I can’t believe it, Eryk! I can’t believe it but…it looks like…it looks like Dan Stein might…
The referee checks on Void, who does not respond. Stein arches back once more and Void’s hand groggily waves to the referee!
Eryk Masters: VOID TAPS! VOID SUBMITS! VOID SUBMITS! DAN STEIN WINS!
Stein releases the hold and Void drops down, lifeless.
YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH
YOU’VE GOT THE POWERRRRRR
“The Touch” by Stan Bush plays as the exhausted fans ERUPT in cheers. Dan Stein lies down next to Void, both men a bloody and defeated mess. EMTs rush in and start checking on both men.
Other Guy: I’ve never ever called…anything like what I’ve just witnessed.
Eryk Masters: My hat’s off to both of these men, OG. Void…Thomas…Dan Stein…you two just…changed each other’s lives…forever.
Dan Stein is sitting upright now, nodding to the EMTs that check on him. The EMTs start trying to clear space for a gurney for Void. Stein watches the EMTs swarming Void and he feels the emotion well up within him. He nods his head, picks himself up off of the mat, and composes himself. He takes the Shut Up and Fight Championship and walks over to where Void is being treated. Void is completely lifeless still, the referees unable to get a reaction from him. Stein says nothing. He looks away from the scene. There is nothing left he can do and nothing left he can say.
Dan Stein leaves the ring a free man. He thinks of his wife and their daughter and smiles a small smile, listening to his theme music and the fans cheering as if they were miles away. He can’t look back at what he’s leaving behind in that ring. He doesn’t have to. He only knows the one direction he’s going.
Arthur Pleasant Vs. Buck Dresden (c)
“American Venom” dies down as Buck Dresden is handed a microphone. He stands there, Iron Fist Championship in hand, and stares out at the sea of fans. The SHOOT Project Faithful cheer for him and applaud him as he stands there, alone in the ring. He stands still long enough to catch his breath and, after a moment, composes himself and begins.
Buck: I’m…gonna keep this real damn brief. Congratulations on a good fight, Artie. Hope you find what you’re lookin’ for in life.
He pauses, shifting topics before he speaks up once more.
Buck: I’m the Iron Fist Champion. In the last month I’ve seen the landscape changin’ in this company with new faces walkin’ around backstage an’ the question on my mind is real clear. Who the hell thinks they can stand toe to toe with the All-American Outlaw, the SHOOT Project’s Five Star General, the newest Cornerstone, the latest Franchise, an’ the man that put this place on his shoulders an’ bore the weight an’ put the work in night in an’ night out? People around here act like this place is easy. Like they got it easy here. That’s cute. Real cute.
Buck: So this goes out to you people in the back. I’m not yer friend. I’m not yer ally. I’m yer measurin’ stick. I don’t give a damn what countdown you ranked on, what year end awards you won, what podcast you got interviewed on, how many followers you got on Spitter, an’ I damn sure don’t care what titles or matches you did anywhere else. Fact of the matter is I come too far an’ worked too hard to sit still an’ let the people that believe in me an’ the people that love me as much as I love them forget who the hell I am. So fuck who you think you are an’ fuck what you think you done.
The fans cheer him as he glares at the camera.
Buck: I’m gonna give y’all one chance to call yer shot. I don’t care if you’re a rookie or a wannabe legend. I wanna beat your ass. I don’t care if I never even shook yer damn hand or you’ve worn my goddamn t-shirt. I wanna beat your ass. My name is Buck Dresden an’ until you step in the ring with me? Nothin’ you done means a damn thing.
He looks down at the Iron Fist Championship and sneers.
Buck: Welcome to my SHOOT Project.
“American Venom” kicks back in and Buck continues to glare at the camera as he buckles the Iron Fist Championship around his waist. He repositions the faceplate on his midsection and he points to the camera. Then, he cocks his shotgun, aims it at the camera, and mouths the simple taunt “Bang.” Buck chuckles and saunters to the ropes, exiting the ring.
Eryk Masters: So are we fantasy booking dream matches, OG!?
Other Guy: I mean, in my head I am. Buck Dresden has thrown down an absolute GAUNTLET challenging literally anyone in the company to come at him for that belt of his.
Eryk Masters: Buck Vs. Azraith… Buck Vs. KIMO… Buck Vs. Lindsay Troy… Buck Vs. Kenshin… Buck Vs. Stein… Buck Vs. Jamie… Buck Vs. Mephisto…
Other Guy: E has gone off into his own little world, which is okay. He’s right. There are a lot of potentially AMAZING matches that can come from this open challenge, so we’ll have to wait and see who steps up and who wants to risk catching a shitkicking from the Iron Fist Champion… Buck Dresden.
Eryk Masters: Okay, I’m back. What were we talking about?
Other Guy: We were just about to lead into the next match.
Eryk Masters: AWESOME. So, next up, we’ve got a rivalry that has been bitter and simmering ever since NEMESIS won the World title. Joshua Breedlove has been hounding, attacking, and calling her out the entire time and NEMESIS has responded in kind. Both competitors? They want to take this W and shove it down the throat of their opponent.
Other Guy: That is a great way to put it, actually. Next up, we’ve got Joshua Breedlove challenging for the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship when he takes on the YOUNGEST person to ever hold the title, NEMESIS.
Lindsay Troy presses her hands against the wall of the Epicenter, arching her back as she stretches out her arms and legs, getting limber for the night’s main event while trying to put her disappointment over losing to the Unholy Cyber Army out of her mind. She had picked as secluded a place as she could – she always prefers to warm up for singles matches alone, and besides, it felt just a little awkward sharing the VALOR locker room with NEMESIS tonight, given the youngster’s comments during the PPV lead-up period.
This made it all the more shocking when someone tapped her on the shoulder, causing her to spin around and give an uncharacteristic yelp.
Staring back at her was Ayumi Seppuku in a black SHOOT Project tracksuit, hands in the sweatshirt pockets as she stepped back, also a bit surprised at Lindsay’s reaction.
Lindsay: Jesus, Ayumi. Don’t do that.
She runs her fingers through her hair.
Lindsay: How did you know where to find me?
Ayumi smiles and taps her temple.
Ayumi: Just a bit of deductive reasoning.
Lindsay eyes her friend suspiciously.
Lindsay: You walked every inch of the Epicenter looking for me, didn’t you?
Ayumi opens her palms and shrugs her shoulders.
Ayumi: Guilty as charged.
Lindsay smiles, but then refocuses.
Lindsay: What’s up? It’s not time for Judy and Breedlove, yet, is it?
Ayumi: No. Pretty soon though, I think. Are you going to watch?
Lindsay: Yeah, I need to. I could be facing one of them after it’s all said and done tonight. It’s just…
She hesitates, then shrugs.
Lindsay: Shit’s a little weird, y’know?
Ayumi: I know. Trust me, I know.
The two stand there – silent – for an uncomfortable amount of time.
Lindsay: So… I haven’t seen much of you since, well… haven’t seen much of you at all lately. Was figuring you’d come train with us at TCS for Master of the Mat, but I suppose you went to train with Azraith. I know you two are close.
Ayumi winces despite Lindsay’s genuinely curious demeanor.
Ayumi: Lindsay I… I’m sorry. I really, really am. I’ve been a shit friend. I’ve been a shit team member. And I’ve been so focused on myself that I’ve lost focus on everything else. Lost focus on what we wanted to start with VALOR. Now look… NEMESIS has THE belt, you could get it yourself, and damned if you and Pat shouldn’t be the new tag champs right now. I haven’t been there really for any of it…
Lindsay smiles and puts a hand on Ayumi’s shoulder.
Lindsay: Look… I can’t even begin to understand what it was you were going through all those years, and these past few months in SHOOT, with everything weighing on you. And I get it… you and Azraith go back a long time. I’m not gonna force you to choose sides…
Lindsay drops her arm to her side.
Lindsay: …but I can tell you that as far as I’m concerned, VALOR still needs Ayumi Seppuku. I just hope Ayumi Seppuku still needs VALOR.
Ayumi lowers her head and turns away from Lindsay’s gaze – as she does a huge roar erupts from somewhere far away.
Both turn their heads towards the sound and then look back at each other and nod, the two of them walking side by side as they head off to watch the World Heavyweight Championship match.
Joshua Breedlove Vs. NEMESIS (c)
Other Guy: Oh this… this is terrible. This is awful.
Eryk Masters: What do you MEAN, OG?!?!?! This is GREAT. JOSHUA BREEDLOVE IS THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION.
Other Guy: I do not want to be on Spitter or anywhere near a screen once he gets to a point where he can talk again… that’s going to be fucking. obnoxious.
Eryk Masters: THE EMPIRE IS STRONG.
Other Guy: Let’s… okay, let’s focus. First, obviously congrats to the new champ. You’re a shitbag, but you can wrestle. Just as importantly, though? Congrats to NEMESIS for her history making reign. She’s an INCREDIBLE talent and deserves all the accolades in the world. She pushed Breedlove to his limit and let’s not pretend like this is the only time she’s going to get here.
Eryk Masters: You’re right about that. NEMESIS has all the makings of a future hall of famer and multiple-time World Champion. She’s the youngest World Heavyweight Champion AND the first second-generation wrestler EVER to win that belt. Her resume ALMOST speaks for itself and she’s what? Do we even know how old she is?
Other Guy: Rumor has it that she’s 21 years old.
Eryk Masters: 21 years old! Oh yeah, she’s gonna be around for a LONG time. BUT LET’S NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE NEW CHAMP! THE LEADER OF THE EMPIRE! THE EMPEROR HIMSELF!
Other Guy: Ugh.
Eryk Masters: JOSHUA BREEDLOVE WOOOOOOO. And OG, let’s not forget… we’ve got the Master of the Mat final coming up next, so holy shit… we will see who Breedlove’s first challenger will be QUITE QUICKLY. Who’s your pick? I’m team Azraith.
Other Guy: There’s a lot to like about Lindsay Troy and her chances and her wild run through this tournament while also dealing with the Unholy Cyber Army, but… I’m also going to be team Azraith, I think. Just too much presence and experience in situations just like this. We’ll see, though. We’ll see…
The sound of the keyboard followed by the beat of the drum is complemented with the hype of Minister Michael Mahendere as the “Salt of the Earth” chorus begins. The crowd’s attention is toward the stage where flashing white lights engulf the entrance. Minister Mehendere shouts “LET’S GO!” through the PA as the music flows melodically. CK Butcher’s music video can be seen on screen with highlights of his first two wins back in SHOOT Project. His catchphrase SEIZE IT flashes across the scene between each action filled clip.
“ARE YOU EXCITED?” Shouts Minister Mehendere as he then begins to sing. That’s when CK Butcher struts slowly, confidently, onto the stage with a giant pearl white smile from ear-to-ear. The superstar is wearing white trunks with a sky blue outline, white knee pads, white boots with sky blue laces, and an all white cape wrapped around his neck. His goatee is well kept and trimmed. His hair, tapered, maintained, is slicked back. He holds his arms out with embrace toward the crowd as their arms wave in the air to the energetic beat and flow of the African choir.
Eryk Masters: It’s hard to believe that nearly one year ago this man was perhaps the most horrific, vile creature in SHOOT Project.
Other Guy: It’s really hard to believe, Eryk, and I’m not the first to admit that I still struggle to perceive CK Butcher as anything other than a Blue Ridge Butcher out to seek revenge for whatever vengeance he seeks.
Eryk Masters: He’s proved, thus far, since returning in late August that he’s been trustworthy and cooperative; as a matter of fact, O.G., he’s made a handful of friends that would have looked the other way in 2020. Quite a miraculous feat, if I do say.
Butcher stands at the edge of the stage with his eyes shut, a big smile, and his arms open. The fans continue to wave their arms in the air as Mahendere transitions the opening lines. It’s at about one minute, fifteen seconds into the tune, that Butcher spins around as Mahendere’s choir sings joyfully together. Fireworks explode from the stage as Butcher points to what’s written on his cape in bold, blue font: SEIZE IT. He spins around and begins to gleefully jog down the stage.
Other Guy: Quite an entrance.
Eryk Masters: CK Butcher has spent the last few weeks promoting that there will be a former SHOOT Project champion in the ring with him tonight to help him continue the trend. Butcher’s mental health awareness and kindness reach has been ongoing for about four months and we’ve seen a handful of superstars latch on to his verbiage.
Other Guy: If there’s one thing Butcher is extremely good at doing – it’s talking. The man can talk about anything and somehow can pull you in, and not only that – he can win you over. He is a fantastic manipulator, to say the least.
Eryk Masters: Well, I don’t think he’s trying to manipulate anyone now, but there are sceptics across the board who think otherwise. Some of the theories consider Butcher to be devising quite the Hellish plan.
Other Guy: Well, when you’re known for being shady…that’s where people are going to jump.
Butcher is up on the ring apron and smiles with gratitude toward an accepting crowd. He bends through the ropes and hurries to the center of the ring. He quickly removes his cape and slings it over the ropes facing the hard camera so that it drapes and SEIZE IT can be predominately viewed. He walks over to the corner where a ringside attendant reaches up to hand him a microphone. His theme music begins to fade as he adjusts and stops in the center of the ring.
CK Butcher: I can’t begin to express how great it is to stand in this ring in front of the greatest crowd in professional wrestling…
There’s a huge pop that follows and Butcher’s grin grows larger.
CK Butcher: I haven’t seen action since I took the fall against X-Calibur at the beginning of the greatest tournament in this industry, and before I continue with the reason why I’m here tonight – I’d like to extend my congratulations to Lindsay Troy and Azraith Demitri…
This is followed by an even larger pop as the crowd goes wild over the name drops.
Eryk Masters: That’s our main event of the evening, folks, and Master of the Mat final; it’s two legends of the ring facing off to see who truly is…the master…of the mat.
CK Butcher: I also want to congratulate each and every individual who won tonight and move into the year 2022 aiming for bigger, and better things. Great achievements are what all of us strive for, and that’s exactly why I stand in this ring tonight. We’ve come a long way, ladies and gentlemen. We’re all struggling in some way, but we all have the ability to change that. For those of you who can identify your struggles and want to work together on conclusions then I am happy to tell you…there is a way. For those of you who do not notice your struggles, or do not want to fix what you feel aint broken then I am happy to tell you…there is a way. Nobody in this arena is lost. On the contrary – I’ve found YOU, and you…have found ME. There is a way! There are…Silver Linings!
CK Butcher: Capital S, and capital L. That’s right! As a member of the Silver Linings, and spokesperson for building a better today, tomorrow, and forever, I – Me – CK Butcher, welcome you to the beginning of beginnings. Together, you and I, are going to SEIZE the opportunity to be BETTER. We are going to SEIZE the opportunity to flip the switch for change. We are going to SEIZE each and every day, each and every moment, and we’re going to capitalize on any opportunity to help each other. We will never, EVER, sit back and watch our friends, or families, suffer because they feel helpless. No, my friends, we will be there, we will bring positive conclusions and we will GUIDE. We will…SEIZE –
And that’s when the crowd decides to join in, much to Butcher’s smiling surprise…
Crowd and Butcher together: IT!
Other Guy: Wow, it’s like he’s got them conditioned. Drugged. Brainwashed.
Eyrk Masters: Oh come on now, OG. He’s got a great message and there are plenty of fans in attendance who believe, and there are plenty of people in this world that love to know there’s someone who believes in them…
CK Butcher: Precisely! I’m feeling good, are you feeling good?
Butcher’s enthusiasm gains another loud cheer as he continues.
CK Butcher: I’ll tell you what I’m also feeling very good about. I want to proudly express how happy I am with the progress of Mr. Charles Jackson-Bowe; known to the wrestling world as Elbow Jackson.
There’s a mixed reaction coming from the SHOOT faithful as most recognize Elbow Jackson as being a joke thug that says misogynistic things and is associated with drug abuse and prison sentences.
Other Guy: How is Elbow Jackson still around? This is one of the biggest mysteries of SHOOT Project. The guy has had a contract since 2020 and somehow hasn’t been cut, fired, or sent packing due to the controversies that surround him.
CK Butcher: Elbow has not only improved physically, but mentally he’s focused and he has fulfilled DIRECTION! You see – Elbow had TWO options. One – SEIZE the moments while wandering the vast jungle these Las Vegas streets often represent, or TWO – SEIZE an opportunity to become better, stronger, faster, WISER…and RESPECTED! Elbow was ready to either spend the rest of his life behind bars, or buried six feet under; both often comparable. Elbow thought there would be no way out. There would be absolutely no answer to a destiny he felt was predictable, and easily manifested. Sometimes it’s OK to be wrong, and that’s where we reversed course. I listened to him. I understood him. I wanted to show him another side of life that he could benefit from and that could benefit from him. There’s A LOT of greatness in this world, my friends. And…every single human being should have access to the benefits. Sometimes they find their own way. Sometimes they gain assistance. Either way…the gifts they receive from these benefits are FREE, and all they need to do to acquire them is to be ready to…
It’s as if the crowd predicted it…
Butcher and Crowd: SEIZE IT!
Butcher nods with a smile as he scans across the fanscape at the faces that smile back at him.
CK Butcher: Now, let’s talk about seizing ANOTHER opportunity. I have been in communication over the last month with an individual who is no stranger to this wrestling ring. This individual noticed the Silver Linings and realized our potential. This individual wants to grow with us, and not against us! I am happy to say that this individual is motivated to change direction and help us market a better today, tomorrow…and FOREVER! I’ve been teasing this for a couple weeks, and I no longer want to keep you waiting! ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE TO YOU…
Eryk Masters: It’s time, OG!
Other Guy: I’m kind of excited, Eryk. This could be good…
He turns to the stage as the crowd’s anticipation rises.
CK Butcher: …DOCTOR…NED…REFORM!
“Fur Elise” by Cole Rolland
You cannot begin to quantify the collective groan that rises from the SHOOT Project fans as the theme begins to play. The theme goes on for a while with no one in sight, milking the suspense…
…when the cascade of BOOOOOs begin as Ned Reform emerges onto the entrance. The man who hasn’t graced SHOOT Project in quite some time looks exactly as he did the last time we saw him: bald, bearded, and dressed like the stuffiest college professor you’ve ever had. Ned can’t keep the smile off his face as he stops to take in the reaction from the fans. He places a hand over his heart and acts choked up before shaking it off and walking toward the ring.
Eryk Masters: This is… well, this is totally unexpected. We haven’t seen Ned Reform since he lost a “Loser Leaves SHOOT” match for the Shut Up and Fight Championship against Courtney Hatchett last spring.
Other Guy: So what’s he doing here? Last I heard, that match meant he was banned from the SHOOT Project.
Eryk Masters: You heard Butcher… apparently he has… well, reformed Ned Reform!
The Socrates of Slam wipes his feet on the mat before slipping through the ropes and extending his hand to CK Butcher with a broad smile on his face.
But, in Salt of the Earth fashion, Butcher doesn’t shake Reform’s hand. He, instead, opens his arms wide and pulls Ned in with a giant hug! The crowd’s mixed reaction continues as Butcher pats Reform on the back and is excited to have him in the ring.
Other Guy: Cade Sydal. Isaac Entragian. Trey Willet. There’s a list out there that has some of the greatest, most unbelievable champions in SHOOT Project history. Ned Reform? He’s literally a speck of dust on the mantle where the men I’ve listed show off their belt collection.
The Good Doctor takes the mic from CK Butcher. With an appreciative smile on his face, he turns to address the crowd. He raises the mic to his lips, but he’s stopped by a tidal wave of crowd disapproval.
Reform lowers the mic, looking around at the capacity crowd jeering him. He looks to Butcher, who appears to offer him some words of encouragement, but Reform shakes it off in an “I got this” motion. He looks at the crowd like one might to a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum. Shaking his head, he again raises up the mic…
Ned Reform: …I can wait.
The mic drops again and Ned turns to Butcher with a shrug. Reform tucks the mic under his armpit and folds his arms and taps his foot, attempting to wait out the crowd. After a solid minute of heat, there is a slight break in the crowd’s ferocity, and Reform slips in.
Ned Reform: Hello, children! My goodness – it has been so long. I’ve missed… this.
Reform makes the “point to me, point to you, point to me, point to you” motion.
Ned Reform: Now, judging from your reaction I think it is safe to say that a large majority of you have not changed. Which is to say I don’t believe you’ve suddenly become deep thinkers…
At this point, CK Butcher says something off mic to Ned. Reform nods.
Ned Reform: Of course. He’s right. That was harsh. But I simply was attempting to address the fact that I believe it is doubtful many of you are asking the right question. Which is to say: “how, Dr. Reform, can you possibly be back in a SHOOT Project ring when you lost to that miscreant Courteny Hatchett?” Astute question, hypothetical fan. Because it is true: I have returned. Like the mythical phoenix, Dr. Reform will rise from the ashes and begins anew. And I have one man to thank for this…
Reform looks over at CK Butcher.
Ned Reform: One man who believed in me. One man who reached out and offered to show me a better way. One man who… cared.
Reform appears to be getting… emotional?
Ned Reform: CK Butcher has convinced the SHOOT brass to re-sign me. Because he knows, as I do, that the new Ned Reform will be different. The new Ned Reform does not have to have a contentious relationship with you, the SHOOT Project fans. His positively and refreshing outlook on life has challenged me to see myself in a new light. To think of my approach to this in far different terms. He has recontextualized for me what professional wrestling can. In short: Mr. Butcher’s words have not fallen on deaf ears, and I do indeed intend to “seize it.” And that begins now. This is the dawning of a new era, friends! And what better to celebrate this newfound partnership than with a handshake?
Ned tosses the mic, smiling broadly at CK Butcher. He walks over, extending his hand. Butcher nods, smiling at how well Reform’s return is going. He accepts Reform’s handshake with force, and the two men shake vigorously…
… until Ned Reform kicks CK Butcher square in the balls!!!
Eryk Masters and Other Guy together: I knew it!!
Butcher, clutching his little CKs, falls down to his knees with an expression of pure agony etched on his face. The fan’s jeers and boos are deafening. Butcher mouths “WHY?”
Ned Reform: YOU IGNORANT FOOL. People don’t change!
Reform shouts, and he does not hesitate to extend his right leg back and then punt Butcher directly under the chin! CK spins around, red spittle flies from his mouth, and his body twists awkwardly as he falls to the mat with a disgusting thud. Reform continues the attack by stomping mud-holes into Butcher’s kidneys, spine, and shoulder blades while the Salt of the Earth attempts to reach for the ropes.
Other Guy: Jesus. I know that I don’t necessarily believe Butcher, but Reform doesn’t have to kick a man while he’s down. I think he proved his point with the kick to the jewels.
Eryk Masters: Now – Ned Reform is a man who will never change; the bastard!
Butcher is pulling himself up using the ropes while absorbing each harsh and critical stomp. The look of grief and pain on Butcher’s face is telling. Reform takes a few steps back and then jolts toward the ropes to baseball slide underneath them. Ned lands on the outside, turns to Butcher, and SLAPS him across the face! Reform shouts…
Ned Reform: “Positivity!” I’m surprised someone as naive as you can tie his shoes in the morning!
The doctor turns toward an unaccepting crowd with his arms open. His smug smile gains a blanket of boos and hatred from the many in attendance. Reform spins around and socks Butcher in the jaw! Ned bends down and digs underneath the ring apron. He pulls out a steel chair and slides it into the ring.
Eryk Masters: My God. Where’s security? Where’s help for CK Butcher?
Other Guy: Seriously. Where’s Elbow Jackson?
That’s the cue, and the camera cuts backstage where officials have gathered around the fallen, bloodied, beaten body of Elbow Jackson in a corner of the arena; an apparent hit prior to the in-ring segment. Officials are yelling for medical attention as they turn Jackson’s body over to see his face covered in blood and he’s completely unconscious. Reform has his eyes on the screen and his devious grin widens as he walks past the grounded chair to grab Butcher’s cape that’s draped over the ropes. The crowd continues to boo and shout obscenities at the doctor. He wraps Butcher’s cape around his wrists and pulls it tight. Reform’s eyes are wide, he’s possessed, and he methodically walks over to Butcher. He kicks CK in the spine! He reaches forward, wraps the cape around CK’s throat, and begins to choke him out! Reform is laughing maniacally as Butcher coughs, chokes, his face reddening and his eyes bulging!
Eyrk Masters: Seriously! Get someone out here…NOW!
Other Guy: Ever see a man’s head turn that red before ‘Ryk? Wild…
Butcher is reaching toward the ropes, but Reform pulls him away! He continues to tighten the cape around CK’s neck as Butcher claws at the material to attempt ripping it away. Reform tugs up and down, up and down, continuously as Butcher is slowly fading.
Reform doesn’t allow Butcher to fade, and instead releases him. Butcher falls face-down onto the canvas, coughing, gripping his throat, and spitting small puddles of blood onto the canvas. Reform looks at the cape and chuckles. He presents the cape to the crowd, and then wipes his ass with it! After three solid swipes across his cheeks he follows by launching the cape into the crowd and then turning to view the chair.
Eryk Masters: That’s just so disrespectful, OG. Get someone out here NOW!
Other Guy: He’s grabbing the chair, Masters!
Reform has the chair in hand and slowly confronts the fallen Butcher. Ned studies the metal seat, and then raises the chair above his head.
Eyrk Masters: NO! SECURITY!
Commence chair shot beatdown as a mob of officials and security rushes onto the stage and down the ramp. The fan’s boos are muffled with every chair shot…
Ned Reform: This (shot) is (shot) a (shot) lesson (shot) you (shot) needed (shot) to (shot) learn!!!
The brigade of officials and security enter the ring, some slide under the ropes, as one ballsy gentleman hurries toward Reform and rips the chair from his grasp before he can continue the melee. Reform slowly backs away with his arms in the air. A couple security guards grab Ned and push him toward the ropes as they point and yell for Reform to leave. Officials tend to the battered Butcher who is motionless, and not communicating.
The doctor drops from the apron to the floor below as medical staff hurry to the ring with their gear in tow. The camera zooms in on Reform’s sadistically satisfied face, and in the background we can see the crew in the ring working to revive CK Butcher. Reform smiles, and humbly spins around to see the carnage he’s created. He shouts to the fans as they continue to boo…
Ned Reform: Dr. Reform is back, children.
The booing continues as he backsteps up the ramp with an evil grin…
Azraith DeMitri Vs. Lindsay Troy
As Lindsay Troy and Azraith separate, “Put ‘Em in the Grave” takes over as the crowd is going NUTS for the WINNER of the 2021 Master of the Mat, Lindsay Troy! Troy and Azraith both get to their feet at the same time and both collapse away from each other into the loving embrace of the top rope.
Eryk Masters: That was INCREDIBLE. I can’t believe she did it!
Other Guy: She slayed ALL of our expectations, E. Lindsay Troy WON the Master of the Mat and she beat AZRAITH FREAKING DEMITRI OF ALL PEOPLE to do it!
Eryk Masters: You know what this means, right?
Other Guy: She’s the first woman to win this tournament?
Eryk Masters: Yep. What else?
Other Guy: She’s going to be squaring off against the new champion… Joshua Breedlove.
As if on cue, “Make Way for the King” cuts Jedi Mind Tricks off and the ENTIRETY of the Unholy Breedlove Empire makes their way out to the ring. Breedlove has the World Heavyweight Championship over his shoulder. The Unholy Cyber Army wears their titles around their waists and they’re all joined by Clemson Dean, Muratagi Hanzo, Cromwell Yarbury, and Ultimo Muerte. The music continues playing as the group makes its way down the ramp with purpose.
Other Guy: It’s not too much to ask that this is just the Empire coming out to congratulate Lindsay Troy, right? I mean… right?
Eryk Masters: Well… you COULD ask that, but then there’d be some more questions… like why isn’t it VALOR coming to congratulate them? Where’s HER crew? No KIMO either?
Other Guy: Oh… oh no.
As the group gets down the ramp, they fan out around the ring, surrounding it. Troy looks on, shaking her head and Azraith lets out a big, heaving sigh. Quickly, Muratagi Hanzo YANKS Azraith out of the ring and just shoves him off into the ring barrier. He hits with a thud and slumps down, his energy burned from the encounter with Lindsay Troy. Hanzo turns away from Azraith, who is clearly not the focus here, as Breedlove removes the title from his shoulder, handing it to Clemson Dean. He then slides into the ring.
Eryk Masters: Oh, maybe this is just a congratulations thing. That’s cute! I always thought this was a friends with benefits situation, but maybe there’s some actual affection there. They were kinda rough on Az, though.
Other Guy: I have a feeling it could have been much worse for Az, man…
Breedlove stands across the ring from Lindsay Troy, who’s staring at him, wide-eyed. Without even thinking about it, Breedlove CHARGES and throws a heavy arm into Lindsay Troy’s chest, causing the Master of the Mat winner to fall to the mat. Breedlove doesn’t stop there as Cromwell Yarbury slides a steel chair into the middle of the ring. Breedlove pulls a still-bloodied Troy to her feet and holds her face in the palm of his hand while mouthing something to her.
Other Guy: Did you catch what he said?
Eryk Masters: Not entirely… something about her doing this to herself?
Troy is prone, her ability to stand only supported by leaning on Breedlove who clearly has no intentions of just letting her leave the ring. He holds her up and motions out towards the crowd, as if to offer a sarcastic congratulations, but the breath doesn’t last long as Breedlove pulls Troy up onto his shoulders and DRIVES HER DOWN WITH THE BURNING HAMMER ONTO THE STEEL CHAIR. LINDSAY TROY IS OUT. COLD. THE CROWD IS BOOING AT THE SIGHT, and Breedlove gets to his feet, all cheshire cat smiles. With the quickness, the crowd begins showering the ring with trash and debris, which only serves to make the new World champion laugh.
Other Guy: He could have broken Lindsay Troy’s NECK here. Can we get security or VALOR or SOMEONE out here?
Eryk Masters: Look at the beef around the ring, OG. Nobody’s coming. That’s a death sentence. They can’t even get to them if they tried, man.
Other Guy: This is… definitely not what I expected. There’s gotta be more to this, right? I mean… those two were an item, weren’t they?
Eryk Masters: Hopefully we can get some more clarity to that–but looks like Breedlove isn’t finished.
Breedlove takes Lindsay Troy by the arm and drags her over to the side of the ring, before casually pushing her out with his foot. Clemson Dean slides the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship in to Joshua Breedlove who holds it over his head with a big grin across his face. Security begins streaming down the ramp, but the damage has been done.
The last thing you see is Joshua Breedlove’s grin next to the gold face of the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship.