Come and see the crooks and thieves
Ridin’ in the renegade streets
Workin’ for the devil’s deeds
A toil ‘til the work is done
Savior comes to save the weak
The lame man walks, the blinds man sees
In a land where no one’s free
Know that the day will come
A path of destruction, debris, trash, ruined buildings takes over the screen and at the end of a cluttered road, you see one man. The SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion, Buck Dresden.
Trailing behind him, his challenger, a man who’s eclipsing the boundaries of professional wrestling, putting people out of action indiscriminately… he is the former World Champion… Nate Robideau.
Step out of the darkness and
Into the light, Yeah
A smirking Luis de Leon and Isaiah Gailliard are talking to themselves, standing across this destroyed road from the World Tag Team Champions, Lux Aeterna.
Lindsay Troy and Ayumi Seppuku glare at the upstart Lions, their titles gleaming in the tattered sunlight.
Callin’ all heathens
Outlaws and sinners
Swindlers and dealers
Liars and the cheaters
The day’s comin’
Callin’ all heathens
Callin’ all heathens
Next is the venerable Moira Quirk and she stands between Judy Punchinello and Laura Seton, holding back the two warriors who are fighting to be the queen of surrender. The Rule of Surrender Championship sits on the ground in front of them.
Spirits flow to mornin’ light
Underneath the full moon bright
Whiskey and a little moonshine
The dance with the rising sun
The wicked rule in lawless land
Wash the blood out from their hands
Schemin’ with their evil plans
Justice soon will come
Four silhouettes are shown, each competitor in the Iron Fist Championship match. Lexi Gold stands forward from the others, holding the championship high. Ignatius Albert Martin and Haskell Payne keep their eyes trained on the belt as Jacob Mephisto clasps his hands together, a demented grin across his face.
Wrong is right
No one knows what’s black and white
So join the fight, Yeah
Callin’ all heathens
Outlaws and sinners
Swindlers and dealers
Liars and the cheaters
Your day’s comin’
Callin’ all heathens
Callin’ all heathens
The masked face of El Paria and the face of Jamie Johnson are halved, forged together on your screen, and as the camera zooms out the Sin City Championship is shown on Johnson’s waist, with extra focus being placed on El Paria’s mask.
Will we learn Paria’s identity or does Jamie’s Sin City run come to an end?
Callin’ all heathens, Yeah
Callin’ all heathens, Whoa
Callin’ all heathens, Mmm
Shots from the various encounters between Dan Stein and Chick Grillbreast take place as a montage. The arm wrestling contest to the two standing across from one another at a press event.
Grillbreast holds the Shut Up and Fight Championship, a title that Dan Stein wishes to reclaim. Stein’s standing in front of Molly and Siobhan Stein, a true protector, and Grillbreast holds his title up in Stein’s face, mocking the former champion.
Callin’ all heathens
Outlaws and sinners
Swindlers and dealers
Liars and the cheaters
The day’s comin’ (It’s comin’)
The Unholy Cyber Army is at the forefront of the destruction on this Las Vegas street, Power Devil and Superbeast taking sledgehammers to everything they possibly can, causing as much damage as possible. The legendary Cyber Army delights in their destruction, but will they meet their match?
SAIGO looms, the stubborn and relentless Daiichi and the gifted Keiji Tokugawa run towards them, ready to put an end to their carnage.
Callin’ all heathens
Yeah, Callin’ all heathens
Yeah, callin’ all heathens
Yeah, callin’ all heathens
Yeah, callin’ all heathens
And finally, the RETURN OF RAIKO as she walks back into the scene. Tommy Knuckles, Felix Mullen, and NEMESIS watch her arrival, each pursing their lips and smiling at the opportunity to become the next challenger for the Iron Fist Championship…
Pyro EXPLODES as “Heathens” by Valley Of Wolves reaches its conclusion and we’re brought to the announce desk. Other Guy and Eryk Masters are on the scene, dressed to the nines in full tuxedos, bowtie and all.
Eryk Masters: Ladies and gentlemen, this is RECKONING DAY! And OG? I am SO ready for this event tonight. This shit is CRAZY.
Other Guy: You know that’s right, ‘Ryk. This is the LAST SHOW OF THE YEAR for the SHOOT Project and it’s set to be a big one. We’ve got major title defenses all over the show, some grudge matches, and a contendership deal– I wish I would’ve met you
Now it’s a little late,
What you could’ve taught me
I could have saved some face.
The SHOOT Project crowd reacts viscerally to the opening lines of Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” as none other than Lennox Ferguson emerges from the back and begins a purposeful descent, down the ramp, and into the ring.
Eryk Masters: News about Daihm “The Dragon” has been few and far between since he experienced an attack at Revolution several weeks by none other than Lennox Ferguson, the company’s chief of staff. One can only imagine what Lennox is out here to announce to us, OG.
Other Guy: If it’s anything other than a resignation, Eryk, I think this audience may force the issue. Just LISTEN to this.
The intro music, despite being pumped through the arena speakers, is barely audible over the absolute pandemonium happening in the stands.
Lennox, for his part, looks stoic as he steps into the ring, snagging a microphone from ringside as he waits unsuccessfully for the crowd’s animosity to die down. He raises the microphone to his lips only to be hit with a wave of anger from the crowd.
FUCK YOU LEN-NOX.
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP
FUCK YOU LEN-NOX.
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP
FUCK YOU LEN-NOX.
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP
Lennox Ferguson: Yes, yes, yes… good for you. Get it out of your system.
The SHOOT Project Chief of Staff eggs on the crowd, but not without visible discomfort. Finally, the jeers die down and Lennox sighs loudly into his microphone, looking mentally and physically exhausted.
Lennox Ferguson: I don’t come out here today with my head held high. Far from it.
The crowd rumbles, not as loud, but not as violent either.
Lennox Ferguson: I came here to be a stabilizing force; to be an asset to SHOOT Project as someone with the history, the knowledge, the ability to be objective. To right the wrongs of my past and make you all see me in a new light.
The crowd boos.
Lennox Ferguson: But then… I fucked up.
The crowd roars.
YOU FUCKED UP!
YOU FUCKED UP!
Lennox shakes his head and is getting visibly frustrated.
YOU FUCKED UP!
Lennox Ferguson: I FUCKING SAID THAT! Don’t you think I KNOW that? Jesus Christ… you fucking people. You absolute LEECHES. Like none of YOU have ever made a mistake!? NONE of you have done something you regret!? HMM? NONE of you have tried to do the RIGHT thing only to have it blow up in your face!? NONE!?
The crowd grows restless as the normally composed Lennox is growing violent, running his hand through his hair and stomping around the ring.
Lennox Ferguson: FINE! FINE! You know what!? I DARE any of you who think you are better than me. Who think they are so pure that they’ve never made a mistake… YE WITHOUT SIN… COME ON! COME ON AND CAST YOUR FUCKING STONE!
The lights go out.
Eryk Masters: Oh shit!
Immediately after, a rainbow, disco ball effect begins to emanate across the arena.
Other Guy: Oh… ohhhhhhhhhh!
Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” hits the speakers and the crowd explodes.
When there’s lightning, you know it always brings me down
I cry out for magic, I feel it dancing in the light
It was cold, I lost my hold
To the shadows of the night.
No sign of the morning coming
You’ve been left on your own
Like a rainbow in the dark
A rainbow in the dark!
Lennox looks legitimately shocked as his son, Daihm “The Dragon” Ferguson steps out onto the rampway with a microphone in hand. He still looks a bit banged up, but is standing and looking confident as he points down toward the ring.
Daihm Ferguson: ‘Ello… Dad.
The crowd begins to chant.
Lennox closes his eyes and lowers the microphone as his son begins to make his way down towards him.
Daihm Ferguson: Challenge ACCEPTED.
Lennox begins to unbutton his suit and rip off his tie as Daihm jumps up onto the mat and then slides himself into the ring.
Eryk Masters: Is this… happening!?
Other Guy: Looks like it, Eryk! We’ve got ourselves an unscheduled grudge match here at Reckoning Day!
The Story of the Dragon and the Ox
The SHOOT Project crowd jumps to their feet as the bell rings and Daihm Ferguson steps backward – creating distance from himself and his father, having just defeated him cleanly in the middle of the ring in front of a sold out Las Vegas crowd.
A winded and pained Lennox Ferguson props himself up into a seated position as he looks around at the reaction of the fans who are chanting and pumping their fists in support of the younger Ferguson.
Eryk Masters: This is TENSE Guy. Lennox was not anticipating a match tonight, let alone against his son and … to LOSE at the company’s biggest show of the year can’t feel great.
Daihm keeps his eyes locked on Lennox, anticipating some sort of retaliation or anger as Ox pushes himself to his feet and takes in gulps of air.
As the crowd chants, Lennox makes his way gingerly over to his son and then takes another look around the arena before raising a hand and pointing at Daihm with the other.
Other Guy: Color me impressed, Eryk! It seems like Lennox truly did learn some humility during his time away from SHOOT. Maybe he’s finally ready to take responsibility and be a good father!
Eryk Masters: I can’t believe it myself, OG. I’m just waiting for that other shoe to drop…
The Dragon looks stunned as his father begins to get the crowd motivated, lifting his arms into the air and riling up the fans in support of the man who just defeated him. The crowd obliges and showers more praise onto Daihm as Lennox finally turns and extends a hand in congratulations to his son.
Eryk Masters: Ope! Here it comes. Here’s the betrayal!
Daihm cautiously looks at Lennox but eventually accepts the gesture and shakes his father’s hand, not sure how to react. After a second of awkwardness, Lennox goes in and wraps Daihm in a giant hug which causes the roof to blow off of the Epicenter.
Eryk Masters: Here we go! What’s going to happen? A DDT? A chokehold? A hidden fork to the head!?
Other Guy: Isn’t that a RAIKO thing?
As the two fighters embrace, Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” hits the speakers, adding a fitting crescendo to the encounter.
Eryk Masters: Really!?
Other Guy: Really. Just… let something be pure for once, man.
Eryk Masters: Well, certainly there will be more to come from these two in the future – but will this uneasy alliance last? Or will it be a FAMILY FEUD!?
Other Guy: Unbelievable. You’re unbelievable.
Lexi makes Her Intentions Known
Backstage, Abigail Chase is standing outside the locker room of the current Iron Fist Champion, Lexi Gold. It had been a big night thus far for a lot of the roster members involved with the show. She is dressed for the occasion, wearing a white cable knit top, long skirt and heels. She smiles and raises the mic to her lips as she looks at the camera, excited about the interview she was about to conduct.
Abigail Chase: I hope everyone has been enjoying Reckoning Day thus far. Right now, I’m standing outside the locker room of the Iron Fist Champion Lexi Gold, and I’m about to get her thoughts on her championship match later tonight.
Abigail turns around and knocks on the door.
She knocks again, but this time knocks louder three times, assuming Lexi didn’t hear her the first time, then the time opens by itself and Lexi is seen on the ground doing some kind of meditating. In the background, nature sounds are heard. She heard Abigail walk in, looking rather annoyed she interrupted her at this time, but got up anyway, threw her championship over her shoulder and stood beside her already in her ring gear as she turned off the sounds.
Abigail Chase: Lexi, last show we saw you and IAM teamed up to face Haskell and Mephisto in tag action which led to you and IAM coming away with a victory and now friendship will be put aside is everyone will have to fend for themselves with your title being on the line. What is your strategy this time, if any?
Lexi Gold: Let me correct you Abigail there is no friendship involved in all this at least on my end anyway and second of all you forgot to mention that this big rivalry started in July and has been going on ever since, but let me make one thing perfectly clear this shit ends tonight and this image you see right here is what you will expect to see when the match is over. There will be no goodbyes to my championship. Instead, I’ll have it reunited around my waist again where it belongs.
Lexi pauses and looks around the room before speaking again.
Lexi Gold: I do have several strategies, but I’m not speaking of them. I’m not going to allow my opponents, in case they are watching this, to use them against me. I’m sure that’s what they want, but it’s not going to work. You know in the months that I’ve been in SHOOT a lot has evolved. Some people have come in, people have left, but one thing that hasn’t changed is me being a consistent champion. Whether I’m booked or not, I’m showing up not only because I care, but also because that’s what a champion is supposed to do.
She sighs and licks her lips.
Lexi Gold: I joke with a lot of my friends and say that I’m married and committed to my job. View it how you want, but I find it to be true. Nevertheless, back to what I was saying before, consistency is key in wrestling. I’m not taking away what my opponents can accomplish in the ring, but they certainly will not accomplish anything if their head and heart isn’t in this, and that is why I feel they are undeserving of filling my position as champion. Until they actually show they care and not use it as a runaway title, I’m going to do my damn hardest to make sure it stays in rightful hands. MY rightful hands.
Abigail Chase: Let’s say you do retain what’s next for you and who would you like to face?
Lexi Gold: Anyone and everyone. I want to be a consistent champion, just like I have proved to be before, even if it means I have to defend it on every show. Now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to continue my meditation.
Abigail nods in respect.
Abigail Chase: Yes, by all means continue. Thank you for your time.
Abigail exits the locker room, leaving Lexi to continue her meditation as the scene fades.
D-D-D-D-D Do You Have It?
Eryk Masters: We’re going backstage to… is this… accurate?
Other Guy: I’m hearing the same cue as you, Eryk.
Eryk Masters: Okay well… let’s throw it over to our surprise SHOOT Project correspondent for this evening… MOIRA QUIRK!
The crowd has a bit of an emotional whiplash as none other than “Mo” from the Nickelodeon classic “Guts” is standing on camera in her vintage referee outfit – whistle in hand – as she looks nervously at the camera and then off camera and then back at the camera.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: Thank you, Mike- I mean… Eryk! I am here with none other than Judy “The PUNCH” Punchinello who comes to us all the way from my home country, the United Kingdom, and-
Sure enough, SHOOT Project’s Rule of Surrender champion, Judy Punchinello, steps into frame. She nods at Mo as the children’s show host takes an involuntary step back from the fighter, who looks even more deranged than usual with chaotic black-and-white makeup wearing a similar referee outfit to the one Mo is wearing.
Judy Punchinello: Pleased to be here, Mo. It’s a dream come true to be a contestant on the biggest show of them all, Reckoning Day, here to represent my home country against the disgrace that is Laura “The Loser” Seton. Because I’ll be going home with the championship while she’ll be sent packing with a malfunctioning Swatch.
Mo shakes her head, but continues on.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: Right you are, Judy! For the first time in more than 20 years, we have contestants who are prepared to battle it for a piece of the “Agro Crag” by which, of course, I mean Rule of Surrender championship! With all the rounds tallied up so far, it’s hard to see how Laura “The Loser” Seton can surpass Judy’s lead. Back to you, Mike!
Eryk Masters: What… is happening?
Other Guy: A lawsuit, I think.
The camera stays on Mo and Judy as the announcer looks around nervously.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: Okay… I did the thing. Are we good?
Judy smiles looking Moira, clad in her referee outfit, up and down.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: What? I DID what you asked.
Judy Punchinello: Oh no, my dear… there’s still so much more left. You’ve done what’s asked so far, but do-DO-DO-DO-DO you have the GUTS to do what it takes to keep your citizenship?
The children’s show host winces and grits her teeth as she gets led, gingerly, by Judy Punchinello off camera.
Do! Do! Dodododo YOU HAVE IT!? GUTS!
A familiar voice pops over the PA as the classic beatbox sound flows over the arena.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: COMING TO YOU LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS NEVADA IN THE NEW AND IMPROVED SHOOT PROJECT EPICENTER IT’S THE MATCH OF MATCHES, THE FIGHT OF FIGHTS, NOT 1-2-3, BUT WEE WEE WEE. THAT’S RIGHT. IT’S THE RULE OF SURRENDER CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH!
A swirl of lights cascades across the arena as Moira “Mo” Quirk officially enters the arena and beings to walk down the rampway nervously, but still waives to the crowd as she does.
Eryk Masters: Such a consummate professional! Even under this enormous stress.
Other Guy: She’s not going to sleep with you, Eryk.
Mo pulls herself up to the ring and slides in. She looks around at the crowd and appears a bit nervous as the veteran kids show host effortlessly slides back into her television persona.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: NOW LETS MEET TONIGHT’S COMPETITORS!
Ohhh, oh-oh-oh-ohhhhh, o-o-o-o-o-ohhh
I’ll get him hot; show him what I’ve got…
The crowd goes crazy as Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” kicks in, followed by a blast of red and purple pyro at the top of the ramp.
The figure of Laura Seton can be seen behind the smoke. Her hair down and wearing her red leather jacket, red tights and black boots, she looks downward.
Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face…
She slowly raises her head as the smoke clears until she looks straight up. Her eyes open and lowers her head until she looks straight ahead… and slowly forms a grin.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: With a career as long as… you’ve got to be bloody joking.
Mo pauses and composes herself.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: With a career as long as the nose on her face and as bland as her entrance music, hailing from who the fuck cares… it’s the LOOOOOOOSER Laura Seton!
Laura is nearly to the apron and looks up at Mo, confused.
Laura Seton: What the fuck!?
Eryk Masters: I… well… that’s…
Other Guy: That’s fucking awful. Whatever dirt Judy has on Mo it must be good for her to degrade herself like this.
Indeed, Mo shakes her head in disappointment as the fans begin to turn on the childhood host, but erupt in a chorus of cheers as Laura steps in the ring. While she has a confident gait to her step, one can sense those nerves of hers beginning to kick in again.
She enters the ring and hops on the middle rope to acknowledge the fans before removing her jacket and boots and tying back her hair.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: AND HER OPPONENT, A BEAST FROM THE EAST – END OF LONDON – SHE IS THE REIGNING RULE OF SURRENDER CHAMPION WITH A COMMANDING LEAD IN MATCHUPS AGAINST HER OPPONENT… IT’S…
The arena goes dark immediately as the crowd boos in disapproval while others begin to hold up lighters ironically.
Tell your children not to walk my way
Tell your children not to hear my words
What they mean
What they say
The opening to the Danzig classic Judy Punchinello used to goad Laura Seton at Ruination kicks over the speakers as Judy Punchinello steps out from the back in her Beetlejuice-inspired leather jacket with freshly-dyed green and purple hair.
The pointed lyrics hang in the air as an electric energy flows through the arena before the refrain almost seamlessly blends into a high-pitched humming more familiar to the SHOOT faithful as Judy’s entrance music.
Blood on my hands, what’s done is done
Left you by the road with the crows in the dust
Heart so hollow deep as a cave
One day I’ll be dancing on your grave!
She smiles while Laura scowls, letting the boos reign over her as she adjusts her title on her shoulder and then leans in to LICK it in a dramatic gesture before spitting on the ground and then finally making her way down to the ring.
Other Guy: If Laura wins tonight she’s going to have to disinfect that title with bleach, ammonia, and probably some sort of industrial strength acid. YUCK!
Eryk Masters: It’s all an intimidation tactic, OG. Gross, yes, but any advantage could Laura off her game.
Other Guy: Well, it’s going to make ME throw up.
Judy P. steps into the ring and hands the title over to a disgusted-looking staff member at ringside before gesturing for the microphone from Mo. Laura just shakes her head and says something the cameras can’t pick up.
Judy Punchinello: Stalling for time? Are you fuckin’ takin the piss? Your entire CAREER is stalling for time, Laura. I’m here to put a BLOODY exclamation point on this whole thing and send you packing for good.
Laura yells loud enough now for the microphone to pick her up.
Laura Seton: try me!
Judy smiles and hands the microphone back to Mo.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: After multiple contests over these past few months, Judy Punchinello has a whopping 5000 points, succeeding in both the Iron Will qualifiers AND at Iron Will itself, while Laura Seton is training behind with just 1,000 points qualifying for Iron Will but losing all of her following matches except for the one that allowed her to qualify to face Judy tonight. With a best two out of three falls, if Judy wins tonight there is NO question OF HER PROWESS. Meanwhile, if Laura wins – it will be all she can do to make up for her poor performances over these past few months and get within striking distance of Judy’s talent.
Laura shakes her head and turns to Mo.
Laura Seton: Are you insane??
She then paces in the ring shouting something else at Judy. Judy just nods and smiles.
Moira “Mo” Quirk: For our culminating match, with the Rule of Surrender title on the line, our two competitors will go head to head and show us who TRULY has the GUTS needed to be a SHOOT Project Champion.
With that, Mo hands the microphone to someone at ringside and begins to position herself in the middle of the ring. As she does, Laura shifts her eyes, looking around and realizing there is no referee in the ring – just… Mo
Laura’s eyes grow wide as Judy nods – her smile getting bigger.
Other Guy: No way… you can’t tell me…
Eryk Masters: YESSSS! LETS GOOOO!
The SHOOT Project crowd is roaring as an exhausted Laura Seton creates separation between herself and an equally exhausted-looking Judy Punchinello wipes an arm across her face, smearing her already dripping grease paint across her nose and cheeks.
As the rivals catch their breath, special guest referee Moira “Mo” Quirk steps back to observe but is caught off guard as Judy Punchinello, with a burst of energy, lunges forward towards Laura Seton and MISSES!
Laura ducks and dodges out of the way, letting her veteran instincts take over. But the challenger is still winded and opts to try and maintain her distance. A frustrated Judy Punchinello pushes herself up off the mat and eyes Laura before throwing her head back and SPITTING in her opponent’s face!
Eryk Masters: What is it with her!? UGH!
Other Guy: If you can’t beat ‘em, spit on ‘em.
A shocked Laura Seton wildly tries to clean her face, which gives Judy the opening she’s been looking for. She launches herself from the corner of the ring and SPEARS Laura Seton to the ground! The crowd boos as Laura holds up her arms to try and defend a flurry of blows now coming down on her from the Rule of Surrender champion!
Mo drops to the mat and eyes the fighters, looking for any sign of surrender from Laura. As she does, what she instead sees is a furious Laura Seaton lock her arms around one of Judy’s fists and then wrap her legs around Judy Punchinello’s waist and yank back, violently.
Eryk Masters: A modified stretch! Judy looks caught here!
Mo bounds back up and asks Judy if she gives up. Judy shakes her head, screaming at Laura to let go. Laura only yanks harder and a loud POP can be heard as Judy yells out something not suitable for a prime time broadcast.
Other Guy: Christ! I could hear the joint give out from here! That’s gotta be absolutely devastating but Judy is NOT giving up here, Eryk. Even after two solid matches and an absolute war between these two fighters, neither one wants to give up the deciding win and, in doing so, their shot at the title!
In the ring, Judy has managed to inch closer to Laura’s face and begins STOMPING away violently, which causes Laura to release her hold. Judy staggers backwards, grasping at her shoulder while Laura checks to make sure her nose isn’t broken.
In that moment, Judy retreats to the ropes and, with a painful wince, pushes herself backwards to gain momentum as she runs and BASEBALL SLIDES into Laura’s chest as the veteran had begun to seat herself up following Judy’s earlier attack. A WOOSH of air rushes from Laura’s lungs as Judy positions herself, still on the ground, so her legs are now tightly wrapped Laura’s as she begins to push herself up into a figure four leg lock.
Laura begins to flail wildly as Judy has somehow found extra human strength and endurance to place her weight against a dislocated shoulder and twist her body in such a way that it looks like Laura’s kneecaps may launch themselves from her legs at any moment.
Eryk Masters: Jesus! These two are destroying their bodies out there! No matter who wins this thing they are going to need some serious rehab.
Other Guy: Look, Eryk! I think Laura may be getting close to the ropes! This could be the break she needs for Judy to release the hold!
Mo the referee is standing above the interlocked fighters as the crowd is screaming for Laura to make it to the ropes.
LAUR-A! LAUR-A! LAUR-A!
Tears are in both Laura and Judy’s eyes as Judy tries to pull Laura back but Laura inches ever closer to the ropes. Just centimeters away, Laura reaches and her fingers barely miss and hit the mat.
Mo looks down confused on whether Laura may be tapping out or not. As she gets down to ask Laura if she gives up, Judy with a sudden, violent, tug pulls Laura backwards towards the center of the ring and we hear another loud “POP” and a wild thrashing as Laura vaults up and screams in pain.
The guest referee looks around, confused, not sure what to do as Laura, with a burst of pain-fueled adrenaline gains enough leverage to grab a hold of Judy’s injured arm and pull her down towards her, but Judy does NOT let go of the leg lock!
The crowd is on their feet, trying to get a good look at the carnage happening in the ring right now as Mo is screaming, herself, trying to understand what is going on.
Other Guy: This is chaos, Eryk!
Eryk Masters: Exactly! Isn’t it great!?
The two fighters continue to scream in frustration and pain and, when it looks like neither is going to give up – a hand juts out from the mass of humanity!
Eryk Masters: Is that Laura’s arm?
Then, another hand!
Other Guy: I think that one’s Laura’s! Or… maybe it’s Judy’s!?
Mo looks – wide-eyed – as both hands, jutting out from the tangled mess begin to hit the mat in quick succession and the fans aren’t sure whether to cheer or boo.
As the hands continue to hit the mat and the women continue to scream, Mo just begins to waive her hands signaling for the bell to ring! Both women release their holds and roll away from each other in pain.
Other Guy: But who…? Who won!?
Neither fighter is in any condition to stand, let alone speak, as a collection of medical staff rush into the ring and begin to tend to the two fighters. Mo looks around and shrugs her shoulders as she is handed a microphone to call the match.
Mo: I Uh…. The winner… ummm…
The crowd grows restless as Mo stammers. She finally throws her hands up and bursts into tears.
Mo: I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know OK!? Don’t throw me out of the country please! Oh god…
Voice: HEY! What the hell is going on here!?
Mo’s gaze, along with the crowd, turns to look up at the rampway where none other than Lennox Ferguson is standing wearing a hooded SHOOT Project sweatshirt and sweatpants. Still clearly recovering from his first in-ring action in years, the exhausted-looking Chief of Staff takes in the carnage currently situated in the ring.
Mo: I’m Moira… Quirk. I was… trying to call the match and I didn’t see who tapped out!
Lennox Ferguson: Oh for fuck’s sake. Who hired you!?
Mo: No one! I was forced here by-
Lennox Ferguson: Stop. Stop… just… stop. My head hurts so much already.
Lennox rubs his forehead as he thinks. Finally, he looks up to the crowd and then down toward the ring.
Lennox Ferguson: Okay. Here’s the deal folks… we are going to make a little SHOOT Project history tonight!
Other Guy: What’s… he talking about?
Eryk Masters: No idea OG.
Lennox Ferguson: You see, most companies, in this case, would just give the title back to Judy since she’s the defending champion…
The crowd boos violently.
Lennox Ferguson: Other places may just void the title entirely and start from scratch!
The crowd doesn’t much like the sound of that option either.
Lennox Ferguson: But what WE’RE going to do here tonight at Reckoning Day is name BOTH Judy Punchinello and Laura Seton as our NEW RULE OF SURRENDER CO-CHAMPIONS!
Other Guy: Holy shit!
Eryk Masters: Holy shit!
The crowd explodes as Lennox looks mildly pleased with himself for the decision.
Eryk Masters: That… how… how will this even work!? Are they going to King Solomon the belt? Will they need to give joint press conferences? Is the next defense going to be a two-on-one? A triple threat?
Other Guy: I guess we’ll just have to figure it out as we go along! That’s why they call it making history, right!?
Eryk Masters: It’s going to make a mess is what is going to happen! Both Judy and Laura are being carted to the back right now and I don’t think EITHER of them realizes what’s just happened and after the war these two have had… This is NOT going to be pretty, OG. Not at all.
“King’s Dead” by Kendrick Lamar begins to play as the fans are brought to boo mercilessly. No rigmarole, no fun hijinx, CAROLINA LIONS step out of the back, hoods drawn and side by side. There is a small bit of smoke billowing from the entrance at their feet. Both men reveal their faces to the booing masses, “The Carolina Reaper” Isaiah Galliard and “El Fumar” Luis de Leon are smirking and grinning respectively.
Samantha Coil: The following contest is a LADDER match for the WORLD…TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP!
Reaper and Smoke bump knuckles casually as they enter the ring.
Samantha Coil: Introducing first…at a combined weight of 480 pounds…they are “The Carolina Reaper” Isaiah Galliard and “El Fumar” Luis de Leon…CAROLINA…LIONS!!
Reaper and Smoke look at one another and the nerves appear for a split second until “King’s Dead” is cut off.
The lights in the Epicenter abruptly cut, pitching the arena into blackness. Cell phone flashlights immediately wink on, thousands of tiny points of light from all corners of the arena. The buzz of the SHOOT Project Faithful begins to grow as synth chords and drum beats play through the arena’s sound system. Neon pink, yellow, green and blue lights flicker on and swirl around the stage, while the champions’ theme music begins to play.
“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
The iconic opening salvo crashes into the Epicenter and the Faithful erupt into wall-to-wall cheers. A bright while light from underneath the stage shines upward through the darkness, and a platform lifts the tag team champions upward.
I’ve been tryna call
I’ve been on my own for long enough
Maybe you can show me how to love, maybe…
Samantha Coil: And their opponents, at a combined weight of 390 pounds…they are the REIGNING and DEFENDING SHOOT Project tag team champions…
I’m going through withdrawals
You don’t even have to do too much
You can turn me on with just a touch, baby…
Samantha Coil: ”The Ronin Wraith” Ayumi Seppuku…”The Queen of the Ring” Lindsay Troy….LUX AETERNA!!!!!
I look around and
Sin City’s cold and empty (Oh)
No one’s around to judge me (Oh)
I can’t see clearly when you’re go-o-one
I said, ooh, I’m blinded by the lights
No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch (touch)
I said, ooh, I’m drowning in the night
Oh, when I’m like this, you’re the one I trust
Hey, hey, hey
The lift comes to a halt and pyro erupts around Lux Aeterna. Ayumi and Lindsay look at one another before bumping fists and walking down to the ring. Their eyes remain locked on the Carolina Lions, whose cocky expressions haven’t wavered.
Eryk Masters: For six months, Lux Aeterna have held and defended the tag team titles against all comers, including against the Carolina Lions at Iron Will II. Now, on the heels of Isaiah Galliard’s betrayal at Ruination 35, the champs are set to do battle with the youngsters once more…this time, in a Ladder Match.
Other Guy: What the Lions pulled off was a beautiful thing, Ryk Mast. And now, in true dramatic fashion, our so-called “champs” are trying to get the spotlight back on them with this stipulation. It’s pathetic.
Eryk Masters: The only pathetic thing is these young braggarts taking advantage of the knowledge and wisdom of two living legends. We’ll see what the price of their treachery will bring in just a few moments.
Other Guy: Gold! Nothing but gold!
Eryk Masters: You’re pathetic sometimes, you know that?
Ayumi and Lindsay slip between the ropes and head to nearby turnbuckles to pose and give the Faithful their rightful photo op. The lights come back up and the ladies turn their belts over to the referee. They look focused and ready to take care of the Lions once and for all. As they go to their respective corners, the referee motions for the belts to ascend 20 feet high into the air.
Eryk Masters: Let’s ring the bell and get this thing started!
The bell rings, finally bringing Smoke and Ayumi to focus on each other instead of the SHOOT Project World Tag Team Championship titles suspended high above the ring. The fans are excited beyond measure. Reaper grabs Smoke by the shoulder and pulls himself back to their corner, whispering something to Smoke that causes him to nod in approval. He turns and embraces his partner and then marches to the center of the ring, although Ayumi goes to meet him in the middle and he quickly ducks under the bottom rope and summons Reaper to meet him at the floor.
Eryk Masters: What are they doing?
Before he can get an answer, Ayumi charges at the two Lions and hits a dive onto both of them! She manages to catch Reaper and uses that momentum to mount him and start wailing with punches and shots to the upstart that tried to lure Lux Aeterna in and betray them. Smoke shakes off the cobwebs and sees Reaper catching Ayumi’s onslaught and moves to intervene but he’s caught by an elbow to the back of the head by a charging Lindsay Troy!
Eryk Masters: It’s about time! The Carolina Lions have worked so hard to get on Lux Aeterna’s bad side and the great gettin’ up morning is now!
Other Guy: This isn’t some great moment of vengeance, Eryk, this is an outrage! The Lions weren’t ready and Lux Aeterna, being the vile cheaters they are, took full advantage!
Ayumi and Troy pick Reaper up and whip him to the apron. Troy immediately whips Ayumi, who counters and whips Troy, who SLAMS into Reaper’s FACE with a QUEEN’S GAMBIT!! Reaper stumbles forward and Ayumi hits him with a drop toe hold that Troy follows with a rolling knee drop on the floor and Reaper is in serious pain! Lux Aeterna is in full control at the opening of this match up. Ayumi begins searching under the ring as Troy begins to engage in shit talking with Smoke, who is trying to get to his partner but he’s cut off by Troy.
Eryk Masters: Lux showing everyone why they’re the tag team champions, OG. Even outside of the ring, they’ve cut Reaper off from Luis de Leon and have basically rendered him a non-factor in this match!
As Masters finishes his thought, Ayumi produces a steel chair from underneath the ring! The fans pop as Ayumi holds the chair up and stands over Reaper daring Smoke to try to save his partner! Smoke shakes his head as the fans respond in kind, booing him mercilessly. He waves them off and starts to head up the ramp away from the scene.
Eryk Masters: He’s leaving his own partner?! I thought they were on the same page!
Other Guy: If you saw me get taken down by Lux Aeterna like that, you wouldn’t come to my aid!
Eryk Masters: Sometimes your rage and MDMA filled brain conjures up wisdom, OG, and this is one of those times.
Other Guy: …this is why I’ve been calling you Ryk for the past few years.
Eryk Masters: You called me Ryk Mast before. You act like syllables frighten you.
Other Guy: They can be confusing!
Ayumi throws the chair down and marches after Luis while Troy turns to pick Galliard up,, but Galliard has enough wherewithal to snatch Troy’s hair and RAM her head into the side of the ring which, as we all know, is the hardest part of the whole shebangabang. Troy clutches her forehead as Reaper picks up the steel chair and stalks Ayumi who is halfway up the ramp yelling at Smoke! Smoke and Ayumi are near one another and Reaper takes the chance and charges forward…Ayumi ducks! Reaper is able to stop before the chair connects with his partner’s head. Both men look at one another and breathe a sigh of relief until Ayumi SHOVES Reaper into Smoke, giving Smoke a face full of chair!
Other Guy: This is why you never use weapons and always fight fair! Sorry, guys, that was my Eryk Masters impersonation.
Eryk Masters: Blah blah blah I only cheer on bad guys because I don’t know anything in my life besides being contrarian! Oh look it seems we’ve changed our personas.
Other Guy: You know what, I’m above this. These four amazing talents deserve me at my best. Look at how effective Carolina Lions’ strategy of attempted divide and conquer has been working!
Reaper turns around still holding the chair and is met with a HARD elbow shot to the chair and into his own face! Ayumi has managed to take both members of the Lions down and is making her way back to her tag partner, who has shaken off the brief attack from Galliard. Ayumi and Troy start talking and Troy reaches under the ring and pulls out a ladder!
Eryk Masters: It’s time!
The two champions slide the ladder into the ring and follow it in. They begin setting up the ladder in the middle of the ring. After both champions are confident in its stability and position, Ayumi starts to climb while Troy goes to watch over the Lions on the ramp only to find…they’re not there?
Other Guy: I knew it! The Lions are magic!
Ayumi is the first to spot Smoke and Reaper as they slide in on the opposite side of the ring, apparently having snuck over there to catch Lux unawares! Ayumi calls out to Lindsay but it’s too late as Reaper rushes past the ladder and clobbers Troy from behind! Smoke ascends the ladder to get to the champion and possibly the best. Ayumi snatches him by the hair and drags him up to the top with her, slamming his head on the top rung repeatedly. With a dazed Smoke up top with her, the Ronin Wraith hooks Smoke’s head and arm in a vertical suplex position!
Eryk Masters: Oh this can go so wrong for everybody involved!
She lifts Luis, but he fights with his weight to bring himself back down onto the ladder. Reaper rushes up the ladder to catch Ayumi as Ayumi repositions for another vertical suplex attempt…AYUMI HITS A SUPERPLEX ON SMOKE AS REAPER SETS HER UP FOR A POWERBOMB OFF OF THE LADDER!
Other Guy: Oh my GOD.
The thud is SICK as all three members of this match lie on the mat. Reaper, however, took the least amount of damage and it shows as he gets to his feet the fastest. He repositions the ladder and begins to climb. Halfway up the ladder he spots Lindsay on the outside of the ring, sliding in ANOTHER ladder. The fear washes over his face as he starts to try to scurry up the ladder only for Lindsay Troy to get into the ring and club him in the small of his back! Troy sets up the other ladder beside the one Reaper is groggy on. She positions it so the two ladders are beside one another and begins her slow climb! Meanwhile, Smoke is slowly starting to come to as is Ayumi. Ayumi pulls herself up by the ropes and glares at Smoke before turning her attention to Reaper who is exchanging shots with Lindsay Troy on the ladder!
Eryk Masters: They are perilously close to victory or something far, far nastier if they get tossed off the ladder, OG!
Other Guy: That’s the thing about these types of matches, Eryk, it’s ONE move, ONE mistake, ONE missed shot…and it’s all over. No matter your experience or your attitude.
Lindsay steadies herself after another elbow strike from Reaper and feigns a punch that Reaper ducks to avoid…only for her foot to COLLIDE with Reaper in a HARD strike to his forehead! Reaper is ROCKED and he starts to lean backward…and he FALLS off of the ladder RIGHT INTO A SNAP CUTTER FROM AYUMI!!!
Eryk Masters: NO! MY HEART MUST HAVE DRANK A LOT OF WATER TONIGHT BECAUSE IT IS PEEING, OG!!
Other Guy: Isaiah Galliard is DOWN after that kick and that cutter! Lux Aeterna has this one, damn it!
Lindsay is on the top of the ladder try to catch her breath and shake loose the cobwebs as Ayumi starts to ascend the opposite ladder! The fans are cheering both members of the champions on as they seem destined for glory! Suddenly, Smoke is climbing up across from Ayumi and beside Troy on the opposite ladder. He gets up to the top and claps Ayumi’s ears before he moves over gingerly to take a hold of Troy’s midsection. He wraps his legs around the ladder’s rungs and begins VIOLENTLY headbutting Lindsay from behind!
Eryk Masters: Luis de Leon isn’t going to let Lux Aeterna walk out of here without knowing who they’re up against!
Reaper is at the bottom of the ladder Ayumi is positioned on and can only think to yank her down off of the ladder to the mat. She lands with a hard thud and he leans against the ladder to watch what’s going on above him. Luis is holding Lindsay back with all of his might as her fingertips brush the very bottom of one of the World Tag Team Championship belts. She is desperately trying to hook one single finger on the belt as Smoke rains headbutts to the back of her head and punches to her back to disorient her!
Other Guy: Reaper’s getting in position behind Smoke, what’s he doing?
Smoke screams out, pulling Lindsay Troy with all of his might in a German suplex position OFF of the ladder! He releases her AND REAPER CATCHES HER WITH A GERMAN OF HIS OWN! A MODIFIED GRAND AMPLITUDE! BOTH REAPER AND TROY ARE DOWN ON THE MAT!
Eryk Masters: HOLY SHIT!
Holy shit is right, Eryk, as the fans chant in response as well! Luis, exhausted and alone on the ladder, tries to pull himself back to a position to climb the ladder when he spots AYUMI SEPPUKU slowly climbing on the opposite side! She is clearly hurting, but the fire in her eyes tells a different story than the fragility of her body after this war.
Eryk Masters: I don’t know what Ayumi can do here, OG; she’s just out of gas.
Reaper and Troy, while in complete pain on the mat below, wave their arms to both of their partners, trying to cheer them on while pushing through the agony!
Other Guy: Lindsay and Isaiah are both calling out to their partners to push themselves and make that final jump for the belts!
Ayumi and Reaper find themselves face to face at the top of the ladder – the tag belts hanging within reach. Luis wastes no time throwing a haymaker at Ayumi, who takes the punch full force but holds on, shaking the ladder as she tries to maintain balance.
Eryk Masters: You can sense it here, OG! Ayumi and Smoke are giving all they’ve got!
The defending champion pushes herself up a rung as Luis repositions himself dangerously putting all of her weight on the top of the ladder, but struggling to get a hold on the belts.
Other Guy: NO! AYUMI’S ALMOST GOT THE BELTS!
Luis looks panicked as he sees Ayumi grabbing at the tag championships. A frustrated, uncharacteristically emotional, Ayumi swipes again, going to yank the belt down. The audience is on their feet as they think they’re seeing the match finale, but anticipation turns to shock as Ayumi’s inattention has left an opening for Luis as he reaches up and just… shoves Ayumi unexpectedly backwards.
Eryk Masters: What…
The crowd screams as one half of the tag team champions, mid-section exposed and balance unstable, tries to grab at the belts one last time unsuccessfully. As she does, her eyes go wide and the distance between herself and the ladder grows larger. Suddenly, there is nothing between her and the mat but thin air as she begins to drop 15 feet down.
Other Guy: What’s going on?!
It feels like an eternity for Ayumi, but happens in a flash for everyone else. One second she’s a tug away from reclaiming the titles and the next she’s on the floor. Not the mat. The ringside floor directly in front of front-row fans who are immediately waving for medical attention.
Eryk Masters: Oh…Oh God.
Other Guy: What.. I can’t see. What happened!?
Eryk Masters: Get someone out here! Now! We need to clear the ring! Get security out here!
The arena is silent and the other competitors are frozen in shock as an unmoving Ayumi Seppuku is rushed by medical staff. After a split second of realization, Lindsay Troy rolls from the place she was lying in the ring from the Grand Amplitude and ignores her own pain, a look of fear splashed across her face. She jumps from the apron and rushes over to the scene.
Eryk Masters: This isn’t…this isn’t good. The referee needs to call the match off!
Other Guy: He’s too busy with Ayumi, he’s not paying attention to a shocked Luis de Leon on the ladder still and a groggy as hell Isaiah Galliard screaming at Luis to get his head back in the game.
Eryk Masters: WHAT game?! EMTs are rushing out to help Ayumi. Lindsay looks concerned for her partner and friend.
Lindsay Troy looks up as she sees Isaiah Galliard’s devilish grin as he watches the carnage unfold. He simply extends his middle finger as the fans ERUPT into boos. Lindsay shakes her head in bewilderment that the two of them show the world who they really are. No honor. No respect. No care for their opponents. However, thanks to Luis de Leon still on top of the ladder…
…he unbuckles both belts and tosses one down to Isaiah Galliard. They may have no honor or respect, but they have titles now.
Eryk Masters: This…I don’t…they can’t be seriously trying to win the match NOW, are they?!
Other Guy: Trying to win? Bump that, Eryk, THEY WON.
Smoke and Reaper embrace in the center of the ring, both men clutching the SHOOT Project World Tag Team Championship belts. However, no music is played. No one is angry the bad guys got one over on the good guys. No one is thinking about if Lux Aeterna can bounce back and take the titles back. No one is thinking about Carolina Lions, the new World Tag Team Champions at all.
As Reaper and Smoke roll out of the ring, they stop and look at the EMTs, referees, and Lindsay Troy all checking on Ayumi Seppuku, who is unmoving. The two young men stand slightly above the mass of people at ringside and casually hold the World Tag Team Championships above their heads, having done what they set out to do.
The New SHOOT Project World Tag Team Champions.
At a horrifying cost.
A Set Timetable
As a lull between matches starts to build, the house lights dim and a familiar, distant piano refrain starts to play.
“Exit Light…Enter Night.”
The crowd instantly starts to pick up…
“Take my hand…
We’re off to Never-Never Land”
Heavy pyrotechnic pots fire off on either-side of the entranceway in conjunction with Ghost’s version of Enter Sandman hitting its heavy opening. The snarling riff blares through the Epicenter as the lights strobe a brilliant, vibrant blue.
Eryk Masters: He’s BACK!
Indeed, as the voice of “Papa” start’s to snarl out the lyrics of the verse, Azraith DeMitri slowly steps through the entrance and the pyro, standing at the top of the ramp with a huge grin. The crowd erupts as he yells out a feral roar back out at them, his arms raising up slowly in appreciation of everyone there. He starts to make his way down to the ring, already undoing the button of his black suit jacket.
Other Guy: AZRAITH DEMITRI! We haven’t seen him since his war with Jacob Mephisto! Hell we’ve barely even HEARD from him!
Eryk Masters: While he’s been recovering, he’s also been an ambassador of the brand. Whenever there’s somewhere that could benefit from a SHOOT Project face…it’s been him ever since he’s been able to get out and about after that brutal cage match.
Azraith’s pace is slow, taking his time to slap hands with fans on either side of the ramp, even taking a bit to lean against it so that a few lucky fans can snap a selfie with him, all the time smiling like a madman. Finally he gets to the ring…staring at it with what looks like a sudden mix of anxiousness and…apprehension? A deep breath seems to leave The Sandman as he walks up the ring steps, stepping between the top and middle rope before carefully draping his jacket over the closest top turnbuckle. His music dies as he grabs a microphone from a ring tech. He takes another slow spin in the middle of the ring, looking at everyone in the crowd with a big, energetic smile that seems to be faltering just a little bit as they all start to chant.
Crowd: SAND-MAN! SAND-MAN! SAND-MAN!
Eryk Masters: This crowd is pouring it on for Azraith tonight, and rightfully deserved in my opinion.
Azraith smooths down his black tie over the dark blue shirt he wears underneath, finally bringing the mic upwards.
Azraith: I am always…always humbled by the Epicenter. Just when I thought I’d seen it all…y’all go and give me a welcome like that and…
Azraith’s voice is…different. Not much, but there’s a rasp, a catch in it that hasn’t been there before. If one looks closely, the chain-marks around his neck have remained, forming a vicious scar that seems to wrap clean around.
Azraith: …and really I can’t thank everyone enough. I know it’s corny but the love all of you showed me during my time off. The ‘get betters’, the well wishes…all of it, I’ve kept them all. I’ve tried my fuckin’ best to respond to all of them so if you haven’t heard back I absolutely promise you you will. So…uh…
Azraith pauses a moment, his eyes visibly wincing somewhat as his free hand rubs under his chin a moment. The ever-striking mix of black hair and blue streaks was tied into a neat ponytail, but several long strands have already broken loose, hanging over his face here and there. The crowd murmurs quietly as Az doesn’t seem to quite know what to say.
Azraith: I’ve…I’ve been doing this a long time. Long enough and hard enough that I realized a month or so ago that I…I don’t remember my first match. Not my first match at SHOOT but just my first match…period. My first receipt from my first actual payday was in March of 2001, according to my records, but I would’ve been…twenty-three then? I started training in 1998, so I had to have some kind of exhibition, training match…something between then. Y’all it’s been a long fuckin’ time…
Az chuckles nervously, his eyes now cast downwards.
Azraith: I’ve been in every possible kind of match you can imagine. Faced all kinds of challengers. Made friends I keep to this day…made enemies that still would probably want to see me take a wrong fall. I’ve been every kind of champion, every type of hero, every type of villain, I’ve seen and done almost everything. I’ve been doing this in one form or another for over twenty goddamn years…and the one thing I’ll never, EVER, get tired of is being able to do it in front of y’all. All of y’all. Those that knew me as an edgelord psychopath in DIWF, who followed me during my runs in SHOOT and OPW. I am only where I am right now as a wrestler…as a human because of y’all. Seriously, I cannot thank you all enough.
The crowd cheers back its love for the beastly figure in the ring, who is finally looking back up to the crowd, that smile on his face growing somewhat.
Azraith: A week ago, I was talking to my doctors. Checking up on everything to make sure I was good to go. Uh…I…
The crowd instantly falls silent, and that silence brings Az’s hand up to his mouth again. He shakes his head.
Azraith: It’s…uh. It’s kind of a mixed bag. They told me, first and foremost…that I’m definitely clear to wrestle.
What sounds like almost a collective gasp escapes the crowd as they start to cheer, but Az raises his hand up, shaking his head again.
Azraith: No…no you’re right. That’s good and yeah I’m fuckin’ ready to go…but yeah. That’s the good news. The bad news…essentially something I’ve known for maybe a year or two? It’s hard to tell. I think the doctor said something along the lines of “You’re good to go, but for the love of God we don’t know how.” The long-term effects of all the damage I’ve taken over the years is adding up to the point where there’s more things to upkeep than not. They want to work on my hip…they want me to wear a spinal brace when I sleep. They got me in front of a neurologist and *Az whistles softly* that’s a conversation for another day all-together y’all. Long to short…I genuinely don’t know how much more of this I got in me.
Az sucks in a deep breath, using his free hand to wipe at his eyes a little bit before laughing, trying to shake it off.
Azraith: So the way I figure it…I gotta do the best, the most with what I got left. At first, I sat at home and was writing down a list. Yanno? All those names you want to blaze away with. A fuckin’ tour-de-force. It felt so…self-indulgent. Hell most of this does too…but after I spoke with Josh Johnson…he told me he thought it’d be best to have me come out here and give it to y’all straight. He’s a smart guy. I threw away the list. Too unfocused…too bougie. Fuck that.
Az chuckles again, slowly walking to face the ramp, leaning up against the ropes facing it.
Azraith: There is…one thing, though.
The crowd starts to pick up again.
Azraith: One thing that’s eluded me, whether due to timing or circumstance since SHOOT picked back up a few years ago.
Other Guy: Oh shit…
Azraith: The SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship.
The murmur turns into a full on roar as the crowd screams out in approval. The concern fades from Az’s face, turning into a quiet, intense glare as his grip tightens on the mic.
Azraith: There’ll be people that say I haven’t earned the right to call that particular spot. That I should wait in line. Probably. Probably should. Maybe another epic, company-lifting run of the Sin City Championship would be more everyone’s flavor. Maybe I find some new up and comer…hell maybe a family member and go stalk after the tag team championships? Something…anything but the WHC. That’s…too important. Right?
There’s a resentment in Azraith’s voice that causes the crowd to get even louder.
Azraith: I’ve done my time. I’ve been a good Soldier. I’ve bled, sweat, and damn near died in the middle of this ring to entertain everyone here. To build a legacy worth retiring on. That legacy isn’t complete. That chapter hasn’t been fucking written yet. So do whatever y’all need to do. Arrange what you need to arrange. Nate…Buck…y’all are the best of this company right now and y’all deserve a championship match without me watching over your shoulders…which is why I’m saying this now.
The Sandman is coming for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Az’s voice falls into a raspy, bass snarl as his music starts to pick up once again.
Azraith: “Pleasant Fuckin’ Dreams.”
He drops the mic in front of him as the crowd roars once again. He grabs his jacket and rolls out of the ring, staring at the entranceway for several seconds as if waiting for someone to ruin the moment. No one does. He nods quietly as he heads back up the ramp.
Eryk Masters: Azraith DeMitri making his intentions known here tonight! What does a returning Sandman mean for the WHC division?
Other Guy: I’ve seen Az like this before, Eryk. He might as well be a walking hand grenade. The first person that’s unlucky to bump into his first is getting blown the f…the hell up.