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Reckoning Day 2024

Backstage

SPREAD YOUR WINGS AND FLY, BABY BIRD

The camera opens on the backs of Real Deal and the newly appointed COO of SHOOT Project, Dan Stein, walking down the hallway to the gorilla position. The two men are in their best suits and look the part of having a major event that they’re running. Stein walks with a cane, though he doesn’t use it for support beyond mentally. The men are chatting with each other, Real Deal is pointing at backstage pieces, and Dan is eagerly attentive as Mary Kelly and her camera catch up to them.

 

Mary Kelly: Gentlemen! Mr. Johnson! Mr. Stein!

 

Dan stops and turns his head, looking over his shoulder to Mary. The two men lock eyes with each other for a moment.

 

Dan Stein: “Mr. Stein?”

 

Real Deal: You never quite get used to it, I’m afraid.

 

Dan’s eyebrows raise for a moment. Both men turn around and smile at Mary Kelly, who now stands beside them so the camera may see all three.

 

Mary Kelly: Let me be the first to offer congratulations on the impending birth of your child, and your hiring to the COO position, Mr. Stein. It m-

 

Dan raises his non-cane hand up, stopping Mary politely. He winces.

 

Dan Stein: “Dan,” please.

 

Real Deal: It’s okay, Mary. He’s not used to getting the respect his position demands.

 

Mary clears her throat.

 

Mary Kelly: Sorry. Dan, what’s the transition from active wrestler to executive been like?

 

Real Deal: I’m going to stop you right there, Mary.

 

Real Deal pats Dan Stein on the shoulder.

 

Real Deal: Alright. Looks like it’s time to spread those new wings and fly on your own, Baby Bird. When you’re done here, you know where I’ll be.

 

Real Deal turns back toward gorilla and walks away. Dan steps in closer to Mary.

 

Dan Stein: First of all, thank you for your congratulations. It’s insane to me to be in this position so fast, with everything coming at me as quick as it is, but here we are. Molly and I are super excited for the baby, but the show must go on until I hear we’re hitting the final “stretch”.

 

Dan turns his head, wondering if he should’ve said that. He looks back at Mary.

 

Dan Stein: And second of all, everyone has made this transition smooth, all things considered. I feel like I’m put in a position to succeed here and usher in a new era of SHOOT Project. I’ve already been throwing out ideas and Real Deal and the rest of our leadership team has been super receptive.

 

Mary Kelly: That’s great to hear, Dan. Can you elaborate on any of those ideas?

 

Dan gives Mary his trademark smirk, and wags his finger at her.

 

Dan Stein: Always trying to get that scoop, Mary. I love it. Unfortunately, not at this time. Not here. This is Reckoning Day. This is the biggest pay-per-view of the year. I just want everyone at home to enjoy the hard work that the Soldiers of SHOOT Project tonight. We’ll get into the superfluous stuff later.

 

Mary Kelly: ‘Superfluous,’ that’s a big word.

 

Dan laughs.

 

Dan Stein: Yeah, I saw it on one of those “Word of the Day” calendars they gave me for my new office upstairs. Anyways, Mary, I have to get going. Reckoning Day is about to start and I have a LOT to learn and I’m already distracted by this baby.

 

Mary Kelly: Thanks for your time, Dan. Congratulations again!

 

Dan Stein: Thank you.

 

Dan turns to the camera, giving two thumbs up with the cane in his hand.

 

Dan Stein: Reckoning Day!! LET’S GOOOOOOOO.

 

The camera fades as Dan smiles at Mary Kelly and turns back toward gorilla.

PRE-MATCH

Ahead of the opening match, separate green, white, and orange spotlights shine down onto the middle of the entrance ramp. “Ricky” by Denzel Curry starts to play over the PA, announcing the arrival of one of the faster rising stars in the SHOOT Project… “The Fist of Eire”, Archer Quincannon! 

 

Jason Johnson: Love this guy, E. No nonsense, no bullshit, he just comes out here, fucks some shit up, and leaves.

 

Eryk Masters: The crowd’s into it too, Jason. They’ve embraced this guy pretty well since he emerged onto the scene and the reaction he’s gotten here is proof of that.

 

Quincannon comes out from the back and gets a reasonable pop from the Las Vegas crowd, which elicits a smirk and nothing more from him. He walks down the ramp, eyes totally focused on the ring, and just ignores everything and everyone around him.

 

Eryk Masters: Not sure that just ignoring the fans when you walk out is the way to get your name out there, but…

 

Jason Johnson: If he comes out here and beats Elijah Starborne’s ass, I have a feeling nobody will remember this entrance. 

 

Samantha Coil: Introducing first… he stands at six feet, four inches tall… he weighs in at 240 pounds… he is the FIST OF EIRE. ARCHER QUINCANNON. 

 

As Quincannon reaches the ring, the lights immediately go out as if on cue. A subtle blue and white light takes over, illuminating the entire arena. “The Seer’s Tower” by Sufjan Stevens begins to very calmly play over the air, bringing the noise of the arena into pure silence. Next, Elijah Cassius Starborne walks out, but he’s not dressed in anything that would look like ring gear, drawing boos from the crowd.

 

Elijah Cassius Starborne: Now now, I know you must all be wondering what I’m doing out here, no ring gear, so on. I was communing with the stars over the course of these past few weeks, and I arrived at a conclusion. The time is not yet right to exchange violence with Archer Quincannon.

 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The crowd lets him know it. He holds his hand up, attempting to quiet them, but to no avail.

 

Elijah Cassius Starborne: I know, I was disappointed too, but you have to understand that what the stars say? I must follow. But fear not, unenlightened of Las Vegas… 

 

Jason Johnson: Crowd didn’t love that either.

 

Eryk Masters: Of course not. We all know that the fine people here in Las Vegas are nothing if not enlightened.

 

Starborne: …I have found a replacement that is suitable by the celestial standard. He is a fearsome warrior, one that is not too unfamiliar to you. He existed previously in your REIGN universe. I was grateful to Johnny Brave, who… we’ll just say he agreed… to part ways with him. 

 

The crowd is confused, but no longer booing.

 

Starborne: That’s right. I’ve been promising Solstice to you, Archer Quincannon. We have reached that celestial apex, of course, and RAPTURE has given way to SOLSTICE. 

 

The crowd half-pops and half doesn’t know how to respond, but Jason Johnson and Eryk Masters are clued in as a GIANT individual emerges from the back to back up a smiling Elijah Cassius Starborne.

 

Eryk Masters: Oh man… this is the guy that terrorized Viento Helado and Avalanche Anderson for months down in REIGN! 

 

Jason Johnson: He’s impressive too. Just a specimen. If this is who Starborne has “picked from the Cosmos” too fight Quincannon? Quincannon’s in trouble. 

 

Eryk Masters: We’re going to find out soon, because Solstice has made a bee-line for the ring and this match is about to get underway! 

BACKSTAGE

I HAVE TO PROTECT IT

We cut to the back and find NC-17 and Johnny Vignochi’s back turned to a quickly approaching camera, their voices raised but controlled. The camera pushes to the left to reveal Ayumi Seppuku standing opposite the pair, bandages still visible around her chest and back from the fall she experienced trying to save Jamie Johnson.

We watch as Ayumi tries to force words from her damaged vocal cords.

Ayumi Seppuku: We cannot let… what happened… with Jamie.

Ayumi pauses and reaches for her throat.

Ayumi Seppuku: It cannot happen again.

NC-17 sighs and rubs his forehead as Johnny Vig looks on nervously.

NC-17: You have to trust me, Ayumi. I’m on your side. I’ve never NOT been on your side, even if Vig here would sometimes have it otherwise.

Johnny Vignochi: HEY!

NC-17: Fact is, they haven’t found Daihm yet… Dan Stein was forced to retire… and rather than take the hint and cancel Reckoning Day for ALL of our sakes, they move ahead and even throw Jamie back into the ring tonight? It’s… fucking disgusting.

Ayumi’s face tenses up.

Ayumi Seppuku: Tonight is the breaking point. For the future of SHOOT. One way or another.

The trio remain silent as the camera continues to roll until…

NC-17: If that’s the case, we will need to be ready. If Real Deal, Lennox, or any of the others aren’t willing to do what needs to be done to protect its Soldiers…

Seventeen trails off as the group falls back into silence again, but then Ayumi speaks up.

Ayumi Seppuku: SHOOT Project is my home. I have to protect it.

NC-17 shakes his head and Vig looks on.

 


NC-17: You can’t keep doing this. You’re going to get seriously hurt again.

Johnny Vignochi: Listen to Seventeen, Ayumi. I’m as frustrated about how things are going as you are, but killing yourself isn’t going to help anything.

Ayumi looks sternly at the two men.

NC-17: Please… Ayumi. Please don’t go out there tonight. For your own good.

As Ayumi is about to say something, we see her gaze lift up just enough to lock eyes with the camera. As she does, NC-17 and Johnny Vig turn around to look as well, before the scene cuts suddenly to black.

BACKSTAGE

ABIGAIL CATCHES UP WITH LEXI

In the backstage area, Lexi Gold sits on production crates, chatting on her phone. Abigail approaches with a microphone, but Lexi gives her a disapproving look.

 

Abigail Chase: Excuse me, Lexi Gold, may I have a moment of your time?

 

Lexi Gold: What do you want, Abigail? Can’t you see I’m busy?

 

Abigail Chase: I just wanted to ask you about your recent actions and your fascination with using scissors as a weapon. It’s become quite a talking point among fans and fellow wrestlers alike.

 

Lexi smirks and hangs up her phone, intrigued by the conversation.

 

Lexi Gold: Scissors, Abigail, are just a tool for destruction. They represent cutting away everything that stands in my path to dominance. And besides, it’s entertaining to see the fear in everyone’s eyes when they realize they’re trapped in my grasp.

 

Abigail Chase: Some would say your methods are… extreme. Do you think your tactics are necessary to achieve success in this industry?

 

Lexi smirks and hangs up her phone, intrigued by the conversation.

 

Lexi Gold: Success? Abigail, I’m not here to simply succeed. I’m here to dominate. And if that means pushing the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable, then so be it. The weak will always be weeded out, leaving only the strong to reign supreme.

 

Abigail Chase: Strong words indeed. On a different note, it seems like you’re not scheduled for tonight’s event. Any thoughts on that?

 

Lexi sighs. 

 

Lexi Gold: It’s a disgrace, really. The powers that be seem to have forgotten the true talent that resides in this locker room. But fear not, for I refuse to be overlooked. Tonight, instead of languishing in the shadows, I will join the commentary team for Savior’s match. He may think he can ignore me, but I’ll make sure he hears every word I have to say.

 

Abigail Chase: Thank you for your time, Lexi. It will be interesting to see how your presence at the commentary table affects tonight’s event.

 

Lexi Gold: Oh, you have no idea, Abigail. 

 

Lexi smirks menacingly before walking off. 

BACKSTAGE

LIKE HERDING CATS

Backstage, we’re not really sure of the commotion–but it’s loud and it involves many people,  whatever it is.  The cameraman is booking it down the hall, and we can hear what has to be at least a handful of people, all shouting over one another.  Running just ahead of the shaky cam is a somewhat familiar face, a more beleaguered Craig T. Nelson–Lou Grimaldi, SHOOT’s head of security.  Finally, they turn a corner, and we can finally hear someone distinctly. 

Mike de los Huesos: I’m right here baby bitch, we don’t gotta wait for no ring!  Nah, nah, let him go, let me go!

There are four people holding Mike back right now.  Another five are trying to do the same for Ryan Samuels, though he presents a bigger challenge.  

 

Ryan Samuels: DE LOS HUS… HESS… HABANEROS, I’LL BREAK YOUR GOD DAMN NECK! Let me at him!

 

Ryan struggles to move forward, while being restrained by the group of people. 

 

Roy Vezina: Easy, big guy! Easy! You’ll have your chance soon enough. Breathe!

 

Ryan continues to push forward, nearly knocking down the men holding him back. 

 

Roy Vezina: Remember Chapter 7 of my book! Be the Mountie in all of us! Focus! FOCUS!

 

The scene continues as the two men try their damnedest to get at each other.  More members of security wade in at the direction of Grimaldi, who gets in between the two crowds with rage etched all over his face.  

 

Lou Grimaldi: Enough!!

 

Finally, both men stop struggling against their respective throngs, and Mikey is the first to plead his case to the gruff man. 

Mike de los Huesos: You need to talk to this jincho in a language he understands, tell him he can affix his fuckin’ eyes in a direction that aint mine, else we can forget about this match shit!!

 

Ryan Samuels: Listen, old man. I’m…

 

Roy steps in front of his client, speaking to the head of security directly. 

 

Roy Vezina: Mr. Grimaldi. I am so sorry about how my friend here is acting. He has a lot of unchecked anger issues and honestly, it’s really hard to keep him in check. 

 

Roy gestures back to the large pissed off man, standing like a bull in a cage, ready to attack at any moment. 

 

Roy Vezina: I think the best course of action here is to let this match go on as planned, my boys and I will keep Ry in his locker room until then and I’m sure Mr. de Los Huesos can keep himself busy for a bit. There’s no need to change the script right now, eh? Let’s just keep things on track and move forward. Ha, funny enough I have a chapter on this kind of thing in my book. Chapter 12 “Stay on the Moose Track of Life.” Have you read my book? I’ll send you a copy. No worries, eh.

Grimaldi grunts gruffly, and Vezina seems to get the idea. 

Roy Vezina: Yeah, I can keep him in his locker room. 

Lou Grimaldi: See that you do.  And Mike?  You start any shit in the hallway like this again and I might stop ignoring the fact that you’ve probably brought enough reefer in here to smoke out the whole building.  Heard?

Mike de los Huesos: Louie, brother, all I–

Lou Grimaldi: I said heard.  

Mike de los Huesos: Yeah, heard. 

With that, the two parties begin to recede to their respective corners of the backstage area, leaving a beleaguered head of security to pinch his nose and sigh. 

Lou Grimaldi: …like herdin’ cats who could beat you half to death, I swear…

We cut away…

RING ENTRANCE

THE COLTONS

The classic rock riffs of the Eagles’ “Out of Control” blast through the arena, signaling the arrival of the hottest young tag team in wrestling.

 

Eryk Masters: Here we go! The Coltons have arrived!

 

Jason Johnson: Good news. I was just thinking, “where are all the dorks?”

 

Eryk Masters: Scoff all you want–

 

Jason Johnson: I will. Scoff, scoff.

 

Eryk Masters: –but these two young men have accomplished a lot in a very short time.

 

The fans give a huge cheer as the curtain parts, and the lads step through the curtain onto the stage. Benjamin arrives first, decked out in his red satin jacket, red trunks with a white stripe down the side, and white boots with red trim. He’s followed by his cousin Dennis; the big man wears similar attire, but green instead of red.

 

As similar as they are, there’s only one thing that matches exactly–those big shiny belts.

 

Jason Johnson: I’ve got my thoughts on these guys, but I can’t deny how impressive they’ve been in SHOOT Project. Undefeated in tag team action, won the Masters of the Mat tournament, held the Tag Team Championships since July, and had some killer matches with the Unholy Thunder Army and Midnight Cowboys MC.

 

Eryk Masters: Not to mention their successful tour of Bang! Pro Wrestling, where they defended the titles against some of that promotion’s top teams.

 

Jason Johnson: And also the Fabulous Hentai Brothers.

 

Benny and Denny slap hands with the fans at ringside as they make their way toward the ring. Once they reach the bottom of the ramp, they separate and continue greeting fans on opposite sides of the ring, then jump up on the apron. Benny vaults over the top rope, while Denny steps through, then they meet in the center for a high five.

 

Samantha Coil: Introducing first…hailing from Evansville, Indiana…at a combined weight of 490 pounds…they are YOUR! SHOOT Project Tag Team Champions…Benjamin and Dennis, THE COOOOOLLLLLLTOOOOOOOOONNNNNSSS!!

 

RRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!

 

The lads hand remove their belts and hold them aloft for the crowd at the Epicenter. After another cheer, they hand those belts to the referee, then remove their jackets and hand them to a ring attendant. Finally, they turn to face the stage, waiting for their mystery opponents to reveal themselves.

RING ENTRANCE

???

On the SHOOTron, the camera remains on a shot of The Coltons in the ring. Everyone turns to the top of the ramp to see who The Coltons’ opponent is going to be, even as The Coltons’ music plays. 

 

Suddenly, the video starts to burn from the lower right hand corner. Their music skips, scratches, and finally stops. 

 

The lights go out, and the picture of The Coltons burns up.

 

Eryk Masters: It’s ALWAYS theatrics with these mystery opponents!

 

Jason Johnson: Do you know what business you’re in, Eryk?

 

The voice of an elderly man with a thick Irish accent booms over the PA system:

 

Voice: When I raise my flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance upon mine enemies, and I will repay those who hate me. Oh, Lord, raise me to Thy right hand and count me among Thy saints.

 

Pyro. A keen eye notices the coloration. Green. White. Orange. The pyro shoots up in synchronization from the sides of the stage to the front.

 

Pitch black.

 

The SHOOT logo appears on the Tron. 

 

 

Feedback from an amplifier. Repetitive strumming. Bagpipes. The fans quickly pick up on the beat and begin to clap their hands to “The Boys are Back” by Dropkick Murphys.

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK!

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK!

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK AND THEY’RE LOOKING FOR TROUBLE!

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK!

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK!

 

THE BOYS ARE BACK AND THEY’RE LOOKING FOR TROUBLE!

 

THEN! A GREEN SPOTLIGHT ON A FIGURE WEARING A HOODED VEST WITH HIS HEAD DOWN, ON THE RAMP.

 

AN ORANGE SPOTLIGHT TURNS ON ANOTHER HOODED FIGURE A FEW FEET AWAY.

 

FINALLY. A WHITE SPOTLIGHT SHINES DOWN BETWEEN THE TWO MEN ON A SMILING, LOVELY, RED HEADED WOMAN!

 

The men lift up their heads and throw back their hoods, but the old heads already know:

 

MICHAEL.

 

ROWLAND.

 

MAUREEN.

 

 

Eryk Masters: That’s THE COLLINS TWINS! And their sister, Maureen! The whole CLAN is here!

 

PANDAMONIUM. The fans in the arena are going absolutely BONKERS. The three Collinses take in the reaction of the crowd. Drinks being thrown in the air. People dancing to the fast-paced Irish punk song. A small “HOLY SHIT” chant picking up steam. Grown men crying. Women fainting. Children…confused because the Collinses haven’t been in the SHOOT Project in about 12 years.

 

Jason Johnson: They were only in the SHOOT Project as a tag team for a cup of coffee, but it looks like Rowland’s all clear to resume wrestling!

 

Eryk Masters: And these fans are LOVING it!!

 

The Collins Twins rush to the ring, slapping hands with all of the fans along the way, themselves excited to be back. Michael slides under the top rope and throws back the hood that popped up when he slid in the ring, turning to the fans and throwing his arms outward. Rowland rushes up the steps on his hands and feet and climbs the turnbuckle, pumping his fist in the air to the beat of the song.

 

The Coltons stand back with grins on their faces, knowing they’re in for one hell of a brawl.

ELSEWHERE

PLANET MF

Where we are is hard to say—it could be backstage, but given the sheer proliferation of weaponry and thrash metal posters we might be in…a bunker? Or the pair that we lay eyes upon have converted some utility area in the depths of the spicenter to suit their needs.

We know them mostly by look and rep—the business of wrestling is host to monsters, pimps, reactionaries, egomaniacs, and thugs, sure. But these two are distinctive. One, a mass of tangled hair and bear framing two wild eyes that seem to always be scanning for a fight. The other, nearly a retiree, a living ashtray with a bloodlust born mostly from not having anything else to give a fuck about or be good at.  Trailer Trash Terry hasn’t let his having a job change him, he’s still perpetually shirtless and as foul tempered as ever.  Pigpen Matsumoto hasn’t changed in the better part of three decades, just deteriorated.  Right now, the latter is wrapping barbed wire around a folding chair, cigarette hanging from his lips. 

Pigpen: [ The problem is, most people in the wrestling ring are dogs.  Not nice ones that you take pictures of, but weak, sniveling, pissing pieces of trash that need to be run off.  You don’t keep an animal in your house that always pisses in your shoes, right?  And that ring, it has to be our house. ]

Terry, with notable exasperation, shrugs.  One gets the feeling Pipgen will run on constant streams of consciousness in his native tongue. 

Pigpen: World is shit.  World is dogs, Terry Trash. 

He raises up the chair, admiring his handiwork like a real craftsman. 

Pigpen: Get put down.

 

Terry smiles a wide toothless smile and takes a long swig of the best beer he can afford. As he wraps a length of chain around his fist, admiring the way it perfectly fits around his knuckles, as if it were just meant to be, he responds.

 

T3: Y’know, I had a dog once. I ever tell you ‘bout that?

 

Terry reflects, not waiting for a response. He’s well-aware that Pigpen barely understands him.

 

T3: Had him as a kid, yeah? Begged for him, too.  Used to follow me around everywhere, brother. I’m talkin’ sleepin’ in the bed to watchin’ me shit, y’know. Everywhere I went, that little fucker was right there at my heels.

 

He pauses, lightly punching the chain-wrapped fist into his palm.

 

T3: Then one day–I’m all a eight years old–I come home and see my daddy sittin’ with a .45 and a chewed up pair of work boots, drunk as a skunk. 

 

Another long swig.

 

T3: Daddy says, “Listen here, boy. It’s time you learned about consequences. You wanted the damn dog and now look what you done. You can’t even control a dog, you worthless piece a shit.” And you know what he said, brother? He handed me that .45 and told me that it was all… my… fault. And that I needed to be a man and accept responsibility. He made me take that dog behind our trailer, look dead in his puppy eyes, and…

 

Terry molds his fingers into the shape of a gun, points it at Pigpen.

 

T3: Pow.

Pigpen nods, chiefing his nonfiltered.  Idly, his other hand slowly twirls one of his many farks–this one bent, with tines that go in many directions, the tape wrapping he’s applied as a handle browning with the blood of various enemies. 

Pigpen: You not learn consequences.  You learn bigger lesson: world is cold.  People make you do terrible things.  All for what?  So they feel bigger than you.  Look down on Terry Trash, look down on Pigpen. 

With a sudden motion, Pigpen achieves no small feat–he actually buries the fork into a wood table, the sound authoritative in it’s gunshot heft.  Terry’s eyes meet his, and Pigpen does something that looks like if a smirk and a foul sneer fucked. 

Pigpen: World was cold to Pigpen too.  Not have much.  Not have much future.  Promise, yeah?  Always promise.  “It get better, life get easier, just work hard all your dreams come true.”  Uma no tawagoto.  There is no future.  Future is dream, dream is smoke in the air just like this.  Exist, then don’t exist.  This though.  Metal, steel, sharp shit, blood.  I can feel blood.  I can taste blood.  Blood is real. 

He and Terry stand, and the camera pans out to really show the full scale of what they’ve been doing.  The table is littered, covered edge to edge in various implements of violence: staple guns, buckets full of broken glass, chairs both barbed wired and not, bicycle chains, regular chains, cuban link chains, forks, knives, brass knuckles, kamas, railroad nails, ballbats, tire irons, kingbolts, what appears to be a bundle of horseshoes welded to a stick of rebar, multiple beer bottles, a bag of thumbtacks, boxcutters, three street signs, a can of hairspray with a lighter, a wood rasp, and at minimum four kendo sticks. 

The two misanthropes bump knuckles. 

They face the camera. 

Pigpen flips it off, double bird style–Trailer Trash Terry grabs his dick and spits at it.  It fades to black before leaving us with this image. 

 

PRE-MATCH

Mothman by Joh Yobansets plays as Lexi Gold steps out from behind the curtain and makes her way toward the announce table. The crowd reacts with jeers. As she approaches, she ignores their offer for a handshake. Instead, settles into her seat, ready with her headset to call the action.

POST MATCH

All competitors exit the ring, except Savior Hawkins, who struggles to rise with the referee’s assistance. Meanwhile, Lexi, who remains by the announce table, stands, removes her headset, and tosses it onto the table before awkwardly skipping toward the ring. She climbs the steel steps, enters the ring through the bottom rope, and stands facing him. Her thoughts are unclear, while he appears confused. Lexi mouths some words to him, but it was difficult to make out, then 

She walks slowly towards him as the crowd stands, eager to see them face each other. Out of nowhere, she stops, pulls scissors from her pocket with a sinister grin, aiming them at his face. But before anything else, the arena goes dark. Minutes later, everything returns to normal. Lexi seems to have disappeared, leaving Savior in the ring by himself. 

Out of nowhere, glass shards rain down from above, narrowly missing him. Spectators gasp in horror as the dangerous shards hit the canvas. Security rushes to check on Savior, who looks shocked. Chaos erupts as the audience watches in disbelief. Thankfully, Savior avoids the falling debris, and officials swiftly work to restore order before going to commercial break. 

BACKSTAGE

BANNED AND BARRED

We cut to see a familiar-looking face striding confidently down the hallway as none other than Ayumi Seppuku appears poised for some kind of battle. Wearing a stripped-down version of her Lux Aeterna ring gear, the former champion gets all of five steps before another familiar face steps into frame and cuts her off.

Lennox Ferguson: Why are we doing this, again, Ayumi? You know you’re still banned from the arena – the only reason you got to sit ringside last time was because I was being generous.

Ayumi scoffs in a mix of shock and disbelief as she gestures toward the arena entrance. Her voice remains raspy and staggered from her injuries.

Ayumi Seppuku: The only reason. Jamie is. SAFE. Is because. I was. There.

Lennox reaches up and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Lennox Ferguson: And I know Jamie and Josh owe you an incredible debt for that – PERSONALLY – and because of what you did we now have the chance to catch this fucker. You being there tonight will only put you, Jamie, and others at risk.

Ayumi looks sternly into Lennox Ferguson’s eyes.

Ayumi Seppuku: You know. Lennox. I remember when. We used to work together. We used to. Understand each other.

Lennox drops his shoulders and sighs.

Lennox Ferguson: That was a long time ago. A different time. A different me. A different…

Ayumi raises her eyebrows.

Lennox Ferguson: That’s not what I- look… can you just trust me on this? You’re right that Jamie wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you and I shouldn’t be saying this but if you just hold out a little longer we are sorting things out with legal and when we do? We’ll find a place for you back in SHOOT.

Ayumi Seppuku: In the ring?

Lennox sighs and avoids Ayumi’s glare.

Ayumi Seppuku: I see.

Lennox Ferguson: We’re trying, Ayumi. But after the Carolina Lions? After WOLF MAN? After… what happened to Dan Stein? We’re not the young fighters we were 20 years ago and I don’t want to see you die out in the ring, okay? Does that make me a monster?

Ayumi frowns and shakes her head before pointing a finger at Lennox.


Ayumi Seppuku: You can keep me. From ringside. Lennox. But after… A YEAR. And a half. Of my life. Of my career. On the sidelines. Spare me your. Holier than thou. Tripe.

Lennox shakes his head.

Lennox Ferguson: I’m sorry, Ayumi.

Ayumi scoffs and turns back to begin returning the way she came.

Ayumi Seppuku: Me too.

 

Lennox watches, arms crossed, as a dejected Ayumi walks away.





RING ENTRANCE

JAMIE JOHNSON

“One for the Money” by Escape the Fate hits out of nowhere, and the fans come to their feet in anticipation of the arrival of the former Sin City Champion, Jamie Johnson! He doesn’t let them down and pops out of the back, pyro exploding around him, big smile on his face. He starts his walk down to the ring as Samantha Coil reads him in…

 

Samantha Coil: Introducing first… a former Sin City Champion… he stands at six feet, two inches tall and weighs in at 220 pounds, he is THE REALNESS… JAMIE JOHNSON!

Eryk Masters: It’s hard to overstate the weight of this so-called grudge match, Jason. At this point we are way beyond that threshold. I hate to be overdramatic but this may well be a deciding encounter for the very soul of the SHOOT Project.

Jason Johnson: I’m new to ringside, Eryk, but not new to this business and I find it hard to disagree. This presence has been a blight on the company since Dan Stein and my nephew Jack were attacked last September and, as we saw recently, that was the incident that prompted the end of one of the longest runs of any Solider in this company’s history. Then Daihm Ferguson goes missing during Redemption a month later? And, I hate to say it, but if it weren’t for Ayumi Seppuku being ringside Jamie may have suffered the same fate.

Eryk Masters: I just hope we get some answers here tonight, Jason. For the sake of your brother, for Lennox, and for every member of the roster who have had to endure this months-long trauma.

Jamie gets to the ring as his music keeps playing. Finally, it comes to a close and he stands at the front of the ring, watching the ramp intently, waiting for the “Masked Figure”. An uncomfortable amount of time starts to pass, with the fans and Jamie getting restless and impatient.

 

Jason Johnson: Is this a head game too or? 

 

Eryk Masters: Seems that way, and seems like it’s working.

 

Finally, Jamie has had enough.

Jamie Johnson: Okay. You’re going to play it that way, then? Fine. I’ll just come find your ass instead!

Just as Jamie begins to step over the ropes to exit the ring, the lights go out in the arena and a high-pitched whine begins to play over the speakers.

Eryk Masters: AGH! Not again!

Jason Johnson: What the hell is happening!?

A spotlight swings wildly from the top of the arena, landing firmly on a confused and auditorily-attacked Jamie Johnson. As he is bathed in light, the shrill sound cuts out as all the screens in the arena burst into static and a voice can be heard over the arena; it is a digitized AI voice that has a menacing, inhumanly cold tone to it.

Voice: Jaime JohnSON. You have been granted an opportunity tonight.

The voice echoes throughout the arena, casting the audience in a stunned silence.

Voice: Your father has sinned and refused to atone. His punishment has passed on to you. Will you surrender willingly?

Jamie, still with a microphone in hand, laughs shakes his head.

Jamie Johnson: I will never back down from anyone or anything, EVER.

 

The crowd pops.


Jamie Johnson: If you want to hide behind autotune and techno voodoo, I can’t stop that, but I’m GOING to find you. I’ve had enough!

There is a brief pause.

Voice: Disappointing.

Suddenly, the spotlight pointed on Jamie transitions from a white light into a dark red, as if bathing the arena in blood. The crowd gasps in surprise as – in a split second – all the lights return to normal, the feed returns to normal, and standing directly behind a distracted Jamie Johnson is a figure dressed head-to-toe in white wearing a demon mask.

Jason Johnson: JAMIE LOOK OUT!

 

 

POST MATCH

As the bell rings, the crowd is on their feet, cheering for Jamie to get back to his feet and – hopefully – away from danger.

Eryk Masters: Did something seem odd to you about tonight’s match, Jason?

Jason Johnson: This whole fucking THING is odd, Eryk!

Eryk Masters: No, I mean that Masked Figure… it almost seemed like-

Jason Johnson: Look, this isn’t a time for nuanced critique! Jamie needs to get out of there so the professionals can take over. The police are on their way right now!

Rather than move out of the ring, Jamie – like a man possessed – jumps immediately on top of the Masked Figure, wrapping his arms around their neck and yanking wildly. The fans key in quickly to what is happening and begin to shout their support towards Jamie.

TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!

The Masked Figure flails wildly, trying to get Jamie off of his back. As they scuffle, the pair find themselves pushed against and then OVER the top rope! Jamie and the Masked Figure fall in an ungraceful, massive heap outside of the ring right onto the concrete floor!

Jamie is the first up to his feet…. a white demon mask clutched tightly in his hand.

Eryk Master: He got it! He got it


Jason Johnson: Holy shit! Who is it!? Who is under there?

The fans are absolutely hysterical right now as the figure rises and the face of NC-17 is staring back at an utterly shocked Jamie Johnson!

Eryk Masters: No fucking way. I refuse to believe it.

As if on cue, a swarm of police officers begin to arrive to control the scene. But as soon as they do, a massive shadow appears, emerging like a mist from underneath the ring apron.

Jason Johnson: The hell!? There’s two of them!?

Another identically-dressed masked figure manifests in the Realness’ blindspot, standing inches behind the exhausted fighter. Before Jamie can react, the newly-emerged figure wraps a white cloth around Jamie’s mouth.

Jason Johnson: JAMIE! NO!

Jamie’s eyes flutter as NC-17 shouts something at the newly-arrived Masked Figure, who quickly pulls Jamie Johnson downward and drags him under the ring!

The police race down to the scene and arrive just as NC-17 slides under the apron, as well. Within seconds the ring is surrounded from all sides, weapons drawn and pointed at every square inch of the ring apron.

Emerging from the back in quick succession are SHOOT Project CEO Josh Johnson, COO Dan Stein, and Chief of Staff Lennox Ferguson. The trio look incredibly anxious as they quickly make their way down. Lennox begins pointing and yelling at one of the officers who nods and gestures to the ring. A pair of officers crouch down and push their way under the ring as the rest of the arena is absolutely on pins and needles.

Eryk Masters: In all my years of doing this job, Jason, I’d thought I’d seen everything… but this is something else. I have absolutely NO idea what is going to happen here. I just hope Jamie is alright.

Jason Johnson: He will be. He has to be… but DAMMIT what is taking them so long!? There isn’t like there is anywhere they can hide. Right?

After another few seconds, the two officers re-emerge from under the ring but do so without NC-17, the Masked Figure, or Jamie Johnson. An incredibly confused Josh Johnson pushes his way into the crowd of officers, yelling something as the two officers shake their heads and point down toward the ring. As they do, ringside cameras catch all the color drain from the CEO’s face as he holds a hand up to his mouth and looks around – staggering slightly before being caught by Lennox Ferguson.

Jason Johnson: Shit. This isn’t good. We need to cut to commercial! Cut to the back – something; anything!

You can hear the sound of Jason Johnson setting down his headset before he emerges on screen next to his brother while the crowd watches on, trying to make sense of the situation.

Eryk Masters: Folks, it looks like we are going to step away for just a moment as we try and sort this out. Please… uh…  enjoy a few words from our sponsors and then we’ll be back to bring you the remainder of Reckoning Day!  I… hope.

 

COMMERCIALS

Scene opens with a wrestler sprinting during sunrise. The city skyline is in the background. They’re wearing Aurora Athletic Wear.

 

Narrator: “Push beyond your limits with Aurora Athletic Wear. Engineered for the fighters, the dreamers, the warriors.”

 

Cut to a montage of athletes training in various environments – a gym, a park, a rooftop.

 

Narrator: “Our gear is designed to keep you moving, breathing, and conquering. From the sweat of your brow to the stretch of your stride, Aurora moves with you.”

 

The wrestler takes a moment, catching their breath, looking determined.

 

Narrator: “Aurora Athletic Wear – Wear your strength.”

Scene opens in a lush, green field. A wrestler and other athletes are planting trees and tending to a garden.

 

Narrator: “At Verdant Earth Organics, we believe strength comes from the ground up. That’s why we’re committed to giving back to the earth that fuels us.”

 

Cut to the athletes using Verdant Earth Organics products – refreshing sprays, energy bars, all natural and organic.

 

Narrator: “Our products are crafted for those who demand purity and performance. Sourced from the best, for the best.”

 

The athletes finish their day with a workout in the open field, using nature as their gym.

 

Narrator: “Join us in the journey of strength and sustainability. Verdant Earth Organics – Powering your performance, protecting our planet.”

BACKSTAGE

I WRESTLE

Do you even get her!?

 

The commentator asks with more disdain than trying to extract information.  On screen, Laura Seton in her younger days soars off the top rope.  A quick cut to her about to be slammed, but hooking her legs around her opponent’s waist before managing to roll through with a makeshift sunset flip.

 

This young woman has more heart than half the roster.

 

A handful of kick outs before a close up, showing a tired and weary, yet still hungry look within her eyes.

 

They said, “She’s got it.”. They said–

 

It’s not anymore about “if,” but “when.”

 

She holds a World Championship above her head before a quick cut to her being pinned.  Another shot of her holding a Championship on the middle rope before another quick cut to her being pinned again.

 

Another dirty trick costs Laura Seton.  But rest assured: You’ll get your day Laura.  You’re too good!

 

And so it’s been said.  Over and over.  I waited almost forever for that first time.  And it ended so fast, yet was still so much longer than the second run.

 

How could she not have had so much more?

 

Dude, this isn’t for her.

 

But didn’t you say before she was amazing?

 

Weeellllll…

 

Weren’t you the one that said we needed an electric athlete, “Kinda like a Laura Seton,” to be World Champion??

 

Weeellllll…

 

Because my heart isn’t infinite.  I wrestle because I love my job.  I wrestle because nothing gives me more pleasure or satisfaction.

 

I wrestle because I want that World Championship.

 

In baseball they say you need a combination of “skill…”

 

More shots of her in-ring.  From her high-flying days of yesteryear to the more technical version we know today.

 

… And “luck.”

 

God knows I’m overdue on “luck.”

 

Over 20 years I’ve poured every bit of my fucking heart out for this sport.  I’ve done everything I could for these fans.  I’ve given, taken time to recollect myself and come back to give more.

 

On numerous occasions.

 

I don’t come back from retirement because I need the money or I want a final piece of revenge on someone.

 

I just fucking love wrestling.  I can’t say that with any more possible passion without tearing up.  And that’s why this is an honor.

 

And it’s why I am not letting myself leave here empty handed.  Unless I’m dead.  I may not deserve this more than Azraith… but coming in second?  When I get so few chances?  Or having my heart broken because someone cannot stand me finally being World Champion??

 

I am NOT going to be cast aside tonight.  This atmosphere is a rush.  I did everything I could to make it to Reckoning Day. I don’t care if after the match, it takes me 10 minutes to lift myself up or even if I collapse upon standing…

 

Quick shots of her smiling and celebrating before a final one focusing on her eyes.

 

I am NOT satisfied unless I leave World Heavyweight Champion!



 

BACKSTAGE

LITTLE CHAMPION

We head backstage to find NC-7teeny pacing back and forth in a dressing room looking absolutely frantic. He’s running his hands through his red mohawk, brow furrowed, mouth curved in a frown, totally distressed. The little guy is dressed for battle in his hot pink wrestling tights and white tassels, every bit the NC-17 impersonation right down to the gloves. In just minutes, he’d be stepping out to face Miranda DC for the SHOOT PROJECT Sin City Championship.

 

The revelations from earlier in the night were definitely weighing on him.

 

Eryk Masters: And now we head backstage to Sin City Championship challenger 7teeny’s dressing room. There’s one big question I’m asking myself, Jason. Did…7teeny know?

 

Jason Johnson: I don’t think he did. I can’t believe it. Won’t believe it. I mean look at him, Eryk. He’s pissed.

 

7teeny seems to be talking to himself. He’s clearly not aware there’s a camera watching.

 

7teenY: Fuck it. I’m not going out there. I can’t do this. I won’t be a part of this.

 

He grabs a duffel bag full of his clothes from the counter and makes an effort to exit, when he bumps into the MASSIVE belly of Lars Von Bremen.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Mr. Teen told me I was going to the ring with you. 

 

There is nothing on the face of Lars. He’s pure cold, robotic even, staring down at the INFINITELY smaller man. 7teeny shakes his head resolutely, trying to get around the calf of the behemoth to no avail.

 

7teeny: No, I don’t think so. I’m not doing this. I won’t fight NC-17’s battles for him. I’ve had enough.

 

There is a silence that passes between the two men. Lars remains unreadable, staring down at 7teeny and blocking his path out. Finally, he places a giant, meaty hand on 7teeny’s shoulder, a hand that is basically the size of 7teeny’s head.

 

Lars Von Bremen: I’m going to ask you two questions, and I need you to think very hard and answer very honestly.

 

7teeny looks at the hand on his shoulder, unable to do anything about it…and sighs, awaiting the inevitable answer.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Why do you wrestle?

 

The small man pauses to entertain the question, appearing to really think hard about it before he looks Lars dead in his eye.

 

7teeny: To inspire hope…for the underdogs.

 

The crowd cheers in the arena, rallying around the miniature hero. Lars scoffs at this answer, the only showing of emotion so far, which seems to confuse and maybe even hurt 7teeny.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Does it inspire hope to run away from a title opportunity? You still dress like Mr. Teen, still have your hair styled and colored like Mr. Teen, but your rebellion is to not take a shot at a big gold belt?

 

Lars clicks his teeth, leaning into 7teeny.

 

Lars Von Bremen: That doesn’t make you an underdog or a symbol of hope. That makes you a fucking coward.

 

7teeny stumbles back at first, clearly weaker than Lars. But he’s right back at Lars’  calf a second later, still staring up intensely at the monster.

 

7teeny: I’m sorry…who the fuck are you again?

 

The crowd roars at 7teeny’s bravado as he pinches the bridge of his nose and shoots Lars an incredulous look. Lars scoffs again, a wisp of a grin on his face as he removes his hand from 7teeny.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Not the champion, little imposter. Second question.

 

Lars snaps his neck and cracks his knuckles.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Did you know you can break a rib just by sneezing?

 

Lars reaches down fairly quickly for a man of his size, grabbing 7teeny by the chest and slamming him against the wall. He squeezes into 7teeny’s ribs as the crowd begins to boo. 7teeny is clearly in pain, but he manages to throw a few rabbit punches at Lars. Lars bleeds from his lips a little, but this almost seems to amuse him. He spits blood to his side and laughs a low, mean laugh, squeezing tighter on 7teeny, who hopelessly grabs at the hands of Lars.

 

Jason Johnson: Alright, I’ve seen enough! Somebody get security back there!

 

Eryk Masters: Somebody needs to stop this!

 

Lars Von Bremen: The part of the body designed to protect the heart and lungs, and yet they can break so easily. 

 

7teeny struggles pathetically, and the crowd boos louder. But the truth of it is, Lars is just too big. Too strong. 

 

7teeny: I’m NOT going down to that ring.

 

The little person’s defiance is admirable. His spirit indomitable…but it is just. Not. enough. Lars squeezes tighter, the pain on 7teeny’s face palpable. 

 

Lars Von Bremen: You are. You are going to that ring, you are facing the champion, you are going to do your best to be worth a damn in this industry…

 

Lars gets right in 7teeny’s face.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Or I’m going to smash your ribcage and potentially end your career.

 

Lars is forehead to forehead with 7teeny, pressing the back of the little man’s head into the wall behind him.

 

Lars Von Bremen: And maybe your life.

 

The crowd is ROARING their disapproval. At this point, you HAVE to be able to hear them backstage. 7teeny is GRIMACING with pain…he’s taken about all that he can handle!

 

7teeny: ….OKAY! Let GO of ME. 

 

Lars immediately drops 7teeny who crumbles to the ground.

 

Lars Von Bremen: You’re going to the ring now.

 

7teeny rises, slowly, less out of defiance and more out of pain and defeat. Lars spins him around and pushes him towards the ring.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Let’s go little champion.

 

 

RING ENTRANCE

NATE ROBIDEAU

First, there is darkness.  Long enough to cause confusion

Then? 

The music hits.

 

 

The arena is bathed in blue light with flashes of white criss crossing over the entrance.  Fog begins to roll across the entranceway itself, so much so that it almost feels non-visible–though the image on the screen has resulted in a roar of deafening boos to tear across the arena.  We see a figure, hooded, slowly walking towards the stage, clearly in no hurry. 

As the song continues to blare, the syncopated drum leads to a screaming guitar solo, the type designed to tear the roof off of buildings like this. 

And there he stands.  Timed it perfectly. 

Nate Robideau. 

He is standing amidst lights and fog, dressed…very differently than we are used to seeing.   We are used to him wearing a gym hoodie and his ring gear, little else, but tonight he’s made some changes.  Gone is the white tape he normally lashes to his fists and feet, replaced with matte black.  Instead of a hoodie, he’s wearing a black hooded robe.  He walks out rolling his shoulders, throwing half speed shadowbox punches, hopping from one foot to another.  Staying loose.  Once the drums hit another crescendo, he throws his hood back and extends his arms out to his side, which only renews the screams, insults, and jeers from the crowd once again. 

As he starts to make his way down the ramp, he gets announced formally.  

 

Samantha Coil:  Introducing…From Natakkoa, Elko County Nevada, weighing two-hundred and forty pounds…representing Blackhawk Fight Gym, he is The Blackhawk, NATE TE’MOAK ROBIDEAU!!


Nate rolling into the ring, head thrown back as he stands.  Eyes closed.  The lights begin to lay out a strobe effect as the guilar’s scream, angelic in one moment and infernal the next, washes over him, mixing with the crowd noise to be almost too much, the audio levels clearly spiking in the red.

He clambers up the middle rope, ripping his robe off and throwing it to the floor–but there’s no posing.  His eyes just scan the crowd.  Scan the announce team.  And then scan the corner of his opponent as he leaps to the mat, shaking out his limbs.  

RING ENTRANCE

JOSHUA BREEDLOVE

“IN THE BEGINNING…”

 

The lights go out and the tron lights up with Nate Robideau standing in the middle of the ring, just watching. Grainy video of very, very old timer wrestlers working and moving around the ring are shown. You know what we’re talking about, the grayscale video with dudes who could have been clones of each other wrestling in identical black tights.

 

It’s really basic stuff. Some basic punches, very slow running of the ropes, an attempted lariat, a vertical suplex… 

 

Jason Johnson: History lesson. Nice.

 

Eryk Masters: Breedlove going for something here with this imagery, for sure.

 

“IN THE PAST…”

 

The tron lights up again, this time full color. Video from SHOOT Project’s past are shown, with clips of Loco Martinez, Rocky Stellar, The Real Deal, The Willennium, Eddie E., all in various battles with one another… the old SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship is shown, the scene is gritty and less polished than what we get now, but it’s a nice homage to SHOOT’s history.

 

Eryk Masters: That’s your era! 

 

Jason Johnson: Technically it’s your era too.

 

Eryk Masters: We don’t talk about that! 

 

Jason Johnson: You’re a former Rule of Surrender champion, though…

 

“IN THE… MORE RECENT PAST…”

 

The images switch, now showing the new era. Nate Robideau, NEMESIS, Joshua Breedlove, Jamie Johnson, Ayumi Seppuku, and more. Battling. Grinding. Flying. The video starts to take shape, focusing on Joshua Breedlove. Breedlove wearing a Magnus International jacket, holding up the RCW Championship from his time in Mexico… the chad Ass brotherhood… standing tall as the Sin City Champion all the way to now, where he stands in front of the Empire’s Sanctum, drenched in red, gold, and black.

 

He holds the World Heavyweight Championship in his hand.

 

Jason Johnson: Definitely the more recent past.

 

Eryk Masters: Also a little bit of wishful thinking.

 

The lights go back out, complete darkness overtakes the arena. The sound of a timpani roll emerges over the audio and in rhythm, a blood red spotlight shines down from the right of the arena to the ramp. The timpani gets louder, the roll becoming more and more present, and a white spotlight shines from the left side of the arena to the ramp. The timpani has reached the apex of its volume and finally, a gold spotlight shines down from the top of the arena all the way down to the ramp. 

 

Gold and white pyro begin to spill out, lighting the arena up almost uncomfortably. Finally, a silhouette takes its place in the pyro, getting drenched by the gold and white sparks. The arms are stretched out wide, and with one last blast, the pyro EXPLODES and once the smoke clears, a very familiar clapping and chanting cadence takes over…

 

“MAKE WAY FOR THE KING”

 

 

The crowd EXPLODES when they see Joshua Breedlove standing at the top of the ramp, unmoving, staring forward. He’s smirking, almost a smile of relief. 

 

Jason Johnson: Think that relief is because he got a good reaction? 

 

Eryk Masters: Oh absolutely. You don’t dump all this work into an entrance like that just to get booed. Breedlove is trying HARD to embrace his role as the hero of this story.

 

Jason Johnson: Seems like that gamble paid off!

 

Samantha Coil: INTRODUCING THE FORMER SIN CITY CHAMPION… THE FORMER WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION… HE STANDS SIX FEET, FIVE INCHES AND WEIGHS IN AT TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE POUNDS… HE REPRESENTS THE EMPIRE… HE IS THE EMPEROR… JOSHUA BREEDLOVE!!

 

Breedlove reaches the bottom of the ramp and takes a moment to soak in the crowd noise one last time before purposefully sliding underneath the first ring rope and standing directly in Nate Robideau’s face.

POST MATCH

IMMORTALITY

 

“Make Way For The King” is fighting with the deafening cheers of the crowd for the Emperor himself, who winces as he gets his arm raised.  But those cheers start getting poisoned with a few boos, which confuses the man–until he sees an equally exhausted Nate Robideau getting a hot mic handed to him by someone at ringside.  Breedlove immediately lowers his head, squatting ever so slightly, given Nate space but stancing himself for a fight.  As the music fades and the boo’s increase to a deafening crescendo, Nate decides to nip things in the bud. 

Robideau: I know you don’t want to hear from me.  And normally I’d just let it wash over me.  

He delivers his next words with the same authoritative thunderclap he’d use in classes. 

Robideau: But listen.  

This actually, surprisingly, has a desired effect–the boos are still there, but their volume peters out, the crowd either actually interested in what he has to say or just waiting for an opportune moment to jeer him again.  He looks to the crowd, blinking slowly, exhaling breath from his chest.  

Robideau: I spent the last week blaming Joshua Breedlove.  Blaming this man, right here–this warrior.  That he took it too far, went over the line, pushed me to act a certain way.  I was so consumed with anger about him even mildly threatening what I’d built…I laid that at his feet.  I put that on him.  And it wasn’t his fault!  Josh, look at me.  Be honest.  If I had not laid you out, would you have even considered making those kinds of threats? 

He turns to Breedlove, who is still incredibly wary of the situation–but he’s also game for just about anything, and he seems ready to hear where this is going.  He shrugs, shaking his head.  Nate nods. 

Robideau: That’s what I’m getting at.  All of this is my fault. 

He lets that hang for a moment.  Then he looks back to his opponent. 

Robideau: I said to you once, in a setting not unlike this one, that you brought out the worst in me.  The truth is…I think this brings out the worst in me.  

Nate punctuates this by pointing to the canvas. 

Robideau: I came this close to losing everything.  Over what?  Beef?  Because I don’t like someone and I had to have the last laugh? 

He turns from Breedlove.  While he’s exhausted from the match, he’s also thinking things over.  His brow is furrowed, he’s choosing his words.  The crowd is as silent as one can expect a packed Epicenter to be, and even Joshua Breedlove is looking at him with genuine curiosity about where he’s going. 

Robideau: I don’t talk about this often, but let’s get it out in the open.  I never thought I’d be here.  I thought for sure I’d be stuck in a dead end job I hated, slowly drinking myself to death, that’s the future I saw for myself when I got out of prison.  Credit’s gotta be put where it’s due to this company for taking a chance on me and giving me…well, something I never dreamed of.  But I know this better than anyone: in a snap moment, you can lose everything.  That’s a heavy thing to have on your shoulders when you’re a scared teenager who made a mistake, but it takes on massive weight when you’re approaching middle age and you’ve finally built your defining thing, the one thing by which your name will live on.  

Nate drops the mic for a moment and squats, looking down.  It almost looks like he’s talking to himself, and the conversation is probably closer to an argument.  Finally, he takes in three big circular breaths, then stands up, closing what appear to be glossy eyes.  He raises the mic to his chin. 

Robideau: So I’m out.  Consider this my retirement.  Not because I hated losing–Josh Breedlove won this fight, and I’m at peace with that.  I have made peace with it, truly.  I’m going because there’s just so much more that’s important to me now than my win/loss record.  It’s funny. 

The crowd is transitioning from boo’s to what sounds like legitimate shock.  There are a few cheers–even some people chanting “thank you”, but Nate isn;t trying to hear that.  He waves this off, wincing and holding back.  Finally, he breaks into a smile, ignoring his obvious emotion.  Nate points to Josh, then himself. 

Robideau: We all, all of us who do this, are creatures of ego.  We have pride, so much of it, right?  So we seek immortality.  Gladiators of old, us, no difference.  But we, you and me?  We already figured out our immortality.

He then looks to the crowd. 

Robideau: Thank you. 

“New Dawn Fades” roars back to life, and Nate Robideau–World Champion, face of the company for a time, consistent, dominant, The Blackhawk himself–drops the mic and slides out of the ring, not even offering Joshua Breedlove the handshake he knows would be rejected.  The crowd, for their part, gives Nate the one thing he hasn’t heard in years: They cheer for him, and though he doesn’t break down, the camera following him up the ramp shows the entire story on his face: Jaw set.  Lips tense.  A tear cascading down his cheek.  To have given so much and to walk away is probably the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life.  And then an unexpected voice pipes up. 

Breedlove: Hey, hey, cut the music.  Nate…

Joshua Breedlove has gotten a hold of a mic, and his voice sounds soft, almost conciliatory.  He looks over the ropes to Robideau, who is eyeing him with a confused furrow of his brow.  He takes this opportunity to wipe his face clean, taking in a big lungful of air, calming himself.  The crowd is buzzing, waiting to see what true resolution looks like between these two sworn enemies.  Josh chews his lip, thinking things over, truly at a loss for words–maybe for the first time in his career. 

He finds them and smiles.   

Breedlove: Go fuck yourself. 

The crowd gives ample “oohs” to this, but the craziest thing happens. 

Nate laughs. 

Shoots him a middle finger with a grin. 

And disappears into the back.