The atmosphere, it’s electric.
The stage, it’s set.
The arena, it’s packed.
Red and white pyro EXPLODE out of the stage, the lights go nuts, and the patrons of the Star of the Desert Arena get real loud, real fast.
Once all that dies down, the lights in the arena go all the way down to black.
The arena is hushed.
Two absolute giants stand in front of a brick wall, the drab of that background only making their gear choices pop even more. The taller one is a Japanese man, facepaint on under a mask made of strips of leather. His hair is held high in a black top knot—the rest of his skull is shaved bald. His partner is a slightly shorter, broader, black man. He also wears face paint, and a close-cropped hair and beard. Both men are dressed in a garish combination of black and fluorescent red, well-coordinated to complement each other. The graphic in front of them appears, identifying them as the following:
”UNHOLY CYBER ARMY: CYBER Superbeast & CYBER Power Devil”
The taller one, identified now as CYBER Superbeast, slaps himself in the chest and steps slightly forward, his massive muscles flexing. He speaks in a deep rumble, his accent present.
Superbeast: We have seen who you boast as your champions. Your toughest. Your meanest. Your Scariest. Power Devil, how you feel about them?
with that, Superbeast slaps Power Devil in the chest—tagging him in. Power Devil steps forward, popping his neck.
Power Devil: Unimpressed. Underwhelmed. Underrepresented.
He points to the camera, his volume loud–his voice a raspy, high intensity bark.
Power Devil: Has beens! Never wills! Ragtags! The Army has arrived not because we seek the sweet taste of victory over competitors who challenge our skills so greatly. No, if we wanted that, we would find that somewhere where the tag teams are frightening to behold! Superbeast, why are we here?
Power Devil slaps Superbeast in the chest, and he steps forward, slowly working his hands into fists with a shake.
Superbeast: Pursue. Prosecute. Punish.
Power Devil roars and slaps his fist on the brick.
Superbeast: On Notice! Warned! Surprised! The Army is here to wake up every duo of imitators who have somehow convinced the people that they are a team. A force. A partnership with skill and power and a real deep hunger to chew through the competition. But none of you match that description, do they?! Power Devil, what are they?
Chest slap, switch places.
Power Devil: Charlatans. Con artists. Claimants.
He punches his fist with a staccato slapping sound, repeatedly, growling softly before digging back in with his eyes fiery under his heavy brow.
Power Devil: Weak! Cowering! Weeping! What you have before you, what you are fortunate enough to witness–
At this his partner raises one arm high
Power Devil: –are two of the meanest, toughest, most frightening demons you will ever have the misfortune of facing! You will feel despair and pain, you will see them sponge your blood from the mat, you will run at the sight of our goddamn names!
Superbeast play acts concerned, grasping his partner by the shoulder.
Superbeast: Brother, brother–
Power Devil shakes off his partner’s grasp and begins yelling with intensity, shaking both fists as he goes.
Power Devil: No, I’m fired up now and I’m ready to let them hear it! Let the whole world hear it! Unholy Cyber Army! Superbeast! Power Devil! Lay down like the weak dogs you are at our command or watch me make statement jewelry with your teeth!! I–
With a slap to the chest, Power Devil stops, breathing heavily. He wipes some spittle from his beard and nods to his partner, who steps forward slowly.
Superbeast: He gets a little hyped up sometimes.
With a muscle popping jolt, he matches his partner’s prior volume.
Superbeast: And I am too! We aren’t here to find teams to respect. We looked! You’re lacking. But what we are here to do is to steamroll! Shatter! You’re going to find yourselves icing your spines and having wounds in your body stitched up, because we like to hurt people, and we are really, really good at it! Every. Single. Team! Will be left Bowed!!
His partner steps forward, beating his own chest.
Power Devil: Bleeding!
They turn to one another and then headbutt each other, hard, before turning back to the camera, arms around each other’s shoulder, bellowing.
They bump fists and explode into a frenzy of yellowing and slapping each other on the shoulders and chest, walking off camera until all that’s left is the brick and the fading sound of growling screams.
Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot are walking down the corridor in the back. Molly, Stein’s wife, is behind him apologizing to all the people Stein is purposely throwing his shoulder into as he passes them. Toni and Tina stand behind her, ever watchful.
Dan Stein: And we’re going to win tonight. You know why?
Johnny Patriot, clad in his red MCGA hat, looks around for any listeners. Patriot notices the camera there and gestures to it.
Dan Stein: …what? OH GOD. Johnny, what the fuck, man? No, not because…
Stein looks around himself now, cautiously.
Dan Stein: Not because of that, you xenophobe. Because I’m Dan Stein. And Dan Stein never loses three matches in a row. Never.
Molly goes to say something, but Stein holds a hand up to her face to stop her.
Dan Stein: So if you go out there and lose this match for me, Johnny, you’re walking home tonight. With MY bags. AND…
Stein looks at Molly, who nods, then back to Patriot.
Dan Stein: And I’m going to vote for BERNIE.
GASP! HORROR! Patriot cringes. Johnny Patriot cracks his knuckles.
Johnny Patriot: No family member of mine is going to vote for free healthcare on my watch.
Dan pats Patriot on the shoulder.
Dan Stein: Go get ‘em, Sport!
Patriot walks off, leaving Stein behind.
Molly: You’re in the match, too.
Dan nods. Clicking his heels together.
Dan Stein: Right. On my way.
Molly shakes her head as the group passes the camera and it fades to black.
“SOMEONE GET A MEDIC!!!”
The scene shifts to another part of the backstage area, and as the camera gets closer and zooms in, sees officials of the SHOOT Project crowded around two bodies on the floor, face down.
“THEY’RE BLEEDING EVERYWHERE, WHERE IS THE EMT?”
The camera crew moves in closer and sees splotches of blood and facepaint. One man has a tattered mask. The Real Deal runs into frame and is visibly furious.
Real Deal: Are you fucking kidding me?! Who did this!
Finally, EMTs arrive and start prepping the men for transport. Once they’re both on gurneys, it becomes evident who they are. Javier and Julio Gomez.
The camera cuts to Azraith DeMitri, backstage. He’s currently unwrapping his wrists and hands as the interview team gets to him. Before they can even speak, he puts a hand up, and motions for the mic. After a moment of frustration, they give one to him.
Azraith: Alright, listen. I know y’all got questions, but really I ain’t in the mood right now. I just wanna enjoy this win I just got, and earning enough gold fuckin’ stars to get back in the WHC title picture. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for right?
The interviewer is about to say something but again Az cuts them off
Azraith: I mean I did bust my ass in two matches back-to-back last Revolution. I might have lost one but I won the one that had gold on the line. So that’s gotta mean something, right? I know the boys in charge listen to this shit, so consider this a challenge. As long as I’m Sin City Champion, I’ll put this championship on the line whenever y’all want me to, against whoever y’all want me to. Consider it an Open Challenge. Dig out your best hunter-killers and sick ‘em on me. I don’t really care. I wanna line my road to the World Heavyweight Championship with as many famous bodies as I can, so that when I get there? When I climb that fucking mountain and put myself at the top of it? Everyone will know…”
Az leans into the camera a bit, grinning.
“That it’ll be absolutely undeniable.”
Az leaned out, patting the interviewer on the cheek before starting to walk off, yelling behind him.
Remember: OPEN CHALLENGE. Come and get it, y’all!
Backstage–more accurately under. Elgin Blair is forcing his hulking frame through the sometimes narrow corridors of the bowels of the arena, until he comes upon a familiar sight: the broadness of the shoulders, the filthy clothes, the ballcap. Charlie Jay Hitchens, who is sitting on an industrial bucket with her eyes closed. Elgin clears his throat, and she opens her eyes, looking up to him with her cross of death and indifference.
CJH: Brother Elgin.
He finds another bucket and pops a seat near her.
Blair: Charlie, We gonna have to have a talk here.
CJH: We are a team against sick men who are in need of the Lord’s blessing. Jesus saw it fit to place you at my side for this. You don’t need to understand, but I am glad you are here and committed to my work.
He chuckles and shakes his head, then leans forward.
Blair: Lissen, I’m here to fight and compete and knock some heads around just like anyone else. But when you start talkin’ crusades and the blessings–not to mention that arrangement of bones you left at my front door…
She nods and smirks in her fashion, looking like someone playacting a reaction.
CJH: You are afraid. Not a fear, but a worry. That I will dispense of the rules and turn this into a brawl. That you, or others, might get hurt. That we will lose.
Blair: I’m concerned, and no offense intended here, that you’re just gonna take a damn hatchet to Buck Dresden’s chest sooner than actually wrestle.
She pops to her feat at this and walks a few steps into the darkness, sighing before returning. She leans down to get closer to Elgin. .
CJH: I am used to misperception, Brother Elgin. But do not take that to mean that, cause we’re partners, I’ll just sit idly by while I am insulted. I am no crazed murderer. I am a woman of God. I have had so many opportunities to take that man’s life–and yours. And your woman’s. And I never once have because I don’t just go around killing people.
This causes him to stand up himself, getting closer to her face and ratcheting up his volume so it booms off the carious pipes.
Elgin: My woman?! Charlie–
She points a finger in his face, cutting him off–cold fury in her eyes.
CJH: Listen. Brother Elgin. My job, my task, my charge is in that ring. Which means it is by that ring’s rules. If you’re truly worried that I intend to commit a crime then talk to whomever sends me the booking sheets and request a new partner. I will consider it no insult. But if you are ready to visit the violence that the lord shows the world, from the Flood to Sodom, onto two men who are truly deserving of it, if you feel the wardrum in your chest telling you it is time to fight and to conquer? Then I will see you in my corner.
With that, she walks off at a steady clip, humming some warbled version of a hymnal tune. Elgin stands in the sterile fluorescent lighting, watching her leave.
Elgin: What in the everlovin’ fuck have I gotten myself into…
“SOMEWHERE IN NEW MEXICO…”
We fade to the image of Nate Robideau in a warehouse wall to wall with equipment and a ring. Dust dances in the sunlight from the windows, which causes his skin to glisten. He’s positively coated in sweat, shirtless in basketball shorts, holding a horse stance with his arms outstretched. Red welts crisscross his back and chest. A voice, Danny Trejo on three packs a day, calls out from off camera.
Verde: I never asked you here, Nate. When I heard you got out, I assumed you would just…disappear. Everyone else I’ve fuckin’ known who does time does that. But you…you’re too stubborn.
The Old Man hobbles onto screen, his gait a bit slower–mostly because he’s holding his cane like a kendo stick. He limps around Nate, his gaze as serious as ever.
Verde: Had to keep coming back and coming back, trying to get better on the fly when Ron Barker rung your fuckin’ bell solid. Stubborn, stubborn kid. You were stubborn when you were 19, too. Guess I figured with all the shit you had been through, you’d maybe…I dunno, develop a sense of your limitations.
With that–and with the practiced momentum of a man familiar with the motion–El Diablo Verde swings the cane into Nate’s right thigh with an authoritative crack. Robideau doesn’t falter, merely offering a grunt as sweat drips off of his face.
Verde: But no. No you had to come crawling back after you got beaten again–twice–like I told you would happen. Now you want to be everything I was trying to make you. Tougher. Leaner. Faster.
He hobbles to stand in front of Nate, then leans down until they’re nearly nose to nose.
Verde: Well no more of this jailhouse workout calisthenics shit. No more workouts in my ring, not until you’re ready. No more telling me you think you know better. No more fanciful notions about how “well prepared” you are. You step into my goddamn warehouse you’re gonna do as I say, when I say it, and as many times as I want you to do it. Am I fuckin’ crystal, red man?
Nate nods, and Verde brings his cane down on his shoulder. Robideau shifts a little bit, stifling a wince. The old man begins his pacing again.
Verde: You know why I keep getting students, Nate? It ain’t my winning personality. I’d say it’s because I don’t charge a lot, but there are plenty of backyard jackoffs who will take 50 bucks off of you and teach you to tie up. Nah, I stay in business–booming business, business that you constantly distract me from–because I make boys into killers, I make men into champions, I turn soft scraps of dough into walking cocks with a hardon for combat. And you’re out there. Showing people week after week that I’m training you…and sullying my good name?
He smirks and gives Nate a shot across the spine. His form suffers before he regains and recommits to the horse stance, but his leg shakes slightly.
Verde: That affects my bottom line. And I don’t like my name being associated with someone who is worthy of pity. And you shouldnt fuckin’ enjoy being pitied, Nate.
He settles in front of Nate again and gets a hand around the back of his head, smiling with a grandfatherly warmth.
Verde: So fuck pity. Fuck weakness. Fuck being soft and fuck wins and losses. I may not make a champion of you yet, but I’ll make sure that when that bell rings, your opponent will remember the name. That they’ll always be wary of crossing you again. I’ll make you someone worthy of pride, because you deserve that. After everything you’ve been through…you, chico, deserve that.
Robideau: Yes, jefe.
With that, Verde stands back to full–then drops down as he drives the butt end of his cane right into Nate’s midsection. His horse stance drops and so does he, coughing in a heap. Verde walks off, pausing to turn back around to his charge.
Verde: 50 pushups. Maybe in a few days you’ll have toughened up enough to step into my ring again.
We leave there, with Nate catching his breath on the concrete, but his eyes looking up under his wet hair with a renewed light.