We open to a black screen, the soft intro beginning to play.
I thank you for all the lives you’ve led
Against the black backdrop, sparks begin to fly as a curved line begins to carve into the darkness in gold.
I thank you for every word you said
The carving continues along its path, straightening and curving again as it goes, beginning to form a familiar shape.
I thank you for walking away
The sparks stop as the rudimentary carving of the SHOOT Project helmet glows red-gold against the black background.
I THANK YOU
The screen flashes brilliant white, almost blinding to the naked eye.
I thank you for the promises you broke
We cut to the Mojave desert, outside of Las Vegas, the fabled Epicenter just barely visible in the distance.
For always watching, watching while I choke
We cut to the inside of the Epicenter the backstage halls empty. The camera transitions to a first person view, beginning to travel the halls.
I thank you for teaching me
The camera begins to move further on, through the curtains to the empty arena, the ring at the center. It is empty, pristine, untouched.
Yes, I thank you for your hurting
We move down the entrance ramp to the empty ring, and just as we reach it…
(I BITE DOWN) a little harder
Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot back to back amidst a desert landscape, the SHOOT Project Tag Team Championships on their shoulders.
(MY BLADES) a little sharper
We jump-cut to Azraith DeMitri dragging himself from the dry, cracked desert earth, the Sin City Championship clutched in his hand.
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
We flash to Jonas Coleman in darkness, his head bowed initially, but then snapping upright quickly.
(STRIKE BACK) a little harder
Cut back to a completely packed Epicenter, pyro exploding all along the stage in shades of red and white.
(I SCREAM) a little louder
Back in the desert, Jonas Coleman explodes out of a desert rock formation, the World Heavyweight Championship held on his shoulder in defiance.
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
We cut to a rotating shot of all three SHOOT Project championship belts against the darkness with the helmet logo carved into it.
I’m stronger than I ever knew
Fade back to the empty Epicenter, this shot taken from above.
I’m strong because of you
The scene flashes to a packed Epicenter, the lights flashing various colors, the atmosphere tense with excitement.
(I HIT BACK) a little louder
Azraith DeMitri raises the Sin City Championship high in the air after a hard fought victory.
(FUCK YOU) a little harder
Make Championships Great Again sling their titles back over their shoulders after eeking out yet another victory.
My roots, my roots
Jonas Coleman stands tall, covered in sweat, and hoists the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship in the air before we cut to the SHOOT Project helmet logo.
Run deep into the hollow…
“Harvester of Sorrow” hits the PA system and the audience ERUPTS as Metallica’s hit song from their “…And Justice For All” album.
Other Guy: DAMN. Now THAT’s a pop! What a way to kick off Revolution!
Eryk Masters: Ladies and gentlemen, it has been NINE years since we last heard that.
Other Guy: Indeed. But, that pop aside… part of me is nervous about this!
Eryk Masters: Nervous? Why?
Other Guy: Honestly? Need I remind you?. Sure, X-Calibur is one of the most decorated
SHOOT Project Soldiers of all time… but it has not been without controversy.
Eryk Masters: I’ll give you that. Especially since it was NINE years ago when X-Calibur and the Hierarchy wreaked havoc across SHOOT.
Other Guy: Like I said, part of me is nervous to see him back.
Allowing the theme song to play a little longer, X-Calibur enters the SHOOT Project Epicenter to a thunderous ovation.
The audience reacts accordingly to the former two-time SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion entering the rampway, clad in a long, black, hooded, leather trench-coat. The Epicenter glows an ominous blood red… before X-Calibur stops in his tracks. Peeking up at the crowd from his hood, he lowers his head again while raising a microphone to his lips.
X-Calibur: Nah. This ain’t right.
Suddenly, “Harvester of Sorrow” stops COLD.
A black SHOOT Project helmet appears on the white screen of the Epitron with a gaiter covering half of its face. This familiar guitar riff screeches throughout the arena, reminding the fans of an old theme song that used to play every week.
Eryk Masters: NO WAY.
Other Guy: Jesus Christ! We haven’t heard THIS one since… since-
Eryk Masters: AN EPISODE OF OBLIVION!
“Fistful of Steel” by Rage Against The Machine proceeds to the smashing, drumming overture as two double-ended spears slice right through the Helmet on the Epitron! It cuts it evenly into four quadrants as a massively purple “X” sits dead center as X-Calibur THROWS off the ominous trench-coat to reveal black jeans and a new black and purple “X-Calibur” shirt.
Eryk Masters: That is just… awesome.
The audience erupts even further as X-Calibur smirks knowingly out at the crowd as he ambles on down to the ringside area.
Eryk Masters: Looks like your apprehension was premature. If that isn’t some kinda symbolism for X “shedding his demons”, then I don’t know what is!
Other Guy: Yeah… we’ll see, I guess.
Hopping up onto the edge of the ring apron, X peers out at the sea of humanity. Stepping between the ropes, X trots unpretentiously around the ring like an unharnessed show horse.
Seconds turn into minutes, and X-Calibur stands in the center of the ring with his hands on his knees, doubled over. He… appears to be breathing heavily.
Eryk Masters: Well, somebody should probably work on his cardio.
Other Guy: You took the words right out of my mouth.
The song fades and the only thing left in the airwaves are the screaming fans, appreciating and welcoming back one of SHOOT’s earliest Soldiers. Suddenly, X pops up, showing everyone that he wasn’t really out of breath.
X-Calibur: Thanks for that. Seriously. I… well, I didn’t know WHAT kind of reaction I would get coming out here. You just never know these days with how fickle everyone is!
Some of the audience laughs at this. X continues.
X-Calibur: Listen. I’m gonna keep this simple. I’m here for one reason, and one reason only: motherfuckin’ CLOSURE.
He pauses for a moment, to let those words reverberate throughout the Epicenter.
X-Calibur: Yeah, that’s right. I’m not here to fuck wit-ch’all. I’m not bringing Mirage or Herr Goeren with me to quote/unquote “protect the pocket” and help me run roughshod over this bitch again. I’m not bringing Loco Martinez and Rocky Stellar in for some kind of nostalgic stand-up special. I’m not even here to reinvent the third wheel with some reunion thing with Instant Heat. Nope.
The crowd listens closely to every word.
X-Calibur: Like I said earlier this week in that little diddy I uploaded – this is about how much I have left in the tank. I’m forty-four years old. And you know what? I’m feelin’ pretty fuckin’ good. Despite all the crazy ass matches I’ve put my body through, I feel like I can hang with ANYBODY. Whether it’s the PAST with our, ironically enough, current reigning Sin City Champion, Azraith DeMitri… the PRESENT with our CURRENT standard-bearer and SHOOT World Heavyweight Champion, Jonas Coleman… or maybe even the FUTURE with… with… well, that Buck Dresden dude? I guess?
He waves his hand, as the crowd grew louder with each name he dropped.
X-Calibur: So you know what? I’m not here for any type of bullshit swerve or cameo appearance. I’m here to fuckin’ WRESTLE. I’m here to fuckin’ wrestle my GOD DAMNED HEART OUT. I’m here to win CHAMPIONSHIPS. And I’m here… during these batshit crazy times… to give each and every single one of you out there something to remember while you try to forget.
They ROAR for this. X nods at their reaction.
X-Calibur: While I can… while I’m willing… and while I still fuckin’ got it. Because — stupid catchphrase alert — one way or another? My legacy WILL go down in SHOOT as one of the absolute BEST that there’s ever been.
X-Calibur: That is to say, if it hasn’t already.
Holding the microphone out, X-Calibur drops the mic. As it bounces with a great echoing thud, “Fistful of Steel” once again hits the Epicenter’s PA system and the crowd roars with jubilation. Climbing the top rope in the corner of the ring that’s facing the camera, X-Calibur looks dead ahead into the lens and shouts, “Consider that an open challenge… BITCH.”, before looking back into the crowd that he’s missed for so long.
The bell rings at the conclusion of Azraith and Robby Bingo’s match, and as soon as Azraith is back on his feet, he’s picking Robby Bingo back up. The bell instantly starts to ring in protest as Az lines the man up, takes a step back, and absolutely PLOWS throw him with a huge clothesline!
The crowd is audibly voicing their displeasure as Az circles the exhausted Bingo, before shaking his head and rolling out of the ring. With a small grin on his lips, he snatches a folding chair from ringside and slides under the bottom rope, casually dropping the chair in the middle of the ring.
The crowd’s booing gets louder as Az once again drags Robby back to his feet. He leans in and whispers something into Robby’s ear before smashing a vicious knee into gut to double him over. Az is staring manacially at the entrance ramp as he hooks his motionless opponent’s arms behind him in a double underhook.
Azraith: COME AND SEE THE DOOR YOU’VE OPENED JACOB! COME AND SEE!!
In one frighteningly effortless motion, Azraith hauls Robby off his feet to drape over his left shoulder, still captured in the double underhook. Az leaves him aloft for several moments, still wide-eyed and glaring at the entrance ramp before screaming out and SPIKING Robby downwards onto the chair with a Jackknife Extinction! The metallic crunch as Bingo’s back lands clean on the chair and the audible groan of pain as his body curls up on the mat seems to satisfy Azraith, as he wipes his hands on his tights, nods, and simply rolls out of the ring, stalking to the back, the referee’s running out to check on Robby giving him a wide berth as he does so.
It is the rooftop of the Epicenter, close to the evening hours. The sun sets an almost orange haze across the city, the horizon line whipping and liquid in the heat. The wind is kicking, and standing in the midst of it all is Avarice. His hair is wild, his mask reflecting the sunlight and his surroundings with his dark eyes peering out placidly. As usual, his phone is to his ear, but he appears to be listening rather than speaking.
Avarice: Repeatedly, yes. Yes.
His shoulders shake with genuine laughter.
Avarice: Hahaha, no, I suppose I didn’t expect him to heed the warnings. Well, if he did, what would really change? The inevitable can only be guarded against for so long. And that is what we represent: Inevitability.
Avarice: Of course.
The next words that he hears cause his body to stiffen, standing bolt straight. Though his expression cannot be seen, his voice conveys surprise.
Avarice: Here? In the state, or…here in the city? So the timetable has been moved up. Yes. Absolutely, I will make sure. Yes sir.
His stance relaxes, and he begins slowly walking, taking care to avoid any vents or pipes.
Avarice: Yes, I’ll be wrestling tonight. I guess he wants to see what I’m made of.
He stops at what he’s being told, his eyes searching the horizon. There is a long pause. Though his voice has been cheery up to this point, his next words are slow, soft, almost grave.
Avarice: Yes. Even in the light of the desert, even in this heat, the cold hand reaches ever closer. The howls are in the distance. And only the fool ignores the sound of the beasts of the wild because he’s convinced himself he’s safe in his towers.
His head shakes slightly, and his body seems to relax from it’s motionless state a moment before. His voice, likewise, returns to it’s unnervingly chipper demeanor.
Avarice: Thank you, sir. You have a blessed day!
He hangs up the phone and places his hands on his hips, staring over the city.
Avarice: Jewels crumbled to dust, money to ash. Indeed.
He walks out of frame, and we cut away.
The shot cuts to backstage as our Sin City Champion, Azraith DeMitri, is stalking the hallways. After several seconds, the camera catches Az’s eye’s narrow, and a small grin starts to curve his lips. After a second of thinking, he makes a beeline forward, wrapping his arm around the newly seen Jacob Mephisto as if meeting a long lost friend, laughing earnestly at whatever was being said to the person opposite him until the other part of Jacob’s conversation walks off awkwardly. Jacob visibly tries to break away a second but Az clenches his grasp, smiling broadly at the apparent new devil on his shoulder.
Azraith: Jacob! It is GOOD to see you, my friend. I just wanted to let you know how, in hindsight, how honest and heartfelt your words were. At the time it just felt…empty. Like some shallow, pathetic attempt at persuasion, or dare I say even manipulation! Now…before you say anything I know that you’re beyond such petty games, and you were truly just trying to reach out to me, hmm? Trust me when I tell you, how TRULY I took your words to heart, Jacob.
Az’s smile grows as Jacob forces himself out of his grasp finally, dusting himself off.
The look on Mephisto’s face is one of… apprehension? Fear? Probably something in between the two. That look is replaced with a calculating gaze as he looks into the face of the Sin City Champion. There’s something not quite right about the look in Mephisto’s pale, grey eyes. It’s like staring into the first glimmers of madness.
Mephisto: I’m glad you took my words to heart, Azraith. I really am. You showed some real promise last time. But, still, you fell a little short of living up to your memory.
The false cheer fades from Mephisto’s tone as he begins to walk a wide circle around Azraith.
Mephisto: Even so, the potential is there. I’ve seen things, Azraith. I’ve seen what’s coming. That monster you keep locked up so tight? It’s going to emerge. Two weeks ago, well, that wasn’t even a preview, was it? Let it out. Let it roam again.
The way he’s speaking, it’s almost as if he’s giving a sermon. His eyes are filled with the sick light of an overeager zealot.
Mephisto: Don’t thank me yet, Azraith. You’re still not free. Tell me, exactly who are you keeping that demon locked up for? Your little girl? The world?
Mephisto slowly moves in wider circles, a cautious predator circling its most dangerous prey.
Mephisto: You’re right though. I don’t play mind games. This isn’t some mental chess match. I have seen what is coming.
Mephisto smirks, the fanaticism leaving his eyes. The calm, collected, pale, grey gaze returns to his face.
Mephisto: We’ve only just begun, DeMitri. We’ve only just begun.
Az’s eyes were narrowed on Jacob, and for a second he just stood there, glaring at the man. There was a brief moment where Az looked like he was opening his mouth to say something, then stopped. A small, creeping grin pulls at his lips as he just nods. In a blinding fast motion, the beast of a man closes the distance that was made between the two, simply to pat Jacob on the shoulder. Az can feel the hints of a flinch when he touches Jacob, and the grin grows.
Azraith: You couldn’t be more right, my friend. I’ll be seein’ ya.
A gentle squeeze, and even Jacob is a bit too unnerved to stay in Az’s grasp before pulling back. A soft chuckle, and Az nods once more before continuing on his way.
The rickety, squeaky, wheels of a shopping cart. Two wheels, one front and one back, spin correctly while the others are forced in many directions due to flaws. The mammoth Alden Butcher, all seven foot and some odd inches, pushes the cart that is being imaginatively steered by his playful, shivering, jittering, younger sibling, Elvis, in the cockpit. Both men are surprisingly cleaned up, but still dirty, with unidentifiable stains and crust galore. Alden’s gigantic bug eyes scan the area in front of him. Elvis’ lower jaw becomes unhinged, and his underbite revealed like an excited bulldog.
Leading the shopping cart like a pace car is the bandanna wearing C.K. Butcher, the strong, powerful older brother wearing a dark blue tank top that has a large, faded, image of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians baseball club mascot and logo. His dark blue jeans are faded and torn in spots, and that could either be the fashion style or due to wear. The jeans are tucked into his untied, battered, scuffed, Redwing Irish Setter work boots.
The three Butcher boys enter through an open back entrance to the SHOOT Project Epicenter where they are met by close to twenty security guards headed by the SHOOT legend himself, the Real Deal, Josh Johnson. The guards and Johnson stand firm as the Butcher’s stop in their tracks. C.K. is wearing a confused look on his face, albeit Alden and Elvis look hungry and ready to fight. Elvis begins to uncontrollably jump up and down in the shopping cart as Alden cracks his bulbous knuckles; they sound like the limbs of trees cracking off during a storm. Their older brother raises his right hand and signals for his brothers to cease, and he smirks.
C.K. Butcher: Well, what’s the occasion? What do we owe the presence of the rainmaker himself; the legend of this bidness? Do ya’ll need to take our temperature?
Real Deal isn’t buying C.K.’s sense of humor, or kind remarks, and quickly skips to the point of the confrontation. He smacks his fist into the palm of his hand.
Real Deal: Mr. Butcher, I want to formally congratulate you on your first win in SHOOT, and against the greatest Sin City Champion of all time nonetheless. But, that’s not why we’re here. C.K. – your brothers are a problem. They’re a problem for you, they’re a problem for SHOOT, and they’re a problem for the city of Las Vegas. I’m not going to beat around the bush – I’m sure the multitude of talent backstage could handle your brothers with no problem, but it’s not the wrestlers that I’m worried about. Your brothers are a liability, and we cannot have them running rampant under our watch. We have the best fans, and employees in the industry, and I won’t risk putting their lives at risk due to their deviance.
It’s apparent that C.K. is confused, but he’s indulging. He nods slowly, his eyes wandering, and then he retorts.
C.K. Butcher: I have a lot of stuff swirlin’ in my head. What gets my nuts in a tangle, boss, is that these two boys have, oddly enough, and without a modicum of talent, signed a contract to be part of this bidness. Inform me – I think I get it – but what are you tryna’ say?
Real Deal: Actually, it’s simple. No, I’m not going to tell them they have to leave. That’s because you’re right: they signed a contract, and they deserve to be here. So, because they’re now under contract with the SHOOT Project we will maintain the level at which they exist under our umbrella. Like I said, it’s simple, so hear me out…
He turns to four guards that stand at attention directly behind him. The four guards turn around and each pick up a duffle bag that they bring forward. They kneel down and begin to dig through the bags that they have. One guard pulls out two resin half Hannibal masks designed to secure around a person’s head and cover their mouth, nose and chin. Another guard removes a huge pair of weighted boots that are designed to be locked around a person’s shins. The other two guards each pull a different set of gloves from their bags; one pair is made for a giant’s hands, locks at the wrists, and is designed to lock both hands together at the knuckles. The other pair of gloves are smaller, look more like mittens, and lock at the wrists.
Real Deal: …what we’ve decided to do is pacify any possibility your brothers have to create chaos and commit violence due to your delinquency. It’s ever apparent that you can’t keep watch on them, and it’s probably because you don’t care; but we’re not stupid, C.K. We know why they’re here. They’re here as an advantage. They’re here because you know what they can do, and exactly how you want them to do it. So, here’s what we’re going to do.
He takes one of the half Hannibal masks from a guard and studies it for a moment, then he continues.
Real Deal: Your brothers are required to wear protective gear. It’s a requirement, it’s not a suggestion. Every time Alden and Elvis enter this establishment they must be wearing these masks, and the protective gloves.
He points at Alden.
Real Deal: The boots are for that big…thing, because nobody should have that thing running at them at whatever may be his full speed.
His attention is back at a snickering C.K.
Real Deal: Laugh all you want. I’ll get to the punchline in just a moment. The only caveat is that, since they are unfortunately a tag team, they don’t have to wear any of this PPE in the ring. But, aside from matches, they have to wear it all the time, and If your brothers are not wearing the PPE upon entering the SHOOT Project Epicenter, and if at any time they remove it under this roof…
He smirks and nods at C.K.
Real Deal: …then we’re terminating your contracts and the Blue Ridge Butchers won’t be able to step foot in a SHOOT wrestling ring, ever…again.
He gives C.K. enough time to respond, but the elder Butcher just nods his head and soaks up the information.
Real Deal: We appreciate your cooperation. Brian and his security team will be waiting for you every night, whether it’s Revolution or Shut Up and Fight; they’ll get your brothers set up at the entrance. I’m surprised, to say the least; you’re making the right choice.
He steps aside as a guard, apparently Brian, steps forward and is followed by the other four heavily armed security guards. They strategically walk toward Alden and Elvis. The elder Butcher’s eyes are magnetically attached to Real Deal who is about to exit the scene.
Real Deal: Gentlemen, enjoy your stay with SHOOT; and C.K….good luck tonight.
C.K. continues to stare down the real deal as the guards cautiously walk over to Elvis and Alden. The tourette ridden brother leaps up to his feet, and stands inside the card. Alden lets out a deep growl, but C.K. is there to calm them.
C.K. Butcher: Boys, boys. Let the men do their job. Besides…
He looks back at where Real Deal stood, and watches the boss walk away in the distance.
C.K. Butcher: …we all know that’s not going to stop us…
He smiles devilishly as the guards go to work on securing the PPE on the Butcher brothers.
“Walkin’ the halls, walkin’ the halls, walkin’ the halls…”
The Joy of Man’s Desiring is kinda chanting to himself as he… walks the halls… at Revolution. He’d heard that a lot of times, roster members will catch the shows to study and learn, and figured it would be good for appearances sake if he at least made some kind of effort to do the same.
Though he felt a little bit like this was a waste of time. After all, he is a prodigy. The son of a legend.
He hears his birth name, almost as a whisper from a hallway off to his side. He stops in his tracks, and shakes his head before starting to walk again.
It’s more forceful this time, so he stops and he looks a ways down the hallway and sees current Revolution roster member and SHOOT Project star… Malice.
“Br–,” he starts, before catching himself, “Malice! Holy shit, dude! Long time no see!”
Malice holds his hands up, as if instructing the 19 year old to keep it down. He motions to walk towards him, presumably so they can talk.
Malice: I’m glad to see you, old friend.
TJOMD: Old? Bro, I’m 19. There’s nothing old about this. Just virile, talented, and fuckin’ n-i-c-e, nice.
Malice smiles, grateful to see a friendly face, but there’s a tinge of annoyance.
Malice: I have been sharpening my skillset, truly learning the craft of this… this game we play, this disgusting… pageant that we put on, and it’s brought me to a realization, James.
TJOMD holds his hand up.
TJOMD: TJOMD. We don’t call me James here. It’s TJOMD. Continue.
Malice: How do you even prono– you know what, nevermind. I have been working with a… benefactor, I guess I should say. Someone who has a vested interest in seeing things change, and who is frankly disgusted by this place. He feels it foul, wishes it to be marked in his image. Irrevocably changed for the better.
Malice: His better.
TJOMD cocks his head to the side and looks at Malice.
TJOMD: A benefactor? What kind of change is he hoping to bring? Are we talking like… better catering, better production on the promos? Cuz I mean, I had like, NO help when I did my first one and I feel like the optics just… they weren’t quite where I wanted them to be, and frankly… I think that could use some change. Is that what you mean?
Malice: No, that’s not at all what I mean.
TJOMD: Then what DO you mean?
Malice: I mean to bring about the destruction of the old guard and the SHOOT Project as we know it, and I have a… I have a way, James.
Malice: I have a way, and I have a… we’ll call them a cadre of people… who are waiting in the wings to help my benefactor execute his vision, and I was thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could get the son of a legend on my side? The heir apparent, as it were, so that’s why I’ve reached out to you, Johann.
TJOMD: I accept.
Malice is shocked.
Malice: What? You accept? You will join me in the quest to…
TJOMD: No, I accept your usage of Johann in lieu of TJOMD.
Malice lets out a big, deep sigh.
Malice: This was a waste of time.
TJOMD: Let me be real with you, Malice. I’ve wanted, my whole life, to be a SHOOT Project Soldier. I’ve seen all the different threats against the organization from all the different groups and whatever. I watched as the Herald and the Master turned this place into some kind of horror movie while my father and uncle were helpless to stop it.
He steps closer to Malice with a very serious look on his face.
TJOMD: I was in Mexico the day that RCW’s Headquarters… caught on fire… so, no. I’m not interested. You do what you think you need to do in order to solve your… issues… and I’ll carve my own path, but it won’t be this way.
Malice is disappointed, and shakes his head.
Malice: That is unfortunate, James, and I wish you’d given me a different answer. There’s a storm on the horizon, friend, and I would not want to see you get washed away in it.
TJOMD begins to walk away, and he throws a dismissive hand up.
TJOMD: It’s TJOMD. Or Johann. While we’re here, doing this, don’t call me James.
The scene fades, as TJOMD pulls his cellphone from his pocket and starts to click the screen.
Hey Dad, it’s James. Can we get together after the show? It’s important.
We cut to what appears to be some manner of repurposed conference room. In it is an actual, bonafide, professional arm wrestling table—handles, pads, the whole nine. A banner has been hung over one of the windows, showing:
Into the frame steps the Cyber Army contingent, led by Nate Robideau in his buttoned down casual gear. Behind him strides CYBER Superbeast, in his facepaint and leather mask—wearing jeans and a gold’s gym tanktop. Behind him is his partner and brother in arms, CYBER Power Devil, who has a towel hanging on his neck and is rubbing Superbeast’s massive shoulder as they walk. There is a long pause, where the men look around.
Power Devil: The dog has ducked us?
Superbeast: UNACCEPTABLE. I have done single arm military presses, single arm preacher curls, single arm pushups, watched the documentary film “Over the Top”, and I am pumped! If they will not show their faces, then I will show their faces the tread of my boot!!
Nate holds a hand up, turning to his associate in a calming motion that one might use on a wild horse.
Robideau: Superbeast, Superbeast…please. Maybe we are early.
Power Devil: Blackhawk, you know that isn’t what happened! The cowards, the fiddlers, have run off, clutching what is rightfully–
With a mighty roll of electronic drums and the sound of a door being kicked in, Power Devil is cut off. All three men look to the doorway, and standing there are Molly, Dan Stein, and Johnny Patriot—decked to the nines. Trailing behind them are Toni and Tina, Dan Stein’s bodyguards, with a giant boom box on their shoulders between the two of them. Stein and Patriot wear USA jumpsuits with “Arm Wrestling” emblazoned on the back. Stein walks in front of both Patriot and Molly. Stein looks at UCA with disgust, then turns back to Toni and Tina and nods to them to hit the music.
Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” blares out of the boombox after Toni or Tina hit the music. Stein pops his collar and starts to saunter over to UCA. Patriot cracks his knuckles as he follows. Stein plops down in the chair meant for Patriot to sit in before the contest, and throws his feet up on the table in front of him. Dan snaps his fingers, and Toni or Tina, the one that didn’t hit the music, hands Stein his phone. Patriot stands behind Stein, casting a shadow over the man. Stein snaps his fingers again, and whichever woman turned the music on quickly turns it back off. Stein unlocks his cell phone and shows the video to UCA.
Dan Stein: You sit there in your stupid facepaint and your dumb mask like an idiot, and you watch what’s about to happen to you.
Power Devil looks confused by the video. Stein looks at the video on the screen quickly, then double takes.
Dan Stein: Shit, shit, shit, you weren’t supposed to see that.
The camera catches a quick glimpse of a recording of Stein and Molly in bed as he tries to keep it away from his wife. Molly didn’t catch what was on the screen, but knows Stein’s up to something. Stein taps the screen a couple more times, and then shows the video to the men again.
Dan Stein: You watch what’s about to happen to you.
The camera pans around to catch the video, which shows Patriot arm wrestling drunken patrons at a bar in rapid fire succession, one after the other, until each man in the bar is wincing in pain. One even screams out about “tearing his labrum”. Stein looks into the men’s eyes, then to Power Devil.
Dan Stein: You should be afraid, Nerds. Because the stipulation that I pick when Patriot breaks your arm off
Molly: The other one is arm wrestling Patriot.
Stein snaps a finger up to point at CYBER Superbeast.
Dan Stein: …his arm off? You won’t like the stipulation I’m going to choose.
Stein smirks at the men, and leans back in the chair far enough for it to almost all over, but Toni and Tina catch him from falling back. They right the chair underneath Stein who plays it real panicked, then tries to act cool. Molly sighs, shakes her head, and steps up to the arm wrestling table, where Nate Robideau meets her.
Molly: May the best man win?
Robideau: I…can only hope so.
They both step away, and the first to the table is CYBER Superbeast, who rolls his shoulders. Patriot makes a show of undoing the top half of his jumpsuit, revealing a tank top that says, in all bold, “THESE COLORS DON’T RUN”. He is piled up to such a degree that the sleeves of his jumpsuit are stained, and he ties them around his waist before striding to the table with his chest puffed out. Johnny holds his hand out for a shake, which Superbeast considers before reaching out–and Patriot yanks his hand out of the way! He laughs heartily in the scowling face of his opponent.
Patriot: I don’t wish you good luck, Beast man! I wish you bad luck. Dont tread on me, let’s get it!!
Johnny plops his elbow on the pad and grabs the handle, wiggling his fingers. Superbeast takes one loop back to his contingent, where Power Devil headbutts him to get him pumped! He leaps over and slams his elbow on the pad, grabbing his own handle. Both men lock hands, eyeing one another with fury. Their biceps are bulging. The anticipation in the room is thick, the men silent in their determination. Molly walks over to the table, checks their grip, and then steps back and holds up three fingers.
Molly: Superbeast, ready? Johnny Patriot, ready? On the count of three, gentlemen. One…two…three!
Superbeast, quick as lightning, SLAMS Patriot’s arm down and pins him there!!
Nate and Molly: ONE!
Johnny looks panicked, trying desperately to fight against the pin, but the bigger man has him locked down!!
Nate and Molly: TWO!
Stein leaps out of the chair with his hands on his head and eyes wide like a cartoon.
Nate and Molly: THREE!!
Silence befalls MCGA. Stein tries to say something but can’t seem to form the words. Patriot winces as he brings his arm back slowly, afraid to look at Stein. Toni and Tina have never said anything on camera so why would they start now. Molly stifles a laugh behind her hand.
Dan Stein: You…you cheated! You started before the count was finished!
Power Devil: Lowly dog! The might of the Unholy Cyber Army has never needed to cheat and never will!!
Nate steps forward, his tone conciliatory.
Robideau: Dan, look…we all saw it. There were multiple wittnesses–
Superbeast and Power Devil: WITNESS!!
Robideau:–witness, and you guys lost fair and square. Be a gentleman and hold to your bet, that is the honorable thing to do.
Dan Stein: NO!! Uh…best of three! Yeah! You nerds think you won fair and square but I wasn’t even involved. So, it’s not really a tag team event. Next Revolution, we’ll do a REAL tag team event. Like…
Johnny Patriot: A Three Legged Race!
Dan Stein: That’s a dumb idea, Patriot, no. We’ll do…a THREE! LEGGED! RACE!
Power Devil and Superbeast step forward, drawing in air, clearly about to bark–but Nate holds his hand up with a single finger raised. He takes a moment, drawing a deep breath as the veins in his neck pulse and he sets his jaw. Stein tactically slides behind Patriot. He speaks.
Robideau: You know what, Dan? You are just the absolute worst. You want a three legged race? Fine. Fine! The Unholy Cyber Army will best you in that as well, and just for good measure, I will stop trying to talk them out of an exploding ring death match.
He points at both men, fury in his eyes.
Robideau: Next show. And there will be no dodging your word when the time comes. Or there will be consequences.
He spins on his heels and strides off, his shoulders tense with fury. Superbeast and Power Devil look at one another with surprise, then back to where Nate is walking, then to one another again. Shrugging, they point to MCGA, then follow suit. Dan Stein looks at Robideau and mocks him with his hands.
Dan Stein: Or there will be consequences, merrr.
Molly slaps Stein over the back of the head.
Molly: You idiot. You don’t know how to do a three legged race.
Dan Stein: Au contraire, mon cheri. I have done a three legged race in the past.
Molly again slaps Stein over the back of the head.
Molly: No, you moron, that was a potato sack race and you lost it.
Stein looks at Molly, then to Patriot.
Dan Stein: IF YOU WOULD’VE JUST BEAT THAT NERDY MECHANIC NEANDERTHAL THIS WOULDN’T even be…
The camera fades away as Dan Stein starts berating a sore Johnny Patriot who continues to rub his arm.
We cut to the back of the Epicenter, in the parking deck. Sitting on the hood of a brand new jet black pick up truck is none other than Buck Dresden. He stares intensely at the camera, wearing his gear for the evening. He hasn’t shaved. He has, however, got a mean look in his eye. He leans forward, resting his boots on the bumper of the truck and he clasps his fingers together, placing his elbows on his knees.
Buck Dresden: Soon, real soon, my 0-1 goes up against Jonas Coleman’s 1-0. Since I was here last, you notice anything…different about SHOOT Project? You notice how many Ghosts of Project Past have meandered into frame for the show? Oh man, does my heart good to see these people drawn back to what we love, what we’re doin’. Moreso when I know that now, more’n ever, we need them. So, to each hero an’ each villain, welcome an’ welcome back.
He pauses, letting his salutation soak in.
Buck Dresden: But that ain’t why I’m here. I’m not yer welcome wagon. I’m here to snatch that goddamn belt away from Jonas Coleman an’ prove once an’ fer all that Buck Dresden is the new measurin’ stick in this company. Now, how does one do that when one is already down one match? Is it in my head? Am I too far gone? Did he do me in with this last match?
He shakes his head.
Buck Dresden: Nah. Nah, he didn’t, an’ ya know why?
He slides off the truck, standing tall.
Buck Dresden: Because this company ain’t built off the backs that buckle, but instead it’s build off the backs that stay strong. There is no straw here that breaks my back because the fact of the matter is this, ladies an’ gentlemen. I am not the man that you’re gonna wonder if he has what it takes. I don’t just disappear in the face of adversity. I’ve stood against the scariest monsters in this business an’ where the hell are they now? I’ve stood against the sleaziest, dirtiest, an’ nastiest players you’ll ever play this game with an’ again I ask you: where are they now?
He throws his arms out as he repeats his question, letting his words echo in the parking deck.
Buck Dresden: The answer to that question is the same one fer the question where have all these ghosts been. It don’t goddamn matter where they are or where these old names have been. What matters is who’s here right here an’ right now an’ what kinda fight they got left in ‘em an’ ladies an’ gentlemen, I don’t care if Jonas Coleman stomps my ass tonight or if I go out there an’ get a busted head or a broken bone because I will NOT…FALL.
He nods his head, inhaling that sweet Las Vegas air.
Buck Dresden: All y’all out there who remember me might remember my jokes. Ya might remember my sense of humor. Ya might even remember my record settin’ tag team title reign as a member of the Bad Ass Brotherhood. That’s good, that’s good. Remember that well. Because the bulwark of this company ain’t here to crack no jokes right now, nuh uh. I’m here to prove I belong an’ I AM…the next SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion. Just watch.
With that, Buck walks off frame, leaving the camera focused on the custom made BAB grill on the truck. This one’s a keeper.