Eryk Masters: Ladies and gentlemen, we are LIVE and a big UPS to our pal Eddie E. who while resting at home, managed to throw together that sick highlight video to bring us into this show here tonight!
Other Guy: One of the hardest working guys in the wrestling business, for sure. We’ll be glad to see ya when you heal up and get back to the office, boss.
The camera is affixed on Eryk Masters and the Other Guy, who are primed and ready for Revolution 148. The scene changes, shifting around to show the live Epicenter crowd, all in their pods safely distanced away. After a quick pan, we return to the announcer’s desk!
Eryk Masters: OG, can you believe that this is it! The last show before Revelation!?
Other Guy: I can’t believe it’s already upon us either. I thought I heard Josh in the back this morning talking about having to fix something he screwed up timeline wise, or something like that, and yeah man… here we are.
Eryk Masters: Man, this is going to be a great show for wrestling! Seven matches! I can’t remember the last time there were seven matches on a Revolution show, but here we go! Jonas Coleman, the vengeful Butcher, takes on Malice of the New Vanguard! That’s our OPENING MATCH.
Jonas Coleman Vs. Malice
Eryk Masters: Jonas Coleman picks up a big win against Malice and the New Vanguard here tonight, with a NASTY Butcher’s Cleaver!
Other Guy: That’s gotta feel REAL good, too. Some measure of revenge, you know?
Jonas lets out a guttural scream and yells “CUT MY FUCKING MUSIC” while demanding a microphone from the ringside area.
Eryk Masters: Our former World Champion definitely seems to have something on his mind, and you’ll note, OG, that Malice has not moved.
Other Guy: Well, let the man speak then.
Jonas receives the microphone and looks directly into the camera.
Jonas Coleman: Stooge one, officially down. I beat the fuck out of them last week, I beat this guy this week, I’ll beat whoever’s put in front of me from this group of idiots any time they’re slotted against me. This is war. Who’s next? Who’s got the balls? You know what…
Jonas drops the mic, rolling out of the ring, and grabbing a steel chair from beneath it. He slides that into the ring and quickly follows it!
Eryk Masters: Jonas does not appear to be finished with Malice!
Getting to his feet, Jonas takes the chair from the mat and looks with a wild eye towards the back. He wastes no further time as he SLAMS the chair into the leg of the fallen Malice, who cries out in pain! He does it OVER and OVER again, three, four, five times, each time drawing a small wail from the New Vanguard member!
Other Guy: Normally, I’d be like “someone needs to stop this” or “please no don’t” but these guys have earned this ass beating.
Eryk Masters: Well and the other thing is that Jonas, you know, won’t take it too far. He’ll pull up when he needs to.
Other Guy: Are you sure about that?
Jonas pulls Malice to his feet and drops the chair to the ground! He shouts “I’m going to END this fucking kid” and locks him in a front facelock, aiming to DDT him squarely on the chair, but before he can execute the move, the lights go OUT, and an orange light shines from the ramp.
Eryk Masters: Uhhh….
Other Guy: Not sure what thi– oh no.
Other Guy is cut off by the video wall lighting up, two dots appear, bloody and dripping, and then what looks like a bloody smile is drawn underneath…
Other Guy: No no no no…
Eryk Masters: That… is that…
“Prelude in C minor” by Sergei Rachmaninoff creeps over the Epicenter’s audio system as the crowd enters into a hush at the sight of the bloody smiley. Some already know what’s about to happen next. Jonas Coleman is one of those people. His eyes are wide, his face red with the seething nature of his rage, and he drops the chair and faces the entryway. It feels like time stops, but the music gets louder, a crescendo in a frozen moment, and then… he appears.
He looks how you remember him, his hair black and shoulder-length. He wears no shirt, and begins to walk down to the ring. Jonas takes two steps back, almost beckoning him into the ring with him. Corazon’s appearance in this moment tells Jonas one thing. He is the ringleader. The benefactor. He is the reason for all of this. Eryk Masters and Other Guy are speechless. Corazon gets to the ring right as Malice gets to his feet. Limping, he CLOCKS Jonas with a steel chair, and the former World Heavyweight Champion is brought to his knees.
By this time, the crowd is booing and Corazon has reached the ring. He rolls in underneath the bottom rope and smiles, placing a reassuring hand on Malice, who drops to the mat and rolls out to allow his Master to do his work. Corazon kneels down and gets directly into the face of Jonas Coleman. He pulls Jonas’ head in close and whispers something into his ear before releasing him and standing.
As Corazon steps away, the face of Jonas Coleman, the Defender of Faith, is revealed. He has tears in his eyes, and he cannot move. He just simply stares at Corazon, who exits the ring. The scene fades and Jonas has changed his gaze to stare into the camera, tears still in his eyes, vacant.
Mason Pierce Vs. Devan Derbyshire
Real Deal: Come in.
The door creaks open slowly. His office is not lit dimly, but the softer light gives the fluorescent tubes of the hallway excessive power. Standing there, backlit, is a familiar figure. Almost 6 foot of brawn, filthy clothes, hair a shade of blonde that brings to mind a bruise in its ’s last stages of healing.
Real Deal: Who…Charlie?
CJH: Yes sir. Mr. Johnson, could I take some time of your evening?
She begins to walk in, carrying with her what appears to be a parcel wrapped in brown paper. His eyes don’t even blink as he watches her enter, remove her cap, and place the parcel on his desk. It’s bottom is wet with blood.
CJH: For your family.
Real Deal: …Thanks.
She sits down, waving her hand once.
CJH: Do not thank me. In the economy of the hills where I was grown, it is good courtesy to bring a man a token of gratitude. Poppy always said it was like repayin’ the favor fore the favor was asked for. That is what I am doing. I bring you the gift of the land, that I may ask of you to do something for both myself and Buck Dresden.
He pinches the bridge of his nose, thinking for a few moments of how to best be diplomatic.
Real Deal: …look. It’s not that I don’t appreciate your creative ways of getting his attention. I’m no stranger to extreme circumstances. Hell, I’m likely considered pretty permissive, but these things can drum up tremendous business—and I am a businessman, Charlie. Braining my World Champion and burying him alive is decidedly not good business. What if he had suffocated down there?
CJH: He didn’t.
Real Deal: Right.
They look at one another. Eyes locked. Neither blink. He finally shakes his head.
Real Deal: Alright Charlie, I’ll bite. What is it you want?
Real Deal: What, a match? I can give you that–
She holds up a hand, interrupting him.
CJH: No disrespect, Mr. Johnson, but a match comes with far too many rules for my tastes. Rules that I follow, because a person has to respect the law of the land in which they tread, but rules that I think…it dilutes the purity of war, is all.
Real Deal: Rules are there for reasons. Safety, among them. Rules are what keep this thing that I run from being a full on bloodsport.
She considers this for a moment.
CJH: We need bloodsport.
Real Deal: Who, the fans?
CJH: No. Myself and Buck Dresden. We need less safety. We need the ring surrounded by pain and maim, the mat littered with implements meant to cripple most men. No hold barred. Bare knuckle. We need this to put this…this charge the Lord has given me, Buck’s lost faith, everything…behind us. And the only way either of us see fit is to step in there and see who can truly emerge with what’s left of them. If he is to win, we must emerge a new being. If I am to win, I must emerge with his blood on my fists and his spirit freed from the sickness that torments it. That is how we will end this.
She studies his surroundings, then the man himself. Taking in detail.
CJH: Which is why I have come asking this of you.
Real Deal: What you’re describing is essentially a deathmatch.
CJH: If that is to be its name, then yes. A deathmatch.
He taps his pen on his desk for a few moments.
Real Deal: Look, we don’t even know if he’ll be medically cleared to compete. The doctors have some concerns, given the litany of skull injuries you’ve likely subjected him to. Piledrivers, ball peen hammers, burials…to say nothing of the fact that, if I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t agree to this. At all.
CJH: He will.
Real Deal: If he does, that is going to be his call. But if he does…I’ll book it.
She stands, extending a hand. Josh considers for a moment before standing as well and grasping hers.
With no ceremony, she turns and paces slowly out of the room, closing the door behind her—leaving the Real Deal with his thoughts, his concerns, and a leaking package of venison.
Eryk Masters: Well… between this and Corazon returning tonight… seems like it’s going to be another one of those nights.
Other Guy: Yeah I dunno man. I think I agree with Josh. Even if Buck were cleared to compete, I don’t think I would if I were him. It just seems dangerous. A deathmatch. Ugh.
We see an absolutely massive American flag as a backdrop, and a bare stage in front of it. Standing in front of the stage are most of the members of Fuckhaus– Smokey Orchard, Sugar Scales, and Pepper Woodland, all in their gaudy best, but wearing olden-style US Military helmets. They stand at attention.
A trumpet kicks up, alone, playing a reveille. Emerging onto the stage is Snoopy Florence–in olden-style military garb. Jodhpurs, knee high boots, dress green coat festooned with medals. Even a blue sash. He’s wearing a helmet, and carrying a riding crop. He stands stock still as the trumpet dies down.
Snoopy: Be seated. Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
It’s “Patton”. He’s doing “Patton”.
Snoopy: Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about Fuckhaus not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the Triad Tournament, is a lot of horse dung. Fuckhaus, traditionally we love to fight. Fuckhaus loves the sting of battle.
He paces slightly, his spine erect. A snare drum begins playing a slow march.
Snoopy: When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers–the packingest studs in the business. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. And Fuckhaus plays to win all the time. Now, I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why we have never lost and will never lose a match. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to the Fuckhaus.
He walks forward, looking each member in the eye.
Snoopy: Alright now you stars of cinema, you sons of bitches, you slingers of hog and leg alike. You know how I feel. Oh, I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.
The members stand and salute as he does, and the trumpet kicks back up.
Snoopy: That’s all.
He walks off in a flourish of brass notes, and the scene ends with a cinematic fadeout. The screen is left with a legend at the bottom: “Copyright Fuckhaus Films MMXX”.
MCGA Vs. Fuckhaus
We cut back to the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship faceplate, bringing the fans to cheer. The camera zooms out to reveal Buck Dresden, World Champion, leaning against a reclined seat with thin paper draped across. It is obvious he sits in a medical facility and judging by the old school SHOOT Helmet on the wall, he’s in the Epicenter. Standing before him are two individuals. One, the SHOOT Project’s own Franchise The Real Deal. The other, Vice President of Talent Relations Samantha Coil.
Samantha Coil: I’m glad you agreed to see us and take this final diagnostic.
Buck Dresden: I don’t mean to be pissy, y’all, but here’s the thing. Charlie Hitchens beaned me in the head with a hammer. She caused me serious amounts of head trauma.
Real Deal: You know this isn’t personal, right? There’s about ninety different places I’d rather be right now…
Buck Dresden: It’s the title, I get it. You’ve shown me a lot of leeway lettin’ me heal despite myself.
Samantha Coil: Here’s the problem with that, Buck…
She weighs her words carefully in her head before she continues.
Samantha Coil: We’ve turned a blind eye and opened ourselves to some dangerous and serious problems, letting you even come to work. Every single test that’s been run on your head has come back either inconclusive or positive for a concussion.
Real Deal: It’s those inconclusive results combined with my hope that my pay-per-view won’t go to complete shit that I agreed with Miss Coil to give you a final test.
Buck nods his head, letting the gravity sink in.
Samantha Coil: Buck, we’ve worked together a long time. I’d like to say you’re like a friend to me. So I’m saying this not as the VP of Talent Relations but as your friend. If that doctor comes back in here and says it’s just not safe for you to compete at Revelation, will you agree to vacate your title peacefully?
Buck inhales sharply. Real Deal cuts him off before he can respond.
Real Deal: It isn’t like you wouldn’t be able to get a rematch. I can assure you of that. I can work with that. But you need to know with everything going on with Jonas and with Mephisto and the DeMitris, the Vanguard, the Butchers and everything else…this is something I can’t budge on.
Buck nods his head as he listens to Real Deal and then to Samantha Coil.
Samantha Coil: Buck? Care to give me your thoughts?
Buck begins to speak when a knock is heard. All three of them jump slightly as the door opens and in steps the doctor holding a clipboard with several sheets of paper clipped to it. He says nothing, only moves past the three of them and sits down on a stool, begins to log in to the secured network on his tablet, and his brow furrows in thought.
Samantha Coil: Doctor?
He looks up. He shakes his head. Real Deal turns and looks to Buck and then to the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship next to him. Buck turns to the doctor.
Buck Dresden: Just say what you gotta say, Doc.
The doctor nods and before we are given the verdict, we fade.
Arthur Pleasant Vs. Ria Lockhart
With a fading scream of guitar, “The Fall” by Ministry cues up, and the crowd begins to cheer as the drums usher in the arrival of Nate Robideau—who emerges from the entrance in his finest civilian gear ( black jeans, cowboy boots, black dress shirt buttoned to the neck ). He looks somber, and makes no effort to play to the crowd as he strides to the ring.
Other Guy: Y’know, I think it takes a lot of sack to even show your face after what we saw!
Eryk Masters: OG, he has never shied away from his past, don’t you think he deserves a shot at trying to make something of himself?
Other Guy: Truth is? I one hundred percent think that. But seeing that video was jarring, dude.
Nate rolls into the ring and paces for a few moments, his eyes glued to the mat. He is clutching a mic, but for a few long moments makes no move to speak in it, seemingly listening to the drumbeat—or thinking. He finally raises the mix up, and the sound system fades the music out so he can talk.
Robideau: I am not here to confess. Not for the crime I committed. I did that in front of God, the state of Nevada, and what was left of my family almost 14 years ago. That was…hard. Painful. Prison does things to people that they never recover from—I have seen men come in as simply people who made mistakes, and emerge hardened recidivists. It is, frankly, a miracle that I am not among them.
He pauses. Paces for a few. Finds his words. His voice is somber, soft.
Robideau: Twelve years. Think about that. Twelve years while men who were much worse than I tried their hardest to tear me apart physically. Twelve years where I endured every poisonous ounce of racism from fellow prisoners and guards alike. And what is worse? I was at one of the good ones. There are places far worse than where I was held. Twelve years. Twelve years of Hell. It made me tough. It made me strong. I also got to grow up without any joy. I also learned to never trust anyone.
Looking to the rafters, he sighs, closing his eyes.
Robideau: I learned to not trust myself. Because I had. I had trusted my emotions and my rage. And a man died because of it.
Robideau: No friends. No warmth. My family disowned me. I emerged with no real skill set beyond fighting, and a black mark on my record that will follow me to the end of my days.
Shaking his head, he looks across the crowd, his momentum back.
Robideau: But I will apologize because…I thought that it was something I could put behind me. I thought I had served my time and that could be it. I thought I could finally move forward, freed from the cage that had held me. I felt the warmth of the sun and I smiled. I looked out across the vast plains of Nevada and felt real freedom, knowing I could go anywhere and I…I would not see a gate. I would not see bars. I came to SHOOT and though it felt frightening to be back in the ring, my nerves actually settled. I made friends! I had not had people I could call friend in so long, I had almost forgotten what that is like. I thought I could be…normal. Normal enough. This would be a simple life, but it would be a life I could find pride in. And then…
His face, placid and sad in the eyes, hardens. His mouth turns into a stiff frown.
Robideau: …then CK Butcher set his sights on me. And he reminded me that I’ll never be free, not truly. That I served 12 years but there are people out there who have to live their entire lives in pain because of what I have done. He reminded me that everything I will ever achieve will have an asterisk and I am just…I am so tired. Tired of running. I have faced this. You people seeing what you saw was a nightmare in front of my very eyes. And he smiled.
He shakes his head slowly, walking to ropes closest to the entrance and gripping the top one in one of his cinderblock mitts.
Robideau: He smiled knowing he was ruining me. Stripping me of the rickety foundations I had tried to build up since I got released. And maybe it is that I deserve it. But CK…
His eyes look to the entrance expectantly for a long moment. He pauses amongst the buzz of a crowd who are expectant of this confrontation.
Robideau:…I am not here to call you down here to try and beat you down. CK, I have no more fight left in me. My rage will not save me. I am asking you. I am begging you. Tell me what ends this between us so that I can retreat from this life and try to rebuild again.
And that’s all he had to say. That pleading comment rolls into the ever building “Drums of Drakkar” by Amoebacrew. Everyone in attendance turns their attention to the stage. Nate Robideau strides toward the ropes, stops one foot before them, and settles his arms at his side. Nate glares at an empty stage.
Eryk Masters: The silence fogging over the Epicenter is concerning, OG. I am seeing the looks, I am seeing the expressions, and the silence is telling. This man, C.K. Butcher, nobody, not even the biggest of men, are going to motion a jeer out of concern about the consequences.
Other Guy: I doubt that. Don’t be so dramatic. He’s nobody. They’re not doing anything because he deserves nothing.
Eryk Master: Then you stand up and boo, OG. You do it.
Other Guy: I’ll do it. Silently.
Robideau tilts his head. Butcher’s war theme continues, but the Lord of the Flies keeps everyone patiently waiting. That is, until the screen above the stage lights up with the magnified image of a fly waltzing it’s disgustingly sticky legs across a surface. The theme music ends. The entire Epicenter can hear the buzzing. The fly’s face, it’s eyes defined by omnitidia, glisten and shine. It’s antennae, palps, flex and jitter. He’s heard.
C.K. Butcher: It takes less than one month for a fly to meet its maker.
The fly’s face is then crushed by a hand. The various tones of green and yellow spew from underneath the hand as it mashes the fly to the surface. Robideau’s brow furrows. The instant shock of the commentators is heard as reactions in their microphones. The screen goes black. Lights tilt and engulf the stage as C.K. Butcher slowly exits the Gorilla position and steps out with a microphone in hand.
The Lord of the Flies is dressed to the nines. He’s wearing his skull crown, and the black burial dress cape that’s covering his shirtless upper body. His faded, and tattered wranglers are tucked into Redwing boots. His bone scepter is in hand. He’s not dressed to wrestle. No, he’s here to address the matter at hand.
C.K. Butcher: It took less than one month for the Lord to remind you, and the entire world, that the secrets we keep are the bars that incarcerate us. The secrets we keep become our prison.
C.K. Butcher: I do indeed find joy and success in the investigative destruction of an individual. Exploiting secrets is something that our race is so good at, and it’s a talent that I hold high on a pedestal. I could simply fight you to the death, but before I do – I’m going to release your demons and let them run roughshod. The revelation of your classified history will help me condition you for what’s to come. I am watching your weaknesses become strengths before my eyes. In return? I get what’s necessary for my evolution. I get the battle I need, and crave. I get to level up as I move forward to Reckoning Day; to win the greatest belt in the history of professional wrestling.
His eyes are locked on Nate Robideau as he begins to pace back-and-forth on the stage.
C.K. Butcher: Through the month of September I’ve watched you and your friends ruin my brothers in the ring. As a matter of fact, Nate, since Redemption you are undefeated against the Butcher family. These are statistics you’re already familiar with. Dogshank to me. Elvis met the wrath of the Unholy Cyber Army. Dogshank to Alden. But, you let go! You let go and you wouldn’t embrace. You wouldn’t finish us off. You wouldn’t channel your inner-Verde killer instincts. You did, however, prove that you’re one of the best professional wrestlers this company has to offer that is being wasted as a third wheel. Ironically, even if you’ve proven your worth in the ring, you’ve ultimately failed. Elvis is crucified for his failure; by me. Alden, my muscle, is on a pilgrimage for his failure; by me. Since you couldn’t finish the job – the Lord did it for you.
The Lord pauses and taps himself on the chest with his bone scepter.
C.K. Butcher: And, what about me, you ask? I will be punished, too. You and I, both, will be punished for our actions.
C.K. Butcher: Nate, I promise this stunt ends at Revelation. How? It’s simple. I invite you to participate in a battle of endurance. I invite you to strip yourself of your moral compass and embrace the physical labyrinth and ultimate testament of strength. I invite you, at Revelation, to face me in that ring, with a fire in your eyes and a fucking deseprate necessity to end me, in a match that can only be concluded by...the last...man…standing…
There’s a sudden gasp throughout the arena as C.K. Butcher smiles widely after delivering the invitation to Nate Robideau to meet him at Revelation. Nate nods his head, and glares.
Eryk Masters: Butcher is challenging Robideau to a last man standing match at Revelation, OG! That’s going to be a freakin’ blood bath!
Other Guy: Man, C.K. Butcher consistently comes up with ways to up the ante, but I didn’t expect a sacrifice that big. He’s going to die!
Eryk Masters: Regardless, Revelation is shaping up after this bombshell! My GOD!
The Lord of the Flies, with a sadistic grin from ear to ear, points his bone scepter at the nodding Robideau.
C.K. Butcher: I can promise you that this will end. I cannot promise you, however, if you’ll be able to rebuild.
The eldest Butcher bends at the knee and lightly sets the microphone on the surface below him. He stands up, and stares back at his foe. Robideau looks to the ground for a moment, considering and shaking his head. Finally, he looks to Butcher with his jaw set, staring at him intently. The men lock eyes. Neither falters, until Nate looks to the ground again.
Robideau: End it.
With that, he drops the microphone amidst the cheers of the crowd. He and butcher stare one another down as “Drums of Drakkar” cues back up–both strong of spine, resolute, and committed. We cut away…
“Church of Execution” by Fear Factory begins playing and X-Calibur walks out to a thunderous ovation. Stopping at the entrance ramp, he looks out at everyone when a burst of pyro explodes on each side.
Eryk Masters: Well, this match is one I’ve been looking forward to! One on side you have one a member of the New Vanguard, and on the other side… someone who has been very vocal AGAINST the New Vanguard. In particular, their actions against his long time friend and Instant Heat brother, X-Calibur.
Other Guy: To say that X has a bone to pick with the New Vanguard, especially Scion, would be an understatement.
As X-Calibur makes his way down to the ring, clad in his trademark purple and black wrestling gear and that dope new “TLO” shirt (available at SHOOT merch), he makes a quick stop at the timekeeper’s table to grab a microphone. Heading up the steel steps, he taps into the microphone until his music stops. Looking out into the sea of rabid wrestling fans, each grouping in their socially distanced pods, X chuckles.
X-Calibur: Before my gold-mask wearin’, Eyes Wide Shut lookin’, bag of fuckin’ ass opponent comes down that rampway and tries to cure me of my “addiction” to beating people’s asses right here in this ring…
The crowd pops for this. And it wasn’t even a cheap one.
X-Calibur: … I want to address Dan Stein’s lack of addressing my addressing his lack of addressing my original challenge to a match at REVELATION. Ya with me so far? Confusing, I know. But stay with me.
He pauses for a moment before leaning into the ropes with his back facing opposite the camera side.
X-Calibur: Dan. I got to thinking. Since you want to keep involving your merry band of shitgibbons in our thing we got goin’ on here… I don’t think we should just “have a match” anymore. Nah. See, I’m thinkin’ we need to up the ante a bit. And you know what? Real Deal agrees with me, dude.
X-Calibur smiles. The crowd
X-Calibur: I told you I was giving you until this past Shut Up And FIGHT to say what you wanted to say about my challenge before I went to Real Deal and made our shit official. So, that’s what I did. Made it official. You’re welcome, bitch.
He begins pacing back and forth.
X-Calibur: So here’s what’s goin’ down between us at REVELATION. At first, I thought about seeing if we could get ourselves a steel cage match. Because let’s be real. Just IMAGINING ripping your face off your fuckin’ head by grating it against the occasional jagged steel barb from the cage makes me all kinds of tingly inside. That and distancing us from those two idiots Johnny Patriot and Boyd Walton seemed like a pretty good idea. But then I thought… nah. That’s not good enough.
The fans begin listening intently, surprised to hear that X would pass up an opportunity for a cage match.
X-Calibur: Then I thought, what if we enclosed that cage, put some weapons in there, and see who can get the most falls in 60-minutes and make it a BREAKING POINT match. A match that goes all the way back to my early career days. A match I haven’t been beaten in. A match that has shaved years off of my career in ways you can’t even possibly imagine.
But then I thought… nah. That’s not good enough. Besides, you don’t deserve the rub from my specialty match after what you put my family through. And honestly? I kind of want your two goons to be there so I can put a whoopin’ on them, too.
Some of the audience actually boos after being teased with a Breaking Point match.
X-Calibur: Sorry for the cock tease there, folks. So, then I thought… what kind of a match can we have where it’s not a tag team match, isn’t illegal for Boyd and Johnny to attack me, but wouldn’t put me at a disadvantage?
He smiled. They continued to listen.
X-Calibur: And that’s when it hit me!
We’re gonna have ourselves a Lumberjack Match.
You and your two lumberjack-asses, Johnny and Boyd.
Versus Me… and MY two lumberjacks.
X pauses, smiling.
X-Calibur: Oh, and rest assured Dan, they will be a complete fuckin’ mystery to you until REVELATION. ‘Cause I’m no longer playing fair, Dan. Fuck that. I’m no longer treating you as an equal in the ring like you once should’ve been. You don’t deserve the respect that a former World Champion should command to another former World Champion given to what you’ve reduced yourself to. Which is, suffice to say, a party-bus ridin’ Diet Sprite version of Azrael fuckin’ Goeren.
So you keep sending your goons after my family, thinking it will scare me off. ‘Cause all it does is fire me up even more, fuckwaffle. And Dan? You and I have been around each other long enough to know what happens when ole X-Calibur gets fired the fuck up.
But, just in case you forgot? In about sixty-seconds? I’ll give you a reminder with my dear friend, Avarice.
He drops the microphone much to the adulation of the fans and awaits his opponent.
Eryk Masters: I have to say, I’m a little surprised at the discretion X-Calibur has taken here! I’ve never known The Legendary One, or “TLO”, as someone who would pass at the idea of a steel cage match.
Other Guy: But did you not hear what X said, Eryk? X-Calibur has been known to play his cerebral games. So getting Real Deal to sign off on a Lumberjack match with two mystery lumberjacks yet to be revealed? That is EXACTLY the style of the former 2-Time SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion.
True enough. And it looks like Avarice is about to make his way out!
Avarice Vs. X-Calibur
Eryk Masters: That’s a tough loss for X-Calibur, but sometimes you just get caught. Nature of the business. I don’t think it’s going to stop him in his quest to destroy Dan Stein, though.
Other Guy: I’m with you. I’m super curious who his lumberjacks are going to be! It could be literally any–
Other Guy is interrupted as the lights in the Epicenter dim as “Leather Teeth” by Carpenter Brut start blasting through its speakers.
Eryk Masters: Woah! Azraith DeMitri was NOT booked tonight, presumably to give him time to recover after that brutal attack by members of The Code.
Other Guy: I agree, and I can only figure he’s coming out now to address his tormentor, Jacob Mephisto.
The lights draw onto the main entrance as Azraith steps out. He’s wearing casual streetwear, T-shirt and jeans, but he’s walking slowly, attempting to hide a bit of a limp. A bandage noticeably is wrapped around his head, covering his left eye and a heavy wound on his forehead. The crowd roars as he makes his way down to the ring, rolling under the bottom rope and motioning for a mic. Once he has it, he moves to the middle of the ring, staring down at it.
I owe y’all an apology.
The crowd murmurs at this somewhat, as Az shakes his head.
Azraith: I’ve said since day one here, that I wanted to be the masthead. I wanted to be the figure that stood above everything else as a symbol of everything that SHOOT stands for. Hard work. Impact. Endurance. Legacy. I wanted to be the person that people saw week in and week out bust their ass and FIGHT. I’ve…I’ve been letting y’all down a bit with that. My focus has been…elsewhere.
His stare turned into a glare as he still kept his head down.
Azraith: A certain someone has decided to inject himself into my life. Attempt to wake up something inside of me, I suppose. Those of you that have known me for a while know what that is. Those of you that don’t…well. I used to be a real piece of shit. Some would say I still am, I suppose, but that’s besides the matter. I tormented people. I hurt them simply because I could. It brought me a joy that was absolutely addicting. In doing so though, I lost every good thing in my life. I didn’t get to see my daughter grow up. Nobody would hire me. Rightfully so, too, I was a goddamn liability in every sense of the word. I went radio silent for nearly a DECADE. I found a way through it. Y’all ain’t here for my pity party, but I managed to get my life rebuilt. So when Jacob comes around and tells you that he’s brought me to rock bottom? That I’m nothing but ash and dust? Trust me when I tell you that I did that shit to myself long before he ever fuckin’ came around.
Az looks up finally, looking out around the crowd a moment.
Azraith: He calls me a ruiner. I…destroy every good thing that comes into my life. He’s been trying so goddamn hard to get me to fall down that hole I fell so many years ago. So…I guess…I guess I gotta address this directly. Jacob! I know you’re too much of a chickenshit and come out here and face me man to man without your boys so don’t waste your time. You come out now I quit talking and you’ll never get to hear this, and I know you wanna.
Az takes a deep breath, his eyes closing a moment
You’re the BIGGEST FUCKING MORON IN THIS GODDAMN COMPANY!
He ROARS out those last words as the crowd cheers wildly! Az shakes his head as he pulls his vintage “Kings Row” T-shirt off to expose his heavily bandaged midsection.
Azraith: You’ve been playing this game with me for months, trying to push me down to my baser instincts and you act like you’re going to be the one that somehow wins out of that? You’re like a kid that’s found a live grenade in the middle of the woods and has finally figured out how to pull the pin out. Let me pull the curtain back a little, Jacob. Something I haven’t told ANYONE since I’ve been back, not even Judy.
Az climbed up to the 2nd turnbuckle of the closest corner, leaning into the camera somewhat as if to lean into Jacob directly.
Azraith: That ‘Beast’ you’re so intent on drawing out? The one you’ll think will finally ruin my life all together and give you that fucking joyful moral victory you’ve been looking for this entire time? Jacob, I really don’t mean to Banner this too hard…but I’ve ALWAYS been the Beast. Ask Real Deal. Ask Outkast. Ask Donovan King. Ask ANY of the motherfuckers here that’ve actually KNOWN me and they know I am who I am. I always HAVE been, Jacob. You want to unleash a monster? You want to manipulate me into self-destruction? LET’S GO.
Az stares directly into the camera now, his eyes wild and his voice shaking with adrenaline and rage.
Azraith: Azraith DeMitri vs Jacob Mephisto. CAGE. MATCH. No Escape. No RUNNING AWAY. There’ll be plenty of things inside of the ring we can use to beat the ever-loving hell out of one another. The only way to win is via pinfall or submission. No count-outs, no disqualifications. At Revelations we are going to end this Jacob and we’re going to end it the only way I know how. Just remember…you brought this on yourself.”
Az paused as the crowd roared, looking out around them a moment before grinning and yelling out.
Azraith: PLEASANT FUCKING DREAMS!
“Leather Teeth” blasts through the arena again as Azraith throws both of his fists into the air.
Eryk Masters: What a bombshell! Azraith vs Mephisto in a cage match?
Other Guy: Not just a cage match, one with no escape rule, and weapons thrown around for them to use? Sounds more like a deathmatch to me!
Eryk Masters: You might be right, but it sounds like Azraith is done going back and forth with Jacob Mephisto, and he wants to end it once and for all at Revelation!
A few moments later, we cut to the commentary desk, which is looking overcrowded–Eryk Masters and Other Guy are buttressed on either side by Superbeast and Power Devil, who are wearing their studded and even more prodigiously spiked leather jackets, their title belts securely around their waists. They grin, wearing headsets. Eryk Masters looks incredibly professional–Other Guy looks absolutely over it already.
Eryk Masters: Folks we are joined here at the commentary booth by CYBER Power Devil and CYBER Superbeast–The Tag Team Champion Unholy Cyber Army!
Power Devil playfully slugs Masters in the shoulder, enough to make the announcer wince.
Power Devil: Yes! Frederyk Masters, Other Guy, we are joining you to witness–
Power Devil: The great gladitoral bout that we are here to partake in!!
OG rolls his eyes.
Other Guy: You know televisions exist, right? You could watch this at home or at the Palace of the Undead or whatever?
Superbeast: Other Guy…of course! But then we would be robbed! The smell of adrenaline and sweat, the sight of the blood, the scream of the crowd and the pounding impact!! These are why kings and lords watched jousts, why the great Cesars watched the gladiators fight lions, why these contests still draw a crowd! We need it!
Power Devil: Bloodlust!
Superbeast: Surely you feel the energy, the power?!
OG looks at them both and then sighs deeply. He seems entirely uncomfortable.
Other Guy: …Right, so here we are from an overcrowded commentary table, about to watch a match with the loudest two guys in the SHOOT Project.
Eryk Masters: Superbeast, Power Devil, we have to know–who are you hoping pulls out the win here tonight?
Power Devil and Superbeast both undo their tag belts, then turn them around and set them on the table. The camera can clearly see “MCGA — Disposed” and then underneath it, “VICE SQUAD — Defeated” carved into the leather backing. They stare at Eryk and Other Guy for a tense moment.
Power Devil: Frederyk, the winners of this bout will be conferred a great honor. Immortalization upon this belt, etching into the stone tablet that tells the story of our conquest! Were it possible, we would face every team who wants to face doom at our hands one after the other!
Superbeast: As is, we wish them both luck–and luck against us, the Demons of Cyber Roppongi, The favorite sons of Cybersatan, The most dominant warriors atop the mountain itself! The Unholy Cyber Army!!
They both strike the table with fists at the same time. It shudders.
Eryk Masters: Indeed–Vice Squad face the Sin City Scoundrels for the number one contendership, right here, right now!!
Vice Squad Vs. Sin City Scoundrels
Eryk Masters: Folks, one for the books, but Vice Squad now are set to have a rematch against the Unholy Cyber Army at Revelation!
Power Devil: Yes!!
Other Guy: And, full offense, but I hope they take those belts away from you.
Superbeast grabs OG from the back of his neck and brings him forehead to forehead, grinning.
Superbeast: Other Guy! They just might!! Victory or Valhalla–we will achieve both in the red mist of battle, with two warriors who are mighty and worthy!!
Eryk Masters: Any worries at all about facing them again?
Power Devil:Worries?! Worry is for charlatans and jackals! We are exhilarated, excited!! This is what we crave, Frederyk! This is why we’re here! Let the war drums pound and the trumpets of Hell pierce the sky!!
Both members of the UCA toss their headsets down and retrieve their belts as they stand, scattering chairs in the process. As Vice Squad celebrate in the ring, the champions meet eyes with them. Everyone jawing, everyone grinning. As the Cyber Army makes it to the ramp, they face the ring, raising the titles high and walking backwards to an eruption of cheers as we cut away.
Eryk Masters: We’re backstage now, and apparently Real Deal has been trying to track down Jonas Coleman since the beginning of the show, and the events… well, you know.
Other Guy: Just say it. Adrian Corazon is back. He’s leading the New Vanguard. He said something that shook Jonas Coleman like I’ve never seen before, and Jonas hasn’t said a word to anyone the rest of the night.
Real Deal opens a locker room door and reveals a seated Jonas Coleman who has his head buried in his hands. He’s breathing exceptionally slowly, and if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t be able to tell he was breathing at all. Real Deal sits down next to him.
Real Deal: I’m not going to stick around, but I wanted to tell you that we’re going to run Corazon and Scion as a tag match for Revelation, against you.
Jonas very slightly looks up.
Real Deal: I’m going to be your partner. Not going to argue with you about it, not taking no for an answer. It’ll be you and me against my son and probably my greatest mistake.
Jonas looks back down as the Real Deal stands up. Real Deal sighs and shakes his head, leaving the room.
Eryk Masters: That’s a huge match, but it’s hard to be excited about it right this second.
Other Guy: Jonas looks broken. He’s going to have to get his head right, because the machine rolls on. I’m glad Real Deal is gonna be there to help him, though. Listen, we’ve got to get through the rest of this show. It’s been crazy.
Eryk Masters: You’re right. Up next is our main event! Void of the New Vanguard takes on NEMESIS for the Sin City Championship! That’s gonna be CRAZY.
Void Vs. NEMESIS (c)
Eryk Masters: Oh man, they took it to the limit! That was a shocking finish, but a GREAT match. I have to believe we’re going to see that again.
Other Guy: I can actually confirm that, having just gotten word that Void and NEMESIS will square off once more for the Sin City Championship at REVELATION! There MUST be a winner, so there will be no time limit!
Eryk Masters: No time limit! So we can watch those two bludgeon each other forever, possibly?! That’s what I’m talking about. Man, what a great night Revelation is going to be, but we still need to know the status of–
I…am a man…of constant sorrow…
I’ve seen troubles…all my days…
“Man of Constant Sorrow” by Charm City Devils kicks in bringing the fans to their feet. Out from the back emerges the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion…Buck Dresden. He is wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, a black vest, and black jeans with boots. It is a rather nondescript outfit, but it fits with his demeanor. He glares at the fans that cheer him on and nods to them, his brown hair slicked back over his relatively high and tight buzzed sides and back.
Eryk Masters: Here comes the World Champion, ladies and gentlemen. This guy hasn’t had the chance to see in the inside of a ring since his epic bout with Jonas Coleman.
Other Guy: And he’s trying to set in motion a title match against Charlie Jay Hitchens. What the heck is this guy thinking? Oh wait, I know. Brain damage from all those hammer shots.
Eryk Masters: Buck’s health is of the utmost importance to our medical professionals, OG, that’s true. I’ve heard he’s got a concussion, I’ve heard it’s a fractured skull, I’ve heard it’s blood on the brain…
Other Guy: Yo, the point is this guy has seen some serious trauma against Charlie. If he can’t defend the title at Revelation, what does that mean?
Buck is in the ring now, staring at the World Championship on his shoulder. He is dead center of the ring, mic in hand, and he waits for his music to fade out. He nods his head as he composes himself. After a long moment, he lifts the mic to his lips.
Buck Dresden: I fought my ass off to get here.
He pauses, inhaling deeply.
Buck Dresden: I went from an epic, legendary series of matches with my brother, Jonas Coleman…
The fans pop at the mention of their infamous series.
Buck Dresden: …to this.
He rubs the back of his head, grimacing.
Buck Dresden: Fightin’ fer my career, fightin’ fer this title, fightin’ fer my soul. All because one person saw me an’ heard a voice that I needed to be…saved. Problem is…what I needed to know was from what. Why? Why me, you know? This woman clocked me with a hammer. Twice. She attacked me. Buried me. Alive. You’ve seen it. You know! But here’s the thing about that, people.
He stares at the hard camera.
Buck Dresden: I’m this place’s bulwark for a reason. I don’t back down, I haven’t backed down in my career, in my damn life, and I will DAMN SURE not back down now!
He pauses again, his demeanor shifting. He seems…pensive.
Buck Dresden: But…I am…aware of what Charlie has done to me. Things are…different. Things are different an’ I’m left wonderin’ which of us is actually in need of savin’. But what I definitely do know is we’re in SHOOT Project an’ the only way you can save anybody is by a baptism…of blood.
The crowd pops.
Buck Dresden: There is…one question, though. See, I haven’t competed since I won this title. At all. And the reason fer that is my head. The question has long been if I can compete or not. SHOOT management’s been gracious. Gave me the chance to heal. But I just kept comin’ at Charlie. The doctors checked me out after I got myself outta the ground an’ they said my head’s too far gone right now. That maybe…maybe I can’t…
Suddenly, the scratchy, ponderous guitar of Skip James envelops the arena, heralding the arrival of Charlie Jay Hitchens. The crowd erupts into screams and boos, but she seems to not pay them any attention, standing at the top of the ramp and staring at Buck from underneath the beaten, filthy brim of her ballcap. Slowly, she begins to walk forward, making her way to the ring at her pace.
Eryk Masters: Charlie Jay is here, and if I’m Buck Dresden, I’m worried about her intentions!
Other Guy: Anyone pat her down before she came out? Make sure she doesn’t have a hammer? Pipe? Roofer’s hatchet?
She climbs into the ring, standing and getting within swinging distance of Buck—who meets her gaze and does not falter. In fact, he makes no move at all. No defensive stancing, no defiance. He stands. She stands. They look one another in the eye as the music fades, the buzz of the crowd’s excitement beginning to grow to a full on din. She looks to his hand, then says something that we can’t hear. Buck nods and hands her the microphone. She takes a moment to regard it before meeting his eyes again.
CJH: Buck Dresden…there seems to be some debate over whether it is prudent for us to face one another. They figure I’m maybe too unpredictable. But they don’t understand me. Folks who dine on fine wines and city cakes never quite do. They see me as some sort of violent thug. Like I’m in this for the thrill of it. They don’t see. They never have. They can’t. They’ve been made blind living in a wasteland away from the light of God. But Buck…you see. Finally. You see what this is. This war. This fight of ours. You see.
She pauses for a moment. She almost smiles.
CJH: The man what runs this company himself said he thought this was a dangerous idea…told me he figured if you had half a brain, you’d avoid me like the plague. But he does not understand the importance of this war. You do. And he placed the power to make this happen firmly in your hands, Buck Dresden.
She steps closer. Leans in.
CJH: They call it a deathmatch. Do the right thing, Buck Dresden. For my peace. For your freedom. For us.
Buck ponders what CJH has said. The crowd is quiet, intent on listening to the two of them. Buck steps towards Charlie, a breath between the two warriors. Buck looks to his title and then back to her.
Buck Dresden: They told me maybe I can’t fight you. CT scans came back shit. That was last week. I came to the show today an’ Real Deal? Real Deal told me he was sure this was it. That you’d fight somebody else for the vacant title.
The fans begin to boo.
Buck Dresden: But…
He pauses, looking into Charlie’s intense stare.
Buck Dresden: …all my tests today came back negative.
The fans cheer!
Eryk Masters: Does this mean…
Buck Dresden: The doctors never saw anything like it before, Charlie. It’s like everything just…went away. So with this clean bill o’ health I got, you’d think I’d call it. Take it easy.
He grins at her.
Buck Dresden: But you deserve a war. You deserve a war an’ Charlie? Yer gonna get one.
The fans POP as Buck reaches his hand out to her. She looks from it to him, back and forth, her brow furrowing ever so slightly. A dog unsure of a new person. She finally grasps his hand–and does nothing, says nothing. There’s a long, tense moment wherein Charlie could easily bring violence into the equation, and she looks like she’s considering it even, but it passes. She shakes Buck’s hand with a stern motion before taking the mic from him, her lifeless eyes not once faltering from his or blinking.
CJH: Thank you, Buck Dresden. And I mean that sincerely.
She releases his hand and begins to walk off without any further ceremony, but turns back at the ropes and looks at him almost tenderly.
CJH: “Fight the good fight of the Faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…make your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.“
Charlie scans the crowd, then drops the microphone with an audible thud as she begins to walk away. Buck watches her leave and slowly lets a smirk crawl across his face. The smirk is coupled with a knowing nod. He’s never been this excited for a war. “Man of Constant Sorrow” by Charm City Devils kicks in yet again as she disappears into the shadows. Buck turns to the fans and holds his SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship up for all to see. The skirmishes are done. The negotiating is over. The battles have ceased. There is one final night of war yet to commence. No blood spilled here.
Not yet anyway.