Production fades from black into the image of CK Butcher staring into the mirror that hangs on the wall in the bathroom of his locker room in the Epicenter. The SHOOT Project World Heavyweight number one contender is emotionless. His breathing is calm. His strong hands grip the porcelain sink below the mirror. His eyes move consistently with the thoughts going through his head. His long black hair is brushed back. It’s apparent that the Lord of the Flies is entrenched in thought. He’s not ready to perform. Not yet. He’s wearing his signature tight Wrangler blue jeans tucked into worn un-tied Redwing boots. The cliche flannel is unbuttoned.
CK Butcher: What am I doing?
He looks at his reflection in the mirror and furrows his brow. He slams his hands against the sink to create an unbelievably loud clunk. He points at himself.
CK Butcher: Look at you. You’re pathetic. You stupid son of a bitch. You’re abandoning your code! What are you thinking? Do you think? Is there anybody in there? I hate you.
He smacks himself upside the head four times and then grips the sink. He spits into the drain and then continues the self-decimating vent.
CK Butcher: You disgust me. You make me sick! I want to hurt you so bad right now. I want to harm you in so many ways. What’s your problem? Why? Why? WHY!
He backs away from the sink and throws his hands in the air while looking upward. His fingers are spread out. His eyes are closed. He waves his arms quickly until they begin to slow down.
CK Butcher: What are you doing?
He drops his arms and he stares into the mirror once again.
CK Butcher: You’re losing it. Everything. You’re losing everything. I hope you know that. You’re going to go into Reckoning Day and lose. You’re going to be the worst superstar to ever win the Redemption Rumble. You’re going to be number 38 in the worst wrestling superstars top 100 countdown. Buck Dresden is going to kill you. Unless Azraith kicks your face off? Buck Dresden is going to drown you in your own blood. Buck Dresden is going to be the hero that stops your madness. Buck Dresden is going to be the Bad Ass who reminds us why the Brotherhood was not to be fucked with. Buck Dresden is going to break every bone in your body. Buck Dresden is going to rip your guts out through your asshole. You’re losing. You’re a loser. You’re a fucking DISGRACE.
The Lord of the Flies leans back onto the sink and stares down at the well. His head slowly rises with an awkward smirk. His brow furrows. His eyes pierce into his reflection. He’s suddenly confident in composure.
CK Butcher: And…I LIKE it!
He stands straight and takes a step back from the sink. He strokes his long salt-and-pepper goatee and tilts his head left and right.
CK Butcher: Azraith, I’m going to continue to play mind games with just about everyone until I am capable of ruling over this company with an iron fist; and I don’t mean the stupid belt that Arthur Pleasant needs to make himself seem legitimized. No, I’m going to rule over all of you and I’m going to do it by first bringing out all the information I need from every single performer and eventually use it to my advantage. You gave me everything that I needed for tonight, and although I still feel like you have the ability to scale the turnbuckle after a win and display my spinal cord to the crowd like a proud champion, I will be heading into the Revolution main event with two things on my mind: 1. Walking away from you alive, and 2. Tormenting Buck Dresden in whatever way drives the Bluegrass Badass into a pissed off whirling dervish of anger and psychological distress.
CK Butcher: This is the game that I play. The Lord’s Gambit. These are the things that I do. I’m sick and tired of waiting for you idiots to finally get it. I am misery in every form. I am that feeling you get when you lose the love of your life. I am the feeling in your gut when you have to vomit. I am how you feel when you get fired, lose money, or get kicked in the dick. I am what keeps people up at night when they lose sleep because they did something wrong. I am…wrong…so that you and everyone else can be right. That’s what makes me a monster. I want to be wrong. I want to be the bad guy. I want to play evil, sadistic games. I want to be disgusting. I want to see death. I envy gore and nightmares. You don’t have to ask where the monster is. It’s always there as long as I am here. Unless you kill me? But, you’re a pussy like all the rest, and I’ll eventually lay in the ring and wonder why anybody would ever allow me to continue to exist? Maybe that’s the game you all play? Whatever it is – you all lose in the end, anyway.
CK Butcher: Before I go get ready for the two of us to make chaos: I’ve got birds, too, Azraith. They’re not mythological. They’re very real. They too can rip out an eyeball. I want you to meet…
He raises his left hand and flips off his reflection. He holds his left middle finger up so that his right hand can join in. His right hand flips off his reflection. He holds both hands up to the mirror and leans in. His left and right middle finger press against the glass.
CK Butcher: The left bird is ‘Fuck’ and the right bird is ‘You’.
Then he drops his hands and slams his forehead into the mirror! The glass shatters but no pieces fall from the object. The mirror hangs from the wall webbed with fractals as Butcher’s reflection is now separated by various sizes of shards. Butcher tilts his head to the right and left. He studies his broken image. He observes his deconstruction and seems abundantly comfortable with what he’s perceiving. Blood begins to trickle from a small abrasion on his forehead. Butcher smiles.
CK Butcher: There. That’s better.
Fade to black.
Jacob Mephisto Vs. Scion
Directly after the match, Mephisto takes his exit, picking up the win over Scion. We return to the announce desk, with Other Guy and Eryk Masters!
Eryk Masters: Man, after the match he put up against Jonas Coleman last night, I didn’t think he’d be able to come in here and knock Scion off, but here we are!
Other Guy: Mephisto’s got it, man. That was some good shit. He did a great job. Scion’s good, but he’s still got some seasoning he needs, you know what I’m saying?
Before Masters can respond, the lights go out in the arena and a purple light shines out from the back. Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor” permeates out over the PA, causing the crowd to go into a hush. The camera pans to Scion, who is back to his feet, staring wide-eyed at the entrance, knowing what this means. Before he can even blink, Rachmaninoff’s cadence picks up and you can hear the keys being slammed, the visage of Adrian Corazon shows up behind Scion and quickly whips him around.
He now stands face to face with the Master, his Master. Adrian Corazon.
Eryk Masters: Scion needs to run and get out. GET OUT NOW. GET OUT. JAMES!!! GET THE FUCK OUT!!
Scion moves his head slightly, looking towards the announcer’s desk, frozen.
Other Guy: I don’t think he can, man.
Without hesitation, Corazon brings Scion’s face down into his knees, his own Act of Defiance, and Scion flies back spitting blood into the air. Scion hits the mat hard, but Corazon does not give him time to even catch a single breath before he’s rushed him and brought him back to his feet, throwing him with what seems like incredible strength into the corner. He then begins just laying into Scion, rights and lefts, over and over again, before Scion crumples to the ground. Corazon drags him back to his feet again and shoves him hard once more into the corner. Scion takes two steps forward and eats ANOTHER Act of Defiance, putting him out.
Eryk Masters: Can we get some help out here, please!?
Other Guy: I can’t say that I think that people are going to be too quick to move to help him, given what he’s been part of and how the New Vanguard has targeted non-wrestlers, man. Corazon doesn’t seem to discriminate. There’s no code there.
Eryk Masters: Well then can he just be DONE, FUCK.
Done he is, as Corazon walks to the ropes facing the announcer’s desk and leans over, smiling towards Eryk Masters, before moving back to the other side and climbing out of the ring, all while Rachmaninoff accompanies him to the back.
Other Guy: Noooow we’ll see some medical help out here.
Eryk Masters: Fucking GOOD. Jesus. Let’s move on to something else. The next match? Great. It’s Lazer Johnson making his debut against Kowloon Zombie, and that’s next at Revolution 151.
Kowloon Zombie Vs. Lazer Johnson
Another night, another event, and Alden Butcher is once again sitting in the stolen 1989 Cadillac Brougham and staring through tiny binoculars potentially waiting for his brother CK Butcher to enter the Epicenter. The redbone coonhound sits up in the backseat and watches his owner observe the surroundings. Alden then suddenly smacks the dark red leather passenger seat and points.
Alden Butcher: There.
He says in his deep, hollow voice. The coonhound has no idea what Alden is pointing at, but now we do. The camera catches a glimpse of the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion, Buck Dresden, entering the Epicenter. He’s not dressed to perform. He’s rolling one piece of luggage behind him and the World Heavyweight Championship belt on his free shoulder.
Alden Butcher: Now.
Avarice Vs. Joshua Breedlove (c)
Eryk Masters: Can someone please explain to me how we’ve now had two Breedlove matches with the same referee and two Breedlove matches that have ended in a fast count? Like, we know that he’s on the dude’s payroll, how is he booked here?
Other Guy: I think it’s some union shit, man. Breedlove kinda hinted at it last time, when he won the belt from Void. This is no different than that. I love it. I know it’s fun to hate Breedlove, but I love that the New Vanguard is getting their comeuppance in such a pro wrestling kind of way. It’s not at all what I expected, and I didn’t expect it to be Joshua Breedlove at the forefront of it.
Eryk Masters: Now if we could only get the guy off of Spitter and to focus more in the ring, maybe he’s really be something.
Other Guy: Excuse YOU, E. That guy is the SIN CITY CHAMPION and he’s clearly a brilliant tactician and DEDUCER. But listen, we’re following Avarice to the back, as I’ve gotten word that there’s some there waiting for him.
The Locker Room is dark when the door opens, but the light cast from the hallway illuminates the man who is entering. Long hair, raven black. A mask of shimmering gold.
He reaches over and flicks on the light, walking in. He briefly begins to raise his mask–but stops short when he notices he’s not alone. Sitting on a folding chair, travel briefcase at his feet, is another man. The years have been more kind to him since the stress of running SHOOT has been firmly in the rearview.
Avarice: Your face I know, but I don’t think we’ve ever formally been introduced.
He strides over, extending a hand.
Avarice: Avarice. One of many.
Jason smirks and extends his own hand, shaking his, while never looking away from Avarice’s eyes.
Jason: Jason Johnson. Though I’m sure you knew that.
They break from one another’s grasp, as Avarice begins busying himself with his backpack, pulling out his gear for the evening. Boots, tights, pads, tape. Jason watches him for a long while, then busies himself with his own bag. He pulls out a thick manilla folder, the spine straining with the collected documents. Avarice turns, regarding him.
Avarice: Pardon my brusqueness, but could you either get to the point of why you are here or…go? I assume this to be a sort of intimidation tactic cooked up by your brother–the absolute rake! Hahaha. But I do have a match to get dressed for, and–
Jason: Yeah, I’m not leaving. But you could sit down. We have to have a discussion.
Avarice pauses. Thinks for a moment. Sits down.
We cut away.
Eryk Masters: Now THAT is interesting. Jason shows up and immediately starts causing some shit? Or is this a real 2020 vibe and he’s actually bankrolling the New Vanguard and he’s letting Avarice in on the secret.
Other Guy: I mean, it does seem a little out of character for him to cross enemy lines like that, and it IS 2020, and SHOOT Project DID just return to financial solvency four years after he left the industry, so maaaayyyyybeeeee….
Eryk Masters: You don’t actually think…
Other Guy: No, I don’t. I think there’s something to this for sure, but I don’t think it’s that Jason Johnson is actually the guy behind the New Vanguard. That’s some crazy conspiracy theory shit. Listen, up next, we’ve got RAIKO making her SHOOT Project debut against Shadow Dar in what looks on paper to be a really solid bout. That’s NEXT!
RAIKO Vs. Shadow Dar
Are you tired of watching the same old, same old professional wrestling?
Frustrated seeing the same boring nonsensical stories, moves, Soldiers, and even fans?
Do you like magic?
“Daybreak” by Michael Haggins begins to play. Suddenly, Kitsune appears, flanked by Tadakatsu Jin, Fuego Eterno, and a new guy. You don’t know this guy. He’s Japanese, pretty, and about Kitsune’s size. His name is Akuma Lee. Don’t worry about it. Shut the fuck up and keep going. All four men are wearing purple Ruination polo t-shirts because there’s not much GODSPEED merch. Shut the fuck up. Kitsune and Fuego have their masks on, however.
Kitsune: My name is Kitsune and I represent GODSPEED and boy do we have a great product for you!
Cut to Jin, who is looking slightly off to the side of the camera, his eyes clearly scrolling left to right.
Tadakatsu: We offer the finest in all of your professional wrestling needs from high flying…
Jin holds his arm stiffly out in the direction of Fuego Eterno. Fuego hops.
Tadakatsu: …to attitude…
Jin holds his arm stiffly out to Akuma Lee, who nods his head and purses his lips as though he’s eaten the lemon of hate.
Tadakatsu: …to hard hitting…
Tadakatsu holds his arm out yet again and Kitsune shakes his head quickly. Tadakatsu shakes it off and smacks his fist into his hand.
Tadakatsu: …to that age old magic you’ve been missing in professional wrestling.
This time, Tadakatsu does not hold his arm out and Kitsune’s shoulders slouch at a second consecutive cue missed. Kitsune reaches behind his back and unveils a small live bunny. This bunny is obviously confused as to what the fuck is going on. Kitsune presents the bunny as if he is Lucha Vanna White. He hands the bunny to Akuma, who looks confused and mouths “The fuck I’mma do with this?” and Kitsune shrugs to him.
Fuego Eterno: Entonces, si está buscando la mejor alternativa a sus tristes y cansadas excusas para el entretenimiento y la lucha, no busque más que aquí.
Subtitles: So if you are looking for the finest alternative to your sad and tired excuses for entertainment and wrestling, look no further than right here.
Akuma tosses the bunny off screen when no one is looking.
Akuma Lee: You might not know us and we might not care, but we are here for all of your professional wrestling needs.
Kitsune points directly at the camera
Kitsune: CALL TODAY and get a FREE consultation on how you can best improve your professional wrestling experience!
Jin seems confused.
Tadakatsu: They can just watch us.
Fuego Eterno: Sí, ¿qué sentido tiene decirles que llamen?
Kitsune looks over his shoulder to the two of them.
Kitsune: Shut the fuck up and don’t ruin this for us.
“Guys! That’s a wrap! Cut!”
Kitsune: Wait what?
Scott Kamura steps into frame. “Daybreak” stops with a record scratch.
Scott Kamura: There’s a rabbit loose in catering right now and I can only assume that’s your doing.
Akuma Lee: We have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about and also it’s a bunny and also what the fuck are you talking about.
Kitsune: Also shut the fuck up, Scott.
Kitsune sighs and steps out of frame.
“THIS IS WHY WE DIDN’T WIN THE SIX MAN BELTS. FUCK!”
Tadakatsu: Technically we lost the six man belts because…
Akuma puts his hand on Jin’s chest.
Akuma Lee: Let him have this. If not, there’ll be no living with him.
Fuego Eterno: No se puede vivir con él ahora. Nunca se quita la maldita máscara.
Tadakatsu: Kitsune, wait up!
Jin leaves Akuma and Fuego alone on set with Scott Kamura. Scott looks over to the two of them and smiles.
Scott Kamura: Did I ever tell you guys about the time I refereed the main event of Reckoning Day?
Fuego Eterno: Dios mío, Scott, cállate la boca.
Akuma rolls his eyes.
Akuma Lee: You’re the reason COVID exists, Scott.
The remaining two members of GODSPEED exit, leaving Scott Kamura by himself.
Scott Kamura: Well, that was rude.
“Daybreak” kicks back in as we fade to black.
The locker room, again. Avarice is there, undoing tape from his wrists, his kickpads undone from his boots. Jason is still there, as well–the patience of a monk.
Jason: When you left, I half expected your goons to come in and cart me off.
Avarice: Oh, Mr. Johnson. They’re not my goons, they’re my brothers. And though I’m sure your nephew would take a particular joy in beating you senseless…you’re free of sin. Your debt was already paid.
Avarice: And this…discussion you want to have? I’m a sucker for a mystery! Ahahaha.
Jason Johnson: I have with me a folder that contains a significant amount of information that pertains to the SHOOT Project, Adrian Corazon, Diego Reyes, and you. It dates back to 2016, is mostly crafted in legalese, and relates to the FBI investigation that shut the SHOOT Project down without warning.
Avarice looks on as Jason produces this folder.
Jason Johnson: Some of the information in this document is going to be shocking and extremely sensitive. Some of it is going to be unbelievable. Some of it would make most people angry, filled with rage, but you seem different so maybe not with you. Who knows. Either way, it is time that you understand the full breadth of what’s going on around here, how it relates to Adrian Corazon, and what your place is in it all.
Avarice: My place? How do I have a place in anything to do with what happened here in 2016, beyond the marvelous and wonderful acts that I’m participating in right now?
Jason hands Avarice the folder.
Jason Johnson: See for yourself. I think you’ll find the contents of this folder enlightening, and probably somewhat upsetting.
Avarice: And why would I believe anything that you show me here?
Jason Johnson: I’m not asking you to believe anything. You don’t owe me that. Just read the file and make up your mind for yourself. I assume that you can do that. You’ll understand that I have to stay until you’re done parsing that document.
Avarice looks down at the folder and then back up at Jason. His facial expression obviously hasn’t changed, but his demeanor definitely had.
Avarice: Of course.
Other Guy: The plot thickens.
Eryk Masters: So it does, OG. So it does.
Bonnie Blue Vs. Arthur Pleasant (c)
The man sits in silence. His black hair is cascaded over his golden mask. His shoulders are slumped. Weak. He’s barely holding onto the file folder. His stance is that of a marionette in rest, slumped in a vaudevillian’s trunk. The slightest of movement betrays that he’s even still alive, his head moving slightly, his eyes scanning pages.
The other man sighs, his brow furrowed. He knows he has had to play the role of a messenger of truths too hard for most to absorb, for a man he doesn’t even know, to help in a war he thought was long over. He sighs and stands as Avarice closes the folder, offering a weak arm out to present it to Jason. The other man takes the folder. Slides it back into his traveler briefcase. Shakes his head.
Jason: Look. I’m sorry. I’m sure that’s probably cold comfort coming from me, but I truly am. To find this out this way is…
He looks to the floor, truly at a loss for words.
Jason: It’s tough.
He begins to walk towards the door. Avarice makes no moves towards him, nor even acknowledges his words. Limp. Slumped. Lifeless but for the ragged draws of breath he takes. Jason Johnson eyes him from the doorway, watches him. Not with the eyes of a man who fears for his safety, but with genuine concern.
Jason: I don’t know if you even have much of an identity. I’m not oblivious to the going’s on around here, I’ve seen you and heard your words. I don’t know if you ever knew a life as anything other than “Avarice.” But…a man should know where he came from. So that maybe one day you decide to do away with that mask.
He opens the door, then turns his head back.
Jason: And you can give life as Adrian Reyes a try.
He walks off, the door slowly closing behind him. For a long while there is nothing. The faint hum of a central air system, the ragged breaths of Avarice. He finally stands, his gaze cast to the floor. Sways slightly—affectation or falter. He slowly walks towards the back of the locker room—and removes his mask!
He tosses it to the floor as he paces back towards the camera. We can’t see much for his hair, but he is young, remarkably so, possibly even babyfaced under all the scars. And they are numerous. He walks away again, his feet seeming more sure, as he stretches and flexes his hands, curling them into tight fists. He walks back—hitting himself in the face all the while. The smack of the impact ricocheting off the concrete walls. He walks away again. More hits. His breath is now coming in shuddering draws that ramp up in speed. He is hyperventilating. He walks back. We can see tears. A hand grips the long section of his hair and drags it across his face, taking with it a clump of black tresses. He stops short. He notices himself in the mirror.
He walks to it and slowly pulls back his hair to reveal his face in full—but we only catch a brief glimpse, as he SLAMS his face into the mirror. He throws his head back, bracing against the sink, and DRIVES it into the glass again—so hard that he BREAKS it into a circular spidercrack and reels backwards onto his rear. He makes no sound. His face is covered with his own hair, developing blood, bits of mirrored glass. He reaches out without looking and his searching fingers find his mask. He pulls it onto his face, not bothering to move his hair out of the way or remove the shards. As he settles it, we hear the crunch of some pieces as they rub against the gold material.
He picks himself up. His posture snaps to erect, chest out. He strides to the door.
Put on a happy face.
The crowd erupts with a realization that the main event for Revolution 151 is just about underway. The crew catches CK Butcher backstage, in full gear, as he makes his way toward the gorilla position. He slaps his shoulders and cracks his neck. He looks peaked; perhaps a consequence from lack of training and too much drinking? He brushes his hair back and his face suddenly shifts from sickly to confident. It’s obvious that at this moment he realized he’s about to go toe-to-toe with one of the greatest to ever step foot in a SHOOT Project ring. He puts on his skull crown and slaps it. He adjusts the black burial gown cape. He stands straight, and stoic with the bone scepter in tow. He then marches toward his demise.
But, the camera doesn’t shift. Butcher leaves the picture, but the camera stays put. That’s because Alden Butcher steps into the picture. The colossal, grotesque, younger brother steps forward and continues to hunt the Lord as he lunges toward battle. There’s a sudden smirk on the giant’s face.
Then a hand reaches up and taps Alden on the shoulder. The behemoth spins around and is amazed at the sight of the SHOOT Project World Champion standing before him. Buck Dresden’s presence sends a seismic shift in the Epicenter as the crowd goes ballistic and the floor beneath both men shake. The giant goes nose up, tilting his head and staring suspiciously at the champ. Dresden doesn’t seem fazed, and if anything – he’s excited at the idea of Alden hunting his brother.
Buck Dresden: Y’know, call me crazy…but when a body gets the hair on the back of his neck standin’ up, leaves a body to wonder if he’s bein’ watched.
Buck cocks his head to the side, looking Alden directly in his eyes.
Buck Dresden: I just wanted to come, see a show, enjoy myself. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be too long before some Butchers came lookin’ to carve me up.
Alden says nothing. He isn’t quite prepared for this sort of situation to occur. He had been hunting. He is the hunter. Seeing his prey before him prepared and perhaps even his equal in the hunt unnerved him. Still, he remains silent. This is Buck’s time. He’d earned that, at least.
Buck Dresden: I don’t know much about your clan yet…Alden, right? But what I do know is that y’all operate with yer own code. I respect that. But one thing I won’t abide is bein’ the toy that gets thrown to the pack to nibble on. I suppose you know a thing or two about that, don’t you? Gettin’ used, abused, an’ left out in the cold?
Still silence between the two of them. Buck knows Alden will not reply. He continues on.
Buck Dresden: Somebody like me can understand somebody like you, Alden. I can respect your loyalties to yer family. What I can’t do is allow you to stalk me an’ wait fer me to allow myself to get open ‘n’ vulnerable like that. See, I know a thing or two about the hunt an’ one thing I definitely know about myself is that I don’t wait fer my prey.
Alden clenches his fists, preparing for the attack to come. Buck looks Alden up and down before he nods his head in approval.
Buck Dresden: I face ‘em head on. Dead on. Soldier versus Soldier. Yer brother’s full of it, Alden. He needs to see what a true Butcher can do against a Bad Ass like me. I want you. In the ring. Revolution 152. I want him to see his brother fight me like a damn man. No games. No lies. No hunt. Just a fight.
Alden’s brow furrows as Buck smirks. He turns away and leaves Alden alone on screen for a moment before he pops back in.
Buck Dresden: OH. And. Guy like you deserves more’n a fight. I’m puttin’ the title up.
The fans LOSE IT at the sound of another title match so soon after the war Buck waged against NEMESIS.
Alden Butcher: I…
Buck shakes his head.
Buck Dresden: Ain’t interested in yer words, Alden. I’m interested in yer fight. See you then, brother.
Buck finally leaves Alden there to ponder what just happened. Alden slowly begins to breathe again as the hunters depart one another’s presence. One thing he can’t shake, though.
Alden Butcher: “Brother.”
Alden, for the slightest of moments, looks askance. However, soon he finds himself watching Buck as he walks away. So confident. So…pure. Something he’d not seen in who knows how long.