Outside the entrance to the Epicenter Arena in downtown Las Vegas, fans and paparazzi cluster together, closer than social distancing guidelines would ordinarily allow. A chill desert breeze tugs at hair, plays at the hems of coats, but otherwise does little to dampen the festive spirits of the crowd. Mist rolls in from seemingly nowhere, thin and nearly translucent, a few wisps reaching up to curl like gossamer serpents around the ankles of an approaching figure.
Tall, broad-shouldered, and resolute, Eryk Van Warren — known to fans of the SHOOT Project as X-Calibur — strides with purpose toward the arena doors, bag slung casually over one shoulder. A cheer goes up from the fans. A dozen rapid-fire camera flashes and a flurry of questions serve nearly as effective a barrier as the wall of bodies that suddenly blocks his way. Podcasters, social media influencers, autograph hounds, and groupies fling themselves at X; anything for a soundbite, a touch, a simple glance… even as the fog seems to thicken and coalesce around him.
Until she appears at his side: Bonnie Blue, pushing back the tide of humanity that threatens to overwhelm the ring veteran. And as quickly as it had come, the haze recedes as though in obedience to some unspoken command, so thoroughly that it might never have been there at all. Her smile, wickedly predatory, parts the crowd more effectively than any force. She grabs Eryk by the hand, and together, the two of them walk inside.
Extremely Martial Law Vs. The Holler (c)
Sammy Rochester holds the Junior Director of Security Pamela Knight’s shaking, super glued hands directly over the black sink of a hair salon washing station. In her gruesomely bound hands is a meat tenderizing hammer. Directly across from her, with his hands clutching the side of the sink, is the Greatest Iron Fist Champion To Have Ever Lived, Arthur Pleasant.
Arthur Pleasant: That’s it! You’re almost there! A little further! To the right, just a bit! Annnnnd… bingo!
KERTHUNK. The silver head drops directly down onto the brow of Azraith DeMitri, course side down. His flesh splits open ever so slightly, but not enough to ooze down into the sink. Arthur sighs as the blood just pools on his eyebrow into a crumb sized bubble.
Arthur Pleasant: Well fuck. a. DUCK! I thought we had it! Alright, one more time. Sammy? If you would, kind sir?
Sammy nods and reaches down into the sink for the hammer. He looks at the course prongs on the one side and the fine prongs on the other. Quizzically, he shrugs in Arthur’s direction.
Arthur Pleasant: Yeah? You think we should try the finer side? Sure, why not?!
Sammy nodded. Azraith, meanwhile, cursed at them both endlessly behind his sewn shut lips. A black strand of fabric weaves in and out of tiny holes on his lips and each time he tries to open them the strands tighten and blood seeps out from the micro wounds. Mascara runs down Pamela’s face as she sobs behind her inherent needlework.
Arthur Pleasant: Shut up, cunt. Things could be a lot worse for you, don’t you realize?! It could be YOUR pretty face inside the sink, here!
She continues to sob as her knees buckle a bit. Sammy holds her up, though, and places the tenderizer’s wood handle between a strategically fixed hole in her glued palms. Desperate pleas of, “Please, stop!” and “I beg you!” are easily deciphered behind the stitching. Each time our Junior Security Director cries out, Arthur smirks hungrily like a vulture about to dive-bomb some fresh roadkill.
Sammy moves her hands to the right a bit…
Arthur Pleasant: Naaaah, maybe to the left? Yeah. To the left. Keep going… annnnnnd… we have another BINGOOOOOOO!
The tenderizer drops right onto the same spot on his eyebrow as before, but this time it splits wide open. Blood pours down into the sink when Arthur slaps himself across the head like he forgot something.
Arthur Pleasant: Duh! Silly me. I almost forgot!
He grabs a red solo cup that has the words “ESSENCE OF AZRAITH” crudely scrawled in black marker. He holds it down into the sink where Azraith’s crimson drippings slowly fills the bottom of the cup. Azraith’s muscles bulge as he desperately tries to free himself from the super glue that has bound his skin to the arms of the washing station’s chair.
Arthur Pleasant: This… is gonna take a bit.
Kayden Paulton Vs. Malice
Arthur Pleasant pulls the red solo cup away from Azraith’s bleeding head. The former SHOOT Project Sin City Champion’s normally blue tinged hair has become a moistened mess of red. Sniffing the cup, Arthur closes his eyes as if he’s dunking his senses into a snifter of lavender.
Arthur Pleasant: Mm. They say blood has a metallic smell. Iron, they say. Now some people often mistake that metallic aroma for copper because they’re told that is what blood tastes like. It’s a common misconception, my dear, dear friend. Me? I dunno about either. Because when I take a deep, prolonged sniff at what’s in this cup? You know what I smell, friend?
He caresses Azraith’s hair. Azraith’s eyes look like they’re going to bulge out of their sockets from the amount of rage he has for Arthur Pleasant.
Arthur Pleasant: Shhhh. Hush, child. It’ll all be okay in the end. It’ll… all… be okay.
Without warning, Arthur headbutts Azraith’s forehead. Repeatedly. Sammy lets out of discernable laugh as Pamela Knight continues to sob and shriek behind her stitched lips. Tears fall from her face like a burst pipe as she witnesses the macabre act unfold before her. Arthur wipes his own forehead of Azraith’s “essence” and quickly realizes he busted himself open as well, just under the scalp. He laughs maniacally.
Arthur Pleasant: BLOOOOOD BROTHERRRRRRS!!!
The Provocateur cackles and Sammy’s breathing becomes erratic as he lets out this guttural, indecipherable, indescribable sound that indicates a hearty laugh coming from someone who does not “emote” very often. Clearly, though, Sammy Rochester is enjoying every bit of this “play time” with his “Collective” friend.
Arthur Pleasant: What I smell in this cup… is the fragility of mankind. Despite your prolonged legacy, your countless accolades, and your near-mythic designation as being this alleged GOD of violence and all around maliciousness? I just smell the deceit of humanity. I smell… nineteen years of dishonesty all pooled into one little fucking plastic chalice.
Arthur looks at Pamela and then at Sammy.
Arthur Pleasant: Sammy? Let her go.
Sammy withdraws a pair of fabric scissors from inside his pants pocket. Very roughly he cuts the stitching to free her lips to move any which way she wants them to. It is then that she cries out in agony. From the pain. From the horror of it all.
Pamela Knight: Y-y-you people are fucking sick!! Let me GO!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!
Arthur Pleasant: Pamela, hon. That was my intention all along! To let you go, silly! But first, why don’t we set your hands free?!
He gives a wry chuckle and rolls his eyes.
Arthur Pleasant: Sammy? Free this bitch from her bonds.
Realizing what was coming next, Pamela opened her mouth, but no words could escape. With her voice box frozen in horror, Pamela watched in what probably felt like slow motion as Sammy placed two fingers from each hand inside the strategically placed hole that previously held the meat tenderizer.
Arthur Pleasant: This might hurt a little…
Sammy’s unbridled strength is on full display now as he pries apart Pamela’s super-glued hands. Pieces of skin hang from her fingertips as a blood-curdling scream resounds throughout the vacant barber shop. Arthur claps with joyous abandon.
Arthur Pleasant: Jesus. That was AWESOME! And, can I just say that THAT was some strong fucking superglue! I guess [in the commercial’s jingle] Ace IS the place with the helpful hardwaaaaaare!
He laughs as Pamela screams from the agony of having her fingers violently ripped away from each other due to the professional grade adhesive that kept them clasped. Sammy shoves her to the floor and points towards the door. Without hesitating, she scampers to her feet and bursts through the door, slamming her forearms into the metal push bar.
Turning his attention back to his other captive, Azraith DeMitri, Arthur’s smile fades.
Arthur Pleasant: Enough of the theatrics and games. Let’s have ourselves a little conversation, shall we, Mr. Sandman?
RAIKO Vs. El Caballero Blanco
Other Guy: Up next, we’ve got a match that was borne on Ruination 2 and is going to take place between Blade McGuinness and Kitsune!
Eryk Masters: No kidding! This all happened because of some stuff that went down on Spitter, and I guess these two guys just wanted to get in the ring and hash it out, so we’ve got Blade McGuinness and Kitsune squaring off and that’s NEXT.
Blade McGuinness Vs. Kitsune
Inside the men’s locker room shower area, X-Calibur sits with a towel wrapped around his waist and another draped over his head. Beads of water drip down his chiseled frame, traipsing through the various tattoos and war scars that cover his forearms and biceps — suffusing his skin like a living art canvas. Black Under Armour flip flops support his motionless feet as he leans forward, elbows to knees, on a built-in bench. Light footsteps approach as the steam from the showers create a surficial stickiness, causing the fleshy bottoms on a pair of incoming feet to peel away from the floor tiling, one measured step at a time.
Bonnie Blue: What, getting started without me?
She calls out to X-Calibur with this alluring voice. He pulls the towel down from around his head and looks up in surprise at the person moving in on him. Bonnie giggles at X’s startled reaction, his eyes widening at the sight of the young woman. A white towel drapes her athletic frame with regal elegance. Droplets of water release their tenuous hold on her blue-tinted hair, slowly trailing along the bare flesh of her shoulders. She gives him a grin as she drops lightly onto the bench beside him.
He merely chuckles.
X-Calibur: Um… hi?!
X can’t help himself as he eyes her up and down, noticing how the towel strategically covers parts of Bonnie that he needn’t see lest becoming a bit… distracted… with his match against NEMESIS looming. This thought notwithstanding, his eyes wander and he chuckles nervously over and over again like a kid in high school sitting next to his crush and getting an accidental up-skirt.
X-Calibur: You do realize this is the men’s shower room, right? Upon which one would have to go through the men’s locker room?
As he jests playfully, X throws his hands up to persist with his amused and more-than-intrigued train of thought.
X-Calibur: Not that I’m complaining!
Bonnie Blue: I should hope not.
She lightly traces her finger along his bicep.
Bonnie Blue: But don’t worry, nobody knows I’m in here. It’s just you and me…
X smirks and closes his eyes as goosebumps rise to the surface of his damp skin from Bonnie’s impossibly light touch.
X-Calibur: That so?
He turns around and faces Bonnie, eying her up and down, not being able to keep his hungry eyes off of her impeccable figure. She smiles as she follows his gaze, and leans in a little closer. Her voice is low and sultry.
Bonnie Blue: Not a soul in sight.
She lingers there a moment longer, inviting intimate contact; then, abruptly, bounces up from the bench.
Bonnie Blue: No telling how long that’ll last, though. And you’ve got a match to get ready for.
He reaches up with a hand and playfully tugs on her towel. Slowly standing up, he comes in close to Bonnie, taking her up on her previous intimate invitation.
X-Calibur: Yeah, I do. But luckily… I still have quite a bit of time to kill.
He pulls his towel open a bit, but not all the way. His breaths come in at a quicker pace as he stands mere inches from her lips, looking into her Serpentine eyes.
The tension is palpable; the lure, irresistible. Bonnie draws X in for a kiss, deep and passionate, losing herself in the moment. Almost as quickly, she realizes what she’s done and pulls away from him.
X stands there for a moment. The situation is surreal to him considering just a matter of weeks before he had been engaged to another woman. But it didn’t matter anymore. For some imperceptible goddamned reason, he knew this is what he wanted all along. But… did she?
X-Calibur: I’m… uh… I’m sorry. Fuck.
He says this without really knowing what he was sorry for. Their chemistry is undeniable, that much he does know.
Suddenly, her towel falls. He’s in awe over her beauty. Her perfection. Without warning, he takes her towel and covers her back up.
X-Calibur: I don’t know if you did that on purpose, but… not here. Not now.
He closes his eyes and rubs his temples. It takes every fiber of his being not to give in to the temptation. He can see her naked body in his mind, but he tries to push the thoughts out and resist as best he can.
X-Calibur: I just… there’s a lot going through my mind right now. Fucking Avalon. My daughter, Esper. My shit with Loco. I won’t lie and pretend I didn’t dream of this ever since I first met you. But… not here. Not now. Let’s put a pin in this and revisit?
They both sigh. Relief. Frustration. All of it manifests across their faces.
Bonnie Blue: Maybe you’re right. There’s things about me you don’t know, X. Things you might be better off not knowing. Let’s keep this… professional.
X-Calibur: I’ve been in this business too long to be surprised by anything in anyone’s past, Bon. Honestly, maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I kinda wanna know what yours is.
He smirks. Scratching the back of his head, he nods.
X-Calibur: But yeah. That said? I can do “professional”. Absolutely.
He steps away from Bonnie, albeit reluctantly.
X-Calibur: I guess this means I should go get ready. Lace ‘em up. Get in the zone, as they say. NEMESIS is gonna be tough. She poses herself as just a rookie, but I know that she knows that she’s much more than that.
He smiles, leans in, and kisses her on the cheek. Putting his forehead to hers. He closes his eyes. Their breaths colliding in wanting bursts.
X-Calibur: Thank you.
NEMESIS Vs. X-Calibur
The Greatest Iron Fist Champion That Has Ever Lived climbs onto Azraith DeMitri’s prone, sitting up state in the hair washing station of the dingy, unlit, undisclosed barber shop they had brought him to after the abduction from Ruination. Straddling Azraith while resting his hands on top of his counterpart’s head, Arthur sighs out of boredom.
Arthur Pleasant: Hey Sammy, go ahead and play our favorite tune will ya?
Sammy nods and moves towards a standalone boombox CD Player/Radio combo player that is plugged in where the barbershop’s old cash register used to be and proceeds to push “play”.
“Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum…
Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum… “
Azraith’s eyes are bloodshot with fury.
“Mr. Sandman… bring me a dream…”
Arthur Pleasant: Bum, bum, bum, bum!
“Make him the cutest, that I’ve ever seen…”
Arthur Pleasant: Bum, bum, bum, bum!
“Give him two lips like roses and clover”
Arthur Pleasant: Bum, bum, bum, fucking, bum!
“Then tell him that his LONESOME NIGHTS ARE OVER!”
Arthur raps his fingers repeatedly onto Azraith’s skull as the song progresses.
Arthur Pleasant: Sammy, can you part our dear friend’s lips from each other? I think it’s high time we heard him speak, don’t you? Also, bring me my title.
With Sammy basically acting as some sort of monstrous, hideous looking gopher, Sammy pleasantly acquiesces his request by grabbing the SHOOT Project Iron Fist Championship from the adjacent empty wash station. He places it over Arthur’s shoulder with a love and care usually reserved for siblings.
Arthur Pleasant: Well, Mr. Sandman… bring me a dream.
Sammy takes the same scissors he used to cut the stitching on the Junior Director of Security from before and roughly cuts the same stitching from Azraith’s mouth. Catching a piece of his skin with the pointy end of the scissors somewhat “accidentally”, Sammy rips out the cut stitching, causing even more pain to the SHOOT Project Legend. A choking cry of pain escapes Az as he casts his glare between the two men, his jaw flexing as blood pools both inside and out of his mouth, dripping from his lips and down his jaw.
Azraith DeMitri: I’b goin’ ta fukkin’-
Az could hear himself speak, and with a scowl spits outwards, purposely wasting what blood was in his mouth by hocking it to the ground.
Azraith DeMitri: I’m going to fucking hurt you.
Az struggles against the super-glue binding, screaming out in pain as layers of skin slowly start to peel and rip, much to the delight of Arthur.
Arthur Pleasant: Oh I have no doubt of that, friend… but you’re going to hurt yourself a lot more in the process!
That seems to be the trigger that finally pushes Az over the edge. His eyes close tight and in one feral scream of pain, Az RIPS both of his arms free from their glued bondage, leaving thin, narrow ribbons of flesh where the glue was connected. His whole body shaking with adrenaline and pain, Az snaps both of his arms forwards and wraps them around Arthur’s waist, squeezing into a sickening, desperate version of a bearhug. Sammy seems to simply stand there in gawking awe for several seconds before running to Arthur’s side, attempting to pry the bloody, massive arms off.
Azraith DeMitri: I’m…going…to FUCKING HURT YOU!
Arthur gasps for breath, feeling his ribs starting to constrict into his lungs and his spine beginning to creak in ways it truly shouldn’t. He casts a desperate look to Sammy.
Arthur Pleasant: The…hammer…! THE HAMMER!
Az’s eyes DART to Sammy, and in a violent motion just hauls Arthur off of him, throwing him to the ground with a dull thud before weakly pushing himself to his feet, forming a savage, defensive posture while reaching behind him, grabbing the meat tenderizer, almost daring them to come at him as he spins it in his hand, coarse-side out.
Azraith DeMitri: I’m fuckin’ BEGGING you. Try and fucking stop me.
Placing his back against a wall, Azraith slowly starts to creep towards the exit, his eyes never leaving the two.
Arthur Pleasant: Ugh… fucking hell! The strength in this one! So fierce… so full of RAGE. Hahaha. I love it.
The Iron Fist Champion rubs his throat and collects his title. He lays it down for Azraith DeMitri to cross.
Arthur Pleasant: Well, we were done with you anyway. So, if you’d like? You can leave. I’ll… I’ll allow it!
Azraith looks tempted into actually staying based on Arthur’s goading.
Arthur Pleasant: But, well, if you want to stay… and continue playing with us? You’re more than welcome… friend.
Sammy grabs the boom box and rips it from the outlet it was attached to, HURLING it across the barber shop towards Azraith. He sidesteps it, causing it to smash through the barbershop window, sending the glass into smithereens.
Arthur Pleasant: I mean, it looks like Sammy still wants to play. Whadda ya say!?
Not giving into their sadistic games, Azraith throws the hammer at them. The silver-headed projectile catches Arthur flush in his shoulder, knocking him down to the floor in searing pain. With this momentary distraction, Azraith makes his escape while wiping the blood from his forehead and mouth. Sammy simply tends to the fallen Iron Fist Champion.
Arthur Pleasant: Heh… hehe… ugh… son of a… I mean… was it something I said?!
He sits up on the floor, grinning from ear to ear, wincing from the pain in his shoulder.
Despite this, somehow, there’s an indescribable feeling that Arthur got exactly what he wanted.
Alden Butcher Vs. Buck Dresden (c)
Buck Dresden slithers away from Alden Butcher as the referee guides him toward a turnbuckle. The SHOOT Project faithful are excited for the outcome of the match as the Badass Brother put on one Hell of a fight against a behemoth. It was the sign of an extremely strong World Heavyweight Champion. Eryk Masters chimes in as “Man of Constant Sorrow” continues and the crowd sings along.
Eryk Masters: That right there is why Buck Dresden is the World Heavyweight Champion. He has battled legends, the future, and monsters to be able to sit against that turnbuckle one of the best World Champions this company has ever seen.
Other Guy: I agree wholeheartedly. It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone like Buck Dresden. Someone that can really define what this title is. We’ve only seen two World Champions in 2020, both were from the Badass Brotherhood, but Buck has really put that belt on a pedestal for the entire world to witness it’s greatness.
Eryk Masters: The SHOOT Project is one of the greatest companies to ever grace the industry. It’s seen so many amazing moments, wrestlers and champions. But, Buck Dresden ends our year as perhaps the definition of what it means to be a SHOOT soldier.
Alden is crawling, face-first, toward the turnbuckle. Buck and the referee are conversing in the opposite corner. Buck signals that he’s doing fine, but then asks for his belt. The ref scurries across the ring, but as he makes it halfway through he immediately stops as “Drums of Drakkar” by Amoebacrew takes over and catches him off guard. The war drum battle cry of CK Butcher, the Lord of the Flies, begins to destroy the subwoofers. The crowd turns their head toward the stage and eagerly anticipate the oncoming battle that may ensue.
Other Guy: Seriously? We can’t end this year without having to see this guy? I was hoping he’d keep this crap on Ruination.
Eryk Masters: Whatever the Lord has in store, OG, he’s walking out rather methodically onto the stage. He’s donning that sadistic little grin of his.
Other Guy: Don’t call him the Lord, Eryk. Seriously. Don’t do that.
CK Butcher is not dressed to wrestle. He’s not dressed to battle a World Champion. No, he’s dressed casually in his flannel, and signature Wranglers. Tucked into the butt pocket of his pants is the cast iron statue of the Virgin Mary, black as night, and chipped from years of wear. The Lord of the Flies steps to the ramp and raises a microphone up to his mouth. He catches Buck Dresden’s attention, as the champ sits comfortably against the turnbuckle and wipes the sweat from his forehead. Buck breathes heavily as Butcher turns his attention to his younger brother who is resting his forehead against a buckle. CK raises his hand and points at Alden. He begins to walk down the ramp toward the ring.
CK Butcher: Just look at this failure. A failure! Another loss? Embarrassing; truly embarrassing. First, Nate Robideau, and now Buck Dresden? You’re over seven feet tall! You’re almost 500 freakin’ pounds! Are you SERIOUS?
Commentary cuts in as Butcher power steps toward the ring and immediately hops up onto the apron.
Other Guy: I mean, it’s Buck Dresden. What else do you expect? Same with Robideau. Both men are far more superior at this than Alden Butcher. Alden is simply just a big guy who swings his arms and tries to scare people by looking like a seven foot bag of ass.
CK rolls under the bottom rope. Dresden smirks as he watches CK Butcher step into the center of the ring as his theme music slowly fades. The Lord’s attention isn’t on the world champion; his eyes are on Alden Butcher.
Eryk Masters: Why don’t you tell that to Alden?
Other Guy: Not my problem. I just tell it how it is, Masters. CK thinks his brother should be a dominant force in this industry, yet there are men far better at this craft than him. Alden has no training. Robideau dog shanked him in minutes. It’s no surprise that Dresden defeated him, too. The Butchers are all an act!
The Lord of the Flies is gearing up for a fight as he bends slightly at the knees, ready to pounce, and begins to wave his arms for his Brother to stand.
CK Butcher: Get up! Get up you lousy son of a bitch! GET UP AND FACE THE LORD!
CK turns and looks at Buck who continues to share a smile in the nearby corner. The Lord then turns to look back at his brother who is finally turning to face him. Alden slides his back against the corner and sits down. He rests his arms on the ropes. He looks wasted, tired, exhausted, and fatigued.
CK Butcher: Hey, CHAMP! I want you to watch what’s about to happen. I want you to observe the utter annihilation this disgusting, vile, filth is about to receive from your LORD-KING-GOD. I want you to WITNESS! I won’t walk this Earth being ashamed of my family anymore. I can’t continue being ashamed of them when they can’t…get the job…done. So, therefore, I’m going to…
There’s a sudden gasp from the crowd. Buck Dresden’s brow furrows. The referee doesn’t hesitate to fall to the mat and retreat to the outside. CK Butcher reaches into his back pocket and immediately removes the cast iron statue of the Virgin Mary.
CK Butcher: …Say hello to Ma for me…
Eryk Masters: Oh GOD, NO!
Other Guy: This is why this guy and his family are bad for television. I mean, we’re about to see this dude go ballistic and beat the living dog crap out of his brother, right here, live in Epicenter.
The Lord of the Flies takes a few steps forward. Alden reaches up for the top ropes to try and pull himself up. The colossus is slowly trying to rise. His brother is just inches away from him. CK slowly raises the cast iron statue above his head. He’s about to bludgeon his brother to death right here in front of the entire world!
Suddenly, the crowd goes wild! Buck Dresden, the World Heavyweight Champion, the hero, immediately pries himself away from the turnbuckle, and with a surge of energy, he jolts toward CK Butcher! He grabs Butcher by the shoulder and spins him around! CK drops the statue and stares directly into the motivated eyes of his Reckoning Day opponent!
Other Guy: Yes! Yes! The champ and the challenger! Face-to-face! We may get to see a sample of the Reckoning Day main event…TONIGHT!
Eryk Masters: Holy SHIT!
Dresden pounds on his chest and looks deep into Butcher’s eyes. He spits the following bit of dialogue that can be picked up by CK’s microphone…
Buck Dresden: Screw your brother! BE YOUR OWN MAN!
CK closes his eyes as Buck’s spittle spatters across his face with the emphasis of every passionate word. The Lord smirks, and wipes some of the spit away. The crowd is going wild! CK opens his eyes and contemplates for a moment. He mouths ‘OK’, but that’s just as Buck catches a glimpse of Alden Butcher…
Eryk Masters: WAIT! WHAT!?
Other Guy: NO! NO! You’ve GOT to be KIDDING ME!
Buck’s reaction time isn’t fast enough as Alden pushes CK aside and immediately begins to choke out the World Champion with one hand! Dresden winces and grinds his teeth. Alden’s right hand is large enough to nearly wrap completely around Buck’s thick throat. His power is undeniable. They move into the center of the ring. There’s a gasp from the crowd, followed by a flood of jeers, as Alden lifts Buck off his feet and holds the World Champion in the air by the throat.
Eryk Masters: It was all an act, OG!
Other Guy: We all should’ve known better. You can see it written all over CK’s smug, ugly face.
The champion’s hands are clawing, gripping at Alden’s wrist, but the young giant stands so suddenly stoic, angry, embarrassed, and ready to KILL. This isn’t the first time Alden presented such black out force.
The Lord claps and starts to chuckle, he even does a little jig, then clicks his heels. CK walks around his brother while he holds the champion by the throat nearly four feet off the ring canvas. He circles the scene and observes. Dresden’s feet dangle, and kick, but his face is reddening.
CK Butcher: Would you look at THAT? Why, the plot thickens! The tables have turned! I do believe they call this a SWERVE! Have you ever hung from the grip of a seven foot, four inch monster before? The boy could snap your twig at any second. SNAP! No more Buck! Pawns are small, Buck. Alden is no chess piece…no sir-ee. He’s just one, big, pain in your ass…
Other Guy: Jesus! Can we please get a crew down here to stop this?
Eryk Masters: Seriously! Send security RIGHT NOW!
The elder Butcher steps away from his brother, turns his back, and begins to contemplate. He thinks aloud. He scratches his head.
CK Butcher: Let’s see here. Do we drop him on his head? Do you let him go and let me put him on the meat hook? Do we send a message? Do we end this poor bastard…now?
That’s when CK notices the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight title resting on the ring apron nearest the outside referee.
CK Butcher: If we do any of that then I get this feeling that we might get swarmed by…friends…of Dresden. Maybe the Badass Brotherhood? Maybe X-Calibur, or Azraith’s spawn?
The Lord of the Flies walks over, bends down, and immediately snatches the belt. The official takes a few steps backward as he watches Butcher stand up and walk back toward the action. The Lord is caressing the belt. He’s staring at the gold and leather as if he’s found his lost child. He pets the faceplate and then throws it over his shoulder.
CK Butcher: Plus…I would lose my chance to end him on the greatest stage of all.
He turns to his brother and doesn’t hesitate.
CK Butcher: Let him go.
Alden’s brow goes from furrowed to flexed. His bulbous mutant eyes widen. He turns toward his brother and is confused. Dresden is still conscious which is the best sign that he’s one of the strongest men in the game today.
It’s right about this time that a small group of SHOOT Project security, and officials, are cautiously heading toward the ring.
Eryk Masters: Let him go? Is CK Butcher really ordering his brother to let go?
Other Guy: Hmmm. Something isn’t right. We’ve seen what CK Butcher does in these scenarios. I get that he doesn’t want to have to deal with Buck’s friends, or atleast savor Buck for Reckoning Day, but to not do something…characteristically violent?
Eryk Masters: Right? Smells fishy.
Other Guy: That’s actually Alden you’re smelling.
CK Butcher: That’s right. Let him go.
Alden releases the clench and Buck immediately falls to the ring in a heap. The champion grips his throat, but also has enough wherewithal to quickly push himself toward the ropes to roll out of the ring into the arms of officials and security. Dresden is signaling for them all to back away as he rests against the side of the ring. The team gathers around him. The champ listens in as Butcher takes a stance center stage.
CK Butcher: Corrine can thank me, later.
That’s when Buck forgets about what has happened and leaps toward the ropes in an attempt to scale his way back into the ring. The vociferous crowd attempts to rally behind the champion with an unbelievable roar of motivation!
Unfortunately, a handful of security reach up and grab him by the waist band to pull him back down. He begins to wave his arms and swing so that they disperse.
CK Butcher: Oh, Buck, don’t worry. I’m not going to do anything to her. I saved you for her.
CK Butcher: I consider myself a smart man. I do wild and crazy things, but I’m no dumb dumb, Buck. I’ve had this planned since THE MOMENT I threw X-Calibur over the top rope. I knew, as his soft body hit the floor below, that not only did I redeem myself at Redemption, but I would have to make some bitches go through several layers of Hell in order for me to become the GREATEST superstar this company has EVER seen. I’m sure you’d agree that’s exactly what I’ve done.
The Lord walks over to his brother and pats Alden on the back.
CK Butcher: Alden and Elvis knew their roles. They understood what it would take for their brother, THEIR LEADER, their Lord, to become the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion. It was either you, or Jonas. It became you. We knew that Buck Dresden wasn’t duck soup. You’re a champion. You’ve been here. You’ve learned from all the mistakes. You have goals. You have…a PASSION! Oddly enough – the same energy you have about this belt? It’s the same energy we have to do whatever it takes to make every…single…one of you…aware of what we will do to each other to get what we want. We have a passion, too. A passion to enslave, and destroy, all you poor bastards so that we can turn this company into a thunderdome of malicious violence and apocalyptic comedy. We had a plan. Blood is thick, Buck. Never forget that.
CK Butcher: Alden…will always be my right hand man.
CK Butcher: Never trust a Butcher. We are greedy, selfish, evil men. Just in case you don’t understand that math? We have to be our own man in order to do that. So, I hope this opens your eyes? Especially now that your world title is resting on my shoulder…
The Lord massages the faceplate of the belt and smiles. He keeps his eyes on the gold as he caresses it. He turns his attention to an undeniably irritated, and ready to explode, Buck Dresden.
CK Butcher: It’s a really beautiful belt, Buck. It’s got a nice weight to it. It feels right. And, it looks so damn good on me! Don’t worry, buddy. I will make this right for you, and for all the rest, after I’ve beaten you into a bloody pulp at Reckoning Day. I know you’re scared that I won’t do this belt justice. You fear that I’m going to waste this championship away. You fear that after all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve sacrificed for this strap, that once it’s around my waist all that will be for nothing. You’re afraid that I will ruin the sanctity of this beloved award. But, fear not, Bucky-boy! For, when all is said and done, as you lay lifeless at my feet, conquered, I will hold that belt so fucking high that lightning will strike down upon the Epicenter and usher in a new era! That’s right, Buck. You cannot stop what’s to come. The Lord…has risen.
CK Butcher: Until we meet again…Champ.
The word leaves Butcher’s lips like the last haunting remnant of a nightmare. The microphone falls to the mat and creates a thud over the speakers. Dresden shakes his head slowly, his jaw muscles flexing through his tight face, and his angry eyes shoot directly at the Lord of the Flies. “Drums of Drakkar” by Amoebacrew pounds through the Epicenter. CK removes the World Heavyweight Championship from his shoulder and slowly raises it in the air.
Other Guy: What a God damned catastrophe. The mere fact he’s holding that title in his hands is already diminishing the value of that championship. That belt has been held by the greatest professional wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle and for someone like CK Butcher to grip that leather makes me SICK!
Eryk Masters: It’s apparent, ladies and gentlemen, that the first major shot has been fired. We have one more Revolution until Reckoning Day. And…
Other Guy: One more Ruination, too…SHOOT Project’s new show!
Eryk Masters: Correct! We have two more shows until the biggest event of them all! The show of shows! Reckoning Day! And the main event is right here! It’s Buck Dresden! CK Butcher! The World Champion versus The Redemption Rumble winner!
Butcher shares a smile with an infuriated Buck Dresden. The belt is lowered. CK holds the belt across his arms and looks down at it. His fingers grip the back of the plate. He takes a moment to appreciate what he embraces before slamming the gold faceplate into his forehead!
He peels the title from his face to reveal a scabbed wound has been reopened, and blood trickles down the bridge of his nose. A sadistic, toothy grin is produced from ear to ear as blood droplets fall from the tip of his nose and land on the faceplate below. He wipes a hand across the bloodied wound and then smears it across the decadent gold plate. The Lord then gently lays the belt on the ring floor and slides it toward the champion.
Buck angrily stares at the belt. The strap he’s worked so hard for has been defiled. All the weeks, months, he struggled to bring respect back to that gold stare back at him corrupted. His eyes are glued to a pedestrian smear of blood across his name plate. The show fades to black, but not before catching one final moment: Buck Dresden’s attitude shifts, his eyes still dialed in on his gold, he nods, and…smiles. The same, comfortable, satirical, look somebody gives when they’re ready to beat the snot out of another. The reckoning has begun…