The lights in the arena start to strobe as “Maniac” by Carpenter Brut blares through the speakers of the Epicenter.
Eryk Masters: Wait…was she scheduled tonight?
NEMESIS makes her way out of the back, standing at the top of the ramp for several moments, looking out at the crowd with a small grin on her lips before looking to the empty ring in front of her. She pauses for a second before nodding and making her way down the ramp. She wastes no time by sliding down under the bottom rope and motioning for a mic.
Other Guy: She looks like she has something on her mind tonight, Eryk.
She waits a second, mic in hand, staring down at it before reaching upwards with her free hand, grabbing onto the bright red mohawk attached to her mask and pulling downwards, peeling the mask from her face. Underneath it’s just Judy-E DeMitri. Heavy eyeshadow and makeup to accentuate the mask, but it was just…her. This was the first time she was in the SHOOT Project ring without her mask on, and she just stares for a second, smiling a little before bringing the mic up to her lips.
Judy-E: So…I just wanted to come out and get some stuff off my chest, and possibly make something happen. Ever since I started here, I wanted to make sure that as much as possible that I was separated from my father’s legacy. I wanted to earn on my own, fight on my own, win on my own…lose? Heh, lose on my own. All of it. I’m realizing now, looking at our roster, I’m definitely not unique as a second generation wrestler here. Many like myself wanted to, at the least, distance themselves and blaze a trail of their own. I’m sure most people here can understand that.
The crowd cheers quietly, and she nods again.
Judy-E: So I’ve tried. However, the fates always seem to wind me up in my fathers world. This entire place, in a way, is his world. I struggle sometimes to think about how I can break away. I hear the shit people talk. So the more I think about it…the more I want to just fucking fight. I want to break out of my fathers shadow, and if I can’t do that by sitting on the bench. I can’t do that by listening to other people with my name in their mouth. So here’s what we’re gonna do.
She takes a deep breath.
Judy-E: We’re gonna do what my father HASN’T been able to since he’s returned to SHOOT.
The crowd murmurs, then starts to cheer as they realize what she’s talking about. A small, but growing grin curves her lips as she leans into the ropes closest to the ramp.
Judy-E: NATE ROBIDEAU! I want NEXT. Whatever I gotta do, whatever I gotta sign, whatever fucking stipulation you want. I want a fight, I want a war, and goddamnit I WANT A CHAMPIONSHIP!
The crowd ROARS as she nods, setting the mic on the top turnbuckle before she slides her mask back on, it’s laces still loose in the back. Her voice grows dire but the grin remains.
NEMESIS: If anyone has a problem with that? By all means…come and find me.
“Maniac” plays again as NEMESIS stalks out of the ring, her eyes locked on the way ahead of her.
Eryk Masters: A bold challenge, one that feels out of nowhere but I’d bet for her has been a long time coming
Other Guy: I’ve always said that NEMESIS has all the tools in the world to be a fantastic World Heavyweight Champion, but we’ll see!
Bronson Vs. NC-17
It’s a close up. The blue gymnasium mats are held in tight focus, so tight that we can see the weave of the vinyl. So close that we can watch individual droplets of sweat land. And then, swiftly followed, slow motion, James Johnson’s face hitting the mat with full impact, eyes clenched.
Hard cut. He reels, rolling to his side and trying to get himself to his hands and knees. His face, his chest, his back are a ruddy breakout red from exertion. Nate Robideau is pacing around him. He’s similarly sweating it out, but he’s not nearly as gassed. Both men are wearing workout shorts, wrists and ankles taped. He shakes his head, circling his recovering student, his feet making wet impacts on the mat as she does.
Robideau: When you’re young, you think you can eat anything and condition haphazardly and everything will be fine. In many ways, you’re right. Your body can turn things into proper fuel that my body can hardly process anymore.
He stops. Hands on his hips.
Robideau: But you’re still laying there gassed out. Why?
Johnson: …because you socked me in the gut as hard as you could?
Robideau: I’m sorry. Next time that happens in a match, just let Clark Feldman know you need a few to catch your breath and get your bearings.
He squats down, offering a gallon jug of water to James, who gets to sitting and accepts it. Still breathing heavily, he guzzles for a long minute, before stopping and wiping his mouth. He affixes Nate with a look of confusion, with a healthy dose of youthful challenge flashing in his eyes.
Johnson: So what’s the lesson then, sensei? You’re just gonna beat me down to make me tougher? I’ve heard that before.
Nate looks at him for a moment and then laughs out loud.
Robideau: Hahaha, tougher? No. You can’t toughen like you’re imagining, not in a gym. You’ll need years to build that up, like a callus. You’re coasting. That’s the lesson. You’re one of the youngest guys out there and you have natural speed and agility. So you coast. And you don’t want to hear that, I can see your jaw set already. But listen to me.
He leans in close, putting his hand on the back of James’ neck. His words are soft.
Robideau: Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that when I beat you—twice—it wasn’t because you had nothing left in the tank. That you just up and decided to tap for fun.
He lets go, and the former Scion looks to the ground for a moment. His shoulders set like he’s about to throw a challenge, but he finally closes his eyes and his posture softens.
Johnson: Explain it to me, then.
The Champion stands up. Stretches his shoulders, then takes a slow stride to the front window.
Robideau: Coast now and you’ll get knocked for a loop when someone like you comes along and you’re closer to my age. Coast now and you’ll get defeated by guys like me who see that ring and our preparedness for it as a religion. Every time. You aren’t here for validation and you aren’t here to be mollycoddled. The truth is that my days are numbered. If there’s one thing Courtney Hatrchett got right, it’s that I only have to get beaten once. Once. I have to defend all the time. Be perfect every time. You have to carry that mentality. Absorb it into your marrow.
Robideau: So suck it up and get back on your feet. I don’t want to hold this belt forever, and if you don’t shape up, then someone hungrier than you is gonna beat me before you have the chance.
He smiles, warmly, extending a hand to the kid. After a moment he takes it, and his instructor hauls him to standing. They clap each other’s shoulder and separate, adopting their respective stances. As they circle one another, the scene fades to black.
Ayumi Seppuku Vs. Haskell Payne
Ayumi Seppuku and Sarah King make their way back to the dressing room area following the match with Haskell.
Sarah has a hand on Ayumi’s shoulder while Ayumi wipes her face with a cold, wet towel, getting the paint off her face and trying to calm down her adrenaline.
Sarah King: Hey! That was great. For your first match? You really put on a show and THAT is where your story starts, Ayumi. No more hiding in the shadows. You’re going to be a NAME.
Ayumi blocks out Sarah’s yammering, her eyes focused on the floor – so focused she doesn’t realize Lindsay Troy is standing outside of her dressing room until she hears the Queen of the Ring shout.
Lindsay: Looked good out there, Seppuku. How ya feeling?
Ayumi looks up, an amused look on her face.
Ayumi: Been better.
Sarah King looks from Ayumi to Lindsay and back to Ayumi.
Sarah: What’s going on here?
Lindsay looks down at the diminutive woman next to Ayumi and lifts an eyebrow.
Lindsay: Thought I’d stop by and offer up some well wishes. There an issue?
Sarah begins to protest but Ayumi holds out her arm to hold her back.
Ayumi: No, Lindsay, of course not. I appreciate it.
Sarah sours but relents and crosses her arms.
Sarah: Can we at least get into the dressing room?
Lindsay nods and steps aside.
Sarah smiles but with some visible animosity, trying to pull Ayumi with her into the room but Ayumi resists.
Ayumi: You go ahead, Sarah. The Queen and I have some things to discuss.
Sarah looks at both of the fighters and sighs, rolling her eyes before stepping forward into the dressing room and closing the door behind her. Lindsay laughs softly at the abruptness with which the door shut.
Lindsay: I think I hit a nerve with shortstack.
Ayumi shakes her head.
Ayumi: She’s… bull headed to put it lightly. And selfish. And a lot of things … actually. But right now she’s the only person in Las Vegas that I’ve got a connection to and has been willing to handle a lot of the back-end sort of things so I tolerate it. Long story short, don’t let it get to you… but hey; enough about that, what’s on your mind?
Lindsay: I got to thinking yesterday that since you’re new in town, you probably don’t know the best places to grab a drink and a bite to eat after the show. So I figured I’d extend the invite, and that’ll give you a couple more connections here besides your friend in there.
Ayumi eyes the door and thinks for a second before smiling and nodding.
Ayumi: Hey, that sounds great. Will it be weird if I’m gross and in this gear?
Lindsay: Nah. It’s Vegas.
Ayumi lets out a laugh.
With that, the two peel away from the dressing room and begin to head towards the exit. As they leave the scope of the camera you can hear Ayumi say one thing to Lindsay.
Ayumi: While we’re out… can you do me a favor? Forget the Seppuku name. Just call me Ayumi. For… both of our sakes.
That’s the last you hear until a few seconds later the dressing room door bursts open and Sarah King leans her head out.
She looks around seeing no one.
She steps out, slamming the door behind her, and goes on the hunt for Ayumi and Lindsay.
Clemson Dean Vs. Pat Cassidy
“You’ll see that I’m not with my usual cadre of champions.”
That’s the voice of the Sin City Champion, Joshua Breedlove, who is by himself sitting in the Breedlovicenter somewhere on the outskirts of the Epicenter’s grounds. He sits, along, dressed in dark red dress pants and a black dress shirt and draped across his shoulder is the coveted Sin City Champion.
“You’ll see that none of my friends are here.”
He looks into the camera, a sneer across his face.
Breedlove: A grievous, terrible thing has happened, ladies and gentlemen. KIMO has been defeated by none other than Diego Reyes’ bastard child or Adrian Corazon’s ward. That man now holds the REIGN Championship and KIMO is very, very distraught by this. He has gone on a soul-searching expedition. To the island of Samoa or maybe just to a strip club or one of those really great massage places… I don’t actually know. Either way, he is very upset, and I am very upset for him. KIMO is very important to me. We will work to ensure that he obtains his, and don’t get me wrong Avarice, it is HIS REIGN Championship…
Breedlove lets out a dramatically wistful sigh.
Breedlove: But just as important… the SHOOT Project World Tag Team Champions… my best friends… the guys who’ve had my back since day one… DAY ONE… got BRUTALLY ASSAULTED last night at Ruination by the Unholy Cyber Army and TEDDY PALMER. This is…
He takes a big, big, obnoxiously deep breath in.
He carefully takes the Sin City Championship off of his shoulder and places it behind him before KICKING OVER AND SHATTERING THE GLASS TABLE IN FRONT OF HIM.
Breedlove: THE UNHOLY CYBER ARMY AND TEDDY PALMER WANT TO PLAY GAMES WITH THE KING? THE KING OF SIN CITY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS… this will not stand. I will not tolerate this. THE HOLY BREEDLOVE EMPIRE will NOT tolerate this. So, mark my words boys and girls… Powermoron and Superdipshit? You two are ON NOTICE. When my friends, the Sin City Scoundrels, heal? We are coming for you. And Shitty Palmer? You better watch your back too, clown. You don’t want to upset the king…
Breedlove: You? You just need to make way for the king.
Bobson Dugnutt Vs. Kayden Paulton
YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH!
YOU’VE GOT THE POWAAAAAAHHHH!
The opening riff of “The Touch” by Stan Bush echoes through the arena. Dan Stein walks out from the backstage area, limping from the match at Ruination against Lindsay Troy.
Eryk Masters: And here comes Dan Stein, fresh off winning the number one contendership to Azraith DeMitri’s Iron Fist Championship.
Other Guy: What an epic match for both Lindsay Troy and Dan Stein at Ruination.
Stein wears an old SHOOT Project t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans along with a pair of Jordans. He walks alone to the ring where the fans are giving him a mixed reaction. Dan slides into the ring under the bottom rope and quickly bounces up to his feet before walking to a corner and asking for a microphone. Stein stands toward the hard cam. His music fades as he puts the microphone to his mouth.
Dan Stein: Yesterday at Ruination, I beat Lindsay Troy. Yesterday at Ruination, I became the number one contender for the Iron Fist Championship. Yesterday at Ruination, I silenced some of the doubters and avenged one of the most embarrassing losses of my career.
Yesterday at Revolution, I put Azraith DeMitri on notice.
Stein rubs his forehead, pacing in a small box in the middle of the ring. He laughs to himself.
Dan Stein: As if the Avatar of SHOOT Project needs a reminder of what’s coming for him.
Stein stops pacing, turning to the hard cam.
Dan Stein: I know you’re back there with X-Calibur right now, preparing for the Proper Villainz, but I’ve got a few things I need to get off my chest.
Stein nods, pausing for a moment.
Dan Stein: You pinned me at Iron Will to win that Iron Fist Championship. I think about that a lot, Azraith. How you held me in a crucifix. The sound of the ref’s hand slapping the mat for the third time. Kicking out just a split second too late.
I’m thankful for this opportunity at the Iron Fist Championship. A chance to right a wrong, as it were.
Stein pauses, thinking to himself.
Dan Stein: Lindsay Troy called us ‘The Old Guard’ of SHOOT Project. You…you’ve been the consummate SHOOT Project Soldier since the day DIWF closed its doors. You’re definitely part of The Old Guard. You’re a Hall of Famer, I can only dream of getting that honor bestowed upon me. I’m not a part of The Old Guard.
You, though. You’re one of the greatest SHOOT Project Soldiers of all time. Nobody doubts that. For me? I’ve still got my doubters. Whenever I get my shot at you, Azraith, it’s time for me to shut my doubters up.
Stein steps forward, holding up two fingers. The camera zooms in on his face.
Dan Stein: Two of the most decorated men in SHOOT Project history will go toe-to-toe for that Iron Fist Championship. I’m not sure we’ve ever squared off one-on-one. I’m not sure we’ve ever had the opportunity to dance, outside of the match at Iron Will. It’s only fair it’s a two-out-of-three falls stipulation now.
The fans in the arena begin to swell, Stein starts to get hype along with them.
Dan Stein: One match between the two of us wouldn’t do us justi–
Suddenly, Stein’s head jerks forward! Stein collapses into the ropes in front of him, dropping to the mat. The microphone goes flying, causing feedback to echo in the arena. The camera pans back to reveal the massive VOID standing in the middle of the ring. Dan doesn’t have time to collect himself before Void pulls him away from the ropes and swings a huge clubbed fist onto Dan’s back, dropping him back to the mat again.
Stein cries out in pain so Void unleashes another clubbed fist onto Stein, then another, then another, until Stein is laid out on the mat. Void picks up Stein’s lifeless body and puts his head between his legs, lifts Stein’s form up, then steps over Stein’s arms…and NAILS the Twitterbation! Void looks down at Stein’s body and pulls out a stack of papers from his backside pocket.
The camera cuts to inside the ring now, showing Void dropping the papers one by one. The camera is able to pick up Void’s sing-song voice as he drops one paper at a time.
Void: He loves me…
Another paper falls.
Void: …he loves me not.
He drops another.
Void: He loves me…
He drops another. The camera zooms in on Stein’s body as sonograms start to litter it and the ring around him.
Void: …he loves me not.
Void drops the remaining stack on Stein. As the fans drown him in boos, Void says nothing else. Instead, he merely looks down at Dan Stein, father to be, and at the sonograms surrounding his body. The camera fades.
Azraith DeMitri/X-Calibur Vs. Proper Villainz
Right as the Proper Villainz get to the bottom of the ramp, every light in the Epicenter cuts out with a loud BOOM.
Eryk Masters: Oh what the hell is this then? That genuinely just sounded like a transformer just blew up!
Other Guy: If that’s what it was, we should have emer-
Before OG could even finish, the arena is bathed in a fast strobing red light and dim illuminated overheads for the walkways and concourses. The crowd is abuzz, but before long they start picking up noise and pointing as they realize what’s happening in front of them.
The Villainz have SURROUNDED the ring, and the members have all taken spaces on the apron!
Eryk Masters: NO! This was going to be a clean fight!
Other Guy: When have the Proper Villainz ever been interested in a clean fight, Eryk? Though with that said, I don’t know if they’ve brought enough people to take out these two legends right now!
Instinctually, Az and X have gone literally back-to-back in the center of the ring, slowly turning to keep their eyes on their opponents. Thane is barking out instructions at ringside. Ben Bronson tries to enter the ring, but Az lashes out violently with a yakuza kick that knocks him back to the outside! Just like that, Az adopts the defensive posture with X once again, and Thane looks FURIOUS!
Other Guy: What’d I tell you? Those two are bonafide MONSTERS, just think about what X did to them practically by himself the last time they tried this!
Eryk Masters: Not to mention Azraith has gotten his fair share of one-sided beatdowns in SHOOT Project, you know he’s been working on active defense strategies for just such an occasion!
The crowd is roaring with the realization that Az and X might just get out of this alive! The action is hard to see, it’s staccato bursts of violence in the strobing red lights, each time one or two of the Villainz tries to enter the ring, X or Az lunges violently, while the other stances up against the rest. Thane slams his hands on the apron in frustration, and Azraith can’t help but grin, yelling out at him.
Azraith: This the best you fuckin’ got?! Get in here and let’s FUCKING GO THANE!
The crowd cheers wildly at the prospect, but as soon as Azraith lashes out, Thane raises his hands up and takes a few steps away from the ring, a cunning smile starting to curve his lips.
The Villainz seem to take an idle position, no longer attempting to enter the ring. Az nods, screaming at them to get the hell out of his ring. He doesn’t feel X’s back separate from his.
Eryk Masters: Wait…
X-Calibur slowly turns around and faces Azraith, who is still jawing at Thane. Even in the emergency lighting, the crowd starts to panic… and then hush as they realize what’s happening almost immediately..
Other Guy: No…nonono!
On the outside, Thane clasps his hands together above his head. mouthing the words “Now.”
The lights FLOOD on all at once, capturing in almost blinding detail the exact second that X-Calibur reaches out…
…and SPIKES Azraith with an X-TERMINATOR!!!
Eryk Masters: NO!!!!
Other Guy: WHAT THE FUCK?!?!
Az is out in the center of the ring and X stands above him. Expressionless. Just… completely devoid of any emotion as he looks down at the Iron Fist Champion.
Eryk Masters: I. Don’t GET. THIS.
The screams and boos rain down upon X-Calibur as some even begin to fling trash into the ring. The announce team are rendered speechless as the rest of the Proper Villianz stalk into the ring, Thane following not soon after. They almost seem hesitant to be around X at first before he yells at them all.
X-Calibur: FINISH IT.
Bronson is the first to react to this “order” as he begins laying in several stiff boots to Az’s neck and back, inviting the rest of them to do the same.
One by one, each member of the Villainz picks the hulking body of Azraith DeMitri up, usually held by another, before they each get their turns at him. One by one they either hit some kind of vicious strike like a closed fist to the temple, a knee strike to the ribs, or some just actually hit their finishers on him, the man quickly becoming a ragdoll. Thane finally moves to the center of the ring, doing a small circle to look at the ravenous, screaming crowd. With his eyes alight, he brings a microphone up to his lips. X reaches out, however, and motions for the mic to be passed to him.
X-Calibur: No. Not yet. Soon, though.
Cutting X and Thane off are a small army of security guards and EMT’s. X looks frighteningly at peace with his own actions as well as the chaos from the rest of the Proper Villains. The rest of the Villainz mock being scared by the security team and back out of the ring casually. Only X remains as he looks down at Azraith, his eyes remain fixated on his fellow Hall of Fame classmate as he watches the EMT’s work on the beast. He leans down, snarling into the hot mic resting next to Az’s barely opened eyes
He says nothing, though. The audience remains stunned at what they’re witnessing as X-Calibur continues to stare down at the fallen Azraith DeMitri.
That’s when he sees it. The Iron Fist Championship.
X-Calibur slowly, methodically, picks it up. He stares into the faceplate for a moment before looking out into the audience to an even bigger chorus of boos. Looking back at Azraith, X places the championship across his face as the EMTs go to work on Azraith.
But X WAYLAYS one of the EMTs right in the face with a simple, yet effective, straight right. The rest of the medical personnel clear out of the ring as X-Calibur looks down at Azraith’s body just laying there, his entire head covered by the Iron Fist Championship.
In one smooth motion, X-Calibur leans back into the ropes…
… charges ahead…
… and STOMPS right down across the faceplate much to the utter dismay of everyone watching. Even Victor Thane looks taken aback by this gruesome attack.
Eryk Masters: Oh my GOD. Azraith’s face could be broken!!!
Other Guy: This is too much. C’mon, X. Come ON.
Azraith curls up to the side, not even truly conscious as blood pours out from his obscured face and onto the mat. At risk of being maimed himself, Victor Thane comes back into the ring, smiling ear to ear. Clapping, Victor looks out at the crowd. A few drinks splash around X, until another smacks him across the chest. X ignores the messy impact of the projectiles and simply looks up at Thane.
Eryk Masters: I… I can’t believe this.
Other Guy: I don’t even know what to say. There’s nothing TO say, really.
Victor extends his hand … and much to the horror of the raucous, venomous fans of the SHOOT Project?
X-Calibur accepts it.