Table of Contents
U, S, Eh? / A Special Delivery
Backstage: U,S, Eh?
Johnny Patriot and Bla- Kenny Canuck can be seen holding each others’ shoulders – standing opposite each other behind the curtain of the main arena of the Epicenter as they try to psych each other up ahead of their first match at a tag team.
Johnny: Okay. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now and so the fans need our solidarity – they need us to work together and win! Can you do that, Kenny?
Kenny nods vigorously in the affirmative.
Johnny: Good! Okay! So, repeat after me!
Johnny releases his hold and begins to position his arms awkwardly as he tries to spell out the letters of their team
Johnny: You got it! F!
Kenny shakes his head and leans toward Johnny.
Johnny: No! That’s next. T! Say T!
Johnny claps and jumps up with the final letter.
Kenny, less enthused, repeats.
Johnny: N-A-F-T-A! What does that spell!?
Johnny: Well.. sort of. But Canada too!
Kenny shakes his head.
Kenny: No… US – you and me – not U.S. I know we’re… nevermind.
Johnny scratches at his mask before looking down at his wrist.
Johnny: Oh! Darn! We’re going to be late! Grab the coffee – I’ll get the donuts!
Kenny spins around, trying to look at where Kenny is pointing but he’s already grabbed a box and has run through the curtains. Johnny, meanwhile, closes his eyes in frustration before looking around and finding a couple trays, which he stacks, slowly, before making his own way down to the ring.
In the Ring: A Special Delivery
The soft, dulcet tones and synthesizer tones of Ninja Sex Party’s cover of “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” blasts over the speakers as a confident-looking Johnny Patriot struts down the ramp with a four lengthy paper boxes stacked on top of each other.
Scott Kumura: Are those…
Dutch Harris: Ohmygod Dunkin Donuts!
Sure enough, Patriot opens the top box and begins to toss glazed donuts into the crowd. Meanwhile, Kenny Canuck follows closely behind with his own boxes with a logo on the side familiar to anyone in the upper Midwest.
Scott Kamura: Ohmygod Tim Hortons!
Dutch Harris: Don’t throw those!
Luckily, SHOOT Project’s newest northern (Hollywood) import has more sense than that and very calmly, with a smile on his face, begins handing out small sample cups of Tim Hortons coffee to members of the audience.
Dutch: Is this really the same Blaze Claymore that’s been such a… dick for lack of a better term, for these past few months? He seems positively pleasant.
Scott: Of course not, Dutch; Blaze Claymore is Blaze Claymore but this is Kenny Canuck. Completely different.
Dutch: ….is it, though?
Scott: Just shut up, I want my Timmies.
Johnny Patriot and Kenny Canuck finally reach the bottom of the ramp and make sure to do a full circuit – handing out coffee and donuts to every member of the ring crew, including Dutch and Scott.
Finally, out of handouts, NAFTA roll into the ring and raise their hands to the crowd in a wave that receives a warm, excited reaction.
Dutch: Mmmmm this is amazing.
Scott: Told you! Gosh… I don’t know why but I just feel ‘nice’ don’t you feel nice?
Dutch: Well, yeah… I suppose so. This was nice.
Dutch: You know what else would be nice? Getting our show underway! Let’s get SAIGO down here and get this match going!
SAIGO Vs. NAFTA
A World Championship Interview
Joshua Breedlove is caught! Abigail Chase tracks him down in the backstage area and decides to confront him, flanked by his spokesperson, his personal historian, his intern, his driver, and El Paria.
Abigail Chase: Mr. Breedlove! Champ! You’ve been sparse and not around much lately! Any idea why? Any thoughts as to what’s going on around here? Any… anything?
Dr. Pontificus Kensington, UBE Spokesperson walks in front of the World Heavyweight Champion, stopping him from speaking. He looks down at Abigail Chase.
Dr. Pontificus Kensington, UBE Spokesperson: How dare you, Ms. Chase. HOW. DARE. YOU. How could you possibly just APPROACH the champ… the EMPEROR… as though you have some kind of special standing or place or… anything in the way of the appropriate status to do so?! HOW. DARE. YOU.
Breedlove shakes his head and chuckles, moving back towards the camera, Abigail Chase, and Dr. Kensington. He leans in.
Joshua Breedlove, SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion: Sorry about that, Abby. The team has been very protective lately, trying to fight off all the insane bullying that goes on from Lindsay Troy and those of her ilk. They’ve had enough of the lies, enough of the posturing… just enough. So, they’re… they’ve been doing a lot of rank closing and wagon circling. My image is sovereign and immaculate, you know.
Abigail Chase: I’m not sure I’d agree with that, but you do you, Josh. You’ve historically been fairly active when you hold a title. Since you’ve won the World title, you haven’t wrestled since. Why is that?
Joshua Breedlove, SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion: It’s a little different, being the World champion. I’ve been a World champion before, you know, in Reality Check Wrestling’s deal, but this… this is bigger. So I’ve been taking a lot of time to care for my body, make sure I’m ready for my match against Lindsay Troy, all that. Would I like to be more active? Wrestling more? Absolutely. I’m the greatest wrestler on this roster, no questions and no doubt about it, but I’m THE champion first.
Abigail Chase: So you’re worried about getting hurt. Afraid, even.
Joshua Breedlove, SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion: That is not AT ALL what I said, Abby. I just want to be ready. Why would you even put that vibe out?
Abigail Chase: Just calling it like I see it, babe.
Dr. Pontificus Kensington, UBE Spokesperson: That will be JUST ENOUGH out of you for Emperor Breedlove.
With that, the rest of the team walks Breedlove away, leaving Dr. Kensington and Abigail Chase behind.
Abigail Chase: What do you even do, anyway?
Dr. Pontificus Kensington, UBE Spokesperson: I deal with rapscallions and trollops like you who would dare besmirch the good emperor’s name. Begone, thot.
The Right Idea
The music hits. A song that hadn’t played in the Epicenter for nearly a decade.
Ohhh, oh-oh-oh-ohhhhh, o-o-o-o-o-ohhh…
The fans ERUPT hearing the beginning of the chorus to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and seeing the video wall come to life with the video of a SHOOT soldier from years gone by.
Other Guy: Are you kidding me??
Eryk Masters: Well, we saw her hanging out at Ruination and we’d heard she was on the verge of signing. If it’s not her, this is one hell of a prank.
I’ll get him hot, show him what I got…
Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face…
She walks out from the back as the crowd has a secondary eruption. Her ever-so-slightly dirty-blonde hair flowing freely, she stands at the top of the ramp wearing her red leather jacket, black pants and black, nearly knee high boots.
Eryk Masters: Laura Seton is officially BACK in SHOOT Project!
Other Guy: This is awesome…
She turns her head left and right, looking a bit confused by the cheering, though she does hold a smile. She starts towards the ring.
Eryk Masters: A two-time Sin City Champion amongst a plethora of other individual accomplishments throughout her career. Yet, here in SHOOT she may be known more for darker side coming loose during her stint here.
Other Guy: Seems like the fans are letting that go.
Eryk Masters: For now…
She reaches ringside and enters the ring, a ring of her own on her left hand giving a shine in the lights. She gets a mic and heads to the middle of the ring. The crowd quiets, but as she raises the mic, a “Wel-come back!” chant starts.
Other Guy: Would you say your heart is–
Eryk Masters: Maybe… Kind of… Probably.
The chant dies down as Laura looks almost humbled.
Laura Seton: Oh yeah, this was the right idea.
She takes a big breath, trying to get over the excitement.
Laura Seton: I was so anxious the last 24 hours over how you guys would receive me and you hit me with that.
She looks up and to a side, sort of confused.
Laura Seton: This is Vegas, right? The Epicenter? SHOOT?
The crowd pops, Laura giving a smile partially for the cheap pop, but also the situation in general. As the cheer quiets, she stays silent in the ring a moment. An almost surreal situation for her.
Laura Seton: Honestly, from the bottom of my heart.
For everything I’ve done in my life, which is saying a lot… this is a top five moment!
The fans cheer again and break into a “Lau-ra Se-ton!” chant. She appears for a seconds almost ready to cry. She puts her free hand against the back of her head and recomposes herself.
Laura Seton: And now I almost don’t want to say what I want to–heh… You know… the first few years after I left here, I was continuously asked about my time here. And my response was the same.
SHOOT was the worst experience of my life.
A number of fans begin lightly booing. Laura seemingly expected that and just rolls her eyes.
Laura Seton: I didn’t like the violence. I couldn’t understand why all of you revelled in it.
It made me ashamed to be involved in such a promotion.
The booing begins getting louder. She begins chuckling.
Laura Seton: Please let me finish because–
She takes a second to think before speaking with a bigger grin.
Laura Seton: No–go on. Go ahead. I can hear it out there. Get it out of your systems. Let’s have it.
“It” picks up steam as Laura just grins, as if playing along.
Crowd: See you next Tues-day! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) See you next Tues-day! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)…
Other Guy: I don’t know if she’s enjoying this? A big play against the fans?
Laura Seton: We done? We’re okay now?
She holds a smirk as the fans grow quiet again.
Laura Seton: I’ve been at this for the better part of 20- some years. I’ve been “in the mix” for World Title contention elsewhere during my younger days.
“She’d be a nice one to throw a random shot at some time.”
I was “good” but not “great.” I was this great person but not an elite wrestler. It turned its head in LEGACY. I managed to beat Loco Martinez and be viewed with a higher ceiling, but it took a lot of bad blood to be in me to close that out. I needed that ability to close.
I needed SHOOT.
She has a chuckle to herself, as she looks around the Epicenter again. As if recalling all her history here.
Laura Seton: I knew what it was like here before entering. I knew it was an environment unique to itself, but… until being directly involved with it–I just didn’t know.
But it was here that I picked up that closing mentality and, ironically to an extent, it was here that I learned how to wrestle instead of just showcase what I could do in a ring.
She gets a humbled look as she lowers her head. She stands silent for a moment before giving an audible sniffle and looking up.
Laura Seton: And I’m sorry it came at your guys’ expense. I took what I learned here and used it at my last stop in EWA and finally won a World Championship–
The crowd actually cheers. She gets a wider smile now.
Laura Seton: –and did it while keeping my anger focused on my opponent. I tried changing the landscape here, and that was my mistake.
SHOOT is its own animal.
And I’m looking to get back where I was when it closed eight years ago. But I’m going to do it the right way.
In the ring, as a wrestler.
The crowd gives another cheer as we cut away.
Pat Cassidy Vs. Alex Kincaid Vs. Reginald Dampshaw III Vs. Azraith DeMitri (c)
As the music dies down and Azraith slowly starts moving his way to the back, the lights dim…
“Tiiiiiiime is on my side…YES IT IS!”
The crowd starts to boo mercilessly as Jacob Mephisto stalks his way out from the back to stand at the top of the ramp alongside two of his trusted family, the tag team KHARRION, giving Azraith a condescending clap.
Mephisto: You’re entirely predictable, Azraith. Every move you’ve made has been accounted for and anticipated.
Azraith doesn’t seem to acknowledge Mephisto’s words. He slowly starts to pace in the ring.
Mephisto: Most people would find that boring. But, not me. See, you’re this mythical creature in the SHOOT Project. You’re the Avatar. You’re the man whose blood soaked history is ingrained into the very fabric of this company’s history.
Az still doesn’t acknowledge Mephisto.
Mephisto: There’s blood caked into every title reign. There’s blood drenched over every single detail of your career. There’s blood on your hands, Sandma-
Az, who has been slowly pacing in the ring while Mephisto speaks, finally reaches out for a mic and lunges for the ropes closest to the ramp.
The crowd roars almost as loud as Az does as he waves his hands.
Other Guy: Azraith has HAD it with Jacob and his games, he looks like he’s ready to go!
Azraith: I am TIRED of your VOICE, Jacob. Like a goddamn needle in my brain, just incessantly talking, blah blah blah fucking blah…just do me and everyone else a favor and shut the FUCK UP for a second!
Az’s breathing is heavy, his body still covered in sweat from his match moments ago. He glares up at Mephisto, who for his part carries a huge grin, raising his hands up and motioning for Az to continue. Az just glares holes into him for a few more seconds before shaking his head.
Azraith: …Where’s The Rooster?
The crowd hushes slightly as Mephisto raises a brow.
Mephisto: Wouldn’t you like to know, San-
Azraith: WRONG ANSWER. Let me phrase this a little differently this time, maybe I’m the one miscommunicating here.
Az takes a deep breath.
Az SPIKES down the mic as he drops into a defensive stance, glaring at the ramp, PAST Mephisto, as silence hangs in the air just long enough to be uncomfortable. Mephisto bows his head.
Eryk Masters: All of this has seemed to reach a crescendo here tonight and I have genuinely no clue what’s gon-
Then the lights go out.
Eryk gets cut off mid-sentence as the crowd buzzes, cell phone cameras clicking like a thousand little fireflies before a low rumbling rises through the speakers as the arena is suddenly bathed in a pale, sickly orange.
Other Guy: I… this is some heavy production value, Eryk. Who the heck is-
A slow guitar strum plays and the crowd goes from interested to anxious as a soft, ghostly whistle fills the arena and the opening lines of Alice in Chains “Rooster” echo throughout. The crowd is electric as a tall, stout figure finally emerges from the back, clad in a brown leather vest, stetson hat, and a white, leather, elongated plague doctor’s mask.
Other Guy: That’s the guy! That’s “The Rooster” that keeps coming out with Jacob and harassing Azraith! I wouldn’t want to meet that guy in a dark alley, I’ll tell you that much.
Eryk Masters: I don’t like the idea of meeting him in a dark arena either, OG.
The crowd boos loudly, but with a sense of untapped energy. The feeling is more like a main event atmosphere, everyone is standing, waiting for the confrontation as The Rooster slowly, calmly strides past Jacob, intent on answering Azraith’s call.
Flows of bold orange hair stick out from the back of the mask and the hat as he makes his way down to the front of the ring. He stops there for several seconds, unreadable black glass slits stare at Azraith as the massive figure reaches up to grab the top rope and in a seamless motion, pulls himself up to the apron, and then over the top rope as if he were stepping over a fallen log.
Not changing his cadence in the least, The Rooster finally comes face-to-face with Azraith as the lights quickly turn from orange to their usual fluorescent white. Slowly, Az falls out of his defensive stance and stands upright, face-to-mask and eye-to-glass with the man who’s been stalking him these last weeks. It is only then that we see The Rooster standing just a few inches taller than Azraith, his crooked nose pointed down at the Avatar.
Az is yelling at the figure, who for his part, stands statue-still in front of Azraith, watching emotionlessly as Az snarls out at him. The mic can pick up bits…but it isn’t until Az starts yelling that it can come in clear enough for the crowd to hear.
Azraith: …are you?! WHO?! I KNOW IT AIN’T FUCKIN’ KENJI BEHIND THERE, DID VICTORIA SEND YOU?! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?
Az is quickly becoming unhinged, pacing in a tight path in front of the Rooster, his eyes never leaving the mask. Suddenly, as his rage is clearly boiling over, Az just swipes wildly at the hooked nose and grabs tightly enough to just YANK the mask off.
Rather than a roar, the crowd’s reaction is hushed silence as Az drops the mask from his hand in a daze. The unmasked Rooster is young looking, seemingly too young to be a rival of Azraith’s from the past, but it is clear from Az’s reaction just how much history there is.
The figure doesn’t budge – his hollow blue eyes, surrounded by dark bags, locked on Azraith. He is clean shaven, but his face is worn and tired.
Other Guy: Wait…is that…
Eryk Masters: You recognize this psychopath?
Other Guy: I mean… it can’t really be him because.. No. There’s no way… that was like thirteen years ago… Why? He was so much smaller…but…
Eryk Masters: Jesus Christ, spit it OUT OG!
Other Guy: I…that’s Timothy Roy!
Eryk Masters: WHAT?!
Other Guy: He was just… a teenager, but there’s no mistaking it. That man in that ring right now…is the very same one that dropped Az on his skull from the top of a 15-foot cage and put him into a coma over a decade ago! It was all revenge for what Azraith did to his uncle, Damien Roy, better known to old-school wrestling fans as Maverick! CHRIST he got BIG!
Az, for his part, has had all of the fury and violence ripped from him in an instant. He takes a step back, his face a mix of confusion and…it’s hard to tell. Sadness? Relief? He opens his mouth to say something but the words don’t come. All he can do is stare at this furious man in front of him.
As this happens, Timothy Roy, the Rooster, bends down slowly, his eyes never leaving Azraith’s as he carefully, gingerly, picks up his mask and methodically places it back on over his face. As he does, the straps being adjusted for a firm fit, Rooster leans his neck to the right and then to the left, taking a single step forward – closing the distance between himself as Az.
Eryk Masters: I’ll be honest, this is making me incredibly uncomfortable right now. Az looks…lost.
Other Guy: Yeah, I don’t like this at all Eryk.
A little smile comes to Az’s lips as his arms open up, and he actually leans in to try and HUG Timothy Roy! With palpable disgust, Tim shoves Azraith away, who staggers back into the ropes. That look of confusion comes back as Az’s arms lower. His left raises up reflexively to shake Tim’s hand, but he puts that down not soon after.
Mephisto and KHARRION have made their way into the ring and are standing just behind Timothy Roy. Jacob’s sadistic smile even fades somewhat as he watches Azraith, not entirely sure what to make of the situation in front of him. Azraith picks up the mic that was on the ground, looking directly at Tim the whole time, unable to keep his eyes off the massive figure in front of him.
Azraith: I…holy shit Tim. You’re…you’re a full-grown son of a bitch now, aren’t you? I…God…I really…uhh…
The Rooster doesn’t respond.
Az shakes his head again, his free hand instinctively rubbing a spot on the side of his skull.
Azraith: Jesus, Tim…anyone else…
The Rooster doesn’t respond.
Az glances at Jacob and then, as if on cue, the ominous orange glow once again fills the arena.
Azraith: Anyone else…? Anyone else Jacob. Anyone but this. Don’t…
Az’s voice is breaking as he looks back to The Rooster, who still hasn’t moved.
Azraith: I don’t know if you remember me saying it years ago…but even if you do I want to tell you I’m so fucking so-
Like a bolt – out of nowhere – Tim’s stoicism turns to sadism as he slams an absolutely VICIOUS knife-hand chop right into Az’s throat! The words literally choke out of Az’s mouth as Tim slaps the microphone out of Az’s hand before shoving him into a corner and just BEATING him mercilessly! The grin has returned to Jacob’s lips as he nods in approval, his arms folding over his chest.
Other Guy: Az is COMPLETELY out of this; someone needs to stop this right now!
Eryk Masters: I still don’t have quite a grasp of what’s going on, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Az this outright manhandled before!
Tim is raining down left and rights into Az’s face and chest like he’s working a heavy bag, but it’s not long before he drags Azraith out to the center of the ring and wraps a massive hand around the blue haired warriors throat, glaring at him a moment before ripping him off his feet and SPIKING him into the mat with a one-handed chokeslam!
Other Guy: Did you see the HEIGHT that got?!
Tim actually never lets go of the choke, holding Az down onto the mat. The microphone Az had dropped during the attack picks up a raspy voice from behind the mask.
Rooster: Pleasant fucking dreams. Sandman.
Rooster slowly, meticulously pulls him back to his feet, glaring into his now-glassy eyes. Az, for his part, seems to still be mumbling something, his hand reaching up to grab Tim’s shoulder.
Tim snarls out in frustration and once again rips Az off his feet and spikes him AGAIN with another chokeslam! Az’s eyes go vacant as Jacob laughs with a sadistic glee, nodding.
Jacob: One more for the roa-
“She’s a MAAAANIAAC…”
Jacob is cut off mid-sentence as Maniac by Carpenter Brut hits! The orange light is replaced by strobing red and white and out of nowhere JUDY-E DEMITRI is blazing down the ramp!
Other Guy: SHE’S GOT A CHAIR!
Judy-E hits the ring and instantly slides under it. KHARRION has just enough time to get in front of Jacob before they’re harried with vicious, unrelenting shots to the ribs and head! The two men try their best to block but it’s like a wild animal has learned how to swing a blunt object! Dietrich catches an upward swing right into his jaw that has him roll out of the ring, and not soon after Rockefeller gets DRILLED with a downward swing right to the top of his skull! During all of this, she’s GLARING at Jacob while Tim continues to throttle Azraith in the middle of the ring! As soon as KHARRION gets ejected from the ring, Jacob rolls out from under the bottom rope and gathers his men on the outside before Judy-E can do any more damage. After making sure they aren’t going to re-enter the ring anytime soon, Judy-E turns her attention and SCREAMS out at Tim.
Judy-E: Leave him the FUCK ALONE!
She SLAMS what remains of the now beaten and bloody chair down onto the mat to emphasize that last part, along with a massive cheer from the crowd as she does.
As he hears Judy-E’s voice, Tim stops, slowly releasing Az’s neck as he stands up and turns his attention toward his quarry’s daughter – his height even more stark against Judy-E as he towers over her even though she refuses to back down.
Eryk Masters: I really hope Judy-E hasn’t bitten off more than she can chew here.
Other Guy: Screw that. You see the look in her eyes? She’s a former SHOOT Project Heavyweight Champion, there is NO fear there!
Indeed, Judy-E’s glare is scarily similar to her father’s as she braces herself in front of The Rooster, ready to lunge at a moment’s notice.
Rather than lash out at the former Heavyweight Champion, The Rooster simply nods and then turns his attention away from both Judy-E and Azraith, instead looking at Jacob who is sensing the tide has turned and begins pointing wildly to the back. Rooster looks back at Azraith for a second, then to Judy-E, before effortlessly stepping over the top rope and dropping to the mat outside.
Judy-E stares at Rooster, untrusting and cautious as she slowly moves to her father, trying awkwardly to keep a chair in a free hand while cradling herself under her father’s shoulder, grunting in exertion as she lifts the beast of a man to his knees, then to shaky feet.
The crowd cheers at the sight of Az on his feet, however wary he is as finally more EMT’s and security come to help Judy-E get Azraith out of the ring. Meanwhile, as Mephisto, Dietrich, and KC are already halfway up the rampway – Rooster simply stands outside the ring, watching as Judy-E and the EMTs guide the Avatar slowly up the rampway.
As the scene plays out, that haunting guitar chord and whistle cut through the arena as the fans rain boos down on The Rooster.
Other Guy: I never would have in a million years guessed that THIS is what Mephisto had in store for Az when this all started; I mean… you want to talk about ghosts from Azraith’s past? It doesn’t get much ghastlier than what we witnessed here tonight and it is CLEAR that this is just the beginning.
Jacob Mephisto Vs. Cal Crawford
The Consequences of Abandonment
We find ourself ringside. The crowd is clamoring, still abuzz from the events of the evening. The lights come down slightly, focusing on the entrance ramp. “Saturn Barz” by the Gorillaz hits the PA system as the entrance ramp is bathed in a red light.
Malice emerges from the curtains and begins to make his way down the ramp. He walks with purpose, but not too quickly. He isn’t dressed to compete; he wears a pair of tight, distressed jeans, a small chain clanging on his right hip. His black boots, rising over the bottom cuff of his jeans clomp on the ramp with every step. As he near the ring he reaches behind him, lifting his black, Sonic Youth t-shirt to remove a microphone from the rear waistband of his jeans.
Malice slides, stomach first, under the bottom rope before coming to his feet. He waits for a second for the lights to come back to their normal brightness and for his music to stop. He doesn’t acknowledge the fans or their reactions to him, instead focusing solely on the Mat beneath his feet.
Malice: Last night I sat alone in my home with nothing but my thoughts to keep me entertained. I looked over the walls of the house I used to share with my family, and I saw what used to be such a happy place for me. And I couldn’t help but remember all over again just why I feel so angry every time I wake to see another morning.
I’ve come out here several times and I’ve levied my challenged to my Hall of Fame Dad I’ve and over again. You all know I’m angry, but do any of you really know why?
Malice looks up from the Mat and begins to pace in the ring.
Malice: I spent my entire life looking up to a man that you all saw as The Willenium, but I just saw him as my dad. He was every bit larger than life at home as he was out here every week on TV. And TV was always where he was. All the time I would sit on the rug, cross legged in front of our family TV, and I would wait to hear whatever ridiculous theme music he was using that week to come on. More often than not, the first words he said to all you, would be the first words I’d hear from him every week as well. He’d call mom, they’d argue for a while, and by the time it came to talk to me the man was already over “family time.”
That’s when Corazon came in. He swooped in and took me away from the neglectful life that I was living. I’m almost scared to guess how long it would have taken Trey or Janet to even realize I was gone had Corazon not taken to the airwaves to let everyone know that I was with him. I know that it was played off as an evil act by a desperate man trying to get into the head of his opponent. I know that the World of SHOOT Project held their collective breaths waiting to see if the valiant Wayward Son would be able to rescue his precious baby boy before he was corrupted by the malicious Adrian Corazon.
The crowd is silent, listening as Malice explores the roots of his issues. Malice continues his circular pace throughout the ring, his hand motions beginning to become more erratic.
Malice: That’s a pretty tidy narrative isn’t it? The heroic Wayward Son rescues his actual son from the demon. In reality I was being taught the ways of this terrible world from Adrian. It was a lesson in just how disposable love can really be. Certainly Trey would have stopped at nothing to get me back, and he did. He slayed the beast and brought his baby boy home. Everything was wonderful…for him.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ME!?
Brandon Willett was brought home from his time with Adrian Corazon. And when it was just the three of us, Trey started to realize that he didn’t want to be home. He left me, he left my mother, he left our home. He won his World Heavyweight Title, and nothing at home really mattered anymore. Brandon, the son he loved so dearly that he was willing to sacrifice his body, Curtis Rose’s body, even shed years off his career for, was home and ready to be with his Dad. I was ready to start being with my hero. But that goddamned Title was just too important.
When he left our home, he took Brandon with him. I’m sure Trey still carries some of Brandon around with him in his pocket, pulling him out anytime he feels nostalgic for the “good Ole days.” All he left behind was a broken wife and me…Malice. I am the personification of his arrogance, his neglect, his pride.
Malice leans on one of the turnbuckle, burying his head down into the crook of his arm. His voice is slightly muffled over the microphone as he continues.
Malice: So I trained. I clawed my way into this business that he loved so much so that I could tear it apart from the inside out, but everywhere I go, I’m still considered “second generation” or “Little Willenium.” It doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I work, you people always see me as “Son of Hall of Famer Trey Willett.”
Malice raises his head and strides directly towards the rope facing the entrance ramp. The SHOOT Tron showing a closeup of his face, a single tear rolling down his cheek.
Malice: I know you can hear me old man. I know you’re watching this from your cozy Bellagio suite, probably with whatever harlot that’s keeping you warm this week. So let me say this as clear and precise as I can. At ApeX you will drag your tired ass out of retirement. You will bring all of the pomp and circumstance that come with The Willenium and you will face me RIGHT HERE in a No DQ Death Match, because that’s what I need. I need to put the Willenium to death, Dad. I need to drag you into the Hell that YOU created when you abandoned me. If you refuse me, I’ll pay your pal Eddie another visit, or maybe I’ll carve a new brand for your pal, Curtis? I’ll make sure I put it just next to the one Uncle Adrian left for you all those years ago.
If it helps seeing me as the Devil that Adrian was, if that’s what it takes to get you to notice me, I will destroy the entire world to make you reconcile just what you’ve done. You have until next Revolution to decide.
Malice puts one leg between the middle ropes to leave the ring before hesitating, bringing the microphone back to his face.
Malice: I’d ask you not to disappoint me, but it’s a little late for that isn’t it?
“Saturn Barz” hits thr PA again as Malice takes himself the rest of the way out of the ring, moving up the ramp and through the curtain. The camera fades.
RAIKO Vs. Dan Stein
Mary Kelly is standing by with the Sisters of Steel. Before she can even get a word out of her mouth, the lights are shadowed by the hulking frames of the Unholy Cyber Army, stomping onto the scene, all leather and armor plates and silent threat. Mary quickly flees while the two teams stare each other down. An uncomfortable silence hangs in the air. Ria starts to position herself in front of Danni. Her friend gently pushes past her, reaches down and grabs the mic Mary had dropped. Danni looks at Power Devil, then Superbeast.
Danni: How much longer is this gonna go on?! How much longer are you assholes gonna keep showing up and staring us down?! What is it? Do you get off on it? Does it make you feel good, intimidating two women half your size?! Man, what a couple of badasses! You know what? Just attack us already. If you’re not going to, then screw off because you apparently have nothing to say!
UCA give each other a slight nod before they menacingly step forward. Danni drops the mic as she and Ria look to brace themselves for battle.
???: Never thought the big beefy bully boys would be at a loss for words. Must be everyone’s lucky day.
The unknown voice belongs to Lindsay Troy who, after her match the night before, had the pleasure of meeting and disposing of two other Unholy Breedlove Empire members in Cromwell Yarbury and Muratagi Hanzo. The Queen of the Ring steps in, standing between Danni and Ria. She is absolutely no stranger to the Demons of Cyber Roppongi, having failed at capturing the tag team titles at SHOOT’s last supershow. This doesn’t stop her from donning a cheeky grin, because while she and Pat Cassidy may not have won that battle, she knows the war is far from over.
Lindsay Troy: Don’t freeze up on my account now, guys. If you’re gonna do something….better get to it.
Superbeast steps from the imminent fray, getting very close to Troy, towering over her. Ever the warrior, she doesn’t back down whatsoever, but her grin fades as her face hardens. Her and Superbeast stare absolute war at one another–of the members of the Unholy Cyber Army, he apparently rubs her especially the wrong way, and the feeling is mutual. He reaches to the small of his back and undoes one of the Tag Team title belts, raising it up to eye level and brandishing it to her. The message is simple. “We still have them.”
Lindsay Troy: Yes, so shiny, good for you. You know by now that intimidation tactics don’t work on me. And I’m not gonna let you try it on them.
She motions to the Sisters of Steel with her head and inches just a little closer to Superbeast; so close that they’re breathing each other’s air.
Lindsay Troy: We either do this now or we do this next Rev. Me, Ria and Danni against you two and Breedlove.
Ria takes a short step forward. Of the five people, she’s by the far the shortest in stature. She takes a look at each of the mammoth individuals in front of her and her friends and slowly shakes her head, letting a shaky exhale escape her lungs. She trembles ever so slightly as she begins to speak.
Ria: I’m over this. You know, I’ve been thinking far too much. I’ve thought about the terrible things you can or will do to us. In my head, you’re monsters. But I’ve come to realize you’re not the monsters I’ve built you up to be. I’m ready for you whenever. I’m tired of letting the fear rule me. I’m tired of giving you free reign over my mind. Besides that… I deal with a worse monster than either of you everyday.
Power Devil smirks and reaches out, grasping Superbeast by the shoulder. They look at one another and exchange no words, their eyes enough of a shorthand between two brothers who have lived war since they linked up. Power Devil slightly nods his head in the direction of the Sisters of Steel. Then he nods towards Lindsay Troy. Superbeast looks to both of them, then nods slowly and grins. They turn. Facing the three competitors, they in unison drag their thumbs across their throats. The message is clear, but they punctuate it with the first actual words we’ve heard them say in weeks.
Power Devil, Superbeast: Agony.
They both raise their title belts and walk backwards. It’s a bit choreographed and a bit goofy, but no one is giggling. They exit the frame in full, leaving the Sister of Steel and LT. Lindsay looks to both Ria and Danni before speaking.
Lindsay Troy: You both alright?
Danni throws up her middle fingers in the direction UCA had walked off. She sighs in frustration, letting her arms dejectedly fall to her side. She turns to acknowledge LT’s question.
Danni: Dunno. I keep going back and forth between being pissed off and wanting to piss my pants. Having trouble finding a middle ground here. That’s without even getting into having… him… involved.
Danni can’t help but look away as she spoke the last line. Ria closes her eyes and rubs her forehead before running a hand through her hair. The signs of stress are obvious on her face, no matter how well she tries to hide it. She looks to her two friends.
Ria: I’m never alright. I’ll deal with it. I always do. What made you come over here anyway, Lindsay?
The question has a genuinely curious tone as opposed to an accusatory one. Danni raises an eyebrow at the inquiry, obviously interested in the answer herself. For her part, Troy shrugs.
Lindsay Troy: I saw something that interested me and thought I’d investigate.
Then, she smiles.
Lindsay Troy: Glad I did. Listen, it’s alright to be nervous or scared. There’s a lot of big bads here. Only way to conquer your fear is to work through it and it helps to have friends by your side to help. Besides…
She looks at Danni.
Lindsay Troy: I know you’re conflicted about Breedlove but you can leave him to me if you want. I’ve got issues with all of the UBE but he can’t duck this fight and gaslight everyone forever without facing some consequences.
Danni throws her head back and groans, composing herself shortly after.
Danni: No… There was always a chance this would happen. Like you said, gotta work through it. Might as well just accept it.
Lindsay puts an arm around each of Danni and Ria’s shoulders. A small, but comforted smile forms on Danni’s face. Ria immediately looks to the ground and blushes. The three walk off, still having a quiet discussion amongst their group.
Josh Conway Vs. NEMESIS
The walk is an arduous thing.
The camera view cuts to pure, blown out white before the lens finally catches up to the light. The baked out sand broken into crags in places, Ben Grimm flesh composition coated in the dust of fallen civilizations that predate history. Covered in the dust of life that it chews until it’s nothing. And then, touching down in extreme closeup, a mass of red, black, brown, and flesh tone. A foot. A footnaked in this desert, and this terrain. Bleeding where it hasn’t scabbed up and the dirt hasn’t stopped it from openly weeping. This flesh has become mottled and camouflaged, it could–and does–blend in with the ground.
This being is turning into a thing of the desert.
The other foot follows. While the step is not the most powerful, it is steadier than one would expect for a person traipsing through the desert without shoes. The stride yakes the feet out of frame. What blood remains soaks in and is consumed. Then stomped deep by the weathered work boots that follow. Sacrifice to the killing engine. Feed it so that it does not hunt. The view cuts. In the far distance we see the figures. They slowly walk towards us, rendered a liquid vision by the heat in the distance, but forming slowly, oily apparitions gathern their corpus. One is Charlie Jay Hitchens. She walks behind the other, unchanged, dead eyed, her pace steady. Her clothes unwashed, her hair filthy. If she carries any compassion for the man in front of her, she does not show it, her face as stern and lifeless as ever. The other man…the other man is a sight.
Victor Thane is struggling under the weight of it. His arms appear to be lashed by thick ropes to the cracked, weathered beam of an old double oxen yoke that lays across his neck and shoulders. This is the first time that we haven’t seen him in extreme pain in what feels like months–and the difference in him is remarkable. Past the dirt and the grown facial hair, past the wounds and the sunburns and the blood, he is gaunt, ghostly, and his eyes carry the far-off focus of someone deep in a meditative state. He isn’t looking at the sky or the horizon. He’s looking past all of it. A man so impeccably put together, every hair and word carefully placed, is stumbling through the desert in tattered pants lashed to wood. His marked body, scarred and tattooed heavily, glisten from the perspiration that drapes his person. He is speaking, but it is not a projection for us. Nor is it really for her, though she is listening. He is speaking the word past his surroundings. He is in direct communication. And as they draw closer, we can hear.
Thane: Forgive me…forgive me…I covet…I hate…I envy…my…my…do I…deserve…this? Can I…b-be happy? I deserve…this. I…deserve…this…
Thane stumbles, his foot catching a particularly jagged rock. He drops to one knee, wincing, exhaling a growl of pain. His shoulders sag, and the yoke beam drops on his left side, twisting his body awkwardly. He can either fall to his back or get both feet under his body again. Charlie Jay stands, hands in her pockets. She does nothing. Says nothing. Victor does not look to her for assistance or absolution. There is no beg in his face. He catches his breath, furrows his brow…and brings his feet under his body, standing erect and straightening out with an audible groan and a creak in his knees. He takes a moment. Eyes closed, he breathes deep and circular, his emaciated chest expanding visibly. Upon the exhale, his eyes open. There it is again. Real focus. Slowly, a fresh wound on his left foot leaving tracks in the sand, he begins to walk again. And with more power now, more focused timbre, through gritting teeth, he speaks again.
Thane: I am not…true to myself…I do not…know how…to be…true to me. I…lie to my…to people…I am…never…me. Villainy…is not…to be…glorified. Villainy…is not…to be…glorified. Lies…manip…manipulations…co…ercion…violence for greed…hate…for the blinding…light…of the Lord. Villainy…is not…glory. Villainy…is not…glory. VILLAINY…IS…NOT…GLORY.[
At these last words, without warning, Charlie simply steps forward and pushes the left side of the yoke beam. The massive weight across his shoulders drags him with it, and off balance he spins and loses his footing, dropping to his rear on the ground with a groaning thud. His breath is coming ragged, and he looks up to his…whatever she has become. His eyes question, but his mouth says nothing. She sighs softly and kneels down, putting them eye to eye. For a long while, all that are exchanged are looks. She reaches down to his foot and scrapes her thumb across his fresh cut. He grits his teeth but does not complain. She takes her thumb, coated in filthy crimson, and drags it across his sweaty forehead, leaving him with a streak of red that begins to run down his brows in wet, diluted rivulets. Absently, She wipes her thumb on her jeans. Speaks.
“What are you, Victor Thane?”
He shakes his head, weakly. He is folded upon himself. He could not hope to move without her help. But finally, he opens his mouth to speak but only a squeak, a crack, escapes his lips. His head drops and a rumble grows within him. It bubbles under his surface until his eyes cast their way upward.
Thane: I AM A LIAR!
He inhales deeply.
Thane: I HAVE INDULGED!
Tears begin to fall from the corners of his eyes.
Thane: I PLAYED GOD IN HIS FACE AND I MOCKED HIM FOR IT.
His tears grow and spittle drips from his lips, sputtered out in a last gasp of moisture for his tongue.
Thane: My name is not my own. My villainy is NOT glory. NO ONE…can love me…if I do not…love me.
He lets out a guttural howl before it’s shattered into an open sob.
Thane: I don’t deserve it…oh God…I don’t deserve what I wanted. I did not…I do not…I do not deserve mercy. I do not…deserve mercy. Oh God, please…please…I deserve to suffer for my manipulations. I deserve…to suffer…
At this, she stands erect, looking down at his shuddering, struggling frame. For the first time that we have seen, her hand reaches to him in a motion that has warmth to it, or at least as much as she can provide. She simply places her hand on his head, but the touch of someone in this moment, in this way, causes him to break down. He would cry, but his body has no more moisture to give. His sob is dry and silent. She closes her eyes and leaves her hand there, reassurance from a cold angel of death the closest thing to tenderness he has felt in so, so long. Her other hand reaches to her belt.
Draws her Buck 110, the filthy cleached handle in direct contrast to the blade.
It glows in the sunshine, it’s clean sharp metal catching every angle of light.
He notices and gathers himself. Braces himself. Closes his eyes.
The release he is ready for doesn’t arrive. With practiced swipes, she severs the ropes holding him to the wood. And, as if it were nothing to her, pulls the beam from his body and tosses it aside, depositing it with a thud and kick up of dust.
Thane breathes easy for what may be the first time in weeks. He takes her offered hand, and is pulled to his feet. She attempts a smile, though it looks foreign on her face.
“You are ready. Ready to join us.”
He smiles, the energy of his freedom, his absolution, washing over him. He grips her hand surely–and then his brows furrow.