Backstage, the new Iron Fist Champion Lexi Gold is shown sitting on some crates. She is in her ring as her focus is on an item at hand while her title rests on her lap. That item is the barbed wire bat that she was hit with several times by Haskell Payne during her title match at Iron Will 2. She smiles and twirls the bat, almost mesmerized by it. As if on cue, Haskell himself strides by, ever-present Marlboro chiefing between his lips. Despite this, he appears as primed for combat as he ever is–jeans, snakeskin boots, taped up–and he hooks his thumbs in his belt loops before sizing his opponent up.
The Colonel: Y’know, I had half a mind to apologize t’you fer bringin’ that thing into play…but then you got lucky.
He takes one more strong drag and drops his smoke to the floor, snuffing it with the heel of his boot.
The Colonel: Half a second earlier an’ that belt woulda been mine. So far as I see it, Lexi, yer good people and all–but yer just keepin’ ‘er warm for the Psychobilly. An’ if you got issue with that, same offer I extended to Jacob Mephisto applies. Special two clackers for one deal.
She hops off the crate, places the bat down on it, then throws her championship on her shoulder and looks him in the eye.
Lexi Gold: Lucky, huh? Nah, fam. I earned this and proved I still got it out there. By bashing me with a bat, you gave me a wake-up call after I felt like I was losing momentum, and it worked. However, I know this isn’t over. It’s not my first rodeo. Tonight, you get a shot at this title and if you try and resort to bringing out batty you will get the same results, so choose your plan wisely.
Haskell scoffs at this before he steps closer, his eyes narrowing.
The Colonel: Last time I looked, you ain’t my daddy, ain’t the boss, ain’t the president, and ain’t God almighty neither. There’s only one rule I respect out there: do anything you gotta do to walk out with the duke. So you wanna tell me you ain’t catch a break–and wanna sit there and tell me how I’m s’posed to conduct myself? Hell, I might grab a slugger just t’spite you.
She crosses her arms, noticing his more aggressive side coming out as she grins.
Lexi Gold: So what you are saying is you have to resort to weapons in order to try and win. I guess that’s the difference between you and me, sweetheart. My body is a weapon in itself, I don’t need to rely on bringing anything else to this battle. That being said, you can have this back. I have no use for it.
She turns to grab the bat and tosses it to him, almost knocking him with it, but instead he catches it.
The Colonel: I ain’t the type of snake t’do some shit to you back here or blindside you. We got a match, that’s where yer gonna find me. But as far as my needin’ to “resort” to weapons? You can resort to guzzling my fuckin’ dickhead with that holy-ass attitude! You think it’s gonna matter one fuckin’ ounce how I got that belt when I’m holdin’ onto it?! Nah. Fuck you, Lexi. You may got everyone else throwin’ hearts in their eyes cause they think yer a sweetheart, but I see you. I see you for real. And you got a whuppin’ on deck!
Haskell pulls out a smoke, fires it up, and throws Lexi a big middle finger. He starts to walk towards the gorilla area. Meanwhile, she stands there and shakes her head, not exactly happy with his choice of words as the scene fades.
Haskell Payne Vs. Lexi Gold (c)
Hey, that's me!
The camera fades up in the backstage area, where Dan and Molly Stein are walking down the hallway. Dan wears a huge smile along with his baby blue vest with no shirt underneath, and a pair of hot pink skinny jeans leaving absolutely nothing for imagination. His trademark multi-pastel-colored tennis shoes carry him down the hall. Molly wears a highlighter yellow one piece swimsuit with black tights and pink ankle warmers with her hair up in a messy bun. Dan and Molly have an arm around each other, seemingly enjoying each other’s presence. And then they turn a corner. The pair stop in their tracks.
Standing in front of them is the massive, shredded Chick Grillbreast. The King of the Swole Bros is… reading? I didn’t know he could read. Weird. Anyway, Chick has a magazine with none other than Dan Stein on the front.
Chick Grillbreast: Wow, this guy on the cover of this magazine is puny as hell. HIS GAINZ ARE NOWHERE NEAR MINE. Hey, you look like the puny guy on the cover of this magazine!
Dan looks around the hallway for a second, then puts his hand up to compare their heights.
Dan Stein: Ah, Chill Brickrest. I see you’re a man of culture AND protein. That’s great, Kid. Maybe someday if you try real hard, and grow six inches, Men’s Fitness will put you on your own cover!
Chick Grillbreast: ARE YOU SAYING THAT I AM NOT SWOLE ENOUGH TO BE ON THE COVER OF A MAGAZINE? ARE YOU SAYING I NEED CONTROVERSIAL LEG LENGTHENING SURGERY IN ORDER TO TRULY CLAIM MY BIRTHRIGHT AS KING OF THE SWOLE BROS?
Literal steam shoots out of his nose as he throws the magazine down onto the floor of the corridors of the Joe Louis Arena.
Chick Grillbreast: YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MAKES ME?
Dan Stein: Irregular?
Dan pats his stomach and puffs out his cheeks in feigned agony.
Chick Grillbreast: I don’t get it? AND THAT TOO MAKES ME SO MAD.
Chick turns to a water cooler… they still have those? Weird. Anyway, he turns to the water cooler and punches a hole through the plastic jug. Water spills out all over the hallway, wetting everyone’s shoes. Now everyone has soggy socks.Dan quickly attempts to step back from the water spill, but is counted among the casualties. Molly leaps into Dan’s arms to protect her shoes. As Dan carries Molly, he looks at Chick with rage in his eyes.
Dan Stein: Did… did you just ruin our sneakers?
Chick Grillbreast: Well, to be fair, I ruined my sneakers and made my socks all squishy too, but regardless of the situation WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT, SHRIMPY MAN?!
Dan slowly lowers Molly’s legs back to the ground, outside of the water spill. Molly makes sure not to step in it. Dan’s eyes squint and he steps forward.
Dan Stein: I know you’re the new guy around SHOOT Project, so you might not know who you’re dealing with Mr. Gilchrest.
Molly Stein: Grillbreast.
Dan Stein: Grillbreast – wait, like…you grill a chicken br-
Dan cuts himself off.
Dan Stein: I’m SOMEBODY around these parts, Grillbreast. You don’t get to just come into SHOOT Project and punch water coolers and NEARLY ruin my beautiful wife’s tennis shoes. I must defend Molly’s honor! You know what I’m gonna do about it, Grillbreast?
Dan cuts off his hallway foe.
Dan Stein: You. Me. Next set of shows! ARM WRESTLING.
Chick Grillbreast: YOU GOT IT, NERD! ARGHH!!
Chick stomps off like only Chick can.Dan STEAMS.
Dan Stein: He called me a nerd?! I won’t STAND for this!
The camera zooms in on Dan’s red face…until it cuts.
Butch Maudlin Vs. HISTERIA
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“Weakness is a state of mind.”
The voice is clearly the low-end, thunderous baritone of Nate Robideau. Even with his newfound attitude, his voice always carries with it a righteous rumble. The screen is black with those words, and they hang pregnant over ambient background music before the view changes.
“I’ve been called weak. You have too. But that weakness isn’t purely physical, or spiritual, or mental. It’s something that you’re told, and begin to believe, and that belief feeds into itself.”
Black and white. An extreme closeup, so tight that we can see the minute scrapes and scratches in the leather of a punching bag. Beads of sweat hang on the fibers. Moving into the frame, slow motion and with the sound cranked so high that it feels like a jet fighter roaring into the proceedings, a bare fist buries itself in the bag, full cannon rapport. When it retracts, a vaguely knuckle shaped smear of blood is left.
“You have to wake up. Sometimes, you have to be awoken with force.”
The fist continues it’s assault, and it fades to a view behind a man who is jogging up a mountain trail. While we can’t see who it is, the broad shoulders, plain sweats, and mohawk lead us to believe it is the man himself.
“So why wait?”
His footpads bring with them the crunch of the earth. He hunches his head, throws a few punches, bobbing and weaving his upper body as he keeps driving, forward and upward.
“I was snapped out of it forcibly. But you don’t have to wait. You don;t have to sleep with one eye open or look over your shoulder. Take the reins. Embrace what you fear. Choose to shake yourself from that feedback loop, because I can;t tell you when someone might decide to.”
He turns a bend and the frame is bathed in so much light that the pure white of it washes the frame out entirely. We are left with this pure white frame for an uncomfortable moment before the view changes with his next words.
“I can only tell you that they will. And mercy won’t be in their vocabulary.”
Finally, a cut. Nate stands at a ledge overlooking Las Vegas, his shoulders rising and falling as he takes gulps of breath. His next words in the voiceover are harder edged. A threat, a promise, an instruction.
“Reforge yourself so that they’re in for a surprise when they decide to come for you.”
He places his hands on his hips. The view holds here, before beginning a slow fade to black.
“Misfortune happens to most.”
Now the screen holds on black, as it did in the opening.
“Make sure you happen to misfortune.”
The music begins to fade, and the black screen is replaced with a message and a graphic.
Grand Re-opening Soon Accepting new student applications.
No Lions in the Pride, No Pride in the Lions
We cut to the back where we see Mary Kelly, microphone in hand, and a smile on her face.
Mary Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the former number one contenders to the World Tag Team Championships…the Carolina Lions!
The fans boo loudly as only the Carolina Reaper himself, Isaiah Galliard, steps into frame.
Mary Kelly: Isaiah, you’re notably alone tonight. Why did you request this time?
Reaper: Look, Mary, everybody knows if you watch Spitter me and Luis ain’t seein’ eye to eye after everything that happened at Iron Will 2. All respect, Lindsay Troy and Ayumi Seppuku were who I thought they were. Luis and me? We gotta go back to the drawing board.
“Nah nah nah, man.”
The fans boo even more as Luis de Leon steps into frame.
Smoke: You think those two are better than us?
He shakes his head.
Smoke: Better than YOU maybe, but I’m not the guy catchin’ these Ls, am I? Nah, Isaiah, that’s all you, isn’t it? Couldn’t get past Lindsay Troy on your own, cost us the win at Iron Will, and here you are, hat in hand and talkin’ about giving those bitches respect. Why the hell…you know what? What happened to you, man? Playing nice on Spitter, playing nice here, if you a Lion then you absolutely turned in your mane. Guess we may as well call ourselves the Carolina Lionesses, huh?
Smoke shakes his head and Reaper pulls Mary’s microphone to his mouth.
Reaper: Nah nah nah, understand this. This ain’t how wrestling is supposed to be. Being a dick just because you got all the toys in the sandbox growin’ up doesn’t mean someone who fought to get here like me has to be a bitch about it.
Smoke: That so? Okay, Isaiah, go on and be you, homie. I got an outcast out there more than willin’ to help me take those two dumbasses down. Hey, it works for me, the weak link ‘bout to bounce, anyway, right?
He exhales a small chuckle.
Smoke: Enjoy your mediocrity, man. We’re done here.
Luis steps out of frame and disappears, leaving Isaiah and Mary alone.
Mary Kelly: Isaiah, are we seeing the end of the Carolina Lions so soon?
Isaiah looks at Mary and then back to where Luis went. He shakes his head in frustration and walks away in the opposite direction, frustrated and dejected.
Copperhead Road Vs. Blood Money
Two Simple Words
Cameras cut to the back of the Little Caesars Arena where we find Abigail Chase standing next to SHOOT Rule of Surrender Champion Judy Punchinello. Judy is joined by a less-familiar face, but eagle-eyed fans would recognize the figure as none other than WNBA star Madison Seton, who also happens to be Laura Seton’s sister.
Judy adjusts the title over her shoulder as Abigail raises her microphone towards the pair.
Abigail Chase: Despite not being booked, Judy Punchinello is here in Detroit tonight, to observe Laura Seton’s battle with former World Heavyweight Champion Joshua Breedlove. I’m here because we understand that Judy – and Laura’s sister, Madison Seton – have some thoughts ahead of tonight’s matchup.
Judy steps forward and grabs the microphone out of Abigail’s hand. Not forcefully, but… not gently, either.
Judy Punchinello: Thanks, Abby. Look… I just want to set the record straight once and for all as far as it concerns Laura Seton.
The RoS champ looks over to Madison who simply nods with encouragement.
Judy Punchinello: Laura… you and I have had our differences, sure. But, tonight, I want you to know that there are folks that care about you. Not me… of course, but … people. These are the same people who you will be letting down when you lose to Joshua Breedlove tonight.
Madison looks on, refusing to come to her sister’s defense.
Judy Punchinello: Laura. You have to stop. You have to admit to yourself that you are clinging to a dream that has passed you by and you no longer have a place in the ring.
You can hear the fans booing even in the back.’This causes Madison to step forward, surprisingly, and gesture for the microphone, to which Judy obliges.
Madison Seton: Laura… please. You’ve…
She pauses, thinking about her next words.
Madison Seton: You’ve got to stop. I know what toll it can take hopping from city to city – and even then I’m not dealing with the physical risks that come with this job. Let’s name drop for you to have this hit home. Sinnocence. Just how was your friend Jada doing at the end of her career? Almost blind… beaten beyond belief… Think back–you were unconscious, Laura, just … lying there in the ring without anyone to help you and I didn’t know if you were dead, if you were breathing…
Judy looks up at the ceiling in avoidance.
Madison Seton: I just need to know, Laura. Your family needs to know … what is more important to you? Is it this desire to become a Heavyweight Champion again – possibly dying in the process, or is it to be a role model, to be a mentor for those waiting in the wings? Then again, maybe I know that answer. How long was it since we last spoke? What’s family, right?
Madison chokes up slightly and Judy puts a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Madison Seton: You made wrestling your career when you were told you couldn’t compete elsewhere – I get it. But… Laura, you have to plan for a life when you have to move on to something new because…
Judy reaches and grabs the microphone from Madison.
Judy Punchinello: Because, Laura, as I have shown you, and no doubt Joshua Breedlove will show you tonight… your time isn’t ‘running out’ anymore. Your time is OVER. And the sooner you accept that the sooner we can ALL move on with our lives.
Judy puts an arm around Madison.
Judy Punchinello: This is an intervention, Laura. For your own good… for the good of SHOOT Project… for the good of your FAMILY. You need to end this charade. After you lose to Breedlove tonight… the only words that need to come from your lips are simple. Two words that – when said – can free you from your struggle…
Judy looks into the camera.
Judy Punchinello: Those words, Laura? “I Retire.” That’s all you have to say and the weight will be lifted off your shoulders. Just… consider it, Laura. Please. For Madison. And for… well… you know.
With a mischievous look, Judy hands the microphone back to Abigail Chase as she quickly corrals Madison and adjusts her belt over her shoulder.
Abigail Chase looks on cautiously.
Abigail Chase: So, Judy, can you-
Judy leans forward.
Judy Punchinello: Nope. We’re done here. Laura… you know what you need to do.
With that, Judy quickly ushers Madison away as the pair exit the screen and Abigail Chase looks on in frustration.
Laura Seton Vs. Joshua Breedlove
Laura Seton has already made her way back to the ramp, as Joshua Breedlove sits in the ring, propped up against the turnbuckle. He’s just called for a microphone, and he’s catching his breath as that’s been handed to him.
Joshua Breedlove: Listen, all respect in the world to Laura Seton for beating me here tonight. Let’s be honest, friends… I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.
He motions around himself, showing a significantly absent piece of gold around his waist or on his shoulder.
Joshua Breedlove: Congrats to Buck Dresden, too. The Iron Will Classic is an animal, and I got chewed up and spit out. I think it’s funny that our experiences essentially mirror each others there, but I digress. I noticed in your cute little Ruination speech that you avoided propping up a rematch.
It would appear that I’m not quite ready to get in the ring like that, for that championship, right now.
He pulls himself up to his feet and leans against the top rope, holding the mic nonchalantly in his hand.
Joshua Breedlove: I’ve had the last couple of weeks to think about what happens next, where I go from here, that sort of thing. Do I keep on the grind, try to become maybe the second ever three time SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion? Do I refocus my effort and go after the Iron Fist or Rule of Surrender title?
Maybe Danni and I jump into the tag ranks and make a run there. Something like that.
But nah, what I’ve been thinking… and I kinda started it here with the new tights and look… is that the Empire needs to get a little bit of a facelift.
So as of now… the only active wrestlers in the Empire are myself, Danni Johnson, and El Paria.
The crowd doesn’t quite know how to act, there’s a dull murmur that’s captured the crowd.
Joshua Breedlove: Support staff is gonna stay on support staff, but Curtis Rose, Alex Vaka, Cromwell Yarbury, and Muratagi Hanzo are being freed to pursue other opportunities. Vaka will remain under the care of the Sanctorium until he’s cleared to compete.
That’s the last thing I’ll mention. I’ve spent way too long teetering the line. Fact is, there’s a lot of stuff in the world that I’m in support of that doesn’t really match up with what a “bad guy” is supposed to be. I’ve extended my resources to new and old wrestlers alike, growing the Empire brand and working to cement our place as a dominant force in professional wrestling.
That? That has come at a cost. I sit here… well, stand here… no gold. No championships. Just a guy that just lost to Laura Seton.
I’ve stayed off of Spitter in an effort to focus, only to find that I seem to have… lost my edge.
Time to get that back.
Breedlove smiles into the camera.
Luis de Leon.
This is your official invitation. Be a part of the new Empire, join me at the Sanctorium, and we will run this business. I’m done playing nice.
His smile turns into a slight frown.
Make way for the King.
He drops the mic as Ohana Bam’s “Make Way for the King” obliges him. He drops to the mat and rolls from the ring, walking back up the ramp with laser focus in his eyes.
Eryk Masters: Gotta say, didn’t know what to expect when he got on the mic tonight. Don’t know if I expected that.
Other Guy: It’s time for a change in the Empire, E. Guy lost it all and he has to figure out how to get it back. Is he over-correcting? I guess time will tell… but folks?
Eryk Masters: It’s main event time! Nate Robideau takes on NEMESIS and that happens NEXT!