New Year, Same Feud
Laura Seton stared at the Rule of Surrender belt sitting on a table in the back of the Epicenter on top of a purple velvet sheet. She couldn’t take her eyes off the empty nameplate on the belt – imagining what it would say after tonight.
Would it read “Laura Seton” or would it be…
Voice: Judy Punchinello
Laura spins around to find herself face to face with her opponent for the evening.
Judy Punchinello: That’s what the title is going to read before the night is over, Laura, so don’t get too attached. You may technically be “Rule of Surrender Champion” but without the belt you’re just a facsimile of a champion. A mirage. A hologram. A simulacrum. A zombie champion that I’ll put back in the dirt soon enough.
Laura clenches her fist, resisting the urge to unleash all the anger, all the stress Judy had caused her since their match at Reckoning Day and one of the worst Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays she had ever experienced.
Laura Seton: Are you done being a nuisance? For now, at least?
Judy Punchinello: A nuisance? You entitled brat. I’m the rightful Rule of Surrender champion and when the night is over I’m going to be the one who FINALLY rids this company of your pitiful excuse for a redemption story.
Laura just stares at her. She gives a deep breath.
Laura Seton: As I’m sure you know, my kids appreciate the electric guitar you got them. My morning migraines love it, too.
Judy Punchinello: Just a migraine? Too bad one of them wasn’t an aneurysm. That way your kiddos could have an ACTUAL attentive mother when they get put in foster care.
Laura steps forward and puts her hands on Judy’s collar.
Judy Punchinello: Now, now, now… remember, you do anything to me and you’re one step closer to being a true absentee parent.
Laura gives a minor shove as she takes her hands off Judy. As much as she wants to “flop,” Judy keeps from doing so.
Laura Seton: What the hell is wrong with you, Judy? What did I ever do to you to make you treat me like this?
Judy’s face loses its manic, playful demeanor as she pauses, looking Laura directly in the eye as she chooses her next words carefully.
Judy Punchinello: It’s nothing you DID Laura. It’s who you ARE that pisses me off so much.
Laura goes to respond but Judy cuts her off.
Judy Punchinello: A nuisance, huh?
Judy shakes her head and turns to walk away.
Judy Punchinello: You know… you almost had me thinking that this whole thing you’re doing was real. That deep down inside I was the asshole for pushing you too far. But the way you’re looking at me right now? The fact that you think I’m just some side character in YOUR bullshit story? That tells me all I need to know about who Laura Seton truly is. Because deep down, Laura, as much as you want to keep playing the underdog … you’ve been there. You’ve done that.
Our story ends tonight, Laura. One way or the other. But no matter who wins, just remember one simple thing … here in SHOOT? I’M the next chapter. YOU’RE the epilogue.
It was a slow night at the bar. Not a single soul present except for a group of random men at a table together, the bartenders and of course Lexi Gold who is sitting at the far end of the counter all by her lonesome self with a glass of beer in her hand as she takes occasionally sips of it while flipping through her phone out of boredom. She looks gorgeous in a blush shimmery dress, matching gloves and black heels. After a few moments, she decides to set her phone down and enjoy her beer while vibing to the music playing in the background.
He walks into the bar, wearing a pair of khaki slacks, a black button down shirt, and a pair of Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG’s. He notices Lexi Gold at the end of the counter and moves towards her, sitting down, leaving one seat between the two of them because otherwise that shit would be mega creepy.
Jamie Johnson: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not the only one that knows about this place, though I can’t say I expected to see you… or really anyone else from SHOOT here. Ever since I turned 21, this has been kind of a… getaway spot, I guess. It’s always quiet when I get in here, never too many people.
He offers a smile towards Lexi as the bartender drops a glass of water and an Old Fashioned in front of him.
Jamie Johnson: Congrats on being the Newcomer of the Year, by the way.
Lexi turns her head and looks his way, surprised to see him there. She has seen his work in the ring, but the two have never been in the same room, much less a bar understanding that they were set to face each other at Revolution for his championship. She smiles in return over his kind words toward her.
Lexi Gold: Thank you. I was not expecting to receive such an award, especially with the greats that have had this award in previous years, but it proves that my hard work has been noticed.
Jamie Johnson: Hard not to notice it, frankly. You’ve done a lot in your short time here, more than most, I think. I’m not sure there’s anyone who’s come in here and won two titles in their first year, but here you are, two championships to your name and a name in the history books forever.
Jamie Johnson: That’s impressive. You know what I think, though? I think you’re still working to find your footing here, even with all of those accolades already to your name. I suspect that’s why you got slotted against me, for what I hold, and for what it’s worth… I’ve had a really rough run this past year with El Paria, so it’ll…
He pauses, sighing.
Jamie Johnson: It’ll just be nice to have a wrestling match without a whole bunch of bullshit attached to it, so I’m looking forward to getting in the ring with you. I wanna see what Lexi Gold is really and truly made of, you know?
Lexi Gold: I’m with you on not wanting any bullshit involved. In fact, I’m looking forward to sharing the ring with you also. I’ve noticed you’ve had that championship for quite some time now, which has proven that no one has been able to successfully take it from you. That’s pretty damn impressive, and makes me want to step up my game big time against you.
She nods her head and extends her hand out towards him. He takes her hand, shaking it, and smiles.
Jamie Johnson: Wasn’t named champion of the year for nothing, heh. I’ll see you at Revolution.
The Pride Vs. The Broguns (c)
Nice to meet you too.
It seemed like an eternity since Reckoning Day, but for someone like Laura Seton, two months of sitting at home was an eternity.
When she wasn’t in the midst of one of her retirements.
Her own match coming up later in the show, her mind was obviously prioritized with her enemy of the past year, Judy Punchinello. But thinking of the Brit and how to maintain her hold of the Rules of Surrender Championship?
It can be a bit much for hours at a time.
In her red leather jacket, black pants and black boots, she leaves her room and heads through one of the many hallways of the Epicenter. As she passes an adjoining hallway, she hears a voice. A recognizable one that calls to her.
She comes to a dead stop and waits for the footsteps to catch up to her. She smirks.
Laura Seton: I was beginning to think I’d never meet you.
Lexi Gold moved in closer and stood face to face with Laura Seton with a smile on her face. She placed her hand on her hips and made eye contact with her. The Golden Goddess had on a beautiful gold flowy dress, and matching heels, but what stood out most is the large python that is wrapped around Lexi’s neck.
Lexi Gold: I never expected you, of all people, to want to meet someone like me, but hey I’m pretty flattered. Lexi Gold, by the way. Nice to meet you, too.
Laura Seton: No need to introduce yourself–
Her eyes go from Lexi’s face to the python and back, with no fear being shown.
Laura Seton: You have a way of sticking out in a crowd. And I mean that in a good way. With what you’ve done so far? And how you can add to it still tonight? Newcomer of the year and going stronger!
Lexi Gold: Well, it hasn’t always been an easy journey for me. At one point, I thought I was done wrestling due to issues with my arm, but luckily it wasn’t as severe as I thought. It has taught me to appreciate life more and to never give up hope.
She sighed, and her eyes wandered around before turning her attention back to Laura.
Laura Seton: I can only judge what I’ve seen here–you’re plucky and won’t stay down. You’re a rare breed and its worked out. Be smart and your ceiling is high.
Lexi Gold: That’s the plan, champ. Speaking of which, you got a big match tonight, how do you feel heading into that? I imagine you have already set goals for yourself.
Laura has a friendly scoff.
Laura Seton: Try telling that to Judy…
She has a quick shake of her head, knowing a long rant could otherwise ensue.
Laura Seton: I have a feeling this is gonna make Reckoning Day look like child’s play. Maybe we both manage to walk out of here on our own, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have overnight stays at the hospital. And you…?
Laura Seton: You have a pretty big challenge too. You win that? I think that belt’s gonna look better on you than it did on me. Seriously, good luck.
She extends a hand.
The snake now wrapped itself around her head at this point. She laughed it off, set it down on the ground and looked down at her hand and shook it. Despite how different they were, she respected Laura.
Lexi Gold: I know we both have tough mountains to climb. We climbed it before and achieved success, and now we are about to do it again. I wish you luck out there and just know I’ll be watching.
Lexi let go of the handshake, gave her a nod and turned on her heel and walked off, leaving Laura standing there to think about what Lexi said.
We've Got WOrk To Do
The SHOOT Project Helmet flag falls, draping down behind a podium. The flag is, however, slightly weird. How different is it? Well, painted across the iconic Helmet is one word. The most important word. What word? Not bird. No, this word.
Bronson walks onstage. He stands behind the podium and clears his throat. I’d describe more but who gives a fuck?
Bronson: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time. Time for a new year. New years como with resolutions, dreams, aspirations. Chance to be a better you. And in a news year, what can we look forward to? I mean, what can we really look forward to?
Bronson: War. Famine. Atrocity after atrocity. I mean, sure there’s some good in this world. Lindsay Troy ended the year with no belts and Josh Breedlove ended the year with no bitches. But it’s not all fun and games, is it?
He shakes his head.
Bronson: No. No it’s not. Deep SHOOT keeping true talents from shining. The World title is literally a game of Cowboys and Indians. The Broguns are still here.
Bronson: I took some time, traveled, went to therapy, learned about myself and I learned some interesting things, ladies and gentlemen.
Bronson smiles at the camera.
Bronson: I’ve been living dual lives. I was once entertaining, fun, had friends, part of a team, second ever REIGN champion. Then, I was hateful, sad, alone, and nobody liked me, not even me. Thankfully, that bitch side is long gone. It took me some time, some work, some prayers, and at last I can tell you all that Bronson…is…BACK.
A canned recording of an audience applauding and cheering plays. Someone clicks it to stop so he can continue.
Bronson: I’ve called on old friends of mine, made amends with some of them, and I decided I wanted to make things right. That starts, ladies and gentlemen, by declaring that 2023 is the YEAR OF BRONSON. That’s right, I got a whole year. And in that year, I’m going to find myself once again. So, friends, Soldiers, Faithful, if you’re tired of the same old shit and you’re ready for something different…look no further. If I worked with you once upon a time, if I knew you once upon a time, I ask that you keep your DMs open.
He grins a politician’s grin.
Bronson: Bronson 2023. We’ve got work to do.
Lexi Gold Vs. Jamie Johnson (c)
Call My Name
From the ring, we go backstage to Abigail Chase, who is standing by with Lindsay Troy. The Queen isn’t booked tonight, but like a good Soldier she’s still present and accounted for.
Abigail Chase: Lindsay, thank you for joining me. Tonight is SHOOT’s first event since Reckoning Day back in November. At that show, you and Ayumi Seppuku defended the tag titles in a ladder match against the Carolina Lions. Unfortunately, Ayumi suffered a dangerous fall from the ladder and Luis de Leon and Isaiah Gaillard were able to capture the belts. Can you tell me and the SHOOT Project Faithful how she’s doing? Do you have any updates?
Lindsay Troy: Yeah, Abs. The good news is that Ayumi’s going to be OK. The not-so-good news is it’s going to be a long road before she is. She suffered a severe concussion and several broken bones that required surgery. She’s in good hands, though; Zee is by her side and we check in with each other at least once a week. The most important thing is that when Ayumi does come back, she’s healthy and ready to go, but in the meantime she’s asking for privacy and time to recover. She also wanted me to tell everyone that she appreciates all the well-wishes, fan mail, and personal messages she’s received from the roster and the fans.
The fans in the Epicenter cheer after hearing this.
Abigail Chase: So this means you’re back amongst the ranks of singles competitors. You’re not fighting this evening, which means you’ve got some time to do some scouting. Is there anybody, either here tonight or not, that you’d like to face as we start 2023?
Troy laughs, short and soft, as a smirk curls along her mouth.
Lindsay Troy: Y’know, I came here two years ago to test my mettle and prove myself against a locker room that had probably never heard of me before, despite my being in the business for over 20 years. And I think everyone can agree that I’ve had a hell of a run so far.
More cheers from the SHOOT Project Faithful.
Lindsay Troy: I was a part of the Tag Team of the Year for 2022. I know the year didn’t end on a high note, but Ayumi and I were still a part of the Match of the Year. I won the Master of the Mat and Newcomer of the Year in 2021. I’ve had fantastic matches against the likes of Dan Stein, NEMESIS, Ria Lockhart, who I hope heals up soon from her own injuries, and so many others. The thing is, though…I’m not content with battling SHOOT’s best and brightest. I want to be the best and brightest. And I thought I’d have that opportunity after beating Joshua Breedlove in two minutes at Redemption after coming up short against him at The ApeX. But I guess management had other plans, as my name wasn’t called that night after Buck Dresden went down at the hands of Void. Everything happens for a reason, though, and now I have an opportunity to make absolutely sure that my name doesn’t get overlooked again. I’ll face anyone…any time, any place. And–
Before Lindsay can continue her interview, she is NAILED in the back of the head by a massive boot. Abigail screams in terror as Lindsay crumbles to the floor, clutching the back of her head. Standing above her is the massive man that has barely been seen for the past year: VOID.
Void: Oh, darling…darling, darling, darling…
Void kneels down and grabs Lindsay’s hair, pulling her to a seated position.
Void: Do you know why your name hasn’t been called?
He pulls her head up to get her to look in his eyes.
Void: Because the fates have been preparing you…for this.
He SLAMS her head into the wall.
Void: Why worry about if management calls your name, Lindsay?
He SLAMS her head into the wall.
Void: Why worry at all?
He SLAMS her head into the wall.
Void: Besides, darling…
He SLAMS her head into the wall, letting her slide over to her side. She clutches the back of her head as Void stands up, brushing his hair out of his face to reveal his maskless face.
Void: …the Void calls for you now.
Void steps over her body and he walks off, chuckling softly as the camera focuses in on Lindsay Troy in a heap.
Tommy Knuckles Vs. Dan Stein (c)
From the Desk of the Emperor
Dear SHOOT Project Faithful,
Thank you, for voting me for your villain of the year in 2022.
I’d like to kick this letter off by announcing the dissolution of the Holy Breedlove Empire. My staff will retain their positions and continue their work on the Breedlove Brand, but the Sanctorium and the wrestling group will lay dormant until such time that I deem them necessary once more.
I am still rehabilitating my injury at the hands of Nate Robideau. The final diagnosis was that he’d torn my rotator cuff and that I was looking at a six to nine month recovery time. Understand that I wish to be there in the new year with all of you, SHOOT Project Faithful, but it is not to be.
I can only hope that you’ll understand what I do when I return.I seek vengeance.
I’d like to take this time to thank my wonderful partner, Danni Johnson, for all the work and help that she’s been as I’ve begun rehabbing and recovering. She has been invaluable, and I can never thank her enough.
Until next time, SHOOT Project. This is your king… your emperor… signing out.
NEMESIS Vs. Chick Grillbreast
I don’t care if they don’t like me
I came here to stunt
I don’t care if they don’t like me
I don’t give a fuck
I don’t care if they don’t like me
I do what I want bitch
I don’t care if they don’t like me
This drip on taaaaap, this drip on tap
“On Tap” by Coast Contra interrupts the preparation for the next match, as purple, light blue, and orange lighting spotlights the top of the ramp. Samantha Coil, who’s just been handed a note, proceeds to her announcement…
Samantha Coil: INTRODUCING… ONE OF THE NEW BATTALION CHAMPIONS… HE IS THE JAMIE JOHNSON SLAYER… THE THORN IN HIS SIDE… HE IS THE OUTCAST… EL… PARIIIIIAAAAAA…
She puts the microphone down, somewhat disgusted, as El Paria makes his way out to the top of the ramp, microphone in hand.
El Paria: You know…. This was supposed to be some dumb thing in the ring where Jamie Johnson got to take my mask off and see who I REALLY am, and I thought to myself… in a last act of defiance to him and to the people who make the unwritten rules of wrestling… why not just do it on my own?
The crowd doesn’t know how to react, really. They’re confused, almost stunned?
Eryk Masters: Interesting move here, kind of a power move, don’t you think?
Other Guy: Last gasp, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t wait to see who this is, E.
El Paria: But before I pull this thing off, I wanted to… just a sec.
Paria pulls his phone out of his pocket and appears to make a call over FaceTime, which shows up on the Epicenter’s video wall. The crowd pops when Jamie Johnson, getting looked over by trainers in the locker room, answers!
Jamie Johnson: Hey Ja– the fuck? Paria?! You’ve resorted to stealing phones to fuck with me? Are you serious?
El Paria: I’ll just wait. Just… get all that out of your system.
Jamie Johnson: What… what’s going on here?
El Paria: Well, big bro… JamJam… it’s my unveiling! The big reveal that you fought so hard for!
Jamie’s eyes go wide as Paria pulls the mask off and shows his face to the Sin City Champion, right before hanging up on him. He turns around, mask off, revealing a young, handsome face that looks suspiciously like…
El Paria: That’s right! I look JUST LIKE JAMIE JOHNSON. Do you know why? Do you want to know why? It’s because I’m the lost son! The forgotten Johnson son! It’s been right there in front of his stupid fucking face the ENTIRE TIME and he has been too dumb to put it together. Allow me, SHOOT Project Faithful, to formally introduce myself.
He smiles and walks half way down the ramp.
Jack Johnson: My given name is Jack or Jackie Johnson, and you could call me that or you could call me “The Outcast”… Jack Johnson. I thought it was a stroke of genius, personally. Just flaunt it right in his stupid face, basically TELL HIM who I am and let him figure it out, but HE DIDN’T. Did NOBODY ELSE think it was weird that Jamie’s brother Jack showed up right after El Paria got suspended?! The clues were ALL THERE.
The crowd begins booing as the realization starts to set in, understanding that the entire time, Jamie’s attacker has been a member of his own family.
Jack Johnson: Best part? DAD KNEW. I think he felt bad, honestly. Jamie was always the golden child, the one that got all the attention, all the accolades… he had the eye of our father for so long, yet here I am… ONE OF THE YOUNGEST CHAMPIONS IN SHOOT PROJECT HISTORY.
He holds up the Battalion Championship, big grin on his face.
Jack Johnson: So here’s what happens next. I’m going to leave Jamie Johnson, the REALNESS… don’t make me laugh… gonna leave him to stew on this. To think about it, because while he may have won the wrestling match? While he won the knowledge of my identity?
I think I won the war.
Paria continues smiling.
Jack Johnson: And now… I go to celebrate my win with my boys Luis and Isaiah while also mourning the death of the Empire, and we’re going to run ROUGHSHOD over this business. I’ll see you soon, James. You won’t know where, you won’t know when, but I’ll see you again soon!
Hit my fuckin’ music.
“On Tap” obliges, and the man now known as THE OUTCAST flips the microphone to the ground, and backs away off the ramp, his Battalion Championship and mask held high in the air!
Eryk Masters: I’m not even sure what I’ve just witnessed, but there’s some serious family drama going on in the Johnson family.
Other Guy: I’m not sure there really is, E. Sounds like Paria is done with Jamie and it sounds like Josh knew about this all along. I guess if anything, there’s probably some discussion that needs to take place between the Real Deal and the Realness. That’s probably where the drama is.
Eryk Masters: It’s gonna be real interesting to see what happens with Paria, or the Outcast, or Jack or whatever now… but until we see him next, we’ve got the Rule of Surrender Championship match coming up! Winner take all! Laura Seton Vs. Judy Punchinello, and that match is NEXT.
Laura Seton (c) Vs. Judy Punchinello (c)
Dave de los Muertos Vs. Chadwick Kyle
Las Vegas Loons
Eryk Masters: What a hell of a fight, OG. I’ve gotta give it up to both fighters … even Chad.
Other Guy: ESPECIALLY CHAD! Would you be crazy enough to go into an exploding, barbed wire, death match with a man like Dave de los Muertos?
Eryk Masters: You know the answer. I don’t know why you keep asking.
Speaking of X-Chadlibur, the ring crew are still trying to clear the mat and wipe down the blood while Chad is being attended to at the base of the ramp. The crowd continues to snap their phones and post their spits until…
Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing
But then I know it’s growing strong…
Other Guy: Wait… is that?
Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along
Eryk Masters: Must be a glitch from last night’s basketball game.
Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you
Other Guy: Bas…ketball game?
Eryk Masters: Yeah, the Las Vegas Loons. Quadruple A team. How else do you think we’re paying for these renovations?
The crowd is happy for the distraction as they begin to sing along to the crooning Neil Diamond.
Eryk Masters: BAH BAH AHHHHH FUCK!
Stalking out from behind the curtain at the top of the rampway, clad in a tailored business suit, sunglasses, and an ascot for some reason, is none other than Blaze Claymore.
The fans begin to boo as the maligned SHOOT star begins to conduct the crowd like an orchestra.
Blaze Claymore: SWEET CLAYMORE-LINE! BLAZE BLAZE BLAZE – COME ON EVERYBODY!
A smile creeps up the fighter’s face as he makes his way down the rampway toward his friend and partner X-Chadlibur. Excited to see his partner, Chad leaps up off of the gurney he had been placed – pushes past the EMTs – and goes to hug Blaze who immediately recoils.
Blaze Claymore: Woah, woah, buddy… this is a rental. Can’t get blood on it.
X-Chadlibur nods furiously in agreement as Blaze goes to get into the ring and realizes there is still blood in there too and quickly decides against it.
Blaze looks around and then walks over to the gurney Chad had been sitting on. He snags a towel from one of the EMTs and places it down before grabbing a seat and crossing his legs.
Eryk Masters: What a chode.
Other Guy: He’s a movie star, Eryk; that’s just how they act.
Eryk Masters: Name ONE movie he’s been in.
Other Guy: Snowpiercer 2: Oops All Babies.
Eryk Masters: …
As the crowd finally dies down from their chorus of boos, Blaze looks around and shakes his head.
Blaze Claymore: Unbelievable… I would have thought that the start of a new year would have brought some clarity. Especially after I made such a dramatic plea to you with the release of my certified hit “Twas the Fight Before Deep SHOOTmas” now available on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.
But it looks like the only thing you all got for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Boxing Day was getting a stocking full of Deep SHOOT BULLSHIT.
Eryk Masters: Not this again…
Blaze stands up and looks at X-Chadlibur, who looks surprised as Blaze hands him the microphone – mouthing something to the effect of “maybe you can talk some sense into them”
X-Chadlibur: Maybe it’s just been too long? Did you guys forget that we have been coming out here week in and week out trying to show you all that the Deep SHOOT is evil? Don’t tell me we are going to have to start all over again.
The crowd erupts in a simultaneous “groan.”
Eryk Masters: I think I speak for everyone when I say that we definitely do not want them to start all over again.
X-Chadlibur: That’s fine. You see, I’ve got something very special in store for the world. I got word that there was a special card. A super Card if you will. You see, PWA is a place where the long arm of the Deep SHOOT can’t touch us. Because of that, I decided to make that the first stop on the Delayed Heat world tour. You see, we’ve proven everything that we need to here. We’ve shown you that we are the greatest tag team in the history of SHOOT Project. But you still shun us in the awards. You shun us from your hall of fame voting. So, as a great man once said…We’re taking our talents to South Beach!
Eryk Masters: I am fairly certain that the PWA card is not being held in Florida.
Other Guy: It’s a metaphor, Eryk.
Eryk Masters: A metaphor for what?
Blaze leans over and whispers something into Chad’s ear.
X-Chadlibur: We’re taking our talents to WEST BEACH!
Blaze shakes his head slowly as the crowd starts to chuckle.
Other Guy: Obviously it’s a metaphor for “I’m an idiot.”
YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH!
YOU’VE GOT THE POWAAAAHHHHHHHHH
The SHOOT Project fans EXPLODE as Stan Bush’s “The Touch” blares through the arena, welcoming the reigning Shut Up and Fight Champion, Dan Stein, onto the stage.
Eryk Masters: Listen to these fans, OG! It’s DEAFENING in here for our Shut Up and Fight Champion!
Other Guy: Shows how fickle they are, supporting Dan Stein after everything he’s done!
Eryk Masters: Most of which you gladly supported.
Stein walks to the front of the stage, looking down into the ring. He wears a SHOOT Project t-shirt and his long-legged wrestling gear along with the Shut Up and Fight Championship over his shoulder. Dan twirls the microphone in his hand for a moment, smirking and chuckling to himself. The fans start to quiet and he puts the microphone to his mouth.
Dan Stein: Oh, WOW. Look everyone, it’s the guy voted most likely to punch a hole in his wall because of a video game, and his best friend who looks AND smells like a billy goat. Ladies and gentlemen, behold! Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. They’re still here! Isn’t that great?
The fans in the arena erupt in a chorus of boos. Stein shrugs and continues.
Dan Stein: I guess they don’t care for you guys. I don’t know why, Bros. I was definitely looking forward to the two of you fart-faces showing up in SHOOT Project after the Holiday break and continuing on this noble quest to get rid of improprieties and EXPOSE THE DEEP SHOOT!!
Dan makes a “jerk off” motion to the side.
Dan Stein: Listen fellas, you’ve had your fun and you’ve made a name for yourselves. Everyone in the back is really proud of you for seizing the moment, and I should know. While you guys were pulling cheap jokes and annoying everyone, I was winning this championship from the Chadliest dude in SHOOT Project, besides Chad Kyle of course, at Reckoning Day. And tonight, I defended it against a guy who acts like Fred Durst if he ate too much. I’m exhausted, but I had to come out here and tell you I think you jumped the shark when Chad challenged a literal toddler to a match.
Blaze rolls his eyes but Chad gets visibly emotional.
X-Chadlibur: THAT’S NOT MY NAME! MY NAME IS X-CHADLIBUR!! AND I WON THAT MATCH. I WON IT. YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT, I WON THE MATCH, MY OPPONENT WAS TOO AFRAID TO FACE ME.
Dan Stein: Let’s get a couple things straight, Chad. First, I’ll never call you that, for a multitude of reasons. And second?
Stein pauses, making sure X-Chadlibur is looking at him.
Dan Stein: Siobhan Stein has more talent than the two of you brainiacs in her diaper.
The fans EXPLODE!! It doesn’t take long before a chant starts to form in the crowd.
“HO LEE SHIT!”
“HO LEE SHIT!”
“HO LEE SHIT!”
Blaze Claymore: Ohhh yes, HOLY SHIT indeed. Holy shit that THIS man is who you choose to look up to. Someone who has bought into the Deep SHOOT lies more than ANYONE else here and yet can’t even win a fan vote for Hero of the Year. So sad.
Stein gets visibly frustrated now as he paces back and forth at the top of the ramp.
Blaze Claymore: No, Stein. Because of COURSE not. You’re not a HERO. You’re patient fucking ZERO when it comes to the SHOOT virus and it’s a damned shame Void didn’t finish the job and cut your bloodline off once and for all.
The crowd goes ape shit as Dan Stein begins to take off his shirt and gestures for Blaze to come and take him out. As he does, a flash of orange streaks across the top of the rampway.
Eryk Masters: WATCH OUT!
It’s too late as Stein is laid out, cold, with none other than Timothy Roy, the Rooster, standing above his limp body in his white plague doctor mask – holding a sledgehammer.
Other Guy: Jesus Christ! Where? Why is Rooster back!? I thought his beef was with Azraith!
X-Chadlibur looks on nervously as Blaze throws back his head and laughs while the crowd looks about to riot.
Blaze Claymore: No no no, Mr. Stein. If the pandemic taught me anything it’s that if you want to take care of a virus, you need to get yourself the proper protection. Mr. Roy here… well, he knows how to handle SHOOT “Heros” better than pretty much anyone.
Rooster rotates the sledgehammer he holds in his hand up and over his shoulder as he turns his head to look down at Blaze and X-Chadlibur, who give him a pair of exuberant and nervous thumbs up, respectively.
Blaze Claymore: SHOOT Project – We’ve TRIED doing things the right way. We’ve TRIED positive reinforcement, we’ve TRIED coercion, we’ve TRIED everything … except for brute force. So if the leaders of the Deep SHOOT conspiracy won’t come forward then Delayed Heat will root them out – at the singles level, the tag level, and even the Battalion level.
Because one way, or another… we WILL make SHOOT Project GREAT AGAIN.
Eryk Masters: They’re insane. They’re ABSOLUTELY insane!
Other Guy: Maybe so, Eryk, but Delayed Heat looks like they just turned up… the heat.
Eryk Masters: STOP THAT!
RAIKO Vs. Ignatius Albert Martin (c)
As the music continues, RAIKO exits the ring, title clasped to her shoulder, heading to the back. Ignatius gets to his feet, disappointed and dejected, breathing heavily. Just as he stands fully upright, the lights go dark.
Eryk Masters: Oh, now what?
The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse
Blues Saraceno’s “The Dark Horse Always Wins” blares over the speakers as the lights strobe violently for a few seconds. They flash back to normal and The Patriarch stands behind IAM.
Eryk Masters: Jacob Mephisto is here! IAM just went through one hell of a match and now he’s got to deal with this?
Other Guy: Mephisto knows how to pick his spots, E!
IAM turns, coming face to face with Mephisto and is IMMEDIATELY met by Mephisto spewing black liquid into his face!
Eryk Masters: BLACK MIST! This isn’t gonna be good!
The crowd boos mercilessly as Ignatius clutches at his eyes. Mephisto smiles, black liquid dripping from his chin. The All-Father starts to circle around Iggy, stalking him.
Other Guy: Mephisto is just measuring IAM! He’s picking his spot.
Eryk Masters: Get out of there, kid!
Ignatius doesn’t try and back off or run. Instead, he tries to wipe at the gunk in his eyes and takes a defensive stance.
Eryk Masters: I appreciate the guts here, but this is too much, Iggy. Get out of there, man!
Mephisto watches, amused as IAM punches at ghosts. The Patriarch stands directly behind IAM.
IAM throws a spinning haymaker that Mephisto ducks with ease, laughing. Jacob simply backs away and steps out of the ring while Ignatius Albert Martin continues to take a defensive stance, wiping at his eyes.
Other Guy: Mephisto is playing mind games, E. And he’s one of the best to do it.
Eryk Masters: This could’ve gone really, really bad here tonight. Thank God it didn’t.
Other Guy: Thank Mephisto. He had IAM right in the palm of his hand.
The crowd lets out more boos as Mephisto backs up the ramp, smiling all the way, the gesture never reaching his pale, gray eyes. This is the image we see before we cut away.
The Broguns Vs. The Carolina Lions (c)
Following the conclusion of the World Tag Team title match, the camera cuts backstage to chaos.
The tell-tale sounds of violence are heard before they’re seen: flesh smacking against flesh, the battle cries of combatants, the smashes and crashes of objects leaving their resting places and being hurled who knows where. When the camera finally reveals the commotion, it finds the Unholy Cyber Army in the center of the turmoil, locking horns with two unknown assailants.
Or so it would appear…
Eryk Masters: We’ve got ourselves a HOSS FITE, OG!
Other Guy: Never a dull moment around these parts!
Power Devil is trading fists with a mountain of a man of nearly equal bulk but a few inches taller, while Superbeast swings wildly at a much shorter, blonde-haired woman. The woman evades the blow by rolling underneath, popping back up and snapping off a Muay Thai kick to Superbeast’s kidneys.
Eryk Masters: Wait a minute…that’s Daryn Thompson!
Other Guy: Who?
Eryk Masters: She came in two years ago with Lindsay Troy and was put on the shelf by Arthur Pleasant. Everyone thought her career was over!
Other Guy: I mean, it still might be if she keeps kicking Superbeast like that.
While Daryn bobs and weaves around the taller member of the UCA, Power Devil lands a hard left to the jaw of his aggressor. The man recoils, holding his face, and then rushes Power Devil and spears him to the ground.
Eryk Masters: If Daryn Thompson’s here, that must be Bracken Krueger. They’re taking on the Unholy Cyber Army at Saturday’s PWA supershow!
Other Guy: Do they have a death wish? Coming to UCA’s turf and starting the party early?
Eryk Masters: Maybe, but if they’re associates of the Queen of the Ring, then you have to figure they can hold their own.
Bracken lands a blow to Power Devil, while Superbeast has managed to corral Daryn and has her in a choke hold. Before the mayhem continues devolving, SHOOT Project security descends on the scene. Three security guards force Superbeast to release Daryn while four more pull Bracken off Power Devil. The remaining security force stands between the teams, preventing any further action.
Power Devil and Superbeast have looks of vicious intent as they stare down Daryn and Bracken. Jackal smiles cross their faces, and they give the UCA little waves before taking their leave.
Eryk Masters: That’s gonna be an absolute slugfest on Saturday night.
Other Guy: I can’t wait, ‘Ryk Mast…the UCA is out for blood!
The Lions Purr
We cut to the back where we see Mary Kelly already clutching the bridge of her nose in annoyance. There is screaming, shouting, and the sounds of a scuffle. Instead, much to her chagrin, the door behind her bursts open and we see Carolina Lions, World Tag Team Championships in one hand, Battalion titles in the other. Luis de Leon snatches the microphone away from Mary, who doesn’t even get to speak up.
Smoke: Mary, shut the fuck up. We got some seriously great things to talk about.
Isaiah Galliard takes the microphone from Smoke.
Reaper: DO YOU SEE?! DO YOU SEE, SHOOT PROJECT, WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU FACE THE LIONS??!
Reaper bursts out into laughter.
Reaper: Nah, nah, but seriously folks. We’ve changed the tag team division, we’re changing the Battalions, hell…this is how you start the new year!
Smoke leans over and whispers something in Reaper’s ear.
Reaper: Oh…OHHH…oh yeah. Hey, Mary.
He grabs her by the shoulder and drags her back into frame.
Reaper: Mary, my brother here brings up a great point. We’re changing the game, one title at a time. Now that we have these? Oh, girl. Stay tuned, babygirl. Stay tuned.
He rubs her head and the two men walk back into the locker room laughing and talking amongst themselves, slamming the door shut and leaving Mary alone.
Nate Robideau Vs. Buck Dresden (c)
Nate doesn’t even wait for the announcement, rolling to his feet and catching Buckwith a hard soccer kick to the side of his skull!
Eryk Masters: I knew it! I knew it! Luckily it seems like Buck covered up a little bit, but unless we can get some people in the ring, we’ve seen how this plays out!!
He rushes the fallen Dresden, bringing his knee shoulder height, looking for a vicious foot stomp, but Buck rolls out of the way of his driving heel–and shakily brings himself to his feet! The crowd cheers as he stands, swaying on unsteady legs, but he brings his hands up to a classic guard, immediately covering up, as Nate rushes him and starts laying in rib and head combinations! Finally, he telegraphs high, leaving Buck’s midsection exposed, and he DEFLATES his opponent with a Thai knee to the ribs! Buck drops to the mat, and Nate tees off with another kick to the same spot!! Trash starts being thrown to the ring as he stalks over to the referee, snatching the World Title and raising it high over his head!
Other Guy: Buck should seriously consider getting out of the ring before something bad happens to him, Master-Cylinder!
Eryk Masters: I’m sure he’d like to, but that shot from Nate was hard, no matter how cheap and gutless it was!!
Buck reaches to the middle rope, catching the attention of Nate, who storms over, his eyes full of rage. He dismissively boots him back to the mat, and we can see that Buck is still sucking for air, his midsection already turning an angry purple. To lower his defenses, Robideau peppers a quick heel into the bad ribs, causing Buck to double over…and leaving his head exposed for a diving belt shot!! Dresden’s head snaps backward, and Nate goes into a full mount, holding the title tightly in his hands! The official tries to grab for his elbow, but Nate shakes free and buries the title into Buck’s face again!! He can be heard over the parabolic mic screaming, his voice loud enough to carry over the deafening boos–”My belt! You hear me Buck?! Not theirs, not yours!! Mine!!”–before regarding the World title fondly. He sneers and looks at his opponent’s face, his eyebrow already swollen around a nasty gash. Nate changes his grip and raises the title high up…
Eryk Masters: What is he–No!! That’ll drive the edge of the plate into Buck’s head!!
Other Guy: Y’know I’m not normally one to agree with you, but it might not be a terrible idea to get someone in between Buck and Nate…
Eryk Masters: God damnit Nate! You don’t have to do this!!
…Nate bows backwards, almost bringing his arms parallel with the mat…and then he SLAMS forward, DRIVING THE EDGE OF THE BELT INTO BUCKS SKULL!! He raises up and DOES IT AGAIN!! Buck is motionless, clearly knocked out, and Nate RAISES UP AND DRIVES IT A THIRD TIME!! Rivets go flying as the bottom section of the front plate separates from the leather!! The bell is ringing, the crowd is about to tear the roof off the building itself!! As Nate rubs his face on the bloody mess that is Buck Dresden, there’s a change in the tone of the crowd, and Nate raises up, his eyes shining through amidst all the crimson he’s coated his face in.
Eryk Masters: Is that…
Other Guy: Huh? No way!
Eryk Masters: The Carolina Lions and El Paria are here to…do what exactly?
Other Guy: I think the ideal time to try and break this up would have been before Robideau went all Captain America versus Baron Blood, but what do I know?
Nate gets to his feet, clothing the bloody title in his hands. He shakes his forearms and hops from foot to foot, getting the blood flowing, like he’s shaking out to scrap. Paria and the Lions roll into the ring, and they stand in a semicircle around Robideau, no one making a move. There’s a tense moment where Nate’s eyes visibly go from Isiah, to Luis, to Paria. Finally, the crowd noise dies down to confused din…and Nate puts his fist in between them all. No one makes a move…then Galliard steps forward, and lets their fists meet!!
Eryk Masters: Oh horseshit! No!
Luis steps forward and does the same! Paria nods and steps forward until all men are joined at the knuckles!! The boos go apocalyptic, as all four men crack grins and nod in agreement! Nate walks over to Buck, who is an absolute mess, and it seems he’s strongly considering adding more, but he shakes his head. Cracking a massive grin through all the blood smeared on his face, he raises his arms, holding the broken title belt aloft. All three of his compatriots do the same, a new alliance standing tall as the medical team descends on the heap of Buck Dresden.
And the screen goes black.