Another day, another picket line for Felix Mullen, who stands in front of the SHOOT Project Epicenter, eyes closed, as if he’s about to give himself a self-affirmation, Stuart Smalley-style. He has a new sign, one that says “SUBSCRIBE TO MY PATREON TO MAKE UP FOR LOST WAGES” and at least three spare megaphones, just in case Chick Grillbreast comes back. He inhales deeply.
Felix Mullen: *to self* Alright, you can do this. You can carry on. So what if your comrades didn’t come out for you? So what if none of your fellow coworkers will stand in solidarity? We’re going to do this. We’re going to make SHOOT Project respect Felix FUCKING Mullen.
Fan: Why are you talking to yourself?
Felix startles to attention and notices there’s someone talking to him. He lifts the megaphone to his mouth.
Felix Mullen: BECAUSE I NEED TO PSYCH MYSELF UP TO BE SUCCESSFUL TODAY ORGANIZING A BOYCOTT AGAINST SHOOT PROJECT UNTIL I AM TREATED FAIRLY. WHICH REMINDS ME, DON’T CROSS MY PICKET LINE.
The fan has long since left, probably around the word “NEED.” Felix sighs as he turns around to see yet another mark, err, he means potential comrade approaching. BRONSON strolls towards the entrance carrying a duffel bag. Felix readies himself, lifts the megaphone to his mouth, and points it at his potential target.
Felix Mullen: HEY, YOU! GUY WHO CHEATED TO BEAT ME LAST MONTH! COME HERE!
BRONSON looks around his shoulder and then back to Felix. He points to himself and his brand new WANTED: Mr. Gato Bronson t-shirt.
BRONSON: Felix. Hey, Felix. Hey, you know Felix is a good cat’s name? Felix the Cat. I’m sure that’s an original idea.
He nods, making a mental note at his stroke of genius.
BRONSON: If I recall our match correctly, I defeated you very cleanly. No harm, no foul, my man. I wanted to even help your cause but…you know…you never showed up after six hours and I got really hungry, so…
He pauses to let the air into the conversation.
BRONSON: …what’s up, Felix the Cat?
Felix Mullen: I AM NOT A CAT. I AM AN IMPORTANT FIGURE IN POLITICAL PODCASTING, AND IF YOU WANT TO HELP MY CAUSE OUT, YOU CAN STAND HERE AND PICKET WITH ME.
BRONSON puts one finger in the ear nearest Felix’s rather loud response via the megaphone. He shakes loose the cobwebs that came from the cacophony, the sheer deluge, of Felix’s furious response.
BRONSON: But, Felix, man…I mean…I did already and you…Jesus I have a headache now…
Felix Mullen: IT’S OKAY. I HAVE EXCEDRIN. IF YOU PICKET WITH ME RIGHT HERE, I’LL GIVE YOU SOME AND THEN GIVE YOU A DISCOUNT WHEN I SEND YOU THE INVOICE FOR IT LATER.
BRONSON looks at Felix as if he’s grown a couple of heads.
Felix Mullen: SO WHAT DO YOU SAY? STAND HERE WITH ME? FIGHT FOR A BETTER, FAIRER SHOOT PROJECT?
BRONSON: You don’t have, like, a t-shirt I can buy or a tin can I can put some change in or something? I kinda have to be in there, man…
Felix Mullen: YOU CAN BUY ALL MY MERCH THROUGH THE LINK AT LEFTIST LEAKS DOT ORG. WE HAVE A NEW JIMMY THE SLAV SHIRT, POLY-COTTON BLEND. BUT THAT’S A TOTALLY DIFFERENT TH…
BRONSON pushes the megaphone away from Felix’s mouth, pointing to his head and wincing.
Felix Mullen: Oh, sorry, well, uh, anyway, self-sacrifice is what striking is all about. You give up unfair wages or treatment from management in the short term to get better things after showing they can’t run the show without you.
For the briefest of moments, BRONSON thinks to take a step towards Felix’s side. He stops, however, when he realizes something.
BRONSON: Hey, um…no? SHOOT knows they need me, that’s why I’m in Master of the Mat and now I’ve got a girl that likes me and I have a cat and I ran my arch nemesis out of here and I locked Mark Out Moment of the Year down when I beat you, so…I’m sorry, man. I’d join you but I really, really, like money.
He shrugs, wincing as though he’s ripping off a band-aid.
BRONSON: I’m super sorry, man. Like, super super sorry. But also not? Because, again, I like money.
BRONSON turns and walks away, while Felix brings the megaphone back to his mouth.
Felix Mullen: HEY YOU! COME BACK HERE! UHHH, I’LL GIVE YOU THE EXCEDRIN FOR FREE! THROW IN AN ICEPACK! I’LL GIVE YOU A CODE FOR A DISCOUNT ON THE NEW JIMMY THE SLAV SHIRT AT THE LEFTIST LEAKS STORE! ANYTHING!
It’s no use; BRONSON is already at the arena doors. He looks back longingly, as if he wants to help Felix, but he shrugs and goes into the Epicenter anyway.
Felix Mullen: I swear to God, everyone’s going to hear about this at the next DSA meeting.
The camera jumps to the next scene.
A change in attitude?
We head backstage and find the Rule of Surrender champion, Laura Seton. She wears a navy blue shirt with jeans and black Nikes with her hair down, she stands near a monitor–as if having scouted the last match. Over her left shoulder is the Rule of Surrender title and looking closely enough, one can notice the chicken purse she received from Lexi Gold just beneath that. The sound of footsteps approaching gets her attention and as she turns her head in the corresponding direction. As she recognizes the incoming figure, her expression goes from “mildly content” to “ noticeably concerned.”
The figure belongs to Lexi Gold. Lexi immediately goes in for a hug before letting go and smiling at her. Her eyes darted down when she realized she brought the chicken purse with her, which caused her pure happiness. Despite the numbers of losses she was collecting, seeing Laura was the sunshine she needed to lift her spirits up.
Lexi Gold: Hey friend. I’ve been looking all over for you, I was wondering what you thought of my match at ICONIC? I know I didn’t win, but I was so freaking close! Closer than I have been in a while.
Laura does give have a quick grin, but it fades quick.
Laura Seton: Lexi, you were really something out there. That was a tough situation to come out victorious. And you really gave NEMESIS a fight. What did you think of it? You proud?
She nods and twirls a strand of her hair with her finger.
Lexi Gold: Yeah, I am very proud. When it comes to a match that involves multiple competitors, I never had the best of luck and would never come close to winning, but the fact that I did makes me very proud of myself. Nemesis definitely brought her A game. That girl is a beast in the ring.
Laura Seton: I know those are tough matches, but…
Laura’s eyebrows go up as her voice takes a turn away from friendly.
Laura Seton: That’s your answer?? You’re proud of coming in second? If you were a green rookie, fine… cool. But you’re not! Lexi– you HAD HER! Multiple times!! A split-second and YOU would be number one contender! YOU would be in a main event. YOU would be this close to being a World Champion! I was on the edge of my seat watching you tear it up…
until you choked it away.
Lexi looks at her, somewhat surprised by her response, but tries her best to stay calm in this situation.
Lexi Gold: So, what you’re saying is you rather see me sad, then see me happy over my efforts. Laura, I’m tired of feeling sad and kicking myself over these losses. Have you ever thought about that? I get it you want me to hold gold, but there is more to this business than being a champion.
Laura crosses her arms and narrows her eyes.
Laura Seton: How long have you been at this again?
Lexi Gold: Been at what exactly? You have to be more specific..
Laura Seton: Wrestling. Because you sound like someone that just started her career. I love your positivity, Lexi. That’s why you’re fun to hang out with. But there’s more to wrestling than staying positive. You have to be realistic. What you had slip away at ICONIC? Maybe that was it. THAT was Lexi’s chance to breakthrough. And while you think sunshine, rainbows and unicorns? Others slip by you. You get bypassed when you’re more deserving. But it’s okay. Because you’re a kid and you’ll get more shots, right?
She shakes her head at her crazy assumptions before finally deciding to set the record straight.
Lexi Gold: I am no kid. I’ve been wrestling for five years already, so I’ve had plenty of experience. While I prefer to take the kind route, I am not afraid to show a different side to me if I am provoked enough. I’m not trying to do that here. Look, I don’t know what caused you to have this change in attitude, but if I can help-
Laura Seton: Don’t even get me started on being nice. I know what nice is. I played that game and you know what nice gets you? “The best to never…” You know how frustrating it is to be tagged “best to never win a World Title??” I’m not saying turn into a total bitch. But if you don’t let that edge out? On a consistent basis? You’re going to be spinning your wheels the same way I did here years ago.
Lexi Gold: Hmm. I’ll keep this in mind, but for now I have a match up next.
Lexi sighs under her breath before turning on her heel to leave.
The arena is bathed in black.
The sorrowful strains of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” begins to play as a single spotlight shines down on the entrance. Standing there, somber and resolute, is the vile villain known as Void. Beside him, hiding in his shadow, is his beloved Fade.
In my eyes, indisposed
In disguises no one knows
Hides the face, lies the snake
In the sun in my disgrace
The boos cascade down upon him as he says nothing and makes no movement to acknowledge the fans as the two of them walk down to the ring.
Boiling heat, summer stench
‘Neath the black, the sky looks dead
Call my name through the cream
And I’ll hear you scream again
He motions for Fade to walk up the ring steps while he climbs the ring apron and ropes before stepping over the top. He smiles at the fans as he is handed a microphone from the shadows.
Black hole sun, won’t you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun, won’t you come?
Won’t you come? Won’t you come?
Void stands in the center of the ring, Fade by his side. “Black Hole Sun” dies down. He has the microphone in his hand. Fade is masked but otherwise dressed in her street clothes of an unzipped hoodie lazily hanging from one shoulder, blue jeans with torn knees, and faded Timberland boots, scuffed to holy hell. Void, meanwhile, wears his father’s old and torn brown trench coat, his black tights and boots, and he is bare chested underneath the coat. He lets the booing die down before he finally begins to speak.
Void: By my very nature, I am shadow and mystique. I live in darkness, I dwell there, it’s my home. Intrigue, subterfuge, fear and doubt, a little bit off, bleak and oblique terrain of both mental and physical, I reside within those walls. So when I am told people want answers to what has become of me, what I am doing, and my affairs with one Lindsay Troy, well…
He grins as the fans cheer for the mention of her name.
Void: …part of me doesn’t want to answer. Let everyone linger on the idea that I am doing what I want and to hell with their thoughts. But another part? My ego? I couldn’t pass it up. So here I am, SHOOT Project Faithful, here to tell you a story. A story about a girl who never watched professional wrestling. A story about a girl that learned about this great sport of ours only through osmosis and through brutality. A story about a girl who became a fan.
He puts his arm around Fade and pulls her in tighter.
Void: This is a story about Lucia, better and more importantly known…as Fade.
His grin remains, though his eyes are filled with fire.
Void: Fade became a part of me ages ago now. She has been on Spitter, she has been my voice at times, and she has led my denizens of the deep when I could not. She held me at night, healed me when I ached, and showed far more care than I could ever anticipate. You see, ladies and gentlemen, Fade is as much Void as I am Fade. We are one, now and forever. One being. One entity.
He pauses to let it all sink in.
Void: I am a kind and merciful king down below. I let my people be free to do as they wish. When you become a part of me, though, things may change. I might find myself…expecting more. Such is the case for my Fade. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I gave her all of me and she the same. But when she came to the shows, she would leave talking to me about one thing and one thing only.
He turns to her.
Void: What was that one thing, Fade?
She says nothing as Void brings the microphone to her lips. She is obviously very worried about what she might say.
Void: Relax, my darling girl, this is an open and honest forum. Tell the good people what you kept wanting to talk to me about.
She closes her eyes and speaks rather meekly.
Fade: Lindsay Troy.
Void: LINDSAY TROY!
He repeats it with a booming bass in his voice and a collective OOOH is heard from the audience. Void grimaces as if he were wincing in pain before he continues.
Void: This woman, this part of me, the rib to my Adam…could not talk of my war with Buck Dresden, my allegiance with Joshua Breedlove oh no. It was all about Lindsay’s war with Breedlove or her award winning run with Ayumi Seppuku in Lux Aeterna or just how she’d see her carry herself backstage.
The fans cheer at each of these mentions of Lindsay’s storied 2022. Void, however, can only roll his eyes.
Void: Oh, we all love that woman, don’t we? Podcasts call her award winning. They call her a queen. They declare she is not only number one on the charts but number one in our hearts, am I right?
The fans cheer in agreement. Void, however, shakes his head.
Void: No no no. You all, like my Fade, are short sighted. Foolish.
Void: Lindsay Troy is a cancer in this profession of ours. She threw herself at Joshua Breedlove and weakened him until he was unable to withstand the onslaught given to him by Nate Robideau. She got close to people like Ria Lockhart or Courtney Hatchett or Ayumi Seppuku and what happened to them? Poof.
He blows the “smoke” in the air and watches it dissipate above his head in a faux childlike wonder.
Void: They mean nothing now. They were all important to this company until Lindsay Troy’s wretched claws got into them. Now they are nothing. So when I see my dear, sweet, naive Fade watching this vile human being…well, my inner mother bear took over. You all understand, right?
The fans boo his twisted logic.
Void: Fade wanted a professional wrestling career. She wanted to BE a Soldier one day. We’ve been training. So when I see her idolizing a false idol, I realize this woman calls herself a Queen, she calls herself a draw, she calls herself a business owner and maybe even a role model to young, impressionable youths around the world. All I see is a charlatan selling snake oil to starving children and telling them to ignore all the sycophants that suck up to her, all the people she’s ruined the careers of, and choke down this sad elixir that she poisons the masses with time and again.
He pulls Fade in closer, tighter.
Void: You are done, Lindsay. Done taking from people. Done taking and taking and taking and giving nothing back to this business. You have danced in the light long enough. You do not deserve your place here or in this business. So I…am going to take it…from you.
The fans boo his declaration.
Void: When it was Dan Stein, it was family. When it was Obsidian, it was family. And now, with you, Lindsay? With you, it is your fame. Your power. You wield it all so carelessly. So I am going to make it mine. I am going to take it all from you and you will do nothing…at all…about it.
He ponders for a moment.
Void: In but a few moments I will find myself again face to face with the snake charmer, Lexi Gold. So enamored with the idea of a boy on social media she is clouded to what this is. To her I want her to hear these words. Hear me as clearly as I want Lindsay Troy to hear me.
He glares at the camera.
Void: You will not win, little girl. You will fall. You will all…fall. You have fed at the teat of an unearned success and have held an unjust influence for long enough. Tonight, I tear you down and when you limp back to your boyfriend, let him know he can easily be next. Maybe, while you’re at it, limp over to Lindsay’s private locker room she has like the vain little villain she is and tell her what you’ve felt is but a fraction of what I will give to her.
He throws the microphone down and turns to the entrance, prepared for his opponent.
Lexi Gold Vs. Void
Eryk Masters: Well folks, it’s been an incredible night here so far and–
Suddenly and without warning, the lights of the Epicenter go out leaving the building in total darkness. A synthesized chord plays over the PA and is held while beams of red light shoot out from the stage.
Eryk Masters: We were going to throw it to the backstage area but it seems we have a guest!
The chord begins to crescendo and a flash of white light blinds the arena as the music of “The Man” by The Killers starts pumping with that wicked bass line. As the light dissipates, standing on the stage is “Ravishing” Ron Barker!
Other Guy: HE’S BAAAAAAACK!
The crowd roars as “Ravishing” Ron Barker takes a moment to soak it all in. A satisfied smirk begins to form as he starts to saunter towards the ring.
Eryk Masters: It has been YEARS since we’ve seen this man inside of a SHOOT Project ring!
Other Guy: Not just any man, Eryk! Listen to his entrance music… you’re looking at “the” man!
Barker hops up on the apron and looks over the cheering crowd. The smirk is a full smile now as he plays it up to the crowd before climbing into the ring. He walks over to grab a microphone as the music begins to fade out. The crowd makes up for that by continuing to cheer at the returning Ravishing One.
Still smiling, “Ravishing” Ron Barker lifts the microphone to speak but he’s drowned out by a very loud “WELCOME BACK” chant! It seems to catch him off guard a little as he turns away from the hard cam to stare into the crowd.
Eryk Masters: I never thought I’d see the day where “Ravishing” Ron Barker would be drowned out by the adulation of this crowd!
Other Guy: It’s simple. These people know a legend when they see one and they know they’re in the presence of greatness!
Barker turns back around and puts his hand up to try and settle the crowd a little before raising the mic to his lips and speaks.
Ron Barker: LAS VEEEEEGGGGGAAAAASSSSS!!!!
The crowd instantly becomes electric once again as Barker laughs.
Ron Barker: It’s been a hot minute, huh? I mean, I was expecting some kind of reaction but this? Man… you guys are too kind…
Another round of applause as a few fans in the front row begin the “We’re not worthy!” motions.
Ron Barker: I know I haven’t been here in front of you people in a very, VERY long time but I’ve been around. I’ve been watching! Many of you may not know but I’ve been in the back… at the office working behind the scenes… and week in and week out I’ve seen a bunch of talent inside this ring busting their asses and it sparks that fire and gives me that burning hunger… and finally I just couldn’t take it anymore. I walked into the boss’ office and told him it was time for a change! It was time to bring “Ravishing” Ron Barker back to the people!
The crowd roars in approval.
Ron Barker: Like I said, I’ve been watching! Yeah, there are a lot of old faces but this new talent is pretty wild! The match-up possibilities are out of this damn world! I’m not going to let slip who I’ve got my eye on, but maaaaaaaaaan…
Barker trails off as he shakes his head.
Ron Barker: Now I know what these kids are thinking… this old man… this dinosaur is just coming out of the shadows to take a bit of their shine while trying to re-live his glory days. And I gotta say…
The crowd begins to boo as Barker puts his hand up and continues.
Ron Barker: No, no… they’re only half right. I AM coming out the shadows and I AM trying to take a bit of their shine… but if they’re thinking I’m just some old, over-the-hill, pushover just waiting to be put to pasture? All I can say is this… as the song goes… I’ve got gas in the tank. I’ve got the money in the bank. I got news for you, baby… you’re looking at “the man!”
Ron Barker throws down the microphone as the crowd erupts. The Killers resume blasting over the PA system as “The Man” serenades the Las Vegas crowd once more.
Eryk Masters: OG, you and I know Ron Barker well… anyone underestimating this man is just asking for trouble. He said a change was gonna come… it would appear that “change” is now here.
Other Guy: Take notice, young ones! “Ravishing” Ron Barker is BACK and is ready to make a statement at YOUR expense! If you don’t know… you soon will!
BRONSON Vs. Mushigihara
A nervous-looking Daihm Ferguson wrings his hands, looking out into the crowd as they prep the ring for his match.
Daihm is so focused that he doesn’t hear the figure approaching from behind.
Voice: Yo, Dave!
Daihm’s body goes rigid as a large, muscular hand finds its way onto his shoulder. He spins around to find himself face-to-chest with his opponent Chick Grillbreast.
A shaky smile crosses Daihm’s face as he reaches up and grabs Chick’s incredibly firm, toned arm.
Daihm: Oh! Chick. Hah! Guess we’re going to be really going at it – I mean going for it – I mean… we’re really going to have to give it our all out there.
Chick: Yes, we are. I am going to show you how to make SICK GAINZ in person. Now, I hope you don’t take things too personally. What I’m going to do to you in the ring tonight is just going to build character.
Daihm’s face flushes red but he tries to play it off.
Daihm: Look, man. I just want you to know I really, really want to win tonight. I hope that if that happens you won’t … hate me. I know that if you win I’ll know all it means is I need to get stronger. Like we talked about a couple weeks ago.
Chick: It’s easy! All you need to do is find a nerd to pound. On, I mean. Someone way scrawnier than you are in the same way you’re… scrawnier… than me? Well, uh, this is weird. I’ve never felt THIS emotion before, and now that makes me… SO… MAD!
Chick punches wildly adjacent to him. Instead of hitting a wall, his fist connects with the ice cream cone that one of the production assistants was eating.
Chick: Uh, anyway, uh, after this first lesson tonight, I swear I’ll teach you how to make SICK GAINZ without potentially crumpling you up into a ball and throwing you in the trash can.
Daihm: Hey, any time you want to crumple me into a ball… for training purposes that is… you’ve got my number. And my email address. And my home address.
Chick: Well, uh, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do violence on you after tonight, but uh…
Daihm: What is violence if not a step beyond pleasure?
Chick scratches his head in confusion.
Chick: You’re a weird little guy, Dave.
The Dragon sighs and looks back out at the crowd as the ring is fully cleared and he knows his music is being cued up.
Daihm: Yeah, I know…
Daihm flashes a thumbs up to Chick as he pulls the curtain back.
Daihm: Here we go.
Daihm Ferguson Vs. Chick Grillbreast
Picket Blues, Pt. 5
Once again, the camera pans outside of the Epicenter, where Felix Mullen continues, unsuccessfully, to rally people to his cause and grow his picket line to any number greater than one. He scans around for latecomers to Revolution, but he only spots people passing by.
Felix Mullen: HEY YOU GUYS! ANYONE PASSING BY WANT TO BE PART OF SOMETHING GOOD? STRIKE WITH ME! PAY OFF SOME OF THAT MORAL ROT YOU’RE FOSTERING WITH ALL THE GAMBLING AND WHORING AND GLUTTONY YOU’RE PARTAKING IN!
With messaging like that, it’s shocking no one is taking the bait. He sighs, slumping his shoulders. However, his posture straightens out immediately after turning around and seeing, almost having appeared out of the aether, the hulking visage of one Jacob Mephisto with his two Twins flanking him on either side.
Mephisto smirks, eyeing up Felix from head to toe.
Jacob Mephisto: Interesting choice of words. Gluttony.
Felix Mullen: AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
The fear is palpable in his voice.
Felix Mullen: NOT POINTING FINGERS OR BEING ACCUSATORY. JUST CURIOUS, THAT’S ALL PLEASE DON’T KILL ME.
The Patriarch tosses his head back, letting a laugh roll from his mouth.
Jacob Mephisto: You shout entirely too much, Mr. Mullen.
Patience begins to circle Felix, tilting her head slightly.
Patience Montgomery: I seem to recall you daring folks to cross your little line here on Spitter. I wonder what happens if we do?
Felix gulps and tugs the collar on his shirt. Perspiration rolls down his face, while the armpits and underboob areas on his shirt start to moisten with the accumulation of flop sweat.
Felix Mullen: UH… UH… WELL, UHHHHHH…
Decius sighs overdramatically and steps past Felix.
Decius Montgomery: So, what happens now? Smells like…
Decius sniffs the air.
Decius Montgomery: Smells like a whole lotta nothing.
Patience Montgomery: Oh, I don’t know. Smells a little like fear mixed with bullshit to me.
Felix Mullen: SERIOUSLY, PLEASE, JUST UHHH, HEY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN MY STRIKE, HUH? THINK ABOUT IT. PEOPLE CALL YOU GUYS CANN… SAY YOU EAT LONGP… UH… UM, HOW SHOULD I PUT THIS IN A WAY THAT WON’T LEAVE ME IN A BLOODIED HEAP OUTSIDE THE EPICENTER?
The collective looks from all three members of The Family could freeze a fire right now.
Felix Mullen: OKAY THEN, WELL, UH, CHOICE IS YOURS. I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE YOU DO ANYTHING YOU DON’T WANT TO, OKAY?
Mephisto reaches out and places a hand on Felix’s shoulder, squeezing lightly.
Jacob Mephisto: Dear boy, you speak as if you could. I’ll tell you what, I’ve already sent a nice message out last night. So, I’m inclined to let you continue this… well… meaningless effort. But, get in my way again and I’ll let my children gut you like the slimy fish you are. Do we have an understanding?
Felix gulps almost comically, like out of a cartoon before nodding. The All-Father gives a look as if he has come to an understanding and nods before leading the Twins away from the Epicenter. Felix lowers the megaphone from his mouth.
Felix Mullen: Man, I do NOT want to cross that guy again.
Right before the camera cuts, Molly Stein is spotted chatting with Chad Kyle.
Danni Johnson Vs. Black Sheep Baez
Baddest Man Alive
Backstage, and the Blackhawk himself, Nate Robideau, is looking…well, more Hollywood than we’re used to.
He usually does these pieces to camera in front of hallway walls, coated in sweat, the harsh fluorescent lighting making him look like a heavy-browed skull, a reaper coming to snatch you up with an omoplata. But that feels like a lifetime ago.
Now he’s in a conference room. Wearing expensive jeans, white high tops, and a tight t-shirt with his gym logo–and sunglasses inside, for whatever reason. On his massiv shoulder, evener-present, is the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight championship. He smirks and steps forward, the confidence practically bleeding from his pores.
Robideau: I just wanted to take some time to…explain something.
Calmly, he pulls his shades off and sets them in the neck of his shirt.
Robideau: I have defeated and laid out everyone who has stood against me. That’s not a point of debate, kids, it’s the statistical fact. And this weight on my shoulder is the proof, that’s better than any resume. This says one thing.
Finger to the ceiling. Grin.
Robideau: “Nate Robideau is the baddest man alive.”
He chuckles to himself, adjusting the belt on his shoulder.
Robideau: And yeah, I tend to get my way–that’s how it works when you’re at the top of the mountain. The baddest man alive doesn’t have to wait when he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t wait around. You can call my morals into question all you want, but the fact is, Nate Robideau doesn’t duck fights. Nate Robideau doesn’t shy away from a challenge. And Nate Robideau is a fighting champion.
Now the smile drops a bit. Nate begins to pace slowly, pondering to himself, moving like a caged dog in front of the camera.
Robideau: See, there’s been talk. And don’t think I don’t hear it–that this is going to be a repeat of the last time. Nate walks in a champion, walks out a loser, and all at the hands of a whelp, a kind of rookie threat. Let me dead that right this instant.
He stalks over to the conference table and authoritatively raps on the wood, letting the staccato sound breathe before continuing.
Robideau: NEMESIS isn’t the same Judy-E DeMitri that she was–she’s got more time under her belt, and what’s more, she know she can do it. She did it before. That makes her a markedly more dangerous opponent than, say, Jonas Coleman. He never beat me, and couldn’t do it even with all that rage, all that life boiling up inside his chest. But ask yourself, Judy–am I the same man you beat before?
At this, the Blackhawk breaks into an easy grin, raising his arms to indicate himself with a saccharine confidence.
Robideau: I’m not. I’m better. I’m greater. Nate Robideau is the baddest man alive. And I know there’s a part of you that’s a little scared of what that looks like when you’re in the thick of it with me. That’s only natural! That’s perfectly reasonable. But that kind of worry, that can eat away at a competitor. That can whittle you down to nothing but a bundle of raw nerves and self-doubt. And I don’t want to see that. Especially not with one of our brightest young stars, right? And I extra especially don’t want any reason for any of you losers to try and discredit yet another one of my accomplishments.
The smile drops. His eyes narrow. What was once warm is now cold as the grave.
Robideau: So fuck waiting. NEMESIS, you’ve earned this.
Back to the smile. But he’s not smiling with his eyes. Those remain cold, penetrating orbs under his brow, giving the whole look an eerie presence. Making it worse is he doesn’t budge, nor say a word, for at least 15 seconds. This isn’t to gather his thoughts–it’s just because he can. Finally, he pulls the shades from his neck and slides them back on.
Robideau: Next Revolution. Main Event. Robideau versus DeMitri. For the big prize. Come ready, kid–or don’t even bother.
With that, he turns and struts out of the room, letting the door slam behind him, as we cut away.
COMBAT Kabuto Vs. Daiichi
Picket Blues, Pt. 6
Revolution is nearly over. The fans inside are buzzing for what is shaping up to be yet another classic Rule of Surrender Title match between Lindsay Troy and Laura Seton. Many of the wrestlers are gathered around monitors inside except for a few. One of them, STILL holding out hope that his one-man strike will gain him respect with the SHOOT Project front office, is Felix Mullen. After dealing with Chick Grillbreast, BRONSON, The Coltons, and Jacob Mephisto’s Family, his look is about as haggard as one might expect. He has as many bags under his eyes as Paris Hilton carries out of Sephora and Gucci on an average sesh of retail therapy. He’s stopped shouting at passersby. He’s waiting for wrestlers now.
Felix Mullen: Okay, breathe, Felix. The next wrestler who comes out, that’s going to be them. They are going to join this picket line whether they like it or not.
Felix stands up, facing the entrances to the arena. He strains looking for exiters, but none are coming. He sighs, dropping his shoulders until he notices someone leaving the building. He looks like a homeless, but he is, in fact not. As he approaches further, Felix recognizes him as the guy who kept jamming a fork in Chick’s forehead a few shows back. The fans know him as Pigpen Matsumoto.
Felix Mullen: Okay, get him on your side, and Real Deal will have no choice but to give me a bye into the finals of Master of the Mat under threat of a fork to the eye.
Felix scurries over into Pigpen’s path and puts his megaphone up to his mouth.
Felix Mullen: HEY YOU, UH, PIGSTY? IS THAT YOUR NAME? ANYWAY, I KNOW IT’S LATE AND ALL BUT YOU HAVE TO JOIN MY PICKET LINE. PLEASE, I’M BEGGING YOU.
Pigpen Matsumoto: …
Felix Mullen: PLEASE! I KNOW YOU’RE DIRTY AND UGLY AND PROBABLY WANTED FOR ASSAULT BACK IN JAPAN, BUT I NEED THIS. YOU’RE THE MUSCLE I NEED TO GET WHAT I DESERVE HERE IN SHOOT PROJECT!
Pigpen Matsumoto: …
Felix Mullen: OH, YOU’RE GIVING ME THE COLD SHOULDER? FINE! I DON’T NEED YOU. YOU SMELL ANYWAY AND…
Pigpen Matsumoto: Jūbun!
The sudden exclamation catches Mullen off-guard, and Pigpen takes the opportunity to quickly produce a fork and jab it right on Felix’s forehead. As the podcaster staggers back, Pigpen notices traffic cones on the sidewalk. He grabs it, kicks Felix in the gut to pull his hands away from his head, and plants the cone on his head. While Felix struggles to get the cone off, Pigpen notices the spare megaphones at his base setup. He grabs two of them, lifting one to his lips.
Pigpen Matsumoto: Buta shine!
He then takes both megaphones and boxes Felix’s head with them. He staggers around comedically before taking a pratfall, landing on his back. Pigpen surveys his work, drops the megaphones, and dusts his hands off.
Pigpen Matsumoto: *grunts*
The deathmatch legend walks off while Felix lays prone on the sidewalk. The camera jumps to the ring, where Lindsay Troy and Laura Seton hopefully aren’t prepared to go Broadway YET AGAIN.
The SHOOT Project Tag Team Master of the Mat presented by the Carolina Lions
We go backstage to a podium with the SHOOT Project Helmet on the seal at the front of the podium. There is a buzz of reporters talking amongst themselves. Slowly but surely, the murmurs raise in volume as Isaiah Galliard and Luis de Leon, the Carolina Reaper and El Fumar, Reaper and Smoke, ⅔ of the Battalion Champions, and the SHOOT Project World Tag Team Champions, Carolina Lions saunter their way to the podium.
Smoke motions for the reporters to remain seated and holds his hands up for them to know to shut the fuck up while grown folks is talking. Reaper grins at each of them as the two men drape their World Tag Team Championship belts on the front of the podium, almost completely hiding the SHOOT Project Helmet seal. Both men are dressed well in matching dark blue and purple suits and Reaper’s dreads are pulled back in a ponytail.
Reaper: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll keep this brief. We’ll be answering no questions.
Smoke leans in.
Smoke: We are just rulers of our tag team kingdom, but we have agreed with SHOOT Project management that some shake ups need to occur.
Reaper: How did we go from Lux Aeterna…to the Bone Brigade? Why are people still talking about the Unholy Cyber Army like they relevant? Who or what is a Colton?
Smoke: See that’s the problem. The plebs scurry about on the countryside of our kingdom and matter little to the royalty. So, for that reason, we need a reset. A tried and true trial. A test of their strength, cohesion, and talent.
Reaper: To that end, we are proud to announce the first ever SHOOT Project Tag Team Master of the Mat tournament!
The reporters begin to murmur amongst themselves once more.
Reaper: Oh my God y’all shut the fuck up we ain’t done talkin’.
Smoke: Disrespectful people, madre de dios. Okay, listen, plebs and listen good. We sat down with management and poured over the sorry, sad tag teams to see who can rise to the top. We’ve settled upon eight teams. Tonight, we are proud to announce…
Reaper: Proud, though?
Smoke nods in understanding.
Smoke: My bad. We are obligated to announce just a few of these teams. We were instructed not to demean these teams and call them anything rude or insulting.
Reaper: So no bitch this, shitty that.
Smoke: Our first entrants in the SHOOT Project Tag Team Master of the Mat are, in no certain order…
Reaper begins to rap against the podium, giving a half assed drum roll.
Smoke: …The Twins!
Reaper leans over.
Reaper: The Coltons!
Smoke: The Bone Brigade.
Reaper: Spinebuster Island!
Smoke perks back up.
Smoke: Zoomer Love!
Reaper sighs this time, some serious trepidation in his voice.
Reaper: …and the Unholy Cyber Army.
Smoke pats Reaper on the shoulder.
Smoke: If you went to college like we did you’ll notice there’s two slots left unfilled. Those, we were informed, will be announced at a later time. To the rest of the tag teams who weren’t mentioned, get good. To the six mentioned here tonight?
Reaper leans over and slowly taps one of the title belts with his index finger.
Reaper: Prove yourself to us and maybe we’ll let you see these up close.
Smoke: Or don’t. Don’t and get in the back of the line so somebody who wants to make something of our division can flourish. The choice is yours.
Reaper: Ladies and gentlemen, that is all. We look forward to seeing who, if any, can impress your Tag Team Champions of the World: Carolina Lions. Until then, we remain your lords and saviors of tag team wrestling.
Smoke waves to the reporters who try to raise their hands to get questions in. Reaper looks at them, confused.
Reaper: We literally told you ITT Tech graduate ass mother fuckers there will be no questions. Goddamn.
The Carolina Lions exit the way they came in: the SHOOT Project World Tag Team and Battalion Champions.