The yell is distinct–not high pitched and feminine, but female, with a substantial vocal fry one could expect from years of cigarettes, screaming, or both. It’s also distinctively accented, and Madison Seton seems to know the source before she even turns her head, wincing slightly but trying to push through and remain resolute. As she turns, she has to look down–there’s not many folks she’s not taller than–but not by much. And for every inch she has on her caller, the other person makes up for it in bulk and reputation: COMBAT Kabuto, jogging slightly to catch up to her. Dressed in an Acid Bath shirt and wearing ripped jeans, she looks like she’s prepared for a deathmatch, which is probably as casual as she gets.
COMBAT: Madison Seton. You beat me.
Seton looks away briefly, deciding how to play things. She settles on “coy”.
Madison: That I did, yeah.
There’s a pause here, every moment making her skin crawl. The voicemail left for her was ambiguous at best, and she doesn’t really know COMBAT Kabuto, but she definitely knows she bloodied an absolute gladiator last time they met. And not just a nosebleed, either: a full hardway gash above the eye that Kabuto still has bandaged. A real gusher.
COMBAT: I track you down. Know why?
Seton shakes her head. Kabuto extends a hand.
COMBAT: To congratulates.
It was instinct to correct–even if in a case where it’s best not to, which she realizes after the fact. She gives a minor shake of her head. Though a brow goes up as she returns the handshake. She could feel more was up.
Madison: And…? I mean, you coulda just done that without a call. Or done it on voicemail and leave it at that.
COMBAT: Ah ha, yes. But then I can not tell you a story as well. I start at seventeen. Skinny kid then. Not strong yet, not skill yet. My first match against Jackie Kaneko. Heard of her?
Madison has to shake her head at this.
COMBAT: No surprise. Was…veteran when I started. Early star. You think I bust her forehead open? You think I beat her? Fuck no. She knock my left molar out, tore up my arm, and broke my nose. Because in that day, that’s how they treat you. Put you up against some angry, bitter old bitch with rage in her heart. Not to see what you had, not to help you. Just to beat you up and see if you come back. Jackie Kaneko was my opponent for my first five matches, and I never once beat her. But every time my jaw clicks when I eat? I think of her. She stomp my hand and my trigger finger sometimes swell up and not close to this day. And I remember telling myself. “When you are an old woman, you are not going to be Jackie Kaneko.” So when you beat me? Shit…you expect me to be that. But I saw what you had.
She sighs and puts her hands on her hips, looking down.
COMBAT: And I want to help you.
Madison’s eyes almost bug out from her head.
Madison: You want to help me? HOW!?
It wasn’t asked from disrespect. She knew the industry well for an outsider–hearing enough stories from her sister. It was rare for any type of help to be offered. Much less a vet help a rookie. Kabuto chuckles, reaching up and tapping Maddie on her temple.
COMBAT: Silly girl still does not get it. I want to train you. You have something special, Seton. With enough attention paid to it? You could be a champion. Not some bullshit consolation women’s belt, either, not here. You could be the World Champion. I not say you can be that tomorrow–it will take work. Lots of it. But if you’ve got the guts for it?
COMBAT: There is nothing you can not do.
Madison: I mean… I’m honored. I am.
She felt speechless at the offer. Especially from someone of Kabuto’s background.
Madison: If… I mean–okay… … If you can make time to be in Seattle the next few months? During basketball season? I fucking swear I’ll commit to you. And if that means I’m having days where I have practice or a game and I’m training with you right after? No one said this was gonna be easy.
At this, COMBAT Kabuto beams, showing us that she has at least two missing teeth. She claps Madison on the shoulder–hard enough to jostle the taller woman–and nods.
COMBAT: Smart girl. It won’t be.
She slides on her aviators and begins to turn–but turns back.
COMBAT: But journey is just as important as destination. See you in Seattle.
The Coltons Vs. Boomer Shooters
Take It Out on Lexi
She seemed to be mumbling to herself. As if playing out a conversation. In a pink shirt, jeans and black knee-high boots, with her blonde hair down and the Rule of Surrender championship over her right shoulder, Laura Seton was otherwise calm.
Or at least she was playing it that way.
Laura looked upon the doors of the various rooms she passed, appearing to become slightly more frustrated with each failure to find the specific one she was looking for.
Until she found it. Her introspective mumbling stopped – taking big breath before knocking on the door. There is silence for a brief moment before the “click” of a lock being undone sets in and then – suddenly – Laura Seton is eye to eye with Judy Punchinello.
Judy’s eyes get wide as she sees her rival standing there. Her gaze moves from Laura’s eyes to her old Rule of Surrender title and then back to Laura’s eyes – her expression is a bit cold but not without a spark of interest.
Judy Punchinello: Well… this is a surprise. Good thing I just tucked away all my spare wipers or else I’d be in trouble.
Laura simply smirks back. No snappy, wise attempt for an answer. Just a look that makes it look like she was taking pride in what she did a few weeks back to Lexi Gold.
Laura Seton: I’m gonna give you four words you’ll delight in hearing: I want your help.
Judy looks at Laura, thinking for a second, before motioning her to come inside and sit down. The two make their way into Judy’s apartment which is darkened and lit by candles. The walls have all clearly been recently painted black and it looks like the dishes haven’t been touched in a week. The smell of weed – or some smoked herb – is shockingly prevalent.
Laura Seton: Oh… GOD. Judy are you… OK?
Judy shoots a terse look over to Laura as she motions for the Rule of Surrender champion to sit down on the loveseat across from her. The former RoS champion looks intently at Laura as she begins to squirm with discomfort.
Judy Punchinello: Here’s the deal, Laura… I’m in the thick of some very intensive training at present where I need a lot of time and concentration.
Laura continues moving her eyes around the scenery as her face shows a look of just not “getting” what she sees.
Judy Punchinello: To join you? For us to do this together? I have to have your word that when you say you want me to be ruthless with Lexi Gold… you understand what it is you are asking from me. And that you won’t try and hold me back like the sweetheart who first stood across from me in the ring all those months ago.
Laura is still looking around in confusion and almost seems to have to tuned out Judy’s last words and just why she came over in the first place.
Laura Seton: What in the world…?
Judy Punchinello: WORLDS, Laura. But that’s… nevermind. You know, you’re right. I may have stumbled against Kitsune, but I’m stronger now than I was then – and the day before that – and the day before that. For every ounce of blood I spill, I will reclaim it from those who would tremble at my feet.
Judy’s words cause Laura to snap back to reality; trying to gauge just what it is Judy may be capable of.
Laura Seton: Look, you’re a different animal. That’s actually why you’re the only person I want for this. If you’re frustrated you’re out of Master of the Mat? Take it out on Lexi. If you want to be angry? Take it out on Lexi. And if you want to beat the shit out of someone? Spill blood and do whatever the fuck you want?
Take it out on Lexi.
Judy looks Laura up and down, taking a bit of time to process the champion’s words. After a pause she leans inward towards Laura.
Judy Punchinello: Okay, Laura. You want me to target Lexi? Join you in this pissing match? You’ve got a deal. But on one condition…
Laura looks excited for a split second and then sees the look in Judy’s eyes.
Judy Punchinello: You’ve got to answer me, truthfully.
Laura Seton: Answer…. What?
Judy earnestly stares into Laura’s eyes with a mix of anger, regret, and purpose.
Judy Punchinello: Why?
Laura Seton: Why?
Judy Punchinello: Yes. Why Lexi? Why her?
Laura has a second to think–to construct her thought into something Judy can understand point-blank.
Laura Seton: After I win Master of the Mat? And take out whomever is the champion? And it’s eventually you versus me again, and we dance for the World Championship? I want to see if you and I will have anything to worry about… or if Lexi is just a bitch.
Judy leans back with a sigh as she searches for any sense of irony in Laura’s voice. There isn’t any.
Judy Punchinello: You’re a bloody crazy bitch, you know that, yeah? That you of all people are so confident in Lexi’s ability to be a next-level threat has me intrigued and, besides, to use your euphemism, after what happened against Kitsune … my “dance card” is pretty open at the moment.
Laura smiles eagerly.
Laura Seton: So… you’ll do it? You’ll be my partner?
Judy leans forward, calmly, and extends a hand outward toward Laura, who accepts the gesture as the two shake on their temporary truce.
Judy Punchinello: Of course, Laura. After all…
Judy jerks Laura forward violently so that the two are now centimeters apart staring eye to eye – bridging the gap between Judy’s couch and the loveseat Laura had been sitting on. Judy lets an unnatural smile spread across her face as her eyes remain locked on Laura’s.
Judy Punchinello: With the fun we had? Seems a shame to just keep it to ourselves.
Laura’s smile becomes almost sickening.
Laura Seton: That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear.
Madison Seton Vs. Tommy Knuckles
Put Some Pep In Your Step
Molly Stein stands behind Chad Kyle, who sits on a folding chair in his locker room. As the camera pans back, Dan Stein is leaning against a locker, looking at his phone. Chad’s head is down, and his eyes are at his feet. Molly wears a nice pantsuit, Chad wears a Chadwick Kyle t-shirt designed like a Monster can and a pair of Dickies shorts. Dan wears a pair of khaki shorts and flip flops, and a STEIN Project t-shirt from back in the day.
Chad Kyle: I just don’t think it’s very chill of them to do what they did to me last Revolution. They used to be my bros. Now it just feels like they stabbed me in the back.
As Dan’s ears perk up, he chortles to himself. Molly looks at her husband with a sneer. She turns back to Chad.
Molly Stein: You can’t just sit here and take it, Chad. Not in this business, not anywhere. You have to stand up for yourself when people mistreat you, or you’ll be stepped on and walked all over.
Chad sighs, turning his head to side eye her.
Chad Kyle: What am I going to do? Rooster’s already beaten me up, and Blaze is a world class athlete.
Dan again chortles. He shakes his head and keeps scrolling. Molly turns around and crosses her arms, looking dead at her husband. Dan, sensing the hole she’s drilling into him, lifts his head. Realizing what has to be done, Dan sighs and puts his phone in his pocket slowly.
Dan Stein: Hey there, Champ.
Dan says, sarcastically.
Chad Kyle: Hey.
Chad responds, obliviously. Dan looks at Molly, cocking an eyebrow up. She shrugs, then gestures to Chad.
Dan Stein: I know you’re the reason why my daughter has a losing record in SHOOT Project, but you and I are a lot alike, Pal.
Dan speaks, laying on the derision thick. Chad doesn’t notice.
Chad Kyle: We’re both incredibly attractive?
Dan, taking the compliment poorly, smiles wide. Molly slaps his arm.
Dan Stein: Ow!- I mean, no, not that. It’s th-
Chad Kyle: We both pull a lot puss on reg?
Molly absolutely BORES a hole into the side of Dan’s head, that he chooses to laugh off.
Dan Stein: Ha! Ha-ha! Those days are long behind me, Chad Kyle, who lives at Se-
Molly slaps him again, pointing at the camera.
Dan Stein: Right, camera. No, Chad. We both want Blaze and Rooster to pay for what they’ve done to us. Now, I’d go out there and demand a match with Blaze and Rooste myself, but it seems like you’ve got priority in that queue, Bud.
Chad Kyle: What am I going to do? Rooster’s already beaten me, and Blaze is a world class athlete.
Dan acts as though there’s been a glitch in the Matrix. His eyes roll in his head as he looks around, trying to figure out if Chad’s already said that (he has).
Dan Stein: Whoa…
Molly Stein: Chad, what Dan’s trying to say is that this is your moment. Your defining moment in SHOOT Project.
Dan Stein: Yeah, Chad. You need to go out there and get what you want – nay – what you DESERVE because of what those two buffoons did to you last Revolution. And you tell them that if they won’t face you without the cheap shots and…giant bodyguards, well, you’ll just take the fight to them.
Dan, staring at the back of Chad’s head, takes a moment.
Dan Stein: Chad, this is a dog-eat-dog industry and if you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody will. It’ll chew you up and spit you out like bad sashimi.
Chad Kyle: Like what?
Dan Stein: Uh… Shit, what do fuckbois eat nowadays?
Molly shakes her head.
Molly Stein: Chad, go out there and demand an apology from Blaze and Rooster, or I’ll call and get your internet shut off so you can’t play Call of Duty with your friends any more.
Chad IMMEDIATELY stands up.
Chad Kyle: I’m going to go out there and get an APOLOGY!
Dan, again laying it on thick:
Dan Stein: That’s the spirit! Go get ‘em, Tiger!
Chad turns and grabs his wireless headphones, putting them around his neck as he rushes out of the room. Molly turns to her husband.
Molly Stein: “Go get ‘em, Tiger?”
Dan Stein: Eh, it’s all I could think of at the time.
Molly Stein: How are you such a good father, but so crap at giving pep talks?
Dan Stein: Yeah, we make a good team, huh? You and me, babe. Together forever.
Molly rolls her eyes. The camera fades.
Azraith DeMitri Vs. Mushigihara
Better Late Than Never
After his hard-fought match with Mushigihara, Azraith slowly stalks the ring, motioning for a microphone.
Eryk Masters: There have been rumblings that Azraith has had something to say for a little while now, and it looks like he’s ready to be heard!
Other Guy: You have to wonder where his mind is right now, after what the champ did to his daughter…
Once Azraith gets a microphone, he moves to the set of ropes facing the entrance ramp, staring holes right at the top of it, at an empty space right below the ‘tron.
Azraith: I’ve been trying to figure out how I was gonna do this. How to get this ‘off my chest’, so to speak. Back, way way back last November. I came out here to y’all and I left it all on the line. I was straight with everyone here about my intentions, my health, and my future with SHOOT. I wanted one more good run, one more SHOOT Project Heavyweight Championship reign. Everyone cheered, everyone was down for it. I didn’t want to skip in line, but I also wasn’t gonna wait forever. Time has passed, but it’s become evident to me that the Championship picture has become more and more murky. More fuckin’ obsfucated by the day.
Az’s eyes don’t waver from the top of the ramp. Endless blues not necessarily glaring, just staring…almost waiting for something to happen. After several seconds of silence, Az continues.
Azraith: Our Champion has rolled roughshod over every challenger that’s been put in his path…and goddamn have those been some challenges. Yet he’s felt the need to brutalize those challengers, usually to the point of permanent injury. Buck Dresden, OutKast, Kitsune…there’s honestly too many to name here. Nate and his…
Az rolls a word around in his mouth a moment…
Azraith: …associates, have made sure they’re the dominant force here in SHOOT. If it was a different time…or a different set of circumstances, I probably wouldn’t care too much. I know, surprising to some of y’all. Yet since SHOOT has restarted…I’ve seen this happen time and time again. A group of people, thinking that their might is the law…upsets the natural order of this Project. Each time there’s casualties, and each time it feels like SHOOT has to wipe the blood off its mouth and crawl back to its feet. I was humbled, recently…by my own daughter. Do you know she came to me, weeks before she challenged Nate?
Az’s voice is scarily matter of fact. The emotion that usually starts to bubble up at times like this seems miles away as he still stares at the top.
Other Guy: I’ve known Azraith DeMitrti in some form or fashion for years now. He’s a guy that always wears his feelings on his sleeve, usually angry ones. I…don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this.
Azraith: She told me that she thought it was wrong that the Blackhawk Gym was running roughshod over the company. She thought it was wrong that Nate was trying to weasel in and out of terms for his matches, making sure his bootlickers were always around to save the day. Judy-E? She has…she has more heart, more conviction, more soul than I’ll ever have. I told her to stay out of it. Keep her head down. I told her that her time was gonna come and that she needs to keep herself healthy and out of bullshit. She just kinda stared at me a moment before nodding. She had this smile on her lips. The rest…well it’s history now.
You could hear a pin drop in the Epicenter. Even the commentators have fallen to a hush as Az continues to stare at the top of the entranceway.
Azraith: I fucked up. I let my guard down because while Judy-E…while NEMESIS has all the tools to be a champ in this company she just doesn’t have the experience. She doesn’t know that scorpions will always fuckin’ be scorpions. I just wanted to get that all out there before I addressed you personally, Nate.
When he says his name, Azraith’s face, just for a second, betrays his stoic tone. There was a glare that cut across his eyes, and a snarl curling on his lips. Several people in the crowd see it and cheer, but just like that it was gone.
Azraith: You want to use my daughter, in the middle of this ring, to call me out? To challenge me? You shatter her orbital bone, you break her nose…you leave her bloody in the middle of the ring while you draw my name in BLOOD?!
For the first time Az’s tone betrays him. He roars out that last word like the Devil himself and the crowd gasps softly before cheering. Azraith takes several deep breaths as the crowd dies down.
Azraith: You could’ve come to me directly. You could’ve found me, sent your boys after me, beat me senseless. You could’ve called me out. You could’ve done any infinite number of things that would’ve caused an outcome other than this…but here we are.
…here we are.
Az stops leaning on the ropes and straightens up, still staring at the top of the entrance ramp.
Azraith: So here’s what’s going to happen. I am going to hurt you, Nate Robideau. I’m going to hurt you worse than you’ve ever been hurt before. When I am done with you, you’ll be begging me to take the SHOOT Project Heavyweight Championship away from you. You’ll be begging me to leave the Blackhawk Gym intact. You’ll be begging me to stop. The fucking amazing thing is that at this point I don’t give a shit about the championship. I don’t give a shit about your little cronies. I’m going to hurt you, and I’m going to drag you by your neck to a camera. One that’s broadcasting live to all the parts of the world that can see us. I’m going to make you beg for forgiveness to every person you’ve brutalized these last months. I’m going to make sure the whole world sees you sobbing while you apologize. When you’re done doing that…when everything else is said and done and I’ve taken everything I can from you.
When you’re nothing left than a sack of used up meat in the middle of the ring, I’m going to sit you up like a child after throwing a tantrum…and I’m going to have to apologize to my daughter for using her to get to me. It’ll be the last thing you do before this is all over. The best part is that I guarantee you…I fucking guarantee you that before we get there you’re going to be pleading with me to get to that last part.
Az’s cold, calculating tone is terrifying as he recounts all this. For the first time, he looks to the crowd.
Azraith: Y’all deserve better than this. Better than Nate…honestly better than me. It should’ve been Buck. It should’ve been NEMESIS. It should’ve been anyone else other than me. Someone that cared the whole time about standing up for this company. Not a shithead like me that’s only cared about himself until it’s too late. I’m trying though. I hope that’s enough.
The crowd is quiet a moment before a swell of cheers turns into a roar. Az smiles…just for a moment, before nodding, looking back at the empty entrance ramp one more time.
Azraith: I’d get ready Nate. You’re not gonna like what happens next.
Az tosses the mic to the canvas as “Enter Sandman” as done by Ghost blares over the speakers.
Eryk Masters: Azraith DeMitri with an absolutely terrifying declaration of intent pointed at champion Nate Robedeau and the Blackhawk Gym!
Other Guy: Azraith is a…scary individual, to be sure, but as much as I know him, he’s still just one man. I have a frightening suspicion this’ll just end up like all the others.
GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!
Eryk Masters: We’ve still got an action filled night for you, folks! Lexi and Laura Seton face off against each other with MYSTERY PARTNERS and both of them have promised us BIG names
Other Guy: And tonight is the night that Bronson gets to put THANE out of his misery, once and for all! Up ne-
Chad Kyle’s entrance music BLARES over the PA system in the Epicenter!
Eryk Masters: Looks like Chad Kyle is up next! Earlier tonight Chad got a pep talk from Dan Stein to come take his pound of flesh from Rooster after what happened following last week’s shows – looks like Chad has decided to cash in!
Other Guy: I’m not sure if I should laugh because it’s funny or cry because it’s hilarious that he thinks he’ll beat Rooster!
Eryk Masters: He already did once, OG. We both saw Chad pin him right in the middle of the ring a couple weeks ago.
Other Guy: That was different!
The fans in attendance BOOM with cheers as Chad makes his way onto the ramp. Chad wears a backwards Monster snapback hat, with a pair of Oakley sunglasses and a Family Kyle t-shirt. Around his neck, Chad wears a Call of Duty wireless PS5 headset. Underneath his shirt is his singlet!
Chad slap hands with a few of the fans along the way to the ring, but has a look of determination on his face.
Other Guy: I don’t think Chad Kyle has it in him, Eryk! I think he’ll chicken out!
Eryk Masters: Just shut up and watch, man. You’ll see.
Chad carefully takes off his headset, sunglasses, and hat – handing them to the ring attendant gingerly as if they were a title belt. The attendant isn’t quite sure what to do so they just politely nod and carry the items away as Chad rolls into the ring and snags a microphone from ringside.
Chad Kyle: ALRIGHT EVERYBODY I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY TO MISTER BLAZE LAME-MORE AND HIS SIDEKICK FOOLSTER.
Eryk Masters: Heh. Good one.
Chad Kyle: YOU ARE BOTH VERY MEAN PEOPLE
The crowd pops as Chad beams in the ring.
Other Guy: Unbelievable.
Chad Kyle: I can’t believe I actually believed any of the nonsense you two jerks put in my head! All the people you convinced me were against me! All the cake I could have eaten! You’re the absolute worst. Awful!
Other Guy: Well… Chad does have a point there, Eryk. I’ll give him that one.
Eryk Masters: SEE!?
Chad Kyle: So… right here. Tonight. I demand that you come out here and face me, man to man and GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!
The crowd roars.
Chad Kyle: AN APOLOGY!
There is a muffled murmur as that is NOT what the fans were counting on Chad saying. But the look Chad has on his face is dead serious as he crosses his arms and stares down the rampway in defiance.
Other Guy: There’s no fuckin’ way that Ro-
The lights go out in the Epicenter as the opening whistle to Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” kicks on the speakers signaling the arrival of one of the most intimidating figures on the SHOOT Project roster. The crowd roars as the song crescendos and the arena becomes bathed in a dark orange glow.
Eryk Masters: Oh no…
Standing immediately behind Chad, a good foot taller, wearing a brand new hooked-beak mask, is Rooster. He mimics Chad’s arms-crossed posture – waiting for Chad to turn around.
The lights in the arena go up and a confused looking Chad begins to look around until he turns around and finds himself face-to-chest with his former Delayed Heat partner. Chad stumbles back but plants his feet firmly and holds up his fists as the ring attendant rings the bell.
Other Guy: We’ve got a match?
Eryk Masters: We’ve got a match!
The Rooster Vs. Chad Kyle
A Final Warning
As the bell rings, we see Rooster and Chad begin to regain some composure in the ring. Ultimately, it’s Rooster who finds his footing first as he throws his bright orange hair backwards and stares directly at a still-winded Chadwick Kyle.
Eryk Masters: Here comes the Rooster, OG!
Other Guy: And there goes Chad Kyle!
As soon as Chad locks eyes with Rooster he quickly rolls out of the ring and tries to make a bee-line to the back and-
Eryk Masters: DEAR GOD!
Suddenly, like a blur, a figure leaps out from the crowd, behind the barricades, with a baseball bat firmly gripped by both hands as they swing with all their force and hit Chadwick Kyle across the top of his back with a large *CRACK* sound.
The fans are livid as the figure pulls off a baseball cap and jacket to reveal Blaze Claymore, who is now standing over Chad with a fearsome look in his eyes.
Other Guy: SECURITY! WE NEED SECURITY! AND NOT BLAZE’S MINIONS THIS TIME!
YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH!!
YOU’VE GOT THE POWAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!
The fans in the Epicenter erupt as Dan Stein runs full speed down the rampway with Molly speeding around the corner quickly behind him.
Eryk Masters: Here we go!
Blaze tightens his grip on his bat – trying to head off The Lights – but Dan sees what’s happening and ducks down as Blaze swings wildly, so much so that he nearly takes the head off of a fan too close to the barricades who is now trying to scramble back into his seat.
Dan SPEARS Blaze Claymore to the ground as the fans nearest the carnage are scrambling up on their chairs to get a better look. What they end up seeing is Rooster, silently and methodically making his way up the rampway like the T-1000.
Molly Stein, meanwhile, is down on her knees attending to Chadwick Kyle, trying to rouse him out of his stupor.
Eryk Masters: This is absolute chaos, OG! Molly needs to leave Chad and get out of there ASAP! She’s already been the victim of several assaults by Blaze and-
Other Guy: Assaults by Dan, you mean.
Eryk Masters: What?! No I do not MEAN.
Other Guy: Well he IS the one who has hit her both times.
Eryk Masters: Oh please! You know that- WATCH OUT!
As Dan and Blaze are still tumbling around on the ground, Rooster has finally caught up to the chaos and immediately yanks Dan Stein up off of Blaze, pulling the Shut Up and Fight Champion multiple feet in the air and sending him sprawling backwards.
He then turns his sights on Chadwick Kyle who is still being flanked by Molly. She looks up to see the hulking figure of Rooster standing over her – paralyzing her with fear. Rooster doesn’t break his stride as he goes to reach down and wraps his hand around Molly’s neck.
The fans can only watch in horror as Rooster raises a choking, red-faced Molly up into the air.
Eryk Masters: GET UP DAN!
The Lights is getting to his feet and sees, instantly, what’s happening. Like a man possessed he closes the distance and launches himself at Rooster, causing Blaze’s enforcer to drop Molly hard onto the rampway. She rolls away instinctively as Dan is now mounted on top of a prone Rooster slamming his fists violently against Timothy Roy’s mask, chipping away at it little by little – cracks appearing as bits and pieces fall to the side.
Dan furiously looks around and finds Blaze’s baseball bat. He quickly grabs it in his hands and, still mounted, brings it up high above his head – ready to crush Rooster’s skull – as the crowd cheers him on.
Other Guy: DON’T!
Eryk Masters: DO IT!
Suddenly, as Dan is about ready to drop a finishing blow…
Voice: THaaaaT’S EeeeeNOoooUGGH!
The voice is a genderless, booming, somewhat modulated roar that crawls through the speakers of the SHOOT Project Epicenter. Like a pack-a-day smoker whose voice is run several times through an autotune program that’s on the fritz. Like T-Pain crossed with Natasha Lyonne and Max Headroom.
Dan stops mid-swing as he and the rest of the audience are dumbfounded by the sound.
Blaze bolts up and looks around as the voice lets out a weepy sigh that sounds like a winter breeze rushing through a rusted tunnel.
Voice: WEee ArRRE SOOOooo SoooOOO DissssssaPpppOINTED in YooUU. Allll the P–p-pROOOMmisse yoUU haddddd. YOU cCCoullDD have BEennnn SOOOMeeething Sp-p-SPecial.
Blaze’s face twists into a confused look of horror, pain, and anger. Rooster, who has now escaped from Dan’s clutches, is staggering backwards – searching for the source of the voice.
Voice: TiiiiMMMMMMooothhhhY. HooWWWW C-cOULD youuuu. ThhhhhINK WwwhAAT DAAAAAAAMIEN WoULD saaaaaaaaay.
Rooster puts his hands to his ears as Blaze begins pointing and shouting randomly at the air.
Voice: WeEEEEVE TrrrrrrIIIIIED. WE’VEEEEE GggggIVEN you CHAaaaNNNcesssss. THiisssssss IS your FIIIIINnnnnal WARRRRnnning.
The crowd yells in surprise as a large object begins to fall from the rafters.
Other Guy: Is that!?
Eryk Masters: A COFFIN!?
As the wooden object, which is most definitely a coffin, collides with the ring, it shatters into a million pieces. Within it and now scattered all across ringside are hundreds of copies of Blaze Claymore DVDs and BluRays.
Blaze looks absolutely horrified while the fans have exploded into “HOLY SHIT” chants. The arena is rocking and Dan has completely forgotten about Rooster; he is now entirely focused on getting his friend Chadwick Kyle up off his feet and out of the chaos currently unfolding. As he does, a winded-looking Molly Stein – now safe from her assailants – staggers over to them and helps hold Chad up.
Blaze has now crawled into the ring, clutching at the copies of his films as if they were his children. He is scrambling from corner to corner trying to collect them amongst the balsa wood debris as Rooster is scrambling for an exit faster than he’s ever moved before in his life.
WE LOVE DEEP SHOOT. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
WE LOVE DEEP SHOOT. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
WE LOVE DEEP SHOOT. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
Blaze violently spins around, screaming at the fans to stop. They don’t.
WE LOVE DEEP SHOOT. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
WE LOVE DEEP SHOOT. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
Blaze clutches the movies to his chest as he continues to yell, in vain, for someone – anyone – to save him from these malicious forces.
Laura & Judy Entrance
Oh, whoa, oh, oh
I’ll get him hot, show him what I got.
Oh, whoa, oh, oh
Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” hits the speakers in the SHOOT Project Epicenter as the fans give a …. let’s say MIXED reception to Laura Seton, who steps onto the entrance platform and positions herself at stage left, arms crossed, and a smile on her face.
Eryk Masers: Well shit, OG, I can’t believe what we’re about to see tonight.
Other Guy: That’s right, Eryk, we’re finally going to know who wins Season 5 of the Masked Singer.
Eryk Masters: Are you… do you have a tablet playing Hulu right now?!
Other Guy: I’m paying attention!
Eryk Masters: Then who is Laura Seton’s partner tonight?
Other Guy: …Uhhhhh….
The arena suddenly goes dark and lighters go up.
Other Guy: JUDY PUNCHINELLO!
Eryk Masters: Your skills of deduction never cease to befuddle me.
Other Guy: Thank you!
Blood on my hands, what’s done is done!
Left you by the road with the crows in the dust.
Heart so hollow deep as a cave.
One day I’ll be dancing on your grave!
A purple fog billows out next to Laura as Judy Punchinello steps out onto stage rocking white hair with purple highlights that stand in stark contrast to her spiked leather jacket and stone washed jeans.
Laura looks over at her enemy-turned-ally as they share a knowing nod and then collectively make their way down to the ring.
Lexi Gold/Dan Stein Vs. Laura Seton/Judy Punchinello
A QUick Chat
Abigail Chase is on the scene as none other than Jamie Johnson walks into the frame! He’s got both the REIGN Championship and the Sin City Championship on his shoulders.
Abigail Chase: Longest reigning Sin City Champion… how does that sound to you?
Jamie Johnson: Sounds like I’ve done some good work and that the work needs to continue, heh.
Abigail Chase: When do you think you might be interested in moving on? I can’t imagine that staying as Sin City and REIGN Champion is where you’ve capped your career goals.
Jamie smiles, adjusting both title belts.
Jamie Johnson: It’s not, but until someone can beat me for these? I’m right where I belong. REIGN has been a breath of fresh air, for me. New competition, getting to get more experience, getting to help bring new faces into the SHOOT Project? That’s what I’m talking about.
Abigail Chase: Shifting gears a bit, you’re sniffing the finals of Master of the Mat. Last year, you were unable to get out of the first round. Is this tournament considered a success for you or are you in a “win it all or it doesn’t matter” mindset?
Jamie Johnson: I think it’s a little more nuanced than that. This is obviously a better tournament than my last one, and I’m down to celebrate that, but the ultimate goal is the win. There’s never a situation where improvement doesn’t matter, you know? I’ve still got a long, long way to go to be where I want to be, especially if last night is any indication.
Abigail Chase: Last night was a great match and a great showcase, but you’re right, Void ended up taking the W there.
Jamie Johnson: Void is someone who I have a complicated history with, and I’d be lying if I said that loss didn’t sting. It’s technically my first loss of the year, actually. Either way, my goal now is to get through Laura Seton and into the finals. Kitsune or Void, you know? Two very, very different kinds of opponents.
Abigail Chase: I think that’s about all we’ve got time for right now, Jamjam. We’re headed back to the back, where our cameras are catching up with Judy Punchinello, fresh off of tagging with Laura Seton…
Off camera, Jamie’s surprised.
Jamie Johnson: Jamjam? Didn’t think we were that close, Abby.
Abigail Chase: Could be, though…
Jamie Johnson: I, umm… what??
Journey to the Heart of Darkness
Judy Punchinello steps through the back of the Epicenter following her tag match with Laura Seton, a sweaty rag over her shoulder as she cuts through the intricate layout of SHOOT Project’s physical home.
As she turns a corner she once again runs into CYBER Superbeast and CYBER Power Devil who are standing – as always – cross armed in her path.
CYBER Superbeast: Your power is growing.
CYBER Power Devil: Your muscles coarse with thunder!
Judy Punchinello: Yeah you keep saying all those things… but I don’t FEEL any different than I used to. Just show me how you did it. Show me what I need to do.
CYBER Power Devil: We were born into the miasma that binds us as brothers.
CYBER Superbeast: Judy of Punches, you cannot be shown. You must make the journey yourself to the heart of darkness. YOUR darkness.
Judy Punchinello: Shit seems pretty bloody dark to me right now. So if you two can’t show me, or can’t take me to someone who can – then I’d kindly ask you to let me through or else I’m going to show just how full of thunder my muscles truly are.
CYBER Superbeast and CYBER Power Devil look at each other before nodding their heads. They each extend a hand outward toward Judy.
CYBER Superbeast: Come Judy. We must go if we are to make it in time.
Judy Punchinello: In time for what?
CYBER Power Devil: For your glorious rebirth! BLOOD FOR BLOOD!
CYBER Superbeast: A new awakening! BLOOD FOR BLOOD!
Judy thinks for a second and then extends an arm, a FIST, out to join those of the Unholy Cyber Army.
Judy: BLOOD FOR BLOOD!
The three figures calmly, but quickly, make their collective exit from the Epicenter and into the midnight pitch the Las Vegas night.