PRIDE & PREJUDICE
We head backstage where X-Calibur is arriving, tote bag over this shoulder, ahead of his SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship bout with Azraith DeMitri later this evening.
He pushes past a row of “Happy 200” balloons lining the backstage area only to run chest-first into an otherwise oblivious Timothy Roy, who is headed the opposite way, causing X to stumble backwards a bit. Tim reaches out and grabs X-Calibur’s bag, but X instinctively pushes Roy’s hand away as if he was blocking a punch.
X-Calibur: The fuck..?!
X realizes after the fact that it’s Timothy Roy that had run into him. X loosens his stance up and half-chuckles, obviously realizing he wasn’t being attacked or anything..
Timothy Roy: Crap. Sorry, dude. Didn’t see you behind all the … pomp and circumstance.
X-Calibur waves his hand and reorients himself, hoisting his bag back over his shoulder.
X-Calibur: Nah. It’s cool. Sorry for getting defensive right there and almost hitting you. I’m running late and my mind is on the World Heavyweight Title, obviously. I wasn’t aware of my surroundings, my bad, so no harm no foul!
Tim nods and gestures in the direction he was headed.
Timothy Roy: Got a meeting with Sam. Sounds like she’s been calling everyone into her office for a special chat. Just hoping she’s not planning on infecting us all with some sort of brain parasite in preparation for some mass take over of Las Vegas.
X-Calibur pauses and then his eyes light up. Snapping his fingers as if to say “Eureka!” or “Great Scott!”, he nods in appreciation of the reference.
X-Calibur: The Faculty. Shit… I fuckin’ love that one! Haven’t seen that since VHS, though. Jesus. How long was it-
Timothy Roy: 25 years… watched it last night. After all, it is the spooky season, yeah?
X-Calibur: I’m a bit spooked myself, honestly. If I’m honest… this fuckin’ guy? I can’t figure out what the hell is going on or why he’s after me. I mean.. I haven’t even been back a month and suddenly I’m enemy number one.
Timothy Roy: Number one contender it seems too. Congrats. I know you’ll put on a great match tonight.
X-Calibur shakes his head.
X-Calibur: Nah, man. I’m just keeping it warm for Laura. She’s earned it. If I get lucky enough to win tonight there’s no question she’s getting her shot. She’s been busting her ass for as long as so many have in this business and I don’t even recall her holding a World Title before. At least not here in SHOOT, anyway.
Tim grimaces slightly.
X-Calibur: Hey, now. C’mon, Tim. You know as well as I do that you deserved your shot too. I saw that match. That was a goddamn war and you popped me when I thought you had Az dead to rights more than once. He’s a tough motherfucker, though. I know your uncle would have been proud of what you accomplished.
Tim visually tenses up and takes a step back from X.
Timothy Roy: You keep saying that, Eryk, and I can’t help but think you’re getting at something; talking at me like I’m still this kid who is out of his depth. Maverick was ALWAYS proud of me; let’s get that straight. This isn’t about me. I’m doing this so people can be proud of HIM. Remember HIM. Okay?
X holds up his hands in mock defense as his own tone takes a stern tone.
X-Calibur: Oh, so I’m Eryk now? ‘Kay. First of all, I’ve never FORGOTTEN your Uncle. NEVER. Secondly? I never once thought, said, or Fuckin’ implied that you were out of your depth. I’m not an idiot, and quite frankly, I’m a little insulted you’d think that about me. Lastly? All I meant was you’re not as tenured or deserving as Laura Seton. If that FACT chafes your dick at all? Go grab some fuckin’ corn starch from catering to cool it off.
X pauses, obviously upset that Tim would suggest he’s got ulterior motives.
X-Calibur: I’m just gonna put this out there, okay? I don’t fuckin’ know why you’re gettin’ shitty with me like this, but I’ll just chalk it up to being frustrated after a loss. Anger displacement or something, I dunno. I know about that all too well so you don’t have to explain that shit to me. I also forgive you for being a dick. BUT? If this is about something else? ANYTHING else?! I’m right fuckin’ here, dude. You either get that shit out in the open or you fuckin’ don’t. But, if you don’t? You’re only gonna get shittier when you’re talking to me, and I’m soon gonna forget you’re the nephew of a legend I respect and slap the disrespect right out of your fuckin’ mouth. You hear what I’m sayin’?
Tim says nothing, but a look of anger now stretches across Timothy Roy’s face. X puts his hands up, though, suggesting he’s not looking for a fight with him. Not now, at least.
X-Calibur: That said? Just hard truths, man. Tough love, even. I’m not looking for a fight. Even if you ARE. But I’ve wasted enough of my time with this. I got a main event match with Azraith Fuckin’ DeMitri tonight and I’ll be goddamned if I let one more thing distract me from becoming a THREE-TIME SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Champion. You wanna talk later? You know where to find me.
X moves past Tim with his bags in tow while shaking his head and muttering under his breath. Looking back at X-Calibur growing further and further away from him down the hallway, Tim’s fists ball up.
Timothy Roy: Slap me? Heh. I’d like to see you try, Eryk.
His eyes grow narrow with a look of fury as he snarls at X-Calibur and the words he left him with.
THE CHICK & THE COCK
We find Daihm Ferguson as he steps out of his locker room door into the Epicenter Hallway. He pauses and turns and looks back over his shoulder.
Daihm Ferguson: Chick, are you ABSOLUTELY sure you only want me to grab you a plate of sloppy joe meat? You don’t want… a bun?
A frustrated growl can be heard from deep in the locker room.
Chick Grillbreast: HAVE YOU NOT SEEN MY BUMPER STICKER DAN DRAGON!? IT SAYS DON’T BREAD ON ME! IT’S PROTEIN OR…. NO… TEIN? PROTEIN OR NO… LEAN? NO… WAIT…
Daihm shakes his head and laughs.
Daihm Ferguson: I’m sure you’ll think of it by the time I’m baaaaAHHHHCK!
A pair of hands appear behind Daihm and slide down his chest, taking their time as they glide down to his sternum and then eventually around his waist in a bearhug motion.
Chick Grillbreast: DAN!? ARE YOU OKAY?
Daihm gets spun around and is now face to face with Maximo Fisico, his body pulled close with Maximo’s hand now firmly planted on his left ass cheek. Daihm looks Maximo in the eye as he holds up his free hand and makes a “quiet” motion, putting a finger to his lips.
Daihm Ferguson: Ye… yeah. Chick. We’re good. I just… saw a… spider.
There’s an awkward silence as Maximo and Daihm breath heavily, trying to keep quiet waiting for Chick’s response. Finally… a laugh.
Chick Grillbreast: Oh you’re funny! Hah! You know spiders are just part of the Marvel universe. Good one! You almost got me… but, just in case, shut the door. I don’t need more sticky white stuff coming out of my hands.
Maximo raises his eyebrows at this as Daihm reaches backwards, inadvertently thrusting his pelvis forward into Maximo’s as one part of Lucha Fitness wraps his arm even more tightly around Daihm’s waist. Daihm’s face flushes as he pulls the door shut behind him and finally turns his full attention to Maximo.
Daihm Ferguson: What the bloody hell are you-
Maximo leans forward and places a big, sloppy kiss on Daihm’s lips and the Dragon lets all the tension out of his body, returning the gesture but pushing his evening’s opponent away.
Maximo Fisico: Nice to see you too, mi amore. I thought your room may be … unoccupied so we could do a little ‘sparring’ before our match. But, I see you’re still haven’t gotten over your interest in chicks.
Daihm scowls and shakes his head.
Daihm Ferguson: I thought we agreed… no… stuff on show nights. And DEFINITELY in the Epicenter right outside of my bloody locker room when we’ve got a match in…
Daihm looks up at a nearby clock.
Daihm Ferguson: Thirty minutes!
Maximo Fisico: There’s muchas coasas I could do to you in 30 minutes, DAN DRAGON. Cosas muy malas.
Maximo winks and gestures to Daihm’s clear interest in the proposition.
Daihm Ferguson: Don’t call me that…
Daihm sighs in frustration.
Daihm Ferguson: Christ almighty … Fuck me.
Maximo Fisico: I thought you’d never ask.
Maximo goes to lean in but Daihm pushes him back.
Daihm Ferguson: You know that’s not what I meant.
Now it’s turn for Maximo’s tenor to change. He furrows his brow and steps back, with a scoff.
Maximo Fisico: You know… there’s PLENTY of chicos and chicas who would do ANYTHING for this… and you’re trading it all for a plate of sloppy joe meat? Carne mojada?
Daihm Ferguson: It’s… it’s not that simple, Maxi.
Maximo holds up a hand and shakes his head.
Maximo Fisico: Aye. No papi. None of that pet name mierda. Not as long as you’re still pining for your boy back there? You gotta cut him loose or you’ll never be happy. Platonic partners is one thing, mi amore, but you want to feel the heat of true passion?
Maximo leans in and grabs Daihm around the back of the head and pulls him in close for a deep, lengthy kiss as he runs his free hand along Daihm’s crotch. With a whimper and shiver, Daihm pulls away from the kiss. Maximo sighs and holds a hand up to Daihm’s cheek, tapping it lightly.
Maximo: You’re good, Daihm. But not THAT good. You gotta make the choice. Are you going to care more about the Chick…
Maximo looks down and smiles.
Maximo: …or the Cock.
A stunned Daihm can only watch in silence as Maximo waves his hand and leaves just as silently, and alluringly as he arrived.
DAIHMBREAST Vs. LUCHA FITNESS
Tag Team Match
COME & GET IT
The Epicenter audience suddenly goes dark as an unfamiliar voice yells “One! Two! Three! Four!” over the PA. Then BLAM! The disruptive crash of GUITAR WOLF’s “Midnight Violence Rock n’ Roll” is like a punch to the crowd’s face, though the noisy punk rock riffs are hardly audible over the whine and roar of a GAGGLE of motorcycles!
The Midnight Cowboys Motorcycle Club make their grandest entrance yet; SIX Japanese bikers slowly rolling down the SHOOT Project ramp on their candy-colored bikes as the arena begins to boo.
Eryk Masters: Aw jeez, these guys again? Ever since the Coltons “accidentally” knocked their motorcycles down, the Midnight Cowboys MC have been doggedly chasing the cousins all over the Epicenter! Gotta wonder what all this is about.
Other Guy: I think I’ve got an inkling. Looks like they found the Colton cousins’ lost tag team belts. Look there, on Tafugai’s shoulder. And around Sho Yoshida’s waist!
Sure enough, at the forefront of the gang, Sho Yoshida and Tafugai are displaying the SHOOT Project Tag Team championships, much to the ire of the Epicenter. Behind them, four goons dressed in varying biker attire rev their engines menacingly. The whole group is looking mighty smug, or at least the ones not wearing helmets. The Cowboys line their bikes up congruently on either side of the ring, and all six of them roll their way under the first rope.
Eryk Masters: I’m not gonna lie…Sho Yoshida and Tafugai, they’re certainly intimidating in their own right. But SIX of them? That’s a force to be reckoned with, OG. They’ve definitely got the numbers!
Other Guy: I’d probably let them cut me off in traffic. But I’m a defensive driver anyways.
The booing continues for a moment while Yoshida beckons an official for a couple of mics. The diminutive gang leader is wearing a shining black leather jacket with poofy shoulders. His eyes hide behind a pair of abyss black Terminator shades, and a hint of steel glints at the toe of his boot. Behind him the towering Tafugai crosses his arms and sneers, a microphone in the pocket of his elbow, while the rest of the gang strike up their own poses.
A red and neon green biker, a pink biker, another leather-clad road warrior in a black skull cap…this is definitely a motley crew. After some of the noise peters out, Yoshida lifts the mic to his lips..
…but Tafugai is the first to speak.
The name booms through the Epicenter in a low growl, prompting a quick but necessary pop. Who wouldn’t wanna see the Coltons after all?
Sho Yoshida: COL-TON. You heard the bad man. You and us, we’ve got some unfinished business…
Tafugai: Come play, COLTONS. Come play with TAFU-GAI.
The phrase, muttered in broken English, could only sound murderous coming from a skull-tatted brute like Tafugai. Behind him the four other bikers laugh, one of them rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
Eryk Masters: Oh man, whaddya think, OG…six on two? Not exactly favorable odds.
Other Guy: Well, I’ve seen the Coltons do dumber…
“Out of Control” by the Eagles fills the arena, because whenever there is a call to do something dumb, you can rest assured that the Coltons will answer it.
They answer quickly as well; moments after the music begins, Benjamin and Dennis appear at the top of the entrance ramp. They both have microphones, because we’re professionals around here. OK, not Benny, but the rest of us.
Dennis Colton: SHO YOSHIDA!
Benjamin Colton: TOFU GUY!
Dennis Colton: Tafugai.
Benjamin Colton: ‘S what I said. Anyway. Looks like you found our lost property. Thanks! If you could just leave ‘em with the timekeeper on your way out, that’d be great.
Dennis Colton: Keen, even.
Benjamin Colton: In fact, I might even go so far as to say…swell.
The crowd pops to the annoyance of Yoshida, but he plows on with intent.
Sho Yoshida: Funny you mention property. You know, somebody messed with our property a couple of shows ago. A couple of jokesters. Funny guys. Comedians. But now that we’re here in this ring…your tag belts on my waist and Tafugai’s shoulder…it looks like Bosozoku has the last laugh, eh?
At this, the six bikers start chuckling, eliciting another wave of boos from the crowd. Meanwhile, the Coltons have a brief sidebar, which they say directly into their microphones.
Dennis Colton: I don’t think they want to be swell, cousin.
Benjamin Colton: They never do. Shame.
The champs turn back toward the men currently in possession of their gold.
Benjamin Colton: Look, I’m sorry about what happened there. Obviously I would never want to harm a sweet ride like yours. But…
Oh, no. Benny, whatever you’re about to say…please don’t.
Benjamin Colton: …maybe if you loved her better, she wouldn’t have been calling my name.
Eryk Masters: That…wasn’t a smart thing to say.
Other Guy: Just like most things Benny Colton says.
Regardless of the announcers’ judgment, Benny’s still got a microphone…and it might as well be a shovel, ‘cause he keeps digging.
Benjamin Colton: And if you can’t treat that bike right, then I know you can’t treat those belts right either. You can’t even accessorize properly! WHERE ARE YOUR HATS?!
Dennis Colton: I know, right? I’ve been saying this!
Benjamin Colton: What kind of cowboys are you if you don’t have hats?
At this point, the bikers are pissed. Tafugai is chomping at the bit for a fight…the others are goading him on. But Yoshida is trying to keep his cool. He smirks.
Sho Yoshida: What kind of champions are you if you don’t have belts?
Benjamin Colton: That’s a damn good point, Sho-Yo. I guess if you won’t return our titles…we’ll just have to come down there and take them!
And with that, the Coltons head for the ring!
Eryk Masters: Damn the numbers, the Coltons are charging in to reclaim their titles!
Other Guy: They probably can’t count anyway!
Tafugai and Yoshida deftly slide out of the ring, leaving their four stooges in to do the dirty work! The Coltons start teeing off, and…wait, did somebody just ring a bell?
THE BIKERS VS. THE COLTONS
Tag Team Match
LET 'EM HAVE IT
Eryk Masters:: I don’t believe it! Benny and Denny Colton have fought off the superior numbers of the Midnight Cowboys MC!
Other Guy: I’ll hand it to ‘em, that was impressive…but that was just the ground troops; taking on Yoshida and Tafugai will be a whole ‘nother thing.
Regardless, the Coltons are ecstatic as they celebrate their victory. So much so, that they don’t notice the two men sneaking in the ring behind them…
Eryk Masters:: Oh my Lord! Tafugai just drove the title belt right into Benny Colton’s face!
Other Guy: Ha! You wanted your belt back, dummy! Well, here ya go!
Eryk Masters:: Sho Yoshida has done the same to Dennis! The champs are laid out, and now the Cowboys are putting the boots to them!
By now the rest of the Cowboys have recovered, and they almost que up to take turns punching and kicking the boys! Tafugai is a mask of COMPLETE fury; there’s a vein pulsating out of his forehead while he PUMMELS Denny on the ground! There’s spittle flying out of his mouth and his knuckles are BLEEDING. Yoshida barks an order at him and he reluctantly lets up.
The rest of the gang gets Benny to his feet. They catapult one half of the tag champs into the corner so hard, he stumbles forward holding the arch of his back! Tafugai hoists him up and completes a RING quaking POWER SLAM. Denny tries to get to his feet to assist his cousin, but he’s met by a kick to the gut from Yoshida. Tafugai meets his partner on the other side of Denny and together the Midnight Cowboys hoist him in the air! DOUBLE SHEER DROP DDT! Bosozoku Driver! The Coltons are OUT.
Eryk Masters:: This is brutal! The Midnight Cowboys have absolutely decimated the Coltons, and it looks like they’ll be standing tall heading into Redemption!
Other Guy: It’ll be a miracle if those two dummies are standing at all by then!
Sho Yoshida and Tafugai stand over the fallen champions, sporting big, toothy grins at the irate crowd as they hold the SHOOT Project Tag Team Titles up in the air. Yoshida nods at his partner in crime, and both men unceremoniously drop the belts on the unconscious forms of the Coltons.
WHO I AM
Backstage, in the common interview area, Izzy Sia and Joey ‘Golden’ Burkhalter are milling about–posing. They are a couple of kids, after all. Both are clad in oversized Blackhawk Fight Gym hoodies, but Burk takes umbrage with Izzy’s look of generalized annoyance. He elbows her in the shoulder.
Burkhalter: No, you gotta look more mean than that. You’re supposed to like…psyche them out, y’know? Like put fear in them.
Izzy Sia: Oh, yeah? Mean mug the like you do, tell ‘em they’ll lose and it’s a…Sia Sure Thing?
Joey gives her an aggressive bird.
Burkhalter: Fuck you, man.
Izzy Sia: I’m just saying!
Burkhalter: I hear you saying.
Izzy Sia: Corny, dude. Cornball shit.
Burkhalter: I hear you.
Izzy Sia: C’mon, don’t get offended. If I don’t keep you humble, you’re gonna act all brand-new. After all, everybody is mouthing your nuts, dude. That kinda shit could go to your head.
Burkhalter: The only reason they aren’t mouthing yours is they haven’t seen you in one-on-one. That’s all gonna change after tonight.
He turns towards her, and the wisecracking has left the room. He’s deadass, as the kids say.
Burkhalter: Hey. It’s gonna change after tonight. You told ‘em to watch, right?
Izzy Sia: Yeah.
Burkhalter: Iz, c’mon. We talked about this. You’re gonna be strong. You’re gonna tell them. This is you.
She’s been staring off into the distance for a minute or so, but she shakes her head, getting her nerve up. When she looks to Joey, she smiles softly.
Izzy Sia: Fine. You’re right. But hey.
Izzy Sia: Gimme the room, Goldie.
Burkhalter nods, holding out his hand in a fist. Sia bumps his knuckles, nodding back, and Joey bounces out of frame, rolling his shoulders. She watches him, making sure that he’s gone, before walking a little closer to the camera. We’re used to her using her reedy, Minnie Mouse voice like a rapier, needling her teammate. It’s no less cartoonish, but it’s sincere.
Izzy Sia: Ama. Ina. If you did what I asked then…we’ll, you’re seeing me on television right now. That seems crazy to even say but…here it is. Here I am.
She holds her arms out. Almost conciliatory. For the first time, we can see that she’s terrified–the tremor in her voice gives it away.
Izzy Sia: I know you’re going to ask why we couldn’t talk about this, why I did it like this, but…you don’t listen so hot sometimes. I love you more than anyone in this world, but Ina, you don’t ever want to hear it. And Ama, Dad…well, you’re where I got my stubbornness from. I take pride in that, I take pride in you. The both of you. You taught me to be tenacious. You taught me to have ambition. You’re going to see this–and you’re going to hear me telling you that I’m not in school. Well…fuck, I guess right now. I’m asking you to not be disappointed. I’m asking you to at least take the time to watch me out there tonight. To see the kind of talent I have. To see the drive that has gotten me there. To think about the pride I feel in our name and our heritage.
Her lip sets.
Izzy Sia: And if you sit through that match, and you see what I do against a guy who has far more experience than I do, and you still can’t accept this? Then I’ll be waiting for when you come around. Because this is who I am. I am Isabella Galang Sia. Your daughter. I’m asking you, begging you, to keep an open mind and believe in me. Because I’m going to achieve great things.
She smiles, punching her palm.
Izzy Sia: Ang iyong prinsesa ay isang kampeon sa hinaharap. At ipagmamalaki kita, ipagmamalaki nating lahat.
Izzy turns to leave, but catches herself and turns back around, now smirking. Leaning in, she speaks almost conspiratorially, as if she’s having a personal conversation with her parents.
Izzy Sia: Keep your eyes peeled. I’m gonna make him scream for his momma, believe that.
With that, she walks out of frame. We cut away…
JACK JOHNSON VS. Izzy Sia
Unbeknownst to some Joshua Breedlove has been on a crusade, a search even, stalking the halls. But where he showed tireless tenacity early on, his particular gauntlet has drained the hope from his gaze and the pep from his step.
Maybe that’s why he doesn’t notice.
Maybe that’s why the man he’s seeking gets the jump on him. But while Nate’s language is one of fists, elbows, and knees, he uses none of them.
“Heard you were looking for me?”
The voice erupts, thunder across the desert, and Breedlove is so preoccupied with searching that he actually gets startled a bit. Josh closes his eyes and winces, realizing Robideau got the drop on him, but his lips curl into a sneer and his fists clench before he takes action. He turns, stancing up, bending low, ready to dodge, counter, riposte–but Nate isn’t attacking him. Isn’t rushing him. He’s just leaning against a wall, idly checking whatever overpriced timepiece he’s chosen to wear today.
Robideau: What, you thought I might rush you? Smash your fucking face into the concrete? Josh, that hurts.
Chuckling, he slowly paces forward.
Robideau: Fact is, I don’t hunt wounded animals. And brother, from where I’m sitting, you’re limping through the desert leaving a trail of blood that’s going to make it really easy for the carrion feeders to pick your bones clean. No, you of most people should remember that I far, far prefer to dismantle the unworthy right in the middle of the ring, right where I can make sure the greatest number of people see what a fraud you are.
Breedlove: Are you like, working on a wrestling fanfic, man? Do you even hear yourself? You’re gonna “smash my fucking face into the concrete”, bro? Talking about carrion feeders and bones to pick clean? Seriously? The “unworthy”? Are you okay in that muddled skull of yours, Nate? Look man, I’ll give you full credit that you had the wool pulled over my eyes at 199. Didn’t see it coming, but all of this?
He motions to the show Nate is making of being nonchalant.
Breedlove: This is you doing a Breedlove 2022 cosplay and doing it poorly while also trying to work in some like… Charlie Jay Hitchens or Isaac Entragian or something. It don’t fit. It makes you look like a big ol’ phony. What’s next dog, are you going to bring some wolves to the ring or make a show out of burying me alive? What even are you?
Robideau: This is success, Josh. Fact is, the world passed you by while you were laid up for some reason or another–hard for me to recall the particulars–and now you’re a little obsolete. When you left, I was struggling to find an identity and teaching classes out of a rathole in East Vegas. Now I’m a wildly successful champion, I run the most state of the art facility in Nevada, and I’ve achieved more than I ever dreamed I could. But you know what actually makes you mad about this? It’s not that I don’t have an identity, or that I’m doing ‘cosplay’, or that you think I’m a phony.
He leans in. He’s smiling, but the smile contains a whole lot of ‘suck my dick’ subtext.
Robideau: It’s that I’m happy. I’m thriving. And I’m happy with who I am, for me–not for you or anyone else’s approval.
He scratches his chin, idly.
Robideau: Okay, Breedlove. Your turn. Tell me about how my gym doesn’t compare to your empire or how much I’ve disappointed you. Hell, swing on me. Do something interesting.
Breedlove ponders for a moment and then shrugs his shoulders.
Breedlove: You know how I know that you are and always will be playing from behind, Nate? Shit like this, right here. Why would I swing on you right here, when I can get eyes on the brand if I do it out there? Making a show out of conquering the “human meat grinder” Nate Robideau is way more lucrative for me than… just kicking your ass in a hallway.
The crowd pops as he acknowledges them and their entertainment.
Breedlove: I just– oh my god– it just dawned on me.
He slaps his hand to his forehead demonstratively. Almost mockingly.
Breedlove: You’re delusional. Like, not pretend delusional or faking it, but you’re actually off your rocker delusional. This makes SO MUCH MORE sense now. You’re calling yourself a champion while you hold no titles. You’re telling me you’re happy while you… lean against a wall waiting for me to give you the attention you crave… god, how did I miss this? It’s right here in front of me. It’s just…
He pauses for a moment.
Breedlove: God, this is actually really sad when you think about it. Am I bullying you and I didn’t even realize it? Gosh, I’m sorry if so.
He holds a singular hand up as he shifts his focus.
Breedlove: Nate, listen. I’m not going to sling mud about your “gym”. It’d be low hanging fruit and it’d be really disingenuous, because I don’t think about your “gym” at all. The talent you’re abusing? I worry for them. The “facility”?
He laughs, smugly.
Breedlove: Don’t even know where it’s located.
Nate chuckles, shaking his head.
Robideau: Well, you wouldn’t, would you?
He cracks his neck.
Robideau: But I don;t disagree with you, it makes so much more sense to do this in front of a crowd. And we can have fun, you can give me your little verbal jabs, but I want one thing to be abundantly clear.
Breedlove: Oh, yeah? What’s that?
Nate steps close, until they’re almost nose to nose. The electricity in the air crackles, and Josh’s shoulders square up–he’s clearly not afraid, but his attention has been gotten. When Nate speaks, it is with the low edge of threat on each word.
Robideau: Call me a delusional psychotic. Call my gym beneath your level of giving a shit. Call me a bad person, call me a snake, call me a bloodthirsty savage–I can handle all of that and more. Hell, I invite it. Insult me! You’re good at it, probably better than anyone I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing. But call into question my commitment to my students again, and I’ll stop caring about what’s good for anyone’s ‘brand.’ Fast. All of this shit, the accolades, the championships, the fame? I’ll burn it to the ground without even blinking for them.
This causes Breedlove to blink. One get’s the sense he realizes that Blackhawk isn’t just blowing smoke. Nate backs away, his disingenuous smile returning. He raises a finger, as if he’s just had an idea.
Robideau: Tell you what. Since you’re so very concerned about the talent that you’ve been actively trying to poach from my camp, why don’t we be sporting? You let the Johnson brothers prop your worthless ass up in a six man. I’ll bring the future. It’ll be a blast.
Breedlove maintains eye contact with Nate, letting the challenge and the previous words hang in the air a bit. He finally smiles.
Breedlove: Heh. Found it.
Nate doesn’t respond, Breedlove continues.
Breedlove: I think we’d love to wax the floor with your “gym”. Let’s say, Redemption? Then once done with that… one of us can go win the Redemption Rumble and really get a sense of what superiority looks like.
Nate smiles. He reaches out a hand.
Robideau: Sounds like a plan, asshole.
Breedlove chuckles, looking at the hand. He raises his as if he’s considering it, then waves him off.
Breedlove: Not a chance.
They pass one another, no incident to report–though as they get some distance, they both end up looking over their shoulders at the other man. It’d be hard to call the stares daggers, but one thing is abundantly clear: Nate Robideau and Josh Breedlove fucking hate one another.
IAM & SCS Vs. Mushi & Boomer SHOOTERS
Tag Team Match
We go to the back and find ourselves looking at an impromptu setup of a small table, with a stool on three of its four sides. In the chair at the middle of the table sits Laura Seton, blonde hair tied back, already wearing her referee shirt. She appears calm, though her head swings left and right, as if expecting company.
???: Not too late, am I?
Stepping from the back hallway, Azraith DeMitri comes into frame. He’s already dressed to wrestle, simple black spats with blue accents, he carries the SHOOT Project Heavyweight Championship over his right shoulder. As he moseys up to the table, he lets the championship rest down, sliding it gingerly onto the middle of it. After doing so, he leans back and posts up on the stool, flashing a small smile to Laura before looking to the opposite side of the table.
Laura Seton: Right on time, I’d wager.
Azraith DeMitri: Revolution 200…goddamn. The guys in the back should be proud, making this happen. It’s been a long time.
Laura Seton: You never include yourself as one of those ‘guys’, why is that?
Az shrugs a bit, laughing.
Azraith DeMitri: I’ve always been the mercenary of the old guard. I didn’t come up with the rest of them. Didn’t go through the same shit. When the splintering took place, I left instead of staying here. When everyone else retired and put on a suit, I was still out there dropping people on their heads. I’ve made my peace with all that a long time ago though, or else I wouldn’t have come back when they asked me to. ‘Sides, always more fun hanging out with y’all.
She knew that feeling too well herself.
Laura Seton: Maybe that’s why I just can’t stay retired. Even after years away, I still find myself out here. I really respect what you’ve done, which is why I wanted you here before we all get to the ring.
She takes a breath, making sure to make full eye contact while she speaks.
Laura Seton: For all the nights and rough matches, for everything I’ve taken verbally, tonight–this–is going to be the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
???: Not too late, am I?
Also stepping from the back hallway is none other than X-Calibur. There’s immediate tension as Azraith and X lock eyes. Realizing the situation, Laura stands up from her chair.
Laura Seton: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Guys not h-
X-Calibur: Relax. I’m leaving the fighting in the ring. I’m sure Az is doing the same.
Az nods, adjusting the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship.
X-Calibur: You see, this? Right here? This is the difference between a Soldier and everyone else out there. We leave our shit in the ring. We show up, fuckin’ fight, and do our thing the best we can. Everyone who watches should take note, because this is how you stay on top of the business after two-hundred fuckin’ episodes.
X looks at Laura and holds his fist out.
X-Calibur: C’mon, get in there Az!
A beat later, Azraith smiles and puts his fist out, touching knuckles with X and Laura.
X nods, smiling wide.
X-Calibur: For SHOOT!
Laura Seton: For SHOOT!
Azraith says nothing for what seems like an eternity. It’s become clear that he’s still sizing up X’s intentions. You don’t last as long as long as the Avatar has in SHOOT Project without being ready for anything at all times. Standing up from his seat, Az pounds the SHOOT Project Heavyweight Championship with his free fist.
Azraith DeMitri: For SHOOT.
X-Calibur: Fuckin’ eh.
He withdraws his fist from the three of them and looks toward catering.
X-Calibur: Always love these celebrations. But I’ll tell you what, if Pigpen ate all the coconut shrimp already, I may have to fuckin’ murder somebody. That piña colada sauce is worth going to jail for.
If she didn’t know him better, Seton would simply wonder where that subject change came from, but? That’s X for you. She just gives a shake of her head with a small smile before motioning for X and Az to sit, her taking a seat again as well. As tonight’s main eventers sit, she again makes sure to keep eye contact.
Laura Seton: Now that you’re both here… as I was saying, tonight is probably my most difficult night. I’m not only playing rule enforcer, but I’m looking to do this fairly.
She turns to Az.
Laura Seton: I respect you too much to screw you over. When I saw you beat Nate? Couldn’t have hoped for anyone better to face. That’s why I called for you specifically two weeks later. I want someone I dearly respect opposite me for the World Championship. But because I respect you, that means no favors–
She turns to X.
Laura Seton: –for you. Yes, we’re friends. Yes, I’m sure that Az might be concerned I’ll favor you since our history is long and tangled. But, while I don’t plan on screwing you over either, I’m not doing you any favors.
She makes sure to look back and forth now.
Laura Seton: I’m gonna make sure shoulders are down and my counts are consistent. And if you’re in a submission and in agony? You better make sure not to yell anything even close to “I quit.” You guys are great enough to fight to a bitter end. My goal is to make sure there’s no controversy.
Az nods in solemn agreement, looking back and forth between the two.
Azraith DeMitri: Listen…I know y’all got a history…but I also know y’all are fuckin’ adults. If I really, truly thought something was gonna go sideways I wouldn’t have walked in here. I…
Az chews on the word a moment.
Azraith DeMitri: trust…both of you two. Truly. Both of y’all have been stand-up with me, and I have no reason to think anything otherwise. Famous last words, blah blah blah…but I really think SHOOT Project could do with some folks at the top of the mountain not trying to either kill each other or screw each other over. Folks that just wanna fuckin’ fight. Just wanna compete. Just wanna be the best. Lofty ideals…but I think they’re ones we can all get behind. Ones we can help flourish in SHOOT Project.
X-Calibur: I really never did think I’d be around long enough to see Azraith DeMitri as an idealist. It looks good on you, man.
Az shrugs with a bit of a laugh.
Azraith DeMitri: Last few years have put a lot into perspective. If we don’t do our best to make sure this place is worth a damn for the next set of hard-headed motherfuckers that eventually take our places, who is? Gotta make it better, stronger, more prestigious than when I walked through the door. What we’re gonna do out there? That’s exactly how we do it. Set the example.
Raise the bar.
Az reaches his hand out, and shakes X’s hand firmly before shaking Laura’s.
Azraith DeMitri: I’ll see y’all out there.
X-Calibur Vs. Azraith DeMitri (c)
WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
IN THE RING
Eryk Masters: What an INCREDIBLE way to cap off Revolution 200! Insane title defense, insane match, and Laura Seton called it RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE.
Other Guy: You got that right. Azraith has put together an incredible list of defenses so far, and you gotta know he’s looking forward to that match up with Laura Seton at Redemption.
Eryk Masters: Shit, Redemption! That’s our next show! Wow!
Other Guy: This year is fly–
Suddenly, Other Guy is cut off when “Chuuch!” by Bun B takes over, signaling the arrival of the SHOOT Project Owner and CEO, the REAL DEAL. Naturally, the crowd goes nuts.
“I CAME TO TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.”
Armed with a microphone, the CEO is dressed like someone who’s been working all night. Jeans, a SHOOT Project t-shirt, and Air Force Ones. The crowd is showing him a lot of love, and he does the arm motion where it’s like he’s bowing down to them.
He pulls the microphone to his face, and the SHOOT Project Faithful are hushed.
Real Deal: That’ll never get old.
They pop for that.
Real Deal: I intended to come out here and deliver a bunch of bravado and hyped up electricity, some news, shower you guys with gratitude and all of that but I’m not gonna lie, SHOOT Project. I am tired.
Real Deal: Not like a “we’re selling SHOOT and I’m moving to the beach” tired or anything like that, just… it was a lot to put this show together tonight. 200 is a milestone that I’m not sure I ever thought we’d reach. From Revolution 001 to now… so much has happened. So many people have come through. The SHOOT Project has seen so many things.
We’ve seen attempted hostile takeovers.
Seen federal investigations as a result of actions that have taken place in this very building.
We’ve seen FORTY SEVEN World Champions crowned.
We have set a standard across the world of professional wrestling that is ours and ours alone. Companies follow in our footsteps. We blaze trails.
Since announcing our return in 2019, we’ve broken records, reached new milestones, and once again established our place amongst greatness. We don’t get here without the work of everyone who came here before us, and to those of you who are no longer part of the SHOOT Project, I say thank you.
He pauses to allow the fans to show their appreciation to those who have come and gone.
Real Deal: We’ve had our fair share of detractors, of course. Even for this era, there were whispers that this was our “victory lap”. People who thought this was a quick cash grab and that we’d be on our way back into the ether and the history books.
I’m a competitor at heart, and it’ll take something far beyond anything that SHOOT has experienced before to stop me here. So, to our detractors?
I say thank you.
The crowd has audible chuckles ringing through, and Real Deal smiles.
Real Deal: But for the people who are here today, those of you in the audience, those of you who put your bodies on the line for us in the back, you have my forever thanks.
I’ve been part of the SHOOT Project since 2002. I’ve been in an official capacity here since not that long after I signed on to wrestle. You’ve all grown with SHOOT and helped me grow with SHOOT. I will always be grateful to you all.
I’m going to close the curtain on this show with a quick reminder about Redemption, because that shit is going to be hype and I want to see you all there. Here’s to 200 episodes, and thank you all again, for everything!