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Ruination 057

EP.: 057

DATE: 04.28.2024

ARENA: THE EPICENTER

Backstage

REPERCUSSIONS

The camera opens in Dan Stein’s office in the SHOOT Project Epicenter. Dan wears a nice blue suit with the collar untucked. He still has a bruise around his neck from Ayumi Seppuku’s attack on him at Warrior’s Code. His voice is hoarse, but he powers through to deliver this important message:

 

Dan Stein: Good evening. At Warrior’s Code, we witnessed one of the most heinous acts ever broadcasted on SHOOT Project television and/or premium live events. This act has been the talk of the media since its broadcast, unfortunately. In the past, SHOOT Project soldiers have done terrible, horrible things to each other. This act, we believe, is beyond repugnant. While most people would agree that any publicity is good publicity, SHOOT Project does not believe that to be the case regarding the actions of Lars Von Bremen against Barbie Kellers, a non-wrestler member of the SHOOT Project roster at the time.

 

Due to Mr. Von Bremen’s actions, his contract has been terminated IMMEDIATELY and with cause, and further, with prejudice. Mr. Von Bremen, especially given his direct association with NC-17 and we have to assume Ayumi Seppuku, has overstepped the boundary between brutal competition, and assault. Barbie Kellers was used as a way to get to Max Towers. While Ms. Kellers recovers in the hospital TO THIS DAY, Max Towers has taken it upon himself to tender his resignation. As stated previously, we have accepted Mr. Towers’ resignation as we believe any sort of hindrance is inhuman. 

 

Ms. Kellers, you have my deepest apologies. At Warrior’s Code, I failed you. I assure you, I will do everything in my power to see you regain your health. I also make it my mission to assure that nothing like this EVER happens again, to ANYONE, here in SHOOT Project. 

 

Mr. Towers, I also apologize to you. I hope, in the future, you find your way back to SHOOT Project in some capacity as you are a kind, talented individual who made SHOOT Project better.

 

In addition to Lars Von Bremen’s termination, Ayumi Seppuku and NC-17 have had their contracts pulled by SHOOT Project’s legal team for review. Due to the fact that they were not present at the aforementioned assault, their contract status remains unchanged — for now. However, there will be repercussions coming their way as well. Those will be further discussed by SHOOT Project leadership in the coming weeks.

 

Lennox Ferguson’s role, if any, in this situation following the revelations at Warrior’s Code will also be evaluated. Furthermore, we promise his role in the attacks on the Johnsons and Jaime’s kidnapping are being dealt with swiftly and appropriately. Until we know the full scope of his actions, Lennox Ferguson’s leave of absence has been extended to a full suspension, without pay, from his position of Chief of Staff effective the night after Warrior’s Code. Thankfully, Jamie Johnson makes his return this weekend for Master of the Mat. However, the search for Ayumi’s kidnapping victims continues as Daihm Ferguson remains missing. 

 

Myself, “Real Deal” Josh Johnson, Eddie E, and everyone on SHOOT Project leadership understand the severity of this situation, even if our “talent” does not. Charges are not out of the picture. Daihm’s health is our top concern.

 

Moving forward, Master of the Mat is the perfect foil for what happened at Warrior’s Code. This competition will determine our next guaranteed number one contender. Will it be one of the SHOOT Project’s veterans? Or one of our recent signees who seize the opportunity before them. Let’s find out…starting…

 

Dan looks down at his watch, then back at the camera.

 

Dan Stein: NOW!



OPENING MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#8 CHICK GRILLBREAST

VS.

#9 ULTIMO MUERTE

Backstage

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN

The atmosphere is electric at the Epicenter.  That energy is evident even backstage.  CK Butcher rises.  He has just finished either meditating, or praying, in his room.  

 

His wrestling gear has evolved to coincide with his phoenix mentality.  Reds and oranges are highlighted on black pants with boots that match.  The attire is topped with a RISE T-shirt that centers the CK Butcher phoenix logo.

 

He tightens some athletic tape around his knuckles.  

 

CK Butcher: What a time to be alive.  It’s Master of the Mat season.  The SHOOT Project is moving into a new era.  Have you seen the talent pool lately?  All the fighters should be salivating at the challenges that lay ahead.  I know that I am.  I am grateful that I can stand here and say that.  This is special.

 

He takes a deep breath and briefly ponders.  Thought captures him for a moment.  The positivity transitions into serious.

 

CK Butcher:  I want to overthink this.  I want to get ahead of myself.  I’m trying to pacify my anxiety.  What if it is me?  What if I become the Master of the Mat?  It’s not far-fetched.  I can’t do that to myself.  Not again, and not this time.  I’m not going to get ahead of myself.  I’m going to control this differently.  One match at a time.  What if it is me?  Calm down, CK.  

 

The camera follows as CK exits the room.  He travels the hallways.  He nods at SHOOT Project crew members and flashes a smile at a couple of wrestlers that are new to the company.  He looks back at the camera.

 

CK Butcher:  Anything can happen in this wonderful business.  That’s why I love it.  I know that Master of the Mat will be a tremendous battle.  Every competitor is amazing at what they do.  I expect to be pushed to the limit.  That’s if I even move on to the next round.  This is my first match in two years.  My mind might be healing, but my body isn’t getting any younger.

 

There’s a young boy with his mother.  They’re wearing VIP Backstage passes.  CK smiles as he studies the boy’s shirt: a promotional tee repping Blackhawk Gym. Butcher continues before stopping to greet them.

 

CK Butcher:  Do I want this? Yes, I do.  More than ever.  I want it as bad as the next wrestler.  I also realize that…

 

“…that you’re nothing without me?”

 

It can’t be, and it sure is.  For those of you catching up: CK Butcher is being haunted by his alter ego The Blue Ridge Butcher, the Lord of the Flies, or the Crimson King. Whichever.  This version of CK likes to take the form of other people by transforming their heads into his own.  The imagination goes further because he has very few boundaries.  It all depends on CK’s mental toughness in order to eliminate the venom that tries to poison him.  

 

The Evil CK strikes again, and this time he takes the form of the boy.  The transformation catches CK off guard.  

 

Evil Butcher (Boy): C’mon, Butch!  Are you listening to yourself?  Blah blah – one match at a time – blah blah – body ain’t gettin’ younger.  I should call you Bitch, not Butch.

 

CK closes his eyes and clogs his ears with his fingers.

 

CK Butcher: No no no – you’re not here.  Not tonight.  

 

Evil Butcher appears within CK’s psyche.  It’s cartoonish.  The Evil Butcher is shrunken and lifts CK’s eyelid up like a window curtain.  

 

Evil Butcher: You think doin’ all that will make a difference? I am literally a projection of your fucked up brain.  You’re worse than I thought, Cee.  

 

Evil Butcher: You’re spot on about one thing, however.  Anything can happen.  Couldn’t agree more.  That’s why, tonight, you’re going to smash Archer’s face into the canvas until it starts to feel like a Walmart bag filled with meat and pudding.  Then – shave your entire body and cover it with Archer’s blood.

 

CK’s eyes snap open with hope that Evil CK has left.  But he is very wrong.  Not only has he taken the form of the boy, but also his mother.  She, he, begin a sadistic belly laugh.  

 

Evil Butcher (Mom): Haheha hahahooo, just kidding.  But, remember that?  Man, you were real messed up.  Blood stained Butcher, bah! So anyway, I gotta get back to the drawing board as I plot my return.  You, on the other hand, need to come through tonight.  Hear me?  Bag of pudding meat.  Send that Lucky Charms eatin’ bastard back to the shire.

 

Evil Butcher (Boy): Or, don’t.  Just remember that this business don’t give a shit about you.  You can keep doin’ the right thing.  That shit’ll get you nowhere.  So, expect the unexpected.  Don’t tell me I didn’t warn ya.

 

Evil Butcher disappears.  The boy and his mother are stunned.  Their eyes are wide and their jaws are dropped.  There are no words.  They’re speechless after what they saw.  What, exactly, did they see?  Was it CK talking to himself?  Maybe it was just CK acting strange with no dialogue?   

 

CK Butcher: How much of that did you just see?

 

They both look dumbfounded.

 

CK Butcher: Right.  I’m sorry about that.  I’m still trying to get that all under control.  Here…

 

He removes his T-shirt and hands it to the boy.  The look of confusion on the boy’s face turns to excitement.  He turns to his mother with a huge smile.  They go to thank CK, but he has left the scene.  



SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#7 MIKE DE LOS HUESOS

VS.

#10 GOLDEN BURKHALTER

Backstage

CLOSE YOUR EYES UNTIL IT GOES AWAY

Ruination has come and we’re just a few moments away from when Alex Kincaid will take to the ring for his opening contest in Master of the Mat. Tonight, one show after talking about how he doesn’t have much taste for the traditional wrestling promo, he’s decided to go back on his word. He’s not dressed to compete yet, in his blue jeans and an ancient t-shirt bearing the name of an old friend: FERAL. Longtime fans of him will recognize this as a former tag partner of both himself AND Anna Daniels. It’s a shot across the bow. His first real one since the most complicated relationship of his entire career has popped back into his life to settle unfinished business.

 

Some folks in the audience certainly seem to recognize it. There’s a tiny buzz from the crowd, that grows into cheers for him. There’s even a light smattering of his name being chanted. He looks to the ground and grins, sheepishly, that part is going to take some getting used to.

SHOOT Interviewer Abigail Chase has been doing this long enough to let him soak in the moment. He grins and looks up at her from the floor, toward her, and points toward her to encourage her to ask her question. The tiny chant of his name turns to one for Abigail and he breaks into a laugh, more than a little surprised at hoe wild the crowd is tonight.

 

Kincaid: Okay, okay, Abigail Chase, do you have a question you would like to ask me?

 

Abigail chuckles and nods, as though remembering ‘Right! That’s how this goes!’ and brings the microphone up.

 

Abigail Chase: Well, Alex Kincaid, it is Ruination 57 and tonight you step into the ring for the first round of Master of the Mat against Locust. That would be hard enough. But recently, we’ve seen the arrival of a figure from your past. Anna Daniels. We’ve seen you have a lingering issue with the Mongolian Monster Moriton. With all this stuff up in the air, do you think you’re in the right headspace to compete against Locust tonight?

 

Alex takes a deep breath and folds his arms in front of him, considering the question for a moment. He clicks his tongue as he mulls it over and then shakes his head.

 

Kincaid: Gonna be like that, is it Ms. Chase? Goddamn, been around here long enough to just come and bring the heat huh? The answer to that question is…boring. Sorry, not to insult the journalistic craft or whatever. The questions not the problem. The answers the problem. See, because if I sit here and tell you that I’ve got a plan to get through all this with no problems I’d be lying to you. And, you know, you and I have never met. I don’t do this kind of thing. I’m not a backstage interview guy. So I’m not going to screw up this new friendship of ours by lying to you. Besides, the truth is more interesting.

 

He turns directly toward the screen. The smile fades, the expression darkens. He sets his jaw and speaks directly to the forces gathered against him.

 

Kincaid: That’s what all of you are thinking isn’t it? You think you’ve got my number, that all these distractions are going throw me off. You know, let’s dispense with the nonsense. Anybody who knows me knows the thing that gets in my craw like nothin’ else is false humility. I absolutely hate when guys play down how good they are just to stay in the good graces of whoever is watching. So I’m not going to do that. I’ve fought enough fights to earn the right to talk about how good I am, and if any of the three of you manage to put me down over the next couple of weeks YOU deserve for it to be good and clear what an accomplishment that is. I am Alex Kincaid. In IUW, they called me the Ghost of the Underground. In CPW, they called me the Catch Classic, when I was here all those years ago they called me the Iron Fist and a long, long time ago a very special girl to me used to call me…Slash. First couple of weeks here, I’ve spent telling everyone that I’m going to prove to you that I deserve to be here. I meant every word of that, but you know what? At some point that has to end.

 

Abigail shuffles nervously next to him as though she’s uncomfortable being in the frame with him. His head snaps sideways, locking a predatory glare on her. She freezes and his expression softens. He gives her a slow nod, a bit of an apology and goes back to the camera.

 

Kincaid: There would be a beautiful poetry if this was a past, present, future thing. If some old, broken down man like me came out against this future star like Locust and ran him through on his way to proving he still had it that would be something special. But that isn’t what this is. Because things don’t flow here the way they should, life does not give us such tidy little narratives and…time…is a funny thing. Locust is no ordinary wrestler. He’s got all sorts of tricks and traps to put a guy in who isn’t ready for him. That’s the vibe I get. He’s too new for any of us to know him for sure, but I know when someone is comfortable making things uncertain. Problem is, bug boy, that I am the simplest thing in the world when I’m challenged. I am the man who doesn’t stop. I am the thing monsters are afraid of. I am the once and future champion and Master of the Mat isn’t yours to win, it’s mine to LOSE.

 

Without taking his eyes away from the camera he raises a hand to point toward the interviewer again.

 

Kincaid: You see the look on her face? She’s been here a long time, and I bet she’s seen a lot of wrestlers make their way through. But there’s something different about being around me when there’s a target on my back, there’s something different about standing next to one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet when the walls are closing in. There’s a lot of wrong in this place that needs to be righted, there are monsters in our midst that need to be put down. I know what I need to do to get the chance to do that. Now, Abigail can feel it standing next to me…that energy…that beating heart of pro wrestling. Can you Locust? Are you afraid to feel that energy for the first time? Will you be ready tonight, when you stand there with me and you look across the ring? Be honest. Do you think you’re prepared? To Anna Math-

 

He catches himself. He looks frustrated for a moment, looking down at his feet. He looks back up and the next words are practically a growl. 

 

Kincaid: -Anna Daniels.I am a habitual line stepper, and you and I are eventually going to be face to face and you can decide if I’m implying some underlying meaning when I ask if you’re ready to feel my…energy again? I am not the man you knew. I am not the confused kid that clawing his way through the dark on fires YOU lit. This is a version of me you could only dream of, this is a Kincaid that will make you regret taking a step down to be with us mere mortals for a few minutes. People ask me sometimes, they go, do we still talk? Do you remember Anna? And sometimes I say ‘I don’t even know what she is anymore.’ Because…hey, we’ve grown apart haven’t we? But for every crazy story about you I hear, there’s a story about me. In the ring. Where things matter. Maybe they didn’t all happen here, but they happened. Did you miss me, Anna? Is that why you’re back? Is there some little piece of you that wonders ‘is he as good as I knew he could be?’ Let’s find out.  All you have to do is win.

 

Voice from Off-Camera: Yes, all they have to do is win.

 

Approaching on Chase and Kincaid is the unmistakable agent for Moriton, in his leather jacket, black porkpie hat, and sunglasses indoors.

 

Mr. Ho: I’ve been in earshot for this whole dreadful interview, Kincaid, and I have to wonder, does my Mighty Garuda even exist in your mind?

 

He lowers his shades to show menace in his eyes.

 

Mr. Ho: Or is this one of those situations where if you don’t mention him, he doesn’t exist to you?

 

Kincaid scowls and steps closer to Ho. He stares him down. For a minute, it looks like he might be about to do something truly, unmistakably stupid to a man as powerful as Ho. But then he tilts his head back towards his shoulder. He keeps his eyes locked with Ho and offers some final words.

 

Kincaid: Abigail. It was nice to meet you. Thank you for the interview.

 

With that he heads past the older man and makes his way down the hall. 

 

Mr. Ho: Miss Chase, you’re very good at your job. I don’t know how you deal with such mealy-mouthed nonsense.

 

Ho nods and walks off himself.

 

Abigail Chase: Okay, back to you guys!

SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#6 KAZNA MOROZOVA

VS.

#11 JUDY “THUNDERFIST” PUNCHINELLO

Backstage

GET WELL SOON

We catch up with Sin City Champion Madison Seton backstage.  Her championship around her waist, she appears to be holding something in her hands.  Her eyes seem fixated on a specific sight and her walk is sure enough that she seems out to find something.  Or someone.

 

She comes to a stop in front of a door, which, as the lettering on it states, leads to the office of one Dan Stein.  Madison puts on a quick grin before knocking. Stein must be near the door because it quickly opens. He looks at who knocked and smiles, widely. Dan’s neck is still slightly bruised from the attack at the hands of Ayumi Seppuku at Warrior’s Code.

 

Dan Stein: Ahh, Madison. To what do I owe the pleasure, Champ?

 

Dan leans against the doorframe, using it to support him so that he doesn’t have to use his cane.  It was a sight she still wasn’t used to.  Dan had crossed paths numerous times with her older sister.  Dan Stein, sexy wrestling machine was what she still expected at first thought–even if she knew all about what more went down at Warrior’s Code.

 

Madison Seton: Uh… you sure you’re good?  Ayumi certainly didn’t hesitate to… uh… yeah.

 

Dan sighs, lowering his head. He speaks to the ground.

 

Dan Stein: Ayumi made sure I’d never wrestle again, yeah. If the drop kick from the rafters didn’t do it, Warrior’s Code did. She’s…

 

Dan feels the rage start to build up inside, so he stops himself. Dan takes a deep breath, exhales, and looks up at Madison Seton with a smile.

 

Dan Stein: Yeah, Maddie. I’m good. How are you, huh? Entire side of a Master of the Mat bracket named after you – that’s gotta feel good? And the little one…?

 

Madison has a laugh.

 

Madison Seton: Coming faaaast!  About three months left.  Really wild time!

 

Dan Stein: It’ll be here before you know it. Both of mine felt like they flew by. What are we thinkin’, here? We got a ‘W’ before the NBA or not?

 

Madison Seton: Don’t know.  Don’t wanna know.  Gonna go old school and find out the day of.  Uh… speaking of which… there’s four, right?  Four Steins?

 

Dan panics.

 

Dan Stein: Whoa…two! Two! Only two!

 

Dan rubs the back of his neck.

 

Dan Stein: …that I know of.

 

Madison rolls her eyes.

 

Madison Seton: Forgot yourself and Molly?

 

Dan laughs, and points at Madison. He chuckles to himself.

 

Dan Stein: Oh! Thank goodness.

 

Madison has another laugh for a moment before looking to her hands, then back at Dan.  That evil smirk of hers makes its first showing.

 

Madison Seton: Not far from opening night.  Ya going??

 

Dan laughs.

 

Dan Stein: Already got my Caitlin Clark jersey pressed and ready to go. Gotta rep the best in the world.

 

Dan winks at the WNBA star.

 

Madison Seton: Where you sittin’?

 

Dan shakes his head.

 

Dan Stein: I’ll find a way. Nosebleeds or not, I’ll be there.

 

Madison Seton: Fuckin’ A you will!

 

She opens her hands as she puts what looks like tickets on his desk. Dan looks down at the three tickets. Dan counts them, studies where they’re at, and looks up at Madison with bright, wide eyes.

 

Madison Seton: Matthew’s still sitting on your lap.

 

Dan nods, excitedly. Dan thinks for a second as his eyes narrow.

 

Dan Stein: This is awesome. Almost…TOO…awesome. You know I can’t be bought, right?

 

Madison Seton: I already have a championship here that I earned the right way.  This isn’t bribery.  I just know the only bigger Caitlin fan here… is me.  Again, I’m not bribing you and I want you to have me booked fairly… but otherwise?  Remember.  I’m her teammate now.  Be nice to me.  There may be more in store.

 

Dan picks up the tickets.

 

Dan Stein: Madison…I…Wow. 

 

Dan slaps the tickets against his hand.

 

Dan Stein: Thank you.

 

Madison Seton: Now, get well soon!

 

SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#5 KINCAID

VS.

#12 LOCUST

Backstage

A MIXED BAG OF GOOD AND DOUCHEDICKERY

We come back from commercial break where we find one of SHOOT Project’s most anticipated new Soldiers, Vito Valentino, walking with a gym bag towards the free-for-all gym area that many other wrestlers use as a pre-match warm-up.

 

Wanting to get the blood pumping in anticipation of his first round match with Ryan Samuels, Vito drops a dark, Charleston Green colored KNKG duffel bag. 

 

Vito Valentino: (in a low tone to himself) Gotta say, I’m feelin’ kinda like the new kid in school, headin’ to gym class for the first time. Wonderin’ what kinda trouble I’m about to get into.

 

The Brooklyn Warrior, as some colleagues had dubbed him in the past, looks around at all the personnel paying zero attention to him whatsoever. A satisfied chuckle, Vito reaches down and pulls out a pair of old school weight-lifting gloves with that 80’s-esque mesh backing and solid leather palm gripping. It looked like something Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dolph Lundgren might’ve worn in one of their endless action flicks during the Decade of Excess.

 

Speaking of his weight-lifting gloves, Vito smiled as he slipped them on. Soon, the SHOOT Project Soldiers would find out the hard way that he can throw down harder than most. With those custom-made size XXXXXL gloves— that’s right, count ‘em, FIVE X’s— his punches in bunches are not something a lot of competitors could prepare for and he would capitalize on that at every opportunity out there in the Epicenter. Already standing at an impressive 6’4” and 268 lbs, he’d knocked the wind out of opponents far larger, far quicker, and far more experienced than he.

 

Ryan Samuels, though? There was something dangerous about that guy which made Vito a little hesitant to want to just immediately throw down with the guy. He’d give the Midwest Nitemare some respect out there and take nothing for granted.

 

Hopefully he’d show the same respect for Vito later on tonight.Because if he didn’t? If he went after the former Real World’s Champion with reckless abandon?

 

He’d have to live with the regret of a quick defeat until next year’s Master of the Mat where he would try again.

 

Before Vito could lift up under the bench press bar, a voice called over to him.

 

???: Yo! New dude! Sup?!

 

The person the voice emanated from approaches Vito. Pink and blue hair. Covered in tattoos. A walking rainbow. RIA, former tag team champion, has returned to SHOOT Project. She glides up next to the bench, wearing a grin somewhere between dazzling and disconcerting.

 

Vito Valentino: Hey there! I’m Vito. Pleasure to meet a SHOOT Project veteran who hasn’t immediately insulted me!

 

RIA scoffs, shrugging casually.

 

RIA: Eh, I’m not usually like that. Unless you’re a douchebag beforehand. The fact that you’re showing some respect towards me makes me think that ain’t the case for you.

 

Vito Valentino: Well that’s good. Glad you can recognize respect when it’s bein’ given! I have to admit, after my introduction on Spitter, I was a little worried the entire locker room was gonna be like that. 

 

He pauses, chuckling.

 

Vito Valentino: But yeah, I ain’t got a reason to be a douchebag to someone. I’m blessed with bein’ in this thing of ours, and gettin’ a second chance after hangin’ ‘em up two years ago is not lost on me. Specially when Dan Stein signed me on like he did, ready to let me show the world what I can do!

 

RIA’s right eyebrow raises. Her gaze flows down, then back up. Curious. Very curious. Her arms cross on her chest, head tilting to the side 

 

RIA: Hol’ up… What’s the deal? You don’t look particularly beat up. Still got all your limbs and shit. Spill, my dude! I gotta know! Are you really saying you retired before?

 

Vito laughs and then leans on the weights of the bench press. Folding his massive arms, he nods.

 

Vito Valentino: Sure did. I’m only thirty-three and I’m not exactly beat up, but I had some business ventures outside of wrestling that I wanted to pursue. Unfortunately, or fortunately, dependin’ on how you wanna look at it, my businesses went under. Now here I am. Back off the bench and tryin’ to become Master of the Mat. This world is crazy sometimes!

 

RIA purses her lips and nods. Her arms uncross, right hand finding its way to her hip. She smiles again, but this grin is softer, more welcoming.

 

RIA: Well whatever the case is, welcome back to our crazy ass world! Seems like you got a chance to do some things. Good build, good attitude, all that. I dunno about Master of the Mat, but hell, crazier shit has happened. Imma leave you to it. Good luck, dude!

 

RIA offers a casual wave before wandering off. As Vito returns to pumping iron, two highly flamboyant luchadors appear on the screen. Lucha Fitness comes in with three titles. Kid Lucha wears half of the SHOOT Project Tag Team Championships on his waist, while Maximo Fisico carries his half of the championships on one shoulder with his Sexiest In SHOOT Title on another. Since they are not wrestling tonight, Kid Lucha wears a neon green button-up shirt and dress pants, a bright yellow dress belt, and a pink suit coat. Maximo wears similar neon green dress pants and belt, but he is also wearing a bright pink mesh shirt with nothing underneath.

 

Maximo Fisico: Que lindo! Mi hermano, look at this prime example of machismo before us! I am…como se dice…titillated at the sight!

 

KL scoffs.

 

Kid Lucha: You like’em old and…desperate for approval?

 

Maximo adjusts his belts and clicks his teeth, his tongue crossing his lips as he does so.

 

Maximo Fisico: Desperation has its benefits mi hermano. Hola hermosito, do you need a spotter? Cuz…I can spot you from miles away.

 

Kid Lucha rolls his eyes, also adjusting his title belt. It isn’t like they need to be adjusting their belts, but rather that they enjoy people seeing they have them.

 

Kid Lucha: Careful Maxxy, this is what a REAL guerrero looks like.

 

Kid Lucha laughs at his own pun, but Maximo simply continues to oggle Vito, looking at him in the way that even Joey Swoles couldn’t defend.

 

Maximo Fisico: Si, hermano, si. I do see. 

 

After only a couple reps, Vito places the bench press bar and weights back onto the weight rack.

 

Vito Valentino: Guess I’m not gonna get those pre-match reps in, am I?

 

Sitting up, he sighs.

 

Vito Valentino: Now, I know my Español ain’t exactly up to snuff compared to a couple of luchadors like yourselves, but I swear I just heard you… 

 

He points at Kid Lucha.

 

Vito Valentino: …call me old and desperate. And you?

 

He points at Maximo.

 

Vito Valentino: Well, let’s just say I’m flattered, but not interested.

 

Vito stands up from the bench. Despite only getting a few reps in, his muscles are bulging almost as much as the empanada Maximo seems to be smuggling in his pants.

 

Vito Valentino: I’m gonna ignore that blatant attempt at markin’ your territory. Chalk it up to knowin’ a territorial little chihuahua when I see one. Instead? Let me probably be the first one to actually congratulate the two of you on endin’ the Coltons’ title run. That was impressive. Real should always recognize real. Capiche?

 

Vito holds up a finger and wags it at Kid Lucha, who looks like he wants to give an angry reply. Maximo chomps down on his teeth like he wants to take a bite out of Vito. Not in the cannibalistic way, mind you, but in a way that would intrigue Maximo’s niche subscribers on OnlySHOOT. They both adjust their titles again.

 

Maximo Fisico: Let us leave our new friend. He needs to get all hot, sweaty, and swollen for his match with the grumpy gaucho. 

 

Lucha Fitness proceeds to exit, with Kid Lucha throwing out a word as they leave.

 

Kid Lucha: Who says capiche in real life?

 

Vito chuckles, shaking his head as he watches them retreat.

 

Vito Valentino: (To himself) Well, then. A mixed bag of respect and douchedickery.

 

He bellows out a laugh.

 

Vito Valentino: (To himself, still) Somethin’ tells me I’m gonna like it here.

 

Sitting back down on the bench press station, Vito shakes his head and laughs at the interactions he’s found himself involved in already on his first show. He lifts the bar up again, going back to his gainz like he wanted to do in the first place.

SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#4 MORITON

VS.

#13 ANNA DANIELS

ELSEWHERE

DROP THE CHARGES

It was late. There shouldn’t have been any visitors, but this was Vegas. You greased the right palms, almost anything was possible. Lars Von Bremen stood at the end of the hospital bed, leaning on the frame, looking down on Barbie Kellers. He wore a red track suit with gold “ADIDAS” lettering. It looked brand new, sleazy, and very expensive. He tapped on the feet of Barb, not hard, but enough to wake her up. Barb awoke, her eyes going wide as she saw the monster that had assaulted her. However, though terrified, she did not scream. Screaming for help wouldn’t do anything. If he wanted her dead, she’d die, that was it.

 

Barbie Kellers: What…the…fuck…do…you…want?

 

Talking was still difficult and her throat was so parched. Lars nodded at her, walking to her side and grabbing a cup of water. He offered it to her, placing the straw near her mouth. Barb looked confused, but she accepted the drink, placing her lips on the straw.

 

Lars Von Bremen: You didn’t deserve this. Teeny’s biggest sin is not that he’s an idiot, but that he was weak. 

 

Lars sighed.

 

Lars Von Bremen: I’m not going to tell you I’m sorry, because I’m not, but I’m not…I’m not, like, happy I did this to you.

 

As Barb let go of the straw, Lars put the water down. He walked back to the foot of the bed and picked up a briefcase. He opened it, revealing several wads of hundred-dollar bills.

 

Lars Von Bremen: This is about half the money I was paid. SHOOT Project is going to take care of your hospital bills. I’m going to give you this whether you say yes or no.

 

Barb didn’t say a word. She just looked at the giant with a mixture of fear and confusion.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Drop the charges. Tell the police that this was just a TV stunt gone wrong. You were an actor, playing the part on a television show, a show where I’m the villain. 

 

Barb glared at Lars.

 

Barbie Kellers: Or…you’ll…what? 

 

Barb breathed heavily, finding it difficult to speak.

 

Barbie Kellers: Hurt…me…more?

 

Lars shrugged. 

 

Lars Von Bremen: Maybe. Might not need to. Teeny abandoned you. Mr. Teen is going to make sure I have great legal counsel. Your life…your WHOLE life is going to be laid bare. Anything to discredit you, to make you look like a liar, a tramp, ANYTHING, will be brought up publicly. And…well…my boss works for the largest wrestling promotion in the world. Anything and everything can easily become fodder for the media. 

 

Lars sighed. 

 

Lars Von Bremen: Mr. Teen doesn’t want to hurt you anymore, and I only want what Mr. Teen wants. He just wants you out of the picture. Take the money, Barb. Start over. Drop the charges.

 

Barbie looked away, her fear becoming rage, rage that she did not have the energy to fully feel or express.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Teeny left town, Barb. He’s gone. He didn’t think this was worth the fight.

 

Something in Barb broke. She could feel her eyes begin to water.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Drop the charges.

 

Lars placed the briefcase of money next to the flowers and “Get Well Soon” cards. He walks towards the door, stopping in the doorway for a second, waiting to see if Barb says anything else. After a few moments of silence and a soft sniffle from Barb, Lars exits the room. 

SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#3 ARCHER QUINCANNON

VS.

#14 C.K. BUTCHER

POST MATCH

OPPORTUNITIES

Butcher is slow to stand after a hard fought battle.  He’s nursing the back of his sweaty head and squints through a sheet of perspiration toward the crowd.  The SHOOT Project faithful are cheering.  Some cheer for another Master of the Mat banger, and some cheer for a great return match from CK Butcher.  

 

However, some are making noise about something else.  It’s a slightly confused cheer.  That’s when the camera cuts to Pandora, the handler of Ultimo Muerte, on the stage.  She raises a microphone to her lips.

 

Pandora:  I want to congratulate you, Mr. Butcher.  Your return at Warrior’s Code was well received.  Hopefully this return will last longer?

 

Butcher is confused.  He puts his hands on his hips.  He waits in the center of the ring as Pandora struts down the ramp.

 

Pandora:  Hopefully. The SHOOT Project has enough flakes in this company.  What I find disappointing is that they gave you TV time at Warrior’s Code.  Not just any TV time.  They gave the return of CK Butcher a prime time spot right before the main event.  

 

She stops just a few feet from the ring.  Her eyes connect with Butcher’s.  

 

Pandora: That’s quite the opportunity.  How is it that someone like you can get that opportunity?  There are men and women backstage that have bled for this company a lot longer than you.  They have put in the work.  Somehow you’re more important?

 

Butcher shakes his head.  He’s disagreeing with that notion.  Pandora smiles.

 

Pandora: That’s fair, Mr. Butcher.  I like opportunities, too.  Allow me to take this opportunity to explain what your return meant to myself, and Ultimo Muerte.  Your return meant that Ultimo Muerte’s spot at the top of this company was yet again stolen.  A thief like you does not deserve recognition.  This is our time.  These are our opportunities.  Not yours.

 

The crowd volume increases as they start to cheer more.  It’s not because of what Pandora said.  No, it’s because of who slid into the ring and now stands behind CK Butcher.  The crowd is excited for this altercation.

 

Dutch Harris: Oh no, CK! Look out!

 

Pandora: This is [she points for CK to turn around] HIS opportunity!

 

Scott Kamura:  It’s Muerte!  

 

Dutch Harris: No! No! 

 

Ultimo Muerte spins Butcher around and kicks him directly in the gut!  Butcher leans forward and Muerte pulls him in to setup for a powerbomb.  Muerte wastes no time and lifts Butcher up and then slams him down onto the canvas with a great thud.  Butcher lands between shoulder blades and lower neck.  His knees nearly hitting him in the face upon impact.

 

Scott Kamura: Damn you, Muerte! Damn you, Pandora!

 

Dutch Harris:  These two are going to do whatever it takes to escalate up the ranks…

 

Muerte continues by stomping on Butcher several times.  The mixed reaction from the crowd tells the story as Muerte jolts toward the ropes, leans against them, and points at audience.  He then points at Butcher.  CK is rolling into his side, nursing his abdomen, and the back of his neck. 

 

Dutch Harris: …and it starts with CK Butcher.

 

Muerte stalks him.  Ultimo bends forward and lifts Butcher back to his feet.  He wraps Butcher up and then sends CK sailing toward the turnbuckle with a quick and relentless belly to belly suplex!  Muerte’s power is on display and he easily launches the 205 pound Butcher.

 

Scott Kamura: My GOD, Dutch!  Muerte is possessed!

 

Dutch Harris: Yes, Scott, we already knew that.

 

Butcher nails the corner and falls on the crown of his skull.  Fans boo, some aren’t sure what to think.  Officials hurry to the ring to stop Muerte from a continued assault.  Ultimo slides out of the ring before the officials get there.  He quickly makes it back to Pandora.  

 

Scott Kamura:  Officials have made their way into the ring.  Thankfully this crew has made it in time before Muerte could send CK back to the retirement home.

 

Dutch Harris:  This doesn’t look good.  I wouldn’t want to be in Muerte’s path right now.  Nobody should.  But picking on Butcher’s vulnerability?  That’s low.

 

The officials tend to Butcher.  He seems to be OK.  He’s in pain, but he’s been brought to one knee.  Butcher stares at his attacker, and then Pandora.  The couple walk up the stage and look accomplished.  CK Butcher grinds his teeth as the officials continue to ensure he needs no medical attention.

 

Backstage

WHEN THE DUST SETTLES

The crowd buzzes with anticipation as “The Midwest Nightmare” Ryan Samuels makes his entrance, the sound of “Old West Gunslingers” signaling his arrival. Dressed in his black cowboy hat and leather vest, Ryan strides down the ramp with purpose, a microphone clenched tightly in his hand.

 

Ryan Samuels: Well, well, well, look who we got here – Vito Valentino, stepping into the lion’s den with The Midwest Nightmare. But before I tear you apart, Vito, there’s a few things I gotta get off my chest.

 

The crowd quiets down, intrigued by Ryan’s serious tone.

 

Ryan Samuels: You see, while I’ve been busy preparing to rip your damn head off tonight, I’ve had a couple of other pests buzzing around, trying to distract me. One of ’em goes by the name of Johnny Patriot.

 

Cheers erupt from the audience at the mention of Johnny Patriot.

 

Ryan Samuels: Yeah, Johnny, you coward. You think just ‘cause you wave that flag around, you’re some kind of hero? Well, let me tell ya something, Johnny boy – heroes don’t hide behind patriotism. You’re nothin’ but a fraud, and I’m sick and tired of your act.

 

The crowd boos as Ryan’s anger boils over.

 

Ryan Samuels: And as if Johnny wasn’t enough, now we got a couple of masked nuisances calling themselves SWARM – CICADA and LOCUST. You think you can swarm around and cause chaos, huh? Well, let me make it clear, SWARM, you’re not gonna distract me from what’s important tonight.

 

Ryan’s voice grows louder, his eyes blazing with disdain.

 

Ryan Samuels: Vito, you’re just a speed bump on my road to settling scores. Johnny Patriot, SWARM – they’re gonna get theirs soon enough. But tonight, it’s all about you, Vito. It’s about showing the world why they call me The Midwest Nightmare.

 

The crowd continues to boo Samuels as he stands there in the ring.

 

Ryan Samuels: So, Vito Valentino, get ready for a world of hurt. ‘Cause when you step into this ring with me, there’s no escape. I’m gonna tear through you like a tornado, and when the dust settles, you’ll wish you never crossed paths with The Midwest Nightmare!

 

Ryan drops the microphone with a defiant smirk, soaking in the negativity of the crowd.

SINGLES MATCH

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#2 RYAN SAMUELS

VS.

#15 VITO VALENTINO

Backstage

MANIFEST

CK Butcher slowly moves through the Epicenter hallway with a duffle bag in tow.  He’s got a lot on his mind although his stoic expression may say otherwise. Mary Kelly catches up to him before he departs.  

 

Mary Kelly: CK! We’d like to get word on how you are doing following the attack by Ultimo Muerte.  

 

Butcher adjusts the duffle bag on his shoulder.  He briefly ponders that’s followed by a smirk.

 

CK Butcher: I am well.  Great, actually.  My body aches and I don’t understand a few things, but that’s natural.  That’s pro wrestling.  My focus is progress, not vengeance.  This universe can throw every hurdle in my path.  I’ll still leap over it.  I understand that this won’t come easy.  I’ve given repentance for my past.  It’s only a matter of time before CK Butcher feels closure, and is cleansed.

 

Mary Kelly: Why do you think Ultimo Muerte –

 

Mary dry heaves.  Not once, but three times.  Her eyes roll back and her face then morphs into Evil CK donning a sadistic grin.  He finishes Mary’s sentence.

 

Evil Butcher (Mary Kelly): …didn’t kill you?  That’s simple, Mary.  Because he can’t.  Only I can kill CK Butcher.  Ultimate Death? Ha, should’ve been my name.  

 

Evil Butcher (Mary Kelly): I told ya.  Am I right? Anything can happen.  I manifested that shit.  I’m a manifestor.  Is that even a word?  You’re stuck between a rock and hard place, Cee.  What’re you gonna do when two versions of death decide to open Pandora’s box?  Heh, Like what I did there?  

 

CK is expressionless and looks away.  He leaves.  There’s no hesitation and no response.

 

Evil Butcher (Mary Kelly): You can run! But, you’ll never hide.  Remember – I know where you live!

 

He tilts his head back and sadistically laughs.  Mary Kelly’s face returns as her head rises from laughter.  Her eyebrows are raised and she looks concerned while observing CK depart.

MAIN EVENT

MASTER OF THE MAT: ROUND 1

#1 MADISON SETON

VS.

#16 CHADWICK KYLE