NC-17 Vs. Courtney Hatchett (c)
Alleyway. Vegas. Late afternoon.
Adrian Reyes, the former Avarice, sits on a milk crate. In his hands he holds the REIGN Championship, and he eyes it with disbelief. When he speaks, it’s not the tone we are used to. Gone is the saccharine sweetness, the manic swings. He speaks very measured, as if he’s trying to make sure he pieces the sentences together correctly.
Adrian: I find that these days I feel…listless. Unsure of my place, unsure of what makes me “me”. Yet if there’s anything I know, it’s in that ring…there’s a degree of sadness.
He drops his head, then throws it back, sending his black hair flying. The grin is back. The Voice too. Eyes dead. Dead. He holds up the title into the air.
Avarice: But why be sad? Ahahaha. Look at it! So shiny. So clean. So…nice! Oh my oh my goodness, the joy I felt! Kimo Apana, my friend, my darling. You know what I did was love, don’t you? Violence is love—the only love I’ve ever known! Ahahaha.
With a shake of the head, a jolt, he lowers the belt. Looks to the walls of the buildings. Thinks for a long moment.
Adrian: …I’ve been going to group therapy. A lot of people, I meet them. And while they didn’t go through what I did, they went through things that carry the same notes and colors. I associate colors with harm, sometimes. Can’t stomach a specific tone of salmon velvet because I was looking at his salmon velvet couch when certain things happened.
With no warning he brings the belt and his forehead together, DRIVING the metal into his face. Another time. A third, with the sound of steak being dropped onto linoleum. When he stops, he’s opened a fresh wound on his forehead, and his nose looks bloody.
Avarice: “Silly stupid boy!” Oh I deserved it, don’t we all? Ahahaha. Just like you deserved it, Kimo Apana, my love, my darling. Just like you deserve it now, sweet Jamie Scion, my brother, my sweetheart! Don’t you worry. I know you do! You worry that your kin has forgotten you, that I’ve forgotten the debt you owe me! Ahahaha! Not a chance! Not while you sit back and continue to collect father figures while others have so little…
He slumps. Doesn’t look up from the ground while he speaks, absently wiping blood from his eye.
Adrian: It stings, doesn’t it? I’m asking myself questions I already know the answers to. Habit I’m trying to break myself of. It does sting. I feel hurt. You have so much, and I have nothing left. Scattered to the four corners and I’m so very alone. But there’s always this. And because I hold it, they’ll be coming for me. It won’t bring me the joy a family would, but it’s a way to alleviate the boredom. It’s a distraction from the sadness.
He stands, uneasy. Wipes his face and pushes his hair back. His returned smile lacks all warmth. It almost looks painful, a rictus.
Avarice: Oh, children, children, children! Bury one another for trinkets and gold, carve each other up for accolades that will be forgotten as quickly as they are given, bleed to line the pockets of rich men! Ahahah. Let’s die together!!
He wraps the belt around his waist, fastening it over his clothing. He wipes more blood from his face and walks out from the alleyway, into the crowds of Las Vegas, oblivious to any stares he may be getting.
Unholy Cyber Army & Teddy Palmer Vs. The Holy Breedlove Empire
We cut to the office of “Real Deal” Josh Johnson. He’s reading over some paperwork with a concentrated look on his face, frowning as he thumbs through it. Sitting across from him is the tall and powerful raven-haired beauty, Pandora. She’s dressed smartly in a red pantsuit with white trim. Her cleavage is showing. Her right leg is crossed over her left at the knee.
Suddenly there’s a knock on Real Deal’s office door. NC-17 doesn’t wait for the okay to enter. He pokes his mohawked head in, a puzzled look on his face, and ventures forward. He’s still dressed in his wrestling gear and is covered in bruises and bandaged lacerations from his earlier match with Courtney Hatchett. The arena pops.
Real Deal gestures for NC-17 to sit down.
Real Deal: Mr. Seventeen, I believe you and Ms. Pandora here have been introduced to each other on spitter. Have a seat. No, you’re not in trouble.
Pandora: The ink isn’t dry yet.
NC-17 slides into the chair next to Pandora. He gives her a once-over, then nods at Real Deal with a “hey, not bad” expression.
NC-17: Nice titties. Can I touch ‘em?
Real Deal smiles and shakes his head “no”. Pandora looks at NC-17 with disdain, shaking her head slightly. She pulls the lapel of her suit together, though it just spreads again. She leans forward, placing her head on her fist and her elbow on the desk, looking at NC-17 without saying a word.
Real Deal: We’re going to make this short and sweet. Ms. Pandora here has just hand delivered the contract for a one-time match with Ultimo Muerte down in Luz de la Lucha. I’m not thrilled about it; I’d rather not have SHOOT Project stars running down to Mexico every time they have a spitter spat. With that being said, I’m painfully aware of my own son’s recent adventure south of the border, and so in the interest of fairness, I may be able to make an exception here. Seventeen, stop picking your nose.
NC-17 pulls his finger out of his nose and startles to attention.
Real Deal: I know your agent is in Japan right now, otherwise I’d have him in here doing the boring legal and contractual part for you. But since he’s currently not able to speak on your behalf, I’ve got to know. Is this something you actually want to go through with?
There is a dramatic pause in the office as NC-17 considers his options, stroking his chin in mock deep thought. He looks from Real Deal to Pandora, conspicuously eyeballing her cleavage, before he arrives at his conclusion.
NC-17: Mr. Real Deal, sir? I eat Mexican campfire ghost stories for BREAKFAST. Tell this big tittied bitty that I’m GIDDY…to get down low and gritty…in Mexico City.
The arena pops again, and this time NC-17 draws up a pair of shades out of his tights, puts them on, and folds his arms like a boss. Real Deal pushes the stack of papers across the desk and hands NC-17 a pen.
Real Deal: Hope you know what you’re doing. I just need your signature here, here, and here.
NC-17: Is there a “fuck your mom” stipulation in here? Like I originally requested?
NC-17 is referencing the spitter banter he and others had gotten into late last week. There’s a light round of laughter from the arena. Real Deal shakes his head.
Real Deal: No, man.
NC-17: No big deal. My mom’s not alive anymore anyways…bet Muerte would’ve liked that though.
NC-17 winks. Pandora smirks as she sits up, picking up the contract and a pen. She, too, signs ‘here, here, and here’. As she sets the contract down on the desk, she stands up and looks down at NC-17.
Pandora: I trust you’ll be taking this more seriously in the ring than you are in this office. Ultimo Muerte is looking to make an example out of you. I would get your affairs in order before jumping on that plane.
Real Deal puts his hand up to cut Pandora off.
Real Deal: Hey, you said you had a handle on things.
Pandora continues to look NC-17 in the eyes and smirks again. She looks to Real Deal and nods.
Pandora: He’ll come home. I’ll see to it myself if need be.
Pandora bends down at the knees and grabs a briefcase from beside the chair she was sitting on. She looks back at NC-17.
Pandora: You might find Mexican ghost stories as a point of humor, but by the time he’s done with you in Mexico, you’ll believe in Ultimo Muerte.
Pandora, again, looks at Real Deal before turning towards the door and exiting quickly, leaving NC-17 and Real Deal in the office. NC-17 shrugs and picks up the pen they were signing with.
NC-17: Ya mind if I keep this?
The camera cuts back to ring-side.
X-Calibur Vs. Anthony Moretti
If you want to see uncomfortable, look toward the veteran gunslinger in a new environment.
He walks slowly into Blackhawk Fight Gym. His hands stay in his pockets, and he inspects every bit of the surroundings with curiosity and the eye of an appraiser. His jeans, the cowboy boots, the shirt that’s being forced into a fitted Euro cut by his powerful muscles—we know who it is before the camera catches sight of his face. Buck Dresden is here. On turf that probably isn’t enemy—at least turf that he’s not sure where he stands on. But he nods his head. He appreciates the work it takes to achieve this.
His reverie is broken. A voice booms and claps across the walls like a thunderclap.
He’s a warrior. But his approach is all warmth. He strides from his open office door, brawny and shorter than Buck Dresden, more compact a lump of violence. He extends one massive hand, which Buck shakes authoritatively.
Buck: Heck of a place you’ve got here.
Robideau: I appreciate that. Please, come into the office, we can sit.
They Stride into the room. Nate walks directly to his desk, settling down, but Buck’s stride is interrupted for a moment as he notices the title sitting on a table. He shakes this off and settles down into a chair—both men eye one another for a long while. Finally Nate nods and leans forward.
Robideau: I…tried to find you after the match. I really did. No one tells you what kind of chaos it is, you’re exhausted, absolutely sapped. I couldn’t get my bearings enough to find you. Then there was the press, and I’m trying to get this place off the ground, and I’m always defending it just…
He holds his hands up in apology, his eyes sad.
Robideau: It can be so much. And it can bury you fast. That’s why I’m so happy to see you.
Buck’s reticence is palpable. He doesn’t have a relationship with Robideau. He has a rivalry with Robideau. It’s not a full blown rivalry, either. Just two guys who clicked in a match months ago and clicked yet again when their paths once more crossed. Buck fidgets with his hands, not knowing to either fold his arms and defend himself or ball his fists and prepare for something that isn’t even there.
Buck: Look, man. Nate. Look, Nate. I ain’t much of a friend to many people anymore. Jonas has taken his leave, Charles is gone, and the people that I’m surrounded by have either been enemies, rivals, or respectful acquaintances. Ya look at that title I held…
He stops and corrects what isn’t even in need of correction.
Buck: …your title, you get the understandin’ people don’t wanna be your friend. They want something from you. They don’t wanna really give ya much, they just wanna take. An’ that’s okay. That makes sense. You don’t stand on top just to hug an’ kiss babies or whatever.
He needs to land his plane.
Buck: I know we ain’t tight. But all I’ve done since Iron Will is think about those two damn matches. After the run I had, after the matches I had, I thought even if I fell I’d be strong.
He shakes his head, angry with himself.
Buck: ‘Cept I wasn’t. I didn’t pin nobody. I didn’t tap nobody. People was in that match what had to go through hell to get there an’ I couldn’t lick ‘em. What makes it worse is knowin’ I tapped. Not just to Azraith, but I tapped to you. Now, tappin’ to y’all ain’t the problem. I don’t mind knowin’ I got a threshold an’ I’m not gonna be able to go after a certain limit gets past. But, Nate? Goddamn, man. You subtract me from those two damn matches an’ nothin’ changes. After all I went through to be World Champion an’ I couldn’t even get it together enough to make a viable stand against three people what got already tired an’ you.
He clenches his jaw, avoiding eye contact. He’s embarrassed.
Buck: I’m ashamed of myself, man. I’m supposed to be better’n that. It ain’t about the hype or my ego. I was supposed to represent this company, those fans, even you an’ the others in there with us. But I couldn’t even muster up the ability to show the world I could hang. Understand me, man, I have no problems with you being the World Champion. You earned it, I admire you, I respect you, an’ if I have to go down, goin’ down to a guy like you is the way to go.
He looks over to the wall. Not at anything in particular, just not this moment.
Buck: I just didn’t want to go down like that.
Nate takes a moment and considers this. His jaw sets as he looks about–first to the belt, then to the ground, then to his own hands, scarred and stone hewn as they are.
He looks up, locking eyes with Dresden.
Robideau: …what we do is high level. It takes skill, focus, stamina, wits, and a drive to prove that you’re better than the person across from you. That means we have to run hot. We’re engines going at top rev for an entire career. One slip, one misstep, and we’ve lost. I took my fair share of those, Buck. From you, from Breedlove, from the Butchers, from Azraith. And then after being a walking contusion for a year, I finally had enough.
Robideau: I know this isn’t the established order. You’re the handsome, charming powerhouse that everyone loves. I’m a brown lump of muscles who can’t seem to get through an interview without threatening to hurt a journalist. The narrative is damaged–you think I don’t hear people talk? You think I don’t know that people would prefer the return of photogenic hero Buck Dresden, right back where he should be, holding my belt?
He stops himself. He’s getting too animated. This isn’t what this is about. His next words are measured, soft, sincere.
Robideau: Look, what I’m trying to say is…I don’t have many friends either. And I don’t respect many people like I respect you. And it hurts my heart to hear that you feel like you can’t hang. Because if I looked at the booking sheet tomorrow and saw your name across from mine? I’d break out into a sweat. You don’t hold the belt anymore.
He raps his knuckles on the desk.
Robideau: Doesn’t make you any less of a champion, Buck.
Buck: You think I’m handsome. You sly dog, you. You found out I’m married to a lady of a browner persuasion an’ you’re shootin’ your shot, huh?
He waves off his silly little joke.
Buck: Fact is, Nate, I’ve seen what you’re doin’ with Jamie Johnson. That kid’s got crazy potential but he’s missin’ key steps that I’m guessin’ you’re gonna help him fine tune. I came here because when I lose I do a few things. I reflect, I reorganize, an’ I revise. You targeted my arm, makin’ my Buck Shot pretty useless. Usually I can ignore the damage done an’ focus my power on that finish of mine, but your finish is a complete kryptonite to mine. I need to look at that. Azraith got me with a Stretch Muffler. Could I have handled it longer? Maybe, I don’t know.
He stops for a second, thinking back to that night once again. A cloud passes over his mind for a moment before it passes right on by again.
Buck: Fact is, I tapped to both them moves. In the future, I might tap to ‘em again. But what that shows me is my pain tolerance ain’t where it needs to be, my cardio ain’t where it needs to be, an’ my joint strength ain’t where it needs to be. I need to up my submission game, Nate. That’s where you come in.
Robideau: Do you expect me to tell you how to beat me?
Buck: Naw, nothin’ like that. What I do want is if you’re a teacher an’ this is your gym, I need you to teach me a few things. How to get better with my cardio. How to handle submissions better, maybe how to counter ‘em. You winnin’ how you did an’ Azraith winnin’ how he did showed me the world’s changin’ to a ground game an’ if I don’t adapt, I’ll die.
Buck thinks for a brief second. Maybe even a millisecond. I don’t know I’m not a stopwatch.
Buck: An’ if he wants to know ‘em, I’ll help get Baby Real Deal over there some power moves an’ up his strength a bit. With a pedigree like that, kid might be unbeatable.
Nate smiles for a moment. We can see the gears going in his heavy skull, the computer processing. He stands, both hands on the desk, leaning over it.
Robideau: You have a deal, on one condition.
Buck: And that is?
Robideau: When you feel good and ready–when you think your strength, speed, conditioning, and endurance are where you feel confident again? You and me. If I’m holding that belt or not. We have an agreement?
He holds out his massive mitt. Buck takes it with a grin.
Buck: Who else is gonna kick your ass, man?
Nate smirks at Buck’s retort. Buck stands up and moves to the door.
Buck: Oh yeah. One thing.
Robideau: What’s that?
Buck: You called that your title.
Buck: It don’t belong to you. Don’t belong to me, either. That right there shows the world you’re their representative. You fight for glory, yeah, but you fight with them at your back. Just as quickly as you stand above an’ beyond all others on the roster you can fall right back down again. So love it. Love them. We live an’ die by them. They’re called the Faithful not because we can put it on a shirt, but because that’s what they are. Full of faith. In me. In you. In that title.
He pauses for a second, feeling the emotions well within him.
Buck: If the day comes I worry they’re not bein’ given their due for what they’ve given to us, it don’t matter how I feel. I’ll be in the face of whoever got that belt. But for right now? You got it. It’s your time. I know this because I have faith in you.
He grins again.
Buck: Because we’re all the Faithful, brother. We’re all the Faithful.
Buck leaves the office and Nate Robideau to think about what just transpired. He feels a strange newfound sense of responsibility, of leadership, and of a strength he hadn’t known before. He lets that moment sink in before he hears Buck yelling from the gym.
“HEY BABY JOHNSON!”
“I’M GONNA FUCK YOU RIGHT UP! SEE YOU LATER, MAN!”
“…what the…what…WHAT DID I DO?!”
Nate smirks. He doesn’t know where this road may lead, but he knows he’s more than anxious to start the journey.
Lindsay Troy Vs. RAIKO
The roar of the crowd seeps in through the curtains as NEMESIS clenches her fists, gripping and releasing, trying to calm her nerves. After all, this was her first world title shot – one of the few women in the history of SHOOT to earn that kind of opportunity.
After what happened to her father last week, to have the chance to earn the same title – THE title – she would fawn over as a young girl when he had his own title reign. It was what started her down this path.
It was… a lot.
Ayumi Seppuku: Hey there.
Judy-E, staring intently at her mask, is snapped out of her trance – looking over to see one of SHOOT Project’s newest additions standing off to the side of the curtain. She has no idea how long Ayumi had been there, and her immediate response is defensive, but then she’s quickly disarmed by Ayumi’s outstretched hand, reaching for a handshake.
Judy-E, cautious, reciprocates.
Ayumi: I’m…. sorry. You were in a moment and I ruined it. I was just… I’m newish here – really only had one match and I just have to say to have you challenge the current champion so brazenly in my first week here. That was when I knew this place was different.
Judy-E steps back and crosses her arms, her neck craning a bit to meet Ayumi’s eyes.
Judy-E: Ayumi, yeah? Your name sounds familiar… did you… were you in Osaka about a year ago? I remember seeing a show fight there when I was training. I remember coming in to watch the main event, but it seems like by the time I did I missed the best match of the night… some woman named Ayumi raised hell and it was all anyone could talk about.
Ayumi: I’ve been to Osaka, yeah. I’ve been in fights, sure. Hard to say when they both happened at the same time.
Judy-E looks suspiciously at Ayumi, but moves on.
Judy-E: So… what can I do for you? An autograph? Or are you here to call dibs on a title shot once I lay Roubideau out?
Ayumi smirks and shakes her head.
Ayumi: I just wanted to show my support for someone who is clearly the future of the company. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that you can never have too many friends in a place like this.
Judy-E knows there’s more to this than Ayumi is letting on. With a heavy sigh, she nods, slowly pulling on her black mask. The bright red mohawk gets frilled out, and Judy-E’s eyes calm, narrow somewhat. Her voice drops a half octave and her stance seems to raise up, just a little.
NEMESIS: If there’s one thing I’VE learned, Ms. Seppuku, it’s that when push comes to shove the only person you can truly count on is yourself. Sticking your neck out for someone else, no matter how much you want to trust them, will eventually leave you without a head.
Ayumi raises her hands in mock defeat.
Ayumi: Well. Good luck to you all the same, NEMESIS. I, for one, will be rooting for you. And if you do find yourself in need of a friend here in SHOOT Project… I’m not hard to find.
Ayumi smirks and pats NEMESIS on the back as the crowd noise grows louder and you can hear the announcer prep to begin the night’s main event.
Ayumi: Kick ass out there.
NEMESIS smirks and nods, turning her attention to the rampway – taking in a deep breath and then stepping forward into the glare of the bright lights as the opening riffs to “Maniac” by Carpenter Brut kick out over the loudspeaker.