“I CAME TO TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUUUUUUTH!”
The crowd pops hard as the music for SHOOT Project Hall of Famer and CEO, Real Deal, hits the PA! He wastes no time walking out from the ramp, microphone in hand.
Dutch Harris: It’s BOSS TIME.
Scott Kamura: I… hate you. I’m just going to ignore the fuck out of that. Holy shit. Real Deal is on his way out prior to this deal with Ben Bronson. Have we even seen Bronson yet today?
Dutch Harris: I know he’s here. I think there was a lot of bluster and bravado behind the thought that he’d no show the boss, but… realistically you know he’ll be here.
Real Deal gets to the bottom of the ramp and rolls into the ring, microphone in hand, prior to Samantha Coil announcing him. He holds a hand up to stop her, choosing instead of announce himself.
Real Deal: INTRODUCING FIRST… AT SIX FEET, THREE INCHES TALL… HE WEIGHS IN AT TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS… FORMER THREE TIME SHOOT PROJECT WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION… ONLY MAN WHO WON THE FABLED TRIAD… SHOOT PROJECT HALL OF FAMER AND CEO… the REAL DEAL.
The crowd pops with clear smiles as Real Deal hangs on to the mic.
Real Deal: Now, I’m not going to waste anymore time. Ben Bronson… get your ass out here you trash ass piece of shit.
Dutch Harris: WELL WELL. It’s going to be FIERY tonight!
Scott Kamura: Real Deal is ready to rock. Here we go!
Ben Bronson Vs. The Real Deal
Void & Malice
The door from the Epicenter’s boiler room opens and out steps the man clad in black, Blight. None of his skin shows in his body suit and he says nothing. He merely turns to the doorway and bows his head. Fade is out next, a smile under her mask. Her hair has the nice little purple highlights she’s taken a liking to and she wears her purple, black, and white ring gear. She turns alongside Blight, kissing him on his cheek, and watches the doorway. Finally, clad in his red trench coat and black and white half skull mask, is Void. Void brushes his hair away from his face and smiles to Fade and to Blight. He holds out his massive hand to Fade who kisses it as if it feeds her. He is dressed for battle as he always is, beneath the coat is his ring gear and his arms are strapped and buckled tightly. He holds his arms out and inhales the stale air of the hallway that designers left cold and unfeeling given its status in the Epicenter.
Void: Ahhh…the Epicenter. Home to many great moments and memories for the SHOOT Project and whatever else the Johnsons do in their vanity spare time.
Fade wraps herself around Void’s arm.
Fade: Can we hunt tonight?
Void: You’re so ravenous, Fade.
Blight marches behind them as the three of them begin their march towards the halls that connect to the locker room, staging, and go positions where the shows are produced and prepared. Void motions to the door coming up but before Fade can reach for it, it opens. Before Void, Fade, and Blight stands a man Void once called brother, a man Void once adored and admired, and a man Void has not laid eyes upon in a long time. Malice.
Malice: I’ve been looking for you, Void. We have things to discuss. Nice to see you’ve found yourself a new Family.
Malice gives a half-hearted nod to Fade and waits for her to step to the side to let him into the hall. She pauses for a moment, looks back to Void for his reaction before stepping to the side to allow Malice to enter the room.
Malice: I’ve been watching you, Void. Everyone else seems to forget where we came from, just who we are, but you? You’re still going strong. I’m glad to see it.
Void looks to Fade and then to Blight, backing the two of them down.
Void: You act as though I had a choice in the matter, Malice. After the Scion failed us and Avarice cast aside his path and you disappeared, all that was left was me. I either chose survival or I let the world eat me alive and Malice…I am not a coward. I survived.
Void looks his former brother up and down.
Void: You seem healthy. Full off aggression and disdain, I see. Why do you seek me out?
Malice looks to Fade and Blight and his posture stiffens just a bit. These men were once brothers, but Malice can sense that that bond is no longer as strong as it once was. Trepidation seems to be the feeling of the day for Malice as he pauses, choosing his next words very carefully.
Malice: I never did peg you as a coward. Survive you have. Thrived even. I had little choice in the matter either, you know. Leaving wasn’t an easy choice for me. But there wasn’t anything here for me at the time. Scion. He…took that reason from me. But I’m here now. And I need you.
Malice starts to put a hand out towards Void, but a feeling of dread overcomes him. He can feel the tension in the air between the two of them and he quickly withdraws that hand. He straightens his posture and puts both hands down, at his side.
Malice: I’m sure you saw what happened last Revolution. I cannot allow that to happen again. I need allies. I can’t take all of SHOOT Project on my own. I need you to stand beside me again. As brothers. Two men who have been forgotten, looked over. Two men who have taken all of the garbage that SHOOT and their supporters have to offer. We have that in common. We can stand together and make them all kneel.
Void chuckles to himself.
Void: You think I crave power? You think I want subjugation? Malice, I joined the New Vanguard because all I wanted was a family to call my own. Now tell me, when that family abandoned me, what would you have done in my place? Because I sought out another family. I was denied again and again. I have found a community that has taken me in and Malice, my long lost brother, I found them. I did not recruit them. I came upon them. They needed me like I needed them and they have never given me a reason to abandon them and they have yet to abandon me.
Void: The New Vanguard was made as a vehicle to make Corazon, Scion, and Avarice look like stars. You and I were there to bolster ranks. But, in the end, I stood tall because I never wavered in who I am. Through betrayal, through hate, through hurt, I NEVER…never…stopped being the Void that I have always been.
He looks his old brother up and down once more.
Void: You speak of needing me? You speak of wanting to stand with me? Since you disappeared, I have won accolades, I have struck fear in the hearts of my foes and even now I could possibly continue my dominance in the ring in the ApeX tournament. Of COURSE you need me, Malice, because you’d be a fool not to want someone like me by your side.
Void sighs and motions for Fade to wrap herself around his arm again.
Void: But, Malice, the time that I needed you…is long past. I will do no favors for those who cared less about me when I was alone. You stand here now, taking our time, because of the love I once had for you. A love you ignored, a love you let starve, and a love you let die. We were brothers once and we were the Vanguard of this company once. Now, it is only the Void that stands before you. So long, Malice. I wish you well in your mission. I do not hate you, for the opposite of love isn’t hate.
Void motions for Blight to walk through the doorway and then for Fade to do the same. Void turns to Malice and his face is blank, emotion wiped clean.
Void: The opposite of love is indifference. Take care of yourself.
Void departs the hallway, leaving Malice. Malice stands in the hallway, watching his former friend walking past him. He puts a hand out for a small second attempting to stop him, but the effort is fleeting at best. He bristles for a moment and faces the back of his former friend as Void fades out of sight.
Malice: Alone. That’s how I’ve always done things, and that’s how I’ll continue to do them. I wanted you to stand with me again, but I grew up alone. I was left alone when Corazon and Scion left me aside. I’ll finish this alone too. Farewell Void. Enjoy the love of your family…
Malice slumps into the wall as the camera pulls hard onto his face.
Malice: You love your family. I’ll tear mine apart by myself. It’s better this way…
The camera fades on Malice’s face as he contorts it into a sneer.
Desert Crucible I
“I still bristle at it.”
The scene as it’s been set is one that has the familiarity of us having seen it before, but it still feels alien. There’s something about the desert of Vegas, the desolation. Our brains aren’t wired to see nothing between us and the horizon. But this static image is disrupted–the voiceover, Charlie Jay Hitchens, her voice the voice of the tomb filtered through the backwoods and hollers of West Virginia, vowels marbled but words crisp despite her creaky, pack a day rasp.
The horizon point is liquid, lava lamp where the earth meets the sky. But there is a figure, shifting and melting upwards with an unstable viscosity. We cannot see who it is. Cant even hear them walk. Just wind howling.
And the voice.
“But He told me ‘you will heal as handily as you purify.’ I was unsure if I had that in me, but He believes in me. And his belief is strength just as sure as one’s muscles can be. So I can heal…I can try to heal. And that boy has cancer deep in him. The type that ain’t gonna be defeated with a simple prayer. Some folk got it easy and their prayers get answered. Fast. Other folks gotta work for it.”
The figure draws closer. The shambling walk is known to us. The filthy, bloodstained jeans. She walks with a slight limp, her legs Frankenstein’s monster, the stride of someone who has broken their back working from a young age. She’s coated in sweat and shoulders a .22 caliber rifle on a sling over left shoulder. Hanging from her right hand by their haunches are two jackrabbits, already gutted before she began her trek so as to not spoil the meat. Crimson drips from her red right hand at irregular intervals. The dust soaks it up like it does all life.
“‘Cast your cares to the Lord and he shall sustain you, for he will never let the righteous be shaken.’ There’s a righteous man in him somewhere.”
She reaches the view of the camera, her gray blue eyes piercing the distance. She cocks her head slightly. We can hear something–it’s clearly someone in distress screaming–but we cant make out what. She doesn’t smile. Doesn’t smirk. Doesn’t register it at all. Human features become the inscrutable countenance of a wild animal when she wears them. She just cocks her head. Hears. Listens for a few moments, the intermingling of the screams and the dry lifeless wheeze of the desert. Nods. Walks on, past our view, her steady crunching boots trailing off as she gets more and more distant.
“We will see what sort of a confessor I make.”
We are left with a view of the desert and it’s alien stillness before
Master of the MASK: Post-Match
The crowd’s excitement at the outcome can still be felt as Johnny Patriot’s arm is raised in victory.
Dutch Harris: Well, it looks like Johnny Patriot gets to remain Johnny Patriot with that win, Eryk! Now we have a Master of the Matt and Master of the Mask – each with one win.
Eryk Masters: Dutch… don’t humor them. This is quite possibly the dumbest rivalry SHOOT Project has seen since Psycho and Real Deal where it ended in a cheesecake fight
Dutch ignores Masters.
Dutch Harris: What do you think is next? Master of the Mast? Like… pirate shit? Or Master of the Musk, for who smells the worst of the two? Or maybe, maybe Master of the Map! Where they have to win matches in all seven continents.
Eryk Masters: I don’t think we have that kind of budget, Dutch.
A visibly frustrated Blaze Claymore finally rises to his feet, looking upset as he presses a hand to his head. The ever-charitable Johnny Patriot walks away from his accolades to check on Blaze who initially shoves him away.
The fans boo and begin a familiar chant.
“CUUUUUCKMOOOORE! CUUUUUUUUUCKMOOOOORE! CUUUUUUCKMOOORE!”
Blaze has had enough; he raises a fist in the air and screams.
Blaze Claymore: I AM NOT A CUCK!
The SHOOT Project faithful roar with laughter as Johnny Patriot motions for a microphone and holds his hand up to the crowd.
Johnny Patriot: HEY! HEY! HEY! What the gosh darn heck is going on here? Is this really how we treat others!?
Crowd: YES! YES! YES! YES!
Johnny Patriot wraps his arm around an uncomfortable Blaze Claymore.
Johny Patriot: NO! NO! NO! NO! Ladies and gentlemen… what we need right now is sympathy! Empathy! Telepathy!
Eryk Masters: Telepathy?
Dutch Harris: Shhh!
Johnny Patriot: My friend Blaze here may not be a fan favorite… but he’s NOT a…. a…..
Crowd: CUCK! CUCK! CUCK! CUCK!
Johnny Patriot: Exactly! Not one of whatever those things is…. Blaze is just… misguided. I know that his heart is in the right place and with the right motivation he can become a true, patriotic hero like myself!
Blaze tries to escape Johnny’s grip around his shoulder but can’t.
Johnny Patriot: Now… Blaze here can’t be an AMERICAN patriot. Because, well, there’s only one true champion of the Red, White, and Blue here in SHOOT Project. But… that phrase you used…. CUCK was it?
Crowd: CUCK! CUCK! CUCK! CUCK!
Blaze winces as Johnny pulls him closer.
Johnny Patriot: YES! There you go. It’s given me an idea. As Master of the Mask I get the privilege of molding our friend Blaze here into a new patriotic icon. And trust me, I know what I’m talking aboot.
Blaze gives a horrified-looking double take as Johnny lifts his hand it a victory salute, not letting go of the SAG Award Winning* actor with his other arm as the theme from “Team America: World Police” kicks on over the speakers. The two awkwardly exit the ring and make their way up the ramp to a mix of cheers and boos – leaving the SHOOT Project crowd in a state of utter confusion.
A Chance Meeting…
We cut to backstage and the cameras are inside the locker room of newcomer to SHOOT Project, Lexi Gold. She is seen standing in her ring gear preparing for battle in her debut match against Jonah Rotunda. The crowd cheers her on as she places her elbow pads on with a focused look on her face. Suddenly, backstage interviewer Abigail Chase walks in with a mic in hand. Lexi turned her head to notice and was more than enthused to answer some questions with a smile on her face.
Abigail Chase: Lexi Gold, welcome to SHOOT Project. How are you feeling tonight?
Lexi Gold: I’m feeling incredible, Abigail. I got my debut match coming up next and I’m fully prepared to show everyone, including Jonah that all my hard work leading up to this match will pay off. I’m expecting him to bring that fighting spirit and toughness in return.
Lexi nods her head and places her hands on her hips. Abigail flashes her a smile and looks at her, interested in hearing more of her thoughts as she prepares the next question.
Abigail Chase: I’m sure Jonah will have no problem bringing both to the ring. Now I want to switch topics and get your thoughts on the situation involving the Shut up and FIGHT! champion and Hall of Famer Dan Stein. Last Ruination show, you showed up unexpectedly and accepted Dan’s challenge he made. What made you decide to go out there and do that?
Lexi Gold: I realize that I’m still this little fish that submerged myself into this new, yet big company, so I know I’m going to get a lot of criticism both good and bad for inserting myself into the title picture, especially since I’m considered new and there are others who have been here longer than me, but it’s a new year and you either go big or go home and I’ll all about challenging myself.
She sighs deeply and rubs her hands together.
Lexi Gold: In just a few moments I’ll be doing just that along with proving that I’m cut out to be here. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to head out there now.
Lexi exits her locker room, and proceeds to make her way down the hallway when a familiar voice calls out from behind her.
Dan Stein: Lexi!
Dan’s voice booms in the hallway, causing her to stop. Dan and Molly Stein walk up to her, Dan carrying the Shut Up and FIGHT! Championship on his shoulder. Dan is dressed in a baby blue vest with hot pink pants, and electric colored tennis shoes. Molly is wearing a pink blouse and black short skirt. The two of them are holding hands. Dan adjusts the championship belt and speaks again.
Dan Stein: I know that you were promised a shot at this belt, and you’re going to get it one way or another. With the Apex tournament going on…I just don’t want you to think that I’m ducking you.
Dan stops and adjusts the championship on his shoulder once again. Molly smiles at Lexi, and playfully bats at her.
Molly Stein: He has been talking about this match since you challenged him. He’s definitely not ducking you.
Dan Stein: Well, maybe not all the ti-
Lexi Gold: I understand! You don’t book the shows, Dan.
Dan sighs in relief.
Lexi Gold: Listen, I’ve got to go. Jonah Rotunda and everything.
Lexi gestures toward the entrance ramp. Dan nods.
Dan Stein: Good luck out there, Kid.
Lexi smiles, waves to Dan and Molly, and disappears behind the curtains toward the ring.
Lexi Gold Vs. Jonah Rotunda
A Troublesome Interruption…
A hush falls over the crowd as the lights dim and all attention turns toward the Epicenter’s giant digital screen.
The anticipation builds as a sharp slicing sound effect cuts through the arena before, in big, bold letters a single word appears:
Scott Kumura: That’s right! Holy buckets! It’s finally happening, Dutch. After the announcement at Master of the Mat, after several rounds of qualifiers and exhibition showcases, we’re getting down to brass tax!
Dutch Harris: And what a way to kick things off tonight, Scott. This one is headliner material for sure! Can you believe it’s our VERY FIRST ApeX matchup? We’ve got one of the most hated, feared fighters in the company, Void, going up against a fan favorite in every sense of the word in Ayumi Seppuku.
The crowd’s wild cheers begin to fade as pairs of spotlights swing dramatically towards the center of the ring where SHOOT Project’s own Abigail Chase stands poised with a microphone in hand and gives a confident shout:
Abigail Chase: LADIES, GENTLEMAN, AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN! SHOOT PROJECT FANS OF ALL AGES! DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS!?
The crowd roars back:
A-PEX! A-PEX! A-PEX!
Abigail Chase: THAT’S RIGHT! WE’VE GOT THE TOURNAMENT TO END ALL TOURNAMENTS FOR THE RIGHT TO BECOME SHOOT PROJECT’S FIRST RULES OF SURRENDER CHAMPION IN OVER EIGHT YEARS!
The crowd cheers at the prospect as Abigail Chase smiles, getting excited herself.
Abigail Chase: NOW, IT IS MY INCREDIBLE HONOR AND PRIVILEGE TO KICK THIS TOURNAMENT OFF WITH A BANG! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE RING….
An incredibly annoying record scratching screech is heard over the speakers and many in the crowd cover their ears. Abigail cringes and turns toward the stage to witness the incoming Ben Bronson as he wields a microphone. The screeching stops.
Ben Bronson: Yes, ladies and gentlemen. PLEASE WELCOME TO THE RING…
Dutch Harris: Oh God damnit. Not this guy again…
The fans slowly begin to boo as they regain their hearing. Bronson smirks and begins to walk down the ramp. He’s dressed in his wrestling gear, which oddly resembles Joshua Breedlove’s wrestling gear just with the colors swapped to red and black.
Sportin an all-black shirt white text: “Lindsay Troy is NOT my Master of the Mat,” Bronson drags a pair of gold shutter stunner shades to the tip of his nose. A flood of jeers from the crowd make it near difficult to speak, but that doesn’t stop Bronson begins his screed.
Ben Bronson: Yeah, I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to be here tonight. Well, I lied. In case you didn’t know – I’m full of shit. I don’t fool anybody. So, I’m here at Ruination to do what I do best and that is: piss a lot of people off while also making everyone envy the fact that I can do that while getting paid in front of a live, global audience! I fucking LOVE my life.
Scott Kamura: If there’s a reason to turn the channel, folks, now is the time.
Dutch Harris: It’s uncharacteristic that we’d ask, no – DEMAND, our audience to tune away. Then again, Scotty, ratings will most likely decline during this. Don’t bother. Our fans are smarter than this guy.
There’s no hesitation. Bronson hops up onto the ring apron and then bends between the ropes. He pauses as he realizes Abigail Chase is still present in the center of the ring.
Ben Bronson: Oh, hello again.
There’s that shit-eating grin. He slowly walks toward her. There’s an awkward silence in the Epicenter.
Ben Bronson: Let me show you how a real man does this.
He looks Abigail Chase up and down, and then inches closer. The look of disgust on her face is unbelievable as Bronson seems to be… sniffing the fragrance off her. With a dismissive turn away, he slowly brings the microphone to his lips.
Ben Bronson: Get…
Ben Bronson: THE FUCK…
He points toward the ramp.
Ben Bronson: OUT OF MY RING.
Dutch Harris: Oh come on! This is going too far.
The fans boo as Abigail raises an angry brow, sneers, and then steps backward. She guides herself out of the ring as Bronson smirks, then turns toward the crowd, looking cocky and confident with a smug grin on his face.
IF SHE WANTS TO DANCE AND DRINK ALL NIGHT….
WELL THERE’S NO ONE THAT CAN STOP HER!
The crowd goes ballistic as “Thrash Unreal” hits the speakers and Ayumi Seppuku, dressed ready for her match with Void appears at the top of the ramp with a very annoyed look on her face. She has a microphone hanging at her side that she raises up and holds up her opposite hand.
Ayumi Seppuku: Okay that’s enough!
The crowd yells back as Bronson turns and looks at Ayumi like he was just slapped with a rancid fish.
Ayumi Seppuku: Abigail, dear, don’t you take another STEP out of that ring. You were asked to kick off the ApeX tournament and that is exactly what I intend for you to do.
An irritated Bronson gestures wildly at both Abigail Chase and Ayumi Seppuku.
Ben Bronson: Ohhhhhhhh of course. Of course… couldn’t go a single second without having someone come and save dear defenseless Abi-FAIL Chase. Go burn your bras somewhere else. I have something important to say.
Dutch Harris: Can someone cut his damned microphone? We’re going to get sued.
Ben Bronson: This is exactly why when people think of the SHOOT Project, you know what the first word that comes to mind is? Soft. Yes, soft. As I walked through the crowd of angry and annoyed faces that measured me up and down – all I could see was a whole lot of SOFT, corrupt people. Corrupt with some kind of perception that it’s perfectly fine to be undivided. SOFT because all the men are getting destroyed by women due to this liberation mindset. I blame the owner of this company. It’s fucking pathetic.
Scott Kamura: I agree with the fans. Somebody get this guy out of here. Fire him. Send him to an island where the population is 100% carnivorous grizzly bears.
Ayumi Seppuku shakes her head and begins making her way down to the ring, eventually standing beside a distraught Abigail Chase. She puts an arm around Chase’s shoulder and points directly up at Ben Bronson.
Ayumi Seppuku: OK, there bud. You’re Ben’s Rights Activist bullshit is getting a bit tired. And while I’m sure it’s slipped YOUR mind, it certainly hasn’t slipped the mind of these fans here that the ring you’re standing in is reserved for those of us who QUALIFIED for the ApeX Tournament and last time I checked you fell a couple boots short of that distinction.
Ben Bronson leans over the top rope and looks down at Ayumi and Abigail.
Ben Bronson: That’s cute. Real cute. I’m sorry if as a white male I don’t check all the affirmative action boxes to get a “Showcase” match instead of fighting my way into the tournament. Between you and your VALOR sisterhood I have to be constantly reminded that I’m surrounded by a bunch of cupcake motherfuckers who agree that the male population should be dominated by women in a man’s sport.
The crowd responds with more boos.
Ben Bronson: Well, I beg to differ and I won’t fucking stand to see a GOD like Azraith lose to a FARCE like Lindsay Troy. I did not applaud Judy, with an E, when she defeated the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in SHOOT, and I will never, ever, recognize her title reign. What weirds me out is the same thing that’s noticeable within both of those examples. The fact that these two women, who just joined less than a year ago, are seen as bigger, and better, then the two best performers the SHOOT Project has to offer. Are you FUCKING kidding me?
Bronson pauses for a moment as the fans start to chant JUDY-E! JUDY-E! LINDSAY-T! LINDSAY-T! Bronson is annoyed, and he allows them to continue for a brief moment before he continues.
Ben Bronson: I know, I know. I’m a broken record. I keep saying the same shit. What’s the point? I should be out here continuing my verbal dominance over the guy you all consider to be “the Real Deal” but I won’t waste any more time on that trash. The point is that when this sport began there was a division for women and women should have STAYED in that division.
This is like one of those nightmarish Twilight Zone style films where some lunatic-advantageous-fucking moron decides to open the door to another universe. A universe that ends up breeding with our wonderfully standardized universe to create anamorphic mutants like Charlie Jay Hitchens and the abomination amalgamation of the Steel Sisters; or whatever their name is. Jesus H. Christ, people, this shit has to stop. Even our worst of the worst, our baddest of the bad, look like a bunch of fucking teletubbies dancing around a pudgy-faced baby Sun while they celebrate this fucking female movement. Well, I’ll show you a real movement. Because I’m about to make a metaphorical bowel movement all over this stupid place and every woman that thinks they can defeat what all our manly ancestors worked HARD to build. I will NOT stop until every woman in this company is either rightfully branded within their own division, removed from this company, or all-together DESTROYED.
The crowd has completely lost it at this point as Ayumi finally pushes Abigail Chase back to safety and officially enters the ring, not wasting any time getting directly into Ben Bronson’s face. Bronson recoils – not from fear but from disgust – as Ayumi gets closer to him.
Ben Bronson: Hey hey hey! Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you. ESPECIALLY you. You… you’re a SPECIAL case aren’t you? MISS Seppuku.
The pure malice in Bronson’s words comes out like a snake’s hiss.
Ben Bronson: In print media they say “if it bleeds, it leads.” Apparently, in this promotion, if it bleeds in cycles, then apparently it leads the promotion. And you, more than anyone, are an example of this element of SHOOT Project’s woke culture. You’ve been put up against the best this company has to offer all because you have the right body parts… except they’re not YOUR body parts, are they?
The crowd’s boos change in tone – rather than simply reactionary they become more visceral.
Ben Bronson: You see, what I can’t abide more than anything is that you made the fucking CHOICE to be who, or whatever, you are today. Certainly not the legend that I remember watching a decade ago. No… I’ll tell you what I think you are. I think you’re a fucking DISGRACE to that extremely honorable SHOOT Project Hall of Fame.
Scott Kamura: WHAT!?
Dutch Harris: Yea, that’s not going to fly…
Ayumi Seppuku has had enough and literally snatches the microphone away from Ben Bronson and without hesitation tosses it back over to Abigail Chase. Bronson looks surprised as Ayumi continues to walk forward and forces him to step backward.
As the two stare each other down in the ring, a flood of SHOOT Project security begin to make their way down, hopping over the barricade and beginning to surround the ring. Not only that, but Las Vegas Police quickly enter the arena at the top of the ramp, cutting off any sort of exit strategy.
Scott Kamura: Oh thank god. Someone finally got security down here to put an end to this.
Ben Bronson looks around nervously as the crowd buzzes with excitement. Ayumi simply smirks and shakes her head.
Ayumi Seppuku: Well, Ben, it looks like you may get your wish. Lucky for you, I understand prison is pretty strict when it comes to separating out the two sexes… among other things.
SHOOT Project security and the Las Vegas police begin to contract, closing in on the scene as Ben Bronson screams in frustration. You can hear him yell something to the effect of “CONSPIRACY” and “TRAVESTY” as he tries to find an exit point while Ayumi just looks on with a mix of amusement and sympathy.
CROWD: NAH NAH NAH NAH. NAH NAH NAH NAH. HEYYY HEYYY HEYYY GOOOOOODBYE
As the security and police officers slide into the ring, Ben Bronson finally raises his hands, letting the team lead him out of the ring, his eyes still locking with Ayumi’s as the crowd continues to serenade him out of the arena.
Once Bronson vanishes behind the curtain, flanked by a dozen security and police officers, Ayumi lets out a big sigh and turns back to Abigail Chase, motioning for her to get back into the ring to a big pop from the crowd.
As Abigail Chase returns to the ring, microphone in hand, she smiles back at Ayumi before turning to the crowd.
Abigail Chase: NOW… AS I WAS SAYING, AND WITH ONE OF OUR CHALLENGERS IN THE RING ALREADY, LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE. NO PUN INTENDED OF COURSE…
The crowd roars and laughs along.
Abigail Chase: WITHOUT FURTHER ADO… LET’S GO AHEAD AND GET THE SHOOT PROJECT APEX TOURNAMENT OFFICIALLY STARTED!
Ayumi Seppuku Vs. Void
IAM the FUTURE
“Gangsta Ass Anthony” hits the PA system and the fans begin to cheer. Ignatius Albert Martin confidently makes his way down the ramp, almost dancing as he walks. He slaps hands with as many fans as he can on his way to the ring before sliding under the bottom ropes. He comes to his feet and brings a microphone out of his shirt pocket.
IAM: SHOOT Project! What’s UP!?
The SHOOT Project fans begin to cheer louder at Iggy as he walks from corner to corner, raising a hand and shouting “WHAT IS UP!?” until he comes into the center of the ring. He gives the fans a second to settle before he addresses them.
IAM: APEX! That’s what it’s all about folks. That’s why I’m here tonight guys. That’s why we all here, aint it? APEX! Rule of Surrender! The gold at the end of the Round Robin Rainbow! You know, I talked a little bit this week about Go Gensai, and I have to say, he’s a hell of an opponent. But he’s just the tip of the Iceberg. I don’t know who I pissed off backstage to end up in this bock full of killers. May as well just call my tourney block “Murderer’s row” Jaimie Johnson?
He stops and lets the fans start to cheer the mention of Jamie. Iggy smiles before bringing the microphone back up.
IAM: Nate Robideau?
The fans start to cheer again for the leader of the BlackHawk Gym,
IAM: We’ve got a certified Hall of Famer in Ayumi Seppuku!
The fans are absolutely losing it here at Iggy’s fan service call. Iggy lets them go for a few moments before he brings his hands up and tries to quiet them down a bit.
IAM: Jamie and Nate have gotten the best of me a time or two. And I’ve had the “pleasure” of getting my head stomped in by Void too. Ayumi is a Hall of Famer who is on a tear through SHOOT Project, carving the rest of her legacy out here. Now that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room here for Iggy. And I know that a lot of you will try and count me outta this tournament. We’ve seen what Iggy has to offer, and we aint impressed. We’ve seen him go toe to toe with most a these guys here and he always comes up a little short? So I may as well just head to the back and take my Ls and step aside for the real Soldiers, Right?
The fans start to boo a little at the notion of Iggy giving up.
IAM: Y’all know Iggy better than that. Imma come down this ramp week in and week out and give you guys a show. And if anyone in this bracket is gonna step out over top of me, they gonna earn every bit of it. Y’all may not know this yet, but IAM the next SHOOT Project Rule of Surrender Champion. And the first rule of being the RoS Champion is NEVER SURRENDER. Im gonna put the work in outside of the ring, and I damn sure gonna put the work in inside the ring. One thing you never gotta worry about with me is surrendering. So bring on Void, bring out BlackHawk. Bring on the whole Hall of Fame. They gonna look back and see that they were a part of a coming out party. Because IAM the Rule of Surrender Champion. IAM the APEX of SHOOT Project. Hell IAM the future of SHOOT Project.
“Gangsta Ass Anthony” hits the PA again as Ignatius Martin throws his hands in the air. The fans cheer some as he begins to make his way out of the ring and back up the ramp, slapping hands all the way back up the ramp.
Ignatius Albert Martin Vs. Go Gensai
King of the Iron Fist
We cut back to the ring where we see Mary Kelly, microphone in hand. She is smiling from ear to ear. She looks to someone in the audience and gives a little wave and a wink before looking back to the camera, putting her game face back on.
Mary Kelly: Please help me in welcoming to the ring at this time…he is the SHOOT Project IRON FIST CHAMPION…
The fans start to cheer.
Mary Kelly: …and the NEWEST member of the SHOOT Project HALL OF FAME…
The fans get louder than before.
Mary Kelly: …he is…BUCK…DRESDEN!!
“American Venom” kicks up and the fans rise to their feet in excitement. Buck Dresden steps out from the back dressed in a black t-shirt, black leather jacket, and blue jeans with faded Wolverine boots. On his shoulder is the famous SHOOT Project Iron Fist Championship, glistening in the spotlights. He looks around at everyone for a brief moment before he starts his walk down to the ring.
He stomps up the ring steps, walks onto the ring apron, wipes his feet and enters the ring. He has a scowl on his face but it’s obvious in his eyes he’s grateful for the reaction he’s getting from the fans. After a beat he stands next to Mary Kelly as “American Venom” dies down.
Mary Kelly: Buck, you were issued a challenge from the newly liberated KIMO who wanted a title shot against you. Now, you didn’t get the match booked at this set of shows so when do you want to go one on one against him?
Buck stares at the fans for a moment and then bends down, meeting her microphone.
Buck: November 8th, 2021, I killed an Iron God. I put an end to a megalomaniac who hasn’t even had the courage to get in front of a microphone ever since. I humbled a Hall of Famer, Mary. Then, I turned around, I did the same to his son. I made a crazy man sane. After that, I settled in on this throne. The kingdom, the crown, all of it fell to me after I slaughtered that royal family.
The fans listen in as he continues.
Buck: If I’m the King of the Iron Fist now, then what is a king to an emperor? You see, Mary, I look at the World Champion, I look at the World Tag Team Champions, I see corruption, evil, arrogance, power. But the scariest man in that empire was a stoic, solid, frightening wall of strength named KIMO.
There is a decidedly mixed reaction for the powerhouse formerly of the UBE.
Buck: He kept his Shut Up and Fight championship away from me when we went to a draw, so really…which of us is better? He’s without question the most dangerous thing that came out of the UBE and the fact that he’s stepped away from them, out of their shadows, and into our light…it makes him an even more dangerous person than before. Because, you see, he serves no master now, Mary. He walks alone. And look at how he walked away from them, Mary. He walked up to Breedlove and he told him he was done and you know what Breedlove did?
Buck: He let it happen. Because Breedlove knew, because he knew, Mary…that KIMO was gonna do what he wanted to do regardless of what he wanted and he knew it was in his best interests to let him do just that! So, KIMO, you told Breedlove you wanted to face an All-American Outlaw and my man, you’re lookin’ at the Outlaw King right here.
Buck: So if yer pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, we don’t need to wait for no big shows, brother. This King don’t hide behind his throne an’ he don’t got no knights to fight his battles for him. He wants the next uncrowned behemoth what wants to take him down to come face to face with him A-S-A-fuckin’-P! Next Revolution, KIMO, I don’t give a damn what else is happenin’. I want YOU.
He lifts the Iron Fist Championship to the camera.
Buck: YOU want THIS.
He throws the Iron Fist Championship over his shoulder.
Buck: So let’s give THESE people…what THEY want.
Buck points to the audience who pop into cheers as “American Venom” kicks back up. He nods his head at the fans and exits the ring after nodding his head in respect to Mary Kelly for the interview. He walks away from the ring and looks over the Faithful in attendance tonight who cheer on their Iron Fist Champion.
The attendants, producers, and sports medicine staff give him a wide berth. They only cross his path when necessary. He isn’t foul tempered or even threatening them–he’s just forced them into clusters at two ends of the hallway by vibes alone. He paces, clad in his gear and his hooded sweatshirt, rolling his shoulders and throwing slow body shots before shaking his arms out. He doesn’t look at the cameraman, but does begin talking.
Robideau: You can really cultivate a sense of deja vu, at times like this.
Legs up, one at a time. Get those hip flexors limber.
Robideau: I like these moments. I like the quiet, the calm before it all. I like how cold the concrete is under my feet, there’s a sort of nerve memory to these sensations–gloved up, feet taped, legs bare, torso in your gym’s sweatshirt. Ritual can make us strong machines, but it also makes everything feel like a blur.
He drops to his heels in a squat, extends one of his legs out, then leans to the opposite side and stretches the other before popping back up to standing.
Robideau: I have been here before. We have, James. Tournaments, title fights, the iron Will Classic. This should be punchcard, for me. Rote. Routine.
Nate throws a few more strikes, but his arms aren’t in it. They hang limp for a few before he places his hands on his hips. He chuckles softly.
Robideau: But I’m nervous.
Now he turns to the camera. Faces it. Raises a finger.
Robideau: I built myself into a machine that does one thing. I make my opponents tap. All other considerations are pointless, all other goals have long been shed. Make them suffer, make them give up. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a rush of power in that moment. And when the stars align, when my conditioning is right? There isn’t a person who draws a check here who I can’t make tap.
There’s no threat in Nate’s tone. He is speaking with the certainty and finality of an expert in his field.
Robideau: And now we’re here. Fighting in a tournament for a prize that I should, by rights, be a heavy favorite to win. For a division that I should be defining. So yeah…nerves.
He shakes his head and crosses his arms.
Robideau: The Apex is not for the weak of constitution and it certainly isn’t a cakewalk. I’ve seen and heard chatter–or sometimes noticed the absence of it. If you didn’t come to dominate, then you shouldn’t even walk to the ring and try. Luckily, my opponent tonight did come to dominate. He came to prove that he can do it again. And he just might.
Back to rolling his shoulders. Hopping from foot to foot. Get the blood moving, get the lungs engaged, get the muscles warm and loose.
Robideau: For him and all the other young talents, it’s a chance to make themselves. For men like me, maybe we’ll prove we still have a seat at the table. Any way it ends up?
From down the hall, we can hear a producer scream. “Robideau, you’re up!” The thumping beat of his entrance music can be heard in the distance.
Robideau: It’ll be a fight to the very end.
With that, Nate Robideau strides off in half jog to the Main Event as we cut away…