We fade in to none other than the VILLAIN OF THE YEAR, the winner of the FEUD OF THE YEAR, and a NOMINEE for the SHOOT Project Hall of Fame, JOSHUA BREEDLOVE, standing in the middle of the SHOOT Project ring. He is spotlessly dressed and is located behind a lectern of all things, apparently about to deliver a speech. “Virtuoso” by Black Violin fades out, as Breedlove steps closer to the microphone.
Breedlove: Welcome one, welcome all, to Joshua Breedlove presents the SHOOT Project presents RUINATION. I felt, given the magnitude of my accomplishments and accolades in the year of our lord 2020, that it would be very important to get out in front of all of you, on the very first show of the Year of the Breedlove (shout out to China) and address you… my loyal fans and subjects.
The crowd obviously has decided to boo this man.
Breedlove: Thank you. First order of business for the new year… ME. The Sin City Champion!
Breedlove unclasps the belt from around his waist and places it in front of him on the lectern.
Breedlove: As the defendingest, winningest, and most well decorated Sin City Champion in SHOOT Project history, I just want to thank all of you who have supported me during my reign. It has been a long, winding road to get here, but here we are and I’m looking forward to 2021 where I can continue to exert my dominance over this divison, Spitter, and the SHOOT Project at large.
The crowd boos again, save for a few scant claps.
Breedlove: Yes, thank you to those of you in the crowd who are with me on my mission, and to those of you in the back who are part of Team Breedlove, Mike and Luke? I love you guys, thank you so much.
Breedlove takes the Sin City Championship and places it back around his waist.
Breedlove: Now then, on to our next item. I’ve petitioned the SHOOT Project to rename the SHOOT Project Hall of Fame to the Joshua Breedlove Hall of Fame (by the SHOOT Project). That is currently pending review, but we’re working towards it. First order of business there would be to remove a lot of the ol–
From the back, a voice pipes up, cutting through the self-congratulatory vibe and crowd noise like a rusted lenor sax.
The Colonel: Ay you got much self respect left, or are you gonna keep suckin’ on yer own dick til the cows come home?!
The crowd noise dies down, and the people scatter in sequence until they reveal the slight frame of Haskell Payne, decked in a “Big Johnson” brand t-shirt and his regular jeans and snakeskin boots. He spits on the floor, throwing a smirk at Breedlove, who screws his face up like he just smelled a fart.
Breedlove: Hey everyone, it’s–
The Colonel: A mean fuckin’ hellraiser that you had th’ good sense to shit talk while I was fuckin’ hospitalized, chief! Problem is, I ain’t yet heard you apologize since I got out. But that’s cool, we’re here now. Got anythin’ you wanna say to me, baby bitch?
Breedlove: What could I possibly have to say to a living embodiment of the uncledaddy yokel, Haskell? What’s wrong, bud, working on your ancestry.com page and just… get confused?
Haskell grins and starts walking through the crowd, cracking his knuckles.
The Colonel: Nice that yore keepin’ that title nice and spiffy for me, shitbird. I know you wanna stand up there and crack jokes, but I figure if you ain’t gonna do what’s right, nut up, and say yore sorry, well…then I got some things I wanna say.
Haskell jumps onto the apron, then over the ropes into the ring.
The Colonel: You sure do like chirpin’ a whole bunch when you got goons by yore side or when you lookin’ at a phone screen. Shit, I bet yore thumbs are fuckin’ stronger’n hell you work em out so much. But I wouldnt be surprised if I closed the distance between us an’ all the sudden you had someplace you need to be, ain’t that right?
Breedlove: Oh man, Haskell. Have you been cleared to compete with that eye condition of yours? There are no “goons” here, and by goons, I’m sure you are referring to my esteemed associates, the Sin City Scoundrels… there’s just me, this lectern, my adoring public, and MY title. I “chirp” what I want to chirp and when I want to chirp it.
Breedlove makes an obnoxious sniffing smell.
Breedlove: And I’ll note that since you’ve arrived, the smell in here has gotten A LOT worse which I would have thought was UNFATHOMABLE at a professional wrestling event. So, what’s going on man? Is showering tough because you have really short arms or did you choose to take a page out of the Kentucky Colonel Etiquette Playbook and just… not?
He leans and looks towards his challenger.
Breedlove: …because there’s a real stank around here.
Haskell pops his neck. Affixes his wild gaze directly on Breedloves eyes.
The Colonel: That’s what you got? You’re gonna be in the ring with the Psychobilly himself, an’ you got “you smell bad”? Goddamn son, it must be a hell of a life to be as boring as you are. You fuckin’ package of fruit snacks, fuckin’ brownie in a Kid Cuisine. You are so fuckin’ grade school. Truth of it is, I don’t even really want yore belt–got one of my own I like to focus on– but I really, really don’t like seeing it being held by a goddamn football bat with a stamp card from Bosley Hair Treatment.
He brings his hand to his head, mock saluting the Sin City Champion
The Colonel: Keep her warm for me, you empty sumbitch. And say yore goodbyes while yore at it.
He begins to walk.
Breedlove: Yeah man, I don’t give a fuck who or what a “psychobilly” is… sounds like a perverted animal thing, man. But if you stink, you STINK, and honestly… like everything you said is something that I love. I love fruit snacks, I REALLY love the brownie in a Kid Cuisine and I am not afraid to admit that. But my hair?
Breedlove lets out an exasperated sigh.
Breedlove: My hair is magnificent and that is Breedlove au naturale, my friend. So, yes. I will say my goodbyes. Goodbye to you, smelly kentucky man. Goodbye to you, lectern with which I am extolling my virtues, and goodbye to you, Epicenter crowd, until later on tonight. I don’t fight sewer rats unless I’m getting paid for it, and I haven’t yet heard a bell.
With that, Breedlove moves to the opposite side of the ring and rolls out under the bottom rope to the boos of the crowd!
Dutch Harris: Look at him slink away!
Scott Kamura: Cowardly or smart? You tell me, Dutch.
Dutch Harris: Seems like there’s a real thin line between the two, at this point man, and Breedlove? Well… I guess he didn’t get where he is by being stupid or brave. All that said, we’re kicking off our first match as Breedlove’s “goons”, the Sin City Scoundrels take on a team visiting from our Chicago organization, RESISTANCE… Devoe Anderson and Martin Claypool, SAFEGUARD. That match is next!
Sin City Scoundrels Vs. SAFEGUARD
Dutch Harris: We’re getting word now that we’re heading up to our colleague Abigail Chase, who is ready to interview one of the newest additions to the SHOOT Project roster…
We cut to Abigail Chase, who stands smiling at the very top of the entrance ramp.
Abigail Chase: Thanks, Dutch. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome my guest at this time… “Black Out” Pat Cassidy!
“GONNA BE A BLACKOUT!” cries the lead singer of The Dropkick Murphys
#Gonna nail me a black curtain up good an’ tight
Gonna do what my air raid man says is right
I’m gonna pull down my shade an’ turn out my light
There’s gonna be a blackout tonight!#
Some the fans rise to their feet to cheer, but many watch with curiosity to size up a SHOOT Project newcomer. Behind Abigail, Pat Cassidy emerges, not dressed for competition. Cassidy slowly half struts/half dances up behind Abigail, smiling and taking in the capacity crowd all around him.
#Cause my town is big and my town is bright
My town can work and my town can fight
So don’t strike no light and don’t cause a riot
There’s gonna be a blackout tonight!#
As Cassidy’s theme dies down, he takes his place beside Abigail, who raises the mic to her lips.
Abigail Chase: Mr. Cassidy, this is your first official appearance here in SHOOT Project. Some of us have heard of your exploits in the wrestling business prior to your signing with SHOOT. So I have to ask… what do we have to expect with your arrival?
Cassidy smiles, looking Abigail in the eye. He motions to the mic as if to say, “may I?” She obliges, and Cassidy takes the mic gently from her. Raising it to his lips, he turns to look out into the sea of fans.
Pat Cassidy: Las Vegas…. WHATS UP!?
A small, but noticeable, cheer rises from the masses for this newbie. Cassidy shakes his head and smiles.
Pat Cassidy: This place, man. I thought New Orleans was wild. First of all: hello Ms. Chase. it’s a pleasure to meet you.
Tucking the mic under his armpit, Cassidy reaches out, inviting Abigail to extend her hand. She does, and instead of shaking it, he gives it a quick peck on her hand. Cassidy puts the mic back up to his mouth.
Pat Cassidy: It is an absolute honor and privilege to stand beside you, and I’m sure this is the beginning of a long and productive friendship.
Cassidy again turns to the fans.
Pat Cassidy: And in fact, that goes for ALL OF YOU.
Another pop – this one slightly bigger than the last.
Pat Cassidy: Now, some of you out there may know me. Many of you might not. So allow me to formally introduce myself… my name is “Black Out” Pat Cassidy. I have come here, to The City of Sin… to the OTHER City That Never Sleeps… because to be quite honest, this town was built for a guy like me. Pat Cassidy and Vegas go together like… steak and eggs… like potatoes and butter… like… like…
Cassidy looks up, lost in thought for a moment. He gestures to Abigail.
Pat Cassidy: …help me out here…
Abigail shrugs, and even though she doesn’t have the mic, she can see her mouth, “peanut butter and jelly?” Cassidy shrugs.
Pat Cassidy: A little cliché, but sure let’s roll with that. What I’m trying to say, this is the start of a beautiful relationship. I’ve heard through the grapevine that SHOOT Project is home to some of the most fearsome competitors in the game today, and that’s why I’m here. See, when they close the book on Pat Cassidy someday, they’re going to be looking back at a hall-of-fame worthy career. When I hang up the tights, I want my name to be synonymous with “legend.” And in order to become a legend, one must seek out the best competition in the world. I can’t build an iconic resume by hiding away in my little corner of the wrestling world, can I? Can I?
Cassidy looks to the fans, as if honestly expecting an answer. He looks over to Abigail. She kinda goes with it, offering a “no?”
Pat Cassidy: No! I can’t. And so I stand here before you with an invitation to the biggest names in SHOOT. I’m not here to quietly wait in the corner for my turn. I’m not planning to slink around and avoid eye contact with the vets hoping to someday catch a break. Pat Cassidy is the life of the party wherever he goes, and SHOOT Project will be no different. So line up, boys. Bring it! My demands are few and simple: I’m here looking for a good fight. After the show, it’s all pints and smiles and that’s great, but from bell-to-bell… you’re going to find out why I’m known from coast to coast as The Scrapper from Southie.
A slightly larger cheer from the fans for this guy’s moxie.
Pat Cassidy: Fact is, my new drinking buddies, is that I have to meet a man who can go toe-to-toe…
Cassidy raises a single finger. One.
Pat Cassidy: …shot-for-shot…
Another finger. Two.
Pat Cassidy: …or round-for-round with me. And hell, they can’t keep up in the wrestling ring, either.
A grin. Scattered laughter.
Pat Cassidy: So SHOOT Project! “Black Out” Pat Cassidy is officially calling you out. The next time you see me, it damn well better be suited up for competition. Don’t let me down, boys and girls. Cheers!
Cassidy hands Abigail back the mic as a different song than Cassidy entered to begins to play. Still The Dropkick Murphys, but this song – “1953” is much more mellow in nature than his entrance theme. Finished with his interview, Cassidy does not walk to the back – but instead heads down the ramp.
Dutch Harris: …wait. Is he heading to the ring?
But instead of entering the ring, Cassidy stands in front of the front row of SHOOT fans. He makes the universal “drinky drinky” hand motion and opens his palm as if expecting to catch something. The fans soon catch on, and an enthusiastic young man is eager to hand Cassidy a beer as the song kicks in.
#On that snowy bright December day
She came and took my breath away
It was there I met my love so fair
A beauty oh so true and rare#
Cassidy accepts the drink with gusto, hopping up onto the ringside barricade and holding it high. He begins to belt out the words to his exit theme in sync with the music.
#For who we are and what we’ll be
I’ll sing your praise eternally
When I was lost you carried on
When I was weak you kept us strong#
Cassidy takes a big swig of his beer, and promptly turns around so that his back is facing the people. Yelling out “cheers!” he falls backwards, being caught by the fans and crowd surfing away… ready to enjoy the rest of his night for sure.
Dutch Harris: My goodness! I think we might have our hands full with this guy…
Scott Kamura: It’ll be interesting to see who steps up to heed the challenge of one “Black Out” Pat Cassidy!
Kenneth Casper Vs. Kayden Paulton
Interior–the ratty, low-tier hotel room that Avarice has called home since his arrival. However, there are not pictures pinned to the mirror. No disarray. No gathered piles of distilled water and bread. The room is spotless, immaculate. The man himself sits on the bed, masked, regarding his backpack. His shoulders seem weary. His voice, soft. But he perks up, attempting to keep his smooth tone level–but he falters, and often.
Avarice: So much love. So much love. And for what? To waste? To burn?
He reaches into the bag and withdraws a rope. He doesn’t even look at his hands, but he converts to bundle into a noose within the space of 30 seconds. The hands of someone who has done it since childhood.
Avarice: To burn. To throw it all…away! Ahahaha. Ha ha ha.
He sobs briefly, his head falling—then straightens right up with a sharp intake of breath.
Avarice: No no no. None of that now. Heard and not seen but only heard when he says so. Only heard when he says so, Avarice. Adrian. Avarice. Adrian. Silly boy. Silly dumb child. Dumb ugly child.
He tests the strength of the rope with a tug, then lays the noose in front of him. He withdraws from his bag a gun, it’s black geometry seeming out of place in his hands. But, once again, the movement is practiced. Drop the magazine. Rack the slide, clear chamber. When he does that, a stray round spins into the air before landing on the bed. He sets the gun down, retrieves the bullet, then loads it back into the mag.
Avarice: The plates, oh the plates. Adrian don’t drop them again. Adrian don’t make Him hurt you again. Adrian, how many times does He have to break something on you before! You! Understand! Before you learn?! Simple boy, stupid ugly boy. Hahahaha! The folly of youth.
Reaching into his bag, he retrieves a Buck 120 hunting knife. He unsnaps the leather of the sheath, sets it down. Eyes the blade, it’s drop point plunging to a wicked tip, it’s metal glowing in the room like God’s own chrome. He looks at it.
Avarice: Across the face. Once, twice, three times. Oh you’ll learn now. Ugly face. Dumb boy. Pillow was brown, stiff. He said you keep the blood on you for seven days, that’s long enough to learn. Itching always. Flaking into my food. Slice. Learn. Slice. Your. Slice. Lesson.
He sets it down and takes a deep sigh, eyeing everything in front of him. He then removes his mask—though he now isn’t covered in gold, his visage is hardly fully visible. It seems his smashing his own face into a mirror has done some damage he’s still recovering from: his forehead is obscured by a large taped down patch of gauze, and multiple smaller bandages are covering numerous lacerations all over. His nose is nursing a deep gouge. He’s clearly battered, but his eyes, in their rich mahogany brown, retain depth and a hint of sadness.
Avarice: He told me this was too easy.
He snatches up the pistol. Fluidity of motion: magazine in, slide back, authoritative “Ka-Chunk”. He sights it.
Avarice: “Then anyone could take a life.”
He sets it back into the bag. One in the chamber. He snatches up the noose, pulling to where the slipknot bunds around his palm. He thinks on it for a moment.
Avarice: He told me this was too cold.
He keeps pulling, straining against the ropes. They creak. We can see the skin of his hand wrinkle and turn red.
Avarice: “You rob yourself of the nuance.”
He finally releases, wrapping the noose and shoving it into the bag. He grasps the knife. Runs his thumb along the edge, cuts himself—not a flinch. Watches the blood as it oozes from the wound. Pauses for a moment.
Avarice: He told me this was too fast.
He smears his blood on the blade in a streak, then sheathes it. With one hand he places it in his bag—he sucks on his wound. Considers. Grins–even through all the bandaging, we can see his smile is warm. Genuine. An easy motion. But his eyes look empty.
Avarice: “Stupid boy, now you cant enjoy it.” And I tried to! Oh god, how many times I tried to be exactly who you were. Then exactly who you wanted me to be! The tool you needed. Hahahaha. Now what? Now all I have are, well…these.
He holds up both of his hands in front of his face. Spreads his fingers. Makes them into fists.
Avarice: All this love boiling inside of me. So much! And you won’t answer or return my calls. It’s enough to make a man wonder. But soon…soon, Padron. Soon I won’t need to wonder anymore.
He retrieves from his bag the framed picture of Adrian Corazon. Places a tender kiss on it. sets it on the made bed. Standing, he reaches into the bag and retrieves a positively obscene wad of bills. He peels off what seems like at least $1,000 in crisp 50 dollar notes, laying it on the bed as well. Cash in the bag, he zips it. Shoulders it. Slides his mask on over his bandages. When he speaks again, it’s a soft whisper, a rumble of restraint in the tone, like he’s holding his jaw set, swallowing a shout.
Avarice: I know where you live.
He leaves. Doesn’t bother to close the door.
Scion Vs. AzteX
Dutch Harris: Up next, we’ve got a handicap match featuring the one and only SCION as he squares up against SHOOT Project and RESISTANCE Journeymen AzteX.
Scott Kamura: The AzteX have a proud wrestling family lineage that dates back a way, way long time. They’ve done well in the states, in Japan, and of course in their home country of Mexico.
Dutch Harris: Yep, and it was the Real Deal who grabbed them, locked them into contracts for Reality Check Wrestling, and then moved them here to the SHOOT Project and later to RESISTANCE out in Chicago. He loves these guys!
“It Couldn’t Be Me” by Power of Zeus interrupts the commentary team, as the crowd looks to the entrance for Scion!
Dutch Harris: It’s taking him a little extra time to get out to the arena, wonder why that– WHOA!
No sooner than that, Dutch and Scott get their answer as Julio Gomez is tossed out from the back and stumbles down the ramp, as Scion makes his way out, dragging a bloodied Javier Gomez by his hair. His chest is painted with the blood of the AzteX and in his other hand, he is wielding a steel pipe!
Scott Kamura: Not sure what this is about! You’d figure that Scion would LOVE these guys, since he basically grew up around them!
Dutch Harris: I don’t really have a lot to contribute to that. I’m just as surprised as you are!
Now at the ring, Scion releases his grip on Javier, hits Julio in the midsection with the pipe, and then rolls them both into the ring as he calls for a microphone.
Scion: First, I’d like to extend my apologies to Javier and Julio. This is not personal, but I requested this match with you because I really needed to blow off some fucking steam.
Dutch Harris: Well that answers that, at least.
Scott Kamura: But blow off some steam from what, though?
Scion starts to pace and he kicks Julio Gomez, who was starting to get to his feet.
Scion: At some point, I’ll call for a ref to come down here and count and we can be done with this, but I have something that I need to get off of my chest and unfortunately this will continue until I’m finished.
He takes a deep breath.
Scion: I’m tired of playing this game with the New Vanguard. I saw what happened to Diego Reyes, I saw what they’ve done to Avarice, and I’ve been on the end of a couple of shit kickings from Adrian Corazon now because I’ve stepped out of line. And I will continue to step out of line until all of this is over.
The crowd boos again, not giving Scion any room.
Scion: I’m not asking for your acceptance or cheering or to love me or anything like that, just understand that I walk with nobody now. New Vanguard no longer. I will not continue to back Adrian Corazon and you won’t see me squeezing in with Jonas Coleman or anything like that either. Instead, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone, work, and get better.
With that, Scion motions to the back for a referee to run down. Tony Lorenzo answers the call, jogs down, and slides into the ring as the bell sounds. Scion pulls Javier up and hits him with BLIGHT, then pulls Julio up and also hits him with BLIGHT before falling to the mat with them and covering!
Scion rolls off of Julio and picks the microphone back up.
Scion: Real talk. I don’t care who it is that I have to come for, but I’m coming for gold in 2021. Sin City Championship, Iron Fist Championship, Shut Up and Fight Championship… doesn’t matter. It’s going to belong to me.
With that, “It Couldn’t Be Me” kicks off again as the camera fades to the back, never taking its focus from the man formerly of the New Vanguard, James Johnson, Scion.
Dutch Harris: Folks, coming up next we’ve got…
Harris is interrupted by the sound of piano keys and the intro segment of Cole Rolland’s cover of Beethoven’s classic “Fur Elise.” The arena lights take on a purple hue.
Scott Kamura: Oh, no…
Dutch Harris: He sure does have a knack for showing up when he’s least wanted, doesn’t he?
As the song kicks into gear and the boos begin to rain down from the fans in attendance, Ned Re… excuse me, DOCTOR Ned Reform emerges from the back. He’s not dressed to compete: he’s styled out in a pretty classic professor uniform: khakis, tie, and tweed jacket. Over his shoulder rests the Shut Up and Fight Championship. In his hand is a travel mug. Reform stops at the top of the ramp as his music continues to play, waving out to the legions of fans and sipping from his coffee. He seems oblivious to both the jeers and a brash younger fan who flips him off from the front row. Smiling like an idiot, Reform slowly makes his way to the ring, standing proud and tall.
Dutch Harris: As we know, Reform has more or less taken the Shut Up and Fight Championship hostage… refusing to defend against anyone without a PhD. He ducked Dan Stein last week and he sure doesn’t seem prepared to wrestle tonight.
Scott Kamura: I believe it’s the “Go Home and Read” Championship now, Dutch.
Dutch Harris: He does NOT have the power to rename title belts. For the record.
Reform climbs up the ring steps and walks onto the apron, turning to face the fans. He places his coffee mug down on the apron before raising both arms high – one holding the Shut Up and Fight Championship. He gets jeered heavily, but Reform continues to act as if he’s a hero to the masses, lowering his hands and placing his free hand over his heart in a “thank you for the love” motion. He grabs his coffee mug and steps through the ropes to enter the ring as his music fades out. A ring-side aid hands him a mic.
Ned Reform: Thank you for the warm Las Vegas welcome!
Round of boos for delusional man.
Ned Reform: I have read all your emails… I’ve received your concerned messages on social media… and I am sad to report that Dr. Ned Reform will NOT be defending his Go Home and Read Championship at Reckoning Day.
Another round of disapproval. Amazingly, Reform seems to be able to hear this one.
Ned Reform: I know! I’m sad too, friends. I’ve given the trained monkeys who run SHOOT ample time to find me a worthy challenger… and yet, nothing. I have too much respect for myself as a competitor, as a scholar, and as a man to defend this belt against anyone who is not up to my rigorous standards in both mind and body. And sadly… everyone in SHOOT simply falls short.
A rueful shake of Reform’s head. Gosh darn it all – such a shame.
Ned Reform: Now, I could compromise the fabric of my moral character. I could accept a challenge for someone who does not meet my rigorous criteria to face me for my title. I could, as so many have done before me, debase myself simply in the name of giving the people a…
Disgusted look. Yuck.
Ned Reform: …”good show.”
Reform shudders as if he now has to shower to get the very idea off him.
Ned Reform: But greatness does not bow to mediocrity. If you learn nothing else from me, my children, please remember that. Greatness does not bow to mediocrity. You know what? You should probably write that down. Yes! Write that down. I’ll wait.
Reform removes the mic from his mouth, making a show of waiting. Several minutes go by and he continues to shoot the fans a look that says: “you’re supposed to be writing this down.” The fans begin to boo heavily as they realize Reform is profoundly wasting their time.
Dutch Harris: We’ve got a show to do – can someone please get this guy out of here?
Finally, the mic comes back up.
Ned Reform: And so, although I will not be able to educate you with my athletic exploits in the ring, I have not given up on my mission to better both SHOOT and it’s loyal fans. No, no – fear not! Although you won’t be treated to a match, and I have prepared something even better. You see, today, I have come here to present one of my award winning…
Pause for dramatic effect.
Ned Reform: …LECTURES!
Oh, God. People are not happy.
Ned Reform: Yes. I felt I owed it to you all to take this opportunity to grow your minds and push your thinking. I have a delightful presentation prepared that is sure to titillate your mind and expand your horizons. You see, SHOOT will be soon be presenting a Pay-Per-View event called “Reckoning Day,” and I thought it never a better time for a discussion on the nature of Eschatology!
Scott Kamura: What is he even talking about?
Ned Reform: Yes, children – it’s time for the end of the world and how many of the great thinkers in Western Philosophy have wrestled with that concept. We’ll take a brief overview of some of the major schools of thought before doing a deep dive and unpacking some of the nuance around many of the major thinkers. By the end, you’ll have a deeper understanding of how human beings have wrestled with the indisputable fact of our own morality and perhaps be a little more thoughtful in your own lives. All-in-all, the whole ordeal should take about an hour… but it’s likely to fly by.
Reform pauses, as a growing chant springs up among the SHOOT Project crowd…
END THIS SEGMENT (clap clap clap clap clap)
END THIS SEGMENT (clap clap clap clap clap)
END THIS SEGMENT (clap clap clap clap clap)
Dr. Reform breaks into a wide smile.
Dr. Ned Reform: I know you’re eager to get started, my little scholars… but first we need to be ready to learn. Considering the tripe you’ve had to sit through on this show already, I have no doubt that you’re NOT in an academic headspace. I want this to be a productive session together… so, let’s take care of that, shall we?
Reform places both his coffee and his title on the mat.
Ned Reform: Now, you’ll have to do exactly as I say here if this is to work. Mistero, if you would?
Over the PA system comes a soothing melody of slow music. The kind of music that you’d hear at a spa or during a massage. Reform sits down in the ring, crossing his legs. He closes his eyes and raises his head as if he’s looking toward the sky. For about thirty seconds, he doesn’t say anything… and the restless crowd starts up a chant again.
YOU’RE – AN – ASS – HOLE
YOU’RE – AN – ASS – HOLE
YOU’RE – AN – ASS- HOLE
Without opening his eyes, Reform raises the mic to his mouth.
Ned Reform: To be ready to learn, we have to clear our minds of clutter, children. Let go of that negative emotion. Follow my lead: breathe in…
Deep breath. Exhale.
Ned Reform: Breath out. Breathe in….
Deep breath. Exhale.
Ned Reform: Breath out. Breathe in….
I thank you for all the lives you’ve led…
I thank you for every word you said…
I thank you for walking away…
Dutch Harris: Whoa!
Scott Kamura: Listen to that SHOOT Pop Pop!!
The audience LOSES. IT. as the beginning moments of “Roots” by In This Moment hit the speakers of the SHOOT Project Epicenter.
I BITE DOWN a little harder
MY BLADE’s a little sharper
MY ROOTS, MY ROOTS RUN DEEP INTO THE HOLLOW
Courtney Hatchett emerges from behind the stage as “MISS S.U.A.F.” materializes on the EpiTron.
STRIKE BACK a little harder
I SCREAM a little louder
MY ROOTS, MY ROOTS RUN DEEP INTO THE HOLLOW
Courtney Hatchett looks out at the sea of fans all screaming for her well-timed appearance. Reform, however, looks nonplussed by the appearance as a little smirk escapes his lips.
Dutch Harris: Lookat Reform! It’s almost as if he expected her arrival!
Scott Kamura: Right on, Dutch. You have to wonder if this is a trap of some kind!
Suddenly, Courtney lets a smirk escape from her own lips as she walks confidently down the ramp-way to the ringside area. Looking up at the man who took her SHOOT Project Shut Up and Fight Championship, Courtney chuckles and shakes her head. Motioning for a microphone from the timekeeper’s area, she grabs it and makes her way around the ring’s perimeter, bumping elbows and fists with the front row SHOOT fans along the way.
Dutch Harris: But look at Courtney! I dunno, Scott. I feel like she might have something up her sleeve here!
Scott Kamura: You may be right! One thing I do know for certain, you could cut the animosity between the two with a friggin’ KNIFE.
Courtney hops up onto the ring apron on one knee, hugging the bottom rope while looking out into the expanse of the capacity crowd. Winking into the camera, she then raises an arm and extends the point of her finger to the heavens above, posing for a photo op as the bright flashing of cameras explode throughout the Epicenter in a crescendo of fan appreciation. Blue pyro even explodes all around the entranceway, much to the simultaneous disgust and joyous abandon of Reform and the crowd, respectively.
Dutch Harris: Wow! I’ll tell ya something, Scott. Seems like every show we have, whether it’s Ruination or Revolution, it seems like Courtney seems to gain more and more in popularity.
Scott Kamura: I second that thought, Dutch. I’m even seeing more sign-age throughout the Epicenter!
Military rolling between the bottom and middle rope, Reform stumbles back a few feet, thinking Courtney was going to strike. However, she rolls only once and takes a knee with the microphone. Looking down into the mat, she waits until her entrance theme fades. Moments after, she slowly raises her head and, from the kneeled down position, speaks into the microphone directly at Reform.
Courtney Hatchett: Hey, Ned. Miss me?
Reform just shakes his head. He goes to speak into the foam of the mic but Courtney raises her hand and stands up. This is all it took for Reform to stop himself from speaking.
Courtney Hatchett: Yeah. Gonna have to stop you there, bud. You’ve gone on long enough. These poor people? They’ve writhed and agonized through your insufferable, unending bullshit LONG ENOUGH!!
The crowd SHOOT Pop Pops over Courtney’s raised voice.
Courtney Hatchett: Did you think your actions against me would go unanswered, Neddy? Considering how you always tout the fact that you have a PhD, I thought you would’ve been smarter than this. My mistake. See, when you beat me like a dog in the middle of this ring and put your little submission move on me until I woke up in a hospital bed, it forced Real Deal to put me on medical leave for a few weeks. I argued and argued until I was blue in the face that I didn’t need it but, well, having the Hall of Fame mind for the wrestling business he has, Josh erred on the side of caution. And… well, it’s been too long, Neddy Boy.
Courtney blows a sarcastic kiss to Reform, who actually holds up his hand to block it.
Courtney Hatchett: That being said? I didn’t come out here to take my vengeance. Nah. I came out here to INFORM the REFORMER, Neddy. And what I have to inform you of directly affects the both of us.
The crowd’s fever rises to a pitch as they listen to Courtney’s words.
Courtney Hatchett: When you beat me for that championship, Neddy, you did it fair and square. I make no excuses for that. In doing so, you proved yourself worthy as a competitor here in SHOOT Project. You became only the second person to defeat me in this ring, and the first one since my debut match. That’s not lost on anybody in that locker room, guy. And what did you do with that victory?
Courtney shakes her head, visibly angry over what she is about to say.
Courtney Hatchett: You threw it away by disrespecting EVERYTHING I did to make that title worth something. By refusing to defend it, you whipped your little friggin’ dick out and pissed on it as if it were some forgotten wall in an alleyway behind some cash only skank bar. By refusing to defend it, you shit on the very idea of Shut Up and Fight; something that has been a part of SHOOT Project long before it took the shape of a championship or show. An idea that Hall of Fame legends like Real Deal, Diamond Del Carver, and X-Calibur made FAMOUS!
And that? That I can’t accept, Neddy.
So you know what I did? I had a meeting with one of those Hall of Famers and I got a deal done. Yeah, little ole rookie me got political and struck a deal that not even SHOOT’s Godfather could refuse. I said, “Josh, I hate what Ned is doing with that title. I defended it every single show I was booked on and here we are, the go-home show before the biggest event of the year, and Ned has refused to defend it. I want the chance to reclaim it at Reckoning Day.”, and you know what he said, Ned?
There’s a vein in Reform’s head that looks like it’s going to SHOOT Pop Pop.
Courtney Hatchett: He said, “You got it, Court.”
The fans EXPLODE.
Reform spazzes out, kicking the bottom rope and Courtney Hatchett dashes toward Reform and gets right in his face! Reform snarls off mic, “you can’t do that!” and the audience is buzzing so much the stationary cameras shake!
Courtney Hatchett: But that’s not enough for me, you SON OF A BITCH!!! I want you to FEEL what I FELT and I want to PUT… YOU… OUT!!! I want you to feel what I feel and WAKE UP IN A HOSPITAL BED!!! I want you to understand that when you disrespect the concept of Shut Up and Fight… you deal with the consequences. And, rest assured Ned… I AM THOSE CONSEQUENCES!!!
Reform pie-faces Courtney but she shakes it off and goes forehead to forehead with her rival. It almost looks like a pit bull snarling, going jaw to jaw with a Great Dane!
Courtney Hatchett: We may officially have a match now, Ned… and it may be for the SHUT UP AND FIGHT TITLE… but the truth is… IT’S NOT ENOUGH!! I’M CHALLENGING YOU RIGHT HERE AND NOW…
Her voice drops…
Courtney Hatchett: … to a Rule of Surrender match.
And if you don’t accept, Ned?
Maybe I WILL take my vengeance… RIGHT NOW!!
Courtney grabs Ned by his TESTICLES. Then she squeezes SO HARD HE CRIES OUT IN AGONY!!
Dutch Harris: Holy hell!!! Courtney LITERALLY has Ned by the BALLS!!!!
Scott Kamura: THIS IS NUTS!!! I MEAN… I have never seen anything like this before, Dutch!!! My God!!! ACCEPT, NED!!! THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN!!!!
Courtney raises the microphone to Reform’s lips as her grip TIGHTENS. Reform, for his part, looks like his eyes are going to bug out of his head. He suddenly stops moving, with his lips quivering and face turning red.
The crowd starts a chant, first of its kind in SHOOT Project;
“RIP THEM OFF!”
“RIP THEM OFF!”
“RIP THEM OFF!”
Ned Reform: …listen. Courtney. Listen! Don’t do anything silly here!! It’s just a championship belt. I… AHHH!
Courtney Hatchett: Good news, Neddy. I don’t feel any lumps here. But then again… what’s THAT?!
She twists and tightens yet AGAIN.
Ned Reform: YES! YES! Of course you have the match. Of course! Now do the sensible thing… let go…
A beat. Reform’s eyes bug out even more. It’s unclear what pains him more, the vice grip on his beanbag or the next thing out of his mouth:
Ned Reform: …please.
Courtney Hatchett: I’m sorry, Ned… THIS CROWD IS SO LOUD I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! WHAT’D YOU SAY?!
She twists and tightens one… more… time. Reform barks out, without thinking:
Ned Reform: I SAID PLEASE GOD DAMMIT!!!
Courtney releases her grip, watching Reform fall to his knees in agony, clutching his “boys”.
Courtney Hatchett: Pleasure doing business with you, Ned! Now maybe you should… go home and read… how to reduce swelling!
This has been an episode of “THE BALL’s IN MY COURT”! Thank you SO much for listening!
“Roots” plays back up again as Courtney steps between the ropes, leaving Reform to his swollen devices. She can’t help but laugh at the embarrassment she caused the man who put her in the hospital as the fans in attendance shower her with adulation. Walking up the ramp, she disappears into Gorilla.
Reform, however, seethes with rage. He refuses to look anyone in the eye or look into the camera at all. He simply stares down at the mat, red faced. When he notices the camera nearby, he snarls and throws his hand over the lens before rolling out of the ring and heading toward the back to the amusement of the fans.
Dutch Harris: We’ve got a match booked for Reckoning Day!
Scott Kamura: A match for… all the marbles?
Dutch Harris: Please stop.
Haskell Payne Vs. Joshua Breedlove (c)
“I CAME TO TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH!”
The crowd COMES APART as the REAL DEAL makes his appearance from the back! He’s got a microphone, a smirk, and he stares down towards the ring at the Sin City Champion, Joshua Breedlove!
Dutch Harris: You know this is gonna be good!
Scott Kamura: You think ol’ Deal’s had enough of Breedlove’s antics?
Dutch Harris: I think we’re about to find out!
As the Real Deal takes a few steps down the ramp, Haskell rolls out of the ring, and Joshua Breedlove snatches the Sin City Championship back and wraps it around his waist.
Real Deal: I have to say… I’m not sure I expected you to actually, you know, capture that victory without your pocket referee. Did you think it was strange he wasn’t out here tonight?
Breedlove looks at Real Deal, stunned.
Real Deal: Yeah, I know. Shocked me too. Turns out, we can just use him wherever we want as part of his contract. He’s not just exclusive to you, so… we’ve, I guess, made a little bit of a trade.
Dutch Harris: Did you know we could trade referees?
Scott Kamura: Had no idea. What would they even trade him for?
Real Deal: It’s actually really silly how I got the idea. I noticed that your buddy ref Alex always wore a red SHOOT Project logo t-shirt, which you can find in our online store, and there’s another one of our organizations that really rocks red and I’m not talking about Revolution.
So, I called up my good buddies over in Atlanta, the guys whose checks I sign you know, and I was like… “what do you think about taking a referee off of my hands in exchange for one of your guys?” and at first they pushed back, like I expected them to, but when I told them who it was I wanted and why, they were fully on board.
You might be sitting here wondering “Well, Real Deal, who is it then?” and I’ll be glad to tell you.
Breedlove looks up at Real Deal and is just inaudibly talking trash to him, slapping the Sin City Championship title with his free hand.
Real Deal: I know, I know. Bravado and piss and vinegar and whatnot. Listen though, it’s pretty simple. You know this guy pretty well, though I’m not sure you’ve actually met in person. You’ve talked to him A LOT on Spitter. A LOT. So, to kinda further give you some backstory… I called this guy up, told him about how I’d opted to move your referee out to Atlanta, at least for a little bit, and offered him the opportunity to come here and make his SHOOT Project debut… at Reckoning Day… against YOU.
For the Sin City Championship.
Dutch Harris: HAHAHAHAHA. WHOA. Breedlove is going to be PISSED.
Joining Real Deal at the top of the ramp is NONE OTHER than Ben Bronson, who has a HUUUUUGE smile on his face that matches the HUUUUUUUGE scowl on Joshua Breedlove’s. He looks at Real Deal, looks down to Breedlove, and motions around his waist, signalling that he wants that title!
Real Deal: So in case you weren’t clear on this… on January 23rd, at RECKONING DAY, Joshua Breedlove will defend the SIN CITY CHAMPIONSHIP against BEN. BRONSON. No cheap referees, no weird tricks, none of that. Just one on one, winner take all.
Goodnight, baby Breedlove.
The camera immediately swaps to Joshua Breedlove, who is throwing a legitimate tantrum in the ring, having placed the Sin City Championship away from him, and with that, Ruination fades out.