Black SHeep Baez Vs. BRONSON
Another Friendly Encounter
The camera is inside the locker room of Lexi Gold, where she is seen standing in front of a television screen as a replay of her match against Void is shown. She crossed her arms, and you could tell from her face that she was disappointed in herself. This year hasn’t started so great for her within SHOOT Project. First she lost to Jaime Johnson in the return show for the Sin City Championship and most recently against Void. She looked around the room and sighed to herself. For once, she wasn’t sure how to bounce back in this situation.
As a few murmurs of frustration come from Lexi, a fellow Soldier passing by happens to hear and gives a light knock on the slightly ajar door.
Lexi Gold: Come in.
The person enters and we see it is Rules of Surrender champion Laura Seton, dressed in her red leather jacket, jeans and nearly knee-high boots; her blonde hair down. The title is slung over her right shoulder and in such a way that its movement with each step nearly allows Seton to sound like an old western gunslinger.
Laura Seton: You okay?
Lexi notices Laura walking in and smiles, despite knowing very little of her, she felt comfortable in her presence. It was like she was her sister in a way. The Golden Goddess opens her arms and hugs her.
Lexi Gold: Hey Laura, it is good to see you again. I was meaning to catch up with you again soon, but I haven’t been myself, you could say, but I hope you’ve been good, champ.
Laura Seton: I’ve been well, but, uh… what’s with you?
She looks towards the screen.
Laura Seton: Oh…
There’s a beat of silence as Laura looks back at Lexi. She smiles as she gives a playful shove at Lexi’s shoulder.
Laura Seton: Don’t let that stay in your head. You’ll bounce back.
She continues looking at Lexi. Indeed, something wasn’t ringing “normal” about her.
Lexi takes a seat on the leather sofa and stares off into space. She has so much on her mind that she wanted to share with her, and that’s exactly what she was about to do.
Lexi Gold: Maybe, maybe not. Do you ever get that feeling that you aren’t as good as you once were? That is how I felt with my recent losses. My name generates a lot of attention, not just in SHOOT, but everywhere I go, and I just want to make sure to not let anyone down. Fans look after me as if I’m their idol.
Laura Seton: Okay. First off, you’re overthinking this. You lost.
She has a friendly shrug.
Laura Seton: Who cares? Did the world end? Are you suddenly repulsive? You’re not letting anyone down. Greats in all sports have slumps. This is SHOOT. Most everyone here is close to excellence. I know of someone who, like yourself, had a hot start but then really, really struggled.
Lexi clears her throat, unsure why she didn’t have these thoughts in the first place, but luckily she had Laura to offer her the support she needed. She patted the seat next to her, wanting Laura to have a seat. Laura takes the cue and sits.
Lexi Gold: You’re right. I guess I got caught up in these negative thoughts. You know, I’m glad we could have another one of these talks. I want to always be there for you. If anything bothers you regardless of how dumb you may think it is, I’m here to listen and help. I don’t wanna see you go through things alone.
Laura Seton: I appreciate that, Lexi. Can’t say I’ve heard that much over the years, but that would be great! And anything you need? Or want? I’ll be here for you.
Lexi rubs her chin and thinks about that question long and hard, then a lightbulb goes on in her head.
Lexi Gold: What do you say we grab a bite to eat and drink somewhere? I don’t care where it is, I just want to have a good time. Speaking of fun, did you know I was a circus performer once about a time? Oh, the stories I could tell you…
They both got up from the sofa and headed towards the room, still carrying out their conversation as they exited.
We find, standing together in a nondescript area of the SHOOT Project Epicenter, a team that is very much descript in Delayed Heat.
A tense-looking Blaze Claymore stands next to Rooster, whose look is anyone’s guess behind everyone’s favorite Halloween mask circa 2020. Both of these men are standing directly in front of a pale-looking X-Chadlibur who is about to face off against The Lights Dan Stein for the SUAF Championship.
Blaze Claymore: Don’t worry, Chad, Stein was too “injured” to honor his fight against yours truly so I’d say odds are pretty good he chickens out tonight as well.
X-Chadlibur: I dunno, he seems pretty upset with me.
Blaze Claymore: Well of course he is, little buddy! He was confronted face to face with a karmic attack – a divine smiting as the result of his role in Deep SHOOT! He needs someone to lash out at because he isn’t able to look inward to do the necessary healing that comes with acceptance of his transgressions.
X-Chadlibur: More like face to back but…
Blaze had kept his dialogue going while Chad was trying to chime in, only pausing once he realized something was said.
Blaze Claymore: Wait. What’d you say?
X-Chadlibur: I was just getting ready to say that I didn’t really have anything to do with that. I just tried to get some help because I saw Roo…
Blaze puts his hand up to Chad’s face and loudly speaks over him.
Blaze Claymore: Exactly Chad! You went to go get help for Mr. Stein because you saw his ruse and he is only lashing out because he knows he was caught trying to fake his injury to avoid fighting me in the ring. If you hadn’t been there, Chad, who knows – he could have probably blamed poor Timothy for it all – just because Tim accidentally crushed his body at the previous show.
X-Chadlibur: Well but that’s the thing, Roo..
Blaze Claymore: Please, Chad. Don’t you see? You were the Herald of the reckoning that Stein had brought upon himself when he dared to become the deepest of Deep SHOOT moles. You like the scout on horseback sending out my…our word. You’re like that weird dude at the gates of Mordor that talked to the False king of Gondor. The mouth of Deep SHOOT.
X-Chadlibur: Aragorn was the king. Isildur’s heir…he was the good guy in the story…
Blaze Claymore: NOT MY KING, CHAD.
X-Chadlibur: Ok. Well still. Dan is super pissed at me, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to kill me. I don’t really understand why I have to face him when we have this giant stone giant of a Rooster here that looks like he would love to get in the ring with Chad. I just have questions about our allocation of resources here. I’m fighting former World Champ Dan Stein…and Rooster nothing? He’s not even coming to ringside with me? Why is he not coming to ringside with me?
Blaze Claymore: Because Rooster is purely here to ensure that the tendrils of Deep SHOOT don’t catch us off guard. We’ve talked about this, Chad… and besides, if it came to it, Rooster would step in front of a moving train to preserve our grand mission to make SHOOT Project Great Again – isn’t that right, Rooster?
Rooster coughs slightly, but says nothing.
Blaze Claymore: Exactly. Now… Chad, I know that sometimes I’m a bit… tough on you, but you’ve also been the only person who believed me about this conspiracy from the beginning. You were patient zero for the infection of TRUTH that is sweeping through SHOOT Project right now.
X-Chadlibur: I wouldn’t… use that phrasing.
Blaze Claymore: Fine… you’re the canary in the coal mine. The first domino to fall. The Christopher Columbus of Delayed Heat!
X-Chadlibur: Those are all very problematic examples.
Blaze Claymore: Exactly. Problematic for the SHOOT Project that exists today… and problematic for the person whose very existence perpetuates this cloud, this HAZE of subjugation, sublimation, and dare I say…subinfeudation.
Blaze Claymore: It’s a real word! I looked it up!
Voice: Hello, sir. Your seats are ready.
All three men look over to a stagehand who has stepped out from the shadows to greet them. He has a headset around his neck and gestures towards a side door just a couple feet to their right.
Stagehand: This will take you directly to the VIP section; two of our guests needed to… reschedule.
X-Chadlibur: Why did you say it like that?
Stagehand: Like what, sir?
X-Chadlibur: Like you slashed their tires or something.
The stagehand looks over to Blaze who simply shrugs.
Stagehand: Or something… yes. Now… sir, you obviously will not be sitting with Mr. Claymore and Mr. Roy, but while they are getting the ring prepared, can I get you any refreshments? Any reading material? Any … performance enhancers?
X-Chadlibur looks confused and aghast at the suggestion while the stagehand simply stares back at him with a cold, slightly annoyed look on his face. But before he can say anything, Blaze puts his hand on Chad’s shoulder.
Blaze Claymore: Welp; you heard the man, Chad. We can’t let the Representatives’ seats go to waste – I’ll let you guess which ones we’re talking about; but just remember that Rooster and I will be RIGHT there if anything happens tonight, OK? We’ve got your back.
X-Chadlibur’s nervousness seemingly melts away as he nods furiously and smiles. Blaze winks and flashes a thumbs up as he turns and walks away with Rooster at his side. Once he is out of sight, Chad sighs and turns back around to face the nameless tech worker but he’s vanished.
X-Calibur: Blaze was right… SHOOT Project is in trouble. We’re being haunted by poltergeists!
Chad begins running off towards the direction of where he thinks the stagehand went, shouting while he flails his arms.
X-Chadlibur: Everyone! We’ve got vengeful spirits afoot!! Call Craig T. Nelson! Call JoBeth Williams! And for God’s sake call Zelda Rubenstein!
From somewhere down the hall a voice shouts:
Voice: She’s been dead since 2010!
X-Chadlibur: She’s crossed over? Into the lig- … THE LIGHTS! Of course! Now I know what I have to do!
The SUAF challenger looks around, trying to look confident, as he makes his way toward the corner of the arena where he knows the main entrance ramp – and Dan Stein – is waiting for him to arrive.
Dutch Harris: We’re gearing up right now to see X-Chadlibur take on Dan Stein for the Shut Up and Fight Championship, but Scotty, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on this whole “Deep SHOOT” thing. Scott Kamura: I buy it completely. Dutch Harris: I’m sorry, you wha– Dutch is cut off as the crowd shrieks. The arena goes mostly dark, sans a few emergency lights, and one spotlight that is shining on one specific member of the crowd, but the identity of this man is shrouded in a dark hood that covers all of his features. Dutch Harris: What the hell is that? Scott Kamura: Probably just some shenanigans. A horror creature, if you will. Dutch Harris: Marking out for Baez, eh? Scott Kamura: You know it! Anyway, let’s get the lights up and let’s get back to the ring, where X-Chadlibur fights the good fight against the Deep SHOOT, for the Shut Up and Fight Championship!
X-Chadlibur Vs. Dan Stein (c)
Us Vs. Them
A frustrated Blaze Claymore stomps through the back of the Epicenter with the other two members of Delayed Heat in tow.
Banged up from his encounter with Dan Stein, X-Chadlibur limps alongside Rooster who simply keeps pace with Blaze.
X-Chadlibur: Blaze, I’m sorry. I-
Blaze Claymore: No need to explain yourself, Chad. Mr. Stein purposefully avoided a fight with me once he realized what he was up against and then challenged you – a man who he knows has Post Traumatic SHOOT Disorder from that awful fight where you laid in the ring for God knows how long – because he wanted to claim victory over “Delayed Heat” and show that Deep SHOOT is in control.
The trio pass a janitor who nods politely to the group as they walk past. Blaze nods back.
X-Chadlibur: Well, I mean, I-
Blaze Claymore: Deep SHOOT is NOT in control. They only THINK they are in control because there are people, Chad. People like you – people like Timothy here – people who KNOW that what is happening here isn’t right.
One of the security guards at the Epicenter loading dock tips his hat towards the group. Blaze flashes a thumbs up back, which causes Chad to do a double take before continuing.
X-Chadlibur: I’ve actually been meaning to ask… so this whole thing started with Lexi Gold and her food terrorism, then Breedlove became involved somehow, and then you said Instant Heat were the masterminds behind Deep SHOOT – now it’s Dan Stein?
Blaze stops and turns to face Chad.
Blaze Claymore: What’s your point, Chad?
X-Chadlibur: I just … it’s such a tangled web! I want to be helpful and fight off the Deep SHOOT conspirators but when everyone’s a conspirator how can I know who to trust?
Blaze sighs and puts a hand on Chad’s shoulder. He goes to say something but then looks up to see a woman approaching – a slender, brown-haired woman wearing a nice-looking blazer. Clearly someone who works somewhere in management.
Woman: Sirs. Your vehicle is waiting outside.
Blaze Claymore: Thank you, Moira. How is the new apartment treating you?
Moira: Very well. Thank you, sir.
Moira nods and Blaze nods back before he turns his attention back to X-Chadlibur.
Blaze Claymore: The answer to that is simple, Chad. Just trust who I tell you to trust.
X-Chadlibur’s face goes slightly pale as Blaze wraps an arm around his shoulder and begins guiding him to their ride home.
Blaze Claymore: Trust me, Chad. We’re getting close. Deep SHOOT’s days are coming to an end. You want to know how I know?
X-Chadlibur: Uh… how?
Blaze Claymore: Because there may be a lot of them out there… but when all the cards are on the table? They’ll realize there are far, far more of US.
A message pops up on the video screen. Warning: Flashing lights may cause seizures. “Sofi Needs a Ladder” by Deadmau5 blasts over the sound system as the now black arena as an assortment of colored lights flash throughout the arena. As the vocals of the song finally hit, “The Holy Empress” Danni Johnson makes her way from backstage. While she would normally take her time savoring the negative reaction she generates, she’ll clearly in no mood today. She marches down to the ring, quickly entering the squared circle. She motions for the music to cut as the lights come back on. She wastes no time in grabbing a mic.
Danni: So I had said I’d reveal why exactly I have such a hate boner for Lindsay Troy. Let’s take a trip back to the past, shall we? Lindsay Troy and Ria Lockhart strike up a friendship. At least, that’s what it looked like on the surface. Oh yeah, on one end, it was deeper than that. Poor little Ria had quite the crush on Lindsay. It was one of the poorer kept secrets in SHOOT at the time.
The crowd doesn’t have much patience for Danni’s start down memory lane and starts to boo. She shoots up an eyebrow and cranes her neck around the arena, her annoyance with the crowd’s conduct very apparent. Once their displeasure dies down slightly, Danni continues.
Danni: She’d talk about her so glowingly. Enough so that it would make my stomach turn at times. But this was my best friend. I was gonna support her. There’d be times in our shared apartment that I’d hear Ria tormenting herself, pining over something that was never gonna happen. Not only that, but Ria was too much of a damn coward to actually confront the problem. She wasn’t gonna tell Lindsay how she felt because that could potentially screw up their friendship.
The abundant amount of jeering from earlier has died down, replaced with silence. Make no mistake, it’s not due to respect for Danni or anything she has to say. People like gossip. They always have and they always will.
Danni: But it wasn’t exactly a secret, right? So what about Lindsay? Was she really that ignorant? Come on now! Lindsay Troy is many things, but she’s not stupid. No, you know what it was? If she ignored the problem, then there was no problem! Just neglect it and hope Ria worked past her little infatuation. Great friend, right? Woulda loved to see how she handled Ria’s breakdowns behind closed doors.
There’s a mixed reaction from the audience. Most aren’t buying the one sided recounting of how things were and heap loads of disdain Johnson’s way. There is a small piece of the crowd not booing, though… It seems they might at least understand, if not outright agree, Danni’s point of view.
Danni: I’m a shitty friend. I don’t deny that one bit. That’s the difference between us, Troy. Call me all the names you want. Belittle me, ridicule me, whatever. At the end of the day, at least I’m honest about who and what I am. You might have a lot of people fooled about who you are, but I’m not buying your shit!
The split from before, maybe about 80:20, still seems the same. That 80 percent… They’re loud. Real loud.
Danni: Anyway, I’ve got one other bone to pick while I got this mic in my hand. There’s a good chunk of that locker room back there that was kissing my ass when I broke up the Sisters of Steel. It’s funny how fickle people can be. Every single one of you mouth breathers that decided to take a shot at me can kiss the whitest part of my ass! I’ll show you what I can do. Alright, I’m done. Get Sum-yum Sauce out here so I can beat the crap outta her.
Danni nonchalantly tosses the mic away and readies herself for her match.
Danni Johnson Vs. So Jun Lim
A Hall of Famer Returns
An incredibly large crowd has gathered backstage as Abigail Chase approaches with a microphone in hand and a camera operator by her side.
Dutch Harris: What the hell is going on, Scott?
Scott Kumura: Beats me…
It looks like the entirety of the SHOOT Project roster may be mobbing the area:
The Unholy Cyber Army
Everyone. Even the Unholy Cyber Army.
Power Devil: WITNESS!
Like Moses parting the Red Sea, UCA parts a sea of Soldiers and we see the cause for all the commotion as none other than Ayumi Seppuku and her partner Zee have made their way to the SHOOT Project Epicenter.
Dutch Harris: WOW! We haven’t heard from Ayumi in months, Scott. I know we were on break, but even then there was just complete silence apart from the occasional update on her health.
Scott Kumura: It’s great to see Ayumi here tonight, Dutch; the fans are going wild here and I can only imagine how wild they would be going if she was out here right now.
Abigail Chase squeezes her way in to find Ayumi and Zee sitting on a bench – various gifts lining the Hall of Famer’s feet as the two exchange conversations with roster members. Ayumi is wearing loose-hanging sweats and still has some heavy bruising apparent along her body. Her hair is extremely short, almost a buzz cut and without her typical eccentric makeup she could likely fool even the smartest of SHOOT faithful.
Abigail Chase: Ayumi! Ayumi! So amazing to see you here tonight; is there a special occasion?
Ayumi Seppuku: No, Abby; I just… wanted to get out of the apartment and see some old friends. I can’t stick around for the whole show, unfortunately; but I really love that you’re doing a super-sized Ruination. Such a great opportunity for everyone to work together.
The voice cuts through the hallway like a tuning fork as an entire congregation of Soliders looks up to see none other than Judy Punchinello walking with a sense of purpose toward the group. As she approaches, a flash of red and black slides in front of her as RAIKO holds a hand up and stops Judy from approaching.
Judy Punchinello: Excuse me? What the fuck are ‘ye doin. I’m here to check in on my friend, Ayumi…
RAIKO shakes her head.
RAIKO: Have no right to call Ayumi friend. You turn you back. You nothing but trouble.
Judy lets a caustic smile cross her face as she runs her tongue over her top row of teeth.
Judy Punchinello: Why don’t we ask Yumi herself?
Judy cranes her neck above RAIKO’s head.
Judy Punchinello: We cool, Ayumi?
Ayumi Seppuku: RAIKO just… let her through.
RAIKO glares at Judy as she steps aside. Meanwhile, Judy sizes up the crowd – noticeably paying some extra attention to Azraith and Laura as she crosses their paths. But, in no time, she comes face to face with Ayumi who, to her credit, greets the former Rule of Surrender champion with a smile.
Ayumi Seppuku: Hey there, Judy. I’m really sorry we never… well. My apology probably doesn’t mean much at this stage. But I am sorry. I wish I would have been a better friend.
Judy looks slightly taken aback, but soon hardens her expression.
Judy Punchinello: You’re a tough bitch, Ayumi. That’s why I used to respect you… why I was happy to be a part of your team. There weren’t a lot of folks I could look up to, even if they were fun to be around… key emphasis on the word ‘were’….
Judy looks up to Daihm who lowers his gaze.
Judy Punchinello: I can only imagine that’s why you never reached out when I got suspended for an attack you know wasn’t my fault. I was just someone who you could play around with – no stakes invovled… take me to a drag show, buy me some shots, try and get in my pants maybe…
Zee steps forward between the two.
Judy Punchinello: You weren’t in the picture yet; calm your fuckin’ clams.
Ayumi holds Zee back and listens.
Judy Punchinello: It was all pretty obvious to put together. Didn’t take long for you to randomly get paired withLindsay Troy, who we were united against in our fight – you, me and RAIKO; but with her … you two went on to become tag champions. That’s the thing that fuckin’ guts me, you know?
Ayumi closes her eyes.
Judy Punchinello: Yeah I’m fuckin’ pissed I lost my title, and I’m pissed Old Man DeMitri cleaned my clock, but at least I’m fuckin’ here and can you honestly tell me, Ayumi, if I had kept waiting for you to come and save me, rather than taking things into my own hands, that I would be here in SHOOT right now? Or would I still be waiting for that call?
Ayumi Seppuku: I’m sorry, Judy. I really am. I wish that I would have been better. That I would have done better. You deserved… better.
Judy’s eyes begin to water.
Judy Punchinello: So WHY?! Why did you never give me the one thing – the ONLY thing – I ever needed from you? Why didn’t you respect me enough to FIGHT for me?
Judy spins around to find RAIKO looking furious as she approaches her.
RAIKO: You say selfish bullshit! You supposed to be her friend! You supposed to be my friend. Not even say two words to me after we lose. She say you deserve better. I say you get what you deserve.
Judy Punchinello: Oh come on RAIKO – don’t act like you’re innocent here. You’re even worse than Ayumi; you’re just a parasite – a leech who finds a host to attach onto and then suck them dry before moving on to someone else.
RAIKO steps back, stunned.
Judy Punchinello: You fucked up with Breedlove. You fucked up with Ayumi. And you can guarantee that you’re going to fuck up with Kitsune.
RAIKO: You want color on you face without paint? Can make that happen. Shut you mouth.
Judy Punchinello: Make me.
Suddenly, RAIKO pounces on Judy Punchinello who doesn’t anticipate the Iron Fist Champion’s quickness. But soon they are in a tussle and the crowd recoils like a mosh pit during a particularly impressive central headbanging performance.
The two exchange blows for several seconds before Ayumi has been quickly removed from the situation by Zee. As she exits, members of the SHOOT roster descend and pull the two fighters apart on equal sides – making them immobile.
RAIKO: Kuso ttare! Omae no atama o hikichigitte yaru! I will destroy you!
Judy Punchinello: Sure! Good luck tonight, RAIKO! Hope you aren’t out FOXED again.
RAIKO screams at Judy as the two are quickly removed from the scene by dozens of SHOOT Project roster members, leaving a very confused Abigail Chase alone at the scene.
Abigail Chase: Uhh… back to you guys.
Chick Grillbreast Vs. Pigpen Matsumoto
What's a King to a Phoenix?
We suddenly cut to a camera set up on a table. The feed is somewhat grainy, the room isn’t it the best, and a file folder rests at the center of the table. Sitting on one side in clear view is SHOOT Project Director of Talent Development and Vice President of Talent Relations, Donovan King. He sits at the table, his jaw clenched and his sleeves rolled up and no tie around his neck.
Donovan King: Today is February 5th, 2023. It is a Sunday afternoon with Ruination happening later this evening. It is approximately 2:30PM and we are entering final negotiations to sign a new contract for a returning Soldier.
King looks up across the table to a face off camera.
Donovan King: I have some questions. Actually, man, we all have questions.
“Of course you do.”
Donovan King: You went missing and were released in absentia. You no showed several events and were subsequently sued for breach of contract.
“Yes, that is correct.”
Donovan King: I’m guessin’ you’re here to go on the record as to accepting the consequences of your actions prior to any potential return to this company?
King taps the table.
Donovan King: I’m gonna need to hear you say it.
The man on the other side of the table clears his throat.
“I am fully to blame for my actions in my prior tenure here with the SHOOT Project. After my defeat that sent me to redevelop myself and my character, I abandoned my job with the SHOOT Project and disappeared from the public eye. I failed to do what was asked of me before. I offer no excuse. I am to blame for it. One of the reasons I want to come back is because I need to work that off. My debts must be repaid, either in money or in blood. I won’t put my head to rest at night without knowing that I am working to make things right.”
Donovan King: Lots of people ain’t wanna see you back, you know that right?
King watches the darkness.
Donovan King: You’re gonna need to speak out your responses.
“I know I am not wanted here.”
Donovan King: So you’re ready for that? The locker room is still filled with faces of people that don’t like you. Hell, you’re not settin’ a good precedent with asking to speak with me versus Josh.
“I am not ready to face Josh. He runs the company and I let him down. He didn’t ask me for much and I still walked away. I am ashamed of myself. I need to feel as though I’ve earned the right to speak to him again.”
Donovan King: So your intent is to return to this company, what that entails is the tasks I get to set for you. That’s the main gist of this and the reason I came to this meeting with you. Josh agreed to allow you to work here again. In return, you’re expected to show up to your bookings, your matches, your meet and greets, expected to have a social media presence, and you will have no special treatment. You come in here with no allies, no friends, it’s just you. No Batallions, tag teams, that all comes in time. You get no special treatment, I can’t stress that enough.
“No one would work with me. Not now. I know this. I’ll either earn my way or I’ll be eaten alive. I burned to ash before, now I can either rise from those ashes or I can waft away on the wind.”
King inhales deeply before he stops, thinking about the things he’s been hearing.
Donovan King: What happened to your accent?
“It was fake. A facade. Everything I was was a facade poorly conceived.”
Donovan King: Huh. Alright, then. Listen, sign here.
King slides a sheet of paper across the table. The man reaches over, his hand heavily scarred. He slowly grips the pen, using all of his might to tighten his fingers on the pen as he signs the contract. He drops the pen and exhales, sliding the paper to King.
Donovan King: Droppin’ the first name?
“Everybody knows my name. People will call me what they will. But I’ll be honest, Mr. King, I am no victor. I’ve lost far more than I’ve gained.”
Donovan King: Clever. Even more clever when this conversation tells us where we stand.
“I have what I have right now because you granted it to me, King. Your authority gave me this chance. That answers the question running around in my head.”
He leans forward, his face now visible. His hair is long and wavy. His beard is long. His eyes are empty and there are little nicks and scars on the rest of his face.
“What’s a King to a Thane?”
He looks down at the contract, at his last name, and then to Donovan King.
“That’s what you are to me.”
He leans back in the shadows.
Unholy Cyber Army Vs. The Coltons
What just happened!?
Dutch Harris: What the hell was that?! Did they just…did they–
Scott Kamura: In all my years doing this I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an upset this big! The Coltons have beaten arguably the toughest tag team in SHOOT, and even they can’t believe it!
Benny and Dennis both are seeking answers from the official, who assures them that the shoulder was down and the three count was accurate. They look to one another, eyes wide in disbelief. Then, slowly, they look to the referee–before screaming in happiness and raising their arms, playing to the shocked cheers of the crowd!! They’re so involved with their celebration that they don’t realize that Superbeast and Power Devil are side by side, breathing heavily and cracking their knuckles!
Dutch Harris: Look, they may have won on a technicality, but they sure as hell didnt beat the Unholy Cyber Army–they’re still fresh and looking to settle things!
Benny is clambering up the turnbuckle to pose, leaving Dennis to put the math of their situation together. He considers things for a moment, holding up a hand of peace to the slowly advancing mountains of the UCA–they don’t seem too keen to take him up on it. He reaches backlwards and blindly slaps at his partner, who turns and then hops down, looking concerned. Quickly, he leans into Dennis’ ear, whispering something–their eyes meet, and they nod. Their spines stiffen, their chests puff out…they’re standing their ground! The crowd goes electric!!
Scott Kamura: Cojones! Huevos! The guts it takes to stand up to these two, who have wiped various tag teams from the map in their time!!
Dutch Harris: It’s suicide, but I’ve got to hand it to them!
As the Cyber Army advance, Benny shakes his head, as if coming to his senses–then taps Dennis on the shoulder and books it out of the ring!! Dennis turns his head, seeing his partner fleeing, and shrugs before hopping through the ropes himself just in the nick of time!! Power Devil and Superbeast rush the ropes, but it’s far too late, as the Coltons are already halfway up the ramp!! Rather than give chase, the Demons of Cyber Roppongi scream over the rope, pointing and running their thumbs across their necks, promising retribution!!
Dutch Harris: You know what?
Scott Kamura: What’s that, Dutch?
Dutch Harris: I respect it! Why get beaten into Colton sauce?
Scott Kamura: Folks we don’t want you to touch that remote–we still have a lot of action including a blistering main event, and–
The lights go out again, more and more darkness. This time, no more emergency lights, just that single spotlight which is pointed into a different part of the arena. The hooded man sits in another seat, his face and features still covered, still hiding who he is.
Dutch Harris: Again with this??
Scott Kamura: I’m telling you, Dutch. Horror creature. This is some SHOOT Project voodoo monster or something like that and he’s gonna do some spooky shit and something bad is going to happen to someone, and so on and so forth.
Dutch Harris: Yeah, we’re moving on. I’m with you, Scott. Horror creature. Curtis Rose takes on Ignatius Albert Martin, NEXT!
Curtis Rose Vs. Ignatius Albert Martin
Lindsay Troy Vs. Laura Seton (c)
Rub Some Dirt On It
The bell rings to signal the end of the match, but you can barely hear it over the roar of the crowd.
Both women lay spent on the canvas, neither able to claim decisive victory in this war of attrition. Unfortunately for the Queen of the Ring, a draw means the champion retains the belt, and her face grimaces in exhaustion and disappointment as the referee is given the Rule of Surrender championship to hand back to Laura Seton.
Those cheers of appreciation though? Immediately turn into a tidal wave of boos as both the referee and Laura are violently tossed from the ring and into the barricade by an arriving Void.
Scott Kamura: Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. Lindsay Troy and Laura Seton left it all out on the mat and now Void’s coming to pick up the scraps?
Dutch Harris: It’s smart, Scott. Lindsay Troy attacked him right after his match two weeks ago and now he’s repaying the favor.
Scott Kamura: He’s the one who started this whole thing!
Dutch Harris: I never said it was fair or right, bud.
Void methodically climbs over the top rope and stomps over to Troy, who is slowly picking herself up off the canvas. The monster decides to give her a hand by pulling her up by her hair and flinging her into a corner. Troy hits hard and then is crushed against the turnbuckles when Void charges in and squashes her with a running knee strike to the sternum. She doubles over and then barely manages to get out of the way when Void tries to follow that up with another.
Unfortunately for Troy, she doesn’t notice a figure creeping along the edge of the ring, and it’s too late when she hops up on the apron and strikes…
Dutch Harris: Home run!
Scott Kamura: That’s Fade! Fade just leveled Lindsay Troy with a chair!
Dutch Harris: You think UNLV Softball has got a spot open for her?
Scott Kamura: And another chair shot!
Dutch Harris: That’s scholarship material right there.
Troy took the first chair shot to the back. That one, she took to the head. Blood starts pouring down her face as she falls to a knee, but not before Void snatches her in his grasp and locks in the cobra clutch crossface he calls the Strid.
Fade hops down from the apron and cackles while SHOOT Project security pours out from the back. They try to get Void off Troy and aren’t successful. Void only lets her go when he feels like it, and when he does, he does with a sick, satisfied smile on his face.
He slides out of the ring and joins his beloved Fade at her side, then they make a swift exit through the crowd. In the ring, security is checking on Troy, as is Laura Seton, who has gotten enough of her bearings after being disposed of by Void to have seen that something went down without her knowledge.
Scott Kamura: This was a vile, coordinated attack by Void and Fade here tonight, fans. We’ve got to get Lindsay Troy some medical assistance. While we do that, we’re going to take a short break.
Dutch Harris: Tell her to rub some dirt on it, she’ll be fine!
Peach Backshots Vs. Jamie Johnson (c)
You have my respect
As “One for the Money” plays, Jamie goes over to Peach and offers her a hand to get back to her feet, which she takes and stands up. He nods at her and then asks for a microphone, while she goes to lean against the top turnbuckle. As he’s handed the mic, the Realness motions to the back to cut the music. He’s breathing hard, but he’s got something to say.
Jamie Johnson: I don’t want there to be any question tonight that I nearly lost this championship. That woman right there gave me a run for my money, and she’s earned my respect. Give it up to her.
Moving aside, Jamie slings the Sin City Championship over his shoulder, and gives Peach the moment that she’s earned. She smiles earnestly as Jamie walks back towards her.
Jamie Johnson: I never underestimate an opponent, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect here tonight. She’s got the foundation to be a major player in this industry, but I want to talk about something else.
I want to talk about fear. I want to talk about anxiety. Those are all things that I feel when I get into this ring, no matter who my opponent is. Doesn’t matter if it’s El Paria, doesn’t matter if it’s a member of the New Vanguard… that fear and that anxiety is always there.
So, when I come out here and I issue an open challenge, I do so knowing that I could be put up against anyone. That I could risk losing this title to someone who I’ve never fought before, someone I’ve never met before, never seen before. Someone who’s well known, someone who’s a hall of famer and could see me as an easy way back in…
I fight that anxiety and I fight that fear so that I can come out here and stand before the rest of you as your champion, the Sin City Champion.
Jamie pauses for a moment, allowing the words to sink in.
Jamie Johnson: Part of coming into my own in this business is taking on all comers. I’ve got a win and a brutal ass kicking against and from the World Champion. I’ve put together an impressive run, but I’m not satisfied. I won’t be satisfied until I overcome this anxiety, this fear.
So, next Ruination?
We’re doing this again.
Open challenge. Bring me your best, and I’ll fight you with everything I have.
Title’s on the line.
“One for the Money” hits as Jamie hands the microphone back over, and he turns to pose with his championship up to the adoration of the crowd. As he disappears to the back, the lights go out AGAIN and there’s a spotlight AGAIN that’s trained on a hooded man in the arena. The crowd mood shifts at the mystery, but they’re still pleased with the evening thus far.
Dutch Harris: Man, I really hope this hooded guy is someone cool, because this is a lot.
Scott Kamura: Deep SHOOT, Dutch. Deep SHOOT. I bet you’re not even Dutch.
Dutch Harris: Enough, Scott. Good grief.
RAIKO/Mike De Los Huesos Vs. El Paria/Nate Robideau
As the bell rings, the lights go out once more. Before the crowd and before the announcers can react, a slideshow starts to play, with the various injuries committed by Nate Robideau.
OutKast is shown.
Joshua Breedlove is next.
Buck Dresden rounds things out.
Dresden’s image fades into a stylized version of the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship, which draws a pop from the Epicenter’s crowd. Half of Nate Robideaus face covers half of the World Heavyweight Championship.
Dutch Harris: Okay well… we’re playing a weird version of charades?
Scott Kamura: They’re all former World champions, the world title was shown…
Dutch Harris: So this is about the title, and about what? Nate Robideau himself?
The arena goes COMPLETELY dark and the crowd lets out shrieks and gasps, almost instinctively. Then, a single, solitary spotlight shines down in the middle of the ramp. Enough residual light is show that you can see Nate and El Paria staring fixedly at the top of the ramp, waiting.
A single, solitary man walks out. He’s dressed completely in black, with a hood covering his face and all of his features. He appears to be carrying a steel pipe and there’s nothing in his other hand. He looks up, holds the steel pipe out in Nate Robideau’s direction, and with his other hand he does two things. He motions for the belt around his waist, and he pulls the hood back and the crowd doesn’t just pop, they don’t just lose their mind, they ABSOLUTELY. ERUPT.