Backstage, Abigail Chase is standing next to what can only be described as two flamboyant looking characters. The smaller of the two, a shorter, wiry fellow with a greasy man bun and scraggly beard, wears a zebra-striped jacket and over sized zebra-striped wrap-around shades. He stands to one side of Abigail, in front of what appears to be a merchandise table.
The other man is clearly a SHOOT Project superstar, a new but strikingly familiar one. He sports a red faux-hawk and neon pink wrestling tights, white boots, and white wrist guards with tassels. He looks pumped and is pacing back and forth on the other side of Abigail, practically hyper-ventilating. A small crowd pop can be heard from the SHOOT diehards that recognize him.
Abigail Chase: Good evening Scott! Dutch! I’ve got a couple of special guests with me tonight, one of whom you may remember…a blast from the past, if you will.
The zebra-striped man snatches the microphone away from Abigail before she can continue and starts shredding a promo. He has a distinct New Yorker accent. Abigail looks taken aback.
Vig: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, boys and girls, and anyone in between! For those of you who don’t know me, the name is Johnny Vignochi! I’m a big time talent agent and uh…loan officer. YEAH, a loan officer, ha! I do taxes on the side too…come see me and I’ll get you a nice write-off, huh? With that said, we’re not here for me…well, actually I guess I am, but that’s besides the point!
Johnny gestures at his wide-eyed, intense companion.
Vig: You may not remember him…shit, I know I don’t. But somebody does! And that’s why I’ve got this t-shirt stand set up back here. We got t-shirts, keychains, beer bottle openers…hell, we even got our own brand of lube!
Johnny holds up a comically large squeeze bottle to the camera. It reads “Cream of Obscene” on it.
Vig: The man was gonna be somebody! He coulda been a contender! And now he’s back from the dead to get one…last…paycheck. He’s been banned in 25 states. He eats chairshots like they’re spaghetti and uh-meat-uh-balls. He’ll make your kids cry and your wives horny! They call him the little banana from Indiana! The king of crass! The CREEEAAAAM of OBSCEEEENE! Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce….N C SEVEN-TEEEEN!
NC-17 grabs the mic from Vig violently, further startling Abigail. He starts yelling at the camera, spit flying out of his mouth. He looks absolutely zooted.
NC-17: That’s right Vig! That’s right Abigail! I’m back and I’m better than ever! I’ve been eating my wheaties! Doing my push-ups! Brushing my teeth twice a day and yeah, I’ve been masturbating! A LOT. And finally…FINALLY…I’ve masturbated my way back into the hallowed halls of the SHOOT Project. I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and certainly a little more erectile defunct. But daddy’s back on the scene and feelin’ OBSCENE, baby. And I’m here for one…last…run.
NC-17 gets closer to the camera, blocking the view of Abigail and Johnny in the back. He looks completely unhinged.
NC-17: They tell me there’s some sort of Battalion Rule now. They tell me gang war is on the horizon. And I find myself saying, “I like team sports. I’ve played an integral role in many a past bukkake. How can I participate?”
Johnny interjects from behind.
Vig: Me too Abigail! Me too! How do ya squeeze water from a stone? How do ya turn a never-was into a has-been?
NC-17: Well here we are, Abigail. I’m back and I’m offering my services as a sort of…”independent contractor” if you will. For all you SHOOT Project soldiers that need an extra set of eyes to watch your back…or maybe you just need a friend to talk to about relationship stuff with…
Johnny shoves his way back into camera view and snatches the mic from NC-17.
Vig: Hell, maybe you just need somebody to oil ya up before matches and make pizza runs! This guy’s affordable, folks! He don’t even got power in his trailer yet, he’ll work for the low!
NC-17: I got you, fam.
NC-17 muscles the microphone back from Johnny and starts crooning to the audience in his best Randy Newman voice.
NC-17: You’ve got a friend in me…you’ve got a friend in me….you got troubles, and I’ve got ’em too! There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.
Johnny looks panicked as he tries to wrestle the microphone out of NC-17’s hands. Abigail looks at the camera like she doesn’t know what to do.
Vig: You can’t sing that, Ethan, that’s a Disney trademark! Jesus Christ, man, I’m trying to make us a couple bucks here! You’re fuckin’ this up!
NC-17: And that’s what we’re here for, Vig! To fuck…shit…UP. So SHOOT Project…pick up those phones. Papi’s back and he’s better than ever….and he’s in dire need of a cash injection, BABY! Don’t let the battalions keep ya up late at night you pussy ass bitches! Call 123-4567 and NC-17 will slide down ya chimney like Santa Clause and make sure the big bad SHOOT Project superstars under your bed don’t get ya!
NC-17 turns to Abigail, his face beet red, eyes crazy.
NC-17: YOU HEAR THAT, ABIGAIL? THERE’S GROWN MEN HIDING UNDER YOUR BED! WHO YA GONNA CALL?
He throws the microphone down and stalks off, leaving Johnny Vig looking exasperated. The would-be agent grabs the giant bottle of lube off the merchandise table and runs after his client. Abigail looks kind of frightened as the camera pans back out.
Scott Kimura: Well there you have it folks…the return of SHOOT Project favorite NC-17. He looks…animated, Dutch.
Dutch: I wonder if anybody’s going to procure his services, Scott. With this battalion rule in effect, the SHOOT Project landscape has gotten real interesting real quick…I’m sure somebody could use the help. I’m kinda curious about that lube, though, Scott. You think they’re selling that in the arena store?
Clemson Dean Vs. Joshua Breedlove (c)
Robby bingo stands, one leg set upon a locker bench. He’s lacing his boots, his Kentucky Waterfall mullet looking glorious. He starts talking, a smile on his face.
Robby Bingo: Look I ain’t trying t’ be th’ feller tells you th’ bad news, but you done already lost this’n. I ain’t some run o’ th’ mill jackass, Ted. I’m a gen-yoo-wine beast out there.
He stands tall, cracking his knuckles. His fists, scarred from many scrapes, are large sledgehammers attached to longshoremen’s arms.
Robby Bingo: See th’ thing is brother, they all count ole Robby Bingo out. I’m just some silly drunk redneck right?
He laughs, shaking his head.
Robby Bingo:…I mean, I am, but I ain’t just that.
A big stretch, rolling his shoulders.
Robby Bingo: I ain’t no dummy. I know when you think of th’ Holler, you think about how strong Elgin is or how plum fuckin’ wild Haskell is. Which means I get forgotten.
He punches the palm of his hand.
Robby Bingo: But yknow what, Ted? Ole Robby Bingo is fine with that. ‘Cause that just means its gonna be a nice big fuckin’ surprise when I give you this here two piece and a biscuit, get that one two three, get th’ duke, get m’hand raised, and get my hands on some frosty Bingo Brewdogs–brand new and available wherever fine rotguts is sold!
A point to the camera, a wink, and he’s off, mumbling some approximation of the lyrics to “Boot Scoot’n Boogie”.
Teddy Palmer Vs. Robby Bingo
The camera cuts to backstage, where Judy-E DeMitri is leaning against a wall, his head bowed down as she stares at her mask in quiet contemplation. Every now and then she looks up to the clock, her jaw tightening slightly in anticipation before she pushes off the wall, starting to pace around her little corner of the locker room.
Judy-E: Can’t fuck this up this week…gotta get on my footing…gotta get this…goddamnit…
She sighs audibly and shoves against the wall again, looking down as she begins to put the mask on…
???: What’s your problem, girl?
Seconds later, as Judy-E raises her head up to see whose mouth is behind the words, Courtney Hatchett comes into view. Wearing the Shut Up and FIGHT Championship proud around her shoulder, Courtney nods at Judy-E.
Courtney Hatchett: I’ve never seen you like this. I don’t like it.
Judy-E lowers her head back down, staring at her mask while chewing on her lower lip a second.
Judy-E: I…hm. I just don’t feel like I have a footing here right now. I go out there and I kill myself every time I’m in the ring…but it just slips through my fingers every week. It feels like I’m slippin’ further and further away from what I came here to do in the first place. It feels like I’m screwing this up.
Courtney’s eyes narrow a little, before she laughs a bit and gently shoves Judy-E’s shoulder.
Courtney Hatchett: Bah. I don’t believe that for one second. You’re Judy-E Freakin’ DeMitri. You’re freakin’ NEMESIS! You’re the one that people in the locker room are clamoring to see smash through that impenetrable wall and become the first woman in SHOOT Project to become World Heavyweight Champion!! THIS look that I’m seeing right now? It doesn’t suit you.
She pauses for a moment so that what she said can sink in.
Courtney Hatchett: But I didn’t come here to lift your ego up and revitalize your sense of self-worth. I came here with an offer.
Judy-E looks up finally, pushing herself off the wall to stand toe-to-toe with Courtney.
Judy-E: Offer? I mean, we did that dance before Courtney, but I’d be gla-
Courtney chuckles, placing a hand on Judy-E’s shoulder.
Courtney Hatchett: Battalion rules. I’ve got an idea in my head for one, and it involves you. But if you don’t think you’re good enough anymore? I don’t know, Jude. Am I just wasting my time with someone who’s about to give up? Or am I looking at someone who can help shift the narrative in SHOOT? I won’t get into that cliched “girl power” BS, but how about it? From one fierce woman who likes to kick the competition’s head off to another? What do you think, hm? And yes, that’s my sales pitch.
Judy-E stares at Courtney, almost in quiet disbelief for several seconds.
Judy-E: You’re… the first person to actually call me a woman here. Not girl. Not kid. Not anything else. I…
Judy looks down at her mask again, before nodding and sliding it on firmly, her eyes growing a steely gaze as she firmly shakes Courtney’s hand.
NEMESIS: I accept.
Courtney Hatchett: I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to give these other groups… what is due.
Courtney chuckles and shakes her head.
Courtney Hatchett: Okay, so I’ve been practicing that one. Too cheesy?
A small grin curves NEMESIS’ lips as she shakes her head.
NEMESIS: It sounds perfect…but from my understanding, a Battalion has to have at least four people to be considered. I may have an idea or two, but do you have any ideas in that regard?
Courtney nods, chuckling.
Courtney Hatchett: Yep. You’re absolutely right about that. In fact, I was hoping you would realize the numbers game aspect of this because… well… I have some ideas. What do you say we talk this out away from prying lenses?
NEMESIS nods slowly as the two walk out of the camera’s gaze.
The camera opens up backstage on Dan Stein, standing alone in his locker room. Dan wears a “SHOOT Project” t-shirt and his pink and blue wrestling gear. Dan is finishing up taping his wrists when he watches the door to the room slowly swing open. Standing in the doorway, peeking into the room is his cousin, Johnny Patriot, complete with red, white, and blue mask. Patriot wears street clothes, including a black t-shirt and blue jeans, along with a pair of cowboy boots. Dan sighs as he sees his cousin standing there.
Dan Stein: What do you want, man? I’ve got a title match in two minutes. I can’t be dealing with your bullshit right now.
Patriot nods, holding the door open with one hand.
Johnny Patriot: I understand. I tried to be here sooner but my flight got delayed out of Chicago.
Dan Stein: Why’d you fly here, Patriot? I didn’t ask you to. I’ve got nothing for you here.
Stein releases his wrist, and pulls his shirt off as he’s getting ready to head out. Dan grabs a water bottle from the table in his room. Patriot steps in the room, letting the door close behind him.
Johnny Patriot: Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. I didn’t come here for me. You haven’t been answering my calls.
Stein nods, taking a swig of water. He puts the water back on the table next to him.
Dan Stein: Usually when people get the cold shoulder they don’t fly halfway across the country trying to make a scene just before a pretty fucking important moment for the person giving them the cold shoulder.
Stein takes a step forward. Patriot puts his hand out and stops Dan, touching his chest.
Johnny Patriot: I understand that right now isn’t the best time for this, but I just want you to know that I’m here for you.
Stein looks down at Patriot, slowly moving the hand from his chest.
Dan Stein: You’re right, it’s not the best time.
Johnny Patriot: I mean it. Anything you need to get off your chest, I’m here for you.
Stein scoffs and shoves his cousin away from him weakly.
Dan Stein: I don’t need anything off my chest. I need the Shut Up and Fight Championship.
Stein shakes his head.
Dan Stein: And for you to get the Hell out of here.
Patriot tries to stop his cousin from leaving, but Dan throws Patriot’s hand off of him again, walking out of the room toward the stage. Patriot shakes his head and looks down at the ground. Johnny sighs, and walks out of the room toward Gorilla.
Fuego Eterno Vs. NEMESIS
LoCalibur, the incomparable duo of Hall of Famer X-Calibur and Future Hall of Famer Loco Martinez, stare at a RUINATION banner. With their heads cocked, right and left arms folded with the opposite hand resting underneath their chins respectively, it looks like they’re in a museum studying a mola at Santa Fe’s International Museum of Folk Art.
X-Calibur: I dunno. I like the purple theme, myself.
Loco sighs and tilts his head to the left.
Loco Martinez: Well, I mean, you DO wear purple in the ring. And pink. Like, a lot. But yeah, the purple is kinda soothing. Isn’t it?
X looks at Loco incredulously for a moment.
X-Calibur: Hey, I can’t help it if I have a fashion sense in my pruney old age. Pink and purple are masculine now. Not that there would be anything, errm, wrong with that if they weren’t? Or something? Did I do it right, Jerry?
Loco chuckles and looks at his tag team partner slash friend.
Loco Martinez: Yes, I think you d-
That’s when he noticed a rather tall, muscular, tattooed, slightly less tan than Jason Mamoa looking man heading their way.
Loco Martinez: Hey, isn’t that your cousin Mike?
X looks towards the bend in the corridor where Michael Van Warren, his brother, is incoming. He wears faded blue jeans and a REIGN hoodie with the sleeves rolled up. Just like him, he always hated having his arms covered. Even before the ink became a conversation piece.
X-Calibur: Half-brother. Give us a minute?
Loco nods and simply slips away from them, avoiding any family awkwardness that might ensue between the two Van Warrens.
Michael Van Warren: Why’d you send him away? Maybe I wanted an autograph of the better half of LoCalibur.
X-Calibur: Cut the shit, kid.
MvW: I will if you cut the kid shit, old man.
X pinches the bridge of his nose.
X-Calibur: Alright, alright. Restart.
MvW: Oh, so we get a restart now? Is this a 10 second restart or a 20 year restart? You know, asking for a friend.
Proud of his own snarkiness, Mike waits for a reply from X. Instead?
X slaps the taste out of his mouth.
X-Calibur: You wanted my fuckin’ attention? You got it. So you can either stand there and accept it or resort to that Van Warren knee-jerk response and try to hit me and capture a nice brawl for the cameras. What’s it gonna be, boy?
Mike smiles and rubs his cheek.
MvW: I’ll give you that one, you feisty old fuck. On an account of you having status here and me being new, of course. But one is all you get. Got me?
X-Calibur: Shut up and listen. One, you’re right. I absolutely made Josh promise me he’ll never let your ass in the SHOOT Project. Why? Because I didn’t want my baby bro to endure the same shit I once did. Also, I didn’t want my baby bro constantly be compared to his big bro and have it affect his ability to stand on his own.
X-Calibur: But you played some kinda card to find your way in, anyway, so there’s not much more I can do to protect you in that regard. It is what it is at this point. And as you’ve already seen on Spitter? Let the snide remarks and watered down comparisons to me officially begin.
This time, Mike shrugs.
MvW: Haha. You think my skin isn’t thick or something? DatBoyPurp is a funny motherfucker. Or whoever it was who started in on me. So many tried that I honestly lost count.
X-Calibur: Oh right. I forgot. Nothing bothers a Van Warren.
X makes a jerking motion with his hand.
X-Calibur: Secondly, you need to come off your high horse and be a little more humble. The way you came into SHOOT? Basically talking back to every person who mentioned your name on social media? Not a good look. In fact, it makes you look like you can’t handle criticism. It makes you look fuckin’ WEAK, lil bro.
Mike folds his arms.
MvW: You’re seriously gonna stand there and lecture me on talking back to my seniors? Are you fuckin’ serious. Eryk? Do you not follow your OWN career?!
X-Calibur: This is what I’m talking about. You can’t stand there for one goddamn second and not talk back. And you forget that I’m not just some mid-card son of a bitch like Joshua Breedlove. I’m a fucking Hall of Famer and multiple time Champion. Who the fuck are YOU other than two-inches taller?
MvW: Three inches taller. You’re six-foot-two. I’m six-foot-five. Or did they not teach you basic fucking math in the US school system?
X sighs. Clearly, he’s already exhausted his patience with his little brother.
X-Calibur: Ohhhh that’s RIGHT! You went to school on the Yokota Air Base in Japan. Right? Yeah. So by default, you’re better than everybody. Got it. Now I’m learnt.
He double facepalms harder than Patrick Stewart.
X-Calibur: Look. I don’t care what you do in SHOOT. But you’re gonna check our personal business at the door. No one cares. Truth is, we barely saw each other over the past twenty years and, if I’m being brutally honest? I didn’t really give a fuck about you, either. At the risk of sounding like a complete dick, I still don’t. My daughter, Esper? My tag team partner and friend, Jay? Those are the people I give a fuck about.
Mike shakes his head. A young blonde camera technician strolls by, catching his attention for a moment. X catches this but doesn’t even respond. He didn’t have to.
X-Calibur: So other than having the same asshole Father abandon us at varying points in our lives, we have nothing more in common than the same spelling of our last names. So unless you want a Career Ending match as your first match on Revolution or Ruination, I suggest you shut the fuck up and concentrate on getting better down in REIGN. ‘Cause if I’m gonna keep being honest with you here? You looked like the drizzling shits compared to what is expected of a SHOOT SOLDIER.
Mike laughed out loud. Hard.
MvW: Well, at least you finally admitted that you don’t give a fuck about me. I suppose that’s something. But you know, it’s funny. If you truly didn’t and still don’t give a fuck about me… then why the fuss about protecting me from what you endured? Why go out of your way to fly me out to Vegas just to give me the tough love speech and tell me you don’t give a fuck about me? Doesn’t take a doctorate in psychology to figure out that you’re full of shit.
MvW: Yeah, that’s what I thought. Maybe someday, when the cameras aren’t rolling, we can really have this conversation. You know? But hey, I’ve got other, more important things to worry about right now. Like becoming the REIGN Champion. Something you never did.
Before long, Mike smiles.
MvW: Hey, maybe THAT can be my gimmick! Accomplishing things that X-Calibur never could. Next up, maybe someone can dig up Jonny Johnson’s corpse so I can beat him! And then? Master of the Mat. Hey, that has a nice ring to it!
X rolls his eyes as if he’s never heard someone dress him down before.
X-Calibur: Yeah, yeah. Hall of Fame and OH, bitch.
Mike then looks at his Apple Watch.
MvW: Hey, thanks for the plane ticket by the way. Say, do you know where I can find Teresa Ames? She’s fine as FUUUUCK.
X gets right in Mike’s face. Patting him on the cheek, his eyes narrow and a smirk widens.
X-Calibur: Good luck in REIGN, little brother. Something tells me you’re going to need it. Oh, and the next time you want to upload a promo to the SHOOT website? Let me know. ‘Cause I’ll be more than happy to show you how it’s actually done, rook.
Sidestepping Mike, X wanders off into the direction that Loco did. This leaves Mike alone in the backstage area of the Epicenter. Seeing various SOLDIERS and personnel come and go made him happy in a very peculiar way.
MvW [Talking to himself]: You held your own there, Mike. Better than you thought you were going to, anyway. Now, if I were a certified ASMR artist that moonlights as a pro-wrestler, where would I hide?
Dutch Harris: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a HELL of a Shut Up and Fight Championship defense coming up.
Scott Kamura: That’s right, Dutch. Courtney Hatchett made Ned Reform tap out at Reckoning Day to finally shut that blowhard up. Last Ruination, she successfully defended that championship against newcomer Kayden Paulton. Up next, she has a hell of a challenge in Dan Stein…
Kamura 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.
Dutch Harris: … what was that you were saying about shutting Reform up?
Scott Kamura: I suppose maybe it was too much to wish for.
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. In his hand is a travel mug. He adjusts his thick black rimmed glasses as he looks into the crowd… with an almost regretful, sullen expression. Instead of usual holier-than-thou smirk, Reform looks almost… sad. He walks toward the ring with no showboating.
Dutch Harris: Could we be witness to a new Ned Reform here tonight?
Scott Kamura: Well, you saw Courtney’s main focus of attack at the PPV. You know what happens when you castrate a bull…
Scott Kamura lets that idea linger as Reform enters the ring. He gestures for a mic, and politely waits for his theme song to die down.
Ned Reform: Now, I know… that YOU know… that I am a man of great pride. I have achieved much success in this life, and I do not… WILL NOT… apologize for being a highly motivated and great man.
A round of boos. Reform politely lets them die out before continuing.
Ned Reform: That said, all great men need to admit when they’ve been bettered. At Reckoning Day, Courtney Hatchett defeated me in a spirited contest and took back the Go Home… sorry, the Shut Up and Fight Championship. On that night, the better person won.
The crowd… doesn’t know how to react to that? He’s full of crap, right?
Ned Reform: I know many of you doubt me. I can see it on your faces. But as always, you underestimate me. If I were to whine and cry every time I didn’t get my way, I’d be no better than all of you.
There it is. Hit the boos again.
Ned Reform: So with that said, I would like to ask Mrs. Hatchett to come out here so I can look her in the eye and congratulate her in the manner befitting a champion. Courtney? Please?
Reform turns toward the stage, expectedly.
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: And here comes the Shut Up and FIGHT Champion!
Scott Kamura: As always, listen to that SHOOT Pop Pop! Haha!
The audience’s roars intensify while “Roots” by In This Moment hit the speakers of the World Renowned, Award-Winning, Spitter-Trending, 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 makes her way down to the ring, the fans cheering on her every move. Instead of taking a bit more to bump fists and knock elbows with the fans, she simply hops into the ring. The Epicenter becomes a standing room only as Courtney looks Ned Reform in the face and smiles, holding her Shut Up and FIGHT Championship up as high as she can with the pride and dignity that a champion always should. Reform nods to her in defence, seemingly happy to give her the moment. As her music dies down, Reform brings the mic back up to his mouth and approaches the Shut Up and Fight Champion.
Ned Reform: Mrs. Hatchett… I know heated words were exchanged in the past. We are true warriors, you and I, and we are bound to butt heads in the spirit of competition. But the war is done, and I’m happy… nay, I’m honored… to stand before you, shake your hand, look you in the eye, and let you know…
Reform sticks out his hand for a handshake. Courtney puts her hand up and grabs the microphone from the former Shut Up and FIGHT Champion.
Courtney Hatchett: Let me stop you right there, Ned. Do you honestly believe I’d shake your hand here? Better yet, do you honestly take me for some kind of fool? After everything we’ve been through and all the hot garbage you’ve spouted and spit off at the mouth in front of the fans about reforming all the championships in SHOOT Project? You just expect to let bygones be bygones and simply move forward? Is that it, Ned? Hm?
The fans all seem to wait for Courtney to slap the taste out of Ned’s mouth. Or at the very least, kick him in the dick. But curiously enough, she doesn’t.
Courtney Hatchett: Then what? I shake your hand and you pull me in and put me out with the Ad Hominem again and away we go through with this thing of ours, repeatedly, like some kind of Bill Murray-less, in-spirit-only, zero percent rotten sequel to Groundhog Day?
She chuckles as the crowd pops.
Courtney Hatchett: Thing is? That may very well be your plan. If it is? Then shame on you for orchestrating something so sad and petty just because I tapped you out at Reckoning Day. But on the flip side of that coin? It’d be an even BIGGER shame on ME first if I don’t at least make the effort in being the professional one here and accept your handshake out of respect, honor, and tradition. You know… how true SHOOT Project SOLDIERS conduct themselves? Because my Daddy didn’t raise me to disrespect others like that. No sir, Neddy Boy. Not even an insignificant little worm like you.
The fans all cheer on Courtney as Reform simply listens to everything she has to say. Much to everyone’s surprise, he doesn’t seem to waver in his resolve.
Courtney Hatchett: So here’s what’s going to happen, okay? I’m going to accept your handshake, you’re going to accept mine, and we leave everything between us in the rearview. If that’s not what happens and you somehow leave me lying on my back in this ring, unconscious? Again? Then at least I tried, and at least you’ll prove to be the liar we all just know you are. So here goes nothing. And what was it you wanted to “let me know”, Ned? Please. I’m all ears now.
Courtney hands the microphone back to Ned rather aggressively so that it smacks against his chest. She then eyes Reform’s outstretched hand and, with absolutely zero hesitation, latches onto it with a battle hardened grip. Courtney, and the entire Epicenter, seems poised and ready for the double cross… but it doesn’t come.
Ned Reform: …you deserve it.
Breaking the handshake, Reform smiles one more time. Wishing her luck, he exits the ring and heads up the ramp. Courtney doesn’t take her eyes off him as he goes, but seems slightly surprised that there wasn’t more to that exchange.
Dutch Harris: Is it possible Reform meant at all that?
Scott Kamura: Time will tell. But for now… we’ve got a Championship Match… right now!
Dan Stein Vs. Courtney Hatchett (c)
Courtney Hatchett receives her Shut Up and FIGHT Championship from the hands of Clark Feldman and holds its beautiful, azure brilliance in her hands. Pounding a fist on the faceplate out of sheer excitement for being able to put away a more-than-worthy former World Heavyweight Champion competitor in Dan Stein, Courtney Hatchett raises her arms out of victory. This truly is a moment beholden to all those who came before Courtney, trailblazing their way to the top echelon of the SHOOT Project.
But the feeling of victory is soon replaced with aggravation and vehemence as an enemy of the not so distant past emerges from the curtains like a water hag in the mists of a darkened swamp.
Dutch Harris: Look at the ramp… Ned Reform has reemerged.
Reform stands in front of the entrance way, looking down at the ring and smiling. He raises his arms and begins a polite but firm clap for Courtney’s victory. Courtney spies him standing there, and doesn’t seem quite sure how to take that, so she continues to celebrate…
Scott Kamura: Wait.. someone has jumped the barricade!
Dutch Harris: Is that a fan? We need to get him out of here!
The person in question is wearing a black hoodie with the hood drawn tight, obscuring his face. He’s a larger tall man with a muscular frame. He rolls into the ring and takes position behind Courtney, who is holding her title belt high over her head. He pulls the hood back to reveal the snarling face of a clean shaven young man with bright blond hair. He grabs Courtney roughly, spinning her around and nailing a sharp kick to her stomach. She doubles over, and the unnamed stranger hooks and drops her with a STIFF Gutwrench Powerbomb! The crowd reigns boos down on this unknown monster of a man who just spiked Courtney’s head off the mat. The man turns and locks eyes with Reform, who is still standing on the ramp.
Scott Kamura: Wait… Reform has stopped clapping…
Dutch Harris: But… he’s smiling. He’s nodding…
Scott Kamura: Is he directing this attack on Courtney Hatchett…?
The man leaves the ring, heading up the ramp… and takes his place standing next to Ned Reform, who is now wearing a sinister smile. Reform puts an arm around the larger man, who continues to stare at the downed Courtney with an icy gaze. Reform raises the large man’s arm and looks directly into the camera.
Ned Reform: This isn’t over… the final lesson WILL be learned!