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Ruination 53

IN THE RING

A MESSAGE FROM JOSH JOHNSON & LENNOX FERGUSON

 

Dutch Harris: Scott, I’m hearing that we’ve got an unplanned segment coming up here. It sounds like before the show gets kicked off proper, the boss has something to say.

Scott Kamura: I can only imagine, Dutch. There has been no shortage of police presence and, dare I say… tension in the locker room following the events of Revolution.

As if on cue, a pair of figures emerge from the back and make their way down the Epicenter’s rampway toward the ring as a hushed silence falls over the crowd.

Scott Kamura: Certainly no pomp and circumstance here, Dutch… you could hear a pin drop right now in this place.

Dutch Harris: I can only imagine that, somewhere that… THING is watching, too…

A buzz of whispers can be heard as a clearly-tense Josh Johnson and, in tow, Lennox Ferguson now stand in the ring. Lennox holds his arms in front of him, one hand gripping the other wrist awkwardly as he shuffles his feet. Josh Johnson, for his part, holds a microphone with a stern look on his face, making sure all eyes are on him before proceeding.

Josh Johnson: Members of the SHOOT Project community — fans, staff, and Soldiers — we are under a collective threat that has no comparison in our company’s 20-plus year history. And of course, I am speaking of the attacks that have occurred over these past few months… originating with the surprise assault on Dan Stein, the corresponding attack on Jack Johnson also known as El Paria, the … disappearance of Daihm Ferguson, and two weeks ago the attempted kidnapping of “The Realness” Jamie Johnson.

The fans are absolutely hanging on every word as the SHOOT Project CEO takes a breath and is uncharacteristically restrained in his words.

Josh Johnson: You all will hear from Dan Stein later tonight… and I know Jamie will say his peace when he is ready, but we continue to search for – call for – beg for the return of Daihm Ferguson.

The already nervous Lennox begins pacing wildly in the ring, his attention focused on the mat. Josh looks over at this colleague and extends a gesture of support. Lennox grasps his friend’s arm and braces himself against it.

Josh Johnson: At the same time… let me be ABSOLUTELY clear. SHOOT Project will NOT be swayed. We will NOT be threatened. We will NOT cower to the demands of terrorists who threaten the very livelihood that our staff depend on. Tonight, at Ruination; tomorrow, at Revolution; and onward toward Reckoning Day and beyond you have my WORD that SHOOT Project WILL. NOT. YIELD.

The fans absolutely erupt, many now standing at attention, hooting and hollering for the rousing speech provided by the company’s CEO. He waves them down and, after the initial buzz has settled, he turns to Lennox and nods, handing the microphone to SHOOT’s Chief of Staff.

Lennox Ferguson: I…

Lennox lowers the microphone, his voice caught in his throat. He takes a deep breath.

Lennox Ferguson: Daihm. Wherever you are… if you can hear this right now. And so help me, we are blasting this feckin’ broadcast through every speaker in the back right now… if you can HEAR me, Daihm… just know that we love you, and…

Lennox lets out a mix of a sob and yell.

Lennox Ferguson: We’re comin’ to get you, son. We’re comin to–

Lennox drops the microphone and holds a hand to his head as Josh walks over and braces Lennox from fainting. The two slowly walk towards the ropes and exit the ring as a chant slowly begins to grow from the crowd…

Daihm…

DAIHM…

DAIHM!

DAIHM!

DAIHM!

The Dragon’s name is all that can be heard in the arena as the pair make their way up the rampway and back behind the curtain before the Ruination bumper plays on screen.

PERROS DE GUERRA VS. ATOMIC PUNKS & KABUTO

Six Person Tag

Backstage

ACCESS DENEGADO

We cut to the outside of the Epicenter. We are in the loading dock, the main entrance for wrestlers and staff. The sound of motorcycles grows progressively louder until the entirety of the Midnight Cowboys MC comes into view. Tafugai and Sho Yoshida lead the group, but they are flanked by about 6 other tough-looking bikers. They all park their bikes in an obnoxious, clearly in the way spot that will definitely make some third-party vendor’s day worse. As they approach the entrance, 4 SHOOT Project security guards block the entrance.

Sho Yoshida: Hey fuckface! What the big deal?

Head Security: Sorry guys, your crew has been barred from entry.

Tafugai: これはとんでもないことだ!マネージャーと話したいです!

Sho Yoshida: Yah! What HE said!

The bikers and the security tense up, everyone getting ready for something to happen.

Head Security: They’re not coming in, and if you want to make your match tonight, you need to tell them to leave.

Everyone stands in silence for a few moments. The tension builds as fists clench and bodies prepare for…something. Finally, after a few more moments, Sho holds up his hand.

Sho Yoshida: Fine. FINE. You win. Everybody go.

Biker: いいえ、行きません!

Tafugai: そうしないと頭が壊れるよ!

The bikers take note of the seriousness of their bosses tone and head back to their bikes. The revving of engines can be heard off camera as the Midnight Cowboys head into the arena, looking dejected. The camera pans over to show Lucha Fitness emerging from behind some crates, smiling.

Maximo Fisico: Bueno.

 

Sho Yoshida: Yah! What HE said!

 

The bikers and the security tense up, everyone getting ready for something to happen. 

 

Head Security: They’re not coming in, and if you want to make your match tonight, you need to tell them to leave.

 

Everyone stands in silence for a few moments. The tension builds as fists clench and bodies prepare for…something. Finally, after a few more moments, Sho holds up his hand.

 

Sho Yoshida: Fine. FINE. You win. Everybody go.

 

Biker: いいえ、行きません!

 

Tafugai: そうしないと頭が壊れるよ!

 

The bikers take note of the seriousness of their bosses tone and head back to their bikes. The revving of engines can be heard off camera as the Midnight Cowboys head into the arena, looking dejected. The camera pans over to show Lucha Fitness emerging from behind some crates, smiling.

 

Maximo Fisico: Bueno.

IN THE RING

THE PUNCHLINE HAS FANS

The Punchline and the Midnight Cowboys are in the ring, stretching and preparing for their match. The Punchline seem psyched and bounce with energy, ready to debut in a match with title implications. The Midnight Cowboys are a bit more reserved and don’t seem to have quite the same confidence they normally have, leaning against the ropes and staring at their opponents with annoyance.

 

Dutch Harris: Big match in this first round of our tag team tournament and the Midnight Cowboys do not seem to be fully here.

 

Scott Kamura: The Punchline may be able to take a big win here today, as it would seem the games of Lucha Fitness are getting to the Midnight Cowboys.

 

I WANNA FEEL IT DAY AND NIGHT!

 

Dutch Harris: Speaking of…

 

As “Pump It” by Electric Callboy hits, Lucha Fitness emerges from the back. They have camping chairs with them that are badly branded with “The Punchline”. They are wearing what is clearly bootlegged t-shirts that also read “The Punchline”. They unfold their chairs and sit at the top of the ramp. They attempt to start a “Let’s Go Punchline” chant, but the crowd doesn’t react. Sho Yoshida looks completely done, Tafugai screams profanity in Japanese, and The Punchline look…bewildered.

 

Scott Kamura: More bizarre and mildly childish mind games from Lucha Fitness here.

 

Dutch Harris: Did they get all that made, or are there people selling bootlegged merch for a tag team that hasn’t even debuted?

MIDNIGHT COWBOYS MC Vs. THE PUNCHLINE

Tag Team Match

POST MATCH

DISAPPOINTED PUNCHLINE FANS

Dennis Heflin: Your winners and moving on in the tag team tournament…THE MIDNIGHT COWBOYS!

 

After a hard fought win, the Midnight Cowboys look sufficiently exhausted, but this doesn’t stop them from turning their attention to Lucha Fitness. The camera pans over to Lucha Fitness who boo the result, with the mic barely picking Kid Lucha saying “HIS FOOT WAS ON THE ROPE”. Lucha Fitness’ demeanor quickly turns from playfully annoyed to afraid as the Midnight Cowboys begin to exit the ring. The two luchadors abandon their bootleg Punchline chairs and dart to the back, the Midnight Cowboys limping behind them.

 

Scott Kamura: Big win for the Midnight Cowboys, who were able to overcome their distraction to move on in the tournament.

 

Dutch Harris: Does Lucha Fitness, like, own a silk screen printer? I really need to know more about this merch.

Backstage

THE GRAND CHAMPION

The scene is backstage at the Epicenter, Mary Kelly standing by with a beefy Asian man with a mostly shaved head except for a braided ponytail emanating from the center back. He’s dressed in his traditional wrestling gear, tights, boots, and a short jacket with long sleeves. He’s Moriton, the Grand Champion of Mongolian Naadam. Standing between the wrestler and the interviewer is a shorter Asian man wearing sunglasses, a black porkpie hat, a black blazer over a gray shirt, top two buttons undone, and black slacks. On his face rests a goatee.

Mary Kelly: Alright, I’m here with the intimidating and inimitable Moriton and his agent and manager, Mr. Ho.

Mr. Ho nods vigorously while Moriton snorts and moves restlessly.

Mary Kelly: So, Mr. Ho, you have Moriton booked for Ruination AND Revolution, and not against easy outs either. Today your charge goes against Ryan Samuels, the bruiser cowboy who is not in a good mood. Tomorrow, he’s got Jeffrey James Roberts, a newcomer with a bit of a crazy streak. Why are you putting your client through the wringer?

Mr. Ho: Why do you ask questions that have such easy answers, Miss Kelly?

Mary gives him a perplexed look.

Mr. Ho: Most questions, Miss Kelly, have simple answers. I am not a puppeteer. I do not do things with great machination. The reason why I insisted my Horde Rider, the Son of Chingis, have matches on both shows is because he can and will win both matches.

Mary Kelly: Such confidence for a relative newcomer.

Mr. Ho laughs while Moriton snorts again.

Mr. Ho: He may be a rookie to your pro wrestling, but, Miss Kelly, on the steppe? He was so dominant he had to leave to pursue something that would keep him interested! Day after day on the hard, sunbaked ground, engaging in naadam, throwing pretender after pretender to the ground, sometimes five or six a day, with ease!

Mary Kelly: And you think he can translate that success to wrestling? It’s more than just the simple and rigid structure of Mongolian wrestling.

Mr. Ho: I am well aware, Miss Kelly. Moriton is not my first or only client, but he is the one with the most raw power and ability. And he will show that today against the curmudgeonly cowboy.

Mr. Ho adjusts his jacket and grabs the microphone from Mary.

Mr. Ho: RYAN SAMUELS, listen up. This isn’t Spitter where you can throw up the middle finger emoji and not expect to get thrown into the dirt. And although the Bone Man currently vexing you is a stout competitor in his own right? He’s nothing like my Bokh Grand Champion.

Mary holds out her hand and shakes her head. It takes Mr. Ho a minute, but he realizes she wants her microphone back. The Asian Superagent obliges.

Mary Kelly: One last question. Felix Mullen brought Moriton into SHOOT Project. Are you still affiliated with him?

Mr. Ho takes off his sunglasses to show Mary how angry he is.

Mr. Ho: PTOOEY! This interview is over.

 

Mr. Ho signals to Moriton and both leave the staging area. Mary shrugs as the camera cuts to another section of the building.

LA MUERTE ROJA Vs. JOHNNY PATRIOT

Singles Match

Backstage

SECURITY PROBLEMS

The camera cuts backstage as we find Lennox Ferguson chatting with a member of the production crew backstage.

The Chief of Staff and the crew member are deep in conversation only to be interrupted, rudely, by a voice shouting over their conversation.

NC-17: Hey yooo, Bossman!

An extremely annoyed Lennox turns to look at Seventeen, who comes in tow with his manager Johnny Vignochi. While the “Cream of the Obscene” is dressed in a Chicago Cubs jersey and a red bandana, at least Johnny has the presence of mind to wear something resembling a suit and tie.

Lennox Ferguson: I’m not in the mood for your shite tonight.

NC-17 flashes a cocky smile and lets out a laugh.

NC-17: Yah, funny thing…I’m not in the mood for yours either. I mean, from where I’m standing…you got a fuckin’ security problem here in SHOOT Project, bubs. And as SHOOT’s Premier Champion, it’s my duty to speak up about it. Locker room’s countin’ on me…

Like a fucking heat-seeking missile, Lennox is on NC-17, in his face and fuming.

Lennox Ferguson: You want to say that again? I’ll throw your arse out for-

Johnny Vignochi coughs loudly to break the tension.

 


Johnny Vignochi: Mr. Ferguson, as we discussed several weeks ago, and as you and Mr. Johnson clearly laid out earlier this evening, SHOOT Project is under attack and we – NC-17 and every client I represent – is under threat. How are we to be reassured that some ill fate will not befall SHOOT Project’s favorite Soldier?

Lennox Ferguson: Why do you care about Azraith DeMitri?

Johnny Vignochi: I’m talking about SEVENTEEN! Look. I’m gonna be honest with ya, Mr. Ferguson…the working conditions in SHOOT Project have been down…right…dangerous the past three months. Look what WOLF MAN did to Ayumi Seppuku, for instance…nevermind the attacks…or, God bless him, the disappearance of ya son…this is NOT a safe environment for employees, Mr. Ferguson.

NC-17: A champion shouldn’t be having to look over his shoulder 24/7. I DEMAND some sort of security personnel…a dispatch, a couple goons, hell, I dunno…I don’t work in the HR department, I’m just one of the superstars! That’s more YOUR department, don’t ya think?

Lennox bites his tongue and sighs.

Lennox Ferguson: You know… tonight you get a pass. The only reason Jamie Johnson isn’t… the only reason he’s safe tonight is because Ayumi was there that night. And that’s because of you. Josh may not say it publicly, but he owes you his son’s safety – no matter how wayward the reasoning for it.

NC-17 beams proudly.

NC-17: See! And here you were all mad at me for that.

Lennox Ferguson: I’m STILL fuckin’ mad at you for that, you shite. But… it saved your ass from being fired. I can tell you that much for certain. So how about you back off and quit while you’re ahead, yeah?

Seventeen goes to say something but he’s held back by Johnny who shakes his head disapprovingly.

Lennox Ferguson: Right, then. So… sadly, you’re not wrong. We’re just… we’re not prepared for something like this. I could give you all the security in the world, and we can keep you safe backstage, but as soon as you head out into the ring you’re exposed.

NC-17: No. Not anymore. I tried that once and got five months for indecent exposure.

Lennox Ferguson: What I MEAN is that … outside of staying in your locker room in perpetuity or finding this… person terrorizing SHOOT, you’re right that I can’t guarantee your safety. That’s the risk we are taking. We’re ALL taking.

NC-17: Sounds like something a coward would say, if I’m being honest.

Lennox’s eyes lock onto NC-17’s as Johnny tries to interject.

NC-17: Am I wrong? Ox? Or are you gonna 86 me too, just like you did Ayumi? After all, how do we know YOU’RE not the one behind all of this?

Lennox rolls his eyes and throws his hands up in the air.

Lennox Ferguson: I was OUT THERE when Jamie and Ayumi got attacked you bloody twat! You know what? Fuck it. I was actually starting to think you were making some sense, but no, you’re just a selfish prick. Get out of my sight or you’re right, I WILL remove you from the building – indefinitely.

Seventeen seems about ready to push his luck but Johnny Vignochi yanks his client backwards by his jersey and steps in front of the two men.

Johnny Vignochi: Yes. Mr. Fergsuon. My apologies for this… outburst. Tensions, as you noted, are running a bit high. We understand the situation and will do anything we can to help address this unfortunate series of events.

Lennox looks at Johnny then back to Seventeen, his expression too tired to fight back.

Lennox Ferguson: Just get him the fuck out of here. Go!

Seventeen tries to protest but Johnny pushes him backwards, away from the scene as Lennox rubs his temples and returns to his conversation with the backstage technician before the screen cuts to black.

IN THE RING

BOTTOM LINE

The chorus of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” sounds throughout the arena, a loud wave of cheering sounding within the crowd.

 

Scott Kamura: This song can only mean the arrival of one of SHOOT’s best!

 

Dutch Harris: Someone that’s won over hearts, lost them and got them back; you can’t say Laura Seton isn’t worth the love.  A helluva of a performer, no questions asked!

 

In her red leather jacket, black pants, black boots and blonde hair down, she enters the arena and makes her way to the ring.  While she shares smiles with fans, there’s a look in her eye.  One seen here before.  Her look of something eating away at her.

 

As she enters the ring, she plays to the fans before getting a mic.  As her music fades, she runs a hand through her hair before speaking.

 

Laura Seton: Thank you.  And normally a reaction like that makes me want to get all jacked and really psych me up for tomorrow night and that MASSIVE main event…

 

The crowd erupts as she mentions the big 4-way set for Revolution.  She has a brief smile before getting back to business.

 

Laura Seton: And hey, it’s fitting.  Because it only makes sense to have such a lavish appetizer before the biggest show of the whole fucking year… RIGHT??

 

She grins again as the crowd erupts.

 

Scott Kamura: No doubt Laura’s got Reckoning Day vibes going on already.

 

Dutch Harris: She definitely plays to everyone’s anticipation, but if we know her like we think?  She’s got something else on her mind.

 

She waits for the cheers to die down before going on.  Her look of concern returning.

 

Laura Seton: So we all saw it before the holidays came.  It was a fitting World Heavyweight Championship match.  An awesome sight to see to end 2023.  Azraith versus Laura Seton.  YOU all paid for tickets.  YOU all brought your excitement to last for hours on end.  Just waiting on edge through a heated battle–bonafide Hall of Famer against someone looking to cinch her spot at the peak of the SHOOT mountain…

 

 

And I left the arena that night on a stretcher.  Not knowing what happened when I woke up on a training table minutes later.  Not sure what my next step would be.  I met with some of my closest friends here.  We all saw Azraith open the door for another shot.  And it looked like I was on deck again, but something happened.

 

I’m not saying something’s a bit off here… maybe it’s my head not being fully engaged after being KO’ed by Az, but…

 

She gets a look of agitation, scrunching her face for a second, as if having tasted something bitter.

 

Laura Seton: What’s the deal, here?  I mean, Az and I back in the fall?  I challenged.  He accepted.  And somehow my turn seemed to be on ice and look… he and X turned in–

 

The crowd erupts at the mention of the 2023 Match of the Year.  Laura nods.

 

Laura Seton: Yeah, they fought one of the best EVER in human history.  But it was almost like my accepted challenge was forgotten about.  And now we’re doing it again?  Because Az said–



-AND IF YOU COMPLAIN ONCE MORE…

YOU’LL MEET AN ARMY OF ME

 

The Great Discord’s version of “Army of Me” snarls out through the Epicenter in all it’s industrial glory, rumbling the concrete foundations with it’s thudding bass as AZRAITH DEMITRI steps out to the top of the ramp!

 

Scott Kamura: It sounds like the champion wants to come out and clear the air!

 

No formal jacket, just a snug black dress shirt, the cuffs and top two buttons un-buttoned, collar pulled up.  Slightly lighter black slacks, dress shoes…and the SHOOT Project Heavyweight Championship over his shoulder.  Az has a look of quiet determination, wasting no time getting to the ring, standing on the top metal step for several seconds, staring intently at Laura before stepping over the top rope.

 

Dutch Harris: Az looks like he has something to say…but Laura is right, he more or less offered a rematch up on a silver platter and we haven’t heard hide nor hair of it since.

 

Az slowly, carefully steps up to an arm’s length of Laura.  Laura looks…less than pleased that she’s been interrupted, and Az bows his head in a rare display of forgiveness before pointing to her mic.  Laura’s eyes narrow into slits, but after a second she hands it over to Azraith.

 

Azraith DeMitri: Gonna make this quick.

 

Az turns away from Laura, while taking a few steps backwards to stand alongside her while staring out at the SHOOT Project crowd.

 

Azraith DeMitri: Everything Laura is saying here is dead-fuckin’-on.  I’m not gonna repeat all of it because that’d be an insult to her.  Long and short of it is this.  Me and Laura absolutely agreed on a rematch.  As far as I’m concerned, right now she is THE number one contender to this championship until that rematch occurs.  There are plenty of other contenders…hell there’s a Redemption Rumble winner that’s probably more than ready to loot what he thinks is my rapidly decaying corpse for the title.  That’s all well and good, and they got their claims…but their claims aren’t going anywhere. The Rumble winner faces the champion.

 

Doesn’t say it has to be me.

 

The crowd cheers out with Az’s solidarity of Laura. He looks to her and nods quietly before looking back out to the crowd.

 

Azraith DeMitri:  So how’re we gonna make this right?  Hell…if I had my way I’d shuffle a ref down here right now…but you and me, we have other obligations.  We get to beat the shit out of each other AND two OTHER people in the main event of Revolution.  After that?  If it were MY company, we’d be headlining Reckoning Day.  Laura Seton vs Azraith DeMitri, Rematch for the SHOOT PROJECT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP!

 

The crowd roars out in approval, and Az grins, just a little bit as he looks back to the ramp.

 

Azraith DeMitri: -but while I may be the champion…I’m still beholden to a few people here.

 

Az hands the mic back to Laura, never looking away from the entrance ramp.

 

WE CAME TO TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUUUUUTH!!!

 

Naturally, on cue, “Chuuch!” by Bun B hits, signalling the arrival of the man in charge… the SHOOT Project’s Owner & CEO, Hall of Famer, blah blah etc., the REAL DEAL.

 

Scott Kamura: Folks are loving this, for sure!

 

Dutch Harris: Two HUGE stars and now the boss? Absolutely.

 

He walks out onto the ramp, pretty much dressed for work, and these days, work during the shows is in production so he’s looking comfortable. Workout pants, black SHOOT Project t-shirt, sneakers, but what sets this apart from a scene in the backstage is the microphone in his hand and the buzz in the air.

 

Real Deal: I’ve, you know, pretty obviously been listening. I’d like to think that since SHOOT has been back in form, I’ve been pretty fair with you guys, listening when there are suggestions and taking the things that you all say under major consideration. 

 

The crowd is hushed as Real Deal speaks.

 

Real Deal: I’ve obviously been in the same position y’all are in. Contender and champion, wanting to get some business done, and that pesky ol’ front office getting in the way. But, speaking of business.

 

I run one. This one. 

 

That means that I have to make decisions that are emotionless and built exclusively on answering the question “Does this get more eyes onto the SHOOT Project?” and often times, that means I can just throw some bookings out, people take the hint, and we fill the Epicenter up. Thanks for that, by the way.

 

He motions to the crowd, who throws him the cheap pop, causing him to chuckle.

 

Real Deal: So when I do things like booking Lexi Gold to challenge Azraith DeMitri for the World Heavyweight Championship… 

 

The crowd pops.

 

Real Deal: Or Azraith and X-Calibur…

 

The crowd pops.

 

Real Deal: Or this four-way that’s happening tomorrow night at Revolution…

 

The crowd pops.

 

Dutch Harris: Really hamming it up over here, Mr. Johnson.

 

Scott Kamura: Not wrong, though.

 

Real Deal: I’m not doing that because I’m IGNORING a contender or a challenge or disregarding the will of the champion or anything like that. I make that match or those matches because of where we’re standing right now. 

 

At Ruination.

 

Or tomorrow night, at Revolution. 

 

And the reality is that I’m not going to have a World title that’s defended every two months AT BEST – That’s… bad business. It’s bad for the title, it’s bad for the contenders and other stars here, and it’s bad for the company. I recognize probably better than anyone that you have to advocate for yourself and speak up when you feel you’re being wronged…

 

He pauses.

 

Real Deal: But at no point have I ever said that Laura Seton Vs. Azraith DeMitri II was off the table.

 

The crowd hits the roof! 

 

Real Deal: And at no point did I ever say that the Rumble winner HAD to challenge the champion at Reckoning Day. That’s just sorta how it’s worked out in the past.

 

The noise stays at a VERY high level.

 

Real Deal: Frankly, I think the Rumble winner has some things that he wants to deal with before he turns his attention to the World Championship, but we’re gonna hear about that tomorrow night. 

 

Bottom line.

 

As the guy who makes the decisions, I can comfortably say that we will be seeing Laura Seton and Azraith DeMitri square off one more time. 

 

For the World Heavyweight Championship.

 

At Reckoning Day.

 

And the crowd goes wild.

 

They respond in kind.

 

Real Deal: See how easy that was? 

 

He hands the microphone off to a stage hand as “Chuuch!” hits again and he very quickly disappears to the back, leaving Laura Seton and Azraith DeMitri to soak in the reaction from the crowd.

 

Scott Kamura: So we’re getting the sequel at Reckoning Day! 

 

Dutch Harris: Yeah we are. It’s going to be real, real interesting to see what Laura Seton does differently to try and overcome the Azraith hurdle. She’s got a tall order, and with coming out here and making this statement… 

 

Scott Kamura: A stink if you will.

 

Dutch Harris: I won’t, but thank you. With coming out here and making this statement, the expectations are now much higher than they probably would have been otherwise.

RYAN SAMUELS VS. MORITON

Singles Match

Backstage

LIGHTS OUT

 

We cut backstage once again, to find NC-17, his small companion NC-7teeny, and his agent Johnny Vignochi standing in a semi-circle with what looks to be like a SHOOT Project security official. The security operative is wearing a black “SHOOT security” T-shirt and has one of those corded ear pieces in. His arms are folded and he looks annoyed. NC-17 appears to be berating him.

 

NC-17: Un-fucking-believable. The PREMIER Champion feels in danger, and THIS is who Lennox sends to keep an eye on him? ONE HENCHMAN? I feel safer standing next to this little ankle-biter!

 

NC-17 jerks his thumb in 7teeny’s direction, who shoots back a pained expression. The security guard doesn’t look impressed.

 

Security: You asked for a security detail, you got a security detail. Now are you gonna break my balls the whole time, or are you gonna let me do my job?

 

Before Seventeen can think up a response, an enormous shadow is cast across the group…and everybody looks up to find a figure that is as ugly as he is large. Six foot seven, massive hulking frame, balding and misshapen from years of cruel and violent acts. The man who stands over NC-17’s security detail looks more in line with something out of a backwoods horror movie, The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn, than he does on a wrestling program. This man is “Lights Out” Lars Von Bremen, a new hire to SHOOT Project who has yet to debut. The security guard puffs out his chest and takes a defensive posture, pointing in Lars’ direction.

 

Security: Hey! Back up from Mr. Seventeen! Give him some spa-

 

A massive hamhock of a hand reaches out and grabs the security guard by the face. He shoves the man’s head into a nearby wall, hard and shockingly fast, immediately knocking the guard unconscious. For the security guard, this will be a traumatic experience that definitely results in a concussion, but Lars is barely paying attention to the man he just brained. He keeps his eyes on NC-17. The obscene trio look up in horror, almost cartoonishly shivering in the shadow of this mammoth of a man. Lars speaks up, the traces of a German accent breaking through his otherwise solid English.

 

Lars Von Bremen: You need protection, yes?

 

NC-17: Uhhh…err…

 

Johnny Vignochi steps forward, his hand extended for a shake.

 

Johnny Vig: Absolutely! I’m Johnny Vignochi, NC-17’s agent and confidante…and you are…?

 

Lars looks down at the hand and scowls. He looks over at NC-17, very purposefully ignoring Vig.

 

Lars Von Bremen: He in charge, or you?

 

Seventeen and Vig exchange curious glances before the cream of obscene mortally wounds his handler with his response.

 

NC-17: Uh yah, I’m the boss? How ya doin’ guy?

 

Lars moves a step closer to NC-17.

 

Lars Von Bremen: I’m Lars Von Bremen. I’m big, I’m mean, and the only thing I like more than violence is wealth and debauchery. If I am correct, you can provide me all three. So…shall we discuss a rate?

Lars looks at Vig and Teeny for a moment, with plenty of disdain.

 

Lars Von Bremen: Preferably in private.

 

NC-17 looks at Vig and Teeny, shrugging.

 

NC-17: Well…you heard the man. Fuck off!

 

The cameras fade as 7teeny and Johnny Vig shamefully make an exit.

IN THE RING

THE LIGHTS GO OUT IN THE SHOOT PROJECT

Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever (Official Music Video)

 

The SHOOTron lights up with a video package of 17 year old “Prototype-X” Dan Stein backstage at his first Outlaw Pro-Wrestling show in April of 2004. Dan wears a pair of gold short-style trunks. Dan’s face is focused as he stretches out before his match, but when he notices the camera, his icy blue eyes light up and his lips curl into a boyish smile that would go on to become his trademark, unable to hide his excitement at the moment.

 

Feels like I’m standing in a timeless dream

Of light mists, of pale amber rose

Feels like I’m lost in a deep cloud of heavenly scent

Touching, discovering you

 

The shot fades to a replay of Dan Stein scooping Cade Sydal’s legs. The referee is blurred, but is clearly counting the pinfall. The moment is Dan Stein’s first ‘major’ victory over a known quality athlete in the circle. Dan sits up on his knees and wipes the blood and sweat of the match from his face. The camera catches the referee raising Dan’s hand, that damn smirk crossing his lips.

 

Those days of warm rains come rushing back to me

Miles of windless summer nights

Secret moments shared within the heat of the afternoon

Out of the stillness, soft spoken words

 

We now fade to a shot of Dan Stein backstage, the OPW Atlantic Coast Championship over his shoulder. Dan wears a nice suit with a “Golden Boy” pin on the lapel. A twinkle hits Dan’s eye as his smirk forms over his lips. Dan throws back the curtains just as the chorus of the song starts.

 

Say it, say it again

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

Dan appears in a True Talent Wrestling tour bus, wearing a Sky High t-shirt. He’s behind a laptop, typing as fast as he can, face buried in the screen allowing the camera to go unnoticed. The video fades to a shot of Stein in the middle of a ring in a High School gym somewhere along the Sky High tour. Confetti rains down on him as he raises the Sky High cup high above his head, tears in his eyes.

 

Say it, say it again

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

Dan Stein and Paul Jarvis walk into an interview in front of the SHOOT Project banner in this clip, with both men wearing Air Force fighter pilot style jackets and aviator sunglasses. Maddog and Ace crack silent jokes and make each other pop. It’s Dan’s debut in SHOOT Project. The first time he’s looked like he’s felt at home.

 

You’ve got

The most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen

You’ve got

Me almost melting away

 

Dan stands atop of the cage, high above a wrestling ring at WAR. Dan steadies himself with one of the chains hanging from the ceiling. Below him, a menagerie of wrestlers start to come to, standing in a group. Dan looks up and makes a sign of the cross over his body before leaping through a hole in the cage. Dan clips his head but still manages to take out the mass of people below him.

 

As we lay there

Under a blue sky with pure white stars

Exotic sweetness

A magical time

 

The camera catches Dan crumpling into a ring corner over Adrian Corazon as the latter struggles to get to his feet. Dan motions for Adrian to get up if he still could, but the referee hits a “TEN” count, and Adrian Corazon collapses back to the mat. Dan Stein then falls to his knees as the referee drags the SHOOT Project Iron Fist Championship over to him. Dan buries his face in the gold championship – his first in SHOOT Project.

 

Say it, say it again

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

Dan walks into a local diner for a promotional video some years later. He wears a pair of nice jeans and a designer t-shirt. The fans in the arena cheer as the woman working the counter turns to face Stein, revealing herself to be the beautiful, eventual Molly Stein. The camera catches the gulp from Dan’s throat in the clip.

 

Say it, say it again

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

Dan and Molly walk out hand-in-hand at the 2013 Master of the Mat Night Two. Following him is a gaggle of women, Maximus Fanjita III, and Toni and Tina, his twin female body-building bodyguards.

 

Say you’ll love and love me forever

Never stop, never whatever

Near and far and always everywhere and everything

 

The picture warps to show Donovan King rearing back on a Carolina Crossface but Dan fighting through the incredible pain by biting on Donovan King’s hand to escape.

 

Say you’ll love and love me forever

Never stop, never whatever

Near and far and always everywhere and everything

 

The footage then molds into Dan Stein applying his own Carolina Crossface to Donovan King at the same show, this time causing King to tap out. The fans in the Master of the Mat arena explode, as do the fans in the Las Vegas Epicenter.

 

Say you’ll love and love me forever

Never stop, never whatever

Near and far and always everywhere and everything

 

Dan stands in the middle of the Master of the Mat ring, confetti raining down on him from the ceiling. He holds the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship high above his head, and tears stream down his face. Molly stands beside him, tears of her own hitting the mat.

 

Say you’ll love and love me forever

Never stop, never whatever

Near and far and always everywhere and everything

 

Dan stands at a podium at the 2021 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, wearing a tuxedo with Molly Stein by his side. Dan holds her hand tightly as the people in the crowd offer him a standing ovation. Dan’s trademark smirk smirking smirkingly. Dan looks at his wife with love in his eyes.

 

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

The rest of the song plays on as the video rewinds in increasing speeds, until it flashes white, shows a picture of Dan, Molly, and Siobhan Stein for a few moments, and then closes down and out.

 

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

 

I love you always forever

Near or far, closer together

 

The SHOOTron shuts down. The fans in attendance start to chant “Thank You Dan! Thank You Dan! Thank You Dan!”. The camera cuts back to the announce booth with Scott Kamura and Dutch Harris standing up with live microphones in their hands.

 

Scott Kamura: Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

Dutch Harris: Dan Stein.

 

YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH!

YOU’VE GOT THE POWAAAAAAAAH!! 

YEEEEEEEAH!

 

Slowly, Dan Stein walks out from the backstage area hand in hand with a very pregnant Molly Stein. Dan uses a baby blue cane with pink speckles to steady himself. He wears a “Golden One, Always and Forever” t-shirt that Jester Smiles threw together for him. Dan stands at the top of the ramp as he looks around the arena at the adoring fans. Tears well up in his eyes and he bites the corner of his mouth to keep himself from crying. Molly rubs her hand on his to support her husband.

 

The couple continue their walk down to the ring. Dan walks carefully up the stairs, pulling himself up the last few steps by sticking the cane in the ring corner. Molly walks behind him to steady him. Dan looks absolutely exhausted just walking down the ramp to the ring. He stands on the ring apron, again looking around the arena, and soaks in the reception. Dan ducks under the top rope and steadies himself with his cane as he brings his legs over.

 

Dan takes one last look around the arena before taking the microphone from Molly’s hand.

 

“THANK YOU DAN! THANK YOU DAN! THANK YOU DAN!” Their chant trails off. Dan puts the microphone to his mouth, ending it completely. He, of course, smirks.

 

Dan Stein: That’s still weird to me. A lot can change in ten years. Ten years ago you were booing me out of the building after I won the Redemption Rumble. Not sure what I did to deserve the love, but thank you. 

 

Dan pauses, rubbing his chest. Molly stands to the side, allowing her husband the spotlight. The fans erupt in a “You deserve it!” chant. Dan quickly cuts them off. 

 

Dan Stein: You’re right. I do, but that’s beside the point.

 

Molly glares at Dan. Dan feels her eyes boring into the back of his skull, and turns to her.

 

Dan Stein: Sorry, Dear, old habits die hard. 

 

Dan steadies himself again. Dan looks down at the mat and drives the edge of the cane into it, collecting his thoughts.

 

Dan Stein: Y’know, contrary to popular belief, I don’t plan on taking a lot of time out tonight. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think my body could handle it. (Dan turns to Molly.) What show did I get attacked at?

 

Molly Stein: Revolution 198!

 

Dan Stein (Turning back to the camera, balling his fist at his side): Back at Revolution 198, I was kicked in the chest by that…that BEAST, and landed on the concrete outside the ring. 

 

Dan looks around the arena as the fans mumble. He takes a deep breath before continuing on, trying to keep focus.

 

Dan Stein: Doctors said it caused commotio cordis…basically, my heart was off beat when I got hit and the trauma caused it to stop. You may remember Damar Hamlin last football season, same deal. Thankfully for Damar, he’s made it back to the playing field.

 

The fans cheer.

 

Dan Stein: Not all of us are so lucky. You see, the doctors don’t think I’ll ever lace the boots up again. 

 

The fans ERUPT in boos.

 

Dan Stein: I know, trust me. I wish I could throw on the boots and put on clinics for all of you tonight, but I’m still suffering from a lot of complications five months later. I’m still broken, and I don’t know when I’ll be whole again. 

 

Dan’s eyes well up with tears. He does his best to hold them back.

 

Dan Stein: As of tonight, February 4th, 2024, at Ruination 53: I officially announce my retirement from in-ring competition.

 

Molly steps forward, rubbing his back. Dan dips his head, again working that cane in the mat. He takes a moment. The fans in the arena boo, upset at the announcement. Dan puts his wrist to his eye, trying to soak up some of the moisture.

 

Dan Stein: Wait, wait. I appreciate it, but I’m okay with this, despite, y’know, the tears and shit. I’ve done many great things in SHOOT Project. Some people have said I’ve done all there is to do over the last 16, 17 years, but most importantly, I met my beautiful wife because of SHOOT Project. I have one and a half beautiful kids because of SHOOT Project. I’ve grown up in SHOOT Project, right along with you.

 

Now, I’ve wanted to be there for my family…it’s just coming a little sooner than expected.

 

Dan smirks, looking at Molly.

 

Dan Stein: I’m already annoying the hell out of Molly and I can barely walk. Just wait until I can get around on my own. She’ll want me back around SHOOT Project before you know it. 

 

And it’s not like you’re being left with scraps; Joshua Breedlove is back, The Coltons are driving the Tag Team division, and the Avatar of SHOOT Project, Azraith DeMitri is your World Heavyweight Champion. You’ve got X-Calibur all the way up the roster to Archer Quincannon. I’ll be forgotten by Revolution 210. But, uh…

 

Dan pauses again.

 

Dan Stein: I’ll never forget you guys. The fans. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but we all wanted the same thing: the best for SHOOT Project. And now, my retirement is what’s best for SHOOT Project, and what’s best for me. 

 

Whether you’ve booed me or cheered for me, the last 17 years of my life have been a dream because of you.

 

Thank you.

 

UNHOLY THUNDER ARMY Vs. THE COLTONS (c)

WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

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