Three men stand before a large black curtain that’s displaying the SHOOT Project helmet logo in the center. The men and their mannerisms are familiar. A bald, blood red, CK Butcher stands in the direct center, and if it were not for the already trademarked physical appearance of Elvis and Alden – they’d almost be unrecognizable. The brothers are now completely bald. Clean shaven, and their skin stained with a crimson thickness. Their personalities seem to be the same. Elvis twitches and ticks while the crimson coated colossus at CK’s left stares into the world’s soul with his disgustingly bulbous bug eyes. They’re all wearing the exact same attire: black pants and red boots that end just under the knee. Their scarred bodies and battered bodies are highlighted without shirts. The Cult of the Crimson King is complete. Their leader, the Crimson King, in the flesh, CK Butcher, continues his dialogue. His dark and seductive eyes make it difficult to look away from evil.
Crimson King Butcher: The universe is thirsty. Starving. It wants more. The universe wants to see me, us, destroy and devour. Isn’t that obvious? We lose, and yet somehow we miraculously evolve. We cannot be defeated. We can be short term pacified, but we will never be defeated. Buck Dresden…it’s obvious. I watched a man named Malice enter the ring. The definition of evil. I stared Malice in the eyes. We exchanged our fair share of dominance. Then I defeated Malice. With the Meathook. It’s poetic. I evolve. I challenge every member of SHOOT Project and invite them into my court to fight me. The first man to take charge wears the name…Malice. If this is all you’ve got, and if that’s the best evil you can deliver? This company is going to be a fucking disgusting, bloody, mountain of flesh by the time we’re all said and done.
Elvis smacks himself in the face and lets out a yip while Alden cracks his knuckles. Their older brother, and leader, takes a moment to contemplate before he continues.
Crimson King Butcher: Tonight is no different, and that’s clearly obvious. I will continue to enter that ring and challenge any man, or woman, who is confident enough to sacrifice themselves for Buck Dresden and SHOOT Project. Their hero and their home. Until there’s only two men left. The Crimson King, and the World Heavyweight Champion.
Both Alden and Elvis begin to grin, and their grotesque smiles are displayed as their chapped and cracked lips spread apart. The brothers are excited by the King’s dialogue. CK’s face lowers slightly and his eyes glare deep into the camera lens.
Crimson King Butcher: What’s it going to be, Buck? What’s it going to cost for you to share another dance with your favorite demon? I certainly hope you answer that question with one word: lives. Many, many, lives. The blood is on your hands; even if I’m covered in it. I patiently wait for your response. I know it’ll be passionate, and I know you won’t back down. I know you’ll do the right thing. There is no other way.
The face of confidence. Crimson. A pearl white smile. Dark, piercing eyes. The camera has the perfect shot, tight, ear to ear, and crown to chin. Instant blackness.
Kitsune Vs. Kenneth Casper
The hair, perfect–a Brutalist structure atop a scarred forehead, the peaks reaching Wayne Static heights, the ‘party in the back’ flowing to the shoulder. The gear is bowling alley neon and cotton candy. The man is Bobson Dugnutt, his body oiled, age having transplanted most of the mass from his arms to his midsection. But he doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. In fact, he’s smiling.
Bobson Dugnutt: Oh baby bay-bay, they done called Daddy Dugnutt up to the big show! And not just for any scrap with some low-grade loser, naw–they put me up against a real stud, right? He’s young and he’s lean, strong and clean, with him there ain’t much in between! Clemson Dean, daddy!
He puts up his dukes, then waves it off with a laugh, crosses his legs, and does a full 360 spin on his heels.
Bobson Dugnutt: Now you might look at me and you might think, this gonna be an easy duke for ole Clemson Dean. Bobson been rocking and rolling since before that boy was in his diapers, and y’all probably already called them Vegas bookmakers…
With the phone hand gesture held to his head, he affects some strange mixture of Jersey gangster mixed with his down south twang
Bobson Dugnutt: “Vinnie! Put a bunch of my hard earned greenbacks on Clemson Dean–I need some easy money, Daddy-o!”
The man shrugs.
Bobson Dugnutt: Play like that even hurts the Hootchie-Cootchie Man’s feelings! I been counted out before, y’all. They done said Daddy Dugnutt wasn’t big enough, that he wasn’t strong enough, that he ain’t have the killer instinct to win! But you know what, babies? Them nay sayers sellin’ steaks door to door, and I’m…still…here. Still lacin’ them boots! So Clemson Dean, you may be the new hotness, but you aint yet done what any young punk gotta do to make it in this business. You aint conquered Mount Bobson!!
To emphasize this, he slaps his oiled chest with both hands.
Bobson Dugnutt: Thing is, me and the Real Deal go way back. Playing dominoes, I’m godfather to one of his kids, Bobson Dugnutt got the stroke, daddy! And he done told me that he gonna make the price right once I’m wearing gold again. So Clemson Dean? Ain’t no disrespect, but you a stepping stone, baby! You the man gonna have to lay on his back after that Ooooh, Slam-a-doo! You the fella gonna be seein’ them stars after the Rock and Roll Hootchie-Coo! You the sap that’s gonna get pinned and hear that One, baby, that Two, daddy, that three, jack! Cause once you catch that Sweet Sassy, it ain’t even a question!!
With a “Whoo!” and a clap of his hands, the Hootchie Cootchie man struts his way from the frame, leaving a cinderblock wall, and we cut back to the announce team.
Dutch Harris: …words, certainly, strong ones, from the Living Legend himself!
Scott Kamura: I’m legitimately unsure if he’s won a single match in the last decade, Dutch.
Dutch Harris: Then he’s due for one!! We’ll see if Bobson Dugnutt can get the duke against Clemson Dean–next!
Bobson Dugnutt Vs. Clemson Dean
The opening chords to Cole Rolland’s cover of “Fur Elise” kick into gear, and the boos begin to rain down almost immediately. The lights in the arena take on a purple hue as Ned Reform emerges from the back, dressed in his usual professional attire. He pauses at the top of the ramp, looking around to the less than appreciative crowd and flashing his trademark punchable smirk. Reform holds up a single finger to the fans for a moment before turning and pointing to the entrance way… where the same large man who attacked Courtney Hatchett two weeks ago emerges from the back!
Dutch Harris: That’s the man last week we saw run through from the crowd and lay out Courtney Hatchett at Ned Reform’s direction.
Scott Kamura: Reform put on a big show of respecting Courtney, but surprise, surprise… the guy is a total fraud.
Reform’s companion is an absolute brick shithouse. Like Reform, he’s also dressed in a professional button up and khakis. Unlike Reform, there is no smirk, there is no smiling… just a piercing cold intensity shining through his bright blue eyes. The man walks to the ring with steely purpose while Reform walks alongside him, yucking it up for the crowd the entire way. Reform smiles and waves to the fans, seemingly unaware of how much they all truly hate him.
Reform’s heavy hops up on the ring apron, sitting on the second rope and holding the ropes open to make Reform’s entrance in the ring easier. Reform enters the ring, calling for a mic. The Philosopher King gestures around to the capacity crowd in grand fashion.
Ned Reform: Children!
BOO THIS MAN!
Ned Reform: No, no, no. Today is a day for celebration. You see, this Fall, I came to SHOOT Project with a clear mission. I came to SHOOT Project to elevate the discourse. To take this little grappling show from a slack-jawed yokel operation and mold it into high art. I came to help… to help the company, to help the wrestlers on the roster, and most of all… to help each and every one of you.
BOO HIM AGAIN!
Ned Reform shakes his head. Not in annoyance… more like pity.
Ned Reform: And that’s what I received for my troubles, isn’t it? You…
Reform laughs. He can barely get the phrase out; it’s so ridiculous.
Ned Reform: You boo me. You throw your support behind people like Courtney Hatchett. I know that often people need to be coerced into bettering themselves and I was prepared to meet some resistance to my pedagogy… but I didn’t expect for it to take THIS long!
Ned Reform: It’s nothing new for genius to go unappreciated by the masses. I know that the work is vital; I know that I am the man to do the work; I know that I need to sustain myself by constantly remembering that I didn’t have to lend my vision to SHOOT Project… I chose to. And yet…
Reform puts his hand on the shoulder of the large man and for a moment he buries his head in it. He’s being very dramatic here.
Ned Reform: I have to confess something. I also almost gave up.
Reform pretends to wipe a tear from his eye as a chant rises up from the fans.
“GO – A – WAY!”
“GO – A – WAY!”
“GO – A – WAY!”
Ned Reform: You see? You see?? After Courtney Hatchett debased me publicly in the ring… after she VIOLATED me… and you people continued to shower her with support and villainize me… I came this close.
Reform makes the “this close” motion.
Ned Reform: THIS CLOSE! To packing it up and taking my talents somewhere where they’d be more appreciated and better utilized. Yes, children… even great men can occasionally lose focus. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I momentarily lost the plot. And then…
Reform gestures to the large man.
Ned Reform: And then I found… him. Look at this specimen that stands before you.
Reform points to his friend.
Ned Reform: A thoroughbred. An athlete. Aggression. Power. Focus. What you’re looking at right here… is a winner. This is NOT a scrappy little Courtney Hatchett who begs for “you deserve it” chants. This isn’t some working class schlub you cheer for because he reminds you of your toothless uncle Jack. I present to you now, my greatest student. My prime pupil. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to… TA Hahn!!
Hahn doesn’t even flinch at the introduction. He continues to stand with military precision and arms behind his back.
Ned Reform: You see, Hahn sought me out. “Doctor Reform,” he said to me, “it’s not right how you’re treated. You should not have to endure these humiliations. Your genius should be appreciated.” And Hahn offered to help me. To apply his killer instinct and unmatched athletic potential to the cause of reforming professional wrestling. TA Hahn will be my instrument of destruction. When people refuse to heed the power of my words… this man will force them to listen.
Reform now looks directly into the camera.
Ned Reform: Which brings me to you, Courtney Hatchett. I believe it is time to put this issue between us to rest. To end this little journey you and I are on… and it only can end in one way. You, broken, bleeding, laying at my feet. Admitting that I am your better. I know as the Shut Up and Fight Champion, you’re used to throwing out the challenges. But now I have a challenge for you. Next week. Ruination. You find yourself a tag team partner, and you step in the ring with Dr. Ned Reform and TA Hahn. I unleash my monster on you and whoever is foolish enough to join you in the ring. You finally…
The smirk again.
Ned Reform: You FINALLY… learn your lesson.
Reform hands the mic over to TA Hahn, who takes it and seems to break his trance. He looks into the camera, sneering.
TA Hahn: Courtney Hatchett… if you step into this ring… I will break you in half.
With that, TA Hahn drops the mic. Reform throws his head back in absolute glee. The theme music kicks back in as Reform motions for TA Hahn to follow him out of the ring.
Teddy Palmer Vs. Daryn Thompson
The scene jumps to a backstage hallway, although the person speaking is currently around the corner.
“Thank you, thank you so much.”
The Easy-Going Grappler and upcoming challenger to the Sin City Championship, Kayden Paulton turns into the hallway where the camera is situated. A pleasant smile on his face, Paulton calmly strolls by, seemingly enjoying his day to the fullest.
Kayden walks past three crew members gathered together, drinking their coffees.
Kayden Paulton: Hey guys, thank you so much.
The crew are taken back. One man raises his eyebrow.
Crew Worker: For what?
Kayden Paulton: Oh, right. Silly me, haha. I’m just thrilled to be in SHOOT and I have another title opportunity tonight. There’s so much talent here and I’m grateful for the shot!
The crew members are still… having trouble understanding what this has to do with them.
Crew Worker: So? What the hell does that have to do with us?
The man comes off as somewhat standoffish. Paulton, however, remains naive and smiles warmly.
Kayden Paulton: Oh everyone’s making this place super swell! I really appreciate the work you guys do.
The second crew member, with ratty blonde hair pipes up.
Crew Worker 2: You don’t even know who we are and what we do. Fuck off with your little token ‘thank you’ bullshit.
Yes, Paulton doesn’t drop the smile.
Kayden Paulton: Haha Jake, you’re funny. I’m sorry, I wasn’t meaning to sound disingenuous. I really am thankful. Thank you, Jake, for putting the ring together earlier today. Todd, Martin, you guys are electrical geniuses! No audio issues, ever. I think you guys do great work. Anyway, I best be off. I have to get ready for Joshua Breedlove. If, by some crazy fashion I can pull off this victory… I don’t know. I don’t even know if I deserve it. Hope to put on a show for everyone, though. That’s the real victory!
Paulton waves and leaves the three crew workers standing there, dumbfounded. The Easy-Going Grappler speaks once more before exiting the frame completely.
Kayden Paulton: Oh and congratulations on the newborn, Jake. Saw the pictures on Instagram and liked them immediately!
Jake, Todd and Martin all exchange a look.
Martin: Well I’ll be. He does know who we are.
Todd: Ya, nice guy.
Jake: Whatever. He can still go fuck himself.
The Tag Team Champions are reclining backstage, belts on their shoulders, being jovial with KIMO and Joshua Breedlove, themselves shouldering championship belts as well. The Holy Breedlove Empire stand out in these settings, star athletes draped in gold. They’re laughing together, until KIMO taps Breedlove on the chest and nods his head in a direction. He looks, and his gaze draws the attention of the Sextons, who grin when they see who it is.
The Unholy Cyber Army are walking, in their casual gear—zubaz, high tops, band shirts ( Venom and Power Trip this week ), and their facepaint done in black and grey. They shoulder workout bags, clearly having elected to take a session in at the world-class facilities the epicenter offers. Though they notice the Empire eyeballing them, they say nothing, shoulders hunched, walking silently. That would be all it would be, but KIMO placed his hand to his mouth and hollers
KIMO: Dead men walkin’!
It’s all high fives and laughs, but Superbeast and Power Devil stop dead in their tracks. They drop their bags and turn, eyes full of fury, eliciting a chorus of “oooh”s from the HBE. The Unholy Cyber Army advances at a slow stomp, and KIMO interposes himself, shaking his head.
KIMO: Nah. Champions only section. You two don’t qualify.
At this Lucas Sexton snorts.
Lucas: Like they did when they were warming these belts for us? Ooh, you beat up on Johnny Patriot and friends and defended against some D-List also-rans? Real “pedigree” you guys got, losers.
More laughter and high fives. To this the Cyber Army proffer no reply, merely staring, with nary a blink right in the eyes of Kimo Apana. The Big man’s smile slowly fades, and he takes a small step forward, nearly bringing them chest to chest. Even Joshua and the Sextons find their jocularity trailing off, as the energy in the room turns, three giants nearly coming to blows merely due to proximity. KIMO rolls his shoulders and cracks his neck twice, then leans in close, his voice dripping pure rumbling menace.
KIMO: You trying to start something? We can do it right here.
At this, both of the Demons of Cyber-Roppongi smile and shake their heads. Simultaneously, they point over KIMO’s massive shoulders, indicating the Sin City Scoundrels. Michael and Lucas pat their burly compatriot on his arms and guide him away from the pair, stepping up and greeting the Cyber Army with grins. Michael makes a show of buffing the polished metal of his belt with his shirt sleeve, while Lucas takes the lead.
Lucas: You rang, slapnuts?
Michael: I think the only thing these two are going to be ringing are their own bells, because the only thing they’re beating any time soon is their heads… against a wall! It must be tough to fathom that their run as tag team champions was ended by real, actual superstars. What’s the market like for weirdly aggressive, screaming idiots who… look like you two?
Joshua Breedlove comes forward.
Breedlove: I just wanted to get involved in this. It’s tough to see two guys just… down on your luck like this. I almost feel a little bit bad, but then I remember all the mess you fools talked about WITNESS this and ANNIHILATE that and that little bit of guilt that I MIGHT have felt just fades right away.
Lucas: Ahh, my liege. Thank you. Men, what are you here for, really? Why are you ruining our vibe just by existing in our space? Why not just move along and join the rest of the plebeians in this building? You know, where you belong.
There is a long moment where Power Devil and Superbeast clench their fists, every muscle in their arms popping, every vein showing. The whole of the HBE brace somewhat, particularly Kimo Apana, who seems ready for a brawl—Joshua Breedlove shuffles behind him slightly and looks about to see if security are present. Power Devil grits his teeth and looks to the ceiling, making a thunderous noise in his chest similar to that of a bear. Superbeast cracks his knuckles—4 at once at the same time on each hand—and both men lean close. They raise opposite arms, and simultaneously jab Michael and Lucas in their title belts so hard the Sextons step back.
They snatch their bags up and stalk out of the hallway.
KIMO: Want me to follow and just beat them to near death?
Breedlove shakes his head.
Breedlove: That won’t be necessary, my good friend. The Holy Breedlove Empire does not just kowtow to any demand made to it. It must be considered, deliberated, and decided. Michael, Lucas… what are your thoughts?
The Sin City Scoundrels look at each other, sharing a wordless conversation before looking back to Breedlove.
Michael: It’d be really simple to continue to put the carrot in front of their faces, but that’s not the kind of champions that we want to be.
Lucas: So we’re going to give them the rematch, and we’re going to beat them, just like we did before and just like we will any time we are paired up against each other. We might be Scoundrels, but we’re fucking dangerous.
Breedlove smiles as the camera fades on his face.
Breedlove: That’s what I like to hear. Take no prisoners, men.
“Ahh, sorry. I’m entitled to a little more time.”
The voice of Joshua Breedlove interrupts the dramatic camera fade, which then reopens on his face.
Breedlove: I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss my upcoming contest with Kayden Paulton, just a touch. You see, I’m honestly not sure what to make of Mr. Paulton. He’s talented, he’s come up with some wins in his time here, and he puts across the look of someone who is very genuine and nice, but… I can’t help but think that underneath Kayden Paulton’s pleasant veneer lurks a killer waiting to come out.
Breedlove sighs, leaning back away from the camera.
Breedlove: I must say… if that’s the case, he has done an excellent job of fooling everyone and a cunning that is second only to my own. If it’s not the case, I still believe he’s a cunning individual capable of potentially fooling even the brightest minds that SHOOT Project has to offer, and by that I mean myself. So, for the Sin City Champion and the Breedlove Invitational Tournament, I wish you luck, Mr. Paulton. You will need it.
Breedlove smiles, leaning back into the camera.
Breedlove: I will allow you to do your dramatic fade now, if you must.