CULTURE SHOCK 2023 NIGHT ONE
THE RED DAWN
Our view is of the rear entrance of the AT&T Stadium, just as a large, nondescript black bus pulls up and screeches to a halt. On one side of the bus is a large, custom sliding door which opens and, you guessed it, none other than Ivan Stanislav stomps out. The bus lurches this way and that as it deals with the shifting of his prodigious weight.
Stanislav is already dressed for battle, with his black pants and shirt, red suspenders, and of course customary soviet insignias in all the right places. He carries a large military duffle bag over his left shoulder. The few employees who mill about the area take one look at The Russian Bear and choose to make themselves scarce as he lumbers towards the stadium.
All but one.
Matt Mills is waiting for The Russian Bear near the door. Stanislav all but ignores Mills as he grabs the door and pulls it open, walking right past Mills as he ducks to fit through the doorway. Matt follows. He’s not about to let this slide.
Matt Mills: Praporshchik Stanislav! Can I please have a word?
Stanislav doesn’t miss a beat as he walks through the interior parking area and deeper into the bowels of the venue. He doesn’t bother to look at Mills.
Ivan Stanislav: What is it?
Matt Mills: How are you feeling about your match tonight against Hayes Hanlon and the Universal Champion Rezin?
Ivan Stanislav: Good.
Mills frowns inwardly at the lack of a real answer, but he’s not one to give up so easily. As Stanislav pushes through another door and passes several production crates with sound equipment, Mills tries once more.
Matt Mills: Illuminating. And what is your strategy for the match itself?
Stanislav still does not look at Mills and rounds a corner, past the cafeteria as he trudges along.
Ivan Stanislav: Classified.
Mills sighs through his nose and continues on.
Matt Mills: How is Alexei Ruslan? I see he’s not with you, as was reported.
As Ivan moves past the entrance to the boiler room and further down a hall, he finally stops, turns, and looks down at Mills.
Ivan Stanislav: My dear comrade is on the mend, Matvei. Though he is, understandably, sorely missed.
Matt sees this as his opportunity. He’s stopped Ivan. Also, Ivan isn’t yelling or destroying anything. He’s not tearing the foundation out from under the AT&T Stadium. This is good. He has his attention. Things are on the up and up. Go for the jugular.
Matt Mills: If you could say something to Alexei right now, what would it be?
Stanislav’s mouth turns downward in thought and he stares into the camera.
Ivan Stanislav: Get well soon, my friend. I bring great treasure home with me to the Motherland. You can bet on it.
Mills smiles to himself, since he is the first interviewer to even get this far with Stanislav, and follows up with another.
Matt Mills: You have had a long and storied career that has spanned longer than some PRIME talent have been alive. How much does this match rank against the backdrop of such history?
Ivan inhales slowly as he considers the question and he blinks. His expression is of grim focus.
Ivan Stanislav: There may not be many more opportunities to save PRIME from itself. Therefore, this match is of significant importance, Matvei. Despite the naysayers and the resistance and despite the jokesters and the clowns, I endure. Despite Lindsay Troy and her machinations, I will succeed. I will show PRIME, tonight, what they have wrought with the inclusion of The Russian Bear into their ranks. PWA-01 was the start. They should have seen it then. I am the leader of PRIME. Not Hanlon. Not Rezin. Not Youngblood or Sykes. Not the Luchador or any other fool who would dare consider such a title. It is I and I alone. This match is, easily, one of the top three in my career. I will not squander this opportunity.
Matt Mills: And if you are victorious?
Ivan smiles to himself.
Ivan Stanislav: It is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when, Matt. I will not be defeated. Not tonight. Not in a cell when my opponents have nowhere to hide. I made it abundantly clear on October 7, 2022. A Red Declaration was made. PRIME’s time was up. I haven’t been stopped. I haven’t even slowed. Hanlon’s tainted “victory” at UltraViolence did more damage to PRIME than good. It harmed their reputation as a “fair” organization, and it did nothing but encourage me to annihilate every rogue element under that banner.
Ivan pauses for a moment. He grips the waist of his black pants and pulls them up a bit, which forces his suspenders to bunch around his shoulders. He grins.
Ivan Stanislav: But when I win? A new dawn for PRIME. A Red Dawn, if you will. No organization has been the same once Ivan Stanislav has stood at the apex. And PRIME will be no different. I will finish what I started nearly twenty years ago. Just you watch.
Mills nods his head as he lifts his microphone closer to Ivan’s mouth. He’s over a foot shorter than Stanislav, so he cups his elbow with his off hand for support as he continues to hold the mic aloft.
Matt Mills: And if you lose?
Ivan shifts his large jaw left and right as the question seems to irritate him.
Ivan Stanislav: Failure is not an option. Only under extreme chicanery could I possibly lose this match, and that is near impossibility.
Ivan squares himself more to the camera and shakes his head.
Ivan Stanislav: No more yelling. No more screaming. Ivan Stanislav worked to get where he is. He defeated every individual in his way, from Warstein, through America, all the way past former Champion Cancer Jiles. In just a few months, I have vanquished current and former champions alike who were, supposedly, at the top of the heap. Now they are broken and floundering at the bottom. Rezin and Hayes Hanlon will be the same. Tonight is the night of vindication for Ivan Sergeiovich Stanislav, and the dawn of a new chapter.
The uncharacteristically calm Stanislav nods down at Mills.
Ivan Stanislav: Just you watch and decide to either fall in line, or fall by the wayside. Join the ranks of The Red Army as you all should have at the beginning… or be trampled underfoot. Do svidanya.
With that, The Russian Bear turns and trudges down the hallway while whistling the tune of the Russian/Soviet Anthem to himself, for once, alone.
BRANDON YOUNGBLOOD VS. MATT WARD
From backstage, we’re taken to the interior of AT&T Stadium (not Center) in Dallas (not Houston), Texas where over 80,000 screaming PRIMEates are more than ready to get this supershow weekend underway. As always, the cameras pan around the arena to show some of the more clever signs from the fans.
I THINK THE TWO PUNCH GOBLINS SHOULD HAVE TO KISS
KOHIME VS MORT FOR THE TITLE? THIS IS CLEARLY SCRIPTED
ALEXEI RUSLAN SOLD ME RUSSIAN NUKE CODES ON JABBER
STEVE SOLEX IS A FASCIST
I JUST WATCHED SERGIO LEONE’S THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY AND SUDDENLY THIS MAIN EVENT MAKES A LOT MORE SENSE
WHEN YOU HAVE TO REZINSAULT, REZINSAULT. DON’T TALK
THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTING VARIATIONS IN REGIONAL BARBECUE AND IN THIS ESSAY I WILL (1/78)
IF YOU ARE CLOSE ENOUGH TO SEE IVAN STANISLAV’S NIPPLES, STRAP IN YOU’RE GOING FOR A RIDE
THE FIRST RULE OF POWERBOMB CLUB IS POWERBOMB
THE SIXTH RULE OF POWERBOMB CLUB: DON’T BE THE ONE POWERBOMBED
THE FOURTH RULE MOSTLY HAS TO DO WITH PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE
SID IS THE ENTIRE POWERBOMB PARLIAMENT
HAPPY EARLY EASTER!! JESUS HAS REZIN!!
I’M HERE TO PAY THE TAB
MY OTHER SIGN GOT CENSORED
I HOOKED UP WITH NATE COLTON OUTSIDE THE SUGAR FACTORY
NATE COLTON SHOWS HOG BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
I’M NOT YOUR COMRADE, FRIEND
PLEASE SEND WHAT YOU CAN [QR CODE POINTING TO FOSTER NACKEDY’S VENMO]
I PUT ON THE BALAAM MASK AND ALL I GOT WAS A HERNIA
CAN SOMEONE GET ME IN FOR NIGHT 2?
And now, over to Nick and Richard.
Nick Stuart: Fans, WELCOME TO CULTURE SHOCK! I’m Nick Stuart and alongside me, as always, is Richard Parker.
Richard Parker: Hold on, Nick, I have to save that Spotify playlist in the signs to my favorites…
Nick Stuart: While Rich is momentarily occupied, we’re getting ready to kick things off tonight with a huge opening match between two PRIME legends: “The Tower of Babel” Brandon Youngblood and “The Inhuman Being” Matt Ward. This is Ward’s first supershow match in a decade, and he’s looking to reclaim his crown and his spot at the top of the mountain. For Youngblood, he’s looking to get back to his winning ways at PRIME’s big dances. Between the two of them, we’ve arguably got the two most long-standing PRIME figures to go against each other.
Richard Parker: With Ward, it’s a self-proclaimed crown, let’s be honest. Yes, we can’t discredit his history but in today’s PRIME, but Youngblood is ranked #2 overall and is coming into the show hot.
Nick Stuart: In Ward’s defense, you can’t be ranked anywhere near the top if you’re just returning now.
Richard Parker: I understand. And a win over Brandon Youngblood will go a long way.
Nick Stuart: Let’s go to the ring!
Vince Howard stands in the center of it.
Vince Howard: This is the opening match!
The crowd cheers.
Vince Howard: Introducing first… from Columbus, Ohio… weighing two-hundred-twenty-seven pounds… MATT WARD!
“No Limit” by Wiz Khalifa plays on the PA as the vet walks out to a strong ovation while making his way down to the ring.
Nick Stuart: Big match feel to kick off a huge two nights!
Richard Parker: These two better leave something for night two.
Ward enters the ring as Howard repositions in the center of it.
Vince Howard: And his opponent… hailing from Bandera, Texas by way of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada… weighing in at two-hundred-sixty-five pounds… he is…THE DIIIIIIAMOND! OF THE REVIVAL! BRAAAAAAAANDON! YOUNGBLOOOOOOOOOD!
The Arena darkens. The shift in ambiance has the fans rise to their feet, the sound rising. And then, cutting through it all, The Battlecry.
BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD
SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE
LET THE GALAXY BURN
From the very start of “Bloodsport (World Domination)” by HEALTH, Brandon Youngblood surges from the curtain and into the well of sound filling the arena. Through the blinding blue and white strobing light cutting through the darkness, the Tower of Babel powerwalks, his eyes trained forward, an oppressive scowl of intensity a hallmark painting his face.
His shoulders sway with the bravado of his BMF walk, a spotlight lighting his path. The 2022 Wrestler of the Year is quick down the ramp, his gait swinging him around the arena floor, to the ring steps. There is no slowdown as his feet pound the steel, stepping between the ropes and exploding upright. Once inside, he begins pacing around the outside perimeter of the ring.
The lights return, and as they do, the Suplex Daddy readies himself in an amateur stance, his hands on his thighs, a snarl of disdain curling his lips…
Looking dead at Matt Ward.
Nick Stuart: We’re not wasting time! Let’s get at it!
Youngblood meets Ward in the center of the ring as they stare each other down. The tension within the stands rises but it isn’t able to build for long when the two can’t hold back and begin knocking the hell out of each other.
Blow for blow they go, the crowd shifting their time from anticipating to witnessing first hand what’s in front of them. Youngblood goes for a forearm but Ward blocks it and hurls the former champion into the ropes. He catches Youngblood on return and connects with an exploder suplex!
Youngblood is right back up but he walks into another exploder suplex!
Nick Stuart: That’s not easy to do! Brandon is a large man!
Ward stands and pounds his chest. Once Youngblood is on his feet, Ward runs at him with a clothesline attempting to snap Brandon’s head from his neck but not to be outdone, the Canadian ducks at the very last second, reaches out and takes hold of Ward’s trunks, reeling him in…
Youngblood holds on and tries for another but Ward performs a standing switch. He attempts a German suplex but Brandon powers forward, breaking free from the hold and hitting the ropes.
Youngblood with a knee to the side of Ward’s temple. This is followed by an explorer suplex of his own.
Nick Stuart: Brandon almost sent Matt out of the ring! The ropes saved him from falling out.
Youngblood bursts forward but Ward is right back up. The two continue to go blow for blow and work this crowd into a lot more cheers.
Finally, it’s Youngblood who delivers the most impactful blows, sending Ward retreating into a corner. Youngblood moves his large, right forearm back…
And then hammers it across Ward’s chest.
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
Again and again and again.
Youngblood is going for another but Ward moves and throws his opponent into the corner. Now it’s his turn…
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
And then Ward delivers a jumping knee strike, hitting Youngblood flush under the jaw. He pulls the Almasy Tournament winner to the center of the ring and connects with a sit down gut wrench powerbomb!
Nick Stuart: We’ve got a pin!
Ward doesn’t argue with the referee. He agrees with the call and is ready to inflict more damage. He pulls Youngblood up along with him and tries for another gut wrench powerbomb but Brandon slips away! Youngblood retreats a few steps and lightly bounces off the ropes… in return he absolutely CRUSHES Ward in the side of the head with a forearm blow. The shot nearly echoes throughout all corners of the arena… and it has Ward on roller skates. A chop block to Ward’s right leg follows as Youngblood stands and the crowd cheers him on.
Brandon works the leg and more specifically the knee. He kicks at the side of Ward’s right knee and then drives an elbow into it with all his weight. Youngblood does this two more times as Matt shouts out in pain.
Brandon measures his opponent and drops a knee across his forehead. He pulls Ward upright but he’s stunned with a desperation jaw breaker by Ward.
Richard Parker: This match isn’t pretty but both men are going full tilt on their impact moves.
Youngblood and Ward lay on the mat, trying to recover as the crowd chants on. The referee begins a ten count but only gets to four before each man starts moving. Ward is shaking his right leg, hoping to get blood flow back into his knee while Youngblood is rubbing his jaw, trying to get the feeling back there.
The ref reaches a count of six and he stops the count entirely because each man is semi-on their feet.
Ward and Youngblood turn towards the center of the ring at the same time. Ward looks for a lariat but Youngblood avoids it. Ward stumbles a few feet forward and as he repositions himself to find Brandon again, he walks right into a spine buster slam!
Nick Stuart: You could see the ring shake on impact!
Richard Parker: I could practically feel the arena crumble. Are there earthquakes in Texas?
Youngblood wants to go for the cover but realizes too much time has ticked off the clock. Instead, he waits on Ward to get onto his feet, or at least begin to stir on the canvas… Brandon walks in, easily collects Ward and connects with a snap suplex. Youngblood holds on and hits a second snap suplex.
The recent former champion rises, glaring down at the former three-time champion.
Nick Stuart: Matt Ward isn’t going to stay down.
He’s not. As the play-by-play announcer explains, Ward is on his feet. The veteran is struggling, no doubt, but he’s still looking to go.
Youngblood kicks Ward in the stomach and wraps his right arm around Matt’s right shoulder and head. He’s looking for a half-Nelson suplex…
But Ward breaks free and clubs Youngblood in the side of the head. He follows with a belly-to-belly suplex and then Ward rolls over, both he and Youngblood lay beside each other, on their backs, gasping for air.
Nick Stuart: This hasn’t particularly been a long contest but make no mistake, these two are still in their PRIME. However, when you’re using your most impactful offensive maneuvers…
Richard Parker: The PRIME comment was weak, Nick. I expect better from you.
Ward is up but Youngblood isn’t far behind. Matt charges at Brandon and opens himself up into a running release half-Nelson suplex by Youngblood!
Nick Stuart: Oh there it is!
The crowd comes out of their seats as Youngblood falls to his knees and crawls towards Matt Ward. At first, he drapes an arm over his chest but then he eventually hooks a right leg.
Nick Stuart: NO! We continue!
Youngblood nods at the kickout and then immediately proceeds to pumping Ward’s skull with knees. Eventually, The Tower of Babel goes back to working the right knee of Ward.
Nick Stuart: I like this call. Work a body part. Keep Ward off his feet. It’s clear these two want to wreck each other but then return to your game plan. Merely brawling isn’t going to finish the match.
Richard Parker: Ah I don’t know. I just want to see these two kill each other. The last thing I want is a technical masterpiece, save that for later.
Youngblood pulls Ward to a corner, proceeding to wrap Matt’s right leg around the second rope. Brandon stretches his opponent’s leg around the buckle but Matt uses his right arm to connect with a bionic elbow. Youngblood stumbles into the center of the ring and this allows Ward to spear his nemesis out of his boots! Ward reigns down punches soon after.
Brandon covers up well and finds a virtual base. Youngblood blocks a right hand attempt, then dishes out a hard headbutt!
Followed by another.
And thrice for good measure.
Ward falls on the mat and Youngblood applies the boots to Matt’s bad knee.
Nick Stuart: It’s personal, we know this. There’s an undermining mutual respect here and also a hatred. I never expected either man to let up one bit whatsoever.
Youngblood lets it rip. He shows no signs of quitting, he’s going to render Ward unable to walk for the foreseeable future.
Finally, Matt tries to break away but it only gives him a second to catch his breath and suck back the pain. However, that seems to be enough because when Youngblood charges at Ward, Matt drops down and takes the top rope with him, sending Brandon crashing out of the ring, landing on the apron and then fumbling to the floor.
Nick Stuart: For that split second there, Youngblood was off his game. He should’ve saw what Ward was about to do…
As Youngblood picks himself off the mat he’s stunned to see Ward drop kick him through the bottom rope! Both heels of Matt’s feet go straight into Brandon’s mouth. Ward falls out of the ring with the move, a very unlikely display of offense for him. Next, he takes Youngblood and hurls him into the ring post!
Nick Stuart: I see Matt favoring his right leg, though. You have to think Youngblood has limited him.
Ward charges in after with a lariat but Youngblood ducks and Ward’s right forearm wraps around the post as he shouts out in pain!
Nick Stuart: And there you go. Matt’s not going to win a 40-yard sprint but he’s also not that slow. Youngblood saw Ward coming and moved away in time.
A struggling Brandon Youngblood throws Matt Ward back into the ring with all of his might. He enters himself, only to see Ward find a second wind and bounce off the ropes…
Sidewalk slam by Youngblood!
The crowd can’t believe it! This time, neither can Brandon Youngblood but the rivalry takes over and he instantly attempts to drive his knees into Matt’s head.
However, Ward blocks the knees and lifts Youngblood into the air, smacking him out of the sky with a forearm smash that sends Brandon’s saliva into the fifth row.
Richard Parker: TKO!!!!
Ward covers and hooks a leg for good measure.
The crowd comes alive again as replays show Brandon Youngblood was likely knocked out cold but shot back to life right before the two count and maybe, just maybe, the kickout was instinctual.
Ward can’t believe it but just like his counterpart he’s not going to argue or waste time. He hammers Youngblood’s back with blows while dragging himself and his opponent upright.
Nick Stuart: It looks like Ward is trying to set Youngblood up for Weight of the World…
But before Brandon is on his rival’s shoulders, Youngblood slips free and takes a couple of steps back. He launches himself at Ward but it’s Ward who’s able to grab Youngblood first. Ward looks for a German suplex but Youngblood anchors himself to the canvas mat. Both men are trying to take hold of the other when, finally, Youngblood works Ward into a firm position and hits a devastating Karelin lift!
Nick Stuart: Great counter!
Richard Parker: You could see Youngblood resisting the German suplex but also Ward’s knee is damaged. He wasn’t able to use his full power and physically will Brandon Youngblood into the German. Instead, Matt’s in trouble!
A deadlift belly-to-back suplex by Youngblood follows. He’s looking to close out the match and potentially go for the finish, when the crowd booms in support because Matt Ward won’t stay down. He’s on a knee, shouting at Brandon Youngblood to bring the rest forward.
Youngblood encloses and he’s popped in the jaw with a forearm. A wicked German suplex follows. Both men are up, both men are struggling. Ward moves forward but his knee gives way, so Youngblood slips behind his rival, wraps his arms tightly around his waist and connects with a Randallplex, dropping Ward on the back of his neck!
Youngblood stays in position for the cover.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: The winner of this match… Brandon Youngblood!
Youngblood’s theme plays but he’s certainly having a hard time getting to his feet for the typical hand raise.
Nick Stuart: A great match and solid victory for Youngblood. Matt Ward came back to play but in the end, working the knee paid off and Youngblood outlasted him.
The Tower of Babel is well enough now to stand on both feet as his hand is raised and we head backstage.
SOMETHING SOMETHING AIRHORNS
Anna Daniels in the dark, under spotlight, serious faced.
Anna Daniels: Hello. We’re Anna Daniels, Merch Czar of the PRIMEporium and future Universal Champion.
It’s true. You can tell because not only did whoever the Multitudes pushed to make this statement deliver it bluntly and sincerely, the words
Merch Czar and Future Universal Champion
are printed neatly onto the screen just below her face. Just to hammer that particular part home.
Anna Daniels: Next month on the twentieth of May, it will be one whole year since we started making the PRIMEporium more than just a passive, forgotten part of PRIME. And we’ll freely admit that initially, we did it for purely selfish reasons. Yes, we did print the Shit Talk with Bobby Dean shirts that didn’t sell and a few others but let’s be honest here.
A very familiar folded up shirt is slid across the desk. Everybody who has been here at the start of the revival of PRIME knows it and if you don’t, you’re either new or an idiot. The pristine white cotton fabric. The mimicry of PRIME’s own logo. The infamous NEW ERA t-shirt. The vessel displays the graphic proudly.
Anna Daniels: THIS is what made the PRIMEporium. It’s not just a shirt and it’s not just a promotional tool. It’s an exercise in self-belief. We believe in the words printed here. New Era, number one by design. We believe that this can and should be the best era of PRIME as a whole, something that can blow away the eons of the past because you–the audience–deserve it. Hell, you demand it! And perhaps vainly, we figured we’d be the leader of that charge. You can see how well that’s going.
Is that a hint of snark we hear? Of course it is. The vessel lovingly pushes the fabric aside.
Anna Daniels: Yet even as egotistical and shoved up our own ass as we can be at times, we also knew that one shirt couldn’t sustain business forever. Thus we began to expand, first with more of our own stuff and then by promoting others on this roster with whatever random bullshit we came up with on the fly. Because while you can dance with yourself, it’s always much more fun with multiple people.
With this comes a sigh. It’s time to address the elephant in the room.
Anna Daniels: So needless to say, the events of ReVival 25 were not at all appreciated. They could’ve torn the rest of the damn building down and we wouldn’t have given a single fuck. We would’ve laughed. But destroying the PRIMEporium was disrespectful. It was disrespectful to us who put in the work, to the wrestlers being promoted, and most importantly, to you. The people who shell out your hard earned cash to support your favorites. Which is why we are proud to announce…
The vessel of Anna stands just as the rest of the lights come on. The camera drone pans out to reveal a leaner, meaner PRIMEporium. She grins.
Anna Daniels: …that we’re back, motherfuckers.
Stereo airhorns are provided by Kazuhiro and Ami Troy who are also grinning like mad. And so begins the wonderful tornado of merchandise!
Kaz Troy: The Multitudes are still producing all your fan favorites. T-shirts galore, POWERBOMB cologne, and the ever popular PRIME Wrestle Buddies!
Ami Troy: Not to mention we still have the #Justice4Mori throwing rocks, LOVE CONVOY urinal cakes and…LINDSAY TROY’S OWL SIMULATOR?!?
The Queen’s kids look at each other.
Ami Troy: What the eff is an owl simulator?
Kaz Troy: Y’know that annoyed look Mom gives us when we’re being too smart for our own good?
Ami Troy: (nodding) I am very familiar with that look.
Kaz Troy: Yeah, so, it has to do with that.
Ami Troy: Oh. And that’s a best seller?
Then they look at Anna who looks back at them.
Anna Daniels: What? It’s a limited amount of physical media, there’s Steam keys, and we have to get the investment back on making this game! Besides, if she has better ideas, she has our number. Oh! And while we’re talking about video games, look! It’s Eddie Cross!
Okay, in terms of somewhat awkward segways, that wasn’t the worst.
Eddie and Dave Gibson saunter into the frame, Eddie has eschewed his normal CoD skull tee for a black cloth tee printed in bright video game font with the letters GG on the front.
Eddie Cross: Hey Anna, I have my markers ready. You want me to cut that promo now?
She nods and Eddie rolls his shoulders and looks intense just like Dave taught him.
Eddie Cross: Speaking of games, here at the PRIMEporium during Culture Shock, I will be with Dave doing a free autograph sesh of this fire design: The GG Tee. It comes in my favorite colors: black, tech camo, and gunmetal gray.
Dave Gibson: And my favorite, Carolina Blue.
Eddie Cross: But not dark blue, right? We went with the good one?
Dave Gibson nods.
Eddie Cross: And Carolina Blue if you’re feeling Old School! But this is a limited Time opportunity. After I win the title shot tomorrow, the value of my signed merch goes through the roof, so don’t get caught camping on this deal.
Anna Daniels: AND REMEMBER EVERYONE, IT’S ONLY AT THE PRIMEPORIUM! BUY THE SHIRT! HIGH FIVE!
Anna reaches out a hand to Eddie and Dave…only for them to look at her like she’s crazy. She gives it another shot with the Troy siblings delivering the same look. The Merch Czar shrugs.
Anna Daniels: Okay, okay. We may have went a bit too far. Self high five.
You can almost hear a knockoff of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit as we fade to whatever’s next.
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS: KOHIME MORI VS. MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE
Nick Stuart: And here it is, folks. The culmination of weeks of tournament matches. Tonight we have Kohime Mori taking on Mortimer Knightingale in a match that will crown a new Alias Champion, but is also about much more.
Richard Parker: It’s a classic tale of boy likes girl, girl likes boy, boy hits girl in the mouth to protect her from his weird mafia ties.
The opening riffs of “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You” by Dean Martin begins and the masked man emerges from the curtain as the lights dim and the spotlights shine on the ramp. The fans immediately start booing.
Mortimer Kjedelig begins making his way down the ramp, pointing to the fans in attendance. He is clearly bothered by the boos and random chants as he shouts during his walk down.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring, from Horace, North Dakota…weighing in at 248 pounds…MOOOORTIIIMEEEEERRRRR KNIIIIIIGHTIIIIIINNNNGAAAAAAALLLLE!!!
He slides into the ring under the bottom rope, step up to the middle turnbuckle and raise his hands in the air as the spotlight shines upon him. He hops off the turnbuckle and readies himself for the match as the music fades.
The rocking vibe of Little V Mills cover of “Precious Heart” spreads throughout the arena. Kohime Mori enters quickly after the opponent interlude, gazing around the arena while standing in place. Her ring gear is white with purple trim tonight. A big smile on her face, Mori gives a double fist pump and an enthusiastic yell before making her way down the isle. As she bounces her way to the ring, she leans left and right to slap hands with the fans.
Vince Howard: And her opponent, from Okayama, Japan…weighing in at 170 pounds…KOOOHIIIIIIIIMEEEEE MOOOOOOOOOOOORIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!
Once ringside, Kohime quickly traverses the stairs and enters the ring in between the middle and top rope. She makes her way to middle of ring. Once there, she lowers her head and makes a V with her index and middle fingers on her right hand, arm center mast. She raises her arm in a crescent motion until the V is above her head. Mori swings her arm down in front of her after a brief pause, a beaming smile on her face. That is, until she notices her opponent.
Nick Stuart: And here we go. Interest was already running high on this match, Richard, because it will crown the first Alias champion of the ReVival era, but Mortimer Knightingale has really driven interest up with his awful actions at ReVival 24.
Richard Parker: I think he did Kohime a favor, Nick. She can’t be this cute innocent girl forever. The real world is tough. Get a helmet.
Kohime charges in and hits Mortimer with a running elbow strike, causing him to hit his back hard. He pops back up only to get hit with another elbow strike. Again he pops up, but this time as Kohime nears him he reaches out his hand and shoves her down, then rolls out of the ring.
Nick Stuart: Mortimer wants no part in this angry woman he created! He is trying to escape her wrath!
Richard Parker: He’s just taking a short break.
Nick Stuart: Well I don’t think she’s going to let him!
Indeed, Kohime takes a second to look down at Mortimer before running to the opposite side, then careening off the ropes and heading towards him…
Nick Stuart: Elbow suicida! She just leveled Mortimer, and it’s clear that Kohime is here to fight!
Richard Parker: Hell hath no fury like an outdated cliché, am I right Nick?
Nick Stuart: Um. Okay.
Mortimer slowly gets to the barricade, using it to lift himself up to his knees. But as he turns his head to find his attacker, he doesn’t see her. He turns the other way just in time to see Kohime coming in for a shoulder tackle, leveling him again.
Nick Stuart: This young woman out of Okayama is a good woman, a pure woman. A harsher person may even say naive. She believes in doing things the right way, and ordinarily I don’t think you’d see her so willing to muck it up on the outside. But tonight is different, Richard. Mortimer hurt her – I’d say he hurt all of us. And now he has unleashed The Moé Monster!
The Moé Monster is still laser focused as she looks down on Mortimer Knightingale. Timo Bolamba, who has spent the past few minutes asking Kohime to get back into the ring, starts his count.
Kohime sees Mortimer try to get himself back up and shakes her head, then walks back a few steps, readying herself for another shoulder tackle.
Nick Stuart: Here she comes again!
Richard Parker: Uh oh!
Nick Stuart: She misses!
Mortimer dives out of the way and Kohime crashes into the barricade. Timo continues the count.
Mortimer grabs Kohime and carries her. It’s almost gentle the way he scoops her into his arms and walks towards the ring. The fans boo as Mortimer slides her under the ropes, enters the ring, and rolls her up.
Nick Stuart: Kickout!
Before Kohime can try to recover, Mortimer lifts her up and in one fluid motion slams her with a suplex and immediately covers her again.
Nick Stuart: Another kickout!
Kohime lays on the ground as Mortimer stands up, delivers a standing elbow drop, and once again goes for a cover.
Nick Stuart: Kohime kicks out once more! Mortimer Knightingale is trying hard to put this away early, but it doesn’t seem like he’s trying to hurt her too badly.
Richard Parker: Think he’s still sweet on her?
Mortimer looks down at Kohime and shakes his head, saying “Come on, just give up” to her. Though only those at ringside can hear him, they can hear desperation in his voice.
Speaking of voices, the crowd is making themselves known in the form of an interesting chant.
DICK-WEED BAS-TARD! BAS-TARD GREM-LIN!
DICK-WEED BAS-TARD! BAS-TARD GREM-LIN!
Richard Parker: Some creative licensing from the crowd on that chant, but I’ll allow it.
Mortimer starts losing it, running at the ropes and screaming out at the crowd. Of course, this causes them to do it louder.
DICK-WEED BAS-TARD! BAS-TARD GREM-LIN!
DICK-WEED BAS-TARD! BAS-TARD GREM-LIN!
Mortimer finally tries to move past it, so he shoves his hands across his body in the universal signal for “whatever” and turns around…
Where he runs directly into Kohime Mori.
Nick Stuart: Kohime is back on her feet, shaking her head! She won’t give up this easily! Look, she just shoved Mortimer’s shoulder back! And another! Mortimer is trying to talk her down but this isn’t the place to do it!
After a few more shoves, Mortimer shakes his head, then delivers a punch – that Kohime ducks under. When he turns around, she grabs him and hits a half hatch suplex, staying on top for the cover.
Mortimer kicks out. As he gets to his feet, Kohime grabs him and takes him over with a headlock, then keeps the hold. Mortimer immediately tries to reach for the ropes, but is a few inches away.
Nick Stuart: This has been all Kohime here early on, and maybe it’s just me but it seems that Mortimer Knightingale is not interested in fighting her.
Richard Parker: He better get over that feeling quickly, Nick, because a title is on the line!
Mortimer reaches forward for the ropes, but at the last moment Kohime pulls back. The problem with that is that she puts too much strength into the motion, causing both her and Mortimer to fall backward. Knightingale lands on top of her, covering her shoulders. Timo is quick to his knees for the count.
Nick Stuart: That was close! Kohime almost lost because she wouldn’t let go of the headlock!
Richard Parker: She’s letting her anger for Morty blind her to the real prize here, the Alias Title!
Both competitors get to their feet only for Mortimer to lift her up and slam her back down. She pops back up to her feet and swings for him. He ducks, then sends a kick to her stomach and flattens her with a DDT. He looks like he’s going to drop for a cover again, but in the middle of the motion he thinks better of it. He then walks towards the turnbuckle.
Richard Parker: You weren’t lying about him wanting to put this one away!
Nick Stuart: Well I also thought he didn’t want to hurt Kohime, but if he hits an elbow off the top rope, that will prove my argument wrong.
Mortimer climbs the top rope and looks down at Kohime. Because he is wearing a mask, his emotions aren’t readable, but the hesitancy in his motion is. He heaves one big sigh, then leaps…
And falls at least five feet short.
Nick Stuart: He missed!
Richard Parker: He didn’t just miss, Nick. He whiffed. That was…I’ve never seen a miss that big before.
Indeed, it’s almost like Mortimer was trying to hit someone else. But as there are no ghosts in the ring as far as we can tell, he landed on his elbow and rolled over, grabbing it in pain. Kohime slowly rolls over and looks over at Mortimer, trying to piece together what happened. But after a moment she realizes her opportunity, and in a flash she scales the turnbuckle.
Richard Parker: One dumb risk deserves another, I suppose.
But this one pays off.
Nick Stuart: Leg drop from the middle rope connects! And Kohime has the leg hooked!
Nick Stuart: Oh and Mortimer just kicked out! Timo Bolamba’s hand was inches off the mat!
Richard Parker: Whatever old masky has stuck in his head, he better unstick it soon. Kohime’s come to play, and for whatever reason he isn’t!
Kohime sees Mortimer starting to recover, then nods and goes to the other side of the ring. She raises her hands, beckoning him to stand up.
Nick Stuart: I think Kohime is going for Kawaiiat!
Mortimer stands, Kohime runs…
Richard Parker: Wow!
Nick Stuart: He ducks! She turns, he grabs her…BUST OUT! And both competitors are down!
It seems launching into the arm trap neckbreaker has taken out the last of Mortimer’s stamina. Both he and Kohime are stuck to the mat. Timo checks on both, then raises both hands and begins his count.
Nick Stuart: Looks like maybe he’s ready to start playing.
Richard Parker: Then he needs to take advantage, Nick! He looks out of it!
Mort rolls over onto his chest. Kohime tries to sit up but ends up flopping onto her chest as well.
Mort grabs the ropes and pulls himself up. Kohime tries to do the same. Mort grabs her from behind.
Nick Stuart: Lifts her up for a backdrop suplex…she flips and lands on her feet! Now she grabs him…Ouchies!
Richard Parker: Did you get a papercut?
Nick Stuart: No, it’s the name of the…whatever! Kohime trying to go for the cover! But…what the heck is this?
Tony Gamble walks down the aisle, smiling at Kohime. She sees him and pulls herself up, then leans against the ropes, pointing at him.
Richard Parker: Tony Gamble coming to make sure Morty gets his head in the game!
Nick Stuart: Or more than that.
Kohime Mori is not the only person in the ring who notices the Permascar Superstar. Head referee Timo Bolamba sees him, and he’s not happy. As Gamble gets up on the apron, Bolamba meets him, shouting and pointing at him. Gamble holds his hands up in the air, then points behind Bolamba. Timo doesn’t bite, not really, but he moves his head just a little, enough for Gamble to toss his arm out towards Mortimer.
Nick Stuart: What did he just throw to Mortimer?
Richard Parker: I didn’t see. But it looks like Timo did!
Indeed, Bolamba shouts at Gamble again and immediately turns to run to Mortimer. He grabs him and begins to search him for the foreign object Tony just threw to him as Kohime turns around to watch.
There’s only one problem, though.
Tony didn’t throw anything to Mortimer.
While Bolamba hounds Knightingale, Gamble reaches into his pants, puts on some brass knuckles, and pops Kohime in the back of the head. She slumps forward, and Tony drops off of the apron.
Nick Stuart: Well I saw that! What a low move by Gamble! How disgusting!
Richard Parker: Also pretty clever, got to give him that.
Mortimer finally tires of Bolamba’s hounding and moves past him. He reaches forward, looks at Kohime sadly for a moment, then grabs her arms.
Nick Stuart: Come on! Double arm DDT, and now here comes the cover!
DING DING DING!
Vince Howard: Your winner, and NEWWWWWWWWWWW AAAALIAAAASSS CHAAAAAMPIIIOOOONNNN…MOOOOORTIMERRRRRR KNIGHTINGAAAAAAAAALE!
Nick Stuart: What a travesty! Kohime Mori was in control for most of this match! And because of Mortimer’s connections to that snake Tony Gamble, she was denied her championship!
Richard Parker: It’s how the world works. The assholes win the match, win the title, win the girl.
Nick Stuart: Not this time, Richard.
Mortimer looks down at Kohime for a moment before holding his title high.
COMMERCIAL: SHOOT PROJECT
There’s no complicated setting. No professional interviewer with a microphone and a bucket full of hard questions. No angry Russians are going to try and perfect their attempts at teleportation via ceiling. The fans who tune in aren’t about to see someone die in a conference room again. No forklifts will be harmed in the making of this exchange.
It’s just two people in front of a PRIME-branded backdrop.
Dressed to compete and with titles on full display, the longest-reigning Tag Team champions in PRIME history look mighty serious ahead of tonight’s match.
Jared Sykes: So, this is it. We’ve known it was coming for a while now, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Tonight these championships get defended for the last time, maybe ever. One way or another everything we’ve accomplished over the last nine and a half months comes to an end.
Behind him, Justine Calvin adjusts the strap she holds over her shoulder and holds it a little tighter.
Jared Sykes: I’ve spent more than half my life associated with this business. I’ve been real fortunate in the things I’ve been able to do and have been lucky enough to travel around the world doing it. There are things I’ve seen which I’ll never be able to forget, for better or for worse, but in all the years since I first stepped foot in a ring there is nothing – nothing – that I am more proud of than making this our division.
Despite being something of a spectacle, Sykes has never been one to be boastful about his career accolades. Tonight that’s all cast aside.
Jared Sykes: And don’t get it twisted. Don’t let whatever might happen tonight cloud your judgment or change your mind. If Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips manage to walk out of here as the last champions of the ReVival, then so be it, and good on them for pulling it off. They’ll have earned every bit of it. But you’ll still be able to look at the record books and see that it was us who redefined what it meant to be a successful team here. Longest reign? The most defenses? The only team to main event a PRIME pay per view? Check, check, and check.
He starts to pace, the night’s emotion starting to build towards its inevitable crescendo.
No, I don’t mean crying. Shut up.
Jared Sykes: It wasn’t just us though, was it? Every team we’ve been in the ring with since Great American Nightmare has done just as much to elevate this division to what it was. I know not all of them are still here, or have gone on to find success in their own ways, but we can’t overlook what they all brought to the table. Solid Gold Rock and Roll. The Masters. The Mix. Every one of them gave everything they had and forced us to match it. Any one of them could have walked out of the ring with these around their waists.
Two hard slaps land on the faceplate of the title he carries before he adjusts it over his left shoulder. One of the side plates still bears the remnants of a foil strawberry sticker, one he added not long after defeating Fighting For Nora to claim the straps.
Jared Sykes: The Love Convoy? Forget winning a match, they almost took us out permanently, and if they’d had their way I’m sure they would have done. Vickie Hall can write as many retractions as she wants, but every time one goes up I read it with the knowledge that yes, it could have been them. They brought the fight. In their own twisted way they helped make this division what it was.
If it looks like Justine Calvin wants to spit, well, there’s a very good reason for that. She doesn’t of course, but only because her mother would never let her hear the end of it.
Jared Sykes: Joe Fontaine. Sid Phillips. “Coral’s kids.” We’ve come a long way since boulders on the strip, haven’t we? We survived minotaurs and mannequins. Puzzles. Slides. Whatever the hell everyone tried to poison us with. And now we’re here. In the end, the only ones who made it. We’re the real survivors, boys, because we’re seeing it end the way we saw it come in.
A grin, the first so far.
Jared Sykes: Though maybe we don’t try and kill any Enemigos this time, okay, Sid?
Until now Justine had been lingering a step or two behind her partner, bouncing from foot to foot to keep loose ahead of the match. She takes center stage as she slides past Jared and addresses the camera.
Justine Calvin: Just a few more minutes now, and then everything changes. For some of us what happens next is uncertain. Do we stay? Do we go? Is there even a spot for us, and what does all of that look like? I’ve been saying for weeks now that these titles aren’t going anywhere, but I can’t predict the future, boys. Wish I could, because it would sure as hell make all of this a lot easier.
She takes a quick moment to roll the wrists of each hand before continuing.
Justine Calvin: But I was your age when I started this journey, and this is my first shot at the big time, so you can be damn sure that if this is the end that I’m going to go out on my terms. And that means a rough night. That means that when this is all over, it’s not going to be “and new”. It’s not even going to be “and still.” We were the first Tag Team champions of the ReVival, and I damn sure intend to be the last. And that my friends means just one thing.
She pulls the belt from her shoulder and raises it into the air.
Justine Calvin: “And. ONLY.”
Fade to elsewhere.
We cut backstage to find Coral Avalon in casual clothes for the evening, sitting on a steel chair and adjusting the flag on a battle standard. While he isn’t in action for tonight, he’s preparing for war nonetheless.
Joe Fontaine: (off-camera) Okay, so this is a story as old as time.
Sid Phillips: (off-camera) Oh no, what are you doing?
Well, someone has to.
Coral shakes his head, but smiles at what’s going on off-camera. He doesn’t want to intervene with that sort of pre-match ritual, no matter how ridiculous it is. His smile fades slightly when he notices someone approaching him, though he doesn’t move from his seat.
The camera pans to the left to see Eddie Cross and Dave Gibson approaching, which explains the change in demeanor. Eddie doesn’t appear to be just passing by either, he is making a direct line toward Coral.
Eddie Cross: Hey Coral. Before you make assumptions about the situation, you got a minute to hear me out?
Coral looks up at Eddie, still not moving from his seat.
Coral Avalon: Sure thing, uh… Eddie.
He turns to Gibson, nodding to him.
Coral Avalon: Hey, Gibby.
Gibson chuckles with a bit of rasp.
Dave Gibson: Been a while since someone called me that. Good to see you too, Coral.
Eddie removes his glasses and shoves them in the pocket of his jacket.
Eddie Cross: I’ve been thinking, and a lot has happened since our match. I have been meaning to find you so I could tell you something to your face.
Coral sets his flag to the side, and stands up from his seat so that he can meet Eddie’s gaze.
Coral Avalon: Well, as it turns out, I’m all ears. It’s a condition, I know.
Coral Avalon: No, but seriously. What’s up?
Eddie usually looks intense, but today he seems a little more relaxed than usual.
Eddie Cross: I just wanted you to know it was an honor to face you and that the loss taught me more than a win ever could. I know I say a lot of things and I get under people’s skin, but that is part of the game.
Dave leans forward and chimes in.
Dave Gibson: Believe me, I was shocked myself when he told me about this plan. But the kid insisted on looking you in the eye and telling you. I ain’t about to stop a young man in the business from paying their respects. Ain’t enough of that today, in my opinion.
Coral Avalon: Yeah, I know what you mean, Gibby.
He turns to Eddie.
Coral Avalon: You know, this is going to sound like corny loser talk to you, but wrestling is its own reward to me. I always want to win, let’s not get it twisted, but winning or losing isn’t as important to me as being able to do this at this level at all. A couple of years from now, I’ll lose a step. Maybe two. I won’t be able to move as well as I used to, because the only thing in wrestling you can’t defeat is Father Time. I’m not sure what I’d do with myself once that happens.
He smiles and points a finger to Eddie as he continues.
Coral Avalon: But you, Eddie, you’ve still got your whole career ahead of you. Moments to make, championships to win. Everyone has setbacks when they start, hurdles to jump over, and ever-moving goalposts to chase. You’re driven to compete. You’ll find a way to succeed. I’d bet money on it.
Eddie nods and seems to take the words to heart.
Eddie Cross: That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I spend a lot of time talking about how people around here aren’t real wrestlers, they don’t care about the business. But you, you’re different. I looked up some of your old tape and you gave it everything. You grow, you evolve. You’re the real deal.
He looks back at Dave for a moment before continuing.
Eddie Cross: I’m not obtuse. I know what people say about me, and frankly I don’t really care. I wasn’t hired to become everyone’s best friend. But respect? I will make time for that.
Coral Avalon: Well, no one’s born special. It’s the work we put in that makes us special. Take Joe and Sid, for example. They’re both second-genners, like you are. You wouldn’t think they put the work in, since they both act the way they act. But they do. The growth they’ve had in the last year is astounding. They wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t believe in wrestling.
In the background, Joe and Sid can still be heard.
Sid Phillips: (off-camera) Joe, why are you doing this now!? The tag title match is in a half hour!”
Joe Fontaine: (off-camera) Relax. Let me do this. It’s important.
Sid Phillips: (off-camera) Pirates, though!? Does this look like HOW!?
Joe Fontaine: (off-camera) Funny you should mention that…
Coral noticeably winces hearing all of Joe and Sid’s “pre-match preparations”, and tries to pretend like he didn’t hear any of that.
Coral Avalon: Although sometimes I wish they’d take this more seriously than they do… Oh well. Ignore them. I’m sure it’ll work out fine.
He pauses, smiles awkwardly, and looks away.
Coral Avalon: I think.
Eddie looks at the pair and raises an eyebrow.
Eddie Cross: You’re on your own there.
He extends a hand and offers his respect to Coral once again.
Eddie Cross: Good luck in the Battle Royal. I mean that. Mutual bullshit aside though, if it comes between you and me and you’re standing in the way of winning a title shot? I will not hesitate to take you out. I hope you understand it isn’t personal.
Coral takes Eddie up on his handshake, and smiles.
Coral Avalon: Never is, my dude. It’s a battle royale, after all. If the opportunity presents itself, you should throw me out… because I’d do the same.
Eddie Cross: Good.
Eddie turns and walks down the hallway, with Dave in tow. The camera pans back to Coral and off camera you hear the two talking.
Eddie Cross: Gibby, eh? When were you going to tell me about that one?
Dave Gibson: How about the umpteenth of “go to hell Eddie.”
Their voices trail off as they walk away.
INTENSE TITLE FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE: PAXTON RAY (C) VS. NOVA
“Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time!”
George Clinton heralds the arrival of the challenger.
“For y’all have knocked her up.”
There’s a rustle on the curtain below the PRIMEview showing a sky on the precipice of a hellacious storm.
“I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe, but I was not offended for I knew to rise above it all…”
Nova flings the curtain up and stands, looking around the stadium full of PRIMEates going psychotic for the Starchild as he stands ready to go to war. He feels the spotlight beam upon him, and that’s his cue to kneel at the entryway. A man’s gotta have a code, and a man’s gotta have his rituals.
“…or drown in my own shit.”
Nick Stuart: Blood for blood. Foster Nackedy and Sonny Silver were both casualties for this war that is about to unfold in front of us. Falls count anywhere.
Richard Parker: Normally, I’m all for seeing Foster getting smacked around, but did The Chairman have to catch a stray too? And another thing, as much as I don’t like Foster here, well, good guys really aren’t supposed to be taking revenge.
Nick Stuart: Since when do you care about the morality of revenge, Richard?
Richard Parker: Nick, I’m the color commentator who supports the bad guys. I’m supposed to be a hypocrite?
Nova stalks down the aisle, eschewing his normal pre-match cigarette. Maybe it’s the nerves. Maybe he needs all his breath for the Bayou Butcher. Either way, The Risen Star appears a little more tense than the PRIMEates are used to seeing him.
Vince Howard: This match is scheduled for one fall and is for the PRIME Intense Championship! Entering the ring, from Parts Unknown, weighing in at 240 pounds. He is the challenger, a former Universal and Five-Star Champion, the Risen Star, the Starchild… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
Nova enters the ring, walks over to the far side of the ring from the ramp, and leans on the ropes, awaiting his destiny. “Maggot Brain” fades out for a few beats.
“They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy.”
As the chunky riff of “Fistfight” by the Ballroom Thieves enters the arena speakers, the fans erupt in hatred for the Intense Champion. A few moments pass before Paxton Ray enters, Foster Nackedy trudging behind him with a walker.
Nick Stuart: There he is. The most hated man in PRIME. The man who ended Jonathan Rhine’s career.
Richard Parker: And sadly perhaps the most fitting Intense Champion we’ve ever seen.
The two men begin their walk to the ring. Most would focus on Paxton, and I wouldn’t blame them; after all, he’s the wrestler. But please, humor me and look behind him at the manager. Usually, Foster Nackedy is smiling. He loves every part of the role he plays on screen. Even now he would love to be hamming up an injury, pretending to be hurt worse than he is, maybe telling Nova that he’s to blame for all of this.
That’s not what he’s doing, though, and the commentary team notices.
Nick Stuart: Foster Nackedy looking angry tonight, Richard.
Richard Parker: Of course he is, Nick! Nova beat the snot out of him on ReV 25! I’d be looking at Nova the same way too!
That all makes sense, but the main problem with that theory is that Foster isn’t looking at Nova at all. He’s looking straight ahead, not focusing on anything, just slowly walking forward.
Okay, back to the champ. Ray grins as he pulls himself up on the apron and enters the ring, then puts his title in the air. The boos rain down as Foster leans against the apron, now finally staring at Nova. Paxton grins at Nova, then spreads his arms wide.
Vince Howard: And his oppon…
Before Vince can get the words out of his mouth, Nova RUSHES in with a flurry of fists, looking like a cross between Rocky Balboa and the Tazmanian Devil. The bell rings hastily as Elvis Nixon’s all-too-brief respite is cut even shorter than normal. Haymakers, mid-kicks, toe kicks to the gut, uppercuts. Nova is giving the Champion absolutely no rest, but honestly, the only person in the arena who might believe he deserves mercy is the sourpuss on the outside of the ring leaning on his walker.
Nick Stuart: Nova is a HOUSE ON FIRE!
Richard Parker: Given all the cigs and pot he smokes…
Nick Stuart: Now, now, Richard, don’t go being a narc. We don’t want any angry letters from Teddy Palmer.
Richard Parker: Why’d you have to mention him? Now I just want a pepperoni pizza.
The Bayou Butcher tries to cover up from the surprise onslaught, but Nova keeps hammering down on him. Finally, the Champion slumps, and Nova stomps a mudhole in him before walking it dry.
Nick Stuart: Nova grabbing Paxton off the canvas. Bourbon for Breakfast, this early in the match?
Richard Parker: I hope so! Gotta save my energy for that main event…
Pax still has enough wherewithal to shove himself off Nova’s shoulders, preventing the flash-crowning of a new Intense Champion. Redneck Einstein drops to a supine position and then rolls out of the ring, trying to clear the cobwebs out of his brain. After collecting himself from the shock of losing his prey, Nova shakes his own cobwebs out and dives out in chase of the Intense Champion. He’s stopped momentarily, however, by a raspy, annoyed-sounding voice.
Foster Nackedy: Hey burnout, did I tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the fear in Sonny’s eyes when Paxton was kicking the shit out of him?
The Starchild jerks his head ever so slightly, but it’s just the in that Pax needs to jump in.
The metallic clang of the guardrails separating fan from fighter reverberates with shocking intensity in the spaciously cavernous dome of JerryWorld. Nova’s back lands with malice on the steel with each ram of Paxton’s shoulder against his stomach, weakening his core. Not content with using his own body as an implement of bludgeoning, Paxton leaves his challenger in a crumpled heap propped up on the guardrail as he looks around for a weapon. He spies one, but it’s currently being occupied by Vince Howard’s posterior.
Paxton Ray: YOU! GIMME DAT CHAIR!
Without hesitation, PRIME’s ring announcer hops to his feet, allowing Paxton to grab the steel implement with haste. He folds it up, thinking momentarily about giving The Risen Star some help developing tau proteins in his brain, but he thinks to himself almost immediately that he’s started hacking away at a more beneficial spot on Nova’s body.
Nick Stuart: SICKENING! Paxton Ray driving the point of that steel chair he STOLE from Vince Howard into Nova’s ribs and solar plexus!
Richard Parker: On one hand, Vince and I play cards every other Tuesday and I hate seeing him inconvenienced, but on the other, this is smart strategy. If he can take out Nova’s core, then Bourbon for Breakfast is pretty much neutralized.
Nick Stuart: Rich, did you just make a salient analytical point?
Richard Parker: Hey, I’m not just piss and vinegar all the time.
Ray’s repetitive shots increase in frequency until a machine gun of chair point jabs are seemingly peppering Nova’s midsection. The Starchild gasps for air as if he’s just been plucked from drowning, but the onslaught is far from over. The Lafayette Bruiser opens the chair, then scoops his prey up, lifting him so that his belly is open facing the floor.
Nick Stuart: DEAR GOD! A gutbuster on the top of that chair and…
Richard Parker: He’s not done yet, Nick.
Paxton looks over at the timekeeper, and with a vicious snarl in his lips barks at her.
Paxton Ray: GIMME DAT CHAIR! NOW!
Richard Parker: I don’t understand this! There are chairs under the ring! Can’t he just grab one of those?
Nick Stuart: Rich, I think the cruelty is the point here.
As Nova writhes on the mat outside the ring, Paxton sets the second chair up so that its back is facing the back of the first one. The tops of both chairs form a point, and everyone with vantage good enough to see the simple yet demonic structure Paxton Ray has constructed gasp in unison. The Butcher scoops Nova from the ground, looks at the crowd and barks, and then…
Richard Parker: That’s gotta be even more painful than it looks.
As Nova crumples back to the mat after being bodyslammed back first into the makeshift torture device Paxton set up, the crowd rains their loudest boos down on the Intense Champion yet. Over 105 thousand people strong, raining hate on him, and still, he had no reaction other than to whip the ring skirt up and look underneath for even more plunder.
Nick Stuart: Oh no.
Richard Parker: Who left a goddamn heavy-duty CHAIN underneath the ring!
Not that it matters either way who left it there, but later on in the evening, there will be a Hell in a Cell match. Certain implements are needed to set up and break down said superstructure. And one of those implements could be used to squeeze the life out of someone.
Which is exactly what Paxton Ray is setting out to do as he wraps it around Nova’s midsection and squeezes.
He rigs the chain so that it keeps the compression around the middle of Nova’s torso but so that there’s also enough slack at either end so he can, well, drag his body up the ramp with him, which is exactly what he does. The Starchild’s face is frozen in abject horror and pain as he gasps for belabored breaths underneath his already damaged ribs. Paxton emotes little as he drags his victim to the ramp. He stops about halfway up and then suddenly jerks his arms up in the air, maximizing the torque placed on the exposed skin of his challenger. Nova’s eyes bug out of his head. His mouth opens as wide as it can, and the sounds can only be described as porcine in nature. Even Foster, who has made his way over to where the scene of the assault is happening, can only wince in reaction. Elvis Nixon asks Nova if he wants to give up. There might be a part inside his psyche that wants nothing more than to throw in the towel and get the fuck outta there, but the rest of that brain had a resounding answer.
Paxton, in frustration with violence and hatred in his heart, whips Nova off to the side, sending him tumbling off the incline, crashing into the guardrails by the entryway. He stalks over but is stopped.
Foster Nackedy: Pax, no. I need to get something off my chest.
Foster waddles over and stands right in front of a crumpled Risen Star – or more like Fallen Star, am I right? – and slowly lifts his walker into the air. With a flourish, he sends it crashing down diagonally into Nova’s gut.
Foster Nackedy: FUCK YOU!
Fire figuratively burns behind his eyes as he lifts the walker up and crashes it into Nova’s solar plexus again. And again. And again.
Nick Stuart: My God! He’s going to town!
Richard Parker: I haven’t seen anyone this angry since they told The Anglo Luchador they were out of fish sandwiches and coffee last Friday.
Nick Stuart: (clearly ignoring Richard’s non sequitur) I just don’t know why he’s so angry.
Foster’s assault on Nova continues.
Foster Nackedy: THIS IS YOUR BOY, LINDZ? HUH?
Foster Nackedy: THIS IS WHO YOU GRACE WITH YOUR FUCKING CHARITY?!
Nick Stuart: Alright! Enough! Point is made!
In a rare show of mercy, Paxton seizes Foster by his arms.
Paxton Ray: THAT’S ENOUGH, FOST!
Nick Stuart: All that yelling, I don’t think it was Nova he was mad at.
Richard Parker: Lindsay Troy must have pissed in his cereal this morning, sheesh.
Paxton brusquely shoves Foster off to the side and then tosses him his walker. His focus goes back to Nova, whom he lines up for a shoulder tackle right into his gut. There’s just one problem.
Richard Parker: There’s still life in the Risen Star after all, Nick!
Nick Stuart: AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Nova takes advantage of a doubled-over and groggy Paxton to land his patented Dying Star Drop. Hoping to steal a win in the confusion, he tackles the Butcher onto the ramp and scoops him up in a pinfall attempt…
NO! Paxton kicks out with authority. Nova gets to his feet, holding his ribs but letting the adrenaline course through his veins to help him carry on. He grabs Paxton in a tight headlock and starts struggling up the ramp, dragging the Champion with him. He stops at intervals to give him a knuckle-pointer to the face to keep him dazed enough to drag him all the way up to right underneath the PRIMEView. He tosses Paxton like a bag of garbage onto the floor right before the curtains leading into Argyle. As the Champ gets on all fours, Nova sizes him up and…
Nick Stuart: That knee sent Paxton TUMBLING past the curtains! What impact!
Richard Parker: They’re moving backstage. You know what that means.
Nick Stuart: This falls count anywhere match is really about to get started.
Richard Parker: vibrating VIOLENCE!
The Risen Star follows back with cameras trailing. He grabs Ray as he’s trying to get to his feet, not-sp-gently assisting him so he can bash his thick skull into monitors, lighting rigs, laptops, and soundboards. Nova slams Paxton’s head into one piece of equipment, and the entire audio feed for ACE Network knocks out for a moment. As technicians hustle to get the sound back on, Nova grips the Champion by the back of his A-shirt and heaves him through to the hallway.
Nick Stuart: Are we back on yet?
Richard Parker: I’m so mad at Nova! Everyone at home missed my stunning rendition of “Nights of Agony” off Solid Gold Rock ‘n Roll’s classic album, Forge Cycle II.
Pax stands on the concrete floor of the hallway, holding his back, none the wiser that Nova is lining him up from the back. The Starchild lunges in, grabbing a hold of his waist.
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD! GERMAN SUPLEX ON THE CONCRETE FLOOR!
Richard Parker: He’s dead. Call it.
Elvis hits the deck to count as Nova holds the bridge in place…
NO! Just a shade before Nixon’s hand hits the floor, Paxton kicks out. Nova looks around. There’s no crowd to appeal to, but he knows it’s time. He picks the Champ up to his feet and attempts to put him on his shoulders, but…
Nick Stuart: Oh no! He’s trying Bourbon for Breakfast, but Paxton Ray has done too much damage to his core, and I think that German suplex took the last bit of strength from those muscles!
Richard Parker: I knew he should’ve tried that one move with the weird name or, uh, the other one?
As Nova holds his guts, Paxton takes a beat to recover before finding his opportunity. He spies a soda machine, and in one swift movement, he grabs the Risen Star by the scruff of hair on the back of his head and by his tights and launches him into it. The light violently flickers in the vending machine as Nova collides with it, back to the unforgiving structure.
Richard Parker: At least it didn’t explode open this time like it did when Ivan got a hold of it at ReV 25.
As Nova staggers to his feet holding his gut with one hand and his back with the other, it’s Pax’s turn to line up his shot. He charges in, arm outstretched, and sends the Starchild FLYING backwards with a huge lariat. Nova twists inside out from the impact and lands stomach first on the edge of a steamer chest. As he turns around to face his opponent, a small trickle of blood begins to ooze from his mouth into his ratty beard.
Nick Stuart: I’m not sure how much more damage Nova can take here. He’s gotta be bleeding internally after that onslaught.
Richard Parker: Well, I hope he goes to a local medical facility afterwards, get checked out.
Nick Stuart: Richard, what did you just call it?
Richard Parker: I… I don’t know. It’s like the icy hand of evil reached out and touched my mind from across the multiversal void.
Nick Stuart: Ladies and gentlemen, my broadcast partner, Richard Parker.
Paxton instinctively rips Nova onto the hard floor and goes for a cover.
Feebly, the Risen Star kicks out. The Butcher of the Bayou rips Nova to his feet and throws him several yards into the distance. He follows up with some well-placed kicks to the gut before finding an open door. As Nova reaches for something to brace himself, all he finds is the Lafayette Bruiser’s hands on him, tossing him through into the Dallas Cowboys locker room. Paxton looks around for a weapon and finds a football helmet that’s been left out. He grabs it and begins to work over Nova with the hardened plastic and metal protector.
Richard Parker: That’s the closest the Cowboys have gotten to a Championship since 1996, Nick!
Nick Stuart: I didn’t take you for a football fan, Richard. Who’s your favorite team?
Richard Parker: The St. Louis Battlehawks! CAW CAW, BABY!
After slamming the helmet into various parts of the Starchild’s soft flesh, Pax looks around for more implements of punishment, and his eyes light up as he spots the ice bath, which has been filled and graciously provided for PRIME wrestlers to use after their brutal matches for the evening, for a fee, of course. Jerry Jones ain’t runnin’ no charity, here. He drags Nova over to the tub and dunks him, submerging his entire head.
Nick Stuart: The brutality! I don’t care if this has no rules, Elvis has to get in there and do something!
Richard Parker: I know! You can’t give Nova a bath against his will. He’ll clean up when he’s good and ready.
Nick Stuart: A MAN IS BEING DROWNED, RICHARD, NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR JOKES!
Thankfully, Nova is able to break free of Paxton’s grip by flailing his elbows. He comes up for air as the Champ flinches momentarily, but before he can get his wits about him…
Nick Stuart: OH NO! Paxton with the sled drill on Nova! And, hey, wait, did he just shove Nova into a locker?!?!
Richard Parker: I wonder how many times that happened to him in high school.
As the Starchild groans, Paxton takes a moment or two to catch his breath before ripping Nova out of the locker and tossing him back into the hallway. Nova slams backfirst into the wall and slumps onto the ground as the Bayou Butcher follows up with his trademark three elbow drops, each producing a sickening thud as they find their aim on the solar plexus area. On the third elbow, he stays on the cold, unforgiving ground and makes a cover…
Nova makes his most desperate kickout yet. The Champ rises to his feet and finds another steamer chest, this one on wheels. He rolls it over, ramming it into Nova’s side before tossing him on it. The Butcher moves behind the chest, placing both his hands on it.
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray has done a lot of sadistic things in this match, but I don’t even want to think about what he’s going to do with Nova on that chest.
Richard Parker: He’s gonna send him for a joyride, Nick. I don’t like it, but I mean.
Richard is right.
Paxton shoves the chest with all his might, sending it careening back down the hallway towards Argyle. The only thing stopping it is the soda machine Nova’s back met earlier in the match. The jolt of the head-on impact doesn’t knock Nova off the chest, but it’s enough to send a geyser of blood shooting from his mouth. Paxton stalks down towards his mark, grabbing a fire extinguisher off the wall on his travels. He raises it over his head, and in one grim swoop…
Nick Stuart: DEAR LORD! If Nova didn’t have a laceration to one of his organs before, he’s got one now.
Richard Parker: I’m going to see if Hoyt can bless this poor child later on this evening. They kinda were rivals back in the day, but I’d like to think he’s a forgiving savior.
With the drill press-force blow to his ribs, Nova rolls off the chest, plopping on the floor. Paxton drops the extinguisher haphazardly and drops to cover…
Nova’s shoulder shoots off the solid floor just enough to keep the match going. Paxton sits his challenger up and takes several steps back. Nostrils flared, lips sneered, he charges in attempting to put a killing blow on the match with a sliding lariat. There’s just one problem with that.
He didn’t notice that the fire extinguisher he dropped was a little too close to Nova for him not to grab it and squeeze.
Nick Stuart: JUST THE BREAK NOVA NEEDED!
Richard Parker: I’m happy for him, but he’d better not hope The Anglo Luchador doesn’t fall asleep backstage reading Faulkner by candlelight.
Nick Stuart: He’s not that old, Richard.
Richard Parker: Okay, okay, reading George RR Martin by candlelight.
Nova is up but still clutching his midsection. In the confusion, he grabs Paxton by his waist and tries another German suplex, but his core is too damaged to get him up and over. Thinking quickly, he spins the Champ around and plants him on the concrete with a double-arm DDT. He drops for a cover…
NO! Paxton Ray kicks out. In the confusion, The Starchild grabs the Butcher to his feet and throws him back into the Argyle position. He sees an extension cord and instinctively grabs it, wrapping it around the Bruiser’s throat. He wrenches back, depriving the Intense Champion of air.
Nova: GIVE UP! GIVE UP YOU LUNKHEADED MOTHREFUCKER!
All Paxton can reply with are gurgling noises and gasps for air. There’s no chance at all that he’s going to slam his hand on the floor though. This thought becomes evident to the Risen Star as his own mind wanders back to a conversation he had by a canyon with Sonny.
“A potentially never-ending series of bloodbaths.”
“And I just wonder if that’s a road you need to go down.”
“What if you win?”
He’s shaken to sense and releases the tension on the cord. He rises to his feet, dragging Paxton with him, only to plant him back down again with the In-NOVA-tor, although not getting all of it because his insides radiate with throbbing pain. He covers after the impact…
But Paxton Ray kicks out once more.
Nick Stuart: I’d say it’s only a matter of time before Nova finishes the job here, but Paxton has done a number on his core! I don’t know how much strength he has left to execute any of his finishing maneuvers.
Richard Parker: I have a pilates DVD he can borrow if that’ll help.
Nick Stuart: (audibly sighing)
And right on cue, The Risen Star once again attempts Bourbon for Breakfast, but his ribs and abs and back still are just not cooperating. He rolls the Butcher through the curtains back onto the top of the stage under the PRIMEView for all the six-figures of fans in JerryWorld to see. He plants a boot square in Paxton’s back between his shoulders and then drops down.
Omoplata armbar with a crossface.
Better known as the Horizontal Face-Pull Neck-Stretch Inverted Hurt-Plex Lock Bomb.
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray’s got nowhere to go, Richard!
Richard Parker: No rope breaks, sure, but you just saw him NOT tap out with an extension cord wrapped around his neck!
Nova put the hold on Paxton thinking he would ride it out and make him pass out. The wily Cajun had other ideas.
He sinks his teeth into the back of Nova’s forearm. It doesn’t leave the mark it should have because of the thick wristtape, but Nova breaks the hold regardless. After shaking off, Nova turns around and boots Paxton in the head. He looks out at the crowd, the writhing sea of humanity all there in that moment to see him put down a rabid alligator and reclaim the Intense Championship. He closes his eyes and breathes in deep. He bends down and grabs the Champion.
It’s time for Bourbon for Breakfast.
Paxton Ray in the fireman’s carry. All Nova has to do is spike, and the match is won.
Nick Stuart: NOOOOOOOOOO!
Richard Parker: Honestly, they were backstage so long I forgot Foster was still out here.
That’s right. Foster Nackedy saves his charge by pulling him off Nova’s shoulders. Incensed, the Risen Star turns around, but he, Foster, and everyone in earshot around the top of the stage turn their head to the entryway with someone’s almost melodic war cry.
“CHAIRMAN OF PRIME, ACTIVATE!”
The stadium EXPLODES in a deafening RAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! as Sonny Silver comes charging out of the back with his favorite weapon, a steel chair. With no regard for anyone, his target especially, he swings the metal seat, planting it on directly on Foster’s head. Mr. Bad Name himself goes FLYING down the ramp. However, the celebration is short lived, as Sonny follows him down to keep up his assault.
Paxton Ray has recovered.
As Foster tumbles down the ramp with Sonny hot on his heels, Nova turns around only to find Paxton ready to deliver a swift toe kick to his groin.
Nick Stuart: NO! NOT LIKE THIS!
As Nova grasps at his dick and his balls, Paxton grabs him by the neck and drags him over to the edge of the stage. He wipes the sweat from his brow, and then places both his hands underneath Nova’s armpits, tossing him into the air.
And to make matters even worse? Nova’s feet don’t touch the ramp. He careens back off the stage, crashing into the store of tables and other spare equipment below. Paxton calmly, cold-bloodedly, climbs down from the stage, plants his fist in between Nova’s eyes one more time to make sure he wouldn’t move, and then barks at Elvis Nixon to count the cover.
DING DING DING
Boos rain down from the nosebleeds down to the floor, but the damage is done.
Vince Howard: Your winner, and STILL PRIME Intense Champion…. Paxton… RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!
The Champion sits next to the heap of destruction he caused, catching his breath. Nova doesn’t move more than what it takes to keep breathing. Foster Nackedy still remains prone on the ramp, probably with a concussion. Sonny Silver tosses the chair away and scowls down at Foster. The carnage is palpable, but isn’t that how the current Champion wants his cruel kingdom ruled?
The show is interrupted by a brief commercial break.
Numerous cartoon comic book pages are flipped through, similar to the Marvel movie introductions. In the panels, however, are not Marvel or DC comic book characters but rather pictures of a masked wrestler sporting a comic book inspired luchador mask, flying through the air performing various splashes and dives.
As the pages flip through, the aerial maneuvers become more death-DEFYing.
A fire symbol and a fist close the final page of the comic book, leaving the text…
COMICON is COMING to PRIME
It’s dark in the old warehouse. Shafts of morning sunlight come through the windows of the place, providing brief respite from the gloom of the place. Dust caked up in certain spots, though other spots look like they’d seen recent traffic. A fog of dry ice wafted along the floor of the place. The doors open up, and two men are being dragged inside, their heads hooded. The people dragging them in are shrouded in the shadows, though one of them is considerably slower than the other due to some sort of ailment that may or may not be mega-arthritis.
With the two individuals inside the warehouse, their hoods are yanked off of their heads.
It’s Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips.
The two of them look around at their surroundings, confused as to what’s going on. They slowly walk towards the center of the room, where the light is the brightest. The other side of the warehouse past this light is almost unusually pitch black. When Joe and Sid walk into the light, a single spotlight shines down within the darkness, revealing a huge man.
His shirtless body reveals ebony skin with heavy tattoos depicting various Egyptian mythology imagery. He wears a mask over his head in the image of a jackal, which is highlighted by the Nemes-style headdress worn around it. He carries a staff nearly as long as he is tall, with a set of scales set in perfect balance at one end.
He speaks in a loud, commanding voice that catches the attention of all who hear it.
Powerslam Anubis: O woeful mortals who have found your way here before me, welcome! Welcome! WELCOME! Today heralds your judgement before the watchful eye of the great Powerslam Anubis!
Joe and Sid exchange bewildered looks to each other. Sid has an eyebrow raised as he turns his attention back to the man in the jackal mask.
Sid Phillips: The fuck is a powerslam?
Both Anubis and Joe stare at Sid before all parties mutually decide to ignore that question.
Powerslam Anubis: You have arrived here by the will of the first King, long may he reign. You remain here by the grace of the second King, long may she reign. I, the great Powerslam Anubis, am here to ascertain your credentials for the dauntless kingdom that stands before you.
Joe Fontaine: In an abandoned warehouse?
Powerslam Anubis: Yes.
Joe Fontaine: Covered in dust?
Powerslam Anubis: This was on… short notice.
Joe Fontaine: Is that a fucking rat?
All parties look off in the direction that Joe is pointing. Sure enough…
Powerslam Anubis: Indeed, I have judged this to be a rat.
Joe Fontaine: Gross.
Powerslam Anubis: NONETHELESS!
Joe Fontaine: GAH!
Joe staggers back from the sheer force of Anubis’s proclamation. Anubis continues undaunted from his reaction.
Powerslam Anubis: The great Powerslam Anubis serves as arbiter to your fate on this fine morning. You shall be judged accordingly in the court of the Kingdom! Fortunately, we have provided you with a lawyer.
A spotlight shines down at a spot several feet away from Anubis. The wiry man standing there in the nice black suit adjusts his tie, which suspiciously looks like a large dinner napkin. His bowler hat highlights a gaunt, unattractive face that nonetheless smiles congenially.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Cheers, mates!
Joe and Sid stare at Lord Gavin Yum, Esq. for a hot minute. In front of him is a plate of steamed buns, still steaming as though there’s a good steamed bun place within the vicinity of this meeting.
Tenting his fingers in front of him, yet conspicuously over the buns, the Lunch Lawyer of the Crownless Kingdom smiles his ugly smile.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Seems like I am not the only one who is looking the join the good guys!
Powerslam Anubis: I refuse to accept that we embody the concept of good or evil. Such matters do not concern the great Powerslam Anubis. They are mortal matters, meaningless to the pursuit of arbitration!
Joe feels the need the interrupt these two morons, because when you’ve got two morons having a discussion and Joe’s in the room, he’d feel like a third moron makes everything better!
Joe Fontaine: Okay, so all we got was a question from Avy about whether we wanted to join this whole Kingdom thing he’s got going on. Then we said yes and next thing we know, we’re hooded by a bunch of Bonafides and brought here.
Sid Phillips: I could have powerbombed our way out.
Joe Fontaine: We need you to save your powerbombing strength for the not-berries, big buddy.
Sid Phillips: Wouldn’t have taken but a couple of seconds.
Joe Fontaine: I don’t need you pulling a powerbomb muscle before we need it.
Sid Phillips: Ridiculous. You can’t pull a powerbomb muscle. You can only powerbomb it.
Joe Fontaine: Well, I don’t want you to powerbomb your powerbomb muscle, then.
A woman’s sharp voice interrupted them, colored by her mild Quebecois accent.
Claire Merci: Mon dieu, do any of you morons think before you speak?
A spotlight shines directly behind and above where Powerslam Anubis is standing at his podium. This place is positioned higher, on a throne seemingly built from broken crowns. It looks very uncomfortable to sit upon, though it is cushioned to high hell.
The woman who sits upon the throne is tall, with short blonde hair in a pixie cut and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. No frills for the queen of the Crownless Kingdom, Claire Merci. She turns to her right.
Claire Merci: Avalon, are you serious about this?
A fourth spotlight. This one shines down at a spot just to Claire’s right, also on a platform. Coral Avalon has his own throne. This one is also of the same type as the one Claire sits upon, only less grand. Likely, this is because Coral is the only member of his end of the Kingdom. Likely, also, is that he’s not really one for thrones. Unless it’s for an entrance, I suppose. Anyway, Coral is not dressed to compete, because that’s tomorrow.
Coral Avalon: Yes.
Claire reaches over by the side of her throne and pulls out two objects. One is a shot glass. The other is a very large bottle of bourbon. Who knows where she’d been hiding that, but she’s decided she’s not going to get through this meeting sober.
Joe Fontaine: Oh, cool, is Iggy here, too?
The last spotlight shines just to Anubis’s right. There, reclining in his seat and looking mildly irritated, is Ignacio el Jaguar. He’s dressed in a white suit, with a black dress shirt, and he looks dangerously attractive. He’s also wearing the face of a man who’s very annoyed.
Ignacio el Jaguar: You know, I had this whole introduction planned out, but sure. Whatever.
He looks up at Claire, perched on her throne.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Got any more of that?
Claire Merci: Get your own.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Fair enough.
Anubis speaks up in his deep baritone.
Powerslam Anubis: Joe Fontaine. Sid Phillips. The great Powerslam Anubis acknowledges you. You have traveled far in PRIME, battled everything from bandits to infinite multiversial foes to solid gold rock and rollers whose legends are beyond that of the ring.
Joe Fontaine: So, how do you feel about Dirtbags and Vagabonds?
Sid looks like he’s about to have a migraine.
Powerslam Anubis: Let us put aside the powerful vocals of Mr. Trent Sadikaj, as near to the realm from which I come from as they are. You two have been nominated to join the Crownless Kingdom by the old king. Which means that we must conduct a… trial of sorts to determine your worthiness.
Joe points at Iggy.
Joe Fontaine: You guys let this guy into the Kingdom, though! He’s been around, what, a year? Tops?
Ignacio el Jaguar: Yeah, but I passed the trial.
Claire Merci: Je vous déteste tous… I just said “yes”, there was no trial!
Ignacio el Jaguar: Sounds like I passed the trial to me, boss.
Claire glares at him, silently pouring more bourbon into her shot glass.
Powerslam Anubis: ENOUGH!
This gets everyone’s attention, because when a nearly seven-foot-tall living god shouts “enough”, you listen.
Powerslam Anubis: The great Powerslam Anubis shall now, right here, right now, determine your viability to join the Crownless Kingdom!
Joe Fontaine: Sounds cool.
Powerslam Anubis: First, I will need your still-beating hearts.
Joe Fontaine: Sounds less cool.
Powerslam Anubis: Then, I shall weigh them upon my scales against this feather.
He holds up a feather. We don’t know what bird it comes from, but assume it comes from an owl. They’re pretty common around PRIME these days. Joe sees it and involuntarily shudders. He remembers what happened when he asked for popcorn reimbursement.
Powerslam Anubis: Should the weight of the sins of your heart tip the scales against the feather, you will be judged most harshly, your heart will be devoured by Abdominal Stretch Ammit!
Joe Fontaine: Sounds the least cool.
Sid Phillips: I am without sin, only powerbombs.
Ignacio el Jaguar: You can’t be serious.
Sid Phillips: It’s in the Bible. Let he who is without sin cast the first powerbomb.
Ignacio el Jaguar: I’m gonna fight you.
He starts to get out of his chair, only to be stopped when Coral calls down at Iggy.
Coral Avalon: Iggy, calm down, we kinda need Sid intact for tonight.
Ignacio looks up at Coral, sighs, then points two fingers at his own eyes and then points them back at Sid – the international sign of “watch your ass”. He sits back down, one leg up on the armrest, and crosses his arms.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: I say, dear Anubis, could we perhaps think of a different avenue for judgement that is less… ah, grisly? I would hate to get their blood on my meal!
Lord Yum is taking a fork and knife to his steamed buns, by the way.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: For example, we could always ask them a series of very simple questions about the Kingdom. For example, what is my favorite color?
Joe Fontaine: Periwinkle?
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Ah, delightful! You got it in one. Truly, a man of true taste!
Powerslam Anubis: It would be most irregular to not weigh their hearts, but… I suppose they would have to be dead and before me in the Duat for that to work out, and Powerslam Anubis does not take lives. He merely judges them harshly, upon wings of powerslams.
Anubis strokes his chin underneath the jackal mask, deep in thought. Joe takes the opportunity to plead his case.
Joe Fontaine: Okay, so… I don’t know why all four of you decided to show up in Dallas just to say “yes” or anything, but I think my pitch for this trial is that you guys just say “yes” and you’ll give us your complimentary fancy robes and scepters. Oh! And a sword. I know it’s completely unheard of for anyone in PRIME to ask for a sword, but I think I should get one. I’m kinda partial to those Middle Eastern curved swords, myself.
Sid Phillips: Those two-headed giant battle axes are the powerbombs of the medieval weaponry world, so I’ll take two of those.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah. Those come with the package, right?
Claire glares down at the two of them from her perch on high. If glares could be made manifest, it would be clear that she deals less in owls and more in attack falcons.
Claire Merci: No.
She pauses, staring at her empty shot glass and contemplating another shot. She decides, perhaps heroically, that it’s not yet time.
Claire Merci: Fuck that.
No, wait. It is time. Nevermind. Drink that beautiful bourbon-y beverage, you crazy French-Canadian, you.
Joe Fontaine: Can’t help but notice that’s not a “yes”. I’m assuming you’re saying “no, you’re not getting a sword or cool two-headed axes or scepters or robes” and not “you’re not joining the Kingdom”.
Claire doesn’t say a word. Instead, she glares daggers at the entire reason for this meeting. His name is Coral Avalon, and he’s looking like he needs bourbon that he’s never going to drink.
Coral Avalon: Look, Claire, I know how it is with me, but a lot of the daffy idiots I know turn out to be very good pro wrestlers.
Claire Merci: You know Mega Job.
Coral Avalon: Okay, you got me there. I’m not even sure that Beef or Janito even know what wrestling holds are. But I mean… you seem fine with Anubis and Gavin, and they’re the way they are. You’re fine with Iggy, who…
Ignacio el Jaguar: Holmes, Imma fight you too if you lump me in with some of these bozos.
Coral Avalon: …is perfectly normal.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Yeah, you know what’s up.
Coral Avalon: But I’m just saying, these guys put in the work. They’ve only lost once in PRIME, and they’re gonna go avenge that one loss tonight. And yeah, on paper, they probably aren’t the kinds of guys that belong in the Kingdom. Not because they’re doofuses, but because they already have a legacy to live up to, what with who their fathers are. Chances are, they’d be fine wherever they went once the tag division here goes belly up. And I mean, the Crownless Kingdom of Japan shouldn’t care that much about the Crownless Kingdom of America… who is just me, right now. So why not let them into the club?
Joe raises his hand high into the sky, shouting “Ooh! Ooh!” as he does.
Joe Fontaine: Look, if you want credibility, how about “soon-to-be forever PRIME tag champions”?
Sid Phillips: Pretty big credential, you ask me.
Joe Fontaine: The biggest.
Sid Phillips: The most biggest.
Joe Fontaine: The biggerest.
Sid opens his mouth to try and top that, but he can’t. Joe’s won this little game. For now. He continues, victorious and unabated.
Joe Fontaine: So, really, everybody’s gonna want a piece of the soon-to-be forever PRIME tag team champs. Sure that the phone’ll ring off the hook for us. The Gluebois, the Mississippi Gang, the Alliance to End Clay Byrd… hey, do you think the Pirates of Dark Tuber are hi—
Coral Avalon: (interrupting) Joe. We don’t talk about the Pirates of Dark Tuber.
Lord Gavin looks even gaunter than usual hearing that name.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Heavens no, sir! The crimes they commit with spuds violate many articles of lunch law, and also of good taste!
Powerslam Anubis: They would face swift judgement should they cross paths with me… though I admit that I would prefer that our paths never cross. Some other god can judge them. Hopefully Astraea.
Joe Fontaine: Hm. Pirates, though… that gives me an idea…
Joe thinks. And I think we all know what comes from all of this thinking he’s doing. I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t involve ninjas. Because Tyler Rayne would sue him. Well, probably. The legalities of ninja law are beyond the scope of lunch law, to be honest. Pirates don’t really have a law so much as a code, really, and I think we all know from the film documentary Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl that the pirate code is really more of a guideline.
But then, we’re getting off track. Assuming, of course, that we’d been on rails to begin with.
Claire Merci: Don’t make me drink any more than I already have, you fucking imbéciles. It is not even noon yet.
Joe Fontaine: Why are you drinking?
Claire Merci: Shut up.
Joe Fontaine: ‘Kay.
Sid Phillips: Alright, I’ll tell you what I bring to the table, you can say “yes” after that.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Oh, boy, here we go…
Sid clears his throat.
Sid Phillips: Tonight, in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans, I will perform the majesty of the double reverse quadruple wheelbarrow powerbomb. Before now, it was only theoretical. Powerbomb scientists around the world, which is mainly just me and this guy from Estonia that doesn’t speak a lot of English, have debated its existence for decades. Long before even I was born, so it was just that one Estonian guy when you think about it. Many have wondered if such a thing is even possible, if perhaps the powerbomb gods thought this flew too close to the sun for mankind. A perpetual powerbomb engine. Once its secrets are unlocked, anything is possible. I will achieve similar powers that a Time Lord does, only far greater, and be able to powerbomb through space and time. No one would be safe. Nothing would be safe. All has been powerbombs. All is powerbombs. All will become powerbombs. That is the power at my fingertips. That is what makes me worthy of becoming the Powerbomb King, First of His Powerbomb. Amen… no. A-Powerbomb-men.
There is a long silence, with six other gawking faces staring at Sid Phillips.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Yup.
Claire Merci stares at the shot glass in her hands, and throws it over her shoulder and into the darkness behind her. It shatters several moments later, a distant sound only made audible by the silence of the room. She starts drinking straight from the goddamn bottle.
Powerslam Anubis: …Magnificent. You pass, Mortal Sid.
Sid raises his arms in triumph, as though he is powerbombing the very air itself. Joe looks at Sid and then Anubis in bewilderment, because he knows that Anubis only specified that Sid has passed the trial. Meanwhile, behind him, Claire clearly considers chucking her bottle at the back of Anubis’s head, and only thinks better of it because it’d be a waste of perfectly good bourbon.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Ah, but there is still the matter of the other one, innit?
The “other one” being Joe Fontaine in this instance.
Powerslam Anubis: Indeed.
Anubis turns towards Joe, his steely gaze well-hidden behind his jackal mask. Joe finds himself a little uncomfortable under the watchful eye of the Judgement King of the Crownless Kingdom.
Powerslam Anubis: Mortal Joe. The gaze of the great Powerslam Anubis is upon you. Before the Kingdom may provide to you, we must know what you can provide to the Kingdom.
Joe Fontaine: Well, I bring fabulousness, an overactive imagination, sick Jabber skills, and the most psychic Shoryukens in all of PRIME.
Sid Phillips: You don’t even play a shoto.
Powerslam Anubis: Silence.
There is silence, for Powerslam Anubis has willed it.
Powerslam Anubis: Mortal, none of those serve the Kingdom the same way that your partner’s predilection for powerbombs does. You speak of trivialities, mere garnish on the Superkick Set’s plate!
That’s Lord Yum, by the way.
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: On my steamed buns? Surely, you jest!
Powerslam Anubis: No, I ask what you bring to the Kingdom beyond such petty, meaningless baubles such as these. What do you have beyond wit and charisma?
Joe reaches into his pockets and pulls out a handful of bills.
Joe Fontaine: I got seven dollars, thirty-six cents, and a pocket of lint. Oh, and a five dollar gift card for Denny’s that I’ve never used.
There is a long pause.
Powerslam Anubis: Acceptable. Welcome to the Kingdom.
Claire comes out of her throne so quickly that her bottle of bourbon tumbles to the floor by her feet.
Claire Merci: Mère de dieu et tous ses enfants stupides, I’m out of here. Induct them, I don’t care. I’ll see you dumbasses from the audience.
She walks off, disappearing into the darkness to climb down. Considering her state of inebriation… eh, I’m sure she’ll be fine.
Joe Fontaine: Cool. So, we’re in?
Powerslam Anubis: You’re in.
Joe’s fists shoot in the air in triumph.
Joe Fontaine: WHOO!
Lord Gavin Yum, Esq.: Welcome to the club, mate!
Ignacio can only shake his head.
Ignacio el Jaguar: Oh, good. I can’t escape you dipshits, can I?
Coral Avalon: Don’t worry about it, Iggy.
With the Winds of Change formally inducted into the Crownless Kingdom, everything is all well and good, and we have no reason to stick around to hear Joe Fontaine’s enthusiastic shouting.
The scene cuts to the parking lot of the AT&T Stadium, namely a refurbished ice cream truck with the name “Paco’s Ice Cream Tacos” crossed out and replaced with “THE LIBERATION MOVEMENT” in 97Red Paint. There is a satellite dish atop the truck hooked up to the television on the interior which is showing “Culture Shock.” Outside the truck, Jatt Starr, sporting his red and black checkered suit and the HOTv Tag Team Championship around his waist, begins yelling into a bullhorn as he holds a “PRIME SUCKS” sign. Dan Ryan, looking like he has been tasked with protecting the President, stands next to him. He also has his HOTv Tag Team Championship around his waist, along with the HOTv Title over his left shoulder.
Jatt Starr: PRIME IS GRIME! DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! PRIME IS GRIME DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! TAKE IT FROM US, THE CO-WORLD CHAMPIONS OF HOW, PRIME, SHOOT, MVW, AND THAT OTHER ONE NO ONE GIVES A WHORE’S TEAT ABOUT!!!
A college student walks by sporting Longhorns sweatshirt and shorts walks by, stops and takes a few steps backwards.
College Student: Whoa! Paco’s back?! I thought he was arrested for selling drugs to support a white supremacist group in the Appalachians? Y’all got any of that special vanilla ice powder?
Jatt Starr: No ice cream! Screw off!
The college student shrugs and walks away. The Jattinum Standard yells out to the student.
Jatt Starr: PRIME SUCKS! Tell your friends!
A man wearing a PRIME t-shirt has a young lad with ridiculously blonde hair of about four or five approach the truck.
Young Man: How much for an Ultimate Choco-Taco?
Jatt Starr: For the last time, there is no ice cream here! Might the Ruler of Jattlantis interest you in some merchandise supporting our mission? Our best seller is the standard “PRIME IS GRIME” shirt. We also have the official “THE BLOOD SAMPLE: BRANDON DUNGBLOOD” t-shirt. Not a fan of his? Don’t worry, no one is! Maybe the “ANNA DANIELS SUCKS CLOCK” t-shirt is more your thing? Or the “I F*CKED JUSTINE CALVIN AND ALL I GOT WAS A LIFETIME OF MEDIOCRITY AND JARED SYKES’S SUPER-HERPES”….The Champion of Jattanooga knows that last one is a bit wordy but—-
The Young Man covers his child’s ears and proceeds to walk away.
Jatt Starr: Yeah! Take your creepy Village of Damned demon child and leave! He probably isn’t even yours! Some masseuse named Sven Bjorngensengensen probably banged your—-Ahhhhh, he’s gone.
Dan taps his partner on the shoulder and points at the table, where stacks of merchandise are set up.
Dan Ryan: Don’t forget the good stuff…
He gestures toward some t-shirts with the original “Inner Circle” logo on the front with a little flea market sticker that says “5¢.” Next to it, on a little placard stand, is a copy of a book titled “How to Fail in High Octane Wrestling Without Trying.” On the front is a very clearly and badly photoshopped image of Lindsay Troy in a blue business suit and a vacant smile that belongs on the front of Mad Magazine. This has another flea market sticker on it, but this one says “10¢.”
Dan Ryan: That one’s on sale.
Jatt Starr: The Scourge of Starrpathia thought it looked cheap.
The Jattlantic City Idol turns towards the truck and looks inside sees himself looking inside the truck, which causes such excitement he begins tapping on Dan Ryan’’s shoulder and pointing.
Jatt Starr: We are on! GOOOOOOOOOD EVENING STARRLINGTON!!!!!
In the arena, the PRIMEView crackles to life and there’s an audible gasp of surprise as fans realize who is on the screen.
Everything is disturbingly quiet, with only the murmuring of the fans as Dan Ryan sheepishly smiles like the Joker in Harvey Dent’s hospital room.
Dan Ryan: Hi.
More fans approach the table, which prompts Dan to place a hand on the shoulder of Jatt Starr and motion for him to make the sale.
Dan Ryan: It’s okay. I’ll take it for a little bit.
In the arena, fans are fumbling over themselves trying to get a better view of the screen, but most of them, all decked out in PRIME merchandise, are dumbstruck, mouths agape. This is the last person they expected to see on a screen at a PRIME event.
Dan Ryan: Hey everyone. So nice to see all of you, all dolled up in your bright blue t-shirts, your hats, your bandanas, your replica championship belts. I myself have come into a few championship belts recently. See, this here around my waist is the HOTv Tag Team Championship. Jatt and I had to defeat a team from one of the OTHER PWA companies to win these bad boys, but yes, here they are. And this here, over my left shoulder, is the HOTv Championship.
Dan holds a hand to his chest like Scarlett O’Hara, the mocking pouring from his voice.
Dan Ryan: Why, I suppose I represent all of HOTv now. Ain’t that somethin’ you ain’t never seen?
Back in the arena production crew are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but try as they might, no one seems to know how to get the feed from the parking lot cut.
Dan Ryan: I suppose I’ll cut right to the chase. Jatt and I are here for several reasons. First of all, for me, I have had a lot of this cheap crap in a storage unit ever since the virtuous and sinless Lindsay Troy decided last year that my most recent transgression was simply too much for her to handle. Actually, it was a bit more than that, wasn’t it? Turns out, my friend not only did not come to my defense, she damn near led the charge against me.
From behind, Jatt approaches and taps Dan on the shoulder.
Jatt Starr: Pardon the Thane of Starrkarth’s interruption…. (he waves quickly at the camera) …Hi everyone, please, no need to applaud or kneel down, the Duke of Jattmandu just has a question for the Danaconda here. So, Dan, this guy over here, he smells like liverwurst and wants to know if you’d be willing to sell this commemorative photo of you presenting Lindsay Troy with her very first World Championship?
Dan Ryan: Sure.
Jatt Starr: What do you figure? About a dollar?
Dan Ryan: Eh, let him have it for 50¢. Several spots on it are damaged goods.
Jatt nods in acknowledgement and turns back to the now very happy gentleman, who only had two quarters to begin with.
Dan Ryan: Where was I? Oh yes. The very ungrateful owner of PRIME. Now, I was very happy to let bygones be bygones and forget that betrayal, something I rarely do, but when I approached her at PWA01, she uh… well, she told me to fuck off.
More murmuring from the massive crowd.
Dan Ryan: I know, I know. It seemed harsh to me too.
Jatt Starr taps him on the shoulder again, pointing to the screen in the truck where we can see Lindsay Troy storming out onto the stage inside the arena and barking at the production crew set up alongside the edge.
Microphones around the area can pick up her voice as she yells at them.
Lindsay Troy: SHUT IT DOWN, NOW!
Dan Ryan: OH! Lindsay! There you are! I was wondering if you’d decide to come out here and join us. Look… (Dan leans in and speaks under his breath as though telling a secret) I’m sure you’re wondering how we got on your screen at your show, because let’s face it, you think this is your stadium. And the thing is… you’re actually in my home state of Texas…
At the mention of Texas, the crowd erupts. Texans are a sucker for state patriotism.
Dan Ryan: Although, and I want to come clean here, although I have many connections in some powerful places around here, I didn’t actually have to go too far to get what I needed. See, all of this, our tailgating party, the garage sale, the chance to look at three championship belts that actually matter, these things were made possible thanks to a wonderful member of PWA’s staff.
At this, Lindsay looks directly up at the screen.
Dan Ryan: Thanks to um… (he gets Jatt Starr’s attention) …Was it Kelvin? Marvin? Merlin?
Jatt Starr: The Sovereign of Starrgentina remembers it was not as nerdy as Merlin. It had to be Melvin! Or was it Molva….?
Dan snaps a finger.
Dan Ryan: Oh right! Melvin.
Inside, Lindsay Troy is absolutely fuming, her face turning visibly red as the microphone picks her up snarling “Melon…” If looks could kill, Dan and Jatt and Melvin would be actually dead… through the screen… across the airwaves…. in the parking lot….wherever the PWA Liaison is hiding… Dead.
Dan Ryan: Please be a lamb and do thank Melvin for us, Lindz.
She turns back to her staff and yells again.
Lindsay Troy: I SAID SHUT…. IT DOWN…. NOW!!!
Back on the screen, Dan frowns, mock confused. Jatt hears and turns his head to the camera.
Jatt Starr: That’s not being a lamb at all.
Dan Ryan: I’m sorry Lindsay, are you having technical difficulties in there? I’ll just wait while you sort this out.
Dan stops and holds his hands down, clasped and over his tag team title belt, and waits. Every couple seconds, his eyes dart to look at things around him: parked cars, people, oh look a butterfly…
Lindsay Troy jumps down off the edge of the ramp to the stage and pushes her production supervisor out of the way and begins trying to cut the feed herself.
Dan watches, but after a few moments he turns to Jatt and whispers…
Dan Ryan: Are we still on?
Jatt Starr: Like Golden Pond.
Dan Ryan: Look, I can see you’re having a problem with the video feed, so I think I’ll just go ahead and say what I came here to say. How’d that be?
She’s had enough, pounds her fist down on a control panel and storms away, not looking at the screen or giving the men on the screen the satisfaction of her attention at all, and walks off behind the production crew’s set-up to the back.
Dan Ryan: Here’s the simple nuts and bolts of it. We’re the HOTv Tag Team Champions.
Jatt Starr: Co-World Champions! Or Co-Op World Champions, in honor of my new stepson because I married his ridiculously hot and limber and dexterous mother and I’m trying to be a positive male influence in his life, save him from the nerdiness and such, even if he has yet to find out about my new position in his life. Would you care to see the photos again?
El Jattador de Starrcelona pulls out his phone to show the photo of him and Natalie, Conor Fuse’s mother, making out on the hood of a sports car in Las Vegas. Dan Ryan, without looking and not wishing to see that photo for the twelfth time, knocks the phone from Jatt’s hands. Dan Ryan continues to speak to the masses as Jatt drops to pick him his phone.
Dan Ryan: I’m the HOTv Champion. We’ll be at PWA02 cheering on our good friend Steve Solex, and I’d very much like for us to take another shot at burying the hatchet. I know you regret the way you acted at PWA01. It was a very unpleasant scene, so I want to give you another chance to do the right thing. So I’ll come to you, hat in hand, and give you another opportunity to accept my apology. Hell, if we have time, maybe we’ll talk about your decades long penchant for benefitting from my evil and morally bankrupt chicanery. Until, of course, you had all of your sins wiped away by… well, pretty much just in your own mind. I’m sure it would be a nice topic that the public would like to hear us hash out.
The PRIMEView transitions into a split-screen: on one side, the two HOW interlopers and on the other, the Queen of the Ring power-walking through the hallways. She glares at the cameraman in front of her, and he very quickly moves out of her way.
Dan Ryan: Between now and then, I want you to promise me that you won’t do anything rash like confronting poor Melvin, or any of the people on your staff and roster who, by the way, have some history with me and are happy to do business.
Another backstage angle, right near the wrestler and staff entrance. Troy is approaching, seemingly on her way to the parking lot where the two men have set up shop, and she’s not alone. The PRIMEates roar with delight at the sight of Dametreyus, Wade Elliott, and a handful of Enemigos following in the Queen’s wake.
Dan Ryan: Now I’ll leave you with this. Don’t let your petty career-long jealousy threaten the survival of this company that you’ve spent so much time and effort in reviving. I know you’re already on your way out here, but I know you’ll watch this back, too, so listen well. You’ve known me for over twenty years, and while I know you are among the absolute most dangerous competitors in the history of our sport, you know that I fall into that same category. You also know that when my back is against the wall, I come out fighting, and Lindsay… you also know, I go scorched Earth. This can only end one of two ways ultimately. And you know what those two ways are without me telling you. You may not have thought this through all the way, but you have so much to lose. I don’t want to be the one that takes it from you…
The rear door blasts open and the PRIME contingent stalks toward the closest parking area.
Dan Ryan: But alas, like I said, this isn’t the time for threats. Let’s not end it that way. Instead, let’s end it with a demonstration. Think it over, search yourself and figure out what you want to do. But remember, and remember well… I always get what I want, my old friend.
Dan winks and snaps a finger, and the feed cuts out.
Moments later, Lindsay, Wade, Dam, and the Enemigos round a corner and come into view of the ice cream truck and the merchandise tables, all abandoned, and the HOTv tag team champions nowhere to be found.
TAG TEAM TITLES TWO OUT OF THREE FALLS: EMINENCE (C) VS. WINDS OF CHANGE
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… the following contest, scheduled for the best two out of three falls… is for the PRIME TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP!
Nick Stuart: Folks, this one’s gonna be a doozy.
Richard Parker: But not a Doozer.
Nick Stuart: No. Anyway, this match is going to be the best two out of three falls. The first team to notch two victories will be the winner here. After a fall is registered, there will be thirty seconds of rest before the match resumes.
Richard Parker: Definitely not a Doozer.
Nick Stuart: Stop that.
The lights immediately go out in the AT&T Stadium.
There’s a murmuring in the crowd as the darkness persists until a spotlight finds the grand piano at the side of the stage. The pink-haired woman who sits at the piano isn’t widely known to the audience, but her name is Annabelle Avalon. She’s the wife of PRIME star Coral Avalon. No sooner did she appear under the spotlight did she begin playing Claude Debussy’s classic “Clair de Lune.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
As the song is being played, peaceful images of the moon appear on the PRIME*View. Very artistic images of the moon, the kind where the moon is way bigger on the horizon than it should be. Beautiful. Breathtaking. And… wait. Something’s wrong.
Hey, remember at UltraViolence last year where a video like this appeared with a silhouette that looked a lot like the beautiful body of our beloved powerbomb boy was dunking an alien across a night sky? Yeah. That silhouette’s back. That alien is still getting powerbombed. Only, now they’re catching fire on account of atmospheric friction. Don’t worry, though, Sid’ll be fine. He is the powerbomb.
As “Clair de Lune” continues, Sid is powerbombing this alien straight into the earth from an unsurvivable height. Fans watch a horizon with a clear blue sky – different from the giant moon they’d seen before – and a streak of fire and dark clouds and powerbombs hurling itself down mercilessly to the ground. There’s only one result that could possibly happen from this.
An explosion. From powerbombs. On screen, a CGI mushroom cloud erupts over the horizon. Out on the stage, there’s a massive pyrotechnic explosion.
The on-screen camera pans back to show a man standing there, wearing a familiar fur cloak and carrying a battle standard. With a flourish of his cloak, he turns and walks away from the explosion, not even giving it another look.
The piano has stopped. The spotlight no longer shows Annabelle on her piano. There’s a smoke hanging in the darkness from the pyrotechnics. Then there’s smoke filling the entryway, as though Dusk himself is blessing the arrival of the challengers from beyond the grave (note: Dusk is not dead, we think). What breaks the silence, you might very well ask?
An accordion, of all goddamned instruments.
Lights flare up from behind the smoke, casting three individuals in silhouette. All three of them carry battle standards, not just Coral Avalon in the center. They stand there for a moment before the chorus of KONGOS’ “Come With Me Now” hits like a runaway freight train.
WHOA, COME WITH ME NOW
I’M GONNA TAKE YOU DOWN
WHOA, COME WITH ME NOW
I’M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW
Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips are the first to burst through the fog.
Sid Phillips, the man of many nicknames, looks like a king of winter. He has a fur cloak just like Avalon’s, but his is hooded. His head is contained within the mouth of a brown bear, which should really terrify him. But dead, skinned bears are not killing machines, so he’s fine. Sid is also wearing an eyepatch. So is the bear skin. Something, something went to the Best Arena, something.
Afraid to lose control, and caught up in this world
I’ve wasted time, I’ve wasted breath, I think I’ve thought myself to death
I was born without this fear, now only this seems clear
I need to move, I need to fight, I need to lose myself tonight
Smooth Joe Fontaine, the man of one single self-proclaimed nickname, is dressed in a tiger-skinned loincloth over the top of his wrestling gear. He looks like an ancient warrior that just put on his wrestling boots. An ancient warrior wearing a tricorn hat, that is. In one hand, he’s carrying his banner. In his other hand, he’s carrying a kendo stick with the handle of a cutlass – he’s not allowed to carry a real sword after that one incident. You know the one.
WHOA, COME WITH ME NOW
I’M GONNA TAKE YOU DOWN
WHOA, COME WITH ME NOW
I’M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW
Coral moves to join them, but keeps enough of a distance that the spotlight rightfully shines on Fontaine and Phillips.
Vince Howard: Introducing first… the challengers! From Phoenix, Arizona… at a total combined weight of four hundred and seventy pounds, or two-point-eight powerbombs! They represent the Crownless Kingdom! JOE FONTAINE! SID PHILLIPS! THEY ARE… THE WINDS! OF! CHAAAAAAAAAANGE!
Joe and Sid enter the ring, careful with their equipment as they do. Now that the lights are coming back on, their flags are much clearer. Sid’s flag is primarily red like his singlet, and its design includes a stylized artwork of Sid himself powerbombing Jared Sykes. A lot of love, attention, and artistic work was put into this battle flag. Of powerbombs. Joe’s flag is simpler. Primarily green with yellow lightning bolts on it… and the familiar skull with the broken crown of the Crownless Kingdom that he now represents.
The music stops, but the fans are still actively singing the chorus of the song as Joe and Sid remove their entrance regalia. Their flags remain, though.
Nick Stuart: This one is about pride, Richard. Yes, the tag team championship is on the line, but that division will be put on ice after this match. For the Winds of Change, and for Eminence, it’s about who best represents the tag division in its twilight. Eminence’s place in history is clear. The longest reigning tag team champions. The most successful title defenses. And in the two hundred and eighty days they’ve held those belts… they have never lost as a team.
Richard Parker: Never lost as a team, and yet the Winds of Change think they can beat them twice in one night? I’m not the biggest fan of Sykes, I think he’s a dumb-dumb idiot man… but are they out of their minds?
Nick Stuart: …Dumb-dumb idiot man?
Richard Parker: You heard me!
Nick Stuart: In any case… one year ago, the Winds of Change made their first appearance at last year’s Culture Shock as part of the Tag Team Survivor. No one would’ve expected that they’d make it to the final four amongst such luminaries as the Saturday Night Specials, 2Become1, the Dangerous Mix, or even our current 5-Star Champion’s alliance with Nathan Filmix. They’ve since only lost one match in the ring in PRIME.
Richard Parker: …To the current champions. Whom, as you’ve said, have yet to lose a match as a team in PRIME. They’re doomed. Doomed!
The arena lights go dark, and for a moment there is nothing but silence. That silence is broken by the sound of a gong, and then a haze of purple mist pours through the entryway.
Richard Parker: Oh good, we’re getting more weird stuff tonight. Great. Wonderful.
Nick Stuart: Did you really expect anything different, Rich?
Richard Parker: A man can hope, Nick. A man can hope.
The gong sounds again, and then again, and finally a slow, mournful funeral dirge begins to play over the arena speakers. And yes, if you think you know where this is going then congrats, you’re probably right.
A single spotlight shines on a space over the entrance where a figure in a long black overcoat and matching hat is slowly being lowered to the ground. The more astute people in attendance will notice that this figure is not moving, because it is a mannequin.
Richard Parker: Oh for Hoyt’s sake.
Yes, the whole world watched El Hijo del Super Cool Guy die a brutal death when his own partner was used as a weapon against him, and then there was this whole ordeal with a boat and some miniguns. But this is professional wrestling, and even the dead don’t stay that way forever.
With the newly-risen SCG suspended over the entrance, we can get to the real entrance. Or at least the part that Justine didn’t roll her eyes at too hard when all this bullshit was suggested.
There’s acapella chanting that fills the arena, as the first pieces of Jonathan Young’s power metal cover of “I See Fire” begins to sound out over the crowd. Brock will try and tell you the Ed Sheeran version is superior, but he’s full of shit. Don’t believe him.
The PRIMEview comes to life, showing three simple letters: KOP. Slowly cracks begin to form in each one, growing strong as the drum beat rises and chants get more intense.
A sword drives through the O, scattering all three letters into pieces. Flames rise up on either side of the blade, and when they finally die down a new word remains on the screen with the blade still behind it.
A wall of flame erupts across the stage.
Mister Howard, it’s time to let the people know.
Vince Howard: Making their way to the ring… Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts they weigh in tonight at…
He glances at his card and the irritation on his face is palpable.
Vince Howard: A total combined weight of two-hundred pounds plus “Look, Vince, I thought we had a thing going here, but then you went rogue and I can’t be held responsible for asking the W question right now,” and… son of a…
This could be the last time these two team together for a while on PRIME television, so we’re playing all the hits.
Vince Howard: Standing at a total combined height of eleven feet and four inches…
He throws the card away, utterly over this shit. In fairness, he thought he was over it months ago, but some people can’t let a joke go.
Vince Howard: Jared Sykes… Justine Calvin… They are the PRIME world tag team champions…
If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night
Calling out father oh
Stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side (high)
Vince Howard: This! Is! EMINENCE!!
There are no goofy outfits tonight, because despite everything that’s preceded it this is still a serious matter. Their division dies in a few minutes, and it’s not the kind of thing that you bring costumes to.
Nevermind the mannequin dressed like an, ummm, spooky mortuary lich. That’s different.
And if we should die tonight
Then we should all die together
Raise a glass of wine for the last time
Calling out father oh
Prepare as we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side
Desolation comes upon the sky
The pair are all business as they make their way down the aisle to the ring before turning over their hardware to Jimmy Turnbull. Before he passes his along, Sykes gives one final tap to the side plate on his championship belt, the one that’s featured a strawberry sticker ever since they won them at Great American Nightmare last July.
Nick Stuart: Vince Howard taking his leave now and we’re about to get underway.
Richard Parker: Man deserves a raise for having to deal with all this bullsh–
Nick Stuart: Looks like it’s going to be Joe Fontaine and after very little convincing, Justine Calvin here to start things off.
Justine smirks as she circles the young Joe Fontaine. Joe shrugs his shoulders, confidently? We’re still unsure if that was confidence or stupidity. In Joe’s case probably stupidity. Anyway Justine is all ‘Imma kill you,’ and Joe is all ‘Imma kill you harder,’ which we all know is really ‘oh my god I’m going to fucking die a horrible, painful death at the hands of this beautiful angry woman.’
Yeah it’s gonna be like that.
I mean it hasn’t happened yet, I was talking about how this whole thing is going to go.
Yeah, it’s the first fall. I can make this about me if I want.
Anyway Joe puts up his dukes, doing his best Mike Tyson impression and Justine stalks the antelope like a lioness in the fucking Sarengetti. Joe bounces on his toes and throws a jab, Justine leaps into action. A right hook to Joe’s open stomach leads us off and sends Joe Fontaine’s mouth open. Justine fires a left hand just below Fontaine’s eye, smashing into his orbital bone.
Joe is clearly in for a world of shit.
Richard Parker: Is Joe Fontaine a meme?
Nick Stuart: Yes, Jabber is already busy.
Joe tries to cover up, but Justine is beating that ass. Another straight right hand collides with Joe’s jaw, Fontaine tries to back away but Justine takes a step forward grabbing Joe by the back of the head and much like a big Russian man will do later in our main event, she yeets him into the far corner. Joe collides with the turnbuckles and Justine is already all over him. A flurry of hands to the body follows and Justine smirks, spinning around completely and practically decapitating Joe with a discus right hand.
Nick Stuart: OUCH!
Richard Parker: She punches real hard. Someone get some ice ready in the back. Fontaine’s face is going to be swollen up like a balloon.
Nick Stuart: Not if Justine Calvin keeps trying to cave it in.
Fontaine flips over the top rope, bounces off the apron and onto the arena floor. Sid looks on in pure horror as Justine looks over the top rope and motions for Joe to get up and back into the ring. Joe starts to move on the arena floor, he groggily gets back to his feet as our favorite tag team referee Jimmy T makes his way over to the ropes for a count.
Richard Parker: What do you think LT is going to do with Turnbull, there?
Nick Stuart: I’m sure he’ll be fine. Lindsay Troy is an incredible owner.
Richard Parker: They said the same thing about Elon at one time.
Nick Stuart: Gimme a break, Richard.
Richard Parker: I’m just saying someone should be helping him get his LinkedIn profile re…
Joe stumbles his way back towards the ring. As he goes to roll into the ring, Justine makes sure she cuts him off from his own corner. Practically ushering Fontaine into Jared. Joe takes a deep breath while Turnbull checks on him for a moment. Joe prepares himself again, and this time waits for Justine to come to him. He can hear Sykes talking right behind him, “She’s probably going to kill you, dude…”
As if on command Justine steps in with a left jab testing Joe’s defenses. He gets a pretty good shell up and starts to side step his way around Justine Calvin. Justine fires off two hooking lefts that Joe manages to block, but he gets backed into the corner anyway. Calvin tries to catch him with a right, but Fontaine manages to block again.
Richard Parker: Maybe Fontaine’s a counter puncher.
Nick Stuart: There’s a lot of maybes…
Fontaine isn’t a counter puncher at all. He’s very urgently trying to not have his head ripped from his shoulders by Justine Calvin. She unloads another body shot that causes Joe to wince and cover up. Justine gives Jared a look and the recently engaged couple make a quick tag over Fontaine. Sykes swings wide over the top rope, and smashes feet first into Joe’s midsection. Joe goes down in a heap, and Sykes is back up quickly. He pulls Fontaine to his feet, and drives a right hand, and then a forearm into the side of Fontaine’s face.
Nick Stuart: Quick tag, good teamwork.
Richard Parker: Still in the honeymoon phase Nick, wait till Sykes starts eating Cheetos off his stomach naked in the living room. Or buys a fucking dinosaur themed bicycle helmet. Just wait.
Nick Stuart: Sounds like you’re speaking from experience.
Richard Parker: I’m not that experienced… I’ve only been married four times.
Joe gets some fight back and sticks Jared in the midsection with a jab, but Jared returns the favor with a big knee into Joe’s midsection. Sykes takes off to one side of the ring, and comes back sprinting across the ring. He leaps into the air going for a hip attack, or an ass blaster. Whatever you want to call it. Anyway Sykes is flying through the air, his glorious ass primed for Joe Fontaine’s face. Joe, clearly noticing the ass coming based on the size of the shadow on the ground, and how he was suddenly standing in the dark just like that time he saw a full solar eclipse, ducks under.
Richard Parker: OUCH!
Jared smashes himself onto the top rope, his ass sliding back and colliding with the ring post. Jared sits there with a look of absolute shock and horror on his face as he’s straddled across the top turnbuckle. The pain in his tailbone radiates up his spine, almost paralyzing him. Joe begins to slowly crawl his way across the ring towards the outstretched hand of Sid Phillips. Justine, knowing the fury that The One Who Powerbombs could unleash on a weakened Jared, makes a business decision. She pushes her clearly worse half off of the turnbuckle and into the ring, the second he lands she slaps Sykes on the shoulder and springboards up to the top rope.
Richard Parker: Justine wants it! She wants it bad! She smells blood in the water!
Nick Stuart: Yes she most certainly does!
Justine springs to the center of the ring and comes down across Fontaine’s back with an elbow drop. Joe shakes like he got mildly electrocuted and Justine flips him over and hooks a leg. Jimmy T slides in, near perfectly. He delivers the best count of his life.
Nick Stuart: NO!
Fontaine kicks out for some stupid reason. If he had half a brain cell he would have sacked this fall to tag in the Rave Daddy Sasquatch. Yes, that’s a nickname for Sid. Just read the bio. READ THE FUCKING BIO BEFORE IT TAKES CONTROL OF THE WEBSITE. Anyway, He totally should have just let Justine pin him, but he didn’t and now he must be punished for his transgressions.
Richard Parker: I think that’s a mistake, Nick. Should have got the big guy in there. Even if it costs you a fall.
Justine drives a forearm across the bridge of Joe’s nose. Justine Calvin drags Fontaine up to his feet, she cocks back for a right hand and Joe finally does the first intelligent thing he’s done all match. He falls forward into Justine, pushing her backwards and off balance. The two clinch up and Joe is quick to go to work, off of instincts alone. He reverses behind her, Justine grabs at Joe’s hand over his wrist and tries to pry them off, but Joe keeps it tight. Justine tries to spin around, but Joe keeps her back, and finally is able to rip her to the ground with a weak German suplex. Justine hits the ground and rolls to her feet, now twice as pissed.
Richard Parker: Should have just stayed behind her until he figured out how to tag the powerbomber in.
Nick Stuart: Not a bad idea.
Joe spins around and Justine is already coming back at him. But this is more Joe Fontaine’s speed. This isn’t standing with your dukes up. This is wrestling. And Joe Fontaine may be dumber than a doorknob, he’s very, very good at wrestling. Justine throws a haymaker but Joe hits her with a drop toe hold and takes her down to the ground. Joe is up quickly, and so is Justine. She takes a swing and Joe backs away towards the ropes. Justine steps forward with another jab but Joe bounces off the middle rope and slips a roundhouse kick to the head that sends Justine down to the mat. Joe is over the top rope in an instant, he waits on Justine and as she gets up he explodes, springboarding off the rope and catching her with a two footed dropkick to the chest.
Nick Stuart: Joe is finally getting something going here against Calvin.
Richard Parker: Needs to tag that big beautiful monster of a man in.
Sid’s beautiful locks flow in the wind of the arena for a moment. Or maybe it’s the air conditioning, I dunno, Jerry World is pretty big. It probably has its own wind patterns. Anyway, Sid stands there like a beautiful tanned and rugged colossus while Joe Fontaine keeps trying his best not to die. Jared is finally back on his feet, he’s slapping the top turnbuckle with his hand and the tag rope begging for Justine to come tag him. Joe regroups for a second, and starts waiving Justine up, tuning up the band.
Richard Parker: Let her tag Sykes in…
Nick Stuart: He’s been having success against Calvin recently.
Sid reaches out his hand, but that fucking idiot Joe tries to superkick Justine Calvin’s head into the 2024 edition of ReVival, but Justine ducks underneath, grabbing Joe Fontaine around the waste, and throwing him over her head and down to the canvas with an exploder suplex. Justine and Joe are both down, both breathing heavy. Justine starts to crawl to her corner first, Joe starts shortly after. Justine dives and reaches out, and gets the outstretched hand of Jared Sykes.
Nick Stuart: Sid Phillips is willing Joe Fontaine to tag him!
Sid is pounding the turnbuckle, stretching out over the top rope. He reaches out, like Michaelangelo’s God on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, his arm completely out stretched, he’s shouting, the muscles on his neck bulging. Joe Fontaine dives forward.
Richard Parker: Told you he should have tagged him when he had the chance.
Jared Sykes yanks Joe Fontaine back to the center of the ring. Joe crawls and tries to drag himself, but Sykes plants a boot into the back of Joe’s knee while maintaining a hold on the ankle. Fontaine yelps and Jared drops a knee right into the back of Fontaine’s knee. Jared grabs Joe by the back of the head and yanks him up to his knees, switching around for a front face lock. He rotates and snaps Fontaine over, he sends him back to the mat with a snap suplex back towards the Eminence corner.
Nick Stuart: Smart ring control from the Tag Team Champions of the World.
Sykes jumps to his feet and hits the ropes. He comes back to a now sitting Joe Fontaine, slides in and smashes Fontaine with a sliding elbow to the back of the head. Fontaine snaps forward then backwards as Sykes crawls over and hooks a leg for a pin.
Nick Stuart: KICKOUT!
Richard Parker: Kid’s lucky he doesn’t have that many eggs to scramble.
Nick Stuart: I think they were scrambled awhile ago.
Nick was right, Joe Fontaine kicked out and started reaching his arm out towards an empty corner. Joe realizes his mistake and starts reaching out towards his corner but Sykes cuts him off with a boot to the side of the head.
Richard Parker: Ain’t gonna be that easy, kid.
Sykes pulls Fontaine up, and Joe tries to shove Sykes off of him. Going for the most basic strategy ever to make a tag. Sykes allows Joe to turn his back, but jumps up, and flips him back over with a poison rana. Joe’s head collides with the mat as an audible ‘ooooooh’ goes up from the crowd. Sykes flips Fontaine over again and hooks his leg.
Fontaine thrusts his shoulder up at the last second.
Richard Parker: Looks like Justine Calvin wants to go back to punching Joe Fontaine in the head.
Nick Stuart: Poor Joe.
Sykes nods his head and brings Joe over to the Eminence corner. He tags Calvin in and holds Fontaine’s arm up exposing his midsection. Justine fires off a haymaker that drops Joe Fontaine down to his knees.
Nick Stuart: That kid has taken a hell of a beating so far…
Richard Parker: It’s like he’s made out of rubber.
Calvin drags Fontaine to his feet in a front face lock. She twists over and takes Fontaine down with a neckbreaker. Sid Phillips is looking through his fingers, hardly able to watch his future brother-in-law keep getting the hell kicked out of him.
Richard Parker: Looks like Phillips is losing hope, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Wouldn’t you? I mean Fontaine’s been through the ringer here.
Joe Fontaine had absolutely been through the ringer, and that’s why Justine went for another cover. Sometimes it works. You never know.
Joe manages to get his foot on the rope.
Jimmy T, fighting for his job, sees it immediately and stops the pinfall attempt.
Richard Parker: Great referee, how do I endorse his ability to see a foot on the rope on here?
Nick Stuart: I hate you.
That probably wouldn’t be the last time Nick told Richard that he hated him tonight. It probably wasn’t the first. Anyway, back to this. Justine smiles at Jared and brings Fontaine back to his feet, she throws him into the corner and Fontaine immediately slumps down onto the bottom turnbuckle. Justine plants a boot into Joe’s chest, holding him there to tag Sykes in. Jared comes through the ropes and drives a boot to Fontaine’s midsection. Jared bends Fontaine down, and is now determined to finish the first fall of the match. He lifts Fontaine up onto the top turnbuckle and climbs up to meet him.
Nick Stuart: Dangerous places.
Richard Parker: Gotta kill this kid somehow. He’s like a cockroach. Gotta find something stronger than nuclear weapons.
The Thing That The Manhattan Project Really Feared was waiting in the far corner, shouting for Joe. Jared steps all the way up onto the top turnbuckle with Fontaine. He places him in a front facelock and tries to flip Joe over. Fontaine manages to slip his head free and shoves Sykes off of the top rope to the mat. Fontaine, half falls, half jumps, it was probably on purpose, it could have been on purpose, if it wasn’t Joe Fontaine made up for it by bringing his elbow down into the center of Jared Sykes’ chest on the landing. Both men are hit with the jumper cables this time, and find themselves laying in the center of the ring.
Richard Parker: TAG THE GIANT POWERBOMB MAN IN YOU DIPSHIT!
Nick Stuart: I think that’s what he’s been trying to do for awhile…
Richard Parker: He actually needs to do it this time.
Joe Fontaine begins to crawl. His elbows move themselves one in front of the other. Very, very, very slowly. Like he’s crawling across a beach at Normandy while trying not to be seen by German snipers. Justine is pounding the top turnbuckle as Jared slowly starts to make his way to understanding what was going on. By the time Jared has the full situation figured out, Joe Fontaine is already a quarter of the way across the ring. He looks at Justine, and knows he’d never make it in time. He dives after Fontaine’s leg and manages to grab on. A look of pure horror goes across Joe’s face as he’s just inches away.
Richard Parker: Oh he’s fucked.
Nick Stuart: …probably.
Sykes tries to pull Joe backwards, but Fontaine, out of sheer rage and fear of Justine Calvin beating his brains in, drags the giant dumper Jared Sykes has across the mat like a dog on the carpet and reaches out. Jerry World is a pretty big stadium, it seats a fucking shitton of people for wrestling. Like a metric shit ton. And in this moment, as Joe Fontaine reaches out and slaps the hand of Sid Phillips the entire place loses their collective minds.
Richard Parker: HE DID IT! HE DID IT!
Nick Stuart: Here comes Siddy!
The look on Jared Sykes’ face meant he knew exactly what was coming. I mean he knew a man who had been edged on powerbombs for near twenty eight minutes was finally finding his way into a match and Jared Sykes was the one thing in his way. Jared knew a powerbombplosion was imminent. He had no fucking clue what he was watching though as he got to his feet. Sid Phillips, Mr. Powerbomb Esq. to the rest of you idiots does the only thing a man who has been on the brink for the last twenty minutes can do. He violently slings himself over the top rope and absolutely decapitates Jared with a buckshot lariat.
Richard Parker: HE JUST POWERBOMBED HIMSELF!
Nick Stuart: Kinda looked like a laria…
Richard Parker: HE JUST POWERBOMBED HIMSELF!
The lariat wasn’t the prettiest thing that’s ever happened in wrestling. It wasn’t like watching someone execute a move so smoothly that you’d only remember the move for Sid Phillips. Really it was a man powerbombing himself over the top rope and swinging his arms wildly with a lot of momentum. Sadly that momentum connected with Jared Sykes’ larynx and he flips over like an Olympic diver. There’s a rotation and a half, with a twist for good measure. Sid hooks Sykes leg as Jimmy T comes back in for another perfect, immaculate, fantastic, please give him a job LT, count.
Jared Sykes is a lot of things. And in this match, we’ve referenced one idiot, over and over again. That being Joe Fontaine. But he’s not the only dipshit in this match. Before Joe Fontaine was born into this world, it already had one primordial dipshit. Instead of taking the fall and regrouping, Jared Sykes throws his shoulder up kicking out.
Richard Parker: Oh…
Nick Stuart: Here we go…
A sick maniacal grin.
If you thought Joe Fontaine was dead earlier, you have no idea how fucked Jared Sykes is about to be. Sid gets to his feet and wraps his massive, bulging arms around Jared Sykes’ torso. Sid Phillips lifts the only man with a (wrong)claim to being the most beautiful man in PRIME up by his midsection. He flips Sykes over, whipping him up and over his shoulder, and then crashing back down to the mat with a devastating deadlift powerbomb. It’s Justine’s turn to be looking through her fingers. Somewhere on the other side of the ring Joe Fontaine realizes he’s in Texas while Jimmy T slides in for another cover.
Richard Parker: Oh God…
Nick Stuart: Justine won’t let them lose the tag belts like this!
Justine climbs onto the top rope.
Richard Parker: She’s insane!
Like a T-Rex sensing movement, Sid sees her leap.
Sid jumps to his feet and catches the leaping Calvin in prime Powerbomb position. Justine is absolutely shocked and begins waving her arms wildly, while Sid Phillips plants her into the canvas with a classic powerbomb.
Richard Parker: HE PLUCKED HER OUT OF MIDAIR!
Nick Stuart: Calvin’s in trouble now!
The big fella takes a second to breath, but does not let go of Calvin, he pulls her all the way back up from whence she came. Jared Sykes gets to his feet, and Sid lifts Justine Calvin as high as he can and launches her into the stratosphere. Joe, finally realizing that he is in a wrestling match today, and that it is currently happening now, sees Jared Sykes trying to dive in front of Justine Calvin. But the release Sid put on the powerbomb has made things awkward and now he has to catch Justine Calvin out of mid-air essentially using his shoulders. Realizing Sid is in a two on one situation, Joe slaps him on the shoulder and comes through the ropes past Jimmy T. Calvin’s head snaps back, but she quickly sits up on Sykes’ shoulders while Fontaine springs up onto his larger partner’s own shoulders.
Richard Parker: No… they wouldn’t…
Yes Richard. Yes they fucking would.
Nick Stuart: They are playing chicken…
Justine takes a swing at Joe, but Joe is able to lean back further because of his height, and Sid’s broadness has given him a better platform. Fontaine fires a right hand down at Justine that connects. Meanwhile, below the madness happening on their shoulders, Sid Phillips hardly notices Joe is there and is charging after Jared, trying to grab him for another powerbomb. Jared has to punch and kick to keep Sid at arms length.
Nick Stuart: Interesting game developing here…
Richard Parker: Is this a pool party at the MGM? This is some shit from last year.
Sid’s reaching finally costs Joe as he is leaned forward onto the back of his partner’s neck, Justine manages to smash him with a jab. The stability of Jared having found his way against the ropes begins to pay dividends and she connects with another jab, and another jab. Joe snaps backwards onto Sid’s back. Justine starts punching down at Sid, but Joe sits up and does the only thing a man sitting on a powerbomb boy’s back can do. He grabs hold of Justine Calvin.
Nick Stuart: What in the hell…
Joe Fontaine isn’t a strong man. He likes to jump off things, he likes to wrestle, but he’s not a strong man. Sid Phillips is a strong man. He’s the one that lifts the heavy things, throws the people, and all is well and good. But today, Joe Fontaine has to be a strong man. All 180 lbs of Joe Fontaine’s power goes into removing 125 lbs from Jared Sykes’ shoulders. Joe tries to emulate his partner with a gut wrench powerbomb, but all he succeeds in doing is dropping Justine off of Jared’s shoulders and onto the back of her head. Jared is shocked at his partner laying in front of him, and it gives Sid Phillips enough of an opening. He grabs Sykes and starts to lift him, Sykes throws an elbow into Sid’s midsection that causes Joe to wobble. Sid grunts and fires an elbow of his own, to the back of Sykes’ head.
Richard Parker: That Sid Phillips Elbow Smash!
Nick Stuart: He learned it against The Kings of Popsicles last year…
Richard Parker: You mean Eminence…
Nick Stuart: Well I mean…
Richard Parker: Wait, these are the same people?
Nick Stuart: I can’t with you…
Sykes goes limp and Sid manages to lift Sykes up for a powerbomb. Sykes and Joe Fontaine come face to face. Joe smiles and presses himself off of his partners shoulders, Sid Phillips brings Jared Sykes down as hard as it is humanly possible to powerbomb another man, while Joe Fontaine rides down on Jared Sykes’ chest like a little dabbing Yokozuna. All of this lands directly on Justine Calvin’s chest.
Richard Parker: OH SHIT! OW!
Nick Stuart: Oh shit is right, wow.
Joe Fontaine stumbles back to his corner while Sid Phillips, after a feat of incredible strength Phillips collapses as Jared Sykes finds himself planted with his gigantic derriere on Justine Calvin, but his shoulders pinned to the mat by Joe Fontaine’s.
Vince Howard: Your winner of the first fall… THE WIIIIIIIIIIIIINDS OF CHAAAAAAAANGE!
Nick Stuart: If you are Eminence… What do you do in this thirty second rest period?
Richard Parker: Hope nothing is broken.
Joe Fontaine gets to his feet and helps Sid back to the corner. Sid is smiling and patting Fontaine on the back as the two discuss strategy. Sid is clearly breathing heavily, but Justine Calvin and Jared Sykes look like they got hit by a powerbombing freight train. Sykes is the first to his feet, and he helps Calvin to the apron while she holds her head. He looks across the ring at Fontaine, holds his ribs, and gets ready for the next fall.
Nick Stuart: Looks like the thirty second timer is about up, and we’re ready to go.
Richard Parker: Hopefully Calvin can forgive Sykes for landing on her like that. See, I told you, just like eating cheetos in the living room naked, this could be the first thing!
Fontaine comes across the ring and Sykes meets him. The two lock up, collar and elbow tie-up style. Sykes initially gets the upper hand turning the lockup into a hammerlock. Fontaine grimaces, but turns with a sharp elbow into Sykes’ chest that causes the former SCCW Universal Champion to clutch his ribs. Fontaine is lightning quick, and is able to turn through and send Jared Sykes to the ropes. He comes back off of them and Fontaine leapfrogs him, as Jared comes back, Fontaine hits a falling hip toss that brings Jared crashing to the mat.
Richard Parker: Good wrestling from the punching bag so far this fall.
Nick Stuart: Fontaine’s face is starting to swell up a bit from the beating Calvin gave him last fall.
Fontaine locks in a rear headlock on Sykes for a few seconds before taking off into the ropes himself, he comes back with a shotgun dropkick to Sykes’ mouth. Jared flips end over end onto his stomach from the blow and Fontaine tries for a cover. The impeccable Jimmy T slides in for the count.
Richard Parker: Eminence doesn’t have any falls to give here, so now it is no longer stupid to kick out.
Nick Stuart: I don’t think anyone wants to just give up a fall.
No Richard, nobody wants to just give away a fall. Even if they just got powerbombed through 47 different alternate dimensions and finally were able to come back to this reality, looking like they got hit by a steamroller. Fontaine gets back to his feet and it’s his turn to drag Sykes up behind him. Fontaine hits a little moonwalk, and peppers a jab into Sykes nose. Sykes recoils and our beautiful idiot Joe Fontaine grabs an arm and sends him into a neutral corner with an Irish whip. Sykes crashes into the corner and Fontaine follows him in, driving a rising knee into Sykes’ upper chest area.
Richard Parker: Sykes is already banged up there…
Nick Stuart: And it looks like Joe Fontaine is catching a second wind here.
Richard Parker: Probably more like his fourth. He’s been trying to catch a wind all day around here, trying to save them for later.
Nick Stuart: Really?
Richard Parker: You had to check.
Fontaine is on fire, and heads back across the ring, he slaps his hands off of his thighs and comes sprinting into the corner. He steps up for a dabbing shining wizard but Jared Sykes manages to move out of the way and Joe connects with all turnbuckle. Sykes makes his way to the corner and manages to tag in Justine Calvin.
Nick Stuart: Here comes Fontaine.
Joe doesn’t give her a second to breath and runs from the corner to smash Justine with a running forearm. Jared looks shocked, and Justine is already on the ropes. Fontaine heads to the ropes and comes back with a big dropkick that flips Justine Calvin off the apron and down to the floor. Fontaine takes off at a running sprint once again for the ropes, and comes back, Sykes, being a bit of a jumpy boy himself ascends to the top rope. Fontaine goes flying over the top rope to the arena floor and crashes into Calvin with a diving senton. Fontaine gets up and starts moonwalking, finishing with a dab. Normally everyone yells at Joe at this point and tells him to shut the fuck up, and throws a small amount of garbage at Joe for being a fucking idiot. But this time, Jared Sykes happens to be airborne and Joe Fontaine is none the wiser. He’s never been wiser in his life. Ever. Never Ever.
Richard Parker: GUESS YOU GOTTA GO BIG TO GET BACK INTO THIS THING!
Jared Sykes leaps off of the top turnbuckle, moonsaulting himself, and twisting through the air like a beautiful controlled flying dipshit psychopath. He connects with Joe Fontaine and the two are down in a heap.
Nick Stuart: Here comes the big man!
Richard Parker: Oh shit.
Sykes is as clueless as Joe Fontaine was. Mostly because nobody ever expected Sid Phillips to take off at a sprint, round the corner, and leap off the apron like a fucking beautiful maniac, but he fucking did it and Jared Sykes is his target. Phillips flings himself off of the apron at Sykes and spins through the air like a cannonball. He crashes into Sykes, and the two come down on top of Joe Fontaine.
Richard Parker: HE JUST POWERBOMBED HIMSELF OFF THE APRON!
Nick Stuart: That’s a senton…
Richard Parker: IT’S A GOD DAMNED POWERBOMB NICK!
Our beautiful, potentially soon to be unemployed tag-team specialist referee Jimmy T does the only thing he can do. He starts to count.
Richard Parker: Did they all die?
Richard Parker: That would be really anti-climactic if they all just died…
Nick Stuart: Eminence needs to find a way to get back into this ring. Winds can lose this fall here, they could get counted out and be declared the winner.
Finally Justine is seen dragging herself out of the carnage. She pulls herself up using the apron.
She looks around, realizing where the count is, and tries to dive back in, but Sid Phillips has a hold of her leg.
Justine makes one final lunge, and is able to rip her leg out of Sid’s grip, sliding in under the bottom rope. Joe Fontaine, the legal man, is still laying limp under a pile of bodies. Including part of Sid Phillips. That’s a lot of ass to be laying on top of a man. RIP Joe Fontaine. He died as he wished he had lived, buried under asses.
Richard Parker: No way is he going to make it…
Vince Howard: The winner of the second fall by count out… EMINENCE!
Fontaine and Phillips help each other across the ring, while Justine Calvin rolls out and checks on Jared. She helps him get to his feet, still clutching at his chest. Having a human wrecking ball land on him really did a number. Phillips and Fontaine talk in the corner, so far Joe Fontaine has started every fall, and with Joe’s current posture that doesn’t look to be a possibility as he hangs his head across the top turnbuckle. Phillips steps through the ropes and insists Fontaine take up a spot on the apron.
Richard Parker: Looks like Phillips wants to take the lead.
Joe shakes his head side to side and Sid steps back through the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Joe Fontaine waves him off though, that kid has so much heart.
Richard Parker: No brains though.
He turns around and finds himself staring into the green eyes of Justine Calvin. He takes a deep breath and nods to the best referee who may be unemployed in the near future, Jimmy T to go ahead and start it up.
It’s fast, it’s violent. Justine Calvin storms across the ring like a ball of fury, she tries to replicate the start of the first fall by backing Joe up into his corner, but this time Joe is prepared. He runs directly at Calvin.
Richard Parker: She’s going to clean his clock!
She doesn’t though. Justine pulls back for a hook, and Joe Fontaine leapfrogs over her and hits the ropes. Justine swings a wicked clothesline but Joe ducks under, springboarding off of the ropes and smashing her with a back elbow. Justine skids across the canvas and Joe Fontaine has officially entered the motherfucking zone. He sprints in again planting a kneeling Calvin with a hurricanrana. Calvin’s head rolls across the mat and she flips over. Joe jumps up, bouncing off the second rope and coming down across Calvin’s chest with a springboard moonsault.
Richard Parker: I don’t know what those two talked about… but holy shit is that kid fired up…
Nick Stuart: Joe Fontaine is on fire and Eminence’s record setting tag team championship reign is under threat.
Fontaine hooks both of Calvin’s legs up over her head, he bridges back with his hand in the air he counts along with Jimmy Turnbull.
Nick Stuart: Justine kicks out! The record setting reign is still alive!
Justine Calvin kicks out at the last possible second and looks over to her corner. Sykes is still holding his ribs, but he has his arm outstretched for the tag. Justine can see the game of chess in her mind, Calvin tags Sykes, Joe tags Sid. One look at the bruising along the side of the ribs, and the wincing face, she knows that can’t be the plan yet. She needed to give Jared more time. Justine rolls to her feet and throws an absolute zinger at Joe Fontaine that connects. Joe gets hit, and this time he doesn’t fold like a wet paper towel. He screams like some type of fucking super saiyan and punches Justine Calvin right back and rocks her. Joe comes in with a head full of steam, and throws another wild right hand. Justine does the only thing she can think of in this situation, she steps to the right and takes the wind out of Joe’s sails by dropping him face first to the mat, with his arm torqued backwards.
Richard Parker: Calvin is finding a way!
Nick Stuart: She’s got a submission locked in!
Justine yanks back on the head she’d managed to trap in a crossface. She pulls back, like a little demon gremlin woman, she’s wrapped around Fontaine’s arm and yanking like her life depends on it. Fontaine’s face is a look of sheer anguish. He’s shocked, mortified, and looking for an escape. His eyes dance rapidly, from Sid to the ropes. Joe could still give a little more. He knew it, he had to.
Nick Stuart: Fontaine crawling to the ropes!
Richard Parker: Should be crawling to Phillips!
The Chess Game continues as Joe yanks himself with his free arm across the mat. Calvin is shocked he didn’t go for the tag. She drops the crossface, giving Joe a second of relief, but suddenly she snaps up his other arm and is bending Joe Fontaine in half. Joe screams as Justine pulls back on his arm and begins to contort his wrist.
See Tag Team Wrestling is different. When you’ve been in the ring with your opponents for somewhere north of two hours, over three different falls, you know everything. You know how each team member matches up. You know the strengths and weaknesses of your partner. If you’re Joe Fontaine you know Sid has one more explosion in him. He had one more omega missile strike. Just like Justine Calvin knew Jared was on his last legs.
You know everything about your partner. That’s what makes tag team special, you become a family. It’s what makes tag team wrestling unique. And here we saw two families engaged in a dangerous game with the ultimate prize for each in the balance.
Nick Stuart: Tough spot for Fontaine!
Joe knows he’s in pain, he knows he’s in agony. But he has to hold on, he has to keep fighting. Because he knows the next move of the game. This submission hold was one part of a much larger picture. A battle within a war. Joe begins to rise to his knees with Justine on his back.
Richard Parker: Holy fuck.
Joe gets a foot underneath him and makes the dive of his life. Practically decapitating himself on the top rope. You sacrifice for your family. Joe Fontaine sacrificed his body today for his brother. Sid is reaching his arm out to Joe as the fantastically potentially future endeavored Jimmy T makes the call for the rope break. Calvin collapses, while Fontaine rolls over onto his back, his head still on the top rope. His chest heaves while he tries to draw air in. Justine slowly makes her way to her feet, the same as Joe.
Nick Stuart: That submission attempt took a lot out of Calvin.
Richard Parker: This match has taken a lot out of everyone.
Justine wills herself to her feet first. She stumbles over to the ropes and grabs Fontaine by the hair, slowly dragging him to his feet. Fontaine fires a right hand, then another right hand, then another right hand. Each one staggers Calvin more, but finally she gets her bearings and fires back with a left jab that catches Joe right on the bridge of the nose. Joe winces, his nose erupts, blood pouring down. He tries not to blink, he has to keep his eyes open.
Richard Parker: Oh shit! That’s his nose!
Calvin lands a body shot, and Joe blinks. He has no choice, it’s just a reaction. It’s like when Ray Stantz thought of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. It was just a reaction. But he knew, he saw the pieces falling into place. Joe takes the only shot he has. He loads up a blind right hand, he loaded the right hand up in Florida. Back where this latest confrontation started. He brought it forward as hard as he possibly could… Justine Calvin, is mid-throw for a second left jab, but it never connects. She sees the blow coming but it’s too late. She can’t stop it. The wild right hand connects and Justine Calvin is absolutely rocked.
Nick Stuart: WHAT A RIGHT HAND FROM FONTAINE! CALVIN IS ON THE ROPES!
There’s been other Calvin’s on the ropes. Justine’s father had been there a time or two, Justine had even seen it in person. Her onslaught was stopped, and the world started to fade around the edges. She knew the right hand had bought Joe time, she was just hoping the broken nose had bought her enough time. She glances back towards Jared, her vision begins to focus. Joe Fontaine is standing in the middle of the ring, trying to wipe the water out of his eyes. As he wipes he smears the blood from his nose across his cheek. The nose is pouring like an open faucet, there’s no cut man in wrestling. Nobody is going to shove cotton up your nose to stabilize it. Joe was on his own with this problem. He looked back towards his corner through the blurred vision, the looming figure of Sid was there, but Fontaine still knew better.
Richard Parker: GET HIM IN THERE!
Finally Joe gains a moment of clarity and storms back at Justine. She has to go first. Joe grabs Justine by the hair and whips her into the ropes. Joe slams into the ropes himself and comes back. Joe leaps at Calvin with a forearm but Calvin ducks under. Joe hits the mats and rolls to the apron. Calvin hits the far ropes and comes back. Fontaine leaps to the top rope and springboards himself across the ring with an angled shooting star press.
Nick Stuart: SIRROCO—NO!
Justine Calvin rolls under as Joe lands on one foot and kneels. Justine is already back up, grabbing Joe by the back of the head. She grabs Joe by the tights, yanking him to his feet, pulls him up, and dumps him over backwards.
Nick Stuart: OMMMMEEEEGGGGGAAAAAAA 13!!!! Justine Calvin smashed Joe Fontaine with Sykes’ finisher.
Richard Parker: HE’S DONE FOR! SHOULD HAVE TAGGED PHILLIPS!
Calvin hooks Joe’s far leg as Jimmy T counts.
Richard Parker: HE’S ALIVE!
Nick Stuart: I don’t know how he did it, but Joe Fontaine kicked out of Omega 13.
Calvin slaps the mat angrily, clearly frustrated. She slowly gets to her feet, and drags the bloodied Fontaine up alongside her. She grabs Joe in a front face lock, looking for a suplex but Fontaine drives an elbow down across the back of her head.
Nick Stuart: Where is this fight coming from, Richard?
Richard Parker: I have no idea, Nick.
Calvin lets go grabbing the back of her skull, Fontaine takes a step back giving everything he has left and explodes off the ropes, he jumps into the air to grab Calvin for a tornado DDT, he rotates, but something feels wrong. Calvin spins with him and shoves him off of her and into the air. Joe smashes face first into the canvas at the feet of Sid Phillips. Justine races over and drives a boot into the middle of his back. Joe has no choice.
Richard Parker: HERE HE COMES!
Calvin has no hope. She’s done her job, she knows what happens next. This furious goliath of a man has found her across the ring. She tries to step to the side, but Sid grabs her around the waist and yanks her up over his head. The beautiful rugged powerbombing son of a bitch drives her into the canvas. Justine knows the ride isn’t over. Sid lifts her up again, this time falling forward with her and smashing her into the mat for a second time. Sid stacks her up, while Jimmy Turnbull slides in for the count.
Nick Stuart: Calvin kicks out again!
Richard Parker: Looks like she needs more powerbombs Nick.
Sid Phillips thought the same thing. He runs over towards Justine who is trying to make it to her corner and grabs her around the waist. He flings her up onto his shoulder, as she is lifted, she barely manages to touch the hand of Jared Sykes.
Nick Stuart: Here comes Sykes.
Sykes roars into the ring like a ball of fire. While Sid Phillips may be a Tunguska level event, Jared Sykes is no slouch himself. Jared takes the big man down at the knees with a low dropkick. Sid manages to lose his grip and Justine Calvin lands on her feet. She stumbles back to her corner holding her head while Jared Sykes goes to work. Jared bounces off the ropes, comes back and throws himself knee first at Phillips. Sykes connects across Sid’s nose.
Richard Parker: OW!
Sykes knows it’s not going to be enough. Holding his ribs he marches over to Phillips and pulls him up to his feet. He bends him backwards, and looks to his corner. Justine Calvin, still in pain jumps to the top rope and off in one fluid motion. Jared lifts Sid up, giving it everything he has. Joe Fontaine tries to run into the ring but Justine Calvin lands the stomp into the Omega 13 perfectly and leaps off of Sid’s chest catching Joe across the bridge of the nose with a forearm.
Richard Parker: THAT’S IT!
Nick Stuart: Here comes Turnbull.
Jimmy slides in.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Your winner by pinfall… and STILL your World Tag Team Champions… JAAAAARED SYYYYYKES AND JUUUUUSTINE CAAAALVIN! EEEEEEMINEEEENNCEE!!!!
Nick Stuart: THEY DID IT!
Richard Parker: Tape to tape Nick! It’s Incredible!
Jared rolls off of Sid Phillips and looks for Justine. The two embrace, and as Turnbull hands the two their titles, Sykes lifts Calvin up onto his shoulders and parades her around the ring. Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips are helping each other up. Arms wrapped around each other. Jared sits Justine down while picking something off of his side plate.
Nick Stuart: What a battle, Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips, gave this one everything they had. That was incredible. This is what makes tag team wrestling so great.
Richard Parker: I can’t agree with you more.
Jared walks across the ring and turns Fontaine around. He holds his hand out for a handshake. Fontaine nods, and returns it. Jared rolls up Joe’s hand tight and raises his arm in the air as the crowd cheers.
Nick Stuart: What an ovation for Fontaine, Phillips and the Winds of Change.
Our scene fades from the stadium to commercial, with Sykes picking Calvin back up onto his shoulders.
COMMERCIAL: HIGH OCTANE WRESTLING
FIVE-STAR TITLE: NATE COLTON (C) VS. TYLER ADRIAN BEST
Back into AT&T Stadium, we return for what is, to date, one of the most highly anticipated 5 Star Championship Matches in the ReVival Era of PRIME.
Nick Stuart: Folks, it doesn’t get much bigger than this for the 5 Star Championship. Nate Colton is one of the faces of the new era of PRIME. One of its most successful, one of its most beloved. He’s ascended to the number one spot in the rankings. Not only that…in his near year in PRIME…he has yet to be pinned or submitted.
Richard Parker: And that’s great. He’s a fresh faced, aww shucks kind of guy. Always saying the right thing. Always seemingly doing the right thing. But there are many out there…many…that think him holding the 5 Star Championship is wrong. That he was handed that belt at Colossus as part of Brandon Youngblood’s plan to make FLAMBERGE suffer in humiliating fashion.
Nick Stuart: And I think that’s foolish.
Richard Parker: And I think you’re being naive.
Nick Stuart: In any event, Nate Colton won the 5 Star Championship by beating Rezin at Colossus just a few months ago. And he’s sense successfully defended the championship against Anna Daniels. But tonight marks a major obstacle, and while many consider FLAMBERGE to be Colton’s forever adversary…the man the champion faces tonight might just be the greatest challenge he has ever faced.
Richard Parker: Maybe? Look, I love FLAMBERGE. FLAMBO is great. One of my absolute favorites. He beats up all those that are THE BIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH. But Tyler Adrian Best is literally come from a pod, granted the best training in the world, and has the genetics of champions running through his veins.
Nick Stuart: His appearance in PRIME surprised many in the wrestling world. Tyler, not one year ago, looked to be the next in line for High Octane Wrestling supremacy. His father, Mike Best, is widely considered the Greatest of All Time in HOW history, but his son…Tyler…looked to be on a trajectory unlike any other. He captained his team to victory in War Games and was, alongside Christopher America, the sole survivor of his team. And while he chose not to claim the World Title as his own, he took the mantle of his father, becoming ICON Champion. It seemed like he was sure to become an unstoppable force.
Richard Parker: Sure to be? He was.
Nick Stuart: But then, well…he lost the ICON Title and disappeared. To show up in PRIME, to sign a contract to compete here…nobody would have expected HOW Owner Lee Best to allow his own flesh and blood to compete here exclusively.
Richard Parker: And what has he done since coming here? Cut down everyone in his path. Second and third generation wrestlers all. Eddie Cross. The Anglo Luchador. And now…tonight, he gets another. He gets Nate Colton, and if he does what he’s been doing? He’s walking out of Dallas with the 5 Star Championship.
The anticipation built, the lights in AT&T Stadium draw down suddenly. The flash of cell phones and the concourse are the only light within the stadium. And flashing across the PRIMEView?
T A B
“People I Don’t Like” by Upsahl blares as the acronym begins to drip with 97Red. A singular spotlight falls upon the entrance ramp stage as Tyler Adrian Best appears, taking all the focus, his slow stride stopping just before the runway toward the ring. Looking out at the fans filling Jerryworld, the Grandson of GOD has the slightest of smirks.
Vince Howard: This contest is set for one fall and has a one hour time limit…and is for the PRIME…5 Star…CHAAAAAAMPIONSHIP!
A wall of raining gold sparkling pyro falls, all before red starts to pour down the center, all before it stretches out and envelopes the entire scape of the PRIMEView
Vince Howard: Introducing first…from Chicago, Illinois…
Tyler begins to make his way to the ring, with purpose, confidence, swagger carried with every movement.
Vince Howard: He stands five-feet, eleven inches tall, and weighs in at one-hundred and eighty two pounds…the chaaaaaaaallenger…he is…TYYYYYYLER! AAAAAAADRIAN! BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST!
He barely pays them any mind as he saunters to the ring, a few slight gestures to the crowd punctuating his movements. At the end of the ramp, a spring enters his step, and quickly, he rolls under the ropes, exploding to his feet, stepping past the official for this contest, Ashley Barlow on his way to the far corner. Climbing the turnbuckle, he throws his arms outward, the prized tattoo covering his chest displayed prominently as the lights in AT&T Stadium return. Upon his perch, Tyler pantomimes to the Dallas crowd, playing them like a violin.
Richard Parker: What a beautiful display for the challenger…
Nick Stuart: Garish could be a word to describe it.
Richard Parker: It’s an investment. Look the part. Become the part. Only thing is…Tyler Best already IS the part.
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
The lights of AT&T Stadium once again go out.
The fans erupt in anticipation, and soon their energy is rewarded as the PRIMEView springs to life. On a field of white, three words appear
These fade away, replaced by a logo. It’s the letter C in the shape of a diamond, with a smaller N inside. The logo is framed by the name.
A classic rock riff signals the beginning of “Tryin’” by the Eagles, and the Dallas fans give out a raucous cheer. Moments later, Nate Colton emerges from the curtain. He holds his arms up high, showing off his blue satin jacket–his family name emblazoned on the back; his first name stitched on the front. He also shows off the Five Star Championship, currently secured around his waist.
Nate walks quickly to the ring, stopping periodically to point at groups of cheering fans, or waving his arms to hype up the crowd. There’s just one thing; as he makes his way, alongside the ramp, percussive pyros launch to the sky.
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton is here, and he is feeling the excitement from this crowd!
Richard Parker: Careful he doesn’t burn himself out coming to the ring.
He climbs the steps, ducks between the top and middle ropes, and enters the ring. He heads directly to his corner and undoes his jacket, showing off his gear–white trunks that reach his upper thigh with a blue stripe down the side, white boots with blue trim, white MMA gloves, and blue elbow and knee pads. After handing his jacket to a ring attendant and unfastening the title belt, he makes another appeal to the fans–this time, holding the Five Star Championship high above his head.
He hands the belt to referee Ashley Barlow and heads to his corner, where he stretches against the ropes and mentally prepares for his challenger.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Evansville Indiana…weighing in at two-hundred fifty-five pounds…he is the Next Diamond! He is the PRIME Five Star Champion! He is…NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE! COOOOOOOOOOOOOOLTON!
The music fades. The bombast and smoke ebbs away. This isn’t the future; it’s the present. And we have it here, deep in the heart of Texas. Tyler drops from his perch on the top rope, flatfooted, offering a mock clap at the display for the 5 Star Champion. Nate Colton, deep in preparation routine, doesn’t notice.
And with that, Ashley Barlow calls for the bell.
Nick Stuart: And we…are officially underway.
Richard Parker: The Prodigal Sons of the Midwest. Their families carry with them different legacies, but here, tonight, none of that matters. What matters most is the 5 Star Championship. What matters most is what one of them will, ultimately, do to cast their own shadow over this sport.
Nick Stuart: The fans here in AT&T Stadium are buzzing, Richard, and why wouldn’t they? Tyler Adrian Best proved himself a phenom in High Octane Wrestling not even one year ago. Say what you will about the stacking of decks, in how it was the team HE captained that seemed to be given every single advantage…
Richard Parker: And do you blame Lee Best, or Mike Best? That young man standing in our ring is their flesh and blood. He is a dynasty, yes, but he’s also their child. Their grandchild.
Nick Stuart: I’m not disputing any of that. And of course, paternal instinct is going to carry with it a desire to see those that share your lineage do well in whatever it is they do. What I will say, though, is that there IS a question of whether Tyler is actually a true winner of War Games. How much of the heavy lifting did he do? How protected was he by security and other means?
Richard Parker: None of that matters in the official record books, and none of that matters when the people involved know what they’re signing up for. And he was a captain. He could have awarded himself the High Octane World Championship and been the youngest Champion in that promotion’s history. He could have lapped past even his own father in achieving such stature in this sport. But he didn’t. He took on being the Icon, to carry the burden and challenge. And he’s not even twenty years old.
There is nary a movement offered between Tyler and Nate, the two standing close to their opposing corners, eyes trained on the other. While Colton dons an expression of focus, TAB flashes only a smirk, a trademark growing the more it is seen. The Next Diamond reaches his gloved hands to his head, cracking his neck, and then steps forward, readying himself in an amateur stance.
Nick Stuart: Colton here looking like the first to try and engage.
Richard Parker: I’m almost shocked we aren’t hearing about how this is a battle between the just and the profane.
Nick Stuart: Tyler’s credentials are impressive. His pedigree even more so. In so many ways, he’s been bred for exactly this. Trained for exactly this. To be a champion in the sport of wrestling. The tutelage of Lindsay Troy–
Richard Parker: Who might be the best wrestler in PRIME history–
Nick Stuart: Goes without saying. And he’s only lost a single professional match in his young career. But Nate Colton…
Colton takes the center of the ring, his arms extended, fingers flinching. The 5 Star Champion offers a mighty size advantage over his challenger, and yet, TAB is undaunted, not even acknowledging him. Mind games?
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton is the biggest, the greatest challenge he has ever faced. And while some in Chicago might not like me saying that, and while our contacts with PWA might not like me saying it…I call it like I see it. Nate Colton hasn’t had a family’s promotional arm hand him the greatest opportunity it can possibly offer.
Richard Parker: Like his father hasn’t–
Nick Stuart: His path to tonight, in being 5 Star Champion, in being undefeated in singles competition in PRIME…it isn’t paved by his father’s success. It might inform us, but it’s not the same. His father or grandfather didn’t work to gift him title opportunities. He had to work to get to PRIME, he didn’t debut under the brightest of lights. He’s worked to get here. He’s worked to become the number one ranked wrestler in all of PRIME–
Richard Parker: So this is silver spoon versus the working class? That going to be your praxis? Like Nate Colton isn’t aping a nickname given to him by some legendary wrestler in PRIME? Like he hasn’t wormed his way in profile by buttering up so many veterans who have some tacit connection to his family?
Nick Stuart: I think the conversation is proven versus unproven.
Richard Parker: Eddie Cross and Anglo Luchador would beg to damn differ.
If the anticipation for a tie up is to come, keep waiting. Because Tyler isn’t giving you what you want. In fact, he’s blowing snot at your very insistence. But The Next Diamond is through waiting. He’s pushing closer, cutting off the ring, his long reach making his already sizable frame all the more daunting in the eyes of observers. It’s only when it seems like there’s no possibility to escape that the former HOW Icon Champion even proffers a response, matching Colton’s wrestling stance with one of his own. The grin seems to only grow. A way to mock the Evansville Indiana product?
Colton looks to shoot.
Richard Parker: And so does Colton’s cheek!
Tyler anticipated the shot attempt. Nate didn’t anticipate the cocked arm of his opponent, nor the absolutely massive pimp slap that blasted him across the cheek. The ring now open to him, TAB shuffles away, almost playfully, his smirk growing ever wider as he throws his arms out, the 5 Star Champion static, now standing completely upright in place.
Nick Stuart: Best just walloped Colton in the face with a heavy slap, but the Champion barely flinched!
Richard Parker: So says you. I swear I saw him spit out some blood there. Maybe even a tooth.
No to the blood and teeth. Yes to a huge gob of spit falling from the face of Colton, who’s head remains downcast. Tyler should be going in for the kill, but he doesn’t, instead resting against the ropes, a hand to his ear to goad the booing of the fans.
Nick Stuart: That blow looks like it caught Colton completely off guard.
Richard Parker: It’s obvious that it did. Like he wasn’t expecting TAB to pack anywhere near that kind of punch.
The 5 Star Champion finally brings his head up from its drawn position, turning to face Best, who is practically giggling as he offers a shrug. The microphones don’t catch what Tyler is saying, but fans at home can hear something along the lines of ‘sorry to ruin your whole plan to wrestle hump me to death, dumbass, but also, not sorry, and by the way, fuck you’. Not any of those words, TAB has a gift for gab that is probably more soul rending.
What happens next is a surprise, even to him.
Richard Parker: Did…is Nate Colton…is he stupid? Did a concussion knock him stupid?
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton is pointing at his other cheek, offering it up to Tyler Best!
His hands are even down to his sides, hanging limply. This should be a moment where Tyler thinks twice, or maybe even takes his time before swinging. Again, he doesn’t play by your rules. Within milliseconds of the offer, TAB strides over and absolutely smacks to piss out of Colton’s other cheek.
Colton’s head bolts backward, and just as quickly, rockets back into place, his whole body tensing.
And again, to the opposite cheek.
Richard Parker: Why is he–
TAB will keep starching the 5 Star Champion’s face.
Nick Stuart: I don’t–
Richard Parker: –these blows–
Nick Stuart: Colton ducked that last slap and BIELED Best across the ring with that hiptoss!
The launch point is high up on the Stanislav Yeet scale…a BABY Yeet, if you will. And as TAB hits the canvas, he tries to shoot back to his feet, having absorbed the blow on his hip, but on the stagger, Nate Colton AGAIN launches him with another high angle hip toss. Tyler tries to scurry back to a vertical base, but the running forearm strike that obliterates him puts an end to all that.
Nick Stuart: COVER!
Tyler is busy kicking out, but Nate uses the opportunity to blast him in the face with a grounded forearm, hooking the near leg for another cover.
The bigger 5 Star Champion is like deadweight on top of Best, laying on his upper body, smothering the challenger, forcing him to spend valuable energy in frustrating fashion with another quick kick out, and when he does, Colton holds him down on the canvas with a transitioned side headlock, the near arm splaying outward, almost as though TAB is locked in a choke. The War Games winner stamps his heels into the canvas, trying with his free arm to release the vice grip over his neck. The palm prints color Colton’s cheeks a bright flush, a little water in his eyes glimmering in the lights of AT&T Stadium. A heavy wrenching of the hold to try and smother the challenger brings a smile across the face of the champion, all as Tyler tries to claw his way free, tries to reach outward.
Nick Stuart: Tyler Best learning just what it means to have someone nearly fifty pounds heavier than him use all of that to their advantage.
Richard Parker: A lot smarter strategy than constantly being slapped in the face.
TAB’s struggles show a level of frustration rare for the Grandson of GOD. His fingernails don’t work to break the hold, no matter how they bite into the flesh of Colton. In desperation, Tyler throws wild punches to the side of Colton’s head, a bell clap to the ear, and after half a dozen, the grip is loosened enough to give TAB a little bit of wiggle room, letting him use his free arm to transition and brandish the forearm as weapon, driving it into the side of the champion’s head and pushing him over so he’s the one with control, pinning Colton to the mat.
A kickout. Ashley Barlow reprimands TAB for the use of the closed fists. Does he care? What do you think? Tyler isn’t done, breaking away, rising up as quick as he can and throwing a soccer kick in the direction of Colton’s head, the 5 Star Champion able to avoid it by scant milliseconds. Kicking the air, Tyler finds himself a little out of sorts, and seeing Colton trying to scramble up to his feet, launches himself on top of him feet first in a display of violence that would make Mauricio Shogun Rua proud. The blow takes the energy out of Colton, and as he lies, looking up toward the Grandson of GOD, he eats a heel to his throat.
Nick Stuart: Tyler Adrian Best showing an immense mean streak here, launching at Colton like this, we weren’t expecting–
Richard Parker: He was born for this, forged in the crucible of champions. If you weren’t expecting this, then YOU haven’t been paying attention!
Standing over the downed 5 Star Champion, TAB is all sick smiles of malice, all loaded up, launching thick, powerful kicks to the shoulders of Colton, the smack reverberating throughout the ringside area. Another and another and another. He leaps from his stand, ready to drive his heel into the face of The Next Diamond, aiming center mass to explode his nose, but Colton rolls out of the way in the nick of time, the intensity of which Tyler is stomping his leg causing the heel to collide with the canvas and jar his knee, a slight hyperextension, forcing him to sneer as he instinctively grabs at his leg.
It’s enough time for Colton, his face a mask of irate rage, to not only get to his feet, but to grab hold of TAB.
Nick Stuart: Back suplex by Colton! That little bit of an opportunity is all it took!
Tyler is reeling from the concussive blow, but before he can scurry away, Colton grabs him in a cravat, taking him over and slamming him to the canvas with a jerking snapmare, maintaining the hold and shooting back to his feet, jarring Best back to the canvas with another snapmare, and for a third time, he rises from the canvas, only to release the hold, smoothly transitioning to a Russian leg sweep, driving TAB into the canvas.
Nick Stuart: The 5 Star Champion showing off his repertoire here!
Richard Parker: And leveraging his size advantage!
If you thought Colton is finished with his mode of attack, you’d be wrong, as he yanks TAB back to a standing base, grabbing a front chancery, and slamming Tyler into the canvas with a heavy vertical suplex. A float over and a cover.
But just barely. Just barely. Colton rises, TAB staggers, and on wobbly footing, he turns to Nate Colton, only to receive a starching slap across his face that drops him to the canvas, only to roll outside and fall to his knees, walking with them over the mats and to the guardrail, lifting himself up and slamming his fists into it as her swings around, shooting daggers at the 5 Star Champion.
Nick Stuart: Tyler thought this would be easy. You can tell. And now, he’s on his heels, having to deal with some adversity and some heavy artillery from The Next Diamond!
Richard Parker: That’s how you see it. I see it differently. Tyler had lost all momentum and was getting mauled in there. Now, he’s away, and all Nate Colton is doing is looking at him from the inside of the ring. And each of those seconds Tyler has on the outside? He’s recovering. He’s getting his wind back. And more importantly, he’s able to devise a strategy to overcome what he just went through. Like a savant. A wrestling savant.
As if sensing Richard Parker’s commentary, and with Ashley Barlow’s ring out count at three, Nate Colton decides, after hearing all the trash talk, after getting slapped, after getting stomped out…that he’s not about this little shit squirm away freely. He shoots out of the ring, sliding from the ring apron, and while TAB slightly stumbles, he’s there, throwing a clobbering blow toward the larger Colton. Too bad for him, Nate hits him with one of his own, shutting him down, lifting him up and driving him back first into the ring apron, the air escaping the challenger, this undesirable chiropractic adjustment made all the worse by Colton smothering him, latched onto him like a lamprey. Tyler tries throwing a 12 to 6 elbow into the back of the champion, but the blow doesn’t have much on it, and before he can steel himself to throw another, Colton is lifting him from the spot, dropping him with an inverted atomic drop that causes spit to fly from the Grandson of GOD.
Colton loads up, looking to hit another vicious running forearm on the outside.
TAB sees it coming in the nick of time, dropping, and Nate Colton’s forearm blasts into the ringpost.
Nick Stuart: OH NO!
Richard Parker: Should’ve stayed in the ring!
Tyler, beat up as he feels, has been trained to deal with the rigors of the ring. He senses the opportunity in front of him. And as Colton grabs at his arm, wincing, shaking it, the not-so-funny bone maybe completely broken, Tyler is finding all sorts of reasons for it to be funny, grabbing onto the arm of the 5 Star Champion, twisting it with an arm wringer, then jerking the whole arm downward.
Ashley Barlow wants the both of them back in the ring, immediately, but Tyler brushes her off, mouthing something toward her that only serves to furrow her brows. TAB then grabs the arm of Colton, wrapping the elbow across the post, again and again, never letting go of the wrist, driving it into the unforgiving steel time and time again, all until swinging the arm outward and then bashing it elbow first into the post.
Richard Parker: That arm is going to be useless going forward!
The count is rising far too high. Best rolls underneath the bottom rope, then outward again, forcing a restart. What a little shit. But it has purpose. He gets on the ring apron, standing up. Colton is wincing, grabbing at his arm from a kneel, trying to pull himself back up to a stand. And when he finally does?
There’s the punt he was looking for earlier. And the 5 Star Champion crumbles into a heap. Brushing away sweat and flecks of his hair, the sociopathic look of joy spreading across TAB’s face is harrowing, as is the savage smirk spread across his lips.
Nick Stuart: This is getting dangerous here…
Richard Parker: Dangerous? What are you talking about?
Nick Stuart: If Nate Colton can’t continue–
Richard Parker: Then we have a new 5 Star Champion.
The replays show just how sickening the punt is at it connects with the face of Colton. And seeing the aftermath, we can see that Nate’s eye is already starting to swell, heavy reds, an almost jaundiced level of bruising instantly washing over the eyelid and ocular cavity.
Do you think TAB cares?
How many times are you going to be asked this rhetorical question?
All he gives a shit is the damn gold.
And seeing an opportunity, he flips off the downed Colton, and then, suddenly, makes his move, grabbing onto the ropes.
Nick Stuart: SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT FROM TYLER ADRIAN BEST CONNECTS!
Richard Parker: KNEES FIRST INTO THE 5 STAR CHAMPION!
The inertia from the blow launches Tyler away from Colton, but, once again, Ashley Barlow is reaching a crescendo point with her ring out count. And if the young man is going to become the Champ Champ? Well, he needs to get the first damn belt out of the way. Grabbing Colton, he jerks him up from the ground, rolling him back into the ring. Once inside? He latches onto the arm, punting it over and over, and then using his boot to facewash the champion.
Richard Parker: You feeling what I’m feeling, Nick?
Nick Stuart: I–
Richard Parker: A 5 Star Championship belt with a strap that’s 97Red?
Nick Stuart: –ehhh…
Richard Parker: It’s okay. You’ll get used to it. It’ll look nice set off against the faceplate.
The fans in AT&T Stadium are growing restless. And why wouldn’t they? They can read the tea leaves. How many of them thought that this match was going to be Nate Colton, primordial babyface, the number one ranked wrestler in all of PRIME, and man who has YET TO BE PINNED IN PRIME, putting the petulant grandchild of Lee Best into the bad boy corner? How many thought that not only was Colton going to pay the TAB, but take him behind the woodshed for the beating his mouth and his whole sense of being deserved.
Tyler lifted Colton on his shoulders.
Is it sinking in? Are you fucking realizing it? YOU asked for this! This is YOUR fault. Mission statement from jump. Superior training from a state of the art facility headed by legends in the industry against some podunk midwestern chode with his little dipshit varsity jacket and his little ‘aww shucks I just am working so hard’ attitude.
Nick Stuart: TY-BREAKER! TY-BREAKER!
Can you feel the oxygen being driven from your obese, know-it-all ass? The good guy wins? Not when you have the genetic makeup of GOD. Your entire concept of good and bad, right and wrong, it bores him. Your little digs bore him. He uses it to paper your cage so you don’t ruin his floors as you frustration shit in despair. Your little second and third generation sacrificial lambs were there for the slaughter, to be served with a side of mint. Not even able to legally drink a glass of wine, yet he’ll gladly, gladly enjoy sipping on this victory.
Richard Parker: COLTON IS FINISHED! HE’S DONE!
Nick Stuart: STREETS SWEEPER!
The cover is automatic.
How about that blow job?
Richard Parker: WHAT?!
Nick Stuart: COLTON WITH THE KICK OUT AT THE VERY LAST SECOND!
Richard Parker: I DON’T BELIEVE IT!
And neither can Tyler, who, if even for a moment, is seated mere inches away from the man he is still challenging for the 5 Star Championship. His eyes are in disbelief. And as he looks over to Nate Colton? That shock is evident. Palpable. But just as soon as it appears, it fades, under a look of disdain and hatred. As the 5 Star Champion tries to ready himself, tries to get off the canvas, tries to do anything, Tyler Adrian Best launches atop of him, firing off dirty elbows from the mount. As Colton’s gloved hands fight upward to stymie the blows, TAB fires off a headbutt, and then another, all before grabbing the arm he’s brutalized and wrenches it in a kimura, doing everything he can to push away from his body, to try and break the arm.
Richard Parker: COLTON HAS TO TAP!
No he doesn’t. What he has to do, though, is something, fast, or his arm is about to snap. His 5 Star Championship reign will end if he doesn’t. Positioning himself, he drives his forearm into the face of TAB, but the Grandson of GOD isn’t about to let go. Yelling. Demanding. There’s no threat that he will break the arm unless he taps. No sharp, incisive words. Just actions and all the torque he can muster.
Nick Stuart: Colton forced Best to let go of the hold or lose the match by forcing his shoulders to the mat!
A masterstroke. But just because he’s managed to get Tyler to release the hold, it doesn’t mean much of anything, not as Tyler once again clamps onto the hold on the rising Colton. Another kimura. There is no hesitation this time.
Nick Stuart: BACK BODY DROP SUPLEX!
Richard Parker: WHERE IS HE FINDING THIS?!
The impact jars Tyler off of him. And as Colton does his best to shake his arm, its limp measure shows the damage that has been done. TAB rises shortly thereafter, and looks to throw a snapping kick at the wound.
What does Nate Colton do?
He absorbs the fullness of the shot with his chest, letting it eat the blow rather than his arm. The sudden shift has TAB out of sorts even with connecting, especially when the 5 Star Champion clobbers him with a forearm shot from his good arm.
COLTON! COLTON! COLTON!
Nick Stuart: LISTEN TO THIS CROWD!
Richard Parker: UNBELIEVABLE!
Tyler’s eyes are crossed from the shot, but he manages to remain standing. And before Nate knows it, his chest absorbs the full brunt of a scintillating knife edge chop.
Like chopping a tree.
It’ll take time.
But eventually it will fall.
Except the tree is growing stronger.
Except the tree seems to be making its striker wilt with each and every blow of spent energy.
Like solid freaking oak. Tyler Best gasps from the rapid fire succession of knife edge chops. But Nate Colton stands there, towering above him, his eyes wide, his eyes wicked.
And on the last strike, Nate Colton lets out a mighty roar that causes Tyler to, if even for a moment, quake in his boots on a slight backpedal.
Nick Stuart: NATE COLTON!
A blistering forearm strike with the good arm instantly flattens Tyler. He doesn’t give him a chance to rise, jerking him back up to his feet with said arm before blasting him with another forearm shot. And as Nate Colton goes to grab Tyler, TAB goes to throw a blatant low blow.
Ashley Barlow doesn’t see it.
But the fans aren’t booing either.
Because as Tyler is on the wind up for the desperation shot?
He eats a monstrous knee to the bridge of the nose.
Richard Parker: THAT BROKE HIS FACE!
Maybe it did. Whatever it did do, the blow is a vile concussion maker if ever there was one.
Nick Stuart: COLTON WHIPS TYLER ACROSS THE RING
Richard Parker: OH MY HOYT–
Nick Stuart: COLTON SPLASH!
Richard Parker: COLTON SPLASH?!
Nick Stuart: NATE COLTON DOVE INTO TYLER ADRIAN BEST WITH EVERYTHING HE HAD AND BURIED HIM IN THAT CORNER!
Richard Parker: OH NOOOOO–
Nick Stuart: INVERTED SUPLEX! YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS!
Richard Parker: BUT HE ONLY HAS ONE ARM–
Yeah, he only has one arm. One good arm. The Colton Clutch isn’t in deep. If Tyler Best can manage, if he can offer a single bit of furious response, a strike, a bite, hell, maybe anything, this Colton Clutch is broken. After all, he has to know this. All his training, all the tutelage, being born and trained to be a killer in the ring, his synapses are firing in survival mode even if he isn’t aware. The Best that money can buy.
Nate Colton didn’t have state of the art facilities. He didn’t have World Champions grooming him to be the next in line. The Colton Academy is filled with second hand equipment, a ring that smells deeply of mildew. It’s trappings are far away from Chicago, from the East Coast. Surmounting the rigors of his father’s perfectionist gaze, he wasn’t awarded title opportunities or big money contracts. Just a jacket. Just a family. A legacy not out of a petri dish.
A championship earned and paid for with his own sweat, the right way.
The Colton way.
Nick Stuart: COLTON CLUTCH SUPLEX!
Richard Parker: OH MY HOYT! OH MY HOYT JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESUS!
Before Tyler can react, and because he doesn’t have enough to strangle the life out of his challenger, The Next Diamond uses everything he has and hits the Colton Clutch Suplex near the corner, the proximity causing the back of Best’s head to smash into the bottom turnbuckle pad. Young as he is, there’s sure to be a click in his neck, perhaps for the rest of his life.
Nick Stuart: COVER!
KICK. THE FUCK. OUT.
Nick Stuart: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!
Oh? That tab you thought was paid?
Richard Parker: His head…his head bounced off that bottom turnbuckle so viciously…
Tyler kicked out RIGHT in the nick of time. And you know why?
Because even with scrambled brains, he is still a furious mass of youth and cum.
Nick Stuart: AND NATE COLTON IS BESIDE HIMSELF!
Colton’s eyes are as wide as china saucers. His mouth trembling in disbelief. And then, he looks down, the challenger stirring, just barely, just barely alive, smirking, the son of bitch smirking…
Nate struggles to pull Best back up, Tyler practically deadweight. And with a wince, and with a roar from deep within, Colton hits ANOTHER Colton Clutch Suplex, AGAIN deep in the corner, TAB’s head violently ricocheting off the turnbuckle.
Colton makes the cover, with everything he has.
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: Oh my word what a match!
Richard Parker: His head…his head bounced off that bottom turnbuckle so viciously…
Colton instantly is off of Tyler, who is splayed out. If the blow hadn’t knocked him practically unconscious, an arm, a foot, something, could have stopped the three count. As it stands? The desperation Colton Clutch Suplex hits with a brutal efficiency, something so destructive that it would have felled everyone else in the wrestling world.
Vince Howard: YOUR WINNER…AAAAAAAAAAND STIIIIIIIIIIILL…5 STAR CHAAAAAAMPION! NAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE! COOOOOOOOOOOOOLTON!
Barlow is back in the ring, handing the 5 Star Championship to Nate Colton as he dabs his eye with arm, all before wincing and dropping it to his side. He can’t even hold the title as she raises his hand.
Nick Stuart: Say what you will…Tyler Best showed us, tonight, that any thoughts that he can’t get his hands dirty, that he isn’t ready to bring the fight…they are wrong…
Richard Parker: Maybe…if Ashley sees the replay…there will be a reversal…
Nick Stuart: But we also found out that, even in the face of a vicious opponent wanting nothing more than to destroy him…that Nate Colton…the 5 Star Champion…is your huckleberry and so much more.
Stooping on a knee and grabbing the 5 Star Championship with his good arm, Colton pumps it skyward, and then goes back to tending to the bruises and welts beginning to grow all over his body.
And as Colton’s muted celebration goes on, Tryin’ by The Eagles blasting through AT&T Stadium, Tyler Best slowly starts to come to with the worst headache imaginable, nearly foaming at the mouth as his head begins to crane up off the mat.
What does he see?
A Colton ‘fuck you’ disguised as a thumbs up.
“Whatever happens tonight, I’m ready for what happens next.”
With a hard snap, the scene shifts from pitch black to the image of the cell. The one that will cage the Goat, the Bear, and the Black Hole.
Standing in front of the looming structure, the former Universal Champion, eyes drawing across the steel.
Hayes Hanlon: There’s a shift in the air. I can smell it.
The empty arena seats flicker, and serve as a backdrop for a variety of images, like a massive projector. Grainy and distorted, but clear enough to see.
Hayes Hanlon: When PRIME returned, we planted our flag in the ground to let everyone else know that they were, once again, in the minor leagues. And buddy, we were successful. We’re the mountain top.
Images of Brandon Youngblood, Phil Atken, Cancer Jiles, and Hayes himself, all holding the Universal Title overhead. Footage of Rezin, Flamberge, and Nate Colton with the Five Star. And Eminence, Tag Titles held proud.
Hayes Hanlon: Not Missouri. Not SHOOT. Not sVo. And definitely not High Octane.
The logos of PWA’s member feds swipe by, before landing on the mother of em’ all.
Hayes Hanlon: PRIME.
Hayes Hanlon: And now everyone wants a piece. TAB. Pleasant.
Footage of Arthur Pleasant in the ring flashes forward, followed by Tyler Adrien Best’s arrival in PRIME.
Hayes Hanlon: Ivan.
The arena turns red, revealing Stanislav and Ruslan, faces glowering.
Hayes Hanlon: I didn’t get much time to wave the PRIME flag with the Big Strap, but don’t worry. I’ve got a long career ahead of me.
Footage of the fall, The Escape Artist pinning the Event Horizon. For the second time, taking away his Universal Title.
Hayes Hanlon: But Rezin said it best, didn’t he? He said I was like a star that rose in so much mass, that I’d inevitably collapse on myself. And disappear from view.
Those images warp and mold into an enormous dark circle. Shaking and shuddering. The accretion disc of light forming around it. A black hole.
Hayes Hanlon: And he was right. Except that last part. Because I’m not going anywhere.
It shakes the screen, rattles the rafters, rumbles the ring.
Hayes Hanlon: You all better hope I walk out of that cell with the Universal Title. Because if I don’t, if I complete my collapse…
It starts eating the arena, seat by seat. Screw by screw. Falling in on itself. But not before the camera zooms in on the hard, dark eyes of Home Run Hayes.
Hayes Hanlon: I promise you’re gonna see something new.
And then, it explodes.
Leaving the screen buried in white light.
PRAYERS ARE POINTLESS
From the everlasting VOID, a voice calls out…
Cut to the Universal ANTI-Champion of PRIME, seated at the edge of a steel folding chair in his personal room backstage.
Rezin: Hope is irrational.
Technically, it’s more of a glorified broom closet than an actual “room”. But then, the Escape Artist has never been one to require the finest of accommodations. Just a place to park his ass, and four walls to remain hidden from the outside world, while he waits for the one thing he’s there to do.
Rezin: Hope ain’t nothin’ but a safety net for the weak mind, to keep ya from thinkin’ ‘bout how the Universe around us all is absolutely cold and indifferent to our existence. And yet, ya keep clingin’ to it, like the scum that ya are. HOPIN’… for this nightmare to end. HOPIN’… for a champ ya can look up to. A champ that can make ya proud to call yourself a FAN… of PRIME Wrestling.
Unlike the champ we have at present, bearing the grimey, uncurated PRIME Universal Championship over his shoulder like a sacrilegious war trophy.
Rezin: A year and one day ago, at this very event, I told Simon that I was made to shock cultures…. and I’ll be DAMBED if I lied. Strippin’ that belt offa your anointed hero in Hayes Hanlon overturned erry expectation in this company. I didn’t just level the playin’ field… it fuggin’ TERRAFORMED that bish! In one night, I completely changed the narrative here in PRIME Wrestling… and the world over.
Rezin’s bloodshot eyes are unfocused and dilated. Practically shark-like.
Rezin: Now y’all are dealin’ with the product of twenty years of hardship, heartache, and HELL on that filthy canvas. A LOSER that refuses to lose, and has taken your Universal Title hostage.
His lips curl into a toothy grin. Also shark-like.
Rezin: Here in a few minutes, I’m walkin’ into that cell… knowin’ there will be no place for this Escape Artist to ESCAPE. But I ain’t sweatin’ that. In fact, if anybuddy should be sweatin’, it’s THEM… not knowin’ what I will inevitably do when I’m cornered and left with nowhere to run. When the SAVAGE inside of me has no choice but to ESCAPE this prison of flesh and bone, and be left to RUN WILD!
His chuckle is dry and raspy. Wet gravel sifting around at the bottom of a steel barrel.
Rezin: Like I said a year ago… the only doctrine I believe is survival of the fittest. And in that DAMBed cage, it ain’t gonna be any different. There will be no pesky fines to punish me for what I do. No Enemigos to stop me once I’ve begun. Ironically, that cage is the one place where I can forever and finally be my FREE self…
Two raps at the door behind him. And a voice from the other side.
So is the Goat Bastard, rising up to his feet and stowing away his championship belt into its sack before tying it off.
Rezin: Understand me, PRIME… I want to leave ya all disappointed tonight. I want to leave ya feelin’ uncertain about the future of this company. I want the blood-suckin’ suits back at the network to shit their pants when they realize how much they stand to lose offa me. I want this match to inspire all those deodorant-hatin’ High Octane neckbeards out there to haul their fat asses out of their computer chairs and jump a staggering two inches for joy, knowin’ the greatest competition to their dearly beloved franchise just signed its own death sentence by allowin’ a crusty ol’ fuck like ME to continue bein’ its Universal ANTI-Champion.
Behind him, the door swings open, and light pours into the dank confines of the room.
Rezin: Cause all I do is disappoint. It’s prolly the only thing I’m good at in this world. And the Universe is no doubt intendin’ to disappoint ya as well, by showin’ ya once more what happens when ya invest in something as frail and flimsy as hope.
He slings the sack over his shoulder.
Rezin: Prayers are pointless, scum. I’m your god now.
Rezin turns and steps through the doorway, leaving behind the VOID and disappearing into the light.
COMMERCIAL: TROPICAL TURMOIL
UNIVERSAL TITLE HELL IN A CELL: REZIN (C) VS. HAYES HANLON VS. IVAN STANISLAV
Vince Howard is not in the ring, nor should he be. That’s because it’s about to be ground zero for Hell on Earth. Standing by the timekeeper’s table, the herald of everything PRIME makes his announcement.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… The following contest, scheduled for one fall… is the CELL MATCH FOR THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP!
The cell – which has been hanging over the ring all night – slowly lowers as though it’s the most impractical and hateful shroud ever constructed in the history of mankind. Soon, the cell hits the floor with a gentle clang, which is the last thing that this cell will ever do in its existence that could possibly be described as “gentle.” Technicians swarm it to ensure that it’s stable.
The lights turn crimson as a matching flag emerges on the PRIMEview. When the opening chord of the Soviet National Anthem erupts through the sound system, a yellow hammer and sickle whirl into the center of the flag and CLANG together to form the Flag of the Soviet Union.
Nick Stuart: Here we go!
Richard Parker: Comrade!
Vince Howard: Introducing first, from Arkhangelsk, Russia and representing The Red Army! He stands 7’1” tall and weighs in at 400 lbs. The Russian Bear! IVAAAAANNNN STAAAAAANISSLAAAAVVVVV!!!
The crowd immediately turns sour as the enormous Ivan Stanislav emerges from backstage. He raises his massive arms over his head and bellows angrily at the crowd, who gives it back to him with just as much fervor. Stanislav looks confident, if not a bit off balance as, indeed, he is alone. There is no Alexei Ruslan.
Nick Stuart: This is one of the rare times Alexei Ruslan will not be with The Russian Bear. We got reports of a terrible food allergy that sidelined the otherwise constant member of Ivan Stanislav’s entourage.
Richard Parker: I’m thinking it’s some sort of a conspiracy, but Propper-chik Stanislav will no doubt be victorious!
Nick Stuart: If you’re going to kiss Ivan’s ass, you should at least know how to pronounce his military title.
As Stanislav begins his slow walk towards the imposing Cell, the flag on the PRIMEview fades away and plays old footage of a much younger, beardless Stanislav in PCW. Stanislav is seen tossing such luminaries as Tyler Nelson, Clyde, Jeremy “Krayzie” Howard, and Alan Kriegman to and fro, before finally yeeting The Monster Known as Meanstreak in The Red Scare and holding the PCW World Championship aloft. Images switch to his time in OSW as a now bearded, and slightly grayer Stanislav annihilates the likes of The White Mexican, Ed Novak, Trashcan Man, Howard Porter, and even PRIME Hall of Famer Hessian, before finally standing with the OSW World Championship high over head.
Ivan takes his time, basking in the glorious national anthem while simultaneously pointing at the crowd and jawing at them. He stands near the doorway of the cell, which is ominously open, and places his hands on his hips. He bypasses the door and checks the cell itself, testing the size of the links relative to his fingers. He grips the wall and exerts pressure on it, this way and that, and tests its weight.
Nick Stuart: Stanislav checking the construction of the cell, you think, Richard?
Richard Parker: He thinks of everything, this guy. He considers everything. It has to be doubly so without Ruslan here!
Stanislav walks slowly around the cell as he inspects it, pointing at Nick and Richard and bellowing at them.
Ivan Stanislav: I will be Universal Champion, the two of you watch!
He stares at Nick Stuart.
Ivan Stanislav: I will be listening to this broadcast later, Stuart. Keep that in mind!
He then walks past towards the door.
Richard Parker: Yeah, no trash talking Ivan, Nick. I don’t wanna deal with the fallout again.
Nick Stuart: Trust me, neither do I, but I’m not gonna be intimidated by him.
Richard Parker: That’s cool. I’m fine being intimidated by him.
Stanislav finally makes it to the door and swings it open. He squeezes himself in, having to duck and shift slightly to the side to fit. As he climbs into the ring, The Russian Bear roars once more as the Soviet Anthem suddenly cuts out and the lights return to normal. Stanislav looks annoyed and surprised by this, and he first looks to Nick and Richard with anger in his eyes, before the PRIMEview switches to none other than Alexei Ruslan, who sits behind a desk in an office.
Ruslan’s face looks drawn and his skin is pale. He looks tired, but there is fire behind his eyes. He smiles still as he, presumably, sees Ivan in the ring.
Alexei Ruslan: Praporshchik Stanislav! It saddens me that I cannot be there in person this evening, on the eve of one of the greatest nights of your career!
Stanislav blinks, and he looks slightly overcome as he sees his friend on the screen. Ruslan too, offers a friendly if somewhat saddened smile from afar.
Alexei Ruslan: Comrade! I salute you on this evening of victory. You know all that must be done, and there is no alternative other than victory! I am proud of you. Russia’s sons and daughters are proud of you! Destroy Rezin and vanquish Hayes Hanlon! Show the world that no tainted victory from UltraViolence will overshadow your greatness! Forward, always to victory! I will see you soon, dear friend!
With tears in his eyes, the subdued Ruslan offers a salute, and Stanislav reciprocates. The PRIMEview cuts off as Ivan stomps around the ring, his eyes downcast as he processes this. He grabs the top rope and pulls it incredibly far as he stretches it, turns, and waits for his opponents.
“WHEN MY BACK’S TO THE WAAAALLLLL!!!”
Ivan sneers as “Daggers” by We Came as Romans punches everyone in Arlington directly in the fucking face with an assault of a noise. The PRIME*View bursts and shudders, planets and stars erupting in space, akin to the exploding white flash bulbs throughout the arena in the seats and in the rafters.
And within the wall of white light at the top of the entry, the silhouette of the Former Champ. The eGG Beater. The Comeback Kid.
The Event Horizon.
Vince Howard: Next! From West Linn, Oregon! Standing six-feet, three inches tall and weighing in at two-hundred and sixty-one pounds! A former Five-Star Champion! The former Universal Champion! The Event Horizon!
Dark eyes stare through the cage and into the ring, right into the very soul of the Russian Bear, and a determined frown hides underneath the ‘stache.
Vince Howard: HAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYESSSSSSSSS-
Vince Howard: -HAAAAAAAANNNNNLLLLOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!!!!
The music breaks down, and Home Run Hayes begins to march. The Hanlon faithful are on the verge of turning AT&T Stadium into a mosh pit, but Hayes keeps his eyes trained forward.
Nick Richard: The greatest challenge of this young man’s career awaits him inside that cage, Richard! New territory for the former Champ!
Richard Parker: I try to keep my betting to FanDuel, Nick, but when it comes to Hanlon’s chances tonight, I fold. Talented as he is, he’s never spent any time in the hardcore corner of our sport. Propper-chik Stanislav speaks the language well, and Rezin? Hell, he’s the posterboy.
Nick Richard: A hard point to argue. But Hammerin’ Hanlon has proven time and time again that what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in determination. It was enough to take him to the mountain top this past December. He’ll have to leave everything inside that cell tonight, but if I know the young man like I think I do, he will.
The music thunders as Hayes reaches the bottom of the ramp, he pulls his eyes away from Ivan and looks up at the steel construction. With one deep breath into his wide chest, he steps forward through the door and climbs into the ring. Upon standing, he sets his eyes back to the Russian Bear, and holds tight to shared deathglare as the music and lights roar and burn.
Just one left. The champion. The anti-champion, that is.
A colossal shadow seems to fall over AT&T Stadium as the lights fade in a sweeping motion from one arena to the other. Ominous air raid sirens herald an oncoming terror from the skies.
The PRIMEview flickers to life, and becomes a shining silver rectangle cutting through the all-encompassing void. Through this window in the audience can see a nondescript black and white view of a cloudy horizon beyond a vast and barren plain. Meanwhile, an angelic voice lilts over the PA along to a haunting dirge played by calliope organ.
In Heaven… everything is fine!
In Heaven… everything is fine!
In Heaven… everything is fine!
You’ve got your good things, and I’ve got mine!
The sky splits apart in a flash of light, and we get a glimpse of HEAVEN… in the form of fifty megatons of thermonuclear fire exploding in an instant. Pillars of pyroclastic ash rise off the earth and disappear into the cloudline. It’s 1961, and Tsar Bomba just wiped a nondescript chunk of the Motherland off the map.
In Heaven… everything is fine!
In Heaven… everything is fine!
In Heaven… everything is fine!
You’ve got your good things, and you’ve got mine!
The test footage of the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created slowly fades into a view of Planet Earth. No longer a pale blue dot shining through the black infinity. Now just an ashen gray tomb of uninhabitable, radioactive rock, drifting endlessly through the coldness of open space.
In Heaven… everything… is… fine!
Death’s sweet lullaby fades into a cacophony of droning terror. Gaia’s black oceans begin to bleed over. Inky liquid drips down the surface of a planet… drips off the PRIMEview screen, through an impressive visual effect. The dripping intensifies into a black cascade within seconds, with the sludge pooling itself onto the stage.
Intense ethereal whooshing becomes buzzing guitar feedback. A moment later, the intro to “I Have A Prepare Statement” by Whores. riffs over the arena’s sound system, sending shockwaves across the whole state of Texas with every thump of the bass.
An ARM suddenly rises out of the pitch… soon joined by a second! They find a base, pushing a tar-soaked head and torso up through the surface through a trap door beneath the pool of sludge. Slowly and agonizingly the figure crawls out of the black filth and rises up to its full height, a specter standing amidst billowing smoke and flashing strobes. It’s only when two wide, extremely bloodshot eyes flash open that we finally recognize who it is.
The Escape Artist. The Goat Bastard. Ol’ Dopesmoker himself.
And, just to make it less confusing for the people tuning in to PRIME for the first time to catch this Pay Per View spectacle, the screen displays five letters scrawled in white across black.
R E Z I N
Looking like a sludge-soaked devil that had crawled its way out of the unclean asshole of hell, the Universal ANTI-Champion extends his arms out to his side to show the world the only Messiah they need for this Good Friday…
A WALL OF FIRE erupts across the back end of the stage, silhouetting the crooked and blackened form of Goat Bastard against a blazing hellscape.
LET’S SEE HOW LOW I CAN GOOOOOO!
I’M GONNA SINK THIS SHIP! DOWN! DOWN! DOOOWWWN!
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOOOOOOWS!
STAND BACK! WATCH ME DROWN! DROWN! DROOOWWWN!!
At his side, he clutches an equally slimy sack that came up with him from the VOID below. Inside, we can see the outline of the Universal Title, its gleam still stubbornly being hidden from the world at large. The man holding it hostage plucks a superheroic-sized joint into his mouth and lights it up.
I’VE SEEN ALL I WANNA BE NOW!
I’VE LISTEN TO THE LIES!
LORD I’M READY TO TAKE MY PLACE
SMEARED OUT AGAINST THE SKY!!
Taking his first drag, he wanders to one side of the stage and stares intensely into the sea of screaming fans. His only emotion is intense fury as he soaks in the reaction. Whether the PRIMEates love him or hate him doesn’t seem to matter… only that for the first time in his life, he is being SEEN. After a beat, he goes to the other side of the stage to keep the other side of the arena from feeling left out.
UNTOUCHED BY HUMAN LANGUAGE!
UNSEEN BY PRYING EYES!
SAIL OUT INTO THE DARKNESS
I’M FINALLY ALIIIIIIVE!!
Rezin’s infernal glare finally finds the ring… the CELL surrounding it… and the two challengers standing within it, staring down the Universal ANTI-Champion with conviction. His lips curl back into a hungry grin, forming a horrendous visage of eyes and teeth peering out from the black pitch that covers him, and he moves toward the head of the rampway.
Vince Howard: Their opponent… making his way down to the ring… from the Inverted Crossroads of America in Indianapolis, Indiana… weighing in at two-hundred and five pounds…
LET’S SEE HOW LOW I CAN GOOOOOO!
I’M GONNA SINK THIS SHIP! DOWN! DOWN! DOOOWWWN!
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOOOOOOWS!
STAND BACK! WATCH ME DROWN! DROWN! DROOOWWWN!!
His descent down the rampway is slow and methodical, his expression spastically flipping from murderous glee to inflammatory rage every few seconds. With every step, he’s flanked by twin trails of FLAMES that steadily keep up with him, giving the appearance of a man who leaves nothing but ruin in his wake. The sack, and the championship belt within it, is dragged listlessly at his side. He looks more like a man going somewhere to dispose of a corpse rather than a champion looking to defend the greatest title in the sport to date.
Vince Howard: THE ESCAPE ARTIST! THE GOAT BASTARD! THE SELF-PROCLAIMED HERALD OF THE A-PUNK-ALYPSE… AND THE UNIVERSAL ANTI-CHAMPION!
HEADING HOME, I HEAR THEY MISSED ME
WHERE CITY LIGHTS JUST CAN’T SEE!
FAR AWAY FROM EVERYTHING!
I’M GONE! I’M FREEEEE!!
Rezin reaches ringside in one piece, breaking a year-long tradition of slipping and falling on his ass during his every Pay Per View entrance. He walks a slow and patient circle around the cell, eyeing the structure with a mix of suspicion, paranoia, and quiet determination.
Vince Howard: THIS! IS! REZZZZZZZZZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNN!
UNTOUCHED BY HUMAN LANGUAGE!
UNSEEN BY PRYING EYES!
SAIL OUT INTO THE DARKNESS
I’M FINALLY ALIIIIIIVE!!
When he completes the circuit and ends up at the cell door, an official holds it open for him. The ref’s expression is visibly nervous, and he promptly bails from his post when Rezin glares at him for a moment and lurches in his direction. Holding the door open for himself, the Goat Bastard gazes up to the top of the cell looming over him. Taking one last breath, he slings the sack over his shoulder and enters, slamming the door shut behind him.
YOU DON’T WANNA TOUCH MY SKIN! YOU CAN SEE THAT I’M UNCLEAN!
YES, I KNOW THEY LOVE A WINNER! YES, I KNOW I CAN BE SO MEAN!
Rezin circles the ring again, this time staring down his two opponents waiting for him inside. Hanlon has the look of fierce determination, eager to take back what was taken from him. Stanislav is a towering Soviet statue of patience, with only his face giving away his feelings of revulsion. Tremoring with electric energy that is as incalculable as it is unstable, Rezin slowly scales the steps, and keeps climbing until he reaches the top rope.
I NEVER LEARNED THE LANGUAGE! FOREVER AN AMPUTEE!
FLOAT OUT INTO THE WATER! I SINK! I’M GONE!
Lackadaisically sitting on the top rope, the grinning, pitch-covered Goat Bastard spends a beat gazing deep into the sea of screaming fans. He takes one final drag off the spliff, now burned down to a nub, and pitches the roach before rising to his full height and performing a picture-perfect MOONSAULT into the center of the ring.
Pyros explode in sequence over the roof of the cell the moment the Universal ANTI-Champion sticks the landing, and pirouettes with his arms outstretched into a Jesus Christ pose and his head tilted back to unleash a primal scream of PUNK ROCK intensity!
LET’S SEE HOW LOW I CAN GOOOOOO!
I’M GONNA SINK THIS SHIP! DOWN! DOWN! DOOOWWWN!
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOOOOOOWS!
STAND BACK! WATCH ME DROWN! DROWN! DROOOWWWN!!
As the music dies down, Rezin paces around erratically in his third of the ring. When official Elvis Nixon reaches for the Universal Title, the Escape Artist swats him away. Instead, he upturns the sack, and the Universal Championship falls onto the canvas.
Within its burlap confines, the prestigious championship belt has thankfully avoided the same black ooze bath as its carrier. Now it sits in the very center of the ring, amid the three men who will be fighting for it.
Rezin, Hayes, and Ivan look amongst each other with equal amounts of intensity, with everything at stake at their feet, in an image that looks like it was torn straight out of a Sergio Leone western. The capacity crowd builds itself into a long and sustained roar that shakes the entire stadium. After several long, tense moments, Nixon finally creeps in to claim the belt.
As Nixon hands the belt off to the timekeeper by the door, the three gladiators competing over PRIME’s greatest prize stand casting glances at each other.
In one corner is the indomitable Russian. Unconquerable. Unstoppable. Even in his sixth decade of life, he remains every bit the juggernaut that he was in his prime. No pun intended. With only one exception, he’s beaten back everything including Father Time to get to this moment. In his eyes, this was a matter of course. Just a few minutes of work, and PRIME Wrestling would truly, finally have a worthy champion. Though his greatest ally is nowhere to be seen, he has the heart and support of the entire Russian nation behind him… Ivan Stanislav is ready to ascend to the greatness he believes he’s always deserved.
In another corner is the former champion. Young. Hungry. Vengeful. Just four months ago, he’d ascended the mountaintop. He had become the champion. The eGG Beater. The man who ended the reign of terror of Cancer Jiles and prevented the nomenclatural felony of Culture Shock becoming COOLture Shock. The only blemish on the record of that indomitable Russian. Yet, no sooner had he made it to the mountain’s summit did an old enemy throw him right back down. In that moment, he’d learned that it’s harder to stay atop the mountain than it is to ascend it. But tonight, Hayes Hanlon has the chance to retake the summit and remind everyone that he deserves to be there. For keeps.
And finally, the last corner… the current champion. Chaos Incarnate. Anarchist. Punk Rock. No one ever believed he could ever be Universal champion. No one thought that he could do the unthinkable and take a second championship from the waist of Hayes Hanlon. No one except him. He feasts on those who can never predict him, and believe me when I say that this man is the essence of unpredictability. He’s also covered in grunge. And while he does not give one iota of a fuck about being the “best in the world” or any of the prestige that comes from being the champion other than getting more fights, make no mistake about this either: Rezin plans to stay exactly the same piece of shit he is walking into this prison that means to contain him as he would be in walking out of it – the Universal Champion.
Elvis Nixon has a tall task ahead of him keeping order here.
But nonetheless, he calls for the bell.
Nick Stuart: AND WE’RE OFF!
Hayes Hanlon and Rezin don’t agree on anything. They are so diametrically opposed that if Hanlon were to ask for milk in his coffee, Rezin would demand that his own coffee be blacker than the void itself. Not that we’ll debate what their coffee choices really are or even if they drink coffee to begin with, but the point is that they normally wouldn’t agree on anything. They would be contrarian just to spite the other.
Yet, there is one thing they did agree on. Something that even these two bitter enemies, whose enmity dates all the way back to last year’s Culture Shock, could work together on.
And that something is three simple words: FUCK IVAN STANISLAV.
Both Hanlon and Rezin make a beeline for Ivan the moment the bell rings. Now, Ivan is used to this sort of thing. It’s not easy being the biggest and strongest there is. He doesn’t even exercise. Actually, that’s not true. He has this thing about 2x4s that’s out of this world. But even he isn’t anticipating the champion and the other challenger to come for him immediately.
Nick Stuart: Hanlon and Rezin! Working together to attack Ivan Stanislav!
Richard Parker: Hanlon and Rezin! Living together! Mass hysteria!
Hanlon slams his shoulder into the mighty Russian, shoving him into the corner in the process. Rezin takes a running leap, his foot landing on the second rope and allowing him to leap onto Stanislav to rain down blows on the big man. As Rezin is mounting Ivan in the corner, Hanlon is trying to kick Ivan down to size with mighty boots in the corner.
None of this lasts.
With one mighty paw, the Russian Bear shoves Rezin off of him. Rezin goes flying backwards like he’s been thrown from a horse, lands on his back in the center of the ring, and then rolls into a dazed crouch on the other side of the ring. Hanlon keeps stomping, but Ivan grabs him by the head with both hands and switches place. A hand goes over Hanlon’s arm, and before the mustachioed beater of eGGs can do anything, he’s thrown. It happens so fast that fans can only gasp.
Nick Stuart: Stanislav throws Hanlon into Rezin!
That’s a two-hundred and sixty pound man being yeeted into Rezin like a trash bag. Rezin is knocked over like a bowling pin, and Hanlon nearly falls out of the ring from sheer momentum. He’s only saved by the painful grace of the bottom rope, which he manages to grab onto before he tumbles to the floor.
Ivan roars as he stands in front of the carnage he’s wrought, the fans booing in its wake. He only hesitates for a moment to wipe his hand against the side of his pants,
Richard Parker: This man is a monster! He is a monster built efficiently out of Russian scrap metal and hate and some timely lightning!
The first to his feet, somehow, is Rezin. The Universal Champion all but stumbles into the waiting, welcoming arms of the Russian Bear. Ivan cares about as much about Rezin’s physical well-being as an elephant might care about an ant. He lifts Rezin up into the air by the throat and doesn’t even bother which direction he goes flying when sends him crashing to the mat.
Stanislav is already marching towards Hanlon. The fans shout and boo and try to encourage their hero as he stands up on the apron, still dazed. Stanislav grabs him by the throat and lifts him up, just as he’d done with Rezin. Dangerously, Stanislav seems much more interested in dumping Hanlon down on the floor, which might been an impact with career-altering implications.
Ivan Stanislav is playing for keeps. Actually, no, “playing” is not the right verb at all. He is here for war.
Nick Stuart: Stanislav… Stanislav is trying to chokeslam Hanlon off of the apron and to the floor!
Hanlon doesn’t allow it.
He kicks his feet. He slams an elbow against the side of Stanislav’s head. A second one staggers Stanislav, causing Hanlon to drop and land on his feet on the apron. Hanlon grasps Stanislav’s head and falls to the floor, clotheslining Stanislav’s throat across the ropes.
Rezin, being Rezilient, is already back up after the earlier careless chokeslam from Ivan. It would take a little bit more than being hurled at the ground mercilessly by one’s throat to put down the Universal champion. If cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast, then so can Rezin.
Rezin runs and lands a dropkick to Stanislav, knocking him into the corner but not knocking him down.
Richard Parker: You know, here’s a thought about Rezin and his Void that’ll really make you think. If you put your dick in everything, you also pick your dick in nothing.
Nick Stuart: Richard.
With that wonderful thought from Richard Parker out of the way – seriously, what’s wrong with that dude? Is he okay? – Rezin runs at Ivan and lands a high dropkick into his face. The Russian Bear takes the kick, but doesn’t go down. Rezin flies over the top rope, but grabs onto it and lands on his feet. Without a moment of wasted motion, Rezin leaps again and hits Stanislav with a massive enzuigiri from the apron. Even Stanislav’s bulk can’t do much about taking two straight kicks to the head, and he staggers out from the corner in a daze.
Hayes Hanlon slides back into the ring.
This is war.
This has been a war since the day Ivan Stanislav set foot in PRIME Wrestling. Entire arenas have become battlefields. They built a cell just to keep the damage contained. Hayes Hanlon knows that, just as he knows that he’s the one most adept at fighting this war out of any man in PRIME. So when Ivan whirls around to deal with the gnat that just kicked him in the face, he walks right into Hanlon.
This is war.
And war requires the big guns.
Nick Stuart: FLASH POINT FROM HANLON!
It comes out of nowhere. Because that’s the purpose of the sitout jawbreaker across Hanlon’s shoulder. Ivan’s eyes go glassy, because even the indomitable Russian can’t handle something so sudden. Hanlon’s not even on his feet before Rezin sneaks in behind him. He grabs the former champion by the rim of the tights and hurls him through the ropes.
Rezin doesn’t hesitate.
He needs the fuck out of this cell yesterday, and if the easiest way to do that is to pin someone, then so be it.
But even Rezin knows that a single Flash Point wouldn’t beat Ivan. He turns to his safest haven. His comfort zone. The only place as good as that next high. Because for him, it is the next high. Rezin jumps onto the second rope. Then the top rope. And then he’s home.
Nick Stuart: REZINSAULT!
Rezin is legendary for his moonsaults. His Rezinsaults, if you will. You would never believe that a man known for his anarchy and chaos could fly as majestically as he could, his beard floating with splendor. The impact is undeniable. He got all of this one.
He goes for the cover.
That, uh… noise Rezin just made is his startled reaction to the way Ivan Stanislav kicks out. He doesn’t just kick out, he hurls Rezin bodily into the air. Rezin goes as high as Elvis Nixon is tall and nearly lands on his face some distance away. The Universal Champion crawls away, bug-eyed. A Flash Point and a Rezinsault, and Ivan’s not done at all?
Nick Stuart: A kickout! I can’t believe it!
Richard Parker: What do they feed the people in Russia!?
Nick Stuart: Sawdust and spite, apparently!
Rezin looks around wildly. Destruction is the instruction. He knows he needs to pull out all of the stops. Because who better to put an end to this war than the runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb?
The champ rolls to the outside, opposite from where he’d thrown Hanlon before trying to steal the win from him. He rips up the ring apron and starts gathering the tools of war as Ivan starts to return to his feet.
A steel chair. The humble spear of the professional wrestler, simple and standard yet tried and true. He gets two of those, because what’s better than one than two? Actually, fuck that. Let’s get two more, just to be safe. Four chairs should be more than enough to kill every motherfucker in the room. Or the cell. You know what I mean.
Rezin slides in chasing after one of the chairs he brings into the ring, and prepares to tee off on Stanislav with it as he’s getting to his feet. He swings at Ivan with everything he has, so it makes everything a little more comical than usual when the only thing that hits Ivan are a pair of palms to the chest.
Rezin stops, pausing briefly to stare at his hands as though he’s perplexed as to what became of his steel chair. He briefly glances at Ivan, who’s still not completely aware of what’s going on judging from the frequent shakes of his head, getting all of the cobwebs out. No. He doesn’t have a steel chair embedded in him. Then he turns around and sees his nemesis. Holding his steel chair.
Nick Stuart: Rezin’s caught between a rock and a hard place!
Richard Parker: That rock looks more like a mountain!
Rezin recognizes his situation, closes his eyes, and swings his fists. One for Hanlon, then he turns and lands one on Ivan. He lands a second fist on Hanlon, then turns and…
…Ivan grabs him by the throat and throws him to Hell.
That’s the sound Rezin makes when he’s being launched by the Living Russian Space Program. He’s thrown over the top rope and lands hard against the steel cage surrounding the ring. Rezin almost lingers there for a few moments, as though he’s cartoon character having been smashed flat into a wall. Then he peels off and falls to the ground several feet below him, landing in a heap.
Nick Stuart: DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!
Richard Parker: Ew, I still see Rezindue all over the cage…
Hanlon drops the chair and slugs away at Ivan almost the moment Rezin is thrown out of the ring. Ivan takes the hard punches, and seems to be rocked by them, but he doesn’t go down. Hanlon recognizes that he needs something else, so he turns and runs into the ropes. A jumping shoulder tackle bounces off of Ivan, and Hanlon manages to land on his feet and run into the perpendicular ropes to do it again. A second one staggers the big Russian, and while Hanlon lands in a stumble, he’s able to run into the ropes a third time.
Hanlon sees the lariat coming for his head a second before it would’ve made contact. He knows that if this connects, it could be the end of him. He ducks mere moments before the blow could decapitate him.
Ivan put his whole body into that lariat. All 7’1”, 400 pounds of it. Momentum is a tricky mistress when you’re that big. If a man the size of a refrigerator starts running… don’t try to catch it. Just let it sort itself out. That’s what Hayes Hanlon does. His defiance of this causes Ivan to fall into the ropes, and when Ivan bounces back, Hayes actually lifts him up.
Nick Stuart: Six hundred pounds of human being just crashed to the mat with that Samoan drop!
Richard Parker: I can’t believe Hanlon can do that to Ivan Stanislav!
Hanlon rolls into the cover on the big Russian.
Much like with Rezin, Ivan’s kickout is thunderous. Hanlon goes up into the air and lands on all fours a few feet from Ivan’s body. It’s not as powerful as what happened with Rezin, though. Hanlon knows Ivan is weakening. Hanlon knows that Ivan’s only a few moments from the end.
There’s a fly in that ointment, though.
His name is Rezin, and he looks like he said the words “I don’t know” at a black metal episode of You Can’t Do That On Television. The Goat Bastard slides into the ring behind Hanlon as Hanlon is getting set to try and land the Epoch on the big Russian. He’s already superficially bleeding along his shoulders from impacting the cage earlier.
Hanlon realizes that something is amiss, that something is wrong in the air in Dallas. He turns around, and Rezin uncoils like a viper.
Nick Stuart: CLOVEN HO—NO!
Hanlon has experienced this particular move numerous times in PRIME. He’s ready for it, as though he’s seen the movement of this move in his mind’s eye a hundred times before inky blackness. Hanlon parries the kick with a flexed arm, throwing Rezin off and turning him around. Hanlon snatches him up by the waist.
A German suplex follows, but Rezin is cat-like and lands on his feet behind Hanlon. A dropkick soon follows, and Hanlon tumbles out to the floor. Rezin pops up, smiling a sick grin. He’s completely unaware of the seven foot tall Russian looming behind him until he turns and sees him. Ivan charges like a freight train, intent on running Rezin over like roadkill. Rezin, at the last moment, ducks out of the way.
Hanlon isn’t so lucky.
Nick Stuart: Stanislav runs Hanlon right into the cell wall!
Richard Parker: Hanlon’s almost as much of a smear as Rezin was earlier!
Well, except that Hanlon wasn’t covered in gunge before he entered the cell, anyway. Ivan stares down at the fallen form of the Event Horizon, content that he’s down and out, and that leaves him in the ring with Rezin. Now, Ivan’s had a field day throwing Rezin around like a ragdoll. Rezin has barely been able to muster much against the Russian.
But Rezin’s not playing. He’s here for war, too. And when you’re at war, you do whatever it takes to win.
For example… boot, meet balls.
Even the mighty Ivan Stanislav can’t shrug off a kick to the balls from the Goat Bastard, who kicked him below the belt like he’s a punter for the Dallas Cowboys. Screams of sympathy pain come from the male members of the crowd. Stanislav drops to his knees in anguish.
Nick Stuart: CLOVEN HOOF KICK!
Rezin’s spinning heel kick usually heralds the end. It did for Hayes Hanlon two months ago, when Rezin first became Universal Champion. But Ivan Stanislav is not most men. He doesn’t go down from the kick. He stays upright. Rezin sees this.
Nick Stuart: ANOTHER ONE!
Richard Parker: This is not cool for Mother Russia!
Stanislav finally falls to the canvas. Rezin does not even chance the idea of Stanislav getting to his feet, the idea of hitting Into The Void on the titan of Arkhangelsk is but a pipe dream. Instead, he falls on top of Ivan.
Nick Stuart: Hanlon breaks it up!
Richard Parker: Mother Russia thanks you, Hayes Hanlon!
Hanlon immediately stomps on Ivan’s head.
Richard Parker: Wait. No, I don’t think she does.
Rezin stands, but rather than pick a fight with Hanlon, he stares at him. Bug-eyed. Thoughts are clearly going through the Escape Artist’s mind as Rezin and Hanlon stare daggers at one another. Rezin is a man who chases his own highs, and thus might not be much of a long-term planner. But in the short-term? The man knows how to get the things he needs.
Right now, he needs Ivan Stanislav the fuck out of his life.
And he knows the best way to do that would be to enlist the help of the man whose championship he took. Twice. He knows that the only way he gets out of this cell alive is to team up with Hayes Hanlon to get rid of Ivan now. It’s tough to make out what the two are saying to each other at this moment, but both he and Hanlon argue back and forth about it.
That gives Ivan time to get to his feet.
Ivan has a small cut over his eye from the second Cloven Hoof Kick. Yet apart from that one blemish, he remains undaunted. Invincible. The Second World Juggernaut. The Russian Bear moves to destroy the champion and ex-champion in one fell swoop.
Instead, both Hanlon and Rezin duck under the tree trunks that functioned as Stanislav’s arms. The two younger competitors are quicker to spring to action. Rezin hits a dropkick to Ivan’s leg, hobbling him long enough for Hanlon to knock Ivan down with a shoulder tackle.
Nick Stuart: Hanlon and Rezin… working together again!
Richard Parker: Mass hysteria! I mean, listen to this place!
Hanlon’s the one directing traffic. He pulls Ivan up and latches in a front facelock. After a moment’s pause, Rezin joins him. It takes some doing, but many hands make light work and the pair deliver a ring-shaking double snap suplex to Ivan Stanislav!
Referee Elvis Nixon actually bounces upon impact, but he’s cat-like and remains on his feet.
Nick Stuart: Double suplex by Hanlon and Rezin!
Richard Parker: Impossible!
Both Hanlon and Rezin go into the cover, and soon Ivan would be defeated and everything would be great and everyone’s gonna get in the ring and lift up the two of them and throw them up and down in celebrat—
…Oh, wait. That’s not how any of this works. Nixon informs both men that he’s not counting that pin. There has to be one victor and one Universal champion, after all.
Hanlon and Rezin get up off of Ivan and stare daggers at one another. No. This all started with the two of them. Not just on ReVival 22, but at last year’s Culture Shock. For a moment, it seems like they’re about to come to blows.
And then Ivan sits up.
Both Hanlon and Rezin see this, and they both simultaneously say what we’re all thinking right about now.
The two set aside their differences one more time. This is a problem that would destroy them both if left unattended, after all. Rezin kicks Ivan in the head several times with a series of low thrust kicks. All the while, Hanlon has chosen to go up to the top rope. As Rezin lands the fifth straight kick, he finally brings the giant down flat on the canvas.
And that gives Hanlon the opportunity to do something he so rarely does: fly.
Nick Stuart: TOP ROPE ELBOW DROP FROM HANLON!
Almost the moment after Hanlon makes impact on Stanislav, Rezin leaps into action! By grabbing Hanlon and tossing him out of the ring so he can cover Ivan himself!
Nick Stuart: NO! REZIN’S GONNA STEAL ONE!
Ivan’s kickout doesn’t have the mustard that his previous ones did, which is to say that Rezin was only pushed off by a couple of feet instead of a couple of yards. Rezin has his hands in whatever’s left of his hair in disbelief. He’s further in disbelief when Hanlon slides back into the ring, eyes bulging at Rezin over his sudden but inevitable betrayal.
Rezin slowly stands up, recognizing his situation. There is a very pissed off ex-Universal champion in front of him, and a soon-to-be pissed off Russian already recovering by his feet. The Escape Artist sees Hanlon take a step forward, and his fight-or-flight instinct kicks in… which is to say that Rezin flees.
Richard Parker: What is this guy doing?
Rezin slides out of the ring and makes a dash towards the door built into the side of the cage. He wails upon realizing that the thing is padlocked shut with a thick chain, and when he looks over his shoulder to see Hanlon approaching him, he turns and runs in the direction that would take him to the commentary table.
Nick Stuart: Rezin has nowhere to go! That’s the whole point of the cell!
Rezin leads Hanlon into a chase around the ring, but almost trips and stumbles over the steel steps as he rounds a corner. Hanlon flies over it and catches Rezin by the hair. And then begins the punishment, because Hanlon slams Rezin back-first into the cage wall. Then he slams Rezin’s head against the ring apron. Then back into the cage wall. Head against the apron. Back against the wall. It happens another time. And another. And… oh, what the heck? One more time!
Hanlon lets go, and Rezin collapses to the floor like a marionette with its puppet strings cut. Hanlon roars and the crowd responds in kind. Their hero, Home Run Hayes, is just moments away from reclaiming what had been taken from him. He rolls Rezin back into the ring, and th—
There is a terrible sound that accompanies the crash. It’s the sound of a chain link fence being bent out of shape as a large human body crashes into it at full force. That human body belongs to one Hayes Hanlon, and it’d been launched like a cannon by an even larger human body – Ivan Stanislav’s. Hanlon hits the cage face first and rips it open.
Suddenly, there’s an opening in the cage, but Rezin doesn’t know about it on account of having his brains scrambled by Hanlon just moments ago. The only one who stands tall is Ivan Stanislav. Indomitable, as always.
Nick Stuart: Jesus Christ! Right out here in front of us, Hayes Hanlon’s body just broke through the cell wall!
Richard Parker: Get a doctor out here! Get a priest! GET A SPATULA!
Ivan stares down at the broken body of Hayes Hanlon. All he has to do is pull him from that wreckage and pin him, and he would be the Universal champion. Just as he deserves, as PRIME deserves, and as Mother Russia deserves.
He has a problem, though. Two problems, actually.
The first? Rezin is Rezilient. He has to be. He wouldn’t have won the Universal Championship if he isn’t. He certainly wouldn’t still be standing if he isn’t. And that brings us to the second problem, which is that Rezin certainly wouldn’t be ready with a steel chair if he isn’t.
The chair hits Ivan across the back, swung hard enough to break the top part of the chair off. Ivan reacts to it like he’s been doused with cold water, but he doesn’t go down. Instead, rage covers every inch of his face as he turns to confront his attacker. To Rezin’s credit, he doesn’t hesitate to swing again.
Nick Stuart: OH, GOD!
Stuart’s horrified cry is because Rezin smashes Ivan directly on the head. The chair opens up upon impact, wedging Ivan’s head within it and giving him the appearance that the chair is now a new Russian accessory that you can buy at all participating Russian PRIMEporiums. Yes, Russia has their own. Don’t tell Anna.
There’s a brief pause as Ivan still stands with the chair around his head.
And then he lariats Rezin nearly out of his fucking boots.
Rezin flips, somersaults, and somehow lands on his face from the impact. Ivan falls to one knee, the chair still wrapped around his neck. He’s exhausted. Father Time is starting to collect his due from the hexagenarian. Even the indomitable Ivan Stanislav can’t endure as much as he once could. Not here. Not in this cell.
Nick Stuart: Rezin is down! But Ivan can’t capitalize!
Richard Parker: He needs to take that chair off of his neck! That’s not a cool accessory to have, Praporshchik!
He turns to find Hayes Hanlon.
Hanlon’s bloodied from his face-first meeting into the fence wall. He looks like he’s barely able to stand. But the former Universal champion has something in his hands that causes Ivan’s eyes to go wide.
Remember, Rezin brought four chairs with him. And there is number two in the hands of Home Run Hayes.
For a moment, Hanlon hesitates. This isn’t something he’d do, normally. If it were up to him, he’d do this with just his two hands. This is different, though. This is fucking war.
So, Ivan might as well be a softball. Or, rather, the chair around his neck.
Nick Stuart: HANLON JUST SMASHED THAT CHAIR INTO THE CHAIR WRAPPED AROUND IVAN’S NECK!
Not even Ivan can take this. He’s down, the chair still wrapped around his neck. Fans go crazy, with some in the crowd even singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”. Hanlon dunks the chair down on the canvas with mustard, then immediately drops to his knees and makes the cover on Stanislav.
Wait. What happened to three?
Well, you see, Elvis Nixon’s no longer there. And that’s a problem, because you need a referee to put an end to these sorts of things. Hanlon has a look of confusion on his bloodied face, until he sees the reason he isn’t in the exclusive club of two-time Universal champions.
That reason is Alexei Ruslan.
Nick Stuart: He’s here!? Alexei Ruslan is here!? What the hell!?
Richard Parker: Oh, blessed Hoyt, it’s a miracle! He is healed!
Nick Stuart: This is a sham! He wasn’t sick at all! How did he get in the cell!?
Richard Parker: Didn’t I just say it’s a miracle? Actually, no, Propper-chik Stanislav’s an atheist and probably doesn’t believe in Hoyt… you know what? I got this. This is just the power of superior Russian genetics!
Nick Stuart: You’re from New Mexico!
Alexei slides into the ring, his collapsible baton already in hand. Hanlon tries to get up before Alexei can reach him, but he’s spent. He can barely get his hands up to defend himself before Alexei hits him over the head with the thing.
God, the crowd hates this.
Richard Parker: A heroic effort from Alexei Ruslan to stand here by Propper-chik Stanislav’s side despite suffering from such severe food poisoning! Truly, a Russian hero! Give him all of the Lenin awards!
Nick Stuart: I should’ve known! I should’ve known that snake would be hiding in the grass! Was he hiding underneath the ring this whole time!?
As Nick Stuart wails at the unfairness of all of this, Ruslan’s baton strikes Hanlon down a second time. All the while, Ivan is slowly trying to recover against the ropes. He’s back on his feet just in time to see a spaghetti-legged Rezin recovering from the lariat. Rezin charges at Ivan, and ducks underneath the resulting clothesline. He jumps onto the second rope and goes for the springboard cutter…
…only for Ruslan to smash him in the side of the head with the baton as soon as he sets his feet to jump backwards. Rezin still completes the jump, but it’s like his body is on auto-pilot. He flies right into Ivan’s waiting arms, who fluidly completes a German (Russian?) suplex on the Universal champion!
Nick Stuart: This is a disgrace! Alexei shouldn’t be out here!
Richard Parker: There’s no disqualifications in a Cell match, Nick! You know this! Even if Nixon were still in the ring, he wouldn’t be able to do anything about this!
Speaking of Nixon, he’s still down on the outside after Ruslan ripped him from the ring, the spill he’d taken had been quite nasty. He’s unable to do much about what’s going on right now.
It also means that Ivan and Alexei have no way to actually win the match for Mother Russia.
Ivan picks up Rezin like a toddler, and tosses him into the corner. Rezin’s legs go flying up into the air and he lands in a seated position. Then it’s Ruslan’s turn to pound on the Universal champion, using his baton to batter him. One baton shot opens up a cut along Rezin’s eyebrow, causing a steady trickle of blood to start flowing from the Goat Bastard’s skull.
Nick Stuart: This is a travesty! This is a mockery of PRIME!
Richard Parker: Do you want Ivan to come over here about what you’re saying, again? I don’t think this cell can actually come between you and him, you know.
Meanwhile, Ivan is tackled at the waist by Hanlon, but Ivan stands his ground and deadlocks Hayes with a side headlock. With a roar, Ivan tosses Hanlon away with something resembling a giant swing done by headlock. Ivan stalks after the former champion after that, cornering him and simply ramming his body into Hanlon’s several times in a row.
While this is happening, Ruslan reaches into his overcoat and pulls out a set of handcuffs. For the Russians, this war has always been about Hayes Hanlon. No Rezins allowed. As Rezin lies in the corner bleeding, Ruslan slaps the cuffs on Rezin’s left wrist and connects it to the bottom rope. Rezin goes wide-eyed the moment he regains enough sense to realize that he’s been trapped.
Nick Stuart: And now Rezin’s handcuffed to the bottom rope!
Richard Parker: That’s been a long time coming. Think of all of the big crime this guy has done since he walked into PRIME! Alexei’s just making a citizen’s arrest! Uh, a Russian citizen’s arrest, mind you. It counts!
Nick Stuart: How many Universal champions lose their titles because someone handcuffed them to the top rope in the middle of a match!?
Richard Parker: Uh, one. Right now. Duh.
Ruslan backs off, dangling the keys in front of Rezin, laughing. With a casual toss, he throws it far outside of the ring, as far away from Rezin as possible. Then he looks down at his hands and notices how much Rezindue is on him, so he wipes his hands on the sides of his pants as he turns to assist Ivan again.
Noticing the remaining two chairs in the corner, Ruslan picks both of them up and takes them to the center of the ring, and sets them both up next to each other, the seats facing one another. After a moment to think about it, he switches the chairs around, the steel backs of the chairs forming a significant spike. There’s gasps of horror when Ivan pulls Hanlon to the center of the ring with the chairs behind him. There’s no preamble. There’s no Iron Curtain. He’s going straight for the Red Scare. If he hits this on Hanlon, it would be a career-threatening impact and possibly a life-threatening one. Not that Ivan cares.
Because this is war.
But if this is war, then Hayes Hanlon isn’t about to go down without a fight. He blocks the Red Scare, hooking his leg around Ivan’s. Ivan’s strength might have overcome this simple counter if he hadn’t been so thoroughly weakened by all of the action in the contest. Hanlon grasps Ivan’s wrist holding his head, and starts to power his way out of the front facelock.
Naturally, Alexei moves to stop him.
He grabs hold of Hayes, trying to slow him down and remove whatever leverage he’s using to actually overpower the weakened Stanislav. But Hayes still gets out of the front facelock, and he lands a big right hand to Stanislav that manages to stagger him. He shakes off Ruslan, and then pelts him with a right hand that sends his hat flying off his head and puts him on the ground.
Nick Stuart: Hayes Hanlon is fighting back! Somehow!
It doesn’t last.
Ivan lurches forward and buries most of his knee and thigh into Hanlon’s gut, which elevates Hanlon off of the ground a full two feet into the air before he crashes down to the mat. Ivan hesitates, still dazed from the right hand, before he picks up Hayes and…
Nick Stuart: SPINEBUSTER FROM HANLON!
The fucking ring just shook. The two steel chairs set up to murder Hanlon fall over. Even the cell that surrounds it rattles a bit, as over six hundred pounds of human being crashes to the mat. Hanlon hooks the leg. But there still isn’t a referee… until Elvis Nixon slides into the ring to make the count two seconds late!
Ruslan comes flying into the scene and breaks up the pin, peppering Hanlon with right hands the entire time. Nixon recognizes that Ruslan’s not supposed to be there, but his words for him are ignored. In Alexei’s mind, a referee’s only job is to count a pinfall for Ivan and hand him the championship he should’ve been handed well before this entire mess happened.
Nick Stuart: Dammit! Hanlon almost had that won, but that damn snake just came out of nowhere to keep him from pinning Ivan!
Something is going on with the Rezin side of things. Rezin is now on the outside of the ring, with the only part of him visible to the hard camera being his left arm. He’s looking for something underneath the ring.
Inside the ring, Alexei is still pounding away on Hanlon, but Hanlon is already surging to his feet. Ruslan is discovering that his blows aren’t really having as much effect on Hanlon now with the big man from Oregon running purely on adrenaline. Finally, he lands one big punch to Hanlon’s jaw, and Hanlon’s only reaction is for his head and eyes to snap directly upon Alexei. His eyebrows are raised, and the blood on his face only highlights just how furious he looks.
Two hands go to Alexei’s throat. For a moment, it looks like he’s about to launch him for the Epoch. However, it doesn’t happen, because Alexei knees him between the goal posts. Hanlon lets go, clutching his manhood and falling to his knees.
Nick Stuart: Someone do something about Alexei out here!
Richard Parker: But there’s no disqualifications in a cell!
Alexei smiles, and goes to lend a hand to Ivan in getting the Russian Bear back to his feet. The huge spinebuster had taken a lot out of Stanislav, and he is slow to get to his feet. Once he’s certain that Ivan’s going to get to his feet, Alexei turns and starts kicking Hanlon out of the ring. Hanlon is rolled close to the broken part of the cell where his body hit earlier, but he grabs Alexei’s boot on one last kick and starts to rise. Alexei’s eyes fill with panic, and he hurriedly tries to grab a weapon from within his coat.
A bone-crunching lariat from Hammerin’ Hanlon rocks Alexei and drops him to the ground. And things are even once again… for maybe a few seconds, anyway.
Ivan picks up one of the unfolded steel chairs, and without any care at all about folding it and making it an even less dangerous projectile, he hurls it at Hanlon’s head.
Nick Stuart: GOOD GOD!
Richard Parker: ¡Ay Hoyt mío!
The flat of the chair impacts Hanlon and then bounces off of his head, over the top rope, and into one of the more intact the cell walls behind him. The leg gets caught against the chain link and hangs there precariously. Hanlon slumps against the top rope, and Ivan doesn’t hesitate. He steps over the top rope and to the outside, and grabs hold of Hanlon.
There’s gasps of horror as Ivan’s intentions become clear.
Including from the announce team who realize that they’re technically in the path of what’s about to come.
Nick Stuart: Move! MOVE!
Richard Parker: AUUUGH!
There’s a cacophony of sound. Let us regale you with some of them.
Let’s go in reverse order to explain these sounds: Ivan’s signature laughter as he stands on the apron, admiring his handiwork. The crowd’s later reaction to the aforementioned handiwork. The crowd’s initial reaction to the aforementioned handiwork. Hayes Hanlon being launched as though by trebuchet into the broken cage wall with Ivan’s deadly Red Scare, his body’s weight causing it to collapse outward on top of the commentary table where Nick and Richard had been sitting before they realized that they needed to get the fuck out of there.
Hayes Hanlon lies in a crumpled heap on top of what’s left of that panel of the cage. Ivan leaves the safety of the ring to peel Hanlon up off of the cage, lifting him up as though picking up a small child. When Ivan rolls him back into the ring, he covers Hayes… and Alexei immediately puts himself on top of Ivan!
Is this destiny?
Is this finally the culmination of everything that Ivan and Alexei had been seeking?
The Goat Bastard comes flying off of the ropes with a picture perfect Rezinsault, landing on top of both Russians and breaking up the pin.
Nick Stuart: Are… are we on!?
Richard Parker: Holy sweet Hoyt, my whole life flashed before my eyes…
Nick Stuart: How the hell did Rezin uncuff himself?
Richard Parker: Wait… the bottom rope… the bottom rope is off!
Indeed, during the entire confusion where Ivan had been launching Hayes to his doom, Rezin had found the toolbox underneath the ring and had undone the bottom rope. Ivan and Alexei, in the heat of the moment, when they thought their victory had been assured… never even paid it a second glance.
Alexei’s the first to his feet. He’s been battered. He’s taken more than a few shots in this contest, and Ivan has taken so much damage that even he is slow to recover. Rezin is wobbly, legs like spaghetti. But he has something in his hand for Alexei: the handcuff still latched to his wrist. It’s all he needs to put Alexei’s lights out.
Alexei’s lights look dim after Rezin punches him with the other half of the handcuff in his hand, but Rezin makes it a point to hold Alexei up for a few more seconds. He looks down at Ivan. He wants the Russian Bear to watch what’s about to happen.
Nick Stuart: CLOVEN HOOF KICK!
Richard Parker: Oh no! He just pressed Alexei’s off switch!
Alexei falls down like a broken toy. His night is done.
Ivan picks himself up from the ground and comes for Rezin. The titanic Russian moves in on the Universal Champion with every intent to tear him in half. Longways, if he had his say.
Rezin knows two things. The first is that Ivan at his full height wouldn’t be able to take the deadly weapon that is his Cloven Hoof Kick to the chin, the same way it’s worked on Hayes Hanlon on multiple occasions. The second is that there’s more than a few ways to bring the juggernaut to his knees. Rezin rolls past Ivan, and picks up the other chair. He snaps it closed and when Ivan turns to face Rezin, the Goat Bastard strikes.
And he takes Ivan’s leg out from under him with the chair. It’s less the home run swing that Ivan experienced from Hayes Hanlon earlier in the contest, and more like a golf swing. Ivan goes down, clutching his knees, yelling in agony. Rezin brings the chair down on the Russian, who manages to protect his head with his arms, and the Goat Bastard continues to swing the thing down on Ivan until the chair loses both the top part of it and even the seat.
Here’s a sampling of the sounds you may hear from that: CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! GRAAARGH! CRACK! CRACK!
With Ivan beaten down, Rezin goes for the cover.
That’s the frustrated sound Rezin makes when Ivan kicks out. Thinking quickly, Rezin crawls over to the still-downed Hanlon and covers him as well.
As it turns out, Hanlon’s had far too much time to cover from the Red Scare. The Universal Champion rips at his hair, but sees Ivan is already recovering behind him. He has to do something to take him down. Anything. So, Rezin goes to the outside, and manages to climb up to the top rope despite the lack of a bottom rope. Ivan is to his knees just as Rezin leaps.
It’s a thing of beauty trapped within a crust punk. Rezin performs a shooting star, flying towards Ivan with the cat-like agility that you wouldn’t expect from the Universal Champion. For a moment, Ivan seems to have caught him out of the skies. However, Rezin’s legs are still in motion when that happens, and he grasps Ivan’s head before he continues into a thunderous DDT!
Nick Stuart: A SHOOTING STAR DDT FROM REZIN!
Richard Parker: IMPOSSIBLE!
HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!
There is, however, a problem.
A lot of Ivan’s weight still landed on top of Rezin, and Ivan has a prodigious amount of that. As such, while Ivan is down… so is Rezin, the wind knocked out of him from the sheer inertia. Thinking about the consequences of what you do before you do it? That ain’t fuckin’ punk rock.
Nick Stuart: Hanlon is down! Rezin is down! Ivan is down! Even Alexei is down! Who is going to come out on top in this insane match!?
Richard Parker: I don’t know!
It takes Rezin too long to roll Ivan over, given the amount of dead weight involved. But once he mercifully does, he drapes an arm over Ivan’s chest and makes the cover.
Nick Stuart: I DON’T BELIEVE IT! HAYES HANLON IS STILL IN THIS THING!
Richard Parker: HOW!?
Rezin looks up dazed, and sees Hayes on all fours next to Ivan and himself. And he sees red. Time and time again, Hayes Hanlon remains a thorn in his side. Nevermind the fact that he’s as much of a thorn in Hanlon’s side, that’s not important. What is important to Rezin is that he has to take down Hanlon and secure his place as the ANTI-CHAMPION.
Rezin crawls until he finds the last of the intact steel chairs, the one that Hanlon had tossed down earlier. He brings it down on Hanlon’s back.
Then a second time.
Hanlon writhes in pain as Rezin places the bent chair on top of Hanlon’s chest and goes to the corner. This would be the end. And what a fitting end it would be! To vanquish Hayes Hanlon for a third straight time, and to do so in the most punk rock manner possible.
He jumps up to the second rope. Then to the top rope. And there, as he’s done so many times, Rezin flies majestically.
His landing is not so majestic.
Nick Stuart: REZINSAULT… MISSES! ONTO THE CHAIR!
Rezin bounces off the steel chair, instantly regretting his life decisions. Hanlon has moved out of the way, leaving only the chair behind for Rezin to land on. Hanlon slowly gets back up, but he’s ready. His arms are in the air, and he’s gathering energy. When Rezin gets to his feet, Hanlon shoves him into the ropes.
There’s just one problem with setting up the Epoch like this.
The ropes haven’t been in a good state since Rezin had to break them to get himself free. So when Rezin flies into the ropes… the remaining ropes give way, and Rezin spills out to the floor like your weird uncle might spill out from his porch after one too many Miller Lites. Hi, George.
And so, Rezin escapes the Epoch, once again.
Hanlon collapses to one knee. He’s spent. All of his energy would’ve gone into that Epoch, but Rezin – being Rezin – spoiled things in his own unique way.
Nick Stuart: LOOK OUT!
Ivan Stanislav is risen. The moment Hanlon turns, he’s run over by Ivan like roadkill with a huge body block. Then he grabs Hanlon and pulls him to the edge of the ring. There’s no more ropes. It’s hard to keep your footing here with all of the ropes on the ground. Still. Ivan Stanislav has to be rid of Hayes Hanlon. So he picks up Home Run Hayes by the throat…
…and chokeslams him to hell.
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD! IVAN STANISLAV JUST CHOKESLAMMED HANLON FROM THE RING TO THE FLOOR!
Richard Parker: That’s it, he’s dead. D-E-D, dead. Cause of death: Ivan Stanislav.
Ivan raises his arms into the air and laughs.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!!
It’s going to be over soon. All Ivan has to do is get Hanlon back into the ring, and it will be over. Great Mother Russia would sing his name. But as Ivan drops his arms and basks in the inevitability of his victory, one fly in the ointment remains.
A steel chair to the back, courtesy of Rezin.
Nick Stuart: Rezin just hit Ivan with that steel chair!
Richard Parker: And Ivan doesn’t give a crap!
Ivan turns around, nonplussed.
Rezin gawks at the indomitable Russian, who takes a step towards him. Rezin realizes that he’s all but poked the Russian bear, and looks around for a means of escape. He sees it. It’d been opened up by Ivan himself just minutes ago into the match.
In the heat of the moment, Ivan forgets about Hanlon and starts stalking Rezin. Rezin jumps from the ring apron to the collapsed section of the cell, and he’s out.
He’s out of the goddamn cell that’s meant to keep him there.
Richard Parker: Oh no! He’s loose! The Goat Bastard is loose!
Nick Stuart: This isn’t good… he’s right out here in front of us, Richard!
You know who else is out there with you, Richard? Ivan. The big Russian has followed Rezin out to the announce table, climbing over the fencing that now covers the table.
Now, you might think based on prior events that Rezin’s already getting the fuck out of the building. And indeed, he’s at the timekeeper’s table picking up the burlap sack that contains the Universal championship. Maybe that would’ve been true two weeks ago. Yet… he stops. He remembers what’d been chanted at him just two weeks ago when he was about to give up the Universal championship and walk out of ReVival 25.
He turns and wallops Ivan across the face with the belt. Ivan falls onto his back, on top of the fencing that itself is on top of the announce table. He doesn’t move. Rezin could’ve fled, lived up to his title of “Escape Artist”. No one would have been able to catch him. He could take the title and make a break for it, and who would stop him?
But that ain’t punk rock, is it?
Richard Parker: What… what is he doing!?
Instead, Rezin drops the burlap sack holding the championship and grabs hold of a section of the cell that hasn’t been broken yet. He hesitates. This, he knows, has the potential to go incredibly poorly. But thinking about the consequences of the things he does ain’t punk rock, so he begins to climb up.
Nick Stuart: He’s climbing the cage! REZIN IS CLIMBING UP!
Richard Parker: This maniac!
Every once in a while, as Rezin makes his ascent, he checks over his shoulder to see if Ivan is still there. He’s exhausted. He’s taken a lot of punishment. He still has handcuffs on his left wrist, and he has to take care to not accidentally cuff himself to the cage.
It isn’t until Rezin is nearly at the top of the cell that he notices something terrible is happening: Ivan is back up. Rezin’s best-laid plans that he definitely didn’t decide to do on a whim just now are going up in dope smoke.
Ivan stares up at Rezin as Rezin stares down at him, mid-climb. After that briefest of moments, Ivan starts climbing up after Rezin.
Nick Stuart: I don’t know if this cell is meant to have Ivan Stanislav climbing it, but he’s on his way after Rezin!
Richard Parker: Imagine how far Rezin would go if Ivan were to yeet him off of the cage. I’m just saying.
Rezin makes indescribable noises as he realizes that the Russian Bear is climbing up after him. Despite age and gravity forming a formidable tag team against him, Ivan is already halfway up the cage by the time Rezin pulls himself up to the roof of the cage.
Nick Stuart: This is insanity! Rezin is actually on the roof of the cage! The damn roof!
Richard Parker: What, does he have a goddamn jet pack up there!? There’s only one way he’s getting down with Ivan coming after him, and there isn’t a mosh pit in the world that’s going to catch him!
It’s only now that Rezin realizes he might have made a little mistake. Within the ring, he had many avenues of attack against Ivan Stanislav. It’s a place more familiar to Rezin than any home he’d ever had. The top of the cell isn’t that. It’s as alien and as foreign to Rezin as a swank penthouse, or that fancy haute couture place with the suits that cost as much as a decent car.
He does the only thing he can do.
He meets Ivan at the top of the cage and tries to punch him back down before he can climb up.
Nick Stuart: We really shouldn’t be here.
Richard Parker: NOPE! I don’t want to be at ground zero of the Tunguska Event in Dallas!
Rezin’s punches only seem to serve to piss Ivan off even more than he already is. With one meaty paw, he punches Rezin hard enough to send him flying backwards into a dangerous roll along the chain-linked roof of the cell. This gives Ivan enough room to complete his ascent to the top of the cell.
Even at the top of this massive structure, Ivan Stanislav looms large. It’s because of his size and weight that he has to step carefully around the top of the cell, lest he falls through. Despite this, he’s able to stalk Rezin all the way to the center of the cage, where…
…he gets kicked square in the motherland.
Nick Stuart: A low blow! A low blow from Rezin!
Richard Parker: Even Ivan’s got to feel that one!
Rezin’s wobbly, but Ivan is down to one knee. He looks down in the ring, where referee Elvis Nixon is checking on the conditions of both Hanlon and Ruslan. And an idea forms in his head, consequences be damned. If he does what he’s about to do, there’s a good chance that the cell would come down and both of them would get sent straight to hell in the process.
He hooks Ivan’s head.
For Rezin, it’d be a fitting way to bring this sordid tale to an end. In ink. Black as the VOID.
Nick Stuart: No way…
Richard Parker: Oh, fuck.
There’s horrified sounds of anticipation as Rezin takes a leap into the air.
Into. The. VO—
No. Ivan blocks it. He has Rezin held aloft, mid-flip. Rezin shakes his head, disbelieving, as Ivan adjusts his footing… and throws Rezin forward.
The crowd is deafening.
So is the sound of the ring’s demise.
That first crash is Rezin falling through the cell. The panel opens up underneath him and the void underneath it swallows him right up. It’s the second crash that really puts an exclamation mark on everything. Rezin hits the canvas hard enough to crater it. The ring buckles, and then partially collapses. Elvis Nixon goes flying out of the ring in shock and surprise. Alexei Ruslan is conscious just long enough to get flung out of the ring and onto the floor, like the projectile of the world’s least practical catapult.
There’s only one man standing after all of this.
Ivan Stanislav looks down at his handiwork for only a few fleeting moments, satisfied at the destruction he has wrought. Then he looks up at the roof of the stadium, and bellows one of the greatest of his laughs yet.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!!
All he has to do is get down, and his victory would be assured. He turns to the edge of the cage and starts to climb down.
He only just gets started down the cage when he sees a nightmare unfold before him.
Ivan’s eyes go wide.
Because Hayes Hanlon is crawling over to what’s left of Rezin.
Nick Stuart: Hanlon… HANLON’S GOT AN ARM OVER REZIN!
Richard Parker: NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!
Elvis Nixon, who’d been tossed from the collapsing ring just moments ago, is able to see Hanlon on top of Rezin from the floor. Ivan realizes that time is of the essence, if he doesn’t get down the cage sooner then everything he’s worked for would be lost.
Yet his body won’t go faster than it is, because Father Time is undefeated.
Nixon is able to get back into the broken ring, and administer the count.
In his rush, Ivan drops down to the floor, but his legs give out underneath him the moment he hits the floor.
He can’t make it.
DING DING DING
The long waking nightmare is finally over.
Vince Howard: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! THE WINNER OF THIS MATCH…….. AND NEWWWWWWWWWWWWW PRIME UNIVERSAL CHAMPION! HAAAAAAAAYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS HAAAAAAAAANNNNNNLOOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!!!
Nick Stuart: I DON’T BELIEVE IT!
Richard Parker: NO! COMRADE… Comrade…
Nick Stuart: HAYES HANLON HAS SURVIVED THE CELL! HAYES HANLON IS THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION ONCE AGAIN!
Hayes Hanlon can barely even get to one knee, and he seems barely even aware of his surroundings. But when Elvis gives him the grimy burlap sack that contains the Universal championship, Hayes knows he’s done it.
The Universal championship looks like it’s seen better days, like it’s finally being liberated after 56 days of captivity by a deranged prison warden. It’s covered in cruft and grime and whatever else Rezin’s probably inflicted upon it. Yet, in the hands of the new champion, it looks like it’s received a new lease on life. A new chance to shine brilliantly once again.
Richard Parker: That damn Rezin… even in defeat, he knows how to stick it to people.
Nick Stuart: Folks, we have a new champion! Ivan Stanislav and, if he’s even able to stand after all of this, Rezin will be in the Culture Shock Battle Royal tomorrow night!
The camera cuts to Ivan Stanislav, sitting against the wall of the cell, beside himself with grief. He had it. He had it. All he can do is stare at his knees, cursing them. Cursing age itself. Over his shoulder in the shot behind him, is the scene of Hayes Hanlon barely able to raise his arms in triumph… title belt in hand.
Richard Parker: I wouldn’t want to be anyone in that match standing in the way of Ivan after what just happened.
Nick Stuart: For Richard Parker, I’m Nick Stuart… good night, everyone!
The war is over.