SEASON 2 STARTS NOW
The ACE Network and PWA cameras take us directly to center-ring inside the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida where 21,000-plus PRIMEates are screaming their heads off for the Lady of the Hour, and their Hometown Hero, Lindsay Troy.
The Queen of the Ring lifts a microphone to her lips and addresses the crowd.
Lindsay Troy: Hello, Tampa! It’s great to be home!
A knowing smirk spreads across the lips of the Eternal Ace, and a grinding guitar builds from the speakers.
Lindsay Troy: It’s my esteemed pleasure to introduce your NEW Universal Champion…the man who conquered Mount COOLYMPUS and emerged victorious at Colossus…
You ready for this?
Lindsay Troy: …the “Event Horizon…”
Might wanna hold onto something.
Lindsay Troy: …HAYES! HANLON!
“WHEN MY BACK’S TO THE WAAALLLL!!!!!”
Just like at Colossus, “Daggers” by We Came as Romans batters the surging crowd of the Amelie Arena. The cosmic explosions shake the PRIME*View, while bursting and blinding white flash bulbs erupt throughout the arena. The quaking music rattles every nut and bolt holding the place together. It’s horrendously loud. It’s riot-inducingly aggressive.
And for the Champ, stepping onto the ramp with that big belt on his shoulder, it’s everything he’s ever wanted.
Nick Stuart: THE REVIVAL IN 2022 STARTED WITH HIM, AND IT ENDED WITH HIM! AND HE’S HERE TO MAKE SURE 2023 STARTS WITH HIS NAME, TOO!!
Richard Parker: THE EVENT HORIZON! THE EGG BEATER! THE UNIVERSAL CHAMP!
Nick Stuart: HAYES!! HANLON!!
A year ago, you might expect the rookie to nearly fall over his own shoelaces in a moment like this, or literally sprint around like an excited child. Or puke all over the ramp.
But no. That Hayes is gone. The one striding down the ramp tonight holds his head high, his chest is puffed out through his black button-up dress shirt, and he has a tight grip on the leather of his gleaming Universal Championship Belt. Mustache? It’s on point, and it’s lifting into a grin to match the Lady of the Hour’s as he reaches the ring, making the rounds from post to post as the chorus roars, reaching the Big Strap out in front of him in one hand and on display for all of Tampa to see.
Nick Stuart: “The Hanlon Year” will go down as one of the most impressive debuts in PRIME history. Victor of the Five Star Scramble to start 2022 and PRIME’s ReVival, and capping it off with an incredible victory over Cancer Jiles to earn the most coveted prize in all of wrestling.
Richard Parker: The kid earned brownie points with me, that’s for sure! Anyone who can crack Jiles’ proverbial egg, nevermind twice, has gotta be alright in my book.
The music calms, as does the light show. Hanlon sets the belt back over his shoulder, and only the bellows of the Amalie Arena remain. Hayes retrieves a mic, lifting it to his mouth to speak, but lowers it with a smile as he’s interrupted by the chants of 21,000 strong.
HOME RUN HAYES!!
HOME RUN HAYES!!
HOME RUN HAYES!!
Nick Stuart: Soak it in, young man.
Finally, the Tampa crowd mellows enough to let the Champ speak.
Hayes Hanlon: You all ready for Season 2?
Hayes Hanlon: ‘Cause Season 1 is gonna be hard to beat!!
A big pop from Tampa. Hayes pauses with a smile while Troy nods in the corner, her smirk growing larger.
Hayes Hanlon: And I find it funny, man. A loooooot of folks came knockin’ on PRIME’s door while trying to drag its name through the mud. The Love Convoy did plenty of that while honking everyone cross-eyed.
A volley of boos rises from the arena.
Hayes Hanlon: They got run over.
Hayes Hanlon: FLAMBERGE had his moment in the sun while running his mouth, and had a chance to back it up at Colossus.
Another low rumble of disapproval. Hayes scans the crowd before continuing.
Hayes Hanlon: Came up short.
Hayes Hanon: Tony Gamble had an opportunity to show us that he’s not yesterday’s news.
The Event Horizon nods his head as Amalie Arena fills the air with disdain. They’ve caught on.
Hayes Hanon: Still is.
Hayes Hanon: Paxton Ray somehow avoided a jail cell and got a chance to take his swing against Jared Sykes.
You can almost taste the vitriol coming from the Tampa Faithful at the mention of the Bayou Butcher. Hayes calms them by lowering his hand up and down.
Hayes Hanon: He whiffed.
Hayes Hanon: And finally, everybody’s least-favorite part of a balanced breakfast tried to hold on desperately to the greatest prize in wrestling. At “his” show. At “his” Main Event….
They know what’s coming, and the noise is swelling. Hammerin’ Hanlon lets it grow but thrusts his gold in the air and roars into the mic.
Hayes Hanlon: AND HE GOT HIS ASS KICKED BY SOME KID WITH A MUSTACHE AND A DREAM, BABY!
Richard Parker: The kid’s coming in hot! Careful not to piss too many people off at once.
Nick Stuart: It’s no secret that Hayes has kept PRIME on a pedestal since his youth. Now, with the Universal Title in hand, it appears he plans to defend its name!
Hayes Hanlon: This place is the benchmark, man. And it always will be! How can it not be? With names like Nova. Youngblood. The Anglo Luchador. Matt Ward. Jared Sykes. NATE COLTON!!
Pop. Pop. Pop. A borderline frenzy for the heroes of PRIME, new and old.
Hayes Hanlon: So maybe, maybe, some of these voices will check themselves before spitting on PRIME’s name, because I’m having a hard time thinking of anyone who can stand up to…
The Event Horizon is forced to pause, thanks to some commotion coming from the back. He lowers his mic, lifting an eyebrow and turning to look at the ramp. Lindsay Troy folds her arms across her chest. Nothing surprises the Queen of the Ring anymore.
Nick Stuart: We apologize, folks…it seems like something is going on in the back…
Sounds of a struggle backstage suddenly comes across the sound system and someone backstage yells “WAIT” in response to the altercation.
The response is undeniable….
…it is in Russian: “Попробуй остановить меня, собака.” (Try and stop me, dog.)
Nick Stuart: Uh oh…
Alexei Ruslan emerges from backstage, wearing his brown overcoat and hat, and strides out first. Behind him lumbers the enormous Russian Bear, Ivan Stanislav, dressed for action in the ring. He literally drags a technician by the hand, who still grasps a microphone. Stanislav must have simply grabbed the microphone, and the hand, in his enormous paw and started walking.
The eclectic energy that Hayes Hanlon brings to the ring is juxtaposed by the slow, but meaningful trudging of a visibly irate Ivan Stanislav. The technician kicks his legs as Stanislav pauses for a moment to look around. The crowd boos loudly as Ivan lifts the tech with one hand and extricates him from the microphone. Then, Stanislav literally discards the human being behind him and looms from so far away. Ruslan takes point at Ivan’s side and rubs his hands together with glee.
Nick Stuart: Why are you standing and saluting, Richard, sit down! You were just singing Hayes’ praises!
Richard Parker: It is the least I can do for comrade Stanislav!
Ivan points at Hayes Hanlon and Lindsay Troy.
Ivan Stanislav: It pains me to interrupt this lovely reunion between the two of you…
The crowd decidedly turns on the two Russians, but neither seems fazed by it.
Ivan Stanislav: …and the rest of this raucous and unruly crowd. The song you sing, little bird, is one we have heard plenty of times before. It is nothing special from you. It is the same tune, just from different foolish lips, year in and year out. It does pain my heart to illuminate something for you, Hayes Hanlon, but Season Два (two) is going to have somewhat tragic, yet predictable, ending.
Ivan roars his next words and the sound system labors not to explode.
Ivan Stanislav: Lindsay Troy’s failed acquisitions left a gulf at UltraViolence that only Ivan Stanislav could fill! And with it, was I given an opportunity to return to PRIME after such a long, long time.
Ivan stops for a moment and points from Hayes to Troy.
Ivan Stanislav: Before you give her sloppy kisses, Hanlon, perhaps you should give her a slap. Because her decision to bring me back was the beginning of the end for you!
Ivan grows more irate, and begins his slow trudge towards the ring anew.
Ivan Stanislav: You are a fan of wrestling, yes? You were weaned on it all your life, hm? Then I ask you this: On what planet did you believe you would receive tainted victory against Ivan Stanislav and not pay the price?! You have nothing to celebrate in that wrestling ring, and everything to dread, Hayes Hanlon!
Ivan is almost to the apron now as his heavy military boots thud on the grating below, causing it to gently flex.
Ivan Stanislav: Tell me, Hayes, where were you at PWA-1, while I was defeating HOW World Champion Christopher America and representing PRIME in Main Event? Were you busy buying expensive shirt and shoes with this newfound fame? Perhaps you were too busy boasting about Season 1 of the Hayes Hanlon tragedy, hm? Tell me, and everyone else, where were you while PRIME was battling against other PWA federations. Were you trying your best to grow into that shirt?
Ivan scoffs as the crowd comes to Hayes’ defense and boos louder. Hayes, meanwhile, looks down at his chest with confusion. Those pecs are poppin’, right?
Ivan Stanislav: You should have been preparing yourself for the inevitable ire from myself. But young people are so short sighted.
The eGG Beater manages to hold his ground, despite the approaching Russian Bear. He adjusts the belt on his shoulder, and addresses the microphone.
Hayes Hanlon: Sorry, buddy, you caught me off guard. I was kinda hoping you’d take your shirt off and ride to the ring on a horse. Or a live bear.
Stanislav approaches the apron and takes a single step up onto it, while Alexei climbs up the ring steps. The two of them stand on the apron and listen, while Hayes motions towards him.
Hayes Hanlon: But it’s good to see you, Ivan! I honestly wasn’t sure if you were gonna stick around. I figured your buddy Vlad would have called you back home on account of getting his ass kicked…
The crowd “oooo’s” as it rumbles through the Amalie Arena. Stanislav frowns and steps over the top rope and into the ring. Alexei climbs in next to him and barks something up at Ivan in Russian. No translation needed. There’s a good chance it involves physical violence. Ruslan tries to skirt around Hanlon so that the Russians are on either side of him, but he stops as he sees Lindsay Troy off to the side, and backs up. He looks fit to pounce as fiery rage fills his eyes. Ivan just listens, but his eyelid twitches.
Hayes Hanlon: …but I guess he thought you were better off staying here to handle my light work.
Ivan slowly looks over at Ruslan, who also looks up at his enormous comrade. The seething between the two of them nearly catches the ring on fire.
Hayes Hanlon: But to answer your question, Zangief; while you were taking on the B-League’s best…
The Champ turns his eyes downward to the belt on his shoulder, and gives it a gentle pat.
Hayes Hanlon: …I was taking this beauty for a spin.
The crowd pops at that. Ivan, naturally, is unimpressed. He growls.
Ivan Stanislav: You close one’s eyes and listen to your words, and it is difficult to tell if Hayes Hanlon is talking, or Cancer Jiles.
Ivan takes one more step closer to Hayes as the ring flexes beneath his heavy footfalls.
Hayes Hanlon: (shrugging) Maybe. But when you open them, I think you’ll see which one carried your big ass up the second rope and dropped you on your head.
Ivan balls his enormous left hand into a ham sized fist, but he flexes it. The crowd is eating this up, so firmly behind their hero while the two Russians weather all sorts of jeers and gibes leveled in their direction.
Ivan Stanislav: Tonight, Hayes Hanlon? I will annihilate Cancer Jiles. I will sweep him off the map. Who knows, perhaps I sweep him off the roster…
Stanislav looms over Hanlon, but a foot or two from him. Ruslan tilts his head to the side and watches carefully from behind.
Ivan Stanislav: …and then nothing mommy Troy can do will stop me from teaching you some much-needed humility, little hero. You just hold up your end of the bargain, eh? You beat Rezin, will you? I would hate to break your body and get nothing out of it.
Somewhat surprisingly, the young Champion takes a step forward, closing the gap further, tilting his head up at the towering Russian Bear.
Hayes Hanlon: That sounds a lot like the Motherland, doesn’t it? A lot of breaking. For nothing.
Ruslan curses again in Russian. Ivan glances at him, and then down at Hanlon. He stares him in the eyes as he looks up at him.
Ivan Stanislav: Dyaa….haaa……haaa….. Oh.. yes? That is best you can do?
Ivan makes a show of leaning down, his hand on his knee, so he can look Hanlon in the eyes.
Ivan Stanislav: Don’t walk near any soda machines backstage. You might have an accident, Home Run… DYAAHAAHAA!!
Ivan bursts into laughter as he stands up and laughs down at Hanlon.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!! Come Alexei, we see nothing else of import here. Not today at least. Look at your hero, people of Tampa! Enjoy him while he can still walk under his own power!
Ivan turns away, though Ruslan glares at Troy and then Hanlon for a moment. They exit the ring and trudge up towards the backstage area, laughing all the while. When they get halfway up the entryway, Ivan and Alexei turn in unison and smile. In the absence of music playing over the sound system, they both begin to sing “The Soviet National Anthem.” Stanislav’s voice is a deep booming bass, while Ruslan is certainly a tenor. They put their arms around one another and turn, and continue to sing as the crowd grows more unruly.
The Queen, however, has had enough.
Lindsay Troy: That’s enough of that. We have a show to get to.
Ivan and Alexei continue to sing, ignoring the Renaissance Woman’s statement.
That is, until she snaps her fingers, and “Daggers” returns to the arena speakers. The thundering intro easily drowns the two Russians, and Hayes smiles brightly.
Lindsay Troy: (speaking over the music into the mic) Good luck next week, Champ.
Ivan and Alexei glower on the ramp as Troy exits the ring. Hayes winks at Ivan before turning back to the crowd, thrusting his belt high to one more raucous pop.
Nick Stuart: And we’re wasting NO time in 2023!
Richard Parker: Better to jump in feet-first, Nick!
Nick Stuart: Welcome back, PRIMEates! And welcome to ReVival 21! Later on we’ll see Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy take on Jacob Mephisto, Eddie Cross against Tyler Adrian Best, Adam Ellis and Jonathan-Christopher Hall! Tony Gamble vs. Brandon Youngblood! Cancer Jiles vs. Ivan Stanislav!
Richard Parker: The Anglo Luchador and Paxton Ray in the Main Event for the Intense Title!
Nick Stuart: But first, part one of the Alias Title Tournament, with the “God Beast” Mushigihara squaring up with newcomer Violet Samuelsson in round one! Right here! In Tampa, Florida!
Richard Parker: On the ACE Network!
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT: VIOLET SAMUELSSON vs. MUSHIGIHARA
Before we begin our festivities though, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game…
READ! THAT! SIGN!
I AM TIMO’S SON
INVESTIGATE THE BANDITS FOR DRIVING UP EGG PRICES
“PIANO MAN” HAS BEEN STUCK IN MY HEAD FOR A MONTH AND I PRAY FOR DEATH
I AM REAL AMERICA STATE CITIZEN I LOVE IVAN STANISLAV TRUE AMERICA HERO AND OF RUSSIA WORLD HERO!
EXCEL NERDS DO IT BETWEEN THE SHEETS
WILL THE REAL BOLAMBA SON PLEASE STAND UP?
I WENT TO LUCHA ESPECIAL 1 AND ALL I GOT WAS BLED ON
TAKING BETS ON WHO KILLS CHRIS CHICKENTENDERS FIRST
FRESH MILK I BRING FROM MOTHER RUSSIA ENGORGED BREASTS OF FREEDOM
HEY WADE GET WITH ME ILL EVEN CURL MY HAIR HUBBA HUBBA
Nick Stuart: We are prepped and ready to get the action in full swing, ladies and gentlemen! The tournament to declare the inaugural winner of the newly minted Alias Title is about to begin, as the ever-imposing giant from the Land of the Rising Sun, Mushigihara, is set to take on the debuting Violet Samuelsson!
Richard Parker: Mushi scored some points in my book when he dunked on the Bandits at Colossus last month. It remains to be seen what this Samuelsson can bring to the table, as I’ve never seen nor heard of her.
Nick Stuart: Let’s hand it over to our man in the ring, Vince Howard!
“Girlfight” by Brooke Valentine pumps in over the PA as Violet Samuelsson walks out onto the stage, appearing for the first time before the PRIME Faithful. She poses at the head of the ramp before a “V” shaped pyro to earn a modest pop from the crowd.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, our opening event this evening is a first round contest in the ALIAS Title Tournament, and is scheduled for one fall! Introducing first, hailing from To Be Determined, and weighs in at one-hundred and thirty pounds! Making her PRIME Wrestling debut, please welcome… VIOLET SAMUELSSON!!
Richard Parker: HOLY CRAP, Nick, she’s TINY! Mushi’s gonna pick his teeth with her!
Nick Stuart: I don’t think there’s any question that this will be a David and Goliath battle, but let’s not count out Samuelsson this early, Rich!
Richard Parker: Hang on, do I see ripples forming in my water cup…?
The Amalie Arena fills “Godzilla” by Bear McReary, featuring Serk Tankian. The crowd begins to stomp into rhythm. Moments later, the God-Beast Mushigihara barrels through the curtain and pumps his arms to a big crowd reaction.
Vince Howard: And the opponent, kara Mito-shi, Ibaraki-ken, Nippon, and weighing in at two-hundred-and-ninety-seven pounds… representing the Dangerous Mix, here is… MUSHIGIHARA!!
Nick Stuart: As you mentioned, Mushigihara came away victorious at Colossus on behalf of Dangerous Mix, but now embarks on his first serious singles foray in years! This tournament could be a real opportunity for him!
Richard Parker: That David Fox was just holding him back anyway. Dude wasn’t even more than two-hundred and fifty pounds.
Mushigihara ascends the steps and enters the ring, regarding his opponent Samuelsson with a respectful nod before scale a turnbuckle and pumping his arms again for more “OSU!” chants. Violet nervous bounces between feet, shaking off her nerves and getting ready for the imposing challenge standing across from her.
Nick Stuart: Our official Ashley Barlow looks ready to get this one underway, and she cues the bell to begin the match!
As the two competitors leave their respective corners, the size differential is immediately apparent. Despite the obvious weight advantage, Violent appears undeterred and ready to tangle. Likewise, Mushigihara’s face is one of stern focus, ready for anything and everything.
Mushigihara moves first, bursting forth with a sumo rush that nearly steamrolls Samuelsson. Violet deftly slips behind and wrings one of Mushi’s arms into a wristlock, though the Kaiju easily overpowers her into a reversal. Before he can cinch in his own wristlock, Samuelsson performs a reversal of her own and cartwheels herself out of reach.
Nick Stuart: Quick thinking on the part of Violet Samuelsson, countering strength with agility!
Violet stays in motion, hitting the ropes for some momentum and connects a shoulder block into Mushigihara’s chest. Expectedly, the God-Beast barely flinches off the impact.
Richard Parker: And there’s brilliant thinking on the part of big Mushi, countering that very agility with the obvious fact that he’s a freaking BEAST! Seriously, what the hell was she thinking?
Mushi moves in for a grapple, but Samuelsson dips down and snags the leg, attempting to go around trip the big man to the mat. Unfortunately, she doesn’t anticipate the honed reflexes of Mushigihara, who manages to catch her in motion. Before Violet can get away, he hoists her up and tosses her halfway across the ring in an impressive show of strength.
The Kaiju is brimming with confidence, but Samuelsson looks hesitant to tie up again. Mushigihara presses his advantage by bull-rushing her into the corner and crushing her against the turnbuckles with a quick body press. A moment later, Mushi takes her by the arm and shoots her across the ring.
Nick Stuart: Irish Whip to the other corner, and Mushigihara comes in after her like Mack truck… NO! The Avalanche Splash hits nothing but turnbuckles as Samuelsson darts out to the apron!
Richard Parker: Oof! The Sumo Strategy clearly didn’t pan out there!
Nick Stuart: The Kaiju is stunned off that impact, and now she sees her opportunity to strike, climbing to the top rope! Here comes Violet Samuelsson, diving off into the CROSS BODY–NO!!
She lands perfectly into the waiting arms of Mushigihara, who promptly takes her to the canvas.
Nick Stuart: Falling powerslam by the enormous Mushigihara! Now he makes the cover!
Samuelsson kicks out!
But Mushigihara keeps her to the mat, transitioning to a side headlock. Violet knows she’s done for if the big man keeps her grounded, and fights to her feet, rallied by pockets of fans getting behind the physical underdog. She almost makes it to a vertical base before Mushi transitions to underhooks and effortlessly sends her airborne with a butterfly suplex.
Samuelsson flies an arc through the air and lands hard on the mat. She’s defenseless and in agony, and yet the God-Beast moves in again. A waistlock strips her from the mat, and a gutwrench suplex puts her right back.
Nick Stuart: DEVASTATING series of suplexes by the God-Beast Mushigahara, ragdolling Violet Samuelsson around that ring with ease! And now Mushigahara is going for the pin! Could this be it?
THR–shoulder up, but WOW, she had to dig deep! Mushigihara stays in control as he gets her back to her feet!
Richard Parker: I don’t get it. At his weight, Mushi could basically just roll himself on top of her until she wears herself out!
Nick Stuart: I’m not sure it’d be much of a sporting contest in that situation, partner. Mushigihara is playing to his advantage, but he’s still keeping this a battle of skill!
Violet is breathing heavily, but Mushigihara nevertheless peels her off the mat and raises her up into a gorilla press! The PRIMEmates are divided between cheers and jeers, either wowed by the show of strength or pulling for the disadvantaged Samuelsson. More confident than ever in his performance, Mushi walks the circuit and pumps her through the air a few times for good measure.
He gets overzealous, however, when Violet instinctively snags the top rope at a low point and plucks herself out of the Kaiju’s grip. Mushi twirls in time to see her leaping from the apron to the top rope…
Nick Stuart: SPRINGBOARD METEORA takes the giant to the canvas! Violent Samuelsson finally gets some offense in, and quickly goes for the cover!
T–And Mushigihara PRESSES HER right off!
Richard Parker: NOPE!
Violent is sent flying as Mushi forcefully pushes her off his chest, barely clearing Ashley Barlow mid-count on the mat. Mushigihara bursts back to his feet and catches Samuelsson from behind, lifting her off the mat yet again with a backdrop suplex…
Nick Stuart: Violet ROLLS THROUGH!
But doesn’t quite stick the landing. Instead, while she spends that critical half second hobbling for balance, Mushigihara spins around and catches her flat-footed with a running big boot! Samuelsson’s body twists wildly through the air before she drops hard to the mat!
Nick Stuart: WOW, WHAT A BIG BOOT!!
Richard Parker: Call a chiropractor! Getting a little VIOLENT in there for Violet, eh, Nick?
Nick Stuart: Clearly not the graceful debut one would want to experience in their first match-up in PRIME, but in her defense, Violet Samuelsson was dealt a tough hand! Mushigihara is not only two and a half times her weight, but also at the top of his game here tonight!
The divided reaction in the crowd picks up in volume, and Mushi takes note. His fans are feeding into the energy, but the neutral crowd is cheering on the newcomer hoping she pulls out a miracle. As far as it concerns him, it’s time for a merciful finish.
Samuelsson is still motionless as she’s pulled off the mat and cradled into the Kaiju’s arm. With a single strong lift, she comes off the mat.
Nick Stuart: Mushi with the URAN-NO, WAIT!
Samuelsson pops into action, curling over Mushi’s arm like a gymnast and trapping his head into a leg scissor! She attempts to swing around to the other arm to lock in the arm bar, but the God-Beast shuts it down by prying his head loose and sending him crashing to the mat.
Nick Stuart: Submission attempt…? NO!
Richard Parker: I don’t know what fancy stuff she was trying to pull off there, but Mushi wasn’t having it!
Mushigihara rushes in, but Violet slips through his legs and pops up to her feet behind him.
Nick Stuart: DROPKICK to the back of the leg!
Mushigihara drops to a knee, clutching the leg with his face wincing in agony. Violet sees it’s now or never, and shoots herself into the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Wait now, Violet back up, off the ropes… and CONNECTS with THE CROSSOVER!!
Richard Parker: Wait, REALLY?!
The Shining Wizard hits its mark perfectly, as Mushigihara’s eyes roll back and he slumps over onto his back. Without a moment to waste, Violet uses all of her strength to hoist up the Kaiju’s legs and roll him into a pin.
Richard Parker: Mushi is OUT!
Nick Stuart: Can David slay Goliath?! Samuelsson with the pin!
DING DING DING
“Girlfight” hits the PA as Violet rolls off of Mushi’s broad chest and sits up, face full of shock morphing into elation. Barlow helps her to her feet as she raises her arm in victory. Despite clutching her body in pain, Samuelsson forms a smile. On the mat, the Kaiju slowly comes to and realizes his folly.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the match, advancing to the next round in the Alias Title Tournament… VIIIOOOLEEET SAAAMUUUEEELLLSSOOONNN!!!
Richard Parker: Well color me surprised, Nick! Just when I thought the big guy was going to mark this up as an easy win, she pulls off this miracle win out of nowhere!
Nick Stuart: Proof that almost anything and everything can happen in the flow of a wrestling match! Mushigihara’s massive strength was certainly on display here tonight, and I think regardless of what happened here, he’ll continue to be a force as a singles competitor!
Richard Parker: I kinda miss David Fox now. He was a good decoy.
Nick Stuart: However, against all odds, the intrepid Violet Samuelsson found her window of opportunity and went for it, picking up a win over the Kaiju in her debut, and bringing herself one step closer to the Alias Title!
We then cut to the backstage area.
NO TIME FOR SIDEQUESTS
The cameras are focused on the talent entrance in the new touring era of ReVival, the first show on the slate. The steel doors creak open to reveal the entrant as the PRIME Intense Champion. The top-ranked wrestler in the company. The man under siege in that show’s main event.
The Anglo Luchador.
Blue PRIME duffel bag. Khaki shorts. A custom t-shirt that reads “I won at PWA-1 and all I got was a fight with a murderous crawfish.” His lucha mask. And the Intense Championship, strapped around his waist. He passes a few people on his way to prepare for the horrors of war. Production assistants. Angelica Brooks. Elvis Nixon. Random arena employees.
And then there’s the French kid who believes he has reason to be mad at everyone and everything in the world, hand in a bag of Brets chips, teal hood on his zip-up sweatshirt draped over his head.
“FLAMBERGE. New year, new leaf. How are you doing?”
The luchador’s greeting falls flat. The look on his face could melt ice, especially as it leers down to the Intense Championship.
“Tu dois penser very highly of yourself, no? Do you EVER remove that thing?”
“If you’re asking whether I wear it to ShopRite or Wegman’s, or if I take it to my kid’s basketball practice, or whatever, no. But I’m representing PRIME right now. Feels only right to wear it whenever I’m on camera.”
“Ah, oui, of course you are the one who feels they represent the PRIME, like every other fossil here.”
FLAMBERGE pulls his hood back, and boy-howdy is his flame-like vertical coif popping off today. He takes a step closer to the 2022 Champion of the Year, sizing him up like every would-be tough guy in an 80’s movie.
“Yeah, I represent PRIME because I carry one of the titles here. I also went into the Best Arena and dog-walked one of their Hall of Famers and wrestled and won at PWA-1. But sure, downplay all that. Probably makes you feel better about successfully defending that Five Star you had a grand total of zero times.”
The luchador smirks.
“But I get it. That’s the lack of perspective that youth has these days.”
FLAMBO’s perma-frown grows and grows.
“Oh yes, of course, your last defense was against the man who thought they would make their le grand retour at my expense, the Tony Gamble, a man I sat up and put down, and the woman whose ass I do not kiss enough puts my first defense against the three men who may hate me the most in the company, oui, let’s talk about perspective…merde.”
FLAMBERGE steps closer again. The Champ stands his ground, which seems to catch the Kid off guard.
“This is cute. L’enfant Terrible thinks I am going to be intimidated by a stereotypically masculine show of testosterone. Kid, I used to be you. Then I dealt with scores and scores of you before I hung the mask and boots up the first time. Chill out before you pull this shit against someone who doesn’t have the patience of someone like, say, your mother. Just ask Mort K-whatever what happened to him when he ran afoul of Ivan.”
Eagle-eyed viewers will note that at the words “I used to be you”, FLAMBERGE’s eyes grow wide, vacant, and staring…not into the Luchador, but somewhere unseen. One imagines a growing ringing in the ears, a muffling of words into vague Charlie Brown Adult sounds. Cue the slideshow meme of the chihuahua’s Vietnam flashbacks. The nostrils flare and the wind of the exhale could probably propel a paper airplane.
“I said chill out, kid. Like I said, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf this year,” replies the Champ. “I’m not looking for any extraneous fighting that might take me off my game. I just want to get to my locker room and meditate a bit before I have to go forcibly cut the tomalley out of an overgrown crayfish, okay?”
Yet the Kid does not move.
It’s Nate Colton all over again. Maybe just as bad, it’s Brandon Youngblood all over again. Every dance in this company seems to start with the left foot for the French Phenom, and it’s all war dances here. Fight or fightfight, there is no flight. The vacant rage-stare twists into a face that would almost register as “listening”, if it weren’t for the fact that he still isn’t looking at TAL’s eyes…it’s every moment the relentless voice in his head seems to warn him about every minute of every day:
You’re not wanted – you were NEVER wanted – and so you must take.
His fist is clenched, he cocks back, ready to swing…
…at someone no longer there..
“Kid,” a voice calls from behind him, further down the hall, having slipped by him in his utter state of catatonia, “I told you, I have absolutely no time for sidequests. Big dumb ape, main event, remember?”
The shuffling of feet is audible in the distance. The Intense Champion is gone from the scene. Left only is a French kid, suddenly snapped out of whatever state he found himself in. Lost without a destination for his fist. Angry, as usual. And with maximum huff, he leaves in the opposite direction.
We then fade to black.
THE ELEMENTS OF WRESTLING SUCCESS
THE FOLLOWING SEGMENT WAS RECORDED YESTERDAY
Ah, a deviation from the standard location for our next ReVival segment. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the backstage, we are in a spooooooookier setting. Not a soul for miles aside for the members of Me & My Black Metal Friends.
Miserée: You had one job, Lipschitz. Find a dismal, clandestine location for us to actually do a real promo this time. And yet again, you fail me.
Just kidding. They are the parking lot of a seafood buffet, surrounded by vehicles owned by northeastern transplants and tourists. Most of whom were inside stuffing their faces with crab legs and hush puppies, save for a few interested spectators within view in the background.
Abe Lipschitz: But I was hungry. Besides, we’re in Saint Pete. What did you want me to do, find us a snowy mountaintop?
Abe’s wearing a pair of white swim trunks, flip flops, and a black T-shirt that advertised “Brennan Devlin’s Book Club,” complete with a picture of a cartoon worm reading Charlotte’s Web. For whatever reason, he’s also holding the same winter hat he attempted to buy at Michael Kors upright in his hand. As for Rée and the Norwegian Sea Monstress, they are not exactly in the beachy spirit. Nor are they ever. It’s black on black on more black once again for PRIME’s grimmest of the grim. That said, SELMA looks a little more upbeat than usual albeit hard to tell from her grotesque scorched skin makeup. (Later, sources would discover that this location was actually her idea, as she loves their blackened snapper!)
Miserée: I wish you would have found somewhere with a large hole. So that I could bury you in it.
Abe Lipschitz: I think I saw one when we pulled in – oh, wait, yeah! It’s between your BUTT CHEEKS!
Miserée visibly grits her teeth in Abe’s direction. He ignores it and instead lifts his hand up for a high-five from SELMA, who in turn steps on his exposed foot with the heel of her combat boot.
Abe Lipschitz: OW! God damn it, SELMA…
The yelling of his colleague’s name elicits a couple of startles from the extras in the back.
Abe Lipschitz: …stop trying to turn my tootsies into mini-Eggos! Ah crap, and I just got a pedi two days ago!
Miserée laughs. Or at least what would constitute a laugh from her, which is a slight upturn of her lips. She does not laugh, as laughter isn’t black metal.
Miserée: Serves you right for what you’ve done. How is anyone in PRIME going to take us seriously now? For the second show in a row, you’ve ruined our aura. SELMA, step on the other foot.
SELMA lifts her leg to plant down on the Babe’s other foot, which he dodges by jumping up on the hood of the nearest car. Miraculously, the hat remains in his hand held upright. These catlike reflexes are what will eventually make him a mid-card attraction!
Abe Lipschitz: Can’t catch me, I’m the Melbatoast Man!
Unfortunately for Abe, he hadn’t considered that his tag partner and sadistic roommate was a real trailblazer of offense. She grabs hold of his good foot with her left hand and punches like hell with her right. Lipschitz yelps in pain, kicking SELMA away (which only makes his foot hurt worse.)
Abe Lipschitz: JEEZ LOUISE! I’m in pain! Now how am I going to enjoy fin-based kosher seafood?
Miserée: I have a better question. How are we going to make our presence felt, where our darkness matters now that we’ve no mystique?
Abe gives a “pshhh” and waves off the inquiry.
Abe Lipschitz: Big flashy intros are fucking laaaaaaaaaame, Mizzy. It’s 2024…
Miserée: …it’s 2023.
Abe Lipschitz: …and all wrestlers really need to do now is engage in a blood grudge to build their intrigue. The fans want a little less talk and a lot more action, as Toby Keith once said. They want to see a boot in an ass, it’s the American Way, as Toby Keith also once said. These are the elements to wrestling success.
Miserée shakes her head in frustration, throwing her hands up in the air.
Miserée: Fine. But if we’re going to do it that way, we need to be tactical. Find the nemesis that will fall the quickest to the black, propelling us closer to the top of the organization. We need to do some more scouting tonight.
Abe nods his head, giving his shoulders a slight shrug.
Abe Lipschitz: Yeah, we could do that. Or we could just pick a name out of this hat.
SELMA and Miserée exchange looks, then both turn back to Abe and shake their heads.
Miserée: So you put the entire roster on a piece of paper, cut out each individual name, and put them in there just for this terrible idea? To decide what could make or break our entire career path, all by random draw? No. There is no way in…
Lipschitz, who up until this point has ignored everything his manager was saying, slowly unfolds the slip of paper that he’d just pulled out of the hat.
Abe Lipschitz: Friends, our first victim is none other than…Abe Lipschitz.
SELMA gives a thumbs up, apparently pleased with the decision. Abe crumples the paper and flicks it in the direction of Miserée, bouncing off of her arm and onto the ground. Determined, he pulls yet another name from the hat, reading it to himself first and smiling.
Abe Lipschitz: Well, well, well. Looks like there’s about to be a world of trouble for a man named Ned Reform! Ladies, it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us. Thankfully, there are three of us and only one of him, right?
Both SELMA and Miserée again exchange a look and shake their heads.
Abe Lipschitz: C’mon. We’re in this together. As one! ARE YOU WITH ME?
The response does not change from his two cohorts. Sighing, he crumples the piece of paper and flicks it in the direction of SELMA, who catches it in her mouth and swallows it.
Abe Lipschitz: Fine. I guess once again, I’ll do all the work myself. Feel free to try carving your own path to wrestling success, and we’ll fucking see who had the better idea at the end, then!
The video fades out and we cut back to ringside.
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT: KOHIME MORE vs. ROCKY DE LEON vs. MIKE MCGEE
Nick Stuart: Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, we have the second match of the Alias Title Tournament coming at you next. This will be a Triple Threat involving two newcomers and Mike McGee.
Richard Parker: I saw one of these two new prospects, Rocky DeLeon, first hand at PWA1 and let me tell you, he is green as grass and his manager is a real nerd.
Nick Stuart: Be that as it may, today he is fighting for a shot at a new title! Looks like the competitors are ready to enter the arena.
The rocking vibe of Little V Mills cover of “Precious Heart” spreads throughout the arena. Kohime Mori enters quickly after the interlude, gazing around the arena while standing in place. A big smile on her face, Mori gives a double fist pump and an enthusiastic yell before making her way down the aisle. As she bounces her way to the ring, she leans left and right to slap hands with the fans.
Vince Howard: Introducing first… FROM OKAYAMA, JAPAN… KOOOOOOHIIIIIMEEEE MOOOOORIIIII!
Once ringside, Kohime quickly traverses the stairs and enters the ring in between the middle and top rope. She makes her way to the middle of the 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.
Nick Stuart: Here’s a bright young talent that is trained by one of the more hardnose members of SHOOT Project, but it doesn’t seem to affect her disposition.
Richard Parker: She is so innocent it makes me wonder what she is hiding? Maybe I should contact Praporschik Stanislav to begin an inquiry.
“Me and Julio Down by The Schoolyard” by Streetlight Manifesto hits the PA and the lights shine down on Rocky De Leon who is standing with his back to the ring. When the trumpets play, both his arms go up, and he does a standing backflip right as the verse is about to start. Stu Weiler follows after him with his laptop in hand.
*The mama pajama rolled out of bed
And she ran to the police station
When the papa found out he began to shout
And he started the investigation*
Vince Howard: Introducing… FROM LAREDO, TEXAS… ROOOOOOCKYYYYY DEEE LEEEEEOOOOOON!
Rocky smiles and begins to work the crowd as he starts walking down the ramp to the ring. He runs up the ring steps quickly and wipes his feet on the apron before nimbly hopping over the ropes and waving to the crowd. Stu sets up in his corner and begins to furiously enter data into a spreadsheet.
Richard Parker: See Nick, it’s that damned Stu Weiler! I told you he was a nerd!
Nick Stuart: Take it easy, Stan Gable.
“Bright Future in Sales” by Fountains of Wayne plays and the PRIMEView shows a lot of different spreadsheets with formulas and TPS forms.
Vince Howard: aaaaaand finally… FROM MAPLEWOOD, NEW JERSEY… MIIIIIKE MCGEEEEE!
McGee walks to the ring in a “business casual” singlet – double hooked and made to look like a collared shirt and slacks. He sneers at fans and gives out warnings. He slides into the ring and Senior Officiant Timo Bolamba signals for the bell.
The two rookies and Mike look at one another and begin to point at one another like the now infamous Spiderman meme. Finally, Mike produces a pamphlet from his pocket and extols the virtues of dental insurance to his opponents before Rocky and Kohime ironically both sock him in the jaw at the same time.
The Moé Monster wastes no time in grabbing Mike in a whip and sending him into the ropes. Rocky and Kohime work together again, grabbing hands and knocking Mike off his feet with a clothesline as he bounces back.
Nick Stuart: Early teamwork by the rookies. It seems that they do not like Mike McGee’s dental rates.
Richard Parker: I think, if anything, they are mad about the 2% match on 401K. 4% is considered minimum for many companies these days.
As Mike lays on the ground, Mori and Rocky suddenly realize they are opponents and lock into a collar and elbow. Rocky transitions into a go-behind, and Mori spins out into a hammerlock. Rocky flips away from the pressure and again forward, reversing the tension on his arm into his own arm crank. Mori rolls out and runs up the corner turnbuckles, then jumps off, dragging Rocky with and tossing him across the ring.
Rocky spins up to a knee and nods, clapping his hands. He points at Mori and she makes a “chomping” motion with her hand.
Nick Stuart: What a budding young rivalry we have here! Mori reminds Rocky about her words that he scares and possibly eats babies.
Richard Parker: If anyone here eats babies, it’s that damned Stu Weiler! I just know it!
Stu has been uncharacteristically quiet during this match, preferring to let Rocky stand on his own this time. Mike finally makes it back to his feet and as he approaches Mori from behind with bad intentions, Rocky yells “Look out!” and then with a mighty SKREE! leaps over a ducking Kohime with a cross body block to Mike McGee.
Nick Stuart: I guess sportsmanship isn’t dead after all?
Richard Parker: There’s no room for that in this industry. Look at the greats, they all do what has to be done to get the W.
Rocky hooks the leg and goes for a pin and Timo is spot on for the count.
As Timo’s hand goes up for the second count, Mori grabs Rocky’s leg and pulls him off of Mcgee. The two rookies are quickly face to face jaw jacking and De Leon begins pointing at Mike on the ground. Mori rolls her eyes and pushes him back, then begins laying into him with solid lefts and rights.
Nick Stuart: It looks like the mutual respect is over!
Richard Parker: Hey Lewis Skolnick, do you have a spreadsheet for that?
Stu rolls his eyes while Mori backs Rocky up to the ropes and knocks him up and over with a series of strong style strikes. DeLeon tumbles out and lays flat on the ground. Mori turns her attention to Mike Mcgee and grabs him into a front facelock that quickly transitions into a standing guillotine. As Mike is fighting to get free, Mori jumps up and locks her legs around him.
Mike stumbles and tries to get free but is soon down on one knee. Timo is forced to check in with McGee by asking “GIVE UP?” in a gruff tone. Just as Mike is about to tap out, there is a flash in the ring as a Pterodactyl SKREEEEEE’s past Mori and Mike, leaps to the second rope, and bounds off, delivering a flying cross body forearm strike to Mori’s jaw!
Nick Stuart: They call that The Flying Squirrel!
Richard Parker: Why isn’t it called The Pteranodon or something? At least that would be kinda badass.
Nick Stuart: I don’t know, but Mori and Mike are in dire straits!
Rocky checks with Stu Weiler and the manager gives him an approving nod. Rocky picks up speed and begins to bound all over the ring like a cocaine fueled rodent. He cartwheels into a shoulder strike that plants Mike in the corner on the turnbuckles. He then bounds off and performs the same move to knock Mori into the opposite corner. Rocky De Leon flaps his wings and runs full speed toward Mike McGee’s corner and delivers a massive splash into his cornered opponent!
McGee falls to the ground and Rocky bolts toward Kohime. As he launches to deliver another splash, she dives out of the way and Rocky hits the corner hard. Taking advantage of the error, Mori grabs Rocky and throws him out of the ring and up the ramp a few feet where he lands with a hard thud.
Nick Stuart: Kohime Mori has cleared her only real competition from the ring and is preparing to strike!
Richard Parker: Go Mori! That damn Stu Weiler can’t win!
Nick Stuart: Are you cheering Mori? I thought you were a Mike McGee guy?
Richard Parker: I mean, sometimes you have to make exceptions to get what you want, and in this case as long as that Excel humping nerd doesn’t succeed I am all for it!
Mike slowly gets to his feet as Kohime picks up speed. She bounds off the ropes and…
She turns McGee inside out with a falling lariat!
Nick Stuart: KAWAIIAT!!!
Richard Parker: Gesundheit!
Mori stands up and quickly checks to make sure Rocky is still outside the ring, but he hasn’t moved. She grabs McGee in a belly to belly grip and lifts him over her shoulder, dropping him like an explosion onto the mat.
Nick Stuart: WITH SPRINKLES FOR EMPHASIS! SHE ISN’T TAKING ANY CHANCES!
Richard Parker: I don’t understand what is going on right now?! Are we getting ice cream?
Rocky is starting to get to his feet so she rushes back to Mike McGee and kneels down, hooking the leg. Timo is whip crack quick sliding in for the pin…
Rocky De Leon leaps for the pin break-up!
DING DING DING!
Vince Howard: Your winner… KOOOOOOHIIIIIIMEEEE MOOOOOORIIIIII!!!
Nick Stuart: What a match! Rocky was so close to the pin break but it just wasn’t in time.
Richard Parker: And that means that Booger and his Jurassic Park reject lose! Uwehehehe!
An obviously dejected Rocky De Leon nods and claps for Kohime before offering his hand. She looks confused before smiling and hugging him instead. They both roll out of the ring as Precious Heart by Little V Mills plays in the background.
Rocky stops to Skree! For a baby that looks absolutely terrified. The Luchador beats a hasty exit up the ramp while the baby bawls and Kohime celebrates her win with her fingers in a V above her head as she makes her way back up the ramp.
We then fade into our first commercial of the evening.
COMMERCIAL: 24 HOUR RULE
IN MY IMAGE
We come back from commercial to a graphic airing from the PRIMEview accompanied by some acapella doowop-style music:
The graphic fades away, revealing a distressed, frustrated Kenny Freeman sitting on a folding chair, all alone…a rare sight for the Masters of the Multiverse B-Team member. Kenny lets out a heavy sigh before finally speaking up.
Kenny Freeman: What a mess the past couple months have been. The B-Team really lived up to its moniker with a loss at Colossus, and then Randall decides to go to Mexico all on his own…leaving any way to get a hold of him behind, and left me to find out via Jabber of all places that he went and got his damn arm broken.
Kenny shakes his head with another sigh before continuing.
Kenny Freeman: So now, I’m left without my buddy-in-crime, and I have to prepare for a long road ahead as we head toward Culture Shock. I am no longer part of a cohesive unit…I am just one man.
A voice from off-screen interjects, sounding awfully familiar as the source appears in front of us…revealing another Kenny Freeman.
Kenny Freeman #2: Except when you’re two men.
??: Or three.
A third voice joins in, quickly revealing a third man of uncanny resemblance. The two other Kennys have folding chairs of their own in hand, setting them up on either side of Kenny-PRIME, whose mood begins to lighten up as he speaks again.
Kenny Freeman: The next couple months hinges on me taking a chance on myself. There is a tournament shaping up as we speak, for the Alias Title…and so help me, I’m gonna go out there and do my absolute best to take home the proverbial gold. After all, winning the title means naming the stipulation for title defenses…meaning that I can mold that title, and the division, in my own image when all is said and done.
Kenny Freeman #2: That’s right, welcome to the new Trios division of PRIME Wrestling!
Kenny-PRIME shakes his head at this.
Kenny Freeman: No no, we’re not revealing the plan just yet. This ain’t no spy flick, folks…this is as real as it gets. See you in a couple weeks, PRIMEates…and Randall, I hope to hell you come home soon. Someone needs to get the coffee ready.
With that, all three Kenny…Freemen?…stand up, folding their chairs before walking away as we cut to another backstage area.
Backstage in the Amalie Arena, the camera is closely cropped to the face of PRIME owner Lindsay Troy. She’s practically beaming, a vast departure from her mood earlier while dealing with The Russian Bear. Her smile is infectious as she chats away with whoever is just out of the purview of the shot.
Lindsay Troy: …so if you need any help settling in, come see me. I’m thrilled you’re here. I don’t know if you even know it, but we tried to sign you a year ago…
The camera slowly pans out, as we see the person that Lindsay is talking to— her longtime protege and the newest signing to PRIME Wrestling, Tyler Adrian Best.
Lindsay Troy: …but of course, your grandpa wasn’t having it.
There is a twinge of joy in her expression, as Lindsay reminds the world out loud that Lee Best is old as shit. Tyler is smiling like a Boy Scout as he leans in and gives her a big hug.
TAB: I’m so excited to be here, Aunt Lindz. You have a great product and a great crew of people here and I’m so happy to be part of it. Thanks again for this opportunity, I promise not to let you down.
Lindsay Troy: I doubt you will.
The happy reunion is cut short as someone behind the Queen coughs obnoxiously. Lindsay looks over her shoulder and just like that, her mood sours again.
Melvin Beauregard, PWA Liaison, in all his ill-fitted clothing glory, stands proudly with a grin of his own. Lindsay turns back to Tyler, rolling her eyes as she does.
Lindsay Troy: I need to get going. Seriously, if you need anything, give a shout.
She looks at Melvin with a sneer.
Lindsay Troy: And this is Melvin.
Troy takes her leave, making sure to shoulder-check Melvin as she does. The balding liaison chooses to ignore it, instead putting on a big salesman smile and turning toward the newest PRIME roster member.
Melvin Beauregard: So Tyler Best goes PRIME blue. I have to say, I wouldn’t have expected it, but like Lindsay said, it’s great to have you here.
He reaches out to shake Tyler’s hand, but is surprised when the eighteen year old Best doesn’t reach out to meet him. He stares directly into Melvin’s eyes, the expression completely washing from his face.
TAB: Yeah. I bet it is.
Melvin looks slightly taken aback by the sudden change in tone. He clearly tries to shrug it off.
Melvin Beauregard: Well, uh, you know. We definitely want you to feel welcome here. The PWA has been a rousing success so far, and—
Tyler double checks that the door to the office is firmly closed, before interrupting the liaison mid sentence.
TAB: Listen, Marvin. I would literally rather lick my own asshole in a Taco Bell bathroom than make small talk to a cheap suit in a Florida bingo hall. Why don’t you get me a Diet Coke?
Tyler pulls his phone out of the pocket of his PRIME sweatshirt, immediately disengaging from the conversation and typing away. Melvin is dumbstruck, not even knowing how to respond to what happened.
Melvin Beauregard: …Listen, I don’t know who you think you are, but I am—
Tyler looks up quizzically, absolutely confused by the words coming out of Melvin Beauregard’s mouth.
TAB: Are you stupid? Diet Coke.
Melvin Beauregard: Now I’ll have you know that I’m the liaison to PRIME for the Phoenix Wrestling Alliance! I started this whole mess! I’m friends with your…
TAB: Marvin, I’m about to put on a free clinic for your entire organization. I’m providing you a service. Do you want me dehydrated? Am I supposed to punchfuck Eddie Cross into a medically induced coma with parched fucking lips? Chop chop, bitch, before I tell my aunt that you tried to offer me a title shot if I let you grab my dick through my tights.
Melvin looks up at Tyler, gritting through his teeth with the biggest smile he can muster.
Marvin Bolambagard: Sure Tyler, anything you need.
Tyler barely looks up from his phone.
TAB: No ice.
We then cut to ringside.
TRANSITIONING AND… TRANSITIONING AND… TRANSITIONING AND… TRANSITIONING AND…
Nick Stuart: Fans, I’m told before our next match we are going to see the Love Convoy. Over the past month, I’ve witnessed Vickie Hall all over social media promoting her husband, Jonathan-Christopher and his partner, Darin Zion as the NEW PRIME Tag Team Championships which can’t be further from the truth!
Richard Parker: Right. Not the case, they didn’t win. Then again a man/woman/couple/friends/team can dream, though, can’t they? It would’ve been better than the outcome we received at the pay-per-view…
Nick Stuart: I could not disagree with you more, Rich. Regardless, we are-
The announcer is interrupted by hot PRETTY pink confetti falling from the rafters. Flamenco dancers walk out from behind the ReVival curtain, many, MANY flamenco dancers. TOO many flamenco dancers. We’re talking at least ten… twenty… thirty…
Richard Parker: Is there a whole clown car back there?
Nick Stuart: I can only imagine.
The dancers line the top of the stage, up and down the rampway and also around ringside. They just keep coming and coming and coming. Some of them wander into the crowd, amongst the many aisleways of the arena. Soon, you could almost be wondering if there isn’t enough space for the dancers IN the actual bleachers. There has to be hundreds of them.
They keep coming. It’s getting nonsensical. The crowd is starting to boo because it’s not only taking so long, there’s no music and no one is dancing.
Nick Stuart: This is the worst display of-
Nick’s cut off again by wonderful, magical dream music!
“Love Song” by Sara Bareilles
“Love Story” by Taylor Swift
“Love on Top” by Beyonce
“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
“Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis
“Endless Love” by Lionel Richie
“Crazy For You” by Madonna
Nick Stuart: SERIOUSLY!?!?
Richard Parker: This is amazing!
“Because You Loved Me” by Celine Deon
“Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” by Drowning Pool
SUPER-FAST-QUICK transitioning to…
“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri
“As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins
If you haven’t caught on by now, the Tampa crowd is absolutely losing their shit with impatience because nobody has come out, this is taking forever and the dancers aren’t doing a thing because they can’t get into rhythm before the songs change!
And LOVE CONVOY are the only words on the big LCD screen.
“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer
“Thinkin’ Bout You” Frank Ocean
“If I Ain’t Got You” Alicia Keys
AND FINALLY transitioning to…
“2Become1” by The Spice Girls
The crowd is furious as Vickie Hall walks out, dressed in the most awful and tacky looking hot pink number. She is flanked by her Amazing Life Partner, Jonathan-Christopher who is also wearing a hot pink getup, a pink shirt and dress pants. He looks to be in good spirits as he politely smiles into the booing crowd. Then there’s tag team partner Darin Zion beside him, also dressed in pink but with red hearts throughout his dress pants and shirt. He’s holding the typical steering wheel but he doesn’t look thrilled to be there. The last person to walk out is Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy. He’s definitely the happiest of the bunch. The Nuzzle Lord has the widest smile possible, it’s borderline possessed. The group of them make their way through the dancers who only now begin to show off their talented moves!
Nick Stuart: Champions with no titles. That works, right?
Richard Parker: SSHHHH! Don’t ruin the moment. This is awesome! This is awesome! This is awesome! C’mon, chant along.
Nick Stuart: NO. [Pause] Name ONE song that played recently. You don’t like any of this music.
Richard Parker: I can appreciate effort, Nick. Effort!
Vickie gracefully leads the way as pink balloons fall from the rafters. She reaches the ring and daintily walks up the steel steps as Jonathan-Christopher holds her right arm to make sure she doesn’t fall.
Richard Parker: Imagine what this celebration would’ve looked like if they REALLY won?
Nick Stuart: No thank you.
Vickie slips through the bottom and middle rope as she reveals a pretty pink LOVE CONVOY microphone in her hand that’s shaped like a steering wheel. Soon after, Jonathan-Christopher follows into the ring and then Tristan-Crispin. Last, is the rather off-putting look from Darin Zion. He joins them inside the squared circle as the Spice Girls theme song dies down and the hundreds of dancers stop their moves but stay exactly where they are.
The Woman of Wonder gives an ear piercing scream into the microphone.
Vickie Hall: THANK YOU ALL FOR THAT MAGICAL WELCOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Boos, of course, follow.
Vickie Hall: I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the NEW PRIME TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS… MY AMAZING LIFE PARTNER, JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALL AND HIS BEST FRIEND… DARIN ZION!!!
Nick Stuart: You. Did. Not. Win.
Richard Parker: Hey! Quiet! I’m taking this in!
Nick Stuart: [SIGH]
Jonathan-Christopher takes a bow while Darin Zion stands there, seemingly becoming more disgruntled by the second.
Vickie Hall: That’s right my peeps! PRIME Pretties, the entire tag team division is on noticeeeeeeee! BUT WE WON’T STOP THERE, MUHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Tonight, Tristan-Crispin goes into singles action FOR THE FIRST TIME EVERRRRRRR!
TCG hasn’t moved a muscle on his face. He holds the exact same massive, cheesy smile plastered across his mug.
Vickie Hall: And my man, my honeybuns of amazing fucking oats, Jonathan-Christopher, HE IS GOING TO START HIS NEW JOURNEY TO THE WORLD TITLE BY TAKING DOWN THAT EVIL, MORONIC VIRGIN ADAM ELLIS!
Vickie changes her demeanor from shouting for joy to shouting in anger.
Vickie Hall: JOHN SEKTOR AIN’T GONNA SAVE YOU KID FROM THE MOST SEXUAL AND LOVING ANIMAL I HAVE EVER KNOWN!!!
Jonathan-Christopher cranks his arms around with confidence like “fuck ya, that’s right”. It’s a pretty weak attempt to look tough. It’s clear The Timid Tiger is still that, timid, hiding behind a “tough guy” persona that’s absolutely cringeworthy.
Vickie walks to the center of the ring and then points to the back. She begins to scream with random inflections at various times.
Vickie Hall: And I want everybody in the back to recognize AND realize my man and HIS BEST FRIEND are NEVER going to defend their Tag TEAM Championships because NO one IS worthy of THE forever journey to FACE THEM!
Richard Parker: See, Nick! I knew there was a reason they didn’t bring the titles out!
Vickie Hall: Nobody is going to defeat 2Become1 because WHEN 2 become 1, they are unstoppableeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!
Vickie begins to scream for joy. By now, Darin Zion’s entire face is beet red and crinkled together.
Vickie Hall: My team will go TWO-AND-OOOOOOOO tonight, followed by the following Revival when Darin Zion gets back into singles competition and FUCKING DESTROYS WHOMEVER comes his wa-
Vickie’s cut off…
Because Darin has snatched the microphone from her.
And he doesn’t look happy.
Darin Zion: Vickie, enough.
He tries to say calmly while Vickie leans over to him, sporting a cheesy smile hersel but she tries talking through the grin, without moving her lips. The apron camera mic picks up what she’s saying as she shifts her eyes all over the place, to check on the crowd reaction and DZ.
Vickie Hall: [off-mic] Zion, what the fuck are you doing?
REAL LOVE holds his free arm out to Vickie for her to take a step back, like it’s going to be okay.
Darin Zion: Vickie, enough of this nonsense, okay? I’m tired of it, I’m tired of ALL this.
Vickie raises her eyebrows and continues trying to reason with REAL LOVE off-mic.
Vickie Hall: [off-mic] Zion, don’t do anything you’re going to regret…
Vickie doesn’t take the fake smile off her face. For that matter, neither does Tristan-Crispin. He’s doubled down. His smile is even creepier and faker than normal. Gladhappy tries to give a thumbs up to the people but nobody buys it. Meanwhile, Jonathan-Christopher is looking further concerned by the millisecond!
Pretty Pink reaches out for the mic.
Vickie Hall: [off-mic] Zion, psst, dude, just give me the mic, okay? It’s going to be fine.
Zion shakes his head.
Darin Zion: I’m sorry Vickie, it’s not going to be fine. Look, I like you. I like Jonathan-Christopher. He IS a friend. Is he my best friend? Debatable. Then again, I don’t have many friends. Vickie, I’m a loser. I keep losing. I lose a lot. And I lost our match at Colossus for the-
Vickie pats Darin on the back, still talking through that fake smile without moving her lips.
Vickie Hall: But we WON, Zion. Won. W. O. N.
Once again, Zion shakes his head.
Darin Zion: No we didn’t, Vic. I’m sorry.
DZ attempts to take a deep breath.
Darin Zion: Look, I’m not leaving this group…
He looks down at the steering wheel he dropped inside the ring.
Darin Zion: In fact, I’m staying right here. But we can’t run away from failing. I’m done running. REAL LOVE isn’t doing it. It’s time REAL LOVE became TOUGH LOVE.
Vickie’s face is slowly suggesting she’s really not happy with Zion. Like, really, really not happy. The dancers are looking on from every angle… the crowd watches this situation continue to meltdown. Gladhappy is frozen in time with his smile and thumbs up, the only thing that moves are his eyes as they dart around all over the place like a googly eyed doll.
…And Jonathan-Christopher has fallen against the corner of the ring, shaking with anxiety.
Vickie realizes Darin’s not going to back down so, instead, she decides to play a different game. She calmly inches closer and closer to Darin, in an attempt to snatch the microphone back.
Vickie Hall: [off-mic] Zion, please. Like fuck, please man…
She’s just about ready to take the mic when TOUGH LOVE steps back.
Darin Zion: No Vickie, I’m sorry. I’ve got some soul searching to do.
Zion drops the mic and exits the ring, pushing his way past the pack of dancers who are just as stunned as the group inside the ring.
Vickie is rattled as fuck. She turns to the hard camera in an extremely robotic motion, as if somehow nobody saw what took place. She doesn’t know what to do. She looks over to Jonathan-Christopher who’s sitting on the canvas mat and crying in the corner now.
Pretty Pink shouts in Jonathan-Christopher’s directions. He tries to pick himself up and walk over. Then she says something inaudible to Tristan-Crispin.
Nick Stuart: I think Vickie and Jonathan-Christopher are leaving.
Richard Parker: Yeah, so are everyone else. Everyone except Gladhappy.
Nick Stuart: I guess he does have a match that’s next…
Vickie exits the ring and starts demanding all the dancers to “FUCK OFF ASAP”. The entire night has been ruined.
TRISTAN-CRISPIN GLADHAPPY vs. JACOB MEPHISTO
Nick Stuart: What a spectacle by the Love Convoy!
Richard Parker: They never promised us a rose garden, Nick! What has happened to them is a travesty!
Nick Stuart: A point that appears entirely lost on Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy, who remains in the ring seemingly unfazed by what has unfolded…
True enough, in the ring TCG waves out to what he perceives to be an adoring crowd and winks into the nearest camera.
Vince Howard: First, in the ring, standing 6’0” and weighing in at 219 lbs…from Sacramento, California…he is a member of the Love Convoy…TRISTAAAAN-CRISPIIIIN GLAAADHAPPYYYYYYY!!!!!
Richard Parker: Love is NOT in need of love today, Nick, because the Nuzzle Lord brought enough for everyone!
“The Dark Horse Always Wins” by Blues Saracino hits over the PA and Jacob Mephisto emerges from behind the backstage curtain, stopping for a moment to survey the crowd before marching with purpose down to the ring.
Vince Howard: Coming to the ring at this time…standing 6’5” and weighing in at 265 lbs…from Nazareth, Pennsylvania…he is JAAAACOOOOOOOB MEEEPHISSSSSSTOOOOOOO!!!!
Nick Stuart: Mephisto has declared his intent to turn a corner here in PRIME in 2023 after admittedly a tough year last year.
Richard Parker: Sure. And last year I ‘declared my intent’ to lose weight, and can I sit here today and tell you what color the nice lady at the salon chose for my toenails this morning? NO!
Nick Stuart: Wait…you went…
Richard Parker: You should think about practicing self-care, Nick. It’s the Love Convoy way.
Mephisto climbs the steps to the ring apron and steps through the ropes, standing up and cracking his neck.
Nick Stuart: And we are ready for action as this one gets underway!
Mephisto looms in his corner, eyes locked on TCG as Gladhappy loosens up in his own corner, jogging in place.
Nick Stuart: You know, Richard, as different as these two may line up physically with Mephisto’s height and weight advantage, and as different as their…um…vibes may be…
Richard Parker: Ya think?!
TCG blows a kiss to someone in the crowd. Mephisto wordlessly wishes unending suffering on all whom the moon’s shadow touches.
Nick Stuart: …actually there are a lot of similarities in their ring styles. Both lean heavily on strikes and quick-hitting whip moves and snap suplexes.
Richard Parker: Wait, were you up all night doing research on this one? Jesus, you sicko, no wonder you had to send your youngest to “wilderness therapy camp”…
Nick Stuart: Easy!
TCG begins to dance out of the corner as Mephisto in turn takes three big steps to the middle of the ring, nodding and waving for Gladhappy to engage.
Nick Stuart: Mephisto is telling Gladhappy to bring it on!
Richard Parker: Yeah I’d RSVP “honored but won’t be able to make it”…
TCG springs forward, swinging his right leg.
Nick Stuart: TCG connecting with a low kick off the left leg of Mephisto and he immediately backs off! Clearly not interested in starting this one off trading blows!
Richard Parker: He’s got some brains to go with all those hearts!
Mephisto lunges forward, swinging a lariat that TCG manages to duck under, but as TCG pumps the brakes and pivots to re-launch…
Nick Stuart: OOOH! Mephisto with a mule kick catching Gladhappy square in the midsection!
Richard Parker: A few inches south and 2Become1 would be 1 bag and 2 balls short of a convoy!
Nick Stuart: Mephisto baited Gladhappy with that lariat knowing full well he could catch him on the regroup! Smart strategy!
Mephisto turns and plants the doubled-over TCG with a DDT onto the mat. He grabs TCG, lifting him quickly to his feet before whipping him back to the mat with a dragon screw leg whip.
Mephisto rolls through to his feet, lifts TCG again, then again with the dragon screw.
Nick Stuart: Mephisto keeping Gladhappy grounded with these takedowns!
Richard Parker: Please, Nick, TCG hasn’t been “grounded” since he was caught in grade school rifling through his grandfather’s collection of Penthouse Forums…which he actually read for the love stories! A romantic even then!
Mephisto tries a third dragon screw and TCG kicks a leg up across Mephisto’s face, sending him spinning backwards. Gladhappy grabs him from behind and flings him into the corner. Mephisto crumples against the turnbuckles and TCG executes a quick back handspring to some “oohs” and “ahhhs” from the crowd before charging in…
…and eating a short-arm clothesline.
Nick Stuart: PRIDE BEFORE THE FALL! Gladhappy trying to get fancy and he pays for it!
Richard Parker: Is there no place for a showman anymore?! That was cool!
With TCG on the mat, Mephisto turns and scales the turnbuckle pads, facing away from his opponent.
Nick Stuart: We know Mephisto’s no high-flyer so this may be some kind of double leg stomp…
Suddenly TCG springs up and shoves Mephisto’s leg, causing the big man to rack himself on the top turnbuckle.
Richard Parker: Mephisto better be happy with The Family he’s got, ‘cuz I’m not seeing more progeny in his future!
Nick Stuart: He is really hurting after that one!
TCG climbs to his feet, sliding his head under Mephisto and grabbing a leg in each arm.
Nick Stuart: He’s gonna lift him! Mephisto has almost fifty pounds on Gladhappy but he’s going for it!
Richard Parker: The heart really is the strongest muscle in the body, Nick!
TCG hoists Mephisto off of the ringpost, trembling just momentarily as he walks backwards to the middle of the ring, bathed in flashbulbs…and plants Mephisto with a thunderous BOOM~! on the mat.
Nick Stuart: BUILDING SOMETHING GREAT TOGETHER!! We know what’s coming next!!
Richard Parker: I’m swooning over here!
Nick Stuart: Gladhappy positioning now for the anklelock…and he’s got it! HEAD OVER HEELS! Head Over Heels is locked in and Mephisto is in agony!!
Mephisto slams his fists on the mat as he writhes and tries to jockey for ring ropes, but TCG pulls him further into the center of the ring.
Mephisto continues fighting it, his hands alternating between pawing at the mat and covering his face…before slamming his right palm repeatedly on the canvas.
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: And this one’s history, Richard! TCG with a nice win tonight over Jacob Mephisto, whose in-ring woes continue on in 2023!
Richard Parker: It’s never too late to start thinking about next year!
Vince Howard: Your winner by submission…TRISTAAAAN-CRISPIIIINNN GLAAAAAADHAAAPPPYYYYYYYY!!!
TCG drops Mephisto’s leg and thrusts both arms ecstatically into the air. Mephisto rolls over, clutching his ankle before sliding under the bottom rope and kneeling on the outside of the ring apron as the camera cuts to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: CULTURE SHOCK 2023
DOLLAR GENERAL VILLAIN
We go from the commercial break to the backstage area where Simon Tillier is standing by with Dave Gibson and Eddie Cross. Dave is standing slightly behind Eddie, letting his student take the lead. Even at 6’4” Eddie towers over Simon and outweighs him by a solid fifty pounds. Before Simon can get a word out, Eddie holds up a hand to cut him off.
Eddie Cross: I was wondering if I’d run into you before our match. I gotta admit, in person, you’re really not all that impressive. I guess your mouth really is the biggest part of you.
Simon Tillier: What are you talking about Eddie?
Eddie Cross: Look in the mirror, you Wish.com Mystic Mac. Come to think of it, Wish.com might be a little too high end for you, we might have to go straight to Dollar General for this one.
Simon looks genuinely confused by what is happening at the moment.
Simon Tillier: Eddie, I’m not…
Dave Gibson: Eddie, this is that kid that Rezin is always busting balls on. Simon uh…Til…a….Tiller sumthin.
Simon Tillier: It’s Tillier.
Eddie looks back at Dave and pulls his gaming glasses off for a minute. His toxic emerald eyes shine in the lighting.
Eddie Cross: Whatever your name is, do you really think you have a chance in this match?
Simon Tillier: Is this one of those things you Samoan guys do where I say something and then you tell me it doesn’t matter what I think?
Eddie raises a brow.
Eddie Cross: What are you talking about? Nobody I know of does that. I’m talking about the fact that we are in two completely different weight classes. Look at me, then look at you. I know Bruce Lee says “size doesn’t matter,” but eschewing tasteless jokes, it really does in this business. That’s why Ivan is out here throwing people around like grenades in Warzone.
Simon Tillier: I told you, I’m not…
Eddie holds a hand up and Simon stops point blank.
Eddie Cross: Are you trying to tell me you’re not Tyler Best?
Eddie Cross: You’re going to stand there at all five foot nine of you with your Men’s Wearhouse suit hiding a leprechaun green pair of kneepads and a Romex watch and pretend I don’t know who you are?
Simon Tillier: That’s what I am…
Eddie Cross: You are really going to make the earth tremble weighing a buck fifty sopping wet with your stupid chest tattoo that’s going to look like the wings are flapping when your man boobs are flying around in the ring at age 45 and tell me you aren’t named after discount diet cola?
Simon Tillier: That’s what I am trying to say.
Eddie Cross: So your company bio pic doesn’t look like a cell shaded Crank Yankers character?
Simon Tillier: No. Eddie, I…
Eddie smiles and claps Simon on the shoulder.
Eddie Cross: Alright, I get it. I wouldn’t want to admit it either if I were in your shoes. I’m kidding! The truth is, I know exactly who you are, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me tonight.
Simon Tillier: I swear to god if you make a Christmas Story joke…
Eddie Cross: Come on, Simon. Lighten up! After all, here we are at the Amalie Arena in sunny Tampa Bay, Florida!
Dave smirks, Eddie beams. Simon looks visibly annoyed now.
Eddie Cross: Home of the Lightning! Home of The Buccaneers! Home of The G.O.A.T.! Well, for a little bit longer anyhow. Really, like the rest of Florida, it’s more of a retirement home for him.
Say, speaking of people getting championship opportunities they don’t deserve, Simon, would you say winning a championship while ring chasing as a mercenary feels a bit like wearing someone else’s underwear?
Simon Tillier: Well I…
Eddie Cross: What am I saying, you don’t bother with underwear do you? Of course you don’t. That’s how I knew you weren’t really Tyler Best, you aren’t rocking those maximum absorbency granny panties. Or are they Bed, Bath and Beyond terry cloth mom shorts? I don’t know how he expects anyone to not laugh looking like a disgruntled John Stockton with them pulled all the way up to his nipples.
Simon is unflappable in an interview, and straight faces Eddie’s joke even as the crowd gets noisier.
Simon Tillier: Can we be serious? I would love to get your actual thoughts on the match.
Eddie Cross: Sure, low hanging juvenile jokes about what a person looks like and their name isn’t really my style anyhow. Now let’s see…
Eddie wrings his hands like he has seen Dave do a thousand times when studying tape. His venomous eyes take on a devilish look all of a sudden.
Eddie Cross: I like to deal with reality, so let’s talk about that for a minute. The reality is that all the talk in the world is just talk. A person’s mouth can’t step into the ring for them and win a match. If it could, Cancer Jiles would still be the champion. I just wanted to show that anybody in this game can make immature jokes and claim whatever they want, but it’s hardly an indicator of talent. The time will come very shortly when he has to back it all up, and I don’t think he can.
Eddie points his finger toward Simon and then the camera, purposely driving his points home with the motion.
Eddie Cross: The fact is we are in PRIME now, Tyler. You can’t hide behind your name. You can’t hide behind your colors. You can’t even run to Lindsay Troy because she is going to tell you to go do it yourself. I made a mistake and gave you too much respect. I can see that now. But the thing is, you made one thing abundantly clear to me: You don’t respect me, and you don’t respect who I am and what I can do. That’s why you’re going to learn tonight that I don’t lie down and when you’re wondering how you just lost to a “kid” who you have no respect for… you’ll never see it coming.
Eddie puts his glasses back on and walks away, leaving Dave and Simon standing by. Gibson nods and shakes Simon’s hand.
Dave Gibson: Nice interview kid, you’re gonna do OK in the business for a long time if you keep that up.
Simon Tillier: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.
Dave nods respectfully and walks away following his student as the feed cuts to elsewhere in the backstage area.
THE MEET YUTE… DID YOU SAY “YUTE”?
Backstage at the Amalie Arena, more specifically the craft services table. A rather nervous Mortimer Knightingale looks over his shoulder as craft services has not been very kind to him. Anna Daniels disrespected him. Tony Gamble assaulted him. Ivan Stanislav threw him into a wall. Yes, it is only right for Mortimer Knightingale to express some hesitance.
Mortimer, reluctantly (as always) donning the G.A.S. emblazoned tracksuit provided to him by Tony Gamble, looks to his left and his right and he pours packet after packet of sugar into his coffee (he lost count after eight). Mortimer takes three little red stirrers and he begins swirling it around before placing a lid on the cup. He takes the coffee and starts to leave, looking behind him as he does so, not realizing that a mere six feet away a young newcomer to PRIME is busy looking at her phone…..
Kohime Mori absentmindedly wanders down the hall, eyes fixed to her phone. With her match done and over with, she looks to decompress. Not only is her visual attention captured, but the earbuds occupying her ears have her audio concentration as well. While Mori has been incredibly polite to most of the roster, the truth is that she’s still a slightly irresponsible twenty year old that does slightly irresponsible things… Irresponsible things like walking down a potentially busy hallway while distracted.
Mortimer Knightingale looks forward a split second too late…..
BAM! POP! SPLASH!
Mortimer Knightingale: AHHHHHHHHHH! MOTHERCRAPPIN’ BALL SHIT!
Kohime Mori and Mortimer collide in the middle of the corridor. The lid pops off the coffee, the not-as-hot-as-a-McDonald’s-coffee-but-still-kind-of-hot, and spills onto his hand and tracksuit. Mortimer Knightingale, still holding the cup, coffee dripping from the bottom onto the floor, looks at Kohime and expresses his feelings.
Mortimer Knightingale: Why don’t you watch where you’re goin’?! What’s-a-matter with you?!
Kohime’s hands raise to her mouth in horror. She clearly must not have been paying attention, as Mortimer is not an easy man to miss. She looks around in a panic, her eyes wide in what must be a combination of embarrassment and worry.
Kohime Mori: Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?! Do you need a towel? Does that tracksuit need to be dry cleaned?! I don’t know any places that do that. I should give you a towel! I don’t have a towel, but I’ll get you one!
The young woman looks around, frantic concern fueling her as she scurries around the area. In doing so, Kohime almost bowls over a table. The surface contains some bottles of water and soda. Lesson learned, do not have drinks near this woman. She is a menace to liquids. Mortimer, for his part, looks down at the caffeinated liquid dripping off his tracksuit onto the floor. He looks at Kohime, there is something about her that seems like she is genuinely sorry. Almost….too…..genuine…..
Mortimer Knightingale: What the hell is this, huh? You fuckin’ with me, is that it? Who sent you? Was it Tony? Angelo? Flambergee? My cousin, Mikey? That Brandon Youngblod prick? You got some balls there, short stack!
Mortimer does not register the look of confusion on Kohime’s face (but if he does, he surely assumes it is all part of the act). Mortimer looks down at Kohime, there is anger and hurt in his eyes, months of being disrespected coming out…..yet again.
Mortimer Knightingale: What? You gonna be all nicey-nice, maybe offer me a happy endin’ in a broom closet only for the door to open and I get drenched with pig’s blood like Carrie while you and the rest of these lowlife pricks laugh like fuckin’ hernias at me? As if! You’re oobatz if you think I’m buyin’ what your sellin’.
Kohime’s confusion is quick to shift to hurt itself. Slight tears well up on her lower eyelids. She swallows hard, as if trying to force a rock down her esophagus. Her head dips, her focus down at her feet.
Kohime Mori: I didn’t mean… I’m sorry…
Despite being a super tough wrestler that was surely intimidating to all who interact with her, Kohime is still a fairly young woman. Sure, Mort had a right to be annoyed, angry even. Most people would be, coffee isn’t getting any cheaper. She tries to keep her composure.
Kohime Mori: I’ll get you another coffee… It was my fault.
Mori sniffles as she turns away from Knightingale.
Mortimer Knightingale (to himself): Aw geez…not the waterworks….
Mortimer Knightingale drops his head down, there is an audible sigh. He speaks up, unable to look at the young girl in the face (or even the back of her head).
Mortimer Knightingale: Wait….
Mori stops. Mortimer looks down and drops the cup to the floor like a common litterbug. He opens his mouth to say something. There is a reluctance. Almost as if he cannot bring himself to get the words out.
Mortimer Knightingale: I’m, uh, I’m sorry, okay? It’s, uh, just that, this, um, it ain’t been a roller coaster full of wine and roses for me here. Some days, it feels like-like I got the plutonic plague or somethin’ the way I’m treated. No one acknowledges that I’m here most of the time and when they do, I’m constantly bein’ disrespected like I’m-I’m less than and such as if like, uh, that Charlie in the Box on the Rudolph special, the Island of Nitwit Toys. And with Tony Gamble bein’ a major hemorrhoid up my asshole lately, it, uh, the whole kittens cabootle, it wears on me. So, yeah, all things showin’ equality and all, I, uh, I may have had an overreactionary response to, what can only be manifested as one of them wrong place, wrong time situations. You, uh, you didn’t deserve it. Here….
Mortimer finally brings his head up to find Mori looking at him. He reaches into his pocket and offers up a twenty dollar bill. Kohime blinks away her tears. That confusion from earlier? It’s back and in full force. She looks down to the twenty dollar bill, then back up at Mort.
Kohime Mori: I don’t… I’m not… So is that to get you a new coffee?
The poor Japanese girl is visibly flummoxed by Mortimer’s actions. Maybe the money was to get him a new track suit? That didn’t seem likely. Where would she find one that cheap? Maybe it was for the dry cleaning she offered? He was still wearing the suit though, so that didn’t seem to make much sense either. While Mori silently contemplates the potential reasoning for the twenty dollar bill, Mortimer still holds the cash out, each passing second making the situation more and more awkward.
Mortimer waves the twenty in the air.
Mortimer Knightingale: Take it. It’s nothin’ more than a gesture. Don’t make it into somethin’ it ain’t.
Mortimer Knightigale shrugs before folding up the twenty and placing it into his pocket. He takes Mori’s hand in his and shakes it.
Mortimer Knightingale: Row—er—-Mortimer Knightingale. Nice to meet ya.
Mortimer releases his grip. Mori discovers a folded up bill in her hand. She stares at him for a moment before slowly reaching forward. With a gentle nature, she turns his forearm, palm now facing up. Mori then politely places the money back into his hand. Her eyes meet his and Kohime flashes Mort her best smile.
Kohime Mori: I’m Kohime Mori. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Knightingale.
Kohime gives Mortimer a courteous bow, as is tradition in her home country. Mortimer flashes an awkward smile of his own.. Coffee all over the floor, on his tracksuit, and his shoes.
Mortimer Knightingale: Mori? “You are NOT the father.”
Mortimer Knightingale laughs. Kohime’s eyes dart side to side, an obvious tell that this reference is totally lost on her.
Kohime Mori: Well, yeah… I’m a woman. Not that I’m trying to disrespect anyone’s gender identity. I try not to be rude like that. I’m also single and I haven’t even had se–
Mori’s eyes widen as she realizes the information she’s almost willingly offered. A light blush begins to spread across her face while her right hand shoots up to her mouth, as if such an action will stop her random streams of consciousness.
Kohime Mori: Sorry Mr. Knightingale, I have to go!
The words are muffled, thanks to the hands covering Kohime’s mouth. The girl promptly turns the opposite direction and skitters off, her embarrassment permeating throughout the hallway.
Mortimer Knightingale: Yeah! That’s cool! I gotta….do…things too…..
Mortimer’s voice changes from calling towards the humiliated young PRIME rookie to mumbling to himself, looking at the staining sleeve of his G.A.S. tracksuit and feeling the stickiness of the coagulating goo the coffee has become in his hands.
Mortimer Knightingale: ….like get out of these fuckin’ clothes.
Mortimer looks down the hallway to where Mori had run off. He shakes his head and smirks to himself before casually walking away, each footstep sounding like the peeling of Velcro as the scene comes to a halt. We then cut back to ringside for our next match.
EDDIE CROSS vs. TYLER ADRIAN BEST
Match Start in 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…
– Eliminate Other Players –
ISIS (ADHD) by Joyner Lucas ft Logic begins, and the arena lights focus on the entry.
♫One time for them prayin’ on my downfall (Yeah)
Two times for the homies in the chow hall (Whoa)
Three times for them hoes on the internet
Shittin’ on me when they really should get out more
Four times for the days I would hold back (Woo!)
Five times for the bitches who ain’t called back (Yeah)
Six times for the kids like me who got ADHD just to (Brap, brap, brap)♫
As Joyner Lucas rhymes Eddie “N1ghtCraw1er” Cross steps out of the back followed shortly by Dave Gibson. He adjusts his custom gaming glasses before walking down the ramp focused on the ring. He pauses at the ring steps, taking off his backpack, unzipping the main compartment, and placing it in the corner of the ring. He waits for the transition between Joyner and Logic’s verse before psyching himself up. Vince Howard is waiting.
Vince Howard: From Detroit, Michigan by way of Orlando, Florida, standing six feet four inches and weighing in at 225 lbs, EDDIE “N1GHTCRAW1ER” CROSS!!!
Eddie tosses his glasses to Dave, runs up the ring steps, wipes his feet on the apron, and enters the ring as Logic spits his hook.
♫Me and Joyner need a couple hearses (Woo!)
Double homicide, kill the beat and the verses
Everybody livin’ on the surface
But we came from the underground, yeah, we deserve it
Eddie rolls his neck and prepares for the match.♫
Vince Howard: And his opponent, hailing from Chicago, Illinois, standing 5’11” and weighing 182 lbs.
Nick Stuart: So now we get the PRIME debut of one of the fastest rising stars in all of professional wrestling. This young man is the youngest to ever win War Games, he has the pedigree of pedigree’s.
The lights in the arena dim, as “T A B” flashes across the screen in bright gold letters. The letters suddenly begin to drip 97Red, as “People I Don’t Like” begins to blast over the sound system.
Richard Parker: And he comes from one of the greatest wrestling families to ever exist. I can’t even deny him that.
Nick Stuart: And he knows it Richard.
♫ Hello it’s so good to see you
We met before but nice to meet you ♫
Vince Howard: TYYYYYYYLER BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST!
♫ Yeah I don’t really wanna be here like,
Richard Parker: I vibe with what Tyler’s putting down here.
Nick Stuart: What’s that supposed to mean?
Tyler Adrian Best steps out from behind the curtain, slowly making his way out onto the stage and staring out into the sea of fans.
♫ What’s my name do you remember?
I’m pretty sure you have my number ♫
He smirks as he stares into the crowd, he gestures and gets met with a chorus of boos.
Richard Parker: That’s awfully rude, the young man just got here.
Nick Stuart: Well, I mean, in addition to being the hometown of Lindsay Troy, this also happens to be the hometown of one of his fathers biggest rivals. Kostoff.
♫ So let’s pretend we like each other like,
Richard Parker: Get the Enemigos out here, or those HOW guys in the masks. This young man needs some protection.
Tyler goes up onto the turnbuckle, smirking at the reaction and appealing to the crowd before coming down into his corner. He begins stretching before the match begins. Elvis Nixon finishes checking both men and calls for the bell.
Nick Stuart: Two second generation talents are staring each other down right now.
Eddie Cross and Tyler Best walk to the center of the ring, the two both begin running their mouths at each other. Cross goes to lean in to Tyler’s forehead, but TAB pulls back and slaps Cross across the mouth as hard as he can. Cross is sent stumbling and Tyler is all over him.
Richard Parker: Talk shit, get hit.
Nick Stuart: What’s that even mean?
Richard Parker: Exactly what just happened.
Tyler runs forward rapidly stomping on Eddie Cross’s legs, a kick to the thigh, followed by a stomp on the back of the knee followed as Eddie reached out and managed to grab the rope. Elvis Nixon walks over and steps between Tyler and Eddie, Tyler holds his hands up, Nixon turns back around and Tyler goes right around him, driving a boot into Cross’ midsection. Nixon is momentarily shocked as Tyler reaches down and grabs Cross by the hair. Dave Gibson is pounding on the mat furiously yelling instructions to Cross, who finally manages to throw an elbow into Tyler Best’s midsection.
Nick Stuart: Eddie Cross getting back into this thing.
Eddie fires off another elbow and manages to get around to Tyler’s back with a waist lock. Tyler throws an elbow, but Eddie manages to slide his foot in on the other side and trip Tyler down onto his face. He slides forward into a side headlock and tries to set up a submission. Tyler manages to slip his head out, and drives an elbow down on the collarbone of Eddie. Cross rolls over and Tyler jumps into his guard. Tyler starts raining down elbows, but Eddie manages to cover up and grabs an arm while swinging his hips up around Tyler’s shoulder. Eddie flips Tyler over going for the arm bar but Tyler flips all the way over onto his feet, he spins around and smashes Eddie with a left hand across the temple.
Nick Stuart: Both of these kids are trained really well.
Richard Parker: Well, Dave Gibson and Lindsay Troy are pretty good trainers Nick.
Eddie gives up the arm and tries to get to his feet, but Tyler drives a knee into his midsection sending Eddie stumbling backwards. Tyler grabs him around the waist this time and drops Eddie Cross to the canvas with a snap german suplex. Eddie rolls over sitting up and grabs his neck, but Tyler is relentless and drives a boot into Eddie the middle of Eddie’s spine, just below the neck.
Richard Parker: I know with the special color red and everything I’m not supposed to like him… but… I dunno if I can help myself Nick.
Nick Stuart: You do have an affinity for the color Red.
Tyler drags Cross to his feet and delivers a knife edge chop as hard as he possibly can across Cross’ chest. He rears back and fires a second, but Eddie fires up and fires back one of his own across TAB’s chest. Tyler is shocked for a moment, but fires back with a chop of his own, Eddie rears back and sends one of his own into Tyler’s chest. Tyler finally having enough, fires a chop and follows it up with a kick to Cross’ midsection. Eddie stumbles back into the corner.
Richard Parker: Smart thinking there by Tyler.
TAB grabs Cross by the arm, and irish whips him into the ropes, Cross comes back and Tyler hits the deck causing Cross to go over him. Cross hits the ropes again and Tyler leap frogs him, and then Tyler’s face changes to a look of complete shock as Eddie Cross stopped, pivoted and caught Tyler Best on the way down. It’s Eddie’s turn to fire off a thunderous german suplex. Eddie scrambles over to get on top of Tyler, but TAB rolls to the outside shaking his head and clutching his neck.
Nick Stuart: Big offense there from Eddie Cross!
Richard Parker: Yeah, sure, whatever. TAB’s got this.
Eddie motions for Tyler to come back into the ring as Elvis Nixon starts the count. Tyler stomps up the ring stairs and through the ropes as Eddie Cross comes sprinting in. He throws a right hand, then a left hand, Tyler fires back with a chop of his own, and a kick to the midsection. Tyler tries to take Eddie’s head off with an axe kick, but Cross moves out of the way and spins Tyler around, planting him with a huge headbut.
Nick Stuart: Eddie Cross tapping into that heritage!
Richard Parker: Yeah, whatever, wait till Tyler taps into his heritage.
Eddie smiles as Tyler wobbles, he grabs Tyler by the back of the skull and drives both of their heads together again, finally dropping Tyler Best in the center of the ring. Eddie leans back, and drops forward with a third straight headbut, crashing down across the face of TAB. He slides on top, hooking a leg and hooking Best’s left leg with his own. Elvis Nixon slides in for the count.
Richard Parker: Not gonna get Tyler Best like this.
Nick Stuart: You were right Nick, but that was probably way too close for Tyler’s liking.
Eddie rolls Tyler over and steps over him, trying to lock in Dave Gibson’s old finisher ‘The Silencer’, however Tyler slips out and cuts Eddie Cross down with a chop block to the back of the leg.
Richard Parker: Great move from Tyler there.
Eddie drops to his knees, and Tyler locks in a full nelson from behind. He brings Cross up to his feet, and sends him over with a snap dragon suplex. TAB pulls Eddie up again, this time putting him up into a fireman’s carry, then rapidly swings him down, smashing him to the canvas with the Ty-Breaker!
Nick Stuart: Big impact there!
Tyler doesn’t stop there though, he waits in the corner for Cross. He’s motioning for Eddie to get to his feet, Gibson is shouting warnings from the corner, but Eddie clearly doesn’t hear them. He finally wobbles to his feet and gets caught with a devastating cutter.
Richard Parker: STREETS SWEEPER!
Eddie crashes to the canvas, and Tyler falls down, pressing both hands on Eddie Cross’ chest as Elvis Nixon counts.
DING DING DING
Elvis Nixon calls for the bell as TAB gets up to his feet smirking. He looks down at Cross and shakes his head back and forth.
Vince Howard: And your winner by pinfall… TYYYYYYLER BEEEEEEEEEEST!
Nick Stuart: What a debut for Tyler Best!
Richard Parker: For sure, incredible debut.
We then cut to our third commercial break of the evening.
COMMERCIAL: POWERBOMB FRAGRANCE
ADAM ELLIS IS BACK
Back from commercial. Matt Mills is backstage with the returning Adam Ellis and his wife Ginny Van Lear.
Matt Mills: Adam. Welcome back.
Adam Ellis: Thank you, Matt. It‘s good to be back.
Matt Mills: You took a couple months off at the end of last year for some heavy-duty personal issues that arose.
Adam Ellis: That’s right. We lost Ginny’s dad and… yeah… With Lindsay Troy’s blessing, I decided it would be better to take the time off. I missed being here… being in the ring. But I wanted to stand by Ginny after her daddy passed and be there in her time of need.
Matt Mills: But you still missed being in the ring.
Adam Ellis: Oh yeah. I missed it a lot.
Matt Mills: This is your first PRIME match since October, but you were involved in a match in December at HOW.
Adam Ellis: I couldn’t wait to get back so much when an opportunity came up to take on GREAT SCOTT, I jumped at it- which in retrospect wasn’t a good decision on my part.
Matt Mills: You were a little rusty that night.
Adam Ellis: I was a LOT rusty that night. But again, I was desperate to get back into the ring and get back to it. Wasn’t my night.
Matt Mills: You also wrestled at Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Evening of Champions.
Adam Ellis: Yes. I wrestled Captain Jack there and did much better than I did against GREAT SCOTT. But Matt, every trip to the ring is a chance to learn something new and I learned of a bunch of things from the GREAT SCOTT experience and from wrestling Captain Jack.
Matt Mills: Speaking of experience, your first opponent of 2023 is one Jonathan-Christopher Hall and he is someone you’re already experienced in dealing with.
Adam Ellis: That’s right. When I successfully defended the MVW Men’s Title at the HOW Dead or Alive pay-per-view show against Darin Zion… Hall’s tag team partner in 2Become1… after the match Zion put me in the Love Handle Lock and both Jonathan-Christopher Hall and Vickie Hall attacked my wife at ringside.
Ginny leans in to say something.
Ginny Van Lear: Ah reckon it’s funny it took two of them t’keep lil’ ol’ me from helpin’ Adam out.
She nods her head and looks defiantly into the camera.
Ginny Van Lear: Just sayin’. Vickie…. Iffa I see ya at ringside… then you-en I ar’ gonna have a lil’ girl-to-girl talk.
Mills tries to steer the conversation back to the match itself.
Matt Mills: Adam, this will be a match between two wrestlers who really could use a win.
Adam Ellis: Yes. All I can say is I’ve trained hard… worked hard… and I’m ready to go. Can’t wait to get back in there against Jonathan-Christopher Hall tonight. I’ll do the best we can.
Matt Mills: All right. Thank you Adam Ellis.
We then cut to the ring.
The Amalie Arena is buzzing. The crowd is (barb)wired for the nights main event. Half the PRIMEates are on to beer two or three already.
The lights in the arena dim, changing to a soft orange glow and the, suddenly, familiar sound of Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” begins to play. The crowd, at least all those who watched Colossus, jump to their feet with a roar.
Nick Stuart: We remember this tune from late last year. The shocking return of the PRIME Hall of Famer, The Inhuman Being, Matt Ward!
After just a few seconds, enough to tease the fans, the sounds of Zach Bryan fade away and the arena is plunged into darkness as the orange glow dies out. And then…
Wiz Khalifa – “No Limit (Sencit Remix)”
A wave of soft white lights begin to blink on and off in rapid succession, like strobe lights on speed. At the top of the stage, The Inhuman Being emerges from the Argyle Position.
Nick Stuart: This is new.
Richard Parker: I don’t get to sing along about how much I f’ing hate everyone anymore?
The man often referred to as Tchu slowly makes his way down to the ring. As he does, some fans along the aisle start an “IN-HU-MAN” chant that spreads across the ringside area.
Nick Stuart: Safe to say these fans in Florida couldn’t be happier to see the 3-time Universal Champ back in the ranks of PRIME!
Ward hops up onto the apron and steps through the ropes. He climbs the near corner and throws his arms open to the world as the fans blow the roof off the arena.
And then, it’s on to business. Ward hops down and the music fades. He crosses the ring and is handed a microphone.
Ward: Feels good to be back
Ward: Been a long time, and I guess a lot has probably changed. Hell, the last time I came out here to cut a promo, this show was called ReVolution.
Richard Parker: It’s true. This guy is stone-age.
Nick Stuart: You were calling those matches.
Richard Parker: And so were you, ya old bastard.
For a moment, The Inhuman Being fumbles the microphone around in his hand, almost like he’s forgotten how to hold one. Ring rust comes in many forms.
Ward: A lot of people have already started asking… why come back? After a decade away? 46 years old… and change. Why? I’ve already heard the talk, read the dirt sheets saying this is my feel-good farewell tour. Trust me when I say… that ain’t it.
Richard Parker: Think he came back for the spread in catering?
Nick Stuart: Not likely. The rolls are good though.
In the center of the ring, the Hall of Famer rubs his beard, noticeably more grey than the last time, PRIME fans saw him do so.
Ward: Just a minute ago, I kicked things off by saying that a lot has changed over the last ten years. Hell, I’m walking down to the ring to different music. But not everything changes. I came back to show that some things are constant. To show that a decade later, a whole new world… a whole new generation, new faces, new roster… I am that constant.
Now, it can be seen that Tchu is finding his stride, falling back into a comfortable zone.
Ward: There’s not gonna be anything warm & fuzzy about my return. This is gonna be cold blooded. It’s not a feel good retirement tour. I didn’t come back to say goodbyes, town by town. I came back for Number 4.
Richard Parker: Who’s that?
Nick Stuart: She’s about ten pounds of gold, I reckon
Ward: And it’s not personal, Hayes. You’re just the right guy at the wrong time. Hayes or whoever. And I didn’t come back for anything less than everything.
Richard Parker: Bold for a guy who’s a few months away from qualifying for senior discounts at Bob Evans
In the ring, Tchu lowers the mic to his side and takes a deep breath. It’s cliched, but he soaks in the sounds of thousands of people, buzzing and roaring… all for his existence. After a few seconds, he raises the mic back to his lips.
Ward: But first, before the gold, there’s a diamond I need to break. The Ace of the ReVolution is coming for the Ace of the ReVival
Nick Stuart: I think The Inhuman Being just called out the reigning Wrestler of the Year, Brandon Youngblood!
Richard Parker: This guy ever heard of easing back into things?!
Ward drops the microphone and steps thru the ropes as the crowd continues to roar. With what appears to be a smirk spreading across his face, he makes his way up the aisle, content with the line he’s just drawn in the sand.
Nick Stuart: Not sure what that’s about, or what his beef is, but I can’t imagine Youngblood won’t have something to say about it.
We cut to the backstage area, where Matt Mills is with… someone just mentioned.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LINE
Standing before a monitor is Brandon Youngblood, arms folded across his chest, his focus completely on the screen. Seeing the smirk spread across Ward’s face is juxtaposed by one of the Tower of Babel’s own.
Dressed for battle a little later in the evening, Youngblood cracks his knuckles as he turns around, and as if on cue, as though he had inside information, Simon Tillier makes his approach, looking as well groomed and dapper as ever.
Simon Tillier: Ladies and gentlemen, my guest at this time…PRIME’s Wrestler of the Year for 2022…Brandon Youngblood! Brandon…
Brandon Youngblood: Next week…
The Diamond of the ReVival looks to brush past Tillier, but the diminutive interviewer manages to hold his ground to try and impede him.
Simon Tillier: There are so many questions the fans are interested in knowing the answer to. Why did you not make an attempt to break up Nate Colton’s pin on Rezin in the 5 Star Championship four way at Colossus? What are you feelings in regard to PWA1 and the ending to your match up with High Octane Wrestling’s Clay Byrd? Are you looking for a rematch? And now, the return of one of PRIME’s most dominant, most accomplished, greatest wrestlers, Matt Ward, is–
He is quickly cut off.
Brandon Youngblood: I haven’t won a match without a tag team partner since the end of October. And the whole time, honestly? All I’ve been doing, even before then, is getting back on track. ‘Getting back on track’. I’ve tried to anger my way forward. Talked about the Universal Title and getting back to that level. Every time out, this is going to be about changing things. And I’m done. I’m done trying to fix every damn thing in one go. I’m done trying to make grand statements.
There is no malice in his tone.
Brandon Youngblood: It’s not 2022 anymore. And tonight, it’s all about Tony Gamble. So you want an interview? You want my thoughts? ReVival 22 is in the Amway Center. February 10th. I’ll give you and the rest of the world all the answers you need.
Stepping around Tillier, Youngblood makes his way down the hall, focused on his match.
Simon Tillier: Nick and Richard, back to you.
We then cut back to ringside for our next match.
ADAM ELLIS vs. JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALL
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith plays over the airwaves as a solo Jonathan-Christopher Hall glumly walks onto the stage. He morosely walks down the ramp, pausing and looking to his right with a forlorn sigh. Jonathan-Christopher shakes upon reaching the edge of the ring. He hangs his head briefly, but soon fires himself up. Hall energetically slides into the ring and yelling out that this is for Vickie!
Nick Stuart: It seems that Jonathan-Christopher Hall has found some needed motivation going into this match! He’ll need it as he’s got a tough test ahead of him in Adam Ellis.
Richard Parker: For sure. But you know what, Nick? Love conquers all and I don’t think this match will be any exception!
Garrett Biggs’ “Mama Didn’t Raise No…” plays over the sound system and on the video screen, a video plays showing a series of wrestling trophies on a dresser next to an old high school football uniform that has ‘Ellis’ on the back.
An acoustic guitar plays and the vocals begin.
“Mama didn’t raise no… quitter- guaranteed to get the job done.”
Adam Ellis and Ginny Van Lear walk out from the back hand in hand and stand on the stage.
“She didn’t raise no SOB who that can’t back himself up – been known to throw a good punch.”
The video screen shows a series of action shots of Ellis from his various matches
“And this ol’ boy gets going when the going gets tough- sundown to sun up.”
Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and her feet wrapped in tape the former MMA prodigy nods her head causing her bright red hair to flip, and raises her left hand…
“Need a man with a helping hand – he’s always got one to lend.”
…and then brings it down as the chorus and full instrumentation hits- complete with pyro.
“Oh, I might be a little rough around the edges”
Adam’s wearing a pair of plain blue wrestling shorts. He starts forward down the ramp towards the ring followed by Van Lear.
“From the outside lookin’ in it might seem helpless.”
The couple reaches the ring. Adam holds the rope open so Ginny can slide through.
“I’ve been blessed with a strong backbone – I never coulda made it on my own”
Adam joins her in the ring.
“But if there’s one thing that I know – Momma didn’t raise no…”
Adam climbs up the top turnbuckle and holds up his arms.
Adam Ellis rolls his shoulders, staying limber before stepping to the middle of the ring with purpose. It’s clear Adam is ready to meet JCH head on. There’s only one party at that table, though. Jonathan-Christopher Hall, in contrast to his opposition, seems more than happy to bide his time in the corner.
Nick Stuart: Well?! The bell rang! What’s JCH waiting for?!
Richard Parker: What’s your point, Nick? Look, Jonathan-Christopher doesn’t have to be in some kind of rush here! If anything, I bet he’s melancholy that the love of his life isn’t out here!
Nick Stuart: Oh for the love of pete!
Adam gets impatient with Hall’s stalling and stomps towards the corner. JCH is quick to duck between the top and middle ropes for sanctuary, stopping just short of begging off. Jimmy Turnbull slides into Ellis’ path, struggling to hold the frustrated young man back. Such a situation is the opening Hall was waiting for. A well placed thumb to the eye gives him the advantage. Adam staggers away from the corner, compromised.
Nick Stuart: Oh come on! What a dirty trick!
Richard Parker: It’s his own fault! Ellis needs to stop being a hot head and think for a minute.
Nick Stuart: Right. I’m sure you’ll say he should pull the hair or grab some tights on a pinfall too…
Richard Parker: Wouldn’t you?
The Timid Tiger finally moves out of the corner to attack, the crowd letting him know how they feel about his tactics. Some forearm smashes targeted on the upper back drop Adam down to one knee. Hall hooks in a front face lock before whipping Ellis over with a snap suplex. A lackadaisical cover, made complete by failing to hook the leg, follows.
The Forever Man seems a bit surprised; not by the kickout itself, but by the suddenness and ferocity of the action. Hall starts stomping away. One stomp. Two stomps. A third stomp proves to be a mistake. Ellis anticipates it, catching Hall’s foot, the Forever Man completely unprepared for the counter. Adam sweeps his body around, sending JCH crashing to the mat with a drop toe hold to the free leg.
Nick Stuart: Slick move by Adam Ellis there!
Richard Parker: You can’t sleep on this Ellis kid, I’ve said it before. He’s good, real good. You take him lightly, you’ll be picking up the loser’s purse at the end of the night!
Adam is quick to follow up, hooking in his unique version of the STF on the prone Hall. The Vow of Virtue’s arms flail like a couple of loose water hoses as he tries to find some escape. He attempts to drag the two of them towards the ropes with next to no success. After a little more futile struggling, panic begins setting in for JCH. With few other options, Hall manages to bite down on Ellis’ hand to break the hold.
Turnbull admonishes the half-conscious Hall while Ginny throws a small fit at ringside. JCH doesn’t get much of a reprieve. Ellis turns him over, grabbing the prone Timid Tiger with a waistlock. In an impressive show of strength and technique, Adam hoists Hall up and over with a German Suplex! He bridges for the pin!
Nick Stuart: Close fall for Ellis there! He’s been in control for a good portion of this match, Rich.
Richard Parker: No doubt, but I believe in Jonathan-Christopher Hall. He’s got the power!
Nick Stuart: The power?
Richard Parker: The power of love!
Nick Stuart: Please don’t get us sued.
JCH just managed to roll off his shoulders and onto his stomach. As Adam Ellis recovers to his feet, Hall pours out of the ring to the floor with a splat. Ellis wants to press his opponent, but Jimmy Turnbull orders him back to check on Hall’s condition. Jonathan-Christopher is slow to recover, using the apron to struggle upright. As Turnbull inquires about JCH’s state, the Vow of Virtue waves him off. As he turns to his left, Hall is only feet away from Ginny Van Lear.
JCH initially takes a step back, raising his hands to beg off. Ginny shows little concern or fear from Hall as she demands he get back into the squared circle. He slowly turns that direction… before feigning a backhand towards Ginny! Though she doesn’t back down, Ginny can’t help but flinch at the fakeout. The Forever Man smirks before climbing back into the ring to a chorus of boos from the crowd. His attention momentarily stays on GVL, continuing to jaw back and forth with her. After JCH finally seems satisfied, he turns towards Adam Ellis.The smirk that covered Hall’s face mere seconds ago fades into an expression of concern. Adam seems… fairly perturbed. That is to say, Ellis looks immensely pissed.
YOU FUCKED UP!
YOU FUCKED UP!
YOU FUCKED UP!
Richard Parker: Hey! They can’t chant that!
Nick Stuart: You’re welcome to try and stop them, Richard.
Richard Parker: Uh, yeah, well, you see… I would, but I can’t leave you here alone! You’d be lost without me!
Nick Stuart: Your concern is so touching. Who should really be concerned right now, though, is Jonathan-Christopher Hall. Adam Ellis looks like an enraged bull and I’d wager a guess that Hall isn’t much of a matador!
JCH tries to beg off yet again. The right hand he takes to the mouth tells you all you need to know about how well that works. Down Hall goes before he comically bounces back up. Another fist, down and back up Hall goes. A third with the same result. While JCH is on his feet, anyone could tell he’s clearly rocked.
Ellis charges towards the ropes, rebounding to blast Hall with a Superman Punch! There is no four rebound. The Timid Tiger is in deep trouble. Adam looks out towards the PRIMEates, who start to buzz. That buzzing escalates to raucous approval as Ellis signals that it’s time; He’s ready to lock in the Elevated Boston Crab.
Nick Stuart: Oh no… What is that buffoon doing out here?!
Yes, Darin Zion is coming down to ringside. Annoying, distracting, would-someone-please-shut-him-up Darin Zion is marching down to the ring. Zion climbs onto the apron, vehemently scolding Jimmy Turnbull about Adam’s use of a closed fist. He doesn’t get long to make his grievances heard. Ginny grabs Darin by the ankle and swiftly yanks him off, causing Zion to smack his chin on the way down!
Van Lear begins to put the boots to the Honkmaster, who desperately does his best to cover up. Turnbull leans out between the top and middle ropes, trying his best to verbally break things up. It’s about as effective as you might think, which is to say not at all. For his part, Ellis can’t help put chuckle at the beating Ginny is putting onto Zion. On the opposite side of the ring…
Nick Stuart: Wait, is that Tristian-Crispin Gladhappy?!
Richard Parker: No! Yes? I’m not sure! How can you tell?!
Nick Stuart: Because I have a functioning set of eyes. Was this planned out ahead of time?!
Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy, clad in a completely unconvincing wig and glasses with a fake nose and mustache, hops the barricade. JCH has groggily drug himself over to the ropes, draping his upper body out towards ringside. Gladhappy reaches into his pocket, producing a pair of heart shaped brass knuckles. He dutifully slips the paraphernalia onto his friend’s right hand. Mission complete, TCG ducks down to avoid detection.
Having indulged enough in Ginny stomping the ever living honk out of Darin Zion, Adam Ellis turns his attention back to Jonathan-Christopher Hall. Ellis grabs the battered Hall by the waistband, pulling him to his feet. He lifts JCH up for a big Back Suplex, only for the momentarily alert Hall to smash him between the eyes with the Love Knux! The two combatants crash to the canvas, the Vow of Virtue landing on top. The dazed Hall clumsily pulls the knuckles off and haphazardly tosses them aside, just close enough for Gladhappy to reach up and over to retrieve the illegal object.
Nick Stuart: This is a complete farce! Neither of these two should be anywhere near the ring right now!
Richard Parker: They’re just trying to support their good friend, Jonathan-Christopher Hall! Why do you hate true friendship and love, Nick?
Nick Stuart: I don’t. What I hate is ridiculous nonsense like this! It’s completely unfair and ruins the integrity of a match!
Richard Parker: Oh yeah, integrity. That’ll get you real far in life, lemme tell ya…
Zion manages to scurry away from the absolute shellacking Ginny Van Lear has been laying on him just long enough to weakly motion towards the ring. Jimmy Turnbull peeks back over his shoulder to see the punch-drunk JCH on top of Adam Ellis. The referee flying into position to count the pinfall.
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: This has somehow turned into a pretty solid night for the Love Convoy as Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy has picked up a victory as has Jonathan-Christopher Hall.
Richard Parker: It’s a small consolation prize!
Nick Stuart: That it may be. Let’s head backstage where I understand Angelica Brooks is with the new Five-Star Champion, Nate Colton! Take it away, Angelica!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
The feed switches to a pair of smiling faces. One of them is PRIME’s star reporter, Angelica Brooks. The other is some hick doofus in a blue jacket with his name on it.
Yes, Richard Parker helped with this part of the script; why do you ask?
Angelica Brooks: Thanks guys, I’m backstage with the Five Star Champion, Nate Colton.
Nate Colton: Always a pleasure.
Angelica Brooks: Tonight’s the first PRIME show since Colossus, where you won the title. How has the holiday break treated you?
Nate Colton: It was great…relaxed a bit, healed up from Colossus, spent a bunch of time with family. But I’ve had this night circled on the calendar the whole time; I’ve been looking forward to coming back to PRIME and defending this title.
He pats the faceplate of the Five Star Championship belt, currently strapped around his waist. It’s even got snazzy new side plates on it.
Angelica Brooks: Speaking of which, earlier tonight we saw a pitched battle between Eddie Cross and Tyler Adrian Best for the right to challenge for the championship you currently hold. I trust you were watching it?
Nate Colton: Of course. I never miss a chance to scout the competition. But they might not end up being my competition. I’ve got a big challenge of my own in two weeks, with…
Nate’s amusing little interview gets altered when he suddenly turns into a pterodactyl! Oh…wait. That’s just a mask. How’d that get there? Colton scrambles in confusion, nearly dropping his shiny title as the cause of all this mess pops up right beside him.
Anna Daniels: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! NEW YEAR, NEW ERA, NEW MERCH! Look at him. That majestic movement! That determined look on that rubber sculpted face! Rocky de Pterodactyl masks available now! But that’s not all! For a limited time only, we have shirts for all nine thousand four hundred and fifty-two wrestling children of Timo Bolamba including THE SID PHILLIPS POWERBOMBOLAMBA SHIRT! Collect them all! Or don’t. That Hentai Bolamba’s shirt is disgusting. But do you know what isn’t?!
This inevitable flurry of promotional word vomit ceases momentarily as the Muse gathers the main attraction of the PRIMEporium (for this week, at least): the cotton, cartoony duplicate of the Anglo Luchador.
Anna Daniels: THE FIRST WAVE OF PRIME WRESTLE BUDDIES! Some of them including the Anglo Luchador, Jared Sykes with optional bubble butt fidget toy add on, the not at all life size Ivan Stanislav…
The camera pans over a few feet away to said not at all life size wrestle buddy laying on its back like a not as fat but equally massive Soviet Snorlax that is, apparently, currently being used as Bucky’s dog bed. Awww. And just as quickly, it pans back to Anna with yet another wrestle buddy swaddled like a baby. Looking at its face, you can tell it looks like Nate Colton sort of. The Muse pulls the mask off of the actual Five Star Champion and gently hands over his look-a-like.
Anna Daniels: Congratulations. It’s a boy!
An airhorn sounds off in the background as Colton hesitantly(?) holds his doppelganger. Ms. Brooks, being somewhat baffled by this onslaught of a sales pitch, uncharacteristically mutters…
Angelica Brooks: Only at the PRIMEporium, in person and online.
Anna Daniels: THAT’S RIGHT! HIGH FIVE!
The Muse holds up a hand for said high five. And the interviewer accepts it. Now with all of that out of the way, Anna Daniels turns to the champ with her arms folded.
Anna Daniels: Now. You were about to say our name.
Maybe he was, before the sudden appearance of…all of that. But now, Nate Colton has no idea what’s going on, and might not even know where he is anymore. All he knows is that there was a whole bunch of noise and words just happened, and now he’s holding a tiny version of himself.
Nate Colton: Sorry, gonna need a minute.
It’s OK, Nate. Take a deep breath. Center yourself. You’ve had conversations with Rezin before; you can handle weird stuff. But maybe lose the Wrestle Buddy; you look like a dork.
Nate slowly hands Li’l Nate to Angelica Brooks, whoe refuses to take it.
Angelica Brooks: Nope.
Resigned to his fate as a new father, I guess, the champion turns back and faces his challenger.
Nate Colton: …Anna Daniels. Won’t lie; I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced. We had a hell of a fight last time. But something tells me that with the title on the line, this one’s going to be even better.
There’s a smile on the vessel’s face followed by a nice little nod.
Anna Daniels: Well, that’s only obvious. Just look at you. Five Star Champion. An absolute rising star in the business! And look at us with a chip on our shoulder and a point to prove. Heard we do better when we’re like that. Considering we have fought before, that means we’ve had a small taste of each other’s potential. A little sampler plate.
She brushes some debris off of the satin jacket.
Anna Daniels: But we gotta ask. Do you think that what you’ve learned from that one little match would be enough to get us a second time? Or even what you’ve learned from every match after that? Is that enough to slip on by once again? Personally, we don’t think so. But you’re welcome to try.
She pats Big Nate on the shoulder, pats Li’l Nate on the head as if trying to keep the self-confidence from turning into cockiness by being a little bit awkward. Why no, we are not projecting! Why do you ask?!
For his part, Nate is smiling a bit more, his own confidence rising to match Anna’s. He knows how the game is played…but he also knows that it’s a pretty fun game.
Nate Colton: I appreciate that, Anna. But I think I’ve learned a little more than you realize. So maybe we shouldn’t be asking if I’ve got enough to keep this belt from you. Maybe we should ask if YOU’VE got enough to take it from me.
There’s a chuckle that comes from somewhere inside the Muse as she scratches the back of her head. The pause comes from the flurry of who is stepping up to the microphone in response. But when it is figured out, the cadence comes out somewhat slow.
Anna Daniels: But you’re not asking, are ya, Nate? Because that would be…that would be the absolute dumbest question anybody can ask. And we don’t really think that you know what you’re getting into. It isn’t just the fact that you beat us before. It isn’t the fact that you have–
A knock three times on the prize of choice.
Anna Daniels: –this belt, though that certainly helps. This isn’t about Next Diamond versus New Era. Not to us. We have a burden that’s a little bit bigger than that and we’re going to throw that entire weight onto you. Because we can. Because we’re the only one left that can.
The two combatants–champion and challenger–lock eyes. Somewhere in that roulette wheel that makes up Anna’s brain, she knows he doesn’t understand. But that’s okay. He doesn’t need to. She shakes her head.
Anna Daniels: Or maybe we’re just thinking a little bit too much. Either way, we’re either going to win or we’re going to raise hell. One of the two. We just wanted to tell you that.
Nate Colton: Sounds good to me. Lot of people in this business, they’ll try to talk someone down, or cheap shot ‘em before the match, like they’re scared of losing. But I’ve always thought that the best way to find out how good I am…
Once more he pats the title belt, before pointing a finger at the Muse.
Nate Colton: …is for you to show me how good you are.
Anna bats his finger away.
Anna Daniels: You’ll see it when you see it. Point like that again and we’ll bite it off.
Hell, why not bite it off now? Can’t really do that after saying it though. So plan B is to just simply turn around and walk back to the merch stands leaving Angelica to attempt to put a button on it.
Angelica Brooks: Sounds like this is going to be a war. Nate Colton, Anna Daniels, Five Star Championship. I might need a drink after all of this.
Nate looks down at the Wrestle Buddy that is still in his hands.
Nate Colton: So, do I have to pay for this, or…
We then cut to elsewhere backstage.
STILL THE GOOD GUYS
Signing autographs is part of the trade when it comes to professional wrestlers, though every one of them handles it differently.
When Justine Calvin was approached after her debut at the Great American Nightmare, the experience had a profound effect on her. It was, after all, the first time in her career as a wrestler that she’d been approached.
For her partner, Jared Sykes, it means something else entirely. For ten years he largely stayed away from the business, only venturing out into local New England promotions, and even then he did so under a mask. Even over his first year in PRIME, when he was back in the national spotlight again, the mask persisted as did the general aversion to interacting with people.
And in the aftermath of Colossus, some of those old mannerisms started to come back. A sense of familiarity, even if not one of comfort. That, and a little prodding from his oldest friend and partner surely didn’t hurt.
As the last photo is taken and the last pen put to paper, the two find themselves heading back inside.
Justine Calvin: I swear, as long as I live I will never get used to this.
Jared Sykes: I’d honestly forgotten what it felt like.
Justine Calvin: Seriously? We should get you checked out.
She turns and places one hand on each side of his head, moving it slowly from side to side as if performing an examination.
Justine Calvin: There might be some lingering brain damage. I mean, in addition to what was already there.
Jared Sykes: Funny.
Justine Calvin: I know.
Further down the line of rabid fans, we find the Universal Champion. Hayes does his best to keep up with the frenzy of autograph and selfie requests, scribbling furiously at pictures and notebooks, flashing pearly whites in front of cameras.
Eventually, he catches the eye of Jared, and his own dark eyes spell “please help me” pretty clearly.
Jared Sykes: Hey, it cool if I catch up with you in a few? There’s a hot boy in danger and I think I need to go rescue him.
There’s a wry grin on her face as Justine whips her head around.
Justine Calvin: Who? Where?
Jared Sykes: Remember what I said literally seconds ago about being funny?
Justine Calvin: Nope.
She spots the man in question and offers a wave.
Justine Calvin: Alright. Go say hi to your man crush. I need to talk to Killean about something anyway. Catch you inside.
It’s not long before Jared makes his way to where the champion is currently holding court, placing a hand on Hayes’ shoulder before addressing the crowd.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, guys. I need to borrow Super Troopers here for a minute. Promise I’ll send him back once we’re finished.
Hayes waves apologetically to the collected fans, but willingly follows Sykes as he pulls him away, taking a deep breath in the process.
Hayes Hanlon: Dude. It’s nonstop. From the moment I got to the arena.
Jared Sykes: Oh, don’t worry. It’ll stay like that for a while. One of the perks of being The guy. They’ll be everywhere now. Congrats, by the way. Nice to see that thing has some value again. Those last few months were rough.
Sykes leads them around a corner, hollers of eager fans turning into a murmur, giving both of them a moment’s respite.
Hayes Hanlon: (laughing to himself) Heh. “The Guy.”
He takes a moment, readjusting the Universal Title strap on his shoulder.
Hayes Hanlon: It’s gonna be a while before I can see it that way.
Jared Sykes: I can understand that. It always kind of fucks with you a little bit. But that’s the way it is now. You’re the one carrying it, so that’s who you are. I can’t imagine what it’s like in your case, though. I mean… Jesus, this is where you always wanted to be, and you did it. You actually fucking did it.
He stops, pausing in his tracks.
Jared Sykes: This might be a personal question, but can I ask… what does that feel like?
Hayes goes to answer, but stops himself, confusion spread across his face.
Hayes Hanlon: I…I don’t really know. It’s hard to explain.
The Event Horizon ponders a moment, leaning a shoulder against the wall.
Hayes Hanlon: The night it happened everything was just…energy. Y’know? Everyone cheering for you. Everyone on cloud nine. Everyone wanting to be your best friend and buy you drinks and tell you great you are. And I felt all of that…
Another pause, and a breath.
Hayes Hanlon: But the next morning…the only thing I say to myself was…”now what?”
Jared Sykes: It’s cruel that way. You spend so much time and energy trying to get the thing. Because of what it means. Because of what having it’s supposed to say about you. Then it happens… and… yeah.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, wasn’t trying to be a downer. Just curious is all. Different for everyone, I guess.
Hayes Hanlon: I could ask the same for you about the tag belts, but I’m way more curious about beating Paxton. How did THAT feel?
Jared Sykes: It hurt like fuck.
For a moment Jared is quiet as he figures out what to say next. To even a casual observer it’s obvious that the gears are working overtime in his head as he tries to piece it together.
Jared Sykes: It wasn’t what most people might expect it to be. For a minute, like right after it ended, it felt like I was seeing everything again through new eyes, if that makes any sense. But then, later on… I dunno, I just felt nothing.
He shakes his head and sighs.
Jared Sykes: That’s the part that no one tells you, that you’re never really prepared for. The guys who take? You never really win, because what’s gone doesn’t come back. Jon doesn’t get to walk again because I won that fight. Mark’s arm didn’t miraculously heal. This is what sucks about being “the good guys.” The fact that what’s gone stays that way, and knowing it won’t be the last time.
Jared Sykes: Jesus. Motherfuckin’ ray of sunshine I am today.
A small laugh from the eGG Beater.
Hayes Hanlon: Yeah…but at least we’re still the good guys. Right?
And a smile from the Dragonslayer.
Jared Sykes: Goddamn right we are.
They share a grin and a pat on the back. Then, with a quick look over their shoulders, they opt to escape the mob while they still have the chance.
We then cut to Simon Tillier, who wishes he had any other job.
NOT DOING IT
Simon Tillier holds a microphone and looks directly into the camera. Behind him, a blue PRIME banner.
Simon Tillier: Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce my guest at this time… Ned Reform!
Reform, dressed in his civies and looking weary, moves into view. Uncharacteristically, he does not amend Tillier’s statement to include his academic title. Instead, the Yale professor simply sighs and rubs his temples.
Simon Tillier: Ned, at the PWA Supershow weeks ago, you teamed with your protegee TA Cole to take on HOW’s GREAT SCOTT and Stronk. It was a heck of a contest, but you found yourself on the losing end of that battle. We haven’t heard much from you since… where is Ned Reform’s head after such a significant loss?
Reform’s face goes cold. He squints… and looks Tillier directly in the eye. He moves awkwardly close to the announcer’s face.
A few uncomfortable seconds go by.
Simon Tillier: I mean, I’m sure you’re ready to pick up the pieces and get back to showing what you’ve got in PRIME… right?
Reform continues to stare. More uncomfortable silence. If one looked closely, one might swear they see a bead of sweat forming on Tillier’s forehead.
Simon Tillier: Ned… uh, Dr. Reform… I…
Suddenly, the tension is broken by a voice off camera.
??: Just the Ned I was looking for! Because it’s 2024 and Ned is still a popular name.
Ned doesn’t break his stare into Tillier’s soul, but the source of the comment does move into frame… it’s Abe Lipschitz.
Abe Lipschitz: Good news, Ned! I’m here to put a boot in your ass, Ned! It’s the American Way, Ned.
Of course, Abe is holding a literal cowboy boot in his right hand and points to both it and Reform’s ass to emphasize what he means (as if that were needed). Slowly… slowly… ever so slowly… the scowling PhD turns his head to take in this new arrival. He looks Abe up. He looks Abe down.
Abe Lipschitz: Yep! By way of a completely random draw, you, Ned, have been chosen to be the antagonist in my debut feud. And yeah, it was completely by chance, but it does kind of work! Right, Ned? I’m an attractive, fun-loving youngster who has a great connection with the fanbase. And Ned, you are…well, not any of those things. Two puzzle pieces with a perfect fit.
Reform looks back to Tillier. Motions for the mic. Tillier, happy to comply, hands it over. Now armed with a microphone, The Good Doctor turns his full attention to Abe. The tension is thick, Reform wears a condescending snarl, and The Sage on the Stage is surely ready to unload yet another classically annoying and wordy Ned Reform tirade. Instead… Reform shakes his head.
Ned Reform: …I am not doing this.
And he simply releases the mic, letting it fall to the floor. He turns, and without another word, walks out of the shot. Abe scratches his head, glances at the boot, and then over to Simon.
Abe Lipschitz: Oh, he’s freakin’ doing this. Whether he likes it or not. The Black Metal friends will rub it in my face if this idea doesn’t work. Ned, wait up! NED! NEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!
Just like that, Abe follows after the Doc, leaving Simon both alone and confused while we cut back to the ring for our next match.
TONY GAMBLE vs. BRANDON YOUNGBLOOD
The Amalie 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, his eyes locking toward the curtain, all as Vince Howard makes his announcement.
Vince Howard: Introducing first…hailing from Bandera, Texas by way of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada… weighing in at 270 pounds… he is…THE DIIIIIIAMOND! OF THE REVIVAL! BRAAAAAAAANDON! YOUNGBLOOOOOOOOOD!
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. If looks could kill, the next person out is already dead.
Nick Stuart: Brandon Youngblood is all business here tonight, Rich.
Richard Parker: Yeah, well, business hadn’t exactly been booming at Suplex Industries lately, have they?
Nick Stuart: …Suplex Industries?
Richard Parker: LLC.
Nick Stuart: I mean, you’re right in that Youngblood’s been in a bit of a slump lately. His last singles win was against Larry Tact back in October. His opponent is a Hall of Famer, and despite his record since coming back to PRIME, he isn’t one to be underestimated.
“You think I’m funny? Funny how?”
The familiar voice of Al Pacino’s Scarface echoes in the arena, as Metallica’s “Better Than You” revs up. Youngblood’s eyes narrow as he spies Tony Gamble walking to the ring, proudly wearing his “#standing4Rhine” T-shirt as he heads to the ring. It’s a T-shirt that he, and probably only he, is proud of.
Vince Howard: His opponent! From Las Vegas, Nevada! He weighs in tonight at one hundred and eighty-seven pounds! THIS IS… TONY “THE GRIIIIIIIIIIN”… GAAAAAAAMBLLLLLLLEEEEEE!!!
Tony takes his time getting to the ring, letting the video of his career highlights play behind him. You know those highlights by now. Winning Jewel in the Crown. Defeating Jason Snow and Jay Phoenix for the 5-Star Championship. All those times he had Wade Elliott’s number. Beating at one point stopping to argue with a fan at ringside.
Nick Stuart: Tony Gamble’s also a name that hasn’t had the best luck as of late, Rich.
Richard Parker: True adoration comes from adversity, Nick.
Gamble enters the ring with a smile on his face. Oh, wait, that’s the scar. Either way, he makes a point to show off his cool shirt to the hard camera.
Nick Stuart: Why is he in that shirt!? How is he allowed to wear that abomination!?
Even Richard Parker doesn’t have an answer for that.
Of course, part of the reason for that is that Brandon Youngblood immediately walks over to Gamble and taps him on the shoulder. Gamble, perhaps thinking it’s the referee asking to check him for all of the foreign objects he definitely has on his person, turns to find himself standing face-to-face with his opponent. You know, the 6’3”, 270 pound Tower of Babel who’s staring daggers through him. Gamble is frozen for a few moments, allowing Youngblood plenty of time to hit him with a knife-edged chop.
DING DING DING
The shirt only somewhat protects Gamble’s supple flesh. The rest of his body reacts as most people would when getting chopped by a man with arms like tree trunks. Muscular tree trunks which went to the gym. Forest gym. Where even the twigs gets swole.
Gamble turns and clutches his chest, and tries to get away. Only, he finds himself in the corner with Youngblood too close for him to get away. Youngblood lands another chop. Gamble grimaces.
And then Youngblood grabs hold of his shirt.
A smile dares to crease the Diamond’s lips.
He’s had time to think about this one.
With both hands and a tug, he splits Gamble’s shirt wide open, exposing his chest. Gamble is wide-eyed with shock. Part of it is doubtlessly because that’s a vintage #standing4Rhine T-shirt that he thinks will sell like hotcakes here in Tampa. Part of it is because he knows what’s about to happen.
Richard Parker: OH GOD!
Nick Stuart: There aren’t very many men in PRIME, or anywhere else in the world, with chops like that!
Richard Parker: CALL THE POLICE!
Tony Gamble is smiling. Oh, wait. My bad. That’s just what his face looks like. Tony Gamble is definitely not smiling. He’s in shock, an expression like he just had a bucket of ice water dumped on his face. Youngblood shoves him back into the corner and does it again.
Nick Stuart: Youngblood is lighting Tony Gamble up like it’s New Year’s all over again!
Richard Parker: CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD!
Okay. Tony Gamble is very much not smiling about any of this, even the scar that gives him his nickname can’t hide this. He wants to escape the corner, looking pleadingly to referee Ashley Barlow to get Youngblood off of him. She is trying to encourage Youngblood to stop chopping Gamble to death, but hasn’t started a five count yet. And all the while, Youngblood takes aim at Tony’s exposed chest again.
Nick Stuart: Brandon Youngblood has already chopped Tony Gamble’s chest red here!
Richard Parker: CALL THE SPACE FORCE!
It’s only now that the referee starts her five count. Youngblood smiles at her. He starts to back off… and just when Gamble thinks he’s in the clear and he can start doing all of the usual Gamble shenanigans, Youngblood uncorks one more chop for good measure.
Richard Parker: NO! CALL THE DEADLY VIPER ASSASSINATION SQUAD!
Tony’s legs fly out from under him and he falls to the canvas in stinging pain. Youngblood doesn’t relent. He pulls Gamble to his feet and launches him halfway across the ring with one of the more ornery suplexes in the Extended Suplex Family, the Head and Arm. That’s the suplex that doesn’t get first dibs at the Suplex Buffet and it’s real pissed off about that, so it’s going to take it out on every single human body it ever encounters. Especially the ones that have vestigial things like arms or a head.
Gamble lands hard on the canvas, flopping like a fish on impact for a few seconds. However, he’s a veteran. He’s a Hall of Famer. has the wherewithal to quickly roll to the outside to regroup. Perhaps he is hoping that the Tower of Babel would perhaps believe that Gamble had been punished enough and that he’d let him breathe.
Youngblood is under no obligation to do any of that bullshit, because it isn’t in his lifetime contract.
He follows Gamble to the floor, stalking after the Grin. Tony does what anyone would in this situation if you were being stalked by a 270 pound “Anger Golem” who also goes by the nickname of “Suplex Daddy”, and flees. Which is to say that he immediately crawls underneath the ring apron to escape from Youngblood. Brandon is in no mood for these sorts of shenanigans, and grabs Tony by the boot.
There’s a brief struggle as Gamble struggles to escape his grip, and then fails and is pulled out.
Okay. We need to find a reason to excuse referee Ashley Barlow here, because Ashley is a good referee and doesn’t deserve to have to referee a Tony Gamble match considering all of the shenanigans he’s going to do here.
Maybe she’s being lenient, knowing that Tony Gamble would resort to this sort of thing early in the match, or that it was happening out on the floor where the rules might be relaxed. Maybe she sees a very fascinating butterfly and is like, “What are you doing here, butterfly? Get out of here!”
That, we’re going to say, is the onomatopoeia for a fire extinguisher doing some extinguishing. As one does with it. Look, Brandon Youngblood looks damn good after losing all that weight a year ago, and Tony knows that his fellow Hall of Famer can’t go on being so hot. He might die! From the heat! So, really, this whole fire extinguisher business is for Youngblood’s benefit, really.
Nick Stuart: Oh, for God’s sakes…
To his credit, Tony feels the steely gaze of Ashley Barlow behind him in the ring, and knows he can’t use the fire extinguisher for its true intended purpose as a bludgeon. He tosses it aside, not caring where it lands. It sprays out a little burst of extinguisher when it lands, dousing some fans in the front row. They’re hot, too. Obviously.
Richard Parker: We should really get that thing checked! It went off in Tony’s hands without his intention!
Nick Stuart: That’s the most far-fetched lie you’ve concocted for Tony Gamble in a long series of far-fetched lies you’ve concocted for Tony Gamble.
Richard Parker: No, it’s a near-fetched truth!
Nick Stuart: That makes no sense!
With the extinguisher discarded, Tony does the next logical step. He charges Youngblood and shoves him with all of his body into the nearby steel steps.
Youngblood hits the stairs and falls over them, landing on his back on the other side. As Youngblood lays stunned on the ground, Tony Gamble looks down and realizes he has some problems. First, Youngblood drew blood on his chest from all those chops, and that’s pretty fucked up. I mean, who does that? Second, his shirt is in tatters. Because of the chopping. And the Youngblood. And the ow.
So, Tony pulls the shirt off, and then does what anyone would in his situation.
He starts trying to strangle Brandon to death with it.
So, really, when we say “anyone”, we mean “anyone with a face scar in the style of a grin named Gamble”.
This one, referee Barlow can’t let go. She slips between the ropes and begins to administer a five count to make Gamble let go. Gamble breaks at four and a half, and then starts arguing with Barlow. If you’re wondering, the words “he isn’t standing up for Rhine!” can be read from his lips.
Richard Parker: Yeah! Get ‘em, Tony!
Nick Stuart: Whose side are you on, anyway?
Richard Parker: I am a broadcast journalist, Nick. I am on no one’s side. Now, let’s watch the most adorable man in PRIME beat the hell out of Brandon Youngblood for the next five or so minutes.
Nick Stuart: You’re incorrigible.
Richard Parker: Ridiculous. I love corgis.
Gamble eventually pushes Youngblood back into the ring, then follows him in and kicks him several times in the head. Then he drops an elbow right onto Youngblood’s back. He gets up and drops a second one. Then he drops a third, this one with an extra flourish and with most of Gamble’s body landing on Youngblood’s spine. Gamble struggles a bit to roll Youngblood over for the cover, what with him being a large meaty man and Tony not being that, but he eventually gets him down to start a count.
Youngblood kicks out at one.
Gamble turns to Barlow and immediately complains that she’s counting too slow and that it should’ve been a three. His complaints quickly stop when he realizes that Youngblood is trying to get to his feet. Of all the things Tony Gamble wanted at this time, Brandon Youngblood standing on his feet is really close to the bottom of that list. So he pounces on Brandon, landing punches to the back of his head as he tries to sit up. When Brandon gets down to one knee, Gamble takes a few steps back and gives Brandon just enough space before he runs up and hits him with a knee to the head.
That’s enough to put Youngblood on the ground again, and Gamble quickly scrambles over for a cover, wanting to end this one quickly.
It gets two.
This time, Gamble’s complaints to Ashley Barlow are louder, enough that the commentary desk could hear parts of it.
Richard Parker: Huh. What’s that about a sandwich?
Nick Stuart: Stop it.
Oh. Sorry, Tony, you might get suspended from Jabber again.
Gamble looks down at his chop-ravaged chest, and knows he needs to make Youngblood pay for that. What if it becomes a scar? How could he possibly deal with a scar?
The Permascar Superstar kicks Youngblood in the head again for the reminder.
That, uh… might have woken up the Tower of Babel.
Because he suddenly stands up and stares bullets at Gamble.
Tony Gamble smiles. Wait, no. That’s just how he usually looks. Tony Gamble is not smiling.
Especially not after that.
Nick Stuart: GOOD GOD, what a chop from Youngblood!
Richard Parker: CALL 911!
Tony reacts as though he’s shot pointblank with a double-barreled shotgun. It’s not that he falls. He’s blown backwards. It’s only because of the grace of the nearby turnbuckles that Tony doesn’t immediately end up on his back. He grimaces, an expression that seems odd because of the half of a Glasgow grin he’s got going on. Youngblood is down on one knee for a brief few moments, still trying to shake the cobwebs from Gamble targeting his head.
He gets to his feet, then traps Tony in the corner and uncorks another chop.
Richard Parker: CALL LINDSAY TROY!
Nick Stuart: Would Lindsay Troy even do something about this?
Richard Parker: …No, probably not.
With Tony chopped even bloodier, Youngblood sent him to the opposite corner and then charged him. Gamble, however, is able to get both of his boots up to kick Youngblood in the face. Youngblood staggers backwards, and Gamble pushes himself up to the second rope. Youngblood staggers into his grip.
Nick Stuart: Tornado DDT from Gamble!
Richard Parker: ADORABLE!
Gamble quickly scrambles on top of Youngblood for the cover.
Gamble snatches a chinlock out of the kickout and tries desperately to grind Youngblood down, using his leverage like he’s in mid-pushup on top of Youngblood. Youngblood is too dazed to fight out of it right away as Barlow checks to see if Youngblood wants to give up. He doesn’t. Just thought you should know.
Once he shakes the cobwebs, he starts to try and get to his feet. Gamble desperately doesn’t want this to happen, and when Youngblood is on his hands and knees, Gamble mounts his back and tries to force him back to the canvas.
Youngblood does not go down.
It’s at this moment that realization dawns on the permanently smiling face of the Grin, that Brandon Youngblood may be introducing him to a new member of the family. Indeed, the moment Youngblood has fought his way to his feet, he suddenly goes behind Gamble, almost manhandling him in the process. Gamble’s arms flail as Brandon rips him to the ground with a released German suplex!
A very prolific member of the family, indeed, that Release German.
Nick Stuart: GERMAN SUPLEX! Gamble is in trouble!
Richard Parker: Time out! Escape! Flee!
It takes Brandon some time to get to his feet, but he’s up before Gamble can get to his knees. Blood stains the back of Youngblood’s singlet. He doesn’t care. He pulls Gamble up and hits him with a vertical suplex that releases as Youngblood falls backwards, launching Gamble to the other side of the ring and sliding out to the floor in a heap. The simple, practical eldest brother of suplexes, Vertical. Sometimes, when Vertical gets frisky, it goes full Release.
Gamble got the frisky version. That’s what he’s smiling. Wait. No. Dammit. I keep messing that up. Tony Gamble is not smiling.
Youngblood slides out of the ring to pursue Gamble. The last time this happened, Gamble had retaken the advantage. This time, Gamble is too busy flopping like a fish on the outside from getting suplexed to worry about a countermeasure. Youngblood picks him up and goes for a second helping of the eldest suplex brother, Vertical, this time landing a second released suplex right onto the ring apron.
Nick Stuart: Brandon Youngblood has taken control of this one, Rich!
Richard Parker: No! Get, uh… get back in the ring, Tony! Maybe he’ll have a suplex stroke and get counted out!
To Gamble’s fortune, he didn’t fall off of the apron after landing on his back. He does indeed manage to roll back into the ring. Unfortunately, Youngblood’s in pursuit of the Grin, as he slides back into the ring. Gamble, desperate, starts crawling to a corner so he doesn’t get suplexed again. Youngblood grabs hold of his wait to introduce him to the most famous member of the extended Suplex family, German, once again. Gamble grabs hold of the middle turnbuckle cover in his efforts to avoid being taken to Suplex Parish for the Suplex Family Reunion. His efforts are for naught. He is ripped from the corner and thrown violently to the ground.
The turnbuckle pad goes with him.
Ashley Barlow watches this happen, and she knows that the right thing to do is to put the pad back on the middle turnbuckle before someone as duplicitous as Tony “the Grin” Gamble finds a means to use the exposed buckle. So, she takes the turnbuckle pad and goes to do exactly that, while Brandon presses his advantage.
The only thing that gets pressed, however, is DEEZ NUTS.
Nick Stuart: A LOW BLOW!
Richard Parker: No, he just uppercutted him in, uh… the third thigh!
After the uppercut right in Theordore Nuts (Esquire), Gamble rolls Youngblood over into a cradle and awaits his victory. And when Barlow turns and sees the pin, she has to count.
Nick Stuart: IT’S NOT OVER!
Richard Parker: Come on, Tony! Hit him again! Right in the Diamonds!
Nick Stuart: Please don’t encourage him.
Gamble is still dizzy from being introduced to so many members of the Suplex Clan, but he looks up at Barlow disbelieving. It wasn’t three?
Gamble knows he needs to take advantage. The desperation in his eyes made him look wild. Unhinged. Tony Gamble is smiling. This time, he really is.
He wraps himself around Youngblood’s arms. The legs scissor one, and he works to hook the other arm.
He wants Youngblood to Smile For Him.
There’s just one problem.
No sooner did Gamble start the second armbar did Youngblood stand. Now, uh… the Smile For Me submission hold works best when the opponent is not standing, as a general rule. He tries to grab hold of Youngblood’s mouth anyway, hoping that wrenching in the submission from his position would make him collapse and make him the winner (or weiner).
It doesn’t happen.
So he tries elbowing Youngblood in the head instead. This makes Youngblood bow down, but he’s still on his feet. In fact, the motion of bowing down was so sudden for Tony that he loses his grip on Youngblood’s arm. He thinks fast and tries to turn it into a sunset flip, but he can’t get Youngblood over for it no matter how much he kicks and flails his legs to stop him. After a few moments, Youngblood reaches down and hoists Gamble up to his feet.
And Gamble responds with a thumb to the eyes.
Gamble smiles… wait, does he? Or is that just his face? Anyway. Gamble looks pretty proud of himself… and fails to realize that he’s still in the clutches of the Paterfamilias of the Ancestral Suplex Homestead. He only realizes it the very second Youngblood squares up.
Nick Stuart: EXPLODER!
Richard Parker: NOOO!
The Exploder, the delinquent of the Suplex Family that wears leather jackets and rides motorcycles and starts jukeboxes by punching them, makes its presence felt and Tony Gamble hits the canvas hard. Youngblood rolls into a cover.
Somehow, Youngblood’s Hall of Fame counterpart finds it within himself to kick out, and now it’s Youngblood who looks wearily at Barlow to confirm the voracity of her count. When she confirms it’s just two, he nods in understanding. To Suplex Daddy, that just means a bigger family reunion.
He grabs Tony by the waist and lifts him up.
Maybe, deep down, Brandon Youngblood doesn’t want to use the Karelin lift. After all, it’d give Ivan Stanislav something to crow about later that Brandon would use a Russian’s legendary powerful murder wrestling move. But as he hoisted Tony Gamble up in the move, something became immediately wrong.
Tony Gamble is in desperation mode. He is absolutely not smiling. He is panicking as he is being dead-lifted by his much stronger opponent. In his desperation, his hands grab Barlow’s pants leg, somehow pulling her into Youngblood.
Youngblood’s too big to be thrown off by this, but it does do something that’s in Gamble’s benefit – it prevents him from finishing the really deadly part of the Karelin lift, which is the part that happens when Youngblood stops lifting you and drops you like a load of laundry. You know, one that’s being sent to hell.
Gamble doesn’t have any interest in being folded like hell laundry, so while Youngblood is trying to get the referee out of the way so he can finish this move, Tony does what Tony’s known to do.
Nick Stuart: ANOTHER LOW BLOW!
Richard Parker: Yes!
This goes unnoticed by Barlow, but Youngblood and Gamble both fall to the ground together. One is more obviously clutching his crotchular region than the other. Gamble takes advantage and jackknifes Youngblood for the pin.
Gamble immediately puts his feet on the ropes.
Nick Stuart: REF!
Nick Stuart: REF!
Tony Gamble is absolutely not smiling. He’s bewildered.
Barlow looks up to see the ropes shaking after Youngblood’s thunderous kickout, and admonishes Gamble for putting his feet on the ropes. Gamble denies it. Gamble might have also said something about sandwiches. You can’t prove it.
Gamble pulls Youngblood into a standing headscissors. Gamble is a much smaller man than Youngblood, but he’s able to muscle the Tower of Babel up.
Nick Stuart: PILEDRIVER! WILL THIS DO IT!?
Gamble, exhausted, falls on top of Youngblood.
Tony Gamble is definitely not smiling, to the point that even the scar “Ddroops into a frown. Don’t ask how that works. He’s thrown nearly everything he has at Brandon Youngblood, but Father Suplex simply won’t stay down. If Tony Gamble didn’t know any better, he’d swear that Youngblood doesn’t actually adore him. And that’s just crazy!
Gamble’s desperation leads him to looking towards the turnbuckles.
He’s uncertain if what he’s about to do is the right move.
But he’s running out of options before this hulking mass of suplexes gets up again and starts yeeting him across the ring again. So, Tony Gamble crawls to the turnbuckles, and then makes a climb up. He stands on the top rope, and takes one last look behind him. Youngblood is still down. He isn’t getting up to stop him.
Now or never.
Gamble leaps off for the moonsault.
Nick Stuart: MOONSAULT FROM GAMB—NOBODY HOME!
Richard Parker: NO!
Indeed, just like almost every other time Gamble has attempted the moonsault since returning to PRIME, he misses. He finds nobody waiting for him, and he lands clutching his stomach.
Youngblood, clutching the back of his neck after the piledriver, stalks behind the recovering Hall of Famer. When Tony is back to his feet, Youngblood has him in the one of the most ornery and dangerous members of the extended Suplex family. Half Nelson.
Nick Stuart: HALF NELSON SUPLEX!
Richard Parker: NO! TONY!
The Half Nelson Suplex doesn’t like people, by the way. It’s surly, grumpy, probably thinks its brother Full Nelson gets too much attention. So, Half Nelson takes it out on people’s necks. Fuck necks. Especially yours.
Gamble lands, rolls on his stomach, and then rolls back onto his knees. For a fleeting moment, you might think that Tony Gamble is going to stand up. But then he flops onto his face, and doesn’t get up.
Youngblood has beaten plenty of opponents with the half nelson suplex, and it’s hard to imagine that Tony Gamble is getting up after taking one.
But he has one more suplex to show the Grin.
Youngblood grabs Gamble by the waist and deadlifts him up. And with a dangerous twist, he sends the Grin straight to fuck.
Nick Stuart: RANDALLPLEX!
Richard Parker: ARGH!
They don’t talk about Cousin Randall in the Extended Suplex Family. That motherfucker is crazy.
In any case, Youngblood covers Gamble, the crowd counting along.
There’s slight movement from Gamble.
A weak attempt at a kickout.
But he can’t.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen! The winner of this match… BRANDOOOOOOOOOOON YOOOOOUUUUUUUNGBLOOOOOOOOOOODDDDD!
Youngblood takes a moment to stare at Tony Gamble as he lies unmoving on the canvas, before he allows Barlow to raise his arm in triumph.
Nick Stuart: What a war between two Hall of Famers here tonight, Rich!
Richard Parker: It’s not fair! Tony had this!
Nick Stuart: Tony Gamble almost had this by every kind of crooked means he could conjure up, but he went to the well one too many times and paid a steep price for it tonight.
Richard Parker: This is a travesty! An injustice! Tony Gamble is a Hall of Famer!
Nick Stuart: So is Youngblood.
Richard Parker: Stop using your logic against my logic!
We cut to our fourth commercial break of the evening as Youngblood celebrates his victory.
COMMERCIAL: FIVE STAR TITLE MATCH
“And I’m feelin’…good.”
From the commercial break, we come back to the tone-deaf words being sung by Paxton Ray as we move into space backstage. Where is it? We don’t actually know, but it doesn’t appear to be a locker room. It’s more of a dead end of a hallway, with an office door that is blocked by a shelf full of boxes.
The other sounds we hear are thuds as Paxton Ray punches the boxes. Foster Nackedy sits in an office chair a few feet away.
Foster Nackedy: Man the amenities here are…something.
Paxton Ray: Prob’ly my fault. The boss don’t want me minglin’ with the other talent.
Foster Nackedy: I wonder why.
Paxton looks over at his manager and sneers.
Paxton Ray: Ya didn’t hafta come. I’m sure Quinn Fleetwood is burnin’ the place down without ya there.
Paxton delivers a few more punches.
Paxton Ray: ‘Less, a’course, ya were asked to be here by Troy t’make sure I don’t do anythin’ dumb.
Foster Nackedy: Broken glass is apparently a bitch to clean up.
Paxton doesn’t answer, but he smiles as he continues to punch the boxes.
Foster Nackedy: You don’t seem too upset, though, especially for someone who said he hates this place.
Paxton Ray: You’re right. I’m ecstatic.
He stops punching the boxes and turns to Foster, grinning.
Paxton Ray: Tonight I get t’send somebody inta barbed wire. And yeah, I hate it here. PRIME is full of stupid idiots, but if I can win tonight, I get to face those idiots and fight ‘em anyway I want.
He turns back around and starts to punch the boxes again, but at this point the boxes have taken as much damage as they can, and the parts of the boxes flop onto the floor. Paxton looks down and snarls at the boxes.
Paxton Ray: I need better targets.
Foster Nackedy: You’ll get one in less than an hour.
Paxton Ray: Not soon enough.
With that, Paxton walks past Foster, who twirls quickly in his office chair with the momentum.
Foster Nackedy: Where are you…
He stands up and starts running after Paxton.
Foster Nackedy: Here we go.
FOR MERIT TO THE FATHERLAND
“Hurry it up woman, we do not have all day! This is important!”
From Foster Nackedy running down the hall, we go to Alexei Ruslan power walking down the halls backstage, while Angelica Brooks, with microphone in hand, hustles behind him along with the cameraman.
Angelica Brooks: We really shouldn’t be moving so quickly with the camera…
Alexei Ruslan: Whatever, let’s go!
Ruslan finally stops at a steel door and stares into the camera, one eye opened wider than the other as he focuses, and then fixes his hat. Perhaps he’s using the camera lens as a mirror? He looks at Angelica.
Alexei Ruslan: Now you be sure to stand up straight, hm? Smile. Cheer. Just do as is necessary for this momentous event!
Brooks wrinkles up her nose and looks to the cameraman, and then back to Ruslan.
Angelica Brooks: Okay…
Ruslan shoves the door open. Inside, the hulking Ivan Stanislav stands in his in-ring attire near a white brick wall with his hands on his hips. The Russian Bear’s eyes widen with surprise as Alexei, Brooks, and the cameraman all file into the room.
Ivan Stanislav: The hell is this?
Ruslan stands straight and nods to the cameraman, who is doing a fine job getting the shot of Ivan in the middle, Ruslan to one side, and Brooks to the other. It’s not good enough for Alexei. He leans forward and tilts the camera slightly. He then looks at Angelica, and with one finger, he pushes her shoulder until she is completely out of the shot, leaving the two Russians to be seen. Then, he takes her microphone and simply pulls her arm into view. Finally, Alexei removes his hat and tucks it under his arm and stands at attention.
Alexei Ruslan: Much better! Now, Praporshchik Stanislav…
Ivan looks down towards Brooks off camera, and then over to Alexei. He clearly has no clue what is going on.
Alexei Ruslan: …it brings me great, great pleasure to say these words.
Ruslan reaches into his interior coat pocket and produces a small wooden case with a glass lid. He presents it towards the camera, where we have a view of a medal.
Alexei Ruslan: For your outstanding contributions to the Russian State, to include advances in peace, friendship, cooperation between nations, and significant contributions to the defense of the Fatherland and the absolute destruction of Christopher America and the defense of PRIME’s honor, I, Alexei Gregorovich Ruslan proudly present to you the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland First Class- with Swords.”
Stanislav lifts a brow, and then a smile creeps along his bearded face.
Angelica Brooks’ head emerges from the side as she looks in. She looks annoyed. However, Ruslan cuts her off and waves his hand, shushing her out of the shot again.
Alexei Ruslan: Shush shush shush!!
Ruslan removes the medal and rises on his toes and then it to Stanislav’s barrel chest, over his heart.
Alexei Ruslan: You have made your countrymen, your country, and our great President very proud, Ivan Stanislav. Not to mention the people of PRIME. You truly are locker room leader in every sense of the word! Why, our exchange with Hayes Hanlon this evening proved it. So much boasting. So much preening. He is like company peacock!
He then motions for Angelica to move more into the frame. She complies with a frown.
Alexei Ruslan: Come now woman, do you have questions to ask? I am sure they do not pay you to simply look pretty!
Angelica glares daggers at Ruslan, but she takes the opportunity to speak.
Angelica Brooks: I supp-
But Stanislav overpowers her with his own voice.
Ivan Stanislav: I cannot put into words the great pride I have inside my body, knowing that this award has been given to me. I am so thankful to President Putin, and to all PRIME fans who have supported me since my return.
Brooks seems to have had enough of this and turns to leave with the microphone. But with speed belying his size, Stanislav’s massive hand envelopes her own, and keeps her there. She jerks once, and then stands next to him. Her expression shifts from annoyance to slight concern.
Ivan Stanislav: As we embark on this new year, it is a new time for PRIME. The months after my entry last year, those were just warm up. Now, the true work begins. I ask this question to my enemies who detract from our cause. You know who you are. I must ask, dear enemies, what exactly do you expect to do to stop us? Hm?
Ivan pulls Angelica’s hand higher, which forces her to stand on her toes. Ruslan just smiles. The camera zooms in a bit on Ivan’s bearded face.
Ivan Stanislav: I have destroyed the World Champion of HOW. Tonight, I destroy the former Universal Champion of PRIME. Hayes Hanlon’s days are numbered. The foolish child thought he could stand in my way and emerge unscathed? Perhaps you all know, now, that no one emerges unscathed while standing in my shadow. There is nothing which can be done.
Instead of his voice booming, Ivan growls quietly and he speaks conversationally.
Ivan Stanislav: For all of you, from the highest title holder to the lowest curtain jerker: there is nowhere for you to hide. Lindsay Troy cannot protect you. Security and your friends are wholly impotent. You all thought it funny that I would return. Perhaps because of my age? Perhaps because of my nationality? Perhaps because of my ideology? But I ask you, dear detractors: Who is laughing now?
Ruslan chuckles quietly next to Ivan, but the Bear lets out a low, grumbling chuckle from his chest.
Ivan Stanislav: Hah…haha…..hah…. Shawn Warstein is no longer in PRIME. I beat him into oblivion and he faded into obscurity. Coral Avalon does not laugh. Why, I hear he has fully written off having children since he met me. Heh… members of GAS? They do not laugh. Tony Gamble had to learn how to walk again. And Mortimer the flying goon, so I hear, is changing his last name yet again!
Angelica grunts and squirms. Ivan isn’t hurting her, but being gripped and lifted is uncomfortable and she hisses.
Angelica Brooks: Can I have my arm back, Ivan?
Ivan releases her arm and she drops the microphone. Ruslan snatches it up in mid air as she moves away quickly.
Angelica Brooks: Let’s get out of here…
The camera pans to the side, but it jerks and is wrested from the technician’s arms. Angelica’s heels echo on the floor as she exits and the cameraman does the same. Stanislav moves the camera so it is facing up at him, his enormous gray/black bearded face filling the shot. He still does not yell, rant, or rave, which may be even more unsettling. He just speaks quietly, in a steady, close growl.
Ivan Stanislav: I was nice to you all, PRIME. I gave you option of true hero, didn’t I? But you were too stupid. You were too blind by your own prejudice to simply accept it. You didn’t want it. This is a new year, PRIME. My Chinese comrades think it is the year of the rabbit. Nyet. It is the year of the Bear.
Ivan’s huge mouth opens in a grin.
Ivan Stanislav: I will burn down everything if I must. I will grind every enemy of The Red Army into paste and use it to shine my boots. I will turn the blue brand of PRIME red with Revolution. HOW likes #97Red? #204Red is far better. They learned this fact. Now you will learn it.
Ivan grins and narrows his eyes.
Ivan Stanislav: Twenty years, PRIME. You had twenty years to be ready for us. And you weren’t. Your ill-preparedness only hastens the decimation of everything that stands against The Red Army.
He pauses and his expression flattens to a Russian stare wholly devoid of emotion.
Ivan Stanislav: Stand against me and be destroyed. Watch your heroes and your challengers. Week after week. Watch them shatter against the full power of Russia.
The view begins to garble as Stanislav crushes the camera in his hands and the video feed turns to static. His words in the microphone can still be heard. Though they’re not words at all.
Just a laugh that no one should ignore.
Fading in from Stanislav’s interview with Angelica Brookes, a television monitor backstage runs a Tale of the Tape for the Russian Bear and the COOLympian ahead of their upcoming match.
Panning out, the dark brown eyes of the Universal Champion watch closely.
Tampa lets us know their appreciation in the background.
Hayes stands, belt over his shoulder, studying the screen and the story told, mentally preparing for either outcome, and the Universal Title shot to follow.
That is, if he can get through his friend here at ReVival 22.
Quick pan out, revealing a figure standing astride Hanlon. Out in the Amalie Arena, the crowd erupts.
REZIN is there, munching loudly from a bucket of popcorn.
The Escape Artist’s reddened eyes are wide and intently fixated on the monitor. Apparently, he’s also there for the show.
Not bothering to look away from the screen, 8he offers a handful to the Universal Champion.
Hayes looks scrupulously upon the wad of buttery goodness unappetizingly clenched within the Goat Bastard’s blackened fingers. He furrows his brow and shakes his head, pushing Rezin’s hand away, comically slow, and looks away before he can watch it disappear into Rezin’s beard-lined maw.
Awkward silence lingers as the two former Five Star Champions continue to stare at the monitor. Except there’s nothing to really look at, besides the graphic of Ivan and Jiles and their attributes.
Hayes Hanlon: (Turning suddenly) Dude, do you have any idea what personal space is? I’m trying to watch this shit.
The loud, incessant chewing abruptly goes silent. With overdramatic poise, as though the request were a slap to the face, Rezin slowly swivels his incredulous gaze from the monitor to Hanlon.
He scoots a mere two inches further away from the Universal Champion, and defiantly scoops up another handful of popcorn into his mouth.
Rezin: …this better?
Hayes shakes his head at Rezin’s Rezin-y reply before turning back to the screen, exhaling through his nose.
Hayes Hanlon: If you’re trying to get in my head, you’re gonna have to try harder. The idea of Jiles getting another shot at the Strap has got you beat.
Hayes motions his jaw to the screen, where Cancer’s sunglass-covered face leers.
Rezin: (Snorting) Trust me, Champ… I wouldn’t needta try. Lucky for you, I doubt ya got anything innerestin’ in there for me.
A sinister, jackyl-like grin spreads across the face of the Goat Bastard. Hayes rolls his eyes.
Rezin: Also lucky for you, Jiles ain’t gonna be your problem…
Hayes Hanlon: You’re right. I also managed to kick off 2023 by pissing off a 400 pound Russian Bear.
Hayes glances over to the Goat Bastard, then repeats with a double take.
Hayes Hanlon: Oh, you meant you.
Hayes turns, smoothing his mustache with one hand while the other holds his belt in place to square up with the Escape Artist.
Hayes Hanlon: Looking at a repeat performance for the Big One, Erik?
The bucket hits the floor, and the night janitor’s job just got a bit messier as popcorn spills across the floor. White kernels crunch loudly beneath Rezin’s black boots as he forgoes any sense of personal space and gets beard-to-’stache with the Event Horizon.
Rezin: WHAT?! Ya think just cause ya traded up to the Uni strap that it can’t happen, HAAYES HAANLONN?!
Rezin’s face is an amalgam of eye twitches, blubbering lips, and flaring nostrils, while Hayes twitches slightly at Rezin’s exaggerated play on his name, bringing up memories from pre-GAN. Nonetheless, he maintains the mostly-unflinching poise of a champion who is neither amused nor intimidated.
Rezin: Make no mistake… a lot’s changed in the past six months! A little bit in YOU, sure… but also a whole LOT in me! See, I now know all that I AM… and I finally realize all that I’m capable of! And YOU, buddy, have the lucky distinction of bein’ the first to find out what I have in store for this company over the next year!
Hayes Hanlon: And that’s nothing compared to what I have planned!
Cocking his head to the side, the Goat Bastard steadily backs away, popcorn crunching beneath every step. Hayes, in a moment of aggression, follows him, the kernels popping under his dress shoes.
Hayes Hanlon: They called me the Five Star Stud before you took that belt from me. But now? Now they call me the Universal CHAMPION. What do they call you?
Rezin stops, popcorn littering his beard. Hayes stays close, short breaths pushing through his nostrils.
Hayes Hanlon: They call you what they’ve always called you. The Escape Artist. The Goat Bastard. So who’s really changed?
A pause between the two.
Hayes Hanlon: I told you our story wasn’t over. Right before I pinned Jiles the first time. I know I won’t hold this belt forever, but you’re not gonna be the one to take it from me. Not this time.
Rezin stares in tense silence. His deep, rage-fueled breathing gets progressively louder. He looks poised to snap into a storm of wrath and violence at a moment’s notice.
Instead, the tension snaps with a smirk and a wink as the Escape Artist moves to leave.
Rezin: Stars ain’t the only thing that collapse in on themselves, HHAAAYYESS HAAANNLAAAWNN! ALL things eventually end! Even universes…
Rezin pulls out a J as he turns and exits the scene. The Champ’s dark eyes follow him, before turning to exit himself.
CANCER JILES vs. IVAN STANISLAV
We then cut back to the ring for our next match.
Vince Howard: The following match is one fall and is to determine the #1 Contender for the Universal Title! The winner will receive a shot at ReVival 24 against the current Universal Champion at the time!
The crowd begins to buzz.
Nick Stuart: Cancer Jiles. Ivan Stanislav. One of these two men will have their shot at either Hayes Hanlon or Rezin when we head to the Toyota Center on March 10th.
Richard Parker: Ivan Stanislav, who has wrecked PRIME and has only suffered one loss since joining, could be in for a big opportunity here. Of course, the one person he loss to was Hayes Hanlon, so he might be looking for some revenge when we roll into Houston.
Nick Stuart: Exactly. And the person on the other side of the ring of him–
Richard Parker: Oh, please, do not get me started.
Nick Stuart: –is the former Universal Champion, who just lost at Colossus.
Richard Parker: I’m so happy he lost at his self-monikered Coolosus show. That was my favorite part of the evening. That and the Lindsay Troy and Wade Elliott kiss.
Nick Stuart: That did it for you, huh?
Richard Parker: Just… who doesn’t love a good love story?!
Nick Stuart: …normally, you.
Back in the ring, Vince Howard is ready to make his introductions.
Vince Howard: Introducing first…
There is no music. There is no fanfare. Instead, Ivan and Alexei emerge from the backstage area to silence (outside of the boos of the audience).
Nick Stuart: That’s right. The workers are ‘striking’ against Ivan Stanislav.
Richard Parker: I mean, as they should. They don’t want to be endangered. Ivan should show some good faith to those union workers and buy them some cheesesteaks or something.
Nick Stuart: Do you think Ivan knows a cheesesteak is?
Richard Parker: He hung out with The Anglo Luchador for a moment or two. Maybe he introduced them to Ivan then.
Nick Stuart: I… doubt it.
Vince Howard: He weighed in at four-hundred-pounds and stands at seven feet and one inch tall. He hails from Arkhangelsk, Russia! He is the RUSSIAN BEAR… IVAN! STANISLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAV!
Stanislav steps over the top rope and thunders into the ring. He raises his arms over his head and bellows at the camera.
Nick Stuart: Ivan has the size advantage, he has the height advantage, he has the experience of being a top-flight champion. He just went to the first ever PWA Supershow and defeated the High Octane Wrestling World Champion, Christopher America. I mean, this guy is on a roll.
Richard Parker: You couldn’t be more right. I was there at that show and Ivan is red-hot right now and Cancer is going to need every trick in the book in order to pull out a victory here tonight.
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
Mr. My Shit is Custom Entrance Goes Here
Vince Howard: Weighing in at two-hundred-and-eighteen pounds, he stands at six feet and one inch tall. He hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! He is the Greek God of Cool… CANCER! JIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILES!
Timo Bolamba gives his final set of instructions to both men and then begins to signal for the bell when he holds up one finger. He then reaches into his back pocket and produces the largest, ugliest goggles that haven’t been worn since the 1980s (Kareen Abdul-Jabbar style). He then puts them on and then looks at both competitors.
Richard Parker: What in the…
Nick Stuart: Timo getting smart here as he’s been victim to that yellow mist from Cancer before.
Richard Parker: Oh, that’s right. Good thinking!
Timo then signals for the start of the match.
Cancer Jiles looks at Ivan Stanislav, all seven feet and one inch of him. He then looks over at Timo Bolamba, eye goggles on at all, and then looks back at Ivan. He places his index finger, the one on his left hand because he spent time thinking about it, against the chest of his opponent. Ivan doesn’t budget. Not even a little bit.
Richard Parker: This is already my favorite match ever.
Nick Stuart: You are seriously grinning from ear to ear right now. I’ve never seen you this happy. Not even that time when you had—
Richard Parker: This is not story time with Nick Stuart, Nick! My personal business is my own personal business. Now, let’s focus on the final moments we ever have to watch Cancer Jiles in a PRIME ring.
Nick Stuart: You are a bit too happy about this.
Ivan looks down at Cancer and shakes his head. Cancer inches back, hands up.
“I just wanted to make sure all of *that* is real!”
Nick Stuart: This is like the worst nightmare ever for Cancer.
Richard Parker: This is straight out of my happiest dreams actually. I legit had this dream for two weeks straight and I’ve obviously willed it into existence.
Nick Stuart: No person should be as happy as you are right now.
Richard Parker: I couldn’t agree with you less.
Ivan doesn’t look pleased. Not in the least bit. Ivan lifts his hand up as if he’s going to send Cancer straight to hell without passing go, but Cancer runs backwards and slides out of the ring, shaking his head as he walks around the ring.
Cancer glares at Timo as he hops onto the ring apron, admonishing him in the process.
“You can’t count the CHAMP out!”
Richard Parker: Should I tell him? Can I tell him?!
Nick Stuart: Sit down, you’re not going to tell him anything.
Richard Parker: But I want to tell him!
Nick Stuart: I think the fans are telling him for you.
“HAYES IS THE CHAMP!”
“HAYES IS THE CHAMP!”
“HAYES IS THE CHAMP!”
Cancer glares at the fans and hops off the ring apron to get in the face of a few select fans, but quickly changes his mind when he realizes they’re the unwashed masses and he wants no part of that.
Richard Parker: Oh please, get a ten-second count out. Maybe we can then finally stop having him in title matches for a while.
Nick Stuart: He’s been in a fair number of title matches, but at the same time, you can’t deny that he’s earned them.
Richard Parker: You want to watch me deny it?! Do you?!
Nick Stuart: Not particularly.
Cancer hops back into the ring apron and looks bewildered at Timo before stepping through the ropes and then looks over to see Ivan still in the ring. Cancer sighs as he walks over to Ivan and then looks him in the face before connecting with a knife-edge chop that echoes throughout the Amalie Arena.
Nick Stuart: Jiles unloaded everything he had into the double-barreled chest of Stanislav.
Richard Parker: If that’s everything he has, he might as well pack it up and go home. Even if it’s not, he can go home.
NIck Stuart: I wonder who you think is going to win this match.
Richard Parker: Oh I’ve got some opinions on that!
Nick Stuart: I was being sarcastic.
Cancer then turns around and holds his arms open, clearly proud of himself before he jogs around the ring as if he’s taking a victory lap. As he rounds the final corner, he runs smack into the prodigious chest of Stanislav who isn’t phased in the least bit by the knife-edge chop from Cancer. Jiles falls on the ground from the Russian statue and looks up, confused.
Richard Parker: Oh my, I’m dying! I’ve got a stitch in my side! HE IS ON THE FLOOR!
Nick Stuart: Yeah, I hear you. You’ve been cackling in my ear. Can you stop acting like a giddy little schoolgirl?
Richard Parker: Never!
Ivan reaches down and grabs Cancer by the back of head, but Jiles swipes Ivan’s hand off of his head and scrambles to his feet, chest puffed out, and bumps into Ivan.
“YOU DO NOT TOUCH ME!”
Ivan looks at Timo, his former foe a lifetime ago, and then back at Cancer, confused by what is happening. Cancer then cocks his arm back and connects with another knife-edge chop. He then spins around and flexes, showing off what some might assume are muscles and struts around the ring while Timo looks on, rather confused.
Nick Stuart: Someone should tell Cancer.
Richard Parker: I’m not telling him.
Nick Stuart: Well, I’m not telling him!
Richard Parker: He will find out eventually, right?
Yes, he will, because as Jiles runs around the ring again, he runs smack into the seven foot giant he is sharing the ring with and seems intent on knife-edge chopping him even though it doesn’t have the slightest impact on him. Jiles looks up at Ivan, shaking his head, not believing that Stanislav is still standing there. Cancer steps backwards as Ivan inches closer to him. Cancer continues to back up until his back hits the corner. Jiles immediately drops his to his knees as Ivan stands above him. Cancer begins praying, even though no one would remotely listen to a Jiles prayer. Even Him.
Richard Parker: Let him have it, Ivan! Destroy him!
Nick Stuart: I think Cancer is praying his way out of this. Not sure if that’s going to work for him.
Richard Parker: Just keep an eye out for Lucifer to appear out of nowhere.
Stanislav reaches down and grabs the back of Cancer’s neck before yanking him off the mat and pushes him into the corner where Ivan unloads on knee after knee to the midsection of his opponent before he whips him into the ropes and then lifts Cancer over his head, ten feet into the air, and then slams him down to the mat. Jiles bounces off the mat from the impact, with Ivan then dropping a forearm across his chest that nearly sends the former Universal Champion through the mat.
Richard Parker: This is better than anything I could’ve imagined.
Nick Stuart: You look far too excited.
Richard Parker: Just give it time, Nick. Just give it time.
Nick Stuart: I feel like this is a bad plug for one of those pill commercials.
Richard Parker: The Frank Thomas stuff is legit.
Nick Stuart: Moving on…
Jiles bounces back up to his feet but is caught with a massive fist to the jaw from Stanislav that sends Cancer stumbling into the nearby corner. Ivan slams his elbow across the jaw of the former Universal Champion before dragging him out of the corner and whipping him into the ropes. Stanislav goes for a clothesline, but Cancer manages to duck underneath it. Ivan spins around only to find Jiles flying through the air and connecting with a springboard missile dropkick to the chest of the Russian Lord.
Nick Stuart: Did… Cancer Jiles just do an actual wrestling move?
Richard Parker: I just thought he did typical bad guy stuff, you know, eye pokes and groin shots.
Nick Stuart: Same. I think his move list is smaller than Sid Phillips and well, Sid just powerbombs people.
Richard Parker: Not that the impact was the same though. Nowhere close.
Richard is right as Ivan stumbles backwards, but is still on both of his feet. Cancer gets back up to his knees, shocked that the Russian Bear is somehow still on his feet and barely fazed. The Coolympian makes his way back up to his feet as Ivan rushes at him, arms outstretched. Cancer ducks underneath it, bounces off the ropes to give him some additional momentum. He then connects with a chop block to the right knee of Ivan, causing the goliath to howl out in pain and stumbles to one knee.
Richard Parker: This is definitely a better strategy than what Cancer Jiles was trying before.
Nick Stuart: That is an understatement.
Cancer then bounces off the ropes again and this time, connects with a dropkick to the back of Ivan’s left knee, sending the big man crashing to the mat. Jiles hops up to his feet and points at Ivan and then looks at Timo.
“SEE?! I DID THAT SHIT!”
Timo rolls his eyes as Cancer returns to Ivan, rolling him onto his back (with great struggle), picks up the right leg of Ivan and begins kicking it, repeatedly, his goal simply to cut off the vertical base of the hulking giant.
Nick Stuart: Cancer is actually employing a strategy and it is working.
Richard Parker: Okay, this was fun to start with, but now I think I’m going to be physically sick. Are we really going to see Cancer Jiles main event another card for the Universal Title?! Come on!
Nick Stuart: Well, Ivan is going to want to be careful to not let Jiles wear down his legs too much. He is still dealing with a former Universal Champion after all.
Richard Parker: I mean, Jiles can’t do anything else, like more moves… right? He doesn’t know anything else?
Sadly, Richard was incorrect as Jiles stops punting his boot into the right hamstring and knee of Ivan Stanislav and proceeds to put him into a half-Boston Crab, continuing his focus on the right leg.
The large meaty leg of Ivan bends backwards and Ivan groans from the pressure he is feeling across the various muscles and ligaments as Timo asks Ivan if he wants to submit or tap out.
Timo nods his head and keeps his eyes on Cancer, knowing that Cancer likes to bend (really, just break) every rule possible. Cancer though looks to be the epitome of cool.
Richard Parker: Oh how I wish I could slap that smug look off his face!
Nick Stuart: I would pay good money to see that.
Richard Parker: Like a thousand dollars? Ten thousand?
Nick Stuart: More like ten bucks.
Richard Parker: Oooh, you drive a hard bargain. Let me think about it.
Cancer wrenches back on the right leg of his foe, determined to rip it off and beat him with it if given the chance. Ivan though continues to resist the pain that is shooting across his body and begins to look for a way out. Cancer locks it in as tight as he can, visions of the Universal Championship and a rematch date with Hayes Hanlon dancing in his eyes.
Ivan then pushes up, easily, and twists around, sending Cancer Jiles flying across the ring. Jiles flies back to his feet as Ivan uses the ropes to pull himself up. Cancer immediately begins planting kick after kick to the left leg of his opponent, but Ivan turns slightly, puts his bear-like hand across the face of Cancer and pushes him into the ropes. Cancer recoils back towards Ivan and is met with a big boot (from the left leg) to his face, dropping him to the mat.
Nick Stuart: Ivan putting some distance between Cancer and himself, but you do have to wonder how much stability that right leg of Stanislav truly has.
Richard Parker: The sight of Ivan just manhandling Cancer over these last few minutes though is more than enough to make me excited for the possibility of what’s to come.
Cancer quickly makes his way to his feet and runs at Ivan full speed only for the Russian Bear to catch him mid-air, wraps his massive arms around him, and begins to squeeze the life out of Jiles in the form of a bear hug. Jiles screams wildly from the pressure Ivan is applying to his ribcage and spleen and other organs that Cancer may or may not have sold off by this point in his life. Cancer begins slamming fist after fist into the face and chest of Ivan, but the Bear seems unfazed as he walks around the ring as if Cancer is a child in his grip.
Richard Parker: Oh, please YEET Cancer through the roof of the Arena. This would be glorious.
Nick Stuart: Cancer is going to have to figure something out here quickly or else Ivan may just kill a man in the middle of the ring.
Richard Parker: We did see a man paralyzed in the ring, so this seems to track with the history of PRIME. Plus, we have a barbwire-ropes match coming up.
Nick Stuart: Yeah, violence is more prevalent here than we like to give ourselves credit for.
Cancer groans, his face grimaces, as he tries to extract himself from the human version of a trash compactor. He then remembers his secret weapon and starts to move his tongue around in his mouth.
Nick Stuart: What is he doing?
Richard Parker: I’m hoping he’s got a cyanide pill in one of his teeth and is going to save us all from ever having to see him again.
Richard is half right as Cancer produces a plastic object between his teeth. That plastic object holds a large amount of yellow… stuff. He then bites into it, yellow liquid (so we assume) fills his mouth. Ivan looks at him curiously as Cancer yanks his head back and goes to spit the yellow mist into the eyes of Ivan, but Stanislav moves his head to the right just enough so the mist flies past him and into the face of Timo Bolamba.
The same Timo Bolamba who had the good thought of wearing goggles. He immediately yanks his goggles off as he is able to see just fine since the goggles took the brunt of the disgusting mist.
Richard Parker: TIMO BOLAMBA IS A GENIUS!
Nick Stuart: Maybe, but at the very least, Timo is not incapacitated.
Stanislav releases his hold on Cancer, shaking his head at the move that Cancer attempted to pull off, but failed at doing so. As he does, Cancer steps back and fires a superkick to the jaw of Ivan Stanislav, connecting beautifully and putting the Russian Bear on his back. Cancer immediately goes for the cover.
Nick Stuart: And Stanislav manages to kick out before it was too late. Cancer thought he had this won.
Richard Parker: Jiles is NOT happy as he thought this match was OVER!
Cancer immediately gets into the face of Timo Bolamba, demanding that Timo count again and this time faster. Timo looks at Cancer and shakes his head. Meanwhile, Ivan begins to pull himself up using the ropes. Cancer looks behind and sees Ivan getting up, and fires off another superkick, but this time, he misses!
Ivan then bounces off the ropes and connects with a shoulder tackle, YEETING Cancer through the air, flipping 720 degrees before he lands on his back, not sure which way is up and potentially experiencing vertigo.
Richard Parker: Oh, I need a replay of that for the rest of the show.
Nick Stuart: Ivan Stanislav looks ready to put Jiles down for good!
Indeed, he is, as he lifts Cancer off the mat and holds him up with one hand before dropping him into a short-arm clothesline containing the full power of Mother Russia.
Nick Stuart: IRON CURTAIN!
Richard Parker: Pin him and get this prick off my screen!
Ivan, unknowingly, acquiesces to Richard’s request as he drops down into the pin and hooks Cancer’s leg for good measure as Timo begins his count.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Your winner… IVAN! STANISLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAV!
Ivan makes his way up to his feet, refusing to allow Timo to raise his arm in victory, and throws both arms up as he bellows out to the crowd once again.
Nick Stuart: What a back and forth, and unorthodox match between these two titans!
Richard Parker: Please, never call Jiles a titan again.
Nick Stuart: Fine. Ivan will be watching with bated breath at ReVival 22 to see who he will face at Revival 24. Will it be Rezin? Or will it be Hayes Hanlon? Ivan Stanislav though has earned himself a shot at the Universal Title!
Richard Parker: That he has. Don’t change your channel, as we have our main event coming up in just moments. A Barbwire-Ropes match for the Intense Title as The Anglo Luchador will defend it against Paxton Ray! Don’t go anywhere!
We then cut to the backstage area where… shenanigans are happening.
WAIT UNTIL HE TELLS YOU ABOUT PLAN #9. IT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD.
Once, they called themselves the Kings of Popsicles. They were the last vestige of a loose faction formed ten years ago, when a collection of stalwarts decided to hide themselves – and poorly at that – under masks and have a little fun. Now, there is simply Justine and Jared, two people who trained together as kids, passed as ships in the night for most of their adult lives, then found each other and built something bigger than either of them both inside the ring and out.
Tonight, they sit in a unique position within the pantheon of PRIME tag teams, because the two people that the cameras open on now hold the relevant records within their division. The longest single reign. The most defenses. And as of six days ago, the longest total reign in the history of PRIME.
Once, they called themselves the Kings of Popsicles.
The Kings are dead. Long live the kings.
As neither of them are booked for the evening, the pair find themselves in street clothes; watching the night unfold through a monitor that’s been setup in their dressing room.
For Jared Sykes, having spent the last year behind the disguise of his alter-ego King Blueberry, this is the first ReVival to show him as he is. The need for a costume ended at Colossus, the situation demanded it. There would be no hiding from Paxton Ray, no running from the Love Convoy.
For both of them, the sound that rises off the crowd is deafening.
Justine Calvin: You used to it yet?
She makes a circular motion in front of her face with her right hand.
Justine Calvin: The whole mask thing, I mean.
Jared Sykes: Had two weeks to get used to it in Japan.
Justine Calvin: Yeah, but that was Japan. And things here are, well… they’re different.
He shrugs. Astute observers will note the addition of a new scar under his right eye, and a single gator tooth hanging from a black nylon cord around his neck.
Jared Sykes: I guess. Maybe it hasn’t registered yet. Honestly, given the way the last few months went, I’m mostly just wondering when the next person to try and kill me’s going to show up.
Almost on cue, three men walk up to the erstwhile Kings of Popsicles. One is a smaller man with a ridiculous topknot. One is the very essence of powerbombs distilled into a single man. The third is Coral Avalon, his left arm conspicuously in a sling. The man what powerbombs also has a bucket of popcorn with him, because of course he does.
Joe Fontaine: Hi, we’re here to kill you.
Coral Avalon: No, we’re not.
Joe Fontaine: …Okay, you got me. We’re not actually here to kill you.
Sid Phillips: I mean, you did think about it. You stood there and outlined at least ten grand plans for how to kill Jared, and you dismissed all of them because you saw what happened to the last guy who tried it.
Joe Fontaine: Did not.
Coral sighs and uses his free arm to take the popcorn bucket from the hands of Sid. He struggles for a bit with it, but finds a spot near the wall where there’s a chair.
Coral Avalon: Okay, but you did. I heard you. The part where you said you’d paint a hole in the wall and make Jared run into it was… not exactly within the realm of sense or reality, and I don’t think that’d kill him.
Joe Fontaine: I was running out of ideas.
Coral Avalon: It was your second one. It got dumber from there.
Joe Fontaine: Shut up.
Coral nods to Jared, a handful of popcorn in his hand.
Coral Avalon: Sup, Jared.
Jared Sykes: Umm, hi.
His eyes dart between each of the three men now sharing his personal space – their personal space – and then to Justine. The grin she wears is positively impish.
Jared Sykes: So, for the record, we have established that there was in fact a list, and Joe did in fact make plans to kill me. Yes?
Justine Calvin: Yeah, sounds about right.
Jared Sykes: And why are we doing this?
Her grin widens.
Justine Calvin: Probably because they’ve met you. Or that they had to tour with you over the holiday break. Or the, you know, all of it. That running into a painted tunnel thing? I feel like it might have worked, if only because of the stories you keep telling me about your friend Charles.
Jared Sykes: You’ve met him! I swear to god, the man has a plo…
He’s stopped by a wave of her hand.
Justine Calvin: Okay, we’ve had this conversation. That’s not how science works.
Jared Sykes: Science has nothing to do with it!
Justine Calvin: Anyway… What can we do for you, boys?
Coral Avalon: Oh, no, I’m just here to spectate. I keep the homicidal thoughts outside of PRIME, usually. And out of wrestling. And life.
Coral munches on the popcorn, and seems content to fade into the background. Joe raises his hand to interrupt.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah, so… congrats on making it past those weirdo sick freakazoids with their DJ Tristy Crispies and their ancient-ass music covers from the Stone Age. Really. World’s a better place that they aren’t champs, am I right?
Sid Phillips: Pretty sure he’s right.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah, I’m right, alright. Anyway, you can probably guess what the two of us want. Do the words “we got next” mean anything to you?
Justine Calvin: No.
It’s stated plainly, matter-of-factly, and without hesitation.
Jared Sykes: It means they…
Justine Calvin: Jesus H… Yes, I know what it means.
She pushes herself up and out of her seat, taking slow deliberate steps across the room to put herself directly in front of both Joe and Sid.
Justine Calvin: I know what you want, and I’m saying no. Now I like you guys, so please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you can’t have the match, or the shot – though technically I don’t have the power to book those. What I’m saying…
She glances back over her shoulder ever so briefly, her eyes wandering to a spot by her seat where her half of the PRIME tag team championships rests.
Justine Calvin: Is no.
Her gaze once again finds the guests in her space.
Justine Calvin: You don’t get to have them.
Joe Fontaine: Oh, well. If that’s the case, then… yeah, fuck that.
Joe turns to Sid.
Joe Fontaine: Right? Fuck that.
Sid Phillips: We’re being polite.
Joe Fontaine: Well, as polite as we get, anyway.
Sid Phillips: You did consider murders.
Joe Fontaine: Not seriously. Come on. Even I know that’s a bad idea.
Coral Avalon: There was the one with the flaming axe.
Joe Fontaine: I’m saving plan #8 for someone else!
He turns his attention back to Sykes and Calvin.
Joe Fontaine: Look. If you’re saying “no” to us even getting another shot, then fuck that. If you’re just saying it in a “you can’t beat us” sense, then fuck also that. In triplicate.
Jared leans forward onto his elbows, but he doesn’t say anything. Despite the knowledge of a list, and even with everything he’s had to endure over the back half of 2022, there is one path that would absolutely lead him to an untimely end. So he makes the smart choice: he keeps his mouth shut.
Justine Calvin: Joseph, I literally just said I wasn’t going to stand in the way of you getting another chance. Maybe you’d have understood if I said it in popcorn, but I’m not fluent in languages that don’t exist.
Jared Sykes: Just a heads-up, but she’s super protective about Galadriel.
Of course, even the smart decisions have a shelf-life.
Sitting near the wall, Jared is suddenly aware that all eyes in the room are on him, including one pair that seems to be trying to conjure lasers.
Jared Sykes: What? You named the belt. It’s cool. People do that.
Justine shakes her head as visions of flaming axes dance in her mind. If you were to ask her at this moment, the answer would be yes. Death by burning axe is for sure on the table.
Justine Calvin: Here’s the thing, and please believe me when I say this isn’t personal, but I was your age when I graduated my training class. I didn’t get an opportunity – a real opportunity – until last summer. I don’t plan to let anyone take this away from me. Maybe that’s crazy. I mean it’s probably insane, right? Have to lose eventually.
She folds her arms across her chest.
Justine Calvin: But not yet.
Joe gives her a thumbs up.
Joe Fontaine: Cool. Still taking them.
Sid turns to Coral, “whispering” to him.
Sid Phillips: Psst. What’s a Galadriel?
Coral Avalon: Cool elf lady from the Lord of the Rings. Solid choice for naming. Uh, also, just ‘cause you say “psst” before you say something doesn’t mean you’re whispering.
Coral tosses a piece of popcorn into the air and tries to catch it in his mouth. It bounces off his nose and hits the ground.
Coral Avalon: This is easier with the left, I swear…
Joe Fontaine: Seriously, guys, we’re trying to have a serious moment of champion and challenger here.
Coral Avalon: I can’t really do anything except be in the popcorn gallery right now. Also, you literally do this to me every single time, so now you know how this feels.
Joe makes a grumpy sound with his throat.
Justine Calvin: Not going to be the last time you make that noise, you keep pressing this.
Joe holds his hands up.
Joe Fontaine: Alright, alright. Fine. You name a time and a place, we’ll be there. Just don’t expect to keep Gally when you do.
Coral looks almost apologetically at Justine, as though he’s seriously regretting letting Joe do all of the talking here. Then he throws up another piece of popcorn and catches it in his mouth.
Sid shrugs his shoulders and decides to add to that.
Sid Phillips: For the record, when we win the titles, mine will be named “Francois Delacroix de Powerbomb the Second”.
Jared Sykes: Nah, here’s how this plays out.
Justine closes her eyes and takes a deep, cleansing breath. In through the nose. Count to ten. Slow exhale through the mouth. There’ll be a conversation later about the name of her championship belt, but nothing that the public gets to witness. For now, trying to remain calm is key.
Jared Sykes: You guys came in here all ready to throw down the gauntlet, and you did. That’s big, it really is. And you did it without weapons, or malice, and without committing any war crimes. Seriously, it’s a refreshing change of pace.
He rises from his chair and slides his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt as he takes a position next to his partner.
Jared Sykes: You want to make your mark, you want to stake your claim. Cool. So finish the job. Call your shot. Don’t half-ass it now, not after you’ve come this far. You put the control in our hands and say “name the time and place,” well, that’s how you get burned. See, anything we counter with puts us in the driver’s seat. You say that, and you give up your edge.
His partner, for the record, is now staring at him with her mouth slightly agape. Over the course of his career, Jared Sykes has said many things, and the vast majority have been questionable at best. But talk of strategy and tactics? Of when and how to best play your hand? It doesn’t matter whether he’s right or not, he might as well be speaking in tongues.
Jared Sykes: This is all on you now, Joe. Call your shot.
Joe Fontaine: Fine, then. Let’s do it at Culture Shock. I’m sure you can make a little more history before then, can’t you?
Jared laughs, and then a slow nod follows. It’s hard to tell whether he’s amused, impressed, or some combination of the two.
Jared Sykes: We’ll see what we can do.
Joe nods back. He takes a step back.
Joe Fontaine: A’ight, chief. It’s a date.
He makes a clicking sound with his tongue.
Joe Fontaine: Winds out!
Joe jumps off-camera. After a brief pause, he steps back into frame and looks to Sid.
Joe Fontaine: That means we’re leaving.
He jumps back out of frame again. Sid shakes his head and follows him by walking. Like a normal person.
Sid Phillips: Did you have to jump?
That leaves Coral with the former berries. Coral picks up the bucket of popcorn and holds it out for the two of them.
Coral Avalon: So, uh… want some?
We then cut to another area of the backstage… area.
FINDING THE WORDS
The camera leads Nova as he walks down one of the building’s corridors, clad in his starry sky / lightning storm tights and full wrestling gear. He stops an arena worker as they pass him.
Nova: Excuse me, do you know where they set up Lindsay Troy’s office tonight?
The worker speaks softly and points their arm out straight before bending their wrist into a curved shape.
Nova: (nodding) Thanks.
The camera continues to lead the Risen Star as he continues down the hallway. A few of PRIME’s own staffers call to him as he passes by, and he acknowledges them with a warm smile before turning left and starting down another corridor as the camera shifts to follow him.
He stops next to a door where a paper name card that reads “PRIME CEO – LINDSAY TROY” has been slid behind a plastic placard on the wall to the left of the door jamb.
He takes a deep breath.
Nova: (to himself) Lindz…I think it’s time for me…
He pauses, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
Nova: No…*ahem*…Lindz, I really appreciate everything you’ve…aw, fuck…
He closes his eyes, takes another breath, and reaches for the door.
Nova: Fuck it, this is stupid, I’m just gon-
Nova’s head is driven forward into the concrete wall and the wet THUNK! of his nose breaking on impact is amplified in the otherwise quiet hallway.
His head slides down the wall, leaving a wide bloody smear like a comet’s tail as he collapses to the floor. A hand grips his left shoulder and flips him around.
Nova opens his eyes to see Paxton Ray raise a chain-wrapped fist.
The Lafayette Bruiser brings his fist down onto the Risen Star’s face, blood spattering the wall behind his head.
Ray lands another blow.
Ray swings a fourth time and one of Nova’s gloved hands catches his chain-wrapped fist. Nova’s eyes open, blood seeping through his clenched teeth, his hand trembling as he tries to push Ray’s arm back…
…then Ray drives his left knee into Nova’s jaw, smashing his head back against the wall.
A tooth skips down the corridor.
Paxton Ray: Woooo! Man, that was fun.
Nova slumps over to the floor. Ray lowers to rest on his haunches and grabs a handful of Nova’s beard, pulling his head up and leaning in.
Paxton Ray: I hate this place. I fuckin’ hate this place. If I could I’d burn it to the ground.
Ray grabs a handful of Nova’s hair and presses his forehead against Nova’s own, the Risen Star’s blood smearing across the Bayou Butcher’s face.
Paxton Ray: But what good is burnin’ down the temple, if ya don’t destroy the idols first?
Ray releases his grip and Nova slides lifelessly back to the floor. Ray climbs to his feet and stares down the hallway at two young staffers, their mouths hanging open, frozen in horror at the scene that’s unfolded.
Paxton Ray: You can go for help now.
They turn and sprint in the opposite direction. Ray steps over Nova’s legs and faces the door to Troy’s office. He pounds his blood-soaked chain-fist against the door three times.
Paxton Ray: SPECIAL DELIVERY!!!
With that, the Bayou Butcher turns and stomps off down the corridor towards the Argyle Position. Foster Nackedy walks into the scene, sees the carnage, and walks over to Nova.
Foster Nackedy: I’m sure this will go over well.
He begins to check on him, then sees Lindsay Troy’s door open and stands up quickly.
Foster Nackedy: And I’m not going to be around for it.
He quickly walks off camera as we fade to a commercial.
COMMERCIAL: UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH
INTENSE TITLE BARBED WIRE ROPES MATCH: THE ANGLO LUCHADOR (c) vs. PAXTON RAY
For reasons that should be very obvious, Vince Howard is not standing in the ring.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall, and is a barbed-wire ropes match for the Intense Championship! Introducing first…
“They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy.”
The chunky guitar riff of “Fistfight” by The Ballroom Thieves kicks in as Paxton Ray walks out under the PRIMEView. He sneers as the fans boo, then slowly holds his hand up in the air.
The day I finally met you like I knew I would
You raised me from the wreck of my doubts
You were smiling to yourself as if we both understood
The silent language of the anguish of a heart that sings but doesn’t make a sound
Paxton slowly walks towards the ring, looking around as the crowd rains hate down upon him. He steps up to the apron and steps over the ring ropes, then leans back against them and closes his eyes.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring, weighing in at 245 pounds…he is The Bayou Butcher…PAAAAAXTOOOOONNNN RAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!
The crowd is quick to let the challenger know what they think of him, especially in light of what just transpired backstage with Nova.
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray is quickly making a name for himself in violent matches, and tonight should be no different, Richard.
Richard Parker: We all saw what he did at Colossus. The man carved up a ring, and came damn close to committing some actual crimes inside that ring. Tonight is going to be no different, and if I had my way we wouldn’t have to watch it.
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
The arena darkens. The first dabs of the organ intro to “Oye Como Va” by Santana fill the arena as purple and green lights strobe while the telltale mask of the Anglo Luchador rotate on the PRIMEview behind. Smoke begins to waft across the entryway as the instrumental beginning of the song swells into its big climax. Right before the lyrics sound, The Anglo Luchador appears from the back, looking out at the crowd. He exhales and bows his head before he takes his final stride towards the ring.
Vince Howard: Weighing in tonight at 211 pounds and hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…
The belt is surrendered to the referee.
Vince Howard: The ANGLOOOOOOOOO LUUUUUUUUUUUUUCHADOR!
Nick Stuart: Here comes the champion! I would love to know what’s going through the Anglo Luchador’s mind right now, Richard.
Richard Parker: Look, I know I can get down on the old man from time to time…
Nick Stuart: Time to time?
Richard Parker: But tonight I am firmly in the Anglo Luchador’s corner. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget what we all saw at UltraViolence, or in the months that followed. Paxton Ray deserves everything that’s coming to him tonight, and I am putting all my faith in this man to deliver a little bit of hardcore justice.
Elvis Nixon takes the Intense Championship in hands covered by black latex gloves and holds it high for the crowd to see before handing it off to the timekeeper.
And if the referee assigned to tonight’s main event looks like he would rather be anywhere else, there is a very good reason for that: he would.
Nick Stuart: Our main event is underway, and fans I just want to take this opportunity to say that if you have small children in the room…
Richard Parker: Call social services on yourself.
Nick Stuart: …now would be a good time to put them to bed, give them a book to read, anything other than let them watch what’s about to unfold here.
Richard Parker: Because letting them watch this is basically child abuse.
Nick Stuart: I don’t know if I’d go that far, Richard.
Richard Parker: Are you forgetting what happened at Colossus? The chain? The gator teeth? And now Paxton goddamn Ray is in a ring whose ropes are covered in barbed wire. How do you think this is ending?
Nick doesn’t answer, but his silence speaks volumes.
Inside the ring, the two men circle. Behind his mask, the face of the Anglo Luchador is resolute. Across from him, Paxton Ray stands with his arms wide and his smile wider, gesturing to the makeshift fence that encircles them both. A cup of soda explodes against his shoulder. He pays it no mind.
Nick Stuart: Part of me hopes that this is how it stays, but that wire… god, there’s so much of it.
Remember this moment, Nick. It will not last.
The Anglo Luchador makes the first move, coming in fast and low to hit the legs of his taller, lankier opponent. He moves for a double-leg, trying to get his body underneath Paxton Ray to drive him back into the wire that threatens them both. The problem is that Paxton came up in the mud pits. He learned to fight on slick, unsure footing. The Bayou Butcher shifts his position and prevents the Old Luchador from exerting his will, and then a rabbit punch forces the Intense Champion to break his grip. An elbow to the back of the neck follows. Then another. Strike after strike pistons down at the base of the Luchador’s neck. Not to hurt, not yet. This is to send a message. Any harder and you never walk again, luch’.
The Son of the Shogun didn’t get this far by wilting. Another elbow is dodged, and he pivots behind Ray. Using his lower center of gravity, he forces Paxton forward towards the corner, where the buckles are covered in the same barbed wire mesh as the rest of the ropes. Paxton tries to resist, but the force behind him is too strong, there’s too much will behind it. He extends his leg outwards, bracing it against the buckle before he’s cruelly introduced to the cutting barbs, and shoves backwards sending both men to the canvas.
Richard Parker: Every time they get close I can feel my heartrate start to rise. It’s like I’m running a goddamn marathon here.
Nick Stuart: Fortunately we’ve got a team of doctors here at ringside to take care of any injuries that might be suffered tonight, Richard. That might include you and I.
Richard Parker: Oh. Great. Because that’s totally something that I had considered and definitely didn’t try to pretend won’t happen.
Inside the ring, Elvis Nixon has taken up a position about as far from both men as he can get without being stuck in the wire himself.
The two men quickly sprawl back to their feet, but given his lucha training it’s the Intense Champion who’s there first. He doesn’t waste any time with strikes; he knows he’s not going to win a boxing match against a man whose reach exceeds his own. Instead, a low dropkick connects with the challenger, staggering Paxton just enough for the Anglo Luchador to pull the man to his feet and try to whip him into the ropes.
The Butcher reverses, but the Anglo Luchador isn’t about to be caught like that. He lets his legs go out from under him, sliding along the mat to a stop before quickly pivoting back to his feet. A snarling Paxton stalks over, but a second low dropkick puts him on the mat chest-first.
Nick Stuart: Neither man looking to be the first to get caught in that unforgiving barbed wire, and I honestly can’t blame them.
Richard Parker: I mean, you’re right. And I hate that I’m about to say this, but I think that means I agree with Paxton Ray. About this. About only this. Also that cancer sucks. So literally just those two things and nothing else.
Nick Stuart: That’s quite the…
Richard Parker: Fuck that guy forever.
As Paxton scrambles to regain his base, the Anglo Luchador goes back to his initial strategy, only this time he’s successful in getting Paxton off his feet. It’s a crude maneuver, more a glorified shove than an actual wrestling hold, but the champion succeeds in getting Paxton up onto his shoulder and drives him back into the corner buckles.
A rabid snort escapes the lips of Paxton Ray as his back is penetrated by dozens of steel barbs. They tear into his flesh, ripping through the fabric of his tank top and immediately staining the white a deep crimson.
Richard Parker: Hell yes!
Nick Stuart: I don’t want to play favorites here, but…
Richard Parker: I do! Now hit him again! Harder this time. Until he dies.
Nick Stuart: Richard, I don’t know if…
Richard Parker: I know what I said!
The Anglo Luchador takes a few steps back, but his eyes never leave his opponent. He charges forward, looking to crush Paxton between his body and the unforgiving bite of the barbed wire, but the Bayou Butcher moves at the last minute. He pulls himself out of the corner, leaving small chunks of flesh behind to drip from the jagged steel. The Anglo Luchador can’t stop himself in time. Physics, unfortunately, don’t work that way. He crashes into the buckle chest-first, tasting the same bitter barbs as his opponent did only moments ago.
Paxton doesn’t give him a moment to recover. Immediately the big southerner is on him, landing clubbing blows into the upper back of the Anglo Luchador that continue to drive his chest harder against the barbs. After a series of shots Paxton steps back, and when the Luchador pulls away from the buckle he’s grabbed by the mask and pulled towards the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Dear lord, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Paxton Ray, he… he’s…
Richard Parker: Trying to make sure that the Anglo Luchador doesn’t see anything ever.
With both hands Paxton forces the Luchador’s face towards the ropes, pushing his eyes closer and closer to the barbs. Blood flows freely from the wounds on the Intense Champion’s chest, falling in drops to the canvas like crimson rain.
Nick Stuart: I understand that the rules to this match are what they are, but this is… I don’t know what this is.
Richard Parker: Probably for the best if we didn’t try to psychoanalyze a man who paralyzed his partner, Nick. This is the same guy who ended Jonathan Rhine’s career. He took out a hall of famer and PRIME stalwart in Nova just minutes before this match!
Nick Stuart: And if he gets his way, he’ll claim the Anglo Luchador’s sight.
The Luchador braces his hands against the ropes, cold steel biting into his palms. He locks his arms and tries to fight against the malevolent forcing shoving him closer to blindness before lashing out with a mule kick that catches Paxton just above the knee. It’s enough to put the bigger man down, but only for a moment.
The Bayou Butcher rises and lunges forward, but his target has already ducked behind him. A quick dragon suplex – so far the only proper wrestling hold in this match – spikes Paxton Ray on the back of his neck.
The velocity of the move sends Paxton rolling through it onto his knees, but before he can react an enzuigiri catches him just above the ear and puts him back on the ground.
Nick Stuart: And now we’re seeing some of that experience advantage come through. The Anglo Luchador is no stranger to the dangers a match like this creates, but that doesn’t mean the man can’t flat out go.
Richard Parker: Honestly, I think it’s a solid strategy. Both men can brawl. Both men understand the risks involved. But if the Anglo Luchador can use any of that technical knowledge, that could be the deciding factor.
The Anglo Luchador waits, biding his time. He knows that trying to pin Paxton now would do him no good, despite the damage the barbed wire has done. When Paxton makes it up to a vertical base yet again, the Luchador charges in and leaps looking for a hurricanrana to send his opponent sailing into the fence of torture that encloses the ring. Only Paxton doesn’t fall. Instead, he locks his grip and traps the Luchador in a powerbomb position before getting a running start and heaving him into the ropes.
The Luchador lands back first, the weight of his body dragging the length of his back along the mesh of steel spines that surround the ropes. Every barb digs into his skin, pulling and tearing, leaving behind dozens of trenches in the exposed flesh. Blood flows freely from the wounds now, spilling onto the canvas and the mats at ringside.
Richard Parker: Someone needs to end this. He already tried to blind the man, for Christ’s sake, and now this?!
Nick Stuart: Both men knew the risks going in, but that doesn’t make any of this easier to watch. It doesn’t make any of this right.
The Anglo Luchador pulls an arm away from the ropes, his skin puckering as the barbs are yanked away from his body. He gestures towards his opponent to bring it on. Paxton happily obliges. A running big boot from the Lafayette Bruiser sends the Anglo Luchador over the top rope and crashing to the arena floor. Where the Luchador had been nailed to the ropes, now the makeshift mesh that had been wrapped there hangs in loose strands. Paxton grabs these, and begins tearing them away from the ropes, leaving a section of the canvas now covered in blood-soaked wire.
Nick Stuart: …Jesus.
Richard Parker: He ain’t watching this, Nick. If he was, it would be going very differently.
Nick Stuart: What the hell is he doing?
The Bayou Butcher continues to pull at loose strands of wire, bringing more and more of it into the ring until the canvas looks like a Cenobite’s heaven.
As this happens, the Anglo Luchador has been fishing around under the ring for something. It’s only when he finds it does the rest of the crowd watching along realize what he was searching for.
Richard Parker: GOOD LORD!
A roll of barbed wire – the remnants left by the ring crew when they set up this slaughterhouse – is hurled into the ring. It blindsides Paxton, catching him hard in the chest and knocking him to the mat.
The mat he just spent the last few moments covering in loose barbed wire.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador is back in the ring!
Richard Parker: And he found a new toy!
The first chair shot slams into the ball of wire on Paxton’s chest, driving the spikes in deeper on both sides, as the big man finds himself sandwiched between two sets of barbs. One for Jon.
A second shot lands, and a spray of blood mists into the air. This one for Peach.
A third, for Sammy Broadway.
A fourth, for Zo.
A fifth, for Vinny.
For every poor soul who’s had the misfortune of crossing Paxton motherfucking Ray since he showed the world his true colors so many months ago.
The crowd is positively apoplectic at the sight of Paxton Ray receiving shot after shot from the chair, each blow driving the spines deeper into his flesh. There is no blood, not yet. The wounds are stuffed too tight with steel. And with the final blow, the back of the seat is blown out from the chair. All that the Anglo Luchador holds now is a frame, bent and broken.
Richard Parker: I don’t want to say that Paxton Ray deserved every single one of those shots, but I’m also not not going to say that.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador has just vented months of frustration and rage on his opponent!
And somehow, Paxton Ray is still moving.
The Anglo Luchador watches through a blood-soaked mask as his rival slowly pushes himself up onto his knees and pries the coil of wire from his torso. No sooner is it removed does a thick red fountain erupt from Paxton Ray’s chest.
Richard Parker: Oh god, I think I’m gonna throw up.
The Intense Champion closes the gap, but a left hand coiled in barbed wire is driven into the Luchador’s abdomen. Another follows.
Nick Stuart: Oh, what the hell is he doing here?
Richard Parker: Technically he has his manager’s license. I don’t think we can kick him out.
Foster Nackedy appears at the entryway, calmly making his way to ringside.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador staggering. It’s a miracle he can even keep his feet given the amount of blood he’s lost.
The champion turns, stumbling towards his opponent. It’s not a lot in the way of momentum, but it’s still enough.
Nick Stuart: Lafayette Lullaby!
Richard Parker: Son of a bitch.
Nick Stuart: There’s the cover! We could have a new champion!
Richard Parker: Don’t you put that evil on me!
Elvis Nixon drops to the mat. Every time his hand slaps the canvas, the black on his gloves gives way to a thick, ruddy crimson.
Blood seeps from both men, pooling around them.
Richard Parker: No no no no no
Richard Parker: Yes!
Nick Stuart: He did it! I don’t know how, but he did. The Anglo Luchador has kicked out!
Paxton roars as he rises to his feet. The Bayou Butcher storms to the corner of the ring and begins gathering the free pieces of barbed wire into a single, sinister coil. As Foster Nackedy watches on from ringside, Paxton closes the distance and begins wrapping the wire around the head of the Anglo Luchador in a crown of thorns.
Nick Stuart: What the hell is he thinking…
Richard Parker: Nothing good, that’s for goddamned sure.
The challenger pulls the champion to his feet, and picks him up over his shoulder. It’s a short walk to the corner, and there is no grace or care in the way that Paxton sits the Anglo Luchador onto a top turnbuckle still wrapped in spiked steel. There’s a collective groan from the crowd. More than a few men instinctively cross their legs.
Richard Parker: Nick, I never want to know what that feels like.
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray getting the Anglo Luchador into… No. Oh no.
Richard Parker: You have got to be kidding me. He’s not actually going to do this, is he?
The challenger stands on the second rope. Despite the fact that the Anglo Luchador’s head is adorned in dangerous cutting barbs, Paxton Ray wraps his arm around it. With his free hand he grabs his opponent by the tights.
Richard Parker: If he hits that brainbuster here, now… with the wire…
Nick Stuart: Ladies and gentlemen, I understand that as a broadcaster for PRIME it’s my job to call the action as it happens. That said… please, if you’re watching this… turn off the television. End the stream. For the love of god turn off the…
The Bayou Butcher pulls the Anglo Luchador up, trying to get him vertical so that he can end this – and possibly his opponent – once and for all.
What happens instead, is that the Anglo Luchador kicks and flails as hard as he can, until Paxton Ray’s grip on his tights is loosened. The move that follows will never be taught in any wrestling schools, despite the fact that it may well be the one that saves the Anglo Luchador’s life. It’s not a slam, or a suplex, but rather a modified shove – one that Paxton is unable to avoid given that the two men are functionally sewn together by barbed wire at this point.
The challenger crashes to the canvas with the champion on top of him, barbs being violently forced into the soft flesh of his underarm. Skin and hair are torn away as the Luchador tries to roll free, but finds himself trapped in the same twisted netting as his opponent.
The screams of both men are heard throughout the arena, even without the aid of microphones.
After a moment, he manages to slither away, rolling towards the ropes to catch his breath. The crown of twisted wire still sits atop his head.
Nick Stuart: What the hell is Foster Nackedy doing?
Richard Parker: Is that… does he have a towel?
The once-mentor to Jonathan Rhine slides a single object into the ring mere inches from the Anglo Luchador. The Intense Champion looks down to see a single white towel within arms reach. Foster makes a gesture with his hands that gets the message across. You don’t have to stay in this hell. There’s an escape. Peach didn’t take it at the Belmont, but you can. All you have to do is throw it.
The Anglo Luchador looks at the cloth in his hand. Blood pours from gashes in his mask, on his chest, from his arms. With a trembling hand he raises the towel and wipes away some of the blood.
And then, he throws it as hard as he can in the face of Foster Nackedy.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador just told the world exactly who he is!
Behind him, Paxton Ray rises. His sinister grin reveals a row of white against the crimson mask that covers his face.
Richard Parker: Unfortunately I think that’s about to be a dead man, Nick.
The Luchador pushes himself to his feet, and turns towards his opponent.
The second Lafayette Lullaby is hard enough to knock free the crown of thorns from the Old Luchador’s head.
Once again, Elvis Nixon is down to make the count.
Nick Stuart: He survived the first one… he survived that attempted brainbuster…
Nick Stuart: Can the Anglo Luchador survive the second Lullaby?
No, not tonight.
DING DING DING
The jeers from the crowd are deafening. Paxton Ray rolls off of his opponent and rises to his feet as a storm of trash flies into the ring from all sides. Sodas. Beer cups. Food wrappers. They’re all turned into makeshift weapons by the Tampa Bay crowd.
Vince Howard: The winner of this match… and NEWWWWWWW Intense Champion…
He doesn’t get to finish the announcement. The ring crew charges past him, wasting no time in cutting away the barbed wire that surrounds the ropes so that the medical team can get into the ring unscathed. One group immediately moves to the Anglo Luchador to try and stop the bleeding. A second seems to be waiting for the all-clear before they approach Paxton Ray.
Richard Parker: Goddammit.
Nick Stuart: Fans… I don’t know what to say. The Anglo Luchador has had an amazing run as the Intense Champion here in PRIME, taking on every challenger put in front of him. It’s how he worked his way into the number one ranking within the promotion. But honestly, at this point, I think I speak for both of us when I say that we’re just hopeful that he’s going to be alright coming out of this.
Richard Parker: Goddammit!!
The last thing that we see before the screen fades is a shot of the ring, now covered in more blood than an abattoir, and Paxton Ray standing in the middle of the ring holding his new prize high for the world to see.