Event Date: 02/10/2023
Event Location: AMWAY CENTER; ORLANDO, FL
I WANNA HIT SOMEBODY
Orlando. Home of the Happiest Place on Earth, and yet, Walt Disney’s not the most evil entity with a name on a building in this boomtown vacation destination-turned-world capital of leisure.
The Amway Arena hosts PRIME ReVival tonight.
The balmy evening air would be perfect for summer in Philadelphia, and yet it’s unfamiliar climate for February. Normal in Orlando, or most of Florida for that matter, isn’t normal in most locales in the United States. Perhaps the heat on The Anglo Luchador, in the midst of a shouting match in the makeshift office for the evening of Lindsay Troy, has less to do with the weather and more to do with his recent actions.
Standing outside the shut door with audible yelling is a camera crew helmed by ace reporter, PRIME’s lead broadcast journalist, Angelica Brooks. She arches her feet and leans her head against the door to hear exactly what is being said. The shouting stops, and the sound of heavy feet begins to creep closer and closer to the door. Angie, being of sound mind and nimble feet, leaps back before the door, which she anticipates to be opened angrily, swings open.
Which it does.
Revealing an angry former Intense Champion, wearing jorts (when in Rome, do as the Romans do), a custom t-shirt depicting Rezin photoshopped to be wearing Mickey ears, and his trademark lucha mask.
Angelica Brooks: Anglo Luchador, can I…
An exasperated sigh.
TAL: Because it’s you, Ang, I’ll give you the time.
He composes himself and turns around to face the ace journalista of PRIME Wrestling.
Angelica Brooks: Okay, well, you had an emergency meeting with CEO Lindsay Troy and…
TAL: I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about hitting someone. Anyone, just as long as they’ll hit me back, and can hit me back.
Angelica Brooks: But you’re still not medically cleared…
TAL: You don’t have to remind me. The Queen already did. My brother did. My mom, my wife, Doctor Fucking Feelgood, Timo Bolamba, Killean Sirrajin, even the Canadian goddamn Hitman, whom I haven’t heard from in 20 goddamn years, called me and told me I was a fool marching into Arena del Angel last Wednesday, but I don’t care. I need to hit somebody.
Angelica Brooks: But why?
The luchador rubs his temples and shuts his eyes momentarily.
TAL: Because, Angie…
He opens his eyes and stares intently at Angie.
TAL: Where I come from, when people keep chirping at you and saying you failed and you let PRIME down and you were only the Intense Champion for so long because you wrestled tomato cans, as if a Hall of Famer and a supernatural golem with chronic analgesia could ever be tomato cans, you go out and prove it with actions. With a fight.
TAL: And what did I get for that? I spent more money in fines than I did paying off the mortgage to my house to lightly punch an asshole angry over a match I booked and to have him goozle me. I’m still pissed off, and if any of these chucklefucks who seem to have itchy Jabber fingers want to cross me tonight, they’re not getting witty repartee in return.
Angelica turns to the camera as the luchador storms off behind her, stage right.
Angelica Brooks: Well, there you have it. A stiff fine for The Anglo Luchador and some harsh words of warning for everyone else. And with that, let’s throw it up to the commentary desk where Richard Parker and Nick Stuart are ready to kick us off!
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT: MORTIMER NIGHTINGALE VS. KENNY FREEMAN
The opening riffs of “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You” by Dean Martin begins and the masked man emerges from the curtain as the lights dim and the spotlights shine on the ramp.
Nick Stuart: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to ReVival 22! Tonight we’re kicking things off with an opening round match in the Alias title tournament,
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall, and it is a Block B matchup in the Alias Championship Tournament! Making his way to the ring, from Horace, North Dakota…weighing in at 248 pounds…MOOOORTIIMEEEEERRRR KNIGHTENGALE!
Mortimer Kjedelig begins making his way down the ramp, pointing to the fans in attendance. As he walks by, he pays no attention to the fans, he’s there to a job and his gait shows it. He slides into the ring under the bottom rope, step up to the middle turnbuckle and raise his hands in the air as the spotlight shines upon him. He hops off the turnbuckle and readies himself for the match as the music fades.
Richard Parker: Ol’ Morty hasn’t had the best of luck since joining PRIME last year, but I think we’re going to see a new side of him in 2023, especially with the might and mind of the Gamble Adoration Syndicate on his side.
“Let Me Entertain You” hits the sound system, to a mixed reaction from the crowd unfamiliar with Kenny Freeman as he makes his way to the ring.
Vince Howard: And his opponent, from Los Angeles, California, weighing in at one hundred sixty pounds… KENNY! FREEMAN!
Referee Elvis Nixon keeps the peace as Freeman heads to his corner, Nixon then checks if both competitors are ready, before calling for the bell.
With the opening bell, the next leg of the Alias Tournament begins! Mortimer Knightengale cautiously scouts Kenny Freeman, before lunging in for a takedown, only for Freeman to dodge his much larger opponent and nonchalantly lean on the ropes before casually slipping out of the ring and onto the floor feet-first.
Nick Stuart: The Orlando crowd is NOT liking Kenny Freeman’s hesitance to lock up!
Richard Parker: Well hey now, you can’t expect him to go guns-ablazing with the enforcer of the Gamble Adoration Syndicate, especially when that enforcer has almost ninety pounds on him! Freeman’s gotta play it safe!
And play it safe KFree does, as the Master of the Multiverse (B-Team) scouts his way around ringside, while Mortimer just looks at him with a look that begs the question, “really?”
Freeman seems to have found his point of entry, as he manages to dash in under the ropes and next to the ring post, before connecting with Knightengale’s back with a dropkick that sends him into the ropes! Freeman goes on the offensive, firing off another dropkick to the back, before reaching up to the GAS enforcer and whipping him into the ropes. Freeman follows suit and meets Knightengale in the center of the ring, but Knightengale ducks the attempted clothesline, before bouncing back and dropping Kenny Freeman with a clothesline of his own!
Nick Stuart: And down goes the sole healthy Master of the Multiverse!
Richard Parker: …B-Team.
Mortimer Knightengale takes advantage of the shift in momentum, picking Kenny up by the hair and taking him, over, and down, with a scoop slam, followed by a standing elbowdrop! Knightingale holds on for the cover, but Kenny Freeman kicks out before Elvis Nixon can get in counting position. Freeman is still rattled however, and is fresh prey for Knightengale, who gets behind him and hoists him up…
Nick Stuart: Kenny Freeman is flailing his arms and looks like he’s seen a ghost!
…and drops him tailbone-first onto his knee! Kenny Freeman winces and shudders, as the sensations from that atomic drop reverberate throughout his body!
Richard Parker: Kenny ain’t gonna want to sit down for a month, the way he landed on that nervous sweet spot!
Mortimer Knightengale knows what opportunities have opened, as he gets his mitts on Freeman again, and DRIVES him to the mat with a thunderous snap suplex, floating over into a cover!
But Freeman kicks out, still visibly rattled from that atomic drop, and is struggling to get back to his feet; a state that Knightengale fully embraces, as he drives a boot harshly onto K-Free’s back! Freeman yelps in pain, while Mortimer locks on a front headlock and stalls to soak in the crowd, before driving a meaty forearm into Freeman’s back!
Nick Stuart: Freeman still stealing with that overload, as that forearm seemed to SHOCK him!
Knightingale gives a big, loud guffaw to the crowd as he slams another forearm onto Freeman’s back!
Richard Parker: See, this is how you keep these pipsqueak little gnats like Kenny Freeman in line; go for the high impact right out the gate, and pick apart the rattled carcass until you win!
Freeman is definitely looking a little worse for wear, but is starting to show signs of life as he clamps his hands down on Knightengale’s arm, pushing up with all his might.
Nick Stuart: Kenny Freeman seems to be hanging on for dear life, but will he be able to break out?
Indeed he does, after much struggle, Freeman manages to break out of the hold, loosening Morty’s grip and getting one in of his own, a hammerlock of the arm that had trapped his head!
Mortimer looks nonplussed as he looks for a way to break out, but is cut off by a La Magistral Rollup by KFree!
But the GAS Enforcer manages to break loose, rushing in for a clothesline only for Freeman to duck it, and rebound with a flying clothesline of his own that sends Morty down on the canvas!
Nick Stuart: Looks like the beginnings of a comeback here!
Richard Parker: We’ll see, Nicky, we’ll see.
Feeling a surge of energy, Freeman slams his fists onto the mat and gets back onto his feet, grabbing Knightengale by the mask and locking in his head and arm, before DRIVING him to the mat with a snap suplex of his own! Not satisfied, Kenny kips up to his feet and drops back down with a standing moonsault that he holds onto for the pin attempt!
Knightengale shoots up an arm, leading Elvis Nixon to hold up two fingers for all to see!
Nick Stuart: What a thunderous display by Kenny Freeman! The momentum might be shifting here!
Knightengale starts to stir, rising to his feet only to be met by a Kenny Freeman Dropkick that sends him rolling out of the ring!
Richard Parker: I don’t like Morty being outside that ring there, isn’t the air kind of Freeman’s specialty?
And sure enough as he says that, Kenny Freeman starts to dash for the opposite side, and takes off like a rocket, between the ropes and head-first onto Mortimer Knightengale!
Nick Stuart: AMAZING maneuver by Kenny Freeman!
Freeman makes it back to his feet, and revs up the crowd before grabbing Knightengale by the mask and rolling him back into the ring! Freeman waits for Knightengale to get to his feet, then sends in another drop kick…
…which is blocked! Kenny falls to the mat, but get back up just in time to get waffles by another Knightengale clothesline!
Mortimer Knightengale looks like he has just about HAD it, and he stares with gritted teeth at the prone Multiverse Master, before unloading a pair of stomps into his chest and taking to the top rope.
Richard Parker: Ha! It would be a poetic irony if Morty took to the skies and beat KFlea at his own game!
Looking with disdain at his fallen opponent, Knightengale leaps into the air, extending his elbow out…
…and hits nothing but canvas! Kenny Freeman has rolled out of the way, and is gathering his senses as he sees Knightengale writhing as he clutches his arm!
Nick Stuart: He missed! What’s Kenny Freeman going to do to capitalize?!
Freeman sees an opening, and he plays to the crowd as he grabs Morty’s injured arm and steps over his head, signalling an attempt at some submission maneuver.
Nick Stuart: Could he be setting up the rarely-seen Freeman Special?
Freeman has the head and arm locked, and reaches over to secure the enforcer’s leg, but Knightengale’s free arm reaches underneath and grabs the waistband of Kenny’s tights! Freeman loses his balance and grip, giving Mortimer Knightengale a perfect opportunity to get a fistful of tights and rolls the much smaller Freeman onto the mat and pin his shoulders tight! Elvis Nixon comes in for the count, but can’t see Knightengale’s attempt at leverage!
“You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” starts playing once again, as Knightengale rolls out of the ring before Kenny realizes just what happened. The GAS Enforcer can only laugh and brag to the crowd, pointing to his head as he saunters back up the ramp.
Nick Stuart: Disgraceful! Mortimer Knightengale had to resort to an unfair advantage as he was all but defeated, and now he’s stolen away a spot in the next round of the tournament!
Richard Parker: You call it an unfair advantage, I call it finding an opening and taking it. Different strokes, right?
Nick Stuart: Urgh… we’ll be right back, folks.
SHOVE THAT ORANGE UP YOUR ASS
And shortly after our opening contest, we return to the Amway Center with the ever so sharply dressed Simon Tillier standing in the middle of the ring, microphone in hand.
Simon Tillier: Fans, at this time, I would like to introduce the man I will be interviewing. He is a PRIME Hall of Famer, the only three time 5 Star Champion in promotion history. The 2009 Jewel in the Crown. And in the last year, he has taken his legacy to new heights. The winner of the Seymour Almasy Invitation Tournament. A former Universal Champion. To date in the ReVival Era, the only competitor to successfully defend the Universal Championship multiple times. The 2022 PRIME Wrestler of the Year. Fans…he is…Brandon. Youngblood.
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 Amway Center. Through the blinding blue and white strobing light cutting through the darkness, the Tower of Babel powerwalks, his eyes trained forward, his hallmark scowl of intensity painting his face. He isn’t dressed to compete, but he’d be quick to be able to throw down if needed in his street clothes. There is no hesitation in his movement, and without a second thought, he climbs the ring steps, stepping between the ropes, and as he does, he explodes upright. Walking over to Tillier, the music and the roar of the fans continue, causing the Diamond of the ReVival to flash a quick smirk before returning to Anger Golum state. Hands on his hips, the music fades, but the cheers do not, going on for several more seconds, chanting his name before, finally, all that is left is a buzz.
The size difference between the two in the ring is almost comical. All the same, Simon stands firm, microphone drawn to his lips as the Tower of Babel stands within reach.
Simon Tillier: Brandon, on ReVival 21, before your match with PRIME Hall of Famer Tony Gamble, you were approached by myself for an interview about a myriad of topics. Understandable given your notoriety to try and focus. But you did say that you would appear on ReVival 22 to answer any and all of my questions. I appreciate you coming out and being a man of your word.
All Youngblood offers is a nod of acknowledgement.
Simon Tillier: That being said, tonight, Nate Colton, the 5 Star Champion, is in action, defending his newly won title against The Time Lord, Anna Daniels. It would be remiss, however, to not note…that one of the reasons Colton was able to secure the championship at Colossus is because you, rather than attempting to break up the pinfall on Rezin, grabbed hold of then champion FLAMBERGE and locked him in the Kata-Ha-Jime…The Gridlock…forcing him to watch as the title changed hands. The fans around the world want to know…why? Was it your personal relationship with Colton? Were you focused solely on revenge on FLAMBERGE for his role in costing you the Universal Championship? Or did you believe yourself to be above the 5 Star Championship?
The sharpness of the questions causes some in the audience to boo. In the past, this would be a terrible strategy. But after a few moments, the Hall of Famer looks to the fans, and begins to speak.
Brandon Youngblood: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANDO!
The roar brings another volley of cheers. Smiles all around. And once they dim, Brandon’s eyes fall, meeting Tillier’s.
Brandon Youngblood: You don’t want to pull punches?
There is no comical gulp. Maybe it is thanks to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Maybe it is thanks to so many run-ins with a certain Goat Bastard. But what happens next surprises him. An extended hand from the Tower of Babel for a handshake. Simon takes it, and the pair nod at each other, letting go before Brandon goes about speaking.
Brandon Youngblood: I like that. I respect that. And you’re right. I did say I’d answer any and all of your questions. What I’m saying in this ring? It ain’t bullshit. People might not agree with it…I don’t care. A year ago, when PRIME returned…
A slight pause.
Brandon Youngblood: When PRIME returned…when I returned…
He turns his eyes to face toward the Orlando crowd.
Brandon Youngblood: I made it a point to be honest. To be transparent. So when you ask a question like that, as uncomfortable as it may be, I’m going to give it to you straight. I’ve been 5 Star Champion three times over. Only one man…Killean Sirrajin…can say he ever took it from me in the ring. That Championship is tied to what I am in PRIME. And I ain’t foolish enough to ever turn my nose up to it. Not then. Not now.
The meaty paw of Brandon is overtop of Simon’s microphone gripped hand.
Brandon Youngblood: Going into Colossus, all I wanted was FLAMBERGE. Just FLAMBERGE. So when he beat Rezin…when he won the 5 Star Championship…that just became part of it. Me and him. One on one. After what he did…after what he cost me…after how he used me to try and make his name…I wanted to hurt him, Simon. I wanted to hurt him bad. And you know…taking his title…my whole thought process…I wanted him at Colossus. Him…the future. The upstart. The French Super Athlete. But the 5 Star? No.
A slight chuckle.
Brandon Youngblood: No…taking the title from him wasn’t going to be enough for me. He tried to jumpstart his career on my back. Tried to make his name on my bones. And I was going to take that back. I was going to hurt him in a way he’d never…ever…be able to recover from. I’m called by many the best 5 Star Champion there ever was. How damning would it be for Julien…for little ole FLAMBO…if he LOST to the best 5 Star Champion at Colossus…yet still had to lug around that title knowing…knowing…it didn’t matter. That his reign, it could last forever…and it wouldn’t…matter. Paper Champion. A ceiling he could never break.
His eyes narrow.
Brandon Youngblood: Then…while that title belt sat at my house…while me and Nate Colton were preparing to kick the shit out of the Love Convoy…and kick the shit out of them we did…
That gets quite a loud cheer. Then again, rubbing it in the faces of PRIME’s ‘Real Tag Team Champions’ is sure to be a hit in most arenas and stadiums.
Brandon Youngblood: Royal decree. It’s a four way. And then I have to look beside myself, to the young man eating my food, watching my tape, the man I counted on to have my back in the ring against Darin Zion and Jonathan-Christopher Hall…and wonder…wonder if his eyes are getting bigger than his stomach. Thankfully…Nate Colton is built out of stronger stuff, but after we took care of that business, I was…like I’ve been since Phil Atken kicked me in the face and broke my nose…left adrift. Trying to figure out the path forward. See, my thoughts, my plan, it didn’t mean shit anymore. So I tried to say to myself…that 5 Star Championship match at Colossus was to determine who was truly…truly…the best WRESTLER in the world. That was going to be what I constructed in my head to do what I had to do. A fourth reign with the 5 Star? Great. But I’d win. I’d make the statement. And FLAMBERGE?
His eyes narrow.
Brandon Youngblood: He’d be laying on the mat…everything. Lost.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, Tillier has given up his microphone willing to Youngblood, allowing him free reign. After all, given the bullet points Simon laid out on ReVival 21, the Tower of Babel naturally was going about hitting each one.
Brandon Youngblood: Nate Colton didn’t win because I took my foot off the gas. Nate Colton didn’t become 5 Star Champion because of any relationship I have with him or his family. He won it because, on that night in Madison Square Garden, he was the best man in the ring. And I can accept that. I can accept that because, the reality is…since 13, I can’t say I’m the best. Not because I lost the Universal Title. Not because of what Atken and FLAMBERGE did to me. It’s because, on that night, I stopped being transparent and honest. To PRIME. To the fans. To myself.
The notion draws a pause before he can gather his next thought.
Brandon Youngblood: I needed to build up this world of hate inside myself, because when faced with adversity, when faced with challenge, that’s the Youngblood default. Because I was able to say…coming in…this time…it was different. And it was. Because I took every match as it came. I took every challenge as it was presented. But then…that path took a hard turn left, and I couldn’t turn that wheel quick enough before hitting the barrier. And ever since…grand statements…sweeping hatreds…anger…rage…despair. I cared more about preventing FLAMBERGE from winning than anything else. And that’s why I didn’t stop that pin. That’s why I sat out there, making that little bastard watch as his dreams turned to piss. And then I was out there the next night…hoisting Hayes Hanlon up in the air as he achieved his dream…Universal Champion.
He paces toward the closest corner, continuing to speak as he circles the perimeter of the ring.
Brandon Youngblood: The Ace Network has some fliers they’ve distributed around the country. ‘The Future Is Already Here’. Colton and Hanlon. Two young, handsome Champions. Not jaded. I’m sure down the road…we’ll see something with Justine Calvin and Jared Sykes and their record setting reign with the Tag Team Championship. The whole world wants to tilt its axis for Ivan Stanislav. Faces like Violet Samuelsson…Adam Ellis…Kohime Mori…Tyler Adrian Best…fresh, new car smell. And what about the path for Coral Avalon…for The Anglo Luchador…Nova…the veterans who have spotlight are facing adversity and legacy defining challenges? I spent the last few months watching Dusk main event after main event in the MGM Grand. All that spotlight, elsewhere. All the marketing, all the spotlight…I’m only human…and all that leaves a competitive burr in my ass!
On that note, he stops dead center in the ring, the lens of the ring apron camera drawing tight on his face.
Brandon Youngblood: I rushed back after 13 before I should have. I was cleared…but I was told “Brandon, if you don’t take some time away, if you don’t let these injuries heal, you’re not going to get back to one hundred percent”. And I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen because I was lost. I am the 2022 Wrestler of the Year…and I ended that year with nothing. Empty. Staring off into New York City, after months not sure if I was even going to keep going…after months of flapping my gums to management like a whiny bitch because I lost control of MY Camelot…I signed a fifteen year contract and after PWA 1 I was asking Killean if they thought they signed a lemon. Because why? Because that’s the easy path. Self deprecating. Beat yourself up. Say you’re not good enough. Get angry. Try to start a war with everyone. And it don’t matter. It don’t matter!
A deep exhale.
Brandon Youngblood: I rushed back because what I want…history shows, I ain’t getting it handed to me. History shows that I’m not Cancer Jiles…where when you piss it away…when you lose…when you as much as go to a draw…there’s always another pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m not Hayes Hanlon…given the shot because of stringing together wins. I’m not Rezin…losing the 5 Star and given the chance to move up for the Universal off the heels of being pinned. And that sounds like me bitching, but the fact is, I didn’t make Lindsay Troy’s job any easier because when the ball was in my court these last few months, I was the one who fumbled it away. And you people didn’t accept me because of any of that. And you’re not paying your damn money for me to come out here, sit in an old rocking chair…“aww geez guys, let’s remember them good ole times” and play the greatest hits and take a bow. I was afraid. Afraid that I didn’t have it. That I couldn’t get it back. And you know what? To Hell with all that. To Hell with all that shit!
So in the zone, he is caught off guard by the immense roar from the fans. Once it peters down, he continues.
Brandon Youngblood: I’ve let a lot of people turn me into their sign post. Anna Daniels fights tonight for the 5 Star Championship…and I gave them a wide birth for a long time. But you’re in that match NOT because you beat me…but because you SURVIVED me…SURVIVED me kicking rocks and being all beat up. Rezin? I wasn’t the man pinned for the 5 Star Championship…YOU were. I watched Nova finally come around to PRIME being his home…that was enough for him to get a Universal Title shot. Clay Byrd…you said you were gonna hurt me…but here I am…five pounds lighter than I was that night…feeling pretty damn good about myself. How about your jaw? You didn’t hurt me…you survived. Nate Colton…you realized some of that immense potential you have, but it wasn’t me you pinned or went through.
The pointed finger is for emphasis.
Brandon Youngblood: And good on all of you. Because the land of the grand statements…of self doubt…of saying you better watch out…of saying “This week is the first step to once again being the Universal Champion”? They’re done. And they’ve been done. I’m not Daniels. I’m not going to hock shirts and talk about how I’m a sleeping beast when the reality is I’m pissing away my potential being the aloof wrestling hipster you accuse me of being. I’m not going to run across the border after I get hurt and lose and try to pick a fight to shore up fractured bullshit pride. I’m Brandon Goddamn Youngblood. The signpost you’ve been kicking? It’s the Tower of Babel. Nobody here…nobody in the present…nobody in the past…is enough of a goddamn Wrecking Ball to bring it down. Which brings me to you…Ward.
Another heavy roar, with enough Tchu chants to make it known just exactly what the fans would like to see go down tonight. Unfortunately for them, Ward’s dance card is filled by Sage Pontiff later in the night.
Brandon Youngblood: The orange comes around. And so did you. Colossus. Sam Elliott’s words etching the monument to your return. And you drop my name harder than you did Kaiser Vashaun’s head. The people ooh’ed and aww’ed. The very thought of it. Never happened before. One on one. Matt Ward. Tchu. Against Brandon Youngblood.
A thumb dug deep into his own chest before relaxing and continuing.
Brandon Youngblood: You said that Hayes Hanlon is the right guy at the wrong time. You said you aren’t here to kiss babies and say goodbyes. You came back to do what you do. Wreck. Destroy. Dominate. Cold blooded. You’re the constant. That’s what you’re telling the world. That’s what you’re telling yourself. You are here for number four. And the Diamond? He’s a speed bump along the way.
He snarls at the notion.
Brandon Youngblood: If you think all the pomp and circumstance means a hill of shit to me? It doesn’t. You’ve held the Universal Championship three times…and it’s my bones you think you’re gonna use to bake your bread? The path in this PRIME is dark and full of terrors. There aren’t any easy outs. And if you think you’re going to call your shot on MY mountain…if you think you can stand in this ring on what you did and that’s going to be enough? You’re in for a rude awakening. And that’s even more so by you daring to put a damn target on me. Diamonds don’t break, jackass. The Tower ain’t taking tickets for people trying to matter in the ReVival. You want me? You want my attention? You got it. Challenge accepted, Ward. Just know one thing…
Wherever he is right now, the finger being pointed is for Tchu.
Brandon Youngblood: You’re not the constant in PRIME. I am.
Finished, Brandon turns to Simon Tillier.
Brandon Youngblood: Answer your questions, Simon?
Simon Tillier: Every one of them.
Another quick handshake, before handing off the microphone. Bloodsport (World Domination) by HEALTH once again begins to play, and as Youngblood steps between the ropes and out of the ring, the last few moments we catch are of the Tower of Babel as he makes his way up the entrance ramp.
A TOUGH NEW JOURNEY
The scene shifts to backstage where Darin Zion is shown about to exit his locker room for his upcoming Alias Championship tournament match. Once he finishes applying tape to his left wrist, he walks into the hallway but bumps right into Vickie Hall.
Vickie is basically chest-high on Zion. Initially, DZ didn’t see her because she’s so short. Standing behind Pretty Pink, however, is her Amazing Life Partner, Jonathan-Christopher Hall and it was JC who caught Zion’s attention or he may have otherwise run Vickie over. Jonathan-Christopher has concern over his face but when Zion looks down at Vickie, she conveys a sense of confidence.
Vickie Hall: Zion.
Her voice is stern.
Darin Zion: I’m ready to go, Vickie.
She tilts her head.
Vickie Hall: Are you, though? That was quite the spat on live television last week.
Vickie lowers her head like she’s going to cry.
Vickie Hall: I was only trying to celebrate our championships…
Zion was calm. Was. Now he looks up into the ceiling and takes a breath to calm himself down.
Darin Zion: But we didn’t win, Vickie. We aren’t the Tag Team Champions.
Before the Woman of Wonder can stress out further, or perhaps before Jonathan-Christopher can develop a severe meltdown, Zion continues.
Darin Zion: I’ll tell you what. Tonight I’m going to defeat Ned Reform. I AM going to become the Alias Champion!
Zion’s eyes meet his tag team partner.
Darin Zion: And you’re going to capture gold, too. We all are. Last week JC won, so did TC. Now it’s Zion’s chance. TOUGH LOVE is coming for Ned Reform.
Vickie slowly glances up to her APL’s “best friend”. She crinkles her face to show intensity.
Vickie Hall: It better be. It’s the Hallmark way.
Zion nods and walks off, as Vickie spins around, almost robotically to watch TOUGH LOVE leave.
Vickie Hall: It’s do-or-die for Zion tonight, dear.
Jonathan-Christopher almost begrudgingly nods in reply as the scene fades.
DON’T MESS WITH GRIMNIR THE HOODED POWERBOMB, THAT GUY’S CRAZY
We cut the backstage area, where Matt Mills stands professionally next to a man who unironically wears a big fur cloak with a lion on the shoulder in the year of our lord 2023 and expects to take him seriously.
I mean, he’s standing next to Coral Avalon.
Matt Mills: Ladies and gentlemen, with me at this time… Coral Avalon.
Coral has his hands on his hips, standing next to Matt and looking off in the distance. The moment Matt says his name, he turns to him and nods.
Matt Mills: Mr. Avalon, tonight you’re going up against Lunchbox Larry in one-on-one action. How have you prepared for such an opponent?
Coral offers a shrug.
Coral Avalon: Okay, so usually I get out the tapes or recall from memory what I remember about an opponent. I’m pretty well-traveled, seen a lot of different guys, not to mention an unusual number of food-and-drink-based wrestlers. I’m not just talking berries like my fellow Kings of Popsicles, either. And, well… after sifting through all of the Pancake Pal and Hotcake Hal matches, after finding a match I had with Friar French Frylock… after dimly recalling once wrestling a man in a hot dog mascot costume in Bang! Pro Wrestling when I first started there, you know what I realized?
Matt Mills: What’s that?
Coral Avalon: That I don’t really care that much about who Lunchbox Larry is.
Matt Mills: People have been wondering how the arm’s been since… well, your “vacation” last month.
Coral Avalon: The arm’s doing great, thanks for asking.
He flexes his left arm a few times in front of Mills.
Matt Mills: We heard that the injury you’d been dealing with had something to do with… uh, what was it again? The Crimson Miracle Bloody Blood Death Bicycle?
The single word that Coral answers with is so deadpan that it needs an entire graveyard to contain it.
Coral Avalon: Bolambacycle.
Matt Mills: I’m sorry, did you say “Bolambacycle?”
Coral Avalon: Sorry, it’s better that you don’t ask questions you don’t actually want the answers to, Matt. Unless you want it for Rumor Mills. How’s Gary doing, by the way? Still, uh… still on the run from Justine?
Mills opens his mouth to answer, but before he can say anything, a very large man lumbers up behind him with the stealth and grace of a super spy wearing a cardboard box meant to contain fajitas over his head. This man leans over his shoulder, and whispers one sensual word by his ear.
Sid Phillips: Powerbombs.
Mills jumps, and lets an uncharacteristically unprofessional word leave his lips.
Matt Mills: Jesus!
Sid smirks as he walks past Mills. Mills is so distracted by Sid walking past him that he also completely misses Joe Fontaine walking right by him, so he almost jumps again when Joe stands in front of the microphone, putting himself between Mills and Coral.
Joe Fontaine: Heyyy, Matty Mills!
Matt Mills: Uh, joining us at this time are the Winds of Change, apparently!
Behind Joe and Sid, Coral has a bemused expression on his face, not exactly thrilled at having precious interview time being usurped by his students. Joe puts a hand on Matt’s shoulder.
Joe Fontaine: Hey, got a sec? We wanna talk a little… business.
Matt pushes Joe’s hand off of his shoulder while addressing him.
Matt Mills: I’m concerned. I saw what you were doing with Simon, so… I suppose I should make sure. No mannequins?
Joe Fontaine: No way! It’s 2023! We’re past that! Like, well past that.
Matt Mills: No Bonafides?
Joe Fontaine: It’s a bit hard to get those guys out of Vegas. You gotta save your Bonafides for the big shows now. Or they just don’t want to hang out with us because we don’t really talk about GUNZ as often as they’d like us to.
Sid Phillips: Not as much interest in powerbombs with those guys.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah. So weird.
Matt Mills: No… weird rumors about unalive chickens.
Sid Phillips: Nothing weird about it. The chickens were unalive.
Matt Mills: So, they were dead?
Joe Fontaine: Okay, so you know how in like the Walking Dead or its six thousand spinoffs nobody gives a crap about, you have undead zombies? This is the reverse of that. They’re alive, but they’re dead inside. Empty shells. The lights might be on, but everyone moved residences a long time ago. Imagine that, but with chickens.
Avalon, from behind the Winds of Change, voices his discontent.
Coral Avalon: You know, guys, I was kind of in the middle of something here…
Joe and Sid completely ignore him, continuing their conversation with Mills instead.
Joe Fontaine: Anyway, we’re here to address the elephant in the room. Elephants have big badonkadonks, right? Anyhoodle. Yeah. We’re here to talk about Culture Shock.
Sid Phillips: Big night.
Joe Fontaine: TWO nights.
Sid Phillips: Two entire nights of powerbombs.
Joe Fontaine: And we, the Winds of Change, are going into the first night against our old friends… enemies… frenemies… the not-Kings of Popsicles. Or whatever they call themselves these days, because those guys have more identities than freakin’ Odin.
Sid Phillips: The All-Powerbomb. The Powerbomb of the Slain. Grimnir, the Hooded Powerbomb.
Joe Fontaine: Now, neither of us have much interest in that big silly battle royale that’s coming up, which means all our focus is on taking what we should’ve taken at UltraViolence last year. And yeah. Maybe those not-berries had our number a little bit. And then they say that, oh no, now we’re facing them at their full might. How can we ever face them at their full might!?
Sid Phillips: I know the answer.
Joe pats Sid on his back.
Joe Fontaine: I know you do, big buddy.
Then he takes his hand and puts it back on Matt Mills’ shoulder. Mills has an expression on his face like he is actively being poisoned.
Joe Fontaine: Fact is, you can throw the Dangerous Mix at those not-berries. You can throw any permutation of the Love Convoy at them… or all of them, like one big Shadow Over Incelmouth, all flailing limbs and impotent nuzzles. You can throw seven Kenny Freemans across different dimensions at them, each of them representing one of the seven deadly sins and becoming malformed abominations as a result. It doesn’t matter. They’ve conquered every challenge.
Mills finally gets around to pushing Joe’s hand off of his shoulder again.
Joe immediately puts it back.
Joe Fontaine: But the way I see it, there’s only one team that can take those belts off of them. It can only be us. No one but us. No one but us has the record to prove that we’re the most qualified bunch in PRIME to bring that historic reign to an end. No one but us has the pedigree, the comradery, the brotherhood to match what they have as a team.
Sid Phillips: No one but us.
Joe Fontaine: So yeah, I wish David Fox and Mushigihara all the luck in the world. But if they actually beat the not-berries, we’re gonna freaking murder them.
Sid Phillips: With powerbombs.
Joe winks at Matt, who wants desperately to remove his hand from his shoulder. There’s a long and awkward moment where the two of them look longingly into each others’ eyes. Emphasis on awkward.
Joe finally realizes the awkwardness of the situation, and decides to make a hasty retreat.
Joe Fontaine: And with that, Winds out!
He jumps to some place off-camera. Sid watches him do this, and then goes to join him.
Sid Phillips (off-camera): Why do you jump?
Matt watches the two of them go, and then turns back to Coral, who has his right hand on his face and seems to be contemplating whether or not to scream directly into it. He’s apparently thinking better of it.
Matt Mills: Any thoughts?
Coral Avalon: …I’ve created a pair of monsters.
And with that, ReVival 22 goes elsewhere!
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT: NED REFORM VS. DARIN ZION
Oh hey. It’s Vince Howard. Hi, Vince!
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall, and is a first-round match in the Alias Title Tournament! Introducing first…
“Happy Song” by Bring Me The Horizon begins playing throughout the arena, and it gets exactly the kind of reaction you’d expect. This is to say that the fans aren’t happy. Maybe they hate love.
Actually, yes. This is Florida we’re in tonight, and Florida for sure hates love.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Chicago, Illinois and weighing in at two-hundred and twenty-five pounds…
Nick Stuart: The crowd here showing some tough love to Zion.
Vince Howard: DARIIIIIIIIIIIIIN ZIIIIIIIIIIIIION!!!
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
The very familiar opening chords of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” echo throughout the arena as the lights take on a purple hue and the fans begin to jeer in earnest.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Litchfield, Connecticut and weighing in tonight at two-hundred and twenty-seven pounds…
The piano transitions into a rock version of the classic – a modern rock version by Cole Rolland – as the man himself, Ned Reform, appears through the curtain. He’s dressed for action: purple and white singlet, white boots, but the arrogant smirk is missing. One hand is tucked behind his back as he scans the people, completely no-selling the rude gestures and boos.
But the grin isn’t the only thing that’s missing. TA Cole is nowhere to be found.
Vince Howard: He is… DOCTOR! NED! REEEEEEEEEFOOOOOOOORM!
Reform begins to walk to the ring, but tonight he seems somewhat dejected. There’s no waving, no smiling. Just one man walking alone down the aisle.
Nick Stuart: Ned Reform not looking like himself tonight, Richard.
Richard Parker: First of all, that’s Doctor Ned Reform. And of course he’s not looking like himself. It’s pretty well-known among the locker room that there have been issues with TA Cole lately. Plus, you know… Florida.
He hops onto the ring apron, gives his feet a good wipe or two, and then steps through the ropes and into the ring. He makes his way to the turnbuckle, bracing his hands on the top rope and leaning back to test its integrity. While he’s doing this, he catches sight of the hard cam and stares for a moment before looking away.
Oh look, they hate this guy, too.
In fact, it doesn’t take long before the crowd makes their truest intentions known.
YOU BOTH SUCK!
YOU BOTH SUCK!
Richard Parker: Well, Nick, it’s official – Florida hates both love and knowledge.
Jesus Christ, Richard. We get it.
The two men move towards the center of the ring, and Reform wastes no time in starting in on the offense. A snap dropkick to the knee sends Zion face-first to the mat, and before Real Love can recover Reform is already back to his feet driving stomp after stomp into his upper back.
Nick Stuart: Ned…
Richard Parker: Doctor!
Nick Stuart: …fine. Doctor Reform taking it straight to Darin Zion tonight, and… oh!
It doesn’t last very long, because the Sage On The Stage isn’t the only one with a wild hair across his ass tonight. In one fluid motion, Zion scoots back, gets to his feet, and then drives a running clothesline right into Reform’s sternum. Zion lunges into a mount position on the fallen doctor and begins raining down strikes onto his opponent.
Nick Stuart: Fire out of both men here in the early going, as Doctor Reform led the charge but Darin Zion was quick to answer.
Richard Parker: It’s the age-old battle of love versus wisdom.
Nick Stuart: I don’t think that’s a thing.
Richard Parker: It is in all my fanfiction.
Referee Jimmy Turnbull begins his admonishment, but doesn’t even get to finish the first sentence before Reform manages to buck Zion off, which is a really poor choice of words to use when talking about someone who’s nickname is “Real Love” and aligns himself with something called “The Love Convoy.” I’m sorry.
As the two men scramble to their feet, it’s Reform who gets there first, and those precious seconds are just enough time to launch himself at Zion and connect with a spinning heel kick. Once again, Darin Zion finds himself on the mat, this time a little more dazed than the last. As he starts to rise, his ascent is cut off by a sharp elbow drop to the back of his neck.
Nick Stuart: This isn’t the way I expected this match to go. There’s a lot of aggression coming out of both men here so far.
Richard Parker: It’s like the poster I used to have back in college: Love Hard, Study Harder.
Nick Stuart: Please never speak of this again.
Richard Parker: My roommate said the same thing right before he moved out halfway through the first semester.
Zion uses the ropes to pull himself up, and leans over the second one to catch his breath. He doesn’t get to keep it very long, as Ned Reform is on him, using him like a platform from which to pontificate. The Warrior Poet plants both feet on Zion’s shoulders and grabs hold of the top rope with both hands, forcing Zion’s neck and chest down onto the unforgiving ropes.
Once again, Jimmy Turnbull is there to admonish, however his count is interrupted by a rather passionate argument by the Socrates of Slam.
Nick Stuart: Smart move by Doctor Reform. That move might be illegal, but if Jimmy Turnbull can’t ever be allowed to count to five then Ned can milk this for as long as he wants.
Richard Parker: No one in this company is going to be able to outsmart Doctor Reform, Nick. That’s just the way it is. Just like no one in PRIME is going to be able to out-love Darin Zion.
Nick Stuart: That’s… umm…
Richard Parker: I KNOW WHAT I SAID!
Finally, mercifully, Turnbull is able to power through Reform’s filibustering, and the proper five-count ensues. He’s at four-and-a-half when Reform finally relents, hopping down off of Zion and putting both of his hands up in a placating gesture.
Turnbull gets close, perhaps a little too close for a referee, and begins giving a sermon of his own. It only stops when Reform’s eyes suddenly go wide.
No, Jimmy Turnbull didn’t witness what Darin Zion just did to get even with his adversary, but everyone else in the building sure did.
Nick Stuart: Zion with a questionable shot there, Richard.
Richard Parker: Right in the diploma. You hate to see it.
Reform staggers back and Zion uses the opening to connect with a pair of European uppercuts. A third one lands, and a snap suplex follows. Zion floats over, keeping Reform’s shoulders pressed to the mat, but is only able to secure a two-count before the good doctor can kick out.
There is no pause in Zion’s attack. Immediately after Reform gets out of the attempted pin, Zion already has both of the doctor’s feet hooked under his arms. He steps through, crosses one leg behind the other, and muscles Reform over onto his stomach.
Nick Stuart: Sharpshooter applied in the center of the ring, and Ned Reform…
Richard Parker: DOCTOR!
Nick Stuart: …has nowhere to go!
The Philosopher King struggles against the hold trying to break free, but Zion has the hold locked in tight. Zion leans back, trying to crank the hold in deeper, but Reform is able to get his hands underneath him. Through obvious pain he pushes himself up and begins crawling towards the ropes, dragging Zion along for the ride.
Nick Stuart: Reform trying to break free. He’s almost at the ropes, aaaaaaaaand… There!
The Pedagogue of Pain gets both hands around the bottom rope in clear view of Jimmy Turnbull. Fun fact about ol Jimmy Turnbuckles: he used to be the dedicated tag team referee, and if you know anything about PRIME’s tag division then you know it’s played host to a cavalcade of idiots over the last year. What this means is that Turnbull can not only take it, but he can dish it out.
Richard Parker: Oh, come on! This is the slowest count I have ever seen.
Nick Stuart: There is definitely going to be an uncomfortable conversation with the head referee in his future.
Turnbull’s five count is slow. Very slow. Many Mississippi’s are born, live, and die in the space between his count. Eventually, Darin Zion is forced to break the hold.
Reform crawls his way to the corner and uses the buckles to pull himself back to his feet. As he tries to recover, Zion charges in for a corner splash.
Nick Stuart: Ned…
Richard Parker: Doctor Reform. It’s Doctor Reform, Nick. Just say Doctor Reform. It’s like one extra syllable!
Nick Stuart: Doctor Reform dodges out of the way, and Darin Zion just ate a face full of turnbuckle.
The actual object. Not the referee who has that as his nickname. In this situation it’s important we clarify this, just to be safe.
Nick Stuart: Doctor Reform with his wits still about him…
Richard Parker: Well where else would they be?
Nick Stuart: A German suplex out of the corner!
Reform maintains the bridge, but is himself only able to get a count of two before Zion can kick out. The crowd, as they have so far during this match, has some thoughts about this.
WE HATE LEAR-NING!
WE HATE LEAR-NING!
This catches Reform’s attention, and his focus is momentarily drawn away from his opponent to the sheer, utter nonsense that every Floridian is letting fall out of their heads right now. The distraction gives Zion enough time to get to his feet.
Nick Stuart: Ratings Spike!!
Richard Parker: And Real Love just planted the good doctor!
Nick Stuart: There’s the cover!
Zion is beside himself, and Reform, well, he’s a little wobbly. His head is where his brain lives, and it’s never a good idea to bounce your brain house off the canvas. Or, in this case, have it driven there for you. Hey, maybe that’s why Zion has the steering wheel.
Nick Stuart: It wasn’t enough!
Richard Parker: But this one might be…
A second Ratings Spike connects, and this time Zion hooks both legs deep.
Nick Stuart: Zion with the cover…
Nick Stuart: He could advance!
DING DING DING
Zion rolls to his feet and his arm is raised in victory.
Vince Howard: The winner of this match, advancing in the Alias Title Tournament… DARIIIIIIIIIIIIIN ZIIIIIIIIIIIIION!!!
Somewhere, tiny hands with pink fingernails are furiously typing an error-filled barrage of congratulatory text messages. Maybe. Probably.
Nick Stuart: Darin Zion has taken this one here tonight, and is now one step closer to claming the Alias Title!
Richard Parker: Love conquers all, Nick. Love conquers all.
COMMERCIAL: 24 HOUR RULE
Nick Stuart: Welcome back, folks! We’re a few minutes away from Coral Avalon vs. Lunchbox Larry, and…
They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy
Nick is interrupted by the chilling voice of Martin Earley and the chunky riff of “Fistfight” by Ballroom Thieves, and then by boos.
The fans are unhappy, of course, because this is the song of Paxton Ray. However, he is not the one who emerges at the ramp. Instead, we see Foster Nackedy, Paxton’s manager, wearing a tuxedo t-shirt and athletic shorts.
Richard Parker: This man is the manager of a champion? He looks like he got lost on the way from a homeless shelter.
Foster smiles and waves to the booing fans as he walks towards the ring. He kindly asks Vince Howard for a microphone as he nears the back end of the ring, and the ring announcer obliges. Foster rolls under the ropes and stands up, smiling and holding the mic to his mouth.
Foster Nackedy: Good evening Orlando!
Foster Nackedy: Oh, guys, save your boos. You’re going to need them in a second. Because I have the absolute pleasure of introducing PRIME’s hottest wrestler, the man who has not lost a sanctioned match, and most importantly your NEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW Intense Champion!
Foster looks over at Vince.
Foster Nackedy: Comin’ for your job, Vinny.
Foster then looks back at the entrance ramp.
Foster Nackedy: Ladies, gentlemen, luchadors…PAXTON! RAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!
Richard Parker: BOO!
The Bayou Butcher emerges, and it is clear he is not as amused by this introduction as Foster clearly is. He stops at the ramp and looks out, snarling. He adjusts the championship on his shoulder and walks down the ramp, then enters the ring. He walks up to Foster and whispers something in his ear. Foster nods, then says “don’t worry, I got it,” which is barely picked up on the mic.
Foster Nackedy: Now I’m sure you’re asking why we are here. Why we have decided to come out here to address the finest folks that Florida has to offer. After all, Paxton doesn’t have a match. So why are we here? Would Foster and Paxton really request time just to come out and brag?
Foster looks at Paxton and shrugs.
Foster Nackedy: Yeah, pretty much.
Foster Nackedy: Look, last ReVival was historic. It was a great match between two ferocious competitors, and both walked away from scars that will probably never heal. And so, as the victor, Paxton deserves a celebration. He deserves to crow. So first we need to give a round of applause to the former champion, The Anglo Luchador, for putting up such a heroic fight and having an amazing reign. Go on, cheer. He deserves it too!
The fans let out a loud cheer and Foster chuckles.
Foster Nackedy: Okay, okay, that’s enough. But now let’s move on and talk about what this all means. What Paxton Ray as champion means for the PRIME landscape. Everyone knows that Paxton loves to hurt people. Some people consider it a bad thing.
Nick Stuart: Some people?
Richard Parker: He’s saying it like it’s an opinion. Some people like orange juice. No one likes paralyzers!
Foster Nackedy: And I will admit that maybe it got a little out of hand for a while there. But now everything is okay again. Why? Because now the pain can be confined to official matches. We don’t have to worry about Mark Lemon or Enemigos being caught in the crossfire. Now we can just get pain in the ring where it belongs!
Nick Stuart: Oh yeah? What about Nova last week, huh?
Almost as if he heard him, Foster smiles.
Foster Nackedy: And finally, I want to apologize to Nova for what happened before the title match at ReVival 21. It was one of those wrong place, wrong time things. Nothing personal. Hope y–
The crowd can no longer hear Foster’s voice. Not because he stopped talking, but because the microphone is no longer in his hand. It now belongs to Paxton Ray, who stares at his manager with an icy glare. After a moment, Paxton raises the microphone to his lips.
Paxton Ray: Correction. It was very personal.
Paxton Ray: Nova ain’t just a guy that was in my way. Nova is PRIME in all the ways I hate. He don’t wanna fight. He don’t wanna prove he’s the best. He just wants to live off the name, wave his hand, and get his checks. So when I saw the old man hangin’ around the boss’s office, lookin’ like a lost puppy, I did what you’re s’posed t’do with lost puppies. I put him down.
The fans boo as Foster looks at his charge, noticeably uncomfortable.
Paxton Ray: An’ if I see ya again tonight, Nova? Before your match, after your match…durin’ your match…I’m gonna finish the damn job.
Paxton throws the microphone down and walks out as “Fistfight” plays again and the fans boo. Foster uncomfortably walks over to the microphone and picks it up sheepishly.
Foster Nackedy: Uh…Orlando sucks. Bye!
He scampers out of the ring as we go elsewhere.
SHE’S ALL THAT AND A STACK OF WAFFLES
The scene cuts backstage where Mortimer Knightingale is leaning against the wall with his hands folded across his chest. He is looking down at his Adidas sneakers taking deep breaths, clearly calming down. He gives off a nervous vibe. Even with a mask, it is apparent he has a lot of anxiety. He looks up toward his right. He subconsciously brushes nonexistent dirt from his “G.A.S.” teal and black tracksuit top. He lets out one last breath and begins approaching the person walking towards him: Kohime Mori.
Mortimer Knightingale: Oh! Hey! Mori! What’s, uh, what’s up?
Kohime spots Mortimer in the area just as he calls out to her. Was he waiting for her? It doesn’t really matter as her face lights up with a smile. She waves to her newest friend with the exuberance of someone a few years her junior.
Mortimer Knightingale: Before you, uh, say somethin’, I just wanted to give you somethin’. You didn’t take the twenty a coupla weeks ago and, since you’re new here, I just figured you should get a, kinda, welcome gift.
Mortimer Knightingale pulls out a cassette tape and hands it to Kohime Mori.
Mortimer Knightingale: It’s a mix tape. It’s got the greats on it. Frank, Dino, Ella Fitzgerald,The Spice Girls, some musical numbers from Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Carousel, Phantom. It’s an ectlectric selection.
Kohime holds the cassette in her hands for a moment before beginning to inspect the item. With her age, Mori had never actually seen a cassette tape. In fact, it’s likely she didn’t even know what one was. She barely knew what a compact disk was, so the media that pre-dated it? Chances were certainly low. Her eyes peek up from the tape ever so slightly. Any internal thought processing stopped when Mori was reminded of Mort’s presence.
The man had given her a gift. Was it one she expected? Not at all. Is it one she has any idea of how to use? Not even a little bit. That doesn’t matter. A gift, especially one made with effort and care, is a gift that should be cherished. It’s possible to miss it, but a light blush forms on Kohime’s cheeks. Her smile morphs from beaming to shy. She clutches the tape to her chest like the most precious of possessions. Mortimer cannot help but smile and thanks the powers that be that he is wearing a mask which is likely concealing some blushing.
Kohime Mori: Thank you, Mr. Nightingale… I know some of that music. It sounds like you worked really hard on this. I really appreciate it!
Mori offers a deep bow Nightingale’s way, as is tradition in her culture.
Mortimer Knightingale: Um, hey, look, I don’t know what this….
Mortimer Knightingale begins going back and forth with his hands gesturing towards himself and Kohime Mori.
Mortimer Knightingale: ….is, plutonic, romantical or what, all I know is, you make me smile. Now, I don’t wanna be posthumous here, but I was wonderin’ if you were doin’ anything later cuz I was thinkin’ there’s these things here called Waffle Houses that’re open twenty fours so, maybe later, we could get a cup of coffee or a waffle or somethin’?
The light blush deepens on Kohime’s cheeks. She herself wasn’t sure what the nature of their relationship was. Seeing as how they were still getting to know each other, it was probably best not to think too much about it. She thought about the offer put her way.
Kohime Mori: I don’t really drink coffee. Like, I can probably sweeten it enough for me to like it. Cappuccino is pretty good. That’s kinda like coffee, but it’s not really the same thing, ya know? I’ve never had a frappuccino. I wonder if that’s more like coffee or cappuccino?
At this point, Kohime realizes she’s babbling, as she’s prone to do. She giggles awkwardly, an incredibly subtle wince flashing across her face momentarily. Mori makes an attempt to quickly recover.
Kohime Mori: I like waffles. So yeah, we could do that!
Mortimer Knightingale: Yes? Yes!
The masked PRIME wrestler is barely able to hold his enthusiasm. There is a part of him that wants to just break out into song but his voice is not what it used to be and the only song that is popping into his head is “Sherry” by Frankie Valli and he would never hit that high of an octave.
Mortimer Knightingale: Okay!
Mortimer Knightingale nods, beaming the biggest and most genuine smile that he has in a long, long time.
Mortimer Knightingale: Should we just meet here after the show then? Or maybe I should pick you up and your dressin’ room or locker room…..?
Mori puts a hand to her chin in thought. If you’ve gotten to know her a bit, you know what to expect from this.
Kohime Mori: Well I’m not wrestling tonight. I mostly just came to watch the show because my sensei says it’s important to study and learn. I guess I could hang out near the dressing room, but that would be kinda weird. I don’t wanna be accused of loitering or being a delinquent. I don’t think the police would get involved, but what if they did?! I don’t want a record!
Kohime once again realizes she’s lost the plot. Time to course correct.
Kohime Mori: Let’s just meet here. That’ll be easiest. No cops though, please.
Mortimer chuckles a little bit. There is a bit of hesitance but he just goes for it.
Mortimer Knightingale: Cops ain’t gonna care about—- You know what? Gimme ten minutes. Stay right there. Let me….
Mortimer Knightingale begins backing away excitedly and nearly falls over a garbage can.
Mortimer Knightingale: Whoa! Where’d that come from?
Mortimer laughs nervously.
Mortimer Knightingale: Let me go get my bag. Stay here…I’ll be right back.
Mortimer Knightingale continues backing away, keeping his focus on Kohime, wanting to hold onto this image for as long as he can (and maybe worrying that the second he turns away from her, she will disappear). The scene comes to an end as Kohime Mori stands in the corridor hoping that security does not arrive and detain her.
CORAL AVALON VS. LUNCHBOX LARRY
Nick Stuart: And we’re ready for our next match of the night, and one of the competitors is already in the ring.
Richard Parker: What?
Nick Stuart: Lunchbox Larry, one of PRIME’s newest members, is in the ring waiting for his opponent.
Richard Parker: Oh no. He’s doomed.
Nick Stuart: What?
Before Richard can answer, the lights go out in the Amway Center, and the soothing beginning of Monster Siren’s “Real Me” hits the PA system.
Dusk might be gone, but his spirit lives on in the form of smoke filling the entryway as a spotlight shines down on a lone figure standing amidst it. He stands with his back to the crowd. His kingly fur cloak is no longer made of patchwork fur, but instead is a single solid cloak. It still retains the lion’s head on one shoulder and the fanged spikes on the other of the old cloak.
When the smoke starts to clear out and the guitars of the song hit in earnest, Coral Avalon turns to face the crowd. His left arm has a conspicuous amount of padding around it, at least more than usual. In his right hand, he carries his battle standard.
Vince Howard: From Seattle, Washington… weighing in tonight at two hundred and fourteen pounds… this is COOOOOOOOORAAAAALLLLL AVALOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!
Avalon makes his way down the ring. While the flag of the Crownless Kingdom flies behind him, he makes little effort to actually wave it. He carries it to the ring and sets it down in a lean next to a ring post, then hops up onto the apron and enters the ring. He turns towards the hard cam and brings his fists together with the ring and pinkie fingers out.
Richard Parker: Did Vince give Lunchbox Larry’s height and weight?
Nick Stuart: Hmm. I’m not sure he did, but it says here that he’s 6’7 and 277 pounds, and that he’s from Westbrook, Maine.
Richard Parker: Oh Hoyt. It’s happening.
Nick Stuart: What is?
Richard Parker: This poor sap isn’t even going to get a move in.
Lunchbox Larry moves forward quickly and smashes Coral Avalon with a forearm, sending him back into the turnbuckle.
Nick Stuart: You were saying?
Richard Parker: A forearm smash isn’t a move. It’s a punch.
Nick Stuart: Uh huh.
Larry advances, but Coral recovers and moves out of the way before Larry can smash him in the corner. He hits Larry with two snap kicks to the thigh, then elbows Larry into the face, forcing him into the corner. He then grabs Larry and tosses him in a belly-to-belly suplex.
Nick Stuart: Impressive strength from Coral Avalon, though it looks like he’s favoring that left arm a bit.
Richard Parker: Yeah this is more like it.
Nick Stuart: What do you mean? Matches have ebbs and flows. Just because Coral took control doesn’t mean it’s over already.
Richard Parker: It does when the other wrestler doesn’t get an entrance, Nick!
Larry gets to his feet and runs at Coral, but The Crownless King anticipates it and uses his momentum for a Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker.
Nick Stuart: What a move by Coral! Cover!
Richard Parker: Wow, Larry kicked out!
Nick Stuart: Hot start for Coral Avalon, who won his last match against GREAT SCOTT and then did a tour in Bang! over the PRIME break. He’s looking to gain momentum in PRIME after two early losses, and he looks motivated here.
Richard Parker: Meanwhile Lunchbox Larry looks out of it.
Coral moves over to Larry to lift him up, but Larry powers out of Coral’s grapple and elbows wildly, which hits Coral’s left arm. Coral backs off, howling in pain. Larry’s demeanor changes as he watches the reaction, then he smiles and grabs Coral’s arm.
Nick Stuart: Looks like Lunchbox Larry noticed the weak point in Coral’s body!
Richard Parker: But he can’t do that! He had no entrance!
Nick Stuart: Will you stop focusing on that?
Larry uses the arm to sling Coral over in an arm drag, then wrenches on the arm. Coral screams in pain, and after a few more wrenches Larry releases the hold and guides Coral to the corner, then slams his arm into the corner. Coral slumps over, and Larry lifts Coral over in a suplex.
Nick Stuart: Lunchbox Larry taking advantage, and now he goes for the cover!
Nick Stuart: Quick kickout by Coral Avalon, but Larry has taken control, as is the natural order of things, Richard.
Richard Parker: We’ll see who’s laughing when No Entrance Larry is Armamented to Death.
Nick Stuart: I hardly think that will happen.
Richard Parker: You’re right, he’s not allowed to kill him.
Lunchbox Larry lifts Coral up and forces him to the corner, then drapes his left arm over the ropes. He winds up and delivers a big chop across the injured arm. Coral instinctively tries to move, but Larry stops him with his body and delivers another chop. Finally Larry moves, and Coral spills out of the corner. As he gets to his feet, Lunchbox Larry turns around (he’s slower, you see) and Coral sees his opportunity. He launches low, kicking Larry in the knee. Larry buckles, and then Coral hits a knee strike, sending Larry back. He then hits a dropkick that shoots Larry into the turnbuckle. Coral takes a step back, then launches himself at Larry in the corner.
Nick Stuart: Rhongomyniad! The First Armament!
Richard Parker: That’s one.
Larry falls forward and Coral slides into position, locking him up in the…Nick, take it away.
Nick Stuart: Vortigern’s Pillory, the Fourth Armament!
Richard Parker: These names…
Nick Stuart: The Omaplata armbar is locked in, and it’s already over! Luncbox Larry taps out immediately!
DING DING DING!
Nick Stuart: Well, Lunchbox Larry tried to take advantage of Coral Avalon’s arm injury, but Coral used quick and decisive thinking to take this one down in a hair over six minutes.
Richard Parker: Ahem.
Nick Stuart: What’s up Richard?
Richard Parker: Who was right?
Nick Stuart: Good point, Richard.
Richard Parker: Thank you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Coral was right to exploit that moment to win the match! And now let’s go to commercial!
Richard Parker: That was mean.
COMMERCIAL: THE MADHOUSE
A barren, desolate landscape. A tumbleweed slowly drifting across the ground.
“Once upon a time in the West…”
Shapes rise out of the distance. As the camera zooms in, those shapes slowly turn into old wooden buildings.
“Fighters were invited to partake in an event that happened once a year, but somehow also once in a lifetime…”
The camera zooms in more rapidly now, and we soon find ourselves in the middle of a ghost town. We pass a livery, a general store, a jail, before finally arriving at the saloon. The shot closes in, but cuts to black as soon as it reaches the swinging doors.
“They came from everywhere. Wrestlers of all kinds…”
We see a brief but unfocused shot of in-ring action, as two competitors desperately try to gain the advantage over each other.
Still shots of various wrestlers fade in and out. “Hot Buttered” Leroy Scrumptious. Ria Lockhart. Melissa Talamantez.
More stills fade in and out. “Wrigleyville’s Finest” Johnny Dorn. Quinn Fleetwood. Ivan Stanislav.
“And the Ugly…”
Still shot of “Rotten” T.J. Ratigan.
“Some would ride lonesome…
Powerslam Anubis strides in slow motion to the ring, his jackal head mask striking fear into opponents and small children.
“Others formed a wild bunch…”
The Ironhearts stand together in the ring, daring anyone to challenge them.
“Ready to show some true grit…”
Action footage of Roosevelt Black, “Cowboy” Jimmy Donovan, and Andrew “Can’t Miss” Mitchell.
“Prepared to commit sins that will remain unforgiven…”
Was…was that a bicycle?
“And for what? Fame? Glory? The sheer challenge?”
Surf Express Bro share a high five after an intense victory. Hambone Parkinson threatens a customer with a spatula. Jezebel Jinx stands with her back to the camera, then looks over her shoulder and winks.
“Yeah. All of those things…and a fistful of dollars.”
The Robber Barons twirl their mustaches and laugh. Garry “Ray-Ray” Bolamba sends another text to his Uncle TAL.
“They will be coming to the Madhouse, and–”
The screen fades to black, but the final words appear on the screen as they are spoken, in big scary letters.
Finally, a nifty graphic explaining just what the hell this is all about.
FISTFIGHT AT HIGH NOON:
THE BAR ROOM BRAWL BATTLE ROYAL
April 28, 2023
The Wild West Gets Weird
FLAMBERGE VS. NOVA
The lights cut out in the arena, and a stormy sky appears on the video screen.
As thunder booms over the speakers and lightning lights up the darkened clouds on-screen, George Clinton’s voice can be heard speaking in soft, reverberating tones.
“Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time…for y’all have knocked her up. I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe; but I was not offended, for I knew I had to rise above it all…or drown in my own shit.”
The stormy sky fades, replaced by a field of stars. One of the stars shoots across the screen, and as the field of stars comes together to form the word “NOVA,” Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” lilts over the PA system.
At this moment, a spotlight hits the entrance ramp where Nova is knelt, one fist raised in the air. Usually, smoke would be wafting up from the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, swirling iridescently under the hot glare of the spotlight. Not this time, as Nova’s face is clad in a mask with the same deep blue night sky, stars, and lightning bolts that cover his wrestling tights. After a moment, the Risen Star climbs to his feet and makes his way down to the ring, rolling under the bottom rope before standing.
Nick Stuart: Check out that mask on Nova! I’ve heard it was a requirement from Lindsay Troy if he was going to wrestle tonight!
Richard Parker: Added benefit? We don’t have to look at Nova’s mug during the match!
The lights come up.
“Dangereux” by IAM plays to a fairly decent reaction, though not universally positive. His walk to the ring is fairly brisk and he doesn’t react emotionally to fans, anyone in the ring, etc.; pure stone-face. He’ll usually take a steady lap around the outside of the ring before walking up the steps and stepping through the ropes. Fans may occasionally offer him chips or other snack foods, he’d decline them.
The two competitors slowly circle each other, eyeing their opposition up. FLAMBERGE stops, shooting Nova a dismissively glare. Nova’s body sags a bit before he looks out to the crowd briefly. FLAMBERGE quickly shoots forward for a double leg, but Nova steps back with similar speed. The Risen Star shakes a finger at his younger foe, FB unfazed. The dance begins once again. FLAMBERGE shoots in again towards the legs. Nova moves back, but finds a hand swiping at his mask! A stiff backhand smacks FLAMBERGE’s outstretched hand away. The young Frenchman goes with the momentum, spinning his body around so keep eyes on Nova.
Nick Stuart: FLAMBERGE tried to go for Nova’s mask! I understand you take a risk every time you step in the ring, but that seems like a pretty cheap move!
Richard Parker: Hey, Nova’s the one who wanted to get in there! The mask may as well say “Hit me right here!” It’s not La pas brillante’s fault that grandpa wanted this match!
Nick Stuart: I think your French might be a bit off.
Richard Parker: My French is impeccable! Kiss my ass, pardon my French.
Tired of the cat and mouse game, Nova steps in and clamps on a headlock in short order. He cranks on it for a second, but FLAMBERGE plants a foot in front of Nova’s and trips him forward to escape. FB looks to get a back mount but Nova scrambles to keep the advantage neutral. FLAMBERGE grabs an ankle. The Starchild twists and pushes FB off with both feet, sending the young man flying backwards from his larger opponent.
Both make an effort to rapidly find their footing. The French phenom tries to press the advantage, charging forward. He’s met with a jumping calf kick from Nova, sending him down to the mat. He looks to twist his legs into a Texas Cloverleaf. FB isn’t having it, looking for some kind of opening or escape. FLAMBERGE manages to pick Nova’s ankle to take the veteran down. Stalemate, once again.
Nick Stuart: Nice little opening there! Both of these men are looking sharp right now.
Richard Parker: Say what you want about Nova; he’s past his PRIME, he smells like salami, his beard has wildlife living in it… He’s still dangerous. He’s still one of the best around. FLAMBERGE needs to have his head on a swivel.
Nick Stuart: No doubt about that, Richard. I’m worried about Nova’s injury, though.
Richard Parker: You should be! FLAMBERGE is a smart kid, vicious too. He knows what he needs to do here.
The two draw close again, but FLAMBERGE acts with haste. He starts cutting at Nova’s left thigh with low kicks. Nova groans, his leg buckling more and more with each successive kick. FB shoots in with a single leg, grabbing the targeted limb before sweeping out the right leg. FLAMBERGE grapevines the leg and applies a modified heel hook. The Risen Star does his best to turn his leg to keep some amount of pressure off his limb.
Nova manages to roll the pair to the ropes. Timo starts the count for the break.
FLAMBERGE breaks the hold just in time. He ignores the earful he receives from Timo and kicks at the still downed Nova’s left leg. Knowing he has the advantage, FB looks out to the crowd with what can best be described as aloof disdain. FLAMBERGE drapes the Starchild’s left leg over the middle rope. He stomps on it a few times before wrenching on the tied up limb. Timo again jumps on FB with the count. Again, the count is broken just in time. Timo steps in between the wrestlers. The look he shoots FLAMBERGE a death glare, with the prospect refusing to look into the referee’s eyes. In the meantime, Nova has slipped out to the ring floor.
Nick Stuart: FLAMBERGE is really pushing his luck here!
Richard Parker: He sure is! He’s not in good with “On The Take” Timo, so he can’t expect any leeway.
Nick Stuart: That’s ridiculous! How can you attack the integrity of PRIME’s head official like that with a straight face?!
Richard Parker: It’s easier than you think.
FLAMBERGE slides out of the ring to stalk the wounded Nova. After a moment to measure up his target, FB charges forward. He waited too long. Nova has turned around by the time FLAMBERGE draws close. In one fluid motion, the Risen Star chucks his younger adversary overhead with a T-Bone Suplex! FLAMBERGE bounces as if he were shot out of a cannon without preparation.
Both men lay on the floor… Nova clutches his leg while FB desperately grabs at his back. Timo implores both men to get back into the ring before starting his count.
Nova starts using the ring apron to get to his feet…
FLAMBERGE crawls to the ring steps, steadying himself.
FLAMBERGE deftly slides himself into the ring.
Nova manages to pull himself onto the apron. The crowd applauds as the veteran swings his leg into the ring… Only to start vehemently jeering. FLAMBERGE had sprung to his feet and just chop blocked Nova’s draped leg! The Starchild crumples to the apron, howling in pain.
Nick Stuart: Oh man! That just looked nasty!
Richard Parker: The kid suckered him in! I’m telling you, he’s going to be a world champion in the near future!
FLAMBERGE drags Nova back into the ring from the apron. He wraps his legs around the bad left leg, stretching forward and lacing his arms under Nova’s left arm while locking in a choke. After a long second in the hold, FB unlocks his hands and starts trying to rip off Nova’s mask! The Risen Star thrashes around wildly, making it hard for FLAMBERGE to get a solid grip on the facial armor. In his thrashing, Nova catches the side of FB’s head with an elbow.
FLAMBERGE rolls off, his bell clearly rung. He stumbles to his feet and staggers towards Nova, trying to keep the pressure on. He grabs him under the jaw to try and pull Nova to his feet. The Starchild seems to dead weight FLAMBERGE, leading the Frenchman to let him drop to the mat. A few lazy kicks to the head and FB tries to pick Nova up again. Nova EXPLODES up and blasts FLAMBERGE with a clothesline!
Nick Stuart: What a shot from Nova!
Richard Parker: Cheater! He’s cheating!
Nick Stuart: What?! That was one hundred percent clean and legal!
Richard Parker: He, uh… Nova gouged the eyes!
Nick Stuart: That doesn’t make any kind of physical sense.
Nova drags himself over to the prone FLAMBERGE. He locks in the Horizontal Face-Pull LongestNameEver (Arm trapped crossface). The phenom struggles for an escape; he’s too far from the ropes, Nova has himself expertly positioned and the bigger athlete is making great use of his size advantage.FLAMBERGE does his best to start shifting his body a bit closer to the Starchild.
Nova tries to shift away while keeping the hold tight. Despite his best effort, Nova can’t keep a good gap. FB gets close enough to kick away at the bad left leg. After a few, Nova has to relent and release the hold. He manages to stay on top of FLAMBERGE, sending some heavy forearms to the upper back and neck. Nova wills himself to his feet, bum leg dragging.
The Starchild pulls FLAMBERGE up to his feet. The Frenchman breaks the grip, sending yet another hard kick to Nova’s left lower appendage. Nova crumples slightly, but remains standing. FLAMBERGE goes to the well once too often… Another attempted stiff kick is dodged by Nova. The surprised FB is snatched, the Risen Star planting him with No Value! Nova drags himself over for the cover!
Nick Stuart: What anticipation from Nova! He just about pulled this one out!
Richard Parker: A wounded Nova is still dangerous! FLAMBERGE needs to refocus if he’s going to get the win here!
Nick Stuart: That’s going to be easier said than done. You know Nova won’t let up, bad wheel or not.
As Nick said, Nova doesn’t give FLAMBERGE much room to breathe. He grabs FB in a waistlock, pulling him up. Up and over, FLAMBERGE is dropped backwards with a German Suplex. Nova holds on and rolls. A second German. Still holding on. A third German. Grip still strong.
FLAMBERGE is in trouble. He’s groggy, but still has enough wits to know he doesn’t want to eat a fourth German. He manages to slip his hands between Nova’s grip and his body. The struggle lasts briefly, as FLAMBERGE does find a way to break the Risen Star’s grip. In one smooth motion, FB hooks an arm and takes Nova over with a brutal komi goshi throw! He lands on top, making a dazed cover!
Nick Stuart: A wonderful counter from FLAMBERGE! He was reeling, but somehow found enough wits to pull out that throw!
Richard Parker: You’re damn right, Nick! Lesser men would have probably fallen to that move! Shows you just what Nova is made of.
Nick Stuart: What would you call that throw, Rich?
Richard Parker: I’d call it YOUR job, Nick! I’m here to provide insider insight the yokels at home wouldn’t understand, not tell someone about a ¾ half nelson flipping jujubolamba driver!
The two men lay on the mat for a moment, nearing the end of their reserves. They struggle to their knees. FLAMBERGE sneers at the masked Nova, sending a hard slap to the face. The Starchild slumps for a moment, but returns fire quickly. FLAMBERGE reels, almost falling onto his back. He roars back himself, sending another vicious slap to Nova. The Risen Star fires back. Back and forth, they trade angry shots.
In the end, the mask seems to have given Nova a slight advantage. He starts stringing multiple slaps together. Advantage – Nova. He slowly climbs to his feet, sending shots to the side of FLAMBERGE’s head as he does. He drudges the younger competitor to his feet. Another stiff Nova slap rocks FLAMBERGE, who stumbles back before being bounced back by the ropes. Again, Nova blasts FLAMBERGE. Again, FB lurches backwards only to be propelled back by the ring ropes. Nova scoops the battered FLAMBERGE up into a fireman’s carry.
Nick Stuart: I think the end is near!
Richard Parker: No! Come on, FLAMBERGE! No surrender!
FLAMBERGE manages to shoot a hand out to grab the top rope. Nova does his best to yank FB away from the sanctuary of the ring ropes. A second attempt sees FLAMBERGE’s grip weaken, but still holds on. A third finally gets the pair free, but FB is able to slip behind in the chaos. But that’s not the biggest happening here. As FLAMBERGE is ripped away from the ropes, he not only slipped behind but his free hand?…
It yanked the mask off of Nova’s face. The Starchild whips around, but takes a shot to the bad leg yet again. Nova can’t help but clutch at the compromised limb. That leaves an opening for FLAMBERGE to launch a jumping roundhouse kick right to the exposed face of Nova! The Starchild collapses to the mat, holding his face in agony. FB is quick to capitalize with a cover!
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: Wow! FLAMBERGE manages to steal one from Nova under less than honorable means!
Richard Parker: What are you talking about?! That was fair! That was clean! FLAMBERGE did nothing wrong!
Nova sits up, disappointed in his loss.
A section of the Amway Center crowd begins to murmur, their focus shifting away from the conclusion of FLAMBERGE’s battle with the Risen Star.
Richard Parker: The heck is happening up there?
Nick Stuart: Looks to be some disturbance near one of the fan exits…
After a moment, arena lights shift over to the crowd. In the ring Nova adjusts his protective face-mask and stares out towards the now-lit throng of fans, who clear space and back away as a figure steps from the shadow of the exit tunnel into the stands.
Nick Stuart: PAXTON RAY!!
Richard Parker: You’re kidding me…
Nick Stuart: He said it earlier, Richard! Whether before the match, after the match, or during it, he was gonna ‘finish the damn job’…looks like he settled on after!
As Ray’s visage is broadcast over the PRIME*View screens, the fans shower boos on the Bayou Butcher, while also clearing back a perimeter around him as he continues to move slowly through the rows of seats in the general direction of the ring.
Nick Stuart: The PRIME faithful really letting Ray have it here…while also keeping their distance!
Richard Parker: I’ve called our fans idiots on more occasions that we have time to revisit right now, Nick…but I think they have the right idea this time!
Ray pauses some distance from the ringside area. In the ring, Nova takes a step towards the ropes, clenching his gloved fists, and the crowd noise swells.
Nick Stuart: The Risen Star clearly ready for revenge here, Richard!
Richard Parker: Well I’ve never claimed that one had a functioning synapse in his brain, Nick…and if he did, some poor schlub is probably still working a paint scraper to get it off the wall of that hallway back in Tampa!
After a moment’s pause, Nova extends an arm…and waves Ray on.
The crowd erupts.
Nick Stuart: He’s telling Ray to come on down!!
Richard Parker: We may need to clear out for this one…
The fans cheer and jump around the Bayou Butcher, who remains still, eyes locked on Nova in the ring.
He doesn’t budge.
Nick Stuart: Ray doesn’t appear to accept the invite…
Richard Parker: First time for everything?
Ray shakes his head, and a hateful sneer spreads over his face before his extends his own right arm, and waves Nova on to him.
Nick Stuart: Ray is calling Nova out into the crowd!
Richard Parker: Phew…I’ll unpack.
Nova pauses only briefly to consider Ray’s counter-offer before giving a quick nod and stepping through the ropes.
The crowd pops again, whipped by now into a frenzy.
Nick Stuart: THE STARCHILD OBLIGES!! HE’S HEADED TO MEET RAY IN THE CROWD!
Richard Parker: If I’m in the crowd, I’m high-tailing it, Nick! The ticket isn’t worth the medical bills!
Nova hops down onto the ringside mat and climbs over the guardrail into the first row of fans. They cheer him on, some touching his arms or patting his back as he wades through towards Ray’s position further up in the stands. For his part, Ray begins stomping down through the rows in response, shoving some slow-moving fans aside in the process.
Nick Stuart: THEY’RE ON A COLLISION COURSE!
Only a few rows from each other, fans part ways to clear a direct path, and as Nova leans into a full sprint, Dametreyus steps in front of him, catching him with his arms out. A sea of PRIME security, several Enemigos sprinkled throughout, floods the crowd between Nova and Ray.
Nick Stuart: And this one looks to be headed off at the pass before we get to a full-on brawl in the crowd, Richard!
Richard Parker: From the safety of our announce booth I have to say I’m disappointed, Nick!
Ray flings one unfortunate security guard aside into the crowd and levels another with his forearm, but as Dametreyus squares up in front of Nova, one hand pressed back against the Risen Star’s chest, Ray simply shakes his head and takes a step back towards the exit tunnel. Nova’s eyes are still trained on him, but he makes no move around his old friend. On the entrance ramp, Lindsay Troy and Wade Elliott can be seen at the edge of the curtains, monitoring the situation.
Nick Stuart: The Queen got wind of this fast enough and clearly wasn’t about to let this situation devolve any further.
Richard Parker: She never lets us have any fun!
As security continues to swirl around the men gathered in the audience, the feed cuts to commercial.
ATTENTION ALL COMERS!
The scene switches to the back where Jonathan-Christopher and Vickie Hall are standing beside interviewer Angelica Brooks.
Angelica Brooks: Jonathan-Christopher, you’re now starting a singles “journey”. At ReVival 21 you had a big victory against Adam Ellis and I wanted to know what your thoughts were moving forward.
She raises the mic towards The Timid Tiger but timid he is, indeed. Hall pulls back and starts to shake his head like he doesn’t want to speak. Angelica, meanwhile, raises an eyebrow.
Angelica Brooks: [somewhat off-mic] I thought you requested the interview-
Her voice trails, as Vickie snaps her fingers to capture the woman’s attention.
Vickie Hall: No my dearest. I did.
Angelica agrees to go-with-the-flow. She repositions the microphone towards Vickie Hall.
Vickie Hall: Yes, hi. Gosh golly, I just love what you’ve done with your hair.
It doesn’t sound like Vickie’s that sincere. Regardless, Angelica gives an unsure “thank you?” in response. Then Vickie goes into addressing the original statement.
Vickie Hall: My man is PRIMED and ready to go. He is a fierce tiger about to POUNCE POUNCE POUNCE out of his cage and rip apart anyone who comes his way! We are the FOREVER Tag Team Champions and now we are coming for it all! World Championship, Alias Title. You name it, it’s got CONVOY written all over!
Vickie looks at Angelica Brooks with an expression as if to aggressively ask “IS THAT GOOD ENOUGH OF A REPLY!?”
The interviewer brings the mic back to herself.
Angelica Brooks: Well, Jonathan-Christopher did have help to pick up his victory. Darin Zion became involved-
Vickie’s having none of it. She cuts Angelica off.
Vickie Hall: ZION is worried about the Alias Title and he most definitely should. Zion is going to HAMMER through that division. Plus we have decided to allow others to defend our Tag Team Championships over the next couple of months. Divide and conquer!! Muhahahaha!!! The world is mine!!
Brooks’ face suggests none of this makes any sense.
Vickie Hall: Let me sum it up for ya. My man is an ANIMAL. In the ring. In the bedroom. Hell fucking yes he is!
Vickie gives her blonde hair a wild and ferocious shake.
Vickie Hall: He is challenging ANYONE to a match at ReVival 23!
Immediate worry crosses Jonathan-Christopher’s face! He wasn’t expecting this. Instead, he reaches out for his honey bunch of oats and lightly touches her shoulder.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: Baby, I’m not sure…
She passively rubs his hand in reply and then goes right back into the camera.
Vickie Hall: There are lots of MEAN MEAN MEN -and women- on the PRIME jabber and I’m just so rattled by it. FUCK WITH THE BULL YOU GET HIS HORNS.
Vickie Hall: And I get something else.
She hovers her hand around the “down there” region on Jonathan-Christopher, making his face burst into red from embarrassment!
Angelica Brooks doesn’t know what the hell to do.
Angelica Brooks: Okay. Great. Thank you for your time, Vickie.
Vickie runs that same hand through her unkempt eyebrows.
Vickie Hall: We’re starting Jonathan-Christopher off with low level wrestlers. Green rookies like Adam Ellis, so don’t worry, dear. No Brandon Youngbloods. We have to work our way up. REAL Hallmark Journey stuff!
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: I love you! I love you so much, baby!
Vickie closes her eyes and sways back and forth.
Vickie Hall: And I love you.
She changes her demeanor and stares at Angelica Brooks.
Vickie Hall: This interview is OVER.
Angelica Brooks: Um, okay? Back to ringside!
COMMERCIAL: LETHAL LOTTERY
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
The New Dallas Sportatorium
The camera pans around the new building located at the same spot as where the original Dallas Sportatorium once stood. A prominent banner hangs on the wall behind the wrestling ring with ‘Texas Championship Wrestling’ stitched onto it. The building had a seating capacity of two thousand people… a smaller, more intimate venue where there wasn’t a bad seat in the building.
Seated in one of those seats…
Adam Ellis: Two weeks ago, I lost a match I should have won.
Adam Ellis. He’s sitting with his feet up on the seat in front of him.
Adam Ellis: That’s right. I had Jonathan-Christopher Hall beaten and I ended up getting pinned thanks to some outside interference.
He points to himself.
Adam Ellis: All my fault. No excuses. No issues with ring rust. Nope, I did it to myself.
Adam sits up and puts his feet on the floor.
Adam Ellis: You see, I took my eye off the ball for a second. My wife Ginny Van Lear did was she was supposed to do. Keep idiots like Darin Zion from interfering in the match. The problem is, instead of paying attention to who I should have been paying attention to… Jonathan-Christopher Hall… I was paying attention to my lovely wife kicking Darin Zion’s ass. Someone at ringside slipped JCH a pair of brass knuckles. I ran into them with my face… and the rest is history.
Adam shakes his head.
Adam Ellis: Every minute spent in the ring is a learning experience. Every loss is just another opportunity to become a better wrestler by learning from your mistakes. Two weeks ago, I learned a very valuable lesson. Love Convoy.
He mock claps his hands.
Adam Ellis: Congratulations. You got one in over me.
Adam turns serious.
Adam Ellis: That will never… ever happen again.
He grabs his duffel bag and stands up.
Adam Ellis: Back to work.
Adam exits to the left leaving the camera focused on the empty seat.
JARED SYKES VS. ABE LIPSCHITZ
The lights fade to nothing, and then the first note hits. Deep, resonant, and with it there’s a flood of white light that washes over the crowd for a second. As the sound fades, so does the light. It’s a new track for a new year, and a new lease on life in professional wrestling for the man once called “The Black Sheep.”
I’ll never be ready to meet a memory
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring…
A steady rhythm follows, building to something. With each note comes a pulse of white, like a heartbeat slightly out of time.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts…
The only thing louder than the thundering guitar coming through the speakers is the explosion of the crowd. It’s not the entrance they’re used to, but they know who’s coming.
Vince Howard: Accompanied by Justine Calvin, and weighing in tonight at 201 pounds… He is one half of the PRIME World Tag Team Champions…
The guitar rips into frenetic tapping riff, and with it blue and purple lights begin pulsing over the crowd in time with the beat.
Falling silent, going mad
I’ve gone walkabout with the parasites in my head
Far too quiet, it’s deafening
As I pick away at the surface the itch burns through my skin
Two figures appear at the entryway, and the cheering gets louder.
One half of the longest reigning Tag Team champions in PRIME history.
One half of the all-time defense record for those same titles.
The 2022 Face of the Year.
The man who conquered the Bayou Butcher in a bloodbath to close the first night of Colossus.
Sorry, Dusk. You have been usurped.
Vince Howard: JAREEEEEEEEEEEEEEED SYYYYYYYYKES!!!
Nick Stuart: Jared Sykes has been on an absolute tear since coming to PRIME.
Richard Parker: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but they aren’t even the REAL tag champs.
The pair make their way to ringside. As she’s not scheduled to compete tonight, Justine isn’t dressed for combat. Despite having cast aside the mask of King Blueberry months ago, Jared still keeps the hood of his sweatshirt down low so that it obscures his eyes.
Nick Stuart: Oh, they got to you? Did Vickie get your phone number or something and start blowing you up every chance she gets?
Richard Parker: No. Of course not.
Nick Stuart: What was that?
When the dirt crushes my bones
And the worms call me their home
If I’m asked to start again
I can’t pretend I’m ready
I can’t pretend
I’ve had plenty
A few feet away from the ring, Jared springs up onto the ring apron with his left foot, and then bounds to the second rope with his right. In two steps he clears a vertical distance of six feet, because there’s a reason the man doesn’t skip leg day.
Nick Stuart: What a way for Abe to debut, taking on Jared Sykes…
The first chorus draws to a close and he snaps the hood back. The grin on his face is plain as day. It’s not the first time he’s stood like this in front of a crowd since returning, that honor goes to Colossus, but tonight marks something new.
Richard Parker: Yeah, yeah, let’s just get him out here.
Sweatshirt removed, and with his half of the Tag Team championships now safely in the care of his partner, he crouches in the corner with his forehead resting against the second buckle as he waits for his opponent. The black metal guitar and drums of “Hel II” by Melencolia Estatica begins blaring over the PA system as Abe Lipschitz steps from behind the curtain. SELMA and Miserée step out to either side of Abe.
Richard Parker: Well that sure is a crew.
Nick Stuart: Me and my black metal friends make their debut here in PRIME, with one of their members taking on possibly the most dominant force in PRIME since the restart, Jared Sykes.
Abe is all smiles as he walks to the ring sipping from his coffee cup, SELMA and Miserée look as menacing as humanly possible. SELMA lunges at a group of fans bunched up into the corner. Abe seems to ignore the surroundings, and heads for the ring steps while SELMA and Miserée roll into the ring.
Richard Parker: He looks a little out of place with those two.
Nick Stuart: You don’t say?
Abe climbs up the side of the turnbuckles and poses for a moment before hopping down and into the ring. He smiles and looks across the ring at Sykes, setting his coffee cup down under the bottom turnbuckle. Jimmy Turnbull ushers Miserée and SELMA out of the ring, SELMA jumps at Turnbull briefly before finally getting to the outside. He stops over and checks Abe over before finally calling for the bell.
Richard Parker: Finally.
Abe walks to the center of the ring and extends his hand out to Jared Sykes. The tag team champion raises an eyebrow curiously.
Richard Parker: Sykes knows better, that’s clearly a trap.
Abe points to his hand smiling, and Sykes shrugs his shoulders. He’s clearly been through worse than a fake handshake and has come out the winner. He meets Abe in the center of the ring and the two men shake hands. The crowd lets out a small cheer as they separate back to their respective corners.
Richard Parker: I’m going to be sick.
Nick Stuart: While my partner finishes his retching caused by the display of sportsmanship, these two are going to get it under way!
Jared and Abe both come across the ring and lock up, typical collar and elbow tie-up. They lean into each other, Jared gets a little lower and is able to move Abe back a step, but Abe rotates and is able to match Sykes’ attempts for leverage, finally the two men break off and both take a few steps back.
Nick Stuart: Pretty easily matched here in the early going.
Richard Parker: One just needed to kick the other in the stomach. That’s all. Then they’d have an advantage.
Sykes and Abe meet up again, and are right back in the collar and elbow tie-up. This time Sykes goes low, and Abe manages to grab an arm and spin behind Sykes with a hammerlock. Jared feints with his left leg, then uses his right leg to step behind Abe and reverse the hammerlock. Abe drops to the mat and tries to send Sykes flipping over with a monkey flip but Sykes lands on his feet. He smiles and shoots a hand down to help Abe to his feet.
Richard Parker: I’m dry heaving. The guy from HOW used to drink during matches, can I start drinking during matches?
Nick Stuart: No Richard, no, you cannot drink at work. What an exchange early on. Abe is keeping right up with Jared Sykes.
Abe takes Sykes hand and gets pulled up to his feet. Jared and Abe share a nod as the two men separate again. This time Abe goes for the lockup but Sykes bypasses right around and tries for a leg, Abe hops backwards managing to sprawl and grabs Sykes around the waist. Abe tries to pull up and lift Sykes into the air, just as it looks like he’s going to get Sykes airborn, Jared scrambles through Abe’s legs. Abe spins around and in a flash has Sykes’ leg and spins them both to the ground with a dragon screw leg whip.
Richard Parker: Finally, some damage.
Nick Stuart: I think that shows how evenly matched they are Richard.
Abe rolls through to his feet and tries to grab Sykes’ leg in an ankle lock type position, but Jared grabs one of Abe’s heels and rips him to the ground with him. Jared kips up, keeping ahold of Abe’s leg and drops a leg drop down across the side of his knee.
Nick Stuart: Sykes maintains the hold on that leg though.
Jared is right back up, leg in hand, and drops a second leg drop down across Abe’s knee. Abe manages to pull away after the second leg drop and goes to the corner holding his leg. Jared, not wanting to lose momentum goes into the corner with a low drop kick attempt but Lipschitz rolls out of the way and Sykes winds up kicking the turnbuckle. Both men arrive at their feet at the same time, Abe pulls back and unleashes a short arm clothesline but Sykes ducks under and grabs Abe’s head and yanks him down for a thunderous neckbreaker.
Richard Parker: Thank Hoyt, we’re finally doing the wrestling moves.
Nick Stuart: Big neckbreaker there by Sykes, but Lipschitz is back to his feet just after Sykes.
Abe is wobbling and Sykes fires off a right jab, then another, then another, and he’s clearly got Abe rocked. Sykes rolls and smashes Abe across the mouth with a right hand. Lipschitz drops to his knees and is clearly out of his mind. Sykes grabs Abe’s head and pulls back to fire off another right, but Abe yanks Sykes forward by his trunks to stop the blow. Sykes pushes Abe off and takes off to the ropes, or at least he thinks he does. Abe grabs hold of anything he can, and gets the waist of Sykes’ trunks. Sykes keeps running but Abe apparently has tremendous grip strength.
Richard Parker: Based on the textile strength, that is the same waist band the astronauts at NASA use, Sykes has been making his clothing out of it for years to make sure to hide whatever ginormous thing that is.
Nick Stuart: It’s all encompassing, like an eclipse.
Richard Parker: There’s only two in our known universe that could be bigger.
Nick Stuart: What?
Richard Parker: You ever look at Hayes Hanlon or Sid Phillips from behind?
Nick Stuart: …
Richard Parker: Listen, I’m just saying if the three of them are ever in the same room that’s probably where an actual event horizon starts forming.
Abe yanks Sykes back towards him and grabs him around the waist. Abe tosses Sykes back quickly with a snap german suplex. Abe heads to the ropes and scales them quickly. He waits for Sykes to get to his feet and comes off the top rope with a bulldog. Sykes’ face smashes into the mat as Abe is suddenly all over him.
Nick Stuart: Abe Lipschitz is really taking control of this one.
Richard Parker: The best part of this kid wrestling is going to be hearing you struggle with saying Lipschitz for an entire match.
Sykes is back to his feet a few moments after Abe, but it’s his turn to be on the back foot and Abe sends him flying into the ropes. Abe runs to the opposite ropes and meets Sykes in the middle with a spinning heel kick. Sykes is back to his feet, and stumbles over into the corner. Abe points into the corner and comes sprinting in.
Nick Stuart: ABE-ALANCHE!
Richard Parker: Did you say ambulance?
Nick Stuart: Shut up Richard.
Abe runs to the far corner and collides with the turnbuckle before sprinting back looking for a second splash.
Nick Stuart: Here we go!
Abe leaps into the air and Jared Sykes drop kicks him square in the chest. Abe hits the mat in a heap, struggling to breathe.
Richard Parker: HERE WE GO ALRIGHT! SYKES CAUGHT HIM!
Nick Stuart: What a dropkick by Jared Sykes.
Sykes takes a moment to regroup, he waits on one knee for Abe to get to his feet. Abe drags himself up using the ropes and Sykes explodes forward jumping onto the middle rope and using it for a step up hurricanrana. Abe goes flying across the ring, and once again starts to get to his feet. Sykes sprints forward and smashes him across the chest with a european uppercut. One, then another, driving him back to the corner. Sykes grabs Abe and sends him flying with an irish whip across the ring. Abe smashes into the corner, but bounces out of the corner and tries to come back with a short arm clothesline to a returning Sykes. The clothesline misses, and Sykes manages to stop the rebounding Abe in his tracks.
Nick Stuart: ANGEL HALO!
Richard Parker: WHAT A MOVE!
Nick Stuart: That’s a new one for Jared Sykes! He must have added that one to his moveset over on the BANG! Tour.
Sykes holds the move for a pinfall attempt as Jimmy Turnbull slides in.
Nick Stuart: Abe gets his shoulder up at the last second!
Richard Parker: That move looked incredible. If I had watched a MASTER of that move do it, I would have wanted to learn it too. I also would have won the race to update my bio before everyone else. I mean…
Sykes nods and goes back to his feet. He drags Abe Lipschitz up behind him and irish whips him into the ropes. Sykes goes for a drop kick, but Abe ducks under. Sykes kips up as Abe comes off the ropes with a cross body that connects! Abe springs into action and jumps up to the top rope. Sykes gets to his feet just as Abe hits the peak of his leap.
Nick Stuart: BIG CROSSBODY BY LIPSCHITZ!
Sykes and Abe crash to the mat. Abe hooks both legs, and Turnbull runs in and counts.
Richard Parker: DAMMIT! I THOUGHT THE KID HAD HIM!
Nick Stuart: Now you’re into it!?
Richard Parker: This is like watching Duke lose Nick, nothing is more satisfying than watching Duke lose.
Abe has his head in his hands, and he has no idea what else he needs to do. Sykes is fighting his way back to his feet. Abe takes off at a full sprint away from Sykes. He comes off the ropes looking for a forearm, Sykes ducks under while wrapping an arm around his waist, he stops Abe in his tracks and whips him overhead for a german suplex. Abe manages to finish the rotation and land on his feet, as Sykes crashes to the mat, Abe drops down on top of him pressing his knees to Sykes’ shoulders and pulling both legs down as hard as he can. Turnbull slides in for the cover.
Jared Sykes kicks out right after the three.
Nick Stuart: HE GOT HIM! HE GOT JARED SYKES!
Richard Parker: Oh! SOMETHING HAPPENED!
Jimmy Turnbull calls for the bell.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: And your winner by pinfall… AAAAAAAAAABBBBBEEEEEEE LIPSCHIIIIIIIIIIIITZ!
Abe is shocked, Sykes is stunned. Sykes gets to his feet shaking his head as Justine jumps into the ring, SELMA and Miserée also jump into the ring and celebrate with Abe.
Nick Stuart: I can’t believe what I’m seeing. A new debut to PRIME is the one to conquer Jared Sykes.
Richard Parker: I’m actually stunned.
Nick Stuart: The potential career that lies in front of this young man…
Abe is helped to his feet and immediately goes over to Jared Sykes, he joins the small huddle of Calvin and Jared and the two exchange words. They walk out of the huddle, Sykes shaking Abe’s hand, he holds his arm up and points with a smile.
Nick Stuart: What a moment.
Richard Parker: THERE IS NOTHING IN MY STOMACH! NOTHING LEFT!
YOU MAY BE A LOVER, BUT YOU AIN’T NO DANCER
Abraham Lipshitz and Jared Sykes have completed their match, and the cameras find their way once again backstage in the halls of the Amway Arena. Another segment. Somewhere, a self-proclaimed “king” cries that wrestlers have lives backstage. C’est la vie, I suppose. One of those wrestlers is The Anglo Luchador, not seen since the least cold of any cold open, steam still seeping out of the earholes on his lucha mask. He is still red hot, making Florida look like a tundra. The list of wrestlers he does not want to see right now isn’t long, but it’s not short either. Right at the top of that list? It’s not Paxton Ray, oddly enough. It’s not Tony Gamble or Ivan Stanislav. It isn’t even Timo Bolamba’s snot-nosed, antagonistic son. It’s the man, child, manchild he runs into…
“Salut, bite belette.”
FLAMBERGE. He’s still in his ring gear and tries to hide a grimace, a remnant of his battle with Nova, as he steps into view.
FLAMBERGE: You say you’re just like me, eh, and you take the analogy to the next level and lose your title too? It is, as you say, on the nose.
On the nose. How this masked man, ironically wearing every single bit of rage and insecurity on his sleeve at the moment, wanted to put fist on the punk’s nose. Fighting shape or not, and let’s face it, size differential or not, FLAMBERGE was imminently more of a threat than the giant luchador who moved like he was in a Harryhausen movie in Mexico ever was, he was ready to throw down. He just wanted one more nudge. Just a teensy-tiny one.
TAL: You got me, kid. Har har, I lost my title and enough blood to choke a vampire luncheon. Now let me pass in peace.
His subconscious thought “do it, kid, gimme a reason” though. The peanut gallery on Jabber has him pegged right, you know. Meanwhile, the Kid hasn’t forgotten what happened at ReVival 21…how his brain sort of freeze-framed and locked him into something dark, over and over, at the innocuous-enough notion that elders have often experienced the things that youths currently experience. Every instinct told him to ball it all up into that right fist and shove it six inches past the back of this fossil’s skull.
But he lost himself too far then. Now…now he’s been stewing on it.
FLAMBERGE: In what world do you deserve peace from me, old man? As far as it goes with the FLAMBERGE, the Luchador’s goose is only the half-cooked.
Urge to kill, rising.
TAL: Kid, you’re far from the only one who doesn’t want to give me peace, but unless you want even more smoke after going toe-to-toe with this company’s KING of Smoke, I suggest you let me go and plot on how you can try to follow in Phil Atken’s footsteps like you’ve been doing here for the last six goddamn months, okay?
Needling. Your mileage might vary on how clever his barbs are compared to some of the wittier members of the roster, but he knows how to get under someone’s skin. FLAMBERGE’s eyes prove it all the more – any attempts at playing Cool Tough Guy have been quashed.
FLAMBERGE: I don’t give the damn how many people think they want to see the Anglo fall, I am now the FRONT OF LA LIGNE, you egoist, you wish-you-could-be-the-son-of-the-bitch, you Dollar Tree hardman…if you are the smoke, I am the goddamned FIRE that gives the dying horses like you any last hope of the warmth in the winter of your careers, and it is the high time someone like ME slapped the man under that mask for being la merde at BOTH the idiot identities!
He’s giving you the in you wanted, the luchador thinks to himself. One last bit of conscience filters in. He hears his therapist in his head repeating a line from a session back when Tony Gamble especially got under his skin some time in the end of the 2022 calendar year. “Think of a song, something to calm you down. I personally like The Beatles.”
He thought of a Beatles song, or at least he tried to. If he could conjure “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” he might not be gritting his teeth and beginning to cock back his fist.
Too bad he’s thinking of “Helter Skelter.”
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide…
Eyes closed, heart teeming with unbridled lust for violence.
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride…
Cocking back his fist, exaggerated. It’s not the fighting form he learned, but it’s the one he feels.
‘Til I get to the bottom AND I SEE YOU AGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIN AAEEEE YEAAAHHH!
The fist flies through the air. Only after the follow-through does the man, the forty-plus-year old man worked into a shoot by a young lad barely into his early adulthood, see that his fist has caught nothing but tardigrades at best. FLAMBERGE saw his opening and escaped.
He’s halfway down the hall now. Sonofabitch, he did the thing.
The asshole thing.
He pulled une rapide, and he’s VERY pleased with himself about it.
FLAMBERGE: Go back to the Jabber, old man. And do not tag me. You don’t deserve the eyes I would bring you.
Fuck. The luchador looks defeated. Shoulders, sunken. Eyes, demonstrating the kind of sadness you only see in a person born in Pennsylvania.
TAL: Probably what I needed, but not what I wanted. Fuck it, time to go drink until I can’t feel feelings anymore.
And thus, The Anglo Luchador trudges off in search of the suite he requested be stocked with booze. And the cameras switch to another part of the arena, featuring a former TAL nemesis and one of the six people who’ve defeated him in PRIME thus far.
AN (UN)EXPECTED CONVERSATION
Tony Gamble stomps his way through the backyard area, a man on a mission to be certain. His eyes narrow as he locates the object of his aggression.
Tony Gamble: I know you and the rest of the peanut gallery despise me, but I can’t seem to put my finger on why you have chosen to turn your back on Rhine.
Said object of aggression already seems exasperated by the first two words that have passed through his lips. Seriously, becoming the PRIMEporium is hard enough along with trying to fix broken timelines with duct tape and bubble gum and a Five Star title shot on top of it. But now, this nonsense. After reorganizing the PRIME Wrestle Buddies just so, the vessel of Anna Daniels rolls her eyes over the complaint. She graciously unpacks an entire box of Bolamba style goggles (because demand requires supply!) while giving a rather rational reply.
Anna Daniels: For the eighty-seventh time, Johnny Gamble, we didn’t turn our back on Rhine. We are turning our back on a product that makes fun of a man who can’t or won’t stand up for himself.
Anna Daniels: No pun intended. And how did you get our phone number to make all those stupid voicemails anyway? Don’t tell us Rowan-Mortimer-Painintheass actually did something useful for a change?
Gamble’s mouth widens as his hand goes to his chest.
Tony Gamble: I don’t think you understand how offended I am right now. I’m pretty sure I spent at least five to ten minutes rehearsing those voicemails before I left them, and you’re going to stand there and diminish their value like this.
His other hand wipes non-existent tears from the corner of his eyes.
Tony Gamble: Then, to top it all off, you criticize the craftsmanship that me and a team of the best graphics artists that twenty dollars could buy on Fiver brainstormed for over two hours on, because you all only think the worst when it comes to me.
Anna Daniels: Well, first of all, you make that very easy to do given that you revel in being an absolute shithead. Which would be admirable if it wasn’t so…
For a moment, she seems to pause from polishing the lenses as the Multitudes debate over the exact word.
Anna Daniels: Annoying?
Whoops. Said the quiet part out loud. A nod.
Anna Daniels: Yes. Annoying.
Bless her. She tries to walk away from Gamble towards what could only be called the Sid Phillips collection. Outside of the rapidly selling POWERBOMBOLAMBA shirt from the Infinity Gauntlet string of limited edition shirts, there is also POWERBOMB: The Cologne, POWERBOMB: The Necktie, and concept art for POWERBOMB II: POWERBOMB HARDER which is mainly just an MS Paint masterpiece of Sid powerbombing a bear. Unfortunately, Gamble has followed her into the palace of powerbombs. She blinks for a moment, staring at him.
Anna Daniels: And secondly, you paid twenty bucks for that?!
Yes. She does point to the offending shirt in question. Or to be more specific, the graphic design.
Anna Daniels: You got ripped off.
Tony Gamble: Trust me when I say that BROLEX GRAPHICS came highly recommended, and this is high quality artwork that people would pay double…
A brief pause.
Tony Gamble: No wait, TRIPLE! What ever someone paid to make that awful POWERBOMB HARDER poster. I’ve seriously seen better finger paint pictures in a preschool classroom. But all pleasantries aside, I’m here to tell you that I refuse to rob the masses of their chance to own a shirt that will go down as one of the most highly sought after classics ever printed, in memory–no honor–of a sure as shit hall of famer one day.
Tony stares at her, that cheesy used car salesman like grin practically glinting at the corners. Anna shakes her head.
Anna Daniels: Listen. You wanna drag your shitty little van and your half-assed merch in here and try to sell it? We can’t stop you. Odds are that’s what you’ll do anyway no matter how many times we say no. But we wash our hands of this stupidity. With any luck, you might get a few sales from a few edgelords and fellow dickheads before you get sued out of your asshole. And good luck getting them on the website. We don’t even run that damned thing.
Just to match Tony’s cheesy grin, there’s a smirk.
Anna Daniels: Besides if the lack of sales don’t stop you or losing what little you have doesn’t, an army of owls or a Molotov Cocktail will. If nothing else, this exercise of futility will give us a laugh. Now if you will excuse us. We have some last minute prep to do. Matches to wrestle. Ya know. Better uses of our time. Byyyyeeee.
The Muse exits stage right, leaving Gamble in the dust.
Tony Gamble: Was that a yes? I’m going to take it as a yes.
POKING THE BEAST
Backstage at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, the camera pans up to see Mushigihara walking through a hallway bustling with techs moving equipment back and forth as the show proceeds. As the Kaiju stalks the corridor, it is clear he is in a nasty mood. It’s no secret that he is sore about his loss to Violet Samuelson.
Rounding a corner and walking distractedly, almost into Mushi, is Eddie Cross, followed shortly by Dave Gibson. Eddie also shares a soreness over his loss to Tyler Best and looks to be of a foul temperament.
Mushigihara: Hey, watch where you are going!
The n1ghtcraw1er slides his backpack down and sizes up the full figured obstacle.
Eddie Cross: Maybe don’t take up the entire aisle. I know the concept of an all you can eat buffet is lost on you, but you don’t have to literally eat all the food.
The God Beast is definitely not taking any lip from anyone today, and while he and Eddie stand the same height, he leans in eye to eye and uses all of his significant weight advantage to try to intimidate the young wrestler.
Mushigihara: Excuse me? I think I just heard you say something you’re gonna regret, kid.
Eddie clears his throat and enunciates the next sentence.
Eddie Cross: I said “I know Hawaiians are known for their weight problems, but you really didn’t have to *ahem* feed into the stereotype.”
Mushigihara: Fat jokes? Really? Ok then, I guess we’re doing this.
A low deep roar builds in Mushi’s chest as he clenches his fists and prepares to go to war right here on the spot. Dave stands behind his pupil, but steps back a few paces just to give this situation room to unfold. Eddie looks back at his mentor briefly.
Dave Gibson: Don’t look at me, you got yourself into this mess.
Eddie holds up his hands and casually sneers.
Eddie Cross: Whoa there big man.
The smaller of the two takes a step back and tries to put some space between himself and certain pain.
Eddie Cross: Look, I took an L last show and you vs Samuelson… well… A for effort. The way I see it, we’re both a little on edge this week and maybe I lashed out. There’s no reason to resort to our baser instincts, though, right?
Mushi looks at Dave, then back to Eddie and he snorts indignantly. He relaxes his fists and holds up a finger in Eddie’s face, waggling it for effect.
Mushigihara: Sure, just as soon as you apologize for running into me… and being a jerk.
Eddie sucks his teeth and removes his glasses, tossing them to Dave. He looks Mushi dead in the eyes and sighs.
Eddie Cross: Fine. After all, we are here in my hometown of sunny Orlando, Florida!
Eddie Cross: I apologize.
Mushigihara: See that wasn’t so…
Eddie Cross: That you and I are even in this dump of an arena. And that, much like the tourists that flood in from all over the world to the theme parks, you can’t tell where you’re not wanted.
Mushi goes into kill mode as Dave finally sees enough and jumps between the two right as Mushigihara is about to charge into Eddie.
Dave Gibson: OK Enough! Mushi, let it go! I’ll sort him out.
The God Beast inhales and exhales thunderously as he stares down Dave with respect, then flicks his eyes to Eddie. He brings them back to Dave and locks in menacingly.
Mushigihara: This isn’t over. I expected more, Gibson.
Mushi slowly backs away and leaves the duo of Gibson and Eddie alone in the hallway. Dave turns to his student and shakes his head slowly.
Dave Gibson: Boy, you got some brass balls on you. The hell has gotten into you lately?
Eddie watches Mushi round a corner and breaks his demon green eyes back to Dave.
Eddie Cross: You said it yourself, I’m just playing my part. Come on, let’s go get a couple hot dogs and watch the show. I want to scout the competition.
The camera pans away as the pair walks down the hall toward the vendors; we then experience a 180 as Mushigihara paces toward his Dangerous Mix cohort David Fox, who has an incredulous look on his face.
David Fox: Jesus, Mushi, I leave you alone for five minutes, and here you are causing trouble?!
Mushi scoffs and rolls his eyes.
Mushigihara: ME causing trouble! Listen here you little…
Mushigihara: You are NOT going to believe what this punk kid said to me…
The duo’s voices trail off as they pull away from us, and ReVival 22 moves along.
MATT WARD VS. SAGE PONTIFF
Nick Stuart: Folks, ReVival 22 continues. Still to come, the 5 Star Championship bout, Nate Colton defending his newly won title against the likes of Anna Daniels in a rematch of their contest from ReVival 17. And then, our main event…Universal Champion Hayes Hanlon takes on the challenge of Rezin…and given the history between those two, that one is worthy of closing out the show.
Richard Parker: Look, anyone who makes it so I don’t have to see Cancer Jiles saunter around…I could care less. That makes us all winners.
Nick Stuart: But before then…Sage Pontiff, The Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience, a man who preaches a message of peace but has shown little but violence…he’ll get everything he can handle and more…because he faces the return of a PRIME Hall of Famer. But not just any Hall of Famer…perhaps the most physically dominant wrestler in PRIME’s history…The Inhuman Being, Matt Ward.
At first, darkness hits. Every light in the Amyway Center, causing a buzz among the crowd and a few cellphone camera lights. The video screen shows a single glowing orb at the top of the screen. Lavender. Then another beneath it, blue. Teal. Green. Yellow. Orange. Finally, red–and then around it, the shimmering outline of a human body in lotus position. This hold on the screen as an almost marching drumbeat begins, pulsing throughout the arena.
Lights come up, pink in tone, all in time with a psychedelic drone of distorted guitar noise. As the solo of what could very well be an electric sitar begins, a figure walks out from the back. More accurately, he damn near glides. His neck is hanging with the weight of what seem to be many different strands of prayer beads. He is barefoot, his calf length, baggy pants a frankly offensive patchwork of tie dye, paisley, and other patterns. Hanging to the floor is a long, linen kimono in pure white.
Sage Pontiff has arrived, and he throws his head back, practically bathing in the rain of flower petals.
There is no up or down
Your truth is the only master
Death is made by the living
Pain is only intense to you…
He begins to slowly make his way down the ramp, occasionally twirling and oftentimes doing respectful bows to certain members of the audience, kissing his fingertips and then touching his forehead.
Vince Howard: This bout is set for one fall with a thirty minute time limit…Introducing first, from the High Desert, Joshua Tree, California…weighing two-hundred and one pounds…he is the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience…SAAAAGE PONTIIIIFF!!
Sage slides into the ring, kips to his feet fluidly, and then takes a running start and leaps flat footed, landing with a slight wobble on the top turnbuckle–but sticks the landing, and holds his arms out messianic-style, bathing in reactions. Mostly negative, though there are a smattering of true believers that are making themselves known over the jeers.
The Sun shines every day
The Sun shines every day
Sage executes a backflip from the top, landing on his feet, and bows to the crowd, and the toward Elvis Nixon before removing his kimono and beads. He begins to stretch, adopting the revolved crescent lunge, his fluidity and vascularity on full display as “Satori Part II” fades to nothing. And as it does?
The Amway Center is once again plunged into darkness.
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, Matt Ward, emerges from the Argyle Position.
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. Hopping up onto the apron, he quickly gives a shake to his left knee, giving it a quick slap before stepping 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.
Vince Howard: His opponent, from the Columbus, Ohio…weighing two-hundred and twenty-seven pounds…the ONLY three time Universal Champion in PRIME history…a former Intense Champion…a former Tag Team Champion…the 2005 Jewel in the Crown…the 2007 winner of the Dual Halo…PRIME Hall of Famer…he is the Inhuman Being…MAAAAATT! WAAAAAAAAARD!
And then, it’s on to business. Ward hops down from the corner, again fiddling with his left knee brace as the music fades, his eyes cast forward toward his opponent.
Nick Stuart: If looks could kill…
The energy in the Amway Center is at a fever pitch of anticipation as the bell rings. The smile on the face of The Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience shows either a complete lack of confidence…or a dire ignorance of what stands across the ring from him. The Inhuman Being. The Wrecking Ball. No one else can claim a totality of accolades within the halls of PRIME as Matt Ward. There is little emotion in the face of Tchu, just an intense, cold stare.
Nick Stuart: This is going to be very…very interesting.
Richard Parker: A flower of enlightenment taking on some blood thirsty barbarian. Peace and Love versus Disdain and Hate. A battle for the soul of PRIME and its chance to open its third eye.
Nick Stuart: …
Richard Parker: Namaste, Nicolas Stuart. Transcend and become changed.
Nick Stuart: …you’re…you’re kidding me here with this, right?
Richard Parker: Me? Acting like I’m joshing around your Joshua Tree? How dare you!
If Ward could hear them, he would roll his eyes. Ever the little shit, Richard. Some things never change. And as Sage Pontiff lazily stretches himself like a cat, barefeet switching against the top rope, working to loosen up his hamstrings. Biodiesel camper vans, am I right? A slight shift of Ward’s gaze to the fans in Orlando carries with it the faintest of smiles. And from there? After an eternity away from the competitive confines of the squared circle, Tchu charges forward, slamming his forearm into the neck of Pontiff, quickly smothering him with powerful, clubbing blows to the frantical Bodi’s body as he violently collapses to the canvas, only to spring up and keep receiving punishment from the Inhuman Being.
As Pontiff tries to weather the brutal storm of forearms and elbows across his exposed back, he throws fists at the ribs of Ward, trying desperately to hit a liver shot. The Inhuman Being barely grimaces, driving a 12 to 6 elbow right into the back of Sage’s neck, then trapping his leg after locking in a front chancery, launching him across the ring with a powerful suplex that has the Orlando crowd jumping to their feet.
Richard Parker: Well Hoytdamn!
Nick Stuart: Ward wasting little time! He hooks the leg!
Richard Parker: Maybe…maybe a smart time to not be making Bob Evans Senior Discount jokes. Like…at any time Tchu is wrestling. Because that…
Nick Stuart: That isn’t a greatest hit. That’s…Matt Ward showing very VERY early on exactly what Sage Pontiff…what all of PRIME…is up against.
Richard Parker: There was an explosiveness in those blows. That suplex. And it’s not like we haven’t seen Matt Ward around. He would patrol the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But did I have any indication that I’d be staring into a time machine? Hell no.
Nick Stuart: On a cool autumn night in Chicago nearly a decade ago, Matt Ward had what we all thought was his final match. What we thought was the final match in PRIME’s history. The main event of Colossus VIII. And while he fell that night to Lindsay Troy, the impact, the legacy, everything about the man known as Tchu, was cemented. And tonight, in Orlando, the Inhuman Being returns…and he is showing us that he returned with a vengeance!
Heavy breaths from Ward follow the count by Elvis Nixon. The Wrecking Ball pulls at the brace on his left knee, slamming a fist into the canvas, not out of frustration, but just because he can. Everything about him sounds a clarion call of carnage. As Sage tries to pick himself up, Ward grabs hold of him, smothering him again with a rear naked choke, but it is quickly transitioned to hammering elbow blows to the shoulder blades of The Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience. In his time in PRIME, Pontiff has yet to feel such immense and destructive blows from an opponent.
And in their wake…he is smiling.
Ward’s volley should make him wilt, but for whatever reason, the pain, the bludgeoning hammerlike shots bring a wild gleam to his eyes. But even as he feels and enjoys ‘The Experience’, the body is far weaker than the spirit. Survival fits into the philosophical principles somewhere, yes? He throws his head back, catching Ward on the bridge of the nose with his brainpan. The shot is enough to cause Tchu to relent, if only for a moment, and in the space of the opening, another wild back headbutt is the start to both men scurrying to their feet. Once up, Ward tries to grab hold with a collar and elbow tie up.
Pontiff has other ideas.
Nick Stuart: Arm drag by Pontiff!
Richard Parker: Oh that was a deep one!
Nick Stuart: Ward trying to get back up to his feet quickly by he doesn’t spring up as quickly and–
Richard Parker: Sage has the high ground–
Nick Stuart: Another armdrag! Momentum sends Matt Ward just a bit across the ring and OOOOH! ROLLING KOPPO KICK! Did that one catch Ward flush?
Richard Parker: Matt Ward is out of sorts–
Nick Stuart: Rolling leaping forearm strike! OH MY! And Ward is on the canvas and Pontiff is covering–
Richard Parker: No he’s mounting!
Nick Stuart: Pontiff throwing his head into Ward’s! Headbutt after headbutt raining down! Sage Pontiff is taking it to the PRIME Hall of Famer and this isn’t what we were expecting! Not after his surprise loss at Colossus to Ria Lockhart!
Richard Parker: That was an upset–
Nick Stuart: And as these blows keep raining down, we might be seeing another one in the works here! And OH! Sage blasts Tchu in the face with a heavy forearm before slamming his head into him again and–
Richard Parker: Did Ward–
Nick Stuart: Ward blasts him in the face with a forearm on that headbutt attempt! Sage didn’t see that one and he’s got to be cross eyed…he’s staggering away…on his backside, checking his own jaw…
Richard Parker: I think this match is a bring the heavy artillery match, because these two are throwing mortar shots at each other!
Nick Stuart: Ward to his feet and OH! OH MY LORD!
Richard Parker: That clothesline nearly took Sage inside out!
Nick Stuart: Cover!
While there is some spring to this kickout, there is a pause in the follow up. Ward checks his nose, shaking his head, blood starting to flow from his nostrils. The expressionless terminator exterior of the Inhuman Being shifts to a glower of intensity as he looks at The Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience, who himself as a wicked glee of madness etched across his face despite his trying to get to his feet, only to fall back down to the canvas.
For what it is worth, maybe the earlier blows to his liver did more damage than he let on. Ward tries to draw in as much air as he can into his lungs, but struggles, and even more so, his entire body itches in spent adrenaline. A seeming old man fatigue? More like ring rust. Nothing can prepare you for a match like a match, and with a decade away, the subtle aches and pains are all the more daunting. As is the swelling he feels in his left knee, which pisses him off more than anything. A furious punch at the top of his brace is followed by a ginger wince, and as Pontiff swings to try and grab hold of him, he brushes him aside, face washing him with his palm, and then smashing him in the head with a fist.
Nick Stuart: Elvis Nixon not letting that fly–
Richard Parker: I don’t think Ward cares. He’s not listening. And now he’s…
Nick Stuart: Back mount. Back mount by Matt Ward–
Richard Parker: But his feet aren’t–
Ward’s hands lock around the waist of Sage, and with a roar, Tchu lifts him up, driving him into the canvas with a deadlift gutwrench suplex.
Richard Parker: HOOOOOO-EEEEE-YACHT!
Nick Stuart: Ward with the cover!
Oxygen burns on arrival. Is this the smart play? The fans in Orlando are going absolutely wild at the display. Ward tries to keep the pressure up, grabbing hold of Pontiff, who is starfished across the canvas. And as he does…
Nick Stuart: SAGE WITH THE SMALL PACKAGE!
Richard Parker: Wow that was real close!
The Inhuman Being is shocked with how quickly the small package came out, and as he continues his heavy breathing from his red-lining offensive assault, Pontiff grabs hold of him and hits him with a jawbreaker, continuing to put his head to good use. The ricochet isn’t enough to take Ward off his feet, merely causing him to stagger. And as he does? Pontiff notices the limp from the favored left leg. He wastes no time, capitalizing with a smothering assault of pummeling kicks to his left thigh and knee. This is enough to cause the PRIME Hall of Famer to go down, his leg giving out, now stuck perched on his good knee.
Richard Parker: This might be the opening Pontiff can strike upon–
Nick Stuart: What is he…bounce off the ropes–
Richard Parker: Frankensteiner!
Nick Stuart: He drove Ward’s head into the canvas with that one!
Richard Parker: I’m smelling a transformative upset brewing!
Ward somehow gets himself to his knees, in a daze, and as he does, Pontiff locks his hands around the stooping head of The Inhuman Being, throwing a powerful knee into his face, connecting with his cheek. The second drives deep into his eye.
Richard Parker: This just feels…barbaric! Just…
Nick Stuart: The fans in Orlando aren’t pleased! Not one bit! And Ward…Matt Ward…
Richard Parker: Pontiff running to the ropes! OH he’s jumping onto them! What balance!
Nick Stuart: Pontiff dancing on those ropes and he’s launching himself toward Ward OH!
Richard Parker: OH OH OH!
Nick Stuart: WARD CAUGHT HIM! WARD CAUGHT HIM ON THE CROSS BODY ATTEMPT AND HE’S TRYING TO SLING HIM ONTO HIS SHOULDERS FOR WEIGHT OF THE WORLD AND–
Richard Parker: HIS KNEE!
Nick Stuart: WARD’S LEFT KNEE JUST BUCKLED! IT JUST BUCKLED UNDERNEATH HIM!
Pontiff is slammed to the canvas, but not in any controlled manner, and as a result, uses his elbows and knees to cushion the blow. Matt Ward, however, is grabbing at his left knee, widely grimacing, snarling, eyes closed.
He doesn’t see the thrusting mule kick at all.
Richard Parker: NAMASTE!
Ward goes limp in his position. Pontiff has no hesitation.
Nick Stuart: A SECOND NAMASTE! COVER!
DING DING DING
As if shot from a cannon, the Inhuman Being kicks out, and on one damn leg, grabs hold of Pontiff, who is already starting to celebrate, and throws him with an overhead german suplex. And as Ward cusses at himself, as he looks to go for Downfall, the only thing preventing him is the body of Elvis Nixon working to try and protect Pontiff, who, in a moment of self preservation, throws an elbow to get separation.
Richard Parker: UPSET! UPSET! WHAT A DAMN UPSET! SAGE PONTIFF BEATS THE RETURNING MATT WARD!
Nick Stuart: And he’s just now realizing…he’s just now realizing what happened…that he didn’t kick out in time!
Vince Howard: Your winner…by pinfall…SAAAAAAAAGE! PONTIFF!!
The fans in Orlando wildly boo as The Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience, a wild, manic glee in his eye as maybe, just maybe, it’s sinking in what he has accomplished. Meanwhile, in the ring, Matt Ward sits in the corner, a furious look in his eye, staring toward Pontiff, then Nixon, all as his lungs heave, all has his hands go toward his left knee. His eyes follow.
Those close to the ring can hear him call his left knee a motherfucker.
COMMERCIAL: REVIVAL 23 MAIN EVENT
MAIN STREET USA
Specifically, the hallway leading to the Argyle position. It’s traditionally one of the busiest places in the backstage area–wrestlers, referees, techs, and PAs are constantly shuffling in and out over the course of the show.
Most of them hustle up and down the corridor, doing their jobs, but the camera focuses on one in particular. He’s a handsome young man with a big gold belt.
Nate Colton, Five Star Champion.
He’s pacing back and forth, doing his best to not block the path of the other workers as he psyches himself up for his title defense in just a few moments.
That’s right, Nate. Focus. Tune out the distractions. Try not to think about how everyone else back here is fully dressed and you’re about to go out in front of a nationwide audience in basically your underwear. It’s fine, and not weird at all.
Colton shakes his head and starts pacing back and forth…and after a few turns, wouldn’t you know it, he finds himself face to face with someone else. A handsome young man with a big gold belt.
Hayes Hanlon, Universal Champion.
Nate Colton: Champ.
Hayes Hanlon: Speak for yourself!
The Event Horizon gives the Five Star belt on Nate’s shoulder a hearty slap.
Hayes Hanlon: You make that thing look good, man.
Nate Colton: And nice to see that belt back in good hands.
Hayes grins, peeking down at the Big Belt.
Hayes Hanlon: No argument there. Feeling good about tonight?
Nate Colton: Hell yeah, man. Got my first defense, got an opponent I know can bring it…this is gonna be great. How about you?
Hayes Hanlon: Never better. Been itching for another shot at Rezin since Great American Nightmare.
Nate’s look gets a bit pensive at the mention of the Goat Bastard.
Nate Colton: I believe it. That guy…he’s somethin’ else. I kinda feel like I’ve got unfinished business with him too.
Hayes Hanlon: Buddy, the way he’s going the whole locker room is gonna have some unfinished busin…
“By the BEARD of SAINT KACZYNSKI!!
The camera whips over to spy… who else?
Rezin: WHY do I keep runnin’ into ya douchebags!? I gotta start comin’ into these places through the sewer. Be far less nauseatin’…
The Escape Artist has evidently just arrived, as indicated by the gear bag held at his side. And the novelty pair of Mickey Mouse ears worn over the bald patch on his head.
Hayes Hanlon: Right on time. Get stuck on Space Mountain?
Nate Colton: I like the ears. Going for a new look?
Rezin: Oh what, THIS? Nah, had to make a lil detour into the Crappiest Place on Earth to settle some business with a cryogenically frozen head they got locked away below Spaceship Earth!
He spits on the ground.
Rezin: Auf wiedersehen, Walt, ya crooked fuck!
He pitches the mouse ears.
Rezin: Speakin’ of merch-shillin’ corporate scumfuckery… what we got goin’ on HERE among the ol’ junior varsity squad members?! Things gettin’ CHUMMY between the CHAMPS, huh? Are ya guys plannin’ on the next boy scout field trip?
His crazed grin stretches into a hungry sneer, while the glint in his already wild and paranoid eyes turns downright sinister.
Rezin: Say, Evansville… maybe ya could give Discount Burt Reynolds here a few pro tips for when we’re in the ring tonight! Some guaranteed BASTARD BUSTIN’ advice, yeah? After all, yOu WoUlD kNoW, right?
Hayes responds with an exaggerated, indignant gasp, defensively smoothing his ‘stache.
Hayes Hanlon: Discount Burt Reynolds?? Bro, even you can admit that this shit is Tom Selleck level minimum.
Nate Colton: I was thinking…Sam Elliott?
Hayes Hanlon: Thanks, but I don’t have that silky baritone to match.
Nate Colton: Fair. Surprised Mickey here survived with the Five Star Title as long as he did without shaving a ‘stache himself.
Rezin: HEY MAN! I survived the Five Star Championship because I’M ME! I’m DIFFERENT! I have a DIFFERENT CONSTITUTION, I have a DIFFERENT BRAIN, I have a DIFFERENT HEART!! I GOT TIGER BLOOD, MAN!
Rezin indignantly stomps off in the direction of the locker. The unflappable Universal Champion can only roll his eyes, but Colton is left pondering something.
Nate Colton: Tiger…?
He snaps the moment that months-long nagging sensation in the back of his head finally clicks together.
Nate Colton: That’s it! Lebanon Tigers!
Hayes Hanlon: Uh…what now?
Nate Colton: Man, that’s been driving me nuts. Back when I was in college, there was this prospect my coaches used to talk about all the time. Hersh…something.
Rezin suddenly freezes midstep.
Nate Colton: They said he was going to be one of the best in the state. Possible national champion, all of that. But he had a freak accident his senior year, and never made it. Brett…no, Brent! Brent Herschberger! Anyway, he was an Indiana boy, and I’m pretty sure he was from Lebanon.
The Goat Bastard is slowly pivoting around. As his face comes into view again, we can see eyes twitching. Lips gibbering silent tongues.
Colton has no idea, trapped as he is by his Midwestern upbringing. It is baked into their DNA; if they know someone from your town, they have to ask if you know them.
Nate Colton: You were from Lebanon originally, right Rezin? Name sound familiar to you at all?
The red-faced Rezin, looking like he’s on the verge of exploding, has become a human Vesuvius.
Rezin: (growling) WHOO… ARE… YOOOUUU!?
His leg goes into the wall…
Glass intended to be broken in case of an emergency is unintentionally shattered before the emergency. Rezin pulls the hefty fire extinguisher from the box and hoists it threateningly over his head.
Rezin: WHO THE FUCK SENT YOU?!
The lunatic bursts forward when…
Hayes Hanlon: Nooope!!
The extinguisher disappears from his hands, courtesy of a quick-thinking Hayes Hanlon.
Rezin twirls on a dime, and for the second time in two weeks, he stands face to face with the Universal Champion.
Beard. To. Stache.
Rezin: …bit early to be startin’ this, eh Champ?
Hayes Hanlon: Way too early, Erik. WAY too early.
Hayes tosses the extinguisher to the floor, staying squared to the Goat Bastard.
Hayes Hanlon: What’s your plan here, dude? How did you think that was gonna go? You think getting your ass kicked backstage by The Next Diamond was a good way to warm up for the main event?
Hammerin’ Hanlon inches in, mustache twitching.
Hayes Hanlon: Or were you looking for an excuse for when I flatten you in that ring later?
Rezin snorts. Rezin seethes. Rezin sputters. But ultimately, the Escape Artist backs down, and decides to leave on a threatening point toward the Universal Champ.
Rezin: Ya know what? I’m feelin’ generous tonight… so I’m gonna let ya savor the last few minutes ya got with that strap, before I go in there and fuckin’ peel it off ya… HHAAYYYESSS HHAANNLLAAWNN!!
The finger moves over to Colton.
Rezin: As for YOU, Evansville… I’m fuckin’ ONTO YA!
The Escape Artist…escapes, as suddenly as he arrived, leaving the two young champions stunned into silence. They recover quickly though, because rolling with the punches is what being a champion is all about.
Nate Colton: …thanks, man. You saved my ass.
Hayes Hanlon: He wouldn’t have gotten far. But definitely lit him up, pun intended. What was that about?
Nate Colton: I have no idea.
Both men look at each other, and like all of us, they have more questions than answers.
First and foremost: who’s going to take those Mickey Mouse ears?
TWENTY AND TWO
The first thing we see is a close-up of Matt Mills framed from the chest up. He looks nervous, red-faced, like he’s just spent the last few minutes sweating and desperately tried to wipe it away before going live.
Matt Mills: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m joined here tonight by…
There’s a good reason for that.
The camera pulls back to reveal the rest of the shot.
Matt Mills: Ummm…
On a casual glance you wouldn’t think there’s anything to be afraid of. After all, he stands a good seven inches taller than his guest and outweighs her by a solid eighty pounds. Of course, everyone in PRIME to date who’s managed to get on the wrong side of Justine Calvin – every single one of them – has spent a night staring up at the lights and wondering where the last three seconds ran off to.
None of them had a biweekly rumor column on the PRIME website.
None of them had the misfortune of working with the problematic reporter known only as Gary.
So if it looks like she’s concentrating real hard on trying to make his head explode with only her mind, it’s because she is.
Justine Calvin: Matthew.
You don’t get a nickname like “The Murder Valkyrie” by not trying to murder people.
Deep breath, Matty.
Matt Mills: Earlier… uhh… Earlier tonight I had the chance to speak with the Winds of Change about the challenge they issued two weeks ago, about hoping to be the ones to bring what’s been a record-setting championship reign to an end…
He removes a pocket square from his jacket and dabs at his forehead. Don’t ask how many times he’s done this so far, the answer is “a lot”. He also, almost reflexively, brushes an invisible hand off of his shoulder.
Matt Mills: What…
Justine raises a hand and Matt’s voice trails off. This is also where her facade finally cracks, and the smile she’s been holding back starts to show through. Because if you’re going to commit to fucking with the a senior reporter, you really have to commit.
But will the joke now over, it’s time to get serious for real.
Justine Calvin: Two chances, Matt. Two. Twenty years, and two chances.
She shifts the weight of the championship belt that’s currently held over her right shoulder.
Justine Calvin: This belt? It took me twenty years to get this far, to be able to hold this in the air and say that it’s mine. I didn’t come from a family of wrestlers. I didn’t have an “in” to the business. Everything that I got came the hard way, and it didn’t come along for a very, very long time. My first year out of training and all I heard was, “Sorry, but you’re not quite what we’re looking for.” Promoters would tell me, “Hey, have you thought about being a valet?” That’s why my first year was. No shots at world championships, because I couldn’t even get a foot in the door. So you’ll understand if I seem a little protective, or a little standoffish. It’s because I am.
Her left hand begins drumming a slow, steady rhythm on the faceplate of her title. One finger after the other.
Justine Calvin: Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Joe or Sid as people. They’re great kids, they have all the talent in the world, and the future is theirs for the taking. But under no circumstances am I prepared to hand mine over. And they know this, Matt. We’ve done this twice before. Once last fall, and then again in Japan over the break. Both times we threw down the results were the same. Maybe Culture Shock is different. Maybe everything that Jared and I have spent the last eight months building finally comes undone.
Her eyes turn directly to the camera.
Justine Calvin: Or maybe it’s the same song played to a different beat. You know for a long time we were the “Kings.” I never really vibed with that name, but I understood the significance. And if I can paraphrase a little pop culture, when you come for the Kings you best not miss. More nicknames than Odin, was that what they said? Well, after Culture Shock there’s only one thing you’ll need to worry about calling us, and that’s the PRIME Tag Team Champions.
Matt Mills: And what of the news that broke earlier this week? Last night there was a Royal Decree naming the Dangerous Mix as your next challengers, to take place in New Orleans two weeks from now.
Justine nods slowly as she shifts the belt from one shoulder to the other.
Justine Calvin: It’s been a rough year for Mushi and Fox. I know it hasn’t gone the way that they wanted it to, or hoped that it would. This business… sometimes it gets to you like that. But they stepped up when it mattered. They walked into Colossus and took on two other teams. They earned their win, and now they finally, finally get a chance to try and write their names in the history books. Make no mistake, under no circumstances are we looking past them. Those men are extremely capable in the ring, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. Like I said, it’s been a rough year for Mushi and Fox…
A smile curls at the edge of her lips.
Justine Calvin: Unfortunately, it’s about to get a whole lot rougher. The Kings might be no more, but your Eminence still rules this division.
Matt Mills: For Justine Calvin, I’m Matt Mills, and…
Justine Calvin: Seriously though, where the fuck is Gary?
And with that, we go elsewhere.
A FIVE STAR SEGMENT
Just moments before tonight’s Five Star Title match, the camera cuts backstage to a video monitor displaying a live feed of the show. Standing slightly sideways, as is customary in professional wrestling, is pro wrestling savior and overall swell guy Tyler Adrian Best. His arms are crossed in front of his chest, fresh tattoos running down into his inner forearms.
TAB: Dry Toast Colton versus Dr. Who Cares. Easily the most highly anticipated match in the history of not only PRIME Wrestling, but maybe pro wrestling itself.
He turns toward the camera, wearing a smirk that is a near carbon copy of that of his father, the CEO of High Octane Wrestling.
TAB: A literal clashing of the titans. Actual Gods. This match could have headlined any wrestling pay-per-view of the last two thousand years, and we’re getting it on free television! This thing could have broken box offices. Children around the world, foaming at the mouths and breaking down into excitement induced seizures. This match is an epidemic. Literally the most exciting thing to ever happen in the entire history of the world, and I am alive to see it. WHAT A WORLD.
A long, exaggerated yawn rolls out of Tyler’s mouth, as he continues on in faux excitement.
TAB: I have goosebumps man. Just thinking about what a historic night this is. Just thinking about how no matter WHAT happens out here in this ring tonight…
The false enthusiasm falls out of his voice, as the smirk widens.
TAB: …it won’t mean a goddamned thing.
The eighteen year old professional jackass laughs, a cruel sort of chuckle as he turns all the way toward the camera now, squaring up with the screen.
TAB: Oh boo hoo, Tyler is bad for business, he’s burying the main event. Shut up. I don’t care. I honestly don’t. This is a placeholder match. Neato Nate and Anna Montana are about to make a whole dog and pony show out of deciding who gets to hand me my first Five Star Championship. Honestly, I hope Anna wins. I really do. I think it would be really funny to watch her work her ass off tonight, just to get on her fucking knees and present me with my first PRIME championship. I think that would just be swell.
He turns his attention back to the screen, getting ready for the main event to begin. Before he dials in though, he glances back at the camera in annoyance.
TAB: The fuck are you still doing here? Don’t you have some meaningless, time filler garbage to film? Go check on the Blueberry family. I’m sure they have seventeen minutes of Must See TV brewing over in who gives a fuck land.
He waves the camera off with a dismissive hand, as the camera leaves him to observe tonight’s title match.
FIVE STAR CHAMPIONSHIP: NATE COLTON (c) VS. ANNA DANIELS
Vince Howard: The following match is one fall… and is for the FIVE STAR CHAMPIONSHIP!
Nick Stuart: Oh man, our next match is going to be one for the ages.
Richard Parker: You’ve got that right. Nate Colton will be defending his Five Star Championship for the first time since he won it at Colossus in December.
Nick Stuart: And he’s got a challenger that he’s faced before.
Richard Parker: Correct! October 21st at ReVival 17 saw these two compete with Colton managing to pick up the victory that evening.
NIck Stuart: Will history repeat itself? Or will Daniels learn from her errors in that match and cut Colton’s reign as Five Star Champion short? Let’s find out as we go back to Vince Howard.
Fans in the arena begin to rise to their feet.
Vince Howard: Introducing first…
The entire area fades to black, causing the PRIMEates in attendance to steadily come to a hush. After a moment, the beginning guitar notes of Solid Space’s “A Darkness In My Soul” begin. Nothing comes on the PRIME*view to note exactly who is coming out. Suddenly, a spotlight pierces through the dark pointed to the top on the entrance ramp. Anna Daniels stands there, her profile positioned towards the light. She lets it wash over her while letting the fans get a good look at the merchandise. Finally, she glances at the ring with a small smirk on her face.
As The Muse takes her time heading to the ring, she wistfully observes the goings on around her as if getting into a certain type of groove that only she can hear. Her strolling sways almost like she’s dancing from time to time. Her robe and headpiece–once more regal and dazzling artifacts from her homeplanet–are in various stages of disrepair and utter damage. Anna slaps a hand or two, nods a little to those in attendance. Once ringside, she motions for somebody to take the robe and headpiece which when taken nearly make the poor sap fall over.
She makes her way to the stairs and slinks along the apron, whiping her feet before entering the ring. Immediately after, she nearly chases off the ref in a suddenly blur of action before smiling yet again. Casually, she strolls to a corner with her head bopping before perching herself onto the top rope laid out like a French girl people like to paint.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Mount Perdition, Gallifrey… she is THE MUSE! ANNA! DANIELS!
Nick Stuart: You have to imagine she is salivating at this chance here tonight.
Richard Parker: Her last match was against Brandon Youngblood, which ended in a draw. No small feat.
Nick Stuart: Definitely not.
Vince Howard: And her opponent…
A classic rock riff signals the beginning of “Tryin'” by the Eagles, and the fans give out a raucous cheer. Moments later, Nate Colton emerges from the curtain. He holds his arms up high, showing off his blue satin jacket–his family name emblazoned on the back; his first name stitched on the front. He also shows off the Five Star Championship, currently secured around his waist.
Nate walks quickly to the ring, making sure to high five any fans who reach toward him. He climbs the steps, ducks between the top and middle ropes, and enters the ring. He heads directly to his corner and undoes his jacket, showing off his gear–white trunks that reach his upper thigh with a blue stripe down the side, white boots with blue trim, white MMA gloves, and blue elbow and knee pads. After handing his jacket to a ring attendant and unfastening the title belt, he makes another appeal to the fans–this time, holding the Five Star Championship high above his head.
He hands the belt to referee Ashley Barlow and heads to his corner, where he stretches against the ropes and mentally prepares for his challenger.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Evansville Indiana…weighing in at two-hundred fifty-five pounds…he is the Next Diamond! He is the PRIME Five Star Champion! He is…NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE! COOOOOOOOOOOOOOLTON!
Richard Parker: There are opponents that are warm-ups and there are opponents that should put fear in your heart. Anna Daniels is the latter.
Nick Stuart: No kidding and from the look in his eyes, he realizes that and is ready for the fight for his life.
Ashley Barlow gives her final set of instructions to both competitors before signaling for the start of the match.
At the sound of the bell, Colton roars out of the corner and Daniels manages to catch him with a spinning back elbow to the jaw that stops Nate dead in his tracks. Anna then grabs Nate’s arm and hip tosses him into the corner. Colton lands hard on his lower back and makes his way back up to his feet only to be met with a springboard enziguri to the back of his skull that causes him to stumble forward, dazed beyond all belief. Anna bounces back to her feet, plants her foot into Colton’s midsection, hooks both of his arms and lifts him into the air into the double underhook brainbuster!
Nick Stuart: NO WAY! ONCOMING STORM FROM ANNA DANIELS!
Richard Parker: Nate Colton may have just lost his title in the span of ten seconds! This would be a shocker to put it lightly!
Having completed the Oncoming Storm, Anna rolls Colton over quickly and hooks both legs as Ashley Barlow slides in to begin her count.
Richard Parker: Nate’s shoulder shot UP just the moment before Barlow’s hand hit the mat. I can’t believe it!
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton may not know where he is currently and Anna Daniels is wasting no time as she bounces back up to her feet and is hunting down her prey.
Colton rolls onto his knees, his eyes glassy, and pushes himself up to his feet. As he turns towards Anna, she runs at him and goes for a Brazilian Kick onto the Five-Star Champion, but Nate drops to his back and rolls out of the ring, realizing that things would get far worse for him if he took that move.
Nick Stuart: Colton needs a breather and Ashley Barlow is beginning her count.
Richard Parker: Just count him out and let’s move on with our night.
Nick Stuart: Oh calm down. We just got started.
Richard Parker: And Colton is already cooked! Save us the headache and let’s move on with it.
With Barlow up to a three count, Colton places his hands on his hips and shakes his head. He looks into the ring and Anna Daniels is against the far set of ropes, down on one knee, and her eyes remain unmoving. Her prey is in her sight and there is nothing that is going to change that. Barlow gets up to a five count and Colton takes a deep breathe in before he hops onto the ring apron and slowly re-enters the ring, Daniels inching closer as he does. Daniels then rushes at him and Colton side steps her, pushing her into the ropes before spinning around and mowing her down with a clothesline that sends Daniels crashing to the mat.
Richard Parker: Well, that’s a step in the right direction.
Nick Stuart: That it is and it is something that Colton didn’t realize he sorely needed, but he really did.
Daniels doesn’t stay down for long though as she bounces back up and Nate catches her with a stiff kick to the midsection before planting her in the middle of the ring with a vertical suplex. Anna sits up, almost more machine than human, and gets back up to her feet only for Colton to be running full speed at her and connects with a flying crossbody that sends both crashing to the mat.
Neither competitor is content with staying on the mat though as they both get back up to her feet. Daniels rushes at Colton again only for Nate to connect with a hip toss of his own, but she manages to land on her feet. She fires back with a mule kick, but Colton manages to bend back far enough to dodge the impact, grabs her foot and flips her forward where she lands on her feet and goes for a roundhouse kick, but Nate blocks it!
Nick Stuart: What intense fighting from these two as Colton seems to have recovered nicely, but Daniels is keeping the pressure up and refusing to give Nate an inch.
Richard Parker: That’s what you have to do with these Coltons. Keep the pressure up and eventually they will crack.
Nick Stuart: What are you talking about? They live for pressure.
Richard Parker: His Daddy did, but what do we really know about Nate?
Nick Stuart: That he hasn’t lost!
Richard Parker: Okay, maybe you have me there.
Nate spins Daniels around after blocking her kick and slams his forearm into her shoulder blades. Anna arches her back in pain as Nate pushes her into the corner hard, knocking the wind out of Daniels, and then spins her around before whipping her into the corner and follows it up with a running splash in the corner. Anna stumbles out of the corner and Colton bounces off the ropes, connecting with a running bulldog that plants her in the middle of the ring. Nate pushes himself back up to his feet and grabs Daniels by the back of her head before pulling her up and putting her into a rear chinlock.
Nick Stuart: You have to love how much a student of the game Nate is. He has that locked in perfectly and you can read the discomfort in Anna’s eyes.
Richard Parker: You call that discomfort, I call that her plotting how to remove his head from the rest of his body simply for touching her.
Nate re-adjusts his hold as Barlow checks on Anna who shoots her a look that if Ashley asks again if she wants to submit that her tongue will be dislodged from her mouth. Ashley backs up as Anna begins to push herself up while Nate continues to hold onto her. Daniels then slams her elbow into his midsection, driving the air out of Nate, but he manages to hold on, pulling her back into him. She then wraps her arms around Colton’s midsection and connects with a side suplex that drops Colton hard on the back of his head.
Richard Parker: Gotta love that Daniels refuses to stop fighting at any moment.
Nick Stuart: She’s going to give Colton a run for his money, win or lose. Colton will feel like he loses even if he wins based on the fire that Daniels is exhibiting tonight.
Colton grabs the ropes and pulls himself back up, but as he does, Daniels catches him with a knife-edge chop across the chest. Nate doubles over in pain, but then slams his knee into Daniels midsection and connects with a gutwrench powerbomb in the middle of the ring, pressing up on his toes and pinning Daniels’ legs back as Barlow begins the count.
Nick Stuart: And Daniels with the kickout! Colton starting to pull out some bigger moves to hopefully slow Daniels down.
Richard Parker: He needs to do something, because she is looking like someone basically possessed. There is no quit in her.
The Five-Star Champion reaches down and pulls Daniels up to her feet, but as she reaches a vertical base, she connects with an uppercut that stuns Colton, pushing him into the ropes. She them slams her boot into his midsection repeatedly before whipping him into the ropes. She then runs after him and Colton stops after bouncing off the ropes, turns towards Daniels, who connects with a springboard headscissors that sends him flying out of the ring. He stumbles back to his feet as Daniels runs full speed at him and dives through the middle rope and top rope, launching herself at Colton only for the champion to sidestep and she collides into the barricade.
Richard Parker: Holy hell. Her body just crashed against the ringside barricade as if she was a car going ninety into a wall on I-4!
Nick Stuart: That… is going to hurt.
Richard Parker: Understatement of the year right there.
Colton, a little extra fire in his step now, drags Daniels off the ground and lifts her into the air, dropping her throat first across the barrier. Daniels launches backwards on impact, grabbing her sternum as she can feel the pain shooting through every inch of her body. Colton yanks her to her feet and whips her into the steel stairs, Daniels knees colliding with them and flipping her upside down onto the middle step. She groans in pain as she rolls and falls onto the bottom step before Colton walks over, drags her back to her feet, and slams his knee into her midsection before connecting with a vertical suplex and her back colliding against the ringside apron.
Richard Parker: Well, this is a Nate Colton I could get behind.
Nick Stuart: Calm down over there. Colton hasn’t become your new favorite bad boy. He’s just giving Daniels every bit that she has given to him.
Richard Parker: Well, that’s too bad.
Colton then grabs Daniels and rolls her into the ring before following after her. He then bounces off the ropes and drops an elbow across her sternum, worsening the pain Anna is feeling. Nate then bounces off the ropes off the ropes again, this time dropping his left knee across her sternum before rolling back to his feet. Anna rolls over to her knees, coughing in pain as Colton walks over and puts her into a side headlock, wrenching his arms around her skull and applying pressure. Daniels slams her forearm into his lower back before pushing him off into the ropes where he bounces off of them and slams his shoulder into her chest, sending her back to the mat.
Richard Parker: Daniels needs to get out of this power match with Colton if she wants a chance to get back into this match.
Nick Stuart: She went from being in control, hitting an Oncoming Storm at the outset of this match, and Nate has managed to find his way back to being in control and looking steady while doing so.
Richard Parker: You just know these two are going to rip the flesh off one another and there’s no telling if they won’t take more than that.
Nick Stuart: Gross.
Colton then bounces off the ropes, but Daniels hops back up to her feet and catches him in the face with a knee that sends him stumbling back into the ropes. Daniels rushes at Colton and bounces up the ropes before slamming her knee into Colton’s face again. Nate stumbles away from the ropes, clutching his face, and Daniels bounces off the ropes and connects with a front flip into a cutter that lays Colton out in the center of the ring. She flips Nate over and goes for the cover only for Colton to pull him into an inside cradle pin!
Nick Stuart: Daniels thought she’d caught Colton, but Nate managed to catch her off guard there!
Richard Parker: Yeah, not what Daniels was expecting in the least bit after nearly re-arranging all of Colton’s face!
Nick Stuart: He’d better keep his head on his shoulders or he will find bones broken.
Both competitors are scrambling to their feet with Daniels catching Colton with a knife-edge chop that stops him dead in his tracks. Anna yanks down Colton’s arm from his chest and fires off with another one that causes Nate to fire back with a forearm of his own. This drops her to one knee and Colton bounces off the ropes only for Anna to spring up and connect with a hurricanrana, pinning his legs in the process.
Nick Stuart: And Anna almost caught Colton there!
Richard Parker: I don’t think Colton saw that one coming at all.
Nick Stuart: Definitely not and it almost bit him in the ass for it!
Anna bounces back up to her feet and catches Colton with a stiff kick to the midsection. Nate stumbles backwards and Anna rushes at him only for Colton to catch her and lifts her into the air, dropping her throat first across the top rope. She clutches her throat as Nate then spins her around and connects with a German Suplex that lands her on the back of her head and she flips onto her stomach, heavy breathing and eyes closed.
Colton fights back to his feet, grabs Daniels by the back of her skull, and whips her into the ropes before planting her in the middle of the ring with a spinebuster that shakes the ring. Nate then grabs both of Daniels legs and begins to turn like he’s looking for a Boston Crab, but Daniels pulls him into her and into a small package!
Richard Parker: One of these times, Anna is going to get Colton.
Nick Stuart: Colton is being caught by surprise here by Anna’s refusing to go down as she continues to find small pockets to throw him off guard and nearly pick up a victory.
Richard Parker: And the Five-Star Championship to boot.
Colton, having kicked out from the small package, sits and looks at Anna. Even dazed, she has a slight smile on her face and begins to sit up as well. Nate cocks his head to the side before pushing himself back up to his feet, his knuckles digging into the canvas. He motions for Anna to get up and she does so, bouncing between the balls of her feet. Nate motions for Anna to kick him and she is more than happy to do so, but Colton catches her boot and connects with a dragon screw leg whip!
Nick Stuart: And Colton with a little bit of his own medicine for Daniels.
Richard Parker: You can see that Anna has been battered in this fight, but even still, there is a slight smile on her face as she lies on the mat, looking up at Colton.
Nick Stuart: She’s not normal, not in the least bit.
Richard Parker: Only because she likes to kick people in the head. I call that healthy if you ask me.
Anna now is the one pushing herself up to her feet and ducks a running clothesline from Colton who then bounces off the ropes. Anna then connects with a Pele kick that lands squarely on the crown of the approaching Five-Star Champion, which sends him crashing to the mat, clutching his head. Anna is quick to her feet as she plants boot after boot into the chest of her opponent.
She then reaches down and pulls Nate off of the mat, pushes him into the ropes and whips him across the ring before connecting with a picture perfect dropkick that puts Colton back on the mat. Daniels hops back to her feet, bounces off the ropes, steps over Colton, and then nails a springboard moonsault on the unmoving champion.
Richard Parker: This is where she’s dangerous. She’s inventive, she thinks outside of the box–
Nick Stuart: That’s an understatement.
Richard Parker: — and she is relentless. She loves exacting pain and there’s something about the group of Colton and Youngblood that she relishes extracting her ten pounds of flesh in the process.
Nick Stuart: Look at you, paying attention to the match.
Richard Parker: I’ve never been more afraid of someone kicking me in the head passing by in catering than her.
Daniels grabs Colton by the back of the skull and pulls him off the mat before going to whip him into the ropes. He reverses it though and sends her flying before leap frogging her. As she flies back towards him off the opposite set of the ropes, he goes for an arm drag, but she lands on her feet and connects with a spinning heel kick to his midsection. Anna then puts Colton into an abdominal stretch, slamming forearm after forearm into his exposed rib cage until Colton goes for an arm drag on Daniels only for Anna to land on her feet a second time and connects with an arm drag of her own that sends Nate to the mat.
Nick Stuart: Anna is using every bit of her athletic ability here and is catching Nate each and every time that she does.
Richard Parker: There is something graceful about the face Daniels is able to contort her body and land on her feet.
Nick Stuart: You are that scared of her kicking you, aren’t you?
Richard Parker: You have no idea.
Nate is quick back up to his feet and Anna is ready for him, going for an arm drag only for Colton to block it, lock both of her arms to pull her into him and headbutts her, causing her to stumble backwards from the shot. Anna rushes back at Colton, shooting for his legs, but Nate manages to stuff it and presses her into the mat, stretching her out at the same time. Daniels, not liking the pressure Colton is putting on her, finds the space to spin onto her back, but Colton is ready for her as he rolls with her and grabs her arm before pulling her up and placing a knee into her shoulder blade while twisting her wrist.
She struggles up to her feet and Nate immediately puts her into a hammerlock, but Daniels reaches behind with her opposite arm and connects with a snapmere over her shoulder and puts Colton on the mat. Nate is fast to his feet though and as he reaches his vertical base, Daniels sweeps the legs out from under him. She then connects with a standing swanton onto Colton and with her back on his torso, he wraps his arms around her torso and bridges before spinning and pulling her up to her feet and connecting with a gutwrench slam in the center of the ring.
Richard Parker: These two are starting to put on a back-and-forth clinic that is stretching and testing their opponents abilities.
Nick Stuart: You can tell these two have studied one another immensely since their last meeting and neither one of them is willing to give an inch to the other.
Colton drags Anna up by her arm and whips her forcefully into the corner, her back connecting with the turnbuckles.
Her body drops from the sheer impact and power with which Nate put into his whip. Colton walks over and begins to pull Daniels up to her feet, but Anna fires back with a stiff punch to the midsection that slows Colton down, but Nate is quick to the attack as he grabs her wrist and whips her across the ring. He runs after her, but Daniels runs up the corner, and springboards off the adjacent ropes into a moonsault, but Colton catches her in midair and hotshots her onto the top turnbuckle!
Daniels’ jaw bounces off the top turnbuckle and she stumbles into the waiting arms of Colton who lifts her up and crotches her onto the top turnbuckle. He then begins to climb up with her only for Anna to connect with a few back elbows that catches Colton by surprise. Anna then stands up on the top turnbuckle and uses the ring post to steady her as she turns around. Colton, on the middle turnbuckle, begins to climb up to the top turnbuckle, but Anna stops him in his tracks as she lunges at him with a lariat that flips Colton inside out and sends both tumbling back into the ring.
Nick Stuart: These two are going to kill themselves if they’re not careful. Both are throwing all the caution into the wind and some of ours to boot.
Richard Parker: I would like mine back. I might need it if Anna hunts me down backstage.
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton, in his first defense of his Five-Star Championship, is definitely getting a run for his money!
Daniels makes her way to her feet, slowly, and drags Colton up with her. She then puts him in a front face lock, but before she can connect with a suplex, Colton slams fist after fist into her rib cage. He then grabs her by the wrist and whips her into the corner only for Daniels to explode back out of the corner and connects with a running lariat that puts him back on the mat. Colton gets back up to his feet quickly and is quickly put down again with another running lariat from Daniels. Colton refuses to stay down though and Daniels rushes at him for another lariat, but Nate ducks underneath it. Daniels runs into the rope and as Colton turns around, he connects with an overhead belly to belly suplex that sends her flying across the ring.
Daniels somehow stumbles back up to her feet after the suplex, finding herself in the corner as she tries to gather herself. Colton runs at her and connects with a step up enziguri! Daniels stumbles out of the corner, dazed while Colton hops onto the middle turnbuckle. Anna turns back towards Colton and as she does, he leaps towards her and connects with a tornado DDT that plants Anna in the middle of the ring. Colton wastes no time as he goes for the cover, hooking the leg in the process.
Richard Parker: Wow wow wow.
Nick Stuart: Words are escaping us simply because these two have been in the ring for a hot minute and are throwing everything at one another they can possibly come up with.
Richard Parker: Colton almost got that one. If Daniels isn’t careful, she might find herself on the losing end tonight of an effort that is definitely worthy of a victory.
Colton is back up to his feet first and Daniels isn’t far behind her, though she is wobbly and clearly exhausted. Colton connects with a forearm and goes for a vertical suplex, but Daniels manages to slip behind him and lands on the ring apron. Colton spins around and is caught a rise-up knee strike to the face that causes him to stumble backwards. As Nate moves forward, Daniels connects with a slingshot spear that flattens Colton out! Anna then goes for the cover.
Daniels looks at Barlow, shaking her head before she pushes herself up, every muscle in her body yelling in protest. She grabs Colton and pulls him up before pushing him into the corner and connects with a knife-edge chop before hoisting him onto the top turnbuckle. She follows behind him only for Colton to fire back with a few stiff jabs. Anna brushes them off and fires back with a series of fists to the crown of Colton’s head before she tries to lift him up onto the top turnbuckle with her.
Colton manages to slip out behind her though. He comes back towards Daniels, who catches him with a back kick to the jaw. She then leaps backwards, looking for a Stunner, but Colton manages to catch her in midair and connects with a backstabber, flipping Daniels onto her stomach and in a world of pain.
Nick Stuart: Anna Daniels, a worthy competitor, is finding herself in a very difficult position right now.
Richard Parker: These two continue to find slivers of daylight in their moves and are capitalizing on it in a big way. It’s only a matter of time until a mistake really puts them out for the count.
Nate makes his way back up to his feet and brings Daniels up with her, but she manages to slam her forearm repeatedly into his face. With the champion stunned, Anna sizes him up and goes for a Brazilian Kick, but Colton manages to block it, spinning Daniels around in the moment. With the opening available to him, Colton applies the Cobra Clutch on Anna before connecting with the Cobra Clutch Suplex!
Nick Stuart: COLTON CLUTCH SUPLEX! IS THAT IT?!
Richard Parker: Anna looks OUT!
Nick Stuart: This is not how she wanted her night to end, but I don’t know if she will be able to come back from this.
Colton then goes for the cover as Barlow begins her count.
DING DING DING!
Colton rolls off of Daniels, his chest heaving, but victorious when it mattered the most.
Vince Howard: Your winner… and STILL! FIVE STAR CHAMPION! NATE! COLTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!
Nick Stuart: What a hell of a match there between those two!
Richard Parker: You have to imagine these two will meet in the ring again one day very soon and the outcome could very well be different.
Nick Stuart: No kidding. Anna has nothing to feel bad about, even though I imagine she’s going to scrutinize over every moment in this match.
Richard Parker: Any wrestler worth their salt will do that and Anna is definitely one of them!
Colton makes his way up to his feet and is handed the Five-Star Title, which he hoists over his head to thunderous applause from the crowd gathered in Orlando, Florida.
Nick Stuart: He better keep his eyes open though, because he’s got a snake slithering in the garden and that snake is none other than Tyler Adrian Best.
Richard Parker: Oooh, say his name again.
Nick Stuart: …no. We heard from Best right before this match and he has his eyes set upon Nate Colton, which should be a doozy of a match.
Richard Parker: That it should, but let’s head backstage where I hear we have… Tony Gamble? This should be interesting.
We then cut backstage.
DRATS, FOILED AGAIN!!!
Whistling a little tune as he skips down the backstage hallway, Tony Gamble seems quite pleased with himself after quite practically annoying Anna Daniels into submission… he thinks, but isn’t quite sure. He’s taking the opportunity regardless, and will deal with the blow back later.
To hell with the threat of owls!
Pushing open a set of doors and walking through as if he was ten foot tall and owl proof, our hero of the moment has a grin the size of Texas on his face.
Tony Gamble: Pack them up boys, we’re taking them inside!
It is then that he realizes that the canopy and tables have been taken down, and Domingo Cruz is closing the back door of the van. He glances to the right and finds Frank Pastore talking with a few guards and police officers.
Tony Gamble: What the hell is going on, Dom?
Domingo Cruz: Pinche juda shut us down. Some shit about not having a permit to sell merch on arena grounds.
Tony Gamble: Well, I got the green light from Anna Daniels… okay, maybe more of a yellow, but definitely not red. So let’s grab some boxes and take them inside, they’re going to sell like menudo on a Sunday morning.
Domingo Cruz: They took all the boxes.
Tony’s chin drops to his chest as he sighs out loud. There’s always something. The skip gone from his step, he makes his way over to the cluster of men assembled next to one of the police cars.
Frank Pastore: Look, that’s Tony Gamble right there.
Whispers amongst the officers and guards can be slightly heard, but not enough to decipher who exactly was saying it.
“Holy hell, that scar’s bigger in real life.”
“It’s creepy as shit.”
“You think he’s single?”
“For fucks sake, Lou, keep it in your pants. Besides, he’s not a real celebrity.”
Tony Gamble: What seems to be the problem here, officers?
Officer #1: Can’t be selling bootleg merchandise outside of an event like this without a permit.
Frank Pastore: I told them they wasn’t bootlegs, boss, but they’s wasn’t listening to me.
Tony Gamble: It’s cool, Frank. Who’s in charge?
One of the officers steps forward.
Officer #2: That would be me.
Tony leans forward and reads his badge.
Tony Gamble: Well, Officer Sasso, what my associate here was telling you is true. These aren’t bootlegs.
Lou Sasso: That’s funny, because I’ve never seen them on the website or anything. They don’t even have a PRIME logo printed on them.
Tony Gamble: They’re Gamble Adoration Syndicate shirts, and I had them made personally seeing as how I am the Gamble being adored by the syndicate… which are not only my associates here, but the millions of my fans.
“He said millions.”
Tony turns to glare at the other officer, who along with the two security guards is snickering.
Lou Sasso: Look, Mr. Gamble, I’m sure you understand that we’re just doing our job here. Those shirts have nothing on them that prove they are affiliated to PRIME in any way, and this being a PRIME event we have to follow procedure.
Tony turns back to the officer speaking to him.
Tony Gamble: I get it, but since they’re not bootlegs, I’m going to need you to release them back to me so I can take them to the PRIMEPORIUM.
Officer #1: About that. You see, since there was a report made already we need to take them in and file them into evidence. Then, once you can prove that there is no crime being committed and show us that permit we mentioned… Then you can get them back.
He rips a sheet off of the booklet he has in his hand and offers it to Gamble, who takes it in frustration and turns to walk away.
Officer #1: You have a good night now, you hear. Don’t forget to go swimming with the Manatee’s, it’s better than swimming with the dolphins by a country mile.
Frank Pastore: Sounds like he wants to go swimming with the fishes, boss.
Tony Gamble: Morty’s been wanting to get on my goodside, maybe he can pay this wiseass a visit.
SEIZING THE MEANS OF DESTRUCTION
A blurry view fades in from black, as though someone is coming out of sleep. When the vision comes into focus, there’s a profoundly hideous face occupying the view.
Rezin: I said, UP! C’mon, WAKE UP, goddamb ya!
The camera operator dreamily rubs his lenses as he’s unexpectedly dredged up from his slumber. It’s likely he was just trying to nap for a few hours before he got packed into the trailer with the rest of the production equipment and crew (logistics ain’t cheap in the wrestling business, people!) when the Goat Bastard regrettably stumbled upon him snoozing on a cot in the back rooms.
Rezin: What, thought you could catch some ZEE’s? GET REAL! You’re a CAMERAMAN! And right now, I need ya to do your job and CAMERA ME, ME! Now C’MON, MOVE YOUR ASS!! We got Simon waitin’! That Tom Selleck-lookin’ SUM’BISH is supposedly gettin’ with that ditz BROOKS here in a few minutes, but I’ll be DOUBLE DAWG DAMMB’D if he thinks HE is gettin’ the last word here!
Rezin collars the poor camera operator onto his feet and begins hastily dragging him through the backstage area. The Goat Bastard is clearly still seething from his previous encounter with both the Universal and Five Star Champions, ranting incoherently as he kicks his way through various rooms and passages with the audience unwittingly along for the ride.
Rezin: Fuckin’ Nate Colton… why the hell’d he have to drop that name?! What’s his ANGLE, huh?! You think he’s trynna say something? What, that it’s somehow MY fault that some KNUCKLE-DRAGGER fucked up his whole career?! Like I’m just s’posed to ROLL OVER and LET THAT SCUM HAVE HIS WAY WITH ME?! Is THAT WHAT NATE COLTON IS TRYNNA SAY?! BAH! That’s the most pathetic excuse of MIND GAMES I’ve ever seen! BUSH LEAGUE shit! He wants me to get all up in my HEAD! Lose my FOCUS! Get CHOKE-BOMBED, and LOSE! Cause if win that Universal Championship, then the jealous lil bastard can’t call himself the BEST WRESTLER outta the STATE of INDIANA! Well, HATE TO DISAPPOINT YA, Little PIg!! TONIGHT… I am CHAOS! I am the VOID INCARNATE! I am…
After passing through the kitchen, the laundry room, the boiler room, the PRIMEporium, and a men’s room full of confused fans, the Escape Artist abruptly skids to a halt, turns, and glares incredulously into the camera.
Rezin: …waitaminnit, why the fuck am I tellin’ YOU all this?! You’re just the CAMERA MAN!! It’s SIMON that should be hearin’ this!
He kicks through the final door, leading to the interview location.
Rezin: Okay, we’re here in the forebodingly dark alley behind the arena, away from fans and security where literally nobody can see us, which is exactly where I was told I’d find him! Now just where the hell IS that nerd?!
He scans the length of the aptly described shady alley, seemingly unaware or apathetic to the fact that it’s the most conspicuous location ever for someone to conduct an ambush. Finally, just past a jet of steam, he spies the form of a person.
Rezin: AHA! THERE he is!
Rezin scrambles upon the man in the customary speed blue suit with a microphone in hand, standing with his back to the camera and the Goat Bastard.
Rezin: HA-HAA!! HERE I AM, Simon! And HERE WE ARE! The BEGINNIN’ of the END! Are ya EXCITED?! It’s the moment I’ve been preachin’ about since the day I arrived in PRIME a lil over a year ago! The pro wrestling A-PUNK-ALYPSE! The Unholy Day of SLUDGMENT! The PUNK ROCK INDUCED MASS EXTINCTION of PRIME as we know it! OHHH MAN I can’t wait to see the look on the stupid face of stupid HAAYYEESS HAANNLAAWWNN, the moment he realizes the promotion he grew up watching… the VERY THING he spent his whole life aspirin’ to be… everyone… EVERYTHING… NOW in the hands of this small, unassuming, but UNDENIABLY DEADY… DAMBIT SIMON! Look, I KNOW I warned you about lookin’ me in the eye if ya didn’t want me to eat your face, but ya can at least give me the courtesy of FACIN’ ME while I yell uncontrollably at ya!
Slowly, the “interviewer” turns around to face the raving lunatic, but Rezin is taken aback. Right suit. Right glasses. Wrong face.
Rezin: …gee, Si. You’re lookin’ kinda, umm… perestroika tonight.
It’s not an entirely inaccurate observation, as “Simon” is really Alexei Ruslan dressed in the junior reporter’s regular get-up. Ruslan grins a big, toothy grin as he looks at Rezin. But Ruslan then looks over Rezin’s head. Way over Rezin’s head.
It’s at this point when a DARK RED SHADOW falls over the Goat Bastard, and a massive hand clutches his shoulder from behind.
Ivan Stanislav: We do not find many goats wandering around this area, do we Alexei?
Ruslan smiles and adjusts his fake glasses.
Alexei Ruslan: Nyet, Praporshchik…
Ivan Stanislav: I have proposition for you, Rezin.
Rezin: I figured ya guys learned your lesson after Chernobyl… ‘bout touchin’ things that might be on radioactive side.
Rezin brushes Ivan’s hand off and comes around to face the Russian giant, arms folded over his chest.
Rezin: Arright, comrade… let’s hear it.
Stanislav stares down at Rezin but gives him the slightest bit of space by taking a step backwards. Ruslan looks down at his blue speed suit and flicks some fuzz that hangs from it.
Ivan Stanislav: I could have snapped your tiny body in half just now, Rezin. But out of goodness of my heart, I have decided to leave you in one piece. I decide there is no reason to annihilate you. I decide that instead, I appeal to this chaotic, anti-establishment nature you have for yourself.
Ivan does look down at his hand, after having touched Rezin, and he shakes it out to the side.
Ivan Stanislav: Hayes Hanlon is mine, Rezin. His fate was sealed the moment I walked into UltraViolence. I will not be denied the satisfaction of destroying him, and my Universal Title shot is the sure-fire way to get my hands around him. So it is simple: You need to lose your match.
Ruslan pushes the glasses back up on his face and sneers behind Rezin.
Alexei Ruslan: I am sure you understand.
The Escape Artist hoarsely gargles the air with a dry and ancient groan of bemoaned annoyance. He calmly pulls a J out of his pants and lights it up.
Rezin: …lemme show ya something, pal. See this?
Rezin holds up his left arm, pointing at the nondescript black sickle tattooed there.
Rezin: THIS here is proof of my devotion to the CAUSE, comrade! Thankfully, ya ain’t seen who’s got the Hammer… but I show it to ya now to show ya that I’ve been fightin’ for that Cause from the very beginnin’ of my career!
Rezin is a good foot shorter than the towering Stanislav, but is nevertheless defiant in glaring UP at the Russian giant and breathing dopesmoke into his face. Stanislav pulls his head back in a recoil as he growls with discomfort, huffing loudly as he tries to prevent the smoke from sucking up into his nostrils.
Rezin: But ya know, from the perspective of a real member of the proletariat, out there fightin’ the real fight, it sometimes feels as though the people who think they’re callin’ the shots have forgotten ‘bout the people they claim to serve. The people caught up in that struggle of existence…
The Escape Artist bares his teeth into a threatening snarl. Clearly, this goat still has its horns.
Rezin: And ya don’t know SHIT about MY struggle, Prapor-SHIT! Until a few weeks ago, ya probably NEVER EVEN HEARD MY GODDAMB NAME! And now ya presume to tell a crazy, chaos-worshippin’ muthafugga like ME to just up and TAKE THE FALL?!
Rezin snorts and heads for the door back into the arena. The face of Stanislav is as angry red as the Soviet flag.
Rezin: To quote a famous American socialist… “Fuck you… I won’t do what ya tell me!”
With a salute, Rezin disappears back into the building. Ruslan frowns and moves to stand next to Stanislav, who simply watches him go.
Alexei Ruslan: The man is disturbed, Ivan. Whatever great communist ideology that gave him that sickle has long rotted away in his drug-addled brain.
Yet Stanislav, with an angry frown still across his face which still radiates redness, shakes his head.
Ivan Stanislav: Nyet. There is more to this man than one lets on. Nevertheless, if HE will not do it our way?
Ivan scoffs and looks down at Alexei.
Ivan Stanislav: Then WE do it our way.
Ruslan rubs his hands together and grins maniacally in this strange juxtaposition of a faux Simon Tillier and himself.
Alexei Ruslan: This is best news I have heard all evening, Praporshchik.
ENJOY THE SHOW
The smiling face of PRIME’s head interview greets us in the Argyle position, microphone in hand, receiving a pop in the background usually reserved for PRIME’s more tenured athletes.
To her right? The Universal Champ. The Event Horizon. Ring gear? On. ‘Stache? On point. Universal Title belt? Gleaming
Hayes Hanlon is here to party.
Angelica Brooks: As ReVival 22 nears its end, I’m happy to catch a moment with your Universal Champion, Home Run Hayes! A big night to kick off your campaign in 2023!
Hayes Hanlon: Understatement of the year, Angelica! Orlando is absolutely buzzing!
A pop from the Orlando crowd in the background as Angelica continues.
Angelica Brooks: Months ago, after carrying the Five Star Title since your victory at Culture Shock, Rezin spoiled the party at Great American Nightmare. Have you found yourself thinking back to that night?
Hayes Hanlon: I’ve been thinking about since the moment the bell rang, Angie. Even now that I have the big belt.
He pats the Uni belt a couple of times.
Angelica Brooks: Any trepidation before you square back up with the Escape Artist?
Hayes Hanlon: Not a bit. I’ve been itching for this one for months.
Hayes starts shifting foot to foot, eyes narrowing and eyebrows furrowing. Angie, ever the professional, makes moves to finish the quick interview.
Angelica Brooks: Any words for Rezin before you walk through the curtain.
Hayes Hanlon: Enjoy the show.
With that, The Champ walks forward toward the apron, and toward the thousands of rumbling fans.Angelica Brooks: Nick? Richard? Back to you!
COMMERCIAL: CULTURE SHOCK 2023
UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP: HAYES HANLON (c) VS. REZIN
Ominous air sirens accompany the customary dimming of house lights, pitching the Amway Center into darkness.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… the following contest is for the PRIME UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP…
A montage of black and white file footage of atomic weapon tests plays across the PRIMEview.
Vince Howard: Introducing first, the challenger… hailing from the Inverted Crossroads of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, and weighing in at two-hundred and five pounds…
The drums and bass introducing “I Have a Prepare Statement” by Whorse. kicks in with such a heaviness that it overpowers the house subs and brings the arena to a stomping rumble. White lights pulse in the smoke-filled entry-way on the downbeat, like the steady thump of a heartbeat.
Vince Howard: He is the ESCAPE ARTIST… the GOAT BASTARD… the self-proclaimed HERALD of the A-PUNK-ALYPSE…
Through the curtain, a crooked human figure emerges, though they remain obscured within the mist. They come to a halt at the top of the rampway and assume a Christ pose, just as Howard’s powerful voice booms the name over the public address system.
Vince Howard: RRRRRREEEEEEZZZZZZIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN!!!
REZIN on the stage, arms extended at his sides, head tilted back so that his nefariously grinning face may defiantly curse the heavens above.
A row of BLAZING PILLARS burst up on the stage behind Hell’s Favorite Hoosier in perfect sequence with the guitar’s buzzsaw-like riff joining the musical ensemble. The stage lights hit just as hard.
LET’S SEE HOW LOW I CAN GOOO!!
I’M GONNA SINK THIS SHIP DOWN! DOWN! DOWWNN!!
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOOOWS!!
STAND BACK! WATCH ME DROWN! DROWN! DROWWNN!!
The Escape Artist remains in place to soak in the roaring reaction of the crowd, looking from one corner of the Amway Center to the other with burning down a spliff clenched in the corner of his crooked mouth. He has his admirers out there in the crowd, but it’s no secret as to what side the PRIMEates are on tonight. A sick and sadistic grin peers through his beard just before taking the first steps down the ramp.
I’VE SEEN ALL I WANNA BE NOW! I’VE LISTENED TO THE LIES!
LORD I’M READY TO TAKE MY PLACE SMEARED OUT AGAINST THE SKY!
Lights along the aisle strobe through his voyage to the ring, giving the effect of the Goat Bastard juking forward in stop motion.
UNTOUCHED BY HUMAN LANGUAGE! UNSEEN BY PRYING EYES!
SAIL OUT INTO THE DARKNESS! I’M FINALLY ALIIIVE!!
At ringside, Rezin walks a slow and calculated circuit around the squared circle. The fans occupying the ringside seats are savagely deriding him with every pronounced step. Coming full circle, he hops to the apron and takes a beat to hang off the ropes and leer into the ringside camera at an angle that presents him too close for comfort.
LET’S SEE HOW LOW I CAN GOOO!!
I’M GONNA SINK THIS SHIP DOWN! DOWN! DOWWNN!!
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOOOWS!!
STAND BACK! WATCH ME DROWN! DROWN! DROWWNN!!
Stepping through the ropes, Rezin,scales a turnbuckle and roars into the jeering crowd with his arms outstretched.
Nick Stuart: The wrestling embodiment of raw, animalistic fury? Or just some deranged transient with idiot luck?
Richard Parker: A bit of column A, a bit of column B?
Nick Stuart: None may ever truly grasp the enigma that is the self-proclaimed “Escape Artist”, but few can deny the astounding impact made by the Goat Bastard in his first year in PRIME. A competitor who has proven that for all his filth and frivolity, he is nevertheless formidable between the ropes. So formidable, that he has earned the right to compete for the Universal Championship of PRIME here tonight.
Richard Parker: I’m not sure I’d trust this guy with the belt, Nick. He’s definitely the type who would fence it for a brick of grass and a box of thin mints.
As the music cuts, Rezin takes to his corner and gets into a kneeling position.
The PRIME*View lights up. We’re in SPAAAACE. And what’s that? Oh, that’s just a black hole, looming large while we pass by nebulas and planets and stars. No big deal. Our view of SPAAAACE starts to shake, like we’re about to come in for a crash landing.
Orlando? Brace yourselves.
“WHEN MY BACK’S TO THE WALL!”
The Event Horizon is here.
Planets and stars explode behind him as he marches out to the ring, never stopping, which is just as well because the music shreds so loud that just the sound of it would rip weaker planets than ours to shreds. The Universal Championship gleams over his shoulder as he stomps his way to the ring, black boots thumping on the ramp. Not that you could hear the sound that makes over the music or the raucous crowd.
“I SEE THE MOUNTAIN AHEAD, I FEEL THE THUNDER ROAR!
I FEEL THE FURY WITHIN, BUT LOUDER THAN BEFORE!”
His head is held high, chest out. He’d passed the first test at ReVival 21 simply taking in his glory without worry or stress, regardless of what Stanislav could do to spoil the moment. Tonight is his next test. Defeat a demon from his past to prove that he belongs here.
Vince Howard: HIS OPPONENT! FROM WEST LINN, OREGON! HE WEIGHS IN AT TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE POUNDS!
Hanlon hits the apron, and immediately makes his way to the turnbuckle. He never takes his eyes off of his challenger the entire time he does this. He’s learned ages ago to never take your eyes off of the Goat Bastard, especially in high stakes situations such as this.
Vince Howard: HE IS THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION… HAAAAAAAAAAAYESSSS! HAAAAAAAAANLOOOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!
Hanlon climbs up and puts his thumb to his throat, and while keeping his head looking squarely at Rezin, he times the throat-cutting gesture with the chorus of We Came As Romans’ “Daggers”.
“DRAW! THE! DAGGER!
CUT OUT THE PAIN! TO FIND THE POWER!”
Hanlon drops down and goes to the next turnbuckle to do the same thing.
“DRAW! THE! DAGGER!
CUT OUT THE PAIN!”
Nick Stuart: HERE HE IS, RICH! THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION! HOME RUN HAYES IS HERE!
Richard Parker: WHAT? I CAN’T EVEN HEAR YOU, NICK! SPEAK UP!
Even when the music fades, the crowd is raucous and buzzing for the upcoming contest. Maybe there’s a small contingent of fans who’re chanting for Rezin. The punk rock fans. But one man was the overwhelming favorite.
HOME RUN HAYES!
HOME RUN HAYES!
HOME RUN HAYES!
Hanlon turns to referee Timo Bolamba and, after a moment’s hesitation, takes the Universal title belt and hands it off to him. Bolamba turns to show Rezin the belt, but Rezin barely pays any attention to it. He’s staring daggers (no pun intended) at his opponent. His nemesis.
The champion and challenger stand across from one another.
Timo holds up the Universal championship in the center of the ring for everyone to see.
This is what it’s all about.
On one side, it’s the Escape Artist. The Goat Bastard. The Dopesmoker. No one in PRIME has vexed the Universal Champion more than Rezin has. Whether it’s stealing the 5-Star Championship from him, or then actually claiming ownership of that belt from him, or obnoxiously eating popcorn next to his ear… Rezin has done everything in his power to be Hayes Hanlon’s nemesis. The Goat Bastard isn’t in this for your glories. Your wins. Your losses. He is here for no other reason than to burn down everything in his wake.
It just so happens that the finest kindling in all of professional wrestling is the PRIME Universal Championship.
On the other side, it’s the Event Horizon. The eGG Beater. Home Run Hayes. No one in PRIME since the ReVival era had his stock rise higher than Hayes Hanlon, the reigning and defending Universal Champion. Whether it was becoming the first 5-Star Champion of the ReVival era, or bringing down Ivan Stanislav, or ending the COOL reign of Cancer Jiles… Hayes Hanlon has done everything in his power to be the man of PRIME Wrestling. Hayes Hanlon is riding on cloud nine, the top champion of the very promotion he grew up loving.
He will do what it takes to stay on the mountaintop, even if it means exorcizing the very goat demon that set him on his course to Colossus.
Only one man can be the Universal Champion.
Who will it be?
DING DING DING
Rezin gives not a single fuck about collar-and-elbow tie-ups or fireman’s carry takeovers. Remember, he’s here to burn the place down. So the moment the bell rings, Rezin races across the ring like Hanlon owes him money, leaps upon him, and starts unloading on him with rights and lefts. It doesn’t matter that Hanlon pivots and sends Rezin into the turnbuckles. Rezin’s swinging anyway.
Nick Stuart: Rezin doesn’t want to feel this one out, folks! He’s going right for the champion!
Richard Parker: I don’t know how wise this is!
Indeed, Hayes endured the barrage long enough to grab hold of Rezin. Rezin only stops punching a second before he realizes what Hanlon’s about to do to him. With a shout, Hayes flings Rezin halfway across the ring. Rezin lands, flops like a fish several times, and manages to fall out of the ring.
Hanlon isn’t even bothered by the display. He immediately slides out of the ring on the other side, gets a head of steam, and starts running around the ring. Fans in the arena making a sport out of how long they can hold the letter “O” as Hanlon comes around the corner, and then he barrels straight into Rezin with a vicious clothesline that sends Rezin onto his stomach – after getting turned head over heels first, of course.
Hanlon pumps up both fists and roars at the air. Feeling good.
He collects Rezin from the canvas and throws him back into the ring, then follows after him. Rezin is crawling to the corner, looking for some sort of escape from the champion. By the time Hayes reaches him, the Escape Artist has grabbed hold of the bottom rope and pulls himself out of the ring.
Nick Stuart: The Escape Artist looking to escape early here…
Richard Parker: Please don’t make a habit of saying lines like that. I have a “one lame Nick Stuart-ism” per match clause in my contract and we’ve already met it.
Rezin staggers a little as he lands on his feet back out onto the floor. He looks up to see Hanlon coming after him, and does the only reasonable thing he can do.
Rezin isn’t a coward. Not really. Just because he draws tapestries in the paint of escapes doesn’t mean that he’s looking to avoid harm. That’s not punk rock. No, once Rezin turns the corner, he slides underneath the bottom rope and gets up running. Hanlon is in hot pursuit, so when he re-enters the ring, he’s faced with a Rezin bouncing back to meet him.
Rezin hits him with a running forearm on the way back. Hanlon gives maybe a foot, turned away. Then he turns to face the Goat Bastard, who promptly hits him with another forearm. Then another. Then two more. It’s raining forearms, hallelujah! Unfortunately, Hanlon has the look of a man who brought his sturdiest umbrella for such a downpour, and he slowly turns to face Rezin after he’d finished his barrage.
Rezin realizes his mistake as Hanlon squares up, daring Rezin to take another shot.
Trying to fight Hayes Hanlon normally just isn’t in his school of thought. No, Rezin’s school of thought is the University of Fuck It. So Hayes stands there daring Rezin to strike him. The Goat Bastard rears back with another forearm… and then stops short and thumbs Hanlon right in the eye.
Nick Stuart: Thumb to the eyes from Rezin!
Richard Parker: Say what you will about that goat, he knows how to find openings like that. And, well, shame on Hanlon for leaving that door wide open and putting a neon sign over his face that said “poke me here!”
Rezin is quick to push Hanlon into the corner. Once he’s there, he hooks his foot around Hanlon’s leg and trips him up into a seated position in the corner, and then starts stomping away on the champion’s face. After a handful of stomps, Rezin presses the flat of his boot against Hayes’ face and tries to push him out of the ring through the ropes. All the while, senior referee Timo Bolamba exercises his five count.
Rezin breaks at four, and briefly gets in the face of Timo. Once he’d made his point crystal clear, he turned away to pull Hanlon out of the corner. Another hard forearm shot knocks Hanlon back into the turnbuckles, allowing Rezin to grasp the wrist and try to whip Hayes across the ring to the other turnbuckles. Hanlon won’t budge. Rezin tries again, but Hanlon rips him back and sends him into the turnbuckles behind him. Hanlon turns and hits him with a right hand that sends Rezin’s feet flying out from under him, and it’s only by the grace over the very turnbuckles he’s leaning against that he’s still somewhat vertical.
Nick Stuart: HUGE right hand from Hanlon!
Richard Parker: Oh no! Get out of there, Rezin! Flee! Escape while you can! Hanlon’s gonna start a-hammerin’!
Hanlon takes his turn grabbing Rezin by the wrist and trying to whip him into the turnbuckles. Rezin grabs the ropes to keep himself from this, so Hanlon steps in and grabs him by the beard instead.
Richard Parker: Not the beard! Think of all the birds that live in there!
With the powers of professional wrestling behind him, Hanlon sends a wide-eyed Rezin across the ring. Rezin hits the turnbuckles in a tumble, flipping up, and landing seated on the top rope for a moment. Then he falls backwards and almost lands on his face back in the ring.
Hanlon, behind him, starts kicking some imaginary dirt on his side of the ring. He looks to some part of the arena, and points towards it. Then he holds his hands up like he’s a batter awaiting a pitch. As he waits for Rezin to get up, he rolls his shoulders like he’s holding an imaginary bat. When Rezin finally gets up, he looks around dimly before he stops and freezes.
Something’s not right.
Did he leave the oven on?
He turns to see why the crowd is buzzing with anticipation, and…
DUH NUH NUH NAH…. NAH NAH!
Yes. The crowd actually chant the baseball chime as Hanlon uncorks a massive double axe-handle all across Rezin’s face. Of course they do. Rezin flies off of his feet like he’s a literal baseball, bouncing off of the canvas and briefly getting tangled in the ropes before he once again falls to the outside.
Nick Stuart: Things are going very badly for the challenger right now, Rich!
Richard Parker: Well, they do call him Home Run Hayes, but… did they have to do the baseball sound?
Hanlon slides out of the ring and starts to trot around the ring. Because man, Home Run Hayes just did it again! As he does, the crowd gets into it
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME!
TAKE ME OUT WITH THE CROWD!
Hanlon grins a mighty grin as he reaches home and jumps back onto the apron. He turns to the crowd, lifting his arms several times to pump them up some more.
And that’s his bad.
Because Rezin’s not sleeping the sleep of the knocked unconscious like he thought.
That’s the sound an enzuigiri makes when it makes contact with a skull. Hanlon’s expression goes from grin to grimace in an instant and he falls off of the apron and to the floor.
Richard Parker: Too much showboating from the champion!
Nick Stuart: On that, I agree with you, Rich. Hayes Hanlon has to know better to take his eyes off of the Escape Artist!
Rezin adjusts his bearded jaw, a hint of blood escapes from his lips. He looks down at the fallen Hanlon with scorn within the relative safety of the inside of the ring. Rezin looks around, realizing how much two words of his situation make him feel revulsion.
“Relative safety”? Fuck that, that ain’t punk rock.
He sprints off into the opposite ropes, and comes back just as Hanlon gets up dazed. Like a bullet, Rezin’s body tears its way between the ropes and drives Hanlon into the barricade.
Nick Stuart: SUICIDE DIVE FROM REZIN!
Rezin himself gains so much momentum from the dive that he flies into the laps of people in the front row, who scatter like dust in his wake. Rezin, as Rezilient as ever, pops up from behind the barricade as though everything is fine. His initial stagger as he takes one step forward says otherwise, but the Goat Bastard steadies himself and grabs Hanlon by the head before dropping down to jack his jaw against the barricade.
He stops to raise his arms into the air, and is showered by boos (with a pocket of cheering). He pays them no mind. Here to burn the place down, remember? Rezin hops over the barricade and is all over Hayes with a few punches, before whipping him into the nearby steel stairs.
Hayes hits the stairs with his legs and flies over them in a tumbling flip, landing on his back some distance away. Rezin turns to Timo, who’s making a count, and recognizes the need to break up the ten count. So he slithers into the ring before making his way right back out of the ring again nearer to where Hayes is trying to recover. Timo’s not happy about it, but he’s powerless to stop the Goat Bastard from getting onto the apron.
He stands with his back to Hayes, waiting for him to get up. He faces Timo, who’s starting up another ten count, and he smirks. He jumps up onto the second rope, and then springboards off of it. His arms outstretched, flying majestically through the air in the way that said “fuck physics forever”. Also, he’s flipping the bird towards Hanlon all the way down.
Nick Stuart: ASAI REZINSAULT!
Rezin lands square on Hayes’ shoulder and bowls him over, and the momentum causes Rezin to land in a back roll, which he uses to smoothly land on his feet. The crowd is buzzing from the move. Plenty are impressed by Rezin for being agile enough to maintain such a perfect Rezinsault while flipping so many birds. Most start booing when Rezin starts raking his bootlaces on Hanlon’s face and clobbering him with more punches.
Timo’s count intensifies.
Nick Stuart: Rezin can’t risk getting either one of them counted out here. He can’t win the title on a countout!
Richard Parker: Well, that just wouldn’t be punk rock!
Nick Stuart: Since when did you become an authority on punk rock?
Richard Parker: Look, sometimes, a man may or may not pass you an unidentifiable paper bag at an underpass somewhere in Vegas, and you may or may not have enjoyed the contents of said unidentifiable paper bag despite everyone telling you that it’s “a bad idea, man, don’t do it”. Anyway, the point is that I know from prior experience that I legally can’t talk about that sound has a color. And that, my friend, is punk rock.
Rezin realizes in the middle of whatever the fuck Richard is talking about that he needs to get Hanlon back into the ring. He pulls Hanlon to the ring and tosses him back in, and then hops up to the apron and climbs to the top rope. Hanlon is in a daze, and doesn’t see Rezin until he’s already planting both feet of a missile dropkick right to his chest. Hanlon goes down and Rezin scrambles for the cover.
It only gets two.
Rezin goes back on the attack, stomping away at the champion’s head. Hanlon manages to get up into a sitting position, but that lets Rezin take a couple of steps back, and then…
That’s the sound Rezin’s shin makes when it kicks Hanlon square in the chest, soccer-style. Rezin recovers smoothly from the kick, and then pivots to put his back to the fallen Hanlon.
Nick Stuart: STANDING REZINSAULT! Into the cover!
Once again, Timo’s hand only hits the mat twice before Hanlon gets the shoulder up. Rezin stands and stares dagger at Timo, but chooses to continue his assault on the champion. He batters him in the face with a few more forearms and by a “few more”, I mean “a metric shit-ton”. It gets to the point that Timo needs to make a five count to get Rezin off of the champion.
Rezin gets up at four, because “four” in Japanese can also mean “death”, and that’s punk ro– actually, no, that’s not punk rock. That’s heavy metal. Different genres of music. More consideration is required on the nature of punk rock.
Rezin pulls Hanlon to his feet. Hanlon is in a bleary-eyed daze. A cut has formed on his left brow. A mouse lined his right. Rezin’s hot and heavy barrage had done a number on the champion. Now the Goat Bastard was picking Hanlon up onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. He strains under the weight of the champion, but he keeps himself centered long enough to roll forward with a steamroller!
Landing on his feet after slamming Hanlon down, Rezin quickly jumps up onto the second rope, then makes a leap to the top rope.
Witness the Rezin, flying majestic through the air. Soaring high, treading where angels of anarchy dwell and set fires. The mighty Rezinsault has taken him far over the last twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s taken him this close to the Universal title. And yet, he notices something as he’s upside-down.
Hanlon’s not there.
Nick Stuart: REZINSAULT! NO! Hanlon’s moved!
But Rezin uses his lifetime of experience in performing Rezinsaults to land on his feet like a cat. A cat that, unfortunately, can’t halt all of his momentum and is forced to roll backwards upon landing to regain his footing. It’s a minor thing. It’s still a safe landing.
But, as we’ve established, “safe” isn’t punk rock.
And it gives Hanlon time to recover.
Rezin charges in on Hanlon as he works to regain his advantage. He tries to hit him with a running forearm to pound him into the corner, but Hanlon ducks under it and backdrops Rezin over the top and to the apron. We’ve established, however, that Rezin can be pretty cat-like for a man who styles himself after a goat. Maybe he’s one of those mountain goats. Either way, Rezin punches Hanlon in the back of the head, staggering him away from the corner, and goes to climb up to the top rope.
Rezin leaps off as Hanlon turns to face him, aiming for a hurricanrana. He lands on Hanlon’s shoulders and then rips backwards. He braces himself for how he’s going to land once he completes the motion.
Nick Stuart: Hurricanrana from Rezin!
But Hanlon holds on.
Richard Parker: CAUGHT! HE CAUGHT HIM!
Rezin goes wide-eyed with panic, as Hanlon tries to force him back up. Hanlon manages to muscle him up into a powerbomb position, but Rezin pounds on his head from his seated position. It’s enough to make Hanlon lose grip, and for Rezin to land on his feet in front of the Event Horizon. He hits Hanlon with another set of forearms, and then…
A monstrous headbutt from Hanlon sends Rezin off of his feet and into a backwards tumble, ragdolling all the way into the ropes.
Hanlon stands there for a moment, wobbling. There’s a bit of a stagger in his step. He holds up a finger, like he’s asking everyone to give him a moment… and then he slowly falls over and lands on his back.
Nick Stuart: What a WICKED headbutt from Hayes! I don’t think Rezin expected that one! Both men are down!
Timo is forced to start counting, and it isn’t until he gets to the count of six that either man stirs. Rezin gets up with the copious assistance of the ropes, while Hanlon’s forced to stand up under his own power. It’s because of this that Rezin staggers right into a crouched Hanlon… who scoops him up into a fireman’s carry. Before Rezin even realizes what’s about to happen, he’s brought down to earth (or canvas, as the case may be).
Nick Stuart: DEATH VALLdEY DRIVER!
Rezin bounces up in a seated position for a few brief moments. Then he falls backwards onto his back.
Hanlon gets to his feet, and the crowd cheers wildly as he pulls Rezin up. He smashes him with a right hand. The crowd goes “BOOM!” as it lands. Then again. “BOOM!” One more for good measure. “BOOM!”
Then Hanlon whirls his arm around to build up momentum, if momentum worked as it does in the Popeye Cinematic Universe. When he’s all charged up, he goes for the haymaker.
Rezin thumbs him right in the eyes for it.
Nick Stuart: Another thumb to the eye from Rezin!
Richard Parker: Brilliant! I knew there was a brain somewhere in that miasma of mushrooms that is Rezin’s head!
Rezin pushes Hanlon into the ropes, and tries to Irish whip him into the opposite side. Hanlon’s size lets him reverse and send Rezin instead. Hanlon is still trying to clear his vision, and he can’t hit Rezin with the clothesline after he ducks. Rezin hits the ropes by jumping onto the second rope, and springboards backwards for a cutter on Hanlon.
Hanlon, though, lowers his center of gravity before Rezin can complete the cutter. The end result is that the Goat Bastard suddenly finds himself in the clutches of Hanlon. A waistlock. Rezin realizes the inherent danger and releases the cutter so he can try to grasp the ropes. He’s maybe a foot away before Hanlon lifts him a foot off of the ground. Rezin goes wide-eyed. He tries to hit Hanlon with a back elbow. It’s but a glancing blow. He can’t escape as Hanlon drops backwards with the German suplex.
Rezin hits the canvas, bounces up to his feet, only to fall back almost comically into the turnbuckles. He’s only held aloft with his arms spread across the top ropes. Hanlon is on one knee across the ring from him, catching his breath. Timo stands in the center, his head moving back and forth watching the two competitors.
Nick Stuart: Rezin is in the corner now, an– wait, what is… oh. Oh no.
Richard Parker: Oh, now things are going to get real interesting!
The crowd’s attention is taken away from the action and to the entryway, as Ivan Stanislav lumbers out from backstage with Alexei Ruslan in tow. Stanislav stomps purposefully down the ramp, taking long, quickened strides towards the ring. He points up at the ring and bellows in Russian towards Rezin and Hanlon.
Nick Stuart: On ReVival 21, Ivan won his match against Cancer Jiles, and he’s got a title shot banked for down the line. It seems like he has an interest in whoever the winner’s going to be!
Richard Parker: Well, that makes sense. Some guys need to be real close to appreciate the action. You can’t blame him.
Nick Stuart: I still blame him.
Richard Parker: Wait, why?
Nick Stuart: Did you forget that he tried to kill me?
Richard Parker: You’re still on about that? That was months ago, Nick! We’ve all grown as people since then.
Rezin is unaware of the Russian Bear’s presence. The Goat Bastard moves to leave the corner and find his footing, only for Ivan to reach under the rope and wrap a meaty arm around his ankle. With a careless motion, Ivan trips up Rezin blatantly, right in front of referee Timo Bolamba. Almost as soon as Rezin faceplants on the canvas, he climbs up to the apron and is met by Timo.
Timo Bolamba: Ivan, what are you doing!? Get off the apron!
Ivan Stanislav: Disqualify Hanlon! I have interfered on his behalf!
Nick Stuart: Wait, is… is Ivan trying to get Hayes disqualified?
Richard Parker: It’s perfect! Genius! If Timo disqualifies Hanlon for this heinous act, then he loses, but he keeps the title! Ivan will still face him, but with way less momentum!
Ivan bullies his way into the ring as he steps over the top rope. Timo continues to chastise him, clearly aware of these sorts of tactics from the old Russian. Rezin pulls himself back up to his feet like he’s being pulled along by marionette strings, and he shoves Ivan from behind just as he gets to the center of the ring. The Russian Bear whirls around and points a finger in his direction.
Ivan Stanislav: You should have done things MY way!
Timo tries to get between the two, still refusing to disqualify Hanlon. Rezin hits Ivan with an open palm chop across his chest.
Nick Stuart: Rezin is not intimidated by Ivan at all!
This just annoys Ivan, who rears back with his meaty fist, about to really get that disqualification going on… but he’s stopped when his arm is hooked, and he’s spun around.
Richard Parker: Look out, comrade!
Stanislav turns, perhaps thinking to stare in the face of Timo. Instead, it’s Hayes Hanlon’s fist nailing him directly in the jaw. Ivan’s head snaps back from the sheer velocity.
Nick Stuart: No!
Momentum from the surprise hit pushes Ivan into the corner… where Rezin still is. Rezin finds himself crushed between the turnbuckles and a four hundred pound Russian as Hanlon unloads on Ivan with rights and lefts, peppering him across the chest and body. Stanislav takes it for some time before he roars and pushes him away, only for Hanlon to immediately roll back to his feet and charge him with more blows. Several of them hit Ivan in the head in addition to the chest and body shots. By the way, Rezin’s still under there. Hang in there, buddy, it’s punk rock to endure all of this.
Amidst the chaos, though, Ruslan slides into the far side of the ring, producing his collapsible baton.
Nick Stuart: Get these two out of the ring! This is a Universal title match, not a three-ring circus!
That’s the sound a collapsible baton makes when it hits a Universal champion in the back. Hanlon falls into Ivan’s arms, who is still half-crushing Rezin in the corner. It’s a double-decker meat sandwich up in there. Ruslan cackles and exits the ring, quickly hiding his weapon underneath his coat. Meanwhile, Timo, who curiously hasn’t called a disqualification yet, barks at Ivan again.
Timo Bolamba: Get out of the ring, Ivan! Now!
Ivan holds Hayes in his arms as he pushes out of the corner, twists, and launches Hayes out over the top rope. Hanlon sails lazily through the air, as though launched by trebuchet (at least, one constructed in Russia) and he lands on the entry ramp.
Rezin, for his part, takes one step forward as though he’s going to continue his disagreement with Ivan. His second step ends with him face-planting on the canvas. Ivan dusts off his hands – filthy American detritus – and nods his assent to Timo. He leaves the ring.
Nick Stuart: I… ladies and gentleman, Hayes Hanlon is not a small man, but in the arms of Ivan Stanislav, he might as well have been one! That’s a 250 pound man he just sent into orbit!
Richard Parker: That’s how Russia wins the space race, Nick! Hayes has been ducking Ivan for months! Ivan can only take so much, he’s a sweet, sweet Russian boy who’s listening to the rules right now!
Ivan happens to exit the ring right where Hanlon is writhing on the ground.
Nick Stuart: Why hasn’t Timo called for a disqualification?
Richard Parker: Because this is a Universal title match! He wants to see a legitimate winner just as much as anyone!
Nick Stuart: Is there even anything left of champion or challenger after Ivan barged his way into this match!?
Ivan watches as Hanlon tries to crawl his way back to the ring. He ultimately decides to walk over and grab him by the hair, pulling him to his feet before yeeting him from the ramp to the edge of the ring. Hanlon lands with a meaty thud and nearly slides under the ring from the momentum.
Ivan lets out that old familiar laugh.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!
In the company of Ruslan, Ivan doesn’t actually leave the ringside area. Instead, he walks contemptuously past the fallen Hanlon and around the side of the ring.
Nick Stuart: Oh, God, he’s coming this way.
Richard Parker: Cool, maybe we can share styling tips on how to best wear suspenders. Been thinking about it lately, my pants have been real loose lately.
Ivan doesn’t stop at commentary. Instead, Alexei reaches underneath the ring to pull out a pair of steel chairs. One of them is normal. The other is much more appropriate for a man the size of Ivan.
All the while, there’s still a match, even if both of its participants are down. Timo has little choice but to start a ten count for Hanlon, still down outside of the ring. Because even if there was blatant Ivan-based outside interference, this match must continue.
Nick Stuart: After all of that, Rezin could still win by countout!
Richard Parker: Hey, that still fits within Ivan’s grand plan! Hayes keeps the title in a countout, but since that’s the coward’s way to lose a match, Ivan will definitely win based on strength of character.
Nick Stuart: That is not how this works, Richard!
By the count of five, Rezin realizes what’s happening. Winning by countout is absolutely not punk rock. That’s not any kind of rock. Especially not this match when he has such a golden opportunity to stick it to Hayes Hanlon one more time. So, Rezin rolls under the bottom ropes and pulls Hayes to his feet. He pushes him back into the ring with considerable effort, and then hops back up onto the apron.
Nick Stuart: Rezin has a golden opportunity here! Hayes Hanlon is in a lot of trouble thanks to certain people that I won’t name!
Richard Parker: That’s a terrible thing to say about Vince Howard, Nick. He didn’t do anything wrong.
Rezin might want to burn down PRIME, but he would rather do it on his terms. He doesn’t go for the cover on Hanlon right away, and instead pulls Hayes to his feet and pushes him into the corner. Rezin’s spent by now. The match has taken a lot out of him. He struggles to get to the top rope, but he gets there and lands a hurricanrana, taking Hanlon to the center of the ring. Rezin scrambles over for the cover.
Somehow, Hanlon gets his shoulder up. Ivan hasn’t killed him yet, and neither has Rezin. Rezin pulls on what’s left of the hair on his head, a wild look in his eye. He steps back and starts measuring Hanlon. When Hanlon gets to his feet, wobbly and dazed, Rezin spins for the Cloven Hoof Kick.
But Hanlon stops it, catching Rezin’s foot with his hands. There’s a few brief moments where Rezin, hopping up and down on one foot, tries to do everything he can to think of a way to escape his current situation. It doesn’t matter. Hanlon shoves Rezin’s foot down, putting him off-balance just enough that when Hanlon lands a bone-rattling lariat, Rezin has little choice but to take it.
Rezin flips, of course. That’s just how he takes those.
Nick Stuart: WHAT A LARIAT FROM HANLON!
Richard Parker: Oh no! Is his beard okay!?
Both men are down again. It takes until Timo counts to five before Hanlon’s the first to stir. He’s weary. Sure, Ivan treating him like a shot-put has done significant damage to the Universal champion, but Rezin’s sheer tenacity is what’s sapping his strength now. Still, he’s a champion. He’s the champion. The stars would fall from the sky before he would let Rezin beat him for another championship.
Hanlon grabs Rezin and puts him in a standing headscissors. With a quick, fluid motion, he shakes the goddamn ring with a massive powerbomb.
Nick Stuart: POWERBOMB!
Rezin is folded like an accordion upon impact, if accordions are forged in hell and capable of punk rock. So, not really an accordion. Anyway, Hanlon stacks up on Rezin and goes for the pin.
Somehow, Rezin muscles up a shoulder despite Hanlon’s size advantage. Hanlon’s starting to get fired up again, though. He throws out both arms to his side, slowly reaching towards the sky, like he’s absorbing the arena’s energy. The crowd picks up on this, and their volume rises knowing what’s coming. Rezin gets to his feet and Hanlon throws him into the ropes.
While he might act on his impulses and his desire for fire and anarchy, Rezin’s no fool.
He knows the Epoch is coming.
So he grabs the ropes as he hits them to halt his momentum. Hanlon realizes that he’s been denied the Epoch, and moves to intercept Rezin. Rezin catches him with a back elbow as he comes in. Then he charges in, and…
Nick Stuart: FLASH POINT!
Richard Parker: Outta nowhere!
Rezin sells the sudden jumping sitout jawbreaker by popping up two feet into the air upon impact and landing on the canvas, convulsing and holding his jaw like he’d been shot. Hanlon shoots into the cover, hoping to take it right here and now.
Richard Parker: HAND ON THE ROPES!
Nick Stuart: The Escape Artist escapes certain defeat once again!
Hanlon can’t believe it. But the Epoch is still an option. He raises his arms up again, the crowd cheering for him as he prepares for the challenger. Rezin is spaghetti-legged as Hanlon’s calling for his second attempt at the Epoch. He turns around as Hanlon moves in to push him into the ropes, and…
Nick Stuart: CLOVEN HOOF KICK!
Richard Parker: By Hoyt’s beard! Xenu could’ve heard that all the way from Xavier Kannon’s space palace!
The kick lashes out so suddenly that it’s a miracle that Rezin’s body could contort that fast and still get the kick out. Hanlon falls to the canvas in a heap. Unfortunately, it’s all Rezin can do in the moment before he too falls to the canvas.
Both men are down again, exhausted.
Nick Stuart: Rezin can’t capitalize! This place is going nuts!
The crowd buzzes as Rezin is the first to his feet. He remains spaghetti-legged, moving as though he’s carrying the weight of a burning planet on his shoulders. A burning planet he’s probably responsible for setting on fire in the first place. The only way he can even remain standing is by grasping the turnbuckles to keep himself aloft.
Rezin knows he needs to send Hanlon… Into The Void.
Rezin goes to Hanlon and pulls him closer, before grasping him by the head, chin under the shoulder. A prelude to sending his enemies to the void. He succeeds in the ascent… but Hanlon holds on. He reaches up and uses his immense strength to catch Rezin and prevent his momentum from bringing him down with the maneuver. Rezin flails as he finds himself in prime position for a powerslam. He does the only thing he can do in his situation – he grabs the top turnbuckle pad that he’s close to.
It’s not enough.
Hanlon’s great strength rips Rezin – and the turnbuckle cover – clean off. He turns and he delivers a bone-crushing powerslam that almost resembles an Emerald Flowsion.
Nick Stuart: POWERSLAM!
With the move naturally putting Hanlon on top of Rezin, he makes the cover.
Rezin shoots his shoulder up, the turnbuckle cover still in his hand flying out and landing on the outside as he does so. It’s Hanlon’s turn for his eyes to go wide. He’d dodged a bullet. No. It’s better to say that he grabbed the bullet and shoved it down his would-be shooter’s throat. And yet, he still hadn’t put away Erik Black. He stands up, puts his back into the corner, and waits for him to get back to his feet. He jogs in place, trying to get his adrenaline pumping.
Then the champion rockets forward and crashes into Rezin with a HUGE lariat, sending Rezin head-over-heels and landing near the corner.
Nick Stuart: A DISASTROUS LARIAT FROM HANLON!
Richard Parker: Oh my Hoyt! Hanlon just Highlandered Rezin all over the place with that lariat!
Nick Stuart: Because there can be only one Universal champion!
Hanlon realizes that Rezin is too close to the ropes to follow up. Instead, he waits for Rezin to return to his feet. Rezin is Rezilient, of course, but even he is having trouble getting to his feet this late into the contest. He needs the ropes. The ropes are his friend. He gets up and puts his back into the corner, only to see Hanlon come charging at him.
The mistake that follows would convey a high price.
Rezin ducks under Hanlon as he charges. Hanlon’s momentum carries him into the turnbuckles… which is important, because Rezin just accidentally ripped the cover off of the turnbuckle mere moments ago. He hits the exposed corner with his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Hanlon staggers backwards.
Nick Stuart: CLOVEN HOOF KICK!
This one hits Hanlon from behind, a thunderous impact that despite all logic, leaves Hanlon still standing. A stiff breeze might take him down if one were to come. The lights are on, but Hayes Hanlon’s mind just took a vacation.
Richard Parker: Hayes Hanlon doesn’t even know which fine city of Florida he’s in anymore!
Rezin somehow remains on his feet after using the second Cloven Hoof Kick of the match. He’s tried everything to put Hayes Hanlon down, and nothing’s worked. He has no other choices left. Let PRIME burn. Let Erik Black herald its conflagration. Let Rezin send the Universal champion… into the void.
Rezin flips up and over Hanlon, and the sheer momentum of it makes the Universal champion land damn near on his head.
Nick Stuart: INTO THE VOID! Rezin just sent Hanlon straight to the void! Will this be enough!?
DING DING DING
Even Ivan Stanislav, still seated at ringside, is stunned.
The crowd who initially chanted along with the three count are left with gasps of shock and murmurs of dawning horror. There’s a few moments as Timo Bolamba retrieves the Universal championship belt from the timekeeper, passing by Ivan and Alexei who are talking to each other in Russian in puzzlement and growing rage on the former’s part. It’s only when Vince Howard makes the announcement and the belt is given to Rezin that reality is made clear.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… the winner of this match, and NEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW PRIME UNIVERSAL CHAMPION!!! REEEEEEEZZZZZZZIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN!!!
Even Rezin can’t believe what he’s seeing. He can’t even fathom what Timo is giving him. Vince Howard’s proclamation doesn’t even register.
Yet, the truth is abundantly clear: the Universal championship now belongs to him.
Nick Stuart: I… I don’t believe it…
Richard Parker: Neither can I! But lightning just struck twice!
Rezin, unwanted and reviled for his entire career, is now undeniably the man in PRIME. In a currently undisclosed location, Alexa Van Horn might be having an entire panic attack. Rezin raises his arms in celebration, championship belt firmly in his grasp. A small contingent of loyal fans cheer. The rest drown them out in a chorus of boos.
And all the while, Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan stand from their seats. They haven’t grasped the true form of what’s happened. Stanislav brings his hands up and pulls his hair as he bellows with frustration. Ruslan’s mouth is agape in shock as he looks up at his friend, and then back at the ring where Rezin is still comprehending his victory. Stanislav’s confusion turns to apoplexy as he finally realizes what’s happened.
Richard Parker: Team Russia don’t look too happy about this! Ivan really wanted his promised Universal championship match to be against Hanlon!
Nick Stuart: To be fair, do they ever look happy?
Rezin is finally beginning to understand what’s transpired, and he raises his championship belt high over his head. Stanislav and Ruslan barged into the ring once again. Hanlon is still recovering on the mat, reality having not yet dawned on him. Rezin turns to see the Russian Bear glowering at him. They stare at one another for a long moment, as the buzzing crowd begins to hush.
Nick Stuart: Is Ivan going to go after the new Universal champion, now?
The answer is… not yet. Nyet. Stanislav turns his gaze from Rezin and stalks over the fallen Hanlon instead. Rezin shrugs, raising the belt, and watches curiously. Ivan roars down at Hanlon and paintbrushes the back of his head, before he stomps him across the back. His roaring continues as though he’s actually a bear, as the crowd starts to boo louder.
Rezin isn’t a fool. He watches as Ivan and Alexei put the boots to Hanlon, who rolls over and brings up his arms to defend himself. The new champion decides that he has better places to be than this scene. He’s been through a lot, and a lot means one of the toughest fought matches of his life against one of the best in Hayes Hanlon. He turns to leave with a smirk on his face.
But he stops. Though he doesn’t mean to.
The massive paw of Ivan Stanislav is on his shoulder as he growls something in Russian. In an instant, Rezin is spun around with his hands full of the Universal Title. Stanislav rears back and drives his fist into Rezin’s stomach, doubling him over, and then snatches him up in The Red Scare and suplexes him across the ring. Rezin snaps across the ring and slams into the far turnbuckle like a pinball, and lands in a pile.
Timo runs over to Ivan and yells for him to stop. He grabs Ivan’s arm and spins him around, but The Russian Bear is having none of it.
Nick Stuart: Timo’s had enough of Ivan’s shenanigans, and quite frankly, I don’t blame him!
Richard Parker: He’s trying to restore order, but… the match is over! What order is there to enforce!? And I mean, the new Universal champion is a freakin’ self-proclaimed anarchist!
Ivan roars at Timo and shoves him with all of his might. Timo flies a short distance away from Ivan, only stopping when he hits the turnbuckles with his left shoulder and he crumples to the mat. Ruslan continues to stomp over and over again along the stomach and body of Hanlon while Ivan is distracted with Timo. The Bear points down at Timo and chastises him.
There’s trouble in Siberian paradise.
With Stanislav distracted, Hanlon has time to show signs of life despite Alexei’s stomps. With gritted teeth, Hanlon draws himself up and snatches Ruslan by the tie. Despite all of his exhaustion and the beating he’s taken, he still has more than enough to deck Alexei right between the eyes.
Alexei Ruslan’s hat goes flying off of his head from the impact. Alexei himself goes flying, landing flat on his back. Ivan’s no fool, either. He hears the crowd’s reaction, and turns to see a wobbly, weary Hayes Hanlon standing in front of him.
Nick Stuart: Look out!
Ivan’s roaring continues as he swings a right fist for Hanlon’s mustachioed face. Hanlon manages to duck, somehow, as though he’s operating solely on muscle memory. Ivan’s swing misses narrowly, and it lets Hanlon grab Ivan by his suspenders. He yanks down on them, and as Ivan is forced down, Hanlon propels himself upward.
That’s the sound it makes when the Event Horizon drives the top of his head up under Ivan’s jaw, and rocks him backward.
Nick Stuart: I can’t believe that after all he’s gone through that Hayes Hanlon has anything left, but he’s still trying to take it to Ivan Stanislav! Does anyone have as much heart and soul as this kid!?
Stanislav staggers back, shaking his head, as Hanlon rushes forward to spear the Russian Bear. Unfortunately for him, he might as well be trying to spear an iceberg. And we know what happens to things that hit icebergs. They sink. Such is the case when Stanislav brings a massive elbow down onto his back and flattens him. Despite this, Hanlon still tries to stand, but Ivan stomps down on the back of his head to make him stop moving. Ivan points down at the former champion and shouts at the booing crowd.
Ivan Stanislav: Почему он сейчас не смеется?! (Why is he not laughing now?!)
Stanislav reaches down, gripping Hayes by the back of his neck as he lifts him up. Hayes still has some fight left in him even as Ivan shakes him, but his swings are weak enough that Stanislav only laughs at him.
Ivan Stanislav: Похоже, я позаботился о своей легкой работе!! (It appears I took care of my light work!)
Nick Stuart: This… this monster is the biggest coward I’ve ever seen! He’s never alone! He bullies his way into everything!
Richard Parker: I mean… you take his music from him, you take his paydays from him, you insult his country… What did you expect?
Stanislav shakes Hayes several more times, then shrugs and drops him into the Iron Curtain. The blow knocks Hanlon nearly halfway across the ring. Stanislav laughs at the carnage and scoops up the Universal Title on the mat. He lifts it over his head and bellows, pointing at the title and then at himself. Slowly, Ruslan starts to stir and clutches his face. The Russian Bear stalks over to Hanlon and spits on his prone body. Ruslan hobbles over to Rezin and puts a few more boots into him. With the wreckage around the two Russians settling, Ivan just laughs again while holding the Universal Title over his head.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!
Pleased with his handiwork, Ivan rockets the Universal Title across the ring and into the fallen Rezin.
Then… the PRIME*VIEW comes to life.
The unthinkable has happened. A plot twist right at the beginning of “Season 2” of PRIME that no one ever saw coming. A broken former champion lies in the ring. A new champion that may just herald the end times for PRIME as we know it.
And a monstrous, seemingly unstoppable challenger awaits the new champion.