NOWHERE IS SAFE
“I hate this place. Bad stuff happens here.”
Great words to start our programming, Pax. We fade in to see two men walking from the parking lot to the arena. They are Foster Nackedy and Paxton Ray.
Foster Nackedy: San Antonio is nice. I won a title here.
Paxton Ray: We were here on vacation when Nora had a coughin’ fit at the Riverwalk. We took her home and found out about…yeah.
Foster Nackedy: We’ll get her back, Pax.
Paxton Ray: Why did we come anyway? No match. Not allowed t’ touch Nova til Culture Shock.
Foster Nackedy: I was thinking about that, actually.
They continue to walk until they reach the double doors leading into the arena.
Foster Nackedy: At Culture Shock you’ve got Nova in Falls Count Anywhere. I had a match like that years ago. The tagline was “Nowhere is Safe.” I think tonight is a good night to teach that to Nova. Nowhere is Safe. And…?
Foster claps Paxton on the shoulder.
Foster Nackedy: No one is safe.
Paxton nods with a smile, and we cut.
EDDIE CROSS vs. MUSHIGIHARA
Around the arena, we see various signs.
I BROUGHT MY KOHORT SIGN! ALSO, I MISSED REVIVAL 24, DID I MISS ANYTHING?
I SOLD LINDSAY TROY THE STEROIDS SHE SOLD MIKE MCGEE
A WIZARD IS NEVER LATE. THEY ARRIVE PRECISELY WHEN THEY INTEND TO.
I CAN’T BELIEVE KENNY FREEMAN WASN’T BOOKED AT THE FREEMAN COLISEUM
I WISH WE HAD OWLS FOR PETS
I HOPE ROXY PHOENIX GETS THE NIGHT OFF FROM DOORDASH DELIVERY TO BE IN THE CULTURE SHOCK BATTLE ROYAL
BUCEES IS BETTER THAN WAWA
NEVER PLAY CHUTES AND POWERBOMBS WITH SID PHILLIPS
KOHIME DESERVED IT
GINNY’S GOT A GUUUUUUUN!
YOUR MOM’S FAVORITE SUBMISSION FINISHER IS A NOVA SLEEP SHIRT 👚
KICK MORTY IN THE MEATBALLS
IVAN JUST GOT FINAL FANTASY 6 EXCEPT IN RUSSIA THEY CALL IT FINAL FANTASY 1
I ATTENDED CONOR FUSE’S SCHOOL OF LOCKER ROOM LEADERSHIP – CANCER JILES
REMEMBER THE ALFLAMBO
Nick Stuart: Welcome one and all to the Freeman Coliseum here in San Antonio, Texas for the 25th episode of ReVival! What a huge night of action we have in store tonight!
Richard Parker: Our main event tonight in the final ReVival before Culture Shock features two men chomping at the bit to tear each other apart, The Anglo Luchador and FLAMBERGE, but first on the docket tonight, we have the tag veteran Mushigihara, hard on the warpath in his newfound singles role, taking on the up-and-coming n1ghtcraw1er, Eddie Cross!
Nick Stuart: …how are you doing that with your voice when you say “nightcrawler”?
Richard Parker: What do you mean? He’s n1ghtcraw1er!
On cue, “Isis (ADHD)” by Joyner Lucas feat. Logic begins, and the arena lights focus on the entry as Eddie “n1ghtcraw1er” Cross steps out of the back. He adjusts his custom gaming glasses before walking down the ramp focused on the ring. He pauses at the ring steps, taking off his backpack, unzipping the main compartment, and placing it in the corner of the ring. He waits for the transition between verses before psyching himself up. Vince Howard is waiting.
Vince Howard: From Detroit, Michigan by way of Orlando, Florida, standing six feet four inches and weighing in at 225 pounds, EDDIE “N1GHTCRAW1ER” CROSS!!
Eddie folds his glasses and puts them in the corner by his backpack. He then runs up the ring steps, wipes his feet on the apron, and enters the ring.
“Godzilla” by Bear McReary featuring Serk Tankian blasts through the speakers of the Freeman Coliseum as the Kaiju methodically strides out. As the crowd continues to stomp in rhythm to the beat of the music, Mushigihara pumps up the crowd with his particular brand of Big Boy Energy before stepping through the ropes and receiving a nice pop.
Vince Howard: And his opponent, from Pearl City, Hawaii, also standing six feet four inches and weighing in at 297 pounds, THE GOD-BEAST! MUSHIIIIIIIIGIHAAAAAARAAAAAAAAA!!!
Referee Elvis Nixon signals for the bell!
The two don’t take long to measure each other before lurching forward and locking up. Mushi certainly has the size advantage, but Cross holds his own with use of excellent technique to keep upright and engaged. The collar-and-elbow gets more intense before Mushi lowers a hitch and pushes forward with supreme leverage to push Cross hard into the corner. After a few hard shots to Cross’s sternum, Mushi grabs Eddie, pivots, and hoists him across the ring with a huge Biel Throw!
Nick Stuart: Impressive feat of strength there! Eddie Cross is not a small man!
Richard Parker: I get the feeling this won’t be the prettiest match of the night, Nick!
Eddie dusts himself off after a brief moment and glares at his opponent, who is now pumping up the crowd. Like a dart, Eddie runs in and shoots low into Mushigihara’s legs, feinting a double-leg takedown. Mushi goes to club Cross’s back, but Cross scouts it and slips behind, grabs Mushi’s non-striking arm, and cinches in a standing armbar! Mushi yelps out for a moment before swinging an elbow with his free arm. Eddie ducks and uses the momentum to force Mushi to the mat. He goes for a quick cover, but Mushi first does a sort of Gorilla Press from the flat of his back and then HEAVES Eddie off his chest at the count of one, nearly bowling over Elvis Nixon!
Nick Stuart: Say what you will about the Dangerous Mix’s run here in PRIME, partner, but it’s certainly easy to see where the “Dangerous” part of the name came from!
Richard Parker: It’s always going to be a positive in wrestling when you’re pushing three bills, but he’s got that big sumo background! Domo arigato gozaimaspicy tuna mushi roll and all that!
Nick Stuart: You know that’s not right!
Both men find their way back to their feet in short order and stare each other down. The raw power of the God-Beast has certainly come through in spades, though it’s clear that Eddie has an advantage with his relative speed and his raw technical ability. Mushi moves first and throws in a few hammering elbow strikes straight into Eddie’s chest – Eddie fires back with stiff leg kicks! One kick in particular to Mushi’s right thigh causes the Kaiju to visibly wince and take a step back, and Eddie pounces immediately, dropping Mushigihara with a side Russian leg sweep! Once on the ground, Cross locks in a heel hook!
Nick Stuart: The Strafe! Eddie’s looking to wear down Mushigihara’s base of power or maybe even going for the submission victory here!
Elvis Nixon checks on the situation and Mushigihara almost laughs in Nixon’s face before Eddie wrenches in the hold a bit tighter, and the God-Beast’s face gets serious again in the face of his current predicament.
Richard Parker: Good strategy from the young gun here – almost all of Mushimushi’s offense come through when he’s upright! No standy, no fighty!
With a few mighty (and frantic) kicks with his free leg, Mushigihara is able to wriggle his way out of the submission hold and work himself the ropes, using them to get vertical. However, his back is turned to his opponent…and Eddie Cross is measuring…
Nick Stuart: OHKO – NO! How did Mushigihara duck that!!
Richard Parker: URANAGE FROM MUSHIMUSHI OUT OF FREAKING NOWHERE!!
Nick Stuart: Mushigihara got ALL of that slam!!
Eddie is flat on his back and in a daze at being caught so unexpectedly…
…but where’s the cover?
Nick Stuart: I think that earlier leg work is coming into play here, partner.
Richard Parker: No standy, no fighty!
Mushigihara is struggling to make his way over to make the cover – that Uranage took a massive burst of energy and exertion and it’s clear that to him, his right leg is now on fire. After several excruciating moments, he finally crawls on top of Eddie Cross’s chest…
Cross shoots his shoulder up and rolls away, breathing heavily and bug-eyed. After some effort, he’s able to get to his feet – and Mushi is not.
Nick Stuart: That may have been a Hail Mary attempt from the God-Be-
Before Nick can finish his thought, Cross, almost on autopilot, paces over to Mushigihara and stomps HARD on the wounded right leg over and over. After he’s satisfied, he locks one of Mushi’s ankles, then the other, into a surfboard setup….the surfboard is complete…
The Dragon Sleeper is applied…
DING DING DING!
Nick Stuart: Mushigihara taps out!
Richard Parker: GG Mushimushi!
Vince Howard: The winner of this match as a result of a submission…N1GHTCRAW1ER! EDDIE! CROSS!
After some coaxing from Elvis Nixon, Eddie finally relinquishes his finishing hold and raises his own hand in victory as his music blares throughout the arena.
Nick Stuart: Big win from the young upstart! We’ll be back with more in-ring action shortly, but first – this!
We then cut backstage.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the FLAMBOrghini. My god, is it gaudy.
After all the damage done by Nate Colton’s mass of nickels, after all the times we’ve seen the French kid brewing all the venom in the world for his opponent tonight these last weeks and months, a renegade cameraman has decided to make a name for himself by trying to recapture FLAMBERGE in the old familiar environs of Summer 2022 – alone, wearing some absurd outfit (today, a ridiculous bronze and teal suit with orange plastic sunglasses), wheeling in a travel suitcase away from his sports car in a parking lot.
FLAMBO, for his part, doesn’t see the camera at first as he’s staring angrily at his phone.
FLAMBERGE: Je n’ai pas le temps de te répondre connard.
He pockets his phone and starts making his way into the belly of the arena, when sure enough, the shaky bouncing framing we’re seeing on screen now tells us that this renegade cameraman has decided to jog up to have a chat.
FLAMBERGE: What is this TMZ bullshit? Todd, what are you doing?
The cameraman doesn’t speak (one imagines the mountain of legal red tape one must untangle to be allowed to speak on camera as PRIME tech crew). FLAMBO’s walking pace is a bit quick, but the cameraman is doing an OK job speed walking alongside.
FLAMBERGE: You want to get the scoop, no? The final fighting words the FLAMBERGE has for the Gluechador before the big match? Well listen here – come on, keep up!
FLAMBO isn’t breaking his stride for a second, even as the camera nearly gets dropped to the concrete after the cameraman trips. He’s ok and the camera is ok – we’re now back to being fixated on just the wildest hair on the roster.
FLAMBERGE: I don’t have a single fucking word more to say to Anglue. Instead, this goes out to the rest of the PRIME locker room, and you cretins can listen or not listen, I do not give the single good god damn. Tonight’s main event is un PUTAIN DE COUP DE SEMONCE.
We presume he’s locking eyes with the camera lens now, though he’s declined to lower his cheap shades to prove it.
FLAMBERGE: …the sheer litreage of the glue I must create at the Culture Shock…mon dieu…
He hesitates for a moment, then collects himself and storms off too quickly for the cameraman to keep up. We hear a sigh from behind the lens.
And we shift scenes.
WHEN THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A GREEDY FAMILY MEMBER LOOKING FOR IT
The scene cuts backstage to Simon Tiller standing next to Mortimer Knightingale (who is currently dressed in a red “Gamble Adoration Syndicate” t-shirt and his ring gear).
Simon Tiller: Mortimer Knightingale, in just a few moments you will take on Darin Zion in the semi-finals of the Alias Championship Tournament. Over the past couple of weeks, whether this match was even going to take place was questioned as there has been an online petition requesting that PRIME management fire you after your brutal assault on Kohime Mori. Would you care to comment on that?
Mortimer Knightingale: I had reasons for doin’ what I did. The fact that these fans are villifyin’ me like I’m some kinda monster is, by all astutedness, an affront to my character. There’s two sides to every story. I did what I did for reasons that may or may not be paramount in nature, and those said reasons are my own. I don’t need to justify my actions to these scumbags. Only one person deserves an explanation and, when the time comes, an explanation will come to her forthwith.
Simon Tiller: What do you say to the fans that are demanding a public apology for attacking Kohime Mori in the manner in which you did?
Mortimer Knightingale: They can all go to their local K-Mart or whatever and purchase themselves implements of cylindrical nature, be it a pipe or a frozen fuckin’ corn dog, and they can shove it up whatever orifactory hole and basically go fuck themselves.
Simon Tiller: So, you are not going to apologize?
Mortimer Knightingale: I did what I had to do and I’d do it again. I don’t need to apologize for somethin’ I ain’t sorry for. End of story.
Simon Tiller: Well, let’s talk about your match with Darin Zion tonight.
Mortimer Knightingale: Yeah, let’s talk about Tough Love, Real Love, Puppy Love, Darin Douchebaggery. Who gave him that nickname anyway?
Simon Tiller: “Darin Douchebaggery”?
Mortimer Knightingale: No, I know who gave’em that one. It was me. Like two seconds ago. This whole “Love” angle. Guaran-fuckin’-tee, it was himself. Anyone who gives themself a nickname has real self-esteem issues. Like they ain’t important enough to be given a nickname so they do it themself. I question if he even knows what love even is. Love, real love, is sacrificin’ your own happiness for the happiness of another. That’s love.
Simon Tiller: Is that your reason for—–
Mortimer Knightingale: You hear what that squirrely little prick said?
Simon Tiller: It depends on what you are referring to.
Mortimer Knightingale: He said he would, and I’m bein’ subtextual here, “choke me like a bitch”. Like he’s choked anythin’ other than his chicken. But makes you think, don’t it? The way he said it like it was some kinda throwaway line. The inference bein’ that he thinks women are bitches and they are normally choked. That right there is some deep rooted miss-origami he’s showin’ there.
Simon Tiller: “Misogyny”.
Mortimer Knightingale: Is that who he choked? Well, rest assured, I will avenge this Miss Angelee. She will take comfort in the fact that her assaulter is about to get comeuppened!
Mortimer Knightingale proceeds to exit the frame leaving Simon Tiller looking more confused than a Texan reading the menu at a vegan restaurant as the scene ends and we cut to elsewhere backstage.
ABSOLUTELY AN ISOLATED INCIDENT
The camera goes backstage, outside of the employee entrance. Humming along to the melody of Rihanna’s “Only Girl In the World”, reigning Universal Champion and all-around public malfeasance REZIN enters the Freeman Coliseum.
Waiting there by the entrance is head of PRIME security, Dametreyus, who looks quite less enthusiastic.
Rezin: Dam, ol’ buddy! How are the Enemigos?
Dametreyus: Mr. Black.
Rezin: Ya know, it’s funny… they say the stars at night are big and bright out here, but it all kinda looks the same to me! Anyway, I got some chalupas to wreck down in catering…
Dametreyus: Boss Lady wants to see you in her office.
The Goat Bastard groans. Definitely not something he’s interested in doing.
Rezin: Well, I’d like to see her strapped into a guillotine, but wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first, know’m’sayin’?
He attempts to walk by, but the PRIME Head of Security stops him with a hand on the shoulder.
Dametryus: Boss’s office. Now.
Rezin looks questionably at the hand on his shoulder.
Rezin: Well DAMB, Dam! Is this gonna get ugly? Cause here I was in sort of a good mood tonight, and now I got ya shovin’ your authority all up in my face.
He brushes the hand aside.
Rezin: Tell ya what… I’ll go see what “hEr MaJeStY” wants, and in exchange, ya can prepare a room for me where I won’t be disturbed. One with a monitor hooked up to the live feed… and at least two dozen chalupas.
The Goat Bastard turns to leave…
Rezin: Most importantly, though, I want SIMON in that ring at the top of the hour, so that the ANTI-Champion may address the masses!
…but something stands in his way.
It’s not very punk rock to block the Universal Champion. Especially when he’s on his way to his personal dressing room. It’s just one of the many perks of being the Universal Champion.
But back to the obstruction in the hallway.
- He’s over seven feet tall
- Exactly one-fifth of a ton
- Thinks Lennon is a cheap knockoff of the OG Lenin.
Ivan Stanislav thunders down the back hallway of the Freeman Coliseum. He’s been looking for Alexei for the past thirty minutes. Ruslan’s task was simple: buy five hotdogs, two pretzels, four cheese cups, four buckets of popcorn, and a box of Raisinets.
Still, for a hungry Russian, what’s better than finding your closest friend carrying 10,000 calories in grease form? Finding the Universal Champion backstage all alone.
Ivan Stanislav: Well, well, well, look who it is. The failure of PRIME. I forgot to ask, Rezin, did you get frequent flier miles while flying Air Russia?
Rezin turns back to Dametryus.
Rezin: See, this is EXACTLY what I was trynna avoid!
Dametryus shrugs, and, realizing this is no longer his problem, saunters off. Rezin turns his attention back to the Russian towering over him. Despite the fact he has to look up quite a ways at him, there is nevertheless a ferocity showing in the eyes of the Universal Champion.
Rezin: Ya wanna see some real flyin’, Ivan? All ya gotta do is look UP at Culture Shock! Just in time to see ME droppin’ a bomb on ya! Cause I don’t play “cold war”, comrade, NAWW… I get DOC STRANGELOVE on that shit!
He readjusts the burlap sack hanging over his shoulder and clears his (overly phlegmy sounding) throat.
Rezin: Now if ya don’t mind, I have an audience with the tsarina. Unless ya got your cossack handy, and we can totally go Bolshevik on her ass. Otherwise, go piss up a rope, ya tyrant…
Stanislav doesn’t make room for Rezin. As a matter of fact, he does just the opposite. He squares his shoulders and shifts to the center of the hallway, thus making one have to move through him to continue. He grinds his teeth and narrows his eyes as he contemptuously stares down at Rezin.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not bring Lindsay Troy into this either. The Scarlet Sickle would never be related to a tsar. Some Imperialist force of evil! You are lower than dog, Rezin. Why, you not even thank me for softening Hanlon up for you to win that title. You know you only win title because of luck. Because of ME. (he tsks) Look at you. No self respect. No dignity whatsoever.
Ivan crosses his arms over his chest. He must not hear what he’s saying, because did he just defend Lindsay Troy?
Ivan Stanislav: I say we have a problem, Rezin, because Praporshchik Stanislav is not moving. So you turn your hide around and go find alternate route, unless you want to get where you need to go in pieces.
Stanislav waves his large hand and motions for Rezin to leave, but his eyes travel beyond The Escape Artist, and the Russian Bear’s eyebrows furrow. They have company.
The Event Horizon. Hayes Hanlon.
Stanislav growls as Hayes marches forward, rolling up the sleeves of his black dress shirt, lip curling behind that dark ‘stache.
Ivan Stanislav: Когда идет дождь, он льет… (When it rains, it pours…)
Hayes Hanlon: You and Alexei feeling good about yourselves, Ivan? Feeling real smart? I don’t give a shit what you have to say about me, but bringing my brother into this last week? MY. BROTHER? That’s some SOFT. DICK. SHIT.
Rezin: Yeah, and the same with gettin’ me during bath time! Ya coulda at least got me while I was doin’ the Black Eyed Peas!
Ivan’s mood grows worse. He just wants to eat. Where IS Ruslan with his snack? Like it or not, squaring off against one of the men is one thing. Squaring off against two is a little more challenging.
Ivan Stanislav: I hear they had to dismantle fountain after you bathed in it, Rezin. All the shit that washed off of you clogged up the plumbing! And as for you, Hanlon, are you angry because you and dear brother were grounded by mother and father for public vomiting? How many skeletons you have in your closet?!
Hayes Hanlon: Plenty. And I’m real close to throwing another one in there with the rest. And it’s about seven feet tall!
While tensions build between the three Culture Shock Main Eventers, other forces are in motion. But first, a small history lesson. Did you know it took just one flashpoint to start World War I? Someone threw a bomb and it blew up Archduke Ferdinand and the rest, as they say, is history. Our three wrestlers have no idea what they’re about to start.
Neither does Alexei Ruslan.
But Alexei knows that Ivan is going to be angry without his snacks. He carries a tray stacked with so much arena junk food that it can instantly flatline a healthy circulatory system. He can’t see Ivan due to the food, but he hears him and calls out from behind two precariously balanced buckets of popcorn.
Alexei Ruslan: Praporshchik? Is that you? They were out of Raisinets!
Stanislav turns with irritation and exposes his back to Hanlon and Rezin. If only Ferdinand was alive to warn him. For as Stanislav’s back is turned, there is a scuffle between Hanlon and Rezin.
Rezin: Ahh, fuck this…
The Goat Bastard piefaces Hanlon. Blatantly, and without warning. And Hayes reacts as anyone would after having a filthy hand pressed into their glorious mustache.
Hanlon’s swings angrily at Rezin, who deftly dodges to the side, and instead buries the fist deep into the unprotected Stanislav’s kidney. Ivan responds in a guttural, painful ursine manner.
Ivan Stanislav: Urrrruhhgggg…………
He turns, and Hanlon stands with a sincere look of regret in his face. Rezin has the look of an absolute angel, and Ivan looks hungry for blood.
Ivan Stanislav: You son of bitch, Hanlon. You hit me in back?
Hayes Hanlon: Shit…no, I was swinging at this asshole…
Rezin: Dude TOTALLY just hit ya in the back, Ivan. Completely unprovoked. Saw it with my own eyes!
Hayes Hanlon: …shit.
Ivan chooses not to consider that Rezin might be lying and Hanlon is innocent. He’s too hungry. That punch hurts too much. And let’s face it, he’s been aching to get his hands on Hayes. This is as good an excuse as any. Stanislav barrels past Rezin and is on Hanlon. He lifts The eGG Beater by the shoulders and chucks him through, you guessed it, a wall into the adjoining room.
Ivan Stanislav: GRAAAA!! I’ve been waiting for this!!
Stanislav tears out the Hanlon-sized hole in the wall and barrels in, and like a true Escape Artist, Rezin watches quietly and turns to leave. Those chalupas won’t eat themselves.
Ivan’s ham-sized fist emerges through the hole and grips Rezin by the beard.
Ivan Stanislav: (off camera) Where do you think you are going?
And just like that, Rezin is dragged into the hole and into the melee in the adjoining room.
Ruslan has since put the food down and looks around in the now, suddenly, empty hallway. He peers into the hole and sees what amounts to a hurricane of violence. There’s yelling, fists, elbows, and limbs. It’s a buzzsaw of painful humanity. He purses his lips.
Alexei Ruslan: Uh, I will just hold onto the food for you, Ivan. You are busy!
Ruslan’s deeply repressed and stymied conscience tries, desperately, to counsel him. He should try to intervene, even if it’s risky, right? At least find Dam and let him know there’s a problem. Maybe Lindsay Troy herself? Yes, that would be the responsible thing.
Annoying conscience. Ruslan looks left and right. No witnesses. He whistles, picks up a bucket of popcorn, and makes himself scarce. Besides, Ivan needs to let off some steam.
I mean this certainly couldn’t get out of hand.
We then cut back to the ring for our second match of the evening.
ALIAS TITLE TOURNAMENT: MORTIMER KNIGHTINGALE vs. DARIN ZION
Nick Stuart: Up next we have an Alias Title second round matchup between Darin Zion and Mortimer Knightingale. Who do you like in this one, Rich?
Richard Parker: The crazy, lunatic, deranged, insane part of me wants Darin to win. Ya know, so I can experience what the ensuing shit storm at Culture Shock would be like. Then, on the other hand, the grounded, very sane part of me wants Mort to win because it would save me from said shit storm. Tough call.
Nick Stuart: Either way, one of these men will be going to Culture Shock and competing for the Alias Championship. Big match. Lots on the line. Let’s get down to it.
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. Mortimer 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.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall! Making his way to the ring, from Horace, North Dakota…weighing in at 248 pounds…MOOOORTIIMEEEEERRRR KNIGHTENGALE!
Mortimer slides into the ring under the bottom rope, steps up to the middle turnbuckle and raises 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.
Nick Stuart: Mort looks ready.
Richard Parker: Lofty assumption if you ask me.
Nick Stuart: Oh?
Richard Parker: He has a mask on; he could be ghost white underneath there. Lest you forget he’s up against Darin Zion tonight!
The whole place, arena, staff, PRIMEates, whatever critters are crawling around in the bowels, pauses for the ultimate record skip. Then, a second or so later, an eruption of raucous laughter and thunderous rat chirpings beam all the way up to outer space.
Nick Stuart: Good one, Dick.
Richard Parker: OH SHIT!
Darin, under the guise of a High Octane Wrestling fan, hops the guardrail and slides into the ring before his music even has a chance to play. And by fan I mean he has a HOW t-shirt on with their slogan “I just want to travel the world more” scribbled on the back of it.
Nick Stuart: I wonder if that’s really their slogan?
Richard Parker: Nah, pretty sure it’s in Darin’s bio. He doesn’t have a ring entrance so consider it the next best thing.
Zion does not hesitate and attacks Mort before PRIME Senior Officiate, Timo Bolamba, can get between them. The Big Z lands a wild, yet somewhat destructive flurry of kicks and punches that send his opponent stumbling back into the corner.
Richard Parker: …… …. . Besides, their slogan is probably something like, “So hot we’ll actually set you on fire.” Or, “So high only crackheads watch us.” Or, “We put the Timber in Lake.”
Nick Stuart: Just couldn’t help yourself.
Relentless, Darin quickly drives his shoulder into Mort’s gut not once, not twice, but three times causing Mort to fall down gasping for the wind that was just shoulder blocked out of him. Then, in what might seem like a bid to help his opponent further conceal his identity, Darin removes his one of one t-shirt and throws it in Mort’s face.
Nick Stuart: The way Darin is acting you’d think that “yes” he pried out of a fan a few days back was contingent upon him winning here tonight.
Distressed, Bolamba admonishes Darin as if he were a young Eddie, and yells for him to find his corner. Minus the belt of course. He does reach for it, but his ref slacks fortunately for Darin have an elastic waist. The 97th Wonder of the World begrudgingly listens and finds his corner. Then, the only ref with two monocle collections helps Mortimer back up to his feet, removes the discarded tee from his face, makes sure he’s clear of any cobwebs, and calls for the bell!
Nick Stuart: And now we’re officially underway.
Darin goes charging in; not wanting to let a golden opportunity pass him by. He loads up, and fires off a clothesline which his opponent barely ducks under. Then, he quickly bounces off the ropes and attempts a flying body splash on the rebound.
Nick Stuart: Ut-oh!
Mortimer catches Darin and in a single swift movement desperately delivers a savvy scoop powerslam. He sticks the finish which causes Timo to drop down and count!
Nick Stuart: Almost had him! Darin with a kick out to keep him in the running for the Alias Title!
Richard Parker: Wait, isn’t this guy supposed to be fired?
Still a touch woozy from the sneak attack, Knightingale slowly rolls off of Darin and takes a moment. The brief rest also provides his prey with a chance to gather himself and get to his feet. The two meet in the center of the ring, locking horns like festive, brooding rams.
Nick Stuart: Who’s going to gain the edge?
Exhausting all his might, Darin holds his own for a second longer than anyone might have thought. His prize for all that courage is still getting hastily ushered into the corner. However, before Mort can act upon his positioning, Zion sneaks a savvy move of his own in by thumbing his opposition in the eye. The native North Dakotan abruptly stops his advance and reels back in pain.
Richard Parker: Zion, a ring vet for a lack of a nicer term, is burning through tricks like he’s got the company credit card for his bachelor party. Sneak attack. Eye poke. What’s next, a timely low blow?
The Big Z steps up onto the second rope and drops a double ax handle across the back of Mortimer’s neck. The Masked Man drops down to a knee, refusing to fall from his feet. Z-Bird then flies across the ring, builds up some momentum, and delivers a European Uppercut right to Mort’s kisser.
Richard Parker: Good thing Mortimer has a mask on. I’m pretty sure the whole front row would be drenched in his sweat after that one if he didn’t.
Nick Stuart: Indeed! What an impact! But Mortimer still won’t go down!
Richard Parker: Poor Kohime Mori.
Mort stumbles backward, and Zion charges in again. The two get tangled up, but only for a few seconds since moments after the tie up Zion drops to the ground like he’s been taken out by a sniper’s bullet.
Nick Stuart: What the hell???
No, it’s not a former PRIME Champion from the prehistoric gaseous era trying to make a comeback, or an old covert ops foe of Darin’s that finally got around to crossing his name off the list. It’s Timo, out of position, or because it’s not a Cancer Jiles match, missing a nut cracking, game changing, low blow.
A quick replay shows a different camera angle where Mort knees Darin flush between the legs.
Nick Stuart: Ouch! Hopefully The Big Z kept the ice from the champagne because that looked like it hurt.
Mortimer climbs to his feet; not one bit sorry for squaring the ledger in the trick department. He kicks Zion with a few stiff boots, and then drops an elbow on his lower back. He pulls Darin up to his feet and locks in an abdominal stretch. Timo is right there asking Darin if he’s had enough, and even though the pain is evident Darin shakes his head no.
Nick Stuart: The resilience!
Richard Parker: You ain’t kidding! I bet his nuts are still throbbing after that knee!
After a bit Darin starts to fade, and his will weakens. Timo lifts his arm up. It drops. Timo does it again. It drops. Timo does so a third time and right as it is about to drop… Darin starts to Zion Up!
Nick Stuart: SECOND LIFE!
Sadly for the soon to be bereaved, Mort isn’t playing along with the goofy antics. He releases the submission hold only to smoothly transition into his patent arm trap neckbreaker, titled BUST OUT. Then, he doesn’t waste a moment getting Darin back on his feet so he can plant him with a DOUBLE ARM DDT.
Which he does.
Richard Parker: That should do it.
Mort hooks the leg for good measure.
Timo drops down and counts the three.
DING! DING!! DING!!!
Mort rolls off Zion for the second time tonight, and stands tall in victory.
Nick Stuart: Mortimer Knightingale outlasts a game Darin Zion and will now go to Culture Shock and face ****** for the Alias Championship. I must say, tough, good match we had here, Rich. Though, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the unchecked madness that a Darin Zion title reign would bring.
Richard Parker: That’s okay, the world will sleep a little bit safer tonight.
Nick Stuart: And huge congrats to Mortimer on turning it around here as of late. He’s earned it, and he’ll get his title shot.
The shot cuts away from Timo holding Mort’s arm in victory. We then cut to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: CULTURE SHOCK 2023
JOIN THE FRAY
ReVival returns from commercial to the sight of Lindsay Troy striding down a hallway.
You might be thinking she’s on her way to wherever the hell Ivan Stanislav and Hayes Hanlon brawled off to and you would, unfortunately, be wrong.
No, the Queen of the Ring is headed in the direction of the wrestlers’ entrance and, by extension, the parking garage. Freeman Coliseum Security had alerted her to the presence of an unauthorized person, and while said person would normally be removed from the premises, they asked to “have an audience with the Queen” first.
One picture from Security later and here she is, power-walking with a purpose over to a group of security guards milling about in the balmy San Antonio night.
Lindsay Troy: Alright, where is he?
One of the guards tilts his head toward a series of unlit lights along the wall and Troy heads in that direction. As she gets closer, bright orange embers from the end of a lit cigarette illuminate a face for the briefest of moments. It’s not long enough of a drag to reveal the identity of the person behind the face, but it’s long enough to know there’s a rough exterior hiding there in the shadows.
???: Excuse me, Ma’am? May I have your autograph?
A derisive snicker accompanies the request. Removing the hood to his white and blue PRIME sweatshirt, Arthur Pleasant smirks before putting the cigarette out on the cement column in two spots. Then, using his finger to trace the ash, he creates a faint and crude smiley face. It’s random. It’s… unsettling.
Arthur Pleasant: I must apologize for my cringy, super clandestine appearance, my liege. But in my defense, I couldn’t exactly pop in for a ‘quick hello’ in a place where I’m not welcome to do such things!
Pleasant feigns a #sadface. Looking around to make sure nobody is making a bee-line for him as he stands in front of the ‘PRIME Minister’, he continues. Cautiously, but confidently.
Arthur Pleasant: That and–(sucks teeth)–there’s no one I give a shit about to say ‘hello’ to. Or at least, no one I give enough of a shit about who would warrant me being thrown out by security or being put in that little room that has no cameras to witness any beatings.
Lindsay Troy: So glad you decided not to shelve the supervillain monologue for my sake, Creepshow.
The Queen folds her arms in front of her, unamused. This is not the first time she’s run afoul of the self-proclaimed Denizen of Decay. It’s also not the second, or the third, or even the fourth.
These are all stories for another time, however.
Lindsay Troy: How about you get to why you’re here so I can go back to doing literally anything else with my evening.
Arthur Pleasant: Fine, fine. I’ll get right down to it, then. I heard a dirty little rumor that PRIME has an invitational battle royal with cheese thing happening. Invitational as in ‘anyone can join.’ Any truth to such a preposterous, unfounded, impossible rumor, Herr Madame?
An eye-roll from Troy. Right on time.
Lindsay Troy: Y’know, you could have called the office and asked this. And no, not anyone can join. It’s more like, most anyone can join unless I say no.
Arthur Pleasant: (tsk-ing) Honestly, Lindsay. You, of all people, should know that I’m anything but conventional. Conventional wisdom dictates that I leave a message about signing up for your Culture Shock Battle Royal, and then, through some dewy-eyed facilitator, it’s kept this big secret leading up to whenever my number gets called. Mm. Conventional wisdom dictates that I should sit back and watch all the speculation run rampant from your roster until… SURPRISE! Uncle Arthur’s come to play.
Pleasant wags a finger.
Arthur Pleasant: Where’s the fun in any of that? Why keep myself a secret when half the fun in situations like these are showing up where I’m least expected to show up to bulging eyes and listening to the scandalous whispers? Sorry not sorry. It just… won’t do. Instead, I prefer taking the eight and a half hour drive west of ‘Nawlins to look you in those sultry dark eyes of yours, LIVE on TV, and tell you simply this. Lindsay Bartholomew Troy?
He leans into her personal space.
Arthur Pleasant: I… want… in.
Lindsay, calmly, puts a single finger on Arthur’s shoulder and moves him backwards.
Lindsay Troy: I should tell you to fuck off right here and now, but there’s something very enticing about watching you get your shit kicked in by the absolute best collection of wrestlers on the planet. Your little mind games aren’t going to phase a lot of people here, Arthur, and you’re not as tough as you think you are, either. It’s a trait that runs in your family.
A triumphant smirk finds its way to her face.
Lindsay Troy: If you want to join the fray, then show up in Dallas. Let’s see if you last longer in PRIME than your daddy did.
With that, she takes her leave. Pleasant watches her walk away towards the entrance to the Freeman Coliseum. Almost salivating, he snickers for a moment before heaving a satisfied sigh.
Arthur Pleasant: Culture Shock?
He says this out loud to himself.
Arthur Pleasant: PRIME’s about to truly experience it. For the first fucking time.
Turning towards the smiley of ash he left behind on the cement column, he shrugs his shoulders.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”, he thinks to himself.
Skipping off into the distance as merrily as as a row boat down the stream, he disappears into the very shadows he emerged from as we cut to elsewhere backstage to a person that we hope doesn’t have guns on them.
Cut to backstage.
Matt Mills: All right, Matt Mills here with Adam Ellis with Ginny Van Lear.
Adam Ellis and Ginny Van Lear step into the shot. Mills edges away from Ginny just a bit and keeps an wary eye on her.
Matt Mills:. Adam. Welcome back.
Adam Ellis: Thank you Mr. Mills.
Matt Mills: Now, about your match-
Adam Ellis: Before we get started, sir… my wife Ginny would like to clear the air and say something to you.
Matt Mills: Oh.
Adam Ellis: Ginny?
He puts his arm around Ginny’s shoulders and steps back.
Ginny Van Lear: Unm, Mr. Mills. I’d like tuh sincerely apologize ta’yew fer whut happened at ReVival 23.
Her tone of voice is contrite and remorseful.
Ginny Van Lear: Ah shouldn’a done what Ah did. Ah also said Ah wuz sorry to th’ sponsor of that balloon that Ah shot down an’ hopefully we kin put this here whole thang behind us now.
Ginny flashes her best, sweetest smile to Mills.
Matt Mills: Apology accepted Ginny. Now, let’s talk about Adam’s match tonight.
He turns to Adam.
Matt Mills: How is your knee?
Adam Ellis: My knee is fine, Mr. Mills.
Matt Mills: You had to take two weeks off from training after Tony Gamble injured your knee last month. No residual effects from what happened at 23?
Adam Ellis: No. It feels good, Mr. Mills. I’m back to full strength and I’m ready to go tonight
Matt Mills: Tonight, you face Violet Samuelsson. What do you know about her?
Adam Ellis: Not much. I know she made it to the second round of the Alias title tournament and she’s got a lot of experience. I won’t take her lightly, that’s for sure. I’m back and ready to wrestle again- HEY!
A commotion… Ivan Stanislav has his head in Hayes Hanlon belly and drives him into the wall. Ellis deflects off Stanislav and Mills just gets out of the way.
Nick Stuart: WAIT A MINUTE! THEY’RE STILL FIGHTING! IVAN STANISLAV PICKED UP HAYES HANLON AND SLAMMED HIM INTO THE WALL.
PRIME’s security force tries to get in between the two men. Stanislav gets an arm free and pops Hanlon with a right.
Richard Parker: Apparently, they’re not done yet.
Nick Stuart: Security’s trying to separate them but they not succeeding-
Richard Parker: HANLON!
Hanlon fires off a pair of right hands that reach their target before again PRIME security try to pull him away.
Nick Stuart: Stanislav shakes off four men. He’s charging forward.
Hanlon braces himself.
Nick Stuart: STANISLAV JUST SENT HANLON FLYING.
Shoulder block by the Russian. Hanlon goes flying backward towards Ginny.
Richard Parker: Ooooh… Hanlon just ran over Ginny Van Lear.
More security stream in. There’s a few more wild shots thrown by both men before security gets them to move away from the interview area.
Matt Mills: Well. This is certainly a developing situation between Hayes Hanlon and Ivan Stanislav as they continue to brawl backstage.
Ginny gets back to a seated position.
Matt Mills: Ginny, are you okay-
Ginny looks up at Mills incredulously.
Ginny Van Lear: OKAY?!
She jumps up to her feet… anger flashing in her eyes.
Ginny Van Lear: ADAM, WHERE’S MY DAMM SHOTGUN-
Matt Mills (suddenly alarmed): NOOOO!-
Abrupt cut away to a black screen…
Quick cut back to Nick and Richard. Both seem bewildered by what has just happened.
Richard Parker: What the… did she just cuss?
Nick Stuart: We will try to find out what’s going on.
Richard Parker: I think Ginny Van Lear just cussed on national TV.
Nick Stuart: More pressing is the fact Hayes Hanlon and Ivan Stanislav are fighting all over the arena.
Richard Parker: I sure hope Ginny’s isn’t locked and loaded tonight or someone could be in trouble.
Nick Stuart: Let’s just hope for the best and move on and see what else develops.
We then cut to another area of the backstage.
THEY PUT ONE OF OURS IN THE HOSPITAL…
Making their way down the corridor is Coral Avalon and Nate Colton. They’re engaged in a nice discussion about…well, I’ll let them tell you.
Coral Avalon: So, not only did I have to move the school, but now I have to figure out where the heck I’m moving it to. Not a lot of empty gyms in Seattle, it turns out.
Nate Colton: That sucks, man. I could ask Dad if he knows anyone who can help, but he doesn’t have many contacts up there. Probably because of the Curse.
Suddenly Colton pauses in his tracks and points ahead.
Nate Colton: Wait, what’s that?
Coral looks at where Nate is pointing and sprints.
Coral Avalon: Jesus, Sonny, are you okay?
On the ground, buried underneath a series of large bins, is Sonny Silver, former Chairman of PRIME. He groans as the two men help him to his feet.
Sonny Silver: I’m great, Coral. I was just searching under these large bins for a reason why I’m even still MILLING AROUND THIS FUCKING PLACE!
Nate Colton: Aren’t you supposed to be with Nova? Like, all the time?
Silver’s eyes dart quickly over to the Next Diamond, then back to Avalon.
Sonny Silver: (Through gritted teeth) The victim-blaming is strong with this one…
Nate Colton: I–sorry, man. Let’s get you cleaned up at least.
While Nate brushes debris off of the man’s clothes, Coral redirects Sonny’s focus.
Coral Avalon: Hey, Sonny, did you see who jumped you?
Silver shakes his head.
Sonny Silver: No. I just split off from Nov for a minute to find better service so I could make a call back to the gym. Then I ate shit into this pile of vague arena equipment. But I’ve got a feeling I know who was waiting for me here…
Avalon looks around the hallway, seeing no one.
Coral Avalon: They could still be here. Let us walk you back to where Nova is.
Sonny puts a hand on Coral’s shoulder and his sharp glare softens.
Sonny Silver: Coral, you’re a fucking sweetheart and always have been, but I’ll be fine. I just need to walk it off.
He takes a few steps away only for his knee to buckle. Nate reaches over and prevents him from falling.
Coral Avalon: Nope. No way. Nuh-uh. You’re coming with us to medical.
Sonny Silver: Ugh. Fine.
He looks around the area before shaking his head.
Sonny Silver: Cowards!
The three men walk away, with Nate and Coral walking by Sonny in case he stumbles again. We hang on this scene, and after a few moments we are rewarded with another appearance.
Well, it’s not really a reward, per se.
Paxton Ray: He’s right. My belly feels pretty yella.
Foster Nackedy walks up and puts his hand on Paxton’s shoulder.
Paxton Ray: We shoulda finished the damn job.
Foster Nackedy: No. Remember what I said? It’s about sending a message. No one is safe. Nowhere is safe. Caesar’s going to get the message. Trust me.
Paxton merely snorts as they look down the hallway and we return to ringside.
VIOLET SAMUELSSON vs. ADAM ELLIS
Nick Stuart: The action continues tonight as we move into our next match-up, fans! Violet Samuelsson will go one on one with Adam Ellis!
Richard Parker: Better grab your bulletproof vest for this one, Nick.
Nick Stuart: I don’t think they’ll be allowing Ginny Van Lear to bring anymore firearms into the arena, partner. Let’s go to the ring!
VIOLET MUSIC plays as Violet Samuelsson steps through the curtain and poses briefly at the top of the ramp. She gets a supportive cheer from the PRIMEates in attendance before coming down the aisle and slapping the hands reaching across the barricade.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is schedule for one fall! Introducing first, hailing from Portland, Maine and weighing in at one-hundred and thirty pounds… please welcome, “SUPERGIRL” VIOLET SAMUELSSON!!
Violet slides under the ropes to enter and posts herself onto a turnbuckle to pose for the fans once more, earning another supportive pop. Moments later, “Mama Didn’t Raise No…” by Garrett Biggs replaces the music on the PA as Adam Ellis emerges from the back. He takes a moment to pose on the stage to soak in the cheers before a visibly irate Ginny Van Lear brushes by him and leads the way down the ramp. Ellis hurries after his “better” half.
Vince Howard: And the opponent, accompanied to the ring by Ginny Van Lear! He comes to us from Warrensburg, Missouri, and tips the scales at two-hundred and twenty-six pounds… here is, ADAM ELLIS!
Ellis climbs the steps and holds the ropes open for Ginny to join him in the ring, but she is having none of it, too perturbed from their earlier brushup with a pair of brawling brutes. Adam shrugs, then enters the ring, pumping his fists for the fans.
Richard Parker: I’m worried, Nick! She looks a lot pricklier tonight!
Nick Stuart: Well, given her inadvertent encounter backstage earlier with some of the Universal Title competitors, I can’t say I blame her.
Official Ashley Barlow makes her final checks before confirming both competitors to be ready, and she then gives the cue to the timekeeper.
Both competitors come out of their corners and meet in the center of the ring. Adam and Violet take a beat to courteously shake hands as a sign of good faith between the two, and begin encircling each other.
They go into the lock-up. The larger Ellis comes out on top after a brief struggle and ensnares Samuelsson into a side headlock. As he wrenches the head, Violet’s hand takes hold of Adam’s wrist to take the arm with her as she slips free and goes into a hammerlock to work the arm.
Ellis thinks fast and counters with a quick snapmare to roll Samuelsson over his shoulder and into a seated position, going right back to the headlock. He attempts to force her down to the mat, but Violet arches her legs up into a headscissor to pry him off. Adam pops up and charges, but his momentum carries him straight into an armdrag.
Nick Stuart: Ellis has the clear advantage in strength here, but Violet Samuelsson just may have the speed, skill, and experience necessary to counteract that.
Richard Parker: It’s not like we haven’t seen her already best one opponent twice her size.
Violet goes right into an armbar, again working the shoulder. Ellis bites his lip to muscle through the pain and works his way back onto his feet. With leverage back on his side, he powers his way out of the hold and backs Samuelsson into the ropes.
Samuelsson goes into motion off the Irish Whip. On the rebound, Ellis goes low, while she goes high with a leapfrog, and comes off the other set of ropes. Ellis is wide open as she comes back with the Tilt-a-whirl Headscissor–
Nick Stuart: NO! Countered into a BACKBREAKER by Adam Ellis, who quickly hooks the leg!
Violet kicks out!
Ellis goes right back to the headlock, chipping away at Samuelsson’s stamina and forcing her to expend strength getting back to her feet. Despite his best efforts though, “Supergirl” works herself back up to a vertical base, backs herself into the ropes, and pushes Adam off.
Violet hits the mat as Adam goes from one end of the ring to the next. She pops to her feet on his comeback and goes high with a roundhouse kick, but Ellis ducks and slips behind. He quickly turns the waistlock into an attempted German Suplex, but Violet flips through and lands on her feet.
As Adam rises back to his feet, Samuelsson taps off the ropes and charges in with a low dropkick to the legs, but Ellis swiftly jukes out of the way, wisely turning his left side away from the oncoming attack.
Nick Stuart: Adam Ellis is being particularly protective of that left knee, given the number Tony Gamble did on it back at ReVival 23.
Richard Parker: Rookie mistake of this guy to reveal his weakness like that. A more aggressive and arguably wiser opponent would go right after that knee and never let up!
Samuelsson shoots in low to clip the legs and bring her opponent to the mat, but Adam stuffs the takedown attempt and turns it into an arm-trap neckbreaker! Violet is left shaken after the drop, giving Ellis all the time he needs to peel her back up and put her into the fireman’s carry.
But before he can drop her again, Samuelsson comes to in time to struggle loose. Before Adam can react, Violet rolls him to the mat.
Nick Stuart: Violet with the Victory Roll out of nowhere, and shoulders are down!
NO! Ellis kicks out.
Watching the action from the outside, the already perturbed Ginny Van Lear apparently takes exception to Violet’s hand placement on the pinfall, and angrily slaps the mat.
Ginny Van Lear: WATCH WHERE YOU PUT THOSE HANDS, MISSY!!
Richard Parker: My hands are UP and EMPTY! Don’t shoot!
Barlow admonishes Ginny for causing a distraction. Unable to ignore his wife’s outburst, Adam does his part to calm her down from inside the ring. Unfortunately, he turns his back on Samuelsson, who tries to grab him from behind.
Ellis senses her, and instinctively pivots and throws a forearm behind him. It connects hard with Violet’s face and sends her to the mat! Ellis immediately looks stunned at his actions, and moves in to check on Samuelsson out of concern for his opponent. Unfortunately for him, Violet shrugs off the blow to the face and uses the opportunity to pull him into a small package.
Nick Stuart: Samuelsson with the SMALL PACKAGE!
Thr–NO! Almost had him!
Richard Parker: Ellis got lucky there. For many, a single mistake, like letting your guard down, can make or break a match.
Nick Stuart: He has much to learn still, but his heart is in the ring place!
Adam and Violet scramble to their feet and go into another lockup. Ellis overpowers and Irish Whips Samuelsson to the corner. She hits the turnbuckles, prompting him to follow with the shoulder block… but hits on the pads as she slips over the ropes!
While Adam staggers and shakes the feeling back into his shoulder, Violet pops herself to the top rope. But before she can dive off, Ellis spots her and quickly goes up after her!
Nick Stuart: Both competitors getting into some high risk territory up on the ropes right now! It’s been a see-saw battle thus far, but what happens next could dictate the flow of the remaining contest!
Richard Parker: I’d be remiss if I didn’t question the logic here…
Ellis attempts to wrangle the smaller competitor into the suplex position, but Samuelsson desperately puts a series of elbows to his ribs to keep him off. One finally leaves him teetering, and sensing a loss of balance, Adam hops back to the mat.
Immediately, pain fills his face, and the left leg nearly collapses beneath him. The brief hesitation is all Violet Samuelsson needs to reposition herself on the top rope…
Nick Stuart: I think Adam Ellis aggravated the knee! And now Samuelsson, from the top… FLYING CROSSBODY finds its mark! Ellis is DOWN!
THR–NO!! Ellis got the shoulder up!
Van Lear begins thumping the mat to cheer on her husband. Ellis is still favoring the knee as he sits up off the mat, but by the time he looks up to find Violet, she’s already charging at him off the ropes. He barely gets his hands up in time before the Shining Wizard sends him sprawling back to the canvas. Ginny grabs her head in despair.
Nick Stuart: THE CROSSOVER connects! Violet Samuelsson is in complete control now!
Richard Parker: The rookie just made one mistake too many. Hopefully, Ginny doesn’t shoot anybody when this is over…
Violet stalks Ellis from behind, as the young greenhorn groggily pushes himself off the mat and back to his feet. Once he’s up, Samuelsson leaps and perches himself onto his shoulders, right in position for the POISONRANA…
…only she finds herself going down the wrong way, as in the last moment, Ellis snaps back to attention and instinctively counters.
Nick Stuart: ELECTRIC CHAIR DROP by Adam Ellis! I think Samuelsson went for the Kryptonite, but Ellis wasn’t as rocked as initially thought!
Richard Parker: Thought for sure he was a goner after taking that knee to head. Must be that thick Missouri Valley skull of his, protects his brain from damaging blows!
Nick Stuart: In any case, Ellis presses his advantage, taking Violet Samuelsson’s legs! Could it be…? YES! He’s got the Elevated Boston Crab locked in!
Ellis pulls back and torques the head and shoulders. Violet fights as long as she can, but she’s far from the ropes, and almost a hundred pounds too light to crawl her way there. Without a choice, she taps the mat, and Barlow signals to the timekeeper.
<I>DING DING DING</I>
Hearing the bell, Ellis promptly releases the hold. It’s not until Garrett Briggs hits the PA that it hits him that he’s won.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the match, by submission… AAADAAAM EEELLIIISSSSSS!!!
Nick Stuart: A hard-fought, momentum-building win for this fresh-faced young man, Adam Ellis, who continues to impress with every showing in the ring!
Richard Parker: Kid got lucky, if you ask me. Made a few errors in there that could have cost it for him. But, maybe this will help him get over his reservations on wrestling ladies.
Nick Stuart: Violet Samuelsson still showed some competitiveness out there, but she may still need time to work off the ring rust. In the meantime, Adam Ellis gets the victory tonight… and hopefully, it will improve Ginny Van Lear’s mood.
Adam Ellis looks to help Violet back up off the mat as a courtesy, but before he can get to her, he’s practically tackled to the mat by his better half. Ginny is indeed in a MUCH better mood after that win, and the two celebrate together amid the cheering crowd.
We then cut to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: HIGH OCTANE WRESTLING
ALWAYS WITH YOUR RULES
We return from commercial to the backstage area.
Standing by with Eddie Cross, who is still feeling the effects of his match earlier in the night, is Angelica Brooks. They stand just in front of what appears to be a break area in the back around the locker rooms. A pair of soda machines backdrops behind the pair. Eddie rolls his shoulder and tries to work a kink out as Angelica looks into the camera professionally and begins the interview.
Angelica Brooks: Eddie Cross, that was quite a match against Mushighara earlier. Do you have anything to say about the contest?
Eddie Cross: Yes I do, I want to say that Mushigihara is a tough as nails competitor and that was a great battle. I know I talked a lot leading up to the match, but the truth is I respect Mushi a lot and definitely his warrior spirit. I knew this would be a hot match so I pushed him and Lindsay Troy a little to get what I wanted all along. As for her edict, it never mattered whether I won or lost, I acknowledge that Mushi is a tough competitor. Respect, bruh.
Angelica Brooks: Do you have any regrets about anything you might have said leading up to the match?
Eddie Cross: I don’t do regrets, Angelica. If people tuned in, I did my job. Besides, I am always looking forward to the next challenge. Speaking of which, we all have a monumental challenge in front of us at Culture Shock don’t we?
Angelica Brooks: Indeed, I’d love to get your thoughts on the…
Eddie Cross: LOOK OUT!
Eddie grabs Angelica by the waist and spins her out of the way as Hayes Hanlon comes flying into the frame, right where she was standing and barrels into a pile of folding chairs that are on a rack, sending them scattering everywhere.
Hayes Hanlon: Sorry, you might want to get out of the way!
Ominously following into the shot as the cameraman backs up and pans out is Ivan Stanislav. He is sweating profusely and sports a small tear in his iconic hammer and sickle shirt. Hayes shakes off the impact and bowls into Ivan, driving him backwards and into the wall on the opposite side of the hallway.
As the two brawl in the hallway, thudding blows and warrior’s screams fill the air. Ivan manages to knock Hanlon to the floor and looks over at the soda machines. A long dormant memory pops into his head and, as they say, what’s old becomes new once again. Ivan trundles over to the soda machine on the right and grabs it from both sides.
Eddie steps forward waving his hands.
Eddie Cross: Ivan, you can’t throw a soda machine at him!
Ivan Stanislav: And why not? It worked against Meanstreak!
Eddie Cross: That was a long time ago and things worked differently then, bruh!
Ivan Stanislav: They make machine different now?
Ivan lifts the machine up and down off the ground with little effort.
Ivan Stanislav: Seems the same to me.
Eddie Cross: That’s not really what I mean, look, can we just agree this is getting out of hand?
Ivan thinks and lets go of the machine. He walks over, picks up Hanlon and looks at Eddie.
Ivan Stanislav: I do not understand Bolamba’s. Always with your rules. Fine, if I cannot throw a soda machine at Hayes Hanlon I will simply throw Hayes Hanlon at the soda machine, hm?
Eddie looks at Angelica for a second opinion and she shrugs. He shrugs too and holds his hands toward the machine.
Eddie Cross: Yeah, that tracks.
Ivan yeets Hayes into one of the two machines, cracking the face plate and sending a shower of sparks blowing into the hallway. Cans fall out of the facing of the machine and break open on the ground, sending the fizzy nectar all over the place.
The larger man picks Hayes up and drags him down the hallways away from Angelica and Eddie, who look utterly confused.
Eddie Cross: Well, that was not how I expected this to go.
Angelica Brooks: Me either. Thank you. That was very nice of you to look out for me like that.
He coughs and shoves a sneer back on his face.
Eddie Cross: Yeah, well, don’t get used to it. That was a one time thing.
Angelica Brooks: Right, where were we then? Your thoughts on the match at Culture Shock?
Eddie Cross: This will be my first big event, but it really doesn’t matter. Multiple people, one on one, it’s all the same to me. I assure you I have a plan and I will be ready for…BEHIND YOU!
Eddie jumps forward and blocks a backpedaling Ivan Stanislav from running through the diminutive Angelica. Eddie bounces off the monolithic Russian and hits the other soda machine, breaking the door off the hinges and sending coins scattering to the ground.
Hayes Hanlon: Come back here you Commie bastard!
Hayes Hanlon charges into the frame wielding a chair and beating on Ivan over and over as they rumble down the hall and out of sight once again. Angelica helps Eddie back to his feet and he shakes his head.
Eddie Cross: Anyone get the plate on that KAMAZ?
Angelica smiles at Eddie and shakes her head.
Angelica Brooks: One time thing, huh?
Eddie Cross: I uh… there was an opening for a shot to Ivan… and company insurance claims… and…
Angelica holds up a hand and winks.
Angelica Brooks: Smart timing Eddie, picking your moment to take a shot to the powerhouse Ivan and disrupt his attack allowing Hayes to get the upper hand, thus softening up a potential massive threat in the match at Culture Shock.
Eddie nods and grimaces as he clutches at his side.
Eddie Cross: Right. The reality is we are going to need every advantage we can get, and anyone in that match should be taking their shot right now. Me? I did my part, now it’s time to go lay down and… uh… strategize while I preserve my energy.
He groans as he chuckles and sends a shooting pain up his side from his ribs. Without a word, he starts to back out of the frame.
Angelica Brooks: Hey Eddie?
Eddie Cross: What’s up?
Angelica Brooks: Thanks again.
Eddie smiles at her, shades of the heroic Samoan Silencer in his facial features, and keeps backing out of the frame as the show continues on to the backstage area where there seems to be an abundance of dipshits.
JUST AN AVERAGE MEETING WITH EMINENCE AND THE WINDS OF CHANGE WHERE NO ONE GETS YEETED, AND IF YOU BELIEVE THIS, I HAVE A BRIDGE TO SELL YOU IN BROOKLYN
We see five individuals seated around a large conference table. Seated at the head of the table is not a tribal chief, but a Crownless King. Coral Avalon sits in full regalia, including his ridiculous animal-skinned fur cape. Underneath it, he’s dressed rather casually in a T-shirt.
On the left side are the Winds of Change. Joe is in his usual bedazzled suit and topknot, while Sid is in full wrestling gear despite not actually being in action tonight. Look, Sid doesn’t only own one outfit, he just considers it a work uniform! If anything, Joe’s the weird one! The Winds’ side also has a little green flag, and their side has a buzzer for some reason, which I’m sure won’t in any way get abused.
On the right side are Eminence. In addition to being the longest-reigning Tag Team champions in PRIME history, their newly-rechristened name also confuses the shit out of Shawn Warstein. Allegedly. Neither are dressed to compete, and if Justine Calvin looks irritated then rest assured there’s a very good reason for that. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that her partner has been giggling about catching the Russian Bear with a “deez nuts” joke earlier in the week.
If Jared Sykes appears uncomfortable, there’s a good reason for that as well. It’s the conference room. He can’t remember what happened the last time he was in a space like this backstage, only that Paxton Ray had landed a heavy shot with the limb of a mannequin and then the world went dark. The minutes beyond were a blur of blood and pain and shadow.
Coral Avalon: Alright, so… I don’t want to call this a contract signing, because we don’t have any contracts here. But apparently, you all need to discuss some terms for the last tag title defense we’re ever going to have in PRIME, and I’m the right person to mediate this because I know all of you.
Coral Avalon: What is it, Joe?
Joe Fontaine: Point of order. This won’t be the last tag title defense we’ll ever have in PRIME. Lindsay Troy is bound to answer one of my thirty-six and a half text messages I sent her last night.
Coral already looks like he has a headache, and this meeting just started.
Coral Avalon: Oh, god. Did you really do that?
Joe Fontaine: Sure did! She, uh… didn’t answer any of them.
Coral Avalon: I can’t imagine why.
Justine raises her hand briefly.
Justine Calvin: Genuine question. How do you send half a text message? Like was it a picture that got corrupted, or did you only remember to type half the words? I don’t get how this works.
She sets her hand back in her lap, remembering that this isn’t school, despite the insane number of man-children she’s surrounded by.
Justine Calvin: Also Troy is in the building. You could just go talk to her about this if you really wanted to.
Her partner swivels back and forth in his chair, eyes never straying too far from the door. Many men have their careers ended in rooms like this, their lives irrevocably altered by a legion of suits parading pie charts and talk of corporate synergy. Others are beaten half to death by lunatics.
Such is the world of professional wrestling.
Jared Sykes: Also do you have an extra buzzer? I’ve got one of those airhorn apps on my phone, but…
Justine Calvin: No.
Jared Sykes: I’m just saying it’s there if we…
Justine Calvin: No.
The Dragonslayer shrugs.
Jared Sykes: Worth a shot, I guess.
All eyes turn to Sid Phillips, his hand on the buzzer. He stares. He doesn’t say a word. After a long, awkward pause, Joe’s the one who pushes Sid’s hand off of the buzzer. Sid tries to put his hand back on the buzzer, but Joe plays excellent defense in trying to keep him from doing that.
After some time of this…
…Joe himself pushes the damn thing.
Joe Fontaine: Point of order! Half of a text message is when you start writing a text message and then someone takes your phone away before you can actually hit send.
He says this while staring daggers at Sid.
Joe Fontaine: Also, we only had the one buzzer, and we invoked the ancient and illustrious and illustriously ancient tradition of “first dibs”.
Coral Avalon: Stop pushing the buzzer. I don’t want to have to take it away.
Joe and Sid both turn towards Coral. There’s a long pause as Coral stares back at them. Then, at the same time…
Coral wordlessly gets up from his seat, snatches the buzzer away, and then slides it over to the Eminence side of the table. Jared extends an arm to try and catch it, but it’s intercepted by his partner. The Winds exchange glances with each other.
Joe Fontaine: Not cool, Avy.
Sid Phillips: Very, very, super very not cool.
Joe Fontaine: The least cool.
If Coral cares about being the least cool person in the room, he doesn’t seem to care.
Coral Avalon: Okay, so let’s get back on track with no further interruptions…
Justine turns the buzzer over in her hand, looking for a hatch or compartment on the back that might lead to a battery compartment. Really, it’s the sanest thing she could do, given the circumstances.
Justine Calvin: Well, now that we have that out of the way, what exactly are we negotiating? The terms seem pretty simple. We have the titles. You guys want the titles. And whoever walks out of Culture Shock gets to have the honor of being the last champions of the ReVival era.
Her eyes settle on Joe for a moment. Then she sighs.
Justine Calvin: Assuming that one of your many full or half text messages isn’t answered, or that you just walk to the boss’ office and have a conversation with her. Like an adult.
Jared Sykes: Hey, if you’re not using it, can I have the…
Justine Calvin: No.
Now it’s Jared’s turn to sigh.
Justine Calvin: So? What is there to discuss?
Joe turns to Sid, “whispering”.
Joe Fontaine: Psst. Justine’s kinda dumb, ain’t she?
Sid Phillips: Psst. She can probably hear you.
Coral, at the center of the table, shakes his head. His palm is on his face. He is not yet to the point where he wants to scream into it, but he’s getting there.
Coral Avalon: Stop saying “psst” before you talk at normal volume. That’s not how whispering works.
Joe Fontaine: We’re just having an aside for our audience! You’re an actor, you should know about these things!
Coral takes matters into his own hands and turns to Justine.
Coral Avalon: Look, Justine. Jared. These two dimwits want to add a stipulation to the match. That’s it. That’s the whole reason we’re here.
Joe Fontaine: Yeah, we’re thinking about something cool like an Exploding Fireball Cage Deathmatch of Death. Oh, oh… or an Arizona Firewater Deathmatch. My dad did a couple of those, and he definitely exploded once or twice! So that’s pretty cool. I mean, probably not for him, but he’s walking around alright!
Sid Phillips: He needs a cane.
Joe Fontaine: He’s sorta walking around alright!
For a moment Justine just stares. If the expression on her face could be accurately translated into English, it would say, “Why couldn’t he have exploded before you were conceived?” With the buzzer still held tight in her fingers, she glances over her shoulder.
Justine Calvin: So Joe’s pretty fucking stupid, huh?
She does not stage whisper.
Jared Sykes: Okay, I’m pretty sure they heard that.
Justine Calvin: That was the idea, yeah.
Once again, her attention turns to the team across the table.
Justine Calvin: Does anyone have any normal ideas to offer?
Girl is seriously about to regret asking that question.
Jared Sykes: My first year in the business I wrestled “Bad News” Allen Sarven in a bouncy castle submission match. Believe it or not it’s a lot harder than you might think. I know you’re probably thinking, “of course it’s hard, there are no ropes to cause a break,” but that’s not what makes it tricky. It’s all the air moving around beneath you. Makes it super hard to…
A pair of vibrant green eyes has turned their attention back to him. The person attached says nothing, they just stare.
Jared Sykes: Because footing… and… ummm…
Justine blinks, but only once.
Jared Sykes: Lemme guess. “No.”
And then she nods.
Don’t worry, though. Joe Fontaine’s got you covered!
Joe Fontaine: Oh! I know! Normal ideas, right? Let’s bring back the Pyramid of Peril! Everybody loves the Pyramid of Peril! We just need to go find whatever warehouse stores that big dumb pyramid full of murder and death traps and find a way to get it into an arena, and…
Everyone just stares at him, including Sid.
Joe Fontaine: No dice?
Sid Phillips: Not even a one-sided one.
Joe Fontaine: Okay, we could do the Hanging Garden match. We just need to break physics a little so we can hang an entire wrestling ring over the top of another wrestling ring. I mean, it’s only a theoretical match but you’re in the business of theoretical powerbombs and that’s like an adjacent science, right?
Sid Phillips: No. Fuck that.
Joe Fontaine: Oh! Oh, I know! We could bring back the Dual Halo, and…
Coral Avalon: They sold it for scrap, and Tony Gamble called dibs.
Joe Fontaine: Well, then I’m out of ideas. For now. Hey, my dad’s been in a lot of crazy gimmick matches, so I think that if we all just sat down and watched some of them, we could come up with some good ideas, and…
Sid Phillips: No.
Joe Fontaine: Street Fighter tournament?
Sid Phillips: No.
Coral stands up and walks over to Justine, taking the buzzer from her.
That gets everyone’s attention.
Coral Avalon: I’m just stopping you before you propose Gimmick Hell II.
Joe Fontaine: Wait, that was going to be my next idea! How did you know?
Coral stares at Joe hard enough that it makes him shut up for a bit, which is pretty impressive. Coral once again takes his seat at the center of the table and glances at Justine and Jared.
Coral Avalon: Neither of you are going to kill each other in a dumb gimmick match if I’m the one mediating this meeting.
He pauses and then looks at Justine in particular.
Coral Avalon: No, Justine, you don’t get to hard murder anyone, I’m sorry.
Justine Calvin: For the record, murder doesn’t usually come with permission. I’m just saying.
Jared Sykes: I mean euthanasia is a thing.
Justine Calvin: Usually. Anyway, the boys want a stip, and all we’ve come up with so far is extreme nonsense. Is there an actual suggestion coming from anyone here, or are we just going to try to out-stupid each other?
Jared Sykes: Well…
The comment causes Justine to turn her chair towards her partner again.
Jared Sykes: We can always go car-crash style while still keeping things within reason. Maybe hang the belts up over the ring and bring some ladders into…
Justine’s eyes go wide at the suggestion. Heights are not her favorite. It’s one thing to climb the ropes and send herself flying, because at least that’s largely in her control. But the thought of being unprotected on a wobbly ladder is enough to make her skin crawl.
Jared Sykes: Umm…
It’s a fact that her partner knows, but seems to have forgotten, as the dawning realization of what he’d just suggested creeps across his face.
Justine Calvin: Hey, Coral, you okay if I commit a hard murder right now?
Coral Avalon: You know, I’m gonna say no. I don’t really want to know what the dry cleaning bill would be like if I had to get all of the Jared out of my clothes.
At this, Jared snorts. He is for sure thinking about bodily fluids, but rest assured that none of them are blood.
Sid Phillips: I’m sorry, the what?
Coral Avalon: Sorry, bad turn of phrase. Anyway, perhaps I can offer a suggestion.
All eyes look towards Coral. The Crownless King suddenly appears mildly self-conscious that he’s got more than a few eyes on him. Actually, some additional eyes. A few of the Jimmy Bonafide Dancers appear out of nowhere from off-camera, now watching this whole scene. Maybe they heard the words “hard murder” and thought this would involve guns. Sorry, GUNZ.
Coral Avalon: Alright, uh…
Coral turns to the Bonafides.
Coral Avalon: Where did you guys even come from?
Misty raised a gun to answer… or she would have, but thanks to Ginny van Lear, all guns are checked at the entrance now. She’s very sad about the whole thing. Look at her face. That’s the tear-soaked look of someone denied their very reason for existing. After a moment, she silently drifts off-screen, as though standing on a cart and being pulled along by string.
Coral Avalon: Okay, that was weird. Definitely random. Hm. No wonder people complain about all of the weird stuff that goes on around here. Anyway…
Coral clears his throat.
Coral Avalon: So, you guys want to prove who’s the best, but I don’t think either of you actually want to murder each other. You just want to do the normal kind of murder, with suplexes and stuff.
Sid Phillips: What’s a suplex?
Coral Avalon: Sid, the adult in the room is talking.
Justine Calvin: The adult?
Coral Avalon: My suggestion is to do two-out-of-three falls. To win, you have to win twice. It’s not as grueling as an iron man match, but in many ways, it can be worse. You don’t know how long it will go. You can lose twice without ever winning once. Making a mistake is much more costly here than in an iron man. But… you all want to settle things. Joe, Sid, you want to prove you’re not second-best. Jared, Justine, you want to leave no doubt who the greatest team in PRIME history is. That’s what I’m suggesting. What do you say?
Justine cheek twitches ever so slightly at the insinuation. In her mind there is no doubt. After all, the record books all bear out the truth. No one in the history of PRIME has done what this team has been able to accomplish. She wants to shout that, to scream it. A voice from behind her intercepts that thought before she can vocalize it.
Jared Sykes: In all fairness, but there really shouldn’t be any doubt. I know this isn’t usually my thing, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie. That said, I don’t have a problem with it, but there’s three other voices that need to be heard here.
One of those voices is staring at him wide-eyed right now, unable to process that the king of self-deprecation just flaunted their record. It’s not uncommon for Justine to question the things that fall out of her partner’s head, far from it. But usually it’s because of how batshit nuts they are.
Jared Sykes: You get a say here the same as I do, Cal. What’s on your mind?
Punching Joe. Wondering what my career looks like after Culture Shock. Curious about whether Galadriel gets to keep her name, or if the kids across the table will call it something else. Oh, and trying to figure out what the fuck just happened in your brain to trigger a little bravado!
Justine Calvin: Uhhh. Sure.
Jared Sykes: Okay, it’s not an enthusiastic yes, but I think it counts.
Coral turns to Joe and Sid. His students. The two of them are whispering to one another. For real this time, not the “talk with your outdoor voices” thing they were doing earlier. Coral feels the need to interrupt their discussion.
Coral Avalon: Joe? Sid?
Joe looks up.
Joe Fontaine: Oh. Sorry. We were just talking about what we were going to name the belts after we win them.
Sid Phillips: Powerbomb Jr. will be mine. I will teach it to do title belt powerbombs to other, lesser title belts. You might think that this would be difficult because inanimate objects shouldn’t be able to do powerbombs, but we’ve been in PRIME long enough to know otherwise.
Joe Fontaine: So, that’s a “yes”.
Sid Phillips: Maybe Professor Vincent van Powerbomb…
Joe Fontaine: We’re saying “yes”.
Sid Phillips: Master Bombaster, First of His Name?
Joe Fontaine: You can stop now, big buddy.
Sid Phillips: But I came up with like a hundred. Some of them might appear on my roster page later once I have a conversation with the dude what manages it.
Jared Sykes: Troy says that guy’s kind of an ass.
He’s paraphrasing, but still. Accurate. Hi.
From somewhere nearby is the faint sound of violence, like a body being thrown into something heavy. But when you’ve been working in the industry for a while, this sort of thing becomes background noise.
What’s not common is the sound that comes out of Jared’s phone.
BUMP-BUM DA-DUM BWWAAAAAAAaaaaaaa…
Justine Calvin: Is that…?
Jared Sykes: The Price is Right horn? Yeah. No one will let me have a buzzer, but it felt like we’d hit one of those “point of order” moments and wanted to participate.
The other noises – the normal, wrestling-related sounds that is – begin to grow closer. Jared stands and adjusts his shirt. It’s a trick he picked up from a childhood of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation in syndication. In some circles, the shirt tug is known as The Picard Maneuver. Not to be confused with the “I go to warp speed JK now I blow your ship up” maneuver of the same name.
From outside the room comes the crashing of production equipment.
Justine Calvin: The hell is happening out there?
Jared Sykes: I’m about to find out.
And being the only one standing, he does. Pulling the door to the room open, Jared steps out into the corridor and comes face to nipples with the towering frame of the Russian Bear himself.
Joe Fontaine: Oh, shit! It’s a pair of nipples attached to Ivan Stanislav!
For Sykes, this is a confrontation he’s been avoiding for most of the night, ever since having a little fun at Ivan’s expense on the company’s Jabber platform earlier in the week. Using a language barrier to successfully land a “bofa” joke came with the cost of more than a few threats levied Jared’s way, and now fate has decided the bill has come due.
Ivan Stanislav: Well… well… well.
Ivan’s words are laced with malice, and the smug satisfaction of knowing his desire to exact a little revenge is about to be sated.
Jared Sykes: Well… (under his breath) shit.
One massive hand grabs Sykes by the belt, the other by the collar. And with the ease of a parent lifting a toddler, the Dragonslayer is pulled off of his feet and thrown straight up into the air where his body punches through the drop ceiling.
Ivan Stanislav: How about these nuts?!
The rest of the conference room rises to their feet in time to see another figure enter the fray. Stanislav is checked from behind by the charging form of Hayes Hanlon, staggering the mammoth Russian. A collection of Enemigo and production staff are next to arrive, trying to separate the two men while being all too aware of the danger this brawl presents.
Outside the conference room, pieces of plaster drift to the ground. The next thing to fall is a single sneaker. Before Justine can get through the door, the ceiling erupts, giving violent birth to a very sore, very dusty Jared Sykes.
Sid Phillips: Sloppy technique. That ceiling should have its powerbomb license revoked.
Both Joe and Coral turn to Sid, gawking.
Sid Phillips: What? I’m just making a casual observation. All I really saw was a pair of nipples trying to start a moon landing.
The last thing we see before going elsewhere is Justine pushing her way into the hall to check on her partner, making sure to collect his missing shoe along the way.
CHEESE POPCORN, DADDY LESSONS AND DUSTY ROADS
We’re back to ringside.
Nick Stuart: My understanding is we were supposed to go to the ring for an interview with Hoyt Williams but apparently, he is refusing to leave his presidential suite.
Richard Parker: No matter if he comes out or not, tonight Hoyt saves us all!!!
Nick Stuart: How so?
Richard Parker: I’m glad you asked Nick, by using the promo code “HoytSaves” on your next order at Manscaped.com! By entering the code, save 30% on the Lawn Mower 4.0. Trim your garden of Eden so you can see that snake coming. Tonight only!
Nick Stuart: I understand we have cameras on the suite of Hoyt Williams. Let’s go there now.
Inside Hoyt Williams presidential suite the savior is seen arguing with a producer as the rest of Imperium (Burro, Brother Privilege, and brother Hypocrisy) are seated behind him. Burro is near an old TV with a VCR and is enjoying O-Ke-Doke popcorn.
Hoyt Williams: Look buddy I’m not going to the ring. Have you not seen what is going on around here? A banshee Bolshevik and mustached gigolo are tussling around like it’s an 80’s Prince music video. I’m not risking getting hurt, before my debut. Plus, it’s Texas and these sinners are gross. Like everything is bigger in Texas, including their grossness.
Brother Privilege: Our Pontiff has institutional legacy here in PRIME and should NOT have to be randomly entered into the Battle Royal, he should be last. The fact LOSERS from the night before are getting to enter the battle royal at the end is offensive.
Hoyt Williams: Preach on my brother Privilege!!
Brother Privilege: This federation is a mad house, and we filed an injunction to hold off Culture Shock until we can get a fair shake in court about entering last. Mr. Williams here, being a man of the people and a savior, asked me to not go through with it so you can thank him for Culture Shock.
Producer: So, is he coming to the ring or not?
Brother Hypocrisy cracks his knuckles at the producer’s attitude.
Brother Privilege: Not. Again, you have unsanctioned violence perpetuating the hallways. This is a toxic work environment. Not to mention the statue situation.
Producer: Yea it wouldn’t fit through the loading door.
Brother Privilege: This man. This great man. Hoyt Williams has a life-sized re-creation of the Redeemer statue of Jesus from Rio De Janeiro, reconfigured in Hoyt’s image, and has it delivered right here in TEXAS, to culture the uncultured, giving them, a spiritual shock, and you can’t get it through the door? Outrageous. You know what Lindsey Troy’s assistant told me when I called asking about this religious oppression?
Hoyt Williams: Tell him!
Brother Privilege: Mrs. Troy can’t be assed right now.
Hoyt Williams: Don’t skip the best part of how she said it!
Joe Burro is still eating from a big bag of O-Ke-Doke cheese popcorn and is munching away listening to the story intently.
Brother Privilege: She pronounced “assed” “Arsed” like a British person even though she clearly isn’t British.
Hoyt Williams: That’s cultural appropriation. Disgusting.
Brother Privilege: We will show our video right here from this VCR. No need to risk getting involved in tonight’s shit show. Brother Burro hit play!
Hoyt Williams: Stick around buddy you’re going to love this we got Martin Sheen to narrate it.
The homely stylist of Hoyt Williams leans forward and hit’s the play button on the old school VCR. A yellow greasy cheese popcorn stain is left on the button. Hoyt looks at in disgust but says nothing as the video starts.
Narrator: The world needed a hero. A second coming. A third serving. On July 4th, 1981, the world’s prayers were answered when Sadie Williams gave birth to Hoyton Elwood Williams. Fireworks exploded and dazzled the skies in celebration of his arrival. From coast to coast, boarder to boarder all through the American landscape people rejoiced. To this day the 4th of July, Hoyt’s birthday is a national holiday celebrated with community firework shows, mattress sales, and corn on the cob.
An American flag waves and fireworks explode as a fella from Indiana eats grilled corn on the cob.
Narrator: Hoyt’s earthly father was a drunkard carpenter wrestler by the name of “The Malice Man” Duke Williams. Duke often brought his son to wrestling shows exposing him to the business from an early age.
Photos of a young Hoyt Williams hanging out with various giant relics from wrestling’s past flash across the screen. A montage of greats. The camera cuts to an elderly Duke Williams.
Duke Williams: I was a pretty good wrestler. PCW world champion. I did a lot of great things but really, I had but one dream hoss, and one dream only. Win the Culture Shock battle royal and go on to win the Universal Title. Ever since I was a child, this is what I wanted.
Footage of Duke William’s career is mixed in with training footage of a 20 something Hoyt Williams with short hair and wide eyes.
Narrator: A father’s dream, fallen short.
A sad piano plays a somber melody.
Duke Williams: Buckaroo’s I was a hardworking man and at the end of the day they gave me a watch and told me good luck. My body gave out, with my dreams never realized, as in my 50’s I retired never winning the Culture Shock battle royal.
Narrator: Duke went on to a great broadcasting career as a long time color commentator. Recently the sad news was shared to all, as Duke Williams was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A promo of a young Malice Man tipping his Stetson cowboy hat with the dead flamingo wrapped around its bill plays freezing at the end and fading grey.
Narrator: After finding out of his father’s illness Hoyt Williams realized that now was the time to seize his father’s dream in his honor. Despite being a former Universal Champion.
Photos of Hoyt with the title are shown.
Narrator: Despite being the longest reigning champion in wrestling’s history, as God’s current champion Hoyt Williams knew what he had to do.
“Your Personal Jesus” Hoyt Williams is seen sitting on a bar stool in the center of a stage with about 151 American flags waving behind him with a tear in his eye.
Hoyt Williams: I was happily retired as a best selling author, flex seal spokesman, actor, religious icon, God, and one hell of a great lay. I was happy. But when my earthly father got sick I knew I had to realize his dream. I knew I had to return to PRIME, save the ACE network, and fulfill my father’s prophecy of a Williams winning the Culture Shock Battle Royal going on to win the Universal Title. This was his dream for over 40 years!
The wrestlers’ big blue eyes fill up with tears.
Hoyt Williams: I’m sorry, can we stop?
The Savior puts his hand up to the camera as he breaks down crying. The camera cuts black for a moment and then clearly returns after Hoyt recomposes, yet still has red eyes.
Hoyt Williams: I must do this for good ole Duke Williams. For Dad. It was his dream and now its mine. Arlington Texas, April 8th, Culture Shock 2023. I will do the William’s family right. I will do the PRIME fans right. I will crucify and save the entire roster to get there. I will do what ever needs to be done in honor of my father to win that battle royal. So, mote it be!
Narrator: For God, country, and family. A father’s dream will be answered by a savior of a son. Dreams can come true, and PRIME is the place. April 8th at Culture Shock…. Duke’s Divine Destiny will become a reality.
The video ends.
Richard Parker: A second generation wrestler and one hell of an American. He is my hero!! My savior!! After watching that, Hoyt MUST win it all!
Nick Stuart: How was this Duke’s dream 40 years ago when PRIME wasn’t even founded yet?
Richard Parker: A prophecy Stuart, pay attention!
We then cut backstage.
You’ve never seen a man more focused for a match where his opponent’s just going to lie down than what’s right in front of us now.
Abe Lipschitz: …twenty-five!
Lowering back to the ground after his final reverse lunge knee-up, Abe places his fists on his hips, breathing hard. Sweat is glistening down his neck thanks to the plyometrics session. Nearby, the Black Metal Friends sit on a nearby storage box. SELMA is snacking on what appears to be a large bag of beef jerky while Miserée broods over her cell phone. Probably looking at photos of abandoned houses in the woods or something.
Abe Lipschitz: And now, let’s get some burpees in! Readyyyyyyy-BREAK!
With a clap of his hands, Abe crouches down, kicks back, pushes up, crouches in, and leaps as high as he can. One down, as he without any hesitation continues the routine. Meanwhile, SELMA’s eye catches something off-camera. Mouth still holding the strip of dried meat, she nudges Miserée and points. The Torture Baroness’ facial expression lightens, calling out to Abe who is now about three reps in.
Miserée: Uh, Abe…you might want to take a break for a second. We’ve got a visitor.
Lipschitz, who is facing the wall and completely unaware of who that visitor might be, kicks back to the pushup position and pauses.
Abe Lipschitz: Can’t you see I’m busy? Tell them to get lost!
Miserée: I don’t think that’s a very good idea.
Abe Lipschitz: You say that about everything. Hey, whoever you are, take a hike! I’ve got a maaaa…
A pair of black boots step into his view with a dangerously high heel holding them up. Abe stops himself short and uncomfortably cranes his neck to stare up the legs of their special guest. Surprisingly, she isn’t even looking down at him, but it only takes a simple one-word command to get him scrambling to his feet in about 0.3030307737737 milliseconds.
Lindsay Troy: Abraham.
I mean, technically it wasn’t a command. But yes it was. Lipschitz, now looking up slightly into the eyes of his boss and eternal unrequited crush, struggles to say something really suave that will surely impress her.
Abe Lipschitz: …hi…
The greeting was about an octave above Mickey Mouse’s voice, barely dripping out of his larynx. LT, obviously not impressed, holds up her hand that clutches a familiar object to all of the parties present.
Lindsay Troy: Look familiar?
While his first instinct was to completely deny ever seeing the Elon Musk mask that she dangles from her fingers, there was still the matter that he had the shyness of a boy at a middle school dance when in her presence. He mumbles out something completely unintelligible as a response. Thankfully, this was a rhetorical question.
Lindsay Troy: Nice shirt, by the way.
The Queen notices tonight’s #whatsabewearing #abelovesshirts, which is just a plain white T with the words “PICK ME CHRIS AMERICA” in black. Immediately, he regrets his choice in attire for the evening.
Lindsay Troy: I’m going to tell you this once and once only. Show up uninvited to a DEFIANCE show again, and you can consider yourself needing to apply there, because you’ll be looking for a new job. Got it?
Abe continues to stammer over his speech, FINALLY able to come up with something.
Abe Lipschitz: …hi…
Miserée: What he means to say is ‘yes ma’am.’ I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Lindsay glances over to the Black Metal Friends and gives a knowing smile.
Lindsay Troy: I’m sure of it. Ladies…
LT gives a nod to Miserée and SELMA as she walks by. Not sure of what to do, SELMA holds up her bag of jerky to the boss, offering her a piece. Lindsay politely waves it off, which makes the Sea Monstress shrug her shoulders and continue to chow down. Meanwhile, Miserée stands and walks over to Lipschitz, punching him hard in the arm.
Miserée: Take that STUPID shirt off NOW. I swear to Lucifer, if you get us fired, I’m pulling all your fingers off with pliers that same day.
Abe completely ignores everything Mis has to say. His heart beat like a bass drum, and his irises slowly began to change from brown to pink, forming heart shapes from the ovals. He was once again smitten beyond belief, craning his neck to watch her walk to the end of the hall and disappear behind the corner. Once he’s sure that she’s out of earshot, he cups his hand around his mouth and calls out to her.
Abe Lipschitz: GOD DAMN, BABY! WHERE CAN I GET ME SOME KOSHER FRIES TO GO WITH THAT SHAKE?
He grins, proud of the fact that he finally had something smooth to say well after she’d left.
Lindsay Troy: WHAT WAS THAT?
To his horror, the Renaissance Woman stepped back into view in the distance. While she was too far away to tell, the look she gave him was not one that you’d particularly want from the person who just threatened to can your stupid ass. However, there was a similar look on the face of his manager, as if they were both linked telepathically. Always the quick-thinker, Abe gathered together a response to make sure his tracks were covered.
Abe Lipschitz: …bye…
Floating about six inches from the ground, the lovestruck Abe began to move toward the ring entrance area in preparation for his upcoming easy victory. He turns to Miserée and clutches his heart, swooning.
Abe Lipschitz: I’m gonna ask her to marry me someday.
Miserée: You live on another planet. She hates you.
Abe raises an eyebrow and shakes his head.
Abe Lipschitz: Oh, my young, naive friend. She doesn’t hate me. She’s just mad at me. There’s a big difference between the two when you’re both in love with one another.
Miserée: No, I’m pretty sure it’s hate.
Abe Lipschitz: Did you just say something? Sorry, I was too busy thinking about my lover.
We cut back to the ring.
NED REFORM vs. ABE LIPSCHITZ
Nick Stuart: Up next, ladies and gentlemen… we have a contest that we do not expect to go very long.
Richard Parker: According to Doc Reform, he’s outta here after he lays down for Abe Lipschitz.
Nick Stuart: I’m skeptical… The Good “Doctor” has claimed he was leaving before. Ned Reform is nothing if not constantly posturing.
The opening chords of Beethoven’s classic Fur Elise hit as the arena takes on a purple. The classical version quickly transitions into the rock version by Cole Rolland. The fans, on pure instinct, immediately stand and begin to jeer as Ned Reform walks through the curtain dressed for action. Reform pauses at the ramp, looking around somewhat pensively. Even though he’s getting nothing but vitriol from the fans in attendance, Reform still looks at them with kindness. Ned pretends to wipe a tear from his eye, takes a deep breath, and begins to walk to the ring.
Richard Parker: He’s emotional! This is a big moment for him I’m sure.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for ONE FALL… introducing first, from Litchfield, Connecticut, and weighing in at 226 lbs… NEEEED REFORM!
Reform, standing in front of the room, momentarily breaks his “melancholy and reflective” vibe to angrily mouth: “DOCTOR!” before returning to a sad panda. He enters the ring with little fanfare, making his way to a corner with teary eyes as his theme fades away.
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
Cue: “Hell” by Melencholia Estatica.
Abe is all smiles as he appears from the back, globe in hand – after all, he’s been angling for this damn near two months now. Abe is flanked by SELMA and Miserée who look rather pensive about this whole ordeal.. As SELMA and Miseree hop the barricade to sit in two reserved ringside seats, Abe is laser focused on Ned as he enters the ring.
Vince Howard: From Virginia Beach, Virginia… weighing in at 210 pounds… ABE! LIPSCHITZ!!!
Abe looks Ned dead in the eye, holding up his globe and spinning it without breaking eye contact.
Richard Parker: He’s quite proud of his recent efforts to educate himself, isn’t he?
Nick Stuart: Well, when in Rome…
Abe places his globe in one of the ring corners before moving to the center of the ring and eagerly gesturing for Ned to lock-up. Reform sighs, gestures for Jimmy Turnbull to ring the bell, and lazily walks to meet Abe in the center.
Reform and Lipschitz are now face to face and speaking to each other – although we can’t hear what is being said between them. Finally, Reform puts a hand in Abe’s face, causing him to halt his jaw jacking. Ned then lays down in the center of the ring, gesturing for Abe to “get this over with” as the fans voice their disapproval at this lack of action.
Nick Stuart: And there it is. Reform has been saying how he plans on laying down and letting Abe get the win before walking out of PRIME forever.
Richard Parker: A sad end to a run that was… well, complicated.
Abe rubs his chin, considering this course of action. He looks to his two compatriots, who make a similar “well go ahead” motion to Ned’s. Abe shrugs and seems resigned to just let it end this way when…
TA Cole’s Voice: WAIT!
All eyes – Abe’s, Ned’s, Trumbull’s, and the fans – turn to the entrance, where an exasperated and out of breath TA Cole has appeared holding a mic.
Nick Stuart: Levi Cole, Ned Reform’s sidekick. We haven’t seen these two together in some time… I thought he was on “academic probation.”
TA Cole: Doc! (pant) You can’t do this! (pant) You can’t let it end like this! Abe! (pant) Look at me! Look at me!
Lipschitz’s brow furrows, trying to figure out what this guy is babbling about…
…when NED REFORM ROLLS HIM UP FROM BEHIND!
DING DING DING!
Nick Stuart: WHAT!?
Richard Parker: I KNEW IT!!
Abe’s shoulders have been counted to the mat. He springs back to his feet, turning to meet Ned in confusion… and REFORM SMASHES THE GLOBE OVER ABE’S HEAD!! BLUE PIECES SCATTER THE RING! MY GOD, THE HUMANITY!
Richard Parker: He’s got the whole world… upside his head!
Abe is on the mat, covering up and bleeding from the forehead… and Reform is there to meet him with relentless stomps to his injured form. Abe’s friends appear concerned about this display, but do not make a motion to help.
Ned Reform (screaming): YOU WANTED A MATCH, YES?? HERE YOU GO!
Ned pulls up Abe’s bleeding head, exposing it before meeting it STIFFLY with his boot to the face. Abe falls down, facedown and probably on dream street. Jimmy Trumbell tries to pry Reform off, but The Good Doctor has become a red-faced, snarling, out of control man possessed. He peppers Abe with kicks to the head and ribs, but after that brutal shot to the head, Abe isn’t reacting very much.
Nick Stuart: We need some help out here!
Finally, Ned Reform allows himself to pried off the young wrestler, satisfied with his bloody handiwork. Officials and the on-call doctor roll under the bottom rope and begin to check on Lipschitz as Reform, smiling broadly, steps out of the ring and begins to walk backwards up the ramp. As he does, he catches sight of how close he is to the camera and looks into it, grinning evilly.
Ned Reform: You’ll never be rid of me, you sophomoric, mediocre trash.
Reform meets Cole at the ramp and they share a manly handshake as the boos continue to rain down. In the ring, the doctors have started getting some response from the dazed and bloody Abe.
Nick Stuart: Disgusting.
We then cut to our final commercial break of the evening.
COMMERCIAL: CULTURE SHOCK NIGHT ONE MAIN EVENT
CULTURE SHOCK… RUMBLE?
We come back from commercial to find Kenny Freeman somewhere backstage at his namesake Coliseum, curiously all on his own and…oh, oh no.
There is no way this can be good, or safe…we hear some very funky beats in the background, and…oh, oh boy…it looks like Kenny has something to say.
When I’m in the ring I do not play
In the Multiverse, there’s no room to fumble
I’m gonna be the winner of the Culture Shock Rumble ♫
Kenny takes a pause to listen to Aeon from offstage, who lets him know that this is not a Rumble match. Kenny is nearly taken aback by this as he responds to the news.
Kenny Freeman: What’s that? What’d you mean–oh, it’s…oh, it’s one of those. Okay, alright.
Kenny clears his throat before continuing his cute little song.
♫ Well I just learned that it’s not a Rumble
Oh me oh my, what a big ol’ stumble
To the Multiverse, I will stay loyal
When I win the [incoherent] Battle Royal ♫
Kenny takes another pause, checking with Aeon on the status of what he’s created.
Kenny Freeman: That good? I’m only doing one take. No no. Okay, alright.
Kenny clears his throat once more before wrapping things up.
♫ So now you know what I’m gonna do
In a couple of weeks, Culture Shock Night 2
Good ol’ Kenny Freeman will earn his shot
At the Universal Title…okay, maybe not. ♫
Kenny starts stuttering at the end, his self-doubt kicking him in the butt before the feed cuts to static briefly…and we come back just in time to see a mass of competitors brawling in the room, nearly knocking over the equipment! Kenny watches on, infuriated that his special little moment has been ruined by this overarching issue before giving chase, shouting incoherently before we cut away from the chaos!
We then, thankfully, go to the ringside area.
The camera frames our announce duo, front and center, while some PRIMEates behind them try to get in the shot and make fools of themselves. Richard turns and begins a spat with them while Nick focuses on the job on hand.
Nick Stuart: Folks, what an evening it has been so far here in San Antonio on what has, essentially, been Night Zero of Culture Shock. And speaking of our next major event, we’re going to take you to some footage captured earlier this week in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at an event to promote Culture Shock.
The shot goes black, then opens on a crowd of patrons seated at tables surrounding a small stage in an outdoor amphitheatre of sorts. Zooming in on the stage, we see Angelica Brooks seated at the center of a large glass tabletop. Flanking either side of her are The Tower of Babel, Brandon Youngblood and The Inhuman Being, Matt Ward.
Angelica Brooks: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Legacy Hall here in north Dallas, just 30 minutes up the road from AT&T Stadium, which will play host to Culture Shock on April 7th & 8th. Joining me now for a live face-to-face are the participants of the highly anticipated bout that will kick-off Night 1. Between them, they hold 8 PRIME singles championships, including 4 Universal Championships. They have multiple major tournament victories, multiple Final Four Dual Halo finishes… they are both Hall of Famers… Dallas, TX… please welcome Brandon Youngblood and Matt Ward
Angelica Brooks: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us here this evening to help promote Culture Shock. Matt, I’d like to start with you. At Colossus, you returned to PRIME, stepping between the ropes for the first time in nearly ten years. And from the moment you returned, truthfully, even in the teasers before your arrived on Night 2, you seemed to place a target squarely on the back of The Tower of Babel. Why?
Tchu adjusts the collar of his lavender button-up, centering the attached small black microphone. He stares a hole through his opponent, letting the silence fill with the buzz of the crowd. Finally, he turns his gaze to Angelica and answers.
Matt Ward: First of all Angelica, lets be clear… I didn’t stick anything on anyone’s back. That’s the coward’s way. From the get-go, I’ve been up front in all of this. I didn’t place the target on Brandon’s back, I stuck it right between his eyes.
The Inhuman Being points a finger across the small table, drawing the ire of The Ace of the ReVival.
Matt Ward: As to why? I said it a few weeks ago… when Brandon ran roughshod over the relaunch of PRIME, he came for my crown. He mimicked my path to the top…
The very notion has the Ace of the ReVival incredulous.
Brandon Youngblood: Excuse me? ‘Mimicked’? Mimicked your path to the top?
Matt Ward: Like a chapter out of my autobiography.
Brandon Youngblood: Horseshit.
Angelica Brooks: Maybe along these lines, Brandon, at ReV 23, you mentioned that you felt Ward’s reign of dominance was “yours”…
The glower from the Diamond is palpable.
Brandon Youngblood: When I came back to…this…I made it clear this time…this time would be different. Direct. Honest. We’re out here tit for tatting, one guy looking down his nose talking about the other, the joust…and we can do that. We can go in those circles. A big part of me sits here, today, thinking back to that time, to that well of anger, to the pit eating through my gut…
Unlike Ward, Brandon’s attire is far more utilitarian; a muscle tee featuring his diamond symbol emblazoned in PRIME blue across the chest. His arms are heavy as they fold, covering the Diamond’s logo, his back easing into his seat.
Brandon Youngblood: And I want to say he took my spot. Used my moves. Used everything I was building as I was on the cusp of the Universal Championship…and I want to look at him in the eye here…now…and tell him…tell Matt Ward…that the only reason he got what he got was because Hin See and Taun Pham thought they’d have a better shot controlling him than they did me. That they knew, give this guy a break…and he’ll kick the door right open. Imitation. That I watched that guy come from absolutely nowhere and cut his path through PRIME…that I saw him punch it in the end zone when I fumbled…that in a few months, he not only became Universal Champion, but he’d go on and carry that all the way to the Hall of Fame…onto Mount Rushmore…
Tchu cuts him off.
Matt Ward: Front and center.
There is little pause from his opponent.
Brandon Youngblood: Just like the challenge you dropped in your hype videos. Pointed the barrel right between my damn eyes. Unavoidable. Make no mistake…before you even drew from your holster, I had my six shooter on your ribs. Ward…damn near two-decades. That’s how long I’ve waited for this.
With each of his last few words, Youngblood leans in a bit further, closing the distance with his fellow Hall of Famer.
Angelica Brooks: So for the two of you, this is just a mirror match? Dealing with the reflection of someone else you feel is the lesser? The imitator?
The Tower of Babel’s smile is wry.
Brandon Youngblood: No. Not from me. Because all that is what I thought. And I say it because I know when you get to a certain place in PRIME…when the words come from another who has been at the absolute pinnacle of this sport…only a handful of us around…so it means something when we strike. Fists. Or words.
The Wrecking Ball chuckles, shaking his head.
Matt Ward: That’s rich. Coming from someone who wanted to go there, someone who made his living and image cutting down others, now you’re trying to walk it back? Because this whole time, all I hear is you trying to pull a Vickie Hall and patent suplexes, spinebusters, double leg takedowns and say you set the trend for smash mouth wrestling. Like you owned it. I’m no young buck. I’ve been busting skulls and breaking bones since the late 90s.
Brandon Youngblood: Yeah and you walked in the door with you here–
One hand is raised high above his head, the other not visible as it hangs below the table.
Brandon Youngblood: Me there. Three Universal Titles to three 5 Star Titles. Talking the midcard bullshit like you’re Zeus on Mount Olympus. Like you got the nuts to pull that card on me. Got one jackass already doing that bit. Worked out well every time he’s been in a ring with me.
Matt Ward: You think I’m Jiles?
Brandon Youngblood: No. He’s got two working knees.
The Inhuman Being bites his lip, clearing seething under his collar and trying to keep his cool
Matt Ward: He’s also got two more pay-per-view main events than you had, Wrestler of the Year.
A snarl rises from the intended target. The shot landed.
Brandon Youngblood: Is this what this is going to be? Throwing each other down the stairs, racing to the bottom?
Matt Ward: I made my career at the top. Got no time for the cellar. You might like it down there, though. Someplace nice and cold to calm down. You’re the one trying to stare a hole right through me with that mean face like my daughter makes when she has to go to bed and she doesn’t want to. Thinking that it’s going to get me shaking and believing the image you want the world to believe about you.
The finger jabbed in his direction is for emphasis.
Matt Ward: So, fine… let’s stop bullshitting each other. When I decided to return to the ring, it wasn’t to pose and wave as a part of PRIME’s legacy like some old sap hoping for flowers on his retirement tour. I’m not some gaudy false prophet trading on a legacy that I ended after I took the Universal Title from him. No, I wanted the toughest, the strongest, the best wrestler in the world today. And that’s you, Brandon.
Reflectively, the Inhuman Being cracks his knuckles.
Matt Ward: I’m not here to piss around. I could have targeted anyone to make the big statement. I could have gone after Stanislav. The message of The Orange would have been perfect for Nate Colton. Or a Hayes. I picked the biggest fight I could. Because doing so? It’s the biggest thing, the most important thing, to be done.
Not many can stare down the imposing form of Youngblood and remain level, calm. But Ward isn’t the many. He’s a singular force, not just here, but in the annals of PRIME.
Matt Ward: Because it has to matter, Brandon. To get to number four, and believe me… I want number four… I have to face maybe the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced. But not just that. I need to walk on up to the Tower of Babel and punch him in the mouth, put my boot to his throat, and show him, remind the masses, what it means to be the true standard of PRIME.
If the Inhuman Being is expecting his words to waver the man before him, then the intensity staring back at him would be demoralizing. But he knows better. Brandon chews on the sentiment, his eyes remaining glued on what is in front of him.
Brandon Youngblood: A lot’s changed since the old days, Matt. I’ve changed. I’m transparent. What you see is what you get. So when I say I want to say all those things…that you took the legacy I was building for yourself…truth is…you did more than I ever could have. Achieved more than I ever hoped. Lindsay is called the Final Boss of PRIME. Bullshit. Anyone who is anyone knows there’s only one person who has stepped in a PRIME ring who can lay true claim to that. You.
It’s Youngblood’s turn to point toward his opponent, to make the words sink in.
Brandon Youngblood: And I hated you for it. Part of me still does. There was always that imaginary line separating us. Opportunity. Time. And back then? You probably kick my ass. Put your boot to my throat. I took my shots for granted. Didn’t uphold my end of the promise. I didn’t become what I could’ve. But that’s where the change comes in. Because back then, I could look you in the eye and tell you I was going to beat you…but I wouldn’t believe it…not really…not truly.
The palm of his hand rests against the table top.
Brandon Youngblood: But I fought through myself. Worked to tear down what I was to become what I always should’ve been. That’s the toughest challenge I ever had to face. The man in the mirror. And I won that battle. And there you are. Everything I wanted to be in PRIME. The pinnacle. The absolute best.
His tone is remarkably drained of emotion.
Brandon Youngblood: So when I look you in your eye now, know…know…that I’m going to beat you. And it isn’t a front. It’s not an empty threat. Your spot on Rushmore? At Culture Shock…it becomes mine.
Within seconds, the affront gets its retaliation.
Matt Ward: A million years of winds or rains couldn’t erode my spot.
Brandon Youngblood: Then keep it. I’ll do what I should’ve done years ago and build a spot over top of it using your bones.
The tension is rising. Thankfully, the seasoned Angelica Brooks carries enough respect that she’s able to slice through it to keep things moving forward with another question.
Angelica Brooks: There’s an impressive amount of history here between two men who never really crossed paths. As you prepare for this massive one-on-one encounter that will open the biggest show since PRIME’s return… how do you balance that with Night Two and trying to find success in a massive battle royal? Brandon?
The Inhuman Being doesn’t give Youngblood the chance to respond.
Matt Ward: Ang… why don’t you direct that question to someone who’s actually won a major battle royal at Culture Shock rather than a runner up?
There’s a notable “Oooooooooooohhhhh” from the crowd in attendance. As if a call to war, The Tower of Babel pushes back his chair and jumps to his feet. Ward wastes no time in responding by jumping up himself. With his right hand, he shoves his chair away and it topples over the side of the stage, crashing into the grass below. For his part, Youngblood’s massive arm strikes out like lightning, his finger no longer a dagger, instead becoming a warhead.
Brandon Younglood: She’s asking someone who’s won a goddamn match in the last decade.
Now, Ward rips off his microphone and throws a couple of profanity laced sentences towards his opponent. It sounds something along the lines of “start a fuckin’ winning streak at your fuckin expense”, but only Angelica and Brandon are close enough to hear for sure.
Whatever it is, Youngblood doesn’t seem amused. He pushes around the corner of the table, getting right in Ward’s face. The words start to filter down to Youngblood’s mic, something akin to “just do it bitchmade monster man” and Angelica doesn’t hesitate, calling for production personnel to cut the Brandon’s mic.
Angelica Brooks: Gentlemen, please. Let’s try and get this back on the rails.
But there’s no use, the two Hall of Famers are, verbally, at each other’s throats and don’t hear a word that Angelica has pleaded. A half dozen security guards hop onto the stage and start to insert themselves between Youngblood and Ward. The crowd begins to boo as their hopes of seeing a sneak-peek of the big match are dashed by the swarm of security.
In the commotion, the glass table is knocked over and cracks, as Angelica jumps out of the way, a “Jesus!” audible from her live mic as the scene cuts to the backstage area.
The Anglo Luchador is seated, wrapping his wrists in tape in preparation for his main event bout against FLAMBERGE. He finishes his left wrist, tears the tape, tosses the roll aside, and looks up with weariness in his eyes.
TAL: FLAMBERGE… kid…
The luchador shakes his head.
TAL: All this could’ve been avoided if you’d just kept your pride in tow at ReVival 21, but something tells me you didn’t want to avoid it. You wanted a fight, and you hoped that maybe I’d still have what I had then in Tampa to fight for. Sorry about that. I’d blame Foster Nackedy, but in all honesty, it’s not in my nature to shift the blame. I lost that belt on my own. That’s not something I’d have readily admitted when I was your age.
The luchador snorts to let a beat pass before continuing.
TAL: You still seem hung up that you lost the Five Star Championship without ever being pinned or tapped for it though. Again, you’re where I was in the olden days. Cocksure, trigger finger hot, ready to prove to the world that you belong in the conversation no matter how many of us oldheads tell you that you don’t. I’m not here to tell you that you don’t belong, Julien…
The luchador looks directly into the camera, eyes burning with enough intensity that one might be forgiven if they thought they saw literal flames in his retinas.
TAL: I’m here to tell you that you do, and that you’re dangerous because you do. But are you more of a danger to me? Or are you more of a danger to yourself?
The former Intense Champion stands.
TAL: I’m not telling you that you remind me of me because I want to control you or because I want to be on a high horse, barking orders like a bloated, ineffectual general, in my position because my bourgeoisie father handed it to me as a symbol of status. I know you don’t trust me, and you have every right not to. Every father figure in your life has tried to suck the vitality from you in an attempt to prolong their youth and their relevance.
TAL: I wouldn’t trust me either if I were you. But that’s a hard lesson I didn’t think you should have had to learn. The truth is, deep down, I wanted this match too. I was delighted that you picked a fight with me, not because I have a pathological need to slam fist against skull and feel retaliation. I needed it because I could not stand to see someone with a light as bright as yours snuffed out through self-destruction like I did to myself.
He bows his head.
TAL: Now, you can listen to me and believe what I’m saying, now or after I teach you the lesson physically. Or you can continue listening to the ghost of a glue-monger who is only telling you what you want to hear so he can continue to leech your youth and recover in his cocoon like a more boring version of Sauron. Do you want to be a bastard sword made of pig metal held by an ugly, mindless orc…
The luchador lifts his head back up.
TAL: …or do you want to be Narsil? The righteous blade.
TAL: The choice is yours. After our match, I will extend my hand to you, win or lose. The choice is yours whether you want to take it. I won’t be mad if you don’t, and even if you do, I will leave you alone unless you want me to be in your hair, for better or worse. But regardless, before I extend my hand, I’m going to teach you the lesson someone in one of my past locker rooms should’ve taught me. I hope you’re receptive to it so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
The luchador walks out of the locker room as the camera cuts to another part of the arena.
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR LOVE!
In the background is Darin Zion, all sweaty from his previous match with a pretty pink© towel across his neck, Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy, who’s in street clothes while continuing to nuzzle himself and Jonathan-Christopher Hall, looking to be stressed out of his bloody mind, with his match against Sage Pontiff coming up next. In front of them, of course, is their “manager” and Jonathan-Christopher’s Amazing Life Partner®, Vickie Hall.
All five-foot-two of her, dressed in the loudest hot pink (aka pretty pink© – HEX CODE: #F87FBB) ensemble, she holds a mic in her hands and stares menacingly into the camera.
Vickie Hall: In just a few short minutes the LOVE CONVOY will prove their dominance once again when my man runs over the reckless Sage Pontiff!
Vickie tilts her head back and laughs although Darin Zion doesn’t seem happy.
Nick Stuart: Dominance? Pretty sure Darin Zion lost earlier tonight.
Richard Parker: You mean pretty pink sure he lost. And are you? Are you really sure?
Nick Stuart: Yes, I am. I saw the match. This delusional, fever dream nonsense with Vickie needs to-
Darin Zion: Stop!
It was almost as if TOUGH LOVE had the exact same idea as the announcer. Vickie’s face freezes immediately. She has a stone cold glare into the camera before she slowly, almost robotically, turns around to face the man who dared to interject his thoughts into her time.
Darin Zion: I lost, Vickie.
Meanwhile Jonathan-Christopher is shaking his head rapidly, practically pleading with Darin to STFU and let Vickie continue to speak on behalf of them.
Vickie Hall: I beg your pardon?
Zion puts his hand in front of the Vow of Virtue, telling his supposed “best friend” to back down. Darin takes a step forward, in front of the other two wrestlers. In all honesty, Tristan-Crispin is barely focusing on any of this. He’s drifted off into his own world.
Darin Zion: I’m out of the tournament, Vickie. You saw what happened to me!
At first, it looks like Zion got through to Vickie. She places her right hand on her chin and starts to tap the side of her face. Contemplating. Running the events over in her head.
Or, perhaps… she’s scheming.
As this transpires, Jonathan-Christopher’s clearly been triggered by the word “tournament”.
…And Vickie’s come to a decision.
Vickie Hall: Be that as it may, Zion, you’re still the Tag Team Champions… no?
Vickie is forcing her words, as if telling Zion by the tone of her voice he better say they are. For a moment there, it looks like Jonathan-Christopher is going to interject. But he doesn’t. He lowers his head and takes a step back. Zion, on the other hand, doesn’t say anything but he’s not submitting to Vickie’s comments, either. TOUGH LOVE bites the bottom of his lip, balls his hands into fists and sours the look across his face.
Vickie Hall: Hmmm, I would assume we all are champions right now.
Vickie turns towards the camera.
Vickie Hall: Champions of PRIME. Soon the entire world will know we are the most feared group in wrestling when MY MAN, Jonathan-Christopher defeats Sage Pontiff AND goes on to win the Culture Shock battle royal!
Large laughter from a little woman.
Vickie Hall: There will be no culture shock when the LOVE CONVOY is already heavily ingrained in this company. For I’m the next Lindsay Troy, you see.
Vickie’s right eye twitches.
Vickie Hall: BETTER than the no good can’t-get-it-done-herself hack of a dweeb who needs to run an organization otherwise stealing this company name for herself and-AAAAAAHHHHHH such fucking narcissism AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH where is my god damn fucking fruitopia AAAHHHH-
Jonathan-Christopher (finally) bursts into the scene! He wraps his arms around Vickie and starts giving her little kisses on the cheek.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: I love you I love you I love you I love you.
Eventually, Vickie is worked into relaxation. She removes herself from Jonathan-Christopher’s grasp, although it’s clear he wanted to hold her longer. Maybe forever. Regardless, The Woman of Wonder snaps her fingers and automatically Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy is out of his “nuzzle trance”. He marches over and hands Vickie Hall a steering wheel.
Vickie Hall: Tonight is a test run for the LOVE CONVOY but Culture Shock will be the real thing! Nobody has a group as big as us! My man is going to the top! Darin and Tristan-Crispin are going to make sure of it! Right boys!?
Gladhappy nods with enthusiasm. TOUGH LOVE, eventually, gives a slight nod.
Vickie finds the gaze of her ALP.
Vickie Hall: Let’s go to the ring, dear.
She taps the steering wheel and tosses it away.
Vickie Hall: Honk.
Vickie walks off as Jonathan-Christopher quickly looks at his teammates.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: [Proudly] I’m going to help make her life a fruitopia.
He scurries towards her, reaching out for her hand in the process.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: I love you.
Nick Stuart: Jonathan-Christopher against Sage Pontiff, next!
Cut to ringside.
SAGE PONTIFF vs. JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALL
You know that you’re in for a time, baby, when you hear that Flower Travellin’ Band and their “Satori Part II”. Within moments of the song’s guitars hitting, Sage Pontiff steps through the curtains and makes his way to the ring.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall! Making his way to the ring… from Joshua Tree, California! Weighing in at two hundred and one pounds… SAAAAAAAAAAGEEEEE POOOOOOOOONTIIIIIIIFFFFFF!!!
Pontiff rolls into the ring, then takes a seat in a corner in a lotus position and awaits his opponent.
Nick Stuart: One of the most dangerous men in all of PRIME right now, Sage Pontiff. A true enigma.
Richard Parker: So, I’ve done some research on our boy, Sage Pontiff, and here’s what I’ve come away with through an ancient, primordial text known as Countdown to Ecstasy.
Nick Stuart: I’m going to stop you right there.
Richard Parker: What? I did, like, five minutes of research. That’s four minutes and fifty-six seconds more research than I’d normally make!
In the ring, Pontiff is cool. Serene. Patient. Even when Aerosmith’s classic “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” hits the PA system, his expression never changes. He’s only here to guide Jonathan-Christopher Hall to the next stage of his life. You know, a hospital bed.
The Halls come out together, because when you’re Amazing Life Partners, you go together like peanut butter and jelly! Like pepperoni and pizza! Like Fruitopia and international shipping! Vickie Hall seems especially jubilant at the idea of her ALP taking the flower child population of the world down by one, and Jonathan-Christopher has an expression of grim determination. He can’t disappoint Vickie again. He won’t. He refuses.
Vince Howard: His opponent, being accompanied to the ring by his Amazing Life Partner, Vickie Hall! From Folsom, Louisiana… he weighs in at two hundred and twenty pounds! THIS IS JONATHAN! CHRISTOPHER! HAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
Vickie Hall screams almost before Howard is done.
That’s because Sage Pontiff decided to take a cue from Jonathan-Christopher’s last opponent, FLAMBERGE, and immediately attacks before Hall even thinks about getting into the ring. Sage leaps over the top rope and comes crashing down on top of Hall, limbs flailing as he flies. Vickie is sent screeching away in a panic, as Pontiff lands on top of Hall and beats the poor guy senseless with his fists.
Referee Timo Bolamba immediately exits the ring to try and restore some order, get everyone back in the ring, and have a good, clean wrestling match. And to that, Sage Pontiff rejects the entire notion. No. There needs to be blood. It doesn’t matter whose.
Nick Stuart: Sage Pontiff is not even waiting for the bell to ring!
Richard Parker: Oh no!
Pontiff unloads on Hall with his fists, perhaps hoping to sculpt such a pretty face into something unrecognizable. Jonathan-Christopher is yelling from underneath Pontiff, trying to cover up. Vickie is screeching banshee noises at Pontiff, but Pontiff is mentally somewhere far, far away from Vickie, his opponent, or even Timo. He’s finding his enlightenment right now, please call again later.
Referee Bolamba doesn’t call again later. He forcibly pulls Pontiff off of Hall, which breaks Pontiff out of his trance. There’s a heat in his mismatched eyes for a few moments before he calms himself. Peace.
Hall is in a bad way as he crawls away desperately from Pontiff. Pontiff’s blows had already done a number on poor Jonathan-Christopher’s face, and Pontiff is looking to dish out more. He stalks after the Timid Tiger, who is definitely being more timid and less tiger in this moment. Now, things are looking bad for the Hallmark Journey right now, and you might understand if we might have to put a hold on this whole thing.
But see, that’s why Jonathan-Christopher Hall has an Amazing Life Partner, able to tag in when she pleases. Regardless of the rules, situation, logic, intelligence, or even the cursed barriers of reality itself! Which is why Vickie takes the opportunity to jump on Sage’s back to deter him.
Richard Parker: No, Vickie! Don’t do that! You don’t know where he’s been!
Nick Stuart: Referee Timo needs to step in here and get these two in the ring so we can actually start this match!
Indeed, the fact that the match hasn’t begun yet is the only reason why Timo isn’t disqualifying the Halls right here and now for Vickie’s blatant interference. For his part, Sage Pontiff treats the extra weight on his back like she’s a backpack. In fact, he might welcome the opportunity to give Vickie a front row seat to the Sage Pontiff School of Facial Reconstruction.
It’s only when the Vow of Virtue escapes to the relative safety of the inside of the ring that Pontiff feels it necessary to shed the weight. He shrugs Vickie off like a coat and jumps up on the apron. That’s when JCH meets him with a hard knee as he tries to come in. He batters Pontiff, all the while pulling the Bodhisattva into the ring.
Timo takes this as a sign to ring the bell.
Nick Stuart: The match has started, and Jonathan-Christopher Hall is already busted up!
Richard Parker: Not fair!
Indeed, Jonathan-Christopher Hall has a gash across his eye, and the side of his lip is puffed up. His eyes are wide with equal measures shock and fear. The fear is not of Sage Pontiff. The fear is of what Vickie would think if she got a good look at the state of his face. God, what would she think!?
He kicks Pontiff in the head in disgust.
Pontiff responds to it with a serene smile, one that makes Hall react as though he’s actively being haunted by a malicious ghost.
Nick Stuart: Sage Pontiff is not a man who is easily phased by a little pain!
Richard Parker: Oh, I think it phases him. He just enjoys it.
Hall pulls Pontiff to his feet and shoves him into the corner, before kicking him in the corner enough times that referee Timo Bolamba has to admonish him to let Pontiff out of the corner. Hall turns to argue with him. As he does, Pontiff calmly walks out from the corner and rips Hall back into the same corner, before beating him in the face with more fists until Hall collapses into a seated position in the corner.
Richard Parker: Oh no!
Pontiff has a sick smile on his face as he looks down at Hall. He leans down, and asks him a question.
Sage Pontiff: Can you truly achieve your dreams looking like that?
Hall responds by trying to hit him back. His slap sails and hits a spot about six inches in front of Pontiff’s face. Pontiff smiles and punts him in the face again.
So, things are looking not great for the Hallmark Journey. Timo gets between Hall and Pontiff so that Hall can be given some room to get to his feet. Instead, while Timo’s back is turned, Vickie Hall pulls her Amazing Life Partner out of the ring and to the floor. Pontiff watches this with a smile, and positions himself at the center of the ring.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall slowly gets up. Vickie helps him. When he’s back up, the Amazing Life Partners get a moment to look up and see Sage Pontiff running the ropes at them. He jumps up onto the second rope from the inside and then springboards over the top rope in a flailing somersault plancha…
Nick Stuart: Oh my god…
…and goes splat on the concrete just in front of the commentary desk.
The Halls had seen what was coming for them, and they both bailed out of the way just as Pontiff executed the springboard.
There’s a stunned silence among the crowd. Murmurs. Watching an actual human man do a pratfall on concrete will do that, even if that human man is as crazy as Sage Pontiff.
Richard Parker: I think we need a doctor out here! Or a priest!
Vickie screeches at her Amazing Life Partner to get Pontiff in the ring to end this thing right now. It takes the Timid Tiger a little time to clear the cobwebs and get his mind out of how much his face throbbed from the beating Pontiff already delivered to him, but he scrapes the Bodhisattva of the Transformative Experience off of the floor mat like he’s about to flip a burger, and throws him into the ring.
He quickly crawls in after him and makes a cover.
Richard Parker: How the hell, no… better question, just now thought of it… WHY the hell did Pontiff kick out!?
Nick Stuart: Sage Pontiff is not built like most men, Richard.
Hall looks to Vickie for guidance. He needs to. He almost has no idea what to do next. His best shot so far had been what amounted to a self-inflicted wound, and Pontiff still kicked out. In response, Vickie is all but barking orders at Jonathan-Christopher, making exaggerated pantomimes at ringside on what he should do next.
The Timid Tiger nods his understanding.
Nick Stuart: One wonders who the actual wrestler of these two is…
Richard Parker: Uh, it’s the one actually wrestling, Nick. Duh.
Jonathan-Christopher pulls Pontiff up to his feet. A DDT follows, and the Vow of Virtue quickly floats over into a cover. It only gets two, however, as Pontiff defiantly shoots his shoulder off of the canvas. Hall looks to his Amazing Life Partner with the widest eyes. He’s got the advantage and she’s watching him! Judging him! He pulls Pontiff back up again. Pontiff is smiling at him the entire time. As if telling him that he’ll disappoint Vickie! How dare him!
A snap suplex. Another cover. Another two count.
His hands are in his hair now. He’s got this. He knows he’s got this. Vickie has to know he’s got this! His face hurts. Is that blood? That’s blood, isn’t it? Oh no. No, no, no. That won’t do! He pulls Pontiff to his feet, and goes for a second snap suplex. Pontiff, however, uses his agility to shift his weight as he’s lifted up and lands a knee to Jonathan-Christopher’s head!
Nick Stuart: Unique counter by Pontiff!
Richard Parker: Oh no! Vickie! Your boy toy’s getting face-punched by a man’s knee!
Pontiff lands on his feet in front of the stunned Hall, then snaps off a DDT to put him down. He’s slow to recover because even a sadomasochist like Sage Pontiff might need a minute after crashing and burning earlier in the contest like he’s been ejected from a car crash. When he does, he’s throwing Jonathan-Christopher Hall across the ring with a series of gutwrench suplexes. He gets up to three, and he goes to keep doing them. Perhaps he’s working in the 32 Signs of a Great Suplexer, and they’re all gutwrench suplexes.
Either way, Hall blocks, grabbing Pontiff’s leg as he goes for the fourth one. Pontiff tries, but Hall manages to lift him up and backdrop him over his head. Pontiff’s quick to get to his feet, and…
Nick Stuart: CHASING VICKIE!
Richard Parker: HE GOT ALL OF THAT ONE, NICK!!
The flying back elbow cracks Sage in the jaw! Vickie Hall, on the outside, jumps for joy! Her Amazing Life Partner quickly goes for the cover!
The Alpha Male Love Boat, of which Vickie’s clearly the captain, can’t believe it. Pontiff is dazed from the blow, and unable to return to his feet right away. Vickie is shouting at her ALP to take advantage of Pontiff’s downed state and do something else to pick up the win!
And what he decides to do is go to the top rope.
As he climbs, the blood seeping from the wound over his eye clouds his vision. He needs a moment to wipe that away. Hall gets to the top rope, takes another moment to measure it, and leaps off for the frog splash.
Nick Stuart: THE SPACE BETWE—NO!
Turns out, it’s very hard to complete a frog splash when there’s no one to receive it except empty mat. Vickie screams in horror as Jonathan-Christopher Hall hits the mat and bounces up, holding his abdomen. He’s in a daze, doubled over. He never sees Pontiff coming until it’s too late.
Nick Stuart: SHAMANISTIC DREAMWEAVER!
The Canadian Destroyer spikes Jonathan-Christopher Hall on his head in brutal fashion, and he crumples to the mat like cheap cardboard. Pontiff rolls him over, placing a forearm on the battered face of his opponent.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… the winner of this match… SAAAAAAAAAAGEEEEE PONTIIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFF!
“Satori Part II” hits as Pontiff slithers off of Jonathan-Christopher Hall’s body. The dreadlocked warrior doesn’t wait to have his hand raised in victory. Instead, with one arm close to his abdomen, he slides out of the ring and starts making his way to the back, leaving the Halls behind him to convalesce in the ring.
Richard Parker: Man, the Bodhisattva of the Transformative Experience just transformed Jonathan-Christopher Hall from a conscious Amazing Life Partner into an unconscious one in the blink of an eye!
Nick Stuart: Yeah, but you gotta believe that if Hall hadn’t taken so much time trying to hit that frog splash that it’d be his hand raised here tonight, Rich.
Richard Parker: I’m just so sad for Vickie! Her man should be victorious! And, y’know… not bleeding or anything. Is that so much to ask?
Nick Stuart: …Apparently, it is.
And with the image of Pontiff heading to the back with his head held high, ReVival 25 moves on…
On a monitor backstage, Hayes Hanlon and Ivan Stanislav continue to batter each other throughout the Freeman Arena.
Panning out, the monitor is watched closely by the sharp blue eyes of PRIME’s Resident Bad Dog.
A pop from the crowd goes unheard, as Wade curls his lips behind his grayed beard, shaking his head, arms crossed.
Wade Elliott: Amateurs…
A door behind busts open, forcing Wade to turn his head. PRIME’s Head of Security, Dametreyus, stands with a hand on the door frame, his usual calm demeanor replaced by exhaustion and concern.
Dametreyus: Boss, there’s a good chance we gonna have a problem.
Wade Elliott: I ain’t yer boss, Dam.
Dametreyus: Ya know what I mean! Listen, I can handle three or four of em’, but Big Red is a problem.
You can’t see it, but Ol’ Wade is having flashbacks to a hellacious battle with 7’2” monster known as Hessian. A battle for the ages that nearly killed them both.
Wade Elliott: I’ve seen worse…
Dametreyus: Wade. C’mon, man. There’s a damn good chance this mess’ll spill into the ring soon…
Wade Elliott: ALRIGHT I’M COMIN’, GOD-DAMNIT! But it’s YER ass when Lindsay puts me in the god-damn dog house fer whippin’ everyone’s ass!
Dametreyus can’t help but chuckle as the surly Blue Collar Brawler brushes past his enormous frame, taking a right turn and marching away down the hall, full of piss and vinegar…
…but not before turning back and pointing a rigid figure at the Head of Security.
Wade Elliott: AND I WANT MY GOD-DAMN MUSIC!
We then cut to ringside.
Nick Stuart: ReVival 25 is almost in the books, bringing us that much closer to Culture Shock! It’s been a hectic night thus far, but things may get even more chaotic with our next scheduled feature… an in-ring interview with none other than the PRIME Universal Champion, REZIN!
Richard Parker: Provided somebody got him away from Hayes and Ivan. Am I hearing right that the two of them pretty much destroyed the entire medical wing?
Nick Stuart: I’m hearing a lot of conflicting reports right now, but for now, let’s go to the ring, where our man Simon Tillier is waiting!
The shot goes to the ring, where the aforementioned Tillier stands smiling to the camera with a fresh mic in his hand. His voice comes in over the PA system.
Simon Tillier: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, please welcome to the ring, the UNIVERSAL–
“Put Em In the Grave” by Jedi Mind Tricks hits the PA. If the Alamo had a basement, they’d still hear the pop.
Nick Stuart: WHOA, NELLY!
Heralded by a certifiably earth-shaking reaction, “the Queen of the Ring” Lindsay Troy emerges from the entry-way. PRIME’s President and CEO takes a moment on the stage to bask in an ovation fit for royalty. The procession down the rampway is a casual one, taking the time to shake hands and make contact with the fans crowding at the barricade.
Richard Parker: Buckle up, Nick, cause I think we’re taking things off script here!
Nick Stuart: Couldn’t be more on the money, Rich! I’m not sure where this is going, but with Lindsay Troy making a rare in-ring appearance tonight on the final ReVival before Culture Shock, anything is sure to go down!
In the ring, a confused Simon Tillier checks his notes. Did he make a rookie mistake and forget who he was interviewing tonight? Meanwhile, Troy procures a microphone of her own from the gracious Vince Howard at ringside, before ascending the steps and entering the ring. The music fades out, leaving the junior reporter standing there stammering in the presence of the wrestling legend.
Simon Tillier: Well, uhm… um… good evening, Ms. Troy. May I ask what brings you out here this evening?
LT throws an arm around the junior reporter and gives him an amiable shake.
Lindsay Troy: Simon, my friend, I just came out here cause I wanted to tell you that you’ve been doing great work lately.
Simon Tillier: Um… really?
Lindsay Troy: Of course. I know not everyone here appreciates you, but I do.
Simon Tillier: Wow! Thank you!
Lindsay Troy: Don’t mention it. In fact, because you’ve been doing such great work, I’ve decided to give you the rest of the night off!
Simon Tillier: Really? Okay, but, well, uhm… I supposed to be interviewing–
Lindsay Troy: Oh, I know, but you don’t need to worry about that. I’ve got it handled from here.
Simon Tillier: Well… alrighty then.
Timidly, Tillier makes his exit, leaving the Queen to her ring, and likewise her crowd.
Lindsay Troy: San Antonio… HOW ARE WE FEELING?!
She beams with pride as the raucous cheer from the Texan PRIMEates carries on for several moments.
Lindsay Troy: That’s what I like to hear. It’s been a great show thus far, and we’re about to wrap things up! Then, it’s on to CULTURE SHOCK!
Gratuitous pop as she points to the massive “CULTURE SHOCK” sign hanging in the corner of the Freeman Coliseum.
Lindsay Troy: But first, something needs to be addressed. Something that’s been bugging me for some time now, to the point where it can’t be ignored any longer. So, without further adieu…
She points commandingly toward the entrance.
Lindsay Troy: RAISIN… get your ugly ass out here!
Nick Stuart: She’s calling out the Universal Champion!
Richard Parker: Really? For a minute there, I thought she was calling out Catherine Alice Raisin, prominent geologist and an early pioneer for female scientists. Although yeah, I guess it makes sense, when you consider she’s been dead for nearly eighty years.
Nick Stuart: Rich, while I’m happy that you’ve been reading that historical encyclopedia set I got you for your birthday, this is hardly the time or place!
LT patiently paces in the ring, tapping the mic lightly against her shoulder with every step. Her eyes fixate on the entry-way.
But seconds pass into moments.
Moments go into a full minute.
Nick Stuart: We know that Rezin was earlier involved in a backstage fracas with the two men who will be vying for his Universal Championship at Culture Shock!
Richard Parker: Is that still going? Cause my phone keeps blowing up with these security alerts about brawls happening all over the arena…
Nick Stuart: The Enemigos are certainly stretched thin tonight.
The crowd noise steadily gets more and more impatient. As does PRIME’s President.
Lindsay Troy: Listen, dipshit… either you can come out here now, or I can come back there and bring you out myself. And we both know how that’s going to play out, so save us all the time, and save yourself the trouble!
Some cheers, as many fans would enjoy the prospect of seeing that. But as the echoed reverberations of Troy’s final words slowly fade out, a tense silence. All eyes watch the curtain…
…and ”I Have A Prepared Statement” hits the PA.
The reaction is mixed, but nevertheless thunderous. Foregoing the standard affair of strobing lights and billowing smoke to simulate the effect of marijuana-induced madness, the Universal ANTI-Champion Rezin steps through the curtain with little pomp or circumstance. He comes with the tell-tale burlap sack slung over his shoulder, and a cold, killer’s gaze trained on the Queen standing tall in the ring.
Nick Stuart: Whether you love him or hate him, there are few that can deny the impact this man has made in a PRIME wrestling ring in the past year. A path of conviction, craftiness, and chaos, and one that against all odds led him to becoming the current Universal Champion!
Richard Parker: Universal ANTI-Champion, Nick… or whatever that means.
Nick Stuart: Well, he definitely fancies himself to be the antithesis to everything that’s ever been conventionally associated with the status of champion. But be that as it may, it remains to be seen if the Escape Artist’s accomplishment is more than just a fluke, as he faces his first title defense at Culture Shock here in two weeks!
Richard Parker: Provided he gets there first! Let’s not forget who he’s stepping into the ring with!
Rezin’s trip down the aisle is slow, but uneventful. He brushes by the fans, his eyes never leaving Troy in the ring. He slides the sack under the ropes before himself rolling in, and returning his “hostage” to its place over his shoulder.
The music cuts. Rezin stands waiting. There’s a mic in his pocket, but for the moment, he shows no interest in using it, instead continuing to stare across the ring at the PRIME President and CEO. Troy holds out her hand and looks into the crowd.
Lindsay Troy: Let’s hear it once more for the Universal Champion, everyone!
Troy mockingly applauds. Rezin continues giving her the same dour expression.
Lindsay Troy: Speaking of… the belt, please?
LT flicks her fingers, wanting something. Initially, Rezin doesn’t move….
But then Troy’s smirk widens, and her head goes to the side. She knows he doesn’t need to tell him twice.
Richard Parker: Oof… this tension, huh?
Nick Stuart: These two are no strangers to one another within the ring, and from what I’m told, the wounds are still fresh. Still, I’ve never seen the normally tenacious and out-of-control Rezin subjugated quite like this!
Finally, Rezin pulls the cord on the sack to loosen it. Rather than hand it over, he drops the Universal Title at the Queen’s feet and backs away. His expression is still one of cold defiance.
Troy winces as she looks at the championship belt she herself once held, along with countless other wrestling legends, now lying at her feet. She picks it up and gives it a lookover. The gleam of the gold has been dulled substantially by a layer of grime presumably applied by its current holder.
Lindsay Troy: (shaking her head) Well, this has seen better days. Really wish you knew the value of this title… or that you just cared one iota about what it meant. But then again, I guess you don’t really care about anything…
She notices his hand is outstretched, open and waiting. Smirking again, but lingering for just the briefest of moments, LT relinquishes the belt back to its holder. Never taking his brooding eyes off of her, Rezin haphazardly tosses it back into its sack and ties it off.
Lindsay Troy: You know, Erik, you seem to think that I hate you. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, I pity you.
Seething with hate, the Goat Bastard sneers.
Lindsay Troy: I pity the fact that you’re beyond help. Beyond the ability to grow up, or be educated. You’re perpetually stuck in a state of arrested development, and that won’t ever change. Honestly, I could spend the rest of this night kicking your ass from pillar to post, and these fans would probably love every second of it, but in the end, nothing will get through to you. In fact, you’d chalk it up to a “courageous act of defiance in the face of tyranny,” or whatever.
The cockiness in Troy’s grin melts slightly into one of contempt.
Lindsay Troy: What I HATE, Raisin, is having to constantly monitor you. Having to constantly clean up after your bullshit. Having to constantly deal with the headaches you bring me every time you throw a temper tantrum and go on a rampage. I honestly don’t know if your issue is just that your mother didn’t give you enough attention as a child, or–
Rezin: THAT’S ENOUGH…
Richard Parker: Think she may have hit a nerve there?
The edge in the Escape Artist’s voice could cut through diamond. His abruptness brings Troy to a moment of pause. Then, the smirk returns to her face as she leaves the floor to the visibly rattled Universal Champion.
Rezin: Look, I was already havin’ a pretty rotten night, and havin’ to stand here and look at your face, knowing ya straight up bogarted my interview spot, ain’t really makin’ my mood any lighter, so if ya don’t mind, get to whatever point ya gotta get out there, cause I got dope to smoke and chalupas to chow on!
Lindsay Troy: (rolling her eyes) Sure, I’d hate to keep you away from your weird three-hour long independent movies by a guy who’s name nobody can pronounce.
Rezin: For the last time, his name is WERNER HERZ–
Lindsay Troy: Oh my God, I don’t care! Nobody cares! And I’m running out of patience, so let me make this clear to you here and now…
She takes a step toward the self-proclaimed Universal Anti-Champion, and pauses.
Lindsay Troy: Wait, one sec…
From her pocket, she pulls out a tube of Lysol air spray and mists the air around the filth-covered Goat Bastard. Amid a cloud of slowly falling fragrance particles, Rezin’s vexed grimace finds the camera.
Nick Stuart: She clearly came prepared tonight!
With the air now halfway breathable around him, Troy freely steps up and gets into the face of the obstinate champion.
Lindsay Troy: As long as you carry that title–my company’s title–you represent the very best in this industry. With that said, at Culture Shock, if you pull that same shit you pulled two weeks ago at ReVival 24, then I promise you, Erik, it will be the last mistake you ever make in PRIME.
The PRIMEates cheer. Troy lingers for a moment, staring daggers back at Rezin, inches from his face. A beat later, Rezin’s eyebrow arches.
Rezin: …are you seriously THAT. FUCKIN’. STUPID, Lindz?
The smirk fades from Lindsay Troy’s face. A devilish one in turn appears on the face of the Goat Bastard as he backs out of punching distance.
Richard Parker: Yeah, I’d say there’s a very likely chance he’s not going to make it to Culture Shock now.
Nick Stuart: He’s definitely on thin ice! I don’t know of anyone who would ever get away saying something like that to the face of the Queen of the Ring!
Rezin begins to pace back and forth.
Rezin: Seriously, did ya wake up today and forget who you’re dealin’ with here? Have I ever once misled YOU or ANY OF THESE PEOPLE as to the kinda person I am? Have ya ever known me to be anything different? Did you know me any differently when I was given’ ya those same headaches over ten years ago, when Dan Ryan briefly put ya in charge of his little tax evasion scam of a federation?
He savagely shakes his head.
Rezin: Allow me to remind you, then, of my personal policy. See, when I face royalty, I don’t bend knees; I break ‘em! And regardless of what you might think, I ain’t beholden to a goddamb thing you say! So ya wanna toss your threats around, like they’d change ANYTHING? Well then fuck it… go ahead and FIRE ME!
He throws to sack back to LT’s feet.
Nick Stuart: Whoa…
Richard Parker: Did he just… throw down the Universal Title?
Rezin angrily points at the belt-containing bag on the canvas between them.
Rezin: I didn’t ask to be your damb champion, and sure as shit don’t need to be one to get what I want outta this friggin’ sport! The hell ya need me for, if I’m that much of a pain in your ass? It’s not like ya don’t already got two worthy contenders, back there beatin’ the hell out of each other. So have at it. Good luck, godspeed, and go fuck yourself…
Rezin goes to the ropes to leave. Troy, now irate, shakes her head in disbelief.
Lindsay Troy: So that’s how you want to settle this? By walking away? Again? I’m not sure that would be considering very pUnK rO–
Rezin: (freezing midway through the ropes) FUUUUCK YOU, TROY! DO NOT EVEN SAY IT!
From the crowd, a chant begins to grow in volume…
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
The face of the Escape Artist turns lobster red. Troy folds her arms across her chest, smiling proudly.
Lindsay Troy: Seems like I don’t need to say anything.
Wildly slapping his face and forehead, Rezin tears himself away ropes and swiftly scoops up the sack containing the Universal Title back off the mat.
Nick Stuart: Well that was a quick change of heart!
Richard Parker: Hey now… federations, championships, these things all come and go. But punk rock credibility? That lasts for ages!
With his “hostage” again slung over his shoulder, the furious Rezin points daringly back at the PRIME President and CEO.
Rezin: OH YEAH, WELL I’LL TELL YA WHAT, TRRROOYYYY… if you’re SO DAMB CONCERNED ‘bout me WALKIN’ OUT of Culture Shock, then TRY and STOP ME!
He is pacing back and forth, practically frothing at the mouth.
Rezin: Chain me to the ring post, if ya dare! Surround the ring with a BAJILLION Enemigos, if ya think they can stop me! Use all of your power as President and Charlie-Echo-Oscar of PRIME and GIVE ME YOUR WORST, cause the BOTH of us know that EYE can withstand ANYTHING YA THROW AT ME!!
Troy slowly nods. Not because she agrees, but because she knows she finally has him where she wants him.
Lindsay Troy: I’m glad to hear that, Erik. Because I’ve given this some thought, and I’ve come up with a fairly appropriate solution to this little problem. So, at Culture Shock, you’ll be defending your Universal Championship…
She points to the PRIMEview, just in time for a new graphic to appear. The three competitors for the Universal Title, Rezin, Hayes, and Ivan, all stand before the Culture Shock logo as before.
Only now, they stare back at the camera from the other side of a chainlink fence.
Lindsay Troy: …inside of a CELL!
Nick Stuart: What an announcement! Rezin! Hanlon! Stanislav! Triple threat for the Universal Title inside of an unforgiving CELL! There will TRULY be no escape for the Escape Artist in this event!
Rezin goes through a wide range of emotions that would make you think he’s going through the grieving process. Shock. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance.
And then, for some reason, bemusement? As he slowly digests this turn of events, his grinding teeth form themselves again into a hungry grin.
Rezin: Heh… ya know what? I’ll take it…
Rezin: CAUSE YA AIN’T TRAPPIN’ ME IN THERE WITH THEM! NAAWW… YOU’RE TRAPPIN’ THEM IN THERE WITH ME!!
Lindsay Troy: Whatever you say, dipshit. Just remember to show up. Now beat it. We’re finished here.
Rezin’s eyes widen.
Rezin: …oh, are we?
He drops the sack once again. Off comes his battlevest.
Rezin: You may be… but I ain’t.
The mic hits the canvas, the Goat Bastard stands ready.
Nick Stuart: Oh boy… he might be barking up the wrong tree here!
Richard Parker: Only this Goat Bastard would be so bold to pick a fight with his boss!
More than willing to oblige in giving this punk exactly what he’s asking for, Troy drops her own mic and removes her suit jacket. The Freeman Coliseum begins to fill with growing cheers of anticipation, as the two seem set to collide.
Nick Stuart: Are we going to see these two titans come to blows?!
…no, we are not.
Not today, anyway, as the Escape Artist finally backs down, retrieves his sack, and rolls over the ropes to exit the ring.
Snarling, the Goat Bastard backs up the ramp, eyes never leaving the Queen of the Ring who glares back at him from inside the ring.
Nick Stuart: Seems as though Rezin thought better of it tonight!
Richard Parker: It’s not the bravest decision, but living to fight another day is exactly how the Goat Bastard has thrived in this business over the years.
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
“YOU’RE NOT PUNK ROCK!!”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!
Despite the chants from the crowd, the Universal ANTI-Champion is all smiles as he reaches the stage and backs toward the curtain.
Only the curtain comes open before he can get there. Someone is suddenly standing behind him. Someone that suddenly pops the entire capacity crowd to their feet.
Nick Stuart: HAYES HANLON IS HERE!!
And Rezin turns around in time to have his face absolutely HAMMERED by the former Universal Champ.
Rezin staggers, dances, and tumbles across the stage as Hanlon lights him up with a flurry of lefts and rights. The audience is going WILD! Soon, the curtain parts open once again as a third joins the fray…
Nick Stuart: And now IVAN STANISLAV!!
Richard Parker: How long have these guys been fighting?! How are they not dehydrated by this point!?
Hanlon, peeling Rezin back to his feet, gets an idea as he sees the Russian charging at them and instinctively pitches the Goat Bastard straight at him. Ivan’s waiting arms pull the Universal Champion into a devastating POWERSLAM onto the stage!
Before he can rise, Hayes is on the big man’s back, peppering the back of his head with more punches. Stanislav struggles to his feet, beneath which the unlucky Rezin is trampled. Back at the ring, Lindsay Troy is rallying the troops and redirecting security to break up the bedlam happening on the stage.
Nick Stuart: ReVival 25 is on the verge of descending into absolute chaos if this keeps up! But no matter the case, the Universal “Anti” Champion won’t have an easy time ridding himself of his two challengers!
Richard Parker: I can at least appreciate that LT had the courtesy to put them in a CELL! It’s gonna take four walls of reinforced fencing to keep these guys contained!
Nick Stuart: Couldn’t agree more, partner! We’re seeing right now a preview of what may go down at Culture Shock! But for the time being, we need security to get control of this situation! Real quick, let’s head to the back while we clean up before the main event to come!
Enemigos corral the carnage among Hayes, Ivan, and Rezin, who continue to brawl their way through the curtain. Well… Hanlon and Stanislav brawl, in any case. The Universal Anti-Champion is more or less a pinball bouncing between bumpers within the fray.
We then cut backstage. One last time.
…WE PUT ONE OF THEIRS IN THE MORGUE
We start with a bathroom door. Don’t worry, we’re not going in. Someone’s coming out.
With an accompanying flush, the door swings open a few seconds later and Foster Nackedy emerges from the bathroom, a scowl on his face.
Foster Nackedy: Every time they tell me not to eat arena puffy tacos, and I never listen.
Foster takes a few steps away, holding his stomach, before turning back towards the door.
Foster Nackedy: Yeah, nope, got to go back…
As Nackedy pushes open the bathroom door, a collision from behind sends him sprawling across the bathroom tiles into the wall. He pushes himself back and turns, wincing as he stares up into the face of the Risen Star.
Foster Nackedy: Oh, hey Nova!
Foster braces one arm against the wall under a hand-dryer and holds the other out in a halting gesture.
Foster Nackedy: I’m actually glad you’re here. I know things have gone a little off the rails. But we’re reasonable people. I bet if you and I tried to talk this all through, we’d be able to…
Nova swings a boot forward into Foster’s midsection, taking the air out of his lungs. Nova reaches down and grabs Foster by the scruff of his jacket, leaning in.
Nova: You wanna go after my people? You wanna turn this into some kind of tit-for-tat, cat-and-mouse bullshit because the Bayou Butcher can’t wait till we step in the ring?
Foster Nackedy: I-
Nova rips Nackedy off the floor, smashing the top of his head into the hand-dryer, which makes it roar to life with a loud Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sound as hot air brushes rivulets of blood away from Nackedy’s scalp. From there, Nova swings Foster around in a 360-degree spin off the floor, slamming his body into the faux-marble sink installation before releasing his grip as Nackedy crumples in a heap.
Foster manages a weak cough, shuddering as Nova steps away from him. The Risen Star offers him a contemptuous frown and a shake of his head before walking away. He places a gloved hand on the door to push it open when he hears a peculiar sound.
A hoarse chuckle.
Nova turns back to see Foster rolling over to brace himself against the wall, blood still dripping down his face. He coughs again before uttering another low chuckle.
Foster Nackedy: You must…be so…pissed off, Nova.
Nova doesn’t respond, his hand still pressed against the bathroom door.
Foster Nackedy: Your life has been…nothing but consequences. There are no…(coughs)…consequences for Paxton.
Nackedy winces, clutching at his side before continuing.
Foster Nackedy: He paralyzes Jon Rhine…no one really cares. Paxton Ray and Jared Sykes get Feud of the Year. That’s how much it matters.
Foster spits out blood onto the tiles and grits his teeth, taking in a long breath.
Foster Nackedy: He throws Who’s-A-What’s-It through a glass window…no one really cares. He’s a champion. He’s on promo posters and billboards. And you…
Nackedy tries unsuccessfully to suppress another laugh that ends in a pained cough.
Foster Nackedy: …they found you with drugs. Fucking drugs…and you spent years in prison. Your late thirties, spent in a cage…and this guy can’t manage to get himself kicked out of a for-profit corporation for putting a man in a chair for the rest of his life.
Foster shakes his head, his eyelids closing under his bloody mask but the whites of his teeth shining bright in a grin.
Foster Nackedy: That’s what I love about him. The world called for his head, and he simply refused to acknowledge that was a possibility…
He lifts an arm away from his side and points a shaky finger at Nova.
Foster Nackedy: …but you did.
Foster cough-laughs again, his grin fading. Nova takes a deep breath, his hand still pressed against the door…before it slides down, hitting the latch-lock seals them both inside. Nova turns back to Nackedy, his blue eyes lit up like bonfires in the ocean.
The Starchild’s hands ball into fists and he advances on the Bayou Butcher’s manager, bathing him in shadow as Nackedy’s eyes grow wide and the scene cuts to ringside for our main event.
THE ANGLO LUCHADOR vs. FLAMBERGE
It grows dark in the arena, and Santana’s “Oye Como Va” heralds the arrival of the Anglo Luchador. Purple and green lights illuminate the darkness in a strange, eldritch light. Not eldritch in a MESSIAH sense, but coupled with the music, it has a very surreal look to it. There’s smoke, because everyone in PRIME received a free smoke machine as part of their contract. This is known information.
When the lyrics to the song begin, the Anglo Luchador bursts out from behind the curtains and starts marching his way to the ring.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is scheduled for one fall, and it is the main event for the evening! Introducing first, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania… weighing in at two-hundred and eleven pounds! THIS IS THE ANGLOOOOOOOOO LUCHADOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRR!!!
The Luchador hops up onto the apron and slingshots into the ring. He paces for a moment, impatient for his opponent, before he settles on standing in one of the corners.
Richard Parker: I don’t like the Anglo Luchador’s chances here, Nick. His opponent is young, hungry, and is too cool for a mask. And probably for school.
Nick Stuart: Yet, few others have the grit that the Anglo Luchador does. You have to wonder if his experience will be the deciding factor here tonight.
He doesn’t have to wait long.
“Dangereux” by IAM hits, and the crowd boos. Very much. FLAMBERGE all but explodes from the curtains like a very French Kool-Aid Man, only he doesn’t shout “OH OUAIS!” when he does. That’d be weird. Instead, the French Phenom stomps his way down the aisle, paying no attention to the booing fans only a few feet from him.
Vince Howard: His opponent! From Strasbourg, France! Weighing in at two hundred and six pounds! THIS! IS! FLAMBERRRRRRRRRRRGE!!!
FLAMBERGE’s eyes never leave The Anglo Luchador as he takes a measured lap around the ring, savoring the luchador’s impatience as he takes his time. Once he’s completed his lap, he stomps his way up the stairs. Once he’s in the ring, he immediately gets up in the Anglo Luchador’s grill, and referee Elvis Nixon has to get between the two before they start punching each other before the bell even rings.
Somehow, against all odds, Nixon is able to get FLAMBERGE into his corner. The two warriors stare daggers at each other like an NSA agent stares at someone with a highly questionable internet search history, each waiting for the bell to ring.
Richard Parker: They haven’t even touched each other yet, but that’s gonna change soon.
Nick Stuart: Phrasing, Richard.
Richard Parker: He’s staring a hole through The Anglo Luchador. Like, I’m pretty sure he killed the three people behind Tommy TALented with the daggers he’s firing.
Nick Stuart: These two haven’t touched each other for months, and here they stand. Moments after the bell, and still glaring away.
The Anglo Luchador snarls and begins coming out of the corner first. FLAMBERGE meets him stride for stride. TAL makes his way to the center of the ring and FLAMBEREGE meets him. They get as close as humanly possible without touching. TAL is still letting the venom fly in FLAMBERGE’s direction even though the two men are only a centimeter away from each other. The old luchador finally pauses as FLAMBERGE stands completely stoic.
Richard Parker: You could hear a mouse fart in this building.
TAL is back to the smack talk, and before he can clearly finish what he was saying…
Spit flies, two loogies end up somewhere in the seventeenth row, TAL’s head shoots to the side as the open hand of FLAMBERGE crashes across The Anglo Luchador’s face. TAL stumbles to the side as Flambo pulls back a right hand, grabs the Luchador by the shoulder and spins him around. FLAMBERGE’s haymaker sails wide as a left jab sends Flambo reeling backwards. TAL fires off again and Flambo finally regains his composure and fires back with a straight kick to TAL’s front thigh to back him off.
Nick Stuart: That front kick is brutal.
Richard Parker: I think his knee hyperextended there. Ouch.
TAL pushes through the pain and sends a jab to Flambo’s nose, and tries to follow it up with a right hook, but Flambo manages to block it, and fires back with a right hand of his own. TAL slips his hand behind FLAMBERGE’s head and pulls him closer by the hair. He sends a right of his own flying, Flambo is quick to discern his position and grabs the back of TAL’s mask tightly and sends a right hand of his own.
Nick Stuart: AND WE’RE OFF TO THE RACES EARLY!
Richard Parker: LOOK AT NIXON TRYING TO GET THESE TWO AWAY FROM EACH OTHER! HAHAHA!
The two spill to the mat, right hands still flying. An absolute flurry of arms and legs, both men exchanging dominant position and right hooks. First Flambo is on top of TAL, then TAL keeps the two men rolling, and they continue to trade. Finally Flambo manages to stop the rolling and lands in TAL’s guard. FLAMBERGE tries to posture up, but the former Intense Champion gets his feet underneath Flambo and into his midsection. He grabs one of FLAMBERGE’s arms and yanks him down, grabbing the other one and using the momentum to monkey flip FLAMBERGE over his head to the mat.
Nick Stuart: Smart work by TAL.
Richard Parker: But Flambo did make it into a dominant position.
FLAMBERGE gets to a knee and wheels around quickly to The Anglo Luchador also kneeling in the corner, Flambo runs his forearm across his face, checking his lip for blood. He keeps his eyes firmly implanted on The Anglo Luchador.
Nick Stuart: These two are trying to see who’s going to flinch first.
The two explode forward again, both throwing punches and kicks in succession. A wild right hand from TAL, Flambo ducks under and fires off a hook to the midsection. TAL takes it in stride, and smashes FLAMBERGE with a knee to the midsection. The young frenchman goes for a kill shot of his own, and yanks on the back of TAL’s head looking to discover brain matter with his knee. TAL manages to block the knee using his hands, and grabs Flambo around the waist, he yanks FLAMBERGE backwards and rips him over the top of his head with a northern lights suplex.
Nick Stuart: Great suplex from the luchador.
Richard Parker: He snapped FLAMBO over in an instant, but Flambo is getting back to his feet!
FLAMBERGE stumbles up as TAL goes to the ropes, he comes back sprinting across the ring and smashes Flambo up, and over the top rope, all the way down to the arena floor with a lariat. Flambo stumbles backwards into the barricade. TAL, from a kneeling position, takes back off to the ropes. He bounces off the ropes, looking at FLAMBERGE on the outside.
Richard Parker: I think we’re about to see lift off!
Flambo sprints into the apron just as TAL starts his leap. The Anglo Luchador manages to reach down with his arms and hook them around the top rope, using it to stop his forward momentum and flip him over the top rope to the apron. FLAMBERGE looks back towards the barricade, waiting for TAL to come crashing down, but instead the old luchador salsas his way up behind FLAMBERGE and smashes him with a penalty kick to the side of the head.
Nick Stuart: Incredible body control from The Anglo Luchador there.
Richard Parker: Who knew the old fellow still had it in him?
Nick Stuart: Great kick on the outside too.
FLAMBERGE grabs his skull and crumbles against the steel steps. TAL sprints down the apron and takes off, smashing FLAMBERGE against the steel steps with a senton. The steps fly apart, scattering around the outside as Flambo and TAL are left in a heap.
Nick Stuart: We knew this one was heated! But WOW!
Richard Parker: They really don’t care for each other much, do they?
TAL is first to his feet, and lets out a roar to the crowd as Elvis Nixon starts the count.
The Anglo Luchador wheels around, bringing FLAMBERGE up to his feet.
TAL whips Flambo around and sends him crashing into the barricade
The Anglo Luchador smirks, and sprints at FLAMBERGE.
TAL unloads with a knee, but Flambo manages to get out of the way, sending TAL spilling into the first row.
Flambo looks up at Nixon, and rolls back into the ring.
TAL starts to drag himself up and over to the guardrail with the help of some PRIME fans. FLAMBERGE is on the inside, laying on the canvas, breathing heavy.
The Anglo Luchador stumbles his way over to the apron, and just as Nixon yells for an 8, he rolls under the bottom rope.
Nick Stuart: Both men are still down here.
The Anglo Luchador and FLAMBERGE are both sucking wind in the ring. Just as Nixon readies himself for another count, this one a standing ten count, both men begin to stir. TAL pulls himself up using the middle rope, while Flambo drags himself to a corner and pulls himself up using the turnbuckle. TAL comes running forward, but stops in front of Flambo, who tries to move out of the way. TAL fires off a kick to his side, and hits FLAMBERGE mid roll. The frenchman tumbles to the mat as TAL is immediately back over on top of him.
Richard Parker: TAL is really aggressive tonight.
Nick Stuart: I think you have to be against FLAMBERGE, Richard, or he’ll pick you apart.
TAL brings down a double ax handle across Flambo’s shoulder blades, knocking him face first into the canvas. Flambo is stunned as TAL wraps his arms around FLAMBERGE’s waist, and yanks him to his feet with a deadlift. Flambo kicks his legs wildly, as TAL once again throws Flambo over his head, and smashes him to the canvas with a bridging german suplex. TAL holds on for a pin.
Richard Parker: C’mon kid…
Nick Stuart: KICKOUT!
FLAMBERGE kicks out at two and a half. The Anglo Luchador smirks, and drags Flambo to his feet by his hair again. He drives a knee into FLAMBERGE’s midsection, driving him backwards into the corner. TAL picks FLAMBERGE up and sets him on the top rope. The young frenchman fires a right hand weakly into the side of the old luchador’s head. TAL takes the shot, and fires two back of his own into FLAMBERGE’s face. He jumps up onto the middle rope, and tries to suplex FLAMBERGE, but Flambo drives a hard shot into TAL’s ribs. Then another, and as TAL ducks his head, FLAMBERGE slips a hand up through the middle and smashes the masked man across the face with an uppercut.
Richard Parker: Caught him!
Nick Stuart: Dangerous place to be exchanging blows.
TAL wobbles, but manages to briefly get a grip on Flambo, but he doesn’t let the old luchador keep his balance, and shoves him off of the ropes. TAL flies backwards, hitting on his back and rolling over onto his stomach. FLAMBERGE comes down off of the middle rope, still shaking the cobwebs from the german suplex out of his head. He looks across the ring at TAL who has made it back to a knee. Flambo cocks back and fires a lowkick to TAL’s lead foot, but TAL stands up and fires back with one of his own. FLAMBERGE winces as the old luchador connects with a second leg kick.
Richard Parker: I don’t think trading kicks with FLAMBERGE is a good idea for anyone, but I think it’s unexpected enough that it’s working.
Nick Stuart: I don’t think you’re wrong Richard, and that last kick looked like it stung FLAMBERGE pretty good.
Flambo waits, and TAL fires off a third kick. This one FLAMBERGE manages to catch, but TAL launches off of his backfoot and kicks Flambo in the side of the head, sending him stumbling into the ropes holding his head. As FLAMBERGE comes back, TAL jumps up and smashes him with a dropkick. Flambo hits the mat, and TAL is already dragging him back to the corner by his hair. He sets him up onto the turnbuckle and jumps up to the second rope.
Richard Parker: What’s that old man trying to do now?
Nick Stuart: I don’t know Richard, but it doesn’t look pleasant for FLAMBERGE.
TAL gets up to the top turnbuckle and starts pulling FLAMBERGE up to his feet. Flambo once again invites danger and takes a swing at TAL. The old Luchador gets hit and wobbles, he manages to stay up right, balanced on the top rope. TAL jabs his foot in between FLAMBERGE’s, and uses his body pushing towards the turnbuckle to put Flambo off balance. Flambo backs up onto the top rope, and clearly uncomfortable starts to retreat off of the ropes. TAL steps down to the middle turnbuckle and smashes FLAMBERGE in the face with another boot, sending him down to the canvas. TAL looks down at Flambo, now on the mat.
Richard Parker: Oh no…
TAL steps back up to the top rope and shrugs, he leaps off of the top rope and crashes down on Flamberge’s chest with a flying elbow. FLAMBERGE clutches at his sternum, as TAL flips over onto FLAMBERGE’s head, and yanks both of Flambo’s legs up and wrapping them both under his arms as Elvis Nixon slides in.
Richard Parker: He’s supposed to be GLUE!
Richard Parker: HE DID IT! NIXON SAID 2! HE SAID 2! DO YOU HEAR THAT NICK!? HE SAID 2!
Nick Stuart: Yes Richard, I get it, Nixon said 2!
FLAMBEGE explodes with a kick out at the last possible moment. The rollup like maneuver TAL has him wrapped in, explodes like the universe coming into existence. TAL is whipped halfway across the ring, FLAMBO, sent in the opposite direction. A true big bang of a moment continues, as the two men both get to their feet. TAL makes his way first and marches across the ring to Flambo.
Richard Parker: Let’s go!
TAL helps Flambo to his feet, and sends FLAMBERGE into the ropes with an irish whip. TAL takes off to his set of ropes, and comes back with a flying forearm. FLAMBERGE ducks under, TAL manages to keep his feet under him and keeps running. He comes back across, and FLAMBERGE hits a low dropkick to one of TAL’s knees, sweeping his feet out from underneath him. TAL smashes face first into the canvas, and FLAMBERGE is back to his feet. TAL is just a second late, getting to his feet, and Flambo catches him with a turning knee right to the side of the head. The knee stops TAL in his tracks as FLAMBERGE unloads with a second knee, this time driving it into TAL’s ribcage.
Richard Parker: God, his offense makes me cringe. That has to hurt.
Nick Stuart: FLAMBERGE is one of the most brutal superstars in a PRIME ring. No wonder Phil Atken saw something in Flambo.
Flambo fires off a second one to the body that leaves TAL hunched over in the center of the ring. FLAMBERGE leaps into the air and drives an ax kick down across the base of TAL’s skull. The Anglo Luchador drops to his knees, and the snarling frenchman from Paris steps in front of him. FLAMBERGE grabs TAL in a front face lock, TAL’s hands immediately try to prevent the inevitable, but the forearm slips below the chin, Flambo locks his bicep around his own wrist and cranks the pressure. TAL’s eyes almost pop out of his head because of the sudden intense lack of oxygen entering his lungs. TAL tries to yank his head out, but his mask is catching on FLAMBERGE’s flexed arm.
Richard Parker: THAT’S IN DEEP NICK! THAT’S IN DEEP! PUT THE FUNKY FROG TO SLEEP! TOMMY HAS A BED TIME!
Nick Stuart: FLAMBERGE has TAL in the center of the ring with the Marie Antionette locked in!
TAL tries to squirm again, but this time FLAMBERGE steps forward, turning up the pressure by stepping TAL into a body triangle.
Nick Stuart: He should be tapping now…
Richard Parker: TAP! TAP!
TAL does nothing of the sort. He stubbornly continues on, trying to wave Nixon off as FLAMBERGE folds his midsection like an accordion. Flambo cranks back again, and finally Nixon waves the match off and calls for the bell.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Your winner via referee stoppage… FLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMBEEEEEEEEERRRRRGGGGGGEEEEEEE!!!!
Nick Stuart: What a match Richard.
Richard Parker: That idiot should have tapped.
Nixon pulls FLAMBERGE off of TAL and back to the corner as a doctor and the timekeeper dive into the ring to check on The Anglo Luchador. A pen light is quickly being waived around over his eyes as Flambo stands in the corner with his hands raised. TAL shoots upright, and pushes the doctor and timekeeper off of him. He looks around the arena as “DANGEREUX” by IAM is playing. FLAMBERGE finally regains his composure and turns around, coming face to face with The Anglo Luchador.
Nick Stuart: Are we about to do this again?
Richard Parker: I dunno Richard, I don’t think either of these men are ready to go anymore.
The Anglo Luchador rubs his chin, sliding it up to his forehead. The fans in the arena begin to chant.
FIGHT FOREVER! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
FIGHT FOREVER! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
TAL looks up and nods at FLAMBERGE, Flambo goes to leave, but looks back to TAL holding out his hand.
FLAMBERGE eyes the hand out of the corner of his eye. He pauses, waiting a moment. The tension continues to build as he stares at TAL’s hand.
Nick Stuart: Do it Flambo!
Finally, FLAMBERGE shakes his head no and turns away…
The Freeman Coliseum continues to share its disdain for Flambo’s decision, the French prodigy and the Son of Shogun all but completely spent in the squared circle. FLAMBERGE goes to step through the ropes…
…until an all-too-familiar laugh cuts through the raucous boos of Texas.
What follows can only be described as a “Double Yeeting,” as the bodies of Hayes Hanlon and Rezin simultaneously fly through the curtain and slam onto the entrance ramp, tumbling to the bottom in a mess of arms and legs. Flambo and TAL look to the entrance with exhausted eyes, as do The Event Horizon and The Escape Artist, to see what could be the only possible source of that throaty, bellowing laugh.
Nick Stuart: Oh..NO.
Richard Parker: I…don’t think our night’s over, Nick…
The Russian Bear bursts onto the ramp, Alexei close behind, with eyes wild and teeth bared behind his heavy beard. He stomps down the ramp toward his foes, shirt torn, suspenders unclipped on one side, the other long-since pulled from his shoulder. Hayes stands to his feet, his own shirt wide open with a few buttons missing. Rezin uses the ring apron for assistance, rolling into the ring to escape the oncoming Ivan Stanislav. Timo Bolamba, all too familiar with where this is going, hollers at Ivan to stop, but…we know how that usually goes.
Nick Stuart: Good god, someone get Dam and security out here, Ivan and Hayes have been smashing through the arena all night! This needs to stop!!
Richard Parker: They’ve been trying, Nick! You get out there and tell him to relax!
Hanlon takes a heavy breath of acceptance, and puts up his dukes. Said dukes, however, provide little to stop Ivan’s charge, as Hayes finds himself slamming back-first into the ring apron thanks to Stanislav’s shoulder. Ivan chops down on Hanlon’s chest, and the eGG Beater fires back with rights and lefts.
That is, until The Russian Bear hoists him overhead with a military press, and throws him into the ring with a heavy thud.
Nick Stuart: Are you kidding!?
Ivan clambers into the ring as Hayes struggles to his feet. TAL and Flambo have taken every opportunity to catch their breath. TAL hangs on the ropes, with no intentions of going anywhere, but fighting for energy. FLAMBERGE looks to make an exit, but Ivan has managed to grab hold of the Universal Champion, and launches him into the main event victor, both crunching into the corner. With a heavy snort the Russian Bear turns his attention back to Hanlon, pulling him to his feet, and grinds his big elbow against Hammerin’ Hanlon’s temple with a holler of pain. Meanwhile, Alexei Ruslan has stepped inside the ropes, and retrieves his baton from his jacket.
Richard Parker: Nick, we might think about getting out of here…
Nick Stuart: Oh my, NOW who’s looking to…NOVA!!!! IT’S NOVA!!
All eyes shift to the ramp, and out strides the Risen Star himself, snarling behind his messy beard and fire in his eyes.
Nick Stuart: Starchild isn’t finished tonight! We literally JUST saw him retaliate after an attack on Sonny Silver! And now he’s taking it to the ring!
Nova rushes in, diving under the ropes. Alexei is there to meet him, taking a swing with his baton. It’s a big whiff, and Nova wraps up Ivan’s Right-Hand Man, sending him ass-over-tea kettle with a quick and vicious suplex.
Nova pops up, wild-eyed, and drives a forearm into Ivan’s back, doubling him over. The Risen Star takes a fistful of hair, pulling Stanislav away and giving Hayes a moment to recover, then leaps back toward center, slamming the big man with a bulldog.
Nick Stuart: Oh, YES! Nova with the save!!
Richard Parker: LOVE CONVOY! THEY’RE HERE! THEY’RE HERE, NICK!!
The Freeman arena is shaking, but a low boo carries through as JCH, Darin Zion, and Tristan-Cripsin Gladhappy rush down the ramp, Vickie in two and barking orders. They’re in the ring quick, but TAL has found his second wind, meeting Jonathan-Christopher with a right hand.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador meeting JC-Hall and exchanging right hands! Zion and Gladhappy close behind, running at Nova…TEAM CLOTHESLINE ON THE RISEN STAR…AND HAYES HANLON WITH LEAPING DOUBLE CLOTHESLINE IN RESPONSE!!!!
Hayes topples forward after laying out the Nuzzle Lord and Zion.
Richard Parker: We’re getting the Battle Royale a little early, Nick!!!
It’s a mess in the ring. Timo does his best to break up the various fights, but it’s a lost cause. Ivan has stood to his feet, eyes ablaze. Hayes is grabbing the ropes. Zion and Gladhappy help each other up. Flambo and Rezin have untangled themselves. TAL and JCH fight for an upper-hand in the corner.
Nick Stuart: ADAM ELLIS AND GINNY!! ROCKY DE LEON!!!
Richard Parker: Oh man, does she have her shotgun?????!!!??
Ellis and Rocky rush in, Ginny on their heels. They slide in, and Ellis goes right for JC-Hall, clobbering him with an elbow and quick right hands. Ginny is fast on Vickie, who screeches bloody murder before turning and sprinting away around the ring, Van Lear on her tail. Rocky leaps in the middle, but finds himself flat on his back after a big boot from a raging Ivan Stanislav.
Don’t get in the way of Ivan Stanislav.
Nick Stuart: And now Eddie Cross!!
N1ghtcraw1er strides to the ring, ready to join the fun. That is, until his father takes notice, quickly sliding out of the ring to meet his son at the bottom of the ramp. Timo holds a hand to Eddie’s chest, and the two exchange some choice words.
Richard Parker: And Gamble! Tony Gamble!
Before Father and Son can bring up anything really deep-seeded, The Grin blasts Eddie in the back with a forearm, whipping him around and sending him in through the ropes and following behind, laying the boots to him amidst the chaos. Flamberge, hanging on for dear life, has no choice but to take the offensive, throwing a knee into Hanlon’s mid-section.
Nick Stuart: This is WAY out of control!
Richard Parker: And look who’s here to revel in it!
From out of the crowd, Sage Pontiff has emerged, all smiles and breathing in the chaos. He struts to the ring and climbs in with grace. With everyone’s attention elsewhere, he holds out his arms, tilting his head back, spinning slowly in the middle of the ring, soaking in and relishing the battle around him before eyeballing a turnbuckle and making his way through the mess.
And speaking of those who relish the fight…
Nick Stuart: Oh, come on!!
Richard Parker: We do NOT need this!
Paxton Ray. The Bayou Butcher. Snarling with a grin and cracking his knuckles, has caught the scent of the fight. Nova, after clocking Gladhappy and sending him sprawling, spots him approaching, and the two lock eyes.
Nick Stuart: I don’t even think Paxton knows what Nova just did to Foster…he just wants to join this mess!!
Nova stands, and Paxton runs in. They meet on both feet exchanging hard right hands center-ring. Ivan has re-focused on Hayes, who has just finished dropping FLAMBERGE with a powerslam. Stanislav swats and pushes away at those in his way. Eddie Cross has Gamble in a headlock, and Rocky de Leon flies across the ring, connecting with a lower dropkick to the Grin’s grin! Ginny has caught up to Vickie, who claws and thrashes and screams as Van Lear takes two fistfuls of her hand and frisbee-tosses her to the floor. JC-Hall, hearing Vickie’s wails, sees red and clocks Adam Ellis, sending him to his back before mounting him with rapid fire punches. TAL bounds off the ropes and aims for the Russian Bear, clipping him with an enzuigiri.
Ivan staggers and fumes, TAL, knowing what kind of danger he’s in scrambles back to his feet, but takes a hard baton-swing from the now-recovered Alexei across the back, dropping him to his knees.
Richard Parker: We’re gonna need backup!
We got you covered, Richard.
Nick Stuart: Yes! YESS!!! THE DIAMONDS ARE HERE!!!!!
Ooooh baby, get on your feet, Texas. Brandon Youngblood and Nate Colton stride out onto the ramp, clad in street clothes. You can even detect a very small grin from the both of them as they reach the ring. They dive in, PRIME’s Ace going after Alexei Ruslan and absolutely FLATTENING him with an ABSURD spinebuster.
Nate Colton peels Paxton Ray away from Nova, hurling him into the ropes and spearing him to the ground. As Nate’s head pops up, who does he spot?
The Goat Bastard.
The Escape Artist has, all this time, made many attempts to…well, escape, but is thwarted time and time again. He catches eyes with the Next Diamond and sneers, and Nate stands to approach. Rezin makes yet another move to exit the mania, but finds the bodies of multiple combatants squeezing him in, a tight collective of battling roster members tightening around the Universal Champ. The Escape Artist has nowhere to run…
…but has a certain Bodhisattva to thank.
Nick Stuart: OHHHH MY!!!!! SAFE PONTIFF OFF THE TOP!!!!
Pontiff connects with the mass of bodies, throwing himself with a big cross-body directed at anyone in the way, sending everyone to the mat in an absolute mess of limbs.
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton and Paxton Ray fighting for ground on the mat, Ginny Van Leer just threw Vickie Hall over the barricade! Youngblood just buried Eddie Cross with a karelin lift! Gladhappy and Zion are putting the boots to Hayes Hanlon, what a mess!
Richard Parker: And Ivan…OH GAWD
TAL has, unfortunately incurred Ivan’s wrath, as his brains are scrambled from an absolutely vicious short-arm clothesline. Frothing at the mouth, the Russian Bear wades through the bodies, reaching Zion and Gladhappy, wrenching them away from his target.
Richard Parker: The kid’s in trouble!!
Nick Stuart: MAYBE NOT FOR LONG! SYKES AND AVALON!!!
The Crownless King and the Dragonslayer (now complete with shoes!) are in full sprint. Avalon slides into the ring, while Sykes heads up to the top turnbuckle.
Nick Stuart: Coral Avalon making a BRAVE choice! Doing his best to wrap his arms around Stanislav and pull him away from Hanlon! He’s not gaining much ground, Ivan is just too big…OHHH!!!!! SYKES OFF THE TOP!!!! DOMINO EFFECT!!!!!
After a big breath, Sykes leaps toward Stanislav’s head while Avalon dives out of the way. Sykes flips, connecting with the blockbuster and sending the Russian Bear to the mat with an enormous THUD. The Freeman Arena absolutely ERUPTS for the Knight Errant, who is quick to help Hayes to his feet.
Nick Stuart: SYKES WITH THE SAVE! THIS PLACE IS GOING NUTS!!
Home Run Hayes shakes the cobwebs as Sykes gives him the assist. Jared whispers something in Hanlon’s ear, and points back toward one of the corners, where Darin Zion and Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy are collecting themselves. Hayes, with a small grin, nods.
Nick Stuart: THEY’VE GOT EYES ON GLADHAPPY AND ZION! THEY HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN REVIVAL 16!
The two head for the corner, Hayes grabbing Zion, Sykes on Gladhappy. They drag them to center-ring, then whip them in opposite directions. Tristin-Crispin and Darin are forced to bound and hop over various bodies, rebounding off the ropes and back toward their aggressors, who in perfect synchronicity deliver…
Nick Stuart: EPOCH ON DARION ZION!!! RHINE REWIND ON GLADHAPPY!!!!!
Sykes and Hanlon hop up and meet with a hyped high five, but there’s more work to do.
Richard Parker: THE BENCHES ARE CLEARING, NICK! ABE LIPSCHITZ! SELMA! MISEREE!
Nick Stuart: AND ANNA DANIELS RIGHT BEHIND!!
The Black Metal crew takes advantage of Nate Colton rolling out of the ring, ganging up on him and booting him to a seated position. Sage Pontiff throws a spinning wheel kick into Avalon. JC-Hall has gone after Hanlon with lefts and rights. Adam Ellis and Eddie Cross have tangled on the mat, fighting for position. Nova trades hard rights with Tony Gamble.
Richard Parker: Is that Kenny Freeman? Where did he come from???
Indeed, Freeman has appeared on top of the turnbuckle, arms reached out to the patrons from the Coliseum named after him. He keeps balance, and eyeballs the Russian Bear, who stands after recovering from the Sykes takedown.
Nick Stuart: Oh, Kenny, no…literally ANYONE ELSE.
He can’t hear you, Nick! Without any better ideas, K-Free bends his knees, leaps, and wraps his arms around Ivan’s neck with a war cry. He hangs on for dear life, acting more like a cape for the angered and beleaguered Ivan.
Nick Stuart: HANG ON, KENNY!
Richard Parker: YEET HIM, IVAN!
With a guttural roar, Ivan reaches behind and flips Kenny off his back with ease. Ivan, eyes burning, holds Kenny by his shoulders, and Freeman can only visibly GULP.
To call it a Red Scare is to consider the move a suplex, though it looks much more akin to an overhead keg toss at a Strongman event. Kenny Freeman TAKES TO THE SKY, toppling end over end through the air and landing five rows back. Stanislav roars, tearing his shirt off the rest of the way and searching for the next object to throw.
Nick Stuart: WE MAY NEVER SEE KENNY FREEMAN AGAIN! Oh MY! Anna Daniels just PUNTED Rocky De Leon! TAL just clobbered Gamble in the back with a forearm! FLAMBERGE has wrapped up Sykes from behind with a chokehold!!
Richard Parker: NICK! LOOK OUT!!
Moments prior, The Tower of Babel had spotted The Next Diamond getting team up on by the Black Metal Crew. And he. Ain’t. Having it.
So he put Abe Lipschitz in a half-nelson.
Nick Stuart: OH JESU…
Abe’s body absolutely decimates the announce table, splintering it and leaving him in a heap. Nick and Richard step back to stand, fumbling with their headsets.
Richard Parker: WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE, NICK!
Nick Stuart: AND GO WHERE?? Paxton Ray has found Nova again! Relentless right hands!! Nate Colton fights off SELMA and Miseree! And Ivan has found Hayes again!!!!
The Event Horizon spits, taking big swings to the monsters midsection, but Ivan is well beyond feeling pain. He throws down a hard right fist straight down to Hanlon’s forehead, crossing his eyes.
Richard Parker: WHAT?
The God-Beast has arrived, stomping onto the apron and surveying the chaos. He steps in, beats his chest, and CHARGES, a bowling ball to many bowling pins bouncing off his big body.
Nick Stuart: MUSHIGIHARA!
Mushi reaches the opposite side and turns back, looking at the pile of bodies he just created. He beats his chest once more, and roars to the arena.
And the mess continues. Anna Daniels kicks FLAMBERGE into the corner. Youngblood has jumped in to assist Hanlon, driving back Stanislav. Sykes and Avalon have moved to Paxton to drive him off of Nova. And the rest are a pile, thanks to the God-Beast.
And under that pile?
The Universal Champ.
Scratching and clawing his way out from under the mess of limbs.
Nick Stuart: REZIN LOOKING TO MAKE AN ESCAPE!
Richard Parker: That’s why they call him the Escape Artist!
And then, the speakers light up, providing momentary pause.
For the distorted twang of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.
Richard Parker: FINALLY.
Nick Stuart: IT’S WADE! THE BAD DOG! THE SON OF A BITCH! WITH DAMETREYUS AND THE ENEMIGOS IN TOW!
It ain’t a brawl if Wade Elliott ain’t in it. The Blue Collar Brawler’s size 14 steel-toes thump down the ramp, a devilish grin spread behind his gray beard, worn knuckles cracking.
“ALLLLLL LIIIINEDDDD UP AND BUILT FOR PRESSURE!!!!!!
STEP UP! I’M ON IT!
SAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY YOOOUUUR PEEEACE LIKE IT’S THE END!!!
STAND BACK! WE’RE MOVIN’!!”
The music cuts, and the Enemigos disperse, attempting to break up any fight they can. Dam moves to assist Colton, wrapping up SELMA and Miseree in his big arms. And Wade, well.
Wade does Wade.
Nick Stuart: YOU WANT A BRAWL? WELL HERE’S THE BLUE COLLAR BRAWLER!!
Elliott slides in, hops up. And Gets. To. Work. A big boot to Jonathan-Christopher’s chest. A right hand Sage Pontiff, sending him on his back. A VICIOUS clothesline from hell on Gladhappy. Eddie Cross and Flamberge run forward in tandem, only to take a crushing double-spear from the former head of security.
Nick Stuart: HE’S CLEANING HOUSE!
And then, of course, Paxton Ray.
Wade snorts and marches through the brawl, grabbing Avalon and Sykes by the shoulders and wrenching them off of Ray. Wade takes him by the shirt and pulls him back into the ring before letting the right hands fly. Ray takes a few, then connects with a left, and soon the two are putting on a clinic on what it means to take a punch and eat one too.
And surrounding them, the brawl shows no sign of stopping.
And Rezin, finally, has managed to pull his boots from under the pile, and is escaping up the entrance ramp.
Nick Stuart: This night has lost ALL control!! This one’s going to be expensive!!!
Richard Parker: NOW can we get out of here???
Nick Stuart: If this is any indication of the Culture Shock Battle Royale, then we are in trouble!! But we are LONG out of time! For Richard Parker, I’m Nick Stuart, we’ll see you at Culture Shock!
Richard Parker: Yeah yeah on the ACE Network, LET’S GO!!!!!
As Nick and Richard ditch their headsets, the brawl rages on, spilling out of the ring in all directions. The Freeman Coliseum remains enthralled, the noise completely deafening, as we…