THE RED ERA BEGINS
Heavy footfalls, accompanied by not so heavy footfalls, echo throughout the hallways of the Enterprise Center, and yet something far more loud threatens to drown them out.
The deep, bass voice of Ivan Stanislav and the tenor of Alexei Ruslan reverberates through the halls and bounces into various rooms. The truth is that the duo sounds quite good together, and clearly they do have a gift for singing. And they are happy in their song, for so many reasons, tonight.
“Советские республики, объединившись в свободе,”
(The Soviet republics, in freedom united,)
They turn a corner, moving with a certain expediency that denotes a specific goal in mind. Stanislav has the Universal Title firmly around his wide waist, no doubt the straps were extended for that expressed purpose. Ruslan, meanwhile, carries with him a duffel bag.
“Собрали свою силу, свою славу, свою гордость”
(Have mustered their power, their glory, their pride)
“И так они создали великий Советский Союз,”
(And thus they created the great Soviet Union,)
Stanislav pauses the singing as the duo arrive at a large, steel door. Ruslan’s eyes gleam with playful wickedness, as Ivan thumbs at the nameplate.
With barely contained glee, the two Russians positively bellow the last portion of their song. Stanislav, in particular, makes a great show of ending the stanza with a dipping, earth-shattering low note…
“Воля народов распространилась повсюду!”
(The will of the nations that spread far and wide!!)
….and then reels back with his fist and SLAMS it into the door with a tremendous CLANG!!!
The door bends slightly, but doesn’t move and Stanislav is left blinking. He looks over at Alexei.
Ivan Stanislav: Неужели эта дверь тоже не из русской стали? (Surely this door isn’t also made of Russian steel?)
Ruslan says nothing, but just shakes his head with shock. Ivan growls and takes a step back from the infernal door. He narrows his eyes, pulls a huge boot back, and SLAMS it into the section where lock meets door jam.
To no avail.
For all that noise, there’s stunned silence now. Ivan stares at the door as if it must be made out of some unbreakable material. He blinks and snaps his fingers. Ruslan hops into action. He puts down his bag and produces several small tools from his overcoat and immediately begins picking the lock. Stanislav paces with frustration, and freezes when…
…the pick breaks. Ruslan frowns and furrows his brow, holding his poor, broken lock picking tool. He eschews Russian for English. He is clearly at a loss. After all, all logical options have now been exhausted.
Alexei Ruslan: Now what, Starshy Praporshchik Universal Champion?
Ivan exhales. He certainly didn’t want it to come to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He lifts his hand calmly towards the door…
…and knocks three, equally measured times.
A handful of seconds later, the Steel Door o’Doom swings open and Lindsay Troy’s beaming face greets the Russians.
Lindsay Troy: Ah, he can be taught. See what happens when you act like a human and not like a neanderthal?
She looks from Ivan to Alexei.
Lindsay Troy: Or a weasel.
The Queen opens the door wider and crosses the room to return to her desk, motioning them both inside.
The Universal Champion fills the doorway, and then moves forward, pushing himself into the office with Ruslan in tow. He glares back at the Steel Door o’Doom for a hateful moment, and then looks around the office itself. He watches Lindsay Troy carefully and Alexei? He remains in the doorway, with eyes filled with hatred, rage, and vitriol. Ivan’s scowl quickly shifts to a big, broad smile.
Ivan Stanislav: I did not receive any formal congratulations from you, Lindsay Troy. Rather than have you try to find me, I feel it best I come find you. After all, it cannot be denied that you have me to thank for bringing so much prestige to Universal Title. Why, your title run is made more important thanks to my victory.
Lindsay Troy: On the contrary, I’d say you holding the Universal Title places you in elite company with me and so many others.
She settles down in her chair and throws her long legs on top of the desk, crossing her feet at the ankles.
Lindsay Troy: Want me to start naming them?
Stanislav crosses his arms over his barrel chest and shakes his head.
Ivan Stanislav: No. But even you cannot deny truth, Lindsay Troy. I battled Brandon Youngblood one on one in that cage, and I beat him to pulp. PRIME’s golden boy was left in pool of his own blood. No trickery for anyone to crow about. No “cheating” for them to assume occurred. Just Ivan Stanislav and PRIME’s Diamond. And he shattered. I must ask: are you too proud to admit truth that was in front of millions of people? Can truth pass through your lips that I bested that fool?
Lindsay Troy: I don’t make it a habit of engaging in Russian propaganda games where I pretend that losses don’t happen and spread lies and misinformation amongst my followers. That’s your and Alexei’s schtick.
Lindsay reaches over and retrieves a bottle of water. She takes a sip and continues.
Lindsay Troy: Yes, you beat Brandon for the belt. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna beat him or anyone else the next time you have to defend it.
Ivan Stanislav: I have wonderful habit of making good on my promises, Lindsay Troy. Think what you wish, but do not think I will not hold onto this belt for long time. Despite your best efforts, how it must grind your gears to see Universal Title around my waist, eh? Did you ever think in million years I would come into PRIME once more and one year later, beat them all and be on top? DYAAHAAHAA!!
His laugh booms through the room, but Ruslan still does not laugh. He has murder in his eyes.
Lindsay Troy: Despite your high opinion of yourself and your low opinion of me, we’ve had worse around here.
Luckily for everyone, the Queen leaves those “worse people” unsaid.
Ivan shakes his head, but he speaks more conversationally.
Ivan Stanislav: Lindsay my dear, you project upon me my opinions. I do not think lowly of you. Had I, then I would not have had you represent me in past. Yes, you do try to get in my way when it is not warranted. Yes, you impede my heroic mission. Yes, you insult me from time to time. But I mean what I say about your tenacity, annoying and misplaced as it is. But eh, no one is perfect, Lindsay Troy!
Ivan thumbs at himself and squares his shoulders.
Ivan Stanislav: But I am Universal Champion. There is no denying it. And with it comes certain things that must be done. First: for whatever reason, I am not listed as number one member of PRIME roster in ELO rankings. I am Universal Champion. This must be changed.
Lindsay Troy: I know I declared math dead along with taco chain buddy comedies and using Kanye West for entrance music, but 1703 is still a bigger number than 1693. If you manage to move past the Glue Crew’s Le Petit Lézard en Colère in the rankings, then you’ll be ranked number one. Until then, keep plugging away, lil’ trooper.
Ivan Stanislav: I am the best member of this roster, Lindsay Troy! What more is needed?!
Lindsay Troy: More wins, for starters.
Ivan Stanislav: Fine. Wins, I can generate. (he stabs his finger into his palm) Second: I will be Universal Champion for some time. I want Colossus to be moved to Moscow. Third: I want member of announce team to be Russian announcer of my choosing. I know of very fine woman who can fill this position.
Lindsay Troy: Colossus isn’t going anywhere other than New Orleans. The first one was held there, and this is its 10th anniversary. As for the announcer, I will not be instituting a three-person commentary booth, however if you want your own announcer to interview you I might be willing to entertain a conversation about that.
Stanislav growls and places his hands on his hips.
Ivan Stanislav: Hmm… very well. I will consider it I guess. (he shakes his head) Sometimes I think you are difficult to work with for no other reason than to be difficult, Troy.
He pauses for a moment and glances over his shoulder. If Alexei Ruslan’s eyes were heat rays, the entire room would be barbecued.
Ivan Stanislav: Finally, and perhaps most important: it is time to release this stupid ban you have on Alexei and Jabber. It has played itself out. I want it lifted. Immediately. Pull your phone out and get this over with!
Lindsay looks at Ivan first, then Alexei. She takes another sip of water.
Lindsay Troy: What’s the magic word?
Ruslan explodes from behind Ivan.
Alexei Ruslan: NOW!!!
Stanislav actually jumps slightly at the outburst and whirls his huge head around at Ruslan, and then back at Troy. The wall of sound from the collective Russians is tremendous. There’s gesticulating. Roaring. Screaming. Finger pointing. Palm slapping.
Ivan Stanislav: ThishasgoneonlongenoughLindsayTroyIamUniversal…
Alexei Ruslan: Goddammitimperialistcapitalistbourgeois…
Ivan Stanislav: …gallofyoutodothistomyfriendIdemandthispettinessstop…
Alexei Ruslan: …careeristpowerhungry…
The Russians continue their ranting and raving, while Lindsay simply leans down to retrieve a pair of earphones from her bag. She slips them over her head, turns them on, and reaches for her phone.
Soon, the sweet sounds of noise-canceled music fills her ears. She smiles at Ivan.
Lindsay Troy: CAN’T HEAR YOU, DID YOU SAY THE MAGIC WORD YET, I DON’T THINK YOU DID?
Ruslan seethes in the doorway, and Stanislav’s expression is that of a very, very Russian scowl while he glowers down at Troy, still reclined with her feet up on the desk.
Ivan Stanislav: This is getting nowhere. I was fool to think you would actually listen, Lindsay Troy. Fine. It matters not.
Ivan smirks to himself and stares at a still-smiling Troy, who is now tapping her feet against each other to some unknown rhythm.
Ivan Stanislav: Regardless, The Red Era of PRIME starts tonight. We have work to do. You sit back and relax.
Stanislav looks coldly at the camera.
Ivan Stanislav: This is our show now.
Ruslan turns on his heel and leaves briskly. Stanislav follows, but stops for a moment and stares at the Steel Door o’Doom for one hateful moment. He grabs the handle, strides through the doorway, and swings it closed with a WHOOSH and a SLAM!
No door in the building, except the Queen herself, is able to blot out what comes next.
More Russian singing.
Welcome to The Red Era.
We then cut to ringside for our first match.
DAVID NOBLE VS. GARRY RAY-RAY BOLAMBA
It’s time… for REVIVAL 36! And first… SIGNS!
LOOK AT THE STINKY RUSSIA MAN!
I BURNED MY BRUDGES AND NOW I’M IN TROUBLE WITH BRUDGE LAW
THE PRESENCE OF DOM WINTERS IMPLIES THE EXISTENCE OF REY WINTERS
I’D RATHER BE IN ANOTHER BRACKET
OUR BABY IS DUE IN FIVE DAYS, FIRST WRESTLER TO HUG MY WIFE GETS NAMING RIGHTS
REMEMBER TO LEAVE LUNCH MEATS AND APPLE JUICE BY YOUR STORM DRAIN FOR TUNNEL KING WENTWORTH TONIGHT
JENNY COLTON IS THE ONLY COLTON WE CARE ABOUT!
DEFUND THE POLICE WHO DISRESPECTED DAYTONA DIAMONDS
CHARTS, GRAPHS, UP ARROWS, THAT SORT OF THING
GREAT RUSSIAN FANS OF PRIME ALL SPEAK AS ONE: CLARENCE, YOU GO AND FUCK SELF!
I’M HERE FOR THE BELMONT CLASSIC BUT I’M VERY EARLY AND IN THE WRONG BUILDING
CLARENCE WE HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU, YOUR ASS IS STILL GRASS
ARE YOU HERE FOR THE BLEEPS, THE SWEEPS, AND THE CREEPS?
THE WHAT, THE WHAT, AND THE WHAT?!
GARRY THOUGHT DAYTONA DIAMONDS WAS A NASCAR THEMED DANCER
YOU MIGHT BE A REDNECK IF YOU WRESTLED DAYTONA DIAMONDS IN THE PARKING LOT OF SOLDIER FIELD
DO YOU EVER WONDER HOW THESE ELITE ATHLETES WOULD FAIR IN A LOW STAKES WRITING CONTEST? #PRIMETHOUGHTS
Nick Stuart: Well folks here we go with another first round match in the Almasy. This one is bound to be interesting as the two competitors are not PRIME regulars.
Richard Parker: And don’t forget all the noise that David Noble made with those KING vignettes.
“Brick and mortar
Blood and water
The PRIME*TRON comes alive as the lights dim inside of the Enterprise Center. David Noble’s name is scrawled across the screen in red letters before fading away to a rotation of clips outlining his career, primarily in PRIME and DEFIANCE. He emerges from the backstage area, alone, wearing a pair of black wrestling boots and blue jeans.
“This ain’t a threat, it’s a promise
I been floating like a butterfly
That’s word up to Muhammad
Time for blowing up atomic”
Vince Howard: Introducing first, standing 6’2” and weighing in at 245lbs… from Buffalo, New York… DAAAAVID NOOOOOOOOOOOOBLE!!!
He marches down to the ring with a mixture of boos and cheers from those gathered in the audience. He looks straight forward, not interested in the fans around him, but focused on the match ahead. He rolls underneath the bottom rope and makes his way to the opposite set of ropes, placing his left foot on the middle rope and his right foot on the bottom rope before throwing his right hand up.
“That’s how you know I’m a fighter
I push through the pain
Rise from the flames
That’s how you know I’m a fighter”
He then makes his way to a corner of his choosing and sits in the corner, waiting for the match to start.
Nick Stuart: Looks like David Noble is here and ready for a fight. Only a matter of time now!
The opening cymbal from “Carmina Burina: O Fortuna” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra crashes throughout the arena. The lights in the arena immediately fade to an eerie white light emanating from the advertising board and multiple bright white spotlights shooting to one spot on the stage.
Richard Parker: What in the hell…
Vince Howard: And his opponent, standing 6’9” tall and weighing 235 lbs… he hails from Bolambaland by way of Nelson County, Kentucky. He IS the leader of the sovereign nation Bolambaland, He IS the Generalissimo of the Monster Menagerie. HE IS THE BANG! HARDWEIGHT CHAMPION! HE IS A SECOND GENERATION SUPERSTAR! THE BEST SON OF TIMO BOLAMBA! GAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYY RAAAAAAY-RAAAAY BOOOOOOOOLAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMBBBBBBAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nick Stuart: Is there confetti falling from the rafters?
Richard Parker: They are business cards Nick, they are business cards for the sovereign nation of Bolambaland. Jesus, this has Dale Earnhardt’s picture on the other side…
During the longest Vince Howard introduction for an opener ever, (just because I probably only get one of these and I’m going to make the most of it) the Bolambaland’s Monster Army had lined the way to the ring, in full Dale Earnhardt themed military attire. The music continues on, because this is a long fucking song.
Richard Parker: What the hell has this kid spent Timo’s money on…
Nick Stuart: Less than we spent on Jiles at the pay-per view.
Richard Parker: I hate that so much.
The Generalissimo finally steps out from behind the curtain. Black steel heeled boots appear first before finally the giant Kentuckian blesses us with his presence from the back. He stands at the top of the ramp staring down at David Noble in the ring. His eyes never waiver but a snarl creeps across his lip.
Nick Stuart: I heard that Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba was INFURIATED by KING’s attack on the Anglo Luchador, and Garry is here to destroy everything KING related as retaliation.
Richard Parker: I hate so many of those words. Like, almost all of them.
Finally the Monster Army snaps to attention, raising their arms to their heads and offering a salute, Garry begins his march to the ring and stops and salutes each member of the Menagerie. Lord Kurosame-sama folds in behind Garry and walks down to the ring behind the Generalissimo. Garry rounds the corner and marches slowly up the ring steps. He pauses and wipes his boots off, before stepping his teenager cosplaying M. Bison looking ass through the ropes.
Jimmy Turnbull quickly checks both competitors before signaling for the bell.
Nick Stuart: Here we go, ladies and gents. This ought to be an interesting match with the cast iron skillet hands of The Generalissimo Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba versus the iron will of David Noble.
Richard Parker: A will that has been tempered by experience… Still, there is something magnetic about Garry. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but he just has this charm about him.
Nick Stuart: Is it the dumb demeanor? His happy go lucky attitude?
Richard Parker: No, that isn’t it. Bah, let’s just watch the guys fight.
Garry and David Noble size one another up in the ring, circling like two wolves vying over the slot of alpha. Both men know that the other is dangerous, but one of them (specifically the one that looks like Larry Bird) has been honed to his craft so specifically that to the casual observer, it might appear nothing is happening… but that is far from the truth.
Noble darts in, but he is a bit rusty and quickly rebuffed by Bolamba’s length. As soon as he tries getting inside, Garry push-kicks him back ala Jon Jones. This goes on for a bit, and before long Jimmy Turnbull is warning Garry to engage David Noble, though it isn’t specifically against the rules to do what he is doing.
Nick Stuart: There are some antsy fans in the arena tonight, partner.
Richard Parker: Of course they want to see a slugfest, not a circle…
Nick Stuart: Richard!
Richard Parker: What? I was going to say circle dance.
Nick Stuart: Uh-huh.
Eventually, Noble senses the crowd getting restless and decides enough is enough. He darts in, dodging the straight kick and going for a dragon screw takedown with the outstretched leg. The lanky Generalissimo tumbles to the ground, flailing wildly as he does. Noble is on top of him in an instant, looking to push the pace and wear the tall man down.
Garry grabs David by the face, yes, his hand is as big as David’s entire face, and shoves him backwards sending Noble tumbling. Ray-Ray gets to a knee as Noble charges back in and he swings his mighty right hand so fast that David doesn’t see it coming. It knocks Noble off his feet and as the momentum carries the smaller man into the ropes, he lays over the middle rope ala an area code named luchador move.
Richard Parker: You don’t think he’s thinking about a 502 or an 859 do you?
Nick Stuart: A what?
Richard Parker: Never mind. Just call the action in the ring and quit being a joykill.
The gangly Bolamba rolls out of the ring and reaches all the way back to Nelson County to deliver the next iron paint brush. He slaps David so hard that you could swear the high pitched sound of a fighter going down in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out reverberates through the arena.
Nick Stuart: Golly! That sounded like a thunderclap!
Richard Parker: David Noble has no clue what to make of The Generalissimo!
Nick Stuart: I don’t think anyone does!
Back in the ring, Noble is trying to shake the tweety birds from his head and sees Garry stomping toward him with a big military boot. He rolls out of the way of a stomp just in time, then another, finally a third and when the third boot thuds on the ring, David sweeps Garry’s legs out from under him and begins going to work with clubbing forearms.
Now it’s Garry’s turn to go on the defensive, and he covers up while turtling on his back. He isn’t used to fighting off his feet and it shows. David builds a head of steam and lifts Garry back up, only to hit him with a knife edge chop. The Pride of Bolamba Island and sole heir to Timo’s vast treasure recoils before swinging back.
But David has him timed now and ducks the palm. It wooshes over his head like a B29 Super Fortress leaving a wake of roaring engine noise. Another knife edge chop backs Garry to the ropes. Another nearly topples the power forward built wrestler. Another big swat hitting the air and followed by Noble leaping in the air to deliver a monster headbutt placed right under Bolamba’s chin! Garry teeters precariously and dramatically, wobbling his arms in the air as he does.
Nick Stuart: TIMBER!!!
Garry falls forward, crashing into the mat hard, and David is there quickly with the pin. The consummate Jimmy Turnbull slides into place and begins his count.
Nick Stuart: Garry is on instinct at this point, but he is still just too green to be put away.
Richard Parker: I don’t know why but I feel compelled to put in a dip and break out my Dad’s Winston Cup windbreaker.
Nick Stuart: Some notions are better left unexplored, partner.
Outside the ring the Monster army is looking a bit worried, but their fearless leader isn’t out of this just yet. Lord Kurosame-sama shouts words of encouragement to Garry and slaps on the mat.
Lord Kurosame-sama: SHARK!
Naturally, Bolamba understands the message and as David reaches down to grab Garry by the hair and lift him up, the young man unleashes a slap from below that would make a slow motion editor on Rocky proud. David’s hair goes one way and his face goes the other, and he stumbles backward, seeing three of Ray-Ray as the Pride of Nelson County gets to his feet and charges back into the fray with a series of looping chops to the head.
As Noble stumbles around, Garry kicks him in the gut with his comical military boots and sticks David’s head into a piledriver position. The Generalissimo turns in the ring with his arms stretched out wide before hooking David’s waist and hauling his feet into the air.
Nick Stuart: I have a feeling David Noble’s about to take a ride on a big green tractor!
Richard Parker: Ey! That’s a pretty good one, Nick!
Nick Stuart: Thanks!
The Generalissimo lifts Noble vertically, then leaps back, spiking him with a vicious piledriver! The veteran flops to the ground and Garry leaps to the second turnbuckle, fired up.
Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba: RAISE HELL?
Crowd: PRAISE DALE!
Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba: RAISE HELL?
Crowd: PRAISE DALE!
Garry finishes playing to the crowd and turns around to see David looking out of it. The young Bolamba helps him to his feet where he stands, wobbly. The veteran tries to take a swing, but he’s ready and Garry knows it. The Generalissimo whips Noble off the ropes, spins with a huge whorl of energy and decimates David with Blood on the Plow.
Nick Stuart: There it is! Blood on the Plow! Richard, you get the feeling this one is coming to a close pretty quick, even though Noble was game and put up a good fight!
Richard Parker: He’s unorthodox and he might have the grace of a giraffe, but man that guy can dish out a three piece and a soda.
Garry drops to the mat and hooks a leg. Before he can look for the ref, Jimmy Turnbull is in position and counting.
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: Wow, that was a hard fought match and despite David Noble’s best efforts it just wasn’t enough. I wonder if he… wait, what are you doing Richard?
Richard Parker: I’m saluting the Generalissimo! Why aren’t you?
Nick shakes his head as Richard stands at attention and pays homage to Garry.
Nick Parker: I need a raise.
And on that bombshell, we cut to a pre-tape.
BRO, GOTTA HUSTLE TO GET A FRIEND HERE
Earlier in the day..
Max Kael? could be seen standing just outside of the Enterprise Center, situated at the Gateway to the West, St. Louis. He appeared to be dripping in bad customized Ivan Stanislav merchandise. In one hand he holds a megaphone through which he is screaming while in the other he holds a large sign that says “LET ALEXEI JABBER AGAIN” in large Communist red letters.
Max Kael: Hey-hey, Ho-ho, this ban on Alexei has got to go! Hey-hey, Ho-ho, Lindsay Troy, she is our foe!
Some people stopped to stare at Max though nobody appeared to take a real interest in the subject matter of his protest.
Max Kael: In the five months I’ve been alive I’ve always known I wanted a best friend and as a wise man once said you pick your friends before they pick you.. Or maybe that was enemies. In either case, the saying still stands!
As the Man with a Question Mark in his name speaks he is sure to get the megaphone as close to people’s ears as he possibly can. Being that one must pass him to get to the arena doors, however, means that the slow filtering crowds grant Max ample ears to scream into.
Max Kael: I was on Jabber the other day when I learned of the terrible treatment of one Alexei Ruslan! I learned that our Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, has been fighting tooth and nail.. Or possibly sickle and hammer, to get his friend, but not best friend, back on Jabber! Being a good.. No BEST friend that I am, I made it my life’s mission to see Alexei returned to Jabber! So let’s hear it people!
Max? flails his arms in the air trying to get a small group of about six people to chant with him.
Max Kael: HEY-HEY! HO-HO! THIS BAN ON ALEXEI HAS GOT TO GO! HEY-HEY, H-
Before the re-alived Madman from Arkham can finish his chant a owl darted from the sky narrowly missing Max as he dodged down out of the way.
Max Kael: Woah! Holy shit! Did you see that?!
The group all hurried along to get away from Max as he scans the horizon with wide eyes.
Max Kael: An owl attack? In the middle of the day? Must have rabies..
Voice: You gotta watch out for those things. I got one in the eye last week.
The camera pans up and Eddie Cross points at his eyepatch and laughs a bit, maybe awkwardly.
Eddie Cross: Sorry, that was stupid. Hey, I’m Eddie!
There is a long, awkward moment where Max seems to recoil from Eddie while wielding the sign as though it were a weapon. Peering out from behind the sign Kael narrows his eyes.
Max Kael: Ed..dee. Hm. Okay. Ed-Dee. I’m Max. Are you here to help liberate poor Alexei Ruslan, freeing to return to Jabber?!
Max’s seeming distrust melts away as he is suddenly energized by the idea that Eddie was here to help in his plot to get in the good graces of the Universal Champion.
Eddie raises a brow and holds up a hand, cautiously.
Eddie Cross: Not exactly, but I’m all about expressing your beliefs, bruh.
The young Samoan smiles, trying to disarm Max a bit.
Eddie Cross: Word of advice though, Alexei and Ivan have their own agendas for everything, even your picket line.
Grinding his teeth in thought Max seems to recoil behind his sign. There is mumbling heard, as though he were in debate with a council, before he pops his head back out.
Max Kael: Listen, I’m not the kind of person who holds someone’s gender identity against them and if you’re here to sell that you can move along. I’m trying to do better this time around, you know?
He looks proud of himself when he mentions his quest to be a better person this time around, a decision he made just now, in this moment and had never before mentioned this goal.
Eddie looks confused, and he shrugs.
Eddie Cross: I hear you and I’m all about being yourself, but like, Alexei will figure out how to get back on Jabber eventually. You got your own match and career to worry about, bruh.
n1ghtcrawler snaps his fingers and takes his backpack off. He opens it up and reveals a console.
Eddie Cross: Hey, I got an idea. I need a partner for some 2v2 matches and I got some Twizzlers and Code Red. You wanna do some gaming, Max?
There is another long pause as Max stares at Eddie before he looks over at his sign. Turning his attention back to Eddie he stares at the eye patch before nodding.
Max Kael: Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Listen, my last set of friends, one killed me and the other let it happen, so the bar is real.. Real.. reaaaaaal low. Now tell me about this team of Twizzlers and Code Red? Something about the name Twizzlers just makes me want to strangle someone, you know?
Tossing the sign away Max mimics strangling something with his hands while he wears an overly enthusiastic smile. Unfortunately a dark cloud covers the sun and the distant crack of thunder echoes in the sky above them.
U.N. Couth: What the HEll are you doing?! Get back in your cage!
The wretched Legal Guardian of Max Kael?, Ulsa N. Couth speed walks her way toward Eddie and Max. She is flanked by Violent Purple who wears a smirk while her eyes are hidden behind a pair of purple sunglasses. Panicked, Max kicks the sign toward Eddie’s feet and throws his hands up in the air.
Max Kael: I was out for a walk! And I noticed this guy standing out front of the arena, he’s trying to get Alexei Ruslan let back onto Jabber! He was trying to turn me into a Communist!
Couth glares at Max, turns her eyes at Eddie, puts two and two together and rolls her eyes. With a sneer she turns away from both of them.
U.N. Couth: Get the fuck back inside! Sunlight will rot your brain.
Violent Purple extends her index finger toward Max before indicating that he should follow her and Couth back inside. Max quickly turns toward Eddie, winking.
Max Kael: Whew! I think she bought it. We’ll talk later about Twizzler and Red Code, I gotta go.
Before Eddie can reply Max is away, skipping after Ulsa and Violent.
Eddie stands, dumbfounded, and wonders what just happened. He zips up his bag and slings it over his shoulder before letting out a prolonged sigh.
Eddie Cross: This is a fuckin’ weird business.
He whistles to the tune of Warthog Run as he makes his way into the arena and the pre-tape cuts to elsewhere backstage.
NICE-ISH TO MEET YOU
We’ve had the entrance of the new Universal Champion. We’ve had a barnburner of an opening match. We’ve had Max Kael? And now:
The sweet sound of pop, babes.
The pop that accompanies one man, one man with a face that is insured by Sotheby’s for an undisclosed sum that can safely be estimated at several of the emojis with dollar signs on the eyes and the tongue.
Chandler Tsonda, he of the Alias Title, and ennobled victory at Ultraviolence. Thus, you know, the big ol’ crowd roar.
We find our plucky hero coming into the backstage entrance area through a door from the parking bay. He’s got the handsome Alias belt sitting neatly on top of his duffel bag, poking out in a quite conspicuous way, gold side up. He’s as subtle as a door knocker.
There’s not much cooking yet backstage. The spirit of the Almasy Invitational has every damn person on the roster (and a few who aren’t) in big game mode. A lot of quiet headphoned visualizations of people seeing themselves standing at the top of the mountain come Colossus.
So it’s not surprising that there isn’t a royal retinue to welcome Tsonda. He takes the relative silence in stride.
But there is something to welcome him.
The someone is marching purposefully through the backstage area, eyeing the walls, which are beginning to be papered with heroic images of a certain Champion of the Universal variety. Lots of yellows. Lots of reds. As the trudging juggernaut that is Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, moves down the hallway on a collision course with Chandler Tsonda, Alexei Ruslan walks in Ivan’s wake. Stanislav barely stops in time to see Tsonda, and shoves three large posters in his chest.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not just stand there. Put these up.
It’s Ruslan who realizes just -who- Stanislav is talking to. His eyes go as wide as saucers. Every moment he’s had, he’s blasted Chandler Tsonda in his Think Red articles. Ruslan immediately moves into action. It’s a maneuver that we’ve seen far too often, and it usually ends in a non-Russian becoming horizontal. Alexei skirts to the side and fluidly slides along the wall, until he’s almost behind Tsonda. He flanks Tsonda, and tries his hardest to catch Ivan’s eyes.
But Ivan is distracted. The Universal Champion holds the papers against Tsonda’s chest with a hand that nearly eclipses his torso. He narrows his eyes.
He knows this agonizingly handsome and well preserved man, so devoid of Stanislav’s own ruggedness and working class hunkiness. No, this man, who has the wisdom of a man well beyond the look of his years, is not cheap labor, is he? No. But if not. Who is he?!
Chandler Tsonda: (looks down at the flyers and Ivan’s hand) Ugh, I hate when I get mistaken for a struggling proletarian. I tried that life once, but it turns out a communist utopia actually just doesn’t produce enough quality skincare options. (gestures with both hands to the great wallpapering effort) Happy for you about all this, though.
The Model Citizen slowly extricates himself from contact with Ivan’s great paw by stepping to the side. The flyers stay there in the grasp of the Russian Bear, it’s just Tsonda’s body that moves. The side-by-side of the two champions underscores just how great the size difference is between them. Tsonda has to look up to address PRIME’s apex predator, though he does keep glancing over his shoulder at Alexei Ruslan.
Chandler Tsonda: Honored that you’d ask me to help you with the HGTV bit you’re doing tonight. Feels like we’re having a real champ-to-champ connection here. (gestures over his shoulder to Alexei) Hey, do you need to put him on his leash for a walk or something?
Indeed, the size difference is stark. Stanislav is over a foot taller and over twice the weight of Tsonda. He holds the papers in his hand and gazes over Tsonda at Ruslan and speaks his native tongue.
Ivan Stanislav: Кто это, черт возьми? (Who the hell is this?)
Ruslan dispenses replies in English, for added effect.
Alexei Ruslan: This is Chandler Tsonda, Starshy Praporshchik Stanislav. You know, the one who jumped ahead of you in Culture Shock Battle Royal, even though you should have had final spot?
The poor poster paper crumples and crackles beneath the pulverizing force of Ivan Stanislav’s enormous fingers. They let out a slow, crunching death wail that is painful to the ears. With a final deathcrackle, the sound is squelched and suffocated in Stanislav’s palm. He lifts his brow and states what is now painfully obvious.
Ivan Stanislav: You are Chandler Tsonda.
Chandler Tsonda: (big, phony, super aggrieved smile) So this is going great.
The Model Citizen glances sideways at the clenched fist of Stanislav, and the smothered flier. The threat of violence always hang in the air backstage, but there’s a reason that wilderness experts advise that a bear is at its most dangerous when startled. Tsonda doesn’t exactly tread lightly, but he seems to bite just a smidgen of his usual acid tongue in the presence of the bear.
Chandler Tsonda: You’re the big bad bear. (points to Alexei) He’s some kind of Kremlinized Tony Gamble? Since we’re all fast friends now, I should mention it’s sort of, like, my coronation here tonight. Won the Alias belt, vanquished imp boy, get to do a whole song and dance about the new me-centric identity of the title.
Stanislav glances over Tsonda’s head again at Ruslan. They both mouth “Kremlinized?” to one another, and then he looks down at Tsonda once more.
Ivan Stanislav: Mmph. You should be happy with Alias Title, Chandler, yes?
Ivan exhales loudly through his nostrils. The air whistles through his mustache.
Ivan Stanislav: Because certainly, you would not think about daring to win Almasy Tournament and challenge Ivan Stanislav for -his- Universal Title. Would you?
Alexei purses his lips and takes two steps backwards, away from Tsonda. He straightens his right arm and bends his hand at the wrist, in case he has to catch anything that “slips” out of his coat sleeve and brain him with it.
Chandler Tsonda: Well now, comrade.
The Sultan of Style simply cannot help himself. He is now wearing his patented, GDP-of-a-small-nation’s worth of a smile. But this one isn’t fake. He’s cheesing.
He takes a glance at Alexei. Very slowly, he moves towards Ivan, and gives the Universal Champion a little boop of a tap to the meaty, massive bicep.
Chandler Tsonda: I wasn’t even thinking about the Almasy. Was kinda focused on my little ol’ belt and making it the hottest thing in gold. But now that you brought it up, maybe I should win the damn thing and then you and me? (points to himself and Ivan) Dude, we can get to know each other. So. Much. Better.
Ivan stares at Tsonda, as if the words he just spoke are an impossibility. His face twists from a grimace to a smirk, and a slow rumbles quakes through his body. Air snorts from his nostrils as his lips tighten, and then he erupts.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!! Oh! Chandler Tsonda! You are funny! DYAAHAAHAA!!
Then? The laugh STOPS. Ivan’s voice grows low.
Ivan Stanislav: Chandler?
The Alias champion doesn’t back down. This may be a grave mistake.
Chandler Tsonda: You learned my name after all. I’m tickled.
Ivan grips Tsonda’s shoulder and eclipses it with his hand. The Russian Bear squats some, so that his enormous head is eye level with The Alias Champion.
Ivan Stanislav: Just stick to your little belt, eh? (he licks his lips) But if you want to know me better? Should your communist Vietnamese roots finally speak to you, then, come find me.
He stands to his full height and slaps Tsonda’s shoulder none too gently, before barreling past him. The Universal Champion takes several long strides down the hallway alongside Ruslan, before he stops suddenly and turns. He stares coldly down the hall at the Alias Champion.
Ivan Stanislav: Oh, and Chandler?
The Model Citizen keeps up the smile. It may be all the armor he’s got against the titanic Russian, and it’ll be a full-blown blizzard in San Diego before Tsonda’s ready to let anyone, even the newly crowned champion of champions, see him sweat.
Chandler Tsonda: I get the sense you’re kind of a “needs the last word” type of guy. Go ahead, Vanya. I don’t need the last word. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to chat. Maybe real soon.
Stanislav’s eyelid twitches and Ruslan visibly bristles at the Vanya, but the stoic Russians try their best to show nothing. Ivan grumbles as he points a huge finger at The Alias Champ.
Ivan Stanislav: You are from old school, even if you do not look it. I give you pass for usupring my spot at Culture Shock Battle Royal. However, you get in my way again and I knock that pretty head off your shoulders.
Stanislav mutters something in Russian to Ruslan and trudges away. Ruslan lingers and gives Tsonda a bras d’honneur before turning on his heel and hustling away towards The Universal Champ.
We then cut to a very awkward moment unfolding before our very eyes.
The lively sounds of Enterprise Arena come to life to find our next combatant marching his way to wrestle the match of his life. Despite wanting to stop and admire all these Ivan Stanislov posters he has business to take care of. Unfortunately, this is when Crash disregards the partition for catering and the stage and trips. He lands face first into Violent Purple… and her awesome boobs.
CRASH: Oh… shoot?
He says in a voice that’s pretty unconvincing that he sees this as a problem whatsoever. VP shoves the dweeb off her like yesterday’s gym fungus and steps on his chest.
CRASH: Hit me. Pleeeease.
VP: Yo, first thing, eyes up here.
The red haired woman grabs Crash’s chin and forces his attention up to her eyes.
VP: Second, no. The only reason I laid a finger on you was to secure my own investment in this company. Max beating you means my investment got a little more diverse.
CRASH: If you think about it, you beat me.
Crash jumps to his feet when Purple falls into a more relaxed stance. He brushes himself off, turning back to the stage dude who is like “YO BRO! WE GOTTA GO!” with a “GIMME A SECOND, BRO!” and then turns back to Violent Purple.
CRASH: Wanna go and… do it again?
She tilts her head to the side surprised at the brazenness of Crash. She almost seems to indulge him before she shakes her head.
VP: Hard pass. Maybe snag me a win out there tonight, Wreck, and we’ll talk.
VP shoves Crash way far away, but not (weirdly enough) too violently. He lands in the line for the entrance ramp. Security starts rushing him into line like a Pez in the dispenser. He looks back at Miss Purple Dreams. She offers him a wink and the faintest shadow of what might be a good luck kiss sending Crash into battle with a little pep in his step.
We then cut back to ringside for our next match.
JASON “CRASH” JACKSON VS. DON WINTERS
Nick Stuart: And we’re back with another exciting first round match up. We’ve seen Jason “Crash” Jackson in action once so far, and we get an in ring debut from…
Richard Parker: DOM WINTERS!
Nick Stuart: It’s Don, Richard. It’s Don.
Richard Parker: Oh…
The arena lights drop into darkness, save for the backlights in the entryway, as a mix of curious silence and spontaneous cheers comes over the crowd. With haste, a figure emerges from the back and stands head high, fist raised, and strikes a pose for a brief second.
Vince Howard: Coming to the ring first, hailing from Buffalo, New York, standing at 5’11” and weighing in at 238 lbs… JAAAAAAAAAAAASON ‘CRAAAAAAAAAAASH’ JACKSON!
LEEEET’S GET READY TO RUUUMMMBLE
The bell dings as Volbeat’s “A Warrior’s call” floods the airwaves and brings the lights back up. A chaotic lightshow takes over the entrance ramp, with flashing white and red strobe lights, before Crash jumps in the air and stomps both feet in clear view for everyone to see. He roars violently with a fiery, toothy grin before beginning his frantic descent to the ring.
FEEL THE FIRE, HE’S ENTERING THE RING
HIS MINDSET KNOWS ONLY HOW TO WIIIIIIIN
Crash reaches the ring while pumping his fist in unison with the beat, being joined by many fans simply out of respect for fist pumping, and scales the stairs at the same hellacious pace before turning around to roar at the crowd again.
UNLEASHING HIS HELL
YOU WON’T EVEN HEAR THE BELL
He leaps the top rope and lands with a thunderous rattle before pacing around the ring and nodding his head repeatedly. He stops in the middle, facing the crowd.
FEEL THE POWER OF THE WAAAAARRIOOOOR!
Nick Stuart: Lot of energy here from Crash.
Richard Parker: Ya think? He might gas himself before we even get going here.
Crash steps towards the crowd, slamming his fist into the air and yelling along with the song.
He turns to the opposite side of the arena and offers the same sentiment.
LET’S GET READY TO RUUUUMBLE
Much more fist pumping begins with sweat flying off his face and arms, landing on the lucky fans in the front row.
The music begins to die out as Crash locks in on his opponent with an alarming stare, holding a violent gaze and snarl that raises red flags all over the place.
Richard Parker: That was an experience.
Nick Stuart: And here comes what I would imagine is a much different experience from Don Winters.
Vince Howard: And his opponent, hailing from Detroit, Michigan, standing 6’1” and weighing in at 254 lbs. THE REVELATOR DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON WINTERS!
The first upbeat notes of ‘Movin’ On Up’ sound through the darkened arena and as the words “my light shines on” are sung, a spotlight points to the entrance where ‘The Revelator’ Don Winters stands. He stomps his right foot, claps his hands, and throws his head back, arms out in a crucifix position as boos begin in earnest.
Richard Parker: Why does everyone hate men of faith. Persecution I say!
Nick Stuart: Oh here we go…
Richard Parker: Hoyt, Don, look at these heathens.
He composes himself and struts to the ring with the beat of the music, ignoring the jeers from shouting fans. He climbs the ring steps, vaults over the top rope and slumps to his knees in the center of the ring before throwing his arms out in the crucifix one more time. Elvis Nixon checks Don Winters over and calls for the bell.
Richard Parker: Look at that, Hoyt sent down Elvis Nixon to help out.
Nick Stuart: Elvis Nixon does not work for Hoyt Williams.
Richard Parker: Yeah, he might work for Don Winters now.
Crash is shot out of a cannon at the sound of the bell and hurls himself across the ring. Jackson comes into close proximity with Don Winters and the veteran tries to slide out of the way but Crash is a flurry of right hands and Winters is able to turn himself a bit and holds his hand out flexing it for Crash to grab it.
Richard Parker: Test of strength kid.
Crash reaches for the hand and Winters locks it up but steps in closer and drives a knee into Crash’s midsection.
Richard Parker: So perfect.
Nick Stuart: Don Winters, the next big favorite of Richard Parker. Great.
Richard Parker: Listen Nick, Farthington isn’t on the show, I have to watch Jiles later. I have this, I have Don Winters.
Crash doubles over but Winters keeps the grip on the wrist and walks his opponent around the ring, he transitions into an arm wrench and slips behind Crash for a hammerlock. Jackson swings his arm back frantically but Winters does his best to avoid the flailing and directs Crash into the turnbuckles. Jackson tries to spin around on Winters, but Winters wrenches the hammerlock tighter up behind Jackson stopping him in his tracks. At the same time Winters slips his arm around Jackson’s mid section.
Nick Stuart: OH!
Richard Parker: THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT DONNY BABY!
Winters violently snaps Jackson over his head, slamming him to the mat shoulders and neck first. Jackson flips all the way over onto his stomach, and Winters is right back to his feet. Jackson slowly begins to press himself up from the mat, Winters waits for him to take his hands off of the mat and smashes him across the chest with a huge chop. Crash grabs at his chest and cringes, he looks up at Winters and grimaces.
Nick Stuart: Big chop from Crash!
Crash smashes Winters across the chest, Winters fires back with another chop, Crash lets another rip, back and forth, back and forth. Winters fires another that stings across Crash’s chest, Jackson roars, pulls himself back as far as he can, and lets fly with another chop that staggers Winters. Jackson shoves Winters backwards, exposing his chest again and he lets another chop rip and Winters almost levitates his 251 lbs into the corner.
Nick Stuart: Crash is all over Winters!
Richard Parker: That little energetic meatball has a lead weight in his hand. A roll of quarters, it has to be the work of Satan, Nick.
Crash lets loose a third huge unanswered chop into Winters’ chest for good measure. Jackson sprints himself across the ring to the far corner, and then sprints back across the ring and slams himself into Don Winters with a big cross body. Jackson lands with his feet on the middle ropes and begins wailing away on Winters’ head. Finally Don covers up, and Jackson latches him into a front facelock and twists his way from the middle turnbuckle, down to the mat dragging Don down with him.
Richard Parker: Come on Nixon! Get in there and break this up!
Nick Stuart: Great tornado DDT by Crash, and he hooks both legs, we have a cover.
Richard Parker: Jesus, made my heart skip a beat there.
Crash is up like a bolt of lightning. He fires himself forward into the ropes and comes back towards a now seated Don Winters with a huge head of steam. He smashes both of his feet into Don Winters’ face with a great low dropkick. Crash hooks a leg with another cover.
Richard Parker: *heavy breathing into a brown paper sack*
Nick Stuart: Richard Parker is currently hyperventilating. Big Kick out for Don Winters there.
Winters throws his shoulder into the air. Crash jumps back to his feet and is right back to work scaling his way to the top turnbuckle. He gets to the top rope and…
Nick Stuart: Crash is pretending to smoke a marijuana cigarette while on the top rope… and he leaps…
Richard Parker: *really deep brown paper sack breath that is held for what feels like forever*
One clutch, two clutch, and connection right into the middle of Don Winters’ chest. Crash straddles The Revelator and hooks back both of his legs.
Nick Stuart: And Crash Jackson thinks he has this all wrapped up! He’s once again smoking his marijuana cigarette.
Richard Parker: *frantic breathing into the brown paper sack*
Nick Stuart: ANOTHER KICKOUT FROM DON WINTERS!
Richard Parker: *large brown paper bag breath sigh*
Winters clutches his chest and rolls to the side while Crash looks back at Elvis Nixon in shock. He holds up three fingers to him and shakes his head, he looks back towards the corner, and once again leaps his way to the top rope.
Nick Stuart: Another high risk move coming up for Crash Jackson!
Crash steadies himself, looking down at Don Winters. Crash jumps and Winters explodes off the floor and speeds towards the corner Crash is jumping from. Jackson spins in the air and manages to right his rotation and land on his feet. He spins around right into a huge lariat that sends Crash flipping head over heels.
Nick Stuart: Oh, huge counter there from Winters.
Richard Parker: I told you Winters had this the entire time.
Nick Stuart: You were actually sobbing into the brown paper bag. I heard the tears.
Winters lays on the canvas holding his chest, breathing heavily. He slowly begins to crawl his way across the ring to the ropes, and Crash Jackson isn’t far behind him to the other side of the ring. Both men groggily step to their feet using the ropes as support and march forward to the center of the ring. Crash throws a wild right hand that connects with Winters cheek, then another, then another.
Nick Stuart: Here comes Crash again.
Winters manages to block and fire in a forearm shiver to the side of the head that staggers Jackson backwards. Winters takes a step and delivers a chop across Jackson’s chest that’s heard in the nosebleeds. Jackson shouts as Winters grabs him in a front facelock and spins him over with a snap suplex.
Richard Parker: He’s fine Nick, stop overreacting.
Nick Stuart: Snap suplex from Winters and Jackson seems to be reeling here.
Winters is back up to his feet, dragging Crash along with him, still locked in the front face lock. This time Winters lifts him up and stalls.
Nick Stuart: What power! ONE! TWO! THREE!
Winters finally falls and drops Jackson on the back of his head and neck with a brainbuster. Winters is over quickly hooking the far leg as Elvis Nixon slides in for the count.
Richard Parker: Tough luck there Don, Nixon was slow getting down, he had him for sure.
Nick Stuart: Yeah Richard, we get it, you like him. Big kickout for Crash here, and it looks like Winters is going right back to work.
Winters is right back to his feet, sneering. He places Crash’s head between his legs, he looks out into the crowd and sneers. Crash tries to lift Winters up, but Winters stomps his foot on the back of Jackson’s head and picks him back up. This time lifting him up and over into a powerbomb position. Winters holds the Crucifix pose for a moment, before launching Crash Jackson over his head as high as he can, letting Jackson, well, ‘crash’ to the mat in a heap. Winters covers.
Richard Parker: That’s it! Wow!
Nick Stuart: Big Crucifix Powerbomb there for Winters.
DING DING DING
Richard Parker: He had it all along.
Winters slowly steps to his feet as ‘This Little Light of Mine’ begins to play throughout the arena.
Vince Howard: Our winner by pinfall… THE REVELATOR DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON WINTERS!
Nick Stuart: What a debut win for Don Winters, he’s advancing into the second round in the Almasy.
Richard Parker: Who does he get again?
Nick Stuart: Colton or Jiles.
Richard Parker: Don Winters is my man! LETS GO DON!
Nick Stuart: What a performance from Jason ‘Crash’ Jackson too. Lot of fight, ton of heart, just couldn’t quite get there. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Crash.
And we fade to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: 24 HOUR RULE
YOU ALL FOUND OUT
Fresh off a commercial, the PRIME fans in the Enterprise Center roar with excitement, but the roar quickly turns to jeers as the lights in the arena bathe them in crimson. The PRIMEview ignites with a searing yellow hammer and sickle while “The Soviet National Anthem” blares through the speaker system.
Nick Stuart: Folks we’re back from commercial and these colors and this music can mean only one thing…
Richard Parker: The NEW Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav!
Fumbling is heard at the broadcast position.
Richard Parker: H..hey!
Nick Stuart: Sit down. You’re not standing and saluting these people! Don’t forget, this “Champion” tried to put me in the hospital!
Richard Parker: Well he kind of had a point, didn’t he?
Nick Stuart: What point?!
Richard Parker: I can’t remember.
Oh yes. There’s a procession. It begins with Alexei Ruslan, whose smile could not possibly be bigger. He blows a kiss to the fans and shoves his hands in his brown overcoat, grinning like a cat who just got into the cream.
Next, two young men walk side by side, both in smart looking suits and ties. One wears a pair of glasses and has short brown hair, while the other has greasy hair slicked back and a smirk on his face. Greasy hair waves to the fans, as if they should know him, while glasses person keeps his head down.
Nick Stuart: I had to get this sheet translated from Russian, but I believe those two men are part of Stanislav’s staff. The one in the glasses is… uh.. Yan-u-ko-vich? The other’s name is Maksim.
A cute young woman with long, dark hair and a blue suit and cream blouse emerges next. She freezes like a deer in headlights as the wall of sound, mostly hateful, barrels into her. She doesn’t move one inch, until finally Alexei claps his hands and bellows at her to walk. She snaps out of it, and scurry-rushes to Ruslan and the other two men.
Nick Stuart: That woman’s name is Arina, I think?
The foursome gather at the base of the ramp and wait expectantly, as Kenny Freeman emerges next, waving to the crowd and hustling down the ramp to meet Ruslan and the others.
Richard Parker: That’s Kenny Freeman, he’s part of The Red Army.
Nick audibly sighs.
Nick Stuart: No kidding, Richard.
Richard Parker: I don’t see Randall Schwartz. You don’t think he got, uh… Gulag’d, do you?
Nick Stuart: Why don’t you walk over there and ask your buddies?
Richard Parker: I’m contractually obligated to remain in this seat.
The group claps as one when finally the new Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, emerges to a deafening roar from the angry crowd. The Universal Title looks shockingly small around his enormous waist, dwarfed by The Russian Bear’s huge body. He raises his arms as pyro explodes around him, which is followed by several booming explosions which create little mushroom clouds around him.
Nick Stuart: That’s ominous…
Ruslan leads the mass of humanity into the ring, while Stanislav takes his time. He laughs and guffaws, and motions at the belt firmly around his waist. He taunts a few teenagers and wipes sweat from his brow and flicks it at a red faced American. He grins from ear to ear, but doesn’t walk into the ring. Instead, he takes a leisurely stroll around the outside while grasping his crimson suspenders.
He points a huge finger at an American who flicks him off, and laughs again. He even goes so far as to boot a barricade and cause it to shake. The crowd recedes and then swells back to the barricade to give him a piece of their mind.
The Bear pauses at the announce position and says nothing, but gives Nick Stuart a positively withering look. Finally, he turns, grips the top rope easily, and effortlessly steps up onto the apron as if it were a normal step, and then fluidly lumbers over the top rope.
Richard Parker: Pretty sure he was looking at you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: I can’t wait til he just goes backstage again…
Besides Ivan, Ruslan is the tallest person in the ring at just six feet tall. As such, Stanislav looks like a giant walking amongst smurfs. The gaggle of Russians (and Freeman), make room for him as he raises his arms high over his head and bellows. The crowd gives right back to him. Yet the Universal Champion takes it all in stride. Even when he produces a microphone and pauses, as if somehow waiting for the crowd to calm down, he relishes the vitriol.
Rather than grow quiet, the crowd grows louder. Arina covers her ears sheepishly as the sound overwhelms her. Ruslan snaps at her and tells her to straighten her back, which she does, but she’s still quaking. Stanislav projects every ounce of snark possible from his attention grabbing frame. He then looks over at Alexei.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, Alexei, someone once told me this was “young man’s” game. I think they were mistaken!! DYAAHAAHAA!!
His laughter taxes the sound system and swats away the yells and screams from the masses. Ruslan guffaws and nods his head. Stanislav places one hand on the upper portion of the Universal Title and walks closer to the ropes.
Ivan Stanislav: A Red Era has indeed come for PRIME for I, Ivan Stanislav, am YOUR Universal Champion!!!
Stanislav looks up at the rafters, and high above is none other than…
Nick Stuart: What is Randall Schwartz doing up there?!
Ivan nods to Schwartz. One half of the Masters of the Moscowverse straddles some scaffolding, rather precariously to boot. He fidgets with several ropes and releases them. The following spectacle is truly something to behold.
To the left, a massive flag of The Russian Federation. To the right, an equally large flag of the former Soviet Union. And in the center?
Nick Stuart: I think I’m going to be sick.
An even larger banner of Ivan Stanislav from the shoulders up, his eyes piercing and expression stone faced. Then? With the press of a button, Schwartz releases red and yellow confetti, which flutters and flits down around the people. The crowd cannot stop him in the ring, but they can do their best to annoy him.
U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!!
The Universal Champion is immune. Conversely, he welcomes it. His smile grows all the wider. Before, he may have stomped and yelled and covered his ears. But there’s something different now. Something about the reaction he receives.
He motions to his comrades.
Ivan Stanislav: You see before you that which has borne fruit of this title! Friends and staff. Together, we are all Universal Champions! Why, you all could be as well, if you would have just listened! I wish to recognize dear Arina Timofeyevna!
Arina, the young woman, sidles next to Ivan and looks up at him. Despite her concern with the sounds around her, her eyes project a certain degree of adoration.
Ivan Stanislav: Also, Maksim Stepanov and Yanukovich Yanovich!
Yanukovich, the man with the glasses, and Maksim, with the slicked back hair, both nod. Maksim stares off and seems more interested in the crowd.
Ivan Stanislav: And of course, Comrade Kenny Freeman and Revolutionary Randall Schwartz!!
Stanislav motions to Kenny, who responds with a small wave to the crowd, and then up at Randall, who wobbles on scaffolding and waves.
Ivan Stanislav: And, of course, my dearest and closest friend. Man who has been with me through thick and thin. Through wars and upheaval. Through PCW and OSW. The man who brought me back to this world so that I could dominate it once more. He has earned this title more than I can even state. Alexei Gregorovich Ruslan!
Alexei claps his hands and gives Ivan a thumbs up. But much to Ivan’s surprise, he produces his own microphone and speaks.
Alexei Ruslan: Oh but wait, Universal Champion Stanislav! Yes, we know you have been promoted to Starshy Praporshchik! We know you are mightiest wrestler in PRIME! But we have special guest for you. Someone very near and dear to you to bask in this moment with you and YOUR fans!
The crowd is ravenous now, some pushing on the barricades and roaring even louder.
Nick Stuart: The crowd is becoming unglued. They’re not sharing the same sentiments as the Russians!
Richard Parker: Quiet Nick! I’m trying to listen to this historic moment!
Stanislav looks confused as Alexei motions to the backstage area.
Alexei Ruslan: He was one of pre-eminent members of The Red Army! A master of mathematics! Our comrade in counting! Our revolutionary in refereeing!! All the way from the great nation of Cuba…..
Stanislav turns to face the entryway, his expression stunned.
Alexei Ruslan: ….COMRADE SPEEDY RIGGS!!!!
Cuban Red Army stalwart and former PCW and Head OSW Referee, Speedy Riggs, tears out from the backstage area. The diminutive officiant wears black pants and a red and yellow striped shirt as he bolts towards the ring. He slides under the ropes and pops up to a shocked Stanislav. After a moment, Riggs, somewhat overcome with joy, wipes his eyes and embraces Stanislav.
The Russian Bear couldn’t be happier. He scoops Riggs up effortlessly in one arm, like a child, and raises his other huge arm high into the air and laughs. Ivan finally releases Speedy. Riggs looks up at Stanislav with admiration and steps to the side.
With the massive banner Stanislav glowering above and the flags of the Soviet Union and Russian Federation flanking him, it surely is a surreal moment. Every person in PRIME, save for those assembled, hoped this moment would never come. They narrowly avoided it at Culture Shock. Together, PRIME had banded together to thwart him at the Culture Shock Battle Royal. The Tropical Turmoil Tournament was supposed to be too much for the old veteran. Brandon Youngblood was supposed to send him packing.
But here it is. For all to see. A red nightmare made manifest.
Ruslan tosses his microphone to Speedy, who catches it and speaks.
Speedy Riggs: Comrade Stanislav! I have such an honor to be here with you and all of these adoring fans! You have brought pride and honor to all of the socialist countries of the world, and those of true democracy!
Speedy Riggs: I couldn’t stand back any longer. With the poor officiating, the striking of your music, and the embargo against interviewers! The Red Army is forever, Comrade Stanislav, and I have answered the call! I, Speedy Riggs, wish to be your personal, unbiased interviewer from here on out! Officiating your matches was a breeze, and I know being your interviewer will be a great honor to boot! I heard what Lindsay Troy said, and I am willing to heed the call to action!
Nate Stuart: Folks, Speedy Riggs is rather infamous in referee circles. No one counted as fast as he did when Stanislav pinned someone, or as slowly when Stanislav was…
Richard Parker: Maybe you should just watch and listen, Nate. I don’t want another flying table situation…
All Stanislav can do is bellow his shocking laugh into his own microphone.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!
It takes a moment for Ivan to compose himself, and he wipes true tears of joy from his eyes. But there’s a shift, as Stanislav turns his attention back to the crowd, and more importantly, to those backstage.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, my friends, they call Brandon Youngblood “Mr. Fuck Around and Find Out.”
Ivan pauses for a moment.
Ivan Stanislav: I may not agree with crude language, but this name is appropriate. Because Brandon Youngblood decided to fuck around. And EVERYONE found out. Brandon Youngblood found out when he lay bleeding on mat while a cadre of medics tended to him, and he watched me step over his carcass and leave with MY Universal Title! You idiots in crowd found out, with shocked, stupefying horror as I crunched him to dust! You stupid, doubting announcers found out, when you called with shocked squeals the truth that I had always known!! Lindsay Troy and her capitalist pencil-pushers found out too, even if I told them over and over again that I was inevitable!! And every member of PRIME’s roster found out, despite it being so obvious in front of their faces for MONTHS!
He bellows now, the smiles are gone, the rage is back. He spreads one huge arm outward as the camera zooms out to see the mass of humanity, the Universal Title, the banners, the confetti, The Red Army completely dominating the space.
Ivan Stanislav: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FUCK AROUND AND FIND OUT!!
An almost manic look of pride overcomes The Russian Bear. Spit flies from his mouth as froth builds in his champing maw of a mouth.
Ivan Stanislav: I liquidated every worthy member of PRIME in Tropical Turmoil tournament. No one is unscathed! Universal Champions and Intense Champions! Tag Champions and Alias Champions! Hall of Fame veterans and thumb-sucking rookies! You all have found out. Some, more than once!
Ivan glowers at the camera.
Ivan Stanislav: And you can all tell yourself truth now: Ivan Stanislav is MAN in PRIME. You have all aspired to be Brandon Youngblood. Take heart: that does not need to change. Because like Brandon Youngblood, none of you can beat me and all of you will lie broken beneath the treads of The Red Army!
Richard Parker: You know he has a point…
Nick Stuart: Richard, stop.
Ivan’s grimace brightens as he smiles wide.
Ivan Stanislav: But this is moment of celebration, is it not? For tonight, we watch Almasy Tournament, where entire roster of PRIME wriggles on their bellies at chance to wrestle me!
Ivan waggles his finger. Alexei, Speedy, Yanukovich, and Arina stare at Stanislav with rapt attention, while Maksim looks bored and Kenny Freeman gives a nod resembling agreement to the statement, noticeably hiding any underlying feeling on the matter.
Ivan Stanislav: Two of you have already failed in tournament, but do not fret. They all will. There is no victory. There is no winner. For the journey terminates at Starshy Praporshchik Stanislav! There is only one potential end. You shall all enjoy, as you have always hoped, the same limit of success as Brandon Youngblood!!
Nick Stuart: I hate to say it, I really do… but I can’t help but believe him. Who can stop Ivan Stanislav? He has torn everyone apart in PRIME since getting his feet under him. In only a year, he’s now the Universal Champion and all but undefeated? What hope really is there?
Ivan Stanislav: No member of PRIME can bring as much glory as I have to Universal Title and PRIME! How many of you can have true President of free world wearing belt?!
Indeed, the PRIMEview switches from the Soviet flag to a still image of Stanislav and none other than President Putin, wearing the Universal Title no less.
Nick Stuart: Oh come on!!
Richard Parker: Whoa… uh…
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!! And I will be taking my belt all around world. To China! To North Korea! To Cuba! To Vietnam!
Speedy claps and bounces on one foot and then another.
Ivan Stanislav: Meanwhile, the rest of you lot, scrambling to have a chance to be beaten by me, can keep training and hoping for such an honor! No force on Earth will wrest this belt from my iron grip!!
Ivan pauses for a moment, and looks at Kenny Freeman.
Ivan Stanislav: Now, I feel it necessary to address elephant in room. Comrade Kenny Freeman has greatest odds of victory in tournament, and I know that would create unthinkable situation: Kenny Freeman vs. Ivan Stanislav. Two Red Army members having to wrestle one another.
Ivan motions with a finger for Freeman.
Ivan Stanislav: Kenny, come here.
His expression is stern and cold as he stares at one of the would-be challengers for his title.
Kenny swallows a bit of air with a gulp before stepping forward, looking more than a little nervous about having to address the very scenario Stanislav is presenting. Freeman nearly avoids eye contact with the new champion as he stands next to him.
Stanislav places a massive paw on Kenny’s shoulder, engulfing it. The Bear leans forward, his eyes not once leaving Kenny’s.
Ivan Stanislav: I want you to know, Kenny Freeman, that when it comes to wrestling for this belt, I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve favorable outcome. Just as I have told all members of Red Army.
There’s a long pause. It’s uncomfortable.
Ivan Stanislav: And I expect -you- to do the exact same. You, I am sure, shall endeavor to pursue most. Favoriable. Outcome. Do you understand?
Stanislav’s hand grips Kenny’s shoulder -just- a little tighter as he waits for Kenny’s response. The entire ring grows tense. Ruslan’s body language tightens, as does Speedy’s.
There is a hint of fear in the eyes of the younger—and shorter—Freeman, but he does his best to mask it as he gives a slow nod of agreement, too nervous to respond verbally…but it appears to be acceptable to the champion all the same as Stanislav gives Kenny a hearty pat on the back.
With that awkward moment behind them, Stanislav is once again all smiles.
Ivan Stanislav: So, competitors in Almasy Tournament, I will be at ringside throughout duration of tonight’s matches. After all, you all compete to wrestle against me. So feel free to stop by, look at Universal Title, and realize how futile your efforts are! Because you all know it the truth: I am unstoppable! I am unbeatable! I am indefatigable! I am PRIME’s Diamond Breaker! I am Ivan Sergeiovich Stanislav, your Universal Champion! DYAAHAAHAA!!
“The Soviet National Anthem” booms once more, as the crowd boo’s even louder. Randall Schwartz starts to roll up the banners, for not wanting to risk anyone getting their hands on them, while Stanislav speaks animatedly to Speedy Riggs. Ruslan gives orders to Yanukovich and Maksim, and then speaks to Kenny.
Nick Stuart: He’s not serious, is he? He’s not staying at ringside for the rest of the night?
Richard Parker: I think he is…
Indeed, Yanukovich and Maksim exit the ring and pull two chairs from beneath the ring, one appropriately sized for Stanislav. They set up as Ivan then turns and speaks to Arina, who nods several times and listens to him closely. Finally, Speedy, Freeman, and Stanislav’s staff make their way out, while Stanislav and Ruslan exit on the opposite side. Ivan gives one more nuclear gaze at Nick Stuart and then settles down. Ruslan barks at Nick.
Alexei Ruslan: We’ll be listening, Stuart!
Richard Parker: Gonna be a long night for you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Uh, well a statement by Ivan Stanislav. He’s staying at ringside to watch the tournament unfold. Speedy Riggs has returned to bolster The Red Army! I guess we can’t ignore the truth. Love him or hate him, he’s the Universal Champion. He’s doing everything he said he would. Is there anyone in PRIME who can truly stop him?
IT’S BEER THIRTY, A HONKY TONK TIME
We cut backstage and… there’s a door.
It’s a door like any other door. It’s painted black. It opens inwards. It has hinges and a frame and someone has lined it with twinkling neon lights; half the bulbs are burnt out. From behind the door, we can hear the sound of hammering and blaring music (“Jack Daniels, If You Please” by David Allan Coe, in case you were curious). Occasionally, there’s a voice that shouts along with the lyrics in what can only be described as an off-pitch yodel.
As the camera draws closer to the door, we can see that someone has taped a sheet of paper to the door. Written on the paper in big, bold letters:
THE DIAMOND MINE
BAR AND GRILL
HONKY TONK SALOON
…and then the door swings open wide. It’s Daytona Diamonds, obviously. He’s wild eyed and smiling real big, grinding his teeth before he swipes at his nose, nostrils flaring and body vibrating with nervous, unspent energy.
Cocaine is a helluva drug.
Daytona Diamonds: Well, split my wig and call me Sally, I thought I heard someone sneakin’ ’round out here! How you doin’, Mr. Cameraman? C’mon now, don’t be lookin’ so scared, I ain’t gonna punch you or nothin’. I’m in a good mood, baby! I might not be wrasslin’ tonight, but I done went and done somethin’ way more important than all that. C’mon! Get in here! Welcome to The Diamond Mine Saloon!
Before the cameraman can back away, Daytona is reaching out and grabbing him by the shoulder, pulling him into the room. The camera shifts and shakes before it readjusts. We’re in a dimly lit room, fairy lights strung up on the ceiling, cardboard boxes lined up on the far side in a poor facsimile of a bartop, bottles of liquor stacked on a shelving unit that looks like it was probably found in a dumpster. There’s nowhere to sit other than a few foldout camp chairs gathered around a poker table with most of the felt ripped away, cards already laid out as if someone has been playing just before the cameraman arrived. There’s piles of Ivan Stanislav propaganda ripped away from the walls and tossed to the floor, replaced by pictures of Waylon Jennings and Clint Eastwood and, of course, Daytona himself. The music plays on and Daytona does nothing to turn down the volume. Instead, he shouts over it.
Daytona Diamonds: It done went and occurred to me that maybe the reason I’ve been so ornery lately is ’cause I ain’t got my own proper place backstage! You know how dogs see their crates as dens? Little safe spaces, I reckon! Same basic principle, ain’t it?! And Lord knows I got that dog in me!
As if on cue, Daytona starts cackling like a madman before howling like a dog, taking his cowboy hat off his head and spinning it above him like he just came in first place at the rodeo.
Daytona Diamonds: C’mon now! Lemme show you ’round! Let’s pull you up a seat and get you a drink from the ba–
All at once, Daytona stops talking. The smile on his face turns cold, eyes narrowing as he stares past the cameraman and towards the doorway. His hands ball into fists. His upper lip trembles. His eyes narrow. The camera spins around to see a figure standing at the threshold of The Diamond Mine, resplendent against the light of the hallway…
The Heir to the Throne and current BRAZEN Champion looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ and into the Enterprise Center; his blazer and trousers are expertly tailored, Oxfords shiny and glinting in the lights, and a pair of sunglasses rest atop his thick, perfectly coiffed mane. He shoots the Rhinestone Cowboy an easy, affable grin as a wave of screams and swoons from the ladies in attendance is heard inside the arena proper.
A reaction that’d make his father, Tyler Rayne, proud.
Kaz Troy: Hey man, nice digs.
He saunters inside and holds out his hand to Daytona.
Kaz Troy: Thought I’d swing by and introduce myself before we face off in a couple weeks. I’m Kaz.
Daytona stares. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t extend his hand to meet Kaz’s. He doesn’t even blink. After a few seconds, the silence turns awkward until Daytona finally takes a long, deep breath.
Daytona Diamonds: Oh, I know who you are, boy. I looked your ass up as soon as I heard we was fightin’. Lindsay Troy’s very own pride and joy, huh? You tryna be cute? Catch me with my guard down? Clever as a bag of snakes, ain’tcha?
He sneers and takes a step closer to Kaz, pulling the cowboy hat from his head and tossing it across the room.
Daytona Diamonds: Well, you ain’t gettin’ one over on me, no siree. I reckon you best mosey your connivin’ ass on out of here and tell your mama she ain’t takin’ ol’ Daytona down this god dang easy. Ain’t happenin’, bucko!
Daytona’s in Kaz’s face now, snarling and spitting venom, full of piss, vinegar, and… well, misplaced anger, if we’re being honest here.
Daytona Diamonds: You understandin’ me, boy?
Kaz blinks, a little taken aback at how quickly this conversation took a turn for the worse.
Kaz Troy: Uhh…sure?
He wipes some spittle from his cheek, then rubs the nape of his neck and cocks an eyebrow.
Kaz Troy: You know the draw was random though, right? And besides, out of everyone in PRIME, I doubt I’d be my mom’s first choice to face you if she really had it out for you. Like, Kerry’s here now, and they’re in Vae Victis together, not to mention my Uncle Cecilworth and Brandon Youngblood are in this thing too.
Daytona’s face starts turning red, and it’s all Kaz can do to sheepishly shrug.
Kaz Troy: I’m just saying….there are some real killers here, y’know?
Daytona Diamonds: Ha! ‘Course that’s what you want me thinkin’! Makes the job easier for you, don’t it?! And now here you are, walkin’ into my fine establishment, actin’ all chummy-chummy and buddy-buddy. Boy, you must think I’m a god dang idiot! You and your mama are gonna get your comeuppance when I win this whole dang tournament, though! Ain’t no doubt about that!
Another sneer. Daytona’s voice has risen to shouting levels, echoing out of the ‘saloon’ and down the halls. His face has turned redder and redder, veins bulging in his forehead. And that’s when Daytona decides, for better or for worse, to shove Kaz Troy. Both hands. One push. Voice screaming the whole time.
Daytona Diamonds: NOW, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SALOON!
Kaz stumbles back a couple steps but manages to catch himself on one of the card chairs. He rights himself, steps back to Daytona, and gets nose to nose with the cowboy.
Kaz Troy: Make me.
At first, Daytona’s sour expression turns even more sour, fists balling tighter… but then that expression melts, replaced by a chuckle and a grin. He shakes his head as he looks away from Kaz, hands on his hips.
Daytona Diamonds: Heh. Man, oh man, oh man… can’t have nothin’ nice in this god dang company…
And just like that, Daytona Diamonds throws the first punch, trying to catch Kaz Troy by surprise. Unfortunately for him, Kaz dodges the shot, but catches him with a stiff Pancrase palm strike to the side of the head, which sends Daytona ass over tea kettle onto the flimsy card table. Chips and cards go flying, and the table gives out underneath the weight of the King of the Rodeo.
It takes Daytona a moment to get his bearings and pull himself to his feet. He sneers at Kaz, who is tossing his jacket and sunglasses away and uncuffing his shirt.
Daytona Diamonds: Why you little…
Like a steer charging from a pen, Daytona bolts back towards Kaz and tackles him to the ground. There’s nothing technical about it; a quick tackle, both men go tumbling to the floor, and start struggling on the ground in turn. The music swells from the shitty speakers, “Fist City” by Loretta Lynn starting to play as if to show the universe has a sense of humor. Speaking of fists…
Daytona manages to get a few clumsy punches in, cracking Kaz across the side of the face before he can get his guard up. The Heir Apparent responds in kind, kidney punching Daytona from the ground until the cowboy rolls off with an agonized look on his face. Kaz capitalizes as quick as he can, scrambling on the floor to cover Daytona, foregoing the palm strikes and switching to straight punches.
Daytona manages to squirm away from underneath Kaz, both men stumbling to their feet, but Kaz is quicker. Before Daytona can react, Kaz is rushing at him, a quick shove sending The Rhinestone Cowboy backwards. Losing his footing, Daytona crashes through the cardboard box bar, bottles of liquor and shot glasses clattering across the floor.
Before Kaz can move to strike again, he’s pulled backwards by three pairs of arms belonging to the Enemigos. The masked security team get between him and Daytona, who is now back on his feet and drenched in multiple variants of whiskey, vodka, beer, and tequila.
Daytona Diamonds: You lil’ shit! I’m gonna git you for this! Hey, git your hands offa me!
As the Enemigos hold Daytona back, Kaz grabs his clothes and glasses.
Kaz Troy: Whatever you say, partner.
The youngster throws his coat over his shoulder and saunters out of the room, leaving ol’ Daytona hoppin’ mad.
STILL WORKSHOPPING THE TITLE OF THIS SEGMENT
The scene cuts to a hallway in the Enterprise Center. The Anglo Luchador, dressed in khaki slacks, sneakers, his lucha mask, and a custom t-shirt that says “Blood Levels: Still A Quart Low,” ambles aimlessly, looking at the propaganda posters featuring Ivan Stanislav plastered on every wall, leaving almost no clearance for any other thing. Posters are attached over photos celebrating the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup win, signs indicating which rooms were which, and even over fire evacuation plans. He groans and rolls his eyes.
TAL: What a humble guy.
He turns his eyes forward again only to recoil back in surprise at something obstructing his path.
Voice: Yeah, man, it’s pretty wild. We’ve been trying to get our Glue propaganda up, Glueaganda if you will, and let me tell you: it’s an uphill battle. I think it’s ‘cause Ivan’s real tall so we can’t get the high spots.
The camera turns around slowly to reveal a contingent of the Glueminati standing right in front of him. Namely, Joe Fontaine carrying a stack of papers, Sid Phillips, a cardboard cutout of Cecilworth Farthington, and a chinchilla in a little cage being carried by Sid. It has a tiny beret.
TAL: Joe. Sid. Ceece. …Chinchilla?
Joe Fontaine: Yo, Angie, what’s up?
Sid Phillips: Hey.
Joe Fontaine: So, hey, since you’re here, maybe you could be a little handy and help us get some of these posters up?
He gestures with the papers in his hands.
Joe Fontaine: Feels like every time we get some of these up, more Ivan posters appear over the top of them, and, well… I don’t want to call it out as rude or anything, Ivan’s gonna Ivan and all that, but he and Alex could at least let us do us a big solid and let us have our own space.
The Luchador looks up and down, mainly at the cardboard cutout of the Five Star Champion and the furry rodent, with a perplexed look shining through the eye- and mouthholes of his mask.
TAL: I get the cardboard thing here. But the beret-wearing chinchilla? Is that your mascot? Wouldn’t a glue-related mascot be, I don’t know, a horse?
Joe Fontaine: Don’t be ridiculous. Do you know how hard it is to get a horse into a sports arena without an Enemigo or someone noticing? I’d get stopped at the door and then I have to deal with all of those big Enemigo stares because they don’t really say anything, and it’s very awkward for everyone involved. Plus, not as portable or as adorable.
He pauses, and then gestures at the chinchilla.
Joe Fontaine: Anyway, this is FLAMBERGE. Not a mascot.
TAL: The Enemigos didn’t stop Cancer Jiles from… you know what forget about it, that’s clearly not FLAMBERGE unless magic is real which would open a whole other can of worms.
The Luchador looks at both Joe and Sid waiting for the former to say something in reply before realizing whatever Joe was going to say in that moment would probably flummox him even more.
TAL: Anyway, I’d hate to see what you’d think Hayes was, but as much as I would love to help you guys rid the arena of all these eyesores, why do you think I would help you put up your propaganda when I’m wrestling the guy your cardboard cutout there represents in two weeks?
Joe Fontaine: I’unno. Just giving you something to do before Farthy glues you.
Sid Phillips: Phrasing.
Joe Fontaine: Uh, I mean before Farthy removes all of your bones and then puts them back in your body in alphabetical order like the helpful samaritan he is? He’s very much about keeping things organized, I’ve learned. Real neat freak, that one. I mean, I can relate, we have the same understanding of the importance of charts and graphs, so that’s why we get along so well as glue buddies. Glue friends. Part of the Gluelliance. Hm. Need to workshop that one.
If you look closely at the Luchador at this point in time, you can see steam slowly start to emanate from his ears.
TAL: I don’t think skeletons work that way, Joe. Besides, Ceece isn’t the only guy who knows how to do submission holds. Like, you know lucha libre is based on submissions and counter-wrestling too, right?
Again, asking Joe Fontaine a question eludes him as a good idea in that moment, and he quickly realizes his folly.
TAL: Of course you do. Forget I even asked. Where is Ceece anyway? Doing financier things? Balancing books, itemizing expenses, hiding things from the IRS, things of that nature?
Joe Fontaine: A bit too busy to have this talk with you, it turns out! He’s doing important glue things. Uh, most of those involve staring at his cell phone and occasionally cracking a smile.
Sid Phillips: We drew the short straw.
Joe Fontaine: We all drew the short straw except Hayes and Farthy.
Sid Phillips: Really weird how we only got one straw between the two of us, in retrospect.
Joe Fontaine: Anyway, Angie, sorry that you don’t understand how skeletons work in the new Glue era. Gluera. I’m still workshopping that one.
Sid can be seen shaking his head, but his exasperation goes ignored.
Joe Fontaine: But hey, plenty of people around here have gotten used to their skulls being around the pancreal region. Or maybe it’d be closer to the kneecap? I don’t know. Skeletons are weird. I mean, hidden inside all of us is a skeleton, and that’s pretty messed up when you think about it.
The Luchador reaches out both his hands as if to say “stop.”
TAL: Alright, Joe, I get it, skull in pancreas, glue puns, Ceece is too up his own ass to talk to me in person, cool. I’m just here to do some administrative stuff and see what various people who have done me wrong in the last few weeks have to say about why they decided to beat me up after I got out of a hell battle with a guy who has a stick of dynamite where his brain should be. It’s fine. IT’S FINE.
The Luchador realizes he shouldn’t really blow his top in the presence of the minions of his next opponent, especially one whose job is POWERBOMBS. He breathes in deeply.
TAL: Anyway, good chat, Sid, hope your future is enriched with powerbombs as long as I’m from safe watching distance. Joe, uh…
Joe Fontaine (interrupting): Anyway, sorry to cut this short! We gotta go. Opening ceremonies and all that.
He taps Sid on the chest.
Joe Fontaine: C’mon, Sid. Lesgo.
He walks off, leaving Sid the unenviable task of picking up a chinchilla and a cardboard standee and following beside him.
Sid Phillips (off-screen): Can we talk for a minute about how fucked up Cecilworth’s understanding of skeletons is?
The Luchador looks them past before turning his attention back to the walls littered with Ivan Stanislav propaganda.
TAL: Look I know this is far from a wrestling show for kids, but did they HAVE to give him that big a bulge? It’s unsightly.
The Luchador walks off as the camera cuts to another part of the arena.
The cameras are on the Enterprise Center staff parking lot as the tag EARLIER TODAY appears in the bottom left hand corner of the feed. Out from a large, black rental van steps three different cameramen dressed in gray with the red ‘ESPN’ logo on their backs. Their cameras are rolling as they hurry into different positions, only for Vickie Hall to emerge from the passenger’s seat and Jonathan-Christopher Hall to reveal himself from the driver’s.
Vickie walks a delicate, gingerly pace around the van as she stops at the end of it and sticks her arm out, waiting for it to be linked into by her Amazing Life Partner. However, the fumbling, almost goofball-like Jonathan-Christopher has a much more difficult go. He opens his car door but it bumps into the car beside it, clearly leaving a dent. Then Jonathan-Christopher pulls back the door but he yanks it too hard so he closes the door on his foot. The Forever Man lets out a little whimper but luckily he’s okay as he opens the door again and shakes away the pain. Next, Hall slips out of the driver’s seat and nearly lands face-first on the cement. Thankfully, the car beside him breaks his fall. He shuts the van door ever-so-carefully and this was successful… except his newly minted LOVE CONVOY jacket (and a clear knock-off of Nate Colton’s jacket) is caught in the door. Jonathan-Christopher tries to open the door again but it won’t budge. He tries for a second time… nadda. Frustrated, he places both hands on his jacket and pulls the coat out… realizing he’s ripped it straight through the right hand side. Jonathan-Christopher looks up into the heavens. He seems to pray before composing himself and making his way over to link arms with Vickie.
Vickie Hall: Where were you?
She tries to giggle playfully after.
Vickie Hall: I was waiting, my dear.
JCH attempts to explain what happened but he only fumbles out inaudibly.
Vickie glances into one of the ESPN cameras.
Vickie Hall: Story of my life (harmless chuckle) always waiting.
Nevertheless, the two walk arm-in-arm down the parking lot as the three cameramen run around into different configurations. Vickie looks up to her knight in shining armor.
Vickie Hall: And to think we’ll be filming all the way through the tournament!
She rests her hand on his bicep, as the duo approach the front of the arena. Jonathan-Christopher takes a deep breath before opening the door and inviting his woman inside. Once there, the cameras and the ReVival camera also follow.
…The walls are littered with soviet-style propaganda, announcing PRIME’s newest Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav.
Concern and remorse slowly develop across Jonathan-Christopher’s face. He was, after all, the first stepping stone for Ivan to capture the championship. Hall lost to Stanislav, Stanislav won the number one contender match at Tropical Turmoil and the rest was history.
Vickie, however, doesn’t seem to interpret her surroundings the same. Instead, the look on her face…
Is utter fascination.
She halts their march towards the LOVE CONVOY locker room because she has fallen upon a printing she’s absolutely captivated by!
A striking duochrome poster of red and yellow. In the center: Ivan Stanislav from his broad chest upward, his eyes piercing, his expression stoic, all of him absolutely serious. Menacing. Confident.
At the base of the poster, words in solid, soviet-style font: “IVAN STANISLAV LOVES YOU.”
Vickie giggles mischievously as the ESPN cameraman zooms in to get a closer view.
Vickie Hall: Oh that Ivan. What a treat he is!
She takes back her ALPs hand as they wander off through the other posters, with Vickie in sheer amazement.
As the couple and their crew turn the corner, Vickie acknowledges one of the cameras in front of her. Meanwhile, the Revival feed stays behind. To the right is the initial Stanislav poster Vickie was so fixated with… and the duo with their team soon become small specs in the overall picture.
Vickie Hall: My man is ready for tonight. Who knows, maybe soon enough, we’ll have our own LOVE CONVOY posters all over this place, as well…
Nick Stuart: Jonathan-Christopher Hall versus Rich Patterson… is next!
To the ring.
JONATHAN CHRISTOPHER-HALL VS. RICH PATTERSON
Nick Stuart: And this must be another one of our new faces, making his debut here in the Almasy Invitational!
Richard Parker: So am I to understand that this man used to be the literal monster Grendel from the epic of Beowulf?
Nick Stuart: I don’t think—
Richard Parker: Because I suspend disbelief a lot, Nick. But I refuse to believe this man is between 1400 and 1200 years old, as well as a mythological beast the likes of which inspired the early Anglo Saxons.
Nick Stuart: Can we just…?
Here we go.
Wall of sound. Moving around the arena like a shockwave clear-cutting a city skyline.
Strapping Young Lad’s “All Hail the New Flesh.”
The hi-hats crash — guitar unyielding — drums pneumatic. A wordless cry comes screaming out of a vacuum, and then:
# HEY, MAN, I’M GONNA FUCK THIS SHIT UP
# NO FEAR, NO COMPROMISE, I WANT IT ALL
# I WILL NEVER BE AFRAID
# I’LL DIE FOR WHAT I BELIEVE
Suddenly the lights are up and blinding. Rich Patterson hits the stage, one side and then the other, each a moment for himself, right arm held aloft, pale eyes gazing into the audience as though he’s taking inventory of every fan, every sign, every flash of a camera.
Vince Howard: Coming first to the ring…from Wonder Valley, California…weighing in at 238 pounds…they called him Grendel, but he IS RICH PAAAAAAAAAATTERSONNNNNNN!
As Vince Howard announces his vital statistics over the heavy percussion of the song, Patterson tramps down the rampway, meeting a few outstretched hands with his own, up the steps to the apron, through the ropes, and into the squared circle.
# AND ALL YOU ARE IS ALL YOU ARE
# I’M SO SORRY FOR YOU — SORRY
# SO ALL HAIL THE NEW FLESH
# CUZ IT SUITS ME FINE
He heads to the far corner and shakes the top turnbuckle, backs into it, and settles there, awaiting the sound of the bell.
On the outside, Alexei Ruslan leans over and says something inaudible to the omnipresent Ivan Stanislav.
The lights kick out again, then a single spotlight appears at the top of the entrance.
“I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith begins and the crowd boos LOUDLY. From underneath a lift in the middle of the rampway, and a twirling lift at that, Jonathan-Christopher and Vickie Hall are revealed to be arm-in-arm, nuzzling each other’s chests.
Nick Stuart: I’m going to vomit.
Richard Parker: I’m going to cry!
Before the Amazing Life Partners lift their heads off each other, a film crew rolls out from behind the curtains. There are three men with cameras in their hands, attempting to capture every moment and detail between the two. The cameramen are dressed in gray outfits with an ‘ESPN’ tag on the back of their jackets.
Richard Parker: Yes! Let’s put that documentary out there! Will it be on Netflix? Paramount+? DisneyPlus?
Nick Stuart: It’ll be on ESPN.
Richard Parker: Oh, right.
Finally, Vickie releases her hold on Jonathan-Christopher but it’s clear he wanted to have more physical contact. Nevertheless, Vickie leads the way down the ramp as her honey buns and the camera crew hurry after her.
Vince Howard: Being accompanied to the ring by Vickie Hall and the ESPN 30 For 30 crew… he is The Forever Man… JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALL!
Vickie can’t stop spinning around and giggling into the cameras as they follow her and Jonathan-Christopher to ringside. Hall slides into the ring and then opens the top and middle rope for Vickie to enter. Dressed in the most adorable PRETTY PINK© little onesie, the polarizing manager (well, JCH offsets all the hate with love so, hence, polarizing) struts to the center of the ring and performs the splits, as PRETTY PINK© sparklers shoot off behind her and her man from the ring posts. Jonathan-Christopher helps Vickie to her feet and then opens the ropes again as she exits.
Vickie Hall: (To the ESPN cameramen) Did you get that on film?
One of the cameramen gives an over-the-top thumbs up as their theme music closes. Near the announce table, Ivan Stanislav shifts in his seat.
Nick Stuart: Is that a sly smile on the face of our Universal Champion?
Richard Parker: Big Vickie Hall fan? PRETTY PINK© is very close to Moscow Red.
Nick Stuart: I think it’s more likely that Ivan remembers how he stole glory from JCH in Rev 30’s Tropical Turmoil qualifier.
Back in the ring, Patterson and JCH circle one another. The crowd is buzzing, powered by their distaste for the Halls, and curiosity to see another new PRIME face debut.
The two men lock up. Patterson is quick to shift his weight, pivot on one foot, and get behind JCH. Patterson catches Hall in a full nelson, and then quickly elevates Hall up and…
Nick Stuart: Now that’s a nice full nelson backbreaker! Instant offense from Rich Patterson.
Richard Parker: (clearly reading off the Beowulf Wikipedia) “but their blades cannot pierce Grendel’s skin.” Yeah, not seeing anything about a full nelson in here. This guy’s a phony.
JCH rolls up and into a three point stance. He looks mildly aggrieved at the newbie Patterson taking it to him from the jump. Patterson stands his ground, and Hall, miffed, rolls under the bottom rope to the outside.
And on the outside, Jonathan-Christopher focuses on what’s most important.
Nick Stuart: Is he…speaking to his own camera crew?
Richard Parker: Absolute mogul. Content lord. Savvy personal brand.
Rich Patterson, it turns out, did not come to PRIME to be background b-roll for JCH’s 30 for 30. And the evidence is that he’s on the outside of the ring, and his elbow is spinning, and whoopsy daisy, it’s in JCH’s nasal cavity.
Nick Stuart: Vicious spinning elbow from Patterson!
The stunned Forever Man staggers back, leaving the opening for Rich Patterson to deposit him on the floormats with a judo throw.
Richard Parker: They want us to think that judo had been invented during the Dark Ages in Western Europe. It’s a big lie, Nick, and they don’t want us asking these questions.
Rich Patterson stays on the offensive, tossing JCH back into the ring, and separating Hall from his camera crew, and, most importantly, his ALP.
Vickie Hall: (perma-shrieking) You’re ruining the shot, Dick Patterson!
Patterson’s got JCH in the corner, and Hall covers up as if to protect from another elbow. Instead, Patterson backtracks two steps to the center, of the ring, gets a running start and…
Nick Stuart: Oh, that’s a MIGHTY corner splash. Now right into the headlock takedown! Goes for the pinfall!
JCH flicks his shoulder off the mat right after Ashley Barlow’s second count. He may be a weasel, but he’s a cockroach of a weasel. A…weaselroach. You get it.
Nearby, Ivan Stanislav chuckles at something Alexei Ruslan has said about the in-ring action. Both men follow Patterson’s next move with their eyes.
That next move Patterson’s got is to keep the pressure on. He “helps” JCH to his feet, and immediately grabs his opponent in a front facelock, lifts JCH to a vertical base, and…
Nick Stuart: Tight vertical suplex-backbreaker combo!
On the mat, JCH grabs at his back, underscoring the damage done by two picture-perfect backbreakers.
Richard Parker: He’s targeting the back. Just what someone would do if they WANTED us to think they were the legendary Grendel.
Patterson mounts the downed JCH. The St. Lous crowd, like all wrestling fans the world over, would simply love to see Vickie’s husband get punched in the mush.
Patterson complies. He goes right elbow, left elbow, headbutt, and repeats each cycle three times. A raucous crowd counts with each blow.
That’s three times three. And for the grand finale…
The coup de grace is Patterson rising to his feet, lifting his right elbow high, and then going into a sheer drop.
NIck Stuart: Patterson ends the symphony of strikes with a elbow drop and Jonathan-Christopher Hall’s gotta be seeing stars!
The cameras don’t catch it, but Vickie Hall, from the outside, yells in Rich Patterson’s general direction, trying to either persuade him about the everlasting power of love or maybe call him a dingus loser for daring to put hands on her guy. Patterson gives her a look, as if confused about her…well, everything, and then gives a “whatever” hand wave.
Richard Parker: Disqualify him! Disrespecting women has no place in PRIME! Is Ashley Barlow even an ally if she doesn’t DQ this misogynist?
Patterson, showing no signs that he wants to engage in any of the Hall family shenanigans, grabs at JCH from behind and pulls the man up by the chin. He tries to wrench at JCH’s arms backwards, though he can only secure the left. Hall fights off the right and keeps it free.
Nick Stuart: It would be bad news for the Love Convoy if Rich Patterson secured that right arm. That camel clutch the middle of the ring could signal an early exit for Hall from the Almasy!
JCH, in full weaselroach mode, is able to use his length to keep his right arm free. Instead of lingering, Patterson shifts into joint manipulation mode. He drops JCH’s head, and applies with both hands to separate Hall’s left hand into a v-grip.
Richard Parker: I don’t care for this.
Nick Stuart: The joint manipulation? The match? Rich Patterson’s offense?
Richard Parker: Yes.
You can hear the pained grunt of JCH as Patterson separates the Forever Man’s third and fourth fingers in a way that you’d typically have to go to a Saw movie to see. But more than that, you can hear the agonized wails of Vickie Hall.
Vickie Hall: (near tears) That’s his sixth and eight best fingers, you GHOUL!
JCH is powered up, at least somewhat, by the adrenaline from hearing his wife in such discomfort. He’s able to shift his weight, and effectively “pull the chair” so that Patterson, leaning over Hall’s hand, plunges forward.
Nick Stuart: He rolled him up!
Richard Parker: Ring the bell!
Ashley Barlow does no such thing, and points to the very clear handful of tights that Jonathan-Christopher just let go of. She waves her finger Mutombo-style at JCH, and signals to all involved that the match continues on.
Nick Stuart: These are the best officials in our industry, and Ashley’s all over the correct call! No DQ, but a clear warning for Hall, and the fight keeps going.
JCH continues to whinge at Barlow, arguing his case. Of course, there is an additional earful from Vickie on the outside. Rich Patterson, up albeit shaken, is not waiting around for an invitation.
Nick Stuart: And there’s Patterson back on offense with the jumping knee strike!
The knee strike is a glancing blow due to JCH seeing it at the last minute. But even the glancing blow has the Love Convoy headman staggered to the side. With Hall having an uneven base, the man formerly known as Grendel drops JCH once again with a vicious palm strike.
Richard Parker: This man hates LOVE, Nick. How can you defend this?
Nick Stuart: I think he may just want to impress and win the Almasy Invitational. He’s the one who happens to be taking this match seriously.
Richard Parker: What could be more serious than documenting and preserving this match for a future captive audience on ESPN+?
JCH is on jelly legs now. He’s back up, but not for long. Hall wobbles against the ropes, providing him a bit of a bounce. On the other side of the ring, Rich Patterson runs himself off the ropes.
JCH isn’t on jelly legs now.
He’s on his back.
Nick Stuart: And that’s Grendel’s Hammer! Patterson’s patented Polish hammer!
Richard Parker: Do something, somebody! ESPN! Bob Iger! Beowulf! PROTECT HIM!
No protection now. Patterson drops and hooks the leg.
JCH looks like the blow might have knocked him into another century.
Ashley Barlow’s second hand hits the mat, and there’s nothing doing.
And that’s your winner.
The timekeeper is really shitting the bed in this one, huh?
Nick Stuart: Oh, COME ON!
Richard Parker: The absolutely unconquerable power of love, Nick. I have to admit: I feel like a romantic at times like this.
The cause for consternation is, yes, Vickie Hall. She’s also the reason there’s no bell. At about 2.6, Vickie, in Ashley Barlow’s blind spot, put her husband’s left foot on the bottom rope. Barlow points to the foot on the rope, and despite Patterson’s protest, she shakes her head and mouths “foot on the rope, match continues.”
Nick Stuart: Could we get through ONE Jonathan-Christopher Hall match without the extracurricular chicanery?
Richard Parker: I’m sorry that a loving, traditional, nuclear American family is “chicanery.” Not everyone is in a polyamorous quadruple with an anime pillow.
Nick Stuart: Oddly…specific suggestion.
Richard Parker: And we’re back to the in-ring action!
Rich Patterson is clearly frustrated, but he does his best to keep his focus on the actual opponent at hand, instead of the ringside harpy. That doesn’t stop her one bit.
Vickie Hall: (shrieking, so much shrieking) You’re not half the man my Amazing Life Partner is!
Patterson flips Vickie Hall a bird, and stays on task. She responds with grace and dignity.
Ha, kidding, kidding.
Just like that, she’s up on the apron, getting in Rich Patterson’s face.
Nick Stuart: (sigh) Vickie Hall is…making her presence felt.
Vickie Hall: (always with the shrieking) You are a RUDE and NASTY man!
Ashley Barlow steps in the middle, trying to instruct the alpha Hall back down onto the outside. Patterson keeps his gaze darting between Vickie and her husband, expecting some nasty work from one or the other.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall doesn’t know everything about a wrestling ring. But he knows what to do when you catch your opponent in a half-second of distraction. JCH watches Patterson’s eyes flick towards his wife, and JCH lunges from the mat at Patterson with an upper cut. Physics work like this: if you’re on the ground, and you unleash a gnarly uppercut towards a standing opponent, a certain result is guaranteed.
Richard Parker: NARDS!
Nick Stuart: Low blow!
JCH rolls up Patterson. Vickie points over Ashley Barlow’s shoulder, but Barlow insists not until Vickie’s off the apron. All of a sudden compliant, Vickie Hall hops down, Barlow turns around in time to count.
Nick Stuart: Don’t ruin this promising debut like this!
Richard Parker: Welcome to the big leagues, rook!
Nick Stuart: Kickout! Patterson stays alive!
The crowd may be behind him, but Patterson is now on the defense. He shields himself from several vicious kicks to the ribs. JCH is worse for the wear, but he’s finally got a chance to go on offense. He seizes it by stomping away at Patterson’s midsection.
On the outside, Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan may or may not be discussing in Russian the merits of Vickie Hall. Something like: she is alpha, this Vickie Hall; she must have Russian blood somewhere in her family.
Nick Stuart: That low blow may not have won the match, but it has changed the complexion entirely.
JCH pulls Patterson up, wailing away with a double axe handle at Patterson’s back to keep him doubled over. JCH grabs him and shoots him at the opposite rope.
Usually, being shot at the rope means you come off the ropes. Rich Patterson doesn’t get the luxury.
It’s just a small hook of his boot, an easily missable sleight of hand by Vickie Hall. But she stops Rich Patterson’s momentum, and even though he’s been staying laser-focusd on the challenge in front of him, it’s human nature that he turns and looks at the grabbed foot.
Richard Parker: These people need to grow up.
Nick Stuart: Just another blatant example of interference from the Hall household.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall doesn’t know everything about a wrestling ring. But he knows what to do when you catch your opponent in a half-second of distraction.
JCH grabs Rich Patterson’s arms, elevates his opponent and…
Nick Stuart: Stand By Me!
The Forever Man hooks the leg of his downed opponent.
Richard Parker: Bring that W home to your stunning wife, stud!
Nothing to do but the formality.
DING DING DING!
Vickie’s up on the apron before the third strike of the bell even hits. She uses hand gestures to direct the camera crew to make sure they get this next part.
Vince Howard: Your winner, and moving on to the next round of the Almasy Invitational, JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALLLLLLLLL!
Vickie enters the ring and offers a victory-nuzzle to JCH, who looks utterly winded, but has technically come out on top.
In the other corner, Rich Patterson beats his hand against the mat and stares daggers into the back of the Halls. Even a crowd acknowledgment, and a hefty portion of the lower bowl clapping for his effort doesn’t do much to soften the blow.
Nick Stuart: That is a rotten beat for Rich Patterson. He impressed, he showed out, and he may have an 0-1 record to his name, but he is clearly good enough to compete here in PRIME.
Richard Parker: Said another way: WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER AT THE HALL HOME TONIGHT, BABY!
Nick Stuart: Ill-gotten wins are clearly the “Hallmark” of the Love Convoy.
Richard Parker: Nick, you dastardly punsman.
Nick Stuart: Let’s head backstage for a word with our own Angelica Brooks.
APOLOGIES ARE SO FUCKIN’ DUMB
We find ourselves backstage, only it doesn’t really look like the backstage we’re used to.
The traditional interview hub still looks more or less the same, but instead of the usual PRIME branding there is instead a cavalcade of posters blanketing everything. A few inches of the traditional blue manage to peek out between propaganda featuring Ivan Stanislav, newly-crowned Universal champion and hero to the Russian people. The Cyrillic alphabet is on full display as fist-sized letters proclaim the Russian Bear to be…
Well, actually we’re not sure what it says, because we can’t read Cyrillic, and the English translation is so damn small that you’d need a high-powered microscope to read it.
The main PRIME backdrop has been covered over with an image of Ivan’s face that runs from floor to ceiling, and because of the camera angle the fans at home will think a giant man is peeking up from the bottom of their television screens.
It’s also actively being defaced.
Like, literally defaced.
As Angelica Brooks does her level best to remain composed, Jared Sykes has already managed to tear both of the eyes out of Ivan’s massive visage and is now working on removing the space between them.
Angelica Brooks: I’m backstage with Jared Sykes, who…
There’s a loud tearing sound as Ivan’s nose is ripped clean off and left to float gently to the ground. The same can’t be said for the smaller posters that line the area, as one by one Jared yanks them down, crumples them up, and tries his best to set a new record in “office basketball” by throwing them into a nearby trash can.
Jared Sykes: Kobe!
You can’t see it, but that shot misses wide by about three feet.
Angelica Brooks: Jared, the last time we saw you was on the first night of UltraViolence, when you took on Cecilworth Farthington and FLAMBERGE in the main event. Given what happened with Hayes Hanlon in that match, I think we’re all curious what’s going through your mind.
Jared Sykes: You know, I’ve been thinking about this a lot since then, trying to figure out where things went wrong. With the benefit of hindsight, there was a lot that I overlooked, I guess. Looking back… Things had been tense for a while. There was a change after Tropical Turmoil, no question there. Maybe I should have let him figure stuff out on his own, I dunno. Maybe I overstepped by going out to the ring at Rev’ thirty-whatever. Hell, maybe this was always the way that things were going to play out.
Jared Sykes: I don’t know.
Angelica Brooks: We also know that you weren’t in attendance for the second night of UltraViolence. What kept you away from the arena that night?
Jared yanks down another of the smaller posters, crushes it into a ball, but hesitates before throwing it off screen.
Jared Sykes: Honestly, I didn’t see a point in being there. Maybe someone else in my position would have been looking for revenge that night, but there were other things on my mind. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some questions I need answered and some business that needs to be handled, but… that wasn’t the time. And besides…
He tosses the poster off screen without bothering to see where it lands. It’s not for “no look” style points, but strictly out of pure derision. He gestures to the rest of the display, still very much intact despite his best efforts.
Jared Sykes: Why the hell would I want to see this happen live? Nah, I’m all set with that.
Angelica Brooks: Speaking of the Universal championship, we’re well into the first round of this year’s Seymour Almasy Memorial Tournament with eight matches taking place tonight, including one between Logan James and yourself. What can we expect from you going into this tournament?
Jared Sykes: If I answer that question honestly I’m going to have to deal with a very angry partner later on.
He offers a weak smile before continuing.
Jared Sykes: In truth, I have no idea. I dare anyone to look up and down both sides of this bracket and try to pick a winner. It’s pretty much impossible. I know there’s been an online debate lately over whether the top-right is harder than the bottom-left or vice versa. Maybe it’s top-left. Who knows. You know you mentioned the UltraViolence match, but everyone involved in what happened that night is on the other side of the bracket, so if I was the revenge-minded type then there’s only one way to make that happen…
He pauses for a moment, and another poster is offered as tribute to the gods of recycling.
Jared Sykes: But all I can do is focus on what’s in front of me – the next match. Tonight that’s Logan James. I know his road in PRIME so far hasn’t been the easiest, but that’s something you can say about anyone. There’s no easy outs here. Again, just try and pick a winner for this tournament. He got matched up against Kennade Starr and ran into some streamer bullshit. Then his second match is against someone who’s kicked down the door and opened a lot of eyes in Daytona Diamonds. Is tonight the night that Logan James gets one in the win column?
He shrugs again.
Jared Sykes: Could be, but I’m damn sure not going to make it easy. There aren’t many shots to go around, and there probably aren’t a whole lotta years left on this bump card, so if not now…
He trails off and pulls down another sheet of paper. For this one Jared punches a hole where Ivan’s mouth is printed, then tears his face clean off the page.
Angelica Brooks: As you said, trying to pick a winner from this field is quite the challenge, but there has been a little bit of extra attention on your corner of the bracket. The winner of your match tonight will face off against either Tony Gamble or Paxton Ray in the second round. What are your thoughts about a possible Colossus rematch at ReVival 38?
“Been wonderin’ that myself.”
The crowd boos as the camera pans to the right to see the aforementioned Paxton Ray, walking into the frame with his hands in his pockets. He looks from Angelica to the scene of paper carnage that Jared Sykes has created.
Paxton Ray: Nice redecoratin’ job you’re doin’ here.
Jared’s expression hardens. Instead of answering, he reaches out with his right arm to pull another of the smaller posters down. He tears it without looking and lets the two halves fall to the floor.
Jared Sykes: (stoic) Thanks.
Angie’s eyes dart between the two men. Given their violent history, and the months of bodies and bloodshed that stained the path to last year’s Colossus, it takes her no more than a few seconds before she decides this is not a place she wants to be right now.
Another propaganda poster is pulled from its perch, torn, and tossed aside. All the while Jared never breaks eye contact with infinitely larger, infinitely meaner Paxton Ray.
Jared Sykes: What do you want, Paxton?
Paxton Ray: Nothin’ really. Jus’ walkin’ around, tryin’ t’get my mind right for tonight. Heard Angie say my name, and here I am.
There’s still the sneer, and the gruff delivery, but something feels different about this Paxton Ray. He feels more subdued than rage filled. But as he looks down on Jared Sykes, he flashes the familiar sadistic smile.
Paxton Ray: While I got ya here though, I do got somethin’ t’say. And it ain’t about a potential fight in a month, though I’d love that t’happen.
Jared Sykes: I’m surprised you wait that long. I don’t remember you being the patient type.
Paxton Ray: Yeah, well ‘bout that.
His hands still in his pockets, Paxton looks down at his feet. He almost looks bashful if you forget he’s the same guy who paralyzed another wrestler.
Paxton Ray: I been tryin’ t’be better. And I jus’ wanted to…t’say sorry. For hurtin’ ya, for goin’ too far at times. For Jon.
Jared pulls another poster off of the wall, begins to tear it in half, and then he freezes. The paper falls from his hands.
Jared Sykes: What?
There’s a brief pause.
Jared Sykes: What?
Followed by another. Paxton doesn’t get a chance to answer before Jared continues.
Jared Sykes: You’re sorry. I have to live with the fact that you took all of this away from someone I’ve known – I’ve cared about – for years… That I wasn’t fast enough to stop it, and you’re sorry. The people I love – my family – they spent three months of their lives terrified, begging me to come home and stop this, but it’s fine because now you’re sorry. Mark? Remember him? Is that okay now? You just show up here, and apologize, and… and… andandand we what? Just absolve you of your fucking sins?
Jared doesn’t reach for another poster. Instead he turns and puts all of his weight against the interview backdrop, pushing it to the ground. All of his own anger is now boiling over.
Jared Sykes: You don’t get it. All that bullshit Tom said these last couple of months about how I tried to beat some sense into you? Well he missed the fucking mark. Missed it a mile wide. I was just trying to survive, but hey it’s all good now because you’re sorry.
Nostrils flaring. Chest heaving. It’s a far cry from what PRIME is used to.
Jared Sykes: What is this? Hayes gets one over on me, so now everyone thinks it’s open season? That I’m just the dumbest ass who’ll believe anything? You said “for Jon”… You give him this same speech? Did you?!
As Paxton stood through Jared’s response, the smile vanished, but it was not replaced with a scowl, a sneer, or even a frown. Instead, he just shook his head.
Paxton Ray: Not yet. It’s the next step.
For a moment Jared says nothing, the gears in his head working to puzzle this out. Then it clicks. When he speaks again the anger and frustration are still present, but for now they’re held in check by curiosity.
Jared Sykes: So… Is this you talking, or your new friend? The one that showed up at UltraViolence.
Paxton’s first response is for his nostrils to flare, his hands to ball into fists, his mouth to open for an angry rebuttal – you know, the way he has been for about a year here. But there is a clear restraint in his body posture and tone when he replies.
Paxton Ray: Bit a’both. Make no mistake. I think you’re kinda a twat. An’ I would like t’fight ya again. But last year I didn’t think ‘bout nothin’ in the future. I jus’ wanted t’see blood. Now I’m realizin’ there’s more than jus’ livin’ ring bell to ring bell.
Jared Sykes: Riiiiiight. But between those bells, what, everyone still gets to die? Not much different as long as that’s still the case.
Somewhere in the Bayou Butcher’s brain, he remembers what Julie told him last week: not every apology is forgiven, and that’s okay. So Paxton shrugs his shoulders.
Paxton Ray: If ya say so. In any case, sorry t’ruin your interview. An’ good luck or whatever.
He walks by Jared, muttering as he does so.
Paxton Ray: Apologies are so fuckin’ dumb.
With the tension of the situation surprisingly defused, Angelica Brooks walks back into frame. Jared turns to look at her.
Jared Sykes: What the hell was that?
She doesn’t answer, and we fade to elsewhere, backstage.
We are now privy to a scene with a whole bunch of folks and an overwhelming amount of pro-Ivan propaganda. So many Ivan posters. It’s like the whole room is wallpapered by them. As the camera pans along the scene, you can see a few noteworthy parts of this scene.
There’s a small section of the wall that wasn’t covered by Red Army propaganda posters. That section of the wall had pro-Glue propaganda crudely taped over the top of the Red Army propaganda, as though the person or persons responsible for doing so didn’t have any time or care to do it properly. The Glue propaganda had such lovely slogans like “Glue friends stick together” and “There is no hope, buy glue” and “Lizard rights”. At the center of the room is a steel barrel.
There were a few people milling about, waiting for something to happen. Standing next to the Glue propaganda are Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips. Joe in his usual sparkling suit and Sid in a much more mundane and “cooler” looking black suit. With them are a cardboard cutout of Cecilworth Farthington, beautifully saying the word “no”. Along with Cardsworth is a chinchilla in a glass cage, whom we’re thinking is supposed to be FLAMBERGE in this situation because it’s wearing a tiny, novelty-sized beret.
And then you have the Masters of the Moscowverse, with Kenny Freeman still looking slightly out of sorts after his brief moment of awkwardness with Ivan Stanislav…and Randall Schwartz, just happy to have his feet back on the ground again. They too have brought someone along with them…or rather, something: a cardboard cutout of Ivan Stanislav, because if one faction is going to have a cardboard stand-in for their fearless leader you’d might as well have both do it.
The milling-about ceases when a man bursts into the room, carrying a torch. An honest-to-god torch. It’s on fire. How this person is allowed to bring a fire hazard with him inside of the Enterprise Center is a damn mystery, but this broadly-built man in a golden mask runs inside the room and deposits the torch into the barrel.
The fire shoots up into the air, and everyone is very thankful that it doesn’t trip any sort of sprinkler system or fire alarm, and no one in this room is getting fined for allowing this bullhickey to take place. The man in the gold mask departs as quickly as he arrived, and all parties approach the barrel. Fontaine and Phillips bring Cardsworth and FLAMchilla with them, while Freeman and Schwartz carefully drag Cardislav with them.
Joe Fontaine: So, Gentleman’s Games, then.
The Masters of the Moscowverse nod.
Joe Fontaine: Well, our gracious Glueatriarch has given us an opening statement. If you’ll just give me…
Fontaine spends an inordinate amount of time messing with something at the back of Cardsworth.
Joe Fontaine: …there we go!
Finally, he has some success, because an automated voice appears to come from the “mouth” of Cecilworth’s two-dimensional counterpart and official Glue Secretary. That voice is actually that of Joe Fontaine trying to do an impersonation of Cecilworth Farthington, and doing it very poorly.
“Cardsworth”: I am undefeated at Gentleman’s Games contests. Good luck.
Sid Phillips: Seems ominous. Like he’s gonna judge us if we lose.
Joe Fontaine: If we lose. Which we ain’t gonna.
Randall holds a hand up as if motioning for the parties to wait one moment, and proceeds to do something similar with Cardislav, who “speaks” in a similar fashion as Randall tries his best to imitate Ivan Stanislav, but because you cannot imitate perfection it comes across very…odd.
“Cardislav”: I am nothing if not gentleman, and I expect nothing but best from Masters of Moscowverse in these Gentleman’s Games!
Kenny just stares at Randall, mouthing an obscenity that will likely get him fined by the ACE Network. Randall, for his part, just gives a thumbs up with a smile.
Joe Fontaine: Holy shit, was that Ivan? It sounded just like him.
Sid Phillips: No, it didn’t.
Joe Fontaine: He had the accent and the terrible grammar and the awful smell, though.
Sid Phillips: What does his smell have to do with how he sounds?
Joe shrugs, decides to ignore Sid’s reasonable arguments because they are too reasonable for this segment, and then turns his attention back to the Masters.
Joe Fontaine: Alright, so you’re the ones who challenged the two of us to these “Gentleman’s Games”. Even though you already stole one of my beautiful championship belts from me. I worked really hard for that, you know. I had to get in Pom Shinjoku’s head rent-free, and now she can’t stop threatening to cut stuff off of me.
Sid Phillips: Your stupid manbun, specifically.
Joe Fontaine: Everyone loves the bun.
Sid sighs, and turns his attention to the Masters.
Sid Phillips: So, how’s this supposed to work, anyway? Do we just go out to the ring and I start powerbombing both of you repeatedly and at the same time, or do you want to cut out the middleman and I do that right now?
Kenny and Randall raise their arms to try and de-escalate the situation, trying to calm the riled Phillips before he starts powerbombing everyone and everything in sight.
Kenny Freeman: Now now Sid, there’s no need to get violent this early on.
Randall Schwartz: Yeah, the powerbomb contest doesn’t happen till round four anyway.
For no real reason at all, all four men turn their attention to the camera, as if speaking directly to…us? What the hell!?
All Four Men: Write that down!
They then turn their attention back to each other as Kenny speaks once again.
Kenny Freeman: The first order of business is deciding who gets to name what the first Gentleman’s Game is. That’s where the coin toss comes in. Randall, the coin please!
Randall reaches into his pocket, pulling out a coin with Ivan Stanislav’s face on it because of course…and the Entertainer immediately throws the coin at Phillips, much to the surprise of Kenny and the anger of both members of Glue Man Group.
Kenny Freeman: Dammit Randall, I said coin toss, not coin throw! Sorry fellas, you’re welcome to flip the coin yourselves if you’d like.
Joe Fontaine: I’ll call this one tails. Sid, please do the honors in flipping it.
Sid Phillips: Oh, I’ll flip this coin alright.
Go on. Guess in three tries how he does that. The first two don’t count, if you’re wondering. The coin, and Phillips with it, hits the ground as though thrown by detonation, and is sent hurling towards a wall. Every eye in the room (some of which are cardboard) watches as the coin tumbles and spins before coming to a stop near a door.
There’s a long moment where no one moves at all, fearful that Sid might devolve further into his baser instincts, a time when there was no civility and men communicate solely by powerbomb. Finally, Joe sighs and walks over to the fallen coin, all of his energy seemingly deflated in the face of such incivility.
He frowns even more upon seeing how it landed.
Joe Fontaine: …It’s come up Ivan.
The Masters nod to each other with a smirk before Randall responds.
Randall Schwartz: Right then, the first Gentleman’s Game shall be what we called in the old country Roshambles.
Kenny just stares at him, something the Entertainer immediately picks up on as he corrects himself.
Randall Schwartz: Sorry, Roshambo.
Sid Phillips: Gesundheit.
Kenny just rolls his eyes before chiming in.
Kenny Freeman: Rock Paper Scissors!
Sid Phillips: Oh. You won the coin toss, so… I’ll play along. But I want you to know that this game is nothing compared to Rock Powerbomb Scissors, where Powerbomb beats everything and nothing can beat it. Coincidentally, it’s a game I always win.
Meanwhile, Joe shouts from across the room, pointing his finger at the Masters and making a bold declaration.
Joe Fontaine: You guys are going to get killed by paper!
He pauses, and then corrects himself.
Joe Fontaine: Okay, I only said “paper” because if I said the other two, I might get in trouble with legal and it’d be a whole thing. I’m sure you understand.
Sid Phillips: Just stop talking, Joe.
Joe Fontaine: ‘Kay.
The Masters once again nod, this time extending a hand each to their friendly rivals.
Kenny Freeman: Let the Games begin then, eh?
Joe runs over to accept the handshake, and the two teams shake hands in agreement. Now, ReVival moves on to some Bandit bullshit.
We are at the talent entrance where it shows Matt Mills attentively standing by. He’s there because it’s been reported that the Bandit mobile has arrived, and more importantly the eGG Bandits are about to enter the building.
Matt Mills: Hello I’m Ma—
The door suddenly swings open like it’s been hit with a gale force gust of wind. Or, Bobby’s belly or Coral’s forehead bumped into it. Being that the man from Honalee comes waddling through the doorway, we’ll go with the beautiful option.
Matt Mills: Bobby if I may, just a quick word.
Bobby breezes by Matt Mills, his mouth too full of food to be bothered. Then, before the door can close the man of the hour, wearing commemorative T-shades and an electric-gold tracksuit, comes walking in.
Matt Mills: Cancer! A word! Where is Coral Avalon!? The people have the right to know! He has a family!
The MAIN EVENT pulls a Bobby and whistles right past Mills with no regard for human life, let alone his silly pandering. Sadly, the door closes without Coral Avalon walking through it.
Maybe he is parking the car?
Cut to the ring.
ROCKY DE LEON VS. SAGE PONTIFF
We return back to Richard Parker and Nick Stuart at the commentary booth. Richard looks confused by what they have just seen involving the bandits, allowing Nick to jump in quickly.
Nick Stuart: We have the next match in the opening round of the Alamsy! Let’s throw it to Vince Howard in the ring!
The scene cuts to the ring where the aforementioned Nick Howard is standing by.
Vince Howard: The following contest is for one fall..
“One fall!” says the crowd in response as the image on the big screen flashed to Rocky de Leon and Sage Pontiff graphic.
Vince Howard: Introducing first…
The lights in the arena immediately shut out, including the big screen. Fans immediately reacted to the darkness with a mix of excitement and booing aware of what comes next. Cellphones glittered across the darkness like hundreds of small stars dancing in the distant void. Suddenly the screen came alive as it slowly filled up with various different colored orbs. The darkness that once flushed the Enterprise Arena is pushed back by the growing assortment of increasingly intense colors. From that colorful miasma the outline of a human figure in the lotus position could be seen.
The psychedelic tune of “Satori Part II” began to drum out as light flooded back into the arena. The colors and the music came together to draw the mind back to the drug fueled jams out in the middle of the desert. The man with a head covered in long dreads wore an elegant pure white kimono that seemed to clash with the dizzyingly patterned harem pants.
Vince Howard: From the High Desert, Joshua Tree, California, he weighs in at two hundred and one points..
Sage Pontiff paused on the stage as the music rose into a chaotic harmony. Hands covered in rings raised to his side as he lifted his head high. He made his way toward the ring with all the gravatas of a man who saw the World through his own self-achieved enlightenment. Moving toward the ring he gestured toward the crowd in a method consistent with his divine inspiration.
Vince Howard: SAGE POOOOOOOOONIFFFFFFFFF!
With a well noted grace Sage slipped into the ring and kipped up to his feet in one quick motion. With a quick burst he made his way to the turnbuckle where he once again extended his arms out. He was met with a fairly unfriendly crowd however the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience doesn’t appear to notice as his music slowly faded away.
“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” as covered by Streetlight Manifesto cracked out over the arena as the crowd immediately jumped to their feet. Rocky de Leon burst out onto the stage as the fans greeted him with enthusiastic cheers that matches the energy of the music.
Vince Howard: And his opponent.. From Laredo, Texas, he weighs in at two hundred and fifteen pounds..
The masked dinosaurus rexlter gives the crowd a few waves though he seems focused on his opponent in the ring. He wasted no time in moving quickly to the ring steps where he climbed into the ring with a quickness.
Vince Howard: ROOOOOOCKY DE LEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOON!
He wiped his feet off on the apron before hopping over the top rope. Once again he waved and pointed to the crowd as he moved to a turnbuckle. With both of his arms in the air he lets out a tremendous SKREEEEEE which is answered by the excited crowd!
Vince Howard: Your referee for this match is Timo Bolamba.
Howard vacated the ring as Timo checked with both wrestlers. Ivan and Alexei sit back, ready to take in the match.
Nick Stuart: With both competitors in the ring we’re ready to get the third match of the Almasy underway.
Richard Parker: I’m calling it right now, Sage Pontiff is causing the Dinosaurs to go extinct!
Both men came out of their respective corners and circled each other. Both locked up in the center of the ring, both men testing the strength of the other before Rocky managed to get the advantage, pushing Sage into the ropes. Timo begins a five count however Rocky backs off at two.
Nick Stuart: You see this stupid dinosaur right now? Taking advantage of the count, bullying Sage into the ropes.
Richard Parker: Rocky de Leon broke his hold before they even got to three, I’d say that was pretty acceptable.
Nick Stuart: You would!
Back in the ring Sage eased himself out of the ropes and once again both men locked up. This time it is Sage who managed to get the advantage as he pushed Rocky into the ropes this time. Timo once again begins the five count as Sage slowly eases off as well, back off with his hands up. Unfortunately unlike Rocky, Sage has no qualms with slapping the masked man hard across the face before following it up with a stiff chop.
Nick Stuart: A smart move by Sage as he keeps the pressure on that weirdo, Rocky de Leon!
Richard Parker: You were just saying that Rocky was bullying Sage, what do you call this?
Nick Stuart: Sage standing up to a bully!
Sage whipped Rocky into the corner before he charged in with a high velocity clothesline. With his opponent cornered Pontiff begins to issue a series of stiff kicks to Rocky’s chest and midsection. He caught Rocky stumbling out of the corner with a bulldog before he attempted to go for a quick cover!
Richard Parker: An early pinfall attempt, looks like Sage is looking for a fast win.
Nick Stuart: That’s because he’s a smart guy. You know he’s been expanding his mind with that dessert stuff. Probably takes some kind of medicinal enhancement to make his brain bigger, that’s why he has dreadlocks. To expand his skull space.
Richard Parker: That’s not at all how that works.
De Leon manages to power out at one. Sage keeps the pressure on with a few knees to the head before dragging him up to his feet and tossing him into the ropes. Sage caught Rocky with a series of arm drags before he finished off the combo with a gutwrench suplex. Pontiff hooked the leg for another pin attempt!
Nick Stuart: Come on, that was three!
Richard Parker: That was clearly a two count, Richard.
Nick Stuart: If it was, then why did I see three!?
Once again de Leon managed to escape the pinfall attempt though this time at two. Sage argued with the referee for a moment before he returned his attention to Leon. Pontiff planted Rocky in the center of the ring with a stiff looking DDT before he quickly jumped to the far corner. He leaps into the air as he executes a near perfect Electric Feel!
Richard Parker: A huge counter there by Rocky? Can he take advantage?
Nick Stuart: That wasn’t a counter, that is how Rocky sleeps! Sage has this won, the referee should toss this match out in Pontiff’s favor!
Rocky got his knees up just in time for Sage to land ribs first. Pontiff is stunned as the oxygen was forced out of his lungs leaving him to writhe on the mat. Rocky scrambled to his feet to and jumped onto his opponent, hooking both legs!
Nick Stuart: Did you see that? That was a fast count by Timo! If that was a two count then I’m the King of England.
Richard Parker: You’d make a terrible king but just the same, that was a two count. A reasonable, well counted one at that!
Sage manages to throw his shoulder up only to be welcomed for his actions with a stiff forearm to the side of his head. Keeping his stunned opponent on the mat, Rocky began to target Sage’s right arm. Between a series of aggressive arm locks and direct stomps, Pontiff’s howls of pain are drowned out by the crowd’s enthusiasm.
Nick Stuart: You know what is also unfair? This crowd! They should be cheering for the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience, not that stupid, masked proterozoic peon!
Richard Parker: You can’t blame a crowd for loving a charismatic cretaceous captivator, Nick!
Nick Stuart: Sure I can, I just did!
Rocky pulled Sage up to his feet and sent him into the ropes where he was caught with an arm drag, once again taking him down to the mat. Maintaining arm control, Rocky applied a hammer lock while continuing to send knees and elbows directed at the right arm and shoulder. Though Rocky’s efforts seemed to be having an effect on the shoeless Bodhisattva, Pontiff managed to get his leg stretched out far enough for his toes to grab the lower rope.
Nick Stuart: Timo should have pulled that dafted dinosaur off Pontiff ten minutes ago! As I said this whole thing is unfair!
Richard Parker: If you have an issue with the officiating of this match, maybe you should take it up with Lindsay Troy?
Nick Stuart: No need to escalate, Richard. But maybe I will!
Forced to break the hold Rocky backed away as Sage rolled to the outside. Moving around the ring cautiously, Sage shook his right arm out as he tried to work out a strategy against the masked man. As Timo began the count out, Rocky took a moment to pose for the fans. That momentary break in attention was all Sage needed as he slithered back into the ring and caught Rocky from behind with a forearm! De Leon crumbled to the mat as Sage quickly mounted his opponent, raining down a hailstorm of left hands.
Nick Stuart: Get him! Make him pay! For Robert Muldoon!
Richard Parker: Did you just make a Jurassic Park reference?
Satisfied with his attack, Sage pulled himself up and once again climbed the nearby turnbuckle.
Nick Stuart: He has him! Match is over, Pontiff is moving on in the Almasy!
Richard Parker: He has to get the pinfall first, Nick!
Nick Stuart: Just watch this!
Sage Pontiff’s body crashed down on Rocky! He hooked his leg, one hand in the air so he can count along with Timo!
Nick Stuart: BOOOO!
Richard Parker: Pontiff was so close to the victory there but Timo is indicating that it is only a two count!
With just an inch away from a three count Rocky rolled up his shoulder and avoided defeat. Pontiff, a little gassed from crashing down on Rocky, slowly stood up above de Leon and singled for the Shamanic Dreamweaver! He sets up Rocky only for the masked man to desperately arm drag Sage back down to the ring!
Richard Parker: I think that was done more out of desperation than that tactic as Pontiff has really been dominating this match.
Nick Stuart: Desperation is a stinky cologne, Richard, and I can smell it all the way over here.
Pontiff rolled on the ring clutching his right arm as Rocky bought himself a few moments to breath and recover. Pontiff was the first back up to his feet as he charged toward de Leon! FPD dropped down and pulled the ring ropes open as a charging Pontiff flew to the outside, landing awkwardly on his right shoulder!
Richard Parker: A terrible landing for Sage Pontiff as that right shoulder area is taking a real beating right now.
Nick Stuart: This is a travesty! Somebody needs to get the doctor out here to make sure this lunatic, Rocky, doesn’t end up hurting Sage!
Rocky has found his second breath as he takes the ropes and flies over the top rope! Sage has barely had a moment to recover as all two hundred and fifteen pounds of Rocky slam into him. His body is launched backward as his right arm and shoulder are smashed into the ringside barricade.
Nick Stuart: This is ridiculous!? Where is Timo!?
Richard Parker: He is right there, Nick, officiating the match fairly!
Nick Stuart: Oh, sure, fairly! Pontiff was in control and now due to the Dinos antics and Timo’s poor officiating, Sage is in trouble!
FDP rolls Sage back into the ring and climbs to the top rope! He launched himself off and connected with a drop kick directly to the upper right clavicle of Pontiff, sending him down hard on his back! Pontiff howls in pain as he clutches at his right arm! Rocky scrambled over to Rocky and grabbed his right arm, applying a Fujiwara Armbar! Sage screamed in pain and trashed around on the mat as he attempted to escape the painful hold.
Nick Stuart: Come on Timo! Disqualify Rocky! He’s clearly cheating!
Richard Parker: How is he cheating?!
Nick Stuart: Sage has clearly injured his arm and now Rocky is preying on it!
Refusing to surrender, Pontiff reached out with his free legs for the ropes; however Rocky managed to secure him near the center of the ring. The masked man wretches back even further as Sage’s screaming reaches a fever pitch however he refuses to submit! Rocky looked around at the crowd before he gave Sage’s arm one last sickening yank, a distinct popping sound heard.
Richard Parker: Good god! I haven’t seen a dislocation that bad since I took apart my sister’s Barbie when she was six years old!
Nick Stuart: DISQUALIFY THAT MAN! OR DINOSAUR! OR WHATEVER!
The pain, perhaps, causes Sage Pontiff to become momentarily re-energized as he dragged himself close enough to the ropes to force a rope break. Rocky released the hold and backed away as Timo checked on the condition of Sage’s arm. Pushing Timo away, Sage climbed back up to his feet causing Rocky to charge in again!
Sage nearly decapitated Rocky with a retaliatory super kick, dropping the dinosaur to his knees. This is followed up with a wicked wheel kick to the side of Rocky’s head putting the dino down once again.
Nick Stuart: Yes! YES! Pontiff has this!
Foregoing a cover, Sage motions once again for the Shamanic Dreamweaver. As he set up Rocky for flipping piledriver he reached down to lock his arms together only for pain in his right arm to over take him. As he stumbled back Rocky used the moment to shoulder check Sage’s left shin, dropping the man down to his hands and knees!
Richard Parker: The damage to the arm is too much! He couldn’t follow through with the Shamanic Dreamweaver and Rocky has managed to get his opponent in a compromising position once again!
Out of nowhere Rocky de Leon applies an Arm-Wrench Inside Cradle using the wounded right arm of Pontiff as the lead in!
Nick Stuart: NO! NO!
DING DING DING!
Pontiff broke the cradle but a moment too late as Rocky de Leon secured the victory!
Vince Howard: The winner of this match.. ROOOOOCKY DE LEEEEEOOOOON!
Pontiff is incensed as he argued with the ref as Rocky quickly rolls out of the ring to celebrate, exhausted, at ringside.
Richard Parker: An incredible effort by both men but tonight it will be Rocky de Leon moving on in the Almasy!
Nick Stuart: Sage Pontiff should have won if it wasn’t for the dirty, underhanded tactics of that regrettable reptile!
As medics checked over Sage Pontiff’s arm we cut to a commercial break.
COMMERCIAL: COLOSSUS 2023
ENTER STAGE RIGHT
We return from the commercial break to the lights dimming inside of the Enterprise Center as “Only One King” by Tommee Profit and Jung Youth plays, to a smattering of boos and cheers.
‘Cause there’s only one king
And there’s only one crown
And there ain’t enough room for us both on the throne
So it’s ’bout to go down (So it’s ’bout to go down)
So you better start running
So you better start running
So you better start running
Because I’m coming right now
‘Cause I’m coming right now
Nick Stuart: Well, we saw one member of KING wrestler earlier tonight–
Richard Parker: If we never have to see Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba in PRIME again–
Nick Stuart: Well, we will be seeing him at ReVival 38, Nick. Sorry.
Richard Parker: Sure.
From the backstage area emerges the daughter of the PRIME Hall of Famer, Dusk. She strides onto the stage, filled with confidence and bravado, as the very steel her father walked down repeatedly lies under her feet.
Rose looks out at the audience and takes in her reaction, mixed as it is.
Nick Stuart: It seems like Rose may have curried some favor with a few fans here in St. Louis, courtesy of her father.
Richard Parker: Or maybe those fans are tired of The Anglo Luchador.
Nick Stuart: I guess that could also be the case. No other members of KING are with her tonight, though.
Richard Parker: Meh, they’re around. I wouldn’t be stupid enough to assume she’s by herself.
Time and time again I wake up and
Enemies might attack, but
All that matters in my opinion
Is that the dynasty lasts
So be careful how you talk to me
‘Cause there’s only one king
And there’s only one crown
And there ain’t enough room for us both on the throne
So it’s ’bout to go down
With her brown hair tied into a tight ponytail, Rose walks down the metal ramp. The black leather pants she’s wearing fit tight around her legs but show no restraint as her pace picks up before she turns towards the steel stairs. As she walks up the stairs, her dark black heels stiffly hit them.
She stands on the ring apron and slips through the top and middle rope before marching towards the center of the ring. Her eyes scan the crowd as she’s in a position she never imagined.
Having the spotlight on her.
A ringside attendant hands her a microphone, and swiftly escapes out of the ring like the good Clarence he is. She looks over at Ivan and Alexei, who seem deep in conversation. Pleased with this, she can ignore them.
As she places it against her lips, the boos rain down upon her, cut with a tidy amount of cheers. Her eyes close as she takes it all in, feeling the butterflies in her stomach and pushing them down as hard as possible.
When she opens her eyes, it’s like they’ve been replaced by the subtlest of conviction, of fire.
Rose: St. Louis… I guess I’ve got some ‘splaining to do.
A devilish smile appears on her face.
Rose: I never intended to step foot in this ring. This was not meant to be my domain, not to be my lot in life, so to say. Yet, on October 6th, 2023, I’m in this very ring. So what did I know? Two weeks ago, I walked out in Chicago, and let me tell you, I felt like throwing up ten times backstage. It was like nothing I ever experienced before, having tens of thousands of eyes locked firmly on you and only you. I will never understand how my father not only came out here but sometimes charged out here with reckless abandon.
Nick Stuart: The PRIME faithful is very fond of the PRIME Hall of Famer.
Richard Parker: They are, but I imagine those cheers won’t last long in this arena.
She looks out at the crowd, proud of her father.
Rose: Of course, my first time out on this stage, in this environment, and The Anglo Luchador is at my feet, nearly unconscious and unsure of what the hell is going on.
It’s like Richard is a prophet or something.
Rose: There will be plenty of time to discuss The Anglo Luchador. I know he’s back there, still recovering, ever the brave hero, needing to hear the adoration of his fans. Tonight, though, isn’t about him.
She then holds her head up high, looking out at the crowd.
Rose: It’s about me.
That smile reappears on her face, seductive and alluring all at the same time. She drops the microphone to her side as she walks around the ring, letting the jeers soak in, getting comfortable with that feeling of being hated by the masses.
She raises the microphone to her lips.
Rose: It’s okay, let it out. Let it all out.
The intensity and volume of the jeers only increase as the crowd does not appreciate being told what to do. And yet they eat out of the palm of her hand in the process.
Rose: Because that hatred you feel in your heart, the anger you shower me with, pales in comparison to how I feel. And let me tell you, after the year I’ve had, that’s all that matters to me now: how I feel, standing here in this ring, the very ring that took years away from me.
Nick Stuart: These fans are letting Rose have it.
Richard Parker: They’re pawns, Nick. All of them. Simple pawns.
She walks over to the turnbuckle and leans against it, chuckling.
Rose: You see, my father slaved in this ring. For everyone in this crowd, everyone standing around the ring working it. For the announcers sitting up there, to everyone in the backstage area. He killed himself for every one of you because he thought that being a good guy meant something to everyone.
She draws a shallow breath.
Rose: And all I see is a bunch of people playing dress up, thinking they’re the hero, and falling far short of that mark. So you give me all of your hate, I couldn’t give a damn. Because I know who I am, and I’m one of the few around here who understand that. And each of you cheer these people who come out and play to your emotions, yelling how they’re the good guys, yet their actions are anything but that.
Rose: Keep it coming, assholes. Because I’ve got all night, I’m the one with the microphone and being paid to stand in this ring. You’re the ones who paid for entrance in here. You’re the ones who have made the behavior of these petulant children okay. Do you want an example? HAYES. HANLON.
It’s unclear if the jeers are for Rose or Hanlon. It could be either at this point.
Rose: Sure, boo him. Hate him for stabbing Sykes in the back at UltraViolence. The problem is that your hypocrisy is not refreshing. Because Hayes Hanlon has been showing you for months as to who he is. Hey, Hayes, baby. I hope you’re in the back listening to this. Please listen closely. Take the glue out of your ears.
She inches towards the ropes facing the ramp to the backstage area.
Rose: You and me are more alike than you realize. Not because I’ll stab someone in the back to get what I want. No, I’ll do it to your face and tell you I will do it beforehand. You’re a coward, through and through. No, we are more alike in ways no one here will truly get. The difference? I don’t hide it. I don’t hide from it. I am who I am, baby, and that’s the dream of being me. People like you, who try to mask over it? They make me sick. Because you’ve lied to everyone for months and I was the only one wise enough to see it lurking behind your pretty eyes.
Nick Stuart: Do you have a clue as to what she is referring to?
Richard Parker: Not in the slightest.
Rose: You’re not the only, though, Hayes. Your partner, man, his transgressions are rich. Hey Jared. How you doing, Jared? Got a forklift you want to hit me with? Want to use your significant other to lure people into traps? The Heart of PRIME would have loved to put a blade of steel through the heart of our new Universal Champion a few months back. Such a big boy, and not just in the tushy department.
The cackle escapes her lips before she can hold it back.
Rose: And yet, when your boy, Nathaniel, was clearly acting out and dealing with untold pain, where were you? Do you want a pat on the back because you didn’t gang up on him like the Brandon Youngbloods and Adam Ellis of the world? Tell me, Jared, did you sit down and talk to him? Be a shoulder for him? Or how about confronting him for the indirect way he opened Justine to absolute bullshit lies? I see you, sugar. One of the few real ones around here. Of course, your man has had no problem hogging the spotlight since those tag titles were retired, right? I sure as shit didn’t see him stand aside for you, put his career on hold for you.
Richard Parker: These people boo her, but hell, tell me she doesn’t have a point.
Nick Stuart: Because there’s context in all of those situations.
Richard Parker: But… shouldn’t people expect more from their heroes?
As the jeers continue throughout the Enterprise Center, she holds her arms out and gestures for them to continue, as if she’s feeding off it.
Rose: Give me everything you have because I could give two shits less. I could go on all day and talk about every single person back there because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of watching your so-called heroes acting like they’re the best when they live in the gray and black far more than being the white-hat paladins they claim to be. I would have no problem if they simply strived to be their best and acknowledged when they fell far short, but instead, they acted justified.
She looks directly at the camera at that moment.
Rose: And to that, I say. FUCK. OFF. I mean, did anyone see Brandon Youngblood come out on Night Two of UltraViolence? Did you notice the marks on his face, the way his arm was far more injured than it should have been after what Ivan Stanislav did to him at ReVival 35? None of that burrowed its way into the back of your brains and left you with a nasty thought back there? Or maybe I just happen to know what happened because of the WhatsApp group all of the kids of PRIME wrestlers happen to be in. Didn’t know about that, did ya, Brandon? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.
Her smile lets on that she’s the keeper of far more secrets than anyone could ever truly know. Ivan and Alexei laugh at the mere mention of the foe they conquered. Rose shoots them a look and they quickly stop laughing and return to their conversation.
Rose: All of this to say, you’re on notice. Each and every single one of you. You don’t have to worry, though. KING isn’t going to run around beating the shit out of everyone, sneaking up on you in the ring during your matches, and knocking you the fuck out. No, no. You see, the battle is done in this ring and only in this ring. We want to fight you? Don’t worry, we will do it in this ring. Because unlike you children in the back, who think you run the asylum, I’ve got enough respect to handle my business where everyone can see it.
She inches towards the ropes once again, hanging onto the top rope.
Rose: All of this to say, don’t come find us. We will come find you when it’s your time.
The microphone drops, the percussive echo ringing throughout the Enterprise Center as a cacophony of boos, jeers, and cheers explode out of the mouths of the fans in attendance. She slips through the ropes and begins to strut towards the top of the ramp, as some fans are just dumbfounded at what they heard.
Nick Stuart: Jeez, what would you call that, Richard?
Richard Parker: I would call that a manifesto and I think it’s very clear that Rose isn’t here to make friends or play nice; she’s here for a purpose, and we started to see just the very corner of it.
Nick Stuart: It came across that way. Let’s head backstage, where I understand The Next Diamond, Nate Colton, is at.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
Hey look, we’ve got a Colton!
Nate Colton walks down the hall, still dressed in a PRIME polo (hey, the polos are back!) and blue jeans. He’s engaged in conversation with…oh my.
It seems our initial report grossly underestimated the number of Coltons in attendance. There’s no fewer than four satin ring jackets on display, all in different colors.
Nate’s in the middle of conversation with the fellow in the green jacket. That’s his cousin, Dennis. Dennis is the largest member of the family, and one half of the SHOOT Project Tag Team Champions, although he doesn’t have his belt right now. That’s because he lost it while getting chased all over the arena by a motorcycle gang.
It’s a whole thing.
Nate Colton: Yeah, she told me if I screwed it up again she’d beat me to death with that flat wooden stick thing.
Dennis Colton: Mom takes her tomatoes seriously. So what did you do?
Nate Colton: I stopped screwing it up! I remember the stories you used to tell about that stick; I want no part of it.
Dennis Colton: Good call.
They keep going, passing one of the countless Ivan Stanislav posters lining the walls tonight. Every few steps, another poster of the Universal Champion staring boldly into the future and inspiring the people. Or making them ill, YMMV.
A few steps behind is an older gentleman in a blue jacket, identical to the one Nate used to wear apart from the name on the front. That’s Jake Colton, patriarch of the Colton wrestling family. He’s got the biggest smile in the world on his face, and it’s obvious how much he’s missed this kind of thing.
Jake Colton: Y’know, I never enjoyed visiting the boss’ office when I was workin’…but damned if that wasn’t a great time. Ain’t seen Wade Elliott in a dog’s age. I ever tell you about the time we fought in Biloxi?
Nate Colton: Did you win?
Jake Colton: Christ no, that tough ol’ bastard whipped my ass all over town. Good times.
They walk past yet another Stanislav poster; Nate glances at it briefly and shakes his head.
Nate Colton: Already sick of seein’ that guy.
The other two Coltons on the scene are Benjamin and Jennifer–in red and purple, respectively. They’re much farther down the hallway, facing the wall and giggling. I’m sure it’s fine.
Dennis Colton: I liked that visit too. Had a great talk with Dametreyus, and he invited me to his philosophy Discord.
Nate Colton: Very cool! I bet you didn’t mind seeing the Flynn Cup up close and personal, either.
Dennis Colton: Next year, cousin. Next year.
Another poster, only this one looks a little different. Ivan is now wearing glasses, and his tongue is sticking out. The tongue and glasses are definitely real and not drawn with permanent marker, no sir.
Nate Colton: I hate to cut this short, but I should probably start getting ready. Big match tonight and all.
Jake Colton: I suppose. Thanks for giving us the tour, son. I really enjoyed it.
On another poster, Ivan has an arrow through his head, and someone has stuck a pair of googly eyes on him.
Nate Colton: Me too. I…I think I needed this. Thank you for being here…all of you.
Jake Colton: Hey now. My boy’s first solo main event, against a former Universal Champion…in a suite with an open bar? Wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Nate Colton: Open bar? Oh God, that won’t be a disaster at all.
The next Stanislav comes with a speech bubble, in which the Universal Champion shares the secret of his success: “I EAT FARTS!”
Jake Colton: It’s probably fine. How about you, son? You ready for this?
Nate Colton: As much as I can be. Gotta keep your head on a swivel with Jiles…and this fight won’t be anything like the last one. This is gonna be the hungriest he’s been all year.
Ivan has a thought balloon over his head. Inside the balloon is a stick figure wearing a cowboy hat, which has helpfully been labeled “Morgan Wallen.” It is surrounded by hearts.
Nate Colton: Any last-minute advice?
His father thinks for a moment, as the group goes past more vandalized posters. Ivan makes a series of declarations, such as “Alexei! I demand a piggyback ride!” or “Jared Sykes is my hero!” or “Spoooooooooooonnnnnnnge?”
Jake Colton: No…I think you know what to do. Just try to win with wrestling this time, and not hitting him in the crotch.
Nate chuckles at his father, and not of a crying Stansilav getting dunked on by Boomer, the mascot of the Indiana Pacers.
Nate Colton: Don’t worry about that, Dad. I’ll do you proud.
The older man throws an arm around his son’s shoulder.
Jake Colton: You always do. These two, on the other hand…
The group has finally caught up with Benjamin and Jennifer, who are still giggling as they stand in front of yet another poster. Jeez, how many of these things are there?
Jake Colton: Don’t s’pose I can get you to behave for a minute.
The siblings turn around and hide their hands behind their backs. If they were holding any markers, that’s where they’d hide them…but of course, they would never.
Benjamin Colton: What are you talking about? We are bein’ have.
Jennifer Colton: The most have.
See, they’re pronouncing it like “Dave,” and…you know, maybe this isn’t the best medium for a joke like that.
Jake Colton: All right, you honyockers. Let’s give Nate some space.
Benjamin Colton: “Honyocker?” Careful dad, your redneck is showing.
Jennifer Colton: What’s a honyocker?
Benjamin Colton: I think you get ‘em at the State Fair, with your choice of caramel or strawberry drizzle.
Jake, becoming progressively more annoyed with these damn kids, waves them down the hall.
Jake Colton: Go on, shoo. Nate…tear it up out there tonight.
He gives a quick hug to his son, which Benny and Jenny join in on. Dennis hangs back a little, but nods in approval when he catches Nate’s eye.
After the hugs and a few rounds of “good luck” and “kick ass,” the rest of the Colton brood leaves the scene, leaving Nate alone.
Nate Colton: I wonder what those two were doing…eh. I’m sure I’ll hear about it later.
He turns the other way and heads to the locker room, leaving the scene empty except for a poster for what appears to be PRIME’s new sponsor. It looks like a cereal box, with Ivan Stanislav as the spokesman/mascot. Apparently it’s very nutritious, with 10 ASS-ential vitamins and minerals.
ReVival 36 is brought to you by FARTS: Breakfast of Champions!
Cut. To the new Glue Boy.
THE PLANS WE MADE ALONG THE WAY
Fading in reveals the stoic and proud visage of Ivan Stanislav; chin lifted, staring upward and away. The Universal Championship gleaming on his shoulder. At his side, Alexei Ruslan, ever stalwart, eyes locked in the same direction.
And above the Russian Bear’s head? A thought bubble, written in sharpie, reading “I only have this belt because I didn’t have to fight Hayes!”
Zooming out a touch reveals the Event Horizon, adding the finishing touches to his artwork on one of Stanislav’s many, MANY posters; some poorly drawn flowers in Ivan’s beard. A few strange images that totally aren’t dicks. A mustache on Alexei with Michael Jordan vibes.
Regardless, the boos in the background from the St. Louis faithful ring true as Hayes rolls his eyes at the poster. Fixing the rolled-up cuffs of his black dress shirt, he takes steps down the hall, eyes locked dead-ahead.
Hayes Hanlon: So. Now what?
Cecilworth Farthington: Hmmm?
Zooming out further exposes the Financier, walking alongside Hammerin’ Hanlon.
Hayes Hanlon: Like, next steps. Plan of attack. Who’s next to “Get Glued.”?
Cecilworth Farthington: Ah, yes. Plans. Plans. People do make those sometimes. They’re all the rage, I hear.
Hayes lifts a quizzical eyebrow, but keeps in stride.
Hayes Hanlon: I’m…yeah. Sure.. So…what’s ours?
A voice interrupts the proceedings. A very familiar voice from a previous segment, in fact.
“Cecilworth Farthington”: I am undefeated at Gentleman’s Games contests. Good luck.
Both Hayes and Cecilworth (the real one) turn to see Joe Fontaine standing there with the cardboard version of Cecilworth Farthington, panicking over having accidentally played the recorded message from Joe doing an extremely bad Cecilworth impersonation.
Joe Fontaine: Oh shit, you weren’t supposed to hear that.
Sid shakes his head on entering, carrying a cage with a chinchilla inside of it. A chinchilla, as you may recall from earlier, in a very tiny beret.
Sid Phillips: I told you to take that thing off of Cardsworth before we walked in.
Joe Fontaine: I don’t remember this.
Sid Phillips: Look, how do you think Cecilworth would feel if you damaged his, uh… secretary before Cardsworth can do all of the things that a secretary is supposed to do?
Cecilworth Farthington: Indifferent, probably.
At this stage, Home Run Hayes has remained quiet for long enough, and steps forward toward Joe and Sid.
He looks at Joe.
Then looks to the chinchilla.
Then at Sid.
And the chinchilla.
Back to Joe andyougetthepoint.
Hayes Hanlon: (genuinely concerned and curious) …is that a chinchilla in a beret?
Joe Fontaine: No, this is FLAMBERGE.
Hayes blinks twice. then turns away. He lifts a finger, and turns back.
Hayes Hanlon: (using said finger for emphasis) You have to have heard all the Flambo lizard jokes, right?
Sid turns to Joe with a smug expression, the kind that says “I told you so”.
Joe Fontaine: …Would you believe me if I told you that the pet store I went to didn’t have lizards?
Cecilworth Farthington: No.
Hayes Hanlon: No.
Joe Fontaine: Okay, well, obviously, this is genuinely the first I heard of the whole lizard thing.
Sid Phillips: That’s not true. You loudly proclaimed that he was a cool, cute French chinchilla when we tried to decide what animal best represented FLAMBERGE in these trying, FLAMBERGE-less times.
Hayes Hanlon: …FLAMBERGE is literally any other animal than a chinchilla. He’s specifically one. It’s a thing.
Joe Fontaine: Well, how was I supposed to know?
Sid Phillips: Joe, he spends all of his time in the Drippin’ Room and sometimes he eats bugs. How could you not know?
Joe Fontaine: Well, on the one hand, I feel pretty silly now. On the other hand, hey… chinchillas are pretty cool.
Cecilworth Farthington: We all have our silly moments. Though most of us are… lacking in chinchilla moments.
Hayes Hanlon: This is…I’m…
The Comeback Kid thinks better, and throws his hands up. As he exits, he pauses next to Farthington.
Hayes Hanlon: Man, I hope you’ve got some kind of plan.
Hanlon looks over his shoulder at Sid, Joe…and the chinchilla….before looking back.
Hayes Hanlon: Kiiinda hard to see it right now.
The Event Horizon steps off out of frame, leaving the rest of the Glueminati, chinchilla or otherwise, behind.
A VVIN-LOSE SITUATION
The broadcast goes elsewhere backstage. Simon Tillier is standing by in the Argyle position.
Hovering nearby, readying himself for his upcoming match, is Kerry Kuroyama.
Simon Tillier: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Your ever-faithful Simon Tillier is on the scene backstage, here with one of the competitors in the next first round match-up, taking place here in just a few moments… Kerry Kuroyama!
The Emerald Apex is decked out in his tights, pads, and robe, an image of athletic excellence in glimmering green and silver. He’s in a serene state of pre-match focus, stretching out his joints and jogging in place to keep loose.
Simon Tillier: Kerry, you’re moments away from your anticipated debut. How are you feeling right now? Are you nervous at all?
Kerry Kuroyama: Nervous?
Kerry Kuroyama: Please, Simon… don’t mistake me for some fresh-faced greenhorn with first match jitters. I’m perfectly calm right now. After all, I’ve had months to prepare my mind and body for this moment. I’m not about to let it all come undone to something as basic as pre-match jitters. Not knowing everything I have on stake.
His thundering gaze finds the camera.
Kerry Kuroyama: See, I know there are many out there hoping to see me fail tonight. Sharpening their knives for the moment where the high-and-mighty Kerry Kuroyama falls flat on his face and eats dirt. Chomping at the bit to say I couldn’t cut it in that other place, so I came to the federation where I’m friends with the boss.
Back to the junior reporter, hanging on every word while holding up the mic.
Kerry Kuroyama: But silencing the critics and doubters only fuels the fires of conviction, Simon. Tonight, I validate what I’ve always said and always known about myself… that I’m worth more than what I was given for the past several years. Tonight, PRIME is going to find out what Kerry Kuroyama is really about.
As soon as he says this, Kerry and Simon disappear as someone suddenly steps in front of the camera, obscuring the two with his frame-filling head and face.
Kerry and Simon lean out from behind Scott Hunter, gifting us the absurd illusion of the two of them protruding out of his ears.
Kerry Kuroyama: Scott… what the hell are you doing?
The camera operator repositions himself to fit all three men in the frame together.
Scott Hunter: Oh I saw you with this guy…
He gestures to Simon, then reaches out to shake his hand.
Scott Hunter: Hello again. I don’t know if you remember me from last week. My name is Scott.
Simon Tiller: Yes, I know. And once again, I’m Simon – –
Scott Hunter: (waving him off) Sorry, apparently, I’m not actually all that interested. (Scott puts his index finger on Simon’s lips) Shhhhhhh…
Scott turns to his Vae Victis compadre while Simon internalizes an annoyed sigh.
Kerry Kuroyama: Do you not see we’re in the middle of something here?
Scott Hunter: Middle of something? Oh right! The match, the talking, the thing. Right in the middle. By all means, continue.
The Paragon of Professional Wrestling Excellence releases an agonized sigh through clenched teeth. At his sides, his hands are reflexively clenching into balls.
It’s taking everything in him not to explode on Scott here in Argyle before the bell.
Fortunately for everyone involved, Kerry’s embattled patience wins out.
Kerry Kuroyama: Look, Scott… can I be frank right now?
Scott Hunter: As long as I can still be Scott, you can be whoever you want to be. This is America.
Kerry pauses for a beat.
His eye twitches.
Then he suppresses this micro-aneurysm and moves on.
Kerry Kuroyama: Here’s the thing, Scott. I’m feeling somewhat personally… conflicted with this match-up of ours. As in, it grieves me deeply to have you, of all the talent in this company, as my first round opponent.
His expression tenses up into the face one makes when getting a whiff of sour milk.
Kerry Kuroyama: Mind you, that’s not because I see you as capable of spoiling my grand debut in any possible way. But see, the circumstances leave our esteemed organization in a win-lose situation. While at least one of us will take the bold next step into the tournament, the other, unfortunately, will suffer the humiliation of an early elimination from this tournament.
Hell or high water that Kerry will allow himself to be the latter.
But Scott remains unphased.
Or perhaps he just isn’t picking up on Kuroyama’s subtle threats weaved into the strained inflections of his speech.
Scott Hunter: Look, Frank I understand your concern, and I share it. I once had to choose between my two favorite socks and it was a horrible, life changing trauma. Stripes or plaid?! How can I possibly choose?? It’s like choosing which one of your children must die, except even more tragic!
Simon Tiller: Why would you choose between two individual socks?
Scott Hunter: Uhhhh, because you can only wear one at a time… DUHHH!!
Scott thumbs at Simon as if to say, “this guy”. Simon just rolls his eyes.
The fingers on Kuroyama’s right hand clutch the air inches from his face like he’s trying to prevent his brain from escaping the stupidity that is ravaging his skull.
Somehow, he again suppresses the urge to put his – – or Scott’s – – head through the nearby wall plastered with Ivan Stanislav posters.
Kerry Kuroyama: Look, the most important thing, I feel, is that the two of us represent the standard of wrestling that is synonymous with Vae Victis.
Scott Hunter: Wrestling. Yes, yes. No one is more anonymous with wrestling than I am. Well, maybe a bit less so after Simone here tricked me into giving him my name.
Scott narrows his eyes as he looks at Simon.
Simon Tiller: Once again, I already knew your name! What’s the big deal?? (mocking) Do I get three wishes or something?
Scott just blinks as he looks at him.
Scott Hunter: Don’t be silly.
This time Simon just shakes his head.
Kerry Kuroyama: (ignoring all of this) Okay so here’s what I’ll propose to you: A good, straight, clean match out there. No frills. No gimmicks. Just a show of the finest wrestling the world has ever seen. And… you know… whatever it is you do. Let’s just put it all out there in the ring for the world to see, and let the better man win in the end. And when all is said and done, we’ll stand in the center of the ring… and shake hands. Like true sportsmen. That alright with you, Scott?
Scott Hunter: Anything you want, Frank. I’m looking forward to some fine athletic competitions out there tonight, or at least one, meaning our match, and maybe some others later although I am skeptical, and I also don’t believe it. Of course, if you betray me i shall surely disembowel you and place your emptied out skull on my fireplace mantle. But I’m here to be a good teammate, so maybe I’ll just offer you a delicious Thanksgiving pie.
Kerry Kuroyama: (pause) …good.
Kuroyama extends his hand.
Hunter apprehensively looks at it for a moment… then accepts it.
Scott Hunter: This is great. This must be what Craig calls ‘friendship’. I thought it was some kind of foo foo hippie crap, but this is kinda cool.
A smile crosses Kerry’s face. Only it has no warmth. There’s a hint of malice glinting in his narrowing eyes.
Kerry Kuroyama: Best of luck then… “compadre”.
Kuroyama bows and extends his hand in the direction of the curtain, ceding the first entrance to his Vae Victis compatriot.
Kerry Kuroyama: After you, good sir.
Hunter exits. Kerry’s smile slowly breaks down into a sneer. His eye twitches.
His hands clench at the air in front of him, as he imagines throttling a certain someone’s neck.
Kerry Kuroyama: (seething under his breath) …soon as it rings… soon as that FUCKING bell rings… so help me God, I’m gonna… I’m gonna…
He trails off when he notices Simon is still lingering nearby, then clears his throat and recomposes himself.
Kerry Kuroyama: If we’re done here, Simon… would you be a gentlemen, and kindly get lost? I need to get mind centered.
Rolling his eyes, Tillier leaves Kerry to rebalance himself in the final few moments before his entrance.
Simon Tillier: Well, folks, you heard it here first! Moments from now, these two apparent “friends” within Vae Victis will go head to head in the ring! Let’s send it back to Nick and Richard to see how this unfolds!
We then cut to ringside.
KERRY KUROYAMA VS. SCOTT HUNTER
From nowhere, the opening guitar licks to “Burning Heart” kick in while scenes from Rocky IV flash on the screen. Scott Hunter steps out onto the stage, chest out, chin up, then stops in a heroic fists-on-hips pose.
Vince Howard: This Almasy Invitational First Round Match is set for one fall and has no time limit. Introducing first, from Miami, Florida… weighing in at 245lbs… he is.. SCOTT… HUUUUUUUNTEEERRR!!!
Looking out into the crowd, the newcomer nods. You’d think after a few weeks, the brand recognition would be a little stronger, and I guess you could say it is – but the fan response is still decidedly tepid as they figure out what to do with this brash kid in blue and yellow. After a moment of soaking in the crowd’s lukewarm reaction, he mouths “thank you, thank you” and starts walking to the ring.
The lights fade.
A tempest rumbles through the darkness.
The sounds of howling wind and pouring rain.
Verdant stormclouds fill the PRIMEview.
A flash of lighting.
A deafening crack of thunder.
And without warning, “Blouses Blue” by Konrad OldMoney and Sleep Steady suddenly THUMPS through the PA.
The stage lights up. Flashing strobes. Smokescreen. Green lasers.
A silhouette appears and marches forth from the haze, stopping at the head of the ramp.
The spotlight hits, revealing Kerry Kuroyama, clad in his emerald and silver robe. Eyes forward. Arms up. Knuckles touching, to form a peak over his head.
Rows of white and green fountain pyros erupt at his flanks.
The lyrics kick in.
Focused and fearless, Kuroyama strides down the ramp.
His gaze never leaves the ring.
Vince Howard: And the opponent, hailing from Seattle, Washington, and weighing in at two-hundred and fifty-four pounds, please welcome… the Emerald Apex, KERRY KUROYAMA!!
Kuroyama arrives at ringside. He climbs the stairs, steps through the ropes, and occupies the center of the ring.
He faces away from the hard camera, waiting for his music to build to its climax.
When it does, he tears off his robe in a single, swift motion and tosses it aside, gifting the camera a good look at the a green storm dragon tattooed across his sculpted back.
Then he twirls around to face the camera
His clenched fist proudly held up.
His defiant eyes are full of conviction.
The storm has arrived.
One may think, with the exchange of words earlier in the evening, that what happens next will be a bit of wonderful sporting competition. So, when Kerry Kuroyama makes a beeline into the space of Scott Hunter, cutting off the ring, getting deep into a wrestling stance. Hunter goes for a simple tie up. A jostle between friends. Kuroyama, instead, explodes into him, through him, grabbing him with a single leg and quickly sweeping the other leg. With smothering precision, Kuroyama quickly grabs onto a headlock, locking his arms around the neck of the Vae Victus hanger on while also trapping his arm and shoulder in a rigid, upright position.
Hunter tries to roll, but all this does is make Kuroyama tighten the grip. With his free hand, Hunter reaches upward, the heel of his hand bracing against the chin of The Pacific Blitzkrieg, and, surprisingly, is able to push Kuroyama to the mat. Such defiance. KK releases, and before Hunter can react, Kerry locks him in a front facelock in a sprawl, yanking at his opponent’s neck.
Nick Stuart: Kuroyama has the upper hand here…we saw earlier on–OH! SQUALL LINE LARIAT!
Richard Parker: So much for ‘friendly’ competition!
The pair are equal in size, which makes the suddenness of Hunter pushing up and bringing the two to a vertical base not exactly shocking. What is, however, is how quickly Kuroyama releases and absolutely plasters Scott with the discus lariat. Within moments, Kuroyama is jerking Hunter back up, smashing forearm strikes to the upper back and the back of Hunter’s neck. Scott starts to wince and try to get away, but any attempt to get space is quickly cut off when Kuroyama plasters him in the back of the head with a yakuza kick.
Nick Stuart: Kuroyama looking incensed here!
Richard Parker: Looking smart is what he’s looking. And I’ll be honest, I like intensity in my wrestling matches. I don’t know if Kuroyama is just trying to send a message or set the tone for what he’s all about, but I’m here for it. And if he’s got to smash someone carrying some bags, then so be it. Get noticed in PRIME. Make everyone believe in the hype.
Nick Stuart: And that is a good point here, Richard; Kerry Kuroyama, the Pacific Blitzkrieg, Seattle’s Beast, he comes into this contest with a lot of hype surrounding him for this debut. His pedigree and membership in Lindsay Troy’s handpicked group, Vae Victus, his success in DEFIANCE, he comes into the Almasy new to PRIME, and yet, there’s a lot of scuttlebutt about him being one of the favorites to make a deep run into the tournament.
Able to hear, Ivan Stanislav scowls in Nick’s direction. The play by play announcer is too engaged with what he’s seeing, a tight bevy of open palmed slapped to the back of Hunter’s head, and then, a ring rattling side russian leg sweep, to notice.
Richard Parker: And really, what’s Scott Hunter done since coming to PRIME?
Nick Stuart: Well, not exactly easy out the gate. A match with former Alias Champion C. Mortgomery Burns, the brutal Arthur Pleasant…
Richard Parker: Okay, right. But that’s PRIME. There’s no fat. There’s no easy outs. And with how he’s bellyaching in there as we speak, Scott Hunter is merely going to be fodder for someone else to get their career going. Because Kuroyama? He’s going places. You’d have to be blind not to see or know that. To not believe this talent acquisition is MASSIVE.
Scott Hunter is chopped liver. Scott Hunter is meat to get pounded into oblivion and get processed. Maybe pasteurized. Put in a can as protein for spaghetti-o’s. Kuroyama isn’t giving him a chance to breathe. Not giving him an opportunity to rally in a friendly, sporting way. Just getting smashed, and for there to be boos, not because of Kuroyama attacking him, no, they’re excited for that.
They are, rather, angry that someone is just taking an absolute powder.
Forearm strikes. A necksnap. Driving his elbow into the neck of Hunter. The Pacific Blitzkrieg is living up to all of what he’s been billed as, as he’s been built up. Even Ivan Stanislav can’t help but laugh at the patheticness he is seeing.
With little respect, Kuroyama pushes his forearm into Hunter’s mush, pinning him as if to say “you kick out, and it’s only getting worse.”
It’s a mock chant. The first bit of offense. Seattle’s Best is nonplussed. More time to showcase his abilities. To send the message to the field, hell, to the Universal Champion, that all of this may soon belong to him. And who can blame him? He’s got to be feeling good. A mocking slap to the head of Hunter, he barks at him to get up. Almost as though he’s offering a hand.
And when he does?
The damn ring SHAKES!
Nick Stuart: DEEEEEEEEEEP HIPTOSS from Scott Hunter there! And Kuroyama didn’t expect that!
Richard Parker: But he’s getting–
Nick Stuart: AND ANOTHER HIPTOSS!
Kuroyama grimaces hard. He’s in tremendous pain.
Richard Parker: Did he…did he just break his tailbone? He’s grabbing at…oh he’s going for his back…
Nick Stuart: The elevation on those hiptosses WERE quite high, and that might have jarred something in the back…
Richard Parker: Which, look, it’s not going for the knee. It’s not targeting the leg. But Hunter, if there’s one thing we can say, is that the man ‘thinks’ he invented the figure four leg lock. And while that hold IS painful, one of the ways you can combat it? Dragging yourself to the ropes. But to do that?
Nick Stuart: You need your back.
Richard Parker: Bingo. Maybe Hunter isn’t as dumb as he–
Nick Stuart: OOOOH! Kuroyama tried to snatch the leg but Hunter pushed him away! Kuroyama to his feet CLOTHESLINE! Kuroyama back up FLYING FOREARM! WOAH! This might be getting away from Kuroyama and HUNTER SNATCHING HIM AND LIFTING HIM UP–
Richard Parker: And holding him.
Nick Stuart: All the blood–
Richard Parker: And holding him.
Nick Stuart: –rushing to his head. Just holding him there, and there’s–
Richard Parker: still holding him–
Nick Stuart: –no quiver, no sense of urgency–
Richard Parker: STILL. HOLDING. HIM.
Nick Stuart: And the fans are now cheering with how longer this has–SUPLEX! SUPLEX!
Richard Parker: KUROYAMA’S TRYING TO GET UP BUT HE CAN’T! HE KEEPS DROPPING!
Nick Stuart: Did that…did that delayed suplex…
Richard Parker: COVER HIM!
Nick Stuart: Hunter…Hunter…Hunter going for the leg, SNAPS IT INTO THE CANVAS!
Richard Parker: YOU NEED TO COVER HIM! YOU WANT THE UPSET?! GO AND TAKE IT! STOP DILLY DALLYING AND GET IT!
Nick Stuart: Elbow drop to the knee! And again! He’s got the leg and he’s just PULVERIZING it with all his weight with those elbow drops–
Richard Parker: But Kuroyama’s HANDS are moving and HE’S REACHING FOR HIM! He wasn’t able to do that before because of the blood rush! This is a tournament, dammit! All you need is three seconds! And if someone can’t get up because they got the dizzies, THAT’S FREE REAL ESTATE!
Kerry Kuroyama’s debut is becoming a nightmare. Scott Hunter? Not the brightest bulb in the room by any margin, but it’s clear what he’s about to do. Figure four leg lock. He reaches for it, grabbing at legs of Seattle’s Best. And Kuroyama doesn’t fight it. There’s no give.
He’s resigned to defeat.
Some might think that. Hunter thinks he’s got free reign. In reality, as Hunter stoops to grab the legs, Kuroyama’s free one rockets and catches him across the temple, instantly dropping his opponent to a knee. A few power punches to the thigh and knee, and Kerry Kuroyama is back up. And there is malice in his eyes.
Hunter is too.
Flying body press misses.
Snap dragon suplex.
Scott Hunter tries to rally.
Kerry Kuroyama snatches him with a front chancery.
Nick Stuart: HUNTER WITH ANOTHER HIP TOSS!
Richard Parker: SO MUCH ELEVATION!
Taking the blows pisses off Kerry, but the reality is, it hurts worse than he’d ever let on. Hunter reaches over, grabbing hold, lifting Kuroyama up, and lifts him onto his shoulder. An Oklahoma Stampede? Maybe a shoulder breaker? A back breaker? We never find out, as the Pacific Blitzkrieg slides out, falling behind Hunter, grabbing hold of him in a pumphandle and lifting him.
Nick Stuart: KUROYAMA DRIVER 1! KUROYAMA DRIVER 1!
Richard Parker: THAT! WAS BRUTAL!
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: That…got VERY interesting VERY quickly!
Richard Parker: Kuroyama is…damn. He’s BRUTAL! And uncompromising. I think I may have a new favorite coming up…
Nick Stuart: Kuroyama makes good on his debut and moves on in the Almasy, but to be clear, and this needs to be said, Scott Hunter showed us something here. He managed to take the fight to Kuroyama and proved that, maybe, he’s more than just a bag handler…
Vince Howard: Your winner…and ADVANCING…TO THE SECOND ROUND…OF THE ALMASY INVITATIONAL…KEEEEEEEEERRY! KUROYAMA!
Unfortunately for Scott Hunter, this night is not his. And it looks like it’s about to get worse, as his opponent draws close, perhaps looking to continue the fight.
Instead, Kerry offers a hand to the rising Hunter, who takes it. Kuroyama, for his part, shakes it very aggressively, very pantomime. Mocking. And then, he tells him to hit the damn bricks. Hunter does, seemingly oblivious to the affront.
And Kerry Kuroyama? He milks his moment, raising his arms, going to the near turnbuckle.
If you think you’re winning this tournament, you damn well might have to survive a Pacific Blitzkrieg to do so.
We then cut to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: THE BELMONT CLASSIC
A slow-motion video of a packed arena. While the seats are filled with screaming fans, the ring sits empty and the spotlights are dark.
But not for long.
“This is where the seeds of greatness are planted.”
More slow-motion action. We see younger versions of our favorite superstars. Jared Sykes. Clay Bird. Ian Nackedy. Colt Smith.
“This is where miracles are commonplace.”
Miranda DC. Powerslam Anubis. Justicio IV. Ned Reform.
“This is where careers are forged.”
Leroy Scrumptious. Samson Dynamite. The Jacks of All Trades. Kevin Condor.
“This is where trails are blazed.”
Paxton Ray. FLAMBERGE. Eddie Cross. Garry Bolamba. Jennifer Colton.
“This is where legends are born.”
Lindsay Troy. Brandon Youngblood. Coral Avalon.
The Belmont Classic
St. Louis, MO
Are you ready to rock?
We return from commercial to the PRIME Faithful of St. Louis buzz over the night’s proceedings until “Slum Planet” by 3TEETH hits the sound system. The excitement inside the Enterprise Center drops harder than a Nee Yorker droppin’ their G’s.
Nick Stuart: Annnnd there goes everyone’s night.
Richard Parker: You say that, but I see everyone that was on their way to the concessions and bathrooms making a beeline back to their seats!
Pleasant makes his way out from the back, sporting a three-piece business suit. His tie and vest are two different shades of red while the jacket and slacks are black. Arthur’s hair is combed and brushed like he just came from the barber.
Directly behind this dapper looking sociopath?
A murderous looking Yuri Reznikov with a full-length beard.
Nick Stuart: Looks like Arthur isn’t taking any chances for retaliation tonight.
Richard Parker: I’ll say. Having a seven-foot Russian mercenary at your side will make anyone think twice about accosting you.
Before getting into the ring, Pleasant turns his attention to where the brand new PRIME Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, and his compatriot, Alexei Ruslan, are sitting at ringside. Arthur makes his way over to them both.
Arthur Pleasant: (Un-Mic’d) Congratulations, Proppershtick! There is no one more deserving of that beautiful championship!
Pleasant extends a hand to Ivan, but Alexei says something to Ivan that Arthur can’t quite make out. For a brief moment, Alexei looks like he will stop Ivan’s hand from grabbing onto Arthur’s, but Alexei stands down. Despite Alexei’s original reservations, Ivan and Arthur embrace in a respectful handshake.
Nick Stuart: I think I’m gonna be sick.
Richard Parker: I, for one, applaud the respect being shown to the NEW Universal Champion by Arthur Pleasant. Class act, in my opinion! Though, if I heard that correctly, I think he said his rank wrong.
Nick Stuart: I heard that, too. Could be what Alexei whispered into Ivan’s ear, maybe?
Turning his focus back onto the ring, he slithers underneath the bottom rope like a serpent. Ignoring the boobirds of St. Louis, Yuri walks over to the timekeeper’s area, menacing everyone in the vicinity with his more-than-imposing figure. Demanding something in Russian, everyone can sense that it’s a microphone he wants.
Nick Stuart: Well, I don’t think you have to be fluent in Russian to understand what Yuri wants here.
Once he grips his gigantic paw around a microphone, Yuri walks over to the side of the ring where Pleasant is waiting. Grabbing it, Pleasant slithers back to the center of the ring. Sitting criss-cross style in the center of the ring, facing ramp-side. He waits for his theme music to fade, then starts laughing.
Arthur Pleasant: Hahaha…ohhhh man. I’ve been to a lot of cities, but you people are literally the trashiest looking shitbags I’ve ever seen. And, mind you, I’ve been to places like Shibuya. Yeah. Where Tokyoites shit in their hands, eat it, and pretend they’re enjoying a chocolate Frosty from Wendy’s.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds for all of St. Louis to take exception to this.
ASSSSSSSSHOOOOOOLE! ASSSSSSSSHOOOOOOLE! ASSSSSSSSHOOOOOOLE!
Nick Stuart: Well, that’s a visual I didn’t need any time this century.
Richard Parker: To be honest, Nick? I’ve had a Wendy’s frosty and I imagine they’re not much different than a Tokyo Mudpie.
Nick Stuart: A… what?!
Richard Parker: Never you mind, Nick!
Arthur cackles at the response, mouthing “GOT ‘EEEEEEEEM!” into a cameraman’s camera at ringside. After about a minute, the attempted hijacking from these St. Louisans is thwarted with patience and focus.
Arthur Pleasant: I apologize.
Everyone in the arena starts to quiet down. Someone with impeccable timing at ringside shouts, “FUCK YOU, TEEF BOY!” loud enough to garner a chuckle from the entire arena.
Arthur Pleasant: Good one, sir. Way to prove my point. ANYWAAAAY. As I was saying… I apologize. I apologize, Rocky, for not giving you the attention you deserve much sooner than I did.
Pleasant bears the fangs. Particularly at the popcorn eating, beer drinking fat add who yelled “TEEF BOY” to give their pathetic life some meaning and excitement.
Arthur Pleasant: You can thank that puffy-bodied Anglo Lunchador for accosting me backstage on my first night here, Rocky. Had it not been for one person’s bullying, I would have did to you what I did at UltraViolence, right then and there.
Nick Stuart: Is he not hearing himself?!
Richard Parker: Just go with it. Please, for the love of GOD, don’t say anything that’ll bring that psychopath up here!
Arthur Pleasant: I was actually on my way to see you before I was so rudely interrupted. Now, fast forward to Tropical Turmoil! I’m finally done with one Mask when, to my surprise and uncontrolled disappointment, another Mask interrupts me! Now, I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Mortimer—ever the annoying gnat that he was, may he rest in peace—deemed it fucking prudent to try and get my attention!
Nick Stuart: I meeeeean, Morty’s not dead, though.
Richard Parker: Shhhhh! Seriously, I will kill you if Arthur hurts me.
Nick Stuart: Just sayin’!
Arthur Pleasant: As if Mask #2 was EVER on my level! As if he ever had a chance to teach a thing or two about violence to the goddamn MASTER of it! Through it all, though, I proved Mortimer Kuh-Jedeelichsenheimerfucklestein to be just another moron— like all of you shit-eating Show-Me’s out there who bought your tickets with food stamps and fellatian promises. That included you, sir. Yeah, YOU! The one whose best features happened to run down his mother’s hairy chin.
Nick Stuart: Dear GOD. This guy is AWFUL. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts getting pelted with trash soon.
Richard Parker: I didn’t know Morty was Jewish. The more you know. Cue the star and rainbow!
Arthur Pleasant: So here we are, Rocky. No more interruptions. No more Masks left to hurdle over in order to get to you. It’s just you and me, mono-y-mono. Speaking of which, I believe I asked you a question at UltraViolence, did I not? Yyyyeah. So how about it, Lion? What’s behind your mask?
Pausing, Arthur taps the microphone against his temple three times. Despite the golden opportunity, no one dares to shout anything at him this time, as Arthur gives a hard look toward the fan that shouted at him.
Arthur Pleasant: Since I gave you ample opportunity to answer me, don’t bother saying a word. Stay in the shadows now, like a scorned little kid who got spanked for misbehaving. Believe it or not, I already know the answer to that question. The answer is… nothing. NOTHING. To be precise, it’s LESS than NOTHING! NOTHING actually puts YOU on the proverbial refrigerator with proverbial fucking magnets, proud at the depths of naivety and irrelevance you’ve managed to secure here in PRIME. NOTHING aspires to be just as ignorant and blind to the world around it as you have proved yourself to be.
The audience doesn’t even say a word. The camera catches Ivan Stanislav locking eyes with Pleasant. Each of them sharing the briefest of moments. There might have even been a smile traded between the Nightmare and the Russian Bear.
Arthur Pleasant: This is the hard fucking truth, folks. Me MDKing Rocky De Leon at UltraViolence? Though fun and likely to happen again if he decides to try and retaliate like Mort did, this isn’t just about that weird little Birdman. With Almasy II coming up? It’s opened my eyes to a world full of complacency and tribalistic hypocrisy. Because I’m fucking TIRED of the cowards and the phony personas waltzing around here like they own 51% shares in the pro-wrestling stock. I’m tired of everyone pretending how the Glue Factory, or the Glueminati, or Generation Glue, or Blue Live Glue, or Glue Foundation, or whatever the FUCK name they’ve decided to settle upon, aren’t just a freerange, cage-free version of the eGG Bandits themselves.
Another hard-hitting, mic-drop-esque reactive “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” from the St. Louis crowd. On a roll, Pleasant paces back and forth, continuing his train of thought.
Arthur Pleasant: I’m fucking TIRED of a group of overrated, nonsensical sloths that stop all progress with the philosophy of “Well Jiles won the Universal Title, so we’re good now!” and just carry on being the in-an-out of “INSERT PROMOTION featured on the ACE NETWORK here!” boom-or-bust bag of boredom that should’ve disbanded YEARS ago. I’m tired of people worshiping a crumbling, near-seventy-old hypocritical relic of a man who fancies himself as this imposing Babbling Tower in Brandon Youngblood. I’m sick of our 5-Star Champion looking like a 1-Star cream puff with a forehead that can be seen from outer space. I’m sick to death of the mustachioed Hayes Hanlon and all the food particles that have taken up residence in there. I am SICK. TO. FUCKING. DEATH. of the majority of these elitist cunts having a grip on this place just because they were here once upon a time. And you know what, folks? That makes that locker room back there, and their revered leaders of PRIME, no better than the entire toxic bullshit we all know that goes on inside some of our “partners” in that joke of a cross-play network, PWA.
Massive… MASSIVE “OOOOOOOOOOOH’S”, followed by equally massive boo’s. Arthur laughs, putting a hand over the microphone. He looks directly into the camera and yells, quasi-audibly, “Fine me, LT. I don’t really give a shit. Just make sure you put it on my fucking bill.”. Removing his hand from the microphone, Pleasant continues.
Arthur Pleasant: So this is what I’m going to do, Rocky: you even think about coming after me in some kind of reprisal I’m going to flip your off switch faster than a Ria Lockhart cup-of-coffee appearance, and it will be the finest example of what’s coming in PRIME. For the Almasy. For Colossus. For the rest of 2023. For 2024 and fucking BEYOND! Your destruction plays a pivotal role in the looming calamity of pain that’s making a beeline for Earth. And when the unstoppable meteor strikes down, annihilating all in its path as it did when it killed the dinosaurs– your people and Brandon’s, I’d wager– I and…
Pleasant looks directly at Ivan and Alexei. A mutual nod between all three occurs.
Arthur Pleasant: … a few select otters who “get it”, will be the last ones standing in its glorious ruin.
He smiles wide. Harrowingly.
Arthur Pleasant: See you at ReVival 37, Coral.
Pleasant flips the microphone up with great force, causing it to land harshly on the mat. What follows can only be described as painful auditory rape from the screeching of interference. “3TEETH” plays again, seeing Arthur and Yuri out as they walk up the ramp.
Nick Stuart: Holy…
Richard Parker: …shit?
Nick Stuart: Well, I was going to say something a little less exclamatory, but yes.
Richard Parker: I mean, along with announcing his intentions to basically eviscerate Rocky de Leon from the PRIME roster in some kind of anti-mask crusade, he just dropped the mic on some of the who’s who of the Almasy tournament. Why someone would try and draw the ire of the entire Glue Factory, Brandon Youngblood, and others is simply beyond my understanding. Wow.
Nick Stuart: Part of me can’t help if this is some sort of grand plan of his. Say what you will about him but, not only is he an incredible athlete in that ring, but he is as smart as anybody I’ve seen. Don’t mistake psychopathy for strategy when it comes to this guy!
Richard Parker: Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Well, I could’ve but, you deserved this one, Nick. Haha.
Nick Stuart: Thanks, I think.
With Pleasant and Yuri disappearing into the backstage area, we transition elsewhere.
BUT SERIOUSLY, WHERE’S CORAL?
The show feeds switches to the eGG den. There, King COOL, the MAIN EVENT, is seen preparing to do something he’s never done before.
Out cheat Nate Colton.
Jiles is dressed for battle. His salt white boots are fastened tight. His hair is an immaculate slick of oil. His T-shades shine. His wrestling tights still have a picture of himself on them.
Bobby, who is also there, still has his mouth full with who knows what. Also of note, the elastic waist on his electric-blue tracksuit is screaming “cut me Mick.”
The two Bandits in crime are sitting around, going over all sorts of contingency plans should things turn dire later on in tonight’s Main Event matchup.
Well, you’d think that’s what they were talking about.
Bobby Dean: It’s a shame your hair is white and not golden blonde like it used to be. Ya know, because of the ticket, and not because it makes you look old.
Cancer Jiles: Good one, Downer. I guess if I lose tonight we won’t have to worry about it anymore. Say, HOW is the DIEt going?
Suddenly, a knock is heard at the door.
More like a hoot.
Cancer Jiles: probably that pregnant hoe again. CORAL AIN’T HERE! He’s… chilling out somewhere else.
Intense snickering ensues.
Bobby Dean: Yeah, his brain is still thawing out from Cancer’s Cryostasis. Come back later, or maybe never! Ha! Got her.
Intense awkwardness silences.
The knock is heard once again. This time it is louder and with more authority. Bobby springs to, propelled upwards by a silent fart that thankfully is not deadly. He opens the door and standing there is no pregnant hoe.
Lindsay Troy: Robert.
It’s someone much worse.
Lindsay Troy: Move.
Bobby moves about as fast as a snail caught on a sticky trap, so the Queen helps him along by shoving him out of her way. She storms over to King Crumb, who already looks overjoyed to see her.
Because, really, who wouldn’t? She’s a delight.
Lindsay Troy: Save whatever bullshit you’re about to say, Pizmo, because the only thing I want to hear come out of your Skoal soaked mouth is where you’ve taken Coral.
Jiles looks around, confused about the situation.
Cancer Jiles: Coral? Never heard of him.
More snickering ensues. It doesn’t last very long.
Lindsay Troy: Cut the shit. Where is he?
Cancer Jiles: Jeez, Mom, I’ve never seen you act like this before; worrying about the well being of an eGG Bandit. That almost sounds like something our beloved Que—
Lady Troy raises her hand as if to call for silence. She gets her wish mainly because Bobby is too afraid to talk, and that raised hand of her’s is covering Jiles’ mouth.
Lindsay Troy: Last time. Either answer my question, or I’ll make the main event a gauntlet match involving all the Coltons. Got it? Nod first and then I’ll remove my hand.
Cancer Jiles: Okay, Mom. You win. Coral, come on out.
Jiles and Bobby look at some door, as if Coral is hiding in the room behind it. The problem is the door in question is to a random locker, and not a room.
Lindsay Troy: You’re more of a child than my own children. Fine, gauntlet match it is.
Cancer Jiles: Wait! Hold all calls! Coral is fine, and I promise on the souls of my brethren that the new and improved version of the Crownless King will be at ReVival 37.
The crooked smile on Jiles’ face should come with a free car freshener.
Lindsay Troy: That’s two weeks away, dipshit. Not good enough. His wife is pregnant, and if you don’t want me to conveniently look the other way when Annie comes at you with a mace, I’ll need a better assurance than just your word.
Cancer Jiles: I can write it down on a piece of paper and sign it if you want?
Jiles’ stupid smile continues on. Bobby braces for impact. Lady Troy balls up her fist as tight as she can, and holds it less than an inch away from Jiles’ clean shaven face.
Lindsay Troy: If Coral isn’t there, you better not be either. Same goes for Bobby, and anyone else who had a hand in carrying out your…whimsy. I don’t care what happens later on tonight in your match, either. Don’t come back unless you have Coral with you, understood.
It wasn’t a question, as evidenced by the Queen of the Ring, and hopefully of the Bandits one day, slamming the door shut behind her. A few seconds pass so that the conversation can safely resume.
Cancer Jiles: I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees Cardboard Coral for the first time.
Bobby Dean: He’s going to be ten times bigger than CBD ever was.
Cancer Jiles: With a forehead like that, you ain’t kidding. Now hand me that baby oil. I have to finish getting ready.
Cut to the ring.
LOGAN JAMES VS. JARED SYKES
We’re back in the ring.
The sound of a heartbeat pulses through the sound system as the lights fade, and a single note rips through the arena. Deep, rumbling – guitars tuned so low that it crests on the bass register.
I’ll never be ready to meet a memory
With every rhythmic note the arena lights pulse white. The outline of a beating heart appears on the screen, and as the rapid-fire tapping lick kicks it it’s enveloped by a snarling dragon.
Vince Howard: From Boston, Massachusetts…
I’ve gone walkabout with the parasites in my head
The sound from the speakers is drowned out by the roar coming off the crowd as both Jared Sykes and Justine Calvin step through the curtain.
Vince Howard: Weighing in tonight at two-hundred and two pounds…
Far too quiet
As I pick away at the surface the itch burns through my skin
The pair make their way to ringside. Normally, Jared would either slide under the bottom rope, or vault up to the outer second rope in two swift steps. Tonight he walks a slow circle around the ring towards where Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan sit at ringside.
Vince Howard: JAREEEEEEEEEEEEED SYYYYYYYYYKES!!!
There is no love lost between Sykes and Stanislav. Months of escalating violence culminated at Tropical Turmoil, where the Russian Bear ended Jared’s championship hopes. Now he sits only feet away with the Universal Championship in his possession.
Stanislav and Ruslan don’t bother to stand or, in any way, physically change their current state as Sykes walks slowly around the ring. Ruslan tips his hat and Ivan smirks and lifts a huge paw, bellowing at Sykes.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not fail in -this- tournament, Sykes, and maybe I can beat you again! DYAAHAAHAA!!
The two Russians laugh uproariously while Ruslan pulls an empty chair next to him, pats the seat, and points at Calvin, who stands on the opposite side of the ring.
Richard Parker: Looks like we’ve already got tension between Ivan and Jared.
Nick Stuart: You’ve got to wonder how that’s going to affect Sykes’ mindset throughout this match!
Richard Parker: I’d hate to be Sykes right now, honestly. First, you got betrayed by a ‘friend’ at UltraViolence, then you just have a run-in with one of your least favorite people just a little bit before your match, and now you’ve got another one of your least favorite people sitting at ringside, watching you do your thing. That’s a lotta baggage.
It’s clear that the gears are turning inside Jared’s head, but this is not the day to renew hostilities. He slides in under the bottom rope, ready to begin, just as green lighting fills the arena and “Always” by Saliva begins to play over the PA.
Vince Howard: His opponent… from Livermore, Maine…
The crowd begins to cheer as Logan James walks out from behind the curtain.
Vicne Howard: Weighing two-hundred and fifty pounds… LOOOOOGAAAAAAAAAN JAAAAMES!
Logan James makes his way down the entrance ramp with a look of uncertainty on his face, looking towards Stanislav and Ruslan as he passes. He climbs up the step, the fans cheering turning his uncertainty into a wide smile.
Nick Stuart: Speaking of baggage, you’ve got to wonder what’s going through Logan James’ head right now.
Richard Parker: I mean, two losses in a row, back to back just like that? That’s got to make a man wonder if he’s still got the ‘oomph’. You don’t want to be caught fresh out of ‘oomph’, Nick. That’s how they killed Kennedy.
Nick Stuart: Stop it.
And just like that, the match begins. Jared Sykes and Logan James approach each other slowly, cautiously, meeting in the center of the ring. They don’t even try to shake hands. Instead, they’re sizing each other up, both men waiting for the other to make the first move. They circle each other, waiting and waiting until…
Nick Stuart: And Sykes throws the first punch!
Richard Parker: Too bad! It’s a whiff! Looks like Logan James might be one step ahead of him
James dodges out of the way just in the nick of time, Sykes’ fist grazing his cheek. James moves fast, quickly capitalizing on the opportunity. Sykes looks momentarily shell shocked as James goes for a grapple, using his size advantage to overpower Sykes. James lifts Sykes off his feet and… BACKBREAKER!
Nick Stuart: What a show of strength by Logan James!
Richard Parker: Oof! That’s gotta suck!
Nick Stuart: It looks like James is trying to end this one quickly! He’s going for a pin!
And Sykes kicks out!
Richard Parker: Hey Nick, how many times do you figure a backbreaker has actually finished a wrestling match?
Nick Stuart: Several times, I’m sure! But would you look at that?! Jared Sykes is back to his feet!
Sykes scrambles to his feet and puts distance between himself and Logan James, moving back to his corner with his arms on the ropes as he tries to catch his breath. Without missing a beat, James goes charging towards Sykes, but Sykes dodges out of the way!
James comes crashing against the turnbuckle with a loud THUD and Sykes grabs him from behind, nailing a picture perfect snap suplex.
Richard Parker: Blamo! You hate to see it, Nick. First the guy you’re trying to do wrestling things to decides to not let you do wrestling things to him and then he does wrestling things to you instead. The audacity.
Nick Stuart: It just goes to show how much both of these men want to move on to the next round of The Almasy Invitational! They’re both giving it all they’ve got out there!
With James down on the mat, Sykes takes a moment to catch his breath, shaking his head with both hands on his hips. As the PRIMEates cheer him on, Jared Sykes pulls Logan James to his feet. In a half-daze, James doesn’t even see what’s coming next until it’s too late.
Nick Stuart: LIGHTNING SPIRAL!
Richard Parker: And just like that, Logan James is back on the mat!
The fans erupt on impact. Among them, Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan are still in the front row, talking back and forth with one another; they both look thoroughly unimpressed, even at Sykes moves to make a pin. Ashley Barlow drops to the mat to make the count!
Nick Stuart: Another kickout!
Richard Parker: Hahaha! Sykes looks like he can’t believe it!
Jared Sykes throws up his hands in annoyance before he stands back up, once again reaching to pull his opponent to his feet, but Logan James is one step ahead this time. As he rises to his knees, Logan throws a hard jab at Sykes’ abdomen. Sykes doubles over as the breath gets knocked out of his lungs, James quickly standing the rest of the way to his feet. With Sykes doubled over, James wraps his head beneath his arm and drops him with a hard DDT!
Richard Parker: I think James might have just knocked Jared six ways from Sunday! Look at him! He’s out cold!
Nick Stuart: And Logan James isn’t done yet! He’s pulling Sykes back to his feet and it looks like he’s setting him up for the Pedigree!
The crowd watches in anticipation as Logan James sets Jared Sykes up for the Pedigree. Sykes, still groggy from the DDT, struggles to break free from James’ grasp. James gets a hold on Sykes arms, ready to drop him.
Nick Stuart: Logan James is going for the kill here, Richard! If he connects with the Pedigree, it could be all over for Jared Sykes!
Richard Parker: Sykes needs to find a way out of this, and fast!
But just when it seems like Logan James is about to execute the devastating maneuver, Jared Sykes summons every ounce of energy he has left. With a burst of determination, he manages to reverse James’ attempt at the Pedigree into a back body drop, sending James crashing to the mat!
The crowd erupts in cheers as Sykes seizes the opportunity to regain control of the match. Both wrestlers are now down on the mat, gasping for breath, but the momentum has shifted in Sykes’ favor.
Richard Parker: Unbelievable reversal by Jared Sykes! He just turned the tables on Logan James and saved his skin!
Nick Stuart: That’s the heart and resilience we’ve come to expect from Sykes, Richard. He’s not going down without a fight!
The PRIMEates in the audience are on their feet, roaring with excitement, as they witness Jared Sykes rising to his feet, determined to capitalize on his reversal. Sykes takes a deep breath, focusing all his energy on the task at hand. Meanwhile, Logan James begins to show signs of life, slowly pushing himself up from the canvas.
Nick Stuart: This match has been a rollercoaster of momentum swings, Richard! Jared Sykes is showing incredible resilience here.
Richard Parker: He’s doing that it takes to survive, Nick! That’s the name of the game!
With James just starting to rise to his feet, Sykes takes a few steps back, creating some distance between himself and his opponent. He surveys the situation, calculating his next move as the crowd’s excitement reaches a fever pitch.
With the crowd firmly behind him, Jared Sykes seizes the moment. He darts toward the ropes, using them for added momentum, and then rebounds back toward Logan James. Sykes launches himself into the air, going for a flying crossbody block.
Nick Stuart: Sykes is going for broke here, Richard!
Richard Parker: He’s soaring through the skies like a big bad bird!
Nick Stuart: …a big bad bird?
Richard Parker: They can’t all be zingers, Nick.
But Logan James is quick to react! Just as Sykes is about to collide with him, James catches him mid-air, showcasing his raw power. The entire arena holds its breath as Logan James effortlessly hoists Sykes onto his shoulder.
Nick Stuart: Incredible strength from Logan James! He caught Sykes in mid-flight!
Richard Parker: That’s some power right there, Nick!
James steadies himself for a moment, with Sykes struggling to break free. The tension in the arena reaches its peak, and then, with an explosive burst, James slams Sykes down to the mat with a thunderous spinebuster!
Nick Stuart: Spinebuster! That’s got to be it, Richard!
Richard Parker: Sykes might need a chiropractor after that one! Christ, I felt that impact all the way out here!
The crowd erupts with a mixture of shock and awe as Logan James goes for the cover, hooking Sykes’ leg.
But Sykes defiantly kicks out just in the nick of time, refusing to let the match slip away. The audience roars in approval.
Nick Stuart: Logan James can’t believe it!
Richard Parker: Neither can I! I could’ve sworn he broke Sykes’ back!
Logan James, undeterred by Sykes’ tenacity, rises to his feet, his eyes locked on his downed opponent. Sykes, though battered and bruised, starts to stir on the mat. The two men exchange determined glares, fully aware of what’s at stake.
The audience watches with bated breath, eager to see which warrior will seize control once again in this high-stakes encounter. In the front row, Ivan Stanislav leans forward in his seat, a big grin spreading across his face.
With a sudden burst of energy, Logan James makes his move. He charges at Sykes, attempting to go on the offensive. Sykes, however, reacts quickly, sidestepping James just in time. James crashes into the turnbuckle, his momentum carrying him into the corner with force.
Nick Stuart: Sykes with the evasion! James just crashed and burned in the corner!
Richard Parker: That’s the ring awareness of Jared Sykes, Nick! He saw it coming and avoided disaster!
With lightning speed, Sykes closes the gap and grabs James from behind, hooking him for him for his finisher.
Sykes lifts Logan James off his feet, positioning him for Omega 13. The crowd is on its feet.. It looks like Sykes has it in the bag… but just as Sykes gets James where he wants him, Logan James makes a desperate, last-ditch effort to counter! He uses his immense strength to shift his weight mid-move, causing Sykes to lose his grip.
Nick Stuart: James with a counter! He’s fighting to stay alive!
Richard Parker: Logan James is so slippery, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone rubbed butter all over him before the match. In fact, I’d almost guarantee it.
In a breathtaking display of power and determination, Logan James manages to break free from Sykes’ grasp. With Sykes momentarily off balance and unaware of, Logan James seizes the opportunity. He quickly grabs Sykes, hoisting him onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.
Nick Stuart: Logan James has Sykes on his shoulders!
Richard Parker: He’s treating Sykes like he doesn’t weigh a damn thing!
With a deep breath, Sykes still draped across his shoulders, James rushes forward before dropping Sykes.
Nick Stuart: DEATH VALLEY DRIVER!
Jared Sykes looks out cold on the mat as Logan James rises to his feet. He lays in a few kicks on the downed Sykes before he hoists him up, dazed in the center of the ring. James goes sprinting towards the ropes, bouncing off, and rushes back towards Sykes, flattening him with one hell of a clothesline.
The crowd watches in awe as Logan James showcases his dominance, lifting Sykes back up and delivering another devastating clothesline that sends Jared Sykes sprawling to the canvas. Sykes lies motionless in the center of the ring.
Nick Stuart: Logan James is absolutely relentless, Richard!
Richard Parker: That’s what hunger looks like, Nick! Well, sorta. James is a big guy. I bet he eats a lot.
The tension in the arena reaches its peak as Logan James appears poised to secure the victory. He ascends the nearest turnbuckle, slowly coming to a stand at the top rope. One deep breath and he dives off with a flying elbow!
However, just before he makes impact, Sykes musters the last bit of life he has left and rolls out of harm’s way, narrowly avoiding Logan James. The crowd erupts with excitement as James crashes and burns, clutching his arm in pain.
Nick Stuart: And just like that, the tides turn again!
Richard Parker: This match is making me seasick, Nick!
Seizing the opening he desperately needed, Jared Sykes quickly climbs to his feet. As Logan James rises, groggy from the missed move, Sykes seizes the moment and grabs James from behind, hoisting him up with all the strength he has left.
Nick Stuart: OMEGA 13!
Richard Parker: Good night, Logan James!
The crowd roars with anticipation and then explodes as Sykes successfully executes Omega 13, sending Logan James crashing to the mat. Ashley Barlow drops for the count.
DING DING DING
The bell rings and Jared Sykes stands victorious, but battered and bruised. Justine Calvin joins him in the ring as he leans back against the ropes for support, a triumphant smile spreading across his face as his eyes cross Ivan Stanislav in the front row.
Nick Stuart: And just like that, Jared Sykes advances to the next round of the Almasy Invitational!
As Sykes points towards Stanislav, we fade to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: STILL TO COME
Back from commercial, we return to the ringside area.
Nick Stuart: Ladies and gentlemen, next up we have a real treat for you.
Richard Parker: Quit underselling it… HOYT IS HERE!
“Say Your Prayers (live)” by Neil Francis plays through the area. White and purple spotlights sweep over the crowd. Exotic dancers dressed like angels dance to the music inside the ring. A royal purple rug covers the canvas with the Williams family flying =W= crest pressed upon it in gold. 3 large slabs of stained glass windows about the size of a door, and a 4th boarded up broken window frame lean up against each of the four ring posts. A plump Black man in a tight suit, dripping sweat and dapping his head with a golden handkerchief, stands in front of a golden lectern raised above two wooden pews on either side at ring level facing the hard camera.
Reverend Nathaniel Clay: Ex-Saint Louis, Listen up. I said LOUIS listen UP. THE LAWD HAS HEARD YOUR CALLINGS. Your PERSONAL JeZusssssssssss. The Heavenly Hall of Famer. THE PONTIFF OF THE PILEDRIVVVVVAAA The swami of the sue-play! The miracle of the microphone. The holy ghost host of this here Conversational Confessionals, my savior and yours… HOYYYYYYYYT HAAAA BYGAWD WILLIAMSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
Richard Parker: Hoyt BE WITH YOU!!!
The right reverend Clay throws his hands to the sky as the ring posts start pouring out bright white sparklers. Above him, being lowered down wearing Angel Wings, is Hoyt Williams. The Pontiff of PRIME is wearing a sparklingly black Richard Jewels (of Manchester & Stuart Hughes of Liverpool) cashmere suit made of the finest wool, silk, and best cut pure diamonds. Paired nicely with white unicorn skin boat shoes, matching his Hermes Jeu Du Fer tie and universal title cufflinks.
Most of the crowd is clapping along to the music and enjoying the spectacle. Once Hoyt’s blue suede shoes touch down he shares a hug with Reverend Clay as the dancing angels gavotte over to the Savior and quickly unhook the wings and harness. Hoyt does a few Jumping Jacks for Jesus while the girls and the reverend exit the ring, the smoke clears, and the house lights turn on.
Hoyt Williams: This morning I made it official and we have REMOVED the sainthood of that French loser Louis. So from this day forward this city is only to be referred to as Louis. So new Louis please raise and lift your heart up to the HOYT.
The crowd jeers.
Hoyt Williams: Last ReVival one of the stained glass masterpieces depicting the stages of my career was destroyed. I have sent a MASSIVE bill to Lindsay Troy and expect full compensation. The religious oppression in PRIME is real. Now let’s get down to the nails in the cross. My first guest probably can’t spell nepotism, but he’s sure benefited from it. Much like the rest of us he’s embarrassed by his fathers last name, and made the wise decision of using his mothers. He is known as the N-One, G-H-T, Craw-One-ER.
Hoyt looks cross eyed at his blue note card confused. He shrugs his shoulders.
Hoyt Williams: I don’t know what that means. Anyway here is the best booking we could do for a guest on this show.
The Pontiff of PRIME glares daggers at his producer outside of the ring, Joe Burro.
Hoyt Williams: He is Eddie CROSS!
“Cross-Off” by Mark Morton plays and Eddie Cross steps out of the back. He is dressed in full street clothes replete with his olive drab GG shirt (available at the PRIMEporium) as he is not competing tonight, but he is still wearing the eyepatch stemming from his wounds at UltraViolence.
The young man slaps some hands as he walks down the aisle and slowly makes his way up the steps. He pauses and wipes his feet before stepping through the ropes. Hoyt smiles his Cheshire grin and holds out a gold plated microphone for the youngster to speak into. Eddie takes the mic warily.
Hoyt Williams: Welcome to my confessional, sinner. Now I know you have a lot to confess, but we’re interested in one specific confession… your delightful betrayal of Dave Gibson.
As he speaks, he dabs his forehead with a pristine custom monogrammed white silk cloth.
Eddie Cross: Hold on a second, Hoyt, that isn’t what happened…
The savior looks down at his notecard and doesn’t hold on. In fact, he ramps his volume up and leans to the crowd in the front row.
Hoyt Williams: Oh really? Dave Gibson must have been beaten by oh-I-Don’t Know, Satan? Was it SATAN, or was it you Eddie? A man who acted as a father-like figure for you was beaten and thrown in an ambulance. Now this Godless brat wants to pretend I don’t know the goings on in my own ring? Remember Ed I know all and see all.
Nick Stuart: Yea, he bought the Pay-Per-View.
Eddie rolls his eyes and mouths the words “fuck this” before dropping the microphone and turning to walk out of the ring. Just as he steps through the ropes, the opening licks of “Paradise City” plays and Eddie closes his eyes hoping against hope he isn’t hearing the music that is playing.
The youngster turns and jawjacks with Hoyt before angrily snatching the microphone off the ground with slight feedback. Dave Gibson steps out of the back, still limping, with a bandage across his forehead and wearing a neck brace. Gibson has a box under one arm. The veteran slowly works his way to the ring, wincing as he steps between the ropes and grabbing at his neck before he produces a golden microphone of his own.
The young man looks at Hoyt and says something the microphones do not pick up. Hoyt holds up his hands and assures the youth that this is OK. He then pulls a cross out of his back pocket and holds it up like Hoyt is doing an exorcism.
Hoyt Williams: This is a sanctuary for wrestling conflict and violence will not be tolerated, nor will dirty language. It wouldn’t look becoming for the millions of children watching my show around the world, Ed, to see you act out like a delinquent. This man requested my presence to act as a broker of peace, a white dove, a biblical mediator, and I will not have his wishes tarnished by a youthful rebel full of lust, urine, and fury.
EC shakes his head, plainly not impressed with this whole situation.
Eddie Cross: There’s nothing he can say that I want to hear.
Gibson brings the mic up, and rapidly responds.
Dave Gibson: Well you’re gonna hear me out, whether you like it or not! I think I’ve earned that!
The kid squints his good eye and slowly reaches up, lifting his eyepatch to show Dave the gruesome injury that his bad eye sustained. Some people in the front row turn away and shield their children.
Eddie Cross: I don’t know Dave, I think you got enough of me already.
Dave shakes his head and throws out his arms in as much of a surrendering motion as he can muster.
Dave Gibson: Look, that match was your idea. You never would have let me live it down if I didn’t take it to that level, and you know it.
The microphone drops to Eddie’s side and he steps up nose to nose with Gibson, who isn’t backing down. The two are growing more and more animated in one another’s face until finally, Hoyt has seen enough.
Hoyt Williams: Gentlemen.
They continue to argue and seem to have forgotten about Hoyt’s presence. He sighs deeply and tries to interject once again.
Hoyt Williams: Gentlemen!
Still no luck. Eddie and Dave are now eye to eye and they are saying nothing with their nostrils flaring, as if they are ready to start the match all over again. Hoyt unleashes a deep, commanding, edict.
Hoyt Williams: GENTLEMEN!
HIS voice echoes through the arena, and both Eddie and Dave snap their heads back to him.
Hoyt Williams: David, he who has battled so many a Goliath. Lost a lot of them. I ask you now, in front of this assembly of Louis sinners, renounce the illness in your heart and tell Edward about your motivations. Confess, for the truth will set you free like a dragon disguised as a rat fly freely amongst us.
He turns to Eddie.
Hoyt Williams: And you, Edward, like Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
Eddie throws a hand up and looks at Dave.
Eddie Cross: What the he…
Hoyt holds up a minding finger.
Eddie Cross: Sorry… I mean… What is he talking about Dave?
Dave Gibson: I’ve got just one thing to say to you, kid…
Dave Gibson: I am so proud of you.
Eddie looks at Dave with wariness in his good eye and confusion in his face. But he doesn’t interrupt his mentor this time.
Dave Gibson: That night when I came back, after we cleared the ring, do you remember what I said to you? I pulled you close and I whispered into your ear… “you’re ready.” And what I meant was, that you were ready for all of this. All of what has happened since. You had to learn that, in this business, you can’t count on anyone but yourself. You have to be willing to dig down deep, to put everything on the line, to pay the mental and the physical price, all to be the best!
Dave is now back in Eddie’s face, pointing at his former student.
Dave Gibson: And I had to teach you that, to make sure you had learned that, before I… before I leave for good. I’ve taught you everything I can. You… it’s time for you to stand on your own. This… this is for you.
Dave sets the box at Eddie’s feet. Then Gibson drops his microphone and heads for the ropes. After all, he’d rather die alone than admit in front of the world what he is facing.
Eddie Cross: Dave, wait…
The mentor turns and looks at his student. Eddie sees changes that weren’t present even a few months ago. The shaved head, the drawn skin, the weight loss, the fatigue in his eyes. Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle connect.
Stupid! Stupid! It was there the whole time and he never noticed. Of course Gibson turned on him. Of course he orchestrated this entire scheme. It was the love a Father was supposed to have for their Son… their job in life… to make sure their kid was ready.
Because Dave couldn’t be there forever to protect him.
Eddie Cross: I’m sorry.
The man that is known to some as being sadistic, cruel, and calculating steps through the ropes with one leg then pauses. A million thoughts must be racing through his head as he considers the ramifications of staying and going.
Eddie Cross: Dave, please… don’t leave.
Dave takes a deep breath. He doesn’t owe the kid anything now. He did his job, and did it well. But there’s a feeling he just can’t shake, something deep down inside the dark heart he once put on display for the entire world. He isn’t the same man he once was.
He steps back into the ring and the crowd buzzes. He doesn’t seem to know what to do, and he looks at Hoyt, then out to the announcers table, then back to Eddie. The stupid kid. All Eddie had to do was let him leave.
A tear forms in the corner of Dave’s eye as he shakes his head and reaches his hand out to Eddie. The young man remembers mere months ago when he trusted Dave with a handshake that turned into a hug that turned into a double cross and ended up almost costing him an eye.
But this is different.
This time, he has learned the final lessons and he’s ready.
He takes Dave’s hand and Dave leans in, hugging his pupil. The crowd explodes as Dave holds up Eddie’s hand and Hoyt steps forward with his golden microphone glinting in the arena lights.
Hoyt Williams: So you see, my flock, all things are possible through Hoyt! A miracle only I could create. Go now in peace and remember to take care of yourself, and each other, and as always, fill the church basket! Ushers!
Hoyt raises his hands to the sky as a lady with an 80’s perm is shown shedding a tear in the crowd. Old guys wearing gray flat cap hats pass around collection baskets.
“Paradise City” by Guns n’ Roses plays as Dave breaks the embrace and turns, waving to the crowd and mouthing “Goodbye” a couple of times. Eddie watches Dave’s exit then finally notices the box at his feet. He starts to rip off the brown paper then pauses at the words scrawled across the plain wrapping.
Open this when the time is right. You’ll know what it means…
Hoyt continues to boast as Eddie ponders this gift– is it a gift?–and Dave Gibson exits the arena, perhaps, for the final time?
And with that, ReVival rolls on.
MVW IN THE HOUSE
The luxurious suite at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri, buzzes with excitement.
In the center of it all, Ray McAvay, owner of MVW and special guest of Lindsay Troy and PRIME tonight, lounges in a plush leather chair, phone pressed to his ear. Beside him, his wife Stacee Perry sits, her provocative outfit drawing the attention of several people in the room.
Ray McAvay (into the phone): Hey Lindsay, I just wanted to say thank you for this amazing suite. You really went all out for us. You should see who all’s here. We’ve got a great group of people enjoying the suite.
As Ray listens to Lindsay’s response, the camera pans to show the other wrestlers who also came along with him to the show.
R.G. Jenkins, nursing a drink while chatting animatedly with his wife Melanie, while his tag team partner Mark Hendry, the other half of the Alabama Gang tag team, leans against the wall, surveying the room with a lazy grin.
‘Redneck’ Bill Dickinson, the reigning MVW Men’s Champion, sits on the couch with a can of beer in his hand, his massive frame taking up most of the space. There’s a stack of empty beer cans on the floor next to him.
Sunny O’Callahan, dressed in a 1970s Southern rock band background singer ensemble, sips from a bottle of Southern Comfort and giggles at a story being told by someone nearby.
MVW’s Women’s Tag Team Champions, The Hanson Sisters, play on the floor with pro wrestling action figures inside a toy plastic wrestling ring. The sisters mimicked the moves they’d seen and done countless times in the ring. Their laughter filled the air, adding to the jovial atmosphere of the suite.
Ray’s gaze drifts towards the walls of the suite. His eyes widen and his mouth drops. The camera pans the walls that are plastered with Soviet-style heroic posters of Ivan Stanislav, the newly crowned PRIME Universal Champion who seemed to dominate every inch of the walls.
Ray McAvay: What the fuck is this?
We hear a loud chuckle from the phone and then Ray listens as LT explains that this is the work of Ivan and the Red Army.
Ray McAvay: Ahhh… that makes sense.
The camera continues to pan across the room, finally settling on Adam Ellis. With his feet propped up and popcorn in hand, he was the picture of relaxation. He extends his arm up with a casual wave before going back to his box of popcorn.
Ray McAvay: So I hear Adam’s got a big match coming up against Eddie Cross at PRIME.
He listens as LT talks in response.
Ray McAvay: Yeah, both of these guys have technical backgrounds. Adam’s more of a college wrestler type, like Chad Gable or Kurt Angle. Eddie, on the other hand, is a real hold wizard. I think it’s gonna be one hell of a match.
The camera then moves to the dour figure sitting in the chair next to Adam… one Ginny Van Lear, arms folded and crossed over her chest and a deep frown on Adam’s red-haired wife’s face. The reason for Ginny’s sour mood?
The camera pans up to show the three Enemigos standing behind her in the suit, a by-product of Ginny’s little stunt last weekend when she set off a buck bomb in Victoria McGill and Jill Berg Enterprises’ locker room in Peoria.
Apparently, Vickie Hall and Savannah Scandal are also on her list of targets so LT decided to have Ginny ‘escorted’ around the arena tonight.
Ray couldn’t help but chuckle at the situation. He waves to Ginny.
Ray McAvay: Happy twenty-first birthday Ginny!
Ginny rolls her eyes in response, her displeasure with the Enemigos’ presence still evident.
Ginny Van Lear: Yeah. Sum birthday.
She twirls her finger in a ‘whoop-de-doo’ gesture.
Ray McAvay (to LT on the phone): Can’t say I blame her for being upset but she did bring this on herself.
Ginny scrunches her face in response while Ray’s head nods up and down as Ray listens to Lindsay’s response.
Ray McAvay: Right. Anyway, Lindsay, I just wanted to thank you again for the suite. We’re all having fun watching the show tonight. We’ll talk more after the show.
Ray laughs at Lindsay’s pithy response.
Ray McAvay: It’s never a dull moment in the world of wrestling, that’s for sure. Right, bye.
After McAvay ends the call, his brow furrows in thought. He glances around the suite again at the Soviet-style heroic Ivan Stanislav posters plastered on every available surface. The Red Army had certainly made their presence known. Ray couldn’t help but feel a little claustrophobic.
Ray McAvay: Jesus…
He stares into the unwavering eyes of Ivan Stanislav on one particular poster and an image flashes through his mind.
Ray McAvay: …this looks like my daughter’s bedroom.
His daughter’s bedroom was covered wall to wall with the latest teen sensation, their smiles as omnipresent and manufactured as Ivan’s stoic expression.
A wry smile appears as the scene fades to the backstage area.
“We rolling, Fincher?”
Right to the point, with the camera framing the face that launched a thousand crushes. Your boy, your Alias champion, your recent run-in haver with Ivan Stanislav: Chandler Tsonda.
Chandler Tsonda: Ladies and gentlemen, babes and baddies, dudes and guys. I am coming to you live at ReV 36 from the summit of Mount Fuckyeah.
This mountain looks suspiciously like a professional, but otherwise kind of nondescript, part of the Enterprise Center. Eggshell colored wall. A PRIME logo on the wall, next to a couple Stanislav-coded victory flyers.
Chandler Tsonda: You’ve seen plenty of goofball dipshits come out to the ring and proclaim this or that tonight. But I don’t need the ring. I can hear the sweet sound of my St. Lunatics back here just fine.
The cheap pop is alive and well.
Chandler Tsonda: At UltraViolence, I handed over a briefcase to Tony Gamble, inside of which was a healthy, robust, girthy L. And because the wrestling gods were so happy with me playing exterminator on PRIME’s rodent problem, I got my holiday bonus early.
The Model Citizen lifts his “holiday bonus” and drapes it over his right shoulder. The gold looks good on top of the perma-black athleisure that seems more or less part of Tsonda’s chromosomal structures, with how often it drapes his form.
Chandler Tsonda: I fought for this belt once before. Eighteen years ago, and everybody else in that match is long retired. But everybody else in that match, only mild disrespect intended, isn’t Chandler goddamn Tsonda.
Chandler Tsonda: I’m on my sidequest shit, scooping every every title and every scalp I didn’t get the first time around. Almasy Invitational? Sure. Why not. Let’s go nuts. The Alias belt? Couldn’t be more proud to restore its good name and keep it (taps the belt) right here, while I expand the Tsuperstar Empire. Might as well get my tailor to remove the right shoulder of my formalwear, the amount I’m gonna be toting this around.
A platinum smirk. He’s their scumbag, or something like that.
Chandler Tsonda: That’s why here, tonight in St. Louis —and trust me, I’m only doing this inside the arena at all because Troy said I absolutely under no circumstances could announce this bad boy while dangling upside down from your bigass arch.
He milks the moment. Dramatic stroke of the chin as he stares right into living rooms across America.
Chandler Tsonda: I’m ready to declare the new name of the Alias title as….(distracted by something off camera, loses his train of thought)…a real asshole.
The camera now follows Tsonda’s eye line. And who has walked unceremoniously into the shot, into the pomp and stomped the hell over the circumstance?
Why, it’s only former Intense Champion and current angry man Paxton Ray. He will soon tell Chandler he didn’t mean to interrupt, and it is heavily dependent on his tone and word choice if the Model Citizen will believe or forgive him.
Paxton Ray: My bad I guess.
Chandler Tsonda: Well if it isn’t the mangiest mutt in the kenn…wait. Did you say “my bad?” Like, you know, how a human person would do it?
The Model Citizen’s face is pure puzzlement.
Chandler Tsonda: What’s your game here, swamps?
Now at this point Paxton has spoken to another person who was puzzled and downright hostile to Paxton’s new, less aggressive approach. And to be honest, the sensation is losing its shine for the Bayou Butcher. He snarls and shakes his head.
Paxton Ray: No game. Jus’ tryin’ t’get t’my match and wasn’t thinkin’ bout nobody else. Didn’t realize ya were doin’…
He looks over to the camera and shrugs.
Paxton Ray: Whatever this is.
There’s a strange look on Tsonda’s face. Could it be disappointment? A cold shock of FOMO at not getting to go barb-for-barb with the Bayou Butcher?
Chandler Tsonda: You’re just…going to the ring? To fight that pygmy menace? Without, I dunno, threatening to rabies punch me or put a water moccasin under my pillow?
Paxton sighs, looking down at his feet.
Paxton Ray: Jeez, ya paralyze one legend…
He meant it as a joke. No one laughs.
Paxton Ray: Here’s the thing, model boy. I don’t like ya. I think you’re annoyin’ as hell, and winnin’ any sort of gold is gonna make ya even more annoyin’, which we totally didn’t need more of.
He looks behind Chandler to the myriad flyers across the wall celebrating our new Universal Champion. He doesn’t pay any special attention to the gold across Tsonda’s shoulder.
Paxton Ray: But I’m just tryin’ t’get through tonight without lettin’ my anger get the best a’me. Don’t wanna do anythin’ stupid. So yeah. I’m sorry for interruptin’ and sorry for not gettin’ into those verbal things ya love so much. Now I got t’get to my match. Enjoy your announcement or whatever.
And with that he walks by, without even sending a shoulder into Tsonda. What progress!
Chandler Tsonda: Huh.
And like that, the Viet Viper sits there for a long beat. He watches Paxton Ray, one of the people for whom Tsonda’s never had anything but enmity, walk towards the Argyle position. Tsonda also seems so thrown off by the strange behavior that he forgets he’s ginned up this live announcement.
Chandler Tsonda: (to the cameraman) He just…what were we talking about?
Clearly, off-screen, the cameraman is pointing hurriedly at the Alias belt on Tsonda’s shoulder.
Chandler Tsonda: (mutters to himself) Right. Alias title. New and fantastic identity for the belt. Absolute phenom at head of the division.
The Model Citizen wags an index finger, and then holds it in place, as if he’s just thought of something.
Chandler Tsonda: You know what? Hold that thought. Hurray, Hurrah, Mizzou, Mizzou, and all that. But it’s gonna be worth it. Tell you in 2 weeks. Love ya, smoochies. Scorsese, will you fade cut us to the match?
Ask and you shall receive.
We then cut ringside for our next match.
PAXTON RAY VS. TONY GAMBLE
Hey, look! It’s Vince Howard.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall…
The Crowd: ONE FALL!
This is a thing that happens here now.
“Born for this” by Divide Music starts to play through the speakers, as Tony Gamble and Johnnie Newsman step out from behind the curtain. Tony just stands there for a moment, as the chorus of boos continues to rain down on him from the crowd.
When the choice is mine and mine alone
I won’t give in even if you break my bones
The lyrics have started, but it is the sound of Johnnie’s voice bellowing out above those lyrics that drives the crowd to get even louder.
Johnnie Newsman: Are we ready, SAAAANNNNE LOOOOUIIIIIIIE !!!
I won’t give in ’till your sins have been atoned
All I see is the flickering lights below me
Tony stretches his arms out wide, welcoming the crowd’s form of adoration as Johnnie continues to speak and his music plays.
All I need is the power to change what I see
If I can give a little, not a second thought
Johnnie Newsman: Coming to your ring, with weight of one hundred and thee eighty nine pounds of lean, mean muskulls on a man.
If I’m stuck in the middle, I will take the shot, woah
All I wanna be, yeah
Tony makes his way down the ramp, ignoring the few smarks in the crowd that actually do like him. They reach their arms out, awaiting a slap of acknowledgement that will never come, as Johnnie stays at the top of the ramp.
Yeah, I was born for this
I will keep my secrets high above
Johnnie Newsman: He no give you Blues!
In the hopes to protect the ones I love
But I wonder where in darkness lies the truth
Johnnie Newsman: No leave hearts like Rams!
Of the one who took their lives, you can’t excuse
I don’t fear you, I won’t let you take my home
Johnnie Newsman: Thee true Cardinal law!
Tony climbs the steps, looking out at the fans that have not quieted down at all since he stepped out from behind the curtain. They love to hate him, and he loves it.
I will climb through to wherever you may roam
I won’t give in, you can even break my bones
Johnnie Newsman: So all please KAKAW!!!
What is within is a strength you’ll never know
Johnnie Newsman: TOOOOOOOOOOOONYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!
All I see is the flickering lights below me
All I need is the power to change what I see
Tony steps in between the middle and top ropes to get into the ring, making his way to the center.
Johnnie Newsman: THEEEEE GRRRRRRIIIINNNNNNNN!!
If I can give a little, not a second thought
If I’m stuck in the middle, I will take the shot, woah
He drops down to one knee, lowering his head as he does.
Johnnie Newsman: GAAAAAAAAMMBLLLLLLEEEEE!!
All I wanna be, yeah
He stretches his arms out once again, then stretches his head back with his eyes closed and just welcomes the hate.
Yeah, I was born for this
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
“They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy.”
The chunky guitar riff of “Fistfight” by The Ballroom Thieves kicks in as Paxton Ray walks out under the PRIMEView. Paxton sneers as the fans boo, then slowly holds his hand up in the air.
The day I finally met you like I knew I would
You raised me from the wreck of my doubts
You were smiling to yourself as if we both understood
The silent language of the anguish of a heart that sings but doesn’t make a sound
Paxton slowly walks towards the ring, looking around as the crowd rains hate down upon him. He steps up to the apron and steps over the ring ropes, then leans back against them and closes his eyes.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring, weighing in at 245 pounds…he is The Bayou Butcher…PAAAAAXTOOOOONNNN RAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!
Nick Stuart: Elvis Nixon is the referee assigned to this contest, and you have to think he’s going to have his hands full with these two.
Richard Parker: Why? What has Tony Gamble ever done?
Nick Stuart: What has… Are you being serious right now?
The size difference at play here is glaring as the two men begin to circle each other, with Gamble giving up almost a foot in height. The Grin has adopted a more traditional grappler’s stance, while Paxton squares up ready to throw hands. In another time these two might have bonded over the many miseries of Jonathan Rhine, but tonight there is the chance to get one step closer to a shot at the Universal championship on the line, so any bonding is right out the window.
The crowd has very strong opinions on both of these men right out of the gate.
YOU BOTH SUCK!
YOU BOTH SUCK!
Nick Stuart: Harsh words from the PRIME faithful.
Richard Parker: Oh, that’s just not fair. I’m a gem, and you’re… I mean you’re okay, I guess.
Nick Stuart: …I can’t with you sometimes.
Gamble shoots in, looking to take the bigger man off his feet, but Paxton is ready with a counter. His is an awkward, lanky sprawl, because instead of trying to brace against the takedown he instead loads up an elbow and drives it in between Gamble’s shoulder blades when he dives.
Nick Stuart: Two very different styles on display here tonight, Richard.
Richard Parker: Agreed, Nick. I bet you’re about to say something poignant about wrestler versus boxer, or how one was trained classically while the other fights hobos for nickels.
Nick Stuart: Actually, I…
Richard Parker: But really, it’s all about the noble efforts of Tony Gamble against the murderous intent of the gator man.
Nick Stuart: Did you just call Tony Gamble “noble”?
Richard Parker: Yes. Because the alternative is calling David noble. Heyyoooooo, that’s a little wordplay joke.
Nick Stuart: Umm. Great.
Richard Parker: I heard that guy who brought that Doug jerk and his shock collar – Nate from logistics, I think – I heard he hates puns, so this is me getting even.
While this friendly banter has been exchanged, Paxton continues to hammer down on Gamble with clubbing forearm blows. The barrage is so intense that Elvis Nixon has to check to see if Gamble can defend himself properly. Content that The Grin isn’t yet in any imminent danger, the fight continues. Paxton steps back and creates some distance between them, waiting for Gamble to get to his feet. No sooner does Tony regain his vertical base does a running boot send him right back down to the mat.
At ringside, Alexei Ruslan leans over towards Ivan Stanislav and whispers something in Russian. Whatever it is, it draws a hearty chuckle from the Russian Bear.
Nick Stuart: The Butcher is all offense so far in the early going, and… Aw, hell. What’s he doing?
Richard Parker: We saw him do this same thing at UltraViolence in his match against The Anglo Luchador, Nick. And he did it early in the match then, too.
What they’re referring to is Paxton walking over to one of the corners and beginning to untie the padding that covers the top turnbuckle. He makes it through the first lace, and then pauses. As Elvis Nixon begins to walk over for what is likely to be a very well-intended admonishment that absolutely no-one will listen to, Paxton looks down at his handiwork, and then abandons it.
Nick Stuart: Well, I certainly didn’t expect that.
Richard Parker: Yeah, what the Hoyt is that about? First he apologizes to Sykes, and now this.
Nick Stuart: We saw someone come out after Paxton’s last match to try and talk him down from doing more harm to the Luchador, and while we don’t know this person’s name, maybe she’s having a positive influence.
Richard Parker: Only one person in this company performs miracles, Nick. And his name is Hoyt Williams.
Paxton heads over to Gamble, but the Hall of Famer is prepared and waiting. A dropkick to Paxton’s thigh drops him to a knee, and then a snap DDT spikes him head-first into the mat. He makes a quick cover, making sure to drive his forearm across Paxton’s face. Not because it helps with an actual pinfall, but because it’s obnoxious.
Elvis Nixon makes a count of 1 before Paxton kicks out. The Bayou Butcher sits up and shakes his head, but a hard kick lands along his spine, and then Gamble puts him back on the mat for a quick elbow drop.
Nick Stuart: Gamble doing his best to wear down the much larger Paxton Ray. And given what he and the Anglo Luchador did to each other a few weeks ago, do you think he’s at one hundred percent?
Richard Parker: No.
Nick Stuart: …
Richard Parker: What? You asked.
The Permascar Superstar begins stomping away at his opponent, driving Paxton towards the ropes. Referee Nixon steps in once Ray is at the ropes, and begins admonishing Gamble for continuing his attack. It’s the kind of conversation that referees have been having with Tony Gamble since the dawn of time, all the while hoping that this time he might listen because dammit Emily when you’re done with the Nutella you have to wash your hands before you put it in the cabinet, otherwise you get chocolate over all the handles.
I mean what?
Another stomp comes down, but this one Paxton manages to catch. He manages to hold onto Gamble’s foot while he fights back to his feet. The Grin has to hop around on one foot, and he tries to swipe at Paxton with his hands but the reach difference between them means Tony’s simply swinging at air. The Lafayette Bruiser pulls once to throw Gamble off balance, and then swings with a hard lariat.
Nick Stuart: That size advantage really coming into play in this match, Richard.
Richard Parker: The lord blesses every man with his gifts, Nick. There’s no need to obsess about size.
Nick Stuart: What?
Richard Parker: What?
Nick Stuart: Paxton using that long reach to his advantage once again. He’s got one arm on Gamble… Sleeper hold applied!
Richard Parker: That’s an illegal chokehold, Nick! If Elvis Nixon was any good at this, he’d see it.
Elvis Nixon is actually paying very close attention, Richard. He’s checking to make sure that Paxton’s arm is in the right position so that it doesn’t cross the line. He’s also checking on – ahem – “Happy Heelmore” to make sure he hasn’t faded. Gamble kicks his legs to try and break free, but Paxton’s grip is tight.
Gamble’s legs flail as he tries to kick free, but it’s his hands that create the separation he needs. He reaches back with his arms, but instead of trying to break the hold he instead goes right for Paxton’s eyes, as if some unseen force laser-guided his tiny man fingees.
Nick Stuart: Gamble using some illegal tactics to break the hold.
Richard Parker: Illegal tactics? Illegal tactics!? The man was being strangled by a murderer, Nick.
Nick Stuart: That’s a bold claim, Richard. You don’t know…
Richard Parker: Really? After everything you’ve seen over the last year, are you seriously going to try and tell me that Paxton Ray doesn’t do crimes? I bet there are crimes, Nick. I bet there are so many crimes.
As the referee checks on Paxton to make sure he can still see, Gamble quickly scoots to the other corner of the ring and finishes the job that the Bayou Butcher started by removing the turnbuckle pad. He tosses it to the arena floor, and for a moment he locks eyes with Ivan Stanislav.
Nick Stuart: Gamble glancing out here to ringside, where the Universal champion is taking in tonight’s matches. It was about a year ago when Tony and Ivan faced off in the ring, and we all got to witness whatever move that “HurricanRussia” was supposed to be.
Two sets of Russian eyes turn and glare at the broadcast table.
Richard Parker: WHICH HE EXECUTED PERFECTLY, NICHOLAS.
This seems to appease the Russian overlords, as they turn their attention back to the ring.
Nick Stuart: What are you doing, Richard?
Richard Parker: (whispering) Shut up I’m trying to save your life.
That moment of hesitation gives Paxton an opening, and Gamble turns right into a discus elbow that sends him down to the mat. Paxton rubs at his eyes for a moment, and then snaps off three elbow drops in succession. Now it’s Paxton’s turn to make the cover.
Ivan Stanislav leans forward in his chair to observe the fall.
And then eases back when Tony Gamble gets his shoulder up.
Nick Stuart: Our Universal champion paying very close attention to this one, Richard. He has a little bit of history with both of these men.
Richard Parker: Okay, so bears are ursine, right? And he’s the Russian Bear. Does that make him the Ursine-versal champion? Ursaversal!
Nick Stuart: Richard.
Richard Parker: Wait, no. USSR… USSRniversal? Maybe I should workshop this.
Nick Stuart: Please do it on your own time and far away from me.
Paxton draws Gamble up, but The Grin goes right back to the eyes. It’s a very cavalier poke, and in full view of the referee. Elvis Nixon’s shoulder slump, because this is a man who realizes that he never had control in this match. Still, there’s a lot at stake in this tournament and the last thing he wants to be is “the ref who picked a winner through disqualification.”
Nick Stuart: Gamble with an Irish whip into the corner, but Paxton managed to block it just in time and get his foot up against the second turnbuckle for support!
Lucky for him, because it’s the corner with the exposed buckle. Gamble charges in behind him and tries to force him to collide with the exposed steel, but Paxton has too strong of a hold against the ropes to budge. Elvis Nixon, eager to try and restore some semblance of safety, tries to wave both men away while wedging his body in between Ray and the turnbuckles. Really, as decisions go, this one isn’t very smart.
Surprisingly, Gamble backs off, which allows Paxton to plant his other foot. He turns, grabs Gamble by the hair, and snaps off a European uppercut. The Grin staggers and drops to one knee, then connects with an uppercut of his own.
Which Elvis Nixon would see, except he’s been fiddling with the turnbuckle pad. It’s only because of the crowd reaction – one that you wouldn’t normally associate with these two men unless they were suddenly the victim of a pinpoint drone strike – that Nixon isn’t alerted to what happened sooner.
Nick Stuart: A low blow by Tony Gamble, and the crowd seems to fully endorse it!
A second one follows.
Richard Parker: Look, Tony Gamble might poke fun at what happened to Jon Rhine, but don’t forget who put him in that wheelchair.
Turnbuckle Elvis turns around just in time to see Tony Gamble grab a hunched-over Paxton Ray in a small package.
Nick Stuart: Elvis Nixon down to count!
Nick Stuart: Gamble looking to steal one!
He also grabs a handful of tights, just for good measure, because it’s impossible to cheat too much.
DING DING DING
As soon as the bell sounds, Gamble releases his grip and rolls out of the ring. Inside, Paxton Ray looks incensed. Elvis Nixon offers a brief reassurance that, yes, this was a legitimate three count, and then he dips through the ropes as well. There’s a ticking time bomb in the ring, and no one wants to be around when it goes off.
Nick Stuart: Tony Gamble has done it!
Richard Parker: Proof that experience and treachery will always triumph over youth and… uhh… also treachery, I guess.
Nick Stuart: He’s pinned Paxton Ray, and will now advance to the second round of the Almasy Memorial Tournament!
Richard Parker: If Paxton comes out here, I get dibs on hiding behind Ivan.
Nick Stuart: Fans, don’t go anywhere. We still have plenty to come here on ReVival!
We then cut to the backstage area.
A REAL PRETTY CASKET
From the ring, we head backstage where we see Kaz Troy walking down a hallway. Since his scuffle with Daytona Diamonds earlier, he’s been hanging out with the Vae Victis gang, scouting the rest of the competition for the Almasy and cheering on Kerry Kuroyama as he took on Scott Hunter. Now, Kaz is on his way to the Boss’s office to watch the Main Event before heading out for the night.
He notices the cameraman and gives the viewing audience a quick wink and a grin.
Kaz Troy: St. Louis, you’ve been great, and it’s just about main event time. Between you and me, I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Nate Colton win.
He holds up his hand with his middle finger up and over his index to accentuate the point.
Kaz Troy: No membr of my family has ever rooted for Jiles, and I’m not gonna star–
VOICE: (off-screen) HEY BOY!
There’s a flash of movement from behind the Heir Apparent. Kaz turns to look and, before he can react, he’s blindsided by a haymaker right across his jaw. He falls to the floor with a loud THUD, his sunglasses skittering across the tile… and there’s Daytona Diamonds standing over him, a chain wrapped around his right fist and a smile on his face like he just cured Cancer. Daytona looks down on Kaz with absolute contempt before he starts kicking him. He drives his boots into the younger man’s abdomen, relentless and bloodthirsty, before he takes the chain from around his fist and wraps it around Kaz’s neck instead.
Daytona Diamonds: C’mere, you sonuvabitch! Get up! C’mon, you got two good legs, ain’tcha?! Can’tcha take a punch?! Get the fuck up, boy!
Daytona hoists Kaz up with the chain, bringing him to a kneeling position. Kaz reaches up, grasping at the metal wrapped tight around his throat, coughing and sputtering. Daytona gets a few more punches in, the rings on his fingers carving into Kaz’s forehead, blood already starting to trickle down from his forehead and across his face. Daytona positions himself behind Kaz, both of them looking into the camera lens, that sick smile never leaving The Rhinestone Cowboy’s face.
Daytona Diamonds: Hey! Hey Lindsay Troy! How you doin’ out there, honey?! This here’s your boy, ain’t it?! Shit fire, he ain’t lookin’ so hot! Hey! How about you do me and him both a big ol’ favor, huh? You look him in the god dang eyes and you tell him to just stay home! Tell him there ain’t no match worth what he stands to lose if he gets in the ring with me, comprende?! Hell, tell him you love him! Tell him you’ll still be proud of him! Tell him there ain’t no shame in takin’ the coward’s way out, even if you gotta lie through your fuckin’ teeth! Then you get to rest easy knowin’ his blood ain’t on your god dang hands. Sounds like a pretty good bargain, don’t it? And hell, if y’all can’t do that and you decide to get all high and mighty…?
Daytona looks down at Kaz, nearly choked out at his point, and gives him a quick pat on the top of the head.
Daytona Diamonds: …well, I reckon you can use all that fuckin’ money you been finin’ me to buy him a real pretty casket, can’tcha?
And just like that, the chain is released. Kaz Troy goes tumbling to the ground, gasping for air as Daytona Diamonds stands over him, proud of himself, proud of his handiwork, proud of the damage he’s done. One more kick, just for good measure, before Daytona looks into the camera one last time and winks before walking away, leaving Kaz in a heap, the camera focusing in on the chain laying beside him before fading to our final commercial.
COMMERCIAL: REVIVAL 37
NATE COLTON VS. CANCER JILES
We return to ringside, because now seems like a good time for a good, old-fashioned main event.
Nick Stuart: We’ve had a lot of big matches tonight, but this one is going to be the biggest of the evening! It’s time for our main event!
Richard Parker: Yay.
Nick Stuart: Cancer Jiles made it all the way to the finals of last year’s Almasy Invitational, and now he carries the Golden Ticket once again. If Nate Colton can defeat Jiles tonight, he’ll bank a shot at the Universal championship sometime next year! But… beating Cancer Jiles is a tall task.
Richard Parker: Even Colton needed to go low to beat that snake.
Nick Stuart: Well, that was an accident, but you’re right.
We head to Vince Howard for the announcement.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest scheduled for one fall is your MAIN EVENT of the evening, and is a first round contest in the Seymour Almasy Memorial Invitational Tournament! Introducing first…
Let’s start by doing a little “Tryin’”. By the Eagles, the official band of the Colton family. The crowd rises as Nate Colton, dressed in all blue as usual, passes through the curtains to the cheers of the crowd.
Vince Howard: Introducing first… from Evansville, Indiana! Weighing in at two-hundred and fifty-five pounds! THE NEXT DIAMOND! NAAAAAATE! COOOOOOLTOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!
Colton reaches the ring and, making a show of displaying his ring gear (sans the jacket), enters the ring. He moves to a corner and waits for his opponent, who will no doubt show restraint in how he arrives in the ring.
A cool breeze moves throughout the audience.
The lights slowly fade to black.
Up on the Crumbotron flashes the Golden Ticket. A few eggs go splat against it.
Nick Stuart: Another tournament. Another MAIN EVENT. At stake, another possible opportunity at the UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP. Dare I even say it, Rich, but is this the start of another possible run with the Golden Ticket for Cancer Jiles?
Richard Parker: More like impossible.
Screamin’ Jay and his electric guitar hit like a rogue wave. The PRIMEates jump to their feet to ensure their voices are heard.
I’m the one your mama warned you about
When you see me, I will leave you no doubt
I’m the coolest man that ever walked this earth
I’ve been the coolest since the day of my birth
A volley of fire and works illuminate the Enterprise Center, saving those who own the place at least a few pennies on their electric bill.
I am the COOL!
The Eggsecutioner of the eGG Bandits emerges from the back. He stays at the top of the ramp to do his little mist intimidation spot before making his way down to the ring. His T-shades blot out the sun, or in this case the egg shaped spotlight he’s walking inside of. His hair is a lathered oil slick, probably so the cheater Nate Colton can’t grab him by it during the match. Same goes for the amount of baby oil all over his body.
Nick Stuart: Last year, in the inaugural Almasy, Jiles won the Golden Ticket bounty when he defeated Nova in their second round matchup.
Richard Parker: Then what happened?
Nick Stuart: He would go on to lose in both the tournament final, and in his GOLDEN TICKET rematch against the then UNIVERSAL Champion, Brandon Youngblood.
Richard Parker: I was there when Youngblood hit Jiles with three Randalplexes to win the whole damn thing. Very JFK-like. Oddly enough, if I ever have trouble sleeping I just picture that happening and count them like I’m counting sheep. Works every time.
Instead of entering the ring, Jiles walks right past the steps and over towards the announce table. There, instead of starting an argument with Richard Parker like he normally does in these situations, he begins to jab at the newly crowned Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav.
Nick Stuart: This seems like a good idea.
Richard Parker: It’s like a lion not caring about the fly buzzing around him.
After a few contentious barbs about staying out of his business that miss the mark, Jiles grabs the phone of a fan sitting ringside and uses it to take a selfie with Ivan. The COOLYMPIAN gives the fan back his phone, and then tells him to send the picture to the “крошка” so he doesn’t forget who’s going be the next Universal Champion.
Nick Stuart: The balls on this guy.
Not done, Jiles then reaches into his wrestling boot and removes a gold color sharpie. He takes off his shades, and on the one lens writes a G, and on the other lens writes a T. He throws the pen a mile into the audience, and drops the T-shades into Ivan’s lap.
Just in case the fan forgets.
Richard Parker: I’m speechless.
Content with his button pressing, Jiles quickly turns away from the Russian Bear and enters the ring via sliding under the bottom rope. Stanislav is apoplectic on the outside while Alexei tries to stop him from charging into the ring after Jiles. Ruslan succeeds at that, but Stanislav still needs a means to vent his frustration. With the glasses in his hand, the Bear literally shoves them in his mouth, chomps them to glassy, plastic pieces, and spits the bloody chunks on the floor. He stomps on the mess for good measure and sits down, glaring daggers at Jiles.
Richard Parker: Say Nick, do you want to switch seats with me?
Nick Stuart: No.
Jiles springs upright, and immediately starts going in on Timo Bolamba by demanding he double and triple check Colton for foreign objects.
Nick Stuart: Mind games. The bell hasn’t even rung yet either!
The Maestro of the MAIN EVENT comes under control, and finally finds the time to address his opponent. It’s not much. Mostly Jiles daring Nate to cheat against him again, and reminding him that his family is watching. Oh, and that he’s not taking his GOLDEN TICKET from him.
Cancer Jiles has a strut in his step that he hasn’t had in an age as he circles Nate Colton. You can see the barest hint of a smile, though that smile had a shark-like quality to it. Finally, he is here. The main event. Where he’d always belonged. He’s home.
Nate Colton is here to make sure he’s evicted from that home once and for all, though, and he goes for the collar-and-elbow tieup.
And like déjà vu, Jiles quickly ducks behind Colton and trips him up. With a smile, the COOLympian executes a crisp double leg trip and then proceeds to strut all over Nate Colton, walking over him with the casual scorn that only a man with that much spite can do.
Colton immediately grabs Jiles’ ankle.
Instantly, Jiles’ entire demeanor changes as Colton wraps his ankle up in an ankle lock.
Nick Stuart: Ankle lock! This might be over early!
Richard Parker: Please!
Jiles flails like his life depends on it, because it does. Assuming that his golden ticket is his life, which it might well be. In his flailing, he makes it to the ropes and Colton is forced to break. Jiles clings to the ropes like they’re his happy place and they can’t hurt him, and Colton has to rip him from his comfort zone and stand him up on his feet. Jiles goes right to the eyes to get him to back off, which gets a warning from referee Timo Bolamba (who’s smartly wearing his goggles for this match, specifically).
Jiles steps back into the ring, but Colton recovers to catch Jiles with a drop toe hold. A waistlock leads to Colton manhandling King Crumb to his feet, and right down on his face with a waistlock takeover. Colton floats over into the front facelock, keeping control over the former Universal champion.
Nick Stuart: This is not where Jiles wants to be, Colton’s going to have the advantage if this match ends up on the ground.
Richard Parker: I hope Nate Colton puts him in a camel clutch and rips him in half. That’s another anime reference for you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: What is wrong with you?
Richard Parker: Blame Ramenman.
Jiles fights his way to his feet and pushes Colton into the ropes. Timo demands a rope break, so Colton acquiesces to it. Jiles has other plans, slipping out from between Colton’s legs the moment he’s released and to the outside. From there, he grabs Colton’s ankles and yanks him off of his feet, then yanks him all the way out to the floor. As a result, Colton lands face-first on the padded concrete.
When it comes to professional wrestling, Cancer Jiles isn’t a technician. He isn’t some wrestling savant. He’s not going to out-wrestle you. We’re not even sure he trains for this stuff. What he is better at than everyone else in PRIME is being an opportunist. He’s there to kick you while you’re down. He’s there to rub salt in your wounds. Using his shoes, if possible.
So that’s what he does. He kicks Nate Colton while he’s down on the floor. He kicks him in the head and the shoulders, and if Timo hadn’t been watching, he’d have kicked him right in the weewee. That’s how you know it’s serious, we’re using the big boy words. Anyway, Jiles eventually picks Colton up by the head and then sends him right into the steel steps.
Colton hits the steps and goes down, and Jiles rolls into the ring to break the count. He’s already back outside the moment Timo acknowledges that he has to restart the ten count.
Nick Stuart: Since the loss to Colton, Cancer Jiles has been on a tear heading into the Almasy. And he’s fighting like a man who’s got a point to prove against the Next Diamond.
Richard Parker: I hate it.
Jiles grabs Colton and throws him back into the ring, then he takes his time arrogantly rolling into the ring himself. He proceeds to contemptuously stomp on Colton’s hands, drawing boos from the crowd.
Jiles pulls Colton to his feet and pushes him into the corner. A knife-edged chop lands with a loud…
…and Jiles lights him up with a second one.
Judging from the expression on Nate Colton’s face, these are having little effect. After the third chop…
…Colton steps out of the corner and gets in Jiles’ face, daring him to hit him harder. Jiles puts his hands on his hips, incensed by the challenge. So he rears back and prepares a fourth chop… and then stops and thumbs Colton in the eyes again.
This stuns Colton and allows Jiles to ram Colton’s head into the top turnbuckles, before throwing Colton backwards towards the ring. Timo goes to check up on him, allowing Jiles to immediately turn around and start undoing the top turnbuckle pad.
Nick Stuart: Jiles is… well, he’s Jilesing it up right now.
Richard Parker: This guy needs to take his goggles off and see what’s going on!
Nick Stuart: I can’t say I blame Timo for wearing them. There’s no one in PRIME who’s experienced getting yolked more than he has.
Richard Parker: That sounds way dirtier than it should.
Once the turnbuckle is exposed and Jiles throws the turnbuckle pad into the crowd, Jiles goes to collect Colton. His intention to ram the Next Diamond into the exposed turnbuckle is obvious to everyone.
Unfortunately, it’s also obvious to Timo.
Timo goes out of his way to stand in front of Jiles’ path, and sit on the top turnbuckle to prevent the use of the exposed turnbuckle. Jiles, irritated by this turn of events, punches Colton near the goddamn throat and then argues with Timo. Judging from what words could be heard of the argument, Jiles might be more impressed that Timo could sit on the turnbuckles so quickly than he is pissed that he can’t use the exposed turnbuckle. Timo, meanwhile, is admonishing Jiles for his placement of that last punch and… well… everything Jiles does, really.
Nick Stuart: Jiles, as usual, risking disqualification.
Richard Parker: The man in yolk cheats, and the wrestler follows.
When Jiles goes back to Colton to try and do something that might qualify as professional wrestling, Colton suddenly powers up and grabs Jiles, lifting him into the air. The expression on the COOLympian’s face is one of abject (yet cool) terror right before Colton nails him with an Exploder suplex!
Jiles flails and flops upon landing, and falls out to the floor. Colton rolls out after him, and when Jiles turns to meet him again, he gets the lovely experience of being Exploded again on the floor.
Nick Stuart: EXPLODER ON THE FLOOR!
Richard Parker: Oh, now this is getting good!
Jiles lands, and is caught between trying to stand up quickly and being in agony before his body gives up and he flops on the ground again. Ivan Stanislav, seated at ringside and with Jiles near his feet, can only laugh in that recognizable way he does at the plight of the COOLympian.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!
Like that. Colton ignores Ivan, and instead absorbs the cheers of the crowd as he pulls Jiles to his feet and throws him back into the ring.
Colton quickly covers Jiles back inside the ring, but it only gets two. So, Colton grabs Jiles in the middle of his kickout and attempts to lock in the vaunted Colton Clutch made famous by his father and the rest of his family. Jiles, however, slips out like the snake that he is, and catches Colton with a back elbow. A second back elbow stuns Colton enough to let go of the hold, and allows Jiles to turn and meet Colton with a closed fist to the jaw that staggers him.
Jiles then runs into the ropes behind him to build up momentum for, I don’t know, probably an eye poke or something. Instead, Colton suddenly explodes forth with a running forearm that knocks Jiles through the ropes and out onto the apron. Jiles is on Dream Street, heading perilously close to the corner of Unconscious Lane, when Colton grabs him and suplexes him back into the ring.
A floatover into another pin also gets two.
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton’s taken control of this match, and Cancer Jiles is in a lot of trouble here!
Richard Parker: Good.
After Jiles shoots his arm up to break up the pin, Colton pulls Jiles to his feet and goes for another suplex. Jiles tries to block it with elbows, but Colton is too powerful and he gets flung halfway across the ring with a belly-to-belly suplex! Jiles gets up on spaghetti legs, and walks right into Colton who delivers a second one. When Jiles somehow gets to his feet, Colton grabs him in the belly-to-belly, but makes a point to turn around and throw Jiles into the turnbuckles!
Richard Parker: Jiles is getting beaten from pillar to post to the post office to Iram of the Pillars out here!
Nick Stuart: Jiles is definitely lucky that Colton didn’t throw him into the exposed turnbuckles.
Colton yanks Jiles’ freshly suplexed corpse from the turnbuckles and makes a cover.
Colton looks up at Timo, not arguing with the count, but just to make sure that it was indeed two. He pulls Jiles to his feet, but Jiles suddenly sneaks behind Colton for the rollup, grabbing the tights for good measure.
It only gets two, but it allows Jiles to catch Colton with yet another eye poke the moment the two were on their feet again, and that makes Timo very mad.
Richard Parker: I wish referees here would just disqualify Jiles as soon as the bell rings, because they all have to know that that dude isn’t on the up-and-up.
Nick Stuart: That’s a very slippery slope.
Richard Parker: A small price to pay to make Jiles sad!
Jiles pleads innocence, claiming that his hand slipped. You know what? That could happen. We’ll allow it. (We’re not Timo, though.) Anyway, with control back on his side, Jiles lands his trademark DDT and goes right into the cover.
Much like Colton earlier, when Jiles looks up at Timo, he’s questioning the count. Unlike Colton, he’s very displeased at the cadence of Timo’s counts and demands a faster count. Timo denies him this request, because he’s not about to let Cancer Jiles tell him how to do his job.
Jiles backs Colton into the ropes and tries to whip him to the other side. Colton, the bigger of the two men, is able to reverse it and bounce Jiles back. Jiles ducks the clothesline, and when Colton turns to meet Jiles, he sees him rearing back with the Terminal Cancer. Colton throws up his arms up to block the big kick, but it’s a feint. Jiles instead aims a kick right at Colton’s shins that takes his legs out from under him.
Nick Stuart: Jiles going to the shins with that kick, and…
Richard Parker: Uh oh.
Jiles attempts to finish things immediately with a Terminal Cancer to the kneeling Colton. Instead, Colton catches Jiles’ boot and reels him in with another suplex that bounces the COOLympian off of the canvas like a basketball. A basketball with immaculate hair. Nate Colton is fired up. He’s ready to put this crumb into the earth and seal this win. He pulls Jiles up in an inverted facelock and goes for the inverted suplex.
Jiles slips out the back door and grabs a waistlock. He’s thinking of a German suplex, but Nate Colton is too big and too powerful, and breaks from the waistlock and performs a go-behind. Now it’s Jiles having to fight off the German suplex, a tall order considering that suplexes have been his diet for most of this match. He wraps his leg around Colton’s leg to block the attempt, and catches him with a back elbow. Colton doesn’t let go, so Jiles does a second one.
He rears back for a third one, but Colton ducks under it and the momentum causes Jiles the turn around completely in the waistlock… and let Colton suplex him again.
Nick Stuart: Northern Lights Suplex from Colton!
Colton’s not done. He flips over, dragging Jiles up to his feet with him. He tries to land another Northern Lights, but we’re just not far enough north for that aurora borealis shit, and Jiles blocks it with another elbow. All this does is make Colton scoop Jiles up onto his shoulder, looking for the shoulder breaker. Jiles, however, slips out the back door and once again grabs the waistlock. The uncharacteristic show of raw power from the COOLympian nearly gets Colton up and over, but Colton spreads and kicks his feet out in midair and causes Jiles to have to set Colton back down. Colton breaks the waistlock once again with a judo throw, sending Jiles sprawling onto the mat and scrambling to get back onto his feet.
Nick Stuart: Long exchange here, hard to say who’s going to get the edge here…
Richard Parker: Please don’t let it be Jiles, please don’t let it be Jiles…
Colton ducks a clothesline from Jiles, and grabs him for a back suplex. Jiles, however, flips out of it and stumbles backwards. When Colton turns to grab Jiles again, Jiles uncoils his infamous strike.
The expression on Jiles’ face is one of shock as he bounces up and down on one leg. Colton spins him around, and…
Nick Stuart: COLTON CLUTCH!
Cancer Jiles is in big trouble. This move is what heralded his end against Nate Colton the last time they met. Granted, there’d been shenanigans. Guess what? There’s about to be shenanigans here, too.
In his desperate attempts to not take the “suplex” part of the Colton Clutch Suplex, Jiles’ flailing arms manage to grab hold of referee Timo Bolamba’s shirt. Here, Cancer Jiles does the only option he has available to him.
Richard Parker: OH, COME ON!
Pulling Timo close gives Jiles enough of a blind spot for his trick knee to act up and punt Nate Colton right in the wingwongs.
Jiles is not done cheating. He grabs Colton and whips him directly into the exposed turnbuckles. Colton recoils in pain upon impact, and it leaves him vulnerable to…
Nick Stuart: TERMINAL CANCER!
The superkick lands clean in Colton’s face and he drops like a collapsing tree. Immediately after the impact, Jiles falls on top of Colton, and despite visible irritation at what just transpired, Timo has little choice but to drop down and make the count.
DING DING DING
Jiles rolls off of Colton and raises his arms in the air in triumph. He’s battered from tonight’s action after getting suplexed to fuck, but… he’s won. He’s moving on in the Seymour Almasy Memorial Tournament, and the shock and despair heard in the crowd is reminiscent of the day Jiles took down Nova in last year’s Almasy.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen… the winner of this match… CAAAAAANCERRRRR! JIIIIIIIIIIILES!
Richard Parker: God. Damn. It.
Nick Stuart: By hook and by crook, Cancer Jiles just defeated Nate Colton, and that’s a huge bracket buster! Could we be seeing a repeat of last year’s Almasy unfolding before our eyes?
Richard Parker: I. Hope. Not.
Nick Stuart: Be that as it may, I’m Nick Stuart and this is Richard Parker… so long, everyone!
Cancer Jiles celebrates in the ring, absorbing the jeers of the crowd as though they didn’t matter to him. Because they’re all crumbs.
The scene fades on the amused face of Ivan Stanislav, giddy at the prospect that one of his more dangerous potential contenders has already fallen in the tournament. His recognizable, iconic laughter is the last sound heard before we…