An industrial city. The dead of night obfuscates all. Towers of metal and glass. A great power plant standing above all, ominous in the greens and blues crowning its peak. But it’s not here where our eyes are left to linger. Instead, it is the movement towards a seeming dark alley, away from the skyscrapers, to old brick and mortar. Yet, as we turn into the deep, we realize it isn’t quite as dark as we’d assume.
We Built This World by Fuzzeke.
A fight, athletic in build, clocked in black, slowly walks the length of the alley, the glimmer of gold and platinum to all sides. Championships. Tournament victories. Hall of Fame acknowledgements. The standard of his time. The bounty in which so many challenged to claim. Gone, but never forgotten.
Behind him, the twinkling glimmer of small beads cascades.
We see, within each individual one, a figure.
Little materia balls, lingering behind the figure as he throws back his hood, the long platinum locks indelible.
And as he turns to face us all at the end of this alley, darkness.
Then, the voice of the one who resurrected PRIME from the ashes.
Lindsay Troy: And so…it continues.
INSERT DISC THREE TO CONTINUE THE ALMASY INVITATIONAL
MAR vs. ROB WILLIAMS vs. SEÁN O’NEILL
From our intro video, we transition to the inside of the Bridgestone Arena. The camera pans throughout the crowd, highlighting the following signs:
DO ALL VENDING MACHINES CONTAIN WRESTLERS??
PAXTON RAY TRIED TO APOLOGIZE TO ME IN THE PARKING LOT
I HAVEN’T BEEN THIS EXCITED FOR A FRANCO-RUSSO BATTLE LIKE THIS SINCE 1812
I’M HERE TO GET MORE SHOTS OF LINDSAY TROY FOR WIKIFEET 5 STARS GORGEOUS FEET
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS BEEN APOLOGIZED TO BY PAXTON RAY, KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT ALONE
WHEN DO TICKETS TO CORGI SHOCK GO ON SALE
THIS IS THE LAST TIME FOR REV TO MAKE A TOP 40 UNDER 40 LIST
I KNOW ONE LIST CHANDLER TSONDA WONT BE ON
EVERYONE GET ON THE BUS WE’RE GOIN’ TO FUCKIN’ DOLLYWOOD
ITS BEEN 0 DAYS SINCE SHIPS HAVE BEEN BURNED!!!
SIGN OF THE TIMES: IT IS NOW 10:23 PM
WAIT, YOU MEAN PRIME’S ANNOUNCERS DON’T MAKE WEIRD, HORNY COMMENTS ABOUT THE WOMEN IN THE COMPANY?
Nick Stuart: Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of ReVival, coming to you from the Bridgestone Arena of Nashville Tennessee!
Richard Parker: I love the Michelin company. It has my favorite foods and tires, all under one umbrella.
Nick Stuart: But…
Richard Parker: Did you know that Michelin star restaurants and Michelin tires are related?
Nick Stuart: What does that have to do with…
Richard Parker: As it turns out in 1888, the Michelin brothers André and Édouard founded the company.
Nick Stuart: Oh would you look at that, it’s time for wrestling!
The lights dim on cue to the opening chords of “Ain’t Nice”. Halfway through the chorus “The Legend” Rob Williams berserker walks out from behind the curtain.
He drops his shoulders low and softens his hips, looking in the camera as he glides by on his way into the ring. Rob sometimes stops to acknowledge fans – how stupid they look, how awful they dress, and how trashy their signs are.
Vince Howard: Introducing first, from parts unknown, THE LEGEND… ROOOOOB WILLIAMS!
Once Rob reaches the ring he slides in, going to his corner and pulling on the ropes while leaning to stretch. As he waits for his opponent he jumps up and down lightly to keep his heart rate up.
Richard Parker: Well that was rude.
Nick Stuart: Just let it go, man.
Richard Parker: Pfft. Fine.
“Crushed” by Parkway Drive plays and out saunters the enigma known as Mar.
He gestures to the fans, and slowly paces his way to the ring.
Vince Howard: And his first opponent, also from parts unknown, THE WILD BU, MAAAAAAAR!
Nick Stuart: What do you suppose a “Wild Bu” is anyhow, Richard?
Richard Parker: Let’s consult the oracle of Google.
Richard punches a result up on his suspiciously “jittery” branded smartphone.
Richard Parker: It says here: Wild: A floral muguet combination that empowers you to stay Wild!
The vibrant color of the packaging is stimulating and uplifting, while the visuals demonstrate a festive and lively self expression!
Faithful to its spirit of confidence, B.U. range empowers every girl with the sense of freedom and multiplicity according to her mood and desires, embraces the enthusiasm for life and offers the adequate energy boost and all vividness needed.
The unconventional packaging in combination with the vivid colors and impressive designs make B.U. irresistible! This youthful and trendy image blends harmoniously with the light and fresh fragrances which entitles B.U. as the choice of every modern girl.
Country of origin: France, available at Walmart.
Nick Stuart: Huh. I guess that answers that, then.
Mar slaps a few hands before he makes it to the ringside. He paces the ring, not losing sight of his opponent before he slips under the ropes and readies himself for action.
The opening chords of Chevelle‘s “Comfortable Liar” ring out, signaling the imminent arrival of Seán O’Neill. After a few seconds, O’Neill emerges on the entrance way and takes a second to scan the crowd, he makes no effort to hide the look of disdain showing on his face, before starting for the ring.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring, from Belfast, Northern Ireland… weighing in at two hundred and thirty-one pounds… SUURREEAALLL SEAN O’NEILLLLLL!
Nick Stuart: Seán O’Neill looks like he’s ready to go!
Richard Parker: I have to admit I’m pretty excited for this influx of new talent.
Nick Stuart: Really?
Richard Parker: Well think about it, none of these guys are eGG bandits.
Nick Stuart: Fair point.
As usual, the announcement is met with a chorus of jeers from the crowd. Ignoring the reception, O’Neill vaults over the top-rope to enter the ring. Moving into the middle of the ring he looks up to the rafters of the arena whilst spreading his arms straight out to each side.
As he lowers his head, O’Neill smirks at some private joke before moving into the corner where he stretches out on the ring-ropes and rolls his shoulders and wrists, as he gets ready to lock up.
Nick Stuart: Here we are for an exciting bout, this time between three newcomers to PRIME.
Richard Parker: I remember when I was a newcomer to PRIME.
Nick Stuart: I’m a little shocked that you remember the stone ages, pal.
Richard Parker: Hah Hah.
The match is underway with Mar taking the initiative and locking up with O’Neill. As they jostle for position, Rob Williams seems content to let them tussle and leans into a corner. O’Neill seems to get the better of the exchange and transitions into an Irish whip into the ropes followed by a shoulder slam that drops Mar to the mat.
The enigmatic Mar shakes his head from the impact as O’Neill presses the advantage and slides into a rear headlock. Rob Williams spreads his arms out on the ropes as Elvis Nixon circles and claps his hands together, telling Rob to get active. Williams, waves a hand in the air dismissively as Nixon rolls his eyes and focuses on the action.
Nick Stuart: Rob Williams isn’t winning any favors with the ref team in this match, Richard.
Richard Parker: What is Elvis Nixon expecting? There is no rule that says you have to engage your enemy. What Rob Williams is doing is using match strategy and conserving his energy. That’s just smart, if you ask me.
Nick Stuart: Maybe so, but if he keeps it up I think the fans are going to let him have it.
Richard Parker: Let em’. It’s not like any of them have the guts to get in there!
O’Neill lays a forearm into Mar’s shoulders and draws a grimace from his opponent. The Irishman is quick to bring his opponent to his feet and lay in a series of rights and lefts that staggers Mar.
Rob Williams still seems content to let things play out between his two opponents and before long, O’Neill runs and bounds off the ropes, dropping Mar with a clothesline. The Irishman is quick to make a pin, and that seems to get Williams attention as he rushes out of the corner and lays boots into the back of his opponent before Nixon can start counting.
Nick Stuart: Signs of life from Williams, hopefully he plans to get into this match now.
Richard Parker: I still say go with your strategy!
Williams and O’Neill begin to battle back and forth, trading blows that ends with Rob Williams ducking a right hand, slipping behind, and German suplexing Seán O’Neill. Mar sees an opportunity and scrambles for a pin, with Elvis Nixon dropping to the mat.
Williams pulls Mar off O’Neill and throws him into the ropes, one running powerslam later, Rob Williams is pinning Mar, and Elvis Nixon makes a count.
This time it’s Seán O’Neill breaking up the pin with a falling ax handle smash to William’s shoulders. He follows by picking up Rob by the wrist and controlling him into position with a sick twisting motion. He follows by kicking Williams in the gut and hooking a Fisherman’s suplex, landing and bridging a pin.
Mar dives into the pair and breaks up the pin. The crows buzzes a bit as all three men lay on the mat or are on their haunches looking at one another as Elvis Nixon stands over them with eagle eyes.
Nick Stuart: Good to see everyone made it to the party.
Richard Parker: Yeah, but what did I tell you? Now Rob Williams is laying flat on his back and mere minutes ago, he was fine and spry in the corner. You have to have a strategy to win these things!
Soon enough, Mar is on his feet and lifts Williams. They engage in a collar and elbow, and as they press back and forth, Seán O’Neill stands up and reaches for the pair, also locking in a three way collar and elbow.
The three men circle around the ring jostling like a rugby scrum. Finally it is O’Neill who decides to break the action and headbutts Mar. He turns to headbutt Rob Williams, but gets a thumb in the eye for his trouble. The Surreal One stumbles back and Williams draws admonishment from Elvis Nixon, but that hardly deters him.
Rob goes to work, pushing O’Neill into the corner and laying boots into him with gusto. After a handful, Seán slumps into the corner and Williams turns his attention to Mar. “The Wild Bu” launches into a shoulder tackle, though, and lifts Rob off his feet. Mar parades around a bit before putting Rob on top of the turnbuckle and climbing up to throw punches.
Nick Stuart: Some signs of fight in Mar! He is taking this fight to the top rope!
Richard Parker: He’s setting something up here, Nick!
Mar pulls Rob Williams to stand on the top rope of the corner and prepares to Superplex him. Williams fights back though, laying fists into Mar’s side and trade footing on the ropes. As they jostle for position, Seán O’Neill is up and climbing the ropes himself!
Nick Stuart: All three are teetering precariously now!
Richard Parker: Holy Crap!
Seán grabs Rob Williams by the waist with another, infinitely more potent, German suplex while Williams lifts Mar up in a standard issue superplex. All three men fly backwards, crashing off the top rope onto the mat below with a tremendous calamity!
Nick Stuart: Wow, wow, wow! What a sequence of events!
Richard Parker: But who took the worst of it?
Nick Stuart: I think we’re going to find out soon!
Rob Williams is the first to his feet, though only just as Seán O’Neill is close to follow. They battle back and forth, each giving as well as they are getting with O’Neill seeming to get the upper hand with a series of well placed strikes that knock The Legend reeling.
The fans aren’t sure who get behind, and Mar is still down, but moving slowly on the mat. Seán O’Neill runs to get a head of steam before holding out his arm and telegraphing his next move.
Rob ducks a sloppy clothesline and turns, drop-kicking O’Neill in the back and out of the ring. The Irishman tumbles to the floor face down and is slow to move.
Meanwhile back in the ring, Rob lifts Mar to his feet and whips him into the corner hard. The Wild Bu bounces out and Williams grabs him in a waistlock and hefts Mar over into yet another German suplex.
Rob holds on and hits a second German, released this time, and Mar’s body goes limp as he is running out of fight rapidly. The Legend points at his foe and laughs to the chagrin of the fans. They boo as he casually lifts Mar to his feet and scoops him up into a vertical piledriver.
Nick Stuart: It might not be long now, folks!
Richard Parker: First Come, First Served!
Nick Stuart: That’s not what it’s called Richard!
Richard Parker: Well then you tell me what it’s called?
Nick Stuart: I… uh…
Richard Parker: That’s what it says on the screen, so that’s what I’m going with.
Nick Stuart: That’s just what it said on the application, you dingus.
Richard Parker: I dunno, I think it’s kinda catchy.
Rob hooks Mar’s leg and leaps with a tremendous crash delivering a cradle piledriver. He sits up and smiles, dusting off his shoulders and showboating before reaching for the pin but he doesn’t notice that the third man in this match is back on his feet…
Seán O’Neill dives in to attempt a pin break but is he in time? Elvis Nixon is in place and his hand swings to the mat as The Irishman leaps toward his foes…
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: The winner of this match… ROB WILLIAMS!
The victor rolls out of the ring leaving Seán O’Neill shaking his head after being just a moment too slow. Rob ignores the fans, clearly believing himself better.
Nick Stuart: Well there you have it, folks. Rob Williams is victorious and we’re off to another sensational start.
Richard Parker: I kinda like this guy.
Nick Stuart: Well, you heard it here. A ringing endorsement from our very own Richard Parker.
The scene shifts and soon the viewers are greeted by the face of… news?
BRO, WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN THE NEWS RUNS WILD ON YOU
If you weren’t ready then you haven’t been paying attention.
Because it’s time for the NEWS, baby!
Intense news music begins to play. You know the type, starts with maybe a little high key synth before the drums kick in. Beeps, boops and dun-dun-duns galore as the screen pitches PRIME blue.
WON ACTION NEWS TEAM
The words flash across the screen in bold white letters.
As the music continues we are introduced to our segment one news team.
Ulsa N. Couth, Weather
This week Ulsa is seated in a power chair with a cigar clenched between gray, rotten teeth. She is wearing an all white power suit to match her power chair while an unusually broad smile sits on her pruney little face.
Violent Purple, Sports
It’s just Violent Purple flipping off the camera while reading a People Magazine’s Hottest Man of 1998.
Crash Jackson, Man In The Field
A close up shot of Crash looking confused. The shot is obviously a camera phone being shakely held. Max Kael?’s hand manifests from behind the camera giving Crash a thumbs up. This is followed by a smash zoom out revealing Crash in a field. A fake walrus mustache and microphone accessories show he has news things to do.
Eddie Cross, Human Interests
The young Samoan is seen seated next to the hospital bed of his mentor, Dave Gibson. Eddie looks emotionally drained as he keeps his eyes on Dave and the various monitors keeping track of his vitals. This is not funny or cute.
Sub-Marquis Bentley Tennyson Farthington-Primrose, Herald
One of them bois you hear so much about sporting a Colombina style masquerade mask and full Renaissance regalia pops up on the screen. He hops up and down excitedly while waving a banner with Max Kael?’s face on it.
Max Kael?, Lead Anchor
This shot remains the same. Max starts kneeling down before he rises, throwing the WON ACTION NEWS TEAM gang signs with both hands. Fireworks explode behind him as he does so. An owl attempts to attack Max but is intercepted by a murder of crows while a sick guitar lick plays.
Brought to you by MEAT?, made with 112% official MEAT? product!
The music slowly fades as the shot as the MEAT? ad ends. Max Kael? Is behind a glossy news podium set up in the Bridgestone Arena parking lot. As per usual he is grinning broadly at the viewers.
Max Kael?: Good evening, PRIMEskis and PRIMEskovs, I’m Max Kael?, joined by the WON ACTION NEWS TEAM, here to bring you the NEWS! We’ve got a lot to run through so let’s get started!
A new story and a new angle as the reAlived question marked Kael shuffles through a few papers that appear to have hand drawn stick figures on them.
Max Kael?: Our first story tonight, Vending Machines? Who created them and what are they doing to our society as a whole? Last week we learned that the French are born and stored in Vending Machines, ready to unleashed a certain.. je ne sais pas, which as everybody knows means something. Not looking to allow additional Flamberges to be deployed against WANT’s close friend, Universal Champion and Russian Bearlogarch, Ivan Stanlislav, the Russians have demanded Lindsay Troy have all Vending Machines removed from all future events. To the Weather, U.N. Couth?
We switch to Camera Four which focuses on U.N.Couth standing in front of a weather map of the United States. A half chewed cigar pokes out from the corner of her mouth giving her the feeling of an old school Mob Granny.
U.N. Couth: Buy more MEAT?, indulge in more you fucking marks. Folks here in Nashville don’t have a lot of money, this stinkin’ American cesspool is filled with ugly suckers who would rather spend money on Jack Daniel’s but try to curb your shitty alcoholism and switch to a cheaper, more profit driven product. A quality, third world product like MEAT?. BUY IT SUCKERS!
Back to Max who is trying to balance three pens together. When he realizes Camera One is back on him, his small pen tower collapses.
Max Kael?: Hungry for the Holidays? At Max’s MEAT? we have the entire Thanksgiving covered! Roast turkey, roasted sweet potato, mash potato, pumpkin pie, whip cream and green bean casserole flavored MEAT?! It is sold in Sad and Lonely Can sized all the way up to the Nuclear Family Tub sized! Run Thanksgiving from the comfort of your microwave or boil our containers and serve straight from the can! Available in all our famous textures! And now, Violent Purple with Sports!
We don’t even both to cut over to her as a loud “FUCK OFF” is heard. Max nods and shuffles through his papers again.
Max Kael?: Professional as always, Violent Purple. Adoption. It’s not always your first option to get a kid but it can always be the last option in dealing with your unwanted burdens! The Kael Adoption Agency is standing by to make the World a quieter place.. But keeping those annoying, mulling family members into a quiet, noise proof container while they await redis-.. Adoption! For a nominal fee special Kael Adoption Agency Agents will hunt down and collect the designated Adoption Target. Using humane and time tested techniques the KAA makes sure what you don’t want will end up treasured. That’s the Kael Adoption Agency Kael Assurance or the KAAKA. And now to my Herald!
Instead of cutting to a new camera, the Herald simply runs in front of the news desk with a big, dumb grin on his face waving the banner sporting Max Kael?’s face and a question mark.
The Herald: Good evening and greetings, tis I! Sub-Marquis Bentley Tennyson Farthington-Primrose, the Herald of the Wondrous and Wizardly Max Kael?, Lord of Kaelsalvania, Prime Minister of Maxopotamia, the Question Mark King, the Master of MEAT? Products, First of his Name! Long May He Remained Unmaimed! YAAAAAY!
He waves the flag a little more before running off the stage.
Max Kael?: Thank you, the Herald, riveting as always. And now to our intrepid reporter in the field, Crash Jackson!
The scene switches to just outside the catering room. Crash sports the same fake mustache as before but now with a cheap sport coat as well. He presses his finger to his ear, like all great news people do for absolutely no reason, and turns back toward the sign that indeed says ‘CATERING.’
Crash: Ladies and gentlemen, Crash Jackson reporting live for the WON Action News Team from the Catering Hall deep inside the Bridgestone Arena.
Crash knocks on the door. Before he can turn away, it opens, and the female employee stares at him with mighty unhappy energy as he had stopped her from doing her job.
Crash: Hello, Crash Jackson, WON Action News.
The lady stares at him even angrier than before. She hates the damn news and all its propaganda distribution.
Crash: The people have to know… What is Nashville Hot Chicken?
The anger from her stare fades and is replaced with a look of pure confusion. The silence ends after a few awkward moments when she slams the door in Crash’s face. Crash turns back toward the camera with a determined look on his face.
Crash: Well, folks, just the first closed door of what is sure to be many as we search for the truth behind ‘What is Nashville Hot Chicken?’ Back to you, Max.
We return to the WANT desk with Max greedily feasting on a bucket of ARKHAM HOT MEAT?CHEN, now available in peppermint. Realizing he is back on camera Max spits the food product back into the bucket and throws it off stage.
Max Kael?: You lost the news, Crash! We hope you have it back next week and get to the bottom of this nefarious so-called Nashville Hot Chicken epidemic that is ruining middle America. Now to our final story.
He pauses for a moment, his face scrunching up for a moment before either very clever editing or literal magic happens. The Questionable Kael has become a solid piece of cardboard staring blankly forward. Violent Purple slowly saunters to the desk, discarding the cardboard Kael and plopping down behind the desk.
Violent Purple: Max Kael? isn’t here. He’s on special assignment tonight getting the last story for the night ready. This story is one I hand picked for him, one I think fits his particular skill set. You’re going to wanna stay tuned, especially Eddie Cross. Tonight’s final piece is about friendship and learning. It’s about understanding and it’s about recognition.
A sly smile slides like silk across her lips as she brushes all of Max Kael?’s blank pages off the desk.
Violent Purple: ..we’ll be back after this short break.
One dangerously flirtatious wink later and we’re off to Tsonda!
And now: the noble arrival vignette.
Webster’s defines “arrival” as the emergence or appearance of a new—
Webster’s defines “ape shit” as the sound you hear coming across your TV screen.
The Tsound, if you will. Of the Numbers Don’t Lie champion strutting and tutting. All black. Athleisurely. Chanel sunglasses. You know the drill.
Chandler Tsonda has entered the building.
Nick Stuart: We have an Almasy quarterfinalist in the building.
Richard Parker: Yeah, we’ve got eight of them.
Nick Stuart: (always ignoring Richard) Chandler Tsonda had made some headlines by noting that every other quarterfinalist has support in their corner except for him. I expect we’ll hear a bit about—
Tsonda removes the sunglasses, clearly looking at and continuing to address someone off-screen.
Chandler Tsonda: You and me get here at the same time. Of all the arenas, in all the Nashvilles, in all the world, and you putz in here on the same timeline as yours truly.
Webster’s defines “loser” as… well, shit, just look at him. He comes swaggering into frame, rhinestones and fringe for days, a smug expression on his face, and a bottle of the cheapest beer money can buy in his hand.
Yeah, yeah. Get the booing over with. It’s Daytona Diamonds.
Daytona Diamonds: Downright serendipitous, ain’t it?
That smugness evaporates into a pained expression, pursed lips and narrowed eyes. He takes a sip of beer and then a sigh comes pouring out from his throat, his free hand reaching out towards Tsonda for a shake.
Daytona Diamonds: Come on then. Put ‘er there, Chandy. Best man won, fair n’ square. I’m big enough to admit it.
Tsonda’s not the type of lawful good that walks into a handshake offer without checking his six. He looks over both shoulders, and while he’s there, he pats the Numbers Don’t Lie title for good measure.
Chandler Tsonda: (wryly smiling) Can’t be too careful when it comes to coincidence, can we?
And with sufficient evidence that he’s not about to be blindsided, and maybe a bit of hubris that if Diamonds tries any funny business, Chandler can handle his own, he reaches forward.
The handshake heard ‘round the West. Or at least around this part of Tennessee (if you can hear anything over the goddamn bachelor/bachelorette parties).
Chandler Tsonda: Well, this (gesturing to the two of them) heartwarming shit is certainly the stuff dreams are made of, but ol’ Chan’s intuition here suggests you didn’t meet me on the way into the arena just for backslaps and flattery. Whaddya want?
And here we are: the crux, the core, the rub. Daytona’s best poker face can’t hide the little grin curling at the edges of his lips, that nudge and a wink that’s attached to every word that pours out of his mouth. Another sip of beer and then a nod.
Daytona Diamonds: Well, y’see, I been doin’ just a lil bit-a thinkin’, Chandy. Ain’t got no match this week, thanks in no small part to yourself, so you’s can imagine just how god dang bored I’ve been. So, thinkin’, thinkin’, thinkin’… and then I realized somethin’: ain’t nobody got your back, do they?
Have you ever seen a used car salesman in his element? You know the type: slick as pig shit, willing to say anything and everything just to make a deal with you. In this moment, Daytona Diamonds embodies all of those worst possible elements, one hand reaching out to pat Tsonda’s shoulder.
Daytona Diamonds: Hell, just think ‘bout it. You ain’t just fightin’ ol’ Coral Avalon tonight, are ya? He’s gonna have Cancer and that fat fuck I beat a couple-a months ago on his side. And shit fire, let’s say you get lucky, what about after that? Hanlon or Farthington, either way you cut it, you’re gonna have to deal with Elmer Glue’s favorite sons eventually, ain’tcha? So… I figured you and me, we could make a lil arrangement, Chandy. Who better to watch your back than the man you done went and beat? I ain’t got no horse left in the Almasy race. You get to look like a million bucks with The Rhinestone Cowboy by your side and me? Well, I get to prove I gone and turned over a new leaf. Sounds about nice, don’t it?
Chandler Tsonda: (looks Daytona up and down) Ambitious, aren’t you?
The Model Citizen looks down at the shoulder that the Rhinestone Cowboy just gave a pat. He gives it a bit of a shrug, as if ridding himself of something.
Chandler Tsonda: I won’t lie to you, Tex. You’ve got me pegged dead to rights. Nobody’s got my back, I’m going up against a whole ass cartel of goobers tonight, and if I were looking for a dangerous knives-out sonofoabitch, I could do far worse than you in my corner.
Tsonda raises an eyebrow in the direction of his round of 16 opponent.
Chandler Tsonda: But I’m sure a ranch hand like you knows the phrase “don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” And I’m getting a big whiff of stank on this one.
Diamonds sneers, shaking his head.
Daytona Diamonds: Ain’t no bullshit ‘bout it, buddy! I’m just tryna be what you’d call a good sah-mare-et-an. C’mon now. Knives out, baby. You don’t wanna lose, do ya?
The Model Citizen, for his part, merely offers up that grin. You know the one. There’s a picture of it up in the MOMA.
Chandler Tsonda: (grins) C’mon, Tex. Nobody knows better than you how hard it is to put a loss on Chan. I’ll take my chances.
Ever the showman, Tsonda does double finger guns at Daytona, and steps past him to continue on his way into the arena. Though he’s got one more thought before he goes.
Chandler Tsonda: I’ll be seein’ ya, slick. Try not to lose any more of those pretty hats.
And then the Sultan of Style, without a plus-one, but also without the threat of a double cross, is off into the night. Daytona stands staring after him as he walks away, the camera panning in closer until he rolls his eyes and lets out an audible ‘ugh’.
Daytona Diamonds: Aw, sonuvabitch… Alright, alright. Backup plan. Guess I’m gettin’ drunk instead.
Daytona looks directly into the camera, takes one last sip of beer, grins wide, and winks.
Fade to shenanigans.
LET US SING YOU THE SONG OF OUR PEOPLE
We turn our attention from Chandler Tsonda and Daytona Diamonds to another part of the Bridgestone Arena. There, we see that a makeshift karaoke booth has been built for four men, one intern, and…
…I’m sorry, Joe Fontaine, what is that?
Joe Fontaine: It’s FLAMBERGE, dawg.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve ever wanted to know what it means to truly “lose the plot”, such that the plot might not have ever existed in the first place and we’re all just drifting aimlessly through life as carefree as a piece of driftwood in a rushing river formed from Diet Pepsi and unicorn wishes, then may I present to you Joe Fontaine…
Joe Fontaine: Hey!
…for Joe Fontaine’s latest version of “FLAMBERGE” is a flamethrower. In a beret.
Look, I don’t want to mince words. This is a violation of the Geneva Convention. It’s been more than a year since the last one of those and we still let the Love Convoy hang out and do things and copyright a specific shade of color, so that’s pretty weird. Really, we should all be wrestling Joe Fontaine to the ground and taking it from him right now. Instead, we’re just going to sing and make merry and someone might win and hopefully no one gets to experience a full-on conflagration.
Sid Phillips: …I brought a lizard.
Oh, yes. Sid Phillips didn’t quite lose the plot. I mean, it’s still not quite FLAMBERGE, but it is a bearded lizard in a terrarium, and that’s definitely a lot closer to FLAMBERGE than a fucking flamethrower.
The Masters, meanwhile, are in absolute shock and disbelief over the fact a flamethrower has been brought into this affair. Had they known weapons were being brought into a karaoke contest, they would have pushed a little harder to keep their universe-hopping portal gun…but alas. Here they are now, staring at each other as Kenny’s confidence in his ability to carry a tune has started to drastic go down.
Joe Fontaine takes the microphone, though it takes him some effort because he has to juggle the microphone and the flamethrower at the same time. It’s hard. It might’ve been easier if he handed it off to Sid, but… well, Sid is only really trusted to do one thing really well, and “wielding a flamethrower safely” is not one of them. Because none of those words are “powerbomb”. He’d hand it off to Fabby, who’s standing nearby and waiting to be handed a flamethrower like it’s his life’s calling to one day hold a flamethrower, but… no. He’s going to tightly hold onto the flamethrower.
Joe Fontaine: Alright, guys! Let’s get this party started!
Sid Phillips: This is going to be a disaster. You’re going to hurt someone with that thing and I’m pretty sure you’re the odds-on-favorite for getting burned.
Joe Fontaine: It’ll be fine! I have a license and at least two relevant degrees for this thing!
Kenny Freeman: Where the hell did you even get that?
Joe Fontaine: Craig’s List. Not Craigslist, that’s a different thing. I went to a guy named Craig and he had a list and one of the items on the list, somewhere between smoke machines and red contact lenses, was a flamethrower.
Joe proudly holds up FLAMBERGE the flamethrower in a way that the genuine article wouldn’t approve of, because it would involve Joe Fontaine making physical contact with him, and FLAMBERGE isn’t really down for that. Maybe if it were Sid.
Joe Fontaine: So, bammo! FLAMBERGE.
Sid Phillips: I shudder to think what the fine is going to be this week.
Randall Schwartz: Good thing your white, sticky friends are picking up the bill.
Joe, Sid, and Kenny just shoot a murder glare at Randall, who simply looks back at them in confusion.
Randall Schwartz: What? They’re glue boys, are they not?
Joe Fontaine: FLAMBERGE isn’t white, though.
Sid Phillips: You think he’s a fucking flamethrower right now, how would you know!?
Joe opens his mouth to respond… and finds that he has no counter-argument. Not that it matters, because it’s time to get our sing on!
Joe and Sid spend some time discussing their song of choice. It’s a heated, hushed debate. At one point, the Fabulous Gold Mask leans in to chime in, but he doesn’t even get a word out before the Glues chase him away with flapping hands and screeches of “go away!”
Finally, they launch into a rendition of OK Go’s “I Won’t Let You Down”.
Okay. Have you ever seen a man try to perform karaoke with a microphone in one hand and a flamethrower in the other? Oh, you haven’t? Not since Pasadena? Yeah, sorry to dredge up such bad memories from the eldritch horrors of the mindscape, we try not to. We really do.
Anyway, this goes about as well as you might expect when we have to invoke Pasadena. For starters, Joe Fontaine’s singing ability is… it’d probably be better if he didn’t try to over-exaggerate every vowel sound his vocal cords touch. He dances and sways to the music, threatening a lot of people with “FLAMBERGE” in the process.
As for Sid?
Sid sings in P minor.
If you have to ask what the “P” means, then you must be new here.
Joe Fontaine: AND IIIIIII! WOOOOOOON’T! LET YOU DOOOOWWWWNNNN!!! WON’T LET YOU DOWN! WON’T LET YOU DOWN!
Kenny and Randall react to this as though it’s torture. Fabby is already out of the room, and he is screaming. It’s bad, you guys. It’s so, so bad.
By the end of the session, Kenny and Randall look like they’ve just had a near-death experience. And the score for the karaoke session comes up, and…
Joe Fontaine: Huh. Pretty sure those aren’t actually numbers on the screen.
The screen suddenly becomes garbled and distorted. Nightmares from beyond the veil are being displayed, and one of them might be a minotaur. We can’t be sure.
After the Masters take a moment to compose themselves, Kenny pulls out a CD jewel case. Upon closer inspection we see it’s a copy of Haylor Swift’s 1995 (Haylor’s Version), and he pops the CD out before putting it into the karaoke machine.
Shut up, we know how karaoke machines work, just go with it! Anyway…to Kenny’s surprise, the tune that plays is not a Haylor Swift jam, but an instrumental that sounds an awful lot like “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle. Kenny stops the music, but we see Randall nodding with a smile.
Randall Schwartz: Aw yeah, that’s the stuff.
Randall takes the microphone and presses play on the machine, really getting into the song…with a twist, because of course.
Randall Schwartz: GLUUUE BOYS DOOOO YOU KNOW WHAT THAAAAT’S WORTH? OOOH MOSCOW IS A PLAAAACE ON EAAAAARTH…
This, naturally, leads into four minutes of pure, unadulterated Schwartz shenanigans…and since Kenny already has the nominations for Segment of the Year on lock, there is NO audio component this time around. Sorry, PRIMEates.
As the song fades, so too does Kenny’s hopes and dreams…until the score flashes on the karaoke machine. Not a number, but a message.
“BETTER THAN THE GLUEBOIS, YOU WIN!”
This causes Joe to be rather angry.
Joe Fontaine: Oh, come on!
Sid doesn’t say anything. He just calmly stands up and walks over to the karaoke machine, staring at it.
We won’t say what happens to the machine next, but let’s just say that there’s about to be some powerbomb-related property damage happening in the background.
Joe Fontaine: Dammit, dammit, dammit!
He’s saying “dammit” in tempo with the sounds of powerbombs. You could almost call it a “powerbomb symphony”, but that doesn’t exist in this part of the multiverse.
When Sid walks back onto the camera, he’s wearing bits and bobs of what’s left of the karaoke machine on his shoulders and looking nonplussed about the situation. He looks to Joe, then to Joe’s flamethrower (“FLAMBERGE”), then to Fabby who’s standing off in a corner eating Bret’s chips, and finally to the Masters.
Sid Phillips: Powerbomb contest. Round four. Get fucked.
Then he storms off, presumably to powerbomb someone or something else. Kenny and Randall look at each other, with the Entertainer grabbing his back in anticipation of being confined to a wheelchair once again before they walk off, leaving Joe alone with his thoughts and a fucking flamethrower before we cut elsewhere.
SCOTT HUNTER vs. LOGAN JAMES
Nick Stuart: Welcome back, folks! It’s been a wild night so far, and after that crazy karaoke contest we now find ourselves back at ringside for more action!
Richard Parker: Huh? What? My ears are still bleeding…oh, right, yeah, we’re about to see Scott Hunter take on Logan James, and this is definitely going to be the match of all time!
Nick just gives Richard a confused glare as we cut to ringside, where Vince Howard and referee Jimmy Turnbull are standing by for our next match.
Vince Howard: The following contest is scheduled for one fall! Introducing first…
“Always” by Saliva plays over the PA system as green lighting emits throughout the arena, signaling the arrival of Logan James as the crowd slowly erupts in cheers.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring from Livermore, Maine, weighing in at 250 pounds…LOOOOGAAAAN JAAAAAAMES!
LJ slowly walks out and looks around. He makes his way down the entrance ramp with a look of uncertainty.
Nick Stuart: Logan James looking to bounce back after some stumbling in the early part of his PRIME career.
Richard Parker: This is a man who is trying not to be cut down in his PRIME! Ha, get it? The…anyway.
As he enters the ring, the progressive cheers turn his uncertain frown into a delightful smile. Logan waits in the corner for the fight to begin!
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
“Burning Heart” by Survivor plays over the PA system next, as Scott Hunter steps out onto the stage, chest out, chin up, then stops in a heroic fists-on-hips pose. He looks at the crowd, who give him a reaction that amuses him somewhat.
Vince Howard: Coming down the aisle from Miami, Florida, weighing in at 245 pounds…SCOTT HUUUUUUUNTEEERRR!
Hunter finally makes his way down the entrance ramp, not quite paying attention to his opponent until he steps into the ring itself…and the sight of James nearly causes Hunter to have a panic attack. Why? Because despite the PRIME website suggesting otherwise, Hunter comes to realize that Logan James does, in fact, have a body and a face.
Nick Stuart: Scott Hunter looks like he’s seen a ghost, Richard!
Richard Parker: Looks more to me like his whole strategy going into this just went out the window…good job Scott, let’s see you think on your feet!
With the match underway, Scott takes a moment to size up his opponent. Realizing Logan is roughly the same size draws a smirk from the suddenly much more confident Hunter as the pair lock up, only for Hunter to get an advantage courtesy of a side headlock…but James quickly shoves him off, sending Scott toward the ropes. Hunter with a clothesline attempt on the rebound, but James ducks it!
Hunter hits the opposite ropes now, building momentum…but James catches HIM with a clothesline instead! The crowd is starting to get behind LJ as he brings Hunter back up to his feet…only for Hunter to catch him by surprise, sending James into the corner! Hunter charges toward LJ, leaping into the air for a flying forearm that drops Logan down hard!
Nick Stuart: Hunter with the upper hand early on against LJ!
Richard Parker: Logan’s gonna need to step it up here if he doesn’t want to get swept away!
Hunter stomps Logan in the chest a couple times before dragging him by his feet toward the middle of the ring, purely to focus on the legs of LJ with some more stomps. He eventually ends the attack with a DDT of sorts, driving the left leg of James into the canvas in the process!
The crowd is none too pleased by the assault, but Hunter pays them no mind. He is far more focused on staying on the now-injured leg, twisting LJ’s ankle as James scrambles to get to the ropes…which he does, forcing Hunter to break the hold! LJ is slow to his feet now, and that gives Hunter a chance to strike again with some hard elbows, sending LJ through the ropes and falling to the outside!
Nick Stuart: Oh, no!
Richard Parker: Things are quickly going from bad to worse here, what is Hunter thinking now?
Curiously, Hunter does NOT go after Logan on the outside…not right away, at least. No, he spends a minute soaking in the “adulation” of the crowd…which is met with some jeers. Scott frowns, the kind of frown one would expect from a “hero” who is treated like a villain, and only THEN does Hunter decide to go after his opponent. Turnbull has started the count by now.
But Hunter is a man on a mission, and that mission involves grabbing Logan to bring the man back to his feet before getting a good look at the steel steps nearby. Hunter has a look of bad intentions in his eyes…but LJ stops him from acting on any sort of impulse, sending him crashing into the opposite ring post instead!
Nick Stuart: There we go, Logan James finally fighting back!
Richard Parker: Now’s your chance LJ, don’t mess it up!
James finally has a chance to turn things around as he brings Hunter back into the ring, hitting the ropes for speed before connecting with a bulldog that sends Hunter face-first into the canvas! Cover by LJ, and Turnbull makes the count!
Hunter kicks out, but James stays on top of things by bringing him back to his feet…and takes a right hand to the head for his troubles!
Hunter is now firmly back in control as he lays into LJ with lefts and rights, waiting for a chorus of cheers that never comes before sending James to the ropes once more…and finally hits the clothesline he was looking for earlier! Down goes James, and Scott raises his arms like he’s won an Iron Man Match in 1983!
Nick Stuart: This match is not quite over but you wouldn’t know that from looking at Scott Hunter right now!
Richard Parker: Listen, all this hard work is exhausting on a finely-tuned body like Scott Hunter’s. The man deserves his flowers, dammit!
Hunter’s celebration is cut short, however, as LJ slowly gets to his feet, egging Hunter on by asking if that’s all he’s got. This frustrates Hunter a lot, as he looks to oblige James with some more hard punches, followed by repeated elbows to the head sending Logan reeling toward the corner. Hunter goes charging toward the corner once more…but this time LJ evades the attack, forcing Hunter to crash into the turnbuckle!
James sees the opening and he takes it, grabbing Hunter in a waistlock for a German suplex…but Hunter fights out of it! Hunter switches it around, hitting a German suplex of his own on LJ before bridging his neck for the pin! Turnbull drops down to make the count!
Logan manages to kick out!
Nick Stuart: What a close call there, but LJ’s still in this one!
Richard Parker: This could be a turning point in the match, if James can keep pressing!
Hunter can’t quite seem to believe LJ could get out of that, immediately arguing with Turnbull about a slow count…only for Logan to nearly turn him inside out with a neckbreaker! Both men are down, and with James still worn out from the damage done earlier the ref ends up having to start a standing count!
It’s only now when each man starts to stir, but it’s far from enough to stop the count.
Hunter is starting to get to one knee as Logan rolls onto his stomach trying to build to a vertical base.
Hunter is now back on his feet completely…and refuses to let Logan do the same, stomping him right on the back instead! Turnbull admonishes him as the crowd boos.
Nick Stuart: Oh man, the crowd are NOT happy with Scott Hunter about that one!
Richard Parker: Hunter’s just acting smart in this match, I see no reason this crowd needs to hate the man for doing what he needs to!
Hunter just shakes his head, refusing to listen to the crowd give out as he goes back on the attack, stomping away some more at LJ, only letting him get up long enough to deliver a dragon screw leg whip that sends the man crashing back down to the canvas! James turns onto his back, and that proves to be a mistake as Hunter immediately goes for a step-over toe hold on the injured left leg!
Logan is wincing in pain as he starts crawling toward the ropes for a break…and manages to escape the damage once more! Hunter doesn’t let up for long, however, pulling LJ away from the ropes for another toe hold…but this time Logan kicks him away, sending Hunter flat on his back on the canvas!
Nick Stuart: Logan James has been an absolute fighter here, but how much damage has been done to that left leg?
Richard Parker: I think we’re gonna find out soon enough Nick, look!
James is slow to get back on his feet, looking a bit wobbly due to the wear and tear on his leg throughout the match as he looks to bring Scott back on his feet…but Hunter counters with a drop toe hold, causing even more damage to the leg while keeping Logan grounded! The crowd shows their disdain for Hunter to no avail as he brings LJ back up once more…this time hoisting him up in the air!
Hunter has James balanced on his shoulder as he riles the crowd on, trying to get them to count the seconds his opponent is in the air…but the crowd are too busy booing him to care, so Scott finally gives up and sends LJ crashing down hard with a delayed vertical suplex!
Nick Stuart: Looks like Scott Hunter’s still lost in his own mind about being the good guy in all this, and the crowd just aren’t on board!
Richard Parker: But they should be, look at how impressive that vertical suplex was!
Feeling like he’s done enough to wear his opponent down, Hunter calls for the Figure Four Leg Lock…but if there’s one thing that can be said about watching many, many hours of wrestling, it’s that one should always make sure their opponent is not paying attention when one calls for the final strike…because the second Hunter starts to apply the hold, he gets caught in a small package by LJ as Turnbull makes the count!
Hunter shifts his weight, putting Logan in the pinning position instead!
James shifts again, keeping Scott’s shoulders down!
Logan’s best efforts to get the win are thwarted by a technicality as Hunter’s arm can be seen on the bottom rope, negating the pinfall attempt to the crowd’s chagrin!
Nick Stuart: Logan James came within inches of winning this match, but Hunter managed to sneak out of it!
Richard Parker: Gotta give him some credit, James really came close to catching Scott by surprise on that one!
Logan starts to get back to a standing position, but he’s quickly cut off by a visibly frustrated Hunter who kicks him right in the head to send LJ back down. Scott has clearly had enough of all of this, turning James over onto his back before connecting with the Figure Four Leg Lock!
This sparks something inside Logan, who is trying as hard as he can to reverse the pressure…but Hunter stops him, pulling LJ back into a bad place! Logan drops to the canvas, only to pick himself back up before Turnbull can count a pin. James reaches toward the ropes as Hunter taunts him, telling him to give up…and after a long struggle, LJ has no choice here but to tap out! Turnbull calls for the bell!
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Here is your winner…SCOTT HUUUUUNNNNTEEEERRR!
Hunter doesn’t let go of the hold at first, but after some time finally does so as to not get disqualified and have the decision reversed. Logan rolls out of the ring before officials check on him as Turnbull raises Hunter’s arm in victory!
Nick Stuart: What a match! These two really went at it hard, but in the end Scott Hunter picks up the victory!
Richard Parker: Yeah, LJ showed a really good effort here tonight but it wasn’t quite enough to overcome that Figure Four Leg Lock!
Nick Stuart: Folks, in just a moment we’ll continue with more of the action here on ReVival!
James is helped to his feet by the officials, leaving up the ramp in good spirits despite the loss as Hunter continues to celebrate his win before we go to commercial!
COMMERCIAL: 24 HOUR RULE
THE CONTRACT SIGNING
The camera cuts back to the ring, where a matte carpet has been laid on the canvas with a table from Ikea in the middle. There are two office chairs, one on either side. If I didn’t know any better, it would seem that the ring is ready to host a contract signing.
Nick Stuart: Next up, we have a contract signing between The Anglo Luchador and one member of the group KING. I’m guessing it’s going to be David Noble.
Richard Parker: Does it really matter? The Anglo Luchador is so down in the dumps lately you could put Dusk’s brain in a jar, and that would probably get a victory over him.
Nick Stuart: Dusk’s brain… sometimes, I wonder where your head gets this stuff from, Richard.
Richard Parker: Don’t blame me. Blame Nova and Garbage Bag Johnny.
Nick Stuart: Cute; blame two guys who aren’t even active here right now.
“Cynic” by Local H hits on the PA, and the crowd RAAAAHHHHHHS when The Anglo Luchador, dressed in a blue PRIME golf shirt, khaki pants, and black oxford shoes, strolls out from behind the curtain. He’s carrying a leather folio with the PRIME logo on it. He raises his hands to the crowd in approval before walking to the ring, slapping the hands of the young fans, reaching them over the guardrail while carrying the folio close to his chest.
Richard Parker: They let him be the one to carry the contract to the ring? Collusion! Collusion! Who’s a wrestling lawyer I can call?
Nick Stuart: Well, all things considered, I don’t think Lindsay Troy was going to let a member of a group that has been antagonizing her by their existence here bring official documents to the ring. Plus, The Anglo Luchador has been helping out backstage lately.
Richard Parker: No wonder the production values have dropped.
Nick Stuart: They have not. Stop it.
The Luchador slides into the ring, pops up, sets the folio down on the table, and dusts himself off, raising his hands for the crowd again. He then goes over to the side of the ring where Vince Howard sits and calls for a microphone. He taps it, and starts yakkin’.
TAL: So, I’m out here tonight to sign a contract for a match at Colossus. Honestly, at this time last year, I thought I was going to be in a different place than I am right now. But life has a funny way of dumping piles of shit on you.
The crowd gasps.
TAL: But I’m here, and I have to face off against another group of assholes who tell it like it is, who think they know me better than I do, and that their judge-jury-executioner act gives them carte blanche to do to me what they want because it somehow is exacting justice. Justice. Yeah, none of that around here anymore, if ever.
Richard Parker: He sounds like he’s bitter.
Nick Stuart: I disagree, Rich. As someone who was literally threatened physically by the current Universal Champion, I can empathize with The Anglo Luchador a bit.
TAL: So come on out.
The Luchador places the microphone on the table and places his arms across his chest.
“Only One King” by Tommee Profit and Jung Youth plays inside of the Bridgestone Arena, to a chorus of boos. From the backstage area emerges Cory Kensington, Jamaal Ingram, David Noble, and Shawn Graham. They’re all dressed in the finest suits (no ties, because fuck ties) and spread out across the stage before Rose steps out, dressed in a pair of black slacks and a white button-down shirt which is tucked into the pants. She walks down the ramp with KING following behind her.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador might want to rethink his strategy of being out here by himself.
Richard Parker: I mean, this is a big deal, a contract signing. You always want your friends there who have supported you on the journey.
Nick Stuart: Sure…
As they step into the ring, Rose is handed a microphone. She taps on it a few times before sitting in one of the office chairs and looking up at The Anglo Luchador.
Rose: Tom, go ahead and have a seat. It’s fine; we’re here for a signing, not a donnybrook.
The Anglo Luchador doesn’t oblige.
Rose: Fine then, Tom. I heard you backstage as you moaned about how life is dumping piles of shit in your lap. You continue to refuse to take ownership for the situations you find yourself in.
Rose clears her throat.
Rose: So, since we’re in the wrong, Tom, why don’t you tell us who you are? Who are you, Tom?
His eyes squint.
TAL: Again, you have the beat on who I am. Why don’t you tell me because honestly, whatever I say, you’re just gonna say “nooooo ur wrong lol,” so I don’t wanna fuckin’ bother.
A smile appears on Rose’s face.
Rose: Cute. I’ve got no problem telling everyone who you are, Tom. I looked up to you. I believed in you. I bought the bullshit you’ve been feeding everyone for years. I saw you backstage when I was a little girl and believed you were who you said you were. And I was wrong. But you did such a good job of feeding everyone that plate of shit that it’s time everyone actually knows who you are.
She rises from her chair and glares at Tom.
Rose: Four weeks ago, ReVival 37 in Louisville, I watched you come out here and talk about me, talk about KING, and talk about my father. And you mentioned that he’s at home dying. That’s not something we’ve really talked about publicly, but you’re right Tom, my father is at home, dying before my very eyes. Brain cancer. I’ve had to watch the person that’s been everything to me become a shell of that man because of a tumor that’s killing him.
Rose purses her lips as she inches closer to Tom.
Rose: You clearly have known and yet… where have you been, Tom? Were you with my family in Montana to start the year? Or how about in San Diego? You have no problem being there for everyone else, protecting the so-called innocent, but your “friend” as you described him, someone you have known for years… you’re nowhere to be found. My husband died. Nothing. It’s been crickets from you, Tom, while you run around here and be the superhero for everyone else.
Rose looks out at the fans.
Rose: That is Tom Battaglia, for the record. Someone who speaks from one side of his mouth and does the complete opposite. Fake as fuck.
She then turns back and looks at Tom, arms outstretched, wanting him to prove her wrong.
TAL: I’m sorry your husband died. I’m sorry your dad, my friend, is sick. I could explain why, but I mean, everyone on the ACE Network has seen why. You want to play white knight and fight battles for people whether they want you to or not, fine. Play the game. I did. Grisly shit happened to me, my home, my family. The world doesn’t revolve around you. It doesn’t revolve around me. It keeps turning and turning and turning. I do the best I can to help those in need. People like Eddie Cross, people like Miranda DC, like my blood brother, Mikey and my brother from a different mother, Timo. Like Nora.
A RAAAAHHHHH goes up for Paxton Ray’s daughter.
TAL: But when I stretch myself too thin and try to help too many people, you know who ends up getting hurt? My family, the people I need to care about. There’s not enough of me. So if you think I should’ve prioritized you, fine, think that. I’m sorry I couldn’t. But don’t pretend like you can mete out justice for it, or that harassing me, drugging me, targeting me is going to make it better.
The Luchador bends over, opens the folio, and signs his name on the contract.
TAL: Now, get your lackey, Mr. Dick-Tok, to sign his name and get this over with.
She nods her head and looks over at David, who begins to inch forward, but Rose holds her hand up.
Rose: Tom, your Oscar-worthy performance is quite impressive. I will give you credit there. Try a bit harder and you might clinch it, just add some tears next time. [beat] You’ve got it all wrong, though. I don’t need anyone to do my dirty work.
Rose grabs the pen and applies her signature to the contract.
Rose: I do it myself. Those five, they’re ready to strike, but with you… this is personal. Colossus… I’ll be the one you stare at across the ring.
Murmurs are heard through the crowd.
Nick Stuart: Did you see this coming?!
Richard Parker: Absolutely not.
Nick Stuart: Is she even trained? Someone needs to stop her.
Rose then reaches into her back pocket and produces a mask before throwing it on the table.
Rose: Don’t worry, Tom. You even helped me get my ring jitters out at Lucha Especial 4. Sorry I couldn’t have let you in on the secret, but then, it wouldn’t have been a secret, would it? You got your wish. You’ve got me.
She then drops the pen on the contract. As she does, “Put ‘Em in the Grave” by Jedi Mind Tricks puts all the proceedings in the ring on pause. Lindsay Troy throws the curtain aside and walks briskly down to the ring.
Richard Parker: Looks like you’re getting your wish, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Thank God.
The Boss glides between the ropes and motions for her music to be cut. Rose has a satisfied smirk on her face as Vince Howard tosses Lindsay a microphone. She motions for TAL to give her a moment, then turns to Rose.
Lindsay Troy: I wouldn’t be smiling if I were you.
The smirk on Rose’s face remains on her face, though, as she turns to the BOSS of PRIME.
Rose: Bosslady, to what do we owe your presence? I think you could agree; there’s no shady business going on here. We haven’t devolved into a brawl like many of your employees in the back would have. Hell, we’re not even in your office. I would say this is a marked improvement over ReV 37. So, how have we stepped our toe over the line?
Lindsay Troy: Well, you all are still employed, so I wouldn’t call it an improvement.
There’s a pointed look towards Noble with that statement, before she turns her attention back to Rose.
Lindsay Troy: Anyway. I was in the back, getting ready for my bi-monthly Yelling at the Bandits, when I noticed you didn’t read the contract before you signed it.
The smile slowly disappears off the face of the leader of KING. She moves over to the leather folio and picks it up.
Rose: Should I take the time to read it now, or do you want to tell the classroom what was added in there?
She holds out the folio with a less-than-bemused look on her face. Her eyes narrow as she looks over at Tom, with a ‘what the fuck did you do’ look on her face.
Lindsay Troy: Oh, Tom didn’t do anything. Tom’s not a lawyer, he didn’t draft that contract. David Walter Smith, PRIME’s General Counsel, drafted it. Tom was in the room when it happened, though. As was your father.
Rose’s head snaps back to the boss at the mention of her father. Her jaw sets as she has to resist her darkest demons at this moment. She grabs the folio and opens it, glancing over the contract. She has to flip past the first page to find what, if anything, could be out of the ordinary.
Then, at the bottom of the second page, she finds something and looks up at Troy.
Rose: What the fuck is this?
Lindsay Troy: Hm?
She looks over and smiles.
Lindsay Troy: Oh, that’s a clause from your employment contract. You’re contracted to PRIME as KING’s manager; however, the clause states if you decide to forgo your management duties to become an active competitor at any point and for any length of time, your opponent(s) get to choose the match stipulations. You signed the contract, Rose…
Now it’s the Queen’s turn to smirk.
Lindsay Troy: …so you must have been OK with it.
Rose looks over at David and the rest of KING, who look at each other as if they’re wondering if this is the moment the shackles come off them. Their leader, though, moves to a vacant corner, and she puts her forehead on the top turnbuckle, taking a moment to herself.
She feels the crowd around her swelling and closes her eyes. It’s only a few moments, but she stands up and spins on her feet, the smile returned to her face.
Rose: You, even mentioning my father…
She shakes her head.
Rose: Not here, not now, but I will share my feelings with you sooner than you’d like. You are always true to yourself, Lindsay, and I must hand it to you. You know exactly how to pull the strings ever so elegantly, manipulating those to your benefit.
She looks over at Tom and nods her head.
Rose: And you… pick your stipulation. Take your time thinking about it, too. You made a promise to my father that you never intended to keep. I’m making you a promise that I’m coming to collect on. I may not be the person to retire you, Tom, but I will be the moment everyone points to as the start of your downfall. You don’t want me to make good on my promise? Then you better pick a stipulation that will keep me down because it will take a lot more than you to do it for good.
Rose inches closer to her Colossus opponent.
Rose: This is real, Tom. Realer than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. You thought Paxton Ray wanted to tear your head off? You haven’t seen anything yet, because this is my life you’ve fucked with. Paxton, he earned the shit that came to him. What about me? Did I deserve for you to abandon me, to turn your back on my father when he was at his lowest, for this bullshit? I’ll answer it for you. No, we didn’t. But you deserve everything that’s coming to you.
Her eyes narrow, and they resemble her father’s in the moment.
Rose: You better finish me when you get the chance, Tom. You better take me out because if you don’t, I’ll keep coming. In that ring, you better put me through a table, send me through the barricade, crack my head open with a chair. Give me everything you have and then some because I’ll keep getting up if you don’t. I’ll keep coming for you. I won’t be stopped until I get what’s mine.
Rose takes a breath and turns towards the members of KING.
Rose: Pick your stipulation; I don’t care what it is. I don’t need to be here any longer for this bullshit.
She looks at Troy.
Rose: You got what you wanted. Trust me when I tell you I will get what I want.
She then exits the ring with KING in tow. Noble is the last one to exit the ring, staring at Lindsay momentarily before leaving and following the rest up the ramp.
Lindsay Troy: Oh, Rose, one more thing.
KING stops on the stage and looks back at the Queen.
Lindsay Troy: That clause was your father’s suggestion, and I agreed with him that it was a good idea. Thought you should know.
Rose stands there momentarily, nodding and fuming, throwing up two birds for Lindsay Troy before exiting backstage.
Nick Stuart: Well, things escalated quickly there at the end.
Richard Parker: That woman astounds me more and more every single day.
Nick Stuart: I know; Lindsay knows how to keep everyone in line.
Richard Parker: Lindsay? I was talking about Rose! She’s a hero in my eyes!
Nick Stuart: …right. Let’s cut backstage, where I understand we have… I can’t even explain it. Let’s just go.
We cut from the sight of Lindsay Troy exiting the ring and The Anglo Luchador picking up the folio to the backstage area.
BROS BEFORE SHOWS
ReVival 39 moves down the tracks with two matches in the books. Our focus switches from ringside to the chaos of the locker room area. Ring crew, arena workers, and production staff do their best to navigate the hallways around the pockets of PRIME in-ring talent. One such pocket is the man himself, Eddie Cross, making his way through the crowd upon his arrival to the Bridgestone Arena.
A look of focus covers his normally cavalier face.
He spots a door, labeled ‘LOCKER ROOM C,’ and remembers what it was like being stuffed in the Sardine Can, as they call it around the back. Just so happens, that door opens, and opening it and wearing his match attire is a familiar face. Crash steps out into the hallway, coincidentally locking eyes with Eddie, before his eyes light up.
Eddie smiles and locks with Crash in a signature handshake.
Eddie Cross: What up, Bro Rogan?
Crash can’t help the somber tone in Eddie’s voice and sees his eyes have bags under them.. He leans in a little closer.
Crash: You good, Ed?
The young Samoan looks away briefly, betraying his emotions. He puts on a brave face and looks back to his buddy, Crash,
Eddie Cross: I dunno man. It’s been a tough couple of months. You know how Dave’s been fighting the disease? Well he’s got good days and bad days, bruh.
Crash offers a sympathetic nod and elbow jab as they make their way down the corridor.
Crash: That’s rough stuff, Broey Lawrence. Only thing you can do is be there for him and make a few more good memories, you know? Don’t leave anything left unsaid.
Eddie nods, acknowledging his buddies’ advice.
Eddie Cross: Yeah bruh, you’re probably right. It’s just a lot sometimes. Hey, I don’t wanna bring you down before your match though, Bro Pesci.
Crash cracks his neck side to side.
Crash: What is this, North Korea? Not gonna bring me down. I get a chance to break off two Kit Kats tonight? Sounds like my kinda party.
He snaps his fingers.
Eddie Cross: I wish we had a way to blow off some steam. Maybe after the match?
Crash: For sure, Brobocop.
Crash turns back with his thumb, curious if he’s still feeling the effects of the THC edible he took a few hours ago.
Crash: Hey, did you see they painted that Big Bad Brosovich with metal or some shit?
Eddie’s eyebrow raises.
Eddie Cross: I know everything about that guy, even his unfortunate history with penguins. Brodude, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Both at once: Wile E. Coyote Magnet??!! BRO! JINX! DOUBLE JINX!!
Eddie grins, shoving Crash with his elbow, before they both offer up strong fists from Bumptown. It looks like two Tonka trucks slowly crashing into one another. The Northern Lights flutter away from his compadre, drifting down a different hallway, before he throws up a peace sign.
Crash: Catch you later, Broseidon!
Eddie holds up his fingers in metal horns.
Eddie Cross: Good luck, Bromeo.
The scene shifts and suddenly the viewers find themselves elsewhere in the backstage area.
GIVE ME SOMETHING TO BREAK
This is familiar: Paxton Ray is walking around backstage, scowling, looking for someone. Who? Well, it’d be nice if we had a well placed backstage worker for Paxton to–oh, there he is!
Remember Doug? You don’t? Well, he’s the guy who used to have a shock collar on hand before Lindsay Troy told him not to. She let him keep his job, which is good because Paxton and Doug are t for tight. Paxton walks over and gives Doug a fist bump.
Paxton Ray: Hey Doug.
Doug: Sup Gator.
Paxton Ray: Have ya seen Rich Patterson around?
Doug closes his eyes and holds one finger in the air. He licks his other finger, which he also holds in the air. Then his initial finger starts to drift about fifty degrees to the left.
Doug: He’s that way.
Paxton Ray: Damn, how do ya do that?
Doug: Ran into him earlier.
Paxton Ray: Oh.
Paxton shakes his head, then claps Doug on the shoulder.
Paxton Ray: Thanks bud.
Paxton walks by Doug and, wouldn’t you know it, a few feet away he finds Rich Patterson. Patterson, having clearly been within earshot of this conversation, stops the stretching routine he was running through, and stands up straight as Paxton approaches.
Rich Patterson: Paxton, what can I do for you?
Paxton Ray: Not sure if ya caught my lil’ interview last week, but I delivered a message t’ya. Basically said that if ya don’t want to be on the bad side of the guy ya talked a lotta shit ‘bout, ya might wanna apologize.
Paxton is currently standing what one would call a safe distance from Rich. Of course, that can change with a long stride or two. And after that sentence, Paxton takes one of those long strides to cut the distance short.
Paxton Ray: So. Got anythin’ t’say?
Rich Patterson: I saw your interview.
Patterson seems comfortable at current distance from Paxton.
Rich Patterson: Say we have three doors. Behind one is a Paxton Ray who, against the proof of all recorded footage and human memory, is a good man, and behind the other two are Paxton Rays much like . . . well, you. I select a door. You open another door to reveal Paxton Ray, the savage, the butcher. Now, you ask me if I want to switch doors. And probability says switching doors is the right call; I’d have better odds of winning the car — or seeing Good Guy Paxton Ray, in this case — if I do. You following me?
Paxton Ray says nothing.
Rich Patterson: What probability doesn’t account for is the nature of the so-called prize. Any door I choose to open will show me the same savage, the same monster, the same insincere asshole you already showed me by opening your door. That’s all there is to you. So I don’t care what side of you I’m on — they’re all bad.
Rich Patterson: Have yourself an evening, Paxton.
He side-steps Ray and heads down the hall toward Argyle. Paxton watches him go, the lips of the Bayou Butcher peeling back to show yellow, clenched teeth. After a moment, Doug walks up with a backpack on.
Doug: You good?
Paxton Ray: Depends. Ya got anythin’ I can break?
Doug looks around for a moment, then sets his backpack on a nearby chair and unzips it. He produces a glass vase.
Paxton Ray: Why ya got that?
Doug: I’m handy.
Paxton nods, then grabs the vase and hurls it against the wall, causing glass to shatter everywhere. Paxton looks back to where Rich exited.
Paxton Ray: Some way, some how, I’m gonna show that asshole exactly who I am.
We go elsewhere.
The live feed cuts down to the ring.
Nick Stuart: Up next is a triple threat matchup featuring Sage Pontiff, Crash Jackson, and Rich Patterson.
Richard Parker: Crash still works here? I would have lost that bet.
Old Saint Nick rolls his eyes.
Nick Stuart: Of course he does Richar– wait. Wait just a moment. I’m being told our broadcast is going backstage because the eGG Bandits have FINALLY arrived at the Bridgestone Arena, and an absolutely livid Lindsay Troy is waiting to greet them!
Richard Parker: This is going to be good! Please let her fire him. Not Don’s him, either. You know who.
The feed jumps to the back and picks up with Lindsay Troy. She is pacing in front of the talent entrance, ready to unleash on the Bandits as soon as they walk through the door.
Nick Stuart: Apparently the Bandits were slated to open the show inside the ring, and obviously that didn’t happen since they are just getting here now.
Richard Parker: Forget that I said good. I meant murderous.
The door opens and in walks Sir Robert of Honalee in his funeral blacks. He catches Mother Hen’s stern gaze, but before she can cluck in his direction is able to find refuge in a nearby empty dumpster.
Coral is the next man through. He’s got on an EB tracksuit and his forehead is all shined up for hunting bounties. When he catches the ire of Lady Troy, he freezes like he made eye contact with Medusa.
Thankfully, pulling up the rear and not leaving a Bandit out to dry for once, is Cancer Jiles. He, his EB tracksuit, his ghost white hair, his T-shades, and the full girth of his bravado, walks through the door and steps in between Jester and Queen.
Lindsay Troy: Just where in the hell have you Pizmo crumb bum bandits been?! The show started over an hour ago!
Cancer Jiles: The show doesn’t actually start until the main attraction gets here, and now that I…
A drowned out clearing of the throat sounds from behind Jiles’ back, causing him to smile. It came from inside the dumpster.
Cancer Jiles: Now that *we’re* here, the show can start.
The Queen’s ears plume smoke.
Lindsay Troy: YOU BANDIDIOTS WERE SUPPOSED TO DO THE COLD OPEN!
Jiles ponders. The look on his face while doing so reads, oh that’s what we were forgetting to do. Bobby ever-so-slowly peeks his head out from his hiding place, but quickly realizes his presence is not needed and retreats. Coral, having conditioned his brain to unfreeze over the past month, quickly recovers and tosses his innocent hat into the conversation.
Coral Avalon: Well, if I may, and please keep in mind that I’m still learning the ropes here, but I think I can help clear up some of the confusion.
Lindsay Troy: Coral, come on. There’s no confusion, there’s Dipshits Dipshitting as Dipshits Do.
Coral Avalon: Be that as it may, technically, if I’m not mistaken, the show doesn’t start until the Bandits show up. So, the cold open should still be in play, no?
Shellshocked, The Golden Ticket’s eyebrows explode over the brims of his T-shades. Bob releases the most nervous fart ever, so nervous in fact that it reverberates inside the dumpster for over ten seconds. However putrid, or shocking, or putrid it all might seem, it does not phase the Queen. Instead of flight, she takes a step towards the Crownless King.
Lindsay Troy: What did you just say?
Coral Avalon: I’m sorry.
The Royal Eyes narrow into slits.
Coral Avalon: …I’m sorry that even our beloved eGG Queen sometimes forgets the rules.
Coral blinks as though he’s surprised himself by the words that came out of his mouth. Jiles’ eyes bounce out of their sockets, against the lenses on his T-shades, and back into their sockets three times over. Bobby of course farts again.
And Lady Troy is silent. And stunned.
Women can be left speechless.
Cancer Jiles: So, yeah, we’ll go out there in a little bit and make it up to you. Just gonna settle in real quick, and get Bobby out of the trashcan. Talk to you later!
In an effort to hastily flee the scene, King Crumb pushes Coral in the opposite direction of Lindsay Troy. Then, he hurries over to the dumpster to get Bobby out. However, it turns out to be a gigantic mistake since he winds up inadvertently crop dusting himself when he lifts the lid.
He also gets backdoor Dutch Ovened.
The pungent aroma causes the former Uni Champ to instantly sour. He reels backward like he’s been punched in the face by both Stanislob and Crumblood.
At the same time.
Soon thereafter, Bobby, like a cruiserweight, escapes the dumpster, wrangles up the Maestro, avoids LT like social distancing is back, and the two follow in Coral’s wake.
The shot ends on Lady Troy, Queen of PRIME, too aghast to do a thing.
Cut back down to the ring.
RICH PATTERSON vs. SAGE PONTIFF vs. CRASH JACKSON
Nick Stuart: We’re about ready to get into our second triple threat contest of the evening, ladies and gentlemen! Sage Pontiff, Rich Patterson, and Crash Jackson are scheduled to compete here in just a few moments!
Richard Parker: The first round send-offs, fighting for table scraps. This oughta be good!
Nick Stuart: Well, as stated, all three competitors failed to advance beyond the first round of the Almasy Tournament, but I should point out, due to no lack of effort or ability on their part! It’s been said many times that PRIME Wrestling boasts one of the most competitive and talented rosters in the market right now.
Richard Parker: Numbah One by definition, bay-bee! Making US the number one commentary team on the planet!
Nick Stuart: In any case, this match could provide a real opportunity for any one of these wrestlers to bounce back and get into the thick of things once more! Let’s head to the ring, where Vince Howard is ready to make the announcements!
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.
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.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is a triple threat match scheduled for one fall! Introducing first, hailing from Buffalo, New York, and weighing in at two-hundred and thirty-eight pounds… please welcome, the NORTHERN LIGHT… CRASH JACKSON
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!
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.
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: Now coming to the ring, hailing from Wonder Valley, California, and weighing in at two-hundred and thirty-eight pounds… give it up for RICH PATTERSON!!
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.
At first, darkness hits. Every light fades, causing a buzz among the crowd and a few cellphone camera lights to twinkle into existence. The video screen shows a single glowing orb at the top of the screen. Lavender. Then another beneath it, blue. Teal. Green. Yellow. Orange. Finally, red–and then around it, the shimmering outline of a human body in lotus position. This hold on the screen as an almost marching drumbeat begins, pulsing throughout the arena.
Lights come up, pink in tone, all in time with a psychedelic drone of distorted guitar noise. As the solo of what could very well be an electric sitar begins, a figure walks out from the back. More accurately, he damn near glides. His neck is hanging with the weight of what seem to be many different strands of prayer beads. He is barefoot, his calf length, baggy pants a frankly offensive patchwork of tie dye, paisley, and other patterns. Hanging to the floor is a long, linen kimono in pure white.
Vince Howard: And finally, from Joshua Tree, California, and weighing in at two-hundred and one pounds…He is the Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience… SAGE PONTIFF!!
Sage Pontiff has arrived, and he throws his head back, practically bathing in the rain of flower petals.
There is no up or down
Your truth is the only master
Death is made by the living
Pain is only intense to you
He begins to slowly make his way down the ramp, occasionally twirling and oftentimes doing respectful bows to certain members of the audience, kissing his fingertips and then touching his forehead.
Sage slides into the ring, kips to his feet fluidly, and then takes a running start and leaps flat footed, landing with a slight wobble on the top turnbuckle–but sticks the landing, and holds his arms out messianic-style, bathing in reactions. Mostly negative, though there are a smattering of true believers that are making themselves known over the jeers.
The Sun shines every day
The Sun shines every day
Sage executes a backflip from the top, landing on his feet, and bows to the crowd, and the toward Elvis Nixon before removing his kimono and beads. He begins to stretch, adopting the revolved crescent lunge, his fluidity and vascularity on full display as “Satori Part II” fades to nothing.
Nick Stuart: Sage has been with PRIME for almost a year now, and made quite a name for himself in that time. It will be interesting to see how he handles these two relative newcomers in Crash Jackson and Rich Patterson.
Richard Parker: I have all the faith in the world that PRIME’s resident Bodhisattva of Transformative Experience can bring these two along on a path of enlightenment.
Nick Stuart: Our veteran official Timo Bolamba has made his final checks. Looks like we’re ready to get this one started, as he cues for the bell!
The triad of competitors leave their corners and come to a stand-off at ring center. Three sets of eyes warily dart back and forth, watching for someone to make the first move. Pontiff to Patterson. Patterson to Jackson. Jackson to Pontiff.
Unsurprisingly, it falls upon Sage to break the ice. A low kick stings Rich Patterson on the calf, baiting the wrestler formerly known as Grendel into coming after at the Bodhisattva with an angry hook. Sage ducks, and gives him a shove into the unsuspecting third man in the ring.
Nick Stuart: Sage with the shove, and Patterson crashes right into… well, Crash! And now these two are going right at it with heavy rights and lefts, with Pontiff more than willing to leave them to it!
Richard Parker: That’s that transcendental thinking of his at work, letting the other guys do all the work and conserving his energy for the final stretch.
The crowd boos at the sight of Sage assuming the lotus position on the top turnbuckle and taking it easy while the other two brawl across the ring. Patterson’s forearms eventually win out the exchange, and Crash finds himself being backed into the corner.
A series of shoulder blocks to the abdomen by Rich knock the wind out of Grand Master Crash, leaving him doubled over. Rich uses his position to lift him out of the corner and drape him across his shoulder. He turns back to ring center to bring him to the canvas, only to have his legs taken out but an unseen force from his blind spot.
Nick Stuart: Pontiff with the SWEEP, stopping whatever Rich Patterson had in store for Crash Jackson! Crash falls from his shoulder and… well, crashes to the mat!
Richard Parker: I think I now know how he got the name…
Nick Stuart: Patterson now at the mercy of the Bodhisattva as Sage hits the ropes… and spingboards his way right into a swinging DDT! Now Pontiff with the cover!
Kickout by Patterson!
Pontiff transitions right into the ever-dangerous rear chinlock, but hasn’t forgotten about Jackson. Crash pushes himself off the mat and hits the ropes to get a head full of steam, going into the air with a cross body chop that connects with the chest of Patterson after Sage uses him as a human shield.
The Bodhisattva lands a knee to the side of Crash’s head before he can get back to his feet, leaving him rocked long enough to be left open to a released German Suplex that sends him across the ring. Pontiff kips up, presses his palms together, and bows to the crowd, earning their
Nick Stuart: Sage Pontiff is really taking control of this match, taking out Crash Jackson with that Atharvaveda suplex!
Richard Parker: The man is practically a poet in the ring, playing one opponent against the other! He’s got all the grace of a bird in flight!
Nick Stuart: Yeah… like a vulture.
Pontiff goes back to Jackson and puts the boots to him, attempting to kick him under the ropes and out the ring to isolate Patterson. Crash rolls out onto the apron, but clutches the bottom rope for dear life. It’s good enough for Sage, who goes back to deal with Rich…
…only to find that the wrestler formerly known as Grendel has been waiting to deal with him!
Nick Stuart: Patterson on his feet, catching Pontiff by surprise! Boot to the gut… scoop… and OVER THE KNEE with a shoulder-breaker!
Richard Parker: He was just in the corner, waiting for his moment to strike? What a snake! Just like the actual Grendel of legend, slinking into the castle in the dead of night and killing all those people in their sleep!
Nick Stuart: Nobody wants to hear your literary analysis on Beowulf, Rich…
Richard Parker: Hey, I worked really hard on that! Probably the only thing I did well back in my college days, other than–
Nick Stuart: Back to the action! Patterson going right into the mount to trap Sage on the mat, and he begins paying back his receipts in the form of HEAVY palm strikes!
Sage covers up to protect himself but can’t escape the hands of Patterson, much to the delight of the crowd. On the ring apron, Crash Jackson has pulled himself to his feet and, taking a page out of Sage’s playbook, watches and waits for his moment to make a move.
Pontiff is left seeing stars after his shellacking, amazingly without the help of hallucinogens. Rich switches over to the side mount and hooks him by a leg to pull him back off the mat. Sage is defenseless as Patterson drops him across his knee once again, and swings right into a powerslam.
Nick Stuart: Rib-breaker powerslam combination, and Sage Pontiff gets driven into the canvas once more! Wow, Rich Patterson can be absolutely brutal when he takes control of things!
Richard Parker: He’s a disgrace to the good name of ‘Richard’!
Nick Stuart: Patterson, hooking the leg and making the cover!
He ROLLS ASIDE?!
The crowd POPS as Patterson rolls off the chest of Sage Pontiff, leaving him exposed to a springboard senton delivered by Crash Jackson.
Nick Stuart: Something caught Rich’s eye, and now the Northern Light CRASHES his way back into this match with a big Senton splash! Sage Pontiff is really feeling it now!
Feeling the energy of the arena, Crash Jackson slaps the mat and pulls the weary Bodhisattva back to his feet. Pontiff, apparently sensing that energy to be negative, realigns his chakras on the spot and collapses into…
Nick Stuart: A SMALL PACKAGE BY SAGE!
BROKEN UP by Rich Patterson!
Richard Parker: ‘The wicked creature, grim and greedy, was at the ready, savage and cruel, and seized in their rest thirty of the thanes!’ Once again, this snake is letting the other guy do all the heavy lifting, and waiting for his chance to steal the glory!
Nick Stuart: How is that any different from what Sage was doing at the start of the match by pitting the other two against one another?
Richard Parker: Because that was genius, inventive, and original! Rich Patterson is an idea thief!
Patterson goes for Jackson, the first to his feet, before the speedster can get himself moving once more, while Pontiff takes a powder to the outside. An arm wrench precludes a bending back of the fingers, and Crash groaning loud in complete agony.
Patterson pulls even harder down on the joints, but the Grand Master of Crash steels his resolve, fights through the pain, and flips himself over to reverse the arm wrench and whip Patterson to the mat!
Nick Stuart: Reversal made by Crash Jackson, who is now looking to pick up the pace! Crash keeps ahold of the arm and brings Patterson back onto his feet… pushes him off the ropes now, to send him into motion! Patterson hits the other side–NO!! Sage is there!
Pontiff, on the outside, pulls down on the top rope, leaving Patterson to tumble out to ringside. What he does not account for is Rich landing on his feet. The crowd cheers as the color drains from the Bodhisattva’s face, seeing the murderous expression of the wrestler formerly known as Grendel.
Richard Parker: Oh, man! Get outta there, Sage! That guy’s energy is COMPLETELY negative right now!
Patterson’s palm cracks Pontiff’s face with the force of a grizzly’s paw, leaving Sage to reel and stumble straight into a devastating backdrop driver on the ringside floor! The crowd cheers on Rich, methodically pulling his prey off the mats to bring him back into the ring.
Only the one left inside has other ideas. By the time Patterson looks back into the ring, a blur of red and white falls upon him.
Nick Stuart: TAILGATE DIVE BY CRASH! Jackson saw his window of opportunity, and leapt right through it, taking out Rich Patterson with a beautiful Tornillo Suicide Plancha!
Richard Parker: Meh… at least Sage avoided most of that one.
The crowd is cheering loudly for Crash after the high-risk maneuver, but almost immediately switches to jeers the moment Pontiff moves in and takes him with a sharp Namaste mule kick to effectively ruin the moment.
With one opponent left stunned on the floor, Sage goes to the other and rolls Rich Patterson back into the ring. Patterson senses himself in danger and works his way back up, but Pontiff is already back in after him and in motion. Rich barely has time to react before he’s brought down by a Sling Blade!
Nick Stuart: COSMIC RESONATOR! Sage Pontiff is back in control, and poised to put this one away!
Richard Parker: Enlighten us, Sage! There can only be ONE Richie P in PRIME!
Nick Stuart: Sage waits for Patterson to rise up… the boot to the gut, reels him in for the Shamanic Dreamweaver–AND HE’S STOPPED BY A WIDE LEFT from CRASH JACKSON!
Richard Parker: Where the HECK did he come from?!
The crowd roars as Pontiff sprawls violently across the canvas off the impact of Jackson’s unexpected superkick. Seeing his opportunity to put this one away, Crash goes to the corner and begins climbing to the top!
Meanwhile, Rich Patterson is coming back around. The moment he looks up, the first thing he sees is Sage Pontiff laid out on his back in the middle of the ring. Waiting for his prey to rise up, Rich clasps his hands and prepares for the killshot.
Nick Stuart: Hang on, Patterson is back up, and now Sage is in BOTH of his opponents crosshairs!
Richard Parker: Oh, man… look out, Sage! There is very BAD KARMA in that ring right now!
Crash is setting himself into position on the top rope. Pontiff is groggy as he rises to his feet, only at the last moment noticing Rich Patterson barreling at him with the POLISH HAMMER–and he escapes a certifiable face-breaking by powdering out to ringside once more.
Patterson sneers after him, only to turn around into…
Nick Stuart: CRASH WITH THE LFG DDT!! Patterson lost track of the Northern Light in his pursuit of Sage, and Jackson made him pay with a DEVASTATING diving DDT!
Richard Parker: Wait, WAIT! Get back in the ring, Sage! It’s GOOD karma! It’s GOOD!!
Pontiff is too busy breathing a sigh of relief to notice Jackson draping himself across Patterson’s chest and hooking the legs.
Nick Stuart: Crash with the cover!
DING DING DING
Sage Pontiff slides back into the ring, but he’s a second too late as Timo comes back up with Crash’s arm raised in victory. Jackson’s free arm punches the air in triumph and glory, proud and emotional after earning his first win in PRIME.
Vince Howard: The winner of the match, by pinfall… THE NORTHERN LIGHT… CRAAAAASSHHH JAAAAAACKSOOOOONNN!!!
Nick Stuart: A hard-fought victory for Crash Jackson after a very intense and competitive battle between these three! Pontiff can hardly believe it! He thought he dodged a bullet and took his eyes off the action at the worst possible moment!
Richard Parker: Absolutely lowdown and petty of Crash and Wish-Dot-Com Rich to gang up on Sage like that in the end! I tell ya, these two are many, many lifetimes away from nirvana!
Nick Stuart: If Patterson had noticed Jackson on the top rope, who knows what may have happened? In the end though, it came down to Crash being in the right place at the right time! For right now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s see what’s going on behind the scenes!
Jackson continues to celebrate in the ring. Pontiff quits the ring in disgust. A recovering Patterson glowers after him.
BUT FOR TONIGHT
Sometimes, when faced with one of wrestling’s trickiest problems, you just gotta wander backstage.
And so, fresh off the result of a crackling three-way match, that’s what our resident thinker and problem-haver is doing.
Chandler Tsonda is in a pickle. He’s also still noticeably in street clothes, the lovely black ensemble from his earlier encounter with Daytona Diamonds, with the Numbers Don’t Lie belt still propped over his shoulder. It seems likely that Tsonda has been pacing backstage, rather than finding his locker room and settling in.
Nick Stuart: Every minute, we get closer to Chandler Tsonda’s showdown with Coral Avalon. But unfortunately for the Model Citizen, he’s no closer to solving the numbers problem.
Richard Parker: The plight of the lone wolf. I know it well. All-inclusive resort vacations for one, having to buy yourself a Christmas present in July and put it in the back of the closet, so you forget about it and can surprise yourself.
Tsonda appears to be muttering to himself, as he scrolls through his phone. Yes, he’s doing the dreaded “pedestrian not watching where they’re going, expecting some magical solution to present itself as a pop-up notification on the top of the screen as if—
The most likely thing happens, and Tsonda runs square into a brick wall. A historically quite surly one.
Paxton Ray: Hey, watch where you’re goin’, pal.
The Bayou Butcher takes a few steps back, and while he’s scowling at The Model Citizen, his fists are noticeably unclenched. Progress!
Chandler Tsonda: (visibly flustered) Well you should watch…where I’m…well, shit. Fine. I’ll put on my swamp monster avoidance lenses in the future. Tally on, Ray.
The Model Citizen does a “shoo, fly” gesture towards his long-time antagonist. He doesn’t quite put his chest into the next thing he says, as he half-turns away from Paxton.
Chandler Tsonda: And anyway, I got bigger problems than the great apology tour through 2024, Ray. I’m out here as the only solo act in the Almasy, looking down a gauntlet of dudes who got plus-ones and plus-twos and plus-Bobby Deans at their disposal. And I’m running out of time. So forgive me if this ain’t our usual extended heart-to-heart.
The Model Citzen gives a nod to punctuate his plan to exit.
Paxton Ray: Cool. Good luck or whatever.
Paxton turns to walk away.
Chandler Tsonda: Wait.
The Model Citizen seems, uncharacteristically for him, to be holding back. He turns back towards the Bayou Butcher with his full attention.
Chandler Tsonda: I maybe got a…proposition. I know you’re trying to get off the naughty list, and doing the whole third act Ebeneezer Scrooge bit. At least that’s what you say. How serious are you?
Paxton looks down at his feet, clearly thinking. Chandler doesn’t know this, but Paxton had a run-in not too long ago that has him thinking about this question. How serious is he?
Paxton Ray: Whatcha got, Face?
Chandler Tsonda: Number one: don’t do me no favors. This doesn’t change any of the vile shit that’s on your head, and it doesn’t change that you and me, we’re not friends. Unless you got a real nice skincare regimen that…frankly isn’t doing enough, then we got little in common, and even less to make small talk about.
The Model Citizen is on a roll, and he continues listing out stipulations.
Chandler Tsonda: Number two: if you say yes, we’re square. Not square for ReV 29, I’m gonna put an L on you plenty soon. But square on the apology; it’s water under the troll bridge that you call home. If you say yes, you got a clean slate as far as I’m concerned.
Tsonda clearly can’t read Paxton’s response, so he just keeps going. When in doubt, he always keeps talking.
Chandler Tsonda: And finally, number three: I’m fifty-fifty on whether these apologies are total and unequivocal bullshit. But if you wanna shut me up—and if I know a scintilla about you, you’d relish not hearing my voice for a good long while—this is the way to prove that you’re serious. That you want more than just to hear yourself apologize. Maybe give you a chance to even the scales. So you up for it?
Paxton blinks once. Twice. Then he raises his hands in the air.
Paxton Ray: Ya ain’t even said what ya need, ya fuckin’ nitwit!
Chandler Tsonda: (not missing a beat) Be in my corner tonight for my match against Avalon.
Paxton is visibly shocked by this request. He scowls as if he smelled something bad.
Paxton Ray: What the hell would ya want that for?
Chandler Tsonda: ‘Cuz I’m fresh out of fuckin’ options, genius brain. Like I said: we aren’t likely to be palling it up in the groupchat about how we’re both loving the new season of The Crown. But my options around here are a series of fuckfaces who are all equally likely to use the big stage of the Almasy match to get their moment in primetime to swerve the Hall of Famer and take selfies with my corpse. Whereas you….
As much as he can, Tsonda sobers up, and speaks in what sounds like a sincere tone to Ray. He drops the act.
Chandler Tsonda: I know a little about what it’s like to live down some real dickhead stuff in your past. And I’m willing to trust in that. And trust that you, repentant or no, would still love the opportunity to paste somebody right in their snotbox if they deserve it. You tell me whether I’m a sucker for trusting in that, Ray.
Paxton once again stares at his feet. Interesting boots down there, I guess. He heaves a large sigh, then looks up at Tsonda and nods.
Paxton Ray: Nah. You’re a ton’a things, but ya ain’t a sucker. I hate Bobby Dean and have for over a year, so ya got that goin’ for ya. I ain’t really interested in bein’ your friend either, ‘cause if this is how much ya talk t’your enemies I don’t even wanna imagine how much you’d talk to your friends. But for tonight?
Paxton reaches out and slaps Chandler on the shoulder. It’s not too hard, but hard enough to make a satisfying smacking noise.
Paxton Ray: Ya got your second.
Paxton walks by Chandler, his brief smile replaced by the all-too-common scowl.
Paxton Ray: What the hell is The Crown?
We cut elsewhere.
LEVEL OF EFFORT
Like, deep backstage. So backstage that it’s practically the parking lot.
On most nights, you’ll find Jared Sykes in one of a few places. Most of the time he keeps to himself in the locker room he shares with his partner Justine Calvin, at least when she’s in the building. Depending on the plans for the night, he’ll also be in the ring for an undetermined number of minutes. And then, on the nights that go sideways, he’ll be a regular in the medical area.
But on nights where something major is at stake, when there are actual tangible consequences for the outcome of a match, you can find him at the loading dock. It’s an old habit, one that he picked up in the early years of his career. It tends to be a quiet place, since any activity that would happen there needs to wait until the end of the show before it can begin.
The usual course of action is to find a few crates that offer some light shelter, pull up the hood, put the headphones on – over the ear only, never buds – and space the fuck out. Sometimes he’ll close his eyes and try to lose himself in whatever music seems appropriate for the evening. Even knowing the danger that a place like PRIME has posed over the last few years, that last part is a hard habit to break.
So there he sits. Feet up. Relaxed. Eyes closed.
“Was kinda hoping you wouldn’t be back here for once.”
Jared’s trance is interrupted, even through the noise in his headphones. With a shift of his neck over the shoulder, he spots the figure of…
…ah hell. You know who it is.
The Event Horizon stands tall on the concrete, in the usual black slacks and black button up, duffle bag in hand. He stares hard at Sykes, but it’s not necessarily born of malice. It’s born of decisions made at UltraViolence, yes, but also of a palpable anxiety.
Jared pulls the headphones down around his neck, and takes the hood down from over his head. A mop of brown and pink is finally released from its cotton blend prison, the latter color not very far off from the shade of vibrant neon that’s peeking through the collar of his sweatshirt.
Jared Sykes: So just pretend I’m not.
He slides his hands back into his pocket, and turns his attention away from Hanlon and back to the middle distance. Outside the doors of the loading dock, a light drizzle begins to fall in the warm Nashville air. He doesn’t look at Hayes when he speaks next, but despite the recent animosity between the men Jared’s voice remains calm, even.
Jared Sykes: Might wanna get that under control… the nerves, I mean. Seems like the sorta thing your new boss or whatever might key-in on.
The Comeback Kid smirks with a light snort, his ‘stache lifting in the corner of his mouth. Somewhat surprisingly, he drops his duffle to the loading dock’s concrete.
More surprisingly, he steps forward, and sits next to Jared at the dock’s edge.
Hayes Hanlon: My new “boss” can key-in on whatever he wants. It won’t stop me from tossing him around like a ragdoll.
Hanlon tugs at the rolled-up cuffs of his shirt, and settles in with a long breath, watching the light rainfall.
Jared Sykes: Right. Okay. Sure.
His eyes dart towards Hanlon, but only for a second, and then he’s back to staring out into the night sky.
Jared Sykes: You can make up whatever story you want for me, bud. I think we’ve pretty well established that it doesn’t matter what I think, yeah? But you’re out here in a place where you didn’t think there would be people to watch you try to get a handle on things, so can we just skip the whole part where you feel obligated to fucking posture? You’ve got the jitters. It’s fine.
Hanlon responds with a shrug.
Hayes Hanlon: Maybe.
And he follows with a sharp glance to the Dragon Slayer from the side of his eye.
Hayes Hanlon: And maybe I just wanted to chill out somewhere quiet. And maybe I learned that from someone.
Jared Sykes: Well, like I said, just pretend I’m not here.
He crosses one foot over the other on his equipment crate perch.
Jared Sykes: But give me a heads-up if you change your mind and decide you wanna hit me with a brick, or something. No one ever does that. It’s always just, “Surprise! Brick!” Might be a nice change of pace.
Hayes Hanlon: Not my style…
The former Universal Champ swings his legs over the loading dock’s edge, and grinds his teeth.
Hayes Hanlon: …but your “woe as me” victim bullshit is wearing pretty thin, man.
Jared Sykes: I’m sorry, should I have gone with a different object? How about, “Surprise! Chain!” or “Surprise! Crowbar!” What about my personal favorite, “Surprise! Chocolate!” I figure those are probably all more relevant given the history here, but my brain thought “brick” and so brick is what I went with.
He pulls the phone from his pocket and kills the audio being sent to his headphones, because this is now clearly going to be one of those interactions.
Jared Sykes: It’s funny though… You’re acting like I don’t know that I press buttons sometimes. And when you do that as often as I have, yeah, there are consequences to it. I told you before that I know who I am, Hayes. And that means all of it.
He slides the phone back into his pocket.
Jared Sykes: For the record, I didn’t actually expect death by brick, or whatever. And the only proof that you need is the fact that I’m still sitting here, I haven’t moved except to shut my music off, and we’re having this conversation. But hey, since we’re here now, what is your style?
Hayes Hanlon: You know my style. I’ve never been shy about it.
He cracks his neck, and resets his posture.
Hayes Hanlon: Everyone knows, including you. I’m here for gold, man. We’re both here for gold. You still gonna tell me otherwise?
Jared Sykes: I don’t think you’d understand why I’m here. Or maybe you would, I dunno. But I think we’re pretty well past the point where I start sharing what those reasons are.
Hayes Hanlon: (nodding) Cool. I get it. Keep it all close to your chest or whatever. But I gotta ask…
The Event Horizon shirts his head, turning his deep, dark gaze toward Sykes.
Hayes Hanlon: …if you beat Jiles tonight, and earn that shot down the road…then what does that mean to you?
For the first time in this conversation, Jared turns his full attention towards Hayes. Their eyes meet, and the muscles in Jared’s jaw begin working as the knowledge that he just stumbled dick-first into a trap starts to settle in.
Jared Sykes: Feels like a loaded question.
Hayes Hanlon: It’s an honest question.
Jared Sykes: Sure it is.
A glare behind the brow.
Hayes Hanlon: You really don’t give a shit, do you? About earning a shot? Or about winning this tournament?
He holds the glare, for a painfully long time.
Hayes Hanlon: Do you.
And at last, Jared breaks.
Jared Sykes: Do you know how long I’ve been doing this? Over twenty-three years. Twenty-three years, man. Do you know how many opportunities I’ve had at something like this over that stretch? Two. Ever.
He straightens a bit, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. He doesn’t leave his spot on the crates, but his posture is far less relaxed than it was a moment ago.
Jared Sykes: And I’m not talking about the whole “fight the entire roster and win a shot” bullshit. I mean that in all that time – over the half my life spent in the ring – I have had exactly two chances to become a world champion. Two. Yeah, Cal and I had a hell of a run with those tag straps, but let’s be honest with ourselves – no one gives a shit. Outclassed a whole division, and no one cares, because that’s not how success gets measured. Am I proud of it? Goddamn right I am. But this is something else. If I lose tonight then what’s the next hurdle I have to clear? Do I even get to be part of that race, or do I make my peace with the fact that just ain’t meant for me? Does that prove your point? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s not the reason I get out of bed every morning, but sometimes it damn sure keeps me up at night. Is that what you want to hear?
With a hard, steely gaze, Hayes maintains a deadlock on Jared’s fiery eyes.
Hayes Hanlon: Yeah. It kinda is.
Jared Sykes: Great. Fucking fantastic, even. So you’ve got what you want? Now what?
With a heavy snort, and the slap of his hands against the loading dock, Hayes pushes himself gently to his feet, and stands up tall.
Hayes Hanlon: I know you hate me for what I did. For breaking your tag streak.
He turns his eyes away, stretching his shoulders to dull the air’s tense grip.
Hayes Hanlon: But honestly? Now? I just want you to give a fucking shit.
Suddenly, a trigger sets off, and Hanlons’ nostrils start to flare. His fingers pumping inside his fists.
Hayes Hanlon: You know it’s like you’re spitting in my fucking face, right?
HIs face visibly starts to redden, the breaths coming a little quicker.
Hayes Hanlon: Because I gave EVERYTHING to be here. Everything for my shots at that belt. EVERYTHING! And this “holier-than-thou” shit, this “better-than-gold” SHIT? This shit doesn’t keep you up at night. No. No WAY it does.
Hammerin’ Hayes breathes heavy and fast through his nostrils, shifting foot to foot.
Hayes Hanlon: If it did, you wouldn’t be such a sorry-ass hiding in the loading docks. If it did, you would’ve cracked me over the head backstage with a chair WEEKS ago!
He braves a step forward, forearms taught. Jared tenses, by hold strong to his seet.
Hayes Hanlon: If it DID, beating CANCER, and earning a shot at the Universal Title, would put some freakin’ FIRE in your belly! FIRE! And if it really doesn’t?
In an instant, Hanlon collects himself, allowing a dozen deep, heavy breaths through the nostrils to settle the rage within.
Hayes Hanlon: Then man, just hand that shot over to me if you’re that fucking gregarious.
Jared Sykes: You think I hate you because I lost a match? Buddy, are you out of your goddamn mind right now? I don’t hate you for that. Do you know why? Because I do give a shit, Hayes. But my priorities are a little different than yours. Two-hundred and eighty days. Six defenses. Wire-to-wire, bell-to-bell, start-to-finish and you think it’s MY streak I give a fuck about?
He swings his legs off his makeshift throne and hops down to the ground, the facade now broken.
Jared Sykes: Nah, what I hate is that we were a goddamn afterthought for nine months. But I did something you couldn’t, Hayes. I brought someone on the ride with me. She and I made something and no one ever gets to take that away, whether or not there’s a division to celebrate it.
He takes a step forward of his own.
Jared Sykes: But you wouldn’t understand that, because you can’t see an inch past that ‘stache. Acting like the goddamn be-all, end-all here like I should be pissed because of UltraViolence. Like I should want to tee-off with a chair because of it. You know why I haven’t? It’s because I’m finally – FINALLY – starting to realize what Brandon saw when he christened Nate as “The Next Diamond”. It’s why you won’t get a damn thing from me if I walk out of here tonight with that Golden Ticket. What I should have seen in the weeks that led us to Chicago…
He leans in, ever so slightly, and keeps his voice low. It’s an old trick, but one that’s proven effective over the years. If you talk softly, then it forces the other person to listen.
Jared Sykes: You’re just not worth the fucking effort.
With a curl of his lips behind that ‘stache, and a few deep breaths from the chest, Hanlon stalks forward.
Hayes Hanlon: Nate can squat down and kiss my ass.
Another step forward, and another flash of heat through his nose.
Hayes Hanlon: So can Youngblood, and so can YOU.
And yet another heavy, pregnant pause, shared between burning-eyed men-at-odds. Not even a soul in the background daring to make a peep.
Hayes Hanlon: Fuck Diamonds. Fuck Towers. FUCK Dragon. Slayers.
And every so suddenly, Hayes has nearly come nose to nose with Sykes, lurching over, sharp bursts of air shooting forward.
Hayes Hanlon: I’m going to beat Cecilworth tonight. And man, I hope so bad that you can find the guts to beat Cancer.
Knowing full well the weight behind those last five words, Hayes rears up, lifting his chin to the Heart of PRIME, taking a step back.
Hayes Hanlon: DAMN I hope it’s us at Colossus.
Having stepped back to where his duffle bag had landed, Hayes grips it from the ground, and gives Jared one last glance before turning away, his steps echoing through the loading dock.
As soon as Hayes is out of sight, Jared exhales the breath he’d been holding. He leans forward, bracing against one of the crates with both hands, before rearing back and slamming his right hand against it.
The camera takes us elsewhere.
THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Here we are backstage, where there’s a designated interview area. In that designated interview area, there’s a designated interviewer. It’s Matt Mills, looking sharp as always with his suit and fancy microphone.
There’s also a designated interviewee, in his little shorts and a PRIME T-shirt. His name is Nate Colton, and you might be wondering where the little pig that lives on his shoulder is. Well, he’s not telling, and neither is the pig.
Matt Mills: Good evening, fans! Matt Mills here, backstage with the Next Diamond, Nate Colton.
Nate Colton: Hi, everyone.
Matt Mills: Nate, in your last match you lost to Cancer Jiles, which both eliminated you from the Almasy and cost you a guaranteed shot at the Universal Title. How are you handling the embarrassment of that loss?
Nate Colton: Are you kidding? The year I’ve had, that’s nowhere near the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to me lately. Hell, it’s not even top five.
Expect to see The Top Five Embarrassing Things That Have Happened to Nate Colton Lately on the Scandal Sheet tomorrow.
Nate Colton: I’m not happy at the way that turned out, but it ain’t like I’m the first guy he’s done that to. I just have to learn from the experience, then move on to the next challenge.
Matt Mills: That “next challenge” is coming up in just a few minutes, in the form of Paxton Ray. You and your family were among the most outspoken critics of Ray last year after his actions at UltraViolence, yet recently you’ve openly considered absolving Ray of those actions. Why the change of heart?
Nate Colton: First of all, I never said anything about absolution. There’s still a price he needs to pay for what he did. I’m just not the one he needs to pay it to. But more than that…I want to believe people can change for the better. And if Paxton is honest about that change, then I should encourage that. But…
He trails off, shaking his head. Then he turns toward the camera, because we’ve reached the “address the opponent directly” part of the interview.
Nate Colton: I know what the right answer is. I heard it every Sunday when I was growing up, every time we’d say the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s so easy to say. But to actually do it…Jesus, that’s hard.
Apparently so is not taking the Lord’s name in vain, Nathan.
Nate Colton: I still got a lot of hate in my heart for you, Paxton. Maybe a stronger man, a better man, could let go of that…but I can’t. Not yet. So instead, I’m gonna bring that all to bear the moment the bell rings. Probably not much of a threat, after what you went through with Jared or Tom, but the fact remains. I’m gonna hurt you tonight, and I can’t promise I won’t enjoy it. And when the match is over…I’m leaving it behind. Ring crew can sweep it up and throw it out with the rest of the trash. ‘Cause I don’t need it anymore.
Somewhere, the ring crew is grumbling about getting another assignment. As if they don’t have enough shit to do.
Nate Colton: After that…we’ll see. If you’re on the level, then I can accept your apology and we can all move on with our lives.
Matt Mills: And if he’s not?
The Next Diamond turns back to Mills with a look far more world-weary than a man of his age should be able to muster.
Nate Colton: Cross that bridge when we get there.
With a quick nod, Colton leaves the scene and heads for the Argyle position.
Matt Mills: Nate Colton, about to step into the fight of his life. Let’s take it back to Nick and Richard at ringside.
Yes, let’s do that.
PAXTON RAY vs. NATE COLTON
We’re back at ringside and as Vince Howard makes his way into the ring, the crowd at the Bridgestone Arena make their excitement heard.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen! The following contest is scheduled for one fall and has a fifteen minute time limit!
Richard Parker: Time limit? Did we just get transported back twenty or thirty years?
Nick Stuart: Just let Vince do his job and you do whatever your job is, okay Richard?
Vince Howard: Introducing first…
“They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy.”
The riff of “Fistfight” by The Ballroom begins to play through the arena as the crowd rises to their feet, but they aren’t happy with the music, nor the person, who they see. Paxton Ray walks out under the PRIMEview and sneers at the fans, many of them giving him a thumbs down and hurling boo’s his way. Nonetheless, he holds his taped hands up in the air and glares in their direction.
Vince Howard: …from Lafayette, Louisiana. He stands 6’6” and weighs in at 255 lbs. The Bayou Butcher: PAAAAXTON RAAAAAAYYYYY!!!
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 makes his way towards the ring, indifference to the crowd’s jeers. He steps up onto the apron and into the ring, before marching across the ring and leaning in the corner, where he can see his opponent. Vince Howard shifts a little farther from The Bayou Butcher.
Nick Stuart: You know, Paxton does seem to be trying to turn over a new leaf. They say that wrestling fans’ memories are short. But these people sure don’t seem to forget everything he’s done to the superstars who they love.
Richard Parker: I’m always a “give the guy a second chance” kind of a guy.
Nick Stuart: Since when?
Richard Parker: Right now. C’mon, give me a chance, Nick!
Vince Howard: And his opponent. From Evansville, Indiana. He stands 6’4” tall and weighs in at 255 lbs. The Next Diamond…
“Tryin’” by the Eagles blasts through the arena as the crowd rises to their feet. Nate Colton emerges from the backstage area to a great pop from the fans.
Vince Howard: …NAAATE COOOLTOOOOON!!!!!
Colton reaches the ring and enters with little flair. His eyes don’t leave Paxton Ray for a moment as referee Elvis Nixon has been busy talking with Paxton Ray. Ray sneers at him and nods, before Nixon looks over at Nate and nods in his direction, not talking to him nearly as much as he had Ray.
Nick Stuart: There’s a lot of animosity between these two. Mainly due to Paxton Ray. And let’s face it, they’re only a year apart in age, Richard, almost the same height, virtually the same weight.
Richard Parker: It’s a true testament to how great PRIME is. Any other fed and this would be a Main Event, pay per view match. Here in PRIME, it’s just business as usual with the best color man in the business and his sidekick.
Nick Stuart: What?
Richard Parker: They’re getting started, Nick, just do your job!
Paxton and Nate move to the center of the ring, and leave just a few feet between them. Paxton stands with his hands up and balled into fists, but it’s Nate Colton who points a finger and starts jawing at Ray. Nixon admonishes Colton, who nods and puts both of his hands up, before finally the two get started.
Nick Stuart: Colton seems to be bringing a lot of emotion into this thing.
The two men lock up in the center of the ring, with Paxton using his slight height and leverage advantage to bear down on Colton, who pushes up on his toes and yells. The two jockey for position, before Paxton shoves Colton back and smirks.
Colton, undeterred, rushes in and the two men lock up again with a similar result, with Nate nearly being shoved back into the corner. Colton shakes his head while Paxton motions for Nate to give it another go, and he obliges. As the two make to lock up, Nate switches to the side and arm drags Paxton to the mat. Paxton rolls to his feet while Nate offers his own smirk in response.
Nick Stuart: Some mind games between both competitors.
Richard Parker: Yeah, good strategy Nate. Make Paxton Ray angry.
That’s all it takes for The Trigger to hit. Ray flies at Colton and before Nate can get out of the way, he takes an elbow to the side of the head for his troubles. Nixon warns Ray, but it’s fast and furious in the ring as the powder keg explodes.
Ray slaps Colton’s right ear, then headbutts him into the ropes. He sends Nate across the ring and misses with a lariat. Colton rebounds and while Paxton turns around, Ray takes a dropkick to the chest. He wheels backwards into the ropes and rebounds as Colton rises and bends for a back body drop. Ray catches Colton and wraps him up for a powerbomb. Colton blocks it once. He blocks it again. Then he pulls Paxton’s legs out from under him and turns him over for a Boston crab. Ray roars and presses his body up and shoves hard with his legs, sending Colton away from him. The two men bounce back to their positions and stare back at one another in the center of the ring.
The crowd is loving it.
Nate Colton brazenly stomps up to Paxton and shoves his body up against him, nose to nose, and he starts to lay into Paxton verbally. He shoves Paxton hard and Paxton throws a haymaker, but Colton ducks. He reaches up and gives Ray a jawbreaker. A snap suplex later sends Paxton down to the mat. He slaps on a rear chinlock in the middle of the ring. Elvis checks the neck and arm and calls it legal.
Richard Parker: You’re not going to beat Paxton Ray with a chinlock.
Nick Stuart: It’s called strategy.
Nate wrenches on the chinlock for a few moments, trash talking in Paxton’s ear, but it’s enough to set Paxton ablaze. He powers up to his feet slowly, clenches his hands together, and elbows Nate in the stomach once, twice, and then a third time. Nate breaks the hold and grabs his stomach and Paxton plants him with a DDT. He measures Colton and drops one, then a second, and then a third elbow in rapid succession.
Ray goes for the cover. Nixon is already in position.
Kickout by Nate Colton!
Ray drags Colton up by the hair and sends him into the corner. He follows after him and nails him with a heavy lariat. He then sends Colton across the ring into the opposite corner, follows, and goes for a huge big boot.
Nick Stuart: Colton ducks out of the way at the last minute!
Indeed, Colton rebounds out of the corner and rolls to the side while Ray hamstrings his leg over the top rope. He roars with frustration while Colton wraps him up and drags him out of the corner via a schoolboy. There’s extra force behind it, as Paxton is stretched so high and he hits with a loud thud.
Nixon slides into position.
Kickout by Paxton Ray!
Both competitors shoot to their feet, but Colton takes a rake to the eyes.
Richard Parker: All that training, and you can’t train your eyes to be any stronger.
Nick Stuart: I… yes.
Colton seems incensed, eschewing his more measured approach in the past, and rushes at Ray and takes a boot to the gut.
Nick Stuart: Nate Colton has to slow it down some, I think.
Richard Parker: When you get in the ring, sometimes the emotions take over.
Nick Stuart: Yeah, it’s bad when Paxton Ray seems to be the calmer one of the two.
Ray twists quickly into a neckbreaker and drops Colton. Nate rolls around and grabs the back of his head, while Ray measures him and lowers the boom with a fist drop directly across Colton’s forehead.
The crowd begins to boo Ray, and a smattering of clapping in unison begins to ring out through the assembled masses as they rally around Nate Colton. Ray waves off the noise and drags Colton up, scoops him up high, and slams him to the mat.
Ray makes a lateral press and doesn’t hook the leg.
Colton with the shoulder up. Ray curses to himself and drags Colton up as a bruise begins to form on Nate’s forehead from the fistdrop. Colton slaps away Paxton’s arms and hits him with a hard right. Paxton blinks and hits Colton with a right of his own. Back and forth they go as the crowd’s cheering reaches a fever pitch as both competitors slug it out.
Nick Stuart: Listen to this crowd!
Richard Parker: Yeah but you don’t slug it out with Paxton Ray!
Nick Stuart: Maybe you do. Look!
Somehow, Nate Colton’s fists have a bit more mustard behind them, and before long he’s throwing two to Ray’s one. Ray’s eyes begin to go glassy as his head snaps back, but just as Colton firmly gains the upper hand, Ray hits him with a knee in the breadbasket and all the momentum dies. Ray follows up with a kneelift and sends Colton back down to the mat. Paxton shakes his head free of cobwebs, rebounds off the ropes and drops a leg across Colton. Another pin by Ray!
Kickout again by Colton!
Ray grows frustrated by Colton’s resilience. He rises and puts the boots to Colton several times, steps on his forehead and twists his boot, and then points at Nixon and slaps his hands three times and goes for the pin.
Kickout by Colton!
Ray rises and complains to Elvis Nixon, who points at his uniform and points back up at Ray and slaps his hands three times. This gives Nate some time to gather his bearings and roll to his stomach, press up to his knee, and face Paxton. The Next Diamond blinks and shakes some sweat from his brow as he seems to measure and control his breathing.
Richard Parker: Paxton!
Nate whistles through his teeth loudly and as Paxton turns, he takes a boot to the midsection. Colton slaps on a side headlock and wrenches it on. He raises his arm in the air to pump up the crowd while Paxton slaps the back of Nate’s back. He shoves Nate forward, but Nate doesn’t let go and drags The Bayou Butcher with him. Paxton roars and tries to push again, to no avail.
Nixon checks the hold and signals it’s legal. Paxton reaches back to tug on Nate’s hair, only to stop when Nixon warns him. Colton decides to help break the hold by rushing forward and drops Ray into a thunderous bulldog. Paxton grabs his head and rolls to his back, kicking his feet.
Nick Stuart: Back and forth this entire time. Like I said, they’re so evenly matched!
Nate rises and rebounds off the robes and drops a quick, crisp elbow to Paxton’s chest. Paxton rolls over, and the pain helps him surge to his feet. Both men are moving more slowly now, but Paxton appears more aggressive now. He rushes forward with a lariat. Nate ducks, and Paxton rushes to the ropes and swings his legs between the two and second rope, bounces back, and leaps at Nate for a shoulder tackle. He connects and falls on top of Nate and starts swinging hell for leather on The Next Diamond.
Nate shoves Paxton over and emerges on top and mirrors the punches. The match begins to devolve into an all out brawl. Nixon starts to count at Nate to stop the punching, getting up to four. When Nate does stop, Paxton leans up and slams his forearm into Colton’s throat. Nate coughs and grabs his throat and staggers off of Paxton and heaves. Paxton sneers as he rises, only for Nixon to admonish him again about the blow and warn him.
Richard Parker: You know they call that dry gulching someone?
Nick Stuart: What?
Richard Parker: Hitting someone in the throat with your forearm.
Nick Stuart: No, Richard, I didn’t know that.
Paxton shrugs off Nixon, a wicked glint in his eyes as he sees Nate rolling on the mat coughing violently. He boots Nate in the side once, and then again. Seeing red, he bounces off the ropes and rushes towards Nate, poised to kick him with all his might in the side of the head with a crushing blow. But surprisingly, he stops as his face becomes awash with reality. He hesitates, for a moment, before he yanks Nate up and then drops him with a side Russian leg sweep.
Nick Stuart: Hesitation by Paxton Ray?
Richard Parker: Maybe? I never thought I’d see that. However, I -knew- there’d be a side Russian leg sweep in this match. I just knew it.
Nick Stuart: What do you mean? How would you know?
Richard Parker: Just a hunch, Nick. Just a hunch.
Still, Paxton Ray is playing to win. He pulls Nate up and sends him back into the corner. He rushes at him and takes a glancing back elbow from Colton. Nate is clearly still smarting from the shot to the throat. He hits Paxton with a European uppercut, which staggers Paxton into the middle of the ring. Nate then grabs Paxton’s wrist and pulls him in and lands a short arm clothesline. Paxton drops to a knee while Nate still holds his wrist. He lifts Paxton up again and pulls him in for another clothesline, but Paxton scouts it. He ducks under the arm and emerges behind Nate and sees his opening.
He loads his arm and spins for his discus elbow aiming straight for the turning Colton. At the last moment, Nate ducks, pops up, and as Ray’s back is to him after the miss, he locks on a Cobra Clutch. Paxton kicks his legs, but it’s too late. Nate pulls back…
Nick Stuart: Nate reversed the discus elbow into the…
Richard Parker: …Colton Clutch Suplex!!
Nate brings Paxton up and over and slams him down on the mat. He floats over immediately and hooks the leg.
DING DING DING
Paxton kicks out not half a second too late as Elvis Nixon calls for the bell. Paxton slams his hands on the mat and curses to himself while Nate slides out of the ring and raises his arms.
Nick Stuart: This could have been anyone’s match, but Nate Colton dug down deep and won!
Richard Parker: Ray should have kicked Colton’s head off! Still, the Bayou Butcher isn’t done hunting yet! You can bet on that!
We then cut to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: STILL TO COME
MAGIC THE GATHERING
The show returns from a commercial break and picks back up ringside.
Nick Stuart: Some great action thus far tonight, but we still got four big ones on the docket. The semifinals of the Almasy Invitational are still to come!!
Richard Parker: I sure do hope, no, I don’t want to jinx it.
As soon as Richard is done speaking the lights instantly go dark like there’s been some sort of malfunction. Then, the guitar hits. And the chanting begins. And instead of THUN-DER…
That’s right. The acclaimed and remixed version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, aptly named, Banditstruck hits like a Bobby Dean fart inside of a trash can.
The lights pop back to life, and out from the back, all tracksuited up, come Cancer, Coral, and Bobby. It’s unknown if Lady Troy canceled the Bandits pyro due to their tardiness, or if Jiles is hogging them for his MAIN EVENT round three dust up against Jared Sykes.
The three take their time walking down to the ring. DUH. Jiles engages with a few fans wearing King Blueberry merchandise. He tells them to burn their money next time, because that merchandise, similar to what their parents think about them, is worthless.
Richard Parker: Glad to see Jiles has recovered from the Dean’s earlier hot box.
Nick Stuart: Really?
Richard Parker: No.
Once they reach the ring, King Crumb and The Crownless King slide under the bottom rope, while King Lint of the Bellybuttons takes the long way by utilizing the stairs. Of note, Jiles goes out of his way to lean over the top rope and share a thought or twelve with Richard Parker. Also of note, Bobby, not the Maestro, is the one holding the microphone to start the proceedings.
Bobby Dean: Hello everyone! My name is Robert Dean, and I am Beautiful. Now, if you would be so kind please pass all of your snacks to the front so that I can collect them. Your candies, popcorn, chips, edible panties, whatever. We had to rush down here so I haven’t had time to hit up catering yet. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding. I am a growing boy.
The Honaleean struts about the ring.
Bobby Dean: Now, before I pass this off and go collect my treasures, I wanted to say a few things. Mostly, one, I don’t see nearly enough of you doing what I asked, and two, well I wanted to say just HOW proud I am of my two brethren of the shell. “The Eggsecutioner” Cancer Jiles, and “Hard Boiled” Coral Avalon.
Bobby Dean: Boys, I cannot put into words just how proud of you I am, but I’m going to try anyway. Seriously, who would have imagined ole Salty Shoes himself refusing to roll over! And my new best friend Coral, proving you CAN win and be a Bandit at the same time!
He is the only one.
Bobby Dean: Keep up the good work boys, your coat tails are getting easier and easier to ride! You give little Bandits everywhere, even those still marinating in the oven, hope against the tyrannical. Now, one of you go on and win the whole goddamn thing for us, while I cheer you on like the wonderful athletic supporter I am!
Two guys, one Bobby.
Jiles and Avalon share a hearty thumbs up.
Bobby Dean: Also, should both of you face off in the final, we’ll flip a coin to see who I walk down the aisle with. Lord knows I’m not making that trip twice! Not with that COOLOSSAL runway. Shit, it’d be Night Two by the second time I made it down there!
Everyone laughs. Everyone except the person who has COOLYMPIAN reserve. He just figured something out.
Bobby Dean: I’d love to keep this going, but that guy is waving at me with like six half eaten hotdogs. GOOD LUCK LATER TONIGHT YOU TWO!
Bob tosses the microphone to Coral, who just so happens to be the closest to him. Coral bobbles it slightly as he hadn’t been expecting the toss, but recovers admirably.
Coral Avalon: Thank you, Bobby, for all of your many contributions. And good luck right back at ya with those hotdogs!
Avalon looks towards Bobby, who is indeed coming to collect.
God help that PRIMEate.
Coral Avalon: Anyway, tonight’s pretty simple for me. I plan on coming back out here in, oh… a half hour or so from now, slapping the makeup off the Model Citizen, and calling it a night on my way to the semi-finals.
The reaction for Coral is decidedly more mixed than usual for him as he continues talking.
Coral Avalon: Sure, Chandler is a former Universal champion, a Hall of Famer, very extremely handsome, all those things. Sure he’s even pinned my shoulders to the mat before. Sure, this is my first Almasy. But, he hasn’t faced me at my peak yet. He has no idea what’s waiting for him. He doesn’t know the Hard Boiled egg I am now.
His eyebrows raise as though something occurs to him, and he turns to Jiles.
Coral Avalon: Hey, Jiles, do they still do photoshoots for models wearing casts? Asking for a friend.
The Maestro coolly nods as if he knows a guy.
Coral Avalon: …Cool.
Coral turns back to the audience, and everyone watching at home. However, before he can readdress them, his opponent later on tonight, Chandler Tsonda, abruptly makes his presence known. He doesn’t rush the ring like a lunatic, rather he just calls out from the top of the entrance ramp, though he’s wearing his ring gear.
Chandler Tsonda: No the fuck we’re not.
Before Coral can retort, Tsonda makes his way down to the ring. Being a man of the people, he takes solace on Robert who is still munching away at ringside by handing him a bag of chips he brought from the back.
That’s one way not to get curb stomped by a pack of mongrels before your match.
Chandler Tsonda: No the fuck we’re not, Avalon. We’re not doing sad sack underdog Coral. Not here. Not in Nashville, Tennessee.
The obligatory cheap pop subsides, but the Model Citizen’s temper seems not to have abated.
Chandler Tsonda: I have, in my weaker moments, actually kind of liked you. But—and I hate to repeat myself here, but it’s an eGG Bandits promo, so recycled shit that’s already been said is the expectation—what we’re not gonna do is waste any time setting up a plucky underdog story. Because you? (gestures severely with a finger at Coral) You’re fresh out of pluck.
No one has ever uttered that phrase before in the long history of the world. It doesn’t deter the Numbers Don’t Lie champion.
Chandler Tsonda: So it’s probably my mistake to feel any type of way about your little revisionist autobiography audiobook you’re reading out here. But my temper and my ego fought a handicap match against my self-control, and so here we are.
Tsonda leans back and takes a long look at his opponent.
Chandler Tsonda: That’s one reason I came out: my questionable ability to check my worst impulses. But the other reason is that whatever shell of the stand-up guy you used to be, deserves to know that I, we, everybody—we know this isn’t peak. This is the gutter, dude. This is “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And we see through it, and I don’t want you to waste any more breath on it, especially when you’re gonna need that breath when you’re gasping for air, surprised at the three count that just happened while your shoulders were pinned. Again.
The Model Citizen does the world’s most obvious “1, 2, 3” with his fingers. Consider it closed captioning for those watching along at home.
Chandler Tsonda: And don’t worry. I figured out a way to even the numbers tonight. So if you and these two shitheels were planning on going through me any way other than “outduel the GOAT in a straight-up fight,” I’ll make sure that if you are gonna get this hypothetical, magical thinking ass win that you claim is coming tonight, you’ll do it the hard way, not the hard-boiled way. Shit, maybe you’ll remember how to stand on your own two feet somewhere in there.
Coral holds up a hand.
Jiles laughs inside the ring. From his mannerisms you can tell he finds Chandler quite amusing. Granted, for all the wrong reasons, but still, quite amusing nonetheless.
Coral Avalon: Okay, Chandler, I’m gonna stop you there. Somebody give him a brown paper bag so he can properly hyperventilate while I’m talking.
The Seattle native gestures to his cool cohort, and he starts to gesture at Bobby next, but isn’t quite sure where he went. How do you miss Bobby? He’s Bobby! Undeterred, he continues.
Coral Avalon: First of all, I don’t need these guys to beat you. I wouldn’t ask them to help me anyway. God, it’s like you’re off in your own little world, where anyone who makes even a single questionable friend must be the villain vanquished by the handsome hero. The ridiculously handsome hero. With interns. Oh, speaking of, while I’ve got you here…
Coral digs into the pocket of his tracksuit, and pulls out his cell phone. He thumbs at it for a bit.
Coral Avalon: Do you know what I really like in a friend, Chandler? Certainly not a guy who couldn’t be bothered to send me a single message after UltraViolence, who definitely still felt bothered to have one of his interns send me endless spam messages the day he lucked into beating me just to rub it in.
Avalon pauses, and reads off one of them.
Coral Avalon: “Please enjoy Chandler Tsonda on the cover of Wrestling’s Top Hots!” Solid rag, 8 out of 10. Gotta be honest, I don’t think the photographer got your good side. Not enough self-righteousness.
The Crownless King smiles, and puts the phone back in his pocket. Jiles shakes his head in disappointment. Tsonda postures like yeah I said it.
Coral Avalon: But honestly, rather than worry about who’s going to be on the outside and who’s on the wrong side of the tracks or whatever you’re thinking… Why don’t we just settle this in the ring?
Tsonda takes a step forward.
Chandler Tsonda: I only came out here to do two things: hear the sweet melody of my own voice, and slap the taste out of an eGG Bandit. And (theatrically puts a hand to his throat) I’m starting to feel a bit hoarse. You sure you don’t want to ask your buddy if that’s a good idea or not? I know you need his permission.
The Man with the largest forehead in town grits his teeth. Though, before haymakers and bedlam can ensue, the man with the COOLEST sunglasses reaches out and motions for the microphone. Tsonda looks on unimpressed as Coral hands it over.
Cancer Jiles: I don’t think you want to do–
Before The Maestro can finish his sentence, his opponent in the ROUND THREE MAIN EVENT MEGA MATCH emerges from the back to a huge ovation. Like, four Avalon Foreheads BIG. It’s mostly all of the women in the crowd so that might be why it sounded so loudly.
He’s not supposed to be out here for a while yet, but when have things like schedules and regulations stopped Jared from doing something dumb? Ask the facilities crew at the MGM Grand about that. It’s been almost two years, and they’re still finding feather boas where feather boas should not be. Besides, walking into a hostile environment where he’s vastly outnumbered is like an addiction for this tiny idiot man. He can’t get enough of it.
Cancer Jiles: Well lookie here, two of the prettiest boys around and neither of them go by beautiful.
On his torso, Jared wears a screaming pink tee shirt with the word “JARRY” across the chest in block letters, accented by enough exclamation points that they run under his left arm and onto his back. It’s the kind of look that would send graphic designers into frothing frenzies talking about kerning, and tracking, and “no, goddammit, letters don’t work that way!”
On his face, Jared wears the expression of a man who lets women talk him into things.
Oh well, at least he brought his own microphone.
Jared Sykes: I know I’m late to the… whatever this is… but there was a lost child wandering the loading docks.
He climbs onto the ring apron and casually leans against the turnbuckles.
Jared Sykes: Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. It sounded like you had something absolutely captivating you were about to say, so hey…
He extends a hand with the palm facing up, the universal gesture for, “please continue, my brother in Christ.”
Cancer Jiles: It’s hard to be late to something you weren’t invited to, but we’re all here now so might as well make the most of it. Please though, join us, Jared. We’re not going to bite. Well, not us anyway. Maybe Ts-bag. Or are you waiting for Justine to come down and pull up the second ring rope for you? If I’m being honest I don’t think any of us would mind.
Coral uncomfortably fidgets. He does have a wife, and she’s always watching.
Jared sucks in a breath through his teeth, nods slowly, and very visibly mouths the word, “Okay” with emphasis on that first syllable. With that, he steps in between the ropes and joins the ever-expanding group inside the ring. Yeah, definitely one of those days.
For just a moment, he casts a hard sidelong glance in the direction of the person in PRIME he’s known the longest; the newest Bandit, Coral Avalon.
This is what you crawled into bed with? Who you agreed to ally yourself with?
Jared Sykes: Well, hey… We’re off to a great start. Thanks for getting right to it, and not wasting any time in proving me right for deciding to not pay any attention to the shit you’ve done for the last two years. Feel like I haven’t missed much.
The always tactful Maestro starts to walk about the ring, clearly buying himself time while searching for a proper retort. He winks at Coral, not that anyone could see it, and then “accidentally” steps on Chandler’s wrestling boot while managing to avoid an incident. When he reaches Sykes, he stops, gets in real close, and whispers something in his ear.
Jared looks up to the rafters, and slightly shakes his head in disbelief. All he can manage to muster is a short smile, and half of a laugh. Jiles takes a step back, and picks up with his in ring walkabout.
Cancer Jiles: I must say that’s a lot of MAIN EVENTS you’ve missed out on then, isn’t it Jared? Shit, do I need to explain the premise of the GOLDEN TICKET to you? Are you even aware that PRIME has a UNIVERSAL Championship? You can nod yes or no if it’s easier.
There will be no nodding.
Ship burning, yes.
Jared Sykes: Okay, you know what? Maybe I misspoke a minute ago… See, just because I try very, very hard to pretend you don’t exist doesn’t mean I’m completely oblivious to what goes on here. You know, not long before I came out here tonight someone told me that I apparently don’t give a fuck. Not about gold, not about any of it. But you and I don’t cross paths very often, and when we do there’s always something on the line. The Culture Shock battle royal. The Turmoil match this summer. And now later tonight. I know what’s at stake.
His gaze narrows. His tone darkens.
Jared Sykes: And I want it.
The Maestro of the MAIN EVENT comes to a halt…… annnnnd there goes the track jacket. Bobby, as if he knew what spot to already be in, easily catches it on the outside.
The T-shades stay.
Cancer Jiles: You sure you’re not just misspeaking again, Jared? Maybe this… wanting of yours is manifesting itself because you’re still riding high post facelift? Ya know, a little too much of the gas. After all, those are some pretty big words for such a pretty little boy.
Jared Sykes: What about anything I just said is unclear to you?
Cancer Jiles: The only thing unclear to me is why it sounded like you thought accomplishing such things were possible. When, in fact, they are not.
Jared Sykes: Naahh, it ain’t playing out that way.
Jared takes a step forward. For the second time tonight, he stands ready to escalate the situation. If he’s not careful he could leave the arena tonight as PRIME’s version of Violet Beauregard, the girl who chased a Golden Ticket and was rolled as a giant blueberry out of Wonka’s factory. If the irony of that thought registers, Jared doesn’t show it. Instead, there’s a small part of his brain that’s wondering – hoping – that Hayes Hanlon is watching this from somewhere in the building.
Jared Sykes: You have something that I want, and I’m going to do everything in my power to rip it out of your goddamn hands.
The grin covering Jiles’ face spreads from ear to ear. It’s devious, and reeks of deception. To further escalate the surging tensions a unicorn appears when King Crumb removes his T-shades. Okay, there is no unicorn, but there could be. That’s how momentous of an occasion it is when Jiles takes off his sunglasses.
Then, to really salt things over, he extends his hand, as if it would even know how to shake another.
Cancer Jiles: Care to find out early if you’re strong enough to do so?
Jiles’ outstretched hand is just sitting there, like a rattlesnake waiting to be stepped on in the middle of the desert.
There is a brief moment of hesitation. Everything about this screams trap. If he were calmer, if he were in a better frame of mind, Jared would know this. Realize it for what it is. But that’s not the voice that’s in control right now. No, instead it’s one screaming that he has to take it, because that’s what the better man would do. Besides, he has a point to prove. Hanlon demanded fire, demanded action, and what better way to shut the kid up.
And yet, that’s not the only thought surging through his subconscious.
He extends his arm.
Jared Sykes: About that…
And swats Jiles’ hand away.
Jared Sykes: Next time you offer your hand, make sure there’s a Ticket for me to take.
He lets the microphone fall from his free hand, where it lands on the mat with an audible THUNK. Without another word, Jared steps through the ropes and hops down to the arena floor. But this isn’t his moment, and there’s no way he’s simply going to be allowed to get the last word in.
Not with this crowd.
Cancer Jiles: …pretty boy coward.
On another night The Heart of PRIME might have let this slide, but as it has already been determined this is one of Those nights, and so Jared turns back towards the ring. He doesn’t make it very far, as a wall of security has already filed in along the entryway to prevent things from escalating any further.
Coral and Chandler go nose to nose. Sykes is trying to get back in the ring. Jiles is pulling a Justine and yanking up on the second ring rope to help him to do so. And Bobby has cleared out the entire front row of refreshments.
CUT TO SOMEWHERE ELSE.
Fresh off that Bandit nonsense (and it most certainly was nonsense – bet it was long-winded, too), the scene cuts to the backstage where the LOVE CONVOY have gathered. Vickie Hall in her PRETTY PINK© little number is flanked to her right by the now retired Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy and upcoming main event star in elseworlds, Darin Zion. To her left is Amazing Life Partner, Jonathan-Christopher Hall in his brand new PRETTY PINK© robe with “I [HEART] VICKE” written everywhere. Also to her left, right and all around them are four different ESPN cameramen filming for the upcoming 30For30 documentary.
Vickie realizes the PRIME camera is now rolling, too, so she’s going to jump right into it… by actually jumping forward and getting a little too close to the lens.
Vickie Hall: Kerry Kuroyama, you buffoon! That’s what you are! This ain’t no DEFIANCE and you don’t got your bros and sis around to help ya. You have another buffoon, a real life LOSER lackey in Scott Hunter helping you but he’s meaninglesssssss! Ha ha ha!
Vickie shakes his head and hangs it in shame.
Vickie Hall: I’m not going to Charissa Thompson anything here. Straight and honest, to the point. Kerry, you are a narcissist. If you look closely, whenever you open your mouth you say the word “I”. “I”, “I”, “I”, “I”, “I”. Always about you, always about Vae Victis. Well I don’t like that, Kerry. I feel anxious when you talk about yourself. I come from a loving environment where I give love and I receive love. I come from a world where I need people to recognize my needs and make me feel comfortable. Where it is about me because I know my worth!
Vickie spins halfway around and lands her eyes upon Jonathan-Christopher. Then she spins the full 360 to find the front of the camera again with an “oh, hello there, didn’t see you there, teehee” expression.
Vickie Hall: And recently Jonathan-Christopher has been exceptional. The journey is happening, we’re actually doing it! I am being recognized as the most divine and wonderful manager in PRIME! Probably in the world!! AAAHHHHH gosh golly, oh jeez!
Vickie Hall: Tonight we make the ultimate statement in the next step on our journey. Cancer Jiles or Jared Sykes, we do not care who’s in round four! Get this useless punk-ass Kuroyama tough-guy out of my face! Tattoos are masks for insecurities and you are in hiding, Kerry. Tonight we bring you out into the open. We expose you for the useless tit and side-hustle you are!
From behind Vickie, one of the ESPN crew slightly nudges Jonathan-Christopher forward, as if encouraging him to speak. Vickie hears a minor commotion behind her, which is basically Jonathan-Christopher attempting to resist the nudge and politely let the individual know Vickie needs her space to speak openly and uninterrupted. However, after seeing Jonathan-Christopher interacting with the ESPN employee, Vickie places her hands on her hips and raises her eyebrows.
Vickie Hall: My Amazing Life Partner…
She cocks her head to the side.
Vickie Hall: Would you care to add anything?
Jonathan-Christopher’s cheeks blush but again he’s nudged forward by the cameraman. JCH mumbles the statement “stop it” under his breath towards the cameraman but seeing Vickie stand there, tapping her foot, as if he’s NOW expected to say something…
Well, how could he ever let the Woman of Wonder down?
Jonathan-Christopher takes a couple steps forward and aligns himself with his spouse.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: Can you hear me, Kerry? It’s me, Jonathan-Christopher.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: Kerry, I have nothing but respect for you. I take it a guy like you would hate me, but I’m going to show you what I can accomplish.
Jonathan-Christopher seemingly gains a little bit more confidence with each and every word.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: It’s going to be tough but Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba was tough. Rich Patterson was no push over. Cancer Jiles goes without saying. Hayes Hanlon is a former World Champion. Anna Daniels knew her shit.
Jonathan-Christopher cracks his knuckles.
Jonathan-Christo pher Hall: Kerry Kuroyama, you are going to lose and I will open your eyes!
JC points to the camera. His delivery and confidence certainly needs work but it sure is impressing Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy and the other camera crew. Meanwhile, Darin Zion is sullen and Vickie Hall remains expressionless, merely studying Jonathan-Christopher’s face throughout his speech, as if she’s evaluating it.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: A few minutes from now it’s put up or shut up.
The Forever Man is nodding with a lot more passion than before.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: And I’m going to try-
Vickie shakes her head no. She lets out an easy, passive aggressive sigh and delightful giggle thereafter, while reaching up and wrapping her right arm around JC.
Vickie Hall: Oh Jonathan-Christopher, my dear, there is no try. We need to see that progress. Let’s go get it!
Jonathan-Christopher agrees by nodding his head up and down. The group is about to leave the scene when a kerfuffle from inside gorilla is now working its way… outside.
The Egg Bandits.
Cancer Jiles leads the way and clearly can’t help but find Vickie Hall, Jonathan-Christopher and most specifically Darin Zion standing behind the couple.
Jiles stops, scoffs, sucks back whatever is in his mouth and then spits it directly in front of the group, narrowly missing Vickie Hall’s shoes.
Cancer Jiles: Crumbs.
The Bandits exit stage right. Coral lingers for a moment, and takes an apologetic tone.
Coral Avalon: Sorry about him, guys, he was raised by egg wolves.
Then he turns to follow the rest of his team.
Vickie Hall doesn’t know what to make of it.
Suddenly, she does.
PRETTY PINK© smacks her man on the chest.
Vickie Hall: Where were you “Mr. Tough Guy”? I need my man to stand up for me!
The frustration is short-lived, however, as the group make their way towards gorilla. As the LOVE CONVOY walks down the hall and the PRIME camera stays stationary, a conversation between the ever-loving-couple is still picked up by the feed.
Jonathan-Christopher Hall: I’m sorry, baby. I- I definitely should have said something.
Vickie Hall: Yes Jonathan-Christopher, you should have. It’s okay, you can make it up to me inside the ring with a solid victory.
Revival goes elsewhere.
BRO, WHY ARE YOU WEARING PINK WHEN IT’S NOT EVEN VVEDNESDAY, YOU BIMCH?!
The broadcast moves on from the absurd agony that was that last “segment” into something more classy and dignified. Something like a nice, basic backstage interview. The kind where a professional employee picks the brain of a talent right before he steps into the ring, to build interest and intrigue in the battle to come.
In this instance, the camera follows junior interviewer Simon Tillier making his way through the hallways backstage on his way to the Argyle position. Ahead of him, he notices a terse exchange of words between two men.
Scott Hunter: …and besides, there is a high possibility of shenanigans. You don’t want shenanigans, do you??
Kerry Kuroyama: I acknowledge your concerns, Scott. But my mind is made up on the matter.
The Vae Victis tandem of Kerry Kuroyama and Scott Hunter are standing there, facing one another. Kerry is dressed up for action and Scott is dressed down to party.
Scott Hunter: Just take into consideration this. I’m not saying I should find your opponent, place him in a burlap bag and beat him with sugar cane reeds. I only do that on special occasions, like… Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But if SHE tries anything, I could be right there to stop her!
Kerry Kuroyama: Your heart is in the right place, Scott. I admire the dedication. Really. But the answer is still no.
Simon clears his throat on his approach to gain their attention.
Simon Tillier: Sorry if I’m interrupting, but what seems to be the issue, gentlemen?
Scott Hunter: Hello, I’m Scott Hunter.
Simon Tillier: (sighing) I know who you are, Scott.
Scott Hunter: Oh, right. Okay good, Simon, you are a person who seems to be around us a lot who I have always treated with the utmost respect and kindness. Would you please tell my friend here that Vickie Hall is a crazy goblin jezebel troll faced psycho woman who readily condones nutshots? I have offered my services as his wingman, but he is turning down my offer.
Kerry Kuroyama: I’ll agree that Miss Pancake Ass is not to be taken lightly. But Scott, you don’t negate a distraction with another distraction. Two weeks ago, that Bolamba bastard came out with an entire “army”, yet still fell victim to their bullshit.
Hunter huffs. It’s clear that he’s still in disagreement, but he’s also realizing it’s an unwinnable situation for him. The interviewer does his best to act as mediator.
Simon Tillier: You have admit though, Kerry, your associate Mr. Hunter raises an interesting point of concern, given Vickie Hall’s notorious habit of interfering on the behalf of her “Amazing Life Partner”…
The Emerald Apex nods, conceding to Simon’s point.
Kerry Kuroyama: Believe me, I’m well aware of the risks, Simon. I’m also aware that all of the hard work and effort I’ve put into making it this far can easily be undone by a single, solitary action. All it takes is the ref looking away for one or two seconds. Be as it may, tonight, a precedent needs to be set on how we in Vae Victis operate here in PRIME…
He finds Scott’s eyes, and does his best to get the point across.
Kerry Kuroyama: We fight our own battles. That’s what separates us from the other drek in this company, like the validation-seeking circle jerk that is the Love Convoy. That’s what separates a talent like me from that discount Ryan Gosling, Johnny-Topher. We don’t bring back-up with us to the ring because, quite frankly, we don’t need it. It would be an insult to our collective talent to suggest that any one of us can be bested by the bottom-feeders who rely on shortcuts to get ahead. Bottom-feeders, like the Halls. You feel me, Scott?
The gears grind beneath Hunter’s big, bold, and beautiful mullet of auburn hair. Then, he smiles.
Scott Hunter: You are so wise. You’re like those guys who write the prophecies that end up in fortune cookies. And I didn’t even have to buy dinner first. I got one for free!
Simon Tillier: (ignoring Scott) Still, should either one of the Halls succeed in–
Seattle’s BEAST redirects his burning gaze back upon the interviewer and swiftly interrupts him before he can entertain any more notions of either one of those lowlifes “succeeding” in anything.
Kerry Kuroyama: Let me ask you, Simon… if the Halls advance to the semis tonight, will anyone legitimately believe that they belong there? Anyone at all, outside of themselves?
Simon mulls over the question for a moment before Kerry answers for him with a sharp shake of the head.
Kerry Kuroyama: No. Because their shit is tired and overplayed, as much as a gif of Robert Redford smiling and nodding in approval. Which is why it’s common knowledge that Vickie doesn’t have the confidence that her boy can do the job himself.
The storm in his eyes finds the camera once again.
Kerry Kuroyama: On the other hand, consider me… the Paragon of Professional Wrestling Excellence. If I advance into the final four, joining a collection of champions both past and present, then there will be no disputing where I truly stand in this company. Because for all the shade certain people want to throw at me about being the benefactor of “favoritism” from the front office, I can still say I made it here on my own merits. And wherever I go from here will be no different.
Kerry’s face begins to darken, his sneer widening as his rage escalates.
Kerry Kuroyama: I know that pussy-whipped disgrace to the color pink has me written off as “boring”, along with a litany of other assholes out there with the attention span of eight-year-olds. But when it comes to this sport, I don’t need to entertain anyone to drop a codependent motherfucker on his head until he stops getting up.
Kuroyama draws in a deep breath. You can practically hear the thunder rumbling from within when he lets it out.
Kerry Kuroyama: All I need to be… is LEGIT.
Before leaving the scene, he clasps Scott on the shoulder and gives his understudy a nod to acknowledge his loyalty. Then he steps through the curtain. Alone.
Simon Tillier: Well, Kerry, we’ll leave you to it then. As for you, Scott… any parting words?
Scott Hunter: (thinking) Hmmm… Oh, yes… Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.
Simon stares at him for a moment, then turns back to the camera.
Simon Tillier: Well… um… I suppose with that, let’s take things back to Nick and Richard at ringside and see how this unfolds!
JONATHAN-CHRISTOPHER HALL vs. KERRY KUROYAMA
We cut to ringside.
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: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is scheduled for one fall! Introducing first, 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 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.
Nick Stuart: Kerry Kuroyama was pretty impressive in his victory over Rocky DeLeon at ReVival 38, but every victory in this tournament just brings on a tougher opponent than the last.
Richard Parker: That’s definitely true this week, Nick! Kuroyama may be the pinnacle of REAL pro wrestling, but he’s about to be in the ring with Vickie Hall’s better half!
Vince Howard: And his opponent… from Folsom, Louisiana… being accompanied by his Amazing Life Partner, Vickie Hall… weighing two-hundred-twenty pounds… Jonathan-Christopher Hall!
The lights dim while a majestic PRETTY PINK© branded fog rolls onto the top of the staging. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith cues on the PA and out walks Vickie Hall in the most adorable little outfit which is, of course, branded by her specific shade of pink.
Nick Stuart: The biggest match to date of Jonathan-Christopher’s career. You heard his comments backstage, he sounds ready. Well, that was before Vickie took over mission control…
Richard Parker: How could you not let this dainty little flower take control?
Nick Stuart: If you’re going to be like this all match, please let me know immediately.
Richard Parker: (playing dumb) Be like what?
Jonathan-Christopher soon appears, sporting brand new glittery PRETTY PINK© board shorts with “I [HEART] VICKIE” across the crotch and backside. However, The Forever Man is not walking out alone. Four sets of an ESPN camera crew follow, catching the couple from every angle. Vickie waits at the top of the stage and extends her arm for Jonathan-Christopher to link into. She doesn’t make eye-contact with him as they start to slowly waltz down the ring, step-by-step, perfectly in rhythm. Meanwhile, inside the squared circle, Kerry Kuroyama looks like he’s ready to murder JCH in cold blood the second Hall makes it through the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Overkill with the cameras much?
Richard Parker: You have to capture love from EVERY angle, Nick. They are filming a DOCUMENTARY.
Nick Stuart: Forget I said anything.
Richard Parker: I will.
As the most wholesome couple ever shown on a PRIME television screen reach the bottom of the rampway, Vickie unlinks her arms with Jonathan-Christopher. Hall hops up onto the apron, he’s about to open the ropes for Vickie but then he sees how serious Kerry looks across the way and starts to wave Vickie off. Needless to say Vickie WANTS to be up there so up there she’s going to be. She snaps her right fingers and wags her left hand as Jonathan-Christopher quickly opens the ropes for her.
Two of the cameramen help Vickie up and onto the apron. The Woman of Wonder seems to say something off-mic to her ALP before slipping through the ropes. It might have been some minor frustration regarding Jonathan-Christopher not being there to help her onto the apron, even though he was holding the ropes wide open.
Vickie struts her stuff. She blows kisses to the crowd and then beckons her man to the center of the ring. She leaps up and wraps her arms around him as PRETTY PINK© sparklers fire off from all four corners. Again, Kerry is staring a hole through the backs of their heads, he couldn’t care less.
Vickie points to the cameramen. She asks them if they “got all that”. The four of them give a thumbs up and then each cameraman goes towards a different side of the ring.
Nick Stuart: We have our own crew out here!
Richard Parker: Nothing wrong with a couple more angles.
Jonathan-Christopher opens the ropes for Vickie and as she exits the ring, JCH QUICKLY drops the ropes directly after Vickie leaves them, hops off the apron and helps her woman back down.
Nick Stuart: I haven’t seen Jonathan-Christopher move that fast, well… ever.
Finally, with Vickie content with her position outside of the ring, Jonathan-Christopher slips inside as Ashley Barlow calls for the bell.
Both men begin to pace around the ring in a circle, sizing each other up for a moment, looking for an opening that can garner them an early advantage over the other. Kerry nods his head a few times, extending his hands toward JCH who in turn does the same as they inch their way closer to each other until they eventually lock up in the center of the ring. Hall gets a bit of leverage and manages to get his arm around Kuroyama’s neck, but the head lock isn’t quite clenched in tight enough and Kuroyama manages to slide out. Still in control of Jonathan-Christopher’s wrist, he maneuvers behind Hall and pulls his arm up into the small of his back for a moment as he presses his heel into the back of JCH’s leg to drop him down to a knee. Then, before Hall realizes his arm is free, Kerry drives his shin into the back of the head of Jonathan-Christopher with a swift kick. Down on the mat, JCH’s attempt to get to his feet is cut short by a stomp on his left shoulder from The Pacific Blitzkrieg that forces him back into a prone position on the mat.
Nick Stuart: Kuroyama with the quick start here, and Vickie doesn’t look very happy right now.
Richard Parker: Would you be happy if someone was stomping on your favorite toy?
Jonathan-Christopher rolls out of the ring as quick as he can, swinging his arm enough to rotate his shoulder as he makes his way around the ring to Vickie’s awaiting embrace.
Richard Parker: That’s a lucky man, Nick.
Nick Stuart: I’m sure there’s quite a few people on the roster that would disagree with that statement.
Richard Parker: And I would fight them all.
Kerry has been patient long enough, sliding out of the ring and making his way toward the Hall’s. He shoves aside one of the cameramen as he passes, causing him to stumble into the edge of the mat while KK continues his mission to get his hands on Jonathan-Christopher. Vickie gets between the two, as JCH slides into the ring. Kerry doesn’t even reach her though, as he launches himself under the bottom rope – sliding across the mat before a few stomps on his back stop him from getting up to his feet on his own accord.
Richard Parker: Impressive ring awareness from Jonathan-Christopher there.
Nick Stuart: It was definitely something.
Hall grabs Kerry by the head and lifts him up, driving a knee into his gut before whipping him into the turnbuckle. Like a shark with a taste of blood, JCH follows him in and drives his shoulder into Kerry’s ribs a few times before delivering a belly to belly out of the corner that sends Kerry sliding three quarters across the mat on his back.
Nick Stuart: Okay, that was unexpected.
Richard Parker: Hater.
Nick Stuart: Jonathan-Christopher Hall has improved quite a bit since his match against Brandon Youngblood at the inaugural Revival, but he’s still got a lot to learn.
Richard Parker: Is Youngblood still in the Almasy tournament?
Nick doesn’t answer, as he watches JCH yank KK to his feet and wrap his arm around his neck in what looks like a set up for a DDT. Before Hall can do anything else, a balled up fist is driven into his side repeatedly as Kuroyama attempts to fight his way out of the hold. Another knee to the gut takes a bit of the fight out of KK, but only for a moment as the fists start swinging once again. This time though, it is coming from both sides as Kerry Kuroyama manages to loosen Jonathan-Christopher’s grip enough to drive him back a few steps, before an open-palm slaps JCH across the chest. Hall screams out as the sudden sting backs him up a little more, just enough for KK to get a bit more momentum for another open-palm slap that causes JCH to clutch at his chest as he starts to dance around the ring. Hopping from one foot to the other with his back to Kuroyama, his eyes are shut tight as he attempts to shake off the pain that has left his chest looking like a toddler’s about to finish finger painting a turkey on it. Despite Vickie yelling at him to turn around, he doesn’t realize where KK is at until it is too late.
Nick Stuart: Russian Legsweep from Kerry Kuroyama, and Jonathan-Christopher Hall is dazed.
Richard Parker: NO! Do something Vickie!
Vickie pulls herself onto the apron as Kerry rolls JCH onto his back. Barlow notices Vickie leaning into the ring between the middle and bottom ropes, just as KK hooks the leg of JCH. He doesn’t notice Ashley cutting Vickie off, only that there is no count being made.
Nick Stuart: Unbelievable!
Richard Parker: I was just thinking, is it just called a legsweep if Ivan is doing it?
Nick Stuart: I know what you’re doing, and it isn’t working.
What did work, is Vickie keeping Ashley Barlow from making the count. Kuroyama did not get up and chase Vickie out of the ring, or berate Barlow for allowing herself to get distracted, instead he wraps his legs around JCH’s right arm before locking his left arm under his armpit and pulls back to apply pressure to Hall’s shoulder. Barlow checks on Jonathan-Christopher as Vickie slaps the mat a few times, trying to will her man back to his feet. Luckily, it’s not needed, as Ashley informs Kuroyama that he needs to break the hold.
Nick Stuart: Lady luck is definitely in Jonathan-Christopher Hall’s corner tonight.
Richard Parker: Her name is Vickie Hall, Nick!
Hall was able to stretch his foot under the rope, but Kerry was still able to inflict even more pain to that left shoulder. Hall rolls out of the ring once more, rolling his shoulders as Vickie rushes to his side to check on him. Kuroyama doesn’t give Jonathan-Christopher a chance to catch his breath this time, knocking him into the ring apron with a forearm shot to the back of his head. Vickie steps back as Kerry storms past her, clubbing JCH with another forearm shot to the back of the head before grabbing two hands full of hair and driving Hall’s face into the hardest part of the ring. Jonathan-Christopher Hall drops to the ground like a sack of Russett’s, and it looks like Kerry is going to follow suit as Vickie’s arm swings up and into his junk just as he turns around.
Kerry doesn’t do much more than flinch, before looking down at her and smiling.
Ever the gentleman, The Pacific Blitzkrieg places his thumb and forefinger at the edge of her chin and helps her to her feet, blowing her a kiss as he raps his knuckles against the cup he was wise enough to wear this evening. He turns his attention back to JCH, still slumped against the ring steps, and yanks him up to his feet before shoving him under the bottom rope to get him back in the ring. Kerry climbs the steps, his attention never wavering from the prone body of JCH laying there on the mat. Vickie tries her best to shake him awake, yelling at him to snap out of it as KK approaches. Each step is menacing as Kuroyama gets closer to JCH, finally being close enough to pick him up and prop him against the turnbuckle. Hall can barely stand on his own, but he is conscious enough to realize he needs to lean against the turnbuckle to keep his feet from giving out beneath him.
Nick Stuart: Jonathan-Christopher Hall looks like he’s done.
Richard Parker: Done playing around, Nick!
Nick Stuart: Oh yeah, look at him go.
And that they do, as desperation kicks in and Jonathan-Christopher uses everything within him to catch Kerry Kuroyama with a headbutt that causes him to stagger back a few steps. Hall’s knees buckle, but he keeps a firm grip on the ropes to keep from falling. Kerry charges in, but is met with a swift kick that catches him square in the gut and doubles him over. JCH sees the opening he needs and leaps at Kuroyama, and in one simple motion gets planted into the mat with an over-the-shoulder back-to-belly piledriver by KK.
Nick Stuart: EMERALD OBLIVION!
Richard wants to scream, but nothing comes out as the two men stay laid out on the mat. Vickie is screaming, but it is inaudible and screeches sound more like a mating call to Rocky De Leon than anything even close to resembling English. Barlow drops down to make the count as Kuroyama drapes his arm across Jonathan-Christopher’s chest.
Richard Parker: NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nick Stuart: NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Both men scream out in unison, but one screams because he doesn’t see what the other does. Which is Ashley Barlow sliding back slightly, as Vickie Hall tries to pull her out of the ring. Her hand went up, but kept her from slamming her face into the mat when she was pulled off balance by Hall. She looks back at Vickie and pulls her foot from Hall’s grip, not noticing the camera JCH slams into the top of Kuroyama’s head. Jonathan-Christopher tosses the camera out of the ring, then struggles to get in position to roll Kerry up as Vickie rushes around the ring. Barlow shifts her position, not noticing JCH grab a fistful of tights as he puts his feet on the bottom rope for added leverage.
Richard Parker: YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nick Stuart: YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Again, the two men yell out in unison, as one man notices something the other one does not. Which is Vickie Hall pulling down on Jonathan-Christopher’s feet, as the cameraman checks on his equipment and Ashley Barlow slaps her hand down on the mat for the third and final time. She sits up and signals for the bell, and Nick realizes he was wrong.
Nick Stuart: OH NO!
Richard Parker: What did I tell you, Nick!
Vickie pulls Jonathan-Christopher out of the ring, being the support he needs right now in more than one way.
We then cut to the backstage area.
I’M RUBBER, YOU’RE GLUE
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Without acceptance of the invitation, Hayes Hanlon opens the door to the room backstage, his black slacks and button-up traded out for his black boots and tights.
Inside the room? The Financier. The Five Star Champ.
Normally you’d expect a grand entrance to a room to set the other party slightly off-kilter, but Farthington remains leaned back on a small chair in his locker room, arms open in greeting, as if he was expecting this moment the whole night.
Cecilworth Farthington: Why hello young Hayes! I think we’ve owed each other a little chat for a while now. Now before you get stomping mad again and start yelling about companies I’ve not wrestled in for two years, or making a mockery of my grief, I just wanted to reset our relationship. Get things off on a better footing, as it were.
It is evident that Farthington is doing nothing to calm the situation, but it doesn’t seem to matter much to the man whose neck is as stable and strong as some string attached to tin cans. Cecilworth yanks out a small notepad from the back of his tights, with a pen attached and throws it at the feet of Hayes.
Cecilworth Farthington: Just so I don’t cause anymore hurt and harm to your precious little soul, would it be too much to ask for you to write down which names can and cannot come from my mouth? I would like to discuss more of your failed idols, but I want to make sure that I cause no further harm.
Cecilworth gestures to the notepad that now sits at the feet of Hanlon.
Cecilworth Farthington: It can be as long as you like. I can’t be hurting one of the boys after all. Go on, pick it up my angsty friend, I promise to honour it.
Hayes, quiet and steadfast through the Financier’s monologue, lowers his eyes to the notepad.
Hayes Hanlon: It’s a free country. Go ahead. Let’s discuss.
He smirks behind his ‘stache, then looks up to Farthington as he kicks the notepad across the floor to the Five Star Champion’s feet.
Hayes Hanlon: Don’t worry. I won’t get upset and hide back in the loading docks.
Farthington looks down at the notepad and has a lil chuckle to himself.
Cecilworth Farthington: You’re so worried about those corrupt pillars of virtue, all of whom have done horrendous things in the name of this sport… you cling to Youngblood and who he has cursed with his shaped based nickname. Maybe, just maybe, throwing this out there, you want to actually learn from a man who is extending a hand. A man who can, and HAS beaten Youngblood with just talent and ability. Maybe you need to kiss your past goodbye… become something more. I don’t know if you’re ready for that yet.
The Event Horizon lifts an eyebrow, and blends it with an incredulous scowl.
Cecilworth Farthington: Tonight, we step in the ring together, I don’t think you know who I am yet. I don’t think you know what I can, and will do. Win or lose, when that bell rings, I expect a changed man.
Hanlon pushes an amused snort, and Farthington looks down, clearly holding himself in place, trying to evade being baited.
Cecilworth Farthington: And yet, you don’t give a shit. Maybe you should start giving a shit.
Hayes Hanlon: I give a lot more than you’ll ever understand, buddy.
Home Run Hayes shifts his jaw, dark eyes locked to the Glueminati’s front man.
Hayes Hanlon: You do have an opportunity, though.
Farthington lifts an eyebrow to match his smirk, and Hayes takes two steps forward.
Hayes Hanlon: You think you’ve got me pegged. Got me allll figured out. Got every little detail about who I was, who I am, and where I should be going. But man, you don’t have a fucking clue.
Farthington’s smirk has turned into a whole chuckle at this point.
Cecilworth Farthington: If we were on a playground, I’d be making a remark about rubber and well… glue… at this point.
Hayes Hanlon: And whatever bounces off me, sticks to you. but I don’t cling to anyone, not even Glue. I’ve figured this shit out on my own for a while now, but like I said; you do have the opportunity tonight to prove me wrong.
Cecilworth Farthington: Hey, pal, buddy, friend… I don’t know if we’ve got some youthful hubris here or a Pluto sized ego… you know, not quite planet sized, close enough. When that bell rings for the second time, you’re going to find out that you were the one with the opportunity. You were permitted to join PRIME’s elite, I’m still not entirely sure why, but I’m still willing to roll with it… tonight though, tonight you make a choice. I want to know your reasons and a wrestling ring is very revealing.
Hayes Hanlon: So do I. And I’m hoping we find out tonight.
The Comeback Kid rights his posture with a long breath into his nostrils, and exhales slow.
Hayes Hanlon: Cecil, I’ve already decided that I’m gonna beat you tonight. But if I don’t? If you can beat me clean? Hell, if you can find the strength to take my neck?
He takes one last step forward, and holds up an open palm. Not extended toward the Five Star Champ, just held to his side.
Hayes Hanlon: ..then maybe, maybe, I’ll reach out to that extended hand of yours.
Cecilworth stands up and dusts himself, looking up… directly… in the eye region to Hayes. Look there’s a height difference okay.
Cecilworth Farthington: Presumptuous to assume my hand will be extended, dear friend.
The Financier takes the opportunity to stride past Hanlon, making way toward the rooms’ exit. Hayes darts his eyes, then turns to address Cecilworth one more time.
Hayes Hanlon: Farthington.
The Five Star Champion pauses, and turns his head over his shoulder.
Hayes Hanlon: What happens when I beat you?
Farthington looks to Hanlon, uncertain the best way to respond. He settles for traditional British passive aggression in the end, walking towards the locker room door and holding it open for Hanlon.
Cecilworth Farthington: Best of luck out there, friend.
A heavy pause, followed by a snort and a sneer from the Event Horizon. Without a word, he takes Farthington up on his hospitality, and exits into the hallway.
We then cut to a pre-tape.
BACK TO BASICS
We cut to a video clip filmed at The New Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. The first thing we see is the Texas Championship Wrestling banner hanging proudly over the wrestling ring.
The training facility is alive with the energy of twenty young Texas Championship Wrestling trainees as they work out, their bodies slamming against the canvas while practicing their moves. Sweat drips from their brows and the scent of determination fills the air.
Amidst the cacophony of grunts and cheers, Adam Ellis stands in the heart of it all, his 6-foot-4 frame decked out in black workout clothes that clings to his lean muscles. His brown hair was slicked back by sweat, and his blue eyes focuses intently on his next move. Adam relaxes against the wall… a momentary oasis from the hard work he’s been putting in.
Adam Ellis: I know I’ve come a long way under Charlie Blackwell’s tutelage. but the recent loss to Eddie Cross at the Almasy Invitational had been a harsh reality check.
The harsh voice of Charlie Blackwell cuts through the air like a whip. Adam may be taking a break but for Blackwell, the work continues.
Charlie Blackwell: Come on, Bobby! Get your goddamn head in the game!
Bobby grits his teeth and launches himself off the ropes, executing a perfect dropkick against his training partner.
Charlie Blackwell: Better.
Charlie claps his hands as if he’s a football coach trying to fire up his team.
Charlie Blackwell: Alright, take five!
Charlie signals for a break.
Adam Ellis: You know, they say it’s back to basics after a setback like I had against Eddie Cross. And they’re right.
He takes a deep breath, his voice steady and unwavering.
Adam Ellis: I went to war with ‘the other place’ and held my own against my former mentor… the mighty John Sektor. The result wasn’t what I wanted, but I fought like hell and I didn’t back down from anyone there.
He pauses for a moment, reflecting on his recent journey.
Adam Ellis: Yeah, maybe Charlie Blackwell was right. I let this whole thing with Sektor get in the way. I was distracted, and I lost sight of what really matters.
Wistfully, Adam watches a couple of newbie wrestlers run the ropes over and over and over.
Adam Ellis: It’s time to get back to work and it’s time to start taking the next step. But let me be clear, I am PRIME through and through, and that is where my focus will be going forward. No more distractions, no more excuses. Eddie Cross won that match, but I’m not out of this fight yet. John Sektor beat me last month at a pay-per-view, I ain’t done yet. My heart pounds with excitement and resolve. I know I’ve got a long road ahead.
Adam’s wife Ginny Van Lear joins him.
Adam Ellis: But with my wife Ginny by my side, my trainer Charlie Blackwell cracking the whip and making me work my ass off every day, and the lessons I’ve learned over the past four years, Adam Ellis is ready to face whatever challenges await.
Adam pauses and finishes the promo with Ginny shaking head in agreement.
Adam Ellis: You haven’t seen the best of me yet.
We then return to the backstage area of the arena.
The scene opens with a voice, familiar, Samoan, and youthful.
Voice: OK, so we put the magnet behind this wall and when he gets close, he gets stuck and boom, you jump out and yell “perfection” like the meme.
A second, older voice, responds in kind.
Voice 2: But Mr. Brojangles, where are we getting a magnet that strong?
Voice 1: I dunno, Brogan aka Patch aka James Howlett aka Weapon X aka The Wolverine. Amazon?
Voice 2: Do you think they ship Prime to PRIME?
Voice 1: Probably? Maybe we get a discount or something? Hold up… How strong do we go?
Voice 2: Shit, does that say 2600 pounds? We might get both of them with that, Brohemian Rhapsody.
Both of the voices break out in laughter followed by the first voice sighing.
Voice 1: Thanks, I really needed this.
Voice 2: No problem, you know I got your back.
Voice 2: But seriously on these magnets… this one says to watch your fingers so they don’t get crushed. Maybe we should get it?
Ominous footfalls. A third voice.
Voice 3: What the fuck are you two nerds talking about?
Unlike the two male voices the third had a strong, feminine quality. The voice of Violent Purple.
The camera pans to the left slowly, and standing behind unfinished sheetrock with a bunch of marker drawings saying “magnet goes here” and an abnormally large stick man followed by one with a billowing, possibly sentient, coat are shown with arrows pointing towards the hastily designed trap, are Eddie Cross and Crash Jackson.
Eddie Cross: Oh, it’s you.
Crash sees Violent Purple and immediately sparkles explode in his eyes.
Violent Purple: Congratulations, Eddie, you’re right, it’s me. I suspected I would catch you both together, good. Two birds, one stone. I’ll get to you later, Crash.
She bats her eyelashes with a sardonic smirk on her face and the clearly twitterpated Crash swoons as she turns her dark eyes back toward Eddie.
Violent Purple: I’m getting tired of having to detox Max’s head every time he hangs out with you. U.N.Couth and I have Max under a very precarious personal plan that doesn’t leave a lot of room for traditional friends like you and darling Crash over there. Max needs structure, he needs guidance and more importantly, he doesn’t need dumb distractions. That said..
She folds his arms across her chest as she looks Eddie up and down.
Violent Purple: He’s clearly not the only one that needs help. So I’m here to offer that, Mister Cross. A guy like you has all the skill and talent in the world, Eddie, but you’re lacking something, that secret ingredient that makes or breaks stars in places like PRIME. Know what it is?
Her coy grin purses out as she waits patiently for Eddie’s reply.
Eddie Cross: Russian horse steroids? Breathtaking anger issues? A lifetime supply of adhesives? It could be anything, really.
She cants her head to the side as he runs through his list. All good choices she had not considered prior to this.
Violent Purple: N-No. Though I’ll keep some of those in mind for the future. Motivation, Eddie. Motivation is the key to success in anything but most especially here in PRIME. Guys like Ivan Stanislav don’t become Universal Champion without being motivated to achieve that kind of success. You’re no different, nor Crash or Max. So that’s what I am here to give you, Eddie.
Waving her arm off screen two PRIME backstage hands roll up an old school Substitute Teacher TV cart complete with a 1980s style block cathode-ray tube television set perched precariously atop. Even Purple seems taken aback by it before shaking off the feeling, looking back towards Eddie expectantly.
Eddie Cross: What the fuck is this? Why does everyone who is trying to teach me something insist on using VCR’s and old ass TV’s?
Violent Purple: Because analog is more horrifying? Pay attention, Cross.
Rolling her eyes Purple grabbed the remote and quickly toggled the TV and VHS on.
The screen displays a dark room with light just barely breaking around the edges of a curtain. The longer we focus on the darkness, the more details begin to emerge. Small red, blue and green lights flicker like stars cast across an empty sky within the room. The low hum of electronic devices join the chorus of tiny beeps and whistles as the tell-tale signs of a hospital room.
A shadow darker than the void that surrounded it seems to shift and move to the window, pulling the curtain up. As light pours across the room the dark figure is revealed to be Max Kael wearing a black three piece suit with his hair slicked back. He looks very much like he’s been watching James Bond movies and is looking to take the place of one of Bond’s nemesis. He turns to look toward the camera, lifting one hand to over his lips in a shushing motion.
Max Kael?: For today’s final story we’re all the way in Charlotte, North Carolina. A human interest story about a boy and his mentor.
Kael slunk from the window like an oily shadow, slipping next to the bed where an unconscious Dave Gibson is revealed. He looks more gaunt and sickly than last he was seen, the strength that once was in his face had gone, replaced with a sallow emptiness. The spider-like fingers of Max Kael? dance over the railing at the side of the bed as he leaned in close to stare down into the face of Gibson.
Max Kael?: A surrogate father? A bygone hero looking to give Eddie one last push toward stardom? A tragedy.
Done with his inspection of Dave’s face, Max looked back up toward the camera. He wasn’t smiling anymore, he didn’t even look particularly happy about the situation. He sighs and stands, moving toward the monitoring equipment keeping track of Dave’s life signs.
Max Kael?: A motivation. Stay tuned next week for the conclusion of Eddie Cross’s story..
The Question Mark Kael reaches out and toggles one of the switches off as the whole feed cuts to dark. The beeps and chirps disappear, swallowed up by the rasping sounds of labored breathing
We then cut to ringside for our next match.
CHANDLER TSONDA vs. CORAL AVALON
We cut to ringside as we prepare for our next match.
Nick Stuart: We’ve got a doozy on our ha–
Richard Parker: Seriously, I need you to come up with some new lines.
Nick Stuart: What are you talking about?
Richard Parker: [mocking] We’ve got a doozy on our hands next for you. [regular] You can do better. Get some fresh material.
Nick Stuart: You’re in a mood tonight.
Richard Parker: That’s every night, sir.
When the darkness hits the Bridgestone Arena and the beginning of Monster Siren’s “Real Me” hits, the fans erupt.
A steady fog billows out from the entryway, enshrouding three figures in silhouette amidst the flood of lights. One, the reigning King of Crumbs, whose electric blue tracksuit stood out even in the darkness. Two, a rotund man who hardly befits the traditionally ominous entrance of the Crownless King. Three… well, we just said…
When the lights came up upon the guitars, Coral Avalon appeared without cloak or tracksuit. Instead, he’s just here in his ring gear and a familiar “THE EGGPIRE STRIKES BACK” T-shirt. More and more, Coral Avalon is taking on some of the attributes of the Bandits. God help us all.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is scheduled for one fall, and it is a quarterfinal matchup in the Seymour Almasy Memorial Tournament! Introducing first… residing in Seattle, Washington! He weighs in tonight at two hundred and fourteen pounds! REPRESENTING THE EGG BANDITS! HE IS THE CROWNLESS KING! CORAAAAAALLLLL AVALOOOOOOOOOONNNNN!!!
Avalon makes his way down to the ring accompanied by everyone’s favorite cherubic dipshit, Bobby Dean, and everyone’s least favorite crumb, Cancer Jiles. His expression tells the whole story, that of a man with the grim determination to make it past his opponent tonight and make it a date at ReVival 40 and the semi-finals.
Richard Parker: I find new things to be disgusted by every single time I get on commentary and talk about things and stuff, Richard, but hearing Vinny say “representing the eGG Bandits” followed closely by the name “Coral Avalon” makes me want to vomit up entire rainbows.
Nick Stuart: Please don’t. I don’t want to see what leprechaun lives at the end of that rainbow.
Richard Parker: He’s ornery and he hates Cancer Jiles.
Avalon makes it to the ring and rolls underneath the bottom rope. After flashing his hand sign to the camera – fists together, pinkie and ring fingers out – he tears his T-shirt off and tests the ropes, waiting for his opponent.
Vince Howard: And his opponent…
“I said ‘kiss me, you’re beautiful’
These are truly the last days'”
The weathered voice from the beginning of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Dead Flag Blues” fades into the short acoustic section that begins Coheed & Cambria’s “Welcome Home.” After twelve seconds, the guitars thunder in and start to kick ass, as gold and green pyro goes off in perfect timing with the power riffs.
As the PRIME*View displays the words “Model Citizen” in white over a black background, Tsonda swaggers out from behind the curtain. He soaks up the fan’s reaction at the top of the ramp, smirk painted across his face. And amidst the haze of pyro, smoke, and green & gold lights, he sprints to the ring, slides in under the bottom rope, and finally acknowledges his opponent. Tsonda bounces on his toes, mouthing something that’s inaudible to anyone but him.
Nick Stuart: And as you will notice, Chandler Tsonda isn’t alone.
Richard Parker: Don’t get me started…
Nick Stuart: He has been joined by Paxton Ray.
Richard Parker: Why would you get me started? WHAT IS THE BUFFOON DOING OUT HERE?! What is Tsonda thinking?!
Nick Stuart: Well, considering Dean and Jiles are out here, it makes a bit of sense.
Richard Parker: AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! It’s like a ringside of my least favorite people. I hope an asteroid hits all of us.
Tsonda and Avalon receive their final set of instructions from Jimmy Turnbull before he takes the Numbers Don’t Lie Championship and hands it to the ringkeeper. He checks on both men and then points at the timekeeper.
The two superstars circle around one another, eyes locked upon one another, hesitant to make the first move. Tsonda continues to inch towards his right, his eyes firmly upon the appendages of the Crownless King. Chandler spins to his left, looking for a spinning heel kick, but Avalon bats it down. Coral fires off his own boot, targeting Tsonda’s jaw. The Model Citizen ducks out of the way, though, and goes for a leg sweep, only for Avalon to leap over it. As Avalon’s feet land on the mat, Tsonda rushes into Avalon, pushing him into the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Both stars going right at one another–
Richard Parker: You can tell how much they’ve studied each other, remember from their previous matches.
Nick Stuart: Exactly; they’ve got similar styles and will be ready to counter one another immediately.
Tsonda whips Avalon into the ropes and goes for a clothesline on his opponent. Coral manages to duck under it and bounces off the opposite ropes. The NDL Champion fires off a back elbow, but Coral also manages to duck underneath it. The Crownless King leaps onto the middle rope and springboards backward, looking for a moonsault, but Tsonda manages to move out of the way. Avalon, though, manages to land on his feet and blocks a forearm to the face from Tsonda before both men retreat to the opposite corners, chests heaving.
Richard Parker: Clearly, they both need more cardio training.
Nick Stuart: That’s rich, considering I don’t think you’ve done any cardio training ever in your life.
Richard Parker: Well, that’s not nice.
Nick Stuart: Then don’t say things you’re not ready to get called out on.
Both men cautiously move towards the center of the ring once again and enter a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Tsonda immediately manages to get Avalon into a side headlock. Avalon wraps his arms around the waist of the Model Citizen and lifts him into the air before dropping him on the back of his head. Chandler grabs the back of his head before rolling onto his knees.
As he begins to push himself back up, Avalon closes the gap and whips Tsonda off the ropes. Avalon dips his shoulder, looking for a back-body drop. Tsonda manages to stop on a dime in front of Avalon, wraps his arm around the neck of the Crownless King, and lifts him up into the air before connecting with a stalling lift implant DDT. He then goes for the cover and Turnbull starts counting.
Nick Stuart: Tsonda thought he had this thing wrapped up after connecting with the Golgotha Drop!
Richard Parker: Cancer Jiles was halfway up the ramp; that’s how much he thought this match was over.
Nick Stuart: The sight of Paxton Ray out here has definitely neutralized anything that Jiles and Dean would have attempted.
Richard Parker: I think Bobby is busy eating chicken and unaware there’s even a match happening.
Nick Stuart: Poor Bobby.
Tsonda helps Avalon up to his feet and pushes him into one of the ring corners. He connects with a knife-edge chop that echoes throughout the arena.
He then grabs Avalon by the wrist and goes to whip him to the opposite corner, but Avalon reverses it and sends Tsonda chest-first into the corner he was back-first in a moment ago. Chandler stumbles backward, his arms clutching his chest. Coral wraps his arms around the waist of Tsonda and connects with a release German Suplex that sees Tsonda land on the back of his neck and skull.
Tsonda rolls onto his feet, dazed and out of it, and is met with a boot to the midsection from Avalon. Coral follows it up with an Excalibur (sitout double under hook piledriver). However, before Avalon can pin Tsonda, the Model Citizen rolls out of the ring and lands on the floor mat.
Nick Stuart: And Avalon with the Excalibur! Tsonda, though ring-aware, rolled out of the ring.
Richard Parker: Veterans of the ring, these two, are always trying to stay one move ahead.
Nick Stuart: Neither of them can take another hit like they’ve taken in the early stages of this match, though. Another one of Tsonda’s signature moves or Avalon’s armaments will signal the end quickly.
Avalon follows after Tsonda, who is lying on the floor mat, not doing much in the moving department. Coral hovers over him before he leaps off the ring apron and goes for the top rope diving double stomp only for Tsonda to roll out of the way at the last possible second. The Crownless King stumbles back to his feet as the Model Citizen gets to his and connects with a dropkick to the chest of Avalon that sends him crashing back-first into the ring apron.
Tsonda drives a forearm across the face of Avalon before hopping onto the ring apron. He drags Avalon up with him and tries to drive him back first into the ring post, only for Avalon to grab the top rope and block it at the last moment. He uses the top rope as leverage as he gets his right boot up and kicks Tsonda in the back of the head, sending him crashing back into the ring. Avalon then connects with a springboard version of the top rope diving double stomp and then covers Tsonda.
Nick Stuart: Carnwennan to Tsonda, but the right boot on the bottom rope kept Tsonda alive there.
Richard Parker: Tsonda’s ring awareness is the only thing keeping him in this match.
Nick Stuart: Tsonda needs to get back on the offensive in a big way or he will be exiting this tournament.
Richard Parker: You still have Bobby and [wretches] Caner.
Nick Stuart: Cancer.
Richard Parker: I said what I said.
The Crownless King pulls Tsonda away from the ropes and back to his feet, where he slips behind him and into a half-nelson. He then lifts him up and goes for a half-nelson backbreaker, only for Chandler to counter it with a backflip, and lands on his feet. He drives his knee across the jaw of the Crownless King, and as Avalon turns away from him, Tsonda grabs the arm furthest from him and connects with a ripcord knee to the face that sends Coral crashing to the mat. He then locks in the Cobra Clutch on the reeling eGG Bandit.
Richard Parker: Well, that looks painful.
Nick Stuart: Tsonda has the Breathtaker locked in, and I don’t know if Avalon will be able to get out of this.
Richard Parker: When you’re an eGG Bandit, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
Nick Stuart: Avalon is doing everything he can to get to the bottom rope while Turnbull checks on him. He’s army crawling and…
Avalon struggles but eventually makes it to the ropes. Tsonda breaks the hold on Avalon, who immediately rolls away, rubbing his neck in the process. Tsonda bounces off the ropes and goes for a knee across his opponent’s face, but Coral manages to roll away at the last moment. Chandler lands awkwardly on his left knee and clutches it, giving Coral the opening he’s been looking for. He immediately rises to his feet and slams his boot into the kneecap of the NDL Champion. Tsonda groans in pain, rolling away from Coral, but Avalon senses blood in the water, grabs Tsonda’s left leg, and slams his boot into the back of his knee, causing Tsonda to howl in pain.
Nick Stuart: And Tsonda is in a world of hurt!
Richard Parker: One mistake is all it took, and Tsonda has opened himself up to a world of hurt.
Nick Stuart: And the crowd is showing they’re not a fan of Avalon is capitalizing on this.
Richard Parker: Oh, the fans can stuff it.
Nick Stuart: I think Bobby Dean can help with that.
Tsonda tries to rise to his feet, but the Crownless King connects with a forearm strike that sends Tsonda to one knee, leaning into the ropes. Avalon immediately wraps the leg around the middle rope and wrenches at it as the referee orders him to break the hold. Coral, a master of the ring, holds onto it until a four-count before breaking it. Tsonda rolls under the bottom rope, needing a break from Avalon’s relentless attack. Coral, though, wastes no time as he bounces off the ropes and connects with a basement dropkick to the left knee of Tsonda, sending him careening off the ring apron and into the barricade.
Richard Parker: Okay, now this Coral, I could get behind. I mean, not with him BFFing with Jiles.
Nick Stuart: Avalon knows what is on the other side of the fence and wants the victory, wants to move on to the final four in this tournament.
Richard Parker: That would be… something. Could we end up with Cancer vs. Coral in the finals?
Nick Stuart: It’s right there for the taking.
Avalon rolls out of the ring and slams his boot across the face of the Model Citizen before yanking him to his feet. Coral then whips Tsonda knees-first into the ringside steps, sending Tsonda crashing over the top of them and back onto the floor mat. The crowd yells at Avalon while Jiles and Dean look on, laughing but careful not to get too close to the action, considering the Bayou Butcher is on the scene to keep them honest. Tsonda rolls around in pain as Avalon climbs onto the steps and waits for the perfect moment before leaping off the top step and slams both feet into the left knee of the NDL Champion. Chandler slams his hand into the floor mat, the pain becoming excruciating.
Nick Stuart: Things are not looking good for Tsonda here.
Richard Parker: Turnbull might need to end this match.
Nick Stuart: I think Tsonda would vehemently oppose such a decision.
Richard Parker: Remember when Tsonda would spray hair product in the eyes of people… think he could do that here on Turnbull?
Nick Stuart: I highly doubt it. Tsonda is climbing back into the ring as Avalon is stalking him now.
Coral follows Tsonda into the ring. Chandler tries to crawl away from Avalon, needing as much of a break as possible, and finds himself in the corner. Avalon rushes at Tsonda, who manages to get his right boot up and into the midsection of the newest eGG Bandit. With Avalon stunned, Chandler grabs the top rope and watches as Avalon turns around. Tsonda uses his strength to pull himself off the mat into the air and wraps his legs around Avalon’s neck before connecting with a flying head scissors that sends Avalon sliding across the mat.
Nick Stuart: Tsonda starting to show some life here and uses his agility to send Avalon flying across the ring.
Richard Parker: I… that man must be a genius in the bedroom. I need to pick his brain a bit.
Nick Stuart: Could you not? Just no!
Richard Parker: What? I can multi-task.
Nick Stuart: You’re like a squirrel. Focus on the match.
Busy in the corner massaging his leg, Chandler slams his elbow into the jaw of the approaching Avalon. The shot catches Coral off guard as Chandler spins around and catches the Crownless King with a spinning heel kick to the midsection. Before Tsonda can capitalize, though, Avalon fires off a kick to the left knee, sending Chandler crashing to the mat. He then grabs Chandler’s hand and puts him into a wrist clutch before connecting with a snap Angle Slam (Camelot’s Turntable). With Tsonda laid out in the center of the ring, Avalon drapes his arm across Tsonda’s chest.
Nick Stuart: Avalon has to ask himself what more he has to do to get Tsonda down for good after connecting with the Camelot’s Turntable!
Richard Parker: You’ve got to surprise Tsonda with a very vain comment, knock him off his game.
Nick Stuart: …you are something else, you know?
Richard Parker: This I do know.
Avalon drags Tsonda to his feet and goes to whip him into the ropes, but Tsonda reverses it. As Coral rebounds off the ropes, Tsonda catches him with a Spanish Fly, sending the arena into a frenzy. Tsonda returns to a seated position, his body feeling the effects of a violent Avalon attacking him relentlessly. He climbs to his feet and snaps his boot across the right arm of Avalon. Tsonda, remembering what Avalon did to him, yanks Avalon up to his feet and wraps Avalon’s right arm around the top rope, wrenching back at it, just breaking it at the five-count. He pulls Avalon away, puts him in an arm wrench, and yanks down as hard as he can on Avalon’s arm. Coral collapses to the mat, clutching at his right arm.
Richard Parker: Well, this seems unfair.
Nick Stuart: And it was fair when Avalon did it to Tsonda?
Richard Parker: At the time, yes.
NIck Stuart: And how did you come to that conclusion?
Richard Parker: Boy math.
Tsonda grabs Avalon and pulls him off the mat before pushing him into the ropes and connecting with a knife-edge chop.
Avalon doubles over from the pain, but Tsonda grabs Avalon by the shoulders and yanks him back up before connecting with a second knife-edge chop.
Avalon drops to both knees, and Chandler follows it up by driving his boot into the right shoulder of Avalon, causing the Crownless King to go down in a heap. Before Tsonda is able to follow up with it, though, Jiles hops onto the ring apron, which gains the attention of Tsonda. Jiles hops down, though, as Paxton rounds the corner and Bobby Dean mindlessly steps in front of Jiles, shielding him unknowingly. With Tsonda’s back to him, Avalon connects with a chop block to the left knee, causing Tsonda to writhe in pain.
Richard Parker: Is there a universe where Paxton Ray can knock out Cancer Jiles and Coral Avalon continues to be a bad boy?
Nick Stuart: I don’t think Avalon is purposefully being a bad boy — that feels weird to say.
Richard Parker: Well, Bobby Dean better pay attention to what’s going on, because Paxton Ray nearly mowed him down.
Nick Stuart: Which is something I’m certain Cancer Jiles won’t mind.
Richard Parker: Obviously.
Coral makes his way back up to his feet, eyeing the proceedings outside, but turns his attention back to Tsonda before connecting with a leg drop across the left knee of the NDL Champion. Tsonda rolls away from Avalon, but Coral refuses to give him space as he yanks him to his feet and drives him into the corner. Avalon then grabs the left leg of Tsonda and places it on the middle rope before he springboards off the ropes and connects with a dropkick to the knee. Tsonda collapses onto the ground, grabbing at it in agony. Avalon drags Tsonda to the center of the ring and locks in a half-Boston Crab to his left leg, forcing the NDL Champion to groan in pain.
Nick Stuart: Oh, this might do it! That Boston Crab is locked in tight, and Tsonda looks like he’s in agony!
Richard Parker: Could you imagine if that’s how Tsonda goes out? He would never be able to live it down.
Nick Stuart: It’s not how he would want to go out, not in the least. Tsonda is one of the toughest in the business, and his body is failing him.
Richard Parker: If that’s your body failing on you, I would kill to have his body.
Nick Stuart: Then stop putting away two large pizzas every week.
Richard Parker: …no, I don’t think I will.
Avalon continues to wrench back on the leg of Tsonda as the referee checks on Tsonda, who refuses to give up. Not here, not now. He props himself up on his forearms and tries to crawl his way over to the ropes, but Avalon lowers his grasp, wrapping his arm around the knee and causing immense pain to Tsonda. Avalon sits lower on the back of Tsonda, which gives Chandler an opening to reach back (thanks to many years of Pilates and yoga) and yanks at the neck of Avalon in the process. Coral has to break the hold, which causes Tsonda to roll away, grabbing his knee. He moves up to one knee as Avalon charges at him, only for Tsonda to feint and drop, grabbing the middle rope and sending Avalon crashing to the outside.
Nick Stuart: Avalon crashes hard to the outside, grabbing his arm, which he landed on.
Richard Parker: Avalon saw the end in sight and made his own mistake.
Nick Stuart: That he did, but Tsonda is in a world of pain in the ring. His ability to contort his body into a pretzel-like he did to get out of the half Boston Crab was impressive.
Richard Parker: Like I said, he must be a master in the bedroom.
Nick Stuart: …gross.
Tsonda massages his left knee as he tries to return to his feet while Coral climbs back into the ring, grabbing his right arm. Chandler rushes at Coral and slams his forearm into the face of Avalon. The shot dazes Avalon enough for Chandler to grab Coral and signal for the Runway Vault. As he begins, though, Jiles hops onto the ring apron and yells at Tsonda
“HEY, CHANDIE, YOU GOT A GRAY HAIR, YOU OLD FUCK!”
It is enough to slow him down as Jiles hops off the ring apron, seeing Paxton charging for him. Dean steps in front of Paxton, offering him a piece of Nashville Hot Chicken, licking sauce off of his own fingers. Jiles pushes Dean into Paxton, with Bobby putting his greasy fingers on the finest article of Paxton Ray’s wardrobe: his white wifebeater. Paxton slams his forearm across the jaw of Bobby Dean, sending him crashing to the mat. He stands over him, yelling,
“YOU GOT GREASE ON MY MOST EXPENSIVE WIFEBEATER!”
Nick Stuart: And the eGG Bandits and Paxton Ray may have changed the course of this match.
Richard Parker: Cancer Jiles definitely did. And poor Bobby Dean! He was just trying to be nice to Paxton. Such a shame. I told you, you can’t trust that Paxton Ray.
Nick Stuart: All of this is Cancer Jiles’s fault.
Richard Parker: Sin existing in the world is Cancer Jiles’s fault. Everything else is just assumed.
With the distraction locked in, Avalon slams his knee into the back of Tsonda’s skull, sending the Model Citizen (who wishes he had a mirror to confirm if said gray hair existed) crashing into the corner chest-first. Avalon hoists Tsonda onto the second turnbuckle. Chandler is slumped over, and Avalon runs to the opposite corner. He then rushes at Tsonda before threading the Yakuza kick through the legs and to the face of the NDL Champion. Tsonda collapses backward as Avalon hooks both legs.
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: That distraction proved costly for Chandler Tsonda as Coral Avalon could come in and hit the Rhongomyniad on Tsonda to finally put him away.
Richard Parker: Bobby Dean isn’t moving. Cancer Jiles is still alive. Tsonda is down. You can’t win them all, I guess.
Nick Stuart: Coral Avalon is going on to the next round and could face off against Cancer Jiles in the finals.
Richard Parker: I couldn’t imagine how Jiles would take it if he lost and Avalon moved on. That would be… oof.
Avalon exits the ring with Jiles in tow. A forklift emerges from the backstage area to help pick up an unconscious Bobby Dean while Paxton Ray stands there, hands on hips, looking at a disappointed Chandler Tsonda, who is sitting up and looking confused as to what happened.
Nick Stuart: And Avalon has earned a shot in the future for the Numbers Don’t Lie Championship. We could see these two go at it again in the near future.
Richard Parker: I imagine Tsonda will want a cage to keep the eGG Bandits out.
Nick Stuart: That would probably be a given. Let’s go to commercial.
And we do just that.
COMMERCIAL: COLOSSUS X
BEARS AND LIZARDS AND COLOSSUS… OH MY!
After the commercial break, we are once more back at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The crowd is swathed in crimson light while a huge hammer and sickle swirls on the PRIMEview, and as the camera pans to the ring, it’s obvious why.
The massive form of the PRIME Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, looms large as he bellows at the crowd. The championship is comically small around his waist, while Alexei Ruslan stands next to Stanislav and carries a microphone. The final stanza of the Soviet National Anthem is playing, denoting that the two Russians have been in the ring for a while.
Nick Stuart: Welcome back folks! As you can see, PRIME Universal Champion Ivan Stanislav and Alexei Ruslan have once more graced us with their presence.
Richard Parker: I really hope Lindsay Troy posts the footage during the commercial break. You should have heard the beautiful singing by these true men of PRIME. It was glorious.
As the music ends and the lights revert to their default color, Nick continues to speak.
Nick Stuart: Nonetheless, I’m sure the Universal Champ—
His words are drowned out by a far louder voice.
Ivan Stanislav: Nashville, Tennessee! Also known as armpit of United States!!
The Tennesseeans have their own opinions to give, and they give it loudly in the form of pure, raw disgust. Ruslan laughs and points at one particular fan and beckons them to come in the ring. He nearly crawls over the guardrail, until his friends stop him.
Ivan Stanislav: The lot of you are such degenerates, I chose not to even spend time at ringside this night!
Nick Stuart: I for one thank the people of Tennessee for this turn of events…
Stanislav paces across the ring as his heavy footfalls cause the canvas to flex and the rings to jiggle.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, Lindsay Troy thought she would have big surprise for me at ReVival 38. And yes, I admit, I was surprised. I did not expect to see FLAMBERGE return…
It’s not a strong pop, but there’s a swelling of cheers from the crowd nonetheless. Stanislav actually nods his head while Ruslan sneers at the crowd.
Ivan Stanislav: Yes, you can cheer him if you wish. Why, I would cheer him as well, if circumstances were different and Lindsay Troy was not setting him up for Russian meat grinder.
Nick Stuart: I’m not really sure where Ivan is going with this…
Ivan Stanislav: However, I am not one for subterfuge, nor am I one for surprise. That is why I’m out here.
Ivan looks at the ramp and points one huge finger.
Ivan Stanislav: FLAMBERGE!! I know you are back there. No more hiding. No more trickery. YOUR Universal Champion wants you in this ring. RIGHT. NOW!
Stanislav squares his shoulders as he waits in the middle of the ring. Ruslan stands slightly behind him with his arms crossed over his chest expectantly.
Nick Stuart: Ivan Stanislav calling FLAMBERGE out and the crowd is aching for it. Maybe we’ll get Colossus early, Richard?
“Ooh la la, ah oui oui” by Run The Jewels (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier) blasts through the speakers to a loud mixed reaction from the crowd. There are PRIMEates who are fired the fuck up about PRIME’s Unstoppable Force and Immovable Object coming face to face, there are genuine bastard PRIMEates who are IRL heels who think FLAMBERGE is a swell guy that also cheer loudly, and there are also those annoyingly attentive fans who have seen this young, bizarre, and brash Frenchman be a ruthless bastard aligning himself with other ruthless bastards for years now and thus their good memory dictates many boos.
Teal and yellow lights swirl through the arena as the PRIMEview displays the text “FLAMBERGE, THE NECK COLLECTOR, THE LIZARD KING”.
FLAMBERGE steps out in his standard wrestling gear, perhaps assuming he needs to be ready for a fight. He’s not in a hurry, nor is he locking eyes on the enormous bear in the middle of the ring – his eyes sort of dart around the crowd from section to section, as if calculating the angles of the arena for the quickest escape routes. Reaching ringside, he takes a steady lap around the ring once again, defining his den. Fans in the front rows try extending bags of chips to no avail.
Neither the Universal Champ nor Ruslan appears particularly impressed by FLAMBERGE as he enters into the ring and stares across at the Russian duo.
Nick Stuart: That’s no small degree of courage by FLAMBERGE, to not only stand in the ring with Ivan Stanislav, but also with Ruslan nearby.
Richard Parker: Yeah that or he’s really got lizards in his brain.
Stanislav looks down at FLAMBERGE and growls into his microphone.
Ivan Stanislav: FLAMBERGE, FLAMBERGE, FLAMBERGE. How many months ago was it, dear boy, when I approached you to join The Red Army. You know, you were my first choice. Look at you.
Stanislav motions up and down towards FLAMBERGE.
Ivan Stanislav: A young, proud Frenchman of fine ability. One who possesses all qualities necessary for greatness. One who Americans can all hold level of jealousy for. A young mind, ripe for enlightenment.
Ivan Stanislav: And yet, you waste it away, FLAMBERGE, and for what? For a band of ruffians who care nothing for one another, and only care for personal glory? The Hanlons and Farthingtons of the world care naught for you. You are nothing more than vehicle. A means to an end, FLAMBERGE.
Ivan leans forward.
Ivan Stanislav: A puppet. And they all pull your strings. So does Lindsay Troy. Yes, you may have fine record here in PRIME, maybe you too have earned a chance at MY title, FLAMBERGE. But this is nothing more than attempt for American capitalist to drive wedge between two excellent European stars. And you are falling for it. Hook and line and sinker.
FLAMBERGE looks to open his mouth, but Stanislav bellows.
Ivan Stanislav: I am not done! I offered to help you back then, did I not? I offered to help you deal with Brandon Youngblood. I did it not just as friend, but as mentor. For you, I did that. And I have bested Brandon Youngblood. Twice now. And before you even consider that Farthington did the same thing, not only did he do it but once, but it cannot be denied that it was the injuries to Youngblood’s arm, set upon by ME, that gave him the opening he needed to win. Do you not see, FLAMBERGE, how far we can go, together, if you would just push out all that noise and embrace your true friends?
FLAMBERGE’s brain lizard takes a bite. The Frenchman’s eyes widen in a flash as he raises the microphone a second time, a time he will not be denied. There’s a little extra bass in his voice, if for a moment.
FLAMBERGE: Do you think you drive this car, Ivan?
Stanislav’s eyes don’t betray any emotion. FLAMBO blinks and flinches for a second before continuing.
FLAMBERGE: Let me understand this, first: is there an offer here? I expect non. I expect instead, you look to do what all Soviets do and try to stockpile the weaponry. You have found me to be the most dangereaux weapon in the PRIME, and so you want me. And so…you want me to perhaps throw this Universal Championship match away to join Red with Glue, and I get out of it…what? You will give me your championship for free? Non, non, I expect not. You’d have me pass up the chance to put that eighty pound neck on my mantle when it would tie the whole collection together so well.
The Frenchman’s gaze no longer matches the Russian’s eyes. It instead angles slightly lower. Neck-level.
FLAMBERGE: You won’t give it, so I must instead collect it. Not for Lindsay Troy, Cecilworth, or even Sid. But because the Glue Factory demands necks, and you are the biggest supplyyyyyyy…
FLAMBO drifts off as his eyes linger on Ivan’s prominent Adam’s Apple. We might have to reboot him – oh wait, yep, he’s back. The cobwebs are shaken out. He now locks eyes with the Universal Champion.
FLAMBERGE: Acheter de la colle, bitch.
The Universal Champion inclines an eyebrow as he takes all of this in. He gazes down, down, down at FLAMBERGE and shifts his prodigious jaw to one side. Behind him, Alexei seethes with a perma-scowl etched across his face. Stanislav turns his head and shoulders slowly and looks back at Alexei, and then slowly turns back to face FLAMBERGE.
His shoulders lift, his face twists first into a grimace and then? Into a smile, followed by his guffawing laugh.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!! You… you think you can defeat me? Why, I was six feet tall and two hundred pounds when I was twelve years of age!! DYAAHAAHAA!! Look Alexei, little boy with strange neck fetish thinks he will topple The Russian Bear?! DYAAHAAHAA!!
Stanislav’s grin turns to a scowl as his eyes narrow and he, perhaps surprisingly, speaks FLAMBERGE’s native tongue fluently.
Ivan Stanislav: Aucun bon communiste n’achèterait de la colle à un poney capitaliste.
Un vrai prolétaire le réduit en pâte et le fabrique de ses propres mains.
Stanislav shakes his head with perhaps a hint of regret, but there’s a knowing glint in his eyes.
Ivan Stanislav: I had hoped for a better outcome, FLAMBERGE. You are destined to disappoint all of your elders.
FLAMBERGE: I do hope so.
It’s Ruslan who produces his own microphone. He stands straight and waves outwardly to the crowd.
Alexei Ruslan: Behold, PRIME, the next casualty in our patriotic war!
He looks over at FLAMBERGE with derision.
Alexei Ruslan: A crass, self-admitted lapdog who wishes to do the bidding of some murky, vague factory of glue! A coward, who answers the demands of others because he lacks the spine to be his own man! Have you no self pride, young man?!
While Ruslan talks, there is movement underneath the ring on the far side, out of eyeshot of FLAMBERGE. Kenny Freemen slides out from beneath the ring and crouches and slinks his way around the ring until he’s near the section of ring closest to the hard cam.
Nick Stuart: That’s Kenny Freeman, what’s he doing there? FLAMBERGE isn’t aware… is he being set up for an ambush?
The lizard in FLAMBO’s brain takes another nibble. The speech delivery is a little more intense again.
FLAMBERGE: Ruslan, you couldn’t possibly understand what Sacred Geometry of Glue has led me to the doorstep of a proper throne, worthy of the Lizard King. If the puppet being pulled by these strings finds himself at the very brink, ultimate reward merely one neck away, who really is the puppet, I ask you? Lindsay Troy hates your man enough to unleash her most clear show of force upon him, and I am to be remanded for being that weapon?
While FLAMBERGE talks, Joe Fontaine not-so-subtly “sneaks” up to a ringside barricade outside of Stanislav’s view and hops over, hunching over near the opposite end of the hard cam.
Richard Parker: And there’s Fontaine, that little geek! What is he on about?
FLAMBERGE: As long as collecting necks serves my interests, I am not concerned which other masters are served as well. And neither should your Russian cow be concerned with why his neck must be collected – glue doesn’t ask why.
Ruslan ponders FLAMBERGE’s words, or at least he tries to. He cocks and eyebrow and smirks as he crosses his arms.
Alexei Ruslan: Well, that would make the puppet to be you. I told you months ago, Ivan Sergeiovich, that this child was nothing more than mindless lapdog to powers greater than himself. Sometimes, I do hate to be right.
While Ruslan speaks, eagle-eyed viewers might see the PRIMEview wobbling when, indeed, a near whitefaced Randall Schwartz somehow, in some way, has been hiding behind it. He somehow grasps for dear life as he rounds the edge of the PRIMEview and precariously perches himself on the scaffolding that lines the massive screen. He takes a moment to consider just how to get down, and he manages to haphazardly fall and land on his back.
He stares up at the lights for a few moments, before rolling to his belly, and he begins to slowly, very slowly, army crawl down the entryway towards the ring. Stanislav bellows.
Ivan Stanislav: Lizard King? Necks? Willing lapdog of Lindsay Troy? One who does not consider asking question “why?” I truly did overestimate you, Julien, and it is unfortunate. PRIME has no need for a mindless drone. PRIME requires, no, it demands Universal Champion of independent thought and strong resolve. Not some tag-along fool who is so wrapped up in his own mantra that he cannot see any picture beyond himself!
Stanislav waggles a huge finger.
Ivan Stanislav: For you see, dear boy, Lindsay Troy did not summon your unwitting carcass to relieve me of Universal Title. You are too foolish to see her trap. She brings you to my feet to be crushed under my boot-heel and I now must admit that I will happily oblige!
A large front row fan wearing a throwback King Blueberry mask with, it has to be said, magnificent flowing hair rips off the mask to reveal himself as Sid Phillips! He hops the barricade and inches towards his Glue Man Group compatriot.
FLAMBERGE: “Why am I receiving a match for the Universal Championship”, I will ask myself now – and ponder – and consider – and hem and haw – and answer with “because I am too damn good to deny anymore”. You should not concern yourself about the “Why Is FLAMBERGE Here”, and instead panic, because “Oh Damn, The Kid Is Here, I Had Such Big Plans I Must Now Postpone”. The Collector is at your door and you complain about why he is there, as would a child or a dying man, when you should instead unburden yourself of the thought of trying to carry the dead weight between the jaw and the collar. No matter, I suppose. Like I said, glue doesn’t need to ask why.
About halfway through FLAMBERGE’s monologue, Stanislav rubs the bridge of his nose and Alexei looks up at the lights, possibly counting them as he squints thoughtfully. When it’s all done, Stanislav lets out a groan as both Russian’s level their eyes upon FLAMBERGE.
Ivan Stanislav: What in Lenin’s name are you blathering about?!
Alexei Ruslan: Masters? Shut him up!
Schwartz and Freeman pounce in the ring all of a sudden, looking to charge at FLAMBERGE!
At the same time, Phillips and Fontaine slide under the bottom ropes on the opposite side, ready to tear Ivan a new one! Both teams stop all of a sudden. They see the other team standing across from them and realize that their minds may have melded and now both ambushes are screwed.
Well. If the ambush fails, I guess it’s time for plan B. They came to fight, after all.
Phillips and Freeman charge at each other and start throwing hockeyfight punches! Fontaine and Schwartz likewise charge at each other, each trying to wrench each other’s joints out of their sockets and throwing in cheap shots when they can! Ruslan gawks at the sudden chaos and peels himself away from Stanislav and begins directing traffic for his comrades, but seems disinclined to get physical on their behalf.
Nick Stuart: It’s chaos in the ring! The Glue Man Group and the Masters of the Moscowverse are brawling all over the place!
Richard Parker: But take a look – Ivan Stanislav and FLAMBERGE haven’t moved! They’re frozen in time! You could cut the tension with a French paring knife!
We then return to the backstage area.
THE BURNING OF OUR SHIPS
Rob Williams sits in a chair alone in the locker room, ice on both of his knees. He’s electric once again– his heart rate on track to smash Usain Bolt’s world records. The thrill of the hunt. A stench of sweat and hope fills the air.
The Voice: You still haven’t surrendered, Rob.
The voice. Right now, Rob wants to scream from the rooftops that he is back. He wants to find his third grade science teacher and show him who didn’t know a sneeze from a wet fart. A pound of steak and an ounce of cake. Instead, he gets this. If this isn’t hell, he’s not sure what is.
Rob: What are you talking about? I did it! I punished them both. I won
The Voice: That’s the problem, Rob. You still want. You haven’t surrendered. I told you that your path didn’t involve identification with such petty things as winning or losing. A higher road, yours is. And tonight, you chopped your wood and carried your water. Sure you “won”. But you’re missing the forest for the trees. Good acts done with wrong motives.”
At this point, the wind has been let out of Rob’s sails. He doesn’t like the message. Or the messenger, per se. But, he understands. He understands and it fits like a lock in a key somewhere deep inside.
Rob: How do you change what you want, what you desire?
The Voice: Surrender. When a child is born, does a parent not sacrifice their “identity”? Their little plans and designs. You have given up much already and that is what has made you worthy. Yes, it will hurt. You cannot have grace without the death of ego and pride. These are cancer. Removing cancer is painful. Get on your knees and surrender.
Rob closes his eyes and slides from the chair onto the hard concrete floor. His butt sits back on his ankles, pushing the metal chair down behind him, as his arms raise up toward the sky.
Rob Williams: I surrender.
Woman in Crimson: Hello there.
It wasn’t the voice. Rob hadn’t even noticed her walk in. He doesn’t know this woman, but instantly he feels sucked into her gravitational pull. Her eyes shine like they knew a secret, and her crimson dress feels familiar, but Rob isn’t quite sure how.
Woman in Crimson: (smiling) A fellow believer. “It’s so good to see a man on his knees.”
Maybe it was the kicks to the head earlier, but Rob senses a bit of double entendre. He recognizes, however, he is in no position to accurately weigh such things in his current position.
Rob Williams: What?
Woman in Crimson: Praying. (she giggles) It takes a very brave man to humble himself in such a public place.
Rob feels anything but brave. Still, there’s a warmth exuding from her that keeps him on his knees. The woman walks towards him, reaching a hand up to rest on Rob’s shoulder. Words fall from Rob’s mouth. He can’t seem to stop them, almost as if he’s standing behind himself watching him open up to this complete stranger.
Rob Williams: I wouldn’t say I’m humble or brave. Not even sure I was praying. It was more an act of…
She interjects to finish his sentence.
Woman in Crimson: …surrender. Yes, that’s prayer whether you realize it or not. Are you familiar with His Word and Light?”
Rob remembers every Sunday morning AM radio station preacher his mother forced him to listen to as she drove around endlessly looking for peace. Their promises of salvation. How she would call in and donate and tell them about whatever made up problems she had this week and how they would take her money in return for a prayer each and every time.
Woman in Crimson: Oh, child, don’t balk. That’s your pride trying to keep you in the darkness.
Don Winters: Well, well, well.
The voice of The Revelator calls out. His white suit and crimson button-down shirt are flawless, not a fleck of lint or crease to speak of. Rob reaches back for the chair to push himself up, but finds himself being lifted literally by the woman.
Don Winters: Miriam, I’m very proud of you. Finding another lost soul to spread His Word and Light
Miriam: Father Don, I found this man on his knees.
Don Winters: Very good. The universal sign of surrender.
Normally Rob would have his hands wrapped around this man’s throat by now. Reflex. His life has been like a game of pinball, someone presses a button and he goes here or there. But the reaction is missing. Like a phantom limb, Rob can feel it should be there, but finds himself at peace.
Rob Williams: Yes. I’m… just trying to figure things out. A lot of things have changed recently.
Don Winters: It seems as if you’ve reached a very important crossroads. I wonder which path you will choose? Will you continue down your pre-ordained path of self-destruction? Will you continue to distract yourself with ego and caustic impulse? I see the look in your eyes. You’ve been down that road. You’re tired of traveling it and where it leads.
A Chevy Nova, a double tequila, and an oak tree.
Don Winters: The other path leads into the loving embrace of His Word and Light. We can make you whole again, we can make life worth living.
The Revelator pivots, adjusts his cufflink and smiles at his patron.
Don Winters: And Miriam?
Miriam: Yes, Father Don?
Don Winters: Why don’t you spend some time introducing our new friend…
Don pauses and holds out his hands.
Rob Williams: Rob. Rob Williams.
Rob extends a hand for a shake. Don takes that hand and places it in Miriam’s.
Don Winters: … to His Word and Light.
Miriam: Yes, Father.
Don Winters: Mr. Williams, it was an absolute pleasure making your acquaintance this evening. Call it fate, but I believe we will be seeing much more of one another.
Father Don smiles and bows, quietly fading from the room. Once again Rob is alone with Miriam. She tugs his hand ever so gently so he locks eyes with her.
The Voice: I told you that you wouldn’t walk this path alone
The scene fades to to elsewhere backstage with Rob and Miriam staring at one another.
TIME TO STEP AWAY
The interview set up in the Bridgestone Arena. The PRIME and Ace Network logos side by side. The backdrop already features the visages of FLAMBERGE and Ivan Stanislav, glorious in their appearance. The main event of the tenth Colossus. Underneath? In golden lettering, ‘The Finals of the 2024 Seymour Almasy Invitational’. Neither are the true focus now, however. Instead, it’s someone conspicuous in his absence from either of these main event opportunities. The man who held the Universal Title for more days than only one other in PRIME’s history. The only person who can claim to win not just the Almasy, but its progenitor; The Jewel in the Crown. The Tower of Babel.
Standing in street clothes, he isn’t alone. Stylish as ever, effervescent as always, he is joined by the best interviewer in all of combat sports, Angelica Brooks.
Angelica Brooks: Ladies, gentleman, nonbinary friends, I am joined now, surprisingly, by Brandon Youngblood. Many, myself included, didn’t expect you to appear here in Nashville after the result of last ReVival’s titanic main event, where you were eliminated from the Almasy Invitational by Cecilworth Farthington–
The Diamond interrupts.
Brandon Youngblood: Because I stormed out.
Angelica Brooks: That’s one reason why. It’s no small secret you’re also currently dealing with a debilitating injury to your left arm, something that could only have been exacerbated in your battle with the undefeated and current 5 Star Champion, Farthington. There was a lot riding on that bout, and tensions were said to be running high.
Brandon Youngblood: Yeah. I stormed out of that ring, got out of my gear, and was out. I didn’t want to see anyone. Talk to anyone. None of that shit. Because I was angry. Because I was furious.
Undaunted, the host of the Undergroundcast lives up to her ability to ask the tough questions.
Angelica Brooks: Because of your submission?
Brandon Youngblood: That I put myself in the position in the first place.
Angelica Brooks: That drains a lot of credit from Farthington from putting you in that position in the first place. Some might consider that extremely disrespectful, especially given how acclaimed he is in grappling and submission wrestling.
Brandon Youngblood: Ang…I’d love to stand here, look you in the eye, look everyone in the eye, and spit all over what Farthington did. Say it was a fluke. That he got lucky. Right place right time. That he caught me when I got one arm busted and that played right into his wheelhouse. That he’s been coasting on nothing but bullshit, not having to put that 5 Star Title up, tag matches for main events, that it’s all just gravy for PRIME and Lindsay because, well…she and her kids like him, for whatever reason, more than they like me. But there’s a problem there, Ang…
Angelica Brooks: That being?
Brandon Youngblood: All that…all those ways to frame it…it’s horseshit.
There’s no sarcasm in his manner.
Brandon Youngblood: Just like I said when Ivan beat me for the Universal Title, credit where credit is due. Was I a hundred percent? No. Nobody who fights to get to the top of the tower can be. You fight. You bleed. You push yourself beyond endurance. In the ReVival, I take everyone’s best, demand the very best of whoever is in the ring against me.
A slight shift.
Brandon Youngblood: Farthington is a great wrestler. Not just now, but all time. He fights and he fights. Is he cutthroat? Can he be trusted? Will he shiv you in the back the moment he feels the opportunity is right? Yeah. But he took what I hit him with, and he got up. He fought. He fought through my gameplan and through the blows and weathered it all. And then, he got a hold of me after ruining both my arms. Yeah…I could’ve passed out. I could’ve let him rip apart my arms and lost a year to recovery. And maybe I never get back to the level I’ve been at in the ReVival. Maybe I don’t heal fast. When I’m beat…and I know I’m beat…I’m not going to lay there for pride. Pride like that is bullshit. It’s stupid. It’s arrogant.
Hands on hips.
Brandon Youngblood: And I want to fight my way back. Not just to Cecilworth, not just to Stanislav…to anyone at the top of this sport. I don’t get that if I’m under the knife or in a cast. I’m not moving on. It’s just…right now…people are renting. And I plan on coming home.
His glower turns from Angelica, directly to the camera.
Brandon Youngblood: But I’m not going to get there if I’m sitting around in rehab. Lindsay and Killean…they gave me the choice to sit out the Almasy. Medical reasons. I said no. I have to live with that, just like UltraViolence. And I’m here tonight because they gave that opportunity again. So if I want to get to where I belong, if I am going to do the right thing, I need to do what I refused to do last year. I need to go home–
The clapping is annoying, but not as much as the perpetrator easing into the frame. Another PRIME Hall of Famer. Another Jewel in the Crown winner. Tony Gamble. The size disparity is, as always, a bit comical. The permanent smirk is unflinching.
Tony Gamble: I never fail to be impressed by the way you can fail the way you do, stand there as if nothing has changed, and talk about how getting back to the top of this sport is not just a few fights away for you. It’s sickening that you’ve managed to remain the mountain – I’m sorry, the tower – the rest of us need to ascend to become relevant these days. Especially, when you’re in this condition.
In saying this, The Grin gives a heavy, hearty slap to Youngblood’s left bicep, causing the Tower of Babel to flinch, to wince, to try and protect the wounded limb.
Tony Gamble: I know I’ll never be mommy’s favorite son – never had it in me to bend a knee and kiss the ring – but every once in a while I wonder what it would be like if I had been here since Revival number one… In any case, have fun sitting at home licking your wounds.
Youngblood, enough time having passed, bolts back stern, upright, seething. There’s only one problem; Gamble is no longer there to deal with the seething Diamond. Sentiment made clear, we go back to the ring for the Battle of Glue between Hayes Hanlon and Cecilworth Farthington.
HAYES HANLON vs. CECILWORTH FARTHINGTON
Distorted guitar heralds a black hole emerging on the PRIME*View, dangerously close to the screen; hanging in the void among planets and nebulas.
Sirens accompany as the screen shakes, pulling us in violently, until the lyrics scream throughout the PA system.
“WHEN MY BACK’S TO THE WAAALLLL!!!”
And huge, white block letters fill the screen:
The speakers and amplifiers hold on for dear life as “Daggers” by We Came as Romans absolutely bludgeon the eardrums. And speaking of explosions, those planets and stars on the PRIME*View do just that, bursting into blinding eruptions of violent light. It carries into the arena, rumbling flashbulbs explode in various points throughout the building; in the ceiling, in the stands, one after another.
And then, from the ramp, The Event Horizon. He marches forward, those dark eyes focused, ‘stache on point. The eruption of lights and noise makes the building feel like a mosh pit. If the fans are booing, you’d never know.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following is a QUARTERFINAL MATCH for the Almasy! Introducing first – FROM WEST LINN, OREGON! STANDING SIX FEET, THREE INCHES AND WEIGHING IN AT TWO-HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE POUNDS!!
Hayes climbs the apron, steps through the ropes, and b-lines for the turnbuckle.
Vince Howard: The Event Horizoonnnnnnn…HAAAAAYESSSS!! HAAANNNLLOOOONNNNN!!!
Up one rope, then the second, chest and jaw jutting out, and a thumb across his neck.
“DRAW! THE! DAGGER!
CUT OUT THE PAIN! TO FIND THE POWER!”
He hops down, making way to the next post to repeat the process one more time.
“DRAW! THE! DAGGER!
CUT OUT THE PAIN!”
He remains on the ropes, and in timing with the song, beats his chest four times while roaring out the crescendo.
The Comeback Kid stays for a moment, eyes scanning the arena, allowing the music to reach its breakdown. He hops to the mat and takes his place in his corner, ready to go.
Nick Stuart: VERY interesting dynamics at play in this matchup, partner!
Richard Parker: Do these friggin Glue guys even LIKE each other?? I genuinely don’t understand their deal. Every time we see them together, someone’s failing at something and FLAMBO’s server reboots, and yet, these guys are some of the top stars in all of PRIME. What a world!
Nick Stuart: Indeed – Hayes Hanlon is a recent convert to the world of Glue production, and he faces the man many consider to be the face of the Glueminati, The Financier, Cecilworth Farthington. He is the Five Star Champion, he is unbeaten, and he is perhaps the finest technical wrestler of his generation. The target is on his back in this tournament – a win over The Financier earns you a shot at his title!
The arena slowly begins to darken, as the opening moments of “Choke” by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me begin to slowly reverberate. As the riff reaches its peak, the whole crowd is awakened with bright lights shining down upon them as out from backstage steps Lord Cecilworth Farthington.
Vince Howard: And his opponent – FROM BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND! STANDING SIX FEET AND WEIGHTING ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SEVEN POUNDS…HE IS THE REIGNING PRIME FIIIIIIIIVE STAAAAAAR CHAMPION…The Financierrrrrr…CECILWOOOOOOOOOORTH FAAAAAAAARTHINGTOOOOOOOOON!
The camera quickly zooms into the self-assured smile that’s cracked upon the face of The Financier as he swaggers down to the right, both arms inserted into the pockets of a plain black hoodie. The jovial face of Farthington doesn’t entirely match his purposeful march to the ring, his shoulders swaying to the tune of “Choke”.
Nick Stuart: Looking at Cecilworth now, you wouldn’t know that he just faced serious peril in the last round of the Almasy. Maybe putting on a strong front?
Richard Parker: Hayes Hanlon is a two-time Universal Champion and his mustache can cut glass – you don’t want to show that man weakness. Make no mistake, Cecilworth can’t be 100% right now, but he’s going to treat this like any other match.
Nick Stuart: Which is WILD when you think about it – are these guys going to be on the same page? Will they take it easy on each other? Do they trust each other? I guess we’ll find out!
Farthington’s hands never leave the pockets as he slowly rolls under the bottom rope and leaps up into the ring. He slowly raises his left arm up into the sky and gives the crowd a cheeky little wave as he takes his place resting against the ring corner.
Nick Stuart: The Glue Boiz explode!
Farthington is cagey from the off, not looking to engage too quickly. He wants to measure the intentions of the man standing across from him.
Hanlon, for his part, looks ready for a fight and he’s moving with more purpose. He goes for a quick collar-and-elbow that Farthington ducks away from with a backpedal and a grin. Farthington raises his arms to mimic as if he was ready to lock up this time, Hanlon launches forward again – Farthington again slips away.
Nick Stuart: A bit of cat and mouse from the Financier?
Richard Parker: You know, I’ve been thinking about it and it’s crazy – the two champions out of all those Glue maniacs are two of the skinniest guys on the entire roster. Hanlon brings a lot of power that they didn’t really have from their singles stars.
Hanlon and Farthington motion to lock up, Cecilworth ducks a third time –
Hanlon anticipates the duck and throws a flashy right hand! Another! He’s got Farthington backed into the ropes! Hanlon gains wrist control and hurls Farthington across the ring and looks to time another huge strike – Farthington hangs onto those opposing ropes for a beat, messing with Hanlon’s timing! After a swing and a miss from Home Run Hayes, Cecilworth launches forward and crushes Hanlon’s abdomen with a big knee!
Hanlon doubles over. Farthington wastes little time and with a step and a twist, he drops Hanlon entirely with a spinning toe hold. He reaches forward and tries to go for an early Tarp, but before he can get it locked in, Hanlon grabs Cecilworth’s arms and with a great heave he pries them apart. The two roll around a bit looking to gain a dominant position – it’s Hanlon who succeeds and throws big looping rights and lefts into Cecilworth’s face while mounted on his ribcage.
Fortunately for the Financier, all that rolling around ended up positioning the pair near the ropes. Farthington reaches out and grabs the nearest bottom rope, which forces Hanlon to break. Hanlon does so without protest, takes a few steps back towards the center of the ring, and locks eyes on Farthington, bent at the waist with his hands extended, ready to go for another scrap. Farthington has chosen to tangle himself in the ropes a bit as he looks up from the seat of his ass at this Mustache he’s supposedly aligned with.
Maybe it was a mistake to tell this guy about Glueconomics. Maybe he’s been using Cecilworth this whole time, taking secret notes he wouldn’t have access to before, all for some edge for a huge moment like this. There’s a bounty on the line, after all.
Oh God. He’s really coming for you, Cecilworth, isn’t he?
Nick Stuart: Farthington is unbeaten here in PRIME, but looking at him now and hearing how he talks about himself, you wouldn’t know it, would you?
Richard Parker: Look, the guy’s neck is held together with chewing gum and Hank’s prayer candles back at Farthington Manor, ok? There are all these rumblings about how he and FLAMBERGE don’t really get along, about how they’re always trying to one-up each other – well, what happens when the new guy comes in and beats you while the other guy has a date with Ivan Stanislav for the top prize in all of professional wrestling?
Nick Stuart: It’s a complicated situation to be sure, and you have to wonder if he’s learned anything from seeing what happened to Phil Atken when it comes to injuries.
Richard Parker: You mean “assault by a crumb and a KFC Famous Bowl Specialist”, right?
Nick Stuart: …sure.
The murmur in the crowd is really unique – as a rule, the PRIMEates don’t care for either of these gentlemen at the moment, but when there’s a real dream match situation, sometimes you can’t help but be up for it.
Referee Ashley Barlow instructs Farthington to re-engage. Hanlon lets Farthington re-enter the ring while maintaining the fighting stance. This sort of “good sportsmanship because I think I can take you” attitude is just the kind of thing that can set Cecilworth off, and it does here –
Five across the mustachioed face! Cecilworth slaps him again and again, repeatedly, turning more into palm strikes and kniving chops as he presses forward. Hanlon is caught off guard and backs up, and then grabs Cecilworth around the waist and begins charging forward towards a ring corner. Cecilworth slips out of the grip, reverses, and with a neat little technical maneuver he finds himself behind Hanlon, sending him to the ground by controlling a wrist with one hand and pressing the shoulder with the other.
Farthington reaches and twists and pulls at the arm, looking for a full arm bar situation. Hanlon continues summoning his strength to prevent it, but it’s getting tougher to manage. Hanlon spins on the ground and thrusts his legs, launching Farthington off of him. They both scramble to their feet, Farthington swings again for the head and Hanlon ducks! He grabs Farthington, HOISTS, and PIVOTS!
Nick Stuart: BIG spinebuster from Hanlon! Here’s the cover!
Hanlon gets up with a start, bends, and LEAPS with tremendous vigor! Jumping leg drop onto Farthington’s shoulder blades! He flips him over for another cover!
Hanlon takes a second to catch his breath, knowing he has a very delicate advantage. He goes to lift Farthington by the head, looking for a big DDT – Farthington drops to a knee! He’s deadweighting Hanlon! The Event Horizon looks to use his power to bypass this weird bullshit from Cecilworth – only for Cecilworth to spring to life! While being head locked, he takes a step back, then launches up with some momentum, twisting and wrapping around the back of Hanlon’s body, violently clutching at some bodily purchase – until he’s got it locked in!
Nick Stuart: OCTOPUS STRETCH! Octopus Stretch on Hanlon! Will Hanlon tap out?
Richard Parker: Eugh, something about the way Farthington locks in the Octopus, it gives me the jimmies, partner. It’s gnarly looking!
Ashley Barlow checks on Hammerin’ Hanlon, who insists he’s ok, though he’s now carrying the entire weight of a brilliant technician who is using his neck and body like playground equipment.
Farthington wrenches harder, which causes Hanlon to wince in pain – but he’s got this. He steadies himself, holds his arm out, and with a graceful hoist, he dislodges Farthington from his neck region and positions him in a Fireman’s Carry! Hanlon yells out to the crowd, fired the fuck up at his feat of strength and skill, before eeeeever so slowly tilting, tiltinggggggggggg
Nick Parker: HUGE stalling Samoan Drop! Here’s another cover, Hanlon’s advancing here!
Both men are quick to get up, and the intensity has decidedly ratcheted up.
Hanlon continues swinging for big heavy power moves, Farthington continues peppering Hanlon with shots when there’s an opening and, failing that, continues angling for holds at every turn. Both men know it’s going to take something big to take this one, and on the flip side, all it takes is one wrong move and the Almasy dream dies.
Richard Parker: I guess we can stop wondering if these two were gonna play nice in this one!
Nick Stuart: Hanlon’s certainly been an aggressor from the very beginning. Farthington hasn’t gone full maniac yet, but he HAS to be annoyed that he’s still on the back foot in this particular match, given his opponent, the stakes, the tournament, his neck – all of it!
Finally, Farthington finds a way to halt the nonstop war machine that is Hayes Hanlon – a blunt palm strike to the side of Hanlon’s nose that would make anyone’s eyes immediately water. Hanlon stumbles, holding his nose and checking for blood. None yet –
A vicious kick to the breadbasket by Farthington drops Hanlon! Seizing the opportunity, Farthington measures his opponent and charges with a vicious elbow smash to the back of Hanlon’s head!
Nick Parker: MALICE IN WONDERLAND! Cecilworth – locking both shoulders here for good measure, here’s a Crucifix pin, high stack!
Frustrated, Farthington lifts the groggy body of Hanlon and chucks him towards the ropes, sending him rolling under the bottom to the outside. Ashley Barlow is not super psyched about this course of action (as she is wont to be) and admonishes Farthington, instructing him to “bring it back in the ring”.
Cecilworth Farthington: No. Well, actually, just…give me a minute. If you would count slower that would be just aces, really.
Nick Stuart: That’s not gonna work on Ashley Barlow, is it?
Ron Howard voice: “It’s not.” She begins the ten count immediately and doesn’t seem to be giving much leniency to it. Farthington, perturbed at this, hops outside the ring just a hair faster than he might have preferred thank you very much, technical wrestling takes measurement and hasty measurement means mistakes ASHLEY, but it’s fine. Cecilworth will just have to go less technical than he may have originally planned.
Hanlon is still dazed. Farthington grabs him and launches –
DIRECTLY into the ring steps! Farthington stalks his prey, picks him up a second time, launches in a new direction –
Hanlon WIPES OUT as he’s slammed into the ringside barricade! Farthington takes a breather and looks over to that spoilsport Ashley Barlow for a status count of the…count.
Ashley Barlow: FIVE! …..SIX!
Ope, no time to waste, better just –
sprint forward and CRUSH Hanlon’s sternum with a running penalty kick!
Nick Stuart: Hanlon’s in a bad way out there!
Richard Parker: Maybe it was one of those therapeutic kicks!
Nick Stuart: …
Richard Parker: …
Ashley Barlow: SEVEN!
Farthington understands the rules of professional wrestling quite thoroughly, thank you very much, and he is aware that one potential victory condition is known as the “Count Out”, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s in a great position to accomplish this feat! He looks down at Hanlon one more time, laments at the haste in Ashley Barlow’s relatively speedy count that’s preventing even more devastation outside the ring, and rolls under the bottom rope back into the ring.
Hammerin’ Hanlon STIRS!
Nick Stuart: Hanlon’s down, he’s hurting, he’s got a red mark in the shape of a boot tip on his chest, but damn it, he’s not out!
Ashley Barlow: EIGHT!
And then Hanlon said “fuck your nine point nine-nines”, springing to life!
A surge of energy washes across his face! He gets to his feet and charges into the ring, sliding under the bottom rope! Farthington wasn’t expecting this speedy of a response and so he misses with another Penalty Kick – HANLON WITH A SPEAR! CECILWORTH IS DOWN! HANLON RAINS DOWN SHOTS! It’s pandemonium in Nashville!
Farthington covers his head and his precarious neck with his arms, finally snapping them together like a bear trap around Hanlon’s left arm as it comes swinging in for a would-be hammer shot! Even while on his back, he wrenches at Hanlon’s wrist, looking for some sort of desperation win – but Hanlon won’t quit!
Hanlon uses his free hand to bash down, a clubbing hammer fighting off the vice-like grip of the Best Boy! Farthington rolls to his stomach, now looking for an escape – Hanlon doesn’t allow it, staying on top and wrapping his arms around Farthington’s waist while bent over – and then~~
Nick Stuart: WHOA!!
Hayes Hanlon takes the prone, face-down body of Farthington and with the power of one of the thiccest rumps in wrestling today he powers Farthington up, a 270 degree deadlift German Suplex that ROCKS the Englishman! Hayes bridges for the cover!
THREENOOOOOOO! Farthington BARELY gets the shoulder up!
Nick Stuart: Hayes Hanlon has wrestled nearly a perfect match tonight, partner!
Richard Parker: No doubt, he’s taken some heavy shots from our Five Star Champion, even some really precarious submission moves – the kid wants this win, badly.
Nick Stuart: He’s certainly knocking on the doorstep here – let’s be clear, it’s never an upset when Hayes Hanlon wins a match, but there’s no doubt that walking into the Glueminati (or the Glue Factory, or the Glue Live Crew, or WHATEVER it is they’re calling themselves now) and immediately scoring a win over the man who fancies himself to be the group’s leader? Earning a shot at that same man’s championship? THAT’S a statement.
What proceeds is much ragdolling. Hayes Hanlon is quite intense about making that statement Nick Stuart helpfully pointed out on commentary, you see, and he is in the process of learning that often times, to be a Threshing Machine, you have to fuck a guy up a lot more than you thought you did.
More German Suplexes. A powerbomb. A second powerbomb. A Death Valley Driver. Farthington eats all of them. It’s a concern.
Richard Parker: Oh lord, he’s gotta be done. That neck was a cracked eggshell before, you don’t make it past that sequence.
Hanlon goes for a cover after the Death Valley Driver!
Hanlon looks around at the crowd, finally clocking that people are watching this fight for dominance. They’re…on their feet? No, they hate him now, why would they do that?
Maybe some lingering hope that he’s a mole, or something. Maybe Hayes Hanlon didn’t really join team Glue, maybe he’s still one of the good guys – yeah, I’m sure that’s it, son. Look at him fighting Cecilworth, he’s not holding back at all – maybe we don’t have to throw away the Event Horizon tee we bought after he won his second Univ-There they are. The double birds to the crowd.
Hayes Hanlon doesn’t want you along for this ride. This is a one-man trip that he alone controls. Fuck his past, Brandon Youngblood, the Glueminati, all his past championship reigns – he’s here to prove that he’s the goddamn best. Not Farthington, not FLAMBERGE – him. It’s usually true, some fans think, even when he comes up short.
That dump truck contains a lot of credibility.
Without a second thought (well, maybe the double deuce was the second thought – without a third thought, how’s that?), Hanlon pulls the unsteady Farthington upright. Cecilworth, to his credit, punches at something he thinks might have a mustache.
It’s air. Air doesn’t have mustaches.
Stumbling after his missed effort, Hanlon positions himself perfectly to pop Cecilworth up by his throat…
Spin 180 degrees…
Nick Stuart: THE EVENT HORIZON HAS JUST! HIT! THE EPOCH! ON CECILWORTH FARTHINGTON!
Richard Parker: What a result! I can’t believe it!
Nick Stuart: Hayes Hanlon goes for the cov-wait a minute! He’s not…he’s not going for the pin?
Indeed, Hanlon has positioned himself above Farthington, but he’s not pressing his opponent’s shoulders to the mat.
Instead, he’s trying something.
There’s a lesson to be learned from FLAMBERGE, after all – you focus your energy on collecting necks, and success follows you at every turn. Maybe there’s something to that.
Cecilworth’s undefeated neck is basically a first-edition holofoil, after all. Even with all the edge damage Youngblood did to it last round, the undefeated neck is a One Of One. If anything, the damage is half the point of the valuation. Proof of lineage.
Easier than having it graded.
So why shouldn’t Hayes Hanlon start his collection with a bang?
Why shouldn’t he just…move that arm there, and…that shoulder there, position the neck thusly, and..
…PRESS DAT NECK WITH YO’ KNEEEEEEEEEE
Nick Stuart: OH MY WORD! HAYES HANLON IS GOING FOR A NORTHWEST NECKTIE!
Richard Parker: A submission hold?! Where on earth – HOW WHAT on earth??
Hanlon’s putting everything he knows about submission wrestling into this choke, his own version of a Tequila Sunrise, with Farthington’s leg high above him and scorpioned out.
…but there’s a problem.
You don’t out-tekker Cecilworth Farthington.
To be clear, this Northwest Necktie looks like Stretchy Murder Death to the layman in the crowd – and this move probably submits the vast majority of the PRIME roster. Maybe even Youngblood.
And Farthington isn’t having what you could call a “good” time while caught in this hold – he’s just been around the Neck Collector a bit longer than Hanlon has. And at the end of the day, Cecilworth Farthington is a survivalist. A barnacle, a really wretched bramble that you just can’t ever seem to shake.
He’s one of the only people in the world who could know – truly know – that Hanlon doesn’t have the hold locked in optimally.
There’s a gap there that a writhe, skinny little bastard like Cecilworth Farthington can juuuuuuuuuust find a way through, if he can just. Take a deep breath.
Gulp, shrink the neck.
Move quickly, there’s only one shot at this…PUSH, ROLL…
…CECILWORTH ESCAPES THE NORTHWEST NECKTIE! Ferociously, the animalism that usually hides deep beneath the lordly veneer of Farthington lashes out and bares its fangs – he wills his body around Hayes Hanlon, who only now realizes he’s lost his grip –
Nick Stuart: OH NO! CECILWORTH FARTHINGTON HAS TRAPPED HANLON IN THE TARP!
Hayes Hanlon is many things, and one of those things is “forward thinking”. He realizes he made that damn one mistake, and it’s either tap now, or get seriously debilitated when this man goes full apeshit and tap out later with fewer working limbs.
He makes the gut wrenching choice.
Richard Parker: THAT’S IT! HANLON’S TAPPING!
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: Your winner as a result of a submission, and advancing to the semifinals of the Almasy Classic…CECILWOOOOOOOORTH FAAAAAAAAAARTHINGTOOOOOOOOON!
“Choke” by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me blares throughout the arena. Farthington collapses after the bell is rung. He’s breathing heavily and does not seem well. Ashley Barlow leans over and raises one of his limp arms in “triumph”.
Nick Stuart: It’s clear that Cecilworth Farthington only had one last bullet in his chamber tonight, and VERY fortunately for him, it came through in the end.
Richard Parker: You know what? Hell of a freaking match from Hayes Hanlon. He beats every other member of the PRIME roster tonight with that effort. Hell, if you run this match back ten times, Hanlon may take more than five of them! That Farthington, though. Man. He’s never out of it, is he?
Nick Stuart: He’s certainly not out of this tournament! The Five Star Champion remains unbeaten in PRIME, and he stakes his claim within the hierarchy of team Glue. I wish we could be a fly on the wall for THAT conversation, eh partner?
Richard Parker: I can’t wait for Hanlon to tear Cardsworth a new one.
Nick Stuart: And now, we take you to…wait, “Drawn Weiners”? That can’t be right.
Richard Parker: …got your ass, partner.
We hear Nick Stuart sigh loudly as Cecilworth and Hanlon both make their way to the back. Both look worse for wear, both can’t seem to read the other man’s expression. And they don’t walk up the ramp shoulder-to-shoulder. The boys need some space to process after that one. Got dicey there.
And now, THIS!
WE CAN BELIEVE IN THAT FOR YOU WHOLESALE
Nick Stuart: It looks like we’ve got Don Winters and it seems as if he’s got more cultists somewhere backstage again.
Richard Parker: The Revelator is…
Nick Stuart: Don’t say it. Not again.
Richard Parker: Revelating, baby!
Nick Stuart sighs deeply into his headset as the camera cuts backstage to show Don Winters with a man and two women in tow. The male is dressed exactly like Winters in a white suit, while the women wear crimson dresses with white shoes, and white flowers in their hair. They carry plain smiles and blank expressions, only showing interest when The Revelator speaks.
Don Winters: I’ve been saying that we can’t live in the past, we have got to look and move forward. To the future. He demands this of us. ReVival 38 and Cancer Jiles? Gone. In the past. While it’s true that Jiles is a sinner that will not see the Kingdom of Heaven, nor be granted Absolution, there are much more important things to be focused on.
The three followers nod along vigorously, drinking in every word. Don looks more confident than he has at any point since coming to PRIME. He smiles brightly while adjusting his cufflinks.
Don Winters: Yes, there is more to life than victory. His Word and Light has reassured me of this. Some folks are simply born cheaters and while they cannot be beaten in the moment, triumph and the spoils of victory will be mine in the end. I truly believe this, and I know the three of you do as well.
The Revelator briefly looks upon his doting followers as a proud father might look at particularly well-behaved children.
Don Winters: And honestly? What a prime night it has been for His Word and Light. Rob Williams has met Miriam, and I can tell you that those ships will be burning well into the night. The real question is whether Rob will turn out to be for the cause, or another non-believer in need of Absolution.
The male of the group goes to speak, but Winters quickly presses his forefinger to the man’s lips.
Don Winters: Shhh. We’re not at His Word and Light. In this house you speak when spoken to or given permission. However, the question of Rob Williams will have to live another day before we can properly give it an answer. His Word and Light could become a very powerful friend and an ally to Mr. Williams, but he has to believe.
Winters pauses and smiles again.
Don Winters: It could be the start of something truly righteous for us. A new dawn for His World and Light. Under His guidance we are one, we are Le…
Before The Revelator finishes his sentence, he cuts himself off as he hears a voice outside the dressing room door.
Voice: (singing, badly) ♫ TAKE ME DOOOOOWN, LIL SUSIE, TAKE ME DOOOOWN! I KNOW YA THINK YER THE QUEEN OF THE UNDERGROOOOUND! ♫
The dressing room door swings open, right on cue… and there’s Daytona Diamonds. Pause for boos because you just know he’s drowning in them. He’s a stumbling, swaying, topsy-turvy mess. There’s a bottle of whiskey in one hand (see: half-drank) and a two-liter of Coca Cola in the other (see: less-drank).
His eyes are wide and red rimmed, his nostrils twitching and flaring on their own volition as they try to make room for more cocaine air. As soon as he sees The Revelator and his cohorts, Daytona stops and stares, mouth slightly agape, eyes narrowing as they try to focus on what he’s seeing. There’s a moment of long, awkward silence before he finally speaks.
Daytona Diamonds: The hell y’all freaks doin’ here…? Ain’t this The Diamond Mine…? What’d y’all do with all my god dang decorations?!
Don Winters smiles politely, holding back the bile that is surely rising up in his throat. His nose twitches at the smell of whiskey and the desperate sweat of a man in the throes of a bender. He adjusts his cufflinks and turns to his patrons.
Don Winters: People who need saving in this world come in many shapes and sizes. Some are more subtle in their needs and some (Winters motions to Diamonds) may be beyond saving. Damned to stumble through this mortal plane waiting for their eternal soul to be released into Hell.
The Revelator turns back to Diamonds, but continues to talk about him as if he’s not barely standing in front of Winters.
Don Winters: And it seems quite likely that our friend here is in the latter category. He has found the rock, but he is yet to have found rock bottom. He is on a wicked path and I’m not sure Absolution can save his wretched soul.
Daytona has a confused expression on his face, taking a swing from the bottle of whiskey followed by another swig from the bottle of Coke while he listens to Winters give his sermon. A swallow, a grimace, and then a scowl.
Daytona Diamonds: Now, wait just a god dang hiccup minute here! You can’t be talkin’ ‘bout my cough fuckin’ soul like that! Ain’t nothin’ wretched ‘bout it! This soul’s made-a one hundred percent, certified, solid burp gold!
This is the part where Daytona would have balled his hands into two twin fists and gotten ready to fight, but… instead, a slight shift forward sends him stumbling backwards into the doorframe, catching his balance quickly as he blinks rapidly and tries to stand on baby deer legs.
Daytona Diamonds: …shit fire, is this rock grunt bottom?
The Revelator smiles serenely and attempts to place a reassuring hand on Daytona’s shoulder, but he bleaches before regaining a slim measure of composure. Winters draws his hand back to his own body and speaks with warmth.
Don Winters: You’re still on the top step of that staircase, Daytona. The wallowing, the drinking, (he plugs a nostril and inhales sharply) the drugs. This is just the beginning for you, and it’s a long, long way down from here.
Winters bends his knees and hunches slightly to bring his eyes level with Daytona’s. He scans them briefly before returning to full height.
Don Winters: Even if I believe you are beyond saving, Daytona, I am compelled by His Word and Light to try. I can help you shed the ersatz skin you’re living in. You can ascend to something greater than fleeting dopamine hits. He can give you purpose.
The word hangs in the air between them, as sharp as a knife and as soft as a pillow. Daytona’s eyes stare down at the ground, his jaw hanging loose, a difficult thought starting to form in the cortex of his brain.
Daytona Diamonds: Purpose, huh…?
The way he says it, it sounds more like ‘porpoise’, but we can’t hold that against him. Wide-eyed, Daytona meets Don’s gaze, staring momentarily before slowly nodding his head.
Daytona Diamonds: Donnie baby, you done went and snort helped me more’n you know. Lissen, you probably couldn’t tell, but hiccup I’m all roostered up n’ ‘bout as drunk as Cooter Brown, buddy. How’s about… how’s about youse and that ol’ He of yours come an’ meet me at The Diamond Mine next week, huh?
A smile spreads across Daytona’s face as he looks to Don and then to Don’s ‘friends’ and then back to Don. He drops the bottle of Coke to the ground, soda spilling across the floor, and quickly reaches out with the same hand to pat Don’s shoulder. He misses, tries again, misses again, and then gives up before offering a half-cocked finger gun and a wink, turning and making his way back out of the locker room just as quickly as he came. As he stumbles away, his voice echoes back down the hall.
Daytona Diamonds: Next week, Donnie baby! You, me, and the god dang Holy Spirit! Halle-fuckin’-lujah!
The Revelator smiles at his cohorts as the locker room door slowly swings closed.
Don Winters: We’re looking forward to it.
The scene fades out as the production team cuts the broadcast to commercial.
COMMERCIAL: REVIVAL 40
JARED SYKES vs. CANCER JILES
The match graphic shows and the crowd loses their preverbal minds!
Nick Stuart: It’s time. We’ve seen the three others advance and I obviously know who they are, I’m just not saying anything in case you have Revival recorded and you’re watching it out of order.
Richard Parker: I like that reasoning, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Anyway, let’s get onto the match at hand. Cancer Jiles and Jared Sykes, two of the biggest names in this company and something has to give.
Richard Parker: I received some backlash for calling the last Cancer Jiles match, I saw the online comments. I do read, you know. I was rather “harsh”. I just want to say I’ve seen this Cancer Jiles Almasy Tournament song and dance before and I’ve become a little too worked up over what I think might happen.
Nick Stuart: Jiles making it to the finals?
Richard Parker: I can’t promise I won’t get worked up again, look at what wrestlers are in front of me right now.
Nick Stuart: (No selling) Poor you. (Back on track) Let’s go to ringside with Vince Howard on the call and then will return with some unbiased announcing.
Vince Howard: This is the MAIN EVENT of the night! It is an Almasy Tournament match and it is for… ONE FALL!
The lights fade to nothing and then the first note hits. Deep, resonant, and with it comes a flood of white light that washes over the crowd. As the sound fades, so does the light.
I’ll never be ready to meet a memory
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring…
A steady rhythm follows, building to something. With each note comes a pulse of white, like a heartbeat slightly out of time.
Vince Howard: Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts…
The only thing louder than the thundering guitar coming through the speakers is the explosion of the crowd.
Vince Howard: Weighing in at two-hundred-one pounds…
The guitar rips into frenetic tapping riff, and with it blue and purple lights begin pulsing over the crowd in time with the beat. Tonight, Jared is out here alone, because my dude seriously has a thing about walking in against a dozen people without backup. Honestly, it might be his kink.
Also because his partner isn’t in the building, but that’s neither here nor there.
Vince Howard: JAAAARRYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!
Let’s all take a moment to forgive Mr. Howard for what he just did. That tee shirt – the same pink number Jared wore earlier – is very bright, and incredibly hard to ignore. Also, keep in mind that he’s introducing the same person who made sure that the ring introduction cards he read every week were full of batshit nonsense about how Justine was going to murder him for trying to do “total combined weights.” Vince is owed this, he deserves this.
Also he’s quick to fix his mistakes.
Vince Howard: I, uhh… JAAAAAAARED SYYYYYYYKES!!!!!!
When the dirt crushes my bones
And the worms call me their home
If I’m asked to start again
I can’t pretend I’m ready
I can’t pretend
I’ve had plenty
Jarry – fuck, now I’m doing it too. I mean, Jared makes his way to the ring. Despite not being the biggest fan of the nickname, he chuckles to himself before sliding under the bottom rope. The trademark hoodie is placed under a nearby turnbuckle, as is the pink “JARRY” shirt with the 8 million exclamation points, because he’s come this far and he’s not about to disrespect the merch at this stage of the game.
Richard Parker: This Jarry thing, oh boy…
Nick Stuart: Not a fan?
Richard Parker: Any added attention towards Jared Sykes means I’m not a fan. So of course I’m not a fan. Also, going alone tonight, huh? Stupid.
With Sykes in the ring and the crowd on their feet… the lights inside the Bridgestone Arena slowly draw to a dim. Smoke begins to billow at the top of the entrance ramp.
The temperature drops. The air chills. The mood changes.
Nick Stuart: Here we go.
The Crumbotron comes to life and illuminates the arena with a picture of the GOLDEN TICKET. After it spins around a couple of times a montage of superkicks that seemingly never ends plays. While the video unfolds, a spotlight clangs on that shines down upon the fogged up entrance way.
The spotlight is, of course, in the shape of an egg.
Next, an invigorating, pulsating, reverberating, electric guitar raucously riffs its way throughout space and time. It. Is. loud. But, not as loud as the series of pyro’s that coincide with it.
Screaming Jay Hawkins, singer and songwriter of “I am the Cool” begins to sing…
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
Out from behind the curtain they emerge. Coral, Bobby, and lastly, The GOLDEN TICKET.
I AM THE COOL!
Nick Stuart: Love him. HATE him. Hope he dies a miserable slow death, whatever the case may be, there is no denying the spectacle that follows The Golden Ticket, “COOL” Cancer Jiles.
Nick isn’t wrong. It is a spectacle. The place is on their feet, showering Jiles and flock with exponentially dubious adoration.
The three hit a group pose, and then disperse for a moment so Jiles can release a short burst of his poison mist into the air.
Richard Parker: Stupid mist.
The COOLYMPIAN starts to confidently make his way down to the ring. Head high, big smile, spotlight on him, and rock hard dick taped down to his leg.
Bob and Coral fall in and follow closely behind like the tight knit group that they all are. Once the trio reaches ringside, a short pep talk ensues. Jiles then passes off the T-shades, bumps fists, and slides under the bottom rope.
Coral and Bob post up on the outside and await the bell.
Richard Parker: I hate these matches where both competitors would be better off pumping gas. I don’t care if the hype is real, and Hayes Hanlon was upset about it.
Nick Stuart: Speaking of HYPE. Round Three. MAIN EVENT. Golden Ticket, and a trip to the semifinals are on the line! Colossus is right around the corner. Sykes. Jiles. First time ever!
Timo tries to calmly check Jiles’ being for anything foreign, but obviously their history prevents such. Plus, Jiles is too busy calling Jared Sykes a pretty boy to have his boots properly checked, which most likely means he has some sort of trick up his proverbial sleeve.
Nick Stuart: Little gamesmanship here by Jiles, as is customary for him before a match.
Finally, after Jiles tells Sykes that he could have saved a fortune if he had just waited until after the match to get all the work done, Timo calls for the bell to shut him up.
The fans give an enormous shout as the referee moves back and both men stand in their respective corners.
On the outside, Coral leans on Bobby as if they’re ready to sink into a serious popcorn muncher and will be there to provide consistent moral support. On the other hand, Bobby’s eyes dart back and forth, from one side of the ropes to the other, as if his mind is on overdrive for how to take the crowd out of this one already. Likely, these were directions Cancer told him before they got out there. “A quiet crowd is a Bandit crowd.” Perhaps something like that. Who knows.
Nick Stuart: Two Bandits on the outside. Bobby is definitely going to intervene sooner than later. Coral… unlikely.
The crowd continues to cheer as Jared Sykes peers into the bleachers and starts nodding with passion. Meanwhile, after witnessing Sykes soak in the response, Cancer Jiles can’t help but glare into the bleachers as well. However, he has a sour, almost Grinch-like demeanor upon his face, as if he’s hating every second of this and wishes a timely, immediate death upon his opponent so he could hook the leg and pick up the three.
Might not even hook the leg.
Jiles continues to display a vomit disposition as the crowd wishes the two combatants march towards the center of the ring and lock horns.
Jared is the first one to take a step forward.
Jiles couldn’t give a damn.
Jared takes another step forward.
Jiles, once again, doesn’t care.
Jared takes another step forward. He throws his arms out and starts waving Cancer towards him.
Nick Stuart: You can see the desperation in his eyes. Sykes knows this is a MAJOR opportunity. Not many make it this far. Elite Eight, it’s something to be proud of.
Instead, Jiles lifts both his arms and rests them across the ropes as his body further melts into the corner. Even Bobby Dean’s face is all “WTF” on the outside but Jiles takes a moment to catch the wide body’s attention with an expression on his face suggesting Dean needs to calm the fuck down, it’s all COOL.
Luckily, Coral is there to pat Bobby on the back.
LET’S GO JARED!
LET’S GO JARED!
LET’S GO JARED!
The crowd is relentless. They refuse to back down, even though at least two minutes have ticked off the clock since the bell was rung.
Finally, Sykes’ patience is wearing a little thin. He really wants to get this match going. He takes a HARD step forward…
Cancer drops to a knee and rolls out of the ring.
The arena is HOT, white hot. Jiles marches over to his Bandits and stands beside them. At first, Bobby thinks Jiles wants to strategize with him but The COOL is merely fucking around. Coral, on the other hand, proudly pats Cancer on the chest, remembering support is the most important thing he can provide.
Richard Parker: My worst nightmare has taken place. Really hoping this match would’ve been a quick one.
Nick Stuart: Sorry, partner.
Richard Parker: It’s fine, it’s fine. I said I was going to remain professional. (Puking noises)
Timo Bolamba has started his TEN count and this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, as on the outside of the ring Cancer Jiles starts shouting in Timo’s way.
Nick Stuart: No love-lost between these two.
Richard Parker: You’d think Jiles could give up his issues with the man. Timo counted him to victory two weeks ago, Timo missed a bunch of cheating… there should be no more problems.
Timo is at FIVE before Jiles takes a step forward but then realizes Jared takes a step closer towards the ropes, too.
Nick Stuart: Jiles has backed himself into a tough one. Get counted out and lose the match, you’re obviously kicked out of the tournament. Heaven forbid he enters the ring and Jared gets the better of him immediately, which he will.
Timo is at SEVEN, although Jiles’ face hasn’t broken a sweat.
EIGHT, still Cancer is as cool as ever.
NINE, maybe… okay… maybe there’s a small bead of sweat on his forehead.
Jiles rolls into the ring.
And is absolutely blasted by a Jared Sykes uppercut!
The fans roar as Sykes shoots his body upright and pumps his arms around. With Jiles on a knee, Sykes roars back and connects with another.
Sykes lifts Jiles onto his shoulders and lands a spinning F5 cutter!
Nick Stuart: I’ve never seen him perform something like this before!
Richard Parker: WE HAVE A COVER!
The crowd sighs but Sykes keeps going. He drags Jiles onto his feet and delivers a couple more forearm shots. Then Jared whips Cancer into the ropes, leaps into the air and wraps his legs around Cancer’s neck…
Hurricanrana into a pin!
Nick Stuart: Jared wants to put his opponent away as fast as possible. No games with Sykes, nor would I expect any. This is less about a rivalry and more about moving on, which it SHOULD.
Sykes whips Jiles into a corner and comes racing in with a splash! He holds onto Jiles’ head and runs towards the middle of the ring with a bulldog. Sykes kips to his feet, fires up the crowd and rifles a superkick square into the right side of Jiles’ face as spit flies into the air.
Sykes cranks his arms around. He pulls Jiles off the mat and lands a snap suplex. Sykes holds on and this time lands a vertical suplex. Sykes still holds on and looks for a northern lights suplex for a pin.
The crowd continues to cheer for their hero as the former blueberry rolls onto his knees. He’s looking for more flash offense when Bobby Dean hops onto the apron!
Well, not exactly HOPS up there. It takes Bobby a while, everyone can see it coming.
Coral Avalon remains in the same position he was. He claps for Bobby because, well, he doesn’t know what the big man is going to do and you have to support the group!
Nick Stuart: Not this again!
Much like two weeks ago, Timo Bolamba’s patience on Bandits runs very thin. He’s already over there, shouting at Dean to get off the apron.
The crowd is worked into a bedlam as Jared Sykes is having nothing to do with it whatsoever!
Nick Stuart: Sykes ran over and knocked The Beautiful One off the apron!
The big man FLIES off and crashes into the guardrail! It’s almost as if Bobby engulfs the top of the rail with the blubber on his upper torso. Nobody in the front row knows if Bobby hurt himself or the guardrail hurt itself but right now it looks like both remain motionless!
Coral races over to check.
With the crowd in a continual hype, Sykes spins around and sees Jiles getting to his feet-
Low blow by The COOL!
Cheers turn to boos on a dime, while Timo Bolamba means well but couldn’t cock his head around in time to see. When he does, however, he witnesses a shit eating, snickering former Universal Champion on all fours and Jared Sykes beside him, down on his knees.
Timo could assume what’s happened but, after all, can’t call what you don’t see.
Richard Parker: Seen this so many times…
Nick Stuart: Jared got caught in the moment but I don’t want to blame him. Bobby was working his way onto that apron and Sykes took him out. Knowing Bobby’s tolerance for punishment, this might be an excellent trade off. No way that low blow wins the match for Jiles but having Dean DOA on the outside for the rest of the contest, it’s not bad. I would be STUNNED if Avalon gets involved.
Richard Parker: I hate to say it but it wasn’t like Jared averted his attention away from the ring, either. He had one eye on Cancer the entire time. He just wasn’t able to avoid the low blow.
With Jiles on his feet first, he reels Sykes in and connects with a European uppercut to return the favor from the opening stages of the offense he was on the receiving end of. Jiles follows with a swift poke to the eyes but covers it up with his other hand going in like he’s slapping Sykes’ neck.
Jiles walks around his opponent, measuring him. Then he wraps both arms across The Heart of PRIME and connects with a smooooooth side Russian leg sweep.
The COOL looks up at Bolamba and sneers. He spits again, maybe because he thought he bit the bottom of his lip upon the leg sweep since there was a little spite in his swagger.
Jiles rolls to a knee. He lifts Sykes into the air and then lands a belly-to-belly suplex. Coral claps on the outside, while still attending to Bobby.
Jiles drags Sykes into a corner of the ring. He begins to climb the ropes. First rope, second… Jiles thinks of stopping there but why would he do that? Top rope it is!
The crowd BURSTS alive! Sykes races to the top rope and is looking for a superplex! He has Jiles… he tries for it…
But he can’t work Cancer off the top since the former champ hooks his left leg around the top buckle.
Another poke to the eyes! Timo couldn’t see it because, well, how could he? He’s only seeing the back of Jared Sykes.
Jiles with a headbutt! Sykes falls off the top rope and right back to where he was before. The air in the arena has been pushed out just as quickly as it came in.
Cancer raises his right hand and wipes it across his face. He realizes his nose is bleeding, just a little. Likely from the injury he suffered at the hands of Don Winters two weeks ago and moments ago he knocked his head against Jared’s, probably catching the bridge of his nose in the process.
Jiles doesn’t look happy.
He grits his teeth.
He leaps off the top rope.
Jiles isn’t done. He stands up and hoofs Sykes in the side of the ribs before ascending the ropes again.
First buckle. Second. Final. At the top.
This time Jiles barely takes a moment to measure his opponent. A quick glance over to Bobby Dean, who’s still DOA on the outside, and receiving a thumbs up from Coral Avalon, as if everything is cool, and Cancer knows it’s up to him.
He leaps off.
Jiles hooks the leg.
Nick Stuart: This might be it!
Richard Parker: Oh god…
Huge pop! Sykes rolls to his side, rests on his right arm and pumps his left around. Jared is trying to use the energy of the crowd-
Jiles drags Sykes up and whips him into a suplex, holding him in the air… holding him… continuing to do so…
Letting all that blood rush down…
Cancer drops Jared SQUARE on the crown of his head with a brainbuster!
The sound the canvas makes is sickening. Jiles spits again and runs his right hand across his nose.
A little more blood. Figures. Coral shouts something along the lines of “you’re doing great”!
Cancer swings for the fences as his body language suggests this match is finished.
Nick Stuart: Listen, Jared came to fight. He had the match under his control and I guess… ugh, I guess that Bobby Dean moment ended up costing him. Plus the additional cheating.
Jiles delivers a couple stiff shots into Sykes’ face and then hoists the do-gooder onto his knees. The COOL takes four steps back and winds up for Terminal Cancer-
Sykes shows signs of life! He springs up onto his feet, almost as fast as he did when he raced to the top turnbuckle. Jiles can’t unload Terminal Cancer in time, he just can’t get it up fast enough (innuendo and all). This allows Sykes to throw his arms outright and catch Cancer in a flash cutter!
Both men are down!
The fans rally their feet, in the hopes they can WILL the man they’re backing into the Final Four.
Jiles, on the other hand, is crawling over to the ropes. He’s also shouting for Bobby to do something, or Coral to think on his feet, but as the fans have learned both Dean and the guardrail are DOA.
And Coral isn’t thinking quick enough.
Sykes is on a knee. Jiles is at the ropes.
Sykes is on a leg. Jiles has the bottom rope in his hand.
Sykes begins to stand, albeit he’s very wobbly. Jiles has pulled himself to the second rope.
Sykes is locked and loaded! He’s in a proper upright position. Jiles has the top rope and is spinning himself around.
Sykes goes for it.
Jiles drops the ropes on him!
The Heart of PRIME falls out of the ring, onto the apron and then the floor below. Jiles looks into the rafters, as if he’s praying for his physical wellbeing before he sling shots over the ropes and CRASHES down upon Sykes with a splash!
Jiles pounds the floor as a little more blood falls from his nose. He’s clearly pissed off that the match isn’t over. He sucks back the pain from the fall out of the ring and then hurls Sykes into the squared circle. Jiles decides to take the easy route to enter, he’s climbing up the steel steps.
Once Cancer pokes his head through the top and middle rope… Jared Sykes is right there to snatch his head.
Sykes drags Jiles to the center of the ring and then pulls The COOL on his feet. He positions Jiles’ back towards him and wraps his arms around Cancer’s neck. He’s looking for a neckbreaker driver, as he continues to ply Jiles’ neck back as far as it can go, before dropping to the ground.
Unfortunately for Sykes, and for the crowd, the slippery leader of the eGG Bandits wiggles his way out and tumbles into the ropes, all while Sykes lands on the mat with nothing and then repositions himself in an attempt to stand up.
Sykes moves his head at the last second and rolls into the ropes. The former champion shows he is just as crafty, though, since he didn’t go FULL Terminal on Sykes, sensing Jared was going to move. Jiles spins around, finds Sykes on the mat and then dropkicks Jared square in the face!
Nick Stuart: Damn. It wasn’t Terminal Cancer but that sure was impactful!
Jiles drags a lifeless body into the middle of the ring, drops down and even hooks both legs.
PLUS A HANDFUL OF TIGHTS!
The crowd is alive and the announcers are out of breath!
Nick Stuart: JARED KICKED OUT! There’s still life! He’s fighting for everything. He’s fighting as if it’s his last chance…
Richard Parker: Everyone wants it. Don’t be ridiculous, Nick. Wait, did I inadvertently defend Jiles there? (Shivers)
Jiles slams the mat and mouths a saliva-induced lecture towards Timo Bolamba. Nevertheless, Cancer knows he’s in the driver’s seat. He wasn’t a Universal Champion because he can’t compose himself, unfortunately…
Jiles drills a forearm into the side of Sykes’s skull. Another receipt for the OG forearms. Jiles looks over at Bobby and STILL can’t believe the man is DOA, even if it is Bobby Dean.
Cancer pulls Jared upright and crunches his jaw into a jawbreaker. Sykes falls to the mat once again and this time Jiles stumbles into a corner.
He sees Bobby Dean coming to.
And his confidence builds even further…
Jiles thumps the sole of his right boot on the ground, only once. It’s the only warm-up he needs.
Sykes is suddenly in the right position, on both knees, looking glassy eyed.
Sykes ducks, comes up from behind Jiles and latches onto the back of his head. He twists Cancer into the right position, looking for the OMEGA 13…
He has the right leverage. He lifts Jiles into position.
Coral’s jaw drops.
Bobby Dean’s eyes fall out of his sockets!
The fans are going bananas!
Nick Stuart: OMEGA 13-
Jiles slips out! He lands on his feet behind Sykes! The MAIN EVENT spins The Dragonslayer around and he tries for a poke to the eyes when Jared blocks it. Sykes goes for a cutter but Cancer falls backwards and into the ropes. Jiles lunges off the ropes, whacking Sykes across the head with a knee. Cancer tilts back his head… it might look like he’s got something in his mouth to SPRAY across his opponent…
SYKES WITH A ROLL UP FLASH PIN!
IT’S REVERSED BY CANCER! Jiles tries to latch onto Jared’s tights but he just can’t seem to get a solid handful!
IT’S REVERSED BY SYKES! Who, clearly, ISN’T grabbing the tights or even trying to… but damn does he have the pinfall perfectly orchestrated! Jiles wiggles his feet, hoping to kickout…
LAST SECOND BLOODY KICKOUT! EVERYONE IS GASSED!!
Neither man can believe their inside cradles didn’t get it done.
Nor can the fans.
Nor can Coral Avalon.
Nor can Bobby Dean (though he’s still not upright).
Nor can Timo Bolamba.
Jiles races towards Sykes but as Jared stumbles to his right, both men inadvertently bump into Timo!
The ref falls into the turnbuckle. By no means is he down and out but he’s most certainly stunned for a moment or two. Jiles moves his gaze towards the outside of the ring. Seeing Bobby still isn’t at 100%, Jiles’ eyes quickly meet Coral’s as if to suggest Avalon should get in on the action ASAP.
Jiles brings his eyes towards Sykes and goes to spray the mist when Sykes hoofs Jiles in the stomach with a swift boot and a few drops of mist start dribbling out of King Crumb’s mouth. Sykes latches onto Jiles’ right arm, pulls the former champion towards him… lifts him into the air and then crunches the eGG Bandit’s skull against the mat with a WICKED looking 180 seated uranage, the Rhine Rewind.
The only thing is… on the way down Jiles DID get the mist in Jared Sykes’ face.
However, Cancer Jiles is DONE. He isn’t moving an inch.
But Jared Sykes can’t see shit.
Sykes is crawling around until he thinks he’s found Cancer Jiles’ upperbody on the mat. Completely spent himself, and likely struggling to breathe, Jared drapes his entire body over Cancer.
THANKFULLY, Timo Bolamba is feeling better! He opens his eyes and collects his bearings.
Outside of the ring, Bobby Dean remains on a knee. He pushes Coral towards the ring, since Bobby definitely can’t get there himself. Dean is telling Avalon to “go, go make the save”. It’s clear with the way Cancer Jiles is sprawled out on the canvas, his left boot is nearly under the bottom rope.
Might even be under it.
Nevertheless, a weezy Bolamba, who wants to do his job, sees a pinfall attempt being made and slowly slides into position. A position where he’s in the middle of the ring and can clearly view Cancer’s shoulders on the mat.
Can’t see his legs, though.
Coral’s eyes go wide. All he has to do is walk around the ring post and Jiles’ feet are within reach! He could place one on the bottom rope with ease.
Avalon takes a couple steps. Sweat starts pouring from his forehead.
Bolamba slides into position and begins to administer the count.
Coral moves around the ring post…
Coral is right there!!
…But he doesn’t do anything!
DING DING DING
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD, JARED SYKES DID IT! FINAL FOUR!!!
Richard Parker: All of this. I am hating ALL OF THIS.
Vince Howard: Here is your winner… JARED SYKES!
The crowd cheers in support while Bobby Dean, who remains a knee, hangs his head in shame and Coral Avalon looks like a deer in the headlights.
Richard Parker: Wish I could say I was happy for… anyone.
Nick Stuart: Jiles got what he deserves?
Richard Parker: Okay.
Sykes’ theme song plays as Timo would love to lift the winner’s hand but can’t do it. Not only because Sykes seems to have passed out himself, since he wasn’t able to breathe with the mist in his face, but also because Bolamba is still hurting, albeit not that badly.
Nick Stuart: It will now be Jared Sykes and Jonathan-Christopher Hall in the semi finals next week!
Richard Parker: I should probably say something like “Coral what have you done!?” but I’m not going to bother.
Nick Stuart: Well I will say… thank you for joining us on Revival and we will see you in Memphis!
The PRIME signature appears in the bottom right hand corner, as a misty-faced Jared Sykes finally rolls onto his back with an arm slightly in the air, while Cancer Jiles is still TKO’ed on the canvas. Bobby Dean can’t stop shaking his head with shame and Coral Avalon merely stands there, an inch away from Jiles’ foot.
Maybe even closer than that.
Maybe even EXACTLY RIGHT THERE.
But he didn’t reach out.
…And now King Crumb has lost his GOLDEN TICKET.
While Jared Sykes secures another shot at his.