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.