LIGHTS OUT MATCH: PAXTON RAY vs. JARED SYKES
Nick Stuart: And we’re ready now for our final match of the night, a match that will be the culmination of months of drama and blood.
Richard Parker: But not before a few more pints are spilled, sadly.
Suddenly, the lights go out. Flashes from phones start to pop up until the Garden is awash with small lights. After a few moments, another source of light: the PRIMEView. It’s a quick, blurry shot, with a camera moving towards something black. As the shot settles, we realize it’s a clip from ReVival 20, specifically of Paxton Ray’s shirt. The feed pauses and the PRIMEView captures the text:
REMEMBER: HE ASKED FOR THIS
Then, we get the cool voice of Martin Earley reminding us of how this all started.
They say it’s good to start a story with a tragedy
And in comes the chunky riff of “Fistfight” by the Ballroom Thieves. The fans boo, which feels like an understatement judging by the pure noise coming out of the Garden. These aren’t the fans who saw what he did in Las Vegas, but word traveled East.
A tense few seconds pass before Paxton Ray emerges. He scans the crowd around him while taking a few steps forward. A long necklace filled with sharp gator teeth is around his neck. When he gets to the edge of the ramp, he lifts his left hand, which is holding something.
Nick Stuart: Is that? …Oh god.
Richard Parker: I guess Paxton thought Jared may want to have his old tag partner ringside, because that’s the missing head of El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy!
Indeed it is. Chipped, pieces broken off, but still the same mannequin head that has been around since PRIME reopened. With his other hand, Paxton points at the front of his shirt. It’s a picture of the ring at The Belmont Classic, which has countless wrestlers in staff on one side of it, and on the other Paxton Ray holding a ring bell. After a second, Paxton turns around so we can see the back, which has white words:
THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO STOP ME
As he turns back around, Vince Howard does his job, though unenthusiastically.
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring from Lafayette, Louisiana. Weighing in at 245 pounds… “The Bayou Butcher” Paxton Ray.
If Paxton is annoyed with the lukewarm announce job or the reaction, he doesn’t show it as he walks towards the ring while the song continues.
The day I finally met you like I knew I would
You raised me from the wreck of my doubt
You were smilin’ to yourself as if we both understood
The silent language of the anguish of a heart that sings but doesn’t make a sound
And what did I do to deserve you
How did you find me? I was already halfway gone
You were a bright light
You were a fist fight
Paxton slides under the ropes and pulls himself up, raising a fist and smiling as the reaction increases. He walks to the far corner and leans against it, ignoring the words from Elvis Nixon.
Richard Parker: I really hope he gets what’s coming to him tonight.
Nick Stuart: Me too, partner. Me too.
The PRIMEview flickers to life, showing the backstage area. Specifically, the last corridor on the way to the Argyle position and the final gate that leads wrestlers through the arena entrance, but the true target is the man walking those last few steps to destiny.
Shot from the back, so that his face is hidden, Jared Sykes heads towards the arena entrance. With both hands he reaches up and pulls the hood of his sweatshirt over his head. He pauses before the curtain when a production assistant signals him to stop. There he stays. Head down. crouched low. Waiting.
The lights in the arena go dark, and the scene on the PRIMEview changes.
The first thing the fans in attendance hear is a roar booming through the speakers, loud enough to shake the seats. A roll of thunder follows, and inside Madison Square Garden winter has come early, as it begins snowing from the rafters.
The weather effects inside the arena mirror those happening on the PRIMEview, where we’re showing a ruined battlescape. The sheet of white that blankets the ground is broken by thick patches of red, and a gathered mass of broken bodies.
A hulking, muscular blond man lays with his chest torn open besides a broken great axe and the corpse of a lion.
A young man in sparkling silver with stars painted across his face stands encased in a jagged block of ice beside his faithful golden retriever.
Nearby, the long blade of a katana has been stabbed into the ground. The wind picks up, and the storm blows away the red and gold cape that had been fastened to the end.
A woman with crimson hair and armor of pure white lies broken beside a pair of hand crossbows and a torn collection of maps.
Another roar sounds inside the Garden. The lights flash white to mirror lightning.
On the screen, a single figure rises in the distance. He pushes himself up from the carnage. The man’s face is indiscernible at this distance, but his black hair stands out among the sea of white. He wields a sword in his left hand, and readies the spear of a king in his right.
The angle draws back, revealing one other figure. Bloodied, scarred, and adorned in broken armor he rises to his feet. A mop of bloodstained hair hides his face. He reaches into the snow and retrieves what’s left of a sword, the top half of the blade having broken off some time ago. Readying the weapon, he takes one final breath and charges towards the edge of a cliff.
Rising from the chasm is a massive white dragon. Teeth bared, claws bloody, the chains that once bound it now broken and hanging free from around his talons. Ice forms in the air around its maw with every breath, crystalizing and falling to the earth like shards of broken glass.
The last soldier casts his shield aside and dives into air, desperate to bring his blade down in one final stroke. As the two meet in the air…
It’s been twelve years. How did this used to go?
The song is “Save Me”, and it hasn’t been played in this context in over a decade. He may have never been a PRIME “guy” – those scant few months notwithstanding – but it doesn’t matter. They know.
A lone figure steps through the curtains, and the sound that rises from the crowd is loud enough to register on a nearby USGS seismograph.
SO MUCH THAT I’VE DONE WRONG
IT’S AN OPEN BOOK
I’VE DONE MUCH MORE THAN MY FAIR SHARE OF DAMAGE
Vince Howard: Making his way to the ring, from Boston, Massachusetts and weighing in tonight at two hundred and one pounds…
Gone are the whites and royal blues of the Berry. In their place: black, silver, and a shifting blue that sometimes reads as green or purple depending on the way the light hits it. His sweatshirt is open, but the hood is drawn low, making his face all but impossible to see in the darkness of Madison Square Garden.
WHAT ONCE WAS HIDDEN
NOW IS CRYSTAL CLEAR
TRANSFORMATION IS WITHIN ME
Vince Howard: He is the “Black Sheep” of professional wrestling…
Another eruption, and it’s enough to give the man in black pause on his way to the ring. He stayed away from the sport for a decade, hid under a mask for a year, all to shield himself from the eyes of people that might judge him for a mistake made on a Las Vegas catwalk. This can’t be for him, can it?
TO BREAK THE CYCLE
I MUST TURN TO YOU
WHAT I LACK I GAIN THROUGH YOUR VIRTUE
Vince Howard: JAREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED SYKES!!!!
Suffice it to say, a lot of people will be without their voice tomorrow, having screamed themselves hoarse tonight.
He pulls himself up onto the ring apron, and steps through the ropes, never turning his back on his opponent.
EVEN WHEN I FALL
WILL YOU STILL BELIEVE
EVEN WHEN I’M LOST
WILL YOU STILL BELIEVE
Despite the fact that the music has faded, and the house lights have come up, the crowd is still singing the chorus. Over, and over, and over. It’s the second time since he’s walked through the curtain that the crowd’s response has caught Sykes by surprise, and he pauses for a moment to try and process it all.
“Even when I fall… Will you still believe
Even when I’m lost… will you still believe”
In St. Louis, when the entirety of the Belmont Classic roster stormed the ring in what would later be known as “The Siege of St. Louis”, Paxton Ray had stared Jared Sykes in the eye and said, “This is what it takes to stop me.” Tonight, though he walked to the ring alone, Jared had brought an army eighteen thousand strong. He just didn’t realize it.
And then it happens. The hood is pulled back. The sweatshirt falls to the ground. For the first time in twelve years Jared Sykes stands as himself in the middle of the ring. The knight-errant of Sin City. The last king of a dead empire.
Dragonslayer, the Black Sheep evolved.
And as Jared stands there, unmasked, unveiled, after so long, after conjuring up so much courage to get to this place, this moment? He’s greeted by a mocking smirk. Mere feet away, The Bayou Butcher raises his hands above his head, slowly beginning to clap. The movement is protracted, gilding. One clap. Another. And another. Because in the face of pomp and circumstance? In the afterglow of snowfall? There is war. Paxton Ray doesn’t give a shit about videos of fallen warriors. Pageantry over. Every reason he has to want to hurt these wrestlers? Justified.
Remember, Jared, you asked for this.
But he is ready. He bolts towards Paxton, charging, all while his opponent stands ready in a brawling stance. The momentum quickly takes the pair into the corner, Sykes using the underneath leverage to drive him into the turnbuckles powerfully. His wild punches toward the ribcage of the taller Butcher find their mark, digging in, causing the mirthful glower of Ray to melt away quickly as he tries to smother from the top, clubbing blows from his powerful hands find their way to the back of the Dragonslayer. Locked in combat like this, the two are a wellspring of wild haymakers, nothing held back. That is, until Paxton manages to pin one of Jared’s arms underneath his armpit, looking to muscle the Tag Champion away from the corner.
If Paxton is trying to get a greco roman takedown, he’s out of his element, because it’s Sykes who manages to trip him, causing the two, tangled and locked up, to fall to the canvas. A mad scramble for who will have dominant position quickly follows, with Paxton pressing down on the stomach of Sykes, pinning him down to the canvas with his left hand, before violently firing off rights directed right for his face. A few connect, but Sykes is unfazed because of adrenaline, and he manages to get off his back off the canvas, his arms wrapping around The Bayou Butcher’s leg. Paxton tries to club the back of his neck with hammer blows, but he is stuck hobbling on one foot, though the positioning is tight. An uppercut rocketing and ripping to the upperbody of Sykes gets the deathgrip eased, and another lifts his own feet off the canvas. The leg grip drops, but Jared grabs around Paxton’s body, all as the blows continue to rain.
It’s Paxton’s turn to maintain control, and he forces Jared into the corner, his hands pressing against Sykes’ face. Before he fully extend, Sykes hits him in the ribs with another pointed shot, and even manages to throw a heavy muay thai knee. He throws another, but is facewashed with an elbow. A brief window.
It’s all The Bayou Butcher needs.
Nick Stuart: Ray grabbing at Sykes and–
Richard Parker: Front facelock–
Nick Stuart: Jared trying to get–
Richard Parker: Oh my Hoyt he–
Nick Stuart: All power ALL POWER FROM PAXTON RAY HE LIFTS SYKES UP–
Richard Parker: NO! NO! NO–
Brain. Buster. That quick. That vicious. Without a care in the world. Without a stitch of remorse. And as all the fans in Madison Square Garden rise in horror, Elvis Nixon is sliding in, checking on Sykes. Paxton? He’s sat up, pointing to his shirt. ‘Remember: He Asked For This’.
Nick Stuart: Have you…have you…
Richard Parker: STOP THE DAMN MATCH!
Nick Stuart: There’s no movement from Jared Sykes. There hasn’t been a single bit of movement from Jared Sykes. Not a single…oh my God…oh my God…
Richard Parker: WE NEED GODDAMN DOCTOR’S DOWN HERE! NOW!
An eerie silence fills the Garden as the camera shoots away from the ring, toward the fans, wide eyed, some aghast, some starting to tear up, others just shaking their heads in disbelief. When it becomes evident how serious this is? The camera pans out wide.
Nick Stuart: I’m…I’m at a loss–
Richard Parker: Why was this…this…monster…allowed back into PRIME? Lindsay? Lindsay, can you Goddamn HEAR ME?! Why the hell did you agree to this?! This isn’t a game! This isn’t ha ha funny time. You listen to me and listen to the sincerity in my voice…if Jared Sykes…
While Richard is speaking, we see, faintly, given the camera shot, that Paxton Ray is off the canvas, and moving toward the nearest ring corner.
Nick Stuart: He’s, I think…I think…Sykes…there’s a little movement from Jared Sykes…
Richard Parker: He’s…Paxton Ray is cutting the turnbuckle pads off Nick. He’s using the gator teeth on his necklace and he’s cutting the pads off every. Single. Turnbuckle.
The signal of movement from the former King Blueberry is enough to bring the camera back in tight, and indeed, Jared is moving. Though not well. Lost in the insanity that was the brainbuster and its connotations, a replay we will never see robs us of the full picture of what happened. Yes, Paxton hit a quick and violent brainbuster. However, Jared, at the last moment, was able to avoid the fate that met Jonathan Rhine with an instinctual movement of his head. That’s the only thing separating him from having a broken neck. It didn’t, however, save him from the brunt of the blow, the fall, or how devastating it all was. A concussion should never be considered the best outcome, but in this case? Perhaps it is. Elvis tries to make sure Jared stays down, that he doesn’t do anymore damage to himself. But the former Black Sheep? The former SCCW Highwayman? He’s gripping at the arms of Nixon, telling him to get away. To get off him. He hisses as he says it, as he gets to his knees, looking forward toward the man who damn near crippled him.
And lost in the calamity, because it takes this level of it to draw one’s attention away, is the fact that Jared Sykes isn’t alone anymore. Justine Calvin is now in the ring, nestling close to her partner, her star crossed love, her arms wrapping around him. Telling him to stop. To please stop. One brush with death. Heart stoppingly horrific. She is supposed to stay away. She refuses. Tears well in her eyes. The lights went out. This ‘match’ barely started. But tomorrow is a better day. Tomorrow holds with it infinite possibilities.
Just stop. Please. Jared. For yourself.
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD!
Richard Parker: WHAT THE FUCK!
Paxton Ray punted Justine right in the head. Unprotected. Elvis is caught in the ricochet. Jared, cobwebs clearing, reaches towards her fallen form. And as he does, Paxton Ray smothers him. Powerful blow after powerful blow. Hammerfists. Punches. Blatant, unrestrained choking. He mounts Sykes, and, as the Tag Champion roars trying to throw a wild shot from the bottom, his body still dealing with the blow from the brainbuster, Paxton pins his arm to the canvas and begins raining down sharp elbows. Again and again. Again. Over and over. Right over the eye. The orbital bone. Jared’s brow is cut. The blood begins to pour over the already swelling eye.
Nick Stuart: This is just brutal!
Richard Parker: Paxton isn’t a rabid dog. A dog has loyalty. A dog has friends. This…Butcher…he’s some kind of swamp creature. A snake. Something. Something terrible.
Even with the blood flowing, Jared is still trying to fight, but a final clubbing blow grounds him to the canvas, stopping his flailing long enough for Paxton to jerk the Tag Champion to his feet, blasting him with a short arm clothesline. His forearm is painted with Jared’s blood. Looking at it, he smirks.
Nick Stuart: He’s licking the blood.
Richard Parker: Did he…did he join Mephisto’s family after that match at ReVival 19?
Nick Stuart: At this point, would it be shocking?
Richard Parker: Yes…because it would mean this piece of trash thinks he can be accepted by any family.
Richard Parker: Just what the Hell did Jonathan Rhine bring into this world?
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray…what we knew about him…he came from a brawling background. The Mud Pits. Louisiana born and raised. And he came with a story of fighting for his daughter, sick with cancer. And he became a beloved figure, rough around the edges, sure, but he seemed poised…he and his tag team partner in Fighting For Nora, Jonathan Rhine, to be on another collision course with the Kings of Popsicles. After Great American Nightmare…after Survivor…
Richard Parker: He opened the door to someone he thought was a sheep and a gator rolled in.
Jared tries to pick himself up, the blood flowing from his head. He looks over, seeing Justine, nursing her head, and seeing her there, truly seeing her there, he’s filled with a rage. He chose this fight. These terms. But he did so knowing she would be out of the picture. Not able to see. He should have seen her stubbornness coming. It matched his own. Reaching over to her, he realizes, too late, that Paxton is stalking him. Flashing and trying to wrestle the Bayou Butcher off his feet, Paxton sprawls, clubbing Jared in his lower back with more forearm shots.
Nick Stuart: Jared Sykes trying, with every bit of himself, with every fiber he has, to try and fight. Trying to fight. And I feel like…I honestly feel like…if this wasn’t a Lights Out Match…we’d already be off the air.
Richard Parker: And honestly, maybe we should be…
Nick Stuart: But Jared Sykes…he’s trying…he’s…
Richard Parker: Is Paxton laying off–
Nick Stuart: Scramble to the feet off the sprawl–
Richard Parker: I can’t believe Jared is able to get to his feet this quick–
Nick Stuart: HEAVY BOOT BY PAXTON RAY!
Richard Parker: This…wow. This isn’t a match. It’s an annihilation.
Nick Stuart: Less than a year in the sport…less than a year…and this is what this man–
Richard Parker: –Thing–
Nick Stuart: Is capable of.
The heavy boot is enough to send Jared back to the canvas, grabbing his face. As he does, Paxton drops to his knees, the sickening grin on his face take on another shade of malice as he undoes the necklace around his neck a grabs hold of some of the gator teeth.
Richard Parker: He can’t be…
Nick Stuart: He’s cutting the canvas.
Indeed, Paxton Ray IS using the sharp teeth of his necklace to cut through a patch of the canvas, roughly. Enough so he can grab hold, and start ripping and yanking at it, pulling back, the tear audible from the close cameras. The boards of the ring are becoming exposed, the patch growing and growing, until practically half the ring has been exposed. The Bayou Butcher throws away pieces and parts of the mat and canvas, all before throwing his arms out wide, as if to show the crowd his handiwork with an unrepentant pride.
Nick Stuart: I…I can’t believe…
Richard Parker: I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this Nick.
Sykes tries to pick himself up, but as he does, he finds himself caught by Paxton Ray, again, and with a jerk, the Bayou Butcher beels Jared across the ring, onto the exposed boards. The collision is violent. He bounces on impact, turning over.
Nick Stuart: This is uncomfortable to watch.
Richard Parker: It’s a massacre.
This isn’t a wrestling match. The terms aren’t in the favor of Jared Sykes. All the words of encouragement, all the sentiment to not go to the Mud Pits, to fight the Bayou Butcher, the former Fighting For Nora rising star, in a wrestling ring, it’s proven to be nothing be empty smoke. Perhaps had Jared gone to the Mud Pits, he could have snuck a weapon. A pipe. A gun. Something. But by this being the battleground, by these being the stipulations? Is this any different than what those Mud Pits would have been?
He doesn’t have an affinity for self preservation. He never has. Jared Sykes picks fights. The biggest bully in the yard? He prods them. The worst of the worst? As if through sheer magnetism, he’ll draw himself to them. Stick to them. Refuse to go away. And of all the dragons of his past…Wyatt Connors, Lane Stevens, Kingsley, Desade…tonight stands one to usurp them all. A monster of unrepentant origin. He has no defense. No way to deal with the moment. Years locked away, and he rose…but is he what he once was? Unbeaten in nearly a year. Over two hundred and seventy days. Hayes Hanlon couldn’t beat him. He’d won Survivor. But here…
He pushes. Up from the boards he pushes. Blood pouring from his head. The brainbuster ravaged his neck. He should have been prepared. From the corner of his eyes, Justine. And if he didn’t rise? What could he do to her? Even though she can fight for herself, even though it was her who beat Ray at Great American Nightmare…the kick hit her hard, unexpected. Whiplash. Vicious. She still is trying to gather herself. To come to sorts. Paxton beckons from beyond. Toward him. Reminding him that he asked for this.
And as he gets up, he puts up his hands, ready to fight. His hair a mess. His head pissing blood, nearly covering his eyes. But those eyes…they sparkle with want. His body screams but the soul refuses to yield. The Butcher merely smirks.
Upon seeing it, Sykes just flips him off.
Nick Stuart: Did he…
Richard Parker: He’s going to need his sixth wind after just how violent the beating he’s taken already.
It’s Paxton on the protected ground of canvas. Jared stands upon exposed boards. The Bayou Butcher charges, not tipping his hand, until at the very end, launching with a boot toward Sykes. Jared, however, drops, hitting a dropkick to the knee of Paxton’s plant leg. The snap is enough to take the leg from under him, causing Ray to sharply drop to the boards. His head smacks off them, bouncing back up. Jared takes off, caroming off the ropes, and launches a punt of his own into the face of Paxton Ray, connecting, and the Bayou Butcher is now on his knees, cradling his face. The fans are going absolutely insane. Another carom off the ropes.
Nick Stuart: Knee to the face! A knee straight to the face of Paxton Ray!
Richard Parker: But that’s not all!
The smoke from the blow might have crushed Paxton’s nose into his skull. He staggers to his feet, still grabbing his face. The moment is enough for Jared to grab hold of Ray.
Nick Stuart: STRAIGHT JACKET NECKBREAKER! STRAIGHT JACKET NECKBREAKER!
Richard Parker: ON THE EXPOSED RING!
There is no pin. No attempt. Jared instantly starts throwing wild punches at the face of Paxton Ray, smothering him, keeping the attack going. Self preservation in a fight is necessary in the Mud Pits. That’s why, despite it all, Paxton is able to try and scramble back to his feet, a knee shooting off the boards. The quick shot shows blood pouring from his nose. A deep, disgusting crimson. And his mouth hangs open. It’s hard to breathe when your nose is broken. When you’re choking on your own blood. A wild swing from the Bayou Butcher finds only air. A sudden turn, and Ray’s neck and back are jarred with a Hangman’s Neckbreaker.
Richard Parker: YES! SIXTH WIND IT IS BABY!
Nick Stuart: Jared Sykes…Jared. Sykes! After everything. After the suddenness of the brainbuster and the violent barrage, he’s actually…actually…BY GOD ACTUALLY…not only surviving, not only trying…he’s…he’s…he’s turned the momentum. He’s turned the momentum!
Richard Parker: Driving a damn forklift through the concept of human toughness.
The sudden burst of offense does take its toll, but as Elvis Nixon, who is finally up, he’s realizing there’s something else he is going to need to deal with. Justine is standing up, having used the ropes. And in her hand? One of Paxton’s chains.
Richard Parker: Get him Justine! Get him!
Nick Stuart: This match…this fight…it’s all legal. Everything about it is legal.
Richard Parker: Paxton hit her. Blindsided her. You have to do what you have to do in a fight…but she wasn’t IN a fight. She was checking on her partner, thinking he might be paralyzed. A cheap ass shot if ever there was one.
Nick Stuart: Nixon trying to keep her away–
Richard Parker: Don’t get in the woman’s–
And as she’s about to swing the chain?
Sykes stands in the way.
Richard Parker: What are you–
Jared Sykes: Don’t.
Justine’s eyes are wide, her arm coiled. She wants a piece. Hell, she wants a piece of a lot of people right now. The Love Convoy. And in this moment? Nothing would fill her with greater joy than to hit Paxton fucking Ray with a chain. But Jared’s hand on her wrist is preventing her.
Jared Sykes: You shouldn’t be–
Nick Stuart: LOW BLOW!
Richard Parker: RAY IS LAUGHING!
Jared crumbles to the mat. Paxton, in the midst of all of this, managed to crawl over and throw an uppercut between Sykes legs. Justine provided the perfect distraction. Teams can be strong. But in a lone wolf world? They create blindspots. Give openings. Ray isn’t a wolf. He’s a crocodile, teeth sunk into its prey. The power of its jaws and form drags its target into the bog. Snaps every piece and part of them into two before devouring them whole. A maniacal laughter bellows from the Bayou Butcher, before he gasps and coughs up some of his own blood. And Justine stands above him.
Paxton Ray seems so unbothered by her presence, that he begins crawling toward Jared, ready to beat on him.
Sorry, Crocodile Pax Dumbass, that’s a big mistake.
Nick Stuart: Justine Calvin whips Paxton across the back with his own chain!
Her arm sends the links across the body of Paxton Ray, over and over. Her roar is primal. Unhinged. She is no damsel in distress. And he will never make her feel that way. Nor will he treat her as so unimportant as to think he can keep crawling toward her man to beat down on him.
Nick Stuart: Justine Calvin…Justine CALVIN–
Richard Parker: WHAT’S NIXON–
Elvis Nixon didn’t get the memo. There are no rules in this Lights Out Match. So why is he grabbing her? Why is he physically forcing her out of the ring? Regardless, she storms around ringside, smashing her fists into the ring apron, again and again, all before launching a kick into the steps. A flock of Enemigos descends upon her, and while she is ready for a fight, she doesn’t attack a single one of them. Perhaps because of the form of Dametreyus, who says something to her. Nobody but her hears it. Whatever it is, it turns her rage into something more muted, more pained. Sighing, there is a resignation. She stares back to the ring, lead away by security.
Nick Stuart: I imagine whatever was told to Justine Calvin…it had to be something massive to placate her in a moment of unrestrained rage.
Richard Parker: Cooler heads prevailing…in a madhouse…got to love it…
Back in the ring, there is life. Barely. Both Paxton Ray and Jared Sykes are crawling, trying to get up. After the brutal chain attack, it’s surprising that Ray is the first one to draw near, looking to drive an forearm into the form of the Dragonslayer. Well, it is surprising until Sykes grabs hold of his left arm after the Bayou Butcher misses his mark, driving it into the boards with a yelp, and begins wrenching hard on an armbar.
Nick Stuart: Sykes locking that arm in–
Richard Parker: And Paxton trying to get to the ropes–
Nick Stuart: There is no hesitation here…that left arm is Paxton’s dominant arm–
Richard Parker: Those long limbs aren’t going to save you, there are no rope breaks…
Paxton tries to fight out, his left arm completely straightened and torqued upon with immense pressure. The bend is unnatural. Hideous looking, even. The dead crawl and the grab of the ropes that should end the submission hold provide nothing. Elvis Nixon makes no effort to break the hold. In a fight for survival, Paxton pulls himself under the bottom rope, sinking to the ring apron before falling to the mats outside. But all this does is make the angle even more awkward as Jared keeps wrenching on the hold. Using his free hand, Ray claws at the hands holding his wrist, punching at them, trying to loosen them up before the inevitable pop. No dice. That is, until, in a bit of desperation, Paxton grabs at the necklace around his neck, taking some of the teeth into his grasp, and stabs at Jared’s hands, cutting along the top of Sykes hand.
Nick Stuart: This is barbaric!
Richard Parker: That damn necklace playing a role again, getting Jared to relinquish the hold.
Once free, The Bayou Butcher grabs the wounded hand of Jared Sykes and grips back against his fingers, wrenching, all before slamming his wrist into the ring apron and yanking back, snapping his fingers alongside it. Jared howls in agony, but in close proximity, punches Paxton in his gushing nose, which is enough to drop him to the ground. Rising up on the apron, he fires off a kick into the face of Paxton Ray, all before darting back into the ring as best as he can. He wrings his hand, blood dripping to the boards. Seeing Paxton Ray begin to stand, he takes off, bouncing off the ring ropes, launching himself between the ropes like a missile–
Nick Stuart: LAFAYETTE LULLABY! PAXTON RAY JUST HIT THE CHARGING SYKES WITH A LAFAYETTE LULLABY!
Like a corpse, the Dragonslayer curls on the outside mats, all as Paxton Ray uses the apron to pull himself back up. A quick tie up after picking Jared up is punctuated by a fisherman style throw, all as The Bayou Butcher tries to wring his left arm, which is hanging in a straightened position.
Richard Parker: As much as I think Sykes did damage with that armbar, what does it matter if Paxton keep throwing and connecting with these heavy bombs?
Once again lifting Sykes to his feet, he quickly beels him into the ring steps, causing the once King Blueberry flying after a violent collision. Grabbing both his knees, Sykes writhes in pain, all as The Bayou Butcher continues to stalk him. Lifting him up, Jared manages to hit a headbutt into the stomach of Paxton, causing him to double over. Another heavy knee nearly takes the rising Sykes down to the ring mats, and, staggering, he gets onto the ring apron, then begins to climb to the top turnbuckle.
Nick Stuart: What is he planning here?
Richard Parker: To use his body as a damn weapon!
It’s only fair, given that Paxton has had so many fun toys to play with. Sykes, blood in his eyes, measures Ray, and then launches, looking to land and hit a poisonrana. The Bayou Butcher is too aware. He snags Sykes as he lands on his shoulders, momentum swinging the pair around as Paxton lays out fully, launching Jared into the time keeper’s table with one of the most devastating powerbombs PRIME has ever seen.
Nick Stuart: My God! MY GOD!
Vince Howard is in shambles, his pristine suit splattered with the blood of Jared Sykes, as well as the remnants of the table. The violent maneuver is replayed ad infinitum, the Garden a cacophony of utter madness.
Richard Parker: This ringside area is a mess!
All things told, Paxton can’t help but smile. He lifts himself up from the ground, reaching for the time keeper’s bell. Taking it into his hand, he grabs the nearby hammer, striking it for dramatic effect.
Nick Stuart: Paxton Ray putting the time keeper’s bell on the apron…sure to use it…
Richard Parker: That’s not all…
They aren’t wrong; The Bayou Butcher grabs at a top portion of ringsteps, yanking them free, and pushes them underneath the bottom rope and into the ring. As he does this, Jared begins to show signs of life, but as if the predator is well aware, he steps back over the Sykes. Reaching at his own neck, he pulls off the gator teeth necklace.
And begins whipping Jared Sykes across the back.
Paxton Ray: HE ASKED FOR THIS!
Laughing. Carrying on and laughing.
Nick Stuart: THOSE TEETH ARE CUTTING JARED’S BACK INTO RIBBONS!
Indeed, The Dragonslayer’s back has a litany of puncture wounds, almost as though he is being flagellated. Hooking, cutting, wounding. Jared yelps in pain, rolls as best as he can, the blood trail left behind sickening.
Nick Stuart: This is just sheer brutality. Sheer brutality!
Richard Parker: No title is worth this. No personal score…
But it is, Richard. If it wasn’t Jared wouldn’t be trying to claw his way back up, all as Paxton Ray stalks his prey, arms outstretched, grabbing hold of him the moment he rises and driving him into the ringpost.
Nick Stuart: You have to ask the question…what’s the goal? What’s the end to this? Because neither man has any interest in pinning the other. All they are looking to do is hurt the other.
Richard Parker: And in a match like that–
Nick Stuart: I shudder to think.
Paxton rolls Jared back into the ring, rising up and inside to follow with. Plucking the time keeper’s bell, he plants his toe into Sykes’ ribcage, causing him to flop over. Throwing his hand in the air, The Bayou Butcher is met with thunderous boos, causing him to shake his head.
Paxton Ray: If this is what it takes to stop me…
A flashback to the Belmont. But there’s no one coming through that curtain, or the crowd, to make the save here. Jared struggles, falling back to the ring boards, all as Paxton Ray takes the time keeper’s bell, and begins to climb the nearest turnbuckle.
Nick Stuart: He’s…he’s looking to cave Jared Sykes’ skull in with that ring bell!
Richard Parker: Someone…ANYONE…stop him!
Gators are ground bound creatures. They are at home in low spaces. In the bayou, they hunt in the murk. Their talons work to keep their footing sure amongst the bog floor. So, as he begins to rise, this tall bastard looks anything but majestic. He readies the time keeper’s bell, ready to smash it into the head of Jared Sykes.
Take a gator off its feet? A dangerous proposition.
Gators aren’t stupid. They know their limits.
The Bayou Butcher thirsts for blood, though. And bloodlust begets stupidity.
His knees bend.
Before he can launch, Jared throws a chain link Hail Mary. Paxton Ray’s very own chain, waded up into a ball. Is Sykes a pitcher? Does it matter? The velocity in which the chain hits Paxton in the face is enough to prove for one hellacious shot. The Bayou Butcher violently wrenches his head back. The momentum is such that his feet leave the top rope.
He crashes onto the mats on the outside with a bone grinding, sickening thud.
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD!
Richard Parker: WHAT A THROW!
The back of The Bayou Butcher finds no cushion. The back of his head finds no pillow. Just a complete and total splat. Visions of falling fill Jared’s head. This time, there will be no question of whether he meant to do this. He did. With every fiber of his being, in survival mode, he did. And nobody will claim him to be a monster. Nobody will spin the narrative like they did with Wyatt Connors, acting like he didn’t deserve everything he had coming to him. There would be no lost decade, tucked away in New England, haunted by specters and an accusatory world wanting to tear him down.
That night, in those rafters, he did everything he could take save Connors.
On December 16, 2022, Jared Sykes did everything he could to save PRIME from The Bayou Butcher.
Using the ropes, Jared pulls himself up to his feet, looking down at the form of Paxton Ray. His eyes follow Elvis Nixon, who is caught in the crossfire. He could begin counting. He could call the match off. He could also go outside the ring and check on the status of Paxton, to see if he can continue. He does nothing. He just looks back at Jared, shrugging his shoulders. As if sullen by this result, Sykes looks around, until his blood soaked eyes catch something.
The head of El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy
Stumbling over, he grabs hold of the mannequin head, looking at the splayed form of The Bayou Butcher. It’s in this moment, he gets a wild notion. He says something to the head of the SCG, and then, once again, to Paxton Ray. Checking his own legs, he takes a deep breath. Then, he bounces off the ropes, running to the ring steps and jumping from them to the corner, and from the corner, he draws his legs to his chest, all before targeting the Bayou Butcher.
Nick Stuart: DOUBLE STOMP!
Richard Parker: BURYING THE HEAD OF SUPER COOL GUY INTO PAXTON IN THE PROCESS!
Beaten up and damaged as it can be, and after he was given a Viking funeral, perhaps this is SCG’s final goodbye to the PRIMEverse. Sleep well, Prince. Your place in Valhalla’s single Macy’s location awaits.
Nick Stuart: THIS IS INSANITY!
Richard Parker: ALL THE STOPS THROWN OUT FOR COLOSSUS!
Neither man makes a tremendous effort to move for several seconds. It isn’t until Jared starts to come to, getting to a knee, panting, trying his best to keep the adrenaline coursing through him, that we sense that an end could be near. Paxton offers no movement. The Dragonslayer tries to pick himself up from his position, but can’t will his body to an upright position.
Nick Stuart: I just…what more could possibly be left with these two?
If this were a wrestling match, the limits of human endurance would not be tested so. But this is more. Trapped inside his own body, Jared keeps trying, but is unable. Paxton has offered no movement. Elvis Nixon watches from inside the ring, helpless, constantly helpless, before the madness unfolding in his wake. This match, with its stakes, though it counts against neither man’s record, is for so much more. And yet, there is no respect. No quarter.
Nick Stuart: These fans…they’re witnesses to history…the brutality…will we ever see anything like this again?
God no. Hopefully no. The fans in the Garden try to will Jared to his feet, to complete the task before him, to vanquish this awful dragon. Some would think he has already managed to do so. After all, Paxton Ray is dead. The fall from the top rope to the arena floor, the double foot stomp…no man can come back from that.
The Bayou Butcher is no mere man.
Richard Parker: THERE’S NO WAY!
Paxton shoots his hand from the ground, grabbing Jared by the throat. His grip is like a vice. Sykes, with one good hand and another wounded and gushing from gator teeth, tries to break free, but before him rises something from straight out of a horror movie. And as the shambling form of Paxton Ray rises, he lifts Jared Sykes up, spiking him against the corner of the ring apron with a choke toss.
Nick Stuart: Jared Sykes…Jared Sykes…after absorbing the punishment from before…
Richard Parker: Oh my God…
Nick Stuart: And Paxton Ray…Paxton Ray…is laughing. He’s laughing!
Laughing and falling back over. Utterly spent. But the maniacal laughter continues, all as Sykes tries to find sanctuary, rolling under the bottom rope, clutching his back. The Bayou Butcher pushes himself up from the arena floor, falling back to a single knee, all before shooting back to a stand. Limping heavily, he rolls back into the ring, laughing, always laughing. He’s having the time of his life. Sykes might have asked for this, but he WANTED this. And as the two are once again standing, on shaky feet, trying to catch themselves, trying to catch their breath, Paxton charges through Jared Sykes, driving him across the ring and into far corner.
All corners have their corner rings exposed.
Jared crumbles back to the canvas, given that this spot, thankfully, still has some canvas to fall upon.
Nick Stuart: Paxton motioning that it’s time to go to sleep…
Richard Parker: Oh my God…oh my God…he’s going to do it. He’s going to beat Sykes…
Nick Stuart: As much as it pains me–
Richard Parker: Paxton Ray might just be unstoppable, Nick.
Maybe he is. Maybe he well is. Paxton sure as Hell is starting to feel mortal. He crumbles to the canvas, all before using the ropes to lift himself back up. He’s waiting. Stalking. For the end. One last Lullaby. You asked for this, Black Sheep. And you failed.
Because you always fail.
Because you can’t save anyone.
SCCW’s halls laugh at your mere effort.
Lane Stevens munches on popcorn as he did at Katie Malick’s funeral.
Wyatt Connors stands upon your head, sermonizing.
Kingsley’s nostrils billow smoke as you futilely offer up all resistance, ready to die, and he laughs because your willingness is so meaningless.
Desade makes all those around you dance on puppet strings, unending anguish and torment, as she takes everything you care about and turns it into dust.
Piss yourself in fear. Cry yourself to sleep. Die, Jared Sykes. Do what you should have done when you disappeared for so many years. It is through The Bayou Butcher that your greatest, most devastating failure is realized. Broken spine with nerve ending tendrils that never heal. A hung head in shame. Rhine. You failed the world all for Jonathan Rhine.
Eat your defeat. Welcome it. Swamp haze rising. A lasting Lullaby.
And as Paxton Ray lifts Jared Sykes up for the final time, he swings with the most ferocious uppercut he’s ever thrown.
Too bad it misses.
Too bad Paxton Ray is in the ring with an expert in neckbreakers.
Nick Stuart: ARM. TRAP. NECKBREAKER!
There’s no time. No time to cover. Sykes keeps his hands close. He grabs hold of Paxton Ray, locking him in an absolutely hideous and unbreakable crossface. Yanking back on The Bayou Butchers head with all he has, the pain, the torque, Ray’s body lifts as he roars in agony. His fingers claw at the hands of Jared Sykes, trying to dig in to get some space to pull free. Nothing. He doesn’t have the strength.
Nick Stuart: CROSSFACE! CROSSFACE! JARED SYKES! HAS IT LOCKED IN!
Richard Parker: WAIT! WAIT!
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD!
Richard Parker: PAXTON RAY IS BITING THE FINGERS OF JARED SYKES! HE’S CHEWING ON THEM!
With no other way to get free, The Bayou Butcher sinks his teeth into the fingers of Jared Sykes, deep enough that the hand seems to become useless. The hold relents, Jared wincing, grabbing at the wrist of his mangled hand with the one good one. Blood paints Paxton’s lips. He’s grunting. Groaning. Air isn’t filling his lungs. His head is light. His neck is in shambles. He crawls, lifting himself by the ring ropes, and as Jared tries to counter, he gets headbutted in the mouth, dropping him to his knee. Ray, once again, grabs hold of Sykes, ready to launch him for the Lafayette Lullaby.
What happens next surprises everyone.
Nick Stuart: RHINE REWIND! RHINE REWIND! COVER!
KICKOUT AT THE VERY LAST SECOND!
An exasperated Sykes looks around, for something. Anything. There has to be a way to slay this monster. Has to be. And then, he sees it. Pushing himself up, he reaches for the chain that is still in the ring from the throw earlier, and begins wrapping it around his leg.
It’s time to Kill this Bitch.
Nick Stuart: BITCH KILL–
The punt never connects.
The discus elbow does.
Nick Stuart: COVER!
Richard Parker: NO!
With what little Paxton Ray has left, he grabs the hair of Jared Sykes, yanking him to his feet, ready to blast him with a Lafayette Lullaby, but as he positions to make the throw, Jared headbutts him in the nose. The blow is enough to cause The Bayou Butcher to crumble to the ring boards. And as he does? Sykes grabs hold of his left arm, wrenching it, extending it out before planting the palm into boards.
Before Paxton can yank his hand free, Jared presses his sole into the top of his hand. It’s going nowhere.
It’s hard enough to try and lift your arm up when another person is standing on it.
It’s another when they manage to lift the ring steps up with them.
It’s even worse when they drive the ring steps into your elbow, utterly destroying your left arm. Your dominant arm. Even a monster movie monster is helpless from a debilitating and fatal blow.
Nick Stuart: SYKES WITH THE CHAIN–
This isn’t a wrestling match.
This isn’t a fight.
This is a fight for survival.
A fight for the soul.
Tomorrow might be better.
But for today, embrace the madness.
Nick Stuart: HE’S GOT IT IN PAXTON’S MOUTH–
The Bayou Butcher roared in unadulterated pain the moment the steps crashed into his elbow, driving his arm in an unnatural position. He’d rolled around. The damage is immense. Broken? Ligaments shredded? There’s a long time between Colossus and the next ReVival. Maybe by then we will know more.
But in this moment, Jared Sykes, the Dragonslayer, has the chain in the mouth of The Bayou Butcher. This time, with no left arm, Paxton Ray is helpless. Sykes presses his heel into the back of Paxton’s neck. With both of his hands, one more so than the other, he yanks back on the chain, laying back, causing the violent jerk to put all the world’s pressure on the neck of Paxton Ray.
The Bayou Butcher tries to grab at the chain with his right hand, but all his hands can manage to do is to flick against it. Seconds become hours. There is no escape. There’s no oxygen filling his lungs. He’s caught.
But his torture of Jared Sykes does not end.
The laughter that bellows from his choking form will haunt him for ages to come.
Nick Stuart: JARED YANKING BACK WITH ALL HE CAN MUSTER!
Blood falls from Paxton’s nostrils. His mouth is a rictus grin. The Dragonslayer jerks back with all he has, wailing.
Nick Stuart: PAXTON RAY HAS GONE LIMP! HE’S GONE LIMP!
Richard Parker: DOES SYKES EVEN KNOW?!
Elvis Nixon watches as Paxton’s body completely shuts down. After being helpless most of the match, he knows now, without question, he can finally exercise some authority. He dives onto the form of Jared Sykes, causing The Dragonslayer to let go.
Limply, Sykes collapses to the canvas.
The Bayou Butcher’s head falls to the canvas, grinning ear to ear in unconsciousness.
DING DING DING
Vince Howard: YOUUUUUUR WINNER…JARED…SYKES!!!!!!!!!
Save Me by Killswitch Engage powers through the Garden.
This moment should be momentous. Confetti should rain down. To win a Colossus Main Event, to have gone through the worst beating of your life, to have slayed this awful dragon? It should carry with it all the pomp and circumstance of one’s wildest dreams.
But for Jared Sykes? All he has, right now, is relief. A broken, beaten, tattered man. Slumping over the top rope after finally managing to get up from the ring. Nick and Richard are in the process of going on and on about what they just witnessed. Perhaps the most hellacious battle in the history of Colossus.
The final two images we see before we cut to black are the pool of blood Paxton Ray’s head lies in, and the gob of crimson snot Jared Sykes spits at his fallen form.