Jonathan Rhine lingers in the ring as the music continues to play. He kicks his foot out, trying to get feeling back in it.
Nick Stuart: Looks like Rhine is still feeling the effects of that twisted ankle he suffered during the match.
Richard Parker: Correction, the twisted ankle he suffered trying to impress his date last week. Tryhard.
Paxton Ray has one leg on the outside apron, straddling the ropes, when he sees Rhine’s struggles. Nodding to himself, he steps back in the ring and walks over to his tag team partner, offering an arm.
There’s some slight miscommunication; instead of placing his arm over Paxton’s shoulder, he pulls Paxton into a hug. Shocked for a moment, Paxton pulls Jon in and reciprocates, whispering something in his ear. The fans at ringside notice and give a small cheer.
Nick Stuart: And that’s why this tag team is special, Richard. They have known each other for only a year, but they have formed a quick bond that has vaulted them near the top of PRIME’s vaunted tag team division. Chemistry like that will get you far in this world.
The words have only escaped Stuart’s lips for moments before the statement gets contradicted. For years, internet message boards will use this video clip for comedic relief, to mock Stuart or maybe even the sport in general. Nick Stuart will refuse to watch this clip, not because he doesn’t want to hear himself sound silly, but because he can’t stand to watch what happens next.
Because what happens next is the Lafayette Bruiser separates himself from Rhine, says one more word, and lifts him into the air before hitting him with a punch to the mouth.
Nick Stuart: WHAT?!
Richard Parker: Lafayette Lullaby! On his own partner!
Rhine falls with a thud to the canvas. The crowd who had just cheered for Fighting For Nora’s display of unity now boo for its demise, as Paxton Ray looks down at Rhine, snarling. He bends down and grabs Rhine by his shoulders, lifting him back up and executing another Lafayette Lullaby, causing The New Life to crumple at Paxton’s feet.
Nick Stuart: This is awful! Paxton Ray is betraying the man who brought him to PRIME! The man who helped pay for his daughter’s cancer treatments!
Richard Parker: I’m not saying he deserves…this, Nick, but you could make the argument that he was taking advantage of Paxton and his daughter. And maybe Paxton was sick of it.
Whatever the reason, Paxton Ray isn’t stopping. As the crowd continues to voice their displeasure, he yanks Rhine up to his feet and hits a third Lafayette Lullaby, and then a fourth after a few more seconds of manhandling Rhine’s body. By this point Rhine’s jaw is swollen, blood dripping on the mat. Finally, after not taking his eyes off of Rhine this whole time, Paxton Ray looks out at the audience.
Nick Stuart: This team was so successful. Not only were they the runners up to Survivor…they raised so much money for Nora. For Paxton’s little girl. Why, Paxton? Why?
His snarl slowly transforms into a grin. He looks down at Rhine again and kicks his arm. Suddenly, Jon Rhine moves. Slowly, he gets to his feet.
Nick Stuart: Four Lafayette Lullabies, and Jonathan Rhine is still moving! He won’t be stopped!
Richard Parker: I’m not so sure about that, friend.
Richard doesn’t sound cocky. He sounds solemn.
Paxton watches Rhine get to his feet with amusement. He patiently watches, waiting for him to reach his full upright position. As soon as he does, Ray is on him, lifting him up into the air.
Nick Stuart: ANOTHER LAFAYETTE LULLABY! That’s five! Jonathan Rhine is busted and broken right now!
The boos are losing their luster as Ray hefts Rhine up for a sixth shot. Not because they are no longer invested, but because their anger has given way to something else. Jonathan Rhine isn’t the only defeated one in the building.
As Ray lands the sixth punch, blood splatters from Rhine’s mouth, splashing Ray’s face with it. He wipes his hand across his face and stares at the blood, still grinning. Then, he flicks it on Rhine’s body.
Nick Stuart: There’s no one to save Rhine! No Shweta Kallemullah tonight. We know that Paxton asked her to stay with Nora because she was so nervous about this match…oh. Oh. Richard…you don’t think…
Richard Parker: Yes, I do. I think this was planned. I always thought Paxton was rough around the edges, but this…this is diabolical.
While the two talk, Ray has landed a 7th punch. Paxton looks to the ramp, waiting for security. He sees none, and he smiles as he turns back to Rhine. It is a grizzly smile, one that elicits a small gasp from Nick Stuart. Finally, Paxton Ray leans against the ropes and begins to leave, causing the fans to wake up and rain a cascade of boos. A team of medical staff sprint towards the ring.
Nick Stuart: What a disgusting display! Paxton Ray has turned on his own partner. And you have to wonder what…what?
Nick stopped because Paxton did as well, hanging midway between the ropes. He pulls himself back into the ring. The members of the staff are crouched by Rhine, but when they see him coming, a few dash out of the way. One particularly brave EMS tech stands in front of Ray, shaking his head and pleading for him to stop.
Think it’ll work?
Nick Stuart: No, Paxton!
Paxton grabs the EMS tech and in one motion lifts him and tosses him out of the way. He walks up to Rhine, touching him with his boot. Rhine, of course, doesn’t move. Nodding, Paxton picks him up again.
Nick Stuart: No! Come on, Paxton! Stop! He’s had enough!
Richard Parker: You’ve made your point, Pax. Just let the medical staff do their job.
Paxton whispers something in Rhine’s ear. Rhine’s eyes are closed, not registering anything. Paxton then lifts Rhine up and holds him up. It feels like ages that Rhine hangs there, upside down, his legs limply hanging.
Finally, Paxton comes down with a brainbuster. Right on Jonathan Rhine’s head.
At this point the boos had subsided to a low murmur, so the sound that occurs can be heard by everyone in the arena. It is a sickening crunch sound, and Rhine’s limbs flail for a split second, then go still.
Paxton rolls to his knees and looks down at Jonathan Rhine. His partner. His friend. His mentor in the wrestling business.
And he leans back and laughs.
Nick Stuart: This is…
He doesn’t finish his sentence. He doesn’t need to.
Paxton closes his eyes, wiping sweat off of his face. He kneels there, eyes closed, relishing the moment. It’s as if he knows that someone will be out soon to save Jonathan Rhine.
Well, that may be the wrong word. He probably can’t be saved now.
All the same, the fans finally have an excuse to cheer as King Blueberry dashes out. He has a jacket that he is trying to take off, and his tattered mask is slightly akimbo as he sprints down towards the ring.
Nick Stuart: King Blueberry is here to stop the madness! He’s coming to protect his friend!
Richard Parker: He’s going into the lion’s den.
If that is true, then the lion is preparing his exit. When he hears the cheer, Paxton opens his eyes and stares at the ramp, then without urgency rolls to the outside of the far ring. Blueberry stares at him for only a moment before checking on Rhine. He puts a hand on his chest, then wildly beckons for the medical staff to once again check out the fallen New Life.
Paxton Ray has found his way to the ramp and now walks backward, his eyes on the ring. A small smile emerges as he reaches the top, then waits for King Blueberry to look his way again before mouthing two words.
Then, the Lafayette Bruiser leaves. The camera focuses on the medical staff, which has moved Jonathan Rhine onto a stretcher. The arena is deathly silent as they watch for any sign of life, maybe a thumbs up or a small wave.
But there is none. The only movement is the gentle rocking of his body as the stretcher is wheeled up the ramp. King Blueberry quickens his pace to walk next to the stretcher, not taking his eyes off of his motionless friend, even as he bumps into an EMT trying to help push the stretcher.
Nick Stuart: Ladies and gentlemen, I…I don’t know what to say. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jonathan Rhine after the devastating attack from his own tag team partner.
Richard Parker: I don’t really care for Rhine, but…please get better soon, New Life.