SURVIVOR FINALS: TAG TEAM TITLES
FIGHTING FOR NORA VS. BLUE LIVE CREW
The noise of the crowd is low but active, a constant buzz as they anticipate the final match of the night. Fans across the venue wait for either of the final two surviving tag teams’ music to hit so they can stand and cheer.
Vince Howard: Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is scheduled for one fall with no time limit and is for the WOOOOOOORLD TAG TEEEEEEEAAAAAAM CHAAAAAAMPIONSHIPS!
Nick Stuart: We’ve made it, Richard. It’s been an incredible night and we’re ready for the main event, which will decide the first Tag Team Champions of the ReVival era.
Richard Parker: I hate cancer and equally hate mannequins, so I think you know who I’m rooting for tonight.
They’re going to have to wait a few moments, though, as the only sound is of a typewriter clicking. The PRIMEview’s black screen suddenly has one name written in Courier font.
“THE NEW LIFE” JONATHAN RHINE
Fans begin to cheer as another name is typed below the first.
As the last letter is typed, the bassline of “Piece by Piece” by Strata rumbles through the speakers. The letters on the screen start to disappear one by one.
T N IF O RHIN
A O R
And as the instruments pick up, the letters move across the screen as two Gs and an F drop from the top, spelling out the team’s name as the vocals explode in a long and garbled scream.
FIGHTING FOR NORA
At the top of the ramp the team appears. Paxton Ray enters first, looking out at the crowd uneasily. Though he has been in PRIME for four months, this is only the second time he has walked down this ramp. Jonathan Rhine, though, has made this walk hundreds of times, and his demeanor reflects it. He’s got a black eye and has white tape around his torso, but he’s smiling.
I found these plastic parts and wires
Let’s split me open at the seams
And rip out everything inside
Make room for all these new machines
Sew me up and pray that I survive
A brand new me-Piece by Piece
Nick Stuart: Former PRIME Intense Champion Jonathan Rhine looks like he’s been through an hardcore match, but I don’t think you could stop him from fighting tonight if you tried.
Shweta Kallemullah enters last, looking out across the crowd with a smile. She looks at her charges and nods. They walk together, Jonathan looking at his tag team partner and talking, giving him advice before the biggest match in the young man’s life. Paxton Ray either doesn’t hear him over the crowd or is too focused on the task at hand, because he doesn’t look over or acknowledge him. The song rolls into the chorus as Ray and Rhine approach ringside.
Vince Howard: Your main event is one fall, and is for the PRIME Tag Team Championships…entering first, at a combined weight 475 pounds…accompanied by Shweta Kallemullah, they are FIGHTING! FORRRRRRR! NOOOOOORRRAAAAA!
Stay here and watch me bleed
Watch me bleed
It’s a brand new me
Piece by piece
Shweta walks around the ring as Rhine climbs the top turnbuckle and soaks in the cheers, his eyes closed, one arm up to the sky. Paxton Ray bounces from foot to foot, then thrusts his own fist to the sky.
Nick Stuart: These men along with their opponents survived six grueling events of increasingly difficult tasks and now they stand here, hoping to be the final tag team that survives.
After soaking in the reaction for a few moments more, Rhine finally drops off the turnbuckle and puts an arm around Paxton Ray, who doesn’t look at him but allows himself to be brought in close for a side hug. After a moment, Jonathan Rhine looks from his partner to the ramp, waiting for the man he used to call a friend.
The buzz of the crowd gives way as the PRIMEview flashes to life, giving us a shot of a hallway backstage. Seven figures stand outside a doorway, each dressed in a shirt that reads “SECURITY”, but this collection of fools isn’t on any official payroll, and for good reason. They are Charlene, Misty, Noelle, Carl, Janelle, Cinnamon, and Biff, collectively known as the Jimmy Bonafide Dancers. Carl steps forward and knocks on the door, which is pulled inwards with tremendous force.
The sound of drums played with an almost-military cadence fills the arena, and if you’re smart you’ve already figured out where this is going.
The Jimmy Bonafide Dancers barely get out of the way in time as a two-wheeler is shoved through the open door. Strapped to the cart via bungee cords is the plastic form of El Hijo del Super Cool Guy, and tonight his traditional red ski mask is missing. Behind him, wheeling this debacle and looking utterly disgusted with the lot he’s drawn in life, is a young man named Mark. Rest assured, he is hella pissed.
The drums are joined by horns, because you’re goddamn right we’re doing this.
The son of Super Cool Guy leads the way down the hall, flanked on either side by three members of the witless dancing troupe. Biff brings up the rear, a few steps behind Mark, because his arthritis flared-up today and he’s having some trouble with that bum knee of his.
Nick Stuart: So. Ummm… This is a thing, I guess.
Richard Parker: (sighs what might be all of the air in his body.)
The scene on the PRIMEview cuts as the six more nimble dancers (no offense, Biff) step through the entryway. Each of them are holding their own portable smoke machine, and they spread out in a triangular pattern before firing those bad boys up. It’s about to get real cloudy in here, kids. So cloudy, in fact, that the curtain of sparks descending from on high is almost obscured. Almost, but not quite.
You’re goddamn right we “Goldberg’ed” the mannequin.
Mark, determined to get this over with as fast as possible, begins jogging the cart towards the ring, stopping just at the bottom of the ramp. For a moment he contemplates his life before PRIME partnered with the MGM Grand, the odd jobs he worked to make ends meet and pay down his student loan debts, and was it really that bad?
The music ends, the dancers fumble in the fog they’ve created, and then scurry to the back just as poor Biff finally makes it to the entrance. Dejected, he turns back, and now we can do this for real.
The arena falls into darkness.
Once more the PRIMEview flashes to life, as a collection of still photos cycle through, each in black and white, with a common theme among them. The first is a thin man, far too small to be a wrestler, whose berry-themed mask is accented by a pair of glasses worn outside of it. The second is a large, bearded fellow with a berry mask of his own, doing what appears to be a backstroke around the outside of a ring. The third is immediately recognizable as Baron Von Blackberry, cackling in triumph as the scenic, yet diabolical nation of Fruitsylvania secures additional gold to add to its coffers. The fourth shows a man who will be walking to the ring momentarily.
The fifth comes with a voiceover, pulled from the archives of a long-dead promotion.
“Greetings, those of the City of Sinners! I am Sultan Strawberry, ruler of the Strawberry Emirate!”
The reaction of the Vegas faithful is deafening.
Nick Stuart: Ladies and gentlemen, what you just heard was the voice of Seymour Almasy, who once competed under the mask of Sultan Strawberry.
The image of a raspberry gives way to three letters, all rendered in a gothic font, take over the screen.
K O P
For fifteen years the Kings Of Popsicles have existed in professional wrestling. In that time only five people have been part of that group, and though each has seen their life move in different directions – two unfortunately taken far too soon – the covenant is eternal. Today that number increases by one.
Guitars. Drums. It’s not the usual nonsense King Blueberry walks out to.
Life returns to the arena.
Well in the heat of the night
You went and blackened my eyes
Well now I’m back
And I’m coming your way
Motley Crue. “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid.”
Two figures emerge from the entryway. The first, King Blueberry, has traded in his usual blue and white attire for one that is predominantly red with black accents, though his mask remains the same. In his left hand is a small case, not much bigger than one used for firearms. Beside him is a woman dressed like a prizefighter in purple and silver, with a mask of her own covering only the top half of her face. Each wears a gray tee shirt bearing the logo of a wrestling school in northeastern Massachusetts.
The theme is hers, or rather it was her father’s – inherited when he hung up his gloves and eased into retirement from the ring. Judging by the expression on her face, readable because the mask only covers around the eyes, she had no idea this was happening.
Vince Howard: Making their way to the ring, and hailing from Boston, Massachusetts… Weighing in tonight at…
The intrepid announcer squints at the card in his hand, and shakes his head.
Vince Howard: 201 pounds plus “I’m not asking her this Vince I’m serious she’ll kill me and my mother said you don’t ask women this.”
The woman in purple smacks King Blueberry in the arm.
Vince Howard: The team of King Blueberry and Reina Raspberry… THE KINGS! OF! POPSICLES!
When the final bell rings and the fans file out, this team will once again be the Blue Live Crew, but this is a night for kings and queens.
Outside the ring, King Blueberry sets the case on the apron and snaps it open. It’s not immediately obvious what’s inside, only becoming clearer as he moves towards the mannequin and reaches to its head. The mask he places on his plastic counterpart is red, strawberry-themed, with a turban sewn in. It’s the original, the only one of its kind.
The covenant is eternal.
Both teams in the ring, Official Jimmy Turnbull gives both of them final instructions. It’s here that we see Paxton Ray will be the first person in on the Fighting For Nora side. On the Kings of Popsicles side? Reina Raspberry is having an animated discussion with King Blueberry, who keeps assuring her to get in the ring. To fight off her growing jitters.Once she reluctantly accepts, the bell rings, getting the Main Event of the evening underway.
Nick Stuart: And here we go! PRIME Tag Team Survivor started with many teams, so many of them accomplished in their own right, be it as tag team specialists or singles competitors or both. But it has all built to this.
Richard Parker: Weeks upon weeks of utter insanity, and we settle the score in the ring. A novel concept, Nick.
The fever pitch of the MGM Grand continues unabated, the fans on their feet, cheering, clapping, this wild night having built to this crescendo. Never before had a PRIME Pay-Per-View been headlined by a Tag Team match. The ReVival Era is different. Weeks upon weeks of games. Tonight, it will be about wrestling.
The two seasoned pros, King Blueberry and Jonathan Rhine, stand in their corners, tag ropes in hand. It is the neophytes taking center stage here, now. Given the insanity of Tag Team Survivor, the visual in the center of the ring is just as well; Paxton Ray towers over Reina Raspberry by over a foot. Comical proportions notwithstanding, Reina’s mind is elsewhere. Jitters. An absolute inability to stop fidgeting. The mask on her head is stupid and isn’t her idea and it’s making it hard to breathe. She can’t feel her arms. Countless times inside a wrestling ring, but here, now, with these lights, with these cameras, with these stakes, her stakes, she is swimming in frenetic anxiety attack levels of nervousness. Cottonmouthed and boxed in, she springs herself against the ropes, trying to calm herself, let the autopilot kick in. She looks back at Blueberry and wants to kick him, punch him, hurt him in so many awful ways. Why did she have to start? Because they both know the truth; if he started, what she is experiencing now is merely delayed, marinated with a lingering dread that might make it worse.
On the other side, Paxton Ray is the cliched opposite, not because of any big stage experience advantage; Reina had well over a decade of ring time over him. It’s just that he doesn’t care. There are no butterflies, just an overwhelming need to hit something. Hard. He loosens his shoulders against the top rope, springing forward with heavy stomps.
Richard Parker: I’m going to make my thoughts known right now…that King Blueberry is tagging with Reina Raspberry tonight is a grave miscarriage of justice.
Nick Stuart: How do you figure?
Richard Parker: She hasn’t been around throughout Survivor? She just slides in when things are settled! Blueberry should have to be teaming with El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy. It’s only right!
Nick Stuart: Will you stop?!
Richard Parker: Oh I am sure Fighting For Nora feels the same way!
As Official Jimmy Turnbull darts away, Reina takes the center of the ring, raising her hand up, challenging Paxton to a roman knuckle lock. What she gets, instead, is a Paxton charging forward, burying her with his shoulder, knocking her flat on her back. She springs up, and when she does, he is there, tying her up before lifting her off her feet and tossing her out of the lockup, her face and chest bouncing off the canvas, a roll of her hips and a quick bit of movement has her back on her feet, but not before he blasts her with a lariat. And when she gets up, another.
Justine Calvin, welcome to The Show. Trial by fire. And after a third lariat takes her down, Ray grabs her by the hair, muscling her into the Fighting For Nora corner, tagging in Rhine before launching off a few driving shoulder tackles to her midsection, making sure to stoop very low, on the last one even falling to his knees with the amount of force he is directing into her ribs.
Richard Parker: Hell, having second thoughts there Blueberry? Maybe the mannequin would put up a better fight. At least it can Canadian Destroy someone!
Nick Stuart: Reina Raspberry comes with a pedigree all her own.
Richard Parker: An outsider. Never earned a spot in the big time.
Nick Stuart: And she has all the pressure on her to perform tonight.
Richard Parker: Might want to tell her that.
If Reina Raspberry thinks things are going to get easier now that the brute of Fighting For Nora is out of the picture, she is dead wrong; now, the wrestling lesson begins. The wind driven out of her from Paxton, Jonathan quickly snaps off a european uppercut that brings her back to a full stand, and once she does, he takes hold of her arm, tossing her across the ring with a deep armdrag. Survival instinct should take her to her own corner, King Blueberry reaching into the ring with everything he has, strategy be damned because it’s not working, and in these gallows, his pleading apologies to her and his begging for her to tag him in falling on deaf ears.
Rhine’s not about to let a deep armdrag give Raspberry a chance to tag out, and with fleet footing, he quickly closes in on her, and as she is getting off her knees, he hooks his arm underneath hers, bringing her high into the sky with a hip toss. With the thud, he dives onto her, smothering her, getting a side headlock. He’s shaking his head, arms like a vice, grinding, every attempt to pick herself up answered with a tightening. How the hell did she get herself into this? What did she get herself into?
Nick Stuart: Jonathan Rhine is a former PRIME Intense Champion, and he’s showing his ring acumen here. Fighting For Nora both have this match well in hand.
Richard Parker: This is getting embarrassing.
King Blueberry fights the urge to get in the ring, to break this up, but his pacing around his corner shows just how restless the proceedings make him. He blames himself. Blames himself for everything. A dropping of the silly facade. His hands wildly clap, trying to get the crowd to join with him, to give some kind of surge of energy to Reina.
Her hands grab at the forearm of Rhine, then toward his hands. He tries to keep his vice hold on her, applying as much pressure as he can, grimacing, but for as much as this is causing her pain, it’s causing his hands to go numb. It doesn’t help that her fingers slink within his grip, or the fact that she has a surprisingly oppressive grip, isolating Jonathan’s fingers, separating just enough to get herself out of the predicament, rolling on the canvas, planting the heels of her hands and pushing herself up. Rhine smothers, though, grabbing hold of her, swinging her to the mat violently with an ippon seoi nage, holding dominant position and trying to segue to an armbar, but as he does, Reina’s legs come up, pulling him back with a headscissor. Tightening like a boa constrictor, she looks to her corner, watching Blueberry absolutely losing it at the way she escaped, wildly smacking his hands together over his head, the fans cheering her for the light escape, him calling over to her, hand out into the ring.
Rhine, though, pivots, escaping himself by flipping and dropping his back onto the smaller Raspberry. Turnbull quickly slides in.
Reina doesn’t have the power, now, to bridge out, instead, snapping rapid fire punches into the ribs of Jonathan Rhine with enough force to have him roll off. Staggering to her feet, she adjusts the mask on her face, trying to find her way to her corner, and as she turns toward it, Rhine grabs hold of her leg, pulling her back to the center, then toward his own corner. She hops on one foot, and when she tries to wallop The New Life with an enzigiri, he ducks it, letting her leg swing over its mark, causing her to splay out on the canvas. With a free hand, Rhine tags Paxton, and as Ray enters, Rhine deadlifts Reina off the canvas with a stiff german suplex. As soon as Rhine is done, he’s through the ropes, Paxton Ray snapping off an elbow drop on Reina, and then another, and then one more for good measure. He pins her close to the ropes, intentionally.
TW-FOOT ON THE ROPE
Expend energy. Smart strategy. Paxton grabs Reina and lifts her up, the canvas rattling from a massive scoop slam. Ray quickly tags back in to Rhine, and on the outside, Shweta Kallemullah is clapping and smiling in approval. The two are working perfectly as a unit, have cut off the ring completely, and are in firm control. The psychological damage inflicted on King Blueberry, though, is as bad as what is being inflicted on his partner; if he had nails to chew, they’d be nubs. He knew if he went in there to try and save her, to save Justine, that she would never forgive him, despite everything. After all that bold talk about deserving to be on the grand stage long ago, to be bailed out? To be proven right in not belonging? Reality be damned, Fighting For Nora be damned, the Blue Live Crew both knew that she had to fight her way through this…IF she could fight her way through this.
Richard Parker: Why isn’t he helping his partner? This is getting damn ugly in there!
Nick Stuart: There’s something to be said about fighting your way through adversity.
Richard Parker: And there’s something to be said about giving yourself a damn chance. And these Popsicles are doing no such thing.
Once back inside, Rhine scoops Reina off the canvas, grabbing her and slinging her with an overhead belly to belly, having pivoted so she hits the ropes, continuing to isolate her from the wide side of the ring so she is caught in the Fighting For Nora no-man’s-land. Her back springing off the canvas, arching, so much damage, so much already forced upon her, and Rhine is there, again, ring general that he is, grabbing her and hooking her leg, flawless with the fisherman suplex and the bridge to accompany it.
King Blueberry, Jared Sykes, in all his years, with all his experience, is powerless. Utterly powerless. Every hit Justine suffers, he grabs at his mask, winces. The fisherman has him punching his turnbuckle in frustration, not at her, but at himself, for putting her in this predicament. In putting her in this no-win situation of pressure that would make mincemeat out of lesser wrestlers. He believed in Justine, believed in Reina Raspberry, deep in his heart, with his everything, knew she was a fighter, had always known she was so much more than what she believed herself to be. What good is all that if he was the only one? Rhine continues his assault, front chancery and a vertical suplex, and another quick tag to Paxton, standing her up and pressing her into their corner before firing off a chop across her chest that has her nearly collapse to her knees, if not for the grip of her hands on the top rope. When Paxton steps back into the ring, he drives his shoulder into her stomach, exploding upward and taking her with him, dropping her with a stun gun that splays her back on the canvas. He hooks her leg.
Another foot on the ropes. He smirks. Grinds his elbow against her sternum as he reaches his long arm and tags Rhine back in, who grabs the top rope and slings himself over, dropping an elbow across her chest. There’s a reason these two wanted to get in the ring, and they are showing it here tonight. Another cover.
Nick Stuart: Amazing and crisp tag work on display here!
Richard Parker: Like a boulder going downhill. They’re just building momentum on top of momentum.
Rhine is up to his feet, running across the ring, springing off the ropes. Blueberry stares at him as he draws near, fights the urge to grab a hold, and then, he hits a baseball sliding dropkick to the head of Reina Raspberry that nearly takes her out of the ring.
Richard Parker: How many official matches have Fighting For Nora had?
Nick Stuart: My notes say a handful.
Richard Parker: Could have fooled me.
Another tag. Lifting her up, her Irish whips her on their nearside of the ring, and on the rebound, both members of Fighting For Nora leave their feet to launch themselves into her with shoulder tackles, the violence from the blow on Paxton’s side damn near swinging Reina around a full 360 as she crumbles to the canvas.
It is foolish to think she can hang, some glorified hand from the northeast, her first major shot coming after age forty. PRIME is a place where World Champions like Shawn Warstein and Larry Tact struggle to find even the slightest modicum of success. And here she is, in the Great American Nightmare Main Event, never having paid the price to be here, not having done a single Survivor Challenge, not proven she should be here in any way save a relationship with a former wrestling champion riddled with such guilt and depression that he hides in plain sight as a court jester. A guy who had so few friends from years of sequester, he lugs around a mannequin to ‘have his back’. The insanity of it all, down to the damn Goldberg entrance, and even with the Sultan Strawberry mask, what the hell did it matter? And as she struggles, as she questions herself, as she wishes she was microscopic so she could disappear, to stop the pain, the embarrassment so bad she wants to weep, she hears it. It starts low, at first. But then, it swells, a clamor from the crowd.
They cheer her name.
LET’S GO RASP-BERRY!
CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
LET’S GO RASP-BERRY!
CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
LET’S GO RASP-BERRY!
CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
Paxton and Jonathan look at each other, then to Shweta, who quickly waves them off to keep their focus. Then, they look toward the spirited and vitalized Blueberry, who is clapping loudest amongst them, matching their chant, bellowing out with everything he has. Rhine rolls out to his corner, with Paxton taking center stage, lifting Reina from the canvas and grabbing her in a side headlock. A quick punch as Turnbull closing in, warning him to open his fist, the staggering Raspberry finding solace in the corner, but not for long, as Paxton hauls off and hits an open handed strike to her, then buries one in her belly, forcing her back straight and into the corner, a tight forearm, and another, and another, he pulls her from the corner, clubbing her across the shoulders and back with his forearm, maintaining hold of her by her mask, and then, front facelocked, he looks for a vertical suplex.
No fucking more!
She escapes his grasp, falling to her feet behind him, and as he quickly turned, she grabbed hold of him, a surprising show of strength as she stepped forward, leverage, all of it, sending the much bigger man over almost like a judo throwing hip toss, only for her to quickly swing and spin and grab hold of his next and spike his face into the canvas with a vicious Ruby Cutter.
Nick Stuart: OH WHAT A MOVE! WHAT A TURNOVER! A RASPBERRY TURNOVER HAS PAXTON RAY SEEING STARS, DROOLING ON THE CANVAS! NOW’S YOUR CHANCE, REINA, TAKE IT!
Richard Parker: Fighting For Nora has been utterly dominating her! And King Blueberry has been standing there, watching it the whole time! Standing there and letting her take an absolute beating! They’re been on point, you think Rhine is going to give her one bit of air here?!
Nick Stuart: Rhine’s just as shocked as Paxton is, as shocked as Shweta is! Blueberry is practically inside the ring with how he’s perched over that top rope! Arm out! Reina is reaching! She’s reaching with everything she’s got! Paxton Ray is trying to get up, she’s crawling, crawling, everything she has! Oh! Oh no!
Richard Parker: Ray’s got that ankle and he’s going to drag–
Nick Stuart: Mule kick! Mule kick to Paxton Ray! SHE DIVES AND MAKES THE TAG!
Reina finally escapes, rolling completely out and to the apron. King Blueberry charges in, house on fire, pent up, ready to just unleash. Pissed off isn’t what he’s feeling…but watching someone he cares about systematically picked apart, and off a decision he himself made, he can’t forgive himself, but the time to reflect is later. Now, he’s in the ring, running fresh, blasting into Paxton Ray with a yakuza kick of absolute death, causing the Lafayette native to hit the canvas hard, then spring back up on instinct. The moment he does, Blueberry grabs hold of him, swinging him and nailing a picture perfect swinging neckbreaker, and before Paxton knows any better, he’s up again, snapped once again into the ether with ANOTHER swinging neckbreaker. But Ray is tough, he can take it, at least his spirit says so, as he staggers, empty headed, back to his feet, only to be put to bed for good with a killer lightning spiral neckbreaker that has him going for the leg.
Nick Stuart: King Blueberry is a house of fire here!
After what happened before, there is no way in Hell that Blueberry is letting him off that easy. The fans are going absolutely wild, Reina, grabbing her neck, now in her tag corner, snarling, cursing, demanding Jared take the bastard’s head off. He doesn’t need to be told twice; he snaps a knee into the breadbasket of Paxton, driving the air out of his lungs, and then straight up knees him in the face. Collapsing to the canvas, Ray is defenseless, barely getting his hands up as Blueberry lashes out with a cannonball dropkick, sending him skittering over the canvas, mat burns and all. But it comes at a cost. Rhine makes the tag.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena, already raucous, starts simmering. An octave change. A pitch shift. The New Life steps inside the ring, slowly. King Blueberry is on his feet, looking forward to him, through him.
Nick Stuart: Oh my word…finally…finally! You can feel it throughout the crowd, the tension here! Jonathan Rhine and King Blueberry…face to face…finally face to face!
Richard Parker: Geez…the hair on my neck is standing up! Why? He’s a damn doofus…but I can’t help it!
The two slowly make their way to each other, no words shared. Two war horses. Two men standing in the city they fought in a decade ago, against a dead man’s hand, against figures that did everything they could to ruin their lives and careers. And yet, it is them that are still standing, still fighting, still main eventing.
Nick Stuart: These fans are going wild! Former Sin City Championship Wrestling Universal Champions both! A friendship sundered! A brotherhood in shambles! Now…taking center stage!
If the announcers are feeling it, can you imagine what the two men in the ring are experiencing? Years of emotion, resentment, traded barbs, a wanting, a need in the acknowledgement of the other, low points punctuated with a collapsing level of self doubt and dread. Survivors, both. This is who they are. Rhine can’t help but feel the enormity of this moment, looking to the crowd, side to side, welling in his stomach just as powerfully as the night he finally, finally took down the venerable and unstoppable Clinton Sage. But Sage isn’t his brother in arms, and the man he once called friend is doing the same as him, a sensation prickling through him, Sin On Spike 5, before the violence, before light tubes and broken fingers and palpable fear that death was coming for him that night in the form of a curse, the Pit Viper. And yet…and yet…
This is far more personal.
As is the hand Jonathan Rhine extends.
Weatherworn from the Mud Pits, a bruised peach.
Blueberry stares at the hand. Part of him wants to smack it away. For everything. And now, for Reina. But he doesn’t. Instead, he extends his own hand, taking the shake vigorously, his eyes looking up into the swollen ones of The New Life.
Nick Stuart: What a moment!
Richard Parker: They’re going to tear each other apart!
They break away, wordless, expressionless. Both men take a few steps back from each other before they circle. Looking for an in. None given. Finally, they lock up. Rhine exercises his power advantage, pushing forward on Blueberry, but as he does, he is caught with a deep armdrag, the arm still held as the pair get back to their feet, Rhine trying to wring his arm free, only to get hit with another armdrag. Blueberry maintains the hold, looking for an armlock, and as he does, Rhine uses his free hand to grab for the ropes. Turnbull goes in to make the break, but before he can Blueberry has released the arm of The New Life, the Blue Live Crew member on his feet, Rhine on a knee, looking upward.
Nick Stuart: The history between these two is well documented. And whereas some might be expecting a bloodbath–
Richard Parker: Well, the ring certainly is one after that Intense Title Match–
Nick Stuart: What we are seeing instead here is a wrestling clinic between two seasoned pros.
Jonathan gets to his feet. The former PRIME Intense Champion goes in for another collar and elbow tie up, and before Blueberry can react this time, Rhine swings him to the canvas with a side headlock takeover, holding the grip. The suddenness doesn’t allow Rhine to use his full weight and power, and gives Blueberry an opening, scissoring his head and pulling Jonathan over with a takeover. It’s Rhine’s turn to answer, the sequence mirroring the earlier goings on, pinning Blueberry to the canvas by dropping with his back to escape.
But King Blueberry has the wherewithal at this point that Reina did not, and he bridges up with his arms around Rhine’s waist, the two off the canvas. And before Jonathan can react, Blueberry grabs hold and nails a vicious neckbreaker over his knee. This time, he covers.
Staggering back to his feet, Rhine lashes out with wild chop toward a visualized target, but he misses, and Blueberry grabs hold of him by the back, trapping his arms, snapping him with an arm trap Saito suplex. He maintains the hold, pulling Rhine back up with him, hitting another! He goes for another cover.
Richard Parker: There you go!
Paxton stomps on the mashed head of King Blueberry to break up the pin. The fans are booing loudly, especially after how The Kings Of Popsicles refused to do this same thing earlier on in the match when Reina was getting absolutely annihilated. Jimmy Turnbull is having NONE of it. He tries to get between Ray and the staggered Blueberry, who is on his hands and knees on the canvas. He’s not quick enough; Paxton grabs hold of Blueberry by the mask, lifting him up, and pitches him through the ropes to the outside. More booing. Turnbull grabs a hold of him, and Shweta calls from the outside for Paxton to stop, but the Lafayette Bruiser wants more.
Paxton Ray: THASMYPARDNA WHADAMYISUPPOSEDTODO?!
Richard Parker: What’s he saying?
Nick Stuart: He’s pleading his case for his partner.
Richard Parker: You need a guy like that, vicious and all, on your side.
It comes out in a barely coherent spit from the adrenaline. Hands up, he backs away, and as he does, Reina can’t help but take a swipe in his direction. Jonathan looks up to his partner, unsure how to feel, but then, Paxton helps him to his feet, patting him on the chest.
Paxton Ray: Got you.
Doing what any good partner would.
Jonathan Rhine: Thanks…
Looking to the outside, he sees King Blueberry using the guardrail to help himself back up. Jimmy Turnbull hasn’t started a countout yet, and rather than protesting, The New Life makes his way to the outside, rolling out, grabbing onto the now vertical Blueberry, looking to get him back in the ring. That is, until a stiff punch hits him in the gut. And another. Rhine throws his hip into his old friend, who responds by bursting up with a massive knife edge chop.
Jonathan isn’t about to get into a slugging match. He veers off and hits a chop of his own. As he does, Turnbull finally commences a count.
Blueberry is nearly brought to his knees, and lashes out with another chop, this one hitting the former Intense Champion in the throat.
Nick Stuart: That one caught him in the windpipe!
Richard Parker: Oh! That might play a role as we go on, taking the wind out of him like that! Smart!
Intent doesn’t matter. Instinct, however, does. Jonathan grabs hold of Blueberry, and in a moment of letting the wrestling truly take over, he drives him into the ring post, causing his old friend to ping spine first against it. There is no reprieve after the blast, instead, Rhine grabbing him by the arm and whipping the absolute hell out of him into the ring steps on the other side, the collision so violent that the metal clasp breaks apart, causing King Blueberry to somersault from one side to the other, skipping like a rock on the other side of the outside padding on his fall, which he has no way of breaking.
Nick Stuart: Oh my word!
Richard Parker: Wrestling clinic officially over!
Rhine, noticing what he’s done, how hard he has lashed out, grabs his forehead in disbelief. He can see King Blueberry, Jared Sykes, struggling, grabbing at his knee, his ribs, his wrists. Can feel him groaning. But the two know the stakes. Know what is on the line.
It’s just that the moment of mental reflection is all it takes for Reina Raspberry, from the ring apron, to put the absolute shit out of him. Bad enough that Rhine thinks his nose may well be broken. And then, she hits a vicious dropkick targeted towards his head.
Nick Stuart: And Reina here take up for her partner–
Richard Parker: So nice of her to show a damn pulse…
Getting back up herself, her jitters gone, Reina drives Jonathan Rhine into the guardrail, firing off a heavy kick to his chest, and then another, and another. She peels him off the guardrail and rolls him back into the ring, but not all the way, dropping her elbow over his perched head.
She dusts her hands, getting back into her own corner. Her eyes are on Rhine. The crowd noise is distant. The train that is a charging Paxton Ray isn’t; he blasts her from her corner and to the outside with a nasty shoulder block, and, in a show of absolute madness, he grabs onto the top rope and slings himself over, diving and using his entire body to crash into the unprepared Reina Raspberry. Turnbull recommences the count.
On the other side of the ring, King Blueberry staggers back to his feet, falling, then back up, a newborn baby calf, spaghetti legged. Rhine is recovering, his head rocked.
Shweta is over to Paxton, helping lead him back to their tag corner, doing what she can to talk sense to him, to get him to not continue fighting with Reina, who is on the other side, yelling for him, yelling for her to let him go.
Rhine grabs onto the ropes, pulling himself back up.
King Blueberry rolls back into the ring.
Nick Stuart: Blueberry back in! But just barely! Both Rhine and Blueberry are both at their feet, shaky, staring each other down! No feeling out process here! They charge at each other, Rhine with the shoulder tackle! He grabs him and GUTWRENCH SUPLEX! He looks to tag Paxton in–wait…what is Paxton doing?
Richard Parker: He’s still talking with Shweta!
Nick Stuart: Rhine looking over, perplexed, perturbed, they were working so smoothly as a unit before.
Rhine looks to take the tag now that his partner’s attention is back in the ring, but before he can, Blueberry trips him, and on the rebound, hits a leg scissor takeover. The momentarily distracted Paxton Ray punches his turnbuckle pad, all as he watches Blueberry take the moment and smother his partner with a headlock. Rhine gets to his knees, and falls to his backside, his head driving underneath the chin of Blueberry in a makeshift jawbreaker. Staggered, Blueberry grabs at his face, and Rhine gets to his feet, and as he does, the two lunge at one another, and in the process, their heads collide. The blow is enough to make the two collapse, to scramble. Blueberry grabs near his eye, specifically the left side. Rhine shakes his head, cobwebs and a headache starting to layer in. Both men use the ropes to pick themselves back to their feet, and once they do, Rhine gets the advantage, tossing Blueberry with an overhead belly to belly. On the fall, it becomes clear the damage that has been done by the two’s head colliding.
Nick Stuart: There’s a visible mouse growing over King Blueberry’s left eye. Oh my word, you can see it swelling…
Richard Parker: That’s a target. A big target. Lost peripheral vision if that eye completely closes up and it looks like it will…
Nick Stuart: He’s grabbing at that eye gingerly, oh he knows it. He pounds the mat in frustration! Reina is yelling for him to tag her in, she’s back in her corner, she’s pointing at Paxton Ray, oh she wants him bad!
Richard Parker: The Ravishing Raspberry wants a bit of Creole–
Nick Stuart: Richard!
Richard Parker: Get your mind out of the gutter! Paxton Ray and her have really taken it to each other in this main event, and they don’t have the complicated history Blueberry and Rhine have. They just want to pound the hell out of the other!
King Blueberry looks to his partner, looking to go for a tag, to figure out the full damage going on with his eye. But he’s the one who just suffered a suplex; Rhine is the one on his feet, tagging his partner in, a brief stare between the two, no words exchanged. Paxton steps into the ring, and feeling rather perturbed, grabs onto Blueberry, hitting him in the breadbasket with a punch. He whips him across the ring, hitting him with a boot to the gut on the carom and blasting him across the back with a double axe handle.
Paxton grabs hold of Blueberry, looking at Shweta, and then Jonathan. Front face lock. He needs their attention. Needs Jonathan Rhine to see this. Lifting Blueberry upward, he holds him in the air, the fans counting the seconds as the hold lasts beyond ten, all the blood rushing to the head of the former SCCW Universal Champion. And then…and then…
Nick Stuart: BRAINBUSTER! OH GEEZ WHAT A SNAP ON THAT!
Richard Parker: Blueberry is splayed out! Twitching! Oh my Hoyt!
There should be a pin here. But there isn’t. Instead, Paxton stares toward Rhine, The New Life’s face turning pale momentarily before an intense flush filters through. His glower is heavy, his eyes wide. Paxton doesn’t emote, doesn’t smirk, doesn’t even nod his head. Dustin. He hooks the leg of King Blueberry, twitching on the canvas.
At the very last second, the absolute last second, King Blueberry kicks out. The fans explode, some thinking they may have seen the main event finish, others knowing the immensity of what kicking out after that sickening brainbuster means.
There is no disbelief. Paxton merely rolls off, looking down at the Blueberry. He can hear the crowd. Everyone can hear the crowd.
FIGHT FOR NORA!
LET’S GO SYKES!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
LET’S GO SYKES!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
LET’S GO SYKES!
Hearing his name, his real damn name, is like a shot of adrenaline to his heart. Mixed as he might feel, odd and offkelter, confused, not from the brainbuster, that did enough of its own scrambling, but after everything, the decade of darkness, the fall before it, Wyatt Connors, the messages, the letters, thanking him, the ones wishing it was he who plunged well over a hundred feet, ‘This is who you are’, a funeral dirge, but now, a beating in his heart, stirring, is it the collision that has his eyes welling up with tears, or is it the manifestation of so many sleepless nights, or worse, the ones where he did dream?
Paxton is going through his own moment of clarity. But he’s a fighter. He rises, dropping his elbow over Blueberry. And again. And again. And he goes for a pin.
With. Fucking. Authority. Blueberry, Jared Sykes, rises as quickly as Paxton Ray, and when the Lafayatte Bruiser swings for his eye, he ducks. He fires off a mule kick, doubling over Ray, and as he starts to rise, Blueberry jumps onto his shoulders.
Nick Stuart: POISON RANA! POISON RANA!
Richard Parker: Bounced his head off the canvas like a damn basketball!
Ray staggers to his feet before they give way. King Blueberry looks to his corner. Justine Calvin is pacing. She wants in. Now. And who is he to deny her? He makes the tag. And, unlike before, when she started, things are completely different. Her survival early on has earned her credit. How many teams would have fallen from the early Fighting For Nora onslaught? You think either member of the Hollywood Bruvs wouldn’t have made it a quarter of the way through with shit filling their pants? Jonathan Christopher-Hall? The Saturday Night Specials? They weren’t here. This isn’t their moment of glory after over a decade in the Northeast underground.
Richard Parker: The Ravishing Raspberry!
Paxton Ray staggers to his feet, but he isn’t ready. He could never be. Reina Raspberry charges, blasting him with a knee, then a punch. Turnbull warns her about the closed fist, but it just makes the next jab sting all the worse. The daughter of Barrett Calvin can pack just as vicious a punch. The unexpected surge is met with an uppercut, and then a front kick that drops Paxton to the canvas. Once there, she charges forward, throwing her entire body into a knee strike that wipes them both out. She scrambles for the cover.
Nick Stuart: More like the Relentless Raspberry! Reina showing exactly why King Blueberry picked her to team with him here.
Reina smothers, diving onto Paxton with a front facelock, and after seeing the vicious brainbuster Jared suffered earlier, has malice in her heart. Hooking his long leg, she lifts him, spiking him into the canvas with a fisherman buster that causes an audible gasp from Shweta, and a hellacious roar from the crowd. Another cover.
Rising back to her feet, she quickly slams her heels in a double footstomp into Paxton’s chest, soccer kicking his ribs, causing him to roll to the outside. And when he does? There’s nothing stopping her. Running forward, she dives through the ropes, blasting him with a suicida, driving him into the guardrail with such velocity it damn near breaks the barricade free.
Sensing the moment, Blueberry runs across the apron, kicking Paxton as he rebounds back to the apron. And after? He runs again, grabbing his head with his legs, another poison rana, this time on the outside mats.
Richard Parker: I’m going to take it back. She’s a pistol. Much better than a mannequin. Some damn fire in her.
Nick Stuart: Bold to admit you’re wrong already, Richard. Growing some humility?
Richard Parker: I just verbalized what everyone was thinking early on. And I continue to have my finger on the pulse. You’d have to be dead not to see it.
Sykes and Calvin slap hands as Rhine, after the brainbuster, after seeing what has transpired, lays back. Shweta is yelling for him to help. Pained, conflicted as he is, he remains. The Kings Of Popsicles roll Paxton back into the ring, and once back in, the two Berries get in the ring. Paxton is seeking out his partner, seeing from the corner of his eye, but he’s punch drunk, seeing stars. Blueberry locks arms with Raspberry, and with every ounce of his body weight, gives her a forceful push forward of momentum. Bounding across the ring, and just before Paxton can get the tag, she annihilates him with a front dropkick that causes his sternum to barrel into the turnbuckle. Rising quickly, she launches herself, grabbing his neck, dropping for a lungblower that stabs her knees into his back with devastating force.
She makes the cover.
There is no count.
Instead, Jonathan Rhine, who tagged his partner the moment he came crashing into his corner, drops a pointed elbow over the back of Reina’s head, pulling her off his partner, and hitting her with three quick and tight punches before spinning and obliterating her with a quick turnaround elbow. Blueberry is back in his corner, cheering his partner on, but Rhine will have none of it, scooping her up and hitting her with a butterfly suplex. He looks to get her with an armbar, but she escapes, staggering up, doing what she can by firing off a punch to his stomach from a kneel. The blow is glancing, with Rhine throwing his thigh into her face. Once down, he takes off toward the ropes, jumping, springing off with a moonsault and driving his knees into her throat.
Nick Stuart: NEW LIFE MOONSAULT! COVER!
Richard Parker: Needed the overhead belly to belly before!
Nick Stuart: A Rhine trademark dating back, but he saw an opportunity! And he continues to press. Oh my word this match, these two teams, everything they’ve done, they’re fighting with everything they have!
The damage done, Rhine grabs onto Reina, his arms collapsing her, a Katihijame, and off the New Life Moonsault, with the deepness of the hold, with the positioning, Reina is in trouble. Real trouble. Her tongue lolls out of her mouth for a moment, her hands fighting toward Rhine’s forearms, bad enough that she brandishes her nails, but as she claws at his flesh, there is no respite. Just a groaning New Life, grimacing, choking the life out of Reina Raspberry. But she won’t give up. So he begins to stand.
Richard Parker: What is he doing?! He had her right where he–
Nick Stuart: OH MY GOD!
Richard Parker: ……nevermind…
Katihijame suplex. Right on the top of her head. And the hold remains. It would take a miracle now for her to escape. She doesn’t even have the strength to tap, her arms limp.
Two are stronger than one.
King Blueberry dropkicks Rhine in the face, breaking the hold, saving the match, and more importantly, saving his partner. Once the hold is broken, she startles awake, breathing, a deep inhale, a scramble with her limbs as the sudden rush of blood and oxygen fires up fight or flight responses. Turnbull warns Blueberry for getting in the ring, but he pays it no heed, backpedaling to his corner, hand out, wanting, needing to tag in. As the world starts to slide back into focus for Reina, she rolls, smacking her partner’s hand, and he comes in, house of fire, all as Rhine is getting up, feeling like a few of his teeth have been loosened.
It doesn’t take long for Blueberry to make his intentions known.
Nick Stuart: NTD! NTD! NTD!
Richard Parker: With freaking all the cheese sauce in the mezzanine!
Nick Stuart: COVER!
At the very last moment, it is Rhine’s turn to kick out. Blueberry collapses back, breathing heavily, his partner slumped in their corner, across the ring, Paxton having his bearings but looking spent.
Blueberry grabs hold of the downed Rhine, holding him on the canvas, firing off some knees to his shoulders, all before springing up and lifting Rhine off the canvas, grabbing him in a full nelson.
Nick Stuart: FULL NELSON BULLDOG!
There is no cover to follow. Instead, King Blueberry slinks from Rhine, rising up, ascending toward the near corner, but then springing off the ropes as he sees his old friend now his stomach.
Nick Stuart: DEAD AIM! DEAD AIM! DEAD AIM! HE ROLLS HIM ONTO HIS BACK! COVER!
FOOT ON THE ROPES
The springboard 450 is a sight to behold, even this deep into the match.
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
Rhine is in a desperate way. Blueberry, in control, locks him in a front chancery, looking to snap him back into the canvas with a neckbreaker of some kind, any kind, but at the last moment, The New Life slips free, stumbling to a knee, barreling into Blueberry’s midsection with a shoulder. The two doubled over, Rhine’s hands fumble, grabbing at the head of Blueberry, his hand combing over the swollen mouse over his opponent’s eye, and he drives his own head into the spot. The collision is brutal. Survival instinct. Blueberry tries to guard the eye, but Rhine slams his head into the spot again, causing the swell to burst open with a cut that instantly begins to pour blood. A headbutt doesn’t follow, this time, a stiff elbow catching the glowing bullseye, tearing at the gash, and not only that, but tearing at the Blueberry mask itself. The force creates a tear, and the elbow that follows causes the tear to grow, growing enough that flecks of Jared Sykes’ colored hair begins to come out.
Nick Stuart: That swelling mouse is now a bloody river gash! The blood cascading into his eye! Tearing at his mask!
Richard Parker: And now, a big old target lingers after it’s been pierced. Bullseye in the most vicious of ways!
Blueberry collapses to the canvas, allowing Rhine the chance to rise up, using the ropes, staggering to his corner, tagging in a huffing Paxton Ray, who demands the spent New Life picks up his old friend and whip him toward him. Rhine complies, but before he does, Paxton slinks between the middle and top rope, then explodes out and blasts the stampeding Sykes with a shoulder block that hits as vicious as any blindside football tackle on a Sportscenter Top Ten.
The advantage is theirs. The time is now. Turnbull tries to get Rhine to leave the ring, but there’s nothing to stop them. Survivor. A Championship long dead for over twelve years. Tragedies. Foster Nackedy’s contemptible bastardry. Jonathan Rhine slingshots King Blueberry into the turnbuckle, and on the carom, he throws him skyward.
The Lafayette Lullaby.
And the cover.
FOOT. ON. THE. ROPES.
Jimmy Turnbull saw it. Shweta, ramshackle from emotion, is on her knees, at first knowing Paxton and Jonathan had just won the PRIME Tag Team Championships.
Paxton Ray can’t believe it. His fist screams from the uppercut he landed.
Jonathan Rhine can only collapse. He knows what they’re in there with. An ultimate survivor. An enviable quality, no matter how annoying the bastard could be. That man had survived the horrors of Sin City through its corrupt, disgusting maw, Desade, Lane Stevens, Wyatt Connors. He’d dealt with his own horrors in the form of Clinton Sage in those moss covered halls. Credit where it is due. Ultimate respect.
But their fight is not over.
And maybe, it will never be over.
Paxton didn’t see that. Couldn’t see it. He just wanted to fight. He wasn’t weighed down by the specters of old demons. His daughter faced a graver one. And he would fight for her. Always. Dad was bringing the Tag Team Championship home and putting it at the foot of her bed.
He grabbed King Blueberry, lifting him up, but the damn fool couldn’t even hold his own legs up. He collapsed the moment Paxton got him to a stand. Turnbull finally got control back of his match, getting Rhine into his corner. The Lafayette Bruiser lifts Blueberry off the canvas, clobbering him with a discus elbow that causes them both to collapse to the canvas.
Nick Stuart: WHAT A SAVE!
The newfound berry saves Jared Sykes, diving onto the pinning Paxton Ray. What follows is a level of guts that will be told for generations in the Calvin bloodline. She punts Ray from his spot, and when he rises, slugs him with a left and a right combination. Paxton isn’t knee deep in mud, but he is at home. Right at home. He fires off a jab at Reina, connecting. But she isn’t deterred. Turnbull tries to break the pair up, getting between them, but she peels him away, and as Paxton tries to follow up, she clobbers him with a high kick. She looks at Jared, at King Blueberry, blood from where his mask hit the canvas pooling. Even with the insanity of the Intense Title Match, this fresh blood has a coaxing pull. He’s crawling to her. To their corner. Elbows and all. She steps back into her corner, and even as Rhine protests, all he can do is hold his hand out, trying to get Paxton to come to, to tag him in.
King Blueberry has already tagged Reina into the match.
She goes to the top rope, and dives off, nailing a double footstomp onto the back of Paxton Ray. The sickening thud is all it takes. Getting to her feet, and knowing Jared is incapacitated, she charges toward Rhine, blasting him with a harsh enough forearm that he drops from the corner and onto the floor with a thud. Paxton is up. His hands are ready for a fight his head isn’t clear enough for. She charges into him, burying her knee into him, firing off another. Paxton doubles over. But she grabs hold. She grabs hold and lifts him onto her shoulders. On arm on his waist. Another hooking his leg. The arm moves down. Piledriver position.
Richard Parker: THAT’S IT!
Nick Stuart: COVER!
When you’ve toiled in obscurity, how does it feel to finally make it beyond your wildest dreams.
When you’ve questioned yourself for even being here, what happens when you finally get the affirmation that not only do you belong, but you always have.
How does it feel when your storybook doesn’t have its fairy tale ending?
But a kick out nonetheless.
Nick Stuart: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! AND NEITHER CAN THESE FANS! THEY’RE GOING ABSOLUTELY INSANE!
Richard Parker: By the love of Hoyt, what a battle! What a battle! Everything you could want to see in the ring being put on full display!
Jared Sykes merely looks on, head hung. Rhine is in his corner, eyes wide, shocked that his team is still in the match. Shweta’s hair a tousled mess from the rollercoaster she wants off of. And El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy? If only you freaking knew. Reina is inconsolable. She collapses. Paxton Ray is barely breathing, but still, he breathes.
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
FIGHT FOR NORA!
BLUE LIVE CREW!
The roar of the crowd brings with it a climactic urgency. Everything has been spilt. We are in the end game now. And for Reina Raspberry, for Paxton Ray, it is in utterly drunken, spaghetti legged rises that show their true measure. Reina tries to hit him, but he falls to his knee, making her miss her target. He drives his shoulder into her midsection, grabbing onto her to pull himself up, hitting her with a loopy uppercut to the collarbone, and with her fully standing, he splatters her with a discus lariat. He roars.
Rhine roars back, begging for the tag. For him to pull himself through and find a way.
But Paxton can’t hear him. And as the two get back to their feet, another loopy punch is met with a clutch. With all he has, Paxton Ray lifts Reina up.
A blind tag.
King Blueberry has just enough, just enough to get into the ring, to get Paxton off Reina, and bringing him up, her grabs hold of him and looks to hit something, anything, a cutter, just anything to bring this bastard down. But Ray pushes him off. Sweat pouring, he laughs. He can see daylight. A sudden surge. All it takes.
This one ENDS it.
Except the final blow misses.
Except Jared fucking Sykes has fallen to his feet behind Paxton Ray.
Except Jonathan Rhine yells for Paxton to watch out.
A wild backward swing.
A near miss.
An old friend.
A hallmark of the greatest tag team to ever grace the National Wrestling Council.
Eat your heart out, Crash and Burn.
Nick Stuart: FLATLINER! THIRD DEGREE! THIRD DEGREE!
Not enough. Jared maintains the hold and rises with Paxton Ray.
Another Third Degree. Another flatliner. Crash and Burn. Crash and fucking Burn.
Nick Stuart: COVER!
Jonathan Rhine bolts with everything he has out of his corner.
Justine Calvin throws her entire body into The New Life to stop him.
DING DING DING
“Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid.” indeed.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena explodes as Jimmy Turnbull’s count reaches three. Jonathan Rhine reaches out too late toward his partner, collapsing when he sees the result.
Nick Stuart: THEY DID IT! THEY DID IT! FROM THE UNKNOWN! FROM A HAUNTED PAST! THE KINGS OF POPSICLES…THE BLUE LIVE CREW…ARE THE LAST TEAM STANDING…THEY ARE THE SURVIVORS! THEY ARE THE PRIME TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS!
Richard Parker: I CAN’T HEAR MYSELF THINK!
Vince Howard: THE WINNER OF THIS MATCH…THE WINNER OF PRIME TAG TEAM SURVIVOR…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND NEW…PRIME…TAG TEAM…CHAMPIONS! KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGS OF POPSICLES! BLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLUE! LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE! CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!
The PRIME Tag Team Championships have been dormant since last held by Change In Spades. But on this night, they return, alive, and have found a home in the revived PRIME. King Blueberry is on the canvas, doing what he will, his chest heaving, the tears overwhelming him, mixing with his own blood. Reina looks toward him as he rolls off of Paxton Ray, then toward the crestfallen New Life, who is magnanimous in defeat.
Jonathan Rhine: Congrats Justine…
It takes everything in her not to be overwhelmed herself.
Returning to the ring, Jimmy Turnbull holds both Tag Team Championship belts, and makes his way to Blueberry, ready to hand him his prize. He slinks back on his knees, his forearm reaching for his eyes, his free hand fervently pointing toward his partner. And if he doesn’t get the clue, he makes his intent clear.
King Blueberry: Her. Give them to her.
Jimmy isn’t one to protest, and with a bit of gusto, offers both Tag Team Championship Belts to Reina Raspberry. In utter shock, she takes both of them, one in each hand, and as she does, her arms collapse to her sides. Head hung low. A lifetime to this moment, a lark, but now? On this grand stage?
She hadn’t just arrived.
She was a Champion.
Nick Stuart: These two teams…incredible! People had their questions about both, some even questioning their mettle. Their drive. Their determination. If they belonged. But tonight…tonight…they have shown us all what Tag Team Wrestling is all about.
Richard Parker: The art isn’t dead. It’s alive and well here in PRIME!
Fighting For Nora doesn’t linger, instead, Rhine helps his partner out of the ring, the Lafayette Bruiser out of it. They’d been such a unit early on, but in the midst of fatigue, their well oiled machine slipped. And even then, look at what they’d accomplished. Look at what they had done. Tomorrow will bring with it new life. And in this moment, on this night, the future is bright. Just a little more, and it’s them holding those Tag Team Titles.
On this night, they know they will be back.
If only we all knew what was to come.
Inside the ring, Reina rises to her feet, and seeing Blueberry, she dive tackles him, laughing, a lazy snow angel on a blood soaked canvas. How fitting. Jared points to El Hijo Del Super Cool Guy, pounding his chest before pointing to the sky.
Sail across the stars, Sultan Strawberry. The covenant is eternal.
As Fighting For Nora make their way up the ramp, Jonathan looks toward the ring, a few deep breaths, shock in the moment, a lingering look to Paxton who can barely hold himself up, and Shweta, her arm around his shoulder, ready to console. He looks back to the ring, defeated for now, and yet, with a gathering sense of purpose.
In the ring, Reina Raspberry gets onto the shoulders of the kneeling King Blueberry, raising the PRIME Tag Team Titles in the air.
On this night, one thing is clear.
While there is a winner tonight, the entire tag team world is put on notice.
These two teams are your standard.
These two teams are what you can only hope to catch up to.
Fade. To. Black.