Nick Stuart: These fans are still buzzing from the Tag Team Survivor announcement, and for the second half of the old one-two punch it looks like we’re about to hear from the number one contender to the PRIME Universal Championship!
Richard Parker: Honestly, I don’t know why he’s still in the running. The trouble he had with Tapioca Puddings last week, will it take Youngblood more than ten minutes to run him through the ringer?
Nick Stuart: Need I remind you that Youngblood got past him in the tournament semifinals by the skin of his teeth?
Richard Parker: Need I remind you that all that matters is who’s hand gets raised?
Dressed in street clothes, Impulse and Calico Rose walk the aisle hand in hand, occasionally having a kind word for a fan at the railing or posing for a photo or two. The look on the Marathon Man’s face is one of patient impatience – Impulse is known as an athlete who wants to get into the ring and get to work – while Cally eats it up, doing her best to give each fan a memory to take home with them.
Nick Stuart: It’s strange to think it was five years since Impulse was last working full time for a wrestling company when the Almasy Invitational began, he clearly hadn’t lost a step! And these two have certainly endeared themselves to the PRIMEates in particular and Las Vegas in general, with Impulse doing any promotional work that’s asked of him to put more eyes on the company, and Cally making what I understand is a ton of money for charity work all around the city!
Richard Parker: Charity? She’s a bartender. Hey honey, where’s my drink?
Cally’s head turns towards the commentary table as she smiles at the two men, and hops the guardrail! Impulse watches her go with a confused look on his face, but smiles in her direction and shrugs his shoulders while he retrieves a microphone from Vince Howard and enters the ring.
Impulse: We’re two weeks out–
Before he can continue, the fans’ cheers rise again as Cally climbs back over the guardrail. She stops at the commentary table, pops the top on the tall boy Sam Adams she’d carried back from a vendor, and placed it in front of a slack – jawed Richard.
Calico Rose: Tip ya bartenders, luv!
As she reenters the ring, Nick and Richard stare at the can for a few seconds, until Richard simply shrugs and takes a long swig, to a roar of approval from the people. In the ring, Impulse stares Cally down, on the verge of laughter. “Are you done?” he asks her off microphone, smiling and shaking his head. She shrugs, they hug, and he lifts the microphone once again.
Impulse: Two weeks out from the most significant rematch in the PRIME revival’s short history so far. Two weeks away from the Great American Nightmare, where, one way or another, my nightmare comes to an end.
He paces the ring while Cally leans back into a corner.
Impulse: When I signed my name to a PRIME contract, I’ll be honest, I thought it would be a short term thing. Few months in and out, help an old friend get her business off the ground, and then I could return to my life of semi – privacy away from everything about this business that I can’t stand.
Impulse: And then something happened. PRIME turned into our home.
The fans cheer, he glances at Cally, she winks at him.
Impulse: The competition feeds what I need. The athletes here are some of the best I’ve ever been around, and before I knew what happened, I not only wanted to be here…
He looks straight into the hard camera.
Impulse: I needed to be here. Until three months ago.
Richard Parker: Do you need a calendar, old friend? Or do you do your counting on your fingers?
Nick Stuart: Will you stop?
Impulse: You see, three months ago, practically to the day, I stepped into this ring against the man who would become the PRIME Universal Champion.
Impulse: And I lost. And that’s all good. Brandon Youngblood–
He stops talking as the fans cheer for the reigning Champion. Impulse nods his approval and encourages the cheer for a few seconds before he puts the microphone back to his face.
Impulse: Brandon Youngblood was the Champion this company deserved – that this company needed – to push the doors all the way open, and he proved that against Cancer Jiles. Twice. But I can’t help wondering.
The fans buzz, hanging on his words as the number one contender leans on the top rope, letting the moment build.
Impulse: That night… Brandon Youngblood got his hand raised in a victory he earned. But did he earn it because he was better? Or was he just luckier?
A small ripple of a boo runs through the crowd at the insinuation.
Impulse: I’m not taking a single thing away from Brandon Youngblood, he’s earned his place in this company’s history and in its present and future. But watch the match. I’ve been in this sport long enough to know when I’ve got an opponent beaten, and the fact of it is, I had Brandon beaten. I was in control… and then my shoulders were down for the three.
Impulse: Was it luck, or was it skill? And the thing that eats away at me is that I don’t know. And I have to know. I don’t like to use the word all that much, but I deserve to know.
He points out into the crowd.
Impulse: You all deserve to know. And Brandon himself deserves to know. Was he better than me that night, or was Lady Luck just on his side?
Impulse chuckles to himself quietly.
Impulse: Because… An athlete that’s better than me, I can look them in the eye, shake the hand, offer congratulations, and get on with my life. If it was just a matter of bad luck for just long enough to score a three? I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to let that go.
Cally steps forward and takes Impulse’s free hand. He glances at her and gives a squeeze.
Impulse: I like and respect Brandon Youngblood, and I support him as the PRIME Universal Champion. But.
Impulse: I have to know.
Ask for an answer, and ye shall receive.
BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD
SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE
LET THE GALAXY BURN
Bloodsport (World Domination) by HEALTH. The mood changes, an intensity pervading the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The number one contender and his emotional and spiritual second, locked hand in hand, turn their attention toward the entrance ramp, the arena lights an assault of bright reds and whites. Within moments, the herald to his arrival is joined by PRIME’s ACE, The Tower of Babel, the Hall of Famer and Universal Champion; Brandon Youngblood. Dressed in grappling shorts and a ‘BEAT CANCER’ shirt, he powers from behind the curtain, his Championship belt slung over his shoulder, the strap cradled in hand as he strides to the ring.
Nick Stuart: The ever focused Youngblood is wasting little time here. We’ve known Impulse would be fighting the Universal Championship since Culture Shock, but who he’d face was a question.
Richard Parker: Impulse’s been able to rest on his laurels.
Nick Stuart: The Anglo Luchador isn’t a pushover. And, even though most thought Tapioca Puddings would be a simple tune up, that isn’t the case. Just ask Dusk…
Richard Parker: I’d rather ask Hank…but you know…there’s a small barrier there…
Nick Stuart: Would it be Brandon Youngblood or Cancer Jiles? The Almasy Invitational Finalists. And after an intense war at Culture Shock, Brandon finally won the most coveted prize in the sport after years of near misses. But there was no time to rest, barely any time to recover, before having to face off against Jiles one more time with all the chips down.
Richard Parker: First blood.
Nick Stuart: Youngblood battered and brutalized Jiles. Even with the odds stacked against him, with a balky knee, with a stipulation that he could lose everything in a flash of crimson, here he stands…an already battle hardened Diamond having passed his first major test. But Impulse presents perhaps his greatest challenge; a skilled wrestler with a renowned focus. One that rivals his own.
Brandon quickly climbs the stairs, stepping through the ropes, his eyes focused on the couple. While there isn’t malice or distrust in his eyes, there is a hint of annoyance, of discomfort. After staring the two down momentarily, he makes his way to the near corner, climbing to the second turnbuckle before pumping the Universal Championship into the air. The fans roar in approval, doing so when he hits each following corner. As he does this, Richard takes a swig of his tallboy, smacking his lips.
Richard Parker: Damn is this refreshing and cold.
Nick Stuart: What stands between these two isn’t animus. It’s a pride. We saw earlier tonight how close the matchup between these two was in the Semi-Finals of the Almasy. And Youngblood has made it known what his thoughts are. There’s a question hanging over the most prized trophy in all of combat sports, and the only two people who can answer it are in a PRIME ring.
Stepping off the last corner, Youngblood turns to once again face Impulse and Cally. Even without hatreds to fuel the fire, what remains is just as personal. Perhaps even greater so. The Last Diamond is expressionless as he draws closer and closer to the Marathon Man, and his glower is met in kind, Calico Rose lingering a few steps behind. And then…the two nod to each other. Impulse puts the microphone into the chest of Youngblood, mouthing the words ‘Looking forward to the answer, Champ.’ A little salt lingers at the end of his sentence. Brandon takes the microphone, his music fading, the energy of the crowd still bubbling over as the pair remain mere inches from each other, eyes locked in a game of chicken.
Brandon Youngblood: I called the road to Great American Nightmare ‘The Unfinished Business Tour’. Something snappy. Statement of purpose. And as much as people wanted to make it all about Cancer Jiles…
There is a distinct shift, a heavy smattering of boos at the mention of the eGG Bandit.
Brandon Youngblood: Truth is…it was about you. It was always about you, Randall. I have my answers in every match since coming back to PRIME. Every single one of them. Clear. Clean. Decisive. When I proclaim this The Diamond Age, it needs weight. Credibility. And I have that. Save one night. Save one opponent.
He jabs his finger, pointing to the Marathon Man. The space between them makes it impossible that they won’t touch, his finger stabbing not too forcefully into his chest, leaving an uncomfortable decision to be made in how to answer. If he didn’t, he’d be giving dominion to the Tower of Babel, but if he did, where would it escalate? For two men steeped in the craft of wrestling, there didn’t need to be horse heads or cryochambers or scattershot promos; all that needed to be there was a question of skill. Cally did the answering for them, her hand pushing Youngblood’s away. She tries to play it off as coltish; it does nothing to cool the simmering tensions.
Brandon Youngblood: You. You, Impulse. It’s why, two weeks ago, I stood in this ring and asked if I was truly Universal Champion. Because you’re right…you had control. You had me beat. And since PRIME’s revival, everything you have…everything you are is by your hand…even the fact I hold this.
He smacks his palm against the faceplate of the Universal Championship.
Brandon Youngblood: Five more minutes can change everything. Can make it so you sleep better at night. Can make you a true champion. I looked past Jiles…to you. Because I knew…at the Great American Nightmare…we’d be in that ring one more time. We’d be in that ring one more time…and when we are done…you won’t be the one in control. I will be.
Impulse: Based on our track record, sir… if you’re in control?
And the number one contender points at the title belt.
Impulse: Then that’s coming home with me, and we’ll have to do this all over again.
He allows a smile to cross his face.
Impulse: But I wouldn’t worry about it, Champ. Something tells me this one is for keeps. Only thing I’ll guarantee about the Great American Nightmare, Brandon? You walk out with that title?
Impulse: You’ll definitely have earned it.
Impulse extends a hand toward Brandon Youngblood, never breaking eye contact.
Brandon Youngblood: It’s gonna be physical. Real physical. A war of attrition. We both feel it in our bones. We both know, to win, to beat the other…we’re going to have to take a piece of them. Smother them. Take the control. In the end…our loved one’s are gonna be concerned about what happens. How bad we’ll get hurt. How far we will take the limit within the confines of sport. I know you’re ready…Randall.
He breaks his stare, looking down to Calico Rose.
Brandon Youngblood: Are you?
He takes the number one contender’s hand and shakes it, sternly, looking back to him. The message is clear. The focused intensity of the Last Diamond fills Cally with a gnawing discomfort, her grip on the Marathon Man’s hand tightening. She’s not worried about her safety; it’s Randall she worries about.
No matter what, everyone will get their answers on July 1st.