YOU ALL FOUND OUT
Fresh off a commercial, the PRIME fans in the Enterprise Center roar with excitement, but the roar quickly turns to jeers as the lights in the arena bathe them in crimson. The PRIMEview ignites with a searing yellow hammer and sickle while “The Soviet National Anthem” blares through the speaker system.
Nick Stuart: Folks we’re back from commercial and these colors and this music can mean only one thing…
Richard Parker: The NEW Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav!
Fumbling is heard at the broadcast position.
Richard Parker: H..hey!
Nick Stuart: Sit down. You’re not standing and saluting these people! Don’t forget, this “Champion” tried to put me in the hospital!
Richard Parker: Well he kind of had a point, didn’t he?
Nick Stuart: What point?!
Richard Parker: I can’t remember.
Oh yes. There’s a procession. It begins with Alexei Ruslan, whose smile could not possibly be bigger. He blows a kiss to the fans and shoves his hands in his brown overcoat, grinning like a cat who just got into the cream.
Next, two young men walk side by side, both in smart looking suits and ties. One wears a pair of glasses and has short brown hair, while the other has greasy hair slicked back and a smirk on his face. Greasy hair waves to the fans, as if they should know him, while glasses person keeps his head down.
Nick Stuart: I had to get this sheet translated from Russian, but I believe those two men are part of Stanislav’s staff. The one in the glasses is… uh.. Yan-u-ko-vich? The other’s name is Maksim.
A cute young woman with long, dark hair and a blue suit and cream blouse emerges next. She freezes like a deer in headlights as the wall of sound, mostly hateful, barrels into her. She doesn’t move one inch, until finally Alexei claps his hands and bellows at her to walk. She snaps out of it, and scurry-rushes to Ruslan and the other two men.
Nick Stuart: That woman’s name is Arina, I think?
The foursome gather at the base of the ramp and wait expectantly, as Kenny Freeman emerges next, waving to the crowd and hustling down the ramp to meet Ruslan and the others.
Richard Parker: That’s Kenny Freeman, he’s part of The Red Army.
Nick audibly sighs.
Nick Stuart: No kidding, Richard.
Richard Parker: I don’t see Randall Schwartz. You don’t think he got, uh… Gulag’d, do you?
Nick Stuart: Why don’t you walk over there and ask your buddies?
Richard Parker: I’m contractually obligated to remain in this seat.
The group claps as one when finally the new Universal Champion, Ivan Stanislav, emerges to a deafening roar from the angry crowd. The Universal Title looks shockingly small around his enormous waist, dwarfed by The Russian Bear’s huge body. He raises his arms as pyro explodes around him, which is followed by several booming explosions which create little mushroom clouds around him.
Nick Stuart: That’s ominous…
Ruslan leads the mass of humanity into the ring, while Stanislav takes his time. He laughs and guffaws, and motions at the belt firmly around his waist. He taunts a few teenagers and wipes sweat from his brow and flicks it at a red faced American. He grins from ear to ear, but doesn’t walk into the ring. Instead, he takes a leisurely stroll around the outside while grasping his crimson suspenders.
He points a huge finger at an American who flicks him off, and laughs again. He even goes so far as to boot a barricade and cause it to shake. The crowd recedes and then swells back to the barricade to give him a piece of their mind.
The Bear pauses at the announce position and says nothing, but gives Nick Stuart a positively withering look. Finally, he turns, grips the top rope easily, and effortlessly steps up onto the apron as if it were a normal step, and then fluidly lumbers over the top rope.
Richard Parker: Pretty sure he was looking at you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: I can’t wait til he just goes backstage again…
Besides Ivan, Ruslan is the tallest person in the ring at just six feet tall. As such, Stanislav looks like a giant walking amongst smurfs. The gaggle of Russians (and Freeman), make room for him as he raises his arms high over his head and bellows. The crowd gives right back to him. Yet the Universal Champion takes it all in stride. Even when he produces a microphone and pauses, as if somehow waiting for the crowd to calm down, he relishes the vitriol.
Rather than grow quiet, the crowd grows louder. Arina covers her ears sheepishly as the sound overwhelms her. Ruslan snaps at her and tells her to straighten her back, which she does, but she’s still quaking. Stanislav projects every ounce of snark possible from his attention grabbing frame. He then looks over at Alexei.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, Alexei, someone once told me this was “young man’s” game. I think they were mistaken!! DYAAHAAHAA!!
His laughter taxes the sound system and swats away the yells and screams from the masses. Ruslan guffaws and nods his head. Stanislav places one hand on the upper portion of the Universal Title and walks closer to the ropes.
Ivan Stanislav: A Red Era has indeed come for PRIME for I, Ivan Stanislav, am YOUR Universal Champion!!!
Stanislav looks up at the rafters, and high above is none other than…
Nick Stuart: What is Randall Schwartz doing up there?!
Ivan nods to Schwartz. One half of the Masters of the Moscowverse straddles some scaffolding, rather precariously to boot. He fidgets with several ropes and releases them. The following spectacle is truly something to behold.
To the left, a massive flag of The Russian Federation. To the right, an equally large flag of the former Soviet Union. And in the center?
Nick Stuart: I think I’m going to be sick.
An even larger banner of Ivan Stanislav from the shoulders up, his eyes piercing and expression stone faced. Then? With the press of a button, Schwartz releases red and yellow confetti, which flutters and flits down around the people. The crowd cannot stop him in the ring, but they can do their best to annoy him.
U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!!
The Universal Champion is immune. Conversely, he welcomes it. His smile grows all the wider. Before, he may have stomped and yelled and covered his ears. But there’s something different now. Something about the reaction he receives.
He motions to his comrades.
Ivan Stanislav: You see before you that which has borne fruit of this title! Friends and staff. Together, we are all Universal Champions! Why, you all could be as well, if you would have just listened! I wish to recognize dear Arina Timofeyevna!
Arina, the young woman, sidles next to Ivan and looks up at him. Despite her concern with the sounds around her, her eyes project a certain degree of adoration.
Ivan Stanislav: Also, Maksim Stepanov and Yanukovich Yanovich!
Yanukovich, the man with the glasses, and Maksim, with the slicked back hair, both nod. Maksim stares off and seems more interested in the crowd.
Ivan Stanislav: And of course, Comrade Kenny Freeman and Revolutionary Randall Schwartz!!
Stanislav motions to Kenny, who responds with a small wave to the crowd, and then up at Randall, who wobbles on scaffolding and waves.
Ivan Stanislav: And, of course, my dearest and closest friend. Man who has been with me through thick and thin. Through wars and upheaval. Through PCW and OSW. The man who brought me back to this world so that I could dominate it once more. He has earned this title more than I can even state. Alexei Gregorovich Ruslan!
Alexei claps his hands and gives Ivan a thumbs up. But much to Ivan’s surprise, he produces his own microphone and speaks.
Alexei Ruslan: Oh but wait, Universal Champion Stanislav! Yes, we know you have been promoted to Starshy Praporshchik! We know you are mightiest wrestler in PRIME! But we have special guest for you. Someone very near and dear to you to bask in this moment with you and YOUR fans!
The crowd is ravenous now, some pushing on the barricades and roaring even louder.
Nick Stuart: The crowd is becoming unglued. They’re not sharing the same sentiments as the Russians!
Richard Parker: Quiet Nick! I’m trying to listen to this historic moment!
Stanislav looks confused as Alexei motions to the backstage area.
Alexei Ruslan: He was one of pre-eminent members of The Red Army! A master of mathematics! Our comrade in counting! Our revolutionary in refereeing!! All the way from the great nation of Cuba…..
Stanislav turns to face the entryway, his expression stunned.
Alexei Ruslan: ….COMRADE SPEEDY RIGGS!!!!
Cuban Red Army stalwart and former PCW and Head OSW Referee, Speedy Riggs, tears out from the backstage area. The diminutive officiant wears black pants and a red and yellow striped shirt as he bolts towards the ring. He slides under the ropes and pops up to a shocked Stanislav. After a moment, Riggs, somewhat overcome with joy, wipes his eyes and embraces Stanislav.
The Russian Bear couldn’t be happier. He scoops Riggs up effortlessly in one arm, like a child, and raises his other huge arm high into the air and laughs. Ivan finally releases Speedy. Riggs looks up at Stanislav with admiration and steps to the side.
With the massive banner Stanislav glowering above and the flags of the Soviet Union and Russian Federation flanking him, it surely is a surreal moment. Every person in PRIME, save for those assembled, hoped this moment would never come. They narrowly avoided it at Culture Shock. Together, PRIME had banded together to thwart him at the Culture Shock Battle Royal. The Tropical Turmoil Tournament was supposed to be too much for the old veteran. Brandon Youngblood was supposed to send him packing.
But here it is. For all to see. A red nightmare made manifest.
Ruslan tosses his microphone to Speedy, who catches it and speaks.
Speedy Riggs: Comrade Stanislav! I have such an honor to be here with you and all of these adoring fans! You have brought pride and honor to all of the socialist countries of the world, and those of true democracy!
Speedy Riggs: I couldn’t stand back any longer. With the poor officiating, the striking of your music, and the embargo against interviewers! The Red Army is forever, Comrade Stanislav, and I have answered the call! I, Speedy Riggs, wish to be your personal, unbiased interviewer from here on out! Officiating your matches was a breeze, and I know being your interviewer will be a great honor to boot! I heard what Lindsay Troy said, and I am willing to heed the call to action!
Nate Stuart: Folks, Speedy Riggs is rather infamous in referee circles. No one counted as fast as he did when Stanislav pinned someone, or as slowly when Stanislav was…
Richard Parker: Maybe you should just watch and listen, Nate. I don’t want another flying table situation…
All Stanislav can do is bellow his shocking laugh into his own microphone.
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!!
It takes a moment for Ivan to compose himself, and he wipes true tears of joy from his eyes. But there’s a shift, as Stanislav turns his attention back to the crowd, and more importantly, to those backstage.
Ivan Stanislav: You know, my friends, they call Brandon Youngblood “Mr. Fuck Around and Find Out.”
Ivan pauses for a moment.
Ivan Stanislav: I may not agree with crude language, but this name is appropriate. Because Brandon Youngblood decided to fuck around. And EVERYONE found out. Brandon Youngblood found out when he lay bleeding on mat while a cadre of medics tended to him, and he watched me step over his carcass and leave with MY Universal Title! You idiots in crowd found out, with shocked, stupefying horror as I crunched him to dust! You stupid, doubting announcers found out, when you called with shocked squeals the truth that I had always known!! Lindsay Troy and her capitalist pencil-pushers found out too, even if I told them over and over again that I was inevitable!! And every member of PRIME’s roster found out, despite it being so obvious in front of their faces for MONTHS!
He bellows now, the smiles are gone, the rage is back. He spreads one huge arm outward as the camera zooms out to see the mass of humanity, the Universal Title, the banners, the confetti, The Red Army completely dominating the space.
Ivan Stanislav: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FUCK AROUND AND FIND OUT!!
An almost manic look of pride overcomes The Russian Bear. Spit flies from his mouth as froth builds in his champing maw of a mouth.
Ivan Stanislav: I liquidated every worthy member of PRIME in Tropical Turmoil tournament. No one is unscathed! Universal Champions and Intense Champions! Tag Champions and Alias Champions! Hall of Fame veterans and thumb-sucking rookies! You all have found out. Some, more than once!
Ivan glowers at the camera.
Ivan Stanislav: And you can all tell yourself truth now: Ivan Stanislav is MAN in PRIME. You have all aspired to be Brandon Youngblood. Take heart: that does not need to change. Because like Brandon Youngblood, none of you can beat me and all of you will lie broken beneath the treads of The Red Army!
Richard Parker: You know he has a point…
Nick Stuart: Richard, stop.
Ivan’s grimace brightens as he smiles wide.
Ivan Stanislav: But this is moment of celebration, is it not? For tonight, we watch Almasy Tournament, where entire roster of PRIME wriggles on their bellies at chance to wrestle me!
Ivan waggles his finger. Alexei, Speedy, Yanukovich, and Arina stare at Stanislav with rapt attention, while Maksim looks bored and Kenny Freeman gives a nod resembling agreement to the statement, noticeably hiding any underlying feeling on the matter.
Ivan Stanislav: Two of you have already failed in tournament, but do not fret. They all will. There is no victory. There is no winner. For the journey terminates at Starshy Praporshchik Stanislav! There is only one potential end. You shall all enjoy, as you have always hoped, the same limit of success as Brandon Youngblood!!
Nick Stuart: I hate to say it, I really do… but I can’t help but believe him. Who can stop Ivan Stanislav? He has torn everyone apart in PRIME since getting his feet under him. In only a year, he’s now the Universal Champion and all but undefeated? What hope really is there?
Ivan Stanislav: No member of PRIME can bring as much glory as I have to Universal Title and PRIME! How many of you can have true President of free world wearing belt?!
Indeed, the PRIMEview switches from the Soviet flag to a still image of Stanislav and none other than President Putin, wearing the Universal Title no less.
Nick Stuart: Oh come on!!
Richard Parker: Whoa… uh…
Ivan Stanislav: DYAAHAAHAA!! And I will be taking my belt all around world. To China! To North Korea! To Cuba! To Vietnam!
Speedy claps and bounces on one foot and then another.
Ivan Stanislav: Meanwhile, the rest of you lot, scrambling to have a chance to be beaten by me, can keep training and hoping for such an honor! No force on Earth will wrest this belt from my iron grip!!
Ivan pauses for a moment, and looks at Kenny Freeman.
Ivan Stanislav: Now, I feel it necessary to address elephant in room. Comrade Kenny Freeman has greatest odds of victory in tournament, and I know that would create unthinkable situation: Kenny Freeman vs. Ivan Stanislav. Two Red Army members having to wrestle one another.
Ivan motions with a finger for Freeman.
Ivan Stanislav: Kenny, come here.
His expression is stern and cold as he stares at one of the would-be challengers for his title.
Kenny swallows a bit of air with a gulp before stepping forward, looking more than a little nervous about having to address the very scenario Stanislav is presenting. Freeman nearly avoids eye contact with the new champion as he stands next to him.
Stanislav places a massive paw on Kenny’s shoulder, engulfing it. The Bear leans forward, his eyes not once leaving Kenny’s.
Ivan Stanislav: I want you to know, Kenny Freeman, that when it comes to wrestling for this belt, I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve favorable outcome. Just as I have told all members of Red Army.
There’s a long pause. It’s uncomfortable.
Ivan Stanislav: And I expect -you- to do the exact same. You, I am sure, shall endeavor to pursue most. Favoriable. Outcome. Do you understand?
Stanislav’s hand grips Kenny’s shoulder -just- a little tighter as he waits for Kenny’s response. The entire ring grows tense. Ruslan’s body language tightens, as does Speedy’s.
There is a hint of fear in the eyes of the younger—and shorter—Freeman, but he does his best to mask it as he gives a slow nod of agreement, too nervous to respond verbally…but it appears to be acceptable to the champion all the same as Stanislav gives Kenny a hearty pat on the back.
With that awkward moment behind them, Stanislav is once again all smiles.
Ivan Stanislav: So, competitors in Almasy Tournament, I will be at ringside throughout duration of tonight’s matches. After all, you all compete to wrestle against me. So feel free to stop by, look at Universal Title, and realize how futile your efforts are! Because you all know it the truth: I am unstoppable! I am unbeatable! I am indefatigable! I am PRIME’s Diamond Breaker! I am Ivan Sergeiovich Stanislav, your Universal Champion! DYAAHAAHAA!!
“The Soviet National Anthem” booms once more, as the crowd boo’s even louder. Randall Schwartz starts to roll up the banners, for not wanting to risk anyone getting their hands on them, while Stanislav speaks animatedly to Speedy Riggs. Ruslan gives orders to Yanukovich and Maksim, and then speaks to Kenny.
Nick Stuart: He’s not serious, is he? He’s not staying at ringside for the rest of the night?
Richard Parker: I think he is…
Indeed, Yanukovich and Maksim exit the ring and pull two chairs from beneath the ring, one appropriately sized for Stanislav. They set up as Ivan then turns and speaks to Arina, who nods several times and listens to him closely. Finally, Speedy, Freeman, and Stanislav’s staff make their way out, while Stanislav and Ruslan exit on the opposite side. Ivan gives one more nuclear gaze at Nick Stuart and then settles down. Ruslan barks at Nick.
Alexei Ruslan: We’ll be listening, Stuart!
Richard Parker: Gonna be a long night for you, Nick.
Nick Stuart: Uh, well a statement by Ivan Stanislav. He’s staying at ringside to watch the tournament unfold. Speedy Riggs has returned to bolster The Red Army! I guess we can’t ignore the truth. Love him or hate him, he’s the Universal Champion. He’s doing everything he said he would. Is there anyone in PRIME who can truly stop him?