Your recommended auditory companion: IGGY POP & THE STOOGES
FADE IN… on an exterior shot of a glorious medieval castle.
The gray stone walls are awash in a red glow, cast by the fires of several burning huts from the surrounding village. A roaring swarm of sword and axe-wielding raiders are pouring through a (suggestively shaped) archway leading into the keep. The air is filled with a cacophony of battle-cries, death rattles, and the lamentations of many, many ladies.
In the window of the high tower, a silhouetted figure overlooks the carnage…
FADE TO… the personal chambers of COUNTESS AREOLA, a buxom brunette of ridiculous proportions, as she frowns upon the siege below from her window. Her form-fitting sequin dress is hardly period appropriate, cut so low she’s about to spill out of it and hemmed so high she risks exposing herself.
She turns away from the window and sighs… but it doesn’t sound like defeat. It sounds like boredom. Then the door swings open…
A four-foot tall guard clad in a full suit of armor hastily runs into the room and bars the door behind him.
Dwarf: The situation is dire, m’lady! The castle is surrounded by a horde of savage barbarians!
Countess Areola: Gods! Who would dare commit such atrocities?
Dwarf: VIKINGS, m’lady! Ruthless, blood-thirsty, and debaucherous cretins!
She bites her lip. Lavisciously.
Countess Areola: …”debaucherous”, you say? Could they be led by none other than…?
Her eyes longingly drift away as the image of a single mighty man fills her mind.
Dwarf: I’m afraid it is indeed HE, the dreaded one they call the BUTT DOMINATOR! They say his carnal appetites know no bounds! Men fear his axe!
Countess Areola: …but what do women think about his… hammer?
The countess runs her hands up and down her body, noticeably swooning over this vaunted “Butt Dominator”..
Dwarf: They say his hammer is heavier than the mighty MJOLNIR itself! But you need not fear, m’lady! The door has been bolted, and I stand ready to protect you with my life!
Bolting the door proves to be futile, as the WALL ITSELF EXPLODES under the force of three-hundred plus pounds of Viking strength and sex appeal! The diminutive guard disappears beneath an avalanche of dust and shattered mortar, as an imposing figure makes an entrance fit for the Kool-Aid Man…
Countess Areola: (breathily) Oh may… it’s YOU! The BUTT DOMINATOR!
Grinning lecherously ear to ear, hands on his hips, horned helmet firmly perched on his head, his impeccably muscular frame glazed in the sweat of battle, OLVIR ARSVINNAR throws his head back and triumphantly laughs.
Olvir Arsvinnar: HA! HA! HA! HAAA!!
The Norseman advances toward the countess who, quite eagerly, begins backing up to her sprawling bed…
Olvir Arsvinnar: BASK in my MIGHT, wench! Your WOMANLY CHAMBER has been PENETRATED by the GREAT OLVIR! And those bountiful HIND QUARTERS of yours… shall be NEXT!
The countess, very eagerly in spite of the situation, throws herself upon her bed. The back of her hand is held against her forehead in a gesture of distress, but that badunk-a-dunk is sticking out in a way that deliberately says “come and get me, you big hairy man, you”.
Countess Areola: Savage! Scoundrel! How DARE you threaten to ruin my dignity! RAVAGE ME as much as you please… like, no, really, AS MUCH as you PLEASE… but I beg of thee, Great Olvir, spare my people!
The Viking throws his head back and the air fills with his uproarious laughter once again.
Olvir Arsvinnar: HA! HA! HA! HAAA!! You BEG for MERCY from the GREAT OLVIR?! Why don’t you get down on your KNEES and try asking again!
“Goddamb, this stuff really hasn’t aged well…” observes Rezin, watching along.
On the flatscreen, the Butt Dominator unclasps the belt holding up his furry wolf-hide britches, as the time has come to get to business. On the couch, the Escape Artist, ever the vigilant liberator of stuff and things, unzips his pants…
Then the front door suddenly swings open, and Ollie Arsvinnar returns home.
“Hey Rezin, I was meaning to ask you about–AAAAAHH!!”
Rezin’s hands frantically cover his crotch.
Then the Viking family man sees his younger self on the flatscreen, slowly and seductively sliding off his britches.
Over the mantle in the Arsvinnar household hangs the mighty axe once wielded by the berzerker in his pillaging prime, now turned into something of a decorative household ornament. In a flash, he plucks it off the wall and gives it a powerful downward swing…
Sparks fly as the flatscreen is cleaved in two, and the entire entertainment center with it.
A stunned silence lingers in the room as both men stare at the pile of wreckage. Then, what could be called a calm, perfectly civil conversation ensues…
“ODIN-DAMNIT, IN THE LIVING ROOM?!”
“THERE’S NO TV IN THE GARAGE!!”
“IT’S MY LIVING ROOM, MAN! MY KIDS SIT ON THAT COUCH! THAT WAS THEIR PS5 I JUST CUT IN HALF!!”
“YOU SAID YOU GUYS WOULDN’T BE BACK UNTIL THREE!!”
“IT IS THREE, YOU FOOL! YOU’RE STILL SET TO CENTRAL TIME!!”
“WELL I TRAVEL TO NEW ORLEANS A LOT! YOU KNOW THAT!!”
“WHY WOULD YOU BE WATCHING THAT OF ALL THINGS?!”
“BECAUSE I CAN’T FIND MY ‘TWO BROKE GIRLS’ DVD BOX SET!!”
“I–wait, WHAT?! What the HELL ARE YOU BABBLING ABOUT?!”
“Everything alright, boys?” chimes in a third, much quieter voice.
The shouting subsides when the two of them see Becky Arsvinnar standing in the doorway with bags of groceries held in her arms. She looks questionably between the two of them while they stand there gawking like a couple of kids with guilt etched on their faces.
“What happened here?” she asks, noticing the pile of destruction that was once their entertainment center.
Rezin and Ollie exchange glances, as if trying to decide who’s going to explain this one, until the former finally volunteers to throw himself onto that grenade…
“Uhhm… Elden Ring, amirite?”
I NEED SOMEBODY
An hour later, the two of them are on the road back from Best Buy, brand new flatscreen and PS5 in the back of Ollie’s hatchback. The sunroof is open to allow leeway for the horns on his helmet. Both wear matching grimaces.
Rezin is stewing at having to pay for the replacements out of the t-shirt fund, especially considering this was the one time he actually wasn’t the one destroying the electronic equipment. He needed every dollar he could get at this point.
All the same, he could tell that Ollie was justifiably pissed off. And probably being owed an apology. Such acts aren’t always easy for our dear Escape Artist, but he clears his throat to make the effort anyway.
“Look, dude, real talk… I’m sorry about today,” he began. “Head hasn’t been on straight lately. Been stressin’ out with this title match, and still worryin’ about the house.”
Ollie briefly takes his attention off the road to throw him a sideways glance. “Are you sure it’s not the weed?”
“It’s NOT the weed, okay?” Rezin scoffs. “Seriously, it’s NOT the–okay, so MAYBE the weed is factoring into the overall decision-making process right now, but look, dude, I know I fucked up today. I dunno what else to tell you other than that all this shit with the house fell into my lap at the worst possible time. Like, I should be preparing for the most important match of my professional career, but I still can’t shake the idea of losin’ that place.”
Ollie sighs. Patience and understanding are not common Viking traits. Still, he tries.
“I just can’t believe you brought that stuff into the house… where my family lives! Do you even consider the lives of those around you?”
“Again, dude…I’m sorry. Whenever my head gets goin’ in different directions, I make choices that some would probably deem… questionable.”
“Like stealing a title belt?” Arsvinnar responds, pointedly. “To do… what, exactly? How was that, in any way, going to help get your house back?”
The Goat Bastard answers in the form of a groan of self contempt.
“Like, how much could you honestly expect to make by fencing that on the black market?” the Viking went on. “Is there even such a thing? And did you think the Enemigos would just let you walk out of there like that with stolen property?”
“Yeah, okay, I get it!” the Goat Bastard grumbles. If there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s having common logic throwing cold water on his inflammatory ideas.
“I’m just trying to get an idea of the endgame here. You want the Five Star Championship, and you want your old house back… but how are the two connected?”
“Fuck, man, I dunno. I guess I was just trynna consolidate goals, or somethin’. Like, I dunno, thinkin’ I got the house on the line could give me some added motivation.”
“Seems like it’s only motivating you to act out, and not in a positive way,” Ollie observes. “I mean, what motivation do you need other than the pride of being… you know, the champion?”
Rezin stares out the window. He wants to get lost in the neon city passing by, but can’t get past his own reflection frowning back at him. There’s no perfect answer to that question, but just the same, it’s got him thinking now.
Why is he in this match, even? What did he do to get himself here? All his wins came by shenanigans and thievery, and all of his losses have decisively ended with his face getting caved in. Who in their right mind could believe he could win that belt off of a wrestling wunderkind like Hayes Hanlon?
It felt like a set-up. Like Lindsay Troy was gifting her future star with a scapegoat to whip around. All to placate her dumb, mindless audience. Treat the kiddies with something good to go home to… righteous good triumphing over nasty evil. A match that made sense simply because it was good for business.
But something has been eating away at him since ReVival. Something said by Hayes Hanlon.
“You are not a wrestler.”
It was a phrase that had haunted him his entire career. Here he was, twenty years later, at what was supposed to be the pinnacle of his professional career, and he was still trying to outlive that statement.
Fuck that noise, he thought to himself.
Dambed if he wasn’t a wrestler, and dambed if Hayes Hanlon walked out of Great American Nightmare without knowing just how much of a fuckin’ wrestler Erik Black could be when fully motivated.
With, or without, that big, shiny belt.
They were going to find out, one way or the other, that this scapegoat still has his horns.
“Ya know what, man?” says Rezin, after a minute to think it over. “Fuck the house.”
Arsvinnar blinks in astonishment. “Really?”
“Ain’t gonna affect my life any more than it did before I knew I was losin’ it. Not sure what I even want out of it. Closure, or some shit? Nah… nothin’ there but bad memories. I gotta move forward.”
“So… what then?”
Rezin nods with a seldom seen sense of confidence. “I’m gonna win this strap, and put these fuckers on notice…”
“Sounds great,” says the Viking, clapping his shoulder in full support. “In the meantime, could you get rid of the smut?”
SEARCH AND DESTROY
Picture it: it’s the fifties, and you’re in Vegas.
You’re livin’ it up at a “dawn party” taking place on your hotel balcony. Sunshine, cocktails, music… all the perfect ingredients for a swanky, classy Sin City bash.
Then, there’s a glimmer of light from the northwest. Sixty-five miles away, a mushroom cloud rises off the horizon.
Everybody cheers. Glasses are raised for a toast: to the glorious military might of the American people. For surely our nation has become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
Pay no mind to the generations of people living downwind of these test sites, living right in the path of deadly nuclear fallout, and all the great, groovy shit that comes with it. Can’t make a parmesan and watercress egg souffle without breaking a few (thousand) eggs, after all.
We’re there now, at the Nevada “Proving Grounds”, as it had once been known. We’re on the observation deck overlooking the gaping Sedan Crater. Miles of inhospitable desert stretch out in every direction.
A shirtless man stands with his back to the camera.
“This is America.”
No, chill the fuck out, it’s not Childish Gambino; it’s just Rezin.
“It has a rich history of doing fucked up things while the majority of its people live in complacency.
“Americans have a fuckin’ hard-on for self-destruction. Why else do we blow shit up on our day of independence? It’s like we pride ourselves in putting God out of a job, by ensuring our own personal Armageddon.
“Some would say it’s absurd, or even tragic. I simply see it for what it is: REALITY.
“This is the true ‘Great American Nightmare’. The one we can’t wake up from.
“People try to paint me out as some crazy psychopath, but really, I’m just an honest representation of what our society has become. A ticking timebomb of self-destruction. No honor, no trust, and no remorse.
“Because the only bright and shiny future many of us have to look forward to is in the flash of a nuclear detonation.
“Here in PRIME… I intend to be the bomb.
“I intend to nuke your whole self-obsessed, masturbatory legacy into the oblivion of obscurity, by lifting one of your greatest titles off of your anointed star of the future.”
You know what would be great right now? That’s right: a joint! One that Rezin plucks out from behind his ear and dutifully lights up as if it were his purpose in life to burn all of the weed clean from the earth. He takes a drag and lets it out, slow and stylish.
“Hayes Hanlon is absolutely right about one thing, though. I don’t respect the history of this company.”
Shamelessly, he smirks and shrugs.
“…sorry, I guess?
“It’s not that I despise that legacy, or anything. I’m just indifferent to it. During this company’s glory days, I was a tad preoccupied with my own survival, grindin’ my way across the country through one shitty indie fed after the next.
“Suffice it to say, I didn’t really have the time or the convenience to admire the undisputed Elysium Fields of professional wrestling that was PRIME in that Golden Age.
“But that time is over. Ancient history. And if there’s any future legacy to be had here in PRIME, it ain’t gonna be shaped by lookin’ back.
“So I’m lookin’ ahead. I’m livin’ in the now.
“I’m focusin’ on the few miles my road has left, until I meet my own personal Armageddon.
“But I promise you all… so long as the fire continues to burn in this heart, I will ensure that these hands shape that future.”
Rezin clenches his noticeably black-stained hands in the air before him.
“I know that for someone like Hayes Hanlon, bein’ here in PRIME as the champion of one of the most prestigious titles in its illustrious history has to be something like livin’ out a childhood dream. I know he must have a lot of pride, being able to realize that ambition and bring into reality.
“I envy the feeling. Honestly, I do. But while I know how much this company means to him, the circumstances of my life have regrettably forced me into a position where I can’t really relate to it in any way.
“So, let me tell ya what PRIME means to me… as a newcomer, from twenty years of pain and perseverance in the wrestling ring.”
He takes another hit, as if every drag somehow increased his cool points.
“I’ve never been in a federation that’s made me realize all that I am, and all that I can be… until I came to PRIME.
“Maybe it’s because I’m here among a collection of some of the greatest wrestlers on the planet. And competin’ in this place, trynna hang with the talent here… it forces me to see myself for who I really am. More importantly, it also shows me a path in becoming who I want to be.
“And I want to be more than just a product of years of drug abuse and concussions and untreated mental illness. I’m more than just the fool this world has made me out to be.
“Deep inside, under all the crust and sludge, is something pure and passionate.
“Daring and dauntless.
“Raw… and REZILIENT!
“And I’m tired of it being overlooked.
“But by winning that championship… this company will have no choice but face the REALITY they refused to believe in.
“No choice but to finally see me for WHO – I – AM…”
The words are capitalized by fists pounding his heart.
“It’s like I said when I first arrived in PRIME: when least suspected… I strike.
“And right now, there ain’t nobody in this company that suspects I have any chance at beatin’ Hayes Hanlon for the Five Star Championship.
“Nobody… but ME!”
Smoke escapes the corners of his mouth.
“And right now, the stage is perfectly set for a BOMB to be dropped out of the blue at Great American Nightmare.
“One that will fully and finally shatter this company’s disillusioned past…”
His grin seems to widen.
“…and forever define its future.”
Fade to VOID.
YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL
Ollie told him to get rid of the smut…
…but didn’t say how.
Which is why Rezin has come to this pawn shop. Cause if he was giving up wank material, he’d be dambed if he didn’t get a lid of weed out of it.
A lone clerk sits behind the counter, reading a magazine. Behind him is a picture of American splendor: a wall filled with guitars and guns. Rezin approaches, a burlap sack full of Butt Dominator tapes and DVDs slung over his shoulder.
“So uhh, how much you guys pay for porno?” he inquires.
The clerk looks up from his reading material–Shonen Jump, if you must know–and flashes the Goat Bastard an annoyed glare. “Does this look like a truck stop to you?”
“Well, hang on, let me show you what I got here,” the Goat Bastard presses on, opening the bag and dumping the lot across the counter. A whole lot of brilliant titles on these… The Naughty Norseman… Olvir’s One-Eyed Odin… Anal for Asgard… real classy stuff. “Still in box! And I’m pretty sure most of these are out of print!”
The clerk rolled his eyes. “Sir, we are not in the business of…”
Then he trails off when he sees the tall, grinning Viking featured on all the covers.
“Wait a sec, that’s Olvir Arsvinnar… the BUTT DOMINATOR!”
“I know, right?” says Rezin, seeing his way in. “Dude’s a friend of mine. I’m tellin’ ya, this is some really rare shit! Collector’s material!”
The clerk’s jaw is trembling as he rifles through the pile of Viking-themed pornography. “Most of these were thought to be lost when Valhalla Studios burned to the ground in twenty-thirteen!”
Rezin nods. “Cool, so uhh, how much then? Cause I’m thinkin’, like, fifty bucks at a minimum?”
“I need to get the owner,” says the clerk, almost frantically tossing the magazine aside, hopping off his stool, and disappearing into the back.
Rezin, never one to like being made to wait, groans with impatience as he leans against the counter.
A minute later, the door pops open, and someone new emerges from the back of the pawn shop.
Anyone can see by this man’s elderly age, all-black dress, and overall business-like demeanor that he is undisputably the head honcho of this place.
The clerk follows at his heels, head down in quiet subservience. In the old man’s hand is a briefcase that he sets upon the counter.
“Hi, so, I was just rappin’ with your guy here about the value of this stuff and–”
The top of the briefcase pops open, revealing rows upon rows of stacks of cash.
“FUCK!! FUCK!! FUCK MY DICK WITH THE ASS OF MY SHIT–SORRY! I am SO sorry! Don’t know what came over me there! I’ve just never seen–”
“Take it all,” says the owner, shutting the lid and sliding it across the counter. “Leave the smut. Tell nobody about this. Forget you ever came here.”
Rezin looks at the case in astonishment. Cash. Lots of it. Probably as much as he needs.
Months of stress and doubt and desperation and dread, and here the solution to all his problems is suddenly staring him right in the face.
He shuts the lid, grabs the briefcase by the handle, and goes right for the exit.
“Evenin’, gentlemen! Pleasure doin’ business!”