Since 2014, every September in Bang! Pro Wrestling would play host to a round-robin tournament.
It had an extremely Japanese name: the Terminus Complex.
It was better known both in Japan and internationally as the TC-X.
The tournament wasn’t anything new in Japanese pro wrestling. There’s been plenty of grueling, agonizing round robin tournaments that have tested the fortitude and endurance of countless pro wrestlers that dared to compete in them. The TC-X was no exception to this.
Some can’t hang. Some drop out midway into the tournament because of injury. Coral Avalon knew at least one guy in such a tournament, years before Bang! was even founded, that quit a tournament out of sheer despair. The point is, you didn’t accidentally win a TC-X. You won it through endurance. Through perseverance.
The Terminus Complex began as just a tournament.
It was only in subsequent tournaments that a real prize would be given – a shot at the Openweight champion. For this year, and this year alone, the only thing the winner received was a trophy. Little more than a bragging rights prize for the grueling gauntlet you’d have to endure to take it home with you.
But for the sixteen individuals that entered, it was about the glory and proving oneself.
After all, it was the first tournament of its kind in Bang! Pro Wrestling, and the idea of being the first of anything appealed to its participants. Stars both homegrown and international came together to compete in the first-ever TC-X, with all of their eyes squarely on proving themselves to be the best of the best.
And so, on September 2nd, 2014, the very first Terminus Complex began.
THE WILD CARD
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
September 2nd, 2014
The entire landscape of Bang! Pro Wrestling had changed since that fateful night just eight months ago, when Coral Avalon brought his kingdom to the company.
Fukumaru Kazuya, the battered Openweight champion, would not get a chance to put his title up against the man that had brutalized him in revenge for actions he did not realize would have such lasting consequences. His next title defense came against an unlikely, but very popular opponent – Lord Kurosame-sama.
Nanakusa Nishiki was a humble man.
A humble man who believed he was a shark.
A shark that was adjacent to Cthulhu, R’lyeh, and the other fine works of H.P. Lovecraft.
A shark that claimed that he was genetically modified at birth to be capable of professional wrestling.
A shark that believed that the sound a shark made when it roared or did anything was to outright shout the word “SHARK!”
He was called Lord Kurosame-sama, a name which can almost literally translate to “Lord King Black Shark”.
So, we get it.
He’s a shark.
Sorry, I meant SHARK!
Kazuya, who’d been nursing injuries for the past few months as a result of the Crownless Kingdom’s relentless campaign against him and the Diamond Salary Connection, got caught in a pinning combination. If he hadn’t been so hurt going into what he believed to be a tune up match before his showdown with Avalon, he would’ve kicked out.
He still kicked out.
The popular eldritch shark, the quintessential underdog, had become the Openweight champion.
It still remained the most unlikely upset in the entire history of Bang! Pro Wrestling.
This did not sit well with Coral Avalon.
The Crownless King, who still held half of the Bang! With Your Partner tag titles and a third of the Bang! With Your Friends trios titles going into the inaugural TC-X, had been in line to challenge Kazuya for the Openweight title. Just so he could take one more belt off of the Ace of Hearts.
When the opportunity came to receive his title shot, Avalon politely declined to murder the shark himself and take the belt off of him. His grudge was against Kazuya, and the championship was largely an accessory to that grudge. He saw no benefit to taking the title, other than to put an even greater target on his back. He took himself out of the running, hoping Kazuya would get a rematch.
This was a decision that he would later come to regret.
Part of it was that, given Coral’s ability and talent, he would have likely defeated the shark and he wouldn’t have spent the next decade calling himself the “Crownless King”. Because he’d have his goddamn crown.
Instead, the man that next got a shot at the title wasn’t Kazuya. It was a monster.
Real talk, we don’t know what they feed the kids up in Wyoming, but if it produced a man as surly, mercurial, and savage as “the Red Desert Devil” Tom Elijah… well, the FDA should probably step in.
Tom Elijah looked like he crawled out of a mountain with his wild red hair and giant red beard, and at 6’10” and over three hundred pounds, he also looked like the kind of man that would look at a mountain and consider bench pressing it. He came to the ring in a cowboy hat and a surly disposition, carrying a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a middle finger in the other. He wrestled in jeans and cowboy boots. What you could see of his face through his massive red beard was gaunt, and his body was covered in sunbaked scars from a rough upbringing in the middle of goddamn nowhere.
Elijah entered Bang! Pro Wrestling at the Clash of Aces, and immediately began running people over as though he were an 18-wheeler and everyone else on the roster was roadkill. On the night that Avalon and the Squadron defeated Kazuya and the Diamond Salary Connection, Elijah had made clear a mission statement – he would defeat all four of Bang!’s “aces”. And he started with the shocking defeat of Kazano Haruki, the Ace of Clubs who’d gone to war with Kazuya at the Clash, in five minutes. He bulldozed his way through the next few months, and earned a title shot by defeating his second ace: the Ace of Diamonds, Hashiwara Daisuke.
That one took him six minutes.
And it earned him a shot at the champion.
A champion who was our beloved SHARK!
Nishiki knew he was outmatched the moment he knew his opponent, but in a heroic effort, he made the big man work for his title belt. But alas, nine minutes later, Bang! Pro Wrestling had a monster for an Openweight champion. Elijah took the length of his title win very personality, by the way. The post-match assault on the shark so thoroughly beat him that despite the fact that it’d been three months since he lost the title and suffered this assault, he was barely cleared in time for the TC-X.
This did not endear Elijah to… well, anyone, actually. For the four Aces, he was the first foreigner to win the Openweight title, and that was tantamount to heresy for all of them. For the Crownless Kingdom, he was not one of them.
He was an outsider.
A wild card in the ongoing game between kings and aces.
For the fans, they despised him for the demolishing of such a beloved wrestler as Lord Kurosame-sama, and for the demolishing of two of their “Aces”. And for Doi Inoue, the joshi wrestling star who ran Bang! Pro Wrestling, he represented a headache that could only come from having to do business with a near-seven foot tall raging alcoholic as your top champion, with the “raging” part being not hyperbole.
Tom Elijah did not give one iota of a fuck. About any of it. No fucks were given. The fuck dispensary in Red Desert, Wyoming hadn’t been properly operating since 1997, and so he must hoard all of his fucks in his fuck bunker somewhere in Bumblefuck. There, he must ration out all of his fucks to ensure that he had enough fucks to last him through the harsh winter. The fuck years had been lean in Wyoming, after all. Who knew when the next fuck harvest would yield a bountiful crop of fucks?
It was Elijah that stood across from the Crownless King on the first night of the tournament.
This, too, did not sit well with Coral Avalon.
Because his first opponent in the inaugural TC-X was the seemingly unstoppable Red Desert Devil, the Openweight Champion himself.
Coral knew that this was going to go poorly.
After all, he was in the ring with a monster that hadn’t been pinned, or submitted, or made to fight for longer than ten minutes, or even really inconvenienced.
And worse yet, he hadn’t even expected it until nearly the last minute.
Two days before the tournament, a former tSC standout in Ryan Gallway had to pull out of the tournament due to a family emergency. That meant that Inoue had to put herself into the tournament as a last-minute replacement, and she also exchanged Avalon and Marchesi’s positions in the tournament blocks. Now, Avalon wasn’t in the same block as Kazuya any more.
His chance at a one-on-one meeting with the man he’d been feuding with since January had been delayed even longer.
And Coral knew that Inoue did that just to fuck with him.
All his mental preparation going into the first round had gone into facing his first round opponent, Asakura Hajime, an aging veteran who would ultimately be a year from retirement and who would go on to win not a single match he fought in the tournament.
The problem with Elijah wasn’t simply a matter of size, or how tough he was, or how mean he was, or how he looked like he drank at least an entire bottle of whiskey before he got out there, or the smell, or…
Okay, the problem was definitely Elijah.
Just all of him.
Coral had never liked matching up with significantly larger opponents in his career.
A feud with Dave Morey in tSC, a man who had the build of a basketball player, had ended with his thorough defeat. He considered Bradley Duncan, a 6’7” deaf-mute grappler, to be one of the toughest opponents he ever met in the ring. Granted, if you took a running poll on which guy in Action! Wrestling or tSC they liked to jump from behind the most, Duncan was the runaway victor.
Regardless, matches with the big boys almost never ended well for Avalon.
And this likely wouldn’t end well for him, either.
He knew it, too.
So the very first thing Coral did the moment the bell rang was charge in on Elijah and hit him with the Rhongomyniad.
The move that would also eventually gain the nickname of “the First Armament” had been a clear difference maker for Avalon since the moment he started using it as his finisher. It was a statement of intent. “I am going to kill you.”
It had put down so many stars of Bang! Pro Wrestling.
And it was his opening volley against Elijah, the equivalent of Sephiroth casting Supernova on you the moment the battle started. Or Sans Undertale wondering why people didn’t immediately start fights with their strongest move.
He did not want to fuck around and find out with this guy.
Unfortunately, just breathing the same oxygen as Tom Elijah was tantamount to fucking around and finding out. And trying to hit him with a jousting lance serving as your big boot was just going to make him mad. The kick landed, but with Elijah being almost seven feet tall, it only hit him in the chest.
Elijah reacted to the attack, Coral Avalon’s best shot at the time, as though he’d just had a whole chicken thrown at his chest. For all that entailed.
The lariat that ensued was the tone setter.
Let me be clear.
Coral Avalon was a world-class professional wrestler. He always had a plan to deal with every opponent he ever met, and plenty of opponents he might never meet. He was the Crownless King, and it was the “King” part that should be emphasized here.
What did I just say about Tom Elijah and giving fucks?
Elijah picked up Coral and threw him halfway across the ring. Then he walked over and did it again. Then he walked over and did it a third time. Coral slid to the outside after the third time, not voluntarily, but because the momentum of the throw sent him outside.
The Openweight champion had taken Coral Avalon’s best shot in the opening seconds of the match, and responded by ragdolling him like he was under the influence of the Havok physics engine.
Things did not improve much for Avalon once he was on the outside.
Elijah followed him out, and Avalon met him with a pair of European uppercuts that didn’t do much else other than annoy the big Wyomingite. He might as well have been an ant trying to use a Shoryuken against a mountain.
In response, Elijah hit Coral with a headbutt.
There’s a lot of thick skull underneath that head full of red hair.
Coral scattered to the ground like dust in the wind.
Elijah collected him off of the ground, and then chucked him through the announcer’s table as casually as throwing out yesterday’s garbage.
And that should’ve been the end of Avalon’s night. It wasn’t.
After marching around the ringside area like a wild animal in search for his booze, Elijah ripped Avalon out of the wreckage and threw him back in at the count of eighteen, and slid in after him at nineteen.
Elijah took to running over Avalon like he was a train from this point onward. Every time Avalon stubbornly got up – and trust me, the man is notoriously stubborn – Elijah would run him over with a lariat. Sometimes, he’d run him over with just his body, because he’s a big guy and it’s not easy to dodge a bus.
This went on.
To the point that the fans – who had been loath to get behind Avalon since that night at the Clash of Aces – started to actually cheer when Avalon found a way to fight back. He booted Elijah in the face when he attempted to crush him in the corner, and then actually took him off his feet when he came after him with a springboard cutter he’d rarely used.
Avalon didn’t waste time despite how badly he hurt.
He climbed up and landed a frog splash.
Coral had a very solid frog splash. It wasn’t meant to be a fancy one. It didn’t have some crazy hang time. Coral didn’t leap to the heavens. He didn’t linger in the air like some majestic Buzz Lightyear, falling with style or grace. But he landed so quickly and immediately that it had the same effect. And he could cover much more ground with it than the ones who liked the hang time.
It’d been a go-to aerial move even during the Kleptomaniac and Blackberry years, and famously was the move he used to help the Blue Rogues secure the fWo World Tag Titles from the terrifying “Silver and Gold” team of Sonny Silver and Lindsay Troy.
Also, it got one.
Probably should’ve led with that.
Elijah threw Avalon off of him like he was bench pressing him, and it was only by the grace of his natural agility that Avalon landed on his feet from being thrown off of Elijah like that.
Avalon was undeterred.
He climbed up again.
A second frog splash.
This one, at least, got two.
Coral went to the well, again, and climbed up to the top rope. Surely, it had more water in it! This man was thirsty!
He got to the top, only to realize that Elijah was already back to his feet.
That’s probably bad.
Coral leapt off, anyway.
Coral didn’t remember much of what happened next. He’d have to watch the tape back to know that what met him in mid-air was the Red Right Hand of Tom Elijah, the Red Desert Devil of Red Desert, Wyoming.
God, we get it. You love red. Shut up.
That single hard right hook would put Coral Avalon down for the three count.
And that was all she wrote for the Crownless King’s first match in the TC-X, an inauspicious beginning to his journey through the tournament, to be sure.
But then, what do you expect from Tom Elijah, the narrative equivalent of dropping a bomb in the middle of your story?
A WORD THAT RHYMES WITH LURKED
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
September 4th, 2014
We could spend an entire couple of pages talking about the English wrestler calling himself “Typhoon Timothy”.
But Coral Avalon dispatched him after two minutes with the Rhongomyniad, and it might have been sooner if he wasn’t still nursing the injuries he suffered in the match with Elijah.
Much like what happened to Maximum Justice in the Flynn Cup, the write-up for this match on RingDispatch.com simply read “MURKED”.
Coral would have been apologetic to Tim, but… well.
Some statements have to be made.
We’ll talk about you another time.
THE FIRST STUDENT
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
September 8th, 2014
“Motherfucker,” Connor O’Reilly muttered to himself.
That wasn’t really directed at anyone.
It was an idle statement.
The word “fuck” was more used like punctuation than as a word by the unruly, vulgar half of the Princes of New England. This was especially true in 2014 when he was considerably less tame than he would be in 2022 when he was throwing baseballs at the second generation Winds of Change (and the surrounding standees of beloved English actress, Dame Helen Mirren).
This spoke volumes on the kind of guy he was in 2014, to be honest.
“Language, Connor,” Coral said.
The match between them had concluded just minutes ago, and both were backstage afterwards.
Connor was Coral Avalon’s very first student, someone he trained while acting as head trainer at Max Danger’s wrestling school in Maine. Years before the Gates of Avalon wrestling school and the Bang! Pro Wrestling dojo.
Connor was an unruly, impulsive street brat who somehow dredged up the money needed to not only make it to Maine, but to get to wrestling school. In fact, he was so impulsive and irresponsible that his twin sister, Miranda, ended up dedicating a large part of her life to keeping her brother out of trouble.
Wrestling school had only given Connor at least a modicum of maturity.
It would be years later before he’d be put in a position of such responsibility that he couldn’t simply say “fuck” and start wrecking things.
“Shut the fuck up with that language shit.” Connor said. If he had any energy right now, he’d probably have thrown something at Avalon. “Smug ass wrestling genius motherfucker. How the fuck did you change your whole goddamn wrestling style in six months?”
He wanted to tell him that it wasn’t easy, that it took hiding himself in tag matches before he found his footing as the Crownless King. He wanted to tell him that he still hesitated sometimes when he found himself in situations where he’d use one of the “Kleptomaniac’s” old go-tos, like the Ratings Spike. He wanted to tell him that he’d been harboring ideas of how to conduct himself in the ring going forward for months before that night at the Clash of Aces.
He also wanted to tell him that he already knew what the Second Armament was, but was saving it for later in the tournament.
Instead, he said, “What? Plenty of people change their wrestling styles. Usually, it’s because they have to slow down.”
Coral offered him a wink, “Maybe when I slow down, you’ll actually be able to keep up.”
Outside of the ring, Coral was usually humble about his wrestling.
He’s quick to remind friends that he didn’t have the success that matched his skill. He’s rarely dismissive of his opponents, to the point that he liked to find the positives in their styles in order to think of how best to deal with them while he looked for the weaknesses. He preferred to let what he did between the ropes speak for itself.
Between the ropes, though?
Coral Avalon could come off as a cocky little prick who moved and acted like he was better than everyone. His confidence in the ring was a far cry from the humble man he was outside of it. He often did infuriating things to provoke his opponents, like using their own moves against them or trying to show off how skilled he was. Towards the back half of his time as “the Kleptomaniac”, the so-called “Kleptomania” that defined his wrestling style to that point had been more about showing off his knowledge than using it as the entire basis of his style.
He also knew that Connor O’Reilly responded better to Coral keeping up that cocky schtick outside of the ring.
“Seriously. I entered this tournament ‘cause I wanted to see where I stood without Simon. And I get by that fucking prick wrestling in a suit, I beat Simon’s piece of shit brother… and then you come along and blow everything up.” Connor said.
Connor had been tied for first in the block with Elijah up until Coral met him.
The match with Coral had been a back-and-forth game of oneupsmanship, a chess match between a high-flying student and a true master of a teacher. But Connor was not Coral’s best student. Coral might have taught Connor everything he knew about wrestling, but that was a drop in the ocean compared to what Coral had by this point in his life. After Connor got an advantage, he got Coral in position to land his Crossfire Hurricane – a split-legged corkscrew moonsault.
But instead, Coral got the knees up and then rolled him up for the three.
“How long were you planning that fucking counter?” Connor asked. “I thought it was too easy to get you in position.”
“Pretty much ever since I saw you do that move to win the PRIME tag titles.” Coral said, “Call it seven years.”
“I’m serious.” Coral said.
“I know, that’s why I’m so pissed off!”
“I figured you put so much momentum into the Hurricane that if I got the knees up, you wouldn’t be able to kick out if I just rolled you up afterwards.” Coral explained, “I mean, it’s hell on my knees, of course, but I don’t need those to roll you up.”
“The fuck, man,” Connor said, “I’ve been doing this for almost a fucking decade, I can’t believe you’re still doing this shit to me.”
“What, lecturing you on why I always thought your moves carried a huge risk?” Coral asked, “Come on. I warned you the very first time you did it. I always have a plan to deal with everything.”
“Yeah, ‘cause it worked so well with Elijah.”
“I almost always have a plan to deal with everything.” Coral responded smoothly.
In truth, he worried about Elijah as an opponent more than ever after that disastrous first encounter.
In the back of his mind, he knew that even if he somehow won the TC-X, he would actually need a plan to deal with the Red Desert Devil that didn’t involve flinging himself off of high things into the waiting right fist of Elijah.
But of course, if he was going to win the TC-X, he knew that he was going to have to defeat some of Bang!’s “Aces”.
Especially because Yoshida Izou was waiting for him in Nagoya.
THE ACE OF SPADES
Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
September 11th, 2014
We haven’t talked about the Ace of Spades yet, have we?
Well, time to change that.
Yoshida Izou was the youngest of Bang! Pro Wrestling’s four original “Aces”.
As opposed to the delinquent-like Kazuya and Daisuke, or the samurai bumpkin in Haruki, Izou brought a smooth, movie star quality to his presentation. He was handsome, popular, charismatic, brash, cocky, arrogant, and dangerous, all rolled up into a single package.
While he would never win the Openweight championship more than once, that single reign was the longest title reign in the history of the company, lasting 810 days.
Though for the purposes of this story, that title reign hadn’t happened yet.
Throughout the entire time of the Crownless Kingdom’s presence in Bang! Pro Wrestling, every member of the group would find Izou the most infuriating of the Aces to deal with. The other Aces were dangerous, but they were still set in their ways. With Izou, though, he was someone who actively evolved as he went along. What he did in 2014 was much different than what he did in 2013, and the Izou that was there when Bang! was founded might as well have been a completely different man.
So, it was easy to make the comparison.
Yoshida Izou was Japan’s version of Coral Avalon himself.
A man of constant reinvention.
The man who best defined what being an Ace of Bang! Pro Wrestling truly meant.
The spotlight followed him the entire time he made his way to the ring, shrouding everything else in darkness. His shoulder-length bleached blonde hair, sunglasses, and fabulous fur coat gave the impression of a man who loved excess and attention. Even his white wrestling gear made him stand out, contrasting greatly with his suntanned skin.
As part of his entrance, a red carpet was rolled out for him, and he was followed by cameramen. Women screamed for him, men cheered for him.
For Coral Avalon, Izou was everything he hated. He hated the excess, the attention-grabbing, the pomp, and the circumstance. The way he carried himself in and out of the ring. The way he talked about wrestling.
Coral knew there was always value in a strong entrance. He certainly had a say in how the Winds of Change entered the ring at UltraViolence.
But Izou looked and acted like someone who might own a jet and would brag about it on social media.
Well, for all Coral knew, he probably did. Coral couldn’t read kanji worth a damn, even in 2022.
But then again, Izou hated what Coral represented just as much as Coral hated what Izou represented.
To the “Living Highlight Reel”, the Crownless Kingdom was a menace. A stain on Bang! Pro Wrestling and the kind of wrestling he wanted it to represent. He wanted them as gone as Kazuya did, and Izou wasn’t even the main target of the Kingdom’s aggression.
And so, the moment the bell rang, Coral and Izou went right at it.
The chain wrestling went right out the window when Izou slapped Coral across the face after flipping out of an armdrag. The melee that ensued was brutal. Izou was a smaller man than Avalon, and Avalon’s tendency for European uppercuts gave him a strike that made Izou regret making the match physical. So, Izou responded by taking the match to the air. Springboards, moonsaults, dropkicks, you name it, Izou could do it all. But when Coral responded in kind, Izou once again had no answers. Things were at a stalemate.
Things took a turn at about five minutes into the contest.
That’s when Izou hit the Director’s Cut, a springboard flying legdrop to the back of a standing opponent’s head.
The match should’ve been over, right then and there. A lot of opponents would fall to that move. Coral himself would be no exception years later. And Coral had been through three grueling matches before this night, so the match could’ve easily ended that suddenly.
But somehow, knowing that his tournament fate may be decided in this match, Coral Avalon got his shoulder up.
From there, it was all Izou, all the time.
But no matter what Izou did, Coral wouldn’t lie down and die.
The match turned again at the fifteen minute mark, when Izou went for the Director’s Cut for the second time. A powerbomb out of midair set up the Rhongomyniad. But much like how Coral had barely escaped the Director’s Cut the first time, Izou took the Rhongomyniad and fell through the ropes and to the floor. In this way, he had also escaped losing.
The fight on the floor that ensued was long, and the twenty-counts were only broken when one of the two would get back into the ring, only to dive at the other with a tope suicida or a plancha. Avalon charged on Izou for another Rhongomyniad on the outside, only to be thrown bodily into the barricade. Izou climbed up to the top ropes for another dive, only to miss and crash into the same barricade.
They both almost got counted out, but at the count of nineteen, they got back into the ring.
Time was becoming a factor, now.
Block matches in the TC-X all had a time limit of 30 minutes. As Izou and Avalon continued their battle, time kept marching to that 30 minute mark.
Finally, Izou took Avalon down long enough to ascend to the top rope.
There was only one minute left.
By now, exhaustion had set in. It’d been a thirty minute sprint, a slugfest in all but name. There was barely any time to stop to rest. So, every step up the ladder was an agony to the Living Highlight Reel. But finally, mercifully, he reached the top rope.
Earlier in the tournament, Coral Avalon had executed a frog splash. It was a go-to move of his.
Yoshida Izou also used the frog splash.
But this wasn’t some ordinary frog splash.
This was “the Highlight”.
When Izou leapt off the top rope, he leapt off the top rope. At the apex of his jump, it was more than twice the height of the ropes. He lingered up there, as though gravity lost sight of him for a moment. And then when gravity finally caught sight of him again, he fell down as a velocity just shy of terminal onto his opponent.
Who, uh… wasn’t there.
The worst part of a frog splash like Izou was also the best part. The sheer hangtime Izou had in the move gave it considerable impact. Enough so that Izou himself usually took damage from it.
So, when there’s no water in the pool, so to speak, the damage Izou took was astronomical.
Coral had rolled out of the way, and climbed back to his feet by way of the ropes nearby.
He wanted… no, he needed Izou to get up. Time was of the essence.
“For God’s sakes, Izou…” Coral muttered as the Living Highlight Reel took his sweet time standing up. By now, Coral had settled into a coiled crouch. His arm was calling for Izou to stand to his feet, as though it would compel him by way of magic.
Finally, with ten seconds left on the clock, Izou was on his feet as much as Coral was going to allow him to be. He charged.
The Rhongomyniad, the lance of King Arthur, connected for the second time in the match.
Coral fell on top of Izou in an exhausted cover.
Time ticked down.
The bell rang for the time limit just a second after the referee’s hand hit the mat for the third time. After a pause, the bell rang again to signify the end of the match.
The Crownless King had won the match.
Actually, it would be better to say that he’d survived it.
The first encounter between Avalon and Izou would be one for the record books. To this day, it was the latest that a TC-X block match would be decided without it going to a draw.
But Coral knew as he got his hand raised… this was only the halfway point of the tournament.
He still had three matches left to go.
Shizouka, Shizouka Prefecture, Japan
September 15th, 2014
“How do you keep doing this?” Soren asked.
It’d been an hour since Coral defeated “Captain Justice”, and it was Coral’s fourth straight win. If Tom Elijah could only falter, he would have a chance to win the block. Instead, Elijah defeated Cowabunga Kenji with relative ease, and only had to defeat Typhoon Timothy and the two Aces in the block to secure a dominant performance in the A Block. Hell, he might still win the block even if he only beat two of the three.
Soren was still in costume as Captain Justice, with his American flag-themed mask and tights. Soren was a 6’5” and 280 pound brick wall who, as Captain Justice, represented “American ideals” as a boisterous, loudmouthed idiot that screamed the names of his moves as he executed them.
Soren Knox was the oldest of the three Knox brothers, and in Coral’s estimation, he was the Knox that was the least asshole.
This was not a high bar to clear, by the way.
Simon Knox was Coral Avalon’s most talented student before he was allowed to train Ichikawa Gorou, the Bang! Openweight champion as of 2022. He was also an aloof, dismissive jerk who was quietly arrogant and the type of person who enabled all of Connor O’Reilly’s bad habits because it amused him greatly. Beneath that, Simon did care a lot for what few friends he had. As of 2014, those friends only included Coral, Connor, Miranda, Miranda’s wife, and his own future wife and Joe’s aunt, Alexandria Malone.
He would mellow over time and become more approachable, but it took a major life-altering event to do that.
And Steve Knox…
…We’re not talking about Steve Knox.
It’s a Band-Aid we’ll rip off some time, but not right now.
Anyway, for most participants of the TC-X, this was about trying to achieve victory. To become the winner of the very first TC-X. To earn a trophy and an accolade never before presented.
For Soren Knox, it was a last hurrah.
Unlike Coral, who loved wrestling for the sake of wrestling, Soren was like all Knoxes. He saw the ring as merely a stepping stone to something bigger. Yet, his business relationship with Sonny Silver fell apart, and his current arrangement with Miranda O’Reilly hadn’t borne the fruit he expected it to.
He stuck with Miranda because she never steered him wrong, though he knew wrestling was becoming a dead-end.
He hated wrestling in Japan as the caricature that Mr. Silver, Sports Entertainment Liaison of PRIME dreamed up. But it was all he could do. Steve had single-handedly driven the Knox family name into the dirt, and it was all Soren and Simon could do to keep things going. For Simon, he always had his partnership with the O’Reilly twins to fall back on. For Soren… all he could do was follow along with them under the mask.
“I don’t know,” Coral said, “I just like wrestling.”
“Seriously?” Soren asked.
“Yeah,” Coral said, “Long as I make ends meet, I’m good.”
For anyone who watched him, it was obvious that Soren was going through the motions.
In his heyday, he was a bulldozer on legs. But then the losses piled up, Sonny sold out Soren to Miranda, and he didn’t know what to do any more.
Coral could detect that the moment they locked up tonight.
A motivated Soren Knox would’ve been dangerous. An unmotivated one went down with a whimper in eight minutes to a single Rhongomyniad. Soren had only won one match in the entire tournament so far, and that one win was against poor Typhoon Timothy, who couldn’t buy a win in the TC-X this year.
Soren scoffed as he paced back and forth in the locker room.
Everyone else was watching Izou and Haruki have their showdown in the main event, and so the locker room was largely empty.
“I don’t get it.” Soren looked like someone had kicked his puppy and he didn’t know how to handle that information. Coral hoped he wasn’t the one doing the kicking.
“Yeah, most people don’t get me,” Coral said, “Well, okay. My wife gets me. But she’s a weirdo like me, too.”
Soren tilted his head, confused by the statement.
“Well, I mean, Annie and I both grew up not really being wanted by our environments. Annie’s a Japanese-Canadian, more emphasis on the Canadian, and grew up in Japan. And I… well. I don’t tell a lot of people about how I grew up.”
“I heard rumors.” Soren admitted.
Coral winced, and shook his head.
“Alright. Guess I’ll confirm it by telling you the same thing I tell everyone else.” Coral groaned, already regretting this talk, “So, I get a strongly worded letter in the mail every year. About two weeks before Christmas, since that’s close to my birthday. Every time, it says the same thing. Stop wrestling. Come back to New Orleans. Get a ‘real’ job at the big dumb Fortune 500 company they all have. My favorite part, of course, is the request that I divorce my wife and marry some girl who’d be more willing to have kids with me. Just the worst crap you could think of. Worst part is that they don’t even handwrite it. It’s printed on a formal letter, in 9pt Times New Roman. Can’t even be bothered to be personal with me, not that I blame them.”
Coral paused, and looked up at Soren, “You know what I do every time I get that letter?”
“I shred it, and use the shredded paper to decorate the little Christmas tree we have at home.” Coral said, “Like the little silvery bits you’d hang on all the branches.”
“Tinsel,” Soren corrected.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Coral said, “So, how about you?”
“I have a feeling you didn’t strike up a conversation with me just to hear me vent about House Avalon,” Coral said, “So, what’s on your mind?”
Soren sighed. His hands reached up to his mask, and it was then that he finally pulled it off his head. Soren Knox was almost the spitting image of his father, Earl “the Pearl” Knox, a famous wrestler and actor of yesteryear who starred in numerous so-called “wrestleploitation” films in the 80s and 90s. He amassed a small fortune as an actor and producer of many such films, until he passed away under mysterious circumstances when Soren was just getting into wrestling.
His hair was closely cropped, and he had the kind of masculine jawline that gave his head an almost squared-shape. A small scar was over his brow from an old fight years before he donned the mask.
“I think I’m done with this, after this TC-X thing is over.” Soren said.
“Yeah. Guess you’re the second to know.”
“Who’s the first?”
“Simon, actually. We finally buried the hatchet the first night of the tournament,” Soren said, “Shame we can’t do the same with Steve, but… well. Steve’s too far gone.”
That much was obvious.
“Neither of us know where he’s been, and we’re not gonna start looking.” Soren said.
Coral nodded, and felt it best to change the subject.
“So, what’re you planning to do once you’re out?” Coral asked.
It was always the first question he asked people who planned to retire. He never asked “why”. When he was younger, he always asked why. And after hearing many of the same answers, he stopped asking. Not everyone did this for as long as they had. Many retired within their first few months, for one reason or another. Too much pain, not enough pay. Never making it. Injuries. Politics. Joined a cult. You know, the usual reasons.
Soren Knox had been wrestling as long as Coral had. But he didn’t have Coral’s Belmont trophy, his frequently lauded talent for wrestling, or the success he had in Action! Wrestling. All Soren had was an all-too-brief PRIME run at the beck-and-call of Mr. Silver, Sports Entertainment Liaison of PRIME, which was largely forgettable.
“Well, I moved to LA a couple of years ago, and I’d been getting some small acting roles. There’s a market for big, burly guys like me.” Soren said, “Granted, it’s almost always the menacing henchman role, but… there’s considerably less pain involved. And my dad’s name still carries some weight out there.”
“Steve didn’t ruin everything, I guess.”
“Yeah. Thank God. Gonna keep in contact with Miranda, though. That woman’s always got a good head on her shoulders.”
“I think if she didn’t, Connor would’ve ended up in jail by now.”
“Yeah, he would’ve.”
They shared a laugh at that.
“Well, good luck out there, Soren,” Coral said, offering a hand, “Hope you make it.”
Soren took his handshake without hesitation, “You, too.”
DON’T WRESTLE IN A NECKTIE
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
September 18th, 2014
“So, I feel like I’ve asked this before. How does wrestling in a business suit help Kenji?” Annabelle asked.
“Oh, it doesn’t.”
Coral had defeated Cowabunga Kenji earlier that night, by reeling him into a Koji clutch by way of Kenji’s own necktie. This was not the first time that his necktie had cost him a match. It would also not be the last time.
“So, then why does he wrestle in one if it doesn’t help him?” Annabelle asked.
“Uh, he just does, I guess.” Coral said.
Umehara Kenji had been a salaryman before he suddenly decided he wanted to be a professional wrestler, an almost unheard of decision in Japan. He had never explained why he made this decision. He never even talked about the company he used to work for, though Coral imagined that NDAs might have been involved. He was a good brawler, though, and his “wrestle in a business suit” gimmick certainly turned heads.
As the “Salary” half of the Diamond Salary Connection with the King of Diamonds, Hashiwara Daisuke, Cowabunga Kenji had been a thorn in the side of Avalon and the Crownless Kingdom since the beginning. He was one of the participants in the fountain incident that had, in a roundabout way, given Avalon the excuse he needed to build the Kingdom.
Coral had returned to the hotel room that he shared with his wife. All Coral had left to do in the TC-X was face Kazano Haruki, who just pulled off a miracle upset of Tom Elijah. If Coral could defeat the still unbeaten Haruki, he stood a chance of winning A Block.
Annabelle usually came with him on the trips to Japan. Actually, she came with him on almost all of his trips. With no children and no home beyond a simple apartment they shared in Cincinnati, Coral and Annabelle always traveled together as a pair.
At first, it was for practical reasons. Annabelle spoke Japanese, and Coral didn’t. As Coral became used to the language and became capable of conversational Japanese, traveling together became more about companionship and family.
Annabelle’s family still lived and worked in Japan. Coming to Japan was a lot like coming home for the two of them.
For Coral, it gave him the chance to be among a family. After all, as far as everyone was concerned, he didn’t have one of those back in New Orleans.
“It was kinda funny seeing the look on his face when you yanked on his tie, though.” Annabelle said.
She’d been at the front row of the show. It’d be easy to find her if you watched the show back. You just looked for the Japanese-Canadian in the front row with the multicolored black and teal hair.
Annabelle liked wrestling, but it’d been an acquired taste for her. She almost pulled away from it completely a year after she and Coral started dating, because that’s when Gimmick Hell happened. But over the years, she’d grown to like it. Both her best friend and her husband were tied so thoroughly into the business, after all.
She didn’t quite understand a lot of the nuances, though, even after nearly a decade of being around Coral and Inoue. And while she’d gotten used to the times when Coral would get out of a match needing stitches to close up a wound, she still hated seeing it. It reminded her too much of the times Coral almost died for this sport.
She always asked the hard questions for both of them to answer to answer.
“How does the Irish whip even work?”
“Why is it always a steel chair?”
“What the hell is a Rhongomyniad?”
Well, okay, at least he could answer the third one of those.
In any case, Coral smiled back at her, “That was kinda funny.”
“Anyway, are you doing alright? You’ve looked a little rough lately.” Annabelle said. “Well, not Kingsley rough, but… y’know.”
“The tournament’s been tough. Even the easy matches haven’t come that easily, there’s two ‘Aces’ on my side of the bracket, and Elijah roughed me up pretty good in the first round,” Coral said, “But no. Nothing Kingsley rough.”
In truth, while the path to winning the tournament was clear to Coral, he was running on fumes going into the match with Haruki. His knees hadn’t felt right since he defeated Connor. The match with Soren Knox was rough on his shoulder, something that Cowabunga Kenji actually zeroed in on in their match. To say nothing of the fact that the matches with Elijah and Izou had been brutal affairs, Elijah because of how much damage the man could do in a short amount of time, and Izou because of how close to the wire Avalon was in winning that match before the time limit expired.
His only chance was the knowledge that Haruki just got out of a war with Elijah, and was busted up worse than Coral for it.
Annabelle leaned up against Coral’s shoulder. This also helped keep the ice pack on his shoulder in place, after the match with Kenji earlier.
“Well, when you get done winning this tournament, the two of us are going to celebrate,” Annabelle said.
“Pretty confident in my chances, aren’t you?” Coral asked.
“Well, if you don’t win, I’m going to tell Inoue that you let me down.”
Coral turned to the pouting face of his wife.
She was both adorable and infuriating whenever she made that face.
“Oh, sure. So either I win and treat you to yakiniku, or I lose and have to treat both of you to yakiniku.” Coral deadpanned.
“Yup. That’s how the pyramid works. I’m glad you understand the dynamics at play here.” Annabelle said, smiling infectiously. “And you know I’ll be making eyes at Inoue the whole time.”
“And probably flirt a lot.”
Annabelle giggled girlishly, hugging at Coral’s arm as she did, “You know me so well.”
“Well, I definitely know you like to tease me,” Coral said.
“Of course. It’s my favorite pastime.”
Coral looked up at the ceiling.
“Do you ever regret it?”
“Getting together with someone like me.”
“What… the tall, dark, handsome pro wrestler who acts like he’s some king, but hides a very goofy side behind a silly mask? And sometimes the silly mask is actually literal?”
“Uh, yeah,” Coral said, “Am I really that silly even without the mask?”
“Oh, all pro wrestlers are silly to me. Even all of the serious ones. Especially the serious ones. It’s hard to take any of you seriously when you’re walking around in your underwear,” Annabelle said, “And no, I don’t regret it. Never have. And since you asked, what about you?”
“What? No. Of course I don’t regret it, either.” Coral said.
“Honestly, Coral. You’re not as smart as you act around other people if you even have to ask that question to me.”
“To be fair, I’ve never claimed to be smart.”
“Good thing, too. I’d have called you a liar.”
“Well, I’d hate to be called a liar.”
“Anyway,” Annabelle said, “I married you because you’re my favorite person. I’d have married you whether you were a man, a woman, had purple hair, was just purple in general, or whatever. I know for damn sure you did the same.”
“I mean, a purple woman would be an interesting choice. So, would I be the Grimace, then? Like a weirdly, uncomfortably hot Grimace?” Coral asked, and then he doubled down, “In a bikini?”
“Okay. Jesus. Maybe I do have some limits on what you’d look like.” Annabelle said. “You made this so, so weird.”
It was Coral’s turn to laugh.
“Yup, that’s my favorite pastime. Keeping things weird for us.”
“You’re so good at that. Did you go to college for it?”
“Nah, only have a GED. I’m just that dedicated to the craft of keeping things weird.”
“Well, it’s good that you have something to fall back on if the wrestling doesn’t work out.” Annabelle said.
It was good to keep the mood light.
Because tomorrow was going to be a war.
THE KING’S CLOAK
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
September 20th, 2014
It was over.
Block A had been decided.
Two unexpected results had punched Coral Avalon’s ticket to the finals of the TC-X.
The first? Tom Elijah went too far against Yoshida Izou.
Frustrated by his unexpected loss to Kazano Haruki, he took it out on Izou and brutalized him for eight minutes. But it wasn’t enough for him, so he got out a steel chair to further the beatings. The end result was that Elijah got disqualified, and Izou would end his tournament tied with the Red Desert Devil.
Well, that would be Coral Avalon surviving the match with Kazano Haruki.
Despite getting bloodied by the Samurai of Tokushima, Coral Avalon had beaten Haruki with a pair of Rhongomyniads.
But the talk of the match afterwards was something Coral did not do.
After the first Rhongomyniad, he’d underhooked Haruki’s arms. A setup that would become familiar as the years passed as a natural followup move he’d do after the yakuza kick. But Coral visibly had second thoughts on the matter, and chose instead to transition into a short-armed Rhongomyniad that put Haruki down for good.
Once he was backstage, Avis Flyfield and Aaron Fetzer met with him.
Franco was unavailable. He would’ve been about to face Fukumaru Kazuya to decide the B Block, after all.
The first thing that Avis said when he saw his bloodied fellow king was: “Wow, I should see the other guy, huh?”
Coral only smiled in response, the effect looking a little freaky with his face covered in his drying blood.
Fetzer and Flyfield’s job in this matter were to keep Coral from falling over while he addressed the camera for the post-match scrum. Coral’s words were short, and to the point.
“If it’s Franco, we’ll have our usual good time beating each other up, and whoever wins, wins. The Kingdom prevails, nonetheless. And if it’s Kazuya… Oh, have I a surprise for you.”
That was all he said before the Squadron helped him to the doctor’s office to tend to his injury.
Everything was a whirlwind in the days before finals.
In the day leading up to the finals, Coral Avalon was unnervingly calm around his friends and his family.
Because he knew something that no one else knew.
“You almost played your hand too quickly,” Franco told him that morning.
Well, no one except two people.
Franco was unsuccessful in making the finals of the TC-X an all-Kingdom affair. He barely fell to Kazuya at the last minute after he was struck down by the Kanabo, and all Kazuya could do was fall on top of him for the win. If it was any consolation to the Venetian, Franco had absolutely beaten the shit out of Kazuya in that match, beating him from pillar to post. It was a bit amazing that Kazuya had come out of that match looking like a winner.
It also, in a small way, leveled the playing field between Coral and Kazuya going into the finals.
Both men would come into that match battered and bruised. Coral had four stitches in his forehead after the brutal affair with Kazuki. Kazuya didn’t just get beaten from pillar to post by Franco, but also by people like Inoue, Jack Sweetwater, and even Lord Kurosame-sama – who once again had the distinction of being the only blemish on Kazuya’s record in B Block. The same as Elijah had been for Avalon’s.
Kazuya might actually murder that shark one day.
Coral looked up at Franco when he said that, and offered him a smile.
“Do you even know what the hand looks like?” Coral asked. “I haven’t shown it to anyone yet.”
“I’ve got a few guesses,” Franco said.
“Nothing gets past you, huh?”
Franco sat down across from Coral. They were sitting at the Denny’s again, just as they did when they were planning the revenge tour against Kazuya back in January. The Squadron – the other two members of the Kingdom – would be there eventually, but had evidently taken the wrong train. Coral couldn’t help but laugh when Fetzer called them in a high-strung panic, words flying out of his mouth like… well, a squadron.
Coral had with him a very conspicuous bag, one that took up most of the seat right next to him.
While Franco had done considerable damage to Kazuya, he didn’t escape the match unscathed. His shoulders were taped up, and he had a black eye from one of Kazuya’s strikes. Nothing he couldn’t shrug off, but it meant that he wasn’t moving his arms much and he was wearing sunglasses even indoors.
“Dangerous, you know.” Franco said.
“What, the thing I’ve got planned for Kazuya?” Coral asked.
“Holding something back this far into a tournament.” Franco said, “You’re still letting go of your old habits, after all.”
Franco was right, as he often was.
Coral was still adjusting.
“Okay. Do you want me to tell you?”
Franco shrugged his shoulders, “Better to just see you do it and know than for you to tell me and then get clubbed in the head by that demon.”
Coral felt himself deflate a little.
He always felt so excited to tell Franco his secrets, and Franco would always turn down learning them because he didn’t think he kept secrets very well.
Eventually, Coral would know well enough to know to just tell Franco to watch out for something while he went and did it. Hence the events of the Flynn Cup, eight years later.
“Well, fine then, Franco. Be that way.” Coral said, “There is one surprise I can show you now.”
Coral reached under the table, and pulled up his travel luggage. It didn’t take him long to find and pull out the heaviest thing in his luggage.
It was made from fur. Or, more likely, faux fur. Large, mismatched sections of the stuff, stitched together into something like a cloak. The shoulders in particular were the most striking part of it. One shoulder, the right, had what appeared to be the head of a lion on it. Big, intimidating. It roared even as a part of this ensemble, even in death. Though Coral would insist that the lion’s head was just fine craftsmanship. The other shoulder was covered in fangs and claws, as though from the same lion.
It was heavy.
As it should be.
“Jesus.” Franco said. “Where’d you get something like that?”
“It’s a Natsukawa special,” Coral said, “Annie’s side of the family came together for this. Her mom and grandma, especially. Apparently, they were working on it without my knowledge for a birthday gift, but… when they saw I made it to the finals of this tournament, they decided to surprise me. So I have my wife and everyone to thank for this.”
Coral set the cloak down.
“They’re all gonna be there tonight, Franco.” Coral said, “Annie and her side of the family. They’re all arriving here from Tokyo and Sendai today. And they’re going to see me in it.”
Coral considered what might happen tomorrow.
“So, Kazuya might actually have to kill me to win tomorrow night.”
“He’ll die trying.”
EXCALIBUR, THE HARD-CLEFT SWORD
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
September 21st, 2014
The night of September 21st, 2014 would be one that many fans of Coral Avalon’s would remember.
To kick things off, it would be the first appearance of that patchwork fur cloak he now wore to the ring, a product of the love and attention of his wife and her family. Something he’d wear for the next eight years of his career.
More importantly, tonight, he was the enemy.
And he knew it.
Fukumaru Kazuya arrived to a hero’s welcome by motorcycle, wearing white. The legendary banchou. The Demon of Yokohama. Bang! Pro Wrestling’s Ace of Hearts.
Kazuya was bandaged up. His wars in the B Block were brutal, as were the wars he fought before he even got to the TC-X. The Crownless Kingdom had harassed him. Warriors like Simon Knox, Jack Sweetwater, and Inoue Doi had wounded him. Lord Kurosame-sama had humiliated him.
But he stood across from Coral Avalon. The B champion to his A champion.
When the night was over, one of them would win the first-ever “Terminus Complex”.
And things went immediately poorly for Coral Avalon almost as soon as the bell rang.
Because both he and Kazuya had the same exact thought: End it early.
So Coral charged to the other side of the ring for Rhongomyniad. Only to be met sooner, mid-strike, by the discus elbow of Fukumaru Kazuya called the Kanabo.
A kanabo was a giant war club, found in feudal Japan. It had iron spikes or studs at the end, and sometimes had a shape not dissimilar from a baseball bat. In Japanese mythology, a giant one was usually in the hands of a mythological youkai called an “oni”.
The elbow version of this thing also almost knocked Coral Avalon out.
Fortunately for Coral, “almost knocked out” wasn’t “knocked out”. He had enough instinct to go under the bottom ropes and to the floor. If Kazuya had fallen on top of him, as he did against Franco, it might have been the end of the tournament for him.
The match continued on the floor. Coral woke up about four minutes into the beating Kazuya was delivering to him, enough to send him into the post.
The next nine minutes was largely dominated by Coral and his arsenal of backbreakers and suplexes. Every time Kazuya mounted a comeback with his striking, Coral would take him down, put him in a submission for a while, and then hit him with another big backbreaker.
At the eighteen minute mark, Kazuya finally mounted a comeback. Suddenly, Avalon’s uppercuts had no effect. Kazuya outright dared him to keep attacking. And then, when he got bored of that, he battered the Crownless King. Punches, kicks, chops, elbows, knees, headbutts, and everything else that you battered human beings with within the loosely-held rules of professional wrestling. Coral found the wound that Hazuki opened up in their encounter opened back up. And even worse than before.
The advantage swung back in Kazuya’s favor.
Move after move battered the American. Utilitarian moves, designed only to punish by as simple means as possible. The kinds of things outright meant to dig at a wound. The kinds of things that a referee might step in to issue warnings if this wasn’t such a big match.
But if Kazuya proved to be an obnoxious enemy for Coral, then the reverse was also true, as Kazuya couldn’t put Coral away.
At one point, the Kanabo threatened Avalon for a second time in the match, only for Coral to get his foot on the ropes before the count of three. That one made the emotional livewire, Kazuya, go ballistic. He grabbed the shirt of the referee as he argued with him. The referee, Ryu Doi, staunchly reminded Kazuya not to lay hands on an official. So Kazuya let go and smoothed out the wrinkles in his referee’s shirt.
He still had one move in his arsenal if the Kanabo wasn’t enough.
It retained his Openweight Championship at the Clash of Aces, before the Kingdom came for him.
It could win him the first TC-X, and vanquish that same Kingdom.
And when he pulled Coral up into a waistlock, and grabbed the half nelson, it was obvious he was going to employ that move: the Dragon Driver.
It was also obvious to Coral, who instinctually knew Kazuya would eventually go for it from all of the preparation he went into a title match that never happened. He hit Kazuya with several elbows. While that didn’t deter Kazuya from trying the move, it rocked him enough that when he lifted Avalon up, he couldn’t control the arm. That allowed Coral to roll through into a pinning combination.
Now, obviously, that’s not getting a three count.
But what it did when Kazuya inevitably kicked out was reset the situation. When both got to their feet, they started to exchange blows. Both were exhausted. The effects of a full month of huge matches were evident in their movements.
After a strike exchange, Kazuya found the upper hand. He was a better striker than Coral was, and was able to dig deeper to rock him harder. After some hard strikes, Avalon was on the corner of Dream Street and Nightmare Lane. Kazuya went for the Kanabo, again, yet the third time would not be the charm.
Coral met Kazuya before the elbow could be rolled out with a headbutt. It was unexpectedly crude from a “traditionally refined” wrestler like Coral Avalon, and Kazuya never saw it coming. He pulled away from Avalon holding his face.
And the moment he was able to recover and remove his hands from his face, he took the Rhongomyniad. Also in the face. Because that’s often where that kick goes.
Kazuya fell backwards into the ropes.
And then he bounced back and hit Coral with a lariat.
Both men were down until nine, and that count was only broken up when Kazuya tried to cover.
Wait, that’s not a three.
That’s a Koji Clutch.
Silly goose, Koji Clutches weren’t an adequate substitute for the number three!
It was, however, a good way to win a match after such an exhausting display of physicality. Kazuya flailed in the submission, only serving to make it worse as he lost his strength. If Coral was lucky, he wouldn’t even need the surprise he still had loaded.
But Coral wasn’t lucky. He was too close to the ropes.
So, when Kazuya put his foot on the bottom rope, Coral had little choice but to give up on the move that let him beat Cowabunga Kenji earlier in the tournament.
The moment Coral released the hold, Kazuya somehow sprung to life. He got on top of Avalon before distance could be made, and started hammering him with punches. The wound that Hazuki had opened up several nights ago was now truly reopened in this melee, as the referee tried to restore order.
With Avalon in truly dire straits, Kazuya looked to finish him.
He hooked in the half-nelson for the Dragon Driver, and pulled Coral to his feet.
He lifted him up, only for Avalon to abruptly shift his weight and rip his legs out from the move, throwing Kazuya to the canvas with an armdrag. Both scrambled to their feet. Kazuya tried to meet Avalon with the Kanabo, but Coral ducked it and ran into the ropes. Kazuya barely recovered from the spin in time to brush aside the Rhongoymniad and grab the half nelson again. But his grip was too loose, and Coral ducked behind before the half nelson could get locked in.
The Saito suplex that followed was vicious. Coral snapped him over onto his head so fast that Kazuya tumbled halfway across the ring and into the ropes. The crowd gasped. After all, it hadn’t been a move Coral had used very often until now.
Coral barely waited for Kazuya to get up, before he landed the Rhongomyniad for a second time. With Kazuya against the ropes, he had nowhere to go. He had to take all of it. Coral’s leg went over the ropes after impact, but he used his arms to keep Kazuya against the ropes. He didn’t go down.
Quickly, Coral untangled himself from the ropes and pulled Kazuya back in.
Kazuya probably didn’t even know he was still in Japan by now.
In the center of the ring, Coral double underhooked the arms.
Coral Avalon had been, to this point in his career, averse to using a piledriver. Part of that was because his most hated enemy in professional wrestling was Jeff Garvin, whose “Memphis Death Certificate” was frequently signed in Avalon’s blood. Part of that was because he never wanted to end someone’s career if he messed it up.
But if Coral had to let go of that aversion. To once and for all divorce himself from the “Kleptomaniac” and become the “Crownless King”, he had to dump this man on his head. With everything riding on this moment, he had no margin of error. He had to make sure Fukumaru Kazuya couldn’t kick out.
Tonight was the birth of Excalibur.
The sitout double underhook piledriver flattened Kazuya and took the breath out of every fan watching.
And it was over.
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
September 21st, 2014
Kazuya left the ringside area the moment he was able to walk again.
If you watch back the tape, you might hear the crash of metal as Coral Avalon was on one knee in the ring, being attended to by the dojo trainees and officials. That was Kazuya kicking down a guardrail on his way out. He was frustrated beyond all measure that he couldn’t beat Coral Avalon, the man whose revenge against him had culminated in his defeat tonight.
If you watched Coral very carefully in that moment, you’d see him smile when he heard that.
Three men hit the ring not long after.
Marchesi, Flyfield, and Fetzer, who’d been with the Kingdom from the beginning, were there to help Coral to his feet. Marchesi and Flyfield, the two tallest men in the Kingdom, hoisted Coral on their shoulders. Fetzer even handed him both of his title belts: the Bang! With Your Partner championship he held with Marchesi and the Bang! With Your Friends championship he held with Flyfield and Fetzer.
On the surface level, winning the first-ever Terminus Complex didn’t matter much in the landscape of Bang! Pro Wrestling.
The winner got a trophy, and that was it.
It wouldn’t be until the following year when the winner of the tournament would be granted a shot at any championship in Bang! that they wanted.
But it would be through the efforts of the TC-X’s most successful competitor that the tournament became a bigger deal than it started out being. Avalon would win the tournament two more times, in 2016 and in 2021. He would make the finals another two times. Overseas fans sometimes called him “Mr. TC-X”. And even if Coral had failed in his attempts to finally bring home his crown, he always had the TC-X.
The Japanese fans, loath as they were to accept Coral Avalon as the Crownless King of Bang!, clapped for him as he was set back down on his feet by Franco and Avis. After all, his victory had been hard-earned. No one was going to dispute it.
As the trophy was being presented and he was being announced as the winner, Coral made it a point to look around and find his family.
Coral’s Japanese family, sitting at ringside, were the loudest to cheer in celebration that night. His maternal grandmother Eriko, the only fully Japanese member of the Natsukawa family, yelled among the loudest of those present. And, obviously, Annabelle was there alongside all of them.
Coral’s successes since his release from PRIME had been few and far between over the years.
He had to scrape and work across the world just to make a comfortable living for himself and his wife.
Yet, despite earning no more than a trophy that would collect dust in an office in a dingy converted gym in Seattle years later, tonight would always be his favorite success in Bang! Pro Wrestling.
It was the night that he proved that he needed no crown to be a king.