Somewhere in a graveyard orbit far beyond what we call the PRIMEverse is another Earth whose homeverse had died long ago. We’ve made mention about it before, mostly in the form of references on Jabber. That time Timo asked how we got started in the wrestling business. That other time where we revealed that yes, Tom, the guy you used to name yourself after did exist. The bottom line is it’s an Earth very much like the one you’re living in.
The difference is that said Earth is chronologically frozen in the year 2011.
That was the final year that the wrestling promotion that attempted to rebrand itself as Evolution 21 breathed its final breath. It had two major universe moves before finally ending up in said orbit, along the way losing a lot of its history. There’s a lot of stories that are lost even to Time itself: the world champion reign and sudden disappearance of blind samurai Cyrus Krell, the majority of Nick “Six” Vaughn’s hall of fame career, the rare moments where BJ Smiles was actually worth a damn before he became Casey Looks’ malewife/barely-lasts-a-cup-of-coffee wrestler. Even the Wayback Machine can’t recoup that shit.
(And yes, we are using our newly found normal-to-Fire Pro Name Translator for those last two names. If you know, you know and if you do know, you’re probably confused as shit because you weren’t there and if you’re confused as shit, good!)
Even so. Even in those last few cards when the new owner tried–and failed–to create a…well, a new era for the place, it was still home. A soundstage in the midst of a theme park in Orlando. The few “old timers” there were more than willing to become the cornerstones. To help the fresh blood either evolve or die before stepping aside just like others did for them, willingly or otherwise. But it wasn’t meant to be. The new owners vanished within a few cards and 21 died. It wasn’t with a bang. There wasn’t even a whimper. If there was any sound at all, there may have been a whisper.
With the passage of time, most of the wrestlers vanished without a trace. Few went to other places in an ‘verse in an attempt to keep it rolling. Yet now, there is only one left. Or, if you wish to be cute, Multitudes.
Firebug-via-the vessel sits in a locker room that used to be hers. It hasn’t been hers in a while. It wasn’t even hers when everything went to shit but being the one with the ties here, she sits like she belongs here. The air is stale but otherwise, the room is as pristine as a place you’ve illegally lived in for years would be. The leather couch with a pullout mattress has a few scuffs on it. The television is much older than some people’s children. There’s still a lock box about a foot away from the door, stuck there via adhesives that she hasn’t yet gotten unstuck.
She presses the play button on the DVD player’s remote. The gaudy halfassed graphics of 2008 begin to light up the screen, summoning up thought processes. We’ve never watched this back. This card wasn’t even in this building. You see, one of the many fuck-ups that can lead to a promotion’s slow and painful demise is heading outside of their home base without getting backstage bullshit and financials settled.
(Something we hope Lady Troy keeps in mind as we travel from the Grand to gods-knows-where. But enough about that.)
The cursor drifts down to the word MATCHES. And then after a few clicks, it settles on such a match. Alex Kincaid vs Anna Mathews. X Division Title defence.
Now some backstory.
Alex Kincaid was the champion going into this pay-per-view. And since you don’t know, allow us to tell you that he was undeservedly so.
It wasn’t really his fault that he was seen as a complete downgrade compared to his predecessor. In fact, nobody expected him to win the title at all. His shot just so happened to come at a point where the then-current champion made the decision to have a full blown, completely messy, drug induced mental breakdown live on television just before their match. In an unhinged rant that lasted five minutes but felt like forever, this man with no name proceeded to lash out against management, the fans, spit vitriol over the lax drug policy (which was highly hypocritical on his part), completely shat on the belt he was defending, and finally, after the bell rang, lost in a match that was…quite honestly very forgettable. So much so that the match was systematically deleted.
So to say that Kincaid needed a win here was and remains an understatement and a half. And let it be known for the record that he had it in him to do so. He had the height advantage. He has the weight advantage. He had the strength advantage. He had the skills. He had every damned reason to go out there guns at lazing and kick the ass of whoever was standing in front of him and return some glory to this second rate, third class, broken jpeg belt. However, Alex had two problems.
Problem Number One: A crippling amount of self-doubt. He always had this even before winning the strap and the circumstances revolving his acquiring it certainly didn’t help matters. Especially since there were people in the locker rooms loudly proclaiming him as an absolute fraud. This, he could’ve probably muscled through from bell to bell. But then we get to…
Problem Number Two: the opponent.
The Vessel-That-Was was a few inches shorter, a few pounds lighter, and some would argue somewhat less attractive. In addition, the win-loss record wasn’t exactly the greatest. Even the commentators made note of the winning of then-recent big matches, but also losing matches that quite honestly she should’ve never lost. A classic case of consistent inconsistency. If there was one thing that was the great equalizer in this bout, it’s that the two combatants knew each other. Some would say they used to love each other. They could read each other. So surely this should’ve settled Kincaid’s nerves, right?
The bell rang. They would tie up immediately to the detriment of the Vessel-That-Was given the hammerlock that ended up instantaneously in place. But that wasn’t anything that a stiff kick to the knee wouldn’t cure. The champ would stumble back as she sommersaulted forward. Not letting that slide, Kincaid would slap the lock on her again and force her to the mat. He would further compound this with lefts and rights before the ref broke it up. And though she would ever notice such a thing, there was a short conversation somewhere in the mind of the Vessel-That-Was.
Firebug lit a cigarrette. “Huh. Maybe he should’ve been an MMA fighter instead. What do you think, Dodobird?”
Dodobird–and by extension, the Vessel–brushed herself off where she stood in response to the light applause of the crowd. The slightly subdued smirk she entered the ring with grew a little wider.
Kincaid grit his teeth and went for another tie up only to be kneed in the gut and subsequently lit up with a series of strikes, moonsaults, a sliding dropkick, and an early as shit two count. As they came back to standing positions, he launched an elbow to her gut and Irish whipped her to the ropes only to be met with a drop toe hold, a fast flurry of kicks, and a sneaky rollup for another two count.
The crowd was silent. They didn’t expect him to be the greatest, but they didn’t expect him to suck either. Certainly not enough to nearly lose a belt he’s barely held twice over in the first five minutes or less of the first fucking title defense. She shoved him into the corner and in frustration, he shoved her even harder. As the vessel collided to the mat, Kincaid ran his fingers through his hair and said something that couldn’t be caught by the cameras.
“You will not break me. Not again.”
Yet as seriously as he said it, he could feel something gnaw at him. It wasn’t just the doubt haunting him or the weight of an entire division on his shoulders. There was a shift in her that he didn’t notice before. Despite this being the first time they’ve fought against each other, he could feel the hidden steel within each strike and the fluidity in her movement. Anna wasn’t like this when he left and he thought that the changes in her were merely cosmetic. The lighter colors, the different music, the lolcat speech patterns were all supposed to just be a new slipcover for an old book. But her actions made him hesitate. Made him question.
If Firebug had her way, she would’ve pointed out that it wasn’t her intention to break his stupid ass the first time either. That she wanted him to succeed which is why she pushed him so hard and if he had any goddamned balls on his body, he would’ve either seen the wisdom in it all or pushed back against her instead of being a submissive chickenshit. But she knew those words would be wasted on him. As much potential as he had, he didn’t have what counted. Besides, she wasn’t the one running the show anymore. There was a mumble as the Vessel-That-Was rose.
“Bird, he’s either gonna learn the hard way or he’ll never learn at all. Just like we did.”
In responce, Dodobird shrugged and motioned for the champ to just bring it.
This would end up being the defining moment of the whole match. From this point on, he would endeavor to pull less punches and even manage to build momentum. He would fight hard, make the match more exciting, attempt to pull something resembling a championship performance out of his ass. But each and every time he did, it would be shut down shortly thereafter. Neither one giving up enough ground for the other to succeed. And for a moment, one small moment, Alex Kincaid thought he had the whole thing won and he claimed the Triangle Choke on as tightly as he could and silently prayed for the end. She thrashed for a minute before being seemingly knocked out.
He breathed a sigh of relief, not noticing the shift of weight. Barely kicking out from yet another sneaky rollup, he went to throw a clothesline only to have the wind taken out of his sails thanks to a well timed kick. One brain busted and a twisting moonsault later, it was over. The dream was dead. What was supposed to be the first defense ended up being the first failure and the definition of his entire career. Maybe even his life.
Alex Kincaid would go on to run away after the match. He would spend what was left of his career popping up in a random promotion every now and then in an attempt to resuscitate his possibilities, even grabbing a belt or two. Hell, you dig through one of the SHOOT Project title histories, you’ll find his name buried way in the back in the “before the dinosaurs existed” bit collecting dust. But nothing he did before or since would ever have the meaning winning that match on that night against that opponent would have. It keeps him up at night. And although he would never admit it, the possibility of reliving that scares the hell out of him.
As for Dodobird, she’d keep that belt for a very long time against all odds. The endless shifts of management would try to screw her over and throw multiple opponents in her path. Yet ultimately as 2011 rolled around, she would hold that belt until its retirement.
Our very first championship.
Until the very end of the world and beyond.
You know, it’s funny. We’ve traveled all over the world. Fought through multiple worlds. Created our own domains and made our name on several manners of battlefield.
But to us, it all comes back to Orlando.
Oh, sure. We may have technically started this career in Nashville. But it was coming here to this town in this state that forged us into the competitor you see before you today. It wasn’t instantaneous. It took plenty of time and pain and remembering who we are and out lasting the heroes and villains alike. And when we left, we left with an old hunk of gold and a broken compass. We stumbled into way too many promotions at random, refinding our footing and altering our methods just to survive. All the while having a sort of heartache for the place that became a second home. A few others have come close at different points at our life. But it wasn’t the same. It never really will be.
So needless to say, every time a promotion we’re in decides to come to Orlando…there’s a certain ringing in the back of our head. It refuses to be ignored. Refuses to be persuaded by logic. And before we know it, we’re back in a slowly decaying world watching matches long forgotten against names swallowed up in the mythical black hole known as wrestling immortality. The logical ones among us absolutely hate this. For every time we revel in nostalgia, there is somebody screaming WHAT IN THE FUCK ARE WE DOING BACK HERE AGAIN?!?
Can’t help it. It’s been ten years and we still have the itch to come back onto sacred ground. Even though we’re the only living pilgrim that even notices its holiness.
And you wanna know the messed up part, Nate? Truthfully? We aren’t the only ones that had this strange ringing in our head. Not for Orlando specifically. But for PRIME itself. Dusk had it. Matt Ward has it. Lindsay Troy had to have it haunting her in her sleep every night for years in order to resurrect the damn place. Hell, even your little hero Brandon Youngblood hears it every single day! It’s there in the back of his mind despite all logic and despite the fact that they all know…that you can never truly come back home again. The banner went up, the jingle sounded off, and like Pavlov’s dogs, here they are.
Don’t believe us? You ever realize when somebody asks them “why’d ya come back?”, there’s always that bit of hesitation? It takes every single one of them a minute to come up with any sort of actual reasoning. If they’re lucky, the word vomit may even sound logical. There’s no logic to this! To them, PRIME is home. Period. Despite time having passed and the history being faded and this promotion being the equivalent of slapping old paint on new walls. It’s something that can’t really be explained unless you have that jingle-jangle in your head. Unless a part of you has bonded to something so strongly that you can’t uproot it from your core no matter how hard you try!
In a way, we almost envy you old timers of the PRIMEverse. At least you have people to reminisce and share the burden of memory with.
We’re not stupid, Nate. We know that the Orlando, Florida we’re going to kick your ass in isn’t the same one we ruled over for years. These fans don’t remember anything. They don’t know. Why would they? It was a different time, different ‘verse, different rules. PRIME isn’t 21. And you, Nate Colton, are definitely not Alex Kincaid. You can be better than that. But as much as we try to shake it off and as much as we tell ourself that, we can’t deny that strange and subtle little filter will be all over this match. You may not be one of the laundry list of people that we fought off for two years and twenty-eight days to keep a belt of gold on our shoulder. But at this point? You might as well be.
You’re a young man with all the potential in the world holding a title that many consider secondary. On your first defense of said belt, you’re facing off against us whose win-loss record isn’t the greatest. You have the advantage by having a win over us and having so much talent.
This should be your first successful title defense.
We, as the challenger, should be the one who has to prove something to you and all those motherfuckers who kicked our ass last year, including you. We should be showing that any faith placed in us is not in vain! However, the truth is a little stranger than that. Viscerally in our soul, you are in our domain. You are the one that has to prove something to us.
A lot of people in the PRIMEverse fawn over your family name. “Oh, the Coltons are such great wrestlers! Is there anything they can’t do?!” We don’t care about that. We don’t care about the people you’ve trained under or trained with. That cheap satin jacket with your name bedazzled on it is a scrap of cloth. The only thing that matters from bell to bell is whether you–Nate Colton, champion–are willing to do everything in your power to ensure that that title stays on your person. Do you–Nate Colton, champion,–have enough of a killer instinct on that night to stave us away from the prize?
We have no doubt that you are very much looking forward to this. So are we. We also don’t doubt for a second that you will give us a fight. We’ve had a taste of each other in battle before. This ain’t news. None of that is in dispute. But allow us to make this crystal clear.
We are rolling into ReVival 22
into the Amway Center
to take that Five Star championship from your hide.
In truth, it could’ve been any champion with any belt. Underwear Boi and his STDs with the Universal. Paxton with the Intense. Hell, a 2-on-Multitudes handicap match against Jared and Justine would’ve suited us just as well. It being you here and now just makes it a little bit sweeter of a deal for us.
Oh. And Nate? Buddy? Pal?
There will be no limits to what we will do to take it.
See ya soon. Hope your mom enjoys Li’l Nate.
Another DVD gets slipped into the machine’s deck. Once again, going through menus of matches until finding the one we want. Semi-main event. Second only to the world title match.
We’ve watched this one before. We watch it every single time we come here for a reason. You see, when pro wrestling is at its absolute worst, it’s dogshit. It causes embarrassment for the people watching it and for the people that create it. Ultimately, it’s better to be “meh” or “not everyone’s cup of tea” or even boring than to be dogshit.
However, when pro wrestling (or a portion therein) is at its absolute apex, it is art. It is cinema. It can be right up there with utter masterpieces in every other medium. Most times, it takes weeks and months of everything falling into place absolutely perfectly to get there. Yet sometimes, all it takes is the right moment, the right opportunity, and the right person.
Two hours north in Jacksonville. The year of 2009 is in sight. One year after the disastrous downfall of the then-future Bullet King. One year after the title he held was degraded. Halfway into the reign of Dodobird, a reign that we’ve been chasing ever since. We won’t bore you with reciting the whole thing. Just the important part. King of the Mountain match against a Ritalin Kid, a stoner, and a Japanese star named KENKA…whose brain Dodobird just busted onto the faceplate of the championship.
Thank fuck. A pinfall. The very thing we needed to be eligible to even win this damn thing. Now would come the fun part: the climb to the top. There’s two people in the penalty box and one outside the ring trying to shake the cobwebs off after getting knocked out earlier in the match. Alex Dwight Dunbury, a young talented man whose initials should tell one how his disposition is, catches up to us despite a bad knee caused in part because of us pushing the ladder over earlier causing him to fall…and his foot freakishly slipped in between the slots on the top of the penalty box, leaving him to dangle upside down for some time.
Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased.
Dodobird and Dunbury traded shots until Firebug pointed out that “we have the belt”. Oh, yeah. Right. So we swing it at him with a little more enthusiasm than we should. He ducks. The belt topples to the mat. We’re on his shoulders and being the weeb he is seeing one of his idols in a cage below him possibly nursing a concussion, an idea began to form in his head. The same one that formed in our head. He wanted to make us go to sleep. We wanted him to piss off. So we made him piss off. Rattled his brains with a few elbows, grapevined out limbs to his arms, and shifted things juuuust enough to make us fall.
Crucifix pin. Another three count. Dodobird goes for the championship. The timer pops back up on the screen and the stoner is chomping at the bit to get out of his prison. Forty-five seconds. We needed to hurry. Kinda.
This is where things become cinema. Most people in that situation would’ve quickly got the title, scrambled up the ladder, and hooked it up with a minute to spare. Dodobird? She was all about the fun. What most people would do in the situation is far from fun. Instead she took our prize, climbed to the top of the ladder, and stood there. Watching the clock. Hearing the roar of the crowd. Looking at the three unfortunate souls below. Three men who were willing to risk everything for this. With each ticking second, we could see the stoner getting hyped, hoping beyond all hope that maybe she wouldn’t end this.
Every time we watch this sequence back, the ancient voice of play-by-play commentator Mark Delay says that we were just savoring the moment. That was true. There is something about facing the odds that are against you, fighting tooth and nail, and reaching a point where victory is not only obvious but also deserved. We always wonder if we’ll ever be as dominant as Dodobird was here. We’ve gotten close. Ran over a year with the DTW World Championship. But we’re reaching an acceptance that maybe breaking our personal best might not happen.
However, it’s not going to hurt us to keep trying. To keep trying to find a similar high. To keep aiming for dominance or art in all matches everywhere. Though if we are to be honest, dear reader, we would prefer both.
Stoner stumbles out of box.
Gold slips onto latch.
Timer is zero.