The idea that he might once again step foot in a PRIME ring had long ebbed at Coral Avalon’s thoughts.
The last time he wrestled in front of a PRIME crowd was at Colossus IV, when he and Allen Brown – the original Codemaster – lost the PRIME Tag Team Championship to the motley team of PRIME Hall of Famer Vangelus Olsig and Machiavelli St. Romani.
A day later, Allen was arrested over an assault charge that he ultimately beat in court, but was immediately released by C.P. Cantrell. Coral Avalon, the man most responsible for getting him and his friends into PRIME, went out the door with him as an unfortunate casualty.
Only Mega Job survived the purge.
In truth, the whole endeavor of PRIME’s return intimidated Avalon a little.
It was a shark’s tank, and he knew it. Men like Atken, Jiles, and Bathory would look at him as easy prey. Men like Gamble and Reform would try his patience. Even Youngblood remained a specter of his past.
He knew he needed another trick up his sleeve if he wanted to someday stand with all of them.
He also needed a venue to attempt that trick as a proof of concept.
And he knew exactly where he could do just that.
ONE LAST TIME
Seattle, Washington, USA
July 29th, 2022
“Hey. The Flynn’s coming up.”
Franco Marchesi was usually a man of few words, despite speaking four languages.
The man known as the “Venetian Assassin” was the head trainer of the Gates of Avalon Wrestling School, a modest building for a modest pro wrestler who produced some not-as-modest talent. Those five words were an ocean of words compared to how much was usually exchanged between Coral and his head trainer.
Coral Avalon owned the school, which was located near the airport. To look at it from the outside, it didn’t look promising. The building was nondescript and humble, just like its owner. Nothing fancy about it. Nothing that would catch the eye. And printed on a humble, easily missed sign next to the door was a sign that read “Gates of Avalon Wrestling School”.
Coral preferred to keep the place nondescript on the outside. That meant that people who wanted to come to the place genuinely wanted to be wrestlers. Coral Avalon was a wrestler who took the wrestling part of wrestling seriously, and he and the head trainer of the school took that mentality into training. With exactly one exception, every prospective wrestler who came through the Gates of Avalon would come out of it with a decent understanding of what pro wrestling was. They knew their headlocks and how to get out of them. They had a decent smattering of moves taught to them. They knew they had a crowd to please.
If you’re wondering, that one exception was back home in Phoenix, wondering when he could powerbomb his problems away.
The first thing you see when you walk in the door was the wrestling ring, the dimensions that matched many of the top wrestling promotions in America, from HOW to PRIME to DEFIANCE to whatever else demanded capital letters. To the right were a long series of floor mats, a few weight sets, and a heavy punching bag. To the left was a door that led to the offices of both Avalon and Marchesi, as well as a media room where Coral took Joe and Sid to whenever he needed to show them tape. Also, that’s where the bathrooms were, because I know everyone’s real excited to know where the bathrooms were.
Coral nodded to him.
He’d worked up a sweat working the rounds with the newer students, who’d been training for the last few months. By now, he and Franco had weeded out the ones that hit the ropes for the first time and realized that they were things that ordinary people shouldn’t run full throttle into because they were really steel cables wrapped around protective coverings. It was just the five or so kids that wanted to do this. Those five would eventually make their first show in October, for Wonders of Wrestling in Seattle, a promotion that Franco ran to help further train new wrestlers. He also expected to send them to the Belmont Classic, as well, which would mark the first representation of the Gates of Avalon in a tournament that Coral himself won in 2002.
“Yeah,” Coral said, laconically.
Coral and Franco had been friends and business partners for nearly ten years. Since that day they first came together to decimate Fukumaru Kazuya in Tokyo on that January in 2014, they’d stuck together through everything. It was a strange relationship. Coral wasn’t used to being the one who did all of the talking. He usually listened. It came from living the life of a relatively normal guy being surrounded by… well. Pro wrestlers. But Franco was a quiet one, preferring to let his actions and his skills speak for him.
“We giving it another shot?” Franco asked.
The Milo Flynn Cup had been something Coral and Franco did every year since 2015, a tribute tournament for tag teams held in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Since that first appearance, the Crownless Kingdom had appeared in every Flynn Cup that happened since then.
“It’d be a shame if we missed it,” Coral said, “There shouldn’t be a conflict for me and PRIME as long as I fly out from ReVival 14 immediately after the show. What about you?”
“Only two nights,” Franco said, “Travel’s gonna be a pain, though.”
It was a different time than in 2014, the day the Kingdom was founded.
Both Franco and Coral had put their roots down in Seattle in 2018, when they both decided to do what they were already doing for Bang! Pro Wrestling in America. Seattle was chosen because Annabelle, Coral’s wife, found a stable job for herself there as a freelance composer for video game music. Franco, who divorced his wife just a year prior, wanted a fresh start.
By 2022, Franco had remarried and was semi-retired from pro wrestling, a nagging ankle injury one of the reasons for his retirement. Annabelle was finding plenty of success performing her music. And Coral… well, Coral still wrestled. He was still in his prime years, after all. Not his PRIME years, though. That conversation still loomed.
Coral knew what Franco was really asking when he was asking about the Flynn.
It wasn’t a “ready to do this again?”
It was a “ready to do this one last time?”
For Coral, it was another day at the office. Plenty of places still wanted to book him while he was still available. He’d been fielding offers from various PWA-aligned organizations since it’d been announced, but he still hadn’t signed a contract anywhere except PRIME.
For Franco, it was one last chance to ride off into the sunset.
They both knew that this was, perhaps, one last chance for the Kingdom to go out with a bang.
“Then let’s do it,” Coral said. He held his fist out for Franco, “One last time.”
Franco nodded, and bumped his fist with Coral’s.
“One last time.”
A NEW TRICK
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 27th, 2022
“A new trick?” Franco asked Coral as the two arrived at the building, the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Already, there was a throng of people who’d gotten there earlier than they had, eagerly anticipating the 2022 edition of the Milo Flynn Cup. Many teams had entered the tournament. Many fans, more than Coral had ever seen for the Flynn, were gathered outside of the building. Neither of them had ever seen this many people so excited for it.
Coral knew a few of the participating teams from PRIME, though he suspected that none of them knew or cared that Coral was their co-worker under the mask of Baron von Blackberry. Coral was on-hand for ReVival 14 with Joe and Sid the previous day, but had to fly out to Minnesota immediately after the show in order to make it on time for the Flynn.
He flew coach, as usual.
The Crownless Kingdom team of Coral and Franco weren’t just prolific at the Flynn Cup. They were a well-established tag team, through thick and thin.
They were the longest reigning Bang! With Your Partner tag team champions, after all.
Coral’s impossible technical skill matched up well with Franco’s no-nonsense European ruthlessness, creating a combination that formed the very heart of the Crownless Kingdom. Less than two months after they teamed up, Coral had two belts over his shoulders, one from his team with Franco and one from his six-person team with the Squadron. His luggage was heavy. It got heavier, too, because it wasn’t just Bang! that got the business end of the Kingdom’s conquest.
Coral and Franco, independent of Bang! Pro Wrestling, had taken their end of the Kingdom across the independent wrestling scene. Europe, Australia, the Americas… they all came under siege of the auspices of the Crownless King and the Venetian Assassin. Their luggage would become so full of tag title belts that they often had to leave the belts behind in the places where they’d won them and then pick them back up when they were ready to defend their kingdom.
Being “Crownless” and being a champion were not mutually exclusive concepts, even if Coral had gone his entire career without the individual accolades that befitted a man who called himself “King”.
Yet, a win at the Flynn Cup was an accolade that’d repeatedly eluded the Kingdom. They came the closest in 2017.
The Crownless Kingdom would stand the field of battle one last time, much as Arthur stood across from Mordred at the Battle of Camlann. People usually think of that battle as King Arthur’s final battle, the fight that would ultimately kill him.
They sometimes forget that he took his enemy down with him.
“Yeah. Just an idea in the back of my head.” Coral said, “I think it might be Armament-worthy, if it works out.”
“That so?” Franco asked.
Coral was used to how laconic Franco was in conversation. He was like that if you spoke to him in any of the other languages he knew, too. To him, words weren’t something to be wasted as casually as Coral liked to waste them, mask or not.
“I’ll tell you about it before we get out there,” Coral said. “How’s the foot?”
“Better than usual,” Franco said, “Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Uh huh.” Coral nodded.
“You know, if your foot’s feeling fine and all, maybe you should reconsider the proposal…”
“No,” Franco interrupted, immediately, “That’s that, this is this.”
“If you say so,” Coral said, “But say the word, and I can talk to Lindsay for you. The Kingdom could always ride again in PRIME.”
Franco had all but retired from the ring by the summer of 2021. He’d gone from the highest heights of Bang! Pro Wrestling to not even wrestling at all in 2022, until the Flynn Cup opened up. Franco had made no announcement of his intention to retire. And the injury he suffered in the match with Izuo was not enough to have ended his career.
But wrestling had a way to break you down.
For Coral, things were fine as long as he kept wrestling. Gimmick Hell, Terrance Kingsley, C.P Cantrell, Dave Morey, Brandon Youngblood, Keith Scott Zimmerman, Jeff Garvin… these were all names that tried and failed to keep Coral Avalon from doing what he loved to do the most. All Inoue Doi could do was point him in the direction of a ring and make it interesting. All his wife could do was hope he didn’t get too hurt doing it.
Coral, if he had his way, would keep wrestling until he was in his 50s.
Franco, on the other hand…
“No,” he repeated.
As definitive an answer as could be made by the laconic Venetian.
Coral didn’t need further elaboration, of course.
He knew why Franco had no interest.
The bigger the stage, the bigger the anxiety.
Coral knew that feeling all too well, himself.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 27th, 2022
Locker rooms in these sorts of small venues were always a proper mess.
A common sight was that lots of guys would be crammed into a small room, most of whom were some degree of naked. Especially for one of these big tournaments.
Coral and Franco found a quieter place in the building to change to their wrestling gear, both wearing old “Crownless Kingdom” shirts. This wasn’t anything new for the two of them, as neither liked being among big crowds of pro wrestler beef. Part of why Coral and Franco worked so well together was because they were fairly similar to one another once you got beyond Franco’s sparse way of words and Coral being the kind of weirdo who didn’t quite know he’s a weirdo and acted like the only normal person in the room.
They knew who their first round opponents were, and it filled both of them with equal parts dread and excitement.
After all, the only part of the Sound and the Fury that was a joke were their endless costumes.
In the ring, the team of Ian Nackedy and Gildenstern were monsters.
Each and every time they went out to wrestle, they’d wear a different costume. And that’s fine and fun, and then they got into the ring and it’s a mauling for this prick and a “Basketweaver” for this other douche.
In 2017, the Kingdom made it to the finals of the Flynn Cup for the second time. On the other side was the Sound and the Fury. Three former PRIME Tag Team champions – and Franco – were in that match. It was a war. A spectacle. Both team entered exhausted from the matches they had earlier in the night, and still wrestled their hearts out.
But in the end, Coral took the hard pinfall loss, and the Sound and the Fury took home the Flynn that year.
Five years later, the Kingdom hadn’t been back to the finals. And last year, they took an embarrassing first round loss because Franco’s heart wasn’t in it.
For the Kingdom, the rematch in the first round was about righting two wrongs.
The first, obviously, was to avenge the loss in 2017.
The second was to get out of the first round at all.
Coral made a mental note to throttle Charles Beckett after this match for giving the Kingdom the roughest possible match in the first round.
The Kingdom entered first.
The lights in the house turned out, and the few thousand people in attendance made a sound that the acoustics of the building could barely handle.
For tonight, Coral had decided to pay tribute to his first students, Connor O’Reilly and Simon Knox, by adopting their theme song – Queen’s “Princes of the Universe”. He was the first to cross into the darkness, and when the spotlight focused on him, it showed a man in a patchwork faux fur cape. One of the shoulders of his cape was the head of a lion. The other shoulder a disorganized and intimidating mess of claw and fang, jutting out like spikes.
The Crownless King had arrived.
Behind him, Franco loomed behind his left shoulder. A tall, slender colossus. Compared to the rough patchwork of furs worn in Avalon’s cape, Franco’s attire was much simpler, as it’s the top of a black tracksuit along with his long black tights.
The Venetian Assassin had also arrived.
The guitars of the Queen classic wailed, and the crowd stomped their approval for the Kingdom.
Franco hopped up onto the ring apron and entered the ring first, while Avalon walked up the stairs. They posed for the hard camera, with Avalon out on the apron and Franco in the ring. Two fists up, pinkies and ring fingers out, T-posing to assert dominance.
Behold your Crownless Kingdom, ye mortals, and despair.
Coral entered the ring, removing his cape.
He and Franco wore the matching gear that night. Long black tights and boots with the logo of the Crownless Kingdom – a skull with only half a crown on its head – printed on them. This was more Franco’s look than Coral’s, but tonight, they were aligned in purpose.
Once the Queen ended, it was time for the Sound and the Fury to make their entrance.
Coming out to a song called “LOUD AND ANGRY”, Ian Nackedy and Gildenstern appeared at the entrance ramp dressed like a cross between a mariachi band and ninjas. In one hand, they carried guitar cases. Typical mariachi stuff. In the other hand, they carried large, inflatable shuriken. Where did you buy novelty-sized inflatable shuriken, you might ask? This, my friends, was a ninja secret.
The fans clapped along to the ridiculous theme music as they made their way to the ring.
The Sound and the Fury were, like Avalon, former PRIME tag team champions.
They were a threat, regardless of what they wore to the ring and even their antics inside of it. In recent years, the pair had largely only kept coming out to different costumes out of tradition. Once they were between the ropes, they were every bit as dangerous as the Kingdom were.
Underestimate them at your own peril.
The team entered the ring, leaving their mariachi guitar cases outside of the ring. Their ability to enter the ring without their big sombreros falling off should be a lauded effort, and it should appear on assorted 2022 end-year awards for excellence in performance.
The first thing they did when they entered the ring?
They threw the shurikens into the crowd.
That was usually an alarming line of dialogue.
But as mentioned before, those were inflatable shuriken. You know, that you might buy from a novelty prop store.
The antics might have been silly, but the looks both men shot at the Crownless Kingdom said everything that actually needed to be said.
This was serious time.
The crowd knew it, too.
Once the music faded, they launched into a dueling chant.
“SOUND AND FU-RY!”
“SOUND AND FU-RY!”
With the silly outfits off, Ian and Gildenstern stood across from Coral and Franco. All they needed was a bell, and a fight would be on.
Coral was ready. As ready as he’d ever been. In the time since they last met in the Flynn, Coral had added three more “Armaments” to his arsenal. A total of five. If everything went according to plan, the sixth would happen tonight. All he had to do was…
Franco patted him on the shoulder.
He was barely audible over the crowd chants, but he didn’t need to be. He saw exactly what Franco was getting at.
“Oh, crap,” Coral muttered, his words not audible to anyone but himself.
Out at the entrance, there was a crowd gathering. The first night of the Flynn had fourteen other tag teams involved. Every single one of them had come to stand at the entrance, to watch what was about to unfold. Even Coral’s new co-workers from PRIME were there. A few of them had the good sense to bring chairs, but the rest stood.
The best seat in the house for fourteen other tag teams.
No pressure or anything.
By the expressions of both Ian and Gildenstern, they’d also noticed.
Maybe in the context of the big arena showdowns you’d see in other promotions, this was nothing.
A couple of thousand people in an acoustically cacophonous building was a drop in the water compared to a stadium with tens of thousands of screaming fans. Very few of the men and women standing on the stage have yet to reach the heights that even Avalon so briefly reached, nearly twenty years ago. Fewer still could say they’d ever been in the main event of a major pay-per-view.
Yet that was so long ago for Coral that it was a distant memory.
This was every bit the big show, now.
And when the bell rang, he sought to prove that.
THE BORROWED SWORD
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 27th, 2022
It’d been twenty minutes since that opening bell.
The action began slowly, with Ian trying everything he can to one-up Coral. Coral, being a wizard in the ring, was a step ahead of him every time until Gildenstern came in and used the awkwardness of his height and build to prevent Coral from doing his thing. It was only when Franco tagged in that Gildenstern met his match. While Franco was shorter than Gildy by about three inches, he was noticeably stronger.
Things took a spill to the outside, and two separate brawls broke out between Ian and Coral, and Gildenstern and Franco. Ultimately, the Sound and the Fury took control in this environment, away from the safety of the ring. They took down Coral long enough to nail Franco with a double team on the outside, leaving Coral isolated once the match got back into the ring.
The match was one-sided for a time. Ian and Gildenstern had been teaming together for ages, and they were out to prove themselves as the best tag team to ever come out of the NWC. Which was why Ian had the “Greatest Tag Team in NWC” T-shirt that he only wore around Beckett and McBride, if you must know.
Every time Franco managed to get back onto the apron to await the tag, Ian would run over and knock him right off. Even if he wasn’t the legal man. By the time he does this the third time, it’s pretty clear that Ian had ticked off something with the crowd. And when Franco again makes it up to the apron, the reaction when Franco met his fourth try at knocking him off with a hard European uppercut was that of palpable catharsis. Ian flopped backwards like a dead fish, and Gildenstern had to deal with Avalon alone.
And while Gildenstern was very capable in the right situations, he couldn’t handle Avalon alone. Eventually, Avalon broke away and tagged Franco in.
The first European uppercut was like a freight train. Gildenstern was a very tall man, but he wasn’t a heavy one. And when Franco met him in the center of the ring with a European uppercut, it sent him sprawling to the outside as though he were ejected from an airplane crash. Ian got back up, only to be met by an uppercut of his own that rocked him into the corner. Franco ripped another one into Ian as he’s in the corner, and the force of it almost put him on the top rope.
This went on for a bit, each of the Sound and the Fury boys taking uppercuts like a gambling addict might take lottery tickets. Eventually, he’d worn down Gildenstern, the legal man, long enough that he was able to pull him into a fireman’s carry. And when Ian tried to intervene, Franco scooped him up as well. The crowd gasped at the display of freakish strength, before he dropped Ian with a body slam. Then he dropped Gildenstern on top of him with a standing Death Valley Driver
Franco was feeling the crowd’s electricity as he paced around the ring after that display of strength. The acoustics of the smaller arena made every sound build off of each other in a cacophony.
Ian rolled out, struggling to breathe. Coral was still down on the apron in the Kingdom’s corner. And Franco knew he had to finish this as soon as he could.
He put his back to the corner, and waited for Gildenstern to get up.
Franco had two moves he considered his go-to when it came to finishing opponents off.
The first of those was called the “Flak Cannon”. Imagine a guided missile. Impossibly accurate, lethal at any distance, and guaranteed to murder everything in its impact radius. Now imagine attaching a European uppercut to that guided missile, and also, that missile was a 6’5” human man launching himself at you horizontally. That’s the Flak Cannon, equal parts headbutt, shoulder tackle, and uppercut.
And it was coming for Gildenstern.
When it hit, Gildenstern fell ass over tea kettle, his ass in the air. Franco recovered quickly enough to grab a leg and go for the pin.
And if Ian Nackedy didn’t dive in to make the save, it would’ve been three.
He took Franco and hit him with a suplex to keep him down, but realized the situation.
With Gildenstern down, he couldn’t actually pin Franco. So he pulled his tag team partner back to the Sound and the Fury’s corner and tagged himself in. Then he fell upon Franco again, He pulled the bigger man to his feet, continuing to batter him as he did. Franco broke out of the pummeling the moment he was to his feet, and rocked Ian with another uppercut. A second one backed Ian into the ropes. The Irish whip followed, but Ian reversed it and sent Franco into the ropes. He backed into the ropes, and then hit him with a diving spear without using his arms. A kind of shoulder block that took all of the wind out of Franco.
He went for the cover.
But there was a problem.
He didn’t see the blind tag.
Avalon had recovered enough to insert himself back into the match.
He grabbed Ian’s arms, pulling him into a double underhook. He was looking for the Second Armament, known as Excalibur. However, Ian felt it coming, and pushed Avalon into the corner. There, he started peppering Avalon with rights and lefts, and he eventually lifted him up to a seated position on the top rope.
Ian came up after him, as Franco rolls out of the way of whatever might happen.
Avalon fought back against him once he was there, keeping Ian from getting further up the turnbuckles. He climbed up to stand on the top rope, but Ian caught him with a shot to the gut and climbed up to join him. The crowd went wild, with the two standing on the top ropes. It’s as much about trying to stay balanced as it was to fight one another. Eventually, Ian leapt up and caught Coral with a hurricanrana to the inside of the ring.
Whereupon Coral landed on his feet.
Coral took one or two steps away from the corner upon landing, more of a staggered stumble of recovery than anything, but the crowd went wild at the feat of agility. Ian looked behind him with a bewildered expression. Once Coral was certain of his balance, he ran forward and met the turnbuckles, before charging on Ian before Ian could recover from the shock.
Fortunately for Ian, Gildenstern was there.
Gildy knocked away Coral’s Rhongomyniad with his forearm, causing Coral to spin away with his back to Gildenstern. Gildenstern then kicked him in the back of the plant leg, causing him to fall to the ground on his butt.
And that, my friends, was when Gildenstern went for his most famous move.
Coral recoiled in horror the moment Gildenstern had him by the ear.
He wanted to fight out of it, but Gildenstern trapped one of his arms with his leg, and grabbed the other with his arm in a deep armbar.
Everyone in the crowd knew what was coming.
It was time… for the Basketweaver.
Gildenstern wrenched back on Coral by his ear, and then started shouting at the top of his lungs, over and over again.
Coral – who had experienced this very hold in the past – never knew what was worse. Getting your ear forcefully pulled by a 6’8” monster while you can do nothing about it, or the fact that he shouted that one word over and over and over and over again. Worse yet, the fans were also chanting it as he was locked in.
Fortunately, there were two things working against the Sound and the Fury in this moment.
First, Gildenstern wasn’t the legal man. Ian was.
Second, Franco had reappeared.
Ian went to stop him, of course, but all this earned him was an uppercut.
For Gildenstern, stopping him from weaving baskets required a second Flak Cannon. The blow ripped Gildy off of Avalon, yet the fans continued to chant “BASKETWEAVER!” well after he was already off of him.
Franco stood, only to be met with a boot from Ian. He grasped Franco by the head, jumped into the ropes, and revolved around into a vicious tornado DDT that put Franco down for the count.
It was down to Avalon and Nackedy now.
A study in contrasts.
Avalon, the consummate pro wrestler.
Nackedy, the consummate lunatic.
Yet, Avalon had played at being the lunatic for years as Blackberry just as Nackedy had been wanting to be taken more seriously as a wrestler. It’s easy to see what Ian Nackedy wanted – he wanted what Coral Avalon had.
So when Ian kicked Coral in the face the first chance he got, it was maybe out of that jealousy.
A second one. A third one.
But none of them knocked Avalon down or deterred him from getting back to his feet. Ian stopped kicking him once he was back on his feet, and instead hit him in the head with an elbow. This staggered Avalon for a moment, but Avalon turned towards him.
“Is that all you’ve got, Ian!?” Coral shouted.
Ian responded with another elbow. A second one. A third one.
Coral’s response was to get right up in Ian’s face. Defiant. He knew Ian could hit him harder than this. He wanted that. Prove yourself before your king.
Ian hit him with several more elbows. Repeated elbows. Then a slap.
The moment the slap connected, Coral snapped to attention. The crowd went nuts, and the dueling chant came up again.
“SOUND AND FU-RY!”
“SOUND AND FU-RY!”
Coral responded to the slap with a European uppercut. They went back and forth, with Ian hitting him with hard slaps and Coral responding with uppercuts. Finally, Ian staggered back, and Coral responded to the opening with several more uppercuts. With Ian suitably stunned, Coral ran into the ropes behind him, looking for the Rhongomyniad. But this time, Ian ducks the boot right before it could hit him, and runs into the ropes. When Coral turns to meet Ian again, it’s Ian who hits the yakuza kick.
“OHHHHH!” went the crowd, and most of the people watching at the entrance ramp, too.
In a move similar to what Avalon himself would do, Ian didn’t go for the cover. He was on the attack. He needed to hit him with an even bigger shot. So he collected the dazed Crownless King, picked him up, and dropped him nearly on his head with a sheer drop brainbuster.
Ian went for the cover. He’d done it. He’d beaten Avalon, again.
It was only two.
He couldn’t believe it. Ian was on his knees, almost begging the referee to reconsider the count.
On the outside, Franco and Gildenstern had started brawling to prevent each other from interfering with their partners. Eventually, Franco got whipped into the guardrails, and then Gildenstern plowed into him like heavy machinery, bowling over them and sending members of the front row scattering away.
Ian watched that in shock.
Both of them were down. It was just him and Coral, now.
He knew he had to do something, anything to put the Crownless King down as soon as possible. So he got to his feet, stepped to the outside, and ascended to the top rope.
Ian could fly. No one disputed this.
But the corner he chose was the furthest possible one from where Coral still lay. The expression on Ian’s face as he stood on the top rope told the story – he knew he’d chosen poorly. But he couldn’t back down. Nobody told Ian Nackedy how to do things, after all.
So, he flew.
When it came to distance, the shooting star press was usually a poor choice. You want to go one way, but rotate another way, and physics will definitely have an argument with you the entire time. A screaming match, really.
To Ian’s credit, he made it. He barely reached where Coral was, and landed stomach-first.
It’s the past tense we’re going to focus on here, because Coral Avalon wasn’t there anymore.
Ian Nackedy had bet everything on this move, but the house won.
He held his stomach in pain as he tried to get to his feet, to salvage something from the risk. Instead, Coral met him just as he got to his feet.
Pumphandle. Lift. A savage rotation. It looked like the Olympic Slam if you put it in fast forward, but left everything else at normal speed.
The Third Armament, Camelot’s Turntable.
The impact was enormous.
Coral wasn’t done yet, however, because the King’s Armaments always came in a pair. But no one in the building knew that there was about to be a Sixth Armament.
He helped Ian to a seated position. Then he ran into the ropes.
What Coral delivered to the back of Ian’s neck and back could best be described as a European uppercut if you put your whole body into it. A heat-seeking missile with an uppercut at its tip. Equal parts headbutt, shoulder tackle, and uppercut.
And if that sounds very familiar, that’s because it probably was.
The impact was brutal. Ian’s body bent forward in a manner the human body wasn’t meant to go.
Coral made the cover.
Gildenstern, on the outside, realized that his partner was in trouble. He slid in the ring, going to break up the pin. Only, he stopped short, because Franco grabbed his leg on the outside. Despite being 6’8” and tantalizing close to the pinfall, Gildenstern could only watch in abject horror as the referee’s hand hit the mat for the third time.
It was over.
The Kingdom would advance.
Franco slid in the ring, and embraced Coral as he rolled off of Ian’s body. Gildenstern, meanwhile, simply crawled over to Ian to make sure he was okay. Coral breathed heavily after the effort. He was exhausted, and this was just the first round!
As the result was announced, Coral and Franco both got to their feet. Coral found the turnbuckles so he could lean against them. They watched and waited for Ian to recover. Ian eventually tried to get up, but he ended up collapsing back into Gildenstern’s arms the moment he was to his feet, and it took a few moments of steadying himself with the big guy’s help before he was able to maintain his balance.
Coral was the first to approach them, offering a handshake.
Ian stared at it for a few long, agonizing seconds.
But he accepted it, much to the crowd’s delight.
“Next time,” Ian said, “I’ll get you next time.”
“I’ll be waiting,” was Coral’s reply.
He did not, however, feel confident that the man by his side would be the same next time.
TO BORROW A SWORD
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 27th, 2022
“So, what do you think?” Coral asked.
The pair had returned to their hotel room following the events at the Roy Wilkins building. Both were exhausted after the war with the Sound and the Fury. It had taken Coral this long to ask the question. He’d waited patiently as both he, Franco, and the Sound and the Fury boys were given lauded platitudes for their performance in the last night. He even waited in the car ride back, because Coral had offered to give one of the teams that got bounced in the first round a ride back to the same hotel.
Franco stared at Coral.
“I’m thinking that some old habits of yours die hard.” Franco said.
The “crutch”, as Coral called it. His ability to mimic the moves of others.
“Maybe a little, yeah,” Coral admitted, “Considering what we have planned for UltraViolence, anyway.”
Aside from preparing for the Flynn Cup, Coral and Franco had been spending a lot of their time getting Joe and Sid prepared for their date with Jared and Calvin in a month. It’d been an uphill struggle, but at least Joe was making solid progress. Coral’s only worry there would be that he’d need two years to prepare for a match that they only had two months for.
Well, Franco was handling Sid, and it’s a minor miracle Franco could even make it to the Flynn Cup after handling that baboon.
“Are you mad at me for it? Repurposing the Cannon like that?” Coral asked. “It wouldn’t really be the first time I got told how angry someone was over taking their stuff.”
Franco shrugged, “I didn’t invent it to begin with. Wrestled a Russian in Europe the first year I was there, borrowed it from him.”
He paused, and considered his words, “Think he was from Estonia, actually.”
Franco sat down on his bed, and flopped down onto his back. He stared at the ceiling.
“I don’t know how I feel.” Franco said, “We won, that’s the important thing.”
Coral sat down at the chair by the corner of the hotel room. He was tired. The adrenaline from the match with the Sound and the Fury had long worn off, and part of him wanted to sleep it all off.
“So, is that a yes, or…”
“Nah. You and I both know that wrestling is about borrowing from each other,” Franco said. “But I thought you’d made the change to the Crownless King because you weren’t borrowing from people anymore.”
Coral looked up at the ceiling.
“To borrow a phrase you like to throw out there… that’s that, and this is this.” Coral asked, “When I was calling myself the Kleptomaniac, I was taking people’s moves just to take them. No rhyme, no reason. Like a kleptomaniac would. I didn’t really know what I was doing starting out, and once it became my ‘thing’, it was hard to break away from it. But sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t, and sometimes a guy will send me a cease and desist over it.”
And that’s why Coral Avalon hadn’t done the Curveball in eighteen years.
“What I’m saying is that this is different. Because if I’m the only one carrying the Kingdom’s torch into PRIME, then I want to borrow something of yours to take with me,” Coral said, “That’s all it is.”
Franco didn’t say anything for a while.
He sounded distant when he broke the silence.
“Sometimes,” Franco said, “I’ve wondered if this was all a mistake.”
“Teaming with me?” Coral asked.
“Wrestling in general, I guess,” Franco said.
“Oh, come on, don’t say that,” Coral said, “You’re fantastic out there, even now.”
Franco shook his head.
“And yet, never succeeded,” Franco said, “I understand wrestling for the sake of it, like you do. I get that. But I had everything I worked for in six years at Bang! Pro Wrestling go up in smoke. I six minutes. All that work in getting a title match, taking the title, and having that xenophobe rip it from me. No calls from anywhere.”
“I know I’m good in the ring, Avy. Know it in my bones. Known it since the day we first locked up in Bucharest. But that’s not enough, is it?”
Coral looked up at the ceiling.
“Unfortunately. My whole career, I’m either a joke or too boring,” Coral said, “No middle ground.”
“Don’t even have the former,” Franco said, “Not funny enough.”
“What, you weren’t excited about the idea of becoming Duke Durian?” Coral asked with a small smile on his face.
Franco lifted his head and gave Coral a big stinkeye.
He didn’t even need to say anything to make Coral back off.
“I’m kidding, Franco. God. Relax,” Coral said, chuckling in that way when it’s late at night and you’re punch-drunk tired, “Jared would actually kill me if I started inducting more berries to the Kings of Popsicles.”
“If you say so.” Franco said.
He laid his head back on the bed.
There was a long pause before Coral broke the silence, “Franco. You know I’d drag you to PRIME, kicking and screaming, if you’d let me.”
“Nah. Appreciate the offer, but… don’t like the smell of that place.” Franco said, “Never been a fan of Vegas. Seen too many bad scenes there.”
“Tell me about it,” Coral agreed, “Sin City Championship Wrestling almost made me retire.”
Stupid Terrence Kingsley.
Franco shrugged. He’d heard of the promotion, but he was in Europe at the time Coral was there, and it was dust now.
“So, what’re you calling… what number are you up to now?”
“Six. This is six. I’m going to call it Secace, I think.”
“…You gonna explain that one to the layman?” Franco asked.
“Well, Sir Lancelot once borrowed a sword from King Arthur to battle the Saxons at Saxon Rock. Inventive name by the Saxons, I know. Anyway, the generally agreed-upon name for that sword was Secace. Usually, I’m imagining myself as Arthur when I pick these names, but… in this case, I’m the one borrowing from you, so you’re the Arthur and I’m the Lancelot.”
“Seems complicated.” Franco said.
“’Tis a tangled web we weave when we play the game of swords,” Coral said.
He knew he’d mixed his metaphors. Badly. Who made a web out of swords? Sadist spiders, that’s who.
He didn’t care.
“So, plan for tomorrow?” Franco asked.
“Well, the hard part’s over, I think. Getting Ian and Gildy in the first round was tough, but we made it,” Coral said, “So as long as everything doesn’t go terribly wrong, we might take this thing.”
The moment those words left Coral’s mouth, he knew he’d doomed their chances.
Everything was about to go terribly wrong.
EVERYTHING GOES TERRIBLY WRONG
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 28th, 2022
Everything was going terribly wrong.
The unusual tag team of Pedro Gonzales and Persona Non Grata, known as Los Rebeldes del Bien, were a new team.
Coral wasn’t sure if that was really the case.
I mean, he also wasn’t sure if Pedro wasn’t a zombie or not. A strangely handsome zombie. Like, gods damn. Being undead should not make you that hot. Take that, rewind it back, zombie’s got the looks to make your booty go smack.
The only comments anyone could get from PNG were a laugh that sounded like it’d been ripped straight from the audio files of Final Fantasy III on the SNES. You know the Kefka laugh. PNG wore gold everywhere, with a little bit of black for good measure.
And, well… then there’s Mestizo.
Look, we don’t judge little people here, but this wasn’t a little person. This was a thing. A horrible, feral creature of fur and little black boots. Imagine an Ewok if it got super into wrestling. He prowled around ringside, biting and scratching and clawing and spitting at anything within eyesight of him. That included Coral and Franco. This also included camera operators, a few mouthy fans, and a ringside announcer as she attempted to leave the ring after introductions. Also, Charles Beckett himself, at one point.
Somehow, the referee didn’t throw him out immediately.
We’re not even sure he’d have understood those instructions, anyway.
The match had started off well. Coral and Franco combined their long experience as individual wrestlers and a team to run rings around Pedro and PNG. Quick tags, quick moves. They isolated Pedro specifically. Coral frustrated him with his technical prowess, while also using his other well-rounded skills to bewilder him. And then he’d tag Franco in and Franco would smash his mouth with those uppercuts.
So, all in all, the first five or so minutes were coming up Kingdom.
And then Mestizo happened.
God damn it, Mestizo.
The turning point of the match came when Coral and Franco cleaned house on Los Rebeldes, sending Pedro and PNG to the outside on opposite sides of the ring. Franco and Coral ran the ropes, passing each other on their way out, and the landed stereo suicide dives on the duo.
But it was on Franco’s side where things went wrong.
Franco was taking the fight to Persona Non Grata on the outside. But with the referee occupied with Avalon and Pedro on the other side of the ring, he couldn’t see Mestizo come up and start outright attacking Franco. Franco more found this an annoyance, and pushed him away. That let PNG come up from behind and throw him into the barricade.
That wasn’t the only thing that would be thrown at the barricade.
The next thing PNG did was throw Mestizo at Franco.
Look, as projectiles go, Mestizo was an effective one. But he wasn’t aerodynamic. He flew, and he hit Franco directly in his right leg.
Franco had a history of leg injuries dating back to a successful Bang! Openweight title defense against Yoshida Izuo, the Ace of Spades, at the beginning of 2020. The injury was aggravated just three months later when he was bulldozed in six minutes for that same title by an invader from Ichiban Nippon Puroresu named Hanazawa Akira. It was that very injury and the setbacks that it represented that had kept Franco from the ring as a full-time competitor.
And he just took a feral animal right to that same leg.
That’s all it took to put things in the corner of Los Rebeldes. After Coral put Pedro back in the ring, all it took was for PNG to catch him from behind to put the rapscallions in the driver’s seat. What followed was a solid ten minutes of methodical beatings for the Crownless King. Coral would occasionally fight back, but Mestizo would get involved, or the two of them were able to overwhelm him.
The only problem for Los Rebeldes, though, was that they couldn’t put him away.
Even after Pedro ripped his pants off – because of course he was wrestling in tearaway pants up until now, because zombie got that badonkadonk – and superkicked Avalon into next week, he was mysteriously able to hop back in time to two seconds afterwards in order to kick out.
Miscommunication eventually ensued.
Los Rebeldes went for a maneuver called Impulsado Por La Locura. It involved Pedro hooking in a stalling vertical suplex, Persona Non Grata lifting him up in an electric chair, and then dropping back so that Pedro could hit an extra high murder brainbuster. With a side order of murder. Did I mention the murder? Because that’s on the table, in brainbuster form.
The problem was, Coral slipped out just as the electric chair was being performed. Thus, Pedro was lifted up by his own partner, but there wasn’t an Avalon coming up with him. Coral kicked PNG’s leg out from under him, and the end result was that Pedro was given an electric chair drop from his own tag team partner.
Coral stumbled into the ropes after the kick, taking precious few moments to recover. PNG was up quicker than expected, but Coral went on the offense with his uppercuts the moment PNG tried to grab him. A whip into the turnbuckles was reversed, but Avalon ran up the opposite turnbuckles and backflipped over PNG. He turned and ran into the opposite ropes, and came back with a thunderous lariat that hit the bigger man hard enough to drop him.
As Coral was down on one knee, Pedro crawled to his team’s corner, which enabled PNG to make the tag to him. It was Pedro’s turn to try and capitalize on the wounded Avalon.
He pulled him into the center of the ring, and hit him with a scoop slam. Then he went for the standing moonsault, showboating a bit before executing it despite being very undead.
And he hit Avalon’s knees.
As Pedro stumbled around holding his gut, he stepped right into an inside cradle from Avalon. It only got two, but the move put Pedro in a bad enough position that Coral leapt at the opportunity. He grabbed Pedro by the arm, placing it in an omaplata, and then he grabbed the other arm in an armbar.
Fourth Armament, Vortigern’s Pillory.
This thing looked like a fucked up Rings of Saturn, the kind one might use if you’re a sadist. Coral bent back both of Pedro’s arms in ways that the shoulders weren’t equipped to handle. If that wasn’t enough, he was in such a position that he could start ramming his free foot into his head at will. Quite frankly, just about anyone would give up in that situation, were they alone on an island with this hold applied to them.
But this wasn’t an island.
I mean, this was the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, in St. Paul. Minnesota might be full of lakes, but this was dry land.
Also, Pedro wasn’t alone.
The numbers didn’t favor Avalon yet again. Persona Non Grata got in the ring and started stomping on Avalon repeatedly to break up the hold. Once it was broken, he started pummeling him with rights and lefts, risking disqualification from the referee because he wasn’t the legal man. When PNG backed off, the referee became distracted with admonishing him.
And that left the horrible little monster named Mestizo enter the ring.
Coral was dazed from the pummeling, and didn’t see the little monster coming.
But here’s the thing.
That little monster didn’t see the 6’5” one legged man get into the ring, either. With a movement that seemed all but impossible for someone who was noticeably limping, Franco intercepted Mestizo with a Flak Cannon.
We should not feel bad for Mestizo.
But we should not celebrate his demise, either, for even if Franco nearly atomized him and made him disappear from the ring, he clearly had rapid cell regeneration as part of his many tool kits. He’d be back.
PNG realized that the advantage they had was done for. He brushed past the referee, and went after Franco and his one leg. He tried to isolate the leg, and do it harm. All he had to do was hook in a leglock, and…
It was difficult to apply any sort of submission hold when a Rhongomyniad was in your face.
Avalon hit the yakuza kick, and it put PNG down. Franco rolled under the bottom rope, and allowed Avalon to tag him in.
Pedro Gonzales was about to have a bad time.
Avalon went to one corner, and Franco leaned against the Kingdom’s corner, keeping his weight off his leg. When Pedro finally got to his feet after the whole mess with the Pillory, Avalon charged him and clipped him with the Rhongomyniad. Pedro took it, spinning in place like a top until he faced Franco, who hit him with the Flak Cannon.
Avalon ran over to Pedro’s corpse, and underhooked his arms. Franco took up a position behind Coral, as Coral lifted Pedro up and dropped him with a seated double underhook piledriver.
Second Armament, Excalibur.
Pedro’s skull was driven into the mat, and Coral deliberately manipulated the arms so that he rolled over Coral, and into the waiting arms of Franco.
Even with one leg, Franco Marchesi had something even worse than the Excalibur in store. He lifted Pedro over his shoulder, Canadian backbreaker style. And then, from there, he dropped him into a piledriver as swiftly as the ladies might remove their panties in the presence of Barry Delgado.
This was the Golden Wind.
Pedro was undead. This wouldn’t kill him.
But he might as well be dead.
Franco made the cover, and Avalon hovered around to see if Persona Non Grata wanted to make the save.
The Crownless Kingdom would advance.
Franco rolled off of Pedro, but held his shin in pain.
This effort had taken everything they had, and they still had to get through the semifinals.
And who should await them…
THE END OF THE LINE
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 28th, 2022
…but the Coltons?
After the conclusion of the match with Los Rebeldes del Bien, Franco spent as much time as he could in the care of the doctor hired to look after the wrestlers participating in the Flynn Cup. Fortunately for the Kingdom, Franco’s injury wasn’t severe enough that he couldn’t participate in the next round. He was able to walk under his own power, if gingerly, to the ring for the battle against the Coltons.
The Coltons – the team of Benjamin Colton and Dennis Colton – had only a slightly easier run through the tournament than the Kingdom had. After dispatching the asymmetrically talented team of Podcaster BF and eGirl GF, they ran directly into the other team that had previously won the Flynn Cup – No Quarter. That match was a slugfest, not unlike what the Kingdom had to endure to get this far. Both teams in that contest took an absolute beating, but in the end, it was the Coltons that dug deep to put them away.
And that gave them the always unenviable task of taking on the Crownless Kingdom.
A new dueling chant greeted the teams as they stood across from each other, waiting for the opening bell.
“LET’S GO COL-TONS!”
“LET’S GO COL-TONS!”
It began with Benny and Coral. Benny, who’d been goofing around for most of the tournament, began the match unusually focused against Coral. The pair went back and forth early on. The huge experience gap between Benny and Avalon allowed Avalon to control the pace, but every once in a while, Benny would use his agility to put him on the back foot.
But Benny could never resist showboating forever. It just wasn’t in his nature.
So when he succeeded in getting a waistlock takedown, and floated over into a front facelock, he was feeling himself enough that he thought he could flex his other arm for everyone to see.
And Coral made him regret this decision enough that, for the rest of the match, he didn’t showboat again.
Coral rolled out of the front facelock, keeping hold of Benny’s arm, and transitioned right into Vortigern’s Pillory. It was like butter. A brutal butter, enjoyed by sadists. One second, Benny was on top of the world. The next second, he was locked in the Fourth Armament and seriously considered the notion that he might not have working arms again. Avalon only added to the pain by kicking him at his head many times as he laid there in agony.
Fortunately, Dennis got in the ring much faster than Franco could get in to intercept him, and kicked Avalon until he let go of the hold.
But from then on, the Kingdom controlled the match.
Franco came in to do some damage, his left leg still bothering him after the previous match. It was not enough that he couldn’t still make Benny’s life hell with his smash-mouth European style. Then he’d tag in Coral, who’d keep control of the match.
This went on for the first five minutes of the match, before Benny could tag in Dennis.
And then everything, as had been the case for most of Night 2 of the Flynn, went terribly wrong for the Kingdom.
At 6’6” and 280 pounds, Dennis Colton was a cornfed beast of a boy. He’d been waiting impatiently to get tagged in for most of the match against the Kingdom, and the moment he did, he ran a train on poor Coral Avalon. There wasn’t much he could do about it, either. When you’re giving up six inches of height and almost eighty pounds to the other guy, the best you can do when that train rolls in was either to get out of its way or to make sure your next of kin was notified.
So he ran over Avalon, then kept going and took Franco off of the apron. Franco landed on his injured leg and spent more time hobbling than actually stunned from the attack.
From there on, it was the Coltons’ show.
The Coltons spent most of the next seven minutes beating the absolute brakes off of Avalon. Suplexes, backbreakers, neckbreakers… probably other kinds of breakers, too. Because of the beating he’d also taken in the previous match as well as the match the night before, Avalon’s kickouts from the offense didn’t have the oomph they had before. Even Coral Avalon had his limits.
But then, Benny made a crucial error.
He tried to come off the second ropes with a flying clothesline at Avalon, only to be met in midair with a leaping European uppercut. A typical, go-to Avalon move in that situation. Benny hit the mat like a sack of bricks, and Avalon was able to crawl over and tag in his one-legged tag team partner.
Franco came in and immediately put Benny to the ground with a charging European uppercut, then kept charging and took Denny off the apron with another one. He shook his leg after taking down Denny, trying to shake out the pain. Then he came over to Benny and started rocking him with his usual array of suplexes and strikes. Whenever Dennis tried to come back in, Franco would knock him off the apron again.
Things looked up.
But it’s still two-on-one, with Avalon barely recovering in the Kingdom’s corner.
And eventually, Benny was able to zero in on Franco’s weakness after the third time Franco took Dennis off of the apron. He caught him with a chop block, and that put an end to Franco’s onslaught.
Cue another beating.
Benny and Denny kept working Franco’s injured leg, beating it down. Frequent tags, power moves from Dennis, and submissions from Benjamin were the order of the day. Avalon eventually recovered in his corner, and all he could do was rally the crowd behind Franco as he tried to fight off the onslaught.
Things became dire when Benny applied a figure four leglock in the center of the ring. The obvious solution to Coral was to get in there to break it up, but Dennis cut him off and sent him hurtling off of the apron with a body block. It surely looked to be over for the Kingdom at that point. Dennis left the ring to pursue Avalon on the floor, leaving Franco at Benny’s mercy.
But the fans, who were usually behind the Coltons, rallied behind Franco in this moment.
Benny didn’t want to be careless after the incident earlier in the match where he almost lost both of his arms, but one could tell from his expression that he wanted to go right back to showing off to the crowd. He was in firm control of the situation. And perhaps he should be thankful that he didn’t showboat, because Franco eventually started to turn the hold over.
Benny knew this was bad. Franco was a bigger, taller man. He was attempting to overpower him in the hold, overcoming the pain in his leg in order to turn things around. Yet, Benny held on, wrenching at Franco’s ankle to dissuade him.
But, uh… wait.
Why was the crowd coming aliv— oh. Oh no.
Have you ever seen the nature of your doom well before it happened, and know in your heart that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it?
Well, Benny had.
Dennis, on the outside, had overcommitted his play to keep Avalon out of the match. An attempted shoulder tackle on the outside led to him ramming himself into the guardrail. This left Avalon free and clear to make a very dramatic move to break up the figure four. He climbed up to top turnbuckle nearest to Benny and Franco.
Coral and Benny locked eyes, if only for a moment.
And definitely not in the way Benny would’ve preferred to meet the man’s gaze.
There was a simplistic beauty in the flying double stomp. You leap, and then all you had to do was make sure you landed right on your adversary’s chest like they were a Goomba in Super Mario Bros. Most practitioners of the move were on the small side, but Coral Avalon was six feet tall and usually weighed in the 210 pound range. So this was going to hurt.
The Fifth Armament, Carnwennan.
And all Benny could do was regret.
Well, that and wheeze.
Coral landed, bounced off of Benny, and rolled back to the Kingdom’s corner. He saw that Dennis was slowly getting back up on the Colton side of the ring, while Benny was sprawled out on the canvas, trying to get air back into his lungs.
This was it.
If the Kingdom were going to advance, this was the time to strike.
Franco reached Coral to tag him in. Benny couldn’t do the same with Dennis, and realizing the danger, Dennis stormed into the ring to cut Coral off from taking the fight to a recovering Benny.
Dennis was a much bigger man than Coral was, but Denny did not expect the smaller man to throw what felt like a rocket propelled grenade in the guise of a European uppercut his way. This staggered Denny, enabling Coral to step into him and nail him with a quick back suplex, using all of the power and leverage he had at his disposal.
Dennis rolled to the outside, only to be met with a sudden suicide dive from Avalon almost the second he looked up to get back into the ring. This drove Dennis’s back into the guardrail, and he slumped to the ground. Coral got up and rolled back into the ring, and was met with a right hand from Benny, who’d recovered enough to get to his feet and take a swing at Avalon.
Coral and Benny exchanged blows briefly, the crowd cheering and screaming for approval with every uppercut from Avalon and every forearm from Benny.
Finally, Benny took enough of an advantage to try an Irish whip. Instead, Avalon reeled him back and snapped off a Saito suplex. He went after Benny, trying to get him up for the Excalibur, but Benny blocked it. That’s when Dennis came back in.
The Coltons always seemed to have a two-on-one advantage.
But not this time.
The moment Dennis came in, Franco had rolled in under the bottom rope. While Dennis succeeded in clotheslining Avalon off of his cousin, he did not succeed in realizing he was on the other side of a Flak Cannon from a one-legged man until he was hit by it.
Dennis hit the ground and slid to the outside, landing with a thud out to the floor.
All three men in the ring were down. The fourth was down on the outside.
But things were not looking good for Benny as Coral pulled himself up to a standing position near the turnbuckles. He turned to see Coral charging.
Benny spun like a top, just as Pedro Gonzales had done earlier in the night. He turned and found Franco coming at him second.
Benny might have been legally dead in thirty-six states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Coral pursued Benny on the ground, and everyone knew what was coming up next after the match with Los Rebeldes del Bien.
Coral rolled Benny over for Franco to collect.
But while Franco lifted Benny up, he couldn’t keep him up on his shoulder for the Golden Wind.
His leg gave out from under him, and both he and Benny fell to the ground in a heap.
Coral realized that he needed to finish this himself. So he pulled Benny up off of Franco, and started to hook in the pumphandle for the Camelot’s Turntable. If he hit this, it was going to be over. Recovering from two straight Armaments was no joke. Three was a death sentence.
There was a problem, though.
If things had gone as planned just now, the Kingdom would have won. No question.
The moment Franco’s knee gave out, though, it gave the Coltons time to recover.
Well, specifically, Dennis.
Dennis came into the ring behind Avalon, ripped him off of Benny, and put him in the Colton Clutch. Already worn down, Coral couldn’t do anything before he was hoisted into the air and driven to the canvas with the Colton Clutch Slam.
Dennis, realizing he wasn’t the legal man, pulled his cousin on top of Avalon.
But the referee only counted two, as Franco managed to dive on top of the cover to break it up.
Dennis re-entered the ring. Franco was wounded, and was barely able to stand before Dennis hit him with a lariat that knocked him through the ropes and to the outside of the ring. Benny had recovered well enough to grab Coral with a Colton Clutch of his own. With Coral isolated, Dennis picked him up by the legs, and both Coltons drove Avalon into the mat.
The Colton Crash.
Franco tried to get back into the ring and save it, but his leg just wouldn’t cooperate, and Dennis wouldn’t let him get past.
The referee counted three.
And that was the end of the Kingdom in the Flynn Cup.
ONE MORE TIME
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
August 28th, 2022
The finals ceremony came and went.
Even if they couldn’t beat the Coltons, the damage that the Crownless Kingdom dealt to them was enough to have doomed them in the finals against the New World Trash.
It was cold comfort for Coral and Franco, who sat on the trunk of their rental car staring up at what few stars could be seen in the light pollution of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area.
They’d long since showered and changed out of their ring gear, but both of them were exhausted. Franco was still limping on their way out of the building, but was essentially told by the on-site doctor that as long as he kept his weight off of it and iced it down, he’d be fine.
Coral hurt everywhere, having done the lion’s share of the work for the team on the second night. A typical Sunday night, all told.
Almost too tired to make the trek back to the hotel, the two remaining members of the Crownless Kingdom decided to sit and wait at their car before they made their way back to a bed. They let a long, lingering silence drift between them.
Coral was the one who broke it.
“New rule for the Gates of Avalon, just thought of it today. No Ewoks allowed.”
It was the first time he laughed the entire trip.
He must’ve been very tired. He usually didn’t laugh that much at Coral’s jokes.
“Bad luck,” Franco said, once he calmed down, “Getting those three in the second round.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve been around me long enough to know that bad luck is my whole gimmick.” Coral said, “For every good thing, there’s three bad things nestled together like a Matryoshka doll. A really cursed one. Like, the Baba Yaga came along and decided to hex it. Maybe piss on it a little. Sorry, by the way. I dropped the ball.”
Franco held up a hand and waved it dismissively.
“I dropped it first,” Franco said, “Shouldn’t have put my weight on my leg trying to do the Golden Wind on that Benny guy.”
“Guess we’re just a couple of ball-droppers.” Coral said.
There was another long pause.
It’s amazing that either of these two introverts were pro wrestlers at all.
Finally, Franco said, “Well, suppose we’ll just have to do this again next year.”
“Next year?” Coral asked. He sat up, and looked over at Franco, “I thought you were done after this.”
“When did I say that?” Franco asked.
“Like, when you reminded me that the Flynn Cup was coming up, before we registered for it.” Coral said.
“Never said that,” Franco said, “You know me. I don’t say a lot of things. I’d remember if I said something like that.”
“Jesus, Franco, I was going through this whole thing thinking that they’d have to carry me out on a gurney before I’d let us get kicked out of the Flynn, and you go and tell me that?”
“God, I hate you,” Coral said.
“Love you, too, friend.” Franco said.
They shared a laugh.
“Y’know… if it weren’t for that Ewok, we might’ve made it to the finals,” Franco said.
“Well, if it means anything, Anna Daniels doesn’t think you’ll get rabies from the Ewok,” Coral said, “Apparently, she’s acquainted with the undead member of that team.”
The laconic Venetian wasn’t even phased by any of that, “That so?”
“Well, she’s almost certain. I’d consult a doctor, just to be on the safe side. Maybe an Ewok specialist. Could ask Cosmo, maybe. Cosmo probably knows a guy.”
Franco held up a fist.
“Next year. One more time?”
Coral didn’t even have to think about it before bumping fists with Franco.
“One more time.”