“Circus” by Britney Spears suddenly punctuates the ambient crowd noise of SHOOT Project’s Epicenter. The arena lights dim to a reddish glow as the opening words of the first verse fill the arena air.
We cut backstage, right before the big six man tag team match. Mary Kelly is standing by!
Mary Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen….Vermont’s Finest.
The camera pans out, and all three members of Vermont’s Finest standing by, dressed in their battle gear; partial riot gear from last week, including the Kevlar vests. Reeve Timmons is even in the lucha mood, wearing his brand new mask!
Mary Kelly: Gentlemen, the time has come. In just a few moments, you put everything on the line for a chance at redemption. A chance to avenge attack after attack at the hands of Riley, Quinn, and Wailer. This has got to be an All or Nothing situation for you. What’s running through your mind?
Mary holds the microphone in front of El Asso Wipo, who is never at a loss for words.
El Asso Wipo: Well, Lady Dutch, if this is All or Nothing-
A huge gloved hand reaches forward and grabs the mic, Mary’s hand and all. The last person you would expect to do so pulls the mic closer to his mouth.
Silas Mitchell undoes the zipper on his mask…..AND SPEAKS.
Silas Mitchell: We. Chose. ALL.
Silas releases Mary’s hand and the trio walk away, ready to go to the ring. Mary rubs her wrist as we get ready to cut back to the ring.
Eryk Masters: That was intense, and just as intense goes, we've just received word that we'll be visited by our Rule of Surrender Champion, Kale Tanev, later on tonight!
Other Guy: I'm all for anything can happen, and this kid Tanev is impressive. Looking forward to it!
Samantha Coil: Ladies and gentleman... the following SIX-PERSON, TAG TEAM contest is scheduled for one fall.
But there's more.
Samantha Coil: However, you can ONLY win via PIN or SUBMISSION. There are NO RULES in effect and a fall can count ANYWERE!
The SHOOT Project fans begin coming to life with the stipulation, announced by Coil like it was just another day at the office. Which it is. She's a stalwart human, who has seen everything in this business.
She waits patiently for the participants.
The lights die.
"Empathy" by Crystal Castles begins to play throughout the SHOOT Project Epicenter. A shrill, synthetic, siren-esque loop flirts endlessly into insanity, paired with a deep, thudding, syncopated bass beneath it. White lights flicker on and off throughout the arena, in rhythm with the music, flipping a wresting universe into a seedy, underground, drug-fueled rave.
Entrances can be dull and repetitive, but there's something unnerving about the arrival of the first team. This is a song that means chaos, destruction and hurt. It signals anarchy, torture, and social disregard.
It's a scavenger's song.
The curtains rustle and three violent, familiar faces arrive into the public eye.
Samantha Coil: Introducing first... At an estimated combined weight of SEVEN HUNDRED pounds... From CHICAGO ILLINOIS...
AND TOM QUINN
Wailer is the walking dead, his eyes glazed over and soulless, solely focused on the ring. Quinn is the support system. He nods confidently while slapping Riley, the third and perhaps most brash, on the back. Riley's in a black cut-off jean shorts, black converse and a dirty white tank top that has "WAILER" scribbled across the front in black. Quinn has navy blue wrestling trunks and matching boots and pads... a white T-shirt that says "RILEY" in black marker. And Wailer, the Wraith, is in baggy black jeans, crusted coal-grey boots and a white T-shirt that says "QUINN".
There's a certain horrible tone in their steps to the ring, which the fans consume with venom. They "BOOO" pretty loudly, surprisingly, considering the groups somewhat "new" status withinin the Epicenter Wailer does the best of ignoring the barrage of heckles. Quinn rolls his eyes at them, while Riley jaws back at just about anyone. In fact, Tom actually has to pull Jason back once or twice during their journey.
These cruel, foul humans eventually make it to the ring, whereupon Riley flips off referee Dennis Heflin, who noticeably sighs and nods, realizing this could be a long night for him. Quinn shrugs and pats the referee on the back, while Wailer simply ignores him entirely.
Coil seems primed to bring out the next team, but Riley moves in her direction, slaps her ass and, in the moments of her being stunned by the absolutely unnecessary gesture, takes the microphone out of her hand.
The match isn't starting yet.
Jason Riley: THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS is how things will fucking work tonight...
The sound of the punk's voice drives the crowd into fits and they "BOOOOOOOO" the very start of his sentences.
Jason Riley: Keep your fucking cameras out and record this shit starting now because you never know when the F******* *** work here are gonna cut the feed and blame their weak fucking insides on some kind of bullshit TECH PROBLEM!
Jason points at a fan.
Jason Riley: You record this part, man. (Pointing to someone else) And then... Then you record the middle, okay? (pointing to another fan) and make sure your dumb ass records the end when those fucking idiot wastes of life take their masks off and LEAVE THIS INDUSTRY IN SHAME!!! RECORD IT ALLLLLL NOW!!! CAUSE THIS IS ALL WE'LL HAVE SOON!!!
Riley roles his eyes.
Jason Riley: Second match of the NIGHT! HA! You know what that means? It's the least important. You put your throwaway bullshit SECOND on a wrestling show! FUCK THAT. THIS IS THE MAIN EVENT RIGHT NOW! HAHA! JASON JOHNSON IS A FUCKING PUSSY!!! (Looking at Heflin) Can I say that? THIS. (Hopping around the ring, speaking a single word on each landing) PLACE. (Leaping) IS. (Leaping) A. (Leaping) FUUUUUUUUUUUU (Leaping) UUUUUUUUCKING JOKE!
He roles his eyes and looks around the ring.
Jason Riley: Wrestling fans ARE ALL CLOSETED FUCKING FAAAA**************************** ******** ******** ******** ******** ******** F*******!!!
They cut his microphone.
Eryk Masters: Folks, not sure what's being cut off on the feed, but we apologize. We ARE going to stay live with you, and we DO believe in censor free programming, but umm...
Other Guy: Sometimes enough is enough. I mean, Goddamnit, man.
Eryk Masters: Well put.
Riley realizes his mic has been cut, and begins waving goodbye while pretending to turn a knob off. Quinn starts waving at the cameras too, saying "Bye". Riley literally CHUCKS the microphone off into the crowd, sending audience members SCATTERING away. Heflin, angry, goes to say something, finally, but Riley doesn't so much as acknowledge him.
The trio move into their corner, while a member of the ring crew scurries up to the ring with another microphone for Coil.
She remains professional.
Microphone in hand.
Samantha Coil: AND THEIR OPPONENTS...
The Epicenter is filled with the familiar 90s jam, "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio. The entrance for these next men is dire. They arrive driven, ready...
Etched in their faces is the look of...
It's impossible to tell what's etched in their faces.
They have on masks.
Even the young rookie...
Samantha Coil: They are from the STATE of VERMONT... Weighing in at an estimated total of EIGHT HUNDRED, SEVENTY POUNDS...
ANNNNND EL. ASSO. WIIIIIIIIIIPO
These are VERMONT'S FINEST!!!
Wipo is in full luchador gear. A bright blue wrestling singlet that does not leave much for the imagination, with white and gold trim and streamers. Silas is in a white mask with red outlines around the mouth and eyes. And the young rookie, OFFICER Timmons, sports a full blue body suit and matching blue mask. There is no trim or flare and he looks somewhat ridiculous with his lanky frame.
Wipo never once looks away from the three men in the ring. Silas follows solemnly behind. Timmons, perhaps caught in the moment, slaps hands with as many fans as he can.
Because it might be the only time he can do that.
The three men make it MAYBE a quarter of the way down the ramp.
Riley STORMS OUT OF THE RING FIRST, through the middle rope...
Quinn slides under the bottom rope and Wailer walks over the top one.
They all hit the floor and CHARGE at their opponents.
Heflin frantically calls for the opening bell, which may be the only thing he ends up doing...
RILEY LEAPS AT WIPO! QUINN BULL RUSHES TIMMONS!!! WAILER GOES HEAD ON INTO MITCHELL!!!
Eryk Masters: HERE WE GO!!!
Other Guy: Vermont's Finest has EVERYTHING on the line!!!
The bout begins as almost anyone could imagine. Punches, kicks, throws, hurls! BACKS CRASH INTO RAILS. Bodies slam on the poorly protected floors. It's a live fan's nightmare because everyone is everywhere. Timmons is getting his ass handed to him by Tom Quinn off in the crowd near the entrance area... After a Wailer clothesline over the guardrail, Silas Mitchell reels on the defensive closer to the ring at the "television" far-side, and on the nearside, Riley and Wipo throw furious blows back and forth.
Quinn grabs a chair from a fan and seemingly OBLITERATES Timmons. He then leaves, hopping back over the rail, out of the crowd. Jogging down the ramp toward Riley.
Wailer dispatches of Silas in a similar manner, only without weapons. He strikes the luchador with a VICIOUS forearm to the side of the skull. Silas drops to a knee and Wailer follows with a SOLE-FIRST SHOT into the temple.
He and Quinn make it to Riley pretty soon, and things are ugly.
"BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" "COME ON!"
The Epicenter is filled with sounds of disgust and hopeless encouragement of Wipo, who is by this point being COMPLETELY destroyed. Riley taunts while Quinn KICKS away... while Wailer SLUGS devastating blows into Wipo's unprotected body.
The referee is helpless in a situation like this.
They don't make a pin attempts.
They aren't locking in any submission holds.
This is just VIOLENCE.
Wailer hoists Wipo up and DUMPS HIM onto the barricade neck first. More kicks from Quinn. Riley actually just starts choking him at some juncure.
This does not stop.
Eryk Masters: This is very hard to watch, but I guess it's what we should have expected.
Other Guy: Vermont's Finest have to pull through, Eryk. There's no way they can go out so brutally, is there?
Eryk Masters: The world hasn't been much a place for happy endings lately, OG.
They've thrown Wipo back into the ring. They mock him. He chokes... his singlet is covered in blood from his mouth. Wailer has him held in his arms... Quinn KICKS. Riley SLAPS!
It doesn't end.
Quinn throws a forearm for good measure.
Riley, though, just SLAPS HIM AGAIN.
Eryk Masters: This isn't even CLOSE to professional wrestli....
Other Guy: LOOK OUT! TIIIIIMMONS!
Reeve Timmons SPRINTS TO THE RING AND LEAPS OVER THE TOP ROPE!!! Wailer throws Wipo to the side, but is too late! Timmons CRASHES INTO RILEY AND QUINN!!!
SILAS IS SHORTLY BEHIND!!!
Wailer charges at Mitchell! Quinn gets up to his feet first! Timmons lands a leaping, spinning kick! Quinn back down! Riley scurries up though and BLINDSIDES TIMMONS! Timmons falls into the corner! Riley is PISSED! BUT TIMMONS FIGHTS BACK!!!
SILAS LAUNCHES HIMSELF WITH A RUNNING CROSS BODY INTO WAILER! THEY BOTH FALL OUT OF THE RING!!
The tides of the battle begin to turn as they tend to do in these affairs. Wipo is showing signs of life in one corner, desparatly trying to pull himself up off the mat. Meanwhile, Timmons displays SUPRISINGLY tenacity and is doing everything he can to take it to Riley! Jason covers up, while Quinn comes to help, BUT before they can mount a counter assault, SILAS LUMBERS BACK IN UNDER THE BOTTOM ROPE! Quinn turns and tries to attack Silas! Silas reaches out and GRABS QUINN BY THE THROAT.
Riley shoves Timmons away and instead goes to save his friend!
HE LEAPS AT SILAS!
Silas GRABS RILEY BY THE THROAT!!!
BOTH MEN ARE STUNNED BY THE COUNTER!
SILAS HOISTS THEM INTO THE AIR!!!
DOUBLE-FUCKING-CHOOOOOOKE SLAM (SLAM) (SLAM) (SLAM!)
The pair of scumbags CRASH into the mat and the Epicenter GOES NUTS!!!
Eryk Masters: I LIKE IT!
Other Guy: MAKE A COVER!
He's still around. He BOLTS BACK INTO THE RING! Timmons charges! HE LEAPS! Wailer literally bats him out of the air with a PUNCH to the top of the head! Timmons hits the mat! Wailer makes a B-Line for Silas! Mitchell turns around and EATS a yakuza kick from the Wraith. The blow sends him packing to the outside.
Timmons is somehow back up! He leaps again!
WAILER PUNCHES HIM DOWN AGAIN!
He then picks Timmons up and EASILY hurls him over the top rope and out of the ring.
"WIPO, WIPO, WIPO!"
The fans begin to chant. Wailer look down at Riley and Quinn who are groggy to get up. Riley grabs the back of his head, and Quinn holds his neck.
"WIPO! WIPO! WIPO!"
The fans chant and get louder!
WIPO PULLS HIMSELF UP IN THE CORNER!
But he's alone.
Wailer. Quinn. Riley.
Are all up as well.
The fans get uneasy.
Wipo looks around. He's fighting for his career. HIS LIFE at this juncture.
He looks at Wailer. Then Quinn. Then Riley.
The trio moves in. BUT WIPO STOPS THEM IN THEIR TRACKS!
"YOU!" He shouts at Riley, while pointing at him!
"YOU!" He then shouts at Wailer, pointing as well.
"YOU!" He directs at Quinn. Pointing.
He then IMMEDIATELY PULLS OUT A SMALL BAG FROM THE BUTT OF HIS TRUNKS!
Eryk Masters: Is that....?
Wipo opens the bag and dumps out...
Other Guy: ...Legos?
Wipo litters the ring in front of him with LEGOS. HE THEN CHARGES AT WAILER!!! But the anarchist dick heads COLLAPSE on their opponent...
Wipo never stood a chance! Wailer hits him first. Then Riley, then Quinn!
WAILER fights off Wipo's weak reversal attempts and SCOOPS HIM UP...
AND SLAAAAAAAMS HIM INTO THE LEGOS, WHICH SHOULDN'T BE A BIG DEAL BUT IS APPARENTLY A THING THAT HURTS WIPO THE MOST.
Wipo looks like DEATH. He screams in great pain. Riley looks disgusted.
"FUCK YOU!" He shouts down at Wipo.
"Let's just get this shit over with, man." Quinn casually commands.
"Out to pasture." Wailer comments coldly.
Riley reaches into the back pocket of his jean shorts and fishes out a pocket knife...
He flips it open.
The fans go WHITE at ringside.
Eryk Masters: No... Oh my God... We need to stop this...
"You FUCKING JOKE!" Riley chastises while flipping out the blade. "This ENDS YOU MOTHER FUCKER!"
This wouldn't happen on television, would it? Even on a "censor free" live stream? Riley moves in with conviction. Quinn helps Wailer hoist Wipo up. Riley puts the blade on Wipo's chest and slowly moves down, tearing the singlet... and perhaps a bit of his chest...
Fans start looking away.
Is Heflin going to do anything? He's been involved with almost every situation this terrible Trio's been involved in....
He's either on a "pay-roll" or realizes it might not be worth it to do anything.
Most likely the latter.
Riley pushes the blade harder against Wipo's chest... BUT THE FINE LUCHADOR WHIPS HIS LEG UP AND KICKS AT RILEY'S HAND!! He knocks the blade away! Wailer and Quinn TACKLE him to the ground...
Wipo is detained.
Riley goes back to grab the knife...
REEVE TIMMONS SOARS OUT OF NOWHERE FROM THE TOP ROPE! HE SLAMS INTO QUINN AND WAILER!!! They both flip over and awkwardly bounce outside of the ring! Riley turns around and can't believe it! He mouths something at the kid's direction and scowls! He charges!
SILAS MITCHEL CHARGES BACK INTO THE RING AND NAILS RILEY WITH A SPEAR!!!!
Eryk Master: WHAT???
Other Guy: Is this happening???
Riley is absolutely PLANTED!
Wipo is up to his feet!!!
Timmons holds out his hands, though, gesturing "stop". Wipo cocks his head...
Timmons reaches into HIS trunks.
And HE pulls out a bag.
AND HE opens the bag...
And DUMPS A STREAM OF THUMBTACKS ONTO THE MAT!!!
"YOU'RE HARDCORE! YOU'RE HARDCORE!!"
Timmons holds up a finger!
HE REACHES INTO HIS TRUNKS...
AND PULLS OUT A SMALL BOTTLE OF LIGHTER FLUID.
Wipo is not entirely sure why Timmons has all of this stuff, but the FANS ARE GOING NUTS...
Timmons pours lighter fluid onto the legos and thumbtacks...
Riley has no idea what's going on... He very gingery attempt to get up.
Timmons now PULLS OUT A MATCHBOOK....
WAILER STORMS BACK AND TACKLES SILAS!!! Quinn is in and TACKES TIMMONS... Wipo is confused by the sudden onslaught.
Riley shakes off the cobwebs!
He turns to face Wipo...
AND WIPO SLAPS HIM AS HARD AS HE POSSIBLY CAN DIRECTLY IN THE FACE!!!!
RILEY'S FACE JUST ABOUT FLIES OFF HIS HEAD!!!
Riley is FURIOUS!
WIPO SIDESTEPS! RILEY FALLS FORWARD!!! WIPO DROPS DOWN TO THE MAT AND GRABS RILEY BY THE BACK OF THE SHORTS.
Quinn and Wailer are caught in a scuffle!
WIPO ROLLS RILEY BACK INTO THE MAT!!!
A SLAP AND A SCHOOL BOY!!!
COULD THIS BE THE FINISH OF ALL FINISHES????
Heflin drops to the mat!
Quinn tries to break free of Timmons, but Timmons trips him up and keeps a leg lock cinched in! Wailer is TIED UP on the mat in a brawl with Silas!!!
A COUNT IS ACTUALLY BEING MADE!
THE BELL RINGS!!!
WIPO JUMP TO HIS FEET! He rushes to Silas! He then pulls Timmons!
VERMONT'S FINEST IMMEDIATELY BAIL!!!
Samantha Coil: The winners of the match.... TIMMONS, SILAS, AND EL. ASSO. WIPO... VERMONT'S FIIIIIIIIIIINEST!!!
The three men in the ring are in utter SHOCK! Quinn tries to grab at Timmons's leg, but it's too late. Wailer lunges at Silas, but he JUST gets through the ropes and out of the way.
RILEY LOSES HIS MIND! Heflin and Coil BOLT out of the ring... Wipo, Timmons and Silas go into a full sprint and disappear.
Gangsta's Paradise plays again. The fans are going ONE BILLION PERCENT BONKERS!!! Riley grabs Quinn. He's SCREAMING! Quinn grabs him back and seems to try to be reasoning with him. Wailer looks down the ramp, shaking his head.
There is chaos in the ring.
Chaos outside the ring.
The cameras move on to other stories.
Maya limps backstage, gliding his right hand along the wall for balance, his eye still practically shut by light purple bruising. Each step is followed by a sharp wince and a deep breath, an unsteady free hand trembling along the gold plated belt hanging from his shoulder. Maya hears footsteps behind him in the halls, he bits down on his cheeks like a gag as he stands straight up with a groan, and walks each agonizing step like nothing was wrong. A gigantic bear claw lands gently on his shoulder, when Maya looks up and sees Isaac he forces a smile.
Isaac looms over Maya, the size difference especially present here in the confined space of this narrow hallway.
Entragian: Damn, kid…and I thought I was looking rough these past few weeks. Seems you’ve stolen my crown in the “You Look Like Shit” division…I concede defeat.
Isaac drapes a huge arm across Maya’s shoulders and helps him over to a row of crates so that the World Champion can lean against them and rest. They’re right next to a catering table, and Isaac turns away from Maya to pour a steaming cup of coffee from the pot.
Entragian: Things are good. Helluva lot better than they were a few weeks ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt genuinely good about…anything. I have you to thank for that, Maya. You never gave up on me…despite how flawed and fucked up I can be at times…and I’ll always be grateful to you for that.
Isaac turns back around and offers a mug of coffee to Nakashima.
Entragian: How about you?
Maya forces a smile.
Isaac leans back against the wall, his arms crossed at the chest. He watches Maya drink the coffee and notices the tremor in his voice when he brings up that farce of a handicap match.
Entragian: You know…I never understood why Kenji was merciful to you back in the day. It never really clicked. He saw his son in you, that much I got. But why the compassion? It was so…uncharacteristic of him. It was like seeing a lion retract the claws and sheath the teeth and show this surprising capacity to be gentle and serene.
Entragian: I see now what he saw in you then. I think he saw…his own humanity, the few shreds of it that were left way down deep in whatever remained of his heart. You inspired him to want to be MORE than just a beast. You gave a savage, bloodthirsty animal HOPE by putting yourself in danger of being torn apart in the process. In my humble opinion…that is a pretty god damn amazing feat.
Isaac smirks, white hair hanging down to frame his clean shaven face.
Entragian: You’re a pretty god damn amazing human being, Maya…because you did the same for me. You showed me that my humanity was still attainable…and all I had to do was reach out and take it. That ability to INSPIRE…to make other people feel like they can achieve things they never thought possible…that’s a rare skill, man. You have it…and you never abuse it. You always use it to do good…
Entragian leans forward and plants that pallid hand on Maya’s shoulder once again.
Entragian: I don’t know who plotted and schemed to put you in that bullshit match. I know all too well what it’s like to let hate fester inside yourself, though….and it seems somebody around here has got a hate hard-on for you, champ. But rest assured, whoever’s pulling strings behind the curtain won’t be able to hide behind that curtain forever…
Entragian: You’re not alone in this, Maya. From this day until my last day…whenever you need me? I’ve got your back.
All of the pain seems to flutter out of Maya for just those few seconds listening to Isaac, everything felt like it was worth it. Maya could taste the coffee now, he could feel it warm his bones back to life.
Isaac’s eyebrows raise quizzically.
Entragian: You’ve got somebody in mind?
Maya continues to shake his head, pulls the SHOOT Project World Title off his shoulder, and stares deeply into the gold inlaid plate.
Entragian: 2013 Isaac would. He would do just about any shitty, wretched thing to get close to that World Title…because it’s the pinnacle of this business.
Entragian: But now? No, Maya. It’s not worth losing yourself just to gain an object…no matter how glorious that object is. I’ve spent too much of my life scheming and making power plays…wasted time that I’ll never get back. Friends and allies sacrificed just to get ahead…til you’re left with nothing and nobody.
Isaac shakes his head.
Entragian: Ain’t worth it.
Maya slings the SHOOT Project World Title over his shoulder, with a loud sigh and a wince as the belt hits his shoulder. As he walks past Isaac he reaches up and puts a hand on his shoulder.
As the scene opens the Epitron lights up with the word “INCREDIBLE” as Fat Joe’s “Safe 2 Say” explodes through the speakers. Out walks Eli Storm. Some of the crowd cheers for the returning former multi-champion. Some fans boo, remembering some of Storm’s more eviler deeds. Eli walks down the asile and looks at the fans before sliding under the bottom rope and calling for a mic.
Eli Storm: I’m not here to bore people. I’m not here for the long drawn out talk and promises of this shit and that shit. I’m here for one main reason...and that is because I’ve been getting up for the past few weeks and I’ve had this feeling. This itch in my fists to knock Stein’s teeth down his throat. This itch in my foot to implant itself into Dan’s backside. So, I know that you are here Danny boy...why don’t you come down here and address the masses.
Storm leans against the corner and waits for Stein to either respond or come out. The fans in the arena boo as they see Dan Stein sitting in an ice bath on the EpiTron. Molly, Dan Stein’s assistant, stands off to the side of the tub with a baby blue towel ready for the former Sin City Champion to step out. Dan lets the “Dan Stein Sucks!” chants die down a little bit before he speaks.
Dan Stein: Come the fuck on with this shit, Eli. Get me on screen so you can bask in my loss tonight? I don’t have time for you. I have things to do.
Storm shakes his head for a moment, not believing what he is seeing on the screen..
Eli Storm: I know you are a busy man, Dan. I know this. But...you still owe the piper for that bullshit you pulled a few weeks ago. So I suggest, as a fellow businessman, you make time for this. Because the other option won’t be so golden, Danny boy.
Stein scoffs, splashing the cold water with his hand.
Dan Stein: That’s what this is all about? That incident on the table? You know that was nothing personal, E. You know as well as I do that when you’re champion, you just have to do things that some people aren’t going to like to make your point. You just happened to be the tool that I used. And I use the term “tool” broadly.
Stein chuckles to himself.
Dan Stein: Aw, look at that, you made me laugh. It’s been a rough night, so I appreciate that, E.
Stein shoots the camera a wink. Eli moves to put the microphone back up to his mouth, but Dan immediately cuts him off by raising his hand and speaking again.
Dan Stein: Don’t… don’t. I don’t care what you have to say about what happened a few shows ago, all that matters is that you’re back and better than ever, right? Right. But you’ve really been a thorn in my side since that title match you lost to me. If anyone says you’re not persistent, they’re lying.
Annoying even, Storm.
That’s why I’m going to give you what you want. I don’t usually do that, I don’t usually give people what it is that they want, but in your case, I’ll make an exception. If you want to be Grand Slam Champion, if you want that Sin City Championship so bad, you’re going to have to earn it. Dan Stein versus Eli Storm, number one contendership match. You win, you take on Chaos at Master of the Mat.
Stein pauses, letting the fans cheer.
Dan Stein: If I win… I’ll be beating Kale Tanev for the Rule of Surrender Championship.
The fans in the arena explode in a chorus of boos. Stein can’t help but to pause and smile.
Dan Stein: You have done nothing but be a giant distraction for me. I have lost everything that makes me happy, Eli Storm... and nothing will make me happier than to watch you suffer on the sidelines as I become the next Grand Slam Champion.
Stein stops speaking. An evil grin crosses his lips.
Dan Stein: Lets do this.
The fans in the arena cheer.
Eryk Masters: Dan Stein is finally giving Eli Storm the attention he wants, and it looks like we’re going to get a Number One Contenders match! And I don’t know why, but Dan Stein just put Kale Tanev on notice!
Other Guy: You have to wonder why Dan Stein doesn’t want the Sin City Championship back, but the title of Grand Slam Champion isn’t something taken lightly around SHOOT Project. I think this is a great business move by a smart business man, Eryk.
The fans in the arena cheer as Eli Storm points up at the EpiTron, letting Stein know he’s ready!
We cut back to the ring to hear ‘Turn to Stone’ by Joe Walsh already playing across the Epicenter. The crowd shot shows fans fired up from the previous match and the camera pans round to show
Eryk Masters: We were originally scheduled to see SHOOT Project newcomer, Cross Recoba, take on ‘Die Hard’ Dave Marz tonight but according to the sheet I have in front of me that was cancelled!
Other Guy: Did we ever get a statement from management about why that was?
The camera cuts to the aisle to show Cross Recoba slowly walking down the aisle. The crowd view him with a mix of apathy, boos and jeers for his comments made about his original opponent.
Recoba stops to admire the packed out Epicenter and sweeps the hair from his face. He spots an irate fan shouting abuse at him and turns in their direction. The guy looks like the walking definition of a neckbeard. Cross walks up to the guy and gets within a few feet before making a kissing gesture towards him. The neckbeard responds by hurling his soda cup at him but Cross moves out the way, checking his suit jacket for any spillage.
Eryk Masters: This new recruit has wasted no time endearing himself to the regulars here tonight.
Other Guy: He’s driven, he wants to make an impression, Eryk, you’ll see.
Eryk Masters: …
Cross gets to ringside and strides round the ring, the music hits the guitar solo as he strides up to Samantha Coil and grabs her microphone. He takes a step back and spins round onto the apron, climbing through the ropes in a fluid motion. He looks to the entrance and makes a ‘cut it’ sign across his neck to kill the music.
Recoba: Tonight was going to be the greatest night of your lives! You were going to be lucky enough to bear witness to the debut of Cross….Recoba!
The boos start to intensify
Eryk Masters: He’s certainly sure of himself, that’s for certain
Recoba: You could have passed on the story on to your kids and grandkids, could have had beer bought for you as you drown out the pathetic existence of your dreary lives to tell the story of where you were the night of Revolution 128, and sold the ticket stubs on eBay to finance your third divorce. Instead, thanks to the cowardice of one man you’ve lost it all!
Recoba walks to the ropes and leans over the top of them.
Recoba: That one man is no other than DIE….HARD….Dave Marz. The blue-collar Joe, the everyman of this place, the guy that you all look up to with aspirations because...you could do his job.
A smile breaks out across the debuting wrestler’s face.
Recoba: Now I’ve not heard an official announcement yet from Johnson on why, on this historical night, my opponent dropped out but, you’ll all be glad to know, I think I know the reason.
Eryk Masters: He’s been out here five minutes and I already wish I’d called in sick.
Recoba: He’s scared, scared that I’ll beat him, and he’d be right, scared that I might just prove once and for all that the one trait that makes him the man of the people here is his stupidity to keep coming back and expecting things to change!
The boos once more break out around the EpiCenter
Recoba: Now, booing me might be seen as ungrateful, ungrateful because I came out here tonight to give you fans something. You’ll see the Sicillian Typewriter and The Skim in due time, tonight however I was going to preview another one of my moves….Garibaldi’s Guilotine!
Eryk Masters: I can’t say I know this move, do you?
Other Guy: It’s got to be good, or French!
Recoba: So as a way to make peace, I'm offering five grand, or the average salary of the crowd, to anyone who can withstand and escape the most painful and inexorable move that has ever graced the SHOOT Project. So, Generic Goon, bring that guy to the ring!
Cross points to the crowd.
The crowd cheer the rowdy patron as he is brought to the ring by the security. He rolls into the ring.
Recoba: What’s your name?
Recoba: So , Kyle , you think you can take home this?
Cross throws five wraps of bills on the floor. Kyle nods.
Cross: Well, let’s see if you can make the crowd proud…
Cross drops the mic and stuns Kyle with a kick to the gut and lifts him into a piledriver position, he steps over the arms of the volunteer and then puts the legs under his arms and wrenches back in this standing Boston Crab. Kyle’s face is a mixture of determination and anger that manifests itself as a grimace
Eryk Masters: Kyle’s going for it!
Other Guy: It looks like he’s going to follow through, and not in the good way…
Kyle can see the money that is underneath his head. Cross wrenches back further and that does it for Kyle, he shakes his head and screams. The bell resounds as Cross drops Kyle, the kid’s face lies right next to the money. Cross bends down to gather the bounty and shake his head at the fallen fan.
Recoba: Medics, you might want to get out here…
Cross drops to the floor and rolls out the ring as three of the medical staff sprint past with a gurney. The camera cuts back to the ring to show Kyle still hasn’t moved. The camera pans back to a smiling Recoba as ‘Turn to Stone’ starts playing over the PA system.
We go backstage with Mary Kelly standing ready for an interview.
Abigail Chase stands in the centre of the SHOOT Project ring, her hands filled with a pair of microphones.
Eryk Masters: We have some exciting news for the SHOOT Project universe this evening. Kale Tanev has agreed to give his first ever interview tonight in the ring with our very own Abigail Chase.
Other Guy: I don’t know if I’d really call it a treat. If it weren’t for a few lucky wins he’d probably still be trawling the streets for loose change.
Eryk Masters: I think this is a great opportunity to learn more about the most enigmatic solder on the SHOOT Project roster.
“All My Life” by the Foo Fighters hits and the crowd pops loudly as Rule of Surrender champion Kale Tanev steps out from backstage. Dressed simply in jeans and a black “KT” t-shirt, Tanev walks quickly down the ramp. He presses the belt against his shoulder as he rolls under the bottom rope into the ring. He raises the belt high over his head with a single hand, drawing another loud ovation from the crowd. After circling inside the ring with the belt still over his head, he takes a microphone from the outstretched hand of Chase.
Abigail Chase: Kale, thank you for joining me out here tonight. It’s clear from the response the Epicentre gave you, that the fans are really looking forward to your first interview.
Kale Tanev: Thank you Abigail. I just want to thank everyone. The fans. The SHOOT Project executives. My competition. The backstage guys who make the show run. Everyone. This has been an incredible experience that has not only changed my life, but is changing my outlook on life.
Abigail Chase: That’s a great place to start our conversation, Kale. What has it been like, transitioning from living on the streets to being a pop culture superstar?
Kale Tanev: Well, Abigail, I’d say I’m far from a pop culture anything. I’m just a guy trying to do what’s right. But it’s been an interesting, and welcome, change. I was living tough for almost four years in cities around the United States. And I had two and a half years of hard time before that. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything resembling a normal life. Joining the SHOOT Project has really forced me to get my shit together. But it hasn’t been easy. Our society is built, intentionally or not, to keep street people from reintegrating into the mainstream. Everything from finding a place to live to opening a bank account has been difficult.
Abigail Chase: Talk to us about your living situation. We know the SHOOT Project gave you some time off to take care of your accommodations. But that apartment didn’t seem to work out. What happened there, and what are you doing now? Are you back on the streets?
Kale Tanev: Fortunately no. The building I was renting in was run by a common criminal. He tried to have some goons home invade my place. To steal the belt, I think. But I wasn’t there for it. I never really went back there. In the meantime, I’m living at a cheap hotel downtown with a good deal. Just trying to keep my living expenses down so I can put some dollars away.
Abigail Chase: You’ve spoken a lot about doing the right thing. Can you elaborate?
Kale Tanev: Well Abigail, I think a lot of people have made some assumptions about me that aren’t true. I didn’t come to the SHOOT Project to drag myself out of poverty. Now that it’s happened, I’m glad for it. But to be honest, I didn’t really recognize how bad things were. I was just passing time, waiting to die.
Abigail Chase: So what did bring you to SHOOT? And how did you land a contract with the company as a homeless person with no experience?
Kale Tanev: Something has happened from…from my old life. That’s changed everything. As soon as I found out I started trying to get some money. There were some rough spots early on. I did some not great things. And came very close to doing some really horrific things that would have haunted me for the rest of my life. But fortunately I have, let’s say, a bit of a family friend who was willing to put in a good word for me. I can’t say too much about it. But I’m glad that I’m here now.
Abigail Chase: What’s next for Kale Tanev?
Kale Tanev: I’m focused on two things. Keeping the Rule of Surrender title. And winning the Master of the Mat. Both come with the significant financial rewards that I need to quickly accumulate. So what’s next? Buck Dresden, I think. And after him? Whoever I need to beat next to advance to the finals of the tournament. Dresden is tough. I’m told he’s a very accomplished wrestler. But he doesn’t need this. It’s all fun and games and history to him. All I have to say to Buck is a gentle warning. Sometimes history repeats itself.
Tanev shakes Chase’s hand and returns the microphone. His music fits over the sound system and Tanev exists to another loud standing ovation from the Epicentre faithful.
Donovan King knew going into this match that there was the chance he was going to get hurt. Elgin Blair walked down to the ring with a smile on his face that told the story of violence and pain. You see, Blair and Winter were making King’s life in the SHOOT Project a living hell. They stood across the ring from each other, never taking eyes off one another. When the bell rang, King knew that there wouldn’t be a handshake and there wouldn’t be any sportsmanship.
So when Elgin Blair came running across the ring at full speed, King wasn’t surprised. He was expectant. He’d been studying Blair and Winter for weeks now, and Blair was very much a bulldog to Winter’s finesse. He understood why the two gelled together well and figured out why they’d created their partnership. It was mutually beneficial to both.
Elgin Blair, as he got cocked hard in the mouth by a stiff right hand, thought about his next move. He was staggered but not dropped, to the slight surprise of Donovan King. King knew he had to stay relentless and Blair knew that King had some form of retribution on the mind. King went to work on Blair, landing strike after strike. The bigger Blair continued to stay staggered, but never left his feet. That is, until King rebounded off the ropes and delivered a clothesline that sounded more like a gunshot than a wrestling move.
Blair was flattened and King kept the pace up. He was distracted as the Iron Fist Champion, Billy Winter, emerged from the back, but Winter wouldn’t get involved. The distraction was all that Blair needed to right himself and get back to his feet. It was no sooner than that that King turned around into what Blair refers to as the SLAUGHTERHOUSE SPIKE.
Eryk Masters: ROUGH move from Elgin Blair.
Other Guy: Blair is one dude I just wouldn’t ever want to fight anywhere. Not in a back alley, not in a ring, not in Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em Robots… nothing.
The crowd oooh’d at that, noticing that King was not moving following that move. Blair thought he might have things in hand and he covered King, but King is a warrior.
He kicked out at two.
Blair and Winter both were a little shocked by this, and King was a little groggy from the move still. Blair went in for further punishment, but King had the presence of mind to duck Blair’s next punch. Blair staggered two steps forward and when he turned around Donovan King DROPPED HIM WITH A DEALBREAKER.
“HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!”
Other Guy: Blair is OUT.
Eryk Masters: Winter is BESIDE himself.
King goes for the cover!
Samantha Coil: Your winner by pinfall... DONOVAN KING!
King stood in the ring smiling, as Blair rolled out. Winter, who’d never come all the way down to the ring, kept his distance as Blair rolled out. “Unchained” is blasting over the PA as King stands tall and we head backstage.
The cameras find themselves back at ringside, catching the very brief moment between calm and elation... That time when fans don't totally know what's happening next or that they're even on camera. A few folks wave... One super classy dude gets super excited and screams loudly while wiggling his tongue between two fingers, prompting a few people behind him to hold up their posters and shout as well. It's otherwise, quite docile. Fans chatting with their friends about any number of conceivable topics. There's a man flirting with his girlfriend, hands on her hips.
A couple kids asking their dad a question... Couple bros on their pho...
THE LIGHTS GO OUT!!!
INSANITY AND JOY FOLLOWS BECAUSE WRESTLING FANS LOVE THE DARK!
A chorus of haunting chimes whispers over the PA system, interrupted by the single croak of a dissonant guitar chord...
WHIRRING ELECTRIC SOUNDS SWIVEL OUT from a second guitar!
Eryk Masters: Welcome back to ringside, girls and boys, and it looks like we're moments away to the much publicized Revolution ONE, Twenty-Eight appearence of SHOOT Project Hall-of-Famer... JONNY. JOHNSON.
Other Guy:I know we'll get some more details on how Project: Hero... Jonny's nonprofit, plans to work with the SHOOT Project, which I think could be great, but... But of course, we have the potential return of... well... let's just say it's electric in here. People have signs... you can see at home. You never want to buy into rumors, Eryk... But I don't know. I guess I'll wait. It's already been quite a night, though.
The drums roll in...
And the sounds build into a DRIVING DISSONANCE!
SYMBOLS CLASH... The music swells into something more romantic...
DRUMS. SYMBOLS. THE DISSOANCE GROWS INTO BEAUTIFUL SOUND!
AN EXPLOSION OF PYROTECHNICS go off at the entrance curtains, accompanied with a bright white spotlight!
"Well, I got SHOT~! right in the ba-aaaaack,
Ibi Dreams of Pavement by Broken Social Scene signals the arrival of one of SHOOT Project's biggest names... The fans ERUPT and the song continues on its screamy, indie, driving way.
"Well I know the eyelids are under attack
Still no sign of the former World Champion... The pop dies out a little bit, but the anticipation remains. Fans are leaning over the barricade, staring at the entrance area, where the empty spotlight continues to shine down.
"And if God is what they made
The song dips and then quickly starts to swell...
The curtains rustle...
THE DEFILER. HAS. ARRIVED.
Well, I saw the GAZA~! turn into liiiiight..
As soon as the second verse begins JONNY JOHNSON pushes through the curtains and the fans respond, in kind, with an EXCEPTIONALLY generous OVATION. Jonny pumps his right fist and shouts something encouraging back, though the cameras cannot pick up through all the noise and commotion. Another stream of white fireworks goes off behind the Hall of Famer, who looks dapper in a smooooooth pin-striped, grey suit jacket, matching slacks, and a pair of black, Salvatore Ferragamo cap toe dress shoes. He has a pink dress shirt with solid grey tie. His blonde hair is shaggy, a perfect bed-head mess, with a matching, hipster-shique, scruffy face. Hints of grey in the short beard give him an added wisdom.
It's a smart look for a notoriously smart human.
Jonny slaps a few high-fives on his way down and also points at some fans deeper in the seats giving him the somewhat "customary" bow. As he reaches the ring steps, he stops and appears to notice a familiar face. He grins and walks over to hug a fan in the front row. It's a man, looks to be about 50 or so years in age. He's a portly gentleman, in a sports jacket, button up shirt and jeans.
Jonny and the man share a brief laugh before the DEFILER walks back toward the ring steps.
"And if love is what they gave,
The song moves into musical finale, a wide array of sounds. Jonny enters the ring and motions over to Samantha Coil, standing at the timekeeper's table, for a microphone. She obliges and runs one up to him. He nods, smiles and thanks her.
The music finally starts to fade as he brings the mic up to his lips.
The fanfare is exceptional. He tries to speak over the noise.
The DEFILER: Thank you so much, guys and gals.
He's forced to pause and nods in appreciate after the fans respond with more clapping and noise making. He bows his head and mouths "thank you."
It dies down, and he continues.
The DEFILER: Today is a REALLY cool day. I've worked some countless, tireless hours to be able to make the announcement I'm about to make and... and this... This means everything to me. (Gesturing around the ring at the fans) You. All of you. Thank you for staying by my side and continuing to show your gratitude and support.
The crowd applauds again and Jonny pauses.
The DEFILER: I'm certainly not always the easiest guy to cheer, and especially not lately. I came back a year ago with every intention to say goodbye. I wanted one more moment... Two-Thousand Thirteen Master of the Mat... (Pausing, looking at the mat for a moment) Valentine Lionheart made sure that didn't happen.
So I jumped at a rematch, nearly 4 years in the making, with Donovan King.
SHOOT Project World Title on the line.
He takes a deep breath, the pains of those defeats still very clearly stinging.
The DEFILER: I was diagnosed with a career threatening wrist fracture. I watched the son of one my best friends, a kid I had taken under my profressional wing, laying in a casket. I divorced my wife of twelve years. I sold my record label, and I uhh... (Swallowing) I...
He trails off, finding it more difficult to relive these moments than maybe he had thought.
The DEFILER: (Clearing his thoat, laughing through it) I found myself feelin' pretty shitty. I tried to rush back. Ya know... I... I knew what I wanted. I wanted THIS. (Pointing down at the ring) I wanted to give back to this industry and, and fight for this organization that I LOVE, but... But I was angry. I was disenchanted, confused...
I couldn't get it right. In my brain... I just. I didn't know how to fix it.
He pauses to gather his thoughts, making sure not to let his emotions get the best of him.
The DEFILER: But then... a blessing in disguise.
SHOOT had to temporarily discontinue operations. And blame whoever you want. Call it brand mismanagement... burn out from the SCAR garbage. A lack of passion for the product?
The DEFILER: It doesn't matter. Jason shut it down. and a lot of men and women were left without jobs. All the squabbles and horseshit suddenly didn't feel like that big a deal. The glass ceilings were busted. Public burials at least paid the bills, and what good would it do to conquer or destroy a place that teetered on permanent non-existance?
We were BLESSED with serenity.
And I was blinded by the warm, white light of a shimmering idea.
He pauses to let his words set in.
The DEFILER: Project Hero.
He states calmly and with pride.
The DEFILER: The antithesis to EVERYTHING I'd ever schemed, but the true identity of my passion. See, my mind and my heart are two very different beasts. My heart has ALWAYS been in the right place. The (making air quotes) "WARS" I've started or the things I've ever said... they come from a place of love. I LOVE this organization. I LOVE this sport, and I think... I think it's tough to watch people ruin that. Watch people selfishly manipulate others around them into thinking they somehow know what's best.
And I'm defensive. I admit it. I take things too personally and I... I don't react the right way. That's my mind... It's... (struggling to find the right words) It's just... that's how it works. My mind takes me into paranoid, schizophrenic universes, and, and I'm not always able to navigate my way back into the real ones...
I've done that for years.
And it's ruined me.
It's made me SHOOT Project's dark horse, black sheep, scapegoat. People push the right buttons and I become the easy victim of propaganda... with horns photoshopped over my face and the word VILLAIN stamped at the bottom of every picture.
That's one-hundred percent on me, though. I blame NO ONE but myself... my mind.
I let that happen.
My mind is evil.
He lets that sentence sink in. The fans are in a weird state. They're listening, but there's almost zero noise. It's tough to gauge their response to what's being said.
The DEFILER: Project HERO is my balance.
My heart BREATHES it in. It distracts my mind. Our community programs will teach human beings that it is OKAY to fight for something. They are designed to let normal people know that is OKAY to preach, do, and BE GOOD! Project Hero will help educate PEOPLE LIKE EVERYONE HERE on how to properly handle problems in our own world BEFORE they manifest, but also how to wipe them out if they EVER DO.
He stops speaking for a moment, almost lost in some sort of trance, completely unaware of the audience seemingly growing tired of what's going on. They still listen, but through the attentive silence, unrest stirs.
"SHUT THE FUCK UUUUUP!" A drunk fan is audibly caught shouting from a distant seat.
The DEFILER: Which brings me to why I'm out here...
He perks up, with a grin on his face.
The DEFILER: Project HERO is my new life, man, but... but THIS. THE FUCKING SHOOT PROJECT. (Pointing around the ring, shouting at the fans) ALL OF YOU. THE GODDAMN EPICENTER... THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!
THIS. IS. HOME.
AND MY LIFE... AND MY HOME... They've never been more connected. NEVER BEEN MORE FUCKING REAL.
The fans stir again and the "POPS~!" begin to build.
The DEFILER: After some long hours and a metric SHIT TON of paperwork...
We wrote up two contracts.
Project Hero has OFFICIALLY become the first nonprofit to field a working Chapter within the borders of OUR SHOOT PROJECT GALAXY!
And what that means?
It means that World Champions like... Oh, I don't know... MAYA NAKASHIMA don't have to look over their backs for the next SCREW JOB. Great matches won't be ruined at the whim of a DEMON hell bent on a tyranny and oppression! The grinders. The EVERYMEN don't have to worry about being fodder to a blossoming evil empire.
It means the sandbox just got fucking SAFE.
It means that GOOD deeds will be rewarded and GREAT competitors will be honored for their work INSIDE THE RING and NOT OUT OF IT!
Although the cheers are somewhat muted, they exist, if only in response to Jonny's sheer adulation.
The DEFILER: Project Hero will work DIRECTLY with the AMAZING Soldiers employed by this organization to reach their goals and keep them SAFE. And, I'll tell you folks what... A SAFE soldier spends less time in constant fear.... and more time coming up with new ways of KICKIN' BUTT IN THIS RING!!!
Jonny looks around the Epicenter, up into the cheap seats. Into the lights.
The DEFILER: And the second contract....
He casts a sly, knowing grin, and the fans start to pick up again.
Could the rumors actually be true?
Would Jonny be bringing in...
The DEFILER: Well I'm going to need some help keeping all this shit organized...
It gets a little bit louder.
The DEFILER: I need a FRIEND, man. Cause... heh... Well, you always need some fucking FRIENDS in this world.
I need someone I know I can trust. Someone to direct this Chapter.
He beams and the fans start getting way more into things.
"DAVIS! DAVIS! DAVIS!" Shout the smarks who read the reports and paid attention to all the clues. The cameras pan quickly to a sign that says "Welcome Back, Chris!" before focusing up on Jonny in the ring once again.
The DEFILER: Ladies and gentleman... MY FUCKING ENFORCER...
The NEW Director of Project Hero's SHOOT PROJECT CHAPTER.
Worth every cent his new contract will pay him.
A BEAUTIFUL PERSON!
A FORMER TAG TEAM CHAMPION!
The crowd ROARS NOW!!!
A FORMER WORLD CHAMPIO
A FORMER JOBBERWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD.
The cheers sort of linger for a minute but pewter out quite quickly once they realize the name Jonny actually spoke. Its only seconds until the arena is almost completely silent and that's when a driving electric beat that is both dark and complex, yet laced with a sense of uplifting hope, takes over and seems to reverberate in the very hearts of all who are bearing witness to this moment LIVE. The lights shift from standard luminosity to a hue of light blue and gold; twinkling dots scatter about the arena...
"REAL HUMAN BEING... (Being... Being... Being)
AND A REAL HERO (Hero.... Hero... Hero)"
"A Real Hero" by College and Electric Youth kicks in full after the echoing word "hero" dissipates into the first verse. The once twinkling lights give way to a single flash of golden pyro that both blinds and somehow inspires at the exact same time. And there he now stands, just out of the entryway with arms raised to the heavens and microphone in one hand... THE MIRACLE WORKER himself, Paul Jarvis!
Jarvis lowers his arms slowly and lets the world take him in. His hair is worn short and spiked up, brown giving way to bleach blonde tips. His body is covered in white silk from his billowing white silk pants to his open flowing white silk shirt. The ever prominent gold cross necklace hangs over his exposed chest with the bottom pointing to his defined abs, and his feet are adorned with very simple brown leather sandals.
Other Guy: Wait... what?
Eryk Masters: We were moments away, I thought... from seeing a Beautiful People reunion...
Other Guy: Yeah and that guy headin' to the ring is the complete opposite of said SHOOT Project Hall of Famer in every way imaginable.
Jonny applauds with mic in hand while Jarvis basks in the OVERWHELMING mix of confusion and general apathy. Jarvis confidently walks to the ring and nods his head as if listening to a different crowd. The reality is a crowd sitting relatively silent and far from impressed. Shouts of "who are you?" and "what the fuck... this is stupid!" can be heard fairly clearly... and these shouts, while ignored by Jarvis seem to bother Jonny.
The DEFILER: (Shaking his head) Enough. What is WRONG with you?
Jonny's confusion only eggs the crowd on more and although Jarvis seems a bit thrown off by their reactions, his focus is on Jonny and he smiles an oh so re-assuring smile. The music fades out leaving just the disrespectful and random shouts of the audience echoing throughout the epicenter.
Jonny: (Leaning over the ring ropes at one end, shouting, pointing at a fan in the front row) Not fucking cool.
Other Guy: This has to be a joke right?
Eryk Masters: It doesn't appear to be that way, OG. I think... whether it makes sense or not... that we're looking at the Director of Project: HERO SHOOT Project Chapter. This is all very real.
As Jarvis enters the ring Jonny is more focused on the crowd, moving to each side of the ring, shaking his head repeatedly.
The DEFILER: Am I MISSING SOMETHING?
Jarvis extends one hand, asking for the microphone, while patting Jonny on the back with the other hand. The Defiler hands over the microphone, but seems very genuinely irked with the response this is receiving.
Paul Jarvis: Jonny, hey, buddy guy. It's okay...
Showing visual frustration Jonny doesn't seem to be listening. Jarvis FIRMLY and calmly grips his shoulder.
Paul Jarvis: It's THEIR right to react how they want... however foolish it may be, ya know?
The comment draws anger from the crowd; their chants turning into a collective chorus of booing. Jonny, however, seems to be coming around.
Paul Jarvis: We're doing good things here, man. Great things as it were. You know? I mean things this organization NEEDS bud. They don't need to know me, because I KNOW they will KNOW me soon enough.
"This is bullshit!"
The shout breaks through the moment and Jonny looks about ready to lose it, but Jarvis holds both his hands up to his fellow co-director and deploys the classic "shhh shhhh shhh" method one might use to calm a frightened/bothered child. Jonny actually takes a deep breath and now Paul Jarvis turns his attention to the very annoyed, like REALLY annoyed crowd.
Paul Jarvis: SHOOT Project.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! this is first audible and "fan-wide" boo of the
Paul Jarvis: Returning for the FIRST time to your ring....
And ready to bring TRUE GOODNESS to the dark soul of this company.... It is I...
A pause. A lean back. The pageantry.
Paul Jarvis: THE WONDER.OF.WONDERS! THE. MIRACLE. WORKER. God Champion, G-Man's Right Hand Man.... and now Co-director of the VERY thing that will save this organization.... call me what you want... but KNOW ME AS....
Jonny applauds wildly, nodding his head as if trying to get the crowd excited. They aren't. They haven't been.... they're just pissed off.
Paul Jarvis: And I'm back for the betterment of SHOOT Project. When I first was here, oh so briefly, those few years ago, I was doing this whole martyr thing. I was here to lose to the SHOOT Project "soldiers" in order to unify them, to bring peace among them because they'd all have a common enemy... ME. I would bear that fate, because I thought this world needed me in that role.
Jarvis shakes his head.
Paul Jarvis: Turns out, for the first time in my life, I was wrong. This place didn't need me as its enemy... IT NEEDS me as its shining light. JONNY needs me as his shining light. (points to Jonny)and together, he and I... Project HERO, we can be the good that SHOOT Project deserves!
Jarvis is feeling his own words and he begins to excitedly pace about the ring.
Paul Jarvis: This place... for the most part.... sucks. (BOOOOOO!)No. It's true. I know it makes you mad, but it's true. I know, I've seen it time and time again. I've been watching from the wings and it's like every other season some EVIL group tears this place down and there's WAR and they all lose sight of what we all are... HUMAN BEINGS. Everyone gets all dark and twisty, blood is spilled... the wrestlers become really terrible people.
Jonny won't stand for that... I won't stand for that.
Jarvis pauses for a moment, almost convulsing with excitement.
Paul Jarvis: And above all things else, GOD will not stand for it!
Jarvis looks upwards, smiles, and winks.
Paul Jarvis: Didn't forget about you G-man. We're doing it, for real this time
Jarvis returns his focus to the matters at hand.
Paul Jarvis: So that's why I'm here. Jonny knows my connections with the higher powers... powers higher than Jason Johnson, than ANY leader in the world. God's light guides me, but I shine here on Earth and guide those who don't see that light. I am the missing piece, the very EMBODIMENT of everything Jonny needs in his journey to fix his home... OUR home.
And it begins not with the fist, but with the friend.
Other Guy: Gimme a break...
Paul Jarvis: And my first duty here, my responsibility if you will, is to be that friend. To SAVE those who are victims of this product, who have been turned towards wicked ways because that's what SHOOT Project breeds. Troubled youths like the kids tonight. Tom, and... (trying to remember names) Jason, and Jordan... Sad what happened to them tonight. It's very sad. Those guys you all think are punks... they're punks because this place MADE them that way. And I'm going to right that wrong, clean up the proverbial streets and turn horrible to honorable, goons to God-sends. Them, people LIKE THEM. I'm here to assist in the cleansing process. I'm here to rehabilitate and resurrect!
Jarvis smiles and once more lifts his arms and holds them out wide as if preparing to give the entire world a loving embrace.
Paul Jarvis: And you may think, you may look at the landscape and believe the darkness is not present, but God assures me, from his mouth to my ears and now my mouth to YOUR ears... God assures me. It is present. That the false light shines on it to mask it. Project HERO WILL remove that mask and expose the darkness.
We will make SHOOT Project safe.
For we are all human beings, but it takes a special breed of man (points to himself and then to Jonny) to be a REAL hero.
”You're gonna hear me… ROAR-OAR-OAR-OAR-OAR!”
Jonny snaps at the very SOUND of Katy Perry's "Roar". He audibly screams "WHAT THE FUCK?" and looks over toward Masters and OG. And then at Samantha Coil. Between the reactions to Jarvis and now THIS, he is LIVID!
Jarvis leans in to try and calm him down, but Jonny FREAKS OUT as soon as he sees ARCH ANGEL AND T. REX!
The DEFILER: (Into the mic) No. NO!! You want to chat about something, we can do it LATER. THIS IS NOT GONNA BE A THING! THIS IS TIME THAT I FUCKING ASKED FO...
Jarvis pulls Jonny's hand down, and shakes his head. He whispers something into his ear. Jonny shakes his head with a scowl but doesn't say anything else. Rex and Angel DEFINITELY don't seem to care that they're the interrupting the festivities. The two boys of ANARCHY! walk halfway down the ramp and the crowd cheers appreciatively, having spent a good few minutes VERY confused. The fellas are looking thinner in their tight white t-shirts and jeans. They also don't look seem convinced or thrilled with what they've been listening to in the back, as they smirk cockily at SHOOT's Heroes.
Jonny is still shaking his head.
The DEFILER: Whatever's on your mind, let's do it off camera. PLEASE. This is something that's VERY FUCKING IMPORTANT TO ME and I...
Jarvis grabs the microphone.
Paul Jarvis: (Softly, to Jonny, but the mic picks it up) It's cool. Listening's fine.
Angel pulls out a mic from his jeans pocket and raises it toward his lips as both men stop about halfway to the ring.
Arch Angel: Yeah, Jonny. Let us say what we need to say! Aren't you out here to give back to the people?! Me and Teddy? We're people!
Through a sigh, Jonny raises a hand and gestures for them to proceed, responding off mic.
The DEFILER: (Reaching his hand out to signal the "stage is all theirs") Of cour...
Rex starts speaking before he gets the "s" out of course.
T.Rex: That's real swell! Listen, let me and Chris here be the FIRST two to congratulate you's two on your little "venture". Nice of you two to team up… give back to the kids, and what not.
T.Rex's voice dripping with VINTAGE New Jersey sarcasm. Arch Angel chuckles.
Arch Angel: But before you two can give back to the kids? Before you mold the YOUTH of SHOOT, Las Vegas, The Nation, The WORLD, or whoever it is you two are going to save?! How about you give back to two aging veterans?
The crowd pops at the implication of this challenge. T.Rex doesn't do "implication".
T.Rex: SO you's two in that ring lace up those boots, and come on down to the ring at the next Revolution and fight US.
Arch Angel: And it ties in with our very own charity! Punches for Punks.
T.Rex: Fuggin' A- right! We can cross promote with clobberin'!
Arch Angel rolls his eyes and smirks.
Arch Angel: What do you say, fellas?
The crowd cheers for the prospect of a match that caliber, but Jonny is clearly in disagreement. He shakes his head and takes his microphone back from Paul Jarvis, who obliges and clearly agrees with Jonny's sentiment in this situation.
The DEFILER: (Quick, trying to keep calm) Guys. I'm not one hundred percent what this is about, but it's clear that for whatever reason you seem to have some kind of... (At a loss for words) THING against me. (Shaking his head, speaking sternly) This is not the time. Okay? We're NOT gonna fight you, so let's not...
The fans begin to "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" loudly, which catches Jonny off guard so bad that he actually stammers through his sentence.
The DEFILER: ...Not... we're... JESUS! C'mon! SERIOUSLY?? (To the crowd) Why am I getting BOOED? (As if pleading with them) We're not a TAG TEAM. (Dumbstruck) Guys... (pointing between himself and Jarvis, turning every which way, as though addressing each audience member individually) We're not gonna soil the division. (Still moving around, looking out into the Epicenter sea.) I care TOO MUCH about tag-team wrestling to think you can just throw any two people together..
He stops and darts his eyes back at Angel and T-Rex who shrug.
The DEFILER: (Pointing to the former Tag Champs) Look... You two look great. You're in great shape. I must have fired you up a couple weeks back, and that's awesome... BUT THIS (gesturing again to Jarvis and himself) isn't what you want. You need to get your rematch, man. You need to go to Crip and to... to Laz... and you need to make THAT match happen...
He changes gears.
The DEFILER: FUCK IT! Let's just do it NOW... REVOLUTION ONE, TWENTY-NINE! TAG TITLE REMATCH!
Before Jonny can rally the troops behind that idea, Angel cuts him off.
Arch Angel: AY! Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's comin, man. Bet your ass we got that bein' worked out...
T-Rex: We just want a tune-up, boys. And you two? Couple 'a former tag champs? You know the game. So we wanna play.
Jarvis takes the microphone from Jonny and attempts to calmly interject.
Paul Jarvis: Guys. Pals. (Waving the microphone before putting it back to his lips) We don't even have two microphones. I mean, we're not a tag team, okay? We're not a well oiled stable. We're just two INDIVIDUALS who co-direct a chapter for a NONPROFT. Easy mistake. No need to feel dumb... We just...
T-Rex cuts Jarvis off with now very serious conviction.
T-Rex: You waste time backstage. Fine. Waste time in the lockers? Fine. But you WASTE TIME in a WRESTLING RING...
Arch Angel: Then you WILL wrestle.
T-Rex: See ya at One, Twenty Nine.
The former champs turn their backs and take off.
Jonny is completely stunned by the turn of events and is one hundred percent speechless. Jarvis looks down at the mat...
And the cameras head elsewhere.
The blockbuster main event easily could have headlined a PPV event; estranged “blood-brothers” teaming up once again after a lengthy and personal war, Isaac Entragian and Adrian Corazon were faced with the task of trying to put aside all the old grudges in favor of making an impact. They went up against two relative newcomers to SHOOT Project, men that have been making waves ever since their respective debuts…”The Artist” Zex and Omar Owens. Owens made a big splash when he aided Maya against Mephisto and his goons, and Zex has been consistently impressing the fanbase night in and night out with his sportsmanship and his always edgy flare.
This one started off with a handshake between Zex and Corazon, both men showing competitive spirit…but it transitioned into a furious exchange of knife-edge chops the moment the bell rang. Zex and Corazon kept the pace high, technical moves followed by high flying intensity from The Artist. Both men made it clear that they’re looking forward to Master of the Mat and we got a little taste of what that bout will look like when they squared off.
The pace quickened even more after a hot tag from Zex to Omar. Omar pummeled Corazon in the corner a bit before dropping down to all fours….AND ZEX RAN FORWARD AND JUMPED UP ONTO OMAR’S BACK ONLY TO SEND A FLYING FOREARM SHOT INTO CORAZON’S MOUTH!!!!
Corazon got ROCKED by the blow…and it earned Zex a two count!
Corazon managed to get Entragian into the mix, and the big man came in like the wrecking machine that he is…proceeding to take Zex down with a bicycle kick, and Zex made the desperation tag to Omar…but OWENS RAN RIGHT INTO A HUGE SPINNING SPINEBUSTER FROM THE PALE RIDER!!!
This earned a two count for the former SCAR brothers, but it was more smart tag team wrestling that got Omar and Zex back on track. Omar wore the monster down with some fierce leg kicks, even managed to cut his knees out from under him with a MASSIVE chopblock that got the crowd roaring!
It was a WILD double attack that almost put The Pale Rider down for good…Omar hit a senton splash while Zex simultaneously scored with a guillotine leg drop…and Isaac was HURTING.
Zex almost got the three but Isaac’s height allowed him to get a leg up on the bottom rope. Isaac managed to tag Corazon back into the mix, but the two got a little heated with each other, Corazon proceeding to smack Isaac on the chest to get him right back into the match. A testament to that old bad blood…it hadn’t vanished between these guys yet.
This miscommunication allowed Zex and Omar to go RIGHT back on the attack…wearing Entragian down so much with quick tags and isolation that Corazon HAD to tag himself back into the fight.
We entered a do or die situation when Corazon LEAPT up and attempted to SMASH his knees into Omar’s face with the Act of Inhumanity…but Omar countered into a SHORT POWERBOMB….then he HELD ONTO THE LEGS AND TURNED IT INTO A BOSTON CRAB!!!
The agony was so great that sweat POURED down Corazon’s face!!
The Baddest Man Alive was in serious trouble…but somehow he grinded it out and pulled himself forward JUST enough to tag Isaac’s pallid hand!
Isaac came back in like a steam engine…MOWING Zex down with a flying clothesline and SHOCKING Omar with a low dropkick to the knee!
The monster stayed dominant, one particular uppercut hitting Omar SO hard that it mashed his lips against his teeth and bloodied BOTH of them!
It was a critical miscalculation on Isaac’s part that turned the tide…he lowered his shoulder and just CHARGED at Omar in an attempt to hit his signature spear…but OMAR COUNTERED BY DODGING AND LAUNCHING ISAAC INTO THE STEEL RING POST!!!
Isaac was in ROUGH shape after that impact, barely managing to tag Corazon back in before falling from the apron the outside while massaging his shoulder.
Corazon fought hard, but a quick tag to Zex allowed for one of the most INNOVATIVE double team maneuvers SHOOT Project has likely EVER seen.
Omar used his brute strength to get Corazon up onto a powerbomb position at the closest turnbuckle…and Zex ascended and GRABBED Corazon’s neck…AND THEN OMAR EXECUTED THE POWERBOMB WHILE ZEX LEAPT FORWARD AND HIT THE NECKBREAKER!!!!
The torque from the move made Corazon literally BOUNCE off the canvas before crashing down onto his back, and the fans were going WILD at the sheer insanity of the move!!
Eryk Masters let the crowd know that Omar and Zex refer to this move as “The OZone”…very fitting since The Baddest Man Alive seemed to plummet right out of the sky!
Omar then DOVE into the cover, and with Isaac still laid out on the outside, Owens secured the victory for his team!
Samantha Coil: Your winners…THE TEAM OF “THE ARTIST” ZEX AND OMAR OWENS!!!!
This was a monumental win for Owens, perhaps the biggest so far of his career over two SHOOT mainstays like Corazon and Entragian…and it was clear throughout that the tag team of Zex and Omar synced up almost PERFECTLY.
They wrestled smart, they wrestled to win…and on this night, these men came to PLAY.
Entragian and Corazon suffered as team because of understandable mistrust between the two and the reluctance to easily let go of the bad blood that still churns between them…but the sheer fact that these two monster athletes were able to coexist AT ALL is a major thing considering how they were at each other’s throats last year. That alone was progress…and we got a chapter of closure just seeing them team up again like the old days.
Every man involved here showed incredible grit, and with the Master of the Mat tournament in ALL of their sights moving forward…
SHOOT Project ain’t seen nothin yet.