The screen starts out black and is then replaced by pulsating glowing red lights that slowly engulf the crowd. When “DIM Scene” by the GazettE starts up there are fans noticeably angry, they spit vitriol towards the stage with all of their might. Even stranger still, there are isolated packs of fans that cheer in admiration and reverence.
From the South Street Gym...from the Dojo of Seymour Almasy...and now to SHOOT.
Markus Pascal had something to prove, call it the massive chip on his shoulder, call it the constant pressure put on himself to succeed, to finally step out of the shadow of his own family and take himself farther than the SSG’s appointed Coyote ever could. Regardless of the motivation, Markus wasn’t here to make friends, he wasn’t here to make business contracts, he was only here to make an impact and more importantly...to win.
And the only way to achieve the first of the two was simple enough; find the man who considers himself the ‘Golden Boy’ of SHOOT.
Dan Stein strutted through the backstage area with Molly, his Assistant...and whatever else she might be, to his side, and Toni and Tina, the behemoth bodyguards at his rear. Stein wore a bandage over his eye, simply protection for the wound caused by the headbutt from Buck Dresden. His baby blue SHOOT Project t-shirt had an older version of the helm over the chest with “STEIN PROJECT” written underneath it in pink lettering. Molly had on a black maxi skirt and a white blouse, with her red hair flowing over her shoulders. Stein was boisterous, speaking with his hands as they walked down the hallway.
Dan Stein: Grand Slam Champion, guys. I want it everywhere. I have held literally every title there is to hold in SHOOT Project. Everyone of them.
Stein looked over his shoulder to make sure Toni and Tina were listening to him, which they were. They always were, each time he’s said it to them, and as long as those baby blue eyes blinked at him, they were mighty fine with hearing him say one more time.
Dan Stein: There’s not a damn thing that someone can say they’ve done that I haven’t.
Molly the Assistant: Master of th-
Dan Stein: Zzzzzip it.
Stein throws his hand in Molly’s face, as if throwing her words aside.
Dan Stein: The point is-
Markus Pascal: ...the point is, that you’re the measuring stick around here...
Markus Pascal: ...and being the measuring stick means that your job is never finished...and you’ve never done it all. There’s always going to be that one man who’s going to want to test his mettle against the measuring stick...and that man?
A arrogant smirk spread over his lips as he opens his arms out wide.
Markus Pascal: You’re looking at him.
Stein scoffs, taking a step back.
Dan Stein: You? You? Who are you.
Stein taps his chin.
Dan Stein: Oh, that’s right. You’re ‘the new guy’. That up-and-comer who has yet to step into that ring…
Stein points out at the arena floor.
Dan Stein: And show...anything… to anyone.
Lowering his arms, Markus places his hands on his waist taking a step closer to Dan. Markus looks at the entourage that accompanies Dan before meeting eyes with SHOOT Veteran, his smile slowly fading from his lips.
Markus Pascal: Yeah...that’s me. You’ve never seen me in the ring before so I can understand your skepticism...but that’s your only freebie, Danny. Because after tonight, after I dismantle Zex in the middle of that ring I want to make one thing very...veeeeeeeeeeeery clear.
Once again Markus makes sure to make eye contact with everyone around him before settling upon Stein once again.
Markus Pascal: I’m coming for you, Golden Boy. And I’m talking about so much more than just beating you in the middle of the ring...oh no, that’s too easy...I’m going to systematically dissect your every accomplishment and do it better than you ever could and when it’s all said and done, Dan Stein will be nothing more but a footnote in SHOOT History as Markus Pascal becomes the New Golden Boy of SHOOT.
Stein looks in Markus’ eyes, then once over the man.
Dan Stein: Well, Mike, if that’s what it’s going to be, that’s what it’s going to be.
Dan Stein: I’m looking forward to it.
Dan gives Markus a pat on the shoulder.
Dan Stein: Good luck out there, Rook. You’re going to need it.
Samantha Coil: The following match is an Iron Fist Championship qualifier match, and it is scheduled for ONE fall!
The Faithful are greeted by the synthesizer of “Eminence Front” by The Who. Stepping out from the back to a bouquet of boos, Markus looks over the arena with a sly smirk and makes his way to the ring.
Samantha Coil: Introducing first, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, weighing in at two hundred and one pound, “Canada’s Only Son”! MARKUS! PASCAL!
Eryk Masters: This man is one of the new arrivals as we relaunch SHOOT Project, and it’s no wonder that he’s the first man out of the back tonight, OG.
Other Guy: When you go out looking for someone with the credentials of Dan Stein in your second night in the company, I say you have high hopes for yourself. Going to take a lot to out “Golden Boy” the “Golden Boy”!
Markus flips his long hair back, waiting for his opponent!
Samantha Coil: And his opponent…
“Wait” by DIIV hits the PA, signaling the arrival of the artist. Zex appears at the top of the ramp, drawing a favorable cheer from the Faithful, whom he makes sure to engage as he walks down the ramp. Zex thrives off of this type of interaction, really drawing from the crowd. He smiles to himself as he reaches the bottom of the ramp, almost quietly satisfied.
Samantha Coil: He stands at six feet, one inches tall and weighs in at two hundred and twenty pounds… he is “THE ARTIST”… ZEX!!
Eryk Masters: Let’s not forget what Zex has done in SHOOT Project –
Other Guy: Yeah, but his actions of late have been anything but wholesome, and I think that’s just what Herald and his “Master” are interested in.
As Dennis Heflin calls for the bell, Markus Pascal closes in on Zex, immediately locking up and pushing the SHOOT Project veteran back into the ring corner. Pascal lifts a knee into Zex’s midsection, doubling him over. Markus slams his fist into Zex’s back, taking him down to a knee, but Dennis Heflin steps in to pull Markus out.
Eryk Masters: Heflin stepping in immediately to make sure Markus knows that the referees won’t stand for being disrespected!
Markus brushes by Heflin, running back into the corner to Zex. Pascal lifts another knee into Zex’s midsection, and pulls him out, throwing him across the ring into the opposite ring post. Markus wants to seize the opportunity to keep on the attack and follows him into the next corner, but Zex drives an elbow into Markus’ chest, understanding exactly what might happen if Pascal takes control of the match. As Markus is reeling, Zex quickly leaps to the middle rope and takes Pascal down in the middle of the ring. Both men roll out of the move, though Pascal obviously took the brunt of it. Zex pushes Markus back against the ropes, looking over the Faithful quickly.
Other Guy: With everything going on in Zex’s life, that quick glance across the arena has to reassure him here.
Zex tries to pull Markus across the ring, but Markus counters, sending The Artist reeling into the ropes. As Zex rebounds back out, Markus lifts another knee into Zex’s midsection, flipping Zex onto his back. Markus catches himself, and glances down at Zex, but his attention quickly turns to the stands. Markus steps over Zex, stretching his arms out wide. The fans continue to turn on Markus, with more boos starting to pour in from the Faithful as Zex begins to stir.
Eryk Masters: Distasteful showboating from Markus as he gets the upper hand.
Other Guy: Yeah, E, but he better be careful against Zex!
As if on cue, Zex reaches out and grabs both of Markus’ feet, sending him chest first across the bottom rope, dangling there. Zex makes his way to his feet, flashing the fans a sly grin. Zex bounces off the ropes across from Markus, dashing across the ring, and DRIVES his boot right down broadway, causing Markus to reel against the ropes in pain. All of the Faithful let out a collective groan of approval.
Eryk Masters: Markus is a little green, and Zex capitalizes.
Other Guy: I tried telling him! Nobody walks straight the morning after Anal Zex!
Markus retreats to the far corner, holding onto his backside while his face contorts in pain. Zex rushes across the ring, as the fans begin to turn their attention to the entrance ramp. Zex lifts a leg up to drive into Markus’ chest, but Markus steps out and catches Zex, executing a picture perfect exploder suplex into the corner.
Eryk Masters: That reversal comes out of COMPLETE desperation on Markus’ part, OG!
Other Guy: Absolutely, but it looks like we’re going to get a visitor, Eryk!
Walking down the entrance ramp, with a smirk on his face and those baby blue eyes piercing down to the ring is “The Golden Boy” Dan Stein. Molly, his assistant, and Tina and Toni are by his side as the fans in the arena boo him. Stein motions to the ring, as if faking an attempt to turn the collective attention back to the match. As Markus begins to collect himself, his eyes lock up with Dan’s. Slowly stumbling, a bit gimpy, Pascal makes his way to the ropes as Zex falls into a sitting position.
Eryk Masters: You had to know Dan Stein wasn’t going to let that interaction earlier in the night go without a rebuttle of some sort, Eryk. It’s just not like Stein to let something slide.
Markus points out over the ropes to Stein. Toni and Tina take a step forward, but Dan extends out his arms, keeping them back.
Other Guy: I don’t think Stein wants to get involved in the match tonight, but I definitely think he has a message for Markus!
Markus ducks under the top rope, planting his feet inside the ring, turning all of his attention toward Stein. Zex shakes the cobwebs off, just in time to see Markus throwing his hair back in disgust, still paying attention to Stein. The Artist sprints across the ring to catch Markus turning around with a boot to the gut!
Eryk Masters: ZEXPLOSION! Zex caught the distracted Pascal with the Zexplosion!
Zex quickly rolls Markus over, using his own legs to cover Markus’ arms, and pulling back on Markus’ legs for the pin.
The crowd cheers as Zex rolls off of Markus and Dennis Heflin raises his hand!
Samantha Coil: The winner of the match by, and advancing to the main event for the Iron Fist Championship… “THE ARTIST!” ZEX!
Zex knows that he doesn’t have all night to get ready for the main event, and quickly ducks under the ropes. The fans watch as Zex passes The Golden Boy on the ramp, the two men sharing glances but nothing else. As Zex passes him, Stein begins to clap for Markus, who uses the rope to get to his feet, holding his head.
Eryk Masters: Dan Stein didn’t get involved, but he still played a part in the finish of the match tonight, OG.
Other Guy: Dan Stein didn’t do anything, Eryk, that was all Markus out there. Stein was just a spectator, and Markus paid him too much attention.
Eryk Masters: Just the fact that Stein paid Markus any attention means the kid made an impression on him, and I’m certain Markus will have something to say about that moving forward.
While watching a SHOOT Project program, one never knows what will or won’t make it on air. That being said, for whatever reason, Revolution shifts to the back of the Epicenter, where an underachieving talent by the name of JASON RILEY has made a B-line into the building. He appears to fighting for the attention of MARY KELLY (presumably nearby, but not on screen), but is met with incredible resistance from a trio of security guards. At barely 180 pounds, and looking more like a rabid, tattooed, drug-addled fan than a pro-wrestler, it makes sense that he’d be detained so readily, though he’s not willing to give in.
“GET THE…” He shoves one of the guards, a decently built white dude, away. “MARY!” Irritated, he throws up a stiff arm and shoves back a female guard. “FUCK! GET OFF!” He tries to leap forward. “MARY!” The third guard, a giant woman, grabs him by the shoulders and throws him into the wall!
“ENOUGH!” She shouts, while the other guards swarm.
“I GOT A…” Riley still tries to fight the resistance, but is easily detained. “..a…”
He reaches into the pockets of his ripped, black, skinny jeans and pulls out a letter with the SHOOT Project helmet.
“I GOT THIS!” He waves it in their faces. “YOU SEE THIS?”
The larger woman, pixie-cut blonde hair, six-four, throws her forearm into Riley’s throat and shoves him HARD up against the plaster wall.
Riley’s face turns bright red as he continues to fight the resistance.
“THEN…” He gasps. “LET ME…. INNNNN!”
Riley throws a last-ditch right forearm, but it barely glances the woman’s shoulder, and sends the dude guard into a frenzy! All of a sudden, Riley is DRILLED it side of the head with a right hand to the mouth and falls to a knee!
“GET DOWN!” the guard screams. The other woman, slightly smaller, shoulder length brunette, shoves her knee in Riley’s side, bringing him to a squat.
“HEY!” Bigger Lady Guard shouts at the other two, backing them off, while, at the same time, leaning forward and driving her forearm into Riley’s throat. “I got this.” She states calmly.
Riley gasps for air, and the guard stares at him sternly.
“You gonna knock this shit off?”
Unfortunately, Jason is not willing to cooperate!
“FUCK OFF YOU PIECE OF… AHHHHHH”
The dude security guard, probably about six-foot two and two hundred, some-odd, pounds… short brown crew-cut, grabs an asp from his belt loop and SLAMS Riley in the side.
“WHAT ABOUT NOW???” He barks.
Riley is finally subdued as he slinks to the ground.
“I just wanna FIND MY FUCKING FRIEND!” He holds up the letter again. “We got these. I WORKED HERE! HE WORKED HERE. HE OWES ME FUCKING RENT!!!!” Riley blurts out in panicked rage.
The dude guard smirks. “Don’t give a fuck about your rent.”
“That letter gets you into the locker room. You want anything else, you gotta talk to Herald.” Bigger Lady Guard explains.
“Herald? What?” Riley starts to stand up again. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?”
The bigger lady guard THROTTLES Riley in the ribs with a sole-first, thrust kick.
“This is SHOOT.”
Riley clutches at his side and falls to the ground.
“I just….” He starts to plead. “Want…. MY FUCKING MONEY!!!”
He suddenly leaps back up, trying to improbably leap over all three guards. They catch him, though, and collectively SLAM HIM BACK INTO THE WALL! Riley’s head bounces off the plaster and the dude guard punches him AS HARD AS HE CAN IN THE FACE!! Riley’s lip is busted open.
“GET HIM OUT OF HERE!” Bigger Lady Guard screams.
“TOM!” Riley shouts! “QUINN YOU MOTHER FUCKING DICK! WHAT IS THIS??? WHAT IS GOING ON!?”
Though he remains defiant, Riley is easily disposed of and shown a swift exit… shoved back through the Epicenter doors.
The scene opens to Eric Rohkar standing at the entrance of the Epicenter. A few late fans still pile in, some of them looking over at Eric, not sure if he is who they think he is. They ultimately decide that him standing out front, minding his own business, wearing a navy blue Dickie’s coat and faded grey jeans, makes him more likely to be a weird homeless dude than a former SHOOT Project World Champion. Eric eyes the horizon, standing quietly, leaning his back against the wall. There is a bit of commotion, so the camera pans over, showing that The Herald is walking through the crowd, armed guards pushing their way past fans.
“When the Levee Breaks” has this guitar riff to open it that lights a crowd up, and as such, that’s what you see here. The letters T. M. B. illuminate the screen signaling the impending arrival of Thomas Manchester Black. He walks out to the ramp, soaking in the cheers dressed in black, white, and gray camouflage shorts.
Samantha Coil: Introducing first… fighting out of the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina by way of Hartford, Connecticut, he stands at six feet five inches while weighing in at two hundred sixty-five pounds… THOMAS MANCHESTER BLACK!
Black enters the ring and has his ankles, feet, and fist tapes checked by Austin Linam before moving into his corner to wait for Cronos Diamante.
Eryk Masters: TMB looks good here. Ready to go for sure.
Other Guy: Black is a boss, there’s no doubt about that. This’ll be a bit of a styles clash with Cronos fighting more of a ground based submission style and TMB with his striking style.
Speaking of the devil himself, “You’re Going Down” by Sick Puppies hits the PA and Diamante walks out over top of a cloud of smoke. He walks to the ring moderately and as he reaches the apron, he pauses for a moment, staring at Thomas Manchester Black.
Samantha Coil: Entering the ring standing at six feet, three inches and weighing in at two hundred and sixty pounds… he is CRONOS DIAMANTE!
Cronos maintains his gaze at TMB as he climbs into the ring. He effectively ignores Austin Linam and never loses his focus. Linam checks Cronos for anything chancy and steps away from him, bringing both fighters to the middle of the ring, giving the last preliminary instructions, and sends them back.
The bell rings.
It starts off like any normal wrestling match you’d expect, but something is a touch different in the way Cronos is operating. He’s slightly pushing the tempo and is uncharacteristically pushing the tempo just a little bit. To his credit, TMB keeps pace but the seasoned fighter understands that there’s a subtle tension building in the way Cronos is moving. Black stays aware of this but loses track and Cronos takes him down after a quick round of some chain wrestling.
Cronos retains his hold on Black, cinching in with his dominant arm. He recognizes the pace change within himself too, but doesn’t deviate from his strategy even with the presence of something that’s just slightly off.
Black escapes and the two men get to their feet, the crowd “OOOH’s” in response.
Other Guy: Black is playing a very intelligent but dangerous game right now by allowing Cronos to establish the pace.
Eryk Masters: I agree – and it’s interesting, because Cronos is so steadily upping the pressure – but it’s something that Black has chosen to adapt to rather than to try to force a change.
The two lock up again from their standing position, but this time it’s TMB that’s taking the more aggressive role. He ducks under Cronos and brings Diamante’s arm with him, holding the shoulder in an awkward position. Black throws a couple of elbows into the arm of Diamante which clearly causes Cronos some considerable pain.
Linam checks Diamante who admonishes Linam for clearly being a moron, drawing a laugh from those in the front rows.
Black keeps the pressure on the shoulder but feels his grip starting to slip, so he makes a snap judgement to whip Cronos into the rope and try to catch him on the rebound. Cronos doesn’t fall for it and manages to find his way behind TMB. He takes him down again, chop blocking the knee. Black winces but fights his way back to his knees, though Cronos is one step ahead of him and rolls him over for a pin attempt.
Eryk Masters: Black with the kickout here. Cronos maintaining slight control over him and the matchup.
Other Guy: That time, Cronos pushing the pace a little worked in his favor. Should be interesting to see if he keeps that up or changes strategy.
Both men get up. Black is first to his feet, being the younger fighter, but Diamante isn’t far behind. Black rocks Cronos with a hard right hand, staggering the SHOOT Project veteran. Black, sensing that he’s perhaps retaken control, throws another right at Cronos which doesn’t catch him quite flush but still staggers him. Black fakes a third punch which Cronos attempts to feign, but instead of following through, Black reaches up and under and throws him over with a suplex.
Diamante crumples hard and Black goes for the pin and hooks the leg, though instead of just holding the pin, he starts to drive elbows into the side of Diamante’s head.
Linam calls for the break and the two separate. Cronos, who’s got a slight cut that’s opened up on his temple, is actually first to his feet this time, surprising TMB. Something has clearly triggered inside of Diamante, who walks forward with purpose and just slaps the holy bajeezus out of TMB. TMB staggers back, completely caught off guard. Black walks forward, ignoring the pain. He and Diamante clinch, a place that Cronos recognizes he doesn’t want to be. Black throws one elbow that catches Diamante in the bloody spot. He tries to throw another, but Diamante ducks it and goes underneath for a quick neckbreaker.
Linam gets into position as though he thinks Diamante is going to cover, but Diamante pulls Black up and just angrily shoves him into the ropes. He doesn’t let Black have another inch, following him into the rope predicament and starts lighting Black up with rights and lefts, causing Austin Linam to break them up.
No more than 36 inches open up between the two before they’re back in each other’s face again. Cronos doesn’t let up, throwing a knee into Black’s midsection. He grabs Black from behind the head and whips him the other direction. Black rebounds and Cronos decks him with a clothesline and follows him to the ground, throwing punch after punch into wherever he can find on TMB.
Other Guy: Cronos has CLEARLY lost his temper here. What we saw building early on in the match was just the tip of the iceberg.
Eryk Masters: I can’t even imagine what could have caused this, OG! Cronos almost always has a very level headed demeanor when he’s in that ring.
Linam warns Diamante again, who backs off. Linam checks on TMB who waves him off and begins to get to his feet. Knowing that he’s in trouble, he sees Diamante out of the corner of his eye. Cronos attempts to lock him up, but Black moves out of the way. When Cronos turns around, Black pops him with a left hand, changing up his striking style.
This only further infuriates Diamante who gets caught with another left hand on his way back in and he’s staggered down to one knee. TMB runs behind him and loads up a HARD clothesline, SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY that sends Cronos to the mat.
TMB goes for a cover!
Diamante and his rage kick out. Black gets up, very surprised at the kick out. He argues with Linam for a minute, allowing Cronos to get back to his feet. With a mighty struggle, Diamante knows he has Black where he wants him. He picks TMB up into a torture rack and then DROPS HIM with a Death Valley Driver.
Eryk Masters: LUCIFER’S HONOR.
Other Guy: What a DEVASTATING move!! TMB might be OUT.
Cronos doesn’t give Linam a chance to check on Black’s consciousness before he covers him.
The bell rings and Cronos gets up immediately, no smiles, nothing across his face. The crowd is mixed in their reaction, and Black, who’s just now getting back to his feet is clearly stunned by what just happened.
Samantha Coil: Your winner, in eleven minutes and forty two seconds, and ADVANCING TO TONIGHT’S MAIN EVENT FOR THE IRON FIST CHAMPIONSHIP… CRONOS. DIAMANTE.
Coil holds Cronos’ hand up as “You’re Going Down” crosses
Other Guy: Folks, there you have it. Diamante advances to the main event tonight to face ZEX for the vacant Iron Fist Championship!
Eryk Masters: That match will be contested under the normal Iron Fist rules, so a ten count will be needed to claim a victory. Zex, though his win against Pascal was tainted by Dan Stein’s interference, will be going for his first ever Iron Fist title.
Other Guy: Has Cronos held the title before?
Eryk Masters: He hasn’t, actually. This would be a first for him as well. I can only hope that he can keep whatever he’s got going on with him in check long enough to take that shot.
Other Guy: I’m with you on that one, E, but listen… as these guys clear the ring, we’re going to take you backstage.
The camera focuses on a lone figure in a bare room, the black-and-white format and harsh lighting making the contrast particularly stark. He has his head down, his eyes on the floor, his black leather kutte causing his massive arms to seem to fade into the background. Chevelle’s “The Red” plays in the background; no vocals, just instrumental. A single voice speaks, the voice of CJ Nelson.
I used to have it all.
The video speed cuts through some of CJ’s previous matches; the Irish Table Dance, a match against the Flying Avengers, fighting Jester Smiles and Sammy Rochester, and CJ and Jared holding the SHOOT Tag Team Championships high. Through it all, we can hear the cheers of the crowd, but no other sound. Cut back to the room.
There was a time when Long Island Hardcore was tag team wrestling. When we dominated each and every team that came along.
Cut to the incredible six-man German suplex from the Irish Table Dance at Malice, March 2008. CJ pulls back on FLASH Dynamite, Michael Collins, Jared Walsh, Rowland Collins, and Kid Lightning, as the five men come off the turnbuckle and crash to the mat to the “HOLY SHIT” chants of the crowd. Cut back to the room.
When the boys in Boston came calling for one last chance at the top, I was sold.
The video cuts to EWA’s From The Ashes, as CJ powerbombs Lou of the Vice Squad onto thumbtacks with the Crucifix Escapist. He's bloody, but still going strong. He pulls Jane Doe to her feet, tagging in Jared Walsh. He holds Jane in place as Jared hops in with a chair.
Maybe I should've seen it coming. But when the knife was jabbed in my back, I was shocked.
Jared swings the chair, and as it slams into CJ’s face, the video goes to slow-motion, turning black and white.
They took everything from me.
Jared hits him again.
Jane kicks the chair into his face with a spinning wheel kick.
Lou hits the Trendkill, a shiranui lungblower, dropping him to the mat.
Jane drops him on the chair with the Victimizer, a leg drop reverse DDT.
Lou and Jared consecutively hit their versions of the Arabian facebuster.
Jane has a barely-conscious CJ in an STF. Jared holds a chair in front of CJ’s face, and Lou hits him with a baseball slide dropkick to the chair.
Jane covers him, and gets the three-count. The winning trio celebrate in the ring in slow-motion, before it fades back to the empty room.
My time in SHOOT was tempered by the Judas at my side. That albatross is gone.
The camera cuts to a close-up as CJ lifts his head. We see just his eyes, staring us down, the only color the brown of his irises.
SHOOT Project has seen me at my best. Now the Faithful get to see me at my worst.
Cut to CJ in the ring, blood flowing down his face, screaming silently as the chorus finally kicks in.
SO LAY DOWN
CJ puts FLASH Dynamite through a table.
THE THREAT IS REAL
He plows Jacob Delacroy with a chair.
WHEN HIS SIGHT
Maya Nakashima hits the mat from a Crucifix Escapist.
GOES RED AGAIN
Cut back to CJ’s eyes, as the black-and-white image slowly turns into red monochrome. The final line of the song plays as the view cuts back to the long shot.
THEY SAY FREAK WHEN YOU'RE SINGLED OUT
And nobody is safe.
CJ stands up, cracking his knuckles, and walking off frame. The screen fades to black as the song ends.
THE RED, IT FILTERS THROUGH.
In the far reaches of The SHOOT Project epicenter, Cronos Diamante sits in his locker room after a hard fought match with Thomas Manchester Black. The prediction of Cronos losing his temper came to pass but for some reason he isn’t all that concerned about doing so. The release of his anger seems to be acting more as a calming rather than much of a detriment. The only question is how much longer is it going to remain in play. Eventually the temper tantrums are going to lead to a string of losses and that just won’t do. Before he can get too lost in thought, however, a knock at the locker room door is heard and he stands up to answer it coming face to face with Herald once more this week.
Herald: Mr. Diamante… I have something for you.
Cronos Diamante: I trust this isn’t going to send me into another panic attack, Herald? I don’t think I can’t stand to have another one.
Herald chuckles at this and nods to the bodyguard at his left to stand watch at the door.
Herald: I don’t think you can stand to throw another temper tantrum either, Cronos. But that’s just me. May I come in?
Cronos nods and lets Herald in, keeping the door cracked. The two converse for a few minutes and the scene fades out to a mysterious figure watching from the shadows. A good shot of his face or even his body features can’t be seen. A few more moments pass and Herald opens the door and leaves. Cronos stands there looking around, feeling some kind of presence lurking but can’t make out from where.
Cronos Diamante: Weird. I’ve felt that presence before.
The camera zooms in on a file Herald left for Cronos. The file has the word “Saudade” on it. Cronos turns around and shuts the door as the mysterious figure breaks his silence.
Mysterious Figure: Good. All is going according to plan.
“So what do ya think this is about, hermano?”
Jonas Coleman says nothing. He just walks to the door, opening it without knocking. Behind him is Diego Reyes, who is glaring over his shoulder.
Diego Reyes: You mind tellin’ us what the fuck you want with us?
The man they are speaking to turns his chair to face him. He lifts his hooded head to reveal his black mask. He is Herald.
Herald: I don’t recall asking for you, Diego.
Jonas sits down, leaning on Herald’s desk.
Jonas Coleman: Where I go, my brother goes.
Herald points to Diego and then to Jonas. He chuckles.
Herald: Did Diego not turn on you in Mexico or…?
Diego Reyes: I seen some things about that. About as full of shit as taking orders from a guy in a mask.
Herald’s delivery is deadpan.
Herald: I find it interesting, Jonas, and you’ll pardon my distraction here, that you refer to Diego Reyes as your brother and yet…I haven’t seen you race to Buck Dresden’s side or find Charles Magnus.
Jonas glares at Herald.
Jonas Coleman: Why am I here? What do you want with me?
Herald: I wanted to give you a fair shot at glory, Jonas. You deserve as much. An impromptu performance against Trey Willett was a nice showcase but it was also, at the same time, moderately disappointing. I believe we all deserve better than that, Jonas, so I wanted to give you a proper match. With a build and everything.
He claps his gloved hands together.
Herald: A main event! Wouldn’t you love it?
Jonas Coleman: Against who?
Herald: Think of it, Jonas. A man of your stature, your talent, your worthiness, in an amazing main event worthy of the SHOOT Project! Think of it!
Diego Reyes: He is. We are. Who the fuck is he fighting?
Herald cocks his head to the side.
Herald: Your dog, of course, need not consider himself welcome by your side in that main event.
Diego Reyes: Dog? Dog?! I’ll show you a goddamn perro, you…
Jonas Coleman: Diego. Stop. Relax.
Jonas smirks, brushing his hair out of his face.
Jonas Coleman: Herald, who am I fighting?
Herald: Kenji Yamada.
Jonas leans back, stunned into silence.
Herald: The World Champion.
Diego leans back, landing against the door, closing his eyes.
Diego Reyes: Fuck.
Herald: Jonas Coleman. The Butcher. Kenji Yamada. The Champion.
Herald leans back in his chair.
Herald: For the World Championship. At our next show.
Jonas looks to Diego, who isn’t making eye contact. He looks back to Herald, who has his hands clasped in front of his masked face.
Herald: You may go.
Herald turns his chair around from them, paying them no further mind. Jonas stands up from his seat and motions for Diego to open the door. The two members of PERDITION, the old tag team partners and older friends, leave Herald alone in his lair. The two men walk out into the hall, marching past the guards as they all glare at the two of them.
Diego Reyes: Jesus fuck, Jonas. Kenji?! Title or no, that’s fucking insanity! You ain’t goin’ at this alone, hermano, no fucking way.
Jonas Coleman: I need you somewhere else, Diego.
Diego stops walking.
Diego Reyes: What the fuck are you talking about?
Jonas turns his head, sighing.
Jonas Coleman: I need…something’s going on here. Something else. Herald doesn’t want you here, that’s obvious. Let’s find out the truth, man. He wants me here and I don’t know why. He wants me to make some fucking noise so, Diego…
He pauses, piecing his thoughts together.
Jonas Coleman: …let’s make some fucking noise.
Diego grins from ear to ear as Jonas nods his head. Both of them know what they have to do. They were the first to answer the call to arms. Now…Diego Reyes and Jonas Coleman prepare for battle.
“Brandenburg” by Black Violin begins to play, bringing the Faithful’s attention to the entrance to the Epicenter. Out from the back emerges JOSHUA BREEDLOVE. Breedlove stands at the entrance, staring out at the sea of jeering fans with his arm tucked behind him and the free hand slowly stroking his chin. He looks around at the Faithful, shaking his head as he saunters down to the ring. He says nothing, his eyes are focused on Samantha Coil and the referee in the ring.
Samantha Coil: The following contest is scheduled for one fall! Introducing first…from Reality Check Wrestling…he is…JOSHUA...BREEDLOVE!
Breedlove stands in the center of the ring, knowing that none of the Faithful or the Soldiers know what he knows. After a few fateful moments, “Man of Constant Sorrow” by Charm City Devils kicks the Faithful into another gear altogether. BUCK DRESDEN steps out onto the stage, nodding his head to the Faithful and to the music. He points to the ring and removes his Bad Ass Brotherhood vest.
Samantha Coil: His opponent…from AlieNation-One Wrestling…he is…BUCK…DRESDEN!!!
Buck paces at ringside as he looks Breedlove up and down. Breedlove isn’t that interested in giving him the time of day, but that doesn’t stop Buck from essentially giving him the whole clock. He rolls into the ring and stands in his corner, stretching. Breedlove offers to pay him no mind until the referee calls for the bell.
Buck knows very little about Joshua Breedlove and it shows in how Buck moves towards him. There is very little tape he could watch to scout for his foe, and his trepidation is easily conveyed, even with Buck’s attempt at masking his lack of knowledge with bravado and aggression. He pounces on Breedlove quickly, but Breedlove gets to the ropes and demands the referee remove Buck from the attack. The referee stands between Buck and Breedlove, grasping at Buck’s waist to push him away. Breedlove smirks as he reaches over the referee for an eye poke that causes Buck to stagger back.
Eryk Masters: The thing to remember here, OG, is that Buck Dresden, for all his talent, wasn’t the strategist of the Bad Ass Brotherhood. That role fell to Charles Brandon Magnus.
Other Guy: Interesting to note that Buck, while really talented, falls into a trap like that poke of the eyes.
Breedlove quickly assumes control of the match with a dazzling display of technical prowess. His smooth transitions, his quick takedowns, and his command of the ring showcase a talent far beyond simple instinct and skill. Breedlove knows where he is, he knows who he is, and most of all, he knows who he is facing. This knowledge allows Breedlove to take advantage at every turn against Buck. Buck’s raw talent kept Buck in the running throughout his career, but facing someone as knowledgeable as Breedlove is something different altogether. Breedlove attempts one of his many finishers, but Buck powers out of each of them. Breedlove catches Buck in a belly to back suplex that he rolls through, bridges over Buck, slides a leg through Buck’s legs, and quickly locks in an inverted Sharpshooter. Buck howls out in pain but quickly gets to the ropes. Breedlove releases the hold, allowing Buck to glare at him.
Joshua Breedlove: Tell me something, Buckley…
Buck gets up, charging at him with a Lariat, only for Breedlove to counter by grabbing the arm, then Buck’s head, then hitting a swinging neckbreaker on him.
Joshua Breedlove: …do you miss Japan yet?
Breedlove is all smiles at this point. Buck is completely outmatched. Both men know this to be an incontrovertible fact. This fact, however, doesn’t stop Buck from launching himself at Breedlove with lefts and rights, causing the Reality Check star to stagger back, almost surprised at the violent outburst. Breedlove falls against the ropes and Buck is quick to catch him as he bounces back off of the ropes with a disturbingly stiff spinebuster, sending Breedlove to the mat with a spine cracking thud. Buck puts the boots to Breedlove, ruthlessly kicking and attacking the young star before he finally stands over Breedlove’s prone form.
Buck Dresden: Hey Joshie-poo!
Buck grins as he slaps Breedlove in the face.
Buck Dresden: WELCOME TO MY FUCKIN’ EPICENTER, BITCH!
Buck cocks his imaginary shotgun and aims it at Breedlove, preparing to end this match with the Buck Shot, his finishing maneuver. Breedlove slowly starts to get to his feet and Buck is preparing for that when Buck hears the Faithful rousing. He turns to the entrance to see KITSUNE, the young masked Japanese star that fell to Cade Sydal in the World title tournament, leap to the ring apron. Kitsune quickly jumps to the top rope and leaps off, only for Buck to catch him and drop him HARD with a Buck Shot! Buck quickly gets back to his feet, just as Breedlove catches him in a Full Nelson Face Slam!
The bell rings as the Faithful rise to their feet, stunned at what they have just seen. To them, Buck Dresden is a World Tag Team Champion. He is a man who has only ever been pinned in SHOOT’s entire history a total of once prior to the Call to Arms. Now, not only has former World Champion Dan Stein beaten him…but so has this new and dangerous Joshua Breedlove.
Other Guy: My God! Buck Dresden just can’t catch a break!
Breedlove demands Kitsune hand him a microphone as “Brandenburg” dies down.
Joshua Breedlove: I hope…you enjoyed the taste of the Iniquitas, Buckley. At least as much as I enjoyed delivering it to you.
Joshua Breedlove: You claimed this was your Epicenter…and I must admit, I believe you’re absolutely right. It is, without question, the ground zero for your demise. Kitsune?
Breedlove hands the microphone to the man dressed in purple and black with a matching fox mask.
Kitsune hands the microphone back to Breedlove, who certainly can’t hide his satisfaction.
Joshua Breedlove: I pray you’re ready, Dresden.
He turns to walk away…then he stops. He turns his head, grinning from ear to ear.
Joshua Breedlove: Actually…I pray you’re not.
Breedlove drops the microphone on Buck’s chest, laughing as he puts his arm around Kitsune. Kitsune opens the ring ropes for Breedlove. Both men leave Buck lying in the center of the ring, his eyes staring blankly up at the ceiling. Lost. Alone. Beaten.
The scene opens in on the ring. Samantha Coil and Dennis Heflin are in the ring, both looking a little confused. Samantha Coil raises the microphone to her lips. The crowd murmurs to themselves, uncertain of what is exactly happening.
The shot goes to the back, to a hallway, as Cade Sydal and Cassi Ryan round a corner, she in a green skirt and white top this time, he in a green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes shirt and loose jeans. He has a cell phone pressed to his ear.
Cade Sydal: It's still bruised to all fuck, but it's healing fine.
He points at his back as Cassi shoots him a curious look, she nods at that.
Cade Sydal: Look, that's not why I called you. You got an invitation, use it. I'll have Cassi send you a list of things to bring, we're going to need supplies. Lots of supplies.
Cassi nods her head as Cade speaks, pulling her out cell phone out of her small pocket with just a bit of a fight due to the tightness. She begins to type in it, presumably a text message.
Cade Sydal: It's fine, I know how things are. Just be here for the next Revolution. They're need saving more than I thought. It'll be easier to show you than to explain it to you, you'll just have to see for yourself.
After a brief second, Cade hangs up the phone and looks at Cassi.
Cade Sydal: Court got out late, he missed his flight. He'll be here next show, though.
Cassi Ryan: Good, we could use the help. How's this look?
Cassi shows Cade her phone screen and he nods.
Cade Sydal: Add baby powder and tell him if we think of more before then we'll let him know.
Cassi nods and the two then look at the camera before smirking at it as a couple and walking past it.
Suddenly, “Holy Defender” hits the stereo and the crowd pops when they see Jonas Coleman’s name appear on the screen. Naturally, they pop harder when he walks out from the back and straight to the ring with a clear purpose.
Eryk Masters: Jonas Coleman isn’t scheduled for right now, but I can’t say I’m too surprised to see him!
Other Guy: Yeah, this guy is getting the opportunity of a lifetime in two weeks against Kenji Yamada.
Jonas skips his normal ring entrance and just rolls underneath the bottom of the ring. He’s handed a microphone by Mark Kendrick.
I will never be broken.
The crowd pops at the line and acknowledgement.
In two weeks, I will stand across this ring from Kenji Yamada, a man who is clearly possessed and a man who has something that I want; the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship!
Kenji is going to look to maul me. He and I have some history, as a lot of you are aware. He is one of the pieces that made up Project: SCAR, the group that left me for dead in what’s now a torn down heap of junk not that far from this building. Make no mistake… we will bleed, we will fight, and no matter what the Herald may say… I will capture the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship. I will insert a little bit of chaos into Herald’s and the Master’s well organized scheme, and Faithful?
I WILL STAND VICTORIOUS AT THE END OF THAT NIGHT.
The crowd HOWLS at him as he paces the ring, nothing but bloodlust in his mind, focusing on the massive obstacle in front of him.
We will paint this canvas a crimson red and I will do what I ALWAYS do and I will KEEP GETTING UP. I WILL KEEP FIGHTING. I will NOT break.
Herald says this is a reward, a glorious opportunity, and for how sadistic he is, he’s absolutely right. That said, he also thinks it’s a punishment because NOBODY wants to get in the ring with Kenji Yamada right now, except for me. I’m the BUTCHER, ladies and gentlemen. That’s who the Master wanted when I received my invitation and that is who the fuck he’s going to get.
I will take my glory and I will take my punishment and I will give you, the Faithful, something to cheer for.
I am the butcher and I will NEVER be broken.
They respond to him in kind and he drops the microphone as “Holy Defender” kicks back in, ushering Jonas Coleman out nearly as quickly as he came. The camera shifts to Eryk Masters and the Other Guy, both men who share shocked expressions.
Eryk Masters: Jonas may have just earned himself a death sentence with his comments out here.
Other Guy: Look, I love Jonas like anyone else does, but the guy needs to watch his mouth. You get a golden opportunity like that and instead of being grateful, you decide you’re going to throw it back in the face of the Master while ALSO pissing off Kenji Yamada?
Eryk Masters: Make no mistake about it, OG, I certainly wouldn’t have done that, but we know Coleman. We know what he can withstand and we know what he can do. I’m EXCITED for that match.
Zex and Cronos stand apart in the ring, separated only by distance, Tony Lorenzo, and Samantha Coil. The Faithful are in a bit of a frenzy, knowing that they are about to see some serious brutality about to take place. Whispers go out in the crowd about the size difference between Zex and Diamante, outside of the earshot of the wrestlers.
Samantha Coil: This match is for the SHOOT Project Iron Fist Championship!
After her proclamation, the Herald walks out onto the stage and applauds both men before taking a microphone to speak.
Herald: Fabulous. The Master is most pleased with the outcome to this point. Zex and Cronos, as mentioned by the lovely Ms. Coil, this is a match for the coveted Iron Fist Championship. You will obviously be fighting under Iron Fist rules which means that if at any point you Zex, or you Cronos, cannot answer a ten count the match will be called and a winner will be announced.
The crowd pops for this, waiting for the appetite to be whet.
Tony Lorenzo meets both men in the center of the ring. Both are showing signs of a little bit of wear from their previous matches, though Zex has the freshness edge due to the extra time. Cronos still has a hardened look in his eye. They both won’t take their eyes off one another. Cronos, the hardened veteran and Zex, the hopeful fighter.
Lorenzo calls for the bell which signals Zex’s explosion from the corner. He staggers Diamante with a series of rights and lefts that have the veteran reeling. Diamante, surprised by the outburst of aggression, does his best to cover up but Zex is unrelenting in his assault! Looking to build on his immediate momentum, Zex whips Diamante across the ring and into the turnbuckle, following it up with a running knee that knocks the wind out of Cronos’ chest. Zex pulls him down into a small package and actually attempts to lift him back up to drop him with a powerbomb, but Cronos powers out quickly and tries to get to his feet quickly enough to brace for the next barrage by a competitor who is clearly firing on all cylinders.
Eryk Masters: Zex is definitely not messing around in this match and he’s showing a ferocity that he will absolutely need if he wants to drop Cronos for a ten count.
Other Guy: This kind of a flurry doesn’t surprise me at the onset. Zex had a little more time to prepare and his match went a little bit more smoothly than Diamante’s did, but you can absolutely never count Cronos out.
Feeling the walls close in, Cronos manages to get out of the way of a charging Zex. Diamante hits him quickly with three strikes and reclaims some of his momentum, much to the delight of the Epicenter’s Faithful who shout encouragement at Diamante. This appears to boost Cronos’ spirits as he clenches his fist before going back in to work Zex over. Zex throws a wild right that Cronos dodges and he follows up by wrapping Zex up. This kicks off a string of attempted takedowns and throws with the noise from the crowd rising with each moment. The chain is broken when Zex NAILS Cronos with another right and then pulls him down with a DDT.
Looking to do more damage, he kicks at Diamante who takes two before catching Zex’s foot, getting to his feet, and whipping him with a dragon screw leg whip. The crowd pops for this and Diamante lets out a breath of relief. He goes to work on Zex now, dropping boots of his own into Zex’s midsection. Zex gets to the ropes but Diamante doesn’t stop, causing Tony Lorenzo to enter the fray and separate the two, much to the Faithful’s displeasure.
“LET THEM FIGHT”
Other Guy: Crowd here is letting Lorenzo know that they didn’t appreciate the pause in the action.
Eryk Masters: I mean, Zex is in the rope and Diamante is just going HAM on him like that. I think the Faithful probably want to see an actual fight and not just some dude kicking another dude.
Other Guy: My thing though, E, is that this is Iron Fist rules. Lorenzo shouldn’t have stopped him.
Cronos is LIVID and letting Tony know the same thing that Other Guy just mentioned when Zex groggily gets back to his feet. With nothing but anger on his mind, Diamante doesn’t see Zex, with a grin on his face, walk up behind him and subsequently misses getting a hard forearm to the back. Diamante stumbles forward, but doesn’t fall. His face is contorted with anger, annoyed that the younger upstart would hit him from behind.
Diamante and Zex begin a HEATED exchange of blows drawing loud cheers from the crowd. Zex finally blocks one, but Cronos is one step ahead as he shuffles him over with a fireman’s carry drop. Cronos then follows up, locking Zex’s chin, hoping to quell some of the Artist’s fire. Zex struggles and Lorenzo checks on him even though the match can’t be won via submission.
Zex starts to struggle to his feet, but Cronos cinches it in even harder, bringing Zex back down to the mat. Cronos, clearly slowing the pace and allowing his anger to fuel him, works the neck of the Artist and Zex begins to fade. Tony Lorenzo is keeping a close eye on Zex and begins a ten count.
Eryk Masters: Tony’s reached a four and Zex hasn’t moved. This COULD be it.
Other Guy: I don’t think so. Zex has been a house of fire this entire time and only now has he been slowed. Diamante is solid in his hold, but I don’t think this ends the match.
Lorenzo reaches an eight count before Zex is fully engaged again. Cronos is SEETHING from this, hoping that the surprise of being caught like that plus the tenacity of the hold would put an end to Zex’s Iron Fist title hopes. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case as Zex has found life after the tight hold nearly ended the match.
Soon, Zex is back to his feet with a smile on his face. This enrages Diamante who charges at him full force. Zex takes a hard shot to the face but doesn’t fall. Diamante moves behind him and pulls him up into the torture rack!
Other Guy: If Diamante hits this, it’s OVER.
Eryk Masters: He’s got him up for the first step in Lucifer’s Honor!
Diamante racks Zex a few times for good measure, but when he goes to drop him with the death valley driver, Zex springs free and Diamante is FURIOUS. The crowd, admiring Zex’s sheer will to get out of the move, pop to let him know.
Zex shakes his head and puts his hand on his back while in the middle of the ring, showing the obvious pain that the torture rack caused. Diamante now only has one thing on his mind, and it’s to essentially murder the smaller man who escaped his finisher. With that, he comes from the corner of the ring to the middle, but Zex is ready. Diamante gets ducked but doesn’t go into the ropes. Instead, he turns around, but Zex shoves him backward and NOW he rebounds. He doesn’t have much time to think about anything else before Zex LEVELS HIM WITH A HUUUUUUGE LARIAT.
Other Guy: ZETA-ECHO-X-RAY!!
Eryk Masters: MAJOR move.
Lorenzo begins the count!
Diamante starts to move at a six count…
…but finally collapses.
The bell rings! Samantha Coil enters the ring and hands Zex the SHOOT Project Iron Fist Championship as she moves to the center. Tony Lorenzo raises Zex’s arm, and Zex with a big grin on his face, holds the title belt up with the other.
Samantha Coil: Your winner at a time of twelve minutes and thirty-three seconds and NEW KING OF THE IRON FIST…he is the ARTIST. ZEX!
The crowd pops for Zex and drenches him in an “IRON FIST” chant. Zex smiles and holds the belt close to his face.
Eryk Masters: What a well done match by the Artist here. He claims his first ever Iron Fist Championship and he does so against probably one of the toughest competitors he’s ever faced in a SHOOT Project ring.
Other Guy: Cronos definitely let his anger get the best of him and that emotional dump after getting hit by that mega-lariat took everything out of him. I hope that he’s able to find his footing here because Diamante is an AMAZING competitor.
Eryk Masters: No doubt about that, OG. Cronos will definitely regret letting his emotions get the best of him here, but tonight was Zex’s night and that man right there is your NEW Iron Fist Champion. Goodnight everybody!
With that, Zex climbs the turnbuckle and holds the title belt up high, the Faithful cheering his victory and applauding his conquest. The show fades to black on the image of Zex standing tall in the corner, a true bright spot in SHOOT Project lore.