MY OLDEST DEAREST FRIEND
Static covers the screen as a Play ► symbol appears in the bottom right-hand corner.
In the darkness, covered by shadows in what appears to be the basement of a building, four men carry a large stretcher between them.
Led on it, a figure we can barely make out.
They head past large pipes towards a room that remains equally as dark. It’s kitted out with all kinds of medical equipment. The men place the stretcher down onto a table and back away.
“Oh dear, old friend, what exactly have they done to you?” A voice questions from out of view. It’s older and a little sinister.
“He was barely breathing when we picked him up,” one of the men says, folding his arms. “I’m not sure there’s any saving him.”
“You leave that to me,” the man replies, checking for vital signs.
“In the meantime, he wishes to speak with you. He has some rather important news regarding the project. It hasn’t gone well.”
“I’ve been paying attention to that. He had one job to do and I’m not satisfied that he’s completed his task. I don’t think he’s ready for Ring of Dreams.”
“Would you like us to take care of it?” Comes the reply.
The man stands up straighter, thinking about it for a moment. We can’t see his face, it’s covered in shadows, but one might assume that he’s giving it great consideration.
“No,” he finally responds. “I’ll take care of it myself.”
“Understood. Do you think you’ll be able to put humpty dumpty back together again?”
He chuckles somewhat.
“This is one of my oldest, dearest friends in the world. I can but try, can I not?”
“If you need us, sir, please don’t hesitate to call,” the man says, leading his crew out of the room.
The man nods, stoically.
BISHOP VS. THE PLAGUE RAT
The marine was tasked with stamping out vermin – but he’s never faced a rat like this!
Bishop looks down on The Plague Rat with disdain. Rat slaps him across the face! A furious Punisher swings for him, but TPR gores him into the corner. Plague stomps a mudhole in him, then chokes him – using the ropes for leverage! He breaks before the 5-count, avoiding a DQ.
Rat pulls him up by his hair, but Bishop drills him in the gut. He busts his ribs with sledgehammer punches, then stiffs him in the throat! TPR falls to his knees, coughing and wheezing – but laughing! Bishop shakes his head and turns out the lights with a right hook. ONE… TWO… KICK OUT! The Pandemic is far from finished.
The Hunter scoops Plague up and drops him headfirst into the top turnbuckle! He hits the ropes for the follow-up big boot – CROSSHAIRS!? CONTAGIOUS! Rat cuts him off with the pop-up Samoan drop! ONE… TWO… SHOULDER UP! Plague rolls over and bites Bishop until the referee pulls him off!
They climb to their feet and engage in a slugfest! Bishop wins out, sending TPR into the ropes with a haymaker… but he retaliates with DELIRIUM! The pop-up clothesline staggers Bishop – DEADEYE! He cuts him down with a rebound spear! Both men recover by the count of 8. Bishop blocks a punch and hoists Rat up into the crucifix powerbomb – making his FINAL STAND! ONE… TWO… THREE!
Bishop exterminates The Plague Rat!
At Enigma HQ, Edward Newton and Sigil stand over the unconscious body of The Red Death. He’s led in his bunk, in full attire minus his mask, as the two men recuperate from their battles nearby.
“He shot him?” Sigil enquires, with surprise.
“I didn’t expect it to work so well, but I prepared something just in case. The serum will keep him unconscious until I’ve adjusted my formula.”
“How are you keeping him obedient?” Sigil questions. “If I were him, there’s nothing that’d stop me killing Luke Storm.”
“I daren’t share that,” Newton replies with a wry smile. “Just know that before he steps foot back inside Old School Wrestling, he’ll be obedient again.”
“For how long?” The Collector quizzes, folding his arms. “How can he possibly be obedient after what I showed him?”
“For long enough. Bill Kirby hasn’t been in control of Bill Kirby since I began sending him video tapes and letters. When I’m ready for him to snap out of it, he’ll snap out of it. In the meantime, I need him measured when conducting business with Luke Storm.”
“I don’t understand your dislike for Storm. If it wasn’t for your interruption, Death would’ve killed him. Why didn’t you allow that to happen?”
Newton takes a seat, removing his hat.
“I don’t wish death upon Luke; that’s the last thing I want,” Newton admits, carefully removing his eye mask. “It’s complicated.”
Sigil pats him on the shoulder.
“I’m going to remove the burden of that OSW Championship from him,” he announces proudly. “I hope that doesn’t complicate your plans further.”
Edward looks up, smiling.
“By all means, take it. I want to hurt him, Sigil. I want to punish him. Death has played his part in that and so have you.”
In the middle of a very secluded location, away from the prying eyes of the world, a sterile room keeps one very important man alive.
The War Machine sit outside the door, armed to the teeth.
Meanwhile, Doctors and Nurses work around the clock inside.
A secured door to their left is signalled by a red light that suddenly turns green with a buzz.
This is their cue. They stand up and head inside, securing the door behind them.
The large television screen on the wall lights up, barely revealing a shadowed figure, who talks to them from an unknown location.
“Excellent work in securing The Butcher. I can see that I’ve assembled the right men for the job,” he announces with a robotic voice; everything about him is hidden from view. “I can imagine that you have questions. Now is the time to ask.”
“Why have we secured The Butcher?” Malice asks, first to pipe up. “And for how long do we protect him?”
“The why is delicate,” The General admits. “And above your paygrade for this assignment. However, your protection detail will last until he awakens.”
“Do you think he will?” Bishop interrupts. “Because I’ve seen the looks on those Doctor’s faces and they don’t look positive.”
“I would agree,” Major continues. “He’s in a coma and the extent of his injuries won’t be known until he wakes up. If he wakes up.”
There’s a pause.
“The Butcher has a very important role. Old School Wrestling has a very important role. I’m assured by the medical team I’ve assembled that they’ll work around the clock to save him,” The General announces defiantly. “But your next assignment is a little more delicate and will require a different tact.”
The War Machine share glances, a little confused.
“Less shock and awe?” Thom questions.
“That’s me out, then,” Malice jokes.
“In the folders behind you is a target. Like I said, this will require a different tact. Get it done, soldiers.”
The video feed cuts off.
Thom walks over to the folders and picks them up, tossing one each to Malice and Bishop. Both men take a moment to look inside, each of their faces varying with a different expression.
“Shit,” Bishop growls. “I can’t do this, boys. I’m not capable. Not after everything I’ve been through.”
“I’m not sure that I’m the man for the job either,” Thom announces.
“Well fuck,” Malice intervenes with a wry smile. “I guess that leaves me, after all.”
THE JUDGE VS. KAZAKU
Will the former Yakuza member answer for her misdeeds, or will she avoid judgement?
The Judge shakes his head, dismissing his diminutive opponent. Kazaku nods and turns to leave – only to execute a handspring headscissors takedown! The 6-9, 380-pound Judge scrambles to his feet, but a dropkick knocks him back down! He gets to his knees, and almost gets decapitated by a rolling savate kick! ONE… TWO… KICKOUT!
Order kicks out, but he must be regretting overlooking Kazaku! She vaults onto his shoulders for a hurricanrana, but he sandbags her… RESTORATION POWERBOMB!? The Okami Warrior narrowly avoids the opportunistic finisher, backflipping onto her feet! She gets him in a cutter and leaps up into a Salida del Sol – YASEI NI aka INTO THE WILD! ONE… TWO… THR—SHOULDER UP!
Kazaku is on fire! She climbs the ropes, looking for the SHI NO WA aka WHEEL OF DEATH! The shooting star, however, is cut off by THE VERDICT Sparta kick! The Judge stops her from falling and climbs up, too, carrying her… PERFECT BALANCE! The top-rope electric chair drop shakes the whole ring! ONE… TWO… THR—SHOULDER UP!
The Yakuza Juvenile claws at The Judge’s feet. He looks down at her and shakes his head. He’s not dismissing her this time, though. He’s saying he won’t make that mistake again. He snatches her off the mat and hoists her up into the powerbomb – RESTORATION! Kazaku bounces from the impact and lands chest-down! Judge turns her over for the cover. ONE… TWO… THREE!
The Judge brings his gavel axe down for another ruling.
As The Judge rises from his fantastic victory over Kazaku, the lights go off.
Stood in the pitch black, one can only imagine what he’s thinking.
When they return, he’s there.
THE SHOTGUN BLAST!
Out of absolutely no-where, Reaper lays The Judge out in the middle of the ring. He reaches down, pulling his head up to a furious right hand, making sure that he’s unconscious.
What’s the meaning of this?
He slides to the outside, picking up Judge’s axe and a steel chair. He brings them both back into the ring, setting them up.
With the chair now fixated in the centre, The Reaper pulls The Judge up and lays him across it, using it like a guillotine.
“Wake up, you son of a bitch!” He yells, putting his boot across the back of his apparent foe.
The Judge slowly and groggily comes to.
“I have some fuckin’ questions for you and I had better like the answers.”
The Judge tries to move, but The Reaper is strong – real strong.
“My family,” he growls. “You’re the Judge, Jury and Executioner. You create balance from order, so tell me, what fucking balance was created that day?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” The Judge replies. “People die every day. The good, the bad and the ugly.”
“Not good enough!” Reaper yells back.
He raises the axe and is about to slam it down when The Judge suddenly vanishes.
Quite literally from beneath his feet, The Judge completely disappears.
He returns atop the entrance ramp, looking back at The Reaper who holds his axe.
“If you want answers, I’ll find your answers,” The Judge explains. “But I’m The Judge and I keep the universe in balance. Believe me, there is a reason for everything.”
The Reaper growls.
“I’ll hang onto this, then.”
OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN
Before the show.
Water crashing against stone.
Tears streaming down a man’s face, dripping onto the deck of the ship made from that very stone.
Pickpocket. The distraught street rat stands with Buford Jr. at his side. He stands over a coffin on the deck of the ship, the remains of Scrimshaw wrapped in a burial shroud as he lays, strangely peacefully, in the casket. Pickpocket holds the Captain’s hat and pipe to his chest, placing them on a nearby table.
“You were a good captain. A good man, Scrimshaw. You did things that you regret, and in the end you became the man that you knew you could be. You didn’t deserve the fate you got, wrapped in the ropes of your own ship… and I promise you, as my last act as your first mate…”
He chokes back his tears, reaching into the casket and pulling out two old, bronze brass knuckles. He slips them onto his hands and grits his teeth.
“I’ll keelhaul every single last member of Imperium. Their lives, their ill-gotten gains, will be forfeit.”
He stands tall, closing the lid of the casket, locking it tight before heading inside of the rear of the ship, taking his place in the captain’s quarters. Buford Jr crawls up his back and onto his shoulder, carrying what seems to be a photograph. Pickpocket snarls at it, his innocence drained from him as he stares it down.
“Thank you, BJ. I think I know who I blame the most…”
He puts the brass knuckles away, and retrieves an old knife from his waist. The young cut-purse shows surprising accuracy as BJ throws the photo into the air and Pickpocket flings the knife into it.
And there it lands, blade impaling it into the door.
“Time to set sail, BJ. We have a man to hang from the gallows.”
There is only pure, raw emotion in Pickpocket’s words as he stares down the picture.
Rage and agony dripping off of his words as we cut to black.
THE REAPER VS. DICE
One man seeks vengeance on the world, but is he playing in a game with loaded dice?
The Reaper cracks his neck. He’s ready to take this chancer down. Dice, however, smirks. Clickety-clack! He vanishes from sight! That must be a high roll for SPIRIT OF THE PANTHER! Reaper puts up his dukes… Only to literally be blindsided! A phantom force scoops him up into a powerbomb! ONE… TWO… KICKOUT!
He gets to his knees, but appears to eat a baseball slide as his head snaps back! How is he supposed to fight this guy!? Wait – the ropes just moved… JUSTICE BROUGHT! The Harvester catches Dice with a Samoan drop, rendering him visible again! ONE… TWO… KICKOUT! Reaper peels him off the mat before he can roll. Belly-to-belly slam!
Reaper mounts him and goes berserk with lefts and rights, but Dice slides out. He doubles Reaper over with a kick, then drops him with a brainbuster! He makes a tumbling motion with his hands and hits the ropes – DICE ROLL! He drives the wind out of Reaper’s sails with the rolling thunder! ONE… TWO… TH—SHOULDER UP!
Dice goes to pick him up, but Reaper rocks him with a jawbreaker. He cocks his fist and leaps up for THE SHOTGUN BLAST Superman punch! Wait… He falls to his knees, clutching his hand! Dice laughs, having rolled the DICE OF THE STONE GIANT! Pebbles fall from his rocky skin as he closes in on Reaper – who hits the VENGEANCE FROM ABOVE floatover DDT! Dice is dense as stone and can’t kick out! ONE… TWO… THREE!
Fate wasn’t on Dice’s side tonight!
In a dim locker room, Luke Storm is changing the bloodstained bandage that wraps around his shoulder, encasing the gunshot wound he suffered at the hands of Red Death last week.
He sighs. It had been the second hospital visit caused by the man formerly known as Bill Kirby.
But still: duty calls. Gunshot wound or not, Luke Storm has a match.
He’s got a little girl to set an example for–now more than ever.
Never quit. Not until you win.
That’s what he’s thinking about when his cell phone vibrates loudly on the table next to him.
Luke thinks about letting it go. But for some reason, he answers.
“Hello?” he asks.
“Is this Luke Storm?” the voice on the other end asks.
“There’s something you should know. But I must be quick.”
“That’s great,” Storm says, sounding annoyed. “Who is this? What do you want?”
“Have you wondered, why now?” the voice responds. “Kirby. Red Death. Why would he shoot you now, when he’s had so many opportunities before? What pushed him over the edge?”
“He’s fucking crazy. That’s why.”
“It’s because he was shown something.”
“Shown something? Like evidence? Whatever it was, it’s fake. Faker than fake. Horseshit.”
Luke Storm’s face looks somewhere between puzzled, frustrated, and deeply concerned.
“Sigil. Your tag partner tonight. At Grave Consequences, he used his abilities to create… an artificial timeline. A forgery. And there, he showed Bill Kirby his exact worst fears. You, ruthlessly slaughtering his man’s family. And to Kirby, it was indistinguishable from actual events.”
Losing his temper, Luke Storm slams his left fist into the locker behind him–then immediately winces as a shockwave of pain runs up his shoulder.
Meanwhile, outside, someone is whistling a happy tune.
“Why are you telling me this?” Storm asks. “Who are you?”
The whistler draws closer.
“Red Death’s fury and bloodlust grows greater than ever,” the voice continues. “You…”
Finally, the whistler is revealed to be Edward Newton, wearing a sinister smile, as he pokes his head into Storm’s locker room.
Storm abruptly slams the phone shut. Newton doesn’t seem to notice.
“Punching lockers, dearest Luke?” he asks. “Not the greatest example for young Scarlett.”
“Not in the mood,” Luke says. There’s thunder in his voice.
“Sigil is eager to fight by your side this evening,” Newton says. He smiles. “Almost honored, I’d say. He told me himself, but I thought you should know. Good luck.”
The Riddler turns and walks away.
THE RED DEATH VS. JESSIE WILLIAMS
Will the son of The Chosen One be baptised by fire, or is he playing with matches?
Jessie shrugs off the flames and makes a wisecrack, only for Death to break his nose with a straight punch! The blood awakens something inside Williams, and he charges him. Red, however, sweeps the leg. He drags Jessie to the ropes. The flames lick his boots, but The Prince kicks Death off and rolls away.
Death pursues him. He ducks a BOOMSTICK and unsheathes a corded Redblade. He throws it, and it WRAPS AROUND the gauntlet! He retracts the cable, pulling Jessie by his prosthetic into the fire once more! Sweat rolls down Williams’ brow as he feels the heat…
But a desperation free-hand UPPERCUT brings Crimson Scourge to his knees! A DROPKICK completes the GROOVY ECLIPSE combo! Jessie unwraps the Boomstick and tows Death into the raging inferno. Red frantically swats him off and crawls to safety. Williams spins him round – RETURN TO ARKHAM! The double underhook DDT leaves Jessie motionless.
Red collapses. His cowl is restricting his breathing in this immense heat. He waits for Jessie to get to his feet… GODWATCH!? Williams avoids the vintage Redwing ripcord knee! Death rolls under a second BOOMSTICK – but eats a BOOYAH from across the ring! The rocket-propelled, detached Superman punch sends him reeling into the burning ropes! His shoulder-pad catches fire!
Like a dragon, Jessie Williams exhales smoke as he stands tall among the flames!
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…
SeeSaw sleeps in a child’s bed, his long limbs dangle off the edges and touch the floor.
Suddenly, a loud BOOM! in the distance, followed by cheers from many Junkrats.
SeeSaw jolts awake!
…What the hell is he doing here?
He looks around the room.
It’s full of cuckoo clocks.
Suddenly, it strikes NOON on one of the clocks! A bird POPS out.
It strikes noon on several others.
CUCKOO. CUCKOO. CUCKOO.
All of the clocks begin going off.
“STOP IT!” SeeSaw screams. “STOP IT AT ONCE! THIS ISN’T FUNNY!”
SeeSaw leaps off the bed, and immediately sets to smashing all the clocks. Punches, kicks. SeeSaw picks one up and smashes it against the other.
CUCKOO. CUCKOO. CUCKOO.
SeeSaw keeps smashing.
CUCKOO. CUCKOO. CUCKOO. CUCKOO.
SeeSaw, salivating in the midst of a full on temper tantrum, picks up the final cuckoo clock.
He sneers. Looks at it.
There’s an inscription.
It reads, “Turn around, dipshit.”
And SeeSaw does just that.
WHACK! RIGHT ACROSS THE JAW WITH A GOD DAMN METAL MAILBOX!
He screams as SeeSaw falls to the ground. Junkrat pounces on top of the concussed SeeSaw and starts strangling him.
“You took my number one from me!” Junkrat screams. “You fucking bastard! You took him from me!”
And in SeeSaw’s face we see something we haven’t seen yet.
Junkrat punches SeeSaw. Again! Again! SeeSaw’s nose BURSTS open like a water balloon. Blood splatters everywhere.
Eventually, SeeSaw passes out from continued impacts to the head.
Well, he just keeps punching.
AESOP VS. BEG
Will the rich man learn something, or will the moral of this story fall on deaf ears?
Mickey McGuiness cheers on his boss from ringside. BEG uses his youth and speed to keep Aesop guessing. He transitions from a wristlock, to a headlock, into a snapmare then chinlock with fluidity. The greying fabulist hangs in there, reaching for the ropes… BEG breaks the hold and stomps on his fingers! He then drags him back and reapplies the submission!
Aesop soldiers to his feet—still trapped—and heaves BEG into a belly-to-back suplex! BEG comes at the ancient Greek but gets floored by multiple arm drags! The old man leathers him with chops, then sends him packing into the turnbuckle. BEG staggers out – right into a spinebuster! ONE… TWO… KICKOUT!
Firmly back in control, Aesop huffs BEG into the crucifix. He’s going to give him THE GIFT – but BEG drops down out of the powerbomb and kicks Aesop’s knee out. He plants him face-first with the running bulldog – CHIP OFF THE OL’ BLOCK! ONE… TWO… SHOULDER UP! BEG stalks his humble opponent, licking his lips… Kata-Ha-Jime – THE OVERDRAFT FEE!
Aesop is fading… until the heavyweight lunges into the ropes, breaking the hold! He goes to charge BEG, but McGuiness grabs his foot! Aesop pulls the Irishman onto the apron. Before he can strike, however, BEG races over. Aesop DUCKS and BEG SENDS MICKEY FLYING! AESOP’S FABLE!? His knee gives out in the dragon sleeper, and BEG pulls him into the FINANCIAL CRISIS! Aesop submits to the deadly crossface!
BEG tops up his coffers with the victory!
The match between Aesop and BEG has concluded, and Aesop is heading up the aisle to go backstage when a noise makes him turn back to the ring.
The disgusting sound of flesh hitting the wrestling mat echoes through the Slaughterhouse as Aesop sees that the body laid out there is none other than his tag team partner.
And standing above him is none other than the War Machine.
“I know you boys like to tell stories.” Major Thom begins, a cigar locked in his mouth. “But I’m afraid we’ve got orders to make you do a little more than that.”
Bishop tosses the OSW Tag Team titles down to Aesop, who stands in front of the ring.
“War Mongers.” Aesop spits. “We’re not brutes. This is not the way to earn a title shot.”
Malice kneels down over Banzan, putting his knee in his back to draw up his unconscious head.
“You’re lucky.” He growls. “We need you alive.”
Thom lets a small frown slip before adding on.
“Our orders didn’t say a thing about earning the title shot.” He looks at his team. “One way or another, it’s going to be us against you two for the gold. You can either take the easy road and give us the title shot, or we’ll do things the hard way, and take it.”
Aesop shakes his head.
“Men like you are why the world is the way it is.” He looks at Malice specifically. “Brutish fools who follow orders blindly, who support the maiming of innocents, who…”
Bishop and Malice slide out of the ring, somehow pulling the giant form of Banzan with them. They take down Aesop, leaving Banzan draped over him. Thom exits the ring, and looks down at the Tag Team titles. He drops his cigar onto the gold plate, putting it out.
“The hard way, then.”
He nods to his cohorts, and War Machine is out.
THE CRYPTKEEPER VS. PICKPOCKET
Has the master-thief’s fate already been prophesied, or can he steal the victory?
Pickpocket tears into The Cryptkeeper with uncharacteristic aggression – no doubt brought on by the death of his good friend, Scrimshaw. ‘Keeper, of course, knew this would happen. He blocks a dropkick and drops an elbow across ‘Pocket’s back. He sends him into the corner and pancakes him with a big splash!
The Prince of Paupers staggers into THE BEDTIME STORY! Crypt squeezes him like a boa constrictor, and Pickpocket fades away in the bear hug. He snaps awake, however, and eye-rakes ‘Keeper! Breaking free, he whips The Storyteller into the ropes and hits a big boot – that’s the BEGINNING, MIDDLE & END! “What’s yours is mine!” Pickpocket screams, having stolen Cryptkeeper’s signature move!
‘Pocket stalks ‘Keeper as he slowly gets up… CARRIED AWAY! Crypt eats canvas in the sitout facebuster! ONE… TWO… SHOULDER UP! Pickpocket slaps the mat. “This one’s for you, Captain!” He yells to the heavens – SNATCH AND GRAB!? Cryptkeeper side-steps the ripcord knee, however, and Pickpocket BUMPED HIS HEAD! ONE… TWO… TH—KICKOUT! He kicks out of the spike piledriver!
Lil’ Scoundrel is showing real grit tonight. Cryptkeeper wants to remind him who the master storyteller is, though. EYE RAKE, WHIP… BIG BOOT – the OG BEGINNING, MIDDLE & END! Pickpocket slumps into the ropes off the boot… and springs back with the DAYLIGHT ROBBERY lariat! But THE CURSE OF THE CRYPTKEEPER hits first! The European uppercut leaves him lying. ONE… TWO… THREE!
Cryptkeeper closes the book on Pickpocket’s heroic outing!
Red Death sits alone in what can only be described as a lair of sorts. In a darkened corner he sits brooding, plotting. That is until a voice breaks his silent concentration.
“Oh… What have they done to you?”
Red Death spins around, seeing the figure of Alton Whitlock watching him from a distance. He makes no effort to get closer to Red Death, but continues his speech.
“I once new that there was a good man in Bill Kirby. But you, like I, became a victim of expendability. We were used, consumed and tossed aside.”
Death stands, glowering at the intrusion. He spits the words through gritted teeth.
“I am not expendable. I was within an inch of avenging them. I saw the truth. I’m not some puppet to be paraded around like you. I matter.”
Whitlock smiles with his mouth, yet there remains such anger in his eyes that is impossible to hide.
“I thought that too until I found out how wrong I was. Difference is, I can see now when I’m being lied to. You’re so clouded by what you want that you cannot make the forest out from the trees.”
Red Death snaps at this, taking a chair and throwing it across the lair in the direction of Whitlock. It misses, with Alton not moving a muscle, the chair slams into the rock wall beside him and clatters to the ground.
“You will not twist my mind with more of your filth! I have seen it, I know. Take your lies elsewhere, for you are not welcome here.”
Whitlock shakes his head, slowly and sadly.
“I’m very sorry to hear that. Just remember when this is all said and done that I was the one who extended the hand to you. You bit the damned hand off. You just remember that…”
Red Death makes towards Whitlock, eyes wild and crazed behind the mask.
“Stay and I’ll bite the other one off too. Sitting up in your ivory tower watching the world turn round while real people lose everything they have and fight to keep it. You’re a pawn, a pathetic little piece in their game. You’re sure as hell not part of my solution, so you must be part of my problem.”
As he draws closer, Whitlock backs away, out of the entrance to the lair. Death stops when he reaches the hole in the wall, yelling down the entrance corridor after Whitlock.
“Yes, run! Run away, back to your ivory tower. Save your lies for someone who is stupid enough to hear them!”
As soon as the last words leave his lips, Death collapses into a heap at the base of the wall, shaking with a mixture of fury and loss.
BANZAN VS. MARK GOULDERN
Can a smart-assistant compete with enlightenment and a connection with all living things?
Gouldern seems unphased by the mountain of a man before him. His TeleBoots propel him through Banzan’s legs, and he pops up behind him. Mark launches himself onto Banzan’s back and grabs him in a sleeper hold! The super-heavyweight struggles, turning blue… But he charges backwards – crushing Gouldern in the corner!
Banzan adopts the DRAGON STANCE to use Mark’s tech-augmented momentum against him! Telaris struggles to get a read… The Herald of the Future defaults to RUTHLESS INSPIRATION, but Banzan grabs the TeleBoot and spins Gouldern round – slamming him into the canvas! ONE… TWO… KICKOUT! Banzan pulls him into the shining triangle – SAMUDAYA! Attachment is the cause of suffering, and Mark’s reliance on tech could cost him!
Or could it!? The TeleBoots fire up, and Gouldern flips over into a bridge pin! ONE… TWO… THR—SHOULDER UP! Banzan nearly gets caught out. With a little help from the TeleGauntlet, Mark hoists the 343-pounder into the PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE DDT! That’s gotta be it! ONE… TWO… THREE!
ROPE BREAK! Banzan always in tune with his surroundings. The Silicon Valley visionary sizes him up… THE DISRUPTION!? The Indestructible Mountain BLOCKS the Superman punch! He uses dragon stance to spin Gouldern and EMBED THE TELEGAUNTLET IN THE CANVAS! Mark wrestles to free himself… MAGGA!? Gouldern sheds the TeleGauntlet! RUTHLESS INSPIRATION! The dropkick heads off the kinshasa! ONE… TWO… THREE!
Telegon’s bleeding-edge technology overpowers Banzan’s spirituality!
High above the alleys of Hell’s Kitchen, Gabriel Drake is watching for his next victim. The hunter needs to be satiated. He sniffs and he gets the scent he is after. Blood of the innocent.
“There it is. Youthful sanguinity but something is off, it smells tainted.”
He goes to investigate. He sees three men in all-white suits chasing after what looks like a young woman.
“Stop! We found you Okami! Now come with us!”
Kazaku keeps running. Her Yakuza past has caught up to her and they want their warrior back. Gabriel watches the scene.
“Interesting, they don’t want her dead. If they did, she would have been slain by now. She must be worth more alive than departed.”
She keeps running, it seems like she is looking up towards the sky.
“Does she want my help? This is human matters, not my territory. I will simply eviscerate whoever is left.”
The men have charged her into a dead end. She is backed up against a corner! Suddenly, some clouds part revealing the moon. It is not full, but it is enough. Kazaku turns into a white wolf and pounces on the man closest to her! She tears his throat out! The other men freak out! One freezes in terror and the other is running away! She bites the frozen man’s face off and sprints after the other! She quickly pounces on him scratching his eyes out and ripping him limb from limb! Gabriel watches in delight, it has been a while since he has seen someone with as much bloodlust as himself.
“A lycanthrope. I should have surmised it from all the glaringly obvious happenstances tonight. Okami makes perfect sense now. They do not want her dead because she is the apex of the warriors in their ranks. She was not looking at me, she was looking for a glimpse of the moon. I fear what would have happened to them if the moon was full. I have not found my next meal; I have found my next challenge. When the moon is full, it will be glorious pandemonium as the superior species dominates once more.”
LUKE STORM & SIGIL VS. SEESAW & JUNKRAT
TAG TEAM MATCH
With the Collective assembling, can their founder weather this explosive storm of violence?
Storm insists on starting off to Sigil, taped-up shoulder and all. SeeSaw grins ear-to-ear and invites him to tie-up. Luke indulges him, only for Mr. Make Believe to club him right in the bullet-wound! Storm collapses in agony, and SeeSaw slaps Junkrat to tag him in. The pyromaniac wants to rip his best friend’s killer’s head off, but the referee intervenes—
LIGHTNING STRIKE OUTTA NOWHERE! Storm lands the superkick flush on Junkrat’s chin. ONE… TWO… SEESAW BREAKS IT UP! That’s gotta eat Junkrat up inside! Luke tags in Sigil. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he’s responsible for Storm’s bullet-wound. The Collector pulls Junkrat up. He cracks him over his knee, then elbows him in the face again and again – LONG ROAD AHEAD!
He waits for him to recover… FINITE ROUNDHOUSE KICK!? JUNKRAT DUCKS! Sigil comes face-to-face with SeeSaw – DOKU-FUCKING-GIRI!? SEESAW SPITS MARVOLO’S POISON MIST IN SIGIL’S FACE! The mysterious red venom eats into Sigil’s smoking mask. He stumbles into the CONCUSSION MINE tilt-a-whirl DDT! Before Junkrat can cover him, though, the literal crimson-mask reminds him of Grave Consequences, and he freezes in horror!
SeeSaw knocks him down, tagging himself in. He throws the Mayor of Gary outside and covers Sigil. ONE… TWO… STORM BREAKS IT UP! SeeSaw pitches a fit as Luke ruins playtime. He drags Sigil over to the World Champion, demanding a tag – and he gets it! Luke leaps up for the DOWNPOUR codebreaker, but SeeSaw pulls him into THE STRETCH ARMSTRONG submission! Storm’s bullet-wound re-opens and blood oozes out! He’ll never tap out… But he does black out – it’s over!
No man can withstand bullets or poison, as proven by SeeSaw and an unwilling Junkrat!
As the match ends and the combatants begin to exit the ring, Luke Storm takes his moments-ago tag partner by surprise–by ramming Sigil into the turnbuckle forcefully.
“You watch Edward push me around long enough, you think you can fuck with me freely, huh?” Storm asks through gritted teeth. “You think I give a shit about your artifacts and powers?”
Storm knees Sigil sharply in the chest.
“I don’t know what your deal is. I don’t why you’re fucking with me. But do you think I’m just going to let it happen? Do you think I’m just going to watch idly by as your bullshit illusions convince madmen to shoot me?”
Sigil stares at Storm for a long moment–then laughs. He rears back and shoves Storm as hard as he can, directly in the wounded shoulder. Storm topples backwards.
“Across the multiverse, across time, across all elements of existence–is there a more pathetic thing than the lowly creature, lashing out in anger at things he could never understand? At beings so far beyond him?” Sigil asks, taking a menace step toward Luke.
“Maybe a universal hoarder with nothing to show for his long life but a collection of shit?” Storm asks through gritted teeth as he begins to rise.
“Amusing,” Sigil says dryly. “It’s in your best interest to leave all of this alone, Luke. There are more important things at play then your daughter.”
It is at this exact moment that something like electricity pulses through Luke Storm’s veins.
His eyes shoot lightning; when he speaks, his voice is quiet, but crackles with intensity.
“No, there’s not.”
Then thundering, booming footfalls bring Luke Storm across the ring shockingly fast. The pain in his shoulder evaporates from his mind.
There is only Sigil, The Collector–and the need for him to be destroyed; the need to take months of utter frustration and despair and channel it into his complete obliteration.
As Luke careens across the ring, Sigil sighs. He reaches behind him and opens a portal, then steps back through it–mere instants before the storm arrives.
THE WAR MACHINE VS. ALTON WHITLOCK
TWO V ONE MATCH
Grieving for his friend, will the politician survive the frontlines of the war machine!?
With Bishop observing the mission from ringside, The well-oiled War Machine are locked and loaded. Alton eyes his towering opponents warily. Two-on-one is an obvious handicap, but both these men—and their ringside enforcer—all have height, weight, and reach advantages over him, too. This is going to be a long night…
DING, DING, DING!
Major Thom and Malice stand their ground and stare down Whitlock, who frowns. Only when the referee insists that The War Machine decide on a legal man does Thom step onto the apron. They kept Alton guessing until the last second, all part of their psychological warfare.
Now for the physicality!
Malice closes the distance between he and Alton in the blink of an eye. The deceptively-fast 295-pounder tears into The Candidate with knees to the ribs and clubbing blows across the shoulders. He forces him back into the ropes and shotputs him across the ring, dunking him with a sidewalk slam on the return!
Malice knows, of course, that it’ll take more than that. But the more strength and energy that Whitlock has to burn on kicking out, the easier he’ll be to break. Thom yells encouragement as Malice pulls Alton up by his well-groomed hair, earning a scolding from the official. He takes chunks out of him with meathook punches, then plants him with a T-bone suplex!
A longer two-count, with a more laboured kick-out. Bishop nods at ringside.
The Michigan Mauler snatches Alton off the mat. He sends him packing into the ropes once more. Major Thom sneaks in a knee through the ropes, and he stumbles forwards into a military press slam! The ring quakes as Whitlock lands gut-first, the air driven from his lungs. Malice doesn’t ease up on the hurt, though, as he drops an elbow across the small of his back. He rolls him over.
Alton is in a world of hurt, and he hasn’t landed a single shot! Malice, the unrelenting juggernaut, allows him a rare reprieve.
“We saw what happened to X…”
Whitlock claws at Malice’s boots, his body racked with pain.
“We served with him, way back when…”
Wait, is that true!?
“It’s sad he’s gone, but… he was never tough enough.”
That stings worse than the punishment Alton has absorbed thus far. Lying or not, Malice goes to pick him up—
WHITLOCK SLUGS HIM IN THE JAW!
Malice staggers back as Alton climbs to his feet haphazardly, FIRE in his eyes! Bishop and Thom share a troubled glance.
The Michigan Mauler spits a mouthful of blood onto the mat. He growls and charges full-steam ahead—
GORE! GORE! GORE!
WHITLOCK DIVES TO THE SIDE!
MALICE WRAPS HIMSELF AROUND THE STEEL RING POST!
The former Marine stumbles back – into a schoolboy!
Alton nearly had him right there!
Bishop slaps the mat and Thom stomps the apron, both screaming conflicting orders to their brother-in-arms. The breakdown in communication leads to a dazed Malice being felled by a chopblock!
The War Machine’s military records may be redacted, but Whitlock has his connections. He knows Malice is plagued by injuries to his lower extremities!
The politican grabs his leg and slams his kneecap off the canvas! Malice screams in pain, but Alton isn’t done. He drags him to the ropes, props his leg up, climbs, then jumps down – crushing his knee under his body weight! Whitlock jumps up and down several more times, doing a number on the damaged joint of Malice.
Waves of pain crash over Malice, though it still can’t compare to his cruel taunts about X.
The referee pulls Alton off of him, citing his use of the ropes. As the official tends to Malice, Bishop drags Whitlock’s foot! Alton spins round and grabs at him, but Bishop steps back with his hands in the air, smiling coolly—
MAJOR THOM NAILS WHITLOCK WITH THE BICYCLE KICK!
Alton hits the deck, and the referee wheels round. Whitlock is out cold, but Bishop and Thom play dumb when interrogated by the official.
Still nursing his afflicted limb, Malice draaags himself over to the corner…
AND TAGS IN THOM!
The 6-9 Major steps in and immediately covers Alton, who hasn’t moved a muscle.
WHITLOCK JUST BARELY STAYS IN THIS!
Thom whips his shades off in disbelief. What do they have to do to put this guy down!?
He already knows the answer. It’s something every politician experiences…
He puts his shades back on and peels Alton off the mat. He turns him round, then kneels down to pop his head through his legs. Standing up straight, he carries Whitlock on his shoulders. Alton sits 7 feet in the air, knowing there’s only one way down…
A FALL FROM GRACE!
The electric chair drop rattles Whitlock’s bones as he bounces off the canvas.
Thom isn’t finished yet, though.
He looks at Bishop, who simply holds up a thumbs-down.
The former Guantanamo Bay inmate springs to his feet and plucks Alton off the mat. He lifts him into a fireman’s carry—
THE CODE RED – F5!
BUT WHITLOCK LANDS ON HIS FEET!
He grabs Thom’s arm and kicks him in the gut, doubling him over. He drapes his leg over the back of his massive neck…
PARTY POLITICS – THE OVERDRIVE NECKBREAKER!
HE GOES TO COVER HIM – BUT THOM ROLLS OUT OF THE RING!
Alton slaps the mat and pulls his hair in frustration. So close…
On the outside, Bishop tries to pull Thom to his feet. The official orders him back, threatening to DQ The War Machine. The Hunter grudgingly obliges as Malice limps over to help instead. The referee gets into a shouting match with them, insisting that Thom be left alone. The Vet eventually recovers, and all three men try to intimidate the black-and-white stripes.
ALTON WHITLOCK FLIES OVER THE REFEREE’S HEAD!
CROSS-FUCKING-BODY TO THE OUTSIDE, INTO ALL THREE MEN!
THE POLITICIAN DISARMS THE WAR MACHINE!
Bodies are strewn at ringside like the beach landing in a war movie. Through the mess of limbs, Whitlock emerges. He untangles himself from the giants surrounding him. Channelling the gutsy, never-say-die attitude of X, Alton soldiers to his feet. He grabs Malice and rolls him back inside the ring.
ALTON HAS DONE IT!
Wait… the referee is shaking his head and signalling no. He mouths something to Whitlock.
Malice isn’t the legal man!
Alton falls to his knees and looks up above. Once again, so close…
He turns to leave the ring and fetch Thom – but the Major is already behind him in the ring! Malice crawls back over to the apron as Whitlock scrambles to his feet.
Alton throws a punch at The Vet, but he deflects it and traps Whitlock in a full-nelson. He frog-marches him over to The War Machine’s corner, offering a receipt to Malice. Bishop bays for blood outside, having recovered.
The Michigan Mauler socks Alton in the gut through the ropes, then cracks him in the eye-socket! The referee moves to break up the illegal double-team offense…
LARIAT FROM HELL—
MALICE CLOCKS THOM WITH THE LARIAT!
TALK ABOUT FRIENDLY FIRE!
Thom crashes to the mat as Malice cusses and Bishop throws his bandana to the floor.
Wait… the official is pointing at Malice, then inside the ring.
HE’S RULING IT AS A TAG!
Malice does a double-take – likely ruing the hassle they’ve given the referee up to this point.
He climbs in through the ropes and immediately grabs Alton. He huffs him up into a TORTURE RACK!
Whitlock grits his teeth as pain courses through his body. His fingers form claws as he fights the temptation to simply throw in the towel and end this suffering. He can’t. He won’t. X wouldn’t have. X didn’t.
Alton refuses to tap, but Malice isn’t too cut up. He was just playing with his food. He flips the torture rack into a PILEDRIVER!
WHITLOCK SQUIRMS FREE!
He kicks Malice, then stands with his head between his thighs. He rotates and, with everything he has, knees screaming in protest, forces the 295-pound Malice up onto his back—
BETTER WORLD – VERTEBREAKER!
That one had a little extra mustard on it, in an effort that X would be proud of!
The wheels of The War Machine grind to a halt!
HARD COLD WORLD
Alton Whitlock somehow overcame the odds.
He’s been beaten from pillar to post and they’re not stopping.
He barely has a chance to breathe after picking up the win before he’s grappled.
Thom picks Whitlock up and slams him into the corner with a Spinebuster, drilling him against the turnbuckles. He immediately pulls him out and runs him into a massive Big Boot by Bishop.
Thom requests they lift him up and they do, tossing him into the Major.
THE CODE RED!
Poor Alton hits the mat like a sack of potatoes, holding his mid-section in utter agony,
But here comes the cavalry!
Berkshire Ellison Green makes his way out onto the stage, cane in hand, looking ready to fight.
But he stops.
He stops outside the ring, pulling a microphone from within his jacket.
“Alton,” he says loudly, over a chorus of boos. “I’m sorry to have to get your attention this way. I’ve tried all week to speak with you but you’ve refused to answer my calls.”
Green gets into the ring, looking down at Whitlock as he holds his mid-section.
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a large wad of cash, handing it to Thom.
“Luckily, these gentlemen have been kind enough to do business with me,” he grins, turning his attention back to his Imperium team mate.
The fans roar with boos.
They can’t believe Green would stoop as low as to have his own team mate beaten up so badly.
“I know you’re upset about what happened to X and rest assured, we buried him in an unmarked grave, right where you left him,” he says with a nod. “We paid our respects and did the right thing. But we need you to understand that our mission, our end game, was always to sit you in the White House as President of this great country.”
He shrugs slightly.
“However, to do that, we need to cripple the competition,” BEG notes, kneeling somewhat. “We need to bank roll our efforts and stop them from bank rolling theirs.”
Whitlock doesn’t say a word.
“You agreed to join Imperium, you agreed to the finger poke of doom, to becoming President, to all of it; you signed a contract with us. We all signed it.”
“A statement of particulars that ensures our ethos; money, power and glory. This was and always will be a war and in war, there are casualties. X didn’t deserve to die but he signed the contract knowing it was possible.”
Slowly but surely, Whitlock begins getting back to his feet.
They both stand now, opposite one another.
The War Machine looming in the background.
“I don’t accept that,” Whitlock groans with pain. “I was forced to join Imperium; I saw no other option. I lost myself in the greed, in the power and I’m the first person to admit it.”
“You chose wisely,” Green reminds him. “And look what you’ve accomplished, already? You’re the VHS Champion. You’re soon to become the most powerful man in the free world.”
“No, I’m not,” he grunts. “Consider our contract null and void. Sue me. Take everything I have and leave me penniless. I don’t care. I’m done. I’m out.”
Green shakes his head and rolls his eyes.
“I really wish you hadn’t said that.”
Suddenly, War Machine attack once again, pummelling him to the floor. As the group lay boots to the VHS Champion, Berkshire paces the ring.
“You will change your mind, Candidate.”
His voice has become more of a growl now.
“You are Imperium.”
The boots keep coming.
“It’s a hard, cold world out there, Alton,” he continues. “And it’s getting harder and colder by the minute.”
The War Machine finally back off, leaving Whitlock unconscious. Green pulls out another wad of cash and hands it to Malice.