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1
Archives / Tanga LOA
« on: January 02, 2020, 05:05:26 PM »
CHARACTER: A.J. Morales
DATES REQUESTED: Now through Retrograde
RETURNING: South Beach Brawl Cup
REASON: I’ve got a lot coming up in the next couple months, including visiting family back east, job hunting, and potentially moving to a new city—and now that I’m done with college, my schedule’s going to be a lot less predictable than it used to be. My hope is that, by taking this next PPV cycle off, I can recharge, get adjusted to my life’s new rhythm, and then come back with a better handle on things.

2
Winter Wasteland VI / Last Song of Act I
« on: December 30, 2019, 04:59:55 AM »
We open on uncharacteristically sloppy camerawork by Reedvolution standards, as we find A.J. Morales in a Manhattan sidestreet.

“B, we recording?”

“Yeah, I got you…”

A.J. looks away from the camera, gritting his teeth at the cold weather and the fact that this situation led to Bianca having to be the one to film this...

Hijo de puta...next time, I’m making very fucking sure I bring extra lav mics…”

We jump cut straight to A.J. walking down Broadway, surrounded by tourists and the elaborate displays over all its theaters. And you guessed it, we’re going Aaron Sorkin mode with this, the ol’ walk-and-talk, the two champs barrelling through tourists the whole way.

“Y’know, it’s funny…I never realized wrestling and Broadway have the exact same energy until me and B started building whole promos off of musicals. I mean, think about it—larger-than-life personalities, an obsession with drama and spectacle, drama and crazy shit happening on both sides of the curtain. Only difference is, instead of singing, wrestlers scream insults at each other, and instead of choreographed dancing, we’re always hitting poses and trying to trick each other into walking right into our signature moves.”

“And it’s fitting, ‘cause Winter Wasteland is gonna be a Broadway-worthy spectacle in every sense of the word. But like, the good kind of spectacle, not the kind that gets you a cursed shitshow like Cats. I mean, we got a new Hall of Fame class coming in, and a double main event where either match on its own could probably sell out any arena in the world, but they’re both gonna be in the Barclays Center back to back. But most importantly, New Year’s Day 2020, live on the Battleground Network, this is gonna be the ultimate testament to what Reedvolution has built. We came in at the start of 2019, when the division was so dead they needed a tournament to get Omerta to defend the belts, and compared to what we made it by the end of 2019, it’s night and day. Even if we lose, we can look around at all the teams around us and say that that first title match we had against the American Mangs back in January laid the blueprint for every big match in this division since. Thanks to us, people know that when it’s time for a tag team title match here in 4CW, it’s time for some buck wild daredevil style. It’s time to make whoever greenlit Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark green with envy, ‘cause we pull off better acrobatics with no wires, no stunt doubles, no planning, and no injuring ourselves in the process. It’s time for the kinda shit that you can’t turn away from for a second ‘cause you know the biggest highlight of the night could happen at any moment. And that’s exactly what the world’s gonna get—four corners, four teams, all six people on the challengers’ side going all-out ‘cause all they wanna do is hear that sound of the ring announcer screaming—”

A.J. starts hamming it up like a cross between a trained stage actor and your average boxing ring announcer.

“—‘HERE ARE YOUR WINNERS, AND NEEEEEWWWWWW 4 CORNERS WRESTLING TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS OF THE WOOOOOOOORLD!’”

“One problem, though. That’s not happening. Not at Winter Wasteland. Not ever, if it was up to me, but hey, that’s the nature of wrestling, right? Oceans rise, empires fall, all that shit. All that we, as champions, can do is fend off the tide until a tsunami hits and it drowns us. And let’s be honest, this is a full-on tsunami. Every team that could have possibly been booked without screwing up another title match is here, and we can’t just pin one person and call it a day. If we wanna stay on top, we have to systematically mow them all down.”

“But it’s like they say, man, winners find a way to win. And make no mistake, this Reedvolution is a winning combination. We don’t just win, we beat people so bad that, of the six teams we’ve beaten, five never paired up in a wrestling ring again. We’ve cleaned the crap out of this division all year long, and now, we face the teams that actually have enough to them to stick around after we Hamildrop their asses and turn their worlds upside down.”

“Yeah, I know, it sounds cocky, but time and time again, we’ve backed it up. We had to do it non-stop for a whole weekend just to get this gold, and we’ll do it as often as we need to do in order to stay on top of this division. Hell, y’all already did half the work for us. We’re in your heads, and we don’t have to worry how we gonna pay the last four months’ rent for that space.”

“Just look what’s happened to 2HighKru, man. They know, on some level, they don’t belong at this level of competition. Why else would they spend a whole video pretending to break into a house? Why else would they pick the exact house that most frames them like the Wet Bandits? The whole end to that movie was those two getting the shit kicked out of ‘em from all of Kevin’s MacGyvered traps, and that’s exactly what we’re gonna turn it into. They can’t help walking into our traps. Soon as they leave the ring, they’ll get run over when our flight from the Bay to the A lands. They get trapped in our corner, it’s an Avalanche to a Lantern’s Flight. They take enough punishment, they get knocked the fuck out just like last time, and we move on to the glory we were always meant to take.”

A.J. looks away for a second, laughing to himself like he’s already seeing visions of it playing before his eyes...
“Y’all are gonna need to smoke some real good shit to recover from this…”

He shakes it off and gets back to the walk-and-talk at hand.
Then you got Girls Next Door, and...oh, man, don’t get me started on those two. Nevermind that calling me a ‘monarch’ of anything goes completely against my politics, do you have any idea how much power over somebody it gives you when you say they’re the prize at the end of your road to redemption? Shit, if  we replaced Eli Carlson at the end of Eden’s road, that tells you how much we define the division right there. They can downplay us, they can pretend we didn’t draw them in, but let’s be real—any other team wouldn’t have worked like we did to bring all this competition in. We never got caught up taking these for granted like some people. We didn’t get so bored we had to feud with ourselves. We told the whole fuckin’ world that these are our titles and they mean the world to us, and before we know it, you two are here looking for a shot. Better not throw it away, kids, ‘cause your first big loss can haunt you for months if you’re not careful. Everybody’s hot shit ‘till they take their first L, and I need y’all to prove one L won’t make y’all crumble.”

“And as for Children of the Moon...honestly, I don’t know what I expected out of them. It’s always the same shit with these two—they’re Conglomerate made, and they think it makes them the Plastics of this whole high school ‘cause the Conglomerate are a belt-sucking black hole and all-around merch machine no matter where they go. But the truth is, they’re not the Plastics, they’re just Karen Smith and Karen Smith again. They’re just another lame adaptation of the same franchise we’ve seen a million times. They’re the property that doesn’t need to take up space on Broadway, but they do anyway ‘cause they’re merch machines, even if one of ‘em’s married to a guy whose face looks like a foot and thinks he alone gets to decide who is and isn’t Mexican. So forgive me for being over your shtick the first time I saw it back in Mexico, and Bex, forgive my partner for being sick of your shit, ‘cause I know there’s nobody it’s gonna be more satisfying to knock out.”

“We know these odds are stacked against us, but they’ve always been this way, even before we started wrestling. I mean, y’all know that already, we’ve practically been screaming it from the rooftops since the day Reedvolution became a thing. All that’s changed is this time, we’re walking in with the gold to prove we’ve handled the adversity before, we’ve wrestled our way out of the hurricane. If this reign ends, either with us taking the last pinfall or because we get taken out first off the sheer chaos factor of four teams being in one ring at the same time, so be it, but we’re not going down without swinging on every motherfucker that tries to stop us. It’s gonna take one big blaze of glory to bring us down. And if you can’t bring that type of glory...man, you never shoulda made it to Broadway in the first place.”

3
Winter Wasteland VI / The One in the Red Hook Grain Terminal
« on: December 26, 2019, 04:58:48 AM »
It’s a cold, foggy afternoon on the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn and a tall, forbidding structure rises above the rest of the landscape. Its gray and black walls are peeling and covered in graffiti, but rusted letters at the top of the building still clearly read Port of New York Authority Grain Terminal. After a few seconds of establishing shots, A.J. Morales walks into the frame.

“It used to be that as soon as Bad Company ended and a new team stood tall at the top of this division, the battle for the 4CW Tag Team Championships turned into a hunt for anything resembling competition. Time after time, these belts turned into props and teams got shots by virtue of being the only other one around. 4CW was a singles wrestler’s world, and the tag champs just lived in it.”

Morales gives us a mischievous smirk as he gestures at the tag title belt around his waist...

“We really did turn the world upside down, didn’t we, B?”

Right on cue, Bianca Reed walks into the frame, holding the other tag title belt.

“It’s what we do best, A.J. We took a division that was absolutely second banana to everything going on on 4CW, and we demanded attention. We didn’t need a Tag Team Into the Future tournament or another Bad Company to get people interested in challenging for these belts. We put out the call, and we got some of the best tag teams around… and Thot Chocolate because it’s apparently some kind of fucking rule that you can’t have a tag team division without either Thot Chocolate or Hellcat Spangled Death Squad involved in it somehow.”

She rolls her eyes, moreso for the former team—let’s just say she doesn’t have the best history with them...

“But since Cartier’s busy tonight with Manny, defending her Pride title, we get the other three tag teams that came in after Bad Company to challenge us. Say what you want about how things have gone for us in singles lately, but when it comes to 4CW Tag Team Championships, y’all know that you’re here because of us.”

The pair start to walk to the side, the camera following them as they go.

“And for some of you, that’s gotta sting.”

They pass by an elaborate piece of street art, depicting a neighborhood block party.

“Let’s start with the most transparent ones—the Girls Next Door. Now, I got nothing personal against either of ‘em, ‘cause they aren’t on some ruda bullshit. But c’mon...we know exactly why y’all got together in the first place. Y’all might have had your first match somewhere else, but the buzz was always here. This was always the house y’all wanted to be next door to.

“And honestly? It’s almost heartwarming. I mean, we got Leela Watts, the girl who finally ended the reign of Tierney in CWC, coming around here for the first time because of us. We got Eden Connors, after getting brutalized at South Beach Brawl, finally coming back off the shelf because of us. Two people with so much talent and so much love from the fans, who hadn’t really been in the same circles before, came together not because of circumstance, but because of us. Just keep in mind, you’re in the same place compared to us that we were in for Manny and Tommy. You chose to live in our shadow. And if you can’t beat us for these belts, that shadow’s where you’ll stay.”

“I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw not only that Eden Connors was coming back, but that Leela Watts was joining her in a tag team. It’s something new and different for them, and I’m really proud that it’s our titles they want. Eden’s chase for the North American title was incredible; Leela’s done amazing things as a singles champion in CWC and is poised for similar success in ACM as their women’s champion, but tag team wrestling is a whole different game. So far, Girls Next Door have done well together but then again… so did A.J. and I at first. And then we stumbled, and we fell, but we kept getting back up again until we finally got what we’d been chasing since January of last year. So Eden and Leela are going to have to prove that they are just as nonstop as the two of us have been in pursuit not only of these tag team championships, but of creating and maintaining a competitive division here in 4CW. Neither of them are strangers to work but I don’t think either of them know just what they’re in yet. They’ll learn, though, and we’re happy to be the ones to teach them that lesson.“

A.J. slows down for a moment to look at some more graffiti, this one featuring a werewolf in shadow, backlit by a full moon. Once he’s had his moment of that, he resumes the previous speed of his walk-and-talk.

“Now, I know I have a rep for being a petty little bitch who can’t let beef go until I punch somebody in the face, but let’s get one thing straight for mi gente: my old beef with Julie Miri ended somewhere around day three of shooting for Alone You’ll Die. That’s a non-factor for me here. What is a factor is that the Children of the Moon are 0-2 and still running with the Conglomerate. That means they’re desperate for something, anything resembling the glory of winning the Hurricane Tag Team titles down in Revo Pro, or at least what they’ve done in ACM and Southside, and there’s a cast of like 15 Tweedledums and Tweedle-idiots, plus the occasional legit talent like Damien or Amira, that could potentially be lurking in the stands, waiting for the chance to run in and fuck us over.”

“How does the Conglomerate even work? Like, somehow Chris Constantine Jr and Bryan Ford are in it? Did they apply for membership or did they just… start saying they’re in the Conglomerate and no one stopped them? Isn’t Leela in the Conglomerate?”

A.J. stops in his tracks at the question.

Is she?”

They exchange looks as the question really starts to get to them. It doesn’t help that neither of them can remember at the moment if Leela’s actually in with the group or not.

“Are WE in the Conglomerate somehow? Is this like a Spartacus thing?”

“I’m already in the Scooby Gang AND a reserve Hellcat, I can’t be in more factions right now.”

“You’re also in what, two other tag teams besides ours? How do you even function?”

A.J. shakes his head and sighs.

“I don’t even know…”

The two seem to silently agree to just get on with this, and they resume the Sorkinesque walk-and-talk routine.

“Still annoyed that Bex beat me, and not gonna lie, I want that win back. I wanna smack her head into the canvas so hard she thinks her husband actually did turn into Thomas the Goddamn Tank Engine. But at the same time? She and Julie were the first people to step to us when we put out the call for tag teams to challenge for our belts, so I may not like the bitch, but I respect the bitch.”

“Personally, I think her husband’s even more of a bitch, but that’s not the point. The point is, we don’t trust y’all right now, so if you realize you can’t earn these belts and decide to rob ‘em? Everywhere you go, we’ll be your motherfuckin’ problem.”

The champs turn a corner, passing right by another oversized graffiti piece. Unlike the last two, there’s no outright imagery, just the words “WEED FOOTBALL” in spray-paint calligraphy.

“And then, of course...there’s 2HighKru. Congratulations, boys! You’re officially no longer Aaron Burr-lookin’ sirs. You licked your Bad Company wounds and came back for another shot. That’s not something a lot of people have thick enough skin to do, so that deserves props...even if the photos in y’all‘s press kits are the epitome of pictures you can smell—”

“AT LEAST NEITHER OF THEM FUCKING BIT ME IN THE MATCH LIKE JASON FUCKING CASHE!”

Bianca needs a moment to collect herself after that outburst, but collect herself she does.

“Flash Kassidy is the current SCUM Uncensored Champion, and Jay’s held a pretty significant number of titles in his own right. And these two are, possibly more than anyone else in this match, out for our blood because we’re the ones who bounced them out of Bad Company back in September. So while Girls Next Door and Children of the Moon are hunting for these tag titles just like 2 High Kru is, with them it’s not just business, it’s personal.”

Pues...maybe not that personal, we don’t know just yet. Maybe they just smoked their anger at us away. But we know this for certain: Flash and Jay are the only challengers in this mix who’ve faced us two-on-two before. They know us better than the rest of this field. They have experience and game tape they can run back to see exactly what they did wrong against us, fill the holes we exploited, turn the tables right where we sealed the deal last time.

“The flip side, though, is we can do all that too. So it’s gonna be a chess match between us two no matter how many people are also in that ring. This could bring the best out of us, it could bring out the worst, it could do both at once, but y’all better bring it, or we’re sending y’all home again even quicker than we did in Philly.”

The two finally arrive at one last piece of graffiti, this one dedicated to a collage of '90's and 2000's Def Jam artists. Bianca picks her spot to stand, right beneath Redman, while A.J. posts up in front of Method Man.

“Truth be told, no matter who they’ve beaten or how many matches they’ve had in this company, all these teams are gonna have to survive three falls with the most devilish duo to hit Brooklyn since the Funk Doctor Spock and Johnny Blaze—and they only had tag titles in video games. We raised this division up in our image, we brought you all here, and one by one, we’ll stomp the shit out‘cha. Every step of progress y’all make, this one-two’s gonna come through to undo. We lay down for no one. You wanna have what’s ours, you gotta take it. And as long as we have an ounce of strength left…”

The two unhook the 4CW Tag Team Championship belts from around their waists and hold them out into the camera. The Revolution bows his head, but doesn't break eye contact with the camera, and lets his voice drop into as low of a growl as he can go...

“...nobody...everrrrr...takes these.”

In unision, Reedvolution sling the belts over their shoulders, ball their free hands into fists, and hold those fists out to the camera. We hang on that visual as the shot fades out.

4
“I like stuff. I like this, and I like this, and I like this...” —Natalie Wynn, “What’s Wrong With Capitalism (Part 2)”

———

We open somewhere in the Bay Area at the Layton-Morales Wrestling Academy, where—

“Goddammit, Comet, I’m not giving you a treat! Spit that out!”

Wait, that’s not the clip, roll the real clip…

———

There we go. Now that’s the clip. A.J. Morales pulls his hand away from the lens, revealing a room of impenetrable darkness, save for one column of light that comes straight down from the ceiling. Morales steps backward into the light, making sure we get a good view of him...

“Oh, man, Austin’s gonna be so mad when he realizes where I am…¡lo siento, hermano!

With that aside to his friend out of the way, Morales composes himself, lets that dramatic effect from the light above take hold, and...

“Rule #1 of sports conversation: sooner or later, all trash talk always ends up at ‘RINGZ, ERNEH!’ Doesn’t matter how you got ‘em, or how long it’s been since the last one—if you’ve got more shiny things in your trophy case than the other guy, you rub it in his face.”

Morales turns to someone off-screen and cups his hands around his mouth.

“Aziz! LIGHT!”

Right on cue, rows of ceiling lights turn on, going back row by row into the distance, revealing a cavernous space with red and white hockey gear covering every inch of the walls, massive banners hanging from above, and a semicircle of replica Stanley Cups.

“Even when the Lions, Tigers, and Pistons are all tanking at once, the good people of Detroit always have one last resort in any argument with a Chicagoan: the Red Wings and their 11 Stanley Cups. No other team in America is as decorated, and even after the Blackhawks’ dynasty, those guys are only halfway to catching up. Combine those 11 Cups with conference titles, division titles, and President’s Trophies, and you’ve got a trophy case that makes most of their competition look like upstarts.”

He pauses for dramatic emphasis, knowing exactly where that last word will lead his audience's train of thought...

“Speaking of upstarts...congratulations, Toby Warner! You’ve finally grasped that wrestling championships are worth pursuing! Now you’re at the level of understanding I had at age 5, an hour into the first wrestling show I ever watched.”

The Revolution starts up a slow, insincere round of applause.

“Beautiful. Just beautiful. Next week, you’ll finally discover object permanence and it’ll totally blow your mind.”

A.J. stops clapping and rolls his eyes.

“Look, as therapeutic as I’m sure it was to have a breakthrough in the middle of doing your—” A.J. slips into this weird, Christian-Bale-as-Batman sort of growl as his eyes roll back into his head. “‘I think I’m tortured, but I’m just pretentious!’” Morales stops the Toby impression just as abruptly as he started it. “—shtick again, the truth is you’ve climbed one little knoll and you already think you’re on top of Everest. You might be undefeated one-on-one, but where you’re at is step one of a long, grueling climb, and you vs. me at Adrenaline 107 is gonna be the first time the mountain has ever really tested your survival skills.”

He stops for a beat, partly for dramatic emphasis, partly to process that he’s really gonna be playing the veteran in this discourse at only 27 years of age...

“You wanna talk about leaving a mark on your opponents? Let’s talk about how, back at Retrograde, I pinned Bryan Williams with his own finisher, and he came back using a different one and wearing animal masks again. Let’s talk about how I knocked Alessandro Quagliaterre so loopy in his return match, he might still have post-concussion syndrome. I’ve sent champion after champion out the door with a loss—Persephone Marquis, American Tommy, Viduus fuckin’ Morta—but I’m supposed to be impressed ‘cause you picked off some undercard scraps? That’s not intimidating, that’s my cat Comet bringing dead rats and birds into the apartment, or my wife’s gym, or wherever when he wants a treat. Little shit doesn’t even kill them himself half the time, he just finds ‘em in the street.”

Morales catches himself getting off track and shakes the rest of the tangent out of his head before he continues.

“But those are just the building blocks to what you really want, right? Let’s get into that, now that you’re finally interested…”

Again, A.J. turns to the side and starts yelling to people off-screen.

“OK, roll it in!”

Right on cue, two members of the film crew bring over a board on wheels, with row after row of championship belts from all over the world shining under these lights—maybe too brightly, honestly. They glitter distractingly in front of the camera as A.J. addresses us again.

“What you’re looking at here is my trophy case. Count ‘em all up—22 championship belts, one for every reign I’ve had in the 2½ years or so since I made my TV debut. And no matter where those belts came from, whether I held that belt for 30 seconds or a whole year, every single one has opened professional doors and helped turn me into the star I am today.”

Even A.J. can’t help pausing a second to admire the rewards he’s reaped. Don’t worry, though, he’s back to addressing us in no time.

“I know it’s convenient for you to downplay all of this the way you did. I mean, I get it—if the closest thing to gold I had was a Warzone of Horrors participation trophy and some opponents I’d changed forever, maaaaan, I’d do the same thing. And sure, I carried around a couple of those belts longer than I should have. One of ‘em, it took forever to confirm the promotion was dead, and the other woulda been unified into my first world title if not for...well...three words: crazy person’s lawyers.”

A.J. looks away for a second and shudders as Vietnam flashbacks of his calls with those lawyers replay in his mind. As he continues with his next point, he starts grabbing the relevant title belts and showing them to the camera before he puts them back up on the wall of gold.

“But let’s focus on the three that I’ve got right now. One of those belts is getting a defense at Winter Wasteland, live on the Battleground Network. The second one’s next defense is gonna headline Etihad Stadium—also live on the Network. And the third one’s still new, it’s backed by a state athletic commission instead of a wrestling company, but it’s gonna come with me all over the Network while I build it up into the championship for the City that raised me.”

Once he puts that third belt back, Morales decides to take the 4CW Tag Team Championship belt off the rack again, and the film crew members take the wall with the other 21 belts back out of the frame.

“See, deciding you want to have a championship is one thing. Deciding you want to be a champion, though, that’s another. That’s what separates me, not just from everybody you’ve fought one-on-one until now, but from what you’d be if you just found the old Octane Championship in the street tomorrow, reactivated it, and claimed it as your own. I’m not just a guy with however many belts—I’m a Goddamned bonafide capital-C Champion. I don’t just hold my titles, I elevate them. I take them to places where they’ve never been defended, I defend them against the best of the best, and I make them valuable enough that people from outside step into wherever I’m running the show specifically to face me.”

A.J. straps on the Tag Team Championship belt like a bandolier over his shoulder as he keeps talking, making sure we get the front plate in view.

“And if you need proof, just look at what me and Bianca are doing for these Tag Team Championships. Sure, the Aaron Burr-lookin’ sirs disappeared after Bad Company, but look where we’re at right now. Rebecca Thoreau called in Julie Miri for backup because she knows that’s her only shot at getting these titles. Eden Connors came back to chase us, and she brought the Leela Watts, a former world champion in her own right, along for the ride. Even Cartier had to go win the Pride Championship before she felt confident enough to bring SILK around again and start chasing us. For the first time in God knows how long, 4CW has an actual tag division, with multiple contending teams that can stick it out for the long haul instead of breaking up after one tournament. American Mangs couldn’t do it, Omertà couldn’t do it, BattleBorn couldn’t do it, but Reedvolution did, because we hyped these things to the fucking Moon. And while you backed off from our scene—‘cause let’s face it, you know Bianca’s gonna make you eat another Cracker Jacker if you do—we turned it into something worth calling a scene in the first place. That’s not something many people get the chance to do.”

Morales steps closer to the camera, and the cameraman throws in a slow, seemingly off-the-cuff vertigo effect, distorting the frame and making all those Stanley Cups behind the Revolution seem to slowly rise behind him, like a sinister forest that somehow grows overnight...

“If it looks like I’ve hit a wall since Bad Company, it’s because I haven’t wasted my time with scrubs. Even you’re not a scrub, Toby—you are talented. You’d have to be in order to go undefeated one-on-one for as long as you have. It’s just you’re an insufferable edgelord who looks like an uglier Steve Buscemi and acts like he doesn’t need anybody, even when we all clearly see you getting ordered around by your sister backstage. But remember, the night you picked up your first singles win, I didn’t just beata two-time 4CW Champion, I broke his fucking neck. It took two guys to knock me outta the Warzone; you went ahead and KO’d yourself. And I don’t just wanna beat you in Detroit, Toby. I wanna run circles around you. I wanna expose holes in your strategy so big that the next champion you fight drives a fuckin’ Cadillac through ‘em, because if you get Eli or Laughlin or whoever you’re targeting for Winter Wasteland, that’s exactly what they’re gonna do.”

A.J. gives a sharp exhale, remembering how he himself took beatings from those two when he faced them. He lets his disappointment with himself in those situations fuel him, turning the aggression outward as he gets even closer and the frame grows more distorted...

“You’re not some rookie off the street anymore, Toby. You’re a contender. That means stepping into a whole new world where your potential means nothing, your inexperience isn’t an excuse, and all anyone’s gonna care about is results. Belts. ‘RINGZ, ERNEH!’ I’m already set on that front—I’ve proved I can win gold here, and with the competition as fierce as it is in 4CW, that means I can win gold anywhere. But you better brace yourself, Toby, because if you let the Revolution outshine you for the third time in as many encounters, you can forget all about filling out the trophy case. They won’t even let you get a whiff of a championship if they can help it. You won’t be wrestling’s version of the Red Wings. You won’t even be the Blackhawks. You’ll be the Florida Panthers—the one who came out of nowhere, did big things and showed promise early on, but whiffed on their first real shot at glory, couldn’t recover, and faded into perpetual irrelevance.”

A.J. kisses the ring knuckle of his right glove, winds up for a camera-shattering Liberator, aaaaand...no, he stops himself short and lightly raps his knuckles on the lens, prompting the cameraman to get rid of the vertigo effect and bring our view back to normal.

“See you in Hockeytown, Toby. Try not to put yourself through the glass again, will ya?”

On that note, the Revolution reaches into his jacket pocket for a marker, makes like he’s going to write up another “Morales vs. Wagner, 12/04/2019” message right on the lens, then decides against it and tosses the marker away. Just as he walks out of the frame, we hear his cell phone ring, and we pick up just a bit of the conversation as the video and audio slowly fade out...

¿Corazón? Everything OK?...oh, that’s a relief...Comet brought in WHAT?!...Goddammit, now we gotta disinfect all your training mats again...”

5
Adrenaline / Thelastdaysoftwentyninescene
« on: November 24, 2019, 03:50:31 AM »
It’s a cold fall day here in San Francisco, and as usual, it’s even colder by the bayside. The winds are stronger here on Pier 30/32 than they are back in the heart of the city. But if that affects A.J. Morales, he doesn’t show it. He’s well-equipped with his San Francisco Demons beanie, leather jacket, and dark jeans; the ends of his two-tone hair move gently as the wind moves through them. He stares out at the water, deep in thought...but eventually, that feeling he’s being watched creeps up on him, and he turns around to see the camera waiting for him.

“What’s good, 4CW? Sorry I couldn’t make Chicago—they told me I was gonna fight Moxie James, but then the doctors started asking about all those tables I got dropped through at Fright Night, and how many stitches I needed once the glass and splinters were removed, and things got...complicated. But don’t you worry, I’m back, I’m healed up, and I’m ready to rebound—which I need to do ASAP, ‘cause we got Winter Wasteland coming and there’s finally some real tag teams around here hunting for a title shot.”
His mind wanders for a second to Bianca and Bex’s dressing room argument from Chicago, a beef he can’t help feeling he’ll be pulled into sooner or later. But he doesn’t keep us waiting too long...

Bueno...so many people think heavy metal’s for meatheads, but nobody’s ever captured the way the world works quite like Cristian Machado did the day he wrote the line: ‘Everything that is real comes around.’ This whole universe is just energy moving in cycles, leaving one place and coming back. We all start our lives someplace, we form an attachment to it, we leave it, and we change through our experience until we come back as someone else. I mean, just look at me. January 23rd, 2019, I walked into the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan to challenge for the 4CW Tag Team Championships for the first time. December 4th, ten Adrenaline episodes later, I’m walking in again with one of those belts around my waist.”

Sure enough, the belt’s sitting right there, and he points at it to make sure we notice.

“By that night, I’ll have spent 45 weeks breaking barriers, seeing more of the world, and, of course, racking up more wins and more title reigns. Last time I was there for a 4CW event, I was trying to figure out if the fallout from the end of 2018 was something I could even surmount; next time, I’ll be wrapping up the most successful year of my career thus far—and I had a high bar to clear with that. I’m proud to say I’m returning to the Motor City as a better wrestler and a better man.”

He pauses and looks off to the side as his conscience reminds him of all the times this year he’s stolen people’s finishers and made light of his enemies’ injuries...

“Kinda. Maybe. I gotta think on that a little more.”

Just then, Morales gets an idea. He unzips his jacket, revealing the Escape the Fate T-shirt beneath as he digs around in his inside pockets...

“Speaking of returning, lemme show you the last time I was here…”

Morales pulls out a photograph and holds it up to the camera. It’s the same spot on the same pier, but on a bright summer day, packed with people. Right up front and center is a kid with swooping straightened hair, snakebite piercings below his lips, two checkered studded belts on over his grey skinny jeans, and a black shirt that says “FUCK YOU” on the back in giant distressed letters. He’d be unrecognizable if he wasn’t looking over his shoulder at the camera, giving it a mischievous smile...the same one Morales is giving us right now.

“Yup. That’s actually me, 10 years ago at Warped Tour.”

He pulls the photo back and turns it around, chuckling as he looks it over.

“God, I looked so stupid…”

He stuffs the photo back in his pocket as he turns his attention back to us.

“Now, I know I looked all happy in the photo—and I was. I mean, I saw Escape the Fate, Anti-Flag, A Day to Remember, Thrice, and Senses Fail all in one day, it was basically heaven for me. But you gotta understand, this was in the middle of, hands down, the darkest days of my life. I took off at 16 without a plan and spent the next couple years surviving by the skin of my teeth. Even after lucha libre gave me a direction in life again, it took years to grow out of who I turned into—who I thought I had to be to get by. I’m not the same person I was the last time I walked on this pier. And thank God for that, ‘cause if I was still that guy in 2019? I’d either be dead, in jail...or maybe even worse, I’d be Toby Wagner.”

He pauses for a moment, just for dramatic effect.

“Look, I’ve been in the ring twice with Toby now. I know from experience why he‘s on such a hot streak. I know how hard he hits, how he seizes control of the tempo and forces people to speed up and slow down at his convenience. And I’m not gonna condescend to talk about his ‘potential’—he’s ready to start getting one-on-one title shots now, if he wants them.”

The sting of losing to Cartier, an opponent he’d underestimated before she ran through him on the way to the Pride Championship, comes back for a moment. If he can help it, he won’t let Toby pull that same stunt on him.

“But those times he shared the ring with me are also the only two times he’s lost a match. I helped hand him the first one, and I saw him dive headfirst into the other. Dude’s got a gaping hole in his style—he’s the guy at the casino table going all-in on every hand. No matter how good at cards you are, if you play that way for long enough, you’ll waste it all on a bad hand and take yourself out of the game, and those bad hands cost him a match for this—“

Again, he gestures to the Tag Team title belt.

“—and his shot at the 4CW Championship on back-to-‍back supercards.”

A glimmer of envy comes over his eyes—he schemed so long before Fright Night, came right at Bryan Laughlin with a staple gun, and all it got Morales was a South Texas deathride through a stack of tables—but as quickly as it arrives, it disappears.

“But there’s something at the root of it, something more than just rookie indiscretion. And I know what it is, because every time I see him in his promo clips or in the backstage area, it’s like I’m looking through a rip in spacetime at the starving street dog I used to be—or at least, what I would have acted like if I’d gone straight from those days to the big leagues. He’s less like a person, and more like a walking tornado of anger and resentment. There’s always something new to be pissed off about, always another excuse to pop off on the people around him. Matter of fact, he only has two ways to deal with people: either he’s pushing them away, or he’s pulling them in for a beatdown.”

A gust of wind pushes the blond side of his hair so it wraps over his face, and he stops just long enough to pull it back where it was.

“All that guides him are animal needs and destructive impulses. And because I lived like that all day, every day for a good two or three years of my life, I see it for what it is: a defense mechanism. This is how he copes with a world that he doesn’t understand, and doesn’t want to understand, at least not beyond the framework he already has for it. Something inside this man is eating him alive—I don’t know what it is, it’s not my place to say, but whatever it may be, he’s running scared from it every day of his life. It’s his own personal hellworld.”

Morales zips up his jacket again, removing the word “ESCAPE” on his shirt from view.

“He could confront it head-on, learn from it, and grow as a person, but that takes too long. He wants to feel like a big man now, and becoming the wind of an angry tornado is the only way he knows how to get that feeling. Or at least, it’s the only one he has access to when he’s blown through all his coke.”

He makes that one “Ooh, shade” hiss/inhale noise he does as he mimes drinking from a teacup.

“But I’m here to tell you, Toby...it doesn’t work. It looks like it’s working now, I’m sure, but all you’re doing is taking negative energy and sending it out into the universe. At least you do it in wrestling rings—I had to settle for mosh pits and parking lots.”

A.J. suddenly remembers the time at Warped he “accidentally” broke a freshman’s nose in the pit for wearing an Attack Attack! shirt. He has to shake his head to dislodge the memory so he can get on with his point.

“And honestly, it feels great at first. You see the other guy fall to the ground, and it feels like you finally have control over your own destiny. Like the world’s finally done beating you down, and it’s your turn to punch back.”

Another of A.J.’s Warped memories flashes by—this time, it’s of getting kneed in the gut by a Madball fan and having to be carried out of the pit by his friends. Morales’s hand moves to his stomach just thinking about it...

“But energy has a way of coming back around, and sooner or later, someone or something shows up in your path to try and do it. You can still clear the path, using those destructive impulses like always, but it only adds to the amount of energy looking to return to the source. Every time, it gets harder and harder to do, until eventually you end up turning those impulses on yourself. Hell, you’ve already started hitting that stage yourself—how the fuck else do you explain getting into a world title match and just throwing away your shot on a whim just to take out Logan Traeger, of all people?

Morales can’t help a scoff—sure, he ate shit the way Toby did, but at least he didn’t do it on purpose.

“And we both know that there’s no reasoning you out of this. People tried with me, but they never got through. I know your family’s trying their damndest with you, but they won’t be any more successful. The only way to break you out of this cycle is for enough people like me, people who’ve already been through this whole process and know how it works, to come along and beat the shit out of you until all your negative energy gets back to the source. And at that point, you either finally confront what you’ve been missing all this time, or you just implode completely. I took the first option, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky.”

Again, memories make Morales pause—this time from 2012, when one of those friends who carried him out of the pit jumped in front of a car and wound up in a monthlong coma. No time to think about it, though, so he just shakes his head again and gets back to business.

“You don’t phase me, Toby, because you practically are me—but not the version of me you’re gonna see in Detroit.”

Morales reaches into his pocket and pulls out the Warped ‘09 photo from earlier.

“Nah, you’re this dipshit right here. You’re me minus the flips, minus the accolades, minus the experience and evolution that turned me from the kid crowdkilling in front of the Hurley Stage to the man hitting Diamond Killers in front of millions worldwide.”

Morales reaches into his pocket again, pulling out a Sharpie as he keeps talking...

“And now, in the city where I’ve had some of my most pivotal matches for 2019, I’m gonna remind everybody that this version of me is the best one yet. I’m gonna give you the ass-kicking the old version of me needed. And if you’re not too concussed by the time it’s over, you might finally start to see that energy’s the realest thing there is—and it always, always comes around.”

With that, Morales scribbles something on the back of the photograph, then releases it into the wind, which carries it up and around before it sticks onto the lens, filling up most of the frame with the words “MORALES. WAGNER. 12.3.19 DETROIT.” in scratchy letters. However, there’s enough space open on the left side to see Morales walking off, phone to his ear as we slowly fade out...

“Jaime! ¿Qué onda, cabrón?...oh, y’know, just realized how long it’s been...”

6
Archives / LOA
« on: November 21, 2019, 05:26:26 AM »
CHARACTER: A.J. Morales
DATES REQUESTED: Adrenaline 108
RETURNING: Winter Wasteland
REASON: I have finals/graduation the week of 108's deadline/airing

7
Fright Night VI / NEDM (Literally the Horrors)
« on: October 28, 2019, 04:59:51 AM »
We find ourselves in the halls of what appears to be a run-down high school. Most of the lights don't work at all, and the few that do only give the occasional flicker to supplement the moonlight. If you're getting Sunnydale High vibes here, you're definitely on to something.

We find A.J. Morales in a sort of vampire-hunter look, not too far off from some of his special-occasion gear at big past events. He's got one wooden stake and an array of holy water vials underneath his long leather coat, but seemingly no other weapons on him, and frankly, he already blew most of his effects budget on that minefield last time. So when he looks at the camera, we know from the look in his eyes that whatever he's hunting, this battle won't be pretty...

“What? I had to do a schlocky horror thing eventually.”

He starts his walk, fists at the ready, eyes focused straight ahead.

“So…it’s gonna be 10 people in the Warzone of Horrors. 10 of the craziest motherfuckers in professional wrestling, all letting their worst impulses run wild in pursuit of 4CW immortality. I don’t need to get into how brutal this’ll be again, ‘cause I nearly blew myself up doing that. So let’s meet the volunteers for my little science of violence experiment, starting with—”

CREAAAK—THUMP! Right on cue, a locker in front of A.J. opens, and a bloodied man in a light blue seersucker suit falls limply to the floor.

“Ah do declayah, this here gentlem’n is DEAD!” A.J. shakes his head, snapping himself out of that imitation Dixie accent, and he picks up the man’s stained straw hat. “Sorry, Beau. You picked a terrible first rodeo. Maybe you can manage your boys ‘till you’re outta that full-body cast you’re gonna need.” He tosses the hat away, then steps over the corpse and continues on his way.

“‘Course, he’s not the only unprepared one. I mean, look at Logan Traegar and Rebecca Dawson—both the epitome of excellence over in Southside, but when they get to Texas and face 4CW at its most inimitable?”

Right on cue, two football players in teal-and-white uniforms come charging in from either side, missing Morales and colliding helmet-to-helmet before he grabs them both by the facemasks and slams them to the ground.

“They’ll be tanking hard, with no Tua in sight.” The Revolution walks away and turns a corner...not that it matters much, since this hallway looks basically the same as the one we were already in.

“But c’mon, they’re not all DOA here. If I treat the whole field like that, the only dead body’ll be me.”

A still-burning cigarette flies through the frame without Morales noticing.

“I mean, look at Toby Wagner. The raw talent is there, he’s undefeated solo—” POW! A pale man in all black, looking like he just wandered in off the street, runs up to sucker-punch Morales in the face, and the two quickly grab each other’s shirts and start hockey-punching, with the Revolution able to bob and weave to avoid most of the follow-up shots...

“Doesn’t hurt that he seems—” POW! Morales gets caught and nearly falls, but he manages to keep his balance. “—a lot more grounded—” POW! They land simultaneous blows and fall to their knees. “—than the rest of us—” The fight goes down to the floor, and Morales seems primed for a little ground-and-pound...

“But when you try a man by fire and he has none inside him…” The pale man manages to turn things around, but A.J. already has his eyes on that cigarette…

“...he just gets burned.” Morales grabs the cigarette and— TSSSSS! Puts it out right in his assailant’s eye! With no hesitation— KSSSSH! —the Revolution smashes a vial of holy water over the pale man’s head, and that ends the threat right there.

“I know from facing him at Bad Company how Toby charges into big challenges like this head-on, and he learns from ‘em real fast.” Morales gets his bearings, rising to his feet as he keeps talking. “But if he’s only just now feeling the first sparks of ambition? Let’s just say his trophy collection ain’t starting in San Antonio. Someday soon, but not now. Definitely not over me.”

The Revolution rubs his jaw a bit as he gets back to his journey.

“Now, this next one’s where you start seeing some real pedigrees. We’re talking Jeb Fisher, the only man who could reasonably claim to be a three-time Tag Team Champion, a man who’s snagged gold off American Tommy, a man—OOF!” A much larger foe, at least 6’6” with muscles on his muscles and a second head amateurishly glued to his neck, drives Morales into the wall and starts pummeling him like a schoolyard bully. Morales barely manages to keep his composure for long enough to thumb the two-headed man in the eye, then darts to his left and slips into the nearest classroom, holding the handle steady as best as he can...

“Well, don’t just stand there, ya fuckin’ fruitcake! Go after him!”

“Goddammit, Bob, we can’t move if it’s just me workin’ on it! You know that!”

As the two-headed man keeps arguing with himself—thank God for additional dialogue replacement—Morales pulls out another vial, keeping his eye on the window...

“But if you’re wondering how a man who can’t even assert himself to his own father is gonna assert dominance over 4CW? I got news for ya.” Morales steps back and lets a beefy arm reach through the crack... “He won’t.” SLAM! That arm gets absolutely crushed between the door and the frame, and Morales smashes the vial on it before shoving it away. We hear two screams in the background at once s the Revolution addresses us...

“I know it’s rich coming from a Tag Team Champion, but c’mon, man. Whether it’s wrestling or politics, nobody wants to hand the sword of leadership to a Sun Belt has-been named Jeb who can’t make it on his own and has to beg to the people closest to him, ‘Please clap! Please tell me I’m special!’”

The noise outside stops, and A.J. steps out into the hallway, getting back on track like nothing happened.

“Do yourself a favor, man, just take your bumps in the Warzone, reinvent yourself while there’s still time, then worry about being 4CW Champion. You can’t climb a mountain this high carrying all that dead weight.

“OK, enough about dark horses, let’s talk about the heirs apparent. Let’s talk about a face—The Face—who might run this place someday soon. They mighta lost the tapes of me fighting Brennan Devlin in OKC, but even without that, I would know just how seriously I need to take him.”


Right on cue, an axe flies into the frame, and Morales ducks it by mere inches. Before long, what looks like a hair-metal vampire comes running in with a guitar that seems to double as a literal axe, and he's swinging like mad. He even manages to cut away a bit of A.J.'s coat as the Revolution dances and dips around him.

"Lemme spoil how Devlin’s night is gonna go for ya. He’ll get in that Warzone, cocky as can be. He’ll balance substance perfectly with style just like he always does. He’ll get the deadliest shots on Laughlin of the night, and make at least a couple other people look like chumps."

One bad step is all it takes; Morales gets cornered, as the glampire manages to trap him against a line of lockers. All the vamp has to do is slide his weapon to the right, and he'll cut open Morales's throat...

"He’ll reach the top of the cage, he’ll climb that ladder, he’ll get close enough to see his reflection on the belt’s front plate..."

An inadvertent THUMP knocks open another locker a little farther down, revealing the wooden spikes all over its door.

“...and then…”

Morales knees the glampire in the balls, then grabs a hold of him, shoves him in, and—SLAM! Sorry, everyone, it’s 1991 again. Hair metal is dead, and it didn’t even get a final scream.

“...someone will shake him off the ladder and he’ll fall to his glass-table doom, because Brennan Devlin was put on this earth to almost win the big one. He’s somehow combined Kobe’s talent with Elgin Baylor’s track record, and if he wasn’t such an egomaniac, I’d feel sorry for him. But guys like him, who think they’ve already got it figured out and have the talent to keep the delusion going? This is always their ceiling. He’ll chase the ghosts of Cosmo and Laughlin as long as he lives.”

Ignoring the puddle of blood pouring out of that locker, A.J. turns another corner and heads into his third hallway.

“But what happens when the big one finally comes? Lemme introduce you to a former 4CW Champion, a legend in our time, someone whose faction I woulda joined if we worked in more of the same places...Ana Hayden.”

“RRREEEEEOOOOOWWWRRRR!” With a distorted, pitched-down hiss, some sort of demonic housecat (that may or may not be a puppet) launches in and tries to tear Morales’s face off. He gets his hands up in time to prevent that, but it tears away a chunk of his glove before he manages to throw it away. He jumps back to the next set of lockers, but this time, he grabs the top and climbs up, situating himself near-horizontally as he watches the hellcat repeatedly jump up to try and claw at him, but fall inches short every time.

“This was supposed to be your big return to form last year too, remember? You came into the Warzone with a chip on your shoulder ‘cause someone spooky got to the title before you could really solidify yourself as Bronx’s heir. But somebody else walked in with some different gold and pulled off the upset then, didn’t they? Sent you off on that yearlong regrouping tour?”

A.J. pops open another vial and throws it at the hellcat, which falls out of frame just before the tone of its hissing goes from “determined” to “IT BUUUUUURNS!”

“I’m just saying, there’s a precedent. You’ll be damn hard to stop, but if anyone can do it, I think I’ve got a good shot.”

He slides off the top and lands easily on his feet, hurrying his pace to a run as his goal approaches...

“OK...time to spike the difficulty again, ‘cause now, we’re not just getting to the fellow champions...we’re making this personal.”

ZZZZZT! A badly-edited lightning bolt comes in, forcing A.J. to jump and dodge it. Before long, a blue-haired sorceress is in our view, and Morales looks almost mournful having to confront her at all.

“Bianca...you’re so much better than your singles record makes you look. I know you’d put your heart and soul into elevating any world title you got a hold of. And if anyone in this Warzone is my Kryptonite, it’s you—I mean, you’ve trained with me for almost a year straight. You’ve seen more of my style than anyone else. If anyone can find a crack in my armor and exploit the fuck out of it, it’s you.”

A.J. starts throwing every vial he has at the witch, but—ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!—every one gets intercepted, smashed harmlessly in midair, until he only has one left. All he can do is cautiously approach, dodging the remaining bolts...

“But that knowledge goes both ways, and frankly, I’m a lot better at converting my gold-lust into gold. So even though I know we’ll leave it all in the ring, and our Reedvolution will go on to elevate the tag titles no matter what…”

A door to Morales’s right bursts open, and strange blue and orange lights shine through.

“I’m sorry. You are not throwing away my shot.”

And with that, he throws the last vial into her face, shoves her into the lights, and slams the door shut. He breathes in...breathes out...OK, he’s ready to go. He heads down the hall, walking right up to a pair of massive gym doors.

“So that just leaves me with one last obstacle…”

He opens the doors up, and as we follow him through, we see...well, it starts as a musclebound mustachioed man, but the shitty ‘90’s-style CGI morphs have to work overtime here as he turns into a demon, a king, a newscaster, a clown, and all manner of other people and things. 
 
“Now, Bryan Laughlin and I are part of a very exclusive club. We’re the two latest to achieve the nigh-impossible and hold two world titles at the same time. Hell, he might end up doing it better than I did.”

Morales dives out of frame just as a rainbow-colored jolt of energy, the work of more bad CGI, flies in after him.

“Bryan, I can already see you getting wrapped up in this Superchamp thing like it’s gonna last forever—and it feels good to pretend it will, doesn’t it? Hell, you’re not even satisfied with that, I saw you tweeting at other Battleground Network promotions looking for number 3. I know the feeling. I tried the same stunt.”

Another rainbow jolt, but Morales just sidesteps this time. Somehow, all this attack does is steel the Revolution's resolve...

“But your identity crisis isn’t over, Bryan. At your core, you’re still just as unstable as ever. All you did was make your titles your new persona. And that’s great while you’ve got it, but knowing what’s happened to other guys that fell into that trap, the second you’re not on top of the wrestling world, you’re gonna have an existential crisis. You might even bring back el Payaso Roto, for all we know.”

Still dodging the CGI, he closes in...

“But if you stripped away all my theatrics, and my swagger, and my history, my heart and my mind wouldn’t be torn up the way yours would. I’ve evolved a lot on my road here, but one thing’s always stayed the same. I’ve always known who I was meant to be…”

Morales walks right up, reaches into his coat, and—SHANK! Finally, he uses the stake, piercing the shapeshifter's gut, and the man reverts to his original form before collapsing in a heap.

"...the Rawest. Wrestler. Alive."

"4CW...brace yourselves. The Revolution's going worldwide."

8
Fright Night VI / Literally the Warzone
« on: October 24, 2019, 04:59:22 AM »
August 23rd, 1 PM CDT

We find ourselves in the middle of nowhere...OK, maybe not nowhere, but definitely one of those expanses of Texas desert with nothing in it for miles and miles around, empty as the daytime sky above. For someone like A.J. Morales, this would be just about the perfect place to try and cut a promo while riding a motorcycle—so many hours of just riding straight ahead, doing take after take without having to worry about hitting something, so many ways to milk it for a nice uplifting talk about how Texas is all about freedom and heavy metal and being the biggest, baddest motherfucker around. But when we find the Revolution, we definitely don’t see him riding free. Instead, we find him sitting dead center in a chunk of land about the size of a decent backyard, defined at its edges by a six-foot-high fence of barbed wire. He’s wearing riot gear from the neck down, which doesn’t make much sense until the drone-operated camera focuses in on a yellow sign with the words “DANGER: BLAST MINES” written above a skull and crossbones. After a few seconds of that, the camera moves up and starts panning around A.J., giving us a good view of the two pickup trucks and various shrubs surrounding him above ground, as well as a duffel bag next to him. Once we’re back in front of him again, he looks up and gives us a nod before he starts laughing to himself.

“Y’all probably think I’m a Goddamn lunatic for doing this...”

Morales rises to his feet, bringing the duffel bag up with him, and the camera adjusts to make sure we’ve got the Revolution front and center. We also get our first good look at the patch of the 4CW Tag Team Championship’s front plate on his chest, right where an actual riot control officer would put their badge.

“Seriously, though, what is it about this state that brings out the maniac in everyone? I mean, you got your Texas Tornado match, your Texas Bullrope match...and then, of course, the Texas Deathmatch, which somehow wound up as the way to settle wrestling beef in San Francisco by the ‘70’s. You got Gory Guerrero coming down from El Paso to Mexico and becoming one of the craziest pioneers in lucha libre. Hell, if you think about it, they even invented hardcore championships down here when the NWA sanctioned the Brass Knuckles title in Dallas.”

He clenches his left hand into a loose fist and presses it against his other palm, taking a moment to scan the horizon before he looks at the lens again.

“This state’s wrestling history is a lot like this company’s, filled to the brim with booze, brawls, and bloodshed—and I’m about to write the most violent chapter yet. In one week, live from San Antonio, I’m gonna walk into the biggest Warzone of Horrors to date and walk out, not just as a Tag Team Champion, but as the undisputed 4CW Champion of the world.”

Morales pauses for dramatic emphasis, letting that idea sink in...and then he flips the switch from near-delusional confidence to humbly putting his hands up, which turns into some nice expressive hand movements as he starts talking again.

“I know, I know...I’m saying this fresh off a loss to Cartier. I’ve had an NFL season’s worth of matches in 4CW and ended up at a combined 9-7. I wouldn’t even be in this match if there was another team in this company worth defending the Tag Team Championships against right now. I’m not exactly coming into this looking like the favorite, and that’s all long before you look at the circumstances of this match. Just like with Bad Company, I’m taking the hardest road to the top. I mean, Christ, the guy to beat is Bryan fucking Laughlin—the South Beach Brawl survivor, the man who became 4CW and DTW World Champion at the same time. He’s hit this super-Ace status nobody even thought was possible until he went and did it.”

Again, Morales looks away from the camera, shaking his head subtly from side to side. Glimmers of envy flicker in his eyes as Laughlin’s recent accomplishments replay in the Revolution’s head. A.J. knows none of it was ever at his expense, that they’ve been in totally separate lanes until now, and yet...

“That motherfucker…”

There’s a mixed bag of emotions in his voice here—admiration, jealousy, maybe even a little fear. But his stare stays vacant, his gaze away from the lens, and he doesn’t even look down as he unzips the bag slung over his shoulder, reaches into that duffel bag, and pulls out a stone about the size of his palm. The camera pulls back
“And no matter how many other people throw their hats in the ring to challenge him, I’m gonna be in there with friends…”

Morales throws the stone in a random direction, and as soon as it lands—BOOM! A blast mine goes off, creating up a burst of flames and kicking up a cloud of dust and debris. An unfazed Morales reaches into the bag...

“...enemies…”

He throws another stone in another direction...BOOM! It sets off a second mine, more powerful than the first.

“...hell, even my own co-champion.”

He throws the next stone a third way...it hits the ground, bounces, rolls a b—BOOM! There we go, that’s mine number 3 with the biggest blast yet.

“If nobody gets creative and finds a way to escape the cage early without bolt cutters, we’re gonna be stuck in there with each other for half an hour—plenty enough time for some people to me to end up too beat to shit to even walk out, let alone try to climb up the cage, then up the ladder to grab that belt.”

Morales reaches into the bag again, but instead of a stone, he takes out a tangerine and slowly, almost absent-mindedly, starts peeling away the skin.

“I’ll have to keep track of both rings and the top of the cage all at once, make and break alliances on the fly...and forget Reedvolution infighting, how about me going to war with my own muscle memory? If I go into autopilot for long enough to so much as run the ropes in the wrong ring…”

He turns around and slings the tangerine at the barbed wire, which slices the fruit to shreds.

“...that happens all by itself before the competition runs up to beat the shit out of me.”

He drops the peel back into the bag, then turns back to the camera.

“I’ve battled it out inside steel cages, Elimination Chambers, even Hell In A Cell. I’ve climbed up ladders and down Ultimate X cables, I’ve been hit with practically everything you can possibly use as a weapon inside a wrestling ring, and I can tell you right now, none of that compares to what I’m about to face inside the Warzone. This isn’t just the hardest road to the 4CW Championship, it’s the most difficult match of my entire career. The last time the odds were stacked this high, I was fighting all alone against two of the biggest icons I’ve ever faced, with the fate of an entire promotion resting on my shoulders.”

A moment’s pause for effect...

“So yeah, that just has me even more convinced I’m gonna win this.”

There’s that roguish grin of his again as he reaches into the bag. He gets this look in his eyes, as if to ask, “Did you really think I was gonna say I’m fucked?”

Bueno, here’s the thing...when you learn the ways of hardcore wrestling the way I did—by jumping right into the fire of a title scene where the belt is under 24/7 rules—you need to learn certain skills very quickly. For instance, if you don’t learn to watch where you step…”

Morales reaches in the bag and—BOOM! With one quick toss straight ahead, he takes out another mine.

“...you could walk right into a trap. Hell, even when I was careful, sometimes I’d have people literally hunt me down in the middle of dinner, with my whole family there and everything. And when you have title fights in restaurants, and in casinos, and on subway trains, you learn that—”—his eyes go wide with panic—“—JESUS! Morales dives towards the spot of the last mine he cleared, falling out of the frame just as a stray football flies in and—BOOM! Hits a spot not too far from where Morales was standing.

“Johnny! Dave!” Morales stands up again, wiping the dust off his face. ¡Pinches pendejos! The fuck is wrong with you?”

“Sorry!”, we hear from somewhere behind the camera. Morales just sighs and looks at the ground in disgust.

“I’m never bringing interns to these shoots again...” The camera starts to turn away, as if the drone’s being steered back to where it started for a reshoot, but Morales spots it and holds up a finger, keeping us right where we’re at.

“Nonononono, keep it rolling, this is exactly my point. Just like a badly-aimed ball on a minefield, when you’re in any sort of hardcore match, even the simplest moves can kill if they land in the right place. That armdrag you use at the start of a match, just to feel your opponent out? It only takes one of those onto a steel chair, or a marble floor, or whatever hazard they land on to fuck up somebody’s back for the rest of the night. And if you know that’s a match-altering move, then you know just one time landing on your head can end your whole career, forget just that match, in an instant. You learn to let your forearms break the fall so your skull doesn’t get cracked open.”

Morales reaches into the bag again, pulling out another stone—only this one’s painted in the green and yellow of an old Dallas Stars logo.

“Every move you make matters.” He tosses the painted stone over his right shoulder...BOOM! It hits a landmine, and the distinct colors make it easy to see the stone launch up in the air again. “Even your best strategies can completely backfire.” The painted stone comes back down on the other side of the frame and—BOOM! Hits another mine, and it comes flying back at Morales.

“Sonuva—!” Morales hears the stone coming and manages to duck down and dodge it by a matter of inches. It whizzes by the camera before landing with a muffled THUNK! somewhere outside the minefield.

“See? Even I’m not perfect. Nobody will be in the Warzone, not with that many bodies wielding that many weapons. But I’m the only one who‘s studied the fine points of 24/7 style extensively enough to hold onto a 24/7 title for practically an entire year straight. I’ve learned to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings in a way that nobody else in the Warzone has, using lessons that prepare me for everything in and around the Warzone, from the wires to the ladders to the towers of tables, plus whatever weapons of choice people decide to bring in with them.”

BOOM! Back to the regular stones as Morales clears another mine ahead of him.

“They won’t see the patterns I see.”

BOOM! Another mine gone, as he throws the stone even farther ahead.

“They won’t cut a path through the chaos the way I will. And it’ll look obvious once I walk it, but until I do?”

He winds up to throw another stone, but this one curves to the right and—BOOM!—hits its target.

“They won’t have a clue. Nobody is gonna be able to make me play this game on their terms—not the fresh meat running headfirst into the grinder, not the heavy hitters looking to make up for their last big strikeout, not even the Monster King himself.”

Morales reaches into that duffel bag again and pulls out a hammer, just as the camera pans to the left and lets us get a better view of one of those pickup trucks sitting around here. In a moment of total coincidence definitely not symbolizing anything, no sir, not at all, this one has a giant sticker of a blue fuel gauge on the door.

“But hey, c’mon, at least he’ll spin taking the silver into gold again, right?”

He turns around and wings the hammer, which bounces one time, then lands—KABLAM! Right on top of a mine next to the truck, and this one explodes with enough force to knock the truck on its side and smash all the glass.

“Igh...nevermind that.”

Morales turns back around and starts walking along the path to safety he’s cleared for himself, and the camera backs up to keep pace with him the whole way.

“The favorites to win this will get in front of these cameras and tell you exactly how they’re gonna win, just like I’m doing. But while they promise to win the 4CW Championship by being the toughest, or the most violent, or the one that wants it the most, I’m telling you right now that when you see me on top of the Warzone, and the whole wrestling world, as the 4CW Champion, you’re gonna know it’s because I worked smarter than anybody else.”

As if to emphasize the point, he comes up to the edge of the fence, places the duffel bag on top of the highest wire, and uses it to vault over the fence and into a forward roll, after which he pops up and lands on his feet. But he’s not done yet—he keeps walking forward as what appear to be idle film crew members all start running as far from the minefield as they can...

“If Fright Night V was my Santo homage, defending Mexico’s honor against un gringo loco from Kong’s Rod, then for Part VI, I’m going Gory Guerrero. Last time, I brought back the art of the luchador superhero flick, but this time, I’m pushing the science of violence towards a tomorrow that nobody saw coming. Next Wednesday, I’m gettin’ in that Texas wrasslin’ spirit, I’m letting out that maniac in me, ‘cause he’sbeen waiting so long for me to get into one of 4CW’s signature hellscpaes. And no matter how many battles I have to fight inside that Warzone, I’m making sure everybody knows one thing...”

Morales reaches a wooden crate and finds a giant, jolly, candy-like red button.

“This war.”

He picks up the button with one hand.

“Is.”

He looks right down the lens, a mischievous fire in his eyes as he raises the other hand

Mine.

KABLAAAAAAAM! Every remaining mine in the field goes off at once, sending up a storm of flames and popping both trucks up into the air. Morales gives the camera a playful fist-bump and walks off, leaving us hanging on the image of the burning wreck he left behind.

9
Adrenaline / Cut the Shit, Get In the Pit
« on: October 14, 2019, 04:36:32 AM »
We find ourselves in the basement of the infamous Gold House, Albuquerque’s #1 hotspot for DIY music. There are maybe ten people here right now, most of them roadies for fast-rising local act Feed the Vampires—think SeeYouSpaceCowboy, if that band was trying to revive Southwestern deathcore at all costs. But one of the people helping to set up sticks out like a sore thumb...

“Icicles, ricicles, bicycles...shredded wheat is praxis...”

Yep, that’s A.J. Morales soundchecking a mic, just like he did countless times at 924 Gilman before he became a wrestler. He’s not even supposed to be doing this, but he showed up early enough for the gig that he ended up pitching in anyway. He looks off to the side, scanning for someone we don’t have in the frame...

“How’s that? Good?...Great!”

Morales gives a clenched-fist salute before stepping off the stage...OK, more like he steps out beyond the jagged lines of duct tape separating the performers’ spot from the audience. He looks around for something else he can help with, but before he does, he spots the camera some ways off. As he approaches us, he reaches down to his waist to adjust his 4CW tag title belt...then remembers he didn’t bring that here, because who the hell brings that to a show like this? He shakes his head, as if ejecting the moment from his mind, and stops where he needs to be, talking to us as everyone else here goes about their business.

“Y’know, there’s this ancient proverb of the punk scene…‘cut the shit, get in the pit.’ I learned it at my first Warped Tour in middle school, but it definitely wasn’t new when that happened. Just seven little words, but if the right person says them at the right time, they can convince one friend to enter their first of hundreds more mosh pits—or hundreds of people to all start moshing in one spot. But my favorite time to say it was always when some fake tough guy was taking his shirt off, flexing his muscles, daring anyone to come at him,..all while he stood out on the edge of the crowd, ‘cause he knew if he actually went in the pit, he’d get his teeth kicked in. And when I saw Cartier talking shit about me in that zoo, it was like seeing that guy again for the first time in years.”

Morales goes quiet for just a moment and smiles, like a memory of an old friend just replayed in his mind.

“Ahhh...dude, thank you so much for trying to make counterpoints from the jump, ‘cause those parts of your video were just...mwah! Comedy gold. I mean, of all the promos about me you coulda taken cues from, you picked the one Sam Tolson cut before I literally kicked her out of Seattle Pro: trying and failing to predict what I was gonna say about you. You said I was gonna use your tag partner for talking points, and I didn’t say his name once. You said I was gonna doubt your validity as a #1 contender, but I applauded you getting that opportunity. You said I was gonna talk about you like you ain’t shit, but I was out here making your singles win streak sound more impressive than you did! C’mon, pendeja, you gotta sell yourself better to these people if you want them behind you.”

The Revolution makes a not-so-subtle gesture to the Reedvolution T-shirt he’s wearing and gives us a wink.

“See, this isn’t just you trying and failing to go from Brooklyn Baller to Crystal Baller. This is exactly what I was talking about last time—you’re in that one-way mindset, assuming I’m gonna underestimate you because that’s what you assume everyone does. Matter of fact, I’m not even sure you know what separates me from everyone you’ve fought in those undercard trenches, other than that I have shiny things, tweet too much, and get higher-profile singles matches here than you do.

“Now, what you could do is take your time, do your research, figure out why I went straight to fighting Aces while you had to spend so many months on the struggle circuit to get your first title shot. But you didn’t even do the 30 seconds of Twitter stalking it takes to figure out that I started dating Emery long before I’d ever heard of Kaelan Laughlin, so I know you didn’t put in the hours watching game tape of me fighting this sport’s biggest names, headlining its most prestigious arenas, and being the same level of top guy in company after company that people like Eli Carlson are on here in 4CW. Y’know, the ones I supposedly only talk shit about you to get cool points from? The ones you clown on me for losing to when you wouldn’t have lasted 3 minutes in the ring with them? Actually, hold up—how are you gonna bring up Emery losing to Genie like that insults me, and then spin you challenging Genie as some proof of valor on par with me challenging Bronx? Genie beat you even faster than she beat Emery!”

The Revolution gives a sharp exhale, accentuating the level of venom that’s dripping in and accumulating in his voice.

“Oh, wait, no, I know why—you went to the Duane Gish school of debate, where you don’t have to know what you’re talking about as long as you can confidently throw 100 handfuls of bullshit at the wall. I mean, why else would you call me by my shoot name like it’s supposed to scare me? Why else would you try to walk back what you said about me being a fake Mexican, throwing out excuses that nobody believed when you originally tweeted them out? And why else would you leave in that whole thing with Lorenzo? I mean, it’s either that or you hella want everyone to know that you’re a millionaire celebrity athlete who still needs Tinder to get laid.”

A.J. inhales with a hiss as he looks to the side, an expression of pure cringe on his face, an imaginary mug of tea in his hand.

“But you did have one good point...on paper, I should be a fan of yours. I wanted to be a fan when I first noticed you making waves last year, ‘cause you seemed a lot like me—a raw talent who came up from the streets, made something of herself in the ring, spoke her truth, and didn’t care who that truth offended. Hell, in some other timeline where I didn’t talk my friend Dontell out of sliding in your DM’s, we could've ended up running with the same squad. But you just haaaad to jump in and play Twitter cavalry for your little yippy-dog friend, ‘cause you’d already cut promos with him in catering so he could scam his way to some $1500 appearance checks. You just haaaad to say some shit about me you didn’t think you’d ever have to back up, ‘cause y’all were so convinced me and B would never be 4CW Tag Team Champions and American Mangs were just gonna hand y’all the next shot after Miami. And now here you are, on the go-home show before Fright Night, about to step in the ring with somebody who’s better than you at all your in-ring specialties, who’s more respected in the locker room and in the stands, and who you turned, with your own words and actions, from a potential ally to the guy who’s gonna hit you so hard, you’ll still be feeling it on Fright Night.”

A.J. lowers his head, taking a moment to catch his breath and get his next thought sorted.

“The one thing that might save you is your willpower, and don’t get me wrong, that’s your biggest strength. Most people wouldn’t have survived the barrage of losses, scandals, and setbacks you went through just to get to that big title shot at Fright Night, because most people don’t have the resolve you do. But I spent nine months chasing the tag titles with Bianca, and we beat three teams in one night to take them, so if anyone has the stamina and strength of mind to outlast you, it’s me. And if your last promo was any indication, you’re also not thorough enough to drag me or clever enough to insult me—which means once we’re in the ring, you won’t be ready for what I throw at you, and you won’t be creative enough to catch me off-guard. You better pray to God for a bigger gas tank or some sheer dumb luck, ‘cause even if you do find one of those, I’m gonna beat you so bad, it’ll make what the Niners' defense did to Phil Simms in ‘94 look like nothing.”

As the noise of the sound-checks behind him gets louder, Morales steps closer to the camera, holding onto the side of the lens with one hand so we don’t take our eyes off him...

“So when we finally square off in that ring, October 16th, right here in Albuquerque...Cartier, you better do me a favor. Don’t worry about who your Tinder date knocked up, don’t worry about my roots and my marriage, don’t about worry who my next singles match is against. Just stop being that poser no one wants to deal with, quit flexing at the edge of the crowd, cut the bullshit...”

Morales snaps his fingers and—

“—AND GET IN THE PIT! BITCH!

We jump cut ahead a couple hours, right to a packed house as Feed the Vampires, along with A.J. and half the audience, yell the same callout in unison before the band slams into a punishing breakdown of chugging guitar riffs and machine-gun drumming. Morales jumps right into the pit behind him, throwing elbows and shoving people around like everyone else. The cameraman tries to go in with him and keep track, but it only takes one stray fist hitting the lens for—KSSSHVVHVVHHHSKSPOAWENFPOW—


10
They say Española, New Mexico is the lowrider capital of the world, and from where we’re at, it’s living up to that name. We open in the parking lot of El Paragua, a nationally-renowned Mexican restaurant, but it feels more like a parking alley; the spaces are in two rows on opposite sides of a half-circle lane that connects back at both ends to the main road. A handful of locals cruise around the restaurant again and again, riding low and slow as the DJ turns her decks into a crossroads of regional rap styles—some H-Town here, some West Coast there, but right now, she’s on her narco-rap tip, spinning “Como Nosotros” by Big Los. But the star of the show here is A.J. Morales, who sits behind a folding table, a tag title apiece from 4CW and XWA slung over his shoulders, taking selfies and signing autographs for the many fans here to see him. Just as he wraps up with an entire family of four, giving them all fist-bumps goodbye before they head into the restaurant—hey, El Paragua’s gotta make money off this somehow, right?—Morales spots us out of the corner of his eye and takes off his sunglasses.

“What’s good, 4CW? Y’all miss me last episode?”

The Revolution takes a swig from his glass Coke bottle before he stands, holding up a hand to the next fan in line.

“Un momento, por favor…”

Morales adjusts his gold, making sure the 4CW belt’s in better view, and we follow him from the side as he gives us a Sorkinesque walk-and-talk across the parking lot, taking care not to get hit by the parade of lowriders.

“I’m not gonna lie, this Southwest tour’s been a little weird for me. Like, not a bad weird—I still beat a 2-time 4CW World Champion on my home turf—but when you first make that switch from chasing the champions to getting chased as the champion, that flips your perspective. All of a sudden, instead of asking myself what I have to do to get on the card at Fright Night, I’m asking who Bianca and I are gonna need to defend against when we get to San Anton’.”

A.J. approaches a vintage Pontiac Catalina with an elaborate paintjob featuring stars, flames, and luchador masks aplenty. His agent, Michelle Moana, sits in the driver’s seat, and the two exchange nods before A.J. hops up onto the hood, taking a seat dead center up in front.

“We still don’t know the answer to that. But hey, we’ll find out on Adrenaline 105, right? And in the meantime, I still have one fight I do know is coming, one I’ve been waiting on for a while now. ‘Cause October 16th, live from the Pit, I’m stepping in the ring for the first time anywhere against Cartier.”

As soon as he says that name, Michelle brings the car’s suspension as low as possible, like air flying out of a balloon. Her client, bemused, turns to look over his shoulder at her.

“Dude, c’mon, we’re trying to sell tickets here!”

Michelle can’t help cracking up a bit as she raises the suspension back to where it was

“Come off it, you know I’m just havin’ a laugh!”

Morales shakes his head, suppressing a smirk, and turns back to the camera.

“Thot Chocolate mighta faceplanted at Bad Company, but in singles competition out here, this girl’s on some other shit lately. She’s fearless, she’s bringing a smash-mouth style, and it’s paying off big time. We’re talking 3 straight wins, one Wrigley client going out on his back, and as of a few days ago, she’s set up for her biggest match ever in 4CW: a shot at Manny Fernandez and that Pride Championship. And I wish her all the luck in the world with that…”

The suspension goes up a little on the left, like a dog quizzically tilting its head.

“...but let’s be real, she’s not gonna win that, let alone her match with me.”

Up goes the other side. Now we’re even.

“See, people like Cartier only ever think in binaries. They need to strip the nuance out of everything, either because they can’t handle that it exists or because it interferes with their narrative. So when you see things like they do, you’re either with them or against them. You’re the best in the world or the bottom of the barrel. And going by all these months of us talking shit at each other on Twitter, I’m either Mexican or I’m white—and she, for some reason, gets to decide which one is real and which one I’m just faking for the clout.”

A wave of anger washes over the champ, just for a split-second, before he suppresses it.

“But me? I see the world in all its complexities. I think in terms of and, not or. I have to, because one way or another, I’ve been a man of two worlds all my life. When I celebrate my country’s independence day, I do it July 4th and September 16th. Put me in the ring, and I’ll overwhelm you with flips and strikes. Send me after some Tag Team Championships, and I’ll win them in 4CW and XWA, with Bianca and Minka Carter.”

“S-G!” Michelle holds up some merch for the Scooby Gang, the XWA faction she manages, which A.J. and Minka both belong to. He throws up a clenched-fist salute before she puts the merch back down.

“And that’s exactly why, October 16th in Albuquerque, I’m gonna torch Cartier the way Azealia Banks keeps torching her own career. Because as talented as Cartier is, as much success as she’s had elsewhere, and as great as she could be here, she only knows how to do things one way. And when it pays off, it gets her championships and glory. But when it doesn’t? She takes massive L’s, like having her Internet Championship stripped away, or getting fired over Twitter.”

BUM-bum-ba-BUMMMM...HOOOOOONK! Again, A.J. turns to look over his shoulder, and he finds Michelle having an absolute laughing fit over the noise her husband, Jason, rigged the horn up to make. Even A.J. can’t help cackling a bit at it, but he regains his composure and turns back to the camera as his agent accidentally brings the suspension a little higher.

“Cartier’s figured out, just like I did, that if she runs her mouth about the right people, she’ll get the opportunities she wants, and the fans will flock to her in droves. But because she lives in a world without nuance, she doesn’t know how to pick her targets correctly. So she turns Twitter into her local #DEATHSTEAKS, she orders more beef than she can handle, and then she acts all surprised when people don't take her side and she gets handed the receipt. And lemme tell ya…”

Morales clenches his right hand into a fist, lowering his head as he keeps his eyes locked on the lens. Michelle, meanwhile, lowers the suspension a bit for a little dramatic emphasis.

“...I got hella receipts to hand you next week, Cartier. You’re not my nemesis for life, don’t get it twisted, but you still thought the best way to defend your tag team’s honor was to call me a ‘fake ass mayosapien’ who’s only ‘suddenly Mexican when it’s convenient.’”

A.J. makes air quotes with his hands as he repeats from those tweets Cartier sent his way, then rolls his eyes.

“Yeah...‘cause it was so convenient being Mexican that night some skinheads tried to drag me into an alley and beat me to a pulp for speaking Spanish. It was so convenient getting singled out by the cops every time some hardcore show I went to got shut down over a noise complaint. It was so convenient when I had to sit at the dinner table on Christmas and hear Great-Uncle Norman rant about how Trump was gonna deport Mamá y todos mis tíos and make sure I couldn’t steal any more jobs from ‘real Americans.’”

Morales has to take a second to look off to the side and recompose himself. After all, now’s not the time to fume about how Great-Uncle Norman abuses the privilege of being 83 and allowed to blurt out his every thought. A.J. has to stay focused here...

“And I’m not gonna knock you for using your platform to talk about ending systemic racism, because on that issue, we’re on the same side. But you don’t get to talk that talk and then turn around and perpetuate that shit against other people when it’s convenient and it doesn’t affect you. You don't get to weasel your way out of it and go 'That's not what I really meant!' when you get called out on it. All that does is make you a hypocrite, and we don’t have room for hypocrites on this side of the political aisle.”

Morales shifts himself a little over to the left side, just as Michelle raises the suspension over there. He slides back to stand up, and as he keeps talking, the suspension slowly lifts him higher and higher...

“So Cartier, lemme break this down for you one more time, just in case you drank another bottle of Dumb Bitch Juice before you watched this. You don’t get to tell me who I am, or where I’m from, or where I belong. But when I see you in Albuquerque? I’m gonna smack your head off your shoulders, and bring your momentum to a dead stop, and make you look like a scrub right before the biggest match of your career, because no matter how far that one-track mindset takes you, I got five ways to Sunday that you can’t even see, let alone prepare for. So you can keep seeing the world in binaries, you can try to fit me in a neat little box...but you better brace yourself, ‘cause by the time you recognize what’s real, you’ll be too concussed to see the nuances.”

With the car as high as its hydraulics can take it, the camera aiming high as its tripod goes low, and the Sun behind Morales’s head, dramatically framing him in shadow, the Revolution kisses his ring knuckle and leaps down like he’s about to hit the Liberator...only to stop his fist inches short of the lens. He gives us a cocky grin as he steps back, takes his title belts, and raises them high above his head.

¡Viva la Raza, chingadaaaaa!

The mostly-Chicano crowd, scattered across the lot, cheers in response, and he lowers the gold again before he turns to head back to the line of fans waiting for him. The DJ transitions effortlessly from Big Los’s outro to Travis Scott’s intro to “R.I.P. Screw,” and we hang on that last shot long enough to see A.J. take his seat at that table and greet that fan he kept waiting before some glitchy editing brings the clip to an end.

11
Archives / LOA for Adrenaline 104
« on: September 16, 2019, 12:58:33 AM »
CHARACTER: A.J. Morales
DATES REQUESTED: Adrenaline 104
RETURNING: Fright Night or Adrenaline 105, whichever comes first
REASON: I have two college papers due back-to-back, one on October 1st and one on the 2nd, and I don't want to risk using up valuable time for the papers on writing RPs for the show

12
Adrenaline / Local Man Goes As Dumb As Possible
« on: September 12, 2019, 03:52:48 AM »
“Michelle, we rolling?”

“‘Course we are! Right, A.J., you just hop out, and—”

“Babe, the camera’s upside-down.”

It’s the crack of dawn in Berkeley, California, and we’re at the north end of Telegraph Avenue, which runs 4.5 miles from here all the way into the neighboring city of Oakland. A.J. Morales is in the back seat on the shotgun side of a four-door Pontiac, and as Michelle Moana, his manager, who’s sitting next to him, flips the camera over, it’s easier to tell not only what’s going on here, but that the tag team Hyphy Machinery, old friends of A.J.’s who haven’t been seen in any promotion for a while now, let alone 4CW, are up in the front. In a reversal of the duo’s usual dynamic, Dontell Porter drives the car, while Jason Moana, Michelle’s husband, rides shotgun.

“OK, I reckon we’re ready to go...”

“You know the plan, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, back up four blocks, turn around at Dwight, and pray the cops don’t see us do this…”

“Tell ‘em we shoulda got a filming permit before we did this. Go on, tell ‘em, Dontell—”

“Nahhhh, you just didn’t wanna drive ‘cause you know I’m the only one that can—”

“Oi! Let’s stay on track here, yeah?”

A.J. looks out the window, checking for traffic in the other lane, then at Dontell.

“A’right, I’m ready, just tell me when to go…”

Dontell starts backing the car up, and A.J. cracks open the door ever so slightly. He knows that, objectively, this is the stupidest thing he’s ever done to promote a match, but when the show you’re promoting is in Oakland and you want to represent the local culture as only a Bay Area native can, sometimes that means getting up way too early and ghostriding the whip.

“Go!”

A.J. hops out of the car and starts walking alongside it, trying to keep pace as it rolls down the street. Once he’s synced up and confident he can stay in the frame, he unzips his satin Oakland Athletics jacket, revealing his newly-won 4CW Tag Team Championship belt.

“We turned the world upside down, what’s gravity, biatch? Hahaaaaa!”

A.J. starts pointing to the belt, showing it off for the camera, which seems to help him steady his nerves about doing this whole stunt.

“God...I imagined this moment so many times, it felt more like a memory. I promised it so many times, either on my own or with Bianca, that I was starting to wonder if it still meant anything. We walked into Philly hungrier and more desperate than ever before, because we knew it was either win it all now or forever be known as the team that made promises we could never keep.”

As the car reaches the first intersection, A.J. hops up and starts holding onto the car, hanging off the side while his feet stay in the vehicle.

“But we finally did it. All those months of struggle built up to the one shining moment where we finally defeated the most dominant 4CW Tag Team Champions of all time and reaped every reward for it possible—the MOTN, the million-plus in bonuses, and most importantly, the gold we’d been chasing all along. The world is upside-down, and it’s our Reedvolution that sent it that way.”

He squats down a bit as he keeps talking, just to make sure we see his face.

“And I could go full egotist, I could act like that Bad Company win makes me invincible, I could spend this whole shebang just stuntin’ down the same streets that, ten years ago, I used to walk down not knowing if I’d still have a roof over my head by that time next week. But the end of one road is just the start of another, and I’m starting this next one with maybe my toughest singles match yet. Right here in the Bay, I get to make my homecoming against none other than Viduus Morta.”

The car officially gets through the second intersection, and A.J. hops back down to start walking alongside the car again.

“Now, Viduus is an interesting opponent, because we don’t approach the ring in nearly the same way—and I don’t just mean in philosophy, I mean in actions. See, when people get booked against me, they gotta study hours and hours of game tape, because I know 10,000 ways to kick someone’s head in, and if they don’t prepare for all of them, they’re screwed. But Viduus, moreso than anybody else on this roster, is the man who practices one kick 10,000 times. He doesn’t need the world’s deepest playbook, because he’s found the money plays that let him just slam motherfuckers into the dirt over and over again until their hopes are six feet deep. And it speaks to how good he is in that ring, how deep he and his Speaker get into people’s heads, that he’s racked up the wins and the accolades he has. You can know exactly what he’s going to do to you, and exactly when he’s going to try to do it, and it still won’t save you from dropping your Extreme title, your Pride title, your 4CW title to him. I mean, we’re talking about the only person in 4CW history to have to vacate one title because he traded up and won another—which, in my opinion, is even crazier than his being a two-time world champion.”

Intersection number three, and A.J. checks ahead for cars—none found—before he decides it’s safe enough to continue keeping pace with the car instead of jumping back on the side. 

”But Viduus, if we compare the run of tournaments we’ve been through since you dropped that belt to Laughlin—‘cause let’s face it, 4CW in 2019 is just one tournament after another—it’s all too obvious that people are cracking the code. I mean, you got into the South Beach Brawl Cup, you built up some steam, and then when you were just one match away from getting your rematch, what happens? Brennan Devlin summons the power of terrible ‘70’s music to stop you short and take it all away. Then you enter Snuff Fest, you crush the first tomato can you see, but you run into Aoki Zombie in the quarterfinals, and what happens? He pulls you into his world, forces you to try and out-crazy the crazy motherfucker—which you can’t, because it’s Aoki—and you end up knocked out in the middle of a forest.”

They clear the intersection—this block is the home stretch. No cops, no cars, not a soul around...this whole thing might go off without a hitch.

“And unfortunately for you, this match is gonna put you right back in the same situation you were just in. When you pull up to the Oracle Arena, you’re gonna be entering an arena I’ve been going to for Warriors games since I was in kindergarten. When you walk down that ramp, you’re gonna be in front of my hometown crowd, people who’ve known me from the beginning and watched me rise up from the local indies all the way to the top of the wrestling world. When you hear the bell ring, you’re gonna be part of the commentators’ narrative about my big homecoming, and whether my potential defeat at your hands will translate into a title shot in the near future. When you appear on TV for that Battleground Network premiere, you’re gonna be on the same network that airs XWA and NVR, places where, at least as of me filming this, I’m also holding a championship. We might not be running off to the Redwoods to slug this out, but make no mistake, I’m pulling you into my world just as completely and inescapably as Aoki did. I’m driving the car; you’re trapped in the backseat. And I can just ghostride the whip and let it crash with you in it if I want t—”

“Car!”

Morales looks out the corner of his eye, and—

“SHIT!”

Morales reacts before he even realizes it, running out of the street and onto the sidewalk as a silver sedan speeds through the frame. Once it’s gone, he starts to run up to the car again, but Dontell swerves the car away from him; this is the intersection where Telegraph becomes a two-way street, and he needs to get the car in position if they’re going to make it on that side and be able to drive legally the rest of the way.

The whole scene goes into a blur as Dontell starts doing a donut; Michelle slides over to close the open door on A.J.’s side, forgetting she has the camera for a moment and accidentally giving us a good view of Dontell’s dreads and Jason’s long locks swinging around as the car keeps turning—turns out Dontell overshot on his first donut, and he needs to do half of another one to correct for it. Once the car is pointed in the right direction and Dontell can focus on switching lanes until he’s in the right one, Michelle turns to track A.J., who charges diagonally across the intersection and onto the opposite sidewalk, screaming obscenities we can’t hear the entire way until he finally catches up, opens the door to his seat, and climbs in frantically before—SLAM!—closing the door again.

“Hah...hijo de...”

Morales takes heavy breaths as Dontell speeds up now that he can drive normally. Michelle, meanwhile, starts pointing the camera at whoever’s talking.

“A.J., next time you wanna do some hyphy shit for one of your promos, let’s just put together a sideshow and shut down the Bay Bridge like normal people, yadidamsayin?”

“On citas, güey....”

A.J. gives himself a light slap across the face, as if to ask himself, “Why the hell did I do that?”, but as he settles in again, unstrapping his title belt and strapping his seat belt in, a smile comes over him. He feels the post-ghostride rush of adrenaline, the one he hasn’t felt in years, and while he probably won’t do something like this for a promo anytime soon, he at least remembers why he used to do this all the time when he was 17.

The Revolution turns to Michelle, who turns the camera to him accordingly, and adjusts the tag title in his lap so the front plate is in full view.

“So, am I gonna get that cocky September 18th?”

“NOPE!” Everyone else in the car yells it at the same time—this call-and-response, borrowed from E-40 himself, is an old Hyphy Machinery pre-match ritual, which Michelle and A.J. heard probably hundreds of times before anyone outside the Bay knew who they were.

“I’m bringing everything I got, huh?”

“YUP!”

“Am I gonna go the whole match without getting knocked down?”

“NOPE!”

“But every time, I’m getting the fuck back up again, huh?”

“YUP!”

“And I’m doin’ it for the Bay…”

“YUP!”

“And I’m doin’ it for the A’s...”

“YUP!”

“And the whole damn Roaracle’s gonna chant my name...”

“A.J! A.J! A.J!...”

At this point, everyone in the car gets caught up in an avalanche of each other’s hype—even A.J. can’t help chanting his own name. Jason reaches for the volume knob on the dashboard, turning it up until the booming bassline of “Hyphy” by The Federation is practically all we can hear. Michelle passes A.J. the camera, and he holds it out the window just before the clip freezes, hanging on its last frame as the sound keeps going. Right in the center of that frame, we see a street sign—”Welcome to Oakland,” it says in white on a green background, with a yellow tree next to it. The sound and visuals slowly fade, but the words take longer to completely go to black.

13
Bad Company V / 'Till the World Turns Upside Down
« on: August 26, 2019, 01:33:25 AM »
In the city of Philadelphia, there’s a small residential street called Elfreth’s Alley. It’s the oldest continually inhabited street in the city, bearing two neat rows of Federal-style and Georgian houses on either side. Just a short walk away are some better-known monuments to Philadelphia’s history, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. But here, walking along a street that’s seen just about every moment in American history, the two members of Reedvolution stop outside the doorway of an elegant home with a For Sale sign in front of it.

Looking up at the building, Bianca lets her imagination run away with her a bit, thinking of the people who had once lived here. There wasn’t a memorial plaque or anything, but with a building like this, in the oldest part of the city, it was easy to picture it as the setting for some Revolutionary War drama that never made it into the history books.

“You know, when they talk about the American Revolution, they make it seem like it was an idea that every single colonist was behind. Sure, some history teachers will mention the Loyalists and how a lot of them went back to England, but the way they talk about it, it was as though the guys who lead the Revolution - guys like Ben Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison - were universally beloved and breaking out from British rule was a genius idea. They also make it sound like everything stopped in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, when in reality the war went on until 1783.”

Seven years of fighting, of watching blood and shit spray, of losing ground and losing hope, but they had done it. And from the expression on her face, it’s clear that Bianca Reed was prepared to do the very same in order to go the distance. Instead of a Revolutionary War soldier’s uniform, she’s instead dressed in a navy blue sleeveless shirt and white shorts, but the resolve in her eyes is unmistakable. Three hundred years ago, she would have fought for the Revolution, without question or hesitation, just like she was doing now.

“And it was fought by people who knew they didn’t have popular support behind them, at least at first. The American army was a ragtag group of rebels, fighting for an ideal. They knew that what they were doing was either going to result in the birth of a new nation, or they were going to fail spectacularly and become Britain’s least favorite colony. And yet they were willing to risk their lives and their futures for the notion of a nation that they would be able to build in their own image. They took a stand with pride, and here we stand close to three hundred years later. The American experiment also set a precedent for events like the French Revolution, inspiring people to YEET their governments out the damn window and create the kind of nation they knew was possible.”

The Atlanta native laughs, but her words are serious. Every action is an act of creation and in this instance, the two members of Reedvolution are doing whatever they have to in order to create a path to the 4CW tag team titles once more.

“Revolution is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And yes, along the way you are going to lose some people, because this shit is exhausting. But if you believe in something, if you push yourself and you work and you fight for the ideal that’s in your head, eventually it will become reality.”

It’s about here that A.J. Morales pulls the brim of his Circa Survive hat higher so we can properly see his face. He’s been a little camera-shy until now, but as he looks into the lens, we see that familiar spark of confidence in his eyes...

“Speaking of which...you wanna know the reality of this year’s Bad Company? Just look at the brackets on the poster. All the way at the top of one bracket, there’s us. All the way at the bottom of the other one, there’s Manny and Tommy. And even though there aren’t any British cannons or Battalion Championships to steal, everybody in between is somebody to blast through on our way to the 4CW tag titles, the million dollars, and everything that comes with it.”

His partner’s eyes widen and she sips from a bottle of Arizona Green Tea, her pinky raised in proper fashion.

“It sounds harsh, I know, but we’ve been through this before. When this Reedvolution started at Tag Team Into the Future, we were just one of many new teams that came together. We’d had our runs in other companies, I had that match with Bronx and the win at Fright Night, but as a team, we were unproven and underestimated. But as the weeks went by, something funny happened. While every other team broke up, fell off the map, or went back to some other show, we forged that bond that separates a real tag team from two singles wrestlers sharing a corner. We figured out pretty quickly that this was about more than just an alliance of convenience, or just some off-the-cuff idea about me yelling ‘YEET!’ while I threw Bianca at people—”

Bianca snorts audibly at the memory. Her time on CuriousCat hadn’t done her a lot of favors, but it had brought her and A.J. together as a tag team, so that was the one positive she took from the situation. And so, feeling the need to explain, she screws the cap back onto her bottle of green tea and leans against the elegantly carved stone railing on the steps of the empty house for sale.

“--Lowkey though, that was how this whole thing started. I’ve never been much of a tag team wrestler outside of working alongside my brothers, but when A.J. and I started legit talking about making this team happen instead of just joking around on Twitter… something clicked with us. The more time we spent hanging out, getting to know one another both in and out of that ring, we realized that we had something here. It may have started with a joke about throwing me into some tag team titles but now that we’re getting close to a year working together, I’m feeling like that moment is closer than ever.”

A.J. nods in agreement, the two of them exchanging looks with matching grins. This is a team that’s been through some ups and downs in their lifetimes, both individually and together, personally as well as professionally, and they’re proud to be where they are right now despite everything that was working against them.

“See, we both started life from absolutely nothing. We had to fight our way out of hell just to make it in this sport, and we never stopped fighting for everybody still going through the struggle. That’s the beauty of this whole thing going down in Philly—this city embraces its rough edges and its imperfections. It sees the heroes and scholars, even when they’re impoverished and in squalor, and it lifts them up until the world knows their names. So it’ll be pretty poetic if this is the city where we take our place on top, surrounded by people who connect with our story because they’re living it themselves.”

As Morales keeps going with that underdog framing he’s so used to, something subtle changes in his expression. He may not have taken the pinfalls in any of this team’s losses, but from the fire starting to burn in his eyes, we get a sense that the company’s hiatus gave that sour note from South Beach plenty of time to ring in his mind.

“And sure, we haven’t had a perfect run. Sure, we’ve had title shots and came up short, and sure, any other team that mentions us is, 9 times out of 10, gonna bring that fact up and frame it as a weakness. And in an environment like 4CW, where demanding perfection is the default and resting on your laurels is a death sentence, that’s to be expected. But they’ll conveniently leave out the part where, in a division dragged down by flakes and fair-weather friends, where everybody else crumbles as soon as they hit their first snag, where even American Tommy is begging for someone to beat him and Manny so he can go home already, we’re the only ones who seem to remember that when you’re down on your knees, you rise up. We’re the ones who can carry this division, we’re the ones who can take the torch from the American Mangs, we’re the ones who need no introduction, because when we get knocked down, we’re the only ones that get the FUCK back up again!”

By this point, the Revolution’s so worked up that he has no idea how close he is to the camera, and Bianca has to put a hand on A.J.’s shoulder and gently bring him back a bit. Once he realizes, he gives her a nod, turns back to us, and brings his tone lower, but keeps the passion high...

“So to everybody in this tournament, and especially the rare few who stick around afterwards...y’all better brace yourselves, because as long as we’re still hunting those 4CW Tag Team Championships instead of holding them, we’ll never be satisfied. And with the same spirit that made Philadelphia the spearhead of a seemingly-impossible new nation, we’ll step into that ring, we’ll fight for what we know is possible…”

Of course, as soon as Bianca lets her hand drop, A.J. reaches for the camera again. He brings it up close to his face, while his partner throws her hands up in exasperation and shakes her head, one hand covering her mouth to try and smother a grin.

“...and we’ll write the story of how we turned the world upside down.”

Morales gives us that familiar smirk of his, and without thinking it through, he flips the camera over as he puts it back down on the tripod, turning our view of the historic alley on its head. Once the camera’s there, he and his partner hold out their fists to the camera before turning around and walking off into the distance, bantering with each other all the way until the clip finally fades out.

14
South Beach Brawl V / A Giant Pile of Dramatic Irony
« on: April 22, 2019, 03:41:33 AM »
March 23rd
Little Caesars Arena
Detroit, Michigan

We begin with raw, never-before-seen footage from gorilla position at Seattle Pro Wrestling Mainstream 19. Everyone in here—producers, management, friends, whoever—watches the curtain expectantly, but with the mess of noise going on in the arena itself, we aren’t entirely certain why yet.

Our answer arrives a couple seconds later, when A.J. Morales walks through the curtain. His hair is a mess, his face is covered in sweat from the fight he’s just been through, but he’s radiating confidence, smiling from ear to ear, carrying a newly-won Seattle Pro tag title belt over his shoulder. As soon as they see him, people start to stand up and give cheers and applause; meanwhile, Christina Idol emerges from behind that same curtain, her wrestling gear color-coordinated with his, carrying the other half of the titles. They’ve both been champions in Seattle Pro before, so they know the protocol: work the room, shake hands with the company brass and the senior officials, all that stuff.

Less interested in the protocol is one Emery Layton-Morales, who dashes in from out of the frame and gives the champs a tackling hug that nearly bowls all three of them over. With all the noise from outside, and how far the three are from the camera, we don’t quite pick up what they say to each other, but it’s obvious from a mile away how proud Emery is to see her husband and her best friend holding tag gold together.

After a few moments, the trio start to head towards the other side of the room. Once they’re near the exit out into the main backstage halls, they split up so Em and Christi can catch up on what happened in the past week or so. As those two head into the hall, A.J. switches directions towards where we’re situated and starts digging around in the inside pockets of that entrance jacket he threw back on before he started his walk back up the ramp. He pulls out his phone, starts dialing, and before long, he’s on FaceTime with Bianca Reed.

“AYYYYYYYY!” They yell it at practically the exact same time; Bianca points at her screen with her free hand, while A.J. uses his to show off that title belt.

“Holy shit, that match was insane! Congratulations!”

“Thank you, thank you, you’re far too kind!”

“Hah...must feel nice being a champion...”

Bianca sighs and looks away from her phone’s screen for a moment. In a week’s time from this recording, she actually will know that feeling, if only for a moment. But that’s another story from another promotion, and besides, she doesn’t even know she’s getting the shot there yet. In the meantime, A.J. gives Bianca a sympathetic look.

“Hey...no te preocupes. You know it’s just a matter of time.”

Just as we see the reassurance on Bianca’s face, we start to hear someone shouting from too far out of range for the camera’s shotgun mic to pic up. A.J. turns his head in the sound’s direction.

“What?”

More unintelligible shouting.

“Already?”

One last shout, and A.J. shakes his head and sighs in annoyance.

“Fine, fine...be there in a sec.”

A.J. turns his gaze back to his phone.

“Can I call you back? They already want me and Christi doing photoshoots.”

“Yeah, take your time. You got tea to spill, right?”

“Don’t you worry, when I get back, I’ll tell you every new reason we’re gonna have those 4CW titles on lock.”

“A’ight...later.”

“Later.”
A.J. ends the call, and as he puts the phone away, he finally realizes we’re watching. With a smirk on his face, he holds that SPW belt up for us.

¡Nos vemos al sur, chico!

He brings the front plate closer, making sure we get a view of every last detail. But there’s one detail in particular A.J. wants to make sure we see: the name, etched in an arc silver letters on a black background, of a man who held a share of these titles with pride, who carried the torch for the Seattle Pro tag division for so long until the torch fell into A.J.’s hands...

...MARIANO FERNANDEZ.

—————

About a month later...

In a lot of other places, tonight would be an almost-mythical summer night. The skies are clear, the last traces of sunlight have only just faded, and the DJ’s got the dancefloor going with shimmering synths over a thumping four-on-the-floor beat. But here in Miami, it’s just another early spring night, with nothing but good vibes in the air.

Speaking of air, Bianca and A.J. clearly both need some when we find them stumbling out of the mass of partygoers. Even at an open-air party like this, that many people packed that close together can make it hard to breathe after a while. They quickly find each other and head off the same way, towards a makeshift bar/chillout area, where they can actually hear themselves think.

“God, if my manager was here, she’d be swearing up and down she can transition between songs a million times better than the guy on the decks right now...”

“Sure? House music all kinda sounds the same to me after awhile, not gonna lie. Like I couldn’t tell you the differences between two DJs even if I wanted to.”

As they keep walking along, Bianca spots the camera out of the corner of her eye. She gives A.J. a quick nudge, nods in our direction so he sees us, and before long, they’ve made their approach and started to talk right to us.

“There’s a million ways to look at this life. But right now, I’m thinking it all revolves around celebrations. We celebrate new life when someone’s born, and when they die, if they weren’t a piece of shit, we celebrate the memories we shared with them. And all throughout the time in between, we celebrate birthdays, holidays, weddings, graduations, big achievements, or even just surviving another week. Those are the moments that bring people together, those are the events that remind us how we’re all connected and who gets us through this crazy world...but throw ‘em at the wrong time, and things get weird fast.”

“It’s about expectations management. Can’t throw a baby shower before there’s a baby, can’t have an engagement party without a proposal first. And you can’t throw a victory party before you’ve actually gotten the win. Now I get that American Mangs, both individually and as a tag team, have been on a hot streak right now. But the problem with streaks is that every single one has to end sometime. And the problem with being hot for too long? You start, subconsciously or otherwise, expecting to win. Like it’s something natural. Something that just happens because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“Now, if you were to watch what Manny and Tommy have had to say about our tag title fight at South Beach Brawl so far, you’d think they weren’t having that problem. You’d think they were all fired up, at the top of their game, about to carve us up like snowboards through fresh snow. But y’know what? The more I see ‘em put on this pose of anger—not just against us, but against every team they’ve faced so far—I’m starting to think that’s all it is. A pose. I bet on the inside, those two are already celebrating a successful title defense. But we got bad news for ‘em, ‘cause in a few days, we’re gonna cut this reign of theirs short.”

A.J. steps back a bit, letting Bianca take center stage for the time being.

“Let’s face it… you guys spoke to us from in front of a garbage dump for a reason. Thank you for acknowledging that I am the Trash Princess, at least if you spend enough time listening to certain people on Twitter. Don’t know why you would, but I’m sure you thought it was a clever dig. But what y’all don’t seem to understand just yet is that I love being underestimated. So does A.J., because we love proving people wrong. And that’s why we’ve been able to thrive where so many other teams have failed — because we have a similar mindset and work ethic, and we are not afraid to chase what we want even though everyone around us stays telling us what we can and cannot do. Every time you decide we can’t, it just adds fuel to our fire. I mean, all you gotta do is watch Retrograde to see what happens when people decide to dismiss us.”

A.J. steps up to about co-equal focus, making “stop” gestures with his hands to the camera as he talks to his tag partner.

“But hold up, hold up, lemme get this straight...now Y’ALL wanna take away the credit for what we did at Retrograde? Now Y’ALL are the reason the Sadboiz aren’t a team anymore?”

“Guess it was some other phantom team that kicked their asses on pay per view and became number one contend — man, seriously? I thought y’all were better than this. But no, you’re the same garbage that’s gonna tell us we didn’t really win for one reason or another, and that ours was a hollow victory cause the stars were not in alignment with planet Venus or whatever the hell reason. We. Beat. Sad. Boiz. And then they disbanded. End of story, mang.

“Now, to be fair, they have more of a point than anyone else who’s tried it. Y’know what? Yeah, Mangs, you did deny them the tag titles in the tournament final. You did shut them down right at the finish line, and that did devastate them for weeks. But here’s the thing...if the Sadboiz had gone up against some other team, they could have won anyway. When you reach the level it takes to be a 4CW mainstay for years, even the broken you can still kick a lot of people’s asses. They could have gotten a rebound win off some other team and put themselves on this path. But they didn’t get the kinda King’s Road unwanted garbage that’s already running their mouths about challenging at Ante Up. They got the Reedvo-fuckin’-lution, and they got the complete and total curb-stomping that only a team like us can dish out. Y’all wanna say you dug the holes, go ahead—but it was us that threw ‘em in and covered ‘em with dirt.”

Bianca gives the camera a self-satisfied smirk as she leans in closer for a moment.

“And boys? Using that golden shovel to bury whatever was left of those two felt great.”

A.J. makes a subtle digging motion as Bianca steps aside to let him take center stage again.

“A’right, but I still got a thesis about fake anger masking premature celebration to prove, so let’s peel it back layer by layer, person by person, and see how it all shakes out. First we got Manny, who might genuinely have a bit of anger to send my way. See, I think after what happened with Tag Team Into the Future, and the one 4CW-affiliated ACM show where he took the Mexico City Championship, he started thinking a title match with me in it was a guaranteed win. But two months to the day that we had that match on Adrenaline, in the same building where it happened, I took some of that energy and brought it back around to take another set of tag titles off him and Trixie. And they were just as worthy of that throne as the Mangs are of the one here, but if the fallout was any indication? Chico, you’re just as likely to abandon the scene here after you drop the belts as you were in Seattle.”

A.J. pushes his hair out of his face as he takes a breath, then keeps going.

“Some part of you probably thinks you need to put yourself in celebrating mode, that you need to overcompensate, ‘cause as far as this Southern tour? You’re doin’ even worse than me, mang. Yeah, I’m coming off a loss to Eli Carlson, and I fell short of my own expectations there. But you were out here setting the bar even higher, cursing out his fuckin’ family, and got beaten the exact same way, so you can’t even say you lost with more dignity than I did. And when you weren’t losing to him, you were off chasing the fuckin’ King’s Road title to DQ’s and non-finishes. Look, man...I get it, Jett Wilder has a punchable face, and you only got to be a cross-brand champion for like three seconds before ACM decided it didn’t want to be a 4CW brand anymore, but when you’re showing vulnerability on the A-show, the answer isn’t to get involved in B-show business. I smell the insecurity from a mile away, and if you don’t get your shit together and bring the fire I know you can bring, I’m gonna end up taking two belts off ya in three days flat.”

“Those bitches better not run up and cost us our shot, or—”

A.J. puts a hand up, cutting Bianca off before she can finish that thought.

“Don’t even say it, B, we’re tempting fate enough as it is.”

Bianca looks ready to argue it for a moment, but considering what it might evoke, she knows A.J. probably won’t budge on it.

“And then there’s Tommy, who…I gotta be honest, man, I’m starting to feel sorry for you. You, outta the two of y’all, are the bigger reason for concern here, ‘cause you lose one match for the first time in God knows how long and suddenly you’re not even on the cards. Going into this Southern tour, I looked at you and saw the one guy telling me he’s the new Ace—‘cause I guess I’ve talked about the concept enough times that that’s a thing people do now, they lecture me about how they’re the Ace and I’m too stupid to see it—who I thought had the best chance to back it up. But I look at you now, and I see a train that’s about to fall apart, with too much momentum behind it to avoid flying off the edge of the cliff up ahead. Not only have you skipped out on defending the Octane Championship this tour, you can’t even find the fuckin’ thing. Imagine that—the guy who spent all this time putting Octane the show on his back, making it and its former top title mean something, now might end up letting the belt get deactivated and shipped down to the B-show just like the Ignition Championship.”

“How balls out stupid do you have to be to lose a whole ass title belt? It’s not like it’s a paperclip, come on now. And if this is just some bit? Yikes, fam. Yikes.”

“God knows I don’t want that to happen, and his track record for everything up through Retrograde tells me he wouldn’t get like this on purpose. But the fact that we’re having this conversation at all should say something. And if Tommy doesn’t have enough in the tank for the belt that’s practically his baby, what’s that say about his investment in the tag titles? I’ve seen what happens when a tag champ either physically does not have enough in him to keep showing up or just goes home and hides behind his couch until people forget the belts even exist. I’ve seen how it sends the belts’ credibility plunging down to the ocean floor. I saw Mark Storey do it to the XWA tag titles last year, and I’ll be damned if I let it happen again anyplace else.”

“It’s not just about us anymore. It’s not about whether we can put up or shut up. It’s about who can carry the 4CW Tag Team Championships, and the division surrounding them, on their backs. And if your options are either us or the two guys already getting tired out and beat to shit dealing with their singles titles, the smart money belongs to this Reedvolution.”

Something out of the frame seems to catch Bianca’s attention, and she wanders off towards it while A.J. makes himself the center of our attention again.

“So hey...y’know what? Y’all can order all the champagne you want. Y’all can invite your girlfriends and your whole squad and get ‘em all set up for the biggest beach afterparty of the year. But y’all better brace yourselves for this whole story to turn into one giant pile of dramatic irony when we take those titles…”

Bianca walks back into view, a mojito in each hand, and nudges A.J.’s arm to get his attention. He nods, takes one of the drinks, and turns back to the camera just as she does the same.

”...and make it our celebration instead.”

The two contenders turn to each other and raise their glasses...

“To the Reedvolution.”

¡Salud!

They let the glasses CLINK!, take their sips...and then exchange a mischievous look before—

“YEET!”

Again, they yell at the same time as they throw the drinks at the camera, knocking it off-kilter and leaving it to glitch and stutter until the clip finally cuts out.

15
Adrenaline / EXTRA: Stoop Kid Afraid to Leave Stoop
« on: April 08, 2019, 03:13:55 AM »
April 4th, 9 a.m., Eastern standard time

“You sure this is the place?”

We start with what, judging by the slightly shaky frame, appears to be iPhone footage—don’t worry, it’s in landscape mode—of A.J. Morales in an Adidas tracksuit standing outside the Peachtrees Boxing Gym, located right in the heart of Atlanta. It’s not supposed to be open yet, as the mock-fight card in the front window telling us the gym’s hours indicates, but the fun thing about being an elite pro wrestler is you can cut deals and book private sessions for this stuff.

“‘Course I’m sure! I haven’t led you wrong before, have I?”

The person filming, as her East London accent and her reflection in the gym window tell us, is his manager, Michelle Moana. A.J. shakes his head, a small smile on his face as he smiles, and pulls out the key to the front door.

“Listen, you said you needed a sparrin’ partner, right?”

CHI-CLINK! The door unlocks, and A.J. pulls the key back out again.

“Somebody technical and a striker, just like Eli, yeah?”

A.J. grunts his assent as he opens the door.

“So who better than a former intercontinental heavyweight boxin’ champion and undefeated cage fighter?”

“Yeah, but nobody’s heard from him since he pulled out of that WXW contract, no way is he actually here—“

But there he is, standing in the ring in his old entrance robe, 6’5”, 270 pounds. This is “T-Ranq” Tranquilino Moana, Michelle’s cousin-in-law, and as soon as he sees the camera, he looks right at it and starts looking daggers at the lens.

“Easy there, blud.”

“We’re only filming so I can study it later. That’s cool with you, right, T-Ranq?”

T-Ranq just sort of glowers and nods slightly. He’s not leaving, so he isn’t saying no, but all the same, A.J. gives Michelle an annoyed look.

“He can talk, right?”

“Yeah, just chooses not to if he’s bein’ filmed. Proper irritatin’, but—”

“I know, I know, it’s enough of a hassle just getting him here…”

A.J. takes his jacket off and throws it down before he climbs in the ring. T-Ranq, on the other hand, leaves his robe on, but squares up like he’s already all good to go. A.J.’s seen the grainy fan footage of T-Ranq’s fights, he knows this is the show of dominance T-Ranq always uses when he thinks an opponent isn’t on his level in the cage, and the Revolution rolls his eyes. Clearly, A.J. needs to teach this guy a lesson...

———

April 4th, 10 a.m., Eastern standard time

We go to a more conventional camera setup, the lighting looking more professional. Newspaper clippings and posters hang on the walls, all featuring the gym’s founder, local legend “Quickness” Quincy Abbott, knocking out his challengers, holding up title belts, greeting the fans as he ignores the mass of reporters and photographers trying to tail him. Meanwhile, up in the foreground sits an aluminum folding chair, set up facing away from the camera, and when A.J. walks into the frame, he takes care to drape the golden robe he’s carrying over the back of the chair.

Not just any robe. T-Ranq’s robe.

“Let’s get one thing straight...I’m not here for your respect.”

A.J. sits down, leaning forward onto the back of that chair, crossing his arms across the top as he addresses us with a confident grin.

“I mean, what’s the point of looking for it? You’re Eli Carlson. The Eli Carlson. North American Champion, former 4CW Champion, undefeated in singles competition for about half a year, with imitators all over the business trying desperately to copy the abs, the swagger, the premature balding...OK, maybe not that last one, but they all seem to think that if they copy your haircut, it’ll cover their shitty hairlines. Point is, somebody in your position doesn’t need to respect anybody in this company—hell, even the ones you do respect, chances are you won’t let it show.

“And if my experiences taking down the jerkass ex-Aces of XWA have taught me anything, it’s that if I do anything other than go straight for your throat in Atlanta, I’m gonna be done before the bell even rings. So I’m not gonna settle, the way some other people would do, for just pushing you to your limits, just getting a Match of the Night out of you. I want the W, and I’m not settling for anything less.”

Memories start to flash through A.J.’s mind—retiring Diamond Jack Sabbath, main-eventing Hammerstein against Dan Bennett—but those are XWA names, and besides, both of those things were over a year ago. A.J.’s not gonna win any brownie points for name-dropping them on Eli, so he just keeps things rolling.

“I’m sure for you, I’m the lowest-priority opponent of this tour. Sure, I’m a reputable name, I’ve got a big title fight coming in Miami, but I’m not challenging for your title. I’m not another singles champion you have to show up. I’m about as close to a warm-up opponent as it gets for you these days, and I have no problem accepting that fact. I just see that as all the more reason to make this opportunity count, because from my side of things, this is the biggest singles match I’ve had here.

“Sure, I’ve battled all-time greats, I’ve faced my past, I’ve repped for la Raza, but I’ve never had a shot one-on-one against a reigning 4CW singles champ until now. And yeah, your title’s not on the line, but a win here gets me a lot more than just $2,500 and some platitudes about momentum. I beat you here, and I put out the fire of your months-long hot streak. I beat you here, and I put myself on the short list of North American title contenders. I beat you here, and I could well put myself on the path to walking out of Ante Up as a 4CW double-champ.”

A.J. turns to another camera, looking at him from a lower side angle, where, if you look closely at the out-of-focus background, you can see A.J.’s triad of titles from outside 4CW set up for display.

“Can you imagine that? Me? Walking around with a bunch of championship belts at the same time? Now that’s just absurd.”

A.J. gives that side camera a smirk, then turns his head back to the main one.

“But hey, nobody ever won a match by just polishing his own trophies, so let’s talk about you for a minute, Eli. I already have a sense of what you’re gonna say about me, so lemme just toss some of the cliches out the window. First you’re gonna tell me that all the championships I’ve won outside this company don’t matter—which I actually kinda understand coming from you, considering that your title reigns outside 4CW both lasted maybe a minute before you either got beaten or the belt got deactivated. So you transpose your experiences onto mine, and...I get it, I get it. No problem.”

A.J. puts his hands up defensively as he laughs it off and moves on.

“Then you’re gonna ask how I even think I have a shot against you when I couldn’t beat Eden Connors, but that one won’t even be about me. That’ll be because you’re scared of having to face her again and looking for any chance to downplay Eden’s ability to beat you. So you’ll spend every second from here to South Beach spinning the narrative that she ain’t shit, and you’ll try and make everyone she beats look even worse for it. But I know firsthand why you fear her—her talent, her quick thinking, her sense of purpose in that ring—so I’m not afraid to acknowledge that she got me at the right time and picked up an honest win over me. Go ahead, throw it at me, I don’t give a shit.”

Truth be told, that loss did still sting A.J. a little, but now was no time to be mentioning that. He couldn’t afford to show weakness, not here, not now. So he just takes a moment to catch his breath and gets back to where his mind is going.

“But then, of course, you’re gonna say the thing about how me recognizing this as the big opportunity it is is somehow a bad thing. How me being motivated against you somehow means I’ve been un-motivated all the other times I’ve wrestled here. Yeah. Uh-huh. Real convincing from the guy who berated Eden about how not every match means as much as other matches do. Real nuanced understanding of técnico thinking there. It doesn’t even matter which side of the debate you’re really on, though, is it? Nahhh, man, you just say whatever you think is gonna make you look the best at your opponent’s expense in the moment and then act surprised when people call you on it. It’s a reflex at this point. So we can just dump that whole argument into the trash right now, ‘cause it’ll fall apart on closer inspection anyway.”

Genuine irritation flashes over A.J.'s face for a moment, but he suppresses it again as he moves on to his next talking point.

“And I don’t wanna hear you use Reedvolution against me and act like Bianca’s just some dead weight I’m carrying, the way some other people have tried to do, ‘cause we both know you’d be full of shit on that front if you tried. We took the team that you couldn’t beat, even with Bronx in your corner, and nuked ‘em from orbit to earn our title shot at South Beach. Oh, but you already know how to downplay that one too, right?”

It’s here that A.J. screws up his face and contorts his voice into a high-pitched whine.

bUt SaDbOiZ wErEn’T tRyInG aGaInSt YoU! tHaT wIn MeAnS nOtHiNg!

A.J. rolls his eyes and returns to his normal voice, but now there’s a sharp anger to his voice that wasn’t there before.

“Bitch, please! Like that kind of excuse isn’t why Megan Treamon gets laughed out of every company she ever works for! Like there’s any excuse for showing up to a 4CW pay-per-view and phoning it in! And if you’re gonna pull that bullshit, you deserve to get fucking humiliated, and we did that so thoroughly that one’s gone and the other’s not even using the CTE as a finisher anymore now that I pinned him with it. That match was a warning to everyone that thinks they can give anything less than their best if they wanna keep their spot around here—and if you’re smart, you’ll watch that tape back again and see what’s coming in your future if you don’t bring everything you’ve got.”

A.J. can almost see the scene of madness in his head if he, by some miracle, were to beat Eli with one of Eli’s own finishers, but that’s a big “if,” so A.J. mentally throws that away and gets himself back on track.

“But you know what’s almost even more pathetic than the Sadboiz? The fact that you, Eli, for all your ability, all your accomplishments, are one of the biggest choke artists in 4CW tag team history. And this goes back way before 2019, ‘cause for all the chemistry the Carlson Dynasty had, when the chips were down and the titles were on the line, y’all couldn’t close the deal—and Genie actually was a Tag Team Champion before, so I think we both know who the weak link in the chain was. If you’re dumb enough to try and belittle the tag division, don’t worry, we’ll all know why. It’s because you can’t hack it where I’m at.”

A.J. laughs to himself for a second, knowing those words are gonna come back to bite him in the ass if he and Bianca can’t deliver in Miami. But for now, he supposes, let the trash talk flow.

“A’right, now let’s get into the really crazy part of all this. It’s not like you’re approaching 40, with your bump card almost full, working with whatever mush is left of your brain ten concussions later. You got your big break here before I got mine in XWA, but you’re actually a little younger than I am. You’re still racking up wins and Match of the Night awards like Genie racks up unjustified Twitter suspensions. You could have easily entered the South Beach Brawl Cup, run the whole gauntlet, and gotten a redemption story out of taking back the 4CW Championship and your spot as the face of the franchise in the city where, two years ago, Bronx ripped it all away from you, plus your arm out of your socket. But you didn’t. And that could be because of what you tell everyone about how the North American Championship is your baby, you’re setting it apart from all those years when it was the XTV title, and you’re not giving it up until you decide you’re done with it.

“But there’s the catch—you don’t actually want to be done with the North American title. Like, ever. And it’s not because of the usual champion’s bravado, where you get a belt and then never want to let go until you’ve broken every record ever with it, though I’m sure that’s a factor. It’s because you’re pulling the same shit Smith Jones—yeah, that Smith Jones, the one that punked out before he even got that shot at you he wanted—used to do with the XWA Television title. You’ve proved, over and over again, that you can walk into those championship showcase matches and beat the Octane Champion, the Pride Champion, the 4CW Champion. You know that you should be main-eventing pay-per-views, chasing after Bryan Laughlin, going on another world title reign once you knock him off the throne.”

A.J. pushes his hair back out of his face before he keeps talking.

“The only thing stopping you from being the Ace again is that you’re too afraid to go do it. You’re scared of being under that level of pressure again, scared of having to live up to everyone’s heightened expectations, scared of that right shoulder exploding on you again. So you look for an out, and by God, do you have a golden one—ten pounds of championship gold, to be exact.

“As long as you’re the North American Champion, you’re safe. As long as that red leather strap sits around your waist, you have an excuse to hide. You can sit on your lofty throne and proclaim yourself king. You can pretend that you’re the real Ace without actually having to put this company on your back, the real main event without having to close the show the same way Smitty used to pretend that the TV title made him the center of the XWA universe while refusing to ever show up to a pay-per-view.”

A.J. remembers all too well XWA’s situation in early 2018, with Smith sitting on that throne flanked by Rent-a-Cops while A.J. was going out of his way to defend the Hardcore Championship at every possible venue. He remembers the frustration at Smith’s seemingly-invulnerable armor of smugness from back then...then again, he also remembers Jake Rogers, someone a lot like Eden, smashing that armor on his second shot at Smith’s title, the way Eden might well be about to do with Eli. And he keeps what happened to Smith after that very much in mind as he keeps talking...

“And you know that the second you lose that title, whether Eden Connors gets her payback at South Beach Brawl or someone else comes along and smacks you down, your excuse goes out the window. You’re gonna have everybody and their grandma breathing down your neck, asking when you’re gonna nut up and challenge for the 4CW Championship, and at that point, you’re gonna be scrambling to find an equally-effective new excuse. But it won’t be there. Whatever you come up with, it won’t be enough to convince people, because nothing ever will. And from that day on, the world will recognize you for the scared, insecure wreck of a man you ultimately are.”

A.J. stands up now, starting to make grand hand gestures as he’s more and more caught up in his own words.

“For all the parallels people might draw between us—our alternate theme songs that kick in when we’re champions, our first tastes of 4CW gold that aren’t quite officially recognized, our power couples that used to dominate companies before our wives stepped back from the ring—our approaches to this match, and our trajectories in 4CW, couldn’t be more different. You fight to stay where you are on the ladder, while I fight to climb higher on it. You fight to keep what you’ve already got, while I fight to earn more. You fight for your comfortable today, while I fight for my better tomorrow. I’m not just talking about our match next Wednesday, either—that’s how it’s been, week in and week out, for every second we’ve shared space on this roster. That’s how it was when I was dropping in and making guest appearances, and that’s probably still how it’ll be a year from now, if you’re even still here. And that difference is why I’m gonna walk into the capital city of Southern wrestling and make you look like all the worst excesses of all your legions of imitators combined—a sloppy, overhyped, all-sizzle-no-steak parody who falls apart the second he has to stop mugging for the cameras and actually get to work.”

Of course, that’s not how it’ll go in the slightest. Eli’s one of the best in the world, and A.J. knows it. Even a squash in A.J.’s favor won’t make Eli look that amateur. But anything to get in Eli’s head, right?

“And when you walk out of the State Farm Arena after Adrenaline, and you make it back to your hotel room...you’re gonna have to look yourself in the eye, be honest with yourself for once in your life, and recognize that you just got beaten by the Rawest Wrestler Alive.”

A.J. steps up, gives the camera one of his playful fist bumps, then steps back to collect the robe off the chair. But when he looks up, a sudden panic comes over Morales’s face.

“Oh, what the f—!”

In comes T-Ranq, screaming like a maniac as he charges in from out of the frame with what appears to be his old intercontinental boxing title belt and tries to pie A.J. in the face with it. A.J. ducks under it and starts waving the robe around like a matador waves that red cape to lure the bull in.

“—shitshitshitshit—”

After a couple dodges on A.J.’s part, one of T-Ranq’s charges sends that belt  of his crashing plate-first into the camera, knocking it off its tripod so it smashes to the floor. The morning light starts shining directly into the lens, blocking most of our view, and we don’t get much time to watch Michelle get in there and try to keep her client and cousin-in-law from getting into a full-on brawl, because whoever’s editing this wisely decides to white us out of the scene.

16
Adrenaline / ...So It Always Shows
« on: March 25, 2019, 04:36:16 AM »
“Ahhhhhhhhh…”

A faint, ethereal sound, like a choir of angels holding a never-ending note, reverberates in the distance as we begin with an overpoweringly bright haze of white. The camera slowly goes into focus and adjusts the lighting until we can clearly see, from an angle, a gray letter “C” hanging off a marble wall. After that, we pull back to reveal that the “C” is actually part of a “4CW,” with the number set apart in blue. A little farther back, and we learn that these letters are hanging above a grand set of ornate golden doors. As we slowly fade from camera angle to camera angle, it becomes clear that all that was just one end of what appears to be an attempt to pack all of 4CW’s history into one massive, opulent room, longer than it is wide, held up by two rows of Greek columns. We see tastefully-checkered floors, photos and signs hanging on the walls, eye-catching exhibits for the company’s Hall of Fame inductees, a small memorial for the late great Adrian Tanner Jr., and more. But the most notable and plentiful piece of this puzzle is the endless series of marble statues—some photorealistic sculptures, some abstract symbols, but all representing various wrestlers and tag teams who’ve made their names, or at least tried to, in this company over the years. It’s not the actual physical 4CW Hall of Fame, but it’s a vision of what it might look like someday if Perry ever decided to put as much money as possible into building one.

Just as we finally fade back to that first set of doors—THUNN-creeeeeaaaaak…they start to open, and a white light shines through the crack between them. The light widens as the door goes further ajar, until finally a figure stumbles out, shrouded in shadow by the sheer overwhelming brightness around him at first. But once he gets in front of the door and jumps a bit at the loud SLAM! of it closing behind him, it’s clear who we’re dealing with: “The Revolution” A.J. Morales, looking out of place in all this majesty, like he literally just wandered in from a wrong turn at a skatepark where people only wear black. And at first, he seems just as aware he doesn’t fit here as anyone else...but then he starts to notice the cameras, and just like that, he flips the switch in his mind. He takes a knee in reverence, finds the nearest lens, and starts talking right to it.

“At a certain point, the four corners of a wrestling ring stop being just a set of steel posts. The mat stops being just a square of canvas. The walkway down from the stage stops being just a ramp. New promotions appear and disappear all the time in this sport, but when one of them finds a way to last and keep delivering top-flight competition year after year, it starts to build up a certain...mystical quality. And no, I don’t mean stupid shit about edgelords in corpse paint teleporting around and calling themselves demons.”

A.J. rolls his eyes—he’s dealt with plenty enough edgy demon types elsewhere lately, thank you, no more of those now—and gets himself back on track.

“If you build a company up into one of the premier places to go in this sport, people start to look at it with a certain awe. Even other wrestlers will speak of it in hushed tones. The rare few who manage to become champions in its hallowed halls can walk into any other ring, anywhere in the world, and people will know they’re a Big Fucking Deal—unless, of course, they ruin their reputation on their way out and end up shambling around the industry as jokes for the rest of their careers. And with every passing show, the logos on the ring skirt become less like branding and more like holy symbols. The wrestlers start to seem like they’re beyond mere human beings. The stories of their battles and rivalries stay with the people who were there to see them, long after so many other matches from so many other places fade from memory.

“Is it a little pretentious to put 4CW in those terms? Maybe. But five-plus years and 100 episodes of Adrenaline later, you can’t deny how far this place has come from that first night in Nevada. You can’t deny how the greats of this place get mythologized, how the world keeps its eyes on the company’s every move, how many people have walked into this place wanting to scratch their names into the fabric of its world. Coming in as pretty much a rookie the way Eden Connors did—and I’ll get to her in a minute—is like walking up to the biggest, hottest volcano you can find and throwing yourself in to see if you can last. But honestly, it’s not easy for anybody getting into this, ‘cause I gotta admit, a place like this can make even the biggest stars feel so small…”

As he says that, we look at him from a camera on the ceiling, about halfway across the room, and sure enough, he looks tiny from so far away. If not for the lav mic hooked to the collar of his T-shirt, we wouldn’t even be able to hear him. But Morales nods to a nearer camera, getting us to switch to its closer angle before he finally rises to his feet and starts to stroll along. His eyes wander as he talks; sometimes, he looks at the camera in front of him, other times, he looks at the statues and exhibits around him.

“The first time I walked into a 4CW event—not even to wrestle yet, just to challenge Bronx Valescence to a match at the next show—I felt that energy in the air, and I’ve continued to feel it every time I’ve stepped in the ring or been in the crowd here since. There’s something here that you can’t get from any other promotion in professional wrestling. It’s what kept pulling me back over and over until I signed a contract to officially join Adrenaline at the start of this year. It’s made the highs of victory taste even sweeter, and it’s what’s motivated me to get up and keep trying every time I’ve stumbled so far.

“And you know what? All things considered, I think I’m starting to get a hang of this place. I’ve strung together a couple wins, I’ve got #1 contender status for the 4CW Tag Team Championships with Bianca, and now, on that historic night in Columbia, South Carolina, I get to test myself against someone else who sees title shots in their future: the Bang!Boom!Bonbon herself, Eden Connors.”

A.J. takes a moment to reach up at his long two-tone hair and push it back, freeing it from the collar of his black flannel shirt.

“Eden, before I get into the usual routine and start picking apart at your flaws, I need to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished in your time here. You’ve proved yourself as a contender on one of the most infamously tough rosters in this whole sport. You earned your way to industry-wide recognition with one of the most successful rookie years that anybody in 2018 had. And then, of course, there’s the fact that you dropped Smith Jones on his head so hard that he decided maybe it was time to hang up those patent leather boots, quite possibly for good. Take all that, add Eli Carlson giving you every reason to kick his ass at Retrograde, and I think it’s fair to say that you’re due for another shot at the North American Championship sometime soon.

“But as good as you are...I’m sorry, dude, it's not gonna be your night out there.”

A.J. turns his head to look at someone out of the frame, behind the camera and off to the side, and makes a “c’mere” hand gesture. A second or two later, Morales puts his hands up, a mic stand comes flying into view, and the Revolution catches it out of the air before nodding his thanks and returning his gaze to the camera.

“See, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my last couple wins haven’t just been wins. They’ve been dominations. Reedvolution didn’t just beat the Sadboiz at Retrograde—”

SMASH! From out of nowhere, A.J. turns to the side and swings the mic stand at a statue of a crying hipster in a Killers T-shirt, which promptly shatters, sending marble chunks of everything from the waist up flying in every direction. But A.J. doesn’t stop to watch; he just converts the follow-through of the swing into a pivot until he’s completed a full 360, right back to facing the camera, and keeps walking like he didn’t destroy a piece of art before our eyes.

“—we picked up #1 contendership while making sure that Persephone Marquis’s last moments on this roster involved watching from afar while I pinned her husband with his own damn finisher. I didn’t just beat Alessandro Quagliaterre, your mentor, in Charlotte on that last Adrenaline—”

A.J. takes another sudden lunge, this time towards a more stylized statue of a giant forehead, and—CRACK!—drives the base of his weapon into it, causing a spiderweb of cracks to spread out from the point of impact. Again, he snaps back to what he was doing before like nothing happened.

“—I told him exactly what my plan was to turn his Zidane Headbutt against him, and he walked directly into my trap and hit his head on the ring post.”

A.J. lets those words sink in with a smirk, hoping that when Eden sees this, she’ll hear the implied taunt—nyah nyah nyah-nyaaaah nyah, I beat the guy who trained you—and get thrown off her game accordingly.

“And the funny thing is, every time I’ve won a match on Adrenaline so far, it’s been me spoiling someone’s return to the ring. AQ comes back from missing most of the Midwest tour, he fights me, he gets knocked out. Chris Madison comes back from his ACL tear, he enters Tag Team Into the Future with Kat Jones, they get bounced. So now you come back after rehabbing from all the damage Eli did, you fight me...I’m just saying, there’s a pattern here.

“Y’know what, let’s go a little deeper on the patterns, ‘cause if I were you, Eden? If I had to rebut me right now? I’d point out that history says you’re pretty much unstoppable on TV. You’re 6-1 on Adrenaline so far, and the 1 comes from Manny Fernandez—so basically, unless you’re a Triple Crown Champion like he is, precedent says anyone fighting you in this kind of environment isn’t gonna have a fun time. But for some reason, when they turn the lights up a little brighter, put the match on pay-per-view, and add some title stakes, suddenly you can’t close the deal. Suddenly, the Dynamite Bonbon is just a tiny puff of smoke.”

Morales starts to twirl the mic stand around a little, like his hands are just doing this on their own to keep themselves busy while A.J. keeps talking.

“And on the one hand, those title matches were close calls against Eli and American Tommy, the former Ace and the guy on the hottest roll of his entire career. Maybe these are just situations where—as you once said yourself—‘coming up short is nothing to be ashamed of.’ But on the other hand, you also had an Ignition Championship #1 contender’s match against Sanchez Whatshisface at Fright Night, and you lost that too, so clearly something more is up, and it’s not that hard to figure out what it is. As good as you are, Eden, as great as you could one day be, you’re still not ready to handle the pressure of the big stages. So you let your nerves get to you, you choke, and ultimately, you walk away with the loss.”

A brief sigh of...sympathy, almost? Whatever it is, A.J. uses it to segue right into his next point.

“Now, I’ve been that ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ contender for months at a clip in some other places. I’ve been caught in a cycle of racking up enough wins to earn a shot at a different belt every fourth show, only to fall short and have to repeat the process, and it was just as frustrating to be that guy as it was satisfying to finally break that spell. So I understand where you’re coming from on that front. I understand what was going through your head when you gave that speech in Charlotte. But being the guy who just flat-out can’t hang on pay-per-view? The guy who folds on principle as soon as the word ‘supercard’ starts coming into play? I’m sorry, but I can’t relate. I couldn’t when I worked my first pay-per-view two years ago—which, on top of that, was in front of a live audience of 100,000 Australians—and I still can’t relate now, when I’m undefeated on 4CW PPV, when I’ve headlined and main-evented supercards for promotions all over the world. And if I’m right, then the weight of a landmark episode, of all of 4CW’s history falling on us Wednesday night, will turn the pressure up enough to take this atmosphere more towards the places where you get rattled and I thrive.”

A.J. stops walking for a minute, plants the mic stand on the ground, and leans his elbow on the top of it as he starts to ponder that idea.

“And from there...well, anything can happen, really. Maybe you prove me right, you crack under the pressure, and I get that extra boost of momentum before the Reedvolution comes back together to challenge the American Mangs. Maybe you prove me wrong, you show the resolve you need in order to get past me, and you make a statement so strong that Perry officially locks in your next shot at the North American title for South Beach Brawl. Maybe some jackass runs in and hits a double-clothesline just to prove a point that has nothing to do with us. Or maybe, God forbid, we end up in the worst timeline, where you just completely snap, forsake everything that made people connect with and believe in you, and sink completely to Eli’s level in search of power. I don’t know. I can’t see the future. But here’s what I do know…”

The Revolution picks up that mic stand again and goes back to the walk-and-talk—not at Aaron Sorkin speeds, because that’s only something people in TV dramas where they need to disguise that the show is just an entire hour of nonstop talking do, but at the same leisurely pace he was at before.

“I know we’re both gonna come into this hungry. I know that 18,000 South Carolinians are gonna have to make up their minds about which one of us they want to win this more, and we’re gonna need to win them over with what we do in the ring. I know we’re gonna take this to the air early and often, because that’s where wrestlers like us excel. And I know that our fight is part of something far bigger than us, our allegiances, or our title pursuits. It’s part of a tapestry that goes back over half a decade, one that tells a story of a Powerball winner’s dreams brought to life, of heartbreak and triumph, intrigue and betrayal, massive egos and memorable personalities clashing on ever-escalating stages for gold, glory, and greatness...and then spending their off-days on Twitter telling dick jokes and arguing about Shakira, because c’mon, it’s not all serious business.”

A.J. gives us a knowing look, since he’s never been above the Twitter shitposting antics this company’s infamous for. If anything, it might be part of the appeal.

“So people can look down on me for still being one of the new kids in the neighborhood. They can doubt my commitment because my checks are on the Tier Three payscale and the ACM Mexico City title I came in with isn’t mine or even 4CW-affiliated anymore. But I’ve scratched my name, true as love is insane, into every other place where I’ve signed long-term deals until I became synonymous with the best of what they had to offer, and this company won’t be any different. I want my name to be one of the next two to go up on the list of 4CW Tag Team Champions just as much as Eden wants hers to be next for the North American Championship, or Bryan Williams wants his to be next for the 4CW Championship by the time we all leave Columbia, because I recognize as well as anyone else on this roster the prestige, the reputation, the excellence that 4CW and its history stand for, and I want to be a meaningful part of it where so many others have tried and failed before me.”

Finally, A.J. walks up to his opponent’s statue, a giant bon-bon with a lit, burning fuse like a stick of cartoon dynamite.

“And you know what, Eden? Maybe by the time this Southern tour is over, you, Bianca, and I will all be at the South Beach Brawl after-party, popping champagne bottles and celebrating our newfound permanent places in 4 Corners history. But right now, all you are is a candy-covered landmine in my way…”

One last time, A.J. takes the mic stand and raises it as a weapon before taking the base and— KA-CHUNK! — bringing it down on the statue’s fuse, chopping off the lit end so it smashes to the ground and crumbles on the floor.

“...and I don’t feel like letting you blast me off the road.”

A.J. discards the mic stand, letting it clatter and roll away, before changing direction and walking out of the frame. The ethereal note that's been droning on this entire time continues to echo in the distance, finally in focus again now that A.J.'s stopped talking. The camera slowly pans to the right and approaches a different sculpture: a raised fist, made to look like a half-built skyscraper where huge portions are still just a frame, with a Mexico City coat of arms embossed into the wrist. This is A.J.’s statue, and while the Revolution himself is long out of the frame, the message is clear. There might be all this history to look back on, but A.J.’s story in 4CW still has plenty more chapters left to tell.

17
Adrenaline / Blue Ridge Meditations
« on: March 11, 2019, 02:14:55 AM »
We open on a far more naturalistic scene than A.J. usually shows us. Instead of city streets, we’re surrounded by Black Mountain forestry, trees just starting to emerge from their winter hibernations. Off in the distance, we see the summit of one of 18 peaks in this part of the Blue Ridge range. Meanwhile, much closer to the camera, we see “The Revolution” A.J. Morales step into the frame from one side. He’s braced himself for this not-quite-winter, not-quite-spring weather with a black beanie and a Between the Buried and Me hoodie—fitting, considering what state we’re in. He carries a gold-plated title belt we’ve never seen him with before slung over one shoulder, plus a red aluminum can in his off-hand. A.J. stops in the center of the frame, looks around to check his surroundings, and ends up finding the camera, which he gives a nod.

“Oh, hey, what’s good?”

Checking behind him, A.J. sees a tree stump and figures it’s as good a place as any to sit. He puts the title belt down gently near the edge, not quite letting us see the front plates yet, then sits on the stump, takes a sip from that can—Cheerwine, a classic Carolina confection, as it turns out—and when he’s ready, he takes a look right down the lens.

“Humiliation. It’s a powerful feeling. It’s a fact of life, an inevitable part of sports—the flip side to the awe of a dominant victory—but pro wrestling might be the only one where the culture encourages people to try and humiliate each other. Just look at what happens around here every time somebody makes their 4CW debut, only to get completely trounced and walk away with their tail between their legs. Their humiliation becomes part of the basis for someone else’s credibility.

“Or hell, take what happened at Retrograde. Look what me and Bianca did to the Sadboiz. This was a team that knocked Bronx and Eli out of the tag division, a team that made the finals of Tag Team Into the Future, and we sliced through ‘em in a half-second like Smoke hitting a Fatality because we knew that was the only way to guarantee us the next shot at the American Mangs and their 4CW Tag Team Championships. And now look where the Reedvolution is at. We know we’re the #1 contenders, we know that shot at the gold is coming, and it’s only a matter of time until we finally get it.”

A.J. stops to take another swig of that Cheerwine, which is clearly working its charms on him.

“But now Tommy and Bianca are both off in the South Beach Brawl Cup, which means depending on how long they last, that title shot could be delayed for a while. Hell, for all I know, she could end up defending the 4CW Championship against him in the main event of Miami, because that’s the kind of shock result that a tournament where nobody’s safe is designed to create. And I’d be right there with them in that mix, but the fact of the matter is I had my first 4CW match back in August and I still don’t have a singles win over anybody on the Adrenaline roster. I won at Fright Night, sure, but my opponent there was a guest from King’s Road. I need to fix that pronto, and I need to do it without taking my eyes off the prize of those 4CW tag titles.”

A.J. takes his eyes off the camera for a minute, scanning the scene around him, taking in the peace of the mountain as he puts that can of Cheerwine down.

“So here I am, up on this little Blue Ridge meditation. I’ve got my first full 4CW regional tour behind me, my next one coming up on the horizon, and two tag team wins, plus a little under $30,000 of fight money, to show for it. Now it’s time to take the spoils, the lessons, the ups and downs of the Midwest, and put them to good use down South. If I’m lucky, I end the tour as one-half of the tag champions, but I’ve gotta walk this road one step at a time. And that first step is gonna be in Charlotte, Adrenaline 99, one-on-one with Alessandro Quagliaterre.”

Right on cue, A.J.’s gaze is back on the camera again.

“Alé...I’m gonna be honest, man, I see a lot of myself in you, and that’s not something I can usually say about old-money types. We both came into this sport all alone, running from home, looking for a purpose in life. We both found that purpose in the squared circle. We both love firing the Twitter fingers before we get to the ring and turn ‘em to trigger fingers—I mean, that was literally the draw of #QuagCup, wasn’t it? Getting a whole field of some of the best in the world and Megan Treamon to get attention on their fights the way you do? Damn if it wasn’t effective—for a few weeks, it felt like the whole world revolved around that tournament.”

A.J. stops to take a breath, giving his words a little more of that dramatic emphasis.

“But there’s a part of that similarity that scares me, especially now that I have this.”

A.J. picks up the belt he was carrying and finally shows its front plate to the camera, identifying it as his newly-won NVR World Heavyweight Championship, the first such belt he’s had in his career.

“Alé, I just wanna remind everybody watching that you are a five-time world champion, with over a dozen other kinds of titles under your belt. Over in EWE, you were a Hall of Famer. You’re a man with a legacy that lets you walk into almost any promotion in the world and instantly have better credentials than the rest of the locker room combined.”

A.J. subtly lowers the belt out of the frame, putting it back down on the stump as he keeps talking.

“And yet whenever your name comes up these days, what do people think of? Maybe #QuagCup, maybe Phe dumping you, maybe that time your brain was too scrambled to type good, but whatever it is, chances are it’s not something you did in the ring lately. And sure, you’ve racked up a couple Match of the Night awards here, some Pride Championship shots there, they think highly enough of you to give you a qualifying shot if it’s Warzone season, but that’s not the guy they knew in all these other places. You could be so much more than you’ve been here in 4CW. Your track record here doesn’t match up to what you’ve done everywhere else, and I know I’m not the first person to accuse you of that.”

A.J. pushes some of his hair to the side—more out of habit than anything else, since the beanie’s holding it back well for him.

“But look, here’s the thing...if I don’t play my cards right around here, I could end up hearing someone give this exact speech back to me by this time next year and have absolutely no defense against it. I could be yet another world champion that couldn’t cut it in the Corners Four, no matter how hard I trained or how many eyes I got on me. And if I can’t beat you in Charlotte this Wednesday night, I might not have to wait anywhere near that long to hear it.”

The Revolution’s body shudders ever so slightly at the thought of it.

“Now, fortunately for me, I have one big edge here. I may not be the bigger guy, or the stronger guy, or the guy with the bigger trophy case, but I know exactly how to turn one of your strongest weapons against you. I know that, sooner or later, you’re gonna go for that Zidane Headbutt and sacrifice another little piece of your sanity to try and keep me down—or, if that’s not enough, then at least get me ready for Bedtime. Against a lot of other people, that’s a solid strategy to take. But with me? The guy that goes for headshots from the first minute to the final bell? The guy that ended Diamond Jack Sabbath’s career with a kick to the face off the top rope? The guy that rearranged Minka Carter’s whole psychology with a triple-jump cutter? That just plays right into my hands.”

As he reaches that last word, A.J. holds out one hand palm-up to the camera, almost without realizing it.

“Of course, it’s not gonna be easy to pull it off. I can’t doubt your determination. I can’t look past the fact that you’ve put your nose to the grind and tried to work through your losing streaks instead of giving up the second you start taking L’s and going back to whatever lifeless, rotting husk of WWH is still left so you can feel like the big man on campus again. That tells me there’s still hope for you to turn things around and be the guy you were supposed to be when they signed you here.

“And I wish you all the luck in the world realizing that dream, I really do. But right now, my only way to the top of the mountain goes through you. I’m gonna have 20,000 people in the Spectrum Center chanting my name, giving me their energy, telling me to get back up every time you knock me down until somebody finally lands that deciding blow. And if you’ve been watching the game tape, you know how much that fuels me. You know how much I hate letting mi gente down. And you know that I’m gonna take shot after shot like I’m Steph Curry behind the 3-point line until I’ve got the W.”

A.J. looks off to the side for a split-second, then back at the camera again, focus in his eyes as his hand gestures get a little more animated.

“So if you come into this looking for a tomato can to kick around, humiliate, and take a piece of their pride away so you can start building your name back up, then I’m sorry, dude, but you’re not gettin’ him. If you’re looking for the guy who goes for style over substance and costs himself the victory in the process, you’re not gettin’ him either, ‘cause I’m the guy that wins with both. If I get lucky, I’ll cut this off quick like they cut two falls off your first title shot. If this drags out and becomes the war it could be, I’m fully prepared to smack your head off your shoulders, knock all your screws loose, and leave you trying to make snow angels on the canvas again if that’s what it takes. But either way, the result will be the same: I get the win I need, I leave Charlotte with my head held high, and I gear up to face whatever’s in store on that historic hundredth episode.”

Suddenly, A.J. tilts his head a bit in curiosity, then gets up and starts walking towards us, reaching for the camera.

“Hang on, man, lemme see that—”

The camera operator apparently stepped back and decided to go with it, because they let A.J. just grab the camera and pick it up right off the tripod. A.J. puts the camera up on his shoulder and gives us a sweeping panoramic shot of the scenery we’ve been sitting in front of this whole time.

“I hope you like these woods, Alé, ‘cause the Revolution can’t lead you out of ‘em. And besides...”

A.J. adjusts the camera, turning the lens back on himself, and looks up and over his shoulder at the peak high above.

“...I still got a mountain to climb.”

With that, A.J. drops to a kneel, sets the camera down, and gives the lens a quick tap with his knuckles. We watch from a low angle as he turns around, grabs that belt and that can of Cheerwine, and slings the gold over his shoulder again before he wanders off towards the summit...

18
Retrograde II / Look Pretty & Do As Little As Possible
« on: February 25, 2019, 02:06:39 AM »
We open on the door to room 929 of what appears to be an apartment building. The camera operator reaches their hand into the frame and knocks, then pulls their hand back as quick as possible—after all, they’re not the one we need to be paying attention to.

We hear footsteps approaching the door, and when it opens, we find A.J. Morales and Bianca Reed waiting for us...only they don’t exactly look like themselves. A.J.’s in a suit—one that’s not all-black for once, with a blue jacket and pants and a red tie—and a wig of short blond hair, while Bianca replaces her usual hair with a brown updo and a dress fit for the Upper East Side lifestyle. A.J. addresses us with a blank expression on his face as he forces his normally expressive voice into a dreary monotone.

“oh, hi. i’m bryan. glad you could join us. welcome to our caucasian penthouse.”

“Bryan” and “Persephone” lead us into the apartment itself, which is almost pure white except for the decor and the occasional segments of dark wood on the floor. They head up to the window and look out at it, and we see New York’s bustling daytime cityscape below.

“this is such a perfect view of manhattan. don’t you agree, persephone.”

“yes, my dear, it is.”

From there, A.J. gestures for us to follow him again, this time leading us into the kitchen.

“why don’t we start off with a drink. perhaps some sparkling water.”

Conveniently enough, we see three blue bottles of the stuff with the brand name written in flowing gold cursive on the table, flanked on either side by clear shotglasses. A.J. takes the middle bottle, pours out a little sparkling water into each glass, then takes his and holds it up as Bianca grabs the other glass.

“to us.”

“to us.”

They toast with their glasses, take sips from their glasses...and at almost the exact same time, they promptly spit the sparkling water out.

“BLEEEEEGH! This shit tastes like battery acid!”

With no more reason to keep this Bryan impression going, A.J. throws down the short blond wig, letting his real split-colored hair pile down onto his shoulders, undoes the top button of his shirt, and loosens his tie. Bianca does the same with her own wig, shaking out her real purple hair.

“Who the fuck actually drinks this other than bougie white people?”

“Insane people, maybe.”

The two absentmindedly toss the glasses over their shoulders—so much so that they don’t even bother yelling “YEET!” as we might expect from these two—and before the sound of the shattering—CRUNCH! CRAAAASH!—can even finish resonating, A.J. dumps the rest of the bottle on the ground, while Bianca takes the other ones and starts popping them off like champagne, spilling the contents all over the place.

“Clean. Safe. Pretty. Boring. There are plenty of other words I could use to describe this apartment, but those are the main four. And growing up where I did, the second places like this started popping up in my neighborhood, I could start counting down the days until the rent went through the roof and my family would have to move someplace else because, all of a sudden, we weren’t the tenants they wanted. Nah...they wanted the trust-fund hipsters and the tech douches, the ones who drink IPAs out of mason jars and get expensive brunch every day and suck the soul and the life and the culture out of wherever they move into.”

“And who don’t use plates. Like there’s a whole ass Twitter account dedicated to people who want plates when they go to restaurants, not shovels or mason jars or ravioli on a mini clothesline or whatever the fuck y’all bougie ass white people came up with now.”

“Seriously? Eating off a clothesline?”

Bianca takes out her phone and shows him a photo from @WeWantPlates to illustrate what she’s talking about.

“Oh my God…how much of a Jayonnaise do you have to be to come up with this bullshit?”

She shrugs her shoulders, mouthing the words “white people” at the camera.

“Not that long ago, the 4CW tag team division was a lot like this place. Lifeless. Bland. Champions exploited the lack of challengers to lie low, hoping nobody would remember they had gold until Bad Company season. And teams like Sadboiz, even if they never actually got the gold, benefitted from that state of malaise. They looked better than most teams because they put three more seconds of thought into this than most people did. It was easy for them, it was comfortable...and then Tag Team Into the Future started, and we showed up.”

“Funny how much better things get when people that actually give a shit get involved, huh?”

As Bianca steps out of the frame, A.J. takes center stage.

“But let’s look at the halves that make up the whole for a second. Let’s keep in mind that at one point in time, Persephone Marquis was the master of dragging people in 4CW. People used to dread facing her, ‘cause she would systematically break people’s histories down and tear through their psychological defenses way before she even got in the ring with ‘em. Basically, any time you see an Instagram model lookin’ wrestler who talks shit all the time, has photos of themselves everywhere except for a wrestling ring, and inexplicably wins all the time, she’s probably the person they’re basing their shtick off of.”

Off in the background, we see Bianca walk back into the picture, carrying a bucket that anyone who’s been following her since 2016 can already predict the contents of...

“But that’s all what Ms. Marquis was, not what she is—and where she’s at now is a very different place from then. Lemme put it in perspective how long it’s been since she was at the peak of her powers, a’right? I signed my XWA contract and got my big break in this sport back in February 2017. The last time Persephone was a 4CW champion? That was November 2016. As in back when I was just some guy with one-third of the trios titles in a Bay Area indie that’s more about training new wrestlers than anything else. Sure, she’s had other title shots since then, but while I’ve spent the last two years elevating championships all over the world, her record in title matches has filled up with choke after choke—including the Tag Team Into the Future finals, not to mention last Retrograde, where she was the first one eliminated from the XTV title barbed wire battle royale.”

Bianca dumps the contents of the bucket into the kitchen sink, and before long, the thing is absolutely crawling with roaches. A.J. turns around and peers into it, looking a little revulsed.

“Welp, that’s a problem people are still gonna be dealing with ten years from now.”

“Worth it.”

Bianca gives A.J. a satisfied look, proud she was able to bring this old gag of hers back, but A.J. just shakes his head, seemingly cueing her to move on to the next bit. As A.J backs up and talks to us, the camera follows him, going with him into the living room as we hear the sounds of Bianca smashing plates in the kitchen.

“And Bryan, be honest with me...do you even know who you are anymore? Or are you just copying whatever Persephone does in an attempt to fill the complete void of personality you’ve fallen into? I mean, shit, people used to try and use Emery to drag me, saying I was just her hanger-on ‘cause she was quicker to win a world title than me, but at least if you put me and her in the same room, we act like different people. Meanwhile, you’re going through the motions of being a detached rich kid, not because it’s what you believe in, not because you think it’ll take you to the top, but because that’s what your wife’s doing and that apparently means you have to do the same exact shit. If you were any more out of your depth, you’d be Jared Goff at the Super Bowl—and hell, you already look like his long-lost East Coast brother.”

As A.J. gets himself situated in front of a blank white wall, Bianca walks into the background, now holding a can of black spray paint she presumably grabbed while we weren’t watching her. While she goes to work tagging all that open space, A.J. keeps talking to us.

“But let’s be honest, it doesn’t even take one of those magic injuries that show up just as you’re losing momentum and heal as soon as you feel like giving a shit again to make you walk away. History tells us that all it takes is two words...”

A.J. steps to the side and gestures for us, showing off Bianca’s handiwork in the form of the words “WALLACE CLAN” written in giant, dripping letters.

“Looks good, doesn’t it?”

“Almost good enough to make somebody walk away in the middle of a match and ruin the main event of the show after vacating his half of the tag titles like a pissbaby. ‘Cause, y’know, whatever Perry did back then disgusted him enough to not wanna be a Tag Team Champion anymore, but not enough to also leave in the South Beach Brawl Cup and let an alternate who’d actually do something with the spot take his place. If Bryan can’t have the glory, nobody can.”

A.J. suddenly turns to his right, and the camera pans just in time to catch him side-kicking a way-too-curvy flatscreen TV off an elaborate home theater setup.

“Put those pieces together, and you get...well, Sadboiz. And that name is all the more fitting when you realize how sad it is that the gap between what they could be and what they really are is so wide. Because even though they’ve been 4CW mainstays all this time, even though they should have all the pieces put together to go on one of those dominant runs that people remember for years to come, the truth is that the Sadboiz, as a team, only function in fits and starts. Hell, look at what happened with the tournament. They shock the world by beating the most stacked team that could have possibly entered in the form of Bronx and Eli, and instead of riding high off that momentum, they win by a fucking count-out because Viduus kidnapped Kaelan. Say what you will about us losing to American Mangs, at least we fuckin’ earned our opportunity!”

Bianca stops spraying over the pillows on the couch—specifically the sayings like “Blessed” and “Love What You Do” stitched onto them—to address the camera for a moment.

“And we’re gonna earn another one when we leave y’all knocked out Wednesday night.”

Finding that the can has run dry, Bianca chucks it past A.J. at a window, where—KSSSSSH!—it causes a giant spiderweb of cracks to form, even if it doesn’t completely shatter the glass.

“We might have to wait for it, sure, depending on how far Manny and Tommy go in the South Beach Brawl Cup—’cause you just know one or the other’s gonna enter—but when we get our rematch, we’ll know we earned it. We’ll know we deserve to be the tag champions while, frankly, y’all don’t even deserve to be in this division. Strip away the posturing and the past glory, and the truth about both of y’all is that you’re not the effortless badasses you try to be. You’re not the wise, above-it-all veterans of the scene you present yourselves as. You’re Maureen from fucking RENT. You look pretty, do as little as possible, and expect the world to shower you with praise for your meaningless bullshit. Maybe that shtick would work on someone else, but we can smell edgelords with no principles and no purpose from a mile away, and we do not suffer such teams gladly.”

A.J. reaches underneath the coffee table and pulls out a black duffel bag, already unzipped. He pulls out a custom blue New York Giants jersey, showing us both sides so we see the giant zeroes on both sides and the “SADBOIZ” written on the back, while Bianca pulls out a small canister of kerosene from that same bag and dumps it all over the jersey.

“We’re not gonna make this painless, either. Even if we take you out in three seconds flat, y’all are gonna feel like you’re in the most drawn-out, torturous affair ever to happen at the United Center since the time somebody tried running three title tournaments in the same building in one night. It’ll expose every single crack in your armor, it’ll drain whatever drive you have left, and with yours truly, the Superman of XWA, working the city where the BattleZone’s based, the crowd’s gonna love every second of it. So take one last look around, Sadboiz. Take in everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve gained, all the clean, safe, pretty, boring times you had. ‘Cause at Retrograde, our Reedvolution’s gonna bring this division one step closer to the future it deserves...”

A.J. holds his hand out for a lighter, which Bianca hands him, before flicking it on and holding the flames to the jersey.

“...by sending two relics of its past up in flames.”

A.J. tosses the burning jersey onto the carpet behind him, which also catches fire as he and Bianca walk away. The camera backs away, getting as much of the wreckage across the penthouse in the frame as it can, until the smoke starts to overwhelm our vision, leaving us with only a haze of gray.

19
Adrenaline / All You Had to Do Was Follow the Damn Train, A.J.
« on: February 04, 2019, 01:54:48 AM »
February 6th, 2019
Indianapolis

This is supposed to be a city of speed, right? Mention Indianapolis to most people, and the images that pop into their head are either of a football spiraling through the air towards a wide receiver or a mass of fine-tuned racing machines careening around a racetrack. So it’s a little strange, as we open this scene somewhere on the east side of the city, to find ourselves in a mess of traffic, with every last car at a dead stop. Up ahead, about a half-mile from where we are, a broken-down freight train sits on the tracks, and the air fills with honking noises as frustrated drivers pound their frustrations out on their steering wheels.

Somewhere in that chaos, in a ten-year-old Cadillac sedan with Massachusetts license plates, a fading gold paint job, and multiple ride-sharing apps’ stickers in the window—clearly, this guy’s trying to play the field—we find A.J. Morales in the back seat, slouching in his mixed boredom and irritation, his two duffel bags laid out on the other side of the backseat. The driver himself—Louie, according to his driver profile on the app—is maybe 40 years old, with a flat cap and wraparound sunglasses on, and the voices from an AM radio station talk endlessly, updating on the traffic conditions as fast as they possibly can. This wasn’t A.J.’s usual means of getting from the hotel to the arena, but he found taking transit and taxis every so often helped him stay grounded, helped remind him of the struggle he went through to get here.

“Told you, man. You think you’re gonna make it, and then one of those Damn Trains shows up and ruins your whole trip.” Louie speaks with all the authority of a seen-it-all local, but his New England accent tells us this knowledge might be a little more recently-acquired.

“That often, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. Like, the trains have always gone through this part of town, but now it’s like you can’t go a whole week without at least one Damn Train.”

“So like...worst case scenario, how bad is this gonna get?”

“Depends. How bad does three and a half hours sound to you?”

Three and a half?

“Yup.”

“Jesus…”

A.J. bites his lip as his slouch sinks further and he looks up at the sunroof.

“I’m tellin’ ya, days like that, you’re better off walkin’ than takin’ a car.”

“It better not be that long, man, I got a fight to get to.”

The chatter of the radio seamlessly fills whatever void silence would have left. But before A.J. can slide too much farther into boredom, he seems to notice us. He pushes himself back up, straightens himself out, stretches his arms and lets his elbows crack...

“Sometimes, the hardest thing to do in this sport is just stay where you are. You know you’re capable of more than what your current spot will let you do, but you can’t seem to take that next step to get ahead, nor can you afford to let someone else pass you by, ‘cause you might never get back to where you’re at. Maybe one day, when you finally make it past there, you’ll look back and appreciate what grinding through it made you do to get better. But in the meantime, it feels like you’re stuck at a railroad crossing, waiting for the train to finally get out of the way so you can get to the other side of the tracks.”

He looks out at that train again. Still no sign of moving, or even a repair crew to come along and get it moving.

“If it was up to me, Reedvolution would be holding those 4CW Tag Team Championships. We’d have already gone around to different locales around the city, trading bars about how we’re gonna kick the Sadboiz’ asses, and we’d gearing up to defend against them in the main event, win Tag Team Into the Future, and officially take that division and run with its ball for months on end. But American Mangs were the better team in Detroit, just like they were the better team against Omertà in Minneapolis, so now me and B both have to fly solo here in Indy. We’re at risk of getting stuck, our spots at Retrograde aren’t guaranteed, and we’re both gonna be fighting to keep our paths on an upward trajectory going into Chicago. But hey, the guy I’m fighting tonight’s stuck in a place like this already, so maybe being here so close to showtime will teach me something.”

A.J. stops for a moment to push his hair out of his face and collect his next set of thoughts.

“Can you imagine what it must be like to be Chris Madison right now? Like, imagine coming back on pay-per-view to a hero’s welcome and a Hall of Fame ring. You’ve got everybody hyping you up, and your biggest accomplishments listed off to remind everyone how great you’ve been in this company. You start off your run for 2019 going seventh on the card, tagging with the woman you’re closer to than anybody else, in the first match of a brand-new tournament. The wind seems like it’s at your sails...and then the team with the two outsiders working their first matches as official Adrenaline talent picks up the win and gets the title shot for their trouble. That’s gotta hurt.

“But that’s OK, right? ‘Cause the next show, you’re seventh on the card again, back in singles action, where you really shine. After all, you went on that unbelievable tear of 21 wins in a row, the longest win streak in company history, and if you can beat Eli Carlson, there might be a North American title shot in your future...buuuuut Eli gets inside your head with all that ‘coward’ talk. You get mad, you get offended about it like he was supposed to give you respect—which I might understand if it was someone else, but c’mon, it's fucking Eli, he never shows anyone respect before a fight—and you proceed to blow it. No shot for you. Come back, one year.

“But aww, shucks, that’s not the end of the world, is it? You get to fight Bronx Valescence at Retrograde! It’s a big draw, it’s the two new Hall of Famers having their one-on-one rubber match! Surely, that proves you’re still one of the top guys! Except before you get there, you have to go back to the 7-slot on the card for the third Adrenaline in a row, and oh, no, there’s the guy that made Kat tap out and put you on this path in the first place.”

There’s that wry smirk of A.J.’s, as he lets the ending from that tag match sink in.

“And that’s where the thoughts of doubt start creeping in. You mask them fairly well with the whole humble, walk-the-earth, ‘I just want the best fights’ act, but I know they’re in there somewhere. ‘Cause if you lose this, you won’t have just dropped the ball—or maybe the box with the burger inside—twice in three fights to the same guy. You’ll go into Chicago against the face of the franchise with three checks of fight money, three dents in your pride, and not much else to show for it. And if I’m lucky, the idea of that is already eating you up inside long before they ring the bell.”

A.J. looks out the window for a second or two, then turns his focus back to us.

“I don’t have to shoot my promotional material like a Hitchcock picture, because I can already strike fear into this man’s heart. I don’t have to threaten to make his leg explode, because, in a way, I’ve already injured him. Whatever mystique he gained from putting on that Hall of Fame ring at Winter Wasteland, it’s already gone because of me—and yeah, he wasn’t the one that tapped out in Minneapolis, but I still set those dominoes in motion. I ruined his comeback match. I put him in position to squander even more of that newly-earned cred against Eli. And with that one-two punch, he’s not the conquering hero we saw in Brooklyn anymore. Hell, I can’t even bring back the shit I said about him last time—about how he’ll wish on a monkey paw for another title reign and then plunge whatever belt he gets into months of hot-potato mayhem—‘cause even if there were clear and obvious title implications at stake tonight, the Chris we saw this January didn’t fight like a contender. He fought like the guy you have to beat to become a contender. He’s stuck at that railroad crossing, the train’s blocking his way, and unless he can dig down deep and find that spark he needs to beat me, he’s not gonna get where he wants to go anytime soon.”

Outside the car, we hear one particularly angry driver honking furiously and screaming obscenities at the people around him. But A.J. doesn’t pay him any mind.

“And honestly? It kind of amazes me that I can even say this stuff about him and not come off like an undercard ankle-biter. I mean, I was more prepared than a lot of people are when they first join the Adrenaline roster—I’d already won at Fright Night and taken Bronx to his limit in Seattle—but I knew how many people, no matter how good they’d been in other companies, had rolled into 4CW—”

A.J. reaches down with his left hand and pulls up a thick volume of old Iron Man issues compiled into one book, seemingly left behind by an inattentive passenger earlier today. He holds the book up to us as he keeps talking, not even skipping a beat.

“—and looked completely lost here. They looked out of place, they fell on their face, and before they could make an impact...”

A.J. offhandedly tosses the book down and out of frame, where it presumably hits the empty middle seat with a THUMP!

“...they were gone without a trace. But I’ve already risen above that, because where they stumbled aimlessly, I’ve walked with a purpose every single step. I came to Seattle, where it was me against the mountain, and I climbed higher than anyone expected me to. I walked into Mexico City as that city’s champion and beat Damien Miri for all mi gente out in that crowd. And in Minneapolis and Detroit, the only team that did more than Reedvolution to raise the bar in this tag division was the one that beat us for the titles.”

The memory of that loss flashes in A.J.’s mind, but he quickly shakes it off and gets back on track.

“Everything I’ve done has built on what I did the last time, nothing I’ve gained has ever been taken for granted, and because of that, I’m already at a point where they can put me against a former 4CW Champion, a Hall of Famer, and people will go ‘Yeah, this could go either way’ instead of ‘Wow, A.J.’s gonna get his ass kicked.’ But more than that, I’ve kept my stock rising while Chris’s started from a high and just keeps dropping farther down with every couple weeks that go by.


“So I’m coming into this with the hot hand—hell, I might even be the favorite. But make no mistake, even with that momentum, even with that win I can hang over Chris’s head and all the psychological advantages that might bring, I am not taking tonight lightly. And I’m not just saying all the obvious shit about how this is a singles match instead of a tag match, so there’s no Bianca to cover for me if I take a nasty hit, I have to work twice as hard and get it all done solo this time, yadda yadda yadda. See, even if Chris loses tonight, his ticket to Retrograde’s already punched. He’s not losing his match with Bronx unless he either gets injured or shits the bed so thoroughly that beating him no longer means anything. If he comes out on the other side of this match having not learned a Goddamn thing about himself, making no improvements as a fighter along the way, it doesn’t hurt his standing. He can save the real work for between now and Retrograde, if he really wants to. But me? I don’t have that luxury. If I botch this, even if I come thiiiis close and still fall short, I might not get to Chicago—and that’s basically XWA Central, so if I miss that card, I miss a chance to bring those two fanbases together like never before. I miss a chance to create some energy this sport has never seen before. I miss out on being that crowd’s Superman, and if you see me in any one place for long enough, you know it’s the role I was born to play. So I refuse to give up the chance to do it without at least giving somebody hell on my way out of the audition room.”

Once again, A.J. pauses for a bit of dramatic emphasis before he continues.

“And on top of that...even if it turns out Chris’ll never be as good as he was before his ACL tear? Even if I end up facing a shadow of who he used to be in 2015 and 2016? I still have to treat him like I’m fighting someone else in their prime, ‘cause when your peak is as high as his was—4CW Champion, Pride Champion, the streak, all that good stuff—the shadow of you can still kick almost anyone’s ass. And I know that from experience, ‘cause the only time I ever defeated an XWA Hall of Famer one-on-one, he had to fall fifteen feet and pretty much knock himself out before I could finally get that 1-2-3.”

A.J. doesn’t have time to reflect on that night at the Hammerstein, so he just keeps going.

“If I want to guarantee that I get what I want from tonight, I only have two options here: I can try to walk through the fire, or I can stay put and pray to God those flames don’t come any closer. And if I have to get burned tonight, I’d rather do it on my terms than his. When I pick up that win and lock down my spot at Retrograde, it’s not gonna be ‘cause I got lucky. It’s not gonna be ‘cause of some freak accident. It’s gonna be because I hit him harder, moved faster, controlled the air in ways he never could...but more than anything, it’s gonna be because I have the hunger that he doesn’t. And that hunger is why I’m gonna get past this crossroads, and the one after that, and everything else in my way, while he keeps spinning his wheels in place, taking L’s, and wondering what the fuck just happened.”

The Revolution locks eyes with us, confidence on his face. The rest of the world around him might as well not exist; it’s just us and him, and he knows exactly what he wants to say.

“And Chris, if you’re listening and you take offense to any of this, I’m gonna make it real simple for you: prove me wrong. Show me you still have what it takes. Let Bronx know that you’re still the guy that took the 4CW title away from him. Let everybody in Brooklyn that cheered when Jair said your name and chanted ‘Welcome home’ when they saw your face know that they put their faith in the right person. All you have to do…”

A.J. points off into the distance at the broken-down railcars blocking his ride’s way.

“…is get past the Damn Train.”

Louie starts a sarcastic slow clap, and suddenly, A.J. seems to come aware again of his surroundings. He shakes his head slightly, wondering how he got so deep in that so quickly.

“Beautiful. Simply beautiful. All that blabbering to keep me entertained, and we didn’t move an inch.”

“Seriously?”

A.J. rolls down the window a bit and looks out.

“...y’know what? Fuck it.”

A.J. pulls out his phone, and after a couple taps, he puts it away, grabs his duffel bags, and opens the door. Louie lowers his window just as A.J. gets out of the Cadillac and closes the door.

“Where do you think you’re goin’?”

A.J. turns to look at Louie.

“I’m goin’ to the arena, man, what do you think?”

“You’re not seriously gonna walk there, are ya?”

Morales turns his focus to the scene ahead of him.

“You said it yourself. Some days, it’s faster this way.”

And so, as other drivers start to take notice and honk at him, A.J. walks off between the cars, just to make sure he doesn’t get run over out of spite, and steps onto the sidewalk. He scans his surroundings again and checks the time on his phone. He doesn’t know how he’s gonna make it to Bankers Life Fieldhouse from here, but one way or another, he knows he’ll make this work...

20
Adrenaline / N.A.I.A.S. (Newcomers Accidentally Instigating A Situation)
« on: January 20, 2019, 03:17:07 AM »
Few combinations in the American cultural imagination go together quite like Detroit and cars, and few times of year epitomize that better than the city’s annual North American International Auto Show. We find the showroom filled with cars from automakers the world over as far as the eye can see—not just the stuff you’d find in an ordinary dealership, but brand-new models, new generations of familiar makes, supercars, even a few concept cars that might not evolve into their finished mass-market iterations for another five years. In between the stars of the show, we see all manner of people, from industry insiders to curious tourists, looking around at everything on display, and it’s in that midst that we find Bianca Reed and A.J. Morales—not that either half of Reedvolution is hard to miss, what with the dyed hair—roaming around the place, taking in all the technological wonders around them.

“Duuude...I gotta call Dontell and Jason later to thank ‘em for these tickets. I always figured they just came here for the business connections, but like...look at all this shit!”

“I’ve never really been into cars, but now I think I’m gonna have to pick out some for when I’m some billionaire genius playboy philanthropist like everyone else on wrestling Twitter.”

Bianca stops by a Lamborghini prototype - sleek and shiny black, with every bell and whistle imaginable. She grabs A.J. by the arm to stop him, a barely audible “look at this shit” escaping her lips. A.J. turns his head to look, and he nods his head approvingly. But before he’s had the chance to scan it all up and down, out of the corner of his eye, he spots the camera not far away. He turns to face us, and not far behind him, we see Bianca follow his lead and step a bit to the side, just to make sure she’s in the frame.

“It’s kinda funny...growing up the way we did, cars like this almost didn’t seem real. Like, sure, you’d see them in movies, magazines, and music videos, and you’d maybe get to pretend to drive one in Need for Speed or whatever. But you weren’t exactly gonna see a ton of people driving Alfa Romeos around. That was only for the people with tons of money to blow, and even then, a lot of ‘em thought those cars were too valuable to drive around. Kinda like how in this sport, you can’t talk about wrestling in North America without talking about 4CW Adrenaline, and wrestling Twitter revolves around the Adrenaline roster half the time, but most people don’t even register on this place’s radar. And even then, there’s hella people that get bounced immediately, or that end up spinning their wheels in the undercard. Just getting a title shot around here takes a level of skill and willpower most wrestlers don’t have…”

A.J. turns to his tag partner.

“...but we ain’t most wrestlers, huh?”

They exchange grins and Bianca looks at the camera with a smirk on her lips.

“No, we certainly are not. Because you are looking at two of the most relentless wrestlers in this industry, bar none. We came here with a goal in mind and we are not going to stop until we reach it, no matter what it takes.”

“And that means leaving Little Caesars Arena with those 4CW Tag Team Championships around our waists. But make no mistake, it won’t be easy. See, American Mangs—and I’m talking both American Tommy and Mariano Fernandez individually—basically went through the same process as Hyundai did. Like, not that long ago, Hyundai cars were a straight-up joke. They were ugly as hell, they could barely stay on the road, and basically, unless all you cared about was getting a car for cheap, you did not wanna get one. You didn’t even wanna get stuck with one for a rental unless your only other option was a Kia.”

Just the thought makes A.J. shudder a bit.

“But then Hyundai started making moves. They made improvements under the hood, they brought in engineers from other companies, they started taking risks the competition wasn’t thinking to take...and if you wanna know how that worked out? Just look at the show’s yearly awards. Out of all the cars they sell on this continent, only three get best in class awards, and this time, two of ‘em were Hyundais.”

Bianca looks at the camera like she has no idea where that came from, then taps A.J. on the shoulder to get his attention.

“OK...have you been some kinda car expert this whole time?”

“Nah, I just asked Dontell. Dude’s an encyclopedia on this stuff.”

A.J. turns back to the camera as Bianca shrugs and accepts that explanation.

“But the thing is, just ‘cause Hyundai made the turnaround doesn’t mean everybody knows about the turnaround. They don’t have the muscle car appeal of a Dodge, they never got the accessible coolness of being a tuner car that Mitsubishi used to have, and they haven’t been luxury long enough to hang with the Benzes, let alone this Lambo right here. At best, people think of Hyundai as pedestrian; at worst, they still think it’s exactly as bad as it was 20 years ago.”

A.J. flips his hair back out of his face before he keeps going.

“And that’s pretty much where American Mangs’ rep is at. ‘Cause as much as people clown on those guys? As much shit as they get from everybody and their grandmas on Twitter? When it comes down to it, they win. Like a lot. I mean, shit, look at American Tommy. Not only does he win the Twitter polls about whether he’s prettier than Bianca—”

Bianca rolls her eyes, folding her arms over her chest and shaking her head in disappointment.


“I still can’t believe I lost that one. Must’ve rallied Russian bots or something.”

“Fuckin’ Russians! Probably still got an arrest warrant out on me for that tweeting that Gay Clown Putin meme...”

“You did vote for me, though, right?”

“Dude, you’re my tag partner. You know I hit the ‘hell yes.’”

“That’s what I thought.”

With this particular point settled, Bianca gestures for A.J. to continue with his original topic - their opponents for their upcoming match.

“But for real, this dude is batting .777 in singles competition, .694 overall, which is nuts when you consider that, the first time I heard about this guy, not even two years ago, he was a delusional jackass who thought he was literally Harry Potter, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ was a legit banger, and a hip toss made for a good finisher. This kid had lifelong jobber written all over him, and yet he found the potential inside to evolve into...OK, still kind of a delusional jackass, but also a downright scary opponent who fired Kaelan Laughlin out of a cannon, helped shatter Salvation’s mystique when he whooped Nemesis’s ass, and now gets to walk into the first half of this double main event as an Adrenaline double-champ. Like, Goddamn. That is legitimately amazing.”

She nods in agreement.

“The card says it’s just the headliner, but we know what the show really revolves around.”

“Hell, what all three Adrenalines between Winter Wasteland and Retrograde revolve around. And then we got Manny Fernandez, who...Jesus, if anybody had to crawl out of the hole they dug themselves into, it was him. This dude was blacklisted for five years, had to sneak back into the sport wearing a mask and race against time to become irreplaceable before he got caught, and that was all before he even came to 4CW. But now look at him. He’s the guy that split Bronx’s world title run in two. He’s the first cross-brand champion in 4CW history once you factor that ACM Mexico City title in. And as long as he doesn’t get himself blacklisted again or pull an Aaron Hernandez after he retires, he’ll go down in history as the greatest athlete South America’s ever given to professional wrestling.”

Bianca’s eyes widen, hearing Manny’s history, but the look on her face indicates she’s impressed by the reputation he’s amassed for himself over the years.

“As soon as I looked at the brackets for this Tag Team Into the Future deal, I knew that this match was coming. I didn’t wanna say anything and jinx it, but the writing was on the wall: first Chris and Kat were gonna drop the ball against us, then Omertà would get caught off-guard in the main event ‘cause they spent too much training time fucking around and playing hunters in the woods, and BAM! New tag champs, Minneapolis celebrates, and then two weeks later in Detroit Rock City, Reedvolution and American Mangs have the most batshit crazy title fight to hit this city since the time they had a monster truck sumo match on top of the Joe—only this time, it’s good crazy, the kind that makes for an actually interesting match.”

She blinks at her tag partner a couple of times.

“Sumo monster trucks? Seriously?”

“The mid-’90’s were weird. But like...we’re not walking in here looking for a Match of the Night award. That’s just a nice side bonus. Nah...see, when you spend most of your life hungry, like we did before we got into this sport, there’s a certain mentality you have to develop in order to get by. You learn to never stop being hungry, ‘cause the second you empty your plate, you gotta start thinking about how to fill it again. Only difference is back then, it was about literally not knowing when or where you were gonna get your next meal. Now it’s more about wanting to take W’s and championships anywhere, from anybody, even when the odds are stacked against us like they are right now, ‘cause the bigger the names we knock off, the sweeter it is to take their gold. Like, me personally, it doesn’t matter if I’ve already held four belts in four companies all at the same time—and I know Manny knows what I mean, ‘cause he‘s been there too, and that shit is fucking intoxicating. Once you hit a level of success like that, you don’t wanna go back down. You turn into one of those greedy-ass collectors that sees the one-off concept cars at this show and wants to buy every last one, even though he knows he’ll never actually drive any of them. Only in this case, it’s more like I want more championships than I can physically carry to the ring. And it just so happens that, of the three Manny’s got, there’s one I’m trying to take on Adrenaline, and one I’m trying to take back in ACM—and if taking his spot as 4CW’s resident interbrand champion means going through him every step of the way on both shows? You better believe I’m gonna do it.”


Bianca gives him a little grin before she starts explaining her side of the story.

“For me, it’s like this - American Mangs, both individually and together, have proven how good they are. They’ve got the titles to prove it. Hell, even you’ve been around the world collecting belts. Me, I’ve had one title run so far and I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to be the one who just has great matches but can’t close the deal, you know? I want to know what it’s like to walk into a company like this, a company that provides some of the toughest competition out there, and I want to walk out wearing one of their belts because I am just that goddamn good. Together, I know that A.J. and I can do this. I know that Reedvolution is going to hold those tag team championships one day. And that’s because I know how the two of us get down.”

She shrugs her shoulders and flicked her purple hair out of her way.

“We’re big game hunters up in this bitch. We don’t settle for less than the best because people like us? We are always out to prove ourselves. We can’t afford to sit back and take a break because the minute we do? That’s when the shit starts.”

Scrunching up her nose, she rolls her eyes and puts on a high-pitched, mocking voice.

“They’re lazy. They don’t care. Look at them, not putting in work.”

Briefly, she flips off the camera with both hands before continuing.

“I am not about to be accused of resting on my laurels. I walked into this company and I beat one of your Hall of Famers. In my second match here, my second match as part of Reedvolution, I have a title opportunity and you best believe me when I say that we are not throwing away this shot. We know what this means - we’re not some rookies with two weeks’ experience walking into some pop-up company and getting a championship belt cause the person in charge thinks we’re the most fuckable things on the roster. We’re young, sure, but we been around this business a minute. We don’t say shit we don’t mean. We said that we were gonna come in and wake up the tag team division and we’ve done that. Now we’re saying that we’re gonna be tag team champions.”

A pause, as if she’s waiting for someone to dispute their claim. No answer.

“So come test us, Tommy. Come test us, Manny. Come see if you really want those belts as badly as you think you do when you’re up against two scrappy kids who came from nothing and have had to fight for everything they’ve gotten so far. We don’t expect this to be easy. But this team, this Reedvolution? We don’t know easy. Easy don’t mean a thing. If life was meant to be easy, Michelangelo would’ve painted the floor.”

“Nah...we don’t know easy, and we don’t want easy.”

“Give us a fight, American Mangs. Come see what the Reedvolution is all about.”

Bianca glances around and, seeing that nobody’s watching them, she tests the door of the Lambo and finds it unlocked. She practically squeals with delight and opens the door, then looks over at her tag partner and realizes that he’s started talking again.

“But when it’s fight night in Detroit, just know that we’re gonna fight like Perry just announced 4CW’s closing immediately after the show. We’re gonna stomp on the gas pedal and make the car go 200 miles an hour, ‘cause even if it ends up a short reign, the glory of beating y’all for those 4CW tag titles? The honor of seeing our names etched in the Hall of Champions? Those things are worth more than every car in this room combined, and once we got 'em, nobody can take them away.”

She gets in on the passenger side and slides over, opening the driver’s door so that it taps A.J. from the back to get his attention and when he turns to look over at her, she gestures for him to get in the car with her. A.J. shrugs his shoulders and gets in the driver’s seat, putting one hand on the steering wheel...and the other on what he doesn’t realize is a push-button ignition.

“So brace yourselves. This Reedvolution’s about to run you over.”


A.J. absent-mindedly takes his hand off the ignition, starting the car up, and—VRRRRRM!—the roar of the engine startles both wrestlers to the point that A.J. accidentally puts his foot on the gas and makes the car lurch forward a few feet. He stamps the other foot down on the brakes, getting the Lamborghini to stop before it hits something—or worse, someone—but now the whole showroom is looking in Reedvolution’s direction for all the wrong reasons.

“Shit! Uhhhh…”

A.J. and Bianca look around, spotting a semicircle of six or seven security guards already making their way to them, then look nervously at each other.

“We can’t take the car, can we?”

“Nope, that’s not gonna help. Run!”

At practically the same exact time, the two get out of the Lamborghini, haphazardly slam the doors—THUNK! THUNK!—and bolt away into the crowd. The security guards all follow after them...all, that is, except one, standing about 6’5”, who spots the camera and realizes we’re about to capture the whole chase.

“Ohhhhhhno you don’t, buddy, you’re not goin’ anywhe—”

The guard puts his massive hand on the lens to block it, also muffling the shotgun mic in the process. We can’t see much except a few shaky spots of light between the guard’s fingers, and we can’t hear much except the rustling of the mic rubbing against his palm. After a few seconds of struggle, the camera drops to the floor and—KVVVVVVFSHHHHHHAOPIHSAOA;IO—


21
Adrenaline / ...And If You Want Some Beef, Boy, We Some Burger Kings
« on: January 07, 2019, 01:02:58 AM »
On a typical winter afternoon in Minnesota, we find the third floor of the Mall of America bustling as usual with shoppers and tourists from all over the Midwest. The sun pokes through the clouds and shines down through the glass panels on the roof, giving the clean and artificial-looking walkways some natural light to work with, and the decor and rides for the theme park all the way down on the ground floor provide splashes of color and ambience people can see and hear at any level of the massive complex.

The two members of Reedvolution are seated together at one of the tables in the food court, enjoying their lunch as the camera zooms in on them. Even from all the way over here, A.J.’s blond streak and Bianca’s purple hair are too obvious not to spot. Neither of them notice that they’re being filmed, too engrossed in their conversation.

“...you know I used to work in a Burger King just like that one?”

“Really?”

“Yup! I paid my whole way through wrestling school with it. Even kept working there for a bit once I made my debut in ZLL, but then I figured I could just get a day job closer to San Jose and not have to spend as much on gas money in the first place.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Bianca finally spots us. She glances at the camera and nudges A.J., getting him to look in its direction.

“What? Oh, hey! Ven aquí, ven aquí, por favor…

A.J. waves us over, and the camera moves closer, pulling back on the zoom to compensate, A.J. puts his burger back in the small logo-covered box it came from, while Bianca takes her tray and pushes it to the other side of the table, then takes the spot next to A.J. so it’ll be easier for the camera to get them both in the frame when it settles down on the table.

“Y’know, this place has got a lot more sports history than you might think. Obviously, there was the Brawl at the Mall back in ‘95—I still have no idea how they even got the ring into the building—but then there’s all the wrestling matches they ran in Metropolitan Stadium back when that stood here, the 500-foot homer Kilibrew hit for the Twins, the great Vikings teams of the ‘70’s...you get the idea, right? So it’s only fitting that we come here right before we head up I-77 to the Target Center and start making some history of our own in 4CW.”

Bianca blinks a few times at her partner, shaking her head a little bit as if to clear it.

“Guys and their sports trivia, I swear… anyway. There aren’t many reasons for this Southern belle to head up to the Great White North in the dead of winter, but for a tag team tournament with the titles on the line? Well congratulations, now you’ve got my attention. Throw in the chance to pin an oldhead Hall of Famer when the odds are not in our favor? That’s just a sweet, sweet little bonus.”

She flashes a wicked grin at the camera and sits back in her chair, letting her partner take the lead.

“Let’s be real for a second here. There is one reason and one reason only why people look at this match and think of Reedvolution as the underdogs, and that’s the fact that Chris Madison, the newly-christened Hall of Famer, the guy with 23 singles wins in a company that chews wrestlers up and spits them out before they even get to match two, the man who knocked Bronx off the top spot, is gonna be in the other corner. Now, full disclosure, when I was about to fight Bronx in his big return at the Adrenaline before Bad Company, I may or may not have thrown some shade Chris’s way. And by that, I mean I may or may not have called him a charisma vacuum, implied he was an ineffectual transitional 4CW Champion...”

“Sorry. Not sorry.”

“Actually, no, I am sorry, ‘cause the way things have played out since then proves I was wrong.”

“Wait, for real?”

“For real! Turns out he found a monkey’s paw or some shit and wished Bronx would get butterfingers with the belt just in time for the semis of the South Beach Brawl Cup, and go figure, it worked, and it got Chris the glory. Problem is, he musta took his ‘Mayhem’ moniker and transferred it to his goal, ‘cause ever since he won the belt...”

A.J. picks up the box with his burger in it, raises it a few feet up, and—THUNK!—lets it drop back onto the tray, but then picks it up again almost immediately.

“Every.” THUNK! He drops the box again. “Body.” THUNK! “Keeps.” THUNK! “Dropping.” THUNK! “The ball.” THUNK! This time, A.J. finally lets the box sit. “And now we’re in a situation where nobody’s been completely sure who the Ace around is here for months, everyone that’s tried to step into that role has choked just as the reign that was supposed to solidify their new spot was getting started, and Viduus Goddamned Morta’s reached the same number of world title reigns as Bronx and Jair without even making a successful title defense, let alone putting this company on his back the way those guys did.”

“...so wait, this guy ended up being worse than what you thought? Tragic.”

“The last thing the 4CW tag titles need, after months of Dakota Smith and Cyrus Riddle both going off on singles exploits and hoping that’ll be enough for people to forget they haven’t defended the damn things since Bad Company, is Chris getting to the semis of this tournament and wishing on another monkey paw that he can have some glory and his girlfriend can finally be a champion around here, ‘cause with his luck, it’ll put the belts in the same state of chaos as the 4CW Championship’s been in lately instead of living up to this tournament’s name and solidifying who’s gonna lead this division into the future.”

A.J. stops for a second to grab a particularly long French fry and bite off about half of it.

“Omerta’s lazy asses are one thing, but those belts don’t need to go hot-potato either.”

As A.J. picks back up where he left off, he holds the half-fry between two fingers like a cigarette and starts waving it around while he talks.

“And then when it’s not him we’re dealing with, it’s Kat Jones. And Kat’s an interesting case, ‘cause on the one hand, she’s smart enough to surround herself with people that know the way to the top around here—case in point, Chris Madison—and right now, that’s translating to a bit of a hot streak. I can’t even knock the one loss she’s had since she came back, ‘cause the same guy that beat her went on to beat me for my ACM Mexico City Championship not long after.”

A.J. finishes the fry before he keeps going.

“But that title reign makes this whole comparison kinda sad if it’s just me and her, ‘cause while she’s been fumbling around on and off since 2016 across multiple 4CW brands without even getting a whiff of a title shot, I get to walk into my second match on Adrenaline ever and say I already had the longest reign in a 4CW-recognized championship’s history. I can say I took that title and carried it through a time when pretty much everything about ACM was up in the air until it found stable ground again, that I defeated reigning world champions who went out of their way to come to me and see if I could keep them from taking my belt and its one city of territory, that I showed up to my fight with Bronx and my win at Fright Night with that title around my waist and made it something Adrenaline viewers knew was a big deal, even before Perry and Phe cut that deal with Michael Kelly to bring ACM under 4CW’s umbrella. And I haven’t even won some other company’s world title like Kat has!”

Just to let the point hang for a second, A.J. and Bianca take sips from their plastic soda cups, knowing looks in their eyes.

“But that’s none of our business.”

She gives an exaggerated shrug and rolls her eyes, taking another long sip from her drink as A.J. continues.

“What is our business is proving that Kat isn’t as quick of a learner as she thinks she is. It’s one thing to pick off the Alexis Mercers and the David Sanchezes of the roster, but now there’s more at stake than pride and cash bonuses. This is, for all intents and purposes, a #1 contender’s match, and that automatically turns up the pressure to a level where, historically speaking, if this was a longer tournament, Kat probably would have cracked and gotten her team eliminated already and we’d be up against somebody else. And yet here she is, acting like she’s this big scary mountain lion in our path, and we can’t possibly be on her level ‘cause we haven’t been signed to 4CW as long as she has.”

A.J. looks off to the side and scoffs at the very notion.

“But honestly? She’s not even the craziest chick from Cincinnati I’ve had to knock out in the past month or so. She’s also not even the best ex-WWH World Champion to see the light and leave that dumpster fire for 4CW, especially not now that Finn Whelan’s back in town. And sure, getting that belt took a lot of hard work and effort on Kat’s part, but again, all that’s translated to in 4CW is three years of coming and going and wandering around in the dark without ever proving herself as a serious contender to even the lowliest of thrones. So whatever fantasy she has of playing Genie Carlson for the night, slamming the gates in our faces and sending us packing from 4CW, that’s not how it’s gonna play out. We’re in this tag division to be the tag champions. We’re locked in for the long haul, and I’m not sure I can say that if Kat and Chris walk away from this tournament empty handed, she won’t end up right back in those undercard trenches where she was before, hoping that if they ever get around to updating those power rankings, she’ll just barely make it at #8 on the Division II rankings and finally have something resembling a leg to stand on when she says she deserves the next shot at a championship.”

Bianca can’t help rolling her eyes again, drumming her fingers against the tabletop.

“Are we really shocked though? People do this kind of thing all the time - hell, I’m willing to bet that there are people out there accusing me of the same coattail riding shit, because you’re better known around this company than I am. Never mind that unlike Kat Jones, I walked into this company with a clear goal to focus on and a relentless determination to prove myself, instead of just hanging around in the lower midcard cause it gives me something to do. And I’m sure Chris Madison wants to get his hands on the 4CW championship again, but he’s decided that instead he wants to put his bad juju onto the tag division. But you know what? I’m tired of people like Kat and Chris in this business. I’m tired of people who just wait around and take what’s given to them instead of reaching for their goals. I’m tired of seeing people with no drive, no ambition, no guts. And that’s what sets us apart, because the two of us have never once settled for what we’ve been handed. We’ve scratched and clawed and fought for our places in this industry, and we are not about to let a couple of dilettantes take our opportunity away from us. This is our time.”

Bianca slaps the table for emphasis, glaring into the camera as if her opponents were on the other side.

“There’s a reason our match is up first out of everything that’s happening with the tournament, and it’s because once we step in that ring, this tag division is gonna change forever, whether the competition realizes it or not. We’re the fresh blood 4CW needs, we’re the change this division deserves, we’re the ones with the keys to that DeLorean that’s gonna take tag team wrestling in this company to the future, and we came to take it from 0 to 88 in three seconds flat. And when we start dominating the air, dropping bombs from every angle, moving too fast to catch and hitting too hard for our opponents to get back up, it’s gonna be too late to put us back in the box. Beating Kat and Chris in Minneapolis is just the first step towards taking those 4CW Tag Team Championships for ourselves, and when that happens, this division’s gonna be in for a renaissance with us at the helm, lining up challengers, knockin’ ‘em down, and getting those belts the spotlight they deserve year-round instead of having to wait for a tournament like this to happen. So y’all better brace yourselves, ‘cause when the Reedvolution comes, it will be televised, it will be uncivilized...and most of all? It’ll be un. Fucking. Deniable.”

Bringing her straw up to her lips, Bianca takes another sip from cup and gives it a shake.

“Don’t know about you, but it looks like I’m all out of tea, A.J.”

After a second, A.J. realizes exactly what she means. The two look at each other with mischievous grins, and in unison, they grab their cups and...

“YEET!”

The cups land right on target, hitting the camera on both sides of the lens, knocking it back to the edge of the table, where it teeters and falls back onto the chair below. A.J. and Bianca get up to stand over the camera, each holding out a fist to the lens, before it glitches up and blacks out.

22
Non-Active Talent / Reedvolution
« on: December 29, 2018, 12:27:04 AM »
TAG TEAM INFORMATION
Name: Reedvolution
Members: Bianca Reed & A.J. Morales
Alignment: Face (Reed is a bit more of a tweener than Morales)
Entrance Music: “Who’s Who?” by Dilated Peoples

ENTRANCE DESCRIPTION
The beat for “Who’s Who” by Dilated Peoples hits as the lights dim and blue spotlights focus on the entrance ramp, lighting the place up like a club. A.J. Morales walks through the curtain nodding his head and playing air-guitar in time with the song, while Bianca Reed comes through dancing and hits a spin as the lyrics begin.

”She loves me not, she loves me loves me not /
But I don’t let it bug me, the clubs be hot”

The team starts on their way down the entrance ramp, and as A.J. high-fives any fan that reaches towards him, Bianca throws her sunglasses into the crowd and follows close behind him, running her mouth at the camera in front of them.

POWERS: “From the BayTL, at a combined weight of 307 pounds…‘Killer B’ Bianca Reed! ’The Revolution’ A.J. Morales! REEEEEDVOOOOOLUTIOOOOOOON!”

The two climb onto the apron at the same time, and Bianca drops to a split and slides under the bottom rope into the ring, while A.J. somersaults over the top to get in. They each pick a corner on the far side of the ring relative to the hardcam, climb to the second turnbuckles, and throw up raised-fist salutes to the crowd. They climb back down, cross the ring diagonally, and do the same thing on the side facing the hardcam, hyping up the crowd as the music continues before heading to their corner and discuss who’s going to start off the match.

CHAMPION ENTRANCE DESCRIPTION
The beat for “Who’s Who” by Dilated Peoples hits as the lights dim and blue spotlights focus on the entrance ramp, lighting the place up like a club. A.J. Morales and Bianca Reed roll out through the curtain on a miniature DJ booth pushed forward by two stagehands, the former playing his title belt like a guitar while the latter mimes scratching a vinyl record on top of hers. They keep this up until just before the first verse starts, at which point they hop out of the booth and sling the belts over their shoulders.

”She loves me not, she loves me loves me not /
But I don’t let it bug me, the clubs be hot”

The champions start on their way down the entrance ramp, and as A.J. high-fives any fan that reaches towards him, Bianca throws her sunglasses into the crowd and follows close behind him, running her mouth at the camera in front of them.

POWERS: “From the BayTL, at a combined weight of 307 pounds…they are the 4CW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS OF THE WOOOOOOORLD! ‘Killer B’ Bianca Reed! ’The Revolution’ A.J. Morales! REEEEEDVOOOOOLUTIOOOOOOON!”

The two climb onto the apron at the same time, and Bianca drops to a split and slides under the bottom rope into the ring, while A.J. somersaults over the top to get in. They each pick a corner on the far side of the ring relative to the hardcam, climb to the second turnbuckles, and raise their tag titles to the crowd. They climb back down, cross the ring diagonally, and do the same thing on the side facing the hardcam, hyping up the crowd as the music continues before heading to their corner, where they go over their gameplan one last time and decide who's starting the match.

TEAM MOVES & FINISHERS

Bombs Over Baghdad: Reed hits her Avalanche shiranui in the corner, followed by Morales’s Lantern’s Flight moonsault

Bay to the A: Tandem suicide dives to the outside

YEET! (signature/setup for finisher): Military press toss (Morales throws Reed, yells “YEET!” as he does so)

Hamildrop (finisher): Simultaneous meteoras from the same turnbuckle to one opponent

23
Fright Night V / I Made You
« on: October 28, 2018, 04:53:25 AM »
We open inside a hallway, set up right across from the door of a dressing room marked “A.J. MORALES.” The cameraperson reaches down to open the door, and sure enough, we find “The Revolution” sitting in front of his mirror, reading the liner notes to a CD. As he does so, we hear the music from it playing on a stereo on the other side of the room…


“I DUG A HOLE
TEN MILES WIDE
SO I COULD THROW
ALL OF YOU INSIDE

YOU’RE SUCH A DUMBFUCK
YOU NEED TO SHUT UP
YOU BRING A PICTURE OF ME
EVERY TIME YOU GET YOUR HAIR CUT
IMPOSTOOOOOOR!—”

A.J., noticing the camera, turns off the music, puts down the booklet, and looks down the lens with a smile on his face.

MORALES: “Oh, hey, ¿qué onda, 4CW? Gracias por invitarme a competir en Fright Night V. Es un honor pelear en Arena México, la Catedral de lucha libre, en este día sagrado.

A.J. grabs something sitting on the table where the mirror rests, which turns out to be a photograph of a wrestler with practically the same hair and beard as the Revolution himself stepping into a wrestling ring.

MORALES: Bueno...you know who this is a picture of? I know it looks like me, but I promise, it’s not.”

A.J. stops for a moment, like he’s Steve from Blue’s Clues waiting for the kids to tell him where Blue’s pawprint is. But we don’t have time to wait five seconds and then hear a kid offscreen yell the answer, so A.J. gets back to talking a lot sooner than Steve would.

MORALES: “So this is actually Damien Miri, circa July of last year. I know, right? Look at him...so young, so innocent…”

A.J. puts the picture down and chuckles to himself.

MORALES: “Funny story...I actually helped him get his big break in pro wrestling. He’d been on the indies and stuff for years, but when he wanted to go to the big time and start working for Seattle Pro, I put in a good word for him, and before long, there he was, winning in front of his hometown crowd. And I was happy for him—I mean, why wouldn’t I be? He seemed like a good dude.”[/i]

A.J. pauses for emphasis.

MORALES: “He seemed. See, that’s the thing about Damien. He’s a shapeshifter, a chameleon. He presents you with whatever personality he thinks is gonna get him ahead, just like all the other rich kids who think they’re entitled to success because of who their parents are. And I’m not saying money and connections are all he has going, ‘cause with the amateur background he has, and the charisma he’s got, he could probably earn his way to top-guy status pretty much anywhere. But Damien learned pretty quick that he doesn’t have to actually earn his way up the card, as long as he brings the Conglomerate along to run interference. Shit, he doesn’t even have to earn championships—remember when one of the CWC territories just straight-up handed the Conglomerate some tag titles before the first show, and they got to freebird two belts between a baseball team’s worth of people? No wonder that one didn’t last…”

Morales’s voice trails off, and he shakes his head in faint disappointment and looks away from the lens for a minute before he turns back to the camera.

MORALES: “Now, admittedly, he’s nowhere near the worst guy in the Conglomerate—that dishonor belongs to Nik Thoreau—and sometimes he remembers he can get it done on his own, but if you’ve been watching ACM, you know my story there, from my debut at Noche de Campeones all the way to Compañía de Tres, starts with the Conglomerate screwing me out of picking up the Mexico City title and ends with me finally taking it from them, with a whole bunch of their bullshit in between. And whatever issue Damien had with it at first, he must have learned to stop caring, ‘cause he was right there beating the shit out of me with all the rest of them soon enough. Then he’d go on Twitter and start talking about how my accomplishments in Japan didn’t happen, and the faction I’m in doesn’t exist, and all this other bullshit that sometimes I don’t even think he understands why he said it.”

A.J. takes a deep breath and slowly stands up, not breaking eye contact with the camera.

MORALES: “So yeah...I’ve had a feeling for a while now that this match was gonna happen in Mexico. I just didn’t know it was gonna be in 4CW. But here’s where it gets hella twisted. If I hadn’t helped Damien get his big break in Seattle Pro, he, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have had the clout to go to Hollywood Pro. If Dame doesn’t go there, he never meets Bryan and Nik and Bethany. If that doesn’t happen, they don’t form the Conglomerate, and Damien doesn’t shape them from there into a black hole that sucks in tag titles in every promotion they can possibly get to.”

A.J. looks down at the floor, letting the moment of disappointment with himself pass by before he looks up, pushes his hair out of his face, and resumes.

MORALES: “So to some extent, I created this demon. And now I owe it to the entire wrestling world, and especially all the promotions he’s tried to take over, to slay that demon every time I face it. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but I have to do it. And lemme tell you, Damien, there is no way in hell you’re gonna stop me. Not when we’re fighting in the city where they call me El Alcalde on Día de Muertos. Not when I’ve won championships in the main event at a sold-out Key Arena while your show that night only drew 2K. Not when you first showed up to the big time as a guy who was biting my style and trying to walk a path I’d already started down.”

A.J. starts stepping closer to the camera, getting worked up off his own words.

MORALES: “And when you’re staring up at those lights, and that ref counts 3, and you have to hear the whole crowd chanting my name...I want you remember one thing, Damien: I’m not just better than you. I fucking made you.”

A.J. kisses the ring knuckle of his right hand, winds up, starts to swing his fist like he’s hitting his signature Liberator...and then stops himself just short of the lens before he pulls his fist back.

MORALES: “And I can un-make you if that’s how it has to be. Brace yourself for it.”

A.J. gives the camera a nod and a playful fist bump, then turns the music back on, walks past us, and lets the sound run as he walks out of the room.

24
Adrenaline / The Pretender
« on: August 13, 2018, 04:09:29 AM »
We open from inside a narrow hallway, a wooden, slightly-open door taking up the middle third of the frame. There’s enough light in the room to tell someone’s in there, but not exactly a ton. The camera approaches the door, the operator pushes it open, and inside, we find A.J. Morales behind a mahogany desk, like a detective in a film noir waiting for a client to walk in. As a matter of fact, the whole room is lit like a noir scene; it seems like the interruption in the elevator from last time convinced A.J. to create a more controlled environment this time around.

And controlled it is—the Zapatista flag hanging on the back wall, the posters and memorabilia of A.J.’s favorite wrestlers of yesteryear covering the other two sides of the room we can see, his two title belts from ACM and BGDF set up at the front of the desk like name placards...every inch of the place is lit to his personality, and as he leans back in his chair, wearing an all-black suit with gold-framed sunglasses, drinking from a glass bottle of soda, his feet up on the desk, it’s clear how at ease he feels here.

“Oh, Bronxy...Bronxy, Bronxy, Bronxy…”

A.J. doesn’t even look into the camera at first. He just speaks to the room, and the camera happens to be there. But as he

“…you really think I didn’t know what I was getting into, huh?”

A.J. takes off the sunglasses and sets them down on the desk, and we see a focus in his eyes as he looks into the lens.

“What, you thought I was just gonna walk into the Shit-Talk Central of professional wrestling without a gameplan? You thought I was just gonna challenge somebody like you without knowing the gravity of it? I laid my intentions out as blatantly as I could—to push my limits, to test myself against the best, to get as much out of my one-night contract with 4CW as possible—’cause I figured if I saw how you reacted to that, you’d tell me everything I needed to know. I needed to see past the smoke and mirrors people put up on Twitter so I could figure out what kinda mindset you were coming into this with, and frankly, I’m a little disappointed. I thought I was gonna get the Bronx everybody says is the best in the world. But I’m not sure I see that guy...you know who I do see, though? I see a guy who’s so used to his old habitus that he doesn’t know what he’s in for. I see a guy who’s entitled and scared.”

A moment’s pause, just to let the thought hang in the viewer’s mind, before A.J. continues.

“Lemme explain...see, at first I was wondering if maybe I set you off ‘cause I picked the show where we were in your hometown of Portland, Oregon to challenge you. Except that can’t be the case, ‘cause you’re not actually from that Portland, you’re from the one in fucking Maine. But you pretend you’re from the West Coast, just like you pretend every holiday is your birthday, and you pretend you’re not into Ana…”

A.J. makes a sort of incidental hand gesture, like he’s holding an imaginary cup of tea in his hands, as he looks off to the side for a moment.

“...but I’ll get into that later. That’s about something else. What this is about is the fact that, frankly, you’ve spent most of your life in bubbles. You thrive on places where people will coddle you and give you everything you could ever want. You grew up in one place like that as a kid, and you clawed your way into a different one once you became a wrestler. And even though everybody knows about how ruthless 4CW promos are, and how brutal 4CW Twitter is, the fact that you’ve been on top of the main title scene for so long means that for you, it’s safe here, and you can pretend that this is the center of the universe and nothing anyone else does matters. And you know what? It’s easy to live in a bubble when you’re on top. And by God, have you been on top here in 4CW. Anyone who goes back and watches the stretch of this company from South Beach Brawl last year to Ante Up this year and doesn’t come away with the conclusion that you were THE guy for every minute of that run is fucking delusional.”

A.J. stops to take a quick breath, tossing his hair a little to get it out of his face before he continues.

“But the thing with that kind of success is that if you never step outside the golden palace, you forget what it was like to starve out on the streets. You start thinking you deserve even more than you already have just by virtue of your own existence. You become entitled. And when I heard you shitting on every place I’ve gone and every accomplishment I’ve made, you sounded like a whole bunch of other entitled pricks I’ve fought who thought a win over me was their birthright. Then they got in the ring with me, and depending on how intense things got, they left with bruised egos, concussions, or both. If that’s seriously how you’re approaching this—an ‘exhibition match,’ as you called it—then you’re gonna be no different than any of those guys.”


A.J. looks off to the side for a moment, just long enough for the camera to visibly move a little like the operator isn’t sure if it’s time to cut, then startles the operator by snapping back to attention and picking back up where he left off.

“And honestly? I think the level of ego you showed wasn’t even about trying to intimidate me, or showing the fans you’re not leaving the top of the totem pole without a fight. That’s you trying to convince yourself that you’re invincible. That’s you overcompensating for being scared. Because even though the logic of the bubble tells you nothing outside 4CW matters, and therefore I’m basically just some rookie who walked in off the street and immediately started biting off more than he could chew, you know damn well that’s not actually the case. You know that I went from some NorCal indie trios guy just getting his first shot at the big time to an international main-event player in the time between winning you winning the big gold off Eli to Chris taking it from you. You know about the history I’ve made and the icons I’ve torn down everywhere I’ve been. You know the truth: I’m the biggest X-factor you’ve had to face in months, the kind that’s so far outside the confines of what you’re used to that you’re not sure you can ever be 100% prepared for it. But the truth scares you, so you pretend the comfortable lie is reality, you give me the old ‘you ain’t shit’ speech for as long as the cameras are on, and then you sit back and hope everyone else will fall for what you told them about me.”

A.J. leans in a little closer, lowering the tone of his voice slightly like he’s letting us in on some inside info.

“But you know what really told me you were scared? When you said I’m only here because Emery’s here. That was the most revealing thing of all, to be honest...but probably not for the reason you think I’m gonna say. See, I don’t know if you remember some of the stuff you put up on Twitter, but uh…”

A.J. starts reaching into the inside pockets of his suit jackets, pulling out a cell phone as he keeps

“…I went back through my mentions, ‘cause I knew if I did, I would find the exact moment when I knew I had to come here and face you. And sure enough, about four months ago, somebody asked you point-blank who you’d want to face from outside 4CW. You tagged a handful of different wrestlers. Guess who was one of ‘em?”

A.J. holds up the phone’s camera to the screen, and sure enough...



Morales lets the visual hang for a few seconds, then pulls the phone back and slams it face-up onto the desk with one hand as he points right down the lens with the other. His mannerisms become more animated, his voice louder, his grin cockier than it’s been this whole time.

“Hahaaaa! Receipts, bitch! You can deny it all you want now, you can pretend I’m just copying my fiancée, but the fact is you put this energy out into the universe, and now, just like everything else that’s real, it’s coming back around. But don’t get me wrong...I understand why you’re pretending. I know you’re projecting what you’re scared people would think if you and Ana independently decided to do one-offs someplace else and ended up working the same card. And I know that’s not the only thing about Ana that scares you, because Ante Up was supposed to be your night. That was supposed to be where you restored your honor, where you made up for dropping your title to a charisma vacuum by winning it back at 4CW’s biggest show of the year...and then Ana pinned him and walked out with the belt instead of you. And now you’re scared that if you get too close to her—especially when 4CW’s testing the international waters again and you’re about to tag-team with her for Bad Company—then you’ll go from the ace to the arm candy, and just like that, your run at the top is over, every other team in Bad Company sees you as the weak link of To The Wolves, and you’re caught in the same downward spiral as so many former 4CW Champions before you while the company as a whole soars higher than ever before.”

A.J. sighs, leaning back for a moment, before he picks back up again in a lower, more sympathetic-sounding tone.

“Look, man, I get it. Em and I had to grapple with stuff like that too, back when she was Supreme XWA Champion and I was the #1 contender. Hell, we even ended up fighting over that belt in a 4-way gimmick match months before you and Ana did it here in 4CW. The difference is I don’t run from my own feelings. I can embrace the love, I can scream from the fucking rooftops about it, but I can also share the stage with Emery and not feel threatened by her presence, because I know from experience that my star power shines just as bright as hers.”

A.J. leans a little further back, his gestures getting more animated again, his voice more passionate with every word.

“Meanwhile, you’re out here nearly having makeout sessions with Ana in the middle of the ring, swearing you’ll never take another shot at the 4CW title as long as she holds it, stealing her moves and then fuckin’ naming your version after her, which...Jesus Christ, dude! If you were any thirstier, you’d need a Goddamn IV. But you’ll never admit that, even to yourself, because you’re too afraid it’ll mean she defines you and she gets everything that you think you’re entitled to. So every time you get too close to actually acknowledging how you feel about her, you piss your pants and run back to your bubble, where you can pretend nobody sees through you and I can’t see your fear for what it is.”

A.J. finally stands up, a cool confidence in his words as he keeps on looking down that lens.

“And more than anything, the fear is gonna be what gets you. Fear that you’re slipping into Ana’s shadow, fear that you’re not the best anymore, fear that I’m gonna expose those cracks that nobody else could see until I came along. It’s all gonna pile up, it’s gonna psyche you out before you even step in the ring with me, and with one little mistake…”

A.J. holds up his left hand and makes a loud SNAP! with his fingers, then starts walking around the desk, the camera focusing on him the whole way.

“...the bubble pops, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll actually have to live in the real world like everyone else. And the way you’ve underestimated me and overanalyzed my reasons for coming here to fight you in the first place, I’d say my chances of popping it are pretty fuckin’ good right now.”

A.J. gets in nice and close to the camera, a fire in his eyes as he looks down the lens.

“So what’s it gonna be, Bronx? Are you gonna play pretend, or are you gonna play to win? ‘Cause if you pick that first one, there’s no way in hell you can brace yourself for what’s gonna happen when the Revolution ends up catalyzing the fall of your empire.”

With that, Morales heads for the door...or at least, he pretends to. About halfway there, he pauses, makes a fist with his right hand, kisses the ring knuckle, then pivots around and — POW! — hits the camera with his patented Superman punch, the Liberator. The camera falls to the floor, glitching out like mad, but still just clear enough that we see A.J. look down over his shoulder, give us a nod, and finally head out the door before the feed goes black.

25
Adrenaline / First Impressions (Who Are You?)
« on: August 09, 2018, 02:54:01 AM »
We open outside of a seven-story apartment building, with the camera at street level and pointed up to show just how much it overshadows the people walking past it. The camera quickly pans down, and we head through the automatic sliding doors and into the lobby, where we find “The Revolution” A.J. Morales leaning on the check-in desk, clearly already waiting for us.

Oye, oye...ven aquí.

A.J. gives us a “c’mere” hand gesture in case his Spanish doesn’t translate, and the camera follows close behind while he walks up to the elevator and hits the “UP” button. The doors open immediately, and he steps through, the camera still close behind, and while he presses the buttons he needs, the camera operator positions themselves to get a comfortable spot and a clear view on the star of this show. A.J. waits for the doors to close, and then...

“‘Who are you?’”

The Revolution turns to face the camera so he can start addressing us directly.

“Even if you’re the biggest star in professional wrestling, any time you walk through a company’s doors for the first time, there’s always gonna somebody asking that question. There’s always somebody looking to judge you off that first impression.”

A quick pause for dramatic effect.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at first impressions.”

With the help of some glitchy special effects, we transition into a montage of highlights from A.J’s rookie year in XWA. We see him dishing out strikes, flying off the top rope, playing to the crowd with clenched-fist salutes, and generally doing what he does best in the ring. After a few seconds of this, A.J. starts to speak to us again, this time in voiceover.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, 2017 was about as big of a breakout year as I could have asked for. I mean, I—”

The clips start coming in faster, showing A.J. in the ring at various stops of last year’s XWA World Domination tour.

“—fought on six different continents, and—”

Some longer clips come in, first of A.J. and his best friend, Austin Carter, walking down the entrance ramp at Budokan Hall with a pair of tag titles, then of A.J. in Las Vegas, kissing the XWA Hardcore Championship’s front plate as he stands in the wreckage of the Hard Rock Hotel’s casino floor.

“ —picked up a couple championship belts, and—”

Cut to A.J. standing in the ring at Legends, XWA’s biggest show of the year, covered in elaborate face and body paint based off that of Suicide Squad’s El Diablo.

“—hell, I even saved XWA from the brink of destruction.”

Smash-cut to A.J., his paint smeared from the long battle he's been through, landing a monster triple-jump elbow drop on his opponent and hooking the leg for one, two, three before the sounds of the bell ringing and the commentators screaming—

“THE WAR IS OVER! XWA LIVES! XWA LIVES!”

A glitch effect, mixed with a whiteout, takes us back into the elevator.

“But I knew I couldn’t just coast off being the guy who buried the Survivors and retired Jack Sabbath all 2018. So for—”

Before A.J. can elaborate, the elevator comes to a sudden stop. He looks around, not sure what’s happening, but when the doors open, we see a man in tacky, preppy clothes chatting away on his cell phone, so engrossed in it that he doesn’t even notice that the doors are open.

“...so if we synergize our 24/7 enterprise with the cloud-based benchmarks, we can curate a strong bandwidth of—”

“Dude?”

The man finally snaps out of it long enough to look up and see A.J. standing there.

“Uhhh…”

“Listen, you mind taking the next one? I’m kinda in the middle of something.”

“I—”

A.J. starts holding the “CLOSE DOORS” button down before Cell Phone Guy can finish his response.

“Thank you!”

A.J. turns back to the camera before the doors close with a loud THUNK!

“God...can you imagine trying to film this with him in here? I don’t know how people cut these promos out in public...”

Morales takes a moment to fix his hair and remember where he was at while the elevator starts moving again.

“But hey, that’s just one more new challenge for me to face, right? And like I said back in Portland, that’s what all of this boils down to. That’s why I came to 4CW, that’s why I signed on for a match at this next Adrenaline, and most importantly, that’s why, out of all the people on this roster I could have possibly stepped up and challenged, I picked Bronx Valescence.”

A.J. adjusts his unzipped track jacket, drawing attention to the massive “X” symbol taking up most of the front, then keeps going.

“You wanna know why I didn’t fall into a sophomore slump? You wanna know how I built up my momentum until I could actually challenge a guy like Bronx without getting laughed out of the building? It’s ‘cause I’ve spent all 2018 seeking new challenges, pushing my horizons, chasing those dreams people used to tell me were impossible. And every time I go someplace new, it’s the same story: first, they ask ‘Who are you?’ Then, I step in that ring and make that first impression. And like I said, I’m pretty damn good at those. How good? Let’s see...my first impression in Seattle Pro?”

Once again, we start to dive into the archival footage as A.J. provides us with voiceovers. This one takes us to a battle royale in Las Vegas, where the buzzer goes off, A.J.’s music hits, and the crowd comes unglued before he even steps out from behind the curtain.

“A surprise one-off that got such a reaction, they offered me a full-time deal not even five minutes after I got back to gorilla position. ACM?”

Smash-cut to A.J. cutting a promo from backstage at Noche de Campeones. We don’t hear the first words out of his mouth, but we do hear the deafening pop of cheers, so loud that it actually catches him a little off-guard.

“¡Guau! ¿Ya me quieres?” asks the A.J. from the footage. We hear another roar of cheers for him, the volume of which dials down as the voiceover comes back in.

“They didn’t even wait four hours after signing me to give me a shot at the Mexico City Championship. Granted, it took me a lot longer than one night to get it, ‘cause the champ at the time had some people run in at the end so she could win the cheap way, but I won it off somebody else in that same arena 6 months later, so really, all she did was delay the inevitable.”

With another glitchy transition, we’re back the elevator just in time to hear it go DING! This seems to be the floor A.J. was looking for, and as he steps out onto the rooftop of the building, the camera follows. He looks over his shoulder at it so he can keep talking to us.

“And then there’s the other one-offs I’ve been on...my one night in Union Battleground, I did what every luchador dreams of when I headlined a Friday night card at Arena México. My one night in GOL turned into to a shot at their trios titles. My one tour in Kamikaze Pro, I pinned their top champion on the first night.”

A.J. finally pivots around so he can face the camera head-on and walk backwards as he keeps going with his point.

“And all the while, I kept building my legacy in XWA. I went on the greatest Hardcore Championship reign of the 24/7 era, taking that belt places it had never been, breaking records people didn’t think would fall. I let world champion after world champion step up and try to take it, and even the ones who did couldn’t go five minutes without me pinning them to win it back. The end result? 7 reigns over 293 consecutive days. Matter of fact, if the guy who finally did get that belt off me had waited a few more days, I coulda shown up on Adrenaline last week with four belts at once, one from every place I’ve got a full-time contract.”

A.J. checks over his shoulder and sees a ping-pong table set up. He looks around, just to make absolutely sure he’s the only one around—he is—and starts leaning back on the table once he has confirmation.

“But there’s a reason I didn’t flash all my championship gold at once when I popped up backstage last week...actually, no, it’s more like two reasons. To a guy like Bronx, who’s dedicated his whole career to one company and one company only, bringing in a bunch of gold from all these other places isn’t gonna shake him. But the one I did show off? That one was there as a reminder that if you’re fighting me in Seattle, even if you’re a regular and I’m there on a one-off, you’re not gonna have exclusive home-field advantage. This isn’t gonna be the type of crowd where they can spin it as Company Man Bronx defending 4CW’s honor against an outsider from a completely different scene. It’s gonna be in the city where I ended the longest title reign in Seattle Pro Wrestling history by winning their Pride Championship. And even if I lose it in the defense I got coming up before Adrenaline, when Bronx walks through that curtain to fight me, there’s gonna be hella Seattle Pro fans in the building, fans who’ve seen in person just how much it takes to keep me down for a 3-count, fans who know I’m a unique threat to anyone you could possibly book me against.”

A.J. tosses his head back, just to get his long split-color hair out of his face before he continues.

“And that’s the kicker, man...even though Bronx and I have similar in-ring specialties, and even though I know we’ve been watching each other’s matches from afar for a while now, neither one of us has faced an opponent quite like the other. I haven’t faced a guy like him ‘cause I haven’t been in 4CW before, and he hasn’t faced a guy like me ‘cause he hasn’t been anywhere else for a long, long time. And as much as I respect his choice to focus on leaving as big of a mark here as he possibly can, the tradeoff of a choice like that is you can’t face every single possible threat in just one place. You can’t learn from all those potential experiences happening beyond those walls. And once you stay in the same comfort zone for long enough, the unknown becomes very easy to fear.”

A.J. steps forward, away from the table, to get a little closer to the camera, not breaking eye contact with the lens for a second.

“So if you’ve gotten this far into the clip and your main question is still ‘Who are you?’, lemme answer that for you. I’m a globetrotter. I’m an innovator. I’m a history-maker and a record-breaker. I’m that guy who can come at you from any angle with moves nobody else in this sport is capable of, and I’m that guy you can throw the whole kitchen sink at, and half the time, it still won’t keep me down. I’m the scariest kind of opponent there is for a guy like Bronx, ‘cause in the context of his world, his company? I’m a total X-factor. And if he treats this match as just a way to shake off the cobwebs before Bad Company, he’s gonna be looking up at the lights for three, and I’m gonna be the guy who, the first time he ever stepped into a 4CW ring, picked up a win over Bronx fucking Valescence.”

Morales takes a pause, about as long as a beat in a movie script, to his point sink in.

“That’d be a helluva first impression, huh?”

He gives the camera a playful fist bump, then walks off as the scene fades out.

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