The video screen flares into life, just as the arena darkens.
Our scene opens on Laurel Anne Hardy kneeling on a shaggy sheepskin rug - legs to the side, Japanese style - in front of a roaring fireplace. She's in neon pink pyjama bottoms and an old, faded Taken By Trees T-shirt, and her hair is pulled back into a rough, loose ponytail. In front of her lies a gift - one which should be familiar to anyone who saw the most recent edition of XWA Mayhem.
"Aright guys," she smiles, flashing a hand up in greeting, "Sup. Happy holidays. It's Christmas Day, although you're prolly seein' this a while after cause of, y'know, time to edit an' upload an' stuff. Cannot get a minute to meself right now, hardly - off the cruise for Mia's birthday yesterday mornin', day after boxin' day I fly out to the States for GCW For Gold & Glory, but right now I'm up at me mam's cottage on the island for Christmas. Just, y'know, the family. Just me an' my mam an' my little brother an' sister. Got my bro behind the camera, in fact, for those of ya know 'im. Say hi, Matty."
A hand appears and waves in front of the lens for a moment, and from somewhere behind the camera comes the voice of Pro Wrestling FRONTIER's Matty Graves, "Ay. Merry Christmas."
"Reason we're here, reason we're doin' this," continues Laurel, ignoring her brother, "Is I've got a present to open in front of you all! Very, very excited about this... it's the present I won in the tables, ladders and gifts match on Massacre!" She rubs her hands together then pulls the present over to herself. "Let's see what it is, then."
She looks the parcel up and down for a couple of seconds, admiring it. "Wrapping’s so beautiful... whoever did this, if it actually was those orphans... bang up job. Well done." But that doesn’t stop Laurel tearing the paper away. She pulls a thoughtful expression as she reaches into the box and extracts... a sheaf of two papers. She frowns a little - reading is not among her strong points, and doing it on camera is something she'd rather avoid - but quickly gets the gist of the form.
"Oh my god," she squeals, "It's a contract for an XWA Championship match! Oh, it's just what I've always wanted. Thank you." And she hugs the papers tight to her chest. "Guess that means I'm hookin' up with Prince Alex III in the new year, huh? I won't lie... I kind of wish it was that handsome Scarface. Just think of the art he and I could have made. But I guess it's you and me, Prince... I don't know if you heard about my recent manifesto, my call to hunt those who abuse this beautiful medium, who pervert its inner meaning for money or power. And you, Prince, for winning that Hardcore Championship dishonestly, turning brother against brother, possibly ending Scarface's career... you're going to be my first quarry."
Her sadistic grin suddenly changes into a beam and a wink.
"Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy new year."
And the scene blinks out.
The arena remains dark, but a few spotlights start to swirl.Hana Ramirez: The following is a hardcore match and it is for the XWA Hardcore Championship! Introducing first...
Shonen Knife's "Cookie Day" hits the speakers and after a few seconds Laurel Anne Hardy steps through the curtain, grinning a huge grin beneath a glittering, painted-on mask of blue feathers taking up most of her face. She lifts the gift box which contained the championship match contract above her head in both hands then starts dancing down to ringside, chatting to fans along the way.Hana Ramirez: From Rhyl, Wales, weighing one hundred and forty-eight pounds...
Laurel slides the box into the ring then climbs up the outside of the nearst turnbuckle, posing at the top. She whips off her brightly coloured feather boa and twirls it around in the air before tossing it into the crowd, prompting a scrum to catch it.Hana Ramirez: The Living, Breathing Installation Event of the Millennium... LAUREL! ANNE! HARDY!
As her name is called she throws herself backwards, hanging upside down against the ringpost, and strikes a pose. Then she leans back up as if taking a bow, and hops off the top turnbuckle and down into the ring.Hana Ramirez: And her opponent...
On the stage emerges a short, bulky man holding a horn - Prince Alex III's personal squire. But filing out behind him are a whole parade of buglers. They take their positions, then blow a triumphant fanfare.Squire: Make way for his lordship, and the reigning and defending XWA Hardcore Champion: PRINCE! ALEX! THE THIRD!
The deafening drum intro of "Big Rob" preformed by Dale Oliver rocks the speakers as the buglers part to reveal Prince Alex III. As he steps into their midst the Hardcore Champion towers over them in his very expensive-looking gold and purple dressed in royal robes. Alex's girlfriend Scarlett "Scar" Payne disrobes him revealing the XWA Hardcore Championship nameplate gleaming beneath his six-pack. As he strikes some poses to show off his muscles, golden fireworks explode behind him. Prince takes Scarlett's arm before sauntering down the ramp waving to the crowd that is raining down their disapproval. Alex and Sacrlett enter the ring, Scarlett first, holding the ring ropes open for her man/client. Alex enters the ring and thrusts his elbow a few times before launching a tremendous right hand that signals a shower of sparks from the ring posts.
While Hardy recovers her gift box, Prince Alex leans back in his corner arrogantly, allowing the referee to remove the Hardcore Championship from around his waist while the chiselled champion coolly regards the short young woman in the sequinned bodysuit and glittery facepaint opposite him.Rose: Since the day she signed her contract, Laurel Anne Hardy has made it clear that more than anything else in XWA she wants the Hardcore Championship.Mark Sanction: She and the former champion, Scarface Shaw, seemed very excited about the prospect of having a match together - and the fans were excited about it too. But when Prince Alex stole the Hardcore Championship from Scarface-Matt Steel: It was a sanctioned match, Mark. It's in the book.Mark Sanction: Daylight robbery is what it was! Alex had Scarface's own brother turn on him and distract him! And injure him too - Scarface may never wrestle again, for God's sake!Matt Steel: Hardcore match. No rules. By definition, what Alex did was legal. It doesn't matter whether you like it.Rose: Well, the upshot of all that is that we have Prince Alex III defending against Laurel Anne Hardy, who on the last Massacre defeated Michael Taylor and LJ Summers in a gruesome yet festive TLC match for this opportunity. And following a semi-public breakdown in recent weeks, Hardy's dedicated herself to making trouble for those who take whatever they can from pro wrestling without respecting it as an art form - a description Prince Alex III fits to a T.Mark Sanction: With the added motivation of getting some payback for what he did to her friend Scarface.Matt Steel: It's cute that she has a cause. But tonight Prince is going to put to rest those rumours that he doesn't deserve to be champion. He's going to use Laurel Anne Hardy to prove that what he did to Scarface was no fluke.
The referee finishes his pre-match checks and calls for the bell. The two Britons begin circling, Alex taking confident steps, Hardy dancing with her arms raised ready to strike. They move closer for a moment, both feint sideways, then engage. Alex goes for a grapple; Hardy ducks his arms and spins round sweeping a low kick at his ankle. It connects, but it's far from enough to take the burly three hundred pounder off his feet. He spins and aims a punch at his diminutive foe, who again ducks under him. She hits the far ropes and comes back in a crossbody, but he simply drives her out of the air with a shoulder block.Mark Sanction: Laurel Anne Hardy is from such a polar opposite lifestyle and background to Prince Alex. Prince lives up to his name. He's used to the best. He wears the finest tailored clothes, eats the finest food. Hardy's a gypsy traveller, from a background of poverty, crime and squalor.Rose: A few weeks ago she told me stories from her childhood about hunting wild rabbits for dinner.Matt Steel: Wild rabbits? Boy, she sounds like a real winner. Just the kind of girl you want to introduce to your folks.Mark Sanction: I'm sure your sarcasm will just devastate her.Rose: If Prince Alex doesn't do it first!
The freakishly muscular champion displays his strength by grabbing Hardy around her painted face and lifting her to her feet with one hand. But his face screws up in disgust and he yanks his hand away to quickly wipe it on his trunks while Hardy retracts her tongue.Mark Sanction: Did she just lick his palm!?Rose: Hey. If it works, it works.Matt Steel: Sure, when it's one of your favourites doing it...
Laurel starts peppering Prince with high kicks to the head and chest, and the big man gets his arms up to shield himself. The challenger leaps onto the ropes and vaults back out looking for a springboard enzuigiri, but the champion just manages to avoid it. Hardy manages to land on her feet - to no avail, as Alex ploughs into her from behind with another shoulder block, driving her right into the corner and crushing the wind from her. Scar Payne claps him on at ringside and he grins as he lifts Laurel onto the top turnbuckle. He climbs up after her, wraps her up... second rope backdrop driver! The crowd sucks in its breath as Hardy bounces away across the canvas. Alex gets up, crosses over to her and rolls her onto her back for a lateral press, laying one forearm across her with a sneer.
A cheer goes up as Laurel kicks out.Rose: Arrogant cover from Prince Alex. That could have been much tighter.
The champion looks annoyed for a moment but then his face transitions into a sick smile. He picks his challenger up by the hair and pulls her over his shoulders in readiness for his UK Pride finisher - but Scarlett Payne calls in from ringside. Alex nods at what she has to say and pushes Hardy up into a military press, then casually tosses her into the corner. Payne slides the Hardcore Championship into the ring and her boyfriend sets it face-up on the canvas before lifting Hardy again.Mark Sanction: UK Pride into the faceplate of the title belt?Matt Steel: It's called making a statement, Mark. Prince Alex is the champion and he's going to be the champion for a long time. It'll take a lot more than what Laurel Anne Hardy's got to get it off him as he's about to prove by winning this match after just a couple of minutes.
Prince swings Laurel out - and she drops out of his grasp! While he's off balance she leaps up and drags him down to the mat with an inverted legdrop bulldog!Mark Sanction: Dragon's Jaw! We haven't seen that move from Laurel Anne Hardy in years!Rose: You were saying, Matt?Matt Steel: Give it time...
The back of Prince Alex's head bounces off the faceplate of the belt. Laurel follows up with a fast standing shooting star press, then slides down and grapevines his leg before dropping back into a spinning toehold. She follows that with another, then another, then runs the ropes and comes back with a rolling thunder to the knee. Hardy stands, then runs the ropes again - only for Scarlett Payne to reach under the ropes and swipe at her ankle! Laurel trips and lands flat on her painted face. With a roar, Alex pushes himself to his feet - limping slightly, but gritting his teeth and pushing through the pain - and grabs Laurel, tossing her into the corner and following up with a vicious running lariat which seems to crush all of the air from the young welshwoman's lungs. Alex bundles her right over the ropes and lets her drop to ringside, then steps out onto the apron. As Hardy pushes herself to her feet Alex drops onto her with a double axe handle, sending her stumbling away and into the reach of Scar, who slaps her hard across the cheek.Rose: Come on! This is two-on-one!Matt Steel: Again: hardcore match. You'd think after her experiences with Razer and Bella, Laurel would have learned to make a friend who could neutralise the manager, but I guess she's not smart enough for that. Where are all her million or so tag partners now she's in trouble?Mark Sanction: Hardy's not the type to get an assist from outside the match! And she's certainly not the type to back down from being outnumbered. This young woman has unparalleled courage.Matt Steel: You call it courage, I call it stupidity.
Prince Alex and Scarlett Payne continue to double team their enemy on the outside, Prince lifting her in a full nelson while Scar assaults her with strikes capped off with a boot to the gut. Alex swings Laurel up by the hair, slamming her spine-first into the guardrail, then exchanges a word with his girlfriend. While Prince drags his challenger onto the apron she kneels down and slides a table out from under the ring, and as she sets it up at ringside, Alex lifts Hardy over his shoulders with a cocky smile.Mark Sanction: Going for another UK Pride! Off the apron and through a table! He's not kidding about finishing this match fast and emphatically!
Hardy kicks and struggles, slamming knees and elbows into Alex's temples. He staggers, and she manages to slip from his grasp. She shoulder barges him against the ropes to unsteady him, then leaps onto the middle rope and catches him with a knee to the side of the head. He blinks, his lights go off, and then the big man topples off the apron and right through the table! Laurel leaps onto his back with a seated senton, then plants her feet either side of his head and grabs his arms and starts straightjacketing them across both his face and her legs.Rose: The Doors of Perception! Her new submission move - she's only used it a couple of times.
But before she can get it cinched in fully, she's kneed in the back of the head by Scarlett Payne. While Payne wrestles Hardy to the ground and starts laying in blows, another figure steps over the barricade - Scarface's brother, Tyros, who turned on his own flesh and blood to help Prince Alex win the Hardcore Champioship! Scar turns her attention to her boyfriend, trying to help him clear his head, while Tyros starts throwing Hardy around ringside, first driving into the side of the apron and then whipping her into the steel steps.Mark Sanction: And now three-on-one! Alex is really not taking any chances here.Matt Steel: He's just being smart. No disqualifications means he can share the load. Maybe Hardy should invest in some friends of her own if she doesn't want this to happen.Mark Sanction: Scarface was her friend, and look what happened to him.Matt Steel: Better friends, then.
Scarlett sets up a second table while Tyros and Alex stomp the challenger. Once Payne gives the signal, the two men lift Hardy up onto her shoulders, and the trio deliver a triple powerbomb through the table. With a pleased smirk, Alex drops down and pins Hardy.
Kickout! The fans seem shocked, as do the Hardcore Champion and his entourage.Rose: What resiliency. But this match is still effectively three on one.Matt Steel: Laurel should have saved herself more pain and humiliation and taken the loss there.Mark Sanction: That's not in her DNA, Matt. Laurel Anne Hardy does not quit.Matt Steel: And losing is not in Prince Alex's DNA, so I guess we keep going until she's rendered unconcious.
Wasting no time once they get over their surprise at the kickout, The Hardcore Hellion and his cohorts roll Hardy into the ring and begin to circle her like vultures, taking turns to abuse her both verbally and physically with kicks and stomps. Alex drops across her and lays in a volley of stiff forearms to the head, and it's all Laurel can do to get her own arms up in attempt to block the shots. Then he backs off and orders his allies to do the same. They all watch her as she rises, stumbling... turns... big boot from Prince Alex!Rose: That may be it right there.
But instead of going for a cover, Alex gestures to Tyros to lift Laurel back up. He hauls her up in a dragon hold and Prince gets in her face, daring her to come at him. He mocks Scarface and tells her people like her don't get to be champions, then palmfaces her condescendingly. He backs up and charges in, and rocks her with another big boot to the jaw. He grins and goes for it another time... and his boot hits Tyros's nose as Laurel slips from his grasp! On the rebound she ducks Alex's clothesline and leaps into Tyros with a dropkick. Tyros stumbles back - bumping Scarlett through the ropes to ringside!
With an angry grunt Prince charges Laurel, but she catches him with a drop toehold to the leg she'd worked over that sends him stumbling into Tyros. As Tyros falls back against the ropes, Hardy completes the job by clotheslining him over to join Scar. She catches Prince Alex with a stiff boot to the side of the head, then runs the ropes and dives at Tyros on the outside in a suicida. As she connects she wheels around him, swings him down, and catches the rising Scar Payne with her free arm to deliver a tornado DDT to the former and a basement DDT to the latter! Prince Alex darts through the ropes to grab at her but she catches him with a running dropkick to the side of the head, and the fans cheer hard for Scarface's signature move. She takes a quick bow, then grabs the gift box she brought to the ring with her.Mark Sanction: That's the box she won the contract for this very match in...Matt Steel: Thanks, Petey Plot-Point.
She removes the lid from the box to reveal... a custard pie! As Scarlett rises, Laurel smacks her square in the face and starts twisting it around!Mark Sanction: Some would say that's just desserts for Scarlett Payne...Rose: Groan.Mark Sanction: ...but Laurel Anne Hardy's known to use a secret ingredient in her baking.
And indeed, as Tyros helps Payne wipe her face, we can see beneath the cream and crust blossoming red roses from the dozens of thumbtacks baked into the pie. Tyros, distracted by helping Scar, doesn't see Laurel until it's too late and she slams a fist into him with a Superman punch.Mark Sanction: G.R.F.A.S.! The weapon of Tyros' own brother used against him, and the fans love it!Rose: Ironic that helping one Scar may have got him another...
Hardy smacks Tyros and Scarlett's heads together then drops them. She ducks under the apron for a moment and pulls out a box of light tubes, which she slides under the bottom rope before joining them a moment later. She grabs a tube and scouts Prince Alex with it, holding it like a baseball bat. As he gets to his hands and knees she smashes it across his head. She gets another and readies it like a spear, takes a couple of paces back, then charges and rams the end prongs dead-on into Prince's forehead, taking out a small nick which starts to bleed almost instantly. Laurel slips behind him and lifts the light tube under his neck, then yanks back to shatter it against his throat.Rose: Hardy's suffered a lot in this match, but now taking control. Matt Steel: And, I gotta say, showing that much more predatory, sadistic side she's threatened.
Prince Alex falls to his front and Laurel steps over him, sitting down on his shoulderblades and grabbing his hands.Mark Sanction: Oh! Here now! She's going for The Doors of Perception again!Rose: And this time Alex's mooks are in no position to save him!Matt Steel: Not to mention he's busted open.
Hardy wraps the champion's arms around himself and leans back, and the wound on his head starts seeping more profusely. The referee asks him if he wants to quit and he barks no through gritted teeth. Hardy screams and pulls back harder. Alex hunkers down and digs deep, and manages to push himself to one knee. Roaring, he gets to a standing position, Hardy still straddling his back. He shifts her up while simultaneously throwing himself backwards, dropping her with a straightjacket electric chair backdrop driver! He rolls over her and hooks a leg.
Hardy shoots a hand up to the sky, pulling her shoulder from the mat!Mark Sanction: Again not the tightest cover, but perhaps this time more from fatigue and blood loss than arrogance.
Both competitors push themselves to sitting positions. Laurel hops to her feet, sways for just a second, then runs the ropes and catches the kneeling Alex with a running facewash. She keeps momentum going and, on the way back, hits him with a step-up Punctum knee strike that flattens him. She covers, sitting on his stomach and pulling a leg up to the sky.
Kickout. As Prince rises again Hardy starts jabbing her bare sole, which has tiny shards of glass embedded in it, against his cut forehead. He lunges forward with a lariat, which she manages to block most - but not all - of the impact from.Mark Sanction: This is turning personal, as we knew it well might. These two don't just want to beat each other, they want to hurt each other.Matt Steel: Awesome, aint it?
Laurel charges Prince, and he catches her with a flapjack that sends her face-first into the shards of light tube. As she rolls over we can see that although she's not bleeding, she's scratched up pretty badly beneath her smeared, patchy facepaint. He steps over her and wraps her into a cloverleaf, and rolls her onto the shattered glass.Matt Steel: Earlier on, Mark, you said Laurel Anne Hardy does not quit... let's put it to the test!
Right on cue, the referee asks Laurel if she wants to submit, but she waves him off. Alex starts swaying side to side, smearing Hardy around on the broken glass, grinding it between the canvas and her body.Matt Steel: Man, Prince Alex is not messing around!Mark Sanction: Hardy's far from the only person saying he doesn't deserve to be Hardcore Champion. You'd better believe he's using this match to silence those critics and say yes, he is the most brutal, the most inventively sadistic, the most hardcore individual in XWA.
Again the referee asks Hardy if she wants to quit; she screams no. Alex eventually drops her legs and bounces into the ropes, coming back with a leg drop. Laurel coughs and splutters as his gargantuan thigh crushes her lungs into the glass beneath her.Mark Sanction: We know Hardy's chest is her Achilles' heel.Matt Steel: Snerk.Rose: Grow up.Mark Sanction: Laurel has a fairly well-documented history of bronchial problems. Prince Alex must know that if he can rob her of her wind, she'll struggle to get it back.Matt Steel: "Rob her of her wind"? Are you narrating a fantasy movie or calling a wrestling match here?
Prince Alex spills the rest of the light tubes across the mat then hauls Laurel up and throws her right back down in a gutwrench powerbomb, shattering a tube under her ribcage as she lands. Then he lifts her across his shoulders.Mark Sanction: UK Pride! Another attempt!Rose: Third time's the charm...
Prince gets to a good spot in the ring, positioned just right for Laurel's face to be driven through a light tube as she lands. He swings her... and she follows through into a double knee facebreaker! As they land Laurel's back is driven full force into the light tube and she lets out a yelp, while Alex pops back onto his ass. Laurel, teeth gritted, kips up and catches Alex with a shining Punctum which sends fresh blood washing down his face, then rolls him onto his chest on top of a particularly big mound of broken glass. She straddles him, plants her feet either side of his head, and wraps his arms back around his face!Mark Sanction: Hardy goes for The Doors of Perception again!Rose: Third time's the charm?
Alex kicks and struggles and tries to lift himself up like he did last time, but he's lost too much now. Hardy cranks back as hard as she can, teeth gritted and eyes screwed up, and shimmies on her arse to grind Alex's torso into the glass further.Rose: Well, turnabout is fair play.
The referee asks Alex if he wants to quit and he screams no. Hardy screams back at him, something garbled and wordless, and leans back still further, so far her spine looks like it should already be breaking even without
all the abuse it's taken tonight.Mark Sanction: Something's got to give! Hardy's spine or Alex's pain threshold!
Again, the referee asks Alex if he wants to give up. The answer is an insistent no... then a less insistent no... until finally Prince Alex stops replying at all. The referee checks him for signs of consciousness, then calls for the bell.Hana Ramirez: Here is your winner... and NEEEEEWWW XWA Hardcore Champion... LAUREL! ANNE! HARRRRDAAYYYY!Mark Sanction: She's done it! Despite three-on-one odds, Laurel Anne Hardy has bested Prince Alex, avenged Scarface Shaw and become the XWA Hardcore Champion!Matt Steel: And, fair play to her, she showed off the kind of sadistic streak a good Hardcore Champion needs.Rose: What a great match that was. Brutal and intense, just like Hardcore Championship matches should be. And congratulations to our new champion.
Laurel doesn't let go of the hold even as "Cookie Day" and the sounds of cheers fill the arena. After some cajoling the ref pries her off Alex and hands her the title belt, which she raises above her head triumphantly, face scarred but satisfied. She takes the championship and mounts a turnbuckle, grinning and sitting looking out over the sea of people with the belt clutched to her chest, then after a moment rolls backwards over the rope and starts high fiving and hugging fans at ringside.