Mark Sanction: It's time for our main event! Laurel Anne Hardy - sick of months of mind games and beatdowns from Catastrophe - has issued an open challenge to any one of the group to face her in the environment she's most at home in: no disqualifications, no countouts, all bloodshed. Ladies and gentlemen... it's deathmatch time.
Matt Steel: Who you got as her opponent?
Mark Sanction: Well Alice Harris is certainly no stranger to violence, but something tells me she's going to send in her war machine to break Laurel down so she can take her time over enjoying the moment of finally ending her herself. And that means Vrag. What about you?
Matt Steel: Honestly? I don't think it matters. If Laurel's facing one of them, she's facing all four of them, and I think she knows that. I think she thinks she can take them all on herself in a match like this, and she's dead wrong.
Mark Sanction: Dead may be the word if that happens.
Matt Steel: I mean, hell, maybe it's a trap from Laurel. Maybe Razer and Novak are hidden somewhere nearby with cricket bats or some shit. But let's be honest, she's too prideful for that.
Mark Sanction: I guess we'll find out momentarily.
On cue, psychedelic multicoloured lights start strobing, accompanied by the opening oscillations of Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker's Yin Yang. The crowd, already amped up, goes ballistic as lights flash on the stage, the single siren sounds, and Laurel Anne Hardy steps into view. Her usual abundant energy is being contained for now, and she tosses a glittering pink sports bag onto the stage before spreading her arms. Camera flashes from the stands bathe her in brilliant light.
Hana Ramierez: Ladies and gentlemen, this is our main event of the evening, and it is an open challenge deathmatch! Introducing first, from Rhyl, Wales, weighing 148 pounds... she is The Five Star Match Machine... Your Favourite Wrestler's Favourite Wrestler... LAUREL! ANNE! HAAAAARRRRDAAAYYYY!
After taking a moment to slap some hands, Hardy shoulders the bag and begins the walk to the ring, looking pensive. She slides her load under the ropes then climbs up and vaults over, where she spreads her arms again to a deafening swell of cheers. Then she pulls something from the side pocket of the bag, and raises it up in one hand: a microphone. She smirks wickedly as she slowly brings it down to her mouth and switches it on.
Laurel Anne Hardy: Here I am, Catastrophe. Let's find out how you wanna do this.
Hana Ramierez: And her opponent, representing Catastrophe...
During the lull that follows Hana's words, Laurel unzips the sports bag and dumps the assortment of weapons out across the canvas. All the usual suspects are there - barbed wire, light tubes, kendo sticks, a staple gun. Then she stretches on the ropes, all the while never taking her eyes from the stage... and her jaw drops, along with everyone else's in the arena, at the music that hits the speakers: not the expected Sole Creation by Kongh, but Coma by Buckethead!
Matt Steel: OH SHIT!
Mark Sanction: YOU'VE GOT. TO BE. KIDDING.
Sure enough, the most feared name in the history of XWA bleeds across the giant video screen...
The gasps and cries of shock from the audience turn to boos as Richard J. Maxwell steps onstage. He sneers at the fans, and nods to the silhouette now visible behind him. Hana's just as shocked as everyone else, but she's a professional, and she regains most of her composure and raises her mic.
Hana Ramierez: And her opponent, weighing 250 pounds... The Rebus Hivemind... The Architect of All War... WHISPER!
Whisper steps forward into the light, his evil eyes locked onto Laurel Anne Hardy.
Mark Sanction: The most violent, the most sadistic man XWA has ever seen - or any other wrestling company for that matter! The Architect of All War, as Hana said, and that is not nickname you get by being restrained or merciful!
Laurel gets over her shock quickly enough to slide out of the ring and charge up the entranceway, and the two old enemies collide halfway up, surrounding by baying, bloodthirsty fans. There's none of the caution that characterised the opening moments of their first meeting, as they slam furious punches into each other, all defensive strategies thrown to the wind by both of these brutal warriors. They are both consumed by the tunnel vision of pummelling the absolute hell out of each other.
Mark Sanction: There's no shortage of history here! Last year Whisper put Laurel in his sights and he came closer than anyone ever has here in XWA to breaking her.
Matt Steel: Of course he did. Whisper's barely human. He's a soulless machine built for war and violence.
The far stronger Whisper shoves his opponent against the steel barrier, leaving her sagging over it; he runs in with a big boot but she swipes it aside, hops up on the railing, and launches herself off with a flying forearm to his jaw. He's sent spinning away but Hardy stays on him, clubbing him with fists to the base of the skull.
Mark Sanction: Not the opponent the former Supreme Champion was expecting to answer her challenge, but she's still bringing the fight to him.
Matt Steel: She has to. She knows first hand how much pain Whisper can inflict. She barely survived him last time.
Mark Sanction: And Whisper takes anyone surviving him as a personal insult. Laurel may have pulled off the upset last time they collided, but if I know Whisper, he's grown even more resolute about annihilating her ever since then.
The Rebus Hivemind reaches back and grabs her by her long hair, and swings her over his shoulder in a hair-pull snapmare that lands her spine-first across the guardrail! She doesn't even have the chance to fall to the ground as he lifts his foot up into a spike kick between the shoulderblades, then grabs her by the armpits and rams her down hard. The back of her head bounces off the ground leaving her dazed, and he hoists her back up over one arm... chokeslam across the railing! Again he holds her in place, though only to tear her back up and toss her over his shoulders.
Mark Sanction: Good god, he never stops for even a second. It's just one continuous assault with this monster.
Richard Maxwell, still hovering nearby, points to the barrier over and over with bad intentions. Whisper glances at him, but gives no other acknowledgement. Nonetheless, he spins and throws himself backwards, sending Hardy slamming back into the guardrail with a Samoan drop! The impact is hard enough to bend it double and tear it from its siblings, and Whisper lifts it clear of the crowd after kicking Laurel off it. He sets the now pyramidal section of rail down on the shallow ramp and drags his foe towards it. Hardy whips fists into his gut, but he shuts her down by hiptossing her into the steel frame, after which he drops a heavy knee into her breastplate.
Matt Steel: Just driving all the air right out of her.
Mark Sanction: Whisper knows exactly how to dismantle people. Laurel's biggest weakness is her breathing.
Whisper lifts her back across his shoulders, this time in an electric chair. With a sudden rush of energy brought on by the burning emptiness in her lungs, Laurel hunkers down and pounds fists and elbows into his head, into his ears, temples and eyes with abandon... then she wraps her arms around him tightly and starts biting!
Matt Steel: Oh, sick! As brutal as Whisper is, we have to remember Laurel ain't exactly the model of civility.
Mark Sanction: Definitely not. Just ask Mr Rottentreats about his eye...
The evil-intentioned Architect spins around and around as Laurel gnashes at his flesh, trying to rip her away. With a mighty burst of adrenaline he flings her back over his shoulders, then wheelbarrows her overhead into an inverted Alabama slam - dropping her face-first into the steel of the railing! The impact makes Laurel bounce up in the air, and as she flops onto her back, she has a big graze on her face through which red pinpricks of blood are already starting to seep. Whisper boots her in the midsection then drags her back to her feet by the hair.
Matt Steel: So relentless.
Mark Sanction: I'm starting to wonder if this is more than just a personal vendetta - if Whisper's been contracted to permanently eliminate Catastrophe's biggest enemy.
Matt Steel: Who knows. Who knows what the hell Whisper is ever thinking...
He walks her up the entranceway away from the ring, heading to the stage. As he goes he picks up speed until he's jogging and finally, when they're a few feet away, tosses her into the video screen - NO! She swings around him, dropping into a toehold that sends his face smacking into the edge of the screen instead! She sways unsteadily as she pushes herself up but she forces herself through the pain to grab the back of his head and crunch his face into the screen once, twice, thrice, four times, five, six... when she's finally done she just presses him against the LED display, and soon pushes her knee against the back of his head for even more pressure. He thrashes and squirms, and when he finally manages to shove her away and turn around, we can see that one entire side of his face is bright scarlet from the heat of the screen!
Mark Sanction: Oh my god! Whisper might have burns off that! In fact - look at that eye; it's not opening properly.
The force of Whisper tossing her away sends Laurel to one knee, but she stumbles back up and launches at Whisper looking for a running knee kick. But the concentration of punishment she's taken means it's slower than normal, and he manages to side step it. She skids to a halt and comes back at him but he's ready and waiting to throw her up into the air and catch her as she falls with a European uppercut that switches her lights off! She's left out on her feet, bent over and arms dangling limply. Whisper takes just a moment to blink that eye, trying to open it properly despite the pain and potential nerve damage from the red-hot video screen, but as soon as Laurel shows even the slightest sign of life again he turns his attention back to the match at hand, pulling her in close by the wrists to flip her up over his shoulders.
Mark Sanction: If Whisper really is aligned with Catastrophe...
Matt Steel: Whisper's War and Catastrophe are two of the most dangerous factions we've ever seen in XWA... how can anyone stand against them together? No-one. No-one except Rated X. We need Rated X back.
Mark Sanction: Well, we have Jericho Shaw back apparently! That's one...
Laurel smacks left jabs with the knuckle extended into Whisper's lobster-red orbital bone but he sucks it up, blowing out sharply through gritted teeth to dull the explosion of pain, and rams her spine-first into the screen with a package powerbomb!
Mark Sanction: Oh god!
But it's evidently not enough to satisfy him, and he keeps the hold applied as he backs away, so that he can drive her in again! And again! After three consecutive powerbombs into the video screen, he presses her flat against it and drives his feet forward like he's in a scrum. Hardy's arms swing around as she tries to claw at Whisper, but it's in vain; he holds her there until her limbs fall limp. As he peels her off the screen we get a good shot of her back, which is now the same boiled colour as Whisper's cheek. Not that Whisper is happy with that, of course; with a fistful of her hair, he walks her over to the edge of the stage and wheels her around to throw her right off it. But she struggles from his grasp and kicks him away! He's left swaying over the drop precariously while she herself skids into a three point stance.
Mark Sanction: You know exactly what Hardy must have in mind here!
Sure enough, she flings herself forward into the spear! But Whisper manages to dodge it! Laurel only just pulls up in time and is left teetering on the brink of the stage, trying to grab anything she can for stability... and there's only one thing in range: Whisper. She clasps his arm, looking for a moment like she's trying to pull herself back to safety - but that proves not to be her intent at all as she leaps off the stage and drags the Swiss sadist with her in an armdrag! Both competitors crash into the technicians' area below!
Matt Steel: OH SHIT!
The camera operatives race to get a shot of the carnage. Once they manage to get a proper view we find Laurel splayed out face-down on a table, unmoving, a mere foot or two from a mixing desk, while Whisper is on the floor, his fall broken only by a chair which now lies in fragments beneath him.
Matt Steel: God damn, they almost crushed our techies.
Mark Sanction: Fortunately everyone seemed to manage to clear out when they saw these guys brawling above them. If we have any technical issues moving forward, apologies in advance.
Everything is still for a good couple of minutes, the void filled only by the intermingling chants of fans and the worried looks on the faces of the XWA staff hovering near the carnage. At last Laurel twitches her shoulders and lifts her arm slightly, clearly in absurd amounts of pain.
Matt Steel: One of them's alive, at least.
Richard Maxwell is standing on the stage looking down, a strange mix of worry and bloodlust across his boyish features. The Welshwoman rolls off the table onto the floor with a dull thud, but a moment later she rises with her fists clenched, to a cacophony of cheers.
Mark Sanction: Not just alive, but ready to go, it seems!
She hobbles over to Whisper and begins to beat the holy hell out of him with fists, knees and headbutts! He comes round as she wales on him, finding himself under furious assault. He digs deep and slowly pulls himself together, hunkering down to try to absorb the strikes as best he can, He spasms out his limbs through the fist flurry to shove her away; she spins to face him again and leaps back in with a forearm shiver to the temple that rocks him. She grabs him and starts pulling him upright but he swings his arms to get her off, and ploughs into her with a spear-style spinebuster. The two enemies begin rolling over and over on the hard arena floor, slamming fists into each other's faces and stomachs, resuming their wild brawling from the start of the match.
Mark Sanction: Absolute brutality. It's a cliché to describe two fighters as running on hate, but that is exactly what we're seeing right now.
Matt Steel: If you'd told me last time these two fought that less than a year later I'd be rooting for Hardy, I'd have punched you.
The wrestlers don't let up as they climb to their feet, slugging each other with everything they've got. It's not long before they're deep in the stands, surrounded by fans stretching out to pat them as they punch and knee each other, as well as rather less brave fans getting the hell out of harm's way. By this point the camera operatives have long since given up on keeping steady shots, and the action is being followed in shaky handheld framing by whichever cameraperson can get the best shot at the time.
Mark Sanction: Folks, we'll do our best to stay with the action, but Hardy and Whisper seem intent on brawling all around the room...
Laurel goes for an elbow jab to the throat, then spins into a roaring backfist - but Whisper manages to duck it and come up under her extended arm, flipping her off her feet with an exploder suplex. Laurel rolls up and comes back but he has the big boot, and quickly pulls her into a front facelock. He lifts her... pauses... and a huge clang echoes around the stands as he drops her with a stalling vertical suplex across a row of abandoned chairs!
Matt Steel: Oooh, ouch! That'll rattle your spine AND squash your lungs!
Mark Sanction: The latter are the biggest physical weakness Laurel has, as we already alluded to, but to lift a guy the size of Whisper, she'll need every bit of her core too.
Although she's writhing in pain, spread across the seats, The Rebus Hivemind is far from done. He pulls her back up into an inverted facelock and throws her over his head with an inverted suplex that sends her face into the edge of a fallen chair with a crimson spurt! She hits the bare concrete belly-first, so hard she bounces up to her knees, with all of the air driven from her torso. Whisper measures her as he pushes himself back up and catches with with a kick to the jaw that leaves her slumped over, and even through the mask of blood and matted black hair now covering her face, it's easy to see she's out of it.
Matt Steel: And, y'know, the brain. Hard to fight when you can't even think straight.
Mark Sanction: Well, yes.
The Swiss monster drags his Welsh counterpart to her feet and checks to see where the fan entryway into the auditorium is. An Irish whip sends her hurtling down the aisle, careening off a wall-mounted fire extinguisher so hard that it crashes to the ground while she tumbles past it, barely keeping her footing. Whisper swipes up the red cylinder and rams the end of it into Laurel's upper back, knocking her against the wall. She steadies herself against it, and Whisper unleashes a blast from the extinguisher, not just blinding her but showering the open cuts and grazes on her face with freezing foam! As she clears her eyes, he hefts the extinguisher in both hands, with it aimed squarely at her head.
Mark Sanction: Oh my god, he's going to smash her skull like an eggshell!
Whisper brings the extinguisher down hard, but Laurel manages to duck away from it just in time and it ricochets off the hard wall of the corridor, sending shockwaves through his wrists that force him to drop it. Hardy kicks off the bricks into a twisting enzuigiri that sends Whisper flying back against the opposite wall - right into the extinguisher mounting! As he stumbles forward again he has jagged cuts down his back, which are already seeping blood. In her fatigue Laurel's dropped down to her hands and knees; she grabs the fallen extinguisher with both hands and pushes it into Whisper's ankle, causing him to crash to the floor.
Mark Sanction: Nobody can weaponise their environment like Laurel Anne Hardy...
Matt Steel: After the beating she's taken so far, she'll need every bit of it just to stay in this.
Laurel climbs to a kneeling position and takes up the extinguisher, which she blasts all over Whisper until both it and he are wheezing and sputtering, then slides on top of him and brings the tube of the nozzle up under his neck, and begins choking him with it!
Mark Sanction: Imagine how little give there must be in that cord! The grip that rubber must have on his skin. It looks like she's got it hooked under his Adam's apple. That must be excruciating!
Whisper claws at the floor, to no avail, then slowly pushes himself up with Laurel still hanging off his back and strangling him. He runs backwards into wall to crush her flat, but she keeps hanging on! He turns and rams himself into the other wall and now, finally, she falls away from him. Doubled over, he stumbles out of the aisle into a large lobby, massaging his throat all the way.
Mark Sanction: Not just the strength, but the willpower of Whisper to break out of that.
Matt Steel: That's what's so scary about this guy - as dominant as he is physically, he's got a mind like a bear trap.
But Whisper's recovery is cut short as Laurel comes charging out of the corridor and launches herself at him, leaping in with a forearm smash to the back of the neck. He staggers to a knee, then pulls himself up on the XWA merchandise stand set up in the large hall, resting against it for support as he tries to get his breath back. But his relentless attacks are now being paid back as Laurel swipes him in the hamstring with a toe kick, then backs out only to measure him for a running attack.
Mark Sanction: It's not often we've seen Whisper on the back foot like this.
Laurel bellows and stamps her foot like a bull, then charges - and with a sudden burst of adrenaline Whisper catches her and powerslams her right through the merch table! It erupts in splinters and she's left dazed and bruised and twitching, buried beneath a mound of T-shirts, hats and hoodies. Whisper collapses onto his knees, then sinks to his haunches as he tries to recover.
Matt Steel: They're bouta smash the whole building down!
Mark Sanction: And look at the lobby filling back up with fans who've followed them from the main arena!
Matt Steel: Damn better view than we've got on our screens here.
Mark Sanction: No doubt. I just hope none of them end up as collateral damage.
The Architect of All War snatches a T-shirt (featuring a glowering Diamond Jack Sabbath above the legend JUST RUN, just £12.99 or your regional equivalent!) and jams it over Laurel's head, twisting it down and around to pin her arms tight to her side. She fights back, flexing her arms to keep from being trapped, screaming with the effort as she shrugs the garment off. Whisper rips it away and wraps it around her throat, then takes a handful of her hair and runs all the way across the hall to throws her right over the counter into a snack stand! Concession workers flee lest they get caught up in this horrific violence.
Matt Steel: Holy shit, he threw her right over the bar!
As Laurel drags herself up on the counter, Whisper pulls her half-over it, bending her spine against the edge, and slams a big forearm into her chest. With one hand he holds her down while with the other he picks up a glass ketchup bottle.
Matt Steel: The hell? Is he seasoning her?
Mark Sanction: I don't think that's what he's got in mind...
Surely not, as he slugs her again then smashes the bottle and jabs the shards at her throat; only her quick reflexes save her from a shredded windpipe as she manages to roll aside just in time!
Matt Steel: Oh my god. It's clear this is no match anymore. He's literally trying to end her.
Mark Sanction: Is Whisper crazy enough to kill his opponent live on air?
Matt Steel: You bet he is. Take a good long look at this match, because there's a real chance this is the last time we ever see either of them - if Whisper gets his way, Laurel's gonna be in a coffin even if it means he's in a jail cell.
The Installation Event of the Millennium flops out of sight beneath the food stand. As Whisper opens his hand and lets the smashed glass fall, we can see that his palm is now bleeding badly. He doesn't care; he barely even notices. He just steps over the counter, takes a moment to gauge his opponent, then looks around at their new battlefield. After a second he crosses over to a large soft-serve ice cream machine and rips the lid off the hopper.
Matt Steel: Damn.
Mark Sanction: The strength of this... well, I say "man", but...
Matt Steel: Machine.
Whisper turns his attention back to Laurel, picks her up and flips her straight up into a Canadian rack, and then dunks her headfirst into the ice cream! He pushes her in right down past the shoulders and just holds her there upside down with her entire head fully submerged for a scary amount of time. But Laurel isn't taking this lying down, so to speak; she kicks and thrashes as violently as she possibly can before she succumbs to the dairy drowning, and manages to rock the machine so hard that it tips right over! Ice cream spills out everywhere! She falls from Whisper's grasp; he lunges for her, but the layer of ice cream that's now completely coating her from the chest up surprisingly works to her advantage as he can't get any grip. She dropkicks his shin out to send him careening into the counter, feet slipping around and hands grasping at anything to keep his balance, and only then does she attempt to wipe her face as best she can.
Matt Steel: Property damage! That's when you know it's personal!
While Whisper tries to regain his footing on the slickened floor, Laurel is on her hands and knees, trying desperately to get some air down her throat after almost drowning.
Mark Sanction: The fact he's practically tried to kill her, what, three times so far tonight? That's when you know it's personal...
Whisper manages to steady himself and he charges back at her, leaping over the spill on the floor - but Laurel has the soft drink dispenser in her hand and she sprays him in the eyes with soda! He still ploughs into her, but without control, and as he frantically tries to clear the burning carbonated bubbles from his eyeballs, Laurel picks herself up and after kicking Whisper in the head, pauses to further get her breath back. She just watches, hanging back to recover as he slowly hauls himself up on the counter, and once he's level with her, she grabs the back of his head and drives it through one of the stand's fibreglass display cases!
Mark Sanction: And now Laurel's repaying Whisper's barbarism right back on him!
As he extracts himself Whisper is now badly busted open, gushing from a huge gash on his forehead and oozing blood from several smaller cuts too. Laurel pulls him into an inverted headlock and grabs the first thing to hand, which proves to be a squeezy bottle of mayonnaise. She shakes her head and tosses it aside, and grabs another: mild salsa. That doesn't meet her requirements either. Finally she grins as the third time proves the charm, and she douses his open cuts with salsa habanero - muy picante! The Rebus Hivemind judders and thrashes in the grip of the Five Star Match Machine as she assaults him with the chili sauce, then mashes it into his cuts further with her palm.
Mark Sanction: You can see some of the fans there laughing, but folks, that's no joke - ever nicked yourself while chopping peppers and got capsaicin in the cut? Imagine that across your entire face...
As Laurel releases Whisper and rolls over the counter, slipping and sliding across the floor of Mexico City Arena, it's the Rebus Hivemind this time who goes for the soda hose - to clear the burning pepper from the open wounds on his head.
Matt Steel: One covered in cream, one covered in chili... who knew a food fight could be so brutal?
Trailing ice cream behind her, Hardy skids to the smashed merchandise booth and snatches up a T-shirt. She opens it out - it's one of her own "Your Favourite Wrestler's Favourite Wrestler" designs. She shakes her head and tosses it aside, and grabs another and unfolds it to reveal the Sword of Mars print on raven blue backing that marks this as a Vladimir Strife tee. She shrugs and starts wiping herself down with it.
Mark Sanction: I guess she considers her own shirts too valuable to ruin that way?
Matt Steel: Wonder what Vlad's gonna make of that though...
A she cleans herself up, Laurel keeps her eyes on where she left Whisper, obviously staying ready to go again as soon as he surfaces from behind the counter. But he does no such thing.
Matt Steel: Don't tell me that shit with the hot sauce was enough to put Whisper down.
Mark Sanction: Surely not. As agonising as it must have been, enough to keep down most people, Whisper just isn't like other people.
Matt Steel: But what else he's not is getting up...
Laurel narrows her eyes, bouncing from side to side on her heels as she rids herself of as much of her coating of blood, sweat, ice cream and fire extinguisher foam as she can. When she's finally got as much of it off as she's going to get, she balls up the shirt and throws it away, then starts heading back over to the concession stand cautiously, limping slightly from all the gory punishment she's taken tonight. She slows up as she nears the booth, sensing that something is wrong...
Suddenly, Whisper sprints from behind and leaps in with a double axe handle aimed squarely between her shoulderblades! Hardy catches the motion in her periphery and manages to rolls aside enough that she doesn't take the full blow, but she's still winged.
Mark Sanction: Ducked through the staff exit and circled around. Clever.
Whisper grabs Laurel around the waist and even as she pounds on him with fists, drives her back. Fans scatter out of the way as the human freight train hurtles down the hall and smashes into a glass wall so hard it cracks and buckles! Laurel drops to her hands and knees, badly winded again; the cuts on Whisper's hand have re-opened. He grabs a fan who strays too close, and with an angry grunt rips away the Laurel Anne Hardy shirt she's wearing, tears a long strip off it, and wraps it around his palm.
Mark Sanction: Some emergency first aid there. It just goes to show how ridiculously violent this match has been.
Laurel pushes herself back up and rushes into Whisper, punching him in the stomach with rights and lefts. He sends her away with a high knee that catches her right in the brow; she flies right back with an uppercut to the jaw. They collapse like a tree crashing through the undergrowth as they swing punches at each other, rolling right through the door to a fancy lounge. They scatter through leather footstools, and Whisper monkey flips Laurel in a big arc, so high that she wraps around the back of a sofa as she lands across it.
Matt Steel: Oh Jesus, he might have snapped her back! Like Batman across Bane's knee!
Mark Sanction: I don't think paralysing Hardy for six months would be enough for Whisper, though...
Growling, Whisper crouches down and slides his hands under the base of the couch, and flips it over sending Laurel spilling across the room! As she tries to get up he helps her all the way by grabbing the back of her head and dragging her along with him as he crosses to the other side of the room, kicks the door to the balcony open, and throws her out into the warm evening Mexican air!
Matt Steel: What now!?
Mark Sanction: I... I have one idea. I hope I'm wrong.
After bashing her face against a metal table, Whisper grabs both of Hardy's wrists and whips her hard into the railing around the edge of the terrace. She slumps next to it, and he charges in after her with a knee strike that bounces her head into the hard surface.
Mark Sanction: Damn, look at the drool and sweat and spit spraying off Hardy's face.
Matt Steel: And how unfocused her eyes are...
Wearing a grim expression through his crimson mask, Whisper grabs one of Laurel's arms... then the other... he stuffs her head between his legs, and from their, hoists her up over his shoulders... then turns to the rail of the balcony.
Mark Sanction: Oh my god, he's going to powerbomb her off the terrace!
Matt Steel: That has to be be at least thirty feet! Probably more like forty!
Mark Sanction: This is what I was hoping he wouldn't do! She claims to be immortal, and Whisper's going to test it...
He throws her up for the quite possibly literal killing blow, but she clamps her legs around his head as hard as she can, and wraps her arms around the railings, trying desperately to cling on. She aims kicks at his head over and over, while he tries to loosen her grip so he can throw her off the building.
Mark Sanction: One wrong move...
Whisper claws Laurel's face and she rolls back; she's now completely over the drop, and she clamps her biceps tight to the railing to keep her safe as she tries to pull Whisper over in a headscissors that would surely send him flying all the way down to the concrete far below!
Mark Sanction: Oh my god, now Laurel trying to throw Whisper off that balcony! We knew she was violent. We knew she was crazy...
Matt Steel: That's an understatement.
Mark Sanction: But this is the most popular fan favourite in XWA, the woman many consider to be the ace of the company, and here she is meeting Whisper's... well, attempted murder, let's call it what it is, with attempted murder of her own. I don't know whether that says more about the desperation of this situation with Catastrophe or about the XWA fans.
The two struggle to send each other to the pavement far below as the assembled throng of fans holds its collective breath. With a roar Whisper tears himself from her grip and throws Hardy's legs over the balcony. She's left hanging by her arms with her feet dangling wildly, but she slowly raises them and manages to squeeze them into a foothold. Whisper swings down a clubbing forearm but she counters with a toe kick to the face that sends him reeling backwards and crashing into chairs! Laurel pulls herself up onto the handrail. She stands on it with her arms spread carefully, balancing precariously over the lethal drop; one wrong move and this match becomes her curtain call. She leaps out planting both feet hard into Whisper's chest with a dropkick that sends him rolling backwards arse over tit!
Mark Sanction: I can't tell you my relief. We try to be professional here-
Matt Steel: Speak for yourself.
Mark Sanction: -but I honestly don't know what you can say to stay professional when two wrestlers are literally trying to throw each other off a building to probable death. I'll admit it, I'm scared about how this match could still turn out.
The enraged Whisper rises, shoving aside tables, chairs and fans alike, only to meet a capoeira kick to the side of the head from Laurel. For good measure, she follows that up by smacking his head into the white wall of the building, leaving a bloody faceprint smeared across it. She then stands up and looks around at the fans packing the balcony, most of whom are clapping and cheering for her, though some are ashen-faced at the carnage they've witnessed. Laurel draws her thumb across her thoat to a swell of approval, then takes a heavy ceramic ashtray and bashes Whisper right in the skull with it!
Matt Steel: That's a concussion right there.
Mark Sanction: I'll bet they both have concussions already. That on the other hand might be permanent brain damage. Despicable as Whisper is, I hope to God it's not...
Keeping the ashtray in one hand, Hardy takes Whisper by his blood-matted hair in the other and leads him back off the balcony into the lounge. She waves for fans to get well clear, and most of them bolt back to widen the circle around the bitter enemies. Laurel nods as everyone gets out of the way, then rams Whisper through the glass pane he drive her into earlier, sending him smashing right through it!
Matt Steel: I don't think we're being invited back to Mexico City Arena any time soon.
Not done there, Laurel hobbles over the Whisper as he pushes himself to his hands and knees.
Mark Sanction: And he's still trying to get back up! He's looking bad, sure, but most people would be unconscious after an attack like that.
Matt Steel: He's a cyborg, I swear to god. I'm surprised he's even bleeding and not leaking coolant.
Laurel picks up speed as she gets closer, and she vaults over Whisper to drop her tailbone across the back of his neck, driving his face into the glass-strewn floor!
Mark Sanction: And now the Anus Horribilis! Right into that glass!
Still straddling Whisper, she yells at him and bashes him with the ashtray again, then once again begins dragging him away, heading towards the nearest corridor into the auditorium. Any time he starts fighting back and trying to push her away or strike her, she has that ashtray to hand ready to knock him loopy again.
Matt Steel: Laurel's possessed. We know she's brutal but I swear to god if she smashed Whisper's brains out right now she'd just smile and toss them around like confetti...
A deafening cheer goes up as the bloodsoaked wrestlers finally reappear in the auditorium, merging from an exit about a third of the way up the lower stands, and Laurel raises the ashtray in her fist triumphantly before decking Whisper with it one more time. She lets out a primal scream, then kicks Whisper down the stairs, sending him tumbling all the way to the floor!
Matt Steel: JESUS!
As she makes her way down the steps, limping and trailing blood yet energised, fans reach out to pat the former Supreme Champion.
Mark Sanction: What an unbelievable display we've seen tonight. It seems like every time that woman sets foot in a hardcore match, she breaks her own record for the most violent, bloody match in XWA history.
Matt Steel: This still ain't over, though...
Whisper finally seems to be unconscious at the bottom of the steps. Laurel doubles over as she reaches, panting hard, blood dripping from her nose and chin - but she forces herself to keep going, and begins slowly dragging the 250lb deadweight of his form towards the ring with both arms.
Mark Sanction: I can't tell whether this feels like it's nearing the end of the match or if it's just wishful thinking on my part.
Matt Steel: We haven't even seen a pin attempt yet. These two have just been so obsessed with hurting each other.
Once at the ring, Laurel does her best to get the heavyweight in under the bottom rope, huffing and on one knee but refusing to yield.
Mark Sanction: You can see just by looking at her how much Laurel has lost. Supposing she pins Whisper right now, I'll be shocked if she even gets up again any time soon.
Once she finally has Whisper fully on the canvas, Laurel falls against it for a moment, resting her head against the side of the apron. But she shakes it off after a moment and slides under the rope, and - muscles visibly straining at the effort off not collapsing into unconsciousness herself - she throws herself to her feet, screaming and spreading her arms, and her loyal fans scream back. She takes a bow, then snatches up a light tube from the bag of tricks that got upended around the ring right at the start of the match! She nuts it and as it smashes on her head the white dust wafts up from her sadistic, bloodstained grin.
Matt Steel: Nope. She's gonna keep going.
Hardy twirls the jagged remains of the light tube in her hand, then leans over Whisper...
Mark Sanction: Whisper tried to shred Laurel's neck with broken glass earlier in this match... it looks like she's thinking it's time for payback.
She raises her arm, ready to stab at The Architect of All War from hell's heart...
...but she's struck over the head from behind with a steel chair!
Matt Steel: MAXWELL!
Mark Sanction: We forgot all about him!
The apparent architect behind The Architect's re-emergence here tonight is utterly frenzied as he blasts Laurel over and over with the chair until she's nothing but a lifeless puddle of limp flesh! The crowd boo him vociferously, but he pays them no mind at all, so consumed is he with demolishing the fan favourite who's managed to outwit him in the past.
Mark Sanction: We've been talking about how bad it is if Whisper's working with Catastrophe, but what about Richard J. Maxwell? His tenacity, his resources, his devious mind. We know Maxwell has some kind of association with Alice Harris and her boys and that can't be good for any XWA loyalist.
Matt Steel: Either way, right now, he's just fucking destroying Laurel Anne Hardy.
With Hardy a broken, unmoving mess, Maxwell tosses the chair and then sets to rousing his champion. As Whisper comes round he pushes Richard away, insisting that he get back to his two feet on his own rather than be helped; the manager respects his wishes and backs away, and once Whisper is standing again, tosses him the chair before scooping up a kendo stick himself. The dastardly pair set about Hardy even more, double teaming her with weapon shots she's powerless to defend herself against. After a minute, Maxwell pulls her up in a full nelson and encourages Whisper to finally end it. The heavyweight sinks back against the ropes, obviously still in incredible pain, but he powers off and jogs at Laurel with a boot aimed at her face...
Mark Sanction: Can she-
...no, she can't. The sole catches her full force and as he feels the impact, Maxwell spins and throws her down amongst her own weapons. He kneels and rolls her onto her back, then gestures to Whisper to pin her. But The Rebus Hivemind shakes his head.
Matt Steel: He wants more punishment. And if I was him I would too.
Mark Sanction: Whisper won't allow anyone to challenge his crown of XWA's most brutal competitor. Like we said earlier, to him, anyone even surviving against him is an insult, an act of war - never mind fighting back the way Hardy has here tonight.
Matt Steel: Whisper was out cold for several minutes there. I don't think we've ever, ever seen that before, and he's going to make damn sure nobody ever does it again.
Whisper instructs Richard Maxwell to form a pile of debris and the manager obliges, gathering together loops of barbed wire, light tubes and kendo sticks into a mound, then upending a bag of thumbtacks over the whole lot.
Matt Steel: How much of a hypocrite is Richard Maxwell? All the times he's complained about hardcore wrestling, and here he is helping Whisper out with weapons.
Mark Sanction: Seeing him physically involved in the match like this is rare enough in itself. It just goes to show how important this is to him.
Whisper lifts Laurel up over his shoulders, pauses to look around at the booing fans impassively, then throws himself back to drive his prey into the barbarous pile with a Samoan drop!
Mark Sanction: Oh god! That must be like being slammed into a pit of spikes!
Laurel, pale and clammy beneath the blood streaking her, lies slumped on the heap of smashed canes and glass tubes with her breathing erratic and her eyelids flickering. Whisper, blood slicking down his chest from the pricks of glass dotting his face, stands above her and slowly raises his fist, to a chorus of boos from the crowd... before raising his boot, and gently resting it against her throat.
Mark Sanction: And now we know what he must be thinking...
Sure enough, Whisper slowly raises the knee up, with a transcendently calm fury in his evil eyes.
Matt Steel: Lucifer's Regret! The move he broke MadDog's neck with!
Mark Sanction: How many careers have we seen him end with this? How many lives have been shortened?
After a frozen moment, he slams the boot down at Laurel's windpipe - but a roar goes up as she wraps herself around calf!
Mark Sanction: We've seen this before! Last time he went for Lucifer's Regret on her she countered into an ankle lock and it looks like she's going for it again!
Indeed, she's trying to roll him onto his back! But Whisper's wise to the counter, and he reaches down to grab her around the head before she can get the leverage. He peels her up right off the ground and throws her backwards in a huge deadlift suplex! She rolls around in pain but nonetheless pushes herself to one knee - until Maxwell blasts her with another light tube that sags her head down. Richard slips a length of barbed wire around her neck and uses it to restrain her while Whisper snatches up another weapon from her stash: the staple gun.
Mark Sanction: Whisper's already made it clear that he will literally kill her if that's what it takes.
Matt Steel: I already told you. This is the last we're going to see of Whisper because he'll be in prison for attempted murder... or maybe murder.
Mark Sanction: Don't forget, Laurel tried to pull Whisper off that balcony too. We've seen a side of her tonight we only suspected existed.
Matt Steel: Right... she's the one in trouble right now though.
Whisper hands Maxwell a cane, and the devious manipulator presses it across Laurel's neck (with the barbed wire still across it too) to pin her down while Whisper pushes her head flat with his giant hand and pushes the staple gun right into her forehead!
Mark Sanction: Holy... it seems they may be willing to kill her one inch of flesh at a time if that's what it takes!
Matt Steel: Jesus, look at her! She's got that staple lodged in her head!
One is hardly enough to satisfy the two evil men though, and Whisper staples her again! And again! AND AGAIN! A fresh wave of blood is gushing down her face now, and we get a shot of a fan in the audience decked out in #Sparklebuddies gear covering her mouth in shock with both hands.
Finally Whisper throws Laurel down and slides out of the ring, and starts walking up the ramp, stumbling just a little bit, as Richard Maxwell keeps her held down.
Mark Sanction: Now what?
Whisper heads over to the bent-double section of railing that formed the centerpiece of the brawl from all the way back at the start of this match, and drags it up above his head! He turns and heads back to the ring, his stride picking up speed as he gets closer, and he tosses it over the top rope before climbing in himself.
Mark Sanction: Oh, this can't be good for Hardy...
Matt Steel: Ya think? Have you even been paying attention?
Whisper directs Maxwell to set the railing up in the corner while he himself drops a big knee into Hardy and leaves it there, digging it in against her breastplate; she thrashes and scrabbles at it but can't push him away. One Richard Maxwell indicates that the guardrail is pressed into the corner, Whisper drags her up measures his angle, and whips her at the steel!
Matt Steel: Oh snap-
LAUREL LEAPS UP ONTO THE TOP TURNBUCKLE! Whisper sees red and charges like a bull to rip her away, but to a roar from the fans, she vaults back in a corkscrew moonsault! Whisper drops low and she sails over his head, but she still connects - with Richard J. Maxwell!
Matt Steel: HAH! Eat a dick, Dick!
Whisper turns and runs back at Laurel but she takes his shin out with a basement dropkick that sends him tumbling head over heels. There's another roar as she fights back to her feet, fists balled and teeth gritted. She spits out a huge wad of her own blood, then takes up a light tube and breaks it across Whisper's face!
Mark Sanction: IS THIS IT!? Can she claw this one back!?
The former champ is in an absolute frenzy as she picks up weapon after weapon and launches them all straight at Whisper's head, glass smashing, wood splintering and metal buckling as she blasts him like a gauss cannon. When everything in her immediate reach is exhausted she goes and takes the bent guardrail herself, lifting it up in both hands, and although she's swaying, she brings it down hard onto Whisper's chest!
Mark Sanction: We talked about Laurel's lungs being her weakness - now she's taking that advantage away from Whisper!
She hefts it again and brings it back down - but Whisper grabs it!
Matt Steel: HOLY FUCK!
Whisper rams the metal right back into her face! He plants it down in an upside-down V, takes ahold of Laurel, and slams her across it! She falls limp, her second (third? fourth?) wind seemingly spent, and Whisper backs up and narrows his eyes at her.
Mark Sanction: What does he have planned...?
He stomps his foot and runs in for a big boot - SHE ROLLS UP! She rolls herself up on her legs and Whisper's foot slams into the rungs of the guardrail, leaving him caught! Laurel rolls back down to the ground past him and sweeps his other leg out, trapping Whisper's leg in the railing, and she wastes no time in grabbing a length of barbed wire and tying his ankle to the steel bars!
Matt Steel: She's trying to trap him now!
Mark Sanction: You know what - if it ends this match, if it end the injuries these two are accumulating, I'm okay with it.
Matt Steel: I don't think she's just gonna pin him if she has him bound up...
Mark Sanction: I don't think so either... but I can hope, right?
Maxwell cracks her over the head with another light tube, but Laurel's rage is too strong and she just slowly turns around to face him with death in her eyes. With the fans screaming HARDY! HARDY! HARDY!, Richard frantically begins begging off, but he's not getting off that easily, and as Laurel grabs him by the lapel, a massive cheer goes up.
Mark Sanction: Oh god, as if two casualties here tonight weren't enough.
Laurel suddenly shoves Maxwell between her legs, flips him up onto her shoulders, and throws him down into a sheerdrop powerbomb lungblower, driving her knees into the back of his neck! That cheer goes up again at the sight of the despised villain - and apparent motivating force behind the mysterious "Survivors" - suffering a rare moment of comeuppance!
Matt Steel: Man, how many people have wanted to do that to that smarmy prick?
While Richard rolls flat with his eyelids flickering, Laurel starts kicking the hell out of Whisper who still has his leg trapped in the railing. After stomping seven shades of mudhole out of The Architect of All War, Laurel sinks to her knees, spent, then flops onto all fours. But she slams her palms against the mat and jumps to her feet again, throws up an arm, then crosses to the corner and begins to climb!
Mark Sanction: Whisper's got nowhere to go! Whisper's got nowhere to go and Laurel Anne Hardy looks ready to end things!
It's slow going, between all the brutalising punishment she's taken tonight and the blood and sweat soaking her from head to toe, but Laurel gets to the top turnbuckle. She almost slips but manages to just keep her balance, and hops up even higher, perching with both soles on the top of the ringpost! Richard J. Maxwell claws himself around the mat, blinking and with drool smeared across his cheek. Laurel stares down at the ensnared Whisper with an evil expression, then as Maxwell scrambles into a sitting position in the opposite corner, she blows him a kiss before leaping off and driving both heels through Whisper's extended knee with a double foot stomp!
Mark Sanction: FUCK!
For some, it's the snapping sound; for others, it's the spurt of blood that arcs from the kneecap as the flesh tears. For some, it might be the fact that this most inhuman of war machines - for the first time in XWA broadcast history, and more than likely the first time in his entire life - shrieks out an ear-splitting wail of agony with tears welling up in his eyes. For most, it's the simple fact that a human leg should not point in that direction.
Whatever the reason, most of the audience instinctively looks away.
Laurel rolls off Whisper to a sitting position, almost doubling over as she tries to huff in air.
Mark Sanction: I... I don't believe what we've just seen.
Whisper's chest is shuddering and his eyes are unfocused as he claws at the barbed wire around his ankle. Laurel pushes herself and goes back on the attack with more kicks to his chest and throat but the referee tears her away and shoves her aside, and she sinks back down.
Mark Sanction: How do you call this? Laurel just... well... saying she broke Whisper's leg is an understatement.
Matt Steel: He'll be lucky if his bones aren't splintered.
The ref is handed a pair of wire cutters to snip Whisper free, and The Architect slithers from the railing at last. Laurel just stares, skin almost white from exhaustion beneath the mask of drying blood coating her face, as Whisper tries to pull himself up on the ropes. But the moment he puts even the slightest pressure on the snapped leg he screams and falls down, writhing around. It's clear to everyone the entire limb is totally useless, and the referee throws up his arms up in the dreaded X.
Mark Sanction: I... ladies and gentlemen, I...
Matt Steel: Yeah.
Mark Sanction: I honestly don't know what to say right now.
Laurel bows her head and rubs her face as Yin Yang hits. About half the fans cheer for her; the rest have been stunned into silence. As Hana Ramierez takes the mic, her voice is quavering, on the verge of breaking.
Hana Ramierez: Ladies and gentlemen, the referee's decision is that Whisper is unable to continue this match. Therefore... your winner via stoppage... LAUREL ANNE HARDY!
Laurel ignores Whisper as officials hit the scene to tend to him, crawling instead across to Richard J. Maxwell. She grabs him by the lapels once again and growls something inaudible into his ghostly face, then drops him and turns to the entranceway, screaming. She stumbles to her feet, swaying and limping and rusty-scarlet with blood, but screams as loud as she can:
Laurel Anne Hardy: ALICE!
She glances back down at Richard.
Laurel Anne Hardy: YOU! ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS A WAR!
She points to Whisper, who's being slowly and carefully removed from the ring and onto a stretcher by a team of medics.
Laurel Anne Hardy: I! END! WARS!
And she drops back down to sitting, just watching as the physicians do their thing and officials swarm around trying to deal with the aftermath of the gruesome display just witnessed. She huffs hard, trying to get breath back in, then slowly lies back and spreadeagled herself on the canvas, allowing the overwhelming fatigue and pain to catch up with her at last. A few medics break away from Whisper as he's loaded onto the stretcher and go to check on Hardy's own injuries, from the bruises on her kidneys and ribcage to the staples still lodged in her forehead, and she completely ignores them as they work.
Mark Sanction: Once again, Laurel Anne Hardy manages to stay one step ahead of the forces that want to see the end of XWA... but once again, it's a pyrrhic victory. Obviously Whisper's going to be out of action for months at the very least...
Matt Steel: C'mon. He's going to need to get rushed into surgery ASAP if he even wants to ever walk again.
Mark Sanction: ...no doubt. But as horrible a physical wound as Whisper now bears, what's the psychological toll on our ace? A match like this is surely going to leave her as scarred inside as it will out.
Hardcore Champion x3 | Gladiatorial Champion | World Heavyweight Champion | first Supreme Champion
Breaker of The Streak