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XWA Hardcore Championship!
A.J. Morales(c) vs. Rey Del Presagio
After the absolute carnage that was Hardcore 24/7 at Worlds Collide, A.J Morales brings the Hardcore Championship back to the XWA as the first person to ever hold it six times.
But bringing it back, he encounters a new challenger. They mysterious Rey Del Presagio is BACK ladies and gentlemen, and he wants the title for himself.
Can Morales keep the title away from the masked assailant?
Deadline for matches is 16th July 2018 at 11:59 Eastern Standard Time. Voting will start at this time and conclude on 21st July 2018 at 11:59 Eastern Standard Time. [CST is one hour earlier. GMT is five hours later.]
Need catching up on the current Runaways/Final story arc going into Legends? Look here!
I'm gonna go ahead and request an extra day here. For those who don't know, I've got a bit of a one-off pet project running through Seattle Pro Wrestling called Hard Rock Is Dead, where all the matches are Falls Count Anywhere, and assembling that show's been eating up a lot of time. The show will go up sometime tomorrow, so I'll ask for the extension now just to be safe and ensure that I have adequate time to get this defense done.
The feed begins showing a long line of people, which turn out to be wrestling fans judging by their garb and proclivity to cheer as the camera moves past them. The camera follows the line towards a makeshift table with a black cover over it. We are situated on the second floor of a mall, between two stores, a table set up for a signing. The camera reaches the table and rises to show three championship belts laid out in a triangle shape. We focus on the back-left championship, a BUDOKANGAIJIN Yin Yang Championship, then move along to the back-right championship, the Seattle Pro Wrestling Pride Championship. Finally, we move to the centrepiece, perhaps the most prestigious championship, or the championship the holder is most proud of, the XWA Hardcore Championship.
Everyone in the queue moves one step forward as a young male, no older than eleven leaves the front of the queue and walks to the table. The camera follows him as he gets closer and closer to the champion, A.J. Morales.
A.J. Morales “Hahaaa, yeah! Thanks for coming out buddy!”
The child doesn’t say much, due to being star-struck by his favourite wrestler. The camera focuses in on him, making him even more nervous as he stands clutching his 8x10 of A.J. whilst wearing a piece of merchandise from every promotion A.J. is a part of.
A.J. Morales “What’s your name champ?! You want me to sign that for you?”
The kid nods and holds up his 8x10. Morales leans over the table and grabs the picture before sitting back down. He signs his name then writes ‘To’ at the top before turning to the kid again.
A.J. Morales “Don’t worry dude, I’m as nervous to see you as you are to see me hahaa! What’s your name?”
A.J. Morales “Nathan, huh? Well nice to meet you Nathan!”
Nathan smiles as A.J. writes his fans name on the 8x10. He stands and slides the picture back towards him before leaning over the table once again posing for a picture.
A.J. Morales “Thanks kid! Go get em!”
Nathan “Thank you A.J.!”
Nathan leaves the queue with the biggest smile on his face, running to his mother to show her his signed picture of his hero.
The line manager bellows again and the next fan leaves the head of the queue allowing everyone else to shuffle up once more, inching closer to the reason they came here. This fan is an interesting one for sure, as A.J. is immediately taken back as he looks at what seems to be a ‘hall of mirrors’ version of himself. The fan stands at the same height as A.J., slightly heavier, wearing black jeans, black fingerless gloves (complete with green lantern emblem on the ring finger), a crudely made bootleg of A.J.’s Venom jacket, which A.J. has hanging on his chair, and to top off this crazy cosplay, the most hideous-looking A.J. Morales rubber mask.
A.J. Morales “Whoa…I’m a good-looking guy but that’s a face my mother couldn’t even love!”
The fan is silent and simply sharply holds out his 8x10 to A.J.
A.J. Morales “Hm…okay.”
A.J. takes the picture from his fan and again signs his name at the bottom. He looks up at the nightmare version of himself and tries to hide his reaction.
A.J. Morales “Who should I make it out to?”
The fan stands silently, looking down at A.J. prompting A.J. to give up and slide the 8x10 back towards him, standing up to take the picture.
A.J. Morales “Okay dude, there’s a lot of people here so we’ll move swiftly on.”
The photographer gets into position but the fan holds out his hand before turning to A.J. and motioning him to come around the table for the photo. With a quick look at the line manager, A.J. sighs and decides to comply, hiding his true feelings with a smile.
A.J. Morales “Hahaa, alright!”
A.J. walks around to the fan and attempts to put his arm around the fan but before he can do so the fan puts his right hand on A.J.’s XWA Hardcore Championship then pats his shoulder with his left hand, seemingly asking for permission to hold the title for the photo. Again, A.J. has a somewhat perplexed look on his face but shrugs and lets the fan do what he wants, in order to get the line moving again.
A.J. Morales “Sure! Hey, maybe you’ll even wear this one day! Haa!”
The fan flings the championship over his shoulder as if it were second nature to him, though perhaps he’s just watched a little too much wrestling, and the photographer gets into place.
Photographer “We’ll take a few to get the best one!”
The first flash goes off, taking the first photo and that’s when everything changes. Within the time for the shutter to close once again, the fan strips the championship from his shoulder and quickly turns towards A.J. smashing it against his face! The people in line are shocked and immediately ushers a few feet back as the photographer’s camera catches a fan and his hero, a brutal attack with the championship and finally a reveal. The fan pulls the bootleg Venom jacket to reveal a ripped body. He grabs and fires the replica glove at A.J. before grabbing the ugly rubber mask and tearing it off, only to reveal yet another mask!
Fan #1 in Line “Is that..uh..Rey?”
Fan #2 in Line “Yeah! Uh..Rey..Deeeel Pres?...Presagio? That’s it!”
From amidst the line, what we thought was a fan dressed in a referee’s shirt forces their way through the security guards and it is clear that this is actually a challenge for the XWA Hardcore Championship.
Chris Novak “Wow! Here we are folks! I gotta say, I love this. The use of the exact title he wishes to take, the cosplay and the return of a man we haven’t seen for about a year!”
Joe Delonge “Since last year’s Lord of the Ring tournament. Both of these men where eliminated in the same round. In fact, Rey has only had those three matches and one other: a Hardcore Championship match against then champion Kryptops, El Conejo a Dos and the current champion, who was pinned in that match, A.J. Morales.”
Chris Novak “Has Presagio bided his time for a year to return and immediately challenge for the XWA Hardcore Championship again, against the person that lost in his previous match?!”
Bending over, the returning superstar pulls A.J. from the ground and hoists him up and onto his shoulder before turning and slamming him onto and through the signing table with a huge spinebuster! The line of fans yell out in shock and then boo Presagio watching him cover their Hardcore Champion.
The referee’s hand slaps against the floor sharply, not making the same echoing sound we’re used to within a ring.
With a sneak attack and one move, Rey pulls on the leg ever so slightly more, looking to win the Championship that eluded him one year ago.
The Champion is able to thwart the masked superstar’s intentions and brings the line of fans to an ovation as they clap and cheer for their champion. The interaction somewhat just as cool as getting to meet A.J. himself. Presagio stands and then bends down to pick A.J. up, however the champion kicks out, catching Presagio in the stomach. The challenger stumbles backward, creating ample room between himself and A.J. ‘The Revolution’ pushes himself to a stance and immediately rushes towards his foe, catching his shoulder on Presagio’s gut and driving him backwards and into a popcorn cart! The cart topples with the weight of two men crashing into it as the attendant dives out of the way. Screams are heard from the non-wrestling fan patrons of the mall as the two XWA superstars land on the cart in a heap, with Presagio landing on the round container for the popcorn, knocking it out of place, causing the popcorn to flood out and onto the floor!
Chris Novak “Oh my God! They’ve destroyed that cart!”
Some nearby fans rush over to the wave of popcorn, grabbing handfuls of it and shoving it into their mouths and pockets. Our official gets closer to the wreckage and notices that Presagio’s shoulders are technically clean against the floor with A.J.’s body right over his chest. Quickly the referee finds a patch of the floor without any popcorn on and counts.
Some of the XWA fans realise that this is a pin attempt from their Hardcore Champion and begin to chant his name.
XWA Fans “A! J! A! J!”
Lifting a shoulder from the floor and through the metal structure of the cart, Presagio keeps himself in the impromptu match for the belt, much to A.J.’s chagrin. Pulling Rey from the wreckage, A.J. is quite clearly in a serious mood now. Stepping over and crushing all of the popcorn, A.J. then grabs Presagio and lifts him into the air, onto to drop him stomach-first onto the balcony on the second floor! Presagio unceremoniously leans over the balcony looking down at the drop below and panics instantly. Holding him over the balcony, A.J. threatens to push Presagio over, his centre of gravity being the only thing keeping him in place. Screams and yelling can be heard from the floor below as bystanders watch the horrific sight above them. Panicking, Presagio starts to throw his right elbow back, looking to catch A.J. in any way. He does so, hitting him in the nose, then the side of the head and neck twice in succession. This is enough to force A.J. back and allow Presagio to get back on his feet, safe from falling.
Joe Delonge “Good lord. I’m not sure it’s worth challenging for that title if you’re at risk of being thrown over a balcony?”
Chris Novak “A.J. is pissed off! He feels like he’s been made a fool of, and he’s not going to take it likely, he is the greatest Hardcore Champion XWA has ever had.”
While Presagio steadies himself, A.J. can be seen behind him approaching two mannequins on a small stage advertising a clothing store on the other side of the floor. He extends his hand and clasps it against the mannequins.
A.J. Morales “Nice to meet you!”
A.J. then pulls the mannequin’s arm clean off!
A.J. Morales “Thanks for coming out!”
He then turns and uses the arm like a baseball bat, thrusting it into Presagio’s gut. ‘The Antecedent Deity’ doubles over and drops to a knee, leaving his back wide open for a subsequent attack with the arm! Presagio writhes on the floor and then is pushed over onto his back for another pin attempt.
NO! A kickout again from Presagio keeps his hopes for gaining the Hardcore Championship alive.
Chris Novak “Mannequin arms are not light. That would hurt anyone.”
Joe Delonge “A.J. made the right decision to arm himself just then, use your environment to your advantage.”
Chris Novak “Haha arm himself!”
Joe Delonge “I wasn’t making a joke, Chris. This is a no disqualification match, he should use everything he can at his disposal.”
Arguing with the official, A.J. inadvertently gives Presagio enough time to get to a vertical base and limp off towards a Hot Topic. A.J looks around and sees him at the last second, opting to follow him into the store.
A.J. Morales “Where are you, you asshole?”
A startled customer screams to A.J.’s right hand side and then rushes past him, obviously scared by Presagio. She runs out of the store, forgetting she is still holding some items, causing the store’s alarms to go off. A.J. walks towards the right-hand side of the store, coincidentally the wrestling section, the sound of the alarm filling the store.
A.J. Morales “Now there’s a sight for sore eyes.”
A.J. then lifts up a boxed Funko Pop! Vinyl figure of himself and nods in approval. Suddenly his face goes to that of the soulless, dead-eyed look of the Pop! Vinyl figure as the camera pans down to show Presagio driving his lower arm between A.J.’s legs from behind, a low blow! The XWA Hardcore Champion falls to his knees as Presagio grabs a pile of tshirts and throws them all at him! Presagio then lifts one tshirt and unfurls it before draping it over A.J.’s head and pulling it down over him, trapping his arms inside. Taking a few steps back, Rey then inspects his work as A.J. kneels before him dressed in a Mark Storey t-shirt!
Joe Delonge “Rey has clearly been watching and keeping tabs on XWA, Chris.”
Chris Novak “This may not be painful physically but it will hurt A.J.’s pride, he will not react lightly to this. This may be the most disrespectful thing Presagio could do to him right now!”
Joe Delonge “This is mental warfare at this point, Chris.”
With A.J. incapacitated, Presagio side steps and strikes Morales with the sole of his boot right on the face! The superkick forces A.J. down and onto his back giving Presagio a chance to cover the champion.
The referee slaps the floor of the Hot Topic for the first time.
Presagio shifts all of his weight onto A.J.’s chest whilst holding onto both legs now!
Finally getting his shoulder off of the floor, despite his arms being trapped inside the tshirt, A.J. is slightly too late! The referee stands, shocked that Rey Del Presagio has managed to pin A.J. and signals him as the new champion.
Chris Novak “A low blow, trapped arms and a superkick has resulted in A.J. Morales losing his title here! Three seconds is all you need, no matter is A.J. is able to kick out a split-second too late!”
Presagio pulls the title from the referee’s hands and lifts it into the air, dropping to a knee. A pissed off A.J. rolls on the ground before grabbing the top of the tshirt from inside and ripping himself free. Presagio drapes the championship over his shoulder and walks towards the front of the shop, the alarms still blaring. However, they did not act as a warning for Presagio, instead a large throaty yell did.
A.J. Morales “AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!”
Presagio jolts around 180 degrees and sees the former champion sprinting towards him and leaping into the air. With no time to react, Presagio is immediately stricken with a huge Superman Punch! LIBERATOR! The two competitors barrel backwards and into the glass front of the store! The entire panel shatters upon impact, immediately cutting Presagio in multiple places on his body, one large gash and several tiny ones, shown by the blood gushing from the biggest one and the dribbles from the tiny cuts!
Chris Novak “OH MY GOD! Straight through the glass store front! Who’s going to pay for that?! Look at the state of Presagio’s back!”
Joe Delonge “This is carnage! We’ll be lucky if XWA isn’t sued because of these two!”
Chris Novak “This is disgusting. I love it, but it’s disgusting! Look at the amount of glass!”
They land hard on the mall floor, covered in glass and some blood as the referee carefully emerges through what’s left of the glass panel! He brings the XWA Hardcore Championship with him but is forced to drop it as he notices that Presagio is out of it and Morales has one arm perfectly draped over his chest!
The referee’s hand slaps against the floor and glass, unable to find a better area to count.
Chris Novak “24/7 rules after all! This is Presagio’s first defence!”
Security guards and shoppers appear around the destruction, unsure what to do.
Joe Delonge “Well that was short-lived!”
Chris Novak “What a Liberator from A.J. and at the most perfect time! He has liberated yet another superstar of that Hardcore Championship! He is now a SEVEN TIME XWA Hardcore Champion! WOW!”
The referee lifts A.J.’s arm high as A.J. Slowly rolls onto his back, laying on the glass of the store front. The official drapes the championship over A.J.’s waist before the mall security guards try to step in, pulling both men away from the glass. An entire team of guards show up to hold back the crowd of shoppers and escort what customers were still inside Hot Topic. The mall cleaners begin to sweep away the blood-stained glass whilst the referee tries to explain the situation to them
Chris Novak “We are definitely getting sued. Both men have been sat up, but they are clearly hurting.”
Joe Delonge “A.J. drove Presagio through the glass, but he has clearly taken some brunt himself, even if he hasn’t been cut.”
Medical personnel approach the scene, helping A.J. to his feet whilst Presagio continues to sit, the doctors checking out his back. With him hunched over, a doctor tries to untie his mask from behind. Getting a burst of energy Presagio somehow gets to his feet and pushes the doctor hard, and off of her feet! Two guards move the rest of the doctors away while Presagio groggily continues to put up a fight.
Chris Novak “He does not want to lose his mask! Where did he get that energy from?”
Pure instinct is the answer Novak is looking for as Presagio starts to fade, dropping back down to one knee, glaring toward his foe slowly walking away with the title raised high in the right hand.
A.J. Morales “That’s why I AM THE CHAMP!”
Once again, the medical personnel try to tend to Presagio, but he barges through them, pushing them aside and limps toward A.J.
Rey Del Presagio “GAHH!”
The yell causes Morales to turn around and see his adversary coming towards him. He lowers his arm and the title, shaking his head in disapproval.
A.J. Morales “Just stop. You’re done.”
Presagio shakes his head, A.J. drops his championship, and the two grapple. Rey plants his knee into A.J.’s gut and transitions into a headlock before grabbing A.J. by his long hair and pulling him towards a competition car on show in the centre of the mall floor. The masked superstar looks at the car then looks at his foe before Irish Whipping him into the side of the car! The wing mirror becomes completely detached as soon as A.J. hits into it. Taking advantage, Rey hobbles over to A.J., his back with lines on blood running down it, and grabs A.J. by the hair. All of a sudden A.J. grabs Rey and shifts the weight in his favour, allowing him to hook a front chancery before hauling Presagio into the air and twisting the masked superstar as he drops him on the car bonnet with a huge Twisting Brainbuster!
Gathering Crowd “OHHHHHHH!”
Chris Novak “BRAINBUSTAAAHHHH ON THE CAAAHHHHHHHH~!”
Joe Delonge “I wouldn’t want to win that car now! Look at that dent!”
The car alarm immediately goes off and the airbag in the driver’s seat explodes, filling the interior as Rey rolls on the bonnet before falling off of the front of it. He lays on the cold ground belly-first and lifts his head gingerly to watch A.J. once again walk away, he has nothing more to prove, just leave the area. He walks towards a fountain, looking for a way out.
A.J. Morales “WHERE’S THE FUCKING EXIT?! GET ME MY TITLE!”
Joe Delonge “A.J. is looking to leave this encounter behind him. Even if Presagio did catch him off-guard, at least he can say he is now a seven-time champion.”
The referee rushes past a kneeling Presagio and hands A.J. his championship. A.J. takes one last look behind him at Presagio and shrugs, he’s done with this challenge. With A.J. focus away from him, Presagio uses the damaged car to bring himself to his feet and begins to jog toward his adversary. Now closing distance, Presagio runs a little faster and then jumps into the air, extending his legs and flying feet-first at A.J.’s back, catching him with a huge running dropkick he usually executes from the front, Harbringer! ‘The People’s Hardcore Champion’ springs forward and trips over and into the fountain! He lands in the shallow pool of water, his splashes making an incredible amount of noise. He comes up for air and tries to wipes his vision clear whilst also feeling in the water for his championship, finding only coins. Finally, he finds it and flings it out of the pool towards some escalators. Before he can exit the fountain however, his hair is pulled by Presagio who enters the fountain. Presagio drops to his knee and drives a huge right fist into A.J.’s face. The blood from Presagio’s back starts to mix with the water fountain creating a light red colour around the two men.
Chris Novak “That is so unhygienic I don’t even know where to start!”
Joe Delonge “I don’t think any XWA employee is going to be allowed to step foot in this mall ever again.”
Returning the favour, A.J. delivers a strike of his own before scooping the water up and throwing it into the face of Presagio! The water enters the eye-holes of the mask and temporarily blinds the masked man. ‘The Revolution’ then latches onto Presagio’s head and tries to forcibly remove the mask from him. Frantic, Presagio swings left and right before standing up, trying to rearrange his mask in order to see. The advantageous Morales then steps back before driving his boot into Presagio’s face just as he fixes his mask with FUCKIN’ SLAYERRRR! The Superkick sends Presagio backwards fast, falling out of the fountain and rolling towards the escalator and the XWA Hardcore Championship.
Chris Novak “What a Superkick! He used that mask to his own advantage! Even if he doesn’t know who Rey Del Presagio is, it doesn’t matter!”
Joe Delonge “A.J. needs to leave now but it doesn’t seem like that’s his intention anymore.”
Morales exits the fountain and wipes the water from his body as hbest he can, all while maintaining his gaze on Presagio, who begins to stir. The challenger groggily gets to his knees before standing on spaghetti legs and unbeknownst to him, A.J. signals the end.
A.J. Morales “IT’S OVER!”
A.J. runs his finger along his neck before running to the best of his ability towards Presagio! Some of the fans still present, yet held at quite a distance, cheer for A.J. and watch as he reaches Presagio but is hoisted up into the air and is sent tumbling over, landing with a hard crash on the metal grate protruding from the escalators with a Back Body Drop! He arches his back in pain and yells whilst the fans wince watching on. Pushing off of his knee, Presagio stands and holds his cheek, over his mask of course, and turns to the champion. A.J. Begins to come to life, crawling on all fours towards his XWA Hardcore Championship. The referee runs over and checks on both men, but Presagio pushes him aside before running at Morales once more and booting him in the face with a massive Punt Kick! The kick sends A.J. to dream land, metaphorically, and physically to the toy store downstairs, as he tumbles over and down the ascending escalator!
Chris Novak “HOLY FUCK! A Punt Kick sending the champion down the escalator!”
Shoppers scream in terror as A.J. falls and rolls down each metal step, coming to a stop about half way down. The referee runs down the descending escalator, title in hand, as Rey watches intently. The referee gets half way down before realising that A.J. is actually on his way up.
Joe Delonge “Oh no.”
A.J., unknowingly, stays on all fours and ascends the escalator whilst Presagio starts to walk backwards away from it. Some security guards start to grab Rey but he pushes them aside just as the escalator delivers his foe. The referee shouts from the bottom of the escalator not to do anything, but of course, Presagio ignores then as runs with all of his remaining might and delivers a second, perhaps even more vicious Punt Kick!
Chris Novak “OH MY GODDDD!!”
With even more speed and momentum, A.J. falls down each and every step on the escalator, with Presagio using the descending escalator beside it to reach the bottom in a quarter of the time than usual. The official checks A.J who is seemingly out cold at the bottom of the escalator but is pulled off of him by Presagio. Presagio desperately drags A.J. from the bottom of the escalator by his arm then covers him with a lateral press, forcing all of his weight on A.J.’s chest and driving his forearm into A.J.’s face for good measure. He slaps the ground and nods his head demanding the referee to count.
Reluctantly the referee signals the first count as the security guards from the upper floor make their way down the escalator.
Crowds of people can be seen looking from the upper floor over the balconies at the carnage below. Some of which boo Presagio, clearly being the last remaining fans here today.
Chris Novak “HOLY FUCK!”
Joe Delonge “That was unreal! What a massive victory for Presagio, that double Punt Kick is enough to put ANYONE out for three.”
The referee lifts Presagio’s arm in victory and places the title in his possession before both men are swarmed by security. Rey is pulled off of A.J. and towards the mall entrance, whilst medical personnel join the other guards in looking at Morales, the former champion. Presagio pushes off the last few security guards and past the crowd gathered at the front doors, fleeing the scene and taking his new championship with him.
Chris Novak “Thanks for joining us everyone! I can’t believe what we just witnessed! Title changes, history made once again and A.J. Morales has been dethroned! Wow! We have a new XWA Hardcore Champion and his name, surprisingly, is Rey Del Presagio!”
“...I lived in the kind of neighborhood that all the middle-aged white people in the suburbs were afraid to go to, and all their kids pretended they lived in, even though, let’s be real, deep down, they were just as afraid. The kind of neighborhood where there’s graffiti all over every wall of every side street. The kind of neighborhood where all the kids who can’t get into a bar yet get together and do donuts in empty parking lots and blast hyphy music until the crack of dawn...” --A.J. Morales, XWA Massacre, May 2017
Tonight, A.J. needed an escape.
It’s not like his life was going badly; in some ways, he was more on top of his game than he’d been all year. He’d officially cemented his Hardcore Championship reign as one of the all-time great runs with it by becoming a 6-time champion. He’d finally broken that two-belt ceiling by picking up another singles title in Seattle Pro. He’d come up with one of the silliest possible ways to pop the question to Emery, and it actually got her to say yes.
But all the same, there were certain losses that ate at him. Losses like the one from Lord of the Ring, where he got stopped in the quarterfinals not because his opponent was genuinely the better wrestler that night, as Jester had been in last year’s semis, but because Mark Storey had pulled every dirty trick in the book and used A.J.’s own Liberator against him. And with there being no clear path to settle the score until Mark either finally took a loss or—God forbid—won the whole thing, A.J. knew if he didn’t do something to take his mind off it, that anger would just fester inside him until it became a hindrance. So here A.J. was, on the top level of a three-story parking garage in Oakland, hiding his face under a helmet and his championship under a plain black riding jacket. He’d heard about this sideshow from Dontell and Jason, and he figured the best way to let off steam was to show up here with a cheap old Yamaha—not the Ninja A.J. usually rode, because that was for travel—and watch the ridiculous car and motorcycle stunts people came here to pull off while hyphy music blasted from people’s giant, bass-heavy sound systems. And so far, those stunts were living up to the usual standard, until…
DRIVER: Ahhh, shit!
This latest stunt had started as a fairly successful series of tight donuts, but this driver clearly hadn’t checked the tires in a while, as one of the front ones of his silver early-2000’s Saturn goes flying off. The crowd, formed in a loose circle, scatters to dodge both the car itself, which skids to a halt in open space, and the tire, which bounces and rolls until it runs into a parked car. Once they’ve had time to survey the damage, the crowd grows clearly agitated with the driver, who gets out of the car with his hands up.
DRIVER: My bad, y’all, my bad…
RANDO IN THE CROWD #1: What in the fuck was that?
RANDO IN THE CROWD #2: You almost hit me!
RANDO IN THE CROWD #3: Hol’ up, was this dude eatin’ beans?
The driver looks down, and sure enough, there’s a massive stain of bean juice on the front of what was once a clean white shirt.
RANDO IN THE CROWD #3: Why the fuck would you bring a can of beans in the car?
DRIVER: I didn’t eat all day, man, I came here straight from work!
RANDO IN THE CROWD #3: I came from work too, but like...fuckin’ beans?
???: A’ight a’ight a’ight a’ight, wait a minute!
Heads start to turn as A.J.—most people here don’t recognize him, given his hair is hidden under the helmet, but his voice catches their attention all the same—steps forward into the loose circle that’s starting to re-form around the three-wheeled Saturn, walking his motorcycle out with him.
A.J. MORALES: I think I know how to keep this going…
A.J. turns to look at the driver.
MORALES: You might wanna get back.
Given that the driver is still closer to the car than the edge of the circle, he elects to get back in the driver’s seat. A.J., meanwhile, straddles his ride and turns the key to start it. The crowd gets back a little, waiting to see what he has to offer…
VRRRRRRRR! A.J. starts riding around the car in an oval, which doesn’t impress the crowd much at first, but when he goes into a wheelie and makes a turn while doing it, that seems to catch their attention.
A.J. leans forward and gets both wheels back on the ground again, and as he continues to ride in circles around the Saturn, he starts to go to that place of Zen his best rides take him to. He forgets who and what he’s swerving around and just reacts naturally to his surroundings. The worries he came here thinking over float away. He’s living fully in the moment, caught up in the rush of the wind and the sound of the engines...of course, if he was as hyper-present as he thinks he is, he’d have noticed the cameras following his every turn and the XWA referee standing up front in the crowd…
CHRIS NOVAK: Don’t touch that remote! I’m Chris Novak…
JOE DELONGE: And I’m Joe Delonge.
NOVAK: And we’re here live from Oakland, California to broadcast another Hardcore 24/7 title defense for “The Revolution” A.J. Morales, but uh...is this even A.J. we’re watching right now?
DELONGE: I guess we just gotta wait for this guy to stop and find out.
As if the universe hears Joe tempting fate, A.J. turns the corner and—BOOM! A red-and-black blur flies into the Revolution’s path from out of nowhere and kicks him square in the chest, sending him rolling away as the Yamaha goes sideways and skids along on the pavement until it finally runs out of momentum and stops.
DELONGE: WHAT THE HELL?!
NOVAK: It’s a front dropkick, Joe, it’s a pretty common move—
DELONGE: I know it’s a dropkick, Chris, I’m asking who did it!
A.J. asks himself the same question as he lies there on the ground and looks at the figure picking himself up off the pavement. The mysterious assailant doesn’t exactly show his face, but then again, he doesn’t need to. Once he pulls back the hood of his jacket before taking the whole thing off and throwing it away, that black mask with the elaborate red markings all over it is familiar enough...not that anyone attending the sideshow other than A.J. would know, considering every other partygoer has already abandoned their cars and gone running down to the level below.
NOVAK: HOLY SHIT!
DELONGE: THAT CAN’T BE HIM!
NOVAK: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, REY DEL PRESAGIO IS BACK!
A.J.’s eyes go wide beneath his helmet. In fact, he takes the helmet off and rubs his eyes, looking at his new challenger like he sees a ghost.
MORALES: Hijo de puta…¿dónde estabas?
Rey doesn’t care to answer the question. All that matters to Rey is that he’s here, and he makes A.J. acutely aware of that by dragging the Hardcore Champion to his feet and kneeing him in the groin, causing A.J. to double over in pain. From there, Rey unzips A.J.’s leather jacket, revealing the Hardcore Championship belt, and pulls the back of the jacket up over the Revolution’s head to blind him while Rey unhooks the belt, winds it back, and—POW! He hits A.J. square in the chest with it! The champ is down! Rey places the belt on the hood of the nearest car, then drops down to make the cover…
NOVAK: Nearfall right out of the gate, and Joe, do you mind filling everyone in on who this guy is?
DELONGE: Rey Del Presagio was, without a doubt, one of the biggest breakout successes of last year’s Lord of the Ring tournament. He entered from seemingly out of nowhere and viciously assaulted his way to the semifinals, then entered the 4-way Falls Count Anywhere match for the Hardcore Championship that kicked off XWA Fool’s Gold last year.
NOVAK: That’s the one where Kryptops walked out on the match before the bell, then swooped back in and pinned A.J. at the last second to retain the title, right?
DELONGE: Exactly! And while A.J. hunted Kryptops down for revenge in that Piledriver-winning classic at the Hard Rock Hotel, Presagio just kind of vanished without a trace. But it looks like he’s back in the Hardcore Championship hunt, and I don’t know how he figured out A.J. was here, but I do know this: Rey will not want to come up empty-handed again.
A.J. gets the jacket back down from over his head and starts climbing back to his feet, but Rey swoops in with a knee strike to stun A.J. momentarily. From there, Rey pulls A.J. by the wrist to a full vertical base, then starts to go off with a series of forearms and uppercuts. Even A.J., for all his striking expertise, can’t keep up, and for every hit he blocks, another one clips him and a third lands cleanly.
DELONGE: Well, Rey certainly has the ambush tactics down, but Chris, you were in LOTR with Rey last year, right? What can we expect his strategy to be now that A.J. knows he’s here?
NOVAK: Going off what I’ve seen of him, you can expect a lot of what you’re seeing right now: a brutal striking game powered by masterful tactics. Don’t expect pretty flips and honorable combat; this man treats every match like guerilla warfare, and he’ll fight as dirty as he wants to in order to score the pinfall.
Rey’s prolonged assault eventually drives A.J. all the way to a concrete barrier, which comes up to about Morales’s upper-mid-back. The King of Omens presses A.J. up as close to it as possible, then digs his elbow into A.J.’s throat and leans forward, barking orders of some sort as Morales hangs over the street below...
NOVAK: What’s Rey saying? I don’t think I’ve ever heard him use actual words before.
DELONGE: The mics aren’t picking it up, but I think he’s telling A.J. to submit.
NOVAK: Or what? He’ll push A.J. over the edge and let him fall? Come off it, mate, that’s low, even for Rey!
DELONGE: It is, but like you said a minute ago, Rey will do absolutely anything to win a match, and putting him in this kind of environment opens up all sorts of destructive new options.
A.J., of course, doesn’t feel like listening to this guy’s commands. He starts kneeing Rey in the thigh to weaken Presagio’s balance, then shoves the rudo away and—BAM! FUCKIN’ SLAYERRRR! The superkick sends Rey stumbling back!
NOVAK: But A.J.’s not just gonna hand the belt over!
The Revolution wastes no time exploiting this new opening. He rushes Rey down with a flying knee, connecting with enough force to send them both to the ground. A.J. uses his extra momentum to roll forward, and after he pops back up to his feet, he heads for that spun-out Saturn, lets himself in through the open door, and starts digging through for something he can use to his advantage. Clearly, this guy doesn’t prioritize keeping the front seats clean, because A.J. finds old receipts, empty paper bags, an open can of beans in the cupholder…
NOVAK: Any idea what A.J. might be looking for in there?
DELONGE: Whatever it is, he better find it quick, because Rey’s headed right for him!
...wait a minute! The beans! A light bulb goes off in A.J.’s head. He picks up the can, and luckily enough, it’s still about half-full. Just then, Rey grabs A.J. by the back of the jacket and starts yanking him out of the car, but all A.J. has to do is swing the can at the right angle to send the beans flying into Rey’s eyes. Rey goes stumbling back, trying to wipe the beans away, and that’s the opening A.J. needs. The Revolution climbs up to the hood of the car, then the roof, and waits patiently for his challenger to turn around. The second Rey does, A.J. leaps off, landing right on Presagio’s shoulders and flipping him around with a hurricanrana, pin position and all. The ref dives down to make the cover…
NOVAK: Well, I’ll give A.J. credit, this was the last match I expected him to turn into a food fight, but he found a way.
DELONGE: Why beans, though, of all things?
With the momentum firmly in A.J.’s corner and Rey on the ground still trying to clear his vision, A.J. backpedals away, clenching his right hand into a fist as he looks back and forth between it and his opponent. He kisses his ring knuckle and starts angling for his chance…
DELONGE: Hold on a second...is it just me, or is this way too early for A.J. to be calling for the Liberator?
NOVAK: Didn’t A.J. tweet just the other day about how, if you ever get in a fight in a parking garage, you need to get out of there ASAP? I think that might be his game plan here.
Once Rey seems upright enough, A.J. takes off, running straight for his challenger and winding up one of those devastating Superman punches. But Rey seems to have this well-scouted, and he sidesteps just in time, then shoves A.J. into the Saturn’s open door, where the Revolution collides with a loud THUNK!
NOVAK: That Liberator attempt may have just cost A.J. all the ground he gained in the run-up to it, and then some.
Rey doesn’t make the mistake of giving his opponent time to recover. Instead, the challenger grabs the champion by the scruff of the neck, using A.J.’s signature long locks for further leverage, and starts walking A.J. over to a different car, this one a crossover SUV. Rey shoves A.J. face-first at the trunk, and A.J. collides with it, only to immediately take a clothesline just below the shoulders. Even that turns out to be only just the start, as Rey keeps A.J. trapped against the trunk with a barrage of knee and forearm strikes until the challenger finally stops and allows the champion to fall down.
DELONGE: Rey’s overall repertoire is pretty basic, but it’s the when and how he uses those moves that makes him a unique threat for any competitor. Even guys like Smith Jones have trouble keeping up.
With A.J. face-down on the ground, Rey grabs the champion by both legs and starts dragging him around. Morales focuses on getting his arms, still covered by the sleeves of his jacket, between his face and the asphalt, but at the cost of not paying attention to the particular way Rey is dragging him around. A.J. learns where he’s at the hard way when Rey hooks both legs and squats into a Boston Crab, causing Morales to bang his head on the underside of the car.
REFEREE: Do you want to submit?
MORALES: No—AAAAGH! JESUS! NO!
Rey, meanwhile, nods his head vigorously as he locks the hold in tighter. He looks over his shoulder every so often, barking something at A.J. that, even if the mics still don’t quite pick it up, the tone conveys the message—“Just submit!”—clearly enough.
NOVAK: And if you saw Rey against Max Hopper in the first round of last year’s LOTR, you’ll remember how deadly the Boston Crab is in this man’s hands.
DELONGE: And the fact that he’s got A.J. trapped under a car, where he can’t crawl away so easily...beautiful. Just beautiful strategy from Rey Del Presagio.
A.J. starts looking around, trying to find something, anything to grab hold of...and that’s when he spots an unopened glass bottle of beer. He grabs hold of it with his left hand, and with what little room he has to work with, he swings back and hits Rey in the ankle, making a loud CLANK! and throwing the Antecedent Deity off for long enough that he lets go of A.J.’s legs.
NOVAK: But again, Morales takes advantage of his surroundings and finds an escape!
DELONGE: This is one of the most frustrating things about A.J. if you’re trying to make a 24/7 challenge. You pretty much have to try and fight him in an empty room, because if anything is in grabbing range, he’ll find a way to use it.
With that newfound freedom, A.J. crawls out from under the car and starts throwing punches before finally just Irish whipping Rey and letting the challenger run off as far as possible. Using that breather, A.J. looks around, trying to find something else to help maintain the edge...hey, there’s that tire that flew off the Saturn! The Diamond Slayer heads right for it and picks it up, calculating the ways he could possibly use it…
NOVAK: Morales might be about to prove you right again...
Just as Rey starts charging at A.J., the champion picks his method. He throws the tire at Rey without warning, banking on the challenger to get distracted with catching it while A.J. tails the projectile. Sure enough, Rey’s gaze goes up, and he reaches to grab the tire, only to—BOOM! Morales lays the challenger out with a leaping clothesline!
NOVAK: El DiaBlade off the misdirection!
DELONGE: OK, that was a pretty unique setup. Points for that.
Once again, the challenger is down, and once again, A.J. backs up before kissing his ring knuckle and waiting for Rey to get up…
NOVAK: Liberator again? I don’t understand. A.J. has three other finishers he hasn’t tried. Why not switch it up?
DELONGE: This has to be that Lord of the Ring quarterfinal messing with his head. Remember, Mark Storey put on an LX-Glove and stole A.J.’s finisher to get the win, and any time you beat a wrestler with their own move, it’s equal parts insult and injury.
NOVAK: So...what, now A.J. thinks he has to win with the Liberator to get his honor back?
DELONGE: Could be. But that all depends if he can land it...
A.J. rushes in for take two of his finisher, but Rey’s seen this movie before. When A.J. throws the punch, Rey snatches the Revolution’s wrist, gets one foot up to face-level on A.J., and falls back until—THUNK! Rey clearly didn’t know exactly where he was in the lot, given that he unexpectedly falls flat on the hood of a Toyota sedan and releases the inverted stomp facebreaker earlier than intended, but it’s still enough to send A.J. staggering away, massaging his jaw in pain.
NOVAK: Now that was a counter with Prophetic Significance!
DELONGE: But Rey made a major tactical error there by not checking for the car behind him. When Rey hits that move, you’re not supposed to walk away under your own power like A.J. just did. You’re supposed to be knocked out cold.
Clearly, Rey also recognizes that he didn’t get all of it. He pounds the hood of the car with an open palm in frustration, then turns around and starts climbing up to the top, where he perches himself in wait for A.J.’s return…
DELONGE: And this could compound it if Rey’s not careful. They’re fighting on asphalt here, so if Rey goes diving and misses, he’s really gonna regret not wearing a shirt for this.
As A.J. finally gets back in range, Rey starts running from almost the trunk of the car and leaps off with a front dropkick, much like the one that knocked A.J. off his motorcycle and started this whole mess.
NOVAK: Looking for the Harbingerrrrrr—
But this time, A.J. isn’t lost in his own world. He jumps up, turning himself over with an arcing kick that catches Rey just above the ankles, and while A.J. breaks his fall with his arms and lands pretty safely, Rey goes spinning on his side until—SMACK!—he makes a painful landing on the asphalt like a skateboarder who completely screwed up a trick.
NOVAK: Morales counters with the Golden Goal!
DELONGE: And Rey might have pebbles under his skin...yikes!
A.J. picks himself up, looks over at the car, and gets an idea. Within seconds, the two combatants’ roles have reversed; now it’s A.J. standing on top of the car and waiting for his opponent to rise again. The Revolution looks down on Rey, then turns his attention to his own right hand, which seems to have balled up into a fist of its own accord, and for the third time tonight, he kisses that ring knuckle.
MORALES: Fuckin’ connect already!
A.J. turns his attention to Rey again, preparing to launch as soon as the Antecedent Deity gets back to his feet…
NOVAK: Will the third time be the charm on the Liberator, or is this going to backfire again?
A.J. leaps at Rey as soon as the time seems right, winding that right hand back and getting ready to throw—NOOOOOO! Rey jumps to meet him and drives both knees right into A.J.’s stomach as they hit the ground! Morales gets the wind absolutely knocked out of him, and he bounces up in the air again before landing flat on his back, sprawled across the hood of the car.
NOVAK: FALSE GOOOOOOOOD!
DELONGE: That right there! That’s why A.J. needs to get over what happened in LOTR! Rey had a run of questionable decisions before this, but no tactic tonight has confused me more than A.J. attempting Liberator after Liberator when he should clearly know that Rey has a million different answers for it.
Rey needs a second to recover—he just landed back-first on the pavement, after all—but as soon as he’s able, the King of Omens climbs onto the hood. He takes every possible measure to ensure this one sticks, hooking both legs, grabbing the waistband of A.J.’s pants, and leaning as far back as possible while the referee makes the count...
NOVAK: New champioooooooo—
THREE—WHAT THE HELL?!
Rey’s attempt to leverage the pin backfires at the absolute last second, as the two fall off the hood, hit the pavement again, and roll apart.
DELONGE: You’re kidding me!
NOVAK: What a lucky break for Morales!
But Rey doesn’t seem to know he didn’t get the win, because he gets up and starts gesturing for the referee to hand him the belt. In fact, it genuinely confuses Rey when the ref holds up two fingers and shakes his head no. The masked rudo holds up three fingers, as if that’ll change things, but the ref stands steadfast. He tries mimicking a fast 1-2-3 count, but again, no dice. Rey looks over at A.J., who’s still down on the pavement, and whatever grief Rey might have had over the ref’s decision, it suddenly shifts from denial to anger. The Antecedent Deity grabs the ref’s shoulders and starts shaking him back and forth, yelling things the cameras don’t quite pick up until he suddenly lets go and slowly, sinisterly, turns back to the Revolution...
NOVAK: They say masks hide people’s facial expressions, but I don’t know, Joe...I’m pretty sure people can see the frustration on Rey’s face from 50 blocks away.
Just as A.J. finally starts to sit up again, Rey takes off, running right at the champion and—WHAM! Knee to the face! Down goes Morales!
REY DEL PRESAGIO: GRAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!
Guided by seething anger and fighting instincts, the King of Omens starts wailing away on the People’s Hardcore Champion, raining down forearm after forearm as A.J. tries desperately to shield himself.
NOVAK: And now that frustration is just pouring out on A.J. Morales!
Even when Rey finally does stop this assault, it’s only so he can rise to one knee and look around, searching for the weapon that can finally put this away. He sees the carnage around him, the vehicles abandoned in panic, the instruments of destruction they’ve already played on each other...and then Rey sees it. The old Yamaha, the one he dropkicked A.J. off of to start this brutal war, still lying on its side on the pavement not too far away. Rey turns his head the other way; they’re not too far from the boundaries of this parking lot. He turns his head back to the Yamaha, and an idea starts to form in his head…
DELONGE: Remember, he almost pinned A.J. for this very belt in Manchester until El Conejo a Dos stepped in. He almost pinned A.J. again until gravity intervened. Rey Del Presagio is not a patient man, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll only go to even more extreme measures to take it.
Rey elbows A.J. in the head a few more times, then drags the champion by his shoulders towards the edge of the parking lot, into an open space between two abandoned vans. Presagio sets Morales up against the concrete barrier like a child leaning an oft-bashed action figure against the wall, then heads back to the Yamaha so he can get that bike back up on its wheels and line up the shot…
NOVAK: Wait, wait...you don’t think Rey’s gonna…?
A.J., for his part, is still in that zoned-out space wrestlers go to when they’ve taken a ton of punishment and their bodies aren’t ready to catch up to it and return to the real world yet. Vague thoughts float through his head, thoughts of how the fight’s gone, and of the fact that this wasn’t how his night was supposed to go in the slightest, but he doesn’t truly recognize the danger he’s in until—VRUMMMMMMVRUMVRUMVRUMVRUM—the sound of revving engines pulls him back to reality, and A.J. sees Rey straight ahead, sitting on the Yamaha some distance off, the front lights pointed directly A.J.’s way.
NOVAK: Holy shit, I think he is!
Morales’s eyes go wide with shock and panic. He looks to his sides, sees the vans boxing him in, and his mood only gets worse. A.J.’s been in some absurd situations before, even deadly ones, but the danger here strikes a unique chord of fear he didn’t know he could even hear. If he doesn’t think of a way out of this, it’s not just his belt he’s about to lose. It’s his career. It might even be his life. And he knows Rey isn’t exactly the type of man who gets sudden, last-minute bursts of conscience right before doing something like this, so that’s not an option A.J. can bank on.
DELONGE: For the love of God, Rey, this is WRESTLING, not that fucking Running Man movie! You don’t have to do this!
VRRRRRRRRRR...Rey starts accelerating towards A.J., picking up speed as fast as the bike will let him. There’s no conscience in the Antecedent Deity’s eyes, only burning rage and the desire to snuff his opponent out. A.J. starts pushing himself up as the bike gets closer, scrambling to get out of the way in time.
DELONGE: GOOD GOD, REY, STOP THE FUCKING BIKE!
Just as the bike’s front wheel reaches about the point where the parking space begins, A.J. reaches his feet. Time seems to slow down for him, as the adrenaline in his system reaches a fever pitch and his fighting instincts take over. With not even a millisecond to think before he acts, A.J. leaps to the side, makes a half-turn in midair, and—POW!—finally lands the Liberator, connecting right to the side of Rey’s head! The masked rudo’s momentum immediately redirects, sending him flying off the bike and—KSSSSSH!—headfirst through the window of a van! The rest of Rey’s body slams into the door after him!
NOVAK: MORALES FINALLY GETS THE LIBERATOR!
As badly as that turned out for Rey, though, the Yamaha gets it even worse, hitting the concrete with a loud CRUNCH! before it flips over the barrier and careens, end-over-end, all the way down to the street below, where it falls beyond the cameras’ side until we finally hear the inevitable CRAAAAAAAASH!
DELONGE: HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS CLOSE!
With the sound of sirens starting to rise up from some 20 or 30 feet below, A.J. pulls his adversary out from the car, lays him out face-up on the pavement, and hooks the leg…
NOVAK: Rey Del Presagio went to some insane lengths, and he made his return memorable without a doubt, but it’s A.J. Morales, yet again, who walks out of this as XWA Hardcore Champion!
As soon as he knows he’s won, A.J. pushes himself off his fallen challenger and sits back against the side of the other van, the one that doesn’t have a hole the size of a luchador’s head in the driver’s side window. The Revolution breathes heavily, his mind processing what the hell just happened, and he’s pretty much in autopilot as the referee helps him back up and gives him the Hardcore Championship belt back. But once A.J. has it in his hands, he looks down at Rey—who’s clearly bleeding from the head, though it’s not clear exactly how much so, given the red-and-black mask—and then walks up to the barrier again. He looks over the edge, down at the scene below, and the camera looks over his shoulder to show us the Yamaha, sticking out of the sunroof of some poor sap’s sedan like a sword in someone’s back, and an entire street of stopped traffic as drivers stop their cars to gawk at what they’re seeing.
MORALES (muttering to self): Hijo de puta…
A.J. gets back and turns to the camera right beside him.
MORALES: Thank God I punched him instead of just sidestepping, huh?
The Revolution leans back on the car behind him, again trying to catch his breath.
MORALES: Look, y’all already know what’s about to happen. The cops are gonna come, and it’s gonna be this big scene, and everybody’s gonna get the shit kicked out of ‘em...well, more shit kicked out, anyway. So Chris, Joe, I’m just gonna sign off for ya. Hasta luego, mi gente.
???: OAKLAND PD! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!
A.J. rolls his eyes and puts his hands up, then walks over to meet his inevitable arrest. Shortly afterwards, the network’s producers wisely decide to switch us back over to the Xperience’s regularly scheduled programming.
Apologies for the not-so-in-depth reviews of the matches, but I wanted to get a vote in and I won't have time later to do them.
Rey Del Presario
What I liked:
The action was pretty good. I was pulled out of the match early, but the action did begin to bring me back into it as they tussled into the Hot Topic, and the shirt spot was pretty quirky, and the fountain spot was pretty sweet as well with the blood mixing in with the water. Plus, props for the shopping mall setting, I thought it was pretty original.
What I disliked:
Actually, a few things here. Right off the bat, to have AJ Morales, a man who has won and lost the Hardcore title several times over getting jumped and jumping back, allow his belt to go into the hands of a fan at all, let alone one that has to undoubtedly look pretty fit, is pretty iffy. That brought me out of the match, and from there it was a little difficult to get back into it.
The next part I wasn't a fan of was where the Liberator took them both backwards through the window of the store. The Liberator is a Superman Punch, which would imply that once he hits the move, most of his momentum is transferred into his victim, which would mean he would most likely be stumbling at worst, stopped at best, and he would be moving forward if he were to be moving at all, not backwards. It might seem a little nit-picky but it's things like that that break the suspension of disbelief and pull me out of the match.
Personal Favourite Part:
Probably the shirt spot. That was funny.
Personal Least Favourite Part:
The opening. Just seemed far too unbelievable for the character to do what he did.
Constructive Criticism for Next Time:
AJ Morales What I liked:
I also found your setting to be pretty original, a parking garage. Although I'm not aware of goofy bastards that drive eating fucking beans in the car, I'm sure some exist. Plus, the slow build to the Liberator by pulling the false alarms on it were pretty clever, I liked that a lot. The false finish ON the car was pretty dope, not gonna lie.
What I disliked:
The very beginning where AJ started to show off, reminded me of Fonzie way too much. Like, AJ is just sooo cool that he changes the entire situation just by being cool on his bike. Seemed a little off kelter.
Personal Favourite Part:
That finish though. Punching a guy's head into a window, then having that pull him from the motorcycle? Not only seems devastating but borderline murderous, yet it also seems like something out of an action movie.
Personal Least Favourite Part:
Also the opening. I thought the beans thing was funny, but I wasn't a fan of the whole "lemme do bike tricks to distract people from almost dying".
What I liked: Disagreeing with Dan's vote on this. I loved the opening. I thought you nailed AJ's personality with the dialogue and presented him as a very lovable babyface with the fan interaction. The part with AJ greeting a mannequin and pulling its arm off before using it as a weapon got a chuckle out of me. It was a very good example of what the Hardcore stipulation offers and while it was comedic, the comedy didn't take away from the match and didn't overstay its welcome as AJ was quick to go back to attacking the challenger. The small touch you added to the Hot Topic fight with the alarms blaring in the background did so much in terms of adding ambience to the scene, successfully shifting the atmosphere from the open mall with many bystanders to a more claustrophobic store. The entire Hot Topic sequence with the Pop! vinyl of AJ Morales all the way to the end when both men crashed through the glass was excellent. Bonus points for utilizing the rivalry between AJ Morales and Mark Storey. I always love to see people doing their homework for their matches.
What I disliked: While I enjoyed the opening of the match, I wasn't a big fan of the referee's presence being passed off as a fan dressed as one. I feel like AJ, has the Hardcore champion would be extremely alert at all times and question that particular "fan". Bit of a missed opportunity to have some dialogue between AJ and the ref, possibly leading to Rey revealing his true identity under the crude AJ mask.
Personal Favorite Part: Easily the Hot Topic sequence. Once again, a little bit of comedy here and there but not enough to take away from the match. Very well written sequence. I loved it. Also: “BRAINBUSTAAAHHHH ON THE CAAAHHHHHHHH~!” I died. I heard Novak yelling that in a Mancunian accent.
Personal Least Favorite Part: It has to be the finish. While it wasn't offensive, I personally didn't like the fact that the first Punt Kick wasn't the finish. Going for a second seemed to kind of delegitimize the move. Punt Kicking AJ and then having him fly down the escalator was a good idea and it would've been a believable finish after one Punt Kick. Bit of a nitpick as I enjoyed the idea for the finish, but the second Punt Kick did take away from it, sadly.
Constructive Criticism for Next Time: Going back to the finish, I'd recommend staying away from hitting multiple finishers in a row the way Presagio did at the end. It takes away from the impact and legitimacy of the move. If it's for storyline purposes, it's fine. But to put an opponent away, I'd avoid doing that.
AJ Morales What I liked:
As Dan said, your choice for the setting was great. The way you set the scene, justifying it by explaining the fact that AJ's doing his best to get his mind off of his loss to Storey. Great character development and storytelling there. Delonge giving us Rey's backstory felt natural and added a personal element to this match which I loved. I also appreciated you detailing the makes of the cars in the parking lot. Small but appreciated details there. Helps a ton with the reader seeing what the writer is seeing. The story you told with the Liberator was great too, lining up with the continuity of AJ's rage after Mark Storey used the move against him in the tournament. Sadly...
What I disliked: ...the finish. Much as I enjoyed the set up for the Liberator, the pay-off was too unbelievable in my opinion. One thing I've noticed with some of the Hardcore matches is that they tend to be over-the-top, however, this seemed a little too much in all honesty. Superman punching Rey only to have him fly off the bike and go face-first through a stationary van's window killed the immersion for me. Aside from that, judging from the way you described the speed Rey was picking up on the motorcycle, I also had to stop and kinda think about the ridiculous accuracy and speed it would require for AJ to nail the Liberator. Aside from that, bit of a nitpick, but I enjoyed the fact that AJ ended up using the beans that were introduced in the beginning for the comedic dialogue, so when Presagio had Morales in the Boston Crab and AJ spotted a beer bottle, compared to the beans, it felt like the beer bottle just happened to magically appear. I would've enjoyed if you had introduced it prior to the fight. Again, a super minor nitpick that didn't really affect the match, but it was noticeable compared to the can of beans and tire.
Personal Favorite Part: The Boston Crab applied to AJ with his head under a car. Ouch. Excellent usage of the nearby cars. It was subtle but added so much in terms of AJ being in a ridiculously bad situation. This being my favorite part may also be why I nitpicked the beer bottle bit, as it took away from this sequence a bit, but not by much as again, it's a nitpick.
Personal Least Favourite Part: The finish, sadly. The way it was built up, I was expecting AJ to avoid Rey at the very last second, causing him to stop before nailing the Liberator. Hitting it on him when he was flying toward AJ on a bike, sending him crashing through a window was just too unrealistic for me which was upsetting since I absolutely loved the story you told with AJ finding it difficult to hit the Liberator and redeem himself after Storey did to him during the LotR tournament.
Constructive Criticism for Next Time: I understand that the Hardcore matches need to be over the top, but I would definitely avoid sequences like this match's finish. Aside from that, your writing is fantastic as always, you have a great way with words and a natural ability to walk us through the action.
The Person Getting My VOTE: Rey Del Presagio
Very enjoyable matches posted here, guys. You both did a lot with the Hardcore stipulation, but I personally enjoyed Rey's setting, overall action and setpieces more. On a side note, Rey, I wasn't here when you were around last year but I would love to see way more from you. And AJ, your writing is as enjoyable and intense as it always is and I personally can't wait for the inevitable rematch if Rey manages to win. Props to you both for excellent showings.
Rey Del Presagio What I liked: I thought the setting was a bit more approachable than Age's. (Yes I'm doing this, it's easier to type.) The match action was easy to follow for the most part. I liked the invocation of the 24/7 nature, where a single pinfall did not end the exchange. Despite the gimmick, it feels more structured than a real 24/7 Hardcore title would (which is a nature of the e-fed framework, I know).
What I disliked: There's not much overtly to dislike, though the Liberator spot which has been called out already does come to mind. Why is Age going backwards? Also it seems odd that Age would not be more determined to leave after ostensibly winning and getting his title back. Why did he change his mind right at the end when he had been so determined to leave up to that point? Because Rey is between Age and his title? He's down, just grab it and run.
Personal Favourite Part: A bit biased, I'm sure, but the Mark Storey shirt spot preceding the first finish was definitely my favorite part.
Personal Least Favourite Part: Nothing stands out as ostensibly bad. The Liberator spot is probably it, or possibly the moment before where I called out earlier, where Age tosses his belt away. Tossing his belt, a potential weapon in a Hardcore title challenge, one that had been used on him earlier.
Constructive Criticism for Next Time: I mean it's a damn fine match, don't get me wrong. A little more internal logic would be good. Also, I'm unclear on the boundaries of a hardcore challenge. Obviously there's a beginning, but when is it definitively over? Obviously not when a fall is achieved with the rapid fire title changes in this match.
A.J. Morales What I liked: The choice of setting is very unique. I wouldn't've thought of it. I also like that you tried to tell a story about Morales through the fight. I felt like the action was easier to follow in this match than in Rey's. As ridiculous as it got at points, I could watch it happening.
What I disliked: How does the commentary team not know who is challenging? There is a camera crew set up to capture this and a referee is on hand, I feel like they have to know. I am also not a fan of the tire spot. I know wrestlers are strong and the tire was not a huge tire but just a regular car tire, but those are still heavy, and regardless, even if Rey had caught it, how did Age beat the tire to Rey? Otherwise it'd be a leaping clothesline to the tire to thrust it into Rey, and even then you run as fast as you throw a projectile?
Personal Favourite Part: The first time I read through the match I would have put Rey eating shit when he got kicked in midair in the dislike column but on further review I think I like it a lot. It's a clever use of the environment and an acknowledgement of wrestling physics.
Personal Least Favourite Part: Definitely the finish. It was too extreme, why didn't Age just go between the van and the barricade, unless they were directly parked on the barricade, and even if so why not pop up onto the barricade itself and lean forward into the van? But ignoring all that, I felt like the finish took all the power away from the Superman punch with one simple phrase.
"leaps to the side"
The Superman Punch's power comes from you jumping forward and also throwing your punch forward with increases the speed at which it moves. Yes, you're punching someone going much faster than fighters usually are, but unless you are actually Superman, I feel like that punch should just be a glancing blow on the way to a trip over the barrier and down to Rey's death.
Constructive Criticism for Next Time: I know this title is about creativity, but I gotta harp on the internal logic again. I'm nowhere near perfect, but that is the thing that stood out to me the most.
The Person Getting My VOTE: Rey Del Presagio Overall Match Comments: I'll be honest, the first time I read through this thread, I was thinking Age was going to get my vote, but reviewing it and sitting down to write it up has turned it around for me. I give Age all the points for creativity, but I think it went a bit too over the top. But I would not be surprised to see Age win a rematch.
Reading this thread has part of me wanting to jump in on this division, and most of me paralyzed with fear that I would be just the dullest 24/7 Hardcore challenger in history. So good job to all.