CSWA PRIMETIME in Birmingham
An untold chapter in the story of CSWA: Lost Cause
March 17, 2009
As he opens the door, the Caribbean sunlight hits him full in the face, blinding him momentarily. He raises a hand, smiles, and then lowers it to shake hands with the young man at the door. The visitor smiles back as he is welcomed into the sunny home with an ocean view. The home’s owner turns and beckons his visitor back to the sunroom. Technically it would be called a lanai, complete with wicker furniture with brightly colored cushions and a small patio table with a glass pitcher of lemonade. It’s all very Martha Stewart for a man who used to be involved in professional wrestling.
“Thanks for having me here, Chad.”
“Not a problem, Bryan. Although I’m surprised you wanted to fly all the way out here from the West Coast. Doesn’t seem like the weather is all that different.”
“You know better than that. I wanted to finish up our interview series.”
“I thought you were done with me. I told you there are others that have the rest of the story. I wasn’t there for a lot of it.”
“But you were there for…”
“The finish. Sure. And you wanted to get the dirty details in person? Hearing my reaction wasn’t good enough?”
“Not exactly. It’s just… different. And no one ever saw the real story, not truly. That’s the part I want to be able to tell.”
“Speaking of telling stories… did you come up with a name for the book yet?”
“The publisher is pushing for “The Death of the CSWA.”
“Tell ‘em that’s already been done.”
“Of course you did.”
“I’m leaning towards ‘Slouching Towards Greensboro.’”
“That’s really, really bad.”
“You think so?”
“Really bad. So it’s not that I’m rushing you here, but Johanna said she’d have my head if we’re not ready for dinner by 6. She doesn’t like to hear the old war stories, so she’s out shopping.”
“Of course. And thanks again for all this. I know it must be difficult, but the story… it’s just so…”
“Don’t say it. There’s enough ‘fanboy’ left in me to know what you mean. But remember… it’s just wrestling. It’s not the end of the world. So ask away, Bryan.”
“Oh, and by the way, happy anniversary.”
Merritt laughs. “Thanks, Bryan. I’m amazed at how the date has persisted, even though Steve and I can’t pin it down to the day. But anyway, thanks.”
“The last time we spoke we talked about ANNIVERSARY 2006. Thomas had come up with the “GOLD RUSH” idea…”
“Yup. And a good one at that, I have to give him credit for.”
“He tried to enlist your help against the Hacker, but you declined. Why even show up?”
Merritt smiles. “Honestly? Part ego, part curiosity. Some little part of me wanted to see Steve admit he couldn’t handle it alone. And part of me wanted to see what he was doing… if he really could pull the company out of the steep dive he and the Hacker put it in.”
“And the reason you didn’t give him your help? You told Ivy that night that you were just there to see him sweat.”
“ True. But not completely. I didn’t have enough information to help at that point. So I did the little bit I could. I tried to keep Ivy engaged.”
“You went to see her specifically?”
“Of course I did. I wanted to see her, especially after I heard she was pregnant. I needed to know more, needed to know if there was still fight left in more than just Steve. What I told her was true… “You can’t save the CSWA unless it wants to save itself.”
“Does that mean ‘it’ didn’t want to? Why?”
“Bryan, the CSWA tore itself apart. Not in an overt fans rioting and talent literally killing each other way. In a real way. The ‘parents’ went through an ugly divorce. The siblings fought. Complacency and apathy took root one day and spread like a cancer. I fought it… sometimes. Thomas fought it some. Ivy sure as hell fought it, along with so many others. We put it into remission over and over again. But that fight blinded us to a sickness at the core, a blighted organ that we took for granted. And that blight spread, undiagnosed, until it was too late.”
“So after ANNIVERSARY, you came back here. You said you went there because you didn’t have enough information.”
“I had enough to know that something wasn’t quite right. The hijacking of the Parsons Cruise Liner. The repeated attempts to interrupt shows. The appearance of a member of the Board of Directors here on this island around the same time the ship was stolen. I went to Greensboro to try and trace his steps.”
“Steve Day? The member of the CSWA Board of Directors.”
“And what did you find?”
“Nothing. Not a thing, which was odd enough. It wasn’t until after SHOWTIME in Columbia, after the CSWA lost its TV slot that I was able to find out more.”
“How was that?”
“Because I found him. Or maybe I should say, he found me.”
Merritt clears his throat, taking a moment to pour from the glass pitcher that Johanna had set out for them before she left. It also gives him a moment to tamp down the emotion building as he thinks about the plan that caught them all by surprise… the series of events that killed the CSWA.
February 1, 2007
(The mood in CS Towers is just short of black. In the aftermath of the unmitigated disaster that was CSWA SHOWTIME in Columbia, the CSWA is in chaos. U-62 was very clearly not amused by the Hacker’s intrusion into the event – taking control of CSWAvision, setting off the sprinklers and the fire alarm in the middle of the match. The TV network had to cut to black, the absolute no-no in their business. The crowd had been cleared from the arena and had to be given refunds. And still, no real leads on who the Hacker is or how to stop him or her.
CSWA owner Stephen Thomas made a crucial decision in the aftermath of PRIMETIME, deciding to keep the company running, even without a television deal on the horizon. With its history of problems and production delays, the CSWA has the equivalent of a “quarantine” sign on it for everyone in the television industry. The majority of CSWA staffers involved with television production have been laid off, all but a skeleton crew who can help broadcast the shows on the internet. So far, he hasn’t had to lay off any wrestling talent… but that day is here. But Thomas believes the future of the company depends on two things: 1) finding the Hacker, and 2) just making it to Sweetwater, just getting through FISH FUND XIV without anything ridiculous happening.
Good luck with that. FISH FUND is known for bizarre and ridiculous happenings… the insane “Battle of the Bands” with Hortense and the LOVE Sisters, the takeover of the FISH FUND charity by a bizarre woman out for revenge, Bob Ryder doing a top rope splash on Joe Pedicino, midgets being maimed… and the ultimate -- the Arena’s boiler exploding and causing the facility to catch fire, leading to the apparent demise of Timmy Windham. But FISH FUND is also known for incredible spectacles… The IRONMAN of CHAMPIONS, the neverending Windham saga, the rise of Eddy Love as World Champion, the Hornet/GUNS “End of an Era” match…
It only takes that one moment. That one special moment… for the CSWA to become the CSWA again.
Thomas’ internal monologue stops as the door to his office closes. His wife, Hortense, formerly of FISH FUND staple “Hortense and the LOVE Sisters,” enters the room.)
HORTENSE: Shug? What are you doing? You’re not up here brooding again, are you? I tol’ you, it’s all gonna be alright.
THOMAS: I’m fine.
HORTENSE: You’ve had that long face ever since that lil’ Red Midget escaped during the fire alarm at PRIMETIME. Lyle ain’t gonna cause no more problems. He’s prolly halfway back to that island by now.
THOMAS: I said I’m fine.
HORTENSE: Well, I just don’t want you to worry none. Besides, Mama’s here. And Mama knows what her Shug needs.
(Hortense walks over to the desk and slides up on the corner… as best she can. She starts kneading Stephen’s closest shoulder as he sits staring out the window over downtown Greensboro.)
HORTENSE: And besides, Mama has her needs too. She knows the best medicine for this mood you’re in… to show you that everything is gonna be okay.
(She leans in and begins nuzzling his neck… looking not entirely unlike a baby hippo nuzzling at its mother for attention.)
THOMAS: (pulling away) I said I’m fine. And I’ve got a meeting with Hornet any minute.
HORTENSE: (standing up from the desk) You’ve got to snap out of this, Stephen. I’m your WIFE and you’ve been completely ignoring me, completely ignoring EVERYONE for the last three weeks. I know this is hard time for you because of what the company is going through, but you can’t just…
(The intercom buzzes.)
MARSHA the Secretary: Mr. Thomas? Hornet is here to see you.
THOMAS: Give me just a minute and then send him in. (to Hortense) You have to leave, now. Use the other entrance.
HORTENSE: I’m serious, Shug. You can’t keep treating people like this…
THOMAS: Do you not get it!? I’m trying to save a company here! I’m trying to keep food on people’s tables. I’m TRYING not to lose everything I’ve worked for twenty years for! So I can’t help it if you feel IGNORED for a few weeks. But for right now, you need to leave… so I can see if it’s time to nail the doors shut around this place.
(Hortense looks at him for a moment, stunned. She turns away and leaves through the service entrance. Moments later, HORNET enters through the mahogany doors. Thomas stands.)
THOMAS: Paul, thanks for coming. I’ll make this short and sweet, where are you on what we talked about in Columbia?
HORNET: You and I both know it isn’t about the money for me. But I’m sure you can also understand that I’m somewhat hesitant given my history with the front office.
THOMAS: I know, I know. And I don’t blame you. But we both know that if you and I don’t come to some sort of deal, there’s just no way this company can keep running. Your contract is just too much for us to cover and keep the rest of the talent as well.
HORNET: But whose fault is that, Stephen?
THOMAS: I’m not blaming you, obviously. It’s this damn Hacker. Between the loss of the Columbia gate, the ridiculous cost of the Cruise Liner hijacking and now the loss of the U-62 contract…
HORNET: It comes down to this. If I’m going to allow you to basically void my contract, then I need some assurances that you actually have a plan to pull this off. It can’t just be another Thomas scheme…
THOMAS: This is all above board. We just have to get to FISH FUND. The gate alone there will help. But more importantly, I believe it will get us another TV contract. No one wants to talk right now, but if we can show that the phenomenon is back on track, I believe we can secure either NCN or another cable network easily. Our programming costs are cheap compared to what they spend on scripted shows.
HORNET: And what about the Hacker?
THOMAS: He’s not going to be able to resist showing up at FISH FUND. And so we’re going to set a trap. We’ll load the Arena and even the entire FISH FUND Park with security. Ivy has also suggested hiring some “good” hackers of our own. If he tries to get in the system, we’ll have him.
HORNET: You know I want this guy…or whatever… found as much as you do, Stephen. It’s got to be either someone we know or some sort of deranged stalker-fan… I mean, locking me in a room with Ivy and Teri? Locking you in a suite with Hortense and then forcing you to… no offense.
THOMAS: None taken. I know. Either way, it’s important that we keep going. You’ve been around from the first day, Paul. You and I both remember when you chose the name “Hornet” about two hundred feet below where we’re standing right now. It can’t end like this, can it?
HORNET: So the deal is, I allow you to buy out the rest of my contract for $1. I’ll work for free until FISH FUND, and then based on where we’re at, we’ll negotiate a new contract, with a guarantee that I have an option.
THOMAS: That’s it. And by doing it, you allow me to keep the talent contracts we have currently and keep the show going. And I’m forever in your debt.
HORNET: At least until you forget this conversation ever happened. (pauses) It’s a deal, Stephen. You better make it work.
THOMAS: (shakes Hornet’s hand) Thank you. And I think I’ve got a plan for a FISH FUND program you’ll like. (presses intercom) Marsha, tell Travel to finalize the arrangements. Then contact the talent and tell them we’re on track and a go for Birmingham.
And then Sweetwater…
February 16, 2007
As Bill Buckley and Sammy Benson are warming up the audience in the BJCC Arena and preparing to do the live webcast of the show, CSWA owner Stephen Thomas has called an ‘all hands’ meeting. All the talent, crew and CSWA staff are gathered in the catering area, waiting to hear their illustrious leader’s current plan.
THOMAS: I want to start by thanking you all for being here. You all know what happened a few weeks ago in Columbia and the effect it had on our deal with U-62. We lost all the momentum we were starting to build from the incredible GOLD RUSH event all of you put on… all because we’ve got someone with a vendetta against the CSWA running around. The most urgent thing for all of you to know is that I’ve been able to make some changes and guarantee that we’re solvent through FISH FUND. Everyone gets paid, no one gets laid off and we keep working our damnedest to put on the best program we can, TV or not.
But even more important -- I want you to know that I’m putting all the resources I’ve got left to finding out who this so-called “Hacker” is. Ivy has a team ready to track him down if he tries anything else, and I’m bringing in additional security for FISH FUND in a few weeks. But just in case someone here has heard something, or can help me find out what’s going on… I’m going old-school and putting a bounty on this “Hacker’s” head. Half a MILLION dollars from my own pocket…not the company’s.
I am going to find out who is doing this, and I’m going to make them pay. And after that, I’m going to put the same amount of energy and effort to getting us back on television and getting us back to the level where we can again say without a doubt that the CSWA is not only the best wrestling in the world, but the best event in all of sports.
(Thomas doesn’t wait for any type of response, he simply turns on his heels and heads to the gorilla position. After a moment of stunned silence, the group starts to break off in different directions, while some stay at the tables.)
ADRIAN EVANS: That was… Stephen Thomas… wasn’t it?
IVY: I have a feeling we could be moving into some sort of “evil twin” storyline here.
RUDY: An evil, smarter, more competent twin?
ADRIAN: Something like that. I’ve never seen him so… focused.
IVY: I have. Unfortunately.
ADRIAN: Unfortunately? ‘Competent’ and ‘focused’ rate as positive adjectives in my dictionary, boss.
IVY: You know how they talk about people with ADD not being able to complete tasks? It’s not because their focus is split as much as it is that they stay focused on one thing for too long. They think about it long after everyone else has moved on.
RUDY: But this hacker guy is still around? Isn’t that what he should be focused on?
IVY: He should. But I’m afraid he’s so focused on getting revenge that he’s forgetting the hard part. We actually have to catch this bastard first.
(As Ivy sips some weak coffee (the one vice she allows herself during pregnancy) the silence around the table is marred by the scraping of a nearby chair. TERI MELTON walks by, an insincere smile plastered on her face as she walks by her pregnant boss.)
TERI: Can I get your anything, Ivy? It looks like you’re moving around a little slower today. I guess pregnancy finally caught up with you?
IVY: Teri… you know what they say about a pregnant woman’s hormones? On a normal day I typically feel like jabbing my nails into your eye sockets just because you’re nearby. Can you imagine what I might do if you’re close by and you start taking cracks on my weight?
(Teri visibly starts, ducks her head and almost runs the opposite way.)
ADRIAN: You know, you’re not normally frightening, despite your rep. But when she gets near, I can see the old “Psycho Bitch” days right in front of my eyes.
IVY: Teri’s normally not worth the attitude, Ade. Except that I’m afraid I may have underestimated her… or maybe just thought she might have a decent bone in her scrawny body. I think our best lead on the Hacker just headed for the hills… and we better follow her.
ADRIAN: I’m on it like a Parsons on Elvis.
United States Championship
Kin Hiroshi vs. JJ DeVille
Buckley and Benson had the crowd well warmed up, but Thomas thought throwing out a major title match early would get things off to a big start. The whole card was loaded, but this one in particular had two clear-cut personalities: the heel champion and “Muffin Man” was hated by most and loved by the smart marks, while JJ DeVille’s underdog persona had been loved by all since breaking free of his role as Troy Windham’s lackey.
The loaded card was part of Thomas’s strategy – trying to break the old wrestling adage that if it didn’t happen on television, then it didn’t happen. The loss of television couldn’t have happened at a worse time, right before the go-home event for FISH FUND, but Thomas hoped by throwing out superstar matches all with impact on FISH FUND that he could get enough of the audience to find them on the internet.
JJ DeVille came out to his biggest pop yet. The Alabama crowd hadn’t forgotten his big win in Chapel Hill – the “Champions’ Challenge” match where he and Bobby Karma teamed up to defeat Kin Hiroshi and Cameron Cruise, earning the chance to call in title shots. The crowd fed off his energy, giving JJ the biggest pop in his CSWA career. Challenging for a title was a big deal for the Winger fan – the only championship he had held in the CSWA was the Greensboro title… and that was simply given to him by Merritt to piss off Shane Southern.
Standing in the ring, JJ got the best seat in the house as the US Champion entered, reveling in the exact opposite response. Kin Hiroshi had held onto his belt through GOLD RUSH, the only CSWA Champion to do so, and he wasn’t about to hand it over to the likes of JJ DeVille. He climbed into the ring, still jawing with the fans, not even making eye contact with his opponent.
DROPKICK by “The Big Man on Campus.” That made the “Muffin Man” take notice.
And he did, locking eyes with JJ. DeVille came rocketing in with a knee lift that sent Hiroshi into the corner. The crowd erupted as JJ began hammering the US Champion with right hands before being pushed out of the corner. JJ took a moment to amp up the crowd – this was going to be his…
NECKBREAKER! The US Champion DECIMATED the challenger, catching him unaware.
The challenger up to his feet as quickly as possible, only to take a DDT from the champ! Hiroshi’s eyes blazing, he went up to the top rope with the speed he’s known for, diving recklessly off the top and connecting with an Asai moonsault.
Pulling DeVille up by his hair, now it was Hiroshi’s turn to amp up the crowd, putting a boot right on JJ’s throat and thrusting him back into the corner. The crowd showered him with boos, knowing what was coming…
LITTLE BOY! The spinning forearm smash into the corner could only be a set up for its Hiroshima and Nagasaki counterpart…
FAT MAN! Sunset flip piledriver on the challenger. ONE………. TWO……….. THREE!
WINNER: US Champion Kin Hiroshi
There’s just nothing quite like “winter” in the Caymans. Perfect temperatures, the wind kicking up just enough so that every once in a while you get a chill that reminds you that you could be sitting in some God-forsaken place like Buffalo or Minot or Cleveland. Perish the thought.
Instead, Chad Merritt is sitting back on a lounge chair, one hand holding a paperback and the other entwined with Johanna’s. Hard to believe he had been here over a year now. He was quickly become accepted by the ‘natives’ who had either grown up on Grand Cayman or, like him, were once-tourists who settled down and made the island their home.
Johanna had fallen asleep curled up in her deck chair, a light blanket covering one shoulder and one knee. She shifted slightly as his phone started to buzz against the small table between them. He picked it up and pressed the button with his thumb, his other hand still wrapped around hers.
“Mr. Merritt, this is John Ebanks.”
“John, good to hear from you. How are things at the bank? I didn’t miss a meeting, did I?”
“No, Mr. Chad. I just thought you might be interested to know that Mr. Steve Day is here again. You inquired about him after his last visit during the summer. I believe you mentioned he was an old friend.”
“Absolutely, John. Is he still there?”
“Yes, he is. Young Mr. Bodden is just taking him back to safe deposit boxes at the moment. I expect him to be here for a while. He mentioned having some transactions to make following his visit to the valut.”
“I’m on my way, John. If you would, please don’t mention I’m on my way. I’d like it to be a surprise.”
“I completely understand, Mr. Chad. I’ll do my best to keep him here without ruining the surprise.”
“You’re wonderful as always, John. See you shortly.”
As he hangs up the phone, Johanna stirs.
“I have to head to the bank, angel. I shouldn’t be long.”
“Is there a problem?” she asks, sleepily.
“No, no problem. Remember that man I told you about, Steve Day? Apparently he’s in town again. I’d like to say hello.”
“Isn’t he the man from your old company?”
“That’s the one.”
“I thought you were putting all that behind you? Especially after what happened when you went there last time. You were so angry when you got back…”
“I know, angel. No reason to worry about that this time. He’s just an old friend. I’ll be back and we’ll have lunch at Trevia.”
As Chad walks out of the beachfront cottage and hops into his car, his mind starts to spin. The last time Steve Day showed up on Grand Cayman, the CSWA’s Parsons Cruise Liner had been hijacked by the so-called Hacker in the Caribbean. It couldn’t just be coincidence, could it?
Kevin Watson vs. Troy Douglas
The man formerly known as K-9 had shed his former image entirely – no more schizophrenic talking chair for Kevin Watson. Instead, he had gone away to Japan to train… and get ‘better’ in more ways than one. But just like his previous run in the CSWA, the San Antonio native once again had gold around his waist, thanks to the GOLD RUSH.
Troy Douglas, the Greensboro native, was determined to give the CSWA a good show in its time of need, and become a hometown champion in the process. He quickly used his seven inch height advantage to win a lockup, do a standing switch and drop the current champion with a half-nelson neckbreaker. He began piling on, keeping the compact champion on the ground to try and take away his explosive arsenal of moves. Douglas bridged Watson into a full nelson surfboard… when Watson powered out, he simply kept him on the ground, locking in a crossface.
Not the match they’re used to, the crowd seemed puzzled but quickly split into factions, half supporting the quirky Watson by slowly chanting K-NINE!, while the other half went for the Greensboro standout, quickly chanting DOUG-LAS! DOUG-LAS!. Watson continued to stretch for the ropes as the battle between the crowd continued…. Both groups broke off their chants as Watson grabbed the ropes and referee Ben Worthington called for the break!
Only to have Douglas pull the champ back into the middle of the ring and slap on an arm triangle choke, putting the damper on the chants for Watson. Worthington lifted the arm to check Watson, finding that the Greensboro Champion still had plenty of fight. He rolled the bigger man, only to find that Douglas was staying right with him. But the rolling not only loosened Douglas’ grip, allowing Watson to get some air, but also to get the ropes.
Watson pulled to his feet using the ropes as the referee backed Douglas away. But once again, Douglas charged in, eager to keep his advantage. This time Watson was ready, simply dropping to the mat and holding onto the top rope, sending Troy Douglas over the top and down to the concrete floor.
SUICIDE DIVE through the ropes by the Greensboro Champion sent both men flying into the barricade. Both took their time getting to their feet, with Watson up first and ready -- knocking Douglas silly with an enzuigiri that dropped him like U-62 did the CSWA’s TV contract.
Watson turned to head back into the ring and break the ten-count, only to have his legs swept out from under him by the stunned-but-able Douglas. Both men once again used the barricade to pull themselves up, with Watson determined to give some payback, delivering a german suplex onto the concrete and leaving Douglas laying. Unfortunately for both (or not), the ten-count expired, setting up a championship rematch at FISH FUND.
WINNER: Double Count-out (rematch at FISH FUND)
Marvin Parsons is just happy to be on land again.
It’s been months… MONTHS… since everything came to a head on the Parsons Cruise Liner. The Hacker’s ruse to get everyone off the boat by setting off fire alarms and pulling a Star Trek-esque countdown to self-destruct had worked, except for Marvin. He had been overcome by the real-but-limited smoke. When he came to, everyone he knew was gone.
The first month had been the worst. Confined to the Red Midget’s small lair underdecks, he had little except a computer setup and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Propel water and Powerbars, apparently a favorite of the midget’s. Using Red’s video surveillance setup, he was able to get a sense of who he shared the boat with, and even make terrifying runs to the galley in the middle of the night, or just to the nearest bathroom.
As near as he could make out, there were somewhere between 20 and 30 men on the ship, all “security” for the Hacker. As he learned names from his surveillance, he realized that not one of them ever spoke of their boss in any terms other than that… nothing that gave away who he might be or what his plans were.
Then came the first break. They docked at an island, restocking food, water and doing maintenance to the huge ship. Marvin had thoughts of escaping, running furiously off the boat and finding the first phone he could to let someone know where he was… but the gangplank on and off was clearly guarded. So he stayed in his hidey-hole, still trying to get a sense of the routine of the ship, and to plan…
The plan came easily after he saw how the crew swapped out just before they left the island. Almost half the crew left, replaced by another group on the island. They all wore the same approximate “uniform” as if they were a legitimate cruise ship crew. Over the next two weeks, Marvin used his surveillance and his growing knowledge of the maintenance decks and ducts to steal a “uniform” that would fit him. The next time they stopped at an island, he chose his moment… Causing a diversion with the help of Red’s system was easy – he simply set off an alarm, then jammed the walkie-talkies of the guards. The gangplank guard went up to the bridge to see what was happening, and Marvin took advantage, leaving the ship in his uniform.
He spent the next hour looking around furiously for a phone he could use, but no one seemed to want to have anything to do with him. They knew he had a come from “that ship,” the one that was a small cruise liner but didn’t have any cruise ship passengers. He headed back to the docks, just in time, it turned out, as the “replacement” crew was making it’s way to the ship. He joined in behind them – to them, he was one of the old crew coming back on board; to the guard on the gangplank, he was one of the new crew. His name was even on the new manifest… thanks to some more ‘hacking’ using the Hacker’s little midget’s own system.
He settled in as part of the crew for the next several weeks. For two weeks at a time he was a crewman, for the two weeks when he was supposed to be off the ship, he simply went back to his hidey-hole. He learned that the crew was made up of basically mercenary sailors – not pirates so to speak, but guys who couldn’t cut it in the merchant marine or the navy of their home country. All they knew was that they were supposed to keep this ship riding around the Caribbean, with several pre-determined stops on the calendar.
Oh, and they were never, ever supposed to bother the man in the Presidential Suite.
Cameron Cruise vs. Bobby Karma
The man with the longest nickname in wrestling, “What Goes Around Comes Around” Bobby Karma had called in his title shot by virtue of his Champions’ Challenge tag match with JJ DeVille in Chapel Hill. But “The Crippler” had no intentions of giving up the Presidential Championship again. The two-time champion had grabbed the title out of nowhere as part of GOLD RUSH and since had remembered just how good it could be to be a CSWA champ.
The long-time CSWA vet was a little surprised by the reaction of the crowd – Bobby Karma hadn’t been in the big leagues very long, but his indie career had been made almost completely in the South, with Birmingham being a typical stop. He had never wrestled in the BJCC Arena, but his fans from the various armories and high school gyms were right there in the front row and as vocal as ever.
Giving up seven inches but no weight to the champion, Bobby K. went for a spear early, taking the bigger man down with his power and keeping him down with a series of snapmares and dropkicks. Cruise quickly rolled outside the ring, clearly taken back by the aggressiveness of the challenger. Cruise quickly conferred with Mercedes – part game plan and part comfort, before rolling back inside.
Karma let Cruise come to him, allowing a quick lock-up. Cruise quickly tossed Karma into the ropes, then caught him with a dropkick that sent him flying. Douglas quickly countered as Cruise went for a suplex, reversing it and dropping the champion with a belly-to-belly suplex of his own.
The match continued to go back and forth for ten more minutes, challenger and champion taking their turns with the momentum, but neither able to put the other down for three. The turning point came when Karma was on top, going for a figure four leglock to put Cruise away. He made a critical mistake, allowing Cruise to get a foot free… a foot that just happened to end up lodged against the side of the challenger’s skull. Cruise quickly kipped up to his feet, irish whipping Karma into the ropes, then dropping him with a massive spinebuster that sent every bit of air rushing out of the Rome, Georgia rookie. ONE…. TWO…THREE.
WINNER: Presidential Champion Cameron Cruise
Ivy McGinnis is pregnant… extremely pregnant… ready to pop at any moment. Get it – she’s pregnant.
And here she sits, in the back of an arena at a catering table, two laptops spread out in front of her. On one, she monitors the feed to and from production: cameras, lights, CSWAvision and even the arena’s security system. On the other, she’s monitoring the CSWA website and its live feed of PRIMETIME – the only way this show is being seen by anyone outside the building.
After the failure in Columbia, she isn’t taking any chances. Other online friends are helping to monitor all internet traffic between the arena and the website, while extra security is combing the building looking for anything suspicious. And speaking of suspicious, “Little Voltron” Adrian Evans is monitoring Teri Melton, whose ‘accident’ in Columbia just happened to allow the Hacker to take over the system again, despite the precautions in place.
So far there hasn’t been a peep. Maybe the Hacker has done what he or she wanted – getting the CSWA thrown off television, causing layoffs and threatening the very existence of the company.
As she sips her third cup of weak coffee for the evening, she reflects on her earlier discussion with the CSWA’s primary announce team, Sammy Benson and Bill Buckley. She’s known both men for her entire tenure in the CSWA, well over a decade now. They know the burden she puts on herself.
“You’re only human, all of us are just individuals.”
“Unacceptable, Sammy. I can’t afford to be ‘only human.’ I have to be better than that.”
“Seriously, this isn’t good for the baby.”
That might’ve been a mistake. Ivy stood up, knocking the back of the chair against the wall with a ‘CLANG’ that made Bill and Sammy, and most of the people who were still trying to hear the argument in the office without making it look like it, flinch in surprise.
“What isn’t good, Sam,” she continued, and he knew he was in for it, “is that this business has gotten so f---ed up in the past few years, this company was the single holdover from the ‘boom’ that everyone likes to talk about with such reverence, and we could get there or close enough to it again so easily I can see it, but there’s always one more fork in the road.”
She looked down at Sammy from her four inch heeled boots. “You’re lucky, Sammy… you get to sit out in the arena and be funny. That’s your whole job. Some of us… some of us have a little bit more to worry about.”
Her eyes caught Sammy’s, and they locked their gaze for a few seconds, before Sammy got up and walked away. Ivy watched him for a few seconds, and looked back towards Buckley.
“That was too far, wasn’t it Bill?”
Buckley shrugged. He was not nearly as close to Ivy as Rudy Seitzer, or even Sammy in his own way – he didn’t know what he should say here.
Fortunately, Ivy did.
“Damn. Damn, damn, damn.”
Top Contenders Match
High Flyer vs. "Triple X" Sean Stevens
“Triple X” versus the “Neighborhood Lunatic.” These two main eventers who between them could fill up the alphabet with the leagues they’ve anchored. fWo, IWO, aWc, SCW, TCW, HEW, among many, many others. On a non-televised event? Why?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the winner of the “top contenders” match gets the chance to challenge for the UNIFIED World Championship after FISH FUND? The title that can fill up the alphabet many times over with the number of league titles it has merged and represented? Or maybe it just has something to do with loyalty – whether to the CSWA or to the sport. Trip has made it clear that he stands with the CSWA, whether on television or not. And to his credit, the Lunatic has made it clear that he’s committed just by showing up.
So what happens when a man crazy enough to mate with Ivy meets up with a man who just might be plain crazy?
Bedlam, of course. Despite the size difference, the two decided to turn it into a cruiserweight-type match, the smaller Flyer clearly aiming at Trip’s legs with thigh kicks and attempts at dragon screws. It seemed to take Trip aback, especially when High Flyer appeared to be yelling obscenities in Spanish at him the whole time.
He switched to Japanese once Trip took the upper hand, catching him in midair and dropping the fWo’s finest with an inverted DDT. Flyer quickly took the powder, continuing to yell at either himself or Trip in Japanese curses… it wasn’t clear which. Stevens quickly made the swan dive over the top, giving Flyer another reason to curse.
Or maybe not… Trip’s high-risk move had subjected him to that all too-important second part… risk. His head smacked hard against the right angle made by the thin mats and the crowd barricade. High Flyer pushed the dead weight off of himself, quickly heading to the ring to avoid the count-out fate of Kevin Watson and Troy Douglas earlier in the night. Flyer urged Ben Worthington to count faster… but he did so in German, which Ben is apparently not fluent in.
The multi-lingual High Flyer was willing to take Top Contender status by count-out, but was forced instead to deal with Stevens’ recovery. He quickly met Triple X on the apron, but Trip did a quick dive over the top and sunset flip that almost got him the big win. Flyer rolled through, backing into the corner and catching a charging Stevens with a modified Lou Thesz press that dropped him to the mat, forcing him to try and avoid a flurry of rights and lefts from Flyer.
Neither man was able to get a significant pinfall attempt until later in the match after Flyer hit Trip with his Hypothermia – a huge double underhook brainbuster, using the second rope for height and leverage. Flyer waited in the corner for Trip to get to his feet, measuring him with the Locomotive. As Trip got to his feet, Flyer charged in for the yakuza kick, but was met by Trip’s own foot as he tried to deliver an X-Factor superkick of his own in desperation.
Each man caught the other with the devastating kicks, sending both to the mat like a ton of bricks. Fortunately for Sean Stevens, his arm was barely draped over the arm and shoulder of the Neighborhood Lunatic, getting him a Ben Worthington three-count… without even being conscious for it.
WINNER and Top Contender to the UNIFIED World Championship: “Triple X” Sean Stevens
As the Top Contenders match comes to a close, CSWAvision lights up as “Light the Sun” by I Mother Earth begins to play and a montage of Hornet clips is shown on the video wall. Instead of the former UNIFIED Champion, however, CSWA owner Stephen Thomas steps out to where a nearby podium awaits.
THOMAS: Hello Birmingham!!! (cheap pop) I want to thank each and every one of you for coming, as well as all of you watching this great event online! We wanted to make sure we gave you a HUGE show, and I think we’ve delivered so far. (crowd pops) And we’ve still got a massive main event to come! But I thought we’d throw in a little something else. Anybody interested in hearing a special announcement about FISH FUND?
A nice ‘FISH FUND’ chant begins in the audience as Hornet’s intro hits again and this time… he comes out.
THOMAS: A lot of you long-time fans know the story of FISH FUND. It started as a telethon, part music and part wrestling, to help under- shall we say, underprivileged women get the benefit of plastic surgery… solely to help their self-esteem of course. The event grew to become one of the CSWA’s premiere events and settled down in its own FISH FUND Park Arena in Sweetwater, Texas, the home of the Windham family.
Few men, if any, have been a part of FISH FUND as many times as Hornet has. Hornet, you’ve competed for the UNIFIED World Championship in Sweetwater multiple times – in a tournament to determine the title and later in an IRONMAN of CHAMPIONS. I think it’s fair to say that FISH FUND hasn’t usually been kind to you – you suffered a back injury there that almost ended your career. And in the last event, many years ago, you faced off in a huge four-way match for the US Title against Dan Ryan, Shane Southern and Triple X – all amazing champions themselves.
HORNET: You forgot to mention the ‘back injury’ was due to a wall falling on me, because of an explosion your partner and your favorite midget were responsible for…
THOMAS: (clears his throat) Way back at FISH FUND XI, you participated in one of the most famous… and shocking matches in CSWA history when you lost to GUNS in a Career Match due to interference.
HORNET: Are we getting to some news here, or does the history lesson on “crappy moments in Hornet’s career” continue?
THOMAS: I’ve got a contract right here for FISH FUND that not only gives you the opportunity to reshape your history in Sweetwater, but changes the landscape of the CSWA… and the wrestling world.
Thomas hands the contract to Hornet to review, leaving the crowd in the dark. Hornet grimaces as first, then grins.
HORNET: Done. (He signs the contract, hands it to Thomas, waves to the crowd and heads to the back.)
THOMAS: I’m happy to announce that a few weeks in Sweetwater, Texas, the CSWA’s FISH FUND pay-per-view will feature another Top Contenders match. On one side, Hornet…. And on the other.
CSWAvision goes black, then flashes up one name.
THOMAS: ”The Wolf” MIKE RANDALLS!
The crowd erupts again as a promo reel begins to play. It’s clear that Thomas is trying to pull out all the stops for FISH FUND… and the Hacker be damned. One of the most storied rivalries and partnerships in wrestling history is about to be renewed.
It didn’t look like Chad Merritt was going to make his lunch date.
Instead, he woke up to find himself lying on a small bunk in what appeared to be a small hotel room. No, wait, not a hotel room…. a cruise ship stateroom.
Oh good grief. Or we’re assuming that’s what he thought as he rushed for bathroom to empty his stomach.
Earlier in the day, he had met Steve Day in the lobby of the bank. The member of the CSWA Board of Directors seemed surprised at first, but then friendly to his old boss. Merritt and Day had served in the trenches together as President and Vice-President in the early days just after the CSWA had gone national and then international. Day had always been a little touchy, maybe a Napoleon complex from his height (or lack thereof). He had moved on to found another company, a small securities trading firm, but had agreed to serve as a Board member.
Chad offered to take Steve to lunch, but Day demurred. He seemed in a rush… too much of a rush. They walked outside the bank, down Main Street, as Day headed for who-knows-where.
“I can’t believe you’re here, Steve. Mr. Bodden mentioned you to me after your last visit. You knew I lived down here… I hate that you haven’t connected.”
“You know how it goes, Chad. Those of us that aren’t ‘retired’ have to move quickly. Especially in my business – moving all that money around through trades.”
“I know, it must be brutal in this economy. In fact, after Stanley told me about your last visit, I tried to get in touch with you through your company.”
“Yeah, it’s been tough. We had to… restructure. I’ve moved to..”
“Cut the crap, Steve. What’s going on? The last time you showed up here was the exact same day of the hijacking.”
“Hijacking? What are you…”
“You were never a good liar, Day. Who are you working for and what are you down here doing?”
“This isn’t an Austin Powers movie, Chad. I’m not just going spill my guts because you want me to.”
“How about because I’m going to have the police detain you before you can get off this island? I just happen to be in good with the Chief of Police.”
“You’ve got no reason to try to…
“This isn’t the States, Steve. They don’t need a reason other than that a friend of the Chief said you’re up to something. Just tell me who you’re working for, Steve. Is it this ridiculous “Hacker” Thomas and Ivy told me about? And what could possibly be down here that you need to do for him?”
“I tried to keep it business, Chad. He’s been hoping you’d stick your nose in long enough to get involved.”
“Spill it, Steve. Who is ‘he?’ This isn’t some ridiculous angle from 1989. These are people’s jobs and livelihoods that are being affected.”
“Sorry, Chad. We’re here.”
“Here where? This is the bait shop. And I’m not letting you go any further and get off this island until you tell me what’s going on.”
Chad picks up his phone. Steve Day lunged at it, but misses.
“I told you, this isn’t some stupid angle or spy….”
Merritt stops talking as two large men step up behind him and hit him in the back with a stun gun. He slumps into their arms and they quickly carry him beside the bait shop, no one the wiser.
His gastrointestinal discomfort alleviated, Merritt comes out of the bathroom and immediately tries to leave the stateroom. The door is, of course, locked. No good kidnapper would miss that. And here he was hoping maybe it was a two-bit kidnapper like Marvin Parsons. No such luck.
Banging on the door didn’t work. Neither did trying the phone. Or escaping through the ceiling. He was good and trapped. Like a rat. On a ship. Going who knows where and run by who knows who.
The only thing to do – try and figure out who’s to blame.
Dan Ryan and Troy Windham vs. Eron and Nova
Winner Determines Main Event at FISH FUND
It's never a bad idea on a go-home card to throw large numbers of main eventers in a big gimmick match. And Thomas may have been called a number of things over the years, but his decisions as a booker have always been interesting to say the least. Break open the package marked 'wrestling match', stir in some drama and throw in a splash of UNIFIED Championship -- bake for thirty minutes or so and you should have something pretty good.
The extra added ingredient was definitely in this one -- whoever scored the pinfall got the chance to decide who Dan Ryan would defend the UNIFIED World Championship against at FISH FUND. Presumably, Troy, Eron or Nova would choose themselves -- and would do just about anything to get the pinfall. So this pseudo-tag match promised some interesting twists and turns.
And the first one came during the introductions. As the UNIFIED World Champion entered to the roar of the crowd and started to climb up on the apron, Troy Windham, his tag partner, decided to level him with a chair to the back of the head. Then add a few additional shots... just to make sure things were well scrambled.
Ryan was helped to the back by CSWA staff, leaving former UNIFIED Champ Troy to face off against Eron and Nova by himself. At first it seemed like the right move as he quickly had Eron against the ropes. But after a hot tag, Nova clearly took control, using his unique brand of wrestling to keep Windham in trouble. Already reeling from a T-Bone suplex, Troy tried to roll out of the corner and avoid the Novacaine, but took the full brunt of the dropkick to the head. Nova quickly went for the cover, only to have it broken up by his partner, Eron.
Nova jumped up to address his partner, only to be sat back down by a shortarm clothesline. Eron made his way out of the ring, only to see his plan backfire as Windham quickly went for a cover. Lucky for the Relentless One, his partner kicked out at two, keeping his FISH FUND dreams alive.
A running kneelift by Troy sent Nova into his corner, with Eron taking the advantage to tag in, only to be met by a gorebuster. The man known as “The Epitome,” “Mr. CSWA” and the “King of All Media” seemed to have the number of Eron the Relentless, keeping him staggered with a discus punch, then whipping him into the ropes to set up a slingshot suplex and a quick two-count. As Windham cinched in the STF, Nova quickly came off the top with a moonsault, hitting both men and breaking up the pinfall.
The match became a free-for-all as Troy and Nova traded blows, at least until Eron got to his feet and connected with a crescent kick that sent his partner through the ropes and out of the action. The two legal men continued to fire at each other before Eron connected with a la magistral and a handful of tights that gave him an almost three-count…but not quite.
The former jOlt Champion caught Troy with a quick and dirty knee to the stomach, setting him up to deliver the Rogue DDT, sweeping the legs while forcing the head downward. He quickly hooked the leg, only to have Nova interject with a quick bumblaster off the middle of the ropes. Troy crawled to the corner for safety while the two partners went at it. Eron caught Nova with an eye gouge and quick armdrag, but when he went to hook a suplex, Nova was able to block it and drop him with the In-NOVA-tor corkscrew cradle suplex. A semi-blinded Nova went for the ropes to set up for a CTRL-ALT-1337, but found Troy Windham climbing the ropes with him….
SLACKKNIFE from the top!
The crowd stood as one, entranced by the action in the ring and…
SLACKKNIFE on Eron!
Cover by Windham! ONE……….TWO…. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! (As Bill Buckley would say!)
DAN RYAN, a cut still oozing blood through the makeshift stitches and bandage on his forehead, pulled Windham out of the ring, breaking up the pinfall. Windham fired a shot at the head wound, only to have it caught and be slammed into the apron by the massive UNIFIED World Champion. Already winded, a quick cheap shot to the throat didn’t help matters for Windham. But it sure did for Ryan.
HUMILITY BOMB on the outside!
Dan Ryan quickly left Windham for dead (he’s actually fine… no really, it’s been two years!), rolling into the ring and covering the downed Eron.
As PRIMETIME cuts its internet feed, the cameras show UNIFIED Champion Dan Ryan leaning on the ropes looking down at the unconscious Troy Windham.
WINNER: DAN RYAN (Chooses his own opponent for FISH FUND)