Bloodbath in Paradise (AKA 5091 Regrets)

Bloodbath in Paradise (AKA 5091 Regrets)

Posted on July 14, 2023 at 7:24 pm by Shane Reynolds

What the hell was I thinking?

I told myself that I wasn’t going to do this again. That I wasn’t going to unleash another diatribe upon nobody but my own mind’s ear. But I also told myself that I wasn’t going to gun for another championship, and look how that turned out. Now here it is, perched across from me, my name now emblazoned where Steve Solex’s had loomed for however many days. And, as I stare at it, all I can think about is that question:

What the hell was I thinking?

Unlike the (other) egomaniacs that make up High Octane Wrestling, I can admit when I made a mistake. In actual fact, I made 5091 of them. If Jay Z thought having 99 problems was bad, then he’s a moron. He got off lightly, because they pale in comparison to 5091 problems…mistakes…regrets. And, equally unlike him, a bitch was definitely one.

5091 minutes was how much time I dedicated to my match with Steve Solex. And yes, I calculated. To put it in further context, that’s just shy of 85 solid hours. That’s near 4 full days. Each and every one of those 5091 minutes was spent physically training – running myself ragged and straining every muscle into near oblivion. Each and every one of those 5091 minutes was spent psychologically preparing – getting myself into the right headspace to take on a behemoth like Solex. Each and every one of those 5091 minutes was spent tactically studying Solex, either via tapes or in my own mind’s eye from memory, learning every move inside out, backwards and forwards.

What the hell was I thinking?

Yes, I have yet another HOW championship to my name, to be forever etched in my eventual legacy. But at what cost? I stretched myself to my brink to get it. Furthermore, I’ve set a standard that I’m not sure I can reach again. Much less reach on a weekly basis, which, I’m now learning, is defended weekly.  But if I don’t push myself to that level, I wind up liable for humiliation. And humiliations wouldn’t come much worse than losing to Evan Ward. To lose a title after only one week would be horrendous enough an experience. But to lose said championship to a comatose vegetable would be a real FUCKING travesty.

Now, I’m not a fool. I know that it’s Trent I have to worry about – another mountainous man as ridiculous as his accent. He’ll be the one inflicting all the damage (with the latest Chaos event serving as proof of that). Regardless, it’ll be Evan Ward that’ll do the pinning, conscious or not. As such, that will be how the match is remembered. That will be how my HOTV reign will be remembered. That will be a permanent Asterix attached to the legacy of Shane Reynolds.

I’ll be more of a laughing stock than some people already think me. More than those whose name I can’t even remember but Mike Best uses repeatedly as verbal punching bags. I can’t allow that to happen. I need to find a way to get Trent off his feet and negate the height and weight difference. I need curb stomp his face into oblivion and show him what ruining his plans truly feels like. And then smother Evan Ward with a pillow, truly put him out of his misery…

What the hell was I thinking?

…but putting in another 5091 minutes to get there, to overpower my opponent? I’m not sure I can manage it. I have neither the stamina nor the energy – be it weekly or in general at this age. Such is the rock and hard place I find myself in. And of top of everything else, there’s the Bobbinette Carey of it all to consider. With my focus so divided, she came dangerously close to getting one up on me. Yes, I managed to rectify that after her match, her blood gracing my hands and mask. And yes, my defeat of Solex served as an example of what’s coming her way at the pay-per-view. Evan Ward and Trent can serve as the same, but the 5091 minutes of effort to ensure it run the risk of diminished physical returns. All of which could pave the way for Bobbinette to defeat a weakened version of me during our match. A version that’s ground himself to dust and proves easy to beat.

Ironically, 5091 in days amounts to almost the amount of days my anger towards her has festered. Maybe I should take that as a sign and refocus my efforts solely on her. Maybe I should just let the title go, so that everybody wins and each of our plans get back on track. But, conversely, the idea of Evan Ward and Trent walking away with the title feels like the start of another 15-year grudge. Letting go of another title that is rightfully mine feels like something I can’t allow to happen again, even over my dead body.

What the hell am I gonna do?


Shane continued to sit in the arm chair, contemplating the darkness, as he is often wont to do. His eyes had adjusted enough to make out the gleam of the HOTV championship belt’s plate. The shadows had darkened enough to obscure his name upon it, but that didn’t matter. That image was burned vividly onto his brain, as his thoughts remained at war over what to focus on. Decimating Bobbinette or retaining the title. Shane still wanted to believe it was possible to do both, but the emo in him, as always, leaned towards pessimism.

“Forget it,” he said, somewhat futilely. “That’s a matter for another time.”

For this moment, he had a ritual to complete. Shane had many that followed a victory – even though he’d only had two of them so far. Principal among them was the celebratory orgy. As far as Shane knew, it was still taking place in one of the other hotel rooms. Shane hadn’t been entirely into it this time. The reasons were myriad but included the attack executed by Trent and the literal swinging dick known as Evan Ward. It had, for want of a better turn, stolen his mojo…and so he’d left early.

“Fuckers!” Shane muttered to the otherwise empty room, the anger for the Welshmen rising up again. He took a sip of whiskey. The glass rattled as his hand shook from the effort of merely raising it to his lips, further emphasizing his 5091 regrets and the decision to seclude himself.

All the sights and sensations he was missing out on was down to them. As a result, his mind veered back towards prioritising getting revenge on them. Vegetable or not, Evan wasn’t going to get off easily. If Shane had his current way, Evan would return to consciousness to find several broken bones and that he now had to carry an unconscious Trent around. And afterwards, Shane would celebrate with the biggest and best orgy yet – so that’s something to look forward to.

At that moment, and on that thought, the room suddenly filled with light. Shane immediately shied away from it like a vampire from daylight. Briefly blinded, and feeling suddenly exposed, he groped for his mask, which had been resting on the arm of the chair. He rapidly clipped it back into place, gifting the mysterious interloper the merest glances of the scars beneath. He glared towards the door, the light spilling in from the hallway making a silhouette of his unexpected (and unwelcome) guest.

“You didn’t need to do that,” she said.

Her familiar voice gave rise to a sense of relief, as the shadowy figure dissolved into the image of Phantasm. She pushed the door closed, and, just before the light once again receded, Shane noted that she wasn’t wearing her own mask. As such, he found himself thinking of her as Riley – the birthname he’d met her under before she adopted Phantasm to match her skull mask.

“Yes,” Shane argued. “I did.”

Shane could see in her eyes that she still disputed this notion, but she wisely chose not to push the matter.

“What are you doing here?” Shane asked, changing the subject to avoid any awkward silences. “Has there been word from Trent?”

“Nothing yet,” Riley answered. “It’s still basically the Mike Best and Darin Zion show out there.”

“For the moment,” Shane countered. “He’ll crawl out of the woodwork soon enough. Not that it matters. I can probably guess what’s going to come to come out of British backwater drainpipe of a mouth.”

Riley raised her eyebrow as she took a place on the sofa opposite him, and besides the HOTV championship. Shane’s eyes had once again adjusted, able to pick out her cascading red hair, no longer tied up behind her mask. Instead, they accentuated her bright green eyes and pale skin. Beside the title belt, she looked every bit the prize that it did. Shane once again thought about the question he’d had when he’d first met her: what is she doing here? He never had gotten an answer, then or now.

Shane momentarily pushed that curiosity aside to satiate her own, though he wisely chose not to try and imitate a Welsh accent. “Fuck this! Fuck that! Emo cunt. Boo-hoo. Edgar Allen Crow. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck!”

“I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“You’ll see,” Shane assured her, taking another sip of whiskey, using all his might to keep his hand steady. “Not that I can judge. I’m terrible at the trash talk stuff. Never mind that, though. Why are you here?”

“Here now in this room?” Riley countered. “Or serving you in general?”

Shane wondered for a moment whether she had actually read his mind. “Let’s go with here in the room, for now.”

Riley shrugged. “It wasn’t the same without you. There’s not really anybody there I want anymore and just watching gets boring after a while.”

Shane made a mental note of her “anymore” and the list of questions pertaining to this particular follower continued to grow. Yet another matter for another time.

“Fair enough!” Shane drained the rest of the whiskey from the glass and slammed it down with a clink. At least he didn’t have to worry about his tremors for a while.

“Why are you here?” Riley suddenly fired back, catching him by surprise. Then, as though reading his mind once again, she rapidly followed up with some clarification. “In this room.”

Shane saw no reason to lie, not to her. “I have a ritual to perform. The kind of ritual that essentially makes Trent and everyone else right about me, but still…

“Low-hanging fruit.”

“Exactly,” Shane concurred. “Like when they call me The Crow. Like that wasn’t my whole inspiration in the first place. For people in an entertainment company, they really aren’t wholly imaginative or original. Myself included. At least I’m aware of it.”

Shane shrugged and Riley, this time, decided to press.

“What’s the ritual?” she asked, then immediately second-guessed herself as Shane looked back up at her. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

Shane contemplated for a moment and then exhaled. “Why not?”

He immediately sat up into a straighter position and began rolling up the left sleeve of his black top. He stopped at the elbow, though there was much more up there to see. Riley leaned forward and squinted her eyes.

“There’s a lamp next to you.”

“I don’t want to ruin the brooding atmosphere you created for yourself.”

“I’ll allow it…just this once,” Shane sardonically obliged.

Riley reached to her right and flicked the switch as soon as she’d found it. Even through the darkness and the awkwardness of her movements, she hadn’t taken her eyes off of Shane. As such, she was immediately greeted with a view of what her master had been talking about. It was a list of names, only a few, though Riley suddenly understood that there were probably more. The few names she saw were not written. Nor were they tattooed. No, these names were carved and forever scarred in place.

“Zach Kostoff…Steve Solex…” Riley read, the elements of her master’s ritual dawning on her as she noted that Kostoff’s name had a scarred line running through it. Solex’s, on the other hand, didn’t. And there was no sign of Trent or Evan Ward’s names.

As if on cue, or maybe reading her mind in return now, Shane opened the drawer of the cabinet beside the armchair. Reaching in, he pulled out a black-handled knife. The blade was already extended. A flash of emotion that could only be described as reckless hunger burned suddenly in Riley’s eyes. Though, in truth, she had once again reverted to feeling like Phantasm, mask or no mask.

“Can I do it?” she asked, almost breathlessly.

Both the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice spoke to Shane’s own brand of crazy. And, before he knew it, he’d flipped the knife over…so that he was now holding the blade and the handle was being offered up to her. Rather than stand up, Riley slipped off the couch and sank to her hands and knees. She then proceeded to crawl slowly, reverentially, towards Shane and the blade. When she’s covered the distance, she pushed herself back up. Resting on her knees and sitting on her heels, she gratefully took the knife.

“Thank you,” she said, as Shane next held out his arm to her.

She took it, again gratefully, and lifted herself higher on her knees to get a better angle. Riley then pressed the tip of the knife just before the first ‘S’ of Steve Solex’s name. She hesitated, glancing up into Shane’s dark eyes. They burned holes into her own as she remained locked in that moment.

“What are you wai—” Shane began.

Riley cut him off – literally and figuratively – as she dug the knife into his flesh. Shane remained as still as stone, not even so much as flinching. Riley remained the same, their eyes locked, though a dark smirk spread across her red lips. She began to drag the blade across, through the T-E-V-E-…

“Deeper!” Shane commanded, and Riley obliged without missing a beat.

Drawing even more blood, she dragged it through the rest of the name. S-O-L-E-X-. As it cut through the “X”, Riley pulled the knife clear. She immediately rushed it to her lips, sticking her tongue out to meet it. There was that hunger again, overwhelming her gaze before vanishing beneath her eyelids as she closed them extatically. Her tongue run up one side of the knife and then down the other, then back again, catching every drop of blood. Once again opening her eyes, her gaze was drawn to the blood now also running down Shane’s arm and wrist. She immediately lunged for it, only to hit Shane’s hand as he slammed his palm against her forehead.

“Not yet!” Shane informed her. “We have two more names to add.”

He had considered just putting Evan Ward’s name. After all, that was who he was technically booked against. But he didn’t want to jinx himself, so better safe than sorry. Even it was going to be a tight fit putting them together. Fortunately, Riley had the instincts of an artist and found a way to include them both. Not only that, but she paid tribute to the fact that they were essentially one and interchangeable at the moment – equal parts human puppet and deranged puppet master.

She put Trent’s name horizontal, as per the others. And then, starting from the “E” at the center, she spelled out Evan Ward in a vertical trajectory. Furthermore, she made sure to position it off-center, so that any risky terrain count be avoided when it came time to cross them out. Their mutual familiarity with mental health issues suddenly paying off in the most unexpected of ways.

“Do you think I can win this Sunday?” Shane asked like a bolt out of the blue as he thought about crossing the names out.

Riley looked up from her knees, having just finished carving out the final “D”. She gave out another whimper, as she clearly thought she was just about to be rewarded. But she swallowed her frustration and contemplated the question.

“Of course,” she said, a soothing balm to Shane’s sudden doubts. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

“Trent is formidable, though,” Shane countered. “Whatever his lack of imagination, he has more than this STRONK and brutal force to make up for any such shortcomings. Besides, streaks have to end sometime.”

“You are the one that ends streaks, remember?” Riley tapped her index finger on Steve Solex’s name. Blood oozed as she did so, coating the tip of her finger. She couldn’t resist any longer and sucked it longingly.

Shane allowed her the brief taste, though made a mental note to punish her for it later.

“That’s true,” Shane eventually concurred, coming back to himself. “Besides, what streak does Trent even had at this point? That’s why he needs engage in this little freak show with Evan Ward. Somebody needs to euthanize that poor bastard once and for all. And if I have to take down another oak tree of a man to do it, then that’s what I’ll do. If I can defeat Steve Solex, I can defeat Trent.”

“Exactly!” Riley emphatically offered.

“I just…” Shane himself hesitated now, then decided to throw caution to the wind. “I just don’t think I have it in me to train as hard as I did last week.”

Shane stopped short of telling her about the injuries that were still plaguing his shoulder and arm, along with the new inclusion of his lower back and right leg. Lest he transfer doubt from himself to his disciples and thus lose their faith completely.

“Then don’t,” Riley said. “And use us to pick up the slack. We are there at ringside with you, lest you forget. Instruct us. Use us. You want her to distract Trent, then we will. You want her to subtly interfere when the referee isn’t looking, then we will. You didn’t return to High Octane Wrestling to play fair, remember? You are there to win and destroy your enemies – all of them. Even the ones you didn’t have until now.”

“That’s true,” Shane repeated, his mind suddenly aflame with the memory of what Trent had done to him land Sunday. The humiliation had given way to the kind of anger he thought he only had for Bobbinette Carey and Max Kael. “And he’s not technically in the match, so anything you guys do to him is technically legal. We just need to find a way to separate him from Evan Ward. Then you are free to go to town. You may not be able to wrestle him or fight him head-on or one-on-one. But if you all swarm him at once…with chairs and hammers and whatever you can get your hands on…we could, theoretically, incapacitate him long enough for me to get the pin.”

“And if he uses Evan Ward as a weapon,” Riley added, “you can just use Jigsaw as a human shield.”

In that moment, Shane did something he hadn’t done in quite some time. He chuckled. “I’m sure he’d love that.”

“Who cares what he wants,” Riley stated bluntly. “We serve you. He serves you. No matter what. So, if you need to use him like a lightsabre to battle Trent, then so be it. This is what he signed up for torpedo us all at Trent until our combined weight is too much for him to break out from under. You do whatever amount of training you can. And then, when the time comes, you just do whatever else it takes to win… sir.”

Shane pondered upon Riley’s words for a few moments, a myriad of mental images flooding his mind. For the first time in a few days, he had forgotten his humiliation and his troubles. For a brief moment, he even forgot about training – even though the next session was only a few hours away. In that current moment, there was just him and her, and the feeling of upcoming victory that were serving to bring back his mojo. In reward for instilling a renewed sense of faith, Shane held out his arm. Riley wasted no time in gripping it tightly and wrapping her lips to catch as much blood as she good.

The Angel of Death is coming, Shane thought as Riley fed as hungrily as any real vampire. For Bobbinette… but first for Trent and, unknowingly, Evan Ward. And from now until the pay-per-view, nothing is going to stand in my way.

But first, a different kind of workout was more and more occupying Shane’s mind with each passing moment. As well as a different kind of pain to inflict. He wondered whether this could be considered ill-timed procrastination or a necessary distraction from his thoughts over the upcoming match. He figured he would find out the answer to that when the bell rang on Sunday night.

“Enough!” Shane commanded, and Riley instantaneously obliged. He nodded to the door behind her. “In there…assume the position.”

Her face now drenched in blood; it formed a new kind of mask as it dripped from her chin. She looked up at him as he stood, another grateful glint in her eyes. She then complied, turning around and, back on hands and knees, crawled towards the bedroom. Shane, meanwhile, headed in the opposite direction and went into the bathroom. Pulling on the cord, the light flickered on and Shane looked down at his bloody arm. He would have to bandage and maybe even stitch it later. For now, though, he figured he had a little more blood to give. He then looked up and stared at his masked face in the mirror.

“No sense in hiding it now,” he muttered, before pulling off his black top. Beneath, there was a cavalcade of scars – ones traditionally earned in battle and ones self-inflicted, comprised of various names from High Octane Wrestling’s past – from Aceldama to Mike Best, with several markings dedicated to Max Kael. Some were crossed out, some weren’t. In either case, each was a sign that he took these matches much more seriously than anybody else. And that’s why he was going to keep winning. As Riley’s words echoed through his mind, he was more determined than ever to make sure Evan Ward and Trent got crossed out.

Riley would later ask why there wasn’t yet a Bobbinette marking, to which he would answer that he had a different idea in mind for her. In this moment, however, Shane’s mind was fully on Trent and Evan Ward. He wondered whether this match would leave him with any new scars. Whatever the case, the ritual was complete and it was time to shed their blood, not his own. And, for that, he needed to be ready. He pulled open the bathroom cabinet and helped himself to a vial of morphine and a fresh syringe.

“Just a few more,” Shane muttered as he set himself up a shot of the liquid. “Just to get through the next few days and make sure I can make an example of Trent and Evan Ward like I did Solex. Just one more and I’m done.”

With that, Shane jabbed the needle into his right arm and his eyes rolled back in his head as the pain that had been rocking his body seemed to suddenly lift. In its place, Shane was filled with a tingling sensation as he imagined delivering the Original Sin on Trent and pinning an Evan Ward so broken that, should he regain consciousness, he’d wonder if he’d become a jellyfish.

But, before all of that, however, he had a certain redhead to deal with. And, on that fresh and pleasant mental image, he disposed on the syringe, turned off the light, and strode back into the darkness – literal and metaphorical – that awaited him.