Never in my entire life did I appreciate anyone more than I did my new life coach, Mickey O’Meara. Not many 75 year old men have a zest for life like he has. Hell, many of them rot away on their couches when they no longer could move. But Mickey doesn’t let his disabilities hold him back. Every morning, he wakes up at 4 AM to walk around the block to insure atrophy didn’t set in on his legs. While he constantly fights with his Tourette’s Syndrome; he still attends mass and alcoholics anonymous meetings mentoring many young men. Sure, the elders shoot him dirty looks when he dropped the occasional curse words out, but he always showed everyone tough love. He never once griped because of his disposition of life. He busted his ass and gave 110% of his heart to everyone he met.
He became the grandfather I wish I always had.
But my spirit felt much weaker than his this morning at 5:30 AM running up and down the Gaslight District in downtown San Diego. Mickey kept pushing me beyond my limits. I’d spent nearly an hour and a half running away from that damn old man in his yellow sport coat chasing me around in a motor scooter whipping me with his whistle. He blew it every time I wanted to stop. My cardio regiment slipped after settling into a desk job at the Marketing Firm, but Mickey cared two shits about that. He knew my goals, my obsessions, and my dreams. He didn’t dare back down from holding me accountable.
Mickey O’Meara: “Get yer lazy ass to running faster. I’m about to hit 10 Miles per Hour. You shouldn’t let yer lazy 32 year old ass get beat by me, whippersnapper.”
Darin Zion: “I hate you right now. My legs burn like Hades and…”
Mickey O’Meara: “Boy-oh, you’ve lasted longer than yesterday, but Zeus’ about shoot thunderbolts at yer ass in that ring. Hell, it looks as if this Jiles fellow I watched on the television wants to send every Greek God after you. I’m sure Poseidon wants to flood your ass and…”
Darin Zion: “I’ll stop complaining.”
I grew weary of listening to his positive spin on everything, but Mickey definitely made a point. I didn’t know Cool Cancer Jiles like I knew Eric Dane and Madman Szalinki. Both men had reputations. Eric Dane ruled Defiance Wrestling like a God while Madman Szalinski’s son had his father’s reputation to fuel him. I honestly look past Jiles the moment I drew his name out of the hat. His stupid fake Oakley sunglasses and smug ass smile never impressed me. However, when speaking to everyone I knew within the locker room researching him, people told me these simple two words:
“Hit or Miss”
Many wrestlers look past another worker when they hear those simple words. It honestly strikes fear in me. Jiles has a track record in HOW rubbing elbows with one of my greatest rivals: Scottywood. Both held the Tag Team Championships. I knew Scottywood inside an out. Tough exterior, never gives up, and violent demeanor. If you take your eyes off the hockey stick wielding, beer drinking son of a bitch; he would knock the ever loving shit out of you. But Jiles; I couldn’t find a God damn thing after scouring UTA and Defiance’s archives. Rather Jiles paid off the CIA or spoke with Mnemosyne to erase his existence; I couldn’t tell you. I honestly never interacted with him in all my 14 years in this business. I’ve heard rumors and stories. But that’s all bullshit. I’ve never experience his fighting style. I haven’t seen his work ethic first hand. All I can say is this: since Jiles worked for Lee Best…he’s dangerous and it struck the fear of God in me.
My body tensed up just thinking of the what ifs. Jiles seems confident and cool. He’s had more experience around this business than me. He’s fought against HOW’s greats when they stood at the top of this business. Each passing thought rushing in my head made my chest feel heavy. I can’t choke in the first round. Second chances in life don’t get handed out often. No one can just erase 14 years of memories or stigma like I got gifted. People pray for those opportunities to start a new life. As I kept running downhill towards the Expocentre, everything started to flash out…
Liberation and adulthood felt awkward to me on this cold September day in Chicago. Now aged 18 years old, this freedom felt weird. I accustomed myself to preparing to spend 8 hours in a school interacting with friends. But those days faded into dust in an instant. I’d spend many long hours working security for a Hotel overnights: my first job. The previous night exhausted me. I wanted nothing more than to spend time interacting with my family…the real one. Pulling out my Kyocera Phantom phone; I rushed to dial the numbers out to the man simply labeled on a sheet of paper named Walter James Matthews: my biological father. Today, I got the opportunity to meet him!
Fear slowly crept down my spine as I approached his law office. I knew my step father would fuck me up if he found out I went to meet him up. ‘Dad’ needed to feel the sense of control every moment of my life. I couldn’t afford his abuse, let alone I couldn’t afford an apartment in Chicago, IL. All my friends moved away and started their college careers. My “dad” couldn’t afford the experience for me. Told me I’d waste my time. But today I gained the courage…today I got to meet him. I called a week ago to get ‘legal’ advice. Didn’t want to give him the chance to throw me away again. My heart raced outside my chest getting up to the door. I said to myself:
“I got this…I got this…”
Suffering through anxiety constantly, I never had the opportunity to take pills. I craved running away. But I needed to swallow my pride.
“Cannot walk out on him like he and mom did on me.”
I kept repeating that phrase over in my head trying to comfort myself. I could repair the relationship with him and mother and get out of my abusive, controlling step-father’s home. Maybe Walter would pay my debts and college bills off. I wouldn’t have to work dead end jobs for the rest of my life. 10 feet away, my life could change forever and…
That’s an awkward choice for an outdoor decoration choice in the middle of the city. I’d never seen any business that. Notes and flowers continued to surround the stairs up to the door way with a large sign attached to the door. Sprinting up the stairs; cold and eerie shivers rolled down my spine. It didn’t feel right. Office buildings never lulled at 9 AM in the morning. Chicago much like New York never slept. As I made it up toward the door I saw the sign that…
Water ran down my face as I woke up from the ground. Another panic attack! God, I hated suffering them. Immediately without hesitation; I reached for the paper bag Mickey handed as I hyperventilated in the bag. He reached into his jacket pocket and handed me the Vallum meant only for emergencies. My chest loosened and finally I could feel the air rushing comfortably in my lungs. Pounding like the cylinders of an engine, my brain felt like mush after I went face first into the concrete from the ordeal. After facing years of abuse from my terrible mistakes in wrestling, withdrawals still put more toll on my body than any wrestler did. Mickey reached down to pull me up as gazed at him dazed and confused.
Mickey O’Meara: “Another panic attack from withdrawals, eh lad? Yer starting to scare me. Yer last f…f…fu..few came out of nowhere. You might consider a..a..as…a simple visit to therapy. You might need more than emergency anxiety medicine to get over these withdrawals.”
Darin Zion: “I’m fine Mickey, the stress of returning to wrestling triggered another flashback episode. I’m…”
Mickey O’Meara: “Don’t bullshit me, Darin. Yer not fine. I see your eyes shifting when we talk. Yer a terrible poker player. Your hiding your feelings. Need I remind you of all 12 steps again. You seem to struggle since you’ve signed back into wrestling and f-f-f..”
I grab Mickey’s arm and shake him out of his stress tourette’s attack. His focus immediately turns towards me and he shakes his head. I take a couple a deep breaths in to settle the fear. No longer could I hold back everything I bottled up. I relaxed on the side of the street as I sat back up. I scooted towards the edge of the gutter, rolling my knees in my chest trying to keep everything protected. I felt vunerable.
Darin Zion: “Look I’m stressed about my performance in the first round of the World Championship tournament. My body grew tired, panic set in and I flashed back to the day my biological dad died from everything. I’ve got reservations stepping back into the ring. I’m up against the toughest challenges I’ve faced. It’s all unknown territory. Lee gave me three big challenges and it’s an uphill battle for everything I’ve hoped and dreamt since childhood. I let my demons show themselves. I wasn’t going to…”
Mickey put his hand over my mouth. He figured out my nervous ticket of rapidly spewing out words. Mickey dropped his hard Irish act and immediately looked at me compassionately. His smile warmed up as he reached to pull my knees away from my heart. He wanted to make sure I listened attentively. My eyes locked on to his warm blue eyes as they glowed with inspiration.
Mickey O’Meara: “Courage! When I take a look at you, Darin; you represent it. Not many people take to sharing their struggles publically. You rose to the occasion and opened up fast. You walked into AA ready to take ownership 6 months ago. I felt like a proud grand-da. You rustled up the courage to enter the battlefield where you met your demons in professional wrestling when you could have ran off in the other direction like most people. Yer surrounding yourself around the temptations of drugs and alcohol and wanting to prove you deserve redemption. Don’t forget that, lad. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed with fear. You are not a machine. Don’t fear the struggle. Embrace it!”
He slowly struggled up, grabbed onto his scooter, and pulled me off the ground with all his might. He tumbled a bit as he lifted my 235 pound ass off the ground and brushed the dirt off his yellow pants.
Mickey O’Meara: “Now let’s go get some rest. Yer gonna need it to tackle them Gods in a week’s time, me boy.”
I let one word dictate my entire life for the last 32 years. My fear shows itself almost like a science. Meeting Eric Dane on his first day signing with HOW; I eerie how it works. When I signed with HOW 5 years ago, I wanted to be Superman when clearly I was Clark Kent. I once felt living a facade hiding my flows from the eyes of the world. I tried fitting in like one of the cool kids. I partied hard. I wore fake Oakley sun glasses to give off the aura of coolness. I acted like nothing could touch me. I wanted all the fame and glory. I didn’t want to embrace my inner nerd or obsessive tendencies because I feared not earning the acceptance of my peers.
But now I embrace the real me. Sure, I fear failing but who doesn’t?
The simple reason Jiles vomits in his mouth whenever he hears the words Zion and HOW World Championship in the same sentence or visual is simple: he remembers the image of a man pretending to be a Greek God or superhero when he clearly couldn’t fit that mold. I paid that price once and it cost me three years of my life.
I see you Jiles. Trying to throw past shade at me. Cutting jokes at my expense. Make fun of the nerd who grew up with a wrestling obsession. Keep counting me out. I’ll admit, I underestimated you at first glance. When you talk more in regards to Cadbury eggs over wrestling; I typically tuned you out.
But clearly I shouldn’t have spent time taking notes on HOW’s version of Thanos trying to steal my infinity boots.
You’re my first round opponent and by your merits alone, you fight hard. You’re obviously ruthless; you teamed with Scottywood. But now, you’ve enlisted the Greek Gods, the Greek Army and Zeus himself to fight me in the first round. And it definitely adds more pressure. I didn’t expect someone to enlist so much help to win the first round.
Luckily for you, I’m stupid enough to enjoy a good old fashioned melee.
You act like I’ve never faced these odds in my entire life. I’m used to them at this point. Rather metaphorically when life took my biological dad away from me the moment I go to meet him to overcoming the stigma from my attachments to PWX when walking into HOW’s front door or to taking on the entire Best Alliance one on one on one to even get a shot at Brian Hollywood 3 years ago. Hell, every person and their dog wants to collect Mike Best’s bounty, Jiles. Each person chasing me lessens my odds. Sure the pressure overwhelms me. But I don’t ever back down from a fight. I don’t care if Zeus, Hades, Jesus, Thanos Dane, Madman, Jiles or anyone else want to come collect a free 10Gs from Mike Best himself. I will come out April 8th looking to earn redemption. I’m crazy enough to ask for a fight and crazy enough to accept whatever gets throws at me.
These odds fuel me. I spent 3 years locked up in my own mental prison. I couldn’t escape reliving that moment I fucked up and couldn’t walk out holding the 97red belt on my shoulder. I beat myself up for discounting my opponents the last time I stepped into that ring. I dreamt of this moment to bask in the glory I should have had due to my own stupidity. If you think I set myself up to fail again; you’re leading your army into this battle blind.
So keep discounting me and keep hiding behind your excuses and lies. Jiles, I’m stepping into that ring ready to fight a man that many would consider a future HOW Hall of Famer in yourself. I’m training hard, studying fast, taking notes of you and anyone else wanting to stop me. I’ve watched your tapes, I’ve read the stories, and I’m coming prepared to take down the first city in my way to win what’s rightful mine. You’re going to be a tough challenge and I look forward to every minute of our match in one week’s time”