Mike Best: The Friendship
It was a night full of surprises but I doubt any man who stepped foot in that, infamous, squared circle came out feeling as surprised as I did. I spent the majority of the night waiting and waiting, twitching and squirming, battling the anxiety and withdrawal effects of the drugs that my name has become synonymous with. I watched match after match, seeing competitors pumped up to the eyeballs with protein in their muscles and years of training in their bones and bodies, putting everything on the line to compete for a chance at the greatest championship of them all.
Then I would look in the mirror.
What I saw was a sad, sad, man. A drug addict. A flaccid body, riddled with cancerous toxins eating away at the few remaining healthy cells I have left. I saw, almost, certain failure staring back at me. Yet failure did not come.
My memory of the match is sketchy. Almost three decades of being hit and dropped on the head will do that to man. Never mind the added substance abuse. I remember the emotion, though. Standing at the famous Gorilla position, bouncing on my heels and puffing out my cheeks as the nerves oozed out of every pore in my body, carrying the toxins with them and whispering my dirty little secret. The harrowing sounds of “Comfortably Numb” beginning to echo around the arena, bellowing their marching orders for me to make my way to the ring. I was too inside my own mind to even register what kind of reaction that evoked from the eight thousand plus, strong, crowd. I hadn’t even thrown a punch yet and I was sweating from every orifice. The saddle of my leather pants already clammy and itching. The crows feet in the corners of my eyes dug their claws deeper into their cravasses as I shut my eyes tight, yelling at myself internally to hold it together before marching through the curtain. Anxiety changes a man.
As i walked down to the ring, to the slow pace of my music, I felt so out of place. I didn’t belong there. All those other men had trained so hard and prepared for the chance of a lifetime, and here I was, a fucking joke and embarrassment to the industry. Fuck everything I had done before. Fuck my world title reigns. Fuck my Icon title reigns. Fuck my legendary technical matches. Fuck my Hall of Fame status. Fuck them all in the ass! None of it mattered, because I was literally shitting over all of it by merely being there. I shouldn’t have come back. I should have just found some other way to make some money and died in a sea of my own vomit.
That’s what goes through the mind of a man who has reached his very bottom.
I remember climbing up the steel steps. It didn’t feel like the climb of a Hall of Famer, taking his rightful place on the apron, but instead a mere fraud. I had this harrowing feeling that I was going to trip and further embarrass myself, tarnishing my once proud name even more. So I gingerly climbed each step, one foot in front of the other.
As I reached out a hand and touched the ropes, I was frozen in time. Caught in a net of nostalgia as all those familiar feelings came flooding back in an instant. The atmosphere, the crowd, the smells, the music, all reminded me in a flash of where I always wanted to be and it was right there in that ring. I even afforded myself the opportunity to complete my ritual of tradition by wiping my feet on the apron before ducking under the ropes.
For a brief moment, I felt….home.
I glanced at my opponent as I entered the ring. Cecilworth Farthington stood across from me. He show boated to the crowd. He soaked it all in but not once did he even so much as nod at any sign of respect for me or our friendship. And why should he? Who the fuck was I any more?
As the bell rang I immediately forged a defensive stance. Knee’s slightly bent, arms raised in a tiger paw position, ready to attempt a response to whatever Farthington had to throw at me. The wealthy young lord merely enjoyed his moment in the spotlight a bit longer, back straight and chin held high as he soaked in the crowd, strolling around the ring whilst I eagerly watched with wide eyes. I was begging my brain and muscles to remember what to do. Eventually I ignored my own instincts and training, losing patience and making the first move as I lunged, like an idiot, at the former Icon champion. It was all too easy for Farthington to take me down, flipping me onto my pathetic ass with an effortless hip toss, choking the life out of me. I couldn’t see his face but I imagined he was enjoying how easy it was to take this washed up piece of shit to school.
He wrestled rings around me. Everything I tried he had an answer for. He embarrassed me and exposed every single weakness I have. For the first time in my life I was wrestling a match that my opponent held all the blueprints for. For years I honed my craft for dictating the pace and tone of my matches. My opponents would be forced to out think and out fox ME!
Now I was on the receiving end. I felt like a rookie.
Half way through the match I was able to earn myself a momentary rest-bite, somehow using Farthington’s own momentum against him to send him crashing over the ropes and out of the ring. My lungs burnt as I tried to drag oxygen into them. My muscles were acid and dead. I had been through War Games and never felt like that. I had spent a week in solitary confinement on rations and never felt my body working so hard to merely survive. I remember seeing a blue tinge to the tips of my fingers as my heart bounded out of my chest, concentrating all firepower on my major organs as it neglected the peripheries. It was like a bomb had gone off next to my head as the muffled drone of the crowd rang in my ears. I was completely shell shocked.
I thought I was going to die at one point. My heart was beating so hard I was sure it was going to explode. I wasn’t competing. I was merely surviving. Holding on for dear life for a glimmer of an opportunity. I was praying for lady luck to rear her ugly fucking head so that I may have the tiniest, cunt hair, of an opportunity to steal the match from Farthington.
And it came..
I was on my knees on the canvas, looking up at Farthington who was nothing but a blurry silhouette. I was convinced I was defeated. For a moment I gave up, allowing him to pull me carefully to my feet by the thick clumps of my matted mullet. I could hear his breathing. He, too, was tired. I hadn’t given him much of a match but he had already been through The Lost Stranger already.
He smiled at me. Fucking, SMILED! At that moment, what was left of my pride, began to force my brain into action. My final reserves of adrenaline began to surge as he began to fasten me into the fisherman suplex position. I bent my knee’s before he lifted, helping him by kicking my legs off the mat so I could land behind him. As he spun around to assess what happened I kicked as hard as I could kick and hooked his arms, going to to my old faithful C-Sektion and collapsing on top of him. Hooking his leg as hard as I could I put my, dead, weight onto his chest, giving everything I could to ensure his shoulders stayed glued to the canvas. I knew, this was my one and only chance for redemption in this match.
As I heard the third and final thud of the referee’s hand, I felt him kick out. The first thing I did was look at the referee, because even I didn’t believe it. But when the bell rang I realised that somehow, some way, I managed to grind out the ugliest win of my life. But it didn’t matter. I had WON! In spite of my shitty physique, rusted skills and polluted bloodstream..I was able to overcome the odds.
The dirt sheets suggested that had Farthington not wrestled, once, already that night he would have kicked out a half second sooner. Perhaps they are right. I’m not in a position to groan about logistics, I’ll just take the win thank you very much.
Farthington bemoans the road agents for allowing me to wrestle in the first place, knowing full well that I was violating the wellness policy by being on drugs. Again, perhaps he is right. Its public knowledge, now, that I have been using. But suggesting that those drugs gave me any kind of advantage from a performance point of view? Well, it only strengthens my argument that Farthington is a fucking idiot. I like the guy, but if any of you knew exactly what heroin really does to the human body and mind, you would be saluting me for being able to fucking stand up straight, never mind win a match against a great competitor.
Farthington tested me in every way possible. When I reflect on that match it is easy for me to understand what I need to do moving forward. The next test will be literally the hardest I will ever face in my life. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there many times before.
As with any match I have ever had, win or lose, the most important thing is to reflect and learn from it. To know what areas need improving and what needs to be done moving forward. In my case, it’s pretty much everything.
But the fire is back. Thank you, Cecilworth. I don’t know whether another man could have, perhaps, reignited it the way you did. Perhaps anyone would have, and I simply needed to get back on the saddle and experience it all again. But YOU were the one there to bring out the best that I had left inside of me, and now the desire, hunger and sheer desperation to be great again has returned.
If I want to compete I have to train and try to get at least some of my physical attributes back in line. If I ever hope to once again become the Gold Standard, then I have to keep my mind sharp and free of all drugs and substances. Because, after all..
This is Mike, FUCKING, Best we’re talking about!
So where do I start with you, Michael? Or rather, where should I start with us? The beginning would make sense, I suppose, but I feel it would be better to tell our story from where we are in the present.
I haven’t heard a lot from you in the last twelve months. In fact, since HOW switched the lights back on, the only interaction we have had is a brief twitter encounter, because I know full well that’s the easiest platform to get your attention.
But, until you tell me otherwise, the last time I checked we were friends. And so I title the first part of this story “ the friendship.”
It all began when you followed me over to ‘UTAH.’ When things went sour with your father I was there for you. You, me, Alex Beckman and Cecilworth Farthington formed one of the greatest alliances in the history of this sport, no matter how short lived it was. It was strange that all of the hatred we shared for one another evaporated the second we were both outside the confines of High Octane Wrestling.
We both realised that we held an immeasurable amount of mutual respect for one another. At least, I did. I never can tell with you.
It wasn’t a way one street, though. You were there for me even more than I was there for you. I’ve always struggled with addiction and I’m well aware that I’ve become my own cliché. Back then it was the booze. The occasional line of coke, maybe. But you kept me on the straight and narrow. You gave me focus. You made sure I didn’t stray and I owe you a ton of gratitude. Any success I had as an individual during my time there was in part down to you and the rest of the ‘Machine.’ Sure, I’m not stupid, I know keeping me functioning was for your benefit, also. But I thank you all the same.
A true friendship is a rare thing for me, Mike. My very first tag team partner, WAY back when, was Chris CK, whom I’m sure you know of. He was my best friend and one of only two wrestlers in history who I can genuinely call a friend.
Now I’ve teamed with some great men in my time. Hall of Famer, Mark O’Neal. Hall of Famer, Chris Kostoff. Mario Maurako, Christopher America, Silver Cyanide and….the rest of the AoA. Rhys Townsend and Evan Ward, I’ll never forget the brief brotherhood we formed with Ground Zero and all that those two boys did for me. All brilliant team mates in their own right, but none of them have I ever considered to form that deepest bond of chemistry you could define as friendship.
The other man is you, of course. Even if you decide to mock me by calling me an idiot for ever believing it. Deny it all you want. To save running the risk of sounding like the male form of a bunny boiler I won’t hammer that point home any harder. Just know, that I know, it was the real deal.
I hold fond memories of the four of us travelling the road together, in our tour bus, promptly, named the “Machine” which may as well have had a big fucking middle finger printed on the side, pointing at your father. We even named our group the “Machine” and wore pretty little t-shirts. I want to stress that I never harboured any bad feelings towards High Octane Wrestling. I got caught in your cross fire a few times and comments made to me lead to some bitterness, but I never left because I hated HOW, or even your father. At that point I had more reason to hate him than you did. Yet, I will never forget what that man has done for my career. I merely supported you.
Our friendship continued, even when we returned to HOW when it was on its dying legs. Fittingly, we were both there, together, to hold its hand as it took its final breath when the life support was turned off.
Then where did we go?
That’s a story that only you and I will ever really know the truth of, unless you decide to tell it. Somehow I doubt you will. We made a lot of money together. The nature of our business, however, has left me with scars that will never heal. No Michael, don’t worry. I’m not about to turn around and blame you for why I’m a heroin addict. I was responsible for my own actions. I simply ask you this:
Where have you been for me lately?
It seems I have become the forgotten man as far as you’re concerned. I see you everyday, proudly standing on your pillar of smugness on twitter, waving around your ridiculous gauntlet as you embark on a pursuit of dominance in OCW. I watch as you recruit your brother Max Kael. Okay, that makes sense, he’s your brother and has always been your favourite puppet. You align yourself with Mario Maurako too, another former friend and teammate, of mine. Sure, makes sense too, Mario was your ticket into the main event scene. I get it. But then you go and bring Farthington. At that point, Michael, I was sure, that my phone was going to ring and you would be on the other end, wanting to put the band back together.
But that call never came..
I know. Boo-hoo, right? ‘Get the fuck over yourself Sektor.’ ‘You’re a fucking junkie now. What use are you to me? I was using you. I was always using you.’.
Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. What is true is that, in that moment, I realised our friendship was over. The proverbial sun had set on what was a once great allegiance between two Hall of Famers whose careers always seemed to run parallel to one another. So what does any of this mean?
I asked you as much on twitter but, as I said, I already knew the answer.
If we are no longer friends then we are back to the beginning of our story, where it all began. It couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the match that awaits the two of us. History will once again be made as the two of us for, what? The, eighth, time by your calculations? As we once again stand across from each other in the middle of the ring were he have both tried to outdo one another for so many years.
Michael Lee Best? As of this moment, we are now…