Learning the Hard Way
My childhood seemed like a long time ago. As I closed my eyes: memories kept flashing back to me over again. I spent hours upon hours sitting on the stairs of the dank Chicago elementary school I attended. I watched all the kids passing me on those stairs as I spent countless hours studying wrestling history out of history books. Everyone threw out their countless insults: “fat loser,” “bookworm,” “worthless piece of trash.” Those words used to phase me. I used to sit reflecting on those words. They penetrated me straight to the soul. As time passed on, I didn’t settle on the titles everyone kept labeling me. I could have settled on my talents in mathematics and computers like the teachers begged me to do.
I ultimately didn’t.
I spent all of my high school years in the gym busting my ass getting into shape. I gave it everything and went from some 300 pound fat kid down to a slender 215 pounds. I put hours into perfecting my body into a chiseled figure, increasing my stamina, improving my strength, and toning my muscles into what I perceived a wrestling machine should have. Unfortunately over the last few years; I put a lot of abuse on my body.
I stared back at my reflection. Just pathetic! The fat handles sagged down from the pathetic nights I spent out on the town eating greasy food and downing multiple rounds of alcohol. I slowly climb back up 35 pounds over the course of 3 years time letting my body go uncontrolled. I had spent time glancing over Jonny O’Dell’s biography page studying up on him for the last two weeks just feeling pathetic on how I let my body go. I saw his grizzly looking beard, his chiseled legs. Sure, he sat fatter than me at my height range, but could I honestly spend time lifting someone built like a tank. This guy spent hours chasing after dogs out in the wilderness. I had sat down behind a desk for 1 years time rushing out behind the office doors eating tacos like some mindless buffoon. I longed to be back in shape where I could easily pick this gluttonous grizzly bear off his feet. I used to have the speed to take people like Reggie Rivid down and out in a heartbeat. I didn’t sweat these challenges before HOW closed down. I spent hours cranking in the gym increasing my speed and stamina where I could wear those opponents down. O’Dell chased Gavin down from tapping literal bitches. I knew this guy could move.
I shook off the thoughts. No! Doubt and anger keep pulling me back in. I couldn’t let the anger in myself out. I had to focus on the goal to shed this…fat Zion staring back me in the mirror. It was the shell of what laid to rest after I left High School. I accomplished more than my classmates had. I succeeded in my dreams. I gained 3 wins in this shape after unexpectedly bulking up. I took one more look down at the scale dreading the weigh in. I splurged on a Hamburger in Crown Point instead of keeping to my diet. I couldn’t fear a God damn scale. I kept to the regiment of Kato, cutting down my carbs, and dedicating nearly 3 hours of my day in the gym. I couldn’t let this fat slob Zion staring back in the mirror keep holding me back in fear.
Finally, it was time to step on the scale.
I closed my eyes as I heard the scale settling on the weight. Shawn Soros, a good gym mentor, personal childhood friend, and fellow member of my Celebrate Recovery group immediately patted me on the back. I opened my eyes, stepping off the scale without looking at the weight. He nodded and immediately exclaimed with his perfect smile beaming.
Shawn Soros: Highly impressive after starting a new diet. You lost 2 whole pounds.
Darin Zion: You mean to tell me I dreaded this shit? God I almost had a heart attack waiting for this moment.
Shawn Soros: Most people who hop on the damn bandwagon do fear this moment. You’re perfectly normal. I know you’re wrestling more and pushing your body. Grant it, you need to work on your attitude when challenging people. The positive mindset comes with time. You’ve surrounded yourself with negativity for so long. I’m surprised you’re not jaded with the world and keep pushing yourself.
Darin Zion: You have to do that in this business, bro! I thought passed that in all my school years. But I’ve grown to love living in the negativity in people’s opinions these days. I know people spend time judging my body image, my attitude, my methods some times. But deep down I’ve learned since returning back to the squared circle, I can’t just keep doubting every move I make. Could I have worded my challenge to Scott Stevens and the rest of the roster better. Absolutely! I’ve never communicated my intentions well. It comes off insulting, but I honestly wanted to gain more challengers. I don’t have a championship, I don’t have any more pride. But I want to earn my damn paycheck. I’m one of the highest paid talents in HOW and I don’t feel like I’ve earned that keep after tossing my career into the trash can. I don’t want to go down the route of not having any bookings for shows. I sat at home for 2 years after selling myself short. I need this business as my reason to keep pushing my ass out of bed daily. I can’t let this moment pass me again.
Shawn shakes his head for a moment. His long black hair whips back and he pulls it back into a ponytail. He wipes the sweat off his forehead and places his arm on my shoulder. His eyes widen and tone stiffens up. Shawn’s completely serious. I knew this look. He gave it to me the first day he sat down to encourage me to chase my dreams. He was a football player looking at the fat book smart kid begging him to get him in shape all those years ago.
Shawn Soros: I don’t doubt for a minute it fuels you. I spent hours listening to you obsess about your dreams back in high school, Darin. But it’s always been your attitude that holds you back. You’re not afraid to go all Rambo into a situation. Your guns fire up, you don’t think strategically, you live in those moments. You see that lucky opportunity like you did against Scottywood last week. You get in your head, fire your mouth off, and piss everyone around you off. I watched you do it to my friends constantly. You try to get fifteen steps ahead of the proble you see. But that’s just it, Darin. It’s only a problem you see. People tell you to jump through hoops and you act like the obedient lap dog and jump through the hoop multiples begging for attention. Deep down, people watch your actions and they know your heart. They respect the hell out of your tenacity. You keep getting back up, taking those blows pridefully. They see that your humanity brought you down to hell and back. They know your rough childhood. Take those next steps. Don’t let the anxiety continue to fuel you!
I paused for a moment and stare back into that reflection in the mirror. Every passing second emotions circle in my head constantly. The doubt keeps talking back to me as I space out trying to keep it down. Every past word that I’ve heard in my career, in my life, in my existence keeps echoing over and over in an endless loop in my head. I don’t want to stare back. I see the reflection of myself just oozing fat in the cervasses I never expected covering my body. Anger and anxiety keep churning my stomach rapidly.
“You can’t make your old weight.”
“You can’t change your attitude.”
“Your just the same Zion different day.”
“Look! He’s on his period again.”
More words kept plaguing my thoughts before I stopped for one single moment to focus on the mirror, it’s reflection, and focus straight into my hazel eyes burning with anger and passion. I kept staring back with complete intensity just burning a hole straight into myself as the words and feelings started coming to me. A few measly seconds felt like days, weeks, months in my head as I turned back to Shawn.
Darin Zion: I’ll shoot straight at you for a moment Shawn. I don’t like hearing that come out of your mouth. It disappoints me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the truth. I am grateful we’re having one on one time on self improvement. You said nothing wrong. It’s that disappointment in myself. 5 years ago I could have won War Games. 5 years ago I could have held the High Octane Championship. Hell, 2 years ago when I stepped into the 4CW ring, I could have improved my career eons if I stayed away from the negativity. Growth sucks. It hurts. While that path seems clear, I still get frustrated at myself when I get passed up because God damnit, I know I can do better. It’s nothing to do with anyone’s opinions. You know I sat on those stairs for years not giving a damn about them. My outward actions might show that. But my heart, my drive comes from me. I lose that focus so easily that I just act first and ask questions later. It pains me and confiding that out is tough.
Shawn Soros: Well ownership does that to you. I appreciate the honesty in your struggles. I know taking a set back in everything you accomplished is a struggle. I owned a company and threw it all away due to drugs and alcohol. It’s tough admitting it. I’ll definitely give it to you; you’ve come strides from where you once were. But you need focus taking on Jonny this week. I’m a closet wrestling fan.
Darin Zion: Damnit! And you didn’t tell me? I would get you tickets to watch.
Shawn Soros: And let your ego grow! Hell no! But I study this sport just as much as you did when we grew up. I’ve watched Jonny in that ring. His strengths are strategy and showmanship. Bar none that guy will keep throwing stiff ass punches and wear you down. He will murder you alive if you cannot focus solely on him; he will use any distractions outside of that ring to brutalize you. You focus on your desire to win War Games; you’re done. You focus on Open Challenges, he will see that twinkle in your eye and toy with you until you get frustrated. You have to focus this week.
Flabbergasted in that one moment, I turn to him and stare him square in the eyes struggling to come up with the words or a plan.
Darin Zion: What’s your plan then?
Shawn Soros: You’ll hate me for this, but this week, you need to put focus on Yoga. I know you hate it, Darin. You think it makes you look like a sissy and I know your step father in grained a Christian uprising to hate everything, but you need to open your mind up. Yoga will cause you to focus on your breathing, your stances, and center yourself completely. It keeps you…
Immediately I cut him off from selling me on his plan. I made my decision and couldn’t believe I would swallow my own pride. Anger set with me when I heard it, but damn straight he was right. I grabbed my towel and pulled him away as the words flew straight out of my mouth:
Darin Zion: Let’s get started! I have no doubt in my mind that it will center that focus in the ring.
Jonny Boy! I am glad you finally formed coherent sentences and thoughts for the first time when hearing you discuss something in the ring. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I’ll be honest with you here tonight: the first time I watched one of your promos it absolutely disgusted me. I watched you and Gavin discussing how he fucked a legitimate bitch and anger flowed through my veins faster than my thoughts comes rushing out like diarrhea from my mouth. It felt you disrespected this sport I’ve grown up loving. I remember telling one of the people in the locker room at the time how you absolutely offended me. You pissed me off and I wanted to come charging out on this stage burying your existence like Mike Best eviscerated you in your promo wars. I’ll admit full well to underestimating your heart and tenacity in this business. My anger is the greatest character flaw I possess. I let that rage and anxiety boil up in me until I can’t control it anymore. I lack the verbal skills to communicate or control emotions because I’ve struggled all my life trusting people. As you say, we’ve both been victims in this business. We’ve had people look past us and define us without sitting down to understand just what runs through our heads. I can take one look at your damn face and immediately think “Boy is he fucked up in the brain.” I’m sure many people can do the same when they look at me.
But I learned a long time ago not to give any fucks towards people’s opinions.
Sure I’m fucked up, you’re fucked up, we’re both fucked up and we’re going to step out into that god damn ring and beat the ever living shit out of each other. People in that crowd will drop their jaws because two people the rest of the locker room and the world think are miserable pissants keep throwing punches out wrestling everyone just with their sheer amounts of determination went onto put a hard hitting clinic on in that ring. God damn it, I’ve seen you hit hard and brutalize your opponents. I realize the mistakes in underestimating not only your sheer force, but your sheer ability to out strategize opponents and get in their head.
Hell, I’m sure you’re trying to make a play to get in my head with all the pomp and circumstance hoping I’m going to drop that guard against you to give you the easy win. You’re hoping I keep my attention factored on that open challenge I spit out a couple days ago, coming into this ring talking up my own dissolving ego about how Scott Stevens tormented me in the past. You’re hoping I’m going to call people like Max Kael a bully and cry wolf and play victim like I did before returning in HOW.
I’ve swallowed that pride and choked on it. I didn’t truly have a love for this business and the respect you have to earn in it. I expected handouts when walking into HOW because in my past; I’d had records and accomplishments out my ass. You’re damn right I have a future Hall of Fame career because I’ve busted my ass no matter where I’ve gone and stayed loyal. I could have been that talent that built all the hype up and choked the moment I walked inside this door. But I didn’t. I put my nose to the damn grind for the Best Family out of respect of the number of careers they’d destroyed. They have power. They have respect. I want the respect they have even if they’ve earned some of their accomplishments dirty. I want to go about it the right way and take the road less travelled. I want my blood splattered on this canvas for them out of the respect they and this entire roster including you have. I wasn’t HOW born, bred and raised. I came from Pariah’s school of shit.
I would have played the victim card 3 years ago, but that’s just it Jonny. I’ve evolved past that. I know if HOW closed today and Lee graciously out of the kindness of his own damn heart opened that wing up; I would get laughed at for a nomination being the biggest disgrace to ever earn that honor. But you think that plagues me at night when I go to sleep earning my pay checks. It doesn’t. It invigorates me. It boosts my determination to step in this ring and do better than the past. You can tell all the bad dog jokes, Shane Reynolds jokes, and Zion jokes you want, O’Dell, but in the end, you’re walking the same line Eric Dane did when I stepped into the ring with him. You’re underestimating me entirely. You’re looking past me. You think you will walk straight into this ring and put me down like Old Yeller because you see me foaming out of the mouth. Good! Keep that imagine in your head. Keep thinking I’m focused on my past calling out the so called tormentors.
But I’m solely focused on you. You’re the biggest challenge I’ve stepped into the ring with since returning to HOW. You’re absolutely charismatic, tough and harsh. You’re a tall red wood tree this fat, out of shape, ‘joke’ steps into the ring with. I definitely am not the spring chicken I was when I stepped into this ring back in 2014. My time is limited and I’m stepping into the ring with a talent like yourself. I’ll admit, you definitely fit the mold of HOW with those sick jokes and crazed mentality. You definitely have a future here. I definitely see that after watching your matches. You will push me to my limits.
But Jonny Boy, unlike like your great humorous jokes; I am not one. I take this business seriously. It’s my life’s work and I definitely will put all my heart and effort into this. I will make you will fall and you will be brought down. I don’t go easy on those who show respect, jokingly or not. You better come prepared to step in the ring with me. Scottywood put it best: while I fall on my ass hard at times; I get back up and I can beat anyone on any given week because I learn from those falls. I get back up, more determined than ever and I fight like hell. I know you fight like hell and you will push me to my limits. I look forward to seeing what you bring into my ring at Refueled. If you don’t, well then, I would hate for you to become the next punchline of the late night circuit.