A Brief History of Evan Ward
Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. My name is Evan Ward and for the last 8 years I haven’t been the one and only Spiderman. But I have watched that film too many times and expect I’m like the billionth person to make that joke but who cares, it’s AWESOME!
Anyway, a lot of people know who I am, but I imagine there’s a lot of guys and girls out there who don’t, so here’s an introduction. I joined HOW as a rookie so green people often confused me for Copenhagen. Fresh out a wrestling school, the third generation of a wrestling family, I came to the business with a bucket load of natural talent along with a naïve innocence and lack of experience to match. The next rising star of HOW, they said. He’ll go on to become a World champion, they exclaimed. So many expectations from so many people riding on the shoulders of this young lad who had never even left the UK before. Like I said, I was naïve, I bought into the hype. I knew I was Awesome and everyone was going to hear about it.
Such are the best delusions, eh? Life doesn’t always work out like you imagine when you have these grand visions for how things will go. Don’t get me wrong, I was a success, I really was the next rising star of HOW, but it wasn’t the given result so many people saw it to be. It was effort upon effort upon herculean effort. I grafted harder than ever in my life to achieve what I did in the company. Talent can only take you so far, as people are wont to tell the talented. If you’re in that ring, facing off against against a dude who was winning championships while you were getting your head dunked in the bog at high school, talent will just give you a fighting chance, you’ll still be hurting like a bitch in the morning. Arrogant belief in your talents will only land you a night in the emergency room.
Nothing came for free, I wasn’t handed anything. I won, I lost, I worked hard and I gradually worked my way up the ranks. I went from an unknown nobody whose prestigious family name had long faded into obscurity, to a star with a spotlight. I took on every challenge and faced them with my head held high. I made a name of my own to stand apart from my father’s tainted legacy. Not to sound arrogant but by the time I left the business I thought I had made a real and lasting impact on the company and the sport as a whole.
I was the man to legitimise the TV Title, to turn it from a fourth tier belt to the most sought after gold next to the World Championship. Challenger after challenger came and challenger after challenger fell. I made people care about that title because I was a fighting champion for a fighting championship. My reign remains unmatched. Sure, Scottywood held it a week longer but somehow managed two less defences of a belt meant to be defended every other show, while each of Jace’s 4 reigns had the impact of a feather being dropped on a mattress. No, when the TV Title is discussed, my name is the first mentioned and the last of the discussion, because of the insurmountable effort I put into building it. After I lost it and moved up the card it deteriorated into obscurity only to be absorbed into the LSD title.
I was the man who, alongside my friend, team mate and this week’s opponent, Rhys Townsend, took the HOW Tag Titles to main event a Pay Per View. I don’t mean it was some gimmicked show to highlight the tag division or anything like that. It was just a normal Pay Per View with the tag titles booked as the usual mid-card bathroom break because, let’s face it, the only people who cared about a tag title match were the people in it. But we changed that. We made everyone stand up and take notice of the tag division, our feud against the Davidsons was so hot it was the only thing anyone was talking about as we headed into Bottomline. We overshadowed America’s World Title match against Kael so much the Tag Titles were moved to the main event out of the fear that everyone would stop watching afterwards because they simply didn’t care about anything else. We lost to a top tier, if disrespectful and underhanded, team that night but the match was nothing short of legendary. Debates about the top tag championship matches in the sport’s history never gloss over that match, it’s always discussed with a sense of awe.
I was one of the architects of the most controversial and standout stables in the history of High Octane Wrestling: Ground Zero. I still can’t quite get over how bizarre that statement is. The stable was based entirely around our love of professional wrestling, the respect we had for the sport and the notion that the most entertaining matches are those where all competitors actually wrestler to their abilities without any cowardly, underhanded, disrespectful behaviour. It’s amazing how a group all about wrestling would be controversial in a wrestling fed, but there you go. Ground Zero quickly established itself as the first real opposition to the Best Alliance in years, as a group like none other before and like none since.
Our success is partly due to everyone other group basically trying to be a budget Best Alliance, trying to play them at their own game the BA’s game was all about abuse of power when they held all the power. We were the polar opposite, but our notoriety was because we were the shining moral light in a federation where backstabbing and needless brutality was so commonplace an entire PPV was based around the gimmick of someone literally and graphically getting their eye stabbed out like a scene from Saw. We brought the focus back on true competition, where people fought fairly and honourably for the win. Obviously a lot of people were not happy with that, especially when we figuratively rubbed salt in their wounds by beating them despite all their attempts to cheat their way to victory.
That’s not to say we were solely about straight up, run of the mill, bog standard wrestling matches with no spice or flair. Sure, we were strong voices against people jumping in with chairs and what not and breaking up a perfectly good match. That’s just not cricket. But hardcore matches? Falls count anywhere? No disqualifications? Cages? Tables? Chairs? If they were part of the match’s rules, or lack of as the case may be, we were cool with it. Acting like cowards, taking cheap shots, going out there to injure, wound or kill… that bullshit doesn’t have any place in the sport no matter the rules, but hardcore wrestling certainly does. Some of the best matches in history have been without any rules, where both dudes throw everything and the kitchen sink, sometimes literally, at each other, putting their own lives on the line to try to win.
The hardcore matches I took part in were some of the toughest of my life but also some of the most exhilarating of my career. They allowed me to take my high flying antics to the extremes, they let me push my martial arts skills to the absolute limit. I had a short reign as LSD Championship but it was an intense one. That stint let me explore my limits, they let me discover exactly how far I could push myself, how much of a beating I could take and still, pig-headedly get up again. It turned out to be a lot more than I had ever imagined.
Shit happened, Ground Zero’s line up changed and Townsend went waaaaay off the rails. It landed on me to lead Ground Zero, still a rookie, still naïve and far less experienced than any of the other members of the group. Facing challenges in the ring was one thing but managing the personalities of dudes who were supposed to be teammates was a challenge I was not prepared for. Without Witness and without Townsend at the helm, it turned out keeping the Ground Zero ethos alive when it was filled with guys who only cared about being in the hottest stable of the era and couldn’t care less about what it stood for was fucking difficult. Splitting myself between managing the stable and wrestling myself was exhausting, I almost failed at both… but I survived, Ground Zero survived. I took the group to War Games, I brought the team together and, as Captain, took us to victory against two teams of the biggest names, the toughest bastards in the federation.
Against all odds I became the World Champion in that hellish torture chamber. I had made such a name for myself by that point, earnt the respect of many and was recognised for the tenacity and determination I demonstrated in the ring every single match. But I was still the absolute underdog. I was still seen as the least likely to walk away with title, whose team was seen as falling apart at the seams. When my knee got shattered in the opening exchanges of the match my chances of winning dropped to zero. At least according to everyone else. But I hung on. I clawed my way through the match, pushing through the pain all the way to the final clash against Mike Best. Somehow, beyond any sense of reason or likelihood, I won. I would not stay down, I would not give up. I would not give Mike Best the satisfaction of beating me that night. I would win even if it killed me. Of course it nearly did, on multiple occasions, but my tenacity and spirit kept me going.
I became a World Champion in the toughest match of my career not because I was the strongest dude in the ring, I wasn’t… Not because I was the most experienced, I was far from it… Not because I rode everyone’s coat tails to steal a victory, quite the opposite… I became a World Champion by never giving up, by working hard and pushing myself as hard as I could. Pure, unadulterated determination.
Unfortunately, while I achieved my goal at War Games, it left me burnt out and broken. The cliche says a candle which burns twice as bright burns twice as fast and that is very true. I gave so much to that match I had very little left in the weeks which followed. The injuries I sustained had little time to heal, compounded by injuries I had previously suffered in the many matches up until that point.
It wasn’t too long before it came to a point where I had to ask myself “Is this really worth it?” It was a tough question, one no one ever wants to ask themselves. You would rather delude yourself into thinking all is good and all is right before asking that question, and for some time that was exactly what I did. But eventually I had to ask it. Was fighting in this ring, destroying my body and pouring my entire being into wrestling really worth it? On a personal level wrestling meant the world to me, it was my life, so of fucking course it was worth it… but just looking at the personal level was selfish. I had much more to think about at that point. Was it worth breaking my body and wrecking my mind only to become a father like my own? I grew up with a father who couldn’t tell the difference between past and present, between the wrestling world and the real one, between his actual achievements and the boasts he invented. I grew up ashamed of what my father had become, not really believing in his legacy even when most of it was true because the wild fraction was so unbelievable. Was it worth giving my unborn son the same upbringing?
No, I decided, it really wasn’t. I never wanted to become like my father. It was a tough decision, but choosing to stop doing what you love always is. My entire life had been built around the sport one way or another and walking away from it was more painful than anything done to me in the ring… but I wanted to be there for my son, a real and present father, not one constantly on the road, often in the hospital, an ever deteriorating, absent presence in the household.
So I quit, I left the company and the ring behind, I settled down with my fiance and started a new life. I say a new life but even when a wrestler retirees he never truly leaves the business entirely behind and that went double for me. I still owned El Vasquez’ gym, so I took a leaf from Townsend’s book and moved from competing in the ring to training the next generation who would enter it. It’s a cliche, everyone and their mother runs their own Wrestling school, but it’s just what you do, especially when you had inherited your mentor’s renowned and respected gym. Even if you never amounted to more than a curtain jerker people would pay money to be trained by a wrestler they know from TV. A world champion such as myself has no end to patrons looking to glean the secret to success from them.
It was a great life, I had no worries. A loving family, a steady income, fun everyday. We really wanted for nothing and that was enough. But lately I had begun to feel an emptiness grow. It started small, just a slight blemish of the soul, a pin pick and nothing more, but slowly it grew, bigger and bigger into a gaping maw. Something was missing and I couldn’t quite figure out what. I loved family life. Running the gym was extremely rewarding. I was still in shape and kept up my own training out of habit. I enjoyed it all. So why wasn’t I happy? Why did I always wake up without the slightest bit of anticipation I used to feel for the day ahead? Why did I go to sleep each night feeling empty, as if I had wasted the entire day despite filling it with things I really did love to do in the moment? I was just running through the motions, outwardly being happy and fulfilled while inwardly knowing something was very wrong…
When Rhys called me and told me he was getting the band back together, bringing Ground Zero back to life, and wanted me to return with it, I initially thought “Fuck that shit.” I might have been suffering from a bit of ennui but I knew the stress and suffering I felt back in the HOW ring was not the answer. But he didn’t take no for an answer, he implied the company was potentially on its last run, that if I ever wanted to return then now was the only time left to do it. He wouldn’t let me stop thinking about it and the more I did, the more I thought maybe, just maybe, he was onto something.
When I wrestled in HOW I was stressed, I was suffering, life was infinitely harder than it had been in the years since. I went through trials and tribulations on a weekly basis, no end of harassment, no end of abuse in and out of the ring. It was as close to hell as I have ever been in my life… But fucking hell did I feel alive. The rush of wrestling in front of thousands of fans, all eyes on me as I took part in an adrenaline pumping collision of world class athletes was nothing short of exhilarating. You’d be forgiven for thinking that was what I missed, the ego stroking and endorphin pumping antics, but that wasn’t it. Sure, that was always nice, no one hates the praise and accolades you acquire in this job, but I can live without it.
No, I realised what I was missing was the challenge. Facing adversity, fighting through it and overcoming it against all the odds brought a satisfaction I had not felt since I retired. This unbelievable revelation struck me hard than a steel chair swung by that behemoth, Trent. It wasn’t some masochistic desire to get beaten up, clearly I would rather not get my face punched in. I was a natural born competitor, I lived to test my limits. Without a challenge what was the point of living?
It wasn’t a decision to make on my own, so I discussed it with Sara and we both agreed one final run was exactly what I needed. Our son, Aiden, was now old enough to start asking questions about my old life as a professional wrestler. He had grown up listening to stories and tales of my daring escapades in the ring and now I had the chance to give him what my father could never give me: the opportunity to see the stories come to life in front of his eyes.
When I joined HOW I was a rookie with no experience, just a naïve kid with a head full of goals and dreams. I joined with no idea what I was getting into. I now return as a veteran, an alumni of the meat grinder which is High Octane Wrestling. I return a legend, a champion, a member of an elite few to have left a meaningful mark in the history books instead of passing into the night after a worthless run like so many who have walked through the locker room. When I first joined I HOW I was scared of the challenges ahead of me, frightened of the pressure I would be under. Now I return to eat it all up and savour the taste.
This first match back, being against my stable mates and two of my closest friends in the business, is perfect. A primetime slot to remind everyone not just what Ground Zero is all about, but what I am capable of. A match against two other legends, each of us with but one goal, to put on the best fucking wrestling match we possibly can. Witness and Townsend surely have their own personal motives to go along with wanting Ground Zero’s debut to go well, but I am doing it for Aiden, to show him what wrestling is all about and to show him what his father is really capable of. By competing at the level of Rhys Townsend and Silent Witness and doing my damned best to win I would prove the achievements I recounted earlier were not just idle boats but declarations of intent. I may not have competed in years, but I am still the Awesome Evan Ward.