High Octane Wrestling
Published: Written by: Rhys Townsend

How do you return?


I realise that it might seem a stupid question, but okay, take a step back for a minute, take a proper look at the situation – and do it without your giant fucking ego getting in the way, yeah? Be objective. Rational. Calm.


How do you do it? What do you want out of it, what are the expectations of it? What’s a roaring success? A flop?


Because you figure you’ll go back, and you sit there, late at night, after the training, after the catch up study where you go watch the matches of potential opponents, and you’ve got that one lamp on. The one you like, the one that makes the room nice and chill – just so – and you’re in the chair, drink…or more applicably, smoke in your hand and you’re just fucking thinking. Just staring out the window.


About that return.


Because you were not a midcarder before. You didn’t just make up the numbers, putting time in over the years and slowly accumulating championships like, say, David Black. You were dominant – 5 World Championships, the founding of Ground Zero, and a two year run where you pretty much headlined every single pay per view. 3 Tag Team Championships and an ICON Championship, too. No joke.


Oh, and you know, the whole…thing with Mike Best. 


We’ll come back to that later, I promise.


What do you do? What’s going to be success?


Because I could have come back riding the taco truck, laughs and jokes and taking very little seriously but hey, fuck it, I’d be popular, I’d sell a fuck ton of merchandise…and I’d be a joke. I mean, I’d be making money, but I’d be a fucking joke.


That’s the goal, right? Make enough money so that, at some point, I’ll decide that I’ve got enough and buy a small island nation, build a large house and retire. The taco truck…it’d offer protection too, wouldn’t it? If I’m bad, then I could just e behind the thing, because well, haha Townsend sells tacos!


I couldn’t do it. I mean, I could do it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve talked about why I wanted to come back, yeah? Whole news story and everything, but essentially, I don’t think HOW is what it could, should be. Too many people happy to sit around and let other people take their spot, but doing nothing but whine about it…no action, no force. No impact. The taco truck? That’s what that would be – me coming back just to play the hit songs one last time before I ride off into the sunset.


I chose to stand apart from that.


I chose risk, I chose potentially pissing all over the thing I’m proudest of.


I chose Ground Zero.


Look, straight up…Ground Zero is special. You hear the word brotherhood thrown around in this business, and it’s somewhat cliche. I have no desire to use it. And if you think things are never tense in the stable, you’re a fucking idiot. But to those of us who have been in it, it’s something special. It’s not the same as being in the Best Alliance, or some other stable in HOW. It has history, it has a purpose, it has meaning…I will use a cliche now – it’s a thing you either get, or you don’t. Simple as that. It brought Ward out of some cobwebbed cupboard, it kept Witness in the business. It’s a thing.


So coming back, if I wasn’t doing it just for the money, if I was doing it to test myself, then I felt like I had to put something that mattered to me on the line. I felt I had to put what I feel is the best part of my High Octane Legacy on the line – I felt like I had to put the good name of Ground Zero on the line. Because I’ve reunited us, I’ve brought it back together, so yeah, going ahead and putting that pressure on myself right from the start.


But even so, it might not matter because you might have to go about reminding everyone of who and what Ground Zero are. Fuck, you might have to go around reminding everyone of who YOU are.


So you gotta make an impact, gotta remind everyone of who you are, gotta remind everyone of who Ground Zero are. Gotta get everyone talking about you.


Those seem like fairly reasonable expectations for a return, I think. And sitting here, at home in Cardiff, I feel pretty confident in saying that I’ve pretty much ticked off all four of those things, and a few others, too. It’s not the random disinterested midcarders who are tweeting you, it’s the “owner”, the last World Champion, the ICON Champion, the LSD Champion – hi Flair, know you’re reading, I’m just waiting for you to go tell Mike you wanna defend against me, I’ll be somewhat patient – and, well, most of the people who were just involved in that War Games match. Most of the main event.


Perhaps more importantly, but more relevantly, when you talk to Witness, when you talk to Ward, you can hear it in their voice – they’re fired up. Happy with the return of Ground Zero. Looking forward to this match. I’m pretty sure they both can’t wait to step between the ropes – a chance to test ourselves in a match we know will be as fair as possible, will be as even as possible. Nothing to gain other than bragging rights among friends, nothing to lose.


Which…isn’t how I feel about it. This isn’t a match I want, it’s not something I’m particularly pleased about. Yeah, Mike, enjoy it – I don’t want to wrestle this match. There’s the business reasons for it being stupid, we’ve all headlined PPVs with and against each other, why would you blow this so early etc etc etc. But that’s not all of it, you know? For me, there’s more to it, the opponents almost don’t matter.


Because it isn’t just about wrestling two of my friends and having a good match, it can’t be. I can’t come back at War Games, reform Ground Zero and just…have a good match. That’s what’s expected of me. And it’s a reasonable expectation, just get some of the rust off, limber up a bit, start figuring out what you’re going to be doing at the pay per view…just make sure you still got…something.


But again, I can’t do that. I did more than was expected of me at War Games – I surprised everyone, and I came out of that pay per view as the most talked about thing. My whole run, last era? Constantly exceeding the expectations placed on me. So I can’t just walk out there, put on a decent showing and prove that I still have some gas in the tank. Win or lose, I have to walk out there and prove, even if I am a little rusty, even if I can’t win, that soon, the rust will be gone. Soon, I will wear Championship gold.


Or I could just…win. I seem to remember that I was pretty good at that. So that’s all it  can be about for me. The win – the submission,. Don’t care who it is, don’t care how I get it – win. That’s all that matters at Refueled. Beat Ward, beat the man who almost single handedly won the Tag Team Championships. Get the win.


I don’t have to put some fucking cheesy message here, directed at the pair of them, telling them to be ready – because I know they’ll be ready. I don’t have to warn them – because they know what I’m capable of. I don’t even have to tell them that I’m experiencing that weird mix of fear and excitement before the match, because I’m pretty sure they already know. There is more to this than this just being the in ring return of myself and Ward. A lot more.


So I don’t really have much other to say than I can’t wait for Refueled, boys. When I win…it’ll cap off an almost perfect return. And it’ll get me a step closer to the LSD Championship.


Refueled, Yuengling Center, 16th of August, 2019. Can’t miss it. I mean…not just because I’m contractually obliged…but because, for the first time in years, I have something on my calendar that I’m excited about.




“No, Rhys, no. This is no time for any sort of humility, or deflection. You made the decision to return, so you have to face up to the responsibility you have in this match, mostly to yourself, which you’re refusing to admit.”


Hi. If you hadn’t already noticed, I am professional wrestler, Rhys Townsend. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t recognise me…it’s been a little while.


Him, over there?


Doctor David Richardson, of the “High” Performance Institute of Cardiff University.


Not a doctor doctor. Well, he is, but I’m not here to figure out how we are going to glue my kneecap back together, or how to fucking ensure my back doesn’t fall apart the second I land on it.


Nah, this legit high performance place does have shit like that somewhere, I got no doubt. I think I might even have seen it on the initial tour of the place? Dunno, to be honest.


(In my defence…I was pretty high.)


This dude though? Sports Shrink. Or Psychologist…I’m told calling them shrinks is offensive…


“What responsibility, doc?”


He sighs leaning back in his chair in that way a Dad does when he’s about to explain some way of the world to a wayward son. He looks like a Dad…boring brown hair cut in that simplistic way a 40-something year old man does, when his only standards for personal grooming are “can I get away with it at work?” And “will the wife moan at me if I do this?” Throw in the checked shirt that somehow manages to look smart and not like something that’s tied around the waist of some Nirvana worshipping 15 year old and the jeans that probably cost a months rent for some non-doctor and you have this dude. A vision in “my wife dresses me because I’m obsessed with my work.”


I can relate, he says, sat here in tracksuit bottoms I got from some wrestling camp somewhere and the Silent Witness tee I swiped from merch at War Games.


“Well, we’ve already talked about how it’s your return match, and all that entails…and as far as I can see, you’ve listened to what we’ve been talking about when it comes to setting your mind space for that match itself. I’m happy, I’m confident about the work we have done in that sense.”


“Right, Doc, so we’re all good. No idea what other responsibility you could be talking about.”


He looks more frustrated than mad, but it’s pretty obvious that wasn’t what you were supposed to say. 


“I hadn’t finished speaking, Rhys…”


I hold up my hands in apology as he continues talking. Definitely not a Psychologist approved answer.


“You clearly don’t understand what I’m talking about, and that’s fine. Nothing to be angry about, just something to learn from. So we’ll break it down. Who founded Ground Zero, Rhys?”




“Well, myself, Sektor and Ward got together, and, well, y’know…we’re the founding members, kinda self-explanatory…”


“Alright, but who got the three of you together and talking about those things? I’m going to assume the three of you didn’t bump into each other at catering and just start plotting to form Ground Zero? It’s clearly something based off an idea, a concept, so one of you must have had it. Who?”


“Me, I guess…”


“So what you’re saying is that, while Ward and Sektor are founding members, you yourself are the founder?”


He’s getting more and more intense as he talks. I find myself weirdly distracted by his watch, flashing about the place as he punctuates his words with hand gestures.


“Sure. I guess. Not a title I’d claim, but, yeah, I guess so.”


“I’ve seen you call it your baby on multiple occasions, I don’t know why you wouldn’t claim that title. Now, who got the current reunion together?”


“Me. Ward would still be at home if not for me, Witness would have retired after War Games, I have no idea what John or Chris’ plans were.”


He nods, happy that we’re apparently getting somewhere.


“Right, so, founder and leader. All the responsibilities that come with those two roles as well, right? Like this match.”


“I still don’t follow you, Doc.”


I still don’t follow him. 


He sighs, again, as I reach for the tall cup that contains coffee. No longer is your hero allowed to drink anything with milk in it, oh no. No, if I want a fucking latte, I have this little business card in my pocket. And do you know what it has on it? My nutritionist’s approved recipe for a latte. I mean…it kinda tastes like a latte, but it also doesn’t.


It just tastes somehow fundamentally wrong. So the card tends to stay in the wallet, and thus, I drink my coffee black, like some French savage. With more sugar than I’m supposed to have…


Don’t tell.


“Allow me to use a tired analogy, Rhys?”




Why not? I’m paying to be here, might as well listen to it all. See if it makes sense.


“Alright, so, Ground Zero, if it was a pack of Wolves, you would be the leader. The alpha. You might not be the packs current champion, but you figure that one day, you will be again. And, if a fight, even if it was a friendly one was to happen between you and another member of the pack, you would feel the need to win – to assert your supremacy. Now do you see what I’m saying…? You getting what I mean by responsibility you haven’t admitted to?”


“I get what you’re saying, and I’m not going to disagree, but I don’t see the responsibility?”


“Rhys, you have to admit to you already that you need to win the match, compelled. I bet that, at the moment, you’re not sleeping that much. Maybe you’re watching tape, maybe you’re training, maybe you’re just lying in bed going over potential match scenarios. And all of this would be perfectly healthy in someone who’s just a rookie in the business with a…potentially serious case of OCD. But that sort of behaviour in someone who’s far from a rookie with a potentially serious case of OCD?


Less good.”


He briefly pauses, pushing his glasses up his nose as he does.


“As we both know, you’re not the rookie. Sitting there and using the defence of it’s been however many years since you last stepped in a High Octane ring doesn’t work, because in your head, you don’t think you’ve missed a step. You think you’re going to be able to pick up where you left off. Which is great, and is the first step to doing exactly that, mentally.


So figuring you can use that, the whole “it doesn’t matter that much, I’ve been out for a while” excuse doesn’t help you, it merely hinders you – because you don’t believe it. You think you should be winning this match, and doing anything else would be a bitter disappointment to you. Embrace that – embrace the truth, embrace the desires you have. Honestly, it’ll help more than the self deception. Like your return. You should stop being coy about it. You said yourself, earlier in the session – it’s gone far better than you could have hoped. You shouldn’t be worrying about if you still have it – you clearly do. You should just be setting sensible, smaller goals that will help you build to the larger victories.


So admit the responsibility you have to yourself in this upcoming match – you feel you HAVE to win.”


Maybe he’s right. I maybe should come out and just be a brazen cunt about it. Leader of Ground Zero. Founder of Ground Zero. And I just had the sort of return everyone dreams about having. I am a legend in this company. I am one of the greatest it has ever seen. And just from stepping back out there twice in one evening, I have a fucking compulsion, a fucking obsession to make sure everyone sees me as the single greatest wrestler to be in High Octane Wrestling. I want that LSD Championship, to complete the entire set. To mark myself out as an accomplished singles wrestler. I want a fourth Tag Team Championships reign, just to cement myself as one of the greatest ever Tag Team wrestlers. And yeah, of course I want a sixth World Championship.


Fuck it. We’re in a psychologists office, home truths time.


I’m jealous of Sektor, simply because he’s got that Championship.


And yeah, I do feel utterly compelled to win this match. Maybe it’s selfish, maybe not. But I feel like I need to stand there with my arm raised in victory. Some of it is that whole need to prove myself to Ward and Witness, that they haven’t made a mistake in deciding to roll with me once again. Some of it is because I just want to win every single match I can…and if I’m honest? Some of it is because I want to have that weapon – I want to be able to tell them both that the last time we had a match, I won.


Is that bad? They’re my friends.


“…yeah, Doc, yeah, you’re right.”


And that right there? That’s a bit of a problem. Because how far is too far? It’s just a simple triple threat, but how far can you push it to win? Because I’ve done some pretty fucked up things to people who thought they were my friends, simply to win matches. Or to get ahead in the business. I’ve done some pretty fucked up things to both Witness and Ward in the name of winning matches and making more money before.


Sick thing? I enjoyed it. I won’t lie, I can remember grabbing Witness by the hair and repeatedly driving his head into a door, until his head went through the door, and I remember how that felt to this day.


The power.


I could have ended his career right then and there. Helpless. Bleeding. Just…slumped up against the door, head poking through into the cleaning cupboard on the other side. I could have picked him up and pretty much chosen how I wanted to cripple him…he was in no state to do anything. But I didn’t. 


And that’s my worry, if I do admit my need to win.


That I’ll lose control, lose sight of Ground Zero, lose sight of myself, all the name of some fucking glory.


Dave is just banging on about some hind brain bullshit, and I’m just off in my own little planet here. Because that’s some of it. If I’m right and this isn’t a shitty, disappointing return, then I am a legitimate threat for literally any championship you choose to put me in the ring for…so then, going around and just…doing literally whatever to get ahead, doing whatever it takes to get another championship becomes a legitimate option.


Or I can do it the other way, the way I’m trying to do it. With a little bit of respect and love. My style professional wrestling is not the same as Ward’s, or Witness’. It is less art, more brutality, more of a willingness to do whatever it takes to win, to entertain, no matter how much of my own blood, my own self I have to leave out there. But I look forward to the challenge. To being respectful. To holding back, but also, not holding back. And I  really look forward to seeing how accurate my feelings are on my return, to seeing if I’m as good as I think I am.


But most of all?


I look forward to winning.

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