Monday, September 27th, 2021
The trees in the forest extended for miles into the clear night sky. Bonfires blazed their radiant throughout the site of tonight’s meeting. An entire flock of people wore black hoodies secluding their identities. Yet here I stood amongst the Eternal Circle members sticking out like a sore thumb. Dressed in a blue flannel shirt and jeans, I meandered amongst their ranks.
I try extending my hand to introduce myself, but my attempts are futile. Everyone focuses their attention on the wooden podium with an idol of Eris in the center of it. They sit in silence waiting, patiently waiting for Xander’s sermon.
Goosebumps form around my entire body. My stomach knots up as I shake in my seat. My innermost awkwardness displays itself in an obvious fashion. My voice fluctuates as I lean over to one of the members to gather information about Eris.
“So…how do I know when Eris has entered my heart? What are the signs?” I ask like an oblivious child. I rock back and forth in the chair exuding my distinct discomfort from my facial expression.
His head makes a stark and sharp turn towards me. I can feel his eye piercing right through my fragile soul. He barks out the instructions in a judgemental tone. “Eris knows this answer, my child. Be quiet and embrace her blessing in your good fortunes. She is watching YOU!”
I tug my hair as my eyes shift in a frantic motion. I angle myself away from the crowd of die-hard Eris believers. Sweat pours off my forehead as I blot it all onto a silk tissue. My disdain for blundering first impressions continues building up. Why in the hell did I accept Xander’s invitation to check these yahoos out?
I couldn’t fathom the purpose Eris would need my services. I have only secured four wins in 2021, scantily squeaking my recent victory over Jiles. I’m not the dominant technician that once commanded a presence in that squared circle. Those days from 2014 are long past me. I didn’t hold the rigid and rough emotional presence I once commanded. My life outside HOW softened the once calloused heart embedded in my chest. Some would say it’s the reason for my 3-year downfall.
But maybe Eris designed this situation for my growth. She knows the daunting challenge I face at Refueled. Clay Byrd’s presence always looms when I catch a bit of momentum. His rugged offensive dominance and unyielding determination always conflicted with my style. Maybe this series of unfortunate events ignites the grit laying dominant in my soul.
Xander makes his way to the stage, sauntering across it with swagger and grace. Crimson outlines embroidered his silky black robes. He bears a wicked smile across his weathered face. He takes a moment to bow at Eris’ presence before clearing his throat. Reaching in front of him, he opens a tattered, frail grimoire in front of him. His well-known tone shifts to one filled with grace.
Xander yammers on about his message as my brain tunes him out. It sounds like the banal Catholic sermon my stepfather used to share on Sundays. “Children of Eris! For too long, the world has mocked and scorned our Goddess. Each and every one of you feels beaten and downtrodden at the hands of the unbelievers. It’s like you lack the backbone to stand up for yourselves…”
My mind wanders off back to the match at hand on Saturday Night. I envision Rooster Cock-Byrd loading his proverbial promo pistol. He’s aiming it straight for my head to finish the job. That ten-gallon hat might cut off the circulation in his brain, but it doesn’t mean he’s not a dirty bastard. His last lecture about tenacity made my skin boil. Like all Texans, Clay will try to avoid the evolutionary process. He’ll recycle cheap lines about me not changing. He’ll degrade my struggles and growth. He’ll try to melt it down to “lack of creativity” but forget he’s a fat carbon copy of John Wayne. I cross my arms in front of my chest as I fade back into reality.
Xander continues to pave the way to the point of his message. “Eris wants you to seek justice, my fellow Eternal Circle brethren. When the world strikes you down. YOU STRIKE BACK! Don’t let life continue to beat you down and pass you by. You fight back with every ounce of conviction in your souls.
My ears perk up and zone in on him. I am owed justice after squandering away the last 3 years of my life. The bitterness from everyone mocking and condemning me flares up. I clench my fists together and my jaw bites down hard. One thought swirls around my head like a brewing thunderstorm.
“They despise you because you’re different and unique from them. Their endearing term of ‘little brother’ is holding you back. Show them your anger! Show them your wrath. Give them NO MERCY.”
I snap myself back into consciousness and fixate my eyes on Xander’s message. A female hooded figure notices the change in my demeanor. She veers towards me and whispers into my ear. “That’s how you know Eris is speaking to your heart, child. She’s blessing you with the words you need to hear.”
She hands me a red viscous liquid and I take, and I gulp it down. My palms shake and perspire as they shoot up into the sky. My eyes roll back into my head as intelligible words come out of my mouth. Xander’s message speaks to my heart. Vision of my old life in HOW flash before my eyes as my face grimaces. This is what I needed to hear going into my match. This is the exact presence I needed to have to take down Clay Byrd. Now I was in a new zone.
Wednesday, September 29th, 2021
Destiny Wrestling Organization (DWO) Headquarters
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Exhaustion sets in from a ten-minute scrimmage match I embarked with a DWO trainee. He cornered me and knocked me down with a brisk clothesline straight to my sternum. My breathing becomes heavy as I lay on the mat gasping for air. My heart races at a rapid rhythm while my vision blurs. My compassionate comrade in training scoops me off the mat with ease. Hosting my body over his shoulders, he signals for his finisher–the GTS.
If I don’t act now; it’s lights out for me! As he flings my body into the air; I scramble to land on my feet. I catch his knee in my hands and trip him on the mat. I make a mad blitz for the ropes to nail a picture-perfect drop kick into his chest. Grinding my teeth together, I clamp down hard on my fists as adrenaline flows. The veins protrude from my forehead as rage ignites every fiber of my body. As the trainee pulls himself off the mat; I waste no time in landing a rough Ratings Spike onto him. I drive his skull to the mat with force.
Before I process the entire interaction; I’ve wrapped my arms around his neck and shoulder. I can feel his brittle bones snapping. I waste no time in pulling his weight into him with my brute strength. His body goes limp within ten second and I sink the lock in deeper. My eyes flare with intensity as Meredith rushes the ring and slaps the back of my head.
“ENOUGH!” She bellows from deep within her lungs. Her voice echoes throughout the rest of the training facility. “You’ve knocked his ass out. Your statement is clear.”
I slam his unconscious body against the cold canvas below him. I let out a long sigh and growl at him as I’m pulling myself back to stance. I unleash a sour glare into Meredith’s eyes. As I’m huffing in a state of ire; Meredith massages my forearm to calm me down. “Easy there, Zion; the sun’s getting low. That’ll do big guy!”
I balk at her attempts. “Is it? Because it certainly seems like people still doubt me after last week. Even though I’ve beaten Jiles hundreds of times, I know exactly where Byrd’s thinking. I’m soft and malleable. He’s going to fold me over like clay.”
Meredith rolls her eyes at my terrible dad joke attempt. “Lay off the punchlines, Dar-Bear. It’ll cost you in the ring.”
I respond back to her with one line. “Duly noted!”
Scrambling to find my water bottle, I reach down and drown my mouth with the satisfying taste of water. Wiping the sweat with the #RallyZion towel Conor gave me, I walk over towards the corner and fall flat to the ground. I take a moment to catch my breath as Meredith continues to console me.
She heaps on the encouraging words at me. “Look I know you’re not impressed with the fact you squeaked out a roll up win over Jiles, honey. Your pride took a hit. But you still captured a sliver of momentum going into this match. Last time you fought Clay; you were on the verge of losing the last shreds of your self-confidence. Look where you are now compared to War Games time. You outlasted that fat fuck in the match. You wrestled some of the best names in HOW and for once didn’t look out of place. You pinned a former HOW World Champion’s shoulder to the mat. What more could you want?”
I sit back up and lounge against the cold steel of the turnbuckle. Huffing in a couple more breaths, my intense eyes connect with hers. My voice sounds cold and crossed as I retort. “I want revenge against this dope ass Texas jackass. He embarrassed me in our last encounter. This time our match is personal. I won’t allow him to recapture any momentum and steam. Sure, that bastard has murdered opponents and ended careers. But he’s choked like me in title opportunities. He condescends me any chance he gets in backstage circles. He looks at me like I’m some sort of albatross in HOW that needs an attitude readjustment. He never gets that the chip on my shoulder is hunger.”
I cross my arms against my chest and roll my eyes as I continue. “Fuck him! I want to hit him where it counts. I want to embarrass him in front of the entire world. He doesn’t think I’m capable of change. He perceives me as some dopey kid brother who lacks creativity and grit. I’m going to wrap my hands around those ten fuckin’ chins of his and suffocate him at Refueled. I want to watch his face turn a shameful shade of blue. I crave the satisfaction of watching him succumb to this scrappy little dipshit. Because I’m tired of people balking at my name when I capture any shred of a push. I need to make an example out of him.”
Meredith can feel the heat radiating from my body as she backs away. The glow fades from her eyes. A frown replaces the once beaming smile on her face as she observes the change in my character. “You can do that without the influence of the Eternal Circle. Xander’s teachings are poisoning your mind, dear. He’s corrupting you before my eyes.”
Chuckling under my breath, I raise off the ground and give her a strong hug. I wrap my arms around Meredith’s waste, and I kiss her lips. My eyes twinkle as I try reassuring her. “Relax, babe! It’s a simple message I want to send to the locker room. I’m coming to mark my territory in that ring. Clay’s an animal in that ring. He thinks he’s staked his claim in our last encounter. I only want to show him he’s sorely mistaken. It’ll be all fun and games after Refueled. But now, I want to sharpen this submission. If his eyes aren’t bulging from his head when I clench him in it; I’ve failed. He’s about to learn not the tough way not to cross Zion.”
I kiss her on the cheek and head off to the locker room to change for dinner. A villainous smile twirls from cheek to cheek as I wander back to the locker room. A picture of Clay Byrd’s lifeless body flashes in my mind and a sense of peace covers my body. I mutter the Plainview Native’s trademark words under my breath as I see a vision of myself standing tall over him.
“That’ll do, bitch! That’ll do!”
Oh no! I’m facing off against the big, bad Clay Byrd this week. What will this poor soul do?
Some people would see this match as a punishment for my ungrateful attitude. I see it as the greatest opportunity in my career. See I don’t operate in the land of microaggressions. I fuckin’ make major ones. I have a bone to pick with Mr. Byrd. See this is a chance at retribution for me.
I still haven’t forgotten my last match with good ole Byrd Shit. The last time I met Clay Byrd in the middle of that ring, he turned me inside out. He left me in a pool of my own piss and shit. That fucker made me question all my motives in this damn business.
It was a testament to exactly how deadly his reputation in HOW was at that time.
But now The Destructive Texan has lived a little more of that HOW life since we last met. He’s finally experienced some trials and tribulations. Dare I say he now understands what life is like for Zion? He’s obviously become familiar with the art of choking in big matches with high stakes. The struggle to keep relevant momentum is real, ya varmint! You once scoffed at me for being a tenacious little pest. It doesn’t feel so good looking at the other side of the argument now. You’ve got a fire in that belly now. You have the chance to knock off this jobber’s head into Section 214’s ranks to prove your worth. I have no doubt in my damn mind you’re coming into New Mexico ready to decapitate me in front of a life audience. You’re looking to stake your claim at a future World Championship match. You’re wanting to make an undeniable skid mark out of Darin Zion.
There’s only one problem: this tenacious little fucker is seeking retribution. I’m fucking sick of people shitting all over my name. Ever since I knocked off three of your former buddies at once; everyone expects the same shit out of me. I can hear their voices in my head. They’re telling me I squandered yet another momentum shift after shooting my damn mouth off. I took down a former World Champion and my attitude wrote another check my ass can’t cash. They expect another uninspiring failed upset attempt from Zion. They’re tuning me out already.
But you aren’t! You’ve locked me in your sights. You’re ready to sling your guns at the scrappy looking little brother. I have no doubt in my mind you’ve been training like hell for a Texas sized ass whooping at the hands of me. You damn well know I swing hard but can’t close a damn match if my life depended on it. You think I’ve got a soft heart and I’m dense as fuck. But you’re only scratching the surface layer of who I am.
There’s a side I’ve left slumbering for years. It’s grown saltier as it sleeps. It’s a sadistic and twisted side I vowed to never unleash in HOW again when I returned. I regret not unleashing it upon the world sooner. I valued a great reputation over securing my own success in HOW. Now you’ll see it up close in that ring. But now that I’ve found my voice and my confidence; it’s returning to HOW.
See I haven’t tapped into the full potential of my abilities as a technical wrestler. I only valued cheeky, cheap cringeworthy humor. But now it’s got an insatiable thirst for justice. It wants to unshackle itself and make a mark this week. It craves me wrapping my hands around that 295 pounds of fat and suffocating you within an inch of your life.
You’re damn right I’m salty this week, Yosemite Clay. I’m salty at all the missed opportunities I left behind over the past three years. I’m frustrated at the roller coaster momentum I’ve let happen to my career. I’m tired of losing to Top Shelf talent like yourself because everyone’s own misconceptions of me. Sure, it’s my fault, I own that. It’s part of the growing process. Unfortunately, now’s the time I make a statement.
Clay, I promise I’m gonna bring extra salt in this match. So much salt you’ll leave Refueled fucking pouting about your sodium intake. I’m going to leave you for dead in that ring like a bitter 97-year-old bald man failing to change. You can take your Walker Texas Ranger bullshit justice and leave it in fucking Texas.
Because you’re not the one fighting for justice; I am. You will pay for making an example out of me all those months ago. It’s an eye for an eye, you failed Tom Brady reject. Leave your Plainview Jesus shit back in Texas. There won’t be any forgiveness. You’re not coming to New Mexico to teach me a life lesson. You won’t be beating me within an inch of my life.
You’re about to meet the Red Rings of Death. You’re going to be like Conor’s XBox and shit the bed in Albuquerque. I promise my momentum won’t end at Refueled. I’m going to even the score between us. I promise I’m going to asphyxiate you in New Mexico and secure victory. And this time, the refs will be cleaning your shit and piss off the mat.”