It’s a year ago today that I got sober for good.
That sounds like a cheap gimmick for a wrestling promo, but it’s the God’s honest truth. It was the lead up to my match at last year’s Rumble at the Rock, and a year ago today is when I realized that I didn’t wanna leave this world the way my mother did.
She was a miserable addict.
Not saying I’m not, mind you. There’s some things you just never stop being, no matter how much you turn your life around. I’ll always be an addict, recovering or otherwise, and I’m not just talking about coke, or the booze, or the pills, either.
Truth is that I get addicted to everything.
Can’t kick the smokes. Literally can’t get to sleep till I jerk off once or twice, no matter how tired I am. I’m thirty five years old and still requesting weekly bookings from the front office, even though I’m at a place in my career where I could work part time and not lose my spot. I am addicted to the fighting, and the attention, and the validation, so when I tell you that I have been sober for exactly one year today, don’t let me fool you. I quit the coke. I quit the booze. I quit the pills.
And then I killed my own brother for a championship.
I was willing to fight Max Kael to the death to win the HOW World Championship for a ninth time. Isn’t that stupid? The next guy on the list is Rhys Townsend, and he’s won five of the damned things. I have a record that will likely never even be sniffed at, much less broken, but I was willing to let my brother die to see my name in the books one more time. Maybe that’s why I fought so goddamned hard to hold onto it. Maybe I knew that it was the most important title reign of my career, because I knew what it had cost.
I loved cocaine, but I never killed a man for it. I loved to drink and party and pop pills, but I never let anyone die to support my habit. So what kind of sobriety is it that I think I’m living in, exactly? I made a promise to High Octane Wrestling that I would never compete for the HOW World Championship again, but here I am… a shitty addict trying to get a fix. A fix I’m willing to lie for. A fix I’m willing to kill for. Because it’s the only drug in the world that doesn’t just numb you.
It’s the only fix that fixes you.
All of the sudden, you’re not just some victim who got diddled when he was thirteen, you’re the World Champion. You’re not just some greasy haired middle schooler getting bullied in the hallway, you’re the World Champion. You’re not just some insecure, shitty thirty five year old loser addict with no future outside of the wrestling business, you are the WORLD. FUCKING. CHAMPION. It is every hug you never got as a child, shot out of a cannon full of validation and compliments, and fired directly into the serotonin receptors in your fucking brain. Every insecurity washes away, every ounce of self-doubt evaporates, and you suddenly feel vindicated against everyone who ever looked in your eyes and called you a fucking loser.
It is the greatest drug in the world.
And I will never stop chasing the dragon.
I’m not proud of it. I’m not bragging. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wish that I could quit, but this shit is hooked directly into my veins on an IV drip and I can’t stop. Cancer Jiles cut my last title reign 100 days short of a full year, and I have never stopped thinking about it for a single day. I tried to walk away from the division. I tried to walk away from wrestling. I thought that throwing myself into a cage with a different dangling carrot would serve as some form of a twisted methadone, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to knock out a bunch of guys inside of an octagon. It wasn’t enough to fight two round matches and kill a guy with a fucking knee. It wasn’t enough to carry around a title that no one even gave a fuck about, because they didn’t have an interest in taking part in the division.
You think I failed HOW because HOFC died?
Fuck you– I failed myself.
Because one year ago today, I quit coke, and I quit booze, and I quit pills, but on October 30th, I prove that I’m still the same old shitty addict when I fall off the wagon and compete for the HOW World Championship. Against a kid who is younger than me. A kid who might be better than me. A kid who sure as fuck is more athletic, and well-liked, and charismatic than I am. And I begged and bargained and stole for my opportunity to do so.
You want to hear me admit it?
Yeah, I fucked Sutler out of his rematch.
He and Jace had battled it out for the number one rank in HOW for the near-year that I was on the sidelines taking cage fights, and it drove me fucking insane. They both had every right to a match with Conor. They both had every reason to be angry that I took the spot. They both got absolutely screwed by my sudden return, and I’m not even the slightest hint of apologetic for it. I cashed in on my last name. I cashed in on my Hall of Fame status. I cashed in on THE PERCEPTION, because I want my tenth HOW World Championship badly enough to do absolutely anything for it. Abso-fucking-lutely anything for it. I see it in my fucking dreams. I jerk off thinking about that fucking belt around my waist, and if I win it, I might wrap it around my neck while I cum buckets of sticky white validation out onto the floor of the hotel room I’m writing this in.
It’s my fucking championship.
I fucking deserve it, and I want it, and I FUCKING NEED IT, alright?
Is that what you want to hear?
I’m a shitty little addict and I can’t stand it when the spotlight isn’t on me. It kills me that Conor is on the cover of the video game. It murders my ego every single time I get booked and it isn’t in a main event. When Conor got on that microphone and gave out all those tickets, it tore me in half like a fucking phone book, because they were looking at him and not ME. I had to break my promise to HOW. I had to steal this match from Sutler and Jace. I had to do whatever I needed to do to get one on one with you at Rumble at the Rock, Conor, because the idea that you hold that championship makes it hard for me to sleep at night. The idea that you might be better than me is eating me alive. The idea that you might be the future of a company that is ready to leave me behind is fucking killing me.
I have a disease, Conor, and the cure is around your waist.
I need my fucking medicine.
“I got a million ways I can beat you, kid.”
The wry smirk, something of a trademark at this point. Everyone in wrestling seems to claim a trademark on the smirk, but the son of Lee Best laid claim long before it was old hat. That’s the way it went with a lot of things in HOW— Michael Lee Best invents it, and soon everyone else is doing it. The blogs. The merch. The fourth wall. They say good artists borrow, but great artists steal… and HOW truly had a lot of great artists these days. It doesn’t even feel genuine plastered over his face on this occasion– it feels rehearsed.
This all feels so rehearsed.
“I can tap you out.” he goes on, abnormally quiet for such a brash speech. “I can knock you out. I can tie you up in a bride and do whatever I want with you, honestly. Because I’m polished. Because I’m experienced. Because I’m not just the Final Boss of the game, I wrote the fucking code and it’s my world. So I’ll tell you what, Conor— you do all the flippy floppy shit you want.”
He takes a deep breath, as the hesitation seeps into his voice. His eyes go a little glassy.
“I’ll beat you without the knee.”
There is no crowd to react to it.
No microphone to speak into. No camera to mean mug. Michael Lee Best stands in front of a hotel mirror, staring down at the smudged index card in front of him. A mess of shorthand and bullet points stares back at him, but one bullet point in particular is the one staring back.
- I won’t use the knee???
The dark circles under his eyes make him look like a drug addict.
All things considered, he was fortunate. Seven poor schmucks were locked up on that shitbag island right now, eating whatever slop the guards were feeding them. The Son of God had been through enough stints in Solitary at the Rock to last him a lifetime and barely survived— he was staying at the Ritz Carlton by comparison.
So why couldn’t he sleep?
“I’ve got a lot of ways I can beat you, Conor.”
Yeah, less exaggeration. Keep it down to earth.
He paces away from the mirror, walking back and forth in front of the drawn curtains overlooking the bay. This shit always came natural to him— putting words on paper, or sticking a microphone in front of his face and just putting his foot on the pedal. So what made him stay up all night writing fucking bullet points? Who writes bullet points?
It’s just a fucking promo, right?
He’d slept on fucking sheet rock with a straw pillow and still had enough energy to win Solitary Confinement twice, one of them with enough cocaine in his colon to kill a small elephant. Right now, Jeffrey James Roberts was probably lulling himself into a slumber while carving a soap shank, while the Son of God sweats bullets at six in the morning over one stupid line in one stupid promo.
“I can beat you without the knee.”
Why can’t he say it with conviction?
This is Booking 101, like father like son. You tell the people you’ll win without your most devastating weapon, and it’s win win– either you win without it, or you lose without it, and you save your heat. You come out on television the next week and you say “Oh, I never used the knee” and you don’t look like you got punked out by a kid with a Super Nintendo on his fucking tights. It’s an absolute no-brainer of a promo, and the kind of schtick he’d made a career out of exploiting for his own gain.
Except that it isn’t actually a win-win.
“Because then…” Michael sighs, staring out the window. “I can’t use the knee.”
He clears his throat, rattling the card in front of him like it’ll change the words written on it. A one hundred percent rate of success– if it lands, the match is over. No kick outs. No near falls. A knee that has conquered Kostoffs and Kings, the most dangerous patella in the game. But maybe more important than all of that, it had become a crutch upon which the Son of God had been limping for well over a year. That’s exactly why he can’t say it with any conviction– he isn’t so sure he can beat Conor Fuse without the most devastating finishing maneuver in HOW history.
He isn’t so sure he can beat Conor at all.
“Hey Conor?” he clears his throat, trying out another line. “What if neither of us uses our finishers? No 450 Splashes. No running knees. Just a good old fashioned–”
He stops, furrowing his brows as his mouth slumps into a sour frown.
“Jesus…” he grumbles, staring at the card in his fingertips. “It sounds so fucking desperate.”
Conor Fuse beat Jatt Starr by studying him in the ring and countering one of the hardest hitting moves in pro wrestling. It was impressive. It was astounding, even. In twelve years, Michael Lee Best had never thought to counter a Falling Starr into a… fucking backslide bomb? It’s not even a real move. He just fucking made it up, and it was murder. Undoubtedly, the HOW World Champion knew that knee was coming anyway… he was prepared for it. He was likely standing in a gym right now wearing a stupid SEGA shirt and practicing all the ways to counter I KNEED A HERO, and turn it into I BEAT A LEGEND. What if he countered it in front of of the entire world and retained his championship? Even worse, what if he didn’t? What if Conor Fuse took the full brunt of the most devastating move in wrestling, square to the face… and kicked out?
Sweat brims along the brow of the Son of God, as he pulls his hair back out of his eyes.
The center of his forehead presses into the glass, as he stares down at the San Francisco coast below. Workers bustle along the streets, headed into their mundane office jobs, and for just a moment Michael Lee Best feels a twinge of jealousy. You’ve got to fuck up pretty bad to be sweating in your underwear at six thirty in the morning as a fucking accountant. Clock in, clock out, and don’t take your work home with you.
Michael always took it home with him.
His legacy was literally his life’s work.
In less than two weeks, half of those little ants below might be staring at their television screens, tuning in for one of the most stacked Rumble at the Rock cards of all time. Tuning in to see the endless brutality of HOW’s most brutal pay-per-view. Tuning in to see if Conor Fuse would become the undisputed face of High Octane Wrestling, or if the Son of God was still the King of the High Octane Jungle, because they didn’t know the answer.
For the first time, neither does Michael Lee Best.
“Fuck it.” Michael growls, suddenly tearing the index card in half. “No holding back. No saving heat. Whatever it takes.”
The torn papers flutter to the carpet, shredded in his fingers as he watches them fall. Wasting a second of his time on protecting his ego if he loses is just allowing the idea that he might lose enter into his mind in the first place, and losing isn’t an option. If Conor kicks out of the knee, he kicks out of the knee. If it takes seven of the goddamned things, then it takes seven of them, but Michael Lee Best refuses to get on a live television camera and beg for an easy out. To beg for mercy. To beg for a chance to save his pride.
He’s come too far now.
Put too much on the table, and said too many things that he can’t take back. He’d come out on television wearing a fucking lion on his chest and proclaimed himself King, and now it was time to back it up. He pulls his forehead off the window facing the water, trying to ignore the puddle of condensation left behind from his brow. Trying to convince himself that of course he should be sweating this matchup– of course he should be panicking. That’s what he always does, right? Convinces himself that Bobby Dean “has his number” this week, to trick himself into not getting complacent. That’s all Conor was, right? Just a hype job? Just Michael Lee Best getting into his own head, to ensure a victory?
He falls face first into the plush mattress in the center of the room– a queen bed, because they were all out of kings. It feels a lot more foreboding than funny, but the Son of God doesn’t have the energy to do anything else but laugh into the comforter as face presses into the linen.
Muffled into silence by the mattress, Michael Lee Best cackles deliriously for no one to hear, the remnants of a promo still laying scattered along the floor of another strange room in another strange town. It was one year ago today that he finally got sober for good, standing in this same hotel overlooking Alcatraz in the distance. He didn’t do it for his health, or for his well-being. He did it for the HOW World Championship. Because he knew that if he stepped into that prison with Maximilan Kael fucked up, he’d have been carried back out in a wooden box.
He beat addiction with addiction.
Because nothing in the world was more important to him than being the best wrestler in the world. Nothing ever had been, and nothing ever would be. Why was he so hung up on bullet points on a fucking index card? Why was he staying up all night stressing over just the right words to say?
And suddenly, he realizes why he can’t sleep.
With a start, the Son of God sits up on the mattress, wiping the delirious tears from his eyes as he looks down at his hands. They’re trembling. But it isn’t fear that has been keeping him awake. It isn’t abject terror.
“Fuck a bullet point.” Michael nods his head, staring at the carpet.
Fuck a bullet point. Fuck a podcast. Fuck a camera, fuck a promo, fuck a bunch of chest thumping and dick stroking. It was time for Michael Lee Best to stop pretending that he wasn’t nervous about Conor Fuse. It was time to stop pretending that this match wasn’t the biggest test of his career. It was time to stop pretending that the implications of this match were just a tenth HOW World Championship. He reaches for his laptop, grabbing it off the bedside table and opening the screen. The brightness jars his already burning eyes, but his fingers find the blank document in a whirlwind. The words fall from his fingertips like lead weights, each leaving him a little lighter. A little less burdened. It was finally time to get some things off his chest.
It was time to shoot straight with Conor Fuse.
It was time to shoot straight with the world.
“It’s time.” Michael takes a deep breath. “For the truth.”