Burning The Past Down

Burning The Past Down

Posted on May 22, 2024 at 11:50 pm by Darin Zion

Prelude

One week passed since the lunchroom fight incident that occurred for Darin Zion.  Since that day, Darin Zion joined the wrestling team as their manager, marking a dynamic shift for the once shy student.  The day dawned with a crisp, clear sky; the sun casting it’s warm, golden glow over the school grounds.  The fresh morning air hinted at the onset of springtime. A gentle breeze rustled through the leaves of the trees lining the path to the gymnasium.

Inside, the training room was a hive of activity, filled with the muffled sounds of grunts, thuds, and the occasional whistle from Mr. Rossi. The room was spacious and well-lit, with large windows along one side that let in streams of natural light, creating a bright and welcoming environment. Thick mats covered the floor, providing a soft surface for the young, aspiring wrestlers to practice their moves. Along one wall, rows of lockers and benches lined where students could store their belongings. The opposite wall was adorned with motivational posters.  A trophy case sat near by showing the accomplishments of past school wrestling champions and their photos, a testament to the school’s proud wrestling tradition.

Mr. Rossi, a seasoned coach with a commanding presence, moved among the students, coaching and offering corrections from his keen observations. His firm voice carried an encouraging tone , fostering an atmosphere of camaraderie and discipline. Darin Zion was among the students on the mat, fully immersed in his training. Since joining the team as their manager, he had found a new sense of purpose and belonging.  He diligently took notes for Mr. Rossi’s book, paying special attention to the Chicken Wing takedown, a move which had become his favorite.  He noticed his new friends disabling their opponents, twisting their arms behind their backs.

He had become facisnated with it’s blend of technique and control, longing to be able to apply the move.

Zion failed to realize this had become a sanctuary where he could channel his pent up frustrations, enabling him to become passionate about combat.  Each session the past week bolstered his confidence and empowered him through his days navigating the lonely school halls.

One could say Mr. Rossi helped Zion forge his new path, one shaping him into a stronger, more resilient person.

Darin’s eyes began to fixated on the action unfolding at the center of the mat. His friend, Arthur, the school’s promising 8th-grade future state champion, was engaged in combat.  Arthur was a towering 6’4” heavyweight, his massive frame and bulging muscles exuding raw power. He was someone who could strike fear into the eyes of any opponent, his presence alone enough to intimidate.

With a swift and powerful move, Arthur lifted his opponent off the ground and slammed him down onto the mat with a resounding thud. The room momentarily fell silent, then erupted in applause and cheers from the other wrestlers.

The roars of his peers filled Darin with excitement.  Darin couldn’t contain his composure. He clapped enthusiastically, his eyes shining with admiration for Arthur’s pure skill. “Way to go, Arthur!” he shouted out with glee, his voice sticking out like a sore thumb amongst his teammates.  Arthur, catching Darin’s eye, gave a quick nod, grinning at his newfound friend.

Mr. Rossi, standing nearby, took note of this interaction. His sharp eyes softened for a moment as he observed his young pupil’s enthusiasm. He slowly sauntered over towards Darin, a cunning smile was plastered over his face. “Darin!,” he called out, his voice cutting through the noise of the room.  His arm waving the young Zion down towards the mat.  “Come down to the mat.  Let’s see what you got.”

Darin’s heart skipped a beat as sweat began to roll down his face.  Zion’s face turned chalky white at the coach’s invitation.  He began to stammer and stutter, trying to respond to his mentor.  “Y-Y-You sure coach?  I have no experience.”

Zion’s pulse began to quicken as he tried to cower behind the crowd of the his peers, hoping to blend into the background.  Mr. Rossi did not relent from his invitation.  He made his way back to where Zion was hiding.

“It’s now or never!  It’s your chance to show the rest of the school what you got.” Mack reassured Zion, as he place a hand on Darin’s shoulder.  “You can demonstrate to the team what you’ve learned since you joined us.”

Darin’s eyes sank down towards the mat, his stomach began to knot up at the thought of confronting his best friend.  He was a lover not a fighter.  Deep in his soul, he knew he couldn’t handle Arthur’s imposing stature as his first challenge.  He doubted his own skills, especially since haws was scrawny and weak compared to his opponent.  As Mr. Rossi guided him down to the mat, thoughts of uncertainty filled young Zion’s head.

Could he really hold his own against a future star like Arthur?

Each step closer to the center of the mat amplified his self-doubt. The confident moves he had studied seemed inadequate, making him feel like a fish out of water. Mr. Rossi’s encouraging words were a distant murmur as Darin struggled to steady his nerves, preparing to face this challenge head-on.

Darin turned his full attention to Mr. Rossi, asking his mentor a simple question.  “Are you sure I am ready for this?”

Mr. Rossi nodded, reassuring his young pupil.  “I’m sure you’ve got this.”

Darin nodded, taking a deep breath to steady himself. He glanced around at his teammates, who were watching with anticipation. He turned his attention to Arthur, who looked ready to maul Zion immediately at the sound of Mr. Rossi’s whistle.

Darin crouched slightly, preparing his stance.  His arms extended out as he tried recalling every detail of how to apply the Chicken Wing takedown he’d been studying all week long.  His eyes locked onto Mr. Rossi’s as he met Arthur in the center of the ring.  He nodded to acknowledge he was ready.  His eyes then locked with his daunting opponent’s glare.  This was Darin’s moment to shine.  He was determined to make the most of this chance to shine.

Deep down, he hoped and prayed he could make the most of this opportunity.  Mr. Rossi’s whistle sounded and Zion began to charge straight at Arthur…

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!!!!!!

==========

Today

As the memories of his embarrassing middle school defeat slowly faded away, Darin Zion sat quietly in his living room, the dim glow of the evening casting a tranquil aura around him. The gentle hum of distant traffic set a contemplative tone, a backdrop to his thoughts over the past week.

Zion hadn’t allowed himself a moment to celebrate his most significant accomplishment to date: defeating both the LBI winner and the most dominant HOW Champion in history in tag team action.  For him, he was absorbed in earning his next victory, hoping to secure his spot in the Final War Games match where he could earn the affections of his adoptive father Lee Best.

For Zion, there was no pause or triumph unless he could get that illusive photograph with a proud Lee Best. His mind was solely focused on his next opponent.

Zion held a framed photograph of HOW Hall of Famer Scott Stevens in his hand with a look of resolve filling his face.  Zion considered Scott Stevens one of his few “friends” in HOW.  The picture captured a moment the two shared prior to the 2015 War Games where both men celebrated their win over Boardwalk Wrestling.

Zion’s eyes fixated on Steven’s confident smile and glint of determination breaming from his eyes.  While Darin considered Stevens a mentor, he knew deep down Stevens would stop at nothing to end his momentum.  While the rest of the HOW roster slept on Stevens and his stubbornness to evolve with the times, Darin understood what Scott Stevens was capable of doing inside the squared circle.

He could easily write off Scott Stevens and insult him like other great did; Darin knew Stevens like the back of his hand.  He knew Stevens wrestled around the world, aiming to win multiple accolades including the coveted MVW Men’s Heavyweight Championship.  He knew Stevens had a fire in his belly, desiring nothing more than to ascend back to the top of the card.

He knew deep down, his once mentor and good friend would stop at nothing to crush his dreams.

After Zion stopped letting all the painful and good memories flood back to him, he turned his attention to Big Mack Rossi who had a scowl on his face.  While he knew the old Mack would congratulate him for turning his fortunes around, this older, more grizzled version did not once flash him a smile.

Mack simply stared a hole straight into Zion’s soul.  “I’m glad you’ve finally learned an important lesson last week,” Mack began to scold his pupil.  “You finally pulled your head out of your ass and did something right for a change. You put your differences aside with Stevens aside to finally do something right.”

Mack’s head began to turn around the room, observing the other snapshots from Zion’s career—his victories, defeats, and all the moments in between.  He folded his arms across his chest, sneering at Zion.

”Well, Stevens taught me a lot more about this business and…” Darin responded before Mack quickly cut off and interrupted the over zealous Zion.

”I honestly don’t give a shit about your fleeting friendships in this business.  If there’s anything you need to learn; you’ve got to face any challenge head-on.”

Darin Zion intently leaned in, hanging on the sage advice Mack provided to quench his resolve to win.

Mack Rossi still couldn’t shake the memory of Zion’s naive middle school image.  He knew he couldn’t give Zion an inch because it would craft him into a more formidable wrestler.  He did not want Zion continuing to glimpse into any shadow of his past because it would hold Darin back from achieving his dreams.

”In order to become stronger, you need to kill the past.  Stop holding onto cherished memories of yours.  They only make you weaker, holding you back from becoming that stone cold killer your father wants you to become.  If you let that tender heart of yours guide you this week; Stevens will shred you into pieces.  He understands your greatest weakness.  He knows you seek out the affections of your fellow HOW peers.  He plans on exploiting your need for self-validation when you two fight.”

Mack Rossi took a long drag off his cigar, the ember glowing brightly as he inhaled deeply. Exhaling a plume of smoke towards Zion, he maintained his intense glare, the tension thickening in the air between them.

”You do not need to worry about that.  I’m way past that stage of the game.  I won’t let my friendship with Steven cloud my judgement this week.  There’s only one path to War Games.  I will accept nothing short of victory.”  Darin tries to reassure Mack, resting his hand on his mentor’s shoulder.

”I expected nothing less from my star pupil.  You’ve always faced every challenge I’ve given you head on, coming out stronger each time…” Mack stated as a sinstered spread across his face.  Behind it lurks his hidden agenda, hinting the depths of his emotional manipulation for his grand scheme.

Zion did not detect the facade behind Mack’s seemingly benign actions.  He grins back at his bald, aging mentor, excited about his match up.  “When I step inside the ring with Stevens, I will show him no favoritism.  Just like I did with my Final Alliance mates last week.  He’s merely another accomplishment in my belt.  One step closer to my path to War Games.”

Leaning forward, Mack barks his next order at Zion, his voice devoid of any warmth or compassion, revealing the starkness of his directive and the absence of genuine concern for Zion’s well-being.

”Excellent then!” Mack chimes in, cutting Zion off immediately.  “You will have no problem with burning all these stupid trinkets of your past.”

Darin Zion stood completely flabbergasted by Mack’s statement, the harsh words echoing in his mind. His eyes dart around the room, landing on the trophies and championship belts gleaming from their shelves, each one a testament to his hard-fought victories. Photographs of triumphant moments, where he had once felt invincible, now seemed to mock him.

His heart sank, a heavy weight settling in his chest, as the realization of Mack’s cold detachment clashes painfully with the memories of his achievements. The room, once a sanctuary of his success, now felt suffocating and hollow.

Mack continues to lecture his pupil about the excercise’s importance to his success.  “Every one of these worthless trinkets anchors you to the past.  It keeps you evolving just like your opponent.  They remind you about times which make you a softer competitor.  They make you weak like Stevens.  They hold you down from realizing your truest potential.”

”B-B-But they make me…”Darin Zion retorts before Mack continues to ignore his desperate pleas to stop his madness.

”They make you weak, allowing you to continue to love.  You haven’t lost everything like I did.  Holding onto these trophies makes you yearn for days that won’t come back.  You don’t understand the concept of survival like I do.  Once you let go of all these idols you will become as vicious as I’ve become.” Mack assures his pupil before handing him his golden Zippo lighter.

With a heavy heart, Darin Zion reluctantly gathered all his wrestling memorabilia into a large box. Each item he placed inside felt like a piece of his soul being torn away.  Stepping into the backyard, he set the box down and, with trembling hands, flicks Mack’s Zippo, turning away as the flames consumed his hard-won memories.

Inside the house, Mack Rossi stood by the window, a cruel smile spreading across his face. He watched with twisted pleasure, chuckling softly at the sight of Zion’s reluctant obedience. As the fire crackled and smoke rose into the sky, Zion’s heart ached with every burning reminder of his past.

==========

“You will have to fight the world for your dreams.  Better have a compelling argument.”

—Bob Evans, 2024

It’s easy to keep boasting about the past. Many wrestlers in HOW revel in flaunting their accomplishments as if they are the ultimate measure of success. Every week, you hear Mike Best touting his countless accolades. Wrestlers like Silent Witness, Christopher America, Brian Hollywood, and even Scott Stevens all leverage their achievements to convince everyone they deserve the victory.

But it is all empty words.  It makes the lot of them all weak and vulnerable hacks. When you step inside the squared circle, your opponent doesn’t give a damn about your past. They only care about knocking you out and winning the match to achieve their next feat. Their focus is solely on earning that next coveted notch in their belt.

It’s truthfully why I’ve grown to loathe someone I once called a mentor. Scott Stevens, once a figure I admired and respected, has become a constant reminder of everything wrong with clinging to the past. All he can do is live in the shadows of his former glory, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the present. Week after week, he parades his past achievements as if they are the only thing that matters, as if they grant him some unassailable superiority. His need to constantly remind everyone how tough he is has become tiresome and transparent, masking a deeper insecurity he refuses to confront.

Stevens’ stubbornness isn’t just a trait; it’s a shield he uses to protect himself from the reality that the wrestling world has moved on. He arrogantly believes that everything he’s accomplished in the HOW ring is solely his doing, ignoring the significant influence and opportunities provided by my father, Lee Best. In his eyes, his smug attitude and relentless self-promotion are the keys to his success, not the guidance and support he received along the way. It’s this delusion, this refusal to give credit where it’s due, that has turned him from a mentor into a symbol of everything I despise about those who can’t let go of their past.

I used to subscribe to this method, Scott. I used to yearn for the chance to craft a convincing argument about why I belonged here in HOW. I craved the opportunity to list all my accolades, believing that doing so would solidify my reputation as a true wrestling badass. I thought that recounting my past victories and achievements would be enough to command respect and establish my place among the greats.

But week after week, it only left me an empty shell of a man. Clinging to past glories has turned me into a shell of the competitor I once was. Instead of driving me forward, it trapped me in a cycle of nostalgia and complacency. I realized that true strength and success come from constantly evolving and proving myself in the present, not resting on the laurels of yesterday.

Clinging to the past made me a soft, worthless competitor within the gears of the MACHINE my father crafted. I became just another cog, unable to keep pace with the relentless drive and innovation that defined the best in HOW. Instead of forging my path forward, I was weighed down by my obsession with past achievements and the misguided belief that they alone would sustain me.

Unlike you, I’ve grown tired of falling flat on my ass. I’m sick to death of letting the world pass me by, missing opportunity after opportunity while others around me succeed. Watching you win your third HOW World Championship was a bitter pill to swallow because it starkly highlighted my own complacency. My hatred for you and Mike Best became a crutch, something to blame for my failures rather than taking responsibility for my own stagnation.

Now, I’ve moved past those feelings of resentment and anger. I’m indifferent towards you, no longer allowing my emotions to be dictated by old grudges or past rivalries. I’m no longer attached to those nostalgic feelings of friendship or hatred.

My focus has shifted to the present and future, where I aim to redefine myself and reclaim my place in HOW, not by resting on what I’ve done, but by proving what I can still achieve.

This year, War Games represents my last opportunity to achieve the victory I’ve been striving for. And you’re standing in my way, blocking my path to that accomplishment. Because I floundered and forsook my father’s guidance, he tethered me back to you. He wanted to give me a constant reminder that if I continued down the path I was on, I would end up just as worthless, wasting space on this coveted roster.

My father’s decision was a harsh wake-up call, a brutal lesson in accountability. He wanted to ensure that I understood the consequences of my complacency and the danger of becoming irrelevant. By linking me to you, he forced me to confront my failures and the possibility of squandering my potential. Now, with War Games on the horizon, I must rise above this challenge and prove that I can reclaim my place in HOW, not just for myself, but to honor the legacy my father built.

This week, I’m not going to mince my words or my strikes. As Lee’s Prodigal Son, I’m going to destroy you, leaving you in a pool of your own blood. I will make you an example to the roster, showing everyone what happens when they stand in my way.

Taking down another World Champion is just the beginning. I will forge my path forward to glory, proving my worth and reclaiming my rightful place in HOW. This is my moment, and I won’t let anyone, especially you, stop me from achieving my greatest accolade ever:  winning War Games and becoming the HOW World Champion.