Burnout is a slow, insidious experience. Burnout is not afraid of playing the long game. To prevent burnout? We need to play a long game, too..
Friday April 15th
March to Glory was a bittersweet experience for me. On one hand I left with Tag team championships, finishing the tournament strong with my young protege by my side and earning his first major wrestling championship. It was a beautiful story book moment for the both of us, but most of all for Adam.
On the other hand? I lost the LSD championship. Arthur Pleasant finally lived up to his promise and took it from me on a technicality. I felt cheated. It was supposed to be a submission match but I didn’t submit, so after all that time as champion that was a difficult loss to accept. I can’t blame the official, his job was to look out for my safety and he did exactly that.
275 days. That’s how long I reigned as LSD champion, breaking both the LSD championship and overall championship reign record. What I actually accomplished during that time was more important. I put technical wrestling back on the map. I gave it a symbol of greatness and represented the true art of professional wrestling with dignity, class and elegance. That is something that can never be taken from me, not even by Arthur Pleasant.
So I spent the last few weeks since March to Glory back in my home town of Miami. It had been such a long time since I’d been back that I took the opportunity to grab some home comfort. It was also an opportunity to grab some mental and physical relaxation. My knee was feeling much better, but my mind was conflicted. I appreciated the extended leave I’d been given by the Michaels, but it would soon be time to get back on the road.
I decided to stop by Loui’s shack, my favourite coffee spot and eatery on the Miami waterfront. As I entered the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and home cooked food warmed my senses. I’d barely got my foot over the door before Loui had noticed me.
“Heyyyyy, Sek! Get over here, how ya been?” he asked enthusiastically, his unfortunate face beaming with joy to see me.
Loui beckoned me over to his station, wearing his usually greasy apron and chef’s hat at a jaunty angle.
“Good to see ya, Loui,” I said earnestly, briefly taking his hand.
“You look good! God, how long has it been?” he gasped.
“Too long,” I replied, feeling a sense of comfort from being in a familiar place with a friendly face.
“Mickey said you were coming. He’s over in your usual booth.”
I looked over my shoulder to see my old wrestling coach. He was indeed sat in my booth, window seat opposite the front door, sipping coffee and reading his morning paper.
“Go take a seat and I’ll send some coffee and grub over. On the house,” he offered.
I smiled, “You’re a good man Loui,” I said, strolling over towards Mickey whilst Loui got to work in his lab.
Mickey was just about on the right side of 80 but was fit for his age. Still, I always felt a twinge of sadness looking at his old face, which lit up the cafe as he saw me coming over.
“Here he is,” he sang as I approached.
I leaned down over him to give him a hug. I always regarded Mickey as the father I wished I had. He brought me sense of comfort and stability which is why I’d asked to see him. I needed his advice.
“How you been old man?” I asked, slipping down into the booth.
“Hey, less of that!” he joked.
I’d barely been sat down for a second when the waitress came over with a mug and fresh pot of Louis unique blend of strong coffee. I gave her a friendly nod as she finished filling my mug and instantly breathed in the aroma.
I noticed Mickey narrowing his eyes at me. He was reading me and was one of the few people in this world who could do it well.
“How have you been, more importantly? You sounded upset on the phone,” he admitted, continuing to read.
I shrugged it off at first. “I’m fine. Honestly, just my head’s a little all over the place and could use some friendly advice.”
“What’s troubling ya? ‘Cause you lost the LSD championship?” he asked, knowing me so well.
“Eh, that’s part of it,” I began, blowing steam off the top of my coffee. “I was so disappointed when I lost it. Even winning the Tag titles with Adam, I left the arena feeling deflated. That reign felt special. Different from any of my other championship reins. So when it ended? It felt like the end of an era.”
Mickey smiled calmly. “All good things must come to an end my boy. Besides, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You went out on your shield, just as you said you would. You should be damn proud.”
“I am!” I admitted.
Mickey’s eyes continued to scan mine. He could sense that there was more to the story.
“So what is it then?” he probed.
I looked out of the window as I gathered my scrambled thoughts, enjoying the sight of the sun’s rays sparkling off the blue water.
“Thing is, after being back here for a few days? I started to feel relieved,” I admitted, gasping because I couldn’t believe I was saying those words. “For 275 days I did nothing but train, focus, live and breathe that championship without rest. Now that it’s gone? I feel like..”
“..like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders?”
“There’s no shame in that. You’re not the first champion to feel the weight of being a champion. It’s a huge burden of responsibility and you’ve had a lot to contend with. You’ll be a champion, John. And you still have the Tag team championship. The beauty of that? Is that Adam can help you carry the weight,” he explained.
I nodded. “Yeah. I’m really proud of him.”
“He has a great mentor,” Mickey said with a smile.
“So do I.”
I took a sip of the thick, gloopy, nectar as I gathered my thoughts.
“Thing is, Mick, when I lose a championship I usually spend a couple of days licking my wounds and then I start to think about what’s next.”
I stared down into the black abyss of my coffee for answers, but none surfaced.
“So what is next?” Mickey asked.
“Pfft,” I huffed. “That’s just it. I don’t know. I don’t think I have the energy for this any more. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve and more. The thought of having another title reign like that last one? Just makes me tired.”
Mickey didn’t say a word, he just listened.
“I look at Adam. How much he’s improved and what he has achieved. He’s the future. Then I look at myself and I feel like I’m just getting in his way. Maybe it’s time for me to step aside and let him into the spotlight..”
“Is that truly how you feel?” Mickey asked, not judging.
I took a second to think before answering, using a sip of coffee to buy me time.
“I’ve never felt like this before. There’s been times when I’ve thrown in the towel and thought I was done, but deep down I knew I just needed to get my head straight and that I would be back. But now? This feels different. The desire to continue just isn’t there and I just want to put all my time and energy into the academy and mentoring Adam.”
I felt sick saying those words. I felt like I was cheating on myself and the sport by speaking out loud about my true feelings. Mickey just smiled.
“Perhaps it’s time?”
I looked up at him, knowing what he meant but still finding it strange to hear.
All good things must come to an end, right?”
He continued to smile softly.
“Like you said, you have achieved everything you wanted. This day was always going to come.”
“That’s the thing, though. I never thought I’d feel like this. I always saw myself as one of those dinosaur wrestlers who’d be taking bumps in their 70’s, because I love so fucking much!”
“Is that how you want to be remembered, though?”
I went quiet, knowing full well what he was getting at.
“You know, when my mother was dying in hospital, I never went to see her,” he admitted, a twinge of sadness in his eyes. “I felt ashamed. I was being selfish because I didn’t want to see her in that condition. I wanted to remember her as being healthy and alive. You see what I’m getting at?”
I nodded, both understanding and agreeing.
“If you’ve come to me today looking for me to talk you out of this? Then you’ve come to the wrong guy. I’d much rather you walk away now while you’re still healthy and able to pass on all that knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of wrestlers.”
I didn’t say a word, I just nodded and took a sip of coffee as I looked out of the window.
“Well, I’m not done just yet,” I continued. “Adam and I have a tag division to build.”
Sunday, April 24th
It’s mid afternoon in Orlando as the tag team champions walk down the steps of the front entrance of the Amway arena. A huge crowd of local fans have gathered after Sektor had put out a message at short notice that he had some things to say. They wave their banners as the tag champions wave back to them, titles over both of their shoulders. The Gold Standard steps up to the microphone which is on a stand as he waits for an opportunity to begin speaking.
“Thank you all, so much, for that warm home state welcome for the Gold Standard,” he begins, nodding his head as he soaks in the applause and cheers. “And also for welcoming my partner, apprentice, protege, the incredibly talented ADAM ELLIS!”
The crowd roars as Ellis smiles and nods with gratitude, acknowledging the sentiment from his mentor.
“You know, I’ve been doing this shit since I was 19 years old,” Sektor continues, rubbing his moustache with his free hand. “For 23 years I’ve been putting my body on the line. I’ve broken bones. I’ve pulled muscles. I’ve spilled so of my own other peoples blood over those years that you could probably stock a Tarantino movie.”
The crowd laughs at the pun as Sektor briefly smiles before turning serious.
“Throughout those 23 years I have also achieved so much. 5 World title reigns. 4 Icon title reigns. 2 LSD title reigns. 5 Tag title reigns. 2 stables title reigns. A TV title reign. March to Glory 2013 winner. War Games Winner. Wrestler of the Year. Champion of the year. Hall of Fame class of 2016 and those are just my HOW accomplishments!”
The crowd applauds, cheers and whistles in support of Sektor’s accolades.
“Nothing was ever enough,” he continues, sternly looking out into the crowd. “I was always chasing something more. This time around I felt like I needed one last, BIG, run as a champion.”
He smiles proudly to himself as he reminisces about his accomplishments.
“I believe that LSD championship reign was it. 225 days,” he says quietly. “225 fucking DAYS!”
More cheers as he amps the crowd up.
“That’s a long fucking time at this level. To put that into perspective – I held that title longer in one reign than Scottywood has in all five of his combined! There is no argument as to who the greatest champion of all time is because it’s fucking me!”
The crowd cheers and breaks out into a chant.
“YOU STILl GOT-IT!” CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP! “YOU STILL GOT-IT!”
Sektor smiles and nods appreciatively whilst Adam claps in his direction.
“But as a dear friend recently reminded me, all good things must come to an end,” he says, with a solemn tone.
This seems to hush the crowd as they listen intently.
“So as that chapter comes to a close, It’s time for me to think about what’s next for John Sektor.”
He takes a second to think about his words before continuing, looking around at some of the faces in the crowd as though for the first time in his life he was actually looking at them.
“For the first time in my life I feel fulfilled. I have achieved, everything I ever wanted to achieve in this sport, and then some. I have nothing left to prove to anyone, and I have nothing left to prove to myself. Simply put? I have nothing left to achieve,” he explains.
The grows restless as they begin to become concerned with where he is headed. Adam also regards him with anxious eyes. It’s at that point that Sektor gestures towards Adam to his right.
“This kid right here? He has everything to achieve,” he explains and waits as the crowd cheers for Adam. “But he can’t do that with me standing in his way.”
This instantly silences the crowd as Adam glares at him with wide and worried eyes.
“I told you all that Adam Ellis was the future of this business and look at him now, standing there with one half of the HOW Tag team championships. Only four months into his professional wrestling career in the big leagues and he’s won a major championship. Mark my words this kid is the future of this sport.”
Adam smiles but still appears concerned with the direction his mentor is travelling.
“If Adam Ellis is the future? And if Connor Fuse is the present?” he asks, shaking his head slowly. “Then John Sektor is most certainly a thing of the past.”
The crowd boo’s but not in hatred of what Sektor is saying, but because they don’t agree.
“And I’m okay with that,” he continues, smiling genuinely. “I feel like I have reached the final chapter of my story and it’s time for Adam’s story to begin, with me by his side.”
Adam leans in close, panicking as he talks into his ear.
“John, what are you doing?”
Sektor raises a hand to him reassuringly as he turns his attention back to the crowd.
“Today? Adam and I stand before you as the HOW Tag Team champions. When the day comes that our reign comes to an end?..”
He pauses, gathering the necessary courage to finish his sentence.
“So too will the career of John Sektor..”
The crowd roars with disapproval, yelling and screaming to let him know that they don’t want him to do it. He looks around at their faces, some of them crying real tears. Instead of feeling guilty he feels proud that his career and legacy has created such emotion from the fans. It simply reassures him that he’s doing the right thing.
“I am honestly humbled by that reaction. I appreciate all the support from you guys and that small but loudest corner of the arena that cheers me every time I wrestle. I never acknowledge you guys but without that support I wouldn’t have had the motivation to keep going as long as I have. But It’s time to start planning for something else, and I quite simply don’t have the energy to keep going.”
The crowd quietly mumbles and groans, looking devastated by the news. Adam has been stunned into silence, completely caught off guard having no prior warning that this was coming. There was a good reason for that.
“But it’s not over yet.”
Some cheers now as the fans find some optimism.
“In the new year the Tag team division was resurrected in High Octane Wrestling. Adam and I battled our way through the tournament and walked out of March to Glory as your newest Tag Team champions of the world!”
Adam lifts his championship proudly as the crowd cheers their accomplishment.
“The tag division has always struggled to survive for a significant period of time in HOW. I’ve shown you all what I can do with a championship when I transformed the LSD title and made it the hottest it’s ever been. It is our goal now to establish the Tag team championships and elevate them to a level where we can ensure that they survive.”
Adam nods in agreement, eyes full of purpose.
“We can’t do that if we allow these titles to fall into the hands of the Devil’s Advocates.”
The crowd’s disdain for the duo of JJR and Pleasant are deafening at the mere mention of their name.
“They don’t raise the prestige of championships, they ruin them. Arthur Pleasant told the World that he would end the LSD reign of John Sektor and he did that. But what he didn’t do was defeat my legacy, because he couldn’t even get past the first title defence!”
The crowd cheers this as Adam smirks.
“They can win titles with their dirty tactics and sadistic natures. But they can’t maintain them. They are not champions, they are thugs who want to watch the company burn. They don’t care about this sport. They’re just sick fucks who use our platform as a playground to feed their appetite for destruction.”
Sektor shakes his head, top lip curling with disgust.
“Well, if they think they’re going to mutilate another championship then they are more insane than they claim to be, because we are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect that possibility from becoming reality. Over my dead fucking body will I allow those two to destroy the tag division before it’s even gotten off the ground. This is the beginning for us! John Sektor and Adam Ellis to lay the foundations, not for them to dig it up and bury them.”
Adam nods slowly, gripping his championship tightly as he subconsciously prepares to not let it go.
“Jeffrey James Roberts has been looking forward to meeting us Adam,” Sektor says, turning and raising an eyebrow at his partner. “He says he wants to look into the eyes of purity,” Sektor laughs. “Well I have only one thing to say to Mr Roberts about that. If he thinks John Sektor is pure? Then he’s in the shock of his fucking life tonight!”
Huge cheers from the crowd as Sektor sends this message. His face turns stern and angry as he tenses his muscles.
“Tonight? Is about justice! Justice for wrestling and everything that the Devil’s Advocates stand against as they tarnish our great sport.”
Adams expression turns more and more focussed with aggression, realising that this is more about retaining the titles. It’s just protecting them from falling into the hands of the Devil’s Advocates. It’s about ensuring that Sektor’s career continues long enough to achieve their goals as a team.
“We will win,” Sektor continues, with absolute certainty. “And when we do? We will not only defeat the threat to the division. But we will be putting the entire wrestling community on notice.”
He slips the tag team championship off his shoulder as he pauses.
“That we? John Fucking Sektor. Adam FUCKING Ellis. Are putting tag team wrestling? Back..on the fucking MAP!”
With that, he hoists the tag championship high above his head and Ellis follows suit as the crowd rip a tremendous roar.
“This doesn’t end here..” he yells.