Monday, July 26th, 2021
The Zion Compound
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
I gaze over the beautiful and luscious view of my lake front cabin for the last time with a long face. I overhear the bustling of the movers loading up my belongings in the background. Each box the movers load up clanking in the background causes my heart to sink lower in my chest. It’s time to admit to myself the dream life is over. For the past 15 years, I have not left the life of comfort since I signed my first national wrestling deal. I’ve grown accustom to enjoying the luxurious lifestyle to further some sort of lies, but it’s time to grow up.
After the long drawn out conclusion to my conflict with Marty Pratt; I realize the façade faded. I did not hesitate and immediately signed a lease on a small apartment located in Crown Point. This small-town suburb in Indiana means a lot to my wrestling career. It’s where I first debuted in the wrestling business. Knowing I’m on borrowed time in this business fueled my decision.
I let out an elongated sigh staring down at my reflection in the waves of the lake. The wrinkles and grey hair stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Crossing my arms against my chest, I lounge underneath the shade of a decrepitate oak tree behind me. I absorb the last sense of solace around my big cabin trying to appreciate the silence one final time.
“WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!”
Meredith’s voice shrieks out and echoes across the horizon disrupting my moment of peace. She storms across the grass showing off her extreme displeasure. Her eyes broaden as she stares a direct hole in my soul. She continues to yammer on as her face beams a bright red hue. “You didn’t tell me you sold the mansion. Why wasn’t I informed about your decision? You know this creates a ton of problems in our arrangement.” She barks out in a stern fashion. She drives her finger straight into my chest with stern pressure.
Wasting no time, I reach out to stop her and grab her hand. Trying to pull her down toward my level in gentle fashion proves to be a feat of its own. She flails around trying to fight off my attempts, but she surrenders with hesitancy. She pouts a tiny bit while I look her square in the eye clinging her hand as tight as I could.
I respond to her, “Look, I’m sorry for the inconvenience here. It’s hard for you to deal with last minute changes in plans. I’m not looking to ruin the situation with your daughter and your ex. I understand it’s a lot to take in all at once. But I am in desperate need of a change of scenery because it’s starting to hold me back.”
She shoots me a perplexed look before asking, “What do you mean by that?” My eyes shift down towards the ground because I struggle to show my transparency.
“I’m spending too much time chasing the nostalgic days of my youth. Every time I step foot in this mansion; I long for my first HOW run where I dominated at every turn. I keep craving the same successes and dreaming about days that have long passed me. I keep sounding like a broken record chasing redemption of the glory days when I need to wake up.” She nods as my eyes convey my struggle. I pause trying to find the words before blurting out my inner emotions.
“After erasing Marty…walking into Lee’s office…”
“Spit it out!” Meredith exclaims in an encouraging voice.
I wipe my hands over my face before spitting out all my thoughts. “When I walked into Lee’s office, he tosses me a World Championship without any merit. In that moment, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Lee views me as fresh meat to pad out Sutler’s World Championship reign. He smells my weakness. It’s like he knows he’s dangling a carrot over a ravenous rabbit’s head. He thinks he can flip the switch on the ole broken record. It’s like he wants me to freeze under my own pressure, expecting me to hammer the same tired points home. He covets opportunities like this because it’s yet another easy win for the Best Alliance. It angers me he underestimates me at this stage of the game.”
Meredith rests her hand against my shoulder and rubs it to release all the tension. She rests her head against it before looking straight up at me. “You’re being too hard on yourself.”
For once, I lean my head back on hers, embracing the moment with Meredith. “I’m being honest this time. Can’t keep living in 2015! I’ve grown complacent and it’s time to stop chasing after redemption. It’s time for a rebirth. I cannot keep talking about change or chasing after the small things. I must commit to it, not yammer on about it. I need action and this is it. Sure, it’s brash and brazen, but it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that.”
She chuckles as she pulls her head up. Her eyes begin to glow while she stares at me. “Typical Zion…you’re always rushing changes.” I push back with a gentle touch at her before cracking a smile.
“Shut up! I don’t need another failed comedian in my life right now!” I acknowledge with a sarcastic tone as we both continue to laugh with a moment of hysteria.
Reality sets in as we both look back up towards the movers emptying the last remnants out of the mansion. I take a deep breath in as regrets begin to linger. The excitement fades out of my eyes. Exasperated from all the pressures of moving, I inhale a deep breath. I expel all the air out of my lungs with force.
“God, I hate changes. They drain me every time!” I exclaim while my fists shake in an uncontrolled frenzy. Without wasting any time Meredith yanks my arm close to hers. Clinging to it t as she can, she smiles back at me. Her hand sways to and fro against my skin trying to relax me.
“Don’t let it get to you. I know how important this match against Sutler is to you. This change is good…”
She pauses as her head drapes downward at a slow pace. I could tell my decisions weighed on her heavy heart more. I reach into my pocket and pull out an envelop for her. I slap it gently into her hands. Her head perks up for a moment before she pulls out a giant wad of cash that I gifted her.
Expressing my gratitude and compassion, I smile at her before I speak. In a frantic manner, she attempts to hand it back before I pull back. “No! This is yours! I want you and your daughter to come join me in Crown Point. I couldn’t imagine making the change without having you both by my side. Didn’t think I’d move without you two, did you?”
Tears of joy roll down her eyes at a fast pace. Her arms rush to hide the plethora of emotions she feels, but I pull them down to her side. Without wasting a single moment, she wraps her arms around me and hugs me. She struggles to process everything and stumbles over her words. “Th..Th..Thank you, but I can’t. I must keep Lexi around here, it’s part of the agreement I have with my ex. I can’t shake that bastard out of my life…”
After nudging her shoulder with incessantly, I nudge her eyes down towards the note I left her. She opens it up and reads it before her eyes glow as she extracts the business card attached.
I acknowledge her glee. “Let’s just say, I have a few connections in the world. Like I said, if I’m going to start a new life and a new path; I want you by my side.”
I pull her in and kiss her before I reach down and wrap my fingers around hers. Her eyes beam her bright and optimistic outlook at the future ahead. I release her hand as I walk up to my brand-new Honda Accord packed and ready to go.
“Even though I need a change of scenery and perspective doesn’t mean I’m leaving you behind. You’re the one guiding light I have. It’ll be a hard week not having you around to run strategy. But I’ll see you in Memphis. This week, I got to go on my own journey to win this title. I need a clear mind focused on this new path I’m paving. Nostalgia be damned this week. Sutler can kiss my ass if he thinks I’m going into this match with complacency.”
As I reach down to kiss her on the forehead, she blushes back at me. Hopping into the car, I watch her wave on with a strange optimistic outlook. Pulling out of the driveway, I watch on with hopeful eyes at what I’ll find on this journey. Because I’m fucking tired of coming up short. I’m not sitting back and taking this encounter lightly this time. It’s time to rise like a phoenix. Time to leave the past behind. I’m on a war path for #97Red and I won’t leave Memphis empty handed.
“Sutler, you’d love it if I spent any time jawing on about my glory days. You praying to Lee himself I’ll spin another redemption storyline out of this. Maybe you expect me to talk about how much the World Title would authenticate my career. This failed waste of space wrestler dares to step into your ring for your title. How dare I defy the great Sutler Reynolds-Kael. You’re praying I sound like the cancerous Zion. I mean we all know I’m that tired recycled Nickelback song now.
Well you can fuck off you whiny, entitled, millennial prick.
You think I don’t know Lee lobbed me a pity pitch this week. Let’s give Zion another World Championship Title match. He’ll shit the bed and give Sutler a breather after some barn burner defenses. He’ll shut this pestilent fuckstick right up without breaking a sweat. I saw that look in his vain eyes after I opened the damn door. He licked his lips and I knew what he thought about me.
It was a reality check for me.
See, I’m not going to make the same mistakes as last time we squared up in that ring. I let my emotions control my reactions and I underestimated you. I looked past all the pomp and circumstance everyone else saw in you, kid. I let my emotional turmoil with your adoptive father blind me and it cost me.
I find it funny you think I’ll cast you off as a tired World Champion. Shit! Anyone with half a brain know the age gap between us. You’re the young, hungry World Champion and I’m yesterday’s news. I’m 34 years old and I ain’t getting younger. Any HOW World Title match could be my last and I’ve taken them all for granted.
But if you think I’m going to sleep on this chance, kid, you’re sorely mistaken. See I’m not a fool. I’ve sat back watching your rise to prominence. While others would balk at your ego; I attribute it to confidence. While fans would think your cutting corners; I view it as ingenuity. Some might balk at your offers to psyche out talent, I acknowledge your cunningness. You’ll do anything to retain #97Red no matter the cost.
It’s what champions do here in HOW. It’s their job to cling onto that belt with all desperation to keep it. You bask in your triumphs and downplay the rejects. It comes with the territory. I might not have held onto the belt you hold now, but I’ve held others your father did. You don’t need to lecture me about hard work and diligence. I’ve lived it, Kael. I know my mistakes. I let my head become just as bloated as yours. I latched onto nostalgia over my promise and I damn well know what pride does to you.
It causes you to fall. It forces you to remanence and traps you in a vicious cycle. But it’s time for me to evolve.
Let’s not sugar coat this shit any longer, I’m not coming into this match viewing you as weak. You’re a dominant World Champion who has won War Games and beaten two promising upstart HOW talents. You’ve got plenty of energy in that tank. You could go on defending this championship weekly and not even break a damn sweat.
But you’re blinder than Ray Charles if you aren’t watching your own damn tapes and seeing your fucking flaws. You might be one confident son of a bitch, but your arrogance has grown at an exponential rate. You’ve bitched about statues. You’ve thrown temper tantrums when Grandpa Lee forces you to do remedial tasks. You lack true appreciation for what that means for this business and what it means to do that labor.
I didn’t set up rings or clean up trash because someone told me to do it. I lost the respect for this damn business because I turned into a shittier version of you. I threw temper tantrums because I didn’t get all the glory. I balked at doing those tasks because I thought I was above them. I lacked passion or drive and I needed to pull myself out of my own vices. I mistook my own pride as confidence. And look how I turned out.
All you’re doing right now is filling the gaps for your deficiencies for having a shitty father. I get it. I had a shitty one too. I can empathize with that. It makes you a tougher and more vicious champion. But if you think rattling off stats about how you’re better than your father impresses me; you’re a fucking fool.
I’m not coming to that ring looking to pick up the scraps of you or your father’s legacy. I’m coming to pave my own and win the HOW Championship. Everyone and their dog know how much that championship title means to me. If you think I’m not looking for the war over that strap and I’m going to scavenge; you’ve already lost to your own damn pride.
I’m coming to knock you off the damn high horse of yours. I’m coming to the ring to beat some respect into that thick skull of yours. While you sit confidently on your throne like a pompous asshole; I’m going to show you something you haven’t seen.
I’m going to show you what all the trials and tribulations have done to my career. Sure, I have failed a million times, but it all has fed me. It’s grown that insatiable hunger I’ve left unquenched for years. It fuels me to think outside the box and scheme up new maneuvers. I’m hitting the gym, studying tapes, and making strides this week. I will exploit that pride of yours and hammer some sense into that skull of yours.
You’re exactly like your father. You’re too wrapped up in your self-confidence you end up suffocating yourself with it. You might think I’m going to squander this chance because Lee’s dangled a million carrots over my head, but I am not.
Blame your grandfather for reawakening my hunger. I’m coming for a fight this week, Sutler. It’s my chance at a rebirth and I’m not interested in wasting it. While you’re off distracted playing games with your family; I’m not fucking around. When I bash my fist against your skull; you’ll realize your mistakes.
You want to see moxie, kid; I’ve got plenty of it. We “poors” have more of it than you rich, entitled jerkoffs do. I haven’t lived the extravagant and lavish lifestyle you do, nor do I appreciate it like you. But I take pride in my journey and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’m taking the HOW World Championship from around your waist. Unlike Max, I’m going to beat some respect into that thick skull of yours. I’m going to end your reign of terror and walk out of Memphis with some #97Red around my waist.