Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
Madison Square Garden Janitorial Storage Closet
New York City, New York
Fresh off my main event HOTv Championship match with JJR, papers rush across my chosen office. I didn’t care about the cramped space or the Wet Floor signs in the background. The redness radiates from my face and the veins in my forehead are popping out. Clenching my fists tight at my sides, I call out to my beautiful life partner Meredith. “GET ME CHIVES! GET HIM NOW!”
Meredith glances at me with a look of perplexation on her face. After a few moments of silence pass, her eyes roll. Folding her hands together, she explains the situation in a calm tone. “Babe, did JJR’s chair shot concuss you too much? You fired Chives before you wrestled tonight. It was clear the man you found was blitzed out of his fucking mind!”
I scowl at my love with disdain. My eyes squint at her with unchained fury. Clearly, I didn’t want to problem solve right now. An ice pack laid against my bludgeoned skull. Dry blood ran down at the side of my face. I still saw double vision of the room spiraling around me. Yet, I knew the only solution to the problem at hand. I let out an annoyed sign as I draped my arm across Meredith’s shoulder. I pause and slowly speak to my Golden-Haired Goddess.
“Then go out into the hallway, pull out a random schmuck, and GET ME A NEW CHIVES, DAMMIT! It’s obvious the self-proclaimed CFO of HOW needs a manservant. I can’t have my beautiful girlfriend doing all the dirty paper work.”
Frustrated, Meredith storms out of the room, leaving me to collect what brain cells I have left. The silence only fueled my contempt for Jeffrey James Roberts. The vivid sound of the clanging steel chair in Roberts’ hands resonated. Yet again, HOW’s Heartless Murderer stole something away from me. The first time, that bastard ripped a chunk of my flesh away from my cheek. Now, he sullied the blood, sweat, and tears I poured into my ICONIC match. I’d punched my own ticket after 3 hard, fought years, and this heathen humiliated me in front of the world.
My hand falls away from the scar tissue around my right cheek as the door flies open. The slamming noise against the brick wall causes me to flail in agony.
“MEREDITH! I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD…”
A familiar, feeble toned voice causes my ears to perk up. “Look…I-I-I don’t wanna be here right now, but…”
My body shoot straight off the desk. My eyes lock onto the recognizable cloak. The annoyingly positive smile fades from my dilapidated face. I cock my fists ready to engage in battle. There stood my arch-nemesis and Maurako cup partner Xander Azula. His beady, naïve eyes stared back at me with a look of bitterness. We both scowl at one another, waiting to pounce. Taking in a deep breath, I acknowledge the elephant sized in the room. I point to a metaphorical watch on my wrist before speaking.
“I don’t have time to deal with your bullshit, Xylon Asshat. I don’t know if my concussion somehow affects how YOUR brain works too, but I haven’t forgotten what you did. You’ve got about 5 seconds before I tear that door off it’s hinges and join JJR in jail.”
Xander clinches his hands and grits his teeth together. The malice in his eyes intensifies while I jump off the top of my desk ready to engage. “You’re the last person I want to ask, but…I…”
Interrupting him in midsentence, I scream out, “FIVE!” I jump down to the floor preparing to engage this nusance.
“There’s a problem and I need your help,” Xander begs on, backing up out of the door at a snail’s pace. “It’s urgent and could change the fabric of…”
“FOURTRHEE….” I rush the numbers hoping to accelerate this chump’s heart rate. Xander stumbles and lands ass first on the concrete. I hover over him and he still continues.
“LISTEN HERE! I tried reasoning with you before Rumble at the Rock. But fate brought us together for a reason. ERIS HAS SUMMONED YOU, HEATHEN! Comply or…”
Xander scurries across the concrete in record time as Meredith approaches. In tow, she’s got a random popcorn vendor from tonight’s event by his yellow uniform’s sleeve. My face sparkles with enthusiasm as she pushes the man with force into my office.
Confusion sets on the guy’s face when my arm goes around his shoulder. Exclaiming aloud with jubilant delivery, I begin explaining my sadistic plans. “CHIVES! WELCOME BACK, BUDDY!”
“Uh, my name’s Chet, bro!” The calm and collected surfer cuts me off in correction.
I plant a kiss on the man’s face, ignoring his comments. I left him speechless as I continue to lay out my plans.
“SILLY CHIVES! Always forgetting your name. We’ve got work to do. I need you to draft up a document. Jeffrey James Roberts needs to face unceremonious sanctions for his actions tonight. I’m thinking that I need to slap that hooligan with a $10,000 fine. Men like him need to learn how to fight honorably in an HOW ring. Since cash is meaningless to that fuckstick; he won’t miss it either. Draft the official order and have it on my desk by 8 AM. “
“But…uh…I don’t know how to…” he responds back before I interrupt him again.
“FIGURE IT OUT OR ELSE YOU WON’T BE COMPENSATED!!!!” I scald him before storming out of my office, leaving him to do the task.
Tuesday, January 25th, 2022
Crown Point, Indiana
Walking into Meredith and I’s storage basement in our new house, I rummage through old boxes. Flipping the top off an old, blue cardboard box marked HOW 2014-16; I flip through some old photographs. At first glance, it’s a lot of backstage photos of Brian Hollywood and I pranking HOW veterans. Nothing standing out to me; until I get to one photo.
Mario Maurako standing proud with a young Darin Zion. The ICON Championship lays against my shoulder as Mario shakes my hand. Our confident grins go ear to ear after I’d pleased my old boss. Not a lot of HOW newcomers knew I once aligned myself with HOW’s resident Tag Team Specialist. I fought against the Davidsons to defend Commissioner Maurako’s honor. In turn, he insured I’d retained my championship against Tara who was on a hot streak at the time.
Images like that brought a smile to my cold, hardened heart.
Spacing out to the good old days, I barely notice the clopping sounds of Meredith’s heels coming down the stairs. When she tapped me on the shoulder, it startled me and the photograph goes flying.
“Taking a trip down memory lane again?” She asks me before planting a kiss on my cheek.
“Mario is an idol to me. He always had my back. Even if we stood on opposite sides of my wars with the Best Alliance, he showed me respect. He gave me two big breaks rather intentional or not. This week will be the first time I’ve battle the man in tag team action. Hell, it’s the first time I’ve fought him. He’s a Hall of Fame worth act for sure. And at the time, I never understood his buy in for me. I’m some naïve Chicago kid who lucked into this sport. I scratched and clawed my way to the top. I never had a knack for this business like him. And now…”
I pause and lament. I clutch the picture tight to my chest. Tears roll down my eyes. I know I hadn’t lived up to the hype Mario gave me back in 2015-16. Meredith wraps her arms around me and pulls the picture away from my chest. We both gaze down at it.
“I’m sure he understands it’s not personal. Besides he’s moved on since then and grown. Everything happens for a reason, Darin. It’s your time to shine.”
I take a deep breath and let out an exasperated sigh. “Yeah! It became apparent when he sicked Sektor and Starr on Hollywood and me. But you’ve known I’m always sentimental about this shit. Its hard for me to release my emotional connection to friends.”
“It’s the wrestling business, honey. I’ve been managing you for over a year and you can’t keep stagnating in the past.” She assures me. Before I can respond back to her, the hairs on my back of my neck crawl. I can feel the sensation of breathing on the back of my neck. Cranking my body around at a slow pace, my eyes lock onto the threat.
XANDER AZULA’S STANDING IN MY HOUSE! MY FUCKING HOUSE!
Quickly, I reach over to grasp my hands around an old metal baseball bat. As I’m stirring around in a frenzy, Xander exclaims in a nonchalant tone. “OH! That’s one half of our opponents this week on Refueled. I didn’t know you two were friends! Anyways about my proposition…”
I waste no time in shaking the rest of the cob webs off my weapon. I hurl Meredith behind me to protect. Barreling at Xander with full force, I chase that fucking creeper. I’m ready to kill that bastard at all costs. Xander’s feet make a mad dash up the stairs. In pursuit, I dart up the stairs. Adrenaline pumps through my veins. My heart leaps out of my chest.
My target’s acquired and I’m going to pull a Jeffrey James Roberts. Unlike him, I’m going to finish the damn job and leave my opponent dead. Zipping around various corners, my neck twists back and forth. NOTHING! No trace of the bastard anywhere. I pull out my iPhone of my pocket to scan the cameras.
The door remains sealed.
No traces of Xander in any of the rooms.
It’s like that jackass appeared and disappeared out of nowhere!!!
What the FUCK is going on?
Thursday, January 27th, 2022
After a sharing a quaint morning jog, Meredith and I stop in front of Cloud Gate. A brilliant idea forms in my head. I motion to her to reach into her purse and begin recording a promo. After all, Jace gave her some experience at the task. I saunter closely to The Bean to use it as a backdrop. Collecting my breath for a moment, I prepare my mind. Every time I did one of these things, I wanted to spill my guts. But this time, I wanted to make a statement after what happened last week. A heated look forms in my eyes. Standing with a cool, confident presence, I set my serious tone. Without hesitation, Meredith hits the record button and I start.
“Last week, Jeffrey James Roberts called me a disappointment to freedom. I have the world at my finger tips and I can celebrate freedom on a daily basis. I can leave Cloud Gate at any time and move to a different scenery. I can take a stroll to the nearest Starbucks and experience the nice taste of a French Roasted Expresso. Hell, I can walk over to Giordano’s Pizza and get me a nice deep dish when I please.
But don’t tell me I’m a free fucking man especially after what you did to me.”
I take a few deep breaths to calm down. I clinch my fists down at my sides while I continue to spout off about the whole ordeal.
“Roberts, last week you chose to keep the damn shackles wrapped around my damn fists. You silenced all my hard work and determination by taking a fucking shortcut. Sure, I earned another win to my impressive winning streak. I can brag all day that I’m the second person to beat the unstoppable monster known as JJR. Everyone says a win’s a win, right?
That move of cowardice you took threw me back into the confines of my mind. Even after all the hard work I put into ICONIC and the last three months to earn my fair shake, you imprisoned me. It’s back to the gulags of my mind, trapped and tortured by my own self-doubt and anguish. It’s the second time you’ve stolen something from me, Jeffrey. Don’t even think for a moment you can ease my vengeance towards you. This matter has become personal.
It’s not enough to get the win via disqualification over you. So, what if I join an elusive club with my mentor Conor Fuse. What’s the prize I get after your actions? I don’t get handed another opportunity when a wrestler screws me over. I don’t get elevated up the card when a monster like you exploits technicality.
No, I get more dead weight throw around my fucking ankles!”
I take a moment to peer over both my shoulders after the week I’ve had. After my check, I become more animated as I speak.
“You see, I did my part to fill the ranks of the Maurako Cup even though I didn’t want to do it. I subjected myself to the torture of the HOW randomizer. I wanted to become a good, upstanding citizen and do the right thing for the business. And I get saddle with another worthless tag team partner in Xander Azula. I only wanted to team with my best friend and mentor, Conor Fuse. But even fate kept shackled from that idea.
I had no purpose wrestling in this tag cup until YOU GAVE IT TO ME.
Now I’m going to make my case for getting another shot at MY HOTv Championship.”
My eyes beam with a crazed obsession over the #97Green belt. A sadistic, but confident smile forms with my upper lip.
“I have a golden opportunity to beat TWO HOW Hall of Fame talents in the ring at once. Both men are Tag Team specialists in their own rights. And sure, I’m handicapped by HOW’s resident jester Xaiver Altoids. That man hasn’t won a match since last fucking year. But it’s the perfect storm to punch my ticket at another shot at Greenie.”
I fold my arms across my chest, pacing back and forth for a moment. The regrets stir around in my head. But my hardened heart takes the wheel. In an instant, my demeanor becomes stoic and violent. I pound my fist together, rambling on about my fortunes.
“You see everything about this match will be difficult for me. Jatt Starr’s had my fucking number since he returned to HOW. He’s stolen various championship opportunities for me. But that’s not the hardest part for me.
I’m standing across the ring from a man who took me under his wing. I’ve held nothing but respect for this guy after he invested his precious time into me. Crafting me into a dangerous competitor, he once unlocked the entire power of the machine. He put it in the palm of my hands. He protected my back fervently while I held the ICON Championship. While we might not always share the same ideals in life; I still consider him a close friend. He’s the man favored to win his own damn cup.
His name is Mario Maurako.”
I look up into the sky for a moment, reflecting on those memories. I can’t let them hold me back any more. It’s time to turn up the fire and push forward into my future.
“It’s nothing personal, old friend. But I have to make an example out of you this weekend. I have no choice. That worthless prisoner JJR limited my options. He sealed your fate. When I step into the ring at Refueled, all those sentimental memories will die.
I’m going to cut my teeth into Mario’s flesh. I’m going to clinch my arms around his throat choke the life out of him. His face will turn #97blue as I suffocate him. I’m going to cancel him unlike Bobbinette did at ICONIC. I’ll destroy all the momentum he’s earned and send him back to his grave. All those sentimental Tag Team fans will be left disappointed. I’m going to leave them awestruck when I end Maurko’s Homecoming to HIS division.
Unlike Carey, I’ll leave him buried. He won’t climb out of the coffin this time. I’m going to leave him in a pool of blood. They’ll cart his body out of there while I burn the past behind me. He’ll be cast aside like he’s done to his various ex-wives. He’ll be another body in my path to you, Jeffrey.”
Taking a moment, I unleash a maniacal cackle before progressing in my story.
“And if I’m willing to do that to someone I still consider a friend, imagine what happens to Simon Sparrow.”
I scratch my chin for a moment in confusion.
“Or is it still Jatt Starr? I don’t see any fucking difference in this supposed change in attitude. All Jatt’s He’s fucking left everyone confused. I thought you’d changed your attitude. He’s become the new Darin Matthews. He changed his coat of paint, but made no visible changes to his outlook. He’s rambling on about the same bullshit stories like a delusional grandpa. No one’s paying a lick of attention to his terrible jokes anymore.
Sure, he’s a vicious Hall of Famer that I won’t take lightly. He’s earned his credit in HOW. He’s a former LSD Champion and Tag Team Champion in this era alone. He’s one of the few wrestlers that transcends multiple eras in this company. His name has value no matter what the fuck you call him.
But for a man with acclaim and fortune; he can’t keep my name out of his mouth. Even after I’ve stopped focusing on his nonsense, he takes every chance to belittle me. He’s equated my name to the New Lonesome Loser. He’s mocked and scorned my career in HOW. When I’ve held no value; he’s used me a stepping stone to increase his own damn value. There’s never a moment where he can stop getting a cheap laugh at my expense.
Well I’m not laughing, Jatt. In fact, all you’ve done is increased my determination to defeat you. All those insults you’ve said swirled around my head last week as I walked away without my Greenie. It’s fueled me to train my ass off more than usual. You’ve been begging for this ass whooping coming to you for two years. And you’re gonna get it.
The terrible late night comedy shtick ends at Refueled. When I’m done bludgeoning your skull with my fists; you won’t remember your own name. Rather Jatt Sparrow or Simon Starr awakens in the hospital, I’ll make you a promise. I’ll make damn sure they give you a hospital bed near your dearest daughter Gilda. Maybe she’ll wake daddy up out of his coma when I’m done with him.”
Falling to my knees, I fold my hands together and pray. The weight of the violence I’ll cause in this tag tournament will forever etch itself on my soul.
“Father in Heaven, I hope you forgive me what I’m about to do. I’m about to unleash a reign of violence you haven’t seen from me in a long time. A blood bath will reign from my hands this week at Refueled. I will maul and maim two Hall of Famers. Rather I do it on my own its my destiny.
The deck is stacked against me. A psychopath who sacrificed my girlfriend is chained at my waste. Two Hall of Famers stand in my path. Rather I fight this battle on my own or have to use Xander as my battering ram. I will come through hell and high water.
I will earn my HOTv Championship shot. I will become a four-time Tag Team Champion. I’ll have all the gold draped around my shoulders. I’ll do whatever it takes to remove all the blemish from my name. Even if it’s teaming with my enemy. Regardless the consequences, I will win.
And then the whole world will see what I can accomplish.”
Before I can stand up and finish my thoughts, Xander’s ear-piercing voice screams into the back of my ears.
“And he’ll do it with his NEWEST PARTNER AT HIS SIDE. All Hail Eris. Praise Discordia!!!”
I whip my head around and try to wrap my arms around his neck. Meredith rushes over to assist with the long-awaited beat down, but a sudden flash blinds us.
Smoke fills the air around us and we both can hear footsteps in the grass before a loud whoosh happens. As everything clears, my eyes dart around the scene. Fans give us the stink eyes, not aware of what took place. Their jaws drop and they scorn us both. Meredith and I turn to each other, looking puzzled.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!
Friday, January 28th, 2022
Outside the Wells Fargo Center
I still haven’t wiped away the bags from underneath my eye lids. Dragging my feet against the pavement, I hobble towards the arena entrance. I let out a colossal yawn while I stretched my arms back. Never in my life had I dreaded a morning practice. The last three days of exhaustion built up to this moment. Creeped out my Xander’s intense stalking regiment, I laid awake at night.
I wouldn’t let him sacrifice Meredith again. If that worthless slimebag tries anything, I’ll end his career.
Adjusting the duffel bag dangling off my shoulder, I long for the Xander problem to disappear. The sweat from my early morning weight session drenched the front of my clothes. I didn’t care to change my clothing. I only wanted to get out of there and take a nap.
Before I can pull the door open, Xander’s hand clenches my own. He constricts me and holds me in place. Not wasting any time, he airs his grievances in the open.
“We’ve only got two days to make this tag team work. I’m desperate at this point. You might hate me for my unforgiveable acts. But we need to be on the same page when facing off against Mario and Jatt.”
“I’ve got the perfect strategy. Your ass stays in the corner. I carry all the weight like I’ve always done. I’ve won seven HOW Championships to your zero. Your powers fizzled out once I nearly killed you at Alcatraz. Hell, I’m surprised I haven’t killed you now. I’m better off wrestling handicap matches than dealing with your pathetic ass. It’ll take a fucking miracle to happen before I consider you my equal” I reply back at him. A certain vitriol fills my voice while both of us struggle.
Xander attempts to reason with me. “Zion, this is bigger than both of us. I scoffed at the idea of our random pairing too. But Eris opened my eyes. Come with me and I’ll explain everything.”
“For fucks sakes! This is the final time I’m warning you, Xander” I exclaim at the determined Prophet. My skin tightens up as I scream at this pathetic man. “I don’t care that no one wanted to team with me. I’m tired of carrying dead weight tag team partners. There’s only one man I wanted to team with and that’s not happening. Our pairing doesn’t make any fucking sense. Let me go now or I swear, the EPU will cart me off to the cell nearest JJR.”
“Come on, Zion! Listen for once in your damn life!” Xander pleads, but it’s too late. I’m counting before I lose my collective shit.
Suddenly, a glowing circle appears in front of me. My eyes widen and my jaw drops down to the ground. A unique looking figure’s head pops out of the portal. A look of relief is plastered all over Xander’s face while our struggle begins to slowly subside. Freezing in place, I stare in awe at what I’m experiencing.
Xander exclaims his appreciation. “AEON KHRONOS! Oh! Thank Eris you’re here. It’s been a long week, man.”
“We haven’t got much time.” Aero interrupts him. “If he doesn’t get in here then all the worlds will collapse in the next ten minutes. It’s life or death! Hurry!”
I didn’t have time to process everything. With a swift burst of energy, Xander throws me into the void. I saw everything mixing together in one moment. Colors, Stars, sounds all flooded my sense. Whatever path life had for me, it all changed.
And for once in my life, it all left me speechless.
TO BE CONTINUED