Wednesday, July 28th, 2021
Crown Point, IN
Fountain View Apartments
A cacophony of police sirens clamor off Dona Street in Crown Point keeping me wide awake. The faint yells of my new neighbors shriek throughout my head. My ear drums pulse at an alarming pace. Reaching above my head, I pull my Harmony pillow to cover my ears. My body tosses and turns at an agitated pace.
It’s only the first night at my new apartment and only one thought replays in my head vividly:
“God, this move is a mistake!”
Who in their right minds completes a massive moving project the same week as an important match? This motherfucker right here!
I can’t afford to lose sleep over all the commotion tonight. Tomorrow’s training is critical to my plans to thwart SRK’s World Title reign.
Shooting up out of my bed perturbed with my problematic situation, I pace back at a rapid rate around my small room. I rest my hand against my weary face. Flinging open the curtains with great vigor, I gaze at the blinking red and blue lights in the background.
I let out a long groan, “I wish Meredith here to talk to me!.”
My shoulders plummet towards the ground like they’re about to fall off. My head spirals over towards the iPhone sitting on the nightstand. Goosebumps form over my arms as the temptation to pester Meredith heightens.
“No! This is my journey! She can’t help me find myself. She shouldn’t be my crutch going into this match. This is all me” I mutter underneath breath as I prop my hands against my neck to pop it. God, that feels amazing!
My mind gyrates all the same insecurities I’ve told myself all my previous 30,000 #97Red title matches. I seize up lost in the rabbit holes in my mind. My head throbs incessantly from all the pain. Sauntering with a downbeat step I make my way over to the refrigerator. I fumble through my fridge to find the mason jar full of Smith Creek Apple Pie Moonshine Meredith gifted me. I crack it open without hesitation and pour it into a small glass.
“Bottom’s up!” I exclaim before guzzling the drink with one gulp. I plop down at the small wooden table in the corner of the wall. Filling my cup for another round, I concentrate on all my regrets. Another round will erase them all before the big match. Losing track of how many drinks I’ve taken after repeating the process, I lay my head against the table. My eyelids start to grow heavy. I’ll rest for a little moment while the hubbub outside dies out.
But only just a moment….
Thursday July 29th, 2021
Crown Point, IN
Full Spectrum Gym
Exhaustion hit me hard like a ton of bricks after last night. My neck pulsates with pain from the awkward sleeping position. Grappling with my eyes felt like an extreme chore. My heavy laden eyes wane with each passing moment as I continue to train. Keep pushing yourself forward, Zion. Sutler isn’t going to coast on you like others in the company. While he might be an angst-filled wanker; he’s looking to draw blood. I couldn’t waste any of the precious time Conor is dedicating to this occasion.
Graciously travelling out of his way to ensure Sutler’s demise, Fuse travelled out here. Let’s face it; no one ever travels out to the boondocks of Indiana without a reason. The Main Orchestrator of the #RallyZion movement wants nothing but success for me.
Struggling to pull myself off the mat, Fuse encourages me onward.
“Let’s goooooooo Zion! You have all the potential to unlock!” I shoot him one of the dirtiest looks I can as he continues to push on. Nailing more reps in my sit ups, my stomach burns with an intense fire. My will drains the more I pull myself up.
“Darin F’n Zion, my boy, let me tell you something. Gaming gets tough and no matter the difficulty level you have to keep going. Pretend you’re on easy. It’s all in your head anyway, dude! No evil looks, no getting pissed off. You think my arch nemesis is gonna be all forgiving on you? Boss is a beast! The Sutler Method is no joke! I mean, yeah, he’s a dumbass kid but those submissions are cray!”
Yanking my deadweight off the mat, I stammer back at Fuse with a heavy tone. “Gotta…work…the…core…FUCK!” I collapse to the mat to regain my breath for a moment before continuing my thought. “It’s important to strengthen it to swing my body out of his damn finishing submission move.” Sweat pours down my short hair like a waterfall as I exert a ton of force continuing the exercises. Conor resumes rallying me on through it.
“Remember who Sutler’s daddy is… err… was. Who’s his daddy, Zion? Hahaha. It’s Max Kael but after this weekend YOU’RE gonna be his brand new adopted daddy! Sutler answers to ZION!! Everyone answers to Zion!” Conor clears his throat. “Well, not me when I beat you at Bottomline for your new World Championship LOL just kidding bro. We can worry about that when the time comes. Anyway, push yourself as far as you can. Screw that emo child!”
Cackling in an uncontrolled sleep-deprived delirium, my body slams against the stiff mat. My arms sprawl out as I attempt to shake my finger at Conor. “That’s gold right there, buddy! I got to remember that.” Everything freezes for a moment before the gentle slapping of Conor’s hands jolts my eyes open. I awaken to see him holding a red can of Mountain Dew gaming fuel ready to pour it over my head.
“Thank goodness I didn’t have to waste a good can of Game Fuel. Wake up, bro! Level Eight awaits!” Conor reaches down to pull me off the mat. After getting up to my feet, I bolt straight over to my duffel bag and kick it with force across the room.
“God dammnit! I can’t even get this work out right today.” I grumble as I reach to toss my towel towards the mirror before Conor’s hand seizes mine right in place.
Conor expounds his thoughts with a tone of forgiveness. “Listen, Zion. Now’s the time to Game, not pout. Lee hates Sutler. The HOW roster hates Sutler. I’m pretty sure even Sutler’s family hates Sutler. This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for! Don’t stoop to his level! He’s already getting into your mind.”
I let out a drawn out sigh of relief as I shake my head, beginning to walk off. Conor races after me and stands directly into my path with the door. Perplexed by my change in attitude, he asks, “Talk to me, co-op bro! What’s up?”
Pausing for a moment, I turn and look Conor straight in the eye. I hold nothing back from him.
“I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. The pressure is all on me right now.” Conor nods as he continues listening with intent. He scratches his chin as I continue to pour out my soul to him.
“I’ve wrestled for this World Championship over 30,000 times with 30,000 different identities. I’ve come up short every single time. I’m tired of losing. I moved out here with the specific intention of shaking all that out of my mind. I need a wake up call and I’m not finding it right now. Change burdens me more than anything else; I hate it.”
Conor rests his hand on my shoulder and pats my back to relax my shoulders. I gaze down at the floor just shaking my head. I continue to lay on all my heavy tribulations.
“I thought I couldn’t sleep last night because of all the noise, but in reality, I couldn’t find the focus to concentrate. I drank myself to sleep last night just to shut up all the voices in my damn head. I’m lost right now during my biggest chance to shine. I’m forgetting critical details about my opponent. I daydream while trying to study tapes. I have noisy neighbors that annoy me and…”
I let out my primal rage with one loud grunt. I shake my fists with vehement to release all the tension in my body. I let out the cleansing breath Mama LT taught me before finishing my thoughts. “I don’t know what to do right now.”
Conor’s eyes cast a warm, inviting vibe. He lunges behind me to release all the knots out of my back as he shares his advice:
“Zion, don’t overthink. Sut’s a schmuck. Ha, try saying that five times fast. Anyway, he is a kid with a silver spoon in his mouth. Yeah he’s good, yadda yadda yadda, so is Cancer Jiles. Hell, so are you. Who survived a three-on-one? I wouldn’t worry too much about what Sutler is thinking. Once you learn the Boss’ pattern in the ring, you can overcome him. Just do you, buddy. If you’ve wrestled with 40,000 identities my response to you would be, ‘so’? It doesn’t matter the Lives you Lost before this match. Play the Game now. Live in the moment. Conor OOOoooOOOoooOOOtttTTTTT. Oh that is fun to say.”
With a heart filled with thankfulness, I don’t hesitate and wrap my arms around Fuse’s pale body. He knows I don’t give out random hugs. A smile unravels from his face as I cling to my brother in arms as tight as I can.
“It means a lot to me, you came out here to help with training. I needed to hear that. That’s the cheat code I’ve needed. Battling with anxiety sucks, bro. You have no idea how much that shit hinders me in big match ups.”
Conor tussles my hair as my eyeballs bulge from my head. “Trust me, Zi-Guy, I’ve seen it in your body. Loosen up and enjoy the game. Sometimes it’s not about the strategy, it’s about the journey. The campaign. Don’t take that arrow to your knee, bud. It’ll slow ya down!”
I exclaim out, “Ain’t that the truth! God how that shit has ruined Pokemon for…”
“Put that thought on a memory card, Level 8 waits for no one!” Conor interrupts my thought as he points back at the gym. My eyes roll before I walk towards the juice bar.
“I’m tired and hung over right now man. Can we at least take 5 and grab some orange juice?” I ask him in an nonchalant fashion.
Conor’s eyebrow peaks up before he retorts. “I know you like to drink, but this early, Zion? Come on, Mimosa can wait. You got to level up NOOOOOOOW!!!!”
I scratch my chin and give him a flabbergasted look before exclaiming. “No! Orange Juice! I’m fuckin’ thirsty and I need to catch my breath.
Conor attempts to guide me towards the weight machines before he retorts. “You don’t need mimosas, you need skill points. We must construct additional pylons.”
As I’m baffled by all the confusion, I change our course towards where I want to go. “No, I need an actual cup of juice, not alcohol. I rushed over here without getting any nutrients. Let’s take 5 and I’ll give you an update on my Player 2.”
Conor’s eyes light up with shock and delight. He exclaims out with a childlike glee, “Ohhh shit! Attaboy, Zi-Guy!!!!”
I wink at him before he slaps me on the back as we take our break. Letting out a sigh of relief; the pressure melts from my shoulders. The sense of solace rushes across my body. No longer do I feel pressure. I’ve discovered something new about myself on this journey today. With my anxiety calming down and my mind quiet; I know I can do this. I can take the belt off Sutler’s grimy waist and drape it across my own. With this newfound clarity; I have obtained the confidence I need. I have awakened the beast from within and will walk out of Memphis with the prize I desperately seek.
“Oh boy! There goes Sutler Reynolds-Kael exposing his emotional immaturity again! He’s got his pantsies all in a tizzy over the guy suffering from CTE. Fuck those hellacious bumps I took in Bingo Halls before HOW. WAAAAAAAAA! He didn’t remember every minutiae detail of the spoiled brat’s backstory. At this point, are any of you really surprised he had an emotional breakdown over a Zionism?
Everybody in the HOW locker room knows I fuck up my one-liners, kid. Didn’t your adoptive, abusive dad write you a fucking book about this shit? There has to be a chapter in there about it. Fuck!
My brain can’t fathom the lack of emotional maturity this kid has walking into our title match. Of course I’ve paid attention to the fucking product and my opponents promos. SRK isn’t underestimating me. I read the memo loud and clear. Hell, I gave you credit for exploiting your grandfather’s undying love for you. You’re a conniving, manipulative, capitalistic monster. You only joined Lee’s team to further your blood feud with Conor and become the youngest world champion.
Bravo sir! I applaud your mental prowess. You’re a brilliant young mastermind and one helluva wrestler. You’ve picked up great in-ring psychology from both your fathers. I didn’t mince my words. I made it abundantly clear I underestimated you in our last encounter.
But you don’t have to show on your Emotional Support doll where my mind-numbing comments hurt you, kiddo. This is a fucking World Championship match; not a therapy session. I have daddy issues too. My father abandoned me when I was younger, but you don’t see me obsessing over that shit.
You see, I knew you’d misconstrue my ideas about respect. You’re an intellectual genius. Your father surrounded you by some of the brightest minds and the best ring generals. It’s no surprise you pulled off the heist of the century and beat one of my best friends. I didn’t doubt you for a minute.
But I wasn’t asking you to respect me. Fuck! I lost that respect from both the locker room and the fans eons ago. My chance at earning it comes through knocking your damn skull off into Section 214. It only comes after I secure that HOW World Championship from around your waste.
No! I want you to take a moment and look down at your fucking waist kid. You see that beautiful #97Red belt gracing it? You lack the respect for the hardware you fucking hold.
I’ve wrestled in HOW for 8 years; I’ve seen better temper tantrums from better World Champions. Your Uncles Mike and Cecilworth pitched a fit over the complacency of this damn roster. They had valid concerns about the greater good of the machine.
You fucking bitch when a statue looks more like your dad. You cry when Grandpa Lee forced you to sell hot dogs and beer. You have a brain aneurysm when Zion smells burnt toast.
Don’t even give me that same old trite excuse other World Champions give me. Sure, you’re the fucking World Champion, you have rights and I don’t. But I’ve failed against some of the greatest World Champions that used that excuse better than you could. You’re the only War Games winner that needs a Safe Space to deal with my bullshit. Come the fuck on!
I’m not frustrated about YOU underestimating me. It’s your damn grandfather who does. When I knocked on his door, I saw that look in his eyes. While you’re not aligned with him; his eyes said it all: MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. He didn’t gift me this opportunity out of any respect. He cringes at my mere existence. He wants me to lose at the hands of his beloved grandson. But I’m not giving him the pleasure this time.
It feels like it’s been 30,000 times he’s dangled this carrot in front of me. He gets his jollies off at watching me fumbling around like a fool when I see my name in the main event for your title. It’s a consistent pattern where I freeze up, fuck up, and get my ass handed to me. I fail every time.
You know what failing at your dreams does to a man? The failures and fury fuel him. The hunger gnaws in his belly every time he comes up empty handed. It fans the flames, increases the intensity, and feeds his desires. It matures the mind and rattles all thoughts of complacency out of him.
Sutler wouldn’t know that because he was born…sorry, ADOPTED into greatness. Max crafted the perfect heir to his throne. Six matches into his 2021 and his son wins the World Championship. He only has one loss to his name. He’s only reaped the rewards of success. The kid sits comfortably atop the throne he inherited. He drools over that silver spoon welded to his mouth.
But he doesn’t understand the experience of wrestling’s journeyman. He lacks the depth to comprehend my struggles over that belt.
It’s not that you have grit and determination, kid; I know who your father was. Max had a knack for bringing out the sadistic and methodical side in people. He knew the importance of the long game. He’d taunt his prey mentally before striking them straight in the jugular. He gained the experience from his plethora of successes and failures over his career.
And you’re right Sutler, you’re different from Max. You’re too brash and boisterous compared to him. You make simple mistakes because you lack his emotional aptitude. You’re too busy gloating over how much better you compared to daddy. Your big ballooning head is hiding your perfect blind spot: your shitty attitude.
That’s why I’m going to beat you kid. I’ve outlived you. I’m not talking about immortality, sir. I’ve experienced more life than you. I’ve come to appreciate the ebbs and flows of my journey to your World Championship. I’ve stopped taking my own journey for granted. I’ve wisened up and matured after failing to secure the top prize. I didn’t expect to get this opportunity so quickly after War Games. I wasn’t going to cry like a pretentious prick if I never got another chance at #97Red in my career. I planned on plugging along like a good cog and let my work ethic speak volumes.
But it didn’t happen that way. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You don’t look a gift horse in the damn mouth. It’s my chance to prove I’ve awakened from my complacent cycle in HOW and accomplish all my dreams.
I’m definitely not the smartest. I’m not the most technically sound wrestler. But I have a lot of tenacity and fight within my heart. And I’m going to show it to you on Saturday.
I’m growing up. It’s time for Zion to come of age. I’m going to bring you a fight you haven’t seen out of the rest of your opponents. I’m focusing all my energy and shutting up all my self-doubts. I’m walking into Memphis bound and determined. When you’re upset and mentally breaking down; I’m going to strike you square in the jaw with the Ban Hammer. I’m going to knock your ass down a few pegs and send your ass back to your old career as a failed Hot Topic model.
I won’t let the #RallyZion movement down this time. Rather you or Grandpa Lee like it; I’m walking out with the World Championship at my side. You can’t stop the inevitable conclusion from happening. I’m looking for your war and I’m going to beat you while you’re the best.
It’s time to put on my best game face because I’m going to finally prove this is my time now. Come Saturday night, I’m going to bash your skull in and bask in the glory I’ve missed over the last 8 years.