Friday, December 31st, 2021
New York, NY
Villard Ballroom, Lotte New York Palace
The crowd continues to stir, anxiously awaiting to ring in the new year. Everyone’s decked out in their best dress, me included. In normal circumstances, I’d only wear a basic collared shirt and jeans. Tonight, I rented a white dinner jacket and a navy-blue vest. I couldn’t stop starring down at my shiny dress shoes with the lights shimmering off them. After 15 years of facing unceasing strife, it felt like I made it.
After all, I am your brand-new Number 1 Contender to the HOTV Championship. For the past three months, I built a portfolio of credibility around the #97Green belt. It wasn’t like anyone else lined up for a shot at the belt. JJR’s reputation scared off all potential challengers. He massacred anyone who stepped into the ring since his September 11th debut. I have first-hand knowledge. That bastard took a gigantic chunk out of my right cheek. The scar still haunts me to this day. I’ve heard the rumors backstage: everyone thinks I have a death wish.
Now, none of them can laugh at me. I’d accomplished what I set out to do. I backed up my promises and vows this time. I climbed the ladder of success and signed my life away. I earned my championship and the HOTv representatives knew it. While they threw a New Years shindig for the new HOW website launch; they brought me in for the occasion. After all, the EPU guards wouldn’t free Jeffrey James Dahmer from his padded room. It’s the same ole boring, dull background for HOW’s resident bad boy. I’m sure that asshole got tired of looking at the canvas known as the walls of prison daily.
All the executives surrounded me, the self-proclaimed Chief Financial Officer of HOW. Wining and dining the network agents, I’m telling old stories about myself. Everyone of them surrounded me, giving me artificial laughter. Downing my hors d’oeuvres like a pig, something appears in the corner of my eye.
Meredith rushes towards me, wrapping her around me. Her gentle lips press against my forehead while a warm sensation fills my heart. My face cracks a conceited smile as she shares her feelings of elation. Her eyes dart around the room while she tries to impress the brass.
“WAY TO GO, TIGER! I told him if he put his best foot forward, he would accomplish anything he set out to do.” Meredith’s laughter echoes across the vast space as she places her hands on the shoulders of my new friends.
“Excuse us for a moment.” I remark before pulling Meredith away from them. Grabbing her hips and swaying into the string quartet; we both begin dancing around. I sneer at her while I express my thoughts.
“I told you so, Meredith. I’d grown quite stale over the past 3 years. I needed to freshen my approach up. I needed to broaden my portfolio. Now, we’re rubbing elbows with people that champion’s do.”
My love nods her head in a firm motion. “I’m sorry I doubted you. I can’t deny you’re already doing JJR’s job better than he could do. The other wrestlers would be proud to see your change in perspective.”
“Right?” I let out a sarcastic response. I pull Meredith closer to me as my hand drapes around her hourglass hips. Her eyes sparkle like diamonds while she leans to give me a peck. I continue to sway us back and forth along to the beat of the music.
“That worthless fugitive doesn’t realize what this is all about. He’s too busy trying his damnedest to become a perverted Van Gough. Maybe he thinks he’s a modern-day Renee Descartes while he’s stuck deep in his musings. It honestly doesn’t matter to me, dear. I’m about to put his HOTv reign in the electric chair and finish it off.” I make an assertive taunt while I continue rambling on.
Mer Bear’s eyes glow as she rests her head against my shoulders. She leans her lips in towards my ears before she whispers. “You got this, baby! This time I have faith in you.”
“I have faith Conor’s knocked JJR’s confidence down a few pegs.” I retort as I mutter softly under my breath. I watch her ears perk up while I continue. “JJR’s too busy thinking everything’s meaningless. In fact, his lack of imagination caused his reign to be define by that word: meaningless. It’s become the epitome of how his reign has become. He can balk at me all he wants and proclaim he’s relentless, but that blowhard doesn’t realize I’ve become ruthless.”
Meredith’s eyes glaze over while she listens in with intent. A warm grin overcomes her while she whips back her golden locks. “Definitely! That #97Green Leather will look so good over your chiseled shoulders. After all, what was it you said? New Year…”
“New Champ, baby! New Year! New Champ!” I say as pull my love close to the window to oversee New York City Skyline. “The last hope of JJR’s life is about to fall out. Just like this ball will fall out of the sky. Let’s count down the time with the crowd.”
Both Meredith and I gazed over the moonlit NYC sky as the glass ball slowly begins to stop.
Monday, January 10th, 2021
Crown Point, IN
Casa De Zion
Ten days passed by quickly and Meredith and I decided to make a quick detour back home. It’d been three months since we’d spent time in Crown Point with our daughter Lexi. As we pull back up to our house, Lexi comes bolting out the door.
Slamming the door behind me, I reach into the trunk and extract the briefcase. Lexi’s eyes glisten at the sight of the shiny silver container. Her body quakes in excitement as she rips it out of my hands. “GWEENIE’S COMIN’ HOME! YAY!!! PROUD OF YOU, DADDY!”
“2 more weeks, baby. I promise I’ll bring him home this time.” I utter while she pulls me around the backyard. Her small whimpering of her voice melts my stone-cold heart.
“Gweenie plays wiff Lexi?!”
“Yes, baby girl! Don’t you fret! Daddy will let you play with his belt. You’ve waited patiently to hold this belt. I promise, daddy’s bringing home a new toy.” I vow while looking her dead in the eyes.
“Daddy, wanna play wiff me?” She asked before she yanks me off towards our backyard gate. Meredith shakes her head and smiles in my direction. The afternoon sunlight beams off her gorgeous blonde locks. My eyes cross in frustration while Lexi continues to cling on.
“Enjoy some quality time with your adoptive daughter. You’re not going to be able to share a ton of time between your training and meetings this week. I’ll clear your schedule for a gym visit later tonight.” Meredith reassures me while those 4-year-old hands continue to tug me onward.
Before you know it, she’s pulled me all the way over to the tire swing. Hopping on without a care in the world, she shouts out at the top of her lungs.
“Push me! Push me!”
I send her flying up in the air. Her cackles reverberate off into the distance. Grabbing the rubber wheel, I hold her before gazing straight into those youthful, glowing eyes of hers.
“What’s it like being, champion, daddy? Is it different?” she blurts her question out in a nonchalant way.
“Sweetie, it’s no different than being a normal father.” I reply to her. “Sure, I want to relive all the nostalgia and glory days of holding HOW gold. But nothing about me changes. I’ll still love my little Lexi bear tons. I’ll still work my butt off to provide you and mommy a roof over your head. I don’t get any special transformer powers. I’m the same ole guy you’ve grown to love.”
A perplex look fills her tiny eyes. As her eyebrows raise up, she spouts out the first question popping in her head. “Then why do you need the fancy belt?”
I squat down to her level and give her a warm smirk. “Well, I want to become a good role model for boys and girls like you around the world. The last time I held that belt; I did it for selfish reasons. It was all about my own personal greed. But Mr. Hollywood helped your dad see the light. I spent many months chasing revenge that I lost my own confidence. I want to earn it all back. JJR’s one of the toughest champions in this sport, honey. He’s hurt your daddy and even beaten him.”
Lexi’s demeanor changes as I finish that sentence. Her shoulders slump back, and she voice quiets while she speaks. She stutters and stammers along. “Y-Yeah? JJR hurt daddy?”
I point at the scar on my face. “Yes, he injured me and took a few weeks off my chase. I could beat the ever-loving hell out of the man. I could let vengeance blind me, but it would cost me Greenie. This scar is a reminder of why I need to be better than Mr. Roberts. He let anger and hatred blind his life. He lost decades off his life because all he lost his temper. It cost him his freedom. I won’t stoop down to his level. The cooler head must prevail here.”
Lexi’s short arms cling to my neck for dear life. She gives me a kiss on my cheek before shrieking out her excitement. “You got dis daddy! You will bwing Gweenie home to mommy and me.”
As she bolts off around the back yard playing, I whisper underneath my breath.
“Don’t worry, baby girl! I’ll do anything to bring home our new friend.”
Saturday January 15th, 2021
New York City, NY
Etc. Venues Meeting Room
Over the past few hours, I’ve frantically searched over the documents with New Chives, my new servant. New Chives came off the streets of Bronx. He is an old man I found hobbling along near the subway. After flashing him two crisp $100 bills; he followed me no questions asked.
Slamming my head on the table in a frenzied panic, I take one more glance over Lee Best’s contract. I glare over at New Chives, drooling face down on the contract. I snap my fingers a couple of times in his ears to wake him up. But there’s no use, Chives’ dead sleep from his alcohol abuse.
“CHIIIIIIIVES! CHIVES! WAKE THE FUCK UP!” I scream straight into his ear drums. To no surprise, New Chives doesn’t make a movement or a peep. The worthless manservant continues to snooze through the task at hand.
Shaking my head at the sight, I collect the papers off the table. Thinking fast, I toss the papers into the nearby scanner. After I finished creating a digital copy of the documents, I forward the information off. Someone in the shadows had my back over the last few weeks. They pulled the strings on the operations making certain to keep me funded. I eagerly awaited their call back, pacing back and forth in place.
I deeply regretted my decision to sign the HOTv document in haste. While my mind might daydream, I always read legal documents. Unfortunately, the crowd and the excitement got the better part of my judgment. Eight long years had passed since I earned a championship match on my own merits. The risks couldn’t deter me from competing. But I’d missed a few provisions Lee’s legal team threw my way.
Now only one person could help unravel this legal bind. My hearted raced until the annoying, loud ring tone went off on my iPhone. I scrambled to answer the phone. I couldn’t keep my benefactor waiting.
“H-H-Hello, sir! Did you find any loopholes?” I ask while my body shrivels on this side of the phone. I could feel my heart leaping from my chest while I waited on the deep, gravelly voice to respond in the background.
“It’s ironclad, Zion. HOW Officials don’t want any fines or Self-Proclaimed CFO bullshit going on into the match. You’ve got to be on your best behavior. There are other stipulations my people told me about in this contract, but I’m not at liberty to discuss them at this given time. Lee specifically wants to teach you a lesson about skimming over things.” The benefactor retorts as I shake my head.
“Understood” I acknowledge the man before continuing the thought. “But damnit! I could have fined Arthur Pleasant into oblivion if that fuck sticks wants to interfere in the match…”
“PHEASANT? WHERE?! I’m huuuuungry” yells out Chives as he shoots up from his slumber. I roll my eyes before gravelling to my benefactor. A slight pause holds over the line while I slam my fist down on the table. Pulling my face away from my phone, I lecture New Chives.
“For fuck sakes, Chives! Don’t cost me this opportunity. You could get us…”
Before I know it, the gravelly voice of the unknown man shrills through my ears. “Zion, next time do me a favor. LEARN HOW TO FUCKING READ!”
“Y-Y-Yes sir! Noted!” I respond as the frustration fades in my voice.
“Look I can’t help you on this one. I know you want to do anything to secure this championship victory. You always talk about throwing the kitchen sink at your problems. Maybe instead of pulling all these shenanigans this time, you train extra hard in the gym.” His voice echoes through the quiet space while my shoulders fold inward.
My head drops down on the stiff conference table. It’s back to the old drawing board for my strategy for JJR and Arthur Pleasant. Clearly, Arthur was the key to Jeffrey’s success. He helped JJR destroy his enemies. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out both men would target me next. It’s a typical occurrence these days in HOW. Everyone wants to interject themselves into Zion’s title matches. It all started with Sutler Kael and ended recently with Bill Dickinson. The streak of interference in all Zion’s title matches could continue. I didn’t have a monetary insurance policy. Let alone I didn’t have a heavy following me around the back. Even my tag partner Xander Azula wouldn’t protect me in this instance.
Meredith would be the only line of protection in that match. And everyone knows my soft spot for my lover…
It’s a terrible idea to use a Meredith sized meat shield. Lost in confusion, I turn to Chives’ book. I needed something outside of the box. “ Got a question for you, Chives?”
“Shoot it at me!” he responds back to me.
“I need an insurance policy to keep other wrestlers from cost me my title shot. What’s the best thing I can do to stop wrestlers from interfering?” I ask him.
Scratching his thick beard, he takes a moment and stares out into the abyss. With a crazed look filling his eyes, he exclaims out loud. “I always use chloroform and a silk rag. That way…”
“NOPE! FUCK THIS CHIVES! YOU’RE FIRED! GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!” I scream before tossing him out of the door. I mutter underneath my breath before packing my bags and walking out. “I’ll go hit up one of the boot camps in the area. I’ve wrestled handicap matches before and this’ll be no different. Rather I’m taking on JJR alone or Arthur tries to protect his buddy; I’ll be ready for anything. I’ll deal with the bullshit on the back end after the match. If JJR’s prison bitch jumps the rail; I’ll issue sanctions. Sure, it’ll be after my hands are uncuffed, but no matter. I’m not down for this bullshit game of interference the last few fights. I can only hope and pray Lee’s generous contract covers a Lumberjack match. Maybe I’ll luck into some protection. Hell, maybe my good buddy Conor…”
Deep down, I knew he might not come. Things changed after ICONIC…
I collect my bag and belongings before looking off at my office and whispering under my breath.
“It’s now or never. If I’m gonna learn a lesson and apply it, now’s the time. I know I’ve been thick skulled the last few times. But now’s a good time to fight my ass off like there’s no tomorrow.”
My mind lingers on those words for a moment. I take a deep sigh as I look off into the NYC skyline one more time. My eyes fixate near Madison Square Garden. My heart grows in size as I’ve always dreamed of winning a belt in that venue. I close my eyes and sing the chorus to my favorite Aerosmith song.
Dream until the dream come true”
“For one moment, JJR. Let’s cut out all the bullshit. I’m tired of hearing people like you look down on someone like me. I’ve spent nearly a decade here in HOW building this brand up rather you recognize it or not. You can lob those sad tired jokes that Mike Best and half the rest of the roster do at me. It’s a tried-and-true formula. For the past 3 years, I’ve choked and thrown out the same Cinderella story. It’s almost formulaic when a champion wrestles me. I tell the same Cinderella story; the ruthless and heartless champion kills me. Everyone laughs, right?
No, it’s business this time, Roberts.
I’m not sharing my stories about the good ole days. I’m not looking to get any last-minute warm-fuzzies from you or the boys. Hell, I’m not here cutting my terrible dad jokes for everyone to laugh at.
I remember the last time we crossed paths here in HOW. September 11th, 2021 lives in infamy in my mind. I underestimated your talents the moment I walked in the ring with you. I devalued your life because you’ve lived in prison and worn an orange jumpsuit for a decade.
You repaid my navity when you took a chunk of my face away from me.
I could spout off about revenge and justice, but what good does that do me? I take my mind off the belt I’ve fought desperately to get a shot at for the last 3 months when I do that, I fall into the pitfalls of your mind games and toil. I didn’t come here to waste time.
No, you would want that.
You’re absolutely right I take things for granted. Hell, I’ve taken ever single title shot Lee Best gave me for granted and squandered it. I didn’t earn it with my own two hands. I lucked into every single opportunity either as a punishment or a pat on the back.
I struggle in this free world because maybe sometimes, I don’t feel free at all. I’m always stuck wrestling with everyone else’s expectations of who I should become constantly. You ever feel like everyone places you in shackles and doesn’t let your story happen.
That’s me on the nightly.
Yeah, I do constantly battle with the words in my head. Even after busting my ass for 8 years here, I always feel everyone else judging me. It wears on you. I’m not using it as an excuse for the pathetic loser I’ve become. No, I’m taking ownership of it. I’m unshackling myself from all my own personal stresses. Because it’s blinded me.
Now I’ve freed myself of my own burdens and expectations. I didn’t decide to stay sequestered in the same boring four prison walls in my head. I changed my narrative. Yet it’s nearly four months later and everything I hear out of your own damn mouth is the same useless tirade weekly, JJR.
Let’s go back and look upon it. You’ve always said you’re the burdening rage. Collecting trophies and painting canvases. You ramble useless rants from your prison cell belittling people like me. You haven’t taken a single fucking risk in fourth months and expect the same damn results. You claimed you’ve learned life lessons through your loss. Yet you still sit on top of your damn throne like an arrogant prick.
I don’t blame you. You’ve conquered numerous bodies since coming to HOW. I’d feel invincible after my first loss too. It took four men to put your reckless ass down at once. They tainted their victory against you. We both know a thing or two about those negative results. They build character and cause you growth.
But I don’t see it in you. Maybe it’s because society stunted your personal growth when they locked you inside a box. I see that hardened, dark soul leading you down a more demented path. Maybe it’s my own personal judgement. Who knows?!
All I see now is a man who’s becoming a fraction of himself lately. Those prison walls keep closing around you. All everyone can see is the dark void in your prison cell. No stories or imagination. Just a trash talking meat puppet ready to destroy his prey. JJR Smash?! Just like a certain other meathead from Texas I know.
You might have all the muscles and strength in the world to protect you, JJR. But you lack the heart, determination, and the spirit I’ve got. It’s those qualities that allow you to throw extra pepper on those shots. It’s that passion that allows me to outsmart a meat head like you. When the timing is right, I suffocate you. I’ll watch as you struggle to grasp for your last few breaths before the inevitable happens.
I didn’t spend three years of my life to serve time on death row. I did it to provide for my family. I did it to give them a better life than someone like you. We’ve struggled to make ends meet on the regular. I took this match to better our lives and mine.
Your damn right, I’ll fight dirty for them. You’re damn right I’ll cut your airways off. If it means I can bring the #97Green belt home to my daughter; I’ll do it in a heartbeat.
When we step into that ring on Sunday. There ain’t enough words and fancy talk in the dictionary to save your title reign from me. That ring ain’t your canvas, it’s my war zone. I promise you, JJR, when we step in there; I’m not looking for you to go easy. I want an all-out war. And I promise I’ll be leaving with blood on my hands.”