It’s October 10th, 2002…a fresh new product hit the airwave. While many wrestling historians wouldn’t understand it yet; it’s the birth of the one of the first HOW Thursday Night shows–live from the Joe Lewis Arena. The Michigan crowd is on FIRE for this untested promotion’s first show. The excitement in the air booms, sending chills down your spine…
Except it’s not the arena we’re in tonight. The scene cuts into a tiny, small house in the suburbs of downtown Chicago. Over the television sounds, police sirens howl in the background. Red and blue lights flash into this old, decrepit living room.
Blinds are hanging off the windows. The wallpaper is an ugly, puke shade of green, falling off the wall. There’s burn marks on the carpet. The furniture looks like it’s out of a 1970s Sears Catalog.
In front of the huge, wood surrounded tube TV; a young, pimple-filled Darin Zion sits intently watching the main event of this evening. Zion’s eyes are glued to the television to witness Jatt Starr versus Smokey for the Internet Championship. The young Zion sits on the edge of his seat, eyes glued to the television. Darin’s small, frail arms lift him up. The scene cuts to the back with The Internet Champion cutting a promo over both men.
Darin Zion: THIS IS FUCKIN’ BULLSHIT! GOD DAMN BULL SHIT.
The teenager Darin Zion knows what’s about to happen. Sinn nudges both superstars with his sledgehammer.
Jason Sinn: There won’t be a title match tonight will there boys??
Darin Zion slams his fists down on the arm rests of the chair. The brittle wood snaps underneath the pressure of this young man’s fists. Joe Hoffman’s voice echoes in the background with YOUNG LOVE quakes in his chair. Footsteps ring through the youngster’s ears.
Darin Zion: FUCK!
Joe Hoffman: I don’t believe it. Both Smokey and Jatt Starr were laid out by Jason Sinn. What the hell is going on here? You can’t trust nobody. I mean…..
The belt of Darin’s father clocks him against his cheek. Zion keels over on the ground while he’s dealt lash after lash from his father.
Darin’s Father: I told you not to slam your fists against the chair didn’t I? YOU FUCKIN’ DESERVE WHAT YOU GET, SON!
Darin Zion: I’m soooooorrrry, Dad. Really I am…
WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAAAAAAAACK!
Darin’s Father: That’ RASSSSSLING has poisoned your mind. You’re becoming too violent. You’re banned from watching that shit in my house.
CRAAACK! CRAAAACK! WHAAAAAP!!
The 45-year-old man in the wife beater smacks Zion one last time. Blood drips from Zion’s arm. The red welts cover Zion’s entire body from all the punishment he’s received. Old Man Matthews storms off, slamming his bedroom door behind him. The faint sound of yelling echoes through the house.
Darin’s Father: SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET HIM WATCH THAT SHIT, DAISY?! I CAN’T AFFORD A NEW FUCKIN’ CHAIR.
Darin’s Mother: It’s the only thing that makes him happy.
Zion’s mind tunes out the argument ensuing in the bedroom. Hunched over in the fetal position, Darin sobs at the pain. In the background, the faint sound of laughter echoes. Around the corner of the kitchen–Zion’s older brother Jacob ridicules him.
Jacob Matthews: Told you that stupid wrestling show is fake. Bet you it wasn’t worth gettin’ a beatin’ from Pa like that?
Brushing off the pain, the frustrated young Zion pulls himself off the ugly, orange shag carpet. His eyes darted right over to his tall, buff, athletic brother. Darin clenches his fists together, shouting at the top of his lungs.
Darin Zion: I’ll do better one way. Someday, I’ll hold WHATEVER midcard belt HOW has at the time. I’ll climb the ranks. I’ll become someone that people will respect. Mark my words, Jacob. Mark my words…
Time: 10:35 PM
Location: Mackey Arena – Lafayette, IN
Footage from the LSD Championship plays over the television’s backstage. Clips and highlights from the back and forth exchange of Zion and Solex show its intensity. Both men hit their hardest. The exhausted Darin Zion starts regaining his base for the last time. As Zion gets back on his feet….BAM! Clothesline From Heck connects! Boettcher makes the final count…
The bell rings and Boettcher raises Solex’s hand in victory. Back in the locker room area, we see an annoyed Darin Zion taping up his fists. An ice pack rests up against his head. Instead of the bright, beaming smile radiating from REAL LOVE’S face–a cold, hardened stern look sits there. Darin huffs for a moment before cracking his back.
The door to his locker room flies open. Brian Bare pounces our poor loser with a camera crew and a microphone in tow.
Darin Zion: Not right now, Bare. I’m not in the mood…
Brian Bare: But our correspondents from the website want to know…
Darin Zion: No! Leave me alone…I want some time to reflect…
Darin Zion begins packing his bags up with all his belongings. REAL LOVE throws his tights in his bright, blue Nike Duffel Bag. Next his work out clothes, his iPhone, his Nintendo Switch, and his grooming kit get tossed into the front pouch. As Zion zips his bag shut, he leaps up from the bench. REAL LOVE shoulder checks Bare as he’s headed for the door. However, the resilient, annoying announcer keeps prodding.
Brian Bare: The fans want to know your thoughts on the catastrophic loss. It’s the furthest you’ve made it in an HOW tournament in recent history man. You’ve gotta be feeling something…
Darin Zion: You want the same old shit coming from my mouth? I didn’t try hard enough…I needed to train harder. I shouldn’t let my issues with PRIME colleagues distract me…you want to hear excuses? I don’t feel like giving any right now.
Brian Bare: But your fans…
Darin Zion: …can accept a loss like I did tonight. I gave it my all in that ring tonight. I laid it all out there for myself, for my fans, and for HOW. It wasn’t enough. Once again, I was the bridesmaid and never the bride, Bare. It’s life. I’ve grown accustomed to it.
As Darin reaches for the door, clips from the JPD interview echo from the background over the sound system. Zion walks back over to the television to watch it intently with Bare standing by his side. REAL LOVE crosses his arms against his chest.
Jace clears his throat and adjusts his title belts on his shoulder.
Jace Parker Davidson: If you paid any amount of attention then you’d KNOW I was out there doing commentary for that match and already gave my thoughts about it. But for the sake of getting your tweaking ass out of my face, I think it doesn’t matter who won the LSD tournament. Darin Zion would have done something stupid if he won and now that he lost? He’ll come back in a week or two talking about how the HOTv belt has always been his dream, or maybe the HOTv Tag Team belts then again could be the World title all over again. Who knows but that’s just what Zion does.
Jace waves his hand dismissively.
Darin Zion’s face goes blank. Without promotion, Zion walks back over to the cameras. A puzzled look comes over Brian Bare. The clueless interviewer adjusts his bow tie and grabs his microphone. REAL LOVE chucks his bag into the corner.
Darin Zion: I wanted to wait 24 hours to do this, but let’s fuckin’ do this.
Brian Bare: So you’ll give us a statement?
Zion’s finger sternly points towards the door. Brian stands for a while, defiant. But Zion smashes his fist into his hand a couple of times. Once again, Darin points emphatically towards the door. The dejected Bare santers out of the room.
Darin Zion motions towards the cameras and they begin to roll.
Darin Zion: It’s time for me to show my hand. Tonight’s loss is disappointing. I’m a perfectionist who thinks you’ve gotta have a title around your shoulder and a win streak to stay relevant in this game. Let’s face it, you do. Normally I spend a lot of time frantically spinning my wheels like a madman trying to stay relevant one way or another. PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT?! Right?
Zion looks towards the ceiling for a few seconds. Taking in a deep breath, Zion rolls his eyes before continuing.
Darin Zion: Every wrestler’s boyhood dream is to conquer the top of the mount in wrestling. It’s a trite, overdone concept. Everyone dreamed of holding the World Champion. Just like every kid and parent dreams of becoming the President of the United States.
REAL LOVE chuckles, holding back a Great Scott Math Lesson.
Darin Zion: But truthfully, it’s not probably EVERY wrestler holds the big one. It’s funny, I remember sitting in my living room as a kid. I envisioned myself standing at the top of the ramp one day holding a mid-card title in HOW. I didn’t know how much the midcard scene would change…but it was a stupid dream.
Darin Zion becomes more animated. Pretending he’s got a belt over his shoulder, Darin Zion parades around the locker room while talking.
Darin Zion: It’s the workhorse title of every company. It’s frankly why I’ve jumped around doing stupid things from time to time. Because I’m obsessed like a crazy person. It’s why I overextend myself and overwork myself so damn much. Because it’s in my damn blood. I want to serve the fans, the locker room, and the damn company. It’s what makes me who I am.
Darin Zion stops prancing around. Zion cracks his neck, his face growing more sinister.
Darin Zion: Tonight’s a minor setback in the plans. I made a vow to myself. One way or another; when I came back to HOW…I start with that LSD Championship. No matter how the road twists or turns…no matter what hand I get dealt…before my deal’s up; I’m winning that LSD Championship.
Darin Zion does a rare flip of the bird. His stone walled face shows his determination.
Darin Zion: So Jace…I want to make this CLEAR. One way or another; with as much history we share between the two of us…we will main event a Pay-Per-View for that LSD Championship. I will get my hands on you and I will pry that belt out of your cold dead hands.
Darin Zion walks up towards the camera and gets up close and personal. A devilish smile is etched into REAL LOVE’S face.
Darin Zion: It doesn’t matter if I am curtain jerking at March 2 Glory. Hell, it doesn’t matter if I get handed another title opportunity. I’ll make the fuckin’ best of it and work my way back up to you.
The gears start turning in REAL LOVE’s mind.
Darin Zion: Hell, you know what, Jace…I’m a betting man. So you know what? I’m all fucking in. One way or another I’m gonna etch my name into immortality here. So fuck it…
Darin’s eyes widen while he pulls back from the camera.
Darin Zion: Fuckin’ Jimmy Uso….I’m entering the Lethal Lottery. Maybe lady luck’s gonna smile down on good ole’ Zion for once. Maybe the luck of the draw works in my favor. I might see your pathetic, porn addicted ass on the other side of the ring next week. I don’t have to do this. But I’m gonna do it.
Zion picks up his luggage while the cameras continue to follow him.
Darin Zion: I hope I get the chance to PERSONALLY shut your damn mouth up. You’ve gotten too complacent and forgotten some humility there, champ. Next week, you better hope TOUGH LOVE doesn’t draw your name. Because if I do…I promise you won’t walk out of the building with that LSD Championship
Time: 1:35 PM
Location: Thakker Ranch Fields – MaComb, OK
The faint sounds of whistling echo through the vast fields. As excitement builds within Zion, an old Norse folk song comes out of his pipes.
“My mother told me
Someday I will buy
Galley with good oars
Sail to distant shores
Stand up on the prow
Noble barque I steer
Steady course to the haven
Hew many foe-men
Hew many foe-men”
Zion continues to clean the chicken coop with a smile on his face. Zion’s had earnest days work out on the farm from chopping logs, hauling bags of seed for spring, etc. REAL LOVE cracks his knuckles, keeping his body nimble. The pain in his back, knees, and hips burns with an intense fire.
Darin grabs his water bottle and notices his half-brother Jackson walking by him. Darin Zion tips his white cowboy hat up towards his brother.
Jackson Thakker: When I heard Gina tell me that y’er out here… I didn’t believe it! Figured ya would spend y’er time with my little scamp. Normally you’d sulk more about a devastating loss.
Darin Zion: I can’t Jackson. Gotta clear my mind and get prepped for the Lethal Lottery.
Jackson Thakker: Don’t tell me y’er buying Lottery Tickets. That’s the devil’s fuckin’ playground.
Zion rolls his eyes at his brother. Darin continues scrubbing while he corrects his brother.
Darin Zion: No, it’s a random game Lee Best plays with the wrestlers. We sign up to wrestle. We go in blind not knowing our opponents.
Jackson Thakker: There ya go, buddy!
Thakker throws a few right hooks into thin air before he continues.
Jackson Thakker: Get back up on y’er feet and give ‘em the ole 1…2…knock out punch. The hunter don’t get his prey by sleeping at the wheel.
Darin Zion: You and your weird adages, Jackson.
Jackson Thakker: Just tryin’ to encourage ya. Easton’s proud of his uncle. He’s bragged about how you and Solex knocked each other around at school all week. It didn’t matter that Uncle Darin lost the fight. He’s real proud that y’ew fought y’er ass off.
Darin Zion: At least I got that seal of approval.
Darin Zion pauses and looks out into the distance. Taking in a deep breath of brisk air, REAL LOVE leans against the coop, resting up. Darin eyes Jackson before sharing his feelings in the open.
Darin Zion: Sometimes I still wonder if it’s all worth it. My body’s aching in so much pain. I keep comin’ up empty handed. Hell, some of me thinks I was a bit brash in jumpin’ in head first on the Lottery. Last time…I fuckin’ lost to Stevens.
Jackson Thakker: OH DEAR GAWD!
Both men chuckle before Zion’s smile melts away. Chucking some more water, Zion feels refreshed. REAL LOVE lets out an audible sigh. Darin smiles at the burly Oklahoman before tilting his head back towards the sky.
Darin Zion: Sometimes it feels easier being out here living off the land. No pressures from society.
Jackson Thakker: That’s bullshit and ya know it. I got pressure too. Some years I can’t get enough to provide for my family. But it happens…
Darin Zion: But four years and no results, man? Especially when I feel like my wheels are stuck in the mud.
Jackson struts up to his half-brother. The big, thick hand of this massive farmer lays against Zion’s shoulder. Squeezing it real tight, Jackson affirms Darin.
Jackson Thakker: Everything happens for a reason. There’s a time and a place it’ll happen. When it does…yew’ll appreciate it more. Honestly, you took your achievements for granted. Just enjoy the journey right now, fam. When the day comes, you’ll hold up that LSD Championship with pride.
Darin Zion: Thanks Jackson! I love you, brother.
Jackson Thakker: Love ya too, City Slicker.
Zion turns his attention back towards his chores. Jackson Thakker takes two steps off to the side and…
REAL LOVE snaps his head around to his brother laying face down in the dirt. Jackson’s usually bright red face now looked a faint shade of blue. Thakker’s lips begin turning purple. Darin rushes and reaches into his overalls pocket. Frantically, Zion presses the 9-1-1 keys on his phone.
Darin Zion: Come on, Jackson…hold on! HOLD ON DAMMIT!!!
With tears streaming down Zion’s face; he turns Jackson’s lifeless body over. Darin rushes to do CPR. Other ranch helpers rush to help Zion as the situation turns dire.
“Let’s be real honest for a moment. For the past 4 years in HOW; I’ve played it safe. In this run; I’ve pivoted on championships I’ve chased multiple times. I stayed in the lower mid card for the past years because I got tired of upsetting the status quo. Yeah, I grew complacent and failed to take any risks. It’s the world’s worst kept secret. I’m not a gambling man.
But it’s time for me to dish some TOUGH LOVE out to myself. I’m laying out all the damn cards for that LSD Championship. I’m putting all my chips on the table. I’m extending myself when I should rest. After all, I’ve only got 15 matches left after this on my deal.
But that bastard Lee Best forced my fuckin’ hand…
So Jace…I’m not dropping this. No pivoting, no flip-flopping like a corrupt politician this time. I’ve come back to HOW to die on this fuckin’ hill. I’ve come back to return to that ruthless, heartless bastard who cares nothing more than getting his championships back. I’ll do it at whatever cost it takes, even if it bites me in the ass.
And fuckin’ hell Lethal Lotteries and Tournaments bite me in the ass more times than I’d like.
You wanna talk some shit and recycle the same bullshit like Dan Ryan. I thought you were better than that. That shit’s beneath a king like yourself…
Or have you grown too complacent like I did last run? After all, it’s a comfortable gig being the king of the mid-carders. I’ve never once seen you push yourself out of your element. Seriously, every time you did…you choked like the rest of us “peon.” You couldn’t dethrone Mike Best when he held the HOW World Championship. You couldn’t last until the final two combatants in the second War Games. You never once took one damn risk that could backfire in your damn face.
Because you couldn’t stand losing any fucking positive attention you got. Sure, you took Tyler Best to the limit for the ICON Title. But that’s your goddamn job as a wrestler. You put everything on the line. Hell your daddy issues don’t even qualify as something new and exciting. It’s a requirement for every HOW talent to have them. Even Mike Best had some on his worst days…
Let’s be real. This isn’t an assessment of your God-given talent in that fuckin’ ring. I damn well know you’re a fighter. You’ve crushed my skull into that mat more times that I can count anymore with the CTE building up. Hell it doesn’t take away the recognition you’ve earned. This run alone your accolades have piled up. You’re the longest reigning HOTv Champion, a newly minted Hall of Famer, and looking to carry that LSD Title longer than your last reign. Those are some damn good feats.
Don’t misconstrue my words, Jace. I know a narcissist like you is looking to twist and tie those words I said and go full 8th grade English teacher on my ass.
The point I’m trying to make…you’ve become a huge target. You’re the damn standard bearer everyone wants to take down. Defeating you comes with a big prize. It means we took down one of the greatest LSD Champions of all time. It’s like earning a VIP spot within a casino. Your name gets put up in lights. They call your name over the loudspeakers. It unlocks some great fuckin’ benefits.
It’s why I’m putting everything down on JACE-LSD this week. I know I could draw the tag contenders match. I could draw Captain America and the #97RED belt. I could face the steep challenge of taking on new HOTv Champion Joe Bergman. My path could weave and wind so off course it would cost me everything.
But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. For 8 years, I’ve dreamt of shutting your ass up. I’ve wanted nothing more than to prove every pre-conceived notion you’ve had about me wrong. You’re my kryptonite in HOW. You’re the brick wall I keep running into head first. You’re the ghost of Christmas Past.
You’re the one damn thing holding me back from achieving greatness. Every time I’ve tried…I’ve failed. You’re the one damn giant I cannot slay to etch my name in immortality.
You want to constantly critique my career and blast my name any chance you get. You think I’m just here to whine and cry that no one is handing me another title shot or another spot in the sun.
No Jace. I’m here to tell you; I damn well plan on earning it. Sure, I experienced a minor setback. Sure, I’m the one who’s written too many checks my ass can’t cash. I’ve popped my mouth off way too many times. I admit it. I’ve grown and matured since the last days.
That’s why I punched my ticket into the Lethal Lottery so quickly. I’ve come to earn my damn keep. I’ve come to fight like hell to EARN my title shot. I don’t expect your ass or Lee’s to hand me a pity title match. I came back to HOW to kick ass and fight like hell to earn the right to challenge you.
Rather it’s at Lethal Lottery, March 2 Glory, or later down the line. I will punch my ticket. I will win my shot and call it. And I will become the next LSD Champion at all costs.
So get ready, Jace. Get down on your damn knees and pray to GOD I don’t draw you. Because I’ve got a death wish and I will stop at nothing until I win the LSD Championship.”