“How long has he been in there?”
“WHAT? Get him out!”
“He said he would tell us when it’s time to get out.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? That isn’t the protocol!”
“I know. But he was very insistent.”
“I don’t care! Our waver only covers us for a maximum of FOUR minutes. If he gets an injury or dies, we’re fucked!”
Inside the cryotherapy unit of a private medical facility, the Gold Standard was locked inside a white cryochamber. The chamber had an interface and control panel on the side and in the middle of the door was a screen which Sektor could be seen from. The only parts visible were his head, which was wrapped in a black thermal headband, and his chest. The pigment of his skin had faded to a pale blue, with mottling capillaries surfacing on the very top. His nipples were like bullets protruding from the areolas. His face, however, was relaxed and calm as his eyes were softly closed, in an almost meditative state.
Sektor had used cryotherapy plenty of times before. It’s a very effective and quick way to repair damaged muscle and tissue. The extreme cold activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing the blood vessels near the surface of the skin in the peripheries to narrow. This slows the blood supply to the muscles which in turn reduces inflammation and swelling. There was a balancing act to it. Building muscle means tearing small fibres so that they can heal stronger, but cryotherapy can prevent that. After the battering his body took at War Games, he needed to get back into action as quickly as possible.
He had started the day with the intention of going the maximum recommended time of four minutes for recovery. However it occurred to him that the therapy brings a form of pain and torture, and so he treated it as an experiment to see how he could focus his mind to channel it, in preparation for the pain and torture he would likely endure at the hands of Palmer in their upcoming LSD championship match.
He’d been in this temperature for so long that it was beginning to feel like a million sharp needles jabbing into every pore in his skin. Instead of feeling dread, what he found instead was a sense of elation. The cryotherapy had activated his endogenous opioid system, the system responsible for the perception of pain.
Two therapists in matching, baby blue, polo shirts were arguing with one another about the legalities of the situation Sektor had put them in. The temperature gauge read -220F.
“He’s going to fucking die! I’m getting him out of there,” panicked the older of the two, storming over to the control panel.
With that, he slammed the palm of his hand on the, bright red, emergency stop button. Hesitantly he began to pull the door open, revealing Sektor in nothing more than the head band, a pair of black gloves and long socks. His eyes remained closed and in a trance-like state.
“Are you okay?” asked the therapist, grabbing him by the shoulder and giving him a shake.
Sektor’s eyes shot open with a start, his face crumpling into a bitter and aggravated expression.
“The fuck you open it for?”
The one thing I’ve learned about pain is that it’s almost entirely perceptive. You know how like when you cut your hand, but it doesn’t begin to hurt until you notice it and see the blood? It’s because pain is all in the mind, your brain’s way of alerting you to the fact that you’ve sustained an injury and you need to get it treated. There’s a guy who fishes down at the harbour where I live in Miami. He was deep sea diving and got into a tangle with a Tiger Shark. He didn’t realise he’d lost a leg until he tried to climb the ladder on his boat and realised he was missing a foot.
You can train your brain to perceive pain differently. In a wrestling match, you got all the natural painkillers you need. Adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine all the natural hormones that pump hard when you trigger the fight or flight response. It can give you superhuman abilities too. Ask me to deadlift Clay Byrd when I roll out of bed and I’ll tell you to fuck off because it can’t be done. Get me pumped up to the eyeballs in a wrestling ring and I won’t just lift him but I’ll belly to belly the mother-fucker from one side to the other.
When you enter a warzone it’s easy to allow the pain and torture to stifle you. What I am doing is making it a part of my everyday life, so that when Teddy brings out his playbook on me? All he’ll be doing is giving me a shot in the arm.
I called up an old friend of mine to get a little insight. He confirmed everything I already knew. Competing at LSD level is a mindset, a test of endurance. It’s a war of attrition to see who can out torture the other. If my school of thought on wrestling matches was at one end of the spectrum? Then you can bet your hairy ass the LSD division is at the other. There’s nothing graceful about it. It’s blood, sweat, tears, gore, fire, power tools, street fights, cages, barbed wire, razor wire, chicken wire…all the fucking wire…it’s CHAOS!
So I do what I do. I found a way to train. I found a way to prepare. If weapons are gonna meet my flesh then I need to turn my flesh into steel armour. Crunching the highest weight sets so I can turn my abs into a kevlar vest. Strengthening my back so that his tools bounce off me like a brick wall. My body is the only armour I’ve got. This isn’t the NFL with a bunch of pussies running around in helmets and armour twice the size of their bodies. This is me, in a pair of tights and not much else, getting hit with God knows what.
Inevitably, the body can only hold up to so much. It’s not designed for that level of abuse. Which is why the mind is the most powerful tool I can sharpen right now. So I spent some time with the LSD Legend himself:
The sound of the shinai, a Japanese sword made out of intertwined bamboo, cackled around the empty warehouse. Sektor grimmanced, stood bare topped in a pair of jogging pants, with Silent Witness circling him like a Tiger about to eat and twirling the sword around in his hand.
“Remind me again why you want this?” Witness asked, raising a single eyebrow.
“Just hit me you pussy!”
Witness smirked and with a shrug of the shoulders swung the bamboo swords across Sektor’s bare-back.
A tense grunt escaped from Sektor’s lungs as his back arched under the force of the strike.
“Hey, don’t get me wrong, buddy. I am more than happy to beat the shit out of you. Just so long as it’s not some weird kink!”
He swung again, this time across the front of Sektor’s abs.
“GAH!” Sektor gasped, clutching his chest and puffing out his cheeks.
“Ohhh, that one hurt didn’t it?”
There was a bright pink mark already showing across the abdominal area of the Gold Standard. His abs were bulging, tense to armour himself but also stronger through focussed core training.
“Course it fucking hurt!” Sektor spat, his chest heaving up and down as the pain radiated across his body.
“This is nothing compared to what you’re going to go through on Saturday,” explained the LSD Legend.
Sektor scolded his former Ground Zero team mate with a disgusted expression.
“Don’t fucking patronise me, Witness!”
Witness snapped his head back, either taking exception to Sektor’s tone or just looking for another excuse to swing.
No sound escaped the lips of Sektor that time, as the wind had been completely bambooed out of his lungs. He marched around on the spot, holding his lower back which had a nice big welk beginning to surface, as though a parasite was burrowing beneath it.
“You gotta unleash that inner animal, Sek. That rage that burns deep inside you? Use it!”
Sektor’s face was still scrunched up like a ball of paper, sucking in air through his nose and out through his mouth.
“Forget everything you know about wrestling. Because this is not wrestling. This is survival. The only instincts you should listen to are those baser, primitive, instincts. Don’t think. DO!”
He stumbled forward as another crippling blow landed across his back.
“This shouldn’t be difficult for you. I know you! You’re one of the sickest individuals I’ve ever met. But you’re also so calculated and controlled. None of that will matter. If you hesitate, even once?”
The final blow landed across the back of his legs, bringing the number one contender to his knees with an agonising yelp of pain. The LSD Legend slowly lowered his hefty frame down to Sektor’s eye level, staring into his soul with his one good eye.
“You’ll be the one in fucking hospital..”
Saturday, June 26th
Not knowing the stipulation is eating me alive. It’s one thing to prepare for a match you haven’t competed in for almost twenty years, but another to not know what environment you’re going to be in. I even stooped so low as to text the boss to ask him what the stipulation was. He sent me a gif of an old woman giving me the middle finger.
Special privileges my ass!
I have to constantly remind myself that I need to adapt. The unknown is the constant throughout the core of what the LSD division represents. The fear of the unknown. The dangers. I literally watched for over an hour as the ring crew put the ring together. I made a note that there was no sign of any cage or cell but that doesn’t mean anything. Lee would probably keep that under wraps until the last second.
I always wondered why there were so many weapons stored under the ring. What the fuck are they doing there? A ladder and some spare chairs, maybe that makes sense. I can even kid myself into thinking that a half dozen wooden tables are needed in case the ring announcers table keeps getting broken. But they put all kinds of shit under there. A Baseball bat? Metal chain? Barbed wire? Trash cans? Metal signs? All the garbage is just thrown under there like they’re sweeping it under the rug. It’s purposeful. Lee knows the crowd loves blood and violence, it’s why they choose HOW.
I made sure to make a mental note of where every item was being placed. If I create enough breathing room against Teddy to go shopping I don’t want to waste time rummaging under there. I need to know where my tools are at like a Dad in his shed.
That’s how I work, I can’t help it. I’m hard wired through two decades of training my mind to think that way. I’ll spend hours every day watching footage of my opponent, and Teddy is no different. I look for weakness to expose and strengths to avoid. I try to formulate an intricate strategy, and when I’ve done all that I’ll come up with an alternative in case it goes to shit.
It’s a form of visualisation. I try to imagine every single eventuality to the point where I almost have a muscle memory of it. When the action actually does unfold it will be as though I’ve already experienced it.
The skill is not to overthink it or to overload yourself with more information than is necessary. You need to stay nimble; You’ve got to be able to think on your feet and never has this been more true than this impending LSD championship clash with Teddy. If you’ve absorbed too many details, your thinking will be rigid, undynamic. As Mike Tyson once said:
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
When the shit hits the fan, as it inevitably will at some point, I know that I still have the foundations of the match in my head. Everything else can be supplied by my training.
I’m not gonna lie, Teddy, I had a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I arrived here tonight. It ended up destroying my appetite. It didn’t last long, mind you, and I don’t usually stuff myself before a match, but I have to make sure that I’m carbed up for the endurance you’ll undoubtedly subject me to later on.
I could actually see my nerves at one point. I was standing in catering trying to make myself a coffee and the adrenaline came on like a king tide. I could feel it in my veins, surging and throbbing in great liquid waves. As I dipped my spoon into a packet of sugar, I noticed it was shaking. Little granules were falling off its sides and back into the packet. I watched for a moment, focussed on each crystal as it tumbled downwards, then looked up anxiously towards the door of the catering room.
‘This was no good,’ I told myself. I had to get myself under control. The occasion, the risks, the opportunity of being champion again? The pressure? It was all hitting me at once like a ton of bricks.
I tried forcing myself to steady my breathing, slowing it down, deepening my draws of oxygen. But when I looked down, the spoon was still shaking. At that moment I heard footsteps. I glanced up. It was Solex. Give it thirty seconds and there wouldn’t be any sugar left on the fucking thing. Solex’s footsteps came closer towards me, echoing in the vast, catering room. As he approached I felt a sudden rage at my weakness. It blasted through me, but I managed to control it. I allowed the fury to fill me up, every limb now engorged and primed, every muscle taut.
A few months earlier my anger would have taken over. Now I’ve learned to use it like an injection of insanely powerful steroids. I was ten times stronger than I’d been a moment ago. A hundred times stronger. I looked at the spoon..
..It was almost still!
Why am I telling you all this, Teddy? Because you need to understand what you’re dealing with. You need to know that the John Sektor you think you know? You don’t! My mind is stronger than it ever has been and that strength alone will bleed oil into the cogs of the machine.
Anyone who knows John Sektor, knows when he wants to really win a match? He’s at his most dangerous.
And when he wants to beat someone in particular?
Even more dangerous!
I want to win the LSD championship Teddy. More importantly, I want to beat you! I’ve been obsessing over beating you since the first time you beat me, and you’ve gone on to do it a further two times.
You’re facing a different animal this time, Teddy. An animal who’s prepared to tap into his primitive instincts and do whatever it takes to survive. Kill or be killed, mother fucker.
I don’t like you, but I do respect you. I’d love to tell you that I’ll only go as far as I need to in order to win, but I can’t promise that. Once that bell rings the gloves are off and I’m going to allow the proverbial red myst to completely fucking blind me so that no ounce of respect I have for you can hold me back.
Besides, something tells me that I’m going to have to bring you close to death to take that championship away from you. And I respect that.
I know you’ll be dangerous too. Yet, there’s something euphoric about the danger you pose. People might mistake it for being an adrenaline junkie, but they’d be dead wrong. I’m very calculated. I’m in control. I’m not a reckless person, which is why you can rest assured that whatever I do to you? Will be done with purpose.
But what I’ve realised is that there will always be part of me that’s in love with walking that delicate line that separates life and death. I’m most alive during those beautiful, uncomplicated fragments of time when all the noise and mess falls away and your existence is stripped back to two stark outcomes.
You’re either going to live?
Or you’re going to die!
That’s it! It’s the purest form of life and that is how I choose to live now. It’s the ultimate form of peace, and I cannot tell you how welcoming it is to finally be at peace.
More time passes.
I know how easy it would be to drift into a negative spiral. One thought leads to another. Before you know it, you’re crippled, your head filled with doubt. You’ve ceased to live in the here and now and have instead stepped into a world of ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybes.’ I know that lots of people suffer from imposter syndrome.
I’m here, in this ring because I’m good at my job! I’m in this LSD championship match against Teddy Palmer because I’m special, and because I’ve earned my fucking shot. If I start wondering whether I deserve it? If I let doubts creep in? I’ll inhibit my ability to do what I do effectively.
You don’t want to be that guy who loses his nerve and pokes his head around the corner, in the process making himself the world’s biggest target. As far as I’m concerned, when I hit the ring?
I’m the best wrestler in the World!