“Never confuse a single defeat for a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
— — — — —
Competition is an intense concept, isn’t it? Reach the elite levels of sport and the experience likely becomes something beyond your career. It is your identity and, as a result, the competitive nature consumes you. Day in, day out, this is now how you define yourself. My name is [HERE] and I am a [CAREER]. Western culture drives this notion self worth equals what you do, how hard you do it and what you’ve actually accomplished.
For many people, this is only an idea. Very few can reach the heights of professional competition. Sure, we can dream, we can think we know what it’s like but for those seldom able to achieve the pinnacle of sport, it is something indescribable.
Dream on, since the odds are not in your favour to reach these kinds of heights. There’s certainly no guarantee you can get there.
Then suddenly the world bends to your will. You have something special.
And you make it.
With a blink of an eye you find yourself at the top of the game. You’re not just hopeful anymore, you’re a fucking somebody. A household name; a transcendent star. You’re no longer a prospect of the future. You are the here and now and you damn sure carry the sport on your back. You finally reap the benefits of the work you put in. Your life has meaning because, after all, your life was competition. You have your payoff; you worked so hard. You compete and you succeed. Competition is you, for you are the competition. Line up, one and all, you are the center of attention. The pinnacle. Its champion.
And then it’s washed away in an instant. One mistake, that’s all it takes. Cruel, isn’t it? 499 right moves out of 500 yet the one mistake will always outweigh the correct ones.
Even though the mistake took two milliseconds.
Even though the mistake wasn’t a conscious thought.
Even though some would say it’s not a mistake at all.
The game of competition doesn’t waiver. It won’t give you a break because you meant well. It will not make you ineligible because this is your life.
In fact, it will punish you because it is.
Your life had meaning and now it doesn’t. You live with the consequences and by god you will suffer. Watch on the sidelines as your successor finds his pride. Competition doesn’t care about the man who lost. It’s on to the next event, the next match, the next level. You are left behind to wallow in self pity.
One inch too short, one bounce too late. Competition laughs at the person who wears a heart on their sleeve because it knows on the odd chance you make it, the reward cannot be conveyed by words.
That’s why we play this game and that’s why we keep going.
Competition weeds out the mentally weak. There’s no place you can see this more than the position I find myself in.
Many try, most fail, few achieve.
To make it in the highest form of competitive sport is to validate your efforts, your skills and your self-worth. To fall from this level is an onslaught of pain that can stay with you forever.
They say redemption is possible, although skeptics remain. At this moment, in a bedlam of seven worthy competitors, on the highest stage possible, I am left wondering…
Since I have found the strength to Continue does this mean I overcome once again?
The first opponent standing before me is the individual for whom I was initially positioned against in this ICONIC date. A man with similar skills, abilities and weaknesses. He has done more with his career than many will give him credit for. He has accumulated 348 days at the top of the competitive food chain against my lonely 63. He is a true measuring stick, a more than formidable foe.
Another man sways in the shadows, his dead eyes fixated on nothing but pain and torture. Through righteousness, he considers himself a chosen pawn in the greater game, although few men have made such a destructive impact over these last few months. A dangerous opponent with wrestling abilities breaking the prototypical mold for someone of his demeanor. He may be the most interesting man here and that’s saying something, given the surrounding talents.
The third opponent finds his morals. He’s been teetering on the edge of his competitive prime for some time and yet, he keeps going. He is crafty, wise and seasoned. He’s played my long-term enemy but the reality is he’s my greatest inspiration. He is Hall of Fame through and through. He deserves a moment like this.
The fourth, I do not know well enough. I have watched him come close, reach out and fall millimeters short a few times, a familiar feeling. He rightfully sought redemption and was rewarded by adding five others to a position that was already his. Unfair, no doubt. But this game is never fair.
The fifth man is mythical, a competitor before my arrival. I have often heard the comparisons between him and I, although I’ve yet to see his true work ethic. He is clever and menacing. To be placed in the same sentence as him is quite the compliment.
Finally, there is He who has risen, ten times. He is the definition of competition; he is the essential opponent. He has taken from me and will likely take again. He is ruthless, he is inspiring and he is also pure evil. I will not get pulled into his bag of tricks. I will rise above his antics. Can I beat him? Another story entirely.
Seven will try.
Six will fail.
One will achieve.
It is the circle of life in its purest form. The spirit of competition, the hero against his Rogues’ Gallery.
Let the redemption era begin.
Welcome to ICONIC.
… … … … …
ibis Hotel – Edinburgh City Centre – Lobby
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
December 14, 2021 – 08:00
For the past month, I have stayed in Edinburgh and ventured out on weekends when needed. What started off as a three day event has branched into something more substantial.
I hear the dirtsheets. “Did Conor Fuse intend to quit?”, which is a tough question for me to answer because quitting isn’t in my DNA. However, I certainly intended to show up in Aberdeen, thank my fanbase and take significant time off.
But this game kept dragging me back, each and every week.
The following Sunday, I sat outside the SSE Hydro Arena with no intention of entering. And I didn’t. Jatt met me on a bench across from the building and provided words of encouragement I didn’t want to hear.
Until I started to listen.
Look, I don’t need to go through each and every step with you. By now, you know I healed to some extent and you know the event in front of me.
In front of us.
“Hey, Gemma,” I say in a quip as I brush by the lobby. Yes, it’s raining outside. Scotland is a nonstop downpour 24/7… and I’m beginning to like it. There’s something so charming about seeing a consistent overcast. Plus it gets pitch black here by 3:30pm in the winter. A true nightfall, if I do say so myself. Really allows me to stay in this dark place I’ve mentally occupied.
Gemma waves, smiles and wishes me a pleasant time as I pull my purple hood over my head and unpop my umbrella. I haven’t done a lot with my time, to be honest. The injuries I sustained at RATR have prevented me of doing anything important. Instead, I simply stroll the streets of Edinburgh and as you likely saw, I barely packed. I had no intention of wrestling High Flyer. I had no instinct JPD and I would end up seeing each other at ICONIC.
I was kinda right about that one.
But as I walk the Royal Mile today, I have added pep in my step. Who can I attribute a change in attitude to? Likely a number of people and I will get to them eventually.
Let’s not make a mistake here. Losing to Mike was the most significant moment in my life and for him, another W notch on the belt. It wasn’t so much about losing the world title as it was realizing I may not be cut out for what it takes at THE top level.
Edinburgh Castle is at the peak of the Royal Mile, I’ve walked to it daily. It’s much different than Alcatraz although it reminds me of the prison to some degree. However, in this location noble warriors likely lined the structure up and down, fighting and defending their grounds. The castle is perched on top of a hill, the perfect spot to see every enemy approach, from every angle. It’s a luxury I won’t have two weeks from today.
Like any tourist attraction you have to pay to get inside but I have no interest. Reaching the edge of the building, I merely lean against the wall, open my backpack and place a towel down over the wet cobblestone ground before taking a seat. I steadily hold the umbrella over my head. Three weeks ago I could barely grasp a thing. The Scottish rain drove right through me, there was nothing I could do. Of course, others looked at me like I was some kind of idiot. Practically everyone in this country carries an umbrella. It’s rained relentlessly for days. Perhaps to Gemma, the nice receptionist I’ve come to know over the last month, she may have thought I was severely depressed. I mean… I was. I just had no other option, I had to let the rain take me in.
Holding the umbrella with my right hand, I pull my left hand up to view. No longer do I need to wear bandages. I am finally healing.
Because although I’m left with mental scars from Alcatraz, the physical damage I received was merely as challenging.
Nailed to a cross. Cruifixed. Literally. Wounds such as these don’t heal overnight.
Couldn’t work out. Couldn’t wrestle.
Couldn’t play video games.
Was there really a need for me to travel with more than a backpack?
There’s always stuff hidden in plain sight. A part of the reason I was considering time off was because I was not physically able to perform. You saw my hands. High Octane, please put me on the PUP list.
A deep breath in, I close my eyes and clench the umbrella tightly with my right hand. Sure, I was able to survive High Flyer but it was due to a lot of painkillers and wrestling without the ability to use my hands as freely as I wanted. Clay, JJR, Jatt… they’d eat me alive in this form.
Soon, I switch over, holding the umbrella in my left hand. Afterwards, it’s a set of pushups and then I rest against the castle wall again. Far off in the left hand corner of the entranceway, the tourists who walk by don’t pay much attention.
Everyday I do the same routine, at least ten sets of each minor exercise. What runs through my head is typically a state of emptiness as I go back and forth, trying to find the words to psych myself up for one more go.
Tomorrow will be my last morning in the city and then it’s off to London. I think I’ve physically progressed to where I wanna be.
Mentally? Well, that’s another story.
… … … … …
ibis Hotel – Edinburgh City Centre – Hotel Room
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
December 14, 2021 – 13:00
So what else have I been doing with myself this entire time? I can’t game, didn’t bring wrestling tapes to study, plus no gym time. The three pillars in the life of Conor Fuse are out the window.
As a result, you’re looking at what I’ve been up to. After my walk and strength routine, I return to my hotel room each day and lay on this mattress. Solitary confinement at its best… one pay-per-view too late.
At first, I mentally punished myself. I deserved to lay here and do nothing with my time. Jeffrey James Roberts is right, we are prisoners to our past. Unable to let go, searching for answers to a solution already finalized. Where did I go wrong vs. Mike? How could I have been so careless by wanting to Weapon Get his knee. It cost me everything.
When you live and die by the battles of war, asking these questions is inevitable. I’d like to think some of the best professional athletes do this. Some get salty, blaming others. Some look directly to themselves first. Ultimately, I’d like to think there would be more questions if I brushed off the biggest loss of my life and it didn’t take me weeks upon weeks to overcome.
Anyway, after mentally tormenting myself for fourteen days, I tried to lighten up. I gave myself a pep talk. Run through my accomplishments and how far I’ve come in a year and a half. Becoming a prisoner of the moment is only a problem when you are unable to escape it forever. I believe anything is good in moderation. You’ll see no PTSD here from Mike’s knee a month from now.
Finally, step three. This is the phase I’m in ATM.
What’s it gonna take to get the job done?
I beat SRK for the World Championship by lifting a move his father performed. I blanked out, I didn’t remember. I only recalled what happened when I watched it on playback.
Do I have the ability to push myself further? I’ve seen the lengths others have gone. Mike took spikes and drove them into my hands. (In fairness I electrocuted the motherfucker.) But he’s done worse, way worse. JJR eats people’s faces. Literally munches on them for snacks like skin is made of Fruit Roll-ups. I know I don’t need to get this crazy…
But where is my threshold?
So this is what I do. I lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and bring my mind to places I don’t think I can go. You’re right Mike, it’s not a lot of fun. Much more fun to straight-up blog. No sarcasm.
They say Heath Ledger got into playing The Joker by locking himself in a hotel room for weeks on end, until he thought AIDS was funny. Let’s be honest, I’m not quite there, nor do I want to be. Best I can do is lay here and think Darin Zion would look good as the moderator in my discord channel. Perhaps all discord channels.
Hey, I never said I was good at this.
It’s a push and pull. I pump myself up, realizing I am a flawed wrestler who the fans have attached themselves to. I say I want to be true to my spirit. Then I wonder if I actually have what it takes.
Cecilworth asks what my difference maker is. What will drive me to the top of the pile, a spot I should likely not exist in. He says I’m simple and assumes I don’t have killer instinct.
But I can get into some legitimate dark thoughts when I remember the pain of being defeated by Mike. And even worse… how I was abandoned by Teddy, Zeb and that stunned cunt Lindsay Troy.
Yeah, you heard me.
After all, it’s what got me 97red. I channeled the anger I had about being thrown aside. How guys like Cancer Jiles and Jatt Starr were right all along. The 214 left me when they didn’t get what they wanted. All I wanted were friends. People to fight with. Warriors to stand beside.
I envision myself in the center of the ring, down on all fours. There’s a lead pipe laying there. The figure across the way, my opponent, is faceless and yet I feel he is a friend. Without hesitation, I pick up the lead pipe and
his face until his skull caves in.
Ain’t no one cheering for me now.
True death. There, maybe I am good at this. I don’t stop after the bell sounds, either or when I’m awarded 97. In fact, I take that fucking shade of red and give it a facelift…
By using the lead pipe and smashing the faceplate to pieces. Lee Best, MOB, go fuck yourself. Your title is meaningless to me and since I now own it for a second time, I have the right to shame it. I’ll carry it around, drag it like a security blanket everywhere I go. Scratch it good. Your wrestling organization means nothing to L8-CF. In fact, maybe I’ll pull a shoot with it. Be defiant.
I slowly fade back into reality. I’m not sure if it’s a smile on my face or a look of concern. The most important thing, however, is I know…
This isn’t me.
“Get out of my head, NAC,” I say to New-Age Conor, the dark subconscious voice who typically tries to hide ideas like this in my mind. To be honest I have no proof if he’s telling me these things. I haven’t spoken to him for months.
No. I can’t deface sacred property. I couldn’t paralyze a friend, either.
I don’t even hate my former teammates, just sad it didn’t work out.
The mental game is much more complex than the physical.
“Guess nothing’s changed,” I mumble to myself while coming to the conclusion at ICONIC, I have to be me.
In the end, it’s what got me here.
… … … … …
ibis Hotel – Edinburgh City Centre – Lobby
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
December 15, 2021 – 08:00
Gemma is a very thoughtful person, I can tell from the way she carries herself on a day to day basis. She’s always happy, working hard, even if there isn’t a lot going on. I reach the reception table and I can see she hasn’t noticed me yet. She’s working through some paperwork with her back turned. The awkwardness in me isn’t sure how to open this conversation, even though I am feeling more like myself.
“This time,” I begin, “it is checkout day.”
Gemma knows my voice. She turns around with a smile and a tilt of her head. “I thought the day would never come.”
I hand over my key as she unlocks her computer.
“I can see you’re feeling much better,” she adds.
I take a moment to look outside. Of course, it rains. I’ve been told by some of the locals it is not always like this. “It’s the time of year,” they defend. In terms of how cold it gets in this city though, it’s absolutely nothing compared to Chicago.
“I am doing better, thank you,” I confirm. “It’s taken me a while but this was the tranquility I needed.”
I shrug my own shoulders, realizing my words are true. I didn’t game. I wasn’t around the Elders. I barely had any interactions with human life whatsoever. I simply roamed the streets of Edinburgh and did what I could to stabilize myself mentally before my body healed physically.
Gemma has checked me out of the system and prints a few papers.
“I’m really glad you enjoyed your stay here, Mr. Fuse,” she says warmly, taking a concerned look at my hands.
“They’re better,” I say as I catch her staring. Her initial reaction is embarrassment, understanding I have likely seen her stare at my hands since the beginning. “Slight nerve damage, no doubt.”
I clench my right hand a few times and twist my left one around, too.
“But I’m as good as can be.”
She hands me a receipt and we exchange pleasantries. I flip my backpack around my arms, turning towards the exit.
“That’s a nice jumper,” Gemma mentions, “purple looks much better on you than black.”
At the ibis Hotel entrance, I reach for the handle and turn the door with ease.
“Thank you,” I say with a wink, “although it’s called a tunic where I come from.”
She grins, I say goodbye and exit into the street while opening my umbrella. My job here is done.
— — — — —
So this has been the last six weeks for me. What’s new with all of you?
To put things succinctly, I have questions I hope become answers at ICONIC. Can I overcome the biggest loss of my career? Can I hang on the elite stage? And is what I have inside of me enough to pull out a victory against the deepest pool of talent I’ve ever seen?
The spirit of competition; the start of my redemption.
The gears of war.