The Road Not Taken (#2)
David sighed, his fingers rubbing a tenacious knot in his right shoulder. He sat on the floor inside his gym, his head lowered and his AirPod Pros in his ears. Slowly he began to feel the tension in his shoulder begin to evaporate. The years in the ring hadn’t been kind to his body, though kind in other ways. As his eyes glanced upwards, he saw the championships he’d gained over the years; world championships on every continent, long reigns that left many in awe of him. He remembered those crowning moments across PRIME, DEFIANCE, and HOW.
He’d run roughshod through the competition in PRIME in the early stages of his career. His crushing defeat for the Intense Championship only forced him to double down on his training and focus. He managed to earn what eluded him the next time up, translating it into the Five-Star Championship and eventually the Universal Championship. Finally, after a two-year reign on top, he decided it was time for greener pastures and left to DEFIANCE.
He’d experienced the same there and continued to dazzle millions with top-notch matches, tenacious promos, and championship runs that couldn’t be stopped. Then, finally, he decided to take his talents to HOW, and the rest was history. He’d made an indelible mark on the competition, and there’d been rumors in his ears of becoming a Hall of Famer.
All because he refused to let one defeat eat away at him, destroy his confidence, and send him in a spiral. All because he believed in himself and continued to move forward. He changed how he ate, trained, and brought in the best to sculpt his body, mind, and habits into a champion. He refused to settle for less and pushed his body beyond his mental limits. As a result, David was rewarded and was considered the standard in professional wrestling.
Slowly, he stood up and stretched out his arms, neck, and shoulders. As he did, he heard a chirp in his ears and tapped the side of one of them to answer the phone.
‘David here,’ he spoke in an even-mannered tone. His voice was soft as he continued to stretch and loosen his limbs.
‘David, buddy! How have you been?’
The voice on the other end was his manager and agent, Eric, someone who’d looked after him since his earliest days. In many ways, David acknowledged Eric as the man behind the scenes who ensured the well-oiled machine remained so.
‘Just getting my workout in,’ David responded. ‘What about you? Are you still hitting the courses in Vail? Or getting some golf time in Orlando?’
Eric chuckled. ‘I wish, buddy. I wish. One day, right? Right now, though, it’s all eyes focused on making sure you’re taken care of. But, listen, I just got an email from HOW. It looks like there is a ceremony coming up in three months. You know what ceremony that is, right?’
David smiled. ‘You think this is it?’
‘I do, Dave, I do.’
David paused as he closed his eyes and let the moment wash over him. ‘That’s perfect, Eric.’
‘ David, you did it. You refused to be held down, and you poured yourself into this. You’ve got only yourself to thank for this. I’ll send the details over to Ashley. You got any idea on who you want to bring to the event?’
He paused as he thought about it, but nothing came to mind.
‘That’s going to have to be a question for another day,’ he finally responded.
‘How about Mary-Lynn? I’m sure she would love to go, and she’d look great on your arm. Always does.’
David’s tongue rolled inside his mouth, from one side to the other, and he shook his head even though Eric couldn’t see him.
‘I don’t think so,’ he offered, not wanting to further details.
There’s a pause on the other end. ‘Okay,’ Eric finally responded. ‘I got it. I know that relationship has been… tough… over the years. You think about it, and I’m sure we can find someone to go with you. Let me get these details to Ashley so she can make all of the arrangements and update your calendar.’
‘Thanks, Eric, I appreciate it. I appreciate… everything.’
‘Not a problem, David. Chat soon.’
Then the connection died in his ear. David yanked the AirPods out of his ears and placed them in the case before slipping them into his pocket. He walked out of the gym, into his house, and was surrounded instantly by numerous photos of him from his career; championship wins, feud-ending victories, and a few pictures of his on-again, off-again relationship with Mary-Lynn Mayweather.
He stopped in front of one of the photos and looked at it for a long moment. He looked at her eyes and found happiness there, contentment.
David took his phone out of his pocket and walked into the kitchen, where he placed it on the counter and tapped the contact icon that read ‘MLM.’ It rang two times before a person on the other end answered it.
It wasn’t Mary-Lynn, but another person. A man.
‘Sorry, I must have hit the wrong button by mistake. I was looking for Mary-Lynn. My apologies.’
There is silence on the other end, and David can hear a few muffled voices. ‘Yeah, you’ve got the right number. You shouldn’t call here anymore. Mary-Lynn has moved on.’
David opened his mouth and then felt something stuck in his throat. Then the line disconnected.
He stood there, realizing that Mary-Lynn had moved on from ‘them.’ A hardly functional version of ‘them,’ but a ‘them’ nonetheless. He knew the last time he’d hurt her, she said she might not come back, but he never took her seriously. This time though, he was wrong.
He grabbed a glass from the bar and turned towards a cabinet that he pulled open and pulled out a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. He quickly poured a third of the glass and emptied the contents down his throat. He paused, briefly, with the glass in his hand and then spun before tossing said glass against the wall.
David stood there, his chest rapidly moving up and down, as he felt numbness wash over him.
* * *
Do I even belong here? Am I just wasting my time showing up to War Games?
The person I was, the person I am, the person I’ve become, I sometimes don’t even recognize that person. That person feels foreign to me, and I find myself constantly second-guessing myself. We are all made up of millions of decisions, and far too often, we never know the actual outcome of those decisions. Because millions of other decisions impact them, decisions we did not make can alter our very own decision simply by existing.
My deal with the devil. My desire to be in War Games. My willingness to do what I did to be in a match from hell, a war from hell. Is it going to be worth it?
I’ve constantly struggled with whether I belong in HOW are not. I’m not a good person. I’m not a bad person. I’m just a person who operates on my own set of principles and scruples. I try to make the right decisions more times than not, but sometimes the right decision isn’t the best decision. If I had a choice to do it all over again, would I?
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself repeatedly for fifteen years now.
Would I bash my knee into John Sektor’s face again? Yes, yes, I would. I’ve replayed that decision and everything leading up to it in my mind repeatedly, but there is no doubt in my mind. I would take Sektor out and make a deal with the devil again. Because with what was staring me in the face, that was the only option I had available to me. There was no other way into War Games, no other path that I could avail myself of.
I was stuck. I’ve been stuck in neutral gear since my debut in HOW. I was paralyzed by a litany of decisions ahead of me and seemingly made the wrong one time and time again. My very first match was against Jeffrey James Roberts. My first big match was scheduled to be against Jack Harmen, and he couldn’t make it to the ring for that match. Everything in between that was being reactive instead of proactive, having to react to the situation changing in front of me.
The same thing happened in the Maurako Cup tournament to crown new Tag Team Champions. Scheduled to team with Doozer, he checked out, walked out, and left me all alone. So, life decided to throw me a curve ball. Team with Conor Fuse, and let’s see what happens. Then we beat everyone in our ways, Bobinette Carey, Arthur Pleasant, Scottywood, Jeffrey James Roberts, the robot. Everyone.
Until we ran into John Sektor and Adam Ellis.
Then it all fell apart as they tend to do for me in big matches, where nothing seems to come together.
The same thing happened on my road to War Games. I didn’t get to make a decision. Drafted to the Best’s. They moved my spot so I would purposely have to face off against Conor Fuse. I was booked in a match against Bobinette Carey for a chance at the LSD Championship and back into War Games.
Crushing Sektor’s face is the first decision I’ve been able to make in a very long time. A chance at redemption and to take back what Sektor stole from me at March to Glory; peace.
Do I belong here? I have no idea, but I get a chance at squaring for the first time in a long time with my own decision.
I like those odds much better.
The Road Not Taken (#3)
David woke to scurried feet, timid knocks, and loud whispering. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and rolled over, wanting to wrap his arm around his wife, but found the spot next to his was empty. He slowly sat up and looked towards the bedroom door.
‘Come in,’ his voice was gravelly and raw. He massaged his throat as the door opened, and in ran two small children, a year or two separating them, with the boy being the oldest and with mousy blonde hair while the little girl had dark red hair tied in pigtails. Smiles plastered on their faces as they jumped into the bed with him.
‘Daddy!’ The little girl screamed in pure surprise and happiness. ‘I didn’t think you would be home this weekend!’
‘Yeah!’ The little boy yelled back. ‘I thought you had to wrestle this weekend.’
David smiled. ‘Morning, Madison and Malcolm. Do I get my morning hugs first, or do I have to answer your questions first?’ Then, without hesitation, both of them wrapped their arms around their father and squeezed as tight as their little bodies would allow them to.
‘Okay, now tell us!’ Malcolm started again.
I did, but I told them I needed a weekend off with my family. So here I am. Nice and straightforward, right?’
Madison beamed at David. ‘Can you do that every weekend?’ The thought sounded nice in David’s mind, and he filed it for later, simply nodding his head in the process.
‘Where’s your Mom at?’ He inquired of his two small children.
‘She said she left you a note in the bathroom,’ Malcolm offered. David nodded his head before kissing him on the crown of his head.
‘Is Lorelai awake?’ The two nodded in unison. ‘Ask her if she can make you some cereal while I wake up.’ They both then shook their heads furiously.
‘No, we want chocolate chip pancakes,’ Madison suggested instead.
‘Yeah, we want that! I think Lorelai does too.’
David laughed before he nodded his head. The kids celebrated their victory and danced all over the bed before David chuckled.
‘Go, go. Let me get ready.’ They then jumped off the bed and ran out of the bedroom door. David swung his legs out of bed, and he felt the plush carpet between his toes. He gingerly walked towards the bathroom, his knees causing him some pause this early in the morning. As he entered the bathroom, he saw a post-it note on the mirror, and he walked over to it, removing it from its place with ease.
‘ Got breakfast with my girls this morning, will be back for lunch’
‘ P.S., I love you. Have fun with the kids this morning. They’ve been dying to hang out with you. As I have.’
David smiled as he turned on the water faucet, splashed some water on his face, and brushed his teeth. He then walked into the walk-in closet; everything was organized just perfectly before he walked over to a wooden drawer, pulled it open, and took out a gray t-shirt that he threw on.
He exited the closet and headed downstairs, hearing the television on with a gaggle of laughter from his two smallest children. As he reached the living room, he saw Lorelai lying on the couch, curled up like a ball and half-awake. He walked over to her and sat on the armrest, running his fingers through his oldest hair. He then kissed her on the forehead.
‘How are you doing, sweetheart?’
She groaned. ‘Okay,’ she responded.
‘I know it’s been a tough week for you.’
She didn’t answer that. So what was one to say when your mother had just passed away?
Lorelai shook her head. ‘Mary-Lynn made me breakfast before she left this morning. I had a good chat and cry session with her.’ David smiled as he continued to massage the back of her head.
‘Well, I’m making chocolate chip pancakes if you’re hungry.’
She rolled over and looked at her father. ‘I’ll probably steal some from Madison and Malcolm since they never finish their food.’ Truer words had never been spoken about his youngest children, and David smiled at her.
“Sounds good, sweetheart.’ He then kissed her on the forehead again and left her to process her feelings while he stepped into the kitchen. The moment he does, Malcolm and Madison come rushing into the kitchen.
‘Can we help, can we help?!’ They asked in a way that was more telling him than asking him. David nodded his head as they celebrated once again while he felt wrestling taking a backseat and fatherhood taking the driver position.
There was a happiness David didn’t recognize in his heart at first, but when the kids were to bed later that night, he enjoyed holding it in his hands and refused to give it up.
* * *
Then there were three.
Sir Simon Sparrow.
Sparrow, you are terrified of being screwed against at War Games; you are worried about your reputation and your legacy and nothing else. That’s why you would side with a man you know you can’t trust but won’t admit to yourself that you can’t trust him. Because you are frightened of how everyone will look at you when it is all said and done. Will you be someone worthy of the Hall of Fame moniker bestowed upon you, or will you be someone thought of as not good enough. Because someone who truly wants to be known as one of the best of all time, who knows that you aren’t handed your legacy, but it is something that you earn, would understand that the path they’re stumbling down won’t do a fucking thing for their precious legacy.
For one moment, Sparrow, let’s talk about the perspective everyone has on you. You’re just good. Point blank and simple. You’re just good. You’re a good hand to have around, someone who will work hard, but a person no one is ever threatened to be around because they know when it is all said and done, you’ll do a solid job, but you’ll never be the best one in the ring at any given time. So when War Games starts and you’re one of the ones out there, can you, in all honesty, say you’re better than Steve Harrison? Or Steve Solex? Or Chris America? You’re the outline of a person that everyone likes, but you have no filling inside you. You’re hollow, willing to do anything it takes to be thought of as good, but not willing to do the hard work expected of someone to be great.
Now, Solex, you are one to be commended. No question about it. You have fought and sacrificed for your country, willing to do what might be the most challenging thing in the world simply so that everyone else can stand on the back of your hard work and claim everything that you dream of. It’s disgusting to see people do exactly that to you, and they won’t even think twice about it. They will stand upon your sacrifices and steal your good name, steal your excellent work, and lay claim to that which is rightfully yours. You’ve earned it, Steve, yet you are content with everyone taking it away from you. For someone who might be the toughest motherfuckers in HOW, it was sad to watch you in the ring with Conor Fuse and let him think he’s on the same level as you.
Solex, no one should ever be on your level, but you allow people who don’t measure up to bring you down to their level. Is this what you want your life, career, and legacy to be? As someone who is on the same level as Conor Fuse? That shit should make you sick to your stomach. That shit should fire you up. Yet, what did you do, Steve? You sat there, and you took it. Then you wonder why you’re a Hall of Famer with no HOW World Championship on your resume. Because that fire that is supposed to be inside you has been extinguished. Nothing I saw in that ring with Conor Fuse makes me believe you have it inside of you to win at War Games. Hell, your leader doesn’t believe you have what it takes to win at War Games. Do you even think you can do it, Steve? Because I don’t think you even believe you can win to capture the championship that has eluded you for so long.
Then, there was Clay Byrd. Clay, listen up closely. Fuck you. God, that feels so fucking good to say. I’m going to tell it one more time, and I want those massive fucking ears of yours to open up as I say it, Clay. Fuck you. You are a poser and a fraud. There is nothing remotely scary or threatening about you. You wanted Conor to prove his loyalty to you, but we’ve all seen you in the ring Clay. You change alliances at the drop of a hat, and it won’t be long before your precious Highwaymen are the latest to have you drop them like that ten-gallon hat you have on your head. You act like a cowboy, but there is not an ounce of toughness inside you. You would wilt if you had to sleep out in the middle of nowhere, night-in, and night-out. This life has made you soft, and you were already about as Pillsbury-dough-boy as it came.
Clay, I can’t wait to get you in that ring because you’re about as soft as they come. You have no backbone, no scruples, no principles. You took the tag titles off of Pleasant and Roberts after Roberts attacked Pleasant, and guess what? Roberts is no longer here either. Those titles you’re holding are as worthless as you are. Please do us all a favor and throw those back in the ocean. Take your fucking hat and get rid of this bullshit cowboy gimmick that you’re trying to fool us all into believing because none of us buy it. We see you as someone who grew up wanting to be a cowboy but lacked any real cajones to do the hardwork of becoming one. You’re a fraud, Clay, and every fan sees you for what you are, nothing.
I can’t wait to knock you the fuck out, Clay.
Then, there was one left. One member left of the opposing team.
Conor, this is going to be so much fun.