The Best Arena
The sound of metal on metal swooshed back and forth as the weight stack on the leg press moved up and down. The Gold Standard grunted with every push and inhaled as he relaxed. He had been training intensively for not one, but two championship matches at March to Glory.
It was leg day, which was always the most worrying day at this time for the LSD champion. It was becoming old news that he was carrying a weakness in his right knee. Although he was reporting that it had improved and was much stronger, it was still not a hundred percent and could quickly develop into a serious issue.
With one final yell of relief he allowed the weights to slam against the metal stack, causing a sharp echo around the gymnasium of the Best Arena. He thankfully hadn’t lost his Best Alliance VIP privileges to access the facilities during Lee’s progressive absence from the company.
After catching his breath and wiping his face with a towel, he began to flex and extend his right knee to feel it out. There was still some discomfort there, but nothing much worse than what he felt when he got out of bed that morning.
What was bothering him more was his conscience. The friction he had caused between himself and Adam was weighing on him heavily and the guilt was eating him alive. He had created a strong bond with Adam over the past six months and it was killing him to think that he may have destroyed a part of their relationship because of an act of lust and a mis-placed notion that he was being cruel to be kind.
He picked up his phone and brought up Adam’s name in his ‘recent calls’ list. He felt an urge to keep regular contact, if nothing more than to give himself reassurance and ease his own guilt.
“….The caller you have dialled has their phone turned off. If you would like to leave a message then..”
He angrily thumbed the disconnect button and tossed his phone down onto the crumpled up towel on the floor.
“How’s it going boss?” called a familiar voice from over his shoulder.
He turned to greet Chris Taylor, his personal trainer from the GSWA who he had brought with him to Chicago as part of his training camp.
“Yeah, good,” he lied, unconvincingly. “You heard from Adam?”
“Yeah I saw him last night at the hotel. Said he was heading back to Missouri for a couple of days to sort some things out. Did he not tell you?” Chris asked, looking surprised.
No he hadn’t. At that moment Sektor feared the worst. After the shit show yesterday during the Q and A session he wasn’t sure how Adam was going to process it all. He’d just found out that the one guy he looked up to and trusted more than anyone in the world had just fucked the girl he liked. What’s worse is the way he found out.
“Oh, yeah, he did mention that. Got that much shit on my mind, you know?” Sektor again lied, trying to laugh it off.
“Well I’m not surprised,” he laughed along. “I’m gonna go set up the circuit for those agile legs of yours. You need anything else from me?”
“No. I’m fine.”
As Chris nodded and walked off, Sektor was left assuming the worst. That Adam hated his fucking guts and had gone off the grid. He may even surrender his opportunity at the tag team championships because he couldn’t stomach teaming with the man who’d just done him dirty.
Sektor couldn’t blame him if he did.
But he had hope that they could work through this. Adam had all the key ingredients needed to do it. Heart, determination and refusal to lay down and surrender.
It was 1999..
Summer in Miami was especially rough in Micky’s gym. The air provided only dust and thick humidity, and training in it was like breathing in a hair dryer. We didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning like most upmarking gyms, but Micky always argued that he wouldn’t have it anyway. He felt the conditions simulated a true acid test when you were in the thick of a match, which is what we were endeavouring to achieve.
I’d laid the crash mat down underneath the turnbuckle of the rickety old wrestling ring, beginning my ascent to the top rope. All the while I imagined thousands of fans cheering me on to give them some kind of insane display of acrobatics that would make them explode out of their seats, just like the guys I was watching.
I perched on the top rope, looking down at the crash mat with nothing but inspiration and adrenaline coursing through my veins. At nineteen years old I had zero fear. You don’t think about the long game when you’re that young, that’s what your elders are there for. To guide you. I was living in the moment.
“What are you doing?” bellowed the husky voice of my old trainer. “Get down from there before you hurt yourself!”
Mickey stood beneath me with his hands on his hips like he always would when he was about to give me a roasting. His stern expression was permanently etched in stone, even when he was being nice. His forehead only ever reached my throat but he still posed an intimidating figure. His Popeye-like forearms and stocky square shoulders gave him a freakish strength which he often utilised against me when showing me new ways to stretch a human. He was a solitary man, never married and never had kids. He seemed to live in that gym and dedicate all of his time to teaching kids like me how to wrestle. I never asked why he never wanted more from life.
“Micky, relax,” I tried to reassure him, still poised and ready to practice a high risk aerial manoeuvre.
“Relax?” he barked. “I turn my back for five fucking minutes and this is what you get up to? DOWN, NOW!” he yelled, pointing a stubby finger towards the hard ground which he stood on.
I sighed like a teenager as I reluctantly clambered down from the post, holding my tail between my legs as I prepared for one of his lectures.
“What were you doing up there?”
I shrugged to try and fight my case that he was making a bigger deal out of it than it needed to be. “Just practising a shooting-star press. It’s a cool move and..”
“Christ-sake,” he snapped, pinching his temples with his thumb and forefinger. “Look, if you wanna be a fucking acrobat then go join the travelling circus!” he continued, looking at me with utter contempt. “I teach wrestling here.”
“This is wrestling,” I argued. “This is what people love to see these days Micky. They want to see people doing cool moves from the top rope and shit.”
“I don’t give a shiny fuck what people want to see,” he demanded. “There is no art to that. Those people are bonafide stunt men, who care more about pleasing the audience than they do their own bodies. Certainly more than they do about the sacred art of technical wrestling.”
He spoke with such passion and certainty that it was hard not to buy into it. I was a kid who never got much love at home and wanted the world to love me in the sport. I figured doing dangerous moves would do that.
“If you want to win, and if you want to have a long and successful career, then this isn’t the answer. All you will do is cost yourself countless matches and knock years off your life. Or worse, you’ll end up a cripple in a wheelchair with nurses wiping your ass for ya.”
The thought of that notion terrified me to my very core. I’d been brought up to be fiercely independent so to think that I may one day have to be fully dependent on someone, was heart-wrenching. I guess Micky could see that in my eyes as he softened his stance and put an arm around me, guiding me to take a lean against the ring canvas.
“Look. Wrestling already carried enough risk. But are there risks that are necessary? And those that aren’t. Doing a backflip isn’t. There are much better ways to damage your opponent without putting yourself in harm’s way,” he explained, much like a father would when educating their son on the dangers of the world.
I listened carefully, as I always did. I could see the sense in what he was saying, but a part of me also questioned how current his rationale was. He was old school and wrestling was changing fast. It didn’t matter any more how technically gifted you were. If you didn’t excite the crowd and sell shirts then you weren’t given the big matches. It was wrong, but that’s the way things were, and still are.
“Being a great technical wrestler may not be all glitz and glamour,” he continued, smiling as he began to talk about his favourite passion. “But once perfected? You can beat anybody. Any size, any strength, any style. You can learn to turn your opponent’s strength against him and exploit his weaknesses. Sure, it may not be appreciated straight away. But like all great artists? You will be appreciated one day.”
He held his hand up in the air and stared into it as though he was looking into the future.
“Picture it now. You’re in the ring with the best wrestler in the World. A man who nobody has been able to knock off their perch. Then you take him apart, piece by piece until finally you’ve forced him to slam his hand into the mat and submit. The fans may not see it straight away John, but your opponents sure will.”
So that’s where it all started. 1999 in a dusty and humid gym in Miami. Just like I am doing now with Adam?- I was educated on the benefits of the art of technical wrestling and it has served me very well as my legacy and accolades can prove.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still pulled out the shooting-star press on special occasions, because even John Sektor likes to show off from time to time. But I have spent over 20 years perfecting a dying art and from the feedback I get? I’m very much appreciated and respected for what I can do in the ring.
You’ve even said so yourself, Arthur.
You want to know the difference between me and other technical wrestlers? It’s that I am a great technical wrestler. Not just great, I’m the fucking best at it.
A great technical wrestler is somebody who dedicates their time and energy to learning every nuance of why a hold hurts and how to apply it correctly to get the most benefit out of it. It’s somebody who is never happy with the knowledge that they have and is always trying to come up with better ways to execute a hold.
There is a science to what I do and there is nothing subjective about it. If I apply a hold it’s for a reason. I can work any style and I can come up with a vast array of moves to overwhelm my opponent.
To this day, technical wrestling is still underappreciated. I like to think that by being so vocal about my vision for the LSD championship that I have, to some extent, carved technical wrestling back into the big stage limelight. However, criticisms from the likes of yourself prove that I am still fighting an uphill battle to give technical wrestling the platform it deserves.
Perhaps I am being selfish by depriving the world of the guaranteed blood and gore than the LSD division usually gave. I know the fans love it. I know most of the wrestlers do too because they know it’s an easy opportunity to make history with a match.
What people need to understand is that I’m not doing this because I’m scared of brutal matches, or because I’m not man enough. HOW has always been synonymous with death match and snuff wrestling. It has been an arbitrator of violent matches since its inception in 2002 and pushed the boundaries of the law on multiple occasions. You don’t spend over twenty years in HOW without having more than your fair share of violent matches. Shit, the fact that I still have both of my eyes is nothing short of a miracle. And people wonder why I spent the best part of my career on the right side of Lee..
Cornfield gets it!
He recently went on record as saying, and I quote ‘Lee Best promotes an explicitly violent three thing circus filled with literal deathmatches, bloodbath “entertainment”, and sexual acts and calls it “pro wrestling.”’ He is right. It’s probably the one thing that he and I can agree on is that Lee tapped into the modern culture of wrestling and created one of the most over the top/violent promotions in the history of wrestling because he knew it was what his fans wanted.
However, Lee also recognised that he created a void in High Octane Wrestling when he retired the Icon championship. It’s why he supported the transition of the LSD championship when I won it because I have always been his ‘technical’ guy. I’ve always been his wrestling machine and the last link to pure wrestling that gives it credibility amongst the art-form.
We’re not turning the LSD championship into the Icon title, otherwise we would have just retired the LSD and brought it back. No, we just recognised that there’s enough violence in HOW to go appease the fans without dedicating a whole division to it.
Technical wrestling? It needs a spotlight and as the leader of the division and champion that is my prerogative. You can say what you want about my championship reign but the LSD championship is the hottest that it’s ever been. Hotter than when Witness had it. Scottywood had it. When it got passed around from pillar to post in whistle-stop championship reigns because all it took was a well timed chair shot to the head?
The LSD championship is on fire right now for one reason and one reason only.
Fans either want to see me continue this run or they want to see me lose but either way they have their heart in their mouth every time I put it on the line. The story is compelling. I’ve changed the identity but improved its value and credibility as a championship. When the day comes that the LSD championship finally changes hands? It will actually mean something.
Maybe that’s going to be you Arthur. Of course it’s one thing to take it, and another to fill the shoes of the great champion who came before you, and those are pretty big fucking shoes if I do say so myself. But you have to take it from me first.
Now Arthur I’m sure this wasn’t your intention but I admire you for requesting our match be fought under submission rules. It honours the title and it honours me as the champion. It demonstrates respect. As I said, I’m sure that wasn’t your intention.
No, in fact your intention is to try and undermine me. You think that if you can force me to tap out then you will have beaten me in the most humiliating way that anyone could beat me. You know I’m carrying a weakness in my right knee and that making me tap may not be as complicated as it may normally be. You smell weakness and I applaud you for looking to exploit it. I respect it. I would do the same thing.
However, I can’t help but think you’ve made a huge mistake.
When you issued this challenge you knew you’d backed me into a corner. You’ve correctly assessed that I wouldn’t be satisfied with having a draw on my defence record and to save face I would have to accept whatever challenge you put before me, just as I did. You’re a smart kid, Arthur, but not that smart.
You could have come up with any stipulation you wanted. Perhaps one that favours your style more, you know? Less rules and regulations? Less dependence on the knowledge of wrestling and more use of tools and weaponry to tap into a more barbaric tone for the match. I’m defending the art of technical wrestling, and as champion it is my right to have leverage over stipulations from a competitor point of view? But I would have accepted. Because I am man enough. I am brave enough and I am also prepared to take bigger risks when it comes to maintaining my integrity as a champion, as a competitor and as a man.
But you didn’t and this is where we have landed. Now you have made a grand challenge and have to face up to the reality of that challenge. The way I see it? You’ve set a greater challenge for yourself than you have for me. I don’t need to give any more examples of my expertise, you already know what you are letting yourself in for, but now you have to actually do it.
I will quote you and I will hold you accountable to every word you say just as you have done with everything I have said and done since becoming LSD champion. I will hold you to every word because you have a lot to say about me and what you are going to do- but I don’t think you can do it.
There’s a reason why I have broken the record as LSD champion. There is a reason why, when March to Glory rolls around? Why I’ll be the longest reigning champion, period, of all time. It’s because I’m not just defending the LSD title, I am defending the art of technical wrestling against all you talentless fucks who want to allign it with the smut and deathmatch shit that make it nothing more than a gimmick belt.
Lee and I took the LSD championship forward and evolved it to what it is now. If you want to drag it back in time and undo all of that work then you’re going to have to make me submit.
So do it if you can. As you said, I am just as beatable as the next man and you’re absolutely right, I am. No one has managed to do that so far and whether you are that man remains to be seen.
One thing you do need to understand is the difference between Surrender? And Submission.
See you’re planning to tell us all about the ‘three rules to live by when entering battle.’ You mentioned the word ‘surrender’ and didn’t really do much else with it but I think I’m smart enough to figure out what you were getting at.
You think that if you make me tap out that I will be surrendering to you and surrendering the LSD division. That’s not how it works. Submission is not surrender, IN FACT, those two words are worlds apart.
You see, surrendering means you willingly accept someone’s authority and give up your power to them. It means laying down. Throwing in the towel.
Submission may not always involve someone willingly accepting defeat, they are simply put in a position where they have no choice and that decision is forced upon them. That’s why there is no shame in submitting, Arthur. That’s why you don’t see me berating any of the countless people who I have made tap out over the years. I forced them into a position where they had to submit in order to fight another day and I commend them for making that wise decision.
So yes, Arthur, if you do beat me then you will be forcing me to submit and thus you will be forcing me to tap out and you will be crowned the new LSD champion.
If I do lose then I can tell you right now there will be no willingness on my behalf to give up everything I have built with the LSD championship during this record breaking run. Waving the white flag? You got the wrong guy for that, amigo.
I will NEVER surrender!