“Are you fucking kidding me, Meredith?”
I exasperated as I rolled my eyes at Meredith after we took an hour and a half drive to Springfield, Missouri. The sign stood out clear as day: ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASS. Immediately, I folded my arms across my chest and glared at Meredith, tapping my toes. My arms throbbed after hauling our suitcases up to our hotel rooms. Not to mention trying to traverse this damn winding office building. Meredith sighed as she just shook her head at me. She couldn’t even gaze at me after the entire trek.
She begged, “Please trust me, Darin! Just please! You cannot win until you help yourself. Look at the last two weeks. You let The Best Alliance and Max Kael’s adopted son run all over you. You let your most bitter enemies stand in your own way.”
I raised my eye brows as my brain began processing her words. I scratched my chin pondering life after losing two of the biggest matches in my career. Sutler’s words rang clearly through my head like a church bell, “I’m not going to let this opportunity pass by like you have.” Those six years drug on long and hard like a horse who had been flogged to death. Every moment I let pass, everything felt less clear to me. I’d spent 15 years of my life to just become a ‘Welcome’ doormat for all the rookies to wipe their feet on. Hell, I’m sure Hannibal Frost saw this match as a hand out. He got the obligatory welcome package: lube, a pamphlet, and the automatic win against Darin Matthews.
I held my tongue while I starred blankly back at Meredith. I paced in place, just reflecting. I felt my skin bubbling while chills ran down my spine. I’d personally vowed I would never set foot into a shrink’s office; let alone some stupid class. But my pride and frustration had turned into pure rage. I’d pointed the finger for too long at everyone else being the cause of my problems. The list had grown over the years:
- Brian Hollywood
- Lee Best
- Max Kael
- Mike Best
- The Best Alliance
- Noah Hanson
- John Pariah
Purposefully, I omitted my own name. No amount of obsessive training or mentorship helped. I let my rage blind me and make rookie mistakes. Everything started relaxing in my body as Meredith gently patted me on the back and she tried encouraging me.
“Look, I dealt with drug addiction for nearly 10 years, Darin. The first step is…”
“Admitting you have a problem. I’ve been through Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not stupid,” as I continued to balk and interrupt Meredith just standing outside the door, resisting the change, “I hate shrinks. They never once helped me with all the shit I’ve dealt with in my life. Always acting like they’re higher and mightier than everyone else in life. “
Just the thought of sunshine and rainbows caused my neck to start twitching. As I inhaled audibly, twiddling my thumbs, Meredith continued on: “It’s just the pattern I’ve seen. You got too frustrated and missed Sektor tagging in. And last week, your anger gave you that extra bit of confidence…”
“But I used too much energy overthinking and overcompensating against Sutler. I’ve replayed this over scene over and over again. It’s just I’d rather pound some MVW trainees into the ground or condition. Not just sit around a bunch of weirdos and talk my feelings out!”
Meredith folds her arms and stares at me. Each passing moment I feel her sharp, cold, calculating proverbial daggers penetrating my back. I smile at her roughly as I half-heartedly apologize. “I keep cutting you off. I’m just nervous. “
The anticipation keeps building as I visible shake and begin sweating. After dragging out 5 minutes into 5 hours of time; Meredith shoots right past me and flights the door open. I shrug as her face beams bright red. Slowly and reluctantly, I drag my feet as I enter the room. The bright yellow walls and flowery posters instantly make my stomach turn. I want to vomit right here, but Meredith drags me into the circle while I’m surrounded by a bunch of smiling zombies. I droop my face into my left hand while rolling my eyes as the sickening sweet tone in their voices made my stomach do somersaults.
“Meredith, are you really sure this works? Hannibal Frost is some space cowboy who fights vampires and whoops ass. I need toughness conditioning. Hell, a few rookies at the MVW training facility could use a fist to the face. God, I need ring time!” I whispered in Meredith’s ear as everyone shared. She elbowed me right in the ribs and I silently groaned as she wagged her finger at me.
“You haven’t even been here for 30 seconds! STOP IT NOW! Focus! Listen to the good doctor, Darin!”
A bald skinny African American man with thick black rimmed glasses stood up and walked over to us. He got right in our faces and stared as he sternly lectured us, “EXCUSE ME! I know you two kids are new to my class, but everyone’s opinion matters, not just yours! Please let our friend over here in the circle have her space to share.”
I’d never heard a tone like his before: soft, flamboyant, yet stern. Awkwardly I begin to uncontrollably chuckle, laughing at him. I openly defy him and ask, “You’re telling a professional wrestler to shut up? I’ve stepped in the ring with opponents twice your size. Who in the hell do you think you are buddy to tell me what I cannot do?!”
Meredith forcibly elbows me right in the rib again while the man points and laughs. He exclaims, “I know your game Mr. Wrestler over here. You think those big, strong muscles carry you. But you’re so insecure about yourself that you overcompensate for the lack of a brain you have.”
As I continued to stammer from my own perplexation, he continues, “That’s what I thought. You don’t question Dr. Reginald Snodgrass III. I’m a world renounced psychologist who has written chart topping article Anger Management Weekly for years. I’ve seen your kind step through my doors to never return. Your egos are so fragile. It’s quite hilarious.”
I feebly mutter under my breath, “Yeah, but I would rather pound nerds like you into the ground at my training class,” as Dr. Snodgrass turns around to continue the class. However, his ears perked up and before I could chuckle at my own joke, he retorted.
“Now as we continue to share class, let the record show I used my wits to submit this roided up buffoon!”
Meredith yanked my skull and sternly scolded me, “Don’t you DARE respond to him!”
But before she could finish, I escaped her clutches and stood nose to nose with good ole’ Dr. Snodgrass, glaring him in the eyes. My veins began protruding from my skull. I clinched my fists tightly at my sides, holding everything back from decking him across the jaw. My eyes widened and burned with fiery rage. My breathing intensified just like when I step into the ring. My jaw clinched tightly as I scowled and barely mustered out the words. I exclaimed them loudly.
“Well maybe I’m at the end of my wits trying to prove myself to everyone. Maybe I’m tired of people like you casting judgments on someone like me who is socially awkward that I use my fists to talk instead of my words.”
Dr. Snodgrass uncrossed his arms and sat down in his chair. He slowly stroked his coarse white beard as his eyes glowed with intent. “Ah a break through!”
“THIS IS NOT A BREAK THROUGH! I’ve wrestled 15 years to make it to my dream job. Not one person takes me seriously. I’ve battled in many wars in that squared circle. I’ve won 24 different championships across 4 different promotions. I’ve busted my ass night in and night out and my boss doesn’t even give me the time of day. I bust my ass night in and night out trying to draw his attention, but all I am is some good ranch hand to people shit on. Maybe I don’t have a lot of time left on my body for this profession and I want to make the impact my heart tells me I can make in this damn business. Maybe I’m tired of letting myself down too…”
I pause for a moment and just shake my head in disgust.
“Maybe I want to seize those opportunities and make a change and I just don’t know what change to make. I’m just confused and strange. Yet maybe I have hopes and dreams I just want to attain before my life’s dream passes by me. For once, I might just want to be heard instead of just being the loyal ranch hand in the background that is ignored. I guess you wouldn’t understand that.”
I lower my head as I saunter back to my chair. One tear slowly rolls down my cheek as the walk of defeat seemed long. As I sit back in my chair, Dr. Snodgrass makes his way over to me. He fumbles through his pockets and hands me his business card. He looks at me directly in the eye as he says, “Kid we all go through that. Takes courage to admit it. But I don’t think a classroom setting will be your best option. You need safe space. Call me back later today and we can set up some sessions. I promise I’ll give you a voice.”
As he heads back to his chair, I sit still in the chair, just sitting back intently listening to the stories being shared. Meredith rubs my back and smiles at me.
“Bravo! We all face setbacks, but don’t let that keep you down. Sometimes you just have to go against the grain. I knew you weren’t an asshole. You proved that to me before you hired me as your Business Manager.”
I chuckled at her as I responded to her: “Yeah, well I have to act like one to get noticed at times. But sometimes I do have a heart. “
She laughed as he grabbed her coat to leave. She pulled at my jacket to get me to leave, but I wanted to stay. It was about time I stopped sheltering myself in and just accepted who I needed to become. It was time to seize my opportunity and beat Hannibal Frost. And through hell or high water, if it meant I needed to listen and stop being stubborn; then it was time to up my psychological game before facing Frost. I needed to stop getting in my own way and make the right choices to make an impact.
“Hanny the Cowboy Vampire Slayer
It sounds like a shitty sequel to a 90’s teenage drama, but it accurately summarizes my opponent for Refueled this week. Hannibal Frost already has quite the HOW resume without stepping into the ring yet. This grizzled young veteran destroyed vampires; didn’t get tossed out by Lee Best’s personal meat heads when trying to have an unscheduled meeting. Hell, Lee Best has personally touted your resume before you even set foot into his ring. I applaud you. It tells me you’re one tough ass opponent. Your creative mind fits here in this company like the best of them. I’m proud to step into the ring with an opponent who has new ways to beat my ass bell to bell.
Hell, I haven’t handled the paranormal before in my life. I’m just a guy who has been time violated, faced the hierarchy of a fascist government in HOW; broken away from the Mafia, blown up buildings and shot people on screen and lived to tell the “tales” to the locker room over the past six years.
But there’s a reason your welcome basket included a bottle of lube, a pamphlet about staying awake at the wheel.
You’re not stepping into any ordinary promotion. You’re stepping your ass into High Octane Wrestling.
There isn’t any other promotion on earth like this one. Sure, we’ve had two live on-air murders and we’ve burned a clown alive. There’s probably lots of crazier things we’ve both missed off the HOTV website that we could backlog and reminisce about after our match.
But I stress to you, kid; there’s a lot more to this place than just being a gimmick. Gimmicks are just distractions.
I know this from personal experiences. This awkward Chicago kid dealt with it firsthand. I charged into HOW literally guns a blazing trying to proof to the world I was tough as nails. I’m hardcore. I’m edgy. I’m cool. I have a record, let me tout my resume. 24 accomplishments and loads of violence.
But now it’s time to back it up in that ring.
I’m the perfect example of what happens when you don’t back that up. I’ve failed more times than Mike Best has won championships here. I lost all my resume’s credibility. I’m once again dangling on a thread. I’ve let my pride and my ego stand in the way of becoming great and got stuck in the middle of the revolving door. I waited for years for people to come save me from fumbling around like Mark Sanchez and the only person I’ve let down in myself.
I’m not letting some distracted vampire slaying cowboy make his statement on me. I’ve waited 6 years for a break. At Refueled, I promise you, I promise Lee, and I promise all the HOW fans that I am going to make my statement with you. I’m going to kick down the damn revolving door I’ve been trapped in and leave your ass in a pool of blood and tears.
I’m hungry for a win, Hannibal. I’m tired of almost. I’m tired of just having hard fought matches. It gets you jackshit here. I’ve lost two back to back matches. I can’t even make the biggest card of the year ICONIC because I’ve settled on being HOW’s personal doormat for years and I’m tired of failing myself. I’m tired of making rookie mistakes and letting my opportunities slip through my finger. Unlike you, I’m not focused on slaying some damn vampire gang in a decrepit tavern.
I need to work my way up and validate my career. I want my name on the marquee of the Best Arena. I crave winning the LSD Championship again. And at the Pinnacle, I want my name in lights as a I main event ICONIC.
You don’t get that rush from riding horses and chasing the paranormal with a tinfoil hat. You get that after busting your ass and earning your stripes. You get that from the hard work and determination you put in the HOW ring. Not some fluffed up goddamn resume.
Keep touting your victories over vampires. Keep cutting the jokes and wearing those tin foiled cowboy hats. Because you already lost focus on a 15-year wrestling veteran with 24 accomplishments to his name. Keep ignoring this “other guy” who clearly is noted all over the HOW website.
That just earns you more bottles of lube and tampons around here, Hannibal.
I’m not just coming for the hard-fought match this week. I’m coming to be Lee Best’s personal litmus test for you. I’m not looking to be just be known as that respectable old veteran who shakes the hand of rookies backstage and lays down for them.
This week, I’ll prove Lee Best wrong. I’m going to prove to the fans that I’m not a washed-up veteran myself. I promise you I will win and I will do whatever it takes to secure it. Because mark my damn words, I REFUSE to be left off another Pay Per View.”