Wednesday, September 15th, 2021
Crown Point, IN
The glow from my television illuminates my living room as the replay of Refueled LXXII airs on HOTV. I watch with heavy intent while my body circles in for the final Ban Hammer attempt in the match. Without a single moment of hesitation, Jeffrey hoists me up and nails an intense Brain Buster. As JJR’s body twists in the air, feeling the tightness still clenching my throat from his thick legs. As Roberts’ sharp teeth gnaw away at the flesh on my right cheek, my hand moves up to the wound at a snail’s pace. My perspiring hands graze again the cavernous gash on my face. I clamp my fists together tight, my body shakes with turbulent anger. I take a moment to crack my neck to release the tension in my neck. I loathed how hideous Jeffrey made me look.
The match forced me into wearing a plastic covering on my face for the next four weeks of competition. It never once dawned on me after 15 years how vain I am; let alone the severe claustrophobia I suffer. I now live in a form of personal torment and languish. I comprehend how dogs feel when wearing those ridiculous plastic cones.
Jeffrey James Roberts’ calloused post match assault opened my eyes. I begin to crack my knuckles for a brief moment before flashing back to that moment again. I sputter out the words underneath my breath.
“I can’t let this happen again!”
I saunter towards the sliding glass door to gaze at the stitches protruding from my face. Once again, I caress my cheeks. My bitterness swells up once more before whispering my pent up anguish. I need to let my emotions go into the ethos and not control me before my next match in HOW.
“I won’t let this happen again…”
My neck swiftly snaps at the sound of a rustling noise in my kitchen. I hurry towards the noise to find an exhausted Meredith retrieving a glass of water for Lexi. Both of them graciously offered to stay over for couple of days while I got used to my new torture device.
Her eyes roll back into her head as she sees my hand pressed against my injury. She berates me in a weak tone. “Stop touching that wound and go to sleep, Zion. You’ve woken up my daughter again watching that JJR match tape.”
Stirring around the kitchen; I pull out my bottle of Zoloft and raise it up in the air. She nodded to acknowledge that she understood my message. Grabbing a bottle of water from my fridge, I downed the pill and scurry back to my couch to fall asleep. I lay wide awake under my covers processing that match. As my eyes started to become heavy and I faded to sleep, only one thought remained.
Whoever steps foot in the ring with me next will pay for JJR’s sins.
Tuesday, September 21st, 2021
Today Conor and I have put each other through hell in the middle of that squared circle. We needed to hit the ground running to ensure my victory over Jiles this week. I gained the upper hand on my fellow Gamer Bro after nailing an enziguri to his skull. The high ground is now mine! Whipping off the ropes like it’s second nature, I aim for The Ban Hammer….
But I do not hit my well-known finish. Instead I drive my body full force at him and hit the Ratings Spike from out of nowhere. I smash Conor’s skull to the mat with aggression. Immediately the World Champion leaps to his feet to call a timeout.
Conor wastes no time in interrogating me. “Whoa, PAUSE! You’ve hit me with your signature move five times now, like WTF man? Where’s the Ban Hammer let’s gooooo. Mix it up! It’s your vintage finisher! The crowd loves it when you stick it to Lee!”
Standing up from the mat, I inhale a deep breath into my lungs. My feet begin shifting in place as my stomach turns. At first, I couldn’t look Conor straight in the eye. Two matches taught me a fatal flaw in my offensive strategy in the last two weeks. JJR exposed the weakness before my eyes. But losing my MVW Men’s Heavyweight Championship opportunity confirmed it for me. I couldn’t muster up the way to tell Conor the news. It would devastate him! I meander up to Conor’s side before resting my arm against his shoulder. I pull him to reveal the news.
“I’m retiring the Ban Hammer! I’m tired of having a move that’s a cheeky shot at Lee’s drunken abuse of power in Discord servers. Sure, it does high damage, but it’s accuracy is horrible and it leaves me vulnerable to enemy perry attempts. I figure now is the best week to change it up since I am going up against Jiles. That man never changes his strategy. All he does is throw cute nicknames out at me and expect me not to evolve my in-ring game. I bet he’s spent time contemplating a ton of cute one liners about the Ban Hammer.” I finally respond to him, letting all the weight off my shoulders about the decision.
Either way I sliced it, Jiles only throws punchlines instead of stiff punches. Every time Jiles landed a match against me; he takes the week off. It didn’t change in the 3 on 1 handicap match. It certainly never changed in any of our Tag Team encounters. All Jiles provides to our match is the cute one lines and quips against all the changes in my life. But Conor’s words from my last loss still echoed in my head. “You’re still missing something.”
I flash my buddy a smile, but Conor scratches his head to the news. “I like discord servers. What’s wrong with a good ol’ discord server, Zion? In my Fortnite discord, we talk about all kinds of shit. Sometimes we even-” Conor pauses to see Zion with his arms crossed giving him the stink eye. “Okay, okay. Look, I said change it up and you are. That’s great. Regardless of what the move is CALLED, it’s good to think of a different strategy. It’s why I have the Head Stomp as an alternative to the Super Splash 450. I can’t go to the top rope every single time. Plus, I Weapon Get people. That’s always fun, lol. Weapon Getting is giving the middle finger to everyone who thinks they can hang with me.”
The WHC continues to scratch the side of his head. “So… what’s your new move?”
My eyes glaze over showing my complete perplexion to his question. It’s a rare occurrence that I can’t speak my mind. I only reacted to my flaws, not mapped out the next steps.. But Conor shocks the hell out of me with his advice. “Well, shit that’s cool too. So you don’t have one yet. Let it come naturally and in the meantime you can knock me out with anything, bro. I don’t give a fuck haha.”
My eyes glean over with glee. “I might take you up on that, champ. Hahaha! But actually, I wanted an opinion on what direction I should go. Shit, Hollywood and Jiles share a superkick in common. I don’t want to be a carbon copy of someone else. I want this newfinisher to be unique. I can’t find that inner voice like I usually can. It seems muffled compared to the past.”
Conor nods, adding a finger to his chin. “Oh yeah no definitely be original,” he rambles. “Find your inner voice, yadda yadda, whatever real lame cliche shit I can say here, Zion my friend. But, one thing you cannot do is find your inner voice by allowing some cult clown to do the talking for you, ya? Eternal Circle, squared circle, it doesn’t matter. Xander’s a weird dude and between you and I…” Conor leans forward and lowers his voice. “I think he pays those people to pretend to follow him.”
Conor hits the ropes, then hits the next step of ropes, then the next, etc, etc, working up quite the sweat while he continues to let his thoughts fly. “Whatever move you want, man. Whatever plays to your skills. You’re a technical guy. Find some submission… make people TAP to MF Zion!” Fuse keeps running off the ropes fluidly. “Hell, for all I care, call your move the N/A. Call it the #RallyCry for #RallyZion.”
Conor stops in the middle of the ring and looks directly at me. “I know, I know. Those are just move NAMES. You need an actual maneuver. Whatever you decide, simplify it and then perfect it. None of these BOTS give you enough credit. You’re a good wrestler. You’ve come so close, so often. Don’t overthink. You have the ability to take… like… uhhh… a leg drop and make it work to your advantage.” He pauses with a smile and then puts his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t use a leg drop though, brother. Brother as in friend.”
Conor drops to his knees and rolls out of the ring. It doesn’t look like he broke a sweat. “WHC out! Darin Fucking Zion, in! Now if you’ll excuse me! I‘’mma go get us some manna to rejuvenate our stamina!!” Conor jets off towards the juice bar to retrieve us a couple of smoothies.
I try to flag him down before he gets too far away, “But, Conor, what do you mean about Xand…” unfortunately it’s too late. He’s too far gone down the hallway to hear my boisterous voice.
Dropping to the mat, I cross my legs and begin to meditate. It’s a trick Conor taught me when I got overwhelmed with my cluttered thoughts. I close my eyes and take in a deep breath trying to find inner peace. Clarity begins sitting in and my shoulders relax. I process all the information life threw at me over the course of the last week.
First off, Conor’s advice makes absolute sense to go back to a submission based finisher. Once upon a time I thrived locking my opponents in submission moves and torturing them. It brought solace to my soul watching them wince in pain.
The problem is I lost those inner demons that once enhanced my wicked soul. Those sadistic thoughts fueled the power behind my submission holds. Since returning to HOW, my only desire was to be a respectable member of the locker room. I only wanted more friends. I did not dare trying to end their careers like I once desired.
Case in point: Cool Cancer Jiles! Here’s a case of a man I once envied. Not only did everyone love Jiles’ presence in the locker, but he has accomplished more than me. He’s won various championships since the inception of the Refueled era. He’s even won the elusive HOW World Championship, a belt I haven’t held. I could harbor my jealousy like Doozer had done. But the truth is I respect Jiles too much to harm him.
His complacency might annoy me to death. But it’s his spunk and tenacity that I admire about him the most. The obstacle I face stepping into the ring with him is I NEED to show the world my aggressive side. Maybe Xander is right! I need to grow a backbone and need to join the Eternal Circle. I need to embrace the Goddess’ love to love myself again. Maybe Conor was wrong about accepting positivity in my life.
My conflicted feelings swell up as I lean over the turnbuckle. I pound against it hard hoping a light bulb will flash on above my head guiding me to the right decision. Meredith witnesses my internal struggle from across the room. She stops mid-workout to rush overs while wrapping her arms around my waist.
“Calm down! Calm down!” she says in a warm, loving voice. “You don’t need to find all the answers to life’s questions at once, Darin. You want to get out of this rut you’ve been stuck in since War Games, I get it. But don’t let your anxiety overwhelm you. Your brash decisions haven’t gotten you any further in the path. It’s only bogging you down more.”
I hold her face before giving her a passionate kiss on her cheek. My eyes light up as we both connect in that ring. I tighten my grasp around her waist before murmuring my appreciation. “Thanks love! It’s overwhelming to be in this position. I can’t lose to Jiles this week. It’s the 15th match I’ve wrestled in and I can’t chalk up a 12th loss. I’m desperate to do just about anything to win right now. I’ll plant Jiles’ head into that mat if I need to do it. He’s a former World Champion and gaining any momentum will garner more respect with the Denver crowd.”
She slaps me on the ass before grinning at me. “Patience, dear Zion. You’ve been doing a good job at keeping a level head in that ring over the last few weeks. Build off that! A sudden change in strategy will throw off Jiles. After all, he falls asleep at the wheel. He doesn’t care like you do. Now how about we go join Conor for a smoothie. You need to take your mind off the game for a minute. Shooting the breeze with your bestie should help.”
I grab her hand and we head over to the juice bar where Conor is finishing up ordering. Deep in my soul, I know I’ve prepared for everything Jiles will throw at me. But laying dominant is my anger for the embarrassment I faced at JJR’s hands. When I step foot into the squared circle against Jiles; he will face my wrath. I hope he gets those cheap laughs out of his soul when he cuts his promos. It’ll be the last time he laughs at my expense. When we wrestle at Refueled; he will feel the pain my soul feels. Mark my words; I won’t be set up to be his punch line. I’ll make my statement clear to the HOW universe. I’m tired of people making an example out of me. It’s my time to shine and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
“It’s been a few months since we last shared a ring, Jiles. It’s comforting to finally see you’re out of the Best Alliance. I warned you about the consequences coming your way from day one. The BA always wants gold, and once you’ve lost that gold you mean nothing to them. I spoke the truth not out of spite, but out of love. Unlike Doozer, I didn’t envy you. I wanted the best for a former buddy of mine. While we’ve stood on opposite sides of the ring over the past three years; I’ve held nothing but respect for you, CCJ. Your free spirit always inspired me even when I loathed it. Fun fact, it inspired me to seek out help and loosen up. You’ve always known me to be the pompous, staunch, workaholic asshole opposing. But the days of the confusing Darin Matthews-Zion, Zi-Guy, Darwin Xenon of the 21st Century are gone. I know who the fuck I am right now, Jiles. I’m no longer stuck in a complacent cycle of self-loathing and depression. I’m quite content with who I’ve become over the past few months. And that makes me more dangerous than our last encounter.
I don’t have to worry about carrying a load of my feelings into that ring when we fight. I don’t have someone anchoring me down in this fight. But you do! I’ve watched your last couple of fights. I noticed how Doozer hovered over your last fight with envy burning from his eyes. He tried to atone for his sins, but he got in your way and cost you another win. It must be frustrating. Thank God Brian Hollywood won’t be joining us in our affairs this week. Anyone who thinks the Hollywood Boyz will reform needs to get bent. It won’t happen! I’m done carrying that fucking baggage. I cast off the deadweight known as my former best friend months ago and found me a new best friend. My new bestie wants to see me flourish and blossom. He rallies me no matter what the cost to make sure I can take down a former World Champion and improve my record.
But it’s different for you! You’ve got no friends. You’ve lost it all along the way taking Lee’s offer all those months ago. You never fit in the Best Alliance; you alienated everyone you cared about for popularity. Hell, I’m sure you crave the hijinks and craziness the Bandits once gave you because it made you the most relevant. It built you enough steam to hoist that World Championship proudly over your head. It took you to the top of the world.
Unfortunately, you’ve fallen from grace. It’s not like I can talk. I know we’ve both fallen and we’re both seeking redemption for our abysmal three win year of 2021. But I can’t help but ask you the same question I asked you the last time we fought Jiles. Are you gonna show up this week and fight like hell? Or did you decide to take a week off? Are you planning to throw out your ridiculous punchlines to get you some cheap laughs from the boys in the back?
I keep asking you that question because facing you has become formulaic these past few years. You’ve noticed my insecurities and anger problems. You keep poking the bear hoping the same damn strategy will get you the damn win against me. You pray to the Egg Goddesses and Gods hoping you’ll stick the landing to one of your terrible puns. But the Cinderella story ending never comes for you, Jiles. No one’s laughing with you anymore. They’re laughing at you.
Meanwhile, I’m getting hungrier patiently waiting for my breakthrough moment. I’m ready to get aggressive in that ring the moment the bell rings and seize another win. It means more to me than the last time we fought because you’re a former World Champion. Beating you gives me the clout I’ve been itching to regain since rejoining HOW. It gives me a stamp of validation. It gives meaning to all these struggles, challenges, and evolutions I’ve suffered.
Every time we fight, I grow and evolve while you’re trotting along in Stagnation Station like a proud simp. But I’m tired of pulling off the song and dance routine. Ever since JJR took a chunk of flesh out of my face, it opened my eyes. The world of HOW is a cold, cruel place for nice guys like us. It feeds off our soul to power the machine.
I’m not coming to Denver, Colorado to go easy on you, Jiles. I’m looking to plant your damn head in that canvas and crack that yolk covered brain of yours. I’ll let out all my pent up frustrations leave you a blithering mess inside that ring. Just because we’ve been cordial and kind doesn’t mean I’m going to let up when that bell rings. I’m going to unleash that fire in my belly and I’m going to walk out of Colorado with more than just CBD brownies. I’m leaving with my first win in months. I need this win more than anything else. And the distraction between you and your ex Doozer won’t get in my way.
So go ahead, cut your shitty late night stand up routine for me. But I promise
I’ll be the only one getting the last laugh if you do that. It’ll only fuel my rage. Zion’s about to smash your egg shaped cranium against the mat and get the win. And I promise, I’ll show HOW that I’m no longer their rag doll to rack up wins against.”