“This doesn’t end here….not tonight!”
Those words rang in my ears as I clawed my way into the ring, head still vibrating from crashing into the guardrail. It was like watching in slow motion as I watched Boettchers arm come down:
I tripped and fell before I could make it to Adam. I was lying on my stomach and looking up helplessly as the hand came down a third time.
Bryan McVay: The winners of this match… AND NEW Tag Team Champions… Arthur Pleasant and Jeffrey James Roberts… DEVIL’S ADVOCATES!
That was it. It was all over. The tag title reign. My career all ended in three seconds. I couldn’t process it. I told myself I was prepared for it all to end that night, but I guess I didn’t think that it actually would. All I could do was close my eyes and bury my nose in the canvas, to save myself the torture of watching the Devils Advocates lift the titles.
“You okay, kid?” Sektor asked, kneeling down next to his partner in the ring.
Adam lay on his side and nodded, still feeling the effects of the match as his mentor placed a reassuring hand on his head. Sektor was exhausted, mentally and physically beaten by the match, but mustered the strength to help roll his young apprentice out of the ring to save him from further harm.
Boettcher and Hortega received Adam on the outside and helped him to his feet, taking him under each of their arms.
“We got this Sek,” Boettcher said, giving Sektor a reassuring wink.
With a look of disappointment Sektor patted Ellis on the back as the two officials began to help him to the back. He turned his view away from the ramp, having spotted the newly crowned tag champions in his peripheral vision. He couldn’t see Arthur Pleasant, but he could sense he was looking right at him and smirking from ear to ear to rub salt into his wounds.
As the ring area cleared, and the Advocates music ceased to play, the crowd grew restless. Sektor’s shoulders sagged as he looked around at them all with a lost look in his eyes. Eventually he took a long walk to the ringsteps and began to make his way up, head bowed. Standing in the centre of the ring he looked up with surprise as the crowd began to cheer and break into applause. He planted his hands on his hips and bit his tongue as tears began to form in his eyes.
Nodding his head appreciatively he wandered into one of the corners to prop himself up. There was a moment of deliberation as he thought long and hard about whether he was going to follow through on his promise. As a single tear ran down his cheek he looked down towards his boots.
He could hear the fans beginning to boo with disapproval. They weren’t stupid, they knew what was going through his mind and they weren’t ready to accept it. As he lifted a tired and acid filled right leg he began to unlace his boot, pulling it off and repeating the motion with the other. He held them in his hands for a moment, as though he was about to lay a loved one to rest.
The Gold standard tied to the two sets of boots together by the laces and turned around. The volume of booing was tremendous. They weren’t hateful boos, they were pleading with him to reconsider.
His face was wet now as he reached up, a sobbing breath escaping his lungs as he placed the boots around the corner turnbuckle. He took a solitary moment to look at them before turning away and lifting his hands in the area, clapping the fans as he did a short lap of honour. The fans responded in kind, clapping back but still not approving of what he was doing.
A symbolic end to a long and prosperous career.
The Gold Standard had hung up his boots..
Leaving my boots in the ring was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’d dedicated the best part of my life to wrestling and HOW. I’d sacrificed family, loved ones and friends for everything I have achieved and now I was leaving it all behind. I convinced myself that it was the right time. That I was prepared to stop. Nothing can prepare you for the actual moment that you follow through on a retirement promise.
But it was done.
As I made my way through the curtain in my socks I had a small gathering waiting for me on the other side. The crew, referees, medical team, catering department, trainers.. As well as Clay Byrd, Darin Zion and Michael Lee Best, of all people, had been waiting to receive me and give me some well wishes.
It was a touching and humbling experience. I had been to war with all of these men and here they were showing their respect. It gave me the reassurance that I had indeed achieved everything I could ever hope to achieve. I had earned the respect of my enemies, and I felt like my work was complete.
The only regret I had was not saying some words. I had a lot of people to thank and a lot of people to acknowledge. I have a nasty habit of leaving abruptly without saying a word. I’m not good with goodbyes and I’m not one to enjoy the fanfare. I just needed some time to process and could only hope I could return the following week to say goodbye.
After sharing some words with my peers I needed to find Adam. I needed to know that he was ok.
I found him in our locker room, head between his knees and looking like a deflated balloon. His wet eyes glistened back at me as he heard me coming towards him. I just smiled and opened my arms. This only caused him to break down and embrace me, sobbing into my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
I held him tight, giving him the embrace he needed and deserved. “The fuck you sorry for?”
At one point in my mouth I would have slapped him for crying and told him to be a ‘real man.’ But what good does that ever do. Real men have emotions and healthy men don’t bottle them up, they release them. This kid had just lost the tag team championships and was feeling responsible. It was ok to cry.
“It’s my fault,” he sobbed. “I took the pin.”
“And I couldn’t stop it,” I reassured him, grabbing him by his head and looking him right in the eyes. “We win together and lose together, remember? These things happen, we get over it and move on.”
He looked at me and swallowed hard. I knew what was going through his head. It was the same thing going through all of the fans’ heads when I stood in the ring with tears in my mind.
“But what you said,” he eventually said.
“That’s not your fault. I made that decision and now I have to live with it. You shouldn’t feel to blame, AT ALL!”
I tried my best to reassure him but his face dropped even further than I thought it could. He was hoping that I’d change my mind. My mind was made up.
“So you’re going through with it then? You’re really going to retire?”
“I’m a man of my word,” I replied, with enough conviction to convince a jury.
“That doesn’t matter,” he snapped. “No one will care if you decide to keep going. You’re John fucking Sektor!”
I just shook my head softly.
“My mind is made up, Adam. It’s my time.”
He stared at me disapprovingly for what seemed like an age. Before either one of us could speak we were interrupted by a knock on the locker room door. One of the producers, still wearing his headset, popped his head around the door with an iPad in his hand.
“Sorry to interrupt guys. Commiserations on the loss,” he began. I just eyeballed him. “Sektor, Blaire was wondering if she could have a moment with you to get some news for the website?”
Blaire and I had struck up somewhat of a relationship over the past year or so. Due to my disdain for Brian Bare I had only ever dealt with her when it came to interviews. She’d always painted me in a good light and handled me with respect. I felt I owed it to her to give her one last scoop, and I needed to get the news out to the rest of the roster. More importantly? To the bosses.
“Tell her I’ll be there shortly.”
He smiled and then looked down at his tablet. “While I’m here,” he continued. “Sektor, you’re on the card next week in Colombia. You and Arthur Pleasant, War Games qualifier. Adam,” he said with a pause, scanning the screen. “You’re not booked, enjoy the time off.”
He went to leave but I called after him.
“Hold on!” I called. “I’m not competing next week. I just fucking retired..”
He just shrugged his shoulders as though he couldn’t care less.
“I don’t book the matches, man. Tell it to the bosses..”
With that he left, leaving me with a pissed off feeling that now I would have to try and convince the bosses to cancel the main event and give Pleasant either a bye or a different opponent. I knew they would never do that, which essentially meant I would have to forfeit. That left me feeling sick, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I shook my head and tried to turn the attention back to Adam.
“A week off. That’ll be good for you. Clear your head and then we can get to work and..”
“I’m going back to MVW!” he bluntly interrupted.
This staggered me for a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“What I said.”
There was a silence as we both looked at each other. I could tell he was being serious but I wasn’t sure if this was a knee jerk reaction to everything that had happened tonight or something he had put a lot of thought into.
“Why? You’ve got a great opportunity here, kid. Now that you’re not going to be standing in my shadow you can finally flex your muscles here and show the world what you got.”
He rolled his head and let out a huge sigh.
“I haven’t even been offered a contract yet,” he said. “And maybe that’s a good thing because now I can go back to MVW and apply everything I’ve learned and come back here one day better and ready.”
“You’re ready now,” I replied.
“No I’m not. Look, teaming with you has been an amazing experience. Winning the tournament? The tag titles? I have learned so much and had the time of my life. But one thing I’ve also learned is that I’m not ready to go solo. No here. This place?” he gasped, looking around the walls but referring to High Octane Wrestling. “This is full of wolves. And I’m a Lamb, ready to be slaughtered.”
It was hard to hear him talking like this. I had worked hard to build his confidence but all I heard was a distinct lack of it. I couldn’t help but feel as though perhaps I hadn’t performed well enough as his mentor. Maybe I’d just thrown him in the deep end a little too soon.
“If that’s how you feel,” I sighed. “We’ll go back to MVW.”
He shocked his head slowly.
“I need to go on my own for a while,” he admitted, and I knew it was hard for him to say.
“You don’t want me to coach you any more?” I asked, feeling a little hurt.
“Of course I do. It’s not forever. I think we both just need to take some time to get our heads straight. You, more so than me.”
I was trying to remain calm but I couldn’t help but rake my hand over my face, feeling like I was banging my head against the wall.
“Kid, my head is straight,” I said sternly. “I’m finished. And I’m ok with it.”
“You’re stubborn, is what you are,” he fired back, standing his ground.
I closed my eyes and sighed. “I’m not being stubborn. You need to understand that when you make a decision as big as this? You can’t just rubber band on it.”
“That’s bullshit. I don’t believe for one second that you are happy about the fact that you have to forfeit a match against Arthur Pleasant of all people. That you’ll just give him a free pass to War Games. And that your career ended with a fucking tag match!”
“Hey!” I warned, raising a finger.
Adam lifted his chin and swallowed, clearly nervous.
“I don’t like the fact that Pleasant gets a pass. It stinks. But it is what it is. As for the tag match? I’m damn proud to have fought my last match alongside you!”
I could see the mixture of regret and embarrassment on his face as I said this. His shoulders sagged once again.
“I just can’t believe this is how it’s going to end for you.”
I didn’t know what else to do so I just put my arms around him, hugging him tight.
“Not everyone gets a fairytale ending, kid.”
Thursday, April 28th
St Louis, MO
“Use your hips! Don’t let him turn you!..Fuck sake..”
With Ellis heading back to MVW and his own career brought to a close, Sektor had spent the last week getting his hands dirty at the Gold Standard Wrestling Academy. He’s focussed his time and energy on giving some hands-on training to some of his students. He was currently watching two of his recruits in the ring try to grapple one another on the canvas, and wasn’t pleased with what he was witnessing.
The gym itself was buzzing with life as various students worked hard in different parts of the gym. Some were using the punch bags, whilst others were weight training or working on cardio.
“Ere, Sek!” called the familiar cockney accent of one of his trainers, Chris. “Found this old geezer wandering around outside. He looked lost.”
Sektor turned and Chris was smiling as he approached him with an old but fit man by his side.
“Micky?” he gasped in disbelief at the sight of his old wrestling coach. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Micky laughed as Sektor greeted him with a hug, patting his former student on the back before pushing him away gently to take a good look at him.
“Thought I’d come and check the place out,” he said, taking a good look around Sektor’s gym. “Not bad.”
Sektor smirked, stepping away and leaning against the ring canvas as he watched Micky assess his establishment. He narrowed his eyes curiously as his old mentor began to sniff the air.
“It looks the part,” said Micky. “But it doesn’t smell the part. Not enough blood, sweat and tears.”
Sektor just continued to smile. “Give it time.”
The Gold Standard frowned with curiosity once again as he noticed Micky was carrying a satchel.
“You come straight from the airport?”
It took Micky a second to realise what Sektor was referring to and it took a nod from the former champion for him to look at the bag in his hand.
“Oh, heh. Yeah, this. Listen,” he continued with a pause. “I wasn’t being honest with you. I didn’t just wake up yesterday and decide to hop on a plane to come see you.”
Sektor continued to frown, waiting patiently for the old coach to continue.
“Adam called me.”
This seemed to confuse Sektor even more. “He did? What did he want?”
“Just to talk, mostly. And to give you these,” he croaked, tossing the satchel at Sektor.
Sektor caught the bag and kept eye contact with Micky. Eventually he unzipped it and looked inside. Instantly he rolled his eyes and let out a sigh.
“The fuck,” he groaned.
Shaking his head, he felt angry as he pulled out his wrestling boots. They were the ones he hung up in Orlando on the night when he declared his intentions to retire from the sport.
“I left those for a good reason. He shouldn’t have done this,” Sektor growled, feeling frustrated and little disrespected.
“He thinks you’re making a mistake,” Micky informed him, keeping a poker-like expression.
“And what did you tell him? You agreed that this was the right decision,” Sektor replied, throwing the boots and bag to the floor and looking to his old mentor for answers.
Micky stroked his chin, and rolled his head, appearing guilt ridden.
“Yeah, about that. Listen, John, I feel I owe you an apology,” he replied, seeming genuinely remorseful.
“For what? You were right, it’s time.”
“Yeah, sure, you’re ready to call it a day and I think that’s a good idea,” he continued, seeming hesitant and cautious with his words.
“Then what is it?”
“I just didn’t expect you to end things like that! In a tag match where you didn’t even take the pin? Is that really how you wanna go out?”
Sektor rolled his eyes, feeling tired of repeating himself.
“No, it isn’t. But that’s how it happened.”
“But it doesn’t have to!” Micky growled, clenching his fists to try and strike some sense into him. “You really want to give that little prick Pleasant a free pass to War Games? Fucking WAR GAMES, John!”
Sektor puffed out his cheeks and felt exhausted as he clawed an anxious hand through his jet black hair.
“Micky, you’re wasting your breath..”
There was a pause as Micky flickered his eyebrows before throwing his hands up to symbolise his surrender.
“Okay, if your mind is made up then and you’re happy then that’s that.”
There was a look of guilt about Sektor as he stared down at his feet, unable to look Micky in the eyes.
“You know, speaking of retirement,” Micky continued. “I’ve been thinking too. I’m going to give up the gym,” he informed Sektor.
Sektor’s head snapped up to Micky, his face draining with shock.
“What? You can’t give up the gym!”
“I’m 78 years old, John. I can’t do it forever.”
Sektor looked as though he’d just been punched in the gut after hearing this news. Micky’s gym was a part of his history and had deep roots in the core of his memory.
“I’d like you to take it over,” Micky continued.
Sektor frowned, stunned into silence before slowly shaking his head.
“W-what? No, I can’t.”
“Yes you can. In fact, I’ll be fucking insulted if you don’t. You’re the only person I trust not to keep it going for what it is.”
He tried to smile but the sadness was overwhelming at Micky leaving his gym behind.
Micky smiled and walked towards his former student, placing a firm hand and gripping his trapezius.
“You are my greatest accomplishment. Do you know that?” he informed Sektor, beaming with pride as he said those words.
Sektor felt almost embarrassed to hear the man he looked up to hold him to such high esteem.
“That means a lot, Mick.”
Micky smiled but then narrowed his eyes as though he had something on his mind.
“You know, if I could do one more thing before I call it a day. You know what it would be?” he asked. “To train you, one last time.”
Sektor was more confused than ever as his face resembled a bulldog chewing a wasp.
Micky studied Sektor for a moment, allowing his eyes to convince him before he let the tongue finish the job.
“Take this match. Make Pleasant fucking work if he wants to go to War Games,” he growled, adding venom to his words to try and pump up his old student.
“Mickey,” Sektor warned, giving him the eye.
“The fans deserve that, John. You can’t just walk down there and forfeit the match. You might as well just piss all over them. Take the match and if you lose? Fine, you can walk off into the sunset and at least you will have retired the traditional way.”
“This is emotional fucking Blackmail..”
Mickey cut him off abruptly and completely ignored what he said.
“But if you win?” he continued, eyes wide and full of energy as he brought his face closer to Sektors. “Then we go to War Games. THAT would be your perfect send off.”
Sektor shook his head.
“It’s what you deserve, John. Lose at War Games and I’ll be there to raise your arm as you call time on an incredible career.”
Sektor didn’t say a word, he just stared at Micky.
“But imagine if you won? One last run as the World champion before it ends? Now that would be special. And I get to say I was in the corner of the High Octane Wrestling world champion. But win or lose, I can die a happy man.”
Sektor laughed sarcastically, feeling exacerbated from what he was hearing.
“What are you doing to me, Mick?”
Micky took Sektor by his head in his hands, glaring wide eyed.
“C’mon, kid. Let’s beat this punk. He doesn’t deserve to be at War Games. But you fucking do.”
Sektor remained silent, thinking long and hard about what Micky was offering.
“We started your wrestling journey together…”
Sektor felt a twinge of emotion as Micky said this.
“Let’s finish it together. Side by side..”
Sektor’s eyes focussed and there was a glimmer of excitement beginning to trickle into his veins.
“What d’ya say?..”