CLANK! CLANK! CLANK!
Sweat poured down my head as I finished another round of bench pressing. Tirelessly I had worked out like I never worked out before in my life. I knew going into my Tag Team Championship match; it wasn’t the fun and games Brian and I had promised everyone else; it was a war. I’ve always had run ins with the Best Alliance. Rather it was Lee Best’s shitty Industry watered down version of the group or the Best Alliance that Brian Hollywood led; I always received the ass beating of my lifetime. Never had I conquered the group in any iteration; it was always the same result: infamous “Zion” choke after choke; you’d almost think I was in some perverted sadomasochist novel.
Never once had I upset the balance in my wars with Lee Best’s groups; and it ate at the depths of my soul.
Struggling to continue my work out in an all too familiar complex to me; I felt like I was at home. As I sat alone after hours in a friend’s wrestling training complex; I was left alone to reflect on my past with the Alliance. All the hurt, agony, heartbreak, and sacrifice I gave to the Alliance fueled my rage. I rushed over to the punching bag next laying stiff blow after blowing giving it all my anger and rage.
Why had they come after me?
Why were they trying to take Brian Hollywood and I’s Tag Team Championships away from us? We had left them alone!
Why did they treat us like we were examples and not the champions leading Lee’s brand forward?
I loathed my vulnerabilities! I was Darin Matthews! As Aloe Blacc said in my singles theme: “I’m The Man, I’m the Man, I’m the Man!” I had 24 accomplishments to my name. People respected me across this business after many years. I etched my name into HOW history with 7 different accomplishments. I’d taken down numerous Hall of Famers to etch my career. I had confidence! How could I feel like I’d fallen from the top?
I’d faced John Sektor multiple times for multiple championships. I knocked him off each time. But this time it was different. He’d changed! Never in my career had I seen John Sektor focused on gaining more hardware or had more determination than he did now with Jatt Starr and Steven Solex at his side. He’d made a war path almost ending my career twice. I felt helpless the last two encounters I had with him watching The Best Alliance dismantle my best friend and me. I’d given it my all. I even stooped to their level and pulled out weapons to get revenge and it still wasn’t enough! It’s not like me!
Immediately a familiar voice echoed out through the hall of the empty facility: “You’re putting an putting a lot of extra pepper on those chops of yours, huh, Darin?”
Gasping out of fear, I quickly pivoted around to see the all too familiar golf shirt I’d known over the years. Ray McAvay stood right behind me tapping his foot in displeasure. Crossing his arms with a grimace on his face, his stare pierced right through me. Not that I blame him after everything I put him through in my MVW stint. I let out an exasperated sigh, looking at him with defeat.
I pleaded with him, “You caught me, Ray! I never turned my keys to the facility into Mr. McMann when I left to go back home to HOW. I figured you wouldn’t mind if I stopped by since I lived a short distance away from time to time. I’ll just leave these…”
“No, Matthews; you’re always welcome into the MVW training facility when you need a home away from home. I know we’ve had our differences over the years. I respect your accomplishments and accolades. I’m honored you feel safe here. Just make sure you check in with me first!” he exclaimed!
“I’m sorry, Ray! I would have told you sooner.”
I kept chopping at the bag, but Ray continued to observe me almost as if he knew what was bothering me. After a while, he picked up his briefcase and asked me “Is there anything I can help you with?”
I responded half-heartedly “I’m fine!” as I kept hammering with force at the punching bag trying to break it down from the ceiling. As he turned around and started heading to the office, I rushed up and grabbed him by the shoulder looking at him with a defeated look in my eyes. I sighed letting out all the tensions as I started confiding in him.
“Ray, the last month’s been rough on me. The Best Alliance beat Brian and I within an inch of our lives on the two run ins we’ve had with them. It killed me to have to sit on the sidelines while I’m one-half of the HOW Tag Team Champions with a concussion and it devastated me watching them get the numbers advantage over us last week. They nearly ended Brian Hollywood’s career and made me watch him suffer. I’m a professional wrestler; I shouldn’t feel helpless watching my best friend and brother in arms nearly have his career ended. I should have powered out, powered on, and helped save him. Now we’re both facing the Best Alliance battered and bruised. I feel like I’m letting Brian down. He’s the one in our team that’s won wars here in HOW and I feel like I’m holding him back. I don’t feel like I have any worth. I’ve choked multiple times over the last two years when I’ve faced rejuvenated HOW Hall of Famers and legends in that ring. And I just want to know why right now?”
As Ray listened intently, he asked a question as my body just shook in fear: “Why what?”
“Why you took a chance on me? Why even when I was acting like a complete douche bag did you let me come in and wrestle? Because I haven’t told anyone this, but I don’t feel like that same Darin when I first walked in the door of HOW. I don’t feel like that dominant force that I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel like the same Darin that knocked off John Sektor or the one that people would be raving would beat someone like a Jatt Starr. I feel like I’m just a doormat for the stars right now and I can’t hold my weight up like my partner. I don’t want to let him down in our first defense of these belts because the HOW Tag Team Championships mean everything to us. They brought life back to Brian and I’s careers after we scratched and clawed and got overlooked. I don’t know, Ray. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed walking into a championship defense in a long time and it hurts me.”
I hung my head down feeling dejected. Holding back the angry tears in my eyes, I clinched my fists together ready to run and charge the punching bag with all the pent-up rage and anger in my body. But Ray immediately patted my shoulder with a sense of pride and confidence. In his normal positive and excited tone, he became to speak with passion from the heart.
“I knew the moment you came knocking on our door you had something to prove to yourself. You were angry, pissed, and dejected and it came out in unhealthy ways. While you sought to get retribution after everything you’d been through; in the end, I knew you’d prove me right. I always saw your determination, loyalty, dedication, and tenacity for what it was. Sure, it comes out in a unique way, but I saw past all that. You wanted to prove your worth. But you just needed to stop caring what the critics saw in you. You needed to find that unique confidence in yourself, so I let you work it out. And it’s paid dividends. While you went off the deep end when you first returned to HOW. You’ve changed so much. You’ve realized you have flaws. You’ve embraced them and grown.”
I nodded my head in agreement. “You’re right. I have. It doesn’t make the journey easier after suffering significant losses to Mike Best, Eric Dane, and other legends because I want to rush that success I once had. I hate when I feel held back. I want to jump in headfirst to the deep end and go in guns a blazing to be the hero.”
“Absolutely! But you’ve learned patience. It’s not perfect, but everyone sees it. You’ve bided your time and allowed others to shine in your spotlight. You’ve been almost too timid. But now it’s time you to prove your worth. Don’t let those voices of doubt echo loudly in that anxious head of yours. Fight harder than you’ve ever fought in your career. You almost had Mike Best for the World Championship. You’ve had John Sektor’s number multiple times. Your partner had Jatt’s number last week. You guys can do this! I have faith in you. Don’t be afraid to lean on Hollywood. He’s like second family to you. You both can retain those HOW Tag Team Championships over the Best Alliance. But you can’t do it in this shape. Let loose and be you,” Ray eloquently spoke. He put his arms around me to give me a hug.
“Thanks Ray! I appreciate your vote of confidence. I needed it. If you ever need anything from me…”
Ray immediately cut me off, “Oh don’t worry, I know your number, Darin. If I need a favor from you. I will make sure to call.”
He smiled as he grabbed his briefcase he left on the ground and walked towards his office, leaving me alone. As I continued to return to training, I locked that confidence in my head. My eyes widened; my smile faded to anger. I took a deep breath to control it, focus it, and envision John Sektor’s head on the punching bag. I kept hammering it harder and harder as the visions of the last few weeks played in my head. I knew it was time to drop the fun and games with Brian. I knew it was time to stand by his side and go to war. Because on Refueled, we would be for the fight of our lives defending our HOW World Tag Team Championships.
“Alright, Sektor, Starr and Solex; I’ll admit it. For the first time in my HOW career; you exposed my pride and humanity for the world to see. I’ve lived in a delusional state for the past few weeks, dancing around, singing and bragging like I’d ever bragged throughout my entire career. The moment I won the HOW World Tag Team Championships with Brian Hollywood, we were ecstatic. We finally hit Cloud Nine. Sure, we were annoying asshats rubbing it in everyone’s faces we won. We held karaoke contests singing Queen dancing around like two kids who opened their first Nintendo 64 game systems on Christmas 20 years ago. But that victory meant everything to Brian Hollywood and me. We’d gone through a drought for nearly 2 years holding minimal HOW Championships. We desperately needed to validate our worth.
Let’s face it you wrestle in HOW without winning a championship in your run in any era; you mean absolutely nothing. We felt that hunger and despair after being coming up fruitless on any other championship we chased after in the Refueled Era. It literally killed us on the inside coming up short every time. And it took us everything to do it. We had to put a nearly 6-year rivalry on hold, admit drop our pride, and it finally paid off. We deserve a moment in the sun to bask in our glory just a bit. After all, these Tag Team Championships were the start of something great for both of us in the last era of HOW. We took them to the main events of Chaos and Mayhems alike. It brought me my first singles title win. It pushed Hollywood to finally capture the glorious 97Red. The moment we pinned the Egg Bandits, all our emotions came out. We took it too far, but that’s who Brian and I are. We’re cornier than a pile of shit.
But immediately you guys reformed the Best Alliance. You sought to take out all of Lee Best’s enemies. You had to run down after Brian Hollywood took out Steve Solex to make a grand display to Eric Dane and you treated us like your personal welcome mats. You wipe all your shit all over us and these HOW Tag Team Championships we’ve wanted to bring glory too. We wanted to take these belts to the main event of a Pay Per View. We wanted to take these belts and hold them longer than any other Tag Team held ever. You shattered our hopes, broken our bodies, and have attempted to murder our spirits all for the glory of Mario Maurako and Lee Best. You stormed out there, dominated us, refused to respect our status and made a mockery of these belts by focusing on Eric Dane while raising the prize that Hollywood and I earned above your heads out of disrespect.
But in the end, you didn’t succeed with both your beat downs; you just pissed us off. You refocused us. You ignited us. You made us shift gears from acting like idiots to fighting for our livelihood. And I promise you in the end; by doing this; you will come up short. Sure, talk about how you see blood in the water with me. It’s easy to call Darin Matthews the weakest link in the Hollywood Boyz tag team. I’ve had my anger issues over the years by being overlooked by Lee Best. I’ve choked at the excitement of standing toe to toe with some of HOW’s greatest professional wrestlers. Discuss with the world how every time I’ve stood toe to toe with the Best Alliance; I’ve lost. Rub it in my face how you corrupted my Tag Team Partner to join the dark side and win 97Red. It’s all the easy makings for the promo of the century to once again bury one half of the Tag Team Champions and piss him off. Hell, you guys probably popped a couple of bottles of champagne waiting for me to throw a temper tantrum in this promo about how HOW is unfair and unjust and I’ve been screwed over and overlooked and underappreciated. Odds are you’re expecting me to shit the bed again and cost myself and my best friend our belts.
But that’s not going to happen this time.
Neither is the humble brag about how I’ve beaten John Sektor for these Tag Belts back in 2015, or how I him for the Icon Championship back in 2016. I know I’m facing an entirely rejuvenated Sektor and Starr who have literally dominated this era of HOW. John Sektor came back once in this era and won the HOW World Championship and I damn well know he’s hungry for gold. I’m damn sure Jatt just as hungry after chalking up quite a win streak before Brian Hollywood ended it.
It’s not about that for me this time. I need to prove my worth. Not only to myself, not only to the man I proudly call a brother, but to this roster. I’ve choked defended these belts once when defending them against a bunch of Lee Best’s cronies. I overlooked the Industry’s worth and they obliterated Noah Hanson and myself. I’ve overlooked Mike Best and his newfound determination. I’ve overlooked the Tag Division as a whole and not taken it seriously as a new threat formed. I’ve laughed, I’ve joked, and I’ve made a mockery of the chances Lee Best gave me after all these years. Singlehandedly, I took my championship opportunities and runs for granted. I squandered them all and it caused me such short bursts of success. I laughed in the face of Hall of Famers and legends and got my ass handed to me on a silver platter. I built this mountain I need to conquer for myself and it’s time to damn well conquer it.
I won’t squander my title reign this time. I’m bound and determined to chalk another loss to the Best Alliance this week. You guys started a war with us and now Hollywood and I will finish it. You beat us down and insulted us. You made an example out of the wrong guys. If you know anything about both of us; when we declare war together; we will desperately do anything to finish it. You’ve caught us off guard the last two weeks. You’ve handed our asses to us after we’ve bested you in singles competition because it pissed you off two newer guys have found success. You hit us hard to make your statement.
Now it’s our turn to make ours. We aren’t some corporate shelling of egos that pat each other on the back to get ahead in this business. Hollywood and I trekked through it all. We’ve battled each other, we’ve cried with each other, celebrated with each other. Our bond is stronger than money. It’s stronger than rivalries. It’s stronger than some corporate Yes Men who jump blindly when the boss tells them to do it. We’ve witnessed many iterations of the Best Alliance crumble after their egos have gotten in the way. But the Hollywood Boyz have stood the test of time. When we step in that ring with you; we’re on an entirely different wavelength than you guys. We’re not blindly going to smash you like you’ve done to us. We’ve got a sixth sense. Every time we sense danger; we’re there. Look at last week with the Tug of War over Mr. Whacky. I could feel Hollywood’s turmoil and I stopped at nothing to foil your shady tactics. When you beat us up; I answered with a chair shot to make our bond known.
Separately looking at our careers; you’ve done the analytics and crunched the numbers and it looks hopeless. But I can assure you, when our HOW Tag Team Championships are on the line; you’re entering a different playing field. This isn’t a business alliance ready to break because of our pride. It’s a friendship that will stop at nothing to destroy the threat of two of the greatest threats HOW created to break us.
I promise you Sektor and Starr, I won’t let Hollywood down in losing these Tag Team Championships. I’m focused, determined, and confident. I don’t care how many more times you batter, bruise, and break us. I promise I’m coming at you harder than I’ve ever came at anyone. I will protect my brothers and I will do anything to retain these HOW Tag Team Championships.
You want to start a war with us; so be it. You better damn be prepared that when we face off at Refueled, we will take our rightful spotlight and earn the respect we deserve. The fun and games are over now. There’s no more karaoke contests or gloating. You made it personal with us. You changed the game and now it’s time to face the Lights, The Camera, and for us to act.
We will be walking out with these Tag Team Championships. We will make a statement to Lee Best and Mario Maurako. And mark my words, we will be out for blood.”