Karaoke Kan Shibuya
The last bars before the final chorus of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” echoes over the speakers. Sweat pours down the palms of my hands as I close my eyes and scream out the lines of the song, pouring all my feelings into those last lyrics. It perfectly sums up my feelings of surviving one of the most brutal matches I’ve ever participated in on the HOW roster.
♫I get knocked down,
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down,
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down.♫
As I’m closing my eyes after wrapping the song up; I let out a deep sigh as the patrons began to give my performance a loud, thunderous applause. Handing the microphone back to the host; I dart towards our table as swarms of bar patrons and HOW fans come up to fawn over my performance.
Immediately I bolt for my table where familiar faces would be awaiting my return. I am elated Conor Fuse from the Grapplers Local 214 team joins Meredith and I on this occasion. Most HOW talents balk when I invite them to hang out, but Conor was different. He’d gratefully accepted the invitation to have a little team bonding. I should be thrilled about making new friends and alliances, but tonight is different.
It’s unlike me to ignore any of my fans, let alone ignore any opportunity to gloat. Usually I would be lavishing in this moment, but I just don’t feel like indulging with War Games approaching rapidly.
As I approach our table, I faintly hear Conor’s voice echoing in my ears. “You have a beautiful voice, dude!” Both he and Meredith applaud while I sit back down and tune out their praises.
Reaching over for my glass of Sapporo Münchner Dunkel, I continue to stare at it with a long face. I had ordered it nearly 30 minutes ago without touching a single drop, but I can’t bring myself to enjoy it. Every time I try to take a sip of it, my stomach begins to knot up. I feel this incredible weight bearing down on my shoulders constantly. Only one thought continues plaguing my mind and ruining my celebration:
You’d think after finally securing the biggest win of my career in the 3 on 1 handicap match I’d be ecstatic. After three long, daunting years of trying to scratch and claw my way back into a match where I’d made my biggest impacts; I should be bouncing up and down in the rafters singing my own praises like some other egotistical bastards do on this roster. But I continue to linger on coming up just shy of winning the HOW World Championship in both encounters. I gaze at the bubbles slowly fading away in my beer trying to forget just how abysmal my win-loss record had fallen since those glory days and how I barely lucked into my opportunity this year.
As I continue to swirl my beer around in the glass, Meredith turns her head and begins squinting her eyes. I know the look on her face: she’s studying me, trying to figure out what’s bothering me. She reaches around and starts rubbing my shoulders. Her eyes beam compassionately as she asks me, “Is everything okay, Darin? If you keep shaking your beer, it’ll be flatter than Steve Harrison’s personality!”
Before my face cracks a small smile, Conor leaps up from the booth to start heading towards the bar. He smacks me stiffly on the back before exclaiming, “Meredith! Clearly we haven’t started this party correctly! We need to take the fun to at least Level Five! It’s time for my special FUSE mimosas all around! I’m sure it will cure Zi-Guy’s bitter beer face!”
Conor makes a beeline for the bar to order as I shake my head. Burying my face into the palm of my hand, I let out a long sigh before commenting to Meredith. “I hope he doesn’t hold the champagne this time. For the love of God; it’s not a mimosa without the damn champagne!” My eyes widen and my lips stiffen up. I’m sneering as I gaze in Conor’s direction while he’s ordering our drinks.
Suddenly, Meredith forcefully jams her elbows directly into my rib cage. Her moon-eyed gaze immediately cuts my soul to its core. “STOP! You need to be more open-minded.,” she says, continuing to scold me. “Embrace Conor’s brand of fun. He has good intentions. He’s making sure you feel welcomed. Lighten up!”
My blood-shot eyes scorn her as she scoffs back at me. Meredith never experienced first hand just how much HOW’s War Games changes you. Even if you’ve binge watched every single War Games match on HOTV, it never fully prepares you for the sheer amount of torture you endure in Lee’s sadistic caged structure. This isn’t a normal singles match you experience weekly on Refueled where you can just rebound after the conclusion. Every HOW wrestler dreams of winning the World Championship in War Games. Wrestlers have betrayed each other to win bragging rights. I’ve seen careers shortened or ended there. It’s your rite of passage into the elite upper echelon of HOW history.
Unlike previous years when I’ve entered War Games, I knew deep down I entered with it with a disadvantage. While I’d just earned the biggest momentum shift in my entire career by beating the Best Alliance single-handedly; my record didn’t exactly reflect the legend of Darin Fucking Zion comments within the announcement. The Best Alliance smelt the proverbial pool of blood surrounding me. They eagerly awaited the opportunity where I’d shit the bed celebrating like I’d hit the million dollar jackpot. They’ve realized my ego is my greatest weakness. If I lighten up; I give into their preconceived notions and idle assessments of my character.
Still miffed with Meredith’s lackadaisical approach; I cross my arms against my chest as Conor returns with our “mimosas” in tow. Unable to read the ongoing situation, he slides Meredith her drink first before he plops down next to me. His smile radiates with excitement as he hands me my drink. I swish it around a few times before taking a sip. Conor wraps his arm around my shoulder shaking my entire body before he exclaims, “Now there’s the Zi-Guy I know!”
He slaps me on the shoulder as I shrug in response.
Underneath the table I feel Conor’s legs twitching in place. The gears are grinding in his mind. He’s up to some shenanigans. He leans over to whisper in my ear. “Dude! The karaoke host showed me they have costumes in the back. We totally need to dress up like Mario and Luigi and sing the Super Mario Bros theme!”
I shake my head to politely decline. I murmur softly to him, “No, thank you! I don’t feel like singing any more songs tonight.”
Flabbergasted with my response, he surprisingly cries out loud gaining Meredith’s attention: “YOU WHAAAAA?! You can’t cancel your own karaoke party after becoming the Best Alliance killer!!! I will not allow it. It’s your night!”
I plead with him. “Please, Conor! It’s not a big deal. I just haven’t felt the same about celebrating my big win. I just–”
My resistance to his suggestion causes Conor’s determination to grow exponentially. Conor strongly tugs my arms steadily tucked against my chest. He almost causes me to tip over on top of all of our drinks.
“Come on, Zi-Guy! You can’t be a stick in the mud like Steve Harrison, mate. The world needs to hear that gorgeous voice of yours once more. You cannot deny your fans.” He continues to protest as I plant my feet firmly into the checkered tile below. I venture to yank him back to no avail. He’d sold on a duet.
I draw out a long groan before sternly retorting his idea. “I…AM…DONE! All I want to do now is sit calmly, drink my beer, talk War Games strategy, and go home, man. That’s it! It’s business time for me and…”
Before I can finish I hear Meredith scoffing in the background. Both Conor and my eyes fixate on her. Meredith’s shoulders stiffly lock into place. Goosebumps stand out from her skin. Her face color matches the shade of ruby red lipstick. Her intense hazel eyes lock with mine as she scalds me. “Sorry, Conor, he’s always like this. He never can let loose for one moment. It’s always work for him. She grabs her purse and promptly storms off towards the ladies room.
My jaw drops in astonishment while Conor chuckles to himself shaking his head. “I’ve never seen your Player 2 act like that.”
“Player 2? What’s that mean?” I nonchalantly ask him.
“Your girlfriend, man!”
Tears immediately roll down my eyes; I am trying my best to contain myself. Before I know it, my laugh bursts out. Cackling hysterically while slapping my hands against my legs, I set the record straight. “That’s rich! Meredith’s my business manager only. Our partnership is strictly plutonic.”
“Mmmhmm,” Conor replies as he strokes his chin. His eyes squint at me casting his doubts.
Blathering on incessantly, I try to explain the intentions of Meredith and I but end up spilling my entire life story to Conor in the process:
“She knows I don’t have time for a relationship especially with War Games coming up. I’ve obsessed about this moment since returning to HOW nearly 3 years ago. Every War Games I competed in the previous era of HOW; I inched closer and closer to the World Championship after putting in hours of grinding. After losing to Jace Parker Davidson in the World Championship War Games match in 2015; I’ve dreamt of this moment. I’ve desperately clung onto this thought for nearly 6 years and the moment’s here. I can capitalize on winning my first HOW World Championship in the most epic way possible. I’m sick of coming up short.”
Conor’s grin goes ear to ear as he leisurely struts over towards me to rest his hand on my shoulder. “You’ve made that abundantly obvious the entire evening, Zi-Guy. You’re ruining your own party, Buzz Killington!”
Taken aback with Conor’s sage advice, my eyes perk up with bewilderment. I motion for him to continue as I leisurely slide down into my chair and lean forward listening intently to him. “We all know you take pride in your craft. You constantly wrap your mind around ways to improve your game. It’s like you’re completely obsessed with wrestling.”
“Weeelll…I guess I could say I’m slightly a workaholic,” I agree with him as I interrupt him midthought.
Feigning a chuckle, Conor suspiciously rolls his eyes after the word “slightly” comes out of my mouth. He taps my shoulder as he resumes his thoughts. “It’s okay if you dedicate yourself to your craft. But don’t be afraid to let loose in moderation. It’s all about balancing your life out. Stop worrying about War Games and enjoy your celebration tonight. Tomorrow morning, Mama LT’s gonna bust your ass into War Games shape with her strict regiment.”
Standing back to my feet, I confidently look straight into Conor’s eyes. Conor and I pound each other’s fists together before executing our amazing secret Gamer Brothers hand shake before I pull his ass in for a tight bear hug.
“Now, about that duet…” I subtly pester him before his eyes light up with anticipation. I smile back as I ask the most important question. “Do you think I would look better in Red or Green?”
“LEEEEEETS GOOOOOO!” Conor shouts with elation as he jumps up and down in place before scurrying towards the Karaoke Costume Closet. As I watch him turn the corner I nod to myself allowing my shoulders to relax. I take a deep, cleansing breath in letting all the pressure and anxiety out of my system. It was time to begin forging new friendships and alliances through this journey into War Games, something completely foreign to me. Usually I’d keep my head on a swivel waiting for the right time to pounce and trim the weakest links on both teams in War Games.
But this year was different. I needed to catch up on the lost time in bonding with the Grapplers. It’s why I wanted to bond with Conor over our craziness.
A strongly knit relationship is the key to maintaining who I wanted to become after gaining so much momentum. I need their help to find balance and to cement the final notch in my belt of accomplishments. If I wanted to walk out of Tokyo with #97Red wrapped victoriously around my shoulder, I couldn’t take any time with them for granted.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I catch Conor’s hands fluttering trying to grab my attention. A smile cracks my deadpan face as I confidently stroll up and grab a shiny red cap and coat from Conor’s hands. I reach over to grab two microphones as I’m about to stand up on stage and let loose.
I know deep within my soul the Grapplers are on my side bringing me focus; this will be my year.
“I want to take a moment to reacquaint you with the last four words I said to Brian Bare after I defeated The Best Alliance in a 3 on 1 handicap match when talking about my plans after winning: ‘Let them all stew.’
It’s funny how everyone on the HOW roster took time out of their precious days to try and define me after conveying my excitement. I believe the consensus after Brian Bare caught my candid feelings was best summed up by Mike Best. You thought I shit the bed and killed all my precious momentum. Everyone banked on the fact thinking Darin Zion’s War Games strategy would entail incessant bragging over his one crowning achievement in the Refueled era of HOW. You hoped it would go directly to my head and prayed I’d coast solely on my Goddamn laurels.
That’s the most Zion-thews thing I’d do in this situation. It matches my patterns! HOW’s little brother goes around singing his praises like an obsessed ex only seeing every only rainbows and unicorns and forgetting every fucking flaw he has in the damn book. He’ll use what little clout he has to survive War Games and be a good little pawn for Lindsay Troy’s Grapplers Local 214. It’s always what Zion does!
Well, maybe it’s time I stop doing all that shit and actually define my own damn legacy for a change.
Two weeks ago, I finally recognized my own flaws and realized my own humanity. I’d become trying to grasp at straws and cling to a single win. I had an identity crisis. I was sick to death of having everyone call me the other Hollywood Boy like I lacked my own identity or presence in that ring. I was tired of everyone else looking past my value as a wrestler. It exhausted me to the brink of near destruction. I came within inches of selling my soul to Lee Best. In one single moment, I nailed JPD right across the jaw and watched three years of constant pressure come flying off my shoulders.
I used my own dejection to fuel me to get back into War Games. Anyone who tells you I didn’t earn this moment is lost in delusions of grandeur. I barely squeaked in by the skin of my teeth to get another opportunity at the HOW World Championship. I’ve only had a handful of chances at to secure #97Red over the past 7 years in HOW and every single time; I’ve come up short. I realize that my window of opportunity dwindles with each passing year. Every time I’ve failed; it fuels my own doubts that I don’t have what it takes to ever win the big one.
But if you think I’m going to sit back and squander this opportunity I’ve spent the course of a 16 year wrestling career bragging about one measly Refueled Handicap match win; you’re fucking insane.
Low-key I’ve dreamt of winning my first HOW World Championship in a War Games match ever since I competed in my first War Games match 6 years ago. If I pulled my head out of my ass and realized I didn’t have to overcompensate for my own self-confidence issues; I could have won it a long time ago. I’ve regretted my overzealous attitude knowing full well I’d be standing across the ring from the most dominant wrestler at the time: JPD.
Looking at my Refueled record; you wouldn’t think I had those aspirations. I went from being known as a future HOW World Champion prospect to becoming the dark horse in this year’s War Games match. I’ve become HOW’s ragamuffin contender–someone you’d never expect to look the part. You’d think I was just grateful to have a job and lucky to still be performing in this industry. But looking up at the lights on a weekly basis begins to weigh on your soul. I lost sight of my own desires and ultimately paid the price.
Now it’s time to stop living in the past. I’ve earned the chance to rectify my sins and realize my dreams. I exposed the armor of the Best Alliance and I drew blood. I’m hungry and now it’s time to pounce.
I didn’t dive in overhyping myself and shitting the bed like I’ve done in previous opportunities. I sat back quietly for two weeks with a view at 20,000 feet above them watching them squirm. I sat back and watched them stew about, trying to figure out my mindset going into this Pay-Per-View trying to gauge my mindset. I watched them write my win as a fluke desperately trying to cling to every infraction I’ve ever committed on my journey to this moment. They all thought I was content with my spot happily dancing around like a spot monkey, never wanting to amount to anything greater.
They lacked any creativity or depth they’ve had and forgot just how much War Games means to my career. They’re stuck in the ‘glory days’ replaying their one hit wonders, patting themselves on the back thinking about how they’ve got one over on ole Zion-thews. They’ve overlooked me while they circle jerk each other, prematurally ejaculating all their prime material on side Discords trying to bury Scott Stevens’ career when he’s not even in this fucking match.
It all just proves that the Best Alliance team is truly disconnected from our reality. They still can’t focus on their prime objective of protecting Lee’s top asset: #97Red. They’re united in name only. They’re bickering like the cast of Mean Girls forgetting to oil the cogs in the machine Lee Best forged. They let their egos fuel their machine thinking they can just coast off name-brand recognition at this point. They refuse to see any of their own flaws. They never change the damn formula. It’s the same old song and dance shit week in and week out.
Just look at their sad state of affairs!
Scotty’s retreading the same sad alcoholic trope he’s done for 10 years. Sektor’s still so deep in nose candy he hopes he can pass off as another pathetic Las Vegas Danny Trejo imposter. Jatt Starr’s ego has finally manifested itself into a fourth chin covering up his neck because he couldn’t dream up yet another annoying Jattstic Jatt Starr moniker.
And that’s just the surface level of their damn iceberg! They’ve lost sight of what’s at stake in this match.
But I haven’t! They lack any passion for the prize. I’m putting my entire heart and soul into this Pay-Per-View because winning it secures your name among the upper echelon of HOW talents. Not only do you earn the most bragging nights by winning War Games, but you walk out with the most coveted prize in this industry. It’s the advantage that drives me to survive the pain.
Their egos will blindside them, providing us opportunities to catch them off guard to rack up eliminations. And the inability to bond and grow will ultimately cost them the entire match.
It may be a daunting task, but I’ve propelled my status in HOW by competing in two War Games matches in one night. I’ve won two War Games matches and lost one since debuting in HOW. I’ve overcome multiple odds to win multiple championships, but it’s time to cement my legacy.
It’s time to stop having an identity crisis and once again become Darin Fucking Zion.
You might endlessly knock me down through this match, but I promise to GOD I will keep getting back up. You won’t keep me down this time. It’s my destiny to become the HOW World Champion. I might be the Dark Horse, but I promise you I won’t lose sight of my dreams.
I won’t become lost in the past like you and I will secure my future. I will earn my crowning achievement to define my legacy in HOW. I will walk out with the HOW World Championship draped around my shoulders and there’s nothing The Best Alliance can do to stop me.”