Outside the Tokyo Dome
Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan
“Hey fuckstick! Change of plans, you’re banned from the building. Now I got you on trash duty. Enjoy!”
Waking up to one of Lee Best’s morning temper tantrums is something you’d think I’d grown accustomed to dealing with after being on the HOW roster for 7 years. Unfortunately, I still haven’t hit the emotional maturity level to deal with them yet. War Games makes you do crazy things, but this is borderline insanity coming from GOD himself. Lee’s bloodlust to make the Grapplers’ lives hell going into this event tops any other tactical strategy he’s executed against his enemies. It’s bordering on paranoia!
Once again I begrudgingly turn a blind eye to unforeseen shit that life flings at my face.
Lee’s antagonism vexed me. Fumes spout from my ears. My face smolders with resentment. Rage flows through my veins like lava. Sound the alarms folk because Mount Zion is about to erupt right here outside the Tokyo Dome.
After all these years, Lee Best perceives how to trigger me.
I want to be inside the arena assembling the enclosure trapping both teams for the epic Sunday encounter. I’m missing out on prime mental preparation time. I can’t take the opportunity to feel the cold, unforgiving steel lining against my fingertips before the Pay Per View. No longer can I access the early experience of my heart pounding in a hard, succinct rhythm against my chest. Robbing me of the chance to release the rush of overwhelming thoughts before War Games is just plain criminal. That son of a bitch just delegated me all the bitch work his grandson Sutler Reynolds-Kael rejects. FUCKER!
I channel all my dissatisfaction and detestation into the monotonous labor of jamming my trash pick into the concrete. I fuel the fire by pumping up the sound to my screamo music song list on my iPhone. Jam, retrieve, trash, repeat became my life’s mantra for the last couple hours. The laughter from the locals relishing the nearby theme park rides tortures my calloused soul. I drudge onward, hoping for the solace of sweet freedom from my prison sentence.
I can’t stress this enough; I loath repetitious, banal tasks.
My mind was created for imaginative labor. My parents forced me to repeat household chores, never explaining the reasons behind their motives. My brain regularly drifted into the clouds. I habitually powered through the misery, daydreaming what positive outcomes came afterwards.
Using that coping mechanism helps relieve the tensions sweeping throughout my body. I synchronize myself like a well-oiled machine. I sadistically visualize different ways to torment the Best Alliance in the cage. Their blood curdling screams nourish my depleted soul. It may only exist as a meager forecast in my imagination, but it helps me finish the job.
Swaying my arms to and fro with ease, I gather the trash, collect it in the burlap sack the Lee’s EPU minions provided me, and dispose of the contents in the nearest receptacle. Every fleeting moment disencumbers my consciousness from my bleak reality. Maybe I’ve undervalued this inconvenient task’s weight to improve my War Games strategy.
My judgement is no longer clouded with the persistent onslaught self-doubt. I surrender all my burdens of my past War Games blunders back into the universe. Unchained from the years worth of obsession, I don’t perceive any pain radiating from my shoulders and back for the first time in years.
As the filth dissipates from around the Dome, I wipe the sweat away from my brows. Proudly revering all my hard work, I survey the uncluttered path behind me. I mutter under my breath, “Job well done, Zion! You killed it!” Discarding the final pieces of garbage, I stroll back to the service entrance of the arena with a swagger in my step. Swinging back to the beginning, my eyes observe an unfamiliar cloaked figure in the distance. I squinch my eyes and slowly move towards the entrance trying to clear up the fuzz surrounding them.
It’s the EPU!
Zooming at full speed towards the gate, I discover a gaggle of them scattering the debris I spent the last several hours cleaning up. All of them mock me behind my back as my head slumps down. Their unrelenting laughter increases my animosity. The color flushes from my face. My fists clamping firmly together. My arms visibly tremble at my sides. Struggling to keep calm, I huff powerfully gaining the EPU’s attention.
From a distance, they bark out to add insult to injury, “What’s wrong, fuckstick? Can’t you complete a simple order the boss gave you? He told you to clean up all this junk outside the arena. Quit slackin’ and make yourself useful for a change! Finish the job he gave you or suffer the consequences. You don’t want something unfortunate to happen to your War Games spot.”
My face smolders a bright red tint. I physically bite down hard on my upper lip preventing myself from blurting out my outrage. Anchoring my body to the concrete with all my might, my face grimaces to silently express my contempt.
They continue cackling as they walk away before adding the whip cream on top of their shit infested sundae.
“Back to work, pleb!”
It’s the only thought churning in my head at the moment. I can sense Mount Zion’s imminent eruption ensuing. I want to burst at the seams and unleash all my anger. I relish the idea of snapping my pick in half and wailing each one of the guards into oblivion. I only desire reeking havoc and causing chaos. More notions circulate around in my imagination from shattering the windows out from the Tokyo Dome to kicking down the door and massacring Lee Best with my fists.
But it’s the reaction Lee Best wants to yield out of me. He hopes to blind me with hatred because it has always been a weakness of mine. It shifts my focus away from the ultimate prize and onto seeking revenge. It’s the perfect foil to halt any momentum I garnered heading into War Games.
I needed to take the high road and release some steam. I’ve spent too much time repairing my image to squander this opportunity. From attending boot camp, assembling rings, and tolerating trash duty; it all gave me ammunition to progress this war against the Best Alliance and win.
Quickly I lay down my trash collection supplies and sit on the sidewalk to examine the beautiful scenery of the vast Tokyo city. It is breaktime! Knowing I’ve reached the brink of self-destruction, I reach into my pocket for my iPhone prepared to call anyone to help stop me from acting on the desires of my heart.
Desperately I fumble through the contact list only phone trying to find someone who will allow me to vent. Meredith is busy handling press junkets for me all day, Conor is off playing at the arcade before War Games, and Ray is resting up after finishing up boot camp. I thumb through all the rest of the Grapplers Local list on Discord:
- Xenon Aerodome – Offline
- Zeb Martin — Away
- Teddy Palmer – Do Not Disturb
- Dan Ryan — Out of Office (probably murdering a motherfucker)
- Arthur Pleasant — Pass
Only one name has a green dot highlighting it: Lindsay Troy!
LT and I share a complicated history since she joined HOW 3 years ago. We always stand on opposite sides of the ring. Rather she represented The Industry or the Group of Death: we consistently spent a lot of time feuding until now. We haven’t spent much time exchanging pleasantries outside the ring.
There’s ample opportunity now to mend that bridge and strengthen our team’s bonds heading into the match. It’s now or never!
My chest tightens as my heart thwomps against it violently as my thumb dawdles over the call button. My palms quake rapidly as I press down to hear the line ringing. I audibly gulp before her voice echoes in my ear drums.
“Zion? What’s up?”
I’m surprised that LT doesn’t sound annoyed to hear me on the other line. I assumed that her iconic resting bitch face would echo through my brain, but now that I hear a tone from her that sounds surprised by my call, I’m not sure what to do. I start stuttering and stammering, trying to form words, and not wanting to waste any of our fearless leader’s time. Panicking, I rush to end the conversation “uuuuuuh…nevermind you don’t wanna hear my problems….”
“Well, try me,” she politely challenges me back. “I might surprise you.”
I let out a sigh of relief before opening up. “Lee banished me from the Tokyo Dome and reassigned me to handle waste disposal outside the arena. After spending three monotonous hours trudging along cleaning everything; those EPU schmucks ruined all my hard work spilling trash all over the damn sidewalk. I’m livid right now, Lindz. I want them to rue the day they crossed me.”
Silence reverberates over the line as she discerns the situation. Apologetic, she reacts to my news. “Man, the EPU sucks, Zion, but I’m not surprised this happened. They’re trying to get in your head right now. Don’t let them, because it’s just going to make them fuck with you that much more.”
Taken back by Lindsay’s response, it slowly rekindles my eagerness to return to the project. My voice illuminates as I continue to grumble. “It’s utter agony having to start all over after having my plans changed. I didn’t sign up to assemble the set out of self-indulgence. It was my way of atoning for my sins. I let my past loom over me, weighing me down. Confessing through self-sacrifice sets me free. It releases an extraneous weight off my shoulders. I want a clear mind going into War Games open to whatever curveballs the Best Alliance team throws at us. ”
“Hey, I get that. I want a clear mind too,” Lindsay admits before moving ahead. “Try to keep in mind that clinging to your resentment only clouds your judgment. I’ve seen that happen to you first-hand.”
“You’re absolutely right about that!” I blurt out, encouraged by her understanding. I nod as she carries on her rally cry.
“Don’t succumb to Lee’s bullshit. He revels in drama. Pulling you down to his level only adds fuel to the Best Alliance’s fire.”
Lamenting my sorrows with a long, drawn out breath; I add to her fair assessment, “Been around long enough in this hell hole I dug that I understand it. He’ll do anything he can to acquire an advantage. He’ll manipulate the situation to fit his needs. And the BA is watching for any missteps so they can throw it back in my face. Trust me, Mama LT, I’ve ventured down his rabbit holes one too many times.”
She politely snickers, accepting I acknowledged my shortcomings. “Well now’s your chance to shine brightly, Zion. Prove to Lee you’re the bigger man. Don’t react out of spite and show him that this doesn’t bother you. You’ll reap the rewards of the time you sacrifice tidying up Lee’s messes.”
I take in a deep, soothing cleansing breath. The tension in my shoulders slack and my muscles in my neck relaxes. A smile cracks my face for the first time today. Gratified with the fruit my conversation with Lindsay has yielded, I express, “Thank you all your encouragement. I needed that. I honestly regret not coming to you sooner to talk. I’ve always operated on this preconceived notion that you hate me. I guess I was wrong. You’re a great team leader.”
“Sometimes I put up appearances that aren’t indicative of my true nature. But I have a feeling that I’ll be glad that Ray badgered the rest of the 214 to gamble on you. I gotta go, but keep chugging along at that trash heap. Call me if you need anything else.”
Lindsay hangs up the call and I release one more cleansing breath for good measure. I scope over the landscape cluttered with filth, determined to accomplish the task again. I don’t care if the EPU pulls the same shit again; I will persist onward. It only betters my conditioning heading into War Games. I always say the more muscle memory the better when heading into a match with this caliber.
Once again I embark on the journey on trash duty. Suddenly a familiar tune echoes in my brain. I gleefully whistle Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” as I lumber along the sidewalk without a single care in the world. Because I may get knocked down, but I’ll get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down. I’m no longer going to piss the night away. This is my moment to rewrite history, flip my script, and finally define my legacy. The HOW World Championship is inches away from my grasp. It’s time for me to buckle up and enjoy the ride. I might hate repetitive tasks, but it’ll only build my character.
War Games is my time to shine and I’m damn sure I brilliantly shine in my spotlight as I finally hoist up #97Red above my head.
“I didn’t coin the term ragamuffin just for shits and giggles. It accurately summarizes my 7 year HOW journey. It’s defined as a mischievous young person who is ragged around the edges.
Everyone knows when I was quite the little shit head when I came here from PWX. I thought the world owed me my big break. I stirred the hornet’s nest every chance I got not realizing the damn repercussions of my actions. I hit the ground racing as hard as I could to shed the stench of penguin from my clothes. Every turn I found success running faster until I smashed my head one too many times against the #97Red brick wall.
It devastated me at the core each time I failed securing the HOW World Championship. Each passing moment, the walls grew taller and narrowed. It suffocated me. I lost myself in that shaft for 3 damn years wandering aimlessly without a purpose. I kept throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping it’d stick.
Indulge me if you will as I pull back the curtain on myself a bit, but maybe I didn’t appreciate the journey as much as I did the results I envisioned for myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t try as hard as I just didn’t want to try anymore. I grew tired of chasing meaningless carrots dangled above my head. I started treasuring my self-image more than the prize looming over my head getting yanked away incessantly. The light at the end of the tunnel kept dimming and my soul kept running on fumes as I kept getting sent to the corner.
I’m not looking for a pity party. Those aren’t excuses for losing my passion for this business along the way; it’s transparency and accountability working in action. The responsibility ultimately falls on my shoulders at the end of the day.
Laying on my back gazing at the halos from the spotlight everyone else got from earning their stripes taught me that. It fostered a deeper appreciation for HOW culture. After all my championship failures, I began to understand what mental tenacity it took to become the HOW World Champion. I evolved and realized I didn’t have to be edgy or have a comedic schtick. I need to become myself and pour my heart into the craft. But I laid it to rest as the wear and tear of my own failures weighed heavily on me. Those life lessons stayed dormant underneath until something changed.
Imagine my surprise at March 2 Glory when I saw Cool Cancer Jiles get kneed through the side door of the steel cage and won the prize I dreamt of winning for nearly a decade. You finally awoke the sleeping giant, Jiles. I won’t lie to everyone anymore; I was jealous of you. You easily lucked into something I poured my entire soul into securing, yet continually kept failing. You made it look easy.
I could have channeled that jealousy into more rage and resentment, but I was proud someone shut Mike Best’s fuckin’ mouth. I leapt out of my chair for joy seeing someone else realize my dream of bring true prestige back to ole #97Red, but then you had to bastardize it. You relinquished your soul to the Best Alliance, my sworn enemies. You increased the size of that damn target on your back when you sold your soul out for fake success.
And you’ve channeled my rage into an insatiable hunger for your championship. You’re my prey in this match and I promise you; I’m shedding that nice, loveable idiot image when I lock horns with you and unleashing the carnivorous beast I’ve held onto all these years.
I know you can’t fathom it. You don’t have a single vicious bone in your body. You’ve got the mental capacity of a kumquat, Jiles. You’ve lost yourself deep in this delusion of grandeur you believe. You think Lee Best and you finally became BFF’s after your persistent pursuit of a business traction. You sit back singing his damn praises playing that Yolkelele, lost in this preconceived notion Lee’s letting you stir his ship.
Well it’s time for some tough love again, Jiles. You hold zero control of the Best Alliance. It’s all in Lee’s hands. He’s got his thumb on the pulse of his team and he knows you stick out like a sore thumb.
He’s assembled a team of young ravenous upstarts, Hall of Famers, and former HOW champions because they understand how rigid the pressures are when they’ve held that belt sitting across your waist. They flat out ignore your ass. They’re a bunch of calloused monsters and you’re the soft squishy teddy bear they rip apart. Notice how they don’t gravitate to you for advice. Lee picked you up because you were too naive to understand the concept behind his recruitment.
All you are is a piece of meat to Lee Best. Kanye West wrote a song about it. Lee’s is gold digging your ass, son. He only wants you because you hold his pride and joy around your waste.
You’re the James Howard Marshall to Lee Best’s Anna Nicole Smith. He’s waiting for you to die so he can send a more capable hand to collect the fortunes. He’s praying for someone to end your godforsaken title reign so he can dispose of you.
You may think I’m blind, but I specifically alluded to this in my promo to you three week ago. You fell asleep behind the wheel coasting, failing to understand the gravitas of your responsibilities as the world champion.
You’re still caught in the glory days of your childhood thinking it’s a cool accessory to parade around a playground, bragging to the kids in school how your parents gifted it to you. You’ve fucked around too long and now it’s game time. And you made a fatal mistake.
You scoffed at facing me, the lowest of all the HOW contenders giving me all the momentum in the world. You still do when you blindly toss out your stupid nicknames never acknowledging my accomplishments or our history. You ignore it, treating it merely as a flesh wound. The abrasion I left on your legacy as champion keeps spewing out blood.
You can’t keep shouting ‘This is Fine’ like the cute cartoon dog in all the GIFs anymore. You got the forewarning.
Now I’m lining up to be your judge, jury, and executioner.
Deep inside I prayed fervently my handicap win would prime me for this spot. I knew my recent record or efforts didn’t deserve this match. I can’t deny I’m the biggest dark horse contender in HOW history entering War Games.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t load the pistol and shoot my shot.
I promise you, Jiles, your World Championship reign will end at my hands just like every other championship run you’ve had. I’m going to Ban Hammer you out of your damn sneaks and unleash all the pent up frustration I’ve let slumber right across your jaw breaking it clean off your face.
It’s time for this ragamuffin to become a champion. I won’t be denied any longer. You’re stepping into my realm now, and I promise it’s hell. There’s no jokes, no laughter, or no fun. It’s all constant torture and anguish.
At War Games, I will quench my seven year hunger pangs. I will end my vendetta against the Best Alliance once and for all. I will walk out of the Tokyo Dome with the HOW World Championship hanging around my waist.
I’ve shed that brash and brazen image I once had in this match and changed my strategy. I’ve focused my hunger, I’ve forged deep relationships, and I’ve realized the error of my ways and become transparent. I will redefine my legacy and mark my words, Jiles; I’ll end yours to do it.”