Wednesday, June 16th, 2021
Harris Bank Center Locker Room
As the sound of my new locker echoes through my head, I look up to admire the brand new Grapplers Local 214 banner hanging up on the wall in our locker room. For the first time in a long time, a confident smile radiates from my face. I inhale a deep cleansing breath opening myself up to the idea this is now my home. My thoughts finally settle in as I proudly look down at my new white and blue GL214 shirt. After having a stellar performance at the Tokyo Dome at War Games; we made it official: I’m permanently a Grappler now. I made new friends at War Games!
No longer am I cast aside in the HOW locker room as a social pariah. The days of hanging out in catering alone fumbling through awkward social situations finally are over. I’m not going to lie; It feels liberating to no longer be cast in the shadow of Brian Hollywood after working my ass off for years to uncumber myself from his toxic ass. The previously agonizing thoughts of carrying the dead weight of a partner will never plague my mind again.
Furthermore, I did not feel the same burden of Lee’s results driven mentality I’d faced over the past three years. The callousness in my heart continues to fade away each time I strengthened my bonds with my new friends over the course of War Games. I no longer feel detached from work. I could trust the Grapplers to give me advice to continue the momentum I gained recently. They constantly spend time making sure I remained focused, not veering off course to bullshit problems. They expected every member to hone in their crafts while allowing them to be themselves.
As I wrap the white tape around my wrists preparing for training, only one thought resonates through my head.
“Today begins a new purpose in my career!”
Enthusiastic about Lee Best’s announcement the brand new High Octane Television Championship match straight up invigorates me. While it’s lineage will be separate from the old history behind the belt; I still remember the history of the old belt and what it meant to the company. After watching countless hours of HOW history on the HOTv app, the vicious battles of various hall of fame worthy talent vividly linger in my mind. While the appreciation of legacy and nostalgia flows through the DNA of High Octane Wrestling; I comprehend the opportunity Lee Best gave Martin, Solex, and me this Saturday night. In knowing Lee for nearly seven years; it isn’t often he introduces something new to his company. He never deviates from the formula.
It’s not everyday you get a chance to have your name begin the lineage of a new HOW Championship. We have the opportunity to stamp our names on the forefront of the history of the HOTv Championship. It means just as much if not more than the HOW World Championship to be the first name on the record books. This match is the chance to write our own history. We can pave our own paths for a change.
For me, it means capitalizing on all the momentum I’ve gained over the past few weeks. It is my first chance to win a HOW single title since June 2016 when I once held both the LSD and ICON Championships. It feels weird not holding a singles championship since HOW reopened. As I stare back at myself in the mirror I envision myself with the new championship draped over my shoulder. I proudly gaze at the luster and shine of whatever concepts Lee and Mike dreamt up. My smile curls as I connive concepts to beat Zeb and Solex in this match. While I’m getting lost in my evocative daydreams, the familiar tone of a thick southern drawl echoes through my ears, startling me back to reality.
“Hey there, Zion! Fancy runnin’ into ya here!”
As I snap my head rapidly around while my feet land back on the ground, I see Zeb Martin entering the locker room. I am hesitant to approach him. The past memories of my history of Brian Hollywood intensely flare up throughout my brain. The callousness of my heart still sits deep after the endless years of fierce “friendly” competitions between Hollywood and me. I still grapple with the idea of talking with fellow competitors even if they’re my fellow stablemates. Years of constant backstabbing each other makes one weary of forging new relationships.
I can feel my pride weighing down on my legs as I slowly sauntered over to Zeb. While good ole’ Zeb single handedly eliminated Jiles from the War Games match; I knew Zeb needed a friend after he struggled with the loss of Pawpaw Martin. My heart sinks into my chest knowing we’ve both lost family members important to our lives. Begrudgingly, I still want to stick to my old ways, but deep down inside; I know the importance of fostering a relationship with Zeb in this match.
Solex poses a unique challenge to this triple threat match. The Best Alliance understands he’s the weakest link of the crew. While the fire from his War Games promo still burns throughout his soul; I recognize any BA members always utilize underhanded tactics to squeak out wins left and right. With the addition of more gold to the HOW ranks, deep down inside; I could greatly fathom the amount of pressure Lee is placing on Solex’s shoulders. With Solex slowly losing himself to the influence of his second personality Shawn Kutter; it made him dangerous to this match. Zeb and I both needed an extra insurance policy for any shenanigans the Alliance might want to pull
However, if good ole Zebby stepped in the way of my aspirations; I won’t hesitate in clocking him straight in the jaw with an old fashioned Ban Hammer. I’m not afraid to chuck him out of the ring and steal a pinfall if it means I walk out with that belt. Everyone expects me to be the nice guy with a nice record, but it’s about time I stop allowing myself to become quite the pushover.
Zeb and the other Grapplers should not view my actions as anything personal. Our relationship isn’t complex like Brian Hollywood and I had during War Games. It isn’t formed off getting the one-up on any of them members, but strictly business. They know more than anything I want to hold more gold.
As I finally approach Zeb Martin; I steadfastly extend my hand out to Zeb before cordially speaking to extend. “Hey there, Zeb! First and foremost, I am sorry about your loss, man.”
Zeb firmly grips my hand, squeezing it tightly. My palm glows bright red after he releases it. As I shake my hand rapidly to recirculate the blood flow, I notice Zeb nodding in appreciation. “Thanks, Zion. It means a lot tuh see ya care ‘bout me.”
“Trust me, I’ve been there a time or time, Zeb. I lost my brother unexpectedly and it tore me apart inside. He meant a lot to me. He always pushed me to chase my dreams in becoming a professional wrestler. If your Pawpaw is anything like my brother; he is smiling down at what you did to Jiles at War Games,” I respond calmly. My eyes display a somber tone as I reflect back to the memory of my brother.
Zeb replied, “Shucks, Zion! It means a lot tuh see ya encouragin’ me. Gettin’ that win over Jiles gave me that shot in the arm tuh get me in our triple threat this week. I’m gettin’ excited to step into that ring and knock the some sense in tuh Solex’s thick skull. He ain’t gonna know what hit him when we step into that ring with him.”
“Damn straight, Zeb! We’re going to systematically dismantle Solex! We leave no opportunities for that piece of Alliance shit to weasel his way out of Rockford with the HOTv Championship around his waist.” I enthusiastically exclaim.
“You’re darn right there, Zion! After we finish beatin’ him down; we’ll celebrate my victory together when I lift my HOTv Championship above my head.” Zeb nonchalantly says as my eyes cross while I snicker under my breath.
I pause and grab my mouth for a moment before shaking my finger at him. “Zebulon, buddy! I like that moxie of yours. I love your competitive spirit. But everyone knows I’m going to be the one proudly repping Grapplers Local 214 as the first HOTv Champion. It’s gonna be mah title.” I playfully mock his accent before patting him sternly on the back before extending a side hug.
Zeb cackles before returning the favor and slapping me stiffly against the lower part of my back. “I like yer sense of humor, man. It always is brightenin’ up our locker room. But everyone knows who is walkin’ out of The Harris Bank arena with that there title.”
Completely baffled by what Zeb is implying, I express a dumbfounded look on my face playing up on it. “Of course! Of course, my pal.”
We both step back before pointing at ourselves mouthing the words “It’s me!”
After we pleasantly exchange banter; we both grip each other’s hands to shake before we both stare directly into each other’s eyes, cackling uncontrollably. I awkwardly nod at him as I grab his hands tighter. “You damn well know when we step out there; I’m going to have your back. There’s no excuses, we’ve got the numbers advantage on our side. The Grapplers will walk out with another title in our ranks. Doesn’t matter if we continue cracking quips or not. It’s nothing personal. But you damn well know I can’t walk out of that arena empty handed this time. I can’t keep promising things that don’t happen. It makes me sound like a broken record.”
Zeb and I’s eyes squint as he responds back. “Fair point there, Matthews, errrr sorry man. I keep forgettin’ yer Zion again.”
“That’s original!” I retort back with a fake inflection of excitement in my voice, interrupting him.
“But I’m not gonna go easy on you in that match. Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean I ain’t got goals. I want tuh win that championship just as much as you do,” he responds respectfully as we release the handshake.
I nod at him, barely cracking a smile at him before I respond back. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, Zeb. I’m not looking for any handouts. I’m not a BA member. I’m looking for a solid match with my fellow brother in arms. At the end of the night, no matter the outcome of this match holds for us; you’ll still have my respect, man. You’re a damn good wrestler and a great friend. I’d be happy if you walked out with the belt.”
“Thanks man, same goes fer me tuh! At the end of the night, if those rascals in the Alliance get denied another chance at gold; I’ll be happy fer ya! Either way, the Grapplers will be marchin’ into Pittsburg with more hardware around our waists!” I reach over and pull him in for a giant hug.
I walk over towards my locker and reach in to grab my gym bag before heading off to the training center in the arena to prepare for my match as Zeb grabs his stuff to leave after his training session. As I crack open the door to our locker room; I loudly exclaim out jokingly, “Good luck, Zeb! You’re going to need it!”
He quickly reacts by shouting back at me “Naw, man, you’re the one that’s gonna need it,” before we both chuckle. As I close the door behind me to the locker room, I once again mouth to myself, “It’s gonna be me,” before reaching down into my bag. Immediately as I fumble through my back, my hand caresses a rigid piece of parchment paper left in there. Someone must’ve left me a note from the MVW show and I forgot it. I rush to unfold it only to see a stark warning on it.
Watch your friends closely! They may want to EEEEEEERASSSSE you!
Without a moment of hesitation, I crumple up the note and mutter “Kobe!” under my breath before chucking the note straight into the garbage can. Whoever this unknown stalker from MVW is won’t get into my head before my match. This weird dude is a piece of work for blindsiding me let alone suggesting the Grapplers do not have my back.
Knowing Zeb and I have each other’s backs and want to fight hard helped make the distractions like that shit go away. Regardless if the match heats up; at the end of the day my friendship with the Grapplers pushes me harder to train my ass off for this golden opportunity. Fathoming the extent Zeb is chasing that title; it is a requirement to train more intensely. If I want to become the first HOTv Champion; I have to bring my A Game. Regardless of whoever I beat in this match; I need to put my entire heart and soul into the game. Saturday Night is a golden opportunity I cannot let pass me up, and come what may from the match; rather I pin Solex or Zeb; I damn well sure promise myself I will not come up short again.
“It’s time for the #RallyZion to stop chasing after singles championships and start holding them. I understand all the talk gets old. Every single time I walk into a singles championship match during the Refueled era; I yammer incessantly about being the underdog or how blessed I am for just having the opportunity given to me.
It’s become the running joke in the locker room now. Zion prematurely blows his load before his biggest opportunities. He chokes in every singles championship match He has. Let’s laugh at him!
It’s time to act on all the momentum I’ve gained over the past two weeks, and Saturday night is the perfect opportunity.
The odds are in my favor for a change. Not only does GL214 have the numbers in their favor in this match, but people are rallying behind me. I haven’t seen so much support from the fans in nearly seven years. They’re craving a massive Zion win for a change. While the momentum I’ve garnered is small; it’s fueling me to win this match. It’s a massive opportunity with an even playing ground. My opponents combined have the same record I hold in 2021: 2-6. Everyone in this match is itching for that win.
But I’m here to tell Zeb and Solex, I’m about to crush their dreams.
We all know I’m the nicest guy on the HOW roster. I’ve rolled myself out as the welcoming mat one too many times. I’ve looked up at those lights over the last three years to the point it’s jaded me. And while I’ve got nothing but respect for this talented pool of wrestlers in this match.
But I’m fucking tired of letting every HOW wrestler steam roll over my hopes and dreams.
The implications of this match are astronomical. It’s been over a decade since HOW rolled out a brand new championship belt with a blank slate. And while I’ve ceaselessly chased the World Championship without success for nearly 7 years; it’s time to build up the credibility of a brand new championship and build around my image. It’s time for a new Odyssey for Zion.
It’s time to become the first HOTv Champion.
I know a thing about holding singles gold here in HOW. Neither Zeb or Solex have held any of it. They’ve choked more in any championship match combine than I ever did in the 7 years I’ve wrestled in HOW. I know what they’re feeling. I can sense their hunger and determination to win this match. It rivals my own determination to shatter the glass ceiling constantly lingering over my head.
I’m tired of that damn ceiling taunting me. I’m tired of coming up short. I’ve worked my ass off unceasingly trying to get to this moment; and it comes this Saturday night.
I am not walking out of the Harris Bank Arena hanging my head low this time. I will win.
I don’t care if I have to speak it multiple times to make it come into existence. It will happen. I am earning the redemption I deserve. It might be bloody and brutal, but I am damn well prepared to fight my ass off to succeed.
I’m fighting to legitimize my career.
Which takes me over to the horror story out of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable Trilogy; Steve Patricia Solex. God damn, every time I look at you, Solex, I can’t keep track of which one of your fucking personalities I’m facing. You’re not James McAvoy and your ‘friend” Mr. Kutter isn’t going to give you any damn edge in this match, especially when you tell me I’m not a legitimate contender in this match. You share one body. It doesn’t get a magic boost when you switch between them. It only muddles your focus.
You’ve held only two damn accomplishments to your name since rejoining the roster. You’ve held a Tag Team Championship now by proxy of the Best Alliance with none of it going to your own damn merits and you’re a Hall of Famer. I respect the hell out of all the damn work you’ve put into this company over the years while you haven’t reaped any benefits. You think the overinflated ego of this ‘Shawn Kutter’ will carry your ass to a championship.
He didn’t before. In fact; he damn well verbally abused your ass into believing you’d eat the damn pinfall in the handicap match. You’ve lost your own self-confidence along the way. I could hear you muttering it under your breath in the halls of the USS Octane all day weeks ago. You suddenly think you can magically pound your chest like a kaiju and transform in a few weeks by just balking at me.
I fuckin’ lobbed your head off in the crowd of the Tokyo Dome two weeks ago. I relished in the moment because I thought I might have knocked some damn sense back into the brain. I prayed hard that you’d restart ‘Leave It To Solex’ again. It was the single most successful thing ever to happen to your career.
But I can see I’ve only scrambled your brain and you’ve started smelling burning toast.
Let me make one thing clear to you, Solex. You’re the one entering this match at a disadvantage. I might have killed your ability to compute any numbers at War Games, but regardless if Zeb’s my opponent in this match; we’ve promised to have each other’s backs. We will make sure a Grappler walks out of Rockford adding another championship to our collection.
We have the advantage over you and the Best Alliance. It’s the one precedence Zeb and I both share in this match. I will protect him and watch over his back. I’ll pummel all 23 flavors of Steve Solex all over the mat until he can no longer continue.
But there’s one advantage I have over Zeb. I can compartmentalize my feelings for people when I step into the ring.
Contrary to Brian Hollywood’s definition of friendship; I’m not going to lay down easily after we knock the shit out of our good friend Solex. If push comes to shove in the middle of that match and you get in my way; mark my words; I will lay your ass out on that mat. You and I both know this isn’t a handicap match for this championship. We both know what’s at stake here. And I damn well know what it takes to survive a singles championship match here in HOW.
But nice guys finish last in this company. They eat the damn pinfalls.
We might’ve cut and jest about things before this match, Zeb, but rest assured; I’m not laughing anymore when I enter that ring. It’s strictly business. I won’t let our friendship come in the way of holding championship gold. There’s nothing personal about it. After Brian Hollywood stomped the shit out of all my hopes and dreams, it jaded me. I’m calloused to facing my own stablemates after that entire experience. If the situation calls for it; I will not hesitate like I’ve done in the past.
I have that killer instinct and I will execute on it. You’re damn well right I’ll make it up later, but when we step into that match; it’s every person for themselves. You can cut up and joke like I don’t comprehend the damn stakes of this match because I’ve previously had an identity crisis. I get that. I did it to myself. I lost sight of the goal at hand. I’ve focused on meaningless hobbies; I’ve been absent from the wheel the last three years.
But War Games changed that when I took my head off the damn swivel after protecting our team. I promise you; I won’t take my eyes off the prize or the opponents of this match. Even if they’re my BFFs.
You can continue to float in the land of complacency like Jiles did when he wrestled me. Just because you pinned the former World Champion at War Games doesn’t give you a right to let your self-confidence inflate those britches of yours. My story is laced with those moments; I’m speaking from experience. Make your cute jokes and laugh it up with me. Hell, I like cutting jokes myself. But I’m not Bobby Dean, Doozer, Jiles, or RIIICK. Those Bandit days are over. This is an elite level stable in HOW.
You can sit comfortably touting your accomplishments at my expense all you want, but I promise it won’t pay off. I’m not the pushover any longer in HOW. And while I respect the hell out of you; I want that title draped around my waist.
Sure, it might muddy my redemption story. You might question my allegiance at times in that match and I apologize. I respect the hell out of what you, Teddy, and LT did for my career. I’ll always continue to rep the Grapplers proud even if I am ruthless in that match. You won’t see me teaming up with Solex, but I am going to hit you hard. I promised I’m not going to take it easy on you and I meant every word of that vow.
This Saturday night; I’m not writing a Cinderella story. I’m etching my name into the history book and becoming the first HOTv Champion by any means necessary. It’s time to re-establish my name in HOW. I will not take the #RallyZion movement lightly any more. I’ve grown weary of letting my fans and my believers down over the course of the last three years since returning to HOW.
I will finally make good on my word. I have one single purpose on Saturday and it’s to proudly hoist that brand new HOTv Championship above my head.”