“Another round, this time on me.”
Drowning my sorrows is the quickest way to clear my mind these days. The waitress in the small-town Ligonier bar pours me a class of Big Hop American Ale and slings it my direction. Watching the froth slowly fizzle away, I close my eyes and take in a deep breath.
“God Damnit! I almost fuckin’ had STRONK! I outclassed the meathead in every fucking way possible. And all it took was one false accusation to cause Godson to hulk up and smash me into kingdom come. What the fuck have I become?”
I continue to gaze off into nothingness, replaying the match in my subconsciousness. The whole fiasco cost me a million-dollar deal to take Zi-Agra nationwide. Hoagie withdrew his offer and left me out to dry. On top of the stress, REAL LOVE still didn’t punch his ticket to Rumble at the Rock. Usually, I’d crawl under the skin of some HOW standout by this time each Pay-Per-View cycle. But no one was biting this time. The weight on my shoulders continued to mount. I felt my body sinking down, slouching as each second passed. A deep, grizzled, bass voice shocks me back into reality.
“Darin?! DARIN! It’s time to sing motherfucker. You’ve got 30 seconds to get your ass up here before we clear you out of the queue.”
My eyes lock with this rugged, old biker and his silver beard. His arms begin pulsing as the scowl on his face intensifies each passing moment. Letting out an exasperated sigh, I grab my glass and trudge across the room at a snail’s pace. Even my deep love of karaoke couldn’t fill the gap that REAL LOVE’S SOUL lacked. As I make my way up onto this bar’s stage, I rip the microphone right out of the KJ’s hands. We both stare down for a moment, as he prepared tonight’s song. While this man fumbles around on his keyboard, activating the song; I guzzle down my drink and slam it down on stage. The opening chords of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” bellow across the PA system. I close my eyes on belt my lungs out. It rounds to the end of the first chorus.
“He says, ‘Son can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes’”
A sudden burst of white light flashes before my eyes as I feel the room fading away. An outpouring of memories floods me while my body seizes up in place. I can’t move at all, completely trapped in place. Memories of my life rush before me at the speed of light. I saw my parents abandoning me on a random doorstep. I relived all the violent belt lashing my step-father gave me. I reminisced about the good ole’ days where Hollywood and I travelled between po-dunk Indiana towns for PWX. I celebrated the night the most crowning achievement of my career: winning the HOW ICON Championship for the first time. And I watched it all fall out from under me while I floundered around into nothingness.
Throughout the episode, somehow my body powered through the ordeal as I made it to the last line:
“Sing us the song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright”
I exhaled a loud, audible groan as I walked off stage. As I exited the stage, something unexpected happened. The Ligonier crowd around me erupted in loud applause. It almost took me back to my glory days when I first arrived in HOW. For the first time in months, a genuine smile cracks this old, rusty face. A slight tear rolls down my cheek. Hurrying back to my seat not to draw attention to myself, I plop back down in my barstool in the corner.
“Gimme another one, miss. Tall this time!”
The busty blonde obliges my request, sliding back over to her work station. As I bury my head between my arms on the solid, oak counter; I feel a familiar touch on the back of my shoulder.
“Father time’s catching up to you, isn’t it, old man?”
I whip my head around to notice the old Las Vegas native Mark Magnum made his way out to this secluded town a few miles away from Pittsburg. No doubt this man wanted to rub my recent failures in my face. I can see the smug look glistening in this silver fox’s face. The 60-year-old man pulls his stool out and turns to give me his full attention. I shrug my shoulders as the bartender hands me my glass and I continue to destroy my liver.
“The long look in your eyes tells it all, Zion. You don’t have to shut me out like everyone else in your life. Remember, I’m your mentor. I’ll give you all the support and help you need.”
My head swivels slowly while I scowl at the old man. My face wrinkles up while I sneer and snub my nose at him. “You’ve said the same thing everyone else in my life’s ever fuckin’ told me. Clara, Pariah, Hollywood, Azula, Meredith, Mickey, My Parents…Would you like for me to continue this list? There’s Mike Best, Jace Parker Davidson, Jatt Starr…you think I haven’t heard this shit before from everyone I trusted in my God damned life. There’s a reason REAL LOVE doesn’t want this false sense of reassurance you offer him. REAL LOVE’S SICK to death empty promises and false hope getting dangled in his face. Both inside that ring and outside of it!”
I take another swig and march right up into the grey-haired Magnum’s face. I jam my finger straight in the middle of his chest with all the force in the world. “The 4Z Network left his connection unsecured and it bit him straight in the damn ass. From the time my parents conceived my ass to the time this business chewed me up and spit me out. It pisses REAL LOVE off to watch how I gave my heart and fuckin’ soul to HOW. How I bled and took years off my life for this GOD DAMNED sport. And everyone turns their back on REAL LOVE.”
Mark bites hard down on his lip while clinching his fists against the side of his jeans. Even when I went to ruffle the color to his light teal dress shirt, this man stood there and took it. His face beams a vivid shade of red. Once again, this timeless classic rests his arms on my collar bone.
“I get it, the weight this business puts on your shoulders bogs you down. It took me a long time to surrender to that fact I didn’t have what it takes to cut it in the big time like you. I walked away from pursuing my dreams to building up the next generation. It’s why I chose to open up my school back in Vegas. I needed a different perspective to help me find that heart in this business. Travelling the road for peanuts and no love kills a man. I did it for 25 years before I lost everything important in my life. While I can’t take that pain away from you, kid. I can promise you, when perspective hits you; that stride will come back to you. Stop giving up so easily!”
I shake my head at Magnum, rolling my eyes into the back of my head. Crossing my arms against my chest, I look him dead in the eyes.
“Fossil, you don’t get it. I’ve pissed off a lot of people in this fuckin’ game. There’s no fuckin’ way the Best family is this generous for 4 years while I’ve wallowed in self-pity. REAL LOVE’S gotten tired of playing their fuckin’ games for too long and I’ve intentionally poked the bear. Hell, I did it for the fuckin’ sport these last few weeks. When you’ve lost everything including your self-respect. You fuckin’ go nuclear to the point of no return. Eventually when you’ve hit the brick wall enough times, you start to believe the fantasies your calloused heart tells you. Every loss feels like another part of your soul dies.”
A single tear rolls down the side of REAL LOVE’S face. I wipe it away as my body shakes.
“That’s because I’ve invested so much of my soul to these fans and got nothing in return. It’s gotten to the point where every bump and punch feels like daggers. I’ve lost that since of adrenaline to power me up. I’ve lost that spirit to fuckin’ fight like hell and be the rebel rouser I once was across the damn globe. And it feels like I’m fightin’ for a whole lot of nothin’ burgers right now, man. And when a man has nothing left, he becomes quite dangerous in that ring. Not only to himself, but to his opponents.”
The old man leans back against the while I snap my neck. I snarl while I continue onward.
“That’s why Frank Dylan James needs to worry about me this week when I step into that ring. See I don’t have a fuckin’ care in the world I’m wrestling this 295-pound, grizzly assed giant. Normal men would take once glance at this newcomer and quake in their God Damn boots. They’ve sell every ounce of strength this man could use to break their bones to grind his bread. They’d cower in the corner waiting for him to wrap his bear like claws around their throats and strangle them.”
I chuckle for a moment before folding my hands together.
”But I fuckin’ welcome it this week. I hope that Smoky Mountain Drunkard sees red when he stands across the ring from me. I hope that reckless Appalachian brutalizer comes firing off haymakers like his livelihood depends on it. Because mine does! This is a make-or-break match for REAL LOVE this week. It doesn’t matter if it’s this man’s first HOW match. This could be my last, Mark. I’ve accepted it that fate I’ve got nothing left if FDJ succeeds. That’s it. DONEZO! I know that the boot of the Best Family could come down on my neck at any fucking moment and crush my god damn larynx. They could stab my fuckin’ eye out. I lose this damn match and its curtains.”
Mark closes his eyes and shakes his head. Taking in a deep breath, he lunges right in my face trying to get my attention. “Don’t do this, Zion. PLEASE! I’m begging you for once in your life, listen to me. Let me help you get some damn perspective here. Maybe we can rush you off to a sensory depravation tank. Maybe there’s some repressed memories you’re holding back. PLEASE, Darin. Listen.”
As Mark begs and pleads with me. I jab my index finger into his skull. “HELLO MARK! Did you listen? My parents abandoned me like everyone else did. You fuckin’ think all this time I’m hiding a secret origin story from the class? You think you can about face and give REAL LOVE the hugs from daddy he never got? You think you can write into Lee Best’s inbox begging for some GOD DAMNED RESPECT. FUCK THAT! You earn that shit around here. And I’m gonna do it by usurping Grand Daddy Best’s latest pet fuckin’ project. I’m gonna send him with his tail tucked in between his legs like I’ve done with other up and comers Lee gave. I’ll embarrass him so bad, he’ll go running back into the woods in DEFIANCE of his orders. It’ll be a fuckin’ classic memory if you’ve ever seen it. I’m goin’ into this match with guns ablazing, man. I’m firing my best shot this time. I’m gonna knock this giant redwood loving freak down they’ll hear it across the PWA. THAT’S WHAT REAL LOVE IS! I’m not holding back anymore, Mark.”
“Come on, Zion! Just hear me out on this one. There’s something….something…”Mark begs and pleads with me before my fist goes sailing across his pathetic wrinkly face.
“No, I’m gonna do this my way. Last week my last vestige of success was stolen from REAL LOVE. NOW REAL LOVE’S gonna break someone’s god damned heart in return.”
I walk off out of the picture while Mark gets back to his feet. As small picture slowly falls from his coat pocket as the scene fades to black.
“If faith can move mountains, love can move the world.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo
It’s been a long ass month for REAL LOVE. Darin Zion doesn’t take heartbreak well. First STRONK GODSON destroyed The Innovator of Zi-agra with ease. Next that little fuckin’ rat Adam Ellis foiled my attempt to unleash THE LOVE ERA all over the PWA by retaining his MVW Men’s Championship. The 4Z Network is tired of descending from throne of darkness only to watch everyone else fall in love with themselves.
You see I have a motto to uphold. REAL LOVE CONQUERS ALL! It can move mountains, it creates miracles. Love’s even a reliable solider on the war to HATE. And since I’ve got nothing to lose; let’s leave all the cards on the mother fuckin’ table.
You damn well know you sent this mammoth from the mountainside down to kill the biggest plague on your roster. You’d love nothing more than to kill REAL LOVE’s joy. I’ve liberated myself of these notions of chasing your affection let alone jumping through hoops like a blind puppy. It’s why you sent these goliaths charging at the 4Z Network. You desperately want to shut me up to stop the REVOLUZION from happening on your roster. You know each and everyone in the PWA LOVES REAL LOVE. They know REAL LOVE’S GAME.
So, you want to grind me into submission by having these meat heads kill me.
Well haven’t you heard watched James Bond? I mean shit, you look like a motherfuckin’ Bond Villain in your own right. Surely you’ve heard of the Pierce Brosnan classic—LOVE NEVER DIES. There’s no way in hell Frank Dylan James is gonna kill Darin Zion.
We all know rednecks like him creep up in the backwoods, leaving bodies. We all know they’re ruthless. When they’re on the hunt, it’s like playing the most dangerous game. And Zion’s the fuckin’ prey.
If you haven’t figured it out in the past 8 years I’ve worked for your ass—I’m one stubborn mother fucker. I love challenges like Frank Dylan James because they’re fuckin’ hard to overcome. GODS like you built giants so people like REAL LOVE pulls the ultimate David story out of his ass. It excites REAL LOVE you handed up another behemoth to stone to death. Because goin’ into this match—REAL LOVE is more fuckin’ scary than ever.
See, I’ve grown tired of this game. You’ve tried taking everything away from REAL LOVE that you helped build up nearly 6 years ago. You’ve stolen his credibility. You’ve destroyed his deals. You’ve killed my joy. Hell, you’ve revoked my permission to talk. Because you don’t think REAL LOVE has anything to offer HOW.
Well, I’ll fuckin’ show you like I’ve done before. Send me your giants! Send me the fuckin’ board. I will continue to take them to their max until they fuckin’ burn out. And you know what I’ll do? I’ll carry this GOD DAMN company on my back for you like I did the last time. Because when I pledge my loyalty to you—you damn well get everything from me.
Now, you can argue, I haven’t given you my all these last few months. You wouldn’t be wrong. But when you steal everything away from a man—he has no choice but to perform. When he’s backed into a corner—he has no choice but to fight for his FUCKIN’ LIFE.
Franklin Dylan James may think he’ll back me into a corner. He might think he’ll destroy my spirit. But I’ll send his ass packing—just like I’ll send YOU packing Lee.
For the past six months—even when I’ve been down and out. Even when no one banked on Darin Zion—I’ve came through. I’ve busted my ass and you know what? I fuckin’ brought the heat, even in defeat. For the past two years since that handicap match—I’ve built a different brand. One that shows I’ll keep fuckin’ going until you close the damn shop up.
And you know how you repay that loyalty? You killed it dead like you killed Kostoff. See, I’m the damn spirit of this locker room. While I’m left to scrape my ass off the mat—I show them that I keep coming back for more damn pain and anguish because I buy what this brand has to offer.
FAME! GLORY! ICONIC! High Octane Wrestling is the premier league not only because we’ve got some of the best talent like Mike Best, Jace Parker Davidson, STRONK GODSON. But we have MY FUCKING HEART, MY FUCKING LOVE bled into this product too.
And you wanna try and take that way? You want to send these brutes to kill me dead. And you think I’m gonna run and hide in the corner.
No! To be frank—I’m gonna knock off FDJ’s head into Section 214. I’m claw my way through the giant and overcome the odds. I’m gonna give this crowd the Cinderella story—one of TRUE LOVE and PERSERVEANCE. FDJ may strangle me, but I’ll keep fighting. FDJ might break every damn bone in my body. But I’ll survive the mayhem to keep scratching and clawing. FDJ may destroy my spine—but I’ll keep crashing into him.
Because I’m a fighter and I love a good war. FDJ might be the biggest conquest in REAL LOVES PATH. But goddamnit, I’ll do anything for LOVE. EVEN THAT! Even risk my damn career to prove your cold-blooded, hardened heart ass wrong.
This week, you might think you’re writing REAL LOVE’S Swan Song. But I’m coming into Pittsburg with a fuckin’ vengeance. I’ll either punch my ticket to RATR because of you. Or I’ll fuckin’ do it in SPITE OF YOUR ASS LEE.
You wanna see Zion bring the fire? Well consider my love a burning ring of it. I’m coming to Chaos looking burn this shit down. Or I’ll fuckin’ die trying!