This match should be about the ICON Championship.
If there’s anyone in High Octane Wrestling outside of Lee Best himself who knows that, it’s me– without the HOW ICON Championship, there is no SixTime Academy. There is no placard in the Hall of Fame bearing my name, or nine HOW World Championships around my waist. No literally lifelong rivalry with Maximilian Kael, no rise of Cecilworth Farthington. Without the ICON Championship, there is no eMpire, no Group of Death– without the ICON Championship, there is literally no Mike Best, just a stupid Polish kid with a narrator that talks to him when he’s out pretending to be Jesus.
It’s the title that changed my life and made my career.
My most prized possession in the world sits upon the mantle in whatever place I happen to call home at the time– my fifth HOW ICON Championship has adorned everything from fireplace mantles in overpriced townhomes to cheap IKEA desks in shitbag hotel rooms across the country, and for many years it travelled literally everywhere with me. It’s the title that named my wrestling school, my entire brand, and defined me as a human being as I carved out my path to the very top of High Octane Wrestling. Setting that record made me who I am today, and there should be no honor greater in the world than to be known as the last ICON Champion in the history of HOW, forever remembered as the man who retired that title forever.
Like I said, this match should be about the ICON Championship.
It’s practically a gift from my father. When I beat Dan Ryan for my sixth ICON Championship back in March, I promised that it would be the Final Reign– that when someone finally beat me for the ICON Championship, I would never challenge for it again. I meant those words, and I intended to live by my promise. I really did.
But I never expected to win War Games.
It was the one scenario I didn’t envision. I couldn’t imagine losing the ICON Championship not because I was a loser, but because I was a winner. I didn’t imagine the Final Reign ending because I did too good a job at defending it. I kneed Andy Murray in the face so hard that he won my fucking championship, and I could only watch helplessly as they handed him the ICON Title as a fucking silver medal.
And I’m tired of my title being a silver medal.
This match should be about the ICON Championship.
Last year at ICONIC, Dan Ryan walked away with the the HOW ICON Championship as a fucking consolation prize. At War Games, Andy Murray walked away with the HOW ICON Championship as a fucking consolation prize. All of the hard work and dedication that guys like Max Kael, Cecilworth Farthington and I put into making that belt as prestigious as it was, and all of the sudden it’s just a runner up championship. A safety net for guys who couldn’t quite win the big one. It’s insulting to my legacy, and the legacy of the men who helped to build that division. It’s insulting to Hall of Famers past who wore that title with pride. It’s an insult to Lee Best himself, and he’s been so busy handing it out as a participation trophy that when he announced this match for ICONIC, I had no choice but to go back on my word.
I had no choice but to compete for it again.
I have to be the last HOW ICON Champion, because the truth is that as much as this match should be about the ICON Championship, it can’t be. Because as near and dear as it is to my heart, it can’t be the most important thing to me right now. The HOW World Championship is the premiere prize in professional wrestling, bar none, period, full stop, end of fucking sentence. The HOW World Championship signifies the single best wrestler in the world, and the man who holds it is the top of the mountain. For two years in a row, both the World and ICON Titles will be on the line at the single biggest show of the year, but this time around, there is no way that both men are going to leave with a championship.
There is no way that it’s going to be a participation trophy.
There is no way that it’s going to be disrespected one last time, and I’m going to make sure of it. Because even though I can’t make this match all about the ICON Championship, and even though I can’t afford to leave the mindset of retaining my championship first and foremost in my mind, I can give it the respect it deserves by retiring that belt with my own two fucking hands. I love Dan Ryan like a brother, but he isn’t the final ICON Champion. He isn’t the lifeblood of that division. He isn’t even really a contender– Dan Ryan won his first ICON Championship by being slightly ahead at the fifty percent marker on a ninety seven minute Iron Man match. Dan Ryan won his second ICON Championship beating the broke-neck little brother of a washed up old Scotsman who left HOW in a bodybag because he died of a dry dick.
Make no mistake, I respect the fuck out of you, Dan Ryan.
Of course, since you actually listen to me when I talk, you already know how little that’s worth once we step into the ring at ICONIC. I could make you a thousand friendship bracelets and send you a thousand fruit baskets, but once that bell rings and the lights come down, we both know that all of that stays in the back. I could suck your dick a whole bunch about how you’re my hero, and how you’re the reason I got into this business, but we’ve already gone down that road. We’ve already told that story. Everyone and their mother knows about the day I decided to become a professional wrestler, and truth be told, I’m sick of milking the same tired premises as I limp my way through the most successful and least inspired period of my entire career. I wanna talk about something they don’t know. I wanna talk about something YOU don’t know.
I wanna talk about your first year in HOW.
I wanna TALK about the dogshit way you won your first title.
Don’t get anything twisted, I’m not sitting here pretending that the past has anything to do with the present. I’m a better wrestler right now than I was last month, nevermind last year– you’ve had a career year in High Octane Wrestling. You are currently a model ICON Champion, and I’d sound like a proper asshole if I started talking junk about a man I hand-picked for the Group of Death in the first place. But you and I, Dan… we have a special kind of relationship. We have an honest relationship. We tell eachother like it is, no lies, no bullshit, no sugar coating, and that’s the way we like it. So I have no problem telling you that the Dan Ryan that joined High Octane Wrestling was a goddamned embarrassment, and I don’t think you can disagree with me.
How many matches did you lose to Cecilworth again?
Wasn’t it like seven, legit?
You didn’t feel good about winning the ICON Title the way you did, and you shouldn’t have. It’s just a fact. The entire company looked at you like you were given a consolation prize, because you were– Lee Best walked down the aisle and changed the rules in the 11th hour, because the whole world was bored of watching you get dunked on. It was embarrassing, and we made fun of it on Twitter. Like, so much that Lee had to call me and tell me to stop or he was going to close the company and tell us all to go fuck ourselves. I’m not making this up.
Once again, don’t mistake me– I’m not talking shit.
Cecilworth was an unbeatable monster, and if it had been me facing him at ICONIC last year, I can’t say that I would have walked out with the ICON Title like you did. I can’t say that I would have survived the Iron Man match like you did. I can’t say I wouldn’t have hung up my boots forever. You’re a monster. You’re a fighter. You’re an unstoppable force of nature, and it was those half dozen losses to a better man that made me recruit you to the Group of Death in the first place– you learn a lot more about a man by the way he loses than the way he wins, and you lost a fuck of a lot to my best friend in the world, and I watched those matches very carefully. The only reason I’m bringing up the past is because, hand to my heart, Scout’s honor, I wanna pay you a compliment.
You know how to evolve, Dan.
You struggled like a motherfucker to make it in High Octane Wrestling. You put your head down, you clenched your fists, and you fought every step of the way to get to where you are right now, without so much as a fucking complaint. Without being the squeaky wheel, or whining to the office about your spot. And when something wasn’t working, you were man enough to step up, admit that something needed to change, and most importantly you CHANGED IT. In an industry full of people so averse to change that they throw their quarters in the garbage, you knew when to adapt. You knew when to evolve. You knew when it was time to dig deep and level up. In an industry where so many guys bash their heads against the wall, doing the same horseshit over and over and over, you were one of the only guys who knew how to reinvent. How to suck up your failures and use them to make you stronger.
You took a dogshit ICON Title win and used it to make yourself an actual HOW icon.
This year, you have quietly dismantled and destroyed every obstacle that has been set in front of your path. You have ended careers, ended dynasties, and ended title runs. You’ve entered the stage of your career where you no longer worry about losses, because they just don’t fucking come– you murdered your own tag team partner as a fucking goof on the Go Home home, because you’re Dan Ryan and you can do shit like that. The Dan Ryan I know today is the scariest Dan Ryan that has ever existed, so don’t expect any old man jokes from me, Big Hoss– you are something that very few people in this business have ever been:
You are my equal, and I respect the fuck out of that.
But as you know, respect is a double edged sword.
A lot of you out there aren’t gonna like what I’m about to say, but it needs to be said. Lee Best is gonna send me a text message calling me a dickhead, and all the shitty little side Discords are gonna light up piss baby Christmas trees, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve been phoning this shit in for a long time. I mean really phoning it in, Dan. I won this title phoning it in– all I REALLY gave a fuck about was beating Murray, I never actually expected to walk out of Normandy with the HOW World Championship. While guys like Stevens were so thirsty for a shot that they were literally betting their children, I was hitting the ring at 75% and going through the fuckin’ motions. I didn’t respect my competition enough to give them a hundred percent, and I didn’t need to. But not you, Dan. I respect you. I know what you’re capable of. And that makes you an honorary member of a very elite club, because there’s only one other guy this era I’ve respected enough to give it my all against.
Come to think of it, I guess you’re the only member of that club, now.
Michael Lee Best at seventy five percent will give you a concussion and take away your child, Dan, but when I step into that ring and give it my all, people die. I’m not talking tough. I’m not trying to send a shiver down Murder Daddy’s spine right now. I’m just telling it like it is, and you know it. I loved Max Kael in a way I will never fully be able to communicate to the world, and I’m not gonna exploit his death to hype a stupid fucking wrestling match, but if you need to know the lengths to which I’ll go when I go all the way, look no further than Rumble at the Rock. Look no further than the literal deathmatch. Those are the lengths to which I will go to keep hold of the HOW World Championship, Dan, because it is the single most important thing in the world to me, and the more I respect you, the more dangerous a man I become.
But you already know all that too, right?
Unlike last year’s ICONIC, simply surviving isn’t enough, and you know that. There’s not going to be a prize for coming in second place, and you know that. There’s no way to split the pot, and you know that, so choose your cliche: Two men enter, one man leaves, welcome to Thunderdome. Pro wrestling Highlander, there can only be one. Shit, go full ABBA and say “the winner takes it all”, but no matter how you spin it, one of us has to win, and one of us has to lose. And unlike the others who have climbed my mountain, only to die before reaching the apex, I know that you aren’t a loser. I know that you aren’t a compromiser. I know that you aren’t one to smile and just accept second place.
Or are you?
Far be it for me to presume, Dan, but I’ve been holding on to this championship for over six months, and you haven’t come sniffing around it once. Call it respect, call it friendship, call it whatever you want to call it, but I can’t say that I would have done the same. In fact, I didn’t– the ICON Title match we had back in March wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence, bud. You had something I wanted, and even though the Group of Death hadn’t been around for a mouse fart yet, I came for it. I pounded on Lee Best’s door every fucking day until he made it a title match. I made calls, I sent texts, and I made it known in every imaginable way that I wanted my shot.
Because I’m insecure, Dan.
Because you had the title that I’d made my career on, and I was walking around with a defunct HOFC Championship calling myself the Unsanctioned Champ. Because I was the weakest link in my own chain, and I couldn’t handle it. Because I’d watched Cecilworth pick you apart like carrion at the roadside for six months, and I was jealous of his success. Insecurity keeps me from becoming complacent. Insecurity keeps me from becoming content. Insecurity is my greatest weakness and my greatest strength, and from my lips to God’s ears, I believe it is the reason that I will walk out of ICONIC with not only the HOW World Championship, but as the last ICON Champion in HOW history.
Because you’re secure in your legacy, and I’m not.
You’ve been World Champion in more companies than I can even remember the initials for. You’re the fuckin’ reason I’m a wrestler– you’d done more by the time I started than I have to this day, and I can admit that. If we throw hands at ICONIC and you come up short, you’ll shake my hand and you’ll be okay. Because that’s who you are, Dan– Murder Daddy eats when he’s hungry, but he doesn’t gorge himself until he vomits because he’s worried there won’t be food tomorrow. Murder Daddy smashes and destroys and breaks spirits, but he does it for fun and profit, not because he’s quietly terrified of a single human being not acknowledging that he’s the greatest of all time. Truth is, Dan, that Murder Daddy is a fully functioning grown up– you’ve had to tear down a stable, meaningful, fulfilling life just to find a new spark in your career and evolve, but you’re just renting in this neighborhood and you know it.
This is where the fuck I live, Dan.
This is who I am. If you beat me at ICONIC, I’ll shake your hand and I’ll pretend to be happy for you because we’re friends, but it will tear my living soul out of my fucking body. It will destroy me on a level that you can’t even begin to process because for everything we have in common, we are very different kinds of functionally broken. I couldn’t name a half dozen things I’ve done right over the last five years, but I remember every single loss that I’ve taken and I still let them eat me up like an eighty five dollar steak in the middle of the night. I came in fourth place in a third party internet popularity contest, but I’m not thinking about the ninety six people I beat, I’m thinking about the three I didn’t. Simply put, Dan, I cannot handle losing to you.
I can’t handle losing to anybody.
And that’s why there’s nothing I won’t do to win.
That’s why, Dan. That’s my whole secret. Yeah, I’m pretty good at throwing a knee, but I’m not the first motherfucker to throw one and I won’t be the last. It’s not what I do, it’s why I do it. It’s how I do it. Half the roster does my fuckin’ finish these days, but nobody hits it like me. Nobody else’s has never been kicked out of like mine. Nobody throws it with the passion I throw it with, because I don’t throw a KNEE, Dan. I throw fear incarnate. I throw INSECURITY. I throw desperation and overcompensation and pure unbridled anxiety, and there’s not a motherfucker in the world that can overcome it.
Not even you, my friend.
The fact that you can survive losing to me at ICONIC is why you won’t beat me. The fact that December 20th could just be a disappointing Sunday at the Ryan Compound is why it WILL BE. I stand here at the top of the High Octane Mountain, heavy lies the crown, looking back at the kings that have fallen before me, and I see men who had no tomorrow. Men who didn’t survive being thrown from the mountain. Men who reigned as kings for too long, only to find out that the longer you’re on top, the harder you fall. Men like Cecilworth, who went from reigning as God Kings to disappearing into the ether. Men like The Minister, whose obsession with my One Belt to Rule Them All cast him into fucking Mordor. There is not a single human being on the active roster who wore the crown with any measure of gravitas without a humiliating fall from grace, and I can’t be one of them, Dan. I just can’t.
I can’t be John Sektor.
I can’t float in and out of HOW once a year, so thirsty for a taste of the old days that I can no longer feel the diminishing returns. Sektor is a Hall of Famer and one of my greatest rivals of all time, and suddenly he’s reduced to lackey status for Lee Best and wrestling a guy at ICONIC who we practice speed bag drills on for fun. I can’t be Jatt Starr, shambling around like a fat dad in a pair of stretch sweatpants, looking like a high school football coach who resents the fact that he never went pro. Jatt used to be me, Dan. He used to be THE guy. He was the top of the heap, and now he’s just… here. He lived, but he didn’t survive.
No one does.
Once it’s over, it’s over– you can’t say “that guy USED to be the best” without fucking pity in your voice, and I refuse to become past tense. I refuse to become HOW trivia. I have fought and clawed and scraped for ten years to stay at the top, and I am so afraid to fall off that I will cling to this motherfucker out of pure fear, and pure spite, and pure fucking insecurity until I am KNOCKED off by someone just as scared and just as desperate as I am.
And it isn’t you, Dan.
Because you’re the most fearless motherfucker I know. You’re the type of cat who says “if you’re afraid to fall, don’t look down”, and then you’ll power through that fear and you’ll put it out of your mind. You’ll charge across that catwalk and take your prize, and you’ll never look back. But not me, my friend– I’m the guy staring all the way to the ground, because fear is a motivator that you will never understand and you will never fucking harness. You’ve never been the HOW World Champion, so you don’t know how it feels to lose it. You’ve never been at the very top of this company, so you don’t know how much it hurts to fall. I’ve climbed this mountain nine fucking times, Dan, and while I’ve had the crown taken from me before, I’ve never let me grip slip below the summit.
I’ve held on real tight.
No matter how much it tears up my hands, no matter how cold it gets, no matter how out of breath I become, I’ve never been more than a cunt hair away from reaching the peak again, because I can’t. Because I’ve stared at the base of that mountain and I know how far a fall it is to the bottom. And I’m more afraid of this match than I’ve ever been of anything, Dan– I’m more afraid of this match than I was to fight to my death at Rumble at the Rock, because at least in death you don’t have to look yourself in the mirror the next day. This match is literally all or nothing, and the thing is, much like you, I know how to evolve.
You’ve been watching it happen for months.
It was always a long running joke in HOW— Mike Best knows how to win a championship, but he doesn’t know how to keep it. 8 HOW World Championships, maybe a half dozen successful defenses combined. I was at my best when I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, but I could take the pressure. Couldn’t handle the weight of the crown. I was quick to get impatient and complacent, and I was never as motivated to hold on as I was to grab that motherfucker in the first place. But I changed, Dan. I changed, just like you did. And that’s why the only reason that the ICON Championship is around your waist is because I won War Games. That’s why I haven’t been pinned, submitted, or knocked out in HOW since 2016. That’s why I still have the HOFC Championship buried in my backyard, and why a man literally died to keep this championship on my shoulder.
I learned what it means to have something to lose.
I learned what it means to have EVERYTHING to lose, and nothing to gain. I’m a hundred pounds lighter, a half a foot shorter, and ten years less experienced than you are. I’m holding a title that everyone wants me to lose, and risking that the true Final Reign of the ICON Championship is going to belong to a man who has TWICE only won that belt because someone else came in second place. There is a gun to my head, a knife to my throat, and the best I can do walking into ICONIC is walk out with what I walked in with.
One belt, and the legacy of an ICON.
But not you, Dan.
You’re DAN RYAN, the destroyer of souls. The APEX PREDATOR in the HOW food chain, and I’m so proud of what you have become. So jealous of what you’ve become. I’m so TERRIFIED of what you’ve become. And I’m going to embrace that pride and that jealousy and that terror, and I’m gonna use it to make me stronger, Daniel, because that’s what I do. That’s how I’ve stayed at the top for as long as I have, and that is what makes the starving scavenger guarding his scraps more dangerous than the vicious predator searching for his next meal. You are my friend. You are my mentor. You are my hero, Dan, but at ICONIC you are my opponent. My rival. My greatest fucking nemesis, for forty five minutes, because I know you’re hungry.
Because I know you gotta eat.
But it ain’t gonna be off my fucking table.