When I was young,
And all I’d want.
Was to set the world on fire,
With the sparks coming off my eyes.
But it’s hard to love,
It’s hard to trust,
With that sinking in your gut,
And a beating heart that’s like a set of cuffs.
Here’s a thing I find myself ruminating over at the ripe old age of 31…have I already peaked?
Yeah, sure, the pop-punk cliche – the best years of your life are those couple years after high school, when you do college, or the some meaningless drudge, where nothing ever really seems to matter, where you can get up the next day from a broken leg, the hangovers barely last past the first slide of bacon, fall in love, fall out of love, party after party, party in another city…and another city…and then, why not, fuck it, somewhere else again, sex, sex you know you’re gonna regret the next morning, sex you’re gonna remember for the rest of your life…you know?
Those are supposed to be the best years of an ordinary person’s life. That period between eighteen and twenty four years of age. You don’t give a fuck, and the odds of you managing to fuck the rest of your life up? I mean…unless you’re gonna actively go looking for trouble, pretty fucking low. You’re inevitably gonna get in some shit, right? But geniune life fucking shit? Probably not. So you just get the good shit. The memories of being young.
And yeah, fuck you – I get half the roster around here are closer to getting their pension than they are their driving licence, but not all of us are combing through the dye section at Walmart trying to stay looking the same as we did when we made our debut twenty five years ago – but to some of us, 31 IS old. Feels old.
But when you’re a sportsman, that…generally isn’t the peak. Look at football – Neither Ronaldo hit their peak until their late twenties, early thirties. Messi, the same. Any player. You are just young, a hot prospect when you’re in your early twenties, generally. Sure, you might break out, you might be THAT guy, but…probably just a hot prospect. So you come to your early thirties, especially when you haven’t been grinding for the last couple years, and you figure…peak, here we fuckin’ come, right!
…but is it coming?
I won the High Octane Wrestling World Championship at 18.
I had retired by the time I was twenty five. Walked away with five World Championships.
And then back full time at the age of 30.
(I’ve obviously had a birthday since my return. In case you were wondering why the numbers don’t add up.)
You know who you were before. A remorseless, relentless wrestling machine. A guy who rarely, if ever took a show off. A true pillar of the main event scene. One of the greatest records of all time in singles action. Main eventing every pay per view, wrestling in every single famous gimmick match that High Octane Wrestling has. Founder and leader of a stable that had a lasting impact – one that still gets referenced to this very fucking day. Go pull some kid out of some random ass wrestling gym and go ask them what they want to do in High Octane Wrestling.
I’ve done every single fucking thing.
But you come out of retirement anyway.
Maybe it’s because you’re some sort of masochist, and you miss the reality of having some two hundred fifty pound plus man trying to do their level best to cause you a large enough amount of pain that you either submit to end the suffering, or knock enough shades of shit out of you that they can make you lie flat on the ring canvas for three seconds. Or have some fucker squeeze your head until you pass out and someone else has to make the decision for you. Or maybe you miss walking out there and hearing a couple thousand people making noise because of what you’re doing…because that’s a fucking kick, believe me. Perhaps it’s the whole fucking sadist thing, and you’re bored of inflicting suffering on your play partners in a sexual sense, and you just wanna straight up hurt some motherfuckers, so…you unretire. Maybe it’s because you take a look at things, you see your old mate, and you figure – you know what? I don’t think there’s any fucking reason I can’t do that again.
(It’s the last one. If it’s not horrifically obvious.)
But you come back and shit hurts more. Doesn’t mean you can’t deal with it, but there’s a bit more of an edge, of a sharpness to it. The five minutes before I get out of bed is now ten. Wrestling the same, remorseless, relentless schedule I used to do takes far more of a toll than it used to.
Makes you stop. Makes you think – Am I really cut out for this shit still? Or should I really just go back to fucking Taco Mountain and never move again? Sit there having done a bunch of shit that some people will spend their entire careers trying to emulate and get near, but never wanting to do more. You know?
And so I sit here in my early thirties just wondering about that…did I just burn myself out when I was in my early twenties? Was that gold littered time of my life it, the peak?
Or is that still ahead of me?
Perhaps this is the sorta time that in most dudes careers, they’d walk away from the only home they’ve ever known and they’d go try somewhere else. Go see if they are as good as they think they are, see if they can do it in a different environment, against different wrestlers, against people who they’ve never faced. Try and find some way to motivate themselves, to keep going, to capture bigger and better prizes in the business, right?
I mean, I think that’s a fairly valid thing to do. So why didn’t I?
Lemme ask you one question.
Is there a better wrestling organisation on the planet than High Octane Wrestling?
There isn’t, right? My opponent himself said it this week – we are the best. Undisputed. The machine has been in existence for almost as long as I’ve been alive – long enough to the point where we are having second generation stars turn up.
So why would I go anywhere else? The man widely considered to be the best wrestler on the planet, and possibly in the history of our business is here. The greatest, most prestigious championship in our business is here. The biggest events on the biggest stages are here…if you want to be considered elite in this business, where do you go?
High Octane Wrestling.
And even then…this place is more than that for me. That championship is more than that for me.
Yeah…we can go with the obvious thing. I can tell you about how Lee Best plucked me out of absolute obscurity before I had even stepped into ring at the Bingo Hall in Cathays Community Centre or the URC Church on Wellfield Road. Before I’d even made my debut in front of the usual five guys and a dog. I, obviously, don’t really know anything more than High Octane Wrestling – and even before I’d signed a contract, what the fuck do you think I used to watch before I came here? Who do you think used to tune into the fucking legendary Jatt Starr and Darkwing feud? Lee Best versus Chris Kostoff.
Yeah. That’s right. I was a fucking mark for High Octane Wrestling before I even came to High Octane Wrestling.
But even then…that’s not all that this means.
Bear with me – allow me a little ramble – because honestly, I think this is important. I think it matters…and most importantly, this is my time, and I want to talk about it. I want Dan Ryan to understand what he’s facing, and what motivates that guy. I have nothing to hide.
I was trained at the same place that trained Trent, the Eisen Dungeon – and I was trained by the same guy – and here’s a name you’ll recognise if you’re a Shockwave Sports Entertainment fan – Trip Eisen. Dude had a stint here, in High Octane Wrestling too, but to say it went badly? Understatement. Still…in his day, he did some shit. Was A Thing, you might say, mostly in SSE. Trent, if you’re forgetting? Last ever SSE Champion. He also trained some other guys, but the one notable one? Rob Michaels. And, y’know, if you REALLY know your shit, you know that, at one point in time, there was a whole Lee Best running a show in SSE that was essentially HOW thing going on. Just for more context about the, y’know…bits of shared history here. But…outside of the occasionally active Trent, I’m all that’s left of that side of that bit of the tree.
So I feel a duty, an obligation there, to keep that…legacy, I guess…going.
But even then…
Rob…Mike…whatever you want to call him…the dude’s influence on this company? Huge. Go ask Lee. But when I was struggling in those first six months – when I felt like I couldn’t buy a fucking win and like nobody was watching, dude took the time to talk to me. Yeah, sure, maybe, given the shared trainer, I shoulda expected it, but have you struggled through the first six months of learning how to wrestle in front of people in front of literally millions, on TV week after week, suffering defeat most of the time? Have you had that baptism of fire?
I doubt it. But I did. I nearly walked away. Dude…didn’t talk me out of it, but…he was watching. Literally every single fucking thing. Took the time to give me feedback. Some tips. Shit helped.
Less than six months later, I was High Octane Wrestling World Champion. I nearly won the Lee Best Invitational. I should have won the LSD Championship from Mark O’Neal at March To Glory, but instead, it got changed to non title at the last minute. But regardless…the guy had an impact on me. Changed the trajectory of my career with one conversation he probably didn’t even remember two months later.
Or maybe he did. Wouldn’t have surprised me.
So…yeah, I feel the weight of that legacy on my shoulders. That there aren’t many who can trace their history back that far, and fewer still with such direct links to the people who ran things. Who laid the foundations for the house we currently wrestle in.
I was born in High Octane Wrestling. I was raised in High Octane Wrestling, and I came of age here. And then I gave this place my career.
Again, we circle back around to an important question – outside of age, the major difference between myself and Dan Ryan – a thing he’s loved to bring attention to – why don’t I care about anything outside of High Octane Wrestling?
And, I hope, with the above, it becomes horrifically clear. However, I am aware it’s 2023, and attention spans…they aren’t what they were even a decade ago, so I’ll sum it up for you.
High Octane Wrestling is the best wrestling company on the planet, so why would I wrestle anywhere else? That is the first point here. Second is the whole bit about legacy, about people…which leads into the third…which is that I feel like because I’m born of this place, because of the people who had an influence on my early career, that I have to drive this place on to be better. That I have to do what I can to make sure we are the best fucking wrestling federation on the planet.
And maybe it’s just purely fucking ego and hubris, right? I get that. I understand that. But I truly believe that I’m one of the best at this that there is, that there has ever been. I am relentless in a way few are…and maybe I’m stupid.
Maybe I’m a fucking idiot because I have given my life to this shit. I don’t have brothers to kill, or anything like that. I can’t tell you that I’ve killed a man to win the High Octane Wrestling World Championship or anything like that, but do you know what I have outside of this?
I mean, sure, I got a taco business and a home in the most exclusive neighborhood in Cardiff, I got a Hall of Fame Ring and Five World Championships, but do you know what those things feel like to me?
Like nothing. Like I have achieved fuck all.
Because I don’t…I don’t know what it’s like to have the conventional dream. I don’t even know what it’s like to go home to some mediocre woman you don’t really give a fuck about because I spent most of my spare time watching professional wrestling. Watching some shit about my opponent next week, or something I could send in to the production team to try and make our matches next week a little better, instead of doing what most people would do – shit date after shit date until eventually you go on a date when you’re both drunk enough to fuck, and then the next thing you know, you’re down at the mortgage advisor, asking exactly how much some asshole in a bank is gonna let you borrow so you can own a small, damp patch of land that’s got some slapped together house on.
I don’t know what that’s like.
I don’t know how it is to walk into my house and have someone greet me, to have maybe food waiting or some shit. I can’t tell you what it’s like to have a person actually care about you.
…and the worst thing is?
I don’t think I care.
When I retired…it felt good to walk away. I had done it all. What was the point of doing more? Plus, the absolutely relentless schedule I’d wrestled from the moment I’d signed…everyone gets burned out. But soon, life started to feel hollow. You think I really give a fuck about coming up with a different taco every single fucking week?
Then you get the itch, but you do anything to not scratch it. I’m done, you say. You maybe take up some other hobbies. Learn an instrument. Something.
But that itch doesn’t go. You feel the need to take the mantle up again. You try some other shit…but eventually you cave. And you reach out. Your anxious ass figures nah, the business has moved on…but it wasn’t even a question for Lee Best. Just “yeah, I’ll send over a contract” straight away.
And that’s the point where you’ve gotta admit it to yourself, right?
You’ve spent your career figuring that you were a better dude than Mike Best…but it’s that moment you’ve got to admit to yourself that you’re exactly as bad as he is. I mean…maybe you’re not gonna process the fact that you’ve admitted that, but…deep down, you know you are.
Ten isn’t enough for Mike, just like how Five isn’t enough for me.
I am, just like he is…an addict. For the same thing.
No, not cocaine – that shit just isn’t my bag.
But for that High Octane Wrestling World Championship. That strap of red and gold that signifies you are the greatest singles wrestler on the planet at this moment in time. Maybe that’s stupid and idiotic…but I can’t help it.
I’m pretty sure that every other wrestler who has signed for High Octane Wrestling since War Games has had a shot at a singles championship. I haven’t. And maybe I should moan more about that – finally winning the LSD Championship would be nice. Same for the TV Championship. But the truth?
I was glad I never had a match for any of those championships.
Because all I want – all I’ve ever wanted in my professional career – is to be High Octane Wrestling World Champion. Six won’t be enough. Or eleven. Or twelve.
It will never be enough.
And…weirdly enough, and perhaps it’s only for me and Mike…but that addiction, that fixation on being the best, and going relentlessly about your business until you can call yourself that…that to me, is what High Octane Wrestling is. It’s what we talk about when we say we bleed #97Red.
Maybe you see it differently.
But I think I’ve got it.
My opponent speaks of wrestling for High Octane Wrestling, of wrestling out of a sense of loyalty to Lee Best, talking as if he knows, he understands what this place is because Lee Best took a chance on him when he was low…
…because Lee Best didn’t take a chance on any of us, did he?
No, Dan…Lee Best does not care about you, Lee Best cares about the money he can make from you. Given Lee Best’s attitude, his history…do you really think he gives THAT much of a fuck about a guy who’s patiently waited in line for his World Championship? Sixty something matches – according to your biography page – of waiting, patiently, like the Good Soldier, hoping that one day, some scraps from the Big Boy table falls down and you can finally eat.
Do you honestly think that Lee fucking Best respects that?
Can you even respect yourself? “Oh yeah, oh man, I WANT the World Championship…don’t mind me, I’m gonna assemble an impressive singles record and then I’m just gonna wait quietly and hope somebody notices! After all, professional wrestling is a purely merit based business where only the in ring result matters!”
I wrestle for High Octane Wrestling, Dan. I wrestle to keep doing my part to make sure it’s the best wrestling federation on the planet. I wrestle to uphold what those who came before did for me, to honour their memories. I wrestle for Lee Best, for Mike Best, for literally anyone on this planet who enjoys a professional wrestling match. I wrestle in the truest traditions of High Octane Wrestling, the same relentless, non stop shit I used to watch at home as a teenager.
But most importantly?
I wrestle for myself. For my addiction.
I wrestle because I have a desperate need to be High Octane Wrestling World Champion.
Maybe you beat me, Dan. Maybe you move onto ICONIC to challenge for that World Championship…but Lee…Lee’s dangled the fix in front of me. Told me I can have another hit…if I’m willing to do what it takes to get it. And so like a desperate fucking junkie, you can be fucking sure I am giving this more than I have. Go until I cannot. You know the cliches as well as I do.
And maybe I win. Maybe the ghosts of High Octane that I carry around do the same fucking thing they’ve done for me all my career – they give me strength, they drive me on.
Because my ghosts, Dan? They’re some of the very same ones who haunt your God.
Koyo – Flatline Afternoon