Miami was prototypically sunny and warm on this Wednesday afternoon. If you could have dreamed of what paradise looked like, then it would be this city on this particular day. Sand, sun, and lots of fun. That is the spirit of this city, and the locals live this every single day. Hard to be unhappy when you’re in Miami, Florida. Hard… but not impossible. Deep within the city there was a tall professional building where many different suites contained all kinds of various doctors or other services that could be of use to the everyday customer. Locked away in suite 310 of the building was the office of my therapist Dr. Howard.
It was already the middle of our session today, but I found myself seated in her office just looking around at the various paintings and degrees that lined the walls of the room. This week was a big week, maybe the biggest week since I’ve returned to professional wrestling. I should be on cloud nine right now but honestly, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. My life had become a literal rollercoaster. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I needed someone to turn to before things completely spiraled out of control.
“I’m pretty sure you aren’t paying me to sit here and get lost in your own thoughts.” Dr. Howard’s words snapped me to attention.
“Sorry, just a lot of going on and I’ve been kind of distracted lately. What was your question again?” I chuckled nervously as I spoke.
“I was asking how you are doing physically.” Dr. Howard repeated in a matter-of-fact tone.
I took a deep breath and held it for a moment before slowly exhaling through my nostrils. I formed the best smile I could muster before answering the question.
“Physically I’m doing alright. Wrestling in two different companies isn’t the easiest thing in the world but lately my in-ring time hasn’t been as bad. I haven’t stepped into the ring for OCW in weeks and I’ve only been wrestling in HOW at the moment. Other than the normal bumps and bruises. I’m doing pretty well… physically.” I didn’t mean to pause at the end, but it was one of those involuntary things.
“Well, with everything you’ve gone through medically, a clean bill of health is always a blessing.” Dr. Howard looked down at the folder in her hand and began to scribble something inside of it.
“Yeah, I’ve taken care of my body the best I’ve possibly can over the last year or so, all things considered.” I nodded my head a bit… I don’t know why but again it was more involuntary than anything.
“So, what about emotionally?” Dr. Howard leaned her head up and looked at me over her horn-rimmed glasses.
“That is a loaded question.” It felt like I was here but also a million miles away.
“Go on.” Dr. Howard looked down at the folder again and began taking more notes.
“Where do I begin?” I said, thinking out loud. “I’ve been traveling a lot. More than usual and just been staying really busy. I guess with everything going on I’ve neglected a few things here and there and now those things are turning into issues that I don’t really want to deal with. But if I don’t, things just keep getting worse and worse.” I let out a sigh.
I hated therapy, I absolutely despise it. After my divorce from Tara, it was something that I needed instead of burying myself in alcohol and gambling. Having to retire for five years and losing the person I was married to at the time became a dark period in my life. I didn’t want to end up being one of those athletes. The ones they do a television special on, about how it all went wrong where they detailed my glory days to all the things that caused my untimely death.
“I’m going to have to ask you to elaborate on those things. Take your time.” Dr. Howard requested without looking up from the folder.
“First and foremost is the ordeal with my mother and my stepfather. One of the last times that I was in New York City my mother popped up out of nowhere after one of the OCW Massacre events. She was acting very odd and was kind of clingy even though we’ve never had the best relationship. It turned out that my stepfather Dennis Brown. The man that kicked me out and made me live on the streets when I was 14 years old was physically abusing her.” I looked up at the ceiling as I spoke.
It was a habit I had picked up when I was younger. Whenever I was forced to talk about sensitive subjects, I had trouble maintaining eye contact with someone. Each time I looked into someone’s eyes in this situation I’d just start to tear up like a child. I had Dennis and his physical and emotional abuse to thank for that.
“And how did that make you feel?” Dr. Howard was looking to dig a little deeper.
“Honestly? I would say angry but that wasn’t it. It wasn’t shocking or surprising given the kind of person Dennis happens to be. If I had to describe it then the best word would be annoyed. Truth be told I just saw it as an excuse to drive to Dennis’ house and beat the fuck out of him. Something that was on my bucket list since I was younger. I could lie and say I did it for my mother, but I only did it for me. For my own selfish reasons.” I folded my arms across my chest.
“What was the fall out?” Dr. Howard kept writing.
“I demanded that he give my mother a divorce. The house and her car. Which he actually did out of fear of being exposed for the horrible human being that he is. But that came out anyway and he decided to press charges on me for what I did to him. My mother got what she wanted but I got locked up. My sister bailed me out, but I’ve got a court date at some point in the future that I have to deal with. If that wasn’t bad enough my mother decided to do something to thank me. She… after all these years decided to contact my biological father and give him my phone number and address.” There was a small amount of anger in my voice.
Dr. Howard stopped writing and looked at me for a moment. The silence between us was heavy and awkward but obviously I still refused to look her in the eye.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Dr. Howard broke the awkward silence.
“If it was a good thing, would I really be sitting here right now?” I lowered my head from the ceiling to look out of a nearby window.
“Fair enough, so how are you handling it?” Dr. Howard focused her attention back to the folder.
“I’m freaking out about it on the inside while trying to distract myself with anything and everything so that I can forget it even happened. What else am I supposed to do really? Some random dude can just roll up to my front door and be like ‘Yo, I’m your Daddy’ and I’m supposed to be just okay with that? I’ve stopped answering phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize because I have no idea what I would say if I answered one of his calls.” I shook my head a bit.
“It is quite the tough situation to deal with, but I feel like you should definitely only engage when you feel ready to have that conversation or meeting.” Dr. Howard tried to sound supportive. “How is your love life?”
I visibly shuddered at that question.
“Both good and bad.” I admitted.
“How so?” Dr. Howard raised her eyebrow.
“I met someone. A fellow wrestler. Her name is Samantha Tolson and we kind of hit it off instantly. It’s still kind of new and nothing is official, but I don’t know. I find myself wanting to be around her even with everything going on. It’s like a peaceful get away from all of my problems. But speaking of problems. My manager/live-in friend with benefits named Madison seems highly upset by my actions with Samantha. I’ve recently stopped traveling with Madison and been spending my time with Samantha. It’s made life at home very difficult but my sister Bailey, who also lives with me now, is siding with Madison. I’m an asshole in their eyes and I’m treated like a redheaded stepchild in my own home.” I stopped to take a breath.
I could see Dr. Howard shaking her head out of the corner of my eye.
“Do I even need to comment?” There was sarcasm in Dr. Howard’s voice.
“Yes. I know I fucked up with Madison. But my life moves fast, and she knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want a relationship. I THOUGHT I was doing the right thing by not flaunting it in her face but clearly, I was wrong. I can’t take back what happened, but I also can’t fix it if she refuses to talk to me.” I began to tap my foot on the floor from sheer annoyance.
“Is Samantha Tolson your girlfriend?” Dr. Howard asked the same question everyone else has been asking.
“NO! I mean… I don’t know, honestly. I haven’t had that conversation with her about it. I don’t want to complicate things. I’m just enjoying how things are with her at the moment. I don’t feel like she’s the type that wants to settle down at the moment and I’m fine with that. But I’m keeping her away from the whole Madison situation by any means necessary. I feel like the whole ordeal would just scare her off.” I confessed.
“Do you love Samantha Tolson?” Dr. Howard and my eyes almost bulged completely out of my head.
“It is WAY too soon to even discuss that word.” I tugged at the collar of my shirt suddenly feeling like the air conditioning in the room had stopped working.
“It sounds like a messy situation. What are you going to do to remedy it?” Dr. Howard tapped her pen repeatedly against the folder.
“I mean… that’s a good question. I have an important match here in Miami on Sunday night that I’m both excited about and dreading. I hate even stepping foot into my own house, but I know I need to find a solution to this mess. I have no excuse not to have Madison with me at ringside this week, but do I want her there… is what I need to figure out.” I was thinking out loud again.
“She is your manager. I don’t see the point of her having that title if you’re not going to allow her to do the job. You live with this woman, so, clearly you have some kind of feelings for her.” Dr. Howard says logically.
“That makes sense; however, it just seems too much of a hassle to just get back into things with Madison and–” Dr. Howard interrupted me.
“Just take her to the ring with you Sunday night and stop being a pussy. You have to make the first move in getting her to talk to you. So, go home and work the shit out or keep having problems with women weighing you down.” Dr. Howard says bluntly.
I turned my head in her direction and just blinked at her. Completely shocked by her no bullshit approach to her last comment. Dr. Howard cleared her throat then looked down at the watch on her wrist.
“Seems like our time for today is up. I hope this session was helpful to you and we can always reschedule another session if you need it.” Dr. Howard’s tone did a complete 180 as she rose from her seat.
I narrowed my eyes at my therapist but remained silent as I got up from my seat. Dr. Howard walked me to the door and waved as I exited the office. There was too much riding on the line come Sunday night and I had things that needed my attention before I could focus on my opponent.
You co-won War Games in your 2nd ever match in HOW.
That’s the thing that keeps playing on a loop in my head when it comes to you, Tyler. I will be the first to admit it, I’m fucking jealous of that fact. Anyone that isn’t jealous is a moron or just plain lying to themselves. You accomplished something that no one else has managed to do in the history of professional wrestling. Not just in HOW, not just in PWA. In the entire fucking industry and the scary part is that you’re only getting started.
I could sit here and talk about how you’re still young and you’ve got a lot to learn.
But I’m not in the mood to blow smoke up your ass. I’m not going to dissect how you accomplished what you did or whine like a Joe Bergman promo about how you’ve used your last name to have an unfair advantage against the rest of the roster. This isn’t a tangent about how unethical the machine happens to be. This is a Tyler Adrian Best appreciation story. You’re right, I know exactly what you’re capable of doing. I’ve been in the ring with you and seen it with my own eyes.
This isn’t so much a mentor vs. student scenario.
This is about two men… yes, you’re a grown fucking man regardless of only being 18 or the fact that simple minded people want to treat you as a child. This is about two men who want to climb to the peak of the mountain known as HOW and rule it with an iron fist. I am the LSD Champion and you’re the ICON Champion. But in the grand scheme of things? Those belts are just leather and gold. The meaning… the value in those titles flows through each of our veins. You have the Best family blood flowing through your veins. You were given those exceptional natural gifts and together with many of the greats in this business. We’ve helped you hone your skills to the point that again… you co-won goddamn War Games in your second HOW match.
This match… this match is bigger than any other match I’ve had since 2015 or earlier.
I wasn’t born into a wrestling family. I didn’t have a father in my life to show me the ropes. I had to fight, scratch, and claw my way to get as good as I am. I heard everything you said and I’m not going to say you’re wrong. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit those very things have been gnawing at the back of my mind for over a year now. You hit the nail on the fucking head, and I should heed your warning but here’s the thing, Tyler…
I’m not as smart as you give me credit for.
I know you’re hungry. I know you’re starving. I can see it in your eyes. And maybe you do need this more than I do. However, you’re not the only one with a chip on your shoulder. You’re right, I’ve gotten my flowers. I’ve got my Hall of Fame ring, and I had my time in the spotlight. But the thing is? I had that time cut fucking short. I let feelings and emotions throw my fucking career off the fucking tracks. Not just for a moment, not just a short amount of time.
FOR FIVE FUCKING YEARS!
For five years I sat at home on the fucking couch just watching. I sat there pretty much dead inside with a goddamn broken neck trying to cope with the fact it was all over. That my career ended in a flash due to my stupidity of trying to protect a whore that I married who cheated on me and tried to claim someone else’s baby was fucking mine. That I was easily fucking forgotten and had to eat nasty ass Spaghetti-O’s out of a can. All because I didn’t have a steady income or a Hall of Fame ring to get me an invite to all the fancy conventions for retired washed-up wrestlers. To sit there and smile for photos, sign autographs, and reminisce about the good old days for some cash.
I was almost a fucking vegetable because I tried to turn a whore into a housewife and that fact alone made me so motherfucking angry.
Angry enough to get off of my ass and do something about it. And day after day, month after month, and year after fucking year, I busted my ass until I was medically cleared to return to the ring. I finally answered all the phone calls and messages from your father and grandfather, and I made my return. As much as I appreciate the kind words and the respect you’ve shown me. It’s not enough. You, your father, your grandfather, Christopher America, and STRONK. All of you respect the fact that I’ve accomplished the things that I’ve accomplished. It’s why I decided to surround myself with people like all of you. Being the Workhouse of PWA is good, it is something I take great pride in.
But pride isn’t doing a GODDAMN thing for my ego.
We have the understanding we do because both have those same demons. Neither of us have a filter that everyone else is born with. Neither of us lose a wink of sleep at night about other people’s feelings. That hunger, that need, that burning in your heart? Yeah, mine started to fade 100%. Your father would always say how it was amazing that I was out there still dominating while pretty much coasting on cruise control. And that is exactly what the fuck was happening. Well, I’m done fucking coasting. I’m tired of hearing the whole JPD isn’t as good as he used to be. The whole JPD is the weak link of The Board.
I’ve gotten my accomplishments, my flowers, and my Hall of Fame ring but I want MORE.
I don’t want to be just another member of The Board, I just don’t want to be just a great wrestler, and I don’t want to just be a HOW Hall of Famer. I don’t want to be lumped into the same category of a Bobbinette Carey, a Scottywood, a Scott Stevens, or a Ryan Faze. I want to stand head and shoulders above the rest. I want to be in the LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan discussion of HOW Hall of Famers alongside your father. I don’t have as long as you do to accomplish that. You might need all of these accomplishments but my need for them is much more urgent. I can’t just think about my own well-being. I can’t just not leave it all out in the ring.
Not this MATCH. Not in MIAMI. Not this MOMENT.
Tyler at 18 years old you are the greatest opponent I will have faced since returning into the ring. Training you has been the Fountain of Youth that I needed to dip my toe into. Your intensity has reminded me of what I need to be if I expect to not only survive but to make it to the top of the mountain. So, you’re damn right I’m going to push you. You’re damn right I’m going to show up and show out in this main event in front of my people. I know what you’re capable of doing inside of the ring when you’re pushed. I’m not going to flinch. I know what it’s like to be ICON and LSD Champion at the same time.
I don’t want it to be just a memory. I want to make it a reality.
I’m not looking to unify any fucking thing. If I manage to pin you in the center of that ring? You best believe I’m going to carry both of those fucking belts and treat them as separate motherfucking titles. I don’t care if that means double duty on PPV or any other show for that matter. I’ve been on a bit of a losing streak. I’ve lost focus. I’ve lost that killer instinct.
Thank you for bringing that back.
Thank you for being a level of opponent that finally woke me up from sleep walking through the competition. I’m not going to lay down. I’m not going to give up no matter the consequences. You’re going to have too… damn near kill me in the middle of that ring if you want to take this LSD Championship belt away from me.
I’ve decided the moment this match was made.
If my ticket is punched for the afterlife. If my career were to end in one night. I couldn’t think of a better opponent or a better place for it to happen.
I had everything taken from me before.
For five years I’ve fought to get it back.
So, now? I’ve made up my mind that I am going to literally die inside of the ring where GOD fucking intended. I fought too long and too hard to get back to this place. I’m not letting anyone pull me out of it again. An HOW ring will be my coffin but I’m not dead yet, motherfucker.
I’m not going to out wrestle you. I’m not going to rely on experience to outsmart you. I’m going to step inside of that arena. Inside of that ring and I’m going to fight you like my life depended on it.
Because it fucking does.
This is all I fucking know. This is everything I ever wanted from the moment I hit fucking puberty. I sacrificed my childhood and a roof over my head for THIS!
And I will sacrifice everything else for it. Doesn’t matter if it’s our friendship, my position on The Board or my spot on the HOW roster.
Thank you, Tyler. For reminding me who the fuck I am and what the hell I need to do.