What Makes A Champion GREAT?

What Makes A Champion GREAT?

Posted on May 15, 2024 at 4:03 pm by Silent Witness

What makes a champion?

Those are the last four words in your latest blog. I know it wasn’t meant as a question, but it has stuck with me all day. The answer is simple, though, isn’t it? Winning a title match makes a champion. Johnny Lexicon was HOW World Champion. Isaac Slade was HOW World Champion. Adonis Smyth was-

I apologize for that last one. I’m sure it’s still a little bit too soon, even if it has been over a decade. My point is that I have been thinking about this for hours, until I finally realized something: I have been asking myself the wrong question. The question I should be asking – the question I have been trying to answer – is what makes a champion great?

There are a lot of ways you could answer that. Ask some of the old timers and they might say Chris Kostoff’s rage-filled, take-no-prisoners brutality makes a good champion. A man that would do whatever it takes to win. Others might say that intellect and cunning make a great champion. Somebody that would meticulously and systematically break their opponent down. HOW has had one of those before, when they were in their prime. HOW has also had Jatt Starr and Darkwing – two men that knew they had a massive ego, but harnessed it into a pure desire to be the best. Men that would not acknowledge the possibility of defeat, and would do everything they could to make sure they never tasted it.

A woman like Bobbinette Carey that walked into this company with a point to prove. A woman that walked in a misogynistic, male-dominated environment so that the likes of Tara Davidson could run.

All great answers. This is the part where most people would tell you that they are going to harness all of those elements like they’re Captain fucking Planet and use all those strengths to beat you. All while ignoring their own weaknesses, which would ultimately lead to their downfall. It’s so cliché. Tired. Boring. I’m not here to tell you that, Mike.

I’m here to say that you are Captain fucking Planet. All of those admirable qualities were what those great champions leaned on, and they were all truly great champions. When that thing they leaned on didn’t work, they eventually lost. But you… I don’t know how you do it, Michael. You are all of those powers combined. The greatest of all time

I’ve been pretty liberal over the past few weeks with that phrase. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass, it’s just factual. HOW first opened its doors 22 years ago, and if it went another 22 before closing, nobody would come close to even challenging that fact. I remember the debates and the arguments about who was better: Mike Best or Rhys Townsend? There is no argument or debate to be had anymore, and there hasn’t been for a long time. That is just reality. I admire every one of those great champions I mentioned, but none of them hold a fucking candle to your natural-born talent, and your dedication to this company.

Let me be honest with you, Mike. I’m going to do that a lot today, but let me start here:

I wish I hated you. 

I wish I could tell you that I hate you, Mike. It would make things a lot easier. If I hated you, I could sit here and tell you that after I beat you, I would go out and buy the most expensive bottle of whisky I can afford. Hell, maybe even get Mickey to buy it with all of his millions, so it’s some real good shit. And tell you that I’d pour it all over the grave of what was your title reign – once it had passed through my kidneys. 

But I don’t hate you. I respect the fuck out of you. We are friends, when we aren’t trying to knock each other unconscious to get our hands on that belt… And it’s because I respect you and value you as a human being that I can tell you something far more meaningful than some quick-witted soundbyte:

If I beat you for the HOW World Championship on Friday night, I promise you that I will respect the legacy that you have built for that title, and I will continue to defend it in a way that is meaningful, to the very best of my ability. Always. The HOW World Championship became the peak of this business because of those great champions in the early days of HOW, but it has been elevated to this… unicorn status because of Michael Lee Best. And I respect you too much to tell you anything different. I will do my very best to honor what you have achieved.

I’m not sitting here typing out this blog post to tell you that I will beat you at Chaos. I won’t disrespect you like that. I am sitting here as your equal, telling you that whichever one of us is lucky enough to get that three-count fully fucking deserves it. And it will be luck that decides it, we both know that. I will never equal your accomplishments in HOW, or even come close to it. Greatest of all time versus maybe top 20, at a push. But as a wrestler, right now in this… what-the-fuck-happened-and-how-did-we-get-here moment… I am your equal, and it will be an honor to share the ring with you for the HOW World Championship again, and it will be my honor to shake your hand at the end of it, even if I don’t get the outcome I want.

I guess I’m supposed to tell you just how much I want this, but what’s the point? You already know. You know how much I want this because you want it just as much. We have already had this battle, and in all great battles, you get to know a man. Neither of us have to vocalize it, or acknowledge it. But we both know. Just like I know that you are not underestimating me, or that I am not underestimating you. Or how I know that this isn’t the same man I stepped in the ring with three weeks ago. Fuck, it’s not the same man I stepped in the ring with last week

Michael, you are a man that has finally realized that when you step in the ring at Chaos, the man standing across the ring from you will do everything he can to take your livelihood away from you – and for the first time in a long time, he has the ability to actually do it. Friday night might be the last time that you get to walk out last. And that is why you aren’t seeing me talking some bullshit about how I almost got you last time, and this time I will finish the job.

No, this is a new Michael Lee Best. Well… an old one that has come back, but you know what I mean. The only thing that is relevant about our first match is that now I know I belong in that ring with you. Everything else… I don’t care about any of it, because I have an opportunity to right some wrongs that I have lived with for a long fucking time. Things that have far greater value than trying to one-up you with some bullshit about what happened last week or three weeks ago. I believe you when you tell me that I have earned this shot. I believe you when you tell me that you are proud of me.

So I hope you believe me when I tell you that, not only do I need to beat you… I fucking owe it to you. 

I owe it to your dad. I owe it to HOW. I told you I was going to get real fucking honest with you, Mike, and here it is, the secret that everybody knows, everybody has talked about for years in hushed tones, but nobody has ever had the balls to say out loud: I am in debt to every single person that was on the HOW roster when I vacated the World Championship in 2012, whether they are still here or not. Sure, Townsend fucked my face up. Sure, I wasn’t cleared to compete. But deep down in my soul, I know that I let you down. All of you. All of HOW.

I earned my opportunity to be the face of the company, and I fucking blew it. 54 days as HOW World Champion, riding the highest wave of my life until… Well, now. Then I walked the fuck out of HOW… What a waste. I am ashamed of myself for that. It has never left me, and it never will unless I make it right. This is why I have worked so hard to wake you up, Mike. If I can beat you… the real you, the one showing up this week… It’s a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you when I say that, Michael, it’s just a metaphor I have in my mind on how I can repay my debt. If I can beat the greatest to earn my shot at redemption, then I can work out how to climb the rest of that ladder further down the line.

I just hope that if I do win this week, that you end up on my team when that draw is made for War Games. Because goddamn it, Mike, if the two of us end up on the same side, I really don’t think anybody else stands a chance right now. So, I need that captain’s advantage, my friend. But I digress. War Games captaincy is just a bonus, when I have a far greater, more immediate need.

Specifically, the need to repay my debt to your father. While you have been here, tirelessly working and helping HOW become the unstoppable machine that it is today, I have just been a sporadic contributor. You have earned your forgiveness for the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream that was Utah, but I have not. I owe him. I owe him more than I think I could ever repay, but the closest I can get to it is by throwing everything I have at being the best World Champion that I can possibly be, and just hoping that it’s enough. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I would ever get this opportunity again. But now that it’s here, I will do everything I can to redeem my transgressions.

I am not going away. I am not going to run when things get tough. I am here for the long haul, and I hope that I can prove myself by being the World Champion that HOW deserved 12 years ago. Better, even, because it is the least I could do to make up for the mistakes I made in my youth. I am not the greatest of all time, and I never will be. But there is still a chance for me to be the greatest that I can be.

So… What makes a champion great? 

Talent. Desire. Adaptability. Accountability. A healthy ego. Heartlessness. Knowing your weaknesses. Knowing your strengths. Countless more qualities that I don’t need to list here.

If a great champion is lucky, they will possess three, maybe four of them. If you’re the greatest of all time, you possess pretty much all of them. So… how does a man on the verge of his own greatness overcome said greatest of all time? Well, he leans on other, less desirable qualities that he just can’t shift, but they just might be what he needs to keep kicking out when his body is pleading with him to just give in.

Guilt. Shame. Disgust in himself. An unquenchable thirst to prove that he belongs. To be accepted. Knowing that he will never forgive himself, but still striving to earn the right to do so. Mentally, none of that is healthy. But this week, I have to remember all of it. Because when we go toe-to toe, fist-for-fist, suplex-for-suplex and anything else that we put each other through, those are the only things I have that you don’t. That, and a need to prove myself with three, maybe four of those positive attributes I told you about. 

Loyalty to the company that made him who he is – the good and the bad. To the man that gave him chance after chance after chance. Loyalty for his own benefit, but also to the benefit of those around him. To repay them.

Dedication to live up to his word that he will honor the champion he replaces, if he is lucky enough to take on that mantle. Dedication to honor all the great champions that came before him.

Respect. For Lee Best, for the HOW fans, for the locker room. For the former World Champions that gave HOW the foundations to still be hosting these special matches decades later.

For the World Champion that he wants to displace. For his friend, the greatest professional wrestler of all time: Michael Lee Best. A respect that means he will forget about that friendship for every second that passes from bell ring to bell ring. A respect that means he will do everything he can to destroy that friend if it means victory. 

So, do whatever it takes, Mike. Bring that intellect, that cunning. Meticulously and systematically try to break me. Harness your ego. Acknowledge that you might lose, and do everything you can to avoid it.

I will use everything I can to take all of it, and hope I am lucky enough to keep fucking going. For a shot at redemption. For the respect between us that will be restored after the final bell rings with a handshake.

For a respect that I do not deserve, but owe.

That is what will make this champion great.