Sunday, September 19th
St Louis, MO
I stood at my office window looking down at the cadets. Watching Chris put them through their paces in a beasting of a circuit training session brought a smile to my face. It wasn’t that long ago when I was standing in that very position, peering down at an empty gymnasium and empty ring. Now it was full of life, blood, sweat and tears. So far all twelve of them have stuck around. We already have a good sense of who the pack leaders are and who is lagging behind. It was time to start pinpointing some weaknesses and testing their individual strengths and weaknesses.
I could stand there all day watching them. But I had my own training to attend to. My own preparations. It seems my request was received and answered on the previous show. I will now be defending my LSD championship against the Legendary Jack harmen. Who made the booking? Lee from his sick bed? Mike? Did Harmen take the bull by the horns and throw his name out there as a challenger?
Who knows? It’s not important. What is important is that I keep myself warm for Rumble at the Rock. I can’t head into #97 minute Iron Man match without some matches under my belt. And they have to be with the title on the line. The more I defend, the stronger I become. Harmen will provide a good test. A man whom I have already beaten, back at Iconic. We put on a hell of a match, he and I. I expect the same, but perhaps a different Harmen than the one I got last time.
I stepped away from the window and reached for the remote control on my desk, lowering the projector screen to plunge my office into darkness. Clicking on my desk lamp I slumped into my chair, clicking on my screen to bring up the portfolio I had put together on Harmen. There he appeared on the screen, his mug shot from the howrestling.com website.
I stared at his image for a solid ten minutes, allowing the flashbacks from our previous match to trigger in my brain. The mistakes he made. The mistakes I made. There were only a few for both of us. It was a demonstration of what a polished, competitive match between two ring veterans should look like. We both tried to outfox one another, out vet one another, neither giving the other an inch.
The knocking at my office door brought me back from Iconic with an air of sadness. Iconic is always a happy place for me. It’s where some of my greatest achievements and performances have taken place.
“Come in,” I called, swivelling the chair slightly to greet the person behind it.
I was pleased to see my young protege, Adam Ellis, quietly make his way into my office.
“Adam!” I greeted. “Take a seat,” I continued, gesturing at the upholstered chair in front of my desk.
“How you doing?” he pleasantly asked, as he took his seat in front of me.
“I’m good. You? That was a great performance last night,” I commended, giving him a much needed rub.
He forced a half smile, clearly disappointed with his efforts. He had competed against the MVW mens champion and come up short.
“Hey, seriously mi amigo,” I continued, lowering my eyes so that he had to make contact. “You did good. You proved that you can go the distance with their top guy and very nearly got the dub. You should be proud.”
I smirked. It was good that he was disappointed. No one should ever be satisfied with a loss. But for a kid like him at this early stage in his career? It’s about testing your progress and learning lessons. He was on an upward curve in my eyes.
“So your defending against Flyer, huh?” he asked, turning and noticing Harmen’s image on the projector screen.
“Indeed. Should be a great main event.”
“Ah, you’ll smoke him!” he said with confidence, as though it was as easy as that.
He seemed caught off guard by my response, probably expecting me to share his confidence. In many respects I do. I don’t expect to lose, I fully picture myself retaining the LSD championship and preparing for the Iron man.
“I mean, you’ve already beaten him once. And you’re in better shape now than you were then. I mean look at the size of you now,” he said, complimenting my bulkier physique.
I flexed my arms instinctively, sticking out my chest like a peacock. It was true that I was feeling bigger.
“I’m back to two-forty-five. Only this time with no fat,” I proudly explained. “But let me ask you something. When you eventually get your shot at the Heartland title, it will likely be against Stevens. Who has already beaten you, by the way. He is older than you. More experienced than you. Better than you. So what is your mentality going into that match, knowing that he is the favourite and you are the underdog?”
His frown told me all that I needed to know.
“With a title on the line? Who knows when I get an opportunity at that again. I’m going in there to win it!”
I simply pointed a finger at him with a wry smile, and his look of realisation told me he knew what I was getting at.
“It will be the same for Flyer. Except, unlike you? He is no rookie. His career is dwindling away. This could be his last shot at being a champion and If I were him? I’d have to have beaten within an inch of my life to lose. I certainly won’t be underestimating him.”
He watched me intently. I can tell that Adam hangs on my every word. I have to think carefully of what I say or do around him. It’s like having a child again. One wrong moment could shape them into something you don’t want them to be.
When he and I share moments like this I can feel myself softening. I don’t know whether I like that. Is it weakness? I’ve evolved over my career into a cold, merciless man. But I don’t weak. I feel objective. I feel by helping him I am helping myself, by providing that clarity of what the situation needs.
“You need to remember this, Adam. I am better than Harmen. He’s past his prime. He’s long past his best. But his heart still beats!” I emphasised, pounding my own fist into the centre of my chest. “Whilst the embers are still glowing a fire can burn.”
He nodded, seeming to grasp what I was trying to say to him, before standing and heading over to the projector screen.
“I am better than Flyer. I am the favourite to win this match and with that comes the burden of expectation,” I explained, getting up from my desk and walking over to join him by his side. “For some it lies heavy!”
I planted a firm hand on his shoulder, pushing it down so that he could feel the physical manifestation of what I was explaining.
“For me? I don’t mind it. It fuels me to stand up and be counted for. To step up to plate when it fucking matters and say ‘Look at me! I am John, fucking, Sektor. The LSD champeon. I am the fucking best and I’m going to shove it down all of your throats,” I laughed, grabbing him by the throat playfully and jiggling him around.
I took his face in my hands and looked into his eyes.
“Soon you will feel what it is like to be a champion. It is the best feeling in the world but there is a target on your back. Harmen knows this. He has been a champion many times. Question is? Does he still want it?”
Ellis cocked his head like a confused puppy.
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Well,” I shrugged. “He’s older than me and beat up. Being a champion is a huge responsibility. For some, it becomes a burden. It’s not just about walking around with it slung over your shoulder like you’re some kind of hot shit,” I explained. “You have to elevate it. You have to make it mean something. You make people believe that your championship is the hottest thing in wrestling at this moment in time. It’s work. All of the time, twenty-four seven. Because the second that title goes cold? You may as well stop being a champion because if no one gives a fuck? What’s the point..”
Adam nodded, understanding what I was saying but clearly concerned after having the wool pulled back from over his eyes.
“Are you saying Harmen can’t be bothered any more?”
“No, no. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just wondering how far he’s willing to go to take it from me. Because I know what that limit is.”
I seemed to lose him, at that point, as he began to peek behind the projector screen and out the window at the shop floor.
“How are you finding the recruits?” I asked.
“Meh,” he replied.
“Meh? What is meh?”
“I don’t think they like me much,” he replied.
I smirked as I cupped a hand on the back of his neck and walked him back to my office chair, sitting him down.
“Do not worry about what they think of you,” I reassure him, taking my seat behind the desk.
“I think they resent me. I mean you’re putting them through hell all day every day and I get special treatment.”
I frown, taking exception to that claim. “Am I being too easy on you?”
“No!” he panicked.
“Look, Adam. Fuck those guys. You have already earned your name and now you are beginning to make it in the wrestling world down at MVW. One day, you will be ready to step up to the big leagues, with me in your corner.”
I couldn’t help but take a deep, concerning, breath.
“I hope? Who knows what the future is with everything up in the air as it is. But we can only focus on what is happening now. You need to keep that hunger for the Heartland title, and focus on ripping it from Stevens’ hands. Then you will take the next step in your training.”
He nodded slowly, appreciating what I was explaining to him.
“So what’s the plan today?” he asked, looking ready and raring to get going.
“Today? For you? Nothing my friend. You rest and relax. Go spend some time with your girl,” I said, feeling myself going soft again.
“Yeah! You can join me tomorrow and will put in the grind for my title defence. But today is God’s day, so you rest.”
“I didn’t know you were religious,” he replied, sounding surprised.
“I’m not. It’s just something my father would say to me,” I said, feeling a sudden sadness as my fractious relationship with my own father began to bury its way back into my mind.
I shook myself out of that mindset pretty quick.
“Now get out here. Go finger bang your girl!”
He laughed and gave me an appreciative nod before exiting my office. With a deep sigh and forced myself out of the chair and walked back over to the projector screen, staring at the image of High Flyer as though we were nose to nose.
“Soon we will do battle again, old friend,” I said, with a genuine passion in my tone. “There are very few wrestlers these days who I have sincere admiration for, but you are most certainly one of them. But that won’t hold me back. I will stretch you the same as every other foe who has fallen.”
I laughed, remembering how I finished our match at Iconic.
“Last time I took a risk to beat you. I climbed the turnbuckle and performed a move I hadn’t done for years. The shooting star press. I did it because I wanted to beat you at your own game, and show you that whilst you can’t still do all that acrobatic shit you used too? I still could if I wanted to.”
I shook my head, telling myself what I needed to hear.
“There won’t be any risk taking next week. I will make you tap, and retain my championship.”
I even smirked and gave his picture a wink before turning away from it.
“You deserve this, my friend. You deserve to share this moment with me.”
I stood in front of the LSD championship, which sat on its own shelf above where I would sit at my desk.
I ran my fingers along my nameplate, smiling at my own eyes in the reflection.
“You will never have this..”