Monday, May 10th, 2021
Outside Peoria, Arizona
“DIG ME FIVE LATRINES, YOU MAGGOT!!!”
You’re probably wondering why you’re seeing me wear a puke green tank top and camouflage pants in the middle of an Arizona desert; it’s totally unlike me. At the behest of my “wonderful” business manager Meredith; I enrolled at the Burnt Boot Camp outside of Peoria, Arizona. After she witnessed me putting my best foot forward to earn my place in HOW; she continued badgering me until I agreed. This private camp belongs to some family friends of hers and she felt it would challenge my perspective more. In the pamphlet, the camp touted an authentic army experience or some shit like that; I didn’t pay much attention. All I heard was it was intense and would prepare me for my 3 on 1 handicap match this week and I signed on the dotted line…
Boy, do I wish I would have read the fine print!
Enter Sargent Edwards with that furry rodent he calls a mustache, wearing the most god awful puke green bucket hat. While my sweat drenched my face, he scowled at me vehemently wagging his finger in my direction. How was I supposed to know chuckling when he spoke with his Texan accent would land me digging desert toilets. Glaring right back in his direction, I stood in defiance clenching my fists tightly together. Never have I wanted to deck a mother fucker more in my life than this jackass standing in front of me. As he crossed into my personal bubble getting straight up in my face; I heavily gritted my teeth together behind my clinched lips. Adrenaline coursed through my veins preparing my fists to deliver the knockout blow across his jaw, but I stood in place frozen. I took a few deep breaths knowing the next thing I’d be digging was my grave.
Tossing a batted shovel at my feet, he continued to taunt me. “Did I stutter? Pick up that damn shovel and diggin’! NOW!” As he clearly barked his orders; I rushed to grab the shovel as he pointed to a spot nearly 100 feet away directly under the intensely blazing Arizona sun. Sauntering towards the spot, I shook my head sneering at how far I degraded myself to experience this. Like a hawk eyeing it’s prey, Sargent Edwards bellowed out in his rich bass voice, “MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT! Pick up the damn pace soldier!”
“Sir! Yes, sir!” I responded while dashing in the scorching sun. My face began smoldering a bright red tanning my pale Irish complexion and my hair started turning a sun bleached blonde. Wiping the sweat from my forehead became a constant battle as I struck the shovel into the dried and rugged dirt beneath my feet. Without hesitation, my movements became like clockwork as I continued to heap the dirt behind me.
Sargent Edwards called out continuously mocking me as I focused more heavily into the task at hand. “See class, this here is what we call a pussy professional wrestler! They’re all talk, but their fightin’ skills are fake!”
“Fuck these army tools,” I muttered under my breath as I continued to dig.
Within the first two hours, I began to see why Steve Solex had become a killing machine. You don’t have time to overthink; you just act and do. My mind slowly flashed back to when Sektor, Starr, and Solex rushed the ring and attacked Hollywood and me shortly after we won the HOW Tag Team Championships. Acting like a well-oiled machine, he defaulted back to his training like clock work. When Lee gave his orders, Solex jumped like a depraved hungry Rottweiler blindly listening to his master. Devoting himself from all emotions and personality he once had; he’d earned his keep. I couldn’t help respecting his journey more, even if I loathed him for becoming the saddest sack of shit in HOW history.
Maybe I had underestimated Meredith’s plan after we failed two weeks ago against Clay Byrd. She knew I needed to understand the value of hard-work again. She’d been studying Solex’s work ethic from his military background.
While he didn’t have the best track record in an HOW ring as of late; she knew the level of intensity and focus he earned fighting in wars. Lately, I lacked those skills desperately fighting for wins not focusing on any strategy. Overthinking my strategies and my unhinged temper were strategies Solex, Jiles, and JPD could expose at Refueled. What a brilliant strategy! She knew I was entering a war with the Best Alliance fighting for my survival.
I just needed to keep my composure while Sargent Douche waffle continued berating me.
As I reached half way down, I could hear Sergeant Edwards ridiculing me in the distance. “You’re a fuckin’ loser. You’re out here because you can’t even win in some fake pretend fightin’ bullshit. Class, let Darin be a lesson. You wanna be brave laughin’ when I’m talkin’ and you’re gonna be diggin’ shit holes like him learning some respect.”
“You wish you could fight better…” I barely mumbled softly as I stopped digging as I passionately shook my fist in the air.
“WHAT WAS THAT, MAGGOT? Did I hear you backtalk me? Do you want to dig another five latrines today?” Sergeant Edwards interjected as he cut me off. He whipped his head around as he stared a hole right through me.
“No, sir! I do not!” I exclaimed.
“Then you better fuckin’ get back to diggin’!” He screamed out as he focused back on the class continuing to berate me as I continued mercilessly tackling the task at hand.
Closing my eyes to regain self-control concentrating on the match motivated me onward.
“Keep your eyes on the match and you’ll get through this monotonous task. Don’t get over-confident! Just do the work! Just keep focused on the pros of this experience and don’t get lost in your emotions like Solex has done.”
I kept replaying those phrases on repeat in my thoughts while the dirt continued to pile up behind me. It took every ounce of my inner strength not to lose my self-control. For years, I’d given into the whims of my emotions. It became second nature for me to spout my mouth off that it tortured me to hold my words inside and actually do hard-work. It felt liberating. I’d forgotten how rewarding putting the time and effort into my conditioning felt.
My biceps and calves tightened with each passing scoop. My heart raced heavily. Each scoop full of dirt flew directly into my face and eyes. Sweat glued my tank top to my body. Every muscle throbbed in pain. Yet my shoulders became relaxed with each exhausted yet deep breath I took. Exhaustion wasn’t setting in for a change, in fact, this experience invigorated me even if I hated enduring its tortures.
As I finished up tossing the last bit of dirt from out of the hole, I took a moment to admire the toils of my labor. While most people would view making a dirt toilet as meaningless work, I reflected on the growth from the experience. I didn’t bicker or complain; I grew and realized the importance just like I had when setting up the ring this last week.
I couldn’t afford to waste this experience Meredith gave me if I wanted to win. I needed to embrace it and change. I needed to train hard to survive.
Stagnation wasn’t an option any more. I needed to gain the respect back for the business instead of acting like an entitled twatwaffle like I had the last 6 years in HOW. I needed to put the level of respect in the business once again. Rushing into a match guns-a-blazing didn’t work any more. Gaining reverence in my work ethic was a must going into this last stand with them this week. The Best Alliance busted their asses to get their positions of power and I needed to kick my ass into the next gear.
Wiping my sweat drenched forehead, I cracked my neck a few times before grabbing the shovel and getting back to work. Only four more holes stood in my way now.
Monday, May 10th, 2021
Not even 2 hours into boot camp and I’d already been labeled as an unruly soldier. I wasn’t the model soldier like Solex. Hell, I didn’t hold the depth of his experience going into our match at Refueled. My pride earlier from my hard work faded as I felt like a shell of myself. The gravitas of missing this morning’s lesson weighed heavily on my mind. Every slow sauntering step I took towards the back corner of the mess hall made my head throb more from the heat exhaustion. I didn’t want to be bothered after getting punished in front of the class nor did I want to open my mouth. I just wanted to enjoy my lunch and take a nap before afternoon training started.
In the back of my mind, I kept asking myself; “How the fuck did Solex last through this hell?” Knowing his sad mental state after his wife dumped his sad ass; I couldn’t fathom him outlasting my sorry ass even if I was grasping at straws. I let out a huge sigh of relief as my ass sank down into the hard, plastic chair. I gazed down at my food with my mouth watering.
Hunger pangs raged throughout my body. For once the scent of a Sloppy Joe didn’t make my stomach turn. I barely inhaled it after one bite. I reached over for my cup of water and chugged it like Scottywood drinks his beers. Ah! Sustenance!!!! While I wiped down my messy face after finishing my meal before getting up, a rather tall, young, red-headed muscular man immediately plopped down in the seat right next to mine. He extended his hand out as I gave him a baffling look as he introduced himself. “The name’s Bill Braxton! Pleasure to meet you!”
My hands shook as I timidly reached over to shake his hand, “I’m Darin Matthews or as my peers call me…”
He cut me off mid-sentence, “Darin Zion, I’m familiar with your work. I’m a 14-year fan of yours. I have a helluva lot of respect after you manned up to your mistakes out there.”
Exasperated from heat exhaustion, my eyes looked down at the floor as every muscle in my body tensed up from pain. I fumble around trying to grab my tray and exit. Quietly, I respond back. “Well, sorry to let you down but I’m not the same wrestler I was. I’d love to stay and chat, but I want to get a nap in before the afternoon session.”
Bill immediately grabs my tray from my hands. “I got you, man. You earned it today.”
Flabbergasted by his kind gesture, I couldn’t help squinting my eyes perplexed at Bill’s kind gesture. Nonchalantly I asked him “So…do you want an autograph or picture?”
Chuckling while we both walk towards the exit; he shakes his head. He warmly smiles back as he slaps me on the back. “I don’t have a hidden agenda, man. Just offering you some help. You missed a lot in the morning session to help you prepare you for the week. Thought I could help take some of that stress off your shoulders and bring you up to speed.”
Everything grew silent as I shot him a dirty glare as I crossed my arms against my chest knowing I’d have to sacrifice a nap. Slowly he began to stroke his burly red beard as he continued to study me. “Trust me, I know that look. You’re exhausted,” he said, “but, you need to keep at this if you want the authentic military experience. I know you came here targeting Solex. He’s lost his last four matches. Don’t sit around and mope like his sorry ass.”
Begrudgingly, I drop my arms to my sides causing a sharp pain to rush throughout my body. I wince in pain while the gears begin turning in my head. Complaining is the easy path. I’ve done it for my entire career. But Bill hit the nail on the head; I couldn’t just ride off his offer if I wanted to understand Solex better. I needed to keep disciplined even if the going was tough.
“Alright, I’m in. Sorry if I’m dragging my feet. I’m just not used to having support. After all, the Best Alliance hates me and the Grapplers just leave me in the ring to die,” I said as I reach out to shake Bill’s hand thanking him.
“No harm done, man. I understand it completely. Glad you came around because Sarge said he would rip you a new asshole if you struggled any more. The first part of the course is out back. I can condense the lesson in time for the next session. We need to start now so we don’t fall behind,” he said as he dropped the tray into the return window.
Looking at Bill with a smile on my face; I knew I had the support I needed to continue this week and pass with flying colors.
“Solex, I had a lot of respect for you. Hard-working veteran, father of the year, HOW with tons of promise. Your failed sitcom that made my ass laugh. You once leaned proudly on your killer dad instincts. You had a ton of personality that made me wonder if you’d beat me to winning the HOW Championship. . The world was once yours…
And then you turned into a flaming bag of dog shit.
I can hear those gears turning in the back of your brain washed Best Alliance mind. How dare Zion criticize me! He’s lost 6 matches in a row. He’s a sitting duck because the odds are stacked against him. He shouldn’t open his goddamn because he’s the one digging his own grave. He outright defied us. He should earn his stripes before opening his mouth talking any mad shit.
You’re right; I definitely should. I’m stepping into one of the most intense matches of my career. I’ve only set up the ring one week and gone under intense training for one week. I can’t get ahead of myself talking any cute shit before stepping into that ring with the Best Alliance. But I know when I say all this; I’m looking in the mirror at myself. We’ve almost gone down the same path:
We’ve become the classic epitome of a washed up wrestler: multiple match losing streaks, no championships, depressed wrestlers who can’t pull off the goddamned couch. I actually began asking myself if my whiny ass sounded like you after going through your old promos. It made me realize how much everyone hates me for sounding like a broken record.
I’ve gone around the damn locker room acting like I’ve had an inflated ego like I still stood in 2014 able to still float around on the same damn merits with this roster. I act like I have some powerful entity protecting my shitty ass when I need to step back, reflect, learn, and reposition myself.
But at least I recognize it now. I don’t have the luxury of crutches like the Best Alliance has in numbers in this handicap match. I don’t have excuses to lean on when losing. I can’t just keep hitting the reset button praying I strike gold. I’m on my last legs. I have to fight to survive this week.
It’s no easy task, Solex, we’re both fighting for wins. Witness shot it straight. The odds are stacked against me. You’ve got the easiest path to victory having both a current and a former HOW champion standing alongside you in our match. I’m just holding onto a hope and a prayer that I walk out of this match the same Zion.
You damn well know, if this is my last stand against the Best Alliance; I’m not going down without a fuckin’ fight.
I know you’re my easiest path to victory, Solex. Statistically speaking, you’ve transformed into Lee Best’s human shield. Your body eats pinfalls like bullets. It’s no wonder why the Best Alliance won’t enact the Freebird Rule publicly. You’ve become a glorified belt polisher and walking kevlar vest compared to a wrestler. If I were Jiles and Harrison, I’d be lobbying not to have you step in the ring to protect those Tag Belts. Hell, I’ll give you a hand; you single-handedly held down HOW’s most promising Hall of Famer Jace Parker Davidson two weeks ago. You ate the loss so he could protect any future investments he had with that championship contract of his. That isn’t talent, Solex. It’s a testament to just how far your career has fallen.
I’m not proud you’re my target in this match. I’d much rather tout the same old motivational speech that I have sitting in my back pocket that I’ll pin Jace or Jiles and punch my damn ticket to the promised land. But beggars can’t be choosers in a handicap match with the most dangerous stable on the HOW roster staring you right in the damn eyes. I’m fighting to survive this match, not walk out in a body bag. I’m not going to let my pride dictate how I earn this win.
Sure, I could distract myself with false hopes of a World Championship match or War Games promises to pull me through. But this is a proverbial war and not a fucking Cinderella story.But it’s going to take the discipline I’ve lacked for years to outlast and survive this match.
I know I’m not just facing you in this match, Solex. I’m going to be flanked by the likes of Jace and Jiles in this match. I’m taking a beating for sure. You all want me to be pinned against the wall fighting like a desperate junking trying to get his fix. I have to cling onto the hope I survive their beating to get to you.
But every step of the way, I’m going to methodically taunt you, Solex. I continue to goad you into the match. I’ll lure you into the match with a sense of false security and then I’ll strike. I’m going to use the discipline I’m learning to change the tide. I’ll torture you by locking submission after submission on you weakening your body. The onslaught of your Best Alliance teammates won’t stop me. Defiant as ever, I’ll hit Ban Hammer after Ban Hammer until it’s just you and me left in that ring. And when you try to capitalize for the distraction; I’m going to reverse the tide and strike your glass jaw with one final Ban Hammer, pin your shoulders to the mat, and escape certain death by the skin of my damn teeth.
I know I’m stepping into the trenches of a proverbial war. No matter the result of this match; I’m changing. I’ve got to stop feeling sorry for myself and start fighting and earning my damn keep around here. It’ll be the most daunting task of my career, but I’m going to be the first schmuck to pull off the biggest handicap victory in HOW.
I’m not fighting for a second win in 2021 on Saturday. I’m fighting for my morals and my pride. I’m grappling to save myself from becoming lost in the aggressive attitude adjustments GOD himself keeps sending ame. It’s growing rather burdensome and making me want to toss in that white flag.
But I won’t lose myself. I’ll valiantly fight on for the honor of section 214 because I don’t need an Alliance or a Union to save me. I’ll save myself come Saturday because it’s the only hope I have left.”