Damn it feels good to be back on home soil.
Don’t get me wrong, I love life on the road. My job lets me travel the world and experience a spectrum of different cultures and societies that most people can only dream of. If I was a religious man, I’d tell you I’m “blessed,” but I’m not, so I’ll just tell you I feel like the luckiest guy on Earth instead.
Brazil was incredible, South Africa was mind-blowing. Two beautiful countries, two beautiful populaces, and plenty of beautiful memories: I thank both for their love and hospitality, and look forward to Paris and Tokyo with relish.
But nothing beats home.
As soon as my Nikes hit the tarmac at Aberdeen International Airport and the bracing Scottish winds hit my skin, I felt the sun rising inside me, burning away the anxieties and insecurities that clouded my mind, replacing them with naught but warmth and positivity.
The disappointment at missing-out on the Wildfire Championship.
The frustration at “losing” to Colton Thorpe.
The anger at Eric effin’ Dane being Eric effin’ Dane.
Gone. All gone.
They’ll come back, of course: but for now, they’re lost in the soothing comforts of home.
Familiarity clears the soul. It’s in the salty sea air, the grey granite of the buildings, and the impenetrably-thick local dialect. It’s in everything that makes Aberdeen Aberdeen, and all that makes the overblown, oil-rich port city that I grew-up in so special in the first place.
It’s not the biggest, the prettiest or most cosmopolitan, and it sure as hell isn’t the warmest, but it’s home, and sometimes, that’s exactly where I need to be.
The UTA brought me over to Britain nice and early, and they’ve got me going into promotional overdrive, from Aberdeen all the way down to London. With Lamond Alexander Robertson long gone and Kendrix firmly in the fans’ bad books, I’m the de facto go-to-guy for UTA marketing campaigns on this side of the Atlantic, and it’s a role I’m happy to play.
In Aberdeen, everyone knows my name and everyone knows my face. It’s something I’ll have to get used to in more and more cities across the globe if my UTA career stays on the same trajectory, and I can’t even begin to tell you how humbling it is.
I’m not a nobody anymore: I’m a somebody, and it’s up to me to never let those who support me down. I can’t slip, I can’t compromise who I am, and I can never give anything less than 100%, because I’m more than just Cayle Murray, professional wrestler, now: I’m a guy people look up to.
I can’t let this setback get the better of me, I can’t let Dane and Thorpe cloud my vision and disrupt my purpose, and I can’t let any of what happened in Johannesburg get in the way of this clash with Marie Van Claudio.
“People say that history is worthless,” I say, gazing-out across the horizon. “They say it’s best to let the past be the past, that you should be all about the present, and that you’ll never push forward if you’re too strung-up on things you can’t change.”
Nigg Bay is one of my favourite spots in the city, and that’s exactly where I’m sat at eight o'clock in the evening, reflecting on another busy day on the UTA International Affairs tour.
“There’s some truth to that,” I continue. “A man who’s too busy thinking about the things he’s done rather than the things he’s going to do can never move forward. Whether it’s reliving the glory days, living with regrets or resisting change and demanding things stay the same, a man’s past can truly cripple him. In the context of this sport, few things are sadder than a tired, old dog of war constantly bleating-on about his past accomplishments…”
I let my voice drift away into the brisk sea breeze for a moment. Sitting on the grass, looking out to sea, there’s a real chill in the air: temperatures here rarely break 50 degrees at this time of year, and the sun’s gradual descent into darkness doesn’t exactly help matters.
Sitting here in my hoodie, I’m good, but I can’t even imagine how Lisil Jackson and Yeshua Pandemonium -- those used to far warmer climes -- are gonna enjoy the joys of Aberdeen’s late “summer.”
“I don’t even wanna be that guy.” I shake my head. “Guys like that aren’t just resistant to change: they’re terrified of it. The world evolves, things starts changing, and they can’t keep up with it. They lose a big match, and they’re so hung-up on it that they don’t know what to do, or how to push forward.
That’s not me.
That’s not Cayle Murray.”
The fading red sky paints a beautiful picture across the North Sea’s endless shimmering blackness. In the distance, I can pick-out the many lights of boats waiting to dock in the city harbour, and some pulling-off into the long, dark night.
This city takes a lot of flak for its unspectacular aesthetics, but in the right place, in the right weather, and at the right time of day, it’s as stunning as anywhere on Earth.
”I refuse to be defined by The Chamber. I refuse to be defined by Johannesburg. I’ll own those missteps, I’ll make them mine, and I’ll keep pushing forward, keep improving, and keep looking forward to the next match, because it’s the only way I know.”
Sure enough, Colton Thorpe and I are going to have words.
Eric Dane and I are going to have words.
I’ve been angry, upset and confused about what happened, but if I was the guy who couldn't make lemonade when life gave me lemons, I’d be lying jobless in a gutter somewhere, not representing the United Toughness Alliance on the world’s grandest stage.
“I’ve learned how to brush that stuff aside and come back to it when necessary, and right now, nothing in the world is more important than finding a way to defeat Marie Van Claudio.”
Dane and Thorpe cost me a Championship, but Em Vee Cee’s gonna cost me just as much if I overlook her this coming week.
“You’re one of the most overlooked people on this roster, Marie. 9 times outta 10, if someone’s mentioning your name, it’s because they’re about to disrespect you.” I tighten my eyes, narrow my focus. “To them, you’re just the yoga chick. They see you not as a threat, or something to be taken seriously, but a sideshow. A distraction. A jester, almost.”
“Hell, most people probably don’t even see a wrestler when they look at you, Marie.
Fortunately, I’m not most people.”
A single car races along the road separating my grassy perch from the ocean, dulling my serenity momentarily. During the day, this road’ll be buzzing with commuters trying to avoid the rush hour crush on the city’s busier roads, but not at night.
At night, it’s as good as dead, and that’s exactly why I come here.
“I look at you and see a mighty fine professional wrestler, who’s capable of holding her own against anyone in the world, and proved it by pushing La Flama Blanca to the absolute limit just a month or two ago.
I see the near-legendary Van Claudio wrestling dynasty: I understand the proud dynasty you come from, and admire everything you, your father and your siblings have done in this business.
Rest assured, Marie: I’m treating this match very seriously indeed. Moreso than anyone you’ve faced since coming back, in fact… even your old friend Amy.”
For a moment, I ponder if mentioning Harrison’s name was a wise move or not: there’s no doubt Marie’s gonna be fired-up after swallowing that bitter pill in Joburg… do I really need to agitate her further?
“I think you’re a great wrestler, Marie, and I’m looking forward to facing you.” The words escape with sincerity, not sarcasm. “But you’re in a weird, weird place at the moment. You’re bouncing between shows without direction or purpose, and if you’re not careful, losing to Amy’s gonna send you into a tailspin. You’re in a funk, and I think I know why.”
“It’s your past,” I say. “Your history.”
I stand-up and brush my jeans down.
“Every time something big’s happened to you here, it’s damn near crippled you. Your UTA Title shot came and went, and instead of riding the crest of the incredible hype wave you’d built from that incredible showing, you sunk back into the shadows.
Amy Harrison, an old friend, came along, and instead of letting her find her own way and learn from her own mistakes, you were right in here ear, lecturing her like you were her Mom, ‘til she eventually stood-up and beat you.
It goes all the way back to the day you first walked into the UTA. I’ve seen the tapes, Marie: I saw the snooty, entitled attitude you took here with you. You come from real pedigree, sure, but that doesn’t give you the right to walk around and act like it’s an honour for the other wrestlers to even be sharing the ring with you, ma'am.”
Hopping off the grass and across the road, I start treading along a short, dirt path leading down to the beach.
“You’ve become defined by your inability to overcome your past, Marie: and that’s why so many people have a hard time respecting you.”
Stones crunch loudly beneath my shoes as I reach the short, stony beach and take-in a long, cathartic lungful of that unmistakable North Sea air.
“But here’s the kicker: as harmful as it is to dwell on things, you have to know the past to understand the present.”
Shout-outs to Carl Sagan.
“You have to look at your failings, analyse them, figure-out what went wrong and do all you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, because that’s what builds character.
That’s what helps us improve.
That’s what keeps us moving forward.
And that’s exactly how I’m treating the Wildfire four-way. I’m disappointed, Marie, but I’m already moving-on from it, and I can’t wait to so the world everything I’ve learned from it, and the adjustments I’ve made to prevent it from ever happening again.”
I turn my focus back to the ocean, and point out across it. The sun is now halfway gone on the horizon, but its deep, orange hue still burns a glorious sunset across the sky.
“My Father was a North Sea fisherman. He and his crew used to risk their lives on these choppy, dangerous waters for days on-end just to make end’s meat. On his second day at sea, he lost his footing on-deck and tumbled into the cold, grey water, but he didn’t cry or moan when he was pulled back on-deck, no. He stood-up, dried himself off, and went back to work.”
I like the smile come naturally.
“My Brother, Andy, didn’t run and hide when a debilitating knee injury ended his childhood dream of playing football professionally. He rehabilitated, recovered, and found a new passion in professional wrestling. Now? He’s this city’s biggest sporting icon, all because he got back-up when he fell down.”
I tap my finger against my chest.
“In times of defeat and struggle, those are the examples I look to for inspiration. You’re getting the very best of me at Victory, Marie: and I hope I’m getting the very best of you.”
The city looks beautiful from here. It’s buzzing, neon glory pulses through the near darkness, and I can barely hear its mechanised din over the gentle swooshing of the ocean.
“So please, find a way out of the maze you’ve lost yourself in, because I don’t wanna face Marie Van Claudio, directionless yogi: I want a sharp, driven representative of the proud Van Claudio legacy, the woman who so nearly became UTA Champion, and a fighter not defined by her failures, but inspired to overcome them. Get your mind right, Marie: because I can’t tear the roof of London’s O2 Arena without ya.”
"Draw your line in the sand woman I've made a career crossing every single one put infront of me!"
- Bronson Box