As the Irish sun shone through the blinds and kissed my wet and naked body, it caught up with me. It wasn’t the nagging left knee, nor the bruised right shoulder. Standing in the bathroom of this Best Western unit, freshly showered and not yet towelled, it bit at my ears and collapsed my heart. My arms droop and I smile a perverted grin.
“Need more friends with wings. All the angels I know put concrete in my veins,” Ben Kowalewicz’ voice targeted my fragile mind through the speakers of my phone, resting just out of reach.
Nothing to Lose, and I have to think I might as well throw this up as my theme song. This thought - this demon - was something I always carried with me, but two weeks ago I let loose the secret, thinking it might help another in similar or worse shape. I became a magnet of concern/support/critism/keyboardassholes and everything else on Twitter.
I wish I had just kept it to myself.
Every pledge of support hurt my ego, the visage of the wrestler.
Every hint of concern made my guilty of bringing sadness to others. Hardest to swallow is what I have done to my loved ones, the only reason maybe that I haven’t taken that final solution.
Every sling of criticism felt justified, and I set back a cause that needs talking about. I thought I had learned not to make myself an idea to people after that entire episode with the mask.
The assholes just reminded me that it was the internet. Sure as the next breath, there will always be those trolling for reasons unknown, liberated with anonymity and without the threat of physical violence.
And I strolled back into the main room, and tried to shake loose this self-pity. For fuck’s sake, I was on the Emerald Isle. Halfway through this trip around the world, and I know there are billions that do not enjoy these luxuries I only count as bars to my own prison.
Did I just use a line from a Creed song? Fuck… fuck… fuck.
This isn’t a good headspace, this headcase. And as I hummed and hawed at the lineup of cartoon inspired tees laid out on my bed, I couldn’t decide. My sit down with Jen was in fifteen in the courtyard, but I choose none of those shirts, but the bed they sat upon.
And as I hide beneath the covers, I wondered how I let another opportunity pass by, why I would fail another obligation. This was all becoming a little pointless, and I know I was the reason.
Yawning myself awake, I blink trying to adjust to the light, or lackthereof. I have slept away another day and only the dull yellow of the streetlights streak across the floor. Casting aside a tangled sheet, I sit up and rub my eyes. That’s when the blinking light at the corner of my phone beckoned.
Yeah, I know what it’s about. And the peace I had gain in my slumber disappeared back into the ether from whence it came as my second-brain was more akin to a ball and chain.
Three messages from Jennifer Williams, two messages from Michael Lorenzo and four from Grady. I must be coming to my final straws. But how I press on is forgetting the shit I am lacking, and lend my entire focus on the next fight.
It’s like they thought I was searching for some catchy phrase to spout when I told them I just want to shut up and fight.
Two nights away from WrestleShow, about time to get to sweating in preparation. The adrenaline/music mix will have to substitute my audio high for the night. Every time I step out of that ring and back behind the stage, I cannot wait to do it again.
I grabbed a shirt from the floor and slide my head through, making a crooked line to my gear bag. I take it in my clutch and slip my pair of Chucks on. A final check that I have the room key, and I am out of this place and the three pieces of cardio they call a gym.
October’s cool night air hit my lungs and I just breathed deeper. I marched toward the smell of smog and dead leaves, eastward further downtown and toward the bay. I know in a city as renowned as this, there must be some hole-in-the-wall with benches, free weights, maybe even an old boxing ring where each generation clasped for hope to escape the lot life had dealt them.
Strolling down the sidewalks, my heart rate gets a little quicker when a gang let out from the pub, loud and ornery. Excited, but unafraid, I press forward at my same pace and find myself in the middle of them, trying to pass.
“Eh now, who’s this’n?”
“Big boy thin’ing he’s somethin’?”
I cast a gaze to either side and note that I am entirely flanked. I may not even need the gym, I think, just get this old Eagle Place work out in.
“Nah, lad, just joshin’. We know you must be one’a them wrestlers in town, yeah?”
“Fuck, boys, why could’n we have come across one of the lasses?”
Then the part to let me out. I get twenty yards ahead when their snickering turned into shouts my ways.
“Ya know you bes’n put damage on that old fuck, yeah?”
Yeah, I know.
Short time later, and I find a place that has just about everything I could need to get the pulse pumping. It was a little too clean, but I suppose I could overlook that. The place was encircled by three trainers that kept encouraging and instructing the other people in this gym, but I drown them out with my headphones and put in the work I came to do.
It was the cool down on the elliptical when I finally read the messages Grady had sent. Mostly simple panic and pointed me back to the same thing I fretted over every week: content.
Always, constantly: content. Build the brand, increase the interest and bring my eyeballs any means necessary. The funniest thing in the contract.
They want content, and it was due tonight. So let’s give them content. Walking off to a corner I grab the note pad from my gear bag and tore out a page. With a blue pen, I started to scribble what they would have to accept as my contribution.
“Another WrestleShow, another fight. This time, Chris Hopper…
I’ve seen you enjoying your time in front of another camera, spouting platitudes of respect and honour that I wish I could return. But I cannot, and I will not. Hopper, somewhere in those 22 years you brag about so often, I think you inverted what it was the Faithful meant to this business, and your place before them. As I count myself among them - blessed by fortune alone to be on the other side of the railing - I want to tell you that we don’t need you to make yourself into some big damned hero.
“It is transparent in every protest you make that you should be cheered and loved and that you fight our fight that you are only fighting for yourself. For you fame. For your ego. For that fantasy you keep in your head that you are still in your prime, seven years past. This whole battle you keep with Dynasty was all about you trying to take a top spot for yourself, and your overarching greed.
“A legend of the business, consumed with pettiness enough to seek out the online rags and shout down your naysayers?
“Do you want to know the reason that I dropped that Goddamned mask? I took a look into my future and saw where it lead, and it lead to becoming you. That scared the fuck outta me. That I would become a shallow pitchman, caught up with looking cool thinking this was still high school. I saw a forty-one year old that lied to himself that the hand he held out to the younger talent wasn’t just pushing them down, and using them to keep an old man relevant.
“Hopper, you walking heart-attack, roided out fuck, I hope that by being this blunt you can finally get it. Monday, I am trying to knock you down and out. I want cripple that giant ego of yours. I am aiming to beat a little humility between your beady eyes.
“Because I saw what I would become under that mask, and it was you. I’d sooner die, friend.”
"If you looked this good, you'd understand. Course no one has ever looked this good so no one understands baby."
- Lucius Jones