Life Before Straght Edge
I was beside myself for about a couple of days after I changed my faith. I virtually locked myself inside my apartment, although Katie and Aaron made sure there was always someone with me, thank god. The following Sunday was Father’s Day and I spent it with Christian, and Aaron and his wife Kirsty came around for lunch with their son, which helped me. I picked up day by day after that, to the stage that I accepted what had happened in the past and could face the world again. I went for a walk – I think it was a Tuesday – past a group of kids wearing shirts of promotion I wrestled for. I put my head down and was really self-conscious about what they’d think about me. They all cheered me and wanted to give me high-fives. They would never know what that meant to me; it broke the ice after days of regret.
I go into my depression that I suffered in a chapter solely on that subject. The cat was unfortunately let out of the bag in regard to my drug taking too, when I decided I couldn’t carry the shame anymore. There are some sides of my life that unfold that will shatter the illusions about me for the people who have admired me and my achievements. For that, I'm sorry.
Words can’t adequately describe the shame, the humiliation and the regret I feel about the days before I decided to stop binge drinking, and smoking marijuana. Drugs were sometimes part of my life but alcohol was a much bigger problem, the major contributor to my reckless and irresponsible behaviour, and that has been skimmed over.
What if …
… there was no war?
… we couldn’t feel pain?
… there was no regret?
… we couldn’t feel grief?
… we couldn’t cry?
…we never slept?
… I became Hardcore Champion?
I rolled over in bed, away from Katie and onto my stomach, and forced my right arm to the edge of the mattress. My eyes creaked open, and in the 2 AM darkness of the bedroom I could see the display of my cell phone, glaring at me from the nightstand and blurring a little around the edges as it continued to announce the incoming call with its persistent vibrations.
I felt a groping hand scrape lightly across my right arm. “For Christ sakes, answer the damn thing.” Katie moaned disjointedly. With a reactionary grunt, I forced myself closer to the edge of the bed with my left arm, and lifted my right to the nightstand, where my fingers closed around my cell.
After a mess around it, my phone flipped open and I brought it to my ear. “Hello?”
There was nothing at first, but in the silence, I could hear a faint swishing-sound on the other end of the line, as if the caller’s phone jostling around in their pocket as they moved.
I listened to this for a few seconds, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and slowly sitting up. Suddenly, a sharp ‘bang’ was heard from the speaker, and I felt a shiver travelling down his spine. It sounded like a gunshot.
“Hello?” I asked again, this time more urgently. “Is anyone there?”
The worry in my voice distressed Katie into the sitting up. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“There’s no answer,” I mumbled. “Probably a wrong number.” I heard another crack, this one louder than the last. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up, flicking on the lamp on my nightstand and anxiously walked around the room. Katie watched me from the bed, her face slowly darkening with worry.
Suddenly, I heard the distinct sound of a slamming door, and the swishing sound ceased. What replaced it was, shallow, arduous breathing, at first relatively distant, then directly into the phone.
Another shiver travelled around my body. “…Aaron?” I whispered into the cell.
“Matt…I think I’m in trouble…”
I stood there, in the centre of their bedroom, wearing nothing but my silver boxers. When he spoke, which wasn’t often, his voice was one of shock, and of awe, and of muted fear. From her place on the bed, the white sheets tangled around her legs, Katie watched my face cautiously and tried her best to discern what was being said.
Finally, after fifteen minutes had ticked off the clock, I lowered the phone from my ear.
“Well?” Katie asked anxiously. “Who was it?”
I ignored her for the time being, instead staring down at the phone in my hands. The display glared up at him, proclaiming in big black letters:
TIME ELAPSED: 00:16:26
I turned my head to Katie, the light from the bedside lamp casting odd shadows across my face. There was no name in the ‘Call from’ space. A few quick button presses brought me to the phone’s ‘Add Contact’ menu. I went to enter the name into the contact, and I frowned deeply as I slowly typed the name in.
“Matthew,” Katie said, getting out of bed and crossing the room to stand next to me, “I’m not asking again. Who was that?”
I lifted my eyes to meet hers, and Katie was puzzled by the emotions that she saw. I whispered, “It was my brother.”
As many of you know, Aaron Michaels was my legal guardian. What you don’t know is that is also my brother. At the age of 10, my dad tortured me in every way imaginable. After 3 horrific years, my mum seized all the money she could get to by 2 plane tickets to Chicago, where my mum had grown up, where Aaron and I would start a new life.
Sitting at the kitchen table, I called the number that had called me the night before over and over.
“Give it a rest,” said Katie, pouring juice into yellow cup for Christian.
I ignored her, taking a sip of my coffee, a bite of my toast, and continuing to call the unknown number.
After several minutes calling, I give up hope. “It’s useless.”
I put my face in my hands, sweat drizzling down my cheeks and dripping onto the floor. After a few seconds sitting at the table, the phone rings again. I press the answer button and place it to my ear.
“Hello? Aaron? Are you there?” I asked. “Hello Matthew,” said a foreboding voice. “I want you like to play a game with you.” I swiftly stood up and walked into the kitchen. “Hello? Who is this?” Katie stepped into the kitchen.
“I have your brother captive. You thought the game was over when you put me behind bars, but it’s only just begun. I suffered in that prison. Now you will pay the ultimate price. The game is simple. I have been following your whole career. From the early days in Chicago, to rising in the ranks of Lords of Pain Wrestling. I know you have talent. I know the future will bring out the better in you. But what I want you to do is win. At Insane Asylum, you will fight in an Insane Deathmatch Elimination Chamber. One of the most hardcore matches the wrestling world has ever seen. If you lose, I will torture your brother. I may electrocute him. I may beat him to a bloody pulp. I may cut off a body part. But, if you lose, your brother loses. Understand?” Before I can answer, the line goes dead.
The soft sound of moving water can be heard. The tiny light appears, floating down at the end of a tub of water, just near someone’s bare foot. The foot of Aaron. Suddenly, his eyes fly open and he comes to life, opening his mouth and gasping for air. As he wakes up and struggles within the bathtub, his foot catches on a drain plug, unplugging it. The water starts to drain, with some kind of key going with to it. Aaron lifts himself out of the tub and falls onto the floor, coughing and gasping from the shock. He manages to get to his feet, but as he moves forward he realises that his ankle is chained to something. He feels his way overtop a pipe in the corner, reaching down and pulling at his chain that is attached to it. He cries out, his voice frantic and frightened.
“Help! Someone help me!” Aaron screams out. He stops when he hears a loud dragging sound some wherein the room. He looks out into the darkness and calls out. “Is someone there?” he asks. But his question is not answered. “Shit, I’m probably dead.”
Suddenly, from out within the darkness comes a man’s voice. “You’re not dead,” says the voice. Aaron quickly turns in the direction of the voice. Holding his arms out for balance, he tries to look across the room to whoever is speaking, but still cannot see a thing. “Who’s that? Who’s that?! Turn on the lights!” screams Aaron. “Shh! Hang on a second, I think I found something.”
With a loud click and an even louder buzzing sound, the very bright fluorescent lights come to life, lighting up in rows. As they come on, Aaron is nearly blinded by the sudden change from pitch black to bright white and squints in pain, holding up his arms to cover his face. I It takes him a moment but his eyes finally start to adjust, and he looks around the room.
“Hey, I know you. You’re that TJ Tilli guy!” says Aaron, looking around the room. “Please, call me Tyler.” Tyler stands up, and glares at Aaron. “And who are you?” Aaron slowly stands up, and glares back at him. “Aaron.”
“Well Aaron, what we need to do is start thinking about why we’re here.” he says as he leans with one hand outstretched against the pipe to his right. “Whoever brought us there could’ve killed us by now. But they didn’t. They must want something from us. Question is what.”
Aaron gazes around the room, then gets distracted about something in his pocket. A cassette player. “It says Play Me.” Aaron utters. He clicks the button, and it starts to play.
Rise and shine, Aaron. You’re probably wondering where you are. I’ll tell you where you might be. You might be in the room that you die in. Up until now, you simply sat in the shadows, watching others live out their lives.
But what do voyeurs see when they look into the mirror? Now, I see you as a strange mix of someone angry and yet apathetic. But mostly just pathetic. So are you going to watch yourself die today, Adam? Or do something about it?
Tyler, this is your wake up call. Every day of your working life, you have given people injuries that will lead them to their death. Now you will be the cause of death. Your aim in this game is to kill Aaron. You have 1234 hours to do it. There’s a man in the room with you. When there’s that much poison in your blood, the only thing left to do is shoot yourself. There are ways to win this hidden all around you. Just remember: X marks the spot for the treasure. If you do not kill Aaron by 6:00, then your wife will die. And I’ll leave you in this room to rot. But until then, there is food an water in the cupboard on your right. Let the game begin.
Seth Omega. Phantom Lord. Dr Wagner. Villiano 187. Son of Shockey. They are my opponents. But there is a reason I will win. I know what you’re going through. I was angry. I felt pain. But I found a solution. God. He guided me to a better tomorrow.
Don't let these tattoos fool you. I'm straight edge. I'm a man of great discipline; I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs... my addiction is wrestling - my obsession is competition. Discipline. People like to come up to me and tell me that I've got nice ink. Except these tattoos aren't just decorations. They are declarations. Every tattoo I have tells its own story about who I am. Drug-free. Honour. And a war against the system. See I'm not some punk kid looking for the next thrill. I'm a highly disciplined athlete, craving to compete with the very best. These words that I speak spoken but anybody else are just words strung loosely together to form sentences. What I say I mean, and what I mean I say, and they become anthems.
Let’s start with a hardcore wanna-be, Seth “I’m Hardcore” Omega. You think your hardcore. But in the words of Jack Black, “You’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore.”
Now to the golden oldie Phantom Lord. You used to rule half the planet, and now you're just as sad and pathetic as the rest of them. Same with Villiano. You can pretend you're not, you can pretend you don't spend your days tucked away in some little pub downing your pints of ale; you can pretend you don't spend every single night filling your lungs and those around you with carcinogens and poisons from your fancy cigarettes and trendy cigars; you can pretend you don't knowingly stuff chewing tobacco in your mouth in one of the most disgusting habits I've ever seen in my life—something that will give you cancer inside of two years. You’re are weak-minded. You have no heart, your spirit is broken.
And then, there’s Mistico – I’m sorry, Dr Wagner. Gosh, you guys just look so damn alike, I got you mixed up, I suppose. Seeing as your Luchador #1,243,435 – and I’m not exaggerating, I think the number IS that high – and probably part of an immeasurable amount of people who “won’t remove their mask” after some high-flying Maxican became prominent in wrestling without really knowing what it means or even adhering to it.
And finally Son of Shockey. The tough guy. “I lift barbell plates. I eat T-bone steaks. I'm sweeter than a German chocolate cake. How much more of me can you take?” See, it’s that kind of attitude that makes me better than you. You and that filthy Monroe, I believe you call yourselves Anti-Venom, can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? I know I can. I may have a weak record in the company, but I’ve beaten hal the people in this match.
As of this day, the Hardcore Championship becomes the most important belt in the world. This belt in the hands of any other man is just a belt, but in my hands it becomes power. Just like this microphone in the hands of any of the boys in the back is just a microphone, but in the hands of a dangerous man like myself it becomes a pipe-bomb. These words that I speak spoken but anybody else are just words strung loosely together to form sentences. What I say I mean, and what I mean I say, and they become anthems! You see, if I could be afforded the time here a little bit of a story. There was once an old man, walking home from work. He was walking in the snow, and he stumbled upon a snake frozen in the ice. He took that snake, and he brought it home, and he took care of it, and he thawed it out, and he nursed it back to health. And as soon as that snake was well enough, it bit the old man. And as the old man lay there dying he asked the snake, 'Why? I took care of you. I loved you. I saved your life.' And that snake looked that man right in the eye and said, 'You stupid old man. I'm a snake.' The greatest thing the devil ever did was make you people believe he didn't exist...and you're looking at him right now! I AM THE DEVIL HIMSELF! And all of you stupid, mindless people fell for it! You all believed in the same make-believe superhero that the legendary Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat saw some year ago today. No, you see, you don't know anything. You followed me hook-line and sinker, all of you did, and I'm not mad at you...I just feel sorry for you. This belongs to me! Everything you see here belongs to me, and I did what I had to do to get my hands on this. Now I am the GREATEST PRO WRESTLER walkin' the Earth today! This is my stage, this is my theater, you are my puppets! When I pulled those marionette strings, and I moved your emotions, and I played with them, and honestly it's 'cause I get off on it. I hate each and every single one of you with a thousand burns and I will not stop...I will not stop until I prove that I am better than you, that I am better than all these hardcore wannabes. Ladies and gentlemen, the champ is here! You don't have to love it, but you better learn to accept it. 'Cause I'm taking this with me, and there's not a single person in that locker room that can stop me.