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... But I had to work... So sue me. :P




If Fate had dealt me a better hand than this, I could’ve cashed in on a cool million at the World Series of Poker.


As it is… Returning to the roots of my aspirations and goals and dreams in the same place where my life took root… I couldn’t ask for a much bigger moment in my life.


Driving into the Gund Arena performer’s parking lot, I couldn’t help but be in awe of everything I’d seen in the past day. Cleveland, a rapidly brightening jewel at the edge of Lake Erie… So much has changed since I was here last, over a year ago. More people, more big business… There's just more hustle and bustle overall. This town is really starting to thrive, both economically and culturally.


But at the same time, the core of what makes the city great is still in place: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… The Jake. Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Great Lakes Science Center. And the place I’m pulling up to now: Gund Arena.


As I step out of my car, a few folks toss me a smile. The people haven’t changed, either. Yesterday at the hotel, talk was hot about the Indians still trying to make a run at the playoffs. The bar down the way hosted a local sports talk show, and the conversation was thick with the Browns… How would they do, was the future bright… And what about this year… And still more on the streets: The Cavs, the war, the election… Space, sex, TV… People in this town cared about their city, their country, their world… And themselves.


As I walk towards the Gund, I realize with a smile that Cleveland was, in a way, a mini microcosm of me coming back to my childhood dreams. The core of me has never changed. Small aspects, yes… Some good, some bad… But the solid stuff in the center. Still as solid as ever.


And I find myself hoping that will be enough to assist me on my newest adventure.




“I need to see some ID, please.”


The gruff, authoritative tones belong to a Cleveland police officer that met me at the performer’s entrance of the Gund. I put the credentials he just returned to me in my pocket with an inward sigh at the needless delay. Fishing my ID from my wallet, I knew I understood why he was doing what he was. With the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the deaths and bloodshed in Iraq weighing on everyone’s minds so heavily, you couldn’t be too careful. He looks over my ID for a few moments… He’s probably trying to make heads or tails of the Washington State way of making drivers licenses. And as he pulls the radio to his lips to check with someone inside about authorizing me entrance, my mind is allowed to wander back on my own private thoughts of 9/11… The personal losses that my heart and mind took that day when I heard the news… Watched the towers fall. The tragedy cut me deeper than anything physical ever could... Or even would now. I lost two of the closest people in my life in a single instant that day… And it wasn’t over… After all, they always say that everything happens in threes…


“You know, they weren’t expecting you for another day.” The officer’s voice pulls me from my silent reveries. I muster a faint smile.


“I figured I’d get some time in before everyone else and their mother shows up,” I reply. “You know… Try to get used to it all again.”


“Again, huh?” The officer scrutinizes me for a moment, and then apparently gives up his search for… Whatever. “Well, you’re pretty lucky they’re not so strict on when people show.” He hands back my ID, which I promptly replace in my back pocket. “Go on in. You have full clearance to the dressing room areas and the ring.”


“Thanks, sir.” I smile at him as he keys in a number on the lock, and pulls the door open. “Have a good one.” He nods at me as I pass him going in the doorway, and he shuts it behind me. As I’m turning the corner to follow the sign labeled “Dressing Area”, I hear the officer’s voice drift from behind the reinforced door:


“Hey… Wait a minute… That was…”


I grin as his voice is lost in the shuffle of work being done close to where I’m walking, glad to know that there’s one person that at least remembers me.




Passing through the corridors under the main sprawl of the Gund, I start to recall days of old… The blood and sweat I lost in this very arena and others like it… It’s amazing how simple things like looking down a corridor, catching sight of a poster, or hearing the drifting voices of people talking about events can just bring memories so crisply back into focus, even if so far removed.


Walking past a doorway, I stop short, something tickling at the back of my brain… I look around, and then look into the room… It’s clean, sterile-looking… A lot of shades of white. I sniff the air, something clicking… There it is… Antiseptics… The ‘rubbery’ smell of bandages… Decidedly hospital smells… That snaps my memories back in time again…


It was an arena just like this… Don’t remember where exactly… But I remembered being beat up pretty bad. And this beautiful angel patching me up… Pretty young thing. Nice smile. Beautiful laugh. And excellent patchwork. We wound up talking on and off for a good long while… Got close… Real close. Then in a sheer twist of anything that was sane… Or human… I nearly destroyed her. I had lost her for a long time. Then I left the ring… But eventually, we made amends… Were planning on a comeback… Together. To spend the rest of our lives together… Things were falling into place… But then… 9/11… And shortly after… She lost her life tragically, trying to do her job and help others… I drifted… For a couple months… Then… I just left… To refind myself… And now…


I shake myself loose of the memories… Finding myself still staring into the med tech room. I move on down the hall, taking a deep breath of the fresher air, letting it cleanse me.




Walking into the locker room is like walking into a Jacuzzi to me… Refreshing, familiar… Very welcome. I look around, starting to get myself into the mindset I’ll need to get into this whole wrestling thing again. I started following the SWF again… Trying to see where old opponents had gone, and who the new up-and-comers were. I saw the rise, fall, and outright disappearance of Janus … Johnny Dangerous rise to his old form… The return of some downright legends… Including one “Grand Slam” Mark Stevens. I smile at that one. It’ll be interesting to wrestle with, or against him… I held him and the rest of the Carnival in the highest esteem… I had always hoped to be as good as they. But the matches that Stevens has been getting… Brutal. I keep finding myself wondering who he pissed off… Not only to get drug out of retirement, but to get put in these absolutely insane matches… I hope I don’t fall to that fate.


And some of these newer folks… Some that I don’t remember well in my time here… Max King… John Duran… Candace… Toxxxic… Some damn fine talent… It’s definitely going to be tough for me to break in easily, or without me taking my lumps.


Then… There’s “Petey the Irish Penguin”.


I’ve watched him a little bit… Him and his “merry band of misfits”… I haven’t seen him recently, but he reminds me of someone I knew in the way back when… Crazy, wild… A penchant for pretty women and bizarre antics and losing streaks… Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see him, see if he compares with my old friend.


But, enough reminiscing… I set my bag down in an open locker, and tread out of the room… One more place to go before I get some workout in…






That’s the only word I can use to describe where I am now… What I see before me…


As I walk through one of the tunnels leading to the Gund’s main floor… I see the newly-constructed wrestling ring. I find myself smiling from ear to ear.


This is where I belong.


I walk up to the ring apron, hand running along the fabric. The feeling… The slight roughness of the texture relights sensations and memories of matches past… The spring of the ring ropes as I grab them and hop up on the apron…


I duck under the ropes, grinning like a fool. The passion I had for this sport comes through, flooding back full-force as I bounce against the near ropes, feeling the give under my back. The subtle “POP” of the ropes as I come off them each time just reinforces my realization that… I’m back once again.


And all at once, I stop, smiling lightly to nothing in particular.


“I’m back to where I should be,” I whisper to the empty arena. “I’m back… For myself… For my family… My love…” I look up at the ceiling… Past the ceiling… With a grin, knowing that somewhere out there, 3 people are definitely watching and waiting to see how I’ll fare… And I know they’re happy with my decision to finally return.


“And for the fans…” I chuckle to myself.


"Let The Fury give the fans what they fuckin' wanna see!"

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