January 4th, 2013
San Diego, CA
“Come on, Rose,” Craig’s voice growled.
Rose dodged a strike, kneeing her opponent in the stomach. He doubled over, and she cinched in a front face lock. Glancing at those gathered in the half-empty workout room, she went for a DDT, but the man broke free, driving her into the corner.
Now, the air was forcefully expelled from her.
“Rose!” he yelled again. “Damn it, pause. David, take a water break. Rose, come here.”
Rose leaned in the corner, taking a deep breath and trying to contain her anger. She slid under the bottom rope a moment later and glared at him.
“Yes, Father,” she groaned, the sarcasm spilling all over her pants and his shirt. As she looked at his hardened face, there was no sign of the age that would eventually wear on his body, the exhaustion that would build around his eyes, and the loss of his hair.
Those days were still to come.
She wasn’t appreciating the extra time her now-retired father was providing. At sixteen, rebellion was a part of her nature, tattooed on her identity. These weekend excursions annoyed her; he told her it was to prepare her for the future.
She assumed he wanted her to follow in his steps.
Fat chance of that happening, she silently told herself.
“You’re not focused. You are giving David too many chances in that ring.”
“Dad, I don’t know if you’re aware, but David has a bit on me.”
“That’s an excuse. This world has no time for your excuses.”
“It’s also rooted in truth, dear father.” Her jaw set, and to every person who knew both, it was no surprise where she got her stubbornness.
“You can control that ring if you want it badly enough.”
She sighed, her eyes involuntarily rolling so far back into her skull that she was surprised they didn’t get stuck there.
“Do you have a problem?” he asked.
“The problem is I don’t want to control the ring. I have no desire to do so. Let David pin me, one-two-three. Why can’t I do normal things like a sixteen-year-old on a Saturday afternoon? Sleep in, hang with friends, have a few drinks behind an abandoned warehouse.”
His head tilted. “Excuse me?”
She started walking away. “You heard me. I don’t want to do this.” She spun on her heel and locked eyes with him, their tension reaching an all-time high — which usually operated slightly lower than this moment.
“I don’t want to wrestle. I don’t want to do Capoeira. I don’t want to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I don’t want your life. If anything, I want to be as far away from your life as possible. I understand you’re bored. Sorry, not sorry. Go be Dusk and just leave me alone.”
She turned and stormed out of the gym.
His words went unheard as she left him behind. David, a younger version of the future Noble we’d come to know, approached his mentor and trainer.
“Well,” David began but quickly tried to retract his words when Craig glanced at him.
“Stubborn,” Craig muttered. “I just want to prepare her for life.”
Craig climbed onto the ring apron, and David looked up at him.
“Which life, Craig? You’re putting too much on that girl when she already has the weight of the world on her shoulders.”
Craig glanced back at his protegee and sighed.
“I just… want her to be able to protect herself.”
David’s eyebrow rose. “Shit, that girl would make even the biggest of men scream bloody murder if they dared cross her. Don’t worry about that.”
A chuckle escaped Craig’s lips as he stepped through the ropes. “Come on, I’ll finish training with you.”
David groaned as he re-entered the ring.
Unbeknownst to both men, Rose sneaked back and lingered by the door, determined to stay out of sight but wanting to see her father in the ring.
Some things felt like the sun kissing your skin after a cold snap and this was one of them.
December 28, 2023
St. Louis, MO
Belmont Classic: Night One
2024. New year, new me. The therapist thought keeping a journal this year would be a good idea. I hate the thought, but I decided to embrace it.
So, hello Journal. Being the overachiever that I am, I decided to start early to increase the likelihood of sticking with it throughout the year. Sitting in this hotel, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m incredibly restless as if my body is screaming at me to feel something, anything.
Shit, this is starting to sound like something a thirteen-year-old would write in her diary.
Okay, let’s ignore that feeling. Because there’s another feeling that I’m experiencing.
The feeling of winning my first match is undescribable. The sound of the referee’s fist hitting the mat three times still echoes in my memory. I looked on in disbelief, shaking my head subtly. Only those paying close attention would have noticed.
But I won.
Jamaal and Cory wanted to celebrate. When I walked backstage, they had bottles of champagne ready for me. David gave me a look that quickly extinguished any thoughts of celebration. Did I want to celebrate? I had no idea. I just knew that I shouldn’t.
Should I call my Dad and celebrate? It’s like a ticking bomb. He avoids the topic, and I don’t want to pressure him because he’s getting sicker. I can see it in his eyes, in his movements. I don’t want to argue with him; I just want him to enjoy these days. I can tell he’s holding on as much as he can, and I don’t want it to be in vain.
There’s another night ahead, Journal. I have to win again.
I have to experience that feeling once more.
December 29, 2023
St. Louis, MO
Belmont Classic: Night Two
I… won again?
Honestly, my dear Journal, I didn’t expect it. I woke up this morning feeling awful. David looked at me and could sense that something was off. I was in a terrible funk.
It may have something to do with watching my match multiple times. Although it only lasted a few moments, I found myself cringing each time I watched it. Why couldn’t I shake his hand? Why did I kick him in the face?
I am my father’s daughter. It’s ingrained in me to honor the ring and respect my opponent. I watched my father, no matter how much hate was thrown his way, gather enough respect to uphold the rules of the ring.
Am I disgracing him? Am I letting him down every time I step into the ring?
Tonight, I resorted to a low blow. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach, this nauseating churn that seems like it will never leave me. David looked at me, and I could see it in his eyes. A hint of disappointment but also a sense of pride. How could he be happy with what I did in that ring?
Tomorrow, I will fight once again. I never imagined I would make it this far. I am in a challenging situation requiring all my strength to keep moving forward. And the very next morning? We are flying to Japan for another match.
The first time I won, I experienced a surge of euphoria.
But this time? I struggle with the type of person I’m becoming in the ring.
And I believe the person I’m going to become, I will despise her.
And I will simply have to live with it.
December 30, 2023
St. Louis, MO
Belmont Classic: Night Three
I knew the end was inevitable, but I didn’t want it to happen.
Stepping into the arena, I intended to be different in the ring. However, when I heard the bell ring, a Pavlovian response was triggered in my brain, and I attacked.
I fought against Connor Nackedy, trained by Jonathan Rhine. I remember my father wrestling Rhine when I was young. They enjoyed being in the ring together. Before the match, they were joking. But they followed the unwritten rules once the bell rang and had a match that captivated the audience.
I could barely see Connor; it was a blur. All I recall was not giving him any advantage. This was about more than just winning, but about competing. Connor matched my strength, but I once again pushed the limits of the ring’s rules, almost breaking them entirely.
I wonder if my anger influenced this Journal. I made a dumb mistake by joining Jabber, a social media platform for wrestlers. After winning my second match, I went on there and saw countless unprovoked, hateful attacks on me. They attacked my character and degraded me. I fought back.
David found me the following day and I thought he would admonish me. Instead, he patted me on the back and told me to focus. Was the lack of focus my downfall?
Connor emerged as the winner, and I left the arena disappointed. It felt like losing to Tom, but ten times worse. I’d learned so quickly after that match of my mistakes, my faults. Losing to Tom didn’t sting as much as falling to Connor.
We’re leaving for Japan tomorrow for another match. This is a sensitive topic because I was supposed to go to Japan at the same time last year.
Until everything happened.
January 4th, 2024
BANG! Pro Wrestling – Clash of Aces 12
I don’t want to talk about it, Journal. Really, I don’t. But I suppose I should.
Tonight, Cory, Jamaal, and I had the opportunity to win our first championship – the Trios championship – against the Oregon Yakuza (seriously, that name?). Unfortunately, it ended in a double count-out, which meant they retained their titles (I refuse to write that name again; you can’t make me).
Why am I fixating on this? Instead of reminiscing about the izakayas we visited as a group? Or wrestling on the same card together for the first time? Or how Cory and Jamaal turned heads as we walked through Asakusa? They won’t admit it, but I think they got quite a few numbers from the girls out here.
I can’t stop dwelling on this loss, even though I should be focusing on the fact that this was my first time wrestling in Japan. Being in that atmosphere and having a crowd that simply loved wrestling and wanted to watch me perform was phenomenal.
Maybe I’m using this as a distraction because I should have been here a year ago with my dad and Adeline.
Okay, I can’t continue this tonight.
January 6th, 2024
Heading home, Journal. Sorry about the other night. I imagine my therapist wants me to talk more about Brian, my dead husband. It’s just… he should be here.
Except, if he were here, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.
I would do anything to have him back, but life doesn’t work that way. I must keep moving forward; this experience has awakened something in me.
Yet, I’m also wracked with guilt at the same time. Because this journey, I don’t think I would give anything up for it either. I must keep moving forward, looking forward, and being the best person I can be.
That starts with being a better mother. She deserves that after losing the best father.
When I get home, I’m swooping Adeline up, and we’re heading up the coast for a week, just her and I. I need to forget about this world for a while and just give my little girl her mom.
Then it’s back to training.
January 26th, 2024
San Diego, CA
Time stretched infinitely before Rose’s eyes as she gazed into the darkness. It threatened to consume her entirely. She placed the cold glass bottle against her lips and felt the dark rum ease her throat. She closed her eyes, listening to the crashing waves while the warmth spread through her body.
She couldn’t believe how quickly the month was passing. After returning from Japan, she took Adeline as planned and disappeared until it was time to return her to school. Apparently, they frowned upon a first-grader missing school.
Even with the sand as her canvas, she heard the soft footsteps of a friend approaching.
“Davey, it’s about time,” she sighed.
“Hope you don’t mind it’s not David.”
The voice tugged at the tight fibers of her stomach, and she spun around to see her father marching towards her with a broad smile.
Weeks had passed since she last saw him, as he also took time for himself. She’d wanted him to have that time, as much as it pained her to have moments away from him. The silence and loneliness filling the house made it that much harder.
But one glance at him left her speechless as she noticed his improved condition.
“Dad?” her concern carried heavy in her voice.
He moved closer, his steps steady, and there was no sign of pain on his face. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He approached her, and she shook her head. “Because I have. You look…”
A chuckle escaped his lips as he sat next to her, the bottle of rum the only thing separating them. “Old?”
“More like you than I’ve seen over the past six months.”
He nodded as he grabbed the rum and took a few sips.
“I don’t know what to tell you, kiddo. I woke up a few days after you left for St. Louis and felt… no pain. I wish I could tell you what it was, but I could move like I haven’t in the past few months. It felt terrific being able to roll around with Adeline. I would’ve told you—,” he began, but she cut him off.
Except she’d left with Adeline, the two never crossing paths.
A smile crept across his face. “I’m surprised Adeline didn’t mention it.”
“We talked, but it was about everything else under the sun. Not this.”
“Well, good. Maybe it never crossed her mind,” he responded. “Still, I feel good. I’m eating right and starting to work out more. I watched your matches in St. Louis and Japan,” he continued. Her eyes narrowed slightly.
“I wish you hadn’t,” she breathed.
“I think David has done a great job of getting you back to where you’re at,” he began before his head swung around. “I’ve noticed you’ve avoided the topic with me these last few months.”
Her chest rose and fell, adrenaline coursing through her veins.
“I knew you wouldn’t approve,” she confessed. “I’m sure even now, you don’t approve.”
He shook his head, grabbing the bottle again. He closed the gap and kissed her right temple. “You’ve had it since the day you were born. I will always support you. You feared I would discourage you from your crusade against Tom, Lindsay, and others.”
Her throat felt dry. “And would you have?”
His gaze made her feel like a child again. He looked at her with love, not disappointment. Tears streamed down her face, and he gently wiped them away.
“I feel like a horrible father that you’d think otherwise.”
As he wrapped his arms around her, Rose buried her face into his chest, sobbing harder than she had in over a year. She’d hardened herself after the passing of her husband and had put her feelings as far away as possible. The dam, though, as tough as she’d built it, wasn’t infallible. Being able to be vulnerable was a trait she’d have to learn all over again.
Craig’s hand massaged the back of her skull. Moments passed before Rose composed herself, dragging the palms of her hands across her soaked cheeks.
“What you feel… is justified,” he spoke. “Because you feel it. I’m not going to invalidate your feelings or opinions.”
“So you support what I did to Tom?”
He shook his head. “I support your need to avenge what you feel is wrong. I don’t have time anymore for the Lindsay’s and Tom’s. I have to focus on my family.”
“Do you want me to stop?”
He shook his head, and she smiled, knowing she wouldn’t even if he wanted her to.
“I’ve watched your match against Tom a half dozen times. I have watched your matches in the Belmont Classic and Japan as often. Do you know what your problem is right now?”
Her head shook. He placed his hands on her head, and she looked into his eyes.
“Close your eyes,” he continued. “Think about your match with Tom. With Connor. What do you remember?”
It all felt like a blur as she searched her thoughts, looking for moments.
“Just flashes,” Rose confessed.
“Exactly,” he said. “The moments move too fast. You react instead of preparing mentally for the match. You don’t plan what you want to happen; you let it happen to you.”
Her eyes opened. “How do I change that?”
“Who’s your next match?”
“What do you know about him?”
“He’s a sanctimonious asshole.”
Hearty and full of life, a chuckle filled the darkness surrounding them.
“True, but that doesn’t help you in the ring. Think about the opening moments of the match. Either dictate the pace or let him dictate it and know what he will throw at you.”
Her eyes closed, recalling the matches she had seen him in, remembering how he faced Daytona and exchanged knife-edge chops at the start of his match at Colossus and how he offered an apple for his match against Ellis.
“He’s measured. He’s patient, surveying his surroundings before striking.”
She heard the satisfaction in her father’s eyes as her own were closed.
“Exactly. Do you think how you came out against Connor would work well against Winters?”
No. “He’d expect it, using my momentum against him.” Her eyes opened to the sight of him beaming at her
“You’ve got it. Don’t buy into his games; don’t let him use your momentum against you. If you can do that, keep hold of your anger, and then you will manage to have the upper hand and can then dictate the match. You have to make him uncomfortable and on his back foot.”
As she heard his words, something clicked inside of her mind.
“Will you train me, Dad?”
He nodded, smiling as he did. “Thought you would never ask.”
January 27th, 2024
San Diego, CA
The unexpected happened today, Journal, but I must provide context first.
During my teenage years, my father trained me to wrestle. He wanted me to learn self-defense. I practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Capoeira in that same vein. It took me a moment to shake the rust off when I started again last year, but it also allowed me to reflect on forgotten memories.
Memories of my time with my father amidst his busy travel schedule and my studies. Otherwise, he would be gone, and I would live at home with a bodyguard while I attended school. I cherished the moments when my father returned, and I could be with him.
Knowing what I know now, I would’ve killed for that time again.
Except, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I fought against it with everything I had. I hurt my father, and I know that, and instead of heaping that guilt on me, he let it sit on his shoulders. I remember leaving the gym one day before our training was over. I’d had enough; I no longer wanted whatever he wanted for my life.
As I stepped outside, though, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. The kind that compels you to think twice. I turned around but saw my father training David. I was young then and foolish, but I always knew what I wanted to do. Yet, I stood there and watched him train.
I’m so glad I didn’t just leave the gym that day because watching my Dad wrestle is one of the great joys in my life.
Today, I asked him to train me, and he could have said no, been too tired, or lacked energy. With what he’s going through, I wouldn’t blame him. I’ve hardly been a good daughter to him. I know I won’t be a good daughter to him in the future.
But he didn’t hesitate. As I step into the ring in Philadelphia, I may be standing across the ring from the man who believes he has the Father in his corner, but it pales in comparison to who I have standing behind me, to what is supporting me. My father, and his love, are far more potent than anything Don Winters could throw at me.
I regret not staying in that ring all those years ago; instead, I hid like a stubborn child in the corner and watched. But now? I’m going to be in there. With him. Any time.