-darin, u there?
jonathan’s asking you to come celebrate with us!
come on darin, darling! ur missing out on the party
its not the same celebrating our tag title victory without you, dare bear.
-darin, come on! we need you at the love convoy meeting.
uve ignored us since Colossus. plz talk to me. My Bae needs u.
-happy new year, REAL LOVE. 2023 is the year where ppl realize YOU are the next big thing in PRIME
meet at our house later today, the Love Convoy reconvenes and we need you.
we promise to get you the choccy milk you want!
darin, darin, darin! talk to us REAL LOVE.
its been 3 long weeks and bae misses you. jonathan wants to show you some love.
-Shut up, Vickie! I need some time.
Without a single regret, I smash my phone against the oak table in front of me. Over the past few weeks, I keep replaying the Tag Title match in my head. A sinking feeling in my gut keeps weighing me down. Jonathan-Christopher and Vickie Hall failed me. After weeks of promising I wouldn’t walk out of MSZ without gold—I lacked hardware. Once again, I looked like a fuckin’ fool in front of the world. Almost 2.5 years later and I still fail at winning another mainstream championship. The list keeps growing:
- PRIME Tag Team Championships
- HOTv Championship on numerous occasions
- HOW LSD Championship multiple times.
- Regaining the MVW Men’s Heavyweight Championship
- Choking in the biggest match of my career—the HOW World Championship.
Many of those championships don’t mean a damn thing to my PRIME colleagues; but I’ve spent a majority of my career chasing them. I’ve wasted my time failing time after time at accomplishing goals I’ve promised.
Now, I only want to drown my sorrow. Cracking open my third can Guinness, I chuck it down fast. Without thinking, I smash the can against my head and let out a disgustingly loud blech. Suddenly, a warm, tingly feeling overcomes my body. My eyes begin to dart around the room in a frantic motion.
I see the wafting second-hand smoke raise into the air in this Oklahoma bar. The smell no longer bothered me while I continued to aimless wander around the room. The loud, blaring country music became tolerable. As I hobbled around, I bump into a scantily dressed waitress. My heart throbs rapidly as I stare at her chest.
Waitress: Hey there, hon! Whatcha drinkin’?
Darin Zion: I’m open to trying somethin’ new. What do you recommend?
She bites down on her lips as she leers at me. Both of us saunter towards the bar area.
Waitress: I’m an Old Fashion kind of girl. Sans the cherry of course. Bourbon really gets my gears goin’.
The blond winks at me as she reaches for the Jim Beam off the shelf. As she heavy-hands the alcohol, I pull out a $50 bill and slap it on the table.
Darin Zion: Make it two, sweetie. Figured I could use some company right now.
She slides the drink towards me while I kick back in one of the barstools in front of me. I continue to contemplate my life decisions returning back to wrestling almost 4 years ago. Burying my palm into my forehead, I keep watching all my losses flash before my eyes. I close my eyes to take a deep breath before she keeps our conversation going.
Waitress: The name’s Charlie, babe. Gotta admit, I’ve never met a professional wrestler before tonight.
My eyebrows raise while she continues to stare right at me, twirling her hair.
Charlie: Cat got y’er tongue, sweetheart?!
Darin Zion: Nothing…it’s just no one ever recognizes me in the crowd. I haven’t done anything special in the last four years in my 18-year career. No one likes a choke artist. I haven’t won any singles gold lately. I can barely hold my weight in my current tag team either. My body’s banged up from all the stupid decisions I’ve made throughout my career diving from insane heights. I’ve been wondering if I should just hang up my boots.
I wash down the Beam before wiping the residual Beam off my scruffy chin. I gaze up towards the sky to admire the smoke—the metaphor for how my life’s work just constantly fades away. Charlie’s arm pulls me in before she kisses me on the cheek.
Charlie: Lawd only knows how many times I’ve failed at life. I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life, honey. I wanted to become a Vet before I fucked up my life. I’ve suffered through a lot of trials and tribulations. We all question life from time to time. You’re not a robot and not perfect…
Darin Zion: Appreciate the wisdom, but right now, I’m tired of trying. Maybe I just want to let loose right now and figure some things out.
Charlie’s bright, white smile widens as she pats me on the back.
Charlie: Sometimes we just need to let off a little steam. Maybe I can help with that.
Time: 10:37 AM
Location: Waffle House; Norman, Oklahoma
Over the course of the PRIME Winter Break; I decided to spend time off the grid. Not a lot of people would expect Darin Zion to visit the great state of Oklahoma. Over the past 18 years of my career; I spent most of my time in California, Indiana, Nevada, Missouri, and Chicago. Sometimes a professional wrestler likes to keep secrets.
One of mine is the existence of my biological younger brother.
While we only discovered each other 6 years ago; we forged a tight knit bond. I love the gift of Ancestry.com! My half-brother Jackson Thakker promised me a place where I could collect my thoughts. Once a year, we’d hang out on his ranch in McComb, OK doing cowboy shit while I’d decompress.
Today we decided to escape the ranch life and go to Waffle House. After downing my pile of Peanut Butter Waffles, Bacon, Hashbrowns, and Chocolate Milk, I recount my tales of the night out with Charlie. Jackson’s eye widen and his jaw drop while he shakes his head.
Jackson Thakker: You’re kiddin’ me?! You SLEPT with her?! NO PROTECTION?
Darin Zion: It’s not the worst decision I ever made…
Jackson Thakker: You’re filling an empty void with more nothingness. How’s that’s gonna help your big return? Y’er not gonna impress LT or Lee Best with some dumb, macho man bullshit.
Darin Zion: Man, fuck impressing them! I’m done trying right now. REAL LOVE right now wants happiness. Sex made REAL LOVE very happy. I’m tired of throwing all my energy into convoluted plans that fail. I’m tired of trying to win the affections of others who do not respect me or my damn goals. For the love of God, it’s exhausting overthinking things. I haven’t been REAL with myself for a long time. I’m always trying to jump through hoops, hoping I make friends. I’ve got another two days to train hard and prepare from some dumb rookie…
Jackson doesn’t speak a word, glaring me straight in the eye. He strokes his beard while I keep rambling onward.
Darin Zion: What?!
My brother shirks his shoulders at me.
Darin Zion: Rocky de Leon hasn’t even wrestled a fuckin’ match in PRIME. Sure, I’ve lost every single one of my one-on-one encounters. But for once, I did something that made me feel like the old me. I didn’t give a shit about someone else’s emotions. I ghosted her ass and used her like others used me. I acted like 2014 Darin Zion who didn’t give a shit about anyone else like himself. It felt good. I helped me reset my expectations for this next run.
The Native Oklahoman cowboy clears his throat before crossing his arms against his chest.
Jackson Thakker: Look, I can’t tell yew how ta live y’er life. You rasslers gotta maintain an image. I git it! You don’t need my approval, brother. Regardless, I still support you. I had y’er back when you dated that single mama. I gave you my blessin’ when you returned to the ring with High Octane Wrestling in 2019…even when I didn’t want to do it.
Darin Zion: I appreciate that even if I haven’t had the best of luck.
Jackson Thakker: It’s what blood does. Sometimes life can dish out some unexpected tough love to us. I could scald you until I’m blue in the face. But honestly, you needed to see the dark side of the world before realizing it.
My eyes sink towards the ugly brown floors.
Darin Zion: Maybe I shouldn’t have acted like a hopeless optimist when I returned. I get I alienated a segment of the population. I thought through my recovery—I could change their perspectives on me. But honestly, it left me a shell of my former self. I lost every ounce of self-respect I had. I put a lot of pride into my work.
Jackson Thakker: We all do, brother. You’re preaching to the choir. I tried please them big city folks by cuttin’ deals with big corporations. Almost lost the farm to my stupid decisions. You almost lost your career. Now’s y’er chance to once again show the ruthless side of Darin Zion. You don’t need stupid gimmicks. You don’t need to justify your God damn actions. Put y’er boots to their asses and make an example out of them.
Darin Zion: Thanks, man. I appreciate you letting me escape to gain some perspectives.
I nod at Jackson before throwing down some cash to pay our bill. We both stand up, hug one another, and head off towards separate directions.
-darin, me and my boo wanna go out for some karaoke? u down? we can sing “Keep On Lovin’ You.” the bar will riot.-…
–darin, come on! stop giving us the cold shoulder…you’re the heart and soul of this group.
besides, triss cannot hold a tune to save his life.
–my bae did everything he could to save you. we still the champs regardless what PRIME says. no one likes to listen to that kill joy LT.
besides you know my boo’s got your back. jonathan owes you now more.
-leave me alone. i don’t wanna talk to you guys.
–u r talkin’ to me now
come on! rekindle the love—embrace the hallmark story again. #loveconvoy4life
we gotta come out on Revival and brag…we cannot do that without the co-champ
darin…dont give up on us. dont let us down. dont give us up and desert us
Time: 3:52 PM
Location: Gold’s Gym; Moore, OK
After a nice hard work out, I decide to hit up the smoothie bar for a protein shake. Of course, I’ve got to reward myself with a chocolate peanut butter banana one. I need the protein to work its magic to buff up those muscles. Rocky boy can’t know what’s gonna hit him. As I sit down to take a loud off; a loud-mouth 24-year-old dipshit runs his mouth in a training ring.
“No one can stop the undefeated Buck Conroy. I’m now 27 and 0 in this damn ring. None of you roided up Alpha Males can handle the Pure Beef Brawler. Every one of you tough fighters got beat this ex-Marine. Ain’t no one can handle someone as naturally gifted as me.”
For a second, I close my eyes trying to take my eyes off this attention whore. I once stood in this kid’s shoes. I ran my damn mouth off and earned a check my ass couldn’t cash. I don’t need to bring any unwarranted attention to myself. I shouldn’t let my temper get the best of me.
Buck Conroy (in the background): Come on pussies! None of you fuckers want a piece? I’ll pay someone to take the challenge.
A young, inexperienced gym clerk approaches him in the background. I notice the kid shaking as he approached the Hot Head. While this 18 year-old kid shuffles his feet, moving towards the man with dread; I stop him in his tracks.
Darin Zion: Relax kid. I got this.
I push the kid aside and walk straight up into Buck Conroy’s face. My nostrils flare while I crack my neck, preparing for a fight.
Buck Conroy: Ha Ha Ha! You think you can stand up to me? I’m 6’5” of pure beef. I can throw my 252 pounds of weight into one solid punch and knock you on your scrawny ass.
Darin Zion: I don’t think you understand who you’re dealin’ with here. Talk’s cheap. Put up or shut up.
Conroy continues to gawk, becoming more animated while he talks. The dumb kid wipes away fake tears from his eyes, poking my stiff in the chest.
Buck Conroy: BOO HOO! Tough man got something to say? Buck Conroy doesn’t give a shit about your feelings. I fight for money for the glory. I eat dipshits like you for breakfast. You think you can take me on?
WHAM!!! WHAM! WHAM!! WHAM!!
A combination of kicks, punches, and a solid headbutt floors this Oklahoma punk towards the ground. Before Buck tries to rebound, I stomp my boot down hard against his larynx. His lips turn a bright shade of blue while he flails around aimlessly.
Darin Zion: I do this shit for money. I’m in the gym night and day. Bitches like you are a bunch of trash talk…but never can handle the truth. Sometimes life gives you surprises and kicks your ass.
I lower myself towards the ground before balling up my fist.
Darin Zion: I’m the dose of tough love your ass needs to grow the fuck up.
Time: 7:17 PM
Location: University of Oklahoma Sound Studio; Norman, OK
I’m sweating bullets before I start my first podcast before my return. I head towards the black leather chair where Stewart Walker, the host of Powerslams and Piledrives Podcast sits waiting for me in his blue suit and pink tie. Before grooming his amazing mustache—he motions for me to come into the sound booth. I take a seat before the theme music blares over the speakers. Adjusting his bow tie, Stewart delivers his introduction before introducing me.
Stewart Walker: Today I’ve got the privilege to be in the presence of my guest. After a few weeks hiatus from the PWA, HOW, and PRIME—I get the honor to interview this distinguished guest. This wrestler’s held 25 different championships across a plethora of different companies. Please welcome, Darin Zion!
An applause track hits in the background before Walker continues.
Stewart Walker: So, Darin, not a lot of people know you’re secret hiding spot is in my neck of the woods. Normally, my guests are wrestlers who’ve hit the prime time like yourself. I’ve spent my career hitting up local Oklahoman wrestlers. You’re the first PWA star to grace me with their presence.
Darin Zion: Don’t butter me up Walker. Get to the point.
Stewart Walker: Right! So tomorrow’s a big day for you. You’re heading back on the road to Anaheim. You’re stepping into a PWA ring for the first time taking on newcomer Rocky de Leon. He’s a fresh new upstart to PRIME. Everyone knows you haven’t won a single match in PRIME yet. You nervous about this big return?
I shake my head at disgust at this young mark. Every ounce of my body wants to degrade this kid. But I decide to show a shred of dignity.
Darin Zion: Cat’s out of the bag now, Stewart. Jonathan-Christopher Hall aired my dirty laundry out to the world. I wanted to walk away from the sport late last year. I packed my bags, cleaned out my HOW locker. I almost handed in my notice to PRIME but the Love Convoy convinced me to stay. The Halls promised we’d walk out with some gold and well…
Stewart Walker: You came up short…
Darin Zion: Not according to them. They keep telling me we’re the Tag Team Champions. But I remember looking up at the lights. They want me to keep buying into the idea of 2Become1 Tag Team Champions of the PWA. I don’t know man. I don’t feel like I can carry my weight any more. I couldn’t beat David Fox. Hell, I’d be lucky if I could beat the dead corpse of Scottywood right now with the streak I’m on.
Stewart Walker: Well good news is LT handed you a ringer at PWA 1. Virtually no one knows about this Rocky de Leon character.
Darin Zion: HA! LT doing something nice for Zion. I’ll believe that shit when I see it. It’s not like her and Lee Best did Darin Zion any favors.
Stewart Walker: Sounds like someone is a bit jaded.
I glare a hole straight into Stewart’s soul. I reach around and grab his bow tie and bring him close.
Darin Zion: I’m not jaded. I’m just not sugar coating my fuckin’ feelings anymore. I don’t give a shit if it offends someone and earns me another Ban Hammer. Right now, I’m pissed off. I’m constantly reminded I haven’t delivered the goods. I’m my own worst critic. I don’t need LT or Lee to remind me of my short falls. I do it to myself all the time. Obviously, you can see I don’t play well with others.
I release Stewart and he falls back into his chair. The microphones pick up a loud THUD in the background. While this moron picks himself off the floor, I continue my point.
Darin Zion: So, this is a warning to Rocky De Leon. You might think this match is a walk in the park for you. Your little rookie heart is probably giddy hoping for a smoke fight. You want to come use Darin Zion as the doormat everyone else in PRIME, HOW, and the PWA uses. Guess what? That Zion died at MSG.
I crack my knuckles to add effect.
Darin Zion: Right now, I’m to pissed off to put on some dumb REAL LOVE show. I’ve prayed I’d be given this opportunity to knock some dumb ass off his high horse. Now the powers that be handed Zion that chance to shine on his own. I don’t need to hide behind the Love Convoy, my feelings, or any bullshit excuses anymore. I won’t use any stupid monikers or talk. When I walk through that curtain—it’s strictly fuckin’ business in Anaheim.
Stewart Walker: And what’s Darin Zion’s business?
I pause for a moment, completely dumbfounded. I roll my eyes before I grab the microphone and pull it straight to my mouth. I inch closer to this mustached idiot and blast my message out towards the world.
Darin Zion: It’s time to teach Rocky de Leon his first PWA lesson—tough love. Life isn’t a Cinderella story. Sometimes you can hope and pray that you knock off a decorated champion. Disney tells you that every dream comes true. The world validates every stupid dream like becoming president is possible. Guess what? It’s not.
I take a sip of water and crack my neck.
Darin Zion: I came out here to find myself and I did that. You’re not facing 2020’s Darin Zion. It’s back to basics for me. I’m back to my 2014 self. I’m ready to kick ass and steam roll a bunch of fools who stand in my way of accomplishing my goals. Go ahead kid, run your mouth. Sell your damn pity story. Because Zion’s coming to knock your damn teeth down your fuckin’ throat. You’re the first victim of my reawakening tour. You’re standing in front of the door I need to go busting through. And well kid, I’m going to kick you and that door down.
The annoying Apple iPhone notification noise goes off in the background and I stop. I look down at my phone with a giant grimace.
Stewart Walker: Something wrong?
Darin Zion: Excuse me for a minute…I need to handle some business.
jonathan needs you, sweetie. He needs a dose of REAL LOVE
-we need to talk. Its about time things change in our relationship
–waaaaaaaat?!?!?!?! nothing needs to change—ur perfect
-its time i give you a dose of reality and show you who the fuck i am. call it tough love…