“I have some unfortunate news.”
As a professional wrestler, nothing sounds more horrifying - especially when you know it’s coming.
It started off as back pains.
That fucking stupid back.
A constant nuisance - whether I sat or stood - but I worked through it. You see, the concept of maintaining professionalism is simply ignoring the things that hold you back; even the ones that seem to only grow with each visit from Father Time.
Numb the pain, deal with it later.
You’ve got fans that offered up their hard money to see you.
Act like Lex Luger in his prime out there, you bitch.
And I did. I covered it up with the guts of my own self-sufficiency and strayed away from the zombie leech degeneration of age. That was, until I pushed too hard. I have to admit - those Glass Ceiling bastards? They influenced an old man to fight - and fight hard - even when he knew that shit was going to bite him in the ass down the road.
And surprise - it did.
It really did.
So, I took it upon myself to see a specialist. And then that specialist referred to another specialist, and then that guy did the same thing, which was followed by the this guy doing exactly what the -- I think you understand. After six doctors eluded my questions, patted me on the back with their artificial empathetic drivel, I finally found the one guy that would punch me square in the face with the reality of it all.
“What does “unfortunate news” mean?”
It felt like a movie - you know, in that moment. He turned his X-Ray machine and started showing me all of these different pictures of my spinal cord. He explained that after years of abuse, the sheath of myelin - essentially my spinal cord’s guardian angel - has begun to tear. According to him, this takes years to regenerate - if ever - and it requires physical patience.
“It’s at a point, Mr. Hodge, where its past the threshold.”
And I remember this silence.
Nothingness in lieu of thinking everything through.
“So this means that I’m going to have to take a -- like, a break from the physical activity then?”
He nodded his head - concern, and near dread in his eyes.
“Yes. A permanent break.”
Ever since I came back from retirement, I constantly plotted out how I would do this again on my own time. You know what I mean? Fade away from the limelight with my hand raised, with people cheering, sending me off with some sort of style.
Instead, here I sit - on the edge of an examination table with my bare balls stuck against the cold vinyl cushion, clothed by nothing more than a wafer-thin gown. And I’ve just been told that my career is over, by his advisory.
“What if I decided to keep wrestling? This is by no means a shot at you, Doctor. I understand what you’re saying but - but, you know, this is - this is my life. This is who I am.”
“I would be strongly against that, if I were you, Harley. You have plenty of life to live, son. And you know what? Because you have plenty of life to live, you have plenty of time to figure out what your next chapter is. Based upon what your spinal column looks like, not excluding the fact that it will only take a few more bumps in the road for you to have to deal with the true severity of what’s happening right now - and that’s complete incapacitation from the waist down. I don’t want to see that happen to you, Harley - and your fans, do you think they’d want to see that?”
I was essentially naked, in front of a doctor in his seventies, and I cried like a ten year-old girl. It like getting paroled out of prison after forty years; there’s a part of you understands what must be done at this point; then there’s a part of you that becomes institutionalized.
We don’t think about the day that we aren’t going to be wrestlers anymore.
Usually? We die before that happens.
And most of the time, this is the best way for it to happen - because it’s terrifying, man. It’s absolutely terrifying to think about what comes after the curtain closes on this part of life. And you know, you fucking - you try to avoid it at all costs. You take the shots, the pills - you drink the alcohol to numb the pain - the ice baths - and you push, push, push, PUSH - because you don’t believe there’s anything after this.
It’s just a black canvas. Obsolete.
You don’t want to move in the direction of that blank canvas because who knows what fucking evil beasts and God awful monsters live in there. It’s like the bottom of the ocean, or the depths of space. Leave it the fuck be and go on with your terrestrial world, safe and warm in the moment you love the most.
That was wrestling.
And you’re telling me to---
“Give up? You want to be give up the only thing that I know? This is a fucking joke, right?”
“I know that this is frustrating - and probably overwhelming when it comes to processing it, but I don’t expect you to digest this overnight, Harley. If I’m being honest with you, this is going to take months of self-reflection before you find some sense of comfort - a sense of, relief, in the idea of hanging it up. I’m only advising you of what’s best - and I trust you know that.”
And that was that.
And finally, the thing that I tried to avoid for so long is staring back at me with a shit-eating grin. It was, in more ways than one, time to go home.
But - that isn’t going to happen yet. The doctor is well aware that I’m going to follow his orders, call it quits, and move on to this next chapter - whatever that may be - but you must understand how the mind of Harley Hodge works.
You see, when someone fucks with Harley Hodge - or friends of Harley Hodge - there becomes unfinished business, like half-written papers scattered across the floor. I’m quite the obsessive compulsive bloke, if I do say so myself, and I know that if there were a bunch of half-written pieces of paper scattered across the floor -
I’d finish them.
And it’s far too ironic for me not to move in this direction. I’ve tried to avoid my greatest fear - retirement - for years, much like I tried to avoid the things that poison my life - The Glass Ceiling - and now? Now I’m being told that I must face those fears head-on and treat them as effectively as possible. I’m going to move on and away from this sport - but before I go, and before my paper mache spine calls it quits - I am going to beat the fucking shit out of one Duce Jones and one Freddie Styles.
Beat the fucking shit out of them.
So what does that mean?
Oh, I’ll tell you.
I am going to beat them into the ground until they shit themselves. I am going to make the both of you lose all proper control of your bowels, your central nervous system - shit, I am going to put you through enough torment to think about retirement yourselves.
I’m willing to bet the both of you have never fought a man that’s just been told that he could end his life in the right - essentially - if he keeps going; seems like a senile, crazy old timer that can’t be trusted, right? Get this straight you, you fucking bullies, I am going to bring everything that I have to you come Northern Crown, even if that does mean I end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. At the very least, I can wheel my ass to your corridor and wave at both of you while he lay motionlessly in hospital beds - trapped inside of a full body cast.
This isn’t about wrestling.
I’m through with that.
This is about a fucking fight - and one that you both deserve. You know what I mean? You don’t deserve a wrestling match, man. Hell no, you deserve a legitimate bar fight - with broken bottles, pool sticks, neon signs of women grabbing their titties as weapons. You deserve not just every knuckle on both of my hands, but every foreign object that I can find to the head and the body.
You are the better man in typical circumstances.
Better shape, younger.
But can you truly gauge your experience against that truly doesn’t give? A man that constantly accelerates - never looking back - always remaining in forward motion? A man that listens intently for the holes in your gameplan and then attacks with the vengeance of a thousand suns.
I have accepted my fight.
Wrestling is over.
But I’ll be too older to fight - to teach a lesson - to ultimately fuck some douche bags up.
And the two of you? In honor of Fitzgerald - in honor of all of the men that you bullied your way through to get where you are - with cheap stunts that have revealed the type of people that you truly are many times over -
The old man is going to literally obliterate you.
And with a little bit of help from my main man - my brother from the highway itself.
I guess all we have to ask is ---
“Are you ready?”