I’ve been reflecting a lot lately.
I don’t really care for it, if I’m being honest. Self reflection, looking inward, all that crap...it seems indulgent at best and narcissistic at worst. Now, I’ve certainly been indulgent more often than not, and I’ve been credibly accused of being more than a little self absorbed from time to time, but the constant, droning, yogi-like examination of one’s own psyche? That feels like something altogether different.
But, the thing of it is, no matter how hard you try to fight against it, no matter how much you push against the tides of nature, it ends up happening anyhow. You start looking back, because despite everything going so well in my career for the first time since I was Paramount Champion, my date of birth seems to be all that anyone can focus on. This is a toxic impulse, as far as I’m concerned. People say that it’s for your own good - looking to the future, looking out for your prospects, blah blah blah. It’s bullshit. Over-indulgent bullshit. You can’t plan for the future. Not in any real sense; whatever happens, happens, regardless of your plans.
But frankly, you want people to shut up about it. You just want a moment’s peace. So you go along with things; you buy up a few rental properties and now you’re a landlord. You’re all fucking set now; these buildings, sure, they need maintenance, but they’re a good income for when it comes time. For when the future happens.
A weird thing happens, though - you end up buying up a property out on the edge of the industrial part of town. A building that you took your first steps - metaphorically speaking, of course. The place where you first tied up, collar and elbow. The spot where you did drills, day after day, until you puked or passed out, and then you got up and did them all over again. The school that taught you skills, not just in terms of how to become one of the best in your profession, but on how to be a man at all.
Sure, you’re just the landlord, but you find yourself popping by the school any moment that you can. In between dates on the road you’re there, watching the small class run the same circuits that you did all those years ago. You wake up early on the weekend to go in and watch the kids do weight training. You stay late most evenings, scheduling your own workout time in the warehouse-cum-gym, watching chain wrestling sparring. You take your meals there, listening to your old mentor, your trainer, give the same lectures you barely listened to and understood even less all that time ago. Nostalgia is a powerful, powerful drug. And it is as addictive and life altering as any other.
It doesn’t take long for you to start to know some of the faces, if not the names, of the trainees who are there almost as often as you are. Some drop in and out, but others have the dogged determination truly necessary to succeed. You start to see bits of yourself in some of the trainees. One kid, in particular, seems to stand out. A young Italian kid with dark hair from New Jersey. 5 foot nothing and 200lbs if he had a big meal and was lucky. This kid isn’t the best amongst his peers by any stretch, but he’s hungry. You can see it. You can sense his desperation. You can feel his drive. You see, he may not be the best, but he’s the most vicious. The meanest. The most dangerous.
Out of nowhere, you’re suddenly in the ring with this kid. Your trainer looks on, and the other trainees seem to stop what they’re doing, mesmerized by what’s happened.
Suddenly you’re looking in the mirror. You’re seeing a younger you. So naturally, it ends up on your mind a lot more than it ever had before.
You know what I find myself thinking about more and more, though? It’s not some rose-tinted past, some sort of sepia toned and ancient good times...it’s the recent past that I end up thinking about. It’s last summer. It’s the formation of our relationship, Duce.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? How do you perceive yourself? What is the makeup of the man you see when you reflect, Duce?
I’ll tell you what I’d see if I were in your discount Jordan knockoffs. And I want you to understand before I do that I’m not approaching this with any malice or anger or hatred. These are the emotions reserved for a sort of relationship that we never had. You know why the Beatles never got back together, Duce? It’s not because John fell in love with Yoko; it’s because Paul and John fell out of love with each other.
We never had that relationship, Duce. Ours was more like that of Crowded House. Now, you’re probably not familiar - I’ll elucidate. Crowded House were a band from Australia, best known for that oft covered song, Don’t Dream It’s Over.
Now, how were we like a two-hit wonder from the 80s, you ask?
Well, in 1996, Crowded House simply disbanded. They were done. Hey now, hey now, you don’t have to dream that it’s over; it simply was. They were done, and so they went their separate ways. There was no blow up, there were no hysterics, there wasn’t a major fight; they simply understood that a partnership had run its course and it came to an end.
The Glass Ceiling’s end was much like this, and I want you to understand and remember this, Duce, because I need you to truly get that what I see when I see you isn’t an emotional response, but a cold, calculated appraisal.
So, how do I appraise you? What do I see, Duce?
I see a fraud.
The Glass Ceiling was about bringing together a grouping of competitors who were, by all measures, the best in the industry, and running roughshod on anyone who stood in our way. It was about a mutual respect amongst peers...you and Freddie, forming the greatest tag team that this company, and perhaps this industry, had ever seen. Me, an accomplished and polished hall of fame talent, the kind that comes once in a lifetime. Together, the three of us were about one thing and one thing only.
We were about returning an order to things in the CWF; establishing ourselves at the top, where we belonged, and fending off anyone who stood to try to knock us off of our rightful pedestal. We were the Glass Ceiling, designed to keep anyone unworthy of our level where they belonged - beneath us.
Now, like I said, we went our separate ways after a time. We had our own journeys. And kudos to you, you were successful on yours for a time; you captured your second world title. I was less so on mine, if we’re being honest. I was prevented from winning Golden Intentions, Duce. I was stopped from pursuing one of the last things that I truly, truly desired - the main event of WrestleFest.
So, when I tell you that the most disappointing part of Golden Intentions wasn’t that I got eliminated, I hope you understand the gravity of things. I hope you grasp exactly what I mean, because before it happened, I certainly didn’t.
See, as I’m walking towards the back that night, I turned around and caught the last moments of the rumble with my own two eyes. There you were, toe to toe with that mentally disturbed muppet posing as a wrestler. You zigged, she zagged, and you ended up on your ass. It was a shame, because at the time I found myself thinking that if I wasn’t going to WrestleFest, at least you were.
But then, you showed me the error of that thinking, Duce.
You see, the Duce Jones that I knew? He was ruthless. He was a killer. The Duce Jones that I ran up and down the roads with was a pitbull, a gladiator, a warrior, a champion. That’s not who I saw when I watched from the stage, Duce. I saw a moron. I saw a dunce. I saw a man who I once respected telling Mia Rayne to “go get him”, and wishing her luck.
I saw a fraud.
The Glass Ceiling was about knocking those unworthy off of a pedestal that they didn’t deserve. Turns out that you were just as unworthy. Turns out the real Glass Ceiling was Jarvis King all along.
The good news, Duce? You’ll have plenty of time to reflect on why you’re beneath me after I beat you at Evolution. You’ll have tons of time to come to terms with a truth that I’ve come to understand more and more myself.
You see that Beatles analogy I used earlier? There’s a second reason why it’s flawed; a Lennon and McCartney relationship between us would imply that we’re equals. It would suggest that we’re contemporaries. No, it’s something much different...I’m the hit single, and you’re the forgotten group, fading into obscurity.
There is freedom within, Duce. You just better hope that there is freedom without. Because you know you can’t win.