Worth the Gamble

Perhaps for one to find true happiness, he has to take a chance on himself.

When I decided to take on the role as The Sports Corporation's director of communications two years ago, I was ready to conquer every single challenge put in front of me. I feel that I've done exactly that and because of that, effective July 1, I'm leaving the company.

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In my first year with TSC, I was excited and took on everything. Whatever was asked of me, I did it and more. As time went on, I realized that it wasn't what I truly wanted. I, for the most part, worked from a phone or computer in my office at home in Vancouver. The Sports Corporation's office is based in Edmonton. It really took a toll on me mentally.

Some people may say, “You get to work at home. . . that's awesome!”

Nope, not for me. That's because I want to be around people.

Ever since The Sports Corporation's summer development camp last July, I have been questioning my self worth and was never happy with myself.

I was diagnosed with high bladder pressure last year, telling me if I didn't take care of it properly, there would be risk of my kidneys failing and that could be fatal.

During that time, I tried a number of times to get clearance from doctors to attempt British Columbia's driving exam to try and earn a license so I didn't have to depend on cabs or carpooling with others.

One doctor: denied. 

Two doctors: still denied. 

Three, four five, six doctors: still all the same answer. No clearance.

I understood.

Because of my hand and leg movements, if I got behind the wheel, I could not only seriously hurt or kill myself, I could do that to others.

My self worth took another hit.

Not only was I working a job that I genuinely felt I had reached the ceiling of and didn't foresee myself doing for the rest of my life, but the door on me driving house to house, rink to rink, office to office remained close.

Enough was enough.

Was I going to just sit in front of computer, be doing to same thing and not go for what I really wanted, along with feeling sorry for myself? The answer was no.

I knew I wanted to be in a communications department for an NHL team. I wanted to be back at a rink, being around the sport that I love so much.

I was going to take the chance. It was scary, but I was going to do it.

Scott Bonner, The Sports Corporation's senior vice president, knew I was feeling this way. We had a heart-to-heart conversation. I was going to leave.

He allowed me to begin telling teams I was going to be available, despite not being officially done with the company until July 1.

  Shooting coach Tim Turk working with TSC clients after one of the development camps

Shooting coach Tim Turk working with TSC clients after one of the development camps

I was terrified, not only at the fact that I would be leaving the company and taking a chance with no guarantee a team will call, but also that the relationship between Bonner and me would be tarnished. Not just him, but the entire family. After all, I've known and worked alongside Bonner since I was 15 years of age.

He, along with the-late Pat Quinn, opened doors for me that I never could have imagined would be possible. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Those two gave me purpose in life and there's nothing I could ever do that would repay them.

But having had heart-to-heart conversations with both Scott and Craig, who is his younger brother and a professional scout for the NHL's Dallas Stars, I was re-assured that I will always be a part of the “Bonner clan.”

That meant the world to me.

I have been given reminders of why it was worth it to take a chance on myself. But perhaps none more special than the one that happened on June 7.

Since I was eight-years-old, I've idolized Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and have had a deep love for the team. He was the reason I wanted to play in the NHL, at one time. He's the reason that despite not being able to play, I haven't quit on my NHL dream.

Ovechkin's a phenomenal player and I always connected with his flamboyance and personality because it was extremely similar to mine. His sense of humour and flashiness is all me.

Nobody thought the Capitals could make a run for the Stanley Cup this season. Despite the naysayers, Ovechkin said prior to the season, “We're not going to suck this year.”

Well, they didn't.

The Capitals made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final and faced the Vegas Golden Knights.

When they defeated the Knights 6-2 in Game 4 to go up 3-1, I booked my flight to Vegas to attend Game 5. There was no way I was going to miss the potential of witnessing live Ovechkin and the Capitals lift the Cup.

In a blink of an eye, I was in Vegas and inside T-Mobile Arena. I was so excited. Not just because it was potentially the Stanley Cup-clinching game for the Capitals, but also because I was so happy to be back inside an NHL arena.

I was in my blazer jacket, and that was pure hell considering how hot it was in the city, but, hey, that's my style . . . blazer jacket at all times. Anyway, I could feel the energy and I loved every moment of it.

When it came down to the last second, with the Capitals leading 4-3 in the third period, I started crying. Actually, that might be an understatement. I started bawling.

  The Washington Capitals celebrate after winning their first Stanley Cup

The Washington Capitals celebrate after winning their first Stanley Cup

I didn't care if people saw. I don't think it was just because after 13 years of heartbreak for me, Ovechkin and the Capitals were finally about to win their first Stanley Cup championship.

There was more to it.

It was also because it was a reminder of what I wanted. It was a reminder that moments like this is what life is all about. It was a reminder that dreams are worth fighting for.

I'm not a religious person, but it was like God and Quinn telling me that listening to my heart is going to be the right move, because soon I'm going to be on an NHL team and potentially have an opportunity to experience what Ovechkin and the Capitals did on the ice.

I want this more than anybody.

I watched the whole Stanley Cup presentation and saw on the emotion on the entire organization's face. Not only the players and management, but the guys who do ticket sales, marketing and communications.

I couldn't help but imagine myself and the feeling to be a part of that as an team employee on the ice. I just sat in my seat for an hour after the game crying until the arena staff told me it was time to leave because they were closing down. I walked to back to the hotel, sat down in one of the restaurants and pulled my iPhone out of my pocket.

“You know this, I'm saying it again, I love ya,” I wrote in a text message to Bonner.

  Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom lift the Stanley Cup

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom lift the Stanley Cup

One of hardest realities for me to deal with is come July 1, as I said, I won't be working with him anymore. But everything that has happened has showed me that I'm worth taking a chance on. If I'm not willing to take a gamble on myself, then no one else will either.

I was born with a cerebral palsy. I conquered that.

People told me I could never get close to hockey or the NHL. I worked with the Giants for five years and served as the director of communications for The Sports Corporation, one of the most premier hockey agencies in the world, for another two.

Conquered once again.

Doctors have told me my kidneys can fail if I don't take care of my health properly because of my high bladder pressure. I conquered that, too.

I want to thank The Sports Corporation for the opportunity and understanding. It was an amazing two years and allowed me to grow into a better person and improve my craft. The two years have given me friends worth a lifetime.

To president and chief executive officer Gerry Johannson, chief operating officer Steven Kotlowitz, vice president of hockey operations Manny Desousa, vice president of client services Rebeeca Radmanovich, vice president of fiance and administration Dale Bowes, along with the entire The Sports Corporation group, thank you all for everything. All the support and love was and is still greatly appreciated. I love you all.

I'm grateful and honoured to be able to have been the company's director of communications.

To all the clients and family members of The Sports Corporation, you all were a blast to deal with. I loved going to our development camps and connecting with you all. I will never forget those moments at the camps. Truth be told, they were the highlight.

  Rogers Place in Edmonton

Rogers Place in Edmonton

To TSC partner Kris Beech and AIM Mindfulness, thanks for being a friend and for all your support. It was great to learn about mediation and its benefits. Congratulations to your family on the birth of a baby girl!

To the entire Bonner family — Scott, Craig, Terry, Pam, Gail, Nola, Hayley and Kennedy — I'm so proud to be part of the clan. You all are forever family and mean the absolutely world. I love you all.

I have the best support group and hockey contacts anyone could ever ask for.

I don't know what's next, but I'm excited to find out. July 1 marks NHL's free agency day. Well, I will be a free agent, too.

Leaving The Sports Corporation was one of the hardest decisions I ever made.

Am I taking a risk considering nobody could call? Darn right. But I know I have the ability and skill. I know that, given the chance, I can conquer anything. I believe in myself.

I'm worth the gamble.

Ending on the highest of notes

It was soon time to head back to reality . . . but not just yet.

When WrestleMania 32, WWE's biggest event of the year, officially concluded on April 3, it felt like the end of the trip. I knew it wasn’t long until Parker Schmidt and I had to board a plane and head back home.

However, we still had one more day in Dallas, and Schmidt and I made sure to make the most of it.

We knew prior to heading out on the trip that there wasn't going to be much to do the day following WrestleMania besides Monday Night Raw, which wasn't until 6 p.m., Central time.

Knowing this, Schmidt asked if I wanted to do the John F. Kennedy assassination tour. I agreed.

After all, who knows if I'll have the opportunity to experience something like that again? I had no idea what to expect, though.

On Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was shot and killed in Dallas, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald. The tour showed us where everything happened and the story behind it all.

We had a tour guide drive us around in a replica version of the same car in which Kennedy was killed. It was pretty cool, but a little scary at the same time.

 A replica version of the car John F. Kennedy was in

A replica version of the car John F. Kennedy was in

The streets in downtown Dallas are marked with X's to remember where all the significant moments occurred on that tragic day. As the tour guide went on with telling the story of what happened, I was fascinated.

I'm not a person who knows much about American history, so all of it was new to me. I honestly felt like I was in a time machine and was re-living it all. Especially during a certain part of the tour.

We were taken to the house where Oswald had lived. Once we got there, I started feeling uneasy. The tour guide told us that little had been modified since Kennedy's assassination.

In fact, a lady who lived with Oswald at the house still is there.

“This is really creepy, dude,” I said to Schmidt.

“This is how things were back in the day,” he replied, with a laugh. “Old school!”

Then the tour guide took us to Oswald's room. Schmidt and I went to pose for a picture beside Oswald's bed.

Once that was done, all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as I could. As we prepared to leave, the guide asked if we wanted to donate some money that would go towards maintaining the house, which is quite old. Schmidt and I put in a couple dollars.

I just wanted to get out of there. But, wait, the tour guide wasn't finished.

“(The lady living at the house) wants to know who has visited the house. You write your name, email address and location,” the tour guide explained. “If she doesn't recognize a place, she likes to Google it.”

 Liong and Schmidt inside Oswald's room

Liong and Schmidt inside Oswald's room

Schmidt wrote everything down. I knew if I did it, it would just slow everything down. I was trying to escape. Once we finally exited, I felt a relief.

“I'm glad I'm out of that place,” I said to Schmidt and the guide. “That was really scary.”

They both just laughed.

At the end of the tour, as much as it was a fun and educational experience, I was so glad it was done.

It was over around lunch time, so Schmidt and I went and grabbed a couple of sandwiches at a place nearby where we were dropped off.

As we were eating, Schmidt found a cigar shop online and wanted to check it out. After lunch, we went back to the hotel.

I stayed behind to get some rest while Schmidt went to the cigar shop for an hour or so. I just laid in bed waiting for Monday Night Raw.

Monday Night Raw was held at the American Airlines Center, the home of the NHL's Dallas Stars. It was the same venue where WWE's 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony had been.

I had high expectations going into the show, because Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania is always strong and brings in the craziest crowd.

This night was no different. Someone brought in a beach ball and it got tossed around the sections when fans got bored with one of the matches.

“We want beach ball!” a part of the crowd chanted.

“Beach ball sucks!” another part reputed.

It finally stopped when security got a hold of the ball and popped it.

“Asshole!” fans chanted. “Asshole!”

I just sat in my seat and laughed. I didn't want to take part in that. The guy was just doing his job.

Another beach ball was thrown into the crowd, but it eventually got taken away, too.

I don't think it's fair to the wrestlers in the ring to do things like that. It's fine to cheer, boo, and chant whatever. But the fans paid for tickets and it's not a formal situation like the Hall of Fame induction ceremony where nobody is in character.

But to play beach ball during the show? Come on now.

As expected, it was a great show. A new chapter was started in a never-ending book. Schmidt and I were loud during the entire show. There was one match in particular that we both were extremely invested in, though.

It was announced after the opening segment of the show that in the main event AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho were going to be in a fatal 4-way match. The winner would become the No. 1 contender for the WWE world heavyweight championship.

During the show, Owens ambushed Zayn backstage and injured him. This was all part of the story.

Because there was a vacant spot in the match, it was announced that another person would be in it. Who? Nobody knew for sure. When it came time for the match, though, it was revealed.

 Zack Ryder during his entrance

Zack Ryder during his entrance

Cesero, who had been out for months with a shoulder injury, had returned. This was a great match.

I predicted that Owens was going to win, while Schmidt thought it might be Jericho. We were both happily wrong.

AJ Styles, who hadn't been with the company for that long, was the victor. Schmidt and I were shocked, and went absolutely nuts.

“You deserve it!” the crowd chanted. “You deserve it!”

I happily joined in on this one.

I get that WWE is scripted and the winners of the matches are predetermined, but understand this: to be booked to be a champion or be featured in the main event isn’t easy.

There are situations where wrestlers work for years, and sometimes they are only used on non-televised shows.

For Styles, who was visibly emotional after that victory, I completely understand and respect why. He stayed to celebrate with the fans after the show went off the air for around 10 minutes. What a moment that was.

“You deserve it!” the crowd chanted. “You deserve it!”

Again, I happily joined in because surely he did.

Schmidt and I had a lot of fun that night, but I will never forget something he told me as we exited the American Airlines Center.

He turned to me and said, “I'm not an emotional guy, I'm just not. But I want you to know that I think the world of you. You don't just have me, you have Katie, and the kids. You have a family.”

Katie, of course, is Schmidt's wife.

Those words meant the absolute world to me . . . they really hit me hard. Like I said, It's something that I'll never forget and will forever cherish, along with all the other bonding moments.

We packed up and checked out of the hotel on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., and headed for the airport. Our flight had a two-hour layover in Los Angeles, which Schmidt and I used to get some dinner.

Someone please remind me to, if available, always take direct flights. That's because, by the time we got back to Seattle to drive back to Vancouver, it was 10:30 p.m.

Not only that, we couldn't get a shuttle to the hotel where Schmidt parked his car until close to midnight.

 Liong and Schmidt at Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 32

Liong and Schmidt at Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 32

When we were waiting for a shuttle, Schmidt told me that we might need to spend another night at a hotel and drive back in the morning. We were both tired, and it's a two- to three-hour drive to Vancouver.

We didn't end up staying another night, but Schmidt had music blasted to the max and the car windows down as we drove home. By the time I got home and showered, it was 4 a.m., Pacific time.

I just sat in my room reflecting on everything and didn't end up sleeping until the next night.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was consistently happy for six days consecutively. There wasn't anything about which I was stressed out, angry, sad. Just happy. There's no amount of money that could ever come close to replicating how it made me feel.

I knew from that moment on that while this may have been my first WrestleMania trip, it won't be my last.

Grandest stage of them all

It felt like one big dream.  

After being in Dallas for World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania 32 weekend, it was time for the real reason people traveled from around the world -- the event itself.

If they can’t be there in person, millions watch at home or from wherever they can find a TV set. WrestleMania is the biggest event on WWE's calendar.

It's the one event where, even if someone doesn't follow wrestling regularly, they watch this annual event.

As Parker Schmidt, who traveled with me, and I woke up around 6:30 a.m., there already was a buzz in the air.

Everyone has already in the hotel lobby, ready to start what would be a day that will forever be etched in history.

While most people were fired up about WrestleMania 32, Schmidt and I were more worried about getting to the morning Axxess session at the Kay Bailey Convention Center.

Let's not forget that WrestleMania 32 was still hours away.

We wanted to get to the session early so that we would be the first few people in the building. Especially because Schmidt really wanted to meet Brie and Nikki Bella, who are known as the Bella twins.

The Bella twins are not only two of WWE's female talents, but also are reality TV personalities, starring on The E! Network's Total Divas.

Schmidt and his wife, Katie, are huge supporters of the show. As soon as people were allowed to enter the Axxess session, I could see that everyone was going towards one station, which was where the line for the Bellas was.

 Liong talking to Sgt. Slaughter

Liong talking to Sgt. Slaughter

Schmidt and I rushed over and there already were hundreds of people in line.

I was in shock.

“What the . . .,” I said. “Where did all these people come from?”

“I know, dude,” Schmidt said. “There's already so many people in line. We won't get to see them. Not worth waiting and not even knowing it'll get cut off. Like, look at this line. Crazy. Let's go for someone else.”

We ended up meeting A New Day, which is a stable consisting of Big E Langston, Zavier Woods, and Kofi Kingston.

 Along with that, Schmidt and I went to see WWE legend Sgt. Slaughter along with Samoa Joe and Tyler Breeze, who are currently in NXT, WWE's developmental program.

We left the building around 11 a.m., which was before the session even ended.

That way, Schmidt and I could head back to the hotel and grab some lunch.

Buses were scheduled to pick up people and head to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where WrestleMania 32 was to be held, at 2 p.m. The last thing we wanted was to be in a rush.

Once we got on the bus, I just sat in my seat beside Schmidt, all quiet. I was trying to imagine what it was going to be like, how I was going to feel.

I asked myself: “Am I really on a bus on my way to WrestleMania 32? Really?”

I started thinking of all the possible finishes and stories that could be told in the matches on the card and what a huge night this was going to be. About an hour went by, and I was in my own little zone.

It finally clicked with me that we had arrived at AT&T Stadium. When I got off the bus with Schmidt, I thought that there wasn't going to be much of a distance to an entrance to the building.

That wasn't the case at all.

 AT&T Stadium prior to the start of WrestleMania 32

AT&T Stadium prior to the start of WrestleMania 32

We didn't know which gate to enter, even with thousands of people trying to get to the same place. 

Eventually, we found our way in and were actually one of the first few in the building.

We showed the supervisors our tickets. They told us that we needed to get a wristband in order to be allowed to get down to our seats.

Wristbands were getting handed out at a certain section and, again, Schmidt and I had no idea where we were going.

Once we did, the building was so massive that it was a journey just to get to our seats.

When I actually got to sit down in my seat, I just took a minute to look around the stadium. There aren’t words to describe it. One would need to be there to truly understand how incredible that place is.

It was then when I spotted Roger Sportsnet's Jackie Redmond and former WWE referee Jimmy Konderas.

“Mr. Konderas!” I said, trying to get his attention. “Mr. Konderas!”

 Jackie Redmond, Dickson Liong and Jimmy Konderas

Jackie Redmond, Dickson Liong and Jimmy Konderas

Konderas couldn't hear me, but Redmond did. She helped me call him over. It was great to meet him.

That was the second time I saw Redmond, too.

“You guys again!” she said.

Once the show started, I felt like I had entered another world for a few minutes. Yes, I was at WrestleMania 32, but there was a particular reason, too.

Are celebrity crushes still a thing? Well, I have one. I've always been a supporter of Fifth Harmony, a five-piece girl band, especially Camila Cabello. She's so cute. So adorable.

WWE announced on March 21 that the group was scheduled to perform 'America the Beautiful' at WrestleMania 32 to start the show.

I actually sent out a tweet that read the following:

Just two days later, for whatever reason, I decided to send Cabello a tweet.

I knew the second I tweeted it that I wasn't going to hear the end of it. Of course, I didn't care.

In fact, when Schmidt and I were on our way to Seattle before leaving for Dallas, he had his iPodconnected to the car.

Songs were on shuffle.

Then all of the sudden, one of Fifth Harmony's hit songs, 'Sledgehammer', came through the speakers. I had no idea Schmidt listened to Fifth Harmony too.

“Is that . . . is that coming through the radio or your iPod?” I said, taken aback.

“It's my iPod, man,” Schmidt said. “Come on, I know you're all over this. I saw those tweets. 'Congratulations to Fifth Harmony.' I saw you. Come on, sing it man.”

Schmidt went to turn up the volume and I just couldn't stop laughing.

 Fifth Harmony performing 'America the Beautiful' 

Fifth Harmony performing 'America the Beautiful' 

So when Cabello, along with the rest of Fifth Harmony, came out to perform ‘America the Beautiful', if someone was paying attention, they could probably see little hearts in my eyes.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering, I never got a reply to my tweet from Cabello.

By the chance that she ends up reading this story, my phone number is 604-3. . . never mind. Bad idea. My direct message inbox on Twitter is always open, though.

At least, I think it is.

Enough about that.

The match card for WrestleMania 32 looked like this:

Roman Reigns vs. Triple H -- WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon -- Hell in a Cell Match

Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch -- WWE Women's Championship Triple Threat Match

Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose

The League of Nations vs The New Day

Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

Kevin Owens vs. Zack Ryder, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, The Miz, Stardust and Sin Cara -- Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

There were surprises the entire show . . . especially with most of the finishes.

I had Kevin Owens retaining the Intercontinental championship in the ladder match.

But he didn't.

 Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens on a ladder

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens on a ladder

Zack Ryder won.

Schmidt, who is a huge Ryder supporter, went absolutely crazy in excitement while I stood in disbelief. Ryder was the last person I expected to win the match.

When it came to Chris Jericho going up against AJ Styles, I thought for sure Styles would come out with the victory.

Why?

Because Styles had just made his WWE debut at the Royal Rumble in January. A victory at WrestleMania for Styles would be a moment for fans to remember for a lifetime.

Jericho, on the other hand, has been with the company for years and has always been established as a top star.

Jericho got the pin and left with the victory.

“What the . . .,” I said to Schmidt.

 Chris Jericho during  his entrance at WrestleMania 32

Chris Jericho during  his entrance at WrestleMania 32

“I guess Jericho is sticking around for a bit.”

Jericho is signed to a part-time contract with WWE. That's because, aside from wrestling, he is the lead singer for Fozzy, a heavy-metal band.

What happened next was by far, my favourite moment of the night . . . something I'll never forget.

WWE legends Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin all made surprise appearances and came out to a thunderous crowd.

No, that wasn't a typo.

 Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley

Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley

Austin is the reason I started watching professional wrestling. He's my favourite wrestler of all-time. To see him, Michaels and Foley in the ring together, even if it was only for a few minutes, brought back so many memories.

Things just picked up from there.

I was really invested in the women's triple-threat match. Earlier in the night, Lita, one of the best female wrestlers in the history of the company, came out and announced that there was going to be a new championship introduced.

For eight years, WWE's female talents were called Divas.

WrestleMania 32 was the end of that.

Whoever won the triple-threat match between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch was going to be crowned the new WWE women's champion.

The championship looked similar to the main one for the male talent, which is the way it should be.

I never liked the term 'Divas' either.

Dare I say that the women are just as talented, if not moreso, than the male talent. A new era has begun for women's wrestling, which is great to see.

 Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch

I really wanted Banks to win. She had an amazing entrance, with Snoop Dogg, her cousin, rapping her theme song.

Banks, along with Lynch and Charlotte, put on what was, at least to me, the match of the night. It ended when Charlotte put Lynch in a figure-eight leg lock.

“No, no, no, no, no,” I said to myself. “Don't tap.”

Banks was outside of the ring, laid out.

Just as she got up and was about to re-enter the ring and break up the hold, Ric Flair, who is Charlotte's father and was at ringside, held Banks' legs, preventing her from doing so.

Lynch couldn't hang on any longer, and submitted. Charlotte won.

I booed loudly.

Another match that I was really looking forward to was the Hell in a Cell between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker.

The entrances alone gave me chills.

To see McMahon come out with his children while prop bills were falling from the rafters. . . I mean, what a sight. People were more concerned about catching the bills than watching the entrance.

I thought that was hilarious.

If that wasn't enough, the second I heard gongs for The Undertaker's entrance, I could feel goosebumps. I couldn't believe that I was seeing.

During this match, I had great concern for McMahon.

Near the end of the match, Undertaker was laying on one of the announcers’ tables, when McMahon started climbing to the top of the Hell in a Cell. He jumped, but The Undertaker had moved out of the way just in time.

I was speechless.

I screamed as McMahon jumped from the top of the Hell in a Cell, but as soon as I heard the crash of the table breaking, it took my breath away.

There was another moment I will never forget.

The Undertaker won.

 Undertaker and Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell

Undertaker and Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell

Honestly, I didn't care who was going to come out as the victor in the match.

I just truly appreciated it.

The Undertaker is 51-years-old. To see him perform at this level is unbelievable.

No one knows when he is going to retire, and I'm just grateful I got to watch him live before he does.

Will McMahon wrestle again? Who knows?

To see him jump off the Hell in a Cell and risk his life, well, there are no words for that.

The night, still, at this point, was far from over.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson came out to an electrifying roar from the crowd. He came out make an announcement. The record previous attendance was 93,173 at WrestleMania 3 inside the confines of the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.

The Rock announced that the record had been broken. What was the attendance for WrestleMania 32? 101,763. Outstanding, isn't it?

 The Rock announcing an attendance of 101,763

The Rock announcing an attendance of 101,763

What a night it was, as I expected it to be. 

When Schmidt and I got on the bus to return to the hotel, I was quiet again. Even though some of the finishes had me confused, I felt extremely grateful to have been a part of WrestleMania 32.

Schmidt and I were looking forward to what the next chapter had in store, and we didn't have to wait long to find out.

NEXT: Monday Night Raw

Surprise after surprise

Life is full of surprises.

Every year during World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania weekend, there is what the company calls Axxess sessions.

Axxess is where the WWE's faithful, who come from all over the world, can meet and greet the wrestlers. This year, it was held at the Kay Bailey Convention Center in Dallas.

There were different sessions on different days and times.

Parker Schmidt, who accompanied me on the trip, recommended that we get tickets for the Saturday and Sunday morning sessions when most people likely still would be sleeping.

I agreed.

 WrestleMania 32 Axxess at the Kay Bailey Convention Center

WrestleMania 32 Axxess at the Kay Bailey Convention Center

We had no idea which wrestlers were going to be at each session, though, because WWE doesn't announce that until closer to the date. One specific female wrestler Schmidt and I were really hoping to meet was Sasha Banks.

We are huge supporters of her. Weeks before the sessions, Banks announced on Twitter that she was scheduled to be at Axxess on Saturday afternoon.

Almost immediately, I sent Schmidt a text message to see if he wanted to get tickets to that session, too.

“Let me talk to Katie,” Schmidt replied. Katie is Parker's wife. Before I even got a response, I learned that the session was sold out.

“Oh well,” I told Schmidt.

There were other wrestlers we wanted to meet, and we were hoping that they were going to be at the sessions Schmidt and I were attending.

Even though Banks announced on Twitter that she was going to be at the one on Saturday afternoon, WWE had yet to officially release who was meeting and greeting and on which days. When the schedule was finally released days before the start of WrestleMania 32 weekend, Schmidt and I decided on who we wanted to meet so that we were prepared.

After waking up from NXT TakeOver: Dallas on Arpil 1, it was time to call a cab and head over to the Kay Bailey Convention Center for our first Axxess session. As we were leaving the hotel, that was when we got the day’s first surprise.

“You guys need tickets for the Saturday afternoon session?” a woman asked.

“How much?” Schmidt asked.

“No, no,” the lady said. “They're yours if you want them. I had extra.”

I lit up like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.

“Thanks so much,” Schmidt and I told the lady.

“Have fun guys,” the lady said, as she was getting into a cab.

“Dude, this is crazy,” I said. “Sasha Banks!”

“I know, man,” Schmidt said. “Like, what are the chances?”

“As soon as doors open for the afternoon session, we're going straight for wherever Sasha's line is,” I told Schmidt. “That cool?”

“Yeah, of course, man,” Schmidt said.

First things first, though. There was still the morning session to go to.

From that session alone, we met Tatanka, Zack Ryder, Molly Holly, Fandango, Funaki, Kevin Davis, Damien Sandow, Sin Cara and R-Truth, along with NXT superstars Austin Aries and Hideo Itami.

 Liong, Zack Ryder, and Parker Schmidt 

Liong, Zack Ryder, and Parker Schmidt 

I absolutely adore NXT, which is WWE's developmental program, so meeting those two guys was the highlight of the session for me.

I made sure to tell Aries how happy I was to see him signed with the WWE. He recently had agreed to a contract and made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas against Baron Corbin.

“Thanks, man,” he said. “I appreciate that. You're the best-dressed guy here!”

When I went to see Itami, on the other hand, I asked him how his recovery was doing. He has been out for several months with a shoulder injury.

“You going to be back soon?” I asked.

“Soon,” he said.

 Austin Aries and Liong

Austin Aries and Liong

“Good,” I said. “I hope to see you take the championship from Finn Balor once you get back. You deserve it, man.”

At the time, Balor was the NXT champion.

“I hope,” Itami said.

“You going to back in time for the Japan tour?” I asked.

WWE is expected to have shows in Japan come July.

“I hope,” Itami stated. Of course I want. My hometown!”

Itami is from Sōka, Japan.

Around noon, people started exiting the building so that WWE could prepare and reset for the afternoon session that was to begin at 1 p.m.

 Tatanka and Dickson Liong

Tatanka and Dickson Liong

Schmidt and I left the section of the building where sessions were being held, but stayed nearby so that when doors re-opened for the afternoon session, we would be among the first few people in. That way, we could get in the line for Banks quicker.

When we did get in the building, Schmidt and I had no idea which station Banks was going to be at. I had a feeling that it was going to be one of two stations. We gambled on one, but realized early on that it was the wrong one.

I instantly turn around and start running as fast as I could to the other one we suspected.

“She's not here,” I said to Schmidt. “Let's go!”

“What?” he said.

I guess he couldn't hear me because I was already turned around and running as fast as I could. I knew that if I didn't hurry, the line to wait would have been crazy.

As I was running, I could feel that my walker wasn't at the correct height, probably because I was pushing down on it so much. That slowed me down.

My walker is like a hockey stick, the curve and tape job have to be just right.

There wasn’t time to mess around with my walker. I just moved as fast as I could even if I was slowed down a bit.

It would have taken more time had Schmidt and I stopped to fix the issue. I just kept going.

 

 R-Truth and Dickson Liong

R-Truth and Dickson Liong

We got to the line and I was getting excited. When Banks finally got to Schmidt and I, it was surreal.

“Thanks for being an inspiration to a lot of people,” I told her. “I've listened to interviews where you talk about your brother and that kind of stuff really hits home.”

As most people know, I'm extremely passionate about WWE and professional wrestling. When I am passionate about something, I invest a lot of time in it.

It's the same way when it comes to hockey.

I always will remember the interview Banks did with Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast.

 Funaki, Dickson Liong and Kevin Davis

Funaki, Dickson Liong and Kevin Davis

What hit me was when she talked about her older brother, who is autistic. I, of course, have cerebral palsy, which is a physical disability.

Banks was home-schooled so that she could assist her brother. Along with all that, she was developing as a wrestler.

She is phenomenal in the ring.

After three years in NXT, Banks was called up to the main roster on July 12, 2015, along with Becky Lynch and Charlotte. Months later, all three were scheduled to face each other in a triple-threat match for the women's championship at WrestleMania 32. . . . all within their first year.

 Parker Schmidt, Sasha Banks, and Dickson Liong

Parker Schmidt, Sasha Banks, and Dickson Liong

That, at least to me, is incredible . . . and Banks isn't much older than I am.

Banks was so nice to Schmidt and I.

“I'm cheering for you tomorrow night,” I said. “You're going to win it!”

“Yes, I will,” she said.

Man, what a thrill that was.

We went to go see Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, two of NXT's female talents, and then headed for the exits. As we were leaving, Schmidt noticed Jackie Redmond from Rogers Sportsnet. She was there covering the entire weekend. 

 

 Roger Sportsnet's Jackie Redmond and Dickson Liong

Roger Sportsnet's Jackie Redmond and Dickson Liong

She is WWE fan as well.

“Is that Jackie Redmond?” Schmidt asked me.

She heard Schmidt and turned around.

“It is Jackie Redmond!” Schmidt said in excitement. “Come here!”

She stopped and took pictures with us.

“How's it going?' I asked her.

“Yeah, Dickson writes for the Vancouver Giants,” Schmidt said.

Not anymore.

“We work in the same business,” I said, with a laugh.

“That's awesome!” she said, and gave me a high five. “I love junior hockey!”

Redmond was awesome.

The day was just getting started too. The 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was scheduled for 7 p.m., at the American Airlines Center, the home of the NHL's Dallas Stars. 

 Banners of the Dallas Stars retired numbers up in the rafters

Banners of the Dallas Stars retired numbers up in the rafters

We went back to the hotel and got some rest.

After spending some time just laying on my bed and checking my phone, we went downstairs and had some dinner. We didn't want another situation where we were ordering pizza at 3 a.m., again.

I was really looking forward to seeing Sting. He was the headliner for the Hall of Fame's class of 2016.

What a great night of speeches it was. I really enjoyed hearing all the stories. It made me appreciate what the wrestlers do even more.

I must say, though, that I got really annoyed with fans making stupid chants or booing the wrestlers they don’t like.

The Hall of Fame is one night where past heroes get appreciated for all their contributions to the professional-wrestling industry. I strongly feel that it's not right when certain fans try or do things so the attention goes to them.

It's not about them. It's about honouring the past. It's their night.

Nobody is in character during the Hall of Fame, so be respectful.

It's disrespectful to boo or make stupid chants at anyone during something like the Hall of Fame inductions.

The ones who do, I can't help but just shake my head and laugh.

Aside from that, like I said, everything else was amazing.

Especially Sting. His speech had the second surprise of the night for me. This one, however, was sad.

“You've heard me say it before, you've heard me say it for years,” Sting said. “The only thing that is for sure about Sting is that nothing is for sure.”

 Sting giving his speech during the 2016 Hall of Fame inductions

Sting giving his speech during the 2016 Hall of Fame inductions

At this moment, I turned over to Schmidt and asked quietly, “Is he retiring!?”

Schmidt nodded.

“On this very night,” Sting continued, “at this very moment, I'm going to finish my career under the WWE umbrella and I'm so proud of that. I'm officially going to retire tonight.”

Sting, at 57, officially was retired.

Everyone stood and gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.

“Thank you, Sting,” the crowd chanted. “Thank you, Sting!”

What an honour to have been there to witness him making the announcement.

After such an emotional night, WrestleMania 32, the grandest stage of them all, was just about upon us.

NEXT: WrestleMania 32

Taking over Dallas

NXT, World Wrestling Entertainment's developmental program, was about to take over Dallas. 

On Feb. 21, WWE announced that it had signed Shinsuke Nakamura, a Japanese wrestler who worked in his home country for a promotion called New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He was going to report to NXT.

To say that I was excited would be a huge understatement.

I know I've used words like “one of the best wrestlers” when I described Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles in previous stories. But from following Nakamura's work when he was with NJPW, he is, in my mind, the best in the world. From the man's charisma to his in-ring talents, Nakamura has it all.

NXT tapes their episodes weeks prior to airing them on the WWE Network on Wednesdays. They aren’t shown live.

The only time it is, though, is when it has TakeOver events. They happen every few months.

TakeOver is to the developmental roster what pay-per-view events are to the main one.

WWE announced that there was going to be a TakeOver event in Dallas during the WrestleMania 32 weekend on April 1 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. 

It would be called NXT TakeOver: Dallas.

As soon as this announcement was made, people were hyped. Especially me. I absolutely love NXT . . . to the max.

Don't be fooled by NXT being a developmental program. The names on that roster are unreal.

Whenever NXT has a TakeOver show, it never disappoints.

To have one during the WrestleMania weekend, the company's biggest time of the year, the expectations for this specific show was extremely high.

Because NXT's regular episodes are taped weeks prior to being aired, the match card for NXT TakeOver: Dallas was leaked.

It looked like this:

The Revival defends the NXT tag-team championships against American Alpha

Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn

Bayley defends the NXT women's championship against Asuka

Finn Balor defends the NXT championship against Samoa Joe

Anyone who follows the product on a regular basis knew that this was a stellar card. There wasn't a single match for which I wasn't excited.

That being said, there was one match that not only had me, but the entire world, buzzing. Nakamura was going to make his NXT debut in a match against Sami Zayn.

Zayn signed with the WWE in 2013 and had been working in NXT for three years.

Prior to signing with WWE, he was already thought of as the best wrestler on the independent circuit. It was only a matter of time before he was going to be called up to the main roster.

Many believed that Zayn's last match in NXT was going to be against Nakamura.

Just hold on one second.

Not only had Nakamura signed with WWE, but his debut match was going to be against Zayn? To top it off, I was going to be a part of it live with my good friend Parker Schmidt.

Is this for real?

Yes, it was, and I couldn't wait. The demand and hype for this show, if it wasn't high already, had gone through the roof once the card was leaked.

Even though I knew the card for NXT TakeOver: Dallas, I still tuned in to the episodes leading up to it to see what the stories were behind each match.

I was pumped.

When I woke up in Seattle at around 6 a.m., I laid there for about 20 minutes while Schmidt went out to grab a coffee and solution for his contacts. He had left it at home.

I really was trying to clue in that the day had finally arrived.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas was really here.

A couple of hours later, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed for the airport.

It was time to say goodbye to Seattle and head to Dallas.

 Liong at Dallas/Fort Worth International airport

Liong at Dallas/Fort Worth International airport

Schmidt and I arrived at around 6 p.m. The show was scheduled to start at 9. As we went to pick up our luggage, there it was -- a graphic showing WrestleMania 32 was on the screens.

Things really hit me then. Schmidt and I called for a cab to drop us off at our hotel. We rushed to our room, grabbed our tickets and were out the door.

“I brought protective sleeves to keep the tickets in,” I told Schmidt. “I don't want to ruin the tickets. I plan to frame mine and keep it as a collectible.”

“Cool,” he said. “That's a good idea.”

I love to keep memories of moments. I've always been really into collecting memorabilia and everything that is involved in it. Whether it's keep things in excellent condition or whatever else, I'm psycho that way.

There was still a bit of time until the show, but the reason we rushed to the Kay Bailey Hitchison Center was because I really wanted to get my hands on an event poster.

I knew that with shows in the past, WWE had made up a limited edition poster that was sold. They were exclusively available to only those attending the show.

Even though I was confident that posters were going to be available for NXT TakeOver: Dallas, I wasn't certain.

I just wanted to make sure that if they were being sold, Schmidt and I were right there to get our hands on one.

I really wanted one to go with my ticket. But, while we looked everywhere, we couldn't find any. After a while, we made our way to our seats.

I stood by the barricade prior the show and just tried my best to soak in everything. I looked up at the rafters and turned my head left and right to look at the ring, the stage, and all the people filing in.

It was incredible.

I was in my own zone and then I heard, “Hey! You're going to have to move soon. People will be trying to get to their seats!”

I jumped. It was a security guard who was standing right beside me.

“OK,” I said. “I'm really sorry. I wasn't just trying to take everything in. My seat is right here.”

My seat was steps away.

 Liong standing at the barricade 

Liong standing at the barricade 

“No, no,” he said. “Go ahead. Take everything in. I just wanted to tell you that you can't be blocking people from getting to their seats when they show up.”

“No problem.”

I stayed by the barricade for a few more seconds and then sat down.

“Let me go take another lap and see if I can find those posters,” Schmidt said.

There was still a little bit of time until showtime.

Again, Schmidt couldn't find anything.

When the show started, I was fired up, even though all I had to eat that day was a small sandwich from the airplane. Schmidt hadn’t eaten anything.

“You hungry?” he asked right before the show. “How are you feeling?”

“Don't worry about that right now,” I said. “How are you feeling? I'm fine.”

“I'm good,” he said.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas was everything I expected and more.

There wasn't one bad match, and the crowd was something else.

By far, though, the match between Nakamura and Zayn was the best one. Schmidt had only seen short clips online of Nakamura prior to watching this match.

I told Schmidt and his wife Katie before heading on the trip that they'd love Nakamura. Guess what? I was right. Katie was watching the show at home with their children.

 Zayn and Nakamura stare each other down

Zayn and Nakamura stare each other down

The match was back and forth. Even though I went in predicting that Nakamura was going to come out with the victory, there were moments where I thought Zayn was going to get the pin.

There was a part in the match where Zayn was able to pull off the blue thunder powerbomb, which is one of his finishers, on Nakamura.

Zayn went for the cover, and I thought, “That's it. Nakamura's done.”

The referee started the count.

“One . . .”

“Two . . .”

Just as the referee's hand was coming down for the three count, Nakamura kicked out.

I was shocked. So was everyone in the building.

The match continued.

“Fight forever,” the crowd chanted. “Fight forever!”

Nakamura won.

Zayn and Nakamura embraced, and the crowd started chanting: “Thank you, Sami."

 Nakamura and Zayn embrace following their match

Nakamura and Zayn embrace following their match

It was pretty clear from the story that was told in the match and how it ended that Zayn was on his way to the main roster.

I won't say it's the best match I've ever seen because I've watched a lot of wrestling. But the best match in the last five years? Absolutely.

I knew it was going to be a great match, and it still blew me away. I started getting a little emotional when Nakamura won. I couldn't believe I was there to witness that.

I never ever thought Nakamura and Zayn would ever face each other, let alone in a WWE ring.

It was one of these moments where people will be asking, “Where were you when Nakamura faced Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas?

I will proudly say, “I was there live.”

If that wasn't enough, WWE's chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon and her family were sitting not too far from where Schmidt and I were.

As the show ended and she was leaving the building with her family, she went over to a few fans, said “thanks for coming” and shook hands with them.

One of them was me.

I felt so honoured and grateful.

Wait, there was more.

At the end of the show, when people were exiting, I stood by the barricade and did the same thing I did prior to the show. Schmidt was right beside me this time.

Greg Hamilton, the ring announcer for the show, walked right by us as he was making his way backstage.

“Mr. Hamilton!” I yelled. “Can I grab a picture with you?”

He looked over.

“Absolutely, man.”

Once we took the picture, I made sure to tell him that he does a great job.

“Thanks, my man,” he said.

 

 Liong and Greg Hamilton, one of NXT's ring announcers

Liong and Greg Hamilton, one of NXT's ring announcers

Hamilton is one of the best. The way he announces, he has the ability to make the match feel important and fire me up, whichever one it may be.

Just wait, it gets better.

Remember Schmidt and I had been trying to find those posters? Well, as we were leaving the building, I saw that a fan was holding on to one.

“Parksy!” I said. “That guy had the poster. I wonder where he got it.”

“Let me go and find out,” Schmidt said.

The posters were being sold after the show right where we had just come from.

“Let me run down and see if there are any left. Stay right where you are and don't go anywhere.”

I was excited. We had been trying to find those all show.

“OK,” I said.

When Schmidt was gone, I was worried that they were sold out.

I started pacing around, asking people who were holding one how long ago they had gone on sale.

“Just after the show,” one person said. “But there isn't many of them.”

About five minutes later, Schmidt returned with a poster.

“You didn't get one for yourself?” I said.

“No,” Schmidt said. “I didn't have the cash on me. Only enough for yours.”

“Dude,” I said, now feeling really bad. “You should have told me and I would have given you some.”

“Don't worry man,” he said. “I'm just glad you got it, because I knew how much it meant to you to have one and how much you want it.”

I was so happy, and it meant a lot to me that he did that for me. I still felt really bad, though.

I pulled out my wallet gave him $200. I insisted that he take it.

"Thanks a lot, man," I said. “I really appreciate it. I feel really bad about you not getting one. I owe you big time.”

“Dude, keep it,” he said. “You don't owe me anything. I'm just happy you got one.”

“Please take it,” I said. “It'll make me feel better.”

“No, man,” Schmidt said. “Just keep it and use it when we use cabs and stuff like that.”

“You sure?” I said.

“Yeah.”

I didn't fight him about it anymore.

y the time we got back to the hotel, it was around 1:30 a.m. Schmidt and I had had basically nothing to eat. Most food places were closed, so we had no choice but to call a pizza chain and order delivery.

“I'm going to go shower, then,” I told Schmidt.

Even when I came out of the bathroom, the pizza wasn't there yet. It didn't get to the hotel until around 2:45 a.m.

 Bocco's Pizza arriving at the hotel

Bocco's Pizza arriving at the hotel

“You know, Parksy,” I said. “It's moments like this where we both will look back and laugh. Pizza at 2:45 a.m. Ha!”

It was a heck of a way to end the night, that's for sure.

Honestly, everything felt like a dream. No one could wipe the smile off my face. Given everything that has happened in my life recently, I hadn't felt so happy in a long time.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas was a reminder of why I love WWE and forever will. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. 

That show might have been over, but everything else was just getting started.

NEXT: Meeting an inspiration and the WWE's 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Where it all begins

Wrestling unleashes the child in me.

For the first few years of my life, I was under the care of Tom and Nancy Young, a couple with three sons -- Philip, Derrick, and Colin. They were family friends who also were my nannies.

I spent a lot of time at their home. Tom, along with his three teenage boys, always had professional wrestling on the television.

They were always flipping between channels that aired World Wrestling Entertainment's (which was formerly World Wrestling Federation) Monday Night Raw and World Championship Wrestling's Monday Night Nitro.

For those who don't know, WWE and WCW were two different promotions, which created competition. They were on separate channels, so it was a ratings war to see which would have the higher viewership.

WCW lost the battle, and was bought out by Vince McMahon, WWE's chairman, in 2001-02.

Because of the exposure to professional wrestling, I was hooked soon after I was born. On days that there wasn't wrestling on TV, Nancy, Tom, or one of the boys would put on Caillou or Johnny Bravo, two cartoons that aired in the late 1990s, for me to watch.

I didn't approve of any of this, and would have a temper tantrum. I would grunt or cry, and put my left hand on one of their biceps.

 I did that because Tom and the three boys always loved to flex their muscles whenever they were watching wrestling to imitate some of the wrestlers.

All I wanted to watch was wrestling, but I was so young that the only way I knew how to communicate was by doing little gestures like that. They understood.

They would say to me “it's not on today” or “it's not time yet.”

 Dickson Liong pretending to be a wrestler

Dickson Liong pretending to be a wrestler

 realize now that if it was time, wrestling would be on. I didn't need to stress. Who can blame me, though? I was basically still a fetus. OK, maybe not, but people will get my point.

I remember staying up against the wall to get balance, putting my fists up, and pretending to be a wrestler. I actually watched wrestling before I found a passion for hockey.

That love and passion for WWE and professional wrestling remains the same to this day, and always will. I watch and follow the product religiously, never missing a show.

I may not watch every show right at the time it goes live, but I would make the effort to go back and catch it whenever I am free.

I also keep tabs on the independent and international circuits as well.

That being said, I had never attended a televised show. That changed when I attended the Aug. 10 edition of Monday Night Raw live in Everett at the Xfinity Arena.

The crowd was electric. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.

I left the building thinking to myself, “I want to feel this again.”

Right then and there, I made up my mind that I was going to attend WrestleMania 32 along with everything else WWE has to offer in the days prior to and after the event.

People come from all over the world to take part in the biggest event the company has to offer.

This year, it was going to be inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That stadium can hold more than 100,000 people, so it was being hyped as having the potential to be the largest attended event in WWE's history.

It was trying to break the WrestleMania 3 record of 93,173 from inside the Pontiac Sliverdome in Pontiac, Mich., on March 27, 1987.

I wanted to be a part of history.

For those who don't recall, this was around the time I had been going through all sorts of different problems. This was the perfect opportunity to get away.

I was set on going to take part in all of it. I gave a call to Parker Schmidt, someone I know who loves WWE.

“Hey Parker,” I said. “I want to go to WrestleMania 32 and need someone to go with.”

“Ooooooo,” he said. “I'm in, but just let me talk to Katie. I'll send you a text tonight.”

Katie is his wife.

I spent most of that day anticipating an answer. I wanted to get things figured out as soon as possible.

Around 7 p.m., I got the green light. Katie had approved and he was in.

When I finally received all my tickets for all the events, it was like Christmas morning for me. I was actually going be a part of everything and for the first time. I was extremely excited for all of it.

After months of anticipation, it finally came . . . the biggest trip of my life.

I had booked our flights to fly out of Seattle and arrive in the afternoon of April 1, then go to the first event of the trip, NXT TakeOver: Dallas.

NXT is WWE's developmental program. Don't be fooled, though. 

I love, love, love NXT. It's amazing, and this specific show had high expectations because it had, on paper, an unreal match card.

Schmidt knew this, too, so instead of starting our trip on Friday, which would have meant that we had to wake up really early, get to the border, and then and rush to the airport, we wanted to be fully energized.

That meant Schmidt and I packed our bags and headed for a hotel in Seattle a day prior to our flights.

We got to Seattle around 6 p.m., and stopped by a restaurant near the hotel. I order a burger, had half a plate of a Nachos, and an ice-cream sandwich.

 Boy, I should have known that the food portions in the United States are double the size of those in Canada.

 Liong at a restaurant in Seattle

Liong at a restaurant in Seattle

omeone please remind me not to order so much next time. I had no problem finishing it all, but, well, let's just say I regretted it the next morning.

I didn't really sleep that much the night before the flight. I was too excited for NXT TakeOver: Dallas. I closed my eyes for a little bit and, just like that, the sun’s brightness woke me up.

Just like that, NXT TakeOver: Dallas was hours away.

I was more ready than ever.

NEXT: NXT TakeOver: Dallas

A new beginning

I have decided to leave the WHL's Vancouver Giants.

When I realized I couldn't be a hockey player because I had a physical disability, I knew that I still wanted to be in the NHL in some way.

Many people didn't think I would be able to do it. Along with that, I have been bullied throughout my life.

Having the name 'Dickson' didn't help.

One kid told me, “You're a cripple who probably doesn't have a dick. That's why your name has 'dick' in it, instead.”

I was one of those kids who was always by himself during lunch hour. When I went home, I went to my room, shut the door and did my own thing.

No, I was never good when it came to girls, either.

I remember approaching an Asian girl one time. I didn't know her well at all.

All I knew was that I found her attractive because that's, well, what she was. People knew that, and she did, too.

She looked similar to what someone would find in a Maxim's magazine.

“Do you want to go out sometime?” I asked her.

“Sorry,” she replied. “I don't go out with cripples.”

 Dickson Liong

Dickson Liong

After that, my confidence was completely shot. I was young and extremely dumb, I really was, but that was what I was attracted to at the time.

I actually talked about this when CTV Vancouver interviewed me for a news segment in 2014-15. Most people I came across were more interested in finding out who the girl was than the actual story itself.

I thought that was hilarious.

No matter how many times I was asked, I refused to reveal who it was. I just don't feel it's the right thing to do.

Because I had no confidence to speak to girls after that encounter, or at all for that matter, I asked another girl, in a private message via social media, if she wanted to go out with me.

This one was similar to the previous: looked good, but that was it.

She replied: “I'm not interested.”

I thought it would end right there and then, but it didn't. That's because the girl spread it around that she had received a message from me.

One of her friends, two days after I sent to the message, said, “Leave her the fuck alone, you fucking crip!”

Again, another big mistake. 

I should have never asked that girl out, let alone on social media. Never do that.

I shouldn't have considered someone girlfriend material strictly off how they looked or if people considered them to be popular in school.

It was a lesson that needed to be learned.

What does 'popular' mean anyway?

Because of these experiences, I have higher standards now.

Whether two people are able to connect with one another means that much more. It may sound corny, but the inside is truly what counts.

I'm not saying attractiveness doesn't mean anything at all, but it isn't what really matters in the end.

I had to learn that the hard way. Honestly, I'm glad I did.

A girl who accepts people for who they are, has a big heart and is bubbly are what's most important to me.

Geez, I sound like I'm filling out an online dating profile. Whatever.

Anyway, at the time when all this was happening, I had extremely low self-esteem and was anti-social. 

Still, my desire to be in the NHL didn't diminish.

I got a chance to join the Giants in 2011-12 as their website writer, and my life turned around.

The late Pat Quinn, who was one of the part-owners, along with Scott Bonner, the general manager, were instrumental in bringing me on to the team. Both of them mean the absolute world to me.

Bonner introduced me to his dad, Terry, who is one of the scouting directors of the Giants, his mom Pam, his aunt Gail, his younger brother, Craig, who is a professional scout for the NHL's Dallas Stars, and his wife and children: Nola, Hayley, and Kennedy.

The same goes for them.

Scott made sure I knew all the players and hockey staff. Both he and Quinn were always there for me whenever I needed something, whatever it may have been.

In a blink of an eye, I've been with the team for five seasons. When Quinn passed away on Nov. 23, 2014, it really affected me.

Just imagine losing a family member, because that's how I felt.

I would have the same emotions if something happened to Bonner.

 Liong and Pat Quinn

Liong and Pat Quinn

I was nothing, zero, before I met them. They gave me purpose in life, and there's nothing that I could ever do that would be enough to repay them for that.

It was Bonner and Quinn who brought my true self out of me: a guy who always smiles, and loves to chirp and have fun. Never to attack anyone, because I know what that is like. But to joke around and lighten up the mood.

I think it's all in the tone of voice and overall delivery. Also, consider the source, too.

I take jabs at people all the time to the point where they know it's just me being me.

People love me for it.

At least, I think they do.

If I'm not chirping at someone or cracking jokes, then people know something is bothering me.

Oddly enough, it was soon after Quinn died where my life seemed to be crashing down on me.

It all happened during 2015-16.

Oh, just so I don't confuse anyone, the end of the year isn't December for me. I'm used to reading the calendar in hockey terms, so the year ends whenever the season does.

It was the darkest time of my entire life.

I was just having all sorts of problems. Everything from issues with girls to other conflicts as well.

Issues with girls are tough, especially.

I went from being the happiest I've ever been to, all of the sudden, feeling empty and alone.

I'm not one to go out to bars and pick up girls, party, or anything like that, so I really questioned when I was going to feel that kind of emotional connection again. Truth be told, I still am.

It was just one thing after another. It got to the point where I felt I was getting kicked while I was down.

All of it had me feeling depressed, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. There's only so much one can take before it starts getting to the person.

 A banner in tribute to Pat Quinn

A banner in tribute to Pat Quinn

 tried to put on a brave face, but people closest to me knew something was off.

I don't have many friends, but the majority of the ones I do have are family to me.

 Liong and NHL legend Gordie Howe

Liong and NHL legend Gordie Howe

or one reason or another, I have never had the greatest relationship with my actual family.

I wish that wasn't the case, but that's how life works sometimes. One doesn't get to choose the cards that are being dealt to them.

I just battle through it like I have with every other challenge I've come across. So having others to consider family is crucial to me.

I don't know where I would get my love and support if that wasn't the case. Every person, I don't care who it is, needs that.

Thanks for the ones who were always there to answer my phone calls, sometimes multiple within the same day.

There were times I was nearly in tears. But because of the support, I was able to calm down.

If it wasn't a phone call, it was multiple text messages. Thanks for always taking time to reply to them.

I have fought through things my entire life.

People say things to me along the lines of “it must be tough to have a disability” all the time.

I don't see it that way at all. In fact, I'm really grateful to have one.

Because of it, I have been able to learn lessons that I wouldn't otherwise.

Remember, I never really spent time with people my own age group because I was often judged and bullied.

So, the closest people to me, for the most part, are older. Take Bonner and Quinn, for example.

I'm grateful for that too. Because, quite frankly, on top of everything else, it helped me mature and grow.

They've all taught me important morals and gave me great perspective on life that will stick with me for as long as I live.

Even those people who treated me poorly, whether it was doubting me or hating on me, I'm thankful for.

Through how those people treated me, it's not only given me a motivation to prove them wrong, but how to properly treat others and how not to.

 Canucks president of operations Trevor Linden and Liong

Canucks president of operations Trevor Linden and Liong

It's all made me a better person.

All the happenings this season were the toughest to rise above. But because I did, it all gave me even more perspective.

I knew one thing for sure, too.

I needed a way to turn the page. I needed a fresh start . . . a new beginning.

Bonner officially announced on Dec. 8 that he would be resigning as the Giants' general manager. He said he would stay on in the position until the end of the season.

Bonner then would join the The Sports Corporation, one of the premier hockey agencies in the world, in a senior management role.

I'm proud to announce that I will be joining the company as well, but in a communications role.

With that said, I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of the Giants.

It provided me with great highlights of not only my career, but my entire life.

I will miss following my superstitions, like wearing the same dress shoes through my entire time with the team. I only put them on when I did things involving the Giants, too.

It got to the point where people would chirp me, because they were all beaten up and worn down. I didn't care. I wasn't going to stop wearing them as long I was with the team. 

Now, those shoes can finally retire.

 Liong and Giants captain Tyler Benson

Liong and Giants captain Tyler Benson

I've been able to meet all sorts of different people. From players, to coaches, scouts, general managers, and team staffs, all throughout the WHL.

I leave having made great relationships and connections with people I never dreamed of ever getting to know.

To the Giants' ownership, the players, the coaches, scouts, team staff, front office, the people who work in the press box along with the ones handling the in-game activities, I want to say thanks a million times over.

Even though I'm loud and crazy, thanks for dealing with me. I wouldn't change a thing. I constantly tell myself never to lose sight of who I am, no matter what happens.

Those same thanks goes to everyone outside of the Giants organization, the people who follow my work, or who I've crossed paths with along the way.

I have also resigned as The Fourth Period Magazine's Vancouver corespondent. Thanks to president David Pagnotta along with director of operations Dennis Bernstein for that opportunity.

Thanks for all the incredible support, because I wouldn't have been able to accomplish any of this without it.

I can't really put into words how honoured and grateful I am to be joining The Sports Corporation.

To be able to work with Gerry Johannson, who is the president and chief executive officer of the company, means a lot to me. He has always supported me, and continues to.

Not to mention, remaining alongside Bonner was extremely important to me, too.

I've done a lot of reflecting in the past month, knowing that I had already made the decision to resign once the season came to a close.

Was it tough to think back to the dark times? Absolutely.

Was it hard to reveal and admit certain things? Stuff that, for the longest time, I kept between only the closest people in my life and me? Of course.

 Liong and NHL legend Bobby Orr

Liong and NHL legend Bobby Orr

But I've realized ever since I committed to starting the website that I want to help others. I guarantee that there is someone out there, with a disability or not, who is going through a similar situation.

If my experiences can be any benefit to anyone, that's what makes it all worth it.

I want to help. I sincerely hope Passion Over Sleep continues to grow and this gets out to as many people as possible.

I don't just want to simply progress in my career anymore. I want to make a difference while on that journey.

I want to change the lives of people.

Like Bonner and Quinn, along with many others, have done for me.

Pulling a rabbit out of the hat

The road to World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania 32 officially has begun.

When the calendar turns, I get really hyped for the annual WrestleMania event.

It's usually scheduled for March or April, with only pay-per-views prior to it: The Royal Rumble and Fastlane.

This year, it was scheduled for April 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. However, the build for the show had been poor.

At the conclusion of the Royal Rumble, all I knew was Triple H was going to go up against Roman Reigns, who is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson's cousin, for the WWE championship at WrestleMania 32.

It likely was going to be the main event, too. I didn’t have any interest in seeing that match. Especially not in the main event slot.

None.

When Fastlane came along on Feb. 21, I thought, 'okay, we finally are going to get hints of what direction WWE goes for WrestleMania.'

The show ended, and still little was being built up. There were five weeks left until WrestleMania 32 and there were no teases of anything happening.

Not only that, but WWE has a lot of their top wrestlers out with injuries and likely to miss the company's biggest show it has to offer. What was it going to do?

I got extremely frustrated with being clueless.

Was WrestleMania 32, which is expected to the highest-attended WWE event ever, really going to be lacklustre?

NXT, WWE's developmental program, is scheduled to have a show on April 1.

It's called NXT TakeOver: Dallas, and it looks to have an outstanding card. I was starting to think that show was going to outdo WrestleMania 32.

Because I was so disappointed after Fastlane, my expectations for Monday Night Raw the following night were low. It was announced a week prior that the WWE was going present someone with the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence award.

What was this? I had never heard of this award. Instantly, I figured that it wasn't a serious award, and just a part of a storyline.

For those who don't know, Vincent Kennedy McMahon is the son after whom the award was named. He is the chairman of the company.

I predicted it was either going to Stephanie McMahon, Vince's daughter and principal owner of WWE, or to Triple H, Stephanie's husband.

Once 5 p.m. hit, which is the start time for Monday Night Raw, I tuned in in the hopes that I was all wrong about WrestleMania 32 and some compelling storylines would take place leading to a quality card.

Monday Night Raw started right away with the presentation of the award. It was given to Stephanie, as I predicted.

She came down to the ring, and said she had prepared a speech in case she won. This was met with a shower of boos from the crowd.

As Stephanie was about to start her speech, I heard: “Here comes the money! Here comes the money! Money, money, money, money, money.”

Those are the lyrics to Shane McMahon's theme song. He is Stephanie's brother.

When I heard that song hit, I was so excited I pushed up from my seat.

“OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed.

I lost my balance, but luckily something was behind me to catch the fall. Otherwise, I could have been injured.

It really wouldn't have been anything that I wasn't use to if I did, honestly. I'm a piece of glass.

Shane left the WWE in 2009 after reportedly having a difference of opinion with Vince on the direction of the company. So, Shane decided to start a video company in China.

It had been seven years, but he was back.

I starting laughing to myself I was so happy. Was this really happening? Shane? Really?

Yes, I wasn't having a dream.

I wasn't the only one going nuts. Monday Night Raw was in Detroit, and the crowd did, too.

Chants of “Shane O Mac!”

Chants of “Holy shit!”

It was crazy.

I was following right along with the crowd, screaming at my screen even though I wasn't there live.

Shane got into the ring and his father went in for a hug. 

Shane pushed Vince away. Vince went for a handshake, but Shane pushed his arm down, rejecting it.

“You had to do it, didn't ya?” Shane said to Vince.

“This,” he said while pointing at the award, “is the straw that broke the camel's back.”

I was stuck on every single word. This got my attention.

“The Vincent J McMahon Legacy of Excellence award,” Shane continued. “Phenomenal idea. Amazing, and should be bestowed to someone who is a worthy recipient.”

He then looked over at Stephanie, and said, “and that's not you.”

Stephanie's facial expressions were hilarious.

“You and your husband, Triple H, have been really running this company into the ground,” Shane stated. “Let's take a few indicators. Let's look at the stock, let's look at ratings, and let's look at the plethora of talent injuries. All under your watch. Down into the ground! Great job.”

All of which are true. I love when bits of real life happenings are put into the storyline.

This was awesome.

“You're saying this in front of a packed house here in Detroit, right?” Stephanie replied. “Because you don't know how it is to be a success, Shane. How would you? You're nothing more than a quitter!”

This was referring to Shane's departure in 2009.

“Now get the hell out of my ring,” Stephanie told her brother.

Shane had a great comeback.

“No. 1, it's your father's ring,” he said. “Let me, since you don't actually understand what's going on here . . .”

Shane stopped, and looked over at Vince.

“Do you want to tell her?” Shane asked Vince. “Or do you want me to?”

“I don't think this is the time or the place,” the chairman said.

“No, no, no,” Shane said. “We don't have to get into the gory details, but this is definitely the time and this is definitely the place.” 

“Let's get this out here,” Stephanie said. “What is it?”

“Several years ago, your father messed up big time,” Shane explained. “Huge. Who was there to save the day? Me. So, this is what happened, because you don't know.

“Your father and I, we cut ourselves a little deal. In that deal, I was able to do lots of things that I wanted to do. I was able to take some time off, I was able to build some businesses. But one thing's for sure, Stephanie, I never lost my place in line.”

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Stephanie said. “Nothing happens in WWE's business that I don't know.”

“Oh, well actually, I understand that this is a tough pill for you to swallow,” Shane replied. “Believe me, it's a tough spot. But you don't know what you don't know. But know this: the reason you've been able to climb so high thus far is because I let it happen.”

“Is this true, Dad?” Stephanie asked Vince.

“We're going to have a conversation later,” Vince said.

It was apparent that he had more to say, but was interrupted.

“Is this true!?” Stephanie repeated.

“We'll have a conversation later,” Vince said again. “The award will be presented to you backstage.”

“Is it true?” Shane said, pressuring his father to admit that it was.

“There's some truth to it,” Vince said.

Shane jumped in and claimed, “It's all true.”

“You know what it was, Stephanie?” Shane said. “At the time, it was best for business.”

Stephanie was angry, and went to leave to the ring.

“Let me hold the ropes for you,” Shane said. “Bye bye.”

“I will never forgive you for this,” Stephanie said.

Shane just nodded as if to say, “I don't care.”

The crowd starting singing one of Steam's greatest hits, 'Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.'

I almost died laughing at that.

“Alright, so what's this all about?” Vince asked Shane as Stephanie left. “Okay, come on. What's this all about? I've got my chequebook. I'll take out my chequebook. I'll write another cheque to you, okay!? Just another one! It's what you want. You want your cash? You got it. Name your price.”

Any price, huh?” Shane asked.

“You got it,” Vince said.

“This isn't about money,” Shane stated. “It was never about money. I left a lot of money on the table just to get out from underneath you. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I say, 'boy, what a doofus.'

“But actually, when I look in the mirror, I quickly come to a very calming sense that I'm not beholden to you anymore. I have freedom.”

Shane wanted control of Monday Night Raw.

Vince agreed, but only if Shane agreed to have one match, on one night.

 Shane McMahon returns to confront his family (WWE)

Shane McMahon returns to confront his family (WWE)

“If you win your match,” Vince said, “you get your wish.”

“One match?” Shane said, thinking about it. “One night?”

The fans in attendance started chanting, “You still got it! You still got it!”

“They're saying you still got it,” Vince said. “We got a deal or do we don't have a deal?”

“Well, this certainly won't be my first deal with the devil,” Shane said. “You got a deal.”

Vince announced that that place was going to be at WrestleMania 32.

The opponent? I really didn't expect this one.

It's going to be The Undertaker.

“HOLY SHIT!” I yelled.

It didn't end there.

“Oh, by the way,” Vince said, “just so you can't take your ball and go home like you have before, this match will in Hell in a Cell!”

I went nuts.

To the point where if anyone saw me and didn't have any idea what was going on, I don't know what they would have thought.

The whole segment went for 30 minutes. I loved, and I mean loved, every single second of it.

The rest of the show was great, too.

Dean Ambrose will go against Brock Lesnar in a street fight at WrestleMania. That announcement was a highlight for me, too.

All of the sudden, WrestleMania 32 looked to have been saved in one week.

Here is the card so far:

Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker inside the Hell in a Cell

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a street fight

Roman Reigns vs. Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Of course, more matches will be announced and more stories will be told in the coming weeks.

For whatever reason, many people I talked to weren't the biggest fans of the match involving Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. 

“Listen,” I'd say to them. “This is the first chapter of the story. There's still five more chapters left and you don't know. Don't jump to any conclusions just yet.”

I'm critical of the product at times, and that's because I'm extremely passionate about it and want the best for the business.

WWE took a risk with having Shane return, and I respect that. I don't think it expected the type of reaction he got.

The possibilities for this match are endless.

Plus, people who follow wrestling know that Shane will put his heart and soul into that match. He's done things in his matches that have left me thinking that he was dead.

Will Shane win? Will Undertaker win? What happens next? What does Undertaker have to say about this? Does Shane have a backup plan?

The Undertaker and Shane are scheduled to make appearances on the Feb. 29 edition of Monday Night Raw.

Oh, I almost forgot. For those who are wondering which is my favourite match involving Shane? He and Kurt Angle in a street fight at King of the Ring in 2001.

I went on the WWE Network and re-watched it, and loved it even more than I did before.

Business in the WWE has just picked up.

 

 

I found a video of Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle talking about the scripting of their street fight match at King of the Ring 2001. It's seven minutes. 

Wrestling fan or not, it's worth a watch. 

Here it is: 

Inspired once again

The Vancouver Giants' Acceptance Day never fails to inspire me. 

Ever since the Vancouver Canucks did a documentary on me and my story went public, many people have told me that I am an inspiration to them.

 In fact, when I went to watch WWE's Monday Night Raw live in Everatt at the Xfinity Arena, one of the event hosts came up to me after the show.

“Hey! I saw you on the Internet!” the man said. “Are you the guy in that Canucks video?”

“Yeah,” I said, with a grin. “How are ya?” 

“I'm great,” he said. “You a wrestling fan?” 

“Yeah, since I was a little guy.” 

“That's awesome,” he replied. “Man, I didn't know you were going to be down here. You have a lot of people who love you down here.” 

“Thanks a lot, man,” I said. “I really appreciate that.” 

“I really want to ask you for a photo and sign something,” he said. “But I didn't come with a pen and I'm working. I'd get in trouble if my boss sees me taking a photo.”

“All good,” I said, with a laugh. 

He escorted me to the elevator and told me, “Let someone know the next time you are in the building!”

“I will,” I said.

With the number of times that I've been recognized in public by someone who follows my work or has seen the documentary, it makes me feel extremely grateful.

 That being said, I have never really understood why people view me as an inspirational figure.

 I mean, I guess I do. But, at the same time, I don't.

I love hockey. I love what I do, and it just so happens that I'm good at it and I have a physical disability. 

That doesn't make me any more special than anyone else. I'm just a regular guy who is passionate about his job.

I don't see myself as an inspiration.

However, on Feb. 21, I came across someone who truly is. 

The Giants were scheduled to play host to the Victoria Royals on that day. 

The game was at noon, because the Giants were going to have their annual flash mob in the second period in support of anti-bullying day. More than 5,000 students from schools all over the Lower Mainland were expected to be in attendance. 

I knew what was going on beforehand. Quite frankly, after being a part of the Giants organization since the idea was first pitched, the surprise and anticipation of the flash mob was gone for me.

 The message, though, is a great one.

I got to the office around 9:30 a.m. I usually do laps around the rink, but not this time. 

“Hey Elvis!” Mike Charters, the senior ticketing director, said. 

I don't know why he calls me that. It's likely because of my hairstyle.

“Why aren't you doing your laps?” 

“I'm day-to-day with a lower-body injury,” I explained. “I hurt my tailbone.” 

“Your knee?” he asked, and then looked down at them.

“No!” I said. “My tailbone.”

“Oh. I thought you said your knees,” he said. “You should be sitting down. Want some Advil or something? No sense in being in pain.” 

“No thanks,” I said. “I'm good. I'll be fine.”

I knew the injury was minor, and I'm extremely careful about what I put in my body. The reason I didn't do my laps was because I didn't want the injury to worsen.

When it came close to game time, I went up to the press box.

People were asking me if I was excited for the flash mob. It wasn't something that I hadn't seen before, and I didn't expect to see anything new.

Or so I thought.

 

 Over 5000 students taking part in a flashmob (Chris J Relke

Over 5000 students taking part in a flashmob (Chris J Relke

Prior to puck drop, a video was played.

 It was about Dan Caro, someone who was in a fire at two years of age and nearly lost his life. He got burns over 80 per cent of his body. 

I was shocked. 

Once the video ended, a spotlight came on. It was on Caro, and he was playing the drums, something about which he is passionate.

 He then gave a brilliant speech about standing up against bullies.

I was amazed.

The energy in the building was the highest it had been all season. The children were given towels to wave around, which made it feel like a playoff game.
 It was a great sight. 

Vancouver lost 5-2 to the Royals, which put a damper on things.

But one thing is for sure — people left it feeling inspired. 

People like Caro are true examples of inspiration . . . not me. 

 

Thank you, Daniel Bryan

What was once only speculation became reality on Monday. 

Daniel Bryan, one of my favourite wrestlers in World Wrestling Entertainment, had been out for several months with an upper-body injury. 

During every major show that the company would stage, I wouldanticipate his theme song to hit, meaning he would make a return.

 He never did. I grew frustrated.

Bryan had been cleared by outside doctors! Why won't WWE's medical staff do the same? 

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was January, the month of the Royal Rumble. 

I told anyone who cared, “WWE is holding out Bryan for the Battle Royal match at the Rumble. He's going to be a surprise entrant and everyone is going to go absolutely crazy. If not, I give up. He's done.”

The Royal Rumble came and went, and Bryan didn't came back. 

“He is done!” I said in frustration and disappointment after the show. “Done!”

Even though I stated that, deep down I hoped that I was wrong. 

Seattle's Key Arena was scheduled to play host to WWE's Monday Night Raw on Feb. 8. A week before the show, talk about Bryan started to heat up again.

 The word was he was going to return that night.

“Ohhhh,” I thought to myself. “It all makes sense now.”

For those who don't know, Bryan is from Aberdeen, Wash. It would be like a homecoming to have him come back in Seattle. 

Oh, wait. Then I really starting thinking.

How many times have reports about Bryan been wrong? Multiple. 

I told myself, “I'll believe it when a see it.” 

A day before Monday Night Raw, things really began to ramp up. Photos were taken and tweeted by observers who saw him at an airport. Bryan had a new haircut and everything. 

Could he really be coming back?

I got excited. 

But, again, I refused to get too high about it.

On Monday morning, before I went to the Vancouver Giants office, I tweeted the following: 

Almost instantly, I got replies to that tweet saying that he had announced his retirement. 

“Wh….aaa…ttt?" I uttered.

It was true. 

As much as I saw it coming, for whatever reason, I was still shocked and didn't want it to be true.

“Please let it be a storyline,” I said to myself. “Please let it be a storyline.”

I reached over to my phone and sent a text message to Brendan Batchelor, the Giants' director of media relations and play-by-play broadcaster.

Brendan ... I wrote. 

I only wrote his name, but Batchelor knew exactly what I was getting at.

“I saw,” he wrote back. “He's done.”

The Giants were scheduled to play host to the Edmonton Oil Kings later in the day, at 2 p.m. Monday Night Raw was to be live at 5 p.m. 

I tried my best to make it home in time. If I didn't, I was going to force myself to not log on to Twitter until I watched the show. 

The Giants defeated the Oil Kings 1-0. Vancouver goaltender Ryan Kubic made 28 saves for the shutout. 

I leftthe press box in the middle of the third period to get ready for Giants' head coach Lorne Molleken's press conference. 

Once everything was completed, I took the elevator down to the concourse level and ran to the office. 

“Ready to go?” I said to Elliott Demone, one of the sales consultants. He was going to give me a ride home.

“Yep,” he said. “Just let me shut down for computer.”

“OK,” I said, trying to catch my breath from running. “I'll meet you by the front door.” 

“What's the rush?” he asked, with a laugh. 

Batchelor overheard and said, “To watch Raw!”

“To what?” 

“I want to get home in time for Raw!” I said. 

“Oh, I thought you lined up some hot date!” 

I ignored him, and continued towards the door. 

“I'm out, Batch!” I said on the way out. “See ya later. I hope it's a swerve!”

“See ya!” Batchelor said.

I looked over at the clock. It was 4:45 p.m.

I had 15 minutes. I had no idea when Bryan's segment was going to come on.

It could have been the opening one, or the ending.

But I didn't want to risk it. I wanted to be in front of a television by the start. 

I usually stick around the office after the games. Not this time.

I was out of that place faster than anything. 

I had my eye on the clock the whole way home. As soon as I arrived at my house, I bolted for the entrance. 

“See ya Elliott!” I yelled. “Thanks for the ride. I appreciate it.”

“No problem buddy,” he said as he got back in the car. “Enjoy the show.”

When I got in to my house, I looked over to my clock again. 

5:08 p.m. 

I took off my jacket, shoes and tie. I didn't worry about my dress shirt or pants. There was no time to change. 

I made it just in time. 

Bryan wasn't in the opening segment.

While watching the show, I kept saying, “Where is Bryan going to come out?” 

He was in the final segment of the show. 

“Finally,” I said to myself. “Here we go.”

 Daniel Bryan backstage with his wife Brie Bella (@thebellatwins)

Daniel Bryan backstage with his wife Brie Bella (@thebellatwins)

“I've been wrestling since I was 18-years-old,” Bryan said during the segment. “Within the first five months of my wrestling career, I had already had three concussions. For years after that, I would get a concussion here and there, here or there. It gets to the point where you've been wrestling for 16 years, that that adds up to a lot of concussions. It gets to a point where they tell you that you can't wrestle anymore.” 

I was hoping someone's theme song would hit and that someone would begin a feud with him. 

I know. I was being completely delusional and in denial that his career was actually done.

“For a long time, I fought that,” he continued. “Because this, I have loved this in a way that I have never loved anything else. A week and a half ago, I took a test that said that maybe my brain isn't as okay as I thought it was. I have a family to think about. It is with a heavier heart and the utmost sadness that I officially announce my retirement.”

At this point, I knew that this wasn't a storyline and tried my best to hold back tears. Bryan then talked about his father, Donald Orrin Danielson, who passed away last year. 

I couldn't do it anymore. I was in tears. To those who want to judge that I cried over wrestling, go right ahead. I don't care. 

Bryan was arguably the best wrestler in the world. He broke moulds for so many in the business. 

What do I mean?

The WWE is known for having wrestlers who are at least 6-foot-0 with a muscular body type. Bryan, however, islisted at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds. 

He worked in the independent circuit for years, and few ever thought that the WWE would offer him a contract. 

He was so good, that they did. 

Making it to WWE is one thing. Being in the main event of WrestleMania, the biggest event of the year that WWE has to offer, is another. 

Bryan was so good and connected with the fans so well that WWE had no choice but to change its plans for WrestleMania 30. He was in the main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

He ended the show as the new champion.

I will never forget it. 

It makes me want to tear up just thinking of how happy I was when it happened.

 

 Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30 (WWE)

Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30 (WWE)

Now, more wrestlers from the independent circuit who don’t have the traditional look are signing with WWE. 

That's all because of Bryan. 

A day later, he did an interview with ESPN's Johnathan Coachman. 

I, of course, was all over it. 

“We've been able to document 10 concussions,” Bryan said. “As a lot of people who are familiar with concussions know, you can't document all of them. If you were to ask an NFL player how many concussions they've had, it would be impossible for them to say. Well, I've been knocked out this time and that time and that time I got my bell rung. But, also, it's hard to define a concussion. The more literature that comes out about it, the more awareness there is. You know, we're finding out more all the time, so it was impossible to say.”

He also revealed that he had post-concussion seizures throughout his career, which he hid. 

Doing all the tests showed why that was, which is the reason for his premature retirement at 34 years of age.

I was extremely taken aback. Leaving the ring was the best thing for him. 

Even though I won't be watching him wrestle anymore, I'm grateful that I was able to follow his career for as long as I did.

I'm grateful that because of wrestling I've been able to develop a relationship with guys like Batchelor away from the rink and call him a friend. 

Has my appreciation and respect for Bryan and professional wrestling itself grown that much higher?

Yes, yes, yes!