July 11, 2022
“You are absolutely not going!” Constance shouted as Solex continued to pack his green duffle.
That green duffle has been through three combat tours and was issued to Steve in basic training. That green duffle has seen more time in a war zone than Christopher America and his bullshit eagle combined.
“I have to, I committed, and it’s the fucking World Championship, Babe. I’m going to Tombstone, and that’s the end of it. But first, I have to go out to California for a few things. I’ll see you and Scotty in a few weeks, and I’ll be wearing that world title around my waist when I do,” Solex tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears.
“Have to? Are you being serious right now?! I don’t care about that belt and neither does your son! You are absolutely, one-hundred-percent, not going!”
Solex paid her no mind and buckled up his duffle bag.
“You said you were done after, Ukraine! You said you were done after that shit-show on a ship! And now you’re going back for more!” Constance shouted as she followed right behind Solex into the living room.
“You have a tumor in your fucking brain, Steven!”
She pressed her right index finger into her forehead so hard that her knuckle whitened.
“Why do you want to leave us so badly?! What did we ever do to you?!”
Solex grabbed his green duffle off the couch and headed out the front door. Constance was right behind him, every step of the way until he descended the driveway.
“Not no, but fuck no!”
Constance shrieked at her husband from atop the driveway, drawing the attention of literally every neighbor on their street. Blinds around the neighborhood cracked open as Solex kept his head down and stayed on task. He dropped open the tailgate of his all black Ford Raptor and tossed his old Army duffle bag into the bed of the truck.
“We’re not going to discuss this again,” Solex said as he simultaneously slammed the tailgate shut.
“You promised…you asshole!”
When Steve found out about the brain tumor, he made a promise to his wife and little Scotty that he would never step into a wrestling ring again.
But the World Championship changed that.
Christopher America changed that.
The ball of cancer that’s lodged in the right side of Steve’s frontal lobe isn’t new. The Solex’s have known about this tumor since Steve’s post War Games physical. As soon as the x-rays were read to him, he knew his wrestling career was over.
But that was Monday morning.
A few short hours later, Christopher America issued the challenge that changed everything.
Steve had never received a shot at the HOW World Championship until that very moment, and it changed everything. Constance knew it, little Scotty knew it and they were understanding…at first.
Now? Their patience has run out.
“You had your shot, Steven! I won’t watch you die in that rin…”
Solex lunged forward and grabbed ahold of his wife’s face with his right hand. His eyes raged with intensity as he squeezed her cheeks together.
“What the fuck did you just say to me?! I had my shot!? Is that what you believe?!”
Solex’s voice boomed, echoing off and vibrating any surface within a five-hundred foot radius.
Constance stayed silent, however, knowing deep inside that a fleet of police cars would come screaming down the street corner at any moment. She just knew that her nosey neighbors would call them. She also knew that if he was in jail, he couldn’t wrestle.
She had to stall.
“Can I talk, please?” She asked, fighting the words out of her lips through mushed cheeks.
Solex didn’t want to, but he let go. Her face was visibly red with a big thumb print on the left side of her face.
“Speak,” Solex said, giving her some kind of permission to plead her case, really pouring on the toxic masculinity.
She grabbed her chin and moved it side to side, and took every second she could to stall. A tear slowly rolled down her cheek but she quickly wiped it away. She felt her throat swell up as she mustered the courage to speak.
“I don’t understand,” she sobbed.
She stuttered all three words and her voice cracked just enough to get Steve to simmer down, but the content of what she said only enraged him further. His eyebrows lowered and pulled close together as he clenched his jaw, nearly shattering his molars in the process. The vein on his neck bulged and his nostrils flared as his pace of breath began to speed up.
“You wouldn’t understand! You sit around here all fuckin’ day, doing what? Laundry? Watching your soaps? How could you understand! The most important thing you do all day is decide whether or not you should cook dinner, or order in. I have to go out there and earn a fucking living while you sit here and live the good life. Don’t you fuckin’ start that bullshit with me, woman! I have a match to win, a man to massacre and a belt to bring home. I don’t need this bullshit!”
His thunderous shouts kept the neighbors at their windows, but it also kept them indoors. Everyone in the neighborhood knows who Steve is and what he’s capable of, they wouldn’t dare come outside when he’s in the type of mood he was in.
“This is my fucking life, Constance! It was my life before I ever even fucking met you, so it’s no wonder that you don’t understand!”
She dropped to the concrete driveway, flat on her rear. She sobbed uncontrollably with her face in her hands. She attempted to sob hard enough to get Steve’s attention, but he couldn’t have cared less. He just stood there staring at her as she acted like a petulant child.
The soft and concerned voice of young Scotty stopped everything dead in its tracks. Steve’s eyes darted toward the porch and then back down at his wife.
“Go back inside, sweety,” Constance pleaded as she stood back up and dusted herself off.
“What’s going on?” Scotty quivered, as he stood on the porch looking straight down at the 2×6 decking planks that Steve had promised to paint once he was retired.
“I have to go,” Steve barked as he headed back down the driveway toward his truck.
“Where are you going?” Scotty asked as the supposed #1 Dad marched down the driveway.
Scotty ran over and tended to his mother as Solex fired up his Raptor and backed out of the driveway. Steve stopped the truck and looked over to his newly adopted son. The two nodded at one another as Solex peeled away from the house and around the corner. Just then a fleet of police cars sped around the opposite corner and screeched to a stop in front of the Solex home.
August 1st, 2022
Huntington Beach, California
The dimly lit and smoke filled bar was the perfect place for the conversation Steve was about to have with his friend and former training partner, Jack Karter. Jack is an absolute behemoth of a man. Standing six-foot-nine and pushing 400 pounds, Jack dwarfs any man he stands next to, and right now…that man is Steve Solex. The two are seated across from one another at a giant wooden spool that has been cleverly converted into a table.
“Want a drink?” Jack asked, as he stood up from his chair.
“Whiskey,” Steve said, as he stared down with both of his fists balled and pressed into the table.
Jack walked behind the bar and secured a bottle and a couple of glasses.
“I could have killed him, Jack. Right then and there, I could have fed him his own fucking heart, but I didn’t.”
“And why didn’t you?” Jack asked as he returned to the table with two water spotted shot glasses and a half empty bottle of Maker’s Mark.
Jack put a shot glass in front of Steve and the other in front of himself. He examined the bottle of whiskey before pouring a perfect two-ounces of booze into the glass in front of Solex. Solex took the shot and slammed the glass down with nearly enough force to shatter it into a million pieces, startling Jack just the tiniest bit.
“That would be letting him off easy, Jack. I could have cut his fucking head off, thrown him in the Trinity River, and been in Tombstone before anyone knew any a goddamn thing. But I want that prick to suffer. I want to watch him, watch me, hold the HOW World Championship high in the air after I pin his bitch ass in the middle of the ring,” Steve explained, with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
Jack leaned back in his chair, opened the bottle of Maker’s Mark, poured a shot and took that shot all in five seconds.
“And how do you plan on doing that?” Jack asked as he wiped his lips with his forearm before slamming the shot glass back on the wooden top of the table.
“Fuckin’ smart guy, we have to train. Why the fuck do you think I’m back in California anyway?”
“Cause you love the unreal taxes, liberal living and blistering cost of living?” Jack sarcastically asked with a wink.
“Yeah, that’s what I miss,” Solex quipped as he shook his head.
The two friends shared a laugh as Jack poured each of them a shot. The two clinged glasses and took the dumped whiskey down their throats.
In unison, both men slammed their shot glasses back down on the table.
Twice more, they slammed their glasses down in unison.
“Follow me,” Jack said as he stood back up and motioned toward a door behind the bar.
Solex reluctantly got up and followed Jack behind the bar and through the door.
“It’s fucking…paradise,” Jack whispered as he displayed the room by floating an arm out.
The room behind the door was just as dimly lit and smoke-filled as the bar out front, but in this room there was a wrestling ring right there in the center of the room. A dust covered twenty-by-twenty ring surrounded by a couple of canvas heavy bags, assorted weight equipment, a fan bike and a treadmill.
“Fuckin’ right it is,” Solex replied as he walked past Jack and into the room.
Solex wasn’t the kind of guy who was into fancy equipment, he’d rather train in the dirt and grime.
And this was right up his alley.
Solex darted toward the ring and rolled under the bottom rope. He sprang to his feet and hit the far side ropes. He stopped in the middle of the ring and bounced around shadow boxing. He threw lefts, rights, uppercuts and even a kick here and there.
“You know you only have two weeks right?”
Solex immediately stopped the kickboxing routine and walked over to the near side of the ring, leaning onto the top rope.
“That’s perfect. I just need you to show me one thing,” Solex said in a lighthearted tone, with a big smile and showing a number one with his index finger.
Jack turned his back to Solex and quietly asked himself “one thing?” He seemed confused as he shook his head with one eyebrow cocked up. Suddenly, his eyes widened as he came to the sudden realization of what Solex was saying.
“No fuckin’ way, bro!” Jack roared as he marched his size 17 feet down toward the ring.
“I can’t. I don’t even know if it’s legal anymore. And even if I did show you, how do you know it would work on Chris America? He’s the World Champ man! No way he falls for that!” Jack continued as he threw a finger up at Solex’s face.
Solex stared at the finger waving in front of his face with a big smile.
“This is HOW, and we’re going to be in Tombstone. Whether or not it’s legal, is irrelevant. And don’t worry it’ll work on him. He might be the World Champion, but he’s a rusty World Champion and he won’t expect it. He won’t see this coming, at all,” Solex said, trying to convince his drastically oversized friend.
Solex backed up to the center of the ring with his arms out to his sides, inviting Jack into the ring.
“Really? Right now?” Jack asked as he placed his hands on his hips and shook his head.
Jack rolled into the ring and got face to face with Solex. The two fought back laughter but only until it got serious. Jack put Solex into a side-headlock and wrenched the hold in tight.
“Throw me off the ropes,” Jack instructs.
Solex quickly backed Jack up into the ropes and pushed him into the opposite side ropes as the scene faded to black.
August 1st, 2022
Huntington Beach, California
Solex sat at the same giant wooden-spool table conversion that he sat at before, but this time he sat alone. He sat alone, but next to him was the now infamous black box. He slowly and methodically spun the half-glass of whiskey in front of him as he chewed on a giant cigar while he hunched over the table. A bit worse for wear, Solex’s nose trickled drops of blood down on the table. Dried blood lined his jawline from a cut underneath his bruised left eye.
Training wasn’t easy, and this was only day one.
He grunted and groaned with every movement until the iPhone in front of him came to life with lights and vibration, but Solex paid it no mind and eventually the call went to voicemail. A sudden alert on the phone showed the words:
Solex shook his head but pulled the phone in, and placed it on speaker.
Please, Steven. I’m begging you.There’s no need to do this. You have nothing left to prove. You’ve won a World Championship before, doesn’t that mean something?! Don’t let this one be worth more than your life! Don’t let this World Championship drive us apart! Nothing is more important than family, that’s what you always say! Please don’t be a hypocrite, Steve. Come back home to your family. We love you, we miss you. Please, don’t do it.
“Is that what you said? Nothing is more important than family?” Jack inquired as he approached Steve from across the room.
“Yeah, but I had my fingers crossed the whole time,” Solex joked, as he continued chewing the cigar and spinning the glass of liquor in front of him.
“Look man,” Steve continued.
“It’s the HOW World Championship. There’s no greater prize in the business, and I haven’t won one yet. Nothing else compares, no other company compares. This is the real World Championship, not some bullshit title in some bullshit company…this is H-O-W. I’ve been here for the better part of a decade and I’ve paid my fucking dues, Jack. From working in the office to working out in front of the crowd, I earned this shot…no matter what Christopher America tries to convince himself of. I fucking earned it,” Solex ranted as Jack nodded along in agreement.
“You’re not going to bore me with some shitty history lesson on who Steve Solex is and how he got here, are you?” Jack asked through some short-lived laughter.
Solex laughed as he pulled the cigar from his mouth.
“I should, you fucking prick. Look at my face!” Solex shouted out with a grin, pointing to what would soon be a black eye and cut on his left eye.
Both men shared a laugh, but Jack quickly got serious.
“Yeah, man. But like…what if you take a shot to the head that you can’t recover from? What then?”
“You mean, like these?” Solex jokingly asked as he pointed to the cuts and bruises on his face.
“That’s different, bro. They might leave marks, but that’s nothing compared to what Christopher America is going to hit you with at Dead or Alive,” Jack said in a concerned tone.
Solex brushed it off and took a drink from his whiskey.
“Whatever happens, happens, Jack. If that’s my fate, if that’s what the man upstairs has in store for me, then so be it. If I die trying, I can die a peaceful death. But if I dismiss this opportunity and do what Constance wants me to do, I’ll regret that for the rest of my life…however short that may be,” Solex explained, laying out his case.
Jack half-heartedly smiled and seemed convinced by Solex’s argument.
“Chrisopher America is my Mount Everest, Jack. I have to beat him before I die, and if I’m going to die soon…I need to get that shit done right fucking now!” Solex continued to explain.
Jack clapped his hands together, seemingly pumped by the mini-speech Solex gave him.
“Get some sleep, Steve. Tomorrow…we’re gonna do some real shit,” Jack said as he pushed away from the table and turned his back on Solex before walking away.
“Real shit?” Solex asked, causing Jack to stop but not turn around.
“You heard me, trooper. Get some rest and drink some fuckin’ water…shits about to get real.”
Solex laughed as he finished his whiskey and slammed the glass down on the table.
“Don’t worry, bro. We’ll be there,” Solex said as he slapped a flat hand down on the top of the black box.
Again, Jack stopped dead in his tracks, but this time he turned around.
“We?” Jack asked with a sideways look.
“You know…me…and…George,” Solex explained, tapping the top of the box.
“Is that…?” George began, only to be cut off by Solex.
“George Washington? Christopher America’s fuckin’ eagle? Yeah, Jack…it’s George Motherfuckin’ Washington.”
The scene fades to black as Solex shows off his pearly whites to a perfectly timed ding, as always.