Solex stands over a barbell in the middle of his grimy, basement gym. He takes in a few deep breaths in rapid succession as he pumps himself up in preparation to set a new personal deadlift record with both ends of the bar stacked with as many weight plates as possible. His sweat-soaked, white sleeveless shirt is stretched to its limits, seemingly ready to rip down the middle of his back at any moment. He rolls his shoulders forward and back as his lifting straps dangle from his wrists. A thin layer of chalk dust covers the stable mat beneath his feet as he stares down at the barbell, still mentally preparing. He lets out a deep grunt as he bends at the knees and grips his meat hooks around the barbell, positioning his body into a perfect v-shape. Every vein from his wrists to his shoulders bulges out as he jerks upward, starting his lift. He grits his teeth as beads of sweat begin to form on his forehead and eventually get enough mass for gravity to take control and roll down both of his cheeks.
He pulls as hard as he can, almost seeming to push the Earth down with his feet as the weight is slowly elevated from the mat. Solex pulls with all his might and stands straight up, shoving his hips forward and momentarily locking out his knees. He holds the victory pose for a few seconds as every muscle on his body pumps itself full of blood. Solex stares at himself in the half-shattered mirror that hangs on the water damaged cement walls across the room.
“Fuckin’ right!” He shouts to himself as he lets loose of his grip and drops the weights back down to the mat with a loud clang.
Solex had been getting out of shape the last couple of months while he stayed with a friend and was still looking for a place of his own after his divorce with Constance. It was his second divorce inside of just as many years, and now not only had he lost his own son…he’d lost Scott Steven’s son as well; a boy that Solex had grown quite close with.
Solex claps his hands together and marches across the room in his all black Chuck Taylor’s and stops at the table, grabs the black steel water jug and takes a few giant gulps of water. He wipes his lips dry with the side of his forearm as he stares down at his phone on the table. A notification on the screen has caught his attention. He grabs his phone and reads the notification to himself.
Hey bud, got a minute?
Solex cracked a bit of a smile; it’s always good to hear from good friends. But he wasn’t ready to get back to him just yet, he had a lot of work left to do in the gym. After losing to Conor Fuse, Solex had come to the conclusion that he needed to double his efforts in the gym if he had any chance of winning anything at ICONIC. Losing to Conor, especially how he lost to Conor, didn’t sit well with Solex. He truly felt…hell, he still does, feel like he is the better wrestler and that he could have beaten Conor, but he also knew that he wasn’t prepared. He knew that he had sat his ass down on Frank’s couch for six weeks and didn’t do a damn thing that he was contractually obligated to do.
Fights aren’t won in the ring. Fights are won in preparation.
He’s been told this his whole life, and he knew that’s why he lost, and he’d be damned if he let that happen again. Especially against Scott Stevens and Jace Parker Davidson. Losing to them the first time felt even worse than losing to Conor Fuse and this was Solex’s shot at redemption.
He clears the notification on his phone and drops the phone back onto the table, right next to an open bottle of Dianabol. He grabs the bottle of “D-Bol” and pours a few capsules into his hand, tosses them into his mouth and chugs from his water jug again, swallowing the anabolic aids in the process.
The sound of heeled shoes stomping down the basement stairs echoes off the cement walls as someone makes their way down to the basement.
“Steve?” A man’s voice calls out. “Steve Solex?”
Solex seems annoyed, but not surprised to have a visitor.
“Yeah, that’s me!” He shouts back as he walks over to his power rack and takes a seat on the bench.
He watches the man finish his descent of the stairs.
“Hello?” The man asks.
The man isn’t what Steve would consider a man by any means. His narrow shoulders and weak chin give off the vibes of a worthless WNBA player that could be traded for a Russian terrorist by a laughable group of elites that wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit them on the ass, but that’s neither here nor there. The beta-male approaches Solex and reaches out a hand for him to shake, but Solex just looks down at the man’s tiny hand and scoffs.
“Well,” the man begins. “I’m Michael from The Los Angeles Times. I was told by my supervisor to come down here and get a word with you.”
Michael fishes through his pockets as he stammers through his sentence when suddenly his face lights up.
“There it is!” He exclaims as he pulls a voice recorder from the breast pocket of his cheap, JC Penny sports coat that most likely came off the rack and most certainly is from the Michael Strahan collection.
Solex stares at the man, his eyes wide and full of impatience.
“And?” Solex asks, gesturing with his hands for the man to get going with the questions.
“Uh..ok, then. Well, I guess the first thing I’d have to ask you, Steve, is how do you feel about your match coming up at ICONIC?”
Solex smiles at the question, but not a joyful smile…more like “This Fuckin’ Guy” smile.
“That’s it? That’s your fuckin’ question?” Solex asks, still looking at the weakling of a man with that same stare.
“Well, uh…yeah,” Michael says, seemingly perplexed by the annoyed interrogation of Solex.
“Jesus H. Christ, the LA Times sure has set the standard low these days. You’re a real Peter Parker, you know that?” Solex says, mocking Michael some more.
“Uh, Peter Parker was a photograp…”
“Look, you fucking nerd. I don’t give a shit what or who Peter Parker is or what he does for a living. He’s a fake fuckin’ super hero, you little sack of shit. You see, that’s exactly what’s wrong with this generation. You kids are always looking for some kind of bullshit superhero to model your lives after, when you should be looking at and aspiring to be a like Clint Eastwood or John Fuckin’ Wayne. But instead, you all look to the masked, teenage dirtbags and think that somehow you’re going to be like them in the future…when you’re already older than they are in the first fuckin’ place!”
Michael just stares in silence and trembles in fear as the former HOTv Champion goes off on a tangent.
“We have an epidemic of lost masculinity in this country under the guise of “toxicity” and fuckin’ “climate change”, and men like Jace Parker Davidson are the exact prototype of androgyny that these Hollywood elites are looking for. And then you…” Solex begins, pointing a finger at the reporter who still seems to be searching the record button on his recorder.
“Look, high speed. Either figure that fuckin’ thing out, or get the fuck out of here! I mean, holy shit…it’s 2022 and you’re using a voice recorder? Use your fuckin’ iPhone smart guy!”
Michael looks over at Solex, his eyes a bit teary as his nervousness continues to grow. He’s finally able to get the record button pressed down. He places the recorder on the table right next to Solex’s bottle of pills. Michael looks at the pills, the over to Solex and then back at the pills.
“Are these…?” Michael asks.
“They’re Motrin, you dumb shit,” Solex says aggressively, shutting down any follow up questions by punking the reporter out with his firm tone.
“So, uh…how have you been preparing for your match at ICONIC?” Michael asks.
“You’re looking at it,” Solex says, looking around his basement gym.
“This is where you train?” Michael asks with a small tone of disgust in his voice.
“Fuck does that mean? Hell yeah I train here. It’s dirty, nasty, it stinks..this is my iron paradise you little weasel,” Solex says.
“Do you feel like you’re fully prepared? This is an interesting match, one in which both the LSD Championship and the HOTv Tag Team Championships are up for grabs. The way I understand it, the match will start as a match for the Tag Team Championships and then transition to a Falls Count Anywhere Match for the LSD Championship. What do you think your chances are of coming hold with two championship belts?” Michael asks, seemingly growing more confident by the second.
“Oh, so you’re suddenly articulate and an actual reporter? I’m more prepared for this match and this moment than I’ve ever been prepared before. Joe Bergman and I have never really had the run that we’ve deserved as a tag team. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault, but any time the two of us have some kind of run going, we always fall short of the expectations that we’ve set for ourselves. I’m not gonna sugar coat a thing and try to play it off like it hasn’t been my fault, nearly every time…because it most certainly has been. I’ve been the weak link of PBR, and I’ve been the weak link of The Highwaymen…I know that, and so does Byrd, Bergman and Harrison. And while Bergman and Byrd have stayed pretty silent on the whole thing, Harrison won’t let me forget about it…and rightfully so. That’s what makes our group so good and valuable to HOW. We hold one another accountable and push each other to be our absolute best…I’ve just been the one that hasn’t been holding up my end of the bargain, but at ICONIC…all of that changes.”
Michael pulls a notepad from his shirt pocket and pulls the lid off his pen with his teeth. He begins jotting some notes in the notepad as Solex continues to rant.
“I’ve got no other choice but to get better and make up for my lack of success, not only for myself…but for my boys. And what better way to do that than by winning the Tag Team Championships once again and then going on to win the LSD Championship from JPD?
“So, when you ask me…what do I think my chances are? I think that’s a stupid fuckin’ question, Michael. Of course I feel like I have a 100% chance of winning all the gold. Why would I feel any other way? Do you expect me to sit here and tell you that I think Scott Stevens has a better shot of winning than I do? Should I tell you that Jatt Starr’s sudden inclusion makes him a wild card, which would, in turn, give him a better shot at winning the LSD CHampionship?
“Fuck no! I’m a fucking winner, born and bred to be a champion. I’m a warrior and with Bergman, I’m a member of one of the most memorable tag teams in the history of HOW and we will be Tag Team Champions once again.
“Scott Stevens and JPD took advantage of the situation that I was in at the time and captured themselves a little taste of Tag Team gold…but that’s all they’re gonna get – a little taste. So, my message for them and I want to be perfectly clear here. My message for Stevens and JPD is to celebrate now. Celebrate now, and cherish the memories of being temporary champions, because after Bergman and I get our belts back, that’s all they’ll have…memories.”
“Do you have anything to say about Scott Stevens?” Michael asks. “The two of you have a pretty long history and have been in the ring with one another almost as much as Bobinette Carey and Steve Harrison,” he continues.
“I’m comin’ around on you, Michael. Fine little joke you told there, and there’s nothing funnier than the truth. I can’t begin to tell you just how sick and fucking tired of talking about Scott Stevens and our (air quotes) history (air quotes) has gotten over the years. I’ve beat the guy like ninety-seven times, and yet he keeps coming back for more. Scott Stevens is like a fuckin’ genital wart on my life. I keep trying to get rid of him…and just when I think he’s gone…he’s back again! Popping up to say hello right before I dick down some hot stripper, or in this case win the LSD and Tag Championships.. I wish there was a cream, vaccine or ointment that would just eject that sack of shit right out of my life once and for all…but here we go again. I pulled the eject button and I got caught in the hatch like Goose and now I’m tumbling through the air toward the ocean and I can’t even open my goddam parachute.
“Here’s the short of it: Scott Stevens is a waste of my fuckin’ time and after ICONIC, I’m never going to mention that asshole again. I don’t give a flyin’ fuck if the situation calls for it or not…his name will never come out of my mouth again. And you can hold me to that.”
“Thanks, Steve,” Michael says. He shuts off his recorder and stuff his notepad back into his pocket.
“Oh, you think we’re done?” Solex asks with a smirk on his face.
“We’re not?” Michael asks, curiously.
“Not a fuckin’ chance. You’re going with me to Chicago. My assistant just booked your ticket. I’ll meet you there on Friday night.”
“Where are you going?” Michael asks.
“I’ve got a Byrd to see.”