February 12th, 2023
The day’s first rays of sunshine peer over the rolling hills of Solex’s Tennessee ranch, casting a warm golden light over the property. Solex stands on his back porch, drinking in the breathtaking beauty of his sprawling ranch. The cool, crisp air is the perfect compliment to Solex’s freshly brewed, Colombian-roast. His broad shoulders, barrel chest and massive frame cuts an impressive figure against the sunrise as the shadow he casts behind him is that of the perfectly built wrestler; imposing and rugged. The size that Solex has put on as of late has raised some suspicious eyebrows in recent weeks, as it’s clear that he has put on at least twenty pounds of muscle inside of a couple of months; a feat not easily achievable without a bit of a chemical boost. He’s dressed in a simple plaid shirt, faded jeans and beat-up cowboy boots. His trucker hat sits low on his head, protecting his eyes from the sun.
“You’re up early.”
The unexpected twang of the countryside catches Solex off guard, but he remains unfazed. It takes more than a simple surprise to rattle Solex’s composure. Without even turning to acknowledge the visitor, Solex calmly takes another sip of his coffee.
“The fuck you want, Chet?” Solex asks, still facing the opposite direction.
Chet has been a pain in Solex’s ass since he bought the ranch, contesting his every move with Franklin’s City Council. Chet wanted the acreage that Solex bought to stay within the community and not bought by some “California asshole who wrestles men in his unders,” as Chet so eloquently put it at the last City Council meeting.
“That’s how y’all greet people down in California? Steve, that ain’t how we do things around here,” Chet says, in a sardonic tone really throwing in that country twang when he mentions Steve’s home state.
Solex expected this to happen. He knows exactly what people around these parts think about Californians moving into their area and buying up land, but Solex isn’t that guy. Solex isn’t bringing California problems with him, he’s fleeing them and starting a new life away from all that bullshit and this is as close to Chicago as he could get without falling right back into it. Solex turns to Chet and approaches the Franklin native. The two men get close enough to make an impression on one another, but not close enough that it would be considered confrontational. It’s clear that Chet’s no slouch himself, at around six-foot-three he stands eye to eye with Solex, but he gives up about 70 pounds, especially when you consider Solex’s massive gains as of late.
Chet cracks a smile at Solex, not intimidated by the former HOTv Champion in the least. Solex cracks a smile right back at him and takes another sip of his coffee, a bit of sarcasm in the gesture. Solex moves his coffee mug to his left hand and reaches out his right hand to shake Chet’s. Chet looks down at Solex’s massive hand and gives it a strong squeeze. The two men lock eyes, each showing a sense of mutual admiration, their handshake staying firm but respectful.
“Coffee?” Solex offers, holding his mug out in the direction of the house.
Chet gives off one of those country smiles that hides behind his thick, gray mustache and nods, “I’d like that, thanks.”
Solex leads the way across the porch and through the backdoor of his home. He offers chet a seat at the breakfast nook in the study. Chet takes a seat at the edge of the table, not getting too comfortable. Solex military instincts alert him to the positioning that Chet has taken, and in his head he scoffs. Solex walks over to the coffee bar across the room and pours Chet a cup of coffee.
“Creamer?” Solex asks, to which Chet promptly replies, “No, thanks. I’ll take it black.”
Solex grins and nods, approving of Chet’s take on coffee. Solex walks over to the nook and places Chet’s freshly poured brew onto the sturdy oak table in front of him.
“Nice table, Steve,” Chet says, admiring the finish of the table by running his hand over it and giving it a light knock.
“Cut the bullshit, Chet, and get to the point. What are you doing here?” Solex says, no selling Chet’s compliment.
“I don’t like to waste my time,” Solex continues, “and you don’t seem like a man that enjoys wasting his. So, if you don’t mind I’d rather we just got down to brass tacks.”
Chet smiles up at Solex, and raises his mug, “You’re the boss.”
“A lot of people around these parts were excited when the rumors started to circulate that a Highwayman from television was going to be buying this estate. But not as soon as those rumors started did you go and do what you did to that good ol’ boy Joe Berman and every last one of these people’s hearts was broken. Steve, you turned your back on a crew of men who were thought of very highly around here and now you’re out there doing the bidding for that one-eyed, egomaniac. Steve, you’re on television acting like some sort of dastardly villain and to top it all off, you turned your back on your best friend, Steve. And I gotta tell ya’ Steve, Clay Byrd is widely admired around here,” Chet says, before taking a sip of his coffee and continuing.
“So can you see the issue that some folks around here might have with buying up this beautiful chunk of land with an even more beautiful history behind it?”
Solex scoffs at the lecture and holds his arms out to his sides.
“What? What’s the problem? I’m not enough of a cowboy for these people? Not enough kick in my drawal for good ol’ Franklin, Tennessee? None of that shit even makes sense. I’m not a cowboy, never claimed to be…never fuckin’ wanted to be. What I am is a hardworking man and a war veteran, and well, if that isn’t good enough for these people in Franklin…I gotta tell ya’ Chet, I really don’t give a flyin’ fuck,” Solex proclaims as he leans forward in his chair.
Solex grabs the remote from the marble-topped end table next to his chair and clicks on the enormous television across the room. Solex clicks a few buttons on the remote and in a few seconds time the HOTv logo is shown on the screen and that fizzles right into the fabled High Octane Table, otherwise known as the rankings.
“So, if the question is ‘Why, Solex? Why?’ I think if you take a look at that screen right there, it’s pretty fuckin’ obvious, Chet. Look to the top of the fuckin’ standings, what do you see? Who’s name do you see at number one?” Solex says, staring at Chet and pointing to the television screen simultaneously.
Chet tips his 10 gallon hat in Solex’s direction and in a voice reminiscent of Sam Elliot in 1883 says, “I see your name.”
“Where was my name on that list when I was buddying around with that giant ogre Clay Byrd? Where was it when I was taking advice from that dumb fuck Steve Harrison? And where was it…Chet…when I was all buddied up with Joe Bergman like some fuckin’ nostalgia act from the 1980’s? Where was it, Chet?!” Solex says.
A half-smile tugs at the corner of Chet’s mouth as he anticipates Steve’s answer.
“It wasn’t even on the front fuckin’ page, Chet! That’s how I know I made the right decision. Good, bad, right or wrong…one thing is true, the Highwaymen were holding me back from getting what I’ve been working my whole life for and I couldn’t live in that world anymore, knowing that I had the whole world in front of me and these sons of bitches wanted to keep me down while they made their efforts to climb to the top!”
Solex grunts as he gets up from his chair. He walks across the room and stands in front of the wall sized window that overlooks his ranch. He takes a sip of his coffee and soaks in the view for a few seconds, before turning his attention back to the city councilman on his brown leather sofa.
“And now, not only is my name on the front fuckin’ page, I’m the number one contender to the LSD Championship belt. So that’s why, Chet. That’s why I turned my back on the Highwaymen…not that I have to explain myself to you or any of the other idiot cowboy shitkickers out here in Tennessee. Whether you or they like it or not, Chet…I’m not fuckin’ leaving.”
Chet gives the table another rap before he tilts his head and smirks, “I really like this table.”
“Thanks,” Steve replies.
Chet stands up and reaches out to shake Solex’s hand. The number one contender obliges.
“I’m really sorry you feel that way, Steve,” Chet says in a somber tone. “But I also understand.”
Chet gives Solex a pat on the shoulder and makes his exit. Solex turns back to the window that offers a stunning view of his property, taking in the warm rays of sun as the scene fades to black.
February 13th, 2023
Waylon’s Bar and Live Music
Solex pushes open the door of Waylon’s Bar and Live Music and is almost knocked over as he’s hit with the musty, smokey smell that permeates the air of this local dive bar. A lone guitarist on a small stage strums away on his guitar, the twang of each string echoing off the decaying walls and dusty furniture. Solex approaches the bar, eyeballing the few patrons before dusting off a stool and taking a seat.
“Howdy, stranger,” the bartender says as he tips his trucker’s cap. “What’ll it be?”
Solex rolls his eyes at the stranger’s remark but lights right up when he sees the unit flag hung behind the bar.
“82nd, huh?” Solex asks, pointing to the flag.
“Yeah, that’s right,” the bartender responds. “So, what’ll it be?”
Solex laughs, he knows that some guys don’t like to talk about their time in the service.
Solex isn’t one of those guys.
“Garrison Brothers, neat.”
The bartender gives an eyeroll of his own and plants his hands into the bar, leaning over it. He smirks with some sarcasticness and asks, “Mister, does it look like we have fuckin’ Garrison Brothers in this joint?”
Solex laughs and says, “Just give me the house whiskey with a glass of ice on the side.”
The bartender pulls out a nice crystal glass and pours a few fingers of whiskey in it, but doesn’t deliver on the glass of ice. He slides th glass in front of Solex, “That’ll be eight bucks.”
Solex laughs, “Better be some good fuckin’ whiskey.”
“So, is this your place?” Solex asks and he takes a sip from his glass. He winces a bit as the whiskey goes down.
“Yes sir, it is,” the bartender replies, his voice deep and monotone.
“Waylon, I take it?” Solex asks, taking another sip of his whiskey.
“No, sir. Names Hank. Waylon owned this joint thirty years before I did and these people would have rioted if I’d have changed the name,” Hank says.
Solex looks over his shoulder, checking out the crowd.
“One, two, three, four, five…five people would have rioted?” Solex asks, pointing a finger and counting each customer individually.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Hanks laughs.
“What years did you serve?” Solex asks, once again pointing to the flag.
“2001 to 2006. Three deployments. Nine months in Kabul and two trips to Iraq. Once in Baghdad and the other in Fallujah,” Hank replies, the smile wiped from his face.
Solex peels down the collar of his shirt, revealing the tattoo on his chest and says, “I was in Fallujah in 2004.”
Hank nods and says, “Look, I know who you are and I know you know who I am. What are you doing here?”
“Yeah, I know who you are and I knew your brother too.”
Solex holds up his glass, paying tribute to a fallen brother before taking down the rest of his whiskey.
“He was a good man and it’s his good name that brought me here. Hank, I’m putting together a crew,” Solex says, in his best Tony Stark impersonation.
“A crew? Seriously?” Hank asks, his eyebrows raised.
“Fuckin’ right, I’m serious.”
“What kind of crew?”
“The kind of crew that’s tired of the bullshit, Hank. The kind of crew that’s been burned by this country of ours. The kind of crew that I can trust with my life, if need be. That’s what kind.”
“So, like a pissed off veterans crew? Is that what this is?” Hank asks as he pours Solex a refill.
“The kind of crew that wants justice for the way we’ve been treated. You lost a fuckin’ leg in Fallujah, Hank…and here you are, running a shit hole bar, struggling to make ends meet every fuckin’ day. Where’s the justice in that, Hank? Where’s the representation of the people? Where is the pride in-country? Where’s the fuckin’ accountability? These politicians…these fuckin’ asshole bureaucrats, they don’t give two shits about you, Hank. They don’t give two shits about me either. All they care about is lining their pockets, through any means necessary. They use veterans like you and me and send us to combat zones that they themselves would never step foot in. And then, when it’s all said and done, when all the smoke has cleared, what do they do?” Solex asks rhetorically as Hank smirks.
“They don’t do a fuckin’ thing, Hank. We’re broken, we’re battered, we’re fucked up in the head…but they made their millions, Hank. And then they kicked us all to the metaphorical curb to rot and die. So, while I understand your patriotic position to love and honor your country, don’t think for one second that your country hasn’t already turned its back on you,” Solex rants.
“Heh, ain’t that the truth,” Hank laughs as he wipes down the bar.
“I’m not fuckin’ with you, Hank. And if we don’t do something about this, who will? Are you prepared to sit idly by while some cuck in DC decides to line his pockets while the country that you and I fought to protect burned to the fuckin’ ground? I’m sure as hell not, but I can’t do this alone…I need men. I need a fuckin’ Army, Hank and unfortunately, I’m on borrowed time,” Solex says as he pounds a fist into the bar.
Hank seems a bit curious and fires off a couple of questions, “Don’t you have a match against Xander Azula this weekend? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with that, then starting a crew?”
“What about him? Nobody gives two-shits about Xander Azula. I mean, he’s not exactly on a hot streak right now, and I’m the undefeated, number-one ranked wrestler in all of HOW. Tell me why I should be worried about Xander Azula, even one tiny bit? The only thing he’s done of note in the last twelve months worth of note is that he begged and pleaded for Mike Best to come out of retirement for a HOFC match, and then he lost the fuckin’ match,” Solex says before he finishes the entire glass of whiskey in one gulp.
“I mean, I guess it takes guts to call a guy out of retirement knowing that you have absolutely no chance in hell at beating him, especially under HOFC rules. But that doesn’t necessarily make Xander a player; not by any means and if you were to ask me: the guy’s a fuckin’ idiot for doing what he did. Mike could have literally laid down for a round and still beat Xander’s sorry ass,” Solex says through a laugh.
Hanky pours another whiskey for Solex, “What’s Mike Best got to do with your match?”
“Nothing but there’s a fuckin’ moral to the story,” Solex says, his speech getting more and more slurry with each glass of whiskey.
Hank holds out his hands, presumably waiting for the moral.
“Look, the moral of the story is that Xander should have stayed in his fuckin’ lane; losing matches against Darin Zion and losing tag matches with Darin Zion like he did last week at Lethal Lottery. And speaking of the Lethal Lottery, isn’t it funny how I go from absolutely taking over that show to somehow getting booked against this pissant the very next week? I mean, holy shit man, I don’t think there could have been any more Solex on that show than there was, and the best part? Every single fucking second of it was entertaining and you can’t even deny it. But I’m sorry to say, this week might be a bit of a snooze fest. I get to beat Xander Azula, and I’ll do it in under five minutes to continue this hot streak that I’m on, but I just don’t know if there’s any way to keep the crowd engaged. I don’t even need to flag this rant with a spoiler warning for you to know that I’m going to absolutely destroy that piece of shit this Sunday,” Solex says, downing another shot of whiskey.
“The guy seems like he’s motivated and what about…” Hank starts, but is immediately interrupted by the MERCDAD.
“And what about what? I’ve seen his bullshit, and I’m not impressed…not one bit. What, he’s supposed to be a resurrected Scottywood? A reincarnation of the Hardcore Artist? Or what? I honestly don’t get the route he’s taking with this one. I mean, he’s got the dumbass tat on his chest, so I guess that’s step one. I guess step two was to lose to Darin Zion in round one of the LSD Contendership Tournament and then to team up with … Darin Zion … and lose again,” Solex rants.
Hank laughs, knowing that Solex is fully intent on destroying Xander Azula.
“You know what? He might be onto something here. This sounds EXACTLY like some shit that Woodson would have done, so I guess he’s started off on the right foot. But now, call me curious. What’s step three going to be? If it’s all about art and how it comes it many different forms, I’ll tell you what it’s going to be: A symphony of fucking destruction. I’ll artfully, creatively and masterfully put that bitch through the motherfuckin’ canvas and I’ll sign that bitch #1 when I’m done. Everyone always talks about a motivated Solex. Well, motherfuckers, here he is…” Solex says, pounding a fist into the bar.
Hank smiles in approval and asks, “So, what’s up with this crew?”
Solex pulls a business card out of his pants pocket and slaps it onto the tables like he just scored FIFTEEN in bones.
“Meet me here, next week, Wednesday at 1900hrs. Don’t be late.”
Solex stands up from his stool and heads for the exit as the scene fades to black.