Clay’s eye’s jolted open, the sound of the door slamming shut had triggered men for centuries, and Clay was adequately triggered enough to join the contingent. His eyes scanned the room. The blanket on the floor of the master bedroom was still wrapped around The Behemoth. He looked at his pillow, and the depression of her head was still there. The spot was still warm.
He reached around in the morning twilight that came through the barely curtained window for his phone. He stopped to think through the evening. His head was swimming. He could tell by the faint light outside that it was too early for him to be awake, but he also knew if he didn’t get up now, he wouldn’t be waking up until sometime in the afternoon. He crawled over to the door, and used the door handle to help pull himself up off of the floor. He ached, the lactic acid coursed through his muscles, and he struggled to get his joints moving as he walked stiff legged down the hallway.
He turned at the steps, the lights downstairs had been left on. He shuffled down the stairway, and looked around the kitchen and living room area. The pizza box was still on the counter, the paper plates they used were still on the floor where they left them. Clay looked at the half of a pizza that was left over and crammed it into the trashcan. The half drank bottle of wine that sat on the counter was jammed in next. He scanned the counter, grabbing two red solo cups and smashing them into the bag. He tied it off, and put it to the side of the trashcan as he walked around the marble island. He rinsed the #97RED Thermos, and started the coffee pot.
He walked around to the other side of the kitchen counter/bar and into the living room. The Behemoth bent over and picked up his phone from the middle of the floor. He unlocked it, and thumbed his way over to the photographs. The first photograph was a selfie of the two of them kissing and smiling. The next photograph was a photo of her posing with a box of pizza and a bottle of wine at the door. He smiled, the night had been amazing. Instead of going out, it had been Jill’s idea to stay in. But with no television or furniture, that became a hysterical invention.
Two adults had sat in the middle of the living room floor sharing pizza and each other’s company. They talked about her work, and her son. She laughed hysterically when she heard Clay’s profession. They talked about their favorite shows, how they both enjoyed country music, all in all, a great first date. Then after an hour of conversation and she had a half a bottle of wine, the two of them were suddenly making animal noises all over the townhouse. She had fallen asleep in his arms on the floor of his room. He’d fallen asleep while he stared at her and stroked her blonde hair.
And here he was.
She hadn’t said anything, not even a word. She’d got up, got dressed, and left the apartment without so much as a ‘goodbye.’ He leaned down on the breakfast bar, and spotted a napkin from the pizza box. He pulled it closer to him and he could see the words on the fabric.
“I just need to do what’s best for me.”
His eyes focused on the last line of the napkin. The words that were seared into his prefrontal cortex. Dan Ryan had said it, Steve Solex had said it, they all had said it. They had all made business decisions, and here he was, stuck in another. A great conversation and evening with a beautiful woman, feeling an actual connection, and still it came down to a business decision. Even his personal life, even his relationships with other people, it was always business.
He squeezed the napkin in his palm, slowly crumpling by dragging it inwards using his fingers. His hand became a fist, and he slammed it off the countertop. The wood shuddered, but the stone didn’t budge. Clay snarled, the pain shot through his hand for a moment. He crammed the note in through the small opening in the garbage bag. He wanted to reach for the half empty wine bottle, but instead he slammed two scoops of protein powder into his thermos. He snatched the finally finished and still steaming pot of coffee and dumped it on top of the powder. He twisted the lid on, and tucked the now very warm container under his arm. The big man picked his t-shirt up off the floor and tossed it on. He wore the shorts he slept in, and hurriedly tied the black and red Nikes. He stepped out the door and…
Brian found himself scrambling for his phone, a greater than normal amount of light trickled in through the blinds of his bedroom window. He grabbed it in his hand and pulled it up to his face. He was supposed to be at the gym ten minutes ago… He shoved himself up out of bed, and scrambled around his room, getting ready for the day.
Clay Byrd was Brian’s chance to break into a very lucrative market. The best paid personal trainers in the world were the men and women who counted professional athletes amongst their clientele, and you don’t get to train professional athletes without knowing one. Brian continued his scramble, he’d been up until three in the morning, scouring the bowels of every reddit, and workout forum looking for ways to improve Clay’s core strength. He’d jotted down little notes about each one, and committed it to memory. He snatched the notebook up and sprinted out of the room and down the stairs.
“BYE MOM!” He stopped himself for a moment. Realizing how rude he was being. “SORRY, I’M LATE!” He shouted, as he bee lined for the door. A red-headed sixty year old woman pulled her head up from the couch. He heard her faintly yell goodbye, but he was already out the front door and sprinting down the driveway and right past the gate. He ran up the sidewalk, sprinting past men and women walking their dogs, or pushing their children in strollers.
The clubhouse at the top of the hill came into view. He sprinted through the big grand entrance and turned a sharp right past three suited men standing outside the club restaurant. Finally, with the gym entrance in view, he slowed down to a jog, and then a brisk walk. He straightened his stature and walked into the gym. He owed the big man an apology, but he knew these ideas would make up for being late.
As he crossed over the threshold from the tiled floors to the gym surface, he looked around the room. Clay Byrd wasn’t hard to spot, he towered over the machines. Brian beelined towards him, as he got closer he could see the tennis trainer Steve standing beside him, and someone he didn’t know. The man he didn’t recognize was wide, built like a brick shit house. After looking him over, Brian was pretty sure the man could flex his ear lobes.
“Just the guys I wanted to see!” Brian shouted from about ten feet away. He pointed into his notebook, and continued. “Sorry Clay! Was up burning the midnight oil coming up with some new ideas to strengthen that core.”
Brian walked up and pat Clay on the stomach, the three men were completely silent as Brian stood in the group. He looked at the man he wasn’t familiar with and held out his hand. “I’m Brian Watson, one of the trainers here at The Hills.”
“Oh sorry, I’m being rude,” the tennis pro said. “Ronnie, this is Brian, the young man that’s been working with Clay the last few days. Helping him work out a plan.”
The man the tennis trainer had called Ronnie stretched an enormous hand out to meet Brian’s, and shook it firmly. Ronnie smiled as the two men let go of each other’s hands, pointing two finger guns in Clay’s direction.
“I’ll see you later big fella…” Ronnie said as he walked out of the conversation. Brian turned back towards Clay and Steve with the notebook outstretched. The Monster from Plainview took the book and looked it over for a second, he handed it back to Brian.
“Looks like ya stayed up late kid, and I’m sure ya did some real good work,” Clay said. Brian watched as Clay’s face tightened and contorted for a moment. Brian noticed as Clay brushed his hands against his shorts, wiping his palms. His eyebrow raised.
“I was down at the gym early this mornin’…” Clay tried to talk but Brian cut him off.
“Oh? It didn’t go well then?” Brian asked innocently as Clay shook his head and cracked a fake smile.
“It went fine. Anyway, I was down here pretty early this mornin’, was hittin’ the cardio and Steve came in for his morning workout. We started talkin’, turns out he knew Ronnie real well,” Brian was still confused as the big Texan’s drawl continued on.
“And Ronnie, he’s a boxin’ trainer, and he worked with some of the guys on the Texans. The big fellas, he’s got JJ Watt’s phone number…” Brian finally caught the drift of what had transpired while he was late.
Steve, the one guy in this entire country club who wasn’t an actual idiot, the one guy he could ask for advice. Sold him out to another trainer. He and Clay had hit it off so well, he’d helped Clay land the date, he’d worked tirelessly. He’d postponed all of his other appointments for the next three weeks to help this man.
“And I know ya prolly ain’t happy, but ya did good kid, ya did great. Ronnie just has some experience, and can help push me. It’s business, ya know,” Clay stopped for a moment. Brian could see how uncomfortable he was.
“I gotta do what’s right fer me.”
The statement sat there, Steve, the tennis professional, took the moment to back his way out of the conversation and was halfway down an aisle when Brian started to lose his temper.
“That’s fucking bullshit.” The notebook was spiked off the floor, the nautilus machine beside him took a boot to the seat. “I busted my ass, we made a deal. You’d help me, I’d help you, it’d work for both of us. This is bullshit.”
The kid stepped up into Clay Byrd’s face and pointed his finger at the big man’s cheek as the word ‘bullshit’ rolled off his tongue. Clay snarled, stood up straight and leaned over Brian. He towered over the smaller man. He took a deep breath, the air pushed out through his nose hit Brian on the forehead.
“I said I gotta do what’s right fer me, and this is what’s fuckin’ right.” The words were so definitive. There wasn’t any arguing; Brian couldn’t do anything physically. He was beaten before the argument even started. He took a breath, and took a step backwards nodding his head. He reached down and picked up his notebook, and started to walk away. After he got through the double doors, and started to make his way up the curved hallway, he collapsed against the wall and dropped, pulling his knees to his chest.
On paper, the rules of this War Games look simple. We have four teams this year instead of the normal two. The teams are smaller, so your teammates are more important. It’s all pretty easy to understand, and the man or woman who is left standing at the end becomes World Heavyweight Champion.
I can understand this, so I assume, most people inside of the match understand this. I’m sure the great charade of the masked luchador understands this, I’m sure Christopher America understands this, I’m sure that Steve Solex gets it, and I’m positive Dan Ryan knows exactly what he’s getting himself into. The players are the players, we all know who each other are, we all know what each other do.
But Lee can’t have it be simple, he can’t just let us go do our thing. Put everyone who likes him on one or two teams, put everyone who hates him on the other two. It’s not hard, he’s such a derisive figure that most of the teams will rally around their like, or dislike, of the big man in charge.
Sure, you’d have your one offs and weird situations. Everyone hates Evan Ward. Nobody trusts whatever personality Carey is using this week. Everyone knows Scottywood is going to show up drunk, that Scott Stevens will manage to chop his own arm off when he walks out holding a machete, and Jace Parker Davidson will make a stupid fucking decision that pisses half the roster on both sides off.
But you know, that’s normal HOW shit.
The Alliance being woven through the teams though? It’s madness, it’s unpredictable, it means the field is always changing. It’s exactly what Lee wants, it’s CHAOS.
And I finally see the beauty in it. I see its majesty, I can see its magnificence. From the brain of Lee, to us, a beautiful, unpredictable fucking mess. I’m not smart enough to completely comprehend it. I don’t think any of us are really smart enough to see how all of these chess pieces move, and how it all plays out.
I’m going to make the best decision I possibly can. I’m going to do the only thing a man in my predicament could do.
Oh, yes, the predicament.
I’m Clayton Byrd, a second generation wrestler born on a farm outside of Plainview, Texas. I want to walk out of War Games with the World Heavyweight Championship strapped firmly around my waist.
And I don’t want to do it out of spite, I don’t want to hold the title away from Lee Best. I don’t want to think I’m getting the better of him, because I’m being uncontrollable, because I’m being ungovernable. That doesn’t benefit anyone, nobody wins that way, who gets to be happy?
Some fat fucking neckbeard who can’t even fit into the shirt he bought at the show?
Fuck him. He doesn’t get to be happy. I don’t give a shit if he goes home with his chest full of pride because I defied the man. That’s bullshit, putting a bigger target on my back isn’t going to make me happy. Unless it benefits me, unless it’s what’s best for me. And holding the High Octane World Heavyweight Championship is what is best for me.
So what do I do? Keep wearing some fake moral compass on my shoulder? Keep spinning around aimlessly, flailing, trying to save people, caring about what happens to them? Why should I give a fuck about Steve Solex? Why should I care if Joe Bergman got his shoulders on the mat? Who the fuck cares? Why should I give a fuck that Evan Ward hit Conor Fuse with a knee? What the fuck does that have to do with me? I fucking hate Conor Fuse.
Nothing. That’s the answer; absolutely fucking nothing. I want to feel good, I want to feel proud, I want to fucking win, and I want it fucking bad. I want it worse than anything I’ve ever wanted in my entire life. And I can finally see it.
Christopher America isn’t a washed up prick who defended his title against me via Dan Ryan cheap shot.
He’s a fucking genius.
Because he doesn’t fucking care. He doesn’t fucking care about other people. He doesn’t fucking care about what the fans think. He does what he wants, and doesn’t even think about asking for forgiveness. The man has turned his emotions to the one object he cherishes the most, and has driven himself to keep it.
Sure, he’s gotten a little weird. Sure, I’m going to have to hit that World Heavyweight Championship with a dose of bleach and peroxide before kissing it. But what champion doesn’t get a little weird? What champion doesn’t go a little too far? What champion isn’t willing to do whatever it takes to win and keep it.
Look at Conor Fuse, when he won the championship at Iconic 2021, against the most stacked tournament field in HOW history, he knew he wasn’t going to win the belt fairly. So he made sure he had a bunch of friends around, that could help him. Christopher America did everything within his power to make sure Tyler Best survived War Games, so that the two of them could put Conor Fuse away together. Look at Sutler Kael the year before that, he watched John Sektor get pinned, because he knew if anyone from the Alliance survived, they were going to be picked to be World Champion. And the greatest World Champion of them all, Michael Lee Best, he’d rip out another man’s throat if it meant he kept the World Heavyweight Championship.
They all have it. All of their brains are broken, all of their brains are willing to do whatever is necessary. Hell, even Cancer fucking Jiles super kicked Bobby Dean and unloaded the heaviest baggage to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s just ingrained in them, it’s just how they work. It’s what they’re willing to do. They’ll forego their emotions, they’ll forego human decency. They’d all do anything to become World Heavyweight Champion.
And that’s because they always do what’s best for themselves.
I’m going to do what’s best for ME.
If that means watching Blanco smash Jace Parker Davidson with a knee? I’m in.
If that means helping Dan Ryan beat the fuck out of Evan Ward? Sign me up.
My team has a numbers advantage and someone wants to eliminate Carey? I’m here for it.
I’m here for all of it. I’m here for the CHAOS.
Because the CHAOS is what’s best for me. It’s the only chance I have in this thing. My team hates each other, Dan would rather beat me to death with a chair then have a conversation. Jatt would rather take food to Conor’s team, Carey, nobody knows what the fuck she’s doing. There’s no way to untangle this web in time, there’s no way to fix the relationships we’ve spent the last half decade destroying. It’s just time to watch the beautiful violence play out. It’s time for all the grudges, and everything to boil over, and when they do, I’ll be there to help them along.
And that suits me just fine. The name of the game for me is to survive, make sure it gets down to something awkward and survive. Keep living to fight another day. Make myself useful to everyone, make them question everything.
And as long as I’m the one that walks away champion, that’s what’s best for me.