August 5th, 2022
Huntington Beach, California
Karter’s Bar, Gym
The sound of metal weights crashing against one another fills the room as a narrow beam of light from the California sunrise peaks through the unpainted corner of the solitary window in the gym, reflecting off every piece of dust in its path. At the end of the beam is Steve Solex, laid flat on a bench getting plenty of time under tension as he thrusts a stacked olympic sized barbell up and down over his chest.
“Clangin’ and bangin’ baby! Let’s fuckin’ go!” Jack Karter shouts out as he stands over Solex, who’s been pumping out rep after rep of 315 pounds on the bench press.
Solex’s face is beet red and the vein on his forehead is ready to burst, but he keeps at it.
“Fifteen!” Jack shouts out, trying to motivate Solex.
Solex knocks out five more reps in steady succession, never really struggling but definitely pushing hard. All the while he maintains complete control and focus of his breath, like any good bodybuilder would.
“And….20!” Jack shouts out as he grabs the barbell at the top of the last rep and racks it up.
Solex grunts like an old man as he sits up on the bench. He tries to wipe his forehead clean of sweat with his forearm, but sweat just trickles down his jawline from his forehead, and drips to the rubber matted floor below. His Grunt Style “Dad” shirt that’s been converted into a gym tank is drenched in sweat from the morning’s workout. The veins on his biceps and shoulders bulge out, putting the years of hard work and hormone therapy on perfect display.
“Fuck me! That’s a solid pump!” Solex bursts out as he flexes his chest and arms, marveling at himself in an adjacent mirror.
“Goddamn, I look good!”
He claps his hands together, sending a plume of white chalk dust into the air and poses one more time before he jumps to his feet. He grabs his black 32 ounce Yeti off the ring apron, untwists the top and chugs down half of the 32 ounces. He screws the lid back on the top of the Yeti and walks over to Karter and playfully slaps him on the side of the shoulder.
“Good work, son. I’m gonna hit the showers,” he says with a smile.
Karter doesn’t move. He doesn’t smile. He just stands there. Shaking his head and staring at his one time training partner, and now student.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Karter asks, seemingly perplexed.
Solex stops, and peers over his shoulder with a half cocked smile.
“Uh, the shower,” he explains before continuing his exit.
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me right now?” Karter laughs. “You can’t be serious. No fuckin’ way.”
Solex stops and turns to look at Jack with a look of confusion.
“What are you talking about, bro? We’ve been at it for an hour. I’m just trying to get cleaned up and get some chow in me. Is that alright with you?” Solex explains as he stands there with his arms out to his sides, still confused about Karter’s reaction.
“You’re not going to win like this,” Karter said sternly as he folded his arms across his chest.
“Like, what? Again, you can’t be fuckin’ serious,” Karter says, dropping his hands down to his hips.
“Your resolve, toughness and ability to continue pushing forward no matter what, is what makes you better than Christopher America. Not whatever the fuck this is. Quitting a workout after one fuckin’ hour, come on man…you’re better than that,” Karter said.
“In order to beat Christopher America, you have to take your mind to the end of that HOFC fight. When you were down for a count of nine, but you wouldn’t stay down. No matter the cost and no matter how much time was left in the fight. Knowing that any one of those shots to the head could have killed you, but you kept getting up anyway. You have to go to the place in your mind that when all is lost, you fight on instinct and determination. You have to start there, there is no other option. That is when you are at your best. When all hope is lost, when your back is against the wall…you have the ability to dig deep and become a weapon of immeasurable force, but you have to start there. You have to start at the end, so you can win…you can’t wait, you can’t hesitate,” Karter rants at the Tag Team Champion.
“What do you think your fellow Highwaymen will think of you if you walk out that door right now? Your bomb-shelter buddy Clay Byrd, what would he say? Huh?!”
“I’ll tell you what he’d say, Steve. Better yet, I’ll tell you what he’d call you. He’d call you a bitch-made pussy and you wouldn’t be able to say a goddamn thing about it!”
Karter bends down and grabs the focus mitts at his feet. He puts them on both hands, inviting Solex over with a wave of his hand.
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Now get your motherfuckin’ ass back over here and hit these mitts, and do it with some fuckin’ gusto!”
Karter’s booming voice bounces off of every wall in the gym, sending a chill down Solex’s spine…but in a good way. Solex looks down at the ground and laughs.
“Something funny?” Karter asks, his eyes burning a whole right through Solex’s chest.
To anyone else, Karter would seem to be out of his mind with rage, but Solex knows this schtick and that’s why he sought Karter out. He chose him over every last one of his former training partners, coaches and even over his stablemates.
Solex places his hands on his hips and smiles.
“This…this is why the fuck I’m here! You fucking motivational wizard! Let’s do this shit!” Solex shouts out as he marches up to Karter.
He wastes no time at all and immediately throws a bare knuckled left jab, right cross, left hook and right uppercut directly on target. Karter’s face lights up like a kid watching fireworks on the 4th of July for the first time.
“Oh, shit!” Karter cries out as he ducks under a high kick that nearly takes his head off.
“That’s what the fuck I’m talkin’ about!” Karter shouts, steadying himself and raising the mitts back up.
“Who said that by the way? That pales in comparison, shit” Solex asks, as he throws a quick combination at the mitts.
“Emerson,” Karter replied.
May 11th, 1993
Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach City Elementary School
Steve Solex, 11 years old, and known as Steve Campbell at the time, stomps down the freshly waxed hallway of Huntington Beach City Elementary School. He’s looking for someone, but it’s not made totally clear until he marches up to a little blonde kid wearing a red, white and blue polo and acid washed dungarees.
“Give me your lunch money!” Steve shouts before shoving the kid against the wall.
The kid is much smaller than Steve, and Steve knows that he’s going to make some money here. He lowers his eyebrows and pulls them together as he stares the kid downNo one comes to the kid’s aid, despite there being no less than 20 other kids in the line.
The kid frantically reaches into his pocket, pulls out two dollars and holds it out. Steve snatches the two George Washington’s from the kid’s hand and stuffs it into his jeans pocket.
“Tell anyone, and I’ll knock your teeth down your throat! You catch my drift!” Steve shouts as he grabs the kid by the shirt neck and threatens him with a raised fist
Absolutely terrified, the kid’s eyes well up as he nods rapidly, letting Steve know he would never tell. Steve smiles and taps the kid on the shoulder as he walks away.
August 10th, 2022
Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach City Elementary School
Solex stands in front of the elementary school that he attended as a child. A cool coastal breeze whips through the hair and mustache of the Number One Dad as he stands tall with his hands on his hips, staring up into the sky. Old Glory hanging high on the flagpole in the distance provides the perfect backdrop in the blue sky as the snaps attached to the rope ding repeatedly against the flagpole.
“The bullshit is going to end soon enough. The mind games, the mental gymnastics and the training, the bird stealing…it’s all going to come to a head in just a few days. This is the most important match of my career, and could perhaps be the greatest day of my life. Yeah, that includes the day of any of my marriages, and any of my kid’s birthdays. I truly don’t think you understand the importance of this to me, Chris. I am literally putting my life on the fucking line to win that World Championship. One mistake, one bad bump, one chair shot…any one of those could end my life, but I’m going in anyway. And I’m going in unafraid,” he ranted.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand this, but death just doesn’t fuckin’ scare me. You can’t understand because you don’t know what it’s like to put your life on the line, so you would have no context. But I’ll cut you a break because it’s not really your fault to begin with, you just weren’t born that way. You’re not a fighter, that’s for sure. But most importantly, you’re not a killer. A killer would have never let me get this far. A killer would have ended all of this at War Games with a real gun. He wouldn’t have pulled some bullshit party trick…he would have pulled the fucking trigger.”
“A killer would have never let me get up, even if the bell had already been rung. A killer would have stomped my head right back into the mat and put an end to all of this right then. But hey, we are what we are. Some of us are killers and some of us aren’t.”
“I know what I am, Chris, and so do you. I’m a killer and I’m a fuckin’ bully, Chris. Yes, I really am,” he says, still gazing skyward like the hero he is.
“I don’t need to go to some bully-anonymous meeting to admit that shit, that’s just what I am. Born and raised. It’s in my fuckin’ DNA like bullshit blonde hair is in yours. I never needed my Dad to push me to stick up for myself or to fight back, I did that shit all on my own. I don’t need emotional support from my parents, I only need two fists. I’m a born fighter, that’s just the way I’m built. I’m not like you. We’re not cut from the same cloth. We are not the same,” Steve says as he starts to walk toward the school. A big smile grows on his face as he begins to recognize the facility.
“You see that? That drinking fountain right over there, next to the gym,” he says pointing to a white drinking fountain mounted to a gray painted cinder block wall.
“That’s where I had my first fight. And just like you, Chris…that fuckin’ kid…he had it comin’. He took my place in line, and asked me what I was going to do about it. I knew what to do, I have that killer instinct. I remember punching that kid in the nose, him dropping to the pavement and from there, I went to the mount and rained a hellfire of punches into that kid’s face until a teacher pulled me off of him. I can still smell the iron from his blood on my fists,” he says, looking down at his right fist with a big smile.
“Fights always seem like they last forever in your head and everyone always feels like they won the fight. You just engaged in combat with another human and it’s a special feeling, but do you want God’s honest truth about that fight? It lasted no more than ten seconds, and I loved every last second of it. And I fucking won. It didn’t change me though, Chris. There was nothing about me to change, I was already a killer.”
“After that fight…from that point on, I was known. I was a thing of legend in the area and it wasn’t just here at HBC. Kids at the surrounding middle and high schools all heard about the 11 year old that beat the shit out of anyone who crossed him, and they all knew my fuckin’ name. I was feared and I was treated differently. I was respected amongst my peers, something you might never know anything about. And it’s time for you, like them, to put some fuckin’ respect on my name,” he continued.
“While you were eating your chicken nuggets and drinking your cardboard boxed milk in the cafeteria, I was out fighting and destroying. And if that makes me a bully, then so fuckin’ be it. I guess that makes me a bad guy. I’ll own it, cause I know that every single one of those fights led me to the career I have now, and that has ultimately led me to you, Chris. And it’s led me to a fucking world title match, no less.”
“Oh, shit. See that, over there?” He says laughing and pointing to a tetherball court.
“That’s where I knocked Mikey’s two front teeth out and stole his girlfriend.”
“Yeah, I’m that fucking guy, Chris. I’m Buzz from Home Alone. I’m John Bender from The Breakfast Club. I’m Johnny fuckin’ Lawrence.”
“I really shouldn’t have to tell you all of that, you already know it. I saw it in your bitchy little blue eyes when I had you in that room, hooded, hog tied and bloodied. I looked in your eyes and I saw the fear. It’s the kind of fear that you can’t hide, no matter how hard you try. It’s that real fear. The fear that’s only found in the deepest and darkest corners of your soul. The fear that makes you doubt everything about yourself. The fear that you knew I could take everything from you in an instant, if I really wanted to.”
“And there you were…you were that weak, blonde, little bitch of a 10 year old kid again, getting bullied on the school yard. But this time, daddy wasn’t there to get your spirits up and build up some false sense of hope and confidence. It was just you and me, and you were fuckin’ terrified. With no one to impress, you fail to. You should remember that feeling of being alone, because you might be able to bring your dad to Tombstone, but you damn sure can’t bring him to the fight. You’re gonna have to grow some fuckin’ balls and saddle the fuck up – see what I did there – for an ass whoopin’ like you’ve never had before.”
“I’m the fucking founder and CEO of bully culture. I’ve got the corner office with the big window that everyone else wanted. If bullying was a band, I’d be the fuckin’ front man. I’d be fuckin’ Lemmy. Unfortunately for you, Chris…you’re going to come to that realization when your handing me that World Championship at Dead or Alive like it was your fuckin’ lunch money.”