Thank You

Thank You

Posted on June 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm by Clay Byrd

This weekend, we’re going to fight to entertain thousands of people. The people who are fighting for this country, not just the soldiers on the front lines but the men and women working in factories, those working to keep communication networks running, the people who decided to stay instead of fleeing. We’re going to fight for our lives so that the people of Ukraine can keep fighting for theirs. Not just their own lives, but the lives of their friends and family. 

I’m fighting for the lives of my friends. I’m fighting for Steve Solex, after everything he’s done for me. Letting me live in his front yard, letting me stay in his bomb shelter. Inviting me into his home time and time again, making sure I had a hot meal, making sure I was taking care of myself. Everything that man has done in the name of our friendship, I’d fucking die for Steve Solex. I owe him that. I owe him everything. 

Steve Harrison didn’t have to fight with us, he didn’t have to turn his back on Lee Best, or MOB, or Mike. He’s the fucking Miracle Man. He retired Dan Ryan. That man has a job forever. He could have just cashed his check and did the dirty work of the bad guys. But Steve’s a man of principles. He’s a man of character. Steve and I have fought side by side more times than I can count. I’ll fight for Steve Harrison just like he’ll fight for me. 

I could have ran. I could have been Teddy Palmer, picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-LT-SAVE-ME. Sure, she’d have wanted an apology, but Teddy dumped her via text message and got a job. I’m sure she’d have let me walk through the door. I’m sure she’d have taken me in with open arms. Gave me a nice road to the Universal Championship or whatever she calls her little belt over there. I could have been Zeb Martin and tried to run off to Wall Street. I could have been Cancer Jiles and decided to not give a shit for months then walking out after Lee stopped giving a fuck. 

I could have been any of those guys, but I’m not wired that way. I’m not someone who runs from danger, I’m someone who runs into it. Call me stupid, call me dumb, call me blind, but I don’t have it in me to run away from a fight. I don’t have it in me to run away when there’s still business to be settled. It’s just not in my nature. I like confrontation. I like trying to settle the score. 

And I have some scores that need to be settled in those rings and that cage this weekend. For some of you, it’s not even your own sins that put you in the cross hairs. It’s the sin of your father, the sin of your master, the sin of your own desire to be World Champion. You’ll do anything for it, including listen to that scumbag at the head of the table. Whether it’s to Michael or Lee you show allegiance, you’ve put yourself in my crosshairs. 

There’s nowhere to run when we’re locked in the cage. There’s nowhere to hide when we’re locked in the cage. You’re going to be trapped in there with me, trapped with a man who’s willing to die for his friends because he has nothing to live for but vengeance. Trapped in there with a wild fucking animal with nothing to lose, who wants to hurt each and every fucking one of you. 

I don’t care if you’re only doing it for the money, or if you’re only doing it for the glory. I don’t give a damn that you are out there trying to make a living. I don’t give a fuck if your career is on a downturn and this is your only fucking chance at being legitimate again.

I do not fucking care. 

You made your bed, when you agreed to fight on their team against us, you signed up for this. You signed up to be a part of my vengeance. You signed up to be part of my personal vengeance. You all had a choice, you could have morals, you could sleep at night, you could go home to your family and look them in the eyes. You wouldn’t walk with a limp for the rest of your life, you wouldn’t have to beg me for mercy on pay-per-view. 

I can make you do it. You all know I can. Ask Jace Parker Davidson what I can do, what it’s like to fight me in an Infirmary. Ask him what he remembers about Rumble At The Rock. Ask him why he hasn’t been the same since. It’s not his home life, it’s not his old aching neck, it’s because he’s fucking scared. He’s scared of The Behemoth. He’s scared of The Monster. You have a walking, talking demonstration of what being locked in anywhere with me is like right in front of you. 

Ask Scott Stevens what I can do to someone’s career. I finished him off like they called for a fatality in Mortal Kombat, and it took an actual act of GOD to get that man to Kyiv. I beat the fuck out of Scott so bad his own son stopped asking about him and asked for us to call him Scotty instead of Scott. Because he was ashamed.

I’m going to be The Colossus of Kiev. I’m going to be the immovable object, I’m going to be the unstoppable force. I’m going to be what you lay down at night and think about, you’re going to picture my steel blue eyes staring back at you. You’re going to picture my face. Your kids will picture my face, your wives will know what I look like. Your girlfriends will look me up when you scream out in terror in the middle of the night. I will be your worst fucking nightmare. 

I hope you all pray, I hope you all beg, I hope you all ask for forgiveness.

The Highwaymen will not have any of it to give you.

 

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The poignant smell that accompanied the firing of explosives hung in the air. A field hospital is just that, something that exists in the field of battle. The canvas tents could be picked up and moved along with the wounded at a moments notice. I heard the screams coming from inside of them, men being rushed in the back of personnel carriers coming from the front lines looked shocked. 

The word triage, we think of it in a hospital setting. Taking the more dire patients in an emergency room first, while you were inconvenienced and waited to get stitches. Here, near the battlefield, triage was the difference between life and death. Doctors and teams were making split second decisions in the blink of an eye. They evaluated, and proceeded. If it was too bad? Numb the pain and move on, save the man who could be saved. That kind of decision making is horrific to comprehend. 

We make decisions in the ring, especially in a match like War Games. We may perform some triage of our own. We may decide not to save a teammate to save someone else who gave us a better shot at winning, but normally there was a tomorrow to explain your decision making and apologizing. Here, you just decided a child’s father wasn’t coming home from battle. Here you decided a man was never going to go back to his fiance and start a family. Here you decided that a man was never going to make it to the retirement plans he and his partner had carefully crafted. War is fucked up. What we do, it’s not war. We may call it war, we try to compare it to war, but it’s not. 

The dirt road the trucks used to get in and out kicked up dust, just like a back in west Texas. Back home, it was from baking in the sun and the infrequent rain. Here it was the use, the ground tore underneath the enormous off road tires of the armored personnel carriers. I looked at one as it passed. My best friend was somewhere out there in this conflict. Steve was a brave man, a little crazy, but very brave. 

I watched a man no older than Tyler Best or Conor Fuse being pulled out of the back of one of the carriers by a medic. Another man from the tent ran up and grabbed the other end of the stretcher. The medic kept pressure on the man’s shoulder, but I could see the young man’s tears. He wasn’t a warrior or some specialist in combat. He didn’t choose this for himself; this was chosen for him, by a psychotic fuck a world away in Moscow. 

I followed Alek through the camp. I had half a mind to start asking him questions, but I was afraid of the answers. As we walked, I noticed medical supplies from all over the world, the contents listed in different languages. As we made our way through the triage section, we approached a much larger tent. It dwarfed everything else around it. 

Alek walked up and spoke to the man at the door, presumably explaining who I was and what I was doing there. The man stretched his hand out and offered me a smile. I returned it, shaking his hand. I started to walk through the flap, and I heard the man say something in broken English behind me. 

“Thank You.” 

“You’re welcome,” I said through my smile, meekly returning his gesture. What are you supposed to say to that? How are you supposed to respond to a man risking his life in war? We walked into the large open room, men sitting and laying in beds stretching out in rows. It was the first time I had noticed the summer heat. It didn’t look like any war movie I had ever watched; there was no Forrest Gump ping-pong table, no million fans around to keep people cool. 

It was as spartan as spartan gets. The beds were cots, the men lying only a foot and a half away from dirt. Some had bandaged faces, others bandaged midsections. Most had an IV drip running non-stop. Some were missing limbs. Their eyes shot towards the doorway, and I heard their murmuring instantly. 

Alek grabbed me by the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Friend, you guys coming to do your wrestling here in Ukraine is becoming a big deal here. Nobody will come to the country, not artists, only politicians trying to look brave.” 

I nodded my head in acknowledgement. It’s weird to think of the reach you have as an athlete. At that moment, barring one of the Klitschko’s walking through the door, I was one of the most famous people some of these men had ever seen. Alek and I walked over to one of the beds, and the man reached out to shake my hand. His entire arm was in a cast up past the shoulder. I swallowed hard, once again another child half my age. 

“What’s his name?” I asked Alek, the two men conversed in Ukranian for a moment before Alek responded. 

“Matviy,” he responded. “And he said thank you.” 

“Can you tell him thank you for me?” I asked Alek and paused for a moment. “For being a brave man and fighting for his family and friends.” 

Alek looked at me with a grin, as we moved onto the next soldier I grabbed Aleksander by the shoulder and stopped him. It was important to me that I told them thank you myself. If they really wanted us here to entertain them, I better at least speak to them. 

“How do I thank them? What should I say to them?” He grinned back. His smile stretched from ear to ear. I think he was surprised by how much I cared. I took this personally, my Grandfather had fought in Korea. His friends had probably suffered in a humid hospital just like this outside of Seoul. 

“Dyakuyu tobi,” Alek said. I looked at him wanting more. “Anything else will come out a mess. But they’ll understand it even if you make a mistake.” 

I nodded and we moved onto the next bed. This time I reached my hand out first. 

“Dyakuyu tobi,”as I thanked the soldier. I felt a warmth in my stomach for the first time in a long time. I felt it in my chest, I felt like I was doing something that mattered. Then I heard a little voice deep down inside of me, hidden underneath all of the muscles, hidden beneath the massive frame. It whispered to me, “Dyakuyu tobi.”

 

—————————–

 

I wanted to be a good person, to be a hero. I wanted to be a man that people can look up to. I wanted them to fear me, but I also wanted their respect. I wanted them to know that I care for them, that I desperately care for them. I needed them to know who the real Clay Byrd is. Not the monster, not the behemoth. I needed them to see Clay Byrd for the man he is. Not a killer, not an arsonist, not a man at his wits end, driven to the brink of madness because of his failures. 

But I can’t change who I was. I can’t change what I’ve done. I can’t apologize, I can’t atone. There’s no forgiveness for the unforgivable. I’ll never walk through the pearly gates, I’ll never be able to sleep at night. The nightmares will never leave me alone, the agony of my own actions will never let me rest. I will never be able to move past it, I will never be able to move on to something better, something greater. 

I am what I am. I’ve disappointed them all. My family, my friends, the fans, I’ve left them all frustrated. I’ve betrayed them at every turn, betrayed them because I felt I needed it. I needed the help, the short cut. I thought I didn’t have enough time, I thought this old broken body would wear down. 

I’m not going to blame you or Michael for what happened to me. I am what happened to me, I’m the one with the flaws, I’m the one who is broken, I’m the one who can’t put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I’ve had chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity. Yet here I am, I’m willing to atone for my sins. I’m man enough to recognize I’ve made mistakes, and I have to recognize my own mistakes to be able to punish you for yours. 

I can stop it from happening to someone else though. I can help the next Clay Byrd that walks through that #97RED office from becoming the man that I did. Maybe it’s David Noble, maybe it’s STRONK Godson, maybe it’s Conor Fuse himself. The next time you offer someone the poisoned fruit, I want them to walk away. I want them to look at you and spit in your blind fucking eye. I want you to be desperate for a change, I want you on the back foot, I want you to lose sleep at night trying to regain everything you’ve lost. 

I want you to feel like I feel. I want you to know about fear, I want you to know about pain, I want you to know about loss. I want to climb up your #97RED tower and throw you from the balcony. I want you to see what your will has done to me, and I want to inflict it back on you tenfold. I want you to understand the emotional torture chamber you’ve created, I want you to understand the changes I went through to be the man YOU wanted me to be. 

A good person can’t do what I have to do. A good man can’t accomplish the goal. I have to be like you. I have to inflict YOU on YOU. I don’t have a bottomless pit of money to throw at situations, I don’t have endless resources to repair and patch over and reload. I can’t outresource the machine. 

But I can change the perception of it. 

Even Jesus Christ had to flip some tables to make change. Good people have to do terrible things to make terrible people understand the depths of their depravity. They have to do awful things to make the evil in this world understand that good can prevail. The best of us shouldn’t be the only ones to lose sleep at night. The best of us shouldn’t be the ones scared to walk through the door. The hallways shouldn’t be lined with criminals and murderers, nobody should experience what this place is and the way it works. 

There’s a better way, but there’s only one way to get there, and it’s through this double cage and it’s through the seven weak sons of bitches who came groveling. Your little toys, the new ones like Tyler, the old ones like America, and your current favorite like STRONK. I’m going to break them Lee. I’m going to hurt them. Christopher America is going to pack his bags and run away. He’s not even making it to the big show in July. STRONK is going to need to sell his home and go back to trying not to set off the lunk meter at Planet Fitness. 

This is it. This is the end. This is when The Highwaymen come for blood. You’ve always been too blind to see it, the bonds we’ve formed over the years fighting your battles, it’s finally boiled over Lee. It’s finally gotten to this point. There’s a TAB that can only be paid in blood, and your grandson is going to have to pay it for your entire family. 

I want you to hold Michael when he’s distraught at the loss of his son, I want you to hear how he breaks down when he looks at that BMW he bought his son. I want you to listen as he swears off his retirement to come and get me. I want you to hear the stream of excuses when Christopher America comes to the back as he tries to justify why he couldn’t pull it off. I want you to hear him run them off until it suddenly hits him like a ton of bricks, he just doesn’t have it anymore. I want you to scrape STRONK Godson off the mat with a fork lift, because he finally found someone who could match him. 

And I want you to look up at me wearing the World Heavyweight Championship, and I want you to know I fucking did it. I want you to know The Highwaymen fucking broke you.