Another long day at the gym. Sweat covers my body. My clothes stick to my body and my hair is all but stuck to my skull. I can barely keep my eyes open because my sweat is doubling as eye drops. The towel I have has long stopped being of use. My lungs burn, wishing for a deep breath and my heart feels like it’s banging against my chest. It’s not some cute thing that caught my eye. It’s my body screaming for me to stop. Too bad. I’m not in the mood.
Today we join the Southern Rebel Ron Hall working out at a local gym. A hole in the wall would be a better description. The nearly 90 degrees temperature is amplified by the fact that some modern conveniences such as air conditioning haven’t found their way here yet. The white T Shirt is almost grey from sweat. His grey seats are almost turning black from the sweat and dirt.
A simple ride on the exercise bike felt like a ride through hell, yet no complaints came from his mouth. Jumping rope kicked up enough dust to cover his clothes and now he looks like he had a romp through a mud pit yet there is no speculation about his future. He’s not going anywhere. The cold water in his bottle is now hot enough that he could make tea in a hurry if he could find a tea bag. Yet everything in him right now is pointing towards Monday night and the four corners match for a Wildfire Championship.
His green eyes are glazed over, there are no normal looks today. Between the heat and the workload he's inflicted on himself, he has a look like he’s about to go off the deep end. That or pass out in a heap from heat and exhaustion. Yet in his mind, in this moment, he seems to be in more control than he has been in a long time.
Ron begins to think about speaking, yet he can’t. The heat, the sweat and the insane two hour long work out have left his lips practically stuck together. The thoughts of the endless criticism he has taken since coming out as a minority owner in the UTA aren’t able to come out. They may have disappeared in the sweat and exercise. That or maybe it’s what is left of his sanity.
A water bottle is brought to him by a local boy working as an attendant. Ron chugs it, but 20 ounces disappear seemingly in a vapor trail before they find their way to his tongue or his desperate body. After a moment, as the cool relief makes its way through his body, his lips part and his voice seems to be quivering at first as if he’s just remembered how to talk. When the words come out, they come out in a frightening calm. The words are few but effective.
"I’m not done yet."
The boy can’t speak English but the look on his face shows his fear and second guessing. He’s probably afraid that Ron is about to fall over dead. The manager waves the boy off as Ron looks around. The weights… done. The bike… done. The heavy bag… done. The only thing left is the ring that no one is working out in right now. Ron walks over to the ring and slides into the ring. The overhead fan hasn’t worked in years and is low enough that a tall man could reach it.
No one will get into the ring with this strange foreigner that seems like he’s gone coo coo for his Cocoa Puffs, so Ron slowly walks around the ring and looks at each of the turnbuckles. He thinks about each of his opponents.
In the first corner, his thoughts go to Colton Thrope, the new Wildfire Champion who has been busy crying like a two year old whose favorite pacifier has been taken from them for the first time. He can remember their match from a month ago on Victory and Thrope got what many people thought was his breakthrough win over the Hall of Famer.
"Colton Fucking Thorpe… you talk about having to sack up. Listen carefully champ. It’s time you grown the Fuck up.. You cry, complain and whine to people to fix things. You live with that sense of entitlement that comes from a big mouth and a swollen head. Don’t fear though, there is a special dish you’ll get to sample while you compose your next set of poetic rhymes. It’s called Humble Pie.
Ron’s head finds the turnbuckle. He whispers to the buckle as if he’s talking to Thrope.
"Humble Pie, it will pump the breaks, you’ll choke it down and it will make you want to throw up. Humble Pie. You aren’t the legend your own mind makes you out to be. You’ll thank me for this great big slice of Humble Pie you’re going to get to choke down. You’ll come to appreciate the ass kicking you’re fixing to get.”
His head slowly rises from the turnbuckle. He looks around, his face and skin now cool and a little clamy from the heat and having stopped. Ron walks over into the next corner and puts his head into that turnbuckle. His mind wonders off to Abdul Bin Hussain….
"Abdul, speak of your holy wars, your crusades and even pray to whom you will. Jesus, Muhammad, Allah, Buddah, Lord High Melon Head, even Rhama lama Ding Dong. You speak of me as an infidel, you make jokes that stopped being relevant about the same time your career was, Don’t concern yourself with leaving the UTA with a title. Worry instead of the words of Dante… Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Worry instead about this last night in the UTA being the last night you will make a living in wrestling."
His body is slowly starting to feel normal again, he’s still a mess but he looks up and around. Still no one desperate or crazy enough to try the foreigner in the ring. He walks over to the next corner and puts his head into his hands as he leans into the turnbuckle. His back turned to the majority of the gym. His mind wonders to Cayle Murray.
"Cayle, you’ve spoken about me and told the world you can’t wait to face me on Monday. You said if it comes to you and me, you’ll do what you need to do. So will I. If it comes to it at the end, man to man, may the best man win and I intend to."
There is one more corner, he walks over and looks out over the gym. There is someone walking towards the ring. They don’t look to be hoping for an autograph, but in a moment, Ron’s head and face are in the final turnbuckle pad as he allows himself to laugh and take a moment to gather it all together.
"Will Michael try something? Are there any games left for someone at corporate to try? I know they’re not happy with me getting this title shot even though I don’t make the match. I know the fans are in a tizzy, but it will only matter to them when I have my hand raised in triumph with that Wildfire belt."
The man enters the ring. He appears to be a local. He’s bigger than Ron, he looks younger, faster and it goes without saying that he’s fresher and more rested than Hall at this point.
The younger man looks at Ron and with a sneer and contempt. Ahhh to be that young and stupid. Whoever sent him probably told him that this would be a simple job and easy money. This guy is nice enough to speak, and he does in perfect British English like they teach you in foreign language classes. "You don’t seem to want to listen. I’ve been sent to re deliver the message."
Ron slowly circles the bigger man, pulling his shirt and glasses off as he does. It’s one of the following: Rest from the work out, the second wind, or the adrenaline rush of fight back or get your ass kicked that’s suddenly made Hall forget everything he put himself through over the last two hours. He now feels like he’s just getting started.
"I heard it the first time and the answer is still the same"
The bigger man cracks his knuckles as he prepares to face Ron.
“Then we’ll have to do this the hard way.”
Ron shakes himself loose and prepares to do what he must.
“Go ahead and try. You won’t like how this is going to end.”
The warning is met with a contemptable laugh. It’s your mistake and the last one you’ll make today. The two prepare to lock up, no one at the gym seems to be watching for whatever reason, maybe they’re afraid of what might happen. This isn’t a big deal to them. They don’t want it to be.
Whatever happens from here won’t be pretty.
Kind of like Monday night regardless of what some people might try.