It’s an hour after the final climactic match of the night- the frenetic, firehouse, free-for-all between HOW World Champion Cecilworth Farthington and Chris Kostoff that ended with Kostoff’s arm being broken. It’s the end of what’s been a long and very eventful night. The second War Games captain is revealed and he has made his first pick. The Tag Team and the World Title have been defended successfully. The crowd is still buzzing after the final wild match of the night as they slowly file out of a packed Allstate Arena. Most of the merchandise stands are closing up shop for the night. Many of the wrestlers have departed into the Chicago evening. The luxury suites have emptied out. The cleaning crews are going to work.
The building is getting ready to shut down for the night.
Well, that is, except for one section.
The concourse outside Section 214.
Joe Bergman sits and signs another autograph. He poses for another picture. He sells another shirt. He’s relaxed. One half of the current HOW Tag Team Champions along with Andy Murray, Bergman’s not worried about how long he holds the title, he just wants to go to the ring and put on the best show possible for the fans, and if he does, he knows the people who come to the show will appreciate and return to see more.
Bergman leaves no confusion about who he is. He loves pro wrestling. He eats, sleeps, and works on his craft while staying true to his connection to the people he calls his ‘faction.’ He makes clear that even though he may share the tag title with a member of HOW’s high power 24K faction, he’s not going to abandon that ethos and betray his fans by deviating from who he is. He didn’t do it at age 25, even when several wrestling executives told him what it would take for him to become a star. Sign the contract, agree to the terms, and they’ll put the corporate machine to work and remake him in their own image. Bergman said ‘no thanks,’ he didn’t want to achieve success that way. For him, stardom isn’t the end-all, be-all.
The one last fan who has patiently waited out an autograph line that at one time snaked down a set of stairs and back into the main arena has finally reached Joe. The fan is sporting a jet-black cowboy hat and a puffy Carhartt jacket. Joe smiles and signs an autograph for him and poses for a photo. Following a firm handshake, the fan goes on his way and there’s finally no one left in line.
Joe’s done for the evening.
A tired Bergman heads back to the Super 8 Motel just west of the Allstate Arena and gets some sleep before heading back to St. Louis the next morning. He hitches a ride with some of the production people for Missouri Valley Wrestling, who also ran a show Saturday night in Chicago, and they get on Interstate 55 for the trip home.
However, along the way Bergman decides to make a detour and get some breakfast at a Love’s Truck Stop at Illinois 47 outside of Dwight, Illinois. He wanders into the trucker’s side of the restaurant. It’s busy. So he decides to buy breakfast for each and every over the road, long haul trucker in there. Afterwards, Joe takes about an hour to talk to as many truckers as he can before he has to get back on the road.
They make a second stop along the way a couple hours later at a TA Truck Stop off I-55 at Illinois 162 on the outskirts of St. Louis. Joe again goes into the trucker’s side of the restaurant and this time buys lunch for all of the truckers there. He then spends another hour talking to any many people as he can before leaving and returning to St. Louis.
Joe says it’s all about putting forth the effort, making steady progress, and going out his way to make fans feel like part of the faction. His overall game plan hasn’t changed over the years – keep plugging away, keep building his career step by step, have faith, and when he does meets with success, try not to let it go to his head.
So far, so good.
In 2017, wrestling as Halitosis- the Luchador with Insanely Poor Oral Hygiene in Missouri Valley Wrestling, Bergman finally broke through and won the Tag Team title with Rah for the first time. After the initial excitement and an appearance in 4CW’s tag team tournament where Rah and Halitosis won their opening match before falling in the second round, reality soon set in. After eleven years on the road, wrestling in every conceivable venue possible, he was now an acclaimed up-and-comer. Bergman felt he had to work even harder. Halitosis and Rah won the tag belts for a second time in 2019 when he got the call from High Octane Wrestling- he was going to the big show.
Two world titles and a tag team title later . . . Bergman has settled in. Winning the world title last year for the first time was one of the most thrilling moments in his life. “It made me go, ‘Whoa. I guess we’ll be here for a more than a minute,’ ” Bergman says. But there’s more. He and his wife Laura are looking at what happens five years down the road and furthermore, Laura’s pregnant with their first child. She, too, is in the wrestling business working as MVW’s Chief Business Officer with CEO Ray McAvay to build their brand.
He’s glad he took the opportunity given to him and took a shot at the big time. “I really believe I’m just catching my stride as a wrestler,” Bergman says. But he’s looking at the long game as well. “This won’t last forever. But if it all came to an end today, at least I can say that I’ve been blessed to be able to work at a job that I love and made the most of the opportunities given me.”