It’s hard to believe it’s been three years… three years since that fateful night at Refueled Four where some guy with probably the worst wrestling gimmick ever stunned the wrestling world.
June 14th, 2019. The finals of the HOW World Title tournament.
You see, the first order of business when HOW came back to life in March 2019 was to determine just who would be the first champion of the new era. So Lee Best set up a 26 person World Title tournament and stacked it with a smorgasbord of who’s who in the wrestling world… wrestling luminaries such as: Max Kael, Bobbinette Carey, Eric Dane, David Black, Mario Maurako, Brian Hollywood, Lindsay Troy, Michael Best, Cecilworth Farthington, and John Sektor. We weren’t talking about your run of the mill mid-carders filling up a tournament. No, we were talking about world class pro wrestling superstars from all walks of the pro wrestling world. The best of the best. Pro wrestling royalty.
And then there was this guy… Halitosis- the Luchador with Insanely Poor Oral Hygiene.
The ugly duckling at the royal ball.
The amusing afterthought.
The guy no one wanted to see who ended up crashing the party.
There was no way in hell I’d get to the finals, right?
As Halitosis, I survived the meat grinder of a world title tournament and vied for the HOW World Title- the first champion crowned in the Refueled era- against the man who ironically held the belt when HOW went dark in July of 2016- Brian Hollywood.
Ah… Brian Hollywood.
Once upon a time, Brian Hollywood was the crown prince of the Best Alliance- a myopically tireless defender of the Best Alliance to whom Lee Best gave the keys to the kingdom. Why? To keep Ray McAvay’s Les Miserables from breaking down the doors of Lee’s castle and allowing the peasant with pitchforks inside. But a funny thing happened at War Games 2016- Hollywood couldn’t get the job done and McAvay ended up winning the whole damn thing.
Of course, Lee immediately booked Hollywood to challenge the new champion Ray McAvay at the next to final show before HOW went dark. In a twist no one saw coming, Lee somehow got Scott Stevens- the WINNING captain of War Games 2016 – to turn on McAvay during the match and help Hollywood regain the title.
So here we were when 2019 rolled around and HOW reopened their doors.
Brian Hollywood- the last HOW World Champion.
Halitosis- whose biggest claim to fame pro wrestling wise up to that point before signing with HOW was winning the Missouri Valley Wrestling Tag Team title with Rah.
I was probably the biggest underdog this side of Adonis Smyth to ever wrestle for HOW’s top title. There was no way in hell Halitosis- a wrestler no one had heard of before 2019 whose primary mode of offense was to use his own bad breath against his opponent- would defeat a two-time world champion in Brian Hollywood right.
Well, as Jim Lampley shouted out during his epic call of the George Foreman-Michael Moorer heavyweight title fight back in 1994: “It happened! It happened!” Late in the match, Hollywood and I nearly knocked each other out with simultaneous spears. Luckily for me, I managed to fall on top of Brian and won the World Title.
Score one for the underdog.
Halitosis lost the title two weeks later to Max Kael- won the title a second time from John Sektor- and then lost the title at Rumble at the Rock 2019 in a three-way match against Dan Ryan and Cecilworth Farthington- a match where the champion- me- was the afterthought. Obviously, the powers-that-be… The Board… the corporate masters… wanted to make sure that the guy with the worst gimmick ever in pro wrestling didn’t leave Alcatraz with the HOW World Title belt.
Sitting in a hotel room in San Francisco the night before War Games 2019, I decided enough was enough. I knew I was screwed. I knew that was no chance in hell I was going to leave Alcatraz with the title- it was pretty clear they weren’t going to let that happen. So I decided that I was going to ditch the whole Halitosis thing and become Joe Bergman. I throw the shirt I wore and the mask into a trash bin and decided if I was going to lose the title that I would go out as Joe Bergman.
Ray McAvay was right. We live in a world that is devoid of heroes. Good guys. People who do things the right way. Hence, the genesis of Section 214 which built on what Ray McAvay did back in 2015 and 2016 with the Les Miserables and what we started with Steve Solex- PBR.
On a whim, I decided to throw my name in the hat for HOW’s Lethal Lottery show and ended up teaming up with 24k’s Andy Murray against… uh… 24K’s Mikey Unlikely and JFK… and we won the tag belts. Being a tag team champion was a positive experience; teaming up with Andy Murray- not so much. In fact, it sucked. It was fun while it lasted until War Games 2019 and then health issues came up.
Since 2019, my road has definitely taken a few twists and turns through heart valve replacement surgery and retirement only to come back and return to the ring to join up with the Highwaymen.
Brian Hollywood? Well… he did win the tag belts with Darin Zion and he did briefly hold the HOTv hot potato title. But Hollywood’s road took him down some seedy neighborhoods and into some corporate-hell rabbit holes that I believe has hindered his wrestling career. The Brian Hollywood I am facing Sunday night is not the Brian Hollywood I wrestled three years ago. Brian Hollywood’s exploits in the corporate world is legendary… and sordid… and well… sketchy. Brian Hollywood’s wrestling career has turned into a semi-permanent reservation on Friday nights at the 11:59 Club.
Although to be fair, I fully expect to be making my own Friday night reservation at the 11:59 Club this week as well.
So here we are now. June 2022. Joe Bergman versus Brian Hollywood again. So since our match in 2019, man have things changed. The Industry became the Group of Death who then became… the eMpire… and then, what… the nine millionth incarnation of the Best Alliance- a faction name that’s now retired… who are now referred to as ‘The Board.’
Now that War Games 2022 is over and the Board has demonstrated that they… like most large corporations… will do everything in their power to steamroll over anything that dare stand in their way and marginalize and keep the ‘plebs’ as Cecilworth Farthington would refer to the ‘poors’ in their place. But again, in a toxic climate where the self-proclaimed ‘elites’ expect us ‘poors,’ the ordinarys, the rabble to clap our hands like trained seals, acknowledge how great they are, sit our asses back down, keep our mouths shut, and do as we’re told, what went down at War Games really was not the least bit surprising.
The whole world witnessed what went down. We all saw how much the board stacked the deck against the locker room.
We all weren’t THAT surprised with the final result.
But War Games is over.
Now it’s time we move forward.
Story Time with Joe Bergman
The classic Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven is a story about an aging outlaw killer named Wiliam Munny. A man who- after years of inactivity and trying to move on from his gunslinger days- takes on one last job to avenge the honor of a woman who was brutally attacked and a friend who was brutally killed by a bunch of bad people.
In the movie, Munny gets justice for a prostitute who gets cut up by one of Little Bill’s gang for laughing at his small ‘package’ and for his friend Ned who was captured, tortured, and killed by using lethal force and killing the bad guys… ALL of them… each and every one.
Like William Munny, Joe Bergman had all but retired from active in-ring action. I was focused on running my wrestling training facility and didn’t have any thought whatsoever about returning to the ring. That is, until Steve Solex suddenly reached out to me and the next thing I know, I’m returning for one more HOW run with the Highwaymen.
Now personally, I do not subscribe to Munny’s method of extreme justice and to be honest that’s really not my style.
Now Clay Byrd? That might be a whole different story.
However, it’s clear to me that there’s a problem with HOW and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Highwaymen banded together for a common purpose. To fight back against the big money power brokers… aka The Board… who like large corporations game the system at the expense of everyone else, ordinary people who live their everyday lives and do the things they’re supposed to and play the game by the rules. People get up and go to work. People who do the best they can only to find themselves on the losing end of a system that benefits a Board who get to play by a totally different set of rules.
Well, I’m here to say along with Messers Byrd, Solex, and Harrison… no more.
If Rick Stevens blatantly turns a blind eye to Chris America taking a shortcut towards an easy win, Rick Stevens gets a dose of Halitosis’s lethal breath. Am I still pissed off over the Christopher America fiasco? No. I closed that book the moment I used the ‘Breath of Death’ on the referee who turned a blind eye to an obvious desperation boot to the balls by a man who says he represents the best of America but in actuality represents the worse.
When the Board cheats to win War Games and does what they did to Conor Fuse… like him or not… well… between myself, Clay Byrd, Steve Harrison, and Steve Solex… I’m willing to bet at some point in the next few weeks there’s going to be some retribution.
You can count on it.
You know, while part of me really wants to go full William Munny and take out the Board one by one in some vengeful fit of retribution for what they did at War Games- the other part of me doesn’t want me to give them the satisfaction of knowing that I lowered myself to their level and resorted to their methods.
I still hold the firm belief that I can be successful in HOW without turning to the dark side that seems to be the currency many people in this company deal in and relish. Ray McAvay once said in 2016 something remarkable:
“The genius of High Octane Wrestling is that if you’re willing to put the time, effort, and work in, you can be whomever you want to be.”
–LITERARY CITATION: Ray McAvay. 4TH War Games 2016 Roleplay entitled “… three.” June 2016.
The fact of the matter is I’ve won two World titles and a Tag Team title without having to become one of the Universe’s Biggest Douchebags. And while it’s a shame that the 2022 War Games was won by a team literally consisting of the Universe’s Biggest Douchebags… well, everyone on the team except David Noble… Noble seems like an okay guy to me… and even though the Board won in the end, Ray’s right. I don’t have to be a member of the Universe’s Biggest Douchebags to be successful in HOW. I don’t have to give in to the dark side. I don’t have to corrupt my values and be someone I’m not just to get ahead of everyone else.
Because I’m better than that.
I don’t do this fluff my ego. I don’t do this to score with chicks and I definitely don’t do this have free license to act like one of the Universe’s Biggest Douchebags.
I do this for Section 214.
The have nots.
The never weres.
The left behinds.
And Ordinary Joes just like me doing the best they can to make a few bucks and pay their bills.
That will never, ever change.
North End Tavern
302 N. Main Street
It’s the Friday night before Refueled 100 and it’s been a really long week.
Much to Joe’s surprise, Xander Azula decided to stay on and continue to work out at the barn. So Joe worked with Xander in the morning and then worked in the evening with Elizabeth Carlisle- the Channel 5 news reporter from Chicago teaching her the basics, the ground floor stuff for the expose she was doing on pro wrestling.
Somewhere in there, Joe managed to squeeze in some time to train for his upcoming match with Brian Hollywood.
And to top off the week, a large manila envelope arrived at the barn Friday morning from Joe’s attorney. He knew what was inside the envelope. The final divorce decree that formally ended his marriage to Laura.
But right now, an exhausted Joe sat in the corner of the bar all by himself as the flashing Budweiser On Tap’ sign outside the stone exterior lights up the area near the front entrance of the tavern and close to the window inside the bar.
Transfixed by Samantha Fish’s sizzling live rendition of Black Wind Howling on You Tube on his laptop computer, Joe sipped intermittently from a glass of beer as Fish ripped into the second solo of the song. The show was taped at The Waiting Room in Omaha, Nebraska- a blues room that Joe had been to a couple times. The blue lighting made the stage appear a little hazy. Fish, dressed in a white and black patterned jacket with black spandex pants, made a couple quick sound adjustments on her monitor and then tore into a searing, slow burning five-minute guitar solo that built up step by step like a burgeoning tsunami until the grand peroration of bluesy guitar riffs and runs climaxes followed by power chord greatness at the end of the song.
Joe’s completely unaware of company approaching his table with a window view of the downtown business district.
Elzabeth Carlisle: You keep a busy dance card.
Joe Bergman: Huh?
Joe looks up with a start to sees intrepid Channel 5 news reporter Elizabeth Carlisle standing there.
Joe Bergman: How… how did you find me?
The athletic brunette smiles.
Elizabeth Carlisle: As luck would have it, I just happened to be driving through and saw your car parked out front.
Joe Bergman: Ah. Well. Have a seat if you’d like.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Don’t mind if you do.
Elizabeth demurely slips onto a barstool opposite Joe.
Bergman clicks out of You Tube and politely closes up his laptop.
Crossing her arms on the table, Elizabeth lays her head down as if she’s wanting to go to sleep.
Elizabeth Carlisie: So. People kept telling me how nice of a guy you were. But damn, you were not nice at all the past two weeks.
Joe nods and smiles.
Joe Bergman: I don’t get paid to be nice. I get paid to train wrestlers, coach them up. and put them in the best possible position to be successful.
Carlisle shakes her head.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Damn, I am sore in places I’ve never been sore before in my life. I’ve used muscles in my body that I’ve never known were there.
She raises her hand in the air to make her point.
Elizabeth Carlisle: I can most definitely attest that this is not easy.
Her head then plops back down on her arms.
Elizabeth Carlisle: And I am not looking forward to the drive back to Chicago.
Joe Bergman: Do you think you’re ready for next weekend?
Next weekend is when Elizabeth gets to experience participating in a live wrestling match before a crowd for the very first time. Her first match would take place at Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Wrestling Night in America pay per view show in Kansas City, Missouri.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Um…
The stage was set for Carlisle. Channel 5 cameras would be there to film the entire match and put a nice wrap on the story about Elizabeth’s three-week foray into the pro wrestling world.
No pressure or anything
Elizabeth Carlisle: Um….
Was she ready? Elizabeth blinks her eyes and owns up to her concern.
Elizabeth Carlisle: …I think I still need to work on a few things…
She coughs offhandedly and mumbles from the side of her mouth.
Elizabeth Carlisle: …a lot of things.
Joe at once laughs and then tries to be supportive.
Joe Bergman: Don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of time to work out the kinks.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Have you watched any of the stories so far? I look like… eh.
Elizabeth caught herself right away.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Dumb question. You’re working from 8 AM to 10 PM every day.
Joe Bergman: Yep. And besides, I know where you are at right now. I will make sure you are ready for June 26th. Promise.
Elizabeth Carlisle: I will say this. You’re working just as hard… if not harder… than I am when we do the drills.
Joe Bergman: Gotta set the example for you… and anyone I’m training.
Bergman takes a sip from his Pepsi.
Joe Bergman: And I’ve gotta be ready for Sunday night, too.
Waitress: Hey darlin’…
The conversation is put on hold as waitress Penny Martell stops by to check on them. Penny’s blonde hair is tied up in a pony tail and she wears a button-down shirt unbuttoned down enough to see a little cleavage with a mini-skirt and tennis shoes.
Penny Martell: …can I get something for you?
Elizabeth points towards Bergman’s Pepsi.
Elizabeth Carlisle: I’ll have what he’s having.
She glances at Joe.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Long drive home tonight.
The waitress nods and flits off to fill the drink order.
Elizabeth Carlisle: So. Are you ready?
Joe Bergman: For what?
Elizabeth Carlisle: Sunday night.
Joe looks down at his Pepsi and mulls the question.
Joe Bergman: Well…
He hesitates but finally finishes the answer.
Joe Bergman: I think so. The trick is repetition. I haven’t been in the ring too much in the past year so it’s just getting back into the flow… the routine… and just keep doing it over and over until it’s second nature.
Elizabeth Carlisle: I see.
Joe Bergman: You don’t get that in two weeks. It takes time and experience to-
Penny Martell’s voice (heard all over the bar): OH SON OF A BITCH!
Joe and Elizabeth pause their discussion to look over to the waitress station in time to see Penny throw down a pad of that she’s jotted down a drink order for a customer and was trying to put into bar’s point of service computer…
Penny Martell: FUCKING COMPUTER!
…that had just died a horrible death complete with the dreaded BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH that easily stood out in the dimly lit bar.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Oh.
Joe Bergman: Well, you know what that means?
Elizabeth turns her head back towards Bergman.
Elizabeth Carlisle: No. What.
In the parking lot of the tavern some thirty-odd minutes later, Penny throws down the dead point of service computer aka… POS on the blacktop.
Penny circles the computer with evil intentions in mind. Joe is also out there with a baseball bat in his hand and Elizabeth tags along too. A few other bar patrons venture out with great curiosity to witness the impending carnage that’s about to take place.
A quick-thinking patron has pulled up the Geto Boys’ ‘Still’ on their cell phone and play it as loud as they can from their phone while others take videos of the waitress’s assault on the inanimate object on their phones of what’s going on because… well, just because.
Penny takes a tentative kick at the POS… again… three times… four times. Then she lets out a primal scream and gets serious. She stomps the holy hell out of the unit and then grabs the bat from Bergman spends the next five minutes taking her frustrations out by pulverizing the computer into small non-descript fragments.
Elizabeth watches with an amused smile on her face and puts her hand on Joe’s shoulder.
Elizabeth Carlisle: Okay. I did not expect that.
You are a hell of a wrestler. You really are. Even Ray McAvay will concede you are a really good wrestler and that takes some doing seeing how much he despised you back in 2016.
Brian, Ray says hello by the way and wanted me to let you know that whenever you want to show up in MVW for a match- just let him know and he’ll make it happen.
We’ve seen glimpses of how good of a wrestler you are over the past couple years. Hell, we all saw the quality when you made a couple of guest appearances in Missouri Valley Wrestling.
But you’ve let yourself get corrupted and consumed by the corporate lifestyle that you’ve embraced. It was bad enough when you were doing Lee’s bidding back in 2016 but it’s even worse now. I don’t know one thing about running a corporation or being part of a corporation. I’ve definitely never done battle with the murky, underworld-ish Chair that you continually refer to. But I do know something about wrestling. I believe that perhaps if you spent a little more time in the ring and working to get back to the level you were at in 2015 and 2016… hell even June of 2019… and left the corporate bullshit to someone else, I believe you would find out that you are still a very good wrestler at this level.
So Sunday night back at the Best Arena for the final Refueled show- Refueled 100- I’m not going to take you for granted. I’m not going to overlook you and I certainly won’t step into the ring expecting an easy win on Sunday. Because simply put, that’s just not my style.
But don’t expect anything less than a full effort from me. I will do what I need to do to win the match.
Brian, Sunday night at Refueled 100. No bullshit. No games. Just you and me putting on a show for the people.. You can bet your ass I will try to out work you… I will try to out heart you… I will try to out smart you.
I will push myself to the limit so when all is said and done… when the referee’s hand hits that mat for the third time… I know I’ve done everything in my power to make sure Joe Bergman walks away as the winner.