The Bergman Residence
Monday June 8th
With Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Wrestling Night in the Heartland on HOTv on the screen of a brand new Sceptre 18″ Class 720P HD LED TV located on the kitchen counter near the sink, Joe Bergman, Laura Bergman, and Dawn McGill sit at a brand new wooden kitchen table in the middle of the brand new kitchen of the Bergman’s brand new house to talk strategy for War Games.
Joe’s wearing workout clothes having just returned to the house. Laura has standard maternity clothing on with a pair of slippers. McGill also sports workout clothing with several spots of sweat dotting her black top and munches on a cold piece of pizza at the table.
The light emitting from a hanging Stratford 20 3/4″ Wide 3-Light hovers over the kitchen table and the ambient light from the flat screen television are the only things illuminating the kitchen.
Sitting opposite from McGill at the table, Laura appears slightly agitated at the moment and it’s not because she’s started the second trimester of her pregnancy. She directs her remarks across the table.
Laura Bergman: …upon further reflection, perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to go into Mario’s office for that meeting and attack Andy Murray like that.
Dawn’s face registers shock and surprise. Why? Just a week prior, Laura had strongly defended her at the MVW press conference, going so far as to verbally blow out of the air blogger Jason Whatley’s sharp criticism of McGill’s comments towards Murray at the meeting.
Dawn McGill: No.
She immediately goes into defensive mode.
Dawn McGill: Oh hell no.
Laura Bergman: Dawn-
Yeah, Dawn’s not having it tonight.
Dawn McGill: Uh uh. I’m not backing down from anything I said at that joke of a meeting, Laura. There’s no excuse whatsoever for Murray’s shitty behavior over the past two months. Joe’s bent over backwards from day one after the Lethal Lottery to try and make the best of this situation and he’s been crapped on at every turn. So fuck that, fuck Andy Murray, and fuck all of it.
Dawn takes a breath. A mischievous grin forms.
Dawn McGill: I’m just sorry I didn’t get off a few more shots at him before he ran away.
Sitting serenely in between his wife and his manager-slash-trainer, Joe just shakes his head and sits back in his chair while his mind drifts to other more pleasant topics. Like the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sitting in front of him on the kitchen table.
Always the pragmatic businesswoman, Laura tries a different tack and attempts to reason with Dawn.
Laura Bergman: Dawn, for the record I completely agree with you. I’m just saying in retrospect the best course of action may have been just to read the statement I wrote and leave all the snarky editorial comments out.
Dawn McGill: So Joe can continue to be treated like a doormat for Murray to wipes his muddy shoes on?
Dawn defiantly shakes her head no.
Dawn McGill: Hell. No. In this business Laura, there are predators and there are the prey. Joe’s been too much the latter in his HOW run and someone needed to throw some of the shit Murray’s been slinging right back at him. That’s EXACTLY what I did.
Laura Bergman: Dawn, I’m just saying there might have been a better way of getting your point across without escalating the tension between Andy and Joe.
Dawn nearly breaks out laughing.
Dawn McGill: Yeah, because Joe and Andy were so on speaking terms before the meeting, right? Bullshit. The fact is Andy Murray may still be a great professional wrestler- bad knees and all- but he’s become an amateur human being.
Laura leans forward in her chair.
Laura Bergman: Okay. You’re correct. He’s been a dick. A completely and utter asshole. But you also said that Andy Murray is still a great wrestler. The fact of the matter remains this, at the War Games tag match Andy Murray will be the best wrestler in that ring. At the end of the day, as long as they can find a way to co-exist long enough and win the damn match, isn’t that what matters the most?
Dawn McGill: No.
Dawn folds her arms in front of her and leans back in her chair.
Laura Bergman: Why not?
Dawn McGill: Because I don’t trust him Laura. I don’t trust him at all.
Laura Bergman: Why not?
Dawn McGill: BECAUSE HE’S A FUCKING ADDICT!
McGill’s incendiary declarative statement goes off like a bomb and the kitchen becomes eerily quiet.
Laura buries her head in her arms on the table.
Dawn McGill: He’s an addict Laura. Sorry to burst that bubble.
Laura Bergman: How do you know?
Dawn rolls her eyes.
Dawn McGill: Because Laura, I’ve been in enough dressing rooms over the years to know when a wrestler is on something.
Laura Bergman: What do you think he’s on?
Dawn McGill: My guess is pills. Probably pain pills because from what I’ve heard, his knees make my bad knee look almost bionic in comparison.
Joe sighs. Laura mumbles with her head still face down in her arms.
Laura Bergman: So what do we do?
Dawn turns to Joe.
Dawn McGill: You can’t rely on him in the tag match, Joe. You just can’t.
Laura perks up.
Laura Bergman: What do you mean?
Dawn McGill: It’s this simple, if Joe wants to hold on to the tag belts, Joe will have to be the best wrestler in the match.
Dawn pauses for a second.
Dawn McGill: Joe can’t be content to fly under the radar at War Games.
Joe exhales and turns to McGill.
Joe Bergman: You do realize that I excel in flying under the radar.
Dawn nods back at him.
Dawn McGill: I know.
Joe Bergman: That’s where I’m the most comfortable.
Again, Dawn nods affirmatively back.
Dawn McGill: I know Joe. The spotlight shining brightly on you isn’t your friend. It’s not in your wheelhouse. It’s not your thing… your deal.
She sharpens her tone and prepares to deliver some cold harsh truth.
Dawn McGill: Well guess what? It’s time to expand your horizons and step away from your comfort zone. It’s time for you to put some things away for good. For example, certain fall back lines that you recycle over and over like… I know exactly who I am- a two star, average talent in a company full of four and five star wrestlers -or- I am a marginal talent trying to make a go in wrestling in the big time against some of the best wrestlers on the planet -or- I’m a middle of the pack scrub swimming in shark infested waters with some of the best wrestlers on the planet.
She pauses for a beat and wraps up her rant in five words.
Dawn McGill: That shit needs to go. Period.
Okay. Six words.
Joe feigns sadness and clutches his chest like Fred Sanford having ‘the big one.’ He then responds back to her with a facetious tone.
Joe Bergman: But those are my best lines.
McGill snaps right back at him.
Dawn McGill: No they’re not. Your best lines take place hours after a show when you’re still sitting at the merchandise table talking to people who have come to the show specifically to see you, signing autographs, and posing for pictures with them. Your best lines take place when you hold those tailgate parties out in the Allstate Arena parking lot and you interact directly with your fans. Your best line takes place when you finally… FINALLY… push back on Andy Murray during that joint interview with Blaire Moise and called him exactly what he’s become- a bitter old man who’s sold his soul to 24K. That was your best line.
Dawn’s tone softens.
Dawn McGill: Your best lines also take place when you recognize the wrestlers… the Charlie Blackwells… the Justin Sufferables… the Triple R’s… all the wrestlers who start their careers at the bottom with a hope and a dream, who try to work their way up from the bottom of the wrestling pyramid to get to the place where you are Joe. That’s when you are at your best.
Laura, who’s sat back and listened patiently for the past few minutes, suddenly sees an opportunity to pipe up to interject something.
Laura Bergman: It’s your brand!
And all the air gets sucked right out of the kitchen. Both Joe and Dawn stare at each other because they’re both thinking the exact same thing.
Laura Bergman: Yeah, that was a bad choice of words.
Joe Bergman: No. Laura. I don’t ‘brand.’
Joe’s stern tone of voice gets his wife’s full attention.
Joe Bergman: I’m not trying to be something or someone I’m not. I’m not trying to project an image and I’m sure as hell not a creation borne in a corporate boardroom. I do what I do because that’s who I am.
Laura Bergman: Okay. Sorry.
Sufficiently chastened, Laura tries to move the conversation forward.
Laura Bergman: So where do we go from here?
Dawn McGill: We play to our strengths. We do it our way.
Three days later…
Independent Western Wrestling World House Show
Rock Springs Civic Center
Rock Springs, WY
Thursday June 11th
A slightly overdressed- ie…frilly tuxedo and bow tie- ring announcer stands in the middle of an old, ramshackle ring kept together by duct tape and wire. The venue? The Rock Springs Civic Center. He’s surrounded by hundreds of people sitting in steel folding chairs on the wide open gymnasium floor.
Ring Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen. We have a special treat for you tonight. Back inside an I3W ring for the first time in several years, our special guest can be seen Saturday nights on HOTv wrestling for High Octane Wrestling and he is currently one half of the HOW Tag Team Champions. We knew him as the Luchador with Insanely Poor Oral Hygiene HALITOSIS. He is now known as ORDINARY! JOE! BERGGGGG-MAN!
Joe steps through the door from the outside of the arena with a HOW Tag Team title belt slung over his shoulder. He takes two steps in and takes it all in. He gazes around and notices the brick covered interior of the civic center and remembers all the nice thing about the facility.
The Rock Springs Civic Center functioned in a similar manner as a YMCA would. Inside the building there was a full service weight room that Joe and the other wrestlers used to use to work out in the afternoon before the show whenever I3W ran in Rock Springs.
There was even an indoor Tru-Golf set up inside the building where many wrestlers would blow off some time and a little steam trying their luck at playing golf.
As the fans on hand applaud, Joe makes his way to the ring and makes sure to slap as many hands as he can on the way. Once inside the ring, he gives the ring announcer a handshake and takes the microphone.
Joe Bergman: Thank you.
Joe raises a hand in the air.
Joe Bergman: Thank you all very much.
Smiling, Joe waves to a few familiar faces he sees in the crowd.
Joe Bergman: It’s good to be back in Rock Springs.
The ovation continues on.
Joe Bergman: And on behalf of all the wrestlers who are here working tonight, thank each and every one of you for coming out and supporting independent wrestling.
He pauses for more of the requisite prolonged applause that follows. Joe waits a few seconds until the noise settles down a bit. Then he goes on.
Joe Bergman: The last time I set foot in this ring some six years ago, I never dreamed for a second that I would be standing here before you tonight as a two-time HOW champion and one half of the current HOW tag team champions while wrestling on one of the biggest stages in the industry. A few years ago, a good friend of mine- Ray McAvay- wrestled in Bozeman, Montana for I3W- I think it was back in November of 2015- I was still here wrestling for I3W I remember he said some things that stuck with me.
The mention of McAvay also gets a healthy round of applause from the Rock Springs fans.
Joe Bergman: That night, Ray told the folks of Bozeman that some wrestlers in this industry just don’t get it that it’s people like you- the fans– who are the lifeblood of pro wrestling. In fact, there’s actually someone in HOW right now who refers to the fans as- ungratefuls!
Cue the boos at the obvious Perfection reference Joe makes.
Joe Bergman: That’s right. Ungratefuls is what he calls us and he deserves the boos that you’re giving him right now. What people like him don’t understand that without the people– without you– coming to the shows we don’t exist. I3W doesn’t exist. All the small independent companies don’t exist. Hell, even HOW doesn’t exist. None of the companies exist. There’s no wrestling. So count me in agreement with Ray McAvay here. Personally, I’m grateful for everyone who chooses to come out and support wrestling on ALL levels. So please, give yourselves all a hand and keep on supporting professional wrestling- especially your independent companies where the next generation of wrestling stars are learning and figuring out their craft.
Joe claps his hands as do the people on hand for the show.
Joe Bergman: So if you’ll indulge me for a couple minutes, I’d like to bring out the I3W workers for a second so they can get a much deserved round of applause from all of you.
One by one, the wrestlers of the Independent Western Wrestling World walk out from the back and join Joe Bergman inside the ring. While the wrestlers quickly fill up the ring behind Joe, the fans rise up to their feet to give them all a standing ovation…
The next night…
Appalachian Mountain Championship Wrestling House Show
Swain County High School Gym
Bryson City, North Carolina
Friday June 12th
…the crowd continues to give their AMCW stars a hero’s ovation. Joe steps to the side and cedes the ring to them so the fans on the floor and in the bleachers on both sides bordering the basketball floor can recognize their favorites and not-so-favorites.
After a few minutes, the pandemonium began to subside and Joe continues.
Joe Bergman: Now, if y’all will indulge me, I’d sure love to talk about High Octane Wrestling’s War Games for just a couple minutes here.
Joe paces back and forth in front of the assembled AMCW wrestlers.
Joe Bergman: War Games. Normandy. On the beach. A Tag Team title match with four of the best teams in HOW fighting it out for the Tag Team title. HATE, The eGG Bandits, the Hollywood Bruvs, and last but not least, the current champions- Andy Murray and myself. Let’s talk about HATE- Scott Woodson…
The fans know their wrestling and immediately chant: ‘HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap) HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap).
Joe Bergman: …and…
The crowd then shout out “RRRIIIIIICCCCKKKKKKK!” Joe stops for a second and smiles.
Joe Bergman: Yep. Scott Woodson and Rick. I haven’t seen Scott since the quarterfinal match in the HOW World Title tournament last year when he was wrestling as Scottywood and I was Halitosis.
Again, a ‘HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap) HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap) chant breaks out.
Joe Bergman: Scotty’s a HOW Hall of Famer so of course he gets my full respect. As for Rick. Um, all I know about him is that he’s big and since the demise of the Turn-It-Up-Express his vocabulary has dropped down considerably to a few monosyllabic words.
A loud chant of “RRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIICCKKKKKKKK!” breaks out.
Joe Bergman: Yep, Rick’s a big boy and the combination of him and Scotty means they are going to be a team that we’ll need to keep an eye on during the match. It’s really hard to ‘hate’ on HATE when Rick- especially saying Rick’s name- has become a thing that everyone seems to get a kick out of. As for Scotty Woodson? Let’s not kid here. Scotty Woodson is really Scottywood wrestling as Scotty Woodson.
And yet again, ‘HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap) HARD-CORE ARTIST (clap clap clap-clap-clap) chant breaks out.
Joe Bergman: When I decided to wrestle as Joe Bergman instead of Halitosis, I didn’t continue to use the breath of death gimmick. I changed my finisher to the Dragon Sleeper and focused on becoming a better technical wrestler. As for Scotty? Well, Scotty Woodson is still doing all the Scottywood shtick. He’s still the Hardcore Artist. You still know what he’s going to bring to the ring. He’s going to bring his hockey stick and the mayhem with him. Then there’s Rick. Rick is a powerhouse. He’s a beast. He’s definitely going to be a handful to deal with.
Another round of “RRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIICCKKKKKKKK!” chants punctuates the end of Joe’s comments about HATE.
Joe Bergman” Then we’ve got the eGG Bandits- Beautiful Bobby Dean and Zeb Martin-
Another roar of approval erupts from the Bryson City crowd.
Joe Bergman: Yeah. The good ol’ eGG Bandits are in this match and I’m glad to see that Beautiful Bobby’s made a remarkable turnaround from his weight issues. Just between you and me, he’s probably still sore over the way Steve Solex and I used Barbie Q’s grilling skills to lure Bobby away from the ring in PBR’s win over the Bandits a few weeks back. Zeb and I had a nice little tussle a couple weeks back where we took things to a bit of the extreme. It’s hard to believe that Zeb is only nineteen years old. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. Zeb and I did have a good ol’ fashioned old school hardcore throwdown one on one a few weeks back. But, after the end of the match when the hostilities ended Zeb and I shared a beer in the ring. Of course, then we all found out that Zeb was only nineteen and not of legal drinking age in the State of Illinois.
Joe Bergman: And of course, I paid his fine.
Joe paces back and forth now.
Joe Bergman: I can hear it now, ‘Joe’s going to have his hands full with both teams.’ But here’s the thing folks and I hate to break it to you all – Joe Bergman isn’t the same old Halitosis from last year. Yeah, it’s taken a few months but Joe’s kinda figured this whole thing out. Remember the Chris Kostoff match where Kostoff reinjured his busted arm and according to some people, because I did not immediately try to detach his arm off just proved that I would never reach an elite level as a wrestler…
The next night…
Missouri Valley Wrestling House Show
Des Moines, IA
Saturday June 13th
…the near capacity house inside 7,152 seat Knapp Arena on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa are on the feet and the fans are rocking.
Behind Joe Bergman in the ring are all the usual MVW suspects: former HOW wrestlers Rah, Dawn McGill with her daughter Victoria McGill, MVW Owner and CEO Ray McAvay. Also there: ‘Justin Sufferable, Triple R, Charlie Blackwell, the Murder Hornets, and a whole slew of wrestlers who fill up every inch of space inside the ring.
Joe Bergman: I just want to say to all of you here tonight that it’s great to be here on a night where seven thousand people have showed up to watch a Missouri Valley Wrestling house show for the first time in a long, long, time.
A “MVW… MVW… MVW…” chant fills the arena.
Joe Bergman: Going back to the Chris Kostoff match where Kostoff reinjured his busted arm and according to some people, I should have immediately tried to tear his arm off. To those people who said I should have tried to take advantage of Kostoff’s injury and attack the arm and cause further injury to it, I say this- no. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t have to be that guy. I don’t have to do that to win matches. I showed against Chris Kostoff that you could win the match, show respect to your opponent, and not deliberately try to hurt them in the process. So Scotty and Rick, bring it on. Bobby and Zeb. Bring it on guys, bring it on.
Joe tries to quiet the buzzing crowd down.
Joe Bergman: Let me make this clear, I’m not going to War Games to crush- kill- maim- destroy- or any of that.
He pauses for a beat.
Joe Bergman: I’m going to War Games to win the match.
And the roof gets blown off. The HOTV camera people on site (the show was a television taping) work feverishly to capture the crowd’s reaction.
In the ring, McAvay comes up to Bergman and pats him on the back.
Joe Bergman: Okay. So now- let’s talk about the Hollywood Bruvs. Two guys born with their 24 carat feet lodged firmly in their mouth.
The arena fills with a volley of vociferous BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOs directed towards the former HOW Tag Team champions from the clearly pro-Bergman crowd at the Des Moines MVW house show.
Joe raises both hands up.
Joe Bergman: I know. I know.
Bergman takes a ‘cool bruv-like’ stance, whatever the hell that means. He fistbumps McAvay and both shout out in an extremely mocking tone.
Joe Bergman and Ray McAvay: GLUEFIST!
And the crowd breaks out in laughter.
Joe Bergman: And here’s what I guarantee you will to hear from them.
Bergman switches into incredibly mocking bruh-like voice.
Joe Bergman: Joe Bergman is riding on Andy Murray’s shoulders. Joe Bergman wishes he were in 24K!
The BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOs start up again.
Joe Bergman: Joe Bergman has our title belts!
Cut a switch to a loud cheer.
Joe Bergman: Joe Bergman says mean things about our little friend Little Jimmy Imperfection!
Check that, now it’s an ear-deafening wall of sound cascading throughout the Knapp Arena.
Bergman nods and gives the Des Moines fans a thumb’s up.
Joe Bergman: That’s right. It’s the same one note bullshit over and over.
Joe drops to his knees and does the Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy” gesture except he substitutes a couple key words.
Joe Bergman: Joe’s not worthy…Joe’s not worthy!
He shakes his head and climbs back up to his feet.
Joe Bergman: For the record, the Hollywood Bruvs are one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling… BUT. As William Jennings Bryan once said- ‘the humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring.’ Or in other words small enough that the Hollywood Bruvs might actually understand what I’m saying- guys, your arrogance is going to be your undoing. I’m not going to stand here in this ring and dispense a bunch of trash talk about you because that’s just not my thing. But I am going to say this. If I can put Chris Kostoff out with my Dragon Sleeper, I sure as hell can put both of you out too. Fall asleep on me during the match and I’m going to make sure you fall asleep for real at the end.
Joe climbs up on the ropes to punctuate his final point.
Joe Bergman: At War Games, Joe Bergman isn’t there for a fun-filled trans-Atlantic holiday. Joe Bergman is going to France to win the damn match.
In closing, I keep hearing the whispers that all I’m doing is pandering to the people and blah, blah, blah, blah. What these people conveniently keep forgetting that this entire movement started the first show of the return of High Octane Wrestling when an obscure wrestler plucked from the lower reaches of the independent wrestling world surprised everyone by surviving his first two matches of his HOW career- including a win over Hall of Famer David Black. These people came together on their own to get behind me. I wasn’t even thinking about becoming a fan favorite- my one and only focus was survival. I wasn’t a blue chip prospect. I wasn’t paid an exorbitant amount of money to come to HOW. I was an afterthought. No one gave me a second look. And then there I was- wrestling Brian Hollywood for the HOW World Title with the fans firmly in my corner. This is a movement that organically came from the people.
Over time, I also became a symbol to those in the smaller independents as a success story they could latch on to and emulate. Again, I did not seek this- it just happened. Standing with the wrestlers at the Independent Western Wrestling World, Appalachian Mountain Championship Wrestling, and MVW reminded me the humble origins of where I came from and hopefully I can give them hope that they too could follow their dreams and make to one the big companies in the wrestling world.
What separates me from some of the others in this match is the fact I know what it’s like to struggle and muddle along from show to show, making enough cash to make it to the next city. I know how hard it is to pull yourself up the ladder, one rung at a time, hoping, praying that luck and fortune will smile on you and the right someone will see your work.
Because that’s what happened to me.
Or in other words, not only am I representing myself at War Games but I’m also carrying the banner for independent wrestlers who have the same dream I did fourteen years ago and all the fans who’ve supported me since the very beginning of my HOW run- I’m going to fight like hell not only to defend this title but be the one who wins the match…