Okay, so Refueled 99 didn’t exactly go the way I would’ve wanted.
Thanks to one of the oldest tricks in the book, there was nothing to stop what was coming.
I’ll own up to my failure that night, I was so focused on not getting hit with that knee by Tyler that I didn’t count on Jace hitting me with that damn boot.
But, I gotta move on.
I can own up to that mistake, but it’s also time to get past it.
Treat it as the teachable moment it is, and adjust accordingly.
I learned my lesson, and I can adapt because of it.
There’s a bigger issue at hand, so much more at stake for me coming up.
Just the thought of going back into that scenario makes me nervous…and yet, excited.
Yeah, you heard me.
After what I went through last year?
I have a lot to answer for.
My nerves got the better of me the last time I was in that structure.
I froze up because of the weight of trying to be a team player, while also seeking my own glory…and that of my goddess.
And it cost me dearly.
And now, I’m just trying to do everything possible not to be in that position again.
That’s what has me so excited…this year, I’m ready.
Ready for war.
I know what I have to do for a match of this nature.
And I am preparing for that match, that chaos, as necessary.
Learning every lesson I can, from my coach and from going through the paces of training.
After all, we are gearing up for war.
And there’s plenty of work to be done.
“Now, let’s get to work.”
Harris Bank Center
The words of Joe Bergman are stuck in Xander’s head as he finds himself in the midst of some much-needed preparations for a match being billed as a special attraction, when the Head Disciple of Chaos teams with his War Games coach to take on the Georgia-Florida State Boundary, a team Xander had never even heard of until the day he stepped foot in Bergman’s Barn…the day his training began.
To be clear, though, what Xander is in the middle of is not a warmup, or a sparring session, or anything of the sort. No, that’s still to come…right now, on this relatively cool afternoon, the man is engaged in literal ring preparations. In fact, as we speak Xander is tightening the turnbuckles, making sure the ropes are secure.
The sight of Xander being a part of the ring crew might draw confusion to a casual observer, who would ask why someone of his ilk would do this. Indeed, as he looks up at the MVW banner being hung up overhead he can’t help but ponder the question himself. What the casual observer is not aware of, however, is the very conversation that led to where we are now.
It was a conversation that started with Xander seeking some advice on how to handle himself in the special attraction that night, and how to be better prepared than he was in Madison Square Garden. After all, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and Xander was fully cognizant of his shortcomings that night…even if he didn’t want to admit it.
Bergman, to his credit, was affirming in his consultation…with an emphasis on firm. He made it very clear to the newly-minted student of the Barn that in situations like these, being a lone wolf would only lead to disaster. To avoid falling victim to such a trap in the evening’s affairs against the Corporate Country favorites, let alone War Games against a corporate machine, Xander would need to remember six essential words that would make more sense at the right and proper time.
“No one is above the team.”
A hell of a thing to tell me, really.
I’ve led my Eternal Circle for years, guiding them through a time of uncertainty, a great schism that separated those who sought Chaos and those who only sought glory.
I know what a team entails.
I’ve marched my own army into war before.
And yet, Joe’s words are cutting to the bone.
That’s what makes him the coach, and I the pupil.
My talents as Head Disciple do not translate easily to in-ring success.
The past year in High Octane Wrestling is a reflection of this reality.
But, things can always change.
Those mistakes, those slips…they’re teachable moments.
And trust me, these moments have taught me a lot.
I’m not quite my best self…not yet, anyway.
But, I am getting there.
I’m certainly closer than I was a year ago.
Most importantly, I am my truest self in the here and now.
A leader to my brethren, guiding the wayward on the straight and narrow.
A tool of my goddess, molded and shaped to do her will.
All these aspects are like cogs to a machine.
They wouldn’t function properly in someone else.
They’d grind up against each other, blocking their own progress.
But in me, these cogs move in sync.
Working in harmony, to ensure efficiency and success.
And recognizing that flow makes me realize every part of the machine that is a team.
Whether a tag team duo or a War Games squad, every member plays a pivotal role.
Of course, it’s easy to lose sight of that when everyone in the match is as focused on winning it all as they are guiding their team to victory.
That’s what happens when you have individual aspirations, when singles gold is up for grabs in the midst of a squad-based bout.
A tale as old as time, everyone on a given squad wants to obtain a sense of pride for their side of the war…but they want whatever is owed to them for their individual efforts.
The champions in this match will be focused on retaining their belts by any means necessary.
Especially the man with arguably the biggest target on his back going into this match.
But that’s okay, his back is large enough to carry it.
Oh, were you thinking Conor Fuse?
Our distinguished World Champion is certainly focused on defending his championship…but he doesn’t necessarily lose the title just by being eliminated.
No, that dubious honor would go to Stronk Godson.
The man who tore his way into HOW and quickly rose to the ranks, becoming HOTv Champion in the process.
Stronk is an absolute beast of a man, but he has a weakness.
A man who focuses too much on building up his strength can be run ragged by someone who keeps him moving around until he’s tuckered out.
And that makes him a danger when it comes time for War Games.
A danger to both squads, simultaneously.
We’ll need to take him out as quickly as we can, so we can focus on The Board and the other men they’ve wrangled into this mess.
As for The Board…for all their wisdom in bringing him into the fold, they’ll lose two precious assets in the process when Godson inevitably falls.
Their most massive competitor in the match, and the HOTv Championship.
Such is the folly of bringing someone that important into a situation where they could lose tremendously, not only losing their gold but creating a sizable hole in their defense.
No one is above the team.
The immediate aftermath of the night’s special attraction saw a tough but fair conversation between the coach and his pupil. Xander had told his Inner Circle to stay on their best behavior, to keep up appearances for the occasion, but they couldn’t help but keep a close eye on Lillie Mae, the Georgia-Florida State Boundary’s attractive valet at ringside. It nearly led to a breakdown of communication between them and their Head Disciple, but cooler heads prevailed on route to the crucial win over the Georgia-Florida State Boundary.
No issue was seen at ringside, but later in the evening Joe had given a fair warning that such distractions are precisely the kind of trap Xander needed to keep out of going forward. This was followed by a quick assessment of Xander’s in-ring performance, which looked much more promising aside from some rough edges that needed to be smoothed out.
“First and foremost, you have to do something about your footwork.”
Xander, despite wanting to take in every word of advice his coach offers, is taken aback by the statement.
“My footwork!? The hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“I saw the way you were running the ropes tonight. The fans might not have noticed you nearly losing your step, but I did…and if Skylar and Bryan had caught it, you would’ve been in trouble. You just have to be a bit more careful about that, especially against the Dark Overlords of Wrestling tomorrow night in Carbondale.”
Xander scoffs at this, particularly just the name of his future opponents.
“A couple spooky boys, eh? Man, that seems awfully familiar…”
Joe glares at him, a stern tone as he cuts the Head Disciple off.
“Hey, don’t knock on them. They are no joke, even if their…presentation…would have you think otherwise. Sufferable and Triple R are former tag team champions. They’ve been around a long, long time so they know what they’re doing in the ring. Plus, the presence of Escondido, O’Reilly, and Horne at ringside is something you’ll need to look out for.”
Joe pauses for just a moment, before another thought crosses his mind.
“That reminds me…I know it’s tempting, especially with the other Overlords out there tomorrow, but I need your followers to stand down. They can come to the ring with us, that’s fine. But I don’t want them getting mixed up in things.”
Xander is nearly exasperated by this request.
“What!? Get outta here man, you just told me there’s two other guys to look out for!”
Joe nods in acknowledgement, but maintains his position on the matter.
“I know, but that’s another lesson you’ll need to learn if you want to get through this the right way. I need you to trust me on this, Xander. I promise it’ll make sense in the long run.”
Joe winks at Azula.
“Besides, if Escondido and O’Reilly try anything funny, I’ve got back up at the ready. It’s all covered.”
Xander lets out a heavy sigh, shrugging his shoulders with a nod.
“If you say so, coach.”
“Good. Thank you Xander, stick this out for a bit longer and we’ll have you more than ready for War Games.”
The two shake hands before Xander makes his exit from the locker room, taking a moment to let Joe’s assessment sink in.
Isn’t that how the old saying goes, though?
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Bergman telling me not to discount the Dark Overlords of Wrestling had me thinking a lot about the way people have assessed me over the past year.
They see a “spooky boy” and they assume I’m all talk.
Well, a few select foes learned the hard way just what I’m capable of.
But now I need to refine my methods, to hone my craft.
I can’t just be a hardcore brawler and expect to succeed, not even in the dangerous territory of War Games.
I know someone that might think that’s all it takes, though.
A man who’s known as the Hardcore Artist for a reason, letting his violence be the calling card of his career.
And yet, he’s also the Hall of Famer who just managed to squeak by and join the Board’s squad this year.
Hell of a dichotomy there, Scott.
But the important thing is, you’re in.
And just like last year, you look to be the good hand of the team, making sure to help secure a victory in whatever manner is necessary.
There have been so many jokes about you over the years, but I will say this…you know what the hell you’re doing.
In a business that prides itself on trash talk, and trying to verbally tear your opponents apart before you even step in the ring, it’s easy to lose sight of what your foe is capable of.
That’s a trap I fell into the last time we met, Scott.
I put too much merit into stupid remarks made about you, and I underestimated you.
That’s a mistake I won’t make again going into War Games.
Because much like Stronk Godson, I’m not going to overlook a man as dangerous as Scott Woodson. Not after last time.
If I manage to get my hands on you, you’d better believe I will get my pound of flesh.
But above all else, I have aims of making sure you don’t get very far in War Games.
Because surprise surprise, as much as I’d love to be the survivor, or at least eliminate Stronk and become the new HOTv Champion, my ultimate goal is to actually aid The Boys to victory.
I’m much more of a team player this year, trust me.
That’s the heart of the matter.
We find ourselves in the middle of the ring for a special attraction main event, as Xander Azula teams up once again with his coach Joe Bergman…and this time, they’re facing the Dark Overlords of Wrestling.
It’s late in the match and things seemed to be going well for Azula until suddenly—as Xander had feared—Triple R, Escondido, and O’Reilly climb into the ring and triple-team him from behind! Bergman goes over the top rope to make the save as Davey Keels calls for the bell, declaring this match a win for coach and pupil via disqualification.
Keels is rewarded for his efforts by being tossed from the ring, and the Overlords take advantage of the numbers game as they continue their attack on Bergman and Azula.
That changes when suddenly, the crowd is in an uproar as the calvary appears in the form of Rah and Dawn McGill, the latter armed with a Singapore cane. Rah and McGill race down the ramp at full speed towards the ring.
Jackson Horne, notably the ex-husband of McGill, sees her with the weapon and immediately gets the hell out of Dodge. Rah and McGill enter the ring, and McGill makes a beeline for O’Reilly cracking the cane over his head before Rah sends him flying over the top rope to the floor.
O’Callahan gets involved as well, kicking Escondido square in the balls before Rah sends him over to the outside as well!
Bergman focuses his attention on Triple R, locking the man in his Dragon Sleeper to really put a world of hurt on the Overlord as Azula goes after Justin Sufferable…slamming him right in the skull with the Fist of Eris!
Sufferable is suffering on the canvas, as Sunny O’Callahan poses in front of the Eternal Circle, Rah, McGill, and the duo of Bergman and Azula…who give each other a knowing nod of respect.
A valuable lesson learned.