The familiar long walk of defeat down the corridor of the Best Arena caused my stomach to do somersaults. Drudging down the halls, I made zero eye contact with producers, wrestlers, and staffers alike. My face sagged down low while I wiped the sweat off my face, meandering around aimlessly.
Turning the corner, my ears perk up with the familiar sounds of a certain voice. The hair on my back stood up on end while Joe Bergman gave an analysis of my performance on the HOTv app.
Joe Bergman: It’s like I said earlier tonight. When Darin pulls his head out of his ass; he’s a great talent. He needed to focus all his attention on Simon Sparrow. But his ego once again got in the way. If Zion would leave the 4Z circus behind him; there’s gold in his future. All he’s gotta do is wrestle. I’ve seen it personally when he’s in MVW.
Section 214 comes to life with thunderous ovation. The crowd continue start a loud “JOE BERG-MAN” chant through the stands. With a smirk on his face, Joe Bergman continues.
Joe Bergman: Be a professional wrestler, man. It’s your calling. As everyone knows, my loyalties lie with the Highwaymen. It’s obvious Lee Best has a trick up his sleeve. Whatever that is; you will not destroy our bond Lee Best. It won’t work. You think pairing me up with another dysfunction partner will stop the Highwaymen from ending the Boards reign of tyranny…
The 214 crowd shows their support for the Highwaymen.
Joe Bergman: You won’t stop us. Zion definitely won’t hinder our progress. Like I said earlier tonight, behold a pale horse. The man who sat on him was Death…
Sparks flew everywhere as I chuck one of the cameras in the area towards the television set. Grinding down on my teeth, I glare off into the distance, past all the cast and crew. How dare that bastard mock me. All he did was pay me back handed compliments. Bergman made no effort to step out of his comfort zone to approach me over strategy. I bet that weasel yammered on about his incessant feud with Cecilworth Farthington. Hell, I could venture to guess he shifted the blame to me, calling me a hypocrite for cutting Meredith out of my life.
That vile monster should take the time to look in the mirror and examine the plank in his own damn eye. It’s not like he spent any bit of time getting to know me. He’s just like the others…
As my breathing gets heavy and the tension in my chest flares up, I hear something in the distance. It’s the boots of security officers barreling down the hallways. I bet the Best Family sent the EPU to escort me out of the arena. Grabbing my bag off one of the tables, I scurry towards the parking lot without changing. I didn’t care to get launched out of the arena like garbage.
A few days passed and now I’m sitting in my hotel room in the St. Louis Station Hotel. HOW “graciously” paid for basic necessities, giving me a Deluxe King Bed. It’s got a gorgeous view of the St. Louis skyline. But Your Vi-Zion-Ary of the 4Z Network can’t enjoy the beautiful sunlit view or luxuries the town provides. I’ve got one thing plaguing me in the back of my mind:
Pacing back and forth within my tiny quarters, I’m blithering on repeat like a fool. While you would think no one wants to hear my tirades; there’s one person who continues to lend their supportive ear to Z-Mobile’s cause.
It’s my ex-girlfriend Meredith Easton.
Contrary to the “rumor mill”; Meredith and I’s relationship ended amicably. We recognized we’d grown apart and our interests didn’t match up. We bonded still our brother/sister-like relationship. No matter what happened; I could still call her my surrogate sibling I never had. We’d kept in close contact since our split happened, catching up about the details in our lives. Of course, I still wanted to offer Lexi and her a lot of support.
Flopping down on the couch, I let out an exasperated sigh.
Darin Zion: I didn’t WANT another fuckin’ tag team partner DAMMIT! I’ve spent 75% of my 17-year career holding up deadweight like Bergman on my BACK!
Pausing for a moment, I wait for Meredith to respond. My fists quake every time the Bland One’s smug grin came in my face. After waiting for SOMETHING wise to come out of Meredith’s mouth; I continue my ranting.
Darin Zion: That jackass thinks he can revitalize my career. He acts like HE’S the one that’s gonna save ME! HA! This Missouri Valley hick thinks the Z-Man has never touched tag team gold in his life. He assumes I’m not putting in the work.
I cackle and slap my thighs while I ramble onward about Bergman’s flaws.
Darin Zion: He’s the one who didn’t put work into his own marriage and let it fall apart. Bergman let his own child Libby down. He let his obsession with wrestling the minor league bog his life down. Look what the King of the Indies gained out of it. He said it best himself…he doesn’t play well with others…
Whispering under her breath, Meredith chimes in her gentle tone. I lift my water bottle up to my mouth to take a drink.
Meredith Easton: People change, Darin. You said it yourself when we went our separate ways. We both wanted to chase after different goals. Maybe Bergman complimenting you is the first step in repairing the relationship. He prolly understands you’re skeptical.
I spit out my water from out of my mouth. It launches everywhere, hitting curtains, windows, the floor, everything. A loud cackle expels from my lungs, I almost begin rolling around the couch.
Darin Zion: HA! HA! Funny, Meredith! Funny! We both know he’s given his heart to those scoundrels in the Highwaymen. The Oblvious Bergermeister can’t see through their OBVIOUS attempts to gaslit him. Byrd, Solex, and Harrison abuse the people their closest too. The Blandest Man on the Planet must be the most naïve person in the locker room.
Meredith Easton: That’s a lot of assuming you’re doing there…
Darin Zion: So? He assumed a lot about me along the way too. He doesn’t act like I’m a serious competitor and that pisses me off. It’s left a Texas-Sized chip on my shoulder. The last time I had a chip this size…
Meredith cuts me off using a sarcastic tone.
Meredith Easton: You ran roughshod on the HOW roster, going on a 10-match undefeated streak…and you captured the HOW Tag Team Championships. I’ve heard this story a million times, man.
Rolling my eyes, I toss the water bottle aside and sit up. I gaze out the window, pondering back on my last 3 tag partners. I reflected back to how Noah Hanson leeched onto my relevance to earn himself a Tag Team strap. I fade back to the time where Hollywood exploited a concussion before breaking my jaw. And finally, I wander back to when Xander Azula tricked me into teaming with him to catapult his career.
Balling my fist up, I bite down on my lip while Meredith checks to see I’m hanging on the line. I shake my hands before standing up to open up to her.
Darin Zion: I’m not gonna open up to this bastard. Everyone in that locker room I’ve teamed with used me as a door mat. Bergman’s a former HOW World Champion. I’ll be damned if I let him soil MY name to launch his career toward a third HOW World Title reign. He’s already proven to me he won’t let his grudges die. He took MY glory at pinning Cecilworth Farthington after all the years of abuse. He stole MY spotlight and MY pay check opportunities. He doesn’t value my insight on how this fucked up partnership SHOULD go.
Meredith Easton: Yet here you are doing the…
Darin Zion: NO! It’s NOT THE SAME! I had to protect his pathetic ass from Scottywood stealing the damn pinfall. Bergman could have consulted me to hit a tag move and allow me to lock in the submission. I’ve taken down his boss Mike Best in tag action. I’m more than capable of holding my own in the damn ring. I don’t need someone to put my prey away for me. I’ve won…
Once again, Meredith’s sarcasm shines through while I’m losing my cool.
Meredith Easton: 25 different championships across the world. You’ve conquered the Midwest and the East Coast…more than Bergman has done. We’ve discussed this ad nauseum for the last 30 minutes, Zion.
Darin Zion: Well, I’m not letting him bark orders at me when he’s enabled the Best Family to gain control. He allowed his rag tag John Wayne reject buddies to walk out on Conor’s charge. He let the locker room devolve into chaos while he sat back for his own self-interests. And he gets a Pay-Per-View themed after his own fuckin’ stable.
I can hear Meredith snicker in the background before she chimes back into our conversation.
Meredith Easton: Sounds like you’re jealous of him.
Darin Zion: I’m jealous of NO ONE. They’re jealous of ME and MY SUCCESSES!
Meredith Easton: Keep telling that to yourself, buddy. Anyways, I gotta let you go. Lexi’s out of summer camp the next few days. I hope you can swing by and see her. She’d love that. Before I go, just remember…it’s your chance to gain some leverage. Talk to you later, Zion.
The phone goes silent and I place the phone down on the table next to me. I gaze off into the distance, feeling my heart go cold and calloused. Reaching into my red and black duffel bag, I pull out some clothes. Time to go box off some steam.
Three hours after pounding some random jobbers faces in at the Saint Louis Boxing club, and I feel high on life. My adrenaline washes away my bitter Bergman face. Watching these chumps drop at my feet left and right makes me feel accomplished. It felt great to change up my fighting style like the hybrid competitor I am. It provided a different type of training for the rest of Bergman’s Merry Band of Cowboys. It’s something they’d never expect out of Zion.
In a confident motion, I signal for the next combatant to enter the ring. This scawny, Caucasian ‘kid’ looks to size me up. This 21-year-old kid and I bump fists before standing in front of the referee.
Referee: You both know the deal. I want a good clean fight. No fuckin’ funny business. This goes 3 rounds or until someone keels over in my ring. Ready?
Both us nod at the man.
Referee: Alright! RING THE BELL!!
DING! DING! DING!
A flurry of fists flies at my face from this Caucasian local as I duck and dodge them out of nowhere. He continues his onslaught by firing off a few right jabs. My arms fly up, guarding against his blows. As the kid mounts his next swing, I land an uppercut straight to his jaw. He flops straight towards the ground.
This persistent youngling pulls himself up using the ropes. He proceeds to mock me as I charge straight at him.
I land pound after pound against his rib cage, leaving myself open for an attack. This 21-year-old capitalizes and lands a punch straight into my temple, rocking me. Falling back, I catch myself against the ropes, leaning into them. This cat flogs me with lefts and rights before I slide right underneath him. I smash my fist straight into his kidney. I let out a primal howl before I unleash my next assault.
A whirl of my right hands nails him square against his spine. He clutches to the ropes for dear life. The referee pulls me back while he regains his composure. But before he can go on the attack, I charge at him, crashing my fist into his left cheek three times. Dropping to the ground, this younger gazes up into the lights while the official counts.
DING! DING! DING! DING!
Three minutes passes in quick fashion while both of us head back to our corners. While my manager sprays water into my mouth, I catch a quick glimpse of another HOTV segment from my “wonderful” tag team partner, Joe Bergman. While I watch him make his demands, the final line of his promo echoes through my mind as I make it back towards the center of the ring.
“Leave the circus at home and let’s go wrestle.”
At this point, my face is beat red and my vein protrudes out of my forehead. While the kid and I exchange a respectful fist bump, I waste no time in leveling him with a clothesline. Hammering him with all my might, I knock out his front teeth. Smashing and breaking this kid’s nose sends blood everywhere. Patrons rush the ring and pull me off his unconscious body.
The match official walks up into my face and barks at me.
Referee: Get the fuck out of my ring…NOW!
I fake him out with a right jab to make him flinch. I step out of the ring slowly admiring my masterpiece. I chuckle under my breathe, hobbling back. Muttering underneath my breath, I gawk.
Darin Zion: Come on, Bergman…try that shit in our tag team match. I fuckin’ dare you to order me around in this tag team match. I’ll leave you in a puddle of your own piss and shit like this kid.
I turn around, grab my things, and march out the door leaving this pathetic gym in the dust. It’s time to give Bergman a piece of my damn mind.
You’re onto something here…let’s expose our hands right here, right now. As tag team partners, we shouldn’t hide a damn thing from each other. After all, it’s what all SUCCESSFUL tag teams do. But you wouldn’t know how a successful fuckin’ team works if it meant saving your life. I’ve carried three worthless dipshits to the promised land. Brian Hollywood, Noah Hanson, and Xander Azula all found relevance when they teamed with me. I pulled their worthless careers out of the gutters of obscurity. Two of them walked out with gold around their waists. One found purpose because of me. I got nothing to hide from you. So, I’ll give ya a piece of my mind…
Sincerely from the bottom of my heart…FUCK YOU. I mean it too. I fuckin’ hate your god damn guts! I never once wanted to tag with ANYONE on this damn roster ever again. Let alone someone from the Rooster Cockburn Reject society. Your entire team’s horrific attitudes cost the Locker Room a War Games win. Matter of fact, you fucks caused my best friend to get put on the shelf.
You’re God damn right I’m bitter about that. It’s left me with a giant chip on my shoulder, looking for a fuckin’ fight. I’m looking to take some gold to change trajectory. I’ve seriously busted my ass for the last three years in every championship shot I received. Hell, I’ve shown up even when life circumstances weren’t opportune. I’ve spilled gallons of blood, sweat, and tears getting here to HOW. I’m loyal to this Machine to a fault, especially when no one values my talents.
It’s why I embraced the teachings of Simon Sparrow. I recognized I held locker room opinion more valuable than my own career aspirations and accomplishments. It led me to the bottom of the pack while chasing for ole #97Red. The 4Z Network let his wheels spiral out of control, wondering aimlessly in the lower card getting nowhere. And for those past three years, the bitterness in my soul increases slightly every week.
I compete more on a more frequent basis than all the damn roster. Look up the damn stats. This company uses and abuses Z-Mobile more than any other wrestler here. Because I’m a dependable, hard-working WRESTLER. For the last three years, I did all the right things. I said all the right things. I became the loveable dork in this company, not questioning anything.
But it got me NOTHING.
All I’ve done is look up at the lights, never putting my own needs first. I stopped loving myself and put the LOVE CONVOY on the backburn. I didn’t live up to my 4Z, 1080Z potential. I let people like Hanson, Hollywood, and Azula manipulate me into a blithering buffoon. But I finally opened my eyes and realized that self-adoraZION must come first.
So, excuse my skepticism…pardon me not communicating that memo to your pea-sized brain. I’m tired of playing Dudley Doorite like yourself. I don’t care to show people like Cecilworth or the Board any undue respect. Because I’ve brown nosed too much. I let myself become soft and malleable in that ring.
And it’s time to issue some TOUGH, REAL, RAW self-love.
You don’t get to tell The Proprietor of the Hi-Zi connection how to fuckin’ do his job. You don’t GET to command around like you’re my Sheriff. When the LOVE CONVOY marches down that ring…I don’t need to earn YOUR respect. You’ve gotta earn mine. I don’t care if you’ve conquered the #97Red mountain two more times than me. I don’t care if you’re a decorated Missouri level combatant. I don’t wanna hear you ‘tried your best’ bullshit pep talk crap. Almost means jack shit in that wrestling ring. Prove to me you got my best interests at heart.
And you haven’t done that. Already you’ve made excuses why you took money off 4Z’s table. You hid behind your bitter rivalry with Cecilworth. Over the past few weeks, you hid behind the mask of the Highwaymen, protecting YOUR collective interests first. You proudly proclaimed you’d watch their back first, leaving the Zenith of GenZ high and dry.
Now you want to walk into Missouri telling me you got my back. Bitch please, your words and actions over the past few weeks have spoken volumes. You’d rather protect those who wronged the 4Z Network and his friends than watch out for my back. I didn’t hesitate to protect you from Scottywood when you stole my spotlight. You didn’t look for me to plan ahead. It’s like you’ve already abandoned me in the dust. You’re about as good as Brian Hollywood at that shit.
That’s 4Z’s problem with you CheeseBergman. You fuckin’ lie to Zi-Guy’s face. You act big and strong when you’re softer than a pile of dog shit. You refuse to let love thrive in your life…love for yourself. You refused to reign in your relationship with Laura…only putting her needs first. Now, you look like a foolish lover. Hell, now you look foolish for believing Clay Byrd and Steve Harrison love you back. You put down that guard of yours because you’re looking for a rebound.
Well, The King of NFZ won’t have that shit in this relationship. You will respect my boundaries and give me a safe space. You must pledge to give me your everything in that damn ring. NO FUCKING SELF-DOUBTING. Embrace the teaching of the Love Convoy and the 4Z network. Harden your fucking heart. Because THAT’S what leads to Tag Team Gold. You treating me like I’m beneath you will only lead to my fist smashing in that pretty little face of yours.
I’m not some idiot you gotta babysit like Xander Azula. The Profit of the Zillennials can hold his own and pull his weight in tag action.
You don’t have to worry about the Master of LOVE making mistakes. I know what The Highwaymen can do. I’ve stepped into the ring multiple times with Steve Harrison and Clay Byrd. They’ve knocked my head off one too many times. I also know their weaknesses too. One’s got the personality bland as milk. The other will copy and paste his tired old promo about persistence like Dan Ryan. Their egos stand in their way from them realizing their potential. They eventually suffocate themselves with their own egos and let it blind them. It’ll inevitably happen when they step into the ring with us.
Their reign with the Tag Straps will come short. Their choke artists when it counts. Clay couldn’t win a World title to save his life. And Harrison…well at least he tried like his boss. They expect me to act like a pushover and play by the rules.
But unlike you Bergermeister…I won’t. I won’t dither when presented with the chance to make my own opportunities. Byrd and Steve don’t play by the rules, and neither will I. It won’t pain me to plaster their smug ass faces with their own tag team belts. It’ll bring me joy when I shove my arm into their groin regions. Hell, I might expose that turnbuckle and give Clayton a face makeover. His scruffy ass mug repels all the ladies as it is. I’ll give him a much-needed upgrade. I have no attachment whatsoever to these peons and their pathetic lives.
This is MY SPOTLIGHT and MY TIME to shine as the leader. My chance to prove my own worth to the damn world I deserve championship gold…with or without a worthless partner like yourself. If you wanna hang with me…you’re gonna have to toughen up. Lay waste to your own partners in the middle of that ring and shed your good guy image. Grow the pair of balls Laura wanted you to grow. FEEL SOMETHING…don’t relive your past glories. EMBRACE AN EXCITING, NEW WAY OF LOVE…BergTurd.
Because you’re not stepping into the ring with someone Ordinary like yourself. I’m EXTRAORDIARY! I’m flashy…I’m CHARISMATIC. I fill all your huge flaws and gaps, IceBerg. It’s high time someone gets you back on track. Stiffen up that soft heart. MAKE SOMETHING out of your career and stab your partners in the damn back. Do something shady and let the MACHINE corrupt you.
Because I have done it. I found love in it all. And now I’ve got the biggest chip on my shoulder. I’m gonna smash that Snake Oil Salesmen know as the Miracle. He’ll become the Miracle Whipping Boy. I will conquer the man who defeated God’s Son. I’ll take my rightful throne of the Tag Team Division all on my own if I must. After all, I’m the king of 3-on-1 action…
Here’s your only warning! Step outta my way King of Bland Style…Vanilla Joe Bergman. The Love Convoy’s crashing through the Enterprise Arena rather you like it or not. You can hop aboard if you wanna. Or I can run you over like Budget Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Put on that Halitosis mask and make good of your shitty bad breath mist. Find some personality and meaning…outside of that one good Mizzou RASSLER guy. This ain’t MVW. If you and me win those belts…we will go farther WITHOUT some lame freebird rule to hide behind. Our Love Express will stream roll every tag team on this fuckin’ roster.
You’ll get all the money, blow, and hookers you want, dude. Ditching those Cosplay Cowboys will do wonders for your career. You’ll upgrade from the shitty Missouri Valley cons to the real McCoy. SDCZ won’t have a single doubt of calling you back.
But if you try any funny business…you’ll go down with them. I’ll leave you dead in the streets like John Dillinger…still taking your teams precious belts. The Former LSD Champion Budget Bruce Willis won’t stop me. The current HOTv Champion Cosplay bleach-blonde Jeff Bridges won’t do it. YOU WON’T DO IT EITHER, BERGMEISTER.
The Love Convoy’s due some gold around his waist. I’m about to betroth my 4th Tag Team reign. It’ll be viewable in 1080z on the 4Z network. I’m coming to this match ready for a shootout, drag out fight. I’m comin’ to hit hard and if I don’t walk out of St. Louis…I promise you it’s not gonna be Zion who gets the blame.
I’m willing to show you THE GOLD AND LOVE. But you better acknowledge my boundaries, fool. Treat me like YOUR EQUAL. And the world is yours.
Your choice Bergman. We can wrestle and complement each other in that ring. Or you can lust after your grizzled old traitors and fail. Ditch the rodeo clowns and usher in the era of love. I’m giving you the fight of my life. It’s all the love I can give when I hate your guts. And I can promise you…I won’t lose to these clowns you call friends.
But you can’t have this shit both ways. I’ll do anything for love and GOLD….but I won’t do that. I won’t dawn a stupid cowboy hat and embrace outlaw culture. I’m not gonna ride a horse down a dirt fuckin’ road like a loser. And I sure as hell AIN’T blarin’ that twangy reverse porn country music to please your ass. That shits for the crybabies you like so much.
I promise you Bergman…Chaos 003 will be GOLDEN! I’m gonna fight like hell. STEP ON THE LOVE CONVOY WITH ME. Now shut up, embrace the love and LET’S FUUUUUUUUCKIN’ GOOOOO! WE’RE GONNA BE THE CHAMPIONS!