Outside the Best Arena
December 18th, 2022
HOW’s intrepid backstage reporter Blaire Moise burst out one of the back exits of the Best Arena into the cold Chicago night. She scanned the talent parking area in front of her in search of someone.
She locates her quarry…
“There he is.”
…and proceeds to run at a slow jog toward him.
Duffel bag in his right hand and his other arm around his significant other aka… Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Women’s Champion Victoria McGill, Joe Bergman walks towards his car on this cold Chicago evening. He cocks his ear thinking he’s heard something or someone but doesn’t stop to investigate.
This time, his head tilts slightly when he hears Blaire call out to him. He stops in the middle of the lot and allows her to catch up.
She reaches out to him with her hand and pats his arm.
She gets her first look at Joe post-ICONIC. To her, he looks a little bit beaten and dinged up. Much to her surprise though, he doesn’t appear to be overly upset about what happened earlier in the night- the operative word there being “appear.”
Taking a deep breath, Joe replies to her, “Blaire.”
“Joe, do you want to comment on what happened tonight?” she asks. Blaire notices Tori McGill makes a sour face at the question. Blaire senses her annoyance at her intrusion.
“Sure.” On the other hand, Joe’s fine with it.
“Joe, I know you have to be disappointed after what happened tonight,” Blaire begins.
Bergman’s answer is surprisingly nonchalant. “Actually Blaire, I thought I did pretty well considering.”
“But you lost both matches,” Blaire continues. “How can you not be disappointed?”
“He did pretty well considering it was basically one against five in both matches,” Victoria interjects heatedly in a near petulant tone.
“Blaire, because I did the best I could,” he answers in a calm voice.
Blaire’s not buying it.
“You’re not even a little upset, Joe?”
Tori opens her mouth to further give Blaire a piece of her mind… but Joe shrugs and answers first.
“Why should I be upset?” he says, much to Victoria’s shock. “For starters, I’m not going to give Lee Best or anyone else in the Alliance that satisfaction. Two, tonight I pulled out all the stops. I hit Jace with a fireball. I slapped the Dragon Sleeper on someone. I gave it everything I had knowing full well I had an uphill battle to begin with because the deck was heavily stacked against me. No… I’m not upset in the least because it is what it is. I knew it was probably going to happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone knew it was going to happen. I hoped that it wouldn’t and I would leave with both titles but…”
He shrugs again while Tori stews in the background.
“…it wasn’t meant to be. No regrets. I did what I could. Life moves forward and so does Joe Bergman.”
Blaire continued to ask her questions… first about the state of the Highwaymen coming out of ICONIC which was a pretty easy one to answer. Let’s see. Steve Harrison lost. I lost in the LSD and HOTv Tag Team Title matches. Steve Solex went Steve Solex and turned on us. And Clay Byrd lost to Christopher America.
So after that disaster of an evening, there really was only one response to give to Blaire.
“Nah, I’m pretty sure the Highwaymen are done after tonight,” Joe tells her.
Joe begins to start towards his rental car again with Victoria in tow but Blaire’s not quite done yet.
“Well, one other thing that came from tonight is it looks like you and Jatt Starr will be on a collision course in 2023.”
Bergman stops and chuckles. He again turns back towards Blaire. “No. No, we’re not.”
This catches Moise totally by surprise. “But-“
“Blaire, as you may or may not know, my short-term deal with HOW expires tonight,” Joe explains further. “That means right now there is no collision course with Simon Sparrow in 2023 because as of right now there is no Joe Bergman in HOW in 2023.”
“Wait.” Blaire senses she could be breaking news. “Does this mean you are leaving HOW?”
Joe chuckles again.
Tori- not so amused. She’s becoming impatient with the persistent questioning from Blaire and just wants to go home.
“Oh no… not necessarily,” Joe replies. “It means Joe Bergman is keeping his options open.”
I had given Lee fair warning a few weeks before about the upcoming ending of our short-term deal. I told him point blank that I would be just as happy staying home and working at Bergman’s Barn then putting up with his bullshit. I mean, if Lee wanted to talk- I would listen even though the only reason Lee would want to keep me around was so I would be cannon fodder for the latest version of his circle-jerking, masturbatory super-alliance of super-assholes. I figured if I was going to get my head kicked in every week by his new alliance of super bad guys, then Lee was going to need to pay me a little more money.
Actually… he was going to have to pay me a lot more money.
Tori was getting riled up big time by that point and I just wanted to head back to St. Louis so I ended the interview by declaring to Blaire that Joe Bergman was a free agent.
The look on her face was priceless.
Joe Bergman- free agent.
A free agent as in free to talk business with any wrestling company.
How would that go?
It lasted just under twenty-four hours.
You see, Lee continued to be butt-hurt over the whole Adam Ellis affair. He’d declared Missouri Valley Wrestling the ‘Evil Empire’- because small, regional minor league companies much smaller than HOW deserves the moniker of the ‘Evil Empire.’
I’m sorry, can you hear me rolling my eyes?
Since Lee was still SALTY over Ellis signing with PRIME, he knew that Lindsay Troy would love to see Joe Bergman competing inside a PRIME ring… or maybe Jon Page could tempt me to check out the Sanctioned Violence Organization … or Josh Johnson over at SHOOT. Hell, I was so fed up with Lee Best that I would consider going to MVW or even to Charlie Blackwell’s new promotion based out of Dallas, Texas called Texas Championship Wrestling.
And because of that- Lee offers me a deal for $970,000 not twenty-four hours after my interview with Blaire.
Duh… that’s a no-brainer.
Because I’m not stupid.
I wasn’t going to give Lee and his alliance of overpaid douchebag mercenaries any sniff of satisfaction that they ran me out of HOW.
That wasn’t happening.
However… if I could… ‘induce’… or in sophisticated corporate jargon- “leverage” …Lee’s irrational anger over the Adam Ellis PRIME signing and his even more irrational rage with MVW into a bigger paycheck?
You’ve got it. Best of both worlds.
Apparently, Joe Bergman IS smarter than your average bear.
So what does the future bring for Joe Bergman in HOW? That’s a good question. Lee’s booked me in a five-man tournament to determine Christopher America’s next challenger for the HOW World Title along with Clay Byrd, Jatt… er Simon Sparrow, Conor Fuse, and Steve Harrison. Post-ICONIC, The Highwaymen may be a dead issue but there’s a 60% chance that one of us (Bergman, Byrd, or Harrison) will win this mini-tournament and face America for the title at March to Glory.
Harrison gets Sparrow in his first-round match with the winner facing Clay Byrd next.
Who do I get? Conor Fuse. The winner faces the survivor of Harrison, Sparrow, and Byrd for the title shot at March to Glory.
Well now. The road doesn’t get any harder, does it?
I mean. like me, Conor Fuse is a two-time world champion. He’s been involved in some very heavy-duty matches here in HOW over the past couple of years- the match he had with Mike Best at Rumble at the Rock springs to mind.
Conor Fuse is a legit superstar.
Conor Fuse is a HOW Hall of Famer in training and that means I am in for a tough, tough match. He’ll be jacked up to earn a chance to become the first THREE-time World Champion in the Refueled/Chaos era. I know that because I am too. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three and a half years since I had my second run as the World Champion. After everything that’s happened over the past few months, nothing would stick in Lee Best’s craw more than Joe Bergman winning this mini-tournament, avenging the non-loss to Christopher America at March to Glory, and becoming the new HOW World Champion.
But it all starts now…
January 13th, 2023
Contrary to the ‘official line’ Joe had given Blaire Moise after ICONIC, Joe Bergman was pissed off about what happened at ICONIC as his sour disposition over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday made it clear to everyone around him.
He was mad about failing to win either the LSD or the HOTv Tag Team title matches at ICONIC.
He was mad about trusting Steve Solex and letting himself get talked into doing business with him again after what happened in 2020.
He was mad about Steve Solex’s half-assed attempt to make the save during the tag match and then turning on Joe in the end.
Most of all, he was mad that all the work… the effort… everything he’d done to push back against the board… the alliance… or whatever Lee Best was calling his faction these days and get into position to win the tag titles only to have Solex lose it for the Highwaymen in the end.
But instead of moping around the house simmering in his anger, Joe purchased a plane ticket to Toronto to watch the Defiance Wrestling DEFtv 181 show. Victoria McGill and Dawn McGill left for Los Angeles and the PWA 1 super show in Anaheim, California. Joe hadn’t planned on going to the PWA show anyways and thought it would be a good idea to trek across the border and get away for the weekend to go watch Fuse wrestle Clay Byrd.
After ICONIC, Joe cut off contact with both Clay and Steve Harrison. But the prospect of watching Fuse take on Byrd- and the fact that Joe could end up meeting Clay in the finals of the mini-tournament to determine Christopher America’s (or whomever the HOW World Champion was) opponent for March to Glory.
Going to Toronto accomplished two things: One, it got Joe out of the house and doing something productive. Two, in Toronto he could do some advance scouting for his upcoming match with Conor Fuse… and Clay Byrd too for that matter.
So now, sitting in one of the cheap seats way up at the top of the Scotiabank Arena – a 20,000-person facility that also serves as the home of Toronto’s Raptors (NBA) and the Maple Leafs (NHL) – Joe waits for the main event to begin.
“This is the MAIN EVENT of the night!” Defiance’s ring announcer Darren Quimby bellows into the microphone, revving up the Defiance faithful and snapping Bergman to attention. Clay Byrd’s entrance music- Nick Nolan’s ‘Gunning for You’- starts up over the loudspeaker and the unmistakable figure steps through the fog on the entrance ramp, dressed in his trademark long, black duster and carrying a rope in one hand.
Following Byrd’s long, slow walk down the ramp towards ringside, “King DeDeDe Remix Theme” from Kirby’s Dream Land comes on and the Toronto crowd explodes for their hometown hero.
“And his opponent from TORONTO… ONTARIO… CANADA!” Quimby shouts over the roar. “Weighing two hundred pounds… THE ULTIMATE GAMER… CONOR FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSE!”
Joe’s eyes widen. Fuse doesn’t wait for the bell and goes right after Byrd.
Ho-kay. I did NOT expect that Joe thought to himself.
The crowd shouts ‘RANK’ with every blow Conor delivers to Byrd’s face. Joe glances at the ramp where two people watch what’s happening very closely. He knows Byrd’s a member of the super-faction Vae Victis in Defiance- put together by Lindsay Troy along with Henry Keyes, Sonny Silver, Butcher Victorious, and Oscar Burns. Joe notices Silver and Butcher lurking on the ramp.
He shakes his head as Fuse filets Clay’s chest with a series of chops.
Damn. Conor’s totally manhandling Clay Byrd right now.
Conor then makes a mistake and tries a splash. Byrd catches him in mid-air and turns it into a Spinebuster slam.
Owww. Mental note. If I ever face Clay Byrd, do not try the splash. Only bad things can happen.
Byrd dominates the next few minutes before Fuse rises again…
…and nails Byrd flush with three consecutive superkicks.
That was impressive. Conor took a hell of a beating from Clay for several minutes and still managed to turn the tables back in his favor.
Fuse ‘weapon gets’ Henry Keyes’ Bell clap, LT’s Queen’s Gambit, and nearly gets decapitated by Clay Byrd’s big boot to the head that flips Conor twice in the air before crash landing on the mat.
Conor went to the well one too many times there. We’ll see if he can handle the thunder that Clay’s about to bring- WHOA!
Byrd tries again to separate Fuse’s head from his body, unleashing a vicious Texas Lariat that Conor somehow ducks under.
That was close. Good thing Conor had the presence of mind to duck that in time or it would have been game over.
Fuse goes on the offensive again. He starts with a variation of a DDT… a drop toehold to send Byrd to the mat… and then an Anaconda Vise submission hold he calls the DPS… Damage Per Second.
Another mental note to myself. That’s a new one. I don’t think we’ve seen that in HOW yet.
Bergman remains transfixed on the match as the action ramps up even more. Byrd tries for another Texas Lariat. Fuse jumps over Clay’s arm… spins him around… and hits a superkick that drops Byrd to the mat. With the crowd on their feet and filling the Scotiabank Arena with a sonic wall of sound, Fuse powers up. Then Keyes hits the ring. Fuse’s new allies in Defiance- Pat Cassidy and Brock Newbludd spring out of the back and race down to stop him. In the confusion, Byrd uses a lead pipe on Fuse and seemingly has the match won. But Conor miraculously kicks out right before three.
Wow. He took a Clay Byrd lead pipe to the skull and STILL kicked out. Damn. I think I mentioned earlier that Conor Fuse is much tougher than people give him credit for. He’s a hell of a wrestler and it’s clear in the way Conor took Clay Byrd’s best shots… his heaviest blows… from one of the toughest SOB’s you’ll ever encounter in the ring and STILL managed to find a way to win.
That doesn’t bode well for Joe Bergman, does it? Conor Fuse overcomes the odds and beats Clay Byrd. CLAY FREAKIN’ BYRD. How does Joe Bergman beat him? How can Joe Bergman beat him? In what universe can Joe Bergman beat him?
Conor is top-shelf… upper echelon… at the top of his game.
I have heart and I’ve made the most of my limited abilities. But the reality is, Conor is grade-A star quality. Joe Bergman?
I’m just ordinary.
January 14th, 2023
Following a rather flat morning workout at the barn earlier in the day, Joe met up with his ex-wife Laura at lunch to pick up and bring their daughter Libby back to his house. He spent the rest of the day playing daddy and put his pro wrestling frustrations on the back burner for the afternoon.
After Libby went to bed for the night, Joe propped his feet up on the coffee table, leaned back on the couch, popped the top of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and settled in to watch the PWA-TV supershow.
Joe wanted to see how Victoria McGill would fare in her first big-time test against competition from a bigger company. In the end, Tori acquitted herself well. She gave PRIME’s Anna Daniels a real stern test and had a couple of very near falls against her. But Tori ran out of gas late in the match and Daniels took control to earn the pinfall win.
Watching the match took Joe’s mind away from the upcoming Conor Fuse match… a most welcome thing… and re-focused him on what Tori’s reaction would be after losing her first match in seven months. On the PRIME Jabber, Tori wrote a gracious note to Anna congratulating her on the win and thanking her for the opportunity. But like Joe, deep down inside Tori probably had the same visceral reaction to losing that he did last month in Chicago. Tori had gotten used to winning. She’d worked hard to smooth out the rough parts of her wrestling repertoire and learn how to apply herself 100% every time she set foot into the ring. He knew he’d probably have to be ready for her to vent her frustrations with him over the loss.
With that spinning around in the back of his mind, Joe went to the refrigerator to grab a second PBR and returned to the couch to watch Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Alabama Gang challenge Jace Parker Davidson and Scott Stevens for the HOTv Tag Team title. The Alabama Gang was R.G. Jenkins and Mark Hendry. Jenkins was a journeyman who spend most of his career at Appalachian Mountain Championship Wrestling. Hendry came through Bergman’s Barn. Could the Alabama Gang do what he was not able to do? Deep down, he felt Jenkins and Hendry would be overmatched going up against the quality that JPD and Stevens brought to the ring. He didn’t give them much of a chance.
And then Sunny O’Callahan got under Scott Stevens’s skin.
Joe watches in amazement as things quickly unravel for JPD and Stevens. Sunny’s distraction turns the match on its head. She gets the crowd into the match. JPD comes in. Jenkins nearly pins Jace with the most devastating move in all of pro wrestling- the surprise roll-up. Hendry comes in and shakes off the early rookie nerves to take JPD down with a reverse belly-to-belly suplex. Then he runs over and knocks Stevens off the ring apron with a right-hand shot.
“Holy shit,” Joe finally says, the words tumbling from his mouth as he watches what’s beginning to unfold.
Sunny sprays Stevens with Southern Comfort. Stevens chases after her. Hendry hits a Senton Splash to JPD and covers- Jace kicks out very late in the count. Stevens gets back to his corner… Jace goes over to tag out but finds him arguing with Sunny again so JPD boots him off the apron.
“Oh my god,” Joe exclaims.
He’s not the only one who senses what’s happening.
“They’re imploding right before our very eyes!” PRIME color guy Richard Parker says on the PWA broadcast.
His broadcast partner on the evening- HOW play-by-play man Joe Hoffman- concurs. “Stevens has been focused on Sunny O’Callahan for a good majority of this match and has been of no help to Davidson. I think Jace has decided to just go this alone since he can’t rely on Stevens!”
Jace then decides to V-Trigger everyone. Jenkins gets sent off the apron and Hendry finds himself in la-la land trying to get back to his feet in the ropes. A Canadian Destroyer to Hendry leaves him down and out. Jace covers… Referee Joel Hortega counts…
“NOOOOO!” Joe Hoffman’s voice exclaims on the broadcast. “SUNNY O’CALLAHAN PULLS HORTEGA OUT OF THE RING BEFORE THE THREE!!!”
“Wow,” Joe says. He sees danger coming though. “LOOK OUT-“
STRONKETTE wipes out Sunny on the floor but the damage was done. It goes downhill from there for Jace and Stevens. Stevens would tag himself back in late in the match. Hendry and Jenkins hit a double-team Alabama Slam on him and Hendry makes the cover.
Jace starts to come in.
Then he changes his mind and walks away.
Joe’s jaw drops. “No fucking way.”
Jenkins and Hendry did it. They went out there and did it. Yes, Sunny played her part- a HUGE part- by driving Scott Stevens to distraction at ringside but dammit… Jenkins and Hendry did it- before a big audience.
R.G. and Mark didn’t care who their opponents were and how much better they were supposed to be.
They didn’t care that they weren’t supposed to win much less be remotely competitive in the match.
They didn’t care that there were a few people who didn’t think they even belonged in the match in the first place.
It still came down to one thing.
The bell rings.
And sometimes, the results don’t come out the way they’re ‘supposed to be.’
So thank you R.G. and Mark… and congratulations.
Thank you for reminding me there’s a reason why matches are decided in the ring and not on paper.
Thank you for bringing me out of my funk and reminding me who I am.
I may not have the talent that Conor Fuse has. But like Conor, I have heart. I have determination. And Sunday night at Chaos 19… it will be Conor Fuse v. Joe Bergman and the winner will be one match away from a title shot at March to Glory.
Win or loss, no matter what… I promise you this.
Conor Fuse will get the best effort from Joe Bergman.
Conor Fuse will find out just how much determination Joe Bergman has.
Conor Fuse will know just how much heart Joe Bergman has.
And with the fans and Section 214 behind me, we may even find a way to win this match.
See you Sunday Conor and good luck.