I envision it all now. Arena Mexico. Mexico City, Mexico. Standing alone in the center of the ring with the spotlight shining brightly on me.
My name is Joe Bergman and this is my final ever wrestling match. When ‘Freebird’ comes on and Sunny O’Callahan leads me down to the ring while taking intermittent drinks from her bottle of Southern Comfort, I’m going to get to look out into the crowd from a wrestler’s perspective for the final time in my career. Part of me will find it hard to comprehend that my incredible wrestling journey has finally come to an end. Seventeen-year career. Two-time High Octane Wrestling world champion. Two 2-time HOW Tag Team Champion. 2-time HOTv Tag Team Champion. HOTv Champion. Plus two runs with the Missouri Valley Wrestling Tag Team Title with Rah. Belts I held with pride and belts I tried to bring honor to. The PWA 2 show is going to be the night Joe Bergman bows out gracefully from being an active wrestler and passes the torch on.
After I returned to the States after War Games and Ray McAvay made the announcement that my wife Laura and I had purchased a twenty-five percent stake in MVW, I had a couple of days of downtime and pondered over how to approach this last match with Sage Pontiff. I’ll admit that there is an allure, a part of me who thinks it would be okay to just go out there and play all the hits, put Sage over at the end, and let him have his moment at the show.
On the other hand, there’s another part of me that wants to show one more time just what Joe Bergman was all about. The Joe Bergman who week-in and week-out you could count on having a good match with. The Joe Bergman who loved to walk down to the ring week-in and week-out and do everything in his power to put on a good show for the fans. The Joe Bergman who’d show up and wrestle for the fans… the men and women… boys and girls… who came to the show… who rooted for me- and sometimes against me… the ones who ultimately matter because without them, there is no High Octane Wrestling… there is no PRIME… there is no Missouri Valley Wrestling… there is no… wrestling.
You know what, Sage? I could take the easy way out but that would go against everything I stood for and continue to stand for. No. I refuse to walk away with anything less than a bang and if I have anything to say about it, my final match should be entertaining as hell… it should bring the house down… it should be a fitting testament of my love for pro wrestling. One last time. Joe Bergman will go to the well, dig deep, and come out to wrestle the match of the night. Most people think being a pro wrestler is all about strength and brawn- but it’s also about using your mind… outsmarting your opponent… waiting for your opponent to make the crucial mistake that costs him the match… just like I recently did at War Games when I switched off for just a split second and Charles de Lacy rolled me up to end my HOW career.
And Charles… congratulations. You had one hell of a War Games match for your first one and I hope you have a successful HOW career.
So here’s how it’s going to go Sage. The night of the show, after wrapping up my promo with some heartfelt sentiments for my fans, thanking them for making this an amazing ride; then it’s going to be on for one last time. A referee joins us in the ring. You, Sage Pontiff, climb into the ring ready for action. As we exchange moves, exchange blows, throughout the match ever together… I’ll be acutely aware of each second ticking away… I’ll be acutely aware of and understand what made wrestling so special to me… the electricity… the rush… the passion… and ultimately… the victory. The match continues. Sage Pontiff, I hope you’ll give me everything you have… I hope you try like hell tried repeatedly to pin me down… I hope you give me a fight that’s so good that the people in the crowd will be saying to themselves ‘that was a great match and a great way to go out.’ I promise you this much, there will be no regrets at the end. I will leave everything I’ve got in the ring because when the bell sounds for the final time, I know it will be the end of an era. At the end of the match, the moment might be over, but I know what an amazing ride it’s been!
So Sage, the balls in your court now. I’ve told you what my intentions are for my final match. Will you step up and play your part? Can you prove to the folks in Mexico City… the wrestlers in PRIME… to the wrestling world that you belong on the big stage? Can you do it on the big stage? Trust me, the PWA 2 show in Mexico City will be a VERY… BIG… STAGE.
I’ve been there Sage. I’ve main evented big shows. I’ve wrestled in some extremely high stake matches over the past few years. Are you up for the challenge? Can you thrive in the same high stake, high-pressure, bright-light atmosphere as I have? This is your big chance. Your opportunity to show the world just what Sage Pontiff is all about. It’s a big stage, Sage. Will you welcome the challenge? Will you shine at what will be your biggest moment in your pro wrestling career?
Or will you wilt under the bright lights?
Sage, I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve experienced the ups and downs, the wins and losses, the blood and sweat… the hard work that goes into being a professional wrestler. And at the PWA 2 show, the curtains come down for the final time for Joe Bergman and it all comes to an end.
To the fans, the ones who have supported me throughout the seventeen-year journey that took me through the backwoods of America wrestling in high school gym, bars, and any place where a ring could be set up to competing in Political Championship Wrestling as a teenager to wrestling in the American Heartland at MVW and eventually battling some of the best wrestlers in the industry inside the big arenas in HOW, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being there for me when I needed it the most. Thank you for cheering me on when I was down. And thank you for making this journey worth it. I may not know how my final match will end at the PWA show. But one thing I do know is that I will give it my all. For you, the fans. For my opponent. And for myself.
So here’s what I’m going to do. When the bell sounds and the match starts, I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to leave everything in the ring and whether I win or lose, I want you all to know that I went out their for my final match and gave it my best shot.
So come on Sage. I want you to step up. I want you to dig deep. I want you to rise to the occasion. I want you to shine… to have your moment. I want you to wrestle like you’ve never wrestled before because that’s the effort it’s going to take for you to win on June 11th.
Sage, here’s what I propose. Let’s make my final match something to remember.
Wednesday May 31st– The Bergman’s Home- Plattin, Missouri
The moving van idles parked in the driveway backed up to the front steps leading up to the front door of the house. A moving crew unloads Laura’s belongings from the van and takes them back into the house. Joe and Laura remarried on May 4th, but it took a couple of weeks to sort out the details of disposing of Laura’s apartment in St. Louis. Fortunately, Laura found a former co-worker who needed a space to live and she took over the lease.
After High Octane Wrestling’s March to Glory show in Manchester, England went down in early March, Joe originally planned to return home a couple of days after the event. But fate would have a different plan in mind. He heard a knock on his hotel room and when he opened the door, his ex-wife Laura stood there. Laura revealed the reason for her surprising visit overseas- she blamed herself and her desire to climb up the ladder in the corporate world for their break up. Joe invited her inside and after staying up all night talking, Joe changed his plans and extended his stay in England to spend time with her under the guise of remaining in the UK after March to Glory with the express purpose of pissing off Lee Best.
Outside watching the hustle and bustle of activity are Laura Bergman and the Bergman’s two-year-old daughter Olivia. Laura’s a little anxious watching the workers move her belongings down the ramp from the van, up the steps to the porch, and through the front door of the house.
“Be careful with that vase,” she calls out to one of the movers.
Laura couldn’t tell if the mover heard her or if he simply ignored her as he disappeared into the house.
“It’s been in my family for generations.”
Coming up from behind, Joe snickers and puts his hands on her shoulders. “You sure you want to move back in here?”
Laura appreciates Joe’s attempt at brevity in what’s been a long day of merging two households back into one once again.
“I’m sure,’ she responds with a smile. Laura looks around the acre of property… the barn… the house… the garage… and breathes in the fresh country air. “This is where I belong.”
Olivia runs around the grassy areas of the property like a two-year-old would. Even so, she’s aware – as aware as a two-year-old can be – of the fact that her mother and father are living together again and that makes her very happy.
“This is going to be the best day ever!” Olivia cries out in her high-pitched childish tone. Then she skips around a tree as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
Several cars are parked just outside Bergman’s Barn and the sound of wrestling-like activity leaks out into the open air from inside. Dawn McGill’s inside the barn cracking the whip on a group of fresh new rookies and putting them through their paces.
After the last piece of furniture is offloaded and taken into the house and the movers and moving van exit the property to head back to St. Louis, Laura walks around the house and stares at all the boxes, wondering how she’s going to find space for everything.
“We might need to have a garage sale,” Joe cracks, watching Laura and knowing the gears are moving in her head trying to map out where her things would go inside the house.
“Yeah…,” she responds, imagining in her mind how the interior of the house would look after everything has been put in place. “We might need to do that.”
That all being said, Laura is genuinely happy to be back home.
As the weeks went by, Joe continued to delay his return to the United States… and to HOW… and continued to stay in the UK. The time spent together brought the couple closer together and erased the nagging bitterness that crept in with every conversation they’d had following their divorce. In a different place and atmosphere away from home and able to concentrate on reconnecting and rekindling what they once had, Joe and Laura both made big decisions. It was in Wales where Joe had his own epiphany about why their marriage broke down. Laura was not in favor of Joe returning to the ring following a major heart scare he had in 2020. He realized that he chose wrestling over his wife when he returned to HOW in 2022. Now, thousands of miles away from home, Joe finally made his peace with once and for all putting up the wrestling boots for the final time and retiring from the ring. He would choose his wife over pro wrestling, right the wrong, and put things back the way they should be.
“So, what do you want to do now?” Joe asks. He checks his watch. Five-fifteen in the afternoon. “There’s plenty of light to work on the house… or we could do something else.”
The new line of questioning diverted Laura’s attention from solving the Rubik’s Cube of incorporating the stuff she’s accumulated over a two-year span back with Joe’s belongings at the house.
“I don’t know, what do you suggest?”
Joe’s eyes light up as he gets an idea. “I’ll fire up the grill and we can have a cookout!”
Not the plan Laura imagined… but she smiles. “That sounds perfect.”
Several minutes later, Joe sets up the grill… Olivia brings out plates and utensils from the kitchen while Laura sets up chairs and tables in the backyard. Once that task is complete, Laura goes back inside and makes hamburger patties. She places each patty on a platter covered with aluminum foil. Laura also raids the refrigerator for a pack of hot dogs and places all eight on the platter.
Laura opens up the kitchen window facing the backyard. “Joe, you about ready for these?”
Joe looks back up at her. “Yeah. Think we’re ready.”
Soon, the grill is sizzling as Joe cooks up burgers and hot dogs while Olivia plays with her dolls. Laura brings out a pitcher of lemonade and glasses for everyone. She swats away a couple of inquiring flies buzzing around and sets the picnic table with paper plates and plastic utensils along with the usual condiments- ketchup, mustard, American cheese, mayonnaise, pickles, tomato, and lettuce.
The food is soon finished and Joe brings the platter of goodness over to the table. He sets it down in the center. Laura begins to put the burgers together. Joe likes everything on his. Laura just likes cheese, lettuce, tomato with mayo. Olivia just likes a plain cheeseburger.
Following the meal, Laura cleans Olivia’s face with a paper towel.
“Olivia,” Laura says in her best motherly voice. “Your father and I have something we need to tell you.”
Olivia’s face lights up. What could it be? A trip to Six Flags outside of St. Lousi? She loved going there last year with Joe and Laura (they’d made peace for the day and spent the afternoon with her there).
“Six Flags?” she bursts out enthusiastically. “YAY!”
“Welllll,” Laura says. “We can do that later on in the summer.”
“Ice cream run?” Olivia lets out a loud squeal. “ICE CREAM RUN!”
“After we clean up here,” Joe tells Olivia, trying to calm his young girl down. “We could drive to Crystal City and go to D’s Frozen Treats for some ice cream.”
Laura puts an arm around her child. “Olivia…”
Joe and Laura find themselves in Wrexham, Wales standing along the street with tens of thousands of Wrexham fans watching an open-top parade celebrating Wrexham’s football club winning the National League and returning to the English Football League for the first time in fifteen years. Three buses emerge from a cloud of red and white smoke, creeping along at less than two miles an hour by the multitude of people crowding the street until it passes by and finally disappear down the street, Laura looks over and catches Joe staring at her. She smiles and Joe nervously smiles back. Laura tells Joe she needs to tell him something. She moves in and whispers something in Joe’s ear and his jaw drops.
“Wait… you’re pregnant?”
“Olivia, you’re going to be a big sister!” Laura says, beaming and possibly holding back a few tears.
It takes a few seconds for the two-year-old to register what her mother has just dropped on her. Then Olivia looks up at her parents with wide eyes.
“Yes,” Joe says. “You’re going to have a baby brother or sister.”
Olivia giggles and claps her hands.
Laura leans in and gives her a hug.
“We’re so excited,” she tells Olivia. “And we know you’ll be the best big sister ever.”
Olivia’s face lights up with excitement. “Yay!” she says, clapping her hands. “Baby! Baby!” Then Olivia’s face changes… a little more serious.
“Olivia?” Laura asks.
“We’re gonna need more toys,” Olivia informs them causing Joe and Laura to both laugh.
“How about this…,” Joe steps in. “Let’s go to the store and we can look for toys. Then… we’ll stop at the ice cream shop on the way back home.”
The two-year-old nods vigorously. “Yes, yes! Toy store!”
Laura chuckles. Joe cracks a smile.
“Well, I guess we better get ready to go then,” Joe announces. “Let’s get the table cleaned up and put the food away so we can go.”
Sunday June 4th, 2023- Bergman’s Barn
Inside Joe’s barn, a black and #97 red High Octane Wrestling banner hangs up prominently on the far wall with a plain white and black Missouri Valley Wrestling banner situated on the other side. There are various photos from Joe’s seventeen-year wrestling career spanning from the early days at PCW (as Halitosis) to his two-year run at MVW (as Halitosis) and his HOW career (Halitosis/Joe Bergman) adorning the white walls of the barn.
There are also several framed photos along the wall.
Referee Matt Boettcher handing Halitosis the HOW World Title belt after defeating Brian Hollywood.
Halitosis taking the microphone from former HOW ring announcer Zack Taylor the night he defeated John Sektor to win the HOW World Title belt for a second time.
Halitosis and Rah presented with the title belts after winning the MVW Tag Team Title in 2017 with Dawn McGill as their manager.
Halitosis and Rah with valet Regina McGill after winning the MVW Tag Team Title in 2019.
Joe Bergman defending the HOTv Tag Title with Steve Harrison at HOW’s Dead or Alive PPV in 2022
Joe Bergman defeating GREAT SCOTT to win the HOTv Title in March 2023
There’s a wrestling ring located in the center where Joe Bergman runs the ropes, getting ready for his final match. Running at full speed and slinging himself into the ropes and slingshotting back across the ring.
“Go Daddy Go!” cheers two-year-old Olivia Bergman, watching her father work out in the ring with a sense of awe.
Joe finally hooks the top rope with his arms and comes to an abrupt stop. Leaning back against the ropes, Joe’s mind drifts off to a time and place a long, long time ago where it all began…
January 1, 2006- Political Championship Wrestling’s Backbreak Mountain Super Show- The Bunkhouse Brawl All Out Free For All.
Joe remembers ‘The Voice of PCW’ Johnny Suave standing in the center of the ring and getting down to the business at hand.
“Thanks to an agreement struck by ‘Straight Shootin’ John McCain with the CEO of PCW George W,” Suave announces, “tonight in this ring we will determine who will be the new PCW Men’s champion. The Bunkhouse Brawl All Out Free For All. Twenty-five contestants in all!” Suave points to a ladder decorated up to look like a mountain with the PCW Men’s Championship belt suspended twenty feet in the air. “We will start with four wrestlers in the ring and add one man every minute. Then after we get down to the final four contestants, the first one who climbs ‘Backbreak Mountain’ and grabs the belt will become the NEW PCW Men’s Champion!”
Joe remembers standing in the back, on the cusp of making his first-ever pro wrestling appearance wrestling as Halitosis. Joe’s eighteen-years-old and super skinny back then, weighing probably just 185 pounds. He wears a lucha mask over his face and a faded black t-shirt with a large block ‘H’ on the front.
Halitosis holds up a metal container with his obnoxiously noxious drink inside that he’d just used a blender to mix a few minutes before and guzzles it down to give his breath a little more toxicity and his finishing maneuver, ‘The Breath of Death’ a little more potency.
He recalls Laura, his brand new eighteen-year-old college freshman girlfriend with a clothespin on her nose slapping him on the back. She made sure to stay downwind of him as Joe takes off from the back of Hack’s Rusty Nail Saloon to join the action with Drunken Luchador Don Martini- one-half of the tag team champions The Flying Martini Brothers, Chuck-atalie of the Dixie Chucks, Peacenik #1 of the Green World Order, Little Paulie of the American Bikers, and Al Cahall from Politically Incorrect already battling in the ring.
Joe remembers some of the highlights…
–Halitosis does a couple of luchador-type moves and nearly knocks Little Paulie of the American Bikers out of the ring. At ringside, Little Paulie’s dad Big Paulie goes up to him and reams him out as Peacenik #1 confronts Halitosis. Halitosis uses his patented finishing maneuver, the ‘breath of death,’ on Peacenik #1 and renders him unconscious. Little Paulie swoops in to pick up the GWO member and deposit him outside the ring.
-Halitosis unleashes another ‘breath of death’ on ‘Extreme Vegan’ Brock Cole Lee of the Green World Order and follows up with a clothesline that sends Lee over the top rope.
But alas, Joe remembers how his first official foray into the wrestling world came to an abrupt end…
–Halitosis tries to rally and goes to give the “breath of death” to Little Paulie of the American Bikers. Instead, Little Paulie lifts him up and tosses him over the top rope to the floor.
Joe laughs to himself, recalling that when he returned to the back, the first thing Laura did was hand him an industrial-strength bottle of Listerine to guzzle down and give him a peck on the cheek.
Then Joe looks wistfully into the air. June 11th, 2023- Arena Mexico- Mexico City, Mexico.
The final match- Joe Bergman versus Sage Pontiff.
He knows it’s been one hell of a seventeen-year ride.
But in one week, it comes to an end.
“Hope you’re ready Sage,” he says to no one in particular as he slips through the ropes and collects Olivia. Joe goes over to the light switch on the wall and turns it off.
The barn goes dark and Joe exits the barn hand in hand with Olivia.
The door closes behind them.