The Moment

The Moment

Posted on May 17, 2023 at 9:17 am by Joe Bergman

April 10th, 2023- Wrexham vs. Notts County- The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, Wales.
It’s 3-2 Wrexham in the 96th minute of the match and the tension inside the Racecourse could literally be cut with a knife.

Notts County had opened the scoring near the end of the first half on a freekick by John Bostock that beat Wrexham goalkeeper Ben Foster… who returned from retirement to sign with Wrexham for the final matches of the season… in the right corner of the net.

However, in the 49th minute, Jones dropped the ball back to Ryan Barnett and took off up the pitch.  Barnett chipped over the Notts defense.  Jones takes one touch and slots it to the ‘D’ where Paul Mullin has just shook off the Notts County defender and was in one on one against the goalkeeper.  He drilled the ball past the goalkeeper’s outstretched arm into the lower left hand side of the net for the equalizer.

In the 69th minute, Eoghan O’Connell drove a free kick down the right side of the pitch that Mullin collected, squared across the face of the goal, and watched as Jacob Mendy netted the ball to give Wrexham a 2-1 lead.

After Notts County equalized at 2, three minutes later in the 78th minute, O’Connell chipped over the high line being played by the Notts back three and took off after the ball.  He outraced the defenders to the ball and sent a cross in.  The Notts defender backheeled the ball right onto Mullin’s foot.  Mullin calmly squared the ball to Elliott Lee and Lee slotted it past the goalkeeper to reestablish a Wrexham one goal lead.

Now in the 96th minute, O’Connell had been whistled for handball inside the box and Chedrick Scott lined up a penalty kick.

Up at the top of the Wrexham Lager Stand, Joe Bergman and Laura Bergman lean forward in their seats… eyes on Ben Foster… holding their breaths and waiting.   A Wrexham win puts them back in the driver’s seat in the title race with a game in hand against Notts.  A tie makes the final four matches nervy as hell.

This is probably the final kick of the match.

The referee blows his whistle.  Scott steps forward.  He drives the ball with pace towards the lower left corner of the net.  Foster guesses right and at full stretch deflects the ball with his right hand and pushes the ball clear with his left.

Joe pumps his fist.  Laura hops up and down.

“OH MY GOD!  HE SAVED IT!” she shouts out, hopping up and down in the center of the din that erupts.

“I don’t believe it!” Joe says as the crowd further explodes when Wrexham midfielder Luke Young literally kicks the ball out of the stadium following Foster’s save.

Scenes.  Absolute scenes.

Looking across the stadium, Joe and Laura can see both Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in the director’s box jumping up and down.

The Notts fans are in disbelief.

“This might be their season,” Joe says.  He looks down at Laura and their eyes meet and just as fast turn away from each other.

Four weeks ago, Laura showed up at Joe’s hotel room after March to Glory.  While the rest of the HOW wrestlers returned to the States for Chaos 25, Joe changed his plans and decided to stay in the UK hanging out with Laura for another week… which stretched into another week… and then another week.

What did they do- well, besides going to Wrexham football matches… oh, and shocking the hell out of Sunny O’Callahan when Joe and Laura showed up together at a UK wrestling show the night after March to Glory?

The two spent time together and took in all the sights around Northwest Wales.  They drove out to Holyhead on the west coast to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Welsh coast by standing on a rock wall along the water, watching the boats traveling in and going out.  They spent an afternoon at Llandudno Pier walking through all the seaside shops. Joe and Laura took a scenic ride on the Llanberis Lake Railway riding in a car pulled by a nostalgic steam train.

Most of all, they talked… reconnecting… rediscovering… renewing and reawakening dormant feelings long left in the dumpster fire of their break up almost two years ago.

Joe and Laura had so many more things to talk about… and work through… but first…

Wrexham has to defend the final free kick of the match.

“Right.  Come on.  One more stop,” Joe yells out, clapping his hands loudly.

“Yeah!” chimes in Laura, raising her fist in the air and jumping up and down. “C’MON WREXHAM!”

The referee’s whistle blows and the left foot of Notts County’s John Bostock sends the ball swerving into the Wrexham box.  Matty Palmer gets a head on the ball for Notts and directs it towards the goal but Wrexham’s Elliott Lee is there to head it away from the net.  Paul Mullin heads it out of the box and the referee checks his watch.

*WHISTLE*

Cue abject pandemonium.

“YESSSSSSSSS!” Joe shouts.

“WOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!” yells Laura, still bouncing up and down.

Near the goalkeeper’s net, the players swarm around Ben Foster… the hero who saved the penalty kick.

Somewhere, Wrexham broadcaster Mark Griffiths is shouting into the microphone at full volume, “YES!  YES!” on the broadcast.

Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson steps onto the field to congratulate his Notts County counterpart on a classic match.  Then he turns and faces the main stands to clap to the fans.

And high up in the Wrexham Lager Stand, Joe and Laura face each other while the fans around them are just going nuts after the final whistle sounds.

He makes a move forward.

She moves in closer.

And, lost in a sea of Wrexham fans cheering wildly on the club’s biggest win in over twenty years, Joe and Laura kiss for the first time in nearly two years.

Of course, most importantly, with the win over Notts County Wrexham once again takes the lead in the National League with 103 points on the season.

The Turf Pub- after the match
Songs are being sung…

“O… o… o… o.
Everywhere we go
Watching Wrexham FC
Putting on a show…”

…and pints of lager are being served inside a jubilant Turf following the match.  Joe and Laura partake in the singing in between downing their Wrexham Lagers.

“Fearless in Devotion
Rising to Promotion
Rising to the ranks of mighty heroes
Fighting foes in every land

“History only tells a story
We are to see your glory
Stand aside the Reds are coming
WREXHAM IS THE NAME”

It’s been almost four weeks since Laura showed up at the door of Joe’s hotel room.

“That was unbelievable,” Laura says. “Almost there?”

“Almost,” Joe replies.  “Wrexham just needs seven points out of the last four matches to clinch the title.”

Their conversation is interrupted again by another song… this one for Wrexham talisman Paul Mullin.

“We’ve got Mullin;
Super Paul Mullin;
I just don’t think you understand;
He plays in red and white;
He’s fucking dynamite;
We’ve got super Paul Mullin.”

“YEAH!” Joe calls out, much to Laura’s amusement.

“Well, I can’t believe I’ve spent the past four weeks with you in the UK.”  Laura tips her head back and finishes off her Wrexham Lager. “I’ve enjoyed holding the camera for you so you can do your HOW ‘segments.”

The word ‘HOW’ drags him out of his happy place inside the Turf.   There’s a brief spell where both stare into each other’s eyes before Laura breaks the silence.

“I’m sorry.  Was it something I said?”

Joe shakes his head.

“No.  We’re good.

But Laura knows better.

“Joe, I don’t know how many times I’ve told you the past four weeks I know you’re not happy at HOW.”

“Well, it’s not exactly a state secret,” Joe replies.

Laura puts her hands on his.  “Joe, I can see it when I watch you. You’re not as passionate as you used to be… and you used to be very passionate about pro wrestling.  Do you know I what see now? Anger?  You’re angry.”

Joe looks away, deep in thought.

“Look, I loved the fact that you were always a man of the people, Joe. You loved being someone who they could relate to and by doing what you do in the ring making a difference in their lives. That’s why you started wrestling in the first place.”

Joe tips his head back and takes another drink.

“Maybe it’s time to walk away and find something that makes you truly happy,” Laura says.  “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. You never know what amazing opportunities might be waiting for you on the other side.”

The words “leap of faith” piques Joe’s curiosity.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“Well.” Laura takes a sip from her pint of Wrexham Lager.  “Sometimes, you have to trust your instincts and roll the dice.  Life is too short to play it safe all the time. You never know what opportunities could come your way if you don’t take a risk.”

Joe tips his head down at her.

“You mean, like quitting your job and spontaneously flying to the UK, showing up at your ex-husband’s door at the hotel he’s staying at, kind of risk?”

Laura leans closer to Joe, eyebrows raised, eyes registering an intensity he hasn’t seen in a long, long time.

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

As the Turf roars up again with yet another song, this one about Ben Foster and sung to the tune of Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’….

“I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it
I li-li-like it, li-li-li
Here we go- OH!
Super Ben Foster in goal.”

…Joe stands up and pulls Laura with him. The couple makes a hasty exit from The Turf.

Twenty minutes later.

Joe carries Laura in his arms down the hall until they reach room 220 inside the Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Wrexham hotel- just a mile away from the Racecourse.  Joe uses his free hand to slide the key in the slot.  Laura shows her dexterity by in one fluid motion using her foot to push down the latch and pushing the door open.  Her arms wrapped around his neck and her mouth pressed against his, Joe manages to get them through the door with minimal contact with the door frame and multi-tasking like a boss, swings her around so her feet can close the door while at the same time, managing not to interrupt the ongoing kiss.

The couple disappears into the hotel room as the door closes behind them.

***

UK Wrestling Talk-May 1st, 2023
Back at ringside following a UK wrestling show in Bolton with empty seats and a flashing sign in the background with “UKPW” on it behind the camera shot.  Over to the left, ring technicians continue to tear down the ring while on the other side, one of the wrestlers wraps up an interview to another wrestling journalist by the far barricade.

Simon Wilson stands before the camera again.  Microphone in his right hand.

Simon Wilson: Simon Wilson for What’s Up Wrestling right here with part two of our conversation with American professional wrestler Joe Bergman from High Octane Wrestling.

Simon welcomes Joe Bergman with his left hand as Joe steps into the shot.

Joe Bergman: Hi Simon!

Simon Wilson: In the first part of our interview, we talked about HOW and your War Games team.  I thought we’d starting running down the other teams and getting your thoughts on them.

Joe nods.

Joe Bergman: Let’s do it.

Simon Wilson: First off, let’s talk about this statement you’ve made recently… Christopher America is a fraud.

Joe knew it wouldn’t take long for a question concerning his issues with the HOW World Champion to come up.

Simon Wilson: Do you really think Christopher America is a fraud?

Joe Bergman: Simon, let me say this about Christopher America.  If there was a Mount Rushmore in HOW, I have no problem saying that he would be up there with Mike Best, John Sektor, and probably Max Kael.

Now Simon nods listening to Joe talk.

Joe Bergman: Christopher America is a three-time War Games winner and a three-time World Champion which ties him with Aceldama, Jace Parker Davidson, and Max Kael.  His current World Title reign is the longest in HOW history and he’s successfully defended the belt eight times since the 2022 War Games … tied with Tara Davidson and two away from Mike Best’s record of ten title defenses.  If he wins War Games and retains the title, I believe he’ll be the first man to go War Games to War Games and leave with the belt and the first man to win two consecutive War Games… twice.  That would be one hell of an accomplishment.

Simon Wilson: I’m a little surprised by this.  You’ve been harshly critical of Christopher America while you’ve been over here.

Joe Bergman: Don’t get me wrong, Simon.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for Christopher America and what he has accomplished during his wrestling career… it is truly Hall of Fame material.  Especially coming back to HOW after a long, long absence and winning War Games like he did last year.  That’s a hell of an accomplishment, you cannot take that away from him.

Simon Wilson: That is most gracious of you seeing as you’ve had major issues with Christopher America over the past few months.

Joe Bergman: I have no problem giving props when it’s deserved, Simon.  It’s just a shame that Christopher America is tarnishing these momentous achievements… his Hall of Fame credentials… by his recent actions… and the fact he’s developed a rather unhealthy, intimate relationship with the HOW World Title belt.

Simon Wilson: Huh?

Joe Bergman: Never mind.  I mean, I guess I really shouldn’t be that surprised.  This is the same man who once enslaved Carmen Jennings and made her dress up in a skimpy outfit for him.

Simon Wilson: He did what?

Joe Bergman: Never mind.  Long story.  If Evan Ward is auditioning to be the ‘douchebag of the year,’ Christopher America has already long cinched becoming the ‘worst person in the world.’  But we’ll get to Ward here in a second.  Apparently, Christopher America had… ‘words that needed to be said to me’ on the last Chaos show.   What did he say?

Joe shrugs and acts as if he doesn’t care what America said.

Joe Bergman: I have no idea because I had better things to do than sit through another stemwinding, two-thousand-word bloviating filibuster from a roided-out Daniel Craig look-a-like.  All two thousand words of what he said doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

He holds up one finger.

Joe Bergman: Christopher America can’t beat Joe Bergman on an even playing field.

He holds up two fingers.

Joe Bergman: Christopher America seemingly CAN’T win a match on an even playing field- see his loss to Ivan Stanislav at the PWA-1 show where Lee Best wasn’t there to restart the match.

He holds up three fingers.

Joe Bergman: Xander Azula pinned him last week, everyone saw it…  Xander had his arm raised in victory… Xander was presented with the HOW World title belt… only to have Lee order a restart to the match and… predictably… America got a pinfall using as Joe Hoffman said “every single dirty trick and tactic in the book.’

He holds up four fingers.

Joe Bergman: Now Christopher America can’t even fight his own battles anymore so instead of facing Stanislav mano y mano and avenging the loss he took at PWA-1, he’s ‘chosen’ Steve Solex to go up against Ivan Stanislav’s ‘representative’ Lindsay Troy at the PWA-2 show.  Personally, I would want to fight Stanislav and right the wrong that happened at PWA-1.  Get the win back.

Simon Wilson: Is that the reason you like another shot at Christopher America?

Joe Bergman: Yes.  Absolutely.  I know the perfect place.  The PWA-2 show.  Let’s just see who the better man is on an even playing field where Lee Best can’t keep restarting the match until the ‘right’ guy wins.

Simon Wilson: And if America doesn’t accept the match?

Joe Bergman: If he runs off and hides under Lee Best’s desk, I’ll accept it and life will go on.  I’ll be able to live with the knowledge that Christopher America can’t beat me in a fair fight.

Simon Wilson: And if he does?

Joe Bergman: It’ll be a hell of a match.  If the classic Christopher America actually showed up… I might be in a bit of trouble… I’ll admit that.  Now, if the fat, lazy Las Vegas Elvis version of America shows up, I don’t think he can beat me in a fair fight… see Stanislav… see Xander Azula.

Simon Wilson: The fat, lazy Las Vegas Elvis version of Christopher America?

Joe Bergman: Christopher America of now is the fat, lazy Las Vegas lounge act playing the hits and probably shooting out televisions in his hotel room while making out with the HOW World Title belt.  Christopher America is the out-of-shape Muhammad Ali right before Leon Spinks punked him for the title.  He’s old Joe Louis trying to stay in the ring with a Rocky Marciano in his prime.  Christopher America has gotten by on parlor tricks and Lee Best making sure the playing field is tilted in his favor.  At PWA-2, the field would NOT be tilted in his favor.  That is the ONLY place Joe Bergman will ever wrestle Christopher America in a singles match ever again.

Simon Wilson: All right, let’s move on.  You mentioned Evan Ward.

Joe Bergman: Evan’s is definitely an interesting one.  He was once one of the few true ‘faces’ in HOW.  Winner of War Games 2013 and he followed that with a nice sixty-day run with the World title.  I think that’s the only HOW title he ever won.  Ward had a successful career in HOW being a ‘face’, a good guy… which in HOW is an anomaly.  Evan Ward broke the mold.  He was a pioneer in a company stock full of heels of varying degrees.  Plus, he was such a great technical wrestler in his prime and, again, managed to thrive in a HOW that’s hard for a true ‘face’ to succeed in.

Simon Wilson: And now?

Joe Bergman: Well?  He’s slipped over to the dark side.  So.  Meh.  Ward hasn’t shown the sharpness or crispness he had back in the early 2010’s in his return… which is not a surprise.  He’s had a change in attitude which is a surprise.  No matter.  Evan Ward may now very well be the universe’s biggest douchebag but somewhere in there is still a really good wrestler.  I won’t take Evan lightly at all.  He’s more than capable of figuring it out in a War Games setting where all you have to do is have lightning strike, the gods favor you, and you step your game up a couple of notches… which ideally I would love to have happen to me if the truth be told.

Simon Wilson: Right.  Christopher America and Captain Evan Ward make up two of Ward’s War Games team.  There’s also Aceldama, Charles de Lacy, and Marvolo.

Joe Bergman: I don’t know much about de Lacy or Marvolo.  Aceldama, on the other hand, I think you could make a very strong case for him being in the Mount Rushmore of HOW.  Three-time HOW World Champion.  He had a very momentous six-month title run back in the day.  Aceldama at his best was a beast.  Thankfully he too is still in the process of refinding the form he once had a few years back.  I see Aceldama still in the process of rounding back into form, coming back from a very long layoff.  Like Ward, you just never know when all the pieces fall into place for him and he’ll put on a performance for the ages.  It would be foolish to overlook Aceldama… very foolish.

Simon Wilson: You feel they’re a strong team.

Joe Bergman: I think every team is strong, Simon.  Someone commented that this may be a wide-open War Games match where you can make the case for every team winning it.

Simon Wilson: All right.  Thank you Joe.  We will post the third and final installment of our interview with Joe Bergman tomorrow…

***

April 22nd, 2023- Wrexham vs. Boreham Wood- The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, Wales.
Thirty seconds to promotion.

Paul Mullin’s second-half brace catapulted Wrexham to a 3-1 lead.  Now, there’s less than a minute left in stoppage time.

Laura Bergman stands at the top of the Wrexham Lager Stand… hands balled together and pressed against her chin. She looks nervous and anxious and bites her nails.

Joe is next to her.  He’s a little more calm and collected, taking in the moment and feeding off the energy that’s building up and ready to explode as the Wrexham fans prepare to celebrate the end of fifteen years in the Non-League.

In life, there are moments that change everything. Moments that have the power to shape our lives forever.

There’s a late throw-in for Boreham Wood with Wrexham fans already in front of the advertising holdings in front of the Macron Stands.   The managers of both teams have already shaken hands in anticipation of the full-blown pitch invasion that’s coming following the final whistle.

The excitement and tension of the moment is palpable on Joe’s face.  He slowly puts his arm around Laura’s shoulders, as the crowd is about ready to erupt.

Laura’s eyes widen in surprise… and delight.

One small moment can change everything. It can give us hope, it can give us courage, it can inspire us to be our best selves.

The ball is launched into the box.  Everyone in the stadium braces for it.  Wrexham’s Eoghan O’Connell puts a brave foot in and clears the ball out of the box.  Elliott Lee turns on a dime and boots the ball further up the pitch.

“Come on,” Joe says under his breath.

The Boreham defender collects the ball and plays it to the right side.  Two Wrexham players converge on the wing and…

*WHISTLE*

It’s over.

Ten thousand Wrexham fans let out a might roar. Security puts a half-hearted effort to stop them from charging onto the field but there’s no way anyone is going to stop the flood of humanity from pouring out of the stands to celebrate the title and promotion back to the National League.

Red and white flares can be seen on the field.  The fans lift up several of the players and carry them around the pitch on their shoulders.

Somewhere in the director’s box, Rob McElhenney is tearing up and then engulfed in a congratulatory bear hug from Ryan Reynolds.

Watching the chaos unfold from the top of the Wrexham Lager Stands, Laura tugs on Joe’s jacket.

“Do you want to go down onto the field?” she asks.

Joe thinks about it and gazes down at the jubilant celebration on the pitch.  He sees manager Phil Parkinson raising his arms in victory… with relief etched on his face… the job done… mission accomplished.

Joe watches fans… old and young… who’ve dreamt of this moment for fifteen years… who stayed with the club through some very tough times… fans who’ve lived… breathed… and died with every up and down in the club…. now… finally… redemption… and return to the English Football League… pouring out emotion at what’s just happened on the pitch.

“Nah,” Joe finally says.  “This is their moment.”

He pulls Laura close.  With only a handful of fans left in the stands around them, they have their moment.

Sometimes it only takes a single moment to change their lives forever.