Long Beach, Californa
“Son of a bitch.”
We find ourselves inside one of the common rooms of the Complex, where Xander Azula and his Inner Circle can be seen watching the television to keep abreast of what’s unfolding to close out Refueled 97…the return of Lee Best to High Octane Wrestling. As the crowd inside the Spectrum Center can be seen cheering for the GOD of HOW, we notice a stern look on Xander’s face…almost one of worry, of concern. Mysti picks up on this immediately and speaks up, hoping to get to the bottom of Xander’s gut reaction.
“What’s wrong? Lee’s back, this can only be good for you…right?”
Xander ponders this question, uncertain as he responds.
“If Lee is here simply to address the World Champion, to stick it to Conor Fuse, absolutely. If this is about War Games, though…I cannot be so sure.”
Xander shuts his mouth immediately after, keeping his attention squarely on the monitor as Lee speaks…and sure enough, he starts out giving Conor a verbal thrashing. This draws a smile from the Head Disciple…until Lee starts going on about the teams for War Games.
Redrawing the battle lines, as it were.
Much to the chagrin of Azula.
“Son of a bitch!”
Xander shoves a nearby chair away, causing it to fold up on its journey to the floor, where it falls with a thud as Xander jumps up from his seat before storming out of the common room. He takes a moment to himself outside, drawing in a deep breath or two to try and stay calm despite his situation for War Games crumbling down. Xander closes his eyes, trying to think straight when suddenly…
“What’s the plan?”
Xander’s near-breakdown is interrupted by the voice of his best general, Vagn Dahl. Xander opens his eyes, turning his attention to his comrade.
“I need to get ready. This year can’t go the same way as last, brother.”
He turns his attention back to the common room doorway for a moment, noticing the final image of the show…three generations of the Best Family standing together in the ring. Xander slowly shakes his head, disappointed at what he’s witnessed as he lets out a heavy sigh.
“So much for training at Ten-X.”
Y’know, I should’ve seen this coming.
Somebody told me I “wasn’t needed” at Refueled 97 in Charlotte, and now I know why.
A lot easier to betray me when I’m not there to defend myself.
It wasn’t enough that I went through this situation at last year’s War Games, oh no.
I thought for sure I wouldn’t be stuck in this again, not with the way I earned my way in.
No one gets to point at me and say “hey, you’re the guy that took Darin Zion’s place” this year.
I got my rightful place but beating the legend himself, Chris Kostoff.
But that wasn’t enough for Lee Best to not screw with me upon his glorious return at Refueled 97, to mess with any plans I had this year.
Nope, he decides to scoot me off to The Other Guys, to give his grandson a spot.
To give Scottywood–SCOTTYWOOD–a spot.
I’d be less mad if not for what happened next.
Lee shuffled me off to “The Boys” with two newer talent that he proceeded to fire the next week, and why? What purpose was there?
Just to show that he can.
I’m sure of it.
Love to see it.
So now he’s forced Conor Fuse’s hand, telling him under no uncertain terms to get two replacements, and we get…Steve Harrison, the LSD Champion pending the result of his defense at War Games against Bobbinette Carey.
That’s not so bad, right?
But then Conor picks…Darin Zion.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I can’t catch a break.
Having that HOFC fight last week helped me make peace with all this.
I don’t like to get hung up on life’s hurdles.
I try to roll with the punches.
Just look at Brian Hollywood. I got what I needed out of that fight.
I took my frustrations out on him, and got to regroup.
To find my center, if you will.
And that’s perfect, because THIS week?
I’m teaming with Joe Bergman to take on two of the men I have to go through at War Games.
Jace Parker Davidson and Tyler Adrian Best.
As soon as Lee shuffled me off Not Actually The Best Alliance This Year, I Promise, I knew what I needed to do.
I needed to tackle this whole situation differently than last year.
I tried to play up being a lone wolf amongst the Grapplers Local, and it got me absolutely nowhere.
This year, I actually need to be a team player.
At least long enough to get through this leg of the journey.
To get past this stretch of road on the path I walk.
And I know just the guy to get me where I need to be.
A man that knows a thing or two about teachable moments.
Put me in, coach.
The Next Week…
Cut to a big screen television screen.
Missouri Valley Wrestling’s Wrestling Night in the Heartland is on and Heather Cooper, MVW’s ring announcer is standing in the ring… her long black hair falling past her shoulders and wearing a red sparkly dress.
(Monday Night’s Wrestling Night in the Heartland on HOTv)
Heather Cooper: And their opponents…
Thunderbolt Smith (voiceover): Well, we know Joe Bergman is here…
“I’m sinfully delicious!”
Thunderbolt Smith: …hold on a second!
The pitch of voice from MVW’s play-by-play announcer oozes in shock and surprise at the sound of Dawn McGill’s high-pitched, squeaky tone (done in annoyingly brainless blonde bombshell sing-song tone to the tune of the tag from the Lucky Charm’s cereal commercial)
Slinking out onto the stage in a gold one-piece strapless dress that just barely covered her breasts and went down to mid-thigh, gold high heel shoes, copious makeup on her face, teased platinum hair right out of the 1980’s, and bright red lipstick on her lips.
Heather Cooper: …led to the ring by his valet- ‘Sinfully Delicious’ Dawn McGill…
McGill struts her way down the ramp and stops intermittently to pose for the fans.
Thunderbolt Smith: It’s not…
Next, a lucha wrestler walks out on the ramp. He is dressed in all black with a giant ‘H’ on the front of his shirt. He also has a strange greenish haze emitting from his mouth.
Heather Cooper: …hailing from the Island of Misfit Wrestlers and weighing in tonight at one hundred seventy pounds. He is the ‘Luchador with Insanely Poor Oral Hygiene.’ Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you- HALITOSIS!
Thunderbolt Smith: IT IS! HALITOSIS IS BACK!
Joe Bergman- dressed as Halitosis tonight- pumps his first in the air and then starts down the ramp towards the ring.
‘Long Haul’ Rick Hall (voiceover): I DON’T BELIEVE IT! JOE BERGMAN HAS BROUGHT HALITOSIS BACK TO MVW!
Halitosis slaps people’s hands along the way and then says hello to a young fan in the front row- the fan promptly collapses when he gets a whiff of his breath.
Halitosis then moves on to the next one. He says hello. The fan gets a blast of his breath and falls to the ground.
He continues on to greet the fans along the way- oblivious to the carnage he leaves behind until he reaches the ring.
Halitosis rolls into the ring and goes over to shake Heather Cooper’s hand… but the ring announcer bolts for the other side of the ring and tries to keep a safe distance away. Shrugging his shoulders, Halitosis looks out over the ropes and raises his arms in the air…
The screen cuts to black, turning our attention to Xander and his Inner Circle sitting across the room. Their eyes were drawn to the program this entire time, leaving them speechless throughout…but finally, after processing what he’s seen, the Head Disciple turns to his brethren with a rare, genuine smile on his face.
“Son of a…that’s what Bergman is capable of!?”
His crew are unable to respond properly, unaware of the Hall of Famer’s history…but Xander just laughs to himself
“Well it’s no wonder Mike was doing everything in his power to stop him beating America. Mike knew deep down, if Bergman went into War Games…so too would Halitosis.”
Xander turns away from the television, resting his hand over his face as we can just about hear the wheels turning in his head.
“Well there we go, then. The Board…the Best Family…they’re scared of Joe Bergman, I’m sure of it. I made the right choice going to him. That’s the key to my success this year…for War Games, for HOFC, for everything. This is a sign, my brethren…the star in the east, guiding us to glory.”
You can probably imagine the surprise I had, finding out Joe would actually take time out for little ol’ Xander Azula.
I figured I was untouchable by anyone looking to keep a good reputation.
A scourge of the HOW roster.
Unlike some folks, though, I know when to take advice.
Whatever gets me to where I need to be, right?
I can’t play “What If” going into War Games.
I can’t ask myself, “what if I’d stayed on Team Best and could train in Ten-X?”
That doesn’t matter.
There’s no way Lee Best would’ve kept me on that team…not when he could have his grandson on the team.
Or keep Jace Parker Davidson.
Look, Jace, I get it…you’re on The Board, the centerpiece of this whole War Games team.
Still, you had to qualify for a spot on your team, same as me.
So we can knock it off with any talk about me not deserving to be in War Games, first of all.
Now lemme roll back my mental Rolodex to remember who you beat…oh shit.
A man who ended up on the team anyway.
Another man with at least a formidable reputation, much like Chris Kostoff.
Legend isn’t a word I can throw around willy-nilly, though.
Scottywood is no Kostoff.
So that’s how you even got on the team in the first damn place…which is honestly great.
Way to take steps toward getting people to forget the time someone shoved a microphone down your throat.
Or the time you lost to Darin Zion, despite having a three-on-one advantage.
Or the time Ray McAvay threw a fireball in your face.
Ah shit, almost got through this whole thing without that last mention…but we pulled it off anyway!
Jace, you wanna know what has me really, really excited about facing you at Refueled 99?
The chance to finally shut that overactive mouth of yours.
Constantly flapping them gums about how terrible I am.
I get it, Jace.
We all get it.
But again, and I cannot stress this enough…you lost to Darin Zion.
So did I.
I’d say that almost puts us on equal footing in 2022.
So maybe–I dunno–pump the brakes on unnecessary gloating?
If you think I’m that awful, just wait till the other Master of the Multiverse puts you down for all of Madison Square Garden to see.
I’ll be absolutely insufferable.
And then there’s Tyler Adrian Best.
First of all, just so I can get this out of my system now…what is it with everyone in that family and their damn acronyms?
Leave it to Lee Best to put a hit out on the MOB, before shuffling everything around for War Games this year…and all for his family.
I think I can respect that.
Leave it to the son of the Son to have the damn-catchiest of catchphrases, almost as soon as he finds out he’s in one of wrestling’s royal families.
Tyler, you son of a bitch, I’m jealous as hell.
But I’m a lot less jealous of the rest of the situation you’re in, kid.
Oh, man…nope, don’t like the sound of that.
Makes me sound like some bitter old man.
Nope, won’t play that card. No, thank you.
Let’s have a different kind of chat then, shall we?
What did daddy tell you about…ah shit, did it again.
Look, Tyler, I know you know where we’re both at going into this.
We’re in very different seasons of our respective careers, but somehow we’ve managed to both find ourselves in a similar situation.
We’re trying to prove ourselves.
Which is weird for me to admit after nearly fifteen years in the business, but it makes me realize something.
There’s always a lesson to be learned in this industry, whether you’ve just stepped into the ring for the first time or you’re over a decade in.
And, like it or not Tyler, we both have something to learn inside that ring at Refueled 99.
I will not try and tear you down, Tyler.
I’m not your daddy.
…fuck, that sounded wrong.
I’m not your father, Tyler…and unlike Mike, I know fuck all about you.
What I do know, however, is that I’ve got one good lesson for ya come Sunday.
Your grandpappy saw fit to throw you into War Games, no doubt because he saw the unlimited potential in you.
He threw you into this match, certainly, because in his mind this will be some sort of warmup.
And, technically, he’d be right.
You’re gonna need all the warming up possible, Tyler.
As I’m sure your pops has told you by now, this is a whole different beast from what you’re used to.
I’ll spare you the “major leagues” lecture, promise.
That’s not my style.
But the fact is, this ain’t Ten-X.
This ain’t even the Barn.
But it is the first step for each of our paths leading to War Games.
Which, for me, is a path that runs right through the Grandson of GOD.
Now there’s an acronym for ya.
Don’t like it? Tough shit.
Time for you to deal with some adversity.
Time to get your hands dirty.
Time to put that work in.
Let’s see what you’ve got, Tyler.
Let’s find out what all the fuss is about.
A Few Days Later
“We passed by a city called Festus. This state is the absolute pits.”
A humorous quip from Thomas Crowne, the youngest of the crew, breaks the tension as they arrive at the barn in the evening, pulling up in their personal van. It was a rough couple of days for Xander and his fellow disciples, but there was zero desire to enjoy the luxury of air travel…and the further hassle of using some rental vehicle to get all the way out to this neck of the woods.
No, Xander would much rather show up in his own personal transportation, especially to meet up with Joe Bergman. Might even call it the Azulamobile.
“No, that’s too hokey.”
Xander shakes his head, trying to come up with a better idea when he sees a pair of headlights approaching, and a car pulls up into the driveway.
A 2022 BMW 5-Series.
A woman steps out from the car, looking concerned about something as she turns her attention to the barn. This raises a small commotion among the disciples, who have a vague understanding of who she is. Xander, for his part, underscores the implication with something far more explicit.
“There she is.”
He turns his attention to his crew, a smirk on his face as the woman walks around the barn…as if searching for someone.
“That’s Joe’s wife, brethren. They’ve been…estranged, as of late. Love is a battlefield, and all that…and now we have ourselves a fruit basket to give our new coach.”
The disciples rush across the driveway, quickly rounding the barn to confront their target. The woman hears the footsteps, turning her attention with a sense of surprise and horror at the group now surrounding her.
“Who the hell are you? And where’s Joe!?”
This draws a wicked grin from the Head Disciple, motioning silently to direct traffic as he responds in kind.
“Me? I’m the new class.”
This just confuses Laura, letting out a shout.
Xander’s disciples blindside her.
“Hey. What are you-MMMPPHHHH.”
Taking her by force, the group pulls her through the back entrance into the barn and eventually drag her to the massage room as we fade to black.