Hey everyone! My name is JR Goldberg, and I’ve been a wrestling fan for longer than most and shorter than some. Some of you may know me from Twitter or DVDVR or PWO. I recently reached out to Bill and Al about starting a weekly deal here at Wrestling With Words. I’m sure as we get farther along the purpose of this and why I write will change as I get feedback and my whims push me one way or another, but as of right now, the plan is this: I spent all of my twenties going to as many indy shows as I could. Because I’m a weirdo, I collected DVDs and VHS copies of almost all of them as sort of an ever expanding scrap book. Each week, I’m going to randomly pick one of these shows and talk about the main event, or a title match, or even just an angle I remember. I’ll try and give some context, and I’ll give a bit of a revisionist review, but I’ll also try and talk about where I was personally at the time a little bit, and what I remember particularly about the night. I hope for a generation of wrestling fans, now in our thirties, with jobs and kids and bills, this will help them remember a time when we didn’t think anything of driving hours in cars with strangers we met on a message board with the final destination being a rec center, or a high school gym. I hope for a new generation of fans, this helps them see beyond the results that are written about on the internet.
Going through this for the first time, the show that got randomly picked (by my girlfriend grabbing a DVD out of the closet and saying “This one. I don’t care about any of this” is War of the Wire II, an ROH show from July 28th 2006. I don’t have any memories of any matches on this show aside from the main, so that’s what we are going to focus on. It’s a good first entry, because my ROH fandom was at a peak or near peak. I was obsessed with ROH at the time, it felt like such a punk rock alternative to the pop music of the WWE. I would go to as many shows as I could, which was a pretty significant number, and I would try and take people whenever I could. Looking back, I thought if I could just show people matches with Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe and everyone else, they would instantly love wrestling and see it for the artform it truly is. It never really worked out, but I did draw up some casual interest from a few friends. Or at least I had a few friends who liked road trips and beers and were willing to put up with a few hours of wrestling if I was willing to do the driving. Mike was one such friend.I shouldn’t say was, he’s still a friend. We’re actually going to Fast Lane next month, but certainly the days and trips are fewer and farther between.
I picked up Mike on the way down to Dayton and walked in just as he was explaining to his girlfriend about the main event. “So instead of the regular ring ropes, it’s gonna be barbed wire.” “You’re going to watch this voluntarily? What the hell is wrong with you?” That basically set the tone for the rest of the evening. We had a 3 hour ride or so to wonder that very same thing. Death match stuff has never really been my thing, but I found myself oddly excited by this. I was sure going in that I had never seen anything like what I was about to watch.
The CZW/ROH feud was certainly a highlight of the Indy wrestling scene at the time. The rosters didn’t really have overlap, and it really felt for a while like fans had to pick a side. I’m sure there are many places that can sum up the whole deal pretty well if you’re interested and want to see the highlights, but what might be lost in a recap is just how political everything about it felt. There was true resentment between the sides. For those of us supporting ROH, we felt we were supporting wrestling as sport, and wrestling as a form of expression. In our eyes, the ROH roster was a group of people who were working and pushing wrestling forward. I only had scorn for those supporting CZW. In the eyes of the ROH faithful, CZW represented wrestling as torture porn and self mutilation. When Homicide came out at and helped ROH win at Cage of Death, it felt as though a performer who had excelled at both styles was making a public declaration that ROH and all it represented was superior.
This match in Dayton between BJ Whitmer and Necro Butcher was the denouement for a feud that ended at the Cage of Death. It was the indy wrestling equivalent of the hobbits chasing Saurumon out of the shire. Sure, we were going pretty specifically to see two tough dudes bloody the shit out of themselves for our enjoyment, but we were also going to finally see these interlopers fully expelled from Ring of Honor. At the time, Necro Butcher represented all the worst things about wrestling. He didn’t even wear boots! I don’t think anyone truly loved BJ Whitmer, but everyone was primed and ready for him on that night. I was living in Cleveland at the time, and the Dayton shows were the closest shows more often than not. It always seemed like BJ Whitmer was the focal point of the shows there. I guess in that respect, Dayton was the right place to make sure Whitmer got the reaction they were looking for. Also, if I’m remembering right, the CZW feud started in Dayton, right? So there was something final feeling about the night, for sure.
I’ll always remember how absurdly hot this show was. It was a hot summer night, and humid, but it was tolerable outside. The building was a kiln. It must have been 120 degrees inside. I’m not a big guy, nor am I really a sweater, but I was fucking soaked by the time the main event started up. I kept convincing myself I needed another cigarette just as an excuse to go outside. I may have even taken a call from my dad. Anything to step out of the building for like five minutes at a time. One time I went out the side door and BJ Whitmer was pacing back and forth in the distance, over by the truck they brought all the equipment in. At the time, it was a truly profound moment. It’s so rare to see a wrestler express doubt, and while it wasn’t part of the show, it made the main event and it’s inherent danger seem so personal and so real. This moment was totally ruined when I later bought the DVD and I realized they had staged it as a vignette with a generic ominous rock song playing in the background. They should’ve given us vignettes of Necro getting ready as a counter point; ominous rock music in the background of him drinking a six pack and smoking a bowl in somebody’s car.
Re-watching this on DVD, I realized I had forgotten about how obviously cheap Castagnoli’s outfits were. Looking back it’s sort of charmingly meta. Colt Cabana and Ace Steele are out to save us from Webb and Castagnoli. Is Ace Steele the worst dude ever in ROH? Just straight garbage every time. People make fun of Cabana for only getting booked because he was Punk’s friend, but Ace Steele makes Cabana look like Ric Flair. Necro is out and immediately takes off his shirt like a man. BJ’s hair is even more glorious than I remember, and he is super over. I love that neither dude came out to music. It came off as one of those impromptu ECW matches, and put over how haphazard and violent and chaotic the whole thing was. I have zero recollection of Homicide being BJ’s second in this match. A pretty stiff chop contest to start things off. BJ tries a drop toe hold and Necro counters with like 4 punches to the side of the face. Amazing. It’s sort of funny that BJ can’t use the ropes due to the conceit of the match so he thinks the next best thing is to try to chain wrestle. BJ is first in to the wire, followed by some chair shots. Chair assisted body slam by Necro. Necro puts a chair around Whitmers neck and then hits that chair with another chair. We get the first extended spot with the wire as Necro cuts up BJ’s forehead. Homicide with helpful advice: “Get the fuck up, BJ.” Loud Fuck you Necro chant. If you had any doubt about how sweltering it was, look at how sweaty these dudes are. It really adds to tthe match, it looks so grimy. BJ takes over with a blocked chair shot and Necro takes a back bump and accidentally brains himself on a chair in the ring. Huge pop for Necro going in to the ropes for the first time. It’s pretty crazy how Necro was able to structure his matches in ROH almost like a super heavyweight or something. It was such a struggle to do damage to him in any meaningful way, and it always got a huge reaction from the crowd. Whitmer talks to Homicide and gets him to start moving a table covered in barbed wire around. Whitmer hits a pile driver for two. Personal pet peeve in gimmick matches like this: If I see a giant prop being moved around, it immediately prevents me from buying any sort of near-fall, even on a big move like a piledriver. An unbroken table wrapped in barbed wire is the indy wrestling equivalent of Chekov’s gun. It’s like BJ can hear my thoughts and motions for the table but Necro fights out. Necro is so great about selling how tired he is, just dropping to his knees even after offense. No one in the crowd has sat at all at this point. They have a back and forth over a set of wire cutters.
This match is structured way better than I remember it being, to be honest. They really do a great job ramping up the anticipation and not just turning it in to a spot fest with weapons and such. It seems like a fight, which is quite poetic in it’s own way. In order to finally vanquish CZW, BJ Whitmer has to abandon his suplexes and bridges and fancy maneuvers. He must become what he has fought against and just sloppily punch a dude in the mouth and try to stab him in the face and hope at some point he stops moving for three straight seconds. Just as I type this BJ Whitmer busts out a Shining Wizard to prove how wrong I am about everything. BJ cuts the wire ropes down and tosses them to the side and I’m pretty sure one hits a fan in the face. You don’t see it on camera but I have a pretty distinct memory about this. The are still struggling over who is going to go through the table when Necro hits a low blow on BJ. His heel goes directly in to BJ’s balls. This is probably the most painful looking spot in a match full of painful looking shit, and it’s enough to let Necro hit Whitmer with a Tiger driver from the apron through the table on the floor. BJ Whitmer now has three people trying to cut his glorious power mane out of the barbed wire. Necro Butcher tries to finish off the match, but BJ is able to counter and give him a brainbuster on an open chair. I think this spot would probably bother me in another match but I guess I sort of buy Necro being easy to escape and hit a desperation move on. He’s put forth as a tough dude, not a wrestling specialist or anything. Anyway. Homicide says “Yo homes I got a surprise for you” and passes BJ a bag of thumbtacks, which Necro Butcher immediately powerbombs him on. Have you ever noticed that whenever someone kicks out on Necro Butcher he sells the shock like Willem Dafoe’s death scene in Platoon? Necro spreads the thumbtacks all around the ring which I probably would not do if I was the barefoot participant in this match but certainly he has the experience edge over me in death matches so maybe he knows something I don’t. BJ goes back on offense after throwing a handful of tacks in Necro’s face. Necro takes like 3 insane thumbtack bumps in a row, and people chant ROH without a hint of irony. BJ Whitmer goes in to another table wrapped in barbed wire and again needs the wire cut out of his hair. At this point Whitmer is essentially in a handicap match against The Necro Butcher and his love of 80s rock music. Normally I’d complain about referees and officials helping Whitmer here, but I think it sort of works in the narrative that they would be biased. Like, Todd Sinclair helping Whitmer makes sense cause they are on the same team. Necro gets buried under a board covered in wire. Necro waits patiently for his warrior’s death as Whitmer sets up a ladder. He kicks out and the crowd goes insane. I just bought that near-fall then and I’m sure I did live as well. It’s ROH in 2006 so we have a bit of reversal spam as Necro counters an exploder, BJ counters an asiatic spike, and finally hits an exploder for three. Prazak puts this over a star making performance for Whitmer, which I suppose it was, although nothing ever came of it, really.
Sitting behind me for the whole show were four dudes loudly cheering for Necro Butcher the entire night. They even dressed like Necro, like the white trash equivalent of those four horseman fans you see on old Crockett tapes. There was gentle ribbing back and forth all night with them. I remember saying to them “How can you like Necro Butcher? All he ever does is punch people” to which one responded, “Yeah, but have you SEEN his punches?” It became a running joke. No matter the criticism they would face, the response would inevitably be something similar. I admire those guys, if that isn’t clear. ROH was such a presence, and they had such a specific style that I think a generation of fans (including myself) went through a phase where only that style was acceptable as being “good”. I can’t say those four guys were directly responsible for opening my eyes and understanding that it was okay to like whatever you liked, but it was great to see a group of fans that looked beyond a promotion and clearly just didn’t give a fuck what other fans thought. That may to be hard to understand for newer IWC members, I think now you can always find a group of fans somewhere that share your ideals and share at least some of your viewpoint. I guess looking back, it’s been ten years since that show and those guys seem like fans from another time in wrestling. I can’t imagine fans going to an Evolve show or something dressed up with the express purpose to incite, to support, to troll. I’ve seen hundreds of shows since then and I probably think about those four guys as much as I do any of the matches I’ve seen. In a way, they’re the ones who inspired me to sit down and start to reminisce about this time period. I hope some people reading this were at the show and remember those dudes too. I hope some people reading this who have no idea about random Dayton ROH shows from a decade ago got a kick out of this. I have no idea what I’ll do next, but I hope most of all you tune in again. Please feel free to leave comments or reach out on Twitter @wrestlingbubble!