On this day, May 13, fourteen years ago, Homicide went up against Necro Butcher, entering himself into the legendary Ring of Honor/CZW feud, and creating one of my favorite scenes to take place in a wrestling ring. I’m hesitant to call it a match, because in a way that undermines it. When I first saw it years ago, it was presented to me as just a match, part of a compilation of Homicide greatest hits. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t really resonate. Just a little bit of context can go a long way with moments like this one. The interpromotional feud between Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling in 2006 had taken so many dips and turns in the preceding five months of shows; there’s only so much I can illustrate in the few hours before I eat lunch today. Still, I’d like to try. 

In January, Chris Hero fires the first shots at Ring of Honor champion Bryan Danielson, and he doesn’t just do it in the ring; he also does it on LiveJournal. Hey, it was a different time. In fact, “it was a different time” is something you really have to get used to saying if you’re going to look back at these old CZW and ROH shows comfortably. These guys say some real vile shit into microphones, let me tell ya. Often, it feels like the city of Philadelphia had the honor of hosting the Homophobia Olympics and in an unprecedented event, every competitor received the gold medal. 

That’s just one of the ways the two companies were deceptively similar. The story being told, and the way history perceives both companies, would have you think CZW were a bunch of deathmatch oafs infringing on Ring of Honor’s highly sophisticated brand of grappling with a raised pinky finger. But were they? When you look now, and Ring of Honor’s go-to tandem of Adam Pearce and BJ Whitmer stands across from Super Dragon and Claudio Castagnoli —  the future Cesaro who at points is the very fulcrum the entire feud pivots on — the distinctions blur a little, don’t they? What if you consider that talents like Kevin Steen and Eddie Kingston were playing key auxiliary roles in the feud on the Combat Zone side? 

That’s why the opening chapter is so significant, isn’t it? At Hell Freezes Over (a show named for the main event’s prior unlikelihood), when a smattering of invading talent — along with their referee, Bryce Remsburg —  enters through the crowd to the CZW theme music, the atmosphere is intense. Taking place in Philly, Combat Zone’s home turf, attendance has surpassed the legendary Joe vs. Kobashi show in the same building. To contend with Ring of Honor’s champion, a Bryan Danielson who is drawing “best in the world” chants in the midst of what will be a 462-day title reign, they don’t send in barbed wire bats or weed wackers, but rather Chris Hero. The bell rings on two burgeoning in-ring maestros, both as adept in mat mechanics as they are being insufferable assholes to rabid crowds. 

But whatever, that’s not what we’re here for. 

Obviously, CZW’s reputation for blood and guts is justified. They’d hung their hats on a partnership with Big Japan and more than one annual event that ended in the word “death”. And sure, one of their main representatives in the feud was Necro Butcher, but Necro in 2006 is just different, man. When he’s marching around behind Hero he can come off like a dumb, barefoot third Bushwhacker, the epitome of indie garbage, but he’s actively churning out classics at this point. On top of starring in the CZW/ROH feud, in April he threatened to steal Wrestlemania weekend in a brawl against (recent ROH castaway) Low-Ki that set a new IWA-MS attendance record. In February he made an appearance at Chikara’s Tag World Gran Prix to fight Yoshiaki Yago in a match that’s really pretty shitty but still garnered some healthy buzz. (As a side note, Eddie Kingston’s commentary on that match is so great it might qualify it as one of my favorite Kingston matches) In the months preceding, he’d also had a couple notable matches with Samoa Joe. You might be familiar with one of those. 

But Ring of Honor had some lunatics too. For example, the guy who was busy pouring Draino down Colt Cabana’s throat. 

Homicide was floating outside of all the interpromotional drama, occupied by a blood feud with Colt Cabana that would span about half a year. It’s not great. The same Colt Cabana who is somehow a bottomless well of charm every time he goes near a live microphone, spends portions of it staring off-camera, going long-form about coming to terms with his own mortality, or worse, doing things like this: 

But it also provides us with ample character-affirming evidence that Homicide is a walking weapon. Before it’s over he’ll have choked Colt unconscious with coat hangers, battered him over the head with every foreign object under the sun, ambushed him in the streets of Philadelphia, taken razors to his forehead, and did I mention the time he made him drink Draino? 

Finally, they blow it off at ROH’s Better Than Our Best over WrestleMania weekend, in an epic that at one point sees Homicide calling for the fans to throw their chairs into the ring to bury Cabana. It’s a very memorable visual, and it took place only a few hours after the aforementioned Necro Butcher vs. Low-Ki match for IWA-MS. 

Meanwhile, the feud with CZW would rage on, with both promotions learning that the surefire formula for frenzied crowds was drawing in rival fans. In April at ROH’s 100th Show, again, in Philadelphia, they bisect the crowd into designated bleachers for fans of either company. Chris Hero cuts an incendiary promo, followed by a single camera, where he begins on the ROH side surrounded by fans who sound as if they’d like to dismember him, and makes his way across to the opposite end where a widened shot reveals CZW spray-painted in yellow across a Ring of Honor banner. 

Bryan Danielson slows down the action in a title defense against Delirious just to draw further jeers from the Combat Zone faithful. Jim Cornette and Zandig, the respective heads of the two factions, come out and have a DEBATE that eventually devolves into Cornette throwing a fit, yelling things that probably qualify as hate-speech today before he storms out of the ring. The main event is a three-on-three street fight that has to be seen to be believed. A personal favorite moment is Samoa Joe marching along the outside while a fan can be heard calling out, “Find Super Dragon. Find Super Dragon and kill him.” It may have been sound advice, because it’s not long before Super Dragon practically assassinates BJ Whitmer. (Apparently, he also shoot monkey-flipped a fan that night)

The battle comes to a head when Claudio Castagnoli turns on Ring of Honor, reunites with his Kings of Wrestling partner Chris Hero, escapes into the victorious CZW section of the crowd, and tears his Ring of Honor jacket in half. It’s perfect. 

It’s a tremendous hit, so naturally, they churn out a sequel. One week later in Dayton, OH, on the first night of ROH’s Weekend of Champions, another six-man tag headlines. It has its moments (Super Dragon murders Whitmer again, very cool), but let’s say it’s more of a Die Hard 2 than an Empire Strikes Back. Midway through the bout, seemingly completely unprompted, the crowd begins to chant, “HO-MI-CIDE!” Did they know what was coming? Were they just hoping ANYONE would emerge and get them out of watching Ace Steel and Nate Webb go at it? Who’s to say? 

Finally, we arrive on the day it all goes down: May 13, 2006.

What I didn’t realize until recently, is that CZW also ran a very important show that afternoon. Their annual Best of the Best tournament takes place at their usual home, the New Alhambra Arena. All of Generation Next, as well as Christopher Daniels would compete as Ring of Honor representatives. Daniels suffers a loss to at-the-time CZW champion Ruckus, and is taunted by a “Ruckus!” chant at the evening show. 

There are a couple factoids about this show that only serve to enhance the big moment later. Attendees were assured the show would end in a timely fashion to allow people to make it to Edison, New Jersey for the Ring of Honor show that night. The show runs close to FIVE HOURS. Looking at other matinees CZW would run at the time, my assumption is that the show began at 2 PM. Google Maps is telling me the drive from one venue to the other is about ninety minutes, and that’s in non-existent worldwide pandemic traffic. Just before the main event, a squash match for the H8 Club team of Nick Gage and Justice Pain runs just shy of twenty minutes. 

The other thing is that Necro Butcher teams with Super Dragon in a grueling match for the CZW tag belts against the BLK-OUT team of Eddie Kingston and Joker. Hours before the absolute chaos that would break out in New Jersey with Homicide, he’d already had a total banger that even saw him and Joker attempt to wake up an exhausted crowd by, well, punching each other in the face. 

That evening in Jersey we’ve got another lively crowd, in large part because Ring of Honor has promoted a third Samoa Joe vs. Necro Butcher match as their main event. Initially it seems they’re trying to throw us off the trail by putting Homicide in a brief, early card tag team squash. At its conclusion though, Adam Pearce, now deputy commissioner for an absent Cornette, enters the ring to offer an impassioned plea. Ring of Honor has come out on the losing end of run-ins with CZW night after night, and they need his help. “The fans want it,” Pearce says, “Jim Cornette wants it, I want it.” Homicide swiftly rebukes him with effortless poetry: 

“Like I give a fuck about these people, like I give a fuck about Jim, and I don’t know who the fuck are you.”

And he drops the mic. 

Before Joe and Necro Butcher enter the ring, the commentary team of Jared David and Dave Prazak signs off early, essentially saying they’re not even going to try and keep up with what’s coming next. Even if you know what’s coming next, the image of Joe and Necro standing across from one another conjures up too much history to not get hyped up. Of course, it’s not long before the entire CZW battalion enters the fray, and likewise the Ring of Honor side, and our dream main event’s been kicked aside for yet another iteration of this brawl. Sure, it’s a joy to watch an all-star cast go to war, but it’s a scenario that’s yielding diminishing returns and can’t possibly undo the sting of losing our promised Joe vs. Necro match. But then we reach a point where Castagnoli has BJ Whitmer in position for a powerbomb from the top rope, unto Adam Pearce who’s being held on a table outside the ring. 

We’ve seen this sort of thing a hundred times before. An impossibly dangerous spot, a classic “no way they’re doing that,” just before somebody runs in to break it up. But this time there’s no one left; every wrestler’s been taken away or incapacitated. That’s when the lights go out. 

The Kill Bill sample, “The Truth” by Beanie Sigel, Homicide. Everything that happens next is magic. When he levels Hero the response is deafening. But there’s one specific moment that’s the entire reason I blew my afternoon writing this. The remaining members of either side pair off and fight their way to the back until only two people are left: Homicide and Necro Butcher, in a ring together for the very first time. Both having long been established as symbols of upper-tier violence, colliding smack dab in the middle of a feud that already had audiences foaming at the mouth. And then referee Todd Sinclair steps into the ring, assesses the situation, and calls for the bell. The response is fierce and guttural; you can distinctly hear every letter in the word “YES” coming in unison from a packed house in the Inman Sports Center. They sound like they’ve all transformed into dogs in heat, and they never quite revert back. That’s the moment. 

There’s no reason to dig into the minutiae of the bout. I don’t think they could have ruined it if they tried. They both know the crowd belongs to them and they’re two pigs in shit battering each other amongst said crowd. When it returns to the ring, Homicide begins grinning ear to ear and is practically skipping along the ringside area when he calls for everyone to shower the ring with their chairs, just like he’d done one month ago to Colt Cabana. But this time, he’s got an audience that’s come completely unglued, who meet his request with a flurry of folded steel that sends bystanders running for cover, and security guards begging for sweet mercy. Homicide is their conductor, excitedly calling in the cellos, and they don’t relent until he takes a microphone and instructs them: 

“Alright, alright. This motherfucker’s fucked up already. He got the fucking deal. Let’s stop throwing chairs in the ring.”

He then climbs in the ring, and he and Necro essentially have a whole match atop of a scrap heap, a task that few are more equipped to tackle than they. And when it ends with Homicide the obvious victor, he offers a polite greeting to his frothing congregation. 

“Welcome to Ring of Homicide, biatch.” 

Thank you for having me, sir.