ROH vs. CZW: How To Run An Invasion Storyline
March 15, 2006 by Nathan Davis
When fans bought tickets for Combat Zone Wrestling's Cage of Death 7 show, to be held on December 10th in Philadelphia at the former ECW arena, it is doubtful that few thought they would witness the birth of what has become the hottest storyline in independent wrestling today. By the end of that night, the seeds were planted for an intra-promotional rivalry between CZW and Ring of Honor. For on that night, CZW star Chris Hero challenged ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson to a match for the ROH World title on January 14th. This was a day when both companies would be running shows in Philadelphia, back to back. Now, three months after that challenge was issued, the intensity has been kicked up a notch.
The problem with "invasion" storylines in wrestling is that most end with one side getting all of the heat and focus on them by winning the war, while the other side is killed. A prime example is the WCW/ECW invasion in 2001. When the WWF bought WCW in early 2001, they had a chance to use a storyline that would make money for years to come. But this wasn't the WCW of Ric Flair, Sting, and Bill Goldberg. Rather, it was the WCW of Dallas Page, Booker T, and The Natural Born Thrillers. In order for fans to buy into the "evilness" of WCW, the WWF creative team had to merge the company with ECW, something that fans knew would never happen in real life. Then the WWF had to turn two of the biggest names, Steve Austin and Kurt Angle, against the company in order for people to believe that the Alliance had a chance to vanquish the WWF. This is an example of how poorly booked a great idea can become.
There was certainly that possibility when CZW and ROH agreed to work together. After all, they had an agreement in 2002 to run doubleheaders together that didn't last too long. But what has made this invasion stand out, is the wrestlers that CZW is using, specifically Chris Hero and Necro Butcher. Hero and Necro have had numerous topics on ROH's message board about them coming into the company over the years. It appeared as if it would never happen. This was until the challenge was issued. Suddenly, fans were happy to see Hero finally making an appearance in ROH. He has long been regarded as the best indie wrestler not in the company. Both Hero and Danielson cut promos trashing the other company. Hero made several outbursts in his online journal, especially.
While Bryan Danielson got the better of Hero on January 14th, CZW was far from dead. Before the match, Hero brought his buddies from CZW, including Necro, to the ring. After they sulked away through the crowd, it appeared the rivalry between companies was over as quickly as it began. However, Hero and Necro weren't done, as they showed up in the crowd during ROH's show on January 27th in Dayton, Ohio. They caused a ruckus (no pun intended) during a few ROH matches. This in turn caused ROH wrestler Ace Steel to issue a challenge for Hero and Necro to test their toughness against the ROH roster. When the duo jumped the rail, it was on. During the melee, ROH commissioner Jim Cornette was hit by an unknown assailant and lost a tooth. He proceeded to cut a fiery promo, hating on CZW's style. It was the Cornette of old.
The same thing happened the following night in Cleveland, only it was solely Necro this time around. This brings the rivalry to another strong point it has. ROH has been defended not solely by guys like Danielson and Samoa Joe, but mid-card wrestlers like Adam Pearce, whom ROH fans loathed before, as well as Steel.
After being turned back in Ohio, Hero claimed he was far from over with the fight. He crashed the ring that ROH set up on a New York City block to hype their February 11th show. He claimed that he might show up at every upcoming ROH show. He also said he might Necro back with him, or maybe more friends of CZW. And it was during this time that ROH and CZW announced it would run a joint doubleheader on March 11th at the former ECW Arena. This would be ROH's first ever show from the venue, and probably its only show as well.
While the countdown was on for this historic night, CZW tried to gain the upper hand by crashing ROH's fourth anniversary show on February 25th. The group was turned back again, specifically as Joe choked out Hero in the middle of the ring. CZW would have its revenge on March 11th.
On the ROH card in the afternoon, BJ Whitmer challenged Necro to a match but the two wrestled to a no contest, while CZW star Super Dragon got involved for his company. At the end of the night, chaos exploded. Whitmer and Joe challenged CZW to a fight and it turned into a messy brawl. Weapons of every kind were brought in by CZW including a weed whacker. In the end, ROH had to retreat. In order to help his friends get out of the arena, Whitmer sacrificed himself as CZW promoter John Zandig stapled dollar bills to his body. He also spray-painted CZW on Whitmer's back, while his charges destroyed anything that said "ROH" on it. ROH gained a small amount of revenge, with Generation Next beating The Blackout (Ruckus & Eddie Kingston) & Necro.
Furious over CZW's actions, ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky called for Zandig to pay the money to replace the mat and the banners that CZW had vandalized. He also said CZW had entered a war they had better be prepared for.
It seems that this inter-promotional rivalry has been taken to the streets (as well as the arena bleachers), and has caught every ROH and CZW fan up in the fun that it has given. In a throwback to the Memphis days, fans of both companies are adamantly sticking up for their promotion. This included when Hero "crashed" the ROH message board, causing several members to join CZW's board, and clog it full of pro-ROH posts.
So in conclusion, this feud has worked on a few different levels:
1. both companies are not afraid to put over the other, in order to make money
2. this war has been making mid-card wrestlers into "saviors" for this company, rather than relying on a select few
3. it has kayfabe alive and well on the Internet Wrestling Community
4. the clash of styles between the two fits so well together
5. there are plenty of personalities on both sides, from Hero to Cornette
6. it's just plain fun
by Nathan Davis ..
Bjoern Asprem wrote:
I just to want to say that this column is very good, and that the feud sounds even better. I can't wait to get hold of the DVDs of both ROH's and CZW's show. See, I only bought ROH before now, and I bet there's a lot of other fans that suddenly starts buying ROH or CZW show in order to see what "their" promotion does on the other show.
This is what happens when indy promoters think with their brains instead of other parts of their body. Gabe and Zandig > anything that the WWE and TNA bookers can come up with.
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