I will give any style of pro-wrestling a try. Joshi, puro, lucha, southern style rasslin’, World of Sport: you name it and I’ve probably sampled it just to get a feel of all the different types of wrestling that is out there. However, one style of wrestling that I keep finding myself going back to is deathmatch wrestling.
Yes, deathmatch wrestling. That stuff that involving light tubes, barbed wire, panes of glass and all manner of weird and wild weapons. I don’t know why I keep circling back to this painful and blood soaked insanity, but I do. It’s not for everybody, but I went down a deathmatch rabbit hole on YouTube a while back and found two of the wildest and best deathmatches I’ve ever seen – Necro Butcher vs Toby Klein from the 2003 King of the Death Matches tournament and the epic rematch from 2004.
One of the signature events of IWA Mid-South, a promotion run by one of the original purveyors of the deathmatch style Ian Rotten, is the annual King of the Death Matches tournament. Throughout the years, the list of competitors in the tournament reads like a who’s-who of the deathmatch world; Bull Pain, 2 Tuff Tony, Mean Mitch Page, Sick Nick Mondo, Mickie Knuckles, Matt Tremont, John Wayne Murdoch, Rickey Shane Page, Nick Gage, Mance Warner and plenty more. It’s also the oldest ongoing tournament of it’s kind, the first edition taking place all the way back in October 1997.
The 2003 tournament included a stacked roster of Mad Man Pondo, Axl Rotten, Balls Mahoney, Corporal Robinson, J.C. Bailey and Horace the Psychopath just to name a few. But the one match that left everyone talking was Necro Butcher vs Toby Klein. The two squared off in a “fans bring the weapons” match that famously become known as the “VCR match”, a brutal and violent five minute encounter that resembled a street fight behind a bar on a Saturday night rather than a wrestling match.
From the opening bell of the match, the two traded stiff chops and headbutts. The action then spilled out of the ring where they greeted each other again, this time with light tubes, chairs and even a plastic Santa Claus with light tubes duct taped to it. The first of the VCR shots was during this exchange as Necro chucked one right at Toby’s head.
The two fought around the ringside area as the crowd chanted for them to use a Papa John’s pizza sign that had somehow made its way into the ring. Then, as the ring announcer calls out that five minutes have passed, we get one of the damndest things I’ve ever seen. Necro is on his knees on the floor, his back oozing blood when the camera pans up to Toby Klein standing in the ring holding a VCR above his head. Klein drops the VCR full force from the ring right on top of Butcher’s head. You hear the crowd gasp and a fan next to the camera yell “Oh God!”.
Klein pulls Necro back in the ring, executes a powerbomb onto some more light tubes and goes for an Irish whip, only for a bloodied Necro to reverse it and choke Klein out for the win. The crowd is on their feet, completely aghast at the brutality they’ve just borne witness too. The death match to end all death matches … that is, until the rematch.
One year later on a late June night in the tiny town of Oolitic, Indiana, the two hellions of hardcore were once again paired up in the first round of the tournament.
As Dave Prazak does the ring introductions, Toby Klein, the man dubbed as “Mr. Insanity”, wanders around the ringside area with bundles of light tubes in each hand. Butcher attacks right as he is introduced and they waste ZERO time. They fight into the crowd as Butcher chucks a giant computer monitor at Klein. This wasn’t a LCD flat screen mind you, it was one of those giant, bulky CRT monitors. Klein misses a shot with a thumbtack covered wiffle ball bat and Necro retaliates with a wet floor cone to the back. Necro throws chairs on Toby with all hsi might and staples Toby in the forehead with a staple gun. Insert your Staples “easy button” joke here. They trade chops and headbutts as the crowd scatters. Back at the ringside area, Klein grabs a giant crayon with light tubes on the bottom of it and just waffles Butcher in the face.
Both men are covered in blood and fight across the building from one set of bleachers into the other, throwing stiff punches all the way. Up into the second or third row, Klein absolutely DESTROYS Butcher with a spine shaking, earth shattering powerbomb off the bleachers! Necro bounces on the hard floor of the building and the crowd chants “holy shit” in approval.
Back in the ring, a rolling pin covered in thumbtacks is used by Klein followed by some weird concoction of a wiffle ball bat, barbed wire and kabob skewers. Klein issues an elbow to block a Necro charge from a three-point stance and then dumps salt, as in table salt, on Necro’s open wounds on his bloody back.
Both men are absolutely spent on the outside and I have no idea how they can continue, unfiltered carnage surrounding them. Necro grabs a giant wall of light tubes and hurls it at Toby as it shatters around his neck. They fight back towards the bleachers as Toby is gifted a light tube from a fan and promptly shatters it over Necro’s back.
Necro climbs back in the ring, to the top rope he goes and …
A FORWARD SOMERSAULT OFF THE TOP ROPE OVER THE RINGPOST AND INTO THE CROWD!!! GOOD LORD!!! He barely hits his desired target and lands in a heap with a giant THUD on the floor. In a match filled with weapons of death match destruction, this is one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen!!
Klein drags a barely conscious Necro, who’s out on his feet after smashing into the ground merely moments ago, back towards the ring. Amongst the piles of shattered glass and miscellaneous homemade weaponry, Klein finds a VCR. In a call back to their 2003 match he waffles Necro with it. The crowd is on their feet and watching in silent horror as Necro comes back to life like a drunken Frankenstein monster and tries to choke out Toby, yet another homage to their battle the previous summer. The unlucky referee gets smashed into a thumbtack covered ironing board in the corner in an attempt to break up the hold.
Klein rolls up Necro for a near-fall, both running on fumes and exhausted. Klein stands on the ring apron and chucks a chair at Necro with blatant disregard of where it hits, the chair leg clips Necro and he falls in a heap. Klein returns with a chair to the back and then a death valley driver on an open chair ends the bloodletting as C.M. Punk on commentary says “this is fuckin’ crazy”. Yes, sir. It absolutely was.
Two barbaric gladiators, two epic fights … to the death.