Wrestling was one of my first loves when I was a kid and all through high school. I’m in my mid-30s now, so I was at a great age for the resurgence that came about in the mid-90s and the Monday Night Wars that ensued. It was all very real to me until probably middle school and even then I can remember debates of how WCW was real and WWF wasn’t.
Even though I was still watching in high school, I became far more interested in punk rock and wanting girls to like me1. By the time I graduated, a lot of what was going on in mainstream wrestling didn’t feel like it was really for me, and I was completely unaware
that the independents existed.
In my early twenties, I was living with my bandmates and we were playing or going to shows, often hanging out on our porch until all hours. I was also a hopeless romantic trying to chase destiny and find love and all that noise, so keeping up with wrestling didn’t quite fit into my priorities at the time.
I would still talk with folks on occasion about the stuff I grew up watching and think about it nostalgically because wrestling truly did mean so much to me as a kid. My dad was in the Navy, so my family moved around a fair amount. That can lead to not having many friends, being a bit of a loner, and having a big imagination2, so pro-wrestling became a comfort blanket for me. When I think back about all of the years I spent not watching3, it makes me a little mad. It’s almost like missing years of being together with a friend over some stupid grudge like an out of touch elderly billionaire.
It’s still kind of wild to me that during my decade or so out of the loop, I don’t remember catching wind of Ring of Honor, especially when it feels like there were a few people, even in my musician/punk/hardcore circles, that were probably into it. Granted, there’s
some missing time and conversations4, so I guess it’s highly possible that someone did try to tell me about it, but I was too busy on another plane talking about how Springsteen actually wrote “Hungry Heart” for The Ramones, but Joey Ramone was like “Nah, you
better keep that one for yourself.”
1 The irony isn’t lost on me.
2 At least in my case.
3 Which granted, some of that time would have been before the WWE network (and then later just before my knowledge that the WWE network existed) and I didn’t know anything about the online message boards or anything relatively cool going on.
4 Something resembling a “Lost Decade”, if you will.
Good call for him, right? What were you saying?
.. Yeah.. sorry.. where was I?
So I’m playing in bands and swimming in music. It would eventually be through random conversations that I’d have with a later bandmate, who is a lifelong wrestling fan and involved in some of the surrounding indie wrestling scenes. He put things in
perspective for me about how independent music and wrestling scenes have a lot of similarities – in the style of venues both types of shows run in, the DIY aspect, the traveling 8+ hours to play a short set, the comradery folks in both scenes can build with
Even the performance itself and the mindset it takes to cut off whatever is happening in your own life long enough to give fans a good show and sometimes, the need to develop a different persona for playing shows. I’ve sung in numerous bands over the years and would have to get in a particular mental state before sets and almost become another version of myself. One who isn’t as full of anxiety as I typically am and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable in front of a crowd of strangers5.
I eventually became a subscriber to the WWE network and was going back to re-watch a lot of the stuff that I had already seen – and a lot of the Pay Per Views from my childhood that I had only listened to/watched scrambled versions of/saw still photos in
old WCW and WWF Magazines- but I wasn’t keeping up with anything new. Still just wading in nostalgia for the most part – but it wasn’t long before I learned that the guitarist for a band I was into was also a wrestler on the side.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I have been a fan of Every Time I Die since the beginning. I haven’t and they have a passionate fanbase where many folks have been “ride or dies” for them since the get-go and they deserve that sort of credit. I
have close friends that have been into them since before we became friends and it was through folks like that ETID made their way into my timeline6. All of that to say, I didn’t obsessively dive into their history as a band or who the individual band members were
initially. I just dug their tunes.
I think it was one of my bandmates at the time that casually dropped that ETID’s guitarist was in a tag team and I remember thinking how awesome that was. I had seen pictures of the band before and remembered that Andy was a big burly intimidating looking fellow, so when I found out he was a wrestler it wasn’t shocking but it did sort of make something click in me that made me want to check him out and support this dude who was seemingly living my childhood dream of being a wrestler and in a band7.
5 I’d later hear an interview with Andy Williams where he compared putting together a wrestling match with writing a song, referencing the structure, timing, and the ways you can make a crowd feel specific feelings and take them on a journey via a match, the same way you would with a song.
6 Their album “Low Teens” is my favorite of theirs because it hit me at a time I needed. Their last record, “Radical” did the same thing for me when it came out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the rest of their catalog, those just found their way into my rotation and stuck around a little more. 7 Sure – Chris Jericho does this too – but there are a lot of differences between Every Time I Die and FOZZY. Also, Jericho was just a wrestler to me when I was a kid.
Butcher & The Blade are based out of Buffalo, New York and made up of Andy Williams (The Butcher) and Braxton Sutter8 (The Blade). They feel like one of those tag teams that you can drop into any era and they wouldn’t feel out of place. They have a
look and feeling unlike anybody else in the wrestling industry9. I heard Andy describe their gimmick as something akin to the crazy guys that the protagonist in 90s action movies would have to go through before they get to the main bad guy. They’d always have bizarre characteristics and specific accessories that were never explained – weird badass henchmen with a shark tooth earring and a mohawk called in to take out some unlucky bastard.
Their look has evolved over the last few years10, but to give you an idea of the first time I saw them – Butcher is a 6 ft 3 in, barrel chested man, heavily tattoo’d from neck to calves, and at the time he kept a curled mustache and would have his hair slicked back or shaved completely bald, giving him some resemblance to “Strong Man” from the circus or Charles Bronson11. Butch wrestled in traditional black trunks with his initials and a meat cleaver on them, coming to the ring in a long black trench-coat – sleeves removed – and a monocle.
The Blade is slightly shorter than Butcher but jacked to the gills. He comes out to the ring wearing a leather mask that fully covers his head with a zipper on the mouth and buttons for eyes12 – not unlike something you might see in a horror movie. They have a lot of little nods to the horror genre13 and they definitely had a way of creating an intense and frightening vibe.
8 Jesse Guilmette, who also wrestled as 20-year journeyman Pepper Parks on the indies and later in IMPACT wrestling alongside his wife Allie.
9 I hope to one day wake in an alternate timeline where I get to see Butcher & Blade against early 90s Steiner Brothers in a WCW ring.
10 They are fashion icons.
11 “The most violent prisoner in Britain”, not the actor.
12 The mask he had on the indies was similar but instead of leather, it almost looked like skin pulled and contorted to make a face, not unlike the Necronomicon – but still with the zipper mouth and button eyes.
13 I seem to remember Butch & Blade noting the Nic Cage movie, Mandy, as an influence. That movie is a wild and spectacular, you definitely need to watch it.
They added to this when they joined Allie, under the new name “The Bunny”, in AEW. She was also in black gear and leather and dawned a bunny mask that is both cute and sinister14.
Once they enter the ring, Blade and Bunny stand in the center, staring at the camera as Butcher does a circle of lunges before standing alongside them, seething with the wildest eyes at the camera.
How could you see this and not immediately have to stop and watch whatever is about to happen to the sad souls on the other side of the ring from these villains?
Upon them hitting my radar, I went and searched out any matches I could find on Youtube and the internets. At the time there wasn’t a lot of stuff out there, so I’d re-run what few matches and promos I could find to catch my fix. It seemed unlikely they’d end up doing anything with a larger company15 since Andy was regularly touring with Every Time I Die. It just seemed like they’d probably do some stuff on the independents and I’d just have to catch stuff as it popped up online.
Then, in late November 2019, after a Cody Rhodes win on AEW’s new television show, Dynamite, a hole is sliced open in the middle of the ring during his post-match promo. Out crawls The Blade, followed by The Butcher and they proceed to lay out Cody
with their finisher at the time, called “Full Death”, in which Butcher suplexes their victim onto Blade’s knees. The Bunny then crawls out of the hole and the ominous trio stands in the center of the ring, basking in their destruction.
Their debut was met with some confusion as they were a relatively unknown team to the AEW and wider wrestling audience and a lot of fans can be impatient and get pissed off if you don’t spell it out for them as something is happening. It may not have been perfect execution but it looked awesome and as the weeks progressed, fans would learn that Butcher & Blade were being paid to take out Cody by Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Cody’s protege that turned on Rhodes in his Full Gear 2019 match against Chris Jericho, costing him
the ability to ever challenge for the AEW World Title again.
I wasn’t yet watching AEW when they came in – I found out about it not long after. It was really the first I’d heard about AEW. I remember a few weeks after their debut, coming across a random episode of Dynamite while channel surfing in the taproom of
the brewery I was tending at the time. I think it was their first Bash At The Beach episode because I thought the setup was cool but wondering how they were allowed to call the show that if they weren’t WCW. Then I remembered reading on some random music blog I was following at the time that AEW was where Butcher & Blade had shown up a few weeks prior. That evening they would have a trios match, teaming with MJF to face Dustin Rhodes, QT Marshall, and the Diamond Dallas Page16.
14 It reminds me of the eeriness of the movie The Strangers, where *2008 spoiler* a couple is tortured by three strangers wearing weird masks purely because they were home.
15 which at the time, WWE was still really the only big game in town. 16 Throw in JR and Tony Schiavone on commentary. Talk about tugging at my old WCW heartstrings – I was pretty much hooked and coming back weekly from there.
They’ve since played their roles wonderfully as the brute heel team that babyfaces have to try and go through to get to whoever they’re being hired by at that time. During the Daily’s Place “No Fans” era, they were a massive part of what kept me interested week to week17. Getting to see Butch & Blade on my tv every Wednesday, even if it was just them hanging out, being awesome in the crowd as they quietly loomed, was one of the highlights of my week during some of the worst times.
They had some great feuds and matches during that era, including several with their “family” that included the Lucha Brothers and Eddie Kingston, leading to a lot of fun 8-man tags. Butcher & Blade had a falls count anywhere match with The Young Bucks
that stands out and I feel like their match with FTR was underrated, but their Bunkhouse match against Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall where Blade ends up with a thick “crimson mask” is must watch. As shitty as the pandemic was at that time18, I don’t know that we would have gotten as much Butcher & Blade, or at least some of the matches and programs we did get, had things been business as usual.
Butch has had some bad luck with a couple of injuries over the last year or so, which kept him out of the ring a bit but he recently made his return, looking more fit and brutal than ever. I’m excited that he and Blade are going to be back to run through AEW’s loaded tag team ranks.
Butcher & Blade led me to finding AEW, which led me to finding more of my favorite wrestlers that I don’t know if I would have found out about otherwise. Since AEW was so new, there wasn’t a big back catalog for me to catch up on but I still needed more of a
fix, so I fell in a hole on the WWE network and went back to watch a lot of the years that I’d missed, and would unknowingly get introduced to earlier incarnations of some other new favorites, like Jon Moxley and Brodie Lee, during their time in WWE as Dean
Ambrose and Luke Harper, respectively.
17 Really, all of the folks that were involved during that period deserve some big love for keeping everything moving while others weren’t able to be there. The pandemic could have easily been the death of the young company but they all pulled together and made it happen.
18 Not that it’s over at the time of this writing, but at least fans are back and things more closely resemble “normal” – please get vaccinated.
Maybe I’d have found it all eventually – as things just have a way of happening in some instances, but it all felt like a very “right time, right situation” sort of circumstance.
I was entering some difficult and darker times in my personal life. My dad was very ill, the Coronavirus was taking over the planet, my band split up, I went through a lousy breakup, close friendships ended, and I had just stopped drinking a few months before…so wrestling became my escape again, the way it was when I was a kid. Something I could rely on and watch to feel better for a little bit at least. My comfort blanket.
I’m grateful for all of the wrestlers that go out and put their bodies on the line for our joy, to tell stories and entertain, and give us the ability to step outside of whatever may be going on in our lives, to escape whatever sadness we are going through.
I’m thankful for Andy Williams being a portal, and for the Butcher & The Blade for being a big part in keeping the porch light of pro wrestling on for me to find and fall back in love.
Thanks to the brilliant Michael Watson (@Brainbuster__) for the incredible photos.