B.J. Whitmer wrestled his first match for Ring of Honor in 2003 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, the same building he wrestled regularly as a local independent wrestler. Fourteen years later, he’s working commentary for the company and is part of the promotion’s creative team and office heading into one of its biggest shows ever - Final Battle 2017, scheduled for Friday at 9 p.m. on PPV and on the company’s website ROHWrestling.com.
The former Heartland Wrestling Association star, who trained under Les Thatcher in Cincinnati, has adopted numerous roles, battled serious injuries and the shifting popularity and economics of professional wrestling. Right now, for companies outside of World Wrestling Entertainment, it’s been a boom year.
Financial data on the company, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, wasn’t readily available, but the company set several records this year, and will be looking to book bigger buildings moving into 2018.
“It’s awesome going into venues and knowing they are sold out,” Whitmer said. “We want to keep moving and as long as we are selling tickets we will grown and expand.
Whitmer has been working several roles for the company, but will be moving to its headquarters in Baltimore at the beginning of the year; handling travel and logistics for the company and working on the creative and booking teams while helping write and format the ROH’s television shows.
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With that in mind, Whitmer went over the ROH Final Battle card, scheduled for Friday.
ROH World Title Match: Cody vs. Dalton Castle
The main event is an eye-catcher: Cody, formerly known as Cody Rhodes - son of Dusty Rhodes and a former star in World Wrestling Entertainment - left WWE in search of taking control of his own career. It’s been a major success. He’s been ROH World champion for most of the year, headlined New Japan’s first major shows in the United States this year, and is headlining Friday’s pay-per-view against upcoming star Dalton Castle. Rhodes was part of the infamous “Bullet Club” (the ultra-popular New Japan/ROH faction that now has its merchandise in Hot Topic) invasion of a WWE event, holding a rally in their parking lot before being nailed with a cease and desist orer from the company. One WWE writer was fired for taking selfie with former friends in the group before walking into the building.
Dalton Castle is the company’s upcoming star, someone most believe will be the face of the company moving forward. His adrogynous “peackock” gimmick, wild ring entrance attire, his “The Boys” ring valets harken back to Gorgeous George, but Castle is a powerhouse with a heavy amateur wrestling background. He may be the strongest wrestler pound-for-pound in the business, and is one of the most entertaining.
“I think it’s a dream matchup,” Whitmer said. “It’s such a clash of styles. They are showman, but in different ways. Dalton is an accomoplished amateur wrestler and you see that sprinkled into his matches. Cody is a guy coming from WWE with huge TV exposure, and he’s embraced ROH, the syle and he’s caught on with our audience.
Dream Match: Jay Lethal vs. Marty Scurll
Jay Lethal is often referred to as the ‘franchise” of ROH. He was the only wrestler in company history to carry both of its singles titles at the same time, and had a world title reign that lasted over a year. He wrestled Kenny Omega in the NJPW US title tournament, and put on a memorable match despite wrestling with a worked injured leg, showing his charisma and ability by turning the crowd with one move.
Lethal feuded with Ric Flair in TNA wrestling before rejoining ROH and becoming the company face. It was Flair’s last memorable feud, including an interview confrontation in which Lethal does his Ric Flair impression, and is so well Flair becomes lost in it.
Marty Scurll was the hotest wrestler in the United Kingdom wrestling scene, one of the fastest growing on earth. He came to the U.S., joined the popular Bullet Club staple, and has used the Young Bucks tag team’s YouTube show to show of his personality and character.
“Since Jay’s come back he’s carried the ball for a long time,” Whitmer said. “His in ring work is amazing, he carries himself like a pro at all times, wears dress clothes to the arenas, and is a great example of a professional athlete. He’s a great ambassador for Ring of Honor and wrestlinga as a hole.”
On Scurll: “I think he’s putting his villain character together and refining it and figuring it out when we were looking at him, which is right when he got the pieces right. He came into the company and got very over very quickly with the fans.”
ROH Tag Team Titles: Motor City Machine Guns vs. Best Friends (Trent Beretta and Chuck “Kentucky Gentlemen” Taylor)
The Machine Guns are considered one of the most innovative tag teams in wrestling history, combining cruiserweight and high-risk moves into a built-in tag team, which wrestling moved away from. Tag teams have always been a major part of ROH, and their tag division is strong with the Young Bucks, the Addiction and several other veteran squads.
“We’ve always embraced it,” Whitmer said. “We’ve had major cards where the Briscoes would take on Roderick Strong and Austin Aries in the main event. If you have a tag team getting over, and there’s a few teams they can have great matches with, why not put them in main event.”
ROH’s Young Bucks tag team, the most popular in the world, often main events ROH shows as the company’s biggest stars.
Beretta was formerly part of the Roppongi Vice tag team with veteran wrestler Rocky Romero. Beretta wrestlers singles in New Japan. Ropongi Vice wrestled the Young Bucks and the Hardy Boys (now in WWE) last year in one of the most anticipated matches of the decade, with Vice almost an add on, but who stole the show.
ROH TV Title: Shane Taylor vs. Silas Young vs. Punishment Martinez vs. Champion Kenny King
King was featured heavily on the ABC reality series “The Bachelorette” as one of the contestants. Punishment Martinez won the ROH top prospect tournament last year. At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, he’s blended strength and size with athletic ability, a trend among younger big men in wrestling. Shane Taylor is 350 pounds, hails from Cleveland, and is one of the most mobile big guys in wrestling. “The Last Real Man” Silas Young has been getting a slow build from ROH for the last two years, feuding with upcoming star Dalton Castle for a year, then beating Lethal.
ROH World Six Man Tag Team Championships: Adam Page and the Young Bucks vs Flip Gordon, Dragon Lee, and Titan
This match will be chaos. The Bucks are the best tag team in wrestling, Adam Page is quickly becoming one of the best workers in the company. Flip Gordon, an Army veteran, is an aerial acrobat who is considered a future star. He’s teaming with two of the top wrestlers from Mexican’s biggest promotion CMLL, Dragon Lee and Titan. Lee is considered one of the most innovative aerial wrestlers in the business.
Special Attraction Match: Matt Taven vs. Will Ospreay
Ospreay is the top high flyer in the business - his otherwordly highlights in New Japan have been featured on the web and television on Fox News, ESPN and various other networks. Highlights of his match with Ricochet last year in New Japan quickly went viral and led to New Japan making the rare decision to put a recent match on YouTube for free.
The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian) vs. War Machine (Ray Rowe vs. Hanson)
War Machine, which came of age in Ring of Honor, is now one of the two top teams in New Japan. Chris Daniels held the ROH World Title this year. He and his partner Kazarian are two of the most respect and talented wrestelers the last decade and a half. Should be a great match with surprises, good storytelling and a possible show stealer.
New York Street Fight: Jay and Mark Briscoe vs. Bully Ray and Tommy Dreamer
The Briscoes had been the top babyfaces in Ring of Honor for years. When the former Bubba Ray Dudley (Bully Ray) came to ROH straight from WWE, it was a match made in heaven, and the three won the six man titles. A split occurred with Mark Briscoe supposedly on the outs. Tommy Dreamer came to attend to an injured Bubba Ray Dudley after an attack by Jay Briscoe when he was jumped by Mark Briscoe. This is a dream feud for years, as many considered the Briscoes the heir apprent to the Briscoes. The match should contain plenty of tables, chairs, baseball bats, barb-wire, tacs and maybe a wrestling hold or two.