Timothy Thatcher vs. Biff Busick (Beyond Wrestling Secret Show 4/13/14)

Match Reviews

Featured image by GD Photography

I know of Timothy Thatcher more than I know Timothy Thatcher.

Even on the superficial level of a wrestling fan knowing a performer, Timothy Thatcher exists in my mind more for his reputation than his actual work. He was a name on Larry Csonka’s EVOLVE pay-per-view reviews, a tag team partner to the 2018 Wrestler of the Year WALTER, a near mythological “damn good wrestler.” He existed as a series of asterisks–the only hints I had of the quality of wrestler that he was.

The most time I spent with Timothy Thatcher came through researching for the video linked above: a breakdown of his trilogy of matches with Daniel Makabe. I praise a lot of Timothy Thatcher’s work in that video. His facial expressions, his versatility between heel and face without changing the core of his character, and of course, his trademark technical excellence. Even then, I feel I undersell him as the video focuses much more on the narrative of Makabe and him trying to rise up to the challenge Thatcher poses.

I tried to keep up with him through the tail end of 2019 after completing that video. Friends and critics alike spoke so highly of him and I wanted to share in their enjoyment. I watched him wrestle personal favorite Eddie Kingston in Beyond Wrestling’s Uncharted Territory, win and defend the wXw Unified World Championship at World Tag Team Festival, take on Low Ki in a dream match at MLW.

All these things were good, some I’d even classify as great. But Timothy Thatcher excelled far more in my mind than in my heart. I appreciated Timothy Thatcher but I didn’t care for him quite yet. That wasn’t Thatcher’s fault. As I mentioned, his performances were often impeccable. He always stood out as the primary positive aspect of any match even against wrestlers I enjoy more such as David Starr. He was every bit as good as everyone else said.

But I was late to the party. So often with talents like Thatcher, one grows to love their work and then love the performer through their journey in time. With someone so often underutilized as Thatcher, the joy came from seeing him overcome reality’s worst forces–bad booking, foolish promoters. I’d imagine it’s akin to the same joys one attaches to someone like Daniel Bryan only played out on the independent level. Thatcher’s story appears to be one of small victories, hard fought.

I wasn’t there for the journey. I didn’t pay witness to his struggle.

I missed Timothy Thatcher which spares me the pain of missing Timothy Thatcher.

If I at all understand the demographic of readers that this blog attracts, then odds are you’ll have heard the news that Timothy Thatcher has signed with the WWE. After a prolific and high quality 2019 which saw him win a World Title, wrestle men he considered idols, reignite and conclude old rivalries, Thatcher has decided to settle down in the WWE.

How he will be utilized, no one can ever be sure. His ties to the European independent scene are so strong that it’s likely he ends up on the WWE NXT UK brand–a television show so under the radar, ignored, and vilified that it pretty much embodies the step-by-step, insidious destruction of the European independent scene from the inside out. He could choose to end his in-ring career, becoming a full time trainer at the Performance Center similar to Sara del Ray in the early 2010s. He might become a player coach like Kassius Ohno–used to lay down for younger, fresher talent and occasionally handed a twenty minute opportunity to produce a match of the year just to fill time on the WWE Network.

The news of his signing hit many online very hard. In particular, several of my friends from the notorious Slack chat processed the news the way one does when coping with great loss. They commiserated, mourned for an era now suddenly gone.

On an intellectual level, I understood their reaction. Thatcher was one of the last few stars from a generation of wrestlers that defined the European independent scene. Along with WALTER, Zack Sabre Jr., Will Ospreay, Ilja Dragunov, among others, Timothy Thatcher laid the groundwork that helped several European independent companies enter the upper echelons that drew the eyes of companies like AEW, NJPW, and the WWE in the first pace. And as his contemporaries signed one by one, Thatcher remained. Long after Ringkampf as a stable died, its core philosophy lived on in Thatcher’s work: “Die matte ist heilig.”

The mat is sacred.

That philosophy seems so far removed from anything that WWE represents as a brand that its irony can’t help but sting even in my own detached mind. When official press photos of Thatcher wearing a t-shirt brazenly printed with “Property of the WWE Performance Center” dropped online, it felt like a cruel joke.

But even then, these were things I recognized mostly in my mind. Not in my heart, not in my gut, not where many of my friends who have followed Thatcher for years truly felt the brunt of this news. Watching them see the news unfold felt like attending a friend’s parent’s funeral. You recognize their pain. You might even share a piece of it. But worst of all is the shame that you can’t feel it all and the relief that you won’t.

From what I understand, Beyond Wrestling as we know it today is built off the back of Biff Busick. The first man to proudly proclaim himself the Ace of Beyond, Busick is another talent that I missed the boat on as he got signed to the WWE and exists now on one of its many fake TV shows, 205 Live. It’s sad to say that I’m much more familiar with Oney Lorcan than I am Biff Busick.

This match from one of Beyond’s early shows in 2014 pits the two men against in each other in a match that I can only call archetypal. When these two lock up, in their minimal attire and their toned muscled frames, it looks exactly like what one imagines a wrestling match to look like. Set aside all the ideas of sports entertainment, indie irony, and hardcore excess, and you’re left with what we have here. Two men in superior physical condition, grappling for control. There are frames in this footage that can be carved into marble and placed in ancient ruins.

The mat work is so realistic and snug. Thatcher grabs hold of one of the tightest hammerlocks I’ve ever seen and controls Busick’s arm masterfully. Every single hold and advantage is fought for in this match, it’s a game of inches and milliseconds.

Busick is the first to escalate the action, throwing wild punches to rock Thatcher. Dazed, Thatcher still has enough to nail a stiff uppercut to regain control. At one point, Busick finds himself on the top turnbuckle only to get knocked off by Thatcher. Busick takes a spill, ending up splayed on the apron on top of a bundle of wires by a wall socket. Something about that image just imparts such a simple, gritty sense of danger that it added so much to my enjoyment of this match.

When Busick starts slapping the taste out of Thatcher’s mouth and Thatcher hits back, it feels earned. At this point, they’ve already put each other through hell on the mat. Tempers have flared and it feels organic and necessary instead of being just another checkbox to tick on the “Great Match Criterion.” And despite spending much of the match working from underneath, Busick’s able to grab a submission to make Thatcher pass out for the win.

This is a lovely match. Simple in its ideas but superlative in its execution. In many ways, a perfect introduction to Thatcher although his trademark facial expressions are slightly more subdued in this one. It’s a good one to see though. If the world is kind, we’ll see it again–albeit in a much more frustrating setting.

In the midst of all the chatter in the Slack, someone sent the above tweet. It’s a charming anecdote about Thatcher–a testament to how seriously he took his craft. Here we get a reminder of just how much pro wrestling can consume the lives of one dedicated to it–down to something I might take for granted like the choice of what to eat. Thatcher practiced a strict diet of hard boiled eggs and packaged precooked chicken. Sparse but rewarding, much like this match with Busick.

“Food is my penance,” said Thatcher.

That rules.

I thought about that as I considered how to process my own feelings (or lack thereof) to Timothy Thatcher’s signing. It was a disheartening piece of news, yes. Probably the most disheartening one in a long time. But even then, I could tell that I didn’t feel the sting that so many others did. Was my voice at all necessary to the discussion on Thatcher? Surely others could sum up his career and what he meant to many much better than I could.

And they should and they will.

But for now, this is how I choose to pay homage to the time he put in on the independents. I went back, tried to understand some of the magic that he captured. Hindsight will color my view but it wouldn’t hurt to see his work at all. Besides, I’m always in the mood for good wrestling and as I already said, Thatcher’s a damn good wrestler. Should it deepen my disappointment in his signing, so be it. At least I’ll have shared in that as well.

So for today, Thatcher vs. Busick is my penance.

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