Earlier this week, independent professional wrestler David Starr drew eyes on his upcoming ROH World Championship match against Jay Lethal at the Israeli Pro Wrestling Association (IPWA)’s Passover Bash 2019 event. In a promo video for the match that he released on social media, Starr brought up his Jewish heritage, political controversies involving Ring of Honor’s parent company Sinclair Broadcasting, and his stance on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, a hotly debated real-life political conflict. When Starr took down the promo and released a statement about it, it generated even more publicity (including an analysis on With Spandex) for and controversy about the match than when the video was initially released.
While much of what happened behind the scenes of these events is still unknown to the general public, a few different parties have now addressed the situation. ROH has yet to openly respond, but on March 20, a source told Pro Wrestling Sheet that “ROH management weren’t thrilled with Starr criticizing the company’s politics” and “implied Lethal would be pulled from the event if the video wasn’t taken down.” The same sources told the publication that “David obliged so IPWA wouldn’t lose out on a lot of money.”
Since then, new statements have been made regarding the removal of the promo. In an article published in The Jerusalem Post on March 22, IPWA owner Gery Roif stated that “Sinclair forced them to take [the video] down in an act of censorship.” So far, Roif, who also wrestles under the name Rabbi Swissa, has not publicly mentioned ROH management in relation to these events. His last direct statement about ROH was made in February after the announcement of that the championship match, when he posted on his Facebook page:
So honored to have Ring of Honor’s management approval to have ROH World champion Jay Lethal defend the ROH World championship against David Starr in Israel for my IPWA Passover Bash event. This is a HUGE accomplishment for the wrestling scene in Israel and very symbolic for the things to come.
I CAN NOT disappoint! I WILL NOT disappoint!!
At the time this article was written, Starr (who, it should be noted, is not an ROH employee like Lethal, but an independent contractor hired by the IPWA for this event) had tweeted twice in response to the situation since his initial statement about the promo’s removal. First, he tweeted a screencap of his own face from the video at the official accounts for Sinclair and Ring of Honor:
His next tweet was an announcement for a new t-shirt that features a picture of his face with the word “Censored” over the mouth, the words “Sinclair is scared” above it,” and “Shalom” in Hebrew and “Salam” in Arabic beneath it. Fifty percent of the proceeds from t-shirt sales go to Children of Peace, a UK-based charity that describes itself on its website as “a non-partisan children’s charity organization dedicated to building trust, friendship and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4-17, and their communities.”
Starr has not made any statement about the other wrestling company involved in this, IPWA, beyond his earlier note that he removed his promo “out of respect to IPWA, who have already paid for Jay’s very expensive flight and accommodation.”
So while the political issues referenced in the creative material surrounding this match are far-reaching, complex, and obviously way more serious than what’s normally covered here on With Spandex, we can make a few clear, wrestling-specific takeaways from these events so far:
- David Starr has received a lot of publicity
- The IPWA has received much more publicity than they would have otherwise for this show, their first since their 2014 Passover Bash
- It looks like Jay Lethal is retaining his title in that three-way ladder match at the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard