In a past column here on here I admitted my love for pro-wrestling. So I decided to take this time to talk about my personal favorite promotion: Ring of Honor.
In 2002, as I started to slowly lose interest in pro-wrestling with the collapse of WCW and ECW this acquaintance of a one time friend turned out to be a tape trader/bootlegger. Ryan, his name, had a large collection of VHS wrestling tapes filled with mainstream wrestling as well as some Japanese wrestling and a good number of independent promotions. For most fans, these are the people to go to because locating indy and Japanese wrestling was not easy. You didn't see it on TV and it wasn't sold in stores.
Ryan started hooking me up with tapes of old favorites and even things he figured I would like. Eventually he got hold of a video for the debut of the new promotion Ring of Honor. ROH, for short, was being introduced as the pinnacle of independent wrestling. Booking top stars from other promotions in Philadelphia where wrestling has a loyal fan following. it was this same city which helped catapult ECW to cult status and ROH was looking to do the same except without the ultra violence. ROH wanted to be wrestling and built a code of honor about sportsmanship.
I was skeptical at first. Here was a promotion full of indy stars and I had only gotten to see a few in action but the first show was damn fine. Jay of the tag team the Briscoe Briscoes fought the high flying sensation Amazing Red which was the stand out until the finale which featured three wrestlers I had just gotten to know: Bryan Danielson, Low Ki(Senshi), and Christopher Daniels. Most triple threat matches are pretty lousy but this one was exciting and ranks up there with some of my favorite matches of all time. The attitude and personality, the counters, the head dropping and strikes, and the one up man ship was what made it great. But a company built around being straight forward in the US? yeah right and you knew it when Daniels walked out of the ring without shaking the hands of the two other men.
Over the next several months I would receive tapes and come to enjoy the likes of Brian Kendrick, Paul London, CM Punk, Samoa Joe and others. Few were over 220 pounds with incredible physiques, many couldn't even handle a microphone promo. But I'd get caught up in the feuds and grudges because of the wrestling aspect. By being impressed with the athleticism and abilities of wrestlers who were working mostly for the love of wrestling as many knew their chances of stardom was slim to none. ROH did was provide pro-wrestling to me.
However, a couple years back my friend moved and dropped out of the trade business leaving me ROH-less for a few years. This was before I started ordering on a credit card but by the time I had gotten one I was out. I didn't know what was going on and when I looked I was confused. but my friend kept talking about wanting to see this match between Samoa Joe and his favorite Japanese wrestler Kenta Kobashi. I decided to pick it up and show him since I doubted he'd ever see it any other way. I was happy to see some other stars on there I had been familiar with: Jimmy Rave, Tony Mamaluke, BJ Whitmer, James Gibson, Homicide, Colt Cabana, and others. So when I got the DVD, I was back in.
It had been at least two years I had missed and I saw Jimmy Rave had gotten bigger, had a new look, and had a hated personage. I watched as Homicide take on a crazy high-flying Eminem look a like wrestler in Jack Evans. Then there was the main event, Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi. I knew Kobashi from Japanese tapes. He was stiff, mean, and could go. Samoa Joe... well, I always liked Joe but he was never an ROH favorite of mine. But this Joe... he had grown more since last I saw him. When I first watched that match, I didn't feel it in the beginning. It had been a while since I had watched a serious competition like that but at the half point mark-I got the bite again. Ring of Honor hooked me. I started buying DVDs.
It's been a year since I started up on ROH again and in this year I've caught bits and pieces of what missed and played catch up with 2006. Ring of Honor had evolved since my last time watching it. The code of honor wasn't enforced. Hardcore and brawling were natural, but ROH still had some of the most exciting mat wrestling, high flying, and hard hitting action around. Complimented with great personalities. Not just people who can cut an entertaining promo but wrestlers who could perform with a flair in the ring that made them stand out. In 2006 I got to see how a one time favorite in American Dragon Bryan Danielson was now arguably the Best in the World. Meaner, more precise, and overall a jerk in the ring. I got to see ROH wrestler I barely knew or care become stars in my eyes. Guys like Nigel NcGuinness or Chris Hero. I got to watch some of the most absorbing story lines I had seen in wrestling in years. Like the feud between ROH and rival company Combat Zone Wrestling which built around a mutual dislike for each others styles. A feud culminating in a violent 5 on 5 match in the Cage of Death. I watched as Bryan Danielson juggled contender after contender for his world title. I became entranced in the elaborate storyline of Emo wrestler Jimmy Jacobs infatuation for his manager Lacey and how it effected his career with former partners like BJ Whitmer or a rival like Colt Cabana.
Ring of Honor to me is a company that understands where wrestling needs to go. you can have story lines, both comedic and serious, but you still need to treat the wrestlers and fans with respect. Show them what they paid to see, good wrestling. That's what I get from ROH: the best wrestling the US can provide.
Emo Kids Fear BJ Whitmer