Ring of Honor. In the modern era, no independent promotion has captured the imagination of wrestling fans like ROH. It’s caused sweeping waves of controversy among the IWC, with loyal fans mockingly referred to as ROHbots by the uninitiated, although many of these dedicated fans look down their noses at “sportz entertainment” watchers for not being true pro wrestling fans. It was almost exactly two years ago that I became a ROHbot myself, so this week we’ll take a look at what’s changed in ROH since that fateful day, 21 September 2007.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Changes in ROH in the past two years.
Since I started watching ROH, several changes have been made. A bunch of factions have come and gone, for example, the No Remorse Corps, Sweet & Sour, Inc., Resilience, Vulture Squad, HANGM3N, and the Age of the Fall are no more. In addition to the stables that have dissolved, some wrestlers have departed the promotion permanently. Arguably two of the biggest stars of the company are now on their way out the door, as Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, both former ROH world champions, have signed contracts with World Wrestling Entertainment where they will join fellow ROH alumni CM Punk and Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal. Matt Cross and Bobby Dempsey haven’t been heard from much lately, and Mitch Franklin has mysteriously disappeared, although a young man with similar size and shape has emerged on the scene, but the less we mention the littlest lumberjack the better, right?
Speaking of Grizzly Redwood, Ring of Honor owner Cary Silken released his greatest storyteller, Gabe Sapolsky, back in October of 2008 and Gabe quickly turned around and helped launch Dragon Gate USA. This American arm of the Japanese Dragon Gate promotion scooped up ROH’s ppv deal with G-Funk Sports and Entertainment and loads of hot indy talent, and started producing shows that have the wrestling world standing in awe of such phenomenal performances. The only bright side for ROH is that Gabe’s departure opened the door for their weekly television show on HDNet, but since the show isn’t too hot (especially compared to how good an ROH television show could have been if properly booked) and isn’t drawing significant amounts of new fans to live events or increasing DVD sales, I wouldn’t consider the HDNet show a “win” for Ring of Honor. Not to mention the fact that while ROH had two fantastic commentators who worked well together, they left Lenny Leonard behind when they went to cable TV, and his replacement, the annoying, un-wrestling-educated, grating Mike Hogewood is a horrible play-by-play man who simply doesn’t “get it”. What the heck does “Slap the porpoise!” mean anyway?
A monumental change in ROH’s recent history is that there is now a two-time world champion in the person of Austin Aries, the first ever to hold that distinction in the nearly eight-year history of the promotion. The show that made me a fan was the first Driven ppv, and the specific segment that caught my eye was Aries’ excellent return to ROH after his disastrous run in TNA. Since that moment, Aries has become the Ace of the company by defeating Bryan Danielson in a best-of-three series comprised of three of the greatest matches I’ve ever witnessed. He was pursued by AoTF to become a new member, stole Lacey away from Jimmy Jacobs, endured a bloody war against the emo warrior, and turned heel to become “A Double”, the MV3 (Most Valuable, Vascular Vegetarian), quite possibly the greatest man to ever live. It’s a pretty tried-and-true heel character, the guy who’s in love with himself and thinks he’s better than everyone, but it certainly works.
Another character who has undergone radical changes is Chris Hero. Once an annoying goof who loved to show off his alleged skills and prowess by horsing around during his matches and making an ass of himself, Hero has tightened up his physique and gotten serious about wanting to win matches, dubbing himself “That Young Knockout Kid”. Hero now achieves victory by throwing a devastating elbow protected with a possibly loaded pad, and the change is certainly for the better in my book. The lovable, off-beat Delirious went through some big adjustments during this timeframe, too. After being spurned by Daizee Haze, the dejected Lizard Man was ripe for Jimmy Jacobs’ manipulation, and before you knew it there was a new member of the Age of the Fall. But eventually Delirious realized he was being used and abused, and he’s now once again the green and black gilded entertainer you know and love.
Speaking of new characters, Kenny King, Kenny Omega, the Dark City Fight Club, Bison Smith, Brodie Lee, D-Lo Brown, and several other grapplers have arrived in Ring of Honor since they debuted on pay-per-view, and none other than respected veteran Jerry Lynn had a run with the top strap. Davey Richards has evolved from exciting rookie to one of the top athletes anywhere in wrestling, and his fellow American Wolf Eddie Edwards has risen to the occasion as well. Colt Cabana left for WWE and has already returned to ROH, although rumor has it he’s working on jumping to TNA next. I hope Boom-Boom finds what he’s looking for wherever he winds up. Jimmy Rave likewise left Ring of Honor for TNA since I first tuned in, and has also made his way back to the welcoming arms of Silken’s indy fed.
While several elements of this new ROH are quite different from the Ring of Honor that I originally fell in love with, it’s been an interesting ride watching them develop while I kept up with current shows and simultaneously went back to explore their early history, too. In fact the oldest show I own is the original Unscripted event which ironically took place on 21 September 2002. There must be some special significance to that date or something.
The great thing about discovering a promotion like Ring of Honor when all you’ve ever truly known is the mainstream televised stuff, is that an introduction to ROH indirectly becomes a view through the looking glass. Because of Ring of Honor, I’ve learned about FIP, DGUSA, PWG, CHIKARA, and several other feds that are all well worth checking out, especially for those of us who value in-ring action over all the other ga-ga that comes with big-time “sportz entertainment” type programs. So even though ROH isn’t quite what it once was, it’s still a gateway into the rest of the pro wrestling galaxy. And besides, Ring of Honor at less than it’s best is still far and away a better wrestling promotion, top-to-bottom, than WWE and TNA, in my humble opinion. Many of us ROHbots are looking to the future, wondering what will be next for our beloved indy sensation.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy