Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ring of Honor Celebrates 9 Years! (part 1 of 2)

I consider myself one of the fortunate few fans still around and actively following Ring of Honor to say that I was in Philadelphia at The Murphy Recreation Center 9 years ago today. Truthfully, I shake my head in amazement that it has been that long. Honestly, I am thankful that ROH has weathered their challengers and still provides a pro wrestling alternative today. Really, I could take this entry in many different directions. I could look back at every significant moment in ROH history (might be more than JUST a single entry to do that...). I could talk about the 50+ live shows that I was able to attend from 2002-2009 and those experiences from being front row and getting exposed to some things most fans probably never will. I could discuss the countless friendships and personal relationships that are a direct result thanks to Ring of Honor, either from live events, fan gatherings or message boards. While I feel all would be entertaining and worth your time to read, I am going to go a different route. I will highlight a moment or two from each of the anniversary celebrations from year 1 in Queens until year 9, which is celebrated this Saturday night in Chicago Ridge, IL and will be broadcast live on iPPV.

I traveled to Queens with my good friend Scott and his wife Wendy for the 1st Anniversary Show. At that point, it was the first ROH show outside of Philly that I was going to attend and of course, the New York debut, so we had to be there. Unfortunately, by the time we decided to go, all of the front row tickets were gone! At this time, front row tickets were only $35 (I believe), but we decide to go later than originally had hoped and the best we could do was 2nd row. That sounds arrogant, but really when we traveled 12-14 hours to shows via car and stayed in cheap hotels to cut costs, we valued greatly the front row experience.

There is so much I could write about when it comes to this event. The Scramble Main Event being the cluster of all clusters (!), The incredible ROH Title Match (Xavier-London) and the 3-Way that preceded it (London-Low Ki-AJ Styles) or The Infamous Riot with Steve Corino & "The Group" and Homicide and his Brooklyn Familia. I will say this - I am very challenged to think of a time, either before this show in 2003 or since that time, that I have ever feared for my personal safety more at a pro wrestling show. This angle was magnificently done and the elements of realism, the blurring of the line so much and the atmosphere created probably can never be duplicated. Seeing Wendy cry non-stop and feel like I might need to duck and cover if it got more violent was a feeling I will never forget. It was a terrific rush!

One year later, ROH ventured to Braintree, MA to present the 2nd Anniversary Show and crown the first ever Pure Wrestling Champion. This was the first ROH show that my wife attended with me, so that is a good memory of course. Anyone who knows her - she really can't stand wrestling in general. However, having Scott and Wendy join us made for a fun weekend getaway with wrestling mixed in. Interestingly, my biggest memory of this show was that Alex Rodriguez was traded from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees over this weekend and of course, being in the Boston-area, there was chatter about that everywhere. ROH specific, Low Ki was a late, late addition to this show - like announced Tuesday or Wednesday before the show. I don't know if that was the plan the whole time or if it was needed to boost ticket sales, but it got me excited and while the ROH World Title Match he was in (Samoa Joe-Low Ki-BJ Whitmer-Dan Maff) was not a classic, it was a fun, hard-hitting match. Low Ki would then not appear again for ROH for 5 months.

For ROH's 3rd Anniversary, they had established themselves well enough to do a 3 city "Anniversary Celebration," hitting Elizabeth, NJ @ The RexPlex, Dayton, OH and Chicago Ridge, IL. I, again, had the fortune to attend Dayton and Chicago Ridge live. My memorable moment on this weekend was the Jimmy Rave upset of AJ Styles in Dayton. Rave had been gaining a ton of momentum with The Embassy and Prince Nana since becoming "The Crown Jewel" in July 2004, but never really beat any major name. He was also using "The Rave Clash" as his finisher, stealing it from Styles. Styles, with many TNA commitments and having been pulled by TNA due his contract and other issues in 2004, was finally going to return in Dayton and I was SO excited to see him exact his revenge. Then, after dastardly spraying bug spray in his eyes, Rave stole the pin and left me wondering if, not when Styles would ever get his revenge, but also truly elevating Rave's stock in the eyes of many and becoming a truly hated wrestler.

The 4th Anniversary Show was the first I had to miss. I haven't watched the DVD in many years, but the main event of Austin Aries and Roderick Strong against AJ Styles & Matt Sydal in a ROH Tag Team Title Match was really awesome and was without a doubt a dream tag match at that time.

ROH's 5th year was celebrated with a "Festival." A six show series that marched from NYC to Philly to Dayton to Chicago Ridge to Liverpool in the UK for a double shot. So much happened on these shows and they are a great series of matches/shows that stand on their own and connect important parts of ROH history together. Again, I defer to the moments I saw live for my best recollection and in Dayton and Chicago Ridge, being live for Samoa Joe's United States ROH farewell was fantastic. Samoa Joe is a Ring of Honor legend and his work in ROH was fantastic. I have no doubt that Joe was truly one of the best wrestlers in the world during his 2004-2006 ROH run and being able to be part of the crowds to wish him well as his career opened a new chapter was awesome.

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