Rising from the ashes of the bankrupt ECW promotion, with many former ECW personnel forming it’s core, Ring of Honor set about making it’s name, by showcasing a style that could be described as ‘the opposite extreme to ECW’.
Then-booker Gabe Sapolsky’s revolutionary concept centred around a hard-hitting, athletic “pure wrestling” style, in stark contrast, not only to ECW but also to the slapstick “sports entertainment” presented by the market leader WWF (now WWE).
ROH’s debut show was staged on February 23rd, 2002, at Philadelphia’s Murphy Recreational Center. The now-legendary Murphy Rec would go on to become the company’s permanent home, during it’s early days.
The inaugural card, ‘The Era Honor Begins’, was headined by the genre-defining Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. American Dragon 3-Way Dance. The trio of young, innovative stars created the blueprint for the ROH style and are now recognised, in ROH folklore, as the Founding Fathers.
In it’s first year, Ring of Honor live attendances cam in, typically, at around the 300 mark. The product mainly attracted the attention of the hardcore fans, that ECW had left behind, in Philly. Ten years on from it’s inception, through people power alone, ROH has successfully held shows in Japan, England and Canada and has sold out the near-2,500 capacity Hammerstein Ballroom, in New York City. The company intends to run frequent events at the historic Hammerstein, through the end of 2011 and into 2012.
As well as the classic 3-Way Dance, ‘The Era of Honor Begins’ featured international stars Eddy Guerrero and Super Crazy. The policy of using of carefully-selected established names, to accentuate the young athletes of ROH, eventually led to legends such as; Ricky Steamboat, Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Bret Hart, Bruno Sammartino, Kenta Kobashi and many more; gracing the trademark red and black ring.
Despite the involvement of such huge names, the promotion is best known for it’s commitment to producing top notch homegrown talent. Wrestlers such as CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson (the aforementioned American Dragon), AJ Styles, Matt Sydal, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Mickie James and a slew of others, got their breaks in ROH, before going on to international superstardom, in their own right.
Code of Honor
In an attempt to distinguish itself from it’s competitors, from day one, ROH instituted a set of conduct “laws”, known as the Code of Honor.
This Japanese-influenced self-policing method has had great longevity. Still to this day, wrestlers that choose not to obey the Code are met with antipathy, from their peers in the locker room and the patrons in the crowd.
The main unwritten laws, that make up the Code, include:
- The pre and post-match handshakes, that have become a hallmark of ROH.
- Run-in interference and DQ finishes being kept to a minimum.
- Respect for all referees and officials.
- Fair competition.
Christopher Daniels and his Prophecy stable were the first to actively challenge the Code of Honor, refusing to shake hands with their fellow competitors. This quickly established them as one of the most hated acts in company history.
There have, at times, been instances where bitter rivals have chosen not to follow the Code of Honor, with one another. This may not necessarily reflect the character of the individual, simply their distaste for one particular opponent.
Ring of Honor’s centrepiece is the prestigious ROH World Championship, currently held by Davey Richards. Richards defeated his tag team partner and best friend, Eddie Edwards, in an emotional match at June’s ‘Best in the World 2011′ internet pay-per-view. In doing so, the 28-year-old became only the 15th man to hold the belt in the organisation’s decade-long history.
The belt’s importance has been definied by long, dominant reigns, punctuated by some of the most critically-acclaimed wrestling matches of all time. Samoa Joe currently holds the record for the longest reign, at 645 consequetive days. Inseperable rivals Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson jointly hold the record number for successful defenses, each retaining their gold on 38 seperate occasions. Two-time champ Austin Aries is the only man to have held the belt more than once.
It should be noted that, unlike many companies’ top tier Championships, the belt has never been referred to as a Heavyweight title. This naming owes itself to the companies’ policy of promoting, primarily, Junior Heavyweight competitors.
The ROH Championship became officially recognised as a World title on May 17th 2003, when Samoa Joe travelled across the pond, to successfully defend against the UK’s own Zebra Kid.
The ROH World Tag Team Championship is held by the veteran pair of Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin. Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team have racked up a 178-day run, since ending the year-long reign of the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli.
This championship is recognised as the most important tag team title on the planet. Unlike in other organisations, where it is often now relegated to sideshow status, tag team wrestling is a frequent main event attraction in ROH. Seven of ROH’s singles World Champions, including all of the past five, have previously held the tag team gold.
Jay Lethal is the current holder of ROH’s tertiary title, the ROH Television Championship. This belt has been in existance for less than 18 months but has already been used as an effective springboard, by former champ Eddie Edwards, in his metoeric rise to win the ROH World Title.
The most noteworthy defunct title is the ROH Pure Championship. This belt was defended under a unique set of rules, which involved a limited allowance of ropebreaks for each competitor. Pure Rules matches are still occasionally held. The most recent of which was contested between Davey Richards and Christopher Daniels, at ‘Manhattan Mayhem IV’, in March of this year.
Ways to Support
ROH is traditionally known for it’s DVD-only show releases. You can find DVDs of all, in stock, titles, past and present, at ROHStore.com.
A more recent innovation, however, has been the live broadcast of internet pay-per-view events, via GoFightLive.tv. Starting, in December 2009, with the company’s showpiece annual event ‘Final Battle’, ROH’s iPPV events have gone on to be an unprecedented success. So much so that they have opened up an entire market for ROH, themselves, and many other companies, to take advantage of.
ROH has, to date, produced nine internet-pay-views, with the most recent being the bloodsoaked ‘Death Before Dishonor IX’. These events are priced at an affordable $15 and can also be watched On Demand.
Additionally, fans can keep up with the latest happenings via the Newswire and Videowire updates, posted at ROHWrestling.com and on the ‘RingofHonor’ Youtube channel, respectively.
Furthermore, you can connect with the company’s social media outlets, at Facebook.com/RingofHonor and Twitter.com/RingofHonor.
Finally, you can watch the all-new Ring of Honor Wrestling television show, in the Sinclair Broadcast Group markets listed at this link: http://www.rohworld.com/news/108.html. For those outside of the SBG markets, or perhaps those who have missed an episode, you can catch it from Mondays (Paid members) or Thursdays (Free) at ROHWrestling.com.