By 2004 everything that I had previously found entertaining in wrestling seemed boring. My love of “The Game” couldn’t deter from the fact Raw had became a Triple H marathon of promos about “this business”, Smackdown was enjoyable but their weak midcard made a majority of the show difficult to watch. And TNA’s weekly pay-per-views which we got for free on The Wrestling Channel were hard to follow, mostly due to wayward angles and storylines.
I tried to stop. For the first time in something like four years I missed an entire week of wrestling in the early days of 2004, but despite its staleness I couldn’t shake what had became almost an addiction, no matter how bad it got, how uninterested I was my mind and heart always led me to my television, always led me to professional wrestling.
In a flaccid attempt to interest myself I searched the net for old wrestling DVDs. In my youth I was what many fans are now, reminiscing about the Attitude Era which I once looked back on as “pure entertainment”. But now view it for what it was, trash television so cringe-worthy it was entertaining, much like how Jersey Shore or Geordie Shore for Brits is attractable to viewers without them realizing.
During my searches, I came across what would save me. I found a promotion called Ring of Honor.
At this time Ring of Honor had an incredibly poor website, with minimal navigation skills, few images except for a logo and some snapshots from recent matches. I continued viewing and wound up on eBay where I found a slew of DVDs, but one stood out to me above all else.
It was entitled “The Conclusion” and on the cover stood two men, one at this point I knew, that being Raven, the other I didn’t recognize but today he lives as one of the most recognizable wrestling personalities going, the former ROH and WWE Champion, CM Punk. It was due to Raven I mowed the lawn, washed the dishes, got the money and purchased the DVD – I would not be disappointed.
To explain my initial viewing can’t really be done. It was spectacular. There was no stupid videos, no unneeded advertisements, no censors, no meaningless promos, everything was set-up to lead into something else. CM Punk began the show with a promo on Raven and on an angle involving storyline girlfriend Lucy who’d been attacked, and from this point forward I was hooked.
It let me see guys like Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe painted in lights TNA weren’t letting them be shown, Styles as an egotistical bad guy who viewed himself as the next big thing in wrestling, Samoa Joe as the machine he once was, this not even the height of his dominance, Christopher Daniels as this eerie heel who entered to the sound of Marilyn Manson. And the main event, CM Punk versus Raven inside a steel cage. This was wrestling.
It was as of this viewing I became a fan of Ring of Honor, and to this day my fandom continues. It’s seen me invest money, the odd twenty Euro, sometimes fifty, once a hundred on DVDs, the odd t-shirt whenever they release a beauty, since Final Battle 2009 iPay-Per-Views, but its all been worth it as I watched the rise to stardom of guys like Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Chris Hero and others.
The golden age of Ring of Honor will forever be viewed as the time period between 2005 and 2006; off the back of the now infamous Summer of Punk angle, Ring of Honor was riding a wave of momentum, attracting new fans, selling out the Hammerstein Ballroom, traveling abroad to places like Japan and England, the latter would take the more wealthy TNA another three years to do.
I sat front row and am visible on the DVD of Weekend of Champions Night II, that saw Nigel McGuinness, my then favorite wrestler put his ROH Pure Championship on the line against Bryan Danielson’s ROH World Championship in a historic championship unification match. Having seen Chris Jericho versus Shawn Michaels live at No Mercy 2008, I still rate this match better. Ring of Honor was prospering, but despite my fandom, I even realize it began faltering.
In 2008 Gabe Sapolsky left Ring of Honor, replaced by former NWA World Champion Adam Pearce. Pearce would man the helm and do a good job for two years before being replaced by former Smokey Mountain Wrestling booker and legendary manager Jim Cornette. The reason for Pearce’s removable was explained as a “difference of ideology”.
Jim Cornette is one of the most entertaining personalities professional wrestling has ever had, viewed by some as a God, viewed by others as a disease. He provokes reaction whether it be positive or negative, but as the booker for Ring of Honor alongside Delirious he would prove to be the promotion’s most self-destructive official.
In his day Cornette was a fantastic booker, he has his ways, he has his mind-set, but his opinion on what wrestling should be is not what Ring of Honor should be. In a matter of months fans witnessed Ring of Honor devolutionise from the top professional wrestling company in North America based off in-ring content to a watered down form of sports entertainment that featured the odd great wrestling match.
2010 wasn’t necessarily a huge disappointment, Ring of Honor proved to be a success on Mark Cuban’s HD Net network, certain episodes gaining ratings that stood impressively against TNA’s nationally syndicated iMPACT! 2011 however will forever be remembered as a dark year in the promotion’s history. Off the back of the phenomenal Kevin Steen versus El Generico feud, one Cornette diligently opposed for whatever reason, Steen left the promotion due to contract disagreements. As did Colt Cabana who is yet to return, Austin Aries who would join TNA, and with Steen’s return, came El Generico’s departure.
2012 had its bright spots under Cornette, we witnessed the rise to prominence of “Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare” Kevin Steen, Sinclair Broadcasting helped improve the production values of the promotion, which they recently made further investment in, stars such as Michael Elgin and Adam Cole broke out into a degree of spotlight, but booking was still unimpressive and the roster remained thin.
On November 28th 2012, it was announced that Jim Cornette had taken a “sabbatical” from Ring of Honor after a blow-up backstage following a live event, he would be replaced by Ring of Honor fan favorite and co-booker Delirious, who fans entrusted to deliver something we could take pride in again. Something Ring of Honor was built on, and in only a few short months… Delirious has delivered.
Following the 11th Anniversary Show the general consensus is out and fans of old are returning to the company we made. Those isolated by Jim’s narrow minded booking and lack of serious challenger creating ability are pleasantly surprised to find that Delirious has wrote nearly every wrong right, and has gradually restored Ring of Honor to what it once was.
Ring of Honor was built under the adage that anybody can beat anybody, if your booked to feature on the show that somebody believes your good enough to beat the guy on top of the mountain despite that in any other company you’d be viewed as the person on the bottom, this is no more evident than the 11th Anniversary Show that saw two underdogs capture championship gold.
Matt Taven is the type of the guy Gabe Sapolsky would’ve taken to in the early days. Young guy, full of potential, full of talent, charismatic, a suited fit for the midcard and the ROH World TV Championship, something guys like Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal, Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole have done well to build into a title that could catapult talent into the main event.
reDRagon defeating The Briscoes was easily the bigger shock of the two, but it’s nothing abnormal for what Ring of Honor was built on. Two guys who are renowned for their wrestling ability, who work well as a tag team, forming and defeating the most acclaimed team in ROH history The Briscoe’s to instantaneously create a new top tag team in the promotion, something the national promotions have issue doing.
Rhett Titus turning on Ring of Honor and aligning with SCUM was straight out of left field, but it’s logical and it makes Rhett relevant to the product. Following Kenny King’s departure Titus was stripped of the ROH World Tag Team Championship and entered into a tournament with rival Charlie Haas to crown a new champion, in the realm of the storyline Titus has a right to be pissed off.
These are the thing that made Ring of Honor great viewing in the beginning and these are the things that will draw new fans in, because unpredictability in wrestling nowadays is a rare characteristic.
Jim Cornette’s era saw a number of top talents leave and few come in, Christopher Daniels was the biggest signing during the Cornette era and even he was a technicality due to his past with the promotion, being a founding father, but in three months Delirious has managed to bring a number of top independent talents to the promotion.
The Top Prospect Tournament was a perfect introduction to guys like ACH, who stole the show on National Pro Wrestling Day, and a guy who Gabe Sapolsky recently had appear at Dragon Gate USA shows, but now not only is he appearing weekly in ROH Wrestling TV, but last week signed an exclusive contract to only appear on Ring of Honor iPPV’s.
Matt Taven has been a growing name in the wrestling business in recent months, dating back to the summer when WWE took an interest and were reportedly interested in signing him to a deal. For whatever reason this didn’t come to fruition, and Delirious immediately capitalized, bringing Taven in and instantly creating a character by gifting him the ROH World TV Championship.
Bobby Fish was an obvious acquisition. In the beginning of Evolve, Fish stood-out and featured in the headline matches of several cards, stealing the show competing against the likes of Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli and others. With his Pro Wrestling NOAH dates ended, Fish is a welcome addition to the ROH roster and alongside Kyle O’Reilly, a tag team made in compatible wrestling styles.
And Cliff Compton, “Mr. 1859″ is a clever signing to make. Since early 2011 during the height of CM Punk’s success, where Compton gained much praise from his peers such as Punk and Cabana, Cliff has been one of the most popular independent talents going, the question isn’t why is he in Ring of Honor, but why did it take this length of time to complete the deal?
Add others such as Silas Young, Adam Page and TaDarius Thomas to the list and Ring of Honor once again has an undercard of young talent who can grow, prosper, and whether they leave for greener pastures or stay and rise into the main event, be recognized as guys who were made by honor.
Kevin Steen left following Final Battle 2010 due to disagreements with Jim Cornette over pay. Austin Aries left Ring of Honor around the same time due to disagreements with Jim Cornette over pay, the direction of the company and the direction of his character. Colt Cabana left around the same time due to undisclosed disagreements with Jim Cornette, Colt won’t detail due to his respect for ROH.
Three big names, one of which would join TNA and become its World Heavyweight Champion after a year, the other hosting his own self-made podcast which has featured on iTune’s top ten downloaded podcasts on numerous occasions, opportunities to build the promotion around guys such as these gone, except for Steen who would return and be done right by.
However, since Delirious gained the authority, talents have returned left, right and center, giving Ring of Honor the veterans it needs to exhibit what it’s made. At Final Battle we witnessed the reformation and return of The American Wolves, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards, one of the top tag teams in the world. Within two months they’ve gone from being singles guys with little direction to top contenders to the ROH World Tag Team Championships.
At Final Battle we also bore witness to the return and final Ring of Honor match of El Generico, before he signed for WWE. El Generico’s return was the perfect way to promote Final Battle, instantly gain an audience of past viewers while attracting new ones who’ve witnessed highlights of the rivalry and conclude the greatest Ring of Honor rivalry of the past five years.
At the 11th Anniversary Show, Rocky Romero, a former ROH World Tag Team Champion alongside Davey Richards in one of my favorite ROH teams ever No Remorse Corps returned after a successful three years away from the company which has seen him reign as one-half of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, and the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Jimmy Rave, one of the best and most easily detestable heels to ever feature in Ring of Honor returned and aligned himself with Steve Corino’s SCUM faction, promising to poison and kill Ring of Honor or die trying, Rave is the type of talent the company needs, having initially found success in Ring of Honor before his brief tenure with TNA.
And the most important aspect…
In the few months Delirious has had the reins he has done more to deliver top quality cards, feuds and angles than Jim Cornette did in his entire three year tenure.
SCUM versus Ring of Honor is an angle which has been running for over a year now, Kevin Steen, Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs vowed to destroy honor within the promotion months ago, and until last Saturday night what had they done about it? Very little. It has taken Delirious a couple events to turn SCUM into a trio of delinquent’s to a group believable of destruction.
Jay Lethal’s transition from what fans may remember him most for, that being the light-hearted parody of Randy Savage and easily likeable good guy, into determined, focused, no nonsense “tweener” under Jim Cornette had just began, but under Delirious, Lethal has became an actual contender to the ROH World Championship and last Saturday fans were actually rooting for him to defeat Kevin Steen.
With creating new stars such as Matt Taven and reDRagon already covered, he’s also given way for new stars to enter the main event. Following his loss to Taven on Saturday, Adam Cole now has an opportunity to focus on the most prized possession in Ring of Honor, something he is more than deserving an opportunity at, the ROH World Championship.
Michael Elgin’s victory over Roderick Strong allows him to move on and also focus on bigger and better things. At Glory By Honor XI in their hometown of Toronto, Elgin came within seconds of defeating Steen and leaving champion – however, due to outside interference he was trumped. With Border Wars back in Toronto approaching in May, Elgin may get a second chance.
In WWE and TNA if two teams are feuding for weeks on end you’ll get them dueling it out, in Ring of Honor they’ve continued the feud between American Wolves and reDRagon while breaking both teams off in different directions. Now with reDRagon holding the ROH World Tag Team Championships the feud instantaneously becomes more interesting and the angle is allowed to continue.
Ring of Honor is finally back on the right track, whereas in the last couple years gone-by as a die-hard fan of the product I’ve had to defend it I once again feel as though there’s no need, in almost every aspect of the company, from production values to the website ROHWrestling.com, to the roster, to booking – its all been improved, its all returned to normal and I put it down to one man.
So from me to him, thank you Delirious. Thank you Lizard Man. For restoring Honor, to Ring of Honor.