From Wrestler to Booker : The Transformation of Delirious

Many ROH fans will know Delirious for the number of brilliant matches he has put on in the ring but now he’s helping put some more on, from behind the curtain.

Delirious, real name Hunter Johnston, is now the Head Booker of Ring of Honor and has been since ROH owner Cary Silkin decided to replace then booker Adam Pearce.

It might have seemed out of the blue to most fans; Delirious has been with the company since 2004 – debuting at Reborn: Stage One in April of that year. He proceeded to have great battles for both the ROH World Championship and ROH Pure Championship with Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness respectively.

Despite three attempts at Danielson’s title, he could not beat him and his only victory against “The American Dragon” occurred during an eight-man elimination match when he made Danielson tap to the Cobra Stretch to win the match. Soon after that, he entered a bitter feud with the man he would ultimately replace as head booker – Adam Pearce.

The feud continued into 2007 after Delirious dealt the first blow with a tag team win over Pearce. Pearce quickly got his own back but then defeated him at the first of the Fifth Year Festival events after headbutting Pearce whilst having brass knuckles inside his mask.

Pearce would eventually get his stable – The Hangmen 3 – involved. This led to several disgusting tactics by Pearce and his cronies which involved stapling Delirious’ mask to his head but he would eventually come out on top.

He was later involved in an angle with Rhett Titus where both the men were fighting over the affections of Daizee Haze. This led Delirious to turn heel and join Jimmy Jacobs’ Age of the Fall stable. This even included Delirious wearing an all black attire, something we’d never seen before. After seeing Jacobs attack Haze, he eventually broke away from the Age of the Fall and turned face once more. He and Jerry Lynn then began to feud with Austin Aries but this was cut short as the three men went their separate ways.

He hasn’t won any titles in ROH (he did win Survival of the Fittest in 2006) but will now be hoping to gain plaudits with his pen rather than a Bizarro Driver. This might be a tough task though considering the men who have come before him.

Since its creation in 2002 up until October 2008, Gabe Sapolsky was the man with the book. He is widely regarded as one of the best bookers out there and won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Booker award from 2004-2007. If there were any criticisms of Gabe, it was that his booking had become somewhat stale, something that was very difficult to avoid considering he’d been booking for the same promotion for six years.

After releasing Pearce because of cost cutting measures just a month earlier, ROH re-hired him but this time as Head Booker to replace Sapolsky. On October 26, this was made public and Pearce started his reign as booker for the company.

Pearce and Delirious both had little booking experience when they were given the hot seats by ROH. But in theory, it’s a very smart idea. Many people inside wrestling will tell you that the top talent will often come up with ideas for matches and angles themselves. Add this to the fact that both of these men were extremely popular in the locker room and were vastly experienced inside the ring and it starts to make more and more sense.

Just before Pearce’s second anniversary as booker, he was replaced by Delirious. ROH announced on August 15th 2010 that Delirious would be taking over as Head Booker.

Like Sapolsky, Pearce is often looked upon with fondness by ROH fans. Some didn’t agree with his booking which was sometimes described as ‘dated’. On the other hand, some would say that Pearce was slowly hitting his stride but regardless of what fans thought, “Scrap Iron” was now gone.

On first look, Delirious seemed like a bit of strange appointment. His crazy demeanour and lack of understandable speech pointed to a difficult booking process. But when you start looking deeper into the situation, it make sense. Delirious is a veteran of ROH having been with the promotion since 2004. He’s been in many fierce battles (one of his best, ironically, was with Pearce) and had no qualms in putting his body on the line for the company.

Another key factor in the ROH decision making must have been that Delirious had been the Head Trainer of the ROH Wrestling School since August 2007. If they feel comfortable in letting him handle the future stars of ROH then why not let him direct some of the older guys too? And most importantly, if he’s both Head Trainer and Head Booker, they’re cutting out the middle man. By this I mean that if Delirious is booking the main roster, he will know when they need a new talent or are missing a guy with a certain gimmick. Without any hassle, he can then go back to the ROH Wrestling School and easily mould one of the guys there to fit with what the roster needs. This way, home grown wrestlers get a chance and ROH doesn’t have to hire a wrestler from outside the company.

When you start looking at the decision like that, it makes complete sense. Delirious also has Executive Producer Jim Cornette working alongside him. Cornette is an absolute veteran of the business so learning a thing or two from him is no bad thing at all.

The early signs of Delirious’ reign are good. There have been a few really entertaining episodes of ROH on HDNet and Final Battle 2010 was superb. However, it will take a good six months for his booking to really come through so until then, we won’t be able to properly decide if he can book matches as good as the ones he put on himself.

Steven Coney

"Stuff Pants" Steven is the co-owner and editor of ROHWorld.com. He founded the website in February 2011 with Harry. Last spotted trying to take down ROHCast with his SCUM faction.