It was 10 years ago today that Ring of Honor (ROH) first opened its doors and forever changed the professional wrestling world.
A little over 13 months after Philadelphia, PA promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) had its final show, ROH took up the mantle of "wrestling's alternative." But unlike Paul Heyman's twisted vision, ROH didn't rely on shock value, thumbtacks, barbed wire and scantily clad women.
ROH was all about sportsmanship and of course, honor.
A lot has happened to the company in the decade since The Era of Honor Begins. A sex scandal involving co-founder Rob Feinsten nearly put the company under in 2004 but the promotion managed to stay afloat and emerge even stronger. The company has had InDemand pay-per-views (PPV), a TV deal with HDNet and more recently has been purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group while establishing a steady -- if weak -- internet pay-per-view (iPPV) presence
Under the skillful eye -- and pen -- of booker Gabe Sapolsky, ROH flourished and became responsible for either producing or nurturing names like current WWE and World Heavyweight Champions CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, A.J Styles, Christopher Daniels, Austin Aries, Low Ki, and Evan Bourne among many others. Sapolsky and the company parted ways in 2008 and he is currently in charge of Dragon Gate USA and Evolve.
In fact, tonight in Tampa, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) will tape a series of TV episodes with ROH alumni Claudio Castognoli, Chris Hero and Tyler Black -- Antonio Cesaro, Kassius Ohno, and Seth Rollins, respectively -- as a huge part of the shows.
There's a lot for ROH to be proud of in its 10 year life but there's still plenty of room for improvement. As previously stated, their iPPV numbers could definitely use a boost as could their house show attendance. It's particularly frustrating considering their new TV show garners ratings comparable to what TNA's gets in the same markets.
It's hard not to root for the underdog especially considering how much of their talent comprises many wrestling fans' top 10 lists. Personally, it's near impossible for me not to hope ROH catches the breaks it needs to really get to the next level.
The reason? Mitsuharu Misawa.
It was summer 2007 and there were rumblings that ROH would follow up their historic act of bringing Japanese legend Kenta Kobashi stateside two years prior by hiring Misawa for a double shot of shows later before the end of the year.
Two of my friends -- also huge wrestling fans -- and I decided right then and there we would make it a point to see at least one of the shows. We didn't want to make the same mistake we had with Kobashi. Soon after, it was announced. A two night Glory by Honor VI event starting in Philadelphia and capped off with a Misawa versus KENTA main event in Manhattan.
We decided on Night 2 -- because, come on, it's New York City -- and bought our tickets, both wrestling and plane. The night before we were set to fly out, another good friend got hitched. We went to the wedding, the reception and even the post-reception afterparty.
By the time we got to bed, it was nearing 2 a.m. with our 7 a.m. flight looming ahead of us. We still couldn't sleep so we stayed up a little bit longer and watch Starrcade 1994 on WWE Classics on Demand. We woke up, got on our plane and after a layover in Washington D.C., we landed in the Big Apple. One bus and subway ride later, we emerged in the middle of bustling Manhattan.
We found the venue -- longtime wrestling stomping ground, the Manhattan Center -- and within an hour, we were filing in. Former ROH owner Cary Silkin was hanging around so we shook his hand and thanked him for the show. Nigel McGuinness was signing autographs so we chatted him up a bit.
Then the show started.
The first half of the show flowed so organically as every match or segment bled into the other. The highlight of this portion was The Briscoe Brothers taking on The Age of the Fall (AOTF). Well, it wasn't much a wrestling match as a wild brawl which led to a double disqualification. We shouted ourselves hoarse chanting "f***ing bull***" over and over along with the rest of the crowd after the ending.
Legendary All Japan Pro Wrestling referee Joe Higuchi was honored next which was followed by a match involving AOTF member Tyler Black. Mark and Jay Briscoe broke the match up and promised to settle the score with him and Jacobs next month at Final Battle. When we voiced our displeasure, "Dem Boys" decided to settle it right then and there. They did at the very end of the night and beat AOTF in a Stree Fight.
Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima had one of their insanely stiff brawls and Aries and Hero followed it with a great match.
Finally, it was time for Misawa. I can't remember being so hot for a match in my entire life. So many near falls, so many amazing moves. After two Emerald Frosion's, Misawa emerged the victor.
Less than two years later, he passed away.
We left the Manhattan Center that night buzzing as we stepped back onto the subway and then onto a bus towards the airport. We spent the night at LaGuardia Airport and hitched a plane back to Texas early the next morning.
Thank you for everything these past 10 years, ROH. Happy birthday.
If anyone else has a story they'd like to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Also, only one slice of cake per person. We want to make sure everyone gets a piece!