BUFFALO, NY – As Ring of Honor rolled its brand into Buffalo for the first time Saturday night, it was sometimes hard to tell who was in the spotlight — the wrestlers or the fans. It became clear that there’s a mutual respect between the Buffalo fans and Ring of Honor.
About 400 people came to the Amherst Pepsi Center already buzzing. Some fans, such as Jen from Buffalo, have already travelled to watch Ring of Honor (ROH) in other states, so she was thrilled to have the action come home. “Everybody knows this is a big wrestling town, with the popularity that ECW had here,” she said, touching on a theme that would come up many times throughout the night.
CM Punk acknowledged that the history between Buffalo and ECW is a main reason that ROH decided to break into this market. “I think a lot of it has to do with Buffalo being a hot ECW town back in the day.” (The November To Remember ECW pay-per-view in 1999 was shot in Buffalo at the Burt Flickenger Center.)
Both fans and wrestlers were quick to point out, though, that ROH is not in the business of trying to replace or copy any other federation. Derek from Buffalo, parading around in a Hulkamaniac T-shirt with a championship belt over each shoulder, explained what he was looking for from the show: “This company doesn’t have everything, but we do love the pure wrestling, submission-style and that’s what ROH is going to deliver.” He also questioned how many casual fans would be in attendance due to the fact that he never saw any advertising for the show.
Walter from Cheektowaga brought his three-year-old son Devon along to the arena. Devon, sporting a Triple H T-shirt and SpongeBob hat, was quick to tell me that his favourite wrestler in ROH is Homicide and that he likes the blood. Gone, truly, are the days of Doink The Clown.
The energy level of the crowd started off high but wavered dramatically throughout the evening. At times, it felt very much like a country club atmosphere as people applauded a maneuver of significance and then waited on their hands for the next high spot. They were knowledgeable and respectful, but also hesitant to commit too deeply to the product during its first show. Of course, you could always count on an obligatory jibe at the inbred population of the locals, as provided at different times by expert performers such as Prince Nana. Occasionally, however, the fans were left for a moment to entertain themselves, and at one point struck up a chant of “We want A/C” due to the stuffy air.
When the show was on target, however, the wrestlers had the fans lapping it up. The high points were certainly a well-paced match between Samoa Joe and James Gibson that saw Joe retain his Pure Championship, and a feisty affair between Roderick Strong and Alex Shelley that took place out of the ring as much as it did inside. The front-row fans didn’t mind one bit having the combatants tossed in amongst them. In an example of the problem the show had maintaining a steady hold on the fans, though, the match ended with Strong and the interfering Austin Aries hurting Shelley enough to warrant a medical escort. It seemed that the crowd was trying to employ the “laughter is the best medicine” principle, and those that didn’t dash off to the concession stand had a good time poking fun at the whole ordeal.
After the show, ROH owner Cary Silkin detailed why successful live shows are so critical for his company. “Since we’re not on television in the States, and since we are internet-based, we realize we’re quite limited in that regard. We need exposure, and to get this exposure we need to go to these cities live.” He was pleased that many fans made their way across the border from Canada, where he hopes to continue building ROH’s fan base.
ROH valet Jade Chung, originally from Guelph, Ontario, chimed in with her anticipation of an ROH show in Canada: “I think if we came into Toronto it would be really, really huge.”
Seeing as most people leaving the arena were already talking about the return of ROH to Buffalo on August 27th, there’s no reason to presume it wouldn’t be.
- The Embassy of Jimmy Rave and Fast Eddie beat Sal Rinauro & El Generico
- H.C. Loc defeated Cheech
- Homicide pinned Kevin Steen with a lariat
- ROH Tag Team Champions B.J. Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs defeated Dunn and Marcos
- Roderick Strong defeated Alex Shelley
- Davey Andrews won a triple-threat match over Shane Hagadorn and The Masked New York Superstar
- Chad Collyer and Nigel McGuinner defeated C.M. Punk and Colt Cabana
- ROH Pure Champion Samoa Joe beat James Gibson by tap out
- ROH Champion Austin Aries pinned Spanky