MONTREAL – A raucous and capacity crowd jammed the Centre Jean-Claude Malenpart to greet Ring of Honor for their first visit to Montreal. The partisan crowd enthusiastically and quickly picked their favourites, backing them whole-heartedly all night long, exploding in joy in the main event when their hometown heroes Kevin Steen and El Generico emerged to fight for the ROH Title.

The gala started with a special attraction match provided by the International Wrestling Syndicate, Steen and Generico’s home promotion in Montreal. Steen and Generico first came to prominence in the United States with an IWS 4-Way in Philadelphia voted CZW match of the year for 2004, so to mark Generico and Steen’s ROH success, IWS put on another IWS 4-Way featuring high-flyers Stupefied, Dan Paysan, submission specialist EXesS and heavyweight brawler the Green Phantom. All four men acquited theselves well in front of their hometown crowd in a match short-circuited by Stupefied who took advantage of EXesS as the Baby-Oil Phenom stretched Dan Paysan in the ropes with a modified Tarantula leaving EXesS vulnerable to a top rope splash from Stupefied. The Green Phantom was just a half-second too slow to break up Stupefied’s follow-up pin on the stunned EXesS at 4:37.

Before the first official ROH match, it was announced that beginning in Montreal the referees will enforce a 20 count when wrestlers leave the ring.

In the opening contest, Eddie Edwards gained an early advantage on Erick Stevens by attacking Stevens’ left arm. Despite a valiant effort by a one-armed Stevens, it appeared that Double E had the match won when Stevens made a courageous kick-out from a roll-up only for Edwards to retaliate with a crushing kick to the face. But Edwards spent too much time celebrating before his seemingly inevitable victory, giving Erick Stevens time to recover and make the crippled comeback, leading to a power-bomb roll-up combination that gave Erick Stevens the victory at 8:20.

Make no mistake, Montreal is Briscoes country. There’s just something about toothless redneck brawlers who barely speak English that fits the Montreal psyche. The crowd enthusiastically supported the Briscoes from before the bell, and tormented Kenny King from the moment that they realized that they could get into his head by chanting the names of random African-American celebrities at him. Despite King’s distraction, Kenny Omega’s strong showing gave his team an excellent chance to win, especially when he levelled both Briscoes out of nowhere with what I can only describe as a double Hurricane-rana. Unfortunately for Omega, Kenny King walked out on his teammate to join Rhett Titus, leaving Omega easy pickings for a Bricoes double-team pin at 11:42. After the match, the Briscoes saluted Kenny Omega’s strong showing against them.

Brodie Lee has wrestled twice in Montreal in less than a week. He made a terrible first impression and Montreal didn’t like him any better when he came back for seconds at ROH, especially when he attacked crowd favourite Necro Butcher with a chain before the bell. This did give the Big Rig Brodie Lee the early advantage, but with the support of the crowd, the barefoot brawling Butcher rallied and had Brodie Lee on the ropes with a stiffer than stiff series of knife-edged chops followed by blistering punches that left Lee glassy-eyed and reeling. Before Necro could find a feather to knock down Brodie Lee with though, Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black rushed the ring, giving Necro Butcher the win by DQ at 7:15, but also kicking Necro’s ass and leaving him stunned in the ring.

Taking adavatage of Necro’s inability to defend himself, ROH Champion Nigel McGuiness came out to gloat, saying, “Look at you Necro Butcher, you’re a disgrace, just like these fans in Montreal. You thnk you deserve a shot at my title? You think you deserve to wrestle against the best wrestler in the world? It’s true! I’m the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.” When the crowd responded with the perhaps inevitable, “You screwed Bret!” Nigel rsponded, “Sorry, I don’t swing that way, thanks all the same. I am the best in the world! I’ve beaten Morishima, I’ve beaten Danielson, I’ve beaten El Generico, I’ve beaten Kevin Steen. And tonight I will best Generico and Steen again, and after I do, I will leave this cesspool of a city and go to the only city with real wrestling fans, Toronto!”

Jimmy Jacobs came to the ring as Delirious’ second in the emo lucha lizard’s match against Jerry Lynn, but did not last very long — being sent to the back after three minutes for continual and blatant interference. To be honest, Delirious doesn’t need Jacob’s help, in fact he appears to be a half-step faster than Jerry Lynn, but Lynn is by no means slow and he is definitely about a half-block smarter than the loony lizard. Mr JL caught Delirious for a spike piledriver and the win to the delight of the crowd at 9:13.

After the intermission, Roderick Strong and Davey Richards warmed back up the crowd with some thrilling chain-wrestling that built in speed and intensity until the crowd was chanting “This is awesome!” Davey Richards injured Roderick Strong’s ribs early with the not inconsiderable outside help of Eddie Edwards. Richards continued to work over Strong’s ribs all match long with a series of brutally stiff kicks. Despite the injury, Strong had the match won until the outside distraction of Eddie Edwards proved too much, giving Richards the win at 16:44. After the match, Richards and Eddie Edwards combined with Go Shiozaki out from the dressing room to triple team Roderick Strong until a charging Erick Stevens sent the assembled Sweet and Sour Inc. scattering.

Jimmy Jacobs had a strategy to beat Austin Aries and Brian Danielson. Unfortunately for Jacobs’ partner Tyler Black, it involved leaving Black out to dry as Jimmy Jacobs refused to tag in for the first five minutes of the match until Aries and Danielson began concentrating on their fiendish double-teams just long enough to allow Jacobs to Pearl Harbour Danielson and Aries to seize control of the match. Aries was able to return the favour later on with a great out of nowhere dive to flatten Jacobs on the outside. The match went back and forth and it appeared that Jacobs’ strategy would pay off, but the superior technique and teamwork of Aries and Danielson proved the difference when Aries trapped Jimmy Jacobs with a brainbuster into a submission forcing Jacobs to tap at 18:31.

The Montreal crowd was hot all night, but went super-nova with the appearance of their home-town heroes, El Generico and Kevin Steen, in the four-way elimination main event for the ROH Title featuring all four ROH title-holders, tag team champions, El Generico and Kevin Steen, FIP Champion Go Shiozaki, and ROH Champion Nigel McGuiness.

(As a quick aside, in speaking to Go Shiozaki after the match, he was thrilled by his enthusuaistic response by the Montreal fans who seemed delighted to chant his name. He did ask me though to advise Montrealers that his last name is pronounced Shi-O-Za-Ki and not HABS. He told me that he does understand that it must be difficult for French Canadians to pronounce Japanese names. but he would appreciate a little more effort next time.)

Kevin Steen took control of the match early with brute strength and a little cunning, seconded by El Generico with a lot of speed and even more cunning. Nigel tried to create dissension early in the match between the two tag champions by attacking El Generico from behind and blaming Kevin Steen for it. It appeared that the generic luchadore would fall for the ruse and that the two friends and tag champions were headed for a high-speed collision until both men zigged instead of zagged, taking out Go and Nigel with simultaneous dives. From that point on the match became a tag match with Steenerico teaming to fight Go and Nigel, leading to Nigel saving Go from being pinned on several occasions to avoid being left alone to face both Montreal heroes. It was just such a Nigel interference that both saved Go from being pinned and doomed El Generico to be eliminated at 21:30.

Earlier in the match, Kevin Steen had demonstrated his dominance of Go Shiozaki, answering a Go German Suplex by dropping Go on his head with a ferocious German Suplex in retaliation. Despite being outnumbered two to one, Mr. Wrestling was able to kick Nigel to the curb long enough to isolate Go Shiozaki in the Sharpshooter to eliminate the FIP Champion at 25:44.

Kevin Steen appeared to be heading to an easy victory over Nigel McGuineess to claim the ROH Title in his hometown, when he injured his surgically reconstructed knee after a missed moonsualt, worsening the injury when he dropped Nigel head-first on to the same knee. Kevin gamely continued his dogged quest masking his pain, but those familiar with Steen’s history of knee problems could tell that he was in trouble. Looking for a quick finish to the match, Kevin intercepted Nigel as he hit the ropes, but before the ROH Champion could use the momentum for his catapult lariat. Dragging Nigel from the ropes, Kevin slapped on the sharpshooter, but Nigel was able to power out, perhaps taking adavantage of Kevin’s weakened knee. Under the circumstances, if Nigel had stalled, he could probably have won a battle of attrition with Mr. Wrestling, but Nigel chose instead to seize the shortcut and after the ROH official was flattened in a collision, grabbed his ROH gold to use as a weapon. Before Nigel could land the winning blow however, El Generico charged from the back making it to the ring for a stiff Super-Kick faster than the crowd could chant the O in OLE. Confiscating the ROH Title so that it could not be used as a weapon, the Generic Luchador stood by as his friend and tag team partner hit the Package Piledriver and the referee counted ONE TWO THREE!

At least, I have to tell you that every single person in that crowd was convinced that that was had happened and the celebration was in full swing when the ROH referee risked life and limb to inform us all that Nigel had in fact kicked out by the very narrowest of margins. Stunned by having the victory snatched from his grasp and slowed by his injured kneee, Mr. Wrestling was caught flat-footed by a Nigel McGuiness catapult lariat by the ROH Champion to defend his title in 31:26.

As Kevin Steen consoled himself by amusing the crowd with the incredibly insulting French phrases that he has taught El Generico to speak, I congratulated ROH Owner Cary Silkin on his debut show in Montreal. “We are delighted with our first show in Montreal,” he told me. “It is a great city, this is a great crowd and they inspired us to put on a great show. We are looking forward to coming back to Montreal at the same venue, Friday, April 17th.”

Michael Ryan is a writer, filmmaker, and IWS publicist.