PHOENIX – For the past few years, Ring of Honor Wrestling has smartly capitalized on an influx of wrestling fans in the city hosting WrestleMania, by holding shows that same weekend. The tradition continues this weekend in Phoenix, with the first of two shows held last night, and another to come later today. SLAM! Wrestling sat down with ROH agent and producer Jim Cornette after Friday’s show to discuss this strategy as well as his thoughts about the ROH product in general.
“Anytime you have this many wrestling fans in the same city at the same time,” he said about the timing of the event “it’s crucial (to run a show). Sure, Ring of Honor doesn’t have the same budget as ‘Billionaire Vince’ or ‘Millionaire Dixie’. But we have great wrestling. We have great fans, we have a great product, and we have a great atmosphere. Whenever you get a lot of new fans coming from outside of the country that haven’t seen the product, it’s definitely important.”
The approach certainly seemed to pay off on Friday, as based on an informal poll conducted during the show, it appeared that nearly half of the nearly 1,000 people in the crowd were watching ROH for the first time.
“That’s our priority,” Cornette reiterated. “To get in front of more people. We do whatever we can to reach them, be it internet pay-per-views, our television show on HD Net, our DVD sales, or our live touring events. We just want people to see this, because once they see it, they like it, and they keep coming back.”
Based on the crowd’s reaction on Friday night, it’s a safe bet that most, if not all, of the new fans were impressed by what they saw. The lengthy affair (3-1/2 hours) showcased the hard-hitting, high impact action that the company is famous for. This style of wrestling — fast, furious, and full of painful-looking spots — had the crowd constantly switching between roars of approval, chants directed at the in-ring participants, or occasionally cringing in sympathy for the wrestlers taking those moves.
Nowhere was this more true than during the main event, a tag team title match between the champion Briscoe Brothers and their opponents the American Wolves. From bell to bell, the toughness of all four men was evident, as each absorbed multiple finisher attempts, generally a move that involved his head being kicked, smashed, or driven into the mat. With each kickout the crowd got more and more vocal, until at the 27-minute mark, the Briscoes finally got the win, after delivering a Doomsday Device to Wolf Eddie Edwards.
In other action, Jerry Lynn beat Kenny King in a hardcore match that saw tables, ladders and chairs come into play. In the closing moments of this match, Lynn, bleeding heavily, attempted to sunset powerbomb King through a table, but the table didn’t break all the way through. Undaunted, Lynn then hit King with a cradle piledriver on top of the half-broken table to get the pin.
One match that was a little more traditional saw Steve Corino beat Generico by pinning him while using the ropes for leverage. This one was very “old school” by ROH standards, slower and far more mat-based than any other on the show, and was a great change of pace from the rest of the card.
One would think, given Cornette’s “old-school” predilections, that he would prefer that all matches be slower-paced, with a minimum of high impact moves and very methodical story-telling, as opposed to the high velocity style that has helped ROH carve its niche in the business. In actuality, Cornette revealed that it was fairly easy for him to accept and embrace the ROH style, and a lot of that has to do with his belief in the potential of the roster.
“I appreciate effort, and hard work, and talent,” clarified Cornette. “(What ROH is presenting) is the best wrestling. It’s a new style of wrestling, it’s more athletic, it’s more credible, it’s taken more seriously. These guys do things the other guys can’t. And what’s more, is that these guys are 25 years old, and in five years, they’re going to be 30 and better than they are now. The guys with the other companies are 45 years old, and in five years they’re going to be 50 and they’re going to be worse than they are now. I’m betting on the young guys.”
- Colt Cabana won a four-way match against Skull Krusher Rasche Brown, Shawn Daivari, and Joey Ryan.
- Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli beat Scott Lost and Scorpio Sky.
- Alex Kozlov pinned Rocky Romero.
- The Necro Butcher beat Bison Smith after a brawl that saw them fighting in the crowd for much of the fight.
- Kevin Steen beat Kenny Omega by submission.
- Steve Corino used the ropes for leverage in stealing a pinfall win over El Generico.
- In a special gauntlet non-title challenge, ROH champion Tyler Black beat Austin Aries, but was then pinned by Roderick Strong.
- Jerry Lynn pinned Kenny King after a hardcore match.
- Briscoe Brothers beat the American Wolves to retain their tag team championship.