Last year, Chris Sabin geared up for Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view alongside longtime friend and tag partner Alex Shelley to challenge the Young Bucks for the ROH tag team titles.
This year, he’s returning to Las Vegas as a singles competitor in hopes of wrangling the ROH TV championship away from Punishment Martinez.
Capturing the title would, in Sabin’s eyes, “re-establish” himself as a singles star. In addition to the motivation of Martinez attacking Shelley earlier this year and key victories over Scorpio Sky and Silas Young (who he defeated in a number one contender match for the TV title), Sabin also competed against the likes of Kushida and Sho Tanaka at this year’s New Japan Best of Super Juniors tournament.
“I think I have momentum on my side,” Sabin said.
Sabin said he brings “something different” to the table — a “certain kind of energy.”
“I think if past performance is any indication of my future performance… [fans can expect] high quality wrestling,” Sabin said.
But he didn’t discount Martinez — someone the former ROH tag team champion considers a “tremendous talent.”
“He’s a really big guy. He probably has an entire foot of height advantage on me … It’s a challenge, but a challenge that I’m looking forward to,” Sabin said. “I have a lot more motivation because the TV title is on the line.”
MOVING ON FROM THE MACHINE GUNS
The TV title would, according to Sabin, solidify him as the “second best wrestler in Ring of Honor,” as the distinction of “best wrestler” goes to the world champion.
Sabin said he feels like he’s on “a pretty exciting new journey” in his transition back to a singles wrestler. The Motor City Machine Guns (MCMG) reformed in 2015 and would go on to defeat the Young Bucks at Death Before Dishonor XV to win their first set of titles in ROH. MCMG lost the belts in March to the Briscoes at ROH’s anniversary show.
Sabin said the ability Shelley and he had in connecting with the audience was simply “a lot of connection” between each other — both are from southeast Michigan and are similar in height and and size with “about the same agility.”
“And then we just clicked as friends,” Sabin said. “We had a similar sense of humor. All those things combined, you just have a certain synergy with someone. [It was just] one of those unexplainable things that kind of clicks.”
However, Sabin said there isn’t really anything else he would like to accomplish as team. As the Motor City Machine Guns, Sabin and Shelley have racked up tag team championships with TNA (now Impact Wrestling), New Japan Pro Wrestling and ROH, among others.
“I think that the influence that we’ve had just on wrestling in general, I think that is something to be proud of,” Sabin said. “If I’m never a tag team wrestler again, [that’s] OK… I think our influence can be seen. You don’t have to look far to see something the Motor City Machine Guns were doing 10 years ago.”
However, if circumstances would change and he would have the chance to reunite with Shelley, he said he would be “all for it.”
Focusing on the now, though, Sabin said he is looking forward to competing on the singles level again and “seeing what I’m made of and what I can do.”
“I have lot of experience as a singles wrestler,” said Sabin. “I think [I’m] mainly remembered for the Motor City Machine Guns, but I think can make name for myself in singles [competition].”
‘WRESTLING IS JUST IN MY BLOOD’
As Sabin approaches 20 years in the business, he sees no signs of slowing down.
“I think wrestling is just in my blood,” Sabin said. “I’ve just loved it for so long. Being a wrestler and performing as a wrestler is something I’d like to continue to do. I can’t imagine not wanting to wrestle.”
And it’s the audience that keeps him going.
“Without the fans, we can’t exist,” Sabin said. “We would just be wrestling in a ring with an empty arena or whatever it may be. The energy of the fans. Fans who are passionate about wrestling keep me passionate about wrestling … When they’re excited and having a good time and then they show you, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Having first worked in Ring of Honor in 2003, Sabin said the biggest change he has seen in the company is growth. He has witnessed crowds increase from 2,000 to 5,000, and since 2011, ROH has been broadcast on Sinclair network.
“To be able to see the company when it was one year old — and now working for them in 2018, 16 years later — it’s just been amazing to see how the company has grown throughout the years,” Sabin said.
Just as his current home in wrestling has evolved, so too has Sabin’s in-ring style. Having broken into the industry at 18 years old, he said he has been on “the national level of some sort” since he was 21 years old.
“I’ve been able to be seen on a large level and keep myself relevant for last 15 years. So with 15 years of wrestling like that, at such a high level … it takes a toll on your body. [So you have to] adjust your style to how you feel,” Sabin said.
Throughout the course of his career, Sabin has had his fair share of injuries, including surgery on both knees and a bulging disc in his back.
“I feel good now,” Sabin said. “[I have to be] taking care of myself if I want to continue to be pro wrestler at the level I’m at … [I put] a lot of focus into taking care of my body.”
Though he said he could eventually see himself transitioning to a “backstage agent” or another capacity backstage, it is not something he’s interested in any time soon.
Death Before Dishonor takes place Death Before Dishonor takes place on Friday, September 28th, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. It goes live to pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. Scheduled matches include: Ring Of Honor World Champion Jay Lethal defending against Will Ospreay; Bullet Club (Cody, Adam Page, Marty Scurll & The Young Bucks) Vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero, Beretta & Chuckie T); Women Of Honor World Champion Sumie Sakai defending against Tenille Dashwood; ROH World Tag Team Champions The Briscoes defending against The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian); ROH World TV champ Punishment Martinez Vs. Chris Sabin.