April 12, 2006
Ring of Honor: A Photographer's Eye
By MIKE MASTRANDREA - For SLAM! Wrestling

Blistered and with a swollen chest, after 56:00 Bryan "American Dragon" Danielson walks out still the Ring of Honor champ, having beaten Roderick Strong, on Friday, March 31, 2006 in Chicago Ridge, Illinois

ON TO THE GALLERY!

CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. -- I've shot from ringside hundreds of times, but the sounds I heard from ringside at the Ring of Honor show on WrestleMania weekend were a first for me -- a deep thud as a pair of boots land from the top rope into a chest, the sound of a wrestler gasping for air as these boots landed on his chest.

I had that dumfounded feeling that anyone who watches David Copperfield has -- "How the hell did he do that?" I was a few feet away, but I still couldn't figure out how a wrestler could come off the top rope on offence, end up going through a hurricarana, and then into a pinning combination. The final five minutes of the first match I shot that night had a sequence of moves I could not even begin to name or describe. We've all seen Petey Williams' Canadian Destroyer, just imagine a dozen variations of it in fast-forward.

What I was witnessing in front of me was an incredibly thrilling Dragon Gate match -- Do Fixer (Dragon Kid/Genki Horiguchi/Ryo Saito) beat Blood Generation (CIMA/Nauki Doi/Masato Yoshino) -- at the Ring of Honor show on Friday, March 31, 2006 in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. These were some of the fastest workers in the business and, with a ringside area with about 10 cameramen, photographers and security in the way, it wasn't the easiest shoot ever.

But that worry also wore off as, within the first few opening minutes of this bout, I began to realize and see with my own eyes what this Japanese "strong style" really is. Just after few exchanges of chops and kicks a blind man could see that these guys were playing for keeps. As the minutes went by, the handprints and bruises became more evident on their chests.

Ditto the main event of the evening, with Bryan "American Dragon" Danielson emerging victorious with his Ring of Honor title, having dispatched Roderick Strong just under the 60-minute time limit. His blistered and swollen chest (photo right) will forever be etched into my mind.

The show itself was great, once I got there -- after a 45-minute subway ride, a 45-minute wait for a cab and a lost driver who had no idea of where the Frontier Park Fieldhouse was, I finally made it to Ring of Honor's Chicago Ridge show quite frazzled.


My nerves got a break as I walked into the venue and was greeted by a warm handshake from Ring of Honor owner Cary Silkin. He asked that I meet him by the wrestlers makeshift entrance five minutes before bell time. As the minutes passed by and the matches moved forward the frazzled feeling came back as we were approaching intermission and I was still standing around missing a show. Finally intermission was over and from the curtains Cary comes running over and adds "I'm so sorry I forgot all about you" and continued to ask "do you want to come to ringside???" ... my answer, DUHHHH!!!!

Once I got to ringside for the Dragon Gate match, I knew I had a job to do but many times I just wanted to put my camera down and sit back and enjoy. At the same time, I didn't want to miss a second of the action and capture every image possible to get this match over through my photos. Finally the match was over and, oh what a ride. The ringside crew just stood around for a couple of seconds with that expression you have after you walk off of a roller coaster; that look of WOW on your face. We all knew we were a part of something really special.

I hope that my small photo gallery conveys just how special it was.

Enjoy!

ON TO THE GALLERY!

RELATED LINKS

  • Greg Oliver's report from the ROH show: Faith restored in wrestling
  • Ring of Honor website

    Mike Mastrandrea, of Toronto, has been a wrestling photographer for over 15 years and is currently a photographer for UK wrestling magazine Power Slam Magazine and is excited to have his first gallery for SLAM! Wrestling. He can be emailed at mikemaster1@hotmail.com.


    Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!


  • Check out the Ring of Honor DVDs!



  • CANOE.CA SLAM!