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Happy birthday Ring of Honor
ROH owner Cary Silkin talks to SLAM! Wrestling
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling


Cary Silkin

It's hard to believe that five years have passed since Ring of Honor debuted at the Murphy Recreational Center in Philadelphia. When looking back at everything Ring of Honor has been through -- talent losses, scandal, and an uncountable number of amazing matches -- it truly is an achievement on a multitude of levels for Ring of Honor to celebrate this anniversary.

"It has been a crazy ride, it is hard to really, thinking of it, when you are involved in something you never look at it as an overview you are just in it. Now that we are at five years we all step back and think about things and it's been great to see where the company has gone," Ring of Honor (ROH) owner Cary Silkin told SLAM! Wrestling. "When I came on board the company was just running in Philly and Boston once a month. We upped the production and the locals and took on New Jersey, Long Island, New York City, Chicago, Dayton, so on and so forth. The quality of the production at the shows as well as on DVD improved greatly over the years and the wrestling has been phenomenal. I think that is one of the reasons Ring of Honor has been so successful is that the people involved with it are fans of the sport of pro wrestling. We all have a general idea of what we would like to see and try to produce that. The combination of everything has caused us to succeed. It is a miracle that we are even here after five years so its very exciting."

It can be hard as a fan, wrestler or member of the ROH staff to pick one highlight of the five years. Silkin has too many to list but did mention several of his favorite moments:

  • "The Kenta Kobashi versus Samoa Joe match (from November of 2005 in New York), as good as it is on DVD, live it was amazing. It had that big fight atmosphere of yesteryear like Ali/Frazier, one of those fights you don't get anymore. That was great."
  • "C.M. Punk's last match with us in Chicago was spectacular."
  • "Going to Liverpool, UK and having a sold out show, the people all being well versed on the product, that was phenomenal."
  • "Getting to run New York City has been very exciting for me, particularly doing these shows recently at the Manhattan Centre, which was the first place that held Monday Night RAW. It's a tremendous venue with a fabulous atmosphere -- it's the kind of place that if you had a ton of money and your daughter got married you would have the wedding there. It's a great small theatre and arena."
  • "Homicide's title win last month was a great thing. For the fans it was like your favorite team winning a championship. It had that vibe to it."
  • "The involvement of the various legends that we have worked with has been very exciting. We've had Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, Ricky Steamboat all work with us. There have been guest appearances like Bruno Sammartino, Dusty Rhodes, J.J. Dillon, and Bill Watts. Established guys come in for a match or two such as Matt Hardy, Lance Storm, and Christian Cage."
Ring of Honor is celebrating their anniversary with a series of shows, dubbed the "Fifth Year Festival." Kicking off Friday night in New York, the series features a number of stacked cards as well as an international event.

"We are back in New York City for Homicide's title defense against Jimmy Rave," said Silkin. "That will also be where the highly anticipated match between Samoa Joe and Takeshi Morishima will happen. Morishima is making his first appearance from NOAH. He and Joe had a little confrentation in September and a lot of people are excited. We are heading to Philly, Dayton and Chicago and then to Liverpool for two nights."

With matches scheduled like ROH Tag Champs Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal against teams like the Briscoes and Austin Aries and Roderick Strong, Colt Cabana versus Jimmy Jacobs in a Windy City Death Match, Homicide defending the belt against stars like Morishima, BJ Whitmer, and Davey Richards, the festival is stacked with great matches. This formula is part of what makes Ring of Honor so successful.

"Our philosophy is that I like to feel when you come to ROH you certainly get your money's worth. You get more action in a half an hour than some other promotions entire show and it is top quality wrestling. These guys are so good, the bar is set really high at Ring of Honor," he explained. "There are some guys who it's a dream to come to Ring of Honor. The veterans that have come in like Matt Hardy and Lance Storm, I wouldn't say they were nervous but they were concerned about their performance. When you come to see ROH shows you know you aren't going to be cheated at all it will be a great night of action."

The festival also takes the promotion international with a return to the United Kingdom. They ran two successful shows in August of 2006 and Silkin is excited about the return.

"This UK double-shot will be two nights in Liverpool. It's an awesome building, an old theatre and has a great atmosphere and the fans are great," he explained. "We have excellent lineups both nights. Nigel McGuinness, who is very popular there, he has Samoa Joe the first night, and the second night his feud continues with Jimmy Rave. A couple of Dragon Gate guys are going to be there also. I know they are going to be great cards. We are trying to set a schedule so we will be returning to the UK later this year."


Homicide and Samoa Joe
- Courtesy Ring of Honor
The festival is also bittersweet, as Ring of Honor says farewell to Samoa Joe. The former Ring of Honor champion may be leaving the company, but he's going out on a high note. Scheduled matches for the festival include teaming with Homicide against Morishima and Nigel McGuinness, the singles match with Morishima, and battles against Davey Richards, Jimmy Rave, and a singles match against McGuinness in Liverpool. Joe's ROH run ends on March 5th in Liverpool against an as of yet unnamed opponent. Silken spoke of his respect for Joe.

"He's been the Babe Ruth of Ring of Honor. He's called the 'ROH Legend' and he really is," raved Silkin. "Personally he is a very nice guy and he works really, really hard, he doesn't cheat you when you go to see him perform you get tremendous action. His title reign was phenomenal when you think about that we are in an era of wrestling where you don't even know who the champions are because they don't hold them long enough for them to mean anything. Him getting to hold the belt for close to two years was fantastic. We understand that it's a natural thing for the position our company is in that we are going to lose guys, gain them back, they will come up and down. Coming into these last series of matches, I am happy that Joe is doing good in his career but we are sad not to be able to use him on future shows."

Talent leaving is always going to be part of Ring of Honor. The past five years have seen CM Punk, Paul London, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick and Ace Steel sign with WWE, James (Noble) Gibson, and Jimmy Yang appeared prior to re-signing with WWE, and several talents work for TNA, some who have left to focus solely on TNA.

"There have been so many guys that have moved on. Punk in particular, to see him have some success and be on TV and in the Royal Rumble, it's awesome," said Silkin. "I wouldn't say we are a training ground so much as a breeding ground for these other companies. It is very exciting and it's going to keep happening as time goes on. I am sure there will be cases where guys leave and are tied up with other companies and eventually make their way we back. I look at it with some pride when these guys move on and are successful and visible in their careers. It's a good thing."

It can also be frustrating to watch talent in other promotions and go "we could do so much with him." A talent like Gibson, who had so many phenomenal matches in Ring of Honor, including a run as their champion, is barely used in WWE.

"It is frustrating but I don't begrudge anybody. Wrestlers have short careers; it's not like the old days where guys can go on for years. The work rate and the way these guys wrestle, their time is limited, so I understand if they have an opportunity, a lot of them have families and want to take a shot. We have watched guys that we know we can't have, some established some that are just tied up, that we know would be a great fit and we would be glad to have them. However I think we do a very good job with the cards we are dealt with. We are always looking for new talent. [ROH booker] Gabe Sapolsky is right on the money with finding new people and which guys are a good fit. He has done a great job with the talent. I think our roster right now, even without Joe, is a hell of a roster."

Looking past the festival, Ring of Honor will be a part of many wrestling fans Wrestlemania experience. The company runs the Detroit Fairgrounds March 30th and 31st, an opportunity for fans to experience an alternative to WWE and expose ROH to fans traveling from around the world. It's a formula that has proven successful -- in 2004 the promotion ran the night before Wrestlemania 20 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, drawing at that time their biggest crowd. Last year in Chicago Ring of Honor made a two night stand on Wrestlemania 22 weekend that to this day is still receiving rave reviews. This success they hope to recapture in Detroit.

UPCOMING ROH EVENTS
Fifth Year Festival -- 6 shows

New York City, NY -- February 16th
Philadelphia, PA - February 17th
Dayton, OH -- February 23rd
Chicago, IL -- February 24th
Liverpool, UK -- March 4th & 5th

Wrestlemania Weekend Double Shot
Detroit, MI -- March 30th & 31st
"It is a great thing for us to be there as last year Chicago was a huge success. There was a small internal discussion on whether we should run two nights in the same city or if it was overkill. We opted for the two and it worked out," said Silkin. "There are a lot of people that travel to Wrestlemania from all over the world. We discovered from the Elizabeth and Chicago shows, wrestling fans, even though they are coming to Wrestlemania, want an alternative and true wrestling fans want to see a variety of wrestling and this is a chance to see Ring of Honor. I have seen the orders that have come in, a lot of customers are making the effort to come and see at least one of the two shows in Detroit on March 30th and 31st and to compliment their Wrestlemania experience. There will probably be a few people who go to the ROH shows that won't go to Wrestlemania. We enjoy being there, we've had people visit us who are working on the shows in the past and it's an exciting time, the Super Bowl of Wrestling weekend and we want to be in that area and give people the opportunity. I like to think of us as an old style minstrel -- we hock our wares from town to town and we hope that you come -- we will bring the show and if you want to take part of it we will be there for you. We are getting a very good reaction on the Detroit shows and they are going to be awesome. We have the Dragon Gate crew coming back and they had an incredible six-man match last year. We have a great lineup, there haven't been any matches announced yet but I know Homicide will be there, Christopher Daniels, Matt Sydal, Roderick Strong, the Briscoes. We don't have any huge surprises yet but there will be some announcements. It's going to be two good solid ROH shows."

July will mark another milestone for the company. Partnering with the offices of Pro Wrestling NOAH and Dragon Gate, Ring of Honor will debut in Japan. These will be authentic ROH style shows for the Japanese fans.

"The Japan shows, we couldn't do it without the help of Pro Wrestling NOAH and Dragon Gate. They have been very kind to us. Both companies are great. We are on TV in Japan now on Samurai TV. NOAH has sent its talent to ROH five or six times, but they also use our talent. The Briscoes just came back, Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson have both been there. Dragon Gate uses Matt Sydal, Jack Evans, Roderick Strong, Jimmy Rave and Austin Aries. We are very excited about the shows, July 16th in Tokyo with NOAH and July 17th in Osaka with Dragon Gate. There will be some Japanese talents on the shows but the talent lists aren't officially ready. But we are definitely going there. I am not looking forward to the plane ride but I am looking forward to going."

With all of this international action, SLAM! Wrestling had to ask if ROH would take the short trip across the border and bring Ring of Honor to Canada.

"If we get the right offer and assistance we are open to listening to any opportunities. There is only a certain amount of time and manpower available. If someone approaches us with the right building and deal and we can go there and make it financially feasible we would be happy to entertain the offers. We are on TV on The Fight Network and are waiting for the right chance to come around. We are a traveling show and are happy to go wherever they will have us. We get requests all the time throughout the country. We are interested in a home in Canada."

While ROH's future is the focus, they also have a storied past. Part of that past is Doug Gentry, who died on January 26th and was involved in Ring of Honor's early days. It was his friendship with Gentry that brought Silkin into Ring of Honor and effectively saved the company. However when Ring of Honor split with its former owner Rob Feinstein (which Silkin and ROH are legally not permitted to discuss) it took a toll on Gentry and Silkin's relationship. Still, Ring of Honor displayed a great deal of respect for Gentry on January 26th with a ten-bell salute.

"I knew Doug a long time. He was a friend of mine and I am very sad at his passing," Silkin said. "Due to the circumstances with the split of the company I haven't had a lot of communication with him in the last few years. Doug loved professional wrestling, and he was a good person. We were all very sad about his death. He did a lot for pro wrestling in general and I sent my condolences to his family. He was a good guy."

With five years of history, Ring of Honor assures its fans that there will be many more. The company has expanded beyond anyone's expectations in the past five years and is very viable and successful. Silkin promises fans to stick around, because it's only going to get better.

"As the years have come, at the end of each year the office staff often say 'How are we going to top last year? It was really good.' As things are laid out right now with so many great shows coming up, we are in for an exciting ride. We are going to continue to do what we do best -- try and present the best pro wrestling that people can come to and have a great night. That is how we are looking ahead and we appreciate the support we've got," he concluded.

RELATED LINKS

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  • Get your ROH goodies!
    Jason Clevett is a ROH fan in Calgary. He only gets to see ROH on DVD and is looking forward to attending his second live ROH show in Detroit.