April 17, 2009
Excitement builds with ROH grapplers on return to Canada
By BLAINE VAN DER GRIEND - SLAM! Wrestling
Ring of Honor has gone through many changes in the last year. In October, long-time booker Gabe Sapolsky was replaced by Adam Pearce. And just recently, Ring of Honor secured a TV deal on HDNet.
Ring of Honor is just starting to gain some momentum and given the current status of professional wrestling as a whole, it couldnít have come at a better time. Wrestling fans are always hungry for change and Ring of Honor has proven time and time again, that they always deliver.
Perhaps the start of this series of changes happened about one year ago. It was July 25, 2008 that Ring of Honor went international. They introduced themselves to the fans in Canada and they were welcomed with open arms.
This weekend, Canada is proud to welcome Ring of Honor back with two shows. The first is tonight, April 17th, in Montreal and the second on April 18 in Toronto.
One man who could not be happier with that news is Winnipeg native Kenny Omega.
"Itís a thrill for me to be back in Canada. Believe it or not, Iíve never wrestled in either Toronto or Montreal before, so these shows are very special to me," Omega said. "Fans should not expect anything less than fast-paced, hard-hitting action."
A few years ago, Omega was presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. He was called up to one of the WWEís developmental territories, Deep South Wrestling. As time went by, he realized that it was not what he expected and it was heavily surrounded by politics, so he asked for his release. Then he came to Ring of Honor and it was like he was in the Wizard of Oz and all of a sudden, there was colour.
Having worked for both companies, Omega is happy where he is right now and would not change a thing. He believes that Ring of Honor is the future of pro wrestling.
"I believe there are some ROH wrestlers who can wrestle the WWE style and some WWE wrestlers who can wrestle the ROH style," Omega said. "But ROH caters more towards fans who want more bang for their buck. They are not as heavily into the theatrics as WWE is. ROH fans come to the shows, expecting great matches and thatís exactly what they get. ROH does not try to insult anybodyís intelligence."
Kenny King is another guy who is most remembered as the guy who didnít win the WWEís Tough Enough competition in 2002. Since then, he has been wrestling independently and is now trying to establish himself in Ring of Honor. Like Omega, King is also very excited to be working in Canada and remembers the last time he wrestled here quite vividly, because he was the recipient of a very unique chant.
"Ring of Honor fans are Ring of Honor fans. They come to the shows to see great wrestling. I really think that, across the board, Canadian fans are great," King said. "They gave me a 'Barack Obama' chant last time I was here, which was okay; that's fine with me. I can be president one day too."
Since then, King has come to expect the unexpected from Canadian fans and loves every minute of it.
Tyler Black had an opportunity to participate in the main event of the very first Ring of Honor show in Canada, and there are only five other guys who can say that.
"The first time we did Toronto it took forever to get across the border, so we arrived at the building really late. It was summertime and extremely warm; everyone was sweating," Black said. "We went out there in the six-man tag and beat the crap out of each other."
Black was just as thrilled to work that show as he is to work these ones upcoming. He also thinks the world of Canadian fans.
"The Canadian fans are awesome. They are very lively and excited to have Ring of Honor come to Canada," Black said. "It is a refreshing change from the spoiled Americans. I really enjoy my time coming there, aside from the freezing cold weather and long drive between cities."
Brent Albright has wrestled in Canada before, but never for ROH, so needless to say, this weekend means just as much to him as anybody else.
"I wrestled last year in Penticton, BC for the NWA, which I really enjoyed a lot. Iíve worked some WWE shows in BC as well but never out east," Albright said. "For the past few times that ROH has gotten to go International, I havenít been able to go. This is actually my first time to go to Toronto and Montreal, so I am really excited about that. I worked with Sylvain Grenier in the WWE, and he will be in Montreal. It will be good to see him. He has been talking some smack about Kevin Steen and El Generico."
As much as it means to these four guys to compete on these two shows, it possibly means more to the Canadian fans to have ROH back in Canada once again. Both cards are stacked from top to bottom, making it a double header of busy nights for these four guys.
In Montreal, Tyler Black & Brent Albright have their hands full with Jimmy Jacobs & Claudio Castagnoli.
"Expect a lot of hatred, punching, kicking and me beating the crap out of Jimmy Jacobs. I think it is an interesting tag match because Brent and Claudio don't really like each other either. You aren't going to see a lot of wrestling, a lot of face stomping and brawling is my prediction," Black said.
Kenny King teams with Rhett Titus to square off against two of Ring of Honorís craziest in The Necro Butcher and Delirious. Omega is probably the busiest of the bunch that evening, having three opponents in a four corner survival bout. These arenít just any three opponents, but three of Ring of Honorís finest in Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and Jay Briscoe.
"This match will mix a lot of different techniques. There will be brawling, technical wrestling and high-flying," Omega said. "Regardless, it will definitely be worth the price of admission to watch."
Then in Toronto, Tyler Black teams with Bryan Danielson to challenge The American Wolves for the World Tag Team titles. This is a match that Black in particular is very much looking forward to.
"The good thing about that is Bryan and I are so familiar with each other we should make a good team. I don't know how we are going to work as a unit. I have never tagged with Bryan before on any level," Black said. "It will be interesting to see how that comes off. I know what it is like to be a tag champ and I am going to do my best to get Bryan there."
Meanwhile, King and Omega will be on opposing ends of a six-man tag. Omega plans to give Toronto fans their moneyís worth.
"I really like the six-man style. I think everyone can shine in this match as long as itís structured properly. Iím a big fan of Dragon Gate and I think a lot of the guys in this match can work that style. Iíve also had a couple matches with Kenny King before that Iíve been really proud of, so Saturday should be no different," Omega said. "No matter what, I always give 100 per cent of what I am and work to the best of my abilities to show all that I can show. Iím happy that Iím given the opportunity to show a different wrestling style to the fans."
All of these guys are excited about these shows and none of them want anybody to leave disappointed. Ring of Honor is back in Canada this weekend at the Centre Jean-Claude Malepart in Montreal on April 17 and at the Markham Fairgrounds in Toronto on April 18.
-- with files from Jason Clevett and Jon Waldman
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for features on all four of these wrestlers in the coming days on SLAM! Wrestling.
Blaine van der Griend will be covering the ROH show in Toronto for SLAM! Wrestling, and Bob Kapur will be in the audience tonight in Montreal. Be sure to say hi to either of them. Email Blaine at firstname.lastname@example.org.