Published on August 23rd, 2017 | by Bobby Mathews0
Rise of ROH: Ring of Honor Riding High
“We absolutely know the history of [all the towns we’re visiting],” Flip Gordon said during a recent phone interview with us here at Pro Wrestling Stories. “The history of [these towns] motivates our locker room to make our own mark, to really go out and perform at the best level that we can.”
Ring of Honor separates itself from WWE by showcasing more in-ring action than the self-proclaimed “Leader in Sports Entertainment.”
“When we say we have the best wrestling on the planet, that’s not just a slogan,” Gordon said. “Right now, yes, we are the No. 2 wrestling company in the country. But I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t eventually be No. 1.”
Ring of Honor benefits from its ownership structure with Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns the largest network of TV stations in the United States. SBG currently owns 173 stations across the country, and if all of its currently proposed sales go through, it will own 233. That means the stars of ROH can be seen from large cities like New York and Washington, D.C., to tiny markets like Dothan, Alabama.
In a business where the talent has often felt the need to look out for their own interests above the needs of the promotion, the ROH locker room is a different kind of place.
“From the office to the wrestlers to the crew, everybody here wants to succeed as a team,” Punishment Martinez said. “There’s not one person here who’s just looking out for themselves. That’s real. Fans can see that because it’s real. You can’t fake the kind of passion.”
Martinez, who stands 6-feet, 7-inches tall, is one of the new breed of wrestlers who don’t have to just rely on his size to get by in the ring.
“You have to remember that what a wrestler is supposed to be has changed over the last few years,” Martinez said. “Yes, I’m a bigger guy, but you have to be able to do more in the ring now. You can’t just be big.”
When he was growing up, Martinez idolized the Undertaker, and some of the Deadman’s gimmick still leave a lasting impression on him.
“He was a larger-than-life character,” Martinez said. “I loved everything about him–the way he walked, his entrance, his look, the way he talked.”
And, of course, it didn’t hurt that the Undertaker, who had been trained by Don Jardine, was agile and could work rings around other big men in the sport. You can see shades of that in Martinez’s explosive offense today. Martinez’s size, build, and talent have landed him in prominent roles on ROH TV in angles with stars like Steve Corino, BJ Whitmer and the legendary Kevin Sullivan.
New talent like Gordon and Martinez are the lifeblood of Ring of Honor, and the promotion has withstood raids that put ROH veterans like Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen), Sami Zayn (El Generico), A.J. Styles, C.M. Punk, and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) into the WWE fold. Most recently, ROH mainstays Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish made their debuts for WWE’s NXT brand.
ROH has proven resilient since its inception in 2004, however, building (and re-building) stars and maintaining consistently strong match quality across the lifetime of the promotion. By the time up-and-comers like Gordon and Martinez reach ROH, they already have a body of experience behind them.
“It was a long process,” Gordon said. “Before I trained as a wrestler, I did gymnastics, MMA, amateur wrestling, acting–anything I thought could help me–but I always knew I could do it. My goal was, within two years, to be a full-time wrestler with a TV company. It wasn’t easy. For two years straight, I worked seven days a week. I don’t think I got more than five hours of sleep a night for those two years. It sucked. But it was worth it.”
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