I don’t remember when I first heard about Ring of Honor.  I’m guessing it was in college (since it was founded in 2002, it couldn’t have been in high school), but at one point or another, I got my hands on a couple of DVD’s, including their first event, The Era of Honor Begins.  I still have that DVD, in fact, and every now and then, I would pop it in and watch the Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. some kid named American Dragon Triple Threat match, which to this day is one of the better matches I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t keep up with ROH, partially because it was difficult to find back in the pre-streaming service days but mainly because the entirety of the promotion’s existence (up until last year) was during my wrestling sabbatical.

I’m sure I’ve written about this a time or two, but as days go by, it occurs to me how long my break from pro wrestling was.  In truth, while I’ve been a fan of the sport since 1992/1993, the majority of that time was spent not watching actively.

I originally had a whole timeline in this section, but in order to save time, I will sum up.  I watched voraciously until college in 2001, when it dwindled a bit, especially my WWE viewing.  It ebbed and flowed throughout my post-secondary education, ending completely when I fell head over heels in love with, at the time, the future Mrs. Matthews.  From late 2005 – 2014, my wrestling viewing was reading results on WWE.com.  I’m not joking.  The WWE Network saved my pro wrestling life, along with a couple of guys called the New Age Insiders.

As you can see, I missed quite a lot, which might explain why all of my “pop culture” wrestling references involve Mantaur and “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright.

When I first came back to Vince McMahon’s warm embrace, I decided to solely focus on the WWE Network.  There was so much incredible content to watch, I wouldn’t have the time for any other promotions.  Besides, while I did enjoy that first ROH DVD, it left a lot to be desired.  The announcing was terrible (even by 2015 standards), the production value was lower than I was used to, and the wrestling, while exciting and high-spot happy, didn’t always tell me the kind of story I was used to seeing.  (Besides that Triple Threat).

I held out quite a long time, much to the chagrin of the NAIborhood.  Despite Jason Moltov practically screaming at me that Ring of Honor was right in my wheelhouse, I resisted.  “Maybe when I finish all the WCW and ECW PPVs, and then I catch up on everything I missed in WWE, I’ll give Ring of Honor a try,” I mused.  “Besides, it’s not like it has a TV deal or anything.”

Cut to last week’s announcement of ROH moving to Destination America.

“Damn it.”

To be fair, I’ve started watching Lucha Underground (though I tend to binge 7-8 episodes, then stop watching for a month or so), and enjoyed it, so I knew that I was more than just a “Stamford Guy”.   And while I don’t pay for cable, not that I would have gotten Destination America even if I had, last night I figured that enough was enough, and it was time for a change.

Whenever you can quote Owen Hart, do so.

I signed myself up for a Free ROH membership via their website, which allows me to watch the most recent episode of ROH TV.   That was, as of last night, episode 192, I believe, which is the episode prior to the one most of you saw on DA yesterday.

So now, some 850 words later, I present to you “DC Diaries: ROH TV” edition.

Michael Elgin vs. Caprice Coleman

This match, the first ROH contest for me in over a decade, was slightly disappointing.  There’s no denying that both Elgin and Coleman are talented individuals, but I didn’t get as involved in this contest as I would have hoped to.  Perhaps that was my own fault – I definitely went into this with a “OK, ROH, impress me!” kind of mentality, but I found the match choppy, as if it was the first time these guys had ever wrestled each other.  And that might be true, I suppose.

While I’ve heard plenty about Elgin in the past via the NAIborhood, he didn’t do anything that made me stand up and take notice, other than look like what you would get if you took Big E’s musculature and put it in Chris Benoit’s body.  Caprice Coleman, on the other hand, had a moment or two that I was impressed by, specifically his (I’m just guessing at the name – Where are you when I need you Mike Tenay?) Asai moonsault from the inside-the-ring edge of the middle rope.  I’m just wondering why “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero is OK with letting Coleman steal his outfit.

(Did I mention that I watched some TNA during my college years?)

I didn’t come away feeling particularly optimistic after this match, and was certainly glad I hadn’t forked over any money for my ROH membership.

The Announcers

I was pleasantly surprised to see Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino calling the action. I remember Kelly from his WWF days and while I didn’t see a lot of Corino in ECW (something hopefully remedied during the summer), I do remember him announcing that original ECW show.  It wasn’t pleasant.  Obviously he was trying to get the name of the promotion over, which is why he said “Ring of Honor” every 3.8 seconds back in the day.

On the show I watched last night, though, these guys were good.  Their voices are almost too similar, which made it a little hard for me to discern which one was which, but I enjoyed their commentary and what they brought to the table.  Plus, they did a whole lot more match-calling than you get in WWE, which is always a welcome experience.

The Commercials

I was reminded of watching ECW back when it was on TNN in the late 90’s, and that’s not a bad thing.  Obviously these guys are a low budget, local TV show, and that’s just fine.  I don’t ever need Jay Lethal to sell me insurance again, but it was entertaining for a while.

The Backstage Promo

Lethal (another guy I watched in TNA) and Truth Martini (either one of the best or worst wrestling names ever) had the promo this week.  I spent most of my time trying to figure out whether or not Martini was a brother or cousin of The Jackal / Cyrus, another guy from the late 90’s WWF / ECW.  Turns out, they’re not related, but I’m sure Martini has taken some bit of inspiration from Don Callis.

For example, the stable The Jackal ran in WWF? The TRUTH Commission.  Just saying.

I don’t personally think Lethal needs a mouthpiece, but it was solid enough work. \

Then you had Kyle O’Reilly, who looks so much like my brother in law it’s a little frightening.  He also looks like he’s 14 years old, which before the match that was to come, I thought would be a big problem if he ever wanted to have a WWE career.

Jay Lethal vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the “Don’t Call it TV” title.

Has anyone ever tried to save your soul?  Anyone ever come to your house to talk about our Lord and Savior?  Do you think it’s possible to be converted to a new religion in 30 minutes?

It is, and the reason I know that is because in a half hour time limit draw, Mr. Lethal and Mr. O’Reilly made me a ROH believer.

Holy hell, this was a good match.  I talked about how the ROH I watched 10 years ago lacked storytelling – this match had it in spades.  Kyle O’Reilly is a beast – You don’t realize until you watch him how utterly and completely sad the art of submission wrestling is in WWE.  This guy is something special, you all weren’t lying, and considering most of the NAIborhood loves his tag team (ReDragon) even more, I can tell I am in for a treat.

As for Lethal, the guy who was basically a super athletic Damien Sandow in TNA has matured into a grizzled ring general.  He seemed very comfortable to let O’Reilly be the star of that match, which reminded me of Triple H back in the early 2000’s and what he did with guys like Taka Michinoku and Shelton Benjamin.  Lethal still had his moments as well, and while I won’t call him the greatest first generation wrestler in history, he really is quite good.

I loved this match from beginning to end.  Seriously, I don’t rate matches very often, but if people wanted to give this one five stars, I couldn’t argue with them.  Amazing job.

The Ending

It seems to me that some of the hardest bits of a wrestling TV show to book would be the last 5 minutes.  You’re running out of time, you want to end on a high note, but you can’t go crazy each and every week.  The Ring Of Honor guys know how to do it, because I was transfixed by the post-match shenanigans.

The Jay Briscoe I remember was a tag specialist with a generic singlet.  I don’t know who the hell he morphed into now as the ROH Champion, but I loved the promo and the potential for another match with O’Reilly.  I really thought it was going to happen, despite seeing there was less than 2 minutes on the clock for the entire show.  I should have seen Lethal coming, but that’s what happens when you’re totally bought into the show, you wind up getting surprised in spite of yourself.

Overall Thoughts

Only two matches on the card, but with that breathtaking display from Lethal and O’Reilly, I didn’t come away disappointed.  I’m in on ROH, though I’m not dropping down my credit card and signing up for a year’s subscription quite yet.  I’ll continue to avail myself of the weekly TV show and see how engaged I become.

Besides, if I wind up with access to the WWE AND ROH archive, it’s entirely possible that Mrs. Matthews would pull a Scarlet Witch on me.

“NO!  MORE!  WRESTLING!”

. . . I love when I can end an article with a nerdy joke.

What do YOU think?  Are you on board the ROH bandwagon?  What should I be most looking forward to?  Be Heard.

From the NAI Archive – June 4, 2015 – DC Diaries – My first foray in a decade to the world of Ring of Honor
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