The following interview was conducted July 5 by WrestleMag.com.
Ahead of next month’s UK tour, WrestleMag’s Phil Lowe and Mark Bright spoke exclusively to Ring of Honor’s Gabe Sapolsky to discuss a number of topics, including the UK shows. Here’s what Gabe had to say…
With Ring of Honor heading outside of the United States for the first time in their history next month, the first question has to be, why now for the UK shows?
The timing is right now. The fans in the UK have given us a tremendous amount of support and it has only grown with each passing month. Alex Shane was instrumental in making this all happen. It just made sense businesswise and I know we can have incredible shows in front of what will be red hot crowds in the UK. Since we will have such hot crowds there and everything on paper looked good businesswise it would be foolish of us not to go the UK. Myself and the whole crew are really looking forward to this trip.
Any there any future plans to return to the UK given how quickly tickets sold for the August shows?
I’ll give you a wait and see answer on this, but we would all like to go back and there have been a lot of talks about it.
When starting ROH, what were your main ambitions for the company?
To have a promotion that was free of politics and just let the guys with the most skills do their thing in the ring without any restrictions. The wrestlers are all artists in that ring and I want them to be able to perform their art as they see fit without anyone or anything holding them back. I wanted a product we could all be proud of. Those were my ambitions for the in ring product. Outside the ring my goal is just to keep ROH going and keep making it stronger. I believe that as long as we produce a quality product the fans will support us and ROH can be around forever.
Moving onto the current ROH product, why are Bryan Danielson’s World Title matches not in the main event on so many shows?
Why does it have to be in the main event? This is something I actually get a kick out of. It’s like the internet fans think there is some unwritten booking rulebook and if you don’t follow that rulebook then what you are doing is wrong. There are no rules to booking and pro wrestling. It is just like movie making. If you ask any great producers or directors they will tell you that all the unwritten rules are there to be broken. It is the same way with booking pro wrestling. A ROH show is about a flow, a vibe, an experience. When you buy a ticket to a ROH show you are going on a ride. Sometimes to get that flow the World Title match is in the main event, sometimes it is the last match before intermission, which to me is the main even to the first half of the show, sometimes it is the semi-main event. It is about creating a flow to the show. It is about putting on a card with peaks and valleys or a slow building card that peaks at the main event. Bryan tends to like to take some time with his matches and really build them and sometimes they take an attention span to follow. Fans tend to have more attention span and be less burned out on more methodical wrestling early on shows so then Bryan’s match will go on earlier. Sometimes that isn’t the case and Bryan’s match goes on in the main event.
Just because the World Title isn’t in the main event doesn’t mean the belt is any less of a focal point for the company or any less important. We are trying to create a flow to the shows that will maximize the fans enjoyment and take them on the ride. That is the main consideration when deciding what match goes where. I really laugh at all the people who seem to think there is some booking rulebook out there. Sure there are principals, but the bottom line is you always have to try new things and break the rules or everything would get stagnant.
Hypothetically, if you could bring in any one wrestler, past or present, for a World Title match with Bryan Danielson who would it be?
That is a really tough question. I guess just naming a name off the top of my head I would go with Ricky Steamboat in his prime.
What about for a shot at the tag team titles?
I’m a big mark for The Midnight Express and The Fantastics. I’d love to see either team in their prime work Austin Aries & Roderick Strong.
What do you think of how TNA have booked the likes of Samoa Joe, Homicide and Alex Shelley?
They are putting Joe over strong and really making him a focal point of the company, as he should be. I realized Joe’s superstar status in 2002 and he carried ROH through some really difficult times. He is a winner. He is the kind of guy that you want at bat when the pressure is on. I would like to see Homicide get some more time to show what he can do, but I think they are giving him that time now. The Nash angle seems to be paying off for Shelley, but honestly I haven’t been paying much attention to it. Shelley is a great talent though and I think he’s a guy they can build the X division around.
On the subject of Joe, did you feel let down that Mick Foley wouldn’t work a match with him during their feud?
No not at all. I rolled the dice here. Foley was up front since day one and said he probably wouldn’t do a match. He never led us on or anything. I simply rolled the dice to see if Foley would do a match. Mick was a great supporter of ROH. He was really unselfish in helping us out and getting us exposure. He is a guy that really gives back to the business, I mean, ROH never did anything for Mick and he went out of his way to help us and he did really bring in a lot of new fans and help us grow. I hope everyone out there appreciates what he did for ROH.
Foley of course has since returned to WWE. Do you still watch their programming at all?
I try to watch at least a little of Raw and ECW every week. I barely ever see Smackdown although I would like to see more of Fit Finley.
What are your thoughts on the current content?
The DX stuff recently has been good. I have to admit that I laughed out loud at HBK doing the Shane McMahon dance. I always enjoy Vince’s performances because they are so over the top. Edge and Lita are a great act together too. This might surprise people, but I think John Cena is a phenomenal talent for WWE. He might not fit into ROH, but for presence and poise and promos he’s among the elite. As far as what I don’t enjoy it is all those worthless three minute matches with people that no one cares about. I always turn the channel during those.
How about TNA?
I don’t see the TNA TV show as much as I want to because I’m usually not around when it is on and I’m not a TIVO kind of guy. When you have Low Ki, Chris Daniels, AJ Styles as champions and Samoa Joe right in the middle of the World Title hunt then you are doing something right.
Moving back to the subject of Ring of Honor, why was Jimmy Bower taken off commentary and busted down to Office Lackey?
In ROH you have to show improvement or you lose your spot. Bower never showed any improvement and if anything was getting worse on commentary. He simply lost his spot to better talent like Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard!
Are there any plans to release a ‘Best Of’ DVD for James Gibson?
No plans as we are slowing down on the production of our Best Of DVDs.
Any plans to bring back Ebessan/Ebetaroh/Kikutaro/Whatever he calls himself these days?
Sure, whenever he’s around and available.
And the Dragon Gate guys?
Yes. Definitely. We have Takagi for a lot of upcoming shows and we will have more Dragon Gate talent in after that.
Finally, when can we expect to see Jim Cornette returning?
He’s the commissioner still and he’s back on July 15!
WrestleMag will have live coverage of both nights of Ring of Honor’s UK tour on August 12 and 13. For further details on this show, stay tuned to WrestleMag and ROHWrestling.com throughout July and early August!