Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic


Brothers and sisters, I am born again! For you see, I was lost but now I am found. I was blind but now I see. I was shrouded in darkness but now I walk in the light. I had fallen to the lowest of lows, only to be raised up to the highest of highs. For I am a born again pro wrestling fan. How did I come to be saved, you might ask? New life was breathed into my wrestling lungs by three simple letters: ROH.

TODAY’S ISSUE: A Ring of Honor convert.

I’ve written this weekly column for almost three years. More often than not I’ve complained about the ratio of solid in-ring action to backstage buffoonery, unfunny comedy nonsense, un-sexy sexual content, endless promo segments, poor quality performers being pushed for all the wrong reasons, and the creative teams in both WWE and TNA simply not having their fingers on the pulse of the true professional wrestling fan.

As these three years have passed I have grown more and more frustrated, disappointed, and jaded from enduring all seven hours of original pro wrestling content on television each week. I have become so desperate for wrestling with more focus on in-ring action than “ga-ga” that I’ve even tried to watch Lucha Libre on Saturday afternoons while trying to understand the Spanish commentary using my limited Italian language skills. I recently started to fear that pro wrestling might be an entertainment genre for the young, and that at the age of 35 I’d outgrown my former favorite hobby. I was beginning to mourn the end of an era, and was sad to think I was losing something I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. My love for good pro wrestling was something I didn’t want to abandon, but I felt there was little left in this era of sportz entertainment for a purist like me. So what was I to do?

After all, the tried-and-true formula of pitting two men against each other over a simple and reasonable disagreement and letting them hash it out in the ring seems to have nearly disappeared from the major league, televised pro wrestling scene forever. Today it’s all about over-exaggerated stereotypes, lumbering, non-athletic “big-men”, paternity issues, catchphrases, short matches used as backdrops for the commentators to discuss the true high profile feuds, neutered performers who are forced into a mold rather than being allowed to showcase their individuality, boring interview segments, meaningless championship reigns, too many aging veterans dominating the young studs, backstage politics, and egos running amok.

Gone, it seems, is the concept of letting the emotion, drama, and intensity develop between the ropes where it belongs. I’m not really interested in watching these men attempt to act, beyond the basic requirements of advancing pro wrestling storytelling. I want to see them do what they’ve been trained to do – battle each other in the ring. But the Twin Vince Axis of Evil seems intent on bringing us mini B movies week after week instead of letting their wrestlers wrestle. Often the majority of a given two-hour show takes place without a single wrestling hold, strike, or attack taking place, unless two guys in street clothes “spontaneously” battle during the latest in a series of faux-intense, would-be heated arguments about whom is going to beat the other when they do finally get in the ring and face each other, which of course, will NOT be during the show you’re currently watching.

Sadly, I feared that there might not be anything left for me in modern professional wrestling, and I had nearly resigned myself to getting my fix from my library of what I consider better times in the business, sources like WWE 24/7, DVD compilations featuring former great companies like World Class, YouTube searches, and the occasional solid match from the current scene that I might read about on a fan forum and download for viewing after the fact. But then it happened; I found my Holy Grail.

I got my first taste of ROH from their inaugural pay-per-view, Respect is Earned, and I admit I was less than enamored with the Internet’s most beloved independent promotion. I have since realized it just took me a short while to acquire a taste for something new and different, because by the time I’d finished viewing their second ppv, Driven, I found myself craving more and more from Ring of Honor. I was, in a word, hooked.

ROH employs a unique hybrid approach to the decades old pseudo-sport. They deftly blend a throwback to hard-nosed, straightforward pro wrestling action with modern, innovative, cutting edge intensity. The result is a product that simultaneously appeals to young hardcore fans and older traditionalists like myself. With their more realistic, faster paced, harder hitting style, focus on in-ring storytelling, the obvious dedication and drive to succeed of all personnel involved with their shows, a rabid, incredibly dedicated fan base, the “Code of Honor” exhibited by most wrestlers found in ROH rings, and the general sense of enthusiasm and excitement surrounding everything they do, Ring of Honor is the best professional wrestling company I have personally experienced in 25 years.

In ROH the focus is on in-ring action with long, dramatic, well-developed stories being told night in and night out. The backstage segments are limited and there is little to no evidence of sportz entertainment nonsense. The wrestlers are mostly athletic, fit, not overly muscled to reduce mobility, and tough enough to absorb as much punishment as they dish out – which is a lot.

A hallmark of a great creative environment is when performers mired in mediocrity in other companies can look like stars if handled properly and given the right opportunity, much like Paul Heyman did for many wrestlers unwanted by the Big Two during the heyday of the original ECW. For example, when trotting the ROH “stage” former major league also-rans Austin Aries and Brent “Gunner Scott” Albright come across as big deals, being allowed to play to their strengths and shine rather than being shoehorned into a role that doesn’t quite fit them. Other men who have been players in ROH but haven’t been allowed to reach their potential in WWE and TNA include London and Kendrick, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, the Motor City Machine Guns, James “Jamie Noble” Gibson, Low-Ki/Senshi, Homicide, Christopher Daniels, and of course AJ Styles.

Speaking of wrestlers being in a company that appreciates them and makes the most of their given talents, former ROH unified World/Pure Champion Bryan Danielson, a tremendous athlete who is amazingly gifted and technical magnificent, doesn’t possess a gargantuan pro wrestling physique (at a toned 5’8” and 185 pounds). But in an ROH arena, the American Dragon commands respect from the fans and his opponents because of what he can do between the ropes. I shudder to think about his fate in one of today’s major league companies. Reprehensibly, the “Best in the World” would no doubt be mired in some throw-away feud, and that’s only if he were fortunate enough to avoid the pitfall of starring on the Internet-only Heat or TNA Today shows.

My rebirth as a fan occurred when I heard the song of a Heavenly choir that is Ring of Honor, and now that I’ve been introduced to an alternative that offers everything I look for in pro wresting while minimizing all the sportz entertainment junk I can’t tolerate, I’ve gone from “losing my religion” to “born again hard”. If you haven’t given them a try yet and you long for a simpler time when wrestlers wrestled and wrestled well, and you’d like to see a group of young lions giving it their all to entertain you, I strongly urge you to check out ROH. I dare you not to love them when you give them a chance.

I’d like to offer a very special thanks to my own personal, spiritual guide in this journey to wrestling Valhalla, Mr. Pulse Glazer, for helping me see the light and for feeding my hungry soul with a cornucopia of ROH manna fit for a king.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

Master Sergeant, United States Air Force