Back at the start of 2014, I wrote a nice little – okay, it was sort of long – Squared-Circle Science column about the elevation of talent of WWE’s roster. The genesis of the column came at the result of Seth Rollins’ TV match against John Cena on an episode of SmackDown!.
I reference this, because WWE.com recently published an article about Ring of Honor’s influence on the current in-ring product. The three-page piece includes comments from Gabe Sapolsky, who co-founded Ring of Honor, Colt Cabana, plus current WWE superstars Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, and Seth Rollins.
Some key highlights from the interview.
ROLLINS: Wrestling isn’t appreciated as an art form as much as it should be. And like art, every culture of professional wrestling in the world has a different way of going about it. The cool thing that Ring of Honor was able to do was somehow take all these different worldly cultures — the Japanese style, the Mexican Style, the European style of professional wrestling — and they were able to meld it into this new American archetype of what pro wrestling should look like in a ring. It was the complete opposite of what WWE was doing. It was more about the meat and potatoes of fighting. Ring of Honor was hard-hitting and fast-paced, and was able to capitalize on this awesome amalgamation of styles that hadn’t been seen anywhere in the world at that time.
DANIEL BRYAN: I think the biggest influence is that the guys in Ring of Honor had to work very hard to get here. When everybody is working hard that makes everybody else step up their games. For example, if I go out there and have a great match, I needed that to stay relevant. When The Shield go out and tear it up every single TV show, it makes the other guys step up their games. People are going to say, “Wait a minute, that Shield match was way better than that last match.” I think everybody has to compete to be the best, and now I think the WWE in-ring product is the best it’s ever been.
CESARO: Gabe told me once, “You have to go to school for about 10 years to become a doctor and it takes about 10 years in wrestling to be on that kind of level.” To me, it’s a luxury to wrestle in front of eight people, then 20, then hundreds and now in front of tens of thousands of people. You get a feel for the crowds. The more matches you’re in, the more experiences you have to look back on. I have tag team experience that I know what tag teams should or shouldn’t do, and I try to put that in my tag team today and try to find new things to make it better. You always try to get better, and that’s what the ROH environment was. There were so many hungry guys that just wanted to get better. You couldn’t just sit back and relax. Now there are dudes out there who go 110% every single day, so that’s what you have to do just to stay remotely competitive.
Much in the same way Paul Heyman’s ECW influenced WWE’s approach during the “Attitude Era,” Ring of Honor has helped to redefine how the WWE Universe of today reacts to in-ring product. In terms of talent that can actually work matches, World Wrestling Entertainment is at amazing heights with the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, The Shield, and Antonio Cesaro among others. Also changing is who should be the “Face” of WWE. The steroid scandal in the early ’90s presented a challenge to WWE booking, but then you had the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, wrestlers of smaller stature carrying the load. As Daniel Bryan puts it (when talking about today’s WWE audience), “It’s just a matter of people realizing that to capture the audience and keep them tuned in, you gotta go out there and work hard, and you’ve got to be a good wrestler.”
Make sure to read the full article and sound off below in the comments section.
Tags: Antonio Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Ring of Honor, seth rollins, WWE