For the past decade, WWE has been the only mainstream option for wrestling fans. But during that time, wrestling outfit Ring of Honor has emerged to become an underground alternative focused on in-ring athleticism over out-of-ring drama. With a cult following of rabid wrestling fans, ROH got its greatest mainstream exposure by being included in the 2008 film The Wrestler. In recent years, ROH has taken its live show to more and more areas, with a new tradition of going to whatever city WrestleMania is in and staging its own shows the same weekend. As ROH comes to Atlanta for two sold-out shows (also available live on Internet pay-per-view at Gofightlive.tv), company president Cary Silkin talks about ROH's role in the broader professional wrestling landscape.
When I was arranging this interview, someone described you as the Vince McMahon of Ring of Honor. How do you feel about that comparison?
I don't know if anybody's the Vince McMahon of anything, but it's a nice comparison. I'm the Ring of Honor president and we're looking forward to coming down to Atlanta. It's a good wrestling town, it's got a lot of history and we're going to be in a building that has a lot of history, Center Stage, where they used to do the old WCW tapings. We're proud to say that the shows are sold out way in advance. We didn't even announce the whole cards, just a couple of matches, and we got a great response.
Your TV show on HDNet has its final airing on April 4, just days after these Atlanta shows. Unfortunately, HDNet is not widely available in Atlanta, so what can Atlanta fans expect from Ring of Honor?
In Ring of Honor, every show is important to us and the guys that work for Ring of Honor are the best in the world. There's a very high standard and it's always been that way with the athleticism and in-ring work. No one's going to go out there and just go through the motions. It's very competitive and everybody's at the top of their game. I was speaking to a guy recently who is involved with WWE, who I will not name, and he told me that most of the guys he's worked with there wouldn't be able to cut it in Ring of Honor because you really have to be able to go. If you're a wrestling fan, even just a little bit, you're going to love Ring of Honor because we give our all. There's more action in a little bit of a Ring of Honor show sometimes than there is in a whole show with one of the other companies.
As you mentioned, you're doing your shows in a building with a rich wrestling history. Was that part of the reason you chose that venue?
We have to be realistic. We're not going to sell out big arenas. We draw what we draw. So, despite its history, it's a great building, every seat is elevated and it's going to be a really cool atmosphere. Plus, Ring of Honor has a lot of respect for pro wrestling history. Over the years, we've had many legends from Dusty Rhodes to Terry Funk to Bruno Sammartino to Ricky Steamboat who have been involved with Ring of Honor at one time or another, so this sort of fits into the feel that we like. We respect our predecessors and we respect good wrestling. Certain towns are good wrestling towns and Atlanta's always been one of them.
A lot of Ring of Honor wrestlers have gone on to become stars in other companies, and they tend to rise to the top pretty quickly once they are there. How do you think that reflects on Ring of Honor in the wrestling world?
We take a lot of pride in that. Sure, we'd always love to have a CM Punk, Bryan Danielson or Samoa Joe, but it's the nature of the wrestling business, or any business, that guys are going to try to get the best opportunities and make more money. It's always lousy when you lose a guy, but at the same time when you see a guy like Punk or Danielson (now known as Daniel Bryan) go on to become stars, it's a double-edged sword. But we're really proud of it and we're happy for those guys.
Who are some current Ring of Honor wrestlers that you feel could move onto one of the bigger companies?
Anyone who has ever been in Ring of Honor has potential to move on. If you go back to September 2009, we simultaneously lost Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, two of our top stars at the time, and everybody was saying, "The end is near." But when that happens, it opens up the door for other guys to elevate themselves, guys rise to the occasion and it creates new stars. The current Ring of Honor crew is among the best, if not the best, we've had. Roderick Strong, who has been with us since 2004, just keeps getting better and better. Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero are the longest reigning Tag Team Champions and they're going to be in Atlanta against Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. I've watched these guys over the years and their work ethic is just incredible and they're so talented. We lost guys like Danielson and McGuiness, but then we got guys like Christopher Daniels and Homicide back, who are Ring of Honor originals. It's just the nature of the business.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
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