Ring of Honor Focus: Happy Birthday ROH, the Ninth Anniversary Show Preview

Ken DrabekCorrespondent IIFebruary 24, 2011

Roderick Strong and Homicide face off immediately after Strong's huge title win at GBHIX in September. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)
Roderick Strong and Homicide face off immediately after Strong's huge title win at GBHIX in September. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)

Nine years ago, the era of honor began.

On February 23, 2002, Ring of Honor held their first ever show in Philadelphia. The first main event was a triple-threat match between Christopher Daniels, Low Ki and Bryan Danielson that paved the way for the future Kaval to become the first ROH Champion a few months later.

The show also featured the late, great Eddie Guerrero taking on the insane luchador, Super Crazy, in a match that determined the very first IWA Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and gave ROH some well-known names to help market their product.

Nine years later and ROH is going strong. While the promotion has never reached the heights of the WWE, or even TNA, in terms of popularity and accessibility, it has unquestionably become the third most popular professional wrestling promotion in the United States.

ROH has built its name on the hard work of its roster, offering fans an alternative to the mainstream style of pro wrestling.

They have also become a pioneer in the Internet pay-per-view business, forming a partnership with gofightlive.tv to produce live streaming content at an affordable price. It has become a formula that many independent promotions have begun to follow.

This Saturday, ROH returns to iPPV with their Ninth Anniversary Show from Chicago. The card features every ROH championship on the line, as well as a huge dream tag team match that could steal the show.

ROH World Heavyweight Champion, Roderick Strong, looks to gain revenge on Homicide as he puts his title on the line in a no-holds-barred “barrio street fight.”

Strong has been embarrassed by the Notorious 187 on several occasions, most notably when Homicide returned at Glory By Honor IX. The Latin Terror interrupted Strong’s celebration after he had just defeated Tyler Black to become the champion, ruining a moment that was years in the making for Strong.

The tension between these two has only grown since then and it reached a boiling point on the Feb.14 edition of ROH on HDNet. An interview segment turned into an all-out brawl between the champion and challenger, which resulted in Homicide pulling the pants off Strong and once again humiliating him in front of the ROH faithful.

With no rules to restrict them, odds are things will get quite violent in Chicago. Will Strong’s manager Truth Martini and his House of Truth get involved in order to keep the belt around the champ’s waist, or will Strong again insist on going it alone?

Can Homicide reclaim the championship that he lost four years ago? Only Austin Aries has held the ROH World Heavyweight title twice, so the Notorious 187 will join an elite club if he can defeat Strong in a match that is right up his alley.

The ROH World Tag Team Championship will be on the line at the Ninth Anniversary Show as the reigning champs, the Kings of Wrestling, defend against the upstart team of Kenny King and Rhett Titus, better known as the All Night Express.

The Kings, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, hold the distinction of being the longest reigning tag champs in ROH history. They’ve held those belts since April 2010 when they defeated the Briscoes at The Big Bang iPPV.

King and Titus have grown by leaps and bounds over the past year and this match is easily their biggest challenge to date. After picking up an impressive victory over Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly at Final Battle 2010, the ANX seem poised to claim their place amongst the great teams that have carried tag team gold in ROH.

Hero and Castagnoli have not always used the fairest of tactics to retain their gold, while King and Titus have also been known to break a few rules in order to achieve victory. Both teams will likely pull out every trick they have to walk out of Chicago as tag team champions.

Back at the ROH on HDNet tapings in December, Christopher Daniels defeated Eddie Edwards to become only the second World Television Champion.

Edwards held the TV title since defeating Davey Richards in the tournament finals in March of 2010. Though some fans have argued that Edwards was not a fighting champion during the early portion of his run with the title, he still managed to successfully defend the championship nine times before finally dropping it to “The Fallen Angel.”

In fact, Edwards proved he truly was a fighting champion by giving Daniels five more minutes after the contest reached the scheduled time limit. Daniels made the most of the opportunity given to him, hitting the Angel’s Wings on Edwards to become the new TV Champion.

Edwards wants his title back and he gets his chance at the Ninth Anniversary Show, where a two out of three falls stipulation will be in effect. These two have had several great clashes with each other over the past year and this one is shaping up to be another outstanding wrestling match.

ROH officials have also added a bit of extra intrigue to this match, as Edwards and Daniels have both been granted upcoming shots at the World Heavyweight title.

Edwards cashes in his “Survival of the Fittest” win in Manhattan next month, while Daniels gets another crack at the ROH World Heavyweight Championship in Atlanta during Wrestlemania weekend.

Whoever comes out on top at the Ninth Anniversary Show will be the World Television Champion and will also have that ever important momentum on their side heading into their chance at the top prize in ROH.

The most anticipated match of Saturday’s iPPV for many fans does not involve any titles, but features two teams meeting for the very first time in what is being called a dream match. The Briscoes will face Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin.

While there is no championship on the line, pride and a possible chance to be the next in line for a tag team title shot hang in the balance. Haas and Benjamin have reemerged as one of the most formidable duos in all of wrestling and they face the most dominant team in ROH history for the first time ever in Chicago.

The Briscoes are six-time ROH World Tag Team Champions, while the WGTT are still looking for their first chance at the titles.

A huge non-title win over the Kings of Wrestling at SoCal Showdown II last month has given Haas and Benjamin all the momentum in the world, but in order to move up in the ROH tag team ranks they must prove themselves against the team who has set the standard for tag team wrestling in ROH.

The Ninth Anniversary Show will also feature Davey Richards vs. Colt Cabana in an intriguing match-up. Richards looks to climb back up the ranks after failing to defeat Roderick Strong for the ROH World Heavyweight title at Final Battle 2010.

Cabana is out to prove that he is more than a comedy wrestler and that he can hang with the best wrestlers in the world.

The women of ROH will be in action as well, Sara Del Rey will take on MsChif. These two have a storied history with each other and the Ninth Anniversary Show will mark yet another chapter in their rivalry.

Michael Elgin, the Canadian Crazy Horse and newest member of the House of Truth, will step into the ring against El Generico. Elgin looks to earn his spot on the roster against Generico, one of the most popular wrestlers currently performing for ROH.

Last but not least, Steve Corino, Kyle O’Reilly, Grizzly Redwood and “The Prodigy” Mike Bennett will compete in a Four Corner Survival match. Whoever comes out on top could be in line for a shot at the World Television Championship, which has been in Bennett’s sights since his debut.

Saturday night will be a celebration of the past nine years of ROH wrestling, but their first iPPV of 2011 will also be another big step towards the future for the promotion. It looks to be another solid offering from ROH and gofightlive.tv, well worth the $15 price tag.