It may have been the highlight of Chris Sabin’s 17-year wrestling career. And it came “at the worst time possible.”
It was July 18, 2013, and, Sabin, who mostly had been known as a tag team wrestler before being sidelined for two years with an injury, found himself in the unlikely position of challenging Bully Ray for the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling world heavyweight championship. And to the surprise of most fans, he won.
Sabin, who held the title for about a month, to this day believes the intent behind putting the belt on him was “shock for shock’s sake.”
“I wouldn’t have chosen my world title run to go that way if I was choosing my ideal way. But you can’t regret things like that or dwell on them,” Sabin said. “I was just disappointed in everything, with the exception of the 1-2-3. When that happened and I heard the crowd, that was really cool — one of the coolest moments of my career. So I’m still grateful for the experience.”
Sabin, 36, said he’s grateful to still be plying his trade in front of fans, as he will Saturday night when Ring of Honor Wrestling returns to the Hammerstein Ballroom for its Manhattan Mayhem event.
Although he and his longtime Motor City Machine Guns partner Alex Shelly are the ROH tag team championships, Sabin still isn’t sure what role he’ll play on the event. The Machine Guns are among three teams fans could vote on to partner with TV champion Kenny King in a six-man tag team match against Silas Young, the Beer City Brusier and Brian Milonas.
“As far as I know, I have nothing scheduled. I’m definitely going to be there though,” said Sabin, who will also take part in a fan meet-and-greet session before the show. “It’s definitely a treat. The Hammerstein is one of the coolest venues to wrestle in. The fans there are always special. They always have a lot of energy. As a performer, it’s one of the best places to perform.”
Sabin, who was part of Ring of Honor during its early days in 2003, returned to the company in 2015 and has been part of its steady rise in recent years to becoming the number two pro wrestling company in the U.S. behind the WWE.
“Houses are up. Attendance is up. Just being able to see that and be a part of it is really cool,” Sabin said. “I definitely think it’s clicking. Ring of Honor has always stuck to its core by emphasizing the high-athletic style and their willingness to work with outside promotions.”
Sabin said he’s enjoying his time in ROH, but he hasn’t given up on his childhood dream of working for WWE, which he said “took over my life” when he was 11. But, Sabin said, he’s also at peace with the possibility of never getting that opportunity.
“As you grow older, I think you just have to let things happen,” Sabin said. “You still have to work hard and try to reach your full potential and be the best you can possibly be, but understand that life isn’t fair. Just because you want something to happen doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. As long as I work my hardest to be as successful as I can and leave a positive mark on wrestling, then I’ll be happy.”