This weekend promises to be a historic one for Ring of Honor, which runs its last show of the year, “Final Battle,” at the Manhattan Center Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information is available at ROH’s official web site.
The show promises to be historic for several reasons. For one, it features several long-awaited battles, included an ROH title match between champion Austin Aries and challenger Tyler Black, as well as the American Wolves defending the tag team championship against the Briscoes.
Saturday night will also mark ROH’s first ever live Internet pay per view. Those who can’t be at home can catch the entire show live on their computers for $14.95 at GoFightLive.TV.
Here’s a trailer for the show:
Having attended the last three "Final Battles," I can tell you that they never disappoint. The action is always top notch, and the New York crowd is red hot from beginning to end.
I recently caught up with the ROH heavyweight champion to talk about the big show and several other interesting topics. In this first part of our lengthy interview, “A-Double” talks about how ROH has coped with the losses of Bryan Danielson and Nigel “Desmond Wolfe” McGuinness; frustrations about ROH wrestlers being forced to change their gimmicks when they go to other companies, and the ups and downs of his brief stint in TNA as Austin Starr.
Stay tuned over coming days for more installments of our interview that include the two-time ROH champ talking about HDNet owner Mark Cuban appearing on Raw, his skirmish with a ringside fan at a past New York show, and the pros and cons of ROH bringing in established ex-WWE names, including Ric Flair.
Alfonso Castillo: Final Battle is always a big show for you guys. I try to make it there every year, and it's usually a very newsworthy show. It's fair to say that Ring of Honor is a very different place than it was a year ago during Final Battle. You're now headlining as the ROH champion. What kind of pressure does that put on you to be headlining a big show as a top attraction in the company right now in New York City?
Austin Aries: Obviously it's a great position to be in. I don't know how much pressure I really feel. Some guys I think kind of thrive on being put in those spots, and I've always felt I'm one of those guys. I like the challenge of being put in a position like that and having to go out and deliver.
Obviously New York is one of our best venues. It's going to be our first time on live Internet pay per view. So that's going to add a little excitement to the evening. And this match with Tyler (Black) has been a year in the making. we faced each other last year at Final Battle in a number one contender's match. Obviously a lot has happened since then. And it's all come to a head in this show coming up next week.
AC: Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is how much Ring of Honor has changed just in the last couple of months. Obviously things are a lot different since you guys lost two of your top names in Nigel (McGuinness) and Bryan (Danielson). How does that change your role in the company, and the company as a whole? Do you feel that they're counting on you more now having lost two of their top attractions?
AA: I think what we had was a handful of guys who had been here for a while - Nigel, Bryan, myself. I'd throw Roderick (Strong) into that - guys who have been around for a while, like the Briscoes, that were kind of what I'd call the legs of the promotion. They're guys that you can always count on. You could put them in any position and they'd do what needed to be done.Obviously you take a couple guys out of the equation, and then other guys have to step up and take that on their shoulders a little more.
But in Ring of Honor we've had guys come and go throughout the years. This house has been built on waiting for that opportunity. So we've got a lot of talented, hungry wrestlers, and spots opened up. Guys are going to jump in and take those spots. I think you're starting to see that. Some of these young guys like the Tyler Blacks, the Kenny Omegas, the Kenny Kings, who are stepping up and are looking to take the next step up the ladder, so to speak. And a guy like me, I just keep on trying to just be a steadying influence in there and just try to do what's my role and my job in the promotion to the best of my ability.
AC: Is it problematic at all that there might be a notion that Ring of Honor is kind of stepping-stone? Bryan makes it to the top of the company. Nigel makes it to the top of the company. And then they get hired away. Is that any kind of problem in trying to build stars and keep stars - the threat of losing them to one of national companies?
AA: I don't know if it's really a problem. We kind of understood that, for right now, that’s kind of the nature of what this promotion is. It's no different than other business ventures. People are always looking to take that next step up - that promotion, whether it's in their company or another company that's going to have a better job. I think obviously we're taking steps to grow our company to the point where maybe that's less of an issue. But I think everybody in our company understands what it's about.
And I don't think there's ever relay a problem or an issue with guys wanting to take on a new challenge. And because the way Ring of Honor is built - it's built around new, hungry talent looking to make a name for themselves. So just by the nature of that, guys are going to move on and guys are going to step into their place. And I think that’s why we always have the most exciting, freshest roster - because we that turnaround. Guys are going to move up. Guys are going to move in. And it's working. I don't think it's much of an issue, because the communication lines are always open and everyone pretty much knows what's going.
AC: Did your experience with TNA kind of sour you on working for them, and working for any other place beside Ring of Honor?
AA: I don't think it soured me. I jut think it was a good learning experience. You go from being a truly independent contractor, which we all are, to being an independent contractor who's owned by a corporate entity. And that's a whole different bag of tricks. That's a whole new experience, because in one aspect, you're still an independent contractor, but on the other hand they kind of want to own everything you do. They want their cake, and they want to eat it too.
So that was an adjustment for me, and I'm not sure I completely agree with that premise. I'm not sure how that really works. And so, for me, it was a good experience. Obviously, you have some experience on TV. TV wrestling is different than maybe what Ring of Honor was doing with the DVD-based promotion. So, obviously at the time there was some friction and some issues, but looking back now in retrospective, I don’t have any bad feelings. It was a good experience for me. I got to know a lot of great guys there. Obviously I want them to do well, because the more palpable, successful promotions there are in wrestling, the better wrestling is in general. Obviously we all want a healthy business for everyone.
AC: Does it bother you seeing wrestlers, like yourself as Austin Starr, Nigel and some other people, establishing very well rounded identities and characters in Ring of Honor, and then going to another promotion and they just tear it down and reinvent you? For Nigel, at least the name has changed, if not the character. I guess it’s up in the air what they’re going to do with Bryan Danielson in WWE. Does that trouble you – that you take so much time and energy building these characters and they just kind of throw them by the way side when you go to another company?
AA: It really does bother me, actually. It’s kind of like discounting everything you’ve done up until that point – like it didn’t mean anything. I always equate to if you were a really, successful Broadway actor in New York, and you have years on Broadway and were very successful. And then you went to the West Coast in LA to be in movies, and they said, “Oh, that stuff you did on Broadway doesn’t really count. That wasn’t the big screen. That wasn’t the big time.” You can’t just dismiss it, you know?
We busted our a--, all those guys you mentioned – myself included. We busted our a—to make our names mean something, to be recognized in the wrestling business. And for them to just try to erase it so that they can feel like they’re the creator, it doesn’t much make much sense to me… Just because we’re on TV for another promotion doesn’t mean all the stuff we did here didn’t mean anything. Then why do they want me?
If you look back and look at it historically, when guys went to territory to territory, they didn’t get their names changed every time they went to a new territory. You built a following. You built a reputation. You built a character. And you took that wherever you went. Or you wouldn’t draw. It wasn’t like, “Oh you’re not the Road Warriors anymore. You guys are going to be the Painted Motorcycle Gang.” You know? It’s like, they’re the Road Warriors! They were the Road Warriors in the AWA. They were the Road Warriors when they went to the NWA. They changed a little bit when they went to WWE.
I guess that’s just how I grew up. That’s the wrestling I grew up on. This new idea that you’re going to come into our company and we’re going to change everything about you – I guess that’s the mentality that we’re all just kind of actors and we’re playing a part. And so if you go to a new soap opera, we’re going to give you a new character and a new name. It doesn’t matter if they knew you as this guy from this soap opera. Now you’re playing in this soap opera and you’re a competitor.
I’ll follow that, but if that’s the way we’re going to do the business, let’s do it across the board. If we’re actors, then let’s be actors – and get the benefits of actors and be taken care of like actors. They kind of found this crack. I don’t know. It’s really interesting.