Almost exactly 15 years removed from its first-ever event, Ring of Honor will present its 15th Anniversary Show tonight, March 10th, live from Las Vegas. The anticipated event will feature fresh as well as familiar faces, celebrating the company's anticipated anniversary.
However, no match on the card will have higher stakes than the main event, which will see Adam Cole defend his ROH World Championship against Christopher Daniels. These two have been on a collision course for weeks and will have a score to settle when they finally meet in the middle of the ring.
ROH COO Joe Koff has played a major factor in putting together the card for the pay-per-view, in addition to being a part of many monumental moments in the company's illustrious history along with Daniels, an ROH Original in his own right.
This past week, I had the honour of talking to Daniels and Koff about the excitement surrounding tonight's 15th Anniversary Show, Daniels' potential final shot at the prestigious prize, Koff's thoughts on the current landscape of ROH, any remaining goals both men may have, and much more.
What's especially interesting about Daniels headlining the 15th Anniversary Show is how he was a part of ROH's very first show almost exactly 15 years ago. Plenty has changed about the “Fallen Angel” since then, but one thing that hasn't changed is his pursuit of the world championship.
He discussed the honour of taking part in that historic “The Era of Honor Begins” event in 2002 and how it led him to where he is today.
“Honestly, it's sort of surreal to know that in the 15 years Ring of Honor has been around that the name Ring of Honor has become synonymous with great wrestling. And you look at the guys who have held that championship in the past, guys like Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Tyler Black. I can sit here and list off names for five minutes straight and to know I have the opportunity to add my name to that list of guys, and to represent Ring of Honor as some of the best wrestling on the planet, it's surreal. And to know I was there at the very beginning and been there off and on throughout the 15 years, it's a real special moment for me.”
ROH COO Joe Koff is also excited for the epic main event and everything it has to offer, commenting on how that match specifically will help the 15th Anniversary Show stand out from past instalments.
“I think there are a couple of things. One, that Christopher Daniels is going to having his title shot against our current champion, Adam Cole. For Chris, this is a journey he has waited a long time for and one I'm sure that he covets and at the same time, Adam isn't ready to give it up, either. What we're going to have in that match, I'm just going to call it “ROH Experience” and “ROH Newer Experience” because Chris has been a part of the company almost since the beginning.”
“In the Decade of Excellent [tournament], he was a combatant in that, and Adam Cole obviously has been a part of the Sinclair era since 2011. There's a lot at stake for both men and both are such great professionals and great technicians and performers and students of their art, I just can't imagine this not being one of the top matches anyone can see.”
Unfortunately, Daniels will be going at this world title match alone, following the events that transpired on this past week's episode of ROH TV where Kazarian shockingly turned on his Addiction tag team partner of five years and joined The Bullet Club.
Despite that, Daniels revealed he remains focused on the task at hand, while a reunion with Kazarian is almost out of the question at the moment.
“I don't know, man, I feel like this decision that Frankie made, especially knowing I needed all the support I could get going into this match with Adam Cole, for him to turn his back on me, that's hard to forgive. I can't concentrate on that right now, I'll deal with Frankie starting March 11th, but March 10th is my focus right now, Adam Cole is my sole focus. And if I start to think about the feeling of betrayal Frankie joining Bullet Club has given me, then Adam already wins. I have to put that aside and swallow that until the day after this match and concentrate fully on wrestling Adam Cole.”
Also in action at the 15th Anniversary Show will be The Broken Hardyz defending their newly won ROH World Tag Team Championship against The Young Bucks and Roppongi Vice in a Las Vegas Street Fight.
The deal with Matt and Jeff Hardy came about on a whim, and Koff addressed the question as to whether he feels the immensely popular act will help take the company to the next level.
“When I hear “taking to the next level,” I think our brand speaks to that next level. I think what it says to me is that The Hardyz have an amazing respect for our company and their ability and our ability to do something on such short-term notice is really flattering and humbling to me. The fact that Bully Ray would want to be part of Ring of Honor, not that every wrestler shouldn't, but he chose to be part. There's a big difference when you choose to be part of something, you're making the decision to be part of that. And that pleases me, that humbles me, that compliments me.
“I don't want to use such a trite phrase as “We're the place to be,” but I think right now Ring of Honor is a place to be, and it's one that's in the spotlight and one that's getting a lot of attention. But it's getting a lot of attention because of the work the guys do. Stars have come in and out of Ring of Honor, some have been Superstars that have gone on to bigger and better things, but there's been a lot of wrestlers over the years, especially as we go into our 15th Anniversary Show, we think about all of the talent.”
“We just start naming names, we start getting into the double hands of who we can name. I think it's a testament to our organisation and the style and what wrestlers bring to that style. I'm glad that talent like The Hardyz and Bully Ray recognise that and want to be part of that. To run an organisation people want to be a part of, that's important to me and that's important to our fans.”
Among the Ring of Honor originals who have gone on to great success in other companies is AJ Styles, someone Daniels knows very well both inside and outside the ring. In our exclusive interview, he discussed how he couldn't be happier for him and how he has solidified himself as a star in WWE.
“I'm so happy for him. Honestly, I knew if he had the opportunity, he would thrive there and just judging from his response last year in the Royal Rumble and his year up until now, everything's been going so well for him and he deserves it. He works very hard.”
“The years that he was at TNA, and then stepping away from TNA and going to New Japan like he did and thriving there, it just proves he's probably the best in the world at this moment. I look forward to seeing what happens to him in this WrestleMania season. I hope they give him a nice, featured match, something where he can go out there and perform to the best of his abilities.”
Styles, along with Daniels, was with ROH almost since the very beginning. A slew of stars have had stays in the company at one point or another, with Daniels admitting that the matches he had with those elite individuals are among his fondest memories in ROH.
“Certainly that first night, that match with Bryan Danielson and Low Ki, that one hour first world championship match, that one hour Iron Man match I had with Doug Williams and Spanky and Low Ki, wrestling Great Muta for the very first time in a Ring of Honor ring, all the world championship matches I had and the opportunities I had to wrestle guys like Tyler Black and Claudio Castagnoli and Roderick Strong and Austin Aries and Samoa Joe and CM Punk. I feel these guys have made me better and pushed me to continue to grow and become better as a wrestler.”
Koff had plenty to say about the illustrious legacy of ROH as well, mentioning that it has and forever will be known as a place of excellence.
“I think I want it to be remembered with the word “legacy” in it. I want it to be remembered with the word “excellence” in it. And not only to be remembered but I want it to be spoken of with those words. What I think we're creating on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily basis is excellent, excellent wrestling. And as long as we can continue to create that excellence, as long as we can preserve that core brand of what Ring of Honor really stands for from the wrestler's perspective, to the fan's perspective, and continue to completely surprise... What I love most about Ring of Honor and what we've been able to achieve is the element of surprise in this day of spoilers and internet everything.”
“The most surprised people in our arena on Saturday night were some of our wrestlers, and that's unheard of, but I think that's a compliment to the organisation that it's important. That it's important for us to be able to do, it's important for us to execute, but most importantly, it's important to surprise and please the wrestling fan. I think we've done that, and maybe that's our legacy.”
“It's a hard question because it's like Forrest Gump. ‘What's my legacy?’ I don't know, your legacy happens after it's over and then you take a look at that past. That's your legacy. I think what we're doing is, we're a very authentic promotion that lives in the moment of today, not concerned about yesterday. Respect the past, look forward to the future, but live for today. That is Ring of Honor.”
Finally, Daniels' upcoming shot at the strap on Friday night could very well be his last, and if he can manage to pull out the victory, he will no longer be recognised as the greatest wrestler to have never held a world title in any major wrestling organisation.
Rather, he will have joined the incredible list of legends to have held world title gold. Daniels discussed this being one of ROH's last truly great organic stories that they could tell.
“I don't know if it's the last great story, but it's certainly a great story and hopefully I'm up to the task of hitting that storybook ending. But yeah, I feel that these storybook endings come and go, they organically grow and who knows how events are going to transpire to add to that story of Ring of Honor as a whole.”
“You never know who the next guy is going to be that's going to make that connection with the fans and become that next hot star, and we're always on the lookout for that kind of thing. You never know what's going to transpire: Who's going to leave, who's going to arrive at Ring of Honor, that sort of stuff. Certainly, it would be a great story and a great ending to that story if I could get my hand raised Friday night.”
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