Ring of Honor brings international flavor to Chicago

James Krause

Ring Of Honor Wrestling’s partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling brought various international talent on Sunday night to The Odeum in Villa Park as part of the Global Wars tour.

The Global Wars tour, taking place in Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago, was part of New Japan’s effort to expand in America. In July, they hosted two shows in Long Beach to crown the first ever International Wrestling Grand Prix, or IWGP, United States Champion.

Dave Meltzer, the editor of Wrestling Observer News, said New Japan building an audience in Japan is a great opportunity for wrestling fans.

“Coming into major american cities and doing 5,000 or 6,000 people and selling tons and tons of merchandise regularly,” Meltzer said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Part of the success of the New Japan in America is thanks to one of it’s biggest factions, The Bullet Club, a stable made up primarily of North American and British wrestlers. The Bullet Club is lead by Kenny Omega, who won the tournament in Long Beach to win the IWGP US Championship.

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Omega was joined on the tour by British wrestler “The Villain” Marty Scrull, the ROH World Champion Cody Rhodes, the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Champions Adam “Hangman” Page and Nick and Matt Jackson, the Young Bucks.

Meltzer thinks the way everyone carries themselves is part of the appeal to audiences in both Japan and North America.

“Omega and The Young Bucks have gotten bigger as stars, so they’ve helped carry it,” Meltzer said. “Cody presents himself like a star and Marty has so much charisma, you watch him and he comes across like a star.”

In the main event, Omega defeated YOSHI-HASHI, a member of rival New Japan faction CHAOS, in a chaotic brawl for the IWGP US Championship that ended with Omega hitting his finisher, the One Winged Angel.

“You guys remember 1995, 1996, when all of a sudden wrestling was cool again,” Rhodes said following the main event. “Make sure you remember now, because wrestling has never been cooler.”

Making his first ever appearance in Chicago was Minoru Suzuki, a 49-year old former world champion from Japan that has yet to show any signs of age slowing him down. Prior to September, Suzuki, a tough fighter with a skilled submission ability, had only had one match in the US all the way back in 1992. In Chicago, he and his tag partners Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. defeated the team of Jay Lethal, Kenny King, and Shane Taylor in six-man tag action when Suzuki lifted up the 350 pound Taylor for a piledriver.

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One wrestler from Japan more familiar with the US is Himoru Takahashi, who previously worked in America and Mexico while on excursion from Japan. Takahashi’s dangerous offense and ability to use his body to cause damage lead him to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and landed him the nickname ‘Time Bomb’.

“He’s going to be a major superstar, you can kind of see it already,” Meltzer said. “The only negative is he abuses his body too much, but he has incredible charisma and is a fantastic worker.”

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For every fan of his wrestling ability, there are probably as many if not more for the companion that accompanies Takahashi to the ring, Daryl, a stuffed plush cat. Takahashi’s opponent, “The Villain” Marty Scurll, used Daryl as a weapon in their match Sunday, a match Scurll would go on to win.

Toru Yano is another star from Japan, but less for his wrestling ability and more for his ability to make the crowd laugh, sometimes at his expense. Colt Cabana, a Chicago-born wrestler, fought Yano in a comedy dream match of sorts, with Cabana picking up the win.

It wasn’t just stars from Japan that took over the Windy City, as the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay beat ROH’s Flip Gordon in a high-flying match that had the crowd going bezerk.

The show overall appeared to be a huge success, filling up the Odeum and leaving them happy. The future looks bright for ROH in Chicago, as it seems like a matter of time before the company returns.