Me and Charlie Haas (Part One)
I spent most of last week celebrating my birthday with various friends. Exactly one week ago today I turned sixty and believed everyone who told me that really I don't look it. Let's just say that everyone's been unnecessarily sweet to me. Folks even accommodated my wrestling fetish. My office mate Jim gave me a four-DVD set of El Santo lucha-libre movies, and Barbara and Shane got front-row tickets for the three of us at Saturday's Ring of Honor show in Asheville, North Carolina. I took pictures, of course, as I have done before at live events, with typically uneven results, so I want to share here only the high points of the three-and-a-half-hour show, incredibly rich and spectacular in so many ways, and a few of the over 500 snapshots I took during it.
Shaking the hands of wrestling great Charlie Haas was a high point before the show started. Much later, before his match in the second half of the evening, Charlie tearfully announced that the night's match would be his last in pro wrestling. Alluding to the recent death of wrestler Reid Flair at age 25 and the deaths of many of his other friends and colleagues in wrestling, including his brother Russ in 2001, Charlie stated that, having passed age 40, he wants to spend more of the rest of his life being a "good daddy" and "good husband." That and the 10-bell salute to the memory of Flair were the most touching moments of the evening.
The sexiest match of the evening pitted Alabama Attitude (the studly Corey Hollis and Mike Posey) against redDRagon (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish). Fish badmouthed the South, insinuating that the Alabama boys and the North Carolina crowd were all inbreds who did not even know what a noun is. Corey and Mike gave the badass duo a taste of Southern payback over the insulting stereotypes, with some crowd members in the near-capacity house shouting with each stinging chop, "How you like that for a noun?" Ultimately dirty tricks won out over fair play and youthful idealism. But Alabama Attitude made an impression--with the crowd and, I hope, with the ROH bosses.
By and large, my favorite matches were those involving four or more participants, an unusual preference for me because singles matches provide as much action as my limited attention range can usually manage. I may have missed some fine points of the evening's entertainment, but I did not miss much. A four-man "proving ground" match to determine which wrestler would have a crack at world TV champion Matt Taven's belt saw ACH triumphing over Taven, Roderick Strong, and Jay Lethal, a victory sweetened and made more promising by the fact that he pinned the champion himself. The American Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards) eventually came out on top in a strenuous give-and-take match against Cedric Alexander and Caprice Coleman. At the match's end, Davey took the mike and praised his opponents as representing the very best that ROH offers us wrestling fans, a gentlemanly acknowledgment that ended in sportsmanlike handshakes all round.
The main event was a championship match--the most grueling match of the evening, between champ Kevin Steen and challenger Mark Briscoe (whose brother Jay, sidelined by an arm injury, stood supportively nearby, as did Steen's minions in SCUM [suffering, chaos, ugliness, and mayhem] Rhett Titus, Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs, and Jimmy Rave--with everybody jumping into the fray before Steen's ultimate victory).
|Me and Charie Haas|
|Jake "Man Scout" Manning manned one of the merch tables, giving me the scout salute when I asked for a photo.|
|A jobber has to suffer.|
|Then he suffers, bleeding, right at my feet. What could I do but take a snapshot?|
|The jobber strikes back at his tormenter, Michael Elgin, but ultimately to no avail.|
|Outside the ring, Mike Mondo works over Jimmy Rave, while Grizzly Redwood faces Jimmy Jacobs in the ring.|
|All heck breaks loose.|
|Eddie Edwards assists Davey Richards in realigning Cedric Alexander's vertebrae.|
|Edwards works Caprice Coleman outside the ring.|
|Davey Richards signals his target to come and get some more.|
|Caprice Coleman salutes the adoring fans.|