ROH: Gabe Sapolsky

April 21, 2008

This will be one of the last Promoterís commentaries I write, as Iím down to the last few organizations I worked for during my career. After I left WWE and ďretiredĒ so to speak, I made a real effort to avoid accepting any more bookings, but the chance to work in ROH put an end to that. I was originally hoping my ECW One Night Stand match with Chris Jericho was going to be my last. I thought it would be cool if my first and last match were with the same guy, book ending my career. I still have hopes of one more Chris Jericho match somewhere down the line to still do this; perhaps Iíll promote a show in Ponoka, Alberta when we are both 50 so we can go full circle and finish where we started (LOL).

Anyway back to ROH. Gabe Sapolsky isnít actually the promoter or owner of ROH, but he is the booker and the guy I deal with whenever I have anything to do with ROH. I first met Gabe way back in my ECW days. Gabe was actually the first guy to contact me about coming in to ECW. Gabe called me late one Friday night asking about my Japan dates, because Paul was interested in bringing me in. Once I started working for the company I got to know and like Gabe, so when he contacted me after I left WWE to see if I was interested in working any ROH dates, I at least heard him out before declining.

Gabe was persistent and eventually convinced me to come in and do an appearance at a show in conjunction with taping a shoot interview. We had already agreed to the shoot interview and Gabe insisted that if I came to a show and saw Bryan Danielson work I would be interested enough to accept the booking.

In December of 2005 I had my first ROH experience when I flew into NY City to attend their show and do the shoot interview. The experience was fantastic and I had a great time. Since I hadnít yet agreed to work a match we decided I would just do an in ring promo, endorsing Bryan Danielson as the ROH Champ. We figured if I later agreed to work a match this would set the groundwork, and if not they still had me verbally putting over their Champion.

The show went great as did the Shoot Interview (Available on DVD from ROH) and I went home thinking that if I ever was going to do another match ROH would be were I wanted to do it. I was really on the fence after seeing the ROH product. I knew I would enjoy working for them and a match with Danielson would be awesome, but I still didnít want to give up my last match with Jericho.

A month or so later I was contacted by 1PW in England about working a couple shows for them and instead of just turning them down I made a request I thought for sure they would pass on. In addition to the pay day I wanted, I asked for them to fly both me and my wife to England a week before the show so we could have a London vacation. My wife had always wanted to see England and this would be a way to do it for next to nothing (Iím a very cheap man). I wasnít expecting them to agree but figured on the off chance they did, my wife would be thrilled and I would also then be able to accept the ROH booking since I was going to be giving up the ONS match as my last match.

1PW said yes, and I immediately contacted Gabe about setting up the match with Danielson. The April 1st 2006 WrestleMania weekend in Chicago worked out great for both of us, and my return match was on. Again I was treated unbelievably by both the office and the boys. I canít say enough great things about the moral of the locker room and their conduct on the whole. Everyone was so respectful and welcoming I couldnít believe. I felt as at home in the ROH locker room as I had during my ECW days, and youíve no doubt heard me rave about my time there.

Gabe sent me a bunch of ROH DVDs so I could study Danielsonís work and I trained harder for that match than I had for any one specific match in my career. Being inactive for as long as I had I knew I was going to have to really push myself in order to be able to hang with the work rate standards of ROH.

Creatively this show was rewarding also. When I accepted the booking the one thing I said to Gabe was that I wanted to be allowed to do whatever finish Bryan and I decided on. I figured Gabe knew me well enough to trust me with this and he did after first pointing out the ROH ďcodeĒ of no bullshit finishes. I think I actually laughed when he said this, asking him if he honestly thought Iíd want any bullshit in my finish. He admitted not, but felt before giving an outsider creative control he was obligated to at least set the ground rules.

The match went great, (Also available on DVD from ROH. Look for ďBetter than our BestĒ) and to this day it is one of the matches Iím most proud of. Bryan and I gelled really well together and after years of having the creative and time restraints of WWE TV on me, it was such a joy to just hit the ring and wrestle. We planned very little ahead of time all things considering. We had all our near falls and I think one spot, and went to the ring with the intention of just working, and seeing what happened. To be honest we hadnít even decided exactly what the finish was going to be when we headed to the ring.

We had debated all day about a pin fall or submission finish. I was all for putting him over clean with the submission finish but Bryan was worried the crowd might be disappointed to see me tap on the finish. We figured with this being my ROH debut and my in ring return I would be the strong baby face, so he was concerned about a flat finish. You have to love the professionalism of a guy who is more worried about the crowd reaction than getting his finish over. We figured we could just make the call out there, after we got a feel for the crowd. In addition to being one of my favourite matches it also ended up being one of my longest (approx. 27 minutes) and I believe the longest match Iíd had in more than 10 years.

I could likely go one for another page or two talking about how much I enjoyed working for ROH, but I need to wrap this up and we still have to cover the money issue. There are actually a couple of interesting stories when it comes to getting paid by ROH. There was a screw up on my December appearance, because I figured Iíd get paid after the shoot interview (the last thing we did) and Gabe expected me to be paid at the show. The guy who handles the pay cheques wasnít at the shoot interview so once we wrapped everything up, I hadnít been paid and there was no money to be found. Gabe must have apologized a dozen times and promised my cheque would be sent to me at home immediately. Perfect, ďthe cheque is in the mailĒ. I trusted Gabe and wasnít concerned and true to his word my cheque was over nighted to me and I was paid in full.

For my return in April we had agreed on a price and Gabe had asked if they could run an autograph session to help counter balance my pay day and international plane ticket. I was getting what I wanted so I figured what the hell, but asked that if it ended up being a substantial money maker he give me a piece of it. I was intentionally vague about what ďa pieceĒ of it was, wanting to see how fair ROH would be. The autograph session was a huge success and ROH ended up being more than fair, with my ďpieceĒ of the action.

I cannot say enough good things about this company and how they treated me. The only reason I havenít continued to work matches for them is that I feel itís too hard to work at the level required by ROH on a part time basis. I take great pride in my work rate and there is no way I could keep up with that locker room just working the occasional show. Staying on top of my game and being in that kind of shape I would have to be in, to hang in ROH, is a fulltime job, and my fulltime days are behind me.

If you are a worker and get the chance to work for ROH, jump at it, and if you are a fan and have the chance to attend a ROH show, you need to jump at that too.

Lance Storm