Following on from my interview with HWA boss Cody Hawk this week it was the turn of Ring Of Honor boss Gabe Sapolsky to come under my grueling questions. I got the chance to talk to him about his days in ECW, how he came up with the concept of RoH, the involvement with The Wrestling Channel and much more besides.
Hi Gabe thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to Wrestling 101 today. So let’s start with an obvious question how did you get involved in the wrestling business?
I was lucky and got in before the Internet was big. I simply wrote Tod Gordon a letter, this was before everyone had email, when ECW started asking if I could do a newsletter and they were looking for people to help and were a new company so he said yes and then I just grew with the company.
Now you did a million and one jobs for ECW during there run and I have always wanted to ask you this question if ECW had kept on going would have you been content to keep on doing your million and one jobs or had you always been looking to start your own promotion?
I would have been very content to stay with ECW doing what I was doing. It was all fun and there was little pressure.
Did you use your time in ECW to get the experiences, knowledge and contacts to start your own promotion or were you there simply enjoying the experience?
I always kept my mouth shut and my ears open and learned from everyone and everything that I could. Being in ECW was like going to college and grad school for wrestling and I couldn’t have asked for a better education. I never figured that I’d have an opportunity to do what I do now and just figured I’d try to learn as much as I could for the fun of it.
Now lets move on to RoH, was RoH and the concepts behind it set up purely from the perspective of an idea you have had for years or was it as a response to the current US Wrestling scene at the time?
It was a combination of both. I book what I want to see as a fan. I was always a fan of the juniors style, the great All Japan tags of the early 90s and of course the ECW style. I’m also a fan of letting the wrestlers be innovative and creative and perform their art the way they love to so ROH booking is a combination of all those things because I believe there are enough people out there that want to see this style to keep us in business. It is important to do something different and right now no promotion on TV is doing what we are doing.
Two years on is RoH now at a stage you had hoped for it to be when you started?
My only goal is to stay in business. If that means we need 500 people a night and we get it for 20 years and the company stays afloat for 20 years then that’s fine with me.
You have had so many big names work RoH events like Eddie Guerrero but from a wrestling fan point of view who has been your favourite?
I couldn’t name one. It has been a dream come true to book angles and matches with the guys I watched growing up like Jim Cornette, Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah The Butcher, Terry Funk and most recently Jushin Liger. It is just a surreal, indescribable experience that I am so lucky to have.
Were you quite surprised by how popular RoH was in the UK when you came over for the big Frontiers of Honor event?
I wasn’t at the Frontiers Of Honor event, but we knew we had a good following, but were surprised with just how popular ROH was.
What are your thoughts on the FWA and do you see any possibility for doing a similar style of show in the future?
I have to be honest in that I haven’t really seen enough FWA to comment.
Now speaking of the UK one of your stars Colt Cobana is currently over here in the UK. What are your thoughts on him and do you think it was a good move for him to come and tour here for as long as he is?
I think it was a great move for Colt to go over to the United Kingdom. He got to work much more frequently than if he stayed in the US and he got to work new opponents and learn new styles. Colt already told me he has lots of new moves for when he returns. I think guys at Colt’s stage in their career need to travel and do things like extended stays in places like the UK. It can only help them. Colt is a very agile big man who knows how to entertain the crowd as well as wrestle a variety of styles. If you have a chance to see him in the UK take advantage of it.
Did you manage to see his interview he did for The Bagpipe Report on the Wrestling Channel?
No I didn’t.
Now speaking of The Wrestling Channel, what do you think of it and the team behind it?
I think its a great concept and its giving some great exposure to various companies. I hope they are successful in this venture.
Have you seen any benefits from being on the channel like more tape purchases, website traffic etc?
Anytime you get any exposure no matter how big or small it can only help.
Now it has just been reported as I type this question that The Wrestling Channel are holding their own big event next March at the Coventry Skydome in Coventry which will feature wrestlers from all the promotions that get shown on The Wrestling Channel. What are your thoughts on your 2nd venture in to the UK?
This is the first I’m hearing about it. It sounds like it could be a great event so hopefully they put together a good show and it turns out as a positive thing for the UK wrestling scene.
What does the future hold for RoH?
We will just keep trying to improve and be better and deliver more and more. I feel that 2004 was easily our strongest year both booking wise and wrestling wise. We had so many great matches this year. I think we’ll be able to continue featuring all those great matches since the talent up and down the roster is so incredible. When Mick Foley comes to your show for free like he did on 12/4 because he is a fan that shows that the future can only be bright.
Where do you see Roh being in 12 months time?
We’ll just keep putting on the best product we can and with the fan’s support hopefully we’ll be doing strong business.
Thanks for your time Gabe anything else you would like to add?
I just want to thank everyone that purchases merchandise from ROHwrestling.com. It is those merchandise sales that keep us alive and going strong and allow us to do special things like bring in Jushin Liger or Bobby Heenan. Of course, I also want to thank everyone that goes to live shows because I feel that our live experience is second to none and that is because of the great atmosphere our fans create. Thank you.
To find out more about Ring of Honor please see: ROHwrestling.com