By Rhett Titus
February 23, 2002 … a date that forever changed my life. I had always wanted to be a professional wrestler, but if I wasn’t in attendance for “Era of Honor Begins” I might not be here writing this blog right now. Allow me to elaborate.
The earliest life memories that I have revolved around wrestling. I recall watching an episode of “WCW Saturday Night” sometime in 1990 while playing with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures at the age of 3. I was pretending they were wrestlers, naturally, and “Ric Flair” had “Sting” in the figure-four leglock. In reality, Casey Jones had one of Shredder’s Foot Soldiers in the hold until his leg snapped off and lil Rhett began to cry his eyes out. Shortly after that, I got my first wrestling figures for Christmas (the original Hasbro line). Life was filled with wrestling from that point on.
In kindergarten they had us draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. Naturally, I drew myself as a wrestler named “The Rhettmeister.” My father took me to my first live event at The Meadowlands in ’92 or ’93 and I recall being afraid that Giant Gonzalez was going to pull me out of the nosebleed seats. I went to my first ECW show at the ECW Arena in 1994 and loved the up-close atmosphere! Also that year there was a Doink look-alike contest at an independent show at my local high school that I just had to win! I thought it was going to be my big break into the business! My mom made me the greatest Doink costume ever and Doink brought me into the ring and hoisted me up onto his shoulders declaring me the winner of the contest to a HUGE pop! (OK, maybe it was my family cheering for me, but to a young kid it was the greatest thing ever!)
Wrestling wasn’t that popular at the time. I can recall usually being the only kid in class who watched wrestling. Then the Attitude Era popped off and everybody at school and wherever you went was a fan! ECW was always my favorite, even from a young age. Not sure what drew me to that, but it always felt like I was watching something I shouldn’t be watching. Then 2001 rolled around and ECW went out of business, WCW was bought out and WWF was the only game left in town. At this point I was going into high school and wrestling just wasn’t keeping my attention as much as it did in the past. Until I got a phone call.
My brother-in-law Al was big into wrestling as well and it was how we originally formed a bond when he started dating my sister. He called me to let me know that a new wrestling promotion was coming out called Ring Of Honor and asked if I would like to come along. At first it didn’t have me too intrigued, but then he told me my two favorite wrestlers, Steve Corino and Eddy Guerrero, were going to be there. Say no more!
On this Saturday afternoon, we made the hour-and-a-half trip from New Jersey to the Murphy Rec Center in South Philly very close to where we would go see ECW shows. We would always stop at Tony Luke’s before the show for cheesesteaks. Al always had to be early to events and we were literally the second people in line waiting to get into the building that night. I remember trying to sneak a peek into the building and wondering who the guys were when they walked into the building. Finally the doors opened and we got to our seats. I took a look at the ring and saw no turnbuckles and a different color scheme than most and thinking, “Hey, this might be something different.”
The first act came out and cut a long, stereotypical promo and I thought, “Damn, I got duped,” but as the Christopher Street Connection were speaking, two crazy-looking guys hit the ring and proceeded to drop them on their heads what felt like a million times! Maff and Monsta Mack -- Da Hit Squad -- put a beating on these guys like I had never seen before. Multiple times in that brief run-in I recall thinking, “His neck has to be broken!” By the time the first official match came on, The Amazing Red vs. Jay Briscoe, I remember thinking, “WTF AM I WATCHING?! ”
The countless amount of wrestling I had watched and numerous shows I had attended, I had never seen wrestling like this before! It was so innovative, so stiff, so up-close and personal, and at the conclusion of the main event between Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, and American Dragon, I was convinced I was watching the best wrestling on the planet. The whole way home we couldn’t stop talking about the show. I couldn’t pick a favorite match because every single one was my favorite. When is the next show was all that was on my mind!
I’d go on to tell all my friends how I saw the greatest wrestling show of all time and constantly be dialing up that old 56K connection to sign into AOL and checking rohwrestling.com for updates or pictures from the show. I was always trying to find out more info on the wrestlers; my love and passion for wrestling was totally reignited! I would continue to go to almost every Ring of Honor show that took place at the Murphy Rec Center. This was a place where I got to see so many legendary wrestlers come through like Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah the Butcher, to name a few, plus guys on the breakout that I would see for the first time like AJ Styles, CM Punk, Homicide, Samoa Joe, Colt Cabana, Paul London, Spanky, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, BJ Whitmer, The Briscoe Brothers and too many other names to list! (Check out ROH 2002 on HonorClub for a small piece of what I am talking about.)
I also started trading tapes to get my hands on other wrestling from all over the world. Nothing could compare to the action you would see behind the letters ROH, though, because it was treated and presented like a sport. My wrestling fandom was at an all-time high at this point, and now seeing guys who were smaller than me being able to do this at a high level made that childhood dream that much more attainable. I had started looking into wrestling schools in the area trying to figure out where I would get trained at, until ROH announced that they were opening the Ring of Honor training academy and CM Punk was going to be the trainer! Well where the hell do I sign up?! …
I hope everyone is staying safe and making the most of their time at home. Thanks for joining me again and be sure to check out all the other HonorPost entries from other stars from ROH! I am sure jealous of the sound of Joe Hendry’s “Prestigious Man Cave” with all of the workout equipment in there. If you’re like me and don’t have a home gym, join me Tuesday, March 31 at 8:15 p.m. EDT for another FREE LIVE WORKOUT! I will be hosting it at:
Hope to see you guys there and join me next time at rohwrestling.com!