By Chuck Carroll
What separates a story from a story is absurdity. And The Kingdom, the current Ring of Honor World Six-Man Tag Team Champions from Massachusetts, have a wicked absurd story to tell. The funny thing about what happened to The Kingdom in Las Vegas last March is that it really wasn’t funny at all… at the time, anyway.
At the ROH 15th Anniversary Show, T.K. O’Ryan badly misjudged a moonsault off the second rope and wound up smashing his legs into a steel guardrail. The thunderously violent collision split his fibula and tibia shaft into two pieces, literally leaving his leg to twist in the wind. The match was immediately cut short, and O’Ryan was helped to the back where he would wait more than an hour for the first available ambulance to take him to the hospital. There’s nothing really humorous about that.
Once at the hospital, doctors set and immobilized O’Ryan’s broken leg as best as they could. The surgery necessary to repair the heavily damaged limb would have to wait until after a long and painful flight back to the east coast.
Now, everything up until the point O’Ryan reached the airport makes for a fine, albeit cringe-worthy, chapter of a story. But the real story only began when he and tag partner Vinny Marseglia arrived to check-in for their flight. It’s said that hindsight is 20-20. In this case, it’s also hysterical.
I caught up with O’Ryan, Marseglia, and Matt Taven as they prepared to head to the airport once again. This time, The Kingdom would be wheels up for Honor United, a four-day, three-city tour of the United Kingdom that begins Thursday in Edinburgh, Scotland. As part of the swing, the trio will also defend their newly reclaimed titles against Bullet Club and SoCal Uncensored in London on Saturday. All of the shows will be streamed live on the promotion’s HonorClub service.
After revisiting the Vegas debacle, we discussed the shock they felt when they learned they’d be recapturing the six-man titles just moments before going to the ring in front of their hometown crowd in Massachusetts. The group also had an interesting take on the effect of the recent globalization of wrestling.
But first, here’s the funny.
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Vinny, after TK broke his leg and you guys helped him back to the locker room, what do you remember about how things played out for the rest of that night? I know it took an hour or more for an ambulance to arrive.
Vinny: I didn’t make it to the hospital trip. I had the airport trip, so the tail end of this. So we had to get him to the airport, myself and Matt [Taven] carried him down. We had a driver, so we both had to drag him into the backseat, which we had to be careful because the hospital only kind of set his leg. They didn’t really do much to it except set it and then wrap it with a little splint.
So we put him in the car, we drove to the airport. Now, mind you, the airport wheelchairs there have the bar that you clip, so TK can’t wheel himself. He needs somebody to push him and hold the bar in. I have my two bags, and he has his two bags. And the wheelchair doesn’t have any feet rest to put his feet on, so I literally took his roll bag and put it underneath his leg and propped his leg on it so he could push the wheelchair with the roll bag with it, and to carry all my stuff on top of me, I got crutches, I got all this stuff. And we get there, and not a single security guard or anybody that works for the airport or anyone was like, “Hey, can I give you a hand? Do you need a wheelchair?” It was wild how crazy that was.
TK: [laughs] Remember the guy that made fun of us? The first thing that happened is there’s some guy heckling me for having a broken leg.
Vinny: Yeah, so we’re arguing with this guy when we first get there, but we blow past him because I just wanna get him home. And yeah, nobody wanted to help us. So we get to TSA, and then TSA pulls us aside, and they search TK like all day long while he’s in this airport. And I’m trying to explain to them that I need to get this guy home for emergency surgery, and they didn’t care. They did not care at all. And they just stayed with TK, searching him the entire time. So we finally get through. We miss the flight. So he’s screaming in pain, unbelievable pain. We get to the gate, we end up making a few calls to try to figure out a flight for that night. There’s nothing there until 10 o’clock the next morning, so we were like, “Do we stay in the airport?” But he couldn’t, because he was in so much pain, so I had to go back to the hotel to get another flight for the next morning.
So we try to make our way back to the hotel. We get in this elevator, and it goes down, I go through first, and there’s these sliding doors. As soon as I walk through, the sliding doors close and lock behind me. TK can’t move because he needs somebody to press the bar to push the wheelchair. It’s funny now that we talk about it, but when it happened it was insane.
TK: [laughs] It was like a horror movie.
Vinny: [laughs] Yeah, I’m behind this glass door, and TK is right in front of the elevator as it opens. He’s facing the elevator, and I’m banging on this glass door and screaming, “Hey, I can’t get in.” I’m looking at the security cameras to open it. There’s a code button and I’m trying to push all the codes to open the sliding door.
So then the elevator opens, and two old people are on the elevator, and it opens and TK is just standing there screaming in front of this elevator. And I’m banging on the glass behind him, so you can imagine what these people are thinking, like “What is going on right now?”
TK: [laughs] Yeah, dude, waiting for elevators. Think for a second though. Think what Vinny looks like behind the guy on a wheelchair banging on glass, going “Let me in!”
[They’re probably thinking] “Why are you banging?!”
Vinny: [laughs] So then these poor old people ended up going to contact somebody, and a security person came down and opened it for us. And then we ended up getting back in the car and going back to the hotel. But nobody was around when we got back. So, I had to get all our stuff and bring him back up. And then we ended up getting a flight the next morning. And there’s more details to that but that’s the gist of it. But it was a nightmare. And then they had the worst time at the hospital as well. It was a crazy, crazy weekend. I’ll never forget it.
I don’t even know where we take this from here. There’s a couple more questions, but it’s all downhill from here. This interview has peaked.
It seems to me that the gap is really narrowing outside the U.S. between WWE and everybody else. Are you guys getting that sense as well, when you travel abroad?
Matt: Well, I think we really shrunk the wrestling world. And now you can just find [wrestling] any place, anywhere, any promotion on your phone within seconds. You can go on Twitter and see highlights of a promotion, an independent promotion in England, or what Japan’s doing, or what’s going on in Mexico. And you can just keep track of everything, just scrolling through your Twitter timeline. So people are able to get all this different wrestling right at their fingertips. So with the popularity of independent wrestling, because of the use of social media, it’s just boosting up everyone else accordingly.
The presence of every company is becoming this big global unit that’s able to touch fanbases all over the world. So for us, we want to make sure that not only these people are seeing us online, but they get to see the real thing in person. And maybe if they’re only going to certain matches or only checking out certain people that they know about. Well, The Kingdom’s here in your face, and we’re gonna make sure that that crowd that might not be completely familiar to us or haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, does so when we head over to England.
Now Ring of Honor releases the Honor Club, their streaming service. I would think, also, that that boosts the familiarity of Ring of Honor on a global level.
Matt: Without a doubt… All the guys in the locker room go all out every single show, and there’s a lot of hidden gems. There’s a lot of house shows. And even for me, there are matches that I love that weren’t on TV and weren’t on pay-per-view.
Now you see every show as it’s going on live and go back and see archives. It’s just huge for us… it’s the next evolution in wrestling, and it’s the next thing that every wrestling company is looking to do. So, the fact that fans are able to see every show is just gonna continue the growth of Ring of Honor.
You guys just won the Six-Man Tag Team Championships in front of a hometown crowd. That had to have been a pretty sweet feeling.
TK: Yeah, that was awesome. That’s probably one of the coolest things we’ve done in Ring of Honor, because it had that Bret Hart feel, when he’d go to Canada and everybody thought he was the man, no matter what was going on in his wrestling world. We were booed out of a lot of these arenas we’d go to. And then we show up in Lowell [Mass.] and are treated like the kings. It was definitely cool to come home and wrestle in front of a lot of friends and family and feel the energy of that hometown crowd in the championship match.
Vinny, true or false? It has been reported that that match was a surprise because Dalton Castle was out with an injury. How much of a heads-up did you guys get that that was going to occur that night?
Vinny: For the most part, right when we’re in there, when Matt grabbed the mic and announced it. That’s pretty much. It happened right there and then. We had no idea what was gonna happen until we got there. It was awesome for all three of us, just to win the Six-Man Tag belts after that long, after all that stuff with TK. It was cool for the three of us. I loved it. It was a really good moment for me in my career and being in Ring of Honor.
Matt, when you find out that you guys are gonna get that gold, what runs through your head?
Matt: Well, for me, it’s a crazy day. I thought I was gonna have the world title match, and I had my grandfather there, and my friends and family. For me, I grew up in New Hampshire, lived in Boston, and am just a New Englander through and through. So where it was, in Lowell, was this happy medium between where a lot of my friends lived and where a lot of people I grew up with, and family, were. So that whole day was spent coordinating people’s tickets and making sure that everyone was taken care of.
And then, on top of that, you get told, “Oh, well, that match is not happening, and then this is gonna happen.” So you really don’t have a chance to take in what’s about to happen. I was just running around all day, like “Is this taken care of? I have to make sure, okay, now we have to plan for this.”
So it wasn’t until the very end when the three of us afterwards, we went back and had a little pizza party and a little celebration and a couple beverages, it was like, “Huh, that was really cool, wasn’t it?” But in the moment, it was tough. It was tough to take it all in. That’s when we watched it back like “Oh, man, I probably should have enjoyed that a little bit more, that was a pretty cool experience.”
NEWS & NOTES
For the second time in as many weeks, the future of WWE television stole headlines and spurred the company’s stock to record highs. After reportedly reaching an agreement with NBC Universal that will triple the broadcast rights fees for Monday Night RAW, WWE again is closing in on a landmark deal that will do the same for SmackDown, but on a different network. FOX is reportedly ready to fork over more than a billion dollars for the rights to SmackDown for five years. It’s a huge deal for WWE not only financially, but also from a viewership perspective. The show will shift from Tuesdays on cable to a new Friday night time slot on a broadcast network beginning in the fall of 2019, massively increasing potential viewership. One would think that the billion-dollar commitment would mean the show will remain live despite airing on a new night, but no details have been announced. Regardless, one must wonder whether RAW will remain the “A show” or whether the cards will be stacked in favor of the blue team. The possibility of ending brand-specific shows also looms. Amazon and Facebook offered more money than FOX, according to The Wrestling Observer. However, WWE opted for network television to maximize viewership and exposure. FOX and WWE have not commented on the reports.
The card for ROH’s return to New York City on June 2nd is filling out. Bully Ray and Cheeseburger will square off in a no count out/no disqualification match, while Cody will face CMLL star Titan, and ROH World Champion Dalton Castle will defend his title against another CMLL competitor in Ultimo Guerrero. “New York City Excellence” is the final television taping scheduled before the next ROH pay-per-view on June 29.
SmackDown isn’t the only WWE show on the move. WWE is shifting the start time for all pay-per-views to 7 p.m. ET, beginning with Money In The Bank on June 17, according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson. The kickoff shows are also being moved up by an hour. The events have been running long for some time, and this will officially increase their runtime time to four hours, according to the report. Some will still run longer while others will conclude earlier.
PWInsider is also reporting that Jason Jordan is scheduled to be back backstage at next Monday’s RAW in Richmond, Virginia. It’s unclear whether he will appear on camera. Jordan was also backstage at a recent RAW taping in Long Island.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.