Pro wrestling without the slapstick

October 16, 2003|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

An evening of professional wrestling will be presented at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie tonight, but there won't be any father vs. daughter matches on the card. Nor will there be comedy skits, scantily clad women or outlandish story lines.

It certainly doesn't sound like a World Wrestling Entertainment event - and that's the point. Ring of Honor, a small independent wrestling company based in Philadelphia and making its Maryland debut tonight, was formed nearly two years ago to provide an underground alternative to WWE's slick brand of sports entertainment.

It's still professional wrestling, so, yes, matches are scripted, but, "We won't insult your intelligence, and you won't feel embarrassed watching a Ring of Honor show," says Gabe Sapolsky, 31, who puts together the matches and writes the story lines for ROH.

"These wrestlers take a lot of pride in making this look real."

Founded in 2001 by Rob Feinstein, the owner of a video company that specializes in pro wrestling tapes, ROH initially targeted diehard fans who had become disenchanted with WWE. With a roster comprised mostly of young wrestlers awaiting their big break, a meager budget and little advertising, ROH has built a following through Web sites and word of mouth, although "you don't have to be a wrestling nerd to enjoy it," Sapolsky says.

ROH drew 500 people to its debut show in Philadelphia in February 2002. The promotion has since expanded into cities such as Boston, Pittsburgh and Dayton, Ohio. A July show in Elizabeth, N.J., attracted a crowd of 1,200.

It's a far cry from the crowd of more than 12,000 likely to attend Sunday's WWE pay-per-view at 1st Mariner Arena, but that's fine with Sapolsky.

"We never thought of getting rich off the live events," he says. "Our goal since Day 1 was to break even at the live events. We make our money off the DVDs and videos [of the shows].

"I consider myself kind of like a writer and director of an independent movie. This is my art, and if there are five people watching my art or 5,000 people watching my art, I don't care. I just want to put out a product that I can be proud of."

Ring of Honor appears at 7:30 tonight at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie. Tickets are $30, $20 and $15. Doors open at 6:30. For more information, call 410-766-7474.

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