Friday, May 18, 2012

My Congratulations to Kevin Steen, World Champion

The Secret History of Kevin Steen's Quest for the ROH World Title

Kevin Steen won the Ring of Honor title last Saturday, beating Davey Richards in Toronto during Border Wars, much to Ring of Honor's very kayfabe dismay.

The funny thing is that Kevin has been fighting for the ROH title against the promotion's wishes since 2004, one year before his first official match with the company (Do or Die 4 - February 19th, 2005).

Pat Laprade, author of the upcoming book: Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling asked me for some comments for his weekly RDS column.

Since Pat translated what I said into French and only used part of it (because Quelle Surprise! I wrote too much) I thought that I would post up my full original thoughts here:

The Champ is Here!

I am extremely happy that Kevin Steen has (finally) won the Ring of Honor title.

What may surprise many people is that Steen first fought for the ROH title waaaaaaay back on July 2, 2004 in Montreal against Samoa Joe during the Samoan Bulldozer's record-setting 21 month ROH title reign. (He also wrestled Austin Aries for the ROH title in Montreal 6 months later, wrestling twice for the ROH title before ever being on the ROH roster - which has to be some kind of record.)

Steen fought Samoa Joe to a draw during Midsummer Madness - a show promoted by respected wrestling trainer Mark le Grizzly - a show that brought together the best wrestlers in Montreal from all the local promotions, including the one that I was working for at the time: the International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS).

We had just made Kevin Steen our champion at our fifth Anniversary show "V", a show that got a lot of attention because it featured the return to wrestling of Sid Vicious, three years after shattering his leg during the WCW PPV Sin. The return was so unexpected that Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer, woke his Quebec correspondant up in the middle of the night because he was convinced that the show report was a hoax.

Kevin with the ultimate wrestling accesory
In following up on that world-wide publicity, part of our strategy was to try and get IWS wrestlers on as many prestigious independent promotions as possible. Partly we did this to sell more IWS DVDs outside of Montreal, partly to sell more tickets in Montreal, partly because we hoped that our wrestlers would be loyal to the IWS because of our help, but mostly we did it because we believed that our guys were as good as anyone in the world and only needed a chance to prove it.

After Steen, Generico, Eddy and Excess69 tore the house down in an IWS Fatal Fourway Match during a CZW show, we set our sights on getting a carload of IWS wrestlers booked at Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. We had been pestering Fat Frank, the booker of JAPW, for a solid year without much success, but the combination of the Sid Vicious coup and the CZW four-way finally made him take us seriously. Frank only had one final hurdle for us before agreeing to book Steen and company - he wanted another wrestler to vouch for our guys. Knowing that Samoa Joe wrestled for Frank, we immediately pointed him in that direction, telling him that Steen and Joe had had an incredible brawl in Montreal. A half-hour later, Frank relayed to us the results of his conversation with Samoa Joe, "Steen is a cocky son-of-a-bitch, but he can back it up in the ring. Book him."

Many people point to the success of the CZW match as what broke Quebec wrestlers like Steen and Generico in the United States, but the JAPW match was almost more important. It proved that what happened in Philadelphia wasn't a fluke. And backstage, Steen and Generico met Super Dragon... who invited Steen and El Generico to join the roster of PWG, which in turn led eventually to both men joining ROH.

Eight years later, Steen is World Champion, joining a proud but small list of Quebeckers who could make that boast: Yvon Robert, Edouard Carpentier, Chris Benoit, Don Eagle, Mad Dog Vachon, Ron Garvin, Stan Stasiak and Rick Martel.

Kevin Steen with Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino
When Kevin Steen first wrestled in Japan (March 15, 2005), there were fans there with signs calling him "Mr. Wrestling". This got Steen some back-stage heat, first for his nick-name, second for having signs before his first Japanese match when wrestlers who had been coming to Japan for ten years had no signs. Steen didn't choose his nick-name and he didn't bring the signs, his fans did (the Japanese fans got the nickname from Kevin's deranged Montreal fans), but Kevin Steen has never apologized for being better than everyone else and inspiring those fans.

The difference between Kevin Steen and many other wrestlers in this province isn't that he was given opportunities. True, many people in Quebec gave Steen opportunities: Manny, Nightmare Manson (aka Eric Picard - the first guy to put a belt on Kevin) and Marc le Grizzly to name a few. But every time Steen was given an inch, he took a yard. Every time that someone opened the door a crack, he put his shoulder down and busted the door down. Every time we said that Kevin Steen was the best in the world, he went out and proved us right.

The champ is here... here, in Montreal and I'm proud as hell to say that I know him.

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