On December 7, wrestling promoter Ring of Honor will hold its “Final Battle” pay-per-view event, live, from Manhattan’s Terminal 5.
Terminal 5’s reputation as primarily a music venue makes it a bizarre choice for the show at first glance. But remember, this is the same venue where rap group Odd Future stage-dived from the balcony a few years back at CMJ, so it’s no stranger to bombastic action.
Founded in 2002, ROH quickly made a name for itself as one of the strongest voices in independent wrestling, with an alternative style that both more closely resembled professional athletic competition as well as dabbled in more cutting-edge storylines and characters aimed at a mature audience.The company has grown every year since and has blossomed into one of the top three wrestling federations in North America, with both a nationally syndicated weekly television program through Sinclair Broadcasting as well as the addition of entering the world of terrestrial pay-per-view last summer. With one successful pay-per-view outing already under its belt, ROH is looking for further success with Sunday’s event, the company’s biggest show of the year.
With music playing such an important part in the spectacle and showmanship of professional wrestling, ROH’s presence at Terminal 5 emphasizes what a rock concert of physicality an event like Final Battle truly is. As important as the right music is, ROH’s growth has also arrived with some additional audio obstacles. ROH’s Don Stevens, who, among other things, serves as the company’s music coordinator, tells us how the addition of terrestrial pay-per-view has changed such an approach. “Using music by mainstream bands is much tougher now, which is why we have gone the route of production music, lesser-known bands or custom-created tracks.”
One performer recently receiving new entrance music is the reigning Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Champion, Jay Briscoe, who defends his title against longtime rival Adam Cole in Sunday’s main event. Briscoe, who’s been with ROH since its very first show 12 years ago, used to famously walk to the ring with his brother Mark to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimmie Back My Bullets.” “We were always big Skynyrd fans, coming from where we come from,” Briscoe, a Sandy Fork, Delaware, native tells us. “I thought that song fit us perfect.” But while “Bullets” came from the suggestion of the company’s then-booker, his new theme, “Reach for the Sky,” is an original composition written specifically for Briscoe. The artist, Adam Massacre, was a U.K.-based wrestling fan who uploaded a series of popular death metal covers of famous wrestling themes. When ROH contacted him about creating some original themes, the story goes his immediate reaction was “I love the Briscoe Brothers, I got an idea!”
Also benefiting from an original composition is wrestler Frankie Kazarian, one-half of tag-team The Addiction with partner Christopher Daniels. The duo, who can also be seen on comic-book shelves doing battle with Aw Yeah Comics, are set Sunday night to team with Cedric Alexander in a six-man-tag against high-flyers ACH and The Young Bucks. Kazarian, who has competed for every major wrestling promotion over the past decade, has found a specific connection with heavy-metal fans, thanks to the Metallica-inspired logo found on his tights. “Taking the ninja star ‘M’ logo, turning that into a ‘K’ and, before that, using the font for my last name, I’ve seen [it] as an homage to my absolute favorite band in the world,” Kazarian tells us. “It’s an extension of my personality. When people see that, that’s my way of expressing my love of heavy-metal music to the fans. It’s my suit of armor that shows what’s inside. I’ve connected with a lot of heavy-metal fans during signings, and I love that. When someone comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, I saw the day after Ronnie James Dio died you wrote ‘RJD’ on your wrist tape, that was really cool,’ that’s an instant conversation.” The Addiction’s current music, “Your Sexy Beast” by Kushinator, came about through the team meeting the band at an event they wrestled in in Ontario. “We stayed in touch and when we needed music for Ring of Honor, Chris got in touch with them and they were happy to sign it over. We’re thankful they let us use it. Music’s incredibly important to the overall persona of the wrestler.”
With the relationship of music and wrestling being an inseparable one, Final Battle’s home at Terminal 5 is far from the strangest venue either Kazarian or Briscoe has performed at over their careers. “Early on I wrestled at a couple churches,” Kazarian recalls, “one time in Watts at an old cathedral church with a ring set up on the stage. One time at a state fair I had to change in a cage with two llamas.” Briscoe has similar memories: “I’ve done a show in a firehouse where they pull the fire trucks out and put a ring right there. I’ve done shows in barns before. Boys and Girls Clubs. The Salisbury [Maryland] mall, they gutted out a store and set a ring up in there. In the ring, we had to duck to keep from hitting the ceiling. You can have a wrestling show anywhere.” But given this is a show in New York, the champ knows what kind of fans to expect. “They’re definitely hardcore. They let you know what they think, and they’re not scared to let you know. It’s cool. They’re definitely one of a kind.”