One of the things I love most about going to wrestling shows is the opportunity to meet the talent before the show. Often it means leaving the house (or hotel) a bit earlier than expected, but I do so to ensure that I don’t miss out on any possible chance of meeting everyone I wish to see and speak with. After an evening transcontinental flight, overnight drive from LAX to Vegas, and a busy day sightseeing, I freshened up my make up and headed out to Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor1 live event at the Orleans Arena.
Getting totally KAWAII with NJPW Legend, Jushin Thunder Liger
After a quick and dirty tour of some of my favorite places in Las Vegas, we headed back to The Orleans Hotel. To ensure I maximized the two hours prior to bell time, I got to the venue 90-minutes before the security gates opened. Even then, there was at least thirty fans queued up and patiently waiting for the 4PM start! Unlike previous ROH meet and greets, this time around they also accepted credit cards instead of just cash. To ensure each talent received proper payment for their tabling, individual, color-coded and labeled tickets were sold. The tricky part was deciding where to start first to ensure time wasn’t wasted in line.
Pre-show Meet & Greet
In budgeting for this trip, the pre-show meet and greets were something I was looking forward to, especially because trying to meet New Japan talent is such a rarity. The two ROH shows I attended in Lakeland in the last year didn’t have any of them on the show, and being late to ROH meant I missed out of many of their excursion periods a few years back. When the price list was initially announced, every solo M&G ticket was $40 per talent, which is already double the standard non-PPV price of $20 for individuals and $30 for tag teams. Just over a week prior to the event, prices for The Young Bucks (typically priced at $30, but listed at $50) and Okada both jumped to $60 per ticket. As someone who works hard to budget and prepare in advance, this was a bit of a slap in the face, especially when Okada was meeting fans at the LA Dojo the following afternoon for $30.
Ishii is very much the strong & silent type, but very lovely!
Also, the pressure to choose between one’s own personal item and a signed 8×10 photograph was a little frustrating. Thankfully, the Japanese talent didn’t split hairs at all, nor did they rush any fan out of the way. They took the time to speak with everyone, take photos, and sign items, making the financial blow a little more palpable. Everyone from Jushin Thunder Liger and Tomohiro Ishii to Kazuchika Okada and Rocky Romero was friendly, excited to meet fans, and willing to make the experience as memorable as possible!
I understand the premium of the international talent as well as the concepts of supply and demand, despite getting a C in Macroeconomics in university. The last-minute pricing changes are something I sincerely hope ROH will reconsider moving forward, especially after ROH COO, Joe Koff said in an interview prior to DBD, “That’s what we’re in business for, the fan and the fan experience.” For someone who works exceptionally hard to save up for events like this, but also wishes to live within her means, it certainly dampens the experience when the choice suddenly becomes paying one’s mortgage on time and buying food and being to fully enjoy their vacation.
The more I watch New Japan and other Japanese promotions like Stardom, which have crossover partnerships with ROH, the more motivated I’ve become in studying Japanese again. Here are the quick summaries of the Japanese-content, but check out all the fun photos from the events!
Hey, Kazu, in the market for a new manager now that Gedo’s gone?
Meeting the Rainmaker – In the span of 24 hours, I met The Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada, twice. He is one of the top-tier performers, so his touring outside of Japan, as well as working fan events, is exceptionally rare. I took full advantage of the change to meet him in both Las Vegas & at the NJPW LA Dojo the next afternoon. There is a reassuring gap between the massive star-powered aura of The Rainmaker and the lovely guy behind him.
Mean muggin’ with Rocky is 3000 times better!
Why I Respect Rocky Romero – Prior to NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed, Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso did this fantastic interview with Rocky. When I had the chance to finally chat with him at the ROH M&G, I gushed at length with him about how important his work as a gaijin (‘foreigner’) has been as a former long-term resident of Japan myself. His work not only as a competitor, but all the behind-the-scenes work as well as moonlighting in the English commentary booth is awe-inspiring and motives me to hustle harder toward my own dreams.
There is only so much wall space in The Lil House of the Nerdy, and I would hate for my ever growing signature collection to simply remain in a file folder. I decided to embrace my inner bibliophile, and have the talent sign my literature from Japan. It resulted in some great conversations with the Japanese talent about my language studies and time living in Japan. I like collecting mementos of my travels, but I prefer them to be practical at the same time! I love collecting signed copies of books, so now I have additional motivation and support in working on those Japanese to English translations!
- I didn’t have a book or magazine for Rocky to sign, so he was kind enough to sign the underside of my Roppongi 3K hat, intentionally leaving space for his boys, SHO and YOH to sign one day. Kazu signed the opening photograph to his 2016 interview series called Okada’s Room. The Chicago city flag-inspired CHAOS shirt was leftover from the Okada fan event at ALL IN, but I couldn’t pass it up!
- Liger was kind enough to sign this absolutely fantastic photo of him in full gear on a swing from New World.
- Ishii also signed his article in the same issue of New World!
- Autographed 8x10s from Liger, Kazu & Rocky. I was so nervous talking to Ishii, that I forgot this 8×10 on the table!!
Overall, I had a great experience at the ROH DBD pre-show event, but my biggest caveat was the pricing hikes. Meeting the New Japan talent in addition to watching them perform on a second show in the same weekend was very special to me, as I do not think I’ll be able to afford any of the lower level tickets for the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden the first weekend in April. I hope that in addition to that show, some of the talents visit the partner promotions like RevPro and the WrestleCon SuperShow like Tanahashi, Suzuki, Ishii & The Golden Lovers did in New Orleans earlier this year.
Additionally, I was a bit disappointed that several of my favorite NJPW guys: KUSHIDA, SANADA & EVIL were slated for the TV tapings the following night, but were not included on one of the biggest shows of the year. I would have loved to have met each and every one of them. I know that there is only so much room on a card, but it just felt like such a missed opportunity. Also, I am not one to linger outside the hotels, airports or restaurants, hoping to ask talent on their downtime for a signature or photo.
If special event pricing is going to become a regular occurrence, I would sincerely hope that ROH would consider allowing fans to get an 8×10 plus a personal item signed. I know that to avoid service fees, there is the preference to seel M&Gs on site, but what I wouldn’t give for an EventBrite format where I could pre-pay all of my tickets ahead of time and scan them at the venue. It’s a personal preference because I really dislike carrying cash around, especially in tourist cities like Vegas.
- Ring of Honor will be referenced as ROH and Death Before Dishonor will be DBD.