If you look at this objectively, many great stars have come and gone through Ring of Honor and in recent times come back again. Guys like Samoa Joe, C.M Punk, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and many others have been stars in ROH and left to bigger things elsewhere. Why is Kevin Steen any different from any of those names? Maybe he isn’t, but it sure feels like he is.
Kevin has really been the heartbeat of this promotion since returning to it after being exiled for about a year. He came back and won the Ring Of Honor World Heavyweight Championship and has never looked back. Having been to an ROH show, which admittedly was in Canada, it was a sea of Kevin Steen shirts from the oldest versions to the newest. To call Kevin Steen the “John Cena of Ring of Honor” is not a stretch. He is the guy that sells the most merchandise while always being featured on the card champion or not. He is the face of ROH wrestling to a large extent with no disrespect to former champion Adam Cole, current Champion Michael Elgin or anyone else in Ring of Honor. Kevin has just become that guy and maybe even to a larger degree the face of independent wrestling in general.
Long time Ring of Honor head official Todd Sinclair wrote an emotional piece on his relationship with Steen and how it has grown over the years. He recounts the wars Steen use to get in with El Generico aka Sami Zayn, even though he still refuses to admit that as recently as his interview with our Brian Fritz. That all came to a head at “Final Battle” in “Ladder War 4,” which I think is the craziest and dangerous match I have seen in my life. I don’t know if I should praise the two for they did to their bodies in that match, or hug them because they survived and kick them in the butt and say never try that again. Steen, if the rumors pan out, will be joining Zayn in the WWE developmental system and NXT soon. Steen has only a handful of independent dates booked between now and August 1st which was the rumored time he is expected to report to WWE Developmental and NXT .
He has a match tonight in Cincinnati with his last real rivalry or program in the company against Silas Young. Then tomorrow night he will be in Dearborn, Michigan against a man he calls a mentor in Steve Corino. It was an emotional filled Corino that had these words to say about the upcoming match:
Corino has been out of action and basically just content to commentate with Kevin Kelly for the last year or so. It is just another sign that honestly whatever Kevin wanted Ring of Honor was willing to give it to him. They owe him a lot, keeping their company going through some challenging times when they faced a real backlash over problems with iPPV’s and he was the man that carried the title and the company through that dark period.
Steen opened my eyes to wrestling beyond major promotions, allowed me to become invested in companies like Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla and experience this whole other universe of wrestling beyond the WWE. It’s not that I didn’t watch Ring of Honor prior to Steen and see matches from there. I had done so, but he was the guy that made me follow it religiously and want to know what was going on there.
I got the chance to watch Kevin wrestling in both Toronto and Hamilton on back to back days in May. I had a chance to chat with him both times and he was just as great a guy as I saw on my television or computer screen. There is something very genuine about Steen that few people have. You just can’t help but love this guy and want to root for his success. I watched in Hamilton as I had easier access to him and marvelled at how much care he would take into every person that came his way to say hello. Be it they wanted to buy some or his merchandise or just wanted to snap a photo with him.
It’s this ability to connect with people that should help Steen arrive in a WWE ring at some point where I really feel he will become a big star. He might have a different name and different moves, but there is nothing that can hold back the tremendous ability Kevin has to connect with people. Nothing he is taught in NXT or at a performance center can give him that skill he already has inside him.
I care about Steen in a way that I have with very few wrestlers. It isn’t just me though, it is almost everyone that he seems to come in contact with can’t say enough good things about him. Both Adam Cole and Michael Bennett in interviews I did with them heaped praise upon him. It will be an emotional scene in Dearborn on Saturday and one that I truly wish I would have been able to take in live. Thankfully I had my chance to see Kevin in May and it is something that I will always be grateful of as a wrestling fan.