Suplexes and pile drivers probably were the last thing planners envisioned while building the Greater Richmond Convention Center, but that's exactly what will be on display Saturday when Ring of Honor wrestling descends on the city.
"You're going to see the hardest-hitting, most acrobatic wrestling," local grappler Jeff Early says. "It's the most intense action I've ever seen live. You're going to see guys knock the snot out of each other, and pull off unbelievable feats of athleticism."
The Richmond event marks a homecoming of sorts. A number of the wrestlers performing started out in the now-defunct Richmond LuchaLibre, which staged shows in Shockoe Bottom venues such as Alley Katz and Bottom Line.
"It was like a brotherhood," says Chris Sharpe, a referee who moved to Louisville, Ky., in 2009 to further his career. He began training with Richmond LuchaLibre as a teenager. "We were all best friends."
Other Richmond expats include Christopher Silvio and James "Paredyse" Long. Along with Sharpe, they now work with Ohio Valley Wrestling, a known breeding ground for big-time modern wrestlers such as John Cena, Batista and Brock Lesnar.
But Sharpe still recalls his Lucha fans here: "They were a pretty raucous crowd. They got into it."
Ring of Honor is the third-largest wrestling promotion in the nation, and members take pride that the organization features much more action than talking. Wrestlers featured will include champions Davey Richards, Charlie Haas and Jay Briscoe.
"We're bringing in quite an array of stars," says Joe Koff, chief operating officer for Ring of Honor. "It's just an exciting, exciting group of young guys practicing their craft to give the audience the ultimate experience. Our wrestlers are very young, very active."
Clad in hot pink and black, "Number One Jeff Early" will perform in a tag team match Saturday with teammate Kris "Zak Hilton" Shrader. The "Hilton" persona is a fictitious relative of the hotel family that lives in Las Vegas. The two regularly perform with NWA Fusion, and have experienced their fair share of physical dues.
"I'm kind of like a Timex watch," Early says. "I take a licking and keep on ticking."
For Early, reuniting with his old friends from the Richmond LuchaLibre days will be a treat. "It's really cool to come back to the same town that we all started this wrestling journey in." S
Ring of Honor Wrestling will be on display May 19 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For information, visit rohwrestling.com.