Being a world champion always carries with it a certain amount of respect and prestige, but there’s something different about being the Ring of Honor World Champion.
Attaining the Ring of Honor World Championship is not only a big pat on the back from the promotion itself, it’s also a badge of merit in the wrestling business, as only the very best in-ring performers are tasked with carrying the title. It’s a true validation of a wrestler’s ability.
CM Punk, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) are just a few of the notable names to hold the title and use it as a springboard to greater success.
A couple more names would be Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Kevin Steen and Nigel McGuiness.
Back on June 22, Ring of Honor held its first-ever traditional pay-per-view in Nashville, Tenn. called “Best in the World.” It was a true milestone for the promotion.
It chose that night to crown a new world champion and add another name to that illustrious list of stars. That man was Michael Elgin.
By defeating Adam Cole, Elgin became only the 19th ROH World Champion in history and joined a fraternity of champions that cemented him as among the best wrestlers in the world.
“Words can’t describe it,” Elgin said during an interview with philly.com. “The crowd in Nashville was amazing. It was the first live pay-per-view Ring of Honor had ever done and it was so many great moments rolled into one that it’s really hard to express how it felt.”
During the 12-year history of Ring of Honor, there have only been 20 world title reigns by 19 different men. Elgin continues his Aug. 9 in Philadelphia, when Ring of Honor takes over the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory at 2700 Southampton Road as apart of its Summer Heat Tour. Elgin will defend his ROH World Championship against Cedric Alexander.
“I think [the Ring of Honor World Championship] shows its prestige as the best wrestlers in the world hold that belt and they hold it for so long and lengthy title reigns because you truly have to be the best at what you do to have the honor of being the Ring of Honor World Champion,” Elgin said. “I think that it holds its bearing in the wrestling circles because of that and because of the names that came before me and have been champion. It’s kind of a validation of hard work.”
Becoming the champion is only the beginning, however. The man that holds the title must now live up to its lineage, as he now walks in the footsteps of some of the most respected names in the wrestling industry. He must keep the title in high regard.
The title itself may only weight a fixed amount, but in reality, the weight of carrying the ROH World Championship is infinite.
For Elgin, the added pressure of being champion doesn’t exist, as he places a great deal of it on himself before anyone else can.
“The reason why I put that pressure on myself is I have the mentality of no matter what show I’m on, no matter how many people are in the crowd, no matter whom I’m wrestling, I want to have the match that everybody talked about,” he said.
“I want everybody going home mentioning Michael Elgin and Michael Elgin’s match,” he added. “The pressure is always on myself to be at my best and just have the best match possible. Maybe there’s a tad bit more pressure on myself, but I’ve always put loads and loads of pressure on myself.”
Elgin’s comfort with pressure could be traced to his upbringing in Oshawa, Ontario, as his mother was a competitive arm wrestler and power lifter.
He gauged his mother’s success and toughness by the stories he heard and the trophies she garnered. Elgin’s mother also showcased toughness from being a single mother.
“I knew not to mess around with her because of the stories I heard and the trophies lying around the house, but she was always a great role model and really gave me something to strive to, Elgin said. “I really credit that to the way I decided that I wanted to work out and train.”
Elgin eventually picked up his mother’s love of working out and competition and decided to pursue a career in professional wrestling at the young age of 14.
After a lot of training and attending wrestling school, Elgin had his first match at the age of 16.
From there, he cut his teeth working on the independent circuit in his native Canada and the United States before making his way up to ROH in 2007. It didn’t take long for Elgin to go from just another guy to a prime contender to carry the prestigious world title.
“I definitely thought that I would actually be sooner in line,” Elgin said. “I had my breakout moment and I was ready to be groomed for a certain route, but unfortunately that route just never came to fruition at that time.”
“I think the fact that it took until Best in the World 2014 and it was on live pay-per-view, I think it was a huge milestone and also worth the wait,” he added. “I think it was one of those moments where all of the stars aligned and it was just one of those big moment that it was when I was supposed to win the world title.”
Although Elgin is at the peak of his career so far, he still lives the life of a typical wrestler that is not signed to a WWE contract.
When he’s not working for Ring of Honor, he still works for various independent promotions in North America.
That means weekends filled with long road trips, keeping track of and selling merchandise and wrestling in small venues in front of small crowds.
Although living the life of a traveling gypsy may not be appealing to most, it’s a life that Elgin said that he wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
“It just keeps you busy,” he said. “I’m in the gym five days a week, wrestling three days a week and my car is always loaded with my supplements and my food and my merchandise and wrestling gear.”
“I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” he added. “I get to make a living at something I truly love.”
Some of his brethren have indeed traded in the life of the independent wrestler for the more financially lucrative life of a WWE superstar.
Elgin said the he’s happy for his colleagues and hopes to potentially join them one day, but has his sights currently set on becoming on the greatest ROH World Champion of all time.
“I think the end goal of any professional wrestler is to end up in WWE one day, but I still think I got a lot to accomplish in Ring of Honor,” he said. “I also want to compete in Japan and I want to make sure I do these things before I go anywhere else.”
In the meantime, Elgin will continue being happily married to his wife, who is also a wrestler, and carrying on the legacy of the ROH World Championship.