Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling will make history on Saturday night when the two co-promote the G1 Supercard event at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The show will mark the first time since November 1960 that a wrestling promotion not owned by the McMahon Family will host an event inside the arena. But while the WWE has since moved its television and pay-per-view broadcasts five miles south to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the company didn't give up their hold on MSG without a fight. In July 2018, just one month after the show was announced it was reported that the WWE had contacted MSG officials and demand that the event be blocked. ROH COO Joe Koff confirmed the reports of WWE's interference at the time, but not long after the issue was resolved at the event was back on as scheduled for WrestleMania weekend.
In a new interview with Comicbook.com, Koff said he wasn't surprised that the WWE tried to push back on ROH and New Japan's attempt to use the arena.
"They're a prideful company and I would do the same thing if I were them in their position," Koff said. "They don't want any thunder stolen from them, and quite frankly, that's their hallowed hall and I respect that..."
Koff has personal ties to the arena, as he used to attend wrestling events at MSG as a child back when it was located on 8th Avenue (and had to lie about his age to even get into the building). He said he could still recall one of the first matches he ever saw live in the arena — former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Édouard Carpentier vs. Hans Mortier, which ended in a time-limit draw.
"...My roots in wrestling lie in Madison Square Garden from a fan standpoint, so to be able to do that and to be able to present Ring of Honor in that venue, I'm getting goosebumps right now talking about it," Koff said.
Koff described the conversation with WWE that eventually resolved the issue over the G1 Supercard as "amicable."
"I think there had to be a conversation of understanding as to why, what the reason we should do it," Koff said. "I think it was a matter of comfortability on both parties to deliver a product that is worthy of both organizations. I think the story just speaks for itself. I don't think we have to rehash it. Anyone can make up whatever they want about it. But it very amicably done. I understand their position. I understand WWE's taking umbrage to us going into that building but at the end of the day, it's business, and they were sitting idle and there was all kinds of wrestling going on around in the city."
The show will be headlined by two world championship matches — a triple threat ladder match for the Ring of Honor World Championship between Jay Lethal, Matt Taven and Marty Scurll and an IWGP Heavyweight Championship bout between Bullet Club leader Jay White and New Japan ace Kazuchika Okada.
Koff also discussed the possibility of ROH returning to MSG for other events in the future. He initially stated that he and the promotion are more concerned about what's right in front of them with upcoming shows in Pittsburgh and Columbus, but said they'd be open to the idea if it meant good business.
"I want us to all rebel and relish and savor and enjoy what we experienced on April 6th on April 7th, but on April 8th my team has to get ready for the next weekend," Koff siad. "So is there a possibility for a yearly event in Madison Square Garden? I have to see how we all feel about it and whether it makes sense for the company or whether it makes sense for the organization. It's a big weekend, it's a big show. We have a tremendous relationship with our partner, New Japan. There were a lot of things that went right with this booking and with this timing. If we can replicate that again, then why wouldn't we do that?"0comments
ROH & NJPW present G1 Supercard on Saturday, April 6 from sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City. The historic event airs LIVE at 7:30e/4:30p on traditional pay-per-view and streaming FREE for all HonorClub members. HonorClub content can be streamed via the ROH and FITE apps and at ROHHonorClub.com.
Photo: Ring of Honor/Lee South