Throughout the history of the Professional 3, I’ve written several pieces on the history from Ring of Honor. During Gabe Sapolsky’s tenure as booker, in particular, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ideas like the Top of the Class Trophy and the Pure Wrestling Championship. However, there has always been one thing that completely thrown me for a loop. And, in turn, it has led me to write about this.
The (unofficial) ROH Intergender Tag Team Championships.
That’s right, ROHbots. One of the most obscure pieces of ROH history that very rarely get discussed. And in truth, I completely forgot its existence.
Then one day, I got into a big ROH DVD kick. I decided to put on A New Level. ROH’s debut in the Hammerstein Ballroom on May 10, 2008 has always been, to me, the perfect ROH show, as it flowed from beginning to end and felt like a big deal.
The third match on the card was the Tag Team Scramble, a three-way tag team battle between the Vulture Squad of Jack Evans and Jigsaw, Delirious and Pelle Primeau, and Sweet and Sour Inc. of Brent Albright and Chris Hero. During Sweet and Sour’s entrance, I looked at Hero coming out first and saw a very small title belt around his waist with the second ROH logo on it. Then, during Sweeney’s introduction of reality TV star Jonny Fairplay, I also saw Sara Del Rey holding the same belt in her hands.
I started to think back to old ROH events in 2008 and couldn’t piece it together by memory. Being completely over-analytical, I decided to dig back into old ROH DVDs. Thankfully, I was able to find out everything, combined with watching old Video Wires as well. It’s relatively short, but a fun look back into the ROH glory days.
Larry Sweeney was all about the money.
Making his debut in ROH at International Challenge on December 22, 2006, “Sweet and Sour” quickly made his presence felt, helping the Kings of Wrestling defeat the Briscoe Brothers. The following night, it was announced that Chris Hero brought in Sweeney as his agent and becoming the kingpin of the newly formed Sweet and Sour Incorporated, thus splitting Hero and partner Claudio Castagnoli up.
Throughout 2007, Sweet and Sour Inc. reigned supreme all over ROH shows. Sweeney hired “the All Natural Superior Athlete” Tank Toland to be Hero’s personal trainer. Sara Del Rey joined on the first ROH pay-per-view Respect Is Earned as their main female performer. Bobby Dempsey was hired as the literally punching bag for the group. Sweet and Sour’s goal was simple: to extract Ring of Honor for every dollar imaginable and to make every member of the group wealthy.
Signs of that were evident on the second ROH PPV Man Up, as Sweeney signed Matt Sydal to a contract, right after an excellent battle with Claudio. Weeks later, thanks to Sweeney’s representation, Sydal went under contract to WWE and became a star. Thanks to that, Sweeney’s credibility instantly began to rise. He knew he wanted more. Sweet and Sour Incorporated need more power. With more power came more demands. With more demands came more MONEY.
January 12, 2008 was a day that would live in ROH infamy. For some, it was the day that Erick Stevens defeated Bryan Danielson to retain his FIP World championship. For others, it was the incredible one-time trio of Delirious, El Generico, and Mike Quackenbush teaming up in an ROH ring. But for this fan (especially watching back on DVD), the Inman Sports Club in Edison, NJ was host to the night a new championship was unveiled to the world.
Right after a back-to-back Daniel Puder $1000 challenge, Larry Sweeney had Sara Del Rey and an “injured” Chris Hero (who had hurt himself the night before trying to break the standing backflip record) in the center of the ring. Knowing the prowess of both of his clients, Sweeney officially unveiled the ROH Intergender Tag Team Championships to the Edison faithful and proclaimed Hero and Del Rey as its first champions. The ROHbots, not sure on what to take on this impromptu new title into the company, continued to be stunned as an impromptu title defense was about to take place.
Out came ROH Top of the Class Trophy Holder Ernie Osiris and Jersey native Alexa Thatcher. After 8 minutes, Hero, “fighting the pain” due to his “injuries”, LEVELED Thatcher with a rolling elbow and pinned her to retain. Seemingly overnight, ROH had a new championship, and Sweet and Sour Inc. finally had a ROH championship in the fold. Larry Sweeney had his power.
Almost instantly, ROH management announced that the ROH Intergender Tag Team Championships were not an official Ring of Honor title, thus not being recognized by the promotion. In hindsight, it was just a power play for Sweeney to get more money out of ROH. For once, “funny did not equal money”.
As a total “belt mark”, the Intergender Tag Team championships were, for lack of a better word, something else. The center plate was a small belt buckle with a large ROH logo on the right side of the plate. On the left, it was a silhouette of a performer raising its hands in the air. Up top read the words “RINGSIDE”, while the bottom said “CHAMPION”. The strap was red, white, and blue, similar to the Heavyweight championship worn by Rocky Balboa during the Rocky films, and was attached together with velcro.
These were borderline replica titles, yet I absolutely dug them. It enhanced the sheer insanity of what Sweet and Sour Inc. brought to ROH.
On January 26, 2008, at Without Remorse in Chicago, IL, Hero and Del Rey came out to the ring for another championship “defense”. This time, they faced the team of Kyle Durden and Alex “Sugarfoot” Payne. How were two men able to gain a championship match for the Intergender Tag Team titles, you ask? Simple. “Sweet and Sour” stated that Payne’s new nickname was “Sugartits”, thus making Payne the “female” of the team. Regardless of Payne’s new “gender”, Hero and Del Rey made quick work of the ROH students and “defended” their championships.
Daizee Haze and Jigsaw of the Vulture Squad had enough of the shenanigans. Haze got on the microphone and criticized the validity of the gold. In turn, they felt that maybe they should get a championship match. Sweeney grabbed the mic and said that due to Haze and Jigsaw not being on “the Intergender Tag Team International Rankings” as a contender, their match would be non-title. However, if they won, they would be in consideration for a title shot later on down the line.
Haze and Jigsaw accepted the terms, and went right to work in an impromptu mixed tag. 7 minutes in, Hero LEVELED Haze with a rolling elbow and picked up the win. There would be no title match for them. More importantly, this seemed like a very fun story ROH was going towards, making Hero and “the Death Rey” more imposing as villains going forward. The story was gaining steam.
Then, Chris Hero got his first tour of Pro Wrestling Noah in February. He left for two months, leaving the status of the Intergender Tag Team championships in limbo.
Once Hero came back in April, he started on his long transformation into becoming “That Young Knockout Kid” and became a serious threat in the promotion. Although he still frequently wore the Intergender Tag Team championship to the ring, the story seemingly ended.
The last appearances of the ROH Intergender Tag Team championships came at Respect Is Earned II on June 7, 2008, where it appeared on camera, but was never discussed by the commentators on pay-per-view.
Although short lived, it was a VERY entertaining look back at Ring of Honor in 2008. Chris Hero and Sara Del Rey were the only “champions”, and might very well be to this day. People forget about how entertaining and ludicrous Sweet and Sour Incorporated were to the promotion, and the ROH Intergender Tag Team championships were at the peak of it.
My only thought right now is a simple one: where could those championships be now? Only Hero and Del Rey could tell that tale. Quite frankly, we might never know.