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Gabe Sapolsky's WrestleMania Week "Six Man Tradition"

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I am a huge Gabe Sapolsky fan. His booking of Ring of Honor, Full Impact Pro, Dragon Gate USA, and EVOLVE have been my favorite stuff in the independent wrestling realm. 

In an interesting way, Sapolsky had created threads throughout his work in multiple wrestling companies together. It’s an interesting philosophy, and in my opinion, it gets its recognition. At the same time, it’s underrated and understated on how good it was.

Which leads me to discuss one thread in particular Sapolsky has used which had been synonymous with him prior to going to WWE officially in 2020:

The Six Man Tradition During WrestleMania Weekend.

The week before WrestleMania every year, most independent pro wrestling companies migrate to the host city and put on a cavalcade of events all week long, leading up to the “Showcase of the Immortals”. It’s figuratively and literally the pro wrestling equivalent of the Holiday season.


However, it wasn’t always like that.


Ring of Honor was the first company to run concurrently during WrestleMania week in 2006. Booked by the aforementioned Sapolsky and owned by Cary Silkin, ROH ran a triple shot weekend, beginning in Detroit, MI with “Dragon Gate Challenge” on March 30 and culminating with back-to-back nights in Chicago, IL with “Supercard of Honor” and “Better Than Our Best” on March 31 and April 1.


On the 31st, Sapolsky, in conjunction with the state-of-the-art Dragon Gate promotion, put together a match with six of the most innovative and fast-paced talent from Japan.


The match transcended everyone’s expectations.


In front of a packed house at the Frontier Fieldhouse in Chicago Ridge, IL, DO FIXER of Genki Horiguchi, Ryo Saito, and the legendary Dragon Kid defeated CIMA, Masato Yoshino, and Naruki Doi of Blood Generation. 

Not only did the fight tear the roof of the Fieldhouse, it transcended the independent scene. Dives, counters, springboards, and fast paced wrestling was the order of the day. However, it came to an end after Dragon Kid delivered a vicious top rope cutter to Doi and followed it up with a breath-taking Dragonrana for a three count.

The critical acclaim for this match was off the charts. Fans gave it a standing ovation once completed. Many said that it was the match of the entire weekend, INCLUDING anything on the WrestleMania 22 card. Dave Meltzer loved the match so much that he gave it a 5 Star rating in his Wrestling Observer newsletter.

Exactly one year later, on March 31, 2007 in Detroit during WrestleMania 23 week, Ring of Honor ran “Supercard of Honor 2” at the Michigan State Fairgrounds and Expo Center. Once again, Dragon Gate brought six of their finest performers over for a sequel to the initial six-man tag match.

This time, CIMA, former ROH World Tag Team Champion SHINGO, and Susumu Yokosuka defeated Dragon Kid, Ryo Saito, and Masaki Mochizuki. This match was just as good as the year before and again received critical acclaim from fans and journalists alike.

Sapolsky decided to go to the well a third time on March 29, 2008 with “Supercard of Honor III” at the Orlando Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando, FL, minutes away from the Citrus Bowl, where WrestleMania 24 would be taking place. This time around, the Muscle Outlawz of Gaki Horiguchi, Masato Yoshino, and former ROH World Tag Team Champion Naruki Doi beat CIMA, Dragon Kid, and Saito of Typhoon. Once again, loud cheers and acclaim from all.

Fans on the ROH Message Board were clamoring months out for what 2009 would bring around for WrestleMania weekend in Houston, TX. Which Dragon Gate stars would be coming? How great would the match be? The Dragon Gate Six Man Tag Tradition was becoming a must watch annual event. 2009 would be no different, many assumed.

And indeed, it was different. 

It didn’t happen.

On October 25, 2008, after “Ring of Homicide 2” in Edison, NJ, Sapolsky was fired from Ring of Honor as booker. With that change led to a new perspective and philosophy brought to the ROH product. “Supercard of Honor IV” was best known on April 4, 2009 for Jerry Lynn shocking the wrestling world and beating Nigel McGuinness for the ROH World Championship, not the annual Dragon Gate Six Man Tag.

However, in 2010, the tradition would return, with a little more direct involvement.

On July 25, 2009, Sapolsky, Sal Hamaoui, and Dragon Gate kicked off Dragon Gate USA, the official American extension for Dragon Gate, with “Open the Historic Gate” at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA. 

Now as the Vice President of DGUSA, including role as head of creative, Sapolsky reinstituted the Six Man Tag Tradition with a vengeance. On March 27, 2010, at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, AZ, minutes away from WrestleMania 26 at Sun Devil Stadium, WORLD-1 of BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino, and Naruki Doi defeated CIMA, GAMMA, and Dragon Kid of the WARRIORS. The match received rave reviews, as expected, and Dave Meltzer rated the match as 4 ¾ stars in the Observer.

The Mercury Rising event would remain the home of the Six Man Tradition for the entire 2010s.

In 2011 in Atlanta, GA, for the first time, American talent from DGUSA would be integrated into the Six Man Tradition, as RONIN, the team of Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann, and Chuck Taylor, would fall to the team of CIMA, Doi, and Ricochet. The following year in Miami, PAC from the United Kingdom would be involved, as he, Ricochet, and Masaaki Mochizuki would fall to the unique trio of Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk, affectionately known as MAD BLANKEY, and the first ever Ring of Honor World Champion Low Ki.

The Six Man Tradition began to incorporate more international flare, and the fans loved every second of it. In fact, as the yearly tradition continued, many performers would try and attempt to make their match better than the one before it. It would seem to the average person to be a difficult goal to reach, but every time, the match would just be all out warfare and exceed expectations.

2013 from the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, NJ during WrestleCon would be no different. Swann, Ricochet, and the freshly turned villain Gargano, now the DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Champion, defeated the trio of Tomahawk TT, Eita, and CIMA in an absolute spectacle.

It was also the last time Dragon Gate talent would be involved in the Six Man Tradition.

Due to rising costs in procuring work visas and flights from Japan to the United States, Gabe deviated from the plan in 2014 during the first WWNLive Experience in New Orleans, LA. Instead of one six-man tag team match at Mercury Rising 2014, the McAlister Auditorium would host a SIX MAN TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT!

There would be three semi-final matches, and the finals would be a three-way dance between the three finalists. The last team standing would be the winner.


Open the Freedom Gate Champion Ricochet, AR Fox, and Rich Swann defeated EVOLVE Champion Chris Hero, Roderick Strong, and Masato Tanaka

The Premier Athlete Brand of Anthony Nese, Caleb Konley, and Trent Barreta beat Biff Busick, Chuck Taylor, and Teddy Hart

Lince Dorado and the Colony of Fire Ant and Green Ant upset Moose and the Open the United Gate Champions Harlem and Lancelot Bravado


The Premier Athlete Brand won the Six Man Tag Team Tournament

  • Konley pinned Lince Dorado to eliminate the CHIKARA trio

  • Barreta pinned Fox to win the match

With the dissolution of Dragon Gate USA in 2014, the World Wrestling Network would now host the Mercury Rising events.

Santa Clara County Fairgrounds hosted the only Six Woman Tradition match on March 28, 2015, as Mia Yim and the Kimber Bombs of Kimber Lee & Cherry Bomb defeated Andrea and the Canadian Ninjas of Nicole Matthews and Portia Perez. To me, this is the sleeper match of the history of the entire Six Man Tradition booked by Sapolsky. All six women worked their tails off and made a statement with their great match.

The 2016 match between Johnny Gargano, Kota Ibushi, and TJ Perkins and Marty Scrull, Tommy End, and Will Ospreay was an absolute barnburner. Billed as “the Days of Future Past”, all six men absolutely left it all out there in a classic contest. Ibushi and Ospreay had the final sequence of the fight, culminating with Ibushi pinning the British sensation with a power bomb and leaving everyone in Eddie Dean’s Ranch in Dallas, TX in awe.

The Six Man Tradition went in a whole different direction in 2017. With the advent of the World Wrestling Network Championship, Sapolsky booked the “Battle of Champions” six-way match in Orlando, FL  to determine the first ever titleholder. Matt Riddle overcame EVOLVE Tag Team Champions Fred Yehi and Tracy Williams, ACW Champion Parrow, Style Battle #3 Winner Jon Davis, and former EVOLVE and Open the Freedom Gate Champion Timothy Thatcher to win the gold, last submitting Williams with the Bromission.

In 2018, Sapolsky went back to the traditional six-man tag format at the WWNLive Experience in New Orleans, LA, as, in the opening match for the first time, AR Fox, DJ Z, and Trey Miguel defeated Austin Theory, Travis Banks, and Zachary Wentz. Z pinned the then-current FIP Champion Theory to win. But even then, you could see the future of wrestling before your eyes with “All Day” mixing it up with some of the best artists in the game.

The final Six Man Tradition was during the WWNLive Experience in Queens, NY at the incredible venue La Boom on April 5, 2019. In fact, there were two separate six-man tag team matches on the card, as the Unwanted of Eddie Kingston, Joe Gacy, and Shane Strickland defeated WXW stars Alexander James, Jurn Simmons, and Marius Al-Ani, while in the main event, DAMNATION of Daisuke Sasaki, Soma Takao, and Tetsuya Endo from DDT Pro Wrestling defeated AR Fox and the Skulk of Adrian Alanis & Leon Ruff. Two incredibly fun contests which left the fans happy.


Sadly, this would be the last Gabe Sapolsky booked Six Man Tradition during WrestleMania Week ever, as due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the newly christened WrestlExpo, which would have had EVOLVE and NXT involvement, was canceled. WWN wound up selling the EVOLVE and DGUSA tape libraries to WWE in the Summer of 2020, and Sapolsky wound up signing full time with WWE as a backstage staff member and talent scout after working as a consultant in NXT for a couple years.

WrestleMania Week is as big as ever, but for this independent wrestling fan, the Six Man Tradition from a Gabe Sapolsky entity is missed. It really stood out to me. Hopefully, down the line, one wrestling promotion will take on its legacy and bring it back yearly during the wrestling holiday season. Until then, I will cherish what we were lucky to have: a yearly six-man tag that stole almost every WrestleMania Week.


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