Have you ever wanted to do something outlandish? Something that is very out of character? Something that you know you will regret if you don’t seize the opportunity you will regret it for the rest of your life? I found myself in that very predicament in February when Ring of Honor announced their new partnership with white-hot promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling. The fruits of that partnership were two shows that were beyond any wrestling fans greatest dreams. Okada, Steen, Nakamura, Styles, Elgin, the Young Bucks and Tanahashi all under the same roof competing against each other. A real battle of the best. A “War of the Worlds”. As a wrestling fan, I knew I had to be at the Hammerstein Ballroom in May despite how crazy it would be for me to travel from my home in Kentucky to the Big Apple for essentially one day. However, that one day was the experience of a lifetime for me.

Magic was in the air from the moment I saw the sign to get in was already long at 3:00 P.M., over four and a half hours before bell time. Was the time in line dull? Not at all! I saw a man dressed as Liger cause dozens of strangers to chant for him. Bobby Fish was heralded for loving Chipotle. Silas Young smoked a cigarette walking down the street. The highlight of the two and a half hour wait was Mark Briscoe. The Sandy Fork native dubbed “Chicken” climbed onto the sign of the ballroom and posed for the raucous crowd. In the shadow of the Empire State Building Briscoe did his best to imitate King Kong. I believe he succeeded.

Finally, the doors opened and the pilgrims entered the cathedral. I made sure to purchase a special edition NJPW shirt with the company logo emblazoned with the American flag. Then it was time to go downstairs to meet some of wrestling’s greatest heroes. Karl Anderson and I compared flight times, his was earlier and he would be out drinking until the early hours of the morning. I got to shake the hands of Okada and his mouthpiece, Gedo, while telling them they were the best in the world at what they do. I met Jushin Liger. Tanahashi took a photo with me and was kind enough to give me an autograph even though fans were given the choice of only one or the other. Nakamura allowed me to hold the second most prestigious title in Japan. Of course, I also had to tell KUSHIDA how fly his Marty McFly jacket is. The common theme for all these men was their kindness and generosity to the fans — a sentiment that spread to their actions in the ring later in the evening.

What can I say about the show itself? It was wrestling as wrestling was meant to be seen. ACH hit the “Air Jordan” of his life. KUSHIDA had a star making performance against Jay Lethal. Jado and Gedo showed us all they have plenty left in the tank. Kevin Steen went out on his shield against Nakamura in his New York City swan song. Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and the Jackson brothers battled with an intensity befitting a match that many, including myself, are calling this year’s best. Tanahashi showed us why he is a living legend with three simple moves that saved an otherwise dull match. One Liger-san became a headlining star just like the days of his prime and had a fantastic bout with Adam Cole. Finally, in the main event Michael Elgin showed he belongs in the ring with the very best professional wrestling has to offer.

Last night was pure magic. That sentiment was echoed across the wrestling world. Social media conveyed pure joy regarding the event all night long. Fan photos spread like wildfire. Wrestling sites put reviews and columns up with lightning speed VOW’s own Rich and Joe were inspired to record a podcast in the wee hours of the morning to recap the event with the zeal of children opening their gifts on Christmas morning. Such joy is rare for a fandom that is usually mired in pessimism. But for one night, we were all reminded of why we love this pseudo sport with all our hearts. We witnessed the best in the world compete against each other and live up to fans lofty expectations. Savor the moment wrestling fans because nights like May 17 only come once in a lifetime.