Eli Isom always loved professional wrestling.
And he loved nothing more than watching it with his mom.
For the most part, they loved the same stars. They were both huge fans of Shawn Michaels. They both enjoyed Monday Night Raw. But they did have one disagreement.
“Her favorite was Shawn Michaels, but she also liked John Cena,” said Isom, who is making a name for himself with Ring of Honor wrestling. “He wasn’t one of my favorite guys, so we disagreed on him. She loved it. She would always watch it with me. My dad understood I liked it and my sisters would make fun of me for loving it, but my mom was right there with me.”
She was right there until a few years ago when she tragically died in a car accident in 2016. A few months later, Isom left his hometown of Rensselaer, Indiana, and left for Bristol to work and train with Ring of Honor at its dojo in Bucks County.
He’s had the full support of his family, and he knows mom would have a new favorite wrestler.
“She would yell at the TV with me, I loved watching wrestling with her,” Isom said. “It was tough, it was really tough leaving after it. But wrestling is something I really wanted to do, so I went. I am really lucky to have such a great support system. I have five sisters and they’re all really supportive and my dad, he’s proud. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but he tells me when I’m doing good.”
Isom is doing real good with ROH, one of the top wrestling organizations in the world.
The company, which started in Philadelphia in 2001, now wrestles all over the world, including in Japan. In the spring, it debuted at Madison Square Garden, regularly puts on pay-per-view events and has its own streaming service. But it haven’t forgotten its roots and on Saturday night, it will return to the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia for a national television taping.
The quick-learning Isom is part of a six-man tag team featuring Cheeseburger and Ryan Nova. Nova, like Isom, is a student at the ROH dojo. Cheeseburger helps train them. The trio will be in action Saturday night.
Other matches include The Briscoe Brothers versus Rush and Dragon Lee, a four-way featuring Jeff Cobb, Dalton Castle, Kenny King and Jonathan Gresham and Marty Scurll versus Flip Gordon.
“It’s great being with Ryan and Cheeseburger,” Isom said. “We’re having fun, and I’m learning a lot. The best thing about Ring of Honor is that there are so many people who are willing to help. I’ve learned so much. I learn every day.”
He has learned a lot.
But he also knows he still has a lot to learn.
That’s why he spends so much time at the dojo perfecting his craft.
He debuted on a small independent show in South Jersey about six months after he began is training, but that was just a small step onto his road to stardom.
Now he’s getting in matches with Ring of Honor just about every weekend, and when he’s not working with them, he’s learning with them.
“Usually the weekends I’m wrestling and the rest of the week I’m in the gym, practicing,” said Isom, who was a three-sport star in high school. “There’s a great group of guys and girls in the dojo. We’re real close and we help each other. When we’re not wrestling, we pretty much all hang out together. We train together, we’re always together.
“We’ll go out and get some food together, we usually go to the city. We’re really close and we have been since I got here.”
Isom has had plenty of good times since he arrived in the Philly area, but he’s not here to party. He’s here to accomplish his goal of becoming one of the top wrestlers in the world.
It’s a competitive business and he still has a long way to go to become one of the best, but he is in the right place to learn.
Not only has the dojo turned out high-quality wrestlers, because he’s such a good student, he has a lot of the top wrestlers in the company going out of their way to share with him the tricks of the trade.
The improvement is noticeable.
“I think my best match was one against Silas Young,” Isom said of the Ring of Honor veteran. “I think if you wanted to see a match to see what I can do, that’s the one you’d want to watch.
“Being in the Ring of Honor locker room is great because there are so many guys who will help you. If you have a question, there are so many guys. The trainers are so good. They help you. I had my first match not long after starting, but I was ready because of all the help they gave me.”
Isom has many goals, and all of them center around Ring of Honor. While he has high hopes down the line, right now he’s focused on being a member of the best six-man tag team in the promotion, the Shinobi Shadow Squad.
“We’ve had some great matches together, we try to help each other, but they’ve really helped me a lot,” Isom said. “I would love to win the titles with them. We had a shot at them once, but (Villain Enterprises) are really good. I’d love to get another chance at them.”
Belts or no belts, mom would certainly be proud.
For tickets to Saturday’s event, visit rohwrestling.com.