Rather than review each individual hour of Ring of Honor Television, which has lately become a chore rather than something I’m looking forward to each week, I think the best way to review ROH is to look at the company as a whole as they move toward the next big show by breaking down each major storyline. Here’s a look at the major storylines heading into Supercard of Honor 8 on Wrestlemania weekend in New Orleans.
The World Title Scene
As I’ve mentioned in previous Honor Rolls, the number of credible contenders for Adam Cole and the ROH World Title is the most we’ve seen since Nigel McGuinness was champion in 2008, which non-coincidentally was the last time the product was at such as high a quality. Head booker Delirious figured out that having many possibilities for a new champion (rather than one obvious one) makes every title match feel special and therefore makes the product better as a whole. Part of the reason for this boon in contenders was pure luck, as Chris Hero and AJ Styles became simultaneously available after they were released from their WWE and TNA contracts respectively. Due to the goodwill that both men had built up during their time in ROH, they came back to the company already at the top of the pile. Then you have Kevin Steen, who has yet to be granted a rematch for the World Title a year after he lost it. Michael Elgin was the wrestler of the year in ROH last year, and although he’s had unsuccessful shots at the title, he seems to be the favorite to take it from Cole.
But the first man to bat is Jay Briscoe. Jay was never beaten for the World Title and had it stripped from him due to injury. Since returning, he has yet to be pinned. And he has pinned Adam Cole in a one-on-one non-title match. He’s gone as far as to carry his own version of the ROH World Title around and call himself the Real World Champion (a-la 1991 Ric Flair). So something has to give. At Supercard of Honor, Cole and Briscoe will fight in the fifth Ladder War in ROH history with both belts hanging above the ring. I think it’s great booking because the “two champions” thing has run its course and it’s time for closure. I think Cole will retain, and I feel bad for Jay Briscoe because this storyline was all that he had to keep him toward the top of the card. But it’s just too crowded for him.
A match for everybody to check out will happen this weekend on ROH television as Jay and Mark will team up to face Adam Cole and his new running buddy, Michael Bennett. Bennett is taking Matt Hardy’s place, as I feel that ROH is trying to keep their distance from Hardy following his domestic arrest earlier this year.
As far as future title defenses for Cole go, Steen will finally get his title shot on May 10th in Toronto, so I expect that match to have tons of heat to it. AJ Styles looks like he’ll get a shot sooner rather than later. After Cole goes through all of those guys, I suspect he’ll drop the belt to Elgin in the summer.
ROH vs. NJPW
As big as the Wrestlemania Weekend shows usually are, this year they seem slightly overshadowed as ROH made the big announcement last month that they’ve teamed up with New Japan Pro Wrestling to bring two loaded supercards to Toronto and New York this May.
For those that don’t know, NJPW is currently the best promotion in Japan by far with some serious talent at the top of the card, and nearly all of the top stars will be in ROH for these shows. NJPW talent scheduled to be in North America in May include IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, Japanese wrestling legend Jushin “Thunder” Liger (making his ROH return after 10 years), Shinsuke Nakamura, legendary tag team Gedo and Jado, and junior wrestlers Takaaki Watanabe and KUSHIDA. Plus, they’re going to be joined by non-Japanese wrestlers who frequent both ROH and NJPW: “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, the Forever Hooligans and The Young Bucks.
So, needless to say, these are huge shows. The Toronto show is called “Global Wars” (rather than Border Wars), and the New York show is called “War of the Worlds.” They’ve already sold out the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC, and I’m pretty sure they’ve just about sold out the Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto. So these are going to be huge shows.
As I previously mentioned, Kevin Steen will challenge for the ROH World Championship at the Toronto show. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship will be defended at the NYC show. Kevin Steen will face Michael Elgin at Supercard of Honor 8 in New Orleans for the right to challenge for the IWGP Title in NYC. So it’s possible that Kevin Steen could face the ROH World Champion on May 10 and the IWGP Champion on May 17, but the smart money is on Elgin to get the IWGP title shot.
Kevin Steen and Cliff Compton
The last time I left you, Cliff Compton was attacking Kevin Steen after his matches, which led to a non-sanctioned street fight that closed the 12th Anniversary Show last month. Last week on ROH Television, Steen called Compton out, but instead, Outlaw Inc. (Homicide and Eddie Kingston) came out to ask Steen to join them, saying that they “took care” of Steen’s problem with Compton (insinuating that they beat Compton up). Steen refused, and Outlaw Inc. attacked him, leading a one of one match with Steen and Homicide. Kingston interfered, throwing the match out, and Compton came down to the ring with a chair to save Steen, who he had just fought the night prior. My guess is that Steen and Compton are going to team up to face Outlaw Inc. in a street fight at the NYC show in May.
The Tag Team Titles
We have new ROH World Tag Team Champions. The Young Bucks defeated reDRagon in Chicago a couple weeks ago. They are now both the ROH and IWGP Tag Team Champions. I don’t expect them to leave either Toronto or NYC with the ROH titles. Now, reDRagon could win them back, but we’ve seen this movie before with the Forever Hooligans last year. Plus, I am looking for Bobby Fish to break out on his own in singles competition. As for candidates to take the belts from the Bucks, the likeliest of duos would be Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer of The Decade, with Adrenaline RUSH chasing them.
The TV Title Scene
The TV title scene has cooled off a bit since Tomasso Ciampa won the belt from Matt Taven at Final Battle. One of the downsides of having so many top contenders for the ROH World Title is that it takes away from the contenders for the TV title. Right now, the division looks like Ciampa, Taven, Jay Lethal, and Silas Young. That’s why I’m looking for Bobby Fish to break out on his own. A Ciampa/Fish feud for the belt would be excellent.
The Decade are still trying to put down all of the people who haven’t stuck around ROH forever like they have. They’ve attacked Chris Hero and AJ Styles, so I assume that they’re going to be feuding while Styles waits for his title shot. Plus, Roderick Strong is upset that Cedric Alexander stole his fireman’s carry into double knees move. Strong and Cedric will fight at Supercard of Honor. An interesting little side story to this is that they’ve taken rookie Adam Page under their wing. Page has said that he wants to earn The Decade’s respect, so he joined up with them, at least on an interim basis.
The New Streak
A little fun thing going on in the lower card is RD Evans’s “new streak.” Evans is doing a Goldberg-like streak where he’s making up victories. At this point, I believe he’s 67-0. When he wrestles in ROH, he back-doors his way into wins. On ROH television, he beat Michael Elgin by DQ because Elgin powerbombed him on a steel chair. But this has the possibility of turning serious if Evans picks up legitimate wins. This past weekend in Dayton, he pinned The Romantic Touch (Rhett Titus) in a Four Corner Survival Match that included legit guys like Kyle O’Reilly.
That’s what’s going on in ROH heading into Supercard of Honor. I’ll be back at the end of April, where hopefully we have fleshed out cards for the NJPW shows to preview. Please do me a favor and leave me a comment below letting me know if you prefer this monthly digest format. Thanks for reading!