Honor Roll: 2013 Year in Review
Even though I haven’t reviewed Ring of Honor’s television show in 2013, I still watched every week, and caught a few of the major shows, so I consider myself the most qualified on staff to review ROH’s year for 2013.
2013 was a tale of two halves for Ring of Honor. The first half started strong with the additions of Matt Hardy, Cliff Compton, and Rhett Titus to SCUM, taking them from band of misfits into full-fledged supervillain group. This was the closest thing ROH had to its CZW war in 2006 since it happened. Combine that with Kevin Steen being unceremoniously ejected from the group and turning babyface, and ROH was red hot heading into the summer.
Then one weekend in Baltimore in June changed everything.
It was Best in the World weekend, with the iPPV airing on Saturday and a TV taping on Sunday. For reasons that are as-of-yet unknown, SCUM was disbanded during the TV taping, and Jay Briscoe remained the ROH World Champion, defeating both his brother Mark at the iPPV and Matt Hardy at the TV taping. Jay was then stripped of the ROH World Title. ROH claimed it was due to a shoulder injury. Smark fans claimed it was because the Briscoes were leaving ROH to go to WWE or TNA. Regardless, the next few months were interesting as there was no World Champion for all of July and August, plus most of September. Instead, renewed focus was placed on the Tag Team division, where the booking played a game of hot potato with the tag team titles, moving them from reDRagon to the Forever Hooligans to the American Wolves and back to reDRagon over a four-show span.
ROH finally crowned a new World Champion in September at Death Before Dishonor in Philadelphia, just in time for the original champion, Jay Briscoe, to be medically cleared to compete, leaving fans wondering why he was stripped at all. Adam Cole is now the ROH World Champion, and while the show is finally starting to pick up again, it lost a significant amount of steam with the disbanding of SCUM, ultimately turning 2013 into a lost year.
Still though, there was some good to be had, and I’ve got some year-end awards to give out!
Wrestler of the Year: Michael Elgin
Honorable Mentions: Jay Briscoe, Adam Cole, Kevin Steen
It was done so quietly, you may have barely noticed. But Michael Elgin put forth a fantastic effort from start to finish in 2013. He was a key member of the top three matches of the year (I’ll get into more detail on that later), plus had great matches with Jay Lethal, “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, Paul London, and Tomasso Ciampa. Elgin was also on every single ROH show this year, in a year where many of the top stars were either injured or taken off the shows. This honor might have gone to Jay Briscoe had he not gotten hurt halfway through the year. Consistency plus quality equals a runaway victory for Elgin in 2013.
Tag Team of the Year: reDRagon
Honorable Mentions: C&C Wrestle Factory, American Wolves, Forever Hooligans
One of the downsides of Jay Briscoe going out on his own in singles competition was the loss of the Briscoes in the ROH tag team division. For a decade (on and off), the Briscoes were the backbone of the tag division; the standard against which all other teams were measured. They even started 2013 as Tag Team Champions. But their absence in the tag division was noted. This wasn’t a good year for tag team wrestling in Ring of Honor, piggybacking off an equally disappointing 2012. This year, it was a bit understandable given that the first half of the year was dominated by the ROH/SCUM feud and the second half of the year was dominated by the ROH World Title Tournament. We still got some good tag team matches in, highlighted by the champions for the majority of the year, reDRagon, who won this award by default. Their matches against the Forever Hooligans and the American Wolves were show-stealers. They were also extremely underrated on the microphone, and I noticed significant improvement in Kyle O’Reilly, who has clearly benefitted from Bobby Fish’s experience.
Breakthrough Wrestler of the Year: Matt Taven
Honorable Mentions: Bobby Fish, Cedric Alexander, Tomasso Ciampa
You could hear the collective groan for miles when Matt Taven upset Adam Cole for the ROH TV Title at the 11th Anniversary Show. It seemed like a very bold move at the time. Taven had not been featured as anything other than enhancement talent before winning the Top Prospect Tournament only a week or so prior and being paired with Truth Martini in the new House of Truth. Taven spent the rest of the year proving he belonged with the top stars of the company. Now that he’s lost the belt to Tomasso Ciampa after being the longest-reigning TV champion in the short history of the title, I’m expecting another breakout year for Taven in 2014 with a possible ascension to the main event. With ROH, it’s always been about next man up, and Taven looks to continue to break out.
Biggest Disappointment: SCUM stopped before it really got going
Honorable Mentions: World Title Vacated, No Sendoff for Davey Richards, Phasing Out of The American Wolves
I had high hopes for ROH in 2013. As I previously mentioned, not since the CZW war of 2006 had there been a storyline that drew the entire company in. I really enjoyed how Steve Corino took the ball as the leader of SCUM and became one of the most despicable men in the company. He spoke of himself as God and Matt Hardy as Jesus, his prodigal son. SCUM was seriously building some great momentum, and it was all coming to a head at Best in the World weekend in June where ROH was facing SCUM in Steel Cage Warfare for Corino’s right to be ROH match-maker, and the next day Matt Hardy was challenging Jay Briscoe for the World Title. Now, I was fully ready for SCUM and Hardy to win, respectively, and have the ROH/SCUM feud go all the way to Final Battle, where ROH would ultimately prevail. But possibly due to the Briscoes leaving the company (which didn’t pan out), or Jay’s injury, SCUM was defeated and abolished. That, plus Jay’s title being vacated, really let a lot of steam out of the company, and they were in a state of limbo for a couple months before Adam Cole won the World Title in a tournament in September. Without a world champion or a major storyline, I look at July, August, and most of September as “the lost months,” and had SCUM still been around, with Hardy as the champion (which would have pissed EVERYBODY off and would have been AWESOME), the product could have been more heated. Major shows like the Toronto and New York City shows in August could have been major battles in the ROH/SCUM war, but instead were relegated to World Title Tournament first-round and semi-final matches, and a tag title switch in the main event. It just didn’t seem right for what’s usually the hottest time of the year for wrestling.
Show of the Year: Glory By Honor XII
Honorable Mentions: Death Before Dishonor XI, All Star Extravaganza V, Supercard of Honor VII
Two match of the year candidates, including the actual match of the year, put this show on top. What was also nice was that ROH aired the entire show for free (in three weekly installments) on their television show. So everybody was able to access. In addition to the Champs vs. All-Stars and Strong/London MOTYCs, we had the first meeting between Kevin Steen and Michael Bennett, as well as a surprisingly good Jimmy Jacobs vs. Adam Page matchup.
Feud of the Year: ROH vs. SCUM
Honorable Mentions: Jay Briscoe vs. Michael Elgin vs. Adam Cole, Kevin Steen vs. Matt Hardy, American Wolves vs. reDRagon
I’ve already gone into detail on why ROH missed an opportunity with ending the SCUM storyline so quickly, but I’d like to wax poetic on what made the feud so good. It starts at the top with Steve Corino’s incredible mic work. With other heel groups, they’d get cheered because they were so cool. Corino was so abrasive, SCUM was downright impossible to cheer. Matt Hardy was a perfect choice for the main antagonist, so much so that I wish he had defeated Jay Briscoe for the World Title. Everybody would have lost their damn minds. Plus, the story of redemption for Kevin Steen was pretty cool, and I think it would have been even sweeter if it dragged until Final Battle for Steen to finally get his ultimate redemption. Other than ROH/SCUM, I had a hard time finding a really great feud. The last real great ROH feud was Steen vs. Generico in 2010, so we’ve gone three full years without one. Hopefully that changes in 2014.
Match of the Year: Champions vs. All-Stars (Glory By Honor XII)
Honorable Mentions: ROH vs. SCUM: Steel Cage Warfare (ROH TV June 2013), Adam Cole vs. Michael Elgin (Death Before Dishonor XI), Roderick Strong vs. Paul London (Glory By Honor XII)
You take eight of the best workers in the company, throw them in a match for 75 minutes and watch them do their thing. I’m not necessarily a proponent of longer = better for match quality, but the extended time allows more of the story to be told. Plus, the diversity of the wrestlers involved really made the time fly by. There were little moments in the match I enjoyed. I liked it when Adam Cole (ROH World Champion) and Kyle O’Reilly (one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions) did a tribute to their old tag team, Future Shock, and Bobby Fish (O’Reilly’s tag team champion partner) was steaming mad on the apron. Then you have Michael Elgin’s story of being down 3-1, and fighting back to defeat everybody, ending with the World Champion. It’s such a shame that Jay Briscoe (rightfully so) got involved at the end because it really undersold Elgin’s rise to the top, which was punctuated in this match. I think Elgin will be the guy to dethrone Cole in 2014, and this match proved he could hang at the top.
That’s it for 2013. As I mentioned in my Total Divas review, I’m going to go back to reviewing ROH on a weekly basis in 2014. Now that they aren’t doing iPPVs, I don’t have to feel bad about convincing my readers to buy a product that doesn’t work. See you next year!