Thursday 23 June 2011

Best in the World preview

This weekend will be the third in a row that has seen a wrestling pay-per-view available from a North American promotion. Two weeks ago we had TNA’s (predictably) disappointing Slammiversary IX and last week we had WWE’s Capitol Punishment. This weekend it’s the turn of Ring of Honor as they present their latest internet pay-per-view, Best in the World.

This being an RoH show we can expect a heavier emphasis on in-ring competition. The current crop of storylines have been given a slower, more methodical build, which is preferable to the rushed approach of WWE or TNA. The biggest match of the show, Davey Richards v Eddie Edwards, has several years of history to fall back on, and the match itself has been building since March. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable approach and something RoH does particularly well.

Davey Richards challenged for the Ring of Honor title twice last year, once again Tyler Black and once against Roderick Strong. He lost both title challenges but beat both men in various non-title situations. As far as fans were concerned he was the uncrowned RoH champion as 2010 ended. But losing to Strong caused Richards to have a change of heart: he no longer wished to be known as the ‘Best in the World’ (a chant a select few RoH wrestlers hear upon gaining the respect of the fans) because he didn’t have the title to prove it. He said he would work on perfecting his craft before requesting another title match.

And that’s what Davey has been doing this year: facing the best wrestlers RoH has in order to hone his game in preparation for his next title challenge. It’s a simple plot that can be followed with the minimum of attention.

But while Davey was honing and perfecting Eddie Edwards shockingly captured the title from Strong in his first ever shot. As soon as it happened everybody knew Richards and Edwards would end up facing one another, it was just a question of when. The two men addressed the situation in the ring at Honor Takes Center Stage, where Davey stated he didn’t want to face Eddie for the world championship as he didn’t want to be the one to end his reign. This unintentionally arrogant remark naturally led to tension between the two men, which contributed to their loss to the World’s Greatest Tag Team in a match later that evening. The same thing happened at Revolution: USA. Only after that match did Davey finally relent and agree to face Edwards for the championship.

The importance both men place on the world title and their years of working as a tag team should ensure that Sunday’s main event has a big fight feel. They’re two of the hardest working men in the company and their styles should complement one another well. In their one previous encounter (in the finals of the RoH Television championship tournament) they put together a good match, and I’m sure they’ll do the same here. As long as the crowd’s vocal (and I’m sure they will be) this should be a match of the year contender.

As far as picking a winner goes I think Eddie will retain in a time limit draw. For the last year Davey has been built up as the guy who can’t “win the big one” and it would be uncharacteristic of Ring of Honor to book such a short world title reign (if Eddie were to lose he would have held the title for just over three months), so I can’t see Richards winning. Plus the fact that this is one of the promotions most lucrative pairings so they’ll want to leave the door open for a rematch. By doing a draw neither man can say they are a conclusive winner and a rematch will be the next natural step in the rivalry. I expect things will start with a handshake but won’t end so well: Davey could be headed for a sore loser-based heel turn.

Best in the World is far from a one match show. The centrepiece of the undercard is the four team tag team championship match which sees Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin defending against the Kings of Wrestling, Jay and Mark Briscoe and the All Night Express. The past six months have seen these four teams established as the focus of the company’s tag division. They’ve all faced each other in standard doubles bouts, there have been various singles combinations, and there was an excellent eight man tag match which saw the Kings of Wrestling and the All Night Express take on the Briscoes and the WGTT towards the end of the run on HDNet. This four way match is the natural climax to the reemphasis on the RoH tag division. It could get busy but I’m sure it will be a massively enjoyable match. I’d love to see the Kings walk out as three time tag champions but I suspect Haas and Benjamin will retain.

The Colt Cabana v Tommaso Ciampa and Homicide v Rhino (yes, the former ECW wrestler) matches should both be enjoyable but neither is likely to steal the show. The Cabana match will see the usual comedy routine before Ciampa gets the victory to keep his winning streak alive, though there may be some interference from the Embassy to stop Cabana from looking too weak.

Homicide hasn’t really been given much to do since returning to RoH last year: his feud with Strong for the world title was flat and his more recent disagreement with the Embassy has done little to excite fans. On the plus side this show is being held in New York, the one place guaranteed to react favourably to Homicide. I predict a victory for the ‘Notorious 187’ and a solid performance from Rhino. I hope this earns him a regular spot on the roster: he strikes me as a good fit for an enforcer for Prince Nana.

On the subject of former TNA stars: Jay Lethal makes his return to Ring of Honor at Best in the World to face Mike Bennett. I’ve always appreciated Lethal’s ring work but his lack of charisma has always prevented me from fully warming to him. His impersonations of Randy Savage and Ric Flair are very good but they’re not a substitute for a personality of his own.  Bennett works what could be described as a “sports entertainment” style which I don’t think will mesh well with Lethal’s. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I don’t have much hope of this match being anything special. I’ll pick Bennett to win because they’ve spent a while building him up now and I don’t think he’ll be sacrificed to Lethal.

Steve Corino v Michael Elgin is a rare instance of an RoH match that’s more interesting because of a storyline than for the match itself. Last month at Supercard of Honor Corino revealed Jimmy Jacobs as his sponsor on his quest to becoming “a good person”. Basically Corino wants to move away from being a heel and has asked Jacobs to help him. It’s been an enjoyable story so far mainly because it’s so different to what we’re used to seeing from wrestling stories.

In recent video updates it has been revealed that Kevin Steen has also supposedly changed for the better and Corino wants him brought back to the company for support. Steen’s recent Twitter name change (from @KillSteenKill to @SteenIsChange), Jim Cornette’s commenting that Steen would not be welcome at the show, and Corino saying he’s already bought Steen a ticket has all had the desired effect of creating intrigue concerning a Steen return. I’d like to see him back in the company and I think this show would be the perfect platform for the return.

The winner of the match will likely be Elgin, but as I say the continuation of Corino’s road to sobriety storyline and possible appearances from Jacobs and Steen are far more interesting.

Finally, there’s TV champion Christopher Daniels’ title defence against El Generico. I predicted a few months ago that ‘The Generic Luchadore’ could be headed towards a TV title victory so I’ll pick him as the winner. Not only would that take the title off of a TNA performer (which has to be an issue for RoH decision makers) but it would further raise the profile of Generico, provide a title change for the show (which I suspect the company would like) and advance the House of Truth v Cabana and Generico feud. If they get fifteen minutes or more this match could be exceptional.

I’d like to point out that if you’re in the UK (as I am) then the 4pm bell time for US viewers means a 9pm start time here. I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision from RoH (I suspect it wasn’t) but it works out well for us and it’s something I’d like to see the company continue to do semi-occasionally as it will help to encourage UK fans to purchase shows.

Will it be the biggest show in Ring of Honor history as has been claimed? It’s not impossible, but it’s not overly likely either. The announced card is a good mix of big matches, storyline progression and enjoyable filler, which is what all wrestling shows should be. With three matches guaranteed to be good (the title matches, appropriately) I’d say it’s well worth buying. I know I will be.

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