Saturday 2 July 2011

Do We Still Want Steen?

One of the big selling points of Ring of Honor’s June 26th Best in the World show was what would happen with Kevin Steen. Having lost a mask versus ROH career match to El Generico at Final Battle last December he was allegedly banned from the company for life.

Steen’s mentor Steve Corino spent the first half of this year reinventing himself and trying to convince audiences and his fellow wrestlers that he’d changed. He brought Jimmy Jacobs, another man that had been synonymous with heelish antics in the past, back to the company to help him on his quest to become a better person. But what he and the fans really wanted was for Kevin Steen to be allowed to return to the promotion.

When Ring of Honor announced on their website that Kevin Steen would not be welcome at the Hammerstein Ballroom everybody knew it meant he’d be there. But nobody knew what form this unofficial appearance would take. Would it just be a run-in or would Corino somehow get him into the ring to address the fans? It was, as I said, one of the bigger talking points going into Best in the World.

What we got was Steen arriving through the crowd before Corino’s match, only to be stopped at the barrier by Jim Cornette and security. Despite having left as a heel Steen received one of the loudest ovations of the evening. Fans unleashed chants demanding Steen be allowed into the ring to speak, but Cornette stood firm: he had lost a match that stipulated he would leave the company and that was what was going to happen. Steen, playing face, gave a reluctant nod and shook Cornette’s hand. He walked out of the arena to loud cheers.

‘The King of Old School’ then had his scheduled match against Michael Elgin. It was enjoyable, though nothing spectacular. Elgin won and then followed up with a post-match beating of Corino and Jacobs, until Kevin Steen returned through the crowd to make the save.

With the House of Truth sent scurrying for the safety of the locker room Corino took a microphone and started a “let him speak” chant. Jim Cornette, having returned to ringside, agreed to the demand on the condition that Steen leave the building immediately afterwards.

Taking the mic Steen introduced himself and informed us that he was an evil person, as Corino and Jacobs have both done at recent events. But instead of saying how good it was to be back or apologising for his behaviour of 2010, as pretty much everyone expected, Steen yelled a heartfelt “fuck Ring of Honor” and smashed Corino in the head and gave him a package piledriver.

Steen removed his shirt as he continued gleefully pummelling Corino and Jacobs, revealing what appeared to be a Pro Wrestling Guerilla shirt (though it was impossible to be sure and the commentators didn’t comment either way). Eventually several members of security managed to gain control of Steen (once again doing his very believable madman routine) and carted him out of the building.

The angle was executed perfectly. It was very believable and a genuine shock. I had assumed that Steen would turn up, confront Jim Cornette in the ring, and then apologise for his treatment of the ROH locker room and El Generico in particular. It seemed as though this was Ring of Honor’s way of reintroducing Steen to the roster as a babyface, and I’d expected a few more “uncontracted” appearances to go by before an announcement that ROH would overturn his ban due to fan demand.

What we got instead was an expertly performed swerve turn. Clearly Corino and Jacobs are going to continue along the same path they’ve been on, attempting to rehabilitate themselves and gain acceptance as babyfaces. But what about Steen? Would ROH have gone to the trouble of promoting his appearance (such strenuous denial made it clear something was going to happen involving Steen) if there were no plans to use him beyond Best in the World? While there’s no obvious next step for Steen and ROH I’m sure he’s not yet finished with the company. Judging by what we saw last Sunday I think a feud between Steen and Ring of Honor as a company could be on its way. Maybe, if that was a PWG shirt he was wearing, we could see a PWG v ROH inter-promotional feud.

Even though he insulted the company itself the fans still loudly cheered Steen as he was removed from the building. He is an undeniably popular wrestler, and that’s something all wrestling companies need. In answer to the question “do we still want Steen?” I think the answer is a firm yes. If the reaction he got at Best in the World is anything to go by (and New York crowds are usually trendsetters on these things) he’ll have a fight on his hands establishing himself as a heel again, but I believe he can manage it. Surprise run-ins during Corino and or Jacobs matches would be a good place to start, building up to Steen randomly interfering in any match he can. Right now I think the most likely way this story will go is to have Steen wanting to deprive fans of an enjoyable product. That would be the best way to turn him heel.

Whatever comes next I’m sure we’ve not seen the last of Steen in Ring of Honor. Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs and Jim Cornette will likely want to address ‘Mr Wrestling’s’ actions in detail, and the execution of the turn makes it clear there’s more to come.

We’ve not seen the last of Kevin Steen in Ring of Honor. And that’s a good thing.

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