Sunday 11 September 2011

Death Before Dishonor IX preview

Next Saturday Ring of Honor once again returns to New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom to promote Death Before Dishonor IX... but their world champion won’t be joining them. No, Davey Richards, who won the ROH world title at Best in the World in June, feels it’s more important that he go to Japan to compete for “the prestigious” (his words) New Japan Pro Wrestling. I can understand his desire to compete in Japan but it shouldn’t come at the expense of ROH. After all, Ring of Honor is the company that helped him make a name for himself and his decision to go to New Japan doesn’t leave ROH looking very “prestigious” does it?

Davey isn’t solely to blame for this situation. Ring of Honor were well aware of his love of Japan when they put the title on him, and they are the ones who have allowed him to go (Richards is under contract to ROH and if they told him they needed him for their iPPV he would have been contractually obliged to turn down the NJPW tour). It’s made a lot of fans wonder why ROH put the championship on him in the first place. I’m of the opinion that Eddie Edwards is a better all round performer than Richards, and he shows up to events Ring of Honor needs him at. Had Eddie successfully defended the title against Davey at Best in the World he would have made a fine centrepiece for the company and the option of a Richards heel turn would have stayed open, something I think would have worked better in the long run as it could have lead to a long, believable rivalry over the title.

But instead of showing faith in Edwards ROH cut his reign short and put the title on a man who cuts awful promos and flies to Japan at the drop of a hat.

Despite there not being an ROH world title defence (or any title defences, come to that) I think Death Before Dishonor has the potential to be a decent show. The main event is either going to be Eddie Edwards v Roderick Strong or Mark and Jay Briscoe v the All Night Express in the third ever ladder war (that’s a ladder match to you and me).

I suspect it will be the tag bout that goes on last. Part of the reason for thinking this is that the two teams have been feuding for a year now, and this is likely going to be their final collision for a while. Another part of the reason is that nothing, no matter how good and no matter who’s involved, is going to top those four men in a ladder bout. It’s going to be a hard-hitting, brutal contest that ought to provide a fitting end to the show. At least one of the men is going to take some sort of crazy bump (my money’s on Mark Briscoe) and there’s a fair chance everyone will bleed.

As the Briscoes seem to have picked up the majority of the wins in this rivalry I think it could be ANX’s turn to get a win here. A title shot at Glory By Honor X will be hanging above the ring and I think that title shot would benefit Titus and King far more than it would ‘Dem Boys’.

The Strong v Edwards match is an odd one, and given its rules it could make for a rather anti-climactic main event. What are those rules? Confusingly, it’s a two-out-of-three falls match that will incorporate a fifteen minute iron man match as its third fall, should a third fall be required (it will be). Billed as a Ringmaster Challenge, the first fall will be pinfall only and the second fall by submission only. I suspect this match will end up looking fairly odd as the first and second fall will likely get around twenty minutes combined, and then an iron man match will start and a bunch of falls will be squeezed into a quarter of an hour, ratchetting up the number of falls in the match as a whole. Both men are capable and enjoyable wrestlers but it strikes me as an odd format.

This match is to determine the number one contender to Davey Richards’ world championship. There’s an obvious problem with this: Eddie Edwards is the former champion and hasn’t been granted his rematch yet. Aren’t all champions entitled to one? Hasn’t that always been the case not just in Ring of Honor but in every wrestling company in the world? I don’t dislike the idea of these two men competing against one another for a title shot, but I don’t like the fact that Eddie’s rematch clause has been overlooked in a company that prides itself on presenting a realistic sportsmanlike product.

For that reason, and because I think Richards v Edwards is a more marketable match than Richards v Strong, I’m picking Eddie Edwards to win this match. Will he become a two time champion? It looks doubtful right now, but I’d have no problem if he did.

That brings us to the undercard of the show. The match that intrigues me most is the three-way tag match between The Young Bucks (formerly TNA’s Generation Me), the Bravado Brothers and Future Shock. Who are Future Shock? Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly. Yes! They finally have a team name! This match hasn’t been confirmed as an opener but I think it would work well as one as it’s almost guaranteed to feature loads of high spots and a quick pace. I’d like to see a Cole and O’Reilly (sorry... Future Shock) win here, to continue building the two as the promotion’s next big team.

ROH tag team champions Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas will be in singles matches on the show, against Mike Bennett and Michael Elgin respectively. Neither match is going to set the world on fire. I wish they’d been booked to defend their titles instead: Future Shock earned a title match by winning the Tag Team Lottery months ago and this would have been a perfectly adequate event to host that match. Or a foreign team (from a Japanese company, perhaps the “prestigious” NJPW) could have been flown in to challenge for the gold. Either would have been preferable to meaningless filler matches.

Haas and Benjamin could even have been worked into the Jay Lethal and Homicide v Tommaso Ciampa and Rhino match. But they weren’t and it should be a good match regardless. Homicide has been treading water for almost the entire year and his feud with the Embassy hasn’t really got the audience involved as I think ROH was probably hoping it would. That said the Rhino v Homicide match at Best in the World was an excellent brawl and indicates this tag bout could be another surprise hit.

Ciampa and Lethal are guys ROH clearly hopes will become big stars. Ciampa’s winning streak gimmick (far more convincing than TNA’s fudged attempt with Tommy ‘Crimson’ Mercer) has made him stand out and could indicate he’s being built as a world title contender for 2012. He’s got a good look and wrestles well. I think he’d have a great match with Richards. More immediately, I think this match could set up Ciampa as a TV title contender by adding a win over Jay Lethal to his winning streak.

Lethal returned to ROH in June at Best in the World and has been used effectively since. I expect he’s going to presented as one of the promotion’s top stars for the foreseeable future, with or without the TV title (which I don’t expect he’ll wear to the ring as his title victory hasn’t been aired yet and ROH is old school on things like that).

As far as a winner goes the Embassy team are my choice. In an ideal world Homicide would turn heel (not siding with the Embassy, just going nuts on Lethal after ‘Black Machismo’ is pinned) after this match: he’s so much better as a heel and it would allow him to be used against Richards and Edwards. I won’t hold my breath for that though.

Finally there’s El Generico v Jimmy Jacobs. The storyline here is that Corino was meant to face Generico but backed out of the match as he felt unable to do so due to the Steen v Generico feud Corino was heavily involved in throughout 2010. Jacobs has agreed to take his place in the match and ‘The King of Old School’ has flown over to Japan to tour with Zero1 (unlike the Richards tour this isn’t annoying because Corino isn’t the company’s champion).

This could be the surprise match of the night as both men are of a similar size and work rapid, spot-filled styles that always go down well with an audience. I’d be very surprised if Jacobs got the win as Generico is one of ROH’s most popular and loyal stars and they can’t afford to have him lose to a guy that’s just returned.

Unless, of course, that loss comes after interference from ‘Mr Wrestling’ Kevin Steen. Since his brief appearance at Best in the World Steen has announced his intention to wage war on Ring of Honor and has begun in earnest by hassling Jim Cornette and Davey Richards via Twitter (it’s not much, but it’s a start). I expect he’ll show up at DBD in some form, and before, during or after the Generico v Jacobs match seems like the ideal time. I personally hope he does show up: this is one of ROH’s most compelling current storylines and Steen is tremendous in the role of unpredictable psycho.

Overall it doesn’t look like a bad show but it doesn’t look like the greatest ROH show ever either. Notable by their absence are Davey Richards (discussed above), Colt Cabana (currently on a tour of NOAH... yep, he’s in Japan), Christopher Daniels and the Kings of Wrestling. With the exception of Davey it’s possible all of these absences are due to contractual issues. Daniels has been working for TNA and ROH simultaneously for a while now, and it’s possible his ROH deal has expired and he’s focusing exclusively on the Florida promotion.

There have been rumours going around for months that Cabana, Hero and Castagnoli are all headed to WWE. Cabana could be finishing up agreed upon dates in Japan before heading to Monday nights while Hero and Castagnoli may already be under contract. Even if they haven’t officially signed with Team McMahon it’s possible they’ve been “advised against appearing” for ROH. It’s even possible all three men are still under contract to Ring of Honor but the promotion’s simply decided not to use them. They’ve done it with their champion after all.

If this is the future of the Ring of Honor roster the company needs to put even more time and effort into creating new stars. The company is currently very thin on name talent and while everyone competing at Death Before Dishonor is capable of putting in a good performance the prospect of future shows (Final Battle in particular) missing big names concerns me.

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