Sunday 13 November 2011

Survival of the Fittest 2011 preview

ROH have experimented with their Survival of the Fittest format before, but never quite to the extent that we’ll see on Friday 18th November. For those unfamiliar with Survival of the Fittest it used to go something like this: twelve men would wrestle in six one-on-one matches with the winners advancing into the evening’s six-way main event. The winner of that match, fought under elimination rules, would earn themselves a shot at the ROH world championship.

Where this year’s event differs is in the nature of the qualifying contests. Along with three one-on-one matches there’s a tag team match which will see both members of the winning team take spots in the final and a four-way match which will see only one man go through.

On top of all of that there will be the traditional non-tournament match. This year it’s a “champions challenge” tag team match pitting ROH world tag team champions Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas against TV champion Jay Lethal and world champion Davey Richards.

From the list of confirmed matches this is the one that stands out to me as the most likely to become match of the night. All four men are great wrestlers and considering the relatively low number of matches on the card they should get enough time to put on a decent show. As far as winners go I think Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team will go over, seeing as they’re the regular combo.

The Survival matches are an interesting mix. One of the most appealing to me is Kyle O’Reilly v Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge. Ridge may not have been featured too heavily in ROH in the past but he’s been talked up as someone who could “break out” over the last year. Both men work a style heavy on stiff kicks and I’m interested to see how competitive Ridge is allowed to look against his more high profile opponent. There’s no doubt in my mind O’Reilly will win (which probably means Ridge will get the surprise victory now) but if Ridge is allowed to enter a ten minute performance in which he gains plenty of near falls he could get enough of a reaction from fans in attendance to convince ROH to give him a similar opportunity to shine soon.

Rhett Titus v Roderick Strong should be a fun match. This time last year Titus was in the process of a face turn while Strong was the ROH champ. That doesn’t have any bearing on this match but I thought it was interesting to point out, to illustrate the paths both have taken in the past twelve months. Titus rarely thrills me in singles matches but I think he’s got a good chance at having a solid outing with an opponent like Strong. I’m predicting Strong will win in a close contest.

Titus’s tag team partner Kenny King will be one of the men vying for the sole spot in the finals during the four-way match. His opponents will be Michael Elgin, Adam Cole and Tommaso Ciampa. Cole and King are both capable of working some very athletic spots into their matches so it’s pretty much guaranteed we’ll see something impressive during this match. I’ll be interested to see how Ciampa and Elgin interact with one another: both have been built up as ruthless, physically imposing heels that batter their opponents. Will they turn their gaze on each other? If they do who will be booked to come off better in the confrontation?

I imagine the two will have a stare off at some point but will be interrupted by King and Cole (that’s Kenny and Adam, not Jerry and Michael) before anything can come of it. The four-way strikes me as a way of booking Elgin and Ciampa in the tournament without having either one take a pinfall loss, thus allowing their dominant pushes to continue. This is particularly important for Ciampa due to his undefeated streak. A win in this qualifier would mean he has to win the Survival match to stay undefeated. I don’t think ROH are going to have ‘The Dominant Male’ take his first loss in an untelevised environment so that means he’ll simply not get passed the opening round.

I think King will walk out the winner. The final will benefit from his athleticism and it keep him looking like a guy who could break out into the singles division some time. I’m sure that when the All Night Express go their separate ways King is going to become a headline talent very quickly.

The tag team qualifier will see the Briscoes take on the Bravados. The Bravados shocked me several months ago by getting a highly unlikely victory over the natives of Sandy Fork, Delaware. Can they do it again? Perhaps. It’s hard to say. Both Bravados in the final would create an interesting dynamic but I think the Briscoes are the likelier candidates. It’s not impossible to imagine a situation in which this match goes to some sort of non-finish or double disqualification and one man from each team is selected for the final. Bear that in mind, but my official prediction is that Mark and Jay will be in the Survival match.

The final two men in the tournament are Mike Bennett and ROH’s first Triple Crown champion Eddie Edwards. Does Edwards really need to go to the main event and win this match? No. He’s already established at the top of the card and doesn’t need to win this in order to earn a title match. A win here will do far more for Bennett than it will for Edwards, and I think ‘The Prodigy’ will gain a tainted victory, probably with the help of ‘Brutal’ Bob, and advance to the finals.

So that leaves us with a predicted final of Mark Briscoe v Jay Briscoe v Kenny King v Mike Bennett v Roderick Strong v Kyle O’Reilly. Of those six there are two men I’d like to see face Davey Richards: Kyle O’Reilly and Kenny King. As I think King is heading towards a run with the tag team titles alongside Rhett Titus I’m going to predict that Kyle O’Reilly will be the 2011 Survival of the Fittest winner. That will allow for a student versus pupil type match sometime early next year.

 Will this be the sight ROH fans see at Survival of the Fittest 2011?

On paper this event looks a little average, but with an ROH title shot on the line there’s still a very good reason to watch the show. It should be a good indicator of where the promotion’s going for Final Battle and the early months of 2012.

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