Wednesday 29 February 2012

ROH 10th Anniversary preview

Jim Cornette and Hunter Johnston have clearly been watching a lot of WWE lately. Their Tenth Anniversary internet pay-per-view is being held in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom this Sunday and only six matches have been announced. It’s impossible to imagine Ring of Honor, a company that prides itself on giving value for money (among other things), celebrating its tenth birthday with such a sparse card, but right now there’s no indication of what other matches will be on offer.

Thankfully quality usually wins out over quantity in ROH, particularly at high profile events like this one, so we can be confident that when the final bell of the evening sounds the company will have celebrated double digits with a fulfilling and eventful show.

It’s interesting to note that there will be no ROH world title match on offer. For a company that puts so much stock in the importance of its top prize to not have it defended at such a landmark event strikes me as peculiar. Ultimately it’s not a big deal but it does seem an odd decision. The main event we’ll see instead should be every bit as thrilling though: ROH champ Davey Richards and Kyle O’Reilly will team up to face their respective former tag partners in ‘Die Hard’ Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole.

This storyline has roots going back years. Davey Richards undertook a lengthy quest to capture the ROH world championship, having failed in challenges against the likes of Tyler Black and Roderick Strong. Edwards was granted his first ever shot at the title last March and shockingly defeated Strong to become the new champion. For a couple of month Richards said he didn’t want to challenge Edwards for the title as he didn’t want to be the one to end his dream-come-true reign. ‘Die Hard’ understandably took exception to that and threatened to leave the company unless his American Wolves teammate agreed to face him. Richards reluctantly agreed and the two clashed at Best in the World for only the second time in company history.

Richards beat Edwards. A new champion was crowned.

Since then the two have gradually grown apart, their healthy rivalry developing into a bitter grudge. This is mainly due to Edwards’ inability to accept his losses to Richards at BITW and last December’s Final Battle. The respect between the two seemingly remains for now, but their friendship is gone.

The decision to split Future Shock and pair them up with the two former Wolves is something I wrote about in detail several weeks ago (read that post here). In short I feel that the chance to make them a premiere unit in ROH has been thrown away in favour of short term advances to a world title feud. I still think both men will succeed in Ring of Honor, O’Reilly in particular, but I’d have liked to see them remain as Future Shock for a while longer.

While this match may not be for the company’s top prize the fact that it features the world champion, his main rival, and two future headliners should ensure that this match is a worthy main event. All four will do everything they can to make it memorable and enjoyable and I’ll be surprised if it’s not one of the company’s top matches of 2012.

As far as winners go I think Team Richards will get the nod. That could tip Eddie over the edge, allowing the show to close on a truly memorable angle in which he beats down Richards. Even if that doesn’t happen it will keep the story of Cole and Edwards being envious of their former partners running.

On the subject of post-match angles I’m expecting something memorable from Kevin Steen. Perhaps he, not Edwards, will attack Richards at the end of the show to get a new feud properly underway. I’m expecting Steen to be the man to take the gold from ‘The American Wolf’, very probably at Final Battle this December, so the program really needs to get started. What better place to start a highly anticipated feud than at the company’s Tenth Anniversary?

It’s possible ‘Mr Wrestling’s’ anarchic antics will be restricted to his scheduled bout against Jimmy Jacobs. Steen’s my pick to win that match and I expect he’ll do something after getting the victory, such as beat down Jacobs and brawl with Steve Corino, or cut one of his always entertaining pseudo-shoot promos. If he gets a lot of time for an angle with the reformed heels then take it as a sign that he’s not going to be involved with Richards later on in the show.

Steen is one of the most entertaining things ROH has to offer and is also one of their most over acts. If he doesn’t capture the ROH title at some point in the next twelve months I’ll be surprised.

Speaking of entertaining acts, Steen’s pals the Briscoes will defend their world tag team championships against the Young Bucks. Considering how long ‘Dem Boys’ have been around and how quickly the Bucks have established themselves as a top act it’s surprising these units have clashed more often. The characters the four men play should make for an interesting dynamic: high flying heels versus rough and ready babyfaces isn’t something you get to see every day. That should help the match stick in the memory. I’m picking Mark and Jay as the winners here. They’ve finally found their niche again and hopefully ROH are going to keep the belts on them for a few months longer to capitalise on that.

I can’t say I feel the same about the ROH TV title bout. I expect Tommaso Ciampa’s undefeated streak to continue with him defeating Jay Lethal to become the new champ. Not only would this help Ciampa move into a more prominent spot in the organisation but it would also mean that the company has a heel singles champ and a face singles champ. The slightly more old school, paced approach Ring of Honor generally takes is better suited to that approach.

This is how all wrestling posters should look

‘The Prodigy’ Mike Bennett will tangle with ‘The Notorious 187’ Homicide. Homicide will get a solid reaction form the NYC crowd, but this won’t be an especially memorable clash. I suspect it’s mainly there to fill the numbers and up the numbers of “guys form ROH’s past” on the card. Bennett is not my pick to win this one.

The sixth and final match confirmed for the show is a tag match between unit of ‘Unbreakable’ Michael Elgin and former world champion Roderick Strong (who will be accompanied by one of the few notable managers in wrestling today, Truth Martini) on the one side and the unit of TJ Perkins and the returning Amazing Red on the other. Expect a loud “welcome back” chant for Red, followed by a match in which the smaller men bump like maniacs to make Elgin look like a beast.

It should be a fun match with spots that allow everyone to shine. While I’ve not seen them team yet I have a feeling TJP and Red will gel nicely and already want them to become a regular team in the company’s shrinking doubles scene. I don’t expect them to win though. This match needs to be a place for Elgin and Strong, as a rising star and a veteran who’s helped carry the company over the years respectively, to go over and take the spotlight.

Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, collectively known as Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, are confirmed for the show and with no other regular combos announced it’s likely they’ll face some random jobbers. I’d like to see them against either ANX or the C&C Wrestle Factory because both of those teams deserve to be on a big show such as this. I’m not sure of the status of Titus’s injured neck though, and C&C don’t seem high on ROH’s list of acts to push right now, so I’m not going to get my hopes up.

The matches that are announced make the Tenth Anniversary Show look a very attractive event on paper. I expect ROH will deliver on the night by putting on a show worthy of their ten year history and the reputation they’ve built in that time. If you’re at a loose end on Sunday there are far worse ways of appending your time. It’s likely to be one of the best wrestling events of the year.

Predictions summary:
Team Richards to defeat Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole
The Briscoe Brothers to defeat the Young Bucks
Kevin Steen to defeat Jimmy Jacobs
Tommaso Ciampa to defeat Jay Lethal for the ROH Television championship
Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin to defeat The Amazing Red and TJ Perkins
Homicide to defeat Mike Bennett

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