Tuesday 27 March 2012

Showdown in the Sun preview

As has become tradition Ring of Honor will present shows this weekend in the host town of WrestleMania. I always think it’s a smart thing to do. Thousands of wrestling fans will be in town for ‘Mania and a large number of them will never have seen ROH live before. Many won’t even have heard of the promotion. This weekend’s shows make it easy for established fans and newcomers to check the promotion out. The pay-per-view audience is available for them too: for the two nights before WrestleMania people are going to be hungry for wrestling action and ROH is going to take advantage of that.

I’ve said before that I don’t understand why TNA doesn’t emulate this approach. I think that even more this year with WrestleMania being held just a few hours south of their Orlando base.

I’ll start this preview in the logical place: Night One.

One of the most notable matches of the weekend is Kevin Steen v El Geneirco. This will be the first time the two men have faced each other in Ring of Honor since Final Battle 2010 fifteen months ago. That match saw ‘The Generic Luchadore’ get the win in a wild and bloody mask versus career match. Steen earned his job back at Final Battle 2011. A rematch with Generico has been inevitable ever since.

I don’t expect this match to top the insane display both men put on at Final Battle 2010. I expect there to be blood and brawling but they’re unlikely to be in the main event slot this time around and the match isn’t as highly anticipated as their 2010 clash so there’s no need for the combatants to half kill themselves for fan approval. That’s a good thing because both men would, and it’s not healthy.

I’m going to predict a win for Steen here. Generico won last time around and ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ is heading into a feud with ROH champ Davey Richards so he needs the win more.

Of all the people ROH could pit against the tremendous technical wrestler that is Lance Storm they’ve chosen Mike “Sports Entertainment” Bennett. It’s not that I dislike Bennett, I think he’s got a good look, talks well, and has a nicely rounded heel act with ‘Brutal’ Bob and Maria at ringside. It’s just that his matches typically look like they belong more on an episode of Superstars than in ROH. Couldn’t Storm have faced Edwards, Richards, or Strong instead? Storm v Steen would have been a particularly nice match too.

What we have is Storm v Bennett in a match billed as ‘Icon v Prodigy.’ I’d be interested in knowing what Sting thinks of that marketing. I’m predicting a win for Bennett in this one. As the younger star appearing for the company regularly he needs the win more than Storm does. I wouldn’t be surprised if an angle took place to set up a match sometime in the future between Storm and someone else on the roster. Perhaps that’ll be Steen and I’ll get the match I want after all.

Jay Lethal defending the ROH TV championship against Kyle O’Reilly should be a great match. O’Reilly is becoming one of the promotion’s go-to guys for upper mid-card matches, which is a good spot to be in in ROH because guys who reach that level typically crack the main event sooner or later. I think we’ll see a great match but I don’t think we’ll see a new champion. Lethal will hold onto the belt for a while longer and drop it over the summer, that’s my prediction.

The first night of the Dual Duel (the two teams will face off on both Night One and Night Two) between the Young Bucks and the All Night Express could go either way. Either each team will get one victory each, likely prompting a deciding contest at some point in the near future, or the Bucks will cheat on one or both evenings to get two victories. I think the former’s more likely so I’m going to pick a win for the Bucks on Night One and a win for ANX on Night Two.

ROH world tag team champions the Briscoes will be in a non-title match against non-entities Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste. That you’ve almost certainly never heard of Nicholls and Haste (I hadn’t either) should tell you who’s going to win. If the Briscoes lose I’ll be very surprised. This is likely to be a short match designed to allow ‘Dem Boys’ to stiff some youngsters and give the fans a nice, quick babyface victory to enjoy.

Under “Scheduled to appear” for Night One are Michael Elgin, Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, WGTT and the C&C Wrestle Factory. From that list I can see two matches being made: WGTT v C&C and either Ciampa or Elgin facing Cole. Assuming those bouts take place I’ll predict a win for Benjamin and Haas (because they’re a very talented combo who ROH seem to like to keep looking strong) and a loss for Cole no matter which of the other two he faces (I could see him beating a random jabroni but think such a match is unlikely). Elgin and Ciampa are both getting such strong singles pushes that I just can’t see them losing. In the event of a three-way between them I’ll predict Cole getting a cheeky rollup elimination on ‘Unbreakable’ and then being hit immediately afterwards with a Project Ciampa for a ‘Dominant Male’ victory.

The main event of Night One will see Davey Richards defend his ROH World championship against ‘Die Hard’ Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. That should be great with lots of stiff kicks and chain wrestling. These three men have been around the top of the card for around a year now and I’m surprised ROH have managed to hold off presenting a three-way for this long. I’m pleased they have though because it means there’s more history between the combatants now, making the match mean more.

I’ve said before that I think Richards is due to have a long reign as champion. He won the title nine months ago (from Edwards) at Best in the World 2011. By the standards of most wrestling companies that would be a long run but it’s about average for Ring of Honor. I expect ‘The American Wolf’ to become one of the longest reigning ROH champions ever and for that to happen he’ll need to keep hold of the belt for another six months at least.

I expect a great match but no title change.

Probably the best pure wrestling shows you'll see over WrestleMania weekend

Night Two is another strong card. The match that stands out as the most intriguing is ‘Technical Lightning’ TJ Perkins v Fire Ant. Fire Ant is a wrestler from Chikara, known for his quick pace. I’ve never seen a complete match of his before but I’m interested to see him face off with the equally speedy TJP. It should be a fun match. Expect the ROH regular to go over.

The battle between former partners Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly should be something special. There’s a YouTube match (that you can watch at this link) from a couple of years ago that gives an idea of how enjoyable their matches against one another can be. Having teamed for a while and progressed as performers I expect their match at Showdown in the Sun to be far more memorable.

It’s difficult to predict a winner because both men are linked to the Richards v Edwards rivalry that’s chugging along nicely at the top of the card. I’m going to pick O’Reilly because I think ROH has bigger plans for him in the future and I’ve predicted a loss for him in his announced match on Night One. I’d be surprised if he lost two advertised bouts in one weekend.

The Briscoes v Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team could go one of two ways. It could either be a solid pure wrestling match with the story being that ‘Dem Boys’ want to prove they can “rassle” or it could be a wild brawl with Hass and Benjamin attempting to beat Mark and Jay at their own game. Whichever way it goes I don’t think we’ll see new champions crowned: the Briscoes have found their niche after a couple of years treading water and I can’t see ROH being unwise enough to throw that away without a reason. I’d like to see the Briscoes either lose the belts to a team that have never won them before (such as ANX or the Bucks) or either Edwards and Cole or Team Richards as part of the main event feud between Edwards and Richards.

One of the final three matches announced for Night Two will be for the ROH World championship. Each match involves one of the participants of Night One’s three-way main event. Whoever enters Night Two with the gold will defend it in their match. I think that’s a neat little twist and a nice way of emphasising the “real sports” approach ROH takes with its booking.

The first potential world championship bout is Eddie Edwards v Kevin Steen. This is a match I find very hard to predict because it could go either way. Both men are important parts of the promotion’s main event picture and could realistically win this. It’s a tough call but I’ll go with Edwards as my prediction because I’ve predicted a loss for him on Night One while I have ‘Mr Wrestling’ winning his match against Generico. That seems the most logical way of approaching this match.

I actually think Steen v Edwards could be the standout match of Night Two. I’m interested to see how the fans react to each man.

TV champion Jay Lethal will not defend his title (should he still have it) against Roderick Strong on March 31st but Strong will defend the ROH world title should he win it on March 30th. I can’t see that happening though. Lethal v Strong is an appealing match that I expect will get a decent amount of time and finish with Strong going over.

The match I’m expecting to see finish up the weekend is Davey Richards v ‘Unbreakable’ Michael Elgin for the ROH World championship. If you want a stiff contest featuring an underdog babyface champion battling against a ferocious monster this is the one for you. Richards may not be the most charismatic wrestling champion the world has ever seen but he’s very good in matches against larger opponents. Elgin, as the monster, will likely dominate a portion of the match before Richards comes back with a flurry of kicks and the ankle lock to finish him off.

Showdown in the Sun looks like a very good weekend of wrestling on paper. Each night has something every for everyone, which is always important when booking a show you want to appeal to newcomers. That’s what these shows are designed for and on that basis I’d say ROH have done a good job so far. I predict I’ll be saying the same thing on Sunday morning: these line-ups don’t look like they can disappoint.

Predictions summary:
Night One:
Davey Richards to defeat Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong
Mike Bennett to defeat Lance Storm
Jay Lethal to defeat Kyle O’Reilly
Kevin Steen to defeat El Generico
The Young Bucks to defeat The All Night Express
The Briscoes to defeat TMDK
Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team to defeat The C&C Wrestle Factory

Night Two:
Davey Richards to defeat Michael Elgin
Eddie Edwards to defeat Kevin Steen
Roderick Strong to defeat Jay Lethal
The Briscoes to defeat Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
The All Night Express to defeat The Young Bucks
Kyle O’Reilly to defeat Adam Cole
TJ Perkins to defeat Fire Ant

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