Thursday 10 May 2012

Border Wars preview

This Saturday night’s Border Wars internet pay-per-view is going to have a massive impact on the future of Ring of Honor as it will the first such show the company has produced in-house. Its success or failure will determine the future of the promotion’s pay-per-view output, one of its chief sources of income. A good show will mean the experiment has paid off and ROH will continue broadcasting iPPVs via their website and possibly increase the number of such events they put on. A poor show will cause a loss of face and force the organisation to hunt out a new online streaming site to partner with them.
The switch to in-house broadcasting is a bold but understandable move. The company's previous production partner on iPPVs, Go Fight Live, were nowhere near reliable enough and let ROH down badly on numerous occasions (most recently at Showdown in the Sun). It's a gamble for ROH to stream the show themselves, especially with so many other companies offering the service available to them, but it's one I think will pay off for them.
The card that's been put together should certainly encourage a higher number of purchases. The main event between defending ROH world champion Davey Richards and challenger Kevin Steen is one of the company's most highly anticipated matches in years. A better match to structure such an important show around could not have been picked.
I'll wait a while to talk about that much though. First, the undercard...
The All Night Express will team with 'Technical Lightning' TJ Perkins to face the Young Bucks and 'No Fear' Mike Mondo. I've no idea what the 'No Fear' moniker being used by Mondo (formerly of Spirit Squad fame) is meant to mean. Presumably it has a deeper significance than simple fearlessness but if it does I've no idea what it is.
This should be a very good six man tag. I'm generally a fan of such matches being added to the lower reaches of a card because it allows for more people to appear and they generally have a fast pace. A match with lots of opportunities for high spots is never a bad thing.
The recent outburst from ANX (they believe they've been overlooked by ROH management and I'd be inclined to agree with them) makes me more interested still in this match. Will they be booked to look strong against their opposition or will their drifting continue? I'm hopeful that ROH have finally decided to do something with King and Titus and so I’ll predict a win for them and the talented TJP. Nothing against the Bucks, they're great. I am indifferent to Mondo.

This poster features a surprising number of former WWE employees
Jay Lethal v Tommaso Ciampa has happened before. They've had some okay matches, but I think the difference in their styles will prevent them from ever producing something that could be described as sensational.
The hook for this match is that 'The Dominant Male' caused Lethal to lose his TV title to Roderick Strong at March's Showdown in the Sun. Lethal is after revenge for that, understandably so. I'm not entirely sure why Ciampa cost Lethal the title when he would have received a title shot against him sooner or later. That he's undefeated would surely have made him the favourite had such a bout taken place meaning that he essentially gave up on having the belt for himself. Frankly I have little interest in this feud without a title involved. Anyway, Ciampa's reasoning may be off but I expect his winning ways to continue on Saturday night with a win over the former 'Black Machismo'.
Adam Cole and Michael Elgin will have another battle this weekend. Before SitS I'd liked Elgin's look, intensity and affiliation with the entertaining House of Truth faction but hadn't seen any matches that made me think he was heading towards anything particularly special. His clash with ROH world champ Davey Richards changed all that. 'Unbreakable' had what was undoubtedly his best match yet, winning over the originally hostile crowd and pulling off some very convincing near falls. In a company like ROH that's not easy to do.
Adam Cole I find harder to get behind. He's talented enough but he's booked incredibly inconsistently. At one event he'll be pinning the world champion and at the next he'll be working as glorified enhancement talent. Since his Future Shock tag team with partner Kyle O'Reilly was split (prematurely in my view) Cole has not had a clear role. The bookers need to decide how they want to utilise the guy.
The two men have had some enjoyable matches already this year and I fully expect their clash in Canada not to disappoint. It's a potential match of the night in my book. I'll be amazed if Elgin loses. If Cole wins it will just be further proof of the promotion’s inconsistent booking of him.
Sticking with the House of Truth, Mr Martini will return to ringside for the Rhino v Eddie Edwards contest. I like the storyline explanation for 'The Manbeast' joining the stable: Truth bought his contract from the Embassy. I always enjoy little touches like that in wrestling. Not everything needs a huge explanation, but it's nice that ROH addressed a switch of allegiance. North America's other two wrestling outfits would either have concocted an overly elaborate plot or ignored the move entirely.
The idea is that the House of Truth will use Rhino to dispose of people in the way of Roderick Strong regaining "his" ROH world title. A simple storyline that gives Rhino a clear reason for all his matches and introduces some variety into the ROH main event scene can only be a good thing.
The result could go either way: either the HOT's new acquisition could go over to get his latest run with the company off to a strong start or 'Die Hard' could win to make it clear who the bigger star is. I'm going to opt for an Edwards victory with the heels attacking him after the match to set up a return engagement sometime in the not too distant future.
The Briscoes defence of their tag team titles against Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team in a Fight Without Honor has a lot of potential. Sadly I think it will fall short of expectations, as is all too often the case with 'Dem Boys'. I'm pleased to see Haas and Benjamin in a prominent spot though: this ROH run is their chance to show how good a unit they can be. They're unlikely to get another once it’s over.
The boys from Sandy Fork, Delaware are my pick to win. I can't see ROH putting the tag titles on WGTT again anytime soon. It's not a bad call. The Briscoes make fine figureheads and there are other teams (ANX and the Young Bucks for example) that deserve a crack at being champs before the former WWE stars get a second go.

The ROH world TV champion Roderick Strong will be tackling Fit Finlay. Does anyone else find the fact that Finlay is appearing for ROH odd? The hiring of a 53-year-old Irishman goes against two of ROH’s key policies: not bringing in former WWE talent and emphasising young stars. They’re relaxed rules, sure, but it’s still odd that Ring of Honor have overlooked them to bring in someone as relatively obscure as ‘The Belfast Bruiser’.

I can’t see Finlay winning this match but I do think it should be an enjoyable brawl. Both men like to work stiff and I’d expect Truth Martini to take a bump or two to get a cheap pop. It’s unlikely to be Strong’s finest outing but it should be something different if nothing else. Finlay has received very positive reviews from his recent matches in companies such as EVOLVE and ROH are clearly hoping for a slice of the action. Strong’s a good choice of opponent.

Mike Bennett was booked to beat Lance Storm by shady means at Showdown in the Sun Night One and brag about doing so on Night Two. Border Wars will host a rematch between the two, which I expect to be won by Storm. The former ECW star has been billed as a Canadian hero by ROH. That may be a stretch but not a huge one. He’s not on the level of Bret Hart, Edge or Chris Jericho, but he is very well respected and the Canadian fans are sure to give him one of the loudest ovations of the night (perhaps second only to Kevin Steen).

‘The Prodigy’ is guaranteed a great match with Storm as his opponent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was booked to beat the veteran again (what with him being the rising star and all) but I think a win for Storm is more likely, mainly because the show’s being held in Canada. Whoever goes over this is another expected contender for match of the night.

Finally there’s the ROH world championship match between ‘The American Wolf’ Davey Richards and ‘Mr Wrestling’ Kevin Steen. I’m surprised that Ring of Honor have signed this match for Border Wars as opposed to next month’s Best in the World but I can understand why they’ve done it: Best in the World may be a bigger show but Border Wars is to be held in Canada in front of a crowd that will be firmly behind Kevin Steen. It’s about the only way ROH is going to get a crowd even more passionate than the one they’ll draw in New York. They want to capitalise on Steen’s popularity and I don’t blame them.

There’s no doubt that the champion will be booed in this match. Steen is a Canadian and arguably the best popular wrestler in ROH so there’s no doubt he will be the crowd favourite. It’s even possible this could be the start of a turn for Richards: he has had more than one audience turn on him this year. I don’t think having Davey go heel would be a bad move. It would allow his character to be freshened up and would let Steen and Eddie Edwards (particularly Edwards) breathe as main event good guys.

As popular as Steen is I think it will be Richards’ night. The storyline is that this is Steen’s sole shot at the gold but I don’t believe that for a moment. I would expect some sort of disqualification finish (possibly involving the “signed to appear” Steve Corino (and speaking of “signed to appear” where’s real life Canadian El Generico on this line-up?)), a time limit draw or some other kind of hilarious shenanigans to occur, necessitating a rematch at some point in the future, perhaps as soon as Best in the World. Whatever the case I don’t think Steen will leave with the belt as it’s too early in the feud and he hasn’t been chasing Richards for long enough yet (... and for even more thoughts on this match read this).

I’m looking forward to Border Wars. It looks like a great show. There’s a hot main event supported by a strong undercard and several potential match of the night contenders. I want this show to succeed. Ring of Honor needs it to.

Predictions summary:

Davey Richards to beat Kevin Steen
Lance Storm to beat Mike Bennett
Roderick Strong to beat Fit Finlay
The Briscoes to beat Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
Eddie Edwards to beat Rhino
Michael Elgin to beat Adam Cole
Tommaso Ciampa to beat Jay Lethal
The All Night Express and TJ Perkins to beat The Young Bucks and Mike Mondo

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