Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Fantasy Booker: Making Ring of Honor the Best in the World

A few months ago I posted a short article (read it here) about what I’d do if I were suddenly (and inexplicably) put in charge of Ring of Honor. In it I stated that I was happy with the direction the company was going in and couldn’t come up with anything I’d do differently. In the end I simply stated that I’d have Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge join the House of Truth.

I’ve thought more on the subject since then and I now realise that there are several changes I’d make to ROH if I were put in charge. As usual with articles in which I state how I’d run a wrestling company I will attempt to be as realistic as possible and be mindful of ROH’s tight budget and current product. I shan’t, for example, suggest hiring Dave Bautista.

The financial situation in Ring of Honor is probably a good starting point. When the promotion started out the goal of every show was to break even. That meant making enough money to pay the talent and cover all the expenses that booking a venue entails. The idea was to make a profit on DVD sales. I think that’s a good model for a smaller promotion. It eliminates some of the pressure of promoting a show and encourages a keener focus on booking: if you want to make your money from DVD sales you’ll make sure to make every show as good as possible so that more people want to buy it when it’s released.

I would make an attempt to return to that philosophy. ROH has been criticised for not putting much thought into its live events (house shows, non-televised events, call them what you will) for a while now and I think if more effort was made with them it would marginally increase DVD sales (because fans would be encouraged to shell out on a greater number of purchases) and improve the quality of on-going storylines too because there would be a tighter focus on quality.

This man would be the face of my Ring of Honor

The number of shows ROH currently promotes is fairly sporadic right now. A regular touring schedule would benefit everyone involved. Fans would know when the company is next set to run a show, meaning no events would be forgotten or overlooked. More importantly the company’s contracted performers would be able to agree to appear for other organisations farther in advance because they would know what dates to keep free for ROH.

I think ROH should be running four live events and one television taping per month. The simplest and most effective approach would seem to be making the first and third weekends of every month house show weekends and the second weekend a TV taping weekend. That leaves the end of the month open to host internet pay-per-views as and when required.

Four non-televised events a month gives the company enough time to run shows in all of its current markets without becoming overexposed. It also leaves time for new towns and venues to be tried once in a while as well. The current Friday and Saturday night approach seems to be working for the promotion so I’d stick with that. If business becomes more brisk or a weekend of events is planned in a particularly strong market there’s always the option of adding a third show to the run on the Thursday or Sunday (and possibly even adding a fourth night too).

Currently the TV show is recorded every month or so in Baltimore. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it’s good as Baltimore is home to the HQ of ROH owners SBG, allowing filming costs to be kept low. A regular audience is attracted too, which is a good thing for a company in Ring of Honor’s situation because it ensures the majority of people watching will be familiar with current storylines and passionate about the product.

On the other hand a regular location for TV recordings means that the majority of the company’s key angles and storyline developments take place in the same place, meaning other loyal viewers don’t get to see as many eventful plot developments. Ultimately I think I would keep filming the TV show in Baltimore to keep costs low and because my booking philosophy (as outlined above) would be to make house shows more worthwhile, meaning a greater number of meaningful events occur away from TV (but would still obviously be recapped on TV once they’ve happened).

I am currently not overly impressed with the television show’s content. The match quality is consistently high and the commentary is always dependable but the show generally feels very slow and formulaic. I actually preferred the HDNet approach. Generally speaking those shows featured a squash match or two, a match of decent length to open or the show or in the middle of the card and a strong main event.

I understand that the SBG output is designed to get over the promotion’s top stars but featuring more matches with less running time each gives more wrestlers screen time, thus meaning there’s a greater chance of someone new getting over. The key with the television show should be to expose as many members of the roster as possible. I also like matches featuring non-roster talent as a means of discovering potential new signings.

One of my goals would be to get the TV show into foreign markets. The TV show is already being made so why not try to sell it abroad and get some money from it? Germany, Ireland, Italy, and (of course) Britain are all countries that have plenty of wrestling fans in them so those should be immediately targeted by Ring of Honor. Longer term I would want to run a three or four date tour of Britain in 2013 and having a TV presence would certainly help with that.

The iPPV approach ROH is currently using is not great. Putting aside technical issues suffered on the last several live broadcasts my big problem with ROH’s supershow calendar is that there’s little regularity to it. I think the company should be promoting an internet pay-per-view at least once every two months. The company has announced its PPV output for most of the rest of the year but I would like 2013 to have a more regular approach. The last week of February should be the anniversary show, a new show could air in April (or perhaps Supercard of Honor could become an iPPV), followed by Best in the World in June, Death Before Dishonor in August, Glory By Honor in October and Final Battle in December. If things were going well other broadcasts could be slotted in on the “off” months but those would be the core six.

With attendance numbers currently low and critical acclaim hard to come by I would concentrate on keeping the league popular in existing markets. New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, and the Carolinas should be getting at least two spectacular cards per year in order to keep interest high. What would this entail precisely? First of all those should be the only areas considered for PPVs. When a card isn’t going to be broadcast it needs to be treated as something special and have big title matches and grudge bouts announced for it. A by-the-numbers approach simply isn’t enough to keep the company afloat anymore.

Looking at the announced locations for future pay-per-views it seems that ROH has finally stopped relying on NYC for its supercards. That’s something I’d continue as having pay-per-views coming from different areas alleviates some of the negatives of having the TV show come from the same town every week.

Wrestlers currently contracted to Ring of Honor are able to work for most other promotions as long as they are not required on an ROH show. Basically they are free agents but their contracts mean that they must give Ring of Honor dates priority. I think that’s a fair approach as it allows wrestlers freedom but ensures that ROH will have access to its top stars when needed. I would continue the approach for all of the company’s key performers.

Now let’s get to the fun part: roster changes! Right now Ring of Honor is struggling to elevate new talent and is far too heavily reliant on its thin main event crew of Kevin Steen, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole and Michael Elgin have all been recipients of pushes of varying strength but none of them are ready to move up to the top of the card permanently just yet.

I would set a goal of having O’Reilly, Cole and Elgin ready as headline talent by the beginning of 2013. The company can just about hang on with its existing four-men main event team if they aren’t booked against one another too often and are used to build up new stars and aid with the mid-card scene where possible. Tommaso Ciampa, Mike Bennett, Jay Lethal, PAC and TJ Perkins should be solidified as the stars of the middle ranks.

Right now the roster lacks depth. That’s something that could easily be rectified by hiring new talent. There’s no financial concern there because the ROH contract system is to sign guys to contracts that give ROH first dibs on using them on any particular date and paying them an agreed sum for any appearances they make. They are not given an annual salary or paid to sit at home. That means that Ring of Honor is in a position to sign a fair number of stars.

The first man I’d sign (and I will continue on the assumption that I’d be able to convince everyone I want to sign with the company to do so) would be John Hennigan (formerly WWE’s John Morrison). He’d be the ideal man to bring into the company as he wouldn’t look out of place in headline matches and is talented enough not to encourage resentment from fans or wrestlers. Realistically I imagine he’d sign a one year contract as I suspect he’ll be back in WWE by 2013.

The other former WWE talents I’d sign would be Harry Smith and Montel Vontavious Porter. Smith is big enough to look like a monster compared to the average ROH worker and I have what I believe to be a nice storyline direction for him (which will be outlined below). Having the son of the British Bulldog working in ROH would be a healthy talking point too. MVP would be hired because I believe he could teach many members of the locker room a lot about creating a successful gimmick, cutting a promo, and connecting with a crowd. He’s passionate about the independent wrestling scene too, which would come across when promoting the product.

I’d approach Alex Shelley and Jimmy Rave about returning at Best in the World (more on this below) and I’d do everything I could to encourage the Super Smash Brothers to sign a contract. I believe they would be a great addition to the promotion’s tag ranks and could produce some sizzling encounters with the Young Bucks and the C&C Wrestle Factory.

I’d like to sign Sami Callihan, Johnny Gargano, PAC, and Tony Nese but I’m unsure of whether that would be possible due to their affiliation with Dragon Gate USA. I imagine I’d be able to sign at least some of them and I have at least now stated that that would be my goal. Callihan would join Cole, O’Reilly and Elgin as men I’d want prepared for main event spots by January 1st 2013.

For clarity I will recap my intended roster below:

Adam Cole
Alex Shelley
Andy Ridge
Caprice Coleman
Cedric Alexander
Charlie Haas
Davey Richards
Eddie Edwards
El Generico
Grizzly Redwood
Harlem Bravado
Harry Smith
Jay Briscoe
Jay Lethal
Jimmy Jacobs
Jimmy Rave
John Morrison
Johnny Gargano
Kenny King
Kevin Steen
Kyle O’Reilly
Lancelot Bravo
Mark Briscoe
Matt Jackson
Michael Elgin
Mike Bennett
Mike Mondo
Nick Jackson
Player Dos
Player Uno
Rhett Titus
Roderick Strong
Sami Callihan
Shelton Benjamin
Steve Corino
TJ Perkins
Tommaso Cimapa
Tony Nese

That’s a roster of forty-one. While that may sound excessive I believe it’s a number that allows enough flexibility for the booking process without being unwieldy. There would be less strain on the homegrown main event crew thanks to the signing of Morrison and MVP and a multitude of young stars being groomed for top positions in the near future. There are enough options in that list to sufficiently liven up ROH cards over the coming months with fresh matches and new booking options.

That brings me (neatly, I feel) to what exactly I’d be booking. I’ve chosen Best in the World as a starting point as it provides a good time to draw rivalries to a close and kick off news ones. Here’s the current announced card:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Davey Richards
ROH world tag team championship – Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team defend against The All Night Express
ROH world TV championship – Roderick Strong defends against Tommaso Ciampa and Jay Lethal
Fit Finlay v Michael Elgin
Eddie Edwards v Homicide
Adam Cole v Kyle O’Reilly
Mark and Jay Briscoe v The Guardians of Truth

I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up. Right now it’s not been revealed who Truth Martini’s lined up to face the Briscoes. This is what I alluded to when I mentioned having Rave and Shelley return at Best in the World. I’d bring them back as a regular tag team unit, managed by Truth, to give the tag team division a boost. Their return would really need a promo attached to it: they would get a strong babyface reaction despite being the allies of a heel, so they’d need to get some heat in order to encourage boos.

Alex Shelley would be returning to ROH to join the House of Truth

Cole and O’Reilly, as mentioned, are two guys I’d be trying to elevate to the headline level of the promotion. In order for the booking plans I’ll reveal below to work effectively Cole would need to go over here, setting him up as the faster rising star of the two young men.

I would have Edwards beat Homicide because (as the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed) ‘The Notorious 187’ is not included in my roster list above. He’s a very good wrestler and character but I just don’t know how I’d use him in my Ring of Honor. Post-match I’d have Mike Mondo run-in and jump Edwards to kick off a brief programme with ‘Die Hard’.

Finlay v Elgin would be booked (and likely will be booked) as a very stiff encounter. I’d keep it short and have Elgin dominate the veteran for the most part. If Finlay is going to be used on the roster he needs to be putting guys over decisively. He’s not on my roster either, but I’d consider bringing him in for the occasional TV taping or iPPV.

The three-way TV title match would go on before intermission and would see Lethal eliminated first and Ciampa second. ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’s’ elimination would be via a desperation rollup so as to keep him looking strong in defeat. This is the match which should have either seen Ciampa’s losing streak end or become the new TV champion. I’d keep the gold on Roddy as I have someone better in mind to take it from him.

The tag title match would get around fifteen minutes and would feature a clean win from ANX. Titus and King have been kept waiting for far too long to have a run at the top. They’re ready for some increased exposure and would be getting a nice lengthy run as champions.

The main event “anything goes” match between Steen and Richards would get around twenty-five minutes. That’s a good length of match for both men as it discourages ‘The American Wolf’ from trying to cram too much in and makes it less likely that Steen will become winded. Steen would win via Package Piledriver.

I don’t know what the current plans are for TV tapings or how many episodes are already recorded but as soon as possible I would begin taking the TV output in the direction I want. That would begin with the announcement of a “bonus” iPPV in July.

That pay-per-view would focus on an influx of new talent and would be called something like Regeneration or Reboot (probably the former). An announcement declaring it as a way for new talent to get noticed would be made by Jim Cornette, who would also reveal that Adam Cole would be challenging for the ROH world title in the main event. This would bring out Kyle O’Reilly, who would want to know why he isn’t getting a world title shot against Steen. The answer there would be that Cole won at BITW. O’Reilly would be booked in a match against the debuting PAC instead.

The other major storyline development between Best in the World and Regeneration (I’ll refer to it as that for ease) would be Davey Richards’ new focus on the tag team division (because his loss to Steen would mean he gets no more title matches during Steen’s run). He would tease teaming more frequently with O’Reilly before revealing that he has encouraged his apprentice to pursue Steen and the ROH world championship. His new tag team partner would actually be revealed at Regeneration in a match opposite the C&C Wrestle Factory.

Regeneration’s other big match would be for the TV championship. A four-way number one contendership match would be held on TV with TJ Perkins coming out on top. If there was time TJP would get a televised win over Rhino before the big show, to further the gimmick the he’s used to target people the House sees as a threat to Strong.

This is the card I’d book for Regeneration:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Adam Cole
ROH world TV championship – Roderick Strong defends against TJ Perkins
ROH world tag team championship – The All Night Express defend against The Young Bucks
The C&C Wrestle Factory v Davey Richards and a mystery partner
Michael Elgin v El Generico
Kyle O’Reilly v PAC
The Super Smash Bros. v The Bravados v The Guardians of Truth
Sami Callahan v Johnny Gargano v Tony Nese v Jay Lethal
Eddie Edwards v Mike Mondo

As I stated above, this card would be designed to put the emphasis on new talent and introduce some of the new faces I’d signed to the roster. In addition to those matches it would be announced that John Hennigan would be at the show. He would come out for a promo at the end of the show’s first half and be interrupted by Truth Martini and select members of the House of Truth. Their aim would be to recruit him to their stable. That wouldn’t happen. Instead we’d have a fresh Hennigan v HOT feud established nice and early.

Edwards would beat Mondo handily in their match. The four-way match featuring the three newcomers and Jay Lethal would be designed as a way of highlighting the newcomers and making Lethal look like a rising star. Callihan is the one I’d have the biggest plans for so he’d get the win (likely over either Nese or Lethal so as to keep Gargano protected a little too).

The three-way tag match would be designed to get over the two newcomer teams. Rave and Shelley are over enough to be able to not be harmed by an early elimination so that would happen in order to leave the two new teams on the roster to battle between themselves. The SSB would go over to give them a solid start in the promotion.

O’Reilly v PAC would probably be one of the best matches of the show. I’d want to keep the Team Richards member winning so he’d beat PAC at around the fifteen minute mark: enough time to produce something special and show how good PAC is. Elgin v Generico would again be designed to show how dominant ‘Unbreakable’ is so wouldn’t go longer than seven minutes. Generico wouldn’t be going down too easily but Elgin would look dominant.

The new member of Team Ambition (and Davey’s new regular tag partner) would be Harry Smith. This team would play on the fact that Richards has been favourably compared to Dynamite Kid and that Harry is the son of Davey Boy Smith, who teamed with Dynamite as the British Bulldogs. They would beat C&C in what I hope would be a match that shows how good all four men are.

The tag title match would be a continuation of the recent Bucks v ANX feud. While both units are already on the roster full time (I know the Bucks and TJP have “been given the summer off” but I think that’s a stupid decision so I’d ignore it) Titus and King would just be getting started on their first tag title reign and the Jackson boys are young enough to be considered future stars of the promotion so I would feel justified in putting this match onto the “rising stars” iPPV.

The TV title match would see TJ Perkins beating Strong clean in the middle of the ring for the belt. I think TJP is an excellent choice to build a mid-card division around as he could have great title defences against so many guys on the roster. On the subject of the television belt, once a guy has been a world champion they would not ever be booked to challenge for the TV gold again: it’s a title for rising stars, not former world champions who have nothing else to do.

The main event of Regeneration would be designed to get Cole over as a potential future champ by having him take ‘Mr Wrestling’ to his limit. After the match Steen wouldn’t shake hands (that’s completely out of character for him) but he would be asked to do something to indicate he sees potential in Cole.

TJ Perkins would not be getting the summer off on my watch

Then he’d return to the ring to give Cole a Package Piledriver. Just to keep him unpredictable.

Regeneration would be the real start of my booking plans. From there I’d place the emphasis on building new stars, keeping the tag team division interesting, and making Steen’s world title reign as varied as possible.

Years ago it wasn’t uncommon for ROH championships to be defended every weekend. Over the last several years title bouts have become far less common. Davey Richards had the ROH world title for eleven months but only made ten successful defences and the Kings of Wrestling held the tag straps for almost a year but only defended them nine times. All Ring of Honor’s titles would be defended with a greater degree of regularity, and I would strive to vary Steen’s reign in particular as much as possible.

After July’s Regeneration the next scheduled iPPV is Death Before Dishonor on September 15th. For that show I would build up a three-way rivalry between Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Kevin Steen. O’Reilly would become increasingly bitter about Cole’s success as a singles grappler and Cole would claim that he always wanted to make Future Shock work but gave up and focused on his own career because O’Reilly had no interest in their team. Steen would do all he could to play the two former teammates off against one another.

During the build for that feud Steen would make title defences at house shows against the likes of Lethal, Strong and Edwards. I’d try bringing in Lance Storm and Finlay for live event title bouts too. I like the idea of Steen being in tag matches with Jimmy Jacobs and-or Steve Corino on a Friday against his title match opponent for the Saturday. That would be the format I’d try and use.

Sometime in August I’d book Steen in a title defence O’Reilly on a Saturday and have then book Steen, Jacobs and Corino v Richards, Smith and O’Reilly on the Friday. That’s just an example of the sort of approach I’d be trying to take with these house shows. Without typing out every single card I can’t be much more specific (and I have no intention of writing out card after card for shows that will never happen), but it gives you an idea of the approach I’d be striving for.

Following that three-way feud (which I’d want to climax in September) I’d shift Steen gradually in the direction of Michael Elgin. I’d build towards a title match between the two at Final Battle and begin foreshadowing it from around September, which should hopefully get fans geared up for it. At Glory By Honor XI on October 13th Steen would defend the title against John Hennigan. I think by that point the former ‘Monday Night Delight’ would have had time to embed himself in the promotion and be over as either a face or a heel (see below for how I’d use Hennigan). Whatever he was over as he’d be a heel at GBH: it’s being broadcast from Canada, proud home of ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’.

The autumn is when I’d really varying the wrestlers getting title matches with Steen. Charlie Haas, Kenny King, Jimmy Rave, and Shelton Benjamin would be towards the top of that list, and newcomers like Harry Smith, PAC and Tony Gargano would hopefully be ready too.

I’d put Survival of the Fittest on iPPV in November, and have Steen defend his gold against Roderick Strong. Part of the build for that match would be the increasingly fraught relationship between Elgin and the rest of the House of Truth: ‘Unbreakable’ would want the title for himself but the House’s “chosen one” would be Strong. It would be designed to lead into their the Steen v Elgin clash at Final Battle.

Before I get to Final Battle let me take a step back and detail the star building process and the booking of the tag team division.

The All Night Express would be the lead tag team in Ring of Honor for the foreseeable future. I would have no plans of taking the belts off of them until at least 2013, and would instead focus on giving them a run that allows them to face a variety of opponents and show how good they are as a unit. Title reigns that continue getting the champions over are always the best.

Their feud with the Young Bucks would be scaled back but would be an ongoing theme. I’d want the Bucks to be seen as an ever-present threat to the championship. The same goes for the Briscoes, although I’d wait a while before promoting a match between those units because they only feuded last year (which is recent on the ROH timescale). WGTT would be promoted as being one of the bigger threats too, although there would be no mutual respect between them and ANX because the former WWE boys are dastardly heels.

For ease I’ve listed the regular combos I’d be booking below (yes, another list!):

The All Night Express – Rhett Titus and Kenny King
The Bravado Brothers – Lancelot and Harlem Bravado
The Briscoe Brothers – Mark and Jay Briscoe
The C&C Wrestle Factory – Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander
The Guardians of Truth – Alex Shelley and Jimmy Rave
Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs
The Super Smash Bros. – Player Uno and Player Dos
Team Ambition – Davey Richards and Harry Smith
Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team – Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas
The Young Bucks – Nick and Matt Jackson

I think that gives the tag team divison some nice depth and provides plenty of variety for ANX’s reign. In addition to regular tag bouts they’d be defending in three- and four-way matches on occasion, to keep things varied, and I’d be keen on booking units of established main eventers or rising mid-carders together once in a while to change things up and have some different faces in different positions (which used to happen years ago and was usually highly  enjoyable). As an example I think a live event would be nicely spiced up by having Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong or Johnny Gargano and Sami Callihan being granted a tag title match.

I would allow Team Ambition to rise through the ranks slowly, giving them feuds with teams like the Young Bucks and WGTT to keep them occupied. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t be getting a title match at any point but if they were to challenge for the belts they’d lose due to interference from a team they were feuding with. I would want to save a proper ANX v Team Ambition feud for the end of the year so as to promote a clash between the two teams at Final Battle.

The star building process would, as I’ve mentioned, be something I’d want to concentrate a lot of time and effort on. If ROH is to survive indefinitely new stars need to be created who can keep existing fans satisfied while also attracting new ones.

That’s a large part of the reason I would bring in John Hennigan and MVP. They can help attract new fans while not being a deterrent to existing ones (I’m sure some people would say they would stop watching ROH if either or both of these guys were signed, but not enough to make any impactful difference on the company’s success).

As outlined above Hennigan would be introduced at Regeneration and would be placed immediately into a feud with the House of Truth. Working against an effective heel like Truth Martini should help establish Hennigan as a face and would open him up to immediate matches against Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Michael Elgin and Roderick Strong. Those are all fresh pairings that should satisfy anyone watching.

I would want to gradually build Hennigan up for the aforementioned world title match at Glory By Honor XI in October. If he came in and immediately had a title match he’d be resented by wrestlers and fans alike, but after four months I think he’d have put enough time in to warrant a match without any backlash. His name value would hopefully aid the selling of that show too, especially if he was given a pinfall victory over Steen on TV in the weeks before the event.

From there I’d put him into a rivalry with Eddie Edwards, designed for Hennigan to gradually go heel. It’s possible his match with Steen would see him permanently switched anyway but even if not he’d be a full-on bad guy by the time he clashed with Edwards at Final Battle in December.

MVP (and if I was unable to use that name I’d ask him to use his old Antonio Banks moniker, possibly altered to Antonio Banks Cash) would be introduced on television as the newest member of the Embassy. I used to love the Embassy having members that didn’t really look right together and that would be the case with MVP (or ABC) and Ciampa. I’d consider adding Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge to the stable as well, just to bulk the numbers up a bit.

MVP would be used in a star maker role, feuding with new babyface talent like PAC and Johnny Gargano, as well as existing good guys like TJP and Jay Lethal. He wouldn’t be jobbed out, but his role would be to help other guys get over as mid-card talent. I think Nana and company would help him to stay on the heel side of the fence and not garner unwanted popularity. I’d sporadically book him in tag matches alongside Ciampa and, towards the end of the year, have him challenge for the world title at a live event.

The newcomers wouldn’t all be earmarked for top spots. PAC and Johnny Gargano would be used a mid-card babyfaces alongside TJ Perkins and would be considered for stronger, headline, pushes in the second half of 2013 (or sooner if ROH suffered a sudden talent crisis). Tony Nese would join Mike Bennet and Tommaso Ciampa as mid-card heels, and together this group of men would form the core of ROH’s middle card.

Sami Callihan is one new guy I’d be pushing towards the top immediately. A simple but effective storyline would be employed for him: he would announce his intention to face and beat every top star in Ring of Honor and eventually capture the ROH world championship. From there it would simply be a matter of having him defeat any mid-card wrestler he faces and suffering the occasional loss to main event names, before getting a victory over them in a tag battle or rematch.

I would want Callihan to be considered one of the company’s top names for January 2013, at which point he’d become heavily involved in the world title picture.

I’ve mentioned Final Battle a lot above, so I feel it would probably be a good idea to outline the card I’d book. The show’s date and location have yet to be announced, so I’ll say now that I’d like to broadcast it from Philadelphia on December 29th. It’s been too long since ROH put on a show between Christmas and New Year and I’ve always liked Final Battle falling in that week.

Here’s the card:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Michael Elgin
ROH world tag team championship – The All Night Express defend against Team Ambition
John Hennigan v Eddie Edwards
ROH world TV championship – TJ Perkins defends against Kyle O’Reilly
Adam Cole v Sami Callihan
PAC v Roderick Strong
The C&C Wrestle Factory v The Young Bucks v WGTT v The Bravado Brothers
The Guardians of Truth and Rhino v The Briscoes and Jay Lethal

Some of these matches may be considered filler (the four team match and the six man bout, I’m looking at you) but they’d be built up on TV beforehand and have a reason for happening. The four team match would very possibly be a number one contenders match for a guaranteed shot at whoever holds the gold at the Eleventh Anniversary pay-per-view in February.

PAC v Roderick Strong, O’Reilly v TJP and Cole v Callihan strike me as good matches to book to get those six men onto the show, and it would be easy to create disputes for them in the weeks leading up to the event. By this point all three members of Team Richards would either be displaying signs of a heel turn or would already have made the switch. I think that’s the best thing to do with Davey and his team right now and it could be done gradually over the course of the six months to Final Battle. Hennigan v Edwards, the tag title match and Steen v Elgin would be the three most heavily hyped bouts.

The results of the card would be decided closer to the time but I know some outcomes now. Smith and Richards would fail in their quest to take the gold from ANX and would heelishly attack the champions after the match to keep the feud alive. Their pal Kyle O’Reilly would be more successful as he would end TJ Perkins’ reign as TV champion and head into 2013 with the gold.

Most importantly Kevin Steen would lose the ROH title to Michael Elgin in the main event. That may seem a short reign for Steen (seven months) but I think by the end of the year Elgin will be the company’s hottest star and be ready to become the champion. I’d book him to turn on Truth Martini mid-match so that he becomes champion by himself and heads into 2013 as a strong face main event talent.

Early in 2013 I’d have an in-ring segment on ROH’s TV show in which a host of men come out claiming they deserve a shot at Elgin’s world title. Adam Cole and Eddie Edwards would say they’ve been winning for months and have earned a title match. Roderick Strong would say it was agreed Elgin would hand the title to him. Davey Richards would say he’s not had a title match in over half a year because of a “poor decision” made by Jim Cornette. Sami Callihan would say he’s beaten every top name ROH has to offer and is the future of the promotion. And finally, Kevin Steen would say he’s the former champion (and hopefully ad-lib something about every other man in the ring being boring) and so has a contractually obligated rematch.

After some storyline chit-chat from Cornette three singles matches would be announced for TV: Eddie Edwards v Sami Callihan, Roderick Strong v Adam Cole, and Davey Richards v Kevin Steen. Callihan, Cole and Steen would win those matches and face off in a three-way match to decide who challenges Michael Elgin for the world title at the Eleventh Anniversary Show.

Who would win? What else would be booked for that iPPV in February? It’s fairly ridiculous that I’ve thought even this far ahead without adding to the lunacy by saying who’d challenge ‘Unbreakable’ in February 2013. None of the above is going to happen in reality (or if it does it will be purely coincidental) but wouldn’t it be great if it did?

Hopefully I’ve some readers are a little more enthused about the current Ring of Honor product having read this. The potential for greatness is still there. The company just needs to find its form again.

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