So, who on the roster could defeat ‘Mr Wrestling’ for the gold?
One name that immediately springs to mind is Kyle O’Reilly. He may not be the likeliest person to achieve the feat but he’s certainly in with a chance. O’Reilly is one of the few men who could accurately be described as an ROH star of the future, which immediately makes him a potential shock winner. Perhaps a better reason for thinking he could win the title is that Richards, the man Steen beat for the belt, is O’Reilly’s on- and off-screen mentor. The younger man winning the belt could be a catalyst for a Richards v O’Reilly rivalry which would work very well as a title feud.
Steen’s ex-tag partner and now bitter rival El Generico has to be considered a possibility too. ‘The Generic Luchador’ has fallen far down the pecking order since the heights of his sizzling 2010 feud with Steen but his nemesis having the belt would be a natural way to restart his push. Generico would be perhaps the most gimmicky ROH champion ever but I think he has the talent to work well in the role.
Considering how popular Steen is there’s also the intriguing option for ROH’s booking team to turn the masked man heel and have Steen continue in his anti-hero role. The dynamic there would be different from anything else in wrestling right now and would freshen up not only Generico’s character but the two year feud between the former Steenerico teammates.
Who will take the ROH world title from this man?
Previous champion Davey Richards could potentially win the belt back. ROH has only ever booked a multiple time champion once before but Richards seems so popular with Jim Cornette (a man involved in the booking process of the company) that I could easily see him regaining the gold at some point. Will that be at Best in the World in a few weeks, which will apparently be his only title shot during Steen’s reign? I’d be surprised if that were the case. It’s taken ROH years to match up a popular wrestler with a title reign, to take the gold off of Steen after less than two months would be utterly pointless.
I could see Richards earning another title shot in several months though, and possibly regaining the belt back then. His first reign was anti-climactic (so much so that I wrote about it at length here) so if he does become a two time champion let’s hope he gets a wider variety of opponents this time.
Adam Cole has a slight chance of taking the belt, based on his pinfall victory over Davey Richards at the Tenth Anniversary Show. At the time it seemed as though there were big plans in store for Cole. While he’s not risen through the ranks as that win seemed to indicate he would it’s clear ROH management feels positively about him.
As ever there’s the chance the Steen will have the championship for so long that someone currently fairly low down on the roster will be his successor. Jay Lethal, Kenny King and Mike Bennett could all rise to the top of the card if given the right chances to shine and could be ready for a surprise run as ROH world champion by the end of the year. It’s not likely that will happen but any of them could make help improve Ring of Honor’s barren main event scene with a shock win. Kenny King in particular would make a tremendous addition to ROH’s top tier.
Personally I’m of the opinion that the man to beat Steen will be Michael Elgin. He’s an incredible strong style performer and is a beast of a man compared to some of the other men on the roster. His unsuccessful outing against Davey Richards at Showdown in the Sun Night Two was not only an incredible display but arguably the best title match of ‘The American Wolf’s’ reign.
Elgin’s popularity has grown considerably since he was able to show how good he is against Richards, and he continues to impress when given the chance to wrestle ROH contracted performers (as opposed to random, squashable jobbers). With his look and ring style, and taking into consideration his burgeoning popularity, ‘Unbreakable’ is the perfect man to build up as Steen’s replacement. A feud with former world champion Roderick Strong would be a natural programme for him which could potentially produce some classic matches, and the inevitable beating he would give Truth Martini should ensure he gets over as a babyface early on.
It’s important to remember that sooner or later somebody will take the title away from Steen. When that happens try to remember what you’ve read here. I’m confident one of the guys mentioned will be the new champion.