Sunday 13 January 2013

Unbreakable Spirit

On the second night of last year’s Showdown in the Sun two parter Michael Elgin had the match of the year, and the best of his career so far, against Davey Richards. It was a predictably stiff encounter that most people had expected to be good, but not as good as it turned out. It surprised a lot of people and made ‘Unbreakable’ stand out from his peers on the ROH undercard.

The match created that rare feeling that there could be an unexpected title change. It’s something Ring of Honor had done before, most notably when Austin Aries defeated Samoa Joe at Final Battle 2004. Switching the world championship onto a competent worker with little to no build-up can make a new name in one night and refresh the promotion’s main event.

That ROH was in desperate need of new bankable stars (and still is) was one of the reasons that fans in Fort Lauderdale were so responsive to the match. Elgin and Richards convinced them to suspend their disbelief, sucked them into the match with a good story and compelling performances, and allowed them to believe they were going to witness a rare title change.

Elgin didn’t win the belt that night because of one man: Kevin Steen.

‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ had been selected to relieve Richards of the title one month later at Border Wars. Steen’s status as the most popular man in the company and the fact that he seemed to be the only person who had a storyline of any sort going on had seen fans rally behind him and demand he be given a shot at the world title by reluctant Exec Producer (or whatever his job title was) Jim Cornette.

Had the plan not been to switch the title onto Steen and push him as the biggest star in the promotion I’m sure Elgin would have dethroned Richards in a Showdown in the Sun rematch over the summer. ‘The American Wolf’s’ title reign had been mishandled and he was running out of steam. Steen was the natural choice to replace him. Had he not been an option the SITS match showed that Elgin was up to the task of carrying the company.
Is there a belt in this guy's future?
Unfortunately I think failing to win the championship after that sterling performance has done Elgin a lot of harm. Having proven that he could work a thrilling and believable encounter in the notoriously tough ROH headline position it seemed like it was only a matter of time until he became champ. The longer Elgin goes without winning the title the more it seems as though his outing against Richards was just a fluke. Or that ROH aren’t interested in getting behind him. Either way fans will lose faith and interest.

The remainder of Elgin’s 2012 was spent in enjoyable but ultimately meaningless iPPV and TV outings. Things perked up for him at the end of the year as his feud with Roderick Strong finally begun to hint at an actual match.

But in a way even that long-running programme being paid off harmed Elgin. Although the Elgin v Steen title match that closed Glory By Honor XI was an excellent contest it was overshadowed in places by Strong’s antics at ringside. It wasn’t as easy to accept Elgin as a man who was on the cusp of taking the belt from Steen because the match was so clearly being used to set up the battle between the House of Truth stablemates we saw a month later at Final Battle.

At the moment Jay Lethal is established as the main threat to ‘Mr Wrestling’s’ ROH world championship. Elgin is not a serious part of the title picture. A victory by Lethal could help ‘Unbreakable’ at this point. I can’t imagine Lethal being granted a long reign as the world champion. I think he’d lose the belt relatively quickly. Elgin being booked in a short feud that sees him chase Lethal for a few months and then decisively defeat him when he finally gets the title match he wants could sufficiently reheat him for a lengthy stay at the top.

That’s not guaranteed to happen though. If it doesn’t then ROH may have blown one of their best chances in years to create a new home-grown talent. I hope that doesn’t happen. Elgin is exactly the sort of man ROH needs to be putting on top if they are to have any sort of worthwhile future. They can’t keep guys in reserve forever.

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