Wednesday 10 September 2014

Beating Briscoe... Again

It doesn't seem like that long ago I sat down to write about who could defeat Michael Elgin for the ROH world championship. That's because it wasn't. It was two and a half months ago. I continued my fine tradition of getting things wrong when predicting future ROH world champs, perhaps more so than ever before. My feeling was that 'Unbreakable' would be one of the longest reigning champions in some time and hold the title for well over a year.

He held it for 76 days. That makes his reign the sixth shortest ever. Although he did manage to tally a surprisingly high seven defences.

Even if I hadn’t expected Elgin to enjoy a really long reign I think I’d still be surprised at him losing the title as quickly as he did. As has been pointed out on this blog many times Elgin had been viewed as a future leading man for Ring of Honor since his impressive losing effort opposite world champ Davey Richards in March 2012. Although they’d held off on his inevitable championship victory for longer than they should have it still felt that Elgin’s win at Best in the World was the beginning of something that would last a long time.

But it wasn’t. Elgin was the top dog for less than three months and now it’s Jay Briscoe who holds the gold, only the second multi-time champion in Ring of Honor history.

I was pretty strongly against Briscoe’s first ROH world title reign. I felt putting the title on someone who was so strongly associated with tag team work detracted from the title’s importance. That he beat Kevin Steen didn’t help much. Nor did the fact that I wasn’t particularly interested in his character.

Jay Briscoe: only the second two time ROH world champion in history.
I feel more positive about his second reign. Part of that, strangely enough, is because he’s held the title before. After twelve years it feels about time for multiple time ROH champions to become a little more commonplace. It could also help to establish Briscoe in the role ROH clearly needs someone in: the loyal company guy who’s a threat to any world champion. He’s a good choice for that because he’s been with ROH for so long and because, after his homophobic outbursts last year, WWE isn’t interested in hiring him. He’s not going to leave ROH high and dry, he’s accepted as a headliner by fans, and he’s a very good brawling headliner. He’s the only logical choice for the role.

The Briscoe character has altered a little since he last held the title. His two year winning streak was being heavily emphasised and it contributed considerably to his aura as a headliner. He also channelled Ric Flair in a video package at All Star Extravaganza VI. I particularly liked that as he’s different to ‘The Nature Boy’ in almost every possible way. Flair as a well-spoken technical wrestler who enjoyed partying into the early hours. Jay Briscoe’s a brawler who shouts about beating people up and works on a farm when he’s not wrestling.

But inviting this comparison between Briscoe and Flair is interesting. Although they’re very different it’s possible for ROH to pattern their new champ as a modern day interpretation of 1980s Flair. At his core Flair was a hyper-efficient wrestler who won a lot, held lots of titles, and wrestled lengthy matches. Presenting Briscoe as that sort f character, as a heel or a face, would be fascinating to watch.

My initial reaction to hearing that Briscoe had won the title from Elgin was that he would lose it back to him. Maybe not immediately but at some point in the next several months. Due to the nature of ROH world title reigns there’s never been a feud which has seen the title traded back and forth. That’s not something that’s done much at all in wrestling these days and it’s the sort of story that could be told very well in a more realistic, real sports-based environment such as Ring of Honor, two men so well matched that they trade the championship back and forth.

But the rumours that ROH bosses are upset with Elgin makes me doubt this will happen now. Various reasons for these issues have been cited, from Elgin suffering from visa problems that will stop him working in the States for the foreseeable future to Elgin having developed an ego to an interview in which Elgin expressed a desire to try out for a baseball career. Whatever the reason is it seems easy enough to believe there’s some sort of problem: it had taken ROH more than two years to getting the belt onto Elgin and I can’t believe that the culmination of that journey was intended to be a reign lasting less than three months.

Elgin and Briscoe will have a rematch though. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a heel turn from one of them leading beforehand. Elgers would have to be the favourite for that. He’s the man who was heralded as a sure-fire headliner, it would be natural for the loss of the belt to lead to him becoming increasingly bitter and antagonistic. It would give him something new to do too. He’s never really been a heel in ROH. Even with the House of Truth he was cheered more often than he was booed.

There aren’t that many other names that leap out at me as potential Briscoe-beaters. With multi-time champions now apparently a thing Roderick Strong and Adam Cole are probably worth mentioning. Strong hasn’t held the world title since 2011. He’s about the only other person that could realistically be built up as ROH’s top perennial contender (I think Jay beats him for the role based on the fact that he debuted in the company first and because WWE might have a slight interest in Strong in the future). I’m sure a good story could be spun out of the legacies of the pair in the company.

Cole only lost the championship in June but it would be interesting to see him regain the strap quickly, after it’s changed hands from the man that beat him. Again it would be a more realism-based sequence that would suit ROH well. On a more fundamental level Cole’s a great wrestler and one of the better talkers in the company. He’d be a solid choice for champion, especially if ROH made the smart decision to start elevating new challengers.

Cole’s Kingdom teammate Michael Bennett could be a good choice to defeat Briscoe too. I’ve mentioned his name on many of these Beating the ROH Champion entries, so by this point I have standard reasons. He wrestles a distinctly WWE style; he’s unlikeable for his style, for dating Maria, and for his natural smugness; he’s a decent promo; and there are various storylines that could only be done with the sort of heel he plays. It would be a genuinely unpopular move that wouldn’t tarnish the prestige or legacy of the title.

The final name I’ll mention is AJ Styles. His work with New Japan, which is about as full time as it gets with that promotion, makes him winning the ROH championship unlikely. Simply put ROH wouldn’t always be able to rely on having their champion available to them. That works fine for WWE when they have Brock Lesnar as their champion but it’s not something Ring of Honor could get away with. They don’t have the brand name or stars that WWE does. They need the champion on as many shows as possible to draw in fans, even if they’re not involved in a title defence.

That said a short reign for ‘The Phenomenal One’ could work, and it wouldn’t be too hard to sort out a stretch of shows a few months in advance to make the most of him during his reign. From Final Battle to the Anniversary Show, for example. There’s a natural story to tell for Styles and Briscoe too: they were both in ROH at the beginning and AJ was, in the early years, seen as a guy who’d lead ROH forward, but he left for TNA while Briscoe remained loyal.

I’ve named a few options here and I’m going to go with the final one: AJ Styles defeating Jay Briscoe. Adding Styles’s name to the list of ROH champions seems like a natural thing for ROH to want to do and Styles deserves a reign, even if it does turn out to be a brief one, for his place in the promotion’s history and his current standing in the wrestling business at large. I think the loyalty plot could be an interesting one and could provide the pair with a solid foundation for some promos.

But my history with these predictions is horrendous. Which means Styles is probably the least likely person to beat Briscoe.

No comments:

Post a Comment