Talk Soup: Ring of Honor Edition

Hello all. I’d like to once again apologize for my extended absence. I know you don’t care why I was gone, so I won’t bother telling you. Well, okay, I’ll tell you one of the reasons. It can be hard for us IWC writers to spend several hours writing our columns, only to receive little to no feedback from you readers. I’m not saying you should write to all of us, all the time. But, every now and again, let your favourite writers know that you’re reading, that you like X feature, that you dislike Y feature, etc. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I love getting feedback, positive or negative, and I personally respond to every e-mail I receive. Anyway, I’ll stop yammering and get to the rasslin’.

Ring of Honor

As part of my revamp of my column, I’m going to be spending a lot of time talking about Ring of Honor. One of the biggest reasons for that is that no one else around here seems to be doing that, short of the occasional news update. Another reason is, ROH just recently started coming to Buffalo, NY (where I live), so I can finally see their shows. I don’t make a whole lot of money, and my excess usually goes toward buying comics, so it’s not cost-effective for me to buy gobs of ROH DVDs to catch up. That said, I obviously don’t know a whole lot about ROH history, save what I’ve read online, and what I’ve watched on the 3 DVDs that I do own: the first Round Robin Challenge, the Best of Bryan Danielson, and vol. 2 of the Best of Samoa Joe (they were out of vol. 1). So, my ROH feature in this column will consist mainly of two parts: I will go over a bit of ROH history, learning as I go; I will talk about what I’ve seen recently, and what I think of it.

To start off with, here is the report I posted on the recent ROH Buffalo show I attended. Some thoughts, in bullet form:

  • It was really cool to see Samoa Joe live, even though he lost. The guy has presence.
  • Nigel McGuinness is still a bit green, but he has a great look. That probably explains why he’s been working dark matches, and Velocity I believe, for WWE.
  • All of the “huss” business with Jimmy Jacobs is quite a lot of fun. “Huss ’em up, Jimmy” indeed.
  • I was impressed with both of the Dragon Gate guys. Shingo Takagi is still new to the game, but if he keeps having excellent matches with vets like Chris Daniels, he’ll no doubt do well for himself. He, too, has a great look, and does a fun little bit of posing with his entrance music. CIMA was as excellent as I’ve heard, and I hope you have a chance to see him as well. They were both very personable after the show, though I’m sure they had no idea what any of us were saying.
  • Seeing Chris Daniels wrestle as Curry Man felt really special, as he’s only used that gimmick one other time in the United States (I believe). I got to see just how charismatic Daniels really is, because Curry Man is like night and day compared with the Fallen Angel.
  • The last time I saw AJ Styles live was 5 years ago. It was at an amusement park, with a dinky little fed called the Christian Wrestling Federation. Yes, that’s right. Vince Russo’s fed was not the first of its kind. Anyway, AJ had an amazing match with a guy called Apocalypse that day, and afterwards, chatted us up for a while. He was a really nice guy, and somewhere, I have a picture of AJ and me…I knew him when! Well, 5 years later, and AJ still tears the house down every time out, and it’s rare when he’s not involved in the match of the night. The only difference between now and then is that now he is the King of the Independents, and has been NWA World Champion. Amazing what a few years will do, no?
  • Having heard all of hype about Austin Aries, I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. Roderick Strong was cool too. I’d like to see them both in singles matches too, before I can make a proper assessment. I guess I should have ordered the TNA PPV, eh?
  • Colt Cabana was every bit as entertaining as I’ve heard, both in his antics and in his wrestling. I expect to see big things for him.
  • It was quite cool to see James Gibson wrestling unfettered by WWE Style. When he’s allowed to, that boy can go.

The next ROH Buffalo show in October looks quite promising as well, and I already have my ticket for that. Biggest highlights for me? Bryan Danielson and Low-Ki will both be there, and they are two of my absolute favourites. If I could meet the two of them, I think I could probably die happy. Or that could be a bit of hyperbole.

For a bit of history, I thought I’d take a look at ROH’s World Title lineage, and what I think of the current title situation.

The first ROH World Champion was Low-Ki. He won the title in a four-way match with Spanky, Daniels, and Doug Williams. He had one successful title defense, against AJ Styles, before dropping the title. I think Low-Ki was a good choice for the first ROH champion. He was arguably involved in the best match at each of the previous shows, so this was a fitting nod to his contributions and achievements.

Low-Ki dropped the title to Xavier, who was ROH’s pet project (a la Rocky Maivia in WWF, and Sonny Siaki in TNA). Xavier had four successful title defenses before dropping the title. Now, this is just pure speculation on my part, but I think Xavier’s reign was cut short by two factors: first, though Xavier is quite obviously talented, he wasn’t quite ready for this kind of push; second, another man was becoming very over with the fans.

That man was Samoa Joe, who unseated Xavier for the title. Joe had won accolades for his hard-hitting matches, and he was determined to bring prestige to the World Title. He did just that; by defending the belt successfully, both in the US and overseas, 29 times in almost 2 years (unheard of in this day and age), Samoa Joe got people to stand up and notice ROH. Not only that, but he gave the rub whoever faced him, making a contender out of the most unlikely suspects. For example, Jay Briscoe was a tag specialist, which is great, but if you’re trying to launch a singles career, it can be quite the hindrance. Well, Briscoe took Joe to the limit in an absolutely brutal cage match. Even though Joe still left with the title, Jay Briscoe had won over the fans with his performance against the champ.

Perhaps the man who received the biggest rub for Samoa Joe, however, is the man who finally ended Joe’s incredible title reign. That man is Austin Aries. I still remember when that happened, because even though I only followed ROH through the IWC reports, it was still a big deal because Joe’s reign was so impressive. Even though I didn’t know who Aries was, I thought that he must be impressive if he was the one picked to succeed where everyone else had failed. If that’s not getting the rub, I don’t know what is. Aries went on to have a pretty impressive title reign as well, with 16 successful title defenses over a six-month period (with his last successful defense over Spanky in Buffalo!).

The man to defeat Aries for the title did so controversially. It wasn’t so much how CM Punk won the title that was controversial, just that he did. You see, he had just signed with the WWE. Some fans were outraged that man on the way out would be given the ROH Title, but I agree with the decision. Arguably, no man has done more for ROH than CM Punk. Whether it was his amazing matches, amazing promos, colour commentary, training the next generation…CM Punk was ROH all the way, and I think it was a fitting tribute to the man to give him the highest praise a company can give…the World Title. Punk defended the title successfully four times before being defeated, in yet another controversial decision.

The man to defeat CM Punk was none other than James Gibson, the man formerly known as Jamie Noble, and he did it just one month ago today. I don’t know for sure how many times he has defended it so far, but I know he defended successfully against Colt Cabana in Buffalo. The reason why his win was controversial was the same as the reason for CM Punk’s…Gibson had also just signed with the WWE. That brings me to my thoughts on the current World Title situation. I think that putting the World Title on these guys (the WWE-bound) is a good decision. For one thing, it gets people talking, and as a lot of people will tell you, any publicity is good publicity. I also think it’s ROH’s way of saying, “We believe in you. Even if you get stuck on Velocity, we know what you can really do, and we appreciate it.” Now, Gibson has an upcoming defense in a three-way with Spanky and Homicide. Most people agree that Gibson will drop the title, but nobody can agree on who he will drop it to. Spanky and Homicide have both been at ROH pretty much since the beginning, though Spanky did have a quick run in the WWE. Both are considered to be one of ROH’s biggest stars, and both have contributed greatly to the success of the company. Will Spanky get the title, continuing the streak of WWE-bound wrestlers winning the big one? Or will it be Homicide, a man involved in some of ROH’s best matches, yet never winning a title? Honestly, it could go either way, but if you want my prediction, I’ll say Homicide.

Here’s a question for all of you out there: Do you think that WWE has a working relationship with ROH, in the same vein as the one they had with ECW? Would that explain the WWE-bound guys winning the World Title? Or Al Snow mentioning Nigel McGuinness winning the Pure Title during a match in OVW? Or Matt Hardy shouting out support for ROH on WWE tv (albeit in a marble-mouthed fashion)? Shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you think.

The Adventure of Links

The first link has to go to part one of the much-awaited Top 50 US Based Wrestlers from Ross Williams and Iain Burnside, two of the best this site has. Excellent stuff, as always.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gordi has one of the best columns on the net, and he makes me proud to be a wrestling fan. So there.

Bufton writes a great column about the state of women’s wrestling. I hear LuFisto and Chamera are excellent, and I went to college with Beth Phoenix in OVW, who has a real passion for the business. The talent is most definitely out there, but is the interest?

Ditch went to Japan, and gives an excellent report of his time there, including pictures! Oddly enough, he was also at the same ROH Buffalo show I was at.

I’ll wrap up by pimping myself, as I review Astonishing X-Men. Look for my review of Outsiders later today.

Let me know what you thought via e-mail or IM, and I’ll see you here in two weeks, hopefully in my designated Friday slot.

AIM = GoldenAce 007

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