Moments Ago: Race to the Top Bracketology
One of the most exciting times in sports is of course March Madness. Growing up in Syracuse, NY, a perennial college basketball force, I was always caught up filling out my brackets, watching every game on CBS, and cursing SU for choking almost every year, except of course for their glorious 2003 run to the national title. While a tournament of 64 or 65 wrestlers in Ring of Honor spread over the course of a month or two would be all sorts of awesome, next week in Long Island and New Jersey, Ring of Honor presents its small version of tournament glory in the form of the Race to the Top tournament.
The brackets for this tournament are as follows:
BJ Whitmer vs. Pelle Primeau
Davey Richards vs. Jigsaw
Erick Stevens vs. Chris Hero with Sweet and Sour International
Delirious vs. El Generico
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Hallowicked
Matt Sydal vs. Mike Quackenbush
Jack Evans vs. Kevin Steen
Brent Albright vs. Matt Cross
The Bracket A and B winners will face of in the semifinals and likewise the Bracket C and D winners. This week’s Moments Ago will feature my somewhat surprising predictions for the Race to the Top Tournament, and a look at the athletes that will be competing.
Before examining each bracket one by one, it seems to make sense to look at the most likely winners; these are the men that have already experienced main event glory. These athletes are: BJ Whitmer, Davey Richards, Delirious, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Matt Sydal, Jack Evans and Brent Albright. All of these wrestlers have either main evented a show, received a world title shot, or have one in the shows following the Race to the Top tournament.
The tournament is supposed to create a new main event star, and while these wrestlers have had a brush with main event greatness, they would have to be the favorites. Also they have been seeded two per bracket, so one would have to assume that these men are the top seeds in the tournament. While they may be the bigger stars, there is an old saying that goes something like “that’s why they play the game.Ã¢â‚¬Â If it were only about these 8 men then it would be an 8 man tourney and not the 16 person affair that it is. Now we will take a look bracket by bracket and see who will win the Race to the Top.
On the surface, this may seem to be the easiest first round matches to predict. BJ Whitmer has been in RoH since 2003, and is the person with the longest tenure in the company, if he has not reached the top yet, this might be his final chance. His opponent is Pelle Primeau. Young Pelle is arguably the top graduate of the RoH wrestling school, justified by his retention of the Top of the Class Trophy. Pelle has been known to pull off some surprising wins, but the question is: can he score a first round upset in the tournament.
Davey Richards went on a bit of a losing streak before joining up with the No Remorse Corps. They have been one of the most successful groups in the history of RoH coming up far more on the winning side than the losing. Jigsaw has only appeared on two RoH shows. He was impressive in both, but has yet to taste victory in Ring of Honor. The Race to the Top would be the ideal platform to make a name for himself.
Predictions: I want to go out on a limb and predict a Pelle Primeau upset, which would play into the current storyline of a frustrated BJ Whitmer, and Pelle already does have a win over BJ when he pinned Tank Tolland in a four way match that Whitmer was also a part of. Still, I think that we will see a new, angry Whitmer and a decimated Primeau.
Jigsaw will also have to wait a little longer to score his first win. He may come within a hair’s breadth, but this former Chikara Young Lions Cup winner will fall to Davey Richards.
This leaves a semi-final of BJ Whitmer against Davey Richards. One thing for sure is that it promises to be a hard hitting contest. I also think this is where BJ’s frustration will rear its ugly head. Davey will be the overall winner of Black A representing the No Remorse Corps in the semi-finals.
Block A Winner: Davey Richards
While Block A may be the easiest to predict and the least likely to have upsets, Block B may just be the most complex. Erick Stevens has been on a bit of a tear lately, unless he comes up against the NRC. The return of Resilience leader Austin Aries could help provide the guidance that RoH newcomer Stevens needs to excel. Chris Hero has also been one of the most consistently awesome wrestlers on the RoH roster despite not netting a lot of victories. He has Sweet and Sour International backing him up and arguably the largest posse to regularly accompany a wrestler to the ring in RoH history, save Special K, of course.
Delirious is the most unorthodox wrestler on the RoH roster, and by extension one of the most entertaining. He has probably had the most main event success of anyone in the tournament with wins over Bryan Danielson and Roderick Strong and a victory in last year’s Survival of the Fittest. El Generico has been embroiled in possibly the best tag feud in the history of Ring of Honor, and could very possibly be a tag team champion before 2007 is out. He is certainly a wild card in this tourney.
Predictions: I may be taking the easy way out and basing my predictions on the side of RoH experience, but so what; they are my predictions. Chris Hero’s speed and technical prowess will outshine Stevens. I actually think of all of the first round matches this one has the least chance of being an upset. Hero will make a big dent in this tournament.
In the battle of masked wrestlers the man in green will come out victorious. El Generico is a great competitor and PWG champion, but that and 41 cents will buy you a postage stamp. Not to slight PWG, but Ring of Honor, like most other indy promotions, is reticent to acknowledge a champion in a different company. Generico may become a top singles wrestler in RoH, but for now he will have to settle for a first round loss to Delirious.
This will be a rematch from a gauntlet series held almost a month ago in Dayton, OH. Delirious and Chris Hero were the last two men in the match. That time Hero was victorious. Honestly, I think he will score a victory again. I also think that Sweet and Sour International will make their presence known leading to the victory for their focal point, Chris Hero. Delirious doesn’t need a tournament win to be considered a top contender, and I think that a loss to Hero, especially a tainted one, could lead to a feud for the two wrestlers. Granted Hero already has Claudio to deal with, but Ring of Honor is known for having wrestlers involved in multiple storylines.
Block B Winner: Chris Hero
Block C has one relatively easy match to call and one that is a complete toss-up. Claudio Castagnoli is gearing up for a title shot in the near future. He has also become reinvigorated since being accepted once again by the RoH faithful. He is certainly one of the favorites in the tournament. Hallowicked is just getting his start in the tournament. The former Chikara Young Lions Cup winner has won titles in many other companies. He may one day prove worthy of wearing gold in Ring of Honor, but is still trying to make his mark.
Matt Sydal has recently cemented his heel turn in Ring of Honor joining with Larry Sweeney and “Sweet and Sour International.Ã¢â‚¬Â He won gold in Japan and is a former tag team champion, he has always been just outside the main event scene in RoH and a tournament win could cement him where he feels he belongs. Mike Quackenbush, until two months ago, had the distinction of being the best wrestler to never compete in RoH. Now he is here, and ready to make a name for himself as soon as possible.
Predictions: Hallowicked will most likely share the same fate as his fellow Chikara Wrestle Factory alum Jigsaw and lose in the first round. Claudio, a frequent competitor for Chikara, is no stranger to Ã¢â‚¬ËœWicked and the match should be stellar. Claudio will get the win and move on to the quarter finals.
This is perhaps the most interesting match of the first round. Sydal and Quack are two of the top high flyers in wrestling today. More interesting though than this match are the possibilities presented for a second round match against Claudio. Sydal and Claudio are in the beginning stages of a feud, and Quack and Claudio have had show stealing performances all over the country. I have not picked a first round upset yet, and I am doing it here. Still this is not a very big upset since in most feds Sydal would be the underdog to Quack.
That gives us a semi-final of Claudio Castagnoli vs. “LightingÃ¢â‚¬Â Mike Quackenbush. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that this will be the best match in the entire tournament. Especially if these guys get time to put on a real show. Honestly, they could only have five minutes and steal almost any show anywhere. I am going to continue my upset prediction and saying that Quack will score a second victory and advance to the semis.
Block C Winner: Mike Quackenbush
I may have early stated that Block B was the most difficult to predict, but I may have spoken too soon. It is also similar to Block C in that one match is relatively easy to predict and one match is pretty much a toss up. Jack Evans is making his triumphant return to RoH after another prolonged tour in Dragon Gate. I hope that he will be back for the long haul. He is taking on Kevin Steen who has been a dominant force in the tag team division and has netted a couple of singles wins to boot. Steen, like his partner El Generico, has a bright future as a singles wrestler, but his time may not be just yet.
Brent Albright has been steamrolling through Ring of Honor for the most part. He has wins over Homicide and many other top stars. He will be the selling point to many casual fans that are used to the giants of WWE. He is facing Matt Cross who has not impressed a ton in singles outings, but has put on some good shows as a member of the Resilience.
Predictions: Evans versus Steen is almost a complete toss-up. Evans, upon his return, seems unlikely to lose to current tag team wrestler like Steen. However, Steen shines against smaller competition and could easily overpower Evans and score what is essentially an upset. Still I think that Evans will out-quick Steen and advance to the quarterfinals in New Jersey.
Brent Albright is not losing to Matt Cross. It is as simple as that. Smart money is on Albright to take home the whole shebang. I think they should play up his heelish tendencies since in the second round against Evans he will not be cheered.
Evans versus Albright poses a very interesting notion. It could be the ultimate big man/little man dynamic. I am going to say that Evans upsets Albright for two reasons. One: I think that Evans will have a bit of a winning streak upon his return. He did lose his first match back in Japan, but he won the second, and I think will continue on his winning ways. Two: He will most likely get a shot at Takeshi Morishima at some point. He needs to be believable against bigger opponents. A win against someone like Albright will prove that Evans has a shot against a behemoth like Morishima. Evans advances to the semis.
Block D Winner: Jack Evans
If my predictions go as I predict them the semi-finals will look something like this:
Block A Winner: Davey Richards vs. Block B Winner: Chris Hero
Block C Winner: Mike Quackenbush vs. Block D Winner: Jack Evans
It is unfortunate that I picked a heel vs. heel match and a face vs. face match for my two semi-final predictions, as that is fairly unlikely. Ring of Honor is known for defying conventions and re-inventing them. Wrestling tournaments often work as a tool to advance storylines so feuding wrestlers almost always come across each other if the brackets could play out that way. I am not predicting what would be the best matches, I am predicting who I would like to see win. So on with more of my predictions
Davey Richards and Chris Hero would preferably enter the ring with their respective entourages at their side. I think that this match could be an excellent display of the two factions trying to “out-heelÃ¢â‚¬Â each other. It would be great to see Larry Sweeny try to trip up Davey at the same time Roderick Strong chops the bejeezus out of Hero. The match would be awesome as both play similar smarmy heel characters with completely different move sets. A match like this could only happen in a tournament in the RoH universe which is why I would like to see it. I also think that Chris Hero would score the victory and advance to the finals.
The other semi-final would pit two of the best high flying wrestlers in the world head to head. Jack is treated as nothing short of a hero in RoH, and Quack has won over the few fans left that didn’t worship him before his RoH debut. Evans is well versed in lucha libre through his many tours of Japan with the Dragon Gate promotion, and Quack is the foremost trainer of lucha in the United States today. I am going to predict Quack as the winner of this one. He will use his experience to counter the youthful exuberance of Evans. While I doubt Quack will play second fiddle to anyone, he could prove to be an ally for Evans in his war against the No Remorse Corps, but that is getting into more fantasy booking than I usually do. I will just stick to Mike Quackenbush as the second finalist.
Race to the Top Finals
Chris Hero vs. Mike Quackenbush
Both men will have wrestled three matches over the course of two days, they will be tired. This will also be their third match that night. It makes sense to put two men in the ring that are extremely familiar with one another. They are both head trainers at the Chikara Wrestle Factory in a different universe. The match will be awesome and could be another match of the year candidate from Ring of Honor. Hero will have used chicanery and skullduggery to work his way through the first three rounds of the tournament, but I think that his dirty tricks will run out and the new main eventer in Ring of Honor will be “LightningÃ¢â‚¬Â Mike Quackenbush.
I think the fact that the tournament is billed as crowning a “NEWÃ¢â‚¬Â main event star for Ring of Honor means that it will be someone who has not really touched the main event scene in Ring of Honor. Mike Quackenbush is, from where I sit, the person who best fits that bill of the sixteen men in the Race to the Top Tournament.
Race to the Top Winner: Mike Quackenbush
Before I go, I will close with
Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Links
In perhaps his best and most well thought out column in some time Pulse Glazer takes the criticisms of some of the other Pulse writers to task.
To see the results from Ring of Honor’s trip to Japan go here for Tokyo and here for Osaka
Also the Top Wrestlers feature is moving along quite nicely.
Well that will do it for this week. E-mail me with your predictions for the tournament and I will post them next week.
I’ll see you next time
Tags: Previews, ROH