This week we have an absolute ton of Ring of Honor notes and thoughts, but more importantly, I have a serious, public request of Ring of Honor head booker Gabe Sapolsky.
News of Honor
Claudio Castagnoli wins the Race to the Top
Ring of Honor is set to debut in California
For more information Click here.
New Mystery Angle, Project 161 is taking off
The website for Project 161 speculation has been taken down. Project 161 started as fliers left around at the weekend shows with cryptic messages and a website attached. The website had further cryptic messages about ROH and something called the No Honor Society. Speculation is rampant about all that this could possibly mean, with references to the second city, several other stables and more. I do some speculation of my own below.
ROH has a new Video Wire up
Ollie does an awesome job of covering it right here. It’s among the best video wires ever, so check it out.
Homicide will work for CZW
CZW, a company that once was as big as ROH, nearly fell apart recently. A big name like Homicide will be a huge help to their business. In kayfabe, he was the CZW killer during the ROH vs. CZW feud and a lot can be done with him that will draw interest from the fans.
Test signed with TNA
How do they even pretend to have time for all these guys? Can we get a few cuts of guys like Bentley and Kazarian so that they can actually be used?
NFL Star Adam “PacmanÃ¢â‚¬Â Jones signed with TNA
Well, at least he’ll draw media attention. Negative attention, sure, but any publicity
This Week on Inside Pulse
Big Andy Mac discusses whether or not the Race to the Top should become an annual event. His logic is good, but he misses one big change that would make it work even better. More below.
Brashear hits an angle I loved (finally!). The Dudleyz departure from ECW was done perfectly and when “You gotta keep Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem separatedÃ¢â‚¬Â hit, every ECW fan marked hard.
Wheeler is goddamn right about the Simpsons movie. Write about them every week Andy! And he’s right about secondary titles. I hate the concept of moving up from the X-Division. So much for it being equal.
Ollie Sutherland continues his great work on the Milestone Series ROH DVDs. Make sure you check them out. This week: Best in the World. Expect even more DVD reviews coming soon as Inside Pulse will be the place to go to get full coverage of different ROH Eras.
A Modest Response: Ring of Honor Notes
There’s so much to write about from ROH this week that I won’t be just picking one topic like usual, but devoting a paragraph or two to each topic from around the company.
First comes the news that ROH is running California for the first time. I love the way they are going about this. They are running during Wrestlefanfest in a giant arena that will already be packed with fans who are there for big names like Austin, Piper, and Goldberg. Well, while at the fest, I’m sure many people who wouldn’t otherwise have an interest in ROH will check it out. Rather than starting from scratch in a new area, in this way ROH manages to start with a larger than usual audience of fans in a market that’s notoriously hard to break into. Running California successfully would really open up the rest of the country to touring.
Claudio Castagnoli’s win in the Race to the Top establishes him as a main eventer and his speech post win plus running the video wire show that ROH is committed to giving him more mic time to develop a comfort level in English. That, almost as much as the big win and great match with Generico, show that they are serious about his push.
Can Claudio beat Morishima? Before this weekend, the smart money was on Albright, but that’s changed. Albright, losing cleanly to Jack Evans, would need something huge to happen August 10th to give him anywhere near the momentum needed to come out ahead August 11th. Claudio has a ton of momentum and would be an immediate star beating Morishima. What’s more is that after this weekend, talking to ROH fans, they’d actually buy it as credible. Now that’s a well booked tournament. That said, he has too much still to do with Hero and Sweet and Sour, Inc to win the title yet. After that feud runs its course I can see him taking the title from Danielson or Nigel.
Should the Race to the Top continue? It was huge for Generico and Claudio, but can ROH build a new star every year with a contracted roster? With storylines creating their own stars and Survival of the Fittest having a similar role, why bother with the Race to the Top? Andy Mac outlines several reasons, but here’s one he misses. If ROH opened the Race to the Top to half non-ROH talent, the tournament can take on a Do or Die type feel and make new stars out of new faces for more effectively than anything else ROH currently employs. It’s almost insulting for a guy like Quack to start at the bottom of the card, just like it would be for, say, Super Dragon. A good Race to the Top showing would give a storyline reason for a push and a roster spot for these guys in a format that the fans care for, while giving new talent that isn’t going to be brought back national exposure. Bring back Race to the Top and open it to the other top wrestlers on the indies!
The race to the top was also huge for El Generico, obviously, being a star-making performance. The dueling “HeyÃ¢â‚¬Â and “Ole!Ã¢â‚¬Â chants were a blast and could easily get over huge all over the place. If Claudio wins the belt, this rematch needs to happen for the belt. If Generico has a tag title win, Claudio should choose a partner and challenge. Either way, this needs to happen on Pay Per View. It’s too much fun not to showcase.
The match itself between Generico and Claudio was obviously great (read the review above). There were an absolute ton of near falls in it though. This is nearly overkill and the Alpamare Water Slide is now dead as a finisher, since a top rope version was kicked out of. That’s a mighty nasty move to turn into a trademark. That, Davey’s DR Driver, Nigel’s Tower of London, and a few others are being devalued way too much and that really needs to stop. The Tower as a near fall I can live with since it leaves the opponent close to the ropes, but the other two are sheer head drops. Let them finish, save them for special occasions, or drop them from the movesets. At least finishers aren’t being kicked out of often, so they still maintain their value.
There are two ways to run with Generico after the Briscoes feud is over. Either Generico will be half of the tag champions and heavily pushed, or he and Steen will break up and have a huge feud. I’m personally rooting for a short Steenerico reign followed by a big feud between the two. They could both tear the house down and elevate each other a lot. Generico in singles would cause one problem though.
Is there room for Generico and Delirious as serious singles wrestlers? Both are kind of gimmicky and very good wrestlers, but both occupy basically the same spot. Delirious is, live, a whole let less over since he’s gone mostly serious. If this spot isn’t working, then Generico has proven more than capable of filling it. Let Delirious go back to the midcard and a bit of the silliness. Yes, he’s a very good wrestler, but he is, at this point, far more accepted and loved by the audience playing up the character than being a mostly straight wrestler. Let him go back to insanity and rebuild his fanbase.
Depushes for three upper card wrestlers at once is a bit much, but ROH seems to be running with it. BJ Whitmer, Nigel McGuinness, and Delirious are all being made to look badly right now. They were all major title contenders not long ago and depushing all three simultaneously seems a strange decision, particularly after Jimmy Rave was similarly depushed recently. Something had to be done with BJ, since after the Jacobs feud everyone seemed to forget about him, and Delirious is quickly losing overness, but why Nigel?
Nigel’s in ring work has changed to almost entirely lariat and European uppercut based offense. That’s fine in a way, but when his finisher is a lariat, that really becomes overkill. I tried to defend it for awhile, but with the Jawbreaker Lariat failing to defeat Morishima twice, Nigel really needs a new finisher if he is going to continue down this path.
All of this could be leading to Project 161. If you didn’t click the link above Project 161 is a bunch of cryptic fliers and message board posts and conspiracy theories about the End of Honor. The name No Honor Society has been used a lot, so people are thinking this is about a stable and speculation is the “second cityÃ¢â‚¬Â mentioned is Chicago and the 161 stands for ROH’s 161st show, their third Pay Per View taping (of course, in Chicago), where something major will occur.
What ROH has done is create a major mystery that has the internet abuzz without doing anything overtly silly. No exploding limos or running people over are needed, just a good mystery with some serious clues. That’s great and while the reveal might not live up to the hype, ROH rarely hypes anything without a good plan, so expectations and hope are building and people are talking.
Here’s who might be in the stable based on speculation. The major two who are assumed to be in are Adam Pearce and BJ Whitmer. Pearce debuted a new, darker tone at the first PPV taping and took an interest in Whitmer. Pearce is from Chicago and this would make a lot of sense for his character. Whitmer has been on a major losing streak and is becoming more and more frustrated. Pearce has already shown a major interest in Whitmer at the taping and they would make a great start to this stable, making ROH fans care about two good, but unspectacular characters.
Jimmy Rave, who loses to Morishima at the second PPV, is being considered another major possibility. His new character is dark and with the Embassy in his past, he could easily join another major stable. He would fit the drifter, anti-ROH mold that Whitmer and Pearce do, but I’m such a fan of his new character that unless he is the focal point of this, I’d rather see him maintain a singles push.
Jimmy Jacobs is being considered for the stable because the image of the Statue of Liberty crying blood on the website for Project 161 looks like Jacobs makeup. After finally getting Lacey, Jacobs looked unsatisfied and that could have broken the fragile Jacobs. He could join up because of BJ Whitmer’s warnings against Lacey being proven correct, but Jimmy and Lacey have their own fantastic angle and, really, that should be allowed to continue to grow and develop without being co-opted into some new stable.
Nigel McGuinness hasn’t been mentioned at all as a member of the new stable, but if it’s to be taken seriously, he fits best. Drifting and frustrated after being unable to beat Bryan Danielson or Takeshi Morishima he needs a change before the fans begin to look at him as just another wrestler who chokes in a big spot. Joining with fellow HWA alum and a man who’s lost a lot lately, BJ Whitmer, would ensure that his push continues and character stays fresh. Nigel needs a change and this would be perfect.
There are a lot of outside of ROH talent that would fit a stable like this. Tyler Black, Necro Butcher, Eddie Kingston, and others are being bandied about. I’d love to see one new talent debut through this. Given a choice it’d be either Black or Super Dragon, but really, one new talent put over by this from any of the major names on the indies would be great.
Thinking about this lead me to a new major conclusion though. There is a severe shortage of major babyface talent on the indies. Not many wrestlers outside of ROH seem to be very over as faces in a way that would carry over to ROH. The Iron Saints and Chuck Taylor are on top of the IWA-MS card and are all major heels. Super Dragon, Joey Ryan, and Arrogance are all heels over in PWG as well. Necro Butcher and Eddie Kingston are faces a lot of places, as is Toby Klein, but their style would necessitate them being heels in ROH. All are violent brawlers, not something accepted in faces in the company that’s all about honor. Blk Out, specifically Ruckus, has some quality wrestlers, but again, their gimmick means they must be heels. Besides Chikara, where are the major faces on the indies that can contribute to ROH? E-mail me your best answers at email@example.com or just message me on aim.
Speaking of Chikara guys, I’m really digging both Jigsaw and Hallowicked. Jigsaw is, of all the Chikara guys, most like Quackenbush in his speed and lucha style. He’s absolutely perfect for popping the crowd in the undercard in a different style of match and he’s young enough that he can still develop into something special. Hallowicked is something else entirely. The owner of the best Yakuza Kick on the indies (sorry Generico), he wrestles sort of similar to Claudio in that he’s a big guy that’s agile also. He seems more advanced than, well than a lot of the ROH roster and is ready for a prominent spot. He doesn’t need flash to have a good match the crowd can get into, so imagine what will occur when he decides to be flashy. I like Jigsaw just as much as Hallowicked, but Hallow is currently ready for a higher spot on the card. At the very least let he and Delirious team and go for the tag belts.
Unfortunately, I’m not as high on Gran Akuma as I am the other two Chikara Wrestling School trainees in ROH. In the FIP Title match last Friday, Good Times, Great Memories 6 Man Mayhem, and in the Do or Die match in Philadelphia, Akuma looked slower and more awkward than his more experienced opponents. He has a ton of potential, but I just don’t think he’s ready for ROH where a different level of crispness is expected. Maybe if Icarus is brought in, Team F.I.S.T. would hide his weaknesses as he fulfills his potential, but if not, I don’t think he should be booked right now.
These guys would all make awesome challengers for the Briscoes. The tag division needs new life with the Briscoes and Steenerico as the only regular teams. Chikara wrestlers could easily bring that, which is obviously a credit to their trainer, Mike Quackenbush. Quack is just a great, smart worker. He can go cartoony and silly, mat wrestle, or fly all with the greatest of ease. He and Jigsaw would be great in the tag division, but there are a wealth of dream matches for Quack that should be explored in the meantime, with his Danielson match being only the first. Quack vs. Strong, Quack vs. Aries, Quack vs. Nigel and more would all get a great buzz from around the indies and with the ROH Wrestling school seemingly on hiatus, why not combine with the Chikara Wrestling Academy and form closer ties with Quack’s company, Chikara? This would be a brilliant business move for ROH in my opinion since Chikara is perfect wrestling for children and ROH is for adults.
Awhile back Eric S introduced a concept called Mt. Perpetually Over. That’s where anytime a guy gets into a wrestling ring he is immediately over forever. Well, ROH has its own Mt. Perpetually Over. Certain guys are just immediately over in their ring no matter what the crowd, how dead they are, or whether they know what’s going on. These guys, regardless of gimmicks are just over no matter what they do. The list is short, but CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, and Low Ki are all at the summit. Homicide is an icon, but doesn’t make the list. Austin Aries, since his return, sure seems like he fits the criteria. In time we’ll see, but I’m pretty sure he’s there. The buzz when he walks in is tangible. Mike Quackenbush might, despite his really short ROH experience, have a spot on the Mountain. When he walks into a building the cheer isn’t as loud as the others, but there’s a buzz of respect that something special is about to happen. That’s why Quack needs to stay in ROH more than anything else.
The Briscoes have a spot all their own on the Mountain lately. Despite only one other team in the division, they make it seem like a strong division all on their own. They put great match after great match on, are regularly the coolest guys in the building and just absolutely have an aura all their own. The second their names were mentioned in Edison Saturday night the buzz started. When they were in the ring together, well the audience absolutely loved them. This happens every time the Briscoes enter a ROH ring now. It seems like in ROH the summit of the mountain is for those guys who you know will absolutely bring it at a world class level every night with a great consistency and world class matches. Well, check back over the list. This year the Briscoes have been added to it.
I spent a lot of time considering guys who might join the mountain someday. Roderick Strong and Nigel McGuinness are at the doorstep, so I skipped them. First on the list was Davey Richards. I wasn’t the biggest Davey fan in the world, but the man is an absurdly fast learner. He went from a generic face, to a generic face capable of great matches, to a great cowardly heel, to an intense cowardly heel in record time. At each stop since the very first he’s been drawing more and more heat, and now with his new intensity, he’s really bringing it in the ring. There were new fans with me on Saturday and Davey’s presence immediately caused them to take note. It’s easy to see Hero and Castagnoli, the former Kings of Wrestling (well, former in ROH anyway), reach the summit someday. Hero is a heat magnet and so long as he continues to be in big confrontations and come out looking great, he’ll continue to draw more and more fan interest. Claudio is just putting on great matches. Combined with the catchiness of “heyÃ¢â‚¬Â and if he should defeat Morishima, he might be closer than any of us would believe. Lastly, Erick Stevens is a future star. I don’t know if he’ll reach the summit, but there’s no reason for him not to. When he can follow the lead of a more experienced opponent like Roderick Strong or Chris Hero, the results are far beyond his place on the card. As he develops more, look for him to be able to do that with lesser opponents and really become something special.
One guy from ROH’s past absolutely deserved to be treated as Quack is now and that’s Reckless Youth, Tom Carter. Check the very first Death by Dishonor to see what he’s capable of. Much like the beloved Quackenbush, revered Chris Daniels, and sorely missed Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan, Reckless helped build the indies to what it is today. He’s a great mat worker and very good flier. He’s sorely underrated and really should be given a shot at the limelight he so richly deserves.
Speaking of Modest and Morgan, there has to be a way we can get them in for a shot at the Briscoes, no? The Murder City Machine Gun one shot match was successful, why not bring in another great team from outside the company. If not them, then at the very least get NOAH’s Marvin and Suzuki. They should be available if top talent like KENTA, Morishima and Marufuji are and in NOAH were responsible for maybe the Briscoes best match in this fantastic year for them.
One guy we won’t see against the Briscoes is James Gibson and it’s a damn shame. Their southern gimmicks would have worked beautifully together, but Gibson has been given a road agent job by WWE and is now jobbing out to a midget. Not the best use of one of the top 10 wrestlers on their roster. Imagine Gibson and Spanky or Gibson and Yang against the Briscoes? It’s almost unfair.
One match we won’t see in ROH but might get elsewhere is the Briscoes vs. Ki and Homicide. Ki and Homicide still team in other indies like JAPW and IWA-MS. Well, if ROH can’t give us the dream match vs. the Briscoes, at least one of those other companies can. If given time, those four could have a sinfully good match.
And now, we have a tone change. I wanted to leave the above in, just to show how steeped I was in ROH right now. Well, my mood towards ROH has changed significantly since the above was written. Last night, ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky posted the following rant about Project 161.
Ok, all this crap ends now. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m in a bad mood because I am. I am trying my best to keep my composure. I just had a long day/night of production on the Japan DVDs. I sign on here, I’m actually feeling pretty good about things because I just watched a lot of great wrestling from our Japan shows. So what do I find:
1) A private email I send to someone requesting that photos and information about my family be taken off a website is now made public. This is my family, not an angle. Understand that. When I send you an email it is private. When I make a request about my family it is real. Lets get that straight right now.
2) The clowns who are attempting to f*** with my life and ROH, which is my life, spam this board again after it takes me two hours the other night to clean it up. Not only that, but other people decide to jump in. I am about to start banning people like crazy so I suggest everyone read the rules and stick to them quickly. My patience is running out. Again, I am trying to keep my composure here, but I have had enough. I now have to go clean up the board again after a long day of production. I suggest if you are in doubt about something you posted that you delete it to yourself. I will ban anyone involved with any posts that are in doubt of breaking any rules. This is a warning. If this doesn’t apply to you and you are a productive member of this board I apologize and please ignore this rant.
3) Now we have more people than ever checking this board and it is a disgrace to the company. I want everyone to know that police have been alerted and I will do whatever I can to stop these websites and harrassment both to me personally and my wife. This is your warning. Stop it now.
That is all for now. I’m not playing a sick game here. It is over and I need to go back to doing what deserves my attention and that’s making ROH and FIP as good as possible for you.
If this doesn’t apply to you sorry for the rant. If it does then take this warning seriously.
Now, let’s be clear, Project 161 is, or was, a wrestling angle. Perhaps fans are taking it too far, perhaps not, but this rant about an angle that was surely approved by the company’s head booker is simply ridiculous. You ran the angle. If there is a problem, then just say it. I know kayfabe is considered important, and we all know what a work is. None of us watch thinking this is real or that these people legitimately hate each other, especially those of us targeted by this rant, those who are regulars of the ROH Web site and have watched things like the Joe and Punk Shoot Interview.
Kayfabe, that wonderful tradition founded by the carnies and borderline sociopaths of this business’s history, is stupid and intelligence insulting. We understand that you’re not going to explain everything regarding Project 161; but once you say that you or your family is being harassed, in order for fans to take that statement seriously, you need to let us know what part of Project 161 was kayfabe, so it’s easy to understand where the line was crossed. I respect your family’s right to privacy, but much of what has been posted on others’ Web sites can be discovered through a simple Google search. If something was done more than posting images/information found through Google or on public areas of MySpace, please address it specifically as you did in your point about a personal email being posted. That is the only way to get the copycats to stop playing around with a serious situation. On the other hand, leaving this situation in a gray area that is confused by kayfabe won’t do anything but ensure it will continue, since the majority of pro wrestling fans assume that if this was really serious, all elements of kayfabe would be dropped.
I’m sure there are fans who read Gabe’s rant, thinking it was a work, part of the Project 161 angle to help it come across as more ‘real.’ I sincerely hope this is not a work, but if it is, this is an error in judgment that must be addressed. To play, in kayfabe, about the wellbeing of a family, especially one that is not associated with a character, is Vince Russo/Vince McMahon-level, intelligence- and emotion-insulting bullshit. Ring of Honor has prided itself on the fact that it never insults the audience’s intelligence. This would cross that line in a way from which the promotion could never come back, and never again would I be able to viably trust anything the company has put forth as the truth. I understand, again, kayfabe is a tradition. But it is a stupid tradition. We know that wrestling is fake and saying your family is at risk in no way enhances enjoyment or attachment in the angle; it just makes us worry for their well being. If it turned out that that worry was over a wrestling angle, then instead of hating the heels for perpetrating such an act, that anger instead goes to you for allowing such a travesty particularly at a time when wrestling fans are especially prone to worrying over the family of one who’s “life is the business.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This isn’t a joke. If this is just another angle, Ring of Honor will have lost at least one supporter over it. I strongly urge those in charge of the company to address this issue clearly and without regards to kayfabe. Ring of Honor has kept my business and earned my vocal support in a way no other product ever has. In his post last night, Gabe, in one way or another, put kayfabe in front of his responsibility to respect his audience and supporters. That’s not a company I want to support or follow. Please, address the matter at hand honestly. Respect is earned.