VS. #14 – Aaron Glazer vs. Chris Sicoli

Welcome to the re-launch of Vs. – a forum for some of the best writers on the net to go head-to-head, proving once and for all who is Da Man.

This week’s participants are Pulse Glazer, writer of “A Modest Reponse” and all-around ROH guru, and Chris Sicoli, our new ROH DVD reviewer. So, you can probably guess the theme of questions this week.

As for me, I’m Steve Murray, former writer of “A Look on the Bright Side”, and new Vs. moderator. The concept is simple: each writer gets 5 questions, which they answer and argue to the best of their ability. I judge the results, giving a point for each question to the writer who I feel made the best argument for their opinion.

So let’s get to it:

1. Takeshi Morishima has held the RoH World Heavyweight title since February. Who on the current ROH roster is the most likely to defeat him for the belt, and when will it happen?? Is this person the best choice to defeat him (and if not, who is)?

Chris Sicoli: This is definitely the hardest question on the list, because to be quite honest, there are no legitimate threats to Morishima’s title aside from Danielson, and if Danielson doesn’t win it on August 25th (which I doubt he will considering he’s still getting back into the grove and doesn’t need the title back this soon), there are absolutely none. A lot of people believe that Nigel McGuinness is a huge threat and the next in line for the title, but realistically he’s done nothing important all year. What’s he done? Beat Rave, lost to Morishima, beat Hero, lost to Morishima. He’s been dominated by the champ twice, and the rest of his work this year has been pretty filler. I just don’t see him as a threat. The only other person not named Danielson or McGuinness that I could see winning is Roderick Strong, but even he is busy with feuds against Aries and Delirious, plus he got crushed by Morishima in like thirteen minutes, so his chances are slim as well. With all that said, I believe Morishima is going to be dethroned by someone no one is expecting. I’m talking about someone like Albright, who’s been here less than a year and had zero main-event exposure winning the belt. Or maybe Austin Aries, whom I personally love, becoming the first ever two-time champion. Morishima will drop the belt to someone that no one sees coming, and as for whether or not that’s the best choice…depends on who it is, so I can’t really answer that. Although, I will say this; having someone come out of nowhere and win the world title would be a great thing and can create a version two of Austin Aries, who’s surprise win and reign made him one of the most over people in the company’s history.

Pulse Glazer: [ED: this response was originally written on 7/26/07] Who can beat Morishima is a bit of a loaded question. ROH is not likely to move the belt until they have to either because of a story that is too good to pass up or because he has to go back to Japan. Since we don’t know when his return to Japan will be, we can just let that go for the moment. The other important thing to realize is that besides Homicide in 2006 and James Gibson in 2005, no one has ever beaten a man they already lost to for the belt on their second try, and Homicide was a special case driven by storyline, while Gibson was a transitional champion to Danielson who was given the belt as a thank you. Morishima has defeated Aries, McGuinness, Whitmer, Strong, Rave and Pearce of the regular roster. That leaves, of those without a title shot on the horizon Davey Richards, Rocky Romero, Erick Stevens, Matt Cross, the Chikara guys, Chris Hero, Matt Sydal, Delirious and Jack Evans.

Davey, in order to have a shot, would need to supplant Roderick Strong as leader of the NRC. That isn’t likely since ROH already did that with Aries and it’s rare that a storyline repeat in that manner. Romero falls under the same category and he lost to both KENTA and Marufuji leaving him too weak for Morishima. Erick Stevens and Matt Cross have received no signs of a singles push and, honestly, neither is ready for a spot that high up the card. The Chikara guys aren’t contracted, and as fun as Quack vs. Morishima would be and as much as Quack as champion would draw, it’s hard to give the company’s big belt to a guy who owns his own, different company. Chris Hero will likely win the ROH title one day, but it’s hard to see him defeating Morishima. Takeshi is essentially a heel and whoever beats him will be a major face for it. Chris Hero clearly works best as a heel so Hero might defeat whoever defeats Morishima. Matt Sydal won’t be the one to beat Morishima for essentially the same reasons as Hero. Delirious has a significant shot, the first guy mentioned who does, but his work of late has not been impressive and it’s difficult to picture a company on Pay Per View for pure wrestling going with a gimmick, comedy wrestler as champion. Jack Evans, also has a real shot, but probably won’t get the win because he still has Dragon Gate dates upcoming. Since he’s in Dragon Gate so often (he’s already missed most of this year), he probably will not get the push to the title as ROH cannot pay him what Japan does.

That leaves the three men receiving title shots in August. The first is Claudio Castagnoli. Claudio has a reasonable shot, except that he has not been in any great ROH singles matches and, due to his accent, cannot cut an effective promo. Either one alone would not mean he couldn’t be champion, but together they mean he probably will not get the belt. Without a great match under his belt alone or a great promo, how can he be trusted with the fate of the company which is debuting to so many new fans?

Brent Albright gets a shot the day after Castagnoli at a big show so he has a very good shot of taking the title. The main problem with this is that it might be unwise to go to the PPV era with a man who has yet to be seriously featured in the first two PPVs as champion, especially considering that he is a WWE cast off. His intensity and charisma would serve the company well, but, like Hero, while he may one day be champion, the time is not yet.

The last option is the man who, in all likelihood will take the World Title Belt from Takeshi Morishima- Bryan Danielson. Danielson is among the best promos and the best worker in the company. He stands out and is wildly over with a unique charisma. He has been featured winning huge matches at the first and second Pay Per View and deserves a reward for his remarkable World Title reign. Being the first man to hold the title twice is that reward. Gabe has said that a ROH with a healthy Danielson is a ROH centered on Danielson, and while it’s the boring answer, giving him the belt is the correct one.

Two other options I like a lot are giving the belt to Jimmy Rave or Jimmy Jacobs. Taking the latter first, the answer is simply to have Morishima defeat the rest of the roster and a returning Jacobs to upset an overconfident Morishima. This would lead to a totally different in ring style up top since Jacobs is a speed brawler, but because Jacobs is such an excellent promo (see the end of All Star Extravaganza 3 for proof) and strong, charismatic personality (the storyline of the decade with Lacey and BJ Whitmer, the latter of which seems to be a personality black hole) that he can carry the company in a way no one else on the roster can. Everyone would tune in and buy the DVDs to see how his intricate story developed when his unique emo character became the one with the girl and the gold. It’s risky, but Jacobs has paid off before and likely would again.

Jimmy Rave is a trickier proposition because, once again, ROH is in danger of wasting how over he’s become. When he comes out he has a unique charisma and hold on the audience since his new gimmick debuted late last year. His nonchalance, quick striking offense, and great leg work allow him a respect and credibility well beyond the cowardly heel of one year ago. With this, a turn into a tweener would allow him to battle the top of the card while garnering more fan support. He isn’t Danielson but is not far off in ring at this point (check him finishing a match after vomiting at Battle of the Icons or completely carrying Homicide at Fifth Year: NYC) and can honestly be compared reasonably well with Austin Aries or Roderick Strong. All he needs is the credibility that beating Morishima and the ROH Belt carry. Working the leg of the giant Morishima even gives him a built in way to take out the giant that no one on the roster could match due to the Heel Hook’s credibility. Jimmy Rave for ROH Champion!

Steve’s Scoring: While I am tempted to penalize both writers for not giving me one clear, definitive choice (and ignoring the “When?” portion of the question), I recognize that both of them ran through all of the legitimate possibilities, and gave solid answers in each case. Aaron gets the point partly for completeness, partly for pointing out that Danielson is both the “boring” and “correct” answer, and for his justification of Jacobs (though I wish he had addressed the size issue).

Score: Chris – 0, Aaron – 1

2. It has recently been reported that, if Bryan Danielson wins the NWA World Heavyweight Title tournament, ROH will not recognize it on shows. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?

Chris Sicoli: I have mixed feelings here. On one hand, it’s Ring Of Honor, a wrestling company on the verge of being a cult phenomenon much like ECW was…so why bring in an outside title and put focus on it? At the same time, it’s not like ROH fans are unaware of what the NWA World Title is, and also won’t be oblivious if Danielson happens to win it, so why not bring the presitgous belt in and use it to further add to Danielson’s cocky character? They don’t have to have any title defenses, just bring it in, show it off, have Danielson talk about it…hell, they could do that with the PWG World Title too now. Overall, I’d say it’s silly to try and hide Danielson winning the NWA title from smarter fans, and bringing the belt in to add to his character can only do positive work, and I really can’t see a true negative.

Pulse Glazer: Ring of Honor not recognizing one of their workers as NWA champion is not only a good idea, but the only viable idea. NWA is still strongly associated with TNA, which has, for the past year or so been putting out a Crash TV product. Crash TV is exactly what ROH wants to get away from with longer matches and a more 1980s NWA feel. Well, 1980s NWA only has older fans now, unfortunately, and even those now associate the name as much with the abortion known as TNA as with the great federation of their youth.

ROH really does need to distance themselves from TNA as much as possible. Many of TNA’s best wrestlers come from ROH, but ROH cannot risk being seen as TNA lite or a TNA training ground. Adding the NWA name would, to non-internet fans, likely make it seem like there was a relationship with TNA or that ROH is attempting to mimick TNA’s formula for “success” which is, of course a sham since ROH is profitable and TNA isn’t, but again, the casual or non-internet savvy fan has no way of knowing that. The NWA name has been devalued by TNA, a product which ROH is nothing like and would do well to draw as few parallels to as possible. Not recognizing the NWA champion is one sure way to avoid this pitfall and I’m pleased to see ROH is thinking long term enough to realize that.

Steve’s Scoring: Now that’s more like it – completely opposed answers. Chris gets the point here for noting that the ROH fans are going to know about this title anyway, and that it can be used to help Danielson’s character. And I’m sorry, Aaron – but ROH does not have any “casual or non-internet savvy fan[s]” – it’s an indy promotion without a regular TV show, so the only ways to keep up are attending shows, buying DVDs, or following news on the web.

Score: Chris – 1, Aaron – 1

3. Who is the best kayfabed authority figure in wrestling history? You can include commissioners, general managers, presidents, interim presidents, personal assistants, etc.

Chris Sicoli: I gotta go with the original commissioner/president, Gorilla Monsoon. The way he carried himself and played his character, combined with the way he was booked (not involved in everything, just the things where he was needed) made him seem like a legitimate authority figure with actual power and decision-making ability, whereas these days commissioners and such are involved in ridiculous promos and segments, exposing what a character they really are and taking away any seriousness they hope to try and portray.

Pulse Glazer: The best kayfabed authority figure in wrestling history is Eric Bischoff. It’s really difficult not to name Vince because he was so successful and really did own the company, but Eric Bischoff, New World Order leader and real life President of WCW begat the Mr. McMahon character as much as Montreal did. Without Bischoff being so successful as the New World Order’s evil leader who had the credibility of really leading WCW we might never get Mr. McMahon at all, let alone the Corporation and the Corporate Ministry. Bischoff was not only hugely influential on Vince, but also influenced Russo, Cornette (in ROH) and, of course, all the GMs in the WWE. The authority figure was, before Bischoff, usually a no nonsense good guy who only occasionally appeared like Gorilla Monsoon or Jack Tunney.

Bischoff was also successful because he is and was such a jerk. This is a boss everyone hated and his smarminess came through on television. How fully relatable is it that a young hotshot boss who got his job seemingly without proper qualifications plays favorites, keeping his friends on top and playing political games? How much do we all hate people like that, from high school right to the business world? This moved the age demographic of wrestling up as it was a major foundation of the New World Order. Bischoff is the best and most important authority figure in wrestling history.

Steve’s Scoring: While I appreciate Chris’ point, the question was not about the most realistic authority figure, but the “best”. Gorilla was somewhat bland and boring as Commissioner, and bland and boring just don’t sell in wrestling. Point to Aaron.

Score: Chris – 1, Aaron – 2

4. In light of rumors surrounding Ring of Honor contracted athletes being provided health care benefits, what effect, if any, will it have on the wrestling business as a whole?

Chris Sicoli: As much as I hate to admit it, this is going to do absolutely nothing for wrestling as a whole. Ring Of Honor is doing a great thing by providing health care to its wrestlers no matter how minimal the coverage is, but just because a ‘blip on the radar’ is giving out health care doesn’t mean anything to WWE, or TNA for that matter. Until WWE does something similar, it’s not going to be a big deal, because WWE sets the standard for wrestling and will continue to do so long after Vince McMahon passes on and hands the company to *gulp* Stephanie.

Pulse Glazer: Wrestling as a whole should be effected by ROH offering contracts with health care, but probably will not unless workers organize enough to realize that this will benefit them more in the long term than short term money grabs in TNA and, for low level guys, WWE. The benefit is obvious. These guys are banged up all the time. With injuries and contracts they are on the path for being able to get workers compensation for no longer being able to wrestle due to injury (which means pay even when you’re out with injury as well, so no more rushing back and less painkillers needed), and, ideally, pensions for guys who are with the company long term. This is how unions are formed. Will it? With the way most wrestlers are handling the Benoit tragedy (re: burying their heads in the sand), these guys don’t appear smart enough, motivated enough, or organized enough to take advantage of the door ROH has opened. Hopefully a new era of stars with guys who have college degrees like Nigel and Danielson can change that, but I’m not holding my breath for this one.

Steve’s Scoring: While I agree with everything Chris wrote, this point also goes to Aaron for pointing out that nothing will happen until the wrestlers themselves push for it. Let’s see if Chris can salvage a close loss with the last question.

Score: Chris – 1, Aaron – 3

5. In your opinion, which wrestlers have a tougher schedule: WWE superstars who work four days a week in a slower, more deliberate pace; or the Ring of Honor stars who work on average four shows a month (not counting other indy dates) in a more high impact/high risk style?

Chris Sicoli: No doubt about it; the WWE wrestlers have a tougher schedule. Wrestlers are trained in how to bump, and how to absorb punishment when taking certain moves or strikes. So, even though Ring Of Honor wrestlers go faster and hit harder, they’re trained to be safe and to protect their opponents, so if all goes well they get to go home and rest for a month (unless they have another booking somewhere) before the next ROH show. And if they get injured, they can take a break from wrestling, get it examined, patch it up, and get themselves back together at their own pace. In the WWE, the pace may be slower and more deliberate in the ring, but the risk is always there in the wrestling ring. They may not get as beat up in a match, but they wrestle four matches for every indy guy’s one match, which means they have 4x the chance of getting injured, and we all know how frequent injuries are in wrestling. So if a WWE wrestler gets through their night without an injury, they have three more days that week to hope and pray they make it through alright. Then, if they do get injured on night one, they have three more nights to wrestle through the injury, and then most likely another few weeks or even months to wrestle through the injury (most recent example; Lashley wrestling with an injured shoulder since Backlash) before finally going to their limit and being sent home. That doesn’t even include the constant wear & tear from travelling so often and so far that WWE wrestlers go through. Bottomline: WWE superstars go through more punishment than any other wrestler in the world goes through.

Pulse Glazer: The answer to this lies in the mortality rate and Japan. The Japanese workers work a far more demanding style than even most U.S. indies. At this point most of us have seen Dragon Gate matches and know the speed those guys work at and the bumps they regularly take. All Japan Wrestlers dropped each other on their heads as much as possible for years. These guys are all fine. It isn’t the style worked that leads to death. Style leads to injury and pain certainly, but the lifestyle, the constant travel and the workload of a WWE wrestler are why they drop like flies, not how they work. WWE wrestlers travel all over the place all the time and lose a ton of money with any injury. ROH wrestlers travel less distance and generally less time with health care. The mortality rate has the real answer: WWE guys die more frequently than those who take high risks in the ring.

Steve’s Scoring: Aaron’s points about Japanese workers are excellent, but focusing solely on mortality without recognizing that deaths in the WWE have been caused by a variety of sources (some completely unrelated to the lifestyle) weakens his argument. Chris picks up the final point for explaining the bonus of healing time in ROH, and having a recent, specific, non-fatal example in Lashley.

Score: Chris – 2, Aaron – 3

A respectible showing from the new kid, but the victory this weeks goes to Mr. Glazer. Thanks to writers for participating, and thanks to you for reading. Come back again next week for our next match.

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