Moments Ago: Ranking the Title Changes
The big news in Ring of Honor this week is of course the new champion that was crowned on Saturday. While title changes may not be big news in other companies, the WWE has had three champions in the last two weeks, it is a huge deal in Ring of Honor. Nigel McGuinness’ defeat of the Japanese behemoth, Takeshi Morishima, marks the tenth time that Ring of Honor has crowned a champion. And since there have been ten champions in Ring of Honor, I feel it is my civic duty to rank the quality of each title change.
Now to clarify a few things about the list, this is not rating the match quality of the title change, that is an entirely different list to respond to. This list focuses on the moment created when the bell was rung and the announcer acknowledged the NEW champion. So, onto the list
10. Xavier defeats Low Ki at Uncensored
This was only a few weeks into the reign of reign of the man that everyone thought would be the dominant force in the early days of Ring of Honor. This was also the only title change that happened as a part of a greater angle. The powers that be seemed to be going more for shock value with this change. Xavier won the match after interference from the “Fallen AngelÃ¢â‚¬Â Christopher Daniels thus signifying his membership in The Prophecy.
Not a lot of people cared about Xavier’s title victory. Xavier’s reign is often treated as the benchmark of a poor title reign, as well. This is undeserving as Xavier had many quality defenses, and people did want to see him lose. Still when he won, the bigger deal was the Prophecy taking over Ring of Honor, and the world title change almost took a back seat. No one knew the heights that the Ring of Honor title would attain, so an early “lack of respectÃ¢â‚¬Â is certainly forgivable. Also the thing that makes this moment special is not the victory for Xavier which was achieved through underhanded means, but afterwards when Low Ki was covered in the RoH banner adding fire to a feud that never had a satisfactory conclusion.
9. Xavier falls to Samoa Joe
There was a time in Ring of Honor when Joe was an unproven commodity. Joe did make an immediate impact after his debut in the brutal match against Low Ki, but afterwards he still had to battle for his top spot like everyone else. He got a title shot at the first Night of Champions and capitalized on the opportunity winning the belt by choking out “The All Around Best.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Fans were happy with the result of the match due to the aforementioned backlash to Xavier’s reign. They weren’t sure what to think of having a champion with a less than stellar physique and a seemingly one dimensional style. Fans at the time were clamoring for a Paul London title reign, as he was one of Xavier’s main foes. Despite the lack of drama in Joe’s title victory, the fans had no idea that they were in for the greatest championship reign in recent wrestling history when Joe would hold the belt for 21 months.
8. American Dragon climbs the mountain by defeating James Gibson
This is a title change that could easily be higher on the list as the match was a masterpiece. Still Danielson’s eventual reign overshadowed the victory. The title change was also slightly overshadowed because it was Gibson’s swansong in RoH. Sure he had one more weekend of shows, but everyone knew about his eventual departure to the WWE, so people were waiting for him to lose, but hoping he would stay.
7. Takeshi Morishima shocks everyone and wins in his second match
Most people have put a long tenure in Ring of Honor before even getting a title shot. Takeshi Morishima, a rising star in Pro-wrestling NOAH, came in and defeated Homicide. Most fans figured Homicide would have a long and fruitful reign, or at the very least one longer than six weeks.
I personally enjoyed the title switch. I was not very into the Reign of Homicide, because the Road of Homicide had been so great. Morishima, from a pure RoH fan perspective, was the most unproven champion that had been crowned. He had made a name for himself in Japan, but he was a relative unknown to Ring of Honor fans who don’t follow puroresu. Granted most RoH fans follow both, but still the point is there. The match was nothing special, and that is another reason that it appears on the bottom half of the list.
6. Nigel McGuinness ends the tyranny of the Japanese Behemoth.
I have made my opinions clear that I did not enjoy this match. It was good, but there were a few things that took me out of it. The finish was less than stellar, and I just wasn’t ready for Morishima’s reign to end. Also Nigel did not use any new strategy to win the match, just more lariats. The locker room emptying afterwards was a nice touch, but the lack of drama in the actual three-count took away from the speciality of the moment.
Nigel will probably go on to have a great run as champion, but his first moment atop the Ring of Honor mountain were less than amazing.
5. James Gibson outlasts two RoH icons to end Punk’s reign of terror
Personally, I would have booked this match in a slightly different manner, but the match turned out absolutely amazing regardless. James Gibson getting taken to the back due to injury and returning to get the win with a top rope Tiger Driver was just an awesome way to crown a new champion. The downside was that many knew that Gibson’s run would be short as he had recently re-signed with the WWE.
Still, Punk redeeming himself and willingly handing the belt over to Gibson was a chilling moment and a great way to end the Summer of Punk. Gibson was a great choice to win, and while his reign was not great, he still will always have the image of him standing at the entranceway chanting RoH along with the fans.
4. Low Ki lasts an hour to become the first RoH champion
There are many different opinions of this match, some like it a lot; others feel that it drags quite a bit in the middle portion. Still the raw emotion shown by Ki after winning the belt and his break down after he walked through the curtain really put the RoH title on a track to be the most important title going.
3. The Road of Homicide is complete
Perhaps never in Ring of Honor history has the outcome of a world title match been more obvious. Everyone in attendance at Final Battle 2007 knew, Homicide knew, Dragon knew. It was obvious that this was going to be the show in which Homicide climbed the mountain. The match was amazing, and the restart after the seeming DQ finish just added to the drama.
Homicide’s reign was a complete bust, and that does sully the moment slightly. Also the fact that “We Fly HighÃ¢â‚¬Â by Jim Jones played afterwards does not help the cause; It was still one of those feel good moments. Homicide who was an original member of the RoH roster was now standing at the top.
2. CM Punk wins in his “last night.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It was common knowledge that CM Punk had signed a developmental deal with WWE. Austin Aries was in the midst of a very successful title reign and the fans were just starting to come around on the idea of him as a babyface. Still, when the bell rang to start this match the fans booed every single offensive move Aries had. The fans were meeting Punk with a chorus of cheers. Little did they know that after hitting the Pepsi plunge and winning the title Punk would proceed to turn his back on every fan.
His promo afterwards, although ripping off the Usual Suspects and Natural Born Killers, was one of the best in Ring of Honor history. The Punker made the fans hate him and hate the fact that he had won the title after only a moment ago cheering him for becoming a hero on his “last nightÃ¢â‚¬Â in the company.
1. Austin Aries does the impossible
Samoa Joe was the greatest champion in Ring of Honor history. Part of his greatness was due to the fact that no one could beat him. Homicide tried to win by using the dirtiest tricks in the book. CM Punk wrestled Joe for over two and a half hours but could not get a win. American Dragon, Christopher Daniels, Paul London, and a host of others put their best effort forward, but could not get the job done.
Along came Generation Next and many thought that Alex Shelley would be the man to win as he was the leader of the group, but earlier in the night Aries ousted Shelley and took control of Gen Next declaring himself Shelley’s “Personal Jesus.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Aries was also blessed with a new entrance for his shot at the title. There was electricity in the air. Joe had been used to wrestling long matches as of late, and no one expected a 17 minute match to be the one to upend the champ. Aries wrestled the match of his life and when he was finally able to get Joe up for the brainbuster and hit the 450 splash, the entire crowd counted along and exploded when Aries won the match. Sure Aries was a heel in the grand scheme of things, but for that moment he was the biggest babyface in the company.
Well there is my opinion. What is yours?
I’ll see you next time.