Ring of Honor has three bona-fide main eventing regulars. These are Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness. Unsurprisingly, considering how prestigious the Ring of Honor World Title is, the former two are former champions and the latter is the current World Champion. A great challenge for the company has been getting others to the level of the first three. Simply having others beat them hasnâ€™t done the job. Letâ€™s take a look at how to take some ROH guys over the hump and make main eventers.We’ll also have match reviews for everyone involved. Come on in.
Roderick Strong has been on the cusp of ROH stardom since 2005 when he was putting on classics as a babyface with the likes of CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. 2006 saw Strong take a break from coming stardom to, with Austin Aries, establish the tag titles. Instead of resuming his momentum in 2007, Strong instead turned heel on Aries and has been sort of treading water in the upper-mid card as a heel. As a heel, he doesnâ€™t usually have great matches with anyone but Aries, so his momentum is basically stopped. His NRC run has proven him effective at getting heat, but to rise to a main eventer, he was clearly superior as a face.
Recently, Rocky Romero and Davey Richards, the Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions, have been courted by Larry Sweeney and Sweet and Sour, Inc. In order to turn Roderick face again, Romero and Davey should accept Sweeneyâ€™s offer and turn on him. Itâ€™s almost too perfect to not run with. Roderick then has multiple feuds as a sympathetic face, his best role. The one that would raise him to the top would be one with Chris Hero. Although mostly a comedic heel in ROH, Chris Hero is among the best in the world at heated brawls. Having memorable brawls everywhere with Eddie Kingston has lead to PWG where he is having more great ones with The Human Tornado of all people. With these in his pocket, there is little doubt Hero and Roderick could tear down nearly any house with an unparalleled face vs. heel dynamic. A heated feud, establishing both as some of the best on the roster with what would doubtless be numerous classics would immediately make each not only serious World Title contenders, but regular, viable main eventers in any situation.
Before Strong turns face, he really must blow off the feud with Erick Stevens. Many still donâ€™t love Stevens (and to those I say watch his Proving Ground match with Aries), but that the crowd gets entirely behind him by the end of every single one of his matches is undeniable. Stevens should take the FIP Title from Strong and run with it. Keep him defending it on every ROH show, even while Nigel ducks challengers, making him the fighting champion and letting him have some main events to raise both his prestige and that of the FIP Title. This same basic idea worked for Nigel as Pure Champion and likely will again.
The last man who should be pushed to the top is Tyler Black. Tyler has already had awesome matches with Danielson and Nigel, making him a future star in many fanâ€™s eyes. His Nigel match was a classic beating and comebacks. Many fans want him to strike out on his own now, but thatâ€™s the wrong course of action. Tyler should, through time (making fans wait) continue to earn title shots against Nigel, take epic beatings, and nearly win. Enough of these should work magic, just the way Punkâ€™s draws against Joe did. Keeping him with the AOTF allows him to remain in the upper-card and busy when he doesnâ€™t have an opportunity to take on Nigel, but beating numerous big name challengers and getting 3 or so more shots at Nigel would absolutely make Tyler a main eventer.
Now we come to those who are close to main eventers, but arenâ€™t quite there. First, we have Claudio Castagnoli. Claudio is wildly over and can have a good match with just about anyone. Given this, there is no reason to push him up the card. He can, at this point, wrestle anyone, look great, make them look great, and keep the crowd happy and involved in the show. Making him a main eventer only hurts that mobility. He should be used the way Marufuji often was last year- a top-card guy who puts on classics in the mid-card.
The next man who many want in the main event is the Age of the Fall leader, Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs is perfect as a mouthpiece and counter-culture leader who can have great, hate filled feuds, but his knee injury has really knocked down his mobility. At his size, that means the heated brawls are all he really has left and while heâ€™s top notch at them without question, he isnâ€™t necessarily versatile enough for anything more right now. I didnâ€™t realize how badly his knee had cramped his style until I recently watched some older matches. Heâ€™s downright slow compared to where he used to be sadly. This is one case where Iâ€™d love to be proven wrong.
Another man who many feel is due for a main event slot soon is Davey Richards. Davey is really finding his niche as a heel currently and any interruption of that is a rather poor idea. Since itâ€™s as a heel that heâ€™s reaching his considerable potential, he should not be turned face. With Nigel as champion, Davey simply shouldnâ€™t work face to challenge for the belt. He can fill an important role facing up and coming contenders, however, giving them great matches and momentum heading into their title bouts. Adding in that whoever defeats Nigel will be an uber-face and Daveyâ€™s time is not quite yet.
The last duo being considered as main eventers are a tandem: Kevin Steen and El Generico. Steen is currently being wildly pushed in ROH. Heâ€™s undefeated in 2008 and they clearly see him as a main eventer. Unfortunately, heâ€™s yet to have a truly great singles match in ROH, which will hold him back. That isnâ€™t Genericoâ€™s problem. Generico is a truly great singles worker, whose silly look will hold him back from new and/or casual fans. Both are very close to main eventers, but since they hide each otherâ€™s weaknesses so well, it simply makes more sense to let them rule the tag scene, where they might be the very best in the world.
Upon Further Review: One Review from all the Main Event Candidates
1. FIP Hot Summer Nights Night 2: Roderick Strong Â© vs. â€œThe Last of a Dying Breed, the King of Diamondsâ€ Eddie Kingston
For Strongâ€™s FIP Title. Strong is a face, King is a heel. They hit hard.
King goes right at Roderick andâ€¦ hits him hard. Strong hits him hard back and dumps Kingston as they brawl on the floor. Back in and Kingston regains control, fighting back with more stiff strikes. Looks like the story here is â€œI can hit harder than you!â€ I think I can dig that.
Back and forth they go as Strong controls and ends up with back work. The constant fighting of simple holds yields a change in control to Kingston who heels it up while working the neck. Strong tries to come back, but big suplexes keep Kingston in charge. Kingston channels Taz with numerous suplexes and goes for a camel clutch full nelson.
Roderick is nearly out, but not quite and he strikes the crap out of Kingston leading to a superplex. Strong is in control with the Kick and he hits the Strong Edge. A head drop Gibson Driver and weâ€™re done!
Roderick Strong defeats Eddie Kingston (Pin, Gibson Driver â€™91, *** Â½)
Stiffness, selling, and sick moves. And this was their first match. Iâ€™d pay good money to see an issue develop between these men.
2. PWG Pearl Habra: Chris Hero w/ Candice LeRae vs. Human Tornado
Tornado has been the evil pimp in PWG and beaten on LeRae. This made Hero take up a Hero role to save her. Hero and Tornado have been beating the piss out of each other ever since.
The match is sheer brutality with a wild brawl. When Tornado controls, itâ€™s using his speed and doing as many stomps and dropkicks as possible to weaken Heroâ€™s head for Dat Nigga Dead. Hero is merely aiming for pure brutality and dishing out punishment, having far more experience in matches of this type.
Tornado controls and weakens Hero for most of the early part, increasing his risks, but Hero gets rather cranky and takes out a chain, using that to take down Tornado. He hits the Heroâ€™s Welcome on a chair and this might not last very long, but Tornado lands in the ropes. Hero senses victory is near and goes to the top, but heâ€™s too slow and Tornado counters by tossing a trashcan at him. Great selling from Tornado as he uses the can to regain control. A chair is set up outside as Tornado hits the DND on a chair! Hero is able to barely grit it out for a 2 and 9/10 call. Tornado goes for a twisting senton, but puts himself through the table instead.
On the outside, Hero piles chairs and slams Tornado on top, then dives onto the pile and Tornado. Of course, with this being out of the ring, by the time Tornado gets in, itâ€™s only good for a two count. Tornado uses speed to counter a final Heroâ€™s Welcome and we go to showdown mode. Tornado forgoes that, knowing itâ€™s a sure loss, and takes out Heroâ€™s knee, which was very recently hurt and caused him to miss shows. The knee is attacked with weapons and Tornado locks in an elevated cloverleaf. With the pressure on the hurt knee and sitting on Heroâ€™s hurt head, he wonâ€™t give up, but LeRae throws in the towel.
Tornado defeats Hero (towel thrown in, Cloverleaf, **** Â¼)
Hero is an amazing brawler and the hate here was absolutely intense. With the speed advantage and later knee attack, Tornado showed great strategy and working the head even paid off. Hero was just so tough and awesome at his role of desperately trying to get a big enough, bad enough move to hurt Tornado. Chris Hero is perfect in any role which features him in heated feuds, especially brawling, though in ROH it should be as a heel, not a face.
3. FIP Redefined: Erick Stevens Â© vs. Roderick Strong
This one features Stevens as FIP Champion, and Roderick trying to get back the belt he lost. Both men are faces.
They do a surprisingly extended and well developed mat sequence. Roderick ends up barely ahead there, but not enough to control. They then go with a striking sequence and itâ€™s absurdly stiff, but Roddy ends up ahead. They keep going at it nearly even until on the floor, Roderick â€œaccidentallyâ€ hits Stevens in the head with the FIP Belt. Stevens is gushing blood out of the side of his head as Roderick narrowly convinces the ref to not disqualify him.
Roderick with control mixes strikes and backwork for quite a while, but simply cannot keep the irrepressible Stevens down. Stevens fights back after a Stronghold and numerous combinations, so Roderick gets desperate and pulls the ref in front of an oncoming clothesline. He then pulls Stevens outside the ring and destroys, and I mean destroys him with a chair shot. Roderick gets back in the ring, wakes the ref, and wins the FIP Title.
Roderick Strong defeats Erick Stevens (Countout, Chair Shot, **** Â¼)
If you can deal with the ending, this is a major, major MOTYC for 2008. Stevens and Roderick had a war more than a match, fighting for everything and selling to perfection. Roderickâ€™s sneaky heel turn to Stevens clean resilience (pun intended) all match was absolutely awesome. The ending was a bit anticlimactic, but since the new heel won, thatâ€™s kind of the point. If anything, I am under-rating this match. Go to www.rohwrestling.com now and buy this DVD for $15. You wonâ€™t regret it.
4. FIP Redefined: Sal Rinuaro Â© vs. Tyler Black
Sal is the Florida Heritage Champion and a cocky heel of the YRR (Young, Rich and Ready for Action). Tyler is trying to dethrone him and is a face by default.
Sal says heâ€™s the best in FIP and says the â€œdisgusting emoâ€ Tyler Black will suffer for AOTF taking Rain and Lacey from the YRR. Tyler says itâ€™s all about respect, for the women and the belt. If he doesnâ€™t have respect, heâ€™ll lose the belt too.
Tyler is all about staying one step ahead of Rinuaro who quickly runs away. Southern heel stall gets huge heat.
When Sal gets back in Tyler is all over him with high impact moves, showing huge risk and huge reward, capped with a plancha. Tylerâ€™s enthusiasm and speed work against him eventually as he runs straight into a workover period. Heel workover getting huge heat as Black sells like heâ€™s being killed. Every move by Sal has something to draw heat attached. The focus of Sal is Tylerâ€™s back.
Sal is slippery, but Tylerâ€™s hope spots get slowly bigger (a nearly lost art), until the final comeback. This draws out the rest of the YRR are ringside as Tyler hits a perfect lionsault. Run-ins galore and Tyler fights everyone off! The assault continues, as Tyler keeps fighting for near falls. Tyler to the top and a frog splash, but Rinuaro escapes, barely. Sal manages a desperation knee and both men are down.
Sal thinks he has control, but eats a F5 and superkick! Kenny King pulls the ref out or we had a new champion. Tyler is distracted and Rinuaro hits a springboard kick for the sudden three!
Rinuaro defeats Black (Pin, Springboard Kick, *** Â½)
Perfect old style face-heel dynamic with great Southern heel work by Rinuaro and selling by Black. They mixed in the modern indy spots perfectly and were very crisp. The build of what huge moves Tyler could pull off versus what trickery Rinuaro could get away with is a thing of beauty.
5. ROH Transform: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Austin Aries
This is basically an exhibition match between two very over faces. Aries is on the hot streak of his life and Claudio is Claudio.
They work on the mat and, while Aries is all business, Claudio plays to the crowd. This isnâ€™t a problem as heâ€™s at least holding his own and winning most encounters. The showboating eventually ticks off Aries who takes control mixing in some striking with the mat work. Aries attacks are focused on the back and neck of Claudio, setting up the brainbuster and Horns of Aries finishers.
Claudioâ€™s power advantage gets him momentary advantages, but the showboating prevents those from lasting in a nice twist. Aries maintains control with his usual offense. Claudioâ€™s power eventually works and he stops showboating long enough to maintain control, until he tries a springboard. Aries has that and the giant swing scouted, so he is able to regain control yet again. Aries should win here, as he has Claudio controlled, while being ready with a counter for all Claudioâ€™s normal moves.
Aries goes for the kill, but CC reaches the ropes in the Horns due to his height. A frustrated Aries takes a kick to the face and Claudio tries to finish quickly with the Riccola Bomb. He canâ€™t get the move and Aries is too strong, going off with strikes in the corner. Pissing Aries off made him rush in and now Claudio gets the giant swing.
Both men are more or less even, but the Crucifix Bomb and Brainbuster get a near fall for Aries. Aries goes up, but is still dizzy and is slammed off the top. Claudio fights back and gets Aries up in the Riccola Bomb. In an awesome counter that becomes the Horns of Aries, with knees. Claudio, in an awesome fight, raises that and somehow gets the Riccola Bomb out of nowhere! Aries escapes, Claudio holds on, and a second finishes!
Claudio defeats Aries (Pin, Riccola Bomb, ***)
This was a very fun match that had the dead crowd as alive as theyâ€™d get all night. Claudioâ€™s antics met Aries counters, but Claudio was too big for the Horns of Aries to be especially effective. This proved the difference as Claudio knew Aries had him too well scouted for his usual stuff and just went for the kill. Two Riccola bombs later and we had that kill. Claudio and Aries took a lackluster show and put it on their back, waking a dead crowd up. That perfectly sums up Claudioâ€™s best use.
6. ROH Sixth Anniversary Show: Human Tornado and Delirious vs. Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black
Tornado and Delirious are mid-match when the Age of the Fall interrupts to attack Tornado because he was perceived as rude to Lacey the night before. Boom! Insta-feud. Thatâ€™s the beauty of Jacobs character and AOTF.
Tornado and Delirious work well together to take out Tyler. The heat on Tylerâ€™s beat down is incredible. Delirious ends up worked over and the Age of the Fall kill him for a bit as the crowd begs for a Tornado tag. The near tags draw audible groans.
A headbutt to a standing lionsault by Del to Tyler leads to the tag and the huge pop while Tornado kills Jacobs and Black, finishing with a sick plancha onto both. The assault continues with Delirious finally getting up, as well, only to be dropkicked to the floor. Tornado is bombed into the corner and Jacobs locks in the end time for the win.
Jacobs and Black defeat Tornado and Delirious (Submission, End Time, *** Â¼)
The perfect opener. Jacobs has enough traction with fans as a heel to get great heat, while Tornado and Delirious are too awesomely amusing for the crowd not to mark out.
7.FIP Heatstroke 07 Night 1: Davey Richards vs. Erick Stevens Â©
Erick is the Florida Heritage Title holder at this point and Davey is challenging. These two have a rivalry due to Davey hurting Stevens in ROH.
Stevens spend the early portion of the match staying a step ahead using his power and mat wrestling. Davey is stomped about until he suddenly gets a vicious clothesline at high speed. Stevens power is too much and after a short control period heâ€™s right back. Davey ducks a charge, using speed and then works the arm, setting up the kimura.
Side Note: FIP Dave Prazak is absolutely hilarious. He said Davey was setting up for the Kimona. When Leonard corrected him he got mad because it isnâ€™t the Kimura Wanalaya! Damn it ROH, give Prazak back his sense of humor!
Meanwhile, more arm work! Stevens tries to throw Davey to the ropes, but his arm hurts too much, so he uses the other arm for his comeback in a really cool moment. Stevnes is careful to use both arms for his power moves and keeps grabbing his arm all the way. Iâ€™m loving this selling.
Davey gets back into the fight with strikes after Stevens takes ages to get up due to his hurt arm and ends up with control, even hitting a missile dropkick to Stevens back. Davey seems lost and canâ€™t put Stevens away, getting hit with a German and Stevens finally hits the Choo Choo Charge! Stevens goes for the Doctor Bomb, but the arm hurts too much still.
Davey counters and runs after the arm, locking up the kimura, but being counters into a pin and Davey is turned about. Doctor Bomb and weâ€™re outta here!
Stevens defeats Davey (Pin, Doctor Bomb, *** Â½)
This was all for the assault of Davey, which was stiff, well timed and focused, along with the amazing selling of Stevens. Davey and Stevens worked a match that could hardly have been less clichÃ© indy in a very good way.
8. PWG Giant Sized Annual #4: Roderick Strong and Pac Â© vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico
This is for the PWG tag titles, held by Roderick and Pac. The Briscoes no showed, so Steen and Generico declare themselves the hottest team and lay down the challenge. Generico is PWG Champion and has a longstanding rivalry with Pac, while Strong is trying to go after his PWG title. Meanwhile, Steenâ€™s a jerk.
Strong controls Generico a bit early on the mat, but Pac is in and instantly gets into trouble. He fights back well, but both Steen and Generico basically have their way with him. Roderick gets in and then goes to ground Steen again. Steen gets out for Generico, who eats a backbreaker and we have a heat segment on the best seller on the indies.
Generico knows Pac well, so he can counter him, and Steen is in for the workover on the Brit. Steenâ€™s constant shouting of instruction to Generico and taunting is awesome. Pac takes one hell of a beating. Steen gets too cocky and eats the shooting star knees.
Hot Tag! Roderick beats on Generico who is dutifully smashed about, having his back annihilated. Pac is in and he and Strong pick up the pace, which is right to Genericoâ€™s hands as he tags Steen. Steen and Generico together destroy Pac. They go for the package buster, but itâ€™s countered and a reverse â€˜rana by Pac leads to Roddyâ€™s kick. Steen is in trouble with Strong who whups him, but good, and Pac hits a 450 with a twist at the end to a senton for a very near fall. Steen wasnâ€™t worked over so itâ€™ll take more than that to beat him.
Pac tries to go up and is dumped by Generico, leaving strong aloneâ€¦uh oh, all four men and Steen and Generico prove the better tandem. Steenault and a huge splash get a near fall on the prone Pac, who canâ€™t have much left. Strong is back in before another near finish! He and Pac nearly take out Generico, but Strong is dumped by Steen. Generico dives to take him out. Packagebuster on Pac and weâ€™re done!
Steen and El Generico defeat Pac and Strong (Pin, Package Buster, **** Â¼)
Steenâ€™s cockiness almost cost his team, but wearing down Pac proved to be the difference. Generico and Steen, less hurt, failed to fall to their opponents big moves. Great stuff, with Steen and Generico showing why they are the best team in the world today.
That’s it for ROH Weekly! Join me Monday for a look at Flair vs. Michaels from a critical standpoint and a review of the Murder City Machine Guns vs. Jushin Lyger and Ultimo Dragon. You wonâ€™t want to miss this.