Cult of ROH: What Are They Waiting For?

They’re the matches we’re always waiting for. Ring of Honor knows we want to see them and they could book them for next week – but they don’t. Well, sometimes they do: they just gave the internet an orgasm by announcing Takeshi Morishima Vs. The Necro Butcher. Even if I don’t care about it, their fan base does. It’s an interesting pairing that could produce an amazing match, and that we weren’t sure they’d ever actually book. There have been a lot of those matches in ROH history, and this week we’ll look at six more that are still on the horizon.

Sometimes they wait too long. Samoa Joe Vs. KENTA was the victim of such stalling. Even if TNA allowed it and KENTA came back the same weekend as Joe, it wouldn’t be as hot as it would have been in late 2006. The loss of matches of this time are some of the first laments whenever somebody leaves the company.

For the sake of brevity I won’t count rematches like the Briscoes Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico, or presently implausible matches like Paul London Vs. Austin Aries. Perhaps those will come up in later columns.

Alright, onto the matches.

Tyler Black & Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico
I have no clue why this didn’t happen already. It was lost as a title match in the recent chaos of the tag division, which may clear up after the Hammerstein show. They’re essentially the two best teams in ROH that aren’t named “the Briscoes.” One could argue they’re also the two top teams; their only rivals would be Davey Richards and Rocky Romero, but after that team’s cup of coffee with the tag titles they don’t look particularly strong, especially in comparison to Steen and Generico, who have had champions dodge them or cheat to beat them for months now. There’s no segment of the match that doesn’t have promise: Generico and Black in an athletic blitz, Jacobs choking the life out of Generico, Jacobs and Steen in character-driven conflict, Black testing Steen’s ability, or both team’s top-shelf teamwork.

If Jacobs and Black regain the tag titles, and if Steen returns to tag wrestling after running through too many shots at McGuinness, this could be a huge money match for Ring of Honor. In fact, if both teams win at the Hammerstein and have blow-away performances (and they’re certainly in the right positions to do that), they could feasibly headline the next Hammerstein show.

Kevin Steen Vs. El Generico
After a little more than a year in the company they are already more relevant singles wrestlers than Jay and Mark Briscoe. Generico went to the finals of the Race to the Top tournament, and while he hasn’t been pushed heavily since, he’s been given roles where his phenomenal underdog character stood out as a threat – whether coming close to beating Naomichi Marufuji, taking Claudio Castagnoli to a draw or pinning Austin Aries. Kevin Steen has arguably been pushed harder than anyone in 2008 with the first win over Go Shiozaki, making Bryan Danielson submit, shredding the Necro Butcher in hardcore matches, winning the Battle of the Bulls over Brent Albright, having tag champions run from him, and forcing the champion to have to cheat twice to escape with his title.

Fans of PWG know how good they are against each other when the crowds are familiar with them. Their familiarity with each other as a tag team translates very well one-on-one, with Generico making anything Steen tries work. The higher the two men are elevated, the more they’ll be able to play up in that eventual match.

ROH has teased a split-up multiple times. Many fans were certain they’d divide during their violent feud with the Briscoes, with Steen’s noticeably more aggressive behavior. When the Eye of the Storm tournament brackets were announced people immediately suspected they would be in the finals. Whether or not their bizarre friendship lasts, the match will happen – as the start of a feud, a necessary step in title contention, or a way to settle disappointments ala the Briscoes at 2007’s Fifth Year Festival.

Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Bryan Danielson
Castagnoli can dominate on the mat and would bring a distinct power advantage that Danielson doesn’t face often in Ring of Honor. Add that Castagnoli is more comfortable flying and has a broader power-based offense, and it would be very easy for them to showcase Castagnoli as a versatile threat. Danielson is one of the only other two guys who use the European Uppercuts (aside from Nigel McGuinness – who is European, and has been cutting back on them), opening up a potential strike battle – one he’d probably lose, which could only help Castagnoli’s cause. Castagnoli is one opponent who could gain a lot in a strong match with Danielson, beyond the good experience.

If Castagnoli wins the title and goes on that feel-good title run many of us would like to see, this could be his first major test. Or if Castagnoli doesn’t win, they could cross paths as both try to work their ways back into contention. This match has happened before outside of ROH, with mixed results. It almost certainly wouldn’t be fifteen minutes of headlocks this time.

Davey Richards Vs. Bryan Danielson
Somebody would get his f’n head kicked in. They’re both strong technical wrestlers with good striking game. This is one of two major matches for Davey Richards that could have helped any number of undercards but mysteriously haven’t materialized, this looks suspiciously like something Ring of Honor is holding off in case of a strong push for Richards. Danielson provided the platform and boost (or at least part of one) for Paul London, Erick Stevens, Tyler Black. A great match against Danielson could seriously help Richards’ cause – and a victory could be something huge, if they played it up better than Jimmy Jacobs’ Unscripted 3 win.

Davey Richards Vs. Nigel McGuinness
The other Davey Richards match ROH seems to have held back on. Again, it’s interesting – Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness are the top two guys in the company and have been two of ROH’s favorites for years now. Either guy could have smacked around Richards on one of his losing streaks in a decent match. Since they’ve saved it, though, and cooled down things between him and Aries, and only done one Richards Vs. Strong match (which has been completely forgotten), there may be designs for him in the future, into which all of these matches will figure.

If McGuinness holds the title in the long run, ROH could build Richards up as a contender and feasibly even have him win it. Depending on the character dynamic, they could really well together. Recent matches have displayed McGuinness’ technical ability, while mat wrestling is an obvious strength for Richards (check out Vs. Rocky Romero at Dedicated and Vs. Austin Aries at Man Up for examples). They could run an entire match on trying to catch each other with one big knock-out blow, either in a Lariat or big kick. They also both have serious submissions that could easily play into exchanges, and we know both guys are capable of great technical counters.

Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Austin Aries
The building would be sold out in any sane town. In ROH Aries was gold against Japanese opponents like the guys from Dragon Gate (Dragon Gate Challenge, Better Than Our Best, Final Battle 2006, All Star Extravaganza 3) and Takeshi Morishima (Battle of St. Paul). Meanwhile Marufuji has wrestled Matt Sydal, El Generico, Rocky Romero, Davey Richards, even a Pay Per View four-way. He’s wrestled Claudio Castagnoli twice. This Saturday will mark his second match against Bryan Danielson. Yet he’s never wrestled Aries. What the Hell, man?

Aries is one of the most versatile wrestlers on any given ROH show, and Marufuji is another when he visits. Both have been booked into great star power, and both carry themselves as great stars. Aries’ matches with Danielson and McGuinness proved how phenomenal he is on the mat, in case Marufuji wanted to ground him. In the air? Aries has something flashy he can do from anywhere and the ring smarts to make it mean something, while Marufuji made his name in Japan a phenomenal flyer. He’s developed into more than that, but so has Aries. Their strike exchanges are phenomenal, they can chain wrestle, go all around the ring or just trade holds.

If it’s a matter of protecting a former GHC Heavyweight Champion and current GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, well, it’s not like early 2008 didn’t prove that Aries can lose to anyone and retain relevance. And as Aries’ matches have shown over and over, even when it’s logical that he’ll lose he builds some remarkable in-match doubt. Meanwhile Marufuji built believable nearfalls into matches with El Generico and Davey Richards – it wouldn’t be that hard to convince a live ROH crowd that Austin Aries could beat him.

Those are six matches I can think of. Are there any I missed? And what big rematches are you hoping for? Drop by to let me know.