Throughout Ring of Honorâ€™s 7-plus years in existence, there have been only 11 world champions, and no former champ has ever earned the championship a second time. There has been a lot of discussion and speculation amongst ROHbots and analysts about which former champ might be a good choice to break through and repeat to become the very first two-time ROH world champion in company history. Iâ€™ve thought a great deal about this subject, and have come up with my own conclusion regarding whoâ€™d be the best choice.
TODAYâ€™S ISSUE: The first Ring of Honor two-time world champion.
I was introduced to Ring of Honor about two years ago, and it was immediately apparent that this was a special sort of wrestling promotion with several standard operating procedures that made them stand out from todayâ€™s norm. They enforced a code of honor in which the athletes respected each other as professionals. They didnâ€™t allow any outside interference in matches, or for referees to be touched by wrestlers. Most matches ended with clean winners and losers, and the atmosphere was a more serious, competitive, â€œreal sportsâ€ style. One of the differences between ROH and the bigger feds that really appealed to me was that the world championship was always treated as a cherished commodity, never devalued by hotshots or frequent changes, and allowed to be the featured, centerpiece of the promotion thanks to mostly lengthy, well-developed, significant championship reigns.
Since none of the 10 former champs have ever repeated, which one might be the first to accomplish this feat is something fans discuss and try to predict. Of course the most likely choices are Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson, and Austin Aries, since theyâ€™re the only three former champions on the regular roster today, so letâ€™s take a look at which of these three would be the most likely to repeat as ROH world champion.
Nigel McGuinness: Imagine how much his heel character would crow if he were to become the first two-time ROH champ; itâ€™d be a great addition for his gimmick. However, they did all they could with the stiff-striking Brit at the top of the card during his long title reign, and it was certainly time for a change when he dropped the strap back in April. Also, Nigelâ€™s been quite injury prone and since ROH is into longstanding reigns with lots of defenses, it pays right now to have a healthy wrestler carrying the banner for the indy fed, especially since theyâ€™re finally on television and looking to expand their viewership; an ailing champion isnâ€™t necessarily the best way to accomplish that goal.
Bryan Danielson: The American Dragon calls himself the â€œbest wrestler in the worldâ€ and he backs it up in the ring night after night. A phenomenal face or heel, he never fails to get the crowd deep into his current story, and his matches are always a highlight of any show on which he performs. When he was at war against then champion Takeshi Morishima, it seemed like a second Dragon title reign would have made a great deal of sense; his story as the smaller underdog against the vicious, dominant champion screamed for a â€œRocky Balboaâ€ ending, but that never happened. Even when Nigel eventually defeated the Japanese juggernaut, Dragon still had a great storyline reason to earn his second ROH title; his rivalry with McGuinness.
But ROH didnâ€™t pull the trigger then either, and now Danielson seems to need a boost back to the throne in order for another Dragon title run to really mean big business. For now, it seems unlikely that this is where Silken will choose to take his company, especially since Danielson has been given several WWE tryout matches and has also been flirting with the ideal of a mixed martial arts career.
Austin Aries: When he was the no-nonsense Ace whoâ€™d beaten Bryan Danielson in a best-of-three series and stood tall against the Age of the Fall, nobody was a better choice for a second title reign than Aries. In fact, I was dying to see him take the gold from Nigel and then go to war with Tyler Black in several championship classics. But now his goofball character drifts somewhat aimlessly and isnâ€™t the sort of gimmick thatâ€™s well suited for a serious push. Heâ€™s better off in the mid-card unless his character takes a more serious turn sometime soon.
Itâ€™s too bad, because in my humble opinion nobody possesses the total package like Aries. He is unbelievable between the ropes, he can talk and portray a strong babyface or a believable heel, and crowds always respond to him. Aries is one of the best wrestlers alive today, period. But whatever Cary Silken has in mind for him, becoming the first ever two-time champ in ROH history doesnâ€™t seem to fit Ariesâ€™ current destiny.
So who does that leave? Perhaps an unsigned, former top dog like Homicide or Samoa Joe could return for a one-shot, as each of them have in the past, and take back the gold from a hated heel champ like Nigel was. But this doesnâ€™t work well regarding long-term booking; itâ€™d make for a great feel-good moment, but wouldnâ€™t be a wise decision for the company to make unless they planned to hotshot the gold right back to a new heel, which as I stated earlier, goes against traditional ROH championship booking strategies. That would seem to leave nobody, but I promised above that Iâ€™d make a definitive statement about who I think should be the first ever two-time world champion in company history. Are you ready? Here it is: Nobody.
There is no compelling reason whatsoever at this time to end one of the last remaining untouched milestones in company history. I submit that like Undertakerâ€™s WrestleMania winning streak, there is nothing to gain right now by crowning a two-time ROH champ unless a wildly entertaining storyline is written in which a former champ regaining the gold is an integral part. Rather, ROH would be best served if they were to continue moving in new directions today instead of digging into their own past. Tyler Black, Roderick Strong, Davey Richards and Erick Stevens are all obvious choices for world title runs in the near future, and thereâ€™s a lot of storyline ground to cover without going backwards and re-crowning a former champ at this time.
The decision to allow a respected veteran like Jerry Lynn to wear the gold right now isnâ€™t one I disagree with entirely, but with the four young lions listed above and other young, high-quality performers on the roster as well as plenty of indy talent available to sign, it makes sense for Ring of Honor to move into a new era with a first-time world champion at the helm, at least until theyâ€™re ready to change a statistic that has lasted as long as their major singles title has been in existence. They could always revisit the two-time champion angle when it suits current company needs but for now, Iâ€™d leave it alone.
Only time will tell, of course, what Silken has cooking in that difficult to understand creative vision of his. But if he throws away the two-time stat in a meaningless way, heâ€™ll have wasted a great opportunity to do something special with his world championship. I for one hope he considers that honor something special upon which to book, not a useless factoid for ROHbots to discuss amongst ourselves.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. â€“ â€œIf winning isnâ€™t everything, why do they keep score?â€ – Vince Lombardi
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this weekâ€¦
Lots of Ring of Honor links today. John Wiswell discusses how fans feel about injuries in this weekâ€™s Cult of ROH.
Big Andy Mac reports on the latest episode of ROH on HDNet.
Jake Ziegler reviews Ring of Honorâ€™s Motor City Madness 2009 DVD.
Bones Barkley has some ROH News on Philly, HDNet, and more.
On a different note, hereâ€™s Paul Marshallâ€™s latest Total Nonstop Weekly.
Here are Dale Clarkeâ€™s 10 Thoughts on SmackDown! and Jon Banditâ€™s 10 Thoughts on TNA iMPACT! for your reading pleasure.
Hereâ€™s an interesting bit of WWE news about an old pay-per-view with a new name and theme; â€Breaking Pointâ€ debuts this September.
Finally this week, Michael Fitzgerald returns with another edition of Smack YOU! in which he gives the show â€œthumbs upâ€.
Tags: Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, Homicide, Nigel McGuinness, Ring of Honor, ROH, Samoa Joe