Austin Aries is the new ROH World Champion, becoming the first man to win that belt twice. With his new A-Double, cocky heel gimmick, heâ€™s easily one of the more over men on the roster again, showing the most interesting personality he has in ages while clearly having a blast and still bringing it in the ring. Because of a lack of willingness to necessarily make guys look as good, heâ€™s always worked better as a heel, which forces him to give up control and allow his opponents to look good, and as a credible champion in a fresh position, heâ€™s exactly what ROH needs at this point. All that said, now itâ€™s time to rank the challengers for his title, from 30 down to 1.
30. Matt and Nick Jackson – One half of the saviors of the tag division need to be kept together, though both are extremely talented and if they broke up would be stars. Hopefully, for the sake of tag wrestling, that day is a ways away.
29. Erick Stevens – I really dig Stevens, but much of the fanbase doesnâ€™t seem to and heâ€™s become almost emblematic of where Gabe failed as booker. Given that, I donâ€™t see any real chance of the new regime giving him the title, despite a great history and great past matches with Aries.
28. Mark Briscoe – With Jay winning so much, Mark could always return in the shocker to take the belt, but heâ€™s really neither good nor over enough for that, so odds of happening are roughly a million-to-one.
27. Adam Pearce – Since he still helps book as part of the team, thereâ€™s still a shot he suddenly wrestles as champion. Heâ€™s never really been over enough for this and as the face of what a lot of fans hate about the new company, he would drive fans away in droves.
26. Eddie Edwards – Heâ€™s going to get stuck as a tag guy because of how bland he is, but at least, with Davey, heâ€™s in the right team. Heâ€™s talented enough that with a breakup with Davey, he could get over enough to be a real title contender, but thatâ€™s a ways away and I neither expect it to happen, nor do I expect Aries to be champion for that long.
25. Brodie Lee – Not booked often, but here incase ROH suddenly decides they need a big man on top t be more like WWE. Brodie is as big as they come on the indies and is a pretty good worker. As a tough sumbitch, he could really get over.
24. Eddie Kingston – Speaking of getting over, with his amazing promos and intense ringwork, itâ€™s a matter of time before Kingston becomes one of the more over men on the roster. If theyâ€™re going to give the belt to that type, it should be Jacobs, but as part of the booking, he might be too selfless to take it, in which case the belt could go to Kingston.
23. Jimmy Rave – Current management seems to like guys whoâ€™ve been on TV and while itâ€™s easy to forget now, Rave in his silent assassin gimmick, post-Nana, was extremely over. Revisiting that persona, turning on Nana, Rave could be a big deal, though thatâ€™s pretty far off in the future and just not especially likely something bookers would think of.
22. Delirious – Hardly booked anymore, but he has proven he could be a great underdog with Danielson and could always win in a match where as the severe underdog, he gets lucky. Of course, as weâ€™ll see, there are better options for that push.
21. D-Lo Brown – Another TV guy, theyâ€™re working pretty hard to establish him as a heel, so he shouldnâ€™t dethrone Aries, but still, it canâ€™t be fully ruled out over time. I really just donâ€™t think heâ€™s good enough at this point.
20. Rhett Titus – Also flat out not good enough, but if given enough time, he might beâ€¦ though again, Aries shouldnâ€™t be the champion. Aries won his firs title after turning on stable leader Alex Shelley- Titus could do the same to Aries one day, though there is certainly a better option to turn, as weâ€™ll see when we get to number 13.
19. Brent Albright – Barely booked nowadays, but still in good with Pearce it seems. Heâ€™s as over as anyone when well handled, though heâ€™s handled well rarely enough that he likely wonâ€™t win the top belt.
18. Necro Butcher – The movie star push could still happen, though, really, it should have already were it going to. Heâ€™s over enough and different enough that were a full direction change needed, heâ€™s likely the guy to do it with since heâ€™s so unique.
17. Jerry Lynn – They didnâ€™t dethrone Jerry just to give the belt back to him. I mean, I donâ€™t think he should have gotten it the first time, and I think this was a last minute, Flair cancellation related change, so switching the title back isnâ€™t be out of the realm of possibility, but it surely should be.
16. Claudio Castagnoli – Here begin the guys that really have more than an outside chance of taking the belt. Claudio has the best look in the company and could he talk, heâ€™d be a shoe in for the title. Heâ€™s just finding his way as a heel, so the change would likely need to be in a three way, but heâ€™s been so good and so over that itâ€™s more than just a longshot.
15. Nigel McGuinness – Can work heel or face and is already challenged by Aries, but heâ€™s already run through all his challengers, so thereâ€™s no real point in putting the belt back on him, unless you feel heâ€™s best in the company by that wide a margin and itâ€™s pretty clear management doesnâ€™t prefer him by that much to Aries, who at least has fresh matches waiting for him. Still, heâ€™s Nigel and will always have a shot.
14. Kenny King – The choice to turn on Aries and win the belt would be King, whoâ€™s reminiscent of a young RVD. Still, heâ€™s rather green for the big belt and Aries would need a lot of time on top, which I donâ€™t feel heâ€™ll get. Kingâ€™s ascent should still be awesome.
13. Sonjay Dutt – Prominent on TNA television for years, he could easily ascend to the top of the card through his great ring work, personality, and newfound ability to connect with fans. He still wonâ€™t ascend high enough to be champion likely, as ROH has never had a flier champion or really, besides AJ Styles and Paul London in 2003, one in serious contention. Sonjay simply isnâ€™t in those twoâ€™s class. (Iâ€™m limiting this to current roster guys, otherwise both London and Quack are personal favorites to dethrone Aries).
12. Kevin Steen – Steenâ€™s singles push seems to have waned of late, which is for the better. Heâ€™s an ideal tag guy and really adds importance to the tag division, being an upper carder himself. He also doesnâ€™t have the look to be champ for a company on television, but is still awesome enough to be able to beat Aries and transition to another heel, say Claudio or number 8 on the list.
11. Chris Hero – Heroâ€™s Young Knockout Kid gimmick isnâ€™t getting any more over and heâ€™s really due for a face turn after almost four years as a heel. A return to his flamboyant ways as a face champion would immediately become the most over thing on the card, but, again, this unfortunately doesnâ€™t seem to be in the cards given his Kingston feud is just beginning.
10. Jay Briscoe – Heâ€™s been getting high profile wins and I have no clue why. If he were to dethrone Aries then go on to feud with Mark Briscoe, it would at least be over and establish a new main eventer. Heâ€™s here mostly because I have no idea where to put him or why heâ€™s winning so often.
9. El Generico – This is who to do the underdog champion with, not Delirious. Heâ€™s been amazing in the role against Nigel and would likely do better against Aries. Heâ€™s a top worker, but might be too valuable in the rebuilding tag division and too corny looking to get the belt. Still, there are few ROH fans would rather see on top.
8. Davey Richards – Davey is too good as a heel right now to turn or heâ€™d be higher up the list. Itâ€™s easier to see a transitional champion between Aries and Davey than Davey defeating Aries himself right now, though again, if Davey keeps improving at this rate, how long can you keep the title off of him.
7. Kenny Omega – ROH seems to want to make a new young face their star and while Tyler is likely the guy, all his lost challenges may have damaged him too much to become champion. That might or might not be the case and while Omega has a good shot, his place in line ultimately still falls behind Tyler. This is also absolutely a move I feel Omega isnâ€™t near ready for yet.
6. KENTA – KENTAâ€™s doing more and more US touring and a thank you title run is never out of the question. I hope he doesnâ€™t win because he and Aries have shown no real chemistry previously, but itâ€™s hard to argue that he both deserves it and is over enough for it, if NOAH brass, surely in a time or upheaval, will still let it happen.
5. Jimmy Jacobs – Heâ€™s a legitimate main eventer without direction and likely needs one before challenging for the title, though he does have enough history with Aries to turn face and take the belt. If they want a promo guy to have the title, heâ€™s the best in the company, though his size is surely a detriment on television.
4. Bryan Danielson – Heâ€™s the best wrestler in the world and that isnâ€™t hyperbole or a catchphrase. He has the rivalry with Aries to get it done and the current brass appears to like established guys, is good enough on the mic and has developed an amazing â€œitâ€ factor in the way he carries himself. Thereâ€™s no real reason for him to not win except that since heâ€™s been helping book, heâ€™s putting everyone over himself and that doesnâ€™t seem likely to build to a title run. Still, people who get into ROH will often do so to see what the Danielson hype is about and that would work extremely well with him highlighted as champion.
3. Colt Cabana – Colt has had so many near misses and is so beloved right now (absence making the heart grow fonder) he could beat Aries and immediately become champion without any problem. Heâ€™s big, charismatic, with a good look, he can work and talk. Heâ€™d be a great champion, even if I canâ€™t personally stand him. He does seem happy just working comedy currently, but if he decides to get serious, he could be champion within a couple of months.
2. Roderick Strong – He has a recent win over Aries and has been damn near Danielson-esque in the ring lately. Heâ€™ll never be the mic guy he should be to be champion, but heâ€™s fast approaching the point in ring where that ceases to be a huge issue. Also, and donâ€™t underestimate the impact of this, he still has a recognizable intro to his music and uses music he did formerly as a face, causing an immediate pop when he comes out, unlike most of the roster with their generic music. Every match he has is fresh and the only thing holding him back at all is his lack of mic skills. Amazing for a guy who the new regime seemed at first to have no use for.
1. Tyler Black – If Flair didnâ€™t flake, heâ€™d likely have won the title on HD net next week to add importance to the show. As is, heâ€™s still likely next in line for the belt, despite that booking has damaged him to the point where heâ€™ll look more like a fluke if he wins than anything else. Heâ€™s been promised the belt long enough that fans might just be happy that it finally happens, but itâ€™s no longer the sure thing it should have been. His weak mic skills and waning ability to stay over, even in NYC, are easily the best argument for Roderick or someone else to take the belt, but that would leave Tyler a directionless Lex Luger type- a fate he surely doesnâ€™t deserve, so I still expect him to win the belt.
That’s it for today; check back tomorrow for Raw thoughts.
Tags: a modest blog, A Modest Response, Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, colt cabana, ROH, Tyler Black