10 Thoughts On… Ring of Honor January 23, 2016 (Top Prospect Tournament, 14th Anniversary Main Event Announcement, Jay Briscoe vs. Michael Elgin)

So let’s get right to it.
1. The Top Prospect Tournament begins tonight with Brian Fury versus Shaheem Ali. Kevin Kelly and Mr. Wrestling 3 are hyping up Ali as a favorite in the tournament while also name dropping the people Fury has trained in his 17 year career (including last year’s winner Donovan Dijak and Sasha Banks). So I really have no idea who they want to win here. I guess Ali is okay, and Fury looks like he knows his way around the ring, but overall the match was a little underwhelming. Fury wins with a variation of a pop-up powerbomb to move on. Can’t see him winning the whole thing though.

2. Pat Metalhead pointed out in a comment to my column last week that ROH tends to have good in-ring work but somewhat confusing booking choices. While I agree with this assessment, there is one thing that makes ROH stand out in my opinion. Almost every storyline seems to either revolve around the championships or building yourself up to get a title shot. Sure, you have some personal feuds, but most of the time, the most important issue in the storylines are the chase for be champion. Case in point – the Tale of the Tape that ROH utilizes before every match. It lets the viewer know a little about competitors if you are unfamiliar with them, but it also makes every match feel like an important athletic contest, not just a match thrown out there for the sake of throwing a match out there.

3. To follow up with that point, Cedric Alexander (with Veda Scott) come out to the ring. Not only do they blow off the stupid “Veda sues ROH” storyline, but then they call out the “big” names in the company. To try to show that Alexander is worthy of a title shot. It makes Alexander look like he wants bigger and better things, and is not just content to collect a paycheck. It also makes the reveal of Cedric’s opponent to have more humor than it really should. And out comes Cheeseburger.

4. I know everyone loves Cheeseburger, but I honestly don’t really know why. Because he is always the underdog due to his size? Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan are two people that I can think of off the top of my head who do that better. Plus, Cheeseburger’s offense never seems very impactful to me. Giving him the Palm Thrust as a finisher is good I guess, but only because we’ve seen Jushin “Thunder” Liger use it effectively. Cheeseburger is a comedy act, which is all well and good, but don’t try to make him seem like a viable threat.

5. After an insane amount of offense by Cheeseburger, Cedric Alexander finishes him off with the Lumbar Check. That looked sick on someone Cheeseburger’s size. Beat down occurs after but is stopped by someone names Jonathan Gresham. I guess he beat Cedric a few weeks ago and this is a feud now. Impromptu match and Gresham wins via disqualification. But he eats a Lumbar Check after as well, which looked even more painful than the one Cheeseburger took. That’s the Cedric Alexander I want to see. The one who tore down the house and the ring with Tommaso Ciampa a little over a year ago.

6. Speaking of making everything revolve around the championship, Nigel comes out to announce the main event for the upcoming 14th Anniversary Show in Vegas. Jay Lethal and the House of Truth come out since of course the main event will be Jay Lethal defending the belt against someone. I think I need some sub-points here before I continue …

6. A. Truth Martini is a bit of a bore for me, especially since Lethal has gotten so much better on the mic. Lethal doesn’t need Martini or the House of Truth to be a good heel champion.

6. B. If Truth Martini is going to be around and very visible, the addition of Taeler Hendrix to the House of Truth is perfect. Her facial expressions crack me up and the fire red hair and outfit choices, while cliche, are perfect for that role.

…So Nigel teases Kyle O’Reilly as a worthy contender and Lethal rightfully points out that he had a shot and lost. (Again, the shot at the title is important and if you don’t win, you go back in the pack. I like that.) Sub points again…

6. C. I like Kyle O’Reilly, both as a singles wrestler and as a tag wrestler. But Lethal is correct, we’ve already seen that match. Let’s see something new.

…Nigel then continues on to say that since Adam Cole defeated O’Reilly, he is the number one contender. Rose then hits the ring to talk, until sub-points pop into my head…

6. D. Admittedly, I am not the biggest Adam Cole fan. He seems like a good hand, but I just don’t buy him being so much better than everyone else. And his matches tend to bear that out to me. If I just watch one of his matches and not think about the booking, I am always surprised when he wins. I am not sure he would be the guy to try to push with a two-time reign.

…But then Nigel decides to go the boring route and make the match a triple threat match between Lethal, Cole, and O’Reilly. Normally this screams lazy booking to me. I know these three will probably have a great match, but if it were me, I would book it like this – Lethal comes into the ring and sits in the corner while Cole and O’Reilly try to kill each other. And then casually pin whoever dies first. One more sub-point…

6. E. As much as I like O’Reilly, he is definitely not the most intimidating guy on the mic. Maybe he would be better off with Truth Martini as a mouthpiece.

…And then, just to complete the lazy booking trifecta, Nigel books a tag team match between Cole and Lethal and ReDragon. Sure the match will be fun, but it is almost like they just borrowed the thoughts from a random episode of Raw for this. Use the other talents you have in the back, ROH.

7. Another recap of the Silas Young and Dalton Castle feud, with footage of the swerve where the Boys go back with Castle at Final Battle. And then Young cuts a promo about this again, with a bit more ickiness in his obsession with the Boys than I would like. I said it last week, and I will say it again, end this feud. It has been months. Castle is super-over with the crowds. The Boys are super-over with Castle. Silas Young doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Castle can be moved up the card and let Young battle someone else. Maybe get him involved with the Top Prospect winner. I don’t know, but just stop with the Young and Castle stuff.

8. Main event is scheduled as Michael Elgin versus Jay Briscoe (with Mark Briscoe on commentary where he is more entertaining than I like to admit). Nice continuity by Kevin Kelly in explaining that Jay Briscoe has only been pinned twice in about three years – once by Elgin and the other by the World Champ Jay Lethal. (See how a new viewer immediately would think that Jay Briscoe is definitely someone to pay attention to, as well as Elgin since he pinned him before. All because the championship is important and treated that way.)

9. But we have a bit more lazy booking here and Moose is added to the match for some reason. But using the logic from point #8, this also makes Moose look like a force in ROH. Everyone looks pretty good in the match, reaffirming their place on the card. Most of the work and heavy lifting is done by Elgin and Moose though, focusing on each man’s strength and agility. And then Briscoe picks up the victory, which keeps all three men elevated.

10. After the match, Elgin challenges Jay and Mark Briscoe to a tag team match at the 14th Anniversary show. He announces his partner as Tanahashi. Definitely a big match and I am sure the show will be better for it. Given Elgin’s success is New Japan and the Briscoes starting to spend more time over there, it could be a match with a lot of future consequences. My hope, maybe Elgin turns on Tanahashi and sets up a new feud for both men. I wouldn’t mind Elgin spending more time in Japan and as good as their matches have been, I really don’t need to see another Tanahashi-Okada match anytime soon. (But I am not an NJPW expert. I’ll let Pat Metalhead explain why I’m a fool for that fantasy booking thought.)

Bonus thought on Tanahashi – If he gets Marty Friedman to play him to the ring again, I’d be down with that.

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