Following from ROH’s recent announcement that they will be returning to the UK after 10 years for 3 shows in November, I thought it would be a great opportunity to fill everyone in on what’s been happening in ROH so far this year.
Now, those that do follow me on twitter will know how much I admire ROH, the product they consistently put out is, for me as a pro-wrestling fan, outstanding. I do, however, understand that they are mainly known only to hardcore fans here in the UK for a few reasons. The lack of coverage the product has here, along with the lack of events, is one. Now, while I’m hoping that November’s tour is the first of many, TV coverage is something that might change following the tour as well. Those in the States, and more recently Japan, have had many more opportunities to see one of the best pro-wrestling companies in the world and its stars.
ROH kicked off 2016 after a tremendous 2015 when Jay Lethal cemented himself as the company’s main star and rated 17th on the 2015 PWI Top 500, ten places below Jay Briscoe, the man he dethroned for the ROH World Title at June’s Best In The World event. That night, the TV Champ became the company’s double title holder. You might have seen something very similar on WWE TV with Seth Rollins holding both the US and World Titles. Rollins, a former ROH World Champion, held the title for 210 days in ’09/’10 before he lost to ‘Mr. Ring of Honor’ Roderick Strong at Glory By Honor IX. For the remainder of 2015, Strong would battle in several outstanding matches with Lethal, including an excellent one-hour long match at Death Before Dishonor XIII.
Fast forward a year and at the time of writing we are just 26 days away from Death Before Dishonor XIV, when Jay Lethal, still ROH World Champion, looks set to face Bullet Club member Adam Cole. This event will host the ROH best but also those from NJPW in another, sure-to-be-exciting joint-promotion event between the two companies.
2016 started off where 2015 left off with Jay Lethal as World Champion. February’s Anniversary show in Las Vegas, where feuding former partners Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly faced the World Champion in a terrific triple threat match, proved to me that Kyle O’Reilly is a future World Champion. The reDragon star has proved time and time again that inside the ring there aren’t many better technical wrestlers around.
War Machine’s Tag Team Title run continued following the Anniversary show but finally ended as The Addiction captured the titles again at ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds in May. The team of Daniels and Kazarian have defended the belts consistently since then.
Also on the Anniversary show, the TV Title was defended in another triple threat match with Tomohiro Ishii vs Roderick Strong vs Bobby Fish in decent match, I personally felt that Roderick Strong’s title reign ended too quickly during this time period after some cracking matches with Lethal, but soon after, Bobby Fish captured the title from Tomohiro Ishii in May and continues to defend the title against top ROH prospects such as Dalton Castle.
The world seemed focused on Dallas, Texas in April and ROH held two impressive Supercard of Honor shows. The first was headlined by arguably the world’s number one tag team, The Young Bucks, as they faced the recently reformed Motor City Machine Guns. This was an excellent match which is recommended viewing on demand.
This card also saw ROH World Champion, Jay Lethal, defend against the 2016 Top Prospect Winner, Lio Rush. Rush (21) is someone I was very new to and was really impressed with during this excellent tournament which has had previous winners such as Donovan Dijak, Hanson, Matt Taven and, the recently departed for TNA, Mike Bennett. I have to admit that the undersized Rush was a big underdog for me during the final with Brian Fury, but Lio using some very fast high-flying moves captured the Top Prospect “trophy” and the opportunity to face the ROH World Champion at arguably the biggest weekend in the history of the wrestling business.
How did Rush get on? Now we all know that Lethal is still the man, but Rush proved to everyone watching that this man has a huge future in ROH, and more importantly the wrestling business. A very young man with big dreams in ROH, Rush had Lethal on the ropes several times until Lethal managed to take home the victory.
If I were to make a list of wrestlers to watch in ROH for the remainder of 2016, then Lio would be on that, but it would be topped by Jay White. The New Zealand-born wrestler has been impressive during his time in Japan with NJPW, but on a recent ROH TV show, he proved to the American viewers that he is the future of ROH. He’s my man to watch for 2016/2017. White has a great in-ring presence with a great look. He and Lio Rush produced an outstanding match on the AfterShock tour and has been tipped as a future star by former ROH owner Cary Silkin.
For the last two years, ROH and NJPW have built an excellent relationship which has helped ROH with its international audience. Now, I recently read an article that said this relationship was damaging ROH in the long run because it weakens their identity. I really have to disagree with this. When you have the opportunity all year round to watch ROH promoted events where the outstanding Men and Women Of Honor have brilliant pro-wrestling matches; to then add new wrestlers on a consistent basis to shake things up and promote each company, how can this be a bad thing for either promotion? We’ve seen Okada, Nakamura, Tanahashi, Naito, Ishii, Kushida, Young Bucks, even Jushin Liger on events such as Global Wars and War Of The Worlds. There is also talent ready for the recently announced Death Before Dishonor in August. Having these Japanese superstars grace the American scene is huge. It elevates the American wrestlers to new heights and gives them an opportunity to compete with wrestlers of different styles. Look at how much Kyle O’Reilly has come on over the past 18 months and two years since this agreement has been in place and how much Michael Elgin, a former ROH World Champion, has improved since making the switch to Japan and recently capturing the NJPW Intercontinental Title from Kenny Omega of the Bullet Club in a Ladder Match.
Colt Cabana also made his return in Dallas following Lethal’s title defence. The Champ had cleared out his division to this point, having held the title for close to a year. I personally wasn’t sure what might be next for the Champ but my question was quickly answered as Boom Boom Colt Cabana made a very surprising return to ROH for one thing only… The ROH World Title. A superb promo from both guys built to a match at May’s Global Wars. Was Lethal going to lose the title to a returning hometown hero in Cabana? The match itself was excellent, but what happened at the end of the match set the tone for the last few months in Ring Of Honor. The Bullet Club’s Young Bucks have been teasing a new member joining them at Global Wars. I personally couldn’t see either of these two as Bullet Club members, but as the match neared the end the Bucks came to the ring followed by the lights going out. However, it was Adam Cole left standing in the ring with a Bullet Club top on. He, The Young Bucks and the recently debuting Guerrillas of Destiny proceeded to destroy everyone in the ring, at ringside and anyone that wanted to get in their way. A very shocking ending to a great PPV, Adam Cole wasn’t the only person to join Bullet Club, as a few days later Adam Page would turn his back on ROH and join The Club. Adam Page, now portraying the Hangman name, has also made waves in Japan following this alliance.
As June approached, ROH was heading towards Best In The World, and again, Jay Briscoe was to face Jay Lethal in the biggest rematch in ROH for several years. A year before, Lethal captured the belt from Biscoe. I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to this match, not because who was involved but as I fully believed Lethal’s year long run was about to come to an end. I was wrong and once again these two proved that there aren’t many better in the world right now. A superb match.
Also at June’s BITW PPV saw two men finally face off after a near two-year rivalry as ‘The King Of Old School’ Steve Corino faced BJ Whitmer in a Fight Without Honor. Whitmer had been pursuing Corino for nearly 18 months on ROH TV trying to push him into a fight and even using his son Colby against him. Corino stayed professional for as long as possible before snapping and striking the in-ring talent Whitmer. This soon saw The King suspended by former ROH World Champion, and now authority figure, Nigel McGuiness, Whitner still wasn’t done with Corino and soon set sights on Kevin Kelly’s new commentary partner Mr Wrestling 3, who under a mask sounded very similar to Steve Corino. Finally, the feud came to a head as BJ released a video stalking Corino’s family. This saw the return of ‘The King Of Old School’ setting up the Fight Without Honor match at BITW.
While I very much enjoyed the hardcore nature of the match, the outcome really disappointed me. ROH built this feud up so much for a good 18 months. BJ Whitmer did everything to provoke Corino from brainwashing his son Colby and stalking his wife and baby. Everything screamed a Corino win. This wasn’t the case as Kevin Sullivan returned to PPV and formed an alliance with Whitmer whom picked up the win. Now, for me, I didn’t really understand why Sullivan was in on this and still don’t. While Colby had left Whitmer following being embarrassed on TV in front of his dad, I thought Colby would have been a better person to surprise us with and fully put the boot into the old man if they were so set on BJ to win. I can understand why they went for Whitmer to win as he’s an active wrestler and it might have hurt him losing to a commentator, but the feud was built up so much for a Corino win it just underwhelmed me.
ROH have also recently had to say goodbye to Moose who like Bennett has joined TNA, while ‘Mr ROH’ Roderick Strong recently said goodbye to the company on ROH TV following a defeat to Dalton Castle. Strong, who produced some of the best matches in the company for the past 18 months, will be very much missed by everyone.
Here we are now, just a few weeks out from ROH/NJPW Death Before Dishonor 2016, where we’re sure to have another exciting evening of pro wrestling.
I really urge everyone to log onto ROHWrestling.com and order the PPV. As a pro wrestling fan, you won’t be disappointed in the product. The look to ROH has greatly improved with its investment in better lighting, audio and a new set. Everything about ROH is going in the right direction. I just hope that with the UK Tour in November, this will elevate the company more here and help get it on UK television in the process.