Ring of Honor 2012: A Fan Perspective
by Steven Jackson
Ring of Honor is now ten years old and over Ring of Honor’s ten year history, it has gained a large collection critical and fan acclaim. This has been mostly attributed to their array of top quality talent, feuds, and of course wrestling. But in recent months, Ring of Honor has been gaining more negative reactions than positive. This has mostly been down to the opposites of what I have just mentioned above; the matches and feuds have not been exciting, the roster is stale and the promotion itself seems to be in a rut.
I am a huge fan of Ring of Honor and I do agree with these criticisms, but I have not lost faith in the company. With a short history as storied and action packed as Ring of Honor’s, it is easy to look back and pick faults today. What I am going to try and do in this article is outline my own opinions of Ring of Honor in 2012 and what they need to do, in order, not only to keep a fan base, but also in business.
As many people are aware, Ring of Honor is the breeding ground for up and coming talent in modern day wrestling. Much like ECW, the best wrestlers of the day have appeared for ROH and in the process etched legacies for themselves with the ROH faithful. Guys like Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, Tyler Black, Austin Aries and others made a name for themselves in ROH which lead them to making themselves a name in the mainstream. No fan can deny the technical masterpieces Bryan Danielson put on over his seven year stint in ROH. Similarly, no fan can challenge just how much an impact Samoa Joe and CM Punk’s feud (and title reigns) lead to the success Ring of Honor as a whole. But today, Ring of Honor’s roster does not seem to carry these future stars as with previous years. The roster, in all fairness,does not seem like an ROH roster at all; more like a hodgepodge of different wrestlers signed to the same company.
To me, there does not seem to be any consistency in the wrestlers in the company as with previous years. When you have a wrestler as talented as El Generico or TJ Perkins, but have them work with guys like Mike Mondo or Mike Bennett, it does not bring the same feel as with previous rosters. It also does not help that Ring of Honor seems to have limited themselves to a roster which could do with some additions. Sure the Young Bucks and Jay Lethal are good, but there is an independent scene full of hungry wrestlers who Ring of Honor could sign to make the roster seem more even and not so lopsided.
If Ring of Honor can sign Lance Storm and Dave Finlay to wrestle in ROH, they can surely sign The Super Smash Bros. and Amazing Red to contracts (just to name two). The Ring of Honor roster has some good young talent; Michael Elgin, Kyle O’Reilly, and Adam Cole to name a few, but some of the roster as I have mentioned just don’t add up to the quality of these guys, which I think is a real shame.
Another problem which cannot be overlooked in terms of the Ring of Honor roster is the championship scene. As of now, the champions in ROH are; ROH World Champion-Kevin Steen, ROH World Tag Team Champions-Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, ROH TV Champion-Roderick Strong. Now, for the record I am delighted Kevin Steen is the new ROH World Champion; he was one of the guys who got me into ROH in the first place, so all the success in the world to him. But before Kevin Steen won the belt, Davey Richards held the belt, in what many people consider the worst ROH World Title reign in history.
Now I myself would not consider it the worst reign, probably just the most disappointing reign in ROH history. This disappointment is mainly down to Davey Richards match quality and gimmick change. Back in 2009 to early 2011, Davey Richards was tearing the house down. Looking back at Davey’s matches in 2009 and 2010, you can see why he deserved to be a world champion. His matches with KENTA, Bryan Danielson, Kevin Steen and El Generico, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Tyler Black and others showed why he rightly deserved to carry Ring of Honor’s World Championship. If anything he wrestled those matches more like he was a world champion, yet he was only a challenger. But once he won the belt from Eddie Edwards at Best in the World 2011 (which is an amazing match), Davey just seemed never to regain his full focus and was highly disappointing compared with his previous work. It did not help Davey Richards changing to his MMA-influenced gimmick because this just took away all the legitimacy he had earned as a pro-wrestler (ironically) and made him look a stupid cartoon character as opposed to the intense, threatening, hard-hitting wrestler he was before. Davey did have his moments though and his match against Michael Elgin at Showdown in the Sun: Night 2 is arguably the greatest ROH World Title match since Joe vs. Punk II (if not ever). It is just a shame Davey never met his full potential as a champion, but Davey did have his moments so all is not lost.
The ROH World Tag-Team Championships on the other hand are a completely different matter. The ROH World Tag-Team championships are by far the most prestigious tag-team belts in all of wrestling today. Ring of Honor built a reputation on showcasing the best tag-team wrestling in the world, and it is one of the reasons why I am such a huge Ring of Honor fan. The Ring of Honor Tag-Team belts are tag-team wrestling’s last mainstream saving grace but currently I see them as nothing more than a joke. When people think of ROH Tag-Teams they immediately think of a diverse, rich roster of the up and coming tag-teams in wrestling, showcasing some of the best wrestling in the world. That was ROH tag-teams in the past, in 2012 ROH consists of nothing more than a few tag-teams all filling up shows rather than being main-events. The tag-team roster is so limited today in ROH and the ROH Tag-team champions Haas and Benjamin are by far the most unworthy champions.
Now before I carry on, I’m a huge Haas and Benjamin fan, they are one of my top 5 tag-teams of all-time. But now in ROH, I’m beginning to hate them. They don’t fit the ROH roster, they have been given 2 runs with the tag belts for some reason even though one was enough and they are having one of the worst feuds ever with the Briscoe Brothers which seems to never want to end, it is a sad cry from Haas and Benjamin in 2003. Tag-Team wrestling in ROH needs to be innovative, exciting and fresh, not ‘safe’ and a business move as ROH have done giving Haas and Benjamin the belts. This is another thing I think ROH really needs to sort out. I understand losing the Kings of Wrestling to WWE is a huge blow to their division, but they have still got ANX (who I believe deserved the belts at Best in the World 2011), the Young Bucks, Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander, Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin and the Briscoes. Sure they could sign a few more guys like the Super Smash Brothers and RockNes Monsters to fill out the roster but they have the talent there to be successful, they just need to use it in the right way.
Finally onto the ROH World TV Title which is somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to the current product. I am glad that Roderick Strong is the TV Champion because I was getting bored of Jay Lethal’s reign, but what I don’t understand is the feud between Tomasso Ciampa and Jay Lethal which revolved around the ROH TV Title. It dragged on and on and on and on and on, it was so boring. It seemed like Tomasso was Jay’s only opponent at one time and it really bugged me. I have always thought that the mid-tier title is a great place for up and coming stars to prove themselves against a champion, but it just seemed like the ROH TV Title was being held by Jay Lethal because (like Haas and Benjamin) he wrestled for a larger company and can generate some revenue. I am all for making business but what really annoyed me (and still to this day what still annoys me) is that El Generico got beaten in his first title defence to Jay Lethal. They didn’t build up a feud, they didn’t make it exciting, it was disgusting to see ROH make El Generico a transitional champion for Jay Lethal. Plus, I feel it totally undermined everything the ROH TV Title was beginning to build. Sure the title history wasn’t amazing but Eddie Edwards and Christopher Daniels put on some great matches for the TV title not only against challengers but each other. The ROH TV Title is ROH’s sign of joining the mainstream and while I think it is good they have a mid-card belt, I think they need to bring the prestige back what was beginning to be built by Eddie Edwards and Christopher Daniels.
To conclude this ROH article I would like to say that although I am criticising ROH to the hills, it is not through anger (that is reserved for TNA), this is instead out of disappointment and frustration. ROH made me fall in love again, with pro-wrestling, something which I had not done in a long time properly. I am truly proud of their achievements but the current product is if anything an embarrassment. They have all the tools to be successful; they just seem reluctant to use them which is frustrating. ROH is a company which deserves to be seen and praised but not as it is currently. Instead it needs to be looked at, analysed and re-designed to show fully what ROH is capable of in 2012, not what it is incapable of.
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