Fact is this time of the year is all about reflection and looking back on a year that is now coming to a close. In 2018 the world of wrestling has had a very interesting up and down year, but it is has been a big year for growth especially for the smaller promotions. Ring of Honor has not only found stability, but they have also found a period of growth and finally finding there way into bigger arenas. Namely the biggest arena the promotion has ever gone to that being Madison Square Garden over Wrestlemania weekend. With this being the case it is fair to admit that the event in MSG has the makings to see 2019 become the most successful year in the history of ROH.
In my opinion every year since ROH and New Japan working agreement came together the company has grown and has been able to build on a stable foundation. The face of Ring of Honor has become a nationally known talent at this point due to his events in New Japan and All In. At this point Jay Lethal could become the longest reigning World Champion in history based on combined reigns; as 2018 comes to an end Jay could hold the record for the most days as World Champion ever which is a testament to Jay's position with ROH.
I have been a fan of Ring of Honor for around a decade at this point and I have enjoyed seeing the rise of the underrated promotion. Overall I do believe that 2019 will be the biggest year in the history of professional wrestling not just for this company, but I think this will be very interesting. Even though Ring of Honor will be losing certain talent due to contracts expiring the company has always found a way to rebuild. I do think I said this last year, but Ring of Honor has future stars still on the roster like Matt Taven, Flip Gordon, Jeff Cobb, and various others. The future is on the rise for Ring of Honor and it will be very interesting to see how 2019 goes for this wrestling secret.
The last six months have seen more news about Ring of Honor contracts then we have in the past probably six years. Names like Silas Young, Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, and others are looking for new contracts with the company and though now some of those names won't be returning to ROH next year, but one top star will be. The current World Champion Jay Lethal officially resigned back with Ring of Honor a few weeks after regaining the title. Now the company seems to be on a sort off "seek and sign" attitude with new talent as a number of current talent seems to be heading for the door.
As I mentioned previously Adam Page & Cody will both be leaving ROH come 2019 which will leave a whole in the ROH that needs to be filled. However, being able to keep Jay Lethal allows the company to keep someone to build around for the future again. Adding Chris Daniels & Kazarian to likely names of leaving we could be seeing a brand new main event scene in ROH come 2019. Since his return to ROH we have seen Jay not only enter his prime, but becoming the franchise of Ring of Honor.
In my opinion, Jay Lethal helped kick off Cody's run in ROH on the right foot and in a way has always been the stable force in the ring. Honestly I don't think anyone truly saw this in Jay from when he was TNA wrestling, but could it be similar to what happened with Nick Alids just needing a different environment. Now I have said this before that I am not worried about Ring of Honor, because they have a incredible gift for finding unknown talent and building from within and having Jay Lethal still under contract only helps the company in their next rebuild.
We are now around a week away from the biggest event of Ring of Honor's calendar year that being Final Battle. For the last couple of years I have been extremely fortunate to attend a number of Final Battle events due to the consistent location for the event being in my backyard. However, of all the events that I have attended under the Final Battle banner is by far the end of the Kevin Steen & El Generico ROH feud which took place at Final Battle 2012. Around this time it became clear that the future Sami Zayn was on his way out of Ring of Honor and heading to the WWE; there was no better way for him to leave ROH then having his top rival seeing him off.
This match didn't really go exactly like I thought it would and I remember very vividly how one sided the match was at that point. In reality I think that the match went the way it did, because they wanted to make Kevin look very strong due to him sticking around in the company and Genrico wasn't. However, the one thing that really made the match for me was how they built to the match as the build was amazing in my opinion for a match that defied expectations.
One thing that everyone knows about wrestling is that it is always changing and looking for next phase of the profession. Ring of Honor always seems to be ready for whatever change comes around which is why in my opinion they have succeed as much as they have. In the years since I have been watching ROH the company has changed a tremendous amount growing little by little I feel like every year. I really started watching in 2009 when the company was still on HDNet and they have grown exponentially since then which is amazing to have watched happen. I mean I've been able to see them move from regional television to a semi national provider like Sinclair which is even more incredible.
Seeing these videos below makes me remember how different the company was back then as these were the ways that I kept up on everything ROH. I always loved when a new video wire would be uploaded, because that meant I could find out what happened recently in my this new company I was a fan of. Since they stopped running the concept which it has been a couple of years it has gotten harder to keep interest, but it is interesting looking back and see how things were like back in the day.
It is crazy to look at the rosters at this time and compare it to now especially knowing how many of them would end up in the WWE at some point. Seeing Jerry Lynn as Ring of Honor champion is also interesting, because his reign is right around the time I started being a fan of the promotion. Overall I do wish that they would go back to doing this concept at some point, but it might not work now with a lot of talent doing there own things. Either way though with the biggest event in ROH history coming next year it is always fun looking back to see how far they have come.
Following some surprising news breaking Adam Page has apparently rejected a contract extension with Ring of Honor. For those who might not be aware the man named "Hangman" Page got his big break with ROH starting at the bottom and working his way up the ranks of the company. His big push was came up in 2014 when he started feuding with The Decade stable. After the feud had ran its course Adam would turn heel and join up with the ROH veterans as the group's first recruit. In my opinion there was no better way to get a fresh face over for the company as he got to "learn" from some of the most prominent veterans in the company.
Page would end up finding his footing during this time and that would only help his case in joining the Bullet Club over the summer in 2016. It wasn't long after joining the stable that he earned the nickname of "Hangman" after hanging Chris Sabin in a hangman's noose at the War of the Worlds event. At time it would set him for a stable position in ROH as he was really one of the first non New Japan guys to join New Japan through the working agreement. Adam would win the ROH Six-Man Tag Titles with the Young Bucks collectively known as "Hung Bucks."
In my opinion this is one of the main reasons that ROH will always be safe in the world of wrestling as even if people leave they will always have fresh talent working to the top of the card. Now Page isn't leaving for NJPW and according to reports Page still is under contract right now. But it might be time for Adam Page to find his way to another company and becoming even more of star in the wrestling world. After seeing "Hangman" in action at All In against Joey Janela and I realized that Page has a bright future in the world of wrestling. Either way though once his contract does come up it will be interesting to see where Adam Page ends up in 2019.
For every company things have changed over the years with roster turnover happening for every company. At one point Ring of Honor included names like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, and various other future World Champions. One feud that I'm sure a lot of fans may not know about is the major feud during the early days of Ring of Honor with Punk and Raven. I knew that these two did feud but I really didn't know that these two actually fought in a dog collar match because this type of match is really rare.
Early on in the company's history they were really tryin to find their footing as a promotion using many types of veteran talent that were available on the Indies at the time. I think this feud is also one of the top early feuds and showed how positively viewed certain talent were at the time. Fact of the matter is time hasn't been kind to Punk's wrestling career, but that doesn't change the impact that CM Punk had on the wrestling world during his career.
One of the reasons that Ring of Honor has always stayed ahead of the curve as far as being able to find new talent to replace those who have left for other companies. Though things seem to have slowed in recent years with very few names walking away from Ring of Honor that hasn't stopped the company from keeping the fresh talent coming. A name that has really seen his stock rise is former Army National Guard combat engineer Flip Gordon. I remember writing about Flip signing with Ring of Honor back in 2017 and thinking that his status as veteran makes him a unique case especially factoring his age into the mix.
For those who may not be aware Flip served as a member of the Army National Guard for six years before receiving his honorable discharged in May of 2018. Keeping that in mind it does fit the point I made above with Flip being a unique talent considering him being an active member of the National Guard while competing in the world of wrestling is something special. But now with Flip discharged from the army he can focus on wrestling and continue become a more well rounded competitor.
Overall his match at All In wasn't the best but it did do its job as a solid match in the middle of the show. Plus it was the culmination of months of build with him begging to be booked on the show and earning his way on to All In. Though it was clear that he wasn't going to win they definitely had him put in a good showing against Lethal and I think a few years down the road the match could've gone differently. In my opinion the one thing that Flip showed in the match at All In is that he could have a bright future ahead of him in wrestling if he continues to grow and be booked the way he was at the event.
Let the post All In discussion begin as in my opinion one of the highlights of the show was Jay Lethal vs Flip Gordon. To get something out of the way first with the match at All In it became clear that Ring of Honor has high hopes for Flip Gordon and I think that Flip has a bright future in not ROH, but wrestling in general. Fact is though it is too early for Flip to be considered a top contender for the World Title, because much like Jay White in Japan they are both very early in their young careers.
With that out of the way let's shift our focus the main idea of this article and that the talent of Jay Lethal. Early on in his career we really didn't see much potential in Jay as someone who would be able to lead a company as World Champion, but that really changed for me early in his second run with ROH. Upon his return to Ring of Honor it seemed like Jay had something to prove almost like he wanted to prove critics or nay sayers wrong that he was the total package. Don't get me wrong we did get a glimpse of his entertainment value when he and Flair had a back n forth the only problem was that push went nowhere.
For those who missed the match Jay went back in time to his "Black Machismo" days and spent some parts of the match imitating the "Macho Man." With Lanny in his corner Jay & Flip had one of the top matches on a really show and I think that Jay should be given a lot of credit for getting big match feel out of the unproven Gordon. This event was the first step for ROH and the Indies to usher in a new era for the promotions and the next step will happen in MSG next year. But I don't think there is someone better in the company currently to lead the charge into ROH's new era, because All In Jay Lethal showed exactly why he is the leader of Ring of Honor.
After having a 58 year stranglehold on the "World's Most Famous Arena" a company not in some form tied to the WWE will be running a wrestling show in the hallowed halls. For the first time Ring of Honor along with New Japan will be promoting a show from the arena that the WWE helped put on the map. It is crazy for me to think that names like Okada, Lethal, Tanahashi, Naito, and others will finally be able to wrestle in the same ring that greats like Bruno Sammartino, Ivan Koloff, and Hogan worked in so many times. I have been watching Ring of Honor for years and never thought they'd make it to the Garden.
The road for them to get here has been incredibly difficult and I don't mean over the years I mean fighting with WWE and the Garden to get here. At first the WWE did make a call to get the show blocked from running, and I am not sure how it happened but I am very glad it did. The reason I am is because this now raises the bar for WrestleMania weekend as we never have a competitor running in such a major venue. Accomplishment aside this makes WrestleMania weekend even more of a big deal because New Japan has never come this far into the United States before and they've certainly never ran the Garden.
Overall this event will be a major step for not just Ring of Honor, but also New Japan because I believe they had a show in New Jersey with some talent but never New York. Now I don't think this will start a war between ROH and WWE nor should it because Ring of Honor will lose but this could help them be looked at as more legitimate in mainstream wrestling. All and all this event has made 2019 have a chance to be one of the best years wrestling has seen in recent memory and it hasn't even started yet.
I was in the arena live for this match and was surprised at few things about this match. The first thing was how well they built it up and really got Dalton over as one of the companies top stars in such a sort period of time. This feud really proved that with the right booking someone can get over and in a big way just like Dalton did. The other thing that surprised me is just how good Cody has gotten since his departure from WWE; I mean the amount of depth, and ability that he has shown is insane and shows just what WWE had missed out on by not giving him a chance.
Overall I think that this match was surprisingly better then I thought it be and in my opinion it might be one of the more underrated moments from Final Battle last year. This match also put on display exactly why Ring of Honor will always stay ahead of other companies, because they will always try to make new stars like a certain NXT champion.
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