It is incredible to think about how far these two have come in the last decade. Based on the former reputation that plagued the WWE a few years ago where they basically jobbed out any talent that was under a certain height or weight. Even though during the Next Generation the company was lead by Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels. Early on in their careers both Styles and Danielson were the founding fathers of Ring of Honor planting the foundation for the company for years to come.
In the years following the end of WCW and ECW we saw an extreme influx of talent into the WWE, but it also lead to some stars being forced to find their way on independent circuit. This is actually allowed talent like Bryan, Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and others to set the wrestling world on fire and grab the attention of fans and will never ever let it go.
We are closing in on the biggest event in Ring of Honor and the biggest American show for New Japan. It is hard to put into words the significance of the event for ROH and its continued expansion as a promotion in the United States. For the first time in over 50 years a promotion not called WWE will be running the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden which is an amazing accomplishment in itself, but also the fact that the show sold out is just another in a long list of reasons why this event is special.
Two matches that caught my eye are the British Heavyweight & ROH World Championship matches, but for two different reasons. The reason the ladder match caught my eye is that I don't remember the company having many or any triple threat ladder matches so this could be the first. The other reason is that if Marty can pull out the win then it could be Champion vs. Champion at the Crockett Cup when he meets Nick Aldis for the NWA Worlds Title which would add an interesting layer to an anticipated match-up.
In my opinion, if someone looked at the match between champion Zack Sabre Jr. and challenger Hiroshi Tanahashi and was anything other than excited they should be checked out because there is something wrong with them. The former "Ace" of New Japan is like a fine wine bypassing the issues that have plagued other veterans of New Japan. Sabre Jr is by far one of the best wrestlers in the world; also just think about the possibility of Tanahashi winning a British Heavyweight Title and traveling to the UK for the first time before he hangs up his boots. Overall there are so many layers to this event it will be just another reason why Wrestlemania weekend will be incredibly special and monumental for everyone.
ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard
Honor Rumble (Pre-Show)
Will Ospreay vs. Jeff Cobb (Never Openweight Champ vs. ROH World TV Champ)
Dalton Castle vs. Rush
Women of Honor Championship
Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein (WOH World Championship)
Bully Ray vs. ??? (NYC Street Fight Open Challenge)
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match:
Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Dragon Lee vs. Bandido (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship)
Champion vs Champion Match
Evil & Sanada vs. G.O.D. (c) vs. Villain Enterprises (c) vs. The Briscoes (IWGP & ROH Tag Championship)
British Heavyweight Championship Match:
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (British Heavyweight Championship)
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match:
Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
ROH World Championship Match:
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Matt Taven vs. Marty Scurll (ROH World Championship Ladder Match)
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match:
Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
As we move down the list of top 10 wrestlers from the previous twelve months so far we have seen Cody Rhodes and Adam Cole. Now we shift over to Ring of Honor and by far the top talent in the entire company current champion Jay Lethal. Since his return to the promotion in 2011 it has seemed like the former Black Machismo has really found his potential to become a top talent in the company. Very quickly Jay would become the go to talent for the company as a newcomers like Alberto Del Rio, and later on Cody Rhodes. Either way though his feuds with in ROH is a whose who of future WWE stars like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Tomasso Ciampa, Adam Cole, and others.
Looking back at 2018 his year moved him into a level all his own after winning the World Title back from Dalton Castle. Jay lead the way for Ring of Honor as the flag bearer at All In as the defending champion in September and now after successfully defeating Cody at Final Battle; he will be leading the charge for the promotion at Madison Square Garden. Lethal has always been a reliable talent in the ring and on the microphone as a complete package. Over the years WWE has come calling for Lethal's services but every time the journeyman has turned them down.
Overall after struggling a bit in 2017 in my opinion Lethal got back on track in 2018 with a solid year showing why is one of the household names in not just ROH, but in wrestling as whole. Lethal in many ways started showing his potential at the tail end of his stay in TNA, but I think the environment didn't really fit for him and he needed to move on to somewhere different. Even though he had been in Ring of Honor before when he returned it wasn't like it was the first time around. In the days after Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, and CM Punk it is Jay Lethal that leads the promotion as the "Face of the Franchise."
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.
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