Every ROH really kicks off the new year with a Top Prospect Tournament where the winner receives a TV Title Shot and a contract with Ring of Honor. Past participants include Mike Bennett, Kyle O' Reilly, Cheeseburger, War Machine and others. This years tournament kicks off on January the 9th in Concord, North Carolina. This years participants include:
For more information on the event and more: Click Here
Ben "Action" Ortiz: According to ROH, Ortiz is the first graduate of Tommy Dreamer's training school and has an MMA background, both in the cage and in Muai Thai. Ortiz has drawn comparisons from Tommy Dreamer to the likes of Samoa Joe & Bam Bam Bigelow. I think "Action" Ortiz would bring a unique set of skills that was once really prominent in Ring of Honor and now has become a lost art to the forefront in the tournament.
Lio Rush: This young man has been praised by a lot of people recently and actually just won gold not more then 2 weeks ago at CZW Cage of Death 17 where he captured the CZW Wired TV Title. DJ Hyde has some big plans for Lio in 2016, but then again I guess DJ isn't the only person who might have big plans for this young man. The 2015 Shane Shamrock Cup winner looks to continue his string of success in 2016. Rush is a unique blend of high flying and ground game which makes him even harder to handle.
Punisher Martinez: A graduate of the World Famous Monster Factory in Paulsboro, NJ he has been touted as Giant of the next generation. Martinez being 6'6 and 253 pounds makes his background in traditional Japanese Go Ju Ryu karate all the more dangerous. "But Martinez is also skilled in grappling and mat wrestling, a rarity for someone of his size, through training with UFC and All-American amateur wrestlers."
Back in September at the All-Star Extravaganza Ring of Honor gave us a shocking return as the All-Night Express made their shocking return to the company after being gone for 3 years. For those who may not be aware it was back in June of 2012 when King almost turned his back on ROH by disobeying their agreement when joined TNA. King walked away even after the company had both he and Rhett TItus finally win the ROH World Tag Team Titles.
Since their return to the company they have not only defeated the Briscoes, but also won a #1 Contender match for a shot at the Tag Team titles with their win at Final Battle. Which means that ANX will be facing the new champions War Machine in the not to distant future. I'm not saying that ANX doesn't deserve a push I just don't know if pushing them right out the gate is a good idea for the company.
Kenny has left before when a "better opportunity" presented itself and there is nothing in the cards that say Kenny is suddenly going to be loyal to the company that he screwed once before. There is no doubt that ANX makes the ROH Tag division better and deeper, but I think they should have taken things slow with ANX to start. Once they knew King is set on staying with the company then invest in both King & Rhett. Investing them too soon could end up hurting the company once again.
Now before I get deep into this let me just say that first to my knowledge only three wrestlers are working for ROH without contracts. The second part of this is that they have contracts with ROH just not exclusive or written contracts with the company. This means that certain talent have just a verbal agreement with the company as oppose to the more traditional written contract. To get more specific with the names of the talent that don't have official contracts with the company they include the ROH World Tag Team Champions Rowe & Hanson (aka War Machine) and "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin.
Now from I did a few months ago regarding the contract status of Michael Elgin with the company I do know his most recent contract was signed with the intention of him being more independent from ROH. This also gives Michael the ability to control his dates. An interesting item to note is that Elgin won Survival of the Fittest back in November and not only became the first person to win two Survival of Fittest titles, but also became the #1 Contender to the ROH World Championship. His title is currently set to take place at Wrestle Kingdom 10 on January 4, 2016 live from the Tokyo Dome, that's right Elgin's title shot is happening in Japan.
Ask for War Machine they just won the ROH World Tag Titles at Final Battle around two weeks ago which seems a little strange to me, because of the fact that they could pull a Kenny King and leave at a moments notice. This is a test in loyalty and trust on the part of both parties. The fact that they won the titles isn't a shock, as I expected them to win the gold eventually it is more that I didn't know their contract status which makes it a little more surprising.
The man who in many ways has become one of the best wrestlers in the world and a house hold name for Ring of Honor this year holding the Television & ROH World Title at the same time; he also became the longest reigning TV champion of all time this year with his reign with the title. This match takes you back to when a very young Jay Lethal still relatively new to the business fought the beast Samoa Joe.
Last week the news came out that ROH has entered a partnership with PWG that enables exclusively contracted stars to compete on a select number of PWG shows per year in California.
Recently ROH and NJPW have been a part of a very back and forth and incredible partnership for both parties involved. Both companies have benefited massively from the talent exchange they have developed over the last few years and will be back to work again next year. But this is about PWG and ROH's partnership. For those who don't know PWG is an Indy company located down in Reseda, CA and has an incredible atmosphere with every show. Also it is almost impossible to get in the building, because every show is sold out every time they run an event any where in California.
With this agreement, wrestling fans can look forward seeing talent such as Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, The Young Bucks, and many other at PWG shows once again. But instead of being an independent wrestler they would be there representing ROH in a way.
Since this news has been released both Kyle and Adam have already returned to PWG within the last week and I do also believe The Bucks have as well. Though some may wonder how this helps ROH I will tell you that it makes Ring of Honor all the more appealing to talent who used to work for PWG or do currently to join the company.
For those that maybe unaware at this point AJ Styles has been dealing with some injury issues recently mostly having to do with an apparent herniated disc and nerve pain in his lower back. the injury was causing AJ so many problems that he was actually sent home from a recent tour of Japan to rehab and rest his body. Working as much as he has in recent month would take a toll on the body and could make signing a contract with one company all the more appealing. (Click Here for more on that subject)
As of this writing Styles is still currently planning to work the December 18th ROH Final Battle PPV as well as the TV taping set for the following day. For whatever reason if AJ is unable to compete then Adam Cole & Kyle O' Reilly would become Jay's challengers and it would be a triple threat match instead. Hopefully, AJ will be able to compete this Friday Live in Philadelphia on PPV against Jay Lethal. I for one am looking forward to the match, because it is major matches like this that can help ROH move forward to the next level and get more eyes on the company.
As of this writing it seems like AJ Styles is actually under contract with any company at this time so that means that Ring of Honor and NJPW actually pay AJ per appearance rather then a flat rate for the contract. Since his departure from TNA wrestling almost 2 years ago he has become one of the top wrestlers in the world during that time. But with his contract status now out in the open this means that AJ is free and clear to work anywhere he wants to work. This means that if WWE wants to send AJ offers then he is free and clear to discuss contracts.
Rumors of AJ Styles with the WWE have been present more over the last two years, but have also been around for almost the last 15 years. Styles would be a great in NXT if the WWE does plan on taking the brand on tour more next year then getting more talent is a must and Styles would be perfect. But at his age with a wife and kids, Styles is working where he make the most money. Currently the position he is in with NJPW and ROH, is awesome as he is getting as a top guy in both companies, but at his age it might be getting to the point where he should think about dialing it back.
If Styles was to receive a contract from WWE the type that Rhyno and James Storm received then I do believe that it would be the best contract for AJ at the place he is currently in his career.