Over the last few years the top independent wrestling companies of North America have used WrestleMania weekend as a way to reach a new audience. By promoting shows in the town hosting the sports entertainment extravaganza the companies make themselves available to crowds hungry for wrestling action before WrestleMania airs on the Sunday evening. The weekend is now something more than just a chance to see WWE’s premier show, it’s the chance to sample what’s going on elsewhere in the business too.
This is not only great for the fans who get to attend these events and the companies putting them on, it’s good for the business in general too. The right crowd on the right night could help give someone the break they’ve been searching for or create a career high performance.
Atlanta will get this treatment this weekend, as Ring of Honor presents two internet pay-per-views on Friday and Saturday. As has been the case for a year or so now, there will be a distinct emphasis on tag team wrestling. RoH have realised that neither WWE or TNA are particularly interested in giving their audiences a strong tag division and are doing a fine job of filling a gap in the market. The league’s strong tag team landscape will be evidenced on Saturday evening as the American Wolves reunite to take on Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team in what is bound to be a fitting main event to the two iPPVs. The night before that Eddie Edwards will make his first defence of the Roh world title against a man he has yet to beat: Christopher Daniels.
Honor Takes Center Stage – Chapter One:
Homicide v Tommaso Ciampa with the Embassy v Colt Cabana v Caleb Konley with Truth Martini
Ciampa and Konley are essentially working in the same role (newcomers to established factions), so the decision to put them in a four man match together is unusual, but not necessarily bad. More different, I suppose. Being in the ring with Homicide and Cabana, two of the company’s most over performers, will help them gain acceptance as men on the rise in the company, and will ensure the quality of the match is high.
This would work as a fun opener or pre-intermission match, with Homicide the most likely to get the win to keep him as a strong contender to the RoH title.
Sara Del Rey and Serena Deeb v Hiroyo Matsumoto and Ayumi Kurihara
I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of Matsumoto or Kurihara until they were announced for these events, because I don’t follow Japanese wrestling. I would imagine they’re solid workers because RoH wouldn’t go to the trouble of bringing them in and giving them a lucrative pay-per-view spot if they weren’t. I think ‘Death Rey’ is one of the best female workers in the world today, and Serena Deeb deserved better treatment from WWE, but I think they may end up losing a quality match to make Matsumoto and Kurihara look stronger going into their tag title shot on Saturday night. I also think there may be some “CM Punk” chants when Deeb comes out.
Prediction: Hiroyo Matsumoto and Ayumi Kurihara
El Generico v Michael Elgin
Generico is always popular with Ring of Honor crowds and Elgin is getting over fairly quickly as a monster heel. He reminds me a little bit of Rhino when he first appeared for ECW: short, stocky, and bristling with power moves. I’ve like the two or three matches I’ve seen him in and think that Generico’s a good opponent for him as he’ll be able to sell a beating well.
With the House of Truth banned from ringside this would be the perfect time to give Elgin a clean win over Generico to establish him as a real force in the singles ranks. I have a feeling the win will go to Generico though, as he’s being used as a title contender a lot right now.
Prediction: El Generico
Jay and Mark Briscoe v Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly
I think this match is going to be a test for Cole and O’Reilly. If they can take a stiff beating from the Briscoes they’ll have proved they belong in the company, to the locker room as well as the audience. I like them as a team more than I like the Briscoes, and I want to see them progress, but the trouble right now is that there’s such a gap between RoH’s top teams (the Briscoes, the Kings of Wrestling, the All Night Express and Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team) that it’s impossible to imagine a twosome like Cole and O’Reilly or the Bravados getting a clean victory over any of them.
I think this will be a match that gets a good amount of time and tells the story of the youngsters fighting on no matter what, with the ANX coming out towards the end and costing the Briscoes the match. That would further the Briscoes v ANX feud and also set up a Cole and O’Reilly v ANX match because of the unwanted interference.
I’m pleased the Briscoes finally got turned heel at Manhattan Mayhem IV, that’s been a turn I’ve wanted to see for a long time. As that event wasn’t broadcast we may be “treated” to a promo from the southerners, to establish that they no longer want fan approval.
Prediction: Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly
Roderick Strong with Truth Martini v Davey Richards
A rematch from last year’s Final Battle. In that match Davey fainted whilst trapped in Strong’s Stronghold, meaning Strong shocked the world and retained his world championship. As they had a lot of time to use during that previous encounter the pace started out fairly slow and got much quicker around the halfway point. This time they’re lower down the card with no title on the line and with Davey being booked to get decisive wins as he’s built up for his eventual challenge for the world title, so I think the match will be shorter and will be quick from the start. I cannot see Roderick winning here, which will not only keep Davey strong but further the storyline of Roderick gradually becoming disillusioned with the House of Truth.
Prediction: Davey Richards
RoH world tag team title match – The Kings of Wrestling (c) with Shane Hagadorn v Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
This is the match I’m most looking forward to on the Friday show card. The two teams have met twice before, both in non-title affairs, and hold one victory each. I think Benjamin and Haas are a tremendous unit capable of having a good tag match with any two wrestlers around, and I think the Kings are the best team in the world today and the greatest act RoH has. This stands a very good chance of being the match of the night, with only the main event and Richards v Strong standing a real chance of bettering it.
I’m torn over who to predict. I think WGTT have been built up to be the team that dethrones (ahem) the Kings, but I also want the Kings’ reign as champions to continue for months to come, allowing them to have the definitive run with the tag belts that Samoa Joe had with the RoH world title. I wouldn’t be surprised if Haas and Benjamin won the belts, but I’m picking the Kings for being such an entertaining act (and because Benjamin worked that dark match for WWE a few weeks ago – it makes me think he may be headed back there).
Prediction: The Kings of Wrestling
RoH World title match – Eddie Edwards (c) v Christopher Daniels
This is a fine example of the sports-based storyline Ring of Honor tells so well. Edwards lost the TV championship to Daniels last December. Their rematch was fought under two-out-of-three falls rules, and ended in a draw at one fall each. The only thing left for Edwards to do is gain that decisive victory over ‘The Fallen Angel’ to end this feud. It’s simple, clever booking, and wrestling needs far more of it.
I think Edwards is due to take that elusive victory over Daniels. The feud has been built to give Edwards a strong and memorable first challenger to his World title run. They’ll deliver in the ring and provide a solid end to the first night of action.
Prediction: Eddie Edwards
Honor Takes Center Stage – Chapter Two:
Homicide v Tommaso Ciampa with the Embassy
I have a feeling this match has been put together to start up a feud between the ‘Notorious 187’ and the Embassy. It could see Homicide win, but I’m going to go with Ciampa winning as I already picked Homicide to win at Chapter One and I there will be enough distractions at ringside to do an interference finish without making Homicide look weak. It would also allow Ciampa to arrive in the company with an impact.
On a side note, I’d love to see one of these shows feature the return of Low Ki to Ring of Honor. Having Low Ki make the save as Embassy is attacks Homicide after the match would be a nice moment. I’m not sure we’ll get to see it though.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa
Christopher Daniels v Michael Elgin with Truth Martini
This is a non-title match, and I think it would be a nice way to set up a fresh challenger to Daniels’ TV title. Truth’s been effective getting wins for his team before and I think this could be another example of that.
Prediction: Christopher Daniels
SHIMMER tag team title match – Daizee Haze and Tomoka Nakagawa (c) v Hiroyo Matsumoto and Ayumi Kurihara
With Haze and Nakagawa having won the belts just last Sunday I don’t think they’ll be dropping them this weekend. Matsumoto and Kurihara have been brought in as a special attraction for the weekend and as high profile challengers to pit against the new champions in their first defence. I expect this will be a solid match that will receive a ton of appreciation from the crowd.
Prediction: Daizee Haze and Tomoka Nakagawa
Colt Cabana v Dave Taylor with the Embassy
Dave Taylor is 53. There must be a reason he’s been brought in for this event, but I don’t know what it is. Being a veteran of the British indy scene of decades ago he naturally uses the old school British style. That’s a style Cabana uses with a bit of Americanised posturing and comedy thrown in for good measure, so I expect the match will be a good technical encounter.
I don’t want to say it will be a comedy match, but with Cabana in the ring and Nana at ringside it’s going to come closer than anything else on the card. Cabana always does. He’s a great talent, and his personality is what keeps him popular, but sometimes it wouldn’t hurt to tone down the antics a bit (not in this match, but when facing more serious opponents). I think Dave Taylor’s range of facial expressions are often overlooked too. They’re going to add to the comedy.
It could either be really ugly or really good. I’ll hope for the latter.
Prediction: Colt Cabana
The All Night Express v Jay and Mark Briscoe
I’ve never been much of a fan of the Briscoes, and I love the ANX, so it shouldn’t take long to work out who I want to win here. It could go either way really, but I’m hoping it goes to King and Titus. They need to be kept strong and keep getting more serious as an act. They’re a great team and should be tag champs at some point in the future. It doesn’t really matter who wins here, because I think this is a feud that’s just picking up steam and is going to progress to some entertaining gimmick bouts before it ends.
Prediction: The All Night Express
Roderick Strong with Truth Martini v El Generico
The second rematch for Roddy in as many nights, this one from SoCal Showdown II back in January. Having predicted a loss for Strong on the Friday night I’m going to predict a win for Saturday. I can’t see him losing too many matches until he’s had his rematch with Edwards. Generico v Strong should be a nice match, probably relatively short and fairly lively, and hopefully without much interference.
Prediction: Roderick Strong
The Kings of Wrestling with Shane Hagadorn v Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly
I’m predicting that the Kings will be coming into this match still champions and Cole and O’Reilly off their biggest win to date against the Briscoes. Because of that I think the Kings will be successful here, but it will be another match in which the younger team pushes their more experienced opponents to the limit.
I think Cole and O’Reilly really need a big win this weekend to show they have the potential to work their way through the tag ranks and be a pairing fans can believe in. So if they happen to lose to the Briscoes I’ll be expecting them to pull off the even bigger upset against Castagnoli and Hero.
Prediction: The Kings of Wrestling
The American Wolves v Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
This should be a phenomenal match. It’s the one I’m most looking forward to, and the one that’s making me consider ordering the show. With Edwards and Richards having been concentrating on singles accolades for the last few months I would imagine the story of the match will be that Haas and Benjamin have the edge as they’ve been working together regularly.
Predicting a winner is tough because future storylines hinge on the outcome to such a large degree. If Haas and Benjamin come into this as the champions but end up losing then Richards and Edwards become top contenders for a tag title shot. If either Benjamin or Haas manage to take a win over Edwards then they’ll be set up as contenders for the RoH world title, whereas if they pin Davey Richards a big singles match will be set up as Davey is on his quest to prove to himself that he’s worthy of the moniker ‘Best in the World’.
The result really could go either way, depending on where the booking team want to take the product. I like both teams, but I’ll pick Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team because of the tag team ring rust on the Wolves that I mentioned above, and for the fact that I’ve got both men winning on Friday with Haas and Benjamin losing. It balances everything out.
Prediction: Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
I tried to keep things brief, but it’s hard when looking at two cards! I think these iPPVs will do well and produce some top notch matches. Hopefully they’ll have been promoted well enough to attract a few newcomers to buy tickets and watch at home. That’s part of the point of presenting them the nights before WrestleMania.
The cards themselves have a lot of possibilities with regards to setting up future feuds, storylines and matches, which is exactly how a wrestling event should be. More companies should put in this level of detail and forethought to their writing all year round. When shows this good are put together regularly fans a more likely and more willing to buy into the product.
Everyone involved with RoH seems to work hard and want to put a quality product out there for people to see, and for that reason I think these shows will attain the success they deserve.