ROH Thrived at Wrestle Kingdom 10

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The partnership of ROH and NJPW was on full display at Wrestle Kingdom 10 this weekend.Based on the crowd response and the results,ROH thrived at Wrestle Kingdom 10, walking away a much stronger promotion, while generating international interest.

Ring of Honor started 2015 in great shape, with an early time slot on Destination America. As a east coast fan, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of shows in the past, but the turnover of stars I had come to enjoy such as Claudio, Kevin Steen and El Generico coupled with the lack of easy access to the programs served as a hindrance to consistent viewing and fandom. The ability to even DVR the weekly show allowed me to reconnect with the product, but that was stymied by Destination America’s choice to only run ROH at 11pm. Having to wait another day to watch the product became annoying, but was tolerable. The move to Comet, a network that is available to more people, albeit less popular, seemed to be the death knell for the company.

However, the company website provided for immediate and high quality access to the show on their website, a welcomed alternative to missing the product completely. The downfall of course being that I have been limited to watching on my computer, a fact that makes watching it feel less enjoyable than tuning in on television.

Wrestle Kingdom provided ROH with an opportunity to truly realize it’s potential as a global phenomenon, furthering the status of their current stars, stars that they’ve signed to exclusive deals. Before the official event even began, Cheeseburger put on a memorable performance during the battle royal, ingratiating himself to the audience with a comedic performance against some of the most tenured and loved Japanese graplers in the match. It may not mean much on this grand scale, but Cheeseburger will no doubt return to the adulation of the fans of ROH after standing toe-to-toe with some greats of the wrestling industry, inside or outside of Japan.

The highest profile exclusivity signing of the recent months, the Young Bucks, not only displayed their prodigious talent, but they walked away from a but they walked away from a four corners tag team match against the tandems of Roppongi Vice, reDragon and Sydal and Ricochet as the IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions. Wrestling as heels or faces, Matt and Nick Jackson consistently put on a show, proving that the decision makers at Ring of Honor were justified in signing them to long term deals. The title win guarantees further exposure for the team as well as consistent cross promotion with NJPW.  As reported by LWOS’s own Aaron Wrotkowski, A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows will be  joining WWE, leaving the Young Bucks as the biggest names still part of the Bullet Club.

The Briscoes and Toru Yano surprised many by winning the NEVER 6-man Openweight tag titles, in a match that was not the best we’ve seen from Dem Boys. Facing off against Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Takahashi, the triumphant triumvirate showed flashes of what makes each man exciting, but Jay was not given a chance to shine. Mark had some good spots and Yano provided a great deal of comic relief, but it remains to be seen if this was simply a one time meaningless victory or whether more will come from the result.

Although Jay Lethal’s title defense against “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin was overshadowed by amazing matches to follow, the inclusion of ROH’s heavyweight title on the card bring a bit of international significance to the title and the company itself. Elgin is rumored to be out of contract at the time of this writing, so his loss was not a real shock, but this did not impact the performance at all.  Lethal’s victory came with some expert managerial “guidance” from Truth Martini and a rare Japanese translation of the Book of Truth. Both will no doubt return from their triumphant title defense in Japan with that much more bravado and braggadocios banter heading into 2016. Elgin’s direction is unclear; while he picked up steam and fan support en route to to earn the title opportunity, his next program will undoubtedly be a let down compared to the clash in the Tokyo Dome.

With ROH’s 14th anniversary show less than two months away, the company heads into an important  juncture in terms of growing a fan base. With the departure of Michael Bennet, Maria Kanellis and A.J. Styles coupled with the possibility of losing Elgin, it is time for mid-card stars like Dalton Castle and Adam Cole to be given time to fill the holes left on the roster. If the graphic for monumental event belies the company’s direction, Cole may indeed be allowed time to shine. Bolstered by a bevy of NJPW talents such as Okada, Nakamura, Gedo, Tanahashi Kushida and Ishii, ROH is clearing capitalizing on the talent relationship in an effort to draw even more fans in for the event. 2016 bodes to be an important year for the company’s future. Only time will tell if ROH can develop from a niche into a bonafide number two wrestling promotion in the United States and abroad.

Main Photo courtesy NJPW Twitter