ROH Honorable Mention: Roderick Strong Drops the TV Title

Welcome to ROH Honorable Mention, Last Word on Sports’s look at the biggest news coming out of Ring of Honor.

A Beautiful Friendship

At Wrestle Kingdom 10, Ring of Honor began, in an earnest, a truly beneficial talent exchange with New Japan Pro Wrestling. at NJPW’s biggest show of the year, ROH stars were not just exposed to the Japanese crowd, but they quite simply thrived there as I wrote here.

Both companies continue to benefit from the relationship, with the latest example coming from the two day event Honor Rising.  The two day event not only brought what was essentially two house shows to the forefront, using the event to create internet buzz, but it also intelligently used the “Card is Subject to Change” notion to bring more importance to ROH’s 14th anniversary show next weekend.

Available only through the NJPW website, the event was held at Korakuen Hall, with roughly 2,000 fans in attendance and no commentary. One of the best parts of watching the show was the feeling of being there live, with the crowd reacting so vociferously that the absence of commentary actually heightened the enjoyment of the event. For a full run down of the events of day one of the two night show, take a look at Sean Garmer’s review.

The biggest news to come of the event was Roderick Strong dropping the ROH television title to Tomohiro Ishii. Strong has been defending his title in a “Roddy vs. the World” program that has seen him grapple with wrestlers from other companies often stopping by for shot at the title, elevating the notion of a mystery opponent to being anyone around the world, not just someone on the active roster. On ROH television, Bobby Fish of reDragon has repeatedly griped that Roddy should be defending against him, due to a questionable finish at Final Battle 2015. That match saw Strong tap out to Fish without the referee’s knowledge, allowing the champ to turn the tables and win the match, walking away with the title. This has all been building to a rematch between the two at ROH’s 14 anniversary show.

Card Subject to Change

However, using its partnership with NJPW, ROH has now made the event that much more appealing, while raising interest in future NJPW shows. Ishii’s victory adds a layer of intrigue to the future of the Television title. Ishii’s strong (pardon the pun) and clean victory over Roddy makes Ishii more important in the eyes of Ring of Honor fans. The second night of the show led to more hostility as the event ended, with Ishii and Strong having to be pulled apart by NJPW officials. Now the match was was previously a lock for the anniversary show will need to be modified. Strong deserves his rematch as the former champion, but Fish already had rights to a title match vis-a-vis the match he was already signed to. According to ROHwrestling.com, a meeting will take place Sunday morning between officials from both NJPW and ROH to determine a solution for the unique scenario this creates.

There is a level of trust between both companies that can do nothing but strengthen both brands. Ishii’s victory proves that ROH trusts NJPW to value the championship, one that has accrued a value that almost equates it to the company’s World Title. Jay Lethal’s run as the Television champion and then his dual run with the TV and World titles sent to a message that both straps hold an important place in the company. Although a championship is generally just a prop used to elevate a wrestler, ROH’s title holders tend to reflect the very best the company has to offer. It is not mistake that Strong defeated Lethal while the latter was also the World champion. With Strong elevated to that level, having him lose that title on another company’s show to one of that company’s wrestlers immediately makes Ishii  a big deal to American audiences.

Sunday’s announcement will most likely reveal that Ishii will defend the title against both Strong and Fish next Friday night. This way both men are able to get the show they deserve and Ishii won’t look weak if he ends up losing the title, as he does not need to be pinned to lose if the match does indeed follow triple threat rules.

However, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility for Ishii to spend an extended amount of time in Ring of Honor. Confirmed by “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin’s Twitter feed, the former ROH champion has signed a deal with NJPW. Although it seems that Elgin will still be appearing on ROH television when his schedule allows, this appears to be a long term talent exchange. Elgin answered to a question from a fan asking when he would be starting in NJPW and about his ROH status, to which he responded “well, I’ll be here alot this year obviously. I’ll hopefully take part in ROH when our dates match up”.

https://twitter.com/MichaelElgin25/status/701096250389606400

Elgin has grown a bit stale in ROH as of late and having him leave for an extended period of time would allow for him to develop elsewhere, but return with a refreshed character. The news this weekend has brought both companies into the spotlight and is a clear example of why this partnership can be a catalyst for both companies to assert themselves in the global marketplace. Having talents that are willing to work for the other company will allow for more stars to develop and learn different styles that those wrestlers can bring with them. No matter what the two companies decide to do in terms of the Television title on Sunday morning, buyrates will no doubt grow for what is a true accomplishment for ROH. 14 years in the American wrestling landscape is nothing to scoff at, and although nowhere near the industry leader in the genre mega giant WWE, ROH continues to carve out its own share of the market by creating an element of unpredictability.


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