Honor Roll: ROH vs. NJPW Preview
Supercard of Honor VIII is in the books, and the landscape of Ring of Honor has changed somewhat. Adam Cole is still the ROH World Champion, and Jay Briscoe no longer has his title belt (it’s currently in the possession of Matt Hardy who has renamed it the ICONIC Title). Future challengers for Cole’s title now include Kevin Steen, AJ Styles, and Michael Elgin. Jay Lethal turned heel and won the ROH World TV Title for the second time, while joining the House of Truth. Tadarius Thomas turned on ACH and joined Adam Page as a “Young Boy” for The Decade.
Attention now turns to the two tremendous upcoming weekends where ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling talent take to the same ring for Global Wars in Toronto on May 10 and War of the Worlds in New York City on May 17. Both events are sold out, but ROH and NJPW are airing both shows live on UStream for $15 each. Considering the breadth of talent on both shows, the price sounds like a steal for probably close to 8 hours of incredible wrestling action.
So far, the full card has been released for Global Wars in Toronto. I’ll preview each match that involves NJPW talent here:
1. Main Event – ROH World Championship: Adam Cole © vs. Kevin Steen
Despite being a ROH/NJPW show, this match holds a lot of intrigue considering it’s in Canada, where Steen won the belt two years ago, and this is Steen’s first chance at regaining the gold since losing it a year ago. I feel a little bad, because the NJPW cross-promotion is really overshadowing a match that could probably sell out the building on its own. I assume it will be the main event, and it deserves the spot. I expect a fantastic match out of two guys who know each other very well by teaming in other promotions. Plus, Kevin always breaks out some great stuff in Canada, and the fans will be solely behind him. While the mark in me would like to see Steen regain the belt and have a proper reign with the quality challengers he wasn’t afforded during his first reign, the guy who’s going to take the belt off Cole will be Michael Elgin, so this looks like a successful defense for Cole.
2. Hiroshi Tanahasi & Jushin Liger vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Jado
Call me a complainer if you want to, but I really think that ROH and NJPW dropped the ball by having an all-NJPW match when there were so many possibilities for a cross-promotional match between the two companies. Plus, why break up Gedo & Jado? Admittedly I’m not familiar with NJPW, so I don’t know if Gedo & Jado have teamed with other people before, but I was under the impression that they were only an attraction as a team, based off their history. I think the Briscoes could have slid in as an ROH team facing Tanahashi and Liger, or even Gedo & Jado in a true dream match. It’s strange, because Gedo & Jado are the head bookers of NJPW! That complaint aside, I expect this match to be off the chain, and a fitting main event to the NJPW portion of the card.
3. The Bullet Club of AJ Styles & “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo
For those that don’t know, The Bullet Club is an all-foreigner (or gaijin in Japanese) stable in NJPW, led by Karl Anderson, who has wrestled on Ring of Honor shows before. Last month, AJ Styles joined the group after the original leader, Prince Devitt, left the group and NJPW. Okada is the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion (the company’s top champion), and Gedo has already been mentioned as part of another long-time tag team with Jado. While this is technically another all-NJPW match, Styles is an ROH regular and Anderson has made enough ROH appearances for me to consider this a cross-promotional dream match. I’ve never seen Okada wrestle before, so I’m really excited to see what he can do in the ring.
4. ROH vs. NJPW: Michael Elgin vs. Takaaki Watanabe
Watanabe is an up-and-coming star in NJPW, and a lot of parallels can be drawn to Michael Elgin in ROH. Again, I would prefer Elgin had a more high-profile match, possibly one-on-one against Tanahashi or Nakamura, but I’ll take what I can get. I expect Elgin to get the win here, setting him up for his IWGP Championship match against AJ Styles the next week in NYC.
5. IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships: The Young Bucks © vs. Forever Hooligans (Alex Kozlov and Rocky Romero) vs. The Timesplitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA)
Finally, Alex Shelley makes his long-awaited return to ROH after a four-year absence. He still hasn’t participated in a singles match since 2006, but Shelley is treated as an attraction and a big deal. His partner KUSHIDA is the only real NJPW guy as the rest are all gaijin, but the match should still be fantastic, and I’m looking forward to the warm reception Shelley will receive.
Non-NJPW matches include a Four Corner Survival Match for the World Television Title with new champion Jay Lethal defending against pretty much the entire TV Title division: Tomasso Ciampa, Matt Taven and Silas Young. Another match pits the Briscoes facing reDRagon and The Decade of BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs in a three-way dance. I repeat: not having the Briscoes face a NJPW tag team was a huge mistake. Roderick Strong of The Decade faces Cedric Alexander and the other members of The Decade are banned from ringside. Finally, Michael Bennett faces ACH in a match that will be fun but might not get enough time.
Aside from the main event, I’m only really interested in the ROH/NJPW matches for Toronto. But those should be enough to warrant the $15 purchase price of Global Wars.
The New York City card has just been thrown into disarray with the news that AJ Styles defeated Kazuchika Okada last Friday to win the IWGP World Championship. Michael Elgin was supposed to face Okada for the belt on 5/17. As of this writing, there has not been an announcement on whether it will be Elgin vs. Styles for the belt, or if Styles will be added to the Elgin/Okada match to make it a three way dance. Here is the card for War of the Worlds as it stands now.
1. Main Event – IWGP Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles © vs. Michael Elgin (vs. Kazuchika Okada?)
As previously mentioned, Styles defeating Okada for the belt has added a wrinkle for the match that was originally going to be Elgin/Okada. Some ROH fans are miffed at the fact that we may be denied a ROH/NJPW cross-promotional match, and considering the lack of those matches in Toronto, I can’t say I blame them. But they have to realize that Gedo and Jado are the bookers for NJPW and they made the decision to give Styles the belt. I am awaiting some news on the match from ROH, which should probably come this week.
2. ROH World Championship: Adam Cole or Kevin Steen © vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Liger wrestle live back in 2004 in ROH. He made another appearance challenging Austin Aries for the World Title in early 2010. So Liger is no stranger to ROH competition. As I mentioned above, more than likely Cole will retain, so it’ll be Cole vs. Liger. I think that’s a great match. If Kevin Steen should upset Cole, Steen vs. Liger will be a different type of match, but I think they’d mesh well. You really can’t go wrong here.
3. IWGP World Tag Team Championship: The Bullet Club of Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (formerly Luke Gallows) © vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
Now we’re talking. While it would be nice to see Jay and Mark face some Japanese talent, this is a different type of match you won’t normally see in ROH. The Briscoes are outsized, but they’ve got enough fight to bring it to Anderson & Gallows. I’d be interested to see how Gallows does in ROH because I was a big fan of his in WWE.
4. ROH World Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks © vs. reDRagon
This has happened a few times before in ROH, and the Bucks took the belts from reDRagon a couple months back in Chicago. I’d really hate for reDRagon to be playing hot potato with the belts and have them come back to Fish & O’Reilly, but it looks like that’s what’s going to happen. I’d rather see the new tag team of Hanson & Raymond Rowe shock the world and beat the Bucks for the straps. But this will be a good tag match. The last one they had was solid.
5. ROH World TV Title: Jay Lethal © vs. KUSHIDA
I’m interested in seeing this match. I love that Lethal has turned heel because it freshened up both he and Truth Martini, as well as the TV title, in one fell swoop. I know little about KUSHIDA, but he’s a young junior, and I think they’ll put a great match together.
6. ROH vs. NJPW: Adam Cole or Kevin Steen vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
The loser of Cole/Steen gets a match with Nakamura as their consolation prize. It’ll most likely be Steen against Nakamura.
7. ROH vs. NJPW: Michael Bennett vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
I love this match. Love, love, love it. First off, it pisses off all the “die hard” ROH fanboys who somehow have it stuck in their heads that Michael Bennett isn’t a good wrestler, which is an incorrect assessment. Bennett is solid, and one of the few true heels that ROH has in the company. I think he and Tanahashi will have a great match together, and it’ll actually have some emotion behind it, because the crowd will be undeniably in the corner of Tanahashi, instead of a split crowd if he went against, say, Roderick Strong.
Other matches featuring Gedo & Jado, Forever Hooligans, The Decade, Watanabe, Cedric Alexander, Matt Taven, Silas Young, and Tomasso Ciampa are still left to be signed.
The booking choices for both shows are certainly strange given the amount of talent that NJPW is offering for these two shows, but I think both will be excellent cards producing more than a couple possible MOTYCs. Remember, Global Wars is this Saturday in Toronto and War of the Worlds is next Saturday in New York City. Both shows are sold out, but you can watch each for $15 on UStream.
I’ll be back in June with a preview of Best in the World 2014. Remember to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull.