How many times have you seen some combination of those phrases together?
This past weekend, the predictions and hopes of many came to fruition as Adam Cole finally captured the Ring of Honor world championship. Yet, the tone on Saturday morning was hardly one of triumph and elation in the independent wrestling world. Once again, it feels like ROH pissed on their own parade as a collection of technical qualms and a bizarre attempt at ‘marketing’ ensured that the 24 year old prodigy was not the focus of the post-event headlines.
This isn’t going to be yet another post about how terrible ROH’s iPPV business is (although if it was, it might be the one millionth, perhaps earning me a free pizza) but I do feel like last week’s Death Before Dishonor show is an apt metaphor for ROH’s entire existence over the last few years. Not only in the sense that their technical hang ups killed their momentum, but also because even when they make a good call – it just feels like too little, too late. Have fans been burned one time too many? Or is the prospect of Cole finally getting the shot he deserves enough to keep people’s attention?
The championship tournament, which initially featured sixteen of indie wrestling’s finest talents, ultimately saw Cole defeat Michael Elgin to win the vacant title, before Cole laid out former champion Jay Briscoe. Cole’s championship win (not to mention the heel turn) was something fans had been pining after for some time. Following a definitive “break out” match against Kyle O’Reilly at Best in the World 2012, with months of impressive performances prior to that, it seemed like a dead cert – Cole is ready to shoot to the top, sooner rather than later.
In the 15 months between then and now, not much has changed in ROH, but Cole has continued to garner momentum outside of the promotion. Most notably, The Panama City Playboy‘s heel turn in PWG, just two months after the ROH bout with O’Reilly, saw him outshine his contemporaries in the stacked Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Whether stealing the show with El Generico on night one, or chanting ‘Suck My Dick’ to the tune of ‘We Will Rock You’ on night two – Cole merged the cocky mannerisms, yellow tailed antics and comedic timing of an entertaining heel with the polish and finesse of a great all round performer. Following his valiant babyface efforts in ROH that Summer, it was clear that the 2012 BOLA winner was a versatile performer, and one who might not be long for the independent world.
As Cole began to ascend the ranks elsewhere, it felt like another year of wheel spinning for ROH. Technical hiccups (I’m being polite here) and a continued struggle to really grasp what fans wanted made for a year of ups and downs for the group. While Cole worked hard in the TV title division, including a somewhat out-of-nowhere championship loss to fellow up-and-comer Matt Taven, SCUM dominated ROH main events. Despite people clambering to cheer him, Kevin Steen was pushed as a top heel, including eye-rolling angles such as a worked fan punching incident, and spitting at Jay Lethal’s parents. In general – it just felt like ROH were more tone-deaf than ever, and as the accolades piled up for Adam Cole elsewhere – I was just hoping ROH could put a show on without alienating more fans.
So now that Cole has captured indie wrestling’s top prize, has some degree of faith been restored in the promotion? Not yet, it would seem. I was one of many to give up on the event in question’s live stream after a myriad of freezes and buffering issues, and the general tone of feedback I got the next day was from people wishing they did the same. Currently, it feels like the man who holds the belt in ROH is a moot point as fans simply wont get behind the promotion as a whole until they get their act together. Fix your streaming issues, figure out how to mic a TV crowd after two years of trying, take some chances creatively – whatever needs to be done; a world class champion on his own isn’t going to turn the company’s fortunes around.
For whatever reason, the current PWG and ROH champion was not picked up by the world’s largest wrestling organization after a recent training camp, nor was there any murmurings of Cole and WWE after the latter sent William Regal as a talent scout to this year’s Battle of Los Angeles. This truly is an example of WWE’s loss being ROH’s gain – because he is a very real loss to any company who potentially can sign him and opts not to. To throw away any potential momentum gained by having the scene’s hottest prospect as your champion would be foolish. I honestly feel like ROH should use Cole’s ascension as the cut-off point from whence they begin to turn the ship around.
Adam Cole is one of the brightest young stars in all of wrestling. Lets hope we don’t have to see the shine in 15 second intervals before more buffering. As always, I want to hear from you guys on this subject. Are you more or less excited for ROH now that Cole is on top? Does it even matter, or are you totally done after their latest iPPV screw up? Are you happy Cole is even in ROH and not elsewhere? Whatever’s on your mind, leave a comment or shoot me a tweet.