The ROHbot Report: 2016 Awards, Nigel & Elgin Quit, and More
By James Bullock Dec 18, 2016 - 1:01 PM
Welcome to another edition of The ROHbot Report – the only article you need for all the Ring of Honor news you have to know. ROH is gearing up for the company’s first event of 2017 that’ll be taped for the world to witness. But before that we’ll find out who was the best of the best in ROH during 2016 with The ROHbot Report Year End Awards.
Ring of Honor officials accepted the resignation of ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness.
This rather shocking turn of events ties into something very few wrestling fans saw coming as it was announced a few days later that Nigel McGuinness wouldn’t be rejoining the commentators’ booth in ROH, but will be showcased behind the microphone on WWE programming as he will cover the two-day tournament to crown WWE’s first United Kingdom champion. The overall job as ROH Matchmaker featuring McGuinness was originally presented as him simply giving the fans what they wanted in potential must-see matches. Then the position evolved into the typical General Manager role that really didn’t end well as McGuinness came across as inconsistent in the way he handled situations – even ROH acknowledged McGuinness’ inability to control The Bullet Club under his watch. It’s quite sad that Nigel’s last year as a part of ROH wasn’t a joyous run that cemented his legacy in a different way, but it’s wonderful that it has paved a route for him to reach WWE even if it’s in a non-wrestling role.
Michael Elgin posted on Twitter: “Outside of joint NJPW shows (if asked to be a part of course) I'll no longer be working for ROH.”
Unlike Nigel, former ROH World champion Michael Elgin hasn’t been a major factor in the overall scope of Ring of Honor for the past year & a half as he’s spent most of his time in New Japan achieving goals and dreams most gaijin could only hope to attain. While it’s disappointing there’s a great chance we’ll never see “Unbreakable” in a ROH ring again, the fact is Elgin hasn’t been a major factor in the current ROH landscape and appeared wouldn’t be any time in the future as his focus is on making the best of his career in New Japan. Hopefully ROH and Elgin can settle any bad blood in the near future as “Big Mike” in America has been a treat as he is so rejuvenated as of late to produce his best work to date.
“The Best Wrestling on the Planet” starts 2017 with a return to Atlanta’s historic Center Stage for the first time in six years for an international television taping. The first match is a dream tag team match with international significance: ROH World champion Kyle O’Reilly & Jay Lethal vs. The Bullet Club (Adam Cole & Cody)!
“Final Battle” was a turning point in the careers of Kyle O’Reilly, Jay Lethal, Adam Cole and Cody. The latter’s came at the expense of the former ROH World champion in Lethal as Cody disregarded honor to win his ROH debut match – further proving to Lethal that wolves exist in sheep’s clothing even in a company like Ring of Honor. Later in the show, Kyle O’Reilly battled the reigning ROH World titleholder Adam Cole in a bout where the only rules consisted of how to win via a pin fall or submission. The bloody battle felt fitting to close out an event of the magnitude of “Final Battle” as O’Reilly choked out Cole to brutally become the new ROH World champion. Since that night, “The Son of a Son” in Cody made his decision to join the ranks of The Bullet Club alongside Adam Cole – making it all the more fitting that Cody would team alongside the man who made life terrible for Jay Lethal in 2015. Cole not only shaved Lethal’s head, he also ended the World title reign of “Wrestling’s Greatest 1st Generation Star”. This match has all the makings of being a phenomenal match not only because of the talent involved, but also the emotions that will be running wild from bell to bell.
Jay Lethal takes on Jay Briscoe in the semifinals of The Decade of Excellence Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 14th in Atlanta!
Unlike the Top Prospect Tournament or Survival of the Fittest, this “Decade of Excellence Tournament” – which started at the Dec. 4th TV taping and will conclude here – celebrates ROH’s past that is currently a part of its present with the winner earning a shot at the World champion at ROH’s “15th Anniversary” pay-per-view in March; and there are few more appropriate competitors to be involved in this tournament than two men who have been at the pinnacle of excellence for the past four years in Jay Briscoe and Jay Lethal. Since 2014, both men have been synonymous with the ROH singles championships to the point that when they did battle at “Best in the World ‘15” it was heralded as one of the biggest matches in ROH history as the then-ROH World champion Jay Briscoe fell to then-ROH World Television champion Jay Lethal to end his three-year unbeaten streak and allow Lethal to become the first man to simultaneously hold both titles. Their rematch a year later solidified Lethal as the better man, but the champion would soon lose his title and end up in the same position as his rival as both men tried everything in their power to earn another championship opportunity. For only the third time in nearly three years these two stalwarts of Honor will be a part of a singles bout as Briscoe – who overcame BJ Whitmer in the opening round – and Lethal – who bested the legendary Jushin Liger – will fight for the right to battle not only Christopher Daniels in the finale on the same night, but also be a part of the biggest “Anniversary” event yet.
Bull James is looking to settle the score with Silas Young when the two meet on Jan. 14th in Atlanta for “Saturday Night at Center Stage”.
Silas Young and his buddy Beer City Bruiser don’t really get along with people because, in their opinions, can only associate with “real men” like themselves. With the institution of a Six-Man Tag Team Championship, the pair decided to start a search for a third “real man” to create a potential championship worthy trio. To the shock of many in Philadelphia during ROH’s most recent TV taping, Bull James (former NXT star Bull Dempsey) was chosen to be the lucky candidate. But something changed in the minds of Young & Bruiser when James entered the ring because they opted to attack him. The man who was last seen taking Adam Cole to the limit is now out for revenge as James will make his ROH TV in-ring debut against someone who has been associated with ROH longer than James was with NXT. “The Last Real Man” will want to start off this year in grand fashion and it could come at the expense of Bull if he allows vengeance to cloud his judgment, or it could fuel him like never before to begin a new chapter in the career of the “Bull-Fit” master.
Hanson and Rowe head to Atlanta at the top of their game with their eyes set on Martinez and Whitmer.
Though they haven’t been on ROH TV, live events, or pay-per-views as of late, the former ROH World Tag Team champions War Machine haven’t been sitting around doing nothing. New Japan Pro Wrestling invited Ray Rowe & Hanson to participate in the company’s annual World Tag League. Though not successful in winning the entire tournament, War Machine impressed as they picked up four impressive wins and almost advanced into the finals. But before they went to Japan, War Machine had a short run-in with Kevin Sullivan’s protégés and pair of men unbelievably dangerous, BJ Whitmer in “Punishment” Damian Martinez. Their first clash ended in a no contest and witnessed the former champions be obliterated by weapons and Rowe feeling his body get choke slammed through two tables. During the chaos, Whitmer struck the referee and was suspended for thirty days – allowing him and Martinez to plot their next move. War Machine is not the type of team to take what happened to them lightly and will be looking for revenge come Atlanta. But spending weeks in tournament competition will leave anyone weary, even two behemoth-like men such as Rowe & Hanson. This could be a crowning moment for Martinez & Whitmer if they can overcome the former champions, or a perfect way for War Machine to reassert them in the World Tag Team title rankings.
As you know, the end of the year means various lists and awards start popping up, but none matter more in the world of Ring of Honor than the ROHbot Year End Awards where the best of the best in ROH are honored. Now, lets see our award recipients.
Breakout Star of the Year:
For the first time in several years, the ROH roster feels rejuvenated and brimming with potential stars. From the 2016 Top Prospect Tournament winner Lio Rush, to the bruising duo of Keith Lee & Shane Taylor, to the eccentric Japanese star of CMLL in Kamaitachi, to the recent arrivals of Will Ospreay and Marty Scrull (two men already familiar with ROH gold), 2017 has all the makings of producing several stars moving to the top of the card. But in 2016, no one showed he has what it takes to turn potential into promise across a longer period of time than Jay White. The New Japan Pro Wrestling “young lion” made his on-screen ROH debut during “Best in the World” – raising the ire of Kamaitachi almost immediately. What came from that physical confrontation between two men familiar with the excursion system of NJPW was a thrilling ROH TV contest that bled into a six-man tag team affair featuring White pinning Kamaitachi and Christopher Daniels in the respective matches. White followed the big win by besting the likes the aforementioned Rush, Donovan Dijak, & European sensation Joe Hendry, and even taking Jay Briscoe to the limit on ROH TV in a match that went to a time limit draw – something rarely seen and never against Briscoe. White joined Kushida & ACH (and eventually Rush) with the belief he could be one-third of the first ROH World Six-Man Tag Team champions, but his team came up short in the finals not as White’s physical expense as Jay continued an impressive streak where he hasn’t been pinned or submitted during his tenure thus far in ROH. White is on the verge of being one of the next big things not just in ROH, but also in any promotion than can attain his services in the future as his in-ring talents have shown nothing but potential greatness only mildly hindered by his inexperience. Tyler Black, Davey Richards, Michael Elgin, Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole have all won this award in the past and turned it into a World Championship win. Could White be the next name on that list? If 2016 is any indication, the Jay White Era could be near.
Event of the Year:
Every wrestling company has its grand event. WWE has “Wrestlemania”. TNA has “Bound For Glory”. Ring of Honor has “Final Battle”. Yet, just like ROH’s counterparts, the biggest show of the year for Ring of Honor doesn’t always present the best the company has to offer be it from an in-ring or storytelling aspect (or both). The 2016 edition, though full in talented individuals and tag teams matched to deliver something special, didn’t have the buzz one would want for a show featuring the potential conclusion of a long-standing feud, bouts featuring international talents and two of the best tag teams ROH has to offer, and the debut of a “Son of a son of a plumber”. Then the event happened and everything clicked better than, arguably, anything ROH has produced top to bottom all year. There’s not a match close to bad, mundane, or sub par. On the opposite end of the non-existent spectrum of this event are several matches that were outstanding including a Match of the Year candidate in the first ROH World Tag Team Championship pay-per-view defense of The Young Bucks against The Briscoes; a Triple Threat Television title clash featuring Marty Scurll overcoming Dragon Lee and Will Ospreay while almost stealing the show; the crowning of ROH’s first Six-Man World Tag Team champions with The Kingdom overcoming Lio Rush, Jay White & Kushida to strongly cap of the inaugural tournament; the debuting Cody (Rhodes) not only beating Jay Lethal, but doing it through nefarious means to produce one of the most shocking heel turns in ROH history; and to top it off was the stellar main event where Kyle O’Reilly not only bested his old rival Adam Cole in a barbaric No Disqualification match, but also finally claimed his spot atop the mountain as the other ROH World champion. The other matches were also very good, but outdone by the aforementioned fives bouts – matches that would make any show a classic. This show was an exhibition of excellence.
Match of the Year:
Ladder War: The Addiction vs. The Young Bucks vs. The Motor City Machine Guns (“All-Star Extravaganza VIII”; September 30th, 2016)
The six-month long problems between The Addiction and the Motor City Machine Guns escalated at “Best in the World ‘16” when the challengers were closer than ever of attaining champion status in the company when Kamaitachi got involved and cost them the match. Gloating over their victory, Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian took to mocking The Young Bucks for only winning the ROH World Tag Team Championship once in their entire careers. The Bucks had the chance to change that fact when they battled The Addiction on ROH TV for the gold. But it was interference yet again that cost this latest set of challengers as Chris Sabin tried to stop Kamaitachi from interrupting the match, only to hit Matt Jackson and knock him out. Frustrated over the match’s result, The Bucks attacked the champions with ladders to leave they lying. The footage that became exclusive to ROH’s Youtube page infuriated The Addiction to the point they almost hijacked an episode of ROH TV to claim they weren’t leveled by ladders and were actually standing atop the Tag Team division as if they were using their opponents as rungs and stepping stones to glory. ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness saw the champions’ bold words as challenges to the two teams they most recently screwed out of winning by placing all three pairs in a match. But it wouldn’t just be any ordinary title defense as the three teams would do battle in Ladder War – only the sixth in ROH history since its inception in 2007 and a match that left Christopher Daniels to reflect on the obvious remainder of his winding-down career.
In truth, the amount of action seen from bell to bell can’t be easily summed or recapped. There were power bombs on ladder bridges, Indy-takers on the floor, and Christopher Daniels topping his promo of a lifetime with the performance of a lifetime as he wore the crimson mask after taking shot to the head via a ladder early in the match. The Young Bucks and Motor City Machine Guns controlled most of the match by battling each other, trading super kicks, ladder tosses and slams that destroyed the metal that would take them to victory. Kamaitachi and Jay White got involved, resulting in the prior going through a table after he cost The Bucks the title. But Matt & Nick Jackson wouldn’t be denied. Matt blocked Kazarian’s attempt at an ace crusher to put “The Heavy Metal Rebel” in position for a super Indy Taker that allowed Nick to dive off a ladder to help his brother put Kazarian through a table for what was essentially the knockout blow and the chance The Bucks needed to retrieve the belts and become two-time ROH World Tag Team champions. This is the epitome of “must-see” in every form or fashion as these three teams delivered one of the greatest tag team Ladder matches not just in recent memory, but of all time.
Feud of the Year:
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole
Almost three years after the night Future Shock came to an official end, Kyle O’Reilly buried the hatchet with Adam Cole off-screen. According to Cole it was during his shoulder rehabilitation process that O’Reilly went out of his way to encourage the man who he once called a friend. When Cole made his in-ring return to ROH, the former World champion found himself on the wrong end of problems mounting in his own faction, The Kingdom. Ironically enough, the problems between stable mates allowed for Cole and O’Reilly to share a ring and eventually be on the same side. Future Shock was reformed, yet never at the expense of reDRagon even though Bobby Fish voiced his concern about trusting a man who transformed into a genuine opportunist bordering on snake-like in attitude since the dissolving of Future Shock. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, Fish was right at the worst time possible. At “All-Star Extravaganza VII”, Kyle O’Reilly battled Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship. O’Reilly was on the verge of pulling off the biggest win of his career when Cole super kicked him into the awaiting arms of the champion. But why? Why would Cole cut down a friendship starting to bloom again; a friendship that had been beneficial to both parties both in and out of the ring? Simply because Adam Cole didn’t believe Kyle O’Reilly was worthy of the same successes that Cole is accustomed to in ROH. For Cole, seeing Kyle O’Reilly wrestle for the World title while he was just fighting for an opportunity at a title shot on the same show sickened him. Cole proclaimed through vignettes and in-ring segments that his new mission in life is to not only prove O’Reilly is still his lesser, but also rid ROH of the man he once believed would journey alongside him to wrestling nirvana. On that night in Philadelphia O’Reilly had his triangle choke cinched in when Cole used the closeness of the ropes and a referee’s poor positioning to his advantage to pin his adversary. Once again, Cole outsmarted O’Reilly on pay-per-view. While O’Reilly did get a hold of Cole’s arm with his Armageddon arm bar after the match, it didn’t take away from the fact Adam Cole had bested him yet again. The two had the chance to collide once more, but with the stakes even higher than before. ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness found himself having to make a tough choice heading into ROH’s “14th Anniversary” – allow O’Reilly a second chance at becoming the ROH World champion after Adam cheated him several months ago, or give Cole his earned title opportunity. McGuinness opted to do both, making a Triple Threat main event that culminated in bad blood costing both men. While they slugged it out during what would become the match’s closing moments, Cole & O’Reilly made themselves prone to a double Lethal Injection from the champ that left both men unable to stop a sure pin fall victory. Ignoring the fact their problems cost each man their chance to attain champion status, O’Reilly and Cole were allowed to settle their score in Dallas during “Supercard of Honor X” in a Street Fight that saw Kyle finally pick up the big win against his old adversary. The brutal match saw Cole go away for a while until he made his return as a member of The Bullet Club. It seemed Cole had moved past his obsession with O’Reilly … until Kyle challenged for the World Championship again. On ROH TV directly after “Best in the World”, Cole & The Young Bucks brutally attacked O’Reilly only moments before he challenged Jay Lethal for the World title. The unwarranted assault not only caused Kyle to lose his latest title opportunity, but also put O’Reilly on the shelf for a couple of months and set the stage for Cole to become a two-time ROH World champion at the expense of Lethal. Since O’Reilly’s return he’s been on a roll by picking up win after win including tag team matches that included the champ. Determined to end this feud in the most brutal way possible without him being reprimanded for his violent artistry, O’Reilly requested their “Final Battle” clash be held under “No Disqualification” rules. O’Reilly got his wish and almost more than he bargained for as he bled significantly, felt the sharp pain of thumbtacks piercing his skin and almost having his career shortened yet again due to Cole’s actions. But the night was the challenger’s as he powered through the agony to cinch in the triangle choke to attain a submission victory and become the man by not only defeating his archrival, but also becoming the new World champion to end this latest chapter in a saga that might last until the end of one or both men’s careers.
Biggest Story of the Year:
The Six-Man Tag Team Championship is Made
In a year where the ROH World Championship changed hands on more than one occasion (a rarity not seen in two years, and has only occurred seven times over the course of ROH’s fourteen years of existence), “Mr. ROH” Roderick Strong left the company (as did ACH, Cedric Alexander & Moose), and “Broken” Matt Hardy announced the impending return of himself and Brother Nero, history was made shortly before the summer ended when it was announced ROH would be instituting a brand new title – the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship. For the first time in six years, two dozen men across eight teams did battle to become the inaugural ROH Six-Man Tag Team champions including international stars from New Japan like Kushida and CMLL such as Ultimo Guerrero, men who have found success in two-on-two tag team action in The Addiction, and even the then-ROH World champion Adam Cole alongside his Bullet Club buddies The Young Bucks. The latter, however, found themselves overwhelmed by a unknown entity in the first round as Matt Taven made his ROH in-ring return with TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia by his sides to create a new version of The Kingdom. After besting The Bullet Club and Team CMLL, they faced another formidable trio who surprised many fans by beating the first New Japan NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team champions The Briscoes & Toru Yano and in the form of Kushida, Jay White & ACH. ACH, having left ROH, was replaced by Lio Rush – who was originally a part of the aforementioned team instead of Kushida. But The Kingdom’s unity proved to be too much for the fan favorites during “Final Battle” as The Kingdom picked up the final fall of the tournament to attain the gold and begin a new era of tag team wrestling in ROH after a very memorable tournament for all the right reasons.
Tag Team of the Year:
The Young Bucks
This was one of the hardest categories to pick a winner because ROH’s Tag Team division hasn’t been this stacked in years featuring top-tier teams that can go with everyone night in and night out. While Ray Rowe & Hanson – War Machine – had the longest reign as champions in 2016, and The Addiction of Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian became one of the few teams out of forty-plus title reigns to regain the gold at the expense of War Machine, no team felt more destined for championship glory than one of the most popular tag teams going today, The Young Bucks. The multi-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team champions only had one ROH Tag Team title reign to their names that happened two years ago and saw them lose the gold in the first defense. During those two years, the brothers Nick & Matt Jackson became synonymous with the ever-expanding popularity of The Bullet Club and were stealing the show in every company they were a part of including a Philadelphia Street Fight against Michael Bennett & Matt Taven, a ROH dream match come true against The Motor City Machine Guns, and a thrilling near-title victory against The Addiction on ROH TV. The latter is what led to The Young Bucks to finally regaining the World Tag Team Championship. Thanks to the various interactions between The Addictions, The Machine Guns, and The Bucks resulted in several brawls and a challenge for what would become the best bout ROH has produced this year – Ladder War 6. “All-Star Extravaganza VIII” was the site of a thrilling, bloody battle the concluded with The Young Bucks standing tall atop of a ladder holding up their newly won championship belts. They followed up by retaining the gold against the likes of Will Ospreay & Marty Scrull, Colt Cabana & Dalton Castle, and, lastly The Briscoes in one of the best matches featuring two of the best teams they’ve ever had against each other. And to cap it all off was the declaration of war directed toward “The Bucks of Youth” courtesy of “Broken” Matt Hardy to set the stage for, potentially, the biggest year for The Young Bucks’ career and, potentially, ROH’s tag team division.
And here we are, the biggest award of them all for a single Ring of Honor wrestler. It’s amazing to think this history this man has made when less than a decade ago he was thought of nothing more than a joke character. Ladies and gentlemen, the ROH Wrestler of the Year goes to…
Wrestler of the Year:
This award might as well be subtitled “The Jay Lethal Award” as he’s the first man to not only win the ROH World Television Championship on two separate occasions, hold both the ROH World TV and World titles at the same time, but also the only person to win this award back to back is now a three-time “Wrestler of the Year” in Ring of Honor thanks to a multiple of factors – everything from the last half of his ROH World title reign, to becoming the face of the company in the most positive manner. Lethal, having bested AJ Styles to close out the year, entered 2016 with challengers coming at him left & right, specifically Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole. After making it through the “14th Anniversary” event still the champ, Lethal took his reign in a different direction compared to what he produced in 2015 by testing the future of ROH including the 2016 Top Prospect Tournament winner Lio Rush. But soon after Lethal was challenged by a ghost of the past, yet a figurehead of independent professional wrestling – Colt Cabana. On what was meant to be a night featuring two honorable men, Lethal and Cabana were left lying by The Bullet Club. Things switched up for Lethal when the summer really hit its stride and the champ came face to face with, arguably, his biggest challenge from not just an in-ring perspective, but also mentally as he was confronted by a braggadocios Adam Cole – someone who voiced his belief that he is destined to be the next ROH World champion. Lethal’s anger got the better of him and it cost him the most important prize in ROH after Cole & The Young Bucks shaved his head prior to Lethal-Cole for the gold at “Death Before Dishonor XIV”. But Lethal wasn’t shaken completely afterwards as he figured out what went wrong in Las Vegas and attempted to make things right while staking up various impressive victories; some rivaling his World title defenses in quality including The Ringmaster’s Challenge match against Colt Cabana, besting then-new IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito on pay-per-view, and even pinning Cole during a live shortly after the title win in a non-title situation. Sadly, Lethal’s year didn’t end on the highest of notes from a win perspective, but still kept the high standard of in-ring competition as he and Cole’s title rematch during the “Reach For the Sky” tour in London had, arguably, the second best match of the year in ROH, and formally introduced Cody (Rhodes) to ROH in a very good match. There is no doubt about it that the man who started his ROH career as nothing more than a bright-eyed kid hanging onto the group of ravers known as “Special K”, became a protégé to Samoa Joe, and was ridiculed for being a comedy gimmick lacking “killer instinct” is the king of ROH. Lethal has legitimized the ROH TV title more than anyone before him. Jay has continued to hold the standard that comes with being a ROH World champion. And most importantly, Jay Lethal has become a true star in the wrestling world that people will compare others to just like they used to compare him to his superiors.
O’Reilly Addresses the Final Battle Crowd
Sumie Sakai vs. Deonna Purrazzo
The Tempura Boyz vs. Will Ferrara & Cheeseburger
And there you have it. Show that love, or like, for The ROHbot Report and Honor Nation on its Facebook page. Also, if haven’t already, make sure you listen to the latest FREE “Honor Nation” as I talk about Cody Rhodes joining The Bullet Club and more (http://www.wewantinsanity.com/am2/publish/free_audio/Bullet_Club_4_Life.shtml). And don’t forget to send those questions in for the next “Honor Nation either through the comments section below, on Facebook (The ROHbot Report and Honor Nation on its Facebook page), on Twitter (@fasjab), or by e-mailing me at Bullock@wewantinsanity.com. Here’s to a great week for you and yours; and as always, thanks for reading.