Ring of Honor Focus: Examining the State of the ROH Roster as 2010 Winds Down

Ken DrabekCorrespondent IINovember 3, 2010

Roderick Strong poses with the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)
Roderick Strong poses with the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)

2010 has been a very interesting year for Ring of Honor.

Many fans wondered how the Philadelphia-based promotion would fare after losing arguably its two biggest stars, Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, in late 2009. ROH has always managed to create new stars whenever their existing ones have departed, but would they be able to bounce back after losing two of their very best in one fell swoop?

The answer was, for the most part, a resounding yes.

2010 began with the crowning of Tyler Black as the World Heavyweight Champion in February at the “Eighth Anniversary Show,” marking the official arrival of Black as a major player in pro wrestling.

ROH gave Black the ball and he ran with it, putting on incredible matches and building memorable rivalries with the likes of Davey Richards, Kevin Steen and Roderick Strong.

Black built his reputation up so well during his championship reign that he received a developmental contract with the WWE in August, marking yet another blow to the ROH talent roster.

With the current champion soon departing, and promising to take the title with him, it was Roderick Strong who would become the man who would take the belt off Black and keep it in ROH.

With his victory at “Glory By Honor IX” in September, Strong officially became the new face of the promotion.

Now that 2010 is beginning to wind down, some major changes are going on in the rings of ROH.

In October, it was revealed that several names were being released from the promotion, including two-time World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries. Erick Stevens, Necro Butcher and the Dark City Fight Club joined “A Double” in what some reports have called a cost-cutting move.

Losing top-notch talent like Black and Aries in a matter of months feels just a bit like a year ago.

Creating new stars and breathing new life into the main event scene are some of the major tasks ahead for Delirious, the longtime ROH competitor who is now in charge of booking the promotion.

Former booker, Adam Pierce, parted ways with the company in late August. It was announced on PWInsider.com and several other sites that Delirious would be taking over the booking duties along with some assistance from ROH “executive producer” Jim Cornette.

The new creative team of ROH does not have an easy task ahead of them over the course of the next few months. While the letters ROH are reason enough for many diehard fans to continue supporting the product, the promotion is going to have to build up some younger talent to strengthen the talent roster.

Fortunately for Delirious and Cornette, it seems as if ROH owner Cary Silken is serious about doing just that. Over the past few months, many of the top young guns of ROH have signed new deals with the company, and Silken has also given contracts to several up-and-coming talents on the independent scene.

Guys like Kyle O’Reilly (a protégé of Davey Richards), Adam Cole and Mike Bennett are all recent acquisitions who have the potential to develop into major players in the next year. All three have spent time in popular independent promotions, including Combat Zone Wrestling and Dragon Gate USA.

Kenny King, Eddie Edwards, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli have all re-signed with ROH and are all potential future World Heavyweight Champions. Edwards is the current World Television Champion, Hero and Castagnoli are currently the World Tag Team Champions.

And they are arguably the best team in all of professional wrestling today.

“Glory By Honor IX” may have marked the final appearance of Tyler Black in ROH, but it was also the night that Homicide, recently released from his TNA contract, returned to the promotion.

Couple the return of the “Notorious 187” with the announcement from Davey Richards that he isn’t going to retire at the end of 2010, which had been rumored for months, and suddenly the main event scene in ROH doesn’t look as troubled after all.

As of this writing, the main event for the final PPV of 2010, “Final Battle,” is Strong defending his World Heavyweight Championship against Richards.

Before that can happen, Strong must make it through his first title defense next weekend in Mississauga, Ontario, against “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels.

Daniels returned to ROH in April 2010 and has been focused on becoming the champion ever since. Nov. 13 marks his first crack at the gold, and it could very well mark the end of Strong’s reign.

Can Strong continue his momentum from “Glory by Honor” and establish himself as “the man” in ROH? A victory over an ROH legend like Daniels would go a long way toward validating Strong’s championship credibility.

If he is able to retain over Daniels, Strong must still contend with both Richards and Homicide, who are waiting for their respective title matches. If he plans on having a long title reign, there is no question that Strong must take his game to new heights and overcome the bullseye that is currently on his back.

With names like Strong, Daniels, Richards and Homicide in the World Heavyweight title picture, chances are very good that ROH will continue to produce top-notch, highly-competitive main event matches throughout the end of 2010 and well into 2011.

Nov. 12 in Dearborn, Mich., is the annual “Survival of the Fittest” tournament, pitting 12 competitors against each other in six one-on-one matches. The winners of those matches will advance to a six-man elimination match for a guaranteed shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.

El Generico, Colt Cabana, Kevin Steen, Steve Corino, Eddie Edwards, Kenny King, Rhett Titus, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Grizzly Redwood, Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole make up this year’s field of 12.

One of these men will have a legitimate chance to break into the championship picture and become a top contender in 2011. While some of these names are already top stars for the promotion, none of these men have held the top title, and they are all undoubtedly looking to take their career to the next level by surviving this tournament.

Regardless of who wins, another name will be added to the championship picture in ROH after next weekend.

Even though ROH has had to deal with many of their top stars leaving for brighter lights and greener pastures over the years, the company has always managed to create new stars.

They have done an admirable job of adapting to a regularly-changing roster. As the year comes to a close, things appear to be heating up.

New talents are looking to establish themselves, and many ROH regulars are looking to reach the next level.

There may be a bit of doom and gloom because guys like Black and Aries are no longer with the company, but the ROH roster is one currently full of potential stars and established veterans who all share a common trait.

The desire to give their all and prove why the letters ROH continue to stand for excellent wrestling.