It occurs to me that since I do not talk about the matches themselves during my ROH columns, calling it a "recap" doesn't seem fair. If people are looking for an actual review of the show, comment below, or head over to the DDTpod forums and make your own!
As I watched this week's ROH TV, I couldn't help but think about the things Ring of Honor has that WWE lacks. I know, I know, I shouldn't bring up Titan Sports in an independent wrestling column, but I can't help it. 95% of the wrestling I've watched since picking up my pen has been McMahon driven, so that's where my head is at. Regardless, I'd like to highlight two specific things that World Wrestling Entertainment could benefit from "borrowing" from ROH.
This week's show was the beginning of the push to Supercard of Honor, which is a Ring of Honor crossover show with New Japan Pro Wrestling. ROH and NJPW have a solid working relationship that has resulted in Jay Lethal defending his World Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10, multiple New Japan champions appearing on ROH TV and, very recently, the World Television title changing hands as Tomorhiro Ishii defeated Roderick Strong for the belt.
Ishii defended his title in a match against Cedric Alexander on this episode and we also saw an appearance of NJPW legend Hiroshi Tanahashi, who teamed with Michael Elgin against the Young Bucks. All four men in that main event match are big names in both Japan and the US, so it was an indie darling's dream.
WWE doesn't have, as far as I know, a working relationship with any other International company. In fact, until recently, I'm not sure they had a working relationship with ANY company. We're seeing that change a bit with this Global Cruiserweight Series, as EVOLVE will be hosting some qualifying matches, but by and large, WWE is on their own in the world. To be fair, as the only true WORLD wrestling promotion, I do understand why that is.
But does it have to be that way?
Think of the problems that many fans (perhaps yourself included) have with WWE. Repetitive matches with the same group of superstars. Mishandling (or underuse) of certain talents on the roster. An overall lack of "freshness" with the product.
A talent exchange could solve all of those problems.
Imagine a deal between WWE and a major International wrestling promotion. WWE sends some of their stars over there, perhaps giving Fandango a chance to find a new gimmick, or Jack Swagger a chance to showcase his style of wrestling in front of some fans who might truly appreciate it. In exchange, for one week a month, a group of stars from their promotion come wrestle on RAW or Smackdown, or perhaps on a WWE Network special event. If WWE paired with a UK promotion, perhaps we'd get Zack Sabre, Jr vs. Sami Zayn, or Timothy Thatcher vs. Dolph Ziggler. If it was Japan (maybe even New Japan), we get Orton vs. Okada, or American Alpha vs. . . . . . . . I don't know any Japanese tag teams, but put your favorite one in there, alright!
I think this could be a great way to bring some excitement to WWE and foster some positive business partnerships between these top organizations........
Or WWE can just keep signing the top stars, making my entire point moot. Either one.
If you're a veteran fan like I am, or even if you've just watched some of the WWE Network archives a bit, you know that there was once a time where managers were EVERYWHERE in professional wrestling. At one point, Bobby Heenan, Reverend Slick, Jimmy Hart, Sensational Sherri AND Mr. Fuji all had talents to manage at the same time, and I'm probably missing a couple of other ones as well.
Now what do we have? Heyman is an advocate (he doesn't get involved in the matches, though to be fair, with a guy like Brock Lesnar, he doesn't have to), I don't remember the last time Lana accompanied Rusev to ringside, and. . . . . . That's about it.
WWE doesn't seem to have the time or the inclination for managers, which is a shame, because they have the need for them.
A professional wrestling manager serves many purposes. They are a voice for talents who can not (or, rather, SHOULD not) speak for themselves. They offer a number of branching out points for storylines and, to be honest, they're just plain fun.
As I watched ROH this week, I saw three talents who may never get signed to WWE as wrestlers, but could have a very solid career as managers.
1. BJ Whitmer
Besides the guy named after fast food, there was nobody I disliked more on the ROH roster than Mr. Whitmer. Since I only started watching their weekly TV show when it got its latest deal, I didn't (and still don't, really) understand the backstory between him and Steve Corino, I didn't like the whole storyline behind Corino's son Colby, and I just found Whitmer to be an annoying, irritating, complete and total waste of space.
Which meant he was doing his job, I suppose.
He was a good talker, though, and this week, when he came out to face Ishii for the TV title only to be bought off by Veda Scott, I started to see his value for the first time. He wasn't abusing a kid or trying to provoke an aging retiree with a broken neck, now he was blatantly admitting to the crowd that he'd take a payoff. I found it hilarious.
Whitmer is the kind of guy who could help a lot of heel talents, specifically in NXT. Blake and Murphy might be more than just total Black Holes of Charisma if paired with Whitmer instead of Alexa Bliss. Perhaps BJ could be the guy to finally convince Elias Samson to hit somebody with the chair instead of playing it. BJ could be the heel manager NXT needs right now.
As for a WWE manager. . .
2. Christopher Daniels
Trust me, this hurts a whole lot more than I'd like it to, but at 45 years of age, I think we can safely say that the book has closed on The Fallen Angel ever having an in-ring WWE career. In truth, that book probably ended years ago, but ever the optimist, I kept hoping as long as I could.
That doesn't mean Daniels doesn't have value for the main roster, though. He is a microphone master and as his "Almighty" title and look suggests, he's one of the best in-ring strategists the world over. He's tailor made for a renaissance as the WWE's next great manager.
The aforementioned Jack Swagger. Cesaro. The Revival. Baron Corbin. All talents who could use Christopher Daniels to reach their fullest potential. Not to mention the history you can revisit between Daniels and basically any other talent who ever had ROH experience, beginning and ending with one Mr. AJ Styles.
Homework Assignment: If you haven't seen the matches between Styles and Daniels in TNA (or anywhere else for that matter), go watch them. Now.
Christopher Daniels could be the best manager WWE has seen in quite some time. All he needs is a chance. Don't drop the ball again on him, WWE.
3. Dalton Castle
I'm cheating a bit here, since there's a very good chance Castle winds up on the roster as a WRESTLER at some point in the near future. In truth, I'm only mentioning Castle so I can mention this guy...
Remember Rico? Stylist for Billy and Chuck, manager of 3 minute warning, former co-holder of the tag team titles with Charlie Haas (go look it up, it's true!) Behind the wild attire and persona was a legitimate bad ass who went to military school, police academy and participated on American Gladiators.
Hmm, actual tough guy masquerading in a guise of flamboyance. Sound like anyone we know?
If, for some odd twist of fate, WWE decided to pass on Castle as a wrestler (which would make them even more insane than most of us think), Castle could make an intriguing manager.
Fandango, Adam Rose and Dalton Castle?
Don't lie - You'd totally watch it.
What do YOU think? Register to be a member of the ddtpod.com forums and comment below!
There's no denying it - New Japan is all the rage right now in the Twitter wrestling world. (Twrestling? Can we make that a thing?) Wrestle Kingdom 9, though I haven't seen it, was a huge success, and people are clamoring for more. More New Japan, more focus on wrestling in WWE, more, more, more.
The most common trend is wondering when WWE will see NJPW as competition, especially if they wind up getting an American TV deal.
Not so fast, friends.
Do I want Japanese wrestling on my TV? Absolutely. I'm all for competition, because wrestling is never better when there is something to be won. But I wouldn't break out the Monday Night War shirts just yet. New Japan has a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to become a viable US option. Let's explore some, shall we?
This is the big one, folks, and good ol' JR isn't going to be able to solve it on his own. Whether its through closed captioning or translation, New Japan's major obstacle is that American fans are going to have a hard time dealing with their wrestling in a foreign language.
Despite what everyone is saying about the focus being on the wrestling, there is still a part of each of us that desires to know the motivation and the thought process behind each action, match and feud. New Japan will have to find a way to convey that in as easily accessible a manner as possible if they want mainstream success.
On Twitter right this second, there are discussions about how this time in WWE compares with the WWF of the early 90's, which was the impetus for the popularity of WCW and ECW. I totally get the similarities, and I do think the time is ripe for some competition in the modern wrestling market. Back in the 90's, however the WCW and ECW wrestlers were fairly known commodities. People knew who Ric Flair was, and they may even have recognized Raven as "that Johnny Polo" guy. There was some sort of history that fans could latch onto in order to understand the new wrestling product, even if they have never watched a second of it.
New Japan doesn't have that. The major guys in the company are, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers to the average fan. It's going to take some time to introduce these guys on the US stage. Even longer because of the language issues.
Lucha Underground has taken off so well because, in part, of its newness. The company is starting from scratch, so as you watch, you have all of the knowledge you need to be able to make heads or tails of what's happening. New Japan won't have that.
Now, this is perhaps their easiest problem to solve, thanks to their new streaming service, but fans are going to need to be made aware of the history of New Japan, its stars and its feuds, and this is going to need to happen fast.
The best part of New Japan is actually what makes it so difficult - It's completely different than anything most fans have ever seen. Given patience and time, New Japan can and will likely skyrocket into fans hearts and minds.
But there is a way to help that along.
I've long since believed that Global Force Wrestling needs to be a conduit that connects American audiences with the world's wrestling action. It doesn't need to be it's own promotion - just be the gateway for others.
To that end, if GFW were to create a "Sportscenter" type show - one that could, in the plainest of English, serve as introduction and explanation of the goings on in New Japan Pro Wrestling - this would be a HUGELY effective way to get American fans on board.
They could do segments on individual wrestlers, do promo packages that explain feuds, do interviews, highlights, everything you would expect from a "news" show. They could also feature full length matches as well.
As I said earlier, I'm excited for competition in wrestling once again, and though I think ROH stands as a more likely foe for WWE, New Japan will certainly be a factor. Addressing these problems (perhaps through my proposed solution) would take them a long way towards becoming an American institution.
What do YOU think? Can New Japan work for US wrestling fans? What does it need to do to succeed?