Mere days after my recent column discussing Bryan Danielson’s impending move to WWE, the news broke that another former Ring of Honor world champion, Nigel McGuinness, was right behind the American Dragon in his move to McMahonland. As the British Bruiser fine-tunes his WWE contract, many are speculating about Vince’s interest in other ROH talent. Which members of the Ring of Honor roster might catch McMahon’s eye?
TODAY’S ISSUE: Other ROH talent Vince McMahon could hire.
Considering what we know about the sort of performer McMahon usually prefers to showcase in his “sportz entertainment” version of pro wrestling, it’d be easy to peg guys like Claudio Castagnoli and Kenny King as prime targets for the WWE roster. Claudio is a big, physically impressive stud with a built-in gimmick (Vince has always loved foreigners) and a well-defined personality. In fact, he was once under a short-lived developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment, so you know he’s somebody they’ve wanted to bring to TV in the past. King, who competed on WWE’s Tough Enough reality show, is similar to Shelton Benjamin in terms of athleticism and agility but he possesses much more natural charisma and attitude, which is always a hit with WWE crowds.
But lately, the success of a smaller, more “wrestling-oriented” performer like reigning World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk and the signing of Danielson, who some might consider a tad vanilla in the personality department, has left me wondering who’s making the hiring decisions in WWE at the moment. Could it be that Vince suddenly sees the business in a different way now, and a whole new era will dawn in the mainstream U.S. industry, or has McMahon simply started allowing his talent scouts to try new things? Either way, the prospect of more focus on in-ring quality versus caricatures in WWE is certainly appealing, and leads me to question who else on the current ROH roster might be in line for a shot at the “big time”.
Rumor has it that after McGuinness, McMahon has his eye on as many as three other Ring of Honor mainstays. If that’s true, the question becomes which three? Who might Vince be hearing a lot about? Which performers are the talk of Titan Towers? What three ROH warriors might Vince and company be watching on HDNet and DVDs, trying to concoct a role for them someplace on the RAW, ECW, or SmackDown! rosters? There are several folks whom I believe could thrive in WWE under the right set of circumstances, but as far as who’s most likely to get the call, here’s what I’ve come up with:
Tyler Black. A young, strong, agile, explosive, dynamic athlete, with heartthrob qualities and the ability to sell like he’s being tortured in the ring, Black could bring a great deal to WWE. He’s amassed an impressive amount of experience for such a young performer, and shows a lot of poise and ring-generalship while working with some of the most capable and skilled wrestlers in the world today. His match against then-ROH champ Nigel McGuinness at the Take No Prisoners ppv in early 2008 made him a star overnight, and created a wave of momentum that only slowed down when ROH ruined it with bad booking by failing to pull the trigger on his “big win” once the time was right. If they hadn’t slowed him down themselves, Black might be the biggest name in ROH today. Fans quickly learned to see him as a cut above the average wrestler, and cared deeply about his successes and failures. That, my friends, is the kind of guy you want in your promotion.
Davey Richards. Other than height, which may not be an issue in the “new” WWE with guys like Punk and Danielson roaming the landscape, Davey Richards has it all. He’s got a great looking, muscled-up physique covered in cool tattoos. He boasts an intense, wicked mean streak, good promo skills, a deep moveset of striking, suplexes, and submission holds, and enough charisma to bring it all together and reach the crowd. Richards is quick, tough, and devastatingly brutal between the ropes, and he would do well in the Jamie Noble or Shane Helms roll of the cruiserweight who doesn’t wrestle a high-flying style, but gets it done on the mat instead. His lightning-in-a-bottle, eruptive style could really light a fire on WWE programming.
Delirious. Nobody in ROH screams “sportz entertainment” more than the Lizard Man. While his offbeat gimmick and outrageous antics would be a perfect fit in the land of crazy characters known as World Wrestling Entertainment, Delirious is also an incredible in-ring performer, and if given the right opportunity he could really get over with WWE crowds. After all, another great wrestling technician encased in an unusual character got over once before, in the person of Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore, so the template is there. While WWE fans would first find him a conundrum, Delirious could eventually have them chanting, “Bah! Bah! Bah!” along with him, and I’ll bet he’d sell a lot of green-and-black merchandise before too long. We all know how much Vince loves wrestlers who push merch.
One might say that since King and Castagnoli have already had their chance in WWE, they are out of consideration, but as the old saying goes, “never say never”. And while his initial run in WWE didn’t go so well, an all-around performer like Brent Albright would always be a solid addition to any one of the three WWE rosters, so who knows? The scary thing for indy fans today is that if wrestlers who don’t fit the usual McMahon mold are suddenly getting contracts, then nobody’s safe, and guys like Austin Aries, Kenny Omega, the Briscoes, and Roderick Strong could get the call at any moment. Of course, as I stated last week, I understand why each and every one of them should jump at the chance for guaranteed money and a less physically demanding style, but it could certainly damage ROH if enough of their big stars take the plunge at around the same time.
Hopefully Vince will continue his policy of “future endeavoring” good performers on his roster as he brings in new meat, so guys like Colt Cabana and Brian Kendrick are available to fill the gaps created by the departures of Danielson, McGuinness, and whomever else McMahon brings into the fold. A revolving door of wrestlers who do their time up north and then return home to Ring of Honor and other indy feds actually freshens-up characters and gives more young lions a chance to step up to the plate and see if they can hit, which is never a bad thing. Whatever happens, this is certainly an interesting time to be a wrestling fan. Stay tuned.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “Be ready when opportunity comes… Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.” – Roy D. Chapin, Jr.
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
Chris Morgado is back with week #3 of The Column With No Name, this week focusing on the “little things” that make a show great.
Tess Nolde brings another WWE Vintage Collection Recap.
Brian Eison recaps the SmackDown! episode that featured the very good IC Title bout between Rey Mysterio and John Morrison.
Marshall ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Here’s the latest Total Nonstop Weekly.
Speaking of TNA, Jon Bandit reviews their Destination X 2009 event.
Finally this week, Charlie Reneke toils over the Way Too Long Review of both the documentary portion of the Rise and Fall of WCW multi-disc set, and Disc Two. His Way Too Long Review of the third and final disc in the set is forthcoming.