On April 29th in Dayton, Ohio Rhett Titus and Kenny King made quick work of Mohammed Ali Vaez and Chris Silvio. Following their win they took to the microphone and addressed ROH management. The message ANX had was simple: they are tired of being overlooked and want a shot at Ring of Honor tag team champions Mark and Jay Briscoe.
I couldn’t agree with them more.
Despite being one of the longest standing teams in Ring of Honor the All Night Express have been pushed to the side in favour of other combos (the Kings of Wrestling, the Briscoes, the Young Bucks, Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team) for well over a year. They’ve been floating around the middle of the card for a while now and deserve to be used far better. The trouble they currently have is that they’ve been around long enough to be considered one of the promotion’s top teams but lack the big victories and title reigns to convince fans to grant them full support.
2011 saw the two men make considerable progress. They dropped the comedy accoutrements and adopted a more serious to their act and embarked on a title feud with the Kings of Wrestling. While they failed to bring home the gold both men showed that they could keep up with the more accomplished team and produced some impressive matches. They followed that with a wild feud with Mark and Jay Briscoe, which showed yet another side to ANX. That they held their own in crazy brawls with ‘Dem Boys’ shows Titus and King aren’t just hangers-on: they have what it takes to headline ROH shows and are willing to put themselves through some serious physical discomfort in the process.
The current approach Ring of Honor takes to titles is to have them change hands infrequently. This has always been the case with the world championship but it’s a relatively recent trend for the doubles straps, only having come about over the last few years. Three or four years ago the tag belts swapped hands on a far more regular basis. Unfortunately for the All Nights they arrived just a little too late to feel the benefit of that approach.
Quite honestly even if King and Titus do get a tag title run now it won’t mean much. Yes they’ll get to go into the history books as former champions (important in a company such as Ring of Honor) but they’ve wrestled the majority of the teams on the roster. There are still relatively fresh bouts opposite Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole, the Young Bucks and Davey Richards and Kyle O’Reilly but that’s not a long enough list to give ANX an especially memorable reign without a lot of work.
It’s that lack of freshness that makes me think the future of Rhett Titus and Kenny King lies in singles careers.
Kenny King has long been considered one of the most athletically gifted men in ROH (and wrestling in general for that matter). Of the two All Night Express members he clearly has the most potential to make an impact as a singles star. Look at his singles performances over the years against the likes of Chris Hero, Roderick Strong and current champ Davey Richards. They illustrate perfectly his potential as a solo act.
Not to discount the work of Rhett Titus but he just doesn’t have all the tools his partner does. He’s solid in the ring and has improved greatly over the last two years, more so than his tag team partner has (though that’s mainly because King already had several years of experience under his belt when ANX formed). I just don’t think he wrestles a style that any of ROH’s decision makers would get behind enough to give him a world title run. For Titus the best I can see is an upper mid-card role and a reign as TV champion.
ROH should get the ball rolling with ANX sooner rather than later. Something needs to be done with them before fans tire of them as a unit. In an ideal world they’d be awarded a surprise title win over the Briscoes and enjoy a lengthy run working with every team on the roster. That would let them enjoy being on top before making the difficult jump to singles competition.
There are alternatives of course. ROH could take a lengthier approach and have ANX challenge for the belts multiple times over the next few months, always just losing out because of a technicality. One week it could be a time limit draw, the next it could be making one simple mistake that costs them the whole match. They could be set up as the company’s uncrowned tag team champions and then be given one final shot at the gold (ideally at Final Battle.
From there ROH would have several choices. One member of the team could turn on the other, setting up a high profile feud between the two men. Hey could come close to winning the belts and just miss out, allowing them to agree on an amicable split and pursue singles goals. Or they could simply win the belts and have the lengthy, varied reign mentioned above.
Anything would be better than allowing the aimless drifting to continue.
A split definitely needs to happen for the two at some point. Kenny King has too much potential to remain a tag team wrestler indefinitely. When it finally happens I think ‘The Pretty Boy Pitbull’ (I’ve always liked that moniker) should remain a face. Ring of Honor always needs popular men at the top of the roster and as King looks like the better headline prospect of the two it would make sense to ensure he stays a fan favourite.
A heel turn for Rhett Titus upon ANX’s split (whenever it happens) wouldn’t be necessary would it would be an intelligent move. Titus excelled in the bad guy role years ago and reverting him to that side of the fence now would allow him to ease himself into a singles career without worrying about keeping the audience on side.
I’m a fan of ANX and want to see them enjoy a title reign. Once that’s done they can move forward with their careers and help improve the ROH product in different ways. Singles pushes are the way forward for both men. Jim Cornette and Hunter Johnston should really start looking at both men, King in particular, as the solo stars of tomorrow.
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