Back when Ring of Honor was founded it was careful to use former WWE, ECW and WCW talent only sparingly. Then-ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky understood that fans were still keen to see men such as Eddie Guerrero, Super Crazy, Mick Foley, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, Raven and others, but was careful not to load any one card too heavily with such names. They were there to help attract an audience and allow young talent to gain exposure.
The last couple of years has seen that long-standing policy reversed. More and more men who made their names in WWE, WCW and ECW are beginning to crop up in the promotion. Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay and Lance Storm have recently enjoyed high profile bouts on ROH events, and former ECW champion Rhino has been working on and off in a heel enforcer role since last summer.
Most notable are Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, who have been working for the company since 2010’s Glory By Honor IX, where they debuted in a much-hyped non-title match against then-tag team champions the Kings of Wrestling. Even lower card nonentity ‘No Fear’ Mike Mondo put in a stint in WWE (as Mikey of the doomed Spirit Squad), although he’s considerably less noteworthy than everyone else I’ve mentioned.
So what’s prompted this turnaround from Ring of Honor, the promotion that used to put such much stock in unknown talent? At least part of the reason for the shift in policy has to be due to ROH’s management team. Gabe Sapolsky, the man who originally pushed for ROH’s own talent to receive feature billing remember, was let go by ROH in October 2008. Since then several booking philosophies have been tried, with the one that’s stuck being devised by veteran booker Jim Cornette. The purchase of ROH by SBG will naturally have led to alterations in the company’s hiring policy too.
So is the decision to bring in talent who rose to notoriety elsewhere a bad thing? I don’t necessarily think it is.
One of Ring of Honor’s biggest problems right now is a lack of roster depth. A failure to adequately prepare new talent during boom periods has left the promotion overly reliant on a paper-thin main event team. While good work is currently being done to prepare Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Michael Elgin for the top they aren’t ready yet.
Bringing in talent from a bigger company can attract new fans and keep existing ones happy by providing fresh matches for established stars. Some are naturally going to get over more than others (Rhino, Storm and Finlay have arguably been more readily accepted by the ROH faithful than have Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team) but all help the organisation in some way.
As long as the league remains selective about who they bring in and doesn’t adopt the TNA approach of hiring anyone who could be considered a “name” talent I don’t think they’ll go far wrong. It’s important to remember that they’re not just getting stars who can help attract crowds, they’re getting men with years of experience who can help out those already on the roster.
There are plenty of potential former Superstars™ to choose from. I mentioned John ‘Morrison’ Hennigan a month or so ago and believe he would be the ideal candidate to join the roster. His athletic wrestling style would blend well with the likes of Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards and it would be interesting to see him tangle with Shelton Benjamin in a non-WWE setting to see if they can finally produce a match worthy of their abilities.
DH Smith would be a good choice. He has the height and build to be presented as a beast in Ring of Honor, and the comparisons between Davey Richards and The Dynamite Kid would be the natural starting point for either a feud or a union between the two men. If Davey doesn’t win the world title back at Best in the World perhaps he could bring in Smith and target the tag team gold.
Shane Helms could be relied upon to produce solid matches with almost anyone on the roster and would work well on either side of the face-heel divide. There’s even the option to hire him alongside his old WCW tag team partner Shannon Moore. I’ve often thought the Young Bucks are comparable to a young Moore and Helms and I think the four could have an exceptional match if given the chance.
Former WCW and WWE star Chavo Guerrero seems to be held in high regard by a lot of people. Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of his work but he’s a solid enough worker and if others like him then it would be worth bringing him in. He could make a very good addition to the Embassy. A Guerrero and Ciampa unit may not set the wrestling world on fire but it would give ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ something new to do. He needs that after his winning streak was senselessly ended.
What about Carlito Colon? In a promotion that is low on guys who can cut memorable promos he could do very well. He may not have been the greatest wrestler during his time with WWE but he’d be working with a generally more capable roster in ROH. That would help him look good.
Former WWE United States champion MVP is probably the second biggest signing ROH could make after John Hennigan. Like Carlito he can cut a great promo and understands the importance of character in wrestling. While Ring of Honor has always stressed ability over character it would help them right now to have a man with a clear and unique gimmick. MVP would be worth hiring just to see if his gift for promos and gimmick development could rub off on others in the company.
Whether or not ROH sticks to the former “big league” talent its acquired or brings in more this isn’t a bad move. It’s not a permanent one either. With business down ROH are doing the right thing bringing in more bankable stars. The youngsters can receive a larger role once the company’s back on an upswing. For now they’re playing it safe, and I don’t blame them.