He’s wrestled no matches and made only three in-ring appearances for Ring of Honor in 2011 yet ‘Mr Wrestling’ Kevin Steen is one of biggest names associated with the promotion. At Final Battle on December 23rd ROH will finally capitalise on this popularity by putting Steen in a match. His opponent will be his former mentor Steve Corino.
The story of how this match came about spans two years so I’ll try for the truncated explanation…
At Final Battle 2009 a babyface Kevin Steen shockingly turned on his long time tag team partner El Generico following a loss to the Young Bucks. Steen would eventually reveal that he believed ‘The Generic Luchador’ was holding him back and wanted to break out on his own. The man credited for helping Steen realise he felt this way was Steve Corino.
After several months of resistance Generico eventually fought back against the two evildoers. Colt Cabana joined the party to keep the feud balanced and the four men had some exceptionally bloody, passionate and well received gimmick matches in the latter half of 2010.
Fittingly Steen and Generico had their feud ending Fight Without Honor at Final Battle 2010, one year after Steen’s initial treachery. Corino and Cabana weren’t at ringside for that one: Cabana said it was something Generico needed to do alone while ‘The King of Old School’ had begun to express doubts at the path he’d set Steen on after witnessing his intense hatred for Generico.
The masked man won that battle, retaining his mask and banishing Steen from ROH forever (supposedly). Their feud was over but Steen’s story was far from done.
As 2011 started Corino told fans he was a changed man. He sought retribution and wished to atone for the mistakes he’d made with ‘Mr Wrestling’. For several months Corino worked hard to gain acceptance from the locker room and the fans (who actually accepted the new character direction very early on) and it made for an interestingly different, if sometimes odd, storyline.
The occurrences of Best in the World and Death Before Dishonor IX made it very clear what Steen thought of Corino’s attempts to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans. He wanted no part of Corino’s peaceful ways and had no intention of seeking forgiveness for anything he’d done in the previous eighteen months. Fans embraced Steen’s wild, unpredictable persona and he became one of the biggest names connected to ROH… despite not ever actually appearing for the promotion.
At the ROH TV taping on Saturday November 5th Steen made his third appearance for the promotion this year. With a lawyer by his side Steen agreed to wrestle a specially stipulated match at Final Battle: he will face his former mentor Steve Corino, with a win gaining him a Ring of Honor contract and a loss meaning he leaves forever (and ROH, like, totally mean it this time!). Cornette assigned Jimmy Jacobs as the special referee (to stack the odds in ROH’s favour) and acquiesced to Steen’s request that he be at ringside to watch the bout. Steen wants Cornette to see him get his job back, you see.
Yep, it’s all come back to Final Battle again.
My immediate reaction is that there will be a heel turn by someone during this match. The fact that the storyline has revolved more around promos and twists more than quality matches is a good indication of this, as is the presence of Jacobs and Cornette at ringside.
A heel turn by Cornette himself would probably make the least sense right now, but that’s not to say a reason couldn’t be conjured up. A little more likely is a turn by Jimmy Jacobs: he’s been “recovering” from his heelish past for several months now and it would make storyline sense for Steen to have gotten into his ear before the match to convince him to give up on his quest and embrace his heel tendencies. The prospect of a Corino v Jacobs (which a Jacobs turn would lead to) match holds such little appeal that I can’t imagine Jacobs being turned unless substantial developments are made or there are big creative plans in place for early 2012.
The possibility of a Corino heel turn shouldn’t be discounted completely. The man does his best work as a heel and once he’s wrestled Steen in December there will be little need for a rematch. Corino is best used in a ringside role in the Steen storyline, and he can contribute just as much by being allied with him again as he can facing him.
The final thought I’ll submit is a heel turn by Colby Corino, Steve’s son. This storyline has been going for a long time and has helped several men become bigger stars. It reminds me, as I think I’ve said before, of the Sandman versus Raven feud in ECW. One of the most shocking moments of that rivalry was when Sandman’s son sided with Raven against his own father. With Colby being a wrestler his career could benefit greatly from getting more involved in ROH’s lead feud and it would be the perfect way to introduce him as a permanent member of the roster.
Whether someone goes to the dark side or not I’m convinced that ‘Mr Wrestling’ will leave Final Battle victorious. He’s too talented and over for ROH not to have him under contract. I’m expecting this feud to run for a good chunk of 2012 before Steen turns his attention to Ring of Honor world champion Davey Richards. Don’t be surprised if we see a title match between those two next year. Probably at Final Battle considering Steen’s growing connection with the event.