Last Saturday, Ring of Honor broke away from tradition. They hosted the annual Survival of the Fittest tournament and taped it for their TV show on SBG affiliates. When all was said and done, Jay Lethal came out on top and now has an ROH World Title match in his back pocket for whenever he deems fit. So, will Lethal be the next champion? When will he cash in?
Before we get to that, I think I should state that I was disappointed that Survival of the Fittest wasn’t a stand alone show like it normally is. I get why ROH did this but I’m not sure the reasons really make sense as it renders the tournament pointless. The story behind SOTF is that one guy managed to last a gruelling singles match AND a six-man match in one night to really show his worth both physically and mentally. I know this was taped in one evening but in TV land (where ROH is watched by one million people a week…) it will be spread over four weeks worth of episodes. Keeping the tournament relevant over four weeks of TV to new viewers and people not overly familiar with ROH is going to take up a lot of time and effort. Time and effort that could possibly be spent either building up ‘Glory By Honor XI’ or even ‘Final Battle 2012’.
Anyway, I digress. The tournament happened and the winner turned out to be Jay Lethal. The same Jay Lethal that already has a title shot coming up in Rahway, NJ on October 10. I wonder who will win that one? I’ve always thought that SOTF should be used to boost a guy up the card or really give a younger guy the foundations of a big push. In 2010 we had Eddie Edwards overcoming injury to win and that helped him go on to much bigger and better things. In 2011, we had Michael Elgin and Kyle O’Reilly battle it out as the last two. That alone instantly put both guys on the ROH map and as we can see today, Elgin has continued to rise. However, O’Reilly hasn’t. Whether it’s through faults of his own or the booking team, he deserves a push. They could have started that by booking him to reach the last three and tease some sort of interaction between himself, Adam Cole and Davey Richards. Instead, ROH wasted that opportunity by having O’Reilly lose by submission to Mike Mondo in his qualifier. Having O’Reilly, a submission specialist, lose to a guy like Mondo by submission did much more harm than good. It’s not like Mondo needs the win either.
Ring of Honor backed themselves into a corner with the final six they had and it ended up being a pretty pointless tournament. Lethal, who to my knowledge has lost only five matches since returning at ‘Best In The World 2011’, clearly didn’t need the extra boost. I’ve spoken at length about my frustrations with the booking currently in ROH, and this was another one that makes you scratch your head. Another thing that makes me do that is Lethal’s new ‘gimmick’. First off, I’ll give props to ROH for actually trying to make Lethal interesting. I like the guy, I think he’s very polished in the ring and always puts on good matches. However, he is a very bland character and that doesn’t make people invest in him as a performer. If his TNA run showed anything, it was that Lethal, when given a good character, can take the ball and really run with it. He’s a charismatic guy so to give him this awful ‘Killer Instinct’ shtick is laughable and quite frankly a huge waste.
First off, if Cornette wanted the title off Kevin Steen so bad, surely he would look at the win and loss records of all the guys on the roster? If he did, he’d clearly see that Lethal is far and away the most successful. But no, he had to show some passion and fight. And he did this by kicking Matt Taven in the groin and hitting a referee with the Lethal Injection. And then at ‘Death Before Dishonor X’, he was supposed to be seen as a ruthless assassin by taking out Homicide. But the way the match was booked made Lethal look weak if anything. Homicide kicked out of Lethal’s signature moves on several occasions. So much for being threatening, huh? The gimmick doesn’t fit Lethal and it barely makes any logical sense. Lethal hasn’t done anything to suggest to us that he’s now somebody that Steen should be scared of but ROH seem to think he’s now some sort of mass murderer with the hilarious posters they circulated for the Rahway show, quite fittingly called ‘Killer Instinct’…
When Lethal will cash in his shot is anybody’s guess. It’s obvious that he will lose his match in New Jersey and I have a feeling that Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs will get involved. That way, Lethal can say that he fell short because of the numbers game and use the title shot he earned by winning SOTF to get another match. That, I presume, will come at ‘Final Battle 2012’. I have had Michael Elgin, who took over a year to cash his shot in, down as the next ROH World Champion for quite some time but the way Lethal is being booked and with his new gimmick, I think Cornette and Delirious think ‘Killer Inctinct’ is strong enough to carry the torch.
Whether Lethal is the next man to win the ROH World title or not, I think this year’s Survival of the Fittest was grossly misused. I’m sure the matches will come off well on TV but dragging it over four weeks won’t work well and with Lethal winning, it hasn’t achieved a whole lot. Whether we like it or not, it’s quite clear to see that ‘Killer Instinct’ is something Mr. Cornette et al are big fans of.