I’ve never been a fan of former world champions winning mid-card titles. I feel that it indirectly devalues the bigger prize; how can someone who’s been to the very top, recognised as the best wrestler in the world, be satisfied with a lower tier title afterwards? It also denies a rising star a spot in which to shine, surely the entire point of a secondary strap.
This is the situation Ring of Honor currently finds itself in with Roderick Strong. Previously former champions who have dropped the belt have been saved as serious tests for the men following in their footsteps. Look at the way in which Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe were kept strong once they were former champions. When they challenged for the ROH title once they’d lost the belt it was a big deal and such matches were generally saved for big shows. It was seen as a rite of passage for whoever was defending against them.
Ring of Honor has moved away from that approach over the last several years. Former champions Strong and Eddie Edwards both challenged Davey Richards for the title during his time as champion but the rite of passage feeling was not there. There was never any doubt that ‘The American Wolf’ was going to leave with the strap.
The positive side to this situation is that Strong is now in a great position to help out the young talent on the roster. He can afford to be generous and put over mid-card talent in non-title outings before toppling them in competitive rematches with the gold on the line. The more guys Strong helps to build up while champion the more worthwhile his reign will be. Adam Cole, Caprice Coleman, Cedric Alexander, Rhett Titus, Kenny King and Kyle O’Reilly could all benefit from facing Strong in singles bouts in his capacity as TV champ.
Former television champions El Generico and Jay Lethal seem the likeliest candidates for proper feuds. Lethal is the man Strong beat for the gold so he has a clear reason to clash with Strong while Generico was involved in a series with the House of Truth last year but could realistically target them again, this time with an eye to regaining his belt. Both men could express the desire to become a two time champion and elevate the title in the eyes of fans.
They may both be heels but I think ROH could get an enjoyable match from Strong and Tommaso Ciampa. He’s the reason Strong has the belt in the first place (having interfered in a Strong v Lethal match at Showdown in the Sun Night Two) so that would be a potentially interesting clash. It could even lead to a three-way match also involving Lethal. That feels like the next logical step in the saga to me.
Roderick Strong’s world title reign lasted six months but looking back on it now it seems underwhelming. A guy of his ability, who’s been with the company for as long as he has, deserved a more impressive, stature enhancing run at the top. Winning the TV title has given Strong and ROH a second chance at that memorable title reign.
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