With Supercard of Honor VIII right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the storylines and parallels to past events for the show. Supercard of Honor has been a huge success for the company ever since 2006, when ROH decided to piggyback on the same area where WWE was holding their own annual supercard, WrestleMania. Last year had the famous Jay Briscoe title change. What’s in store for this year? Here are some of the stories around the main matches on the card.
1) Matt Taven vs Truth Martini’s Mystery Opponent
Matt Taven reigned as ROH World TV Champion most of 2013, after winning the title at 11th Anniversary, before losing it at Final Battle. During the reign, Martini guided Taven to a lifetyle of passionate romp and circumstance they dubbed “Hoopla”. This lifestyle led to associates known as “Hoopla Hotties”, and Taven’s winning ways were essential to maintaining the Hoopla lifestyle. After losing the title, Taven fired Martini and moved on! Martini said that Taven killed a lifestyle he had become accustomed to, and blamed Taven for killing a piece of his heart. Truth Martini has been a thorn in Taven’s side since then, costing him match after match. Here at Supercard of Honor, Truth Martini has promised a hot surprise and a secret challenger. There has been rampant speculation as to who it will be.
That’s something that makes this match special is that this match can go so many ways with whoever the company is bringing in. Truth Martini has built such a deep empire and network of former associates and friends that literally the list of possibilities is endless. If I were a gambling man, I would say my money is on it being “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels, who is a former House of Truth member, as well as a free agent after his contract expired from TNA yesterday. Daniels is making an appearance at Wrestlecon the next day in New Orleans, so he will be in the area. Let’s talk about why this makes sense. Both men are former House of Truth members, both men are former TV Champions. Christopher Daniels was one of Ring of Honor’s founding fathers, having wrestled on the first show back in 2002, becoming the company’s first villain when he refused to shake hands with opponent and observe the Code of Honor. Why is that important? Truth Martini has been involved in not allowing Matt Taven to shake hands with his opponent for months, distracting him or having someone hit and run him for months. It’s a little subtle wrinkle that I caught while observing Taven’s matches. Taven wants to shake hands to show respect, and never gets that chance. Also, Matt Taven has been using his own version of Daniels’ patented “Angel’s Wings”, something Kevin Kelly points out during his matches. Is Taven taunting the Fallen Angel? Additionally, when Daniels left Ring of Honor in 2011, Truth Martini promised he would be back when we least expected it, in his back pocket, ready when Martini needed him. And while I expect it, it certainly plays up to that promise from years ago, connecting the dots here with years of history. Who can’t appreciate all of this? I know I can and I am looking forward to whatever happens!
2) ROH World Television Champion “The Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa vs Jay Lethal
This is one of the matches I am looking forward to the most because I love stories that have long builds, and this clash is two years in the making. Tommaso Ciampa has been one of Ring of Honor’s brightest rising stars, with allusions to former ROH legend Samoa Joe in the way he wrestles and composes himself with sheer intensity. The shadow Ciampa casts and his presence certainly make people remember that feeling Joe gave ROH events in the past because you know someone is going to absolutely get stomped. Ciampa has put on Match of the Year contenders already in his brief career, winning over the fans and the Television Title at Final Battle. Jay Lethal has grown up before our very eyes in Ring of Honor, making his debut with the company way back in 2003 as a member of Special-K. Lethal also has ties to Samoa Joe, who was his mentor in 2005, guiding Jay to the ROH Pure Championship (defeating past Place to Be guest John Walters in the process). Lethal grew tired of Joe overshadowing him, and turned on Joe leading to a feud between student and teacher in 2006. Joe defeated Lethal for the Pure Title, which at the time, was the predecessor to the Television Title.
Jay Lethal left the company after that, only to return in 2011, and he won the Television Title from El Generico in October 2011. From there, Ciampa and Lethal clashed for the very first time over this championship. Ciampa defeated Lethal in a non-title match in January 2012, and faced him at 10th Anniversary for the title. The match ended in a draw. Tomasso Ciampa actually stole the belt from Jay Lethal and only agreed to return it if Lethal defended it against Roderick Strong at Showdown in the Sun: Night 2 on WrestleMania Weekend 2012. It all turned out to be a rouse as Strong defeated Lethal for the title after Ciampa interfered, and Ciampa fired the first shot in what became a war. Ciampa and Lethal continued to battle against each other, and the two men fought in a two out of three falls match at Boiling Point 2012, in which Ciampa tore his ACL. Ciampa blamed Jay Lethal, and was out for a year. Following his return, he set his eyes on a path of destruction which had led him to winning the TV Title himself, but, he never forget the man who injured him, and now they do battle once again. Jay Lethal has pinned Ciampa twice in recent months, but the official referees haven’t counted the pinfalls. Lethal feels he is the rightful Television Champion. Ciampa stole the title from him two years ago, can Lethal return the favor? There is so much bad blood between these two men. Lethal said he is willing to do whatever it takes to finally beat Ciampa. The deep infrastructure of this feud has been built on so many layers, and you can really appreciate the story being told between these guys.
3) “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen vs “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin
Kevin Steen is my favorite wrestler and both of these men are responsible for not only this article, but helping me re-find something that I am very passionate about, and that is my love for professional wrestling. It was Michael Elgin that made me believe good wrestling still existed on March 31st, 2012 when he had a ***** match with Davey Richards. It was Kevin Steen who made me a fan of Ring of Honor. I was waiting for the reason to watch, to care, and Kevin Steen gave me that reason at Killer Instinct when the main event match was turned into a hardcore brawl and thrown out (which never happened to ROH World Title matches) after Kevin Steen spit on Jay Lethal’s mom at ringside. That surreal moment, where Steen was willing to make things truly personal, captivated me and I changed from a casual fan of ROH to an investor and supporter of the company for the sheer improbability that wrestling can both feel real, and still be entertainment.
Let’s look at this match and how time has shaped it. What intrigues me about Ring of Honor is how so little time goes into actual storylines, with the emphasis being on great wrestling and the storytelling told in the matches. Often you question why matches are made without reason, but sometimes it all makes sense. This is the culmination of a trilogy of matches which started in November 2012, when Michael Elgin took ROH World Champion Kevin Steen to the limit at Glory by Honor XI, with Steen retaining the title. The match was applauded as the Match of the Year by some, showing that two heavyweights could be just as athletic and entertaining as any one else. At Death Before Dishonor XII, the two men met again in the semi-finals of the ROH World Championship Tournament with the winner receiving a shot at the vacant championship. This time, Michael Elgin came out on top, making Kevin Steen submit in another great match. At Supercard of Honor VIII, they meet again in a winner take all blow-off, and once again, glory is at stake. The winner of this match will receive the opportunity to face IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada in New York City on May 17th in the first ever time the IWGP Heavyweight Championship will be defended in North America. With both men having victories against each other, the assumption of who will win is completely clouded. Both men have proven that with the ROH World Championship on the line, they are willing to kill. Who will claim the ultimate victory in this trilogy, and what’s the limit they are willing to go will be the question everyone is going to be watching this match for. Rainmaker is waiting, but there will certainly not be any calm before the storm!
4) ROH World Champion Adam Cole vs “Real World Champion” Jay Briscoe – LADDER WAR 5
In wrestling there is an established recognition that champions are undisputed. There is a spot on top of the mountain for only one person, and only room for one. This feud started last year, but the seeds for this feud and this match have been burning for years. Before embarking on singles careers, both men were regarded as highly talented tag team specialists, Jay being one half of the The Briscoe Brothers, and Adam Cole a part of Future Shock. Jay Briscoe wrestled on the very first show in 2002, so when he finally won the ROH World Championship at last year’s Supercard of Honor, a dream had come true. But destiny has a funny way of tormenting those who taste the sweetness of success. Jay was injured during the summer of 2013 and was forced to relinquish the title he had spent his career fighting to get. Adam Cole would win the first ever tournament for the ROH World Championship, but Jay Briscoe felt slighted that he was never beaten for his title. Jay Briscoe introduced his own championship, and proclaimed himself the “Real World Champion”, defending the title at shows for the past six months. Jay Briscoe has even pinned Adam Cole twice since then, cementing his claim to being the real ROH Champion. There was only one way to settle this dispute, and that was in a Ladder War, with both titles hanging above the ring. Jay Briscoe holds the advantage in that environment, having wrestled in two of the four Ladder Wars in company history.
What makes this match even more special? The fact that twenty years ago this weekend two Hall of Famers named Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon wrestled in a ladder match at Wrestleania X. Both men laid claim to being WWF Intercontinental Champion. The rest was history. They defined the ladder match, being the inspiration for generations of wrestlers after that. We all remember Shawn Michaels diving off that ladder, the first time we were amazed by Mr. WrestleMania, but not many remember that it was actually Razor Ramon who walked away undisputed champion. The ladder match has changed careers, and it had made careers. What kind of legacy will Adam Cole and Jay Briscoe set on the 20th anniversary of that match? Adam Cole has been compared to Shawn Michaels, for their looks, for their desire, for their ability to be a complete package in the ring and on the microphone. But the question we all need to ask is, who will be compared to Razor Ramon? Who will channel their inner bad guy? Who will walk away undisputed champion? The ladder match is both a stairway to heaven, and a highway to hell. I will be thanking both men at the end of the night, because no matter who wins the championship, the real winners will be the fans who witness history.