The NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship. Let me ask you a few questions about this championship : How much do you care for it ? Do you even think it still has its place in the realm of New Japan ?
I wouldn’t ask you these questions if I thought that, at this point in time, they weren’t relevant. We are talking about the only championship that has, well, “never”, felt important. It just seems like the company, Gedo and the rest of the people involved in the booking decisions just don’t have any interest in making this championship as important as the other ones. Let me tell you, this is a shame, because the potential to make this champion feel like it actually matters in New Japan’s environment is there, really, right there. With that in mind, come with me, and let’s discuss how to make these belts feel relevant.
As usual, let’s start by putting some context in place, so we actually know what we’re talking about here. The NEVER 6-man tag tam championship has been created on December 21, 2015. The first trio of champions, made CHAOS members Toru Yano & The Briscoe Brothers, faced the Bullet Club trio of Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi to claim the belts, at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Since then, a total of 14 different trios have held the championship, with Los Ingobernables de Japon’s EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA holding the most title reigns with three, the most defenses in one reign with three (shared with Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa). They also hold the record for the most combined days as champions, with 281 day. This last record being in danger, as the Guerillas of Destiny, two-third of the champions, have held the championship for 247 days and counting as these lines are written. Now, holding the championship for 228 days in one reign may seem long, but this is the only time since the championship was created that one trio held it for more than 200 days. In comparison, the championship have been held less than a month seven times, with twice only being for 24 hours.
These statistics now raise one question : How can anyone expect fans to believe a championship matter when there is almost no consistency with the championship reigns ?
Personally, I wonder. Putting the belts on one trio to take them away the next day or three weeks later does no help, towards the championship, and the wrestlers themselves. Also, the championship has never really been involved in any kind of major storyline, it feels like it’s just there for wrestlers to grab so they have some gold around their waists. Is that how a championship should be treated ?
Now that we went back at this history of the championship and laid down some stats, let’s actually see how New Japan can make it important. The most important thing to keep in mind is New Japan’s global environment. As you probably know if you read this, the New Japan landscape is composed of factions. To this day, we can count CHAOS, Los Ingobernables de Japon, Bullet Club, Suzuki-Gun, The Elite and Taguchi Japan. All of these groups have held the championship before, battling with members of other factions to become champions. The thing is, it has never been made official that this championship was about faction dominance. So, I say, make it all about just that. Since the championship currently doesn’t seem to have any purpose, give it something worth fighting for outside of just holding a title. Use your landscape to create actual faction warfare surrounding these belts. We might one day come back to factions and how well, and sometimes not so much, New Japan uses them, but putting the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship at the center of the war between factions is, in my humble opinion, the best way to make it matter, to make it feel like it is important for the wrestlers. Therefore, fans, and most of us have a favourite New Japan faction, will actually want to see the faction they like the most hold this championship. The frustrating part being, at least for me, is that we had glimpses of what I call faction warfare surrounding these belts, but it seems like New Japan doesn’t fully engage itself on that road. (Take the last bout between the Young Bucks and Marty Scurll against GoD and Taiji Ishimori)
Now, some may tell me that holding championships, and by that I mean holding a lot of them, is a good way to showcase the dominance of factions, and I agree. I agree to some extent. Take the example of L.I.J during the earlier part of last year. Tetsuya Naito held the Intercontinental championship, Hiromu Takahashi held the Jr Heavyweight championship, and the trio of EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI held the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship as well, with a span of 66 days of not holding the belts for the trio. Thanks for that Gedo, that little detail made total sense and was really useful. At the time, at least for me, it felt like LIJ was at the top of the world, the most dominant faction in New Japan. They not only had many belts, but they felt dominant, especially thanks to Naito and Takahashi’s reigns.
A counter-example I have in mind to show that holding a handful of championships doesn’t help a faction feeling dominant is Suzuki-Gun’s most recent tenure in New Japan. This year, Minoru Suzuki held the IWGP Intercontinental championship and the British Heavyweight championship, which was also held by Zack Sabre Jr earlier this year. Suzuki and Sabre also are the current holders of the RPW Undisputed British tag team championship. The leader of Suzuki-Gun even entered 2018 as IWGP NEVER Openweight champion. Taichi also claimed that championship for a while recently, and lastly, the duo of Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado have been IWGP Jr Heavyweight tag team champions since March 6th of this year. The problem, and again, this is only based on my point of view, is that the faction has never felt dominant. This is mainly due to booking, as if you compare both situations, the LIJ members held highly valued championships for a long time and were featured in high profile matches, as for the Suzuki-Gun members, they never really did, apart from Suzuki himself and Kanemaru & Desperado, but that specific issue concerning the Junior tag belts also deserves to be treated in an article of its own.
Therefore, I see the idea of making the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship a faction dominance based championship a necessity, especially for a group like Suzuki-Gun. A group that has never, since coming back to New Japan last year, gained back the same amount of glory and dominance they had when they were exiled to Pro Wrestling NOAH a few years ago.
It would, obviously, help the other factions feeling like they are dominant, depending on how New Japan books their groups and which one they want to put at the top. In the end, this is all about creating interesting stories and giving people reasons to be invested, and you cannot let any part of what makes your roster down by not putting as much effort as you do for your main event stars.
As I now put an end to this article, feel free to share your opinion on this subject, that I consider to be more important than what it may seem. Tell me, what would you do to help make the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship more relevant ? Would you shorten the name ? Would you even consider putting these belts away, thinking such a championship is worthless ?
WWE TV Ratings Still Matter
For the average WWE internet fan, TV ratings often support or refute claims about the product. But do TV ratings still matter?
In today’s TV landscape, the value of TV ratings has lost most of its importance because of the appearance of YouTube and torrent sites. WWE has used this excuse and the birth of the WWE network in a way of explaining why the ratings are down, and in a way, they are right, but WWE can’t use this excuse forever, at some point they have to see that their product they show to the fans weekly is the problem.
In the last couple of weeks RAW have been unwatchable and some of the worst WWE has to offer while ‘’the B show’’ SmackDown has been doing great and NXT is still on fire in terms of booking.
RAW and SmackDown have a symbiotic relationship, and this is so clear nowadays looking at the ratings. RAW’s terrible numbers affect SmackDown because of the stigma of being the B show and the fact that a lot of people use the logic of ‘’if the A show is bad, the B show will be bad as well’’ but this logic is wrong and SmackDown is paying the price for RAW’s mediocre performances which is a shame because SmackDown is killing it in almost all of its creative.
How Should Ratings Be Used?
The TV ratings in the most cases are used by TV shows in a way to measure what things are doing well and bad for a show while also listening to the audience, two things that WWE is oblivious of. WWE pretends to listen but its not true and the ratings reflect that.
The big amounts of money WWE will receive in 2019 from FOX and USA will only make things worse since WWE will not improve in terms of creative and things may actually get worse, which is a shame looking at the roster WWE has right now,and the ratings will still go down.
The only way that WWE will ever change is if the ratings of RAW fall under 2 million spectators and the WWE stock falls big time but both cases are very improbable to happen any time soon specially with The WWE stock having great numbers almost every day in Wall Street.
Could A Change Be Coming?
The XFL could be of tremendous help for WWE’s TV ratings in a weird way. In 2020 with the launch of the XFL, Vince could actually leave the control of WWE creative to Triple H, in a way to focus full time on the XFL, Triple H’s booking could be the fresh start the main roster of WWE needs and could potentially improve the viewership of the two biggest shows WWE produces weekly.
Currently the ratings are a reflection of WWE’s poor booking decisions and change may actually never happen and at some point fans will either quit wrestling or will change their loyalty to another promotion that can actually deliver the wrestling the fans want to see and only time will tell if WWE will ever be affected by this terrible viewership numbers they are drawing weekly.
Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
ROH In 2019: Top 5 Things To Watch For
Greg DeMarco explores the potential for a company-altering 2019 on the horizon for ROH.
As Ring Of Honor heads into Final Battle 2018, the company finds itself at a crossroads of sorts. Things might look quite different at the 2019 edition of the company’s annual capstone, and the year of 2019 could be quite a journey to get there.
Or not. That’s the really interesting part.
Here are my Top 5 things you need to watch for in 2019 for ROH.
(I am publishing this before Final Battle because the event itself, and subsequent tapings, will likely go a long way towards shaping 2019, and might answer some of the questions posed below.)
5. Continued Production Upgrades
This one seems like a “no brainer,” as the company has continually upgraded production equipment and production values over the past few year. Last year’s Final Battle was no different, with a new lighting rig that was almost too big for the Hammerstein Ballroom.
But this is on the list for a bigger reason: people are too hard on ROH for this subject.
I think people watch Ring Of Honor and expect WWE quality, or even IMPACT Wrestling quality. Yes, they are owned by a television broadcast company, but that company does more distribution than production. And the production they do is local news, mostly from affiliates they purchased.
They don’t do live sports, which is what ROH is. I’ve never really understood the thinking of fans when slamming ROH for this. But I do see it continuing to get better.
4. The Elite Departs…? (Big Shoes To Fill)
Talent turnover could be its own category, but let’s be honest here: The Elite has made themselves the most valuable talents in Ring Of Honor.
Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, specifically, have had a hand in building the ROH of today, the one that partnered with New Japan to sell out Madison Square Garden for WrestleMania Weekend in 2019.
If Cody and The Bucks, along with “Hangman” Adam Page and ROH part-timer Kenny Omega do indeed leave, the void will be massive. “Next man up” is a great idea in theory, but this isn’t football. The “next man” doesn’t have the following to make an impact like The Elite did.
And because he was “spoiled in talent,” Delirious hasn’t spent the time and broadcast resources to build their replacements.
But here’s the biggest what if: What if they don’t actually leave?
Final Battle is supposed to be the last night for Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks (among others), but what if it isn’t? The trio already put on ALL IN, a “non-ROH” event that drew 10,000 fans in Chicago while under a Ring Of Honor contract.
Yes, they’ve filed trademarks for All Elite Wrestling, Double Or Nothing, and All Out, with those filings coming from Jacksonville. They are linked to the Jaguars owner. But does that mean they have to leave ROH?
Not hardly. No one has said that All Elite Wrestling is going to be a weekly or even monthly product. Nothing of the sort, actually. It’s entirely plausible that Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks could stay with Ring Of Honor and be given the freedom to put on the All Elite events that offer them more fulfillment.
In fact, having a “working relationship” with All Elite Wrestling can only benefit ROH. If talent has the chance to work 2-4 All Elite “mega-indy” events per year, while working a full ROH schedule, plus New Japan and international bookings, than said talent actually has an option outside of WWE to make a great living. No one company can provide that to many, but the combination of ROH, All Elite, and NJPW can. That’s a point many are overlooking.
3. A Departure For Christopher Daniels
Yes, losing The Elite is big. Bigger than any other talent loss the company could endure during this time of transition. But that doesn’t speak to the potential loss of Christopher Daniels.
All three members of SoCal Uncensored (Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) are rumored to be leaving ROH at the end of the year. Daniels and Kazarian are under contract, and if Sky is contracted it’s not likely a full deal as he has been working independent dates throughout the year.
Daniels, Kazarian, and Sky have a good relationship with The Bucks and Cody, and Kazarian is actually in business with Rhodes outside of wrestling. So their involvement in whatever All Elite Wrestling does is an easy assumption.
But if Daniels does go, they are losing more than an in-ring talent. He is one of the most influential backstage personalities the company has. Seemingly ageless, at 48-years old and with over 25-years of wrestling experience, he has helped craft some of the best in-ring showdowns ROH has seen over the past few years.
The Ladder War that took place at All Star Extravaganza (The Addiction vs. The Motor City Machine Guns vs. The Young Bucks) was one of the best inc company history, and saw the first reports of Daniels’ work backstage in an agent-like capacity. He has since gone on to hold the ROH World Championship, and his partners Kazarian and Sky are the current ROH World Tag Team Champions.
Daniels, along with Kazarian, have a heavy influence over the talent in ROH, especially the younger talent. There is no one better to learn from than “The Fallen Angel,” and if he goes an irreplaceable amount of knowledge and impact will follow him out the door.
And in writing this section I cannot neglect Frankie Kazarian, himself closing in 20-years in the business and an amazing talent in front of and behind the camera, and Scorpio Sky, himself 35-years young, is just not getting the recognition he deserves as a performer. All three are tremendous losses for the company if they do indeed depart.
2. New Talent Coming In
With talent (potentially) leaving the company, opportunities are created for new talent to enter. One is already there, and two more have been recently announced.
Jeff Cobb: Cobb, recently killed off of Lucha Underground seemingly to end his role as Matanza Cueto, was long considered one of the best talents not signed to any major company. His signing is a major coup for ROH, and he’s already the World TV Champion. If the company plays their cards right, he could have a Samoa Joe like run through 2019 and beyond, and be a star they can catapult to main event status with ease.
PCO: The former Quebecer (not a Mountie) had a career resurgence in 2018, becoming one of the fanbase’s favorite stars at the young age of 50. Faced with losing The Elite, ROH was smart to sign the man who is arguably the most sought after talent not named Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, and/or Kenny Omega.
Brody King: With 3.5 years of experience, Southern California’s King has fast become one of the most reliable talents in independent wrestling, providing stellar match after stellar match. His signing proves that ROH is looking beyond the New England area for talent–and they’d be smart to look into other Santino Bros Academy grads while they’re at it.
Personally, I am surprised we haven’t seen more talent announcements. As I’ve hinted above, I am not 100% certain The Elite and/or SCU end up leaving, as recent comments by Cody, The Bucks, and ROH COO Joe Koff could be more posturing than anything.
If so, then look for more talent to be signed by ROH–and that’s a good thing. Otherwise it’s “more of the same,” and as much as I love Jay Lethal and The Briscoes, they need fresh talent to work with in order to keep the product interesting and relevant.
1. The New Japan Relationship
It might not be the most fun to admit, but ROH might not be in in the “Number 2” position in the United States without the New Japan relationship. In fact, it’s really easy to argue that ROH needs NJPW more than New Japan needs Ring Of Honor.
That’s why the company gets by not putting ROH talent over, regardless on which side of the ocean the match takes place. And if The Elite leaves, Harold Meij and company have even influence over ROH.
G1 Supercard is already a huge success, despite nothing being announced outside of a few talents. The event at Madison Square Garden is going to be nothing short of amazing, and anyone in attendance is sure to leave happy regardless of The Elite’s presence.
But what happens after? What I want to see happen is simple: the ROH World Champion after Jay Lethal (let’s just use Jeff Cobb as an example) needs to be put over by a big name from New Japan. A Tetsuya Naito level name.
Basically, ROH needs to stand up for themselves, and be treated as an equal to NJPW in their booking, not as a little brother. Otherwise the relationship remains one-sided, and hurts ROH despite helping them draw.
2019 is set to be a very telling year for ROH, and I personally plan to devote more time and energy to covering their product. Many of you know that I worked for Ring For Honor in 2010 as I was their local contact for the Phoenix events that happened during WrestleMania 26 weekend. Nearly everyone I worked with on that weekend is gone, but my love for the company and my desire to see them succeed hasn’t left at all.
Hopefully 2019 will be a year that ROH transitions into a strong #2 option, a true alternative to the WWE product.