As 2016 is wrapping up, I thought it would be the perfect time to write out some of my thoughts on things that happened in Ring of Honor during the past year.
Kyle O'Reilly wins the ROH World Championship at Final Battle
This was the last thing we saw in a Ring of Honor ring in 2016, but I'd say that it was the most important happening of the year: at Final Battle in New York City, Kyle O'Reilly captured the ROH World Championship from Adam Cole in a bloody, dangerous bout that included tables, steel chairs, and even thumbtacks... fitting brutality that was worthy of their feud. As Cary Silkin and I raised Kyle's hand in victory after the match, I felt a great sense of pride for what Kyle has been able to accomplish since he first appeared in ROH back in 2009. I've felt that Kyle is one of the very best wrestlers in the world for a long time, and now he has the championship to prove it. He's going to have a long list of guys coming after that belt in the new year, and I'm looking forward to being in there to referee Kyle's title defenses during 2017.
Some of my favorite matches of 2016
I have the best job in the world. I'm able to be inside the ring to referee the greatest sport there is, with the best pro wrestlers on the planet. With the crazy amount of talent on the Ring of Honor roster, combined with the best wrestlers from NJPW and CMLL - I'm so lucky to have the absolute "best seat in the house" each and every night.
There have been so many amazing matches that have taken place this year, but there are a few that I feel have flown under the radar. Here are three of my favorite matches from 2016 that I feel you should go out of your way to watch (all available on the VOD section of rohwrestling.com).
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly - No Holds Barred Match - Supercard of Honor, Night 2 - Dallas, TX - April 2, 2016
Even though this match took place eight months before their title bout at Final Battle, it set the stage for that match with anger and brutality. Cole and O'Reilly hate each other. It's a fact. And every time they step into the ring with each other, they bring that hatred to the forefront. Chairs, guardrails, a steel chain - it was all in play in this one.
Adam Cole vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito - 4-Corner Survival Match - Field of Honor - Brooklyn, NY - August 27, 2016
It blows my mind to have this amount of main event talent in one match for the ROH World Championship. Cole and Lethal from Ring of Honor; Tanahashi and Naito from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Four of the absolute best in the world. There are times when I think to myself "this can't be real, I must be dreaming", and this was one of those times.
Jay Lethal vs. Colt Cabana - Ringmaster's Challenge - Reloaded Tour - Duluth, GA - September 24, 2016
The Ringmaster's Challenge is one of my favorite types of bouts here in Ring of Honor. First fall is pinfall, second fall is submission - and if the third fall is needed, it becomes a 30-minute Ironman Match. When Cabana came back to Ring of Honor, his target was Jay Lethal and the ROH World Championship. Although Lethal was no longer champion going into this match, the issues between Colt and Jay were still there. This match was great from start to finish, and showed just how good both Cabana and Lethal are.
I'm super excited about 2017
I can't wait to see how Kyle O'Reilly's reign as champion takes shape.
I'm very interested in seeing a lot more of new ROH World Television Champion Marty Scurll, plus his fellow Englishman Will Ospreay.
Can the Young Bucks stay on top of the tag division, or will there be too much competition from teams like War Machine, the Rebellion, Silas and Bruiser, the Motor City Machine Guns, the Briscoes, Taylor and Lee, Cheeseburger and Ferrara, the Addiction, the Tempura Boyz, etc.?
The Kingdom issued an open challenge to defend their ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles, and the executive committee has already lined up a couple trios for title shots. I think this is great, and I'm looking forward to the six-man division to be a hot-and-heavy component of the new year.
I'm predicting a huge year from a few guys - primarily Donovan Dijak, Hangman Page, Jay White, and Punishment Martinez.
Plus, Bobby Cruise will certainly continue to keep control of his title of "hairiest announcer in all of sports". OK OK, I joke... but in all honestly, the Fall River, Massachusetts native is the best ring announcer there is, by far.
For me, I'm hoping to stay a bit safer in the new year. I took a couple of rough shots in 2016 (namely a handful of superkicks), and my goal in 2017 is to be as safe and sound as possible.
Hope you all had a great holiday, and let's all get ready for a great 2017!