By Kevin Eck
Now that the field has been announced for the tournament to determine the ROH World Title challenger at Final Battle, let’s take a look at the eight participants.
There are two former ROH World Champions (Jay Lethal, Dalton Castle), a perennial main-eventer and world title contender (“The Villain” Marty Scurll), a seemingly indestructible monster (PCO), the fastest-rising star in the sport (Bandido) and a guy just hitting his prime in the midst of one of the best years of his career (Kenny King).
A strong case could be made for any of them winning the tournament and main-eventing the Final Battle pay-per-view on Dec. 13 at Baltimore’s UMBC Event Center. That said, it would be a mistake to sleep on the two competitors I didn’t mention: Mark Haskins and Colt Cabana.
Haskins has proven time and again that he is capable of defeating anyone, yet he remains one of the most underrated competitors in the sport. He forced Lethal to tap out to the Sharpshooter during a tag match at Summer Supercard three weeks ago, and came within an eyelash of winning the ROH World Title from Matt Taven in May.
The LifeBlood star had Taven trapped in the Sharpshooter, but he released the hold after Bully Ray came down to the ring and distracted him. Ever the opportunist, Taven took advantage of the situation by hitting a low blow on Haskins, which made him easy prey for Taven’s Climax finisher.
Haskins also has shown that he knows something about winning a tournament with a world title shot at stake. The Oxford, England native captured the inaugural ROH International Cup last year on the Honor Re-United UK Tour by defeating Jonathan Gresham in the first round, Flip Gordon in the semifinals and “Hangman” Adam Page in the final. He went on to push then-world champion Lethal to the limit in a match regarded as one of the best of 2018.
If anyone still doubts that Haskins is a legitimate threat to win the No. 1 Contender tournament, consider the fact that he has defeated some of the biggest names in the sport during his 13-year career, including Castle, Scurll, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr., Drew Galloway, Prince Devitt, Ricochet, Pac, Austin Aries, Christopher Daniels, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and El Generico.
As for Cabana, even though he’s been wrestling for 20 years, he’s still under 40 and has kept himself in great shape.
His outstanding technical wrestling skills are often overlooked because of his flair for comedy and commitment to entertaining the audience, but you’d better believe Cabana is serious about wanting to win the ROH World Championship. Because Cabana doesn’t wrestle full-time in ROH -- he serves as a color commentator on ROH broadcasts -- the ring veteran knows this could be his last shot at competing for the richest prize in the sport.
He’s comes close to winning the title on several occasions over the years, including a 2006 match in which he took then-champion Bryan Danielson to a 60-minute draw in a two-out-of three falls contest. He holds victories over former ROH World Champions Lethal, CM Punk, Nigel McGuinness, Kevin Steen and Homicide.
Cabana’s job as a commentator could serve him well in the tournament. Not only does he probably have fewer bumps and bruises than the other seven competitors, but he also has the added advantage of being able to watch and analyze all of their matches prior to the tournament.
As a reminder, the bracket for the tournament will be revealed on ROHWrestling.com on Monday.
The semifinals and finals take place at Glory By Honor in New Orleans at UNO Lakefront Arena on Oct. 12. Tickets for Glory By Honor go on sale this coming Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 10 a.m. Central for HonorClub members and Friday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. Central for the general public. All eight participants in the tournament will take part in the meet and greet.
All of the tournament matches will stream live for HonorClub.
A huge tag team match has been signed for Global Wars Espectacular in Milwaukee on Sept. 8, pitting Taven and Vincent against RUSH and Jeff Cobb. Not only is there a plethora of star power in this match, but there’s also a lot of bad blood.
The undefeated RUSH confronted Taven at Summer Supercard and made it clear that he wants a shot at the ROH World Title, but Taven told RUSH he’ll never be world champion and then walked away from him.
During the Champions vs. All-Stars elimination eight-man tag match in Atlanta last weekend, Taven sent a message to RUSH by beating him down with a chair. Taven was disqualified for his actions, and RUSH and Cobb went on to be the sole survivors. Cobb extended his hand to RUSH after the match, but RUSH kicked it away and bumped Cobb with his shoulder as he exited the ring.
The next night in Nashville, Tenn., Cobb earned a future ROH World Title shot by winning Defy or Deny. Taven also was disqualified in that bout, this time for hitting Cobb with the title belt. Also in Nashville, RUSH scored a hard-fought victory over Vincent.
RUSH and Cobb both want to get their hands on Taven in Milwaukee, but will they be able to function as a team? Taven undoubtedly is a marked man, but at least he has a partner he can trust.
Keep it locked into ROHWrestling.com today and early next week for a slew of match announcements for the Global Wars Espectacular tour, which kicks off in Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 6 before heading to Chicago on Sept. 7 and concluding in Milwaukee.
ROH World Television Champion Shane Taylor took exception to the headline I wrote for an article on the ROH stars competing in CMLL’s Grand Prix tonight in Mexico. The headline read: “CMLL Grand Prix News: Mark Briscoe's Knee Injured; Shane Taylor's Feelings Hurt; Matt Taven's Ego Healthy.”
— Shane Taylor (@shane216taylor) August 29, 2019
Clearly, I was trying to tie together the three items in the article -- one of which was about Taylor complaining on social media about not being invited to compete in the Grand Prix -- by using the words “injured,” “hurt” and “healthy.” Maybe the theme-oriented headline worked, maybe it didn’t, but my intention certainly was not to upset Mr. Taylor. If he was offended by my headline, I apologize.
Truth be told, I do think there is some validity to Mr. Taylor’s point about not being booked for the CMLL show. However, ranting about it on Twitter is rather unbecoming of a champion.
Professional wrestling is a tough business, and it would benefit Mr. Taylor to develop a thicker skin.
Kevin Eck is a veteran pro wrestling journalist who has worked for The Baltimore Sun, WWE and WCW before joining ROHWrestling.com.