Ring of Honor makes its much-anticipated debut in the Pacific Northwest with star-studded State of the Art shows on June 1-2 in Kent, Was., and Portland, Ore., respectively.
The landscape in ROH could be significantly altered at these shows. Here are five matches during State of the Art weekend with title implications:
5. TAG TEAM GAUNTLET MATCH (Portland)
A shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles, currently held by The Guerrillas of Destiny, is at stake when The Kingdom (TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia), The Bouncers (Beer City Bruiser and Brian Milonas), Coast 2 Coast (LSG and Shaheem Ali), ROH World Television Champion Shane Taylor and Silas Young, and the “wild-card” entry of rivals RUSH and Dalton Castle run the gauntlet. The random nature of a gauntlet match makes it impossible to predict, as the luck of the draw can be just as important as skill.
Will the fun-loving, hard-drinking Bouncers earn their first shot at the titles? Will Coast 2 Coast’s newfound aggressive attitude pay off? O’Ryan and Marseglia are certainly no strangers to gold, having been two-thirds of the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions on three occasions. Then there’s the team of like-minded individuals Taylor and Young, who have won three ROH World Television Titles between them. Finally, there’s the combustible duo of RUSH and Castle. Could they manage to work together long enough to win the match and gain a tag title shot?
4. NWA NATIONAL CHAMPION COLT CABANA vs. MARK BRISCOE (Kent)
The Briscoes have declared war on the NWA. Jay and Mark Briscoe are livid about getting disqualified in an NWA-sanctioned match in the Crockett Cup tournament on April 27. They weren’t happy with the NWA even before that, as they felt disrespected by the promotion for having to win a qualifying match to gain entry into the tournament.
Things boiled over recently in Chicago when the Briscoes jumped Cabana in an unproved attack after his match. Mark Briscoe, who earned a shot at the National Title by pinning then-champion Willie Mack in the Crockett Cup qualifier, would love nothing more than to stick it to the NWA by taking the title from Cabana in Kent. That will be easier said than done, however. Cabana had a strong showing in the New Japan Cup in March, and that momentum has carried over since he returned.
3. JAY LETHAL vs. KENNY KING IN BEST-OF-THREE SERIES (Kent)
In an effort to leave no doubt as to who truly is the better man, the ROH Board of Directors have ordered a best-of-three series between the two rivals. King leads the series, 1-0, after scoring a tainted victory on the most recent episode of “Ring of Honor Wrestling.” King can make it a clean sweep in Kent, as Lethal is now in a must-win situation.
Both men desperately want to win this series, not only to prove who is the superior competitor, but also to head into their upcoming ROH World Title matches with momentum. King earned his shot at the ROH World Title by winning the Honor Rumble at G1 Supercard on April 6, but he said he first wanted to deal with Lethal. Lethal, a two-time former ROH World Champion, has his rematch for the title set for Manhattan Mayhem on July 20.
King has been obsessed with Lethal since last November, when Lethal -- who was then ROH World Champion -- defeated him at Global Wars. After King was sprayed in the face by Great Muta’s mist following his victory in the Honor Rumble, King claimed he was vision impaired, all the while taking verbal jabs at Lethal. As just about everyone suspected, it was all a ruse. Two weeks ago on “Ring of Honor Wrestling,” King dropped the act and attacked Lethal from behind.
2. DEFY OR DENY MATCH (Portland)
Careers will be impacted -- either positively or negatively -- when ROH World Champion Matt Taven, PCO, Flip Gordon and Mark Haskins battle in a Defy or Deny match. In this elimination bout, if the ROH World Champion wins (Note: If Taven loses the title to Tracy Williams the night before in Kent, Was., Williams will replace him in this match), whoever is eliminated last cannot challenge for the world title as long as he remains champion. Should one of the three challengers win, they will receive a future ROH World Title shot.
Taven has successfully defended his title against PCO, Gordon and Haskins in one-on-one contests, but all of the matches ended in controversial fashion. Taven escaped with his championship thanks to outside interference, a foreign object and other underhanded tactics. Will PCO, Gordon or Haskins take a big step toward realizing their goal of winning the ROH World Championship? Or will one of them be shut out of world title opportunities for the foreseeable future?
1. ROH WORLD CHAMPION MATT TAVEN vs. “HOT SAUCE” TRACY WILLIAMS (Kent)
Williams earned his shot at the ROH World Championship by winning a Four Corner Survival Match over Eli Isom, PJ Black and RUSH a few weeks ago. While Williams will enter this bout as the underdog, the LifeBlood member has shown that he is capable of defeating anyone in ROH. Upsets have happened before in ROH World Title matches, as underdogs such as Xavier, James Gibson, Jerry Lynn and Christopher Daniels defied the odds and captured the title.
Taven, who has had three intense, hard-fought title defenses since winning the championship at G1 Supercard, just might be ripe for the picking. Taven has never had a confidence problem, but could he be overconfident heading into this match? One thing is certain: Taven will have to defeat Williams without any help, as Taven’s fellow Kingdom members TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia have been banned from ringside during all of Taven’s title defenses going forward.