When Jay Lethal came through the curtain after regaining the ROH World Title a little over a month ago in Fairfax, Va., he acknowledged that he has a target on his back and is fully aware that potential challengers will be coming from everywhere.
Lethal doesn’t know yet who his challenger will be when he steps into the ring on Aug. 19 in London during the final stop on ROH’s Re-United UK tour. In fact, he won’t know until the night before. It could be a familiar face from ROH or a competitor from the United Kingdom Lethal has never faced. One thing is certain: Lethal’s opponent will be battle-tested and his title opportunity well-deserved.
The man who gets the title shot against Lethal that night will have earned it by winning the First Annual Ring of Honor International Cup. The eight-man tournament, which pits ROH stars against UK stars in the quarterfinal matchups, begins Aug. 16 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The semifinals and finals take place Aug. 18 in Doncaster, England.
The opening-round matches are: Flip Gordon vs. Kip Sabian; Adam Page vs. Joe Hendry; Christopher Daniels vs. Jimmy Havoc; and Jonathan Gresham vs. Mark Haskins.
Lethal once again is at the top of his game, but there still is a distinct possibility that he leaves London without his ROH World Title belt. ROH championships have changed hands in the UK on several occasions over the years, most recently in 2017, when The Hung Bucks (The Young Bucks and Page) captured the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles.
Speaking of Page, the Bullet Club member who was voted ROH’s Breakout Star of 2017, has to be considered one of the favorites to win the ROH International Cup, as does Daniels, who is the only Grand Slam winner in ROH history. Daniels has won highly-competitive tournaments in the past, including ROH’s Decade of Excellence in 2017 -- a tournament Lethal also competed in.
Gordon, one of the fastest-rising stars in the sport, cannot be discounted, and the same goes for technical wrestling expert Gresham, who has pushed Lethal to the limit on multiple occasions.
As for the UK competitors, obviously they will have the “home-field advantage” in the tournament as well as in the title match against Lethal if one of them wins the International Cup.
Haskins is not only one of the top stars in the UK, but he also has experience against Lethal; Haskins pushed him to the limit in a match in England in 2016 during Lethal’s first ROH World Title reign.
Sabian is a young high-flyer with an arsenal similar to Gordon’s; Havoc employs a violent style; and Hendry is a charismatic, technically sound competitor who is just hitting his prime.
With such a talented field of potential challengers with varying styles, it shouldn’t shock anyone if history is made in London.