September 10, 2009
Gary Mehaffy

ROH vs. WWE

Sometimes there are things that happen in wrestling that make you sit up and take notice. Like Hogan slamming Andre, Flair winning the 1992 Royal Rumble, Stone Cold cutting THAT promo when he won King of the Ring and Rob Terry debuting in TNA.

Ok, so one of those is a lie.

But in the last couple of weeks there were a few new things that made me reflect on what I thought I knew about wrestling, and about WWE in particular. Firstly, they signed Bryan Danielson (in a move that was long overdue). Then they signed (or are virtually done signing) Nigel McGuinness.

For a little moment, my jaw dropped. Had they signed them because they were worthy of greater exposure than ROH could give them and be seen on a worldwide basis (both of which, I believe, are valid reasons)? Or had they been signed to spite ROH, seeing as they will be seen on Monday nights?

Whichever is the true reason (or reasons), from a WWE fan’s point of view it is a great thing.

Maybe not so much from Cary Silkin’s or Adam Pearce’s though.

It is also assumed (well, that’s the polite way of putting it) that within the next few months that several other ROH wrestlers may make the trip to Titan Towers to be transformed into sports entertainers, further denting ROH’s standing in the grappling world.

This is so unlike Vince, I know.

But as I said previously, it is, or should be, great news for the fans of WWE. Assuming they are used correctly that is (although even if they aren’t they could still succeed there, as we shall see later).

With these signings still fresh in my mind, I thought that I would take a look at wrestlers (male & female) that have made the transition from ROH to WWE (or vice versa in some cases) and see how they fared and where they were, or are, best suited to call home.

Christian York – well, I guess he just dipped his toes in both promotions over the years, which is a pity. He was a great tag partner for Joey Matthews and might have succeeded had he got an opportunity eventually on the main roster. But he never really hung around long enough to be considered a success on either roster.

CM Punk – he should be an inspiration for anyone coming to WWE from ROH. From the second he arrived in Titan he was given the dreaded ‘you can’t work’ tag. Wrestlers and staff weren’t shy in telling him that he was a nobody and had proved nothing (which was stupid as they obviously saw something in him to sign him). When he eventually debuted in the new ECW he got over immediately. But after Heyman was sacked, Punk was told he was a nobody and all smoke and mirrors (had they not heard the reaction at Survivor Series? Actually, they had, and that probably heightened the jealousy, eh, I mean, problems). But we all know that through hard work and patience he has evolved into one of the top heels in the promotion. And for that he has ROH to thank as well as his natural talent.

CW Anderson – to be honest, other than the original ECW he did nothing of note particularly in either organisation. He should thank Paul Heyman for his 15 minutes of fame.

Daniel Puder – he’s an interesting case. He’s obviously known for his time on Tough Enough in WWE, where he defeated the Miz to win ‘a million dollar contract’ – well, I guess had he stayed for 4 years it might have been a million! He is possibly better known for almost forcing Kurt Angle to tap out on TV whilst still a Tough Enough contestant. At the time, and especially after he won, I couldn’t see why they didn’t exploit this and feud them briefly (and this could have immediately transformed Puder in the public’s eyes into a legitimate superstar, which surely was the point of the contest). He wasn’t in ROH all that long in late 2007/early 2008, which was a shame. He’s been linked recently to both TNA and WWE, but all of this may be to help his own self-publicity (which he was good at even in his OVW days). If (although it’s now less likely) Kurt re-signs with Vince then they, in my opinion, should make an effort to sign Puder and finally exploit the Angle angle (so to speak). But even if they did, he’d probably end up wrestling Yoshi Tatsu on Superstars, so maybe he should try TNA if he’s serious about wrestling again.

Little Guido/Nunzio – another wrestler who got his first big break in the original ECW as part of the FBI. He won the tag title there before landing in Titan land in 2002. One thing that could never be questioned was his ability – when he got the chance to show it, that was. (Here’s one for the trivia buffs – I once saw him I the main event of a house show, teaming with Palumbo in a match against Tajiri & Rikishi. No, it wasn’t the most popular booking decision ever made.) He floated around WWE doing nothing really (well, he won the cruiserweight title twice, but it was never a priority for Vince, let’s be honest). He is MUCH more at home back in ROH, as of the middle of this year. He is a much better fit and if he stays around could conceivably lift their world title at some stage.

Jamie Noble – in many ways, he is similar to Nunzio. He lifted the ROH title back in 2005 in between stints in WWE. Like Nunzio, Noble can really go in the ring, when given the chance (and he has been, on very rare occasions). His association with Nidia, was, in my opinion, quite funny and could have turned him face rather than her, but it wasn’t to be. While he may have been more respected by the fans had he hung around in ROH, in WWE he is respected by his peers and works as both an in the ring competitor and backstage as an agent/trainer. Hopefully he will be given another push now that he has recovered from his neck injury. I feel he would be a great fit in ECW or SmackDown if pushed properly.

Jimmy Wang Yang – does this sound like a broken record? He went to ROH in between WWE stints, then comes back to WWE and has stop start pushes despite him being a superb in ring talent. Maybe the moves for more ROH talent will see the return of the Cruiserweight title and then guys like Noble & Yang can play a valuable part in the WWE. The ‘Redneck’ has potential to be a show stealer if he’s allowed, but the question is will he be? Maybe he should save the money he’s made and go back to ROH if he gets released. He’s definitely at a crossroads.

Joey Matthews – he floated around pretty much everywhere before being called up to WWE as part of the MNM tag team with Melina & Johnny Nitro/John Morrison. They were a revelation. The entire unit had money written all over it. And they were a money unit – well, during the times that Melina wasn’t annoying everyone backstage & while Matthews wasn’t suspended for failing wellness tests & being in rehab. After his release he eventually appeared in ROH as part of ‘The age of the fall’ unit. He hung around for around 6 months before leaving. Definitely WWE was better for him than ROH in many ways, but the opportunities it afforded him to live life the wrong way also played a part, which is a pity. He was a talented hand who should have had more of a standing in the biz. Kind of sounds like a newer version of Marty Jannetty to be honest.

Justin Credible – doesn’t really count. He wasn’t in ROH long enough to call it a home and was only really in WWE for as long as he was on both occasions because of his connections. The original ECW was, like CW Anderson, is real 15 minutes of fame.

Low Ki – like I said last month, when he eventually receives his call up to the main roster we can judge how he will perform. If he is given the chance, he could really get over. His size could count against him, but I prefer to live in hope. If he doesn’t succeed in New York then he can always return to ROH as the all conquering homecoming hero.

Evan Bourne – he was right at home in ROH during his tenure there, winning the tag title with Christopher Daniels. From the get go he was known for his flashy aerial manoeuvres. Had he stayed longer he may have seen another title reign, if not a more prestigious belt than the tag title. In WWE, he debuted on ECW and was an instant revelation. For one thing, they allowed him to continue his high flying, even using the once banned shooting star press as a finisher. This got him noticed on the third brand and he got over well for someone (supposedly) so low on the totem pole. He has had some amazing matches (he and Rey tore the house down on Raw) but his move full time to Raw was a mistake. He did a big pile of nothing to nowhere near the reaction he was getting on ECW before beginning his feud with Chavo. I think he’ll have a home in WWE for as long as he wants it and his talent warranted being given the extra platform that Vince could give him. If he is allowed to, he could really light the upper mid card up. Well, if he stopped acting like a geek.

Paul London – his is again a similar story to several others. He spent just over a year in ROH, having several title matches against then champion Xavier. In WWE he is best known for two things – his superb tag team with Brian Kendrick (which WWE didn’t know whether to give a real push to or not) and his ‘smile’ when Vince was walking to his (almost) demise on Raw in 2007. He had the talent to achieve much more, but never really did. Pity. As for now? Who knows, but he’s still young enough and talented enough to take one of the two companies by storm again.

Brian Kendrick – see Paul London! He was (eventually) given a better push in WWE as a Brian Pillman wannabe. Just when he seemed to be getting somewhere they pulled the rug from under his feet. They had him looking for a new tag partner and rather than bring it to a final conclusion they released him. Brilliant. He has since reappeared in PWG and may end up back in ROH as a real ‘high’ flyer. A superb talent who deserves another chance.

Mickie James – as Alexis Laree, she appeared in ROH and TNA but it is obvious that she was set for bigger and better things. Her association as Trish Stratus’ obsessed fan was a great storyline and one that set her up as a really good heel, but over the years WWE have pushed her and then decided to halt it for no real reason. She is, by WWE standards, one of the better female wrestlers that the have and should be featured far more prominently than most of the models they hired. The current Divas’ champion, she is currently flavour of the month again. She is one of the few female wrestlers from ROH to make a big splash in the major leagues, which does show that the cream rises to the top no matter what happens.

Colt Cabana – I have talked about him in detail in several other columns, so I won’t retread old ground. It’s just a shame he never got a chance to show in WWE what everyone in ROH knows! Hopefully his time will come again – that’s if he wants to try again.

Ok, so there have been others (Dusty, Eddie Guerrero, Claudio Castagnoli, Zach Gowen & Mick Foley to name but a few) but I wanted to concentrate on the main players between the two organisations – and Justin Credible.

My point is that like it or not WWE has been, and is once again, using ROH as a feeder, just like back in the territorial days. While WWE is not just as much of a big man’s land as it was 15 or 20 years ago it isn’t at the point yet where someone leaving ROH to come to WWE should assume they’re going to get a big break internationally. But they will get, as Vince would say, ‘an opportunity’.

Some have failed, some have succeeded in WWE. Some were (and are) more comfortable at a lower level in ROH (and I mean that in a visibility type of manner; I am by no means degrading ROH or its roster). And some will succeed and fail again in the next few months.

Who? Well, let’s wait and see. Obviously we know that Danielson & McGuinness will have their chance sooner rather than later but in the next few weeks & months we will see who those in power in WWE think might have a chance.

And that’s the thing – rarely is anyone signed just to have them fail. Where is the point in that? A wrestler shouldn’t be on your roster if you didn’t think he could make you money. It’s up to the bookers/writing team to help them to do so.

Many joining WWE from ROH (or of a similar size to many ROH wrestlers) will look at the recent success of Jeff Hardy, CM Punk & Chris Jericho as proof that it’s no longer necessarily in the size of the dog in the fight in WWE but the size of the fight in the dog. While this is, as I said before, slightly true, they should not enter Titan with blinkers.

Work hard & give ideas and who knows? Maybe we could see another one of the ROH alumni lift one of WWE’s big titles. I certainly hope so. A few weeks ago I mentioned a few ROH wrestlers that I felt could fit into the WWE landscape and I really hope that we see some of them get the recognition they deserve.

No more ‘you can’t work’ tags.

No more being sent to learn the ‘WWE way’.

No more being held down.

Let the talent rise to the top, regardless of who they are or who they aren’t.

Let the fans have their say. And for a change listen to them!

Let the wrestlers earn the respect they deserve in the ring (or don’t, as the case may be).

And then, it really will be interesting to see which of the ROH alumni have succeeded in planet Vince.

Well it’s not like me to write again so soon, but I just thought it was interesting to have this look back at the WWE/ROH link.

Feel free to email me with any thoughts you have, and who you think deserves to be given a chance in WWE. My email address is garymehaffy@hotmail.co.uk and feel free to add me on Facebook.

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