Ring of Honor has a Cody problem. In actuality, it’s not Cody’s fault, but rather the company’s. They have built up a dominant champion, which is ultimately the goal of any wrestling promotion, but for whatever reason, have failed to create an actual main event class that can consistently challenge him for the belt.
Regardless of what you believe about Cody’s in-ring skills or his persona, there is no denying his popularity as a member of the Bullet Club. By him becoming the new face of the promotion, he has helped bring ROH to potentially more fans and has attempted to put the brand on the map.
In just over a month at Final Battle, he will take on Dalton Castle for the ROH Championship. This is nothing against Castle, or Minoru Suzuki, whom the company brought in for Death Before Dishonor back in September, but there is simply no legitimate competition that could realistically dethrone Cody.
After he won the belt from Christopher Daniels at Best in the World back in June, he cemented himself as ROH’s top dog. He subsequently dispatched of Daniels in a best 2-out-of-3 falls match, all but eliminating Daniels from title contention while Cody holds the strap.
Take a look at the ROH roster: who could realistically challenge, and then defeat Cody to win the title? The list isn’t all that long, featuring names such as: Jay Lethal, Silas Young, Jay White, and maybe someone like Kenny King, if given the right push. Could any of those guys legitimately dethrone Cody? The true top contender could prove to be Will Ospreay, but ROH is yet to have shown an investment in developing him into a top star. Bringing the Briscoes back into the title scene as singles competitors would also be a stretch, leaving not a whole lot of championship caliber talent beyond the man currently holding it.
This isn’t a call for ROH to poach talent from New Japan in the deal the two have together, but allowing superstars such as Zack Sabre Jr. or Juice Robinson to appear with ROH on a more frequent basis would only behoove the company.
Then there is the matter of WWE castoffs. There are two immediate names that jump off the table in Austin Aries and Neville, who have been recently exiled from the WWE cruiserweight division. Both left the company on rather unceremonious terms, so when they would even be available to join (or re-join in the case of Aries) is unknown, along with whether they would even want to join in the first place. Bringing either man aboard would be a major boon to the main event picture.
Tapping into old talent should not necessarily be viewed as a step backwards. Take Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: it appears the two are dealing with some riffs within the WWE. Both men have been painfully under-utilized, caught in the shuffle of a massive roster, that in Zayn’s case simply hasn’t made time for him. Owens was the Universal Champion for over half a year before Goldberg snatched his title from him in a matter of seconds.
When ROH began to woo Cody, he was an under-utilized WWE talent. The same can be said for someone like Dolph Ziggler, who is currently the embodiment of booking having not a whiff of a clue of what to do with a superstar. Adding someone like Ziggler to the mix to declare war on Cody and the Bullet Club would immediately create an additional element to the ROH product that would once again raise their profile for the better.
Pilfering talent from the WWE isn’t the only way to build up high-level competition. But it certainly helps, considering the WWE is using ROH as a farm system.
Take last year’s installment of Final Battle for example: it took place in Dec. 2016 and the main event was between Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly for the ROH Title. Eleven months later, Cole and O’Reilly are teaming up as members of the Undisputed Era, competing in a War Games Match for NXT. Cole, O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish, would have all been legitimate contenders for Cody’s belt and could have even used the exact same gimmick currently underway in NXT and used it to fight Cody and The Young Bucks. But instead, the WWE reaps the rewards yet again.
The jury is still out on where Cody finds himself in the pantheon of ROH Champions. But his legacy may ultimately be defined by elements beyond his control, such as the contenders he faces.
The Bullet Club may be changing wrestling, but they may also be so good that they’re suffocating Ring of Honor.