Survival of the Fittest 2010 Preview

It’s that time of year again Ring of Honor fans, ROH’s signature one-night tourney the Survival of the Fittest. 12 men will enter, 6 will qualify, only 1 will walk away as the ultimate winner and automatic number one contender to the ROH World Championship. SOTF 2010 is mere hours away so let’s give it a nice preview, shall we?

Bryan Danielson, Roderick Strong, Delirious, Chris Hero, Tyler Black. All previous winners. Five world tag team title reigns, three world title reigns, two WWE contracts, one ROH Booker. I wish I had a statistic with a four in it to make that a little bit smoother, but what ya gonna do? The point is Survival of the Fittest is a big deal and a definite launching pad into the main event. Yes, even Delirious spent a decent stretch as a main event performer, at one point submitting then-champion Bryan Danielson. Whether it’s the punctuation of already rising stock or the start of a climb to the top, winning this match is your ticket to success, and with a largely wide-open landscape in the company heading in to 2011, this year’s winner could find themselves being a major player.

But who will it be? There’s ROH World Tag Team Champions Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, Television Champion Eddie Edwards, ROH veteran Colt Cabana, newcomers Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, up and comers Kenny King and Rhett Titus, ultimate underdog Grizzly Redwood, the maniacal Steve Corino, or the ever-warring Kevin Steen and El Generico. Let’s attempt to find out.

 

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Grizzly Redwood

This match is almost certainly a forgone conclusion. Claudio is a 6’5″ mountain of Swiss muscle, a reigning ROH World Tag Team Champion (and the current Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Champion), and a man that has knocked off the likes of Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness. Meanwhile The Grizz is a tiny, shoeless man from the Yukon. Sure, he’s pinned Erick Stevens a few times, but let’s be honest, no deck is stacked higher in the tournament than Grizzly’s.

Claudio has been severely neglected by the booking staff over the years in my opinion. I mean how does a guy of his size amidst mostly sub-six-footers manage to not dominate the company? Unlike most guys his size however, Claudio is agile as hell, capable of springboarding off the ropes with relative ease. Yet despite everything he is capable of, Claudio has spent most of his time in ROH being knocked off his feet by men far smaller than he is just for a cheap visual spectacle. See the Kings of Wrestling vs Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team for proof. Sure, Charlie and Shelton are far stronger than the average ROH wrestler, and Claudio doesn’t actually weigh that much, but he still has the power advantage and yet was made to look like a chump.

Hopefully these days are behind Claudio and he’ll prove PWG’s decision to put their world title on him was the right one, and Survival of the Fittest would be the perfect way to prove that point. Unfortunately for Mr. Redwood, he’s the first obstacle standing in Double-C’s way. There is an outside chance that Grizzly gets Claudio with a flash pin, perhaps a sunset flip out of the Ricola Bomb, or a school boy out of the UFO… but in all likelihood we’re going to see Claudio hurl Grizzly ten feet in the air and knock him clean out of the sky with a European uppercut.

Prediction: Claudio Castagnoli pins Grizzly Redwood in 6 minutes with the Swiss Death.

 

Adam Cole vs. Steve Corino

On paper, if we call Adam Cole, Grizzly Redwood and Kyle O’Reilly the three underdogs in this tourney, then in my opinion Cole has the best chance of pulling off an upset. This kid is going to be a star in indie wrestling, his charisma and athleticism almost guarantee it. ROH did well to lock him up into a contract and if they’re smart, they’ll build him up as one of the next big things in the company. Pinning any of the participants in SOTF would be a fantastic way to get him started. But he’s going to be opposite the ring from the Trouble King, the King of Old School, Mr. Wrestling 3, Steve Corino.

Corino has over a decade more experience, and as we’ve seen all year, even at his age he’s no slouch in the ring even when not looking into his seemingly bottomless bag of tricks. Cole needs to be on point in this match, because any opening he gives Corino will be taken advantage of, count on it. He’s pinned many men with a Lariat before, and we know full well it only takes a second to hit the move.

In theory Cole is going to get his rear end handed to him by the crafty veteran, but there’s one thing going in his favour: Steve Corino is not afraid to job. A few weeks ago he wrote an open letter putting over the young, underrated talent in the company, showering Bobby Dempsey of all people with praise. Corino is very much not in it for titles and glory anymore, and it would make no sense at all to have him win the whole thing… so why put him in the finals, other than to give Kevin Steen an extra advantage if he manages to advance as well? Pinning Steve Corino, even with an inside cradle, would put Adam Cole on the ROH map. Corino could be in firm control, get too cocky, and find himself pinned.

Prediction: Adam Cole pins Steve Corino in 7 minutes with an inside cradle.

 

Colt Cabana vs. Rhett Titus

I won’t waste any time. Rhett Titus is getting serious. The bow-tie is off, and he’s playing with fire… literally. Not only is he looking to take his game to the next level, he’s not forgotten the sizable gash on his head given to him by Cabana a year ago during a tag team match. These two may be known as comedy wrestlers, but given Cabana’s year brawling with Kevin Steen and Steve Corino, and Titus’ determination to get violent revenge, this could be surprisingly brutal.

Ok, more likely, Titus is going to come out with his super-serious face on, and Cabana’s going to humiliate him with constant chicanery. But who is going to win? It would be nice if Titus could immediately cash in on his vow to get serious, but what would a SOTF final be without Colt Cabana? He’s surely next in line after Roderick Strong to be rewarded for his years of service to the company with some legit main event success. I think he has a real shot at winning the entire tournament, but he’s got to be a lock for the finals at least… right?

Prediction: Colt Cabana pins Rhett Titus in just under 10 minutes with a strange pinning combination.

 

Kevin Steen vs. Kyle O’Reilly

The third of the underdog matches, Kyle O’Reilly faces off with the most dangerous man in ROH, Mr. Wrestling, Kevin Steen. With a tidal wive of momentum behind him, surely the result of this match is a forgone conclusion? Well, maybe, and maybe not. Steen has a great deal of his attention focused on El Generico and their upcoming Mask vs Career match at Final Battle. He’s also not done all that well against ROH regulars that aren’t the Generic Luchador or Colt Cabana this year. I mean sure, he’s killed Player Dos and a series of jobbers on HDNet, but he’s also lost to the likes of Tyler Black, Roderick Strong and Davey Richards…

OK, these are hardly losses to be ashamed of, but the point remains, and lest we not forget who trained Kyle O’Reilly. Some have called him the next Bryan Danielson (lets not take that claim too seriously, it’s just setting him up to fail), and there’s certainly a great deal of Davey Richards in Mr. O’Reilly, but can all his potential get it done against Kevin Steen? Straight-up, probably not, but El Generico is in the building and he’s hell-bent on destroying Steen. That’ll be his only chance though, Steen is too big, too strong, and too deadly for Kyle to handle on his own at this stage in his career.

Prediction: Kevin Steen makes Kyle O’Reilly tap out to the Sharpshooter in around 8 minutes.

 

Kenny King vs. El Generico

One of the most difficult matches to call in my opinion. Kenny King is going to be a main event star sooner or later, El Generico is likely moving on to the main event himself once he’s done with Kevin Steen. But something’s got to give. There are reasons for both men to lose; King is tied up in a tag team with Rhett Titus and they’re doing reasonably well at the moment, while Generico is so heavily invested in Steen that he doesn’t need any solo success in the meantime. So who will it be?

King has really been on a tear over the last year. He was a semi-finalist in the TV Title tournament, received a world title shot against Tyler Black, and pinned the likes of Roderick Strong, Delirious, Jay Briscoe and Generico himself. He’s deceptively strong, freakishly athletic, and fairly wily despite his relative inexperience. If he’s going to get to the main event scene soon then he’ll need to continue with that success, and Generico is no easy win, so getting to the finals and surviving a good long while will do him wonders.

El Generico is one of the best in-ring performers in the world. He’s proven it in ROH and PWG, particularly stepping up his game against international stars like Kota Ibushi and Katsuhiko Nakajima, as well as his successful tour of Dragon Gate a few years back. He’s even pinned Bryan Danielson. But all of these high points came in 2009 or before. He’s spent all of 2010 feuding with his former partner Kevin Steen. For the first few months he was not himself, unable to defeat opponents that were deemed below him in status, unable to bring himself to even lay a hand on Steen. It was during this lull that King was able to pin Generico. But those days are behind the Generic Luchador as his violent war with Steen has given him new life, so much so that anyone stepping in the ring with him should be a little bit afraid that he sees Steen in them. The chances of Generico losing his mask at Final Battle aren’t high, so it would seem he’s destined for the main event in 2011, and Survival of the Fittest would be a good start to that campaign.

So what’s going to happen? Just as I used the logic that Steen may lose to Kyle O’Reilly, Generico may find himself victim to interference of some kind from his nemesis in this match. That’s not taking anything away from Kenny King who is more than capable of defeating Generico straight-up, but Generico won’t be crawling in to Final Battle, he’ll be steam-rolling. By hook or crook, I think the Pretty-Boy Pit-Bull is taking this one.

Prediction: Kenny King pins El Generico in ten minutes via distraction from Kevin Steen.

 

Chris Hero vs. Eddie Edwards

This is the toughest match for me to predict. It’s a world tag team champion against the world television champion. Former friends and sporadic partners, Chris Hero and Eddie Edwards. Both men are at the best they’ve ever been, and both have a definite case for overall winner.

Hero won the 2007 tournament, pinning every single finalist, and came in third in the 2009 edition, falling to Tyler Black. He’s a perennial world title challenger, and eventually you have to believe he’s going to hold the belt. Could he do the unthinkable and win the match for the second time? Probably not, but not even making the finals is surely equally unthinkable? He and Claudio would have a significant advantage in the finals if they both qualify, and having both of the tag team champions in the match with some tag team specialists would create some interesting opportunities for who pins who.

Edwards has perhaps been the break-out star in ROH this year, unless you count Roderick Strong (I think he broke out years ago, but each to their own). He won a tournament to be crowned the first ever ROH TV champion, beating Colt Cabana, Kevin Steen and his own partner Davey Richards in the finals. Since then he’s had some up and down matches as champion, insisting on Ten-Minute Hunts against clearly inferior competition and seldom actually defending the belt. As the year moved on however Edwards made a statement, becoming a fighting champion and taking on all comers, whilst putting on some of the best matches in the company, whether they be tag matches with Davey, or on his own as television champion. Richards has done his best to communicate to the fans that Edwards is one of the most underrated wrestlers in the world, and little by little the fans have begun to take his word for it. His main event potential was proven against Tyler Black in a non-title match a few months ago, and with the Wolves seeking to go their separate ways for a while this would be the perfect platform upon which Edwards can demonstrate his skills.

Of all the close-call matches, this is probably the one with the least chance of a run-in. The Kings like to cheat, but they don’t interfere in each other’s singles matches, so whoever wins this is going to earn it. Shane Hagadorn will be at ringside and there’s bad blood between he and Edwards, so I’d bank on him being a factor in the result, whether it’s distracting the referee while Hero is tapping to the Achilles Lock, leaving Edwards victim to an elbow strike, or Edwards shoving Hero into Hagadorn and then rolling him up, I think he’ll be directly responsible for the final result. Both options would build the upcoming Wolves/Kings dream match (not that it needs it anymore), but I’d wager the Kings will win that, so it would make more sense for Edwards to get the W here. Hero’s been to the dance and won before, he doesn’t have anything more to prove in this tourney.

Prediction: Eddie Edwards pins Chris Hero in 15 minutes after shoving him into Shane Hagadorn and rolling him up.

 

Survival of the Fittest Finals

So by my estimations it will be Claudio Castagnoli vs Adam Cole vs Colt Cabana vs Kevin Steen vs Kenny King vs Eddie Edwards. My chances of getting all six of those correct aren’t great, so my predictions here beyond the overall winner aren’t worth a lot. Instead, I’ll give some bullet points.

– If Edwards and Claudio qualify, I’d say it’s almost a lock that Edwards will eliminate Castagnoli (probably with another flash pin) so that he can boast about defeating both Kings a month before their upcoming tag team match. With Davey Richards out of the country there’s not a lot that can be done to build this match beyond trading verbal bombs via video-wires, so Edwards pinning one or both of the champions would do wonders for making this dream match all the more special. Equally, Claudio could pin Edwards to make the two teams seem dead-even.

– If Kevin Steen and El Generico make the finals, they’ll likely brawl out of the arena for a double-count-out. If just one qualifies, the other will probably cost them an elimination. Generico is way beyond respecting traditional babyface rules. He hates Steen so much he’d do anything to make sure he has nothing to keep him in the company should he lose at Final Battle.

– If Adam Cole or Kyle O’Reilly make the finals I’d expect to see them eliminate one person before falling. Making the finals and looking good is impressive, but eliminating someone in the 6-man match would well and truly hammer the point home; these two are here to stay.

– If Hero beats Edwards then I’d expect Kenny King to eliminate he or Claudio. The seeds are being sewn for an All-Night Express vs Kings of Wrestling title match after their exchange at Tag Wars and a few insults thrown by King & Titus, so a pin-fall victory here would fuel that fire.

But who is going to actually win this damn thing? Well, I’m finding this a difficult prediction. Let’s eliminate the guys who I don’t think are winning it. Grizzly Redwood is going to get killed. Rhett Titus may be getting serious, but he’s not winning the whole thing. Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly are impressive rookies, but they’re not doing it either. Chris Hero has won already. Steve Corino is out too. I touted Generico heading to the main event scene after Final Battle and this match being the perfect way to get him there, but I don’t think he needs it, so I’m cutting him too. Claudio has been spectacular and deserves a big win, but I think he’s got more work to do with Hero first. Maybe next year. Eddie Edwards already has everything he needs to excel, and champion vs champion matches are easily set-up, so he doesn’t need this. How about Kenny King? Given his swagger and penchant for talking a big game, having a title such as Survival of the Fittest would be fantastic for his character. He’s close, but not quite there.

 

The Final Two

Who does that leave? Colt Cabana and Kevin Steen. Colt’s involvement with Kevin Steen and Steve Corino is over and he’s vowed to get back to his old ways. He’s been around for many years, tackling the best ROH has to offer and competing in a number of high-profile matches but never quite getting it done. He’s entitled to an honour such as this, and a match between he and Roderick Strong would be pretty good.

But Kevin Steen is probably not going to beat El Generico at Final Battle. I would never count him out, but Generico without his mask would provide a temporarily huge moment at the expense of the demise of his whole character. Yet Kevin Steen’s loss would banish him from ROH where he has been the MVP for 2010. Nobody wants that, right? Winning this match would not only make him look unstoppable before Final Battle (and we all know that it’s best to make the babyface look completely doomed before giving him the eventual win), but it would be a convenient get-out clause. It would cheapen things if Steen returned mere weeks later, but he could take up to six months off to rest those terrible knees of his, by which time Davey Richards will probably be the world champion. Imagine the glory of Steve Corino walking out in the middle of his celebration and delivering a warning that a storm is brewing. Picture weeks of mind games and then finally Kevin Steen returning and absolutely decimating the champion. Jim Cornette would be up in arms but Corino would be quick to point out that his boy won Survival of the Fittest and as such was promised a world title shot. Richards would of course be fine with it and probably hastily sign some kind of contract without reading it. Then of course we learn the contract contained small print stating that win or lose Steen is back in ROH for good, and his reign of terror resumes. It’s a lovely scenario, and if even some of it holds true, I’m all over it.

So there you have it, my prediction for the Survival of the Fittest 2010 Winner: Kevin Steen.

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About Matt Waters
Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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