Every May Ring of Honor promotes a series of shows where its top stars face off against the best New Japan Pro Wrestling has to offer. They call the annual series War of the Worlds, and they’re usually some of the biggest shows of Ring of Honor’s entire year.
This year’s run continues tonight at iconic wrestling venue the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, with the show broadcast nationwide through pay per view, and it’s shaping up to be one of the more newsworthy installments of this series. That’s largely because of the main event; instead of an interpromotional match that, no matter how great it might be, would have little lasting storyline impact for either company, tonight’s final bout is a three-way for the ROH World Championship that many people expect to end with a title change.
The match pits the current champion Christopher Daniels, who won his first world title earlier this year at the age of 46, against Jay Lethal, who held the title for over a year in 2015 and 2016, and Cody Rhodes, the former WWE star and current Bullet Club member determined to prove himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Many expect Cody, who goes exclusively by his first name because he can’t legally use his family’s traditional wrestling name outside WWE, to win the title. A handful of long-simmering storylines intersect in this one match. Beyond Cody’s desire to establish himself outside of the WWE bubble, he’s been engaged in a brutal feud with Lethal that culminated in a bloody Texas bullrope match at last month’s Supercard of Honor XI. Meanwhile Lethal, the fourth longest-reigning champion in ROH history, has been devoted to regaining that belt since losing it last August. And Daniels, the feel-good favorite on a late-career run of a lifetime, is out to prove he isn’t just a fluke transitional champion.
From a storyline perspective, the most sensible result would be Cody winning the title by pinning Jay Lethal. It would set up an immediate singles rematch with Daniels, and prolong Lethal’s quest to recapture his title. And it also sets up a rubber match that could blow off the Cody and Lethal feud, which could be used to either launch Lethal on another lengthy reign (which, truthfully, seems like a bad decision at this point) or entrench Cody as a formidable main event heel champion.
The big question about that scenario is whether Cody has what it takes to be a Ring of Honor World Champion. He’s had fine matches with a wide spectrum of opponents around the world in the year since leaving WWE, but he’s not yet a consistent world class, show-stealing kind of performer. Ring of Honor historically has prioritized in-ring acumen with its champions (a list that includes Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Austin Aries, Kevin Owens and more), and since Cody isn’t quite seen at that level by the fans, they may not accept him as champ. ROH could get mileage out of that dynamic—a heel champion who the fans see as unworthy is a reliable gimmick—but it would be uncharacteristic for the promotion to go in that direction. Still, Cody winning does seem to generate the greatest number of possible storylines, and he’s also a name performer with a great look who could be a valuable champion from a promotional perspective.
The match that we might be most excited about here at Paste pits the current ROH World Television Champion, Marty Scurll, against Matt Sydal. Scurll’s riding a rocket to the top of ROH with a now-six month reign full of fantastic title defenses and one of the most vivid characters on the current line-up. Sydal probably won’t win—he’s also currently working with Impact Wrestling, and as a rule of thumb you should usually bet on the talent that’s actually contracted to the promotion in question in a title match—but age hasn’t slowed him down yet, and he’s still one of the best all around wrestlers in the world today. He and Scurll could easily have the match of the night.
Another highlight is a match-up of former poster boys for their respective promotions, New Japan’s Hiroshi Tanahashi and ROH’s Adam Cole. Cole has felt perpetually on the way out of ROH for months now, and top New Japan talent rarely lose at these shows, so it’s safe to assume Tanahashi will come out on top. If New Japan thinks they can lock Cole down as a cornerstone of their upcoming North American expansion, though, a victory over the “Ace of the Universe” isn’t out of the question. We’re also excited about the Young Bucks defending the ROH World Tag Team Championship against the Los Ingobernables de Japon team of Tetsuya Naito and Bushi, the Will Ospreay vs. Jay White match, and whatever Dalton Castle does for his entrance.
War of the Worlds NYC airs live on pay per view, the Fite TV app, the Playstation Network and ROHWrestling.com tonight at 9 PM ET. The full card is below.
ROH World Championship Match: Christopher Daniels vs. “The American Nightmare” Cody vs. Jay Lethal
ROH World Television Championship Match: “The Villain” Marty Scurll vs. “Reborn” Matt Sydal
ROH World Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and Bushi)
ROH World Six Man Tag Team Champioinship: Hirooki Goto and Roppongi Vice vs. Bully Ray and the Briscoes
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Adam Cole
Will Ospreay vs. Jay White
War Machine vs. Los Ingobernables de Japn (Evil and Sanada) vs. Search and Destroy (Jonathan Gresham and Chris Sabin)
“The Heavy Metal Rebel” Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page
Four Corners Survival Match: KUSHIDA vs. Dalton Castle vs. Bobby Fish vs. Silas Young