Editorial: Rich history of the Top Prospect Tournament
This weekend is the start of a new year for Ring of Honor which also means the start of what has become a tradition for the company, the Top Prospect Tournament. While this is the fifth edition of the tournament the young history has proven to be golden not only for the company but for the wrestlers involved. Winners and participants of the tournament have taken this platform and have put stock in their careers just because of this tournament. Let’s take a look at each tournament.
The very first one was in 2011 and you can make a very good argument that this one tournament has been the most successful as far as producing top level talent. Wrestlers such as Adam Cole, Michael Elgin and Kyle O’Reilly have had big success with two of them going on later to become the ROH World champion and all of them making appearances in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But to talk about this tournament would not be fair without talking about the winner of the tournament, Michael Bennett. Since winning the tournament in 2011 Bennett has had big success all over the wrestling world. Becoming a co-holder of the IWGP Tag Team titles and a co-holder of the ROH World Tag Team titles, Bennett has proven to be very successful. Also, being married to Maria Kanellis doesn’t hurt either and with his recent debut in TNA, the sky could very well be the limit for the very first Top Prospect Tournament winner.
After skipping 2012, the tournament came back in 2013 with a field that featured former WWE Superstar Antonio Thomas, Mike Sydal and QT Marshall. However, four men that were in this tournament have become a part of what could very well be the future of Ring of Honor. Adam Page, who is currently in The Decade with BJ Whitmer has become a dangerous wrestler. Silas Young, a popular wrestler from the Midwest has had some very good angles in Ring of Honor with the likes of Kevin Steen and more recently Dalton Castle. The very confident ACH, who is one of the best high flyers in the world today is destined to be a champion in Ring of Honor at some point, maybe sooner then later. Then there is the winner of the tournament, Matt Taven. After winning the tournament, under the tutelage of Truth Martini, Taven would go onto winning the ROH World Television title from Roderick Strong and would remain champion until the end of that year. He would team up with Michael Bennett and become a co-holder of the IWGP Tag Team titles and a co-holder of the ROH World Tag Team titles. You could make a valid argument that Taven has been the most successful winner of the Top Prospect Tournament and the facts in this case don’t lie.
While 2014 hasn’t provided successful talent from this tournament yet, there has been some bright spots from the tournament. Andrew Everett has become one of the top independent stars going today competing in promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Global Force Wrestling and PWX. Cheeseburger is a fascinating story, a young man who weight wise is perhaps the smallest wrestler in all of Ring of Honor has gotten a cult following. With support from wrestling legend Jushin Thunder Liger, Cheeseburger is starting to become one of the most popular wrestlers in the company and with his New Japan debut at Wrestle Kingdom X in the New Japan Rumble, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cheeseburger becomes a world wide phenomenon in 2016. But the two most successful wrestlers happen to face each other in the finals and are currently the ROH World Tag Team champions. Raymond Rowe and Hanson, known as War Machine, competed against each other in a very psychical final with Hanson scoring the victory. Since then both men have become international stars competing in Pro Wrestling NOAH, also facing some of the toughest tag teams in the world and at the year of 2015 after close to two years together as a team, winning the ROH World Tag Team titles at Final Battle. Will both Hanson and Raymond Rowe continue to have success as a tag team or will they become singles wrestlers in the near future? Only time will tell.
2015 had easily the most unique tournament roster so far in the tournament’s young history. From J Diesel and Ashley Sixx to Will Ferrara and the Beer City Bruiser this was an interesting crop. Donovan Dijak would end up winning the tournament and while it’s too early to tell what the future holds for Dijak, I see a lot of success coming his way in the near future and hopefully will deliver on his winning the tournament. But the most successful wrestler from this tournament was a wrestler who lost his first round match, but because of his charisma and wrestling ability has become a huge fan favorite in ROH, Dalton Castle. Trying to describe Dalton Castle is like trying to describe how disco got popular, it’s very hard. But as a fan of Dalton Castle, this very over wrestler has captured the hearts of ROH and will be entertaining fans all over the world for many years to come.
The roster for the 2016 Top Prospect Tournament looks to be a very promising group, who will be able to take this opportunity given to them and go all the way? We will soon find out and maybe, just maybe, the next great Ring of Honor star will be found in this year’s Top Prospect Tournament!!!