Jonathan Gresham and Eight Tentacles of Discourse
Last night, Ring of Honor World Champion Jonathan Gresham lost to Claudio Castagnoli to end a 224 day reign at Death Before Dishonor on pay per view in Lowell, Massachusetts. It would soon be reported Gresham requested to be released from his contract.
Gresham, 34, was said to be upset with creative decisions and the communication provided towards the pay per view. This would soon spark the internet into multiple discussions. The problem is that the internet decided to argue them all at once.
This is becoming a common occurrence with discussions involving All Elite Wrestling and its president Tony Khan. Everyone wants to argue something different at the same time but use their arguments to make points against other arguments. It makes discussing these things next to impossible. I attribute most of this to the heat, but it’s also a problem with the AEW fandom.
This is all very dumb.
But it’s pro wrestling so of course it’s dumb. So let’s get dumber. It’s time to break down all of the discussions everyone is trying to have about this at the same time and try to come to some sort of argued conclusion. Will it make any difference? Probably not. Time on this planet is finite and I spend it writing about theatre for kids who hate theatre kids. Here are the eight tentacles of the current discussions about Jonathan Gresham and the ROH World Championship:
Tentacle One: AEW should have booked this better
Back in April at ROH Supercard of Honor, the final Sinclair Broadcasting show running Ring of Honor, the main event featured Gresham against Bandido to decide the true undisputed ROH World Champion. Despite this being considered the final Sinclair show, AEW’s fingerprints were all over the show. They were also all over the main event, where Bandido was randomly tossed Chavo Guerrero Jr. as a manager. As ownership transferred to AEW, Jonathan Gresham would be their first World Champion.
On that same show in the main event, Samoa Joe made his return to ROH to save Gresham from a Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt beatdown. Joe was obviously the bigger star of the two, and AEW made the decision to have Samoa Joe defeat recently crowned TV Champion Minoru Suzuki to become the ROH Television Champion. This despite the fact ROH did not have a television deal. This paved the way for Gresham to sign with ROH/AEW and be their top Champion. AEW would feature Gresham in a few title matches, including Battle of the Belts II against Dalton Castle, and Fyter Fest against Lee Moriarty. Gresham spent more time working the independents and Impact Wrestling, where he had some memorable Pure rules bouts against Chris Sabin and Steve Maclin.
It would soon be announced that Gresham’s ROH opponent at Death Before Dishonor three months after Supercard of Honor would be Claudio Castagnoli. Claudio was originally going to be a surprise opponent but AEW needed him for Blood and Guts to replace Bryan Danielson. Without the surprise debut, ROH now had a main event pre announced. How did they build up Claudio and Gresham? They didn’t do much. They spent more time between Lee Moriarty and Jonathan Gresham, as Gresham turned heel on Moriarty to join Tully Blanchard’s Enterprises.
Did this make a difference in the match? No. In the opening match of the pay per view, Gresham would walk out alone and get his ass handed to him by Claudio in 11 minutes. So not only did Gresham randomly turn heel to join a faction, that faction had no part in him trying to defend his Championship and Claudio would win clean. There was little heat to the contest. Very little build up. Gresham came in, lost, and left. And has now likely left ROH for good.
This tentacle I am in full support of. It doesn’t matter how much confetti you shoot out. The World Championship opening the pay per view, with the six man Championship, women’s Championship, Pure Championship, Television Championionship, and Tag Team Championship following? The match going less than 15 minutes to crown Claudio with his first major World Championship? This didn’t even pump the crowd the way an opener should, so it failed on multiple levels. I don’t know how anyone could argue against this.
Which they don’t. They argue these other tentacles instead.
Tentacle Two: Jonathan Gresham wasn’t a good ROH World Champion
I am by no means a big Gresham fan. I think he’s good! Would Bandido have been better for this role? Not really. It’s not like Tony has had him on television more or anything. While ROH did build up their Supercard of Honor all year to decide the undisputed Champion, All Elite Wrestling has been featuring ROH on their television and pay per views. There was weeks upon weeks and shows upon shows of opportunities to crown a new Ring of Honor World Champion that would have been better suited for the Tony Khan era of the company.
The best man? Samoa Joe. He was the big surprise of the pay per view. Instead of going after the Television Championship (probably done just so they could do a dream match of Suzuki versus Joe) he should have challenged Gresham instead and beat him. Even if he was leaving at some point to work on the physical performance of Sweet Tooth for the Twisted Metal live adaptation, it’s not like he has to defend a belt. As a matter of fact, he had a belt and did not defend it in that time and it was fine. The television Championship. Despite ROH not having television!
At Death Before Dishonor, it was clear based on the crowd reaction that Samoa Joe was the number one guy there. Better reaction than Claudio, better reaction than Gresham, better reaction than everyone except maybe FTR. He should have been the first World Champion. And if you didn’t want him World Champion because you wanted Claudio to win this? All you have to do is find a better choice to be World Champion for Claudio to crush. And the guy for that job was the first guy to interrupt the post match main event of Supercard of Honor: Jay Lethal.
Lethal could have beaten Gresham at Battle of the Belts II, became ROH World Champion, and became Champion for the purpose of Claudio uppercutting his jaw away and winning the championship. Plenty of options. If you argue Gresham wasn’t the right pick to be ROH World Champion for the Tony Khan era? I agree. Go ask Tony Khan why he did it then.
Tentacle Three: AEW needs to be better at communicating with talent
This has been a bit of a messy topic. Reported by Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful, there’s been multiple reports of poor communication between AEW and AEW talent over the past few years. This communication issue doesn’t seem to be about Tony Khan and the talent, as Tony does try to make himself available. But reports said that Gresham had mostly communicated with QT Marshall and not Tony Khan in the lead up to the pay per view.
Now please, if you dislike Gresham? Whatever. Ring of Honor is now Tony Khan’s company. He’s the boss. And generally, in the history of pro wrestling, the booker/promoter tends to be close to their world Champion over any other wrestler. Specifically, and historically, the men’s World Champion. The reported fact that Gresham held the ROH World Title from April to July and the majority of his communication was with QT Marshall instead of directly with Tony Khan? It flies in the face of how this business has worked for 100 years. I have no doubt in my mind that Tony still communicates constantly with CM Punk and Jon Moxley, his AEW World champions. The fact he allegedly wasn’t with Gresham means he didn’t respect him as World champ.
I don’t know how deep the communication issue goes but that’s one I feel is something Tony needs to work on for the future. That said, I doubt he has any problem speaking to Claudio at any time of day and it’s easily why Claudio is now his Champion. I guess that’s a live and you learn the next time Tony tries to buy a promotion (which will hopefully be HUSTLE so I don’t have to watch it off the Internet Library forever.)
Tentacle Four: Gresham’s departure ruined Claudio’s moment
Instead of us discussing Claudio as the ROH World Champion and how he finally reached that brass ring, we’re talking about Gresham being unhappy. Is this Gresham’s fault? Not really. His business is his business. Also, the moment wasn’t ruined by Gresham. It was ruined by the guy who made it the opening match of the pay per view and gave it under 12 minutes. You want Claudio’s moment to be talked and praised? Make it the main event. Make it the match before the main event. Give it 20 minutes. Make the match something people want to talk about. It wasn’t, which is why we’d rather talk about if “Octopus Man” is justified in trying to quit. Sorry “Swing Man” guess you’ll just have to do something else for our attention.
Tentacle Five: The AEW/ROH Era has not been good
I really want to slip out of this one because I could spend days talking about how Tony Khan’s purchase of Ring of Honor has been terrible for the storylines and booking of All Elite Wrestling. Because ROH has had to be promoted on TV it has meant less time for the AEW Roster, which was already oversized despite injuries to top talents. So we had a roster getting too big for its three hours of weekly programming and now AEW is promoting an ROH pay per view on top of it. There is nothing I want as an AEW viewer more than for Ring of Honor to get a television deal from Warner Discovery. Not because I want to watch it, but because I want all of ROH shifted to its own television show so it doesn’t interrupt Dynamite and Rampage anymore. It’s time to split the rosters and split the brands. Keep them separate and let them breathe on their own. Will things be better with Tony Khan at the helm of a third television show? I don’t know, but maybe we won’t be watching a two hour Dynamite and the only thing the former World Champion is doing is a late run in.
Tentacle Six: Jonathan Gresham is overrated
I’ve heard some people try to argue that Gresham is overrated. He acts as though he’s the greatest technical wrestler alive and that he deserves to beat everyone and be Champion. I’ve heard people say he wouldn’t have tried to quit if he was winning the match and this is all a big temper tantrum from a big baby. Also heard he looks like Geodude which… yeah he totally does that one is a good call.
Here’s my issue with the majority of the rest: this is pro wrestling. This isn’t real. There is no stats we can compare to decide who is or isn’t the greatest technical wrestler in the world. If a guy wants to claim he’s the greatest? He can. It doesn’t mean he is. I don’t know if I’d have him ahead of, well, a lot of guys, but that doesn’t really bother me. Why are you getting mad because a wrestler wants to be promoted better? The guy has done quite well for himself without ever being in WWE and barely spending time in AEW.
Would he have been my choice for ROH World Champ? Not really. Every day Gresham spent as World Champion should have been double days for Brody King, who was the real stand out to me of Ring of Honor. But Sinclair Broadcasting chose Gresham. And then Tony Khan decided to choose him again. Want to complain about him overrated? Ask why bookers keep making him champion.
Tentacle Seven: Claudio Castagnoli is overrated
I don’t think you kids are ready for this one yet. And he just won the Championship. I will hold off on this one. Give it time to boil.
Tentacle Eight: Discussing this distracts from the Vince McMahon News
This one is probably the greatest eye roll for me. Somehow discussing ANYTHING EXCEPT VINCE MCMAHON BEING A SEXUAL DEVIANT PRETENDING TO RETIRE TO SAVE HIS COMPANY FROM HIS MOUNTAINOUS SCANDALS is bad actually. It’s no surprise this is being said about All Elite Wrestling criticism and is never said if someone wants to talk about something the WWE is doing poorly right now. Nobody shouts YOU’RE DISTRACTING FROM VINCE NEWS if you want to discuss Triple H’s history of covering up abuse at the hands of Bill DeMott. But if it saves anyone cheering for AEW from having to think critically about their new favourite son of a billionaire then you’re clearly just an awful person trying to talk about anything other than Vince McMahon. Tu Quoque.
And now we have an eight tentacles of discourse
In the end, what we have is a situation where Tony Khan didn’t book his ROH World Champion as well as he should have, he didn’t have the Championship change hands as well as he should have, and he might have communicated poorly to Jonathan Gresham in the process. This is unfortunately another distraction for All Elite Wrestling, who needs to be able to stand on their own again instead of supporting their new adopted sibling, and no discussing this doesn’t shy away from discussing Vince McMahon being the worst thing to happen to the sport of professional wrestling. All of these subjects make up the slimy appendages of your ridiculous wrestling conversation of today that wraps up into a simple, “Things could be better here.”
No, this isn’t doom and gloom for AEW. No, this isn’t doom and gloom for ROH. Please stop overreacting every time someone wants to just discuss how they might not be 100% smitten with the product. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody is going to die. Come watch TV.