Jonathan Gresham dropped the Ring Of Honor championship to Claudio Castagnoli, AEW’s newest signing, just last weekend at the Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view. Gresham, a very talented grappler, was said to be upset that the match that opened the show was given just over 10 minutes before he was defeated for the title. According to PWinsider’s Mike Johnson, one of the most accurate reporters that covers the sport, Gresham had an argument with Tony Khan before the event and requested his release. While nothing is officially confirmed because neither side is talking, which includes Gresham, who deleted his social media accounts after the bout, there was speculation that the AEW boss would grant the former ROH champion the release.
Gresham looked noticeably unhappy during his entrance at the pay-per-view, and it was noted that he went to the ring without his usual gear or new manager, Prince Nana. The octopus mask with the foundation flag was always a cool presentation so there definitely appeared to be something off before the opening bell. Again, neither Khan nor Gresham addressed the situation, but PWinsider claimed that Gresham actually cited his PWI 500 ranking as a reason that he shouldn’t drop the title to Claudio, which if true, is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard in the pro wrestling industry, which obviously covers a lot of ground considering that the business started on the carnival circuit.
This all sounds like sour grapes, and despite Gresham’s complaints, putting the title on the new acquisition makes the most sense if management wants to attempt to kick start the ROH brand.
As I’ve said, I don’t think the ROH brand itself has enough cache to draw in 2022 and dilutes from the progress of All Elite Wrestling. Quite simply, if Ring Of Honor was or had the potential to be a profitable brand among the current wrestling landscape then it wouldn’t have been sold to Tony Khan in the first place. I’ve already the discussed the reasons for the ROH sale previously so there’s no reason to be repetitive here, but the bottom line is, I will still say the most valuable entity of the purchase was the video library. Even a few of these one-off pay-per-views every few months doesn’t truly make a difference as far as rejuvenating the brand, and as I’ve said before, the ROH belts on AEW programming are merely props.
All of that being said, Claudio, mostly based on his WWE run for almost a decade, is a bigger star than Gresham so if Khan hopes for some type of ROH exclusive TV deal then he will need talent with a track record on main stream television. We all know the syndicated stations of Sinclair weren’t enough to make a difference in star power or revenue. Listen, I think it’s foolish if Khan actually tries to move ahead with ROH as its own organization, but if that’s what he’s set on doing then at lease you can see why Claudio would be the pick for the champion.
That’s not a knock on Gresham either, more of a statement about the current landscape of the industry. In many ways, Khan signing so many names in such a short period of time almost gives the false impression that there’s somehow enough room for everyone on the roster. There isn’t and it’s a harsh reality, but throughout the history of the sport there were wrestlers that were talented enough to make it big, but for whatever reason, sometimes something as simple as timing, it didn’t happen. Reckless Youth had an immense influence on the independent scene and the ripple effect of it can still be seen today, but he just wasn’t at the right place at the right time for his style to garner main stream exposure.
Thankfully, Gresham has options, as he worked in Europe a lot earlier in his career, and with travel restrictions lighter in recent months, he would be a solid signing for New Japan. If Gresham didn’t want to continue to have a minor role under the Khan banner and thinks he can be more successful elsewhere then he absolutely has the right to do that. The former ROH champion seems to take it personally that he was lost in the shuffle of all the new arrivals in the Khan organization, but that can be said about the vast majority of those that sign with the company. There are too many wrestlers on the roster to the point that it’s almost comical so it’s part of the problem of such a bloated roster, not a personal jab at Gresham’s skill level.
“It bothers me that you can have White guy no.1 with no character be great,
But then you’ve got Black guy, same. “Oh he needs a character” But why?
Why can’t he just be a good wrestler?”
– Jonathan Gresham pic.twitter.com/ORc3HngMzP
— WrestlePurists (@WrestlePurists) July 23, 2022
Some have criticized his height, but that’s a completely misguided perspective. If a talent can go in the ring then they can be an asset to an organization, and Gresham can go bell-to-bell, period. I hope what I read from an interview that Gresham gave was misquoted, as he implied that he wasn’t given the same opportunities as white wrestlers because he doesn’t have an in-ring character. Much like mocking Gresham’s height, the notion that his skin color has anything to do with his status in the sport is completely ridiculous. Is there racism in the world? Sadly, yes, but those that have that mindset are minimized because there’s no place for it in society. Is there racism in wrestling? Obviously, yes, but that’s not going to be the case in the major leagues. As I wrote in an article last week, Ricky Starks and Powerhouse Hobbs have the potential to be the future of AEW. Roman Reigns, a Samoan, is the top guy in the entire industry. Big E is one of the most popular stars of the modern era. Sputnik Monroe insisted that crowds were integrated in the 60s, The Junkyard Dog was the top draw in Mid-South, and The Rock is one of the biggest stars in the history of the business. The bottom line is, the only color that matters in pro wrestling is green. The ability to draw money is the true barometer and the promoters that didn’t follow that philosophy, for any reason, went out of business.
Jonathan Gresham victorious, and has now earned a shot at the Progress Champion. #RicFlairsLastMatch pic.twitter.com/5ORCsrdzcl
— 𝐃𝐫𝐚𝐕𝐞𝐧 (@WrestlingCovers) July 31, 2022
As far as Gresham’s claims about not having a character compared to other wrestlers, much of that depends on the time and place. Dean Malenko, who still had “The Iceman” persona, wasn’t known for a flashy presentation, but he was a pioneer in many ways in what he helped bring to the American scene in the 90s. Again, Jonathan Gresham is talented enough to find full-time work in the industry, and if he’s not a character-type of performer, that’s even more of a reason that Japan might be the place for him. Considering that he deleted his social media after dropping the ROH championship, it seems like this is a case of sour grapes, but is it really that shocking that a wrestler disagrees with a promoter? Talent getting lost in the shuffle on AEW programming isn’t surprising, either. More than anything, it will be interesting to see where Gresham lands next because there continues to be a lot of shuffling of talent in the industry.
At least Gresham’s PWI 500 ranking got him the win at the Ric Flair’s Last Match pay-per-view.
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Until next week
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