Last year at this time, the names Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly were relatively unknown to many Ring of Honor fans.
One year ago, the two were competing in preliminary matches for ROH and working in several other independent promotions. While they have formed an impressive tag team in ROH, they have faced each other in singles competition several times in companies like Dragon Gate USA and CHIKARA.
My first exposure to either man came while watching the DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate DVD, where they went head-to-head in one of the pre-show bonus matches. O’Reilly came out on top but the performance of both competitors impressed me and it came as no surprise when their names began popping up all over the independent wrestling scene.
Cole and O’Reilly also wrestled each other during CHIKARA’s Young Lions Cup tournament in August of 2010. This time Cole picked up a big victory to advance to the semifinals of the tourney.
Both men were quite impressive while competing for EVOLVE during 2010. O’Reilly’s multi-faceted offensive approach, combining elements of submission wrestling and jiu-jitsu training with high impact moves, including a particularly nasty Brainbuster, seemed to be a perfect fit with the direction of EVOLVE.
Cole, on the other hand, brings a flashier, more exciting, high-flying style to the ring. He is clearly inspired by the likes of Shawn Michaels and AJ Styles and has been compared to a younger John Morrison. His Panama Sunrise top-rope version of the Canadian Destroyer is truly a sight to behold.
In 2010, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter named Cole their Rookie of the Year. His performances as an arrogant, self-absorbed heel in Combat Zone Wrestling have gone a long way towards reestablishing the promotion’s identity after years of being known simply as an ultra-violent hardcore wrestling company.
Cole recently won CZW’s tenth “Best of the Best” tournament, defeating “The New Horror” Sami Callihan in the finals. In addition to that, Cole again defeated Callihan last weekend during the first round of the ECWA Super 8 tournament and then made a major statement by defeating former two-time ROH World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries to advance to the tournament final.
Cole was defeated in the final by Tommaso Ciampa, another rising star who is establishing himself as a potential major player within the ROH ranks.
While both Cole and O’Reilly have achieved plenty of success throughout their careers up until this point, they have struggled to pick up any big victories in ROH.
As a team, they have come incredibly close to defeating the likes of the Kings of Wrestling, the Briscoes and the All-Night Express, but they have not been able to get the job done.
Though their record might not reflect it, Cole and O’Reilly have become one of the most exciting teams in wrestling. They came within an eyelash of defeating the longest reigning ROH World Tag Team Champions of all time, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, at the second Honor Takes Center Stage iPPV last month.
By pushing teams like the Kings of Wrestling to the limit, Cole and O’Reilly are proving themselves to the ROH faithful. They might not be at the top level of the tag team division just yet, but they have made a ton of progress since they became ROH regulars last year.
This weekend, the young team will get another huge opportunity to prove themselves when they take on the current ROH World Tag Team Champions Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas in a non-title contest at ROH: Revolution USA in Dearborn, MI.
Wrestling’s greatest tag team won the belts last month during the Honor Takes Center Stage weekend and will defend them for the first time against the Briscoes the next night at ROH: Revolution Canada in Toronto, Ontario. It would be in their best interest to not overlook the fiery young duo that they must face the night before.
Cole and O’Reilly have improved as a team with each and every match together. Their styles share similarities but are mostly opposite, though they have meshed quite nicely and developed some dynamic double team maneuvers.
Benjamin and Haas may be on top of the tag team division in ROH right now, but many fans feel that Cole and O’Reilly could be the future. A non-title win over the champs would add more fuel onto the already burning hot fire surrounding these two rising stars.
ROH World Tag Team Championship gold seems likely to be in the futures of Cole and O’Reilly. At this point, both have incredible potential and it would be no surprise if eventually one, if not both of them wound up receiving a call from Stamford.
This is the second in a series of articles focusing on up and coming, rising stars of the independent wrestling scene. Check out my first piece on Dragon Gate sensation Akira Tozawa here and keep an eye out for more features on talent you should be keeping an eye on.