Discussion in 'ROH Feed' started by ROHNEWS, Feb 2, 2016.

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  1. **Contains ROH TV Spoilers**
    Hanson and Raymond Rowe of War Machine reached the pinnacle of tag team wrestling when they captured the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship last month under the bright lights of ROH’s Final Battle pay-per-view.

    It was only a little less than two years ago that Hanson and Rowe were in the ring together as opponents, a couple of hungry competitors battling for an ROH contract and a shot at the ROH World Television Title in the finals of the ROH Top Prospect Tournament.

    The team that War Machine defeated for the tag team title at Final Battle -- The Kingdom’s Michael Bennett and Matt Taven -- won the Top Prospect Tournament in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

    Needless to say, the Top Prospect Tournament has been a launching pad for future stars, and Hanson (the 2014 winner), Rowe, Bennett and Taven are far from its only success stories.

    The annual invitation-only tournament, which began in 2011 and features eight of the most-talented unsigned competitors on the independent circuit, has also produced two ROH World Champions in Adam Cole and Michael Elgin (both 2011 Top Prospect participants), two ROH World Television Champions in Cole and Taven, and a three-time ROH World Tag Team Champion in Kyle O’Reilly (the 2011 runner-up).

    Overall, there are 15 wrestlers on the current ROH roster with Top Prospect experience.

    On Feb. 6, four wrestlers with hopes of joining them will compete in the semifinals and finals of the Top Prospect Tournament at a national TV taping in Nashville, Tenn. The first round of the tournament took place a few weeks ago.

    Just like last year’s tournament, all eight of the participants have attended at least one ROH Tryout Camp, where the best training staff in the world spends two days intensely teaching what is necessary to succeed in the sport.

    One semifinal match features a David vs. Goliath contest, as 5-foot-6, 160-pound dynamo Lio Rush takes on a man who is a foot taller and nearly 100 pounds heavier in Punisher Martinez.

    The other semifinal bout pits Brian Fury, a veteran wrestler and trainer who has already experienced a brief taste of the big time in ROH, against Action Ortiz, the first graduate of ECW legend Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore school.

    Rush has lived up to his last name, as he has earned a reputation as a rising star on the independent scene in just a little more than one year as a pro.

    He has drawn comparisons to the great Rey Mysterio because of his small stature and spectacular high-flying style, but Rush also has a strong amateur wrestling background.

    His opponent, Martinez, is a competitor with a dark side who has a background in traditional Japanese Goju Ryu karate and has received accolades in full-contact martial arts at a national level.

    At 6-6 and 253 pounds, Martinez strikes an imposing figure, and he has a skill set that’s as impressive as his size. In addition to being a powerhouse, the versatile Martinez is surprisingly adept at mat wrestling.

    Fury, the head trainer at New England Pro Wrestling Academy and a wrestler with worldwide experience, earned a shot against then-ROH World Television Champion Taven a little over two years ago by winning a four-way Proving Ground Match on TV the week before. Fury came up short against his fellow New Englander, however, and has not been seen on ROH television since.

    Meanwhile, Fury has watched with pride -- and perhaps a bit of envy -- as his students have found success. Fury trained both 2015 Top Prospect winner Donovan Dijak and highly acclaimed female wrestler Sasha Banks.

    Fury has gotten himself into the best shape of his life, as he knows that this could be his final opportunity to earn an ROH contract.

    He’ll have to get past Ortiz, who has experience in mixed martial arts competition and is surprisingly agile for a man of his size.

    “He reminds me of Bam Bam Bigelow and Samoa Joe,” Dreamer said of his student. “Given the right platform, [Ortiz] will be the next big thing in the wrestling business.”

    Time will tell if Ortiz can live up to Dreamer’s expectations, but one thing is certain: Someone will achieve his dream of becoming a member of the most talented roster in pro wrestling.

    While there’s no guarantee that any of the four semifinalists will become champions, history has shown that those who find success in the Top Prospect Tournament are likely to have a bright future in the sport.

    Thanks to the infusion of talent produced by the Top Prospect Tournament and ROH’s Tryout Camps, the future is bright for ROH as well.

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