Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Elgin

What a weird week for the former ROH Champion
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Michael Elgin has had one hell of a weekend. Saturday night, at the Ring of Honor show in Toronto, he unexpectedly lost his World Championship in the first Internet pay-per-view broadcast since he won the belt at Best in the World to Jay Briscoe. As he was leaving the show, he apparently was confronted with an expiring visa issue that prevented him from hopping across Lake Erie to Cleveland for the third and final show in Absolute Intense Wrestling's WrestleRager. Elgin is the company's Absolute Champion, or at least he was the Champ until AIW officials caught wind of his situation and immediately stripped him of the title. Tim Donst defeated Josh Alexander for the vacant strap to become Absolute Champ for the second time in his career.

The loss of visa will prohibit him from working in The States for 90 days, which means no ROH, no Beyond Wrestling, no AIW, and basically nothing but local Canadian promotions. Many people put two and two together and assumed Elgin lost the title because of his visa issue. However, on the September 7 episode of Live Audio Wrestling, Dave Meltzer came on the show and reported that ROH officials didn't know he was getting slapped with a visa expiration until after the decision was made to take the belt off him, which was actually a last minute decision thanks to a bevy of things.

First off, Elgin did an interview with Brian Fritz of Between the Ropes where he reiterated desires to get into Major League Baseball, desires he tweeted out to two franchises' official handles.

The seeming lack of commitment was one issue, but another one seemed to be something that I think is more out of his purview. Apparently, Elgin hasn't "protected" his status as ROH Champion all that well, specifically in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. He lost against Trevor Lee in a quarterfinal match of the Battle of Los Angeles tournament. As a contrast, AJ Styles, the reigning and defending IWGP World Champion, made his exit from the tournament via disqualification. ROH is a national company, one that arguably has equal to or greater visibility in the US than New Japan Pro Wrestling, but at the same time, in a post-kayfabe era, would the protection of a Championship matter as much as it would have in the pre-expansion days? Furthermore, why would it be on Elgin to book his own matches? As far as I can tell, this issue is one between Hunter "Delirious" Johnston and his staff at ROH and Super Dragon and his inner circle in PWG. Jado and Gedo were able to get the message across from their HQ in Japan.

Then again, Meltzer also relayed that the decision didn't come from Johnston, but from the people at Sinclair Broadcasting. While Meltzer said that Sinclair wasn't regularly making decisions for the company, the group was also looking at creating more original content. ROH, as the first real "original" programming that Sinclair has, should probably be kept strong. Whether it was Elgin's fault or ROH's (spoiler alert, the fault lies solely with ROH), the damage has been done.

Anyway, the fallout from the decision is uncertain. ROH doesn't have any longterm plans for the title. Briscoe seemed to be a "right place at the right time" candidate to win the title, but unless he shows up at a rally for Darren Wilson, he'll at least drop the title in the ring this time. As for Elgin, his future with the company is just as up-in-the-air. Meltzer said that Elgin wasn't finished with the company, but his standing with management isn't good.

Between the visa issues and the direct and fawning overtures towards baseball, Elgin's self-destruction over the last month has been as surreal as it's been precipitous. I have no idea what is in his mind, but I hope everything's alright. Personally, I'm not a fan of the guy as a performer, but no one should bottom out like he has. Of course, his personal well-being is paramount, but his immolation has also left a dent on the American indie scene. No fewer than five promotions will be impacted by his absence. Basically, he's put the entire indie scene on upheaval right now, and it would be hilarious if it wasn't almost tragic in a way.