There seemed to be little to no hype for Honor Rising coming into the weekend. ROH and NJPW team up for so many tours now that it doesn’t feel special. Yet, I always enjoy them, particularly when they take place in Japan. It’s a chance for something a bit different, while unlike Fantastica Mania, you can use it to further storylines. Specifically storylines about a pair of lovers. Let’s dish out some stars.
The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi) defeated Toa Henare and Katsuya Kitamura
I like Henare, Kitamura and Fale. Yet, even I came into this with low expectations. There was something about this combo that screamed big, slow and lumbering.
And you know what? I was wrong. Because Kitamura and Henare were there. They are young guys bursting with potential who get better everytime you see them. Sure, Young Kit occasionally gets a bit lost – he took a tumble in this one because he got caught underneath Fale – but it doesn’t matter because he has the charisma to get past it. The fact he’s a big bastard is only part of the total package, and there is something incredibly alluring about that man.
It also helps that next to him you have Henare, who brings the polish Kit may lack and combines it with all the fiery passion of someone desperate to prove a point. After those months he lost to injury he’s come back and seems to love being in the ring and I, in turn, love watching him be there.
It doesn’t matter who Kitamura and Henare are across from they always give 110%. Watching them try to prove themselves is enough.
Verdict: Three Stars
Jushin Thunder Liger, Delirious and Cheeseburger defeated The Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and HIKULEO)
I may have mentioned this before, but I love how over Cheeseburger is in Japan. A man who is destined to spend his life as a lower to mid-card act can go to a foreign country and get treated like a star. There’s a purity to the crowd’s support and watching Cheeseburger take such joy from it made up for what was a mediocre outing.
On the other side of the ring, I’d like to see HIKULEO show some more personality. While his brothers do the aloof gimmick well, it isn’t working for him. He’s a poor worker, and while he might get better, developing a character could help him in the short term.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) defeated Juice Robinson and David Finlay
I’m not going to spoil what happened the night after this, but David Finlay and Juice Robinson are heavyweights. The Young Bucks are juniors. New Japan’s traditional booking would suggest the heavyweights win and while ROH influences this weekend, it’s still notable that it wasn’t the case. It didn’t take being a math whiz to figure out where this was going.
Unlike many, I still love watching The Bucks. Their leap first and ask questions later style of wrestling is a joy. It combined nicely with Finlay and Juice, two men who are talented as hell and currently have little to do.
Matt Jackson continues to sell that back, and it allowed the less experienced tag team to take control of their illustrious opponents. In the end, though, the Bucks had a fluidity that they didn’t and that allowed them to pick up the win
With four fantastic workers in the ring, it should be no surprise that this was an excellent match.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Flip Gordon defeated Hiromu Takahashi and KUSHIDA
I question the sanity of people who dislike this style of wrestling. You are, of course, allowed to enjoy whatever you want, but you see three men throw each other around the ring like this, taking huge risks and doing extraordinary things, and you’re worrying about psychology? Just enjoy it, you pillock.
Anyway, Flip Gordon getting the win here suggests we’re going to be seeing more of him in NJPW, which isn’t a bad thing. He seemed a bit nervous at the start, probably because he thinks Japan is closer to the edge of the world than America and was panicking about falling off. Ridiculous views aside, he’s a very good flipper. A Best Of The Super Juniors spot would make a lot of sense.
I do not doubt that these three could have an even wilder match. However, for a mid-card spot on an unimportant show, it was everything we needed.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
CHAOS (Jay White, Chuck Taylor and Beretta) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi, Dalton Castle and Jay Lethal
I’d have loved to sit in on The Best Friends and Jay White’s pre-match strategy session. Chuck awkwardly cracking jokes while Jay fingers his knives. The world of kayfabe is a crazy place.
A match full of what you’d expect. We got a sneak peek at Beretta and Dalton Castle, plenty of comedy and White (the pushed man) getting the win. It never quite got out of the middle gears, but it chugged along nicely.
It was one where I got more joy out of seeing these people in the ring than I did from the action. Greg and Dustin make me smile, Taguchi needs to stop being a pervert but is a funny guy and Dalton is fabulous. Then there’s Jay White continuing to be the smartest man in the room. Little moments like him leapfrogging Jay Lethal while being fully aware that Taylor is behind him and will take the spear intended for him, show where his allegiances lie.
Things like that make an average showing worth watching.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hirooki Goto defeated Beer City Bruiser to retain the NEVER Openweight Title
Do you think the Beer City Bruiser is a Stan Hansen fan? Storming down the aisle, spitting beer at the Japanese crowd and smashing cigars over Goto’s head. The big Gaijin prick is classic puroresu.
I did feel a bit sorry for Goto, though. The Bruiser wasn’t bad here, but he’s still the Bruiser. There is only so much you can expect from the man. Goto did his best to accentuate his strengths. He didn’t ask Bruiser to sell or do anything extraordinary. Instead, he took a beating. Spending most of the match on the back foot.
For a Beer City Bruiser outing, this was good. You could tell (like most of the ROH talent) that he was enjoying himself and was motivated by working in front of a Japanese crowd. He was clearly surprised how quickly they warmed to him, and that was nice to see. It’s the kind of thing can make up for some technical flaws.
I came into this expecting to dislike it and came out the other side having had a lovely time. You can’t say fairer than that.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page and Marty Scurll) defeated The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) and Chase Owens
If you are expecting me to talk about the wrestling you are going to be sorely disappointed.
Right from the start, this was about emotion. The Bullet Club coming to the ring separately to represent their fractured state while The Golden Lovers entered together, shit eating grins splitting their face.
Then as the match began, we started to see the shape of the land. Chase Owens loyal to Kenny and Hangman to Cody. Yet, neither man seemed to show malice to his opponents. They don’t hate their Bullet Club teammates, they’re just doing what needs to be done.
On the flipside, we have Marty Scurll, a man who doesn’t know where to turn. He’s on Cody’s side of the ring, but he doesn’t want to be there. In fact, he wants nothing to do with this fight.
Because between the Lovers and Cody, there is no pretence anymore. This is war, and they are out to wage it. Cody is sneering and jealous. Pissed off because he knows deep down that Kenny and Kota are better than him. While he’s attacking from behind or in numbers, he is cocky and brash. When he’s left in the ring along with Omega he panics.
Yet in among all the turmoil, there is joy. Because it doesn’t matter what’s happening, Ibushi and Omega are happy to be there. They can’t contain their glee at being in the ring together. The moment where Kenny first reaches out for the tag to Ibushi sums it up. For them, they’ve won by reuniting.
And that affection for each other plays into everything they do. Look at how often one of them dashes to the rescue of the other, rules be damned. They love each other, and they will go the extra mile to prove it.
Post-match, Cody looked to continue the fight which brought out the Bucks to break it up. We also got a hint that Hangman might not be the steady ally Cody thinks he is. He’s been picking up some wins, building momentum and is anyone talking about that? No. They’re talking about Mr Rhodes.
Great wrestling? Yea, but that’s not the important thing. Great storytelling? Some of the best.
Verdict: Love is in the air
I really enjoyed this show. It sped by, and everything that happened was at the very least passable. I love how the Japanese crowd reacts to the Honor Rising events too. They do their best to act like an ROH audience, chants and all. It’s those subtle touches that make them the best wrestling fans on the planet. Plus, we got the next half chapter in the Golden Lovers saga, and for that, I’ll always be gleeful.