Full disclosure, this is the second time I’ve written a review of night two of Honor Rising. The first one vanished from my drafts’ folder, a situation I am not best pleased about. Therefore, with the undercard being a bit unexciting don’t hold it against me if I rush through some of it. We all know why we’re here don’t we? Let’s dish out some stars.
The Beer City Bruiser defeated Toa Henare
I appreciate that Beer City Bruiser worked hard on this tour and got himself over. However, Toa Henare is already a better wrestler than him. If I had booked this, we would have witnessed him hulk up and smash Bruiser’s own beer over his head. Sadly, NJPW probably can’t have recently graduated Young Lions squash ROH talent, so that wasn’t the case. It went under five minutes and was entirely skippable.
Verdict: Two Stars
Juice Robinson, David Finlay and Jay Lethal defeated Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi and HIKULEO
Jay Lethal has become a real problem for me. I used to like him, but in recent times he’s enough to make me want to change the channel. We had my boys Juice, Dave and Chase here and yet Lethal hung over it like a cloud. He’s become a charisma vacuum.
It doesn’t help that Yujiro and HIKULEO are about as limited as you’ll get on the NJPW roster. For HIKULEO that’s at least semi-acceptable, he’s learning. I don’t know what Yujiro’s excuse is. Anyway, this your standard weak undercard match. Probably even more skippable than the opener.
Verdict: Two Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi and Flip Gordon
I can’t think of another Flat-Earther joke so let’s take a second to just point and laugh at Flip. Done? Great.
This was a bit more like it. Dumb as Gordon may be, he and Takahashi showed some promising chemistry over these two shows and I’d more than happily watch them again. Gordon seemed a bit less nervous and got the chance to show off a bit. Bushi and Taguchi, meanwhile, are two safe pairs of hands. You know what you are going to get from them and in a match-up like this one, they’ll keep that bar nice and high.
As a final note, that Electric Chair into the MX is one brutal looking finisher. If NJPW is planning on keeping Hiromu and Bushi as a team for a while, I look forward to seeing it again.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Cheeseburger and Delirious to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Titles
Can anyone explain Delirious to me? Does he have a history of fantastic performances? I know he’s the booker man in ROH, but I do not get him in-ring. He’s not particularly funny and the wrestling is crap. Enlighten me if you can.
Once again, the most notable thing about this was Cheeseburger getting the nice reaction in Japan. He also tried to save the ring announcer from Fale which was a morally correct, if slightly stupid, move. Apart from that, well, it’s nice to see Liger I guess? I find this Bullet Club trio incredibly dull and the matches back that up.
The NEVER trios titles have become something that New Japan can throw out there to make a mid-card multi-man worth something. If you’re willing to accept that’s all they’re going to be, then they’re doing a great job.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (Hangman Page, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) defeated CHAOS (Jay White, Chuck Taylor and YOSHI-HASHI)
The action was fine, but that’s not really what I want to talk about.
This was proof that NJPW is serious about pushing Hangman. Having him pin White clean in the middle of the ring was a big moment, probably the biggest of his New Japan career so far. I have a soft spot for the man behind the gimmick having listened to his Art of Wrestling interview, yet he often underwhelms in the ring. If the push is going to stick for Page, he will need to step it up against White.
Because we’re is dangerous territory for Jay White. New Japan is banking on him having enough cache to raise Hangman rather than having it go the other way and have Page drag him down. White got taken out at the end, with Hangman driving him through a chair. It’s not a good look for a man claiming to be pulling the strings. If they don’t nail the follow-up, there’s a chance Jay comes out with his still fragile reputation damaged.
Verdict: Three Stars
Dalton Castle defeated Trent Beretta and Beer City Bruiser to retain the ROH Title
When was the last great ROH title bout? Can anyone tell me?
For all his decent work the night before, the Beer City Bruiser made this 33% worse. I know Trent was injured, but I would have rather seen him giving half effort than a three-way.
I try to review wrestling on the basis of what it makes me feel. That can be anything from anger to bliss with confusion and sadness in between. This? It made me feel nothing. It sums up everything wrong with modern ROH as it was just three guys doing stuff. There was no rhyme or reason, they were filling time until we could all go home. While injuries played a part, it didn’t change the fact it left me feeling thoroughly apathetic.
Verdict: Two Stars
The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) defeated The Bullet Club (Cody and Marty Scurll)
Here’s something that inspired no apathy in me. Instead, we got joy, anger and a hell of a lot of excitement. Damn, do I love this storyline.
Said story took a few extra steps in this one. Firstly, it seems like Scurll is leaning towards Team Cody. He still shows a bit of reluctance to engage with Kenny but the veneer is slipping, and The Villian is coming out. Like Cody he wanted Kenny to love him and can’t understand why he’s chosen Ibushi over them.
Talking of Cody, he was outstanding. The moment where he kissed Kota was one of the evilest things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. It wasn’t playing off gay panic or going for laughs. It was, to quote Don Callis, assault, and that’s 100% what it was intended to be. Cody is leaning fully into his maniacal cuntish persona, and it is the best thing he’s ever done. I’ve been harsh on Rhodes in the past – and I will be again – but this storyline is bringing the best out of him.
However, like the night before, the best parts were Kenny and Kota being Kenny and Kota. The moment where they pinned Scurll, arms wrapped around each other, was beautiful. Their in-ring chemistry is perfect, and yet they added those little moments where it wasn’t. The deliberate missteps to show that time has passed and they are refinding their feet. That is wrestling storytelling at its best.
As a final note, huge respect to Kevin Kelly and Don Callis along with NJPW for calling this and allowing it to be what it is. A gay love story. They could have easily kept it vague and undefined, avoiding making their relationship real. Instead, they leaned into it, and that’s wonderful. While I’m not gay, you only have to look at Twitter to see how much that means to so many people.
Verdict: The love has filled the air and is making the world a better place
Afterwards, Kenny declared The Golden Lovers the best tag-team in the world. That brought out a certain pair of Jacksons who disagreed. As had been hinted, The Bucks are going to heavyweight.
Another wrinkle to the continued Bullet Clubs implosion. It’s possible for The Bucks to feud with The Lovers and still remain friends but it gives Cody another string to pull on. Whether it will unravel remains to be seen.
A one match show. There was a couple of decent things on the undercard, but if you skipped it all, you wouldn’t be missing out. The main event is where all the action is at, and if you are a regular Twitter user you’ll be well aware of the storm it’s caused. The Bullet Club is doing great things right now, and by exploding, they’ve become more interesting than they’ve been in years.