ROH 16th Anniversary Review

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ROH don’t do easy to find pictures. Credit: ROH

Sixteen years, it might not be quite as impressive as NJPW’s forty-six, but it’s still a decent inning for Ring of Honor. A hell of a lot has changed since they started back in 2002 and the only people still around are The Briscoes and Christopher Daniels. Although if you have a peek at that card, a few of them have gone on to do quite impressive things. I guess we’ll see if this new generation can do the same. Let’s dish out some stars.

Hiromu Takahashi defeated Flip Gordon

Poor Flip must have had a long trip home from Japan. There is a lot of ground to cover when you can’t just nip around the globe (yup, it’s a Flat Earther joke).

There’s no denying that Flip is an idiot, but he is also a talented wrestler. Following on from Honor Rising, he appears to have been slotted into a mini-feud with Takahashi, possibly as a quick tryout to see whether he’s NJPW calibre. After a multi-man and a tag, this was their first chance to go one on one, and I can’t have been alone in pinpointing it as a potential show stealer.

However, to steal the show, you kind of need both guys to be taking it seriously. In the early going it felt like Takahashi was more interested in having fun. While Flip did his bouncing handstand shtick, Hiromu had a little dance. He then followed up on that by hitting Flip with an audience member’s Daryl (which Gordon sold) before getting into an argument with Paul Turner during which we learnt he speaks enough English to tell someone to shut up.

As they got deeper into the match, Taka did up the intensity as they hit a decent level of work. The kind of level that might be appropriate for the opener to a Ring Of Honor PPV, which, well, is what it was. They went hard enough that you should enjoy it while at the same time making sure that neither man will have woken up too sore the day after.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Marty Scurll defeated Punishment Martinez

While it wasn’t official, it was suggested that the winner of this one would be next in line for a title shot.

A title shot that Scurll earned. These two had a wild sprint that went a bit over ten minutes and left Marty bleeding from the eye. Martinez is one of those rare talents who wrestles his gimmick. He’s meant to have walked out of a slasher film, and his style is suitably deadly. A guy like that throwing himself over the turnbuckle at you can only be terrifying.

That dangerous element gave you the impression that in a straight fight, Punishment would murder Scurll. However, The Villian doesn’t do straight fights. He caught Martinez off-guard by pretending he was going to throw some of that white powder he’s been using in his eyes. Then, when the big man flinched, he kicked him square in the balls. One roll-up later and Marty had a win.

Unlike the first match, I didn’t expect much from these two. Punishment Martinez can be brilliant, but he can also be terrible. Scurll, meanwhile, sometimes forgets to wrestle because he’s doing his shtick. Yet, they went out and delivered. It felt like both men were desperate to impress and they certainly impressed me.

Verdict: Four Stars

Kenny King defeated Silas Young to retain the ROH Television Title

There once were two men who were neither great nor bad. They were just alright. One day the booker man tasked them with putting on a decent match for the Television Title, on PPV, because at some point we stopped questioning stuff like that.

The two men went down to the ring, and they worked hard, probably doing the best that they could. They beavered away and not a single shit was given.

I’m sorry, I can’t find it in me to care about Kenny King vs Silas Young. From a purely subjective viewpoint, this was decent. They did a cool suplex spot that saw them tumble outside at one point. And yet, I didn’t give a flying fuck. Young and King could have been two slabs of meat for all the emotion they got from me, and if I don’t care, decent doesn’t cut it.

Verdict: One And A Half Stars

In the aftermath, Austin Aries came out with his many belts and challenged Kenny King. I shall be more interested in that.

SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) defeated The Hung Bucks (Hangman Page, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) in a Las Vegas Street Fight to win the ROH Six-Man Titles

I’m not going to attempt to sum up what happened here. It was insanity from start to finish as these two teams went on a wild old ride together. Spots like Kazarian being busted open by having a bin thrown at his head only to fall back into a Hangman powerbomb on the ramp happened in the first few minutes.

A spot which allows me to segue into talking about Page and his recent improvement. There is little chance of him becoming a great worker at this point, but he is coming out of his shell and in this environment he shined. There’s a wild streak to his offence that suits a Street Fight.

It might feel like I (and the rest of the world) am focusing on the Bullet Club’s antics. However, it’s hard not to. Everything was built around them. SoCal Uncensored spent most of it selling, and it was only when Shane Taylor came down and played the equaliser role that they looked like winning. Even after that they still had to tie Page to the turnbuckle.

Sadly, that finish did hurt what was an entertaining contest. Most of it was people tumbling through the air before landing on something unpleasant. If that sounds fun to you, make sure and check it out.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Post-match, The Kingdom came down and attacked The Bullet Club until Bully Ray chased them off.

Cody defeated Matt Taven

I care even less about Matt Taven vs Cody than I do Silas Young vs Kenny King. Taven is a total non-entity, while Cody is only worth watching when he’s heeling it up against Kota and Kenny. I don’t watch ROH TV, so the sight of him wandering down with a massive bear was (initially) groan-inducing.

Much like Young and King they had a match that appeared to be perfectly acceptable. That didn’t mean I gave a shit. Even the usually Bullet Club adoring ROH crowd were quiet for the majority of it, uninspired by the mediocrity.

Then we got a ref bump followed by the emergence of The Kingdom’s goons, the only people I care about less than Matt Taven. They hit Cody with a low blow at which point ROH repeated a spot they’d done ten minutes ago by having Bully chase them off. In the aftermath, Cody revealed he was wearing a cup and hit a Cross Rhodes for the win.

I don’t care.

Verdict: One And A Half Stars

What I did care about, was the moment when Beary The Drug-Free Bear (seriously, what the fuck?) unmasked to reveal himself as Kenny Omega. The noise the crowd made served to remind us all how quiet they’d been for the last twenty minutes.

He hit a V-Trigger on Cody before Brandi followed up on her husband kissing Kota by planting one on Kenny and declaring him a fraud. Who hasn’t thought about kissing Omega? Jokes aside, Cabana and Riccaboni didn’t do as good a job as Kelly and Callis at selling this as a form of assault. They didn’t seem to know how to call it.

The Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark Briscoe) defeated The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) to win the ROH Tag Team Titles

Wow, that was disappointing.

I expected mediocrity from some of the earlier matches on the card. I didn’t expect it from this one. It was structurally broken. The Briscoes were our big bad heels, yet within minutes of the start, The Motor City Machine Guns were gloating because they’d bloodied Mark. They then went on to isolate him in the ring, working some classic heel wrestling tactics into the mix.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was bothered. You had two of the most accomplished tag teams of all time facing off, and the crowd did not give a shit. Even the Machine Guns’ frantic offence didn’t get much out of them, and I don’t blame them. It’s hard to care when it feels like the people in the ring are going through the motions with little thought to what they’re doing.

It all led to The Briscoes picking up the win, which might be the right decision for the current storyline, but is a bad one if you want good people holding your belts. The Briscoes’ views (particularly on LBGTQ+ people) are horrible so, in my opinion, they can fuck off.

Verdict: Two Stars

Dalton Castle defeated Jay Lethal to retain the ROH World Title

During my Honor Rising review, I pondered what had happened to Jay Lethal and when the last great ROH Title match was.

Well, it turns out Lethal was waiting for his moment and the last great title match was on the 9th of March 2018. This was fantastic, and a big part of that was down to Jay Lethal.

Lethal came into it as the veteran, a role that he played to perfection. Early on, Dalton tweaked his knee, and that was all Jay needed. For the rest of the action, he attacked with purpose, ripping at that knee and looking to regain the title that he lost.

However, it didn’t matter how experienced Lethal was, Dalton Castle was not going to lose that belt. He stumbled around the ring, desperately trying to fight through the pain, surviving a Figure Four and a Lethal Injection as he sought for a way back into the match. Going for high impact offence in the hope that he could do enough damage in one swoop to level the playing field.

It was a tactic which paid off. As the two grappled on the apron Castle was able to get his arms around Lethal’s waist and throw him backwards with a sickening German Suplex to the floor. Jay crashed down onto his neck and suddenly the Peacock wasn’t the only one sporting an injury.

When they got back between the ropes, both men were dead on their feet. Swinging wild punches. It was clear whoever hit their finisher first would be victorious and it was Castle who would find the opening. A three-count later and the champ had retained, earning Jay Lethal’s respect in the process.

This is the kind of wrestling that I tune into Ring Of Honor to watch. Give me more of it, please.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Show

The undercard was all over the place. You had the dullness of Young vs King and Cody vs Taven and the disappointment of the Tag Title match up against the wild brawls that were the Six Man tag and Martinez vs Scurll. However, any faults were made up for by a fantastic main event. ROH still has the talent to be one of the best wrestling companies in the world, with the booking too often being the problem. If they can tell more stories like that one, they could still retake their place as the king of the indies.

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