Honor Rising is a weird tour. Much like Fantastica Mania, people treat it like a bit of a joke. Yet, much like Fantastica Mania, I nearly always enjoy it. You get some fun combinations as a couple of matches always deliver. Christ, last year Hirooki Goto had a good showing with Beer City Bruiser, where else are you going to see that? I think people need to stop overthinking it, and just enjoy it.
Marty Scurll defeated Ren Narita
I went into this expecting the bare minimum from Scurll. He’ll deliver a shtick laden affair in sizable spots, so opening the card against a Young Lion seemed tailor-made for him to take it easy.
However, Marty deserves some credit. Yes, he spent time trying to get laughs out of the crowd and flapping his arms, but on the whole, he worked hard to get Narita over. They built from an early ground-based affair to an enjoyable back and forth middle until Marty finally took control and put him away. It was all solid stuff with Narita continuing his impressive start to the year.
They were also given a surprising amount of time. This went over ten minutes, with Narita being handed plenty of chances to shine. He’s started leaping forward at an incredible rate, and New Japan has taken notice. If he keeps this rate of development up, he’ll be off seeing the world before we know it.
Verdict: Three Stars
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Shota Umino
This was a selfless performance from Zack Sabre Jr, as he not only gave Umino plenty of offence but let the Young Lion go hold for hold with him in the opening minutes. It was actually when Zack stepped away from the submissions for a second, delivering a flurry of strikes, that he was able to open up an opportunity to go after Umino’s leg.
And while people have long been saying Umino is a potential star, in there with Sabre was the first time you could see it. He didn’t look like a Young Lion going through his lessons, but an equal, working a good wrestling match. On top of that, this was a sign that Umino can adapt to different styles. Zack Sabre Jr. is very different from Tenzan or even Nagata. For the rookie to be able to go out and wrestle ZSJ’s match is a feather in his cap.
The final minutes were great. Sabre got cocky and started pie facing Umino which lit a fire in the kid’s eyes. Suddenly you realised that while this cub is a rookie, he’s still a big boy. One uppercut was enough to send Sabre to the floor at which point they transitioned into a breathless back and forth where Zack escaped an Armbar via rope break and Umino powered out of a Guillotine into a Suplex.
In the end, Sabre would be too much, the early damage to his leg came back to haunt Umino as Zack twisted him up and got the submission. However, Shota rocked him and Sabre sticking around to get a few more digs in was almost a sign of respect. Judging by this, Umino is ready.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Jushin Thunder Liger and Jonathan Gresham defeated The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and Robbie Eagles)
Argh, I am ridiculously excited to see Gresham in New Japan. He’s brilliant, and it feels like he’s finally getting the opportunity to show it. If you have any interest in wrestling theory, I recommend checking out his YouTube channel where he gives mini-lessons on various techniques. It probably shouldn’t be fascinating for someone not training to be a wrestler, but I love watching him break down these wonderfully complex moves.
The Octopus started off the match by showing off some of those skills with Robbie Eagles. It was an opening which quickly got the Korakuen crowd onside, winning them over with a combination of light comedy and fun back and forth wrestling with Robbie. They weren’t blowing the roof off the place, but the applause built in volume as they went on, as Gresh proved too good to ignore.
Then, they tagged out, and Liger pinned Ishimori seconds later via a Rolling Crucifix Pin. Love it. Such a simple piece of booking which New Japan rarely uses and because of that it works. It was then made all the better by Ishimori’s reaction. He went mental, screaming at the referee and having to be dragged away by the Young Lions. No-one saw it coming, and while it’s not going to have anyone throwing the stars at it, it’s a perfect way to heat-up Liger ahead of his title shot.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Toa Henare and Tomoaki Honma defeated Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) and two homophobes
I have no time for The Briscoes and their homophobia so I won’t be reviewing this. I will mention that it marked the return of Hikuleo and The Bullet Club turned on The Homophobes at the end.
Verdict: Fuck Homophobia
Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi and Toru Yano defeated Colt Cabana, Delirious and Cheeseburger to retain the NEVER Trios Titles
We’re getting New Japan debuts for all my favourites tonight. Like a lot of people, Colt Cabana and The Art Of Wrestling was one of my main routes into the world of indie wrestling, so I have a lot of time for Colt. I also have a lot of time for Korakuen’s love of Cheeseburger, even if his yearly challenge for the NEVER Trios Titles is a bit of a running joke.
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t always taken seriously. Despite that, my favourite pairing was actually Cabana vs Makabe. You forget that Colt is a big lad, and it was quite fun watching him exchange shoulder blocks with Togi as he looked to earn his respect. They’ve been paired together in the New Japan Cup, and I’m intrigued to see what that match looks like.
That aside, we got plenty of silliness with Colt getting a chance to mess around with Taguchi before resuming he and Yano’s shenanigans from last year’s Global Wars. The Master Thief discovered that untying ROH’s turnbuckle pads is a lot harder than New Japan’s, which led to some issues, and he ended up being beaten with his own weapon. Not that it stopped him finishing this match his way. With Colt accidentally distracting the ref, he caught Delirious with a low blow and after a Makabe assist rolled him up for the three.
Post-match, Delirious got annoyed at Colt for shaking Yano’s hand. He then got his revenge by hitting a low blow of his own to Cabana which would lead to a change in the next day’s card as Yano and Colt teamed to take on Delirious and Cheeseburger. As for this, some will hate it, others will love it. I had a great time.
Verdict: Three Stars
Will Ospreay defeated Dalton Castle to retain the NEVER Openweight Title
Dalton is wearing a back brace, and I do worry about him. All reports suggest he’s still beaten up and I hope he doesn’t end up regretting coming back to the ring.
Initially, I wondered whether that was going to play into the structure of the bout. It started off with a lot of comedy and messing around. However, when Will made the mistake of stealing Dalton’s pose, this flipped on its head. They went from comedy to Suplexes and strikes pretty quickly. This was another look at the new Will Ospreay and his transition to a more physical style.
Despite Will’s new bulk, that is still more Castle’s game than his, and he was able to floor the NEVER champ, using his wrestling background to grind him down. Will’s moments to shine when he was leaping over barriers to hit Pip Pip Cheerio. Dalton, meanwhile, was able to use his power to bully Ospreay, driving his knee repeatedly into his head or throwing him around the ring. This was still constructed like a Heavyweight fighting a Junior.
The difference is that Will is now a Junior who beats heavyweight. He somehow survived nearly being spiked on his head after a mistiming on a Suplex reversal to the Oscutter (it was scary as hell but becomes cool because Will is, thankfully, not dead). Then, after a back and forth sequence he connected with a Reverse Hurricanrana followed by the newly named Hidden Blade. At that point, the Stormbreaker was merely an exclamation mark on the victory.
I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Castle is a decent wrestler who has struggled with injuries, so I wasn’t sure how he’d do in such a big spot, but he brought it. While it would be easy to suggest that Will carried him, I think that would be harsh, and they put on an impressive match. Well done them.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jeff Cobb defeated Hirooki Goto to retain the ROH TV Title
I don’t think I need to describe what we got with Cobb vs Goto, do I? Unless you’ve never seen these men wrestle, you can guess how this went. It was two big boys doing big boy things to each other.
It also felt like the moment where Cobb got over in Japan. He’s always looked good on past tours, but Jeff managed to swing the Korakuen Hall crowd into his corner for a bit, which felt like a big deal. While the guy is not perfect, he is still prone to producing a boring match, and even this one wasn’t incredible, he’s built for Japan. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep repeating it, he should be taking that cunt Elgin’s spot on the roster. It would make the world a better place.
As hinted, I didn’t love this. It was a performance which produced moments rather than sustained excitement, with Goto randomly Suplexing a Young Lion onto Cobb being my favourite. Watching them throw themselves at each other was always going to be fun, but a plodding middle did them no favours while the finish felt abrupt. Still, it was good, just not incredible. One of those weird matches that didn’t do much wrong, yet failed to connect emotionally.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada and Jay Lethal defeated The Kingdom (Matt Taven, Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan)
I know ROH signed their new talent too late to get them on this tour, but are The Kingdom seriously the best we have to face-off with Tana and Okada? In what world should TK O’Ryan be wrestling Tanahashi? Although, I say that, I’ve actually seen a version of this match live. Replace Okada with Dalton Castle, and it’s identical to one ROH ran in Edinburgh. I spent all of that staring at Tana, so I can’t really remember what happened.
And the fact The Kingdom are dorks really hurt this. Realistically, no team is beating Lethal, Tana and Okada. However, I never believed for a second that there was a 0.00000001% chance of it happening. Everything about them screamed that they were inferior to their opponents and it’s hard to buy into that story.
Throw in the fact that I’ve accepted Jay Lethal is a boring wrestler (seriously, I’ve tried for years and every now and then he pulls it out, but I can’t be bothered anymore) and this felt like a classic house show main event. The Ace and the Rainmaker pulled out some of the greatest hits, the live crowd had a lovely time while I drifted off for a bit before checking my phone.
It was fine, it was just never more than that. It’s still fun watching Tana and Okada team together, so that’s at least something. If you’re in a rush, you genuinely won’t miss anything if you skip it.
Verdict: Three Stars
A fun show with a flat main event. However, nothing flopped with the only match that went below three stars deliberately sacrificed wrestling quality for storytelling. If you are going to pick and choose, go for the Young Lion matches and Castle vs Ospreay, but you should have fun with all of it.
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