Ring Of Honor has walked a windy path in the last seventeen years. From the disgusting segment that kicked it all off through Danielson vs McGuinness to The Elite and now, em, well, to be honest, I’m not sure what they are at the moment, but that’s because they’re in the middle of establishing their new identity. Would their anniversary be a step forward? Time to find out.
Marty Scurll defeated Kenny King
Marty Scurll went into this as the number one contender for Maddison Square Gardens which is as close as you can get to spoiling the result without getting AEW to read it out before the show.
Then again, I watched Taguchi vs Tanahashi today and enjoyed it despite knowing Mr Funky Weapon was destined to lose. We might have known what way this was going, but that didn’t mean it was impossible for them to get the crowd excited.
Which, for half the people in the ring, seemed a breeze. The Vegas crowd were all hot under the collar for Marty Scurll, popping big for every little thing he did. Unfortunately (and slightly strangely), they did not give a shit about Kenny King. Las Vegas is his home-town, but if you were going purely off crowd reaction, you’d assume he was an unknown import.
While it was far from an ideal situation, they managed to have a decent sprint. You could quibble that the storyline of the babyface being a better heel than the heel (King was prevented from using a steel chair only to be whacked with Scurll’s umbrella) was a bit strange, but Marty’s incredible popularity allowed them to pull it off. I have no complaints.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Jeff Cobb defeated Shane Taylor to retain the ROH Television Title
Shane Taylor has slimmed down and in one match turned me from someone who thought he was okay at best, into a believer. This was all kinds of awesome.
Those two big boys went out there and worked a sprint. From second one this was haymakers and suplexes as these bulls beat the shit out of each other. Then you have the added benefit that both of them can move. Shane Taylor was hitting Somersault Sentons off the apron (made to look all the better by the fact it wasn’t perfect) while Cobb was getting up for picture perfect dropkicks to a Taylor who was perched on the top turnbuckle.
And while this match made me a Shane Taylor believer, it was also further proof that when Cobb turns up, he’s brilliant. Jeff looked like a motherfucking star here, and the fans treated him like one too. The concern with him is that he doesn’t always exude that aura, and next time you see him he might go back to just being Jeff Cobb. If he can find a way to channel that badassery every week, he will be huge.
The final seconds were perfect as Shane Taylor hit a Canadian Destroyer only to run into Tour of the Islands. Then, in an incredible piece of booking, Shane began to get to his feet, forcing Jeff to hoist him up for number two. Cobb might have retained the title, but this was Shane Taylor’s night.
Verdict: Four Stars
Mayu Iwatani defeated Kelly Klein to retain the Women Of Honor Title
Apparently (I don’t watch it, so can’t confirm), Mayu Iwatani’s title win hadn’t aired on ROH TV when this PPV went out? Meanwhile, she’s not only won the belt but defended it in a cracking match with Konami back in Stardom. How is ROH letting that happen? What do the people watching ROH TV feel when they tune into the big show and get the TV spoiled for them?
Anyway, ROH’s awful administration aside, I was intrigued by this rather than excited. My newfound love of Stardom has turned me into an Iwatani fan, but I came in having not seen anything from Kelly Klein to suggest she’s on Mayu’s level. I guess this was her chance to prove me wrong.
Sadly, she was unable to do so. Putting Klein in there with someone as smooth as Iwatani emphasised the fact that everything she did was as sloppy as a dog’s dinner. From her elbows to her reversals, it all looked a bit crap. The only time her offence stood out was when Iwatani took an insane bump off a German, rotating round to land on her neck.
Outside of the ring, the fans, who had been hot up until this point, were dead, barely reacting to anything. Iwatani, a babyface’s babyface, stole away with the win and they barely made a peep. I don’t blame the wrestlers for that either. It was all down to the way ROH has booked this division. It’s an afterthought, as proven by Klein and Iwatani getting a good five minutes less than the two matches that preceded it.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Jay Lethal and Matt Taven fought to an time limit draw meaning Jay Lethal retained the ROH World Title
Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart, Samoa Joe vs CM Punk, Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada and… Matt Taven vs Jay Lethal? What absolute lunatic came up with this idea?
Let’s duck behind the scenes for a second. I knew that Taven and Lethal wrestled to a draw, and I was dreading having to watch it. Taven does fuck all for me, while Lethal is as dry as toast with a side dish of sawdust. A ten-minute match between the two sounded like a struggle, never mind a fucking hour.
And yet, and yet! It wasn’t awful. Sure, there were issues. Even without pre-knowledge, everyone seemed aware that this was going the distance at around the half-hour mark. ROH, unlike say New Japan, don’t go for epic match times, so it would have been strange for them to enter that territory if it wasn’t the plan. On top of that, they were very clearly working a slower pace, spacing out their spots and taking their time. They were trying to conserve energy by not going all out.
However, there was a lot of good. The wrestling throughout was solid, with strong limb work (Lethal went after the knee, Taven the shoulder) and smooth action even deep into the hour. On top of that, they threw a few wrinkles in there with The Kingdom interfering only to be fought off by Gresham and Williams plus the use of tables and ladders to add to the excitement. It broke the match up, giving two tired wrestlers a chance to rest or something to hide behind (although it would be an admittedly painful something).
Lethal and Taven also kept the crowd engaged, as they, if anything, got louder as the match went on. You got the impression the fans were excited at the chance to see a rare booking decision in the flesh and were willing it to be great which added a lot to a thrilling final sequence.
Finally, there is the fact it’s hard not to respect two workers doing their thing for an hour. Wrestling is a gruelling sport with there being a reason that rookies tend to blow up after mere seconds in the ring. To have the composure to keep your calm and craft a sixty-minute match is worthy of respect.
So yea, I don’t think this match was perfect. Honestly, I don’t even think it was great. However, I’m unwilling to bash it. Lethal and Taven gave their all and can leave proud of what they achieved. What I think is irrelevant.
Verdict: Three Stars
The next segment featured Bully Ray arguing with a rapper. Wrestling concerts are shit and adding Bully Ray to them isn’t going to change my mind. On top of that, we got the announcement that he’ll be doing an open challenge at MSG (which will probably be answered by Flip Gordon) and I realised that’s going to take some time away from the New Japan wrestlers. ROH should be ashamed of themselves.
Rush defeated Bandido
Putting these two in the ring together this early in their ROH careers is a mental decision. Not only is this a potentially huge match with international appeal, but they booked themselves into a situation where one of them had to lose. With Bandido challenging for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at MSG and Rush a natural star, that was a dumbass move.
Anyway, they had the match, and it was a thrill ride which pissed off Twitter, so that’s good. People are annoyed that Rush held himself in the ropes for a Bandido 450, but I honestly couldn’t give a shit. It’s lucha, it’s all mental, rather than getting annoyed about it try removing your head from your arse and watching something else. There is plenty of this shit going around.
I was more interested in watching them do cool stuff. It started with Rush Powerbombing Bandido over the barricade and through a table. He was made to look a badass, as he tossed Bandido around the ring and beat the crap out of him. I’m never entirely convinced he’s a great wrestler, but the fucker exudes charisma which helps him overcome his weaknesses.
Plus, he had Bandido to do the incredible stuff. When that guy picks up the pace, he is insane. He hit the most beautiful Fosbury Flop in this match as he makes flying around the ring look effortless. These two had the kind of chemistry that only comes from trust, and it was a load of fun to watch. In the end, Rush hit the Bull Horns to get the three. I saw nothing in this match which convinced me that it had to happen, but it was entertaining.
Verdict: Four Stars
Villain Enterprises (PCO and Brody King) defeated two homophobic shits to win the ROH Tag Team Titles
Verdict: Fuck Homophobia
ROH delivered a good show. I didn’t watch the main event, but everything else was at least okay with Klein vs Iwatani being the only thing I didn’t actively enjoy while Taylor vs Cobb and Bandido vs Rush were great. ROH seems to be finding their feet in this new era, now they need to cut out the stupid decisions, and they might have a future after all.
Watch ROH: https://www.rohwrestling.com/nonmembership