ROH Road to Final Battle 2016: Ft. Lauderdale (10/21/2016)- Ft. Lauderdale, FL
LEON ST. GIOVANNI & SHAHEEM ALI vs. THE CABINET (w/Rhett Titus)- 4.75/10
This was originally booked as Ali & LSG vs. Rhett Titus & Kenny King, but Caprice Coleman decided that he wanted to wrestle so the Cabinet just allowed to swap members without the consent of ROH management or even that of their opponents (who signed to face King & Titus). Or, you know, you could have just announced the match as King & Coleman vs. Ali & LSG, which not only deliver on the match that you advertised, but also wouldn’t open up a plot hole for no reason. And when Rhett was on commentary we would learn that Caprice was scheduled to face ROH TV Champion Bobby Fish later and Rhett is now taking his spot, once again without anyone from ROH management signing off on it… which kind of buries the TV Title because Caprice is willingly giving up an opportunity to earn a title shot). So, you know… changing the advertised card for no reason is bad for a lot reasons (never mind scraping away at the trust the fans have that you will deliver what you have advertised). Just saying.
And speaking of saying things, before this match the Cabinet cut their standard promo… and it was actually tolerable. Even possibly “good.” Kenny King did the talking this time and he said that ROH was disrespecting them by constantly booking them against competition that wasn’t at their level like Ali & LSG. Holy f*ck he actually GAVE US A REASON why they feel disrespected… and all of a sudden this angle becomes a million times better because the ANX are acting rationally and complaining about things THAT WE THE VIEWERS CAN ACTUALLY SEE as opposed to just saying nebulous bullsh*t like we usually get in this angle.
And you know what… Kenny King really isn’t even wrong here. They often HAVE been booked against nobodies or losers or people who aren’t at their level. You’ve got these guys tonight, the Tempura Boyz at the previous show, they were booked against these two and Jason Kincaid in the first round of the trios tournament, they wrestled Dalton Castle and his boys on TV a few months ago, as well as teams like Ferrara and Cheeseburger (that combination more than once). Caprice faced Delirious recently, who never wins nowadays (which I guess is evidence that he’s not a total moron- though it doesn’t make him a good booker). Obviously they have also been booked against real competition, too, but I can definitely see the heel cabinet viewing guys like Jay White and Lio Rush (who they have faced often) as being below their level, too. See… if you put just A LITTLE BIT OF THOUGHT into your storylines, they stop feeling like you’re just pulling sh*t out of your ass, which is how 90% of the stories going on in ROH right now feel.
The reason I get so annoyed about this sort of thing is that as I (in the first paragraph) and Kenny King (with his promo here) have shown is that so many of the things that are hurting the ROH product right now are things that would be SOOOOOO easy to fix! All they would need is just a little more thought put into the details of the story or the logic of the situation (or basic promotional principles like “don’t deviate from the advertised card unless it is truly necessary for your story), and things would be SOOO MUCH BETTER.
The match was your standard babyface in peril story with Ali playing Ricky Morton. It was enjoyable, despite Steve Corino’s best efforts.
FRANKIE KAZARIAN vs. MARK BRISCOE- 5.5/10
They brawled on the outside forever without the referee even trying to count. The match was meh, and was made worse by Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino ignoring it so they could talk about, among other things, the place they went for lunch. This should be a firing offense. Briscoe won, and Kaz grudgingly offered him a handshake afterwards.
WAR MACHINE vs. THE TEMPURA BOYZ- 4/10
ADAM PAGE vs. DALTON CASTLE (w/the Boys)- 6.75/10
They wasted the first two minutes of this match paying attention to a f*cking dog in the crowd. This led to Steve Corino talking about his cats. This is what ROH has come to in 2016: two of the brightest stars of the future wasting time in their match so one of them could play with a puppy. Somehow, I just don’t remember that happening at any point in the famous Bryan Danielson vs. Paul London “Epic Encounter,” and all that happened to those guys is that they went on to become huge stars for ROH, so what do they know.
Then the wrestling started and FINALLY, after a f*cking year and a half of Dalton Castle doing his stupid poses that do nothing but put himself in an awkward physical position, someone finally just funs up to him and attacks him during it.
They went for a while with Page focusing on Dalton’s head. The announcers completely gloss over the fact that Dalton pinned the ROH World Champion at the last show, never once even mentioning the possibility of him earning a title match. And of course he did the job here to Page. They “protected” Dalton via low blow (although with all of the heel finishes in ROH nowadays it doesn’t really feel like much protection because it doesn’t stand out in any way, meaning that no one will remember the finish- just the result). The dirty finish also doesn’t help Page, who needed a clean win going into his TV Title shot next weekend due to Delirious’ inexplicable decision to have him tap out last weekend to the man he is challenging. In short, no competent booker would have booked these two men against each other on this show.
FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Jay White vs. Kamaitachi vs. Donovan Dijak (w/Prince Nana & Team Dijak)- 7.75/10
The big takeaways from this match are that Dijak is big and strong, and that Kyle O’Reilly is awesome. Speaking of “Kyle O’Reilly” and “big and strong,” the muscle Kyle has been putting on lately was very noticeable here. The story for this match was mostly just action, but White and Dijak did do a spot for a false finish which played off of the finish of their match last weekend at Glory By Honor XV: Champions vs. All-Stars. Nana yelled at Dijak for losing, but no one smartened up the camera crew so they were focused on Kyle O’Reilly the whole time instead.
BJ WHITMER & PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ vs. WILL FERRARA & CHEESEBURGER- DUD!
Kevin Kelly called this match solo, with the given reason being that “we need to keep Corino and Whitmer as far apart from each other as possible.” Why? Every time we’ve seen them together over the past month and a half we’ve seen Corino occasionally try to throw a punch (but never more than one), which Martinez always blocks, and then Whitmer HANDS CORINO A WEAPON AND THEN TURNS HIS BACK AND WALKS AWAY. If they were going to fight each other, none of that would be happening.
Objectively the action in this match was probably in the 3-3.5/10 range, but there were several factors that made me give it the dud:
1. It feels like we’ve seen this match a million times already.
2. Burger & Ferrara got in WAY too much offense. I don’t care if it was only on Whitmer. These guys should have been dead the moment Martinez was tagged in for the first time
3. The finish. First we had both Whitmer and Martinez in the ring illegally for WAY too long, with the referee yelling at them the whole while, but never actually trying to do anything about it, which always bugs me. Martinez had Burger up for what looked like it was going to be a really awesome chokeslam, but then just dropped him. He did this so he could hold Burger’s arms while Whitmer went and got the golden spike, which the referee had inexplicably just allowed them to leave sitting in their corner on the apron. It’s a dangerous weapon! At least make them put it on the timekeeper’s table or something!
Then Steve Corino’s music started to play, so Martinez went over the entranceway to confront Corino when he came out… but Corino never came out. This distraction allowed CHEESEBURGER to roll Whitmer up and pin him. I honestly would have preferred that they get DQed for being in the ring too long without a tag than for f*cking Cheeseburger to get a roll-up victory via “sports entertainment” bullsh*t. The result of this match will be completely irrelevant (as all of the matches in this feud have been since Best in the World) so it’s not like Burger needed a pinfall victory. Furthermore, this win will not help Cheeseburger at all (five months ago he got “the biggest win of his career” when he pinned Christopher Daniels on PPV and everyone has already forgotten it and he’s still the same jobber he was before that), but it will still hurt Whitmer because not only did he lose to a pathetic scrub like Cheeseburger (still shameful even with a distraction), but if anyone is going to be pinning Whitmer nowadays, it needs to be Corino getting his revenge on him in a meaningful way.
Of course, Whitmer and Martinez went right back to beating the sh*t out of Ferrara and Cheeseburger after the match. Corino never showed up to make the save, which leaves us with one of two explanations for why the music was played (which even if you weren’t thinking about you were clearly supposed to be Kevin Kelly not only brought it up but kept coming back to it):
1. Steve Corino ordered the music to be played, but never came out to make the save because he’s a coward.
2. Someone in either ROH management or on the production team decided to play the music, meaning that someone within the company decided to try to screw competitors out of a match for no reason.
The beating resulted in Whitmer and Martinez trying to stab through Cheeseburger’s hand with the spike, making this the second straight year where we’ve had an angle around this time of year involving someone trying to maim Cheeseburger’s hand. Ferrara pulled Cheeseburger to safety. Only then did ROH security make a rare appearance in order to get destroyed by Whitmer and Martinez.
BOBBY FISH vs. RHETT TITUS (w/the Cabinet)- 4/10
Adam Page was on commentary for this match to build up his TV Title match against Bobby Fish at the TV tapings next weekend. He complained that he hadn’t had a singles title shot in ROH in almost three years. My immediate response to that was “well maybe you should try winning some matches first.” Kevin Kelly, on the other hand, assured us that Page was certainly deserving of a title shot, but these things just happen sometimes. Because I was so annoyed by this, I did some research on Cagematch.net. Up until this point in his ROH career (counting his victory earlier tonight), Adam Page’s record was 29-66-1. Not very impressive. This year, which has had multiple points that should have been big, breakout moments for him to get a push (turning face on Whitmer, winning the feud against Whitmer, joining Bullet Club, getting the big win over Jay Briscoe), his record is 8-18. Neither of those are the sort of statistics I expect from someone arguing that he should have gotten more title shots. In fact, tonight’s victory marked only the second time since last July that Page had been able to string together two straight victories.
But no, he’s totally a main event level guy and definitely deserves title shots, and just like Kevin Kelly, we should all ignore the fact that he always loses. Good job making a new star there, Delirious.
(Side note: Page did actually manage to string together six wins in a row from February to May of 2015, for which he never received any sort of title shot so… what the f*ck, Delirious?)
The Cabinet jumped Fish before the match but he fought them off. After more attempts at interference, they were ejected from ringside at which point Kevin Kelly buried Rhett Titus by basically telling us that he had absolutely no chance to win without interference from The Cabinet. Aside from the above comments, Page contributed absolutely nothing to the booth, which made this match feel like it went on forever even though it went less than nine minutes of total blandless.
PROVING GROUND MATCH: ROH World Champion Adam Cole vs. Bull James- 1/10
Bull James got a shockingly good reaction here. He has cool, customized theme music, too. It includes a rather prominent F bomb, which seems like the sort of thing ROH wouldn’t allow if they supposedly fine wrestlers for saying words like “ass” or giving people the middle finger during matches as Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino would have us believe.
We were told that Bull James earned this Proving Ground match with his good showing in the Honor Rumble last month. So Bull James gets a Proving Ground match for coming close to winning a battle royale but Adam Page couldn’t even get one after six straight wins last year? Personally, I don’t think that you really need much of a reason to book someone in a Proving Ground match and the reason they gave for James here was fine, but when you contrast it with something like that or with teams (like both Cabana & Castle and ANX) getting booked into a #1 contendership match on the most recent PPV despite not having won a match as a team in the shows leading up to it, it makes things seem arbitrary and meaningless.
As for the match itself… this match got pretty universally shat on. At about the half way point, I just didn’t understand why. They shined James up a bit and then Cole got the heat and started working the knee and Bull was selling it fine. I mean… it wasn’t looking like it was shaping up to be particularly great or anything, but if they kept going the way they were it probably would have been at least mediocre. I certainly won’t fault you for arguing that a semi-main event singles match with the world champion needs to be a lot better than just mediocre, but I didn’t quite understand the hate, and thought that if this was second or third on the card it wouldn’t have been so terrible.
Then Bull James just stopped selling his knee when it was time to make his comeback. Then, as part of that comeback, he did a freakin’ Pedigree without selling his knee at all. Then, after a superkick forced him to start selling it again and they did a false finish with the Figure Four, Cole just went to get his title belt to use as a weapon. Now obviously his plan all along was to distract the ref with the title belt so he could kick James in the nuts, but Cole was in complete control of the match here, so going to that strategy felt like a completely forced way to go to a completely pointless dirty finish. I mean… this is the ROH World Champion taking on f*cking Bull James in a Proving Ground match. There is no reason for Cole to need to cheat to beat him. A good showing against the world champion should be sufficient to help Bull look like a credible part of the roster, right? Or if you really don’t want to beat him, just have them go to a time-limit draw and now you’ve got an ROH World Title defense set up for O’Reilly on a house show in 2017 after he takes the belt.
But instead they had Cole need to use a low blow. Two, in fact. And Bull James STILL kicked out. Then they tried some other stuff that James botched, including f*cking SITTING DOWN TO COUNTER A SUNSET FLIP. Bull finally lost when BJ Whitmer and Punishment Martinez came out to distract him because they’re wrestling tomorrow and they somehow think that distracting him to cost him his match will help them tomorrow or something stupid like that.
So when you combine a bad in-ring performance (all James’ fault), the ROH World Champion needing WAY too much to put down a guy only known as a NXT midcarder, pointless cheating, and an extremely poorly-booked finish, you wind up with a lot of people crapping on the match. Those feelings of frustration and anger were also probably exacerbated by the…
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Delirious should be fired immediately
Only now is it revealed to us that Martinez and James got into a fight backstage earlier today. Well… that seems like the sort of thing you should probably put on the f*cking show so we can see it. Or at least mention it earlier so it doesn’t feel like you’re just pulling an explanation out of your ass when you realize that you need one after the fact.
Martinez started to beat Bull down while Whitmer cut a promo saying the following:
“The father said that he would return. The father told me that his disciples would return. Bull, you are nothing more than a disciple of a false prophet, and you have done nothing but perpetuate his lies.”
At this point Kevin Kelly tried to put on his angry voice and said “Come on! How dare you! Blasphemous!” At this point I completely lost it. How can Kevin Kelly claim that these statement are untrue or blasphemous if he doesn’t even know what BJ is talking about! Every time it comes up Kevin Kelly tells us that he doesn’t understand anything that is going on between Whitmer, Corino, and Sullivan, so why the f*ck is he immediately rendering judgment on it! And if he has somehow finally figured it all out over the course of the past two matches, he should have f*cking explained it to me, the extremely confused and extremely annoyed viewer.
Then Steve Corino came out in his Mr. Wrestling III guise for no reason at all other than that he wanted to wear a mask here. The reason he wanted to wear a mask here was because he was also coming out to the Midnight Rider’s music and dressed like the Midnight Rider. You know… because this is Florida and the Midnight Rider fought Kevin Sullivan here THIRTY-FOUR YEARS AGO. So I guess that means that the “false prophet” that Bull James is supposedly a disciple of is Dusty Rhodes. Yeah. That’s nice. Just use the dead guy for your stupid angle. Yup. Now it’s confirmed. Not only did Kevin Kelly say it, but Bull and Corino used Bionic Elbows to beat up the heels (why has Corino suddenly decided to brawl with Whitmer tonight, as opposed to the many other times over the past month and a half where he has had ample opportunity to do so but has chosen not to?). So anyway, the babyfaces have beaten up the heels and gotten their revenge on them, so there goes all of the heat. I hope everyone involved in booking this angle is proud of themselves.
In terms of an actual storyline that has lasted for any amount of time (which this one certainly has, despite going almost nowhere), this Kevin Sullivan CWF magical Boozar-Moo-Can bullsh*t has got to be the absolute worst in ROH history, both in terms of being an idiotic, infuriating storyline and in terms of a lack of any matches that even approach being mediocre (the Whitmer vs. Corino BITW match doesn’t count. That match was pretty f*cking great until the moment that this bullsh*t derailed it). The very fact that it has been allowed to continue for as long as it has (never mind the fact that this completely out of place magical bullsh*t happened in the first place) will forever be a black mark on Delirious’ record as a booker, and I honestly will never have complete faith in the direction of the company again until this sh*t is done.
WINNING TEAM GETS $20,000: Colt Cabana, Jay Briscoe, & Christopher Daniels vs. Jay Lethal, Silas Young & Alex Shelley (w/Chris Sabin)- 8/10
So we’ve added a completely pointless stipulation (don’t the winners of ever match get money) that no one could possibly care about. Even worse, it might actually be $30,000 instead of $20,000 because either Bobby Cruise screwed up the announcement or Kevin Kelly’s memory is bad (and in this case my bet is always that Kevin Kelly’s memory is wrong, because the alternative is that Kevin can’t remember important facts like what happened in various storylines, but can remember random minutiae like how much money is on the line in this pointless stipulation).
After a few minutes of wrestling it broke down into a big brawl on the outside. During this Jay Briscoe hit someone with both a trash can and the ring bell- the latter of which was RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE REFEREE- but the ref didn’t call for a DQ. Once everyone went back to their spots on the apron it progressed just like a normal match for a while, which is the opposite of what should have happened.
This match was billed as a “Wild Card” tag team match due to the fact that each team was composed of two babyfaces and two heels, with the implication that they would have to learn to work together- especially Lethal and Silas, who are kinda-sorta feuding with right now. Now that I think about it, to play this up even more they could have swapped Shelley and Briscoe, so that Lethal and Briscoe would also be on the same team, while Shelley would now have to team with Daniels as they come out of their recently-ended feud that culminated in Ladder Wat VI.
The match really felt like it found itself when they started focusing on that story, but they but they didn’t focus on it anywhere near enough for it to really feel like a running thread. I also think it would have been better for Daniels- despite nominally being the heel on his team, to not act heelish at all as part of The Addiction’s slow-burn face turn. The biggest misstep in terms of this, though, was the execution of the finish. If the idea of the finish is that Silas wants the glory, then why not have him make a blind tag on Lethal as Lethal hits the ropes for the Lethal Injection and then you can have him hit Lethal with the lariat when Lethal gets in his face over it. That way Silas really is stealing the glory of the pinfall. The way they did it here it was just Lethal hitting his finish to help Silas because it was Silas who was the legal man the whole time, and Silas lariating Lethal felt very forced.
Meanwhile, on commentary, Kevin Kelly made jokes about beer getting splashed into his mouth meaning that he has now lost his many years of sobriety and would have to go to AA meetings, but he doesn’t have time for that because wrestling. Yes. Kevin Kelly just made a joke out of something that EVEN VINCE RUSSO-BOOKED TNA TREATED AS A SERIOUS ANGLE.
Another miserable show from ROH despite the high quality of both the main event and the Four Corner Survival. This was a complete and total nothing show whose only storyline importance is turning tomorrow’s scheduled Martinez vs. Bull match into Martinez & Whitmer vs. Bull & Corino, and aside from the two matches I mentioned before, the matches were all bland and pointless at their best. October of 2016 is proving to be the creative low-point for ROH (G-d, I hope this is as low as it gets). The Cornette Era certainly wasn’t exciting, but at least things actually happened.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Kevin Kelly, who has been a wrestling announcer for YEARS and has been calling Caprice Coleman’s matches for YEARS now, saw Caprice hit a Snapmare Driver, and called it as the “Bless-T-O.” The “Bless-T-O” is a move of Caprice's that is so named because Caprice is a shoot minister and it is a variant of the STO (get it?). To perform an STO your opponent is in front of you to the side, and he winds up going down on his back. To perform a Snapmare Driver, you opponent stands behind you and he winds up going down on his face. HOW THE F*CK DOES KEVIN KELLY CONFUSE THESE MOVES?!
2. One of the announcers’ favorite bullsh*t talking points that they have to say in every match is the claim that Kazarian has “reinvented his in-ring style” this year, which anyone who has been watching Kaz for any length of time knowns is utter bullsh*t. Now, in this one instance, keeping things vague like this protects them from anything that is 100% demonstrably false (which is amazing to me because they make specific claims that are demonstrably false at least twice a match). Well tonight Steve Corino dropped that particular shield and justified the claim that Kaz has reinvented himself in the ring by claiming that a “springboard off the top” is something “we would have seen from Kazarian a year ago.”
Do I need pull up clips of his matches, or can we all assume that former five-time TNA X-Division Champion Frankie Kazarian probably did a bunch of springboard moves last year (never mind the many years before it)?
3. In the Cole vs. James match, Kevin Kelly described Adam Cole’s Last Shot finisher as “a neckbreaker onto the knee from a vertical suplex position.”
If Kevin believes that the Last Shot is “a neckbreaker onto the knee from a vertical suplex position,” then why does Kevin insist on always miscalling Cole’s ushigoroshi, which is a neckbreaker onto the knee from a fireman’s carry position, as the Last Shot (including just a few minutes after this quote)? The only logical explanation is that Kevin Kelly, lead announcer for a professional wrestling company and a man who has been a wrestling announcer for over twenty years, cannot identify f*cking VERTICAL SUPLEX.
4. Kevin Kelly asked Chris Sabin that if it would be “a Motor City Machine Guns payday” if Shelley was on the winning side in the main event.
Why would it be? As Sabin himself said, Shelley is the one wrestling. A tag team doesn’t normally split the purse for matches they when they’re not teaming, so why should this be any different.
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