ROH Honor Reigns Supreme 2018 (2/9/2018)- Concord, NC
BULLY RAY PROMO- His official title is “ROH Enforcer.” Absolutely cringe-worthy. The fans- ROH/indy fans (supposedly, anyway)- chant “HALL OF FAME!” at him because he’s going into WWE’s HOF. He gives a rah-rah speech. It wasn’t bad and didn’t take up much time, but the man’s entire presence is, to me, a symbol of the wrong direction the company has taken.
FLIP GORDON vs. PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ- 7.25/10
This was a GREAT opener. Small flippy guy vs. big monster is always a great story to get the fans into it, and Martinez’s “but the big scary monster can also do flips!” twist helps with that even more.
KENNY KING vs. SHANE TAYLOR- 6/10
Shane Taylor’s new storyline is that he’s fighting so that he can give his daughter “a better way of life” than he had. So… it’s the Homicide story, except that when Gabe did it with Homicide we were actually shown the bad life Homicide was trying to get his family away from instead if just being told vague generic phrases like “a better life” and “so he doesn’t have to do the things he used to do” and “so his daughter doesn’t have to live the lifestyle that he did” rather than specifics like “he was in a rough and violent gang.”
Ian Riccaboni actually did a good job of creating a juxtaposition between these two, which is that Kenny King is living “the good life” that Shane Taylor aspires to. Caprice Coleman was on commentary and told us that Shane Taylor has said that if he loses this match, he might decide to “go back to his old ways.” His been working as a gun for hire in ROH for a while now, so this doesn’t mean that… so what does it mean? We don’t know. Does it mean he will leave ROH to pursue said “old ways?” It might. We don’t know. And because we don’t know, it’s really hard to have any sort of emotional investment in it.
These guys had a good match. They told the story of Taylor working over Kenny’s midsection, which the announcers were too busy jabbering back and forth about their generic talking points for this “story” to pick up on. Kenny King won clean, but after the match he gave Taylor a little pep-talk and told him to “keep your head up” and keep working at it and stuff like that, so I guess Shane Taylor won’t be “going back to his old ways” and “doing the things he used to do” after tonight’s loss after all.
IAN RICCABONI INTRODUCES THE FINAL PARTICIPANT IN THE WOMEN OF HONOR TITLE TOURNAMENT- It’s Tenille Dashwood (Emma). Yay! She says she’s here to win the title. Bully Ray came out and put her over, and said if she is going to walk into ROH, she might as well start wrestling tonight. Then he supposedly whispered into Ian Riccaboni’s ear that we were going to see a tag match tonight featuring Stacy Shadows & Kelly Klein vs. Tenille Dashwood & Mandy Leon. Bully is actually decently good in this role, but him (supposedly) whispering the match to Ian rather than announcing it himself felt very awkward. The only two reasons I can think of that this would have happened are that `) Delirious didn’t tell him what the match would be, which would be idiotic, or that they didn’t trust him to correctly remember the match, which would make you wonder why they would put him in a position where remembering matches that he has to go out and announce is something he has to do on a regular basis.
The announcers would later push that Bully “bullied” Tenille into taking the match, but I didn’t see that at all. He just booked a match. He didn’t taunt her or goad her into taking it, and she seemed perfectly happy to wrestle tonight. She definitely didn’t come off as someone who had to be goaded into taking a match.
JOSH WOODS vs. SILAS YOUNG (w/the Beer City Bruiser)- 4.5/10
Colt Cabana told us that this match was supposed to be Cheeseburger getting a shot at Silas’ ROH TV Title, but that isn’t happening because Cheeseburger is injured, so they replaced Burger with Josh Woods. That means that they booked CheeseJobber on their big debut on Facebook Live, but couldn’t find a spot for the winner of the 2017 Top Prospect Tournament. The announcers also told us that Woods, the winner of the aforementioned 2017 Top Prospect Tournament, is still “looking for that big win,” which tells you that in the ten months since winning that tournament, Woods hasn’t been booked to do sh*t. For those needing a refresher, the previous winner, Lio Rush, won the tournament, then proceeded to spend a year doing nothing… then left ROH. Donovan Dijak, who won the year before that, spent two years in ROH doing nothing other than having an occasional storyline where he lost a lot and a manager would dump him. He, too, left ROH. Anyone else sensing a pattern here?
Ian Riccaboni gave us some background on Silas Young, telling us he is a “from Green Bay” and “made his ROH debut in a tag team match in 2009” in which he “teamed with Bobby Fish to take on The Young Bucks.” Unfortunately for Ian, Silas is 1) from Milwaukee, 2) was wrestling in ROH as a mid-western regional regular since 2007, and 3) even if we very liberally interpret Ian’s use of the term “debut” to refer to the ROH TV show, Ian is still wrong because that match was actually Silas’ second appearance on ROH on HDnet. He and the same Bobby Fish had wrestled Steen & Generico in a match that was both taped and aired before the Young Bucks match. This man is our lead announcer.
This was one of those matches where the modus operandi of the “new” Ring of Honor completely fails. The old ROH would have had them go out there and wrestle for fifteen minutes, with the heel Silas winning cleanly to make him look like a credible champion while Woods would get to look credible by going fifteen competitive minutes with a champion. In the current ROH, we got a match that went nine minutes and included a bunch of cheating and interference, some of which was right in front of the referee and didn’t result in a DQ. Silas doesn’t look strong, Woods remains a floundering nobody who has yet to get the time to put on a match that proves he can go at an ROH level, we’ve got a dirty finish that won’t be followed up on, and we’ve got an official “ROH Enforcer” who sat on his hands during all of this rather than coming out and trying to enforce the rules. That’s not the entire reason I gave this match a low score (for one thing, Woods got hit in the head with a beer bottle- which Cabana emphasized was the thing that put Kenny King down at Final Battle… and he was up, dominating, and throwing suplexes within thirty seconds), but even without some of the mistakes the wrestlers made, this match and these wrestlers wouldn’t have been given the chance to shine anyway.
SOCAL UNCENSORED vs. DALTON CASTLE & THE BOYS- 4/10
Dalton’s Boys have actual wrestling gear now, so that’s a good change. They cut away from this match in which the ROH World Champion is wrestling (as well as a former six-man tag team championship team, former tag team champions, and a former world champion and company “founding father”) to show us The Dawgs showing up at the commentary table. Really. The angle is that they’re drunk and complaining about not getting booked. The offensively small amount of thought that Delirious puts into developing stories for ROH becomes even more offensive when you realize where he spends some of the little bit of effort that he actually does put in.
In the actual match, we learned that our babyface ROH World Champion and his pals have a set play in their playbook where his friends run across the ring and knock the other guys off the apron (cheating) in a manner designed to get the legal opponent to turn around so that Dalton can attack him from behind (heelish). This was followed up with a spot where Daniels made himself look like an idiot. They later did a spot where Dalton distracted the referee and the heels so that the Boys could do the Twin Switch, which is a tried and true heel cheating tactic. They keep telling us that this show will be watched by more people than any other in ROH history… and they decided that the best thing to do with the ROH World Champion would be to stick him in a comedy match in the middle of the card and make him look like a heel.
While watching this match, the thing that struck me the most was how stale it felt, which is astonishing when you consider that Dalton has never feuded with any of these men, and that Scorpio Sky is pretty damn new to the company. Dalton Caste might be the ROH World Champion, but he still feels like the same glorified micarder he was before, and sticking him in a random comedy match in the middle of the card did nothing to help that. The spot where he throws the Boys over the ropes at the opponents was good, but despite a new bag of tricks, he still feels lie the same old midcarder; he doesn’t feel important.
On the other side, you had Kazarian and Daniels, who are back as heels again and doing the exact same stuff they were doing in their last heel run (which ended barely over a year ago) that people hated and held up as an example of the sort of stuff that made ROH feel uncool and outdated. Yes, they’re teaming with Scorpio Sky now, but they still got made to look like goofs for most of match, which is the opposite of what you want when they are being built up as challengers for the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles. Yes, they won the match… but they pinned one of the Boys, and then followed up this half-step forward with three steps back when their post-match assault on Dalton and his Boys resulted in them all being beaten up and laid out by a lone Dalton Castle, including Daniels eating Bangarang. Even worse, either the beat-down nor Dalton’s comeback happened for any reason than for Dalton to be standing tall at the end of the match for the totally unnecessary babyface pop, because Delirious doesn’t book heat; he just books whatever will get a pop at the moment, regardless of whether it helps anyone in the long or even medium term, and regardless of whether it even makes sense.
They’ve got a banner that reads “Sandy Fork vs. Everyone.” This is a bad idea for multiple reasons. First, there is the fact that TNA has a stable called “Ohio Versus Everyone.” Then there is the fact that in this case “Sandy Fork” really means “The Briscoes” and thus this is basically the same as “Roddy vs. The World,” which was a… well… calling it a “storyline” would be too generous. It was just a random thing the announcers would say to justify Roderick Strong having open challenges for the ROH TV Title during his second run with the belt in late 2015-early 2016, so they’re basically recycling the same catchphrase they used just too years ago. This is made even worse by the fact that WWE had been using the phrase just last year, so if someone doesn’t think ROH is either recycling their own crap or copying TNA, they’ll think ROH is copying WWE.
They say that there will be lots of “bloodshed” and that they’re here to destroy all of our heroes (which I’m certain I heard in a promo recently in another company but can’t put my finger on who said it) and that it’s all our fault. They say they want the tag titles back, but never once did they or the announcers attempt to explain why they are angry at the fans.
They inform us all that Chris Sabin is injured because they dropped him on his head on a steel chair on ROH TV last week, but they know Alex Shelley is in the building and they “don’t think he has the balls to come out here and fight.”
They demand that Shelley hand over the tag titles (“our property”) and Shelley’s music plays… but rather than come out from the stage, he uses it as a distraction to come out from the crowd behind the Brriscoes and nail them with his tag title belt. The difference between this and Dalton Castle’s earlier actions is that The Briscoes have already done something cowardly and dirty to injure Sabin, and thus Shelley is using less than honorable tactics to because he feels honor-bound to walk into this unfair fight. Even with the advantage of the belt shots, he is eventually overwhelmed by The Briscoes. Security tried to save Shelley but the Briscoes beat them up. Bully Ray was nowhere to be found. Jay then choked him with a chain and hit him with a Jay Driller. Unlike with Dalton Castle earlier, Alex Shelley did not make any sort of comeback, never mind lay The Briscoes out with his finisher, and as a result this got some actual heat. Who’d have thunk it?
This was a very good segment, and I was shocked that The Briscoes actually managed to get booed, so good on them for that. In just one segment they got me invested in this feud.
KELLY KELIN & STACY SHADOWS vs. MANDY LEON & TENILLE DASHWOOD- 4/10
Brandi Rhodes joined the commentary team for this match, and predictably clichéd and stupid banter immediately ensued. Then again, cliché is exactly what Brandis’ commentary was. She claimed to not believe that Kelly Klein and Bea Priestley won STARDOM’s tag team tournament, which means that either she’s burying STARDOM by saying she doesn’t watch their stuff, or she does know that it’s true and she’s an idiot for thinking she could convince everyone with her horrifically flimsy lie. Neither one of those are anything a modern wrestling promotion should be having a character do.
Kelly Klein has apparently gone well over two years without being pinned or submitted… so why are we even having a tournament? She’s clearly the best so why not just give her the belt?
The match was fine whenever Emma or Kelly Klein were in there, but neither Mandy nor Stacy Shadows looked good at all. Mandy was passable as a babyface when she was selling, but she always feels like she’s moving two steps too slow. Shadows didn’t get much time to show her stuff, but what she got to show wasn’t enough to make me think she’s even worth bringing back. This match didn’t even go seven minutes and FKA Emma won with… a dropkick. This was yet another match where ROH failed to give a match time to show the audience that ROH is worth watching, even though they were in front of what they kept telling us was their largest audience ever (thanks to this show being free on Facebook Live). If this was me, I’d have just had Emma and Kelly go to a fifteen minute draw to build up their inevitable confrontation during tournament, and to immediately establish that Emma is right there on Kelly’s level.
JAY LETHAL vs. JONATHAN GRESHAM- 8/10
Gresham targeted Lethal’s arm with his arm stuff while Lethal, in the beginning, worked Gresham’s head a bit… until they did a spot where Gresham missed a dive on the outside and leaded on his feet but tweaked his knee… and when he pulled his kneepad down to check on his knee, he we saw that the knee had actually been taped up all match, and Gresham was using the kneepad to hide this. After checking on his knee, Gresham pulled his pad back up again to totally cover the bandaging, but Lethal had already seen it and he zeroed in on the knee from that moment on. They told their story well and sold well and did a wonderful job of making you think that Gresham might actually pull off the upset against one of ROH’s best. This is what that Silas vs. Woods match should have been.
THE KINGDOM vs. BULLET CLUB (Marty Scurll, Adam Page, & Cody Rhodes) (w/Brandi Rhodes)- 3.5/10
Apparently Taven took Cody’s ring on a recent episode of ROH TV. I don’t understand why I’m supposed to care. Cody is an unrepentant heel who uses the ring to disrespect his opponents by demanding fealty from them when he is owed none, and Taven is also an annoying heel, so why should I want to see Cody get it back or see Taven wear it?
Colt Cabana tried to draw a contrast between the unified Kingdom coming out together and Bullet Club all doing their own entrances as a way to hint that maybe they weren’t as unified as they claim to be, but Page was totally on Cody’s side during the big segment in Japan and Scurll seemed to be fifty-fifty, and neither of them really have any history with Omega that would make me think they would side with him over Cody. If the Bucks were in this match and had entered separately from Cody that one feel significant, but Scurll and/or Page doing so doesn’t.
After a dumb and pointless standoff between Scurll’s umbrella and Marseglia’s axe, Scurll backed down, and the referee “ejected” Marseglia’s axe from the match, and Marseglia didn’t try to fight it. It’s a f*cking AXE! Why don’t they just do that at the beginning of the match every time he brings it out?
So after several minutes of almost zero actual professional wrestling, Taven put on a Matt Taven version of the Cody Rhodes “Kiss The Ring” t-shirt that Cody is trying to sell that I can’t believe anyone would ever buy, and he tags in and he demands that Cody kiss the ring… and I don’t understand why I’m supposed to care about two heels feuding over a dumb ring that one of them had made so he had a gimmick he could use to stall his way through matches. And stalling is exactly what’s happening here, too. Oh. And we’ve got a guy with a hard, metal ring on his hand and the referee isn’t doing anything to get him to take it off, just moments after we saw him effective get two weapons removed from the ring.
Cody hits the Disaster Kick, sending Taven to the outside. The rest of The Kingdom go to stand next to him for no reason, cue series of dives from Bullet Club, cue celebrating. Now we’ve got the wrong Bullet Club member in the ring with two members of The Kingdom, but Page is easily dominating both guys. It’s been five minutes so far and I don’t think The Kingdom has hit a single f*cking move.
Okay. There’s one. And now that Page is stuck in The Kingdom’s corner, Scurll tries to get into the ring even though nothing heelish happened, and even though he had no problem with The Kingdom having two guys in the ring plus the wrong Bullet Club guy being in the ring just a moment ago, he now moves to stop Scurll, and The Kingdom took advantage by starting to triple-team Page. The problem is that rather than feeling like the heels were cheating and Scurll was trying to help even things up and protesting to the referee, it felt like Scurll tried to get in the ring for expressed purpose of the referee being able to be distracted and thus not see the heels start cheating.
Then we got a spot that resulted in the referee not counting when the legal kingdom member was pinning Page in order so that Taven could come off the rope with a leg drop first. Scurll eventually got tagged in for real and became the babyface in peril for a meh heat segment until he made the hot tag to f*cking Cody. Cody started to run wild on both Taven and Marseglia basically by himself before he got cut off by two horrific phantom strikes by O’Ryan. Everyone then took turns hitting the previous guy with a move (not even a finisher, or really even anything big) ending with Cody locking his American Deathlock submission onto Taven but Taven got the ropes. Cody went for the Shattered Dreams on Taven, in full view of the referee, because he apparently doesn’t care about winning the match. The fans all cheered, because a WWE cast-off doing a WWE tribute act that should cause a disqualification is something ROH fans cheer for nowadays. Fortunately for Bullet Club, they were saved from Cody’s own stupidity by the stupidity of T.K. O’Ryan, who got into an argument with Cody so that Cody didn’t kick Taven in the nuts for the DQ. Then Brandy showed herself to be just as dumbass her husband, because she pulled O’Ryan off the apron in full view of the referee. Bullet Club were saved from their own stupidity again, but this time by the stupidity of referee Paul Turner, who decided to merely eject Brandy from ringside even though this clearly should have been a disqualification.
Taven used this distraction to go get Cody’s ring from the outside, then went back and played possum in the corner. Turner decided to distract himself with guys doing spots on the outside, so Cody went for the low blow, but Taven punched him with the ring on, knocking him out and pinning him. A very bad match, managing to be both stupid and obnoxious while also giving us action that was completely middling in a freakin’ six-man tag.
That being said, this was the first time that Marseglia did not actively detract from the match with his presence, so he’s improving. He’s now reached the level of “barely tolerable.” How the f*ck did he get an ROH contract?
BEST FRIENDS vs. THE YOUNG BUCKS- 7.5/10
The Young Bucks change whether they are babyface or heel to suit whatever they want to do at that exact second, but Best Friends have always been shown to be babyfaces… so of course we get a spot here with Best Friends cheating while the referee doesn’t see it because he’s trying to prevent Nick Jackson from getting into even the odds.
Best Friends also started to smoke a cigarette during the match. The referee made no effort to get it away from them. This was just one of many stupid antics Best Friends engaged in during the match that basically wasted their well-executed (if totally backwards) storytelling and Matt Jackson’s great selling of his back, simply because they made it impossible to take the match seriously.
Once they knocked off all of the stupid sh*t, the match was pretty great. I’ve heard some people grouse about this being yet another Young Bucks match where the story is that Matt’s back gets injured, and I get where they’re coming from, but it does make some sense that his back would still be injured tonight if it got worked over so heavily a week and a half ago, so I can’t fault them for it. That being said, I think they could mitigate this problem by having Matt come out with his back already taped up. In addition to helping sell the injury, this would also make it feel more like this is part of an on-going story rather so that it doesn’t feel like the Bucks are just “having the same match again.”
The Young Bucks picked up the clean win on Best Friends. This, combined with Best Friends’ totally heelish behavior here left me kind of baffled, as the finish they did at Final Battle made it seem like Best Friends were going to be immediately rebuilt for another title shot, but that hasn’t played itself out at all recently.
There were large chunks of this show that I really didn’t like, but despite my problems with a lot of the choices that were made tonight and with the execution, I did like the general idea that they seemed to be going for with this show, which was a Clash of the Champions-esque atmosphere where they were giving you a “full” ROH show that was really intended more as a teaser to get you into the promotion (and, in this case, so want to pay for Honor Club). I think that was definitely the right track to take with this show, and I thought that they at least got some of the top angles across very well. That being said, I was shocked that they didn’t have a big stare-down to close the show on, and that they really didn’t do anything to set up a challenger for Dalton. The other positive on this show was that most of the usual Bullet Club sh*t that I hate was totally absent. There was other stuff they did that I thought was way too silly and I still thought the booking was mostly sub-par, but this show did give me some much-needed hope that maybe people are starting to grow out of this Bullet Club gaga phase, and that the real ROH will come back. Then, and only then, will honor truly reign supreme once again.
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