ROH Honor United: Edinburgh (5/24/2018)- Edinburgh, UK
SCORPIO SKY vs. SHANE TAYLOR- 4/10
Before the match Daniels cut a promo in which he offered the mercenary for hire Shane Taylor a lot of money to lie down for Scorpio Sky. The fans chanted for Taylor to “TAKE THE MONEY!” He didn’t, so they booed. This is what happens when you use subpar talent and then tease a way out of the match. Stuff happened. Daniels came out to try to cause a distraction but he was thwarted when Taylor threw Sky into him, then hit Sky with his finisher and got the win. A pointless seven-minute match that served no purpose other than to stuff more guys on this card. This is the opposite of how you want to open a show.
Scorpio Sky in particular comes off like the biggest loser to ever luck into holding a championship in ROH. His ROH record now stands at 7-26, with his singles record now down to 0-8. Can we please do something to give this man some credibility?
THE ADDICTION vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Sanada & EVIL)- 5.75/10
They started off with their goofy house-show comedy crap, then did some good tag team wrestling… and then killed all of their momentum by going back to the goofy crap for a few minutes before a few more minutes of good wrestling and the finish. If you must do this goofy comedy crap (and let me stress that you do not, in fact, have to do it, especially in Ring of Honor), then just do it all at the beginning and get it over with. Don’t kill the momentum of your good wrestling by cutting it off to do comedy.
SUMIE SAKAI & TENILLE DASHWOOD vs. CHARDONNAY & KELLY KLEIN- 5/10
A mediocre match marred by a pointlessly overbooked finish, because G-d forbid we actually beat someone cleanly. Here’s an idea: instead of booking Chardonnay, with her grand total of zero wins in ROH, to get a title shot on the final day of this tour you just book her to take the fall here and show the fans of the UK that you actually value their patronage by booking Sumie to defend the title against someone the fans will think actually has a snowball’s chance in hell of taking the title from her?
PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ vs. KENNY KING- 6.5/10
Another otherwise good match with a stupid finish. In this case it was Martinez getting rolled up by King and the referee counts ONE! TWO!... and then Martinez catches the referee’s hand on the way down to stop it from hitting the mat the third time… but HE’S STILL BEING F*CKING PINNED! He was pinned for FIVE SECONDS, RIGHT IN FRONT OF A FULLY CONSCIOUS REFEREE! It’s not about the referee’s hand hitting the mat; it’s about the time you’re pinned for. The referee’s hand hitting the mat is just a physical representation of that which acts as a visible measure to kick-outs to feel more dramatic by giving us a more precise indication of just how close the wrestler was to being defeated. There is no reason the referee shouldn’t had just continued counting even though Martinez was grabbing his arm. He could still SEE that Martinez’s shoulders were down. And it’s not even like he was using his hand to check Martinez’s shoulders with every count, so there is no argument that this obstructed his ability to determine a pinfall in any way! And even if you did want to make that argument- or even if you don’t and you’re just using a literalist interpretation of the rules and saying that it’s the hand coming down the third time that matters- then surely you will also agree that Martinez grabbing that hand and preventing it from hitting the mat constitutes interfering with the referee’s ability to carry out his duties and thus clearly warrants a disqualification.
But no. Instead of logic, we’ve got people just trying to come up with something that will make fans (and, ideally, Meltzer) say “COOL SPOT, DUDE!” so rather than a DQ or a pinfall, the match was just allowed to continue for another few seconds until Martinez hit his atrociously named “South of Heaven Chokeslam” and got the pin.
During this match we were told that both Silas and The Kingdom have decided that their matches tonight will now be title matches, which is totally out of character for both. If you want something like this to become a title match on the fly then do an actual angle where management makes the heel defend his/her belt against a theoretically worthy challenger. Don’t just have the heels randomly decide to act like babyfaces for five seconds and offer to defend their belts with no explanation.
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs. MARK HASKINS & NICK ALDIS- 8/10
Ian Riccaboni told us that in exchange for giving Cody an NWA World Heavyweight Title shot at All In, Magnus asked to be booked in a “big money” match tonight. Why Ring of Honor cares about promoting All In seeing as how they will make zero dollars from it I’m not sure, and why they care about helping Cody in particular- who has been portrayed as feuding with ROH management at every turn is an even bigger mystery, but an even bigger mystery than that is why, of all of the matches to be the “big money” match that Aldis demanded, it was THIS match? You’d think the biggest money match on this show would be the main event with the ROH World Tag Team Titles on the line, which Cody would actually have some theoretical pull in as well, as he is one half of the team scheduled to get that shot, but no (and don’t tell me it’s because Aldis and Cody “haven’t earned a title shot” because neither have basically every other team The Briscoes have defended against, including tonight’s Cody & Page duo).
And G-d forbid we just book Aldis & Haskins vs. the Young Bucks because that sounds like it will be a good match that takes advantage of the fact that we’re in the UK to use some British talent we wouldn’t otherwise see (especially Haskins, who lives in the UK so ROH isn’t going to be flying him in very often). That’s the track Delirious takes nine times out of ten anyway, but no… THIS match needs a backstory… and of course that backstory has to revolve around the fact that the Young Bucks are the real draws and make a lot of money. As I’ve said basically every time this has been made an issue in any promotion: As a fan, I DON’T GIVE A SH*T WHO MAKES MORE MONEY THAN WHO! So long as everyone is being paid fairly, then I don’t care and see no reason why I should (both in kayfabe and out of it).
You don’t have to agree with that stance, and you might even find it contradictory to say that I don’t care and then go on a rant because they tell me something that I just said doesn’t matter to me, but the difference here is that the way they do this feels like it buries the rest of the roster, and certainly buries all of the other titles, including Aldis’ NWA World Heavyweight Title which the backstory to this match is theoretically supposed to make me care about Cody trying to win!
The Bucks wants to shake hands but Haskins & Aldis want to Too Sweet instead, establishing the face-heel dynamic. Not that Magnus & Haskins wrestled like actual heels (even though Magnus technically is one in ROH, as we last saw him tying to help heel Marty Scurll cheat to win the ROH World Title from Dalton Castle), but that was definitely they’re role from a structural point of view. I bring this up because this was MUCH different from most Young Bucks matches, and was a lot more reliant on classic tag team psychology than on shtick or spots. Not that there wasn’t some shtick or spottiness, of course. They’re still the Young Bucks, but I thought this was a much better balance from what we usually get from them outside of their big New Japan matches (though I probably wouldn’t mind matches that are slightly more spotty than this, either).
Of those spotty spots, they deserve a lot of credit for the way they did the “forced Meltzer Driver” spot, which is one of their hokier ones, but if ever there was a way to do it without it feeling totally hokey, they pulled that off perfectly with their execution here. The Bucks both looked great and Haskins looked very good as well while Aldis… was mostly just there. He didn’t do anything poorly, but he felt like he could have been replaced by just about any other competent wrestler and the match would have been no different. The fans also didn’t seem to give a single sh*t about him, which isn’t a good thing for your fellow Brits to be doing if you want to come off like a big star.
THE BOYS vs. TORU YANO & DELIRIOUS- decent comedy match
This was pretty funny in the beginning, but really started to wear on me as the match hit the seven or eight minute mark. The funniest thing here was the meta-humor of Delirious’ comically barely-intelligible English being perfectly intelligible to Yano, who barely speaks any English, although my favorite individual spot was one of the Boys kicking out of a basic move at one and Delirious arguing with the referee like it was the closest nearfall in history. Delirious and the Boys did 95% of the work, with Yano only really getting involved to do one or two his usual Yano spots. A good comedy wrestler can adapt his or her stuff for individual opponents to make their matches feel different. Yano just gets his usual sh*t in and that’s it.
The other thing that I think hurt this match for me is the fact that Ian Riccaboni cannot call a comedy match to save his life. Whitmer wasn’t good either, but Ian in particular comes off like a guy who is literally incapable of being genuinely funny. Now that I think about it, it’s quite similar to the problem I have with Ian as an announcer overall: he just doesn’t come off as genuine to me. He comes off as someone who is trying too hard to sound a “PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ANNOUNCER” that he loses all of the emotion that a good sports announcer conveys, and thus he comes off not as a genuine person but rather as a computer program with a human voice whose job it is to sit next to me and explain to me how I should be feeling.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Bully Ray came out and gave the celebrating Boys the Nakamura-style low blows, then beat them up. He then tried to intimidate fans, none of whom were intimidated by him because it’s 2018 and everyone knows it’s a work and that he’s not going to hit them because he doesn’t want to get sued. This was done to set up Bully Ray vs. The Boys in a Handicap Match on the next show, and we also got a total waste of several key talents on the other show of this tour because we had to see Bully Ray team with Punishment Martinez and Shane Taylor to wrestle Dalton Castle & the Boys.
This is the point where I would usually rant about what a waste of money, time on the shows, and the ROH World Champion it is to fly Bully Ray all the way to the UK to do this crap, but in the interests of fairness, I will point out the following: this scenario builds to Bully Ray challenging Dalton Castle for the ROH World Title in a way that progresses logically, and uses all three shows of the tour to tell a progressing story (the title shot would presumably come about by Bully pinning one of Dalton’s Boys in the six-man tag, then using that claim that he has “beaten the ROH World Champion,” which is a claim that our fighting babyface champion will have no problem exposing as being true only on a mere technicality by defending the title against Bully in a singles match). The six-man also creates a situation where up-and-comers Martinez and Taylor can be in a match where they get to look dominant and come out on the winning side, and, although I don’t think a Dalton Castle vs. Bully Ray ROH World Title match will be very good, this sort of short little story setting up a title shot is exactly the sort of thing that I have spent the past few years calling on ROH to do rather than the usual lazy Proving Ground Instant Reward Everyone Knows The Title Won’t Chance Hands Tonight But We’re Doing This Anyway Rather Than Actually Try To Build Up A Midcard That People Care About Match or Random Guy We All Know Won’t Win The Title Because He Doesn’t Work Here Match, so it’s hardly fair of me to complain too much when they actually do put the pieces for such a story into place just because I don’t like the guy getting the title shot.
In fact, if this were some other bookers, I would likely even go so far as to point out that this tour is the perfect time to do this story, as the other people Bully Ray is feuding with, Flip Gordon and Cheeseburger, are not on it and therefore aren’t around to save Dalton’s Boys. Things also work out so that Flip will be in Japan when Bully Ray has what I really hope is his blow-off against Cheeseburger at the June 2nd TV tapings in NYC, so in addition to not saving Burger from Bully, you could have Bully attack Dalton after Dalton successfully defends the ROH World Title against Ultimo Guerrero and demand a title shot, and there will be no Flip Gordon around to make the save for Dalton. You could then announce your Bully Ray vs. Dalton Castle title match for one night of the Texas double-shot in mid-June, which also puts Bully Ray in place to get some last minute heat on Flip on the final show of that weekend going into the PPV where Bully and Flip would have their blow-off. So I’m going to be an optimist here and say that I hope that they are in fact setting up for something like this rather than doing all of this for no reason other than to book Bully Ray on the UK Tour.
ROH TV TITLE MATCH: Silas Young(c) vs. Joe Hendry- 6.75/10
Hendry is 0-2 in his ROH career, with both losses being in singles matches… but of course that shouldn’t stop him from getting a title shot, right? It’s not like you should have to do something to earn a title shot, is it? On a similar track, why did Silas have to cheat to beat Hendry? They’re not going to do any sort of follow-up to this- not even the next time they come to the UK (because they never follow up on this sort of thing), so you’re not setting anything up by doing this. All you’re doing is making the ROH TV Champion look weak because he can’t even beat this unworthy loser without resorting to dirty tactics. The match was very good otherwise, but these pointlessly dirty finishes are extremely frustrating considering that the entire identity of this promotion has been that this is where you go to escape crap like that in the booking.
ROH WORLD SIXMAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The Kingdom(c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay Lethal, & Dalton Castle- 6.5/10
Some stuff happened early on, but it was all to build up to us getting the big face-off between ROH World Champion Dalton Castle and one of his top challengers, Matt Taven… and instead of wrestling they did a bunch of comedy spots. Deep breaths, BRM. Deep breathes and stay calm.
Vinny Marseglia popped a balloon right in Jay Lethal’s ear. That cannot possibly be safe.
The match was disappointing, with pretty much all of the match-ups failing to capture my interest, and no one thinking there was ever a snowball’s chance in hell of the belts changing hands. And that before the overbooking. Delirious apparently decided that what this match needed was a ref bump and interference by EVIL to build up to yet another title match where no one thinks there is a snowball’s chance in hell of the title changing hands… and even after that Taven still had to hit Lethal with his cane before The Kingdom hit their finisher and Taven got the pin.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The Briscoes(c) vs. Bullet Club (Adam Page & Cody Rhodes) (w/Brandi Rhodes)- 8/10
A very fun and rough heel vs. heel fight. The last few minutes were particularly exciting, as was any time Page was in with Jay Briscoe (though I’d love to see a singles match between him and Mark, too). An awesome man event.
Another middling show from ROH. Yes, there were two awesome matches here, but the rest of the show rarely feels good enough to have been worth my while from an in-ring perspective, and when you combine that with a lack of storylines to be invested in, the promotion starts to feel like one where you just wait for someone to post the one or two good matches on YouTube rather than going out of your way to see the shows like with other big-name indy promotions.
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