ROH Survival of the Fittest 2017: Night 1 (11/17/2017)- San Antonio, TX
OPENING SEGMENT- I just don’t understand this anymore.
Tonight’s “guest host” Arrow star Stephen Amell comes out. The celebrity comes out and talks about how happy he is to be here in this wrestling promotion. Then he gets interrupted by some heels (in this case The Addiction) who trade barns with him. Then his babyface friend (in this case Cody) comes out and some words are exchanged, resulting in a main event being booked. Is this not exactly what used to happen on Raw every week?
This show was originally scheduled to have the Young Bucks vs. Flip Gordon & Scorpio Sky, and then a main event of The Addiction vs. Cody Rhodes & Kenny Omega, but Daniels issued a challenge to turn it into an eight-man tag. He claimed to have gotten authorization from Flip and Sky to make this challenge. Okay… what about getting authorization from ROH management to change their announced card?
Cody accepted the challenge on behalf of Bullet Club, but then revealed that this would actually be handicap match because Daniels said they wanted to face “Bullet Club” and Stephen Amell is now a member of Bullet Club, too. Using a loophole to stick another guy into a match to give your team the advantage is a total heel move, and yet Cody is supposed to be the babyface here. And speaking of things Cody shouldn’t be doing, trying to bury NXT for not being sold out while your show did sell out only makes you look like an idiot because while they might not have sold out, they still outdrew you. And even if they didn’t, it’s still petty.
I also don’t understand why the fans in the building were happy with the change from two tag team matches to one eight-man tag. I would have much rather seen two matches- one where a win over the Bucks could instantly put the team of Flip and Sky on the map and the other being the first time Cody and Omega teamed together without anyone else on their team since all of their trouble in New Japan began (which made this match feel like a very big deal at the time it was announced)- rather than just see yet another Bullet Club multi-man tag, something that had main-evented seven out of the past nine shows and eight out of the past eleven (counting each night of TV tapings as one show, going by the match that was taped last in the building); basically every main event that wasn’t Cody defending the ROH World Title on PPV, the finals of the Soaring Eagle Cup, or Omega defending his IWGP US Title in a match that featured copious run-ins by Bullet Club and CHAOS anyway). Wouldn’t people rather see matches that feel like they have actual meaning than another random flip-fest where the result winds up being irrelevant?
I also don’t understand why they did this bait-and-switch at all. Unless that angle that creates the bait-and-switch is a necessary component of your story then just announce the card you’re going to run. I understand if you feel the need to do a segment setting up Amell’s involvement in the match, but there was no reason not to just announce the main event as Bullet Club vs. Daniels, Kazarian, Flip, & Sky. And if you’re trying to keep the shows under three hours like ROH seems to be trying to do, why would you announce your card in such a way that it forces you to waste time on your show doing a segment to set up the actual card rather than just announcing the actual card in the first place and saving as much time as possible for wrestling. It is a wrestling show, after all.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST 2017 FIRST ROUND MATCH: Silas Young vs. Josh Woods- 6/10
They had a fine match. Woods was a good babyface and looked as good as I’ve seen him in an ROH ring, while Silas was his usual great heel self. Silas cheated to win, because G-d forbid we have a clean finish.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST 2017 FIRST ROUND MATCH: Shane Taylor vs. Beer City Bruiser- 4.5/10
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST 2017 FIRST ROUND MATCH: Jay Lethal vs. Punishment Martinez- 7.25/10
Another great showing for Martinez, and Lethal continues to be the most consistently great worker on the roster. I love how Martinez finds ways to sell while feeling like a monstrous force. Even when Martinez is the one doing the selling, it never feels like the babyface is out of danger- or even in control of things.
Martinez kicking out of Hail to the King at one felt big, but I think they didn’t follow up on it well enough. If you’re going to put the guy over that strongly then really put him over. Don’t have Scrull cause a distraction that gives Martinez time to recover protects Lethal in a completely unproductive way, and the idea that Marty thought Lethal would just hit Martinez with the umbrella right in front of the referee is ridiculous. The villainous Jay Lethal that Marty wants to bring out again was WAY too smart for that.
What they should have done was had a short ref bump during which Scurll came out and tossed the umbrella into the ring. Then there is some real temptation for Lethal to use it, making it more dramatic when he responds by throwing it out of the ring. At that point I would just have Marty storm out, as him getting hit with the umbrella while trying to interfere in Lethal’s match doesn’t actually add to the story of their feud (that Marty wants to make the old, heel Jay Lethal come out) in any way; it just makes Marty angry. Then I would have had them wrestle for five or ten mote minutes before Martinez won clean. This way Martinez’s win is still clean and Lethal still rejects cheating, but you can see how it might create doubts in Lethal’s mind that it might have been better for his career to cheat by using the umbrella to beat Martinez (something that would be exacerbated by Martinez’s eventual victory in this tournament, earning for Martinez the ROH World Title shot that Lethal so badly wants).
THE KINGDOM vs. SEARCH & DESTROY (Jonathan Gresham & the Motor City Machine Guns)- 6.5/10
There was some very good stuff in here, but it was dragged down by pointless, stupid comedy like guys grabbing each other’s nuts right in front of the referee with no DQ. This match really helped clarify to me why Search & Destroy did nothing for Jonathan Gresham: it stuck him in these random six-man tags where not only was he third dog to Sabin and Shelley, but they were matches where everyone was just doing a bunch of impressive spots, which not only didn’t allow Gresham to stand out, but steered the matches away from Gresham’s best attribute, which is technical skill.
DEONNA PURRAZZO vs. BRITT BAKER- 4.75/10
They had a good little match, but the operative word there is “little.” They had no storyline of any kind to make the match matter- not even a championship to try to earn a shot at- and they were only given about eight minutes. They did the best they could with the time they had, but these matches won’t be what they need to be until the booker gives them the time they need to deliver.
REY COMETA & ESFINGE vs. THE DAWGS (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara)- 6.5/10
CMLL sends you guys and THIS is the match you book them in? Are you kidding me? That being said, the match was shockingly good, but I think that booking these guys against the lowest heels on the totem pole added to the already-existing feeling that ROH had absolutely no idea what to do with these CMLL guys and were just using them as filler (if these guys weren’t booked on this show, The Dawgs wouldn’t have been, either) and were just using them as an example of this relatively empty partnership with CMLL, as opposed to using them in ways that would actually excite people like booking them against guys with similar styles like the Bucks or Flip, or all-around guys who can have a great match with them like Jay Lethal or Christopher Daniels, or booking them against guys who would at least create an interesting clash of styles like The Briscoes or Punishment Martinez.
ROH TV TITLE MATCH: Kenny King(c) vs. Joey Ryan- DUD!
You know that thing we’ve been doing for the past year where we totally kill the value of the TV Title by not having one single feud for it and instead just give title shots to guys who everyone knows have no chance of winning because they either don’t work for ROH or are on their way out the door? Let’s keep doing that. That sounds like a good idea. After all, trying to actually build up contenders for the belt would be, like, work and stuff.
And we’re not just going to give this title shot to a random bring-in who everyone knows has zero chance of winning the belt. We’re going to give this completely unearned title shot to a comedy goof. And even a guy like Colt Cabana or Lord Gideon Grey where we keep the pretense of pro wrestling. No, we’re going to give this shot to a guy whose matches consist of pretending that his penis is made of steel, and so he spends all match trying to for his opponent to put his hand on it so he can pretend to use his penis to flip the guy over. There was no pro wrestling going on here. If Joey Ryan was doing a comedy show and Kenny King was some plant he called up from the audience they could have done this same routine.
And this isn’t just anyone doing this. It’s the freakin’ ROH TV Champion! If, as BJ Whitmer insisted to us on commentary, “he’s no joke” then why the f*ck is he taking a ridiculous pratfall where he headbutts Joey Ryan in the nuts and then pretending to be knocked out because of Joey’s magical penis? They might as well have let Joey Ryan pull down his trunks and hump the belt until he ejaculated on it, then take it home with him. This belt is now officially- and nearly irredeemably- a joke.
You want to bring in Joey Ryan to have a comedy match? Fine. Book him against Rhett Titus, give one of the Luchadores the title shot, and stick the other one in the main event so that the apparently babyface Bullet Club don’t have a numbers advantage.
And if all that wasn’t enough for you, for added tastelessness, the first time Joey tried to put Kenny’s hand on his dick, Kenny grabbed a mic and accused Joey of sexual harassment. Fine. Then Kenny got the fans to chant “NO MEANS NO!” Then Kenny and Joey proceeded to that same spot several more times, with the fans cheering louder and louder each time as Kenny’s hand was forced closer and to Joey’s dick against his will. Because sexual harassment is definitely something we should be making light of. Although, in their defense, it’s definitely funnier and totally okay to make a joke about it if it’s two dudes because gay LOL. F*ck this company.
DALTON CASTLE vs. MARTY SCURLL- 6/10
This was a very disappointing match that very much speaks to the state of ROH right now. Dalton is on his way to winning the ROH World Title, and Marty Scurll is a top heel and is seen by many fans as a future world champion. These guys are put in the semi-main event, and get… fourteen minutes. Most of the match was pretty good, but there was one sizable chunk in the middle where they ground things to a halt just to set up a spot where Scurll- the heel, shoved the referee so the referee shoved him back in a forced manner, which in turn was used to set up a ref bump, so that they could do the following: German Suplex by Dalton for a visual pinfall, umbrella shot by Scurll for a nearfall with a groggy referee. This sounds like it shouldn’t take that long, but it did. Or at least it felt like it. If they had just wrestled the whole way through and gotten a few more minutes they could have put on something really great, but instead they had three quarters of a house show match that they ground do a halt so they could do a ref bump and a weapon shot.
Even more frustrating were the fans. They were horrible in the previous match, but in this one they found a whole new way to piss me off. Marty signaled that he was going to break Dalton’s fingers, and the fans all cheered. Then Marty did so, and the fans chanted “YOU SICK F*CK!” at him. YOU F*CKING IDIOTS JUST TOLD HIM TO DO IT! People like to call these “hot” crowds, but is it really a hot crowd if when Dalton gets a visual pinfall and they chant “THAT WAS SIX!” they’re not chanting it because they’re upset that Dalton got screwed (if they were, they wouldn’t have cheered for Marty trying to break his fingers or hitting him with an umbrella) but simply because it’s the opportune thing to chant at that moment?
HANDICAP MATCH: Scorpio Sky, Flip Gordon & The Addiction vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, & Stephen Amell)- 6.75/10
I’m sure people will like this a lot more than I did, but, quite frankly, this felt less like a wrestling match and more like Bullet Club and their friends just doing stuff and having fun in the ring. Having fun is nice, but this is a main event in Ring of Honor. There are plenty of other promotions you can pepper your main events with flips and antics in, but ROH shouldn’t be one of them. Amell was in impressive for a non-wrestler, but his presence hurt this match for me by making it feel like a “WWE brings in a celebrity to have a match” situation (and him and Cody being in it together compounded that feeling) rather than an ROH main event. It made it feel a lot more like entertainment than a sport, which would have been fine for an “unauthorized” ROH show like A Night of Hoopla, but not for a regular show. Now factor in that we lost the advertised main event of The Addiction vs. Kenny & Cody and it felt like they took away a big ROH/NJPW main event that would matter to a story and instead gave us this WWE/PWG celebrity friend and flips hybrid, and I was extremely disappointed with this. If you like the flips and shtick brand of wrestling that has emerged over the past few years, you’ll probably love this. If not, you won’t.
A very disappointing show from ROH, and almost certainly towards the bottom of the barrel in the promotion’s history (of which we have now had two in five weeks, between both this and Global Wars 2017: Columbus. This was supposed to be night one of Survival of the Fittest, but it really felt like one of those “unauthorized” shows, with some very random match-ups, lots of comedy, and even most of the regular matches feeling like they were worked with a mentality of doing as little as possible while still having a passable match. The eponymous Survival of the Fittest wound up feeling like a non-factor; like something they figured they would just get out of the way early so that they could get on to their comedy matches. Even when they started having the SOTF first round matches on a different night than the finals, the night with the qualifiers still always felt like SOTF was the driving force on that show. Tonight it didn’t, and with the lack of Glory By Honor this year, SOTF is starting to feel like yet another piece of ROH history that is being discarded for no reason. And that’s completely counter-productive when you’re trying to sell me these DVDs by putting “Survival of the Fittest” on the cover.
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