ROH Reloaded Tour 2016: Lockport (9/17/2016)- Lockport, NY
STORY TIME WITH ADAM COLE- frustrating, but through no fault of Cole’s
Kevin Kelly told us that Cole wanted to cut a promo on this show, but Nigel wants Cole to wrestle. Well… WHY CAN’T HE DO BOTH?! He’s got to wrestle when ROH tells him do because he’s under contract to them.
Cole comes out and clarifies: Apparently Nigel’s idea was for Cole to face “a local underdog.” Didn’t Lethal set up a match for himself against a local underdog back in April when he was champion and it was treated as if he was doing something wrong? So why is Nigel trying to book Cole against some local nobody? Cole is unhappy about this because he says it disrespects both him and the title. He’s not wrong, either. This is SOOOO backwards.
Cole says he’s not wrestling tonight, but will be doing guest commentary for the Honor Rumble. He says he is better than Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino, and he’s not wrong about that, either. He puts over the Honor Rumble, and cuts an otherwise good heel promo. He says that one of the Young Bucks will win the Honor Rumble and then, in Florida, we will see a “five-star fingerpoke of doom.” Then Cole heads to the back.
Cole’s promo was good, although I could have done without him flat-out telling everyone what Bullet Club’s evil plan was if one of the Bucks wins the Honor Rumble. It seems pretty foolish for him to reveal it for no reason. The part of this that frustrates me, though, is their attempt to add this stupid narrative which only succeeds in making the babyfaces (Nigel and Kevin Kelly) look like hypocrites and the heel look like a babyface. If you want to try to get heat on Cole for not wrestling here in TOWN X and make him look like he is being needlessly difficult with Nigel, why not have Cole be the one to set up his “first ROH World Title defense” against a local tomato can? You could have Cole easily dispose of him and bury him and the city, and then you do the same deal they did later on to set up Cole vs. Lethal tonight so that the people aren’t really getting screwed and they do get to see Adam Cole wrestle a real match? Or you could set up a babyface challenger by having Cole defend the title against some babyface who would get screwed via interference from the Bucks, setting up the expectation that the babyface in question would then win the Honor Rumble, which you could then subvert because you already have grounds to give this babyface a rematch, which could happen at Glory By Honor weekend or on the Florida show where the Honor Rumble winner isn’t getting a title shot, or even in the UK (and Cole would win clean). Delirious is just sooo incompetent at basically any attempt at a story that doesn’t take place purely in front of the fans, and it would be SOOOOOO EASY to just stick to the basics of pro wrestling (which is what ROH is supposed to be about) in order to do this sh*t right, but for whatever reason he feels the need to try to include these stupid little backstage stories, and it always makes things worse.
JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. KAMAITACHI- 6.75/10
Kamaitachi came out to the ring wearing his old mask. I thought losing your mask in a Lucha De Apuesta means that you can’t do that anymore.
The match was pretty great, despite the best efforts of the announcers to ignore it. They spent more time putting over the upcoming Ladder War than they did talking about this match (as if anyone ordering a DVD or VOD of a house show wouldn’t already know about the Ladder War at the PPV, and even if they didn’t, there were two matches on this show whose entire purpose was to hype up the Ladder War). The most infuriating part of this was when Corino randomly asked Kevin Kelly for his opinion on BUSHI winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from KUSHIDA at the New Japan show that took place earlier that day. Meanwhile, two guys who the company theoretically views as up-and-coming future stars in the ring having a wrestling match.
The match was pretty great. It would have been a 7/10 if Gresham had remembered to sell his hand once he started to make his comeback. This match actually reminded me of the kind of opener Gabe would book where he would take young undercard guys who he knew were talented and give them the time to go out there and really show their stuff- which is exactly the sort of thing ROH has completely failed to do with guys like Donovan Dijak, Lio Rush, and Will Ferrara, and failed to capitalize on when they have given such opportunities to guys like ACH, Dalton Castle, and Cedric Alexander when those guys have been given the chance and delivered.
MATT JACKSON vs. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS vs. CHRIS SABIN- 6.5/10
Mostly moves, but with the story of “one guy is on the outside while the other two fight it out in the ring, then switch.” It was fine, aside from the fact that some of the dives felt very choreographed. The finish was Sabin nailing Jackson with the Cradle Shock but then Daniels ran in from behind and rolled him up. Unfortunately, none of the announcers in any way indicated that the Cradle Shock was any sort important move, never mind Sabin’s finisher.
Even the f*cking Silas Young t-shirt commercials all have to be comedy.
JAY LETHAL vs. SILAS YOUNG- 7.25/10
The announcers actually started off paying 100% attention to this match, and for those first few minutes they were very good. Then they once again trailed off, first talking about stuff that was tangentially related to this match (how odd it supposedly is to them to not hear Lethal announced as a champion anymore. Personally, I didn’t even notice), then even more tangential stuff (Shibata beating Bobby Fish to retain the NEVER Openweight Title and them claiming that Shibata went into that match injured due to the punishment he took in his match with Silas at Death Before Dishonor XIV, which is laughable because anyone who saw that match knows that Shibata got about 70% of the offense, and didn’t sell a further 80% of what Silas did hit him with), before finally trailing off into making stupid jokes about ring announcer Bobby Cruise “politicking” to be in the Honor Rumble. Because of their mindless babbling, they missed an important moment where Silas, who had been dominating, taunted Lethal by saying “Come on, Jay. I thought you were a champion,” which then led to Lethal firing up and making his comeback.
Said comeback was short-lived, however, as Lethal hurt his knee doing his suicide dive, and that became the new story of the match. The worked on that for a bit, giving Silas some good nearfalls, but Lethal eventually picked up the win.
Knowing how the top two matches on this show were going to turn out, I was quite disappointed by this result. Honor Rumbles throughout ROH’s history have mostly resulted in throw-away title defenses, with the only exception being the one tag team Honor Rumble in 2009. Tonight showed an effort to change that, but part of changing that involves making the winner seem like more of a threat than past midcard winners have been made to seem like. I really think it would have added an extra dynamic to Silas’s title shot if Silas had beaten Lethal here. ROH seems intent on holding off Lethal’s rematch with Cole, and the idea that Lethal lost here would be a kayfabe reason to do that. Furthermore it creates an interesting wrinkle for Silas to be able to cut promos on Cole saying “I beat Jay Lethal when he was fresh. You lost to him when he had already wrestled two matches” to make Silas seem like a more credible threat. Yes, deep down we all know Silas won’t be the one to take the belt from Cole, but this win over Lethal could at least be used as SOMETHING to try to elevate Silas with.
NICK JACKSON vs. FRANKIE KAZARIAN vs. ALEX SHELLEY- 6.5/10
Kaz flipped the other two off in the beginning, so the babyface and the heel doesn’t realize he is supposed to be a heel teamed up on Kazarian, and I started to feel bad for the guy. From there the story progressed to Nick Jackson double-crossing people. Shelley did that stupid spot where he grabs one of the Bucks by scrotum but never gets DQed. At that point I decided that I was going to root for Kazarian, because his opponents were a cheater and a guy who keeps betraying people. Kaz, let me remind you, he is a cowardly heel who delights in denying the fans and throwing false accusations at the promotion. I SHOULD NOT BE WANTING TO ROOT FOR THIS GUY.
THE CABINET vs. JAY WHITE, LIO RUSH, & ACH- 6.5/10
The Cabinet takes a knee during the Code of Honor, and the announcers are more critical of them than they are of guys who flat out refuse to shake hands. This completely kills not only whatever angle they are trying to get over, but also any time someone refuses to follow the Code of Honor at the beginning of a match to try to get heat.
According to Kevin Kelly, Alex Shelley has been mentoring these three young babyfaces, even though the only one we have seen him interact with on-screen aside from having a match against them is Jay White. So I guess we’re getting the “young guy mentored by a veteran” story again. You know… that thing Delirious just abruptly ended with ACH and Sydal after it went nowhere for a year and a half. But it’s nice to see that ACH is making some progress up the card, and that past mistakes will surely not be repeated.
This was your standard six-man tag. Jay White was the babyface in peril. Kenny King’s ribs were more taped up than I have ever seen anyone’s ribs (he looked to be in severe pain when he hit a superplex as part of the finish). The announcers spent significantly less time talking about this than they did talking about Kevin Kelly’s upcoming trip to New Zealand to call a wrestling show for a completely different promotion.
THE BRISCOES vs. COLT CABANA & DALTON CASTLE (w/the Boys)- 7/10
Cabana and Castle are apparently going to be a regular team from now on. Apparently what happened was that both of them got frustrated at their failures to win singles gold, so they are going to team up and try to go for the tag titles. It’s not bad or anything, but it would have been nice to see either of these men express some frustration, and maybe see one of them approach the other and offer to team up. You know… like they were trying to tell some sort of story with this?
This was a great match aside from the detour into stupid, pointless comedy. I really hope we don’t get this from Castle and Cabana in every match. This was Castle and Cabana’s first match official match as a team, and knowing where they were going at the PPV, I think they missed a bit opportunity to give these guys some major (and much-needed) credibility by not giving them the big upset win here over the Briscoes.
Kevin Kelly claiming that ROH is currently “true to its roots” made me throw up in my mouth.
HONOR RUMBLE- 7.75/10
Adam Cole came out to do commentary, and immediately sent Steve Corino to the back to get him coffee, which made Corino look way too weak, IMO. He shouldn’t be so obsessed with Bullet Club anymore after they attacked him back at Global Wars 2016. The good news is that this would all actually matter later on.
The first two in were Lethal and Silas, so we started off with a rematch from earlier. The ring then started to fill with the tag team division. When Nick Jackson came out, he came out with boxes of pizza, which he started giving to fans at ringside. I thought this was a HUGE missed opportunity, as he should have been a heel and teased the fans with the pizza, instead only giving some to Cole.
Speaking of Adam Cole and food, Corino soon emerged from the back in his gear, as a participant in the Honor Rumble, yelling at Cole instead of bringing him coffee. Throughout the night they had been joking about Corino’s record in battle royales, which is supposedly 0-88, and between that tidbit and the spot they did with Cole, it did a great job of making it seem like Corino might actually come out of this thing as the winner.
Nick Jackson invited Corino to join him in a superkick party, which overjoyed Steve, but after the first one, Nick turned on him, picking up where he left off in his previous match.
As odd as it is to start talking specifics then transition to talking about the match in general and then go back to specifics, that’s just what I’m going to do. First: some credit where credit is due: As I alluded to earlier, past Honor Rumbles have failed to feel important in any way. They were either mostly filled with students and undercard guys or were for a title shot later in the night in a spot everyone knew the winner had no chance of winning, or just felt like a way to fill time on TV and set up a random title shot no one really cared about. They were like a random battle royale on Smackdown, mostly full of undercard geeks for a title shot everyone knows won’t matter. Here, ROH tried to make it feel like the Royale Rumble. They had twenty-five entrants instead of the usual twenty, and we got a lot of the Royale Rumble staples: The surprise entrants (Corino and the debuting Bull James), the guy who comes in and gets eliminated right away (Caprice, who even did a Bushwhacker walk to the back), big-man face-offs (lots of those), the guy who comes in and starts running wild with his finisher (Rush), and most importantly, the little stories that help these matches feel like more than just a bunch of guys going over the top rope.
In this match there were three big stories running through. The first was Lethal and Silas being the first two in and the last two left, with Lethal’s knee injury playing into his tenure, making him feel like even more of an underdog. There was also the build up to the Ladder War, which was gotten over by Matt Jackson bringing a ladder to use as a weapon, and by the Bucks eliminating themselves just to go after their hated enemies (which I believe also happened in the tag team battle royale back in 2009). The other story here was the dominance of Punisher Martinez and then of Bull James, who dominated the match while they were in it (especially Martinez) and after their simultaneous elimination, they brawled to the back, so I guess that is going to lead to a match down the road. There were other minor stories as well (Cheeseburger lasting so long, Jay White looking impressive, etc.), but those were the big takeaways. If we have to keep doing periodical Honor Rumbles, his is definitely the sort of approach they should be taking.
Much credit is also due to Adam Cole for his performance on commentary. He managed to put guys over while still being very entertaining by focusing his commentary on the logical idea that he wanted to face an easy challenger, and thus he was cheering for Cheeseburger and talking about how Martinez is very “impressive. I hope he loses.” He also did a great job of selling his fear when the Bucks eliminated themselves to go after MCMG and the Addiction rather than remaining in the match and working to win it as per Cole’s plan.
All of that being said, there are some nits I must pick. They tried to explain the absence of the Briscoes, Dalton, and Cabana by saying that they had just wrestled a match so they couldn’t come out here to wrestle, but that doesn’t seem very in-keeping with the Briscoes’ characters (or Colt’s or Dalton’s, really), and the fact that Kenny King came out to wrestle this match with his ribs to taped up and after having already wrestled made them look bad, IMO.
The other one, unsurprisingly, was Kevin Kelly- particularly his handling of Bull James’ debut. Rather than saying “Oh my G-d it’s Bull James! Bull James is here in ROH!” or some other such standard mix of shock and excitement and Bull’s presence, Kevin Kelly chose to be shocked because Bull is here in ROH when he is supposed to be in Philly tonight, wrestling for House of Hardcore. It’s just another illustration of one of Kevin’s major flaws, which is that he seems to be operating on a slightly different, more “inside” level than the audience he is supposed to be communicating with. We’re all surprised that Bull James is here. Kevin is surprised that Bull James is here because Bull James was supposed to be somewhere else. As a viewer, it makes me feel like I am missing necessary information, which makes me feel lost. (Also, the way Kevin put it over makes Bull look like a dick for no-showing House of Hardcore to come work for ROH, which makes me not like him, but Kevin and ROH clearly want me to react to him like he is a babyface).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- didn’t like it.
Silas cuts a promo demanding that Lethal shake his hand like he did earlier, then snubs Lethal on the handshake. This felt out of character for Silas, who had touted his own shaking Lethal’s hand after a loss as what a “real man” would do, so it seems odd that he would insist that Lethal do the same (i.e. try to force him to be a “real man”), only to snub him, denying him the opportunity.
Then Silas walked off. If he said anything at all about wanting to win the ROH World Title on October 22nd in Lakeland, FL when he gets the title shot he earned by winning this match, I didn’t catch it. This was extra peculiar with ROH World Champion Adam Cole standing right there. This all made it seem like Silas’ win here was merely an excuse to set up for the Cole-Lethal part of this segment, essentially making Silas a complete and total afterthought as far as the story of the main eventers are concerned, which is the exact opposite of what they need to be doing if they want to make the Honor Rumble (or Silas’ upcoming title shot) feel important.
So Silas leaves and Cole then laughs at Lethal. He says that Jay has never been more “down in the dumps,” which is a line that would have worked better if Jay had lost earlier tonight as well. Lethal responds by calling Cole a disgraceful champion for not defending the title against a local wrestler. At the very least, if Lethal was going to do this, you’d think you would have him go out of his way to mention that he went out of his way to do so when he was champion back in April, just to make it feel like there is some real continuity going on here and that that title defense actually had more purpose than just filling up space on a card.
Lethal then reminded Cole that he is still owned his contractually obligated rematch for the ROH World Title and said that if Cole doesn’t think a local competitor is worthy to challenge him, then he is willing to face Cole right here, right now. Cole still refused, which completely baffled me. Cole is completely fresh, while Lethal has already wrestled twice tonight, (including a neat forty-five minute performance just now in the Honor Rumble) AND he has an injured knee. You’d think Cole would LOVE to let Lethal have his rematch right here, right now. Or if Cole thinks being in street clothes would put him at a disadvantage, you’d think that he would at least be down for a non-title match, right? But no. In Delirious’ mind, heels refuse matches and Cole is a heel, therefore Cole refuses this match, completely ignoring that the logic of this situation should make Cole want to accept this match due to the numerous advantages he would have.
Cole walks off, so Lethal taunts him by saying “I didn’t know you were the ROH Women’s Champion.” Way to put over the Women of Honor division, there, Jay. The taunt works and Cole demands the match, so get…
JAY LETHAL vs. ADAM COLE- 6/10
Pretty much seven straight minutes of going for finishers, but that’s what was called for when you have a main event that can’t go too long because Lethal is both tired and injured. Lethal won by reversing a figure four leg lock into a small package, which was definitely the right finish.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- fine
Cole attacks Lethal. The Bucks come out to help him. They get up to smash his injured knee with a chair, but fortunately for Lethal, Cole takes forever to actually swing the f*cking thing so Colt Cabana, Dalton Castle, & the Briscoes have time to show up to make the save.
Having both teams come out was a good touch, as it not only ensures that Bullet Club is outnumbered, but in hindsight it also does some work to build to the eventual Cabana & Castle vs. Young Bucks ROH World Tag Team Title match, without seeming out of place that Castle & Cabana would be out here, as Colt has been feuding with Bullet Club and based on this weekend’s results, Dalton does seem to have been roped in. But, of course, if you are thinking enough ahead to subtly build to that, then why not give Castle & Cabana the win over the Briscoes earlier?!
I know it feels like I keep coming back to that point or similar points about how they could have booked this show better, both to build up to the PPV and the TV and house shows beyond, but that’s because it is something that is really bothering me, and I think that tonight’s show finally helped me put into words a lot of what is bugging me.
ROH’s booking of non-televised shows for the past year has been unadventurous to a fault. You don’t always know who is going to win, but you’re never surprised either, especially when it comes to the big names and big matches. The tippy-top babyfaces are always protected and most of the heels are going to have to cheat to win, and they always go with the “safe” result or safe main event, meaning that they do what they think will make the crowd happy at the end of the show, whether it’s have the main event be an important match that people will pop for because it will be fast-paced and spotty, or make sure the babyface goes over in the end.
And theoretically that isn’t a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing when it becomes where it’s more important to overprotect your top babyface than to give the wins to someone who needs them to help elevate them or try to keep good heat on your heels. There is no reason that the Briscoes should have won EITHER of their tag team matches this weekend because other teams needed the wins to be seen as credible competitors in a #1 contendership match on the PPV, but the Briscoes won both of their matches this weekend, defeating three of the four teams in the #1 contendership match in the process. Similarly, Jay Lethal did not need to win his earlier match with Silas Young, and if Lethal was going to beat Cole here, then Lethal, Castle, & Cabana did not need to defeat Cole & Young Bucks last night. They are your top heels and they need to be protected, and Lethal not being able to defeat them would play into Cole’s promo tonight much better, not to mention make for a better story if the babyface actually has to work hard for something instead of just winning all of the time.
Obviously this is a bad thing because it will hurt DVD/VOD sales, and, over time, probably hurt house show attendance, too, if fans start to think they won’t see anything that matters, but there is a bigger problem here as well. Like we’ve seen from WWE themselves, this safe, unadventurous, “protect the top babyface at all costs so that the crowd will always be cheering” booking will severely impede the creation of new stars. We’ve seen it in WWE, and we’ve seen it here in ROH, too. The fans go nuts for Dalton Castle, and yet even after winning his big feud with Silas Young, he hasn’t been elevated at all. ACH goes out there and puts on fantastic matches whenever he is given the time to deliver, but he is still nothing more than a flippy babyface midcarder. Lio Rush won this year’s Top Prospect Tournament, but now, six months later, he hasn’t done a single thing since then. Donovan Dijak, last year’s Top Prospect Tournament, has similarly done nothing. Will Ferrara has been a hard-working blue-chip prospect for two whole years now and hasn’t even had a single feud. Silas Young, despite being one of the most over heels in the company and feuding with every babyface they put in front of him, still doesn’t feel like he is anywhere higher on the card than he was when he came into the company full-time three years ago. For ROH’s own sake, this is a trend that needs to be reversed, and quickly.
This was a "solid" show, but nothing better, either. The wrestling was very good and the Honor Rumble was worth seeing, but everything else was pretty bland. It's a bunch of matches that get between 10-16 minutes (didn't time them, that's just me going on instinct). Like with the booking philosophy, it's all certainly "good," but there is very little that really feels like it was worth seeing, either. Most of the matches felt similar enough that they seemed to blend together. Hopefully the Cole-Lethal stuff at the end will turn out to be more than just an excuse to pop the crowd at the of the show at the expense of the top heel and world champion.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Completely out of nowhere, Kevin Kelly tells us that “J. Diesel has been helping train Cheeseburger.” WHAT?
A. J. Diesel has never been anything but an undercard heel lackey, so why would he help train Cheeseburger?
B. J. Diesel has an atrocious win-loss record, and Cheeseburger already trains at the ROH Dojo, so why would Burger ever go to J. Diesel for training?
C. Cheeseburger has been training for over three and a half years at this point. Is there really anything that more training will do for him?
And more importantly: Even if this is true, what purpose does it serve to tell us this? It’s not going to matter in any way beyond this one match, and if you want to explain why Diesel is helping Cheeseburger, all you have to do is follow what Adam Cole has been saying, which is that Cheeseburger is the least threatening guy in the match and therefore it makes sense that Diesel would want to keep Cheeseburger around to save him for last, getting Cheeseburger’s help eliminating the more threatening men first.
Yes, the adage is true that the more you tell the fans the truth the more willing they will be to accept it when you work them, but that doesn’t mean that you MUST tell the truth in every single instance unless an angle requires that you don’t. The reason for that is because random, unimportant details that don’t actually help a story do nothing but confuse people by giving us details that are supposedly important (otherwise why go out of your way to point them out) but either never matter in the storylines or go against our kayfabe expectations, making fans feel lost. Whether it’s true or not, we don’t need to know that J. Diesel is helping train Cheeseburger or that Will Ferrara and Rhett Titus are travelling partners (which Kevin Kelly also referred to in this match) or who has helped mentor who backstage, so don’t tell us. I’m not saying lie through your teeth and claim that Ferrara and Titus hate each other’s guts or whatever because that would be almost as bad. I’m saying that in a situation like this, it’s better to not say anything than to confuse people by telling the truth.