ROH Masters of the Craft 2018

ROH Masters of the Craft 2018

By Big Red Machine
From April 15, 2018

ROH Masters of the Craft 2018

THE DAWGS vs. COAST 2 COAST - 4.75/10

The match was fine for the time it got. I've been a big supporter of Rhett's for years and I like Coast 2 Coast, and Ferrara is inoffensive if he's just being used to fill a spot but... okay, look:

Coast 2 Coast won the match. It was a nice little babyface victory. Ian Riccaboni says "You've got to think their rise will continue throughout 2018." And then they get attacked from behind and laid out by The Dawgs, and it feels like they were immediately dragged back down. They spent all of last year losing and the big payoff was supposed to be their victory over War Machine at the post-Final Battle TV tapings... and now we're three months later and they're right back where they were before.

And this isn't the first time this has happened, either! How many times did we see it with Cedric Alexander or Donovan Dijak where they would either get some big win or be involved in some big angle or turn heel and we were always told that it was definitely the start of big things for them and then a few months later they were right back down where they started? Even Adam Page had that problem for the longest time. Even after his big win over Jay Briscoe that they made such a big deal about, he went right back to being Bullet Club's job-boy for months after that. It's not until his feud with Kazarian that he starts to feel like someone who actually matters, over two years after the first "this is a game-changing moment for Adam Page" moment. Being on that undercard is a career death sentence unless you've got a gimmick that really stands out (Dalton Castle) or someone with stroke wants to look out for you (Adam Page, Flip Gordon), so when I see Coast 2 Coast and Cheeseburger and The Dawgs and Brian Milonas going around in circles with pointless feuds that just take up space on the card, it makes it hard to enjoy because it just feels like they're wasting my time so that they can do what amounts to a subtle commercial for the ROH Dojo.

Silas Young(c) vs. Cheeseburger - 5.75/10

The graphic when Silas entered read "Tenille Dashwood." Whoops.
For those wondering what Cheeseburger did to earn a shot at the TV Title (which you should be, considering that his record in ROH over the past ten months is 3-12-3 (with two more losses on purely New Japan shows if you want to count those), the answer is that one of his wins (back on January 20th) was in a dark match that was also a #1 contendership match for the TV Title. In that match he beat Caprice Coleman, Jonathan Gresham, and Josh Woods. Caprice is a respected veteran, and Woods and Gresham are two guys the company very clearly has high hopes for. Why the hell am I now watching Silas Young defending the ROH World TV Title against f*cking Cheeseburger- a comedy jobber- instead of respected veteran Caprice Coleman, 2017 Top Prospect Tournament winner Josh Woods, or the best submission wrestler in the company, Jonathan Gresham?

Anyway, in a vacuum, this was better than the usual "Cheeseburger is an underdog" match, so at least that made it more watchable. The problem is that this doesn't take place in a vacuum. Silas Young is the ROH World Television Champion. Him giving up 75% of the offense in a nine-minute match to a comedy jobber just makes the belt look bad. And speaking of things that made something look bad...

BULLY RAY CONFRONTS CHEESEBURGER - Bad. Bully Ray comes out and buries Cheeseburger. You'd think he would have been fired after his actions at the last show where he neglected his duty as "ROH Enforcer" all night long, then assaulted Cheeseburger and threatened go give him a Piledriver, including in his threat both an intention to break Burger's neck as well as to get the show shut down by the Louisiana State Athletic Commission, as well as insulting the boss, but apparently he has suffered no repercussions whatsoever.

He rambles on about how Cheeseburger is a spoiled young-boy who hasn't paid his dues (using all of those actual terms). It was every clichéd "angry old veteran" promo you've ever heard, and by this point we've all heard so many of them that I'm sick and tired of it. I don't really want to hear them from anyone, never mind an old washed-up Bully Ray. Burger called Bully an asshole so Bully chokeslammed him. Flip Gordon came out to make the save and he got some offense in but Bully made a comeback and beat up both Flip and Cheeseburger at the same time. He put on his WWE Hall of Fame ring and flipped the crowd off with it. Meanwhile, the crowd, which had just been supporting Cheeseburger, started to chant "HALL OF FAMER!" I'm not sure whether they're too dumb to understand the (extremely simple and obvious) angle or they're just morons who are obsessed with chanting things because they think that's what a good wrestling crowd does. Either way, it's infuriating, just like this whole segment was.


So our heel team is a bad worker who is only in the company because of who she is married to, a past-her-prime woman who was never really anything of a standout even when she was in her prime and who has the TNA stink all over her, and a woman so bland I think I'm going to start referring to her as "Generic" Jenny Rose.

Jenny Rose didn't shake Sumie's hand even though Sumie is her mentor and she wants a shot at Sumie's title. Because that's definitely a way to make both Sumie and the office want to give you a title shot. Moron.

They had a totally generic match that went seven minutes. Sumie pinned Brandi, a finish that does absolutely nothing to help establish a challenger for Sumie, and actually hurts the only thing close to challenger they have in Jenny Rose because Jenny was on the losing side in tonight's match.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Deonna Purrazzo grabs a mic and says that she's perfectly fine with not having won the tournament to become the inaugural Women of Honor Champion because Kelly Klein didn't win either. Way to sh*t on the new belt, Deonna. She then recounts a conversation she had back in December with Kelly Klein in which, in Deonna's own telling of the story, she comes off as a total asshole. Kelly Klein came out and asked Deonna why she hasn't tried to talk to her in the locker room for months, noting that Deonna only runs her mouth when she's out in front of the crowd and Kelly isn't, or when Deonna has a bunch of her friends in the room. This makes Deonna come off like even more of a heel.

Deonna invites Kelly to come fight her now but Kelly doesn't, so now they've made it clear that Kelly is a coward, but Deonna still came off as an asshole. Kelly tried to announce a match between them for the show on April 27th but got the city wrong. Deonna corrected her and called her an idiot. I don't blame her for the idiot comment because it makes sense in character and in context, but it led to them exchanging insults in a way that, while it did feel natural, felt painfully catty. That's not inherently bad, but it does come off as clichéd, and when combined with Kelly atrocious line about how she was going to kick Deonna's ass "in front of everyone watching on Honor Club," it made this feel like a low-level indy full of generic wrestlers trying to pretend that their now streaming services is the biggest thing ever. It was the sort of line that detracts from the feeling of anger and hatred that is supposed to be present in this sort of situation.

They called each other bitches, and the announcers are apparently now back to acting like this was somehow edgy and that the entire promotion could get in trouble because on a show being broadcast only to paying subscribers on the promotion's own streaming platform, someone said a word that you're even allowed to say in prime time on network television. Then they made sure to tell us that Deonna's punishment for this supposedly dire violation of societal norms, Deonna would be fined a whole one hundred dollars.

This is the sort of sh*t that makes the promotion look so completely uncool, and it needs to stop immediately. Not just because it's dumb but because, when you combine it with everything else we've seen so far tonight, this show has come off extremely small-time. We've seen a bunch of short matches with non-stars who the announcers are insisting to us are a big deal even though they're in a small building in front of a crowd that feels a lot smaller than the 750 that was the reported attendance for this show. It reminds me of the time I tried to watch Paragon Pro Wrestling's TV show when they on TV a few years ago. It's a modern style of wrestling performed in an average manner on what feels like a small-time territorial show. If you're going to be the wrestling of the future, you can't come off like the promotion still thinks it's 1977, and the announcers are a key part of making or breaking that atmosphere. In ROH, they're terrible. They need someone who will either call a wrestling show in a modern manner, or at least someone who is actually capable of expressing the necessary emotions without sounding phony.


At the 56:04 mark of the show, the bell rings for the first match that feels like something I could maybe possibly care about. Then these guys started doing comedy spots to tell me that I was wrong for caring.

After that they did a bunch of random spots, then the heels got the heat on Flip, then he made the hot tag, and then they did a bunch more random spots. Everything flowed logically from one spot to the next in terms of none of it feeling totally forced or choreographed, but there wasn't any semblance of a story to it, either. It was just a collection of spots.

That being said, I really enjoyed the last three minutes or so. This started with a big sequence of guys almost all of the wrestlers in a row trying for a high-risk move but missing. I know that this sounds like the sort of thig I would normally rail against, but the thing that made it work here was that their timing was such that it actually didn't feel choreographed. There was no feeling of guys standing around not doing the logical thing for the situation because they were waiting their turn for their spot in the sequence. It felt like each wrestler came upon the situation in turn and acted naturally. The one time where it felt like they were deliberately buying time for someone was when one of the Bucks was about to do his dive but his brother told him to hold on a moment and he climbed up, too, so they could do their senton bombs together. This wouldn't have worked in any other situation, but the whole Omega-Ibushi-Bullet Club situation actually made this work because the way they set up looked like they were deliberately playing off of the Golden Shower, and I was actually expecting them to go for that move (450s) instead of a double senton bomb.

The reason I said "almost all of the wrestlers" tried for a high risk move in this sequence and missed was that the last man to go up was the very large Shane Taylor. He was about to hit Matt Jackson with a moonsault, which the announcers put over as something that would do severe damage to Matt's already injured back. Before Taylor could leap, however, Flip Gordon jumped up and stunned him with an enzugiri, saving Matt. Adam Page then powerbomed Taylor down. This led to a bit of a payoff after the match as Page, who had been hesitant about tagging Gordon in before, was willing to accept him afterwards. The announcers put this over as an important development because Cody does not want Flip in Bullet Club and Page has been one of Cody's closest allies.

The only other negatives in this match were Caprice Coleman's horrifically obnoxious commentary, and the finish. This was one of those times where they tried to get too creative, and it wound up just making things worse. Page picked Daniels up for the Rite of Passage, then Gordon got behind Daniels and hugged page around the waist, the Bucks came flying off of opposite turnbuckles to push both of their own guys down and supposedly drive Daniels into the mat with four times the force, but the physics on that doesn't check out, and the move looked both ridiculous and like it didn't hurt Daniels anywhere near as much as just the regular Rite of Passage would have.

The Briscoes(c) vs. Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett - 3/10

What the Besties in the World had done to earn a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles is unclear. What is clear, however, is that they are not close to The Briscoes' level, as Mark & Jay dominated the large majority of this relatively short match. Just about the only thing I liked here was Mark Briscoe developing a submission finisher, which is a rear naked choke.


Lethal's arm is taped up so Gresham worked that over, while Lethal worked over Gresham's leg. The match was very exciting, with lots of great counters, and both men sold extremely well. Lethal picks the win with a flash pin, so now that's two wins in a row for Lethal over Gresham, so we're giving Gresham something to shoot for here.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Lethal puts Gresham over and puts the match over, and pretty much broke kayfabe by doing so, shouting about how "STORYLINES DIDN'T MAKE THIS MATCH!" There could be a kayfabe way to look at this statement, but most people aren't going to think of it this way.
Gresham said he is certain he can beat Lethal, and challenged him to a rematch at some point down the line. Lethal accepted the challenge. I hope they give these guys more than sixteen minutes next time.

Cody Rhodes (w/Brandi Rhodes) vs. Matt Taven (w/TK O'Ryan) - 6.75/10

Cody apparently cares about Brandi tonight and thus doesn't want her out here at ringside for this dangerous match. This, of course, completely flies in the face of what they tried to push at Supercard of Honor XII just las weekend where they kept telling me that he didn't care that she got hurt.
O'Ryan put Vaseline on Taven's forehead to make it harder for punches to land solidly, but the referee saw this and wiped it off. Why didn't they just do this backstage?

Referee Paul Turner let Cody keep his ring on for the match... so I guess First Blood matches don't have disqualifications. I thought that was the case in ROH but I wasn't sure. Okay. Fine. Then why aren't the Kingdom just beating Cody up two-on-one?

Cody winds up slugging O'Ryan with the ring early on so he goes down. When he reemerges from under the ring, he's bleeding, and Ian Riccaboni suggests that the referee should try to get the ring off of Cody's finger. Are there DQs in this match or not? Because if there are then the referee is incompetent, and if there aren't then the announcers are idiots, and NEITHER of those things should be the case!

O'Ryan heads to the back just because he's bleeding, like we haven't seen guys wrestle entire matches while bleeding... which is the problem with this whole concept! It's a gimmick match that makes the match LAMER than just a regular singles match would be. I know we see guys go through tables and fight on all the time, too, but at least in a Tables Match there is a big bump at the end that feels definitive.

(I guess it's possible Turner ejected him from ringside and no one made a big deal about it, which is bad for its own obvious reasons, but I don't think that's what happened because having O'Ryan bleed and then not be able to stay at ringside because of it does theoretically make the idea of being busted open seem more devastating. It very much feels like the kind of idea Cody would come up with: while it has a solid theoretical basis behind it, it completely ignores the fact that this match is not taking place in a vacuum and that the business has changed in ways where all this does is make O'Ryan look like a wuss.)

Taven took the ring off of Cody's hand early on and put it on his own. Between this and Turner letting the fight on the outside, the announcers finally concluded that "I guess Turner is letting everything go," which is the worst of all worlds because it combines incompetent refereeing with the announcers having no idea what is going on. We finally got what seemed to be the final word in a spot later on in the match where the ref made no effort to stop Cody from using a chair and didn't DQ Taven for bunching Cody with a roll of quarters, either.

To continue this trend, Caprice Coleman asked if a little trickle of blood is enough to end the match or someone really needs to be flowing heavily. Ian Riccaboni responded that that is left up to the referee's discretion. Why are there not definitive rules to this match, and why does Caprice seem to have no idea what any of the rules are? Is it really that hard to get this right? I mean... can you imagine a professional football game where one of the broadcasters has to ask how many feet need to be touch the ground in bounds for a catch to be legal? Or if in a situation where a hockey player's stick is being measured because the other team thinks he is using an illegally-curved stick, and instead of using the official, league-approved standard measuring the device, they just let the referee "use his discretion" to decide how much of a curve is enough to warrant a penalty? The things fans complain about most in sports are things that are left up to an official's discretion, and governing bodies therefore work to eliminate this as much as possible by issuing rules that tell you hard and fast that a puck must completely cross the goal line or how much pine tar on your bat is too much or by providing chains that allow you measure exactly what is the required ten yards for a first down rather than eyeballing it and making a guess! Having ambiguities like this make it feel like Ring of Honor the kayfabe entity is negligently setting itself up for a controversial finish by not taking the obvious precautions of establishing exactly what the standard rules are. And you'd think they'd want to do that even more so in a match in which Cody- a notorious whiner- is wrestling a guy who has spent the past year claiming there is a "conspiracy" against him by higher-ups in the company in order to keep him down.

All of that being said, I think these two did just about the best job they could have given the limits of the stipulation. They worked a match that felt very creative simply because they, really, truly, did make the stipulation the focus, and I greatly appreciated that. Then it all got ruined because someone (probably with a lizard face) decided that this needed to be overbooked.

After about ten minutes, Vinny Marseglia popped up from under the ring with his stupid axe and stupider balloons. He's been under there the whole time, apparently. He could have come out at any point during this match but only came out now because... um... because it was time for him to do his spot. That's the only possible answer, and when that is the only answer you have to justify something, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Anyway, Marseglia slid the axe to Taven. Dude... it's NO DISQUALIFICATIONS! JUST GO ATTACK HIM YOURSELF. Rather than swinging the axe like normal, Taven picks it up and grabs Cody from behind like he's just going to give him a little nick in the forehead with it. It was like he just wanted to gig Cody, except instead of a small, concealable blade, he had a big giant axe.

Brandi came out and took F*CKING FOREVER to hit Taven in the nuts from behind, seemingly just so she could make her own body movements seem as dramatic as possible. It felt goofy and staged. Brandi then picked up the axe and chased Marseglia away. Meanwhile, Taven got his NWA World Historic Welterweight Title from CMLL and tried to his Cody with it but Cody ducked and hit a Cross Rhodes onto the belt... which was shockingly not the finish. Cody took his tape off and went to punch Taven but Taven blocked it with the belt and Cody sold his hand. Taven went for another belt shot but Cody ducked it, double-legged him, then started punching away at his face and the ref called for the bell... but awarded the match to Taven because Cody's hand was busted open.

This would have been SOOOOO much better If they had just cut out the bullsh*t overbooking, and I don't just mean the interference and the f*cking AXE we all know no one will ever get hit with. The idea of Cody's hand getting busted open because he punched the belt was a great idea, but doing everything they did after that took this and made it feel like a f*ck finish, which is basically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This felt like some sort of old southern territorial bullsh*t where they were bill something as a major blow-off then give you some sort of f*ck finish just so they could get an extra house of the feud rather than because the finish makes any sort of artistic purpose.

The announcers pushed the idea that Taven should be the #1 contender after his victory here tonight. They would later even go on to say that he should get a title shot before the Defy or Deny winner (assuming that winner isn't Dalton, of course). If they try to stick Dalton Castle vs. MATT TAVEN as a featured world title match on a big show, I might just lose all hope that things will ever get good again.

ROH World Champion Dalton Castle (w/the Boys) vs. Marty Scurll vs. Punishment Martinez vs. Beer City Bruiser (w/Brian Milonas) - 6.5/10

As others have pointed out before, this match is a little stupid. The way it works is that it's an elimination match, if one of the three non-champions wins, he gets a title shot at a later date, but if Dalton wins, whoever he pins in the final fall will not be allowed to challenge Dalton for as long as Dalton is champion. There are two problems with this. The first is that it makes no sense to punish the non-challenger who does the best. Why should you be punished for finishing in second place while third and fourth place face no consequences at all?

The logical way to avoid this would be to change it to being that if the champion wins then ALL of the challengers can't challenge him as long as he remains champion. This, however, still runs into our second problem, which is that in either case the most logical thing for the challengers to do would be to gang up on the champ and eliminate him first, so that one of them will get a title shot but it is guaranteed that none of them will be locked out of getting one for the rest of the reign... and, of course, this ganging up on the champion never happens because the stipulations put all of the drama on the champion remaining in until the end. The way I would fix this is to have the stipulations be that any pinfall on a non-champion eliminates him from the match whereas a pinfall on the champion ends the match immediately, and anyone who is pinned by the champion is not allowed to challenge the champ for the rest of the reign.

They all actually started to go after the champ this time... which lasted about nine seconds before they started going after each other. Dalton's hand was all taped up after his match with Scurll last weekend, and that came into play maybe twice throughout the entire match. But do you know whose hands weren't taped up? ROH Senior Referee Tod Sinclair, who also had his fingers broken by Scurll last weekend, and he was much more debilitated by it during that match than Dalton was.

The match was just guys doing stuff for the first thirteen minutes or so. Then we got an idiotic spot where Marty had everyone down but instead of going for a pinfall or going for the crossface chickenwing, he went to get his umbrella, even though the referee was right there. This was done solely to allow for the Boys and Milonas to get a spot in. Because stupid bullsh*t with losers so undercard that they weren't even booked to wrestle is definitely the sort of thing you would waste time in a main event with. After that we got a few more minutes of action, with the eliminations all coming within a space of about three minutes.

The news here is that we finally had a champion lose, which had to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately the winner was Marty Scurll, who was in full cartoon mode here. I hope that won't happen during this title match, but considering that last week they overbooked things to such a ridiculous degree that it almost ruined the match for me, I'm not that optimistic.

Final Thoughts
Yet another extremely disappointing show from ROH. It seems to once again reinforce the idea that non big-event shows are mostly about gaga, bullsh*t, and throwaway title matches. I had hoped that the advent of Honor Club would end this focus, and while this show did have a lot more storyline relevance than non-PPV/iPPV shows have had over the past three years, it was still frustrating to see some potentially exciting matches ruined by an inclination towards stupid overbooking and gaga that doesn't belong in a company called Ring of Honor.


1. Caprice Coleman claimed that Lethal's strikes to Gresham's knee were "tearing up those capillary muscles."
Capillaries and not muscles. They're blood vessels.

2. Ian Riccaboni claimed that "the genesis- the pinnacle of this feud will come to a head" tonight in the Cody vs. Taven First Blood match.
The "genesis" of something would be its beginning, which 1) cannot, by definition, come to a head, and 2) would have been MONTHS AGO.

3. Ian Riccaboni referred to referee Paul Turner awarding the First Blood Match to Taven as a "controversial decision."
What was controversial about it? The rules are that the first person to make the other wrestler bleed is the winner, and Taven did that when he blocked Cody's punch with his title belt. It doesn't matter that Cody was in the process of punching Taven when Turner noticed the blood and called for the bell. Cody was bleeding due to Taven's actions and Taven was not bleeding due to Cody's action, therefore, according to any reading of the rules, Taven is the winner.

4. Ian continued his stupidity by saying that this supposedly controversial decision should make us wonder, "is the conspiracy real?"
The conspiracy that Taven claims exists is one that is working against him. Why would a referee awarding Taven a victory under supposedly controversial circumstances make us think that management is trying to screw him? It does the exact opposite of that!

5. Ian Riccaboni listed the most recent Defy or Deny match in ROH as Kevin Steen's, which took place back in January 2013 at Defy or Deny II.
In fact the most recent was one Jay Lethal had during his TV Title reign at Reloaded Tour: Dearborn, and the one before that was the one Adam Cole had on ROH TV during his first reign as ROH World Champion. The only other one that any of our announcers could think of was the original Defy or Deny Match, which Roderick Strong had at the original Defy or Deny show.

So we learned that from this our announcers suck at doing basic research, but hopefully the real lesson that is learned here is one that is learned by the office. It is, of course, something that should have been f*cking obvious already, but just in case Delirious ever reads this, let me spell it out: Events become more memorable if you give the show a name that has some sort of connection to the events rather than giving each show some painfully generic name. One year from now 99% of people going to remember what happened at "Masters of the Craft 2018." If you want proof of that, just try to remember what happened at last year's inaugural Masters of the Craft, which took place last April. I myself, who have a relatively encyclopedic knowledge of ROH's kayfabe history, could only remember ONE match from that show, and that was only because it was Ken Anderson's only ROH match. But if you call this show "Defy or Deny 2018," people are at least going to remember what happened in the main event, if not some of the other matches as well, simply because of associating them with a less generic name that the usual collection of synonyms for "we are the best."

6. After Marty pinned Dalton to win the main event, BJ Whitmer declared that "you've got to think that he has Dalton Castle's number."
Why? They're 2-2 in singles competition against each other in ROH, and in the past few months Dalton actually has a 2-1 edge, which goes up to 3-1 if we include tag matches.

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